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StitchersGirl

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." - Oscar Wilde

Status Update by Annabeth Albert

Status Update - Annabeth Albert

Maaaaan, I wanted to like this book so much! Unfortunately, I didn't.

 

Usually Annabeth Albert is one of my favorite comfort/fluffy authors, but this one didn't work for me. And it started out so promising! But then made me uncomfortable fast. Let me tell you a story to explain why.

 

In 2011, I was a heartbroken university student who needed a way out and fast. So after corresponding with a woman online, I packed my bag after barely 3 months of writing back and forth, and borded a plane. 18 hours later I arrived in Durango, Colorado, USA and was picked up by a lady that was 20 years older than me and nothing at all like I expected. And vice versa. My attraction pracitcally evaporated after 2 hours in the same car with her. Things went downhill fast, but we committed to 3 months of staying together and hopping around the country as house sitters, so what could we do? If she would have been a little more like Adrien's online date, I'm pretty sure she would have left me high and dry with a hitched ride in New Mexico. It was only my insane luck that she didn't. So I could emphasize with Adrien a lot when he was stranded on that camping ground somewhere in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of help. That beginning really drew me in, because... yeah. I got it.

 

But back to my travels. At one point, we weren't able to find a new house sitting gig in Colorado, so we started to look elsewhere. We stayed in a hostel during the time, both sitting around with our laptops trying to find a new place to stay. After three days a guy arrived and checked in. He was from Texas, home from deployment and traveling through the country on his own. I found him somewhat attractive, least of all because I have a thing for military uniforms (I know! Bite me.). He and I ended up talking a little bit in the smoking area - which was fine until he started to press me for information I just didn't want to give. I left him to his own devices and went to bed. The next day he was RIGHT THERE at breakfast, talking to me, flirting with me like nobody's business. When I declined his invitations for various acticities around town, he gave me an indulgent smile. He came back two hours later, trying it all over again. Rinse, repeat over the next couple if days. He started to touch my hair, which was absolutely not what I wanted. He constantly threw an arm over my shoulders, brushed his fingers against mine at the oddest of times, and he refused to leave me alone as soon as I opened the hostel's front door. My constant rejection seemed to make him even more persistent, even more determined to invade my personal space to the point where he barged into the women's dorm room at 8 am in the morning. It took three appaled women and the manger to finally get him out of the room so we could get dressed in peace. I left the hostel the same day, tired of saying "No." in every language and every form or fashion possible without being heard. I didn't feel safe in my own dorm, and I was completely freaked out when the other men gave me the "You engaged him, we know you wanted it, too. Don't play hard to get. Stop being so stubborn." lectures and stares.

 

All of this came back to me when I read the first part of this book. Because that was exactly what Adrien did! He had absolutely no respect for the boundaries Nick set very clearly. He didn't listen when Nick asked him to stop flirting so outrageously. He didn't listen when Nick asked him to stop with his touching and brushing up against him. He had no respect for Nick's personal space or desire too keep his private thoughts private. Sure, you can try to explain it all away by saying that Nick actually wanted it, that he just needed to be perusaded for his own good, that he participated in the end. That Adrien only tried to woo him despite his reluctance.

 

I. Don't. Care.

 

There is a difference between wooing someone/being persistent and persuasive manipulation bordering on coercion. I can get behind the romantic notion of slowly winning someone's heart with thoughtful gestures and not giving up easily. What I can't stomach is that in romance, people seem to confuse the wooing with almost stalkerish, inappropriate behavior. I'm also not completely convinced that it hasn't something to to with this being about two men. If you had a man behaving like this in a F/M romance novel, would all the female readers still find that fine and romantic? I don't know.

 

But either way, when someone tells you that you make them uncomfortable, you BACK OFF. When someone asks you not to touch them or flirt with them or make inapproriate jokes, YOU STOP. If you care about someone, you respect their wishes, you let them decide when they are good and ready to touch YOU. You don't push and push and push until they are so out of their comfort zone that they don't even know which way is up anymore. That's not love, that's not caring, and it's certainly not romance. I refuse to accept that as romantic gestures or heartwarming behavior. Adrien was way out of line more often than not, and no matter how Nick reacted to it or not, that was WRONG.

 

Other than that, I was slightly disappointed by the turn the story took when the boys arrived at the wedding od Aiden's sister. Because, let's be honest here for a second: When you're driving across the country to attend the wedding of your sister and your EX-BOYFRIEND? There should be feelings, and words, and at least a little bit of something? But I didn't see that here. It was too smooth, maybe even too rushed, where I would have liked to see more conflict or at least tension. But that are my personal preferences coming through.

 

Sad fact is, after this whole insta-attraction-turned-manipulation-turned-love angle didn't work for me, I wasn't very invested in the story. It did get better after a while, but I mever really recovered from my discomfort. So the rest of the story passed me by in something of a blur. I did like the hard-earned coming out ending with happiness, sunshine and a lot of feelz. I did like the families and the secondary characters. And the dogs! Just not enough, I guess? 

