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.

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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

Uncharted by Alli Temple

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

In a world of arrogant nobles and their punishing laws, Georgina will be hanged if anyone discovers she is a spy. But when the wicked prince proposes marriage, Georgina must accept. Refusing would expose the secrets she has delivered to a hidden resistance and forfeit her life. With her wedding day looming ever closer, salvation comes from an unlikely source.

Pirate Captain Cinder is a terror on the open sea, striking fear into hearts wherever she sails. Now she has a new target. The vulnerable Princess Georgina should be an easy mark in Cinder’s kidnapping plot. But the legend of Captain Cinder is more intertwined with Georgina’s own history than either of them expect.

Treacherous storms. A mysterious pirate king. The prince’s unrelenting pursuit. Georgina and Cinder can only escape by following the uncharted course of their hearts. But just as a future together is within their grasp, Cinder’s past threatens to drag them both to the deep.

Review

Georgina, “George” is doing her part in resisting the rule of kingdom. She sneaks messages in the skirts of her dress. It isn’t much, but she’s trying her best to help. Never would she have expected to be married off to the King by her brother. It’s a whirlwind of having new clothes made, jewelry, learning how to be a royal, and a handmaid named Rosie, Georgina thinks she’s lost any chance of having the life she wishes for.

Pirate Captain Cinder’s tales are what parents use to scare their children into acting right. Redheaded and willing to do whatever it takes to man her ship and find her riches.

In an explosion, Georgina is swept from the kingdom and onto a pirate ship. Rosie, devoted to Georgina, sneaks onto the ship. It all comes to a screaming stop when Georgina recognizes Captain Cinder and then finds out all she heard of Captain Cinder may not have been true.

What did I love about this book? Everything!!

Royalty, pirates, and an epic race to keep George out of the king’s hands kept me reading page after page. Cinder was everything a pirate should be. She was hard, powerful, and smart. Everyone on her ship served a purpose. The details of certain jobs on the ship and why they were done, like scouring the deck daily, my inner historian did a happy dance. I felt like I was there on the ship with Cinder and George.

The cast of characters were extremely diverse (which I expect on a pirate ship in my mind). There are lesbian pirates, non-binary pirates, and an island they visit is full of LGBTQ+ residents. Maro, Rosie, and Ender were so much fun. For such a big guy, Ender sure was gentle and kind to Rosie. Maro was a hard first mate, but they were kind to George and Rosie.

Rosie was such a spitfire. She is exactly who you want to be by your side. George got in trouble and she was right there with her. George needed to scheme. Rosie was scheming with her. They were quite the pair and I enjoyed every scene with the two of them.

The chemistry between George and Cinder had and ebb and flow that just felt right. The small jealousy moments and all the times they tried to stay away from each other just made their romance sweeter.

If you are a fan of a fast paced adventure, you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of this one.

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The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

The Review

This book is a whopping 848 pages and took me 24 days to read (hence the pause in my reviews) but it was very much worth the read!

The Priory of the Orange Tree features LGBTQ+ characters and a dash of romance, but that isn’t the main focus of this novel. It is an epic fantasy featuring dragons, magic, witches, pirates, women who kick ass, and a battle to save the world they know.

Ead Duryan was once an outsider at court, killing anyone who threatened Queen Sabran in the shadows, rises to be a lady-in-waiting for Sabran. She uses forbidden magic to keep the Queen safe. The closer she gets to Sabran, the more she wonders if what she had been taught growing up is the true religion or if there may be something to the religion of Inys.

In Inys dragons are wrong and should be slain.

Across the dark sea, dragons are worshipped as gods.

Tane, who has been training since she was a child to become a dragonrider, faces challenges that she hadn’t expected she would ever face. She gracefully takes what is given (I want to go into detail here so badly but that would spoil it) and in the end, you see she truly has the heart of a dragonrider. Courageous, fearless, and unrelenting.

Each of the women has a special place in my heart. They were the main characters and each of their stories was vital to this overarching story. Ead was my favorite. She faced leaving her home for years, falling in love, then she has to run for her life, but she didn’t give up on the people who threatened her life.

Tane pushed forward when she thought she couldn’t push herself any further. I was in awe of her drive.

Loth, as a secondary character, I sure was invested in his journey from start to finish. I needed him to make it through each event that he faced. You have no idea how I want to detail his journey but I won’t. He was strong and willing to venture into infinitely dangerous territories because it was for Inys.

Roos, this fella here, oh boy. He made me grind my teeth and I could feel his anger and distrust towards Inys and the pirates.    

I highly recommend reading this book if you are into fantasy novels and epic worlds. It’s a vivid and exciting adventure starting from page one.

