Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino - B- Brad Feller is a college student on a fraternity and athletic scholarship who, at the beginning of the book, realises there's no hiding from himself anymore - he's gay. Sebastian is a TA for one of Brad's history classes and after Brad buys a paper online to get his attention, they start a relationship. I found the second half of the book much more enjoyable than the first. I was really struggling to get through the first half, but persisted because Sarah at DA liked it so much. I didn't really get the humour in the first part of the book and I did not like the phrase "the nail in the coffin" which Brad's dad used when he was giving an example of why he thought Brad was gay - that seemed very negative to me. Some of the phrasing confused me and I had to read over it a few times to work out what was being said and that threw me out of the story at times. It's a fairly gentle story with not a lot of conflict - Brad's coming out is fairly easy from what I could see in the book and any struggle he may have had with being gay had been resolved before the book started.
However, thes scenes when Brad came out to his friend Kyle and later, to the frat itself, were very funny and the sex was definitely hot. It's a short book - only 165 pages but it retailed at $6.99 which I thought was pretty pricey. Between that and the title, I don't think I would have picked it up at all if not for Sarah's recommendation. It was one of those rare books where her tastes and mine didn't quite mesh - go figure. Am I sorry? Well, no. But, I wish I'd managed to buy it on special somewhere.
Marathon Cowboys by Sarah Black First off, I really like this cover. Did I like the book though? Well, I did. But.
It was one of those books where the more I thought about it, the more things I came up with that bothered me. The men said "I love you" too fast for me to really believe. There was a bit at the end where it took me a few pages to work out what had actually happened. I might be a bit dense but it wasn't obvious to me WHAT had actually happened. I thought it was a stunt at first. The resolution (or lack of) that part of the storyline was a problem too but there wasn't time to develop the storyline (it took a sharp right turn) or to resolve it properly.
I was uncomfortable (to say the least) with what Jessie did as regards his painting and his betrayal of Lorenzo (I'm sorry, I just can't call him Mary - Lorenzo's last name is Maryboy- or zo-zo - Jesse's "sex" name for him) by his art. I was uncomfortable that even though he knew Lorenzo would be upset he said up front he wouldn't change anything and then he still expected not only forgiveness but happy families too. After I came out of the book, I thought about how Jesse needed to go to San Francisco from time to time to get the vibe and take in the art scene and how he also needed to go to Marathon to get away. I'm not sure that where Lorenzo fits in to this was dealt with. I don't know that I believed that Lorenzo would be able/happy/comfortable fitting in to the San Francisco scene where I gather things were pretty frenetic. I wondered whether he'd forever feel an outsider.
I had more sympathy for Lorenzo overall - the story is told from his 1st person POV so I got to know him much better than I did Jesse but I don't know that I trusted that Lorenzo would be happy with Jesse forever and ever. He just seemed too flighty to me. The book was just over 120 pages long so it was pretty short and I'm not sure I was sold on the HEA. That said, I did enjoy the book while I was reading it. I liked Lorenzo and I liked the way he thought and spoke. I enjoyed the parts of the book about his comic strip and the thought process he took to get it up and running. I liked "The Original" too. Jesse, I'm not so sure about. I found this very difficult to grade. I'm going with a C.
According to Luke (The Gospel of Love #1) by Jackie Barbosa - B- Sexy short story about serial monogamist Luke, who finds unexpected love with a close friend. It moved too fast for me fromt he getting together to the falling in love to the turn around to marriage (but then again, it is a short story). Certainly entertaining and easy to read. There aren't many books told entirely from the male POV and while some of it seemed to me to be more what a woman would want to hear rather than what a man might actually say, a lot of it felt pretty authentic.
At 76 pages, I think $4.99 is too pricey, but I picked it up in the St. Patrick's day sale at ARe and got a 50% rebate so it's all good.
Nine Tenths of the Law by LA Witt - C+ Mostly enjoyable story about two guys who were unknowingly dating the same man - one for 6 months, the other for 4 years. As they work through the betrayal they connect with one another, but the ex (Jake) tries to come between them and jealousy and lack of trust is a continuing problem. Nathan in particular finds it hard to trust Zach and while that formed the conflict in the story, it did get old. While I suppose that was the point (the story is told from Zach's POV), it meant that the end kind of fizzled for me and I'm not sure I bought into Nathan's about face - what? he just decides and it's all better? Some of the sex scenes seemed a bit on the repetitive side but overall, it was an enjoyable enough story.
Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks - see my full review here.
Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins - B - see my full review here
Isolation by AB Gayle - C/C- I reviewed this one for ARRA. I'll post a link when the review goes live.
Learning from Isaac by Dev Bentham - B/B+ Nathan Kohn is a college professor. Isaac Wolf is one of his students and 17 years his junior. It is of course, forbidden for Nathan to have a relationship with a student but it is clear that there is mutual interest and attraction. Isaac is due to graduate in a few months so they plan to wait to do anything about it. After Isaac came out to his family, he was disowned and he is now weighed down by student loans and tuition fees. In order to try to get out from under this mountain of debt, he works at a gay club in the back room. He and Nathan have an encounter there when a friend of Nathan's takes him out to "buy him a boy". In the Chicago area it seems that Isaac is easily recognised and even when he quits being a rent boy, he is constantly recognised and propositioned. The main conflict between the two men is Isaac's sex worker past. Nathan doesn't have a moral conflict with it, but he dislikes being confronted with it all the time. He starts to feel that Isaac has been with almost every gay man in the Chicago area. I liked how this was eventually resolved - with Nathan taking responsibility for his own jealousy and their practical solution made sense. I also liked how not a lot was made of the age difference between the two. At one point Isaac says that it's Nathan's hang up, not his and I think Nathan realised that he would only push Isaac away if he kept on worrying at the issue.
