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2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Christmas Contemporary Dreamspinner Gay Heat Index m/m Mid level angst Mild/low level heat Morgan Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words) Part of a Series Secret Identity

#Christmashatesyoutoo by EF Mulder

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Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/christmashatesyoutoo-by-ef-mulder-7968-b

 

33003425Blurb

 

Born December 25, Noel Beebe is tired of having his birthday overshadowed by all things Christmas. While looking for love on social media, he comes across a prospective new beau just in time to celebrate the Big 3-0, someone who encourages him to take back his day and say thumbs down to Christmas! On a trip to the Big Apple, Noel does just that, flipping off the Rockefeller Center tree and demanding his coffee in a nondecorative paper cup as a fun birthday prank. His act of defiance is caught on video and soon goes viral, leading to a backlash all over the Twitterverse, Internet, and TV. Suddenly what Noel thought would be his best birthday—and even Christmas—yet is shaping up to be his worst. Can his family and his potential boyfriend prove to the world that Noel isn’t the Scrooge he’s been labeled?

Review

This started out as having SO much potential. Youngish guy (turning 30) having trouble dating because he’s not super buff and he’s trying to find dates online. At first it looks like he’s found someone who really fits his needs, but the guy runs before showing him a picture or meeting him in real life.

Then he meets another guy, Ethan, who is just a douche. But they have on page sex so…

Then comes the birthday/Christmas stuff – which was cute – they meet in a chat room for people who have terrible birthdays and then it gets even weirder.

The writing sort of jumped all over the place with several people and ideas and things – maybe too many for this short story.  It’s a short story and I’m not 100% certain what all really happened even after reading it – it was kinda confusing.

But there’s some angst and a mystery twist and a HFN?

I’m not sure.

This story just didn’t work for me at all. I really didn’t care for the whole Ethan part of the story or understand why he was included in this short story and the twist – felt like HUH? Who? Where’d he come from?

So….

Not recommended, unfortunately, because the title and the cover are super cute but they don’t really match the story inside.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars Action/Adventure adult - 18+ Angst Level Audiobook Bi-Sexual Book Contemporary Cop/Crime Enemies to Lovers Exploration Friends to lovers Gay GFY/OFY Heat Index Hidden Lovers High but not hopeless Homophobia m/m Mild/low level heat Military Morgan Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Part of a Series Purchased Unrequited Love Virgin

Colorado Wild (Colorado Heart Book 1) Audiobook by Sara York Narrated by Stan Jensen

audiobookreview

51dgzpo6hzl-_sl300_Blurb

When love sneaks up on you, shoot for the heart. Billy Bradford has a secret, and it’s bigger than the fact that he’s an assassin. When Tucker Hayes, Billy’s “straight” best friend, is injured on a mission, Billy acts in haste, kissing Tucker. Shocked by the act, Tucker runs. But desire is stronger than convictions, leading Tucker to hunt down Billy. The other guys on the ranch are oblivious to Tucker and Billy’s actions as they investigate a new target. Grant Stovall is hung up on his ex, but Roger Burk, their new operative, catches his attention and one small touch isn’t enough. Meet the cowboys of Wild Bluff Ranch in the first audiobook of the Colorado Heart Series, Colorado Wild.

Review

These books have been languishing on my To Be Listened to list for awhile and I’m not sure why… but I decided to give them a go! I grew up in Colorado and I’m a fan of books that take place there – so I was pretty psyched to explore this lengthy series.

First, I was excited to find out that this is not only a “cowboy” story but a military story too! Our boys live and work on a ranch but it’s a special ranch that’s more decoy and training grounds than anything. Mostly, it’s a base for operations of a secret unrecognized branch of the military who act like vigilantes and take out bad guys when the normal routes wouldn’t work or would take too long.

The premise sounds amazing – gather ex military men and super train them and give them resources they normally wouldn’t have then aim them at really, really bad people.

