Time to Celebrate the Holidays: Tit for tat By JS Harker

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/tit-for-tat-by-js-harker-10043-b

Blurb

Cold has never been so hot.
College sophomore Derek is busy working over his holiday break—but his shifts at the toy store are no hardship if they mean more opportunity to dream about the sexy new guy working as an elf in Santa’s Workshop. When his mother gifts him a bag of cookies, Derek regifts them to Flynn as an excuse to get to know him. Flynn has presents to offer as well, and soon they’re dating, with Derek finding out his comfort zone is bigger than he imagined.
But Flynn is hiding a secret—he’s really a winter fairy whose magic is bound to the season. He can’t stay in the mortal realm, and Derek doesn’t want to lose contact with his family. Can they find a way to hold on to each other when the snow and sugar plums melt away?

Review by Morgan

This was sweet if kind of all over the place. I loved the first time/virgin thing, didn’t quite understand why Flynn was on Earth, thought the sugar fiending was hysterical and thought the workaround clever.

It was odd that everyone besides Flynn and Derek were assholes – including the fairy side kick, both families, and Derek’s co-workers. The only nice guy is the roommate.

All in all a fun holiday read.

3.5 stars


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Review by Mary

 

I wasn’t sure what to make of this story at the start but as the story  progressed I grew to love it. Derek is not a confident young man. He is slightly overweight and a virgin. Flynn is strange but also alluring. Once Derek gets his courage up to ask Flynn out they realise they are made for each other. So self centred. The whole story is light and has the feeling of a winter fairy tale. Derek’s ex boyfriend, Gregory, is a great villain of the story, a pantomime villain, And there is even a pixie and fairy dust! What more could you want than love and magic at Christmas.

 

 

3.5of stars out of 5


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Audiobook: Hidden in Darkness by Alice Winters; narrated by Joel Leslie

audiobookreview

Audible Link

https://www.audible.com/pd/Hidden-in-Darkness-Audiobook/B07HJBJND9?qid=1541961109&sr=sr_1_1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=C88ZHS34SJ9AVYKBKM4Z&

Blurb: When Felix lands a job taking care of a man recovering from severe injuries, he thinks his life may have just turned around. Anything has to be better than the place he’s leaving. There’s something about Lane that draws Felix to him and makes him question if this place could finally become a home for him. But when someone begins stalking Felix, he is left to question who Lane is and what actually happened to him. Together, Felix and Lane will be forced to see just how far they will go to protect each other. Being chased by cops, kidnapping a man, and breaking into a drug operation seems to be his normal since arriving in Lane’s life. Felix may be out of his element, but one thing he is sure about is that he doesn’t want to leave, even if it costs him his life.

Review by Dee:

Book previously reviewed here https://openskyebookreviews.com/time-to-laugh-hidden-in-darkness-by-alice-winters/

When I read the book the first (of many times), I was startled by the lack of ‘kid glove’ treatment Felix gave Lane. Don’t get me wrong, it was funny as hell, but wow!, it’s rare to read a story where the disabled MC is treated as they deserved; in this case, a bit meanly (Lane was a bit of a dick at first).
The sarcastic humour and banter is genuinely funny and the crime/suspense kept me engaged.
The audio, as performed by Joel Leslie, does not disappoint*. He continues to wow his listeners with his talent. In this case, he brought Felix to life, capturing his snark perfectly. Joel also captured Felix’s vulnerability and, at times (few), his sensitivity; especially when dealing with Lane. It goes without saying that the overall performance was great, but wow, did he nail the essence of Felix.
This will be an audiobook that I’ll re-listen to often. Loved it!

*(except that there were very slight pauses between sentences due to the ‘I said”s – an editing issue)

5.5 stars out of 5


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Review by Morgan

I agree with Dee that Joel Leslie did a wonderful job as always with his narration.  He manages to convey humor and romance as well as give us a variety of well developed characters.

His narration is definitely a 5 of 5 stars for me.

I’m not a fan of the story however.  I don’t like mysteries and I found Felix tedious rather than charming but I know others like Dee really found him hysterical.  He just grated on my nerves and detracted from my overall enjoyment.  (It could be a mood thing… but it just didn’t work for me.)

