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Audiobook: Handle with Care By: Cari Z. Narrated by: John Solo

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Dreamspinner
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/handle-with-care-by-cari-z-10360-b

Blurb
A fragile heart needs extra care.

Burned-out social worker Aaron McCoy is on vacation for the first time in years—boss’s orders. Road-tripping to his brother’s wedding with his best friend, Tyler, seems a fun way to spend the mandatory two-week leave, and they set out for Kansas—and a difficult homecoming.

Aaron’s mother was a drug addict, and his adorable younger brother was quickly adopted, while Aaron spent his childhood in foster care. As Aaron mends fences, Tyler hopes to show him that this time, he won’t be left behind to face his problems alone.

Aaron’s opening up to how right it feels to be with Tyler and to the possibility of taking the leap from friends to lovers. But along with the wedding celebration comes a painful reminder of the past. Aaron’s heart is still breakable. Can he put it in Tyler’s hands?

Review

Handle with Care was a sweet, friends to lover’s romance. I found the characters of Aaron and Tyler to be engaging. This is very much a slow burn romance. Aaron has a lot of hang ups due childhood neglect. He allows his work as a social worker to consume him, which is causing him to burn out. Tyler is the opposite. He is full of cheer and his spirits always seem high. Aaron’s reunion with his brother is rocky and the emotions are high. I loved when Aaron finally let go of all his resentment of the past and started to look ahead.
John Solo did a good job with the narration. He has a great range of voices and each character is easy discernable.

4 stars


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Audiobook: Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch, narrated by Joel Leslie

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Tantor Link
https://tantor.com/salt-magic-skin-magic-lee-welch.html

Blurb:
Lord Thornby has been trapped on his father’s isolated Yorkshire estate for a year. There are no bars or chains; he simply can’t leave. His sanity is starting to fray.

When industrial magician John Blake arrives to investigate a case of witchcraft, he finds the peculiar, arrogant Thornby as alarming as he is attractive. John soon finds himself caught up in a dark fairytale, where all the rules of magic—and love—are changed.

To set Thornby free, both men must face life-changing truths—and John must accept that the brave, witty man who’s winning his heart may also be about to break it. Can they escape a web of magic that’s as perilous as love?

Review:

From the very first chapter of this book I was caught up in its intense atmosphere of desperation and mystery. Poor Soren, trapped on his father’s estate by powers unseen and with no way out of his predicament!

Listening to this story wreaked havoc on my nerves, there’s a constant sense of urgency and tension. It reminded me of a Gothic novel of yore, though luckily faster-paced than let’s say the good old Mysteries of Udolpho. The Victorian setting with the broken down manor and romantic moors lends itself perfectly for this type of story. Technical advancements are on the rise, but at the same time it’s far enough into the past to make legends and superstitious tales, even magic, seem plausible.

The writing was beautiful, fluent, gripping and evocative. I loved the attention to historical details, that touch of realism to contrast so wonderfully with the very original magical setting of the story. I adored the references to the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace especially! How awful indeed for Soren to have missed out on that experience.

John and Soren seemed an unlikely match at first, because of the differences in their characters, their station in life and the trust issues they needed to overcome. But they are really great together!
They have amazing chemistry. However, it was the yearning and the tender, vulnerable moments they shared that truly made them stand out to me. What struck me too is that Soren, in large part, is drawn to John because of how kind the other man is.

Narration: This is a suspense-filled story with an eerie atmosphere, which Joel Leslie managed to capture (and enhance) perfectly in his performance. He also did a great job with the accent of the characters, as per usual. I loved how he read John and Soren, making John sound just a bit rougher around the edges than Soren, whereas Soren sounds quite posh, the perfect young English lord.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 5


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Recent Release: In Safe Hands by Victoria Sue

Dreamspinner

Link: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/searchresults?q=victoria+sue

Blurb: Former helicopter pilot Maverick Delgardo’s injuries ended his Air Force career, leaving him bitter and one drink away from becoming an alcoholic. When his sister asks for his help on a private protection case to babysit a disgraced pop star, Mav reluctantly agrees.
Deacon Daniels, onetime lead singer and idol to his teenage fans, saw his career and reputation ruined when a reporter’s exposé led to a devastating scandal. Without money or a job, a heartbroken Deacon has lost custody of his baby niece. And just when he thinks his life can’t get any worse, a stalker’s threatening messages escalate to murder.
Mav only agreed to one meeting, but his protective instincts kick in, along with an attraction to Deacon. When the body count increases, however, Mav is unsure he is up to the task of protecting Deacon from a killer. But it is too late for Mav to step away, now that he’s lost his heart, and he must find the strength to reassure Deacon and his niece that they are in safe hands no matter the cost.

