Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price (audiobook)

Title:  Hemovore
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
My Rating: B
Narrator: Joel Leslie

Genre: Paranormal Romance (m/m)
Main Characters: Mark and Jonathan
Release Date: September 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: JCP Books
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Listening Length: 10 hours and 25 minutes

Mark Hansen thought working as artist’s assistant would be glamorous, especially if that artist was a vampire. Black tie events, witty repartee, gracing the pages of the local style section…. Didn’t happen. Not even once.

Jonathan Varga is an enigma. True, he’s quiet, generous, and scrupulously polite. But he has zero social life, refuses to be interviewed or photographed, and insists he can only consume feline blood.

Why supermarket blood won't suffice, Mark hasn’t asked. He’s rarely at a loss for words—he can dish an insult and follow it with a snap as quick as you can say “Miss Thang.” But one look at Jonathan’s black-as-sin gypsy eyes, and Mark’s objections drain away.

So he endures the perpetual grind of their routine: Jonathan hiding in his studio, swiping black paint onto black canvases. Mark hurling insults while he buffs the office to a shine with antiviral wipes. Each of them avoiding the other in a careful choreography…until a blurb in Art in America unleashes a chain of harrowing events.

As secrets from Jonathan’s past are brought to light, it becomes clear that all his precautions weren’t nearly enough.

Second expanded edition includes bonus novelette Sweet

My Review:
Overall: 3.75
Performance: 4.0

Story: 3.5

This story is so incredibly creative. In this world, vampires have come about from a highly contagious virus. No one is more aware of that virus's potential than Mark, who works as a personal assistant to Jonathan, a vampire artist. Mark is fastidious in his cleaning to make sure that nothing is ever left with germs from Jonathan. He's very OCD.

This entire book is told from Mark's pov. He's had a crush on Jonathan for years, but can't risk the virus, so it's a crush from afar. But when life changes very drastically for the two men, all those feelings that they've both been denying come to the forefront...just as a result of all the stress. 

This is a story where the romantic relationship doesn't happen for a long, long time. It was a VERY slow build. It's also really hard to get to know Jonathan because the story is only told inside Mark's pov. Overall, it worked, because the story is incredibly interesting. I need a dual pov though. The single kept the story from being as satisfying for me without it.

But I do recommend the audiobook. Joel Leslie always does a good job and his accents in this one were spot-on delicious! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

How to Blow It With a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Title: How To Blow It with a Billionaire
Author: Alexis Hall
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Arden St. Ives #2
Main Characters: Arden and Caspian
Release Date: December 2017
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Be careful what you wish for . . .

Once upon a time there was a totally ordinary boy who fell for a cold, beautiful prince. Only it's not a fairy tale, it's my life. The prince is a billionaire called Caspian Hart. And we're trying super hard to live happily ever after.

He's everything I want, need, and can't resist: a man who looks like a god and bangs like the devil. Except he's still got his rules and he's still got his secrets . . .

But if there's one thing Caspian's taught me it's that you should never settle for less than you're worth. And I'm worth his trust. I have to show him that I see him. That I'm not afraid of his passion, or his power, or his past. And that I won't settle for less than everything.

My Review:
This is the second book in what's going to be at least a three-book series. These books need to be read together to get the full impact of the story line. And as far as this book goes, that title gives you the really vital information that you need going into this book. Prepare yourself. This is not the type of book that most romance readers will be satisfied with....BUT there's more to come.

2nd BUT...the levels of romance and just pure 'awww' factor in this book go way, way up from where they were in the first installment of the series. There's still a ton of questions about what exactly is going on with Caspian.  (The entire series is told from Arden's point of view.) But I did LOVE the little glimpses of emotion and vulnerability he showed in this book when it came to how much he cared for Arden...something that he just doesn't let happen. 

This is an erotic BDSM story, but I'd consider it VERY LIGHT BDSM...although just like I said in the first book, I think that is going to systematically ramp up deeper and deeper as the series goes along. There's no doubt Arden is ready for more. Caspian just has to work through his barriers. 

There are also several side plots/stories happening throughout the series with Caspian's sister and Arden's best friend. I loved how both of those played out in this book, although my heart completely broke over Nick.

Now I'm just waiting on pins and needles for the next book. I need more and I'm really hoping that eventually all will be revealed about Caspian and these two will finally find their HEA. I think they're eventually going to be phenomenal together. 