 

So, where does that leave me with this one? Somewhere around 2 stars I think. Because it was okay, except for the situation in which it really wasn't. I wanted to love this so much, and maybe that was part of the problem. 

Farm Fresh by Posy Roberts

Farm Fresh (Naked Organics Book 1) - Posy Roberts

So. This story made me very, VERY uncomfortable, but problably not for the reasons you think.

 

Let me point out at first that I was looking forward to this book very much. A farmer living in a commune and an environmental engineering student with some sexual hang-ups crushing on each other, finally taking a leap? Yes, please! I loved the unique premises of this story, I loved the beginning. Painfully shy Jude struggling with his past, his body, his sexuality and desires. I liked Hudson too, so protective of his commune, an organic farmer to boot, with a big heart and all his insecurities as results of past relationships. I also loved the idea of an LGBTQ commune where everyone lives and loves freely and openly. So I pretty much enjoyed the story until Jude took his first steps on commune ground. It was only then that I had issues, and I had a lot of them. I guess part of them were my own fault, because if I'd paid attention to the blurb, I might have caught on before getting in too deep.

 


Jude moves to Kaleidoscope Gardens, however his sexual hang-ups make it hard to adjust. He’s an uptight virgin living among people who have sex freely and with multiple partners. When Jude finally loosens up, Hudson is flooded with emotions.

 


In hindsight, I already felt uncomfortable reading this part of the blurb, just chose to ignore it. Don't ask me why. As it stands, I'm not at all happy with the "uptight virgin" part, because it has a certain ring to it I don't much appreciate. It got worse when I actually learned what Jude's "loosening up" entailed.

 

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to polyamorous or open relationships. I had one, I enjoyed it, I was freaking happy, I would do it again with the right people at the right time. My first issue was that basically everyone living in an open/poly relationship in this commune had Problems with a capital P, mostly to do with trauma. Which was a little disappointing in the way that not everyone living in "alternative" realtionships does so because they can't have a "normal" (monogamous) relationship, or because they are dealing with (sexual or other) trauma and this is their way of coping. It felt a little too clichéd for my taste, and I'm concerned that parts of this book might manifest certain prejudices people have regarding open and poly relationships instead of resolving them. A lot of potential wasted, IMHO.

 

What really got me going though, were the rules the members of the commune had to follow.

 

If I wanted to get technical or really bitchy, I'd point out that asexual people are part of the 'queer' (the Q in LGBTQ, you know?) community, too. In this book however, there would not have been a place at the table for them. Not cool. Which brings me to the big fucking thing that made me uncomfortable and rage-y as hell. In order to be allowed to stay and live with the commune, Jude had to participate in a sexual act in front of the other members in some kind of ritual.

 

Pause to let that sink in.

 

I'm sure you can see and interpret that as a positive, life-infirming way of introducing Jude to the commune, and make him feel welcome.

 

I felt no such thing.

 

For me the statement "Fuck with us or you can't stay with us - no matter how much you help our farm or love some of our members." is NOT okay. In fact, I'd go as far as saying: This is COERCION, pure and simple. When you blackmail someone into "willingly" participating in a sexual group act? That's not including, welcoming or ROMANTIC. It is wrong. No matter the context or intention. So, so wrong. And if you want to intercept here to tell me that Jude really wanted it in the end, that it was liberating for him and helped him to grow? That he just needed a little push in the right direction, because he didn't know what he really needed? I'd say that maybe, just maybe, you think about the implications of these statements.


"He/She actually really wanted it, they just didn't know it."

 

"You didn't mean it when you said 'no'. Your eyes and body said 'yes'."

 

"I know you think you don't want to, I know you might not be ready, but if you don't do it now, you have to leave."

 


Still see no problem? Because holy crap, I do! I could list my issues alphabetically or according to time of occurence, there are so many of them! So, yeah. I hated that part of the book. I hated it with a vengeance. It made me spit fire and venom all over the place, because NOOOOOO. I do not have enough words to express how bad this was for me.

 

I did try to move on. Mostly because I liked Jude as a character and wanted to see where his story would go. Unfortunately, things didn't get better. After opening up - the marvellous justification for pushing him way beyond his limits - he would have need an even more nurturing, supportive environment, in addition to some very special attention and care from the one he started to fall for. What did he get instead? An abrasive dickhead of a self-centered jerk who treated him like shit. I know Hudson had his own issues. Some of his thoughts made sense to me, I'll give him that. I even understood parts of him, because I didn't hate him as much as I could have. But the things he did and said pissed me of. Some of them were just unforgiveable and I was pretty much done with him after that. I was also done with the book.

 

Even though I finished it, I didn't really care anymore. Things got ugly, things got tense, things got emotional, but I remained fairly entouched throughout it all. Maybe a blib here or there for Jude and his brother, nothing more though.