The humor here is just not my style of humor so I have to give the story a 2 of 5 stars.  Overall a 3 of 5 stars.

 


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Time to Comfort the Hurts: Edge of Living by H.L. Day

Good reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42102036-edge-of-living?from_search=true

Blurb
Sometimes, death can feel like the only escape.

It’s been a year since Alex stopped living. He exists. He breathes. He pretends to be like everyone else. But, he doesn’t live. Burdened by memories, he dreams of the day when he can finally be free. Until that time comes, he keeps everybody at bay. It’s been easy so far. But he never factored in, meeting a man like Austin.

Hard-working mechanic, Austin, has always gone for men as muscular as himself. So, it’s a mystery why he’s so bewitched by the slim, quiet man with the soulful brown eyes who works in the library. The magnetic attraction is one thing, but the protective instincts are harder to fathom. Austin’s sure though, that if he can only earn Alex’s trust then the two of them could be perfect together.

A tentative relationship begins. But Alex’s secrets run deep. Far deeper than Austin could ever envisage. Time is ticking. Events are coming to a head, and love is never a magic cure. Oblivious to the extent of Alex’s pain, can Austin discover the truth? Or is he destined to be left alone, only able to piece together the fragments of his boyfriend’s history, once its already too late?

Trigger warning: Please be aware that this story deals with suicidal ideation. If this is a subject you find uncomfortable, then this book is not recommended.

Review
Okeeehh.. rubbing my hands over my face… that was a….harsh, devastating, heartbreaking, breath stopping story.

I was on the edge of quitting, but of course not really because I just couldn’t stop.. Alexander deserved it to be heard… and to finished his story…

We get to know Austin and how he is intrigued by Alexander.
Alexander decided to let Austin into his life… but also hold him and the whole world at bay.
Austin was very protective but oblivious to the extent of Alexander pain.
It was an almost unbearable journey to go through. Really really hard.
Alexander’s life is difficult … more than difficult… he exists only.
He deceived everyone around him… e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. to let them think he had sort of a normal life.
He has one goal… o.n.e.

This story was more than overwhelming. At times I had to remind myself to breath… I was just holding it in because it was all so devastating.
Amazingly written in a tentative but also almost unbearable realistic way. Very well done.
The heavyweight topic was palpable throughout the whole story.

This story has some serious triggers so be aware of the content and read the blurb.

Read and reviewed for Open Skye Book Review

stars 5 out of 5


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Release Day Review: Femme Faux Fatale By Susan Laine

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/femme-faux-fatale-by-susan-laine-9982-b

Blurb

Mystery. Murder. Men in silk stockings. Hollywood nights are heating up.
Hardboiled Los Angeles PI Cain Noble is hired by wealthy and gorgeous Camille Astor to find her husband and a priceless work of art, both of which have disappeared.
At the nightclub owned by Mr. Astor, Cain encounters the mesmerizing Lily Lavender, who has the body of a goddess and the sultry voice of an angel—but is really a young man named Riley who attracts trouble like a magnet.
What’s a private dick in the vein of LA’s bygone era and a cross-dressing burlesque starlet to do when faced with the hidden decadence and lethal dangers of the Hollywood Hills? They have their work cut out for them because they haven’t even scratched the surface of an elaborate scheme more twisted than anyone could ever have imagined.

 

Review
The start of this story put me in mind of film noir, with the jaded PI meeting his dubious client for the first time. My initial reaction was that the characters were a bit caricaturist. This impression was strengthened the first time Camille Astor came into the picture. I think it’s intentional given that there are movie references included in the story. Once Cain met Riley that impression was less important and I put it to one side. Fireworks and good ole fashioned lust came into the story, yum. This is a tale that twists and turns. There are the obvious bad guys and the not so obvious worse guys which gave the story a pleasant edge. Some things I didn’t see coming and this kept me hooked. Overall good fast burn romance with murder-crime drama.

3 of stars out of 5


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Time to Comfort: Rend (Riven #2) by Roan Parrish

release day review

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38944629-rend?ac=1&from_search=true

Blurb

After a whirlwind romance, a man with a painful past learns to trust the musician who makes him believe in happy endings.

