Too Much Man by Katy James

3.5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Summary

A grumpy former hockey player and a bisexual coffee-shop owner refuse to commit—to themselves or each other—in this fun, flirty debut.

Piper Welborn has created a warm, welcoming space for all in her queer-inclusive coffee shop, even if the long hours came at the cost of her love life. But she’s not ready to welcome one man in particular—a grumpy, muscular former hockey player. His smoldering presence is a temptation and a challenge to her long-standing vow not to date cis men.

Gavin Williams has no business starting a relationship, least of all with a woman he’s not sure even likes him. He can’t resist the Friendly Bean’s hot, pink-haired owner, but a casual fling is all he can commit to. He’s hoping to leave town for the next stage in his career…if he ever gets the call with the job offer.

A friends-with-benefits arrangement is perfect for them both—but neither is ready for the feelings that hit. When the post-hockey life Gavin always dreamed of is suddenly within his grasp, they’ll both have to make a choice: hold tight to what they thought life should look like, or work together to build something new.

 

Review

I haven’t had much in the way of bisexual representation here and it’s time I remedy that. Too Much Man by Katy James was a great book to review. It addressed issues that I have dealt with and could relate to. James has put everything I’ve felt into words that I had a hard time putting into words.

I’m not sure I can avoid spoilers, so here’s your warning!

Piper, a bisexual, coffee house owner. Piper offers up her coffee as a coffee house as the location for a charity event for the area hockey team. She is tasked with making sure the players can serve coffee as well as make sure the winners have a great time.

That is a very small aspect of the story, but it’s how she ends up meeting a very angry Gavin Williams who is still healing from a devastating injury. He’s in pain and unsure of his future. I’d be grumpy too.

Piper fights against her attraction to Gavin. She’s made a promise to herself as a bisexual woman she was done with men. The queer community is where she feels most at home and whenever she is with a man, it’s almost like a party trick, her liking women. She feels excluded from the community whenever she dates a man.

I felt that so much. Personal information time, I’m Demi. My attraction tends to lean more towards women, but I’ve been in a relationship with a man the past year and there are times I feel like I’m not who I’ve thought I’ve been my entire life. That people will claim all those dates and relationships were a phase. Spoiler alert, they weren’t. But it just felt good knowing I wasn’t alone in that feeling.

Piper bargains with herself. She can have a friend with benefits relationship with Gavin. He’s leaving, there’s an expiration date on it. There won’t be any feelings and when he’s gone, she’ll move on. Easy as that. Right?

It’s never as easy as that.

Now I will fully admit, I can’t give a rating to the spiciness. I was more focused on the emotional journey that both Piper and Gavin went on as they learn who they truly are as individuals and what they want in life.

The beginning was a little slow for me. At times I got irritated with the pair of them, but overall I enjoyed reading this. The secondary characters weren’t memorable. Which I feel terrible for saying, but I was so focused on Piper and Gavin.

Get your copy here

Hard Sell by Hudson Lin

Three out of Five Stars

Summary

One night wasn’t enough.

Danny Yip walks into every boardroom with a plan. His plan for struggling tech company WesTec is to acquire it, shut it down, and squeeze the last remaining revenue out of it for his Jade Harbour Capital portfolio. But he didn’t expect his best friend’s younger brother—the hottest one-night stand he ever had—to be there.

Tobin Lok has always thought the world of Danny. He’s funny, warm, attractive—and totally out of Tobin’s league. Now, pitted against Danny at work, Tobin might finally get a chance to prove he’s more than just Wei’s little brother.

It takes a lot to get under Danny’s skin, but Tobin is all grown up in a way Danny can’t ignore. Now, with a promising patent on the line and the stakes higher than ever, all he can think about is getting Tobin back into his bed—and into his life for good.

If only explaining their relationship to Wei could be so easy…

Review

There are some mixed reviews on this Hard Sell by Hudson Lin, but I enjoyed this one. There were a few things that I didn’t like, that irritated me a bit. But that’s normal for me. I’m an emotional reader. I think the corporate setting, mixed with a long-distance relationship was something I could easily relate to.

            First, let’s get to the tropes. Brother’s best friend, long-distance, workplace relationship, second chance romance. I’m ALL about these tropes.

            Tobin and Danny were electric when they could get their act together. There were a few romance scenes, a couple of stolen moments. I wish they were a little spicier.

            Tobin had to fight hard to get out of the brother’s best friend role and establish himself as an individual. He made sure that he made his own way from college onwards. He worked hard to become the man he is today. It irked my nerves, unbelievably so, when everyone just acted like he was still a teenager.