Now this is only the first book, so I assume that some of the “problems” I found with this are due to the world building that normally only exists in the first part of a series and so won’t be so prevalent in future books. But… there is a lot of telling in this story. The author gives us a lot of information and rather than demonstrate some of these things she has the characters somewhat awkwardly telling us stuff or simply outlining things directly for the reader. It’s not overwhelming, but it is noticeable.

Secondly, there are a BOAT LOAD of people. At least four (maybe six?) main characters in this book and a few more who will clearly be central figures in books to come. It’s a lot of names and I got confused a lot as to who was who and what they meant to one another. They aren’t all that different from each other so it was difficult to keep track of them all.

That being said, we have two main couples in this story (sort of). It looks (at the beginning) that it’s going to be a story about Grant and Roger. Roger is the new guy and not interested in forming a relationship with a new team member (or anyone really) and Grant is just out of a bad relationship with someone who may or may not end up being a bad guy.

Then there’s Billy and Tucker. Billy is gay and has been crushing on his “straight” BFF Tucker for years. Tucker is very confused about his feelings for Billy but when it looks like one of them might lose the other, he’s willing to explore his feelings after all these years. BUT he’s super worried about being gay and this colors all his actions and inner thoughts.

By the end of the story Billy and Tucker have sort of started a relationship (I have huge problems with how this played out – which I’ll get to) and I’m not sure if we’ll be seeing more from them or not – but I imagine they’ll grow along with the series.

(Here might be considered a bit spoilery so if that bugs you – skip down to the audio part of the review 🙂   )

My main problem with Tucker and Billy’s story is that Tucker says over and over and over that he’s not ready to move forward with a relationship – especially physically and especially penetrative. Billy tells him repeatedly that he’ll go slow and respect his wishes while IMMEDIATELY pushing him up to and including bottoming for the first time. When they do have penetrative sex for the first time Tucker is uncomfortable and talks about the pain for about 3 paragraphs then there’s a word or two of pleasure and it’s over. It never felt anything but awkward and while not “rapey” it definitely didn’t feel warm, loving or even like something they’d want to repeat! It absolutely left me cold and when – later – Tucker accepts a date with a woman in front of Billy – I wanted to scream at Billy : “HE’S NOT READY! Give him some space!” So… we’ll see how it goes with them but they aren’t off to a great start in my book.

As for Grant and Roger – it looks like they get more page time in book two, because in this they flirted around one another but never moved much past that and then Grant leaves on a mission.

I think this simply tried to do way too much in the first book and it was just a bit too scattered. My hope is that – as the series progresses – now that we’ve met the players (hopefully all of them?) the plot lines will become more clear and it won’t be so all over the map.

3 of 5 stars

Audio

My plan was to review these books as audiobooks (for all those made into audiobooks – right now that’s 6 of the 7). However, I absolutely could not finish this in audio format. The narrator, Stan Jensen is terrible. His style is a sort of overzealous, over the top almost comedic in an attempt to give all these characters a unique voice. His non dialog voice sounds a little older and all the men have a sort of geriatric twang to them. Occasionally he hits the mark – Duff, for example – is an older retired General and he sounds about as you’d expect. However, some of them are so strange as to be painful to listen to.   Billy’s was the absolute worst of the voices – he sort of squawks all the time. I eventually had to just stop because I was so distracted by the narration I lost track of the story itself.

(Stan narrates book two but thankfully none of the others in the series. I won’t be reviewing book 2 as an audiobook.)

