Thursday, February 28, 2013

Second Hand by Marie Sexton & Heidi Cullinan

Why I read it:  Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan are two of my favourite m/m romance authors.  I'd been saving this one but after reading and loving Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs #3 Heidi Cullinan) recently, I decided I definitely needed more Tucker Springs.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she's left him with a house he can't afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he's not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic. El Rozal doesn't do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn't apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself. Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There's no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El's line of work, one man's junk is another man's treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn't mean second best.

What worked for me (and what didn't): I loved the slow build of the romance in this story.  Told in alternating POV (first for Paul and third for El), I enjoyed getting inside the minds of both men.  El was smitten right from the start and his methods of making sure Paul returned to the pawn shop amused - Paul was so oblivious to what was going on around him but El didn't take advantage. El tells Paul late in the book that he was happy to be the one to wait around long enough for Paul to notice and I liked that El didn't make Paul suffer for it - it was part and parcel of who Paul is and El loved him.  This is very much juxtaposed with Stacey's treatment of Paul which is ALL ABOUT HER.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bellskis 1 & 2 by Astrid Amara

Carol of the Bellskis 

Why I read it: This book (and the next) has been on my wishlist for a while and I was reminded of them again in the comments of a recent Vacuous Minx post.  So I went shopping.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  Paralegal Seth Bellski is tired of being the secret lover of his boss, Lars Varga, founding partner of Finch & Varga Law. So when he asks Lars to spend Hanukkah with Seth's family at their kosher B and B in Whistler, B.C., and Lars refuses, Seth realizes he will never get his self-conscious boss out of the closet.

So Seth prepares to spend his Hanukkah holiday alone in the B and B. Instead he finds himself running the place, as his aunt and uncle are missing, and seven demanding, peculiar, and danger-prone guests have arrived. To make matters worse, Lars shows up, begging forgiveness. Lars's touches remind Seth of why he put up with his boss's behavior in the first place. If only the words that came out of that beautiful mouth were as sweet as his kisses.

But how can Seth find time to fix his broken relationship when the guests are demanding kosher, gluten-free diets, losing their pet terriers, and hitting their heads on the ice? Seth and Lars find themselves put through the paces of being a married couple, all while still broken up. But then again, if they can survive this Hanukah, maybe they'll be singing a carol of the Bellskis.

What worked for me (and what didn't): This fun Hannukah themed novella is told from Seth's first person POV.  Seth is a paralegal at Lars' law firm.  They've been together for a year but on the downlow and  Seth is tired of being a dirty little secret.  When Lars pulls out (har har) of a holiday to a family run B&B in Whistler for Hannukah, they break up and Seth goes alone.  When he arrives his aunt and uncle are nowhere to be found, guests keep arriving (with various special requests)  and Seth is beside himself.  When Lars turns up (lucky he happens to be a very good non professional chef), Seth accepts (albeit with reluctance) his help so that the guests have a decent Hannukah while he tries to locate his missing relatives.  In the meantime, Lars, having realised that if he doesn't make some big changes, he's going to lose Seth altogether, uses the holiday period to try and win Seth back and convince him Lars is a good bet.    

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Priceless and Fearless by Cat Grant

Why I read them:  I received ARCs via NetGalley.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  "When love's for sale, who really pays?"

Connor Morrison is a 3-D optics pioneer, the star of the UC Berkeley physics department, and a socially inept workaholic. And with his dear friend and business partner, Steve Campbell, handling their investors, he's content to remain in the shadows. That is, until he meets the gorgeous and starry-eyed physics student Wes Martin.

Wes is brilliant but broke. Ever since his scholarship fell victim to the financial crisis, he's had no choice but to sell his body to stay in school. Already half in love with Connor, Wes initially resists Steve's offer to be Connor's thirty-fifth birthday present. But in the end, Wes is too broke--and too smitten--to say no.

