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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Dear Santa, Dear Dad – T. J. Masters

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“I know my last request is the hardest one of all, and I am sorry for asking, but I wish I had a dad who loved me.”

 

In a word: Don’t read the thing. This one wasn’t really all that good. For a story that had the potential to be very emotional, it was pretty damn bland. The main character, and the narrator, is Steven, who is taking a surprise Christmas trip to the north of England to see the gay son he pretty much cut out of his life years before. This could’ve been so much better than it was. There’s just no emotion in the whole thing. Steven’s son Andy is initially angry when Steven first shows up, but that doesn’t last very long. And the reconciliation between the two of them had them in tears at different points, but it was written very matter of fact. Also a lot of the time it felt like I was reading a condensed version of a longer story. We don’t actually get to know much of Andy, or his partner Peter, and what we do find out is filtered through Steven’s distanced narration and then made uninteresting. If you turn your brain off it’s a nice little redemption story, but it really feels like there’s something missing. Like I said, I don’t think it’s emotional enough for the subject matter, and what emotions were there didn’t really ring true. Also I felt like Andy forgave his father too quickly considering Steven’s behaviour. It’s an interesting premise for a story, but the execution is faulty and I can’t really recommend it.

 

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

 

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A Present in Swaddling Clothes – Andrew Grey

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“In other areas of their lives, they did most everything together, and the thought of doing anything major without Sammy hurt, and raising a child, even for a short period of time, was definitely major.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing? I can’t really figure out how I feel about this one. On the one hand, it’s a bittersweet story about a man coming to terms with the possibility that he may have to raise his baby niece, which I was expecting when I started reading. On the other hand, it’s a lot darker than I was expecting. For some reason, I found it really hard to get into the story. I couldn’t connect to any of the characters, or any of the emotions. I liked the dynamic between Josh and Nicky (his sister), but Josh’s relationship with his partner Sammy fell a bit flat for me. But I mostly chalked that up to never really warming up to Sammy. I also felt that the story was a bit too short to fully explore all the events that were happening. Though all the plot threads are technically tied up by the end, it still felt a bit incomplete and that we didn’t really get any concrete answers. Also I felt like the author was trying to shove in a more romantic plot into a story that shouldn’t have been focusing on the romance to begin with. It’s a slightly darker read than I was anticipating, though anything not having to do with the darker elements felt like uninteresting filler. It’s not a bad story, by any means, I just mostly found the execution lacking.

 

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

 

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What Father Christmas Left – Felicitas Ivey

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“’You don’t have to make up your mind right now,’ I told her. ‘Just… I just wanted to give you options. Although you have parents, they don’t seem to have you.’”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This is a fairly short Christmas fluff story about a reunion between a pair of siblings. It’s a story that’s both sweet and sad in parts, along with some parts that will make you angry. Although two of the three main characters are romantically involved, this is not a romance story. It’s strictly a story about two siblings, Jacob and Pru, reuniting after about 10 years and beginning to build an actual relationship with each other. It’s a simple story, though it isn’t really long enough to have everything fleshed out as much as I’d like, and the ending seems to just happen abruptly, it’s still a good read.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, All Romance E-Books, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Last Mechanic Standing (Wrench Wars #1) – L. A. Witt

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“He cupped Mark’s face and kissed him softly. “But I’ll happily stay in the closet and on this stupid show if it means protecting you.””

 

In a word: Read the thing. I really liked this one, and I can’t wait to get to the rest of the series. The writing was great, as I’ve come to expect from L. A. Witt, and I was instantly sucked into the romance between the two leads. Also there was pining, and I’m always here for that. Chandler and Mark both broke my heart because they were both stuck in this completely shit situation, through no fault of their own, and really only had each other to rely on. Like Mark’s situation with his family was bad enough, but the whole thing with the TV show just made everything even worse. This story was both romantic and angsty, and I loved it. Even better is that it’s told from the point of view of both men, so we get both their takes on the events and their feelings. I really came to feel for Mark and Chandler and I couldn’t help rooting for them and their relationship. The TV people and the other mechanics in the garage made for good villains, especially the ones that got names. Despicable people. I really hope that we get to see more of Mark and Chandler in the future because, as much as I enjoyed the ending, I’d really like to see more of them as a happy couple, finally free to be together.

 

[available for purchase at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon.ca, Chapters, All Romance E-Books, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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Patchwork Paradise – Indra Vaughn

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“My stomach felt tight with confusion. I couldn’t seem to find any peace, torn one minute between missing Thomas and feeling guilty about it the next.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. So I didn’t like this book as much as I was expecting to, but it was still an okay read. The majority of the first half of the story deals with our narrator and lead, Ollie, dealing with the death of Sam, his fiancé, who he’s been together with since they were 16. That part punched me right in the feels. Ollie’s grief is heartbreaking; he’s mourning the loss of his best friend and first and only love. I quite liked this part. We don’t actually get to know Sam firsthand before his death, but we learn about him through Ollie and we know that the two men were so happy together and it’s awful that Ollie is now forced to be without him. Things started to get a little ‘meh’ for me around the time Ollie’s friends convinced him to start dating again. Then there was a lot of drama with Ollie’s friends about cheating and pining and commitment issues that I didn’t really care about. The part about Thomas, Ollie’s friend who is in love with him (and who Ollie starts falling for in return), discovering that he has a child that needs looking after happened very late in the book and him moving in with Ollie and the two of them finally getting together felt a bit rushed to me, especially with everything else going on at the same time. The pacing was a bit of an issue for me; very little was happening, then a lot of different things were happening and a lot of it was happening off-screen with very little explanation. The baby sub-plot is played up a lot in the summary and the book’s design, but it doesn’t even come up until more than half-way through. All in all, I enjoyed a lot of the story, but most of it wasn’t really my thing.

 

[available for purchase at Riptide Publishing, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, Chapters, All Romance E-Books, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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