M/M Monday

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WOW! I couldn’t put this book down and stayed up until 3am to finish it. It’s a great mix of political intrigue, double agents, espionage, a plot to murder the president and then add into that a fantastic M/M relationship, passion, emotion and some steamy sex scenes and a book doesn’t get much better!

I loved how Jack and Ethan’s relationship grew. Jack is the newly elected President and a widow of 15 years. He’s alone in the white house since he had no children when he was married and having trouble settling into his job and the isolation he feels. Ethan is the head of his secret service detail and he knows that it’s imperative not to get involved with the protectee in any form. No friendships, no investment – a distance must be maintained. However, he truly likes and respects Jack and sees how he is struggling to acclimatize. So he offers to work out with him in the mornings and slowly breaks his rules as he forms a friendship with the president. There is a lot of political intrigue in this book and lots of scenes and dialogue about world events and politics but it never overshadows the relationship between Jack and Ethan. Of course Jack and Ethan don’t overshadow the suspense either. In fact, I thought it was a perfect mix. Not only that I wasn’t sure who the bad guy was and that rarely happens. There was a ton of action and the book had me on the edge several times! Bottom line: wonderful characters, moving romance, fantastic political intrigue and edge of your seat suspense. This was my first Tal Bauer book but I’m going to go buy the next book in this series as soon as I post this review!  Definite 5 charm book – I highly recommend this one!

 

M/M Monday

33976926Heels Over Head is a stand alone M/M sports book by Elyse Springer that I really enjoyed. This is a book where the two characters are completely distinctive. Although it takes quite awhile to warm up to Jeremy you can’t help but feel for the guy and his intense desire to get his family to care about him and respect him and his sport. Brandon is easy to love and is a wonderful character that you definitely had me rooting for him.

Jeremy is a diver who is training for the Olympics. He’s been training for 15 years and it’s the most important thing in his life. This is not something he hides and he’s very up front that diving is the only thing in his life that he cares about until he meets Brandon and even then diving is still the most important thing for almost all of the book. Jeremy has convinced himself that if he can just win an Olympic medal his family will respect/care about him and so he lives for this. Brandon has a ton of raw talent but he’s never really seriously trained and winning doesn’t mean much to him. He’s proud of who he is and lives an easy going life style. His family disowned him when he came out at the age of 18 and so he is very independent.

This book takes place over 24 months. The first few months it’s hard to like Jeremy but stick with it and it will be worth it. Brandon does the heavy lifting in this relationship as he slowly breaks through the shame that Jeremy has placed on himself and teaches him that he can take diving seriously and still have a little fun. Brandon’s easy going, fun and compassionate personality is opposite of Jeremy’s very structured, rigid and sometimes selfish personality. Although we start to see Jeremy soften throughout the book.

Normally I roll my eyes at a character that has never really even kissed anyone else but with Jeremy’s all consuming drive and his deep shame for being attracted to men it was very easy to believe. The sex scenes between the two were sweet and yet very hot – I really loved them.

The secondary characters added a lot to the book. I liked the fact that the coach was really a father-like figure although none of the athletes realize how much. Val’s side story with her struggle to deal with her Olympic parent’s expectations added a lot and I loved her – she was a really good friend to both men. Even Brandon’s best friend Aaron added to the book. Then of course there was Jeremy’s family who I absolutely hated and they were so dismissive of Jeremy’s status as an amazing athlete that it was almost OTT. I wanted so much for Jeremy to stop caring whether he had the approval of his family but I also understand just how much a child will do to get the love/acceptance of a parent.

I was completely invested in the story between Brandon and Jeremy and although I think Brandon forgave Jeremy a little easily I can also understand why he did. Jeremy was so emotionally/socially stunted that the overtures from him were a much bigger deal then they would be from someone who wasn’t. Surprisingly enough I even enjoyed learning about all the diving and it was obvious that the research was done on the sport. There was just the right amount of technical information without becoming overwhelming or boring.

