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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Starstruck (Bluewater Bay #1) – L. A. Witt

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“They just barely knew each other, and Levi couldn’t justify gambling a career opportunity like this for the minuscule chance that Carter was even attracted to him, never mind interested in dating.”

 

In a word: Read the thing. This one is a slow burn and doesn’t have much of a plot beyond the romance, so if you aren’t into that you probably won’t be into this. For me personally, I can get into it if I can get attached to the characters. Levi and Carter and their situation were very easy to get invested in. They’re both celebrities and knew of, and were attracted to, each other before they met. The two of them are very much interested in being together, but they are forced to put the brakes on that because of the situation they’re in. That doesn’t, however, stop them from becoming very good friends. One thing I really enjoyed reading about was how Levi and Carter became friends and how they fell in love with each other as people. But even though the two of them are determined to stay friends, they both know that they’re standing right at the edge of something vast, and it could take only one small move to tip them over. Like I said, this book isn’t really big on plot, it’s mostly character driven, but it has good characters and a lot of emotion (also UST like whoa). And cats, it also has cats.

 

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

 

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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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