A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Yuchae Blossom (World of Love) by Asher Quinn

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Can two men find happiness in a country that doesn’t accept their love?

When Jack Calloway is transferred to his firm’s South Korean branch on Jeju Island, he’s assigned a valet, the beautiful but shy Song Woo-bin. He stirs feelings Jack has rarely experienced for another man, but everything seems to be against them—Jack is older and Song Woo-bin’s supervisor. He is just beginning to understand the new culture surrounding him even as he accepts his own desires for the first time, and Song Woo-bin is closeted, inexperienced, and estranged from his family. Their path to each other is full of obstacles and societal disapproval. Will the two men eventually come together amid the clash and complement of Eastern and Western culture… and find a home among the yuchae blossoms?

I have to say I was very conflicted when it came to writing my review for The Yuchae Blossom (World of Love) by Asher Quinn.  One, this is the author’s debut novel and I thought Quinn did a wonderful job with several elements here.  It’s those sections that really raised this story up for me.  Primarily, the Korean setting, the author’s knowledge of the south Korean culture, use of language and settings which added not only considerable depth but obvious affection to the story and characters.

It made me want to visit several places Quinn mentioned, and I spend time searching out pictures of places and dishes to better familiarize myself with a place that already felt like a destination I needed to fly to.

On top of that?  Amazing secondary Korean and American characters that I seriously treasured, from one grandmother housekeeper to an Assistant who needed to be wearing a cape.  They came off real, personable, and compelling in their own right.

No, unfortunately my struggle here was with the main character of Jack Calloway, who, although supposedly familiar with the region, acted with all the finesse of a bull in a china chop.  Angry, borish, rude, with little regard to the Korean customs and people working for him.  Yes that changed ….mostly.    But here is a man who had a sister in a committed lesbian relationship  but left his son to live with his bigoted parents (they wouldn’t let her partner come for the holidays) for three years while he was going to be living in South Korea getting his “project” underway.  Really? With all those assistants, and you are leaving your son with them?  It was one thing after another that just kept me from connecting with this man.  Even to the end, it was other people keeping him out of jail and suggesting ways to thwart the “evildoers”.  Smh!

Song Woo-bin on the other hand is a wonderful character, easy to relate to and someone who will grab onto your heart.   I wanted more of him, his backhistory, just more him, less Jack. The author never made a case for what Song saw in Jack.  Because all Jack did was yell, bluster, crash over the niceties of their culture.  To mix  national monsters…Jack came across as a bit of a American Godzilla. See?  Mixed bag.    Way too good for Jack.  Had the author been able to make the readers see exactly what made Jack so attractive to Soon Woo-bin I might have bought into the relationship and the “deep love” they said they had for each other.  But I never got it.

The  intolerant attitude towards homosexuality in South Korea is only lightly addressed and considering the role it played here, more  information should have been relayed about the current laws and cultural family framework that holds this society so tightly in reign.   Of course, maybe that’s asking too much of 162 pages and a light contemporary romance.

This is a coming out, sexual discovery story too for two men of two different cultures and that sort of got glossed over in favor of a “love almost at first sight” story.  As I said there is a  lot going on here.

So while I may not have fallen in love with Jack, I did with his household and its surroundings. Asher Quinn did a lovely job of bringing small parts of Southern Koren alive for me, along with several great characters.    I can’t wait to see what this author does next!

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht  Lovely cover with the character of Song Woo-bin and of course, the Yuchae Blossom of the title.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 162 pages
Expected publication: April 5th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644051924
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: How Not to Break (Lovestrong #3) by Susan Hawke

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RATING 3,5 out of 5 stars

Take one former SEAL with a healthy dose of regret… Nick St. Cloud is living with shame from the one time he let his lust override his sense of honor. He’s haunted by the memory of when he made love to his best friend’s eighteen-year-old son. The tragic accident that happened that same night has only compounded his guilt. A decade later, he’s doing his best to be there for Charlie’s son, but anything more than that just wouldn’t be right… would it? Plus the younger guy who he’s tried to forget… It’s been ten years. Ten long years. Does Shaw Michaelson feel bad about having seduced his dad’s best friend? Umm, maybe? Although he could’ve done things differently, Shaw can’t find it within himself to be sorry for the hottest night of his life with the one man he’s never been able to forget. The man he’s patterned every subsequent relationship after… yeah, Shaw totally has a type. Equals a pair of men who deserve a second chance at a first time. The two men are living in an uneasy peace within the same small town and circle of friends, being careful not to let the other get close enough to open old wounds. All their walls fall when a stalker begins terrorizing Shaw, sending him running to the one man he knows will keep him safe. This is the fourth book in the LOVESTRONG series about finding love and being yourself in a small town. Intended only for 18+ readers, this is an mm romance full of all the fun, fluff, and feels you’d want from an S. Hawke book. Note: Possible trigger warning for the mention of an animal being harmed off-page and the psychological trauma of being stalked.

I was waiting for Nick’s book since I met him in the first title in the Lovestrong series. Although I have to say I was enthusiastic about this new release just because it’s about Seth and Nick, otherwise I would have stopped with the series, the second title was really not for me. I tried to give the series another chance and I’m glad I did.

How Not To Break was very well written, easy and quick to read, so much better than the previous one. I am a huge fan of stories where the MCs have a wide age difference and here I found the relationship between Nick and Seth finally deserved. I could understand how Nick felt uncomfortable with his feelings for his best friends’ son. But the time has at the end come for them to be real and true to their hearts. Sure, Nick took his time to be open with the young man, but then when they were together, it was for the real thing. I liked both of them dearly.