I really wish this book had an epilogue.  Four charms for this sports centered M/M book that was released today 5/29/17.

M/M Monday

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3.5 Stars. One Night with Rhodes is the 4th book in the One Night Series but is easily read as a stand alone (I haven’t read the previous books). Overall, its a sexy, enjoyable but angst-filled book. This was my first Eden Finley book and I really enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be looking to see what else she has written.

This book covers a six year time span and I have to admit I was a little confused at first. I thought maybe I was dealing with flashbacks (turns out I wasn’t) and the first few chapters I kept having to go back and look to see if it was Garrett’s or Blair’s POV I was reading. Once I figured out the timeline and got to know the characters a bit better so that I could tell which POV I was reading I settled into a really good book.

The relationship between Garrett and Blair is definitely a slow build, very complex and full of angst. Blair is bisexual and not completely comfortable with his sexuality although he does come out to his friends and family in the beginning. However, his family thinks it was just a phase. He only had the one boyfriend and when he dumped Blair right after he came out he hasn’t had another relationship with a man. His friends didn’t really say anything to him about his “coming out” so in essence it was like he went right back into the closet. Garrett is very deep in the closet and doesn’t want anyone to know he is gay and in fact has trouble even admitting it to himself. When Blair’s boyfriend breaks up with him he goes to his best friend Hunter’s only to find he isn’t home and so Hunter’s older brother Garrett takes him out to help him forget about it for awhile. The two share a very hot kiss and then Garrett pulls back and shuts Blair out. Garrett is an emotional mess and has a lot of deep seated fears and guilt that he hasn’t dealt with. Blair sees this and wants to help Garrett as much as he can. He’s always had a bit of a crush on him but mostly he knows that Garrett doesn’t have anyone he can talk to about his sexuality so he wants to be that guy for him. However, the chemistry between the two is off the charts and more often than not they end up hooking up and then Garrett gets scared and runs away.

Normally, the constant hook-up and run away would drive me insane and to a point it did but not as much as I expected. I really felt for both Garrett and Blair and the emotional roller coaster they were both on. I really liked that there was a friendship between the two men and I got caught up in the emotional pull of this book. The book lagged just a bit in the middle and the final resolution seemed a little rushed but I believed the HEA and was very happy to see how it all works out for the men. The secondary characters were enjoyable and although there were a lot of backstory relationships going on with those characters it didn’t take too much away from the main characters. I thought the sex scenes were sexy and very well done.

I enjoyed this book and the characters were likable. I’ll definitely look for more M/M books from Eden Finley.  Worth rounding up to 4 charms.

 

M/M Monday

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Action is the second book in Murmur Inc but can easily be read as a stand alone (I haven’t read the first book yet). I have to admit when I read the MC’s were porn stars I wasn’t sure how that would work for me. I don’t like cheating or MC’s with open relationships but I decided to give this one a try and I’m so glad I did. It was fun, humorous, entertaining and sweet (yes a sweet book with porn stars).

This book centers around Jaden (Pete) who has been doing porn for about a year but he’s not feeling inspired anymore. Pete is actually pretty much a computer geek and very shy with only a few friends in his “normal” life. He’s going to college, lives at home with his mom and works part-time at a coffee shop to explain to his mom how he gets his money to help pay the bills. He wanted porn to help him come out of his shell some and be more adventurous. He’s worried if he can’t get his inspiration back he’ll lose his job and won’t be able to pay for school. This changes when he is introduced to Kyle Darko (Evan) who is a rising star in the porn world. Evan is the opposite of Pete, in that he is out-going, confident and sexy. Pete is immediately drawn to Evan and the chemistry is mutual and sizzling between the two.

I really loved both Evan and Pete and the connection between the two of them. There is very little angst in this book other than a little bit of uncertainty about how he really feels about me and the fact that Evan is out with his porn star status and Pete is not. There isn’t any cheating and the story makes that believable (you’ll have to read to see how that works). There is plenty of spicy sex scenes, humorous dialogue and sweet moments between the guys.

