A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Oh, my! This book has so many of my favorite tropes that I really enjoyed it immensely. I’d tag it age gap, May-December, slow burn, men with children, family drama, Alaska, hurt-comfort, and second chances. Plus, it had a sneak peek at past characters Griff and River to let us know how they are doing.

As the story opens, Reuben is irritated when he learns his friends aren’t going to make the flight to Alaska to begin the vacation they’d insisted he take to destress from his high-powered corporate law office. Add to his irritation the fact that his ex-wife needs an immediate answer about buying out his share in their law firm and he’s not a happy man when he boards the tiny plane in Alaska to begin a solo tour with a chatty tour operator named Toby.

Toby has been providing for his ailing father and younger sister for years so he’s no stranger to responsibility. And he’s flown this trip many, many times over his favorite areas in Alaska and is happy to give personal attention to his solo traveler. Too bad the silver fox is grumpy and straight, or so he thinks. But halfway through the trip, a sudden storm causes them to crash, and it’s Reuben who rescues Toby before their plane catches fire. 

I loved the way the author took both men out of their comfort zones and allowed them to have new experiences and new perspectives—aha moments, so to speak. One of my favorites came at the end of the book when both men acknowledge that the summer they spent together has been all about second chances and what they plan to do with those chances. I’m glad the author didn’t make the crash site the entire setting of the story and, instead, gave them the perfect excuse to spend a few months together and infuse a few other interesting characters into the mix.

Both characters are well-developed and engaging, and added to the chemistry between Reuben and Toby, we have a 14-year-old teen daughter for Reuben who was a spot-on perfect example of an annoying teen girl of that age. (Been there. Had that!) Watching her slowly gravitate toward her father, and he to her, was heartwarming. Meanwhile, Toby had to learn to rely on help from others, giving him a new perspective on how his father has felt for years. Both men changed over the time they spent together during Toby’s recuperation, and the changes had a ripple effect on their families.

When they allowed themselves to live their dreams, the impossible became possible. Set against the background of the most majestic state I’ve ever visited, how could I not love this story? I highly recommend this to lovers of MM romance, especially those who love the tags I mention at the beginning of this review.

The cover predominantly features glorious Alaska scenery with a top pane that holds a partial shot of the MCs’ faces.

Sales Links: Kobo | Barnes & NobleAmazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 3rd 2019 by Carina Press
ISBN 1488051275 (ISBN13: 9781488051272)
Edition Language English
Series Frozen Hearts :

Arctic Sun

Arctic Wild

Arctic Heat coming soon

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Oh, my! This book has so many of my favorite tropes that I really enjoyed it immensely. I’d tag it age gap, May-December, slow burn, men with children, family drama, Alaska, hurt-comfort, and second chances. Plus, it had a sneak peek at past characters Griff and River to let us know how they are doing.

As the story opens, Reuben is irritated when he learns his friends aren’t going to make the flight to Alaska to begin the vacation they’d insisted he take to destress from his high-powered corporate law office. Add to his irritation the fact that his ex-wife needs an immediate answer about buying out his share in their law firm and he’s not a happy man when he boards the tiny plane in Alaska to begin a solo tour with a chatty tour operator named Toby.

Toby has been providing for his ailing father and younger sister for years so he’s no stranger to responsibility. And he’s flown this trip many, many times over his favorite areas in Alaska and is happy to give personal attention to his solo traveler. Too bad the silver fox is grumpy and straight, or so he thinks. But halfway through the trip, a sudden storm causes them to crash, and it’s Reuben who rescues Toby before their plane catches fire. 

I loved the way the author took both men out of their comfort zones and allowed them to have new experiences and new perspectives—aha moments, so to speak. One of my favorites came at the end of the book when both men acknowledge that the summer they spent together has been all about second chances and what they plan to do with those chances. I’m glad the author didn’t make the crash site the entire setting of the story and, instead, gave them the perfect excuse to spend a few months together and infuse a few other interesting characters into the mix.

Both characters are well-developed and engaging, and added to the chemistry between Reuben and Toby, we have a 14-year-old teen daughter for Reuben who was a spot-on perfect example of an annoying teen girl of that age. (Been there. Had that!) Watching her slowly gravitate toward her father, and he to her, was heartwarming. Meanwhile, Toby had to learn to rely on help from others, giving him a new perspective on how his father has felt for years. Both men changed over the time they spent together during Toby’s recuperation, and the changes had a ripple effect on their families.

When they allowed themselves to live their dreams, the impossible became possible. Set against the background of the most majestic state I’ve ever visited, how could I not love this story? I highly recommend this to lovers of MM romance, especially those who love the tags I mention at the beginning of this review.