All in all, I was not happy with this book. I had high expectations and even bigger hopes for it, but I was bitterly doisappointed with the execution of the whole thing. The notion that coercion is romantic in any form or fashion will never fly with me, so these scenes combined with Hudson's appalling behaviour at times ruined the book for me. 2 stars, one of them is solely and exclusively for Jude, because I really liked him and felt for him as a character.

The Way You Are by L.J. Mile

The Way You Are - Rapha?l Anatole ?mile Blanchard

Hot damn, would you please take a look at that cover?! Two guys and no perfect six pack in sight! Revolution!


Seriously though, I wanted to have this the moment I laid eyes on it. Because c'mon! When was the last time you've seen an overweight character on a romance book that didn't include the fat, unhappy guy going on a revolutionary diet, loosing 200 pounds and THEN finding their HEA? I'm almost tempted to say never. Also, don't let the cheerful, light cover fool you. This is not a low-angst, happy-go-lucky book, and the things the MCs are dealing with are not your standard college guys/experimentation/coming out MM recipe. Sometimes it seems like a different cake altogether.

 

In this book, we get to meet Robert who, at the tender age of 13, realized that he's gay but can't be due to his very opressive, conservative family. His coping mechanism became eating. His weight became his armor. If no one wants to touch him, there is no reason for him to think or talk about attraction at all. Nobody wants him, so he doesn't have to face wanting someone in return. Which works out for him until he meets his new roommate at college. Out and proud Pete is pretty and smart, and (unfortunately) attracted to Robert from the get-go. What to do when the life you carefully constructed around yourself suddenly doesn't fit anymore?

 

There are several things that could have gone wrong with this, but made me happy when they didn't. Start with Pete. His attraction to Robert could have gone downhill fast if it would have been portrayed as some kind of kink. Too often fat-shaming occurs in the context of "No normal person would love you, only the very kinky ones with a serious fetish." So I was very happy with Pete being attracted to Robert for various reasons, and while he does have a thing for "big guys", he never made me cringe or shudder for making Robert (or me) feel dirty in any way. It was not attraction DESPITE the weight, nor was it BECAUSE OF it. Kudos to the author for finding the perfect way and tone here.

 

Secondly, I was afraid that somehow the story would have an undertone of... pity, maybe? Or at least the notion that overweight people are all struggling with some internal crisis and that binge-eating is their way of dealing. It could have been one of those stories where overeating was the only reason for the weight of the MC, and the overeating was the only reason for the MC to have problems in the first place, and so on and on. I didn't feel that way at all here. There is no denying that overeating was one of Roberts coping mechanisms and his armor. But. That was not all of it. His weight was not his "main problem", nor would he become magically thin and trim and fit as soon as he started to deal with his issues. He's a big guy, he will always be a big guy. But he can be a healthy, sport-y, happy big guys. His overeating is a problem, binge-eating sweets until he's physically ill is a problem. But it's not all it is, and not once did I have the feeling that it was somehow meant as a generalization á la "All overweight people eat too much because they have mental problems." Kudos. Seriously. All the kudos!

 

Also, how awesome was it for Robert to find love without changing his complete lifestyle, loose 200 pounds, start running marathons and becoming a sports model?! I have no words for how happy I this made me. Because hot damn.

 

The only thing I struggled with a little were Roberts parents, or better say the black-and-white feel of the families. Where Pete's family was absolutely 100% awesome on all levels, Robert's parents were somewhat cartoonish, evil Bible-thumpers incapable of loving their son the way he was, or even acknowledging him as a real person. I don't think they once looked at Robert and actually SAW him. So that was a little disappointing for me, a little too clichéd for my taste. But honestly? In the grand scheme of things, it didn't take away from my enjoyment that much. Minor blib on a bigger radar, so to say.

 

This was a strong debut all around, and a very courageous one at that. The writing might not have been flawless or perfect, but I honestly didn't give a crap anymore at one point, because I just liked the story too much.

Family Unit by Z.A. Maxfield

Family Unit - Z.A. Maxfield

Can you call it a classic when it was published in 2009 by a bestselling author in the genre?

 

 

I don't know, but I'm going to go ahead and call it that anyway. It's a standard MM classic in so far that the story isn't something terribly new or unique. A parenting MC takes care of a young child while trying to navigate a growing attraction to another MC. Also, the neglecting parent of the young kid tries some stunt for personal reasons, so drama isn't far off where the family is concerned.

 

What is different is the age of the MCs. Logan, a retired Marine, is finding his footing in the civilian world, sexual attraction to another man included. The one who caught his eye is Richard, a relatively young grandfather trying to do right by his son and grandson, passionate pacifist, liberal at heart, with a healthy dose of fear of guns. While the whole plot concerning Richard's family didn't surprise me or sweep me off my feet, I was happy with how Maxfield handled the conflicts between a conservative military man and a liberal pacifist.