            Danny, while older, acted more like a kid. Instead of communicating, he acted in secret. When he could have up front said, “this is for a job, but you should come with me” instead of pretending it was just for fun.

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Season’s Change by Cait Nary

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3 Out of 5 Stars

Summary

Olly Järvinen has a long way to go. He’s got a fresh start playing for a new team, but getting his hockey career back on track is going to take more than a change of scenery. He’s got to shut his past out and focus. On the game, not on his rookie roommate and his annoyingly sunny disposition—and annoyingly distracting good looks.

All Benji Bryzinski ever wanted was to play in the big leagues, and he’s not going to waste one single second of his rookie season. Yoga, kale smoothies and guided meditation help keep his head in the game. But his roommate keeps knocking him off track. Maybe it’s just that Olly is a grumpy bastard. Or maybe it’s something else, something Benji doesn’t have a name for yet.

Olly and Benji spend all their time together—on the ice, in the locker room, in their apartment—and ignoring their unspoken feelings isn’t making them go away. Acting on attraction is one thing, but turning a season’s fling into forever would mean facing the past—and redefining the future.

The Review

            Ya’ll know I love my sports romances. Especially, hockey. So, it hurts me to say this one, was a little difficult for me to get into.

            I think it was more the presentation of the material than the actual storyline. The story was good. There were too many page breaks and not enough transition from scene to scene that I got lost a couple of times. There were a lot of shifts in time that weren’t entirely clear.

            There were aspects about Olly that I think the reader was supposed to infer but later it’s finally spelled out. I’m not a fan of that in writing. I need to understand why a character acts the way they do for me to connect to them better. I didn’t connect as much with Olly and Benji as I usually do with characters.  

            On to the actual story.

            Olly is a bit of a jaded, veteran hockey player. He’s got a lot of issues that impact how he plays on his new team and you can see it in how he plays the game now. Benji is the bright-eyed, excited rookie. He is himself, no matter what anyone else (Olly) may think about his yoga, meditation, and kale smoothies. I like that about Benji. Even if he was pretty clueless at times lol.

            Olly and Benji are a good balance of each other. There is a push/pull kind of relationship that developed between the two men. Benji doesn’t back down when Olly is his angry, grumpy self. Olly listens to some of the things that Benji talks about, like yoga and meditation.

            I was very surprised when Olly and Benji participated in a … spoiler alert …. I’ll let your mind do the running or you can check my tags. I just, don’t feel like Olly would have done that no matter what. Benji? Yes, one hundred percent. That I could see happening.  

            I wanted more affection between the pair. I wanted more tender moments of actualization. I wanted more romance.

            This was definitely a story that focused more on Olly coming to terms with who he is as an individual and as a hockey player on a new team. It got a bit angsty at times, but that was an emotion called for in this storyline.

 

Get your copy here

Unwritten Rules by KD Casey

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Zach Glasser has put up with a lot for the sport he loves. Endless days on the road, playing half-decent baseball in front of half-full stadiums and endless nights alone, pretending this is the life he’s always wanted.

The thing is, it could have been everything he ever wanted—if only he’d had the guts to tell his family, tell the club, that he was in love with his teammate Eugenio Morales. Well, ex-teammate now. When Zach wouldn’t—couldn’t—come out, Eugenio made the devastating choice to move on, demanding a trade away from Oakland. Away from Zach.

Three years and countless regrets later, Zach still can’t get Eugenio out of his head. Or his heart. And when they both get selected to play in the league’s All-Star Classic, those feelings and that chemistry come roaring back.

Zach wants a second chance. Eugenio wants a relationship he doesn’t have to hide. Maybe it’s finally time they both get what they want.
 

The Review

Zach Glasser lost the best thing in life when he left fear dictate staying in the closet. Fear of losing the sport he loves, the friends and family he’s never told, any chance of happiness with a man who had come to mean far more to him than a team mate.

Three years comes and goes but fate has more in store for Zach and Eugenio. They both get selected to play in the All-Star Classic. It doesn’t matter that it’s been years. The chemistry between them is still off the charts.

So y’all know I love a good sport romance novel. They are my JAM. Add in a second-chance romance, friends-to-lovers trope? I’m about it. There’s so much diversity in this novel, like you would see on a true professional baseball team. Also, Zach has a hearing disability which wasn’t treated as a brief mention. It was present throughout the novel.

I read this when I was supposed to be napping … FYI no naps were had. I couldn’t stop myself from reading.

The way this story was told, in chunks of past and present, really worked. At first it was a little off putting because I expected the traditional one chapter past, one chapter present format. This wasn’t like that. Any time there was a shift, it was easily recognizable.