1 of 5 stars

Overall 2 of 5 stars for the audiobook

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Audible Link

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Colorado-Wild-Audiobook/B00HW1KDZM/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1478457131&sr=1-1

 

Amazon link for the e-book

(Free on Kindle Unlimited!)

https://www.amazon.com/Colorado-Wild-Heart-Book-ebook/dp/B00FEYOW2O/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1479014986&sr=1-1&keywords=sara+york+colorado+wild

Categories
2 stars Author Provided Book College/University Contemporary Football Friends to lovers GFY/OFY Homophobia m/m Mid level angst Morgan New Adult Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Part of a Series Scorching/high heat

Trick Play (Eastshore Tigers #3) by Alison Hendricks

release day review

32033492Blurb

They’ll do whatever it takes to save their team. But can two best friends survive a fake relationship?

Luke Trent is desperate to bring his team back together. If the Tigers can’t get over their slump, he’ll never make it to the pros. With the LGBT-inclusive ‘Rainbow Tigers’ mania dying down, it’ll take a crazy scheme to restore their former glory, and Luke has the perfect one in mind: Dating his best friend.

Brandon Tucker has secretly been in love with Luke for years. He knows he’s going to get hurt if he agrees to a pretend relationship with his very straight friend, but he can’t help it. This is as close as he’ll ever get to the real thing.

The strength of their friendship makes their lie an easy sell, and things are looking up for the Tigers. But when Luke kisses him in front of the whole team, Brandon can’t help but wonder if the only man he’s ever wanted might actually want him back.

With the fire of their fake romance beginning to burn true, a teammate’s devastating betrayal forces them to make a difficult choice: Sacrifice their relationship to save their career, or give up everything else for the chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love.

Review

Books one and two reviewed here: https://openskyebookreviews.com/?s=hendricks. This series started off with a bang! I really, really loved book one and found the characters to be real and their slow burn romance was so, so sweet!

In book two, things dropped a little for me, and I found myself missing the MCs from book one. But it was still a good story and I enjoyed it, if it was a bit bland.

Unfortunately, book three just didn’t work for me. I found the premise to be a bit offensive in fact. When Brandon, who is gay and in love with Luke, agrees to be in a fake relationship with Luke so the football team can be the rainbow tigers again I was like “WHAT?????!!!!!” Luke’s ex girlfriend was the only one with any sense. She said this is a terrible idea that can really hurt people and she was RIGHT!
I was offended that Luke and Brandon would see manipulating people into supporting a team on “false” pretenses was an okay thing to do. I was SO GLAD when the hammer came down and hard on these guys because – really? Really?? I don’t like GIFs but I might need one here!

via GIPHY

 

As for their love story. Sure, I was happy to see Luke fall into Brandon’s arms and it was sweet. But I felt a bit – sad – for them both. Luke gave up something huge and by the end of the story he doesn’t have a replacement for it.

So – though I want to say I recommend this. I really can’t. I love the author. Love the series. But this book failed me in several different ways.

2 of 5 stars

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Amazon link

https://www.amazon.com/Trick-Play-Eastshore-Tigers-Book-ebook/dp/B01LX77RJJ/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1473953814&sr=1-1&keywords=trick+play+alison#nav-subnav

Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book coming of age Contemporary Dreamspinner Established Couple Friends to lovers Gay GFY/OFY Heat Index Hidden Lovers Homophobia m/m Mid level angst Mid level steam/heat Morgan Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words) Part of a Series second chance at love

Wide Open Spaces by Renee Stevens

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/wide-open-spaces-by-renee-stevens-7393-b

 

wide-open-spacesBlurb

Devon fled Wyoming as soon as he turned eighteen, leaving behind his high school love, Levi. After six years in the big city, Devon returns to his hometown. Not much has changed, except that Levi is no longer in the closet. He’s also single and living his dream—managing the local wild horse population. Both of them are very interested in picking up where they left off, but Devon is no more ready to reveal his orientation than he was as a teenager.

No one is going to shove Levi back in the closet—not even Devon. For a relationship to work, they’ll have to put the past behind them and find the courage to face the future as who they really are—a couple in love. But Devon doesn’t know if he’s strong enough. Maybe Levi would be better off without him—and his hang-ups.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Review

First, I really liked the way the author really tried to incorporate little bits of what it’s like to be in Wyoming into this story. The dry air, the jackalopes, Yellowstone, rattle snakes, rainbow trout, the mines – it really felt authentic and like a taste of being there.