Matt Argento knows what it feels like to be alone. After a childhood of abandonment, he never imagined someone might love him—much less someone like Rhys Nyland, who has the voice of an angel, the looks of a god, and the worship of his fans.

Matt and Rhys come from different worlds, but when they meet, their chemistry is incendiary. Their romance is unexpected, intense, and forever—at least, that’s what their vows promise. Suddenly, Matt finds himself living a life he never thought possible: safe and secure in the arms of a man who feels like home. But when Rhys leaves to go on tour for his new album, Matt finds himself haunted by the ghosts of his past.

When Rhys returns, he finds Matt twisted by doubt. But Rhys loves Matt fiercely, and he’ll go to hell and back to triumph over Matt’s fears. After secrets are revealed and desires are confessed, Rhys and Matt must learn to trust each other if they’re going to make it. That means they have to fall in love all over again—and this time, it really will be forever.

Review

This was not what I was expecting.

I’d really loved Riven – it had angst and pain – sure – but the overall feeling was lighter and definitely had a brighter outlook to it.

I’d thought this would have a similar vibe. Well – it didn’t. It was very, very, very, very angsty – drama at every turn and full of sadness and emotional upheaval.

If this is your bag- you will be psyched because Roan Parrish is a great writer. However, if you’re looking for something lighter in line with Riven – don’t read this.

I thought it was interesting that our MCs are already married in chapter 1 and the book is not our guys getting together but Matt getting over his low self esteem.

I really didn’t like the fact that Matt was a mental health professional with apparently no ability to manage himself – at all.

I think that was definitely part of the problem I had with this. I appreciated the idea of it, but I didn’t necessarily like that our guys were already together.

In any case – it was nice seeing the MCs from book 1 and – as I mentioned – Roan is a great writer – I was just over Matt and his self doubt pretty much from sentence one so this just didn’t tick any boxes for me.

3 of 5 stars


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Release Day Review: Fair isn’t life By Kaje Harper

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/fair-isnt-life-by-kaje-harper-9973-b

Blurb

 

Luke Lafontaine survived the past year by not thinking about the father he lost, the dairy farm he couldn’t save from bankruptcy, or his way of life that vanished with the rap of an auctioneer’s hammer. Cleaning up city folks’ trash at the Minnesota State Fair is just another dead-end job. But at the Fair, surrounded by a celebration of farm life,  ambitions he’d given up on and buried deep start to revive. And seeing Mason Bell in the parade—gorgeous, gay, out-of-his-league Mason—stirs other buried dreams.

Mason left his hometown for college in Minneapolis without looking back. Student life is fun, classes are great, gay guys are easy to find, but it’s all a bit superficial. He’s at the State Fair parade route with his band when he realizes a scruffy maintenance worker is Luke, his secret high school crush. Luke should be safely home working on his dad’s farm, not picking up litter. Mason wishes he hadn’t fallen out of touch. He’s an optimist, though, and it’s never too late for second chances. Now he just has to convince Luke.

 

Review
Luke has gone through a lot, losing his father, his farm and home, and only narrowly escaping a life on the streets. He’s lost hope and I felt quite sad for him. All that loss really impacted him and continues to define him throughout the story. It’s more than a simple background story for the cliché “tormented hero”.
Luckily this is fiction, and Kaje Harper managed to give Luke a way to turn his life around with a little help from his former high school crush, Mason. Although reality intrudes when we are shown that Luke’s farm was no exception and that other dairy farms also struggle to survive, with no miracle to fix their issues.

Luke is physically more imposing than the smaller and more studious Mason, but their relationship doesn’t conform to stereotypes, which I loved! Luke looks to Mason for guidance and help to discover new things, like say make-up. The issue of what it means to be a real “man” is touched upon and handled in the best way. I really liked Luke and Mason as a couple, they are a great fit.

This story has an very realistic feel to it, with a “true story” kind of vibe running through it thanks to the incredibly authentic (not always likable) secondary characters and real life issues that crop up. Even the happy for now ending adds to that feeling.

