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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Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) – Alex Beecroft

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“After all, this was supposed to be about learning to be his own person, yes? And what if his own person was the kind of person who wanted to be with James?”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. I read through this pretty quickly, but I’m not sure I liked it much. Aidan, one half of the main couple, starts out the story in an extremely abusive relationship, and the narrative doesn’t shy away from that one bit. On the one hand, it certainly doesn’t sugarcoat anything; on the other hand, it wasn’t exactly entertaining to read about Aidan being controlled and getting the shit kicked out of him by a man who’s supposed to love him. Also I don’t feel as if the hurt/comfort payoff was worth it in the end, especially since it seemed to get interrupted with everything else going on. There’s a lot going on in this story, and I’d rather it focused more on Aidan’s healing and his budding relationship with James. James, by the way, was going through his own tough time with his own ex-partner (though nothing like what was hinted at in the book’s summary), which would’ve been better if it’d had the room to be properly fleshed out instead of just popping up now and again. The first half of the book, even with how heavy and dark it was, was the part I liked best because it seemed like it was more focused on setting up Aidan’s terrible lot in life so that James could come in and rescue him and then their relationship could develop (the hurt and then the comfort). But then after the hurt was over, we got a lot of confusion and all the comfort was mixed up with James struggling with his sexual desire for Aidan while Aidan was discovering his asexuality in the background. And then the situation with James’ ex-partner kept butting in and ruining the flow. I’ll say that this is a compelling read, but I feel like the second half doesn’t really make up for all that went on in the first half.

 

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

 

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Boy Banned – RJ Scott

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“He liked this: being close, touching, breathing in unison with this beautiful man.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one was a bit different, with the whole thing taking place during a singing competition, the fictional Sing UK (which I’m assuming is something like American Idol). Our two romantic leads, Corey and Angel, start off competing against each other but then end up competing with each other (along with three other men). The story doesn’t really go into too much detail about the show and how it all works, even the details of living a celebrity lifestyle are brushed over for the most part, and is more about the relationship between Corey and Angel and the other relationships they form along the way. The story had some light-ish angst, but it was pretty sweet for the most part. An extra bonus, along with the love story, was also seeing five strangers coming together as friends and watching those relationships develop. Also, one of the romantic leads is on the autism spectrum, and that’s not something we see enough of.

 

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

 

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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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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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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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