Second, I really liked Levi. What a great guy. Honest, open, accepting, so willing to forgive and forget. I liked his open communication style and his decision to call Devon on his crap right away without pressuring him to be someone he wasn’t.

Unfortunately, that was all I liked about this story. Devon made me cringe over and over. He was not a good boyfriend, he wasn’t true to himself, I didn’t think he had a bit of motivation to improve himself – no college, an entry level job that he seemed satisfied with, a move back home for no particular good reason… He felt lost and aimless and I didn’t get a good feeling about him at all.

I hated the way the story ended. Yes, he did finally stand up for himself, but to what end? The story just stops right when it was actually beginning to look interesting.

I can’t recommend this as it really didn’t inspire me much. I wanted Devon to grow up and be strong and realize his errors. I wanted him to have some goals in life. I wanted to know what the two of them were going to do as a couple. Instead I got the vague impression of more fear and maybe Devon losing his job…

2 of 5 stars as the writing itself wasn’t bad, but the storyline didn’t do it for me.

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Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Bi-Sexual coming of age Contemporary Dreamspinner Exploration Friends to lovers Gay GFY/OFY Homophobia m/m Mid level angst Mid level steam/heat Morgan Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words)

Three Little Words by Allison Cassatta

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/three-little-words-by-allison-cassatta-7378-b

31247931Blurb

Is it better to keep some secrets locked away?

Matt thought his life was perfect, but he learns there’s no such thing when the man he planned to marry breaks his heart and leaves him holding the pieces. Needing to escape and lick his wounds, Matt heads to New England to spend time on his brother’s lobster boat. A one-night stand proves to him that empty sex does nothing to mend old hurt, and neither does running away.

So when Matt’s best friend, Luke, a firefighter, is seriously injured, Matt steps up, even if it means facing bigotry and ignorance. Luke has been hiding his feelings from Matt all their lives, and revealing them after so many years won’t make life easier for either of them. But nothing worth having ever comes easily….

First Edition published by Amber Quill Press, 2013.

Review

This book just didn’t work for me.

First, Luke jumps into a kiss with Matt with no warning and Matt – who has supposed loved him for 20 years – just runs away.  When Luke asks him about this Matt tells him he was freaked out about the sudden change in Luke’s feelings and he’s upset still about his ex.  But that doesn’t stop Matt from immediately getting involved with another guy, Aric, and then – for some reason – telling Luke about the one night stand “in case something happens to me” while Matt’s out on a boat.  It just wasn’t logical.  I wanted more from Luke’s POV.  Why did he suddenly feel like he could kiss Matt and how did he feel when Matt treated him so poorly.

I didn’t appreciate that Matt’s one night stand took up several chapters of the book.  This and the fact that Matt’s dithering about his ex and Aric lasts up until nearly the last page.  At one point Matt wonders if Aric might be missing him or expecting something more, but then it’s forgotten again.  I’m just not sure what Aric’s role was in this story.

Matt wasn’t likable as a MC and I didn’t find myself “rooting” for him because he felt a bit distant and self-centered. He tells Aric no, but then just goes for it.  He feels guilty so he tells Luke about the experience but I’m not sure why.  He “selflessly” wants to take care of Luke, but wonders about Aric and still worries about his ex.

There were several other plot twists and turns that led this book astray and took away from the emphasis of the main love story.  I just don’t think this is the best work from this author.  I think that the author’s later works are a better example of her writing prowess. (This is a reprint of a 2013 Amber Allure title.) I recommend Beast by the author as a much better representation.