Number of stars out of 5: 3.5


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Release Day Review: Heart of a Redneck by Jodi Payne and BA Tortuga

release day review

Dreamspinner
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/heart-of-a-redneck-by-jodi-payne-and-ba-tortuga-9971-b

Blurb: Colby McBride is a blue-collar cowboy trying to make ends meet laying tile in Colorado. A loner by choice, Colby works hard with his hands and finds his peace camping in the mountains outside Boulder. Gordon James is a white-collar restaurateur who owns not one, but two successful establishments in downtown Boulder. He’s a sophisticated urbanite who is devoted to his work and is accustomed to getting what he wants.
The men are friends, but sparks fly when Colby falls in love and decides to show Gordon how much fun a good old boy can be. They’re just beginning to explore their relationship when Gordon’s sister’s suicide leaves him with custody of his five-year-old niece.
Colby comes from a huge family and is eager to help with the girl and to prove his worth to Gordon. But neither of them is ready for the tremendous changes to their already busy lives, or for how this new relationship with Olivia challenges them, complicating the way they interact with each other.

They say opposites attract, but can these two very different men work together to join their disparate lives and form a strong, if highly unlikely, family?

Review:

I was expecting another nice, low angst read with lots of humour and heart from BA Tortuga. And yes, I got that and a bit more from this collaboration with Jodi Payne.
I really liked the 2 MCs: Gordon (Gordy), a well to do, somewhat cultured restauranteur, and Colby, a blue collar, born and bred Texan that just happens to live in Colorado. The pairing of the 2 men should not have worked (and it didn’t always work between them), but they suited each other just fine.
Both men have been mutually attracted for a bit, and once they decide to act on the attraction they go hot and heavy. It’s all fun and games for them until Gordy becomes the guardian to his niece, Olivia. He automatically shuts Colby out, at first thinking that his thing with Colby might be a short term thing. Colby proves him wrong by helping Olivia settle in and Gordy, by being his backup, friend and partner.

So, as I mentioned there is the low angst and humour, but there was a lot of realistic feelings – Gordy being wary of Colby’s role in his (and his niece’s) life; the jealousy when Colby seems to connect with Olivia better than he does; all the while tring to run to very successful businesses. Colby is unsure of his part in ‘co-parenting’ Olivia – he doesn’t want to step on toes, but he’s a born nurturer and loves caring for both Gordy and Olivia. He’s also unsure of his budding relationship with Gordy – are they going to be serious, a family or is he just a casual thing.
Happily, they work things out – not perfectly, but with the understanding that they need to talk things out – they tend to get their wires crossed a lot.

As usual, the secondary characters are memorable. I found it to be a warm, fun story.

4 stars out of 5


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Release Day review: Bigger Love (Big Love #2) by Rick R. Reed

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/bigger-love-by-rick-r-reed-9967-b

Blurb

Truman Reid is Summitville High’s most out-and-proud senior. He can’t wait to take his fierce, uncompromising self away from his small Ohio River hometown, where he’s suffered more than his share of bullying. He’s looking forward to bright lights and a big city. Maybe he’ll be the first gender-fluid star to ever win an Academy Award. But all that changes on the first day of school when he locks eyes with the most gorgeous hunk he’s ever seen. Mike Stewart, big, dark-haired, and with the most amazing blue eyes, is new to town. He’s quiet, manly, and has the sexy air of a lost soul. It’s almost love at first sight for Truman. He thinks that love could deepen when Mike becomes part of the stage crew for Harvey, the senior class play Truman’s directing. But is Mike even gay? And how will it work when Truman’s mother is falling for Mike’s dad? Plus Truman, never the norm, makes a daring and controversial choice for the production that has the whole town up in arms. See how it all plays out on a stage of love, laughter, tears, and sticking up for one’s essential self.

Review

So I really liked Big Love and fell in love with Truman in that story. I was psyched to see his story fleshed out! But….

First, most of the story – like 67% or more is really about Truman and other people including a pregnancy scare that takes up way too many pages for not a lot of return (that we see in this book).

Second, though I love Truman, I wanted to see his romance not read about him and though I loved seeing him triumph I wanted more with Mike… except Mike was 100% an asshole and I didn’t like him – ever.