 

The arguments and the conflicts were on point. Some very valid concerns made a realtionship between Richard and Logan tricky. Keeping a gun in the bedside table, attack as the best defense, keeping the peace with everyone without loosing one's self in the process, how to raise a kid when you're basically an outsider looking in, the kid always coming first no matter what the personal costs - all very important stepstones in their every-day life as a potential couple. I especially enjoyed how basic beliefs and the navigation of real problems made up the main part of the struggle the two MCs faced while getting together. Sure, the attraction was very insta, the development of the relationship however, was not. And it was good that it wasn't because that's what I expect and like about a good story featuring two mature MCs. No miscommunication, white lies or unnecessary misunderstandings. Just two honest guys over 40, somewhat set in their ways and very sure of their priorities and desires, finding their way as a couple.

 

That's problably also the main reason why the drama surrounding Richards grandson and his mother didn't grab me the way it was intended to. It was... maybe a little too much for me after all the "real" things happening. I'm not saying it's unrealistic - in fact I'm pretty sure it happens more often than anyone wants to admit in custody battles with parents deemed unfit to raise a child. But in this story, I was not 100% convinced by the turn of events. I guess, I was just hpoing too much for something different.

 

But all in all, still a very nice story about two very different, mature men falling in love and making a family. Definitely recommended for sunny days and readers tired of the "childish-miscommunication" trope.

The Roommate Situation by Zoe X. Ryder

The Roommate Situation - Zoe X. Rider

Here's to unexpected surprises, people! Because this one was absolutely not what I thought it would be!

 

 

So, this one kinda came out of nowhere. I had the sample sitting on my Kindle for ages, before finally having the funds & desire to really pick it up. What I expected was a rather light read, no angst, maybe a little kinky college romance between two young guys falling into lust. What I got was... not that. But I'm glad to say it was BETTER!

 

Let's start with Shane. The blurb tells us that he gets shuffled to another dorm room. I'm not sure if this is a spoiler or not, so you're warned, but the reason for Shane changing dorms is not a funny, light mishap. It's because his former roommate killed himself in their room and Shane found him. Boom. This is what the opening of this book felt like to me, and honestly? It kind of set the tone for the rest of the book. Things just... jumped up in my face and surprised the crap out of me. But never in a bad way, never too angsty, or too dark. Just not... as light or easy as I thought it would be. Derek, Shane's new roommate stays an enigma for quite some time, but I absolutely loved how we got to know him over time - just like Shane.

 

The relationship building was a-mazing. I loved the pace, the honesty and the lack of "Oh, there is this big misunderstanding that will keep us apart for an appropriate time period". I did have a harder time with Shane's growth and fight for independence, mostly because I'm not that big on YA/NA and MCs struggling with overbearing parents. BUT, it worked for me here somehow, and in a way that made me very happy. The more the story developed, the more I fell for these guys. Seeing them change, evolve and grow, together and individually, was a real treat. This author was completely new to me, but it's safe to say that the writing convinced me to look for more of her work.

 

The only thing that actually bugged me was that the most important women in this book - especially the mothers - were evil, messed up bitches. Seriously. I'm not even kidding. And it's not that I'm that opposed to the portrayal of awful/difficult mothers - I have one, I'm familiar with the problem. I'm just getting more and more AND MORE tired of women being the spawn of the devil in my romance books. It would have been so nice to see the important female roles in the story to have a lick of sense and a conscience.

 

Alas, I can't have everything.

 

Other than that, I enjoyed this book immensely! Definitely recommended for everyone who likes a great college YA full-lenght-novel with beautiful relationship building and great MCs.

Baked Fresh by Annabeth Albert

Baked Fresh (Portland Heat) - Annabeth Albert

Another hit by Annabeth Albert! She's still my go-to author for comfort reads.

 

Shy baker VIc looses over 100 pounds after a loved one dropped dead way to young because of a heart attack. With the new year and another accomplished goal, there comes a time to determine a new resolution. And this year, Vic wants to date.

 

Unfortunately the one guy he really wants to ask out is not exactly available. Because Robin, a fellow volunteer at the homeless shelter, is still recovering from being dumped by his ex, among other things. His demons are his own, and at times I had a bit of a hard time getting into his head.

 

But somehow, things still fell together naturally anyways, all in good time. Vic was such a sweet but fllawed character, I couldn't help but like him. Robin was a little more of a mystery to me at times, but the things he went through to get where he is in the end, still broke my heart and made me a tiny bit teary-eyed at times. I wouldn't have minded to read more about him and his struggles, but for the short length of the book, it made me go through all the feelz in order to be very happy about the HEA.

 

All in all, another good instalment in the Portland Heat Series, and definitely one of my preferred comfort reads for dark days.

Delivered Fast by Annabeth Albert

Delivered Fast - Annabeth Albert

Aaaaaah, hello happy place...

 


What I wanted was happy, light and sexy. And that's exactly what I got. Annabeth Albert creates happpy places for me left and right. And while I enjoyed the first two installments in the series, this one nailed it for me.