Others might find this to their taste, but it just didn’t appeal to my “sappy” sensibilities.  I needed to understand Luke better, to have Matt apologize more and give himself more to Luke and I didn’t want to read any on page sex between the MC and another character once our two MCs had “begun” their courtship.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Contemporary DA Dreamspinner Fade to black/No Steam Gay Hurt/comfort Insta Love Little to no angst m/m Morgan Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words) Part of a Series

Relative Best (Foothills Pride #5) by Pat Henshaw

release day review

 

Dreamspinner Presents
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/relative-best-by-pat-henshaw-7364-b

 

patBlurb

A Foothills Pride Story

Sometimes love sneaks up when you’re least looking for it….

Zeke Bandy, owner of Bandy’s Finest Hotel in Old Town Stone Acres, California, is too busy for love. Not only does he oversee the operations of the historic hotel and uphold his family’s tradition of offering refuge to strays and runaways, Zeke also sings and plays down-home music two nights a week at the Stonewall Saloon and for occasional celebrations. Then Zeke meets Victor Longbow, the man of his dreams.

Vic isn’t looking for love either. In fact, because of his upbringing in a strict, white foster family, Vic’s not sure he believes in love. He’s in Stone Acres to open a branch office of a national brokerage firm. He’s also hoping to find a vintage photo of what might be his Native American ancestor.

After their paths cross, they become friends, then more. Connected by their experiences as orphans raised by flawed fathers, Zeke and Vic realize that some men must find love, hone it, and create families for themselves.

 

Review

This is part of a series, but it definitely can be read as a standalone. In each of the books in this series, we meet an older guy with an interesting past and all these guys live in the same town and know one another, but knowing their story doesn’t necessarily affect the current book.

In this case we’re introduced to Zeke who runs the hotel that sits next to Stone’s bar so we get to see him and Jimmy a lot – which is probably the only thing I really liked about this story.

Zeke’s history was strange and his hotel is a little weird. He runs a sort of shelter but it’s not funded as a non-profit and when he ends up rescuing a minor, Calvin, the fact that it’s a minor doesn’t concern him or the Sheriff. Then, we find out his uncles, Vic and Hayden, are there at the same hotel, and they don’t act overly concerned or even really talk to him or about him to his rescuer, Zeke.  Vic, in fact, makes a strange comment about Calvin’s dad beating all his sons, some nearly to death, but that comment is left just hanging there. When Calvin’s mom comes to talk to him she has a random and abrupt about face concerning letting her sons get beaten for years that felt really artificial and insincere. I didn’t know what to make of Calvin’s part in this story and it kept jolting me out of the story’s natural rhythm.

As for the love story between Vic and Zeke – it happened almost instantaneously and with very little chemistry. They had no “romance” to speak of. They met, they hooked up (off page – no on page sex at all) and then they were boyfriends – forever. In fact, when, – a few days later – Vic goes to collect his stuff to move in with Zeke, Zeke acts so sad that people comment it’s like a lover has died. That was probably the most emotion we see between these guys and it felt really out of place.

I’ve enjoyed the other stories in this series very much, but this one felt very disconnected and disjointed. There were several potential “topics” – personal histories, bullying/abuse, Native Americans, children of alcoholics, music, families… so many things!, but none were really followed up on and it just felt like a big mélange of story without one continuous thread.

I definitely didn’t feel a good connection between Zeke and Vic, and I thought the other “side stories” detracted from their main story and the overall feeling the story left was fairly muddy. I can’t recommend this – sadly – but I do recommend the rest of the series and encourage readers to look at those stories instead.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book coming of age Contemporary Cop/Crime DA Dreamspinner Friends to lovers Gay Hopelessly Crying Hurt/Abuse Hurt/comfort Insta Love m/m/m May/December Medical Morgan New Adult Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Older MCs Part of a Series Scorching/high heat second chance at love

Expanded Hearts (Heartland #2) by Logan Meredith

 

keep-calm-im-coming-tomorrow

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/expanded-hearts-by-logan-meredith-7351-b

 

31085405Blurb

Psychologist Victor Mascari and his partner, spa-owner Derek Jameson, have been together eight years, but their relationship is still evolving. Derek distrusts monogamy because of his parents’ messy divorce, but as marriage equality advances, Victor’s doubts about their open relationship are growing. He doesn’t necessarily want a legal union, but he’s increasingly concerned about how others view them.