There are also some really great secondary characters that add to the book and made me laugh. The relationship is a bit instant but it didn’t bother me.

I ended up really enjoying this book and I will be going back and reading the first book in this series. I’m new to Quinn Anderson but after this book I’m a fan! If you’re looking for a hot, fun, humorous and low angst M/M book then look no further than Action!  I give this book 4 charms.

M/M Monday Concourse Review

30364779I haven’t read the earlier books in this series but this book seemed to be easily read as a stand alone.

I enjoyed this book and I thought the writing was superb. The only reason this was a 4 star read for me was that I have a bit of trouble connecting with high drama, can’t stop repeating the same behavior that is causing me problems, high maintenance characters. With that said, I ended really liking both Val and Ashton it just took me a lot of the book to get there.

Ashton is a social media celebrity (which is already a difficult concept for me to connect with) so the fact that he leads a life of club hopping, sexual encounters and blog reports didn’t make it easier. Ashton is portrayed as a vacuous man that goes from one party to the next and picks up men to have sex with that aren’t necessarily good for or to him. The only one that sees the real Ash is his best friend Val. The problem for me with the beginning of the book is that Ash uses that friendship to count on Val to “rescue” him from one bad situation to the next. Val cares deeply for Ash but he hates his lifestyle (more because he knows it doesn’t really make Ash happy then because he’s judgmental about it). He also hates Ash’s family not only because he feels they took his mom from him but because of the way they have and do treat Ash. He also has a secret he thinks will ultimately tear him and Ash apart.

The truth is that Ash is a man who craves love, acceptance and understanding. He only gets that from Val but Val pushes Ash away when they get to close so Ash acts out to bring Val running back into his life. Both men drove me a little crazy by being their own worst enemy.

What lies inside is a man longing for affection and understanding. The only person who’s ever seen the real Ashton is his childhood friend Valdrin, the nanny’s son. There were times when I didn’t like either Ash or Val but I always sympathized with them and while I wanted to shake them I could even understand why they made some of the decisions that they did. Ash had a very low self esteem and it broke my heart even when I wanted him to grow up a bit and take responsibility for the way the world viewed him. Val also had his issues and I think the push/pull he had towards Ash went on a little too long.

What I loved about this book was the way a beautiful friendship was portrayed and how both characters went through a wonderful self-discovery that ultimately led to growth and love. The alternating POVs let the reader get into the mind of both characters which was very necessary to understand the motivations driving their behavior. There were some absolutely beautiful and emotional dialogue in this book that will make your heart warm, bring a sigh out and a tear to your eye.

Ultimately, although the lives of these two men is so far away from anything I am familiar with I was drawn to them, rooted for them and sympathized with them. I may not have always liked them or agreed with their actions but I felt for them and wanted them to find happiness not only with each other but within themselves.

This was my first Five Boroughs book but I will definitely be going back to read the previous books in the series. An emotionally moving, character driven and satisfying book that left me wanting more!

M/M Monday Back Piece Review

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There were some things I really liked about this book and a few not as much things. So after pondering it I finally settled on a 3.5 rating.

This book centers around Daniel who joined the Navy to escape his childhood town and get away from his very religious, homophobic family. He is out of the closet to his Navy friends but not to his family and he’s a virgin. Colin, a tattoo artist, is the opposite of Daniel. His family is very accepting of who he is and he has a lot of sexual experience. He however was in a bad relationship and is still dealing with some of the repercussions from that (mainly an eating disorder). When the two meet up there is instant chemistry and they agree to have a friends with benefits relationship.

I really liked both Daniel and Colin and I thought both back stories where interesting. However, the backstories don’t really come into play for a large portion of the book. In fact, Daniel really didn’t weigh in with Colin’s issues at all. I wanted Daniel to be more involved in that aspect of Colin’s life. In fact this book has very little plot. The two characters talk, have sex and there’s a lot of information about Daniel getting his tattoo. There’s a lot of internal monologues where one or both of them is feeling insecure but not a lot happens. I did like the slow burn of the relationship. They didn’t jump right into falling for each other and the beginning was really just a sexual relationship that turned into something more.

