Hell on Wheels (Bluewater Bay #3) – Z. A. Maxfield

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“You’re necessary because you make my heart lighter and my mind clearer and my work meaningful, as long as I get to come home to you at the end of the day.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. Another wonderful glimpse into the inhabitants and visitors of Bluewater Bay; and I loved it. This time our focus is on Nash and Spencer, a local mechanic and a visiting actor respectively. Nash is a mechanic running the family business while still living at home with his father and younger sister. Spencer is an English actor going through a divorce and still reeling from his husband’s betrayal. Neither of them are looking for love or anything long-term when they meet, but that’s what they end up finding. They’re both under the impression that they won’t be able to fully put their all into a relationship with each other and that they are better off as friends (with benefits), but after a while it becomes clear that neither of them will settle for just being casual. There are a lot of emotions in this story, which I loved; both men are going through their own set of life changes that will have them reevaluating their thought processes on things. Their path to happily ever after isn’t exactly smooth, or direct, but they do manage to get there in the end. And it’s glorious. Along with Nash and Spencer, there are also a few side characters to help expand their world. Nash’s father and siblings are all amazing and a lot of fun, and Spencer’s bodyguard and PA make for some entertaining moments. A really good installment to the series and I hope we get to see more of these guys in the future.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Nash is the reliable one in the Holly family, the guy everyone counts on to keep things going. His genius twin brother is off at university, so Nash runs the family’s auto repair business and cares for his partially-paralyzed little sister while his crackpot father invents. His life seems mapped out for the foreseeable future, however much that might chafe.

So when Wolf’s Landing actor Spencer Kepler-Constantine lands in his life, Nash is ready for a diversion. Spencer is in the middle of a very painful, very public divorce and isn’t ready for a relationship—not that Nash wants one. But they both need a friend, especially one with benefits.

As they grow closer, Nash starts to see his family in a whole new light. Do they really need him so badly? Or does he simply need to be needed? Then Spencer’s ex reappears with a grand romantic gesture, and Nash has to figure out what he wants—and how to get it—before Spencer’s gone for good.

 

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

 

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Sweetwater – Lisa Henry

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“You and me – men like you and me – we don’t always fit with other people. So we make our own lives.”

 

In a word: Maybe read the thing. Looks like I’ve finally come across a Lisa Henry book that I’m not completely in love with. I know a lot of people gave this good reviews, but I thought it was a bit too bleak for me. The story kept me fully engaged and I basically couldn’t put it down, the writing is great (as usual), but after I finished reading I couldn’t really say that I liked it much. The story isn’t necessarily dark, but Elijah’s story from beginning to end is kind of a downer. His partial deafness gives the townspeople an excuse to look down on him and mistreat him, and his attraction to men is something he feels that he needs to keep secret (this story takes place in 1870 Wyoming, so he really does) and causes him to alienate himself from his adoptive father. He thinks some of those issues may be solved when he catches the eye of saloon owner Harlan Crane, but all that really brings him is a different set of problems. He also gets the attention of cattle rustler Grady Mullins, who gives him affection Elijah doesn’t really know what to do with. I think my biggest problem with this book is that I went into it looking for a story where Elijah gets in over his head with Crane and then Grady saves him and they ride off together into the sunset happily in love. That wasn’t what this story was ever going to be, so I ended up disappointed. Though if you are interested in a bit of a downer story about tortured souls, love, murder, revenge, and morally ambiguous characters in the old west, you’re probably gonna have a good time with this one.

 

The Summary: (from Goodreads) Wyoming Territory, 1870.

Elijah Carter is afflicted. Most of the townsfolk of South Pass City treat him as a simpleton because he’s deaf, but that’s not his only problem. Something in Elijah runs contrary to nature and to God. Something that Elijah desperately tries to keep hidden.

Harlan Crane, owner of the Empire saloon, knows Elijah for what he is—and for all the ungodly things he wants. But Crane isn’t the only one. Grady Mullins desires Elijah too, but unlike Crane, he refuses to push the kid.

When violence shatters Elijah’s world, he is caught between two very different men and two devastating urges: revenge, and despair. In a boomtown teetering on the edge of a bust, Elijah must face what it means to be a man in control of his own destiny, and choose a course that might end his life . . . or truly begin it for the very first time.

 

[available for purchase at Riptide Publishing, Amazon.ca, Book Depository, 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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For A Good Time, Call… (Bluewater Bay #17) – Anne Tenino & E. J. Russell

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“Yeah, and this is exactly why I never go out anymore. Everyone assumes that because I’m single, I must be panting to get laid.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I really enjoyed this one, and not only because of the friendship and romance between leads Nate Albano and Seth Larson, though I did like that part a lot. This book actually had a lot of appearances from some of the guys from other books. Nate is friends with Levi Pritchard, so we saw a lot of him and other people from his circle (Carter, Ginsberg, Derrick, Anna, and so on). Reading about these guys again was a lot of fun, and it was good to see the couples still happy together. That was one major part of what I found so enjoyable about this book. The other enjoyable part was, of course, Seth and Nate and their awkward courting. Nate is grey-asexual and has only had two previous relationships, and Seth has never had a committed relationship before, so they’re both a little unsure of what they’re doing and it takes a bit of trial and error before they can come together properly as a couple that can meet each others’ needs. As the two of them are getting to know each other (and mostly accidentally falling in love – so much romantic tension) they are also trying to solve a decades-old mystery surrounding the murder of Seth’s great-great-grandfather, though that doesn’t entirely resolve itself so I do hope we get a more concrete resolution to that in a future book. Also I can’t just not mention Nate’s adorable dog Tarkus, who I love forever and pretty much stole most of the scenes he was in.