Connor has no idea Steve bought Wes's attentions, and he quickly falls under the young man's spell. Yet after one night together, Wes disappears. He can't bear to hook with a man he could so easily grow to love, but he also can't bear to tell him the truth. Besides, if he sleeps with Connor again, there'd be no way to hide the bruises one of his regular johns loves to inflict. Only one thing to do: let Connor go. Walking away is painful, but not nearly as much as building a relationship on lies.

Warning:  Some non consensual sexual activity - by a client of Wes's (not Connor).

What worked for me (and what didn't): This story was part of  Riptide Rentboys: The 2012 Collection.  I had only read the Anne Brook novella, Where You Hurt The Most but went back and pulled this one up after reading the blurb for Fearless.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

By His Rules by JA Rock

Why I read it: Sarah Frantz recommended this to me during a discussion of BDSM in romance fiction on Twitter.  I bought it during the recent Valentine's Day sale at ARe (50% rebate FTW!).

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Aiden Cole can be anything men want—naughty schoolboy, palace slave, virgin twink, or slutty secretary. He’s a gifted actor with a gorgeous body who gives legendary head. Aiden could have his pick of any Top in the local leather bar, but is drawn to Scott Runge—a cruel, sexy Dom who pushes Aiden to his limits, allowing Aiden to experience the excitement and danger of the BDSM lifestyle to a degree he never has before. But when Scott goes too far, injuring Aiden, Aiden withdraws from the BDSM scene completely. Until he meets Keaton Hughes.

Keaton’s looking for something he can’t find in any dungeon: A domestic discipline relationship, in which he can provide his partner with guidance, support, and loving discipline. When Keaton takes Aiden in after Aiden’s traumatic encounter with Scott, he vows not to pursue any sort of relationship with the troubled sub. But as Aiden struggles to overcome the damage Scott has done and get his life back on track, Keaton’s rules might be just what he needs.

What worked for me (and what didn't): I confess I had not read the blurb until I cut and pasted it here just now.  I picked that Keaton would be the other hero and was kind of thrown when Aiden takes off with Scott instead.  Their interaction made me vaguely uncomfortable - it was only as the 'relationship' progressed that it became clear to me that it was abusive and dysfunctional. By the end, Scott was firmly in the BBD (badly behaving Dom) category.  (Although, I think, by the end, he was realising that he was screwed up and I wonder if the author will try to redeem him in a future book?).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Life by Bonnie Dee

Why I read it:  Jane from Dear Author reviewed this at Goodreads and I loved the idea of the unusual hero so much that I went an bought it immediately.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Since the car accident that caused traumatic brain injury, Jason has fought to regain his memories and the ability to organize thoughts and control emotions. His promising future shattered, he works as a night janitor in an office building and clings to routine to make it through his days.

New lawyer Anna breaks down one evening after fumbling her first court case. Self-doubt brings her to tears in a deserted stairwell where Jason finds her and offers comforting words. From this unexpected meeting an unlikely romance begins.

A casual coffee date soon leads to a deeper connection and eventually a steamy affair. But are Jason and Anna’s growing feelings for each other strong enough to overcome the social chasm that divides them and the very real issues of Jason’s disability?

What worked for me (and what didn't): Definite kudos to Bonnie Dee for writing such an unusual hero and for making him a victim of his own stupidity.  Jason was the cause of his own accident - while sympathetic he wasn't a victim and I think this made him more interesting; certainly more flawed.   The story is told in alternating first person POV of both Jason and Anna which I like - the more hero the better in my opinion and getting inside his head is a bonus.  I was told that Jason's speech was halting, but I didn't really see that on the page for the most part and I found myself falling into the trap that he was okay over and over again, only to be brought up short by other difficulties he has.  He isn't stupid; he has memory and organisation problems and sometimes, particularly when tired or stressed, he finds it difficult to control his emotions.   His speech is articulate and funny but I'm pretty sure the voice I heard in my head wasn't accurate.  This is actually a book I would love to hear on audio, provided the narrator could voice the halting nature of Jason's speech faithfully and without making him a caricature - because I think the story would have had even more impact if I didn't keep forgetting he was brain damaged.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sacred Hearts by Dev Bentham

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the author.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Life's a gamble--and lately David Schwartz's partner has been losing so much that David must close their restaurant, the hippest little place in Portland. He sells everything and moves back home, but at thirty-five, he's not eager to sleep alone in his childhood bedroom or to be supported by his father for the second time in his adult life.