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Press by Nora Phoenix

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Henley is off-limits for Levar. So why can’t he stay away?

Five years ago, Levar survived a terrorist attack. The bombing left its scars, but he’s picked up his life. He loves working for the vice president—who is openly bisexual—as his press secretary.

Levar can’t afford a pesky attraction that proves to be frustratingly stubborn. Worse, those highly combustible sparks are with the very last person he should be falling for: Henley Platt, a well-known reporter covering the White House.

Henley may not be Levar’s enemy, but he’s definitely not his friend. He can’t be, not when their jobs put them on opposite sides. Henley is absolutely off-limits, even when he shows his appreciation for the sexy lingerie Levar loves to wear.

When the terrorists strike again with a devastating blow to the White House, Levar and Henley lean on each other for support. The sparks become a raging fire that won’t be doused, but what happens if they’re found out?

Review

Henley and Levar are on opposite ends of the reporting spectrum. Henley is employed as the press secretary for the Vice President. Levar is a White House correspondent for a DC newspaper. The two men can’t seem to get away from each other and it’s become harder and harder to resist temptation.

These men have a somewhat shared history. Five years ago, they were both at ground zero for a terrorist bombing at a pride parade. Which hurt my heart so much. Once they’re both in DC, they have a push/pull relationship. While they’re friendly, there is a boundary that they can not cross professionally. I liked seeing them acknowledge and point out when that line was crossed.

It takes one chance moment, a peak at what Henley wears under his dress pants, that sparks the slow burn attraction into a full-fledged fire. Normally, I’m not fan of this, but oh my goodness, it worked! It wasn’t cheesy or greasy like some novels. It was just another part of Henley that Levar loved.

Their attraction, flirtation, and sex scenes *fans self* good grief. It was such a good burn. Then, there were moments they took care of each other. That was just as intensive as their sex scenes. In those moments, I could see how much they meant to each other. Hell, if you ever find someone that takes care of you like Henley did for Levar? Don’t ever let them go. It’s a rare find.

There was action and politics, yes, but it wasn’t preachy or overly graphic.

*slight spoiler incoming* 

As a history buff, it was interesting to see the similarities between JFK and a fictional President. I was on the edge of my seat, rushing right along with Henley, the Vice President and the rest of the White House staff. I could feel that urgency and terror of what just happened. Then seeing Henley come in to his own, learning that he is as good at his job as everyone thinks he is, was wonderful. I was rooting for his success! Levar, he found a way to get what he wanted and to find his happiness. I was so excited.

Would I recommend this to friends? YES!! 100 times yes!

If you are on the fence with getting this book? GET IT! If you are a fan of Tal Bauer’s writing, this is a book you won’t want to pass up. This was a fantastic read and I’m probably going to read it all over again, because Henley and Levar? Goals.  

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Home for a Cowboy by Amy Aislin

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Las doesn’t date seasonal workers. Marco’s on a three-month contract.

Lassiter Windsor-March has been planning for his future for as long as he can remember and he knows exactly where that future lies: at his family’s ranch in Wyoming. What doesn’t lie in his future is a summer fling with one of the seasonal workers—they never stick around.

Even if one of those workers is the college crush he’s invited to work a summer job at the ranch.

Marco Terlizzese is as laissez-faire as Las isn’t. He might not know where he’ll be once his contract with Windsor Ranch is up, but he knows three months is plenty of time to get his long-time crush to agree to go out with him.

Amid a starry summer sky, their chemistry ignites as feelings deepen, forcing Las and Marco to decide where they truly belong.

Review

Marco Terlizzese and Lassiter Windsor-March are goals. Recently graduated from college, they’re still trying to figure what they want to do with their lives. Marco isn’t sure he wants to pursue hockey professionally, but Las knows his life is going to be at the Windsor Ranch in some way or another, but he’s got grad school to consider and the project he wants to take on for his thesis. One thing they do know for certain, is their attraction to each other is hard to resist.

Las invites Marco to work on his family ranch for the summer as Marco tries to figure out what he wants to do with his life. Sparks fly between the two of them, and finally Las lets himself have what he always said he wouldn’t ever have. A relationship with a seasonal worker.

Their feelings for each other were so tender and pure. There were so many moments that I just sat in my bed grinning or breathing out a happy sigh. They stole my heart with how they acted towards each other.

There were times I felt like I was out there on the Windsor Ranch in Wyoming. I could smell the air, imagine the food and dances, and see the starry night sky on the nights Las and Marco went to Las’s tent. This was a fun, light-hearted, dreamy sigh inducing read!

