Recent Release: Dirty Laundry (#3 Tucker Springs series – 2nd edition) by Heidi Cullinan

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/dirty-laundry-by-heidi-cullinan-10335-b

Blurb

Sometimes you have to get dirty to come clean.
When muscle-bound Denver Rogers effortlessly dispatches the frat boys harassing grad student Adam Ellery at the Tucker Springs laundromat, Adam’s thank-you turns into impromptu sex over the laundry table. The problem comes when they exchange numbers. What if Adam wants to meet again and discovers Denver is a high-school dropout with a learning disability who works as a bouncer at a local gay bar? Or what if Denver calls Adam only to learn while he might be brilliant in the lab, outside of it he has crippling social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Either way, neither of them can shake the memory of their laundromat encounter. Despite their fears of what the other might think, they can only remember how good the other one feels. The more they get together, the kinkier things become. They’re both a little bent, but in just the right ways.
Maybe the secret to staying together isn’t to keep things clean and proper. Maybe it’s best to keep their laundry just a little bit dirty.

Review

I always love an outwardly tough and physically imposing hero who then turns out to be a gentle giant, caring and kind. Even better if they have a vulnerable side and insecurities to bring into that mix. So needless to say, Denver swept me off my feet as easily as he did Adam.

Heidi Cullinan did an amazing job writing with so much insight and sensitivity about Adam’s mental health issues and his struggle to cope with his OCD and to find the right people to help him do so. The panic attacks, the anxiety and worries that constantly plague Adam were all described very convincingly and I constantly felt myself tense up right alongside Adam. One of the things that struck me most was the metaphor of the horses for his OCD. I was so happy for him when he managed to grasp control of the reins for a while.

Denver and Adam are the sweetest couple, even when they’re being surprisingly kinky. There’s always an element of care or gentleness in their interactions with each other, even when things get intense physically. Which they do, these two have amazing chemistry!

There are a some hurdles to overcome, of course, because true love doesn’t normally come easy, not in romance novels nor in real life. There’s quite some angst (yay!) in this story, because Adam and Denver both have hang-ups to overcome, but they help each other get there. With a little help from friends as well.

The secondary characters were well-written, the good ones and the other one (maybe he was just a tad too awful though). I loved Louisa especially, she’s such a good friend to Adam, loyal and wise. The scene where she takes Denver to task was incredible!

I very much enjoyed this story, it’s one of my favorite books by this author.

m/m – contemporary – opposites attract – hurt/comfort – mental health – angst – nerd/cowboy – bdsm

Number of stars out of 5: 4


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Release Day Review: Stealing His Heart (Connoll Pack series book #1) by Bru Baker

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/stealing-his-heart-by-bru-baker-10269-b

Blurb

Danny’s parents raised him to believe his wolf was a curse. He’s part of the wealthy and powerful Connoll Pack, but only nominally. He abandoned that world to volunteer with supernatural kids, and he isn’t looking for a mate….

Max is a shifter who is also a detective. He’s working a case that could make or break his career. Danny’s caught up in the case he’s on, and he’s also irresistible. They’re a bad match—Max, an Alpha having trouble with his new powers and Danny, who trusts Alphas as far as he could throw one. But they can’t get enough of each other, and they might bond before they even see it coming.

They could be amazing together, but they have to get past a few obstacles—especially since someone close to Danny might be involved in the thefts Max is investigating.

Review
This is a cute shifter romance with a lot of humor and playful banter going around. It’s shifters, so there’s the whole mating thing, which is always fun, but it’s done surprisingly sweetly with a lot of emphasis on learning to know and trust each other, instead of just starting a relationship based on insta-lust and hoping for the best.

What’s a bit atypical in this story is that we get (some) werewolves who aren’t proud of their heritage, and actually look down on their animal half and try to suppress it or ignore it. In most shifter stories that sort of bigoted attitude is usually reserved for intolerant human antagonists and is not internalized by weres the way it is here.
Danny is raised in one such family and has the emotional scars to prove it. He’s used to fending for himself, so it was nice to see Max care for him and help him out. I liked seeing Danny get “adopted” so enthusiastically by Max’s family, which made for some heartwarming moments as well as unexpected revelations.
The mystery surrounding the thefts that Max is investigating is well-written and a nice way to introduce an element of danger and suspense into the story.

