QR: Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings – Nell Iris

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“’I love you.’ Ellis’s voice was low and wavered, and even though Casey could barely hear the words, he felt them. They found their way into every nook and cranny of his body and soul.”

 

In a word: Read the thing.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Christmas is coming, and young couple Casey and Ellis are very much in love. Unfortunately, they’re also the definition of dirt poor, and they don’t have the money for nonessentials like decorations. Or a turkey. Or gifts. Between the recent death of Casey’s beloved momma and Ellis’s estrangement from his family, all they have is each other.

When Ellis finds the saddest-looking Christmas tree south of the Mason-Dixon Line thrown away outside his workplace and brings it home to Casey, things look up. Life is still a struggle, but wealth isn’t always measured in money, and what seems worthless to others is often invaluable to the people who love it.

 

[available for purchase from Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble; also available as part of the Dreamspinner Press 2017 Advent Calendar set]

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The Rules – Jamie Fessenden

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“Sexually, both men pushed all his buttons, much more than any of the guys he’d dated. So, yes, he wanted to have sex with them. But it was more than that.”

 

In a word: Read the thing! So much emotion in this book, I love it. This is the story of two men opening up their marriage to include a third man they’ve both fallen in love with, written totally in the third man’s point of view, and how they all come together to form a strong romantic three-way relationship. Hans is a college student who has been hired as a housekeeper for Thomas and Boris. It’s clear from the start that Hans has an attraction to both men, especially Boris who is constantly naked. There isn’t much time wasted in all three men deciding that they’re all very open to the idea of being together in some capacity, but even coming to that decision doesn’t make things easy. Thomas and Boris have been married and exclusive for around ten years, suddenly adding another person into their dynamic will take time. And that’s not even accounting for all the other issues. What I really liked about this book is that not everything fell into place right away with no problems. The story is as much about reworking and developing relationships as it is about three men getting it on. Hans, Thomas, and Boris are three different men who all have different needs; coming together in one functional relationship is going to take work. It’s something that they all have to want and it isn’t something they can jump into lightly. I really liked the emotions in this story, and the characters, and the humour, and the dark themes that appear throughout. At first I thought it was maybe a bit odd that Thomas and Boris all of a sudden decided to include someone else into their marriage, but it soon became clear that all these men shared a bond that deserved to be explored. I definitely recommend this one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) WHEN HANS BAUER, a college student in New Hampshire, accepts a job as a housekeeper for an older gay couple, he soon learns the reason they’ve hired someone with no experience is that professional agencies won’t work there. Thomas is a successful businessman whose biggest goal in life appears to be giving his husband anything he wants. Boris is a writer who immigrated to this country from Russia, and suffers from depression and PTSD because of the things he endured in his native country.

He also refuses to wear clothes—ever.

While Hans is working alone in the house with Naked Boris all day, things start getting a little weird. Boris gets flirtatious and Hans backs away, not wanting to come between him and his husband. So Boris calls Thomas at work and asks permission.

At that moment, The Rules are born—rules about touching and kissing and pet names that the three men use to keep jealousies at bay, as they explore the possibilities in a new type of relationship….

WARNING: This story deals with themes of sexual assault and past abuse.

 

[available for purchase at Amazon.ca]

 

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An Intrepid Trip to Love (A Little Bite of Love #1) – Charlie Cochet

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“I wouldn’t want you any other way. The fact that you wear my shirts for comfort is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard, and it just reminds me of how lucky I am to be in love with someone so amazing.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This story had a bit more fantasy and in-world mythos than I was expecting (the prologue really took me by surprise), though the main part of the story seems to take place in a contemporary setting. Trip and Boone are the two leads, a husky-shifter and a husky/wolf-shifter respectably (from what I understand). The two of them know that they are actually a pair of rare true mates, but Trip is part of the Alpha bloodline (basically clan royalty) and Boone is a member of the guard (essentially) so clan law forbids them to be bonded together (also the people in power of the clan also seem to be very homophobic, which is another reason they can’t be together). Trip and Boone have known that they were meant for each other ever since they were teenagers, and the two of them have had to jump through a lot of hoops to get to where they are currently, but their relationship is secret to most people, and they still aren’t able to be together the way they want. Having to keep their true relationship hidden causes them both a lot of pain and frustration, but they do have some very close friends and family to lean on to help keep their spirits up. While Trip, Boone, and their close circle are just trying to mind their own business and get by (it’s implied that they’re being sort of shunned by a lot of the clan higher-ups), there seems to be some worrying stuff going on behind the scenes. The clan leader has allied himself with another clan for seemingly unknown reasons, and it also looks like there are some attempted forced-marriages going on (kind of like what happened to Trip when he was younger). The story only starts getting really into clan politics and shadyness nearer to the end of the story, most of the beginning is dedicated to Trip and Boone’s tragic circumstances and their interactions with their close friends. There are a lot of lighthearted moments in the beginning, even if Trip and Boone’s circumstances throw a bit of a shadow over everything. This seems like a solid lead-in to what could be a serious and action-packed series, for all the fluff and humour that’s also here. (Note: this story has shifter characters and mates, but there’s no mpreg.)