While I was reading the story, I was engaged and enjoyed the characters and the writing but after finishing I realised there were a couple of things missing for me. Early on in the book Isaac comes to class bruised and battered. It isn't made clear but I inferred he'd been beaten by a client. Nothing was made of this in the book at all and I would have liked that explored. The other main thing which I felt was lacking was that I didn't see on the page the reasons that Nathan and Isaac felt so deeply for each other. Part of this might be because it was told from Nathan's first person POV I guess and maybe because it's not a super long story at 99 pages. I saw the attraction and mutual lust but not how that changed into a desire for an long term exclusive relationship. It just kind of happened without me seeing how it had. It's why I've dithered on the grade a bit. It was a B+ when I was reading, but a B when I thought about it later.
There has been discussion around the place recently about the portrayal of female characters in m/m romance and how they are often cardboard, eeeevil and/or absent altogether. This is one book where that is definitely not the case. Nathan's flower child mother is a positive force in his life and students Jane and Sue are also positively portrayed. The "villains" in this book are all men.
I liked this one better than Moving in Rhythm and I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.
Bared to You (Crossfire #1) by Sylvia Day - B+ See my full review here.
Two Tickets to Paradise Anthology (Dreamspinner Press). Full review to come. (I'm only halfway through!).
Dark Citadel by Cherise Sinclair - C. I read this after it was recommended on the "If you Like Fifty..." thread on Dear Author. I hadn't read this author before and a commenter said the reader "learned" about BDSM along with the main female character so I thought I'd check it out. First $6.99 for 146 pages? Really?
Kari goes to the Shadowlands BDSM club for some beginner's classes with the man she's been (briefly) dating. After she doesn't like his form of "dominance", she is offered by the boss to continue the lesson with one of the Masters there - Master Dan. The story takes place over the course of the three beginner's classes.
It was okay but very heavy on the erotic part of erotic romance. I can't really say why I didn't connect with it super well. I've read very erotic books before and enjoyed them. But this one was okay but didn't set my romance loving heart on fire. As a primer on BDSM, I'm not sure it answered many questions for me, but I did appreciate the "safe, sane and consensual" message of the book.
Born to Darkness by Suzanne Brockmann, narrated by Patrick Lawlor and Melanie Ewbank - C See my full review here.
Ladies Man by Suzanne Brockmann, narrated by Kathe Mazur - B- This was one of Suzanne Brockmann's earlier category books which was reissued a few years back. Kathe Mazur does a good job narrating and I appreciated her slight New York accent for Sam and how she brought out his easygoing charm with her narration. It's a younger man/older woman story with limo sex!
Oracle's Moon by Thea Harrison, narrated by Sophie Eastlake - B- I reviewed this one for AAR. You can find it in this column.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley, narrated by Angela Dawe - B Angela Dawe does a great job of the narration of this book. Her Scottish burr for the Mackenzie brothers was very good and I liked the gruffness she instilled in their voices. I did think her English accent for Beth slipped once in a while towards American, but that didn't bother me too much. I actually found myself enjoying the story more in this format than I did in print. As much as the book was raved over when it was released, I couldn't find the same enthusiasm myself. I liked, but did not love it. On audio however, I found myself connecting more with Ian and Beth than I had before. For those who haven't read the book, Lord Ian Mackenzie has some sort of Autism Spectrum Disorder (probably Aspberger's) but of course, in Queen Victoria's time there was no name for it. He is regarded as "mad". His father had him locked in an asylum when he was little more than a boy and upon the old Duke's death, his eldest brother Hart, immediately removed him. When Ian meets Beth Ackerley, a beautiful widow who has recently inherited some money from a old woman to whom she had been companion, Ian is instantly smitten. Ian is not like other heroes. He speaks very bluntly. He doesn't understand many social cues or facial expressions and he doesn't lie or prevaricate. Beth is the perfect foil for him and I liked how she accepted him, happily and for himself very early on in the piece, never thinking of him as "less". Even his brothers, who love him dearly, do this. At the end of the book Ian comments that everyone has their own madness - perhaps it is just that his is more obvious than others - and so, through Beth, Ian is able to accept himself also.
First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones, narrated by Lorelie King - B Charley Davidson is a grim reaper - she sees ghosts and helps them cross to "the other side". She's also a Private Investigator who assists her uncle, police detective Bob Davidson in solving various crimes - usually the ghost can tell her who the killer was. She is snarky, sarcastic, tough and feisty . There is a fine line between what is funny to me and what is annoying and Charley skipped over it and back throughout the listen. In the end, I liked it, but I could hope that the snark will be scaled back a little in future books. The romance aspect of the story is more along the urban fantasy line than a PNR - there is no HEA/HFN, but more of a hopeful nod. The love interest is Reyes (pronounced Ray-Us) a gorgeous supernatural being in human form - and it is not until the very end of the book that we find out who he actually is - so I won't spoil it here. There is also a bounty hunter called Garrett Swopes who could potentially form part of a love triangle, but it didn't happen in this book. I'm not really sure what he's doing in the book to be honest.
Lorelie King is an excellent narrator. I have listened to her narrating Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series and it was a little challenging to remember that Charley and Mercy are very different characters. There are some similarities but Charley is way more over the top than Mercy ever could be. Lorelie King has the ability to do male voices (a variety of them) very convincingly and she has more than one female character voice too. I think I would have enjoyed this book less in print and I plan to continue the series in audio. I'm pretty sure that this is the author's debut so I'm expecting her writing to only improve with time.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe, narrated by Rob Lowe - B Enjoyable listening from the sexy-voiced Rob Lowe. I would have liked a lot more detail about The West Wing, but, otherwise, a fascinating glimpse into Hollywood and the 80's movies I grew up with.