Third, so since I didn’t get to really meet him and what I saw was crappy – I didn’t get invested in these guys as a couple AT ALL and I really felt like I didn’t want them together so when the ILYs jump out I didn’t buy them.

Fourth, there is a VERY creepy scene involving Mike and a citizen that is super gross – and when we find out who he is I was like???? How is that guy thinking he’s being a secretive closeted gay boy when he goes around in a vintage mustang that everyone identifies as his??? It didn’t make any sense and was very uncomfortable.

So… while I applaud Truman and still love him – this story was not up to his personal wonderfulness and I can’t really recommend it.

2.5 of 5 stars


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Recently Released: Fae on a Roll (Kontra’s Menagerie #25) by Charlie Richards

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42092323-fae-on-a-roll?ac=1&from_search=true

Blurb

On the Road: When a serious fae warrior stumbles across his soul-mate in a fun-loving, paralyzed human, he discovers the hardest task in his life is learning how to connect.

Prudhoe Rison is a specially trained fae enforcer and had been sent to the human realm to search for a missing prince. After completing that task, he should have returned home, but feeling a pull to stay, he’s remained for several weeks. Wandering the town to discover the source of the sensation has proven fruitless…until he drives past the library. The pull he’s been feeling intensifies, and he follows it into the building. There he meets Korvyn Peruke—his paramour—the other half of his soul. Prudhoe is drawn to Korvyn’s friendly disposition and outgoing personality. Even though the human is wheelchair-bound, it doesn’t stop Korvyn from enjoying life.

At first, Korvyn doesn’t understand why the serious and handsome Prudhoe is taking an interest in him—until he puts two and two together. A visit from a fae enforcer alerts Prudhoe that people in his own realm are talking about him. It also tells Korvyn—who already knows about paranormals—that Prudhoe is something other. Can Prudhoe keep Korvyn safe when trouble from the fae realm comes calling, or will he have to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep Korvyn safe?

Review

While helping rescue a fae prince, enforcer Prudhoe senses his paramour (mate) in the area. After completing his mission he stays in the area searching for him. He eventually finds Korvyn working in the local library. Korvyn can tell that there is something different about Prudhoe and having grown up knowing about shifters and paranormals he is more open to the concept of fated mates.

Sadly, this story didn’t have much of a storyline. There was promise of a good action or confrontation scene when Prudhoe’s brother shows up to make trouble, but it ended up being a pretty lackluster scene. The ending was very abrupt and unsatisfying. I’ve been a big fan of this whole series therefore I am used to the quick ending stories Charlie usually writes but sadly this one falls really short.

2.5 stars


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Recent Release: Not Just Friends by Jay Northcote

Good Reads Link

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42181544-not-just-friends

Blurb
Is it worth risking a friendship for a chance at love?

Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis isn’t prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max, because Lewis had always assumed he was straight.

Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction. When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. After a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends.

Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.

Please note that although this edition has been re-edited for publication, there is no new or additional content.

Review
This book is has been re-edited from its original release but included no new content.
I am a big fan of Jay’s books. Being from the South West UK, it’s really great getting to read about places close to me and speech that I can easily hear in my head in the correct accent!
We follow Lewis as he starts at university, sharing student accommodation with four others guys but feeling an instant attraction towards Max. It’s not a new experience for him but the first time he’s contemplating it and making decisions about himself.
It’s a fun read with the five men meeting for the first time and getting to know each other, several nights out especially in Fresher’s week which is well known for the drunken shenanigans of new students!
Lewis’ inner turmoil regarding his sexuality and attraction to Max is our main focus and you’re easily pulled along for the ride with him. He doesn’t really have anyone to turn to which makes it harder for him to sort through his thoughts. We do get to meet some good characters. The other guys in the accommodation all have individual personalities that shine through, and then there are couple of people that are met on courses and societies that we get to read more of . They offer friendship and support at important times.
One thing I loved was when Lewis and Max go running and get to go along Avon Gorge and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was wonderfully written and described. Jay is a great writer at drawing you into the story and keeping you engaged throughout. The characters come across as very “real” to me and are people that I enjoy reading about. These students are mostly just starting out with independent living and first, big relationships. They’re fun to read and leave me wanting more.

Number of stars out of 5
4


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