Saturday, January 20, 2018

After We Fall by Melanie Harlow (audiobook)

Title:  After We Fall
Author: Melanie Harlow
My Rating: A
Narrator: Renee Givens and Rob Howard

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series
Main Characters: Jack and Margot
Release Date: April 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: Audible Studios
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Jack Valentini isn’t my type. 

Sexy, brooding cowboys are fine in the movies, but in real life, I prefer a suit and tie. Proper manners. A close shave. 

Jack might be gorgeous, but he’s also scruffy, rugged, and rude. He wants nothing to do with a “rich city girl” like me, and he isn’t afraid to say so. 

But I’ve got a PR job to do for his family’s farm, so he’s stuck with me and I’m stuck with him. His glares. His moods. His tight jeans. His muscles. 

His huge, hard muscles.

Pretty soon there’s a whole different kind of tension between us, the kind that has me misbehaving in barns, trees, and pickup trucks. I’ve never done anything so out of character—but it feels too good to stop.

And the more I learn about the grieving ex-Army sergeant, the better I understand him. Losing his wife left him broken and bitter and blaming himself. He doesn’t think he deserves a second chance at happiness. 

But he’s wrong.

I don’t need to be his first love. If only he’d let me be his last.

My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.75

So, so many feels with this story. Gah...Jack just broke my heart. He was completely in love with his wife who died and never plans on moving on. He's just surviving through no real choice of his own. He does his job on the family farm and very little else. He's definitely not  living. 

But when Margot shows up, she challenges all that. At first, he's just incredibly aggravated with her. He doesn't believe she can help them and he sure doesn't think anything needs to change with their business. But he's incredible attracted to her, the first person he's been even slightly drawn to since his wife's death.

Margot is a debutante. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, she's here because she needed to escape the scandal she caused at home with her ex-fiance. At first she sees Jack as a rude ogre, but then she learns his story and wants to  help put a smile on his face. 

This is truly a story about transformation. For Jack, he was finding a way out of his blanket of grief. For Margot, she's finding her way out of the blanket of expectations. Neither one of them ever realized they were trapped...until they met each other. 

I loved everything about this story. It was so good. It was my first official Melanie Harlow read, although I'm pretty sure I own several of her books. I need to go dig them all out of my TBR pile and READ THEM. A great author... and a wonderful audiobook!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker

Title: Seduction on the Slopes
Author: Tamsen Parker
My Rating: A

Genre: Sports Romance
Series: Snow and Ice Games #2
Main Characters: Miles and Crash
Release Date: January 2018
Publisher: Swerve
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Welcome to the Snow and Ice Games where competition is not the only thing that is heating up! The second book in bestselling Tamsen Parker's romance series continues with two competitive teammates.

Miles Palmer has dominated the downhill slalom in every Snow and Ice Games he’s competed in. Double gold, double gold, double gold, and he’s confident he can round out his career and his trophy case with two more medals in his last appearance at the games. The only thing that could stop him? Crash Delaney.

Crash is a young upstart who came out of nowhere and shocked the downhill world with his swagger and untraditional style. As a kid, Crash didn’t have the resources to learn how to race properly, but he begged, borrowed, and stole equipment, and went to any competition he could thumb a ride to. Now the only thing between him and his dreams coming true is his childhood hero, the man whose posters have graced his walls since before he’d ridden in his first chairlift.

Miles and Crash are technically teammates, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they fight. The veteran and the nobody have both got big things riding on this race, and neither can afford any distractions. Especially not each other.

My Review:
This was the first book I've read by this author and I was completely blown away by the quality of the story.

This is an opposites attract story, but there's really not even an attraction between them at the beginning because they are SO COMPLETELY different. Miles is a rule follower. He's completely disciplined and controlled at all times. That's how he's won his six gold medals. 

Crash doesn't even know what the rules are. On his own since the age of fifteen, he's had to scrape and claw his way to get to this level of competitive skiing. His rags to riches story is huge to the media and public, but for him, it's nothing but stress. No, he hasn't had an easy time, but that's all he's known. He hates the attention his upbringing has brought to him. He wants to ski and do that as best as he can. He's unkempt, his skiing style is unconventional, and he regularly tokes up. 

