The Forgotten Man – Ryan Loveless

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“As he wrapped his arm around Will’s chest, that sense of connection came back, the one that made him feel like his emptiness was filled.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one is a pretty interesting story about two men finding love during the Great Depression, while also dealing with a homophobic society. Joshua is an ex-army Captain; escalating money problems have seen him move back into his childhood-home-cum-boarding-house with his mother, brother, and various tenants. Will is a widowed, homeless, single father, playing his guitar on a street corner for small change to survive. It’s not love at first sight when they meet, but there is a connection of some sort between them by the time Joshua rescues a sick Will and brings him and his infant daughter home. Their romance is not destined to be in any way easy. They both live and love in a time where being gay is a crime and just generally unsafe. It’s clear that Joshua and Will are very much into each other, but they’re terrified (and rightfully so) about what could happen to them and their families if they decide to act on their feelings. It’s not exactly a downer, but the fact that Joshua and Will have to live with these secrets that might have their loved ones turn on them at a moment’s notice doesn’t exactly make for a fluff fest. The story isn’t as dark as it could’ve been but at the same time it doesn’t really sugar-coat anything.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Two Cowboys and a Baby – BA Tortuga

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“How had this happened? How had they gone from fishing buddies to lovers to fathers in the matter of two weeks?”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This was actually a lot funnier than I was expecting. Not so much in the story’s events, but in the narration. I laughed a lot reading this. It’s also written in Texan slang, so that took a bit of getting used to (though not so much because it was the same when I read Trial By Fire, another Dreamspun Desires book by the same author). The story picks up immediately when rodeo cowboy Hoss McMasters discovers that someone has left an infant on his front porch. Unable to find the baby’s mother, and not wanting to get the baby lost in the foster care system, it’s decided that Hoss will care for the baby until the authorities can figure out what to do in the long term. Hoss knows nothing about caring for human babies, more used to livestock, so it takes some help from family and friends to keep everything from going to shit. Hoss’ best friend Bradley is the one who helps out the most, so it’s no surprise when long-held secret feelings get revealed and the two of them fall hard for each other. It’s also no surprise that they both get really attached to the baby. So much so that it doesn’t matter whose baby it turns out to be, Hoss and Bradley want to raise her together as a family.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Poppy’s Secret – Andrew Grey

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“Pat tried not to think of what he’d lost and how his heart had shattered when Edge left, because if he did, he’d lose it even further, and he’d be damned if he was going to do that.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This book isn’t particularly short, but I got through it really fast because I just could not put it down. I read the whole thing in two sittings and was a bit sad that it was over, though it ended in a good place. I was a bit apprehensive going into this one because the only other Andrew Grey book I read was A Present in Swaddling Clothes and I didn’t like that one all that much. Poppy’s Secret was a major improvement story and writing wise. This is the story of Pat and Edge trying to navigate a second chance romance after years of hurt and silence. Edge left Pat nine years ago and Pat has never really gotten over it, and Edge’s reappearance initially only causes further pain. It also causes some fear because Pat has a secret that involves him, Edge, and Pat’s daughter Emma. A secret that, in a worst-case scenario, could break up the entire family for good. I will say that Pat’s secret was a bit obvious to me from the beginning, but even knowing it didn’t take away anything from the story because I still wanted to know what the reactions would be to it, and I wasn’t disappointed. Another thing I like about the book was that Pat didn’t take Edge back right away. The story does take place over a fairly short amount of time (a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at the most), but Pat’s warming up to Edge came off like it happened in a natural unforced way that made it easier to get invested in. Pat and Edge both made some mistakes, and they’re mistakes that can’t just be swept under the rug, and they both have to make peace with them if they can realistically be together romantically.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Here & Now – Lisa Marie Davis