 

Chris O'Neal was... smack-you-upside-the-head wonderful. He's not perfect, far from it, but I kinda loved him anyway. His coffee shop still ties him to his ex, which is not good. His indifference to fashionable clothing and appearances makes him so trendy, it's not even funny. Most of all, his heart is in the perfectly right place. Once he actually started listening to it, things were wonderful and made me all warm and fuzzy. Which was also largely due to Lance. Because Lance? He's so adorable and shines so freaking bright, it's so distgusting it made me ridiculously happy. He and his Katy Perry songs, delivering baked goodies to Chris' coffee shop, drinking cherry soda and wiggling his bubble butt like there's no tomorrow. Sheesh, gimme that... Anywho.

 

He's also way more mature than everyone gives him credit for. It's one reason why it was frustrating to have Chris stomping all over his maturity with a simple: "I'm too old for you." It could have gotten so bad that I'd have stopped reading and left the book behind in a huff. But I didn't. Because me and everyone else - including Lance - knew what the real reason behind Chris' reluctance was. And it didn't exactly have something to do with age.

 

Which is why I loved the story and the MCs instead of getting fed up with Chris. It was all so sweet and fuzzy, I was in my happy zone in no time, patiently waiting out the conflicts and arguments, and being happy as a fish in water at the end.

 

This book just was for me, and it was the perfect read at the right time.

Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake

Smoky Mountain Dreams - Leta Blake

Hm, how to review this one?

 

 

Firstly, after recent developments I was happy to add this book to the "My rep" shelf. Jesse, a bisexual father of two pre-teens, falls for a voice before he even meets the singer. Christopher, failed Nashville survivor and said singer, is muddling through. He's still coming to terms with the way his life is going now, all the while dealing with a family that is... something else. But he and Jesse? Just click somehow. The families? Now that's a different story. Or more like half of this story, to be precise. Which is why I wouldn't recommend this to readers who don't like children or families having a big part in a romance novel. The family drama surrounding these two MCs is important, yet really fucked up. I enjoyed it immensely, all the angst included.

 

The other part I enjoyed was the sex. After having quite smoe problems with Leta Blake's approach to kink/BDSM in other books, I was a little apprehensive, but this was good. The sex was hot, raunchy, but not always perfect. Me likey.

 

Since I don't want to spoiler anyone, I'll put my thoughts on Jesse and his sexuality in the spoilers. It's not overly complex, or unique really, but for an MM book it made me sit up and read closely.

 

 

I saw a discussion of Jesse and his sexulaity that I found very interesting. Let me elaborate.

 

Jesse is bisexual. As a teen he always identified as gay, no questions asked. But with one girl - later his wife - things were different. Once he fell down that rabbit hole, there was no going back. He was attracted to her, he fell for her, he loved her. They married, had two children, Jesse was living a happy life. Mostly.

 

Things that happened later aside, Jesse was atttracted to men and women. Maybe only one woman, but a woman nontheless. Now, that's bisexuality. Nothing big, right? A different angle, since in MM, we usually see formerly identifying as straight guys falling for other men, but still. It's "just" bisexuality. But here's the thing. Many people usually call the books with bisexual characters in them Gay-For-You or Out-For-You, a fact that was "debated" a lot in MM over the last couple of months. (A description that obviously doesn't fit here. At all.) Most readers have lost interest in the topic again after never really going deeper than one blog post or two - most of them dismissive. I don't want to get into it again here, I don't even want to discuss it again, because honestly? I had enough pidgeons shitting all on my head for weeks and weeks.

 

But there was something I noticed that made me sit up ramrod straight. Some readers expressed how uncomfortable the "straight-for-you" episode/approach to Jesse's marriage made them, and how that came so dangerously close to the anti-gay argument that gays only have to find the right man/woman to become straight.

 

And wasn't THAT fas-ci-nating.

 

It's not like that's something "we" have been blubbering, gabbing and arguing about for months? In some cases even years? That you wouldn't call someone "straight-for-you" for exactly these reasons and because it's ridiculous? Well, at least I thought that way. Seems like I was wrong. Without rehashing everything again, I found it interesting how Leta Blake took the approach "from the other side", showed and wrote it well, and GAVE IT A NAME. No "straight-for-you", no "mostly/99% gay", not fluid, undecided, "gay with exceptions", but bisexual.

 

Speak with me: BI-SEXUAL. It's really that easy.

 

And it's really not that hard of a concept to put yourself in other shoes and see how the exact opposite of "straight-for-you" is "gay-for-you",  so why it's equally dangerous by implication? Why it's erasing bisexuality, no matter if intended or not? Why some of us *cough*me*cough* feel slapped in the face when a bisexual character gets 50 other labels - straight/gay-for-you episode, FFS?! - just not the one that fits, but on the other hand is declared to be "above labels"?

 

Like I said, fasci-fucking-nating.

(show spoiler)

 

 

But that's just me. *drops mic and leaves stage*

 

All in all, I enjoyed this book a lot, even though some of it dragged a little at one point or the other. I was never really bored, so it was fine. The ending was sweet, if not a little more open than I would have liked for a 400 page story. But maybe we'll get a sequel exploring the loose ends a little more. Still a highly recommended 4.5 star read.