So far, I'm loving the series and highly recommend it. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Absolved by Marnee Blake

Title: Absolved
Author: Marnee Blake
My Rating: B

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Altered #3
Main Characters: Luke and Beth
Release Date: December 2017
Publisher: Entangled
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Since a brain-altering drug killed most of Luke Kincaid’s town—including his father—and left him telekinetic, he’s determined to stop the fanatic who stole the drug to create his own super-powered army. That means working with scientist Dr. Beth Jenkins, whose graphic tees and beautiful smile are some of Luke’s biggest distractions.

A science prodigy, Beth works with the FBI and solves the toughest crimes, but she can’t figure out what caused her mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The drug that ravaged Luke’s town is volatile, and the mortality rate is still high, yet Beth is convinced it holds the key to saving her mother, even if sexy and tortured Luke doesn’t believe it should be adapted for commercial use. 

When bodies start to pile up, though, the two loners must decide if the goals that tie them together are greater the fears that would tear them apart.

My Review:
This is a series I've followed ever since it came out. It's a cross between a dystopian story (which is what the first book felt like) and paranormal/superhero story (which is how this book felt as the world and these characters have evolved).

The town of Glory was the scene of an experiment gone wrong. The entire town was affected by Solvomine...a drug that killed most, but those that didn't die developed various super-powers. The series has been about how those few people who lived have gone on with this new reality. 

That would be enough for everyone to deal with, but the evil that is the root of this drug is still out there. There are people who want the drug for their own (usually evil) purposes. Luke is one of the soldiers trying desperately to prevent that from happening...oh, and he also was part of that original Glory group. 

Beth is a brilliant scientist. She's in the midst of trying to track Solvomine for the government, but she also thinks that there are important medical discoveries to be made through the drug. On the surface Luke and Beth are on the same side. They work for the same team and in conjunction with one another, but Luke thinks all of the drug should be destroyed, something Beth would never agree to. Oh, and yeah...they're also both really attracted to the other.

When Luke underwent this change, his reality changed in a drastic, traumatic way. He hasn't yet adjusted his mentality to accept all those changes. As a result, he works really hard to shut himself off emotionally. I liked how the story developed because of where it took Beth so she could see what was really going on with Luke. I loved that and the honesty that developed between the two of them even when it was really difficult...something that I don't think would have ever happened otherwise. 

I'm not sure, but I think this may be the last book in the series. Like I said, I've thoroughly enjoyed this one. It's been very different from pretty much everything out there. Each book features a different couple from the original Glory survivors, so they all work as stand-alones, but to get the full effect and enjoyment from the series, I recommend reading all three books. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Operation Green Card by G.B. Gordon

Title: Operation Green Card
Author: G. B. Gordon
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Bluewater Bay #21
Main Characters: Arkady and Jason
Release Date: December 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Arkady Izmaylov is a family man. He’s also gay. In Russia. His sister Natalya has been telling him to get out for years, but it’s only after an attack in the street that he finally concedes and says yes to her desperate plan of him marrying a stranger for a green card.

Jason Cooley was taught from birth that he’s no good to anyone. Then the military taught him he was good enough to save other lives, but that purpose got amputated along with his leg. He’s now working security at Wolf’s Landing and sending monthly checks to his ex for their daughter’s education. When Natalya asks him to marry her brother, Jason knows right away he’ll do it more for the mission than the money she’s offering. But when he actually meets Arkady, his mission turns complicated.

Jason quickly discovers he’s not as straight as he thought. He’s also the man of Arkady’s dreams. Arkady must convince Jason that he’s worth loving, and that Arkady won’t disappear from his life like everyone else. Because Arkady has always wanted a family of his own, and he’s not letting go of this one.

My Review: 
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Jason is not gay. He does need money though and that's where this fake marriage comes from. 

Jason is an interesting character. His entire identity was wrapped up in his ability to do his job in the military. Then he lost his leg and took the physical determining whether he could stay active duty before he was ready. So, now he's working a minimum wage security job where all he does is monitor video feeds all day, although he's worked to the point that no one can even tell he has a prosthetic. But the main thing leftover from all of this is that his self worth is in the toilet. 