Stealing His Heart is the first book in a new series and it is set in the same universe as the Camp Howl series. We get brief glimpses of characters from the first series and references to Camp Howl as well, which I really liked. It’s always nice to see how the MC’s from previous books are faring.

m/m, gay, paranormal, shifter, finding family, fated mates

Number of stars out of 5: 4


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Review by Morgan

I loved this!  I thought this was one of Bru Baker’s better stories!

I love their chemistry, the secondary characters and how their feelings for one another manifest.  I love the “mine/mate” feel to this.

Highly recommended!


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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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Relase Day Review: Reunited by Andrew Grey

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/reunited-by-andrew-grey-10179-b

Blurb

Back in high school, nobody noticed quiet nerd Kevin Howard.
But everybody noticed handsome, athletic, and ultra-popular jock Clay Northrup.
They had nothing in common and lived in different worlds.
But a lot can change in fifteen years, and when they meet again at their high school reunion, Clay is no longer the big man on campus, and Kevin isn’t hiding in a corner anymore.

Can they put aside who they were? Can one night really lead to forever?

Review

Cute second chance at love story with a high school reunion turning into an unlikely first date. I liked that we get quite a lot of backstory for our MC’s, even in this short a novella. Both MC’s have changed a lot since high school, but we still get that opposites attract vibe which is always fun. Kevin is a great guy, but came off a bit boastful sometimes and not as restrained or centered as he prides himself on being.
There’s certainly potential for these two MC’s, both in the romance and finding family department, but there are practical challenges to be faced if they are to make a success of a real relationship.

I would have liked to have had more of an answer to the final question on the blurb. The ending, though sweet and hopeful, still left quite a bit open.

Number of stars out of 5: 3


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Release Day Review: Diplomatic Relations (Sci-Regency #4) by J.L. Langley

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/diplomatic-relations-by-jl-langley-10234-b

Blurb

Opposites don’t just attract… they sizzle.

A lusty special forces soldier who lives by his own set of rules, Dalton Fairfax decided long ago to stop wishing for his father’s love, and he found his calling. Now that he’s back home and between assignments, he finds himself at loose ends. When the opportunity arises to play bodyguard and help out his country, Dalton jumps at the chance. Not only does it keep him busy, but it just so happens that his charge is the man he saw on leave last month and hasn’t been able to get out of his head.

Heir to a dukedom and a conservative politician, Blaise Thompson strives to prove himself worthy of carrying on the family legacy as the next IN Councilman. However, his closest competitor keeps getting in the way and taking credit for Blaise’s ideas. Maintaining his stellar reputation isn’t easy to do while keeping his outrageous younger brother in line and foiling his rival’s personal attacks. He has no time for a guard and even less time for romance.

When a priceless antique goes missing, Blaise and Dalton discover that Regelence has larger problems than just IN plots. Now the only way to stop a scandal that threatens both of them is to compromise, and they are forced to confront the risk of losing everything… even each other.

Review

This was a light and fun read. I really like how this series brings such an original sci-fi take to the regency genre. It was a bit surprising, though in a good way, to see a man worry about his “reputation” in society for once, quite the role-reversal.

Blaise is very sheltered, almost too innocent even, which is why I found it a bit incongruous to see him shed his principles and risk his precious reputation so easily afterwards. Although I suppose he was overcome by the power of his love for Dalton. Blaise’s parents are supposedly very loving, but strangely aren’t in the picture much and not overly warm when they are.
I liked the storyline on Dalton and his parents far better, troubled though their relationship was. That brought some intense emotional moments in the story, on top of the developing romance, and gave Dalton’s character extra depth and a nice chance to grow. Dalton’s definitely my favorite.

The banter between Blaise and Dalton was very entertaining and sweet depending on the moment and really enjoyed the “galactic” swear words and expressions. Most of their relationship plays out behind closed doors and with a lot of sneaking around. That did annoy me at times, especially near the end. I feel that Blaise could have been a bit more assertive and forthcoming by then, standing up for his man and all that. Though all’s well that ends well and things wrap up great with an only slightly predictable grand gesture.
The stage is also teasingly set for the next stories in the series and I’m definitely intrigued enough to want to see how they’ll play out.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


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Release Day Review: Educating the Professor by Sean Michael

release day review

Dreamspinner
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/educating-the-professor-by-sean-michael-10150-b

Blurb

Kenneth Brannigan is a small-town history professor. He’s happy with his life, loves the classes he teaches, and lives in a tiny apartment in a converted house with his best friend, Tim, next door. He’s still recovering from a bad breakup and is content to stick to his comfortable routine. It’s Tim who insists he come to the Queer Alliance’s Rainbow Mixer.