When Victor comes home to find Derek with another new conquest, he’s annoyed… at first. As he gets to know Antonio, Victor discovers the young man is intelligent, self-assured, and charming. This time, it’s Victor who is intrigued by someone else and Derek who thinks Victor’s interest is crossing the lines they’ve agreed on. If Victor wants to keep Derek, he’ll have to let Antonio go.

But Antonio is in real trouble and has nowhere to turn. Victor and Derek take him in, and it soon becomes clear how well he fits into their lives and how strong the bonds between all of them are growing. A committed relationship between three men—all very different in age and background—is enough of a challenge, and then the horrifying secrets of Antonio’s abusive past emerge.

Review

From the blurb we learn that Victor and Derek have been partners for years, but Derek wants an open relationship. For the most part, Victor is okay with that, and in fact participates in many threesomes with Derek. But occasionally, especially lately, that’s more of an issue for him. Especially since gay marriage became legal.

What throws a monkey wrench in things – in addition to the previous misgivings – is Victor’s extraordinary attraction to the enigmatic Antonio. It’s so strange that Derek becomes ridiculously jealous and the couple almost disintegrates because of it.

That really bothered me – as a plot point. I never understood how – for 8 years – the two men existed in this open relationship without encountering this jealousy from one side or the other before. It didn’t feel authentic.

The other plot issue I had was Antonio’s back story and current drama. It felt way over the top in terms of soap opera like drama, with Peter acting more like a comic book villain than a true predator. And Victor – the psychologist – doesn’t really do much to encourage this boy – who has been abused for years – to seek treatment, in a way that impacts the story. I think his abuse would have been a major plot point and point of contention.

Finally there was the connection between the lovers. For me (and I know that I have a high sap tolerance and a low cheating tolerance) the connection between the guys just wasn’t there. At first I was mad that Derek would have an extra at all, then that the new guy would bust up their partnership made me really not like Antonio, then finally I felt that Victor was sort of a spineless wimp letting everyone but him get what they wanted. It never felt like an equal partnership.

There was way too much sex. (Yep – I said it!) Sex that didn’t (in my mind) help the story. While Derek’s dirty talk was hot, the DP at the end left me feeling very cold.

In general I’m a fan of ménage – but only if all the partners involved are equal and this just failed on that account. (Ménage that has worked for me: Riley Hart’s Broken Pieces, 911 by Chris Owen, The Strongest Shape by Tessa Cardenas, More by Sloan Parker, More Than Everything by Cardeno C, Three’s Company by NR Walker…)

I think the writing was good, I found no significant editing mistakes, but the story was just all over the place with the angry mom, the two villains after Antonio, the fighting between the original partners, the age gap, the race differences…too much and nothing in focus.

I didn’t read book one, so I can’t say how it relates, but I didn’t feel lost so I think this is okay as a standalone. If you were a fan of book one, you’ll probably like this as you get to see those MCs again.

This just didn’t work for me and I can’t recommend it. I would look for something by this author again, but maybe not a ménage.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Christmas Dreamspinner Enemies to Lovers Established Couple Fade to black/No Steam Gay Holiday Hopelessly Crying m/m Morgan Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words)

Have a Hygge Holiday by B Snow

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/have-a-hygge-holiday-by-b-snow-7307-b

 

30740882Blurb

 

Niall is having second thoughts about spending the holidays with Josh. If Josh’s sweet nature masks the fact that he’s a spineless pushover, Niall doesn’t want a long-term relationship with him. Guilt—an annoying voice in his head—agrees, telling him to end it before Josh gets hurt. But then Niall sees how Josh has turned his apartment into a cozy, inviting nest for winter, based on the Scandinavian tradition of hygge: curling up with good food, candles, music, hot drinks, family, and friends.