David's had enough. He needs to start over, maybe with someone like the elusive man he's been seeing in his dreams. An old friend offers him a job catering a movie set in Puerto Vallarta. It's been years since David's alcoholism spun out of control along the highways of Mexico. Determined to experience Mexico sober, he stuffs his few remaining possessions in a backpack and takes the next flight down.

As Mexico prepares for Christmas, David lights Hanukkah candles, celebrating the return of the sun and wishing for true love. On the first night of Hanukkah, David meets a tall, dark stranger who rocks his world in a secluded moonlit cove. Is this the mystery man of his dreams--the answer to David's prayers? And what must David sacrifice to make his dreams come true? 

What worked for me (and what didn't): I liked David very much and, over the course of the book, felt I got to know him fairly well.  David is a recovering alcoholic and as he deals with his breakup with Rick and the demise of his restaurant because of Rick's actions, as he travels for work to Mexico and deals with old trauma, I very much admired how he clung to his sobriety.  How he found AA meetings and went to them, how he reached out and throught through his actions to keep him from drinking, no matter the significant temptations.  There was a clarity to David's breakup with Rick and even though he lost virtually everything, it came across as freeing rather than a complete failure.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan

Why I read it:  I picked up a copy from NetGalley.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  The course of true love doesn’t always run clean. But sometimes getting dirty is half the fun.

Entomology grad student Adam Ellery meets Denver Rogers, a muscle-bound hunk of sexy, when Denver effortlessly dispatches the drunken frat boys harassing Adam at the Tucker Springs laundromat. Thanking him turns into flirting, and then, much to Adam’s delight, hot sex over the laundry table.

Though Denver’s job as a bouncer at a gay bar means he gets his pick of geek-sexy college twinks, he can’t get Adam out of his head. Adam seems to need the same rough play Denver does, and it’s damn hard to say no to such a perfect fit.

Trouble is, Adam isn’t just shy: he has obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical anxiety, conditions which have ruined past relationships. And while Denver might be able to bench-press a pile of grad students, he comes from a history of abuse and is terrified of getting his GED. Neither Denver nor Adam want to face their dirty laundry, but to stay together, they’re going to have to come clean.

What worked for me (and what didn't): Ever have the experience of slowing down and re-reading paragraphs as you come to the end of a book just so you can make it last longer?  That's what I did with Dirty Laundry.  It was sooooo good.  I did not want it to end.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wayward One by Lorelie Brown

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the author.

What it's about: (from Goodreads):  He’ll protect her with every vicious bone in his body.

During her ten years at the prestigious Waywroth Academy, Sera Miller clung to a strict code of propriety to shield herself from rumors that she isn’t an orphan at all. She’s a bastard. Now she wishes she had never allowed her friends to talk her into snooping into the mysterious source of her tuition.

Her benefactor isn’t the unknown father she dreamed of one day meeting, but Fletcher Thomas—underworld tycoon, gambling den owner, and a man so dangerously mesmerizing that he could spark the scandal Sera has worked so hard to avoid.

Fletcher is only two steps away from leaving the life of crime he inherited from his father. First he plans to join an aboveboard railroad consortium, then claim the one thing his ill-gotten gains have kept safe all these years—Sera.

With every wicked caress, Sera fights harder to remember society’s rules and reject the painful memories his touch resurrects. Accepting Fletcher’s love means accepting her past—a risk too great for a woman who has always lived in the shadows. No matter how safe she feels in his arms.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Addicted by Charlotte Stein

Why I read it:  I pre-ordered this one and snuck it in between review books.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  Kit Connor has always led a safe, cautious life. But when her friend points out that her erotic writing lacks something, she decides to attend a Sexual Healing group to improve her knowledge.