In other words, Crash is Miles' nightmare. But Miles can see just how much pure talent Crash has so he's put himself out there to make sure that Crash gets on the team, but that's meant that the coach has put Miles in charge of making that Crash shows up and follows the rules. And that takes some interesting (and extremely sexy) incentives...

This romance is a great one. The two of them are so unlikely, but as they work together to get Crash to do what he needs to do for the team, they begin to truly respect one another and see the other's perspective. I loved that. I also loved the case of hero worship that Crash had going for him. He's always adored Miles as a fan. To be on the team with him is beyond his wildest dreams, but then when things get deeper, I adored Crash's internal fanboy. So much fun to this story. 

And dang...it was so sexy. Neither of these guys saw this situation going where it did, but once it does, they get so swept away with it all... Seriously, sexy!

Crash's backstory was heartbreaking...just in how much skiing meant to him and no one ever shared in that excitement with him. His parents were neglectful at best. But the idea that he managed to reach this level of competitive skill with the worst of circumstances and equipment is astounding. His story alone made for really riveting reading. 

The guys are opposite personalities, but so much of that is because of their completely opposite upbringing. It was an interesting dichotomy. They both are super-competitive, but I loved Crash's actions at the end. 

This was a GREAT book. I definitely look forward to reading this author again.

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

Down By Contact by Santino Hassell

Title: Down By Contact
Author: Santino Hassell
My Rating: A

Genre: Sports Romance (m/m) 
Series: The Barons #2
Main Characters: Simeon and Adrian
Release Date: January 2018
Publisher: Intermix
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact. 

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

My Review:
I truly don't think I could love this series any more. Seriously, this entire football team needs to turn gay so this series can go on and on and on. Needless to say, this book was FABULOUS!! I adored it!

So, I loved the first book and I don't think any book will ever replace it as my favorite, but this one was really, really close. 

For a few months, Simeon played on the Predators practice team. He hated that team filled with dirty, homophobic players. The only person that he got along with was Adrian, but when Simeon left the team, Adrian took it personally and since then has talked trash about him whenever he gets the chance. The conflict has continued onto the field every time they play. This all comes to a head on the first preseason game when the Predators and the Barons face one another. This is also the first game since it's been revealed that Simeon is gay. 

Adrian gets in his face and things get out of control. Their antics result with them both on a six game suspension and having to do community service together at a NY youth center and things develop from there in the most brilliant way. Gah, I loved these two together so much. At first it is all about the conflict. I loved how at different times they would both pull back and stop, realizing just how stupid and immature they were acting. I really loved those instances of reality. 

But as things start to develop, Adrian starts to question things about himself. With the upbringing he's had, anything on the queer scale wasn't even a possibility. It truly never even occurred to him that he could rank elsewhere on the sexuality scale, but hanging out with Simeon is making him question all of that. It was a slow realization and it felt so realistic reading about it. I loved how he slowly came to recognize things about himself. 

When the entire thing came to a head, I couldn't have been more excited. Those final scenes seriously played out PERFECTLY. My emotions were all over the place in the very best way while reading it. 

I adored this book...and seriously, cannot wait for more from this series. I love it all so much. Bring on the next book...as quickly as possible!!

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cake At Midnight by Jessie L. Star

Title: Cake at Midnight
Author: Jessie L. Star
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series
Main Characters: Gio and Theo
Release Date: January 2018
Publisher: Pocket Star
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Giovanna, Zoë and Declan have always been a trio - their fierce friendship has seen them through every heartbreak and hardship and helped pave the way to brighter futures. Gio is a passionate baker of cakes, pastries and all things delicious, Zoë a take-no-prisoners beauty, and Declan an ambitious businessman on the way up.

Best friends forever, Gio thinks - until Gio's lifelong crush on Declan is exposed, leaving her humiliated, and Gio realises she needs to cut him loose to get over him once and for all.

Enter Theo, Gio's neighbour ... She's never met anyone like him before. He doesn't talk much, but he's kind, he's sexy, he's generous and he's often awake in the middle of the night, like Gio. Theo has a sweet tooth and a mysterious history and Gio can't seem to stay away.

Thanks to the power of sleepless nights and chocolate cake, Gio thinks she's finally over Declan, but then his whole world turns upside down. Gio knows she can't desert Declan in his time of need, but how can she explain a lifetime of love to Theo?