What I really liked about this book was the very realistic way that Daniel’s family was portrayed. Yes, they were extremely homophobic but they loved Daniel. They weren’t an evil family and the book showed a closeness to the family when they interacted. It made Daniel’s decision not to reveal his sexual orientation to them very believable since although heartbreaking Daniel knew that they just wouldn’t accept it.

I enjoyed this book although I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and they definitely ended with a HFN not a HEA. Although this looks to be the first book in the series so maybe we will have more Daniel and Colin in future books.  This was my first book by this author but I will definitely read another one.

This book releases tomorrow on April 25th, 2017.

 

M/M Monday: Imago and Imagines by N.R. Walker

This week’s M/M Monday features two books instead of one, but only one story. I read these both back-to-back, in just one day, and it didn’t feel right to not include them both in this post.

In Imago Jack and Lawson meet. Lawson has been asked by a professor to come find a butterfly he saw decades earlier, but the problem is the butterfly is not native to Tasmania, and everyone thinks the professor made it up. On the flight over, Lawson sits on the other side of the aisle from a gorgeous guy. Jack.

They are instantly attracted to each other and unlike in so many other stories, they don’t beat around the bush. Lawson is in Jack’s hometown for just one week, and if they want to get to know each other, they don’t have time to waste. So there are five dates in five days. Each a little more romantic and each making it just a little more obvious for both the men that this isn’t just a quick fling.

Jack and Lawson seem almost polar opposites on the outside. Jack is a rugged and built bear of a man whereas Lawson is lithe and smaller. Jack’s outdoorsy – he’s a Parks and Wildlife officer – and Lawson is a scientist, who studies butterflies. Not a match made in heaven? They are in this book.

Insta-love? Some would say so, but I’m a little hesitant to use that term. Yes, they do essentially fall in love with each other within less than a week from when they first meet, but. I felt that Jack and Lawson actually learned to know each other as well. Yes, parts of the story are very sappy and so, so sweet – I actually thought, “Hey, I’m smiling!” just a few pages into the story! – but they are living their actual lives while starting to build their relationship.

The title, Imago, is very fitting. In the beginning of the story Lawson is described as kind of geeky and introverted, and this image is further enhanced by his way of speaking and how he dresses – bow ties and all. But at the end of the story he’s blossomed, almost transformed, into a more open and not-so-proper-after-all man.

“Imago. It’s the final and fully developed adult stage. When a caterpillar emerges as a butterfly.”

This part of the story ends happily. Lawson gets a job offer in a nearby town and decides to take it. Alas, he and Jack can continue building what they’ve started.

Imagines takes places six months later.

Lawson gets an urgent call for help from another lepidopterist, who’s concerned that a butterfly is going extinct, and they can’t figure out why. Jack has been hoping to take a little vacation with Lawson, and they decide to combine the two.

This part of the story is a little less romantic than Imago, in a way. There’s not that “will they, won’t they” guessing, and we already know they are in a relationship. Now, very often this book would be the one where one of them is tempted by another and drama ensues. In Jack and Lawson’s case? Nope. (Thank you, N.R. Walker!)

In Imagines what they started only grows deeper and they truly learn they are IT for each other.

Lawson nearly dies. Jack carries him through a rainy, muddy forest and won’t leave his side at the hospital. He realizes he wants to marry Lawson and really build a life with him, as husband and husband.

Until now, Lawson hasn’t even wanted to move in with Jack. He’s thought it’s too soon, that everything happened too quick. But almost dying changes his mind. He wants to belong to Jack, body and soul.

“In entomology, we have a term we call imagines. It’s the plural of imago. And if imago is one butterfly reaching its full potential, then surely we, together, would be imagines.”

