Friends by Nora Phoenix

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Coulson is straight. So why was he checking Seth out?

Seth is an out and proud Secret Service agent. When he’s asked to assist the FBI on the investigation into the presidential assassination, he meets FBI agent Coulson.

Coulson is straight, or so he says. Seth has no reason to doubt that, not even when they become close friends.

Until he finds himself checking Coulson out a little too closely—especially certain over-sized body parts—and Coulson doing the same to him. For someone who’s straight, Coulson shows a lot of interest in Seth’s dating life, his preferences, and his hook ups. Could it be that he’s not so straight after all?

Meanwhile, every discovery they make in the investigation leads to even more questions. Who killed the president and how did they manage to pull it off? And more importantly: are they done killing…or will more attacks follow?

The Review

After the assassination of the President, Seth and Coulson are set to work together for their respective agencies. Seth is with the Secret Service and Coulson is with the FBI. There is something about them that clicks, making it easy for them to work together. They are friends and the longer they work together, the stronger their bond becomes. They push each other to use their strengths while working and they are there for each other in their off hours.

            Seth was out and proud, he didn’t let his job force him into the closet, and I loved a character like him. He lived his life how he wanted to live it and didn’t let his sexuality hamper that. Which is how life should be! He had all these career goals, and nothing was going to stop him.

            Coulson hadn’t considered a relationship with a man before. The more time he spends with Seth, the more interested he becomes. It’s hard not to fall in love with someone like Seth. They have fun with each other, even when they aren’t doing anything but spending the evening on the couch. You don’t find that with just anyone. Yet there they were.

            The action in this one was not as intense as in book one. It picks up at the assassination of the president and we’re given a glimpse into the investigative process and a little background on the agencies that are involved. I loved seeing Seth’s mind work through all the information he came across. Coulson was the perfect complement to Seth’s process. Coulson didn’t let anyone discredit Seth either. Which melted my heart just a little bit.

            The chemistry between them was off the charts, even before they acknowledged their romantic feelings for each other. Probably one of my favorite scenes was the scene Set realized how deep his feelings were for Coulson from the help of his family. That scene is what I immediately thought of while sitting down to write this review.

            I loved being able to see two strong, alpha males who were amazing at their job, fall for each other.

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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.

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Open: A Tale of Love, Mermaids, Bassists, & Creepy Dudes by Emilie Nantel

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary:

Amy Evans. Bisexual. Millenial. Montrealer.

Amy and David are in an open relationship and it’s going great. She navigates the ups – dating gorgeous people – and downs – trying to avoid creeps – of the dating scene, when she meets a hot bassist and falls in love.

This was not part of the plan.

Amy must figure out how to deal with these unexpected feelings without neglecting her primary relationship, even as she keeps meeting new potential hook-ups.

Surrounded by her quirky group of queer friends and the support of her boyfriend, she might find there’s a simple answer: polyamory.

Well, not so simple. But y’know

The Review

Amy Evans is bisexual and in an open relationship with her long-time boyfriend, David. They have rules and as time progresses, their relationship must evolve to keep up with each of their wants and needs.  Amy is sexually empowered and pursues adventures with whoever strikes her fancy. I loved that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about it. Like, fist bumps to her, because she was herself one hundred percent.

What I enjoyed was the diversity featured with the characters, main and secondary. Ethnicities and orientation wise. There was a character for every reader to relate to. I felt like I was able to learn a lot about the community that I didn’t know. I also like how polyamory and open relationships were represented throughout this book. It was honest and fresh. Anyone Amy approached, she informed them of her relationship status and moved forward or didn’t from there. There was no trickery, which I was so glad to see, but as a con there were so many relationships both long and short term for Amy. It got difficult to keep track of.

When I really enjoyed Amy’s story, was when Emma walked into her and David’s life. I was so excited for their relationship. Sure, it was the biggest coincidence ever, but I was ALL about it! They balanced each other out in a way only a triad relationship could have. I liked getting to see them navigate wedding invites, meeting the parents and deciding on their home life. It was sweet.

While there was a lot going on, I did enjoy reading this novel. It was fun, at times funny, and honest. Give this one a try, you might like it more than you thought you originally thought.

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Risking the Shot by Amy Aislin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Time for distractions? Hardly.

A chance at making the playoffs? It’s a dream for NHL forward Taylor Cunningham that just might come true. If he can keep his eyes on the ball—ahem, puck. And study for midterms. Dakota Cotton, eleven years his senior, isn’t just a distraction, though—he’s everything Tay’s ever wanted.

Dakota has no interest in introducing someone who might not stick around to his four-year-old son. Been there, done that, with the divorce to prove it. But there’s something about Tay that hits all of the right buttons and has him wanting to take a chance.

As things heat up between them, and the pressure to succeed hits an all-time high, will they risk a shot at happiness or choke?

Review

Taylor Cunningham, professional hockey player, has been crushing on Dakota Cotton, who works for the team’s nonprofit, since he laid eyes on the man. Dakota may be eleven years older than Tay, but there’s something about the older man that pushes every button for him. Even his four year old son, Andy.

I related to Taylor so much. Not because I’m a hockey player, but because he takes so much on his shoulders. He’s playing professional hockey while pursuing a degree for paramedicine. Then he works on his comic and helps plan a big party for his mom while dealing with the strained relationship he has with his older sisters.

He’s doesn’t share his art with those closest to him because he felt like it wasn’t ever going to be good enough. When he starts gaining his confidence, oh that was such a sweet feeling. It’s something that I struggled with. I’m glad it wasn’t just me (even if Taylor is a fictional character) other people experience the same feelings.

Dakota, oh goodness, he and Andy were my heart. Taylor integrated into their little family unit seamlessly and he treated Dakota’s son Andy the way any parent would want their child to be treated by someone they were dating. And, Dakota, oh boy, he’s quite an attractive fella. He’s smart, creative, and sexy.  I’ll never think about scotch in the same way after reading this.

Dakota and Taylor, the chemistry and tension between them *fans self* whoo boy. I so wish we would have gotten to see what could have happened in the coat room. And the scotch! Like hell to the yes. All the yeses! I’m going to have to file that away for later *cