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Secret Santa by Jay Northcote, narrated by Hamish Long

audiobookreview

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56332312-secret-santa

https://www.audible.com/pd/Secret-Santa-Audiobook/B08QM5PVF5?ref=a_library_t_c5_libItem_&pf_rd_p=85df3330-9dc4-4a45-ae69-93cc2fc25ca4&pf_rd_r=JC0N6CW947WKQVNCNC5C

Blurb
Keeping secrets is never a good way to start a relationship.
Theo hardly has time to date. Between work and caring for his four-year-old son, there aren’t many hours left over. He’s lonely though, so he joins a hook-up app and starts chatting to a guy called Luke. Luke seems friendly, and they arrange to meet. Theo doesn’t mention that he has a child. It’s early days, and he’s worried about putting Luke off before they get to know each other.
Luke is currently working as Santa at the local shopping mall. He figures Theo never has to know. Christmas will be over soon, and Luke will move on to a new, less embarrassing job. He’s surprised when Theo and a little boy visit Santa one afternoon. Theo doesn’t recognize Luke, and Luke realizes he’s not the only one with a secret.
Despite misgivings on both sides, they start dating, and the chemistry is amazing. But as Christmas approaches, their secrets pile up like colorful packages under the tree. If they’re not careful, they’ll lose the best gift of all – each other.
Review
What a lovely holiday romance! Sweet and cute, giving you all the feels, but never crossing the line and becoming too mushy or overly sentimental. Perfect for finding some holiday cheer!

What truly made this story stand out for me is that it’s about two real, genuine people searching for and finding love in a realistic way while dealing with the hustle and bustle of everyday life and worries. No over the top drama or angst here!

I especially loved Archie, Theo’s little boy. He is an integral part of the story and incredibly adorable! Theo is a wonderful parent, putting his child first, and I found it really easy to relate to him because of that. I like that he has such a great relationship with Caroline and that there is no evil ex in the story.

I thought the references to Top Gear and The Great British Bake Off were a very nice touch in making the characters seem even more real and relatable. Luke, I’m with you, btw!
Narration: Utter bliss. Hamish Long is such a talented narrator! I always enjoy listening to his warm voice and was awestruck, once again, by his knack for capturing the characters’ personalities and emotions. I loved his performance of Secret Santa! He brought Theo and Luke to life in the best way.

Number of stars out of 5: 4.5


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Categories
adult - 18+

Half a Cowboy by Andrew Grey

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/half-a-cowboy-by-andrew-grey-11801-b

Blurb

Ever since his discharge from the military, injured veteran Ashton Covert has been running his family ranch—and running himself into the ground to prove he still can. Ben Malton knows about running too. When he takes refuge in Ashton’s barn after an accident in a Wyoming blizzard, he’s thinking only of survival and escaping his abusive criminal ex, Dallas. Ashton has never met a responsibility he wouldn’t try to shoulder. When he finds Ben half-frozen, he takes it upon himself to help. But deadly trouble follows Ben wherever he goes. He needs to continue on, except it may already be too late. Something about Ben makes Ashton feel whole again. But before they can ride into the sunset together, they need to put an end to Dallas’s threats. Ben can make a stand, with Ashton’s help—only it turns out the real danger could be much closer to home.

Review

The story starts out promising with the strong cowboy with a protective streak who is immediately touched by the misfortune of a mysterious city boy on the run from his dangerous ex. Ashton is there to help Ben and is willing to keep him safe from the first, even when that means bringing danger upon himself and his friends. This felt a bit rushed for me. I’d have liked them to have had more time to form a connection to justify Ashton jumping in so quickly as Ben’s selfless hero. As they prepare to face Dallas, Ben’s crime boss ex, they grow closer and start to fall for each other. Ben’s background story was left too vague, and I never felt truly convinced of his dire situation over the years nor his supposed gullibility. And so I couldn’t really get behind the romantic plot between Ben and Ashton. They both also could have been drawn with a little more nuance and depth. These MC’s that have known pain and disappointment, which affords the author plenty of opportunity for character growth, but Ben and Ashton still seem too much like formulaic stereotypes, and their struggles sometimes veered dangerously close to self-absorbed ‘whiny’ territory. There are several secondary characters in the story to help create a world around our two MC’s, both to give that sense of finding family and to increase the suspense and dangerous vibes through Dallas and his goons. The first worked out well, but the latter fell a little flat, mostly because Dallas is a bit of a letdown as a villain. The author did have some surprises up his sleeve as the criminal aspect of the plot thickened, which was a nice plus.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 3



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Categories
adult - 18+

A Christmas Break by Annabelle Jacobs

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55845390-a-christmas-break?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=7e0Q0Rl2uD&rank=1

Blurb

Christmas is a time for giving, not lusting after your brother’s best mate.

Finn has never had the Christmas of his dreams, and this year isn’t shaping up to be much better. Then he rents his spare room out to Jasper, and life begins to look up.

Laid-back Jasper is nothing like Finn expects. He’s hot, sweet, and easy to talk to. Finn could easily fall for him. But, he’s his brother’s best friend. He’s off limits, and Finn would never break that sacred rule…right?

Jasper has carried a torch for his best mate’s brother for years. Living with him sparks an old flame to light, and the more time they spend together, the brighter it burns. Finn is gorgeous and kind. He’s everything Jasper has ever wanted.

But he’s also scarred by old wounds and reluctant to let his guard down again. Friendship blooms, and for a short while, it’s enough. But the fire between them is undeniable. Finn can fight it as much as he likes.

He won’t win.

Review

This was a lovely, easy-to-read, feel-good love story with two adorable, well-rounded MCs. A part of the book’s plot focuses on (re-)connecting with family, which I love above all in a holiday romance. It gives this romance that extra heartwarming touch.
Jasper is Finn’s younger brother’s best friend, so they have known each other for a while; still, the author managed to write in a fun “meet-cutey” moment to start them off on the right track to new possibilities. They really shouldn’t go there, or should they? The story builds on some of my favorite tropes like forced proximity and the slightly forbidden brother’s best friend angle, and I liked what the author did with that. It never feels trite or too predictable when Finn and Jasper grow closer, and the emotional depth that sneaks in among the festive cheer is much appreciated. The writing is fluent and engaging, and I especially liked the humor interspersed among the book’s overall sweetness. The secondary characters, both human and animal, are great, the perfect cast to support our MCs. Finn’s mom is sweet but a little devious, and I loved how she “helps” Finn give a home to the most adorable rescue cats ever. I was absolutely charmed by A Christmas Break. Recommend.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 4


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Categories
adult - 18+

Mr. Perfect by Aimee Nicole Walker

Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55346405-mr-perfect?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=HvzH1qMDGS&rank=1

Blurb:
By day, Felix Franklin is an investigative journalist. By night, he produces Sinister in Savannah, an investigative podcast, with his two best friends. Felix’s life revolves around three principles: fortune favors the bold, honesty is everything, and love is for schmucks.

The podcast is back to investigate allegations that a local businessman is dabbling in money laundering. On the surface, everything about Cameron Spencer, aka The Auto King, appears to be perfect. The trio of trouble quickly learns all that glitters is not gold. Seeking the truth will challenge Felix’s convictions and put his life in grave danger. The biggest threat to his well-being isn’t an unknown villain; it’s the reappearance of his first and only love.

Jude Arrow had it all: great looks, charming personality, and a lucrative career as Atlanta’s hottest news anchor. So, why had he recently relocated to Savannah? When the two reporters are forced to work together, Felix will get a chance to ask him. The answer will stun Felix until he remembers not to believe anything that comes out of the heartbreaker’s pretty mouth.

Love and hate are two sides of the same coin and just as conflicting as the battle of wills that ensues. Will the chip on Felix’s shoulder save him from trusting Mr. Wrong or ruin his chances with Mr. Perfect?