 

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

 

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The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) – Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz

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“Ginsberg was still here, and not only that, Derrick had discovered he really did like having the kid around.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I laughed and cried reading this, that’s how emotional it was. Another wonderful installment in the Bluewater Bay series. The story follows Derrick and Ginsberg as they try to bring life back into Derrick’s parents’ failing B&B and accidentally fall in love with each other along the way. In between various rom-com shenanigans there is also a lot about gender issues that comes up, since Ginsberg is trans and Derrick struggles with toxic masculinity. A lot of the story is pretty funny, mostly at Derrick’s expense as he tries to deal with Ginsberg’s enthusiastic plans to help save the B&B while Derrick waffles about whether or not he actually wants to keep the thing open. Then there are the less funny parts where Derrick struggles to convince himself to stop falling in love with Ginsberg because their situation is temporary and everyone leaves eventually. This was actually one of the few times where I found the third-act breakup depressing rather than annoying (I legit cried, at work). I did get a bit annoyed at Derrick’s attitude a few times, but overall I really enjoyed his character. I also enjoyed Ginsberg and his seemingly-endless optimism. A real bonus was the return of Carter Samuels and Levi Pritchard, the main couple from Starstruck (book one), still together and happy.

 

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

 

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When All the World Sleeps – Lisa Henry & J. A. Rock

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“Bel didn’t even know what the hell he meant by trying to help Whitlock, what he planned to do, or whether it would work. He just knew he had to try.”

 

In a word: Read the thing! But oh holy hell be careful because this one is dark (still totally loved it though). This is definitely a romance story, but there is so much more going on here. The whole situation, and a lot of the characters, are really screwed up. It makes for some intense reading. I got sucked into the story and just could not bring myself to put this book down for anything. It’s close to 400 pages long and I got through it in one day, I just had to keep reading to see what would happen next. Daniel and Bel’s relationship is the farthest thing from easy considering all the shit they have to deal with, both from the people around them and each other. Daniel is hated by pretty much everyone in town, including his family, for things he doesn’t have any control over. He appears to be close to reaching the end of his rope at the beginning of the story; and he probably would have had it not been for Bel. The great part about Bel’s effect on Daniel is that Bel doesn’t technically ‘save’ him. Daniel at the end of the book is leagues better than Daniel at the beginning, but his problems are still very present and very real. Bel’s love doesn’t cure anything, but it does help Daniel to realize that he’s worth something as a person and that he doesn’t deserve to be constantly drowning in guilt. Bel also goes through his own development, because he can’t love Daniel and be the same person he was before he really got to know him. Their relationship is sometimes beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking (and sometimes cheesy), and it’s quite the read to see them from point A to point B. This might be a difficult book for some people to get through, because the dark stuff is pretty dark and all of Daniel and Bel’s successes are hard won, but I like to think that the ending is all worth it.

 

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

 

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There’s Something About Ari (Bluewater Bay #2) – L. B. Gregg

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“You dropped off the planet for five years, and now you come back like hey, no big deal, and we’re supposed to picked up where we left off? It’s not that easy.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. I really liked this one a lot and I really wish there was more of it. This is the second installment in the Bluewater Bay series, and it has nothing at all to do with the plot of the first book (though Levi Pritchard does make a brief appearance here). Buck and Ari are the main focus of this book and story is all about their second chance at romance with each other. The two of them were best friends as children but grew apart in high school when Buck fell in love with Ari and didn’t know how to handle it. Then, on what ended up being one of the worst days in Buck’s life, Ari left town and Buck, only to suddenly move into the house next door after five years of no contact. The whole book is told through Buck’s first person point of view, so we get a lot of insight into how much he was hurt by what happened to him as a teenager. I really wish we could’ve gotten Ari’s point of view and his feelings from the source because, with only one side of the story, Ari comes off a lot like an asshole in most of his interactions with Buck in the present. All that aside, I really felt for Buck and Ari and was really happy that they could get their second chance, even if they were both being jerks for a lot of the reconciliation process. I really do wish the book was longer. It’s less than 100 pages long, and I feel that it ended kinda abruptly. I’d really like to have seen maybe an epilogue of the two of them together as a happy couple (though maybe they’ll show up again later in the series?). I also wouldn’t say no to more scenes of Buck interacting with his brother Charlie, because those two are pretty fun to read about.

 

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

 

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