Do you need to know anything about baseball to understand what is happening here? Nope. You do get pieces of spring training, the all-star game, and activities around the club house, but KD Casey paints such a vivid picture that you don’t really need to know anything about baseball.

Now the romance … it was gooood. The way they flirted with each other in the early stages. While they were training, and when they were together during their off hours. Followed by some steamy kisses. Yes please! I’d give this a 🌶🌶 .5 out of 5 on the spicy scale

Zach’s character, he had my heart. Sure, he fell in love with Eugenio (who had me all 😍 too), but he discovered himself. I liked seeing him understand what he valued in life and the steps he was would take to get there.

Get your copy here

Role Model by Rachel Reid

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…

Review

Troy Barrett has been punished for doing what he felt was right. Calling out a former teammate for deplorable behavior and taking a stand. He landed in Ottawa, to a failing team, trying to find his place among players he feels like are better people than he is. He keeps his guard up and doesn’t let plan on letting anyone in to see the real him.

He didn’t predict the social media manager, Harris Drover. There’s something about the man that makes Troy want to smile, be himself, and to share who he is with everyone else. Troy believes that he could be a better person.

First off, I was not ugly crying towards the end of the book. I just had a really big eye lash in my eye, and I couldn’t get it out. Also, I’m sure Reid had no way of knowing just how Troy’s storyline would tie into reality. There’s a double standard in athletics today that she addresses and does eloquently. Just because someone is an athlete, it doesn’t excuse their behavior. They are held to the same rules as the rest of us normal folks.

What I loved about Role Model was the way I could relate to Troy. He wasn’t just a fictional hockey player. There was depth to his character. There is so much I want to just say here, but I’d spoil the book. I’m trying to be careful not to do that.

Troy had hidden himself from the people in his life for so long, finally meeting people who accepted him no matter what and supported him, I could feel the freedom that Troy was experiencing.

I was proud of him, for sticking to his beliefs and challenging those around him, even when he was pretty much ousted for those beliefs. I was proud of the whole Ottawa team.

Harris was so adorable. Any time he came into a scene I ended up smiling. Then finding out he wasn’t all innocent under it all made him even better.

The chemistry between Troy and Harris was phenomenal. They gravitated towards each other. Then those romance scenes, oh my, they were good. It made my heart beat a little faster. It felt right for them in those scenes and moments.

Reid has a way of painting a vivid picture with her words, and I could see Troy, Harris, and the entire Ottawa setting clearly in my mind as I read.

To be released August 10, 2021

The Soldier and the Spy by Annabelle Greene

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

A beholden man finds himself falling for the war hero he’s destined to double-cross.

Three hundred pounds for one night of protection. It’s a job offer, but it’s also a ruse. Captain Benjamin Frakes, war hero and de facto head of the Society of Beasts—a club for gentlemen who prefer gentlemen—is tempted to turn it down. But August Weatherby, the sexy, brazen stranger making the offer, has captivated him completely.

August is hardly the flush flirt he claims to be, however. An indebted man, desperate to save his infirm sister, August makes an ideal pawn for a lord eager to bring down the Society of Beasts once and for all. But August’s charge to find evidence against Frakes is at odds with his own virgin desire to entice the captain into showing him the true meaning of pleasure.

As August’s infiltration pushes him deeper into the beguiling world of delights behind the Society’s closed doors, he and Frakes discover new ways to push the boundaries of their own cravings. But with mounting pressure to complete his devious mission, August finds himself torn between the man his heart yearns for and the sister whose life depends on his betrayal.

 

Review

August Weatherby is a desperate man. His sister is ill, his debts are racking up, and he’s got nowhere to turn. Until he has an offer to help ensure his sister would remain safe and fed. He needs to infiltrate the Society of the Beasts and get ahold of evidence against Captain Benjamin Frakes to use for blackmail.

I feel like the best part of this novel was August’s character growth. He was initially a man entirely focused on his and his sister’s survival. He was willing to do everything possible to ensure they make it. As he became more involved with the Society of Beasts and got to know each of the members, things started to change for him. It wasn’t easy to betray the people that he had come to call friends.

I was expecting a little more espionage and action, but this was a little light on what I hoped for. There was a little more action towards the end of the ovel and it pulled me in and had me rooting for both August and Frakes.

Towards the end of the novel, I felt like I was finally able to understand who Benjamin Frakes was. He had been so closed off, and despite the courage he had in war, he was afraid now that he was home.

Okay, so the facts. Do you need to read the first in the series to enjoy this? Nope. Would you benefit from it? Yeah, there’s some background on some of the characters that I feel like would have made things better. Would I recommend this to other readers? If you are a historical romance reader, I’d definitely give this one a go. 