Review: Book 2 of the Sinister in Savannah series and is best read in order – book 1 is a great start to the series.
From the first book, we already know that Felix, one of the podcast crew, has a history with Jude. We also know the story that the pocast crew is going to chase down. What we don’t know is how involved both the past (Felix and Jude’s) and the investigation is going to be. Boy, was this an exciting story!
The ‘former-lovers-to-enemies’ feelings Felix had for Jude was sort of deserved and he kept them up for a good amount of time – it was well done, didn’t go overboard – and when both men sort things out, it’s not all plain sailing, but they get their HEA.
The investigative story goes from being a local warranty scam to a much bigger crime issue, including murder. It kept me invested in wanting to see how it would end. Of course, towards the end we find out Rocky’s love interest – that is going to be hella interesting!
I highly recommend this series and the one before that introduces the podcast members.

5 stars out of 5


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Categories
adult - 18+

Where Love Grows by Jay Northcote Narrated by Hamish Long

audiobookreview

https://www.audible.com/pd/Where-Love-Grows-Audiobook/B08FNHCYYJ?qid=1598094909&sr=1-1&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=QJM4STCKDHFSPQ5A34ZW

Blurb
When two broken men look to each other for help, an unexpected romance blooms.
Stephen’s home, deep in the heart of the Welsh valleys, suits his reclusive nature. However, as he recovers from illness, he’s struggling to manage alone. As nature reclaims the land he’s poured his heart into cultivating, he becomes increasingly unhappy. His only outlet is his blog, where he documents the decline of the garden that had been his pride and joy.
He was a high-flyer, living and working in London, until addiction sent him into free fall. Now on the road to recovery, he still wants to make some changes, but he’s unsure where to find the purpose and fulfilment he craves.
A mutual acquaintance suggests Luke visits Stephen to help him out for a while, and a seed of hope is planted. From prickly beginnings, shoots of friendship emerge, blossoming into a deeper connection when they act on their mutual attraction.
This was only ever supposed to be a temporary arrangement, and soon Stephen will be able to manage on his own again. But both men need each other in ways they’re afraid to admit. If their love is going to last for more than one season, they’ll need to find the courage to be honest.
Review
Story: I think this might very well be the best book Jay Northcote has written so far. There’s just so much emotion in this story. And the writing… it’s simply incredible. Such a pleasure to listen to, especially the almost poetic, evocative descriptions of nature and some of the MC’s internal musings. A book to be savored and enjoyed, never rushed.
Luke and Stephen get off to a rough start, but I very much enjoyed the slow but sure way their friendship developed. Stephen is a tough nut to crack. His heart, health, pride and self-esteem have suffered countless blows. He’s lost so much: his parents, his health, a job he loved, … and he finds it nearly impossible to believe he can have happiness again. He’s super prickly and antagonistic as a result, but so vulnerable underneath his hard exterior. Luke, on the other hand, is very open about how he feels and tries his hardest to form a connection with Stephen. He’s such a sweetheart and has his own cross to bear, unfortunately. Luke and Stephen both tugged on my heartstrings something fierce.
This book has an almost magical “Secret Garden” feel to it, with a prominent role going to Nature, with all its beauty and promise of growth and resilience. The garden slowly blossoming under Luke’s care wonderfully mirrors the progress both Luke and Stephen make as well.

Narration: Hamish Long is the perfect choice for this audiobook. His honeyed voice and wonderful ability to capture every emotion, however small or subtle, make this into a mesmerizing listen. I love the voices he does for both Stephen and Luke, though Stephen’s slight accent is especially enjoyable to listen to.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 6


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Uncategorized

Acsquidentally In Love (Sucker For Love Mysteries Book 1)by K.L. Hiers

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/acsquidentally-in-love-by-kl-hiers-11713-b

Blurb: Nothing brings two men—or one man and an ancient god—together like revenge.
Private investigator Sloane sacrificed his career in law enforcement in pursuit of his parents’ murderer. Like them, he is a follower of long-forgotten gods, practicing their magic and offering them his prayers… not that he’s ever gotten a response.

Until now.