At the mixer, Kenn meets David Burgundy, a new-to-town TA who is working on his masters. Dave is drawn immediately to Kenn and is thrilled when Kenn offers to show him the best pizza place in town. One meal leads to two, which leads to Dave and Kenn spending most of their free time together… and Kenn loosening his self-imposed rules regarding dating and sex for some kinky fun.

Kenn’s ex isn’t going to just let Kenn be, though, and the happier Kenn is with Dave, the less the ex likes it. Will Kenn continue to run away from his past, or will his relationship with Dave help him face it head-on?

Review

This was a cute and sweetly kinky romance story. I thought it would have a bit of a May-December vibe going, because one MC is a professor and the other a TA, but both characters are more or less the same age and interestingly enough it wasn’t the professor dictating the rules in the relationship. Role-reversals like that are like catnip to me, loved that.

Kenn and Dave are drawn to each other from the first, but Kenn has secrets he doesn’t think he can share with his new friend/lover. So he tries to keep his distance and protect both their hearts, but he’s no match for Dave’s gentle persistence and understanding. To say nothing of the startling chemistry they share.
Kenn has a truly awful ex that doesn’t seem to know how to stay in the past where he belongs. It was great to see Kenn, eventually, stand up to that controlling jerk though. The BDSM part of the story certainly added spice, though it remains more on the level of their playing the occasional scene together rather than a 24/7 D/s lifestyle romance.

Definitely an enjoyable read.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


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Audiobook: An Unlocked Mind (Secrets book 2) by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams narrated by Joel Leslie

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/an-unlocked-mind-by-kc-wells-and-parker-williams-10272-b

Blurb

Rob Daniels is determined to prove to himself that his brother Alex got it wrong. Alex believes he found love through BDSM; Rob is certain that’s not possible. He even makes several visits to a London club to prove his point. But when he attends the grand opening of Secrets, Rob gets a shock, one that has him fleeing, vowing never to return—until he does… and runs into the brick wall that is Dom Vic Prentiss. As first meetings go, theirs is a disaster.

The more time he spends around Rob, the more convinced Vic becomes of two things—one, something is eating away at Rob, and two, he’s looking for something. Every instinct tells Vic to help him, but trying to unlock the secrets hidden in Rob’s mind requires a key. All Vic has to do is find it. Because maybe then he’ll get to see the real Rob, the man who’s scared to let go….

Review

The Secrets series soars to new heights with this one and to me it really stands out from the other books in the Collars and Cuffs & Secrets universe. I enjoyed reading all the books in these two series, but a couple of them resonated with me more than others and An Unlocked Mind is absolutely joining Dom of Ages at the top of my list.

Rob makes for a very unlikely sub with his cocky attitude, which he never loses, and that’s definitely part of why I adore him so much. The vulnerability he hides behind his bravado and the guilt he struggles with for how he treated his brother tugged at my heartstrings so much. I love the way Rob grows throughout this story, trying so hard to redeem himself, though sometimes stumbling along the way. I’m a sucker for redemption stories, especially of characters who messed up for MC’s from previous books in a series, so Rob was an unexpected treat for me!

Vic is the perfect match for Rob and at times almost too amazing and insightful. I loved seeing such a strong and outwardly tough looking guy be so caring and gentle, oh the magic of a Dom written exactly right. He’s there for Rob even when they barely know each other (or even like each other yet), no strings attached. I also adored him for not being too hung up on “the way things are usually done” and being open to it when Robs steps up to steer their relationship forward. The only thing that could have made this better for me was if Vic had also had a bit more of a growth arc himself. Apart from his love for Rob, he’s pretty much the same guy at the end as he was at the beginning of the book.

I loved seeing Jarod and Eli again, and I especially liked the burgeoning friendship between Jarod and Rob, which gets off to a rocky start because of the awful way Rob treated his brother Alex, who’s one of Jarod’s closest friends. We get the start of a new group of friends here and I hope their circle will continue to grow. Because I need the stories!

Narration: Joel Leslie did a truly wonderful job and I hope he’ll get to do the entire series. I very much enjoyed his performance, as I always do. He takes such care with the accents and has a great take on all the characters, main and secondary. I also love the consistency he can bring to the voices throughout the series. I cannot imagine Jarod or Eli sounding different all of the sudden from how they were in Dom of Ages, for example. That would not be a good thing. At all.