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Tristan ‘Trip’ Hagan is a Husky shifter who was born to be the Hagan Clan’s next Alpha, a position of honor and nobility, a position he never wanted and was all too happy to pass onto his younger brother. But when they discovered his brother couldn’t have pups, the responsibility of continuing the Hagan Alpha line fell back to Trip. Under the weight of the Hagan Council’s demand to fulfill his duty, Trip settled down and produced an heir, but after years of struggling to uphold his family’s traditions, Trip found the courage to do what no other Hagan Alpha had done in the history of the clan: he came out.

Five years later, and Trip is living a happy life with his cheeky pup and their own little makeshift family. True mates within canine shifter clans are very rare, but Trip has had one since he can remember. Despite losing his heart to Boone twenty years ago, Trip holds little hope of ever getting to bond with the sexy Enforcer, as it’s against clan laws for pure-bloods to bond with half-breeds. With the call from their feral halves to seal the bond growing stronger by the day, can Trip and Boone find a way to be together without losing everything?

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

 

[available for free from M/M Romance Group]

 

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His Right Choice (Men of Falcon Pointe #4) – Thianna Durston

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“His plan had been to meet some gay guys and realize that wasn’t who he was. Instead Nick had found more life in the last few weeks than he had in his total twenty-one years.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one I liked a lot better than the previous two books. This was the sequel I’d been waiting for (though I did like Books 2 and 3, don’t get me wrong). I liked everything about this book (even the really ridiculous parts). Anyone who’s been reading the whole series knows the score by now (gay Mormon boy goes to university and meets a group of men who make him realize that he’s a person that deserves love and respect, and then he gets a hot older boyfriend and spanking is involved), and this book follows the same pattern while still managing to be a bit of a different story. Nick is struggling with his sexuality worse than the others ever did. He’s convinced himself that what he needs to do is work past his attraction to men and then settle down with his long-time girlfriend and start a family. It’s a sure recipe for disaster, but it’s all Nick knows to do. Luckily, he catches the attention of the gang from the other books, and they’re able to help him work through some things. He also catches the attention of Ethan, an older man and an old friend of Cory and Levlin’s, who would definitely like to get to know Nick better. There’s a lot of angst in this book because Nick has to come to terms with both the fact that he’s gay and nothing’s going to change that, and that everything he believed in up until this point might be built on lies. He’s in a very different place than the others were, and he has a lot more to work through. One thing I really liked about this book (and my favourite aspect of this whole series) is how everyone really came together to support Nick and help him on his journey. All the characters from past books are back and just as great as ever, and the new characters in this one make the story that much richer (I will forever love Nick’s friend Deke). This book was also very emotional and I had a hard time putting it down (a lot like my feelings for the first book in the series, actually). This is currently the last book in the series, but I really hope there are more coming, I’d really like to see what all these guys will get up to in the future.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Nicholas Layton, fresh off his mission for the Mormon church, attends Falcon Pointe University with plans to enjoy his final year of freedom before he gives in and marries his long-term girlfriend. But when he meets a group of gay men, some of whom are ex-Mormons and some who practice loving physical discipline, he finds he is more comfortable with them than anywhere else. Suddenly, he’s straddling the line between good Mormon and gay man.

As an added bonus—or problem, depending—he meets Ethan Kierk, who is good-looking, fun to be around, and who wants to be with him. Nick tries not to think about dating a man, but he can’t help it. He wants Ethan, and that terrifies him.

To avoid his feelings, Nick steels himself to propose to his girlfriend but breaks things off at the last moment. Instead, he jumps headlong into a relationship with Ethan, and it feels so right—until he has to tell his family. When they reject him, he shares his darkest secret with Ethan, hoping Ethan won’t reject him too.

Hoping he made the right choice.