I also liked the plot, well created to give the MCs an excuse to be in the same house and start to create a future. Maybe at the end the resolve of the mystery was too easy but that way the story didn’t become too heavy to take. I appreciated it. Being not so keen on mysteries, it was ok, but I can see how it couldn’t be perfect for a more demanding reader.

One more thing I liked were their friends, all the faces I already met in the previous books and fell in love with. It was a pleasure too see them after they got their HEAs.

I don’t know if there will be more installment in the Lovestrong series by Susan Hawke, I’m curious for more.

The cover art by Ana J Phoenix is cute but I don’t like the blue so dark in the background.

SALE LINKS  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 239 pages

Published March 9th 2019

ASIN B07PBR884T

Language English

Lovestrong Series:

How Not To Wait (0.5)

How Not to Blend

How Not to Tuck

How Not to Sin

How Not to Break

Review: Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Fool For LoveCollege professor Vincent Norton is feeling every bit of his forty-five years of age.  Three years ago his partner of 20 years died in a car accident. Estranged from his family, now just his dad, Vince has used all his energy and time at his profession, teaching college kids and not much else,  Even his apartment of three years still looks empty of personality or his past.  His life is in on hold until he meets one of his neighbors from the apartment next door. One of a group of four college students, Vince finds the young man attractive and that is something he hasn’t felt for 3 years.

Rob Bridges is 21 and getting ready to graduate at a nearby college.  He has been secretly crushing on the older man in the apartment across from his.  That man is tall, gorgeous with just a little silver starting to show at the temple and Rob wants to date him.  But he doesn’t even know anything about him other than he is a professor at Washington University, let alone that he is gay?  What is a man to do?

An accident in the hallway brings the two men together and a date soon follows.  And while Rob is sure Vince is the one he wants, Vince is having second and even third thoughts.  The age gap between them is huge and surely Rob will tire of an older man, won’t he? Opposition to their dating mounts from all sides.  Will Rob succeed in making Vince  believe in their love or will Vince’s own doubts and outside influences push him away permanently?

In Fool For Love Cassandra Gold has written a very sweet love story.  Her May – December romance between Vince Norton and Rob Bridges has many lovely qualities, including two believable characters who talk and act their age.  Vince Norton is every bit the still grieving, stuck in stasis middle aged professor.  He cares about his students and mourns the loss of the man he thought he would spend the rest of his life with.  In an authentic touch, Gold has his apartment reflect this inability to move forward.  It’s not decorated, bare walls and barren of spirit, it states that it is more of a staging area than a home.  And I absolutely believed in Vince and his current situation.  Her characterization is of a man who finally realizes he might be ready to move on but how and with whom?

Then into the picture comes Rob Bridges, another likable persona.  He is intelligent, compassionate, and kind. He is also quite handsome.  And Rob likes older men and has been secretly crushing on Vince next door.  All well and good.  Rob has three roommates who are also his friends.  I liked their easy acceptance of his sexuality as well as the layers to their characterizations.  If one acts like a jerk, he is also capable of an apology that makes sense.  Again, I like the secondary characters involved in Vince and Rob’s story.  They are all quite human, funny and flawed. And their presence goes a long way in making this story more viable and lovely to read.

Another moving element is the scenes with Vince’s Dad.  I think Gold handled this aspect of taking care of older parents realistically and quite movingly. And unfortunately, I think it helped highlight what might be the one obstacle that will keep readers from connecting to this book and Vince and Rob’s relationship.  And that would be the huge gap in their ages.

We aren’t talking 5, 10 or even 15 years here.  No, the gap is that of 25 years and for many people that will be an insurmountable obstacle.  And I think I count myself among them.   Cassandra Gold did such a good job with her characters that Rob feels way too young for Vince.  And yes Vince is far too old for a young man of 21.  As the author has Vince point out, they are at two very different stages in their lives and that gets brushed over a little too quickly.   When Rob breaks down in tears because Vince had to cancel out on an important date,  while we might have had some empathy for him, it also highlighted just how young Gold had made him emotionally.  Vince gets mistaken for Rob’s father while out on dates (again I can see that). And as Vince cared for his dying father and thought about himself and Rob in the same position, I found myself agreeing with him that it was entirely plausible.  It’s not something you want to bring up in a love affair but 25 years is 25 years and Vince is turning 47 as the book ends.

And finally, because yes, my mind goes there.  There is the physical differences in physiology between a 21 year old man and a 46* year old man.   At 21 years old, the sexual drive can match up with the body’s ability.  Unfortunately, not so with middle-age.  And that wasn’t touched on at all.  Perhaps because it’s not a very sexy thing to think about. Athough I have read some books where the authors treated aspect realistically and still made the relationship sexy.  Certainly though it is a fact of life, not exactly dealt with here.   But that’s what I kept thinking about.    So yes, I just couldn’t make myself believe in this romantic relationship.   To be honest, I don’t think I would by it as a M/F romance either.  The difference is just too great.

There are a couple of odd phrasing here and some confusion about ages, all that is minor issues in an otherwise sweet narrative.  So again, how you feel about the age gap between these two realistically portrayed men will define how you feel towards Fool For Love.  It has many lovely elements but in the end I just couldn’t connect to the love affair.  You make up your own mind.

Cover art by Valerie Tibbs is far preferable to the original.  At least it shows two men of difference ages.  But the blue tone makes it all a little hard to see.

*It states that Vince is 45 at the beginning of the book, then 46 and at the epilogue which occurs one year later, Vince is turning 47.

Book Details:

Note:This book is a re-edited, revised version of one previously released by another publisher.
Published August 20th 2013 by Loose Id, LLC (first published April 9th 2009)
original title:  Fool For Love
ASINB00EOA5Q8I
edition language English
characters Vince Norton
setting United States