Azaethoth the Lesser might be the patron of thieves and tricksters, but he takes care of his followers. He’s come to earth to avenge the killing of one of his favorites, and maybe charm the pants off the cute detective Fate has placed in his path. If he has his way, they’ll do much more than bring a killer to justice. In fact, he’s sure he’s found the man he’ll spend his immortal life with.
Sloane’s resolve is crumbling under Azaethoth’s surprising sweetness, and the tentacles he sometimes glimpses escaping the god’s mortal form set his imagination alight. But their investigation gets stranger and deadlier with every turn. To survive, they’ll need a little faith… and a lot of mystical firepower.

Review:
Wow! I really enjoyed this story  There’s a bit of a mystery, paranormal, loads of humour with hot and steamy tentacle love 
Sloane and Loch 2.0, (you’ll understand the 2.0 when you read the story), are a fun couple. Sloane is trying to solve the mystery of his parent’s deaths. He has no social life, and the one time he tries to have one, it sets in motion events that make this a fun story. Loch is a god. A mischievous, tad arrogant (in a fun way), bit of a thieving god. It’s best to just say he is special 
The 2 MCs have great chemistry together, their interactions were funny, hot and sometimes really sweet. The mystery was well done – didn’t overwhelm the story. I really enjoyed the world-building of gods that had been forgotten by humans except for small pockets of devotees; seemed quite believable.
The other characters – Milo, Lynette, Fred – to name a few, were all memorable.
This is book 1 of a series I am looking forward to following. This is definitely a book I will reread 
I highly recommend this story.

4.5 stars out of 5


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Categories
adult - 18+

Starling’s Again by Aver Rigsley

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54138709-starling-s-again?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=WqRrPGnFsp&rank=1

Blurb:
October 1943. Manhattan, New York.

Peter Corcoran has been a Friday night regular at the Starling Club for so long that he has his own seat at a back table. From here, he watches the battalion of stunning single ladies take turns dancing with the most handsome man in the whole establishment. That attractive man is not only his best friend but also his roommate—and it won’t be one of the drop-dead-gorgeous women who Daniel Bennet goes home with at the end of the night.

When the closed apartment door cuts off the rest of the world, Danny gives him the first of a series of burning kisses—kisses that never cease to shatter Peter’s universe. But the tiny, cynical voice in the back of his head has him doubting their strange, secret charade and wondering if their romance could ever be more than just an indulgence at the end of the week, when prying eyes aren’t looking…

Review:
Short, but sweet story of two friends navigating around the romantic feelings they have for each other.
While Danny dances with ladies at the club they frequent – Peter can’t help wondering if Danny truly feels the same way about him, even though they go home together each Snight.
It’s sweet the way Danny reassures Peter of his feelings; showing him with gentle touches and telling Peter how he felt about him in the past, and how he feels about him now.
It’s a good story, just wish it was longer. It would have been nice to see if their plans for their future worked out.

3.5 stars out of 5


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Categories
adult - 18+

Hardwood (Four Bears Construction #3) by K.M. Neuhold

Good Reads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54025139-hardwood?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=Hb9DpJP7yC&rank=1

Blurb

I’ve spent forty-four years of my life telling the world I’m a carpet man. Is it too late to admit to myself and everyone else that deep down I’m really all about the Hardwood?

It took me over thirty-five years to admit to myself that I’m gay, another seven to find the courage to say it out loud to anyone else, and exactly thirty seconds to develop a massive crush on my daughter’s music teacher. It’s really not my fault, have you even seen those cute bowties he wears?

After everything it’s taken to get here, am I going to work up the nerve to come out to my ex-wife and my best friends? Am I ready to shake up my comfortable, simple life and take a chance on Watson? Or am I going to throw a wrench in my own chance for happily ever after?