The cover predominantly features glorious Alaska scenery with a top pane that holds a partial shot of the MCs’ faces.

Sales Links: Kobo | Barnes & NobleAmazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 3rd 2019 by Carina Press
ISBN 1488051275 (ISBN13: 9781488051272)
Edition Language English
Series Frozen Hearts :

Arctic Sun

Arctic Wild

Arctic Heat coming soon

New Release Blitz for Sentinel (Until You #2) by Karrie Roman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Sentinel

Series: Until You, Book Two

Author: Karrie Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC

Release Date: September 10, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 71700

Genre: Contemporary, bodyguards, hurt-comfort, grief, men with children, rescue operation

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Synopsis

Never allowing anyone too close, Ethan Stone has lived a solitary life since he was disowned by his family when he discovered their darkest secret. He spends his days as a quiet sentinel, protecting others to make up for the ones he didn’t. Love, friendship, and family have no place in his world.

Ben Cronin is a warrior, haunted by a past he excelled at, which almost robbed him of his humanity. He became a professional bodyguard to save lives rather than take them. And he has loved his stoic colleague, Ethan Stone, from the day they met.

When Ethan’s sister suddenly comes back into his life in desperate need of his help, Ethan doesn’t hesitate to do whatever he needs to do. To his surprise, Ben—the man who makes him want things he shouldn’t—is right there beside him, risking everything to help him and finally coaxing Ethan’s feelings back to life.

A desperate race to find his missing nieces leads Ethan to a place he never thought he’d be and takes Ben exactly where he wanted to be—in a life filled with love and desire. But how long can they keep it when evil stalks their every step?

Excerpt

Sentinel
Karrie Roman © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
“Last question.”

“What now for you, Ryan?”

“Um…the short answer is I really don’t know. I’m going to take some time with Lucas while the show is on hiatus and think about what’s next for me. I hope people will understand why I’ve chosen to step away from the spotlight and will be gracious enough to give me the space I need to work out where to go from here. But for right this minute, Lucas and I are getting on a plane to locations unknown and we’re going to relax and enjoy being us.”

The press conference was a compromise between the very intrusive media and Lucas and Ryan. They wanted some peace, some space to recover from the events of the last couple of months, and now that their show, Witches’ Hammer, had wrapped up for a break, and Lucas had been given a clean bill of health, they were taking some time for themselves. Nobody deserved it more after what they’d been through.

Ethan watched, ever vigilant, as they stepped down from the podium and walked hand in hand toward the waiting car. His gaze rested on their joined hands for a second or two too long, but it was hard to look away from something that he desired for himself so very much. Not that he wanted either Lucas or Ryan. They were both great men and smoking fucking hot, but they weren’t for him. What he wanted was what they had—intimacy and love.

After years of self-imposed isolation from anything resembling a close relationship, Ethan wanted more.

Once his two charges were settled in the car, Ethan climbed into the passenger seat and gave the nod to Max. The big car roared to life and Max deftly drove them toward the airport and their waiting plane.

His former bosses, Patricia and Roger Krispin, had let Ethan go from their security agency when he called to resign, as he’d breached their no-skeletons-in-the-closet rule, but Lucas and Ryan had hired him as their personal bodyguard and had kept the Krispin’s professional teams as backup whenever needed. Ethan would be traveling to Australia with them, and Harry and Christina would meet them there for extra security, if needed.

“Looking forward to the Aussie girls in their bikinis, Ethan?” Ryan asked from the back seat.

“I’m more of a man in…what do you Aussies call them…boardies type of guy.”

“Oh, shit…sorry. Well, there’s plenty of them too. Maybe we can find a hot lifeguard for you while we’re there.” He didn’t need to turn to know Lucas and Ryan would be giggling to themselves, no doubt planning some kind of setup for him. He loved working for these two men and often wondered at his good fortune, especially after the shit had hit the fan following the revelation of who he was.

For almost four weeks, Ryan and Lucas had dominated the front pages and headlined the news. When the media had discovered that Ethan Lockard had come out of the woodwork and was somehow embroiled in the Lovers saga, the scrutiny had begun to border on the ridiculous. Ethan had offered to resign and had given serious thought to running again. It would be harder to pick a new identity and hide this time, but he’d manage. He was so tired of running and so fucking tired of being lonely.

Eight years ago, he’d lost his entire family, and though he hadn’t allowed any of them to get too close, the men and women he’d worked with over the last few years had become a family of sorts. He wasn’t going to let his brother take another family away from him this time.

“Okay, jet’s fueled and ready. Wheels up as soon as you arrive.” Paulina’s voice sounded in his ear.

“Copy. We’re about ten minutes out. All clear,” he replied. Despite the press coverage and the revelations that had been made about him, nobody from Krispins had seemed to care. They’d all accepted his apology for lying to them and admitted they’d have probably done the same if they were in his shoes.

The only person he hadn’t seen or spoken to since his true identity had been discovered was Ben. He hadn’t been back to see Ben since that day at the hospital when he’d been exposed. Ben’s brother, Cameron, had called to let him know the doctors had successfully woken him and called a few more times with updates, but Ethan had refused when Cameron had told him Ben had been asking for him to visit. He was such a fucking coward, but he knew he couldn’t bear to see disappointment in Ben’s eyes. What if Ben hated him for lying and keeping his past quiet? Ethan could stand anybody else’s hatred—but not Ben’s.

The private jet was waiting on the tarmac as promised, and Max drove them virtually to the open door. Ethan scanned the area as the car pulled up. He expected no trouble, and thankfully, he found none. Once satisfied, he stepped out and moved around the front of the car so he could open the back door nearest to the plane. Lucas stepped out, closely followed by Ryan, their hands immediately re-entwined as soon as they were both clear of the car. Ethan felt that pang of envy bite into him again at the intimacy the two men shared. God, he wanted it.

It wasn’t the first private jet he’d been on, but it was one of the nicest. Lucas and Ryan were already seated on the sofa that ran along one side of the cabin by the time he boarded. Ethan took the single seat across from them. He’d seen the bedroom toward the back of the plane as he’d entered the jet and wondered, with a sly grin on his face, how long it’d take before Lucas and Ryan made use of that.

“How are you with flying, Ethan?” Lucas asked as he continued to settle himself in and clip his seat belt.

“No problem with it. I can’t say I’ve done a huge amount, but I don’t mind it. Once the captain turns the seat belt sign off, I’ll pop this chair back, shut my eyes, and keep them closed until we touch down.” Ethan didn’t miss the look the two men opposite him shared, no doubt delighted they would, more or less, have the jet to themselves.

The engines had been idling since they’d boarded, and Ethan both felt and heard them roar to life now.

“All passengers, please ensure your seat belts are engaged and prepare for takeoff,” came a disembodied voice over the PA. The jet eased forward, slowly rolling toward the runway. It turned easily—nothing like the clunky turns of much larger passenger planes—before coming to a brief stop.

As the engines rumbled louder and louder and he was pushed back into his seat as the jet surged forward, increasing its speed to get it off the ground, Ethan had a sudden, inexplicable urge to run to the door and jump from the moving craft. He knew deep in his gut he was leaving something—or someone—behind.

He was sure he had everything he needed, and anything he’d forgotten he’d be able to buy in Australia, but he couldn’t escape that feeling of loss. Then, as he looked over the lights of the city below, he thought about pale-blue eyes that were usually dancing with laughter or mischief but had instead been filled with pain and determination the last time he’d seen them open, and he knew in his heart what he’d left behind—or rather who.

Purchase

NineStar Press, LLC | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Karrie lives in Australia’s sunshine state with her husband and two sons, though she hates the sun with a passion. She dreams of one day living in the wettest and coldest habitable place she can find. She has been writing stories in her head for years but has finally managed to pull the words out of her head and share them with others. She spends her days trying to type her stories on the computer without disturbing her beloved cat Lu curled up on the keyboard. She probably reads far too much.

Website | Twitter | eMail

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A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake and John Solo (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

It’s hard to decide where to start for this audiobook review but I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t immediately note how beautifully John Solo narrated this story. In fact, he didn’t just narrate it—he brought it to life. The voices—both male and female—were all unique and the emotions were powerfully and poignantly portrayed. Kudos Mr. Solo! Nearly fifteen hours to this story, but it went by quickly thanks to your skillful narration.

Christopher Ryder is a sweet, young man with a beautiful voice who gave up on his dream of stardom in Nashville when it became obvious he wasn’t quite as good as the top country singers of the time. But he’s very talented and lands the job of backup to the headliner at the Smoky Mountain Dreams Amusement Park. Christopher has an interesting extended family—from his estranged mother and her Bible-beating preacher husband, to his deadbeat father, whom he hasn’t seen in years, and his terrific sister and brother-in-law, both of whom are very supportive of him, even though he’s gay. But most of all, Christopher is close to his gran, a sweet little old woman who invades his thoughts even when he’s not able to visit with her in person. She supports him 100% and has already told him her house will be his when she passes. She doesn’t care one iota that Chris came out as gay when he was younger—for her, that is no reason not to love her grandson wholeheartedly.

Because the feeling is mutual, he wants to get his gran a very special gift for the Christmas holiday this year so he approaches Jesse Birch, a talented jewelry designer. Jesse is bisexual and one look at Christopher convinces him that the country singer is not straight and that they may have some mutual fun at some point if he can find the time. He’s a full time jewelry designer and full time father to two young children in the preteen age range. His wife was permanently injured five years before in an auto accident and is now in a medically sustained coma. The only reason she hasn’t passed yet is that her sister holds an end of life document which his wife signed years before the accident. It doesn’t matter to her religious sister that she had changed her mind and that she had told Jesse she never wanted to be kept alive by machines. Though they continually battle over the issue, Jesse has yet to win the case and so life goes on in limbo for the whole family.

Now, as he and Christopher become friendly and eventually start a relationship, life is even more complicated. Jesse’s daughter seems to think her mother can come back to life and refuses to become friendly with Christopher. In fact, she believes in a story about making a thousand cranes to grant a person’s fondest wish and she’s on a quest to complete two thousand by Christmas. At first, Christopher didn’t realize Jesse’s wife was still alive, so it’s a major hurdle for him to continue a relationship with Jesse when he finds out. There are so many family issues in this story that one has to concentrate and listen carefully in order to keep everything straight and to make sure not to miss an important point.

As I said at the beginning, the audio is very long—nearly fifteen hours—so the story is highly complex, but it’s really a wonderful love story that needed every moment to build all the relationships it contains. And it doesn’t end on a perfect note with a perfect family scene, but it does end in a very satisfying manner and winds out to a beautiful Christmas season where family of origin and family of the heart hold an equal place.

I highly recommend this to all lovers of MM romance, especially slow burn, men with children, family drama, and more.

~~~

Cover art depicts a photo of two bare-chested men in a sweet loving embrace superimposed over a photo of the Smoky Mountain Range. There’s also a white paper crane in the foreground that is set up to be flying over the words in the title. All are key elements to the story and tie together to make a cohesive summary of this beautiful love story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Audible US | Audible UK

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 14 hours and 46 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Leta Blake Books
Audible.com Release Date: October 17, 2017
Language: English
ASIN: B076FFW2XD

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Big Love by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Big LoveWhen Dane Bernard, a teacher at Summitville High School, gets a call from the police telling him that his wife has been killed in an accident, he’s devastated. He and Katy were married for twenty years, and were, in fact, high school sweethearts. Breaking the news to his children was difficult but not as difficult as what he decides to tell them after he’s had some time to come to terms with his wife’s death—he’s gay. And he chooses to tell them now because he’s going to go forward as a gay man out of the closet.

He has no idea how to be with a man, and when new teacher Seth Wolcott arrives at the school several months later, he finds himself attracted in a way he’s never before experienced. But before they even have a chance to get to know one another, and before Seth finds out Dane is gay, one of Dane’s students, a gay teen who has been the victim of school bullies one too many times, is spotted on the ledge at the top of the roof of the school and Dane is the only one outside who might possibly help him. He gets an unexpected assist from Seth and together they manage to get the boy down, but not before Dane shares that he’s gay—and he does it in front of the whole school.

Truman Reid is an effeminate gay teen. He has a wonderful sense of fashion and can put together innumerable outfits from thrift shop finds, but not a day goes by that the jocks and others in the school don’t bully him, laugh at him, trip him, and often beat him up. When he arrived at school that morning and discovered the main bulletin board covered in photos of him in drag, it was his last straw. People might say it gets better, but Truman didn’t think he could wait for that to happen, so he headed for the roof.

Dane and Seth volunteer to spend extra time with Truman to help his mother out. Dirt poor, she doesn’t have enough money to pay for counseling for him, but with the guys offering to act as big brothers, it helps her breathe easier. And after Truman turns the corner, he decides that no amount of hiding or wearing other clothes or acting butch is going to help him, so he takes the opposite stance and flaunts his flamboyance by wearing makeup, T-shirts with hand-printed slogans, and bright, colorful outfits he puts together from thrift shop finds. Though they initially worry about him, Seth and Dane back off when they see he’s doing well and they focus on enjoying their own budding relationship.

This is a sweet story, with the lives of the three men entwined, and lessons to be learned by all. No one—man or boy—is the teacher. Each contributes to the other so that they all take away positive life lessons. There’s no explicit sex, though there is mention of it, and no on-page sex for the underage character. It’s just a romantic story, a coming of age story for both Truman and Dane, though at least twenty-five years separate their age. And the romantic ending provides a happy situation for each of the three characters.

I’d recommend this to those who enjoy tags like coming out, older men, teens, men with children, and those who simply like a romantic story about real people because each of the situations in this story could have really happened to someone we know.

~~~~~

Cover Art by Reese Dante beautifully depicts the two adult MCs as we would imagine them to be.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published April 4th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634769775 (ISBN13: 9781634769778)
Edition Language English