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Wolfsong by T.J. Klune

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary:

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

The Review

As soon as I finished Wolfsong, I immediately purchased the next books in the series. I found a werewolf novel that was just like what I loved growing up. There was pack, found families, danger, discovery, and love. While there is the alpha, beta, omega dynamics explored it isn’t sex here. It was the hierarchy in the pack. This is the werewolf story that I freaking love (and secretly want to write one day)!

Ox was sixteen when he met Joe. He had never met anyone like Joe. Slowly, he was pulled into the Bennett’s family and into a life he didn’t know was possible to exist. Werewolves exist and he’s found himself part of a pack. He and his mother become part of their pack, taking on the danger that comes with being associated with the Bennetts.

I had so much love for Ox. He’s an outcast, but there’s something about him that I was able to connect with and understand entirely. He’s damaged goods, but with the help of Bennetts he’s learning that he’s better than what his father said to him. He’s strong, important, and perhaps the person they need in their lives.

Joe, there were times I wanted to hug him and then times I just wanted to shake him. How could he do this to Ox? Didn’t he see that his pack needed him home? But I understood his need to do what he did. I still hated it.

I think I fell a little bit in love with each character in this novel. They were each vital to pushing the plot forward, they were each important for every dangerous situation that the Bennett pack came across. I loved Gordo and the body shop guys. They cracked me up. You could tell they had worked together for years and considered themselves to be brother.

Ox and Joe’s relationship *wistful sigh* it grew from childhood to adulthood so naturally. You could feel their bond. Once they both (Joe is younger by a few years) reached adulthood, their flirting was so goooood. Then they had to relearn each other and their spot in the pack.

There’s so many good things I could say about Wolfsong, but I feel like I would give the book away. If you haven’t had the chance to read this, go grab a copy and read it.

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The Last Kiss by Sally Malcolm

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

When Captain Ashleigh Arthur Dalton went to war in 1914, he never expected to fall in love. Yet over three long years at the front, his dashing batman, Private West, became his reason for fighting—and his reason for living.

But Ash’s war ends in catastrophe. Gravely wounded, he’s evacuated home to his family’s country house in Highcliffe. Bereft of West, angry and alone, Ash struggles to re-join the genteel world he no longer understands.

For Harry West, an ostler from London’s East End, it was love at first sight when he met kind and complex Captain Dalton. Harry doubts their friendship can survive in the class-bound world back home, but he knows he’ll never forget his captain.

When the guns finally fall silent, Harry finds himself adrift in London. Unemployed and desperate, he swallows his pride and travels to Highcliffe in search of work and the man he loves. Under the nose of Ash’s overbearing father, the men’s intense wartime friendship deepens into a passionate, forbidden love affair.

But breaching the barriers of class and sexuality is dangerous and enemies lurk in Highcliffe’s rose-scented shadows.

After giving their all for their country, Harry and Ash face a terrible choice—defy family, society and the law to love as their hearts demand, or say goodbye forever…

The Review

As a military history buff (I got my Bachelor’s degree in history with a concentration on American history) this is the type of book I have been itching to find. It didn’t romanticize World War I. It showed the horrifying moments that men had to face. We were witness to the emotions, the acts the forced themselves to commit in the name of their country, and the consequences that war has on those brave souls.

War forges bonds between those involved. They find their moments of peace, share the bits of joy when they can, and do what they are ordered. It is no different for Captain Ashleigh Dalton, no matter how he has come to think of the men in his company. He blows his whistle and they rush forward greeting death.

During one of those rushes, Ash suffers a devastating injury and by the will of Private Harry West, he is carried to safety. A desperate kiss being the only communication between the two of them. Ashleigh survives, losing his leg, and being sent back home to recover. West continues fighting hoping Ash had survived.

The war ends and Harry West drifts aimlessly in London as he searches for work. He swallows his pride and goes to the man who kept him going during the war. Captain Ashleigh. The connection they formed hadn’t dampened. Seeing each other, all their feelings resurface and intensify. They’re who they chose to be when they are alone with each other.

There was this burning chemistry between Ash and West from the first pages. They understood each other’s needs and how to calm war raging inside. It was as simple as a cup of tea, a few pages from a book, and sitting shoulder to shoulder. West was the only rays of happiness Ashleigh had after the war. Their friendship wasn’t accepted by Ashleigh’s parents or anyone in his social circle. But they found time and a way to be there for each other.

Once they admitted their feelings and acted on them? It was beautiful.

There were moments my heart hurt for them, and times I didn’t want to take my eyes from the pages because I could feel their happiness. I feel like I could go on and on about what I liked about this book, but I would spoil it for ya’ll. I want a physical copy of this book for my bookshelf.

