The Teddy Bear Club (The Teddy Bear Club #1) – Sean Michael

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“Dev laughed again, and Aiden decided he really liked the sound of it, bright and full of life.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. This book probably won’t be for everyone. It’s very sweet and fluffy and very kid-centric. I was drawn to the story because of the summary, but the summary turned out to be a bit inaccurate. Most of the story is complete fluff and the minutia of daily baby care while Aiden and Dev’s romance kinda just falls into place. There is some drama with Dev’s mother, but that ultimately never comes to anything and more or less seemed like a waste of time. Though it was an entertaining break from all the child care fluff (seriously, if you don’t like reading about children in your romances you won’t like this book, like, at all). Really, everything of substance in this story doesn’t come to much since most of the focus remains on Aiden and Dev coming together and merging their families (probably a bit quick, but whatever, Dreamspun). Aiden and Dev getting together happened very easily, like there was pretty much no angst surrounding that. It was welcome, unnecessary relationship drama just for the sake of it can get pretty annoying, but also there wasn’t really anything in there to fill that gap. Aiden and Dev took care of their children together with very little fuss, they were always fairly upbeat and positive, and everything was just really overly cute. They had no obstacles, and when the closest things to obstacles did show up it ultimately came to nothing. It was a nice change to read a romance where the couple didn’t have to fight for every little aspect of their happiness, but it was also pretty boring to read a romance where every interaction was written out as a series of steps. There were whole sections of the story where one scene went on for pages because it was full of step-by-step actions and bland dialogue. Sometimes Aiden’s oldest daughter had some cute interactions, and Aiden and Dev’s friends could be pretty funny, but everything was mostly bland (even the sex scenes got a bit long). The thing with Dev’s mother was really a non-issue and a bit of a let-down considering how she was built up. Though I will say that it was a nice change to read a story like this (with an evil grandparent demanding custody of a child they don’t actually have rights to) where the current parent/guardian doesn’t just roll over and accept a ton of abuse in the name of keeping the peace (this seems to be a thing with Harlequin romances, of which the Dreamspun Desires books resemble). Also the fact that we never get much closure with Dev’s sister and her situation was a bit disappointing. Anyway, the biggest problem this book has is that it’s kinda boring and over-padded with minutia. Definitely avoid this if you aren’t a fan of children in romances.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Two lonely men. One perfect family.

Aiden Lake adopted his institutionalized sister’s two daughters, and he’s a good dad. He works nights on websites and gets in his adult time twice a week at the Roasty Bean, where he meets with other single gay parents.

Devon Smithson wants to be a good dad now that his sixteen-year-old sister asked him to babysit her newborn… three months ago. But he’s overwhelmed with the colicky baby. An invitation to the daddy-and-kid gatherings at the café is a godsend. The pot is sweetened when his friendship with Aiden develops into more—maybe even something that can last.

But the mother who kicked Dev out for being gay wants to get her claws into the baby, and she doesn’t care if she tears Dev, Aiden, and everything they’re building apart in the process.

 

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

 

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Don’t Try This at Home (Anthology) – First Five Stories

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  • Basil’s Luck – Read the thing
  • Midnight Caller – Read the thing
  • Boy Next Door – Read the thing
  • Gremlins in the Works – Read the thing
  • Attack of the Hedgehogs – Maybe read the thing

(going forward anthology short stories will be getting their own posts as a quick review)

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Bonked heads. Rough carpet. Burned dinner. Awkward silence. Bitten lips. Startling length. Spilled wax. Pinched fingers. Shattered wineglass. Closet quickie. Flat souffle. Broken bedframe. Shower sex. Overzealous spanking. Embarrassing ex. Lost wallet. Terrible taste. Sore shoulders. Noxious odor. Absent date. Unbelievable girth. Kitchen canoodling. New toy. Stained sheets. Backward compliment. Stifling pillow. Locked handcuffs. Aching ass. Missing keys. Torn seams. Wrenched back. Angry cat. Overeager pass. Uncooperative zipper.

Something always goes wrong in real life. Fortunately, in these stories love blunts the edges so that romance always triumphs over adversity.

Stories included are:

Midnight Caller by Anna Birmingham
Snapshots by Rena Butler
Basil’s Luck by Henrietta Clarke
Boys, Toys, and Carpet Fitters by Taylin Clavelli
Outbursts by Bell Ellis
Tyler Wang Has a Ball by Kim Fielding
Boy Next Door by Ellee Hill
Gremlins in the Works by Kiernan Kelly
Good Food Gone Bad by Venona Keyes
Attack of the Hedgehogs by Kate Pavelle
It’s Not What You Think by Teegan Loy
Slippery When Wet by K. Lynn
Desperate Measures by E.T. Malinowski
Gordon’s Cat by Aundrea Singer
Photo Finish by AC Valentine

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The Boy Next Door – Kate McMurray