Letting go of the past isn't so easy when your heart is breaking.


My Review:

Be prepared...this is a long story, and there were times that it was slow reading because of that. But that didn't stop me from falling in love with Gio and Theo. I loved watching their journey to finding the "something" that is missing in each of their lives, but they never even knew it. 

Gio has been in love with her best friend for years. But when she overhears him slagging on her at a company party that he invited her to, she's through worshipping him. She gives herself 30 days to get over him. 

At that same party, she officially meets Theo...her neighbor who's renowned for just nodding at her instead of speaking to her, but at the party he comes to her rescue to get her out of an uncomfortable situation with Dec. From there they form an unusual friendship...one that forms at midnight when Gio can't sleep. She'll show up at Theo's apartment and reads one of his boring books as he works. This goes on for a while and they begin to form a friendship...one that truly neither one of them ever saw coming. 

And as that friendship deepens, they each discover that the other is one of the most underestimated people they know. I loved that!

Gio and Theo are so different, they really work as a couple. He's controlled and restrained. She's messy and refreshingly honest. He's been hurt by pretty much everyone in his life and trusts no one. She is a nurturer and gives her heart to whomever needs it, usually to the detriment of her own well-being. 

But within each other, they find the person that completes them. For both of them, they find someone who appreciates their qualities rather taking advantage of them. 

There's a lot of story lines going on here...Dec's screwed up life and how that intersects with Gio's inability to stay away from him. Theo's screwed up family and work life where everyone has trampled over him...even though he's darn good at what he does. Gio's friends who are her family, but like family...they don't always treat her the way she should be treated. Then there's the whole complexity of them developing emotions for one another when they agreed that wouldn't happen. 

Overall, it was a fantastic read. A tiny bit of lagging in the pacing in the beginning and middle, but the ending made the journey of reading this book well worth it. 

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

Tribute Act by Joanna Chambers

Title: Tribute Act
Author: Joanna Chambers
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Porthkennack #8
Main Characters: Nathan and Mack
Release Date: January 2018
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Nathan Bridges hadn’t intended to settle down in his home town of Porthkennack—he just ended up staying after saving the family business from ruin. The truth is, Nathan can’t stop himself from stepping in when problems arise. He’s a fixer, the man everyone turns to. But even fixers can’t solve everything.

When Nathan’s sister needs an organ transplant, it’s his stepbrother, Mack, who the family turns to as Rosie’s only potential living donor. Nathan’s curiosity about the stepbrother he’s never met turns to shock when he realises that Mack is his latest—and hottest ever—one-night stand.

Nathan and Mack agree to forget their single night together, but that’s easier said than done. When Mack moves in to Nathan’s place to recuperate after surgery, it’s not just the sexual tension between them that keeps growing. Against all the odds, and despite Mack’s wariness of intimacy, the two men grow close enough that Nathan begins to wonder what it would take to mend the rift that’s kept Mack and his father estranged for over a decade . . . and whether Mack might consider staying with Nathan in Porthkennack for good.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this book. There's a great, complex backstory for this family and I'll admit I never truly understood exactly what Derek's issue with Mack was. But gah...Mack hurt my heart. There is so much pain for him and I just wanted to hug him. He needs a hug so bad. (And that's where you know this is a good book because I wanted to crawl into the book and take care of Mack.) But luckily Nathan feels the same way so I got to live vicariously through him (at least to the point that Mack would allow him to take care of him...which wasn't much)...confused yet?

Yeah, I'm making this much harder than it is. Mack is a wounded character. At the age of 15, he basically lost both his mother and father and was left alone with his homophobic grandparents. That's left scars on him. He doesn't allow himself to connect with people. 

But there's one thing in this book that changes the circumstances between Mack and Nathan. They met as strangers, not as estranged family, and they connected. So when Mack does this incredible thing for them, Nathan steps up to make sure that Mack is taken care of and moves him into Nathan's house for the next three months. While he recovers they form a friendship that slowly evolves into more. 

With the exception of Derek, I loved this book. I loved the slow build up of the real relationship between Mack and Nathan. I love that Nathan is a fixer. I love that Mack never even questioned this huge gift he's giving to the family that's never been there for him. I loved the musical aspect to Mack and that he's so much more talented than Derek ever was (did I mention that I really, really didn't like Derek?).