Review: This is a really good romantic suspense story. I really enjoyed it, especially the fact that I didn’t guess the killer until Mav did.
Mav, ex-military, disabled, bitter and one drink away from becoming an alcoholic – not the most lovable character, right? Wrong – underneath he’s really a good guy who doesn’t know how to handle not being a ‘complete’ man. Once he has a purpose, protecting Deacon, he finds himself. What I liked about his character is that he doesn’t become an ‘Alpha male’ once he gains more confidence – he still worries that he can’t protect Deacon, he worries about dropping Molly; but he does become a stronger person knowing that he can make a difference.
Deacon, he was so nice! I felt bad for all the things that had happened to him, and his horror of a mum! Yikes! But he persevered, didn’t really let life beat him down. He and Mav made a good couple. I enjoyed how their tentative attraction naturally progressed to something more – it’s a sweet romance with none of the cold/hot that could easily be added for ‘tension’. I really appreciated that ☺
The murder/mystery was really good – I liked reading from the murderer’s perspective as well.
Overall, a really good story!

4.5 stars out of 5


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Recent Release: Blue Umbrella Sky by Rick R. Reed

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/blue-umbrella-sky-by-rick-r-reed-10315-b

Blurb

Milt Grabaur has left his life, home, and teaching career in Ohio to start anew. The Summer Winds trailer park in Palm Springs, butted up against the San Jacinto mountain range, seems the perfect place to forget the pain of nursing his beloved husband through Alzheimer’s and seeing him off on his final passage.

Billy Blue is a sexy California surfer type who once dreamed of being a singer but now works at Trader Joe’s and lives in his own trailer at Summer Winds. He’s focused on recovery from the alcoholism that put his dreams on hold.

When his new neighbor moves in, Billy falls for the gray-eyed man. His sadness and loneliness awaken something Billy’s never felt before—real love.

When a summer storm and flash flood jeopardize Milt’s home, Billy comes to the rescue, hoping the two men might get better acquainted… and maybe begin a new romance.

But Milt’s devotion to his late husband is strong, and he worries that acting on his attraction will be a betrayal.

Can they lay down their baggage and find out how redemptive love can be?

Review

I was very intrigued by the blurb but sadly this book did nothing for me. I really struggled to finish it. The two main characters are Milt, who’s husband passed away from Alzheimer’s and Billy, a young man struggling with sobriety. Milt has pulled away from all human contact until a flood forces him into Billy’s orbit. The two men have the beginnings of a friendship going on. Billy admits to himself early on that he was intrigued and falling in love with the lonely man. Milt in the other hand doesn’t want to move on from his deceased husband due to a promise he made to him on the sick bed. The ending seemed very rushed. I think if a few extra chapters of more build up were added I would have liked it more. I also found the frequent jumps back in time to be confusing since there was no notice that it had happed.

3 stars of 5


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Recent Release: Redeem by Christina Lee

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44152554-redeem?from_search=true

Blurb
Successful financial analyst Michael Walsh leads a picture-perfect life that anyone would envy—unless they caught a glimpse beneath the surface. Haunted by failed relationships and self-doubt, Michael harbors a soul-deep loneliness that no number of casual hookups can fulfill. So why can’t he stop thinking about his New Year’s fling with a man whose quiet desperation matched his own?

Barista Stewart Jenkins has an abysmal track record with relationships, and no matter how hard he tries to keep things tightly under wraps, his life is spinning out of control. His hookup with the gorgeous Michael was only supposed to be sex—hot, dirty, uncomplicated—but that small taste leaves him yearning for more.

Every no-strings encounter that follows between Michael and Stewart peels away more layers, blurring the lines, until they’re left with a raw tenderness and acceptance they both crave. A relationship seems out of the question—they come from drastically different lives and are plagued by inexcusable sins. Being vulnerable is sure to reveal old wounds, and forgiveness seems out of reach, unless they can find a way around their fears on the road to redemption.