Review

Another great addition to this wonderful, funny series! The token straight guy in our lovable band of friends turns out to not be so straight, after all. Getting to know Everett better was great and I loved Watson for him. Watson is fun and flirty, secure in who he is, and has an incredibly big heart. I loved that he gets all the mushy devotion he’s dreamed of, even if there are some hurdles to overcome first. I really like the realism that sneaks in this otherwise lighthearted, romantic story with Everett’s struggle to come out and the sorrow he feels over the years he’s spent trying to be someone he’s not. It never gets too dramatic or dark, but it’s there and adds a touch of genuine emotion that resonated with me and made all the happy, sweet moments in the story that much more intense and appreciated. I also oved the heartwarming way in which Ev’s relationship with his ex is portrayed, not the stereotypical witch of an ex-wife, and how important his daughter Livi is throughout the story. And now… over to Ollie so he can finally, finally have his HEA too.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 4.5



Copy Generously Provided for Honest Review

Categories
adult - 18+

Hardwood (Four Bears Construction #3) by K.M. Neuhold

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54025139-hardwood?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=Hb9DpJP7yC&rank=1

Blurb

I’ve spent forty-four years of my life telling the world I’m a carpet man. Is it too late to admit to myself and everyone else that deep down I’m really all about the Hardwood?

It took me over thirty-five years to admit to myself that I’m gay, another seven to find the courage to say it out loud to anyone else, and exactly thirty seconds to develop a massive crush on my daughter’s music teacher. It’s really not my fault, have you even seen those cute bowties he wears?

After everything it’s taken to get here, am I going to work up the nerve to come out to my ex-wife and my best friends? Am I ready to shake up my comfortable, simple life and take a chance on Watson? Or am I going to throw a wrench in my own chance for happily ever after?

Review

Another great addition to this wonderful, funny series! The token straight guy in our lovable band of friends turns out to not be so straight, after all. Getting to know Everett better was great and I loved Watson for him. Watson is fun and flirty, secure in who he is, and has an incredibly big heart. I loved that he gets all the mushy devotion he’s dreamed of, even if there are some hurdles to overcome first. I really like the realism that sneaks in this otherwise lighthearted, romantic story with Everett’s struggle to come out and the sorrow he feels over the years he’s spent trying to be someone he’s not. It never gets too dramatic or dark, but it’s there and adds a touch of genuine emotion that resonated with me and made all the happy, sweet moments in the story that much more intense and appreciated. I also oved the heartwarming way in which Ev’s relationship with his ex is portrayed, not the stereotypical witch of an ex-wife, and how important his daughter Livi is throughout the story. And now… over to Ollie so he can finally, finally have his HEA too.

 

Number of stars out of 5: 4.5


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Categories
adult - 18+

Tiramisu After Midnight By Mark David Campbell

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/tiramisu-after-midnight-by-mark-david-campbell-11664-b

Blurb

If Enrico, who is gay, and his twin brother, Fabrizio, who is straight, can make a success of their B&B on Lago Maggiore in northern Italy, they can save their family home from their conniving half sister. Can good intentions and lots of heart make up for what they lack in money and experience?

On the other side of the Atlantic, in Syracuse, New York, Owen is buckling under an unrequited crush and the pressures of starting an event-planning business. His best friend Maggie books a last-minute getaway at the twins’ romantic villa—and insists Owen join her.

Even if the B&B is not quite as elegant as advertised, they are seduced by the stunning scenery, sumptuous foods, and luscious wines—not to mention their charming hosts.

Love is in the air, but before these four lonely hearts can make their dreams come true, they must overcome past obsession, half a world of distance, and false accusations.

When your tiramisu is only a soggy biscuit soaked in instant coffee and topped with spray cream, it’s time to take a chance on the real thing.

Review

Tiramisu After Midnight was an okay book. The story line isn’t very original, which is probably why I couldn’t really get into it, Owen is supposedly in love with his best friend, all is hopeless, so he runs off to Italy and in a short few days, his heart is healed by the cute Italian guy Enrico. Throw in greedy family members and some prejudice and that pretty much sums up this story.
I just had a hard time getting into this book even though there was a lot I liked. The characters were all well written. There was plenty of banter which I always like. The description of the Italian cities were fantastic.
3 stars


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