A MelanieM Review: Saddle Up (Clean Slate Ranch #3) by A.M. Arthur

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

 

Reyes Caldero keeps his past buried deep and his emotions buried deeper. But what he doesn’t say he always makes up for with his actions. When the hot chef he once saved from an abusive ex turns up at Clean Slate Ranch, the quiet cowboy is happy to act on their sizzling chemistry, even if he’s not ready to share his secrets—or his heart.

Miles Arlington needs to get the hell out of San Francisco, and heading north for a job near Clean Slate Ranch seems like just the thing. It doesn’t hurt that his secret crush slash onetime rescuer happens to work at the ranch. Miles has never been one for the outdoors, but the superhot Reyes has him ready to saddle up.

Reyes is happy to keep things casual, even though his heart has other ideas. And when Miles is forced to confront his past again, Reyes and Miles will have to put all their trust in each other if they want any chance at building a future together.

Saddle Up by A.M. Arthur is part of the Clean Slate Ranch series, one I haven’t read. However, I didn’t feel that diminished my enjoyment in reading the third book in the series where several of the couples were well established.  Arthur gave enough of their back history and the universe for this series that I felt that I knew some of the relationships not to feel that there were holes in the story or overall fabric of the group dynamics.

A.M. Arthur does broken men so very well and Reyes and Miles are no exception.  Each man is both running from their pasts. Reyes from his gang member teenage years and a horrific, brutal crime that he has kept his deepest secret secret.  Miles from his abusive, possessive ex-boyfriend and a night he can’t remember, an ex-boyfriend who won’t leave him alone. Both have come to Clean Slate Ranch for second chances.  Reyes as the head cowboy at the ranch and Miles under a new name as the head chef at the Saloon at the Ghost Town they have just opened up.

Assigned to bunk in together, both fight their attraction to each other while fighting their own demons.  Miles his fear and Reyes his anger, a combustible combination.  I liked how Miles slowly found his footing through creativity through his food, the Ghost Town’s history, and of course, the horses.  Helping him is Reyes, falling in love even though Mile’s isn’t in any emotional condition to handle it.

I liked their romance.  And perhaps, this is where not reading the other stories does hurt, but Reyes’ anger issues threw up red flags for me where Miles was concerned.  For someone coming off of a controlling, stalker abusive ex, to then have a older man wanting to “protect” him showing huge flashes of barely in control anger?  Uh, maybe not.

It does come out later on in the revelations in Reyes’ back history…still you do have to wonder.  Fear and anger/fight and flight can be two sides of the same coin but that doesn’t necessarily mean they belong in the same relationship.

I loved the elements with the horses, appreciated how they became part of Mile’s adjustment and more, part of Mile’s finding himself.  I could also have done with more of the Ghost Town and it’s merry group of workers, including Mile’s partner in the kitchen.

The drama with Geoff clearly showed me that perhaps I should go back and read the previous stories as I do enjoy this author’s writing.  More to add to my TBR list!

There was a suspenseful ending along with the wonderful HEA, almost a too quick HEA. I think I would have settled for a HFN with all that went on in this novel.  So many trials and tribulations, so many emotional upheavals and adjustments, that this ending almost felt to unrealistic.  Sweet, romantic, and lovely.  But unrealistic.

If you love A.M.Arthur, are a fan of this series, or just adore broken man and their road to HEA, then this is a story for you.

 

Cover art seems almost right for Reyes but that figure is too muscular for Miles, that stance too combative.  Would work great for another story however.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2018 by Carina Press
ASINB07C9F6436
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesClean Slate Ranch #3

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

A Mika Review: Young at Heart by Kay Ellis

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Rating: 1 star out of 5 stars

Young at HeartDevon Alexander is a wealthy successful businessman. The world is his oyster. In his work life he is decisive and in control.

His private life is another matter.

There, he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going in his on-off relationship with Jesse Young, an unemployed aspiring model half his age.

Can Devon and Jesse overcome the obstacles and outside influences standing in their way? Can they leave behind their own fear and mistrust? Or will they be their own worst enemies?