Review
Both Michael and Stewart have both come out of relationships they have tried to cling on to. Both of them have been painted as the bad guys. It during this period of acceptance and introspection that they meet each other and the penny drops. They know of each other through their former partners. Small world. Both of them are carrying a lot of baggage and resist getting involved with anyone again. They are so drawn to each other that they dance around admitting that they want anything more than to hook up. Both of them grow so much during this story that it’s a captivating read. They are getting together at the right point for both of them, they are now receptive to understanding where things have gone wrong in the past and do not want to make the same mistakes again. Even though they don’t quite want to open up to each other in the bedroom Stewart and Michael are so hot together, phew what chemistry.
Although this book can be read as a stand alone I personally think you get a deeper understanding of exactly how far both of them have come if you’ve read, or listened, to the previous two books. West (Jonas) relationship with Tristan is in Reawaken and Elijah and Kam’s story is in Reclaim.

5 of stars out of 5



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Release Day Review: A Model Escort by Amanda Meuwissen

release day review

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/a-model-escort-by-amanda-meuwissen-10283-b

Blurb

What’s the value of love?

Shy data scientist Owen Quinn is brilliant at predictive models but clueless at romance. Fortunately, a new career allows him to start over hundreds of miles from the ex he would rather forget. But the opportunity might go to waste since this isn’t the kind of problem he knows how to solve. The truth is, he’s terrible at making the first move and wishes a connection didn’t have to revolve around sex.

Cal Mercer works for the Nick of Time Escort Service. He’s picky about his clients and has never accepted a regular who is looking for companionship over sex—but can the right client change his mind? And can real feelings develop while money is changing hands? Owen and Cal might get to the root of their true feelings… if their pasts don’t interfere.

Review

A Model Escort was a fairly decent read. The story flowed really well. I enjoyed the connect Owen and Cal had. I’m usually a little skeptical about these types of stories….sometimes they are just another retelling of Pretty Women, but Model Escort isn’t. Neither man is looking to be saved by the other. Owen reaches out to Cal’s escort agency mainly because of loneliness. Cal is in his early 40s and seems to be burning out, he decided to accept Owen as a client to try and mix things up. Both men are surprised by the connection they end up making. There’s some drama built up by an ex-boyfriend and an ex client, I wish that was drawn out a little more but instead it was resolved within a few pages. The only thing I didn’t like was Owens job. I had no clue what the heck he was actually doing job wise and the beginning of the story was a bit confusing but other than that I enjoyed this book.

3.5 stars


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Recent Release: Stallion Mage: True Mates (Stallion Mage book 2) by A.O. Spade

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43587581-stallion-mage?from_search=true

Blurb

As an earth mage, Alvarr is the only stallion who can survive outside the tribe’s territory. And this is exactly what he must do to find out what has been affecting the land so terribly. Most of the stallions believe that the lack of rain is just a bad season, but Alvarr’s trusted advisor, Elder Mastok, fears that Nature has abandoned them due to a terrible event from their people’s distant past.

Whatever the cause, Alvarr knows he must get answers before the tribe starts to starve. His journey takes him far beyond the stallion territory into the lost land of their ancient people. There, Alvarr discovers not only secrets about the way they once lived, but himself as well.

When he returns to leader Laren and the tribe, he is bearing more than ancient knowledge. It is only a matter of time before his secrets become known to all: he, a stallion, is with child, and Laren is his true mate.

Review

This book picks up right where we left Alvarr in the first one, alone and on a mission.

Romance takes a backseat and this is much more of an adventure story with Alvarr going on a solitary quest to find out more about the “Rift” that has brought such imbalance to the world of the horse shifters. The horses have lost so much of their history and knowledge, even worse, they have lost their hearts with stallions living apart from the mares and foals. I love that it’s this particular “imbalance” in their society that causes Nature to lose its way.

Laren is rather inflexible in his way of thinking and his distrust of all things unknown, and thus unsafe until proven otherwise, almost proves stronger than the draw to claim and protect his mate. Foremost in his mind is always the safety of his tribe though, and he comes through for Alvarr when push comes to shove. Eventually.