 

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

 

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959 Brenton Street (Men of Falcon Pointe #1) – Thianna Durston

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“Trent felt like he had opened some mystical portal into a world that could not possibly exist, where men like himself were accepted.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I wasn’t completely sure going in if I was gonna like this one or not, but I was definitely curious. I actually did like this, quite a bit. I mean, it also confused me, but I did enjoy reading Trent’s journey and the development of his relationship with Cory and the others. There are a few things going on in this book. First there’s Trent out on his own for the first time, away from his family and his church and finally getting the chance to be himself. That ties in a bit with Trent’s struggle over whether he can be a good Mormon while also being gay, and how he’ll choose to deal with that. He also falls in love for the first time, and that’s both an adventure and a bit of an added stressor to an already stressful situation. Lastly, and what piqued my interest in this book in the first place, there’s Trent learning how to live in a household that practises domestic discipline. I’d never before read a book where non-sexual and non-romantic discipline was a major part of the characters’ interactions, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect going in. It’s definitely a weird arrangement to a complete outsider (even Trent has reservations at first), but it’s obvious that it’s all totally consensual and every participant is getting something positive out of it all. I liked Trent and Cory and the other roommates, who were all unique and interesting characters. The drama with Trent’s family and religion was heartbreaking, making Trent work for his happy ending and it was so satisfying when he got it.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Trent Farnsworth moves to Falcon Pointe to get as far away from his controlling family and religion as he can. While his conservative upbringing makes it hard for Trent to admit he’s gay, he accidentally outs himself in front of his four new roommates. None of the men living at 959 Brenton Street are what the world would consider normal, but all four accept him for who he is. He never expects to feel right at home in a loving discipline household. And when Trent falls for his much older landlord, Dr. Cory Venerin, he’s as surprised as anyone, but discovering Cory feels the same makes Trent realize he’s truly in the right place at the right time.

Until he tells his family he’s gay. His father uses any resource at his disposal to destroy him, including Trent’s love for Cory. As his father schemes to send Trent to a hospital whose sole purpose is to rip the gay out of him, Cory battles to save not only Trent—but also the possibility of a future together.

 

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

 

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Buchanan House (Buchanan House #1) – Charley Descoteaux

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“Was he trapped in a tiny prison of his own making, or had his life been saved by the happy accident of finding Buchanan House?”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? The main feeling I had while reading this book was frustration, which doesn’t strike me as a good thing when one is reading a romance novel. I had a really hard time getting into this book and caring about the main relationship. I never did really come to like Eric, who is essentially our narrator. I found him annoying and aggravating, and sometimes inconsistent. The man he falls in love with, Tim Tate (not to be confused with Eric’s ex, also named Tim), is a bit bland and confusing. Also them falling in love kinda skirts the edge of insta-love territory, which I don’t think was done well here because I was definitely not invested, especially since I didn’t think they had any chemistry with each other. Though having said that, the passage of time in the story was never really made clear and I’m not entirely sure of the time frame. The story either takes place over the course of a few months or a few weeks, I was never entirely sure about that. There were too many side characters wandering around with nothing to do. Even Nathan, who is Eric’s best friend and easily the main side character, didn’t seem to have anything relevant to do half the time once Eric and Tim’s ‘relationship’ really kicked off. There’s also the issue of Eric’s family, which eventually became a non-issue at some point since the story mostly seemed to forget about them most of the time. The writing was also something I wasn’t fond of, mostly because I felt, bland characters and tepid romance aside, that we really weren’t getting enough information about the important things. We got bits and pieces of things, but never really enough to put major plot points together. Honestly I felt as if I was trying to read this through a brain-fog, which wasn’t fun.

 

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

 

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Save of the Game (Scoring Chances #2) – Avon Gale

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“You just… I don’t know, Ethan. Something about you makes me take chances that I don’t ever take.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I am falling in love with this series more and more with every book. This is the second book in the Scoring Chances series and takes place not long after the first book, Breakaway. Breakaway was about Lane Courtnall and Jared Shore falling in love and moving along in their hockey careers. In this book it’s Lane’s friend (and former goalie) Riley Hunter’s turn. Calm and quiet Riley and loud and boisterous Ethan Kennedy seem like an odd pairing, but they end up as roommates for the new hockey season and are quick to become friendly with each other. Then, even though neither of them have really shown any significant interest in men before, their friendship soon turns sexual, and then turns into romance. I was actually surprised at how quickly Riley and Ethan got together, though it wasn’t necessarily romantic at first, I suppose, so there was still a lot more development to be had. Like the other books in the series, this book focuses more on the main couple’s relationship development than it does about hockey (though hockey is still a very big and important part of the characters’ lives). I really enjoyed Riley and Ethan’s dynamic, and the writing was very funny and very emotional in turns. There were also appearances from characters we first met in the first book (like Lane, Jared, Zoe, and Ryan) and we got to see how they were doing and developing, which was awesome. And the new characters that were introduced were quickly endearing and entertaining (I love Ethan’s family). This was a quick, enjoyable read and I’m very excited to start the next book.

 

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

 

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