Overall, the book is just a great read. I'll admit that I'm a sucker for a wounded hero...and Mack is definitely one of those...both mentally and physically, so this romance really, really worked for me. 

I recommend you grab it. Note: while this is part of a series, the only tie-in to the series is this quaint English seaside location. You can easily read this book without having read any of the other books in the series. 

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

Romantic Behavior by L.A. Witt and Cari Z

Title: Romantic Behavior
Author: L.A. Witt and Cari Z
My Rating: A

Genre: Romantic Suspense (m/m)
Series: Bad Behavior #4
Main Characters: Andreas and Darren
Release Date: January 2018
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Detective Andreas Ruffner is no fool—he’s found a man who loves him, puts up with him, and has stuck with him through hell and back, and it’s time to put a ring on it. Darren Corliss is the love of his life, and he wants the whole world to know it.

Now the fun part—the wedding!

Well, after the not-so-fun part of planning the wedding in between dealing with overbearing and impossible-to-please family members. With future mothers-in-law driving them both up a wall, the guest list growing out of control, and the wedding getting ever more complicated, Darren and Andreas have to wonder if they’re in over their heads.

But they’re going to make it to the altar if it kills them . . . and at this rate, it just might.

My Review:
This was the absolutely perfect ending to this series. Finally, a happy, wonderful place for these two...although there was a bit of danger along the way in the form of the dreaded in-laws. ;) 

I liked this novella so much. While it wasn't very long, it was still most definitely Andreas and Darren as they sort through what's important about this wedding. It was romantic and sizzling hot. I loved reading it. If you've read the series, you have to read this one, too. 

This series needs to be read as a whole. If you haven't been doing so yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. The entire series is fantastic and this finishing touch left me with a smile on my face. So much happy reading! Highly recommend.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Weight of the World by Riley Hart and Devon McCormack (audiobook)

Title: Weight of the World
Author: Riley Hart and Devon McCormack
My Rating: B+
Narrator: Michael Pauley

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series
Main Characters: Zack  and Tommy
Release Date: November 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: Treycore Films, LLC
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
"The world’s an awfully big thing to carry by yourself." 

Zack lost his job, his apartment, and his hope, which is why he ends up on the roof of a high rise, certain that one final step will solve his problems. But a mysterious stranger named Rob happens to be on the roof that night too. He talks Zack down, convincing him there's still hope left in the world. Zack thinks maybe he's right, which is why he's shocked when he turns on the news the next morning to find out Rob jumped himself. Disturbed and confused, he searches for answers, starting with Rob’s brother Tommy Rayburn. 

It’s been Tommy’s job to take care of his brother since they were kids, taking the blows from their father so Rob wouldn’t have to. Tommy thought he could protect him, even if it meant carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Considering Rob threw himself off a building, he obviously couldn't. 

Then he meets Zack, a friend of Rob’s who’s suspiciously evasive about how they knew each other. But they’re both grieving and determined to find out why Rob jumped. Answers don’t come easily, and soon they’re soothing each other with sweat-slicked, passionate encounters. Hot as things get in the bedroom, it doesn’t take them long to realize there’s more between them than mind-blowing sex and their pain. But the heaviness is still there, threatening to pull them under, and if they can’t open up with each other to lighten the load, the weight just might be enough to crush them both.


My Review:
Overall: 4.0
Performance: 4.25
Story: 4.0

Read the premise of this story and you know that it's going to be an emotional one. And it was...but I never felt that it was too depressing or hard to take. I actually enjoyed getting to see Zack and Tommy work through their grief/sadness/confusion about Rob's suicide together. I thought the authors did a really good job of balancing that so that the book wasn't depressing, although the sadness definitely lingers throughout the story. 

Both of these guys are hurting, but it was hard to see how much Zack needs something more. He was on that roof for a reason, and that didn't miraculously go away. And then the thoughts of what will happen to Tommy if Zack somehow goes off the deep end again...it's terrifying. 

But beyond belief, these two guys find true happiness with one another. Zack's secret is still out there lurking though and the reader knows it's eventually going to come out. 

I did enjoy this one. I liked both the characters. I could empathize with both characters. My heart hurt for what both of them are going through. Overall, I just really liked this story and enjoyed the audiobook...a lot.