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“He silently cursed Cyrus Carson for that – for walking in and creating waves where Jaxon simply didn’t want them.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I was initially interested in reading this one because it was the first romance I’d ever come across where one of the leads was living with HIV (and it wasn’t a tragedy). I will say that I don’t think this story lived up to my expectations, but it still wasn’t a bad story. We don’t really get much detail of Jaxon’s struggles with HIV (outside of his fear of potentially passing it on to a partner), but it’s not glossed over and it’s a definite real part of Jaxon’s life. It was nice to read a romance involving an HIV-positive lead where no one died. There was a nice, if a bit predictable, little plot and the writing was okay. One of my biggest problems was with Cyrus, Jaxon’s love interest. His behavior when he first showed up made me dislike him and when he suddenly changed his tune it never really felt genuine to me and I never warmed up to him. I liked Jaxon and Cyrus’ relationship after Cyrus’ personality change, but it almost felt as if Cyrus became a different person after he finally got close to Jaxon. I mostly put that down to poor transitioning. Cyrus annoyed me less when he wasn’t acting like a smug prick and insisting on running the show, and I did get invested in his and Jaxon’s relationship eventually.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble. Also available in the Lisa Marie Davis’s Greatest Hits bundle x x x]

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Big Love – Rick R. Reed

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“How freeing it would be, he thought, when he had no one to answer to save for himself, to just be who you were, to not have a choice in the matter, as he had believed he did.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one is more than just a romance story, though it is also that. This book actually has three protagonists: two teachers, Dane and Seth, and one of their students, Truman (this is not a teacher-student relationship book, that’s not where I’m going with this). The main romance happens between Dane and Seth, and that’s a good-sized part of the plot, but the bigger part of the story is about Dane and Truman learning to accept themselves as they are as gay men. It’s an interesting read because these are two very different people at two difference places in their lives, but they’re still going on the same journey. There are different reasons as to why this is difficult for both of them, but they do eventually get there in the end. Seth himself is already out and proud (and has been since his teens) and it’s mostly with his encouragement that Dane and Truman learn to come into their own. The story is an emotional roller coaster, starting with Truman’s introduction and the death of Dane’s wife, a happily ever after, and then a whole lot happening in between. I was pretty invested in all the emotional twists and turns and the writing was good enough that it all flowed well. I did think that the writing was a bit to flowery for my tastes in some parts, but overall it was a well-written story and I definitely recommend it.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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A Wounded Promise (Sam’s Café Romances #2) – Ashavan Doyon

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Will Russ be mad at me? Which wasn’t nearly as bad as the other thought. Am I allowed to be mad at Russ?

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I had a few problems with this one, and I’m not sure which problems are down to bad writing and which are due to the fact that I didn’t read the book that came before this one. Russ and Justin got together in the previous book (The King’s Mate) and this book continues their story. While I was reading this book it felt a lot like the author was banking on me already having read the first book. It kinda felt like being dumped into a story already in progress, with minimal character introductions and people making references to events in ways that make it seem like I should already know about them. Sam and Russ in particular are always talking about past events and the text doesn’t explain anything about them, but I don’t know if that’s bad writing and we will be learning about those events eventually, or if it was already explained in the first book and I’m missing out because I didn’t read it. Although I also had problems with the writing in other ways, mostly with the dialogue and the (many) sex scenes. Also I never felt that I connected with any of the characters, I felt for them and their problems, but I didn’t really care about them. Speaking of problems, this story is also really bleak. The main focus of it is about Russ and Justin confiding in each other about issues they have about their past and how they are trying to work through them and learning to work through them together. It’s mostly a downer and pretty heavy. Also I don’t think I was ever really sold on Russ and Justin as a couple; I never really got invested in them.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo]

 

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Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) – Avon Gale

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“Jared was going to take him to bed. It was a terrible idea, and he didn’t care.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I loved this book. I started the Scoring Chances series with the fourth (and latest, at the time) book, which I also loved, and was very excited to start the series at the beginning. I wasn’t disappointed. The characters in this book had little to no connection with the characters in Empty Net, but I loved them anyway. Lane and Jared are two minor league pro hockey players in two completely different places in their careers. Lane is a rookie, just beginning his pro career, while Jared is a hockey veteran at 31 years old and pretty close to retirement. They both play on rival teams, so it makes sense that their relationship would start with a fight on the ice. It all works out though because, as weird as the two of them really are, they’re really good together. Lane is awkward as all hell and somewhat insecure, and Jared had long ago sworn off relationships after getting badly burned in the past, but being with each other gives them both the love and support they need to better themselves and reach for what they really want in life and love. And also they play hockey. Aside from Lane and Jared, who are more than enough to carry the story on their own, there is a cast of side characters to add even more fun to the story. These characters include, but aren’t limited to, Lane’s first ever best friend Zoe (who is awesome), and one of the protagonists for the next book, Riley Hunter.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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