Niall decides to stay, telling himself he’ll discover the real Josh when the two of them are together for a week, but two become four when Niall’s Christmas-crazy parents show up on Josh’s doorstep, and four become five when Josh’s father arrives to celebrate the last night of Hanukkah. The two sets of parents clash over decorations, food, and public displays of affection. Their bickering drives Niall crazy, as does Josh’s calm acceptance. If something doesn’t change, Niall will walk away from all of it, including his future with Josh.

Review

This is a short story about two guys who are only 6 weeks into their relationship when the holidays hit. Niall isn’t sure Josh is the guy he wants to be with and spending the holidays with him might give him the wrong message. But, if he’s wrong, he needs this time to move their relationship forward.

Niall had a recent bad experience with a boyfriend telling him he was too demanding and selfish, so he’s very sensitive to someone unwilling to stand up for themselves. Josh, on the other hand, finds Niall a bit wishy washy and unable to commit.

Then things really get interesting when both of their parents show up to share the holidays with their respective sons.

**

****warning spoilers ahead ***************

 

 

 

Do not read further if you don’t want to read a spoiler!

 

 

 

At first this seemed really cute. Niall’s voice in his head (he’s named it “GUILT”) is funny and felt truly apropos. It keeps nudging Niall to do one thing or another and often, it’s messages are conflicting. For example, Niall really wants to like Josh but Josh keeps “failing” the tests Niall gives him to see if he’ll push back or if he’s a push-over. Niall wants to please his family, but their OTT Christmas traditions give him headaches and he’s looking forward to skipping the madness this year. He can’t please both Josh and his parents, so he’s forced to choose, right away.

Josh, on the other hand, is nothing but sweet and kind and cute and sexy and Niall feels bad for giving him the tests in the first place. The tests also make Niall look wishy washy and give Josh pause about their relationship, too.

I liked the interaction between the two boys when they were alone. It was funny and sweet and I learned a new word! (Hyyge – pronounced hyoogah by the author – is the nesting or snuggling in a warm house with friends, good food, wine and a fire. “Sort of like Christmas.” “Yes, but without the frantic shopping.”)

Later, it gets very frustrating and uncomfortable. The parents come and they are ridiculously over the top in their unwillingness to appreciate differences. Much of the story is the sons arguing with their parents over their bigotry. Then they argue with one another. Then everyone ends up making up and suddenly they declare their love.

The thing that probably pushed this story into disfavor for me was when Josh’s father and Niall’s parents end up in bed together. It was weird, uncomfortable for me. I already disliked all the arguing and conflict and to have this be the method by which it was resolved felt very unsatisfying and unbelievable.

I’m a fan of the author’s writing style and creativity and I think this just rubbed me the wrong way (I really hate arguing) so, if you’re looking for a story that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek/absurd, this might really tickle your fancy.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Christmas Contemporary Dreamspinner Heat Index Holiday Little to no angst m/m May/December May/December Mild/low level heat Morgan New Adult Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words)

Diary Dates by TJ Masters

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/diary-dates-by-tj-masters-7305-b

30740860Blurb

Postgraduate student Andrew Chin arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.

James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?

Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.

Review

This is a short story about a 24 year old grad student from Singapore who comes to London to study. On his first day he finds a “Diary” (Day Planner) of a business man and returns it to him only to befriend him and learn about London through his eyes.

When the business man, James, gets sick, Andrew takes care of them, and their friendship turns to something more.

**

While the story started off well, Andrew seemed like an adorably sweet if somewhat naïve young student and James was the perfect cynical older man, it never felt like a complete story to me.