Kit expects to find the gritty underbelly of sex, and instead finds louche, laidback, sex-loving Dillon Holt.

He makes a suggestion to her: that he will tell tales of his sexual excess, and help her book get the realism it needs. She agrees, but hasn't the least idea of what she's getting into.

Dillon doesn't have simple advice in mind … he has lessons to teach her. Lessons on everything she's never dared to experience, from kink to real passion.

Now Kit is never sure: is Dillon the addict, or is she just addicted to him?

What worked for me (and what didn't): First off, this book is funny.  Kit made me laugh and so, what she felt was pathetic about herself didn't come across as whiny.  She's self aware and self deprecating but not sad with it.  
After all, what do I know about sex? Nothing. Less than nothing. Every sexual encounter I’ve ever had has occurred beneath the sheets, under a double layer of darkness. Once I started kissing some guy’s elbow, thinking I’d found his cock. And as for the pleasure I’ve just described to her, in my twisted tale of kinky delights …
Well, I guess that’s disingenuous of me, at best. I should have written:
Sex for her was sort of like being vaccinated, by a big pink finger.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I'm Over at AudioGals today...

with a review of Robyn Kaye's Back to You, narrated by Emily Durante.  Stop by and say hi :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare, narrated by Leslie Bellair

Why I listened to it: I picked up book 2 and 3 in the trilogy on sale recently but they'd ran out of book 1, so when I saw this cheap at Audible I decided to take the plunge.

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  True temptation begins at midnight…

A handsome and reclusive horse breeder, Spencer Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, is a member of the exclusive Stud Club, an organization so select it has only ten members — yet membership is attainable to anyone with luck. And Spencer has plenty of it, along with an obsession with a prize horse, a dark secret, and, now, a reputation as the dashing “Duke of Midnight.” Each evening he selects one lady for a breathtaking midnight waltz. But none of the women catch his interest, and nobody ever bests the duke — until Lady Amelia d’Orsay tries her luck.

In a moment of desperation, the unconventional beauty claims the duke’s dance and unwittingly steals his heart. When Amelia demands that Spencer forgive her scapegrace brother’s debts, she never imagines that her game of wits and words will lead to breathless passion and a steamy proposal. Still, Spencer is a man of mystery, perhaps connected to the shocking murder of the Stud Club’s founder. Will Amelia lose her heart in this reckless wager or win everlasting love?

What worked for me (and what didn't): At first, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get through this one.  The narrator is new to me and feels very inexperienced.  A search on Audible (even with my geo restrictions) shows however she has 22 audiobooks dating back to at least 2010.  As the book progressed however, Ms. Bellair did improve her expression, but there was never a true "hero" voice.  He spoke more sternly than the heroine and that was about it.  There was definition between the female characters but the male voices were fairly universal and I relied solely on dialogue tags and context because the voices were no clue.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Screwing the System by Josephine Myles

Why I read it: I received a review copy from the author. (release date is February 12, 2013).

What it's about (from Goodreads)  He’s nobody’s bitch. Until he gets a ride on the bitch seat.

Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. Except his attempt to shock the older, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant doesn’t have the desired effect.

Instead of getting thrown out of the office by flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the sexy, good-looking Top.

Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the younger man’s defiant attitude that’s too intriguing to ignore.

As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. Until he goes one demand too far, and Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

What worked for me (and what didn't):  24 year old Cosmo is what we in Australia call a "dole bludger".  He receives a job seeking allowance from the government but makes every effort NOT to get a job.  He wants to pursue his music career with his band.  He doesn't have time for a job and can't afford to live on busking alone.  Growing up where I did, dole bludgers were fairly common place and it isn't something I've ever found particularly heroic or sexy or attractive.  Government benefits are there for when you need them but if one is unemployed and in receipt of benefits, one should be actively looking for and willing to work.  There are plenty of people who manage to pursue things such as music and work.  I found myself not terribly in sympathy with Cosmo.  But, even so, I do give credit to the author for writing a very non traditional character.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fantasy to the (Hyper) Extreme?

aka a kind of review and a rambling justification for why I like Reaper's Property by Joanna Wylde.