Jason has no issues with homophobia. He messed around with guys a bit on deployments, but never considered it more than the need to get off. But when Arkady comes into his life, he's suddenly questioning all of this. He never thought bisexuality was a thing. He was under the impression that it was a word for guys who didn't want to admit they were really gay. So, you can imagine his surprise that he actually falls under this label...because he wants Arkady...desperately.

Arkady doesn't realize Jason has all these self-worth issues at first. It's hard to get a real read off of the stoic Jason, so Arkady assumes the emotions behind his attraction are his alone, and that Jason just likes sleeping with him.

I liked this book. To Jason, this is all pretty new. For Arkady, he's in a fairly desperate situation...if he goes back to Russia, he will eventually be killed. But below the surface of all that are these two men who find love where they really, really need it. The story was sweet and romantic and everything I love in my romance. I really enjoyed it...a lot.

I definitely recommend this one!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

West Coast Love by Tif Marcelo

Title: West Coast Love
Author: Tif Marcelo
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Journey to the Heart #3
Main Characters: Victoria and Joel
Release Date: December 2017
Publisher: Pocket Star
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
An aspiring food journalist and a grumpy cameraman take to the California coast for the biggest foodie event of the year in this sweet third novel in Tif Marcelo’s charming and romantic Journey to the Heart series.

Online food blogger Victoria Aquino has spent years doing social media for True North and Paraiso Retreats, and she’s ready to take her blog and writing to the next level. But after she was catfished and suffered a heartbreak, she’s clamoring for change. She auditions for and accepts a food host opportunity: covering the Labor Day holiday BBQ festivals along the California coast. For eight days, she’ll travel with a producer and a camera and sound person, in a vintage—and rickety—RV, and she’ll get her very first byline as a video journalist. The only catch? She can’t stand BBQ.

And the cameraman also auditioned for the job.

Joel Silva is a cameraman with his own past and big dreams of his own, and when he finds out that the job he auditioned for went to Victoria—a woman he’d gotten to know covering Paraiso Retreats, and someone he later slept with—he’s understandably furious and curious. Joel knows the BBQ circuit like the back of his hand, and he now has to help Victoria do her job amidst their growing attraction.

When the producer picks up on their push/pull vibe and increases the ante to feature both in front of the camera with the best host taking the next cross-country feature, the two have to decide: is their blossoming romance something that should be left to fizzle along with BBQ season? Or is it the beginning of something even more delicious?

My Review:
Ready for a foodie-centric road trip in an old RV? Then this is the book for you...hehe.

The premise on this one is really fun. There are four people in this reality food show crew. They have 8 days to hit 5 bbq festivals and do online reports. They are in close quarters which can be really awkward, but to raise the bar of awkwardness, Joel and Victoria slept together AND Victoria beat Joel out for the main reporting job...and this was all before they realized they'd be working together.

This story is a slow brew romance and I'll be honest, it took me forever to read it because I kept falling asleep (it's a crazy time of the year and I'm flat out exhausted, so this is not necessarily a reflection on the story). It's very readable and the characters are interesting, I just couldn't manage to stay engaged with the story (and I really think this is a "me" issue because I can't tell you a single reason why that was except I'm just plain tired). Overall, I definitely enjoyed it.

Like I said, it's an entertaining read. It's been a while since I went RV camping and this book was enough for me to look back on those times with nostalgia and make me a bit more willing to listen to my hubby the next time he says we should buy a camper again...hehe. It's fun to escape on this adventure with the characters. 

And note...I adore that Victoria keeps a bullet journal as a bujo lover myself. I found myself wanting to know more about her bujo and the nitty gritty details of her much love for all that.

But I did like the premise, the characters, and getting to see all the festivals from the very unlikely perch of this rickety old RV.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Wild Trail by A.M. Arthur

Title: Wild Trail
Author: A.M. Arthur
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Clean Slate Ranch #1
Main Characters: Mack and Wes
Release Date: December 2017
Publisher: Carina
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Welcome to Clean Slate Ranch: home of tight jeans, cowboy boots, and rough trails. For some men, it's a fantasy come true.

Mack Garrett loves the rolling hills surrounding his Northern California dude ranch. Leading vacationers on horse trails with his two best friends is enough - romance is definitely not in the cards. When a sexy tourist shows up at Clean Slate, he's as far from Mack's type as can be. So why is the handsome city slicker so far under his skin in less than a day?