Okay I think I have the right to be harsh when writing this review of Young at Heart by Kay Ellis. This is present day setting London. I don’t have a problem with their age at all. One was 40 and the other was 18. Fine when you are a legal adult, that’s your decision to deal with it. I HAD a big freaking issue when the “grown up” in this situation goes to pick up his boyfriend and finds him disheveled crying, alcohol on his breath and you don’t take him to emergency room. My biggest issue in reading this story was Jesse being “forced” because they don’t want to use the word rape doesn’t get any medical attention, mental attention. Like who are these people. Devon was dumb, naive, stupid for his age. He seriously should have known better. He’s a millionaire playboy who usually does background on all his boyfriends yet this one time you didn’t, and turns out he’s 18 instead of 20. You find out he’s been abused since he was 13 yrs old and then you turn around and have sex with him after one of these times because you couldn’t over power him to stop him. No protection throughout this book. It was disgusting. Your best friend forced himself on Jesse twice and you weren’t man enough to make him see that you didn’t want to be around.

Jesse is not an angel, if fact he does a lot of things that he shouldn’t have had to. He also goes from this bad boy, bad attitude domineering guy to a damn church mouse. I just can’t with this train wreck, oh and just make matters worse let’s throw a baby in the mix. The mystery kid came out of no where. So all in all this was not for me, the concept was okay. The delivery of it was not.

Cover Art by Jay’s Cover by Design. This is the only thing I really liked about this book. The cover was done nice and I liked it.

Sales Links: Wayward Ink Publishing   All Romance (ARe)   Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Wayward Ink Publishing
ASINB00TE9XMRG
edition languageEnglish
url https://www.facebook.com/kay.ellis.79274

Review: Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowan Speedwell

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Ghosts of Bourbon StreetPaul Thibodeaux is stuck, his life in stasis and he doesn’t know how to break out of the funk he is in.  Paul spends his nights bar-tending at the New Orleans family owned and run gay bar and his spare time reading or picking up one night stands.  Increasingly those anonymous “dates” are preceded by an enormous amount of alcohol and followed by a morning’s worth of recovery.  And although Jean-Thom’s, his bar, features male strippers, Paul has never looked beyond their feet, preferring to stay isolated in his self imposed shell to his brother and friend’s concern.

The building that houses both the bar and the family apartments is full of whispers and faint sounds that wake Paul in the night and kept him company as a child.  And although Paul’s adult self has closed himself off, they still linger and watch over him.  When one of the bar’s dancer’s finds his way into the garden behind the bar, it signals a change in both their lives that neither either expected but  both desperately need.

New Orleans is such a unique and rich setting for a story.  Full of history and charm, music and life spill over the streets into the buildings and gardens that are the old section of the city.  New Orleans’s colorful past and architecture calls out for a supernatural treatment and Rowen Speedwell answers with her short story Ghosts of Bourbon Street.  

There is so much I enjoyed about this story.  Speedwell’s characters are well drawn, especially Paul Thibodeaux, a young man who loses himself in books and drink rather than face life and his future.  We find him at a time when Paul must either move forward or be lost to alcohol.  We are given just enough background on Paul to help us understand what brought him to this  moment.  His efforts at college and the manner in which the character fell into his current situation make Paul is a totally believable character.  The same goes for Michael, the dancer, with his own set of problems and decisions to make.  I thought his character had some really lovely touches, starting with his beautifully pedicured feet, the first thing that Paul recognizes about him.

Ghosts and New Orleans go together like bourbon and water so putting them together in a story just doubles the pleasure for a reader.  I loved the ghosts Speedwell has created for her story. I only wish we had gotten not only more appearances by them but a better telling of the ghostly history and connections to the family.  The gay bar, Jean-Thom’s, is worthy of its own story since Speedwell tells us that it has been a gay bar since it first opened.  Each dancer is surely worthy of their own story and it would make a delightful series.