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The Rivalry by Beth Bolden

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

The first time NFL quarterback Heath Harris meets Sam Crawford, it’s just them, a luxury yacht and a few days of fun in the sun. Sam turns out to be nothing like Heath expects. He’s kind and funny and irreverent—and also unbelievably, shockingly sexy. For three short, glorious, life-changing days, there are no rules.

The second time they meet, Sam has just been traded to Heath’s team, and instead of lovers, now they’re rivals. Heath has spent the last five years working desperately to be the best quarterback the Riptide could ever need, but when injuries threaten to derail his career, Sam is right there, standing on the sideline. Ready to take over, and ready to ruin everything Heath has given his life for.

Rival. Enemy. Teammate. Friend. Lover.

As their orbits collide, sparks fly, and Heath struggles to find the right label and the right box to shove Sam into, hoping to keep him contained. But Sam—and Heath’s feelings—refuse to cooperate.

Sam might not be just one of those things, he might be all of them, and so much more.

Review

Miami was supposed to be a vacation to fish, relax, and hang out with one of his best friends. Except, an early baby arrival, left Heath going on vacation by himself. He did not expect to be on the same boat as Sam Crawford, a younger quarterback and a rival on top of that. The attraction between the two is hard to deny.

Heath, bless it, he’s inexperienced and awkward. He does all he can to cover his inexperience up, which causes a bit of a misunderstanding of what they want from each other in the long run. I loved that Heath wasn’t a confident athlete. He was 100% real. He’s so focused on his career and being the football player he thinks he should be and he forgets to live life on his terms. I felt that in my bones. I related to him so much. It’s hard to pursue a relationship when you don’t have the experience people think you should have.

Sam complimented Heath so well. He’s younger, a little brash at times, but he lives life according to his terms.  He pushed Heath out of his comfort zone, helped Heath learn more about himself while at the same time taking care of his own wants and needs.

At first, they were at each other’s throats and fighting for the starting quarterback position. Eventually, they start to learn from each other. They learn what makes each other tick and how to push each other.

Now to the steam factor … Oh boy, there were some scenes. The tension was expertly drawn out and I needed them to give in to each other. There were intense, burning moments but there were moments that you could tell home much they cared for each other. I melted, just a little bit. They weren’t perfect, but they were just what each other needed.

This is my absolute favorite novel by Beth Bolden.

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Hemingway’s Notebook by Jackie North

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Soulmates across time. Two souls connected by destiny.

In present day, Jake, lonely and cut off from his parents, travels to the Chamberlin Inn in Cody, Wyoming to work on extra credit for his college seminar.

In 1932, Sebby labors at the Chamberlin Inn for pennies a day, wishing with all his heart for a better life.

While taking photographs in the room where Ernest Hemingway once stayed, Jake is flung back in time to the year 1932. There he meets Sebby who is living on the edge, half starving, a victim of the Great Depression. He’s been dodging rent collectors, getting behind on doctor’s bills, trying to care for his ailing Pop.

Sebby falls hard for Jake with his movie star smile, but knows something is different about him. Jake wears strange clothes, talks too fast, and doesn’t look like he’s gone hungry a day in his whole life. He’s also the handsomest boy Sebby has ever seen.

Jake is drawn to Sebby’s dark eyes, shy smile, and gentle heart. Sebby is like nobody Jake has ever met. And though the year 1932 scares him to his very core, he needs to decide. Go home? Or stay and weather the Depression with Sebby, whom he has grown to love.

Review

I absolutely love this series, that is no secret. The covers are gorgeous, the characters feel real, and the history is accurate. These are books I rec out to everyone. Saying that, this book hit me in a different way. It could be I’m currently studying Hemingway in one of my classes, or I spent a lot of time in my undergrad years studying this time period. But this one officially takes my number one spot in the Love Across Time Series. Sebby and Jake are just, they’re everything!

Sebby and Pop are living life the best they can during the Great Depression. They’re barely making it, but they do the best that they can without heat, hot water, or enough food. Jake’s trying to get through his college program, but ends up in in 1932 Cody, Wyoming.

Sebby’s so sweet and innocent, which makes his attraction to Jake that much sweeter. Jake, he wants to do all that he can for Sebby and Pop. He cared so much for the people he had just met, it was hard to find fault in him.

The attraction between Sebby and Jake was perfect *sigh*. Sebby’s unintentional flirting had me smirking while reading. I like that this was kept, low level heat. I mean, there were still intimate moments between them. Both Sebby and Jake had so much to learn about themselves and each other, that I could picture a follow up short story showing us how Colorado turned out for them.

This was a definite one-click read for me and I’m so glad that I read it.

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