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“Jase looked at Lowell then, straight in the eye, and Lowell felt something crackle between them. That surprised him.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. I really wanted to like this one. I did like the premise of two childhood friends reconnecting as adults and falling in love, but I feel like this particular story had a bit too much conflict for my liking. A lot of conflict that didn’t have much in the way of resolutions, which didn’t help any. I’m always a fan of some angst with a happy ending, and I did like that aspect of the story, but I did find myself getting annoyed at the two leads. Well, I shouldn’t say both leads, I was more annoyed with Jase than I ever was with Lowell. My main problem with Lowell was that I thought that he tortured himself too much over Jase. Jase is a very scared man. The community he lives in seems to be fairly homophobic, and his ex-wife is both homophobic and bitter so she’s an extra stressor for him. All Jase seems to want to do is to do his job, raise his daughter, and make as few waves as possible. He’s only really starting to come to terms with the fact that he’s gay, but he’s spent so long hiding it because of fear and self-loathing that he’s having a hard time with it. Pretty much all the relationship conflict between him and Lowell comes from this, and it gets really annoying when Jase runs hot and cold with Lowell and Lowell seems to just take it. Outside of all that drama there were also a few subplots going on, and none of them really got any concrete resolutions. That was a real disappointment because time was devoted to those but they ultimately didn’t go very far. I don’t know if there’s a sequel that continues the story, but if there isn’t the ending to this book is just a bit disappointing. Really, I spent a lot of the story annoyed with Jase and feeling bad for Lowell, which didn’t really make for an enjoyable read. It was fine to start with, with the angst and whatnot, but I think it all just dragged out for too long and I was tired of it all by the end.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Life is full of surprises and, with luck, second chances.

After his father’s death, Lowell leaves the big city to help his sick mother in the conservative small town where he grew up. He’s shocked to find himself living next to none other than his childhood friend Jase. Lowell always had a crush on Jase, and the man has only gotten more attractive with age. Unfortunately Jase is straight, now divorced, and raising his six-year-old daughter. It’s nice to reconnect, but Lowell doesn’t see a chance for anything beyond friendship.

Until a night out together changes everything.

Jase can’t fight his growing feelings for Lowell, and he doesn’t want to give up the happy future they could have. But his ex-wife issues an ultimatum: he must keep his homosexuality secret or she’ll revoke his custody of their daughter, Layla. Now Jase faces an impossible choice: Lowell and the love he’s always wanted, or his daughter.

 

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

 

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Three’s a Crowd – Van Cole

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“No doubt about it, I was the luckiest man in the world; there was nothing else I needed to be happy. Nothing at all.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. It’s not so much that I didn’t enjoy this book, but more that it was pretty underwhelming when compared to the first book. Three’s A Crowd is a sequel to A Second Chance, though it can also be read as a standalone since the basic premise of the first book is often explained. This book was okay. It takes place two years after the events of A Second Chance; Dane and James are very happy together and Sam is no longer any concern of Dane’s. In fact, Dane is waiting for the right moment to propose to James. So, of course, this would be the moment when someone from James’ past shows up to shake things up. It’s not really as big a thing as the book’s summary makes it out to be, but it definitely becomes a thing in Dane and James’ lives. James’ Sam, as Dane refers to him, is named Adam. He and James were a thing in high school and then parted ways before going off to college; though their separation, while hard on James, wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic as Dane’s situation with Sam. James is very much shaken up by Adam’s reappearance (excessively so, I thought), so I really didn’t expect the threesome arrangement to play out like it did. At one point I thought I was mistaken about this book being M/M/M because it really didn’t look like that’s where things were headed (also I was a bit put off by Adam). But then the story took another turn and a threesome arrangement was back on the table. This book is written the same way as the first one, so that contributed to some of the issues I had. This one really feels like the bare bones of a story, more so than the other one because there’s less angst and emotional suffering in this one. It’s not a bad story, and I did enjoy reading it, but I wasn’t totally crazy about it. I probably wouldn’t’ve bothered reading it if it hadn’t come free in a bundle with A Second Chance. My overall impression of this story is ‘meh’, especially when compared to the prequel.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Dane And James Are Back… But Another Old Flame Heats Things Up

It has been two years since Dane Walters’ high school reunion – two years since he finally saw the boy that broke his heart for what he was, and saw the perfection in the man that stood right beside him.

James Doherty is still by his side now, and life is absolutely perfect. Gone are the days of mooning over a man that he couldn’t have; now, Dane commutes home from his big-city marketing job to the perfect partner and dreams about having the courage to put a ring on James’s finger. He knows that nothing could disrupt their happiness.

But Dane isn’t the only one who’s ever been haunted by the ghost of high school love. All this time, James has been holding in a secret – holding back his memories of the one that got away. As such, when Adam DeFranco walks back into his life, it threatens to shake the foundations of the entire adult life he has built.