Alvarr is a wonderful character and I loved how he came into his own in this story. He grows so much on his journey, and surprises even himself with his new-found resourcefulness and inner strength. The Elders and Barron make for amazing secondary characters, and even Thane and Nassor, the villains of the tribe, are well-written and nuanced characters.

The mpreg aspect of this universe is done differently than in most omegaverse stories I’ve read so far and I really like this new angle. I also love the sense of urgency throughout the story (doomsday is coming for the tribe, after all) and the way physically weaker members, like Alvarr, Barron and the Elders, get to play such an important part in saving their brethren.

I’m very curious to see how it will all play out in the end.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


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Release Day Review: Hat Trick (Harrisburg Railers #8) by R.J. Scott , V.L. Locey

release day review

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40948160-hat-trick?from_search=true

Blurb

Stan Lyamin has seen many of his dreams come true. He’s found his soulmate, loves Noah like his own, hoisted the Cup, and has his Mama living with him in his new country. But his fantasies of a loud, loving, madcap home overflowing with childish laughter linger. When a distant family member passes, Stan and Erik immediately agree to take in the two orphaned children, but that means a trip back to Russia for Stan, an idea that both exhilarates and terrifies him.

Erik’s world tilts on its axis when a phone call wakes him and Stan in the middle of the night. Abruptly, Stan is returning to Russia, making deals, working with people who know people, and fully intending to bring two orphaned children home. The red tape is overwhelming, and Erik is alone in Harrisburg with the nearly impossible task of finding a nanny who can speak fluent Russian. Being on his own is one thing, but add in fears about Stan’s safety and team issues, and Erik is finding everything hard to balance; not least of which is spending quality time with Noah.

When their family expands from three to five, the journey won’t be easy, but love can always find a way.

Review

This was so much fun! I could read books with Stan in them all day! He is such a great character! He’s fun, big hearted, sexy and sweet. Erik definitely didn’t play much of a role in this story – which I missed – but Stan definitely shone brightly.

There is a bit of good news in this regarding Ten in this story as well – thank goodness! – and a lot of good news for Stan and his family.

I applaud the authors’ willingness to continue with this story line despite current world politics and I highly recommend this to fans of the series.

5 of 5 stars


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Recently Released: The Keeper (Demon Warriors #10) by Lynn Hagen

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41561559-the-keeper?from_search=true

Blurb

What would you do to save the man you love? For the Keeper, he would sacrifice the universe. Bitten by Morog, his first creation, the Keeper is dying. He isn’t sure how he ended up in the vet clinic, but when Trey walks into the exam room, he knows he’s found his mate. But he grows weaker by the day, depending heavily on Trey to keep him alive. When he bites his mate, the Keeper discovers that Trey’s blood just might be the key to his survival.

As far back as Trey could remember he’s had the most bizarre dreams. But lately, his dreams have turned apocalyptic. He sees the world ending, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. When Trey is kidnapped and forced to help a dying man who claims to be the creator of the universe, Trey isn’t sure what to believe. But the harder he fights against his attraction, the harder Trey falls for the one man who could destroy mankind.

Review

Sometimes turning off your “but how would this work” brain is really hard to do. In these last few installments of Lynn Hagen’s Demon series we are dealing with immortal beings that are on par with “God” and it’s hard to believe they have illnesses and things like that when they are literally the creator of all things…

In any case, it is all in good fun – and our Primal Source is quite a fun character who spends most of the book fighting for his life from a demon’s attack.

This is a typical “sweet, young twink” meets an “old, jaded alpha” and likes to be dominant.

It’s fun seeing some of the old characters still around but beyond this it was pretty “meh”.

3 of 5 stars


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It’s that time of year – Best of 2018 polls and Prize money from Dreamspinner!


Join us each Wednesday and help us ring in the new year by taking a look back at our favorites from 2018.

For the next 3 weeks we will be voting on the best books and audiobooks released in 2018. Comment on your favorites or about something you’re looking forward to in 2019 and be entered to win $30 from Dreamspinner Press! (at least 3 winners will be chosen! Each person may only win once. Must be able to receive prize via email.)

Comment now and let us know who you think should be on the “best of 2018” lists!