Number of stars out of 5: 5


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Release Day Review: Nomad’s Dream by August Li

release day review

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/nomads-dream-by-august-li-10134-b

Blurb

Two men, each with a hidden destiny. Can they defeat a web of deceit and dark magic to ensure their fates intertwine?

Bedouin Isra al-Grayjaab’s dreams lead him to Janan, an amnesiac beggar on the street of Qena—one who steals his heart and starts him on a seemingly hopeless quest. With only their wits, Isra’s knowledge of the desert’s secrets, and the aid of a mercurial djinn, they must recover Janan’s past. But neither can predict his true identity or the lengths others will go to see that his mind remains broken and his true power out of his reach.

In a sweeping romantic adventure that takes them across the Eastern Desert to the modern streets of Cairo and on to the luxurious Red Sea Coast, Janan and Isra seek a truth that will either bring them into each other’s arms or tear them apart forever.

Review

To me this felt much more like a mystery/adventure story, and rather less like a romance. Though Janan and Isra fall in love and spend quite a lot of time together, I was left wanting more. As love stories go this one is rather more mellow than I like as far as feelings & passion go. It reads like an action-filled fairy tale and I prefer my romances a little grittier with MC’s who develop a deep emotional connection and build a life together as couple. We leave our MC’s before they get to do that.

This book has a peculiar mix of paranormal characters on the one hand and very religious characters on the other, which is certainly different from what I’m used to reading. I think the author did an amazing job in describing the Bedouin way of life and the beauty of the desert, and I also liked how she interspersed the story with Arabic terms & customs. Always with a light and respectful touch. I felt like I stepped into a tale of the Arabian Nights.

The story is set in modern-day Egypt which still has quite a way to go in matters like LGBT rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment. These issues are important to the story and I was pleased to see our fictional characters come out on top and pursue a happy and hopeful life together. How that translates into their daily life stays vague, however, they are both still in the closet as far as I know.

The secondary characters are well-written. Flicker, the djinn who befriended and protected Isra, is intriguing and mysterious, and we also get two very strong and independent female characters, Sehrish and Nawra, which was a nice plus.

Number of stars out of 5: 3


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Audiobook: His Consort by Mary Calmes Narrated by Scott Smith

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/his-consort-by-mary-calmes-9995-b

Blurb
A new life in New Orleans is all Jason Thorpe had hoped: his quaint little store attracts a devoted staff and his warm, loving heart grants him a loyal circle of friends. He’s perfectly content, having left behind the chill of a confusing and danger-filled night in Washington, until he discovers something unbelievable lurking in the steamy darkness of the shadowy streets of the Vieux Carré, something that turns out to be terrifying… and utterly mesmerizing.

The prince of the vampyrs, Varic Maedoc, is visiting New Orleans when he finds out the man who once helped his counselor is there in the Quarter. He thinks to simply meet and thank Jason—until he lays eyes on him. Varic’s devoted himself to protect the honor of his race, and he’s never wanted a mate before… but he immediately knows he must have this man, and no one else will do.

Varic may want to bring Jason safely into his world, but someone who doesn’t like the human’s soothing influence on vampyrs has deadly plans that would disrupt Varic’s dreams. Now, unable to tell friend from foe, Jason finds himself wondering how to hold on to the prince’s heart when he’s fighting for his life.

Review by Karen (book reviewed here previously)

I don’t think anyone can bring the soulmate/fated mate vibe to a story as well as Mary Calmes can. There’s no doubting the all-encompassing, blissful feelings that well up between Jason and Varic. I loved that they are so drawn to each other from the first, but even more that it’s not just about chemistry or power, but true love and appreciation of the other person that makes them so strong together.

I’m impressed by the amount of detail that went into the world-building and the setting of this story, bringing into it such history and a great cast of secondary characters. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them in a follow-up story! We get to know Jason really well from the first, whereas our prince remains far more enigmatic. It takes a while for him to make an appearance “on page”. The author sure understands how to build up anticipation!

Jason is an incredibly endearing hero, strong and capable, but with a soft heart underneath. Varic, he who has it all and has had it for what seems like an eternity, needs to swiftly adjust to what it means to have a modern-day man for a mate, and how vulnerable that makes him feel. It’s not as easy as he might have expected, but his devotion to Jason never wavers.