The connection here between Paul and Michael, such as it is, is too rushed for me to call it a romance.  One night, one sexual, emotional connection, and then perhaps a romance.  This is definitely a story full of possibilities instead of finalities, which realistically is the way to go considering the length of the story.  Could this story have used more length to infuse time and backstory to the characters?  Certainly but the flavor and supernatural air of Ghosts of Bourbon Street make this a story to recommend.

Cover by Jared Rackler certainly conveys the spooky charm of the city and the story.  Well done.

Book Details:

ebook, 73 pages
Published November 29th 2013 by MLR Press
edition language English

Review: Knights Out (City Knight #4) by T.A. Webb

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Knights Out coverMarcus Prater and Benjamin Danvers are having a wonderful morning when they are interrupted by a phone call.  It’s Zachary and he needs their help.  An old friend of Jeremiah’s, NIck, has gone missing and Jeremiah wants to know what has happened to him.  Since Ben also knows Nick from his time as a rent boy, Marcus and Ben are quick to agree to join a growing search for a young man known for his kindness and help to those on the streets.

Their investigation takes a darker turn when more boys turn up missing. This investigation reminds Marcus that he also has someone he wants to find, his younger brother who Marcus hasn’t seen in years.  Their current search renews Marcus’ resolve to find his brother and make amends for all the lost time between them.  The shocking resolution of both investigations will change everyones lives forever.

Knights Out, the fourth story in the City Knight series, is a wonderful installment in this Pulp Friction group offering.  Here Webb continues to weave the clues to the mystery that runs through all four series, that of the increasing number of missing young men and the culprit behind their torture and subsequent deaths.  In Knights Out two more young rent boys disappear, both of which the readers became familiar with in other stories.  Now we are faced with uncertainty about their fate and the indication that a serial murderer is at work.  Webb builds our tension and anxiety in small but increasingly fearful steps.  Soon we are afraid not only for the missing men but for all the main characters that we have come to love, especially those like Ben and Jeremiah who fit the profile of the men the killer is targeting.  The fact that Ben and Jeremiah have just found happiness just increases our alarm.

But T.A. Webb balances that worry and concern with moments of laughter and love, especially when it comes to Marcus and his brother.  That is such a lovely element in this story.  It made me laugh as well as cry.  As much as I wanted to include that excerpt with Wick here, I just can’t bring myself to spoil the enjoyment of reading it as part of the whole chapter.  Trust me, you will love this moment for so many reasons, one of which is the rare scene of seeing the unshakable Wick throughly discomforted (in a funny way of course).

By balancing a man’s love for his brother and Ben against the horror that is coming., Webb shows just how fragile a state happiness can be.  Nothing is ever certain, nothing is ever guaranteed except death, so grab your love and happiness while you can.   It’s a message that some of the characters are just beginning to accept, however much they may fight it.  The author spreads tension throughout the series, like butter on bread.  Whether it is Marcus’ health, Wick’s relationships, the mens past histories emerging into the present day events, all bring a certain amount of tension and uncertainty to all the investigations and relationships.

All the other characters from the  other series are starting to appear with regularity.  Here Wick and Chance are an integral part of the search for the missing rent boys with implications for both men and their past histories.  And while there is not a cliffhanger to be found in this story, the path is laid for more investigations and more revelations to come.

Tom Webb is certainly bring his love of Pulp Fiction alive with this story and his City Knight series.  None of these books and related series are to be missed.  But you must start at the beginning with City Knight in order to understand the main characters backgrounds and relationships and the events to come.

Here they are in the order they were written and should be read:

City Knight (City Knight #1)
Knightmare (City Knight #2)
Starry Knight (City Knight #3)
Knights Out (City Knight #4)
Darkest Knight (City Knight #5)
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Book Details:

ebook, 50 pages
Published August 15th 2013 by A Bear on Books
ISBN13 9781301563555
series City Knight
buy link All Romance, Amazon Kindle Books

Review: Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford

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Rating:          3.75 stars out of 5

Nischal Leopards Spots 9Preston Hardy’s brother, Paul,  went missing over a year ago and is presumed dead.  But Preston hasn’t given up hope of finding his twin.  Preston knew his brother’s fascination with snow leopards and has found his way to Texas , the last place Paul was seen, and a side show with two snow leopards on display.  The people  exhibiting them seem suspicious and the snow leopards themselves are in bad shape.  As Preston investigates further into the show’s owners and his brother’s disappearance, he falls into a perilous trap and a situation that will change his life  and his perception of the world forever.