As I start this post, I'm about halfway through the book but I wanted to start getting my thoughts down before they scattered.  Reaper's Property was recommended to me by DA's Jane.  She said it was "hardcore" and "intense and emotional" and she clearly loved it.  Her recommendation was not without caveats however - she noted:  "Anyway, warning warning warning. Know that you are getting an over the top sexist parade of MC full of violence and wrongdoing when you read this book".

There has been comparison with Kristen Ashley's Motorcycle Club (MC) books - I have 1 or 2 on my TBR but haven't read any yet - I keep hearing about engaging stories but also poor grammar and sloppy/no editing and I'm kind of torn about taking the plunge in actually reading them because the latter things mean a lot to me.   This book, a little shorter than a KA book and better edited, lured me because of the promise of engagement and curiosity did the rest.  So I bought it.

I don't usually like my heroes to be less than heroic.  Why then am I enjoying this book, where the hero is named "Horse" (yes, it's after the size of his dick) and is a violent criminal?  It is this question I'm trying to answer and so my rambles begin.

How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the author.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  What woman can resist a hot man in a hard hat? Beloved author Ruthie Knox kicks off her new Camelot series with this deliciously sexy original novella, in which a good girl learns how to misbehave . . . with all her heart.
As program director for the Camelot Community Center, Amber Clark knows how to keep her cool. That is, until a sudden tornado warning forces her to take shelter in a darkened basement with a hunk of man whose sex appeal green lights her every fantasy. With a voice that would melt chocolate, he asks her if she is okay. Now she’s hot all over and wondering: How does a girl make a move?

Building contractor Tony Mazzara was just looking to escape nature’s fury. Instead, he finds himself all tangled up with lovely Amber. Sweet and sexy, she’s ready to unleash her wild side. Their mutual desire reaches a fever pitch and creates a storm of its own—unexpected, powerful, and unforgettable. But is it bigger than Tony can handle? Can he let go of painful memories and let the force of this remarkable woman show him a future he never dreamed existed?

What worked for me (and what didn't):
I enjoy Ruthie Knox's style of writing, the sharp wit in particular.  Amber is a "good girl" who wants to be a little bit bad and who gets and opportunity after she's stuck in a shelter during a tornado, with bad boy Tony Mazzara.  I liked her descriptions of Tony:
He wasn’t a big talker, and maybe that was because his voice was such a valuable substance, he had to ration it. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January Round Up

on Paper/eBook

Stand In Star by Rachael Johns - C  (arc via NetGalley) This book suffered for being my first read after 2 A reads in a row.  It's a hard act to follow - I don't give out A's very often.  I also had something of an ick factor over Nate having been Daisy's lover before he and Holly got together - and his discussion with Holly about their (his and Daisy's) relationship was immediately before their (his and Holly's) first kiss.   I also questioned whether Holly would really bare her  (and her family's) soul about Daisy on international television. Many of Holly's decisions seemed a lot more than merely naive and I didn't buy the set up that she would stay with Nate, a complete (and surly) stranger, in the first place.

Still, I had a bad book hangover (from the joy of the previous 2 books) and I think I wasn't in the best mood for this one. I can't say that I saw in Nate what Holly did - apart from that he was gorgeous, he ran hot and cold and was grumpy and rude more often than not.   I'm afraid this one didn't work that well for me.  But I've left the grade at a C because I feel like I brought unreasonably high expectations to the read and I'm sure that affected me.

Risque Business by HelenKay Dimon - C-  An erotic short which tried to be too much in too little time IMO.  Possibly my book hangover continued.  The sex was hot but the conflict was manufactured and the resolution too swift considering what an asshole the hero had been.  I like this author's contemporary stories much better.