We get the slow building up of friendship from the first meeting where things went so wrong, but I never felt the transition to lover. When it happens in the story, it felt very abrupt and out of place. The sex scenes felt awkward and not at all romantic, and I’d almost wished it had been fade to black, they made me feel so uncomfortable.

Several aspects of James’ character were never really explained and I didn’t feel like I got to know him or ever felt his attraction to Andrew beyond that of friend, so when he and Andrew become lovers it felt too much like the uncle-figure he’d been portraying suddenly being hit on by his nephew (or something less squicky but still out in left field).

This story was just a miss for me. Other reviews out there seemed to like it, so – as always – I recommend reading a few before deciding if this story might be something you’d like to pick up.

2 of 5 stars

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Categories
2 stars Actor/Theatre adult - 18+ Angst Level artists Audiobook Book coming of age Contemporary DA Dancer Dreamspinner Friends to lovers Gay Heat Index Homophobia Hurt/Abuse m/m Mid level angst Mild/low level heat Morgan Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words)

Dancing Lessons Audiobook by R Cooper Narrated by Brian Schell

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/dancing-lessons-by-r-cooper-7189-b

61sBFRPbqUL._SL300_Blurb

Two years of living with his controlling boyfriend left Chico worn down long before that boyfriend revealed he’d been seeing someone else. With no other choice, Chico moves in above his cousin’s garage in a small town in the redwoods, where he merely goes through the motions. To get him out of the house, his cousin pushes him to volunteer at a local dance studio to help with their annual show.

He’s not expecting to end up in a dance class, or to start feeling alive again in the arms of his dance instructor. Rafael is the studio owners’ son and was once a well-known dancer in his own right, but now enjoys being a teacher. Although Chico likes him, he’s afraid of taking a chance. But Rafael is determined, and it only takes one dance for Chico to start to realize he might still have something to learn.

Review

(Book reviewed here previously)

Chico is struggling with depression. His friend suggests he volunteer to get him out of the house and on with his life. He ends up at a dance studio where – at first – he ends up in a class by mistake. There he meets Rafael.

Rafael owns the studio and is immediately drawn to the fragility of Chico. He knows he’s not there for a class, but he sucks him into dancing to draw him out.

The two gradually (very slowly) move towards one another – Chico is a jumpy, at best, where relationships are concerned.

**

I think R Cooper’s writing is a matter of reader preference. Like some people LOVE poetry and others will never see the beauty in it…

I’ve had this book a long time (in my world) and it’s taken forever for me to sit down and finish it because every time I start reading it I put it back down. I kept waiting for “the right mood” to strike – I’d seen all the positive reviews and thought it must be a great book… but I never got into it.

Chico is very well fleshed out – he’s sad, crushed by life’s disappointments and his depression is very well articulated. I didn’t get nearly as strong an impression of Rafael, other than that of savior to Chico. The relationship building felt kind of chaotic and I didn’t really feel that strong a connection.

I found the writing distracting and difficult for me to fall into, but I know others have found it to be lyrical and expressive. So… I think it’s a matter of taste.

3 of 5 stars

Audio

I got this on audio to review because I’m always interested in new narrators.  I also got it because sometimes a good narrator can elevate a so-so book (for me) to higher heights just by the narration being so engaging.  Well… that did NOT happen here.

Brian Schell is a new narrator to me. He is very nasal in his tonality and somewhat flat as far as emotion goes. He also doesn’t pronounce Chico’s name correctly (Sheeco) which is in the story itself, nor does he give anyone any sort of accent at all. At times I felt like I was listening to an instruction manual. There was no “acting” at all. I couldn’t actually listen to the entire story as it was too annoying. I “sampled” it in parts to see if I could find some redeeming qualities but… well I just didn’t like this. I don’t think I’d buy anything by this narrator in the future. If it hadn’t been free, I’d think about returning it because I can’t see myself actually listening to it all the way from start to finish.

1 of 5 stars

Overall 2 of 5 stars

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