Maybe I’m sappy, but I utterly enjoyed Jack and Lawson’s story. Sure, a lot of it is kind of trope-y and just a little too convenient, and there’s no way nobody is this perfect for another person, but I don’t care. I had a dopey smile on my face the entire day and I felt hopeful. (Mind you, my next read needs to be a little less sweet…)

I can’t help but wonder if these two books could have been somehow combined into one, and the story told in one go. The way they are written now, it doesn’t fit, but a few changes to the middle… Perhaps. Still, both books are decently priced for their length and you get your money’s worth even now, so they are well worth a few bucks.

Both Imago and Imagines get four charms from me.

Visit N.R. Walker

Buy Imago from Amazon | Buy Imagines from Amazon

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M/M Monday – Captive Prince Review

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Wow I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. Was I captivated? Yes. Could I put it down once I started it? No. Did it make me feel things? Yes. Was I intrigued? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Well I’m not sure enjoy is the word I’d use. This book made me cringe and it made me uncomfortable but it was very well written and I know I’ll dive into the second book.

In Volume 1 Dominus the Prince of Akielos and rightful heir is sold into slavery to Vere, the enemy of Akielos by his brother after a political coup.  Dominus (Damen) knows he can’t let anyone know who he is because he would be killed so he must play the role of slave but it’s obvious to everyone he will not be easily controlled.  He is given to Prince Laurent who once he comes of age will become the ruler of Vere.

This book had a lot of violence, treachery, slavery, subjugation, political machinations and alliances.  It also had loyalty and strength and a character (Damen) I really loved. It also had Laurent who I really didn’t like but I also could tell that there is a lot more to him than Damen thinks and since this is told in Damen’s POV we don’t get to see it except in a few hints here and there. Damen is such a strong character who won’t break but yet his emotions are out there for everyone to see. Laurent is the opposite. He wears a mask and it’s obvious that he’s been involved with political intrigues and plots for a long time and therefore doesn’t let anyone really know what he is thinking or feeling. I found his character to be very complex and intriguing although again at this point I really didn’t like him. There were a few scenes that made me cringe a bit and I’m not sure how the author will manage to bring these two men together after some of the occurrences in Book 1.

Bottom Line, I’m definitely in for book 2!  I give this book 4 charms.

M/M Monday: Save the Date by Annabeth Albert & Wendy Qualls

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I wanted to read Save the Date by Annabeth Albert and Wendy Qualls as soon as I learned of it. Admittedly it took me a few days but as soon as I had time, I picked it up. And, boy, was I not disappointed.

Expectations: Quick read, sweet story, some hot smexy times between a military man and a geeky nerd.

Reality: See above.

The story starts in a night club where Randall is celebrating his sister’s bachelorette party. He meets a guy who just plain does it for him. They spend a night together but come morning, Randall is gone.

Hunter is in town for his best friend’s wedding weekend. A military man through and through, he’s never hidden his sexual orientation nor been very choosy about his bed partners. But finding out the cute geeky guy he got hot and heavy with just a few hours earlier is his best friend’s fiancées baby brother wasn’t something he expected.

Randall and Hunter sneak in private moments all through the weekend. A virgin until the first night spent with Hunter, Randall is coming to realize sex is great fun. Especially because he actually likes Hunter. And Hunter, who has always shied away from commitment after witnessing his parents’ not-so-great marriage, cottons on to the fact that he too is developing feelings toward Randall.

There are a gazillion opportunities to develop major drama, conjure up misunderstandings and angst in the story. To my delight, they weren’t taken. Sure, there are a few incidents here and there but nothing too overboard. Because you just can’t tell a story about a virginal, blushing geek and a not-sexually-repressed, hot army guy, who after a one-night stand find out they need to spend an entire weekend together along with their closest friends and family without letting anyone on they’ve hooked up in order to keep the spotlight on the happy couple and the wedding instead of making it about them.

The wedding weekend is full of revelations for them both, the biggest one being that they could actually have a future together, thanks to Randall’s employer wanting him to relocate to the town where Hunter is based, if only they want to take the leap. And they do.