To be released April 20, 2021

Wonderstruck by Allie Therin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie is on a mission: to destroy the powerful supernatural relic that threatens Manhattan—and all the nonmagical minds in the world. So far his search has been fruitless. All it has done is keep him from the man he loves. But he’ll do anything to keep Rory safe and free, even if that means leaving him behind.

Psychometric Rory Brodigan knows his uncontrolled magic is a liability, but he’s determined to gain power over it. He can take care of himself—and maybe even Arthur, too, if Arthur will let him. An auction at the Paris world’s fair offers the perfect opportunity to destroy the relic, if a group of power-hungry supernaturals don’t destroy Rory and Arthur first.

As the magical world converges on Paris, Arthur and Rory have to decide who they can trust. Guessing wrong could spell destruction for their bond—and for the world as they know it.

Review

I’m going to miss Rory and Ace! The Magic in Manhattan series had quickly become one of my favorites and I always looked forward to the next novel. All good series have to come to an end and I’m happy with how this series wrapped up.

            Ace and Rory head to Paris and towards the world’s fair to destroy the relics that are dangerous to humanity for even existing. It could be life or death for them, but this is much bigger than them. Zhang, Jade, Gwen, and Ellis all return and at first, I was like, huh? Gwen and Ellis? But Gwen and Ellis surprised me.

            My favorite parts about Wonderstruck

            The action sequences. There were moments that my heart was racing with anxiety. I needed to keep turning the page to see what was going to happen. Adding the vivid setting, imagery and dialogue I felt as though I was in the moment.

            Rory finally acknowledged that he can ask for help and that these people were his real family. Family isn’t always what you’re born into, it’s the people who make you feel whole. He finally saw this.

            There were moments Ace and Rory couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. It was clear they missed each other when they were separated, but even when they were traveling together there were little touches between each other. My inner romantic sighed happily a few times.

            What I wished there was?

            More novels in the series! I know, I know. But honestly? The only thing that was missing, was on page love scenes. I’m an avid romance reader so with the build up and then skipping to later was a little disappointing.

            BUT

            I absolutely loved this series. It’s one I’ll revisit and continue recommending to other readers because it truly was a series that made me happy and excited to read.

To be released February 9th – Get your copy here

Learned Behaviors by Jayce Ellis

Learned Behaviors (Higher Education, #1)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Two single dads meet at the office where it’s hate at first sight in this new series from acclaimed author Jayce Ellis.

Sending his daughter off to college is the proudest day of single dad JaQuan Reynolds’ life. Everything took a back seat to raising her—including his career. He has no idea what comes next, but his newfound freedom is quickly curtailed by a crash deadline at work and the uptight, hovering presence of consultant Matthew Donaldson. He’s surly and insufferably sexy, and Jaq’s ready to check him out and write him off—right up until a work assignment forces them together.

Every day. From now until Thanksgiving.

Work and fatherhood have been Matt’s whole world for years now, ever since his marriage ended. His eldest son is getting hitched over Thanksgiving weekend, and he’s not going to let a work deadline get in the way of celebrating with his family—not this time. The hours aren’t a problem, but the executive assistant on the project might be. Jaq’s sexy voice makes Matt yearn for things he let go of a long time ago.

Lust isn’t on the schedule, and neither is longing. But as the weeks go by, Matt and Jaq are forced to reevaluate their plans…and discover that even the most tight-knit of families can make room for one more.

Review

This was the first novel I’ve read by Jayce Ellis, and I loved it! I’ve got all the rest of Jayce’s novels on my wishlist.

JaQuan Reynolds is a dedicated, hardworking, young single-father. At 35 he’s dropping his daughter off for her first days of college and finding out who he is outside of fatherhood. He loves his job, but being thrown head first into a time crunch with a partner company to release a line of home goods for Black Friday, it’s stressful.

What JaQuan didn’t factor in was Matt and how, smart, determined, and undeniably attractive the man was. Matt is a little too married to his job and it shows in his family life. He almost doesn’t get an invitation to his son’s wedding, his daughter doesn’t talk to him about her personal life, and his ex-wife has little faith in him when it comes to anything besides work.

What I loved what how distinctive JaQuan and Matt were. I could hear their voices in my head as I read, and oh my, it felt like fingertips dancing down my spine. I was in the office they worked in, on campus with their girls and at Matt’s son’s wedding. I could picture their daughters, Jaq’s mother like they were my family. The secondary characters, were strong, independent women. I don’t think we get that enough in books. They were just as important to Jaq and Matt’s storyline as their interactions were. Ellis paints a vivid picture with her writing.