A Lesson in Pride - Jordan Chambers

Oh maaaan, where to begin? This was a hot mess.

 

 

Let's begin with the MCs. Luke, the scruffy biker, was an interesting character. Unfortunately, he remained a too plain and rough around the edges. He said a lot about himself, but I never really felt like I actually got to know him. So much telling but no showing, not even in flashbacks (and I never thought I'd wish for those).

 

Now Josh? Josh is a completely different story. After his big bang of a coming out during his parents' Christmas party, he has to deal with the consequences. And by deal I mean getting out of bed and facing reality. His so called "friends" are everything but helpful. They don't even deserve to be called that, because all they really care about is keeping Josh as their free meal/rent ticket. I was fed up with them the moment they suggested Josh go back to his parents and beg for forgiveness. For what?! Being gay? Coming out? What is this even?! No real friend would ever say that!

 

But back to Josh. Boy, he gave me whiplash like you wouldn't believe! After two percent of the book we went from euphoria to annoyance, to not being interested in his barista-crush anymore, to love at first sight, to feeling bad about everything, to calling his "love interest" a degenerate in his head, to being concerned about his image as an art protégé if someone would see him talking to a biker. It was insane. Insane! I could barely keep up with him, and even when I did, I'm pretty sure I lost parts of the story because in the back of my mind I was still trying to figure out what was what now. And don't get me started on his ex. That was... something else.

 

All in all, it wasn't a bad story, but I had some serious problems keeping up and connecting with the MCs. There was a lot of telling on Luke's side, a lot of whirlwind activities & rollercoaster rides on Josh's. The love story was sweet, but nothing I actually felt while reading. I realize this one is self-pubbed to boot, but I still can't give more than 2 stars. It was okay, but only okay for me.

The Imperfection of Swans by Brandon Witt

The Imperfection of Swans - Brandon Witt

It's been weeks and I still can't find all the words I'd need to express my feelings about this book.

 

It went on my all-time-favorites shelf immediately and will stay there until the cow comes home.

 

Brandon Witt writes beautiful prose. His words always make my day brighter, he always finds a way to touch me, to transport me right into his world, and he always, always makes me smile. But that isn't the reason - or not the only reason - why I loved this book so damn much.

 

In the end, it was Kevin who stole my heart. Don't get me wrong, I liked Casper! I enjoyed his POV and I loved his gentle, patient and kind nature. But Kevin was everything to me. His anxiety rattles him to the core on an almost daily basis. His body is not helping, but most of all it's his personal demons that practically force him to take control of the one thing that makes his mind bleed and weep, the one thing he can't let go despite having almost everything he wished for in a partner and a wedding dress shop: His weight, his eating habits, his eating disorder.

 

But he knows - as well as we all do - that nobody else can fix your self-esteem and self-worth issues for you. Nobody and nothing can give you a sense of peace and accomplishment and content - when you yourself can't see or acknowledge it first. And I have to say, Kevin's mothers were not exactly helpful. They were fascinating, loving and supportive in their own way, but at the same time their expectations and actions had some serious negative effects on Kevin in a way neither wanted to acknowledge. Sometimes they reminded me so much of my own family, it was painful.

 

And that's pretty much my story with this book. It was so damn painful, but in all the right ways. I found myself a tiny little bit in there, in a weird but wonderful way. I could understand it all, I could feel the pain and the anxiety and the healing. I felt it all. And while I had to stop at one point or the other, just to close my eyes and savor the experience - it was all so worth it. In the end, it was all so worth it. For Kevin, and for me as a reader.

 

This book was for me. It made me hurt, it made me cry, it made me laugh, and it put me back together in the end. And didn't let me go. Even weeks later I still find myself thinking about it now and again. That's the biggest plus for a book there is. I loved it all. I loved this book so damn much and I'm not afraid of shamelessly fangirl about it for years to come. Sure, this book probably isn't for everyone. There is no copious amount of sexy, smutty scenes. There is a lot of internal conflict going on, a lot of things you don't "see", only feel. And I can understand where that isn't everybody's cup of tea. Also, the final "meltdown" and climax might be hard to swallow for some readers. Just a fair warning.

Anywho,

 

I'll stop now or I'll ramble on and on about how fabulous and wonderful and amazing this story was for me. Just... Read it. That's really all I've left to say.

 

Just read it.

Good Enough by Kade Boehme

Good Enough - Kade Boehme

Aaw, I'm such a sucker for second chances and this novella was no exception.

 

I have to admit, I liked the first version, but it really was a bit of a mess. Now this revised edition? This one nailed it!

 

Noah and Payton fell in love in college, but when Noah broke Payton's trust - again - things were over and done with. Until they meet again years later.

 

Now, if you can't stand cheating in your books, if it's a hard limit for you? This story is not for you. Seriously, don't even try it. But for me it was a beatiful, sexy and heart-warming read about forgiveness and love. These boys aren't perfect, both made mistakes and hurt each other deeply. And yet... There is just something that draws them back in. Something they can't ignore.

