Overtime (Scoring Chances #3.5) – Avon Gale

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“As the game progressed, Isaac found his attention focused almost exclusively on the Ravens’ goalie, Laurent St. Savoy.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This is a short story – only a little over 4000 words – that takes place between Book 3 (Power Play) and Book 4 (Empty Net) of the Scoring Chances series. It’s mainly a slice-of-life short from Isaac Drake’s point of view, though it does reference events that were mentioned in passing in Empty Net. It also explores a bit of the relationship between Isaac and Misha. It’s not really necessary to read this to understand the next book; it’s just some extra fun. The extra insight was interesting: we get some moments with Isaac and Misha, and we also get a bit of background on Isaac’s brief relationship with Xavier Matthews (who plays on the Asheville Ravens). There’s also a lot of foreshadowing for the impending romance between Isaac and Laurent St. Savoy. This isn’t really a romantic short (even with the focus on Laurent), I feel it’s more to do with the father/son type relationship between Isaac and Misha, which was very sweet. There were also some moments with some of the other hockey players, and it’s always good to see the boys interacting and having fun. Even Belsey wasn’t as much of a dick as he usually is. So this isn’t really required reading to understand the main story going forward, but it really is a fun read and the extra time spent on some of the relationships certainly doesn’t hurt. (Also it’s free to read.)

 

[available for free from Instafreebie]

 

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Why Love Matters – Jay Northcote

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“The warm scent of Martin lingered in his nostrils, reminding him that he craved so much more than non-sexual touch from the man sitting next to him.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one was a quick read, and the story and romance were really sweet. Alistair’s lonely childhood has turned him into an adult that fears/is repulsed by touch. It usually isn’t a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, but the success of a new business venture at his company relies on his ability to give and received physical contact (mostly hugs). His PA (and secret crush), Martin, offers his mother’s cuddle therapy as a solution for Alistair’s aversion. The set up is a bit forced and kinda nonsensical, but the emotions are real. Alistair and Martin are both sweet and awkward, and I wish we’d gotten to see more from Martin’s point of view. It’s not a long story, and it doesn’t really go very deep into the characters’ backgrounds or motivations (this could be, in part, because this story was originally fanfiction, where a lot of the finer details are left out because they were already covered in the source material), but it’s still a good read.

 

[available for free at Amazon.ca, Chapters, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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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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Red River (Pack #2) – Cardeno C.

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“From his first night in Red River, Wesley had realized Jobe would be a wonderful person for an Alpha to have by his side.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. For some reason, I didn’t know whether or not I was gonna like this one, but I ended up really liking it. It’s got a nice mix of angst and schmoop. Wesley and Jobe are both good characters and I got invested in their relationship right away; they’re good together. The part I liked most was the world building and the way the characters fit into the world. Wesley and Jobe were born into two different packs that had two different takes on how they fit into the grand scheme of things. I hated the way Wesley’s pack ran, and I was so happy for him that being traded to a new pack ended up being the best thing for him. Jobe’s pack is basically a utopia. Also good is that the world building wasn’t clunky exposition, even if we don’t get a sense of the whole picture, we get enough to enjoy the story as it is. Just a note that there is mpreg in this story, but not until near the end and I think it’s the most unusual mpreg lore I’ve ever heard of.

 

[available for purchase at Amazon.ca, 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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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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Normal Enough (Wrench Wars #2) – Marie Sexton

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“Being inside cars like this one did something to him – something that wasn’t normal, by most people’s standards.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I didn’t like this one as much as I did the first one, but that was mostly due to my personal preferences. It’s a good story about a man learning to be comfortable with himself and overcome his insecurities about his sex and social lives. It’s not even really a romance story, not completely. The main arc of the story seems to be mostly about Kasey, the main character, learning to be comfortable in his own skin. It just so happens that it’s a potential for a romantic connection that kicks it off. Rich, sexy lawyer Brandon seems like insecure Kasey’s complete opposite, but that doesn’t do anything to stifle their attraction to each other. I thought that they moved a bit quick, considering Kasey’s anxieties, but at least they didn’t exchange ‘I love you’s at any point. Their relationship, at this point, seems more about sex and companionship than love, but the two of them are good together. There is also some good development on Kasey’s part in regards to his relationships with his co-worker at the garage and his estranged brother, which is where I felt the heart of the story really was and would have liked to see fleshed out more.

 

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

 

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