JaQuan, while younger than Matt, taught Matt more about the important things in life. Your family, friends, and individual happiness is more important than the whir of work. Someone is always there to take your place at work, but not with your family.

The chemistry between Jaq and Matt *fans self* oh from the moment they laid eyes on each other I could feel the heat. They may not have liked each other all that much in the beginning, but the more they worked together the more intense their feelings became. I do wish there was a little more to the romance scenes.  

I’m going to go see which book I’m going to buy next!

Get your copy here

Feel the Fire by Annabeth Albert

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: High Heat, Burn Zone and Feel the Fire.

The Review

Luis Riviera goes wherever he is needed as a behavior specialist. Going back home to Central Oregon was not what he expected. Going to Central Oregon means he will come face to face with his childhood love, Tucker Ryland.

Tucker, divorced and father of twins, didn’t expect to meet Luis Riviera, but when he does his heart beats faster and his breath catches in his throat. The attraction they had in their youth banked until it ignited again.

What I absolutely loved is Tucker Ryland is a demisexual character. Do you know how many books I’ve read in the past five years with representation of a demisexual character? One. This book. As a demisexual I connected so much to Tucker. He needed a connection with a person before they would become lovers. He had that with Luis and it was a connection that didn’t dissipate after all those years. It was honest, real, and intense.

The chemistry between Luis and Tucker, oh boy, as soon as they saw each other there were sparks. Luis listened to Tucker, made sure he was comfortable and enjoying himself. It felt as though Luis cherished Tucker, and that was everything. I’m a sucker for friends to lovers storylines, but through in a second chance romance? It just hits the spot for me.

Tucker’s boys were great! There were times that had me cackling at times with their matchmaking shenanigans. It was nice seeing how they took to their dad’s new relationship and accepted Luis as he was.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this installment. This book can also be read as a stand-alone, but you do see characters from the previous two books in this one.

Get your copy here

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Common Goal by Rachel Reid

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

New York Admirals goalie Eric never thought his friends-with-benefits arrangement with much-younger Kyle would leave them both wanting more…

Veteran goaltender Eric Bennett has faced down some of the toughest shooters on the ice, but nothing prepared him for his latest challenge—life after hockey. It’s time to make some big changes, starting with finally dating men for the first time.

Graduate student Kyle Swift moved to New York nursing a broken heart. He’d sworn to find someone his own age to crush on (for once). Until he meets a gorgeous, distinguished silver fox hockey player. Despite their intense physical attraction, Kyle has no intention of getting emotionally involved. He’ll teach Eric a few tricks, have some mutually consensual fun, then walk away.

Eric is more than happy to learn anything Kyle brings to the table. And Kyle never expected their friends-with-benefits arrangement to leave him wanting more. Happily-ever-after might be staring them in the face, but it won’t happen if they’re too stubborn to come clean about their feelings.

Everything they both want is within reach… They just have to be brave enough to grab it.

Review

First, ya’ll I apologize. I’m in a strict hockey headspace because the Stanley Cup and HOCKEY IS BACK!!

That being said, this cover, uh, yes please, thank you. I need all the gorgeous goalie covers in my life. I have a soft spot for goalies and their quirks. Like, the goalie head-bumps at the end of the game? I LIVE for those moments.

Eric, veteran goalie, recently divorced and he is exploring his bisexuality for the first time. He’s seen several other players find the type of love he didn’t think he could have and he’s finally found someone who he wants to experience these moments with.

Kyle is getting over his long time crush and offers his expertise to Eric. As he and Eric end up in each other’s lives more often than not, it would be hard not to form a friendship. That relationship steadily develops the more time they spend with each other.

What I absolutely loved? Eric, just one hundred percent Eric. He had a kinship with the goalie posts and it reminded me of all the moments I caught of a goalie tapping their goal posts after a save, or pregame as they’re getting into the zone. There was more to him than being a professional hockey player. He has a love for art that he wants to share with people (which just so happens to be Kyle). I enjoyed the party scene where he and Kyle were off on their own connecting with each other. Even in a house full of hockey players, it still felt intimate.

Kyle,  oh I felt for him. I just wanted to give him all the hugs. Like I know what it feels like to be in those shoes, crushing hard on someone only to find out they’ll never return those feelings. I just wished he would have had more faith in Eric instead of being stuck on the age difference.

They were such a great pairing though. Their chemistry as both friends and lovers was off the charts. They communicated, tried new things and enjoyed themselves when they were together.

I have so much love for this series! If you are a hockey fan, give these a read because they don’t let you down At all.

Pre-Order your copy here

To be released September 21, 2020