 

Bite me, I was a goner from the start. Firstly, Kade Boehme. 'Nough said. Secondly, I loved Noah - yes, even if he was "the bad guy". Mostly because for me he really wasn't, or at least he definitely wasn't the only one. And Payton? Payton was a prime example for working through your shit, getting your act together and making peace with your past. When these two started to work through their shared history, I was done for.

 

I just loved it. All of it. This was my kind of novella from beginning to end. And if there were flaws or issues? I didn't see and/or didn't care.

Gangster Country by Kade Boehme

Gangster Country - Kade Boehme

Well, I did not like this as much as I hoped I would.

 

It's not your typical A-Z MM romance. Logan and Gianni meet, argue and get down and dirty in the first chapter. So far, so typical. But then there is a one-year break in which these two get closer, become lovers, have (kind of) a relationship. (Unfortunately) All of it happens off-page. We get thrown back in at a time when Gianni is struggling with his life, his decisions and his love for Logan. He's a criminal in the closet - no other option - and his family would have his head if they ever found out. Logan on the other hand is struggling with the secrecy, with the hiding of his relationship. His constant struggle to finally, finally get to know the REAL Gianni is exhausting, frustrating and becomes harder as time flies by. Until it all collapses around them in a (rather predictable) moment of coincidence and fate.

 

I think my biggest problem with this was that I didn't get invested fast enough. Since most of the relationship building happened off-page, I had a harder time connecting to the two MCs before shit hit the fan. I was also very sceptical on how these two made it that far without ever really... being together. Communicating. Living life as a couple. Without Logan asking QUESTIONS all the damn time. Ergo, when everthing started to explode, I was prepared to say goodbye to that couple and move on. But that's not what happened. Instead we got something a little too close to insta-forgiveness for my taste. When your man tells you he is a criminal and a killer, it's hard to imagine you go from hate to forgiveness in one night. But maybe that's me and my missing connection talking.

 

But then there was Logan, who made it that much harder to believe in that massive change of mind. He was all around GOOD. He was the epitome of pure, kind-hearted and just... too damn good. He and Gianni? I don't now. Just didn't click with me.

 

But the writing was good, and I loved the cover. So. Where does that leave me? With 2.5 stars, rounded up to three because it's Kade Boehme and because I did enjoy parts of the story.

Going Home by Kris Ripper

Going Home (The Home Series Book 1) - Kris Ripper

This freebie surprised the hell out of me.

 

 

Firstly, because for a Love Landscape's freebie it was exceptionally well written, the plot complex and with 208 pages, it was a relatviely long read. But more importantly, it threw me right in the middle of a scenario that I tend to avoid in my books.

 

 

The right to own sex slaves has just been made illegal. The government is taking the slaves to a reeducation camp where we can learn to be a part of everyday society. But what they don’t understand is that I’ve been with Master for 7 years and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than kneeling at his feet, with his collar around my neck and being used in any way he needs. I’m his.

 

 

I'm no fan of sexual slavery stories. I don't enjoy dub-con/non-con, falling in love with your abuser is not a trope for me - not in erotica and sure as heck not in romance. Stockholm syndrome is NOT my idea of a romantic relationship. With all that said, nobody was more surprised than me when this little one not only landed on my Kindle, but that I read it front to back. And was interested and invested the whole time. But Rory was a fascinating character. On the one hand slavery was all he's ever known. He was born into it, became his Master's property and was prepared to stay with him for the rest of his life. He thought he loved him, he was okay with how his life was going, he enjoyed the D/s relationship in the bedroom, and was alright with how the rest of his lofe was supposed to pan out. Or so he thought. But when sexual slavery was abolished, when he was taken to another location and contact to his Master isn't an option anymore, Rory's world is crumbling. Everything he thought was right, suddenly isn't anymore. Black isn't black, white isn't white and grey never looked so chaotic. He's changing, the world is changing - even his feelings are changing. It's terrifying, but through all of it there is one thought that prevails: He needs to get back to Geo. 

 

This story sure as hell isn't a psychology handbook. It's also completely different from what I expected. And I liked it. For once, it wasn't a twist on Stockholm syndrom. There was a difference between consensual D/s relationships and the master7slave conext Rory and Geo were used to. It was very fascination to see this struggle, this journey, the psychological and physiological ramifications of their complex, shared history.

 

Was it preachy? MAybe? A little? There were some side characters that - while layered and interesting and sometimes a pain in the ass - loved taking the roles of angels and devils. Sometimes that was frustrating, but all in all not too bad. The story is wordy, though. More so than I usually like in the "preaching and lecturing" department. But all in all, I enjoyed this one, and I liked how much it managed to surprise me again and again. Definitely recommended.

 

 

My Hero: The Olympian by Max Vos

My Hero: The Olympian - Max Vos

This sequel directly picks up where "My Hero" left off, with Johnny, the now out college football player, and Rich, the professional diver still working towards the World Diving Championships and the Olympic Games, standing together as a stronger and more solid couple.