At first, Dane thinks it’s deja vu. It’ll be difficult, but all he has to do is show James that Adam is an asshole, just like he learned about Sam. Trouble is that he soon learns that Adam DeFranco is not an asshole. He’s genuine competition – and if Dane isn’t careful, the fabric of the perfect life he’s built could be torn out from underneath him.

This Romance Short Story Was Formerly Titled Close Encounters.

This Is Book 2 Of A Second Chance Which Can Also Be Read As A Standalone.

 

[available for purchase from Amazon.ca as part of the Surprise Baby: Gay MPREG Romance Collection]

 

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GWM Wanted (Husbands and Wives) – Amanda Young

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“The more he tried to pretend there was nothing wrong with their relationship, the worse it became.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. I had issues with this one. My main complaints are the miscommunication could’ve been easily resolved, the sex scenes were too long, and I just plain didn’t like the climax (of the story). The whole miscommunication was probably my biggest complaint, though. Really, the whole issue of ‘Is My Relationship Over?’ could’ve been solved with just one conversation. The book alternates between both Sam’s and Mark’s (the main couple) points of view, and it’s obvious just how much the two of them love each other. Like, these two are still very much in love, even after 15 years together, they just can’t talk to each other apparently. So the whole plot of the story is that both Sam and Mark feel like their relationship is on the verge of ending; communication has fallen through and other life obligations have made it difficult for them to connect the way they used to. Sam talks this over with a friend and the friend suggests bringing a third man in for a night to spice things up in the bedroom. It’s clear, from both of their internal narration, that neither of them are particularly excited about sharing each other with a stranger, but they both force themselves forward because they think it’s what the other wants. Of course, the whole situation goes to shit, but not in the way I was expecting. That was another problem I had: the way that whole night turned out. Like I wasn’t expecting the whole thing to go well, necessarily (neither Sam nor Mark were really into it; especially Mark), but I thought the way it did go down in flames was particularly extra and ugly. It was as big disappointment for me because it looked like it was going one way, and then the tone completely changed and something completely different happened. I wasn’t into it. So this story isn’t particularly bad, but the miscommunication was annoying and the execution of events wasn’t really my thing. The way the threesome thing ended was a major disappointment for me and kinda ruined the emotional flow of the story, and then the ending kinda fell a bit flat for me after that.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Mark is still deeply in love with Sam, his partner of 15 years. He’s perfectly happy with their relationship, even if their sex life has grown a little stale lately. But when he begins to notice Sam’s gaze wandering toward other men, he fears that his younger lover may be losing interest in him. Then Sam suddenly suggests they broaden their sexual horizons by inviting a third man into their bedroom. and Mark’s fears become almost certainty. He reluctantly agrees, willing to do whatever it takes to hold onto Sam. He’s willing to share his husband’s body if he must, so long as he retains his heart. Together, they answer an ad in an online advertisement. The other man seems to be just what they’re looking for–handsome, hung, and only interested in no-strings-attached fun. But once the excitement begins they find out they’ve made a terrible mistake. Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play, male/male sexual practices. Other Books: Par Three by Anne Douglas and For Better, For Worse by Michelle Cary. Series Note: Each title in the Husbands and Wives series can be read as a standalone title.

 

[available for purchase from Amazon.ca, Book Depository, and Barnes & Noble]

 

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QR: Wreck the Halls – Jessica Payseur

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“He’d thought Paul’s actions were part of some misunderstanding, but no, it sounded like he genuinely wanted to drive Nick out. Well, two could play at that sort of thing.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Business has been good at Paul’s Café in Madison, Wisconsin—until a few months before Christmas. When Nick opens Nick’s Restaurant next door, Paul watches his customers leave for cheaper food and an owner who smiles more. With his livelihood at stake, Paul lashes out, trying to drive away Nick’s customers, but Nick won’t go easy, and escalating sabotage threatens to ruin the holidays for both of them.

Paul thinks all he wants for Christmas is to see Nick’s Restaurant go under, but the more he tries to drive Nick away, the less he’s sure he wants him to go. Nick is everything Paul secretly craves, but by the time he realizes Nick is all he really wants for the holidays, he might have ruined any chance for them to get together. And there might not be a present in the world that can fix that.

 

[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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QR: Christmas Grace – C.L. Miles

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“Stop overthinking it. I want you to stay the night. We’ll see where that leads us. Just relax, sweetheart.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Christmas has been a lonely time of year for Aaron since losing his family fifteen years ago. But now he’s seeing Craig, and though Aaron is sure they belong together, both have been hurt in the past, so they’re taking things slowly. So far, Craig has been supportive of Aaron’s struggles with anxiety—struggles that cost Aaron relationships in the past.

On Christmas Eve, Aaron is closing his bookshop when Craig surprises him with a specially planned evening. Will this be the night they take that final step and deepen their physical relationship? Aaron hopes so, but things aren’t that simple. Craig has been keeping a secret…. Can Aaron take his place as part of a family again and accept the love he’s missed for so long—or will he find that some deceptions are too big to be forgiven, even with the help of some Christmas grace?

 

[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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