Roughing it in the middle of nowhere isn't anywhere near Wes Bentley's idea of fun. Then he lays eyes on the gruffest, hottest papa bear he's ever seen. But Mack is as hard to pin down as he looks - distant, sharp-tongued, and in desperate need of a shave. Until a campout gone wrong strands both men in the mountains with nothing to do but get to know each other.

Mack intends to keep his closely guarded heart out of Wes' very talented hands. But for a seven-day cowboy, Wes is packing some long-term possibility. The cold country air can do wonders for bringing bodies together - but it will take more than that to bridge the distance between two men whose lives are worlds apart.

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!

This book is approximately 90,000 words
Carina Press acknowledges the editorial services of Alissa Davis
©2017 A. M. Arthur (P)2017 Harlequin Enterprises, Limited.

My Review:
I'll admit, I wasn't sure about this book going in. The cover has the look of an old-timey western which is definitely not my thing and despite reading the blurb that made me leery. So I was thrilled when I started reading it and discovered that this is very, most definitely, contemporary. In fact, one of the heroes used to be a SWAT officer before going to work at his family ranch.

Okay, so this book...the setup is that Mack works at his family ranch which is a dude ranch in California. Wes is the wedding planner and part of the wedding party for his sister. Although anything outdoors is not his thing, his sister wanted to go to a dude ranch as part of the bachelor/bachelorette party. Wes will do anything for his sister so he sets up this week at Mack's ranch. 

This is a very slow build for the two guys (well, as slow as you can have when the one guy is only going to be there for a week), but while the attraction is most definitely there from the start, they both resist. They have nothing in common and this dynamic could get awkward really quick. But this is a romance novel, so you know how that's going to work out. 

Overall I enjoyed the story a lot. There is a lot of action and several big subplots that run through the story. I liked all of that (and love the glimpses we've seen of upcoming heroes, which I'm assuming are Mack's best friends who he works with on the ranch.) On the surface, the two heroes have nothing in common besides attraction, but as the story evolves, they realize there's much more there. And of course, this is an A.M. Arthur story so there are most definitely some emotional roadblocks they have to get through first. 

I liked this one and am ready to read the rest of the stories in the series. This one started out the series on a fabulous note!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Steadfast by Sarina Bowen (audiobook)

Title:  Bittersweet
Author: Sarina Bowen
My Rating: A+
Narrator: Seraphine Valentine and Jeffrey Kafer

Genre: New Adult Romance 
Series: True North #2
Main Characters: Jude and Sophie
Release Date: October 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there's no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never turn up volunteer in the church kitchen.

She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie's police chief father. But it's a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

My Review:
Overall: 4.75
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.75
I have so, so much love for this story. I adore second chance at love stories, but with the details of Jude's backstory, this romance was just so much more. More emotionally involved, more heartbreaking, and so much more romantic as the story evolved. I ADORED this book.

Jude has spent the last three years in jail for driving while under the influence...something that resulted in killing his passenger and him going to jail for manslaughter. Now he's out, trying to recover from heroine addiction, and trying to rebuild his life in the same town where his entire world collapsed. He never expected Sophie to still be there. Three years ago, she was supposed to be off forgetting him and chasing her dreams. But the events in his life had long-lasting repercussions for Sophie, too.

Because Sophie's brother was the passenger, and her mother never recovered from the loss. So now she's still living at home, taking care of her mother, and surviving the ongoing bullying from her sheriff father. It's an awful existence. I'm not sure who truly had it worse...Jude in prison, or Sophie with her father. 

To say Jude was railroaded when the accident happened is putting it mildly, and Sophie's father isn't happy to have Jude back in town and in the sphere of her daughter anymore. (I really, really hated this man...he is EVIL.) But despite that Jude and Sophie begin to find their way to one another again. There are so many roadblocks for them, but that's what made this book so darn good. There's so much build-up and suspense to how and when they will give into their attraction and chemistry.

This book was fantastic. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. If you like second chance at love stories, it's a perfect one. This isn't a story about two people who had a fight and broke up. It's about so much more and it's the constant fight for the two of them to find their way back to one another, for Jude to stay clean, and for them both to realize where they need to be in this new reality. I loved the book!

Note: This entire series is phenomenal and I highly recommend all three books, but you can easily read any of them as stand-alones.