 

But even with friends and family supporting them all the way, bigotry and hate make their everyday life seem like walking the gauntlet with two big, fat targets painted on their backs. Between tender, sweet and incredibly sexy moments, things turn ugly and violent fast. And while Rich will always be Johnny's hero and vice versa, some things are no longer in their power. Which is why a change of scenery does them a world of good.

 

While I enjoyed the first book very much (except for some niggles and issues), this one was... all over the place. It felt more like several short stories packed into one novel. A lot of episodes, all differing in tone and topic, came together here, but they didn't always feel connected. The writing was great, and Max Vos is still my king of the smexy stuff. But overall, it felt like this novel was somehow missing one, general arc of suspense. Instead there were so many things going on, so many settings and sub-plots and side-characters with their own stories, that it felt like every "chapter" of their story had it's own little arc of suspense and it's very own HFN. I just could have done with a clearer, more defined golden thread, I guess.

 

Overall, I was happy to revisit this couple. It was good to see Johnny and Rich grow, evolve and get even closer to each other. On the other hand, I love Max Vos' hot and raunchy side, and the sweetness and cuteness here was killing me at times. It was just that little bit too much sugar and cheese and fluff. I might be too cynical for that.

 

Or maybe just a cranky bat with a little bit of romance-phobia thrown in now and again.

Humbug by Joanna Chambers

Humbug - Joanna Chambers

This is the perfect holiday novella!

 

It's short, it's funny, it takes place over a short span of time and there is some character involvement going on that warmed my heart to the core. Because let me tell you: Quinn is a piece of work in the beginning. But my heart still broke a little for him when he got it from all sides, all at once. On the other hand, he really needed a wake-up call! And boy did he wake up and found his heart. I found myself rooting for him so hard in the end.

I really enjoyed this one! Sweet, sexy, filled to the brim with Christmas spirit. It was a perfect holiday read - even a month or so too late!

One Marine Hero by E.M. Lynley

One Marine, Hero - E.M. Lynley

This was gooooood.

 

 

First of all, I have to say that I really enjoyed E.M. Lynley's writing. It was solid, it was engaging, it drew me right in. What really impressed me was how she managed to educate me and got me to learn something new about a topic I had no concrete idea about before. Who knew about a separate helo squat not unlike Air Force One? Not me, I can tell you. It made for such an interesting part of the book, and without trying too hard, or sounding like a lecture. Exactly my thing right there.

 

Jake and Beau were fascinating MCs all on their own. Jake Woodley is struggling a lot with his survivor's guilt and being called a hero after coming back from a mission alive when he couldn't safe all members of his team. While training for his new job as a pilot for the Marine One squadron satisfies him on some levels, it still doesn't keep the dark at bay - that's what his friends are for. But Jim, Jack, Johnny and Jose really aren't ideal companions for an elite soldier with ambitions and such a big heart. Matt "Beau" Beaumont on the other hand has his own demons to fight. After being downsized from a hard-news job, he's now covering dresses and shoes and handbags. So not what he had been dreaming of all these years. No wonder he doesn't say no when a mistakenly sent invitation gets him to the white house. And what do you know? He not only gets some hot sex out of it, but also a possible story that could put him back on the big-news radar in Washington.

 

What I really liked about these two MCs is their ability to communicate. They talked about their issues and feelings. Most of the time, they really tried to handle each other and their blossoming relationship with care and in an adult way. The only thing I wasn't completely comfortable with was the substance abuse. Jake is an alcoholic. We know it, Beau knows it, his superiors suspect it, and in the end, Jake sees it too. And maybe I focused too much on it, or maybe I just didn't read it "right", but Jake's problems seemed to resolve themselves so easily over time. Sure, he had some cravings and sobriety was not an the easiest feat for him. But still... A time or two I felt like the topic was taken too lightly, or forgotten too easily? But like I said, that might have been just me.

 

About the sex. Practically all of the sex scenes were fade to black. And that worked well for me, because it fit the story, it worked with the plot and I really didn't need the sex in order to see or feel the connection between the two MCs. But. One thing bugged me. The very first time these two really get down and dirty around 32% or so, the scene goes on and on, until they're both naked, ready to go and one of them is practically begging, thinking about how much he needs it right now. And then... Nothing. It was confusing for a second, then left me feeling a little... cheated out of something. All the foreplay, all the details, all the build-up - and then there is no climax? - pun intended - All the other fade to black scenes were so much better. I had no problem with them whatsoever, I enjoyed them just the way they were. But this very first one? Not cool.

 

Other than that, I had nothing to complain about. The romance sometimes took the backseat, but since I'm a sucker for the suspense in romantic suspense, I was happy as a fish in water. The crime-solving plot was really good, it kept me on my toes and guessing. I enjoyed the investigation, the suspense and how it all came to a head. I even enjoyed the on-page time of "the other Beaumont".

 

All in all, this book worked very well for me! Good writing, intriguing characters, interesting plot, suspense and crime, politics and intrigues - hell, yeah! I definitely recommend it!