The story is excellently paced with various vampyr political intrigues to muddy the waters for our heroes. Danger lurks in unexpected places and it’s hard to know who to trust. I didn’t see the threat coming at all! It was brilliant! Though less so for our MC’s, of course…

This was such an enjoyable read, I was totally swept away by it. It was all so intense! Loved it!

Number of stars out of 5: 5

Audiobook Review by Morgan

Well- let’s just say that I wasn’t as enthralled by the story as Karen was. I’ve been a big fan of Mary’s in the past and have really enjoyed her paranormal stories as well as some of her contemporary romances. Lately I’ve been re-visiting them and I think that while I still quite enjoy them – I maybe don’t love them like I used to.

This story kind of exemplifies the good and the bad in a Calmes story. She’s amazing at world building and not afraid to use terms and words that are unique. These can totally make the reader feel like they’re reading about something real or historical or otherworldly because it’s so complex and thorough and well-documented. However, the odd names sometimes feel bulky and as a reader I sometimes faltered over them. As a listener it was certainly made more easy but it still brought me out of the story and that isn’t a good thing.

Another Calmes trait is her clueless “aww shucks, who me?” MC that everyone adores and yet never knows his own worth. On one hand I really love that guy, on the other the repetitive nature of this guy has grown a bit tired. His counterpart – the more aggressive/kinetic/powerful MC is also a familiar face and in this case I never warmed to Varic at all. He wasn’t nearly as much of the story as Jason and I never got to see the two fall in love or really to understand why they did (unless it was a vague paranormal mate/consort thing that they couldn’t control – it was confusing.)

The secondary characters in Calme’s stories are always fun and well developed and they were here as well. I was just not that enthralled by them as I had been in some of her other books – probably because they were expected.

Just as I felt with her Change of Heart series – I think the world building was too much and the violence was OTT and the relationship rushed and non-romantic.

I’m afraid I’d give this a 2 of 3 stars and I can’t really recommend it.

As for the Audio –

Well – Scott Smith is one of those guys – I can’t say I like him but I tolerate him and he’s easy enough to listen to. He definitely tries with the accents and he tries to say all those new words well – but he’s still not great at pacing or emphasis or non-dialog passages.

I’d give him a 3 of 5 stars.

Overall 2.5 of 5 stars


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

 

Audiobook: Fire and Granite (Carlisle Deputies #2) by Andrew Grey Narrated by Greg Tremblay

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/fire-and-granite-by-andrew-grey-10191-b

Blurb
The heat is growing from the inside, but danger is building on the outside.
Judge Andrew Phillips runs a tight ship in his courtroom. He’s tough, and when he hands down a sentence, he expects to be obeyed. So when a fugitive named Harper escapes and threatens his life, Andrew isn’t keen on twenty-four/seven protection… especially not from Deputy Clay Brown. They have a past, one that could cause problems in their careers.
But with Clay assigned to Andrew and the two of them together every minute, there’s nowhere to hide from their attraction—or from the fact that there’s much more than chemistry blooming between them. As the threat intensifies, Clay knows he’ll do anything it takes to protect the people who are taking their places in his heart: Andrew and his young niece and nephew.

Review

Story:
This was a nice mix of suspense and romance with the two MC’s, Andrew and Clay, being forced to spend time together in dangerous circumstances.
Clay is called upon to protect Andrew from an escaped prisoner who’s bent on getting revenge on the judge who sentenced him to prison. To make matters even more dire, Andrew is also confronted with a family emergency and has to take care of his young niece and nephew while trying to stay out of harm’s way.
Clay and Andrew started off on the wrong foot, but they both quickly realize that they misjudged one another. I loved that the moment they start getting closer, they make it clear that “feelings” are involved and that it’s about matters of the heart, not just physical chemistry. So sweet!
The more action-filled and suspenseful part of the plot was well written and thought out, keeping me on edge throughout the story. The twist at the end caught me by surprise.
A big thank you should also go to Petey, Clay’s amazing and brave little Corgi, for being the best wingman ever and helping to keep his humans out of trouble!

Narration: Greg Tremblay is such an amazing narrator! I loved what he did with this story and the characters. His voice has such a warm and pleasant timbre and he did a wonderful job with all the voices, including those of the women and children. He really knows how to bring out the emotions of the characters. There was one scene in particular, a conversation between Andrew and his sister where he brought tears to my eyes with his performance. Brilliantly done.

Number of stars out of 5: 4


Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review