So there is a Happily Ever After for Randall and Hunter. The road to it is filled with great banter, sweet moments, and hot sex. Despite the length of the story (it’s a novella at best, at approximately 38,000 words), it doesn’t feel incomplete or rushed, apart from the very end. There’s a fairly satisfying epilogue to the story but I definitely wouldn’t turn my back to any further stories about these two, should there be any.

Annabeth Albert is one of my favorite authors and one of the few I don’t necessarily even read the synopsis of the book before clicking Buy or Preorder, and I’m super glad I learned of Wendy Qualls through her. As soon as I finished Save the Date, I looked up her upcoming novel, Worth Waiting For, on Amazon and hit Preorder.

Save the Date gets four charms from me.

Oh, and did I mention that these two amazing authors are giving this away for FREE? It’s true! Purchase/download links below.

Visit Annabeth Albert & Wendy Qualls

Download Save the Date for FREE from Amazon | Kobo | B&N (Nook)

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M/M Monday: Blood Stained Tea by Amy Tasukada

Blood Stained Tea by Amy Tasukada

Amy Tasukada’s Blood Stained Tea is an interesting book. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but in the end I’m very happy I read it.

This is not your everyday romance, not even close. Is it a romance at all? Yes and no.

Deep down in its core, the Blood Stained Tea is not a love story, though romance plays a very important part in the big-picture way of thinking.

Nao, a former yakuza and member of the Matsukawa family, is broken inside. Memories of the past and memories of a past lover haunt him. The only peace and quiet he has had in years is when he’s making tea. The process soothes him and centers him.

Saehyun is a fast-rising member of the Korean mafia trying to overtake the Matsukawa and to take over Kyoto. His past is as seedy and violent as his present.

The story begins when Nao is on one of his walks. It’s something he does to calm his mind, something he needs to stay sane. This walk turns out different from the others, though, as he comes across a man in the river. The stranger doesn’t want to be taken to a hospital so Nao takes him home.

From there begins a relationship between the two that is filled with longing to be with one another, but one that is also filled with lies and half truths. Neither man dares to be really truthful with each other. Sometimes not even with themselves.

Saehyun and Nao juggle their relationship with each other and both their own lives. In their case, love is blind. Or at least very choosy. There are so many opportunities for both men to really catch on to just who the other one is that it seems impossible they’re able to keep their façades up for as long as they can.

But in the end it’s all revealed. The rivalry between the yakuza and the Korean mafia comes to a head, and Nao and Saehyun learn who the other one really is.

The end is violent. Blood flows and lives are lost. There is no happy ending for these two. In fact, for Nao, it’s not so much an end as it is a return to the past.

A new beginning.

I’m actually very surprised at how much I enjoyed this story. It doesn’t really fit in to what I like to read. But I was drawn to it for two main reasons:

  1. The cover. Look at it! What is there to not like?
  2. The yakuza. I probably understand very little about the yakuza, all my information comes from (mostly romance) novels, but I’m always intrigued by it.

There are moments of pure naiveté in this story, moments when I wanted to shake my head and/or slap Nao or Saehyun for being so stupid to not see what’s right in front of them. But I never wanted to not continue reading. I was pulled in from the start and had to keep going until the end. And as firm believer in happy endings as I am, the fact that there isn’t one for these two didn’t bother me at all.

I guess that’s partly because I didn’t really feel the connection between them. It wasn’t natural, not even if you think of them as star-crossed lovers, two people from the different side of the tracks trying to make a future for themselves. And that’s all right, maybe it was the intention even.

Amy Tasukada is a new author to me but one I will be keeping a close eye on for in the future.

The next book in the series, Better than Suicide, is released this spring. Cannot wait!

Blood Stained Tea gets four charms from me.

Visit Amy Tasukada

Buy Blood Stained Tea from Amazon

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Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions above are my own and have not been influenced by anything other than my reading experience.