Nischal and his brother Sabin are snow leopard shifters.  Trapped and taken away from their mother in their leopard form, the two young men have been drugged and starved while in captivity, their poor mental and physical condition keeping them from shifting back to their human form.  Years of being caged have deprived them of hope but the appearance of Preston outside their cage changes everything.  From the moment Nischal sees Preston, he knows his mate has arrived.  But their captors will do everything in their power to keep the snow leopards as theirs and prevent Preston from the truth about his brother.

Nischal is the ninth book in the Leopard’s Spots series and a return finally to the story basics that made this such a fascinating series.  Nischal starts at a seemingly random point with two captive Snow Leopards caged in a side show in Texas.  A reader familiar with this series will search their memories for some prior mention of these brothers to no avail.  This is the first we have heard of them.  They are unaware of other Snow Leopards, including our foundation family, the Traveses, in Colorado, existing in a bubble created out of their mother’s isolation of them as cubs and their continued existence in captivity.  Preston Hardy too has not the slightest connection to the previous books.  He, like the shifter brothers, arrives outside of the previous narratives.  It is not until mid-story that a character from the other books arrives and heralds the beginning of a connection to the series plotlines and universe.  From there on out, this story’s twists and turns will surprise the most jaded of Bradford’s readers, especially a bombshell close to the end.  I never saw it coming, and loved that surprising turn of events.

Really, Nischal exemplifies what is most frustrating and wondrous about this series.  Bradford’s ideas are startlingly original, pinging off here and there but always eventually finding their way back to the pattern she is weaving in this series.  Just as the reader is getting frustrated that she has left her original premise with the leopard shifters far behind with her wolf shifters and cougar shifters and shaman, she manages to bring all these disparate elements together in a wide ranging plot that continues to exasperate and involve us deeply in the futures of the leopard shifters and their mates.  I loved all the different aspects of Nischal’s story.  There is several mysteries, including that of Paul’s disappearance and the origin of the shifter brothers.  A wolf faction from a previous book makes a reappearance here.  And always there is the mate sex.  Tons and tons of mate sex.

That is always my biggest issue with Bradford’s stories, that she sacrifices almost half her books story to over the top sex scenes involving various mated pairs.  It usually starts right before or after the men realize they are mates.  They leap into  bed and spend the next five or ten pages staying there.   Now I love a good sex scene and this book has many.  But there are so many that the plot suffers under the weight of all that sex.  When they finally stop you have to try and remember where you are in the storyline because its been that long since she has made reference to it.  And that is a shame because she is giving you glimpses of a much larger picture here, one that will encompass all the story lines of the previous books.  The possibilities I see within this story are intriguing and addicting.  It is the reason I have stayed with this series even when certain books in it have almost caused me to abandon the series.

I came very close to giving this story a four, but the numerous sex scenes once more worked to the detriment of the story and pulled it down.  I know that I must sound like a broken record with the same issues at book nine, but I keep hoping the author will surprise me with a change in writing style in much the same manner she surprised me with the plot twist at the end.  Like Nischal and Sabin, there is always hope.  And in this case, there is hope and a darn fine story to go along with it.

Cover art by Posh Gosh is gorgeous as always.  Models are on target and perfectly represent the characters involved.  Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the Leopard’s Spots series in the order they were written and should be read (mostly)

Levi (Leopard’s Spots, #1)
Oscar (Leopard’s Spots, #2)
Timothy (Leopard’s Spots, #3)
Isaiah (Leopard’s Spots #4)
Gilbert (Leopard’s Spots #5)
Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6)
Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots, #7)
Wesley (Leopard’s Spots, #8)
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots, #9)

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Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: August 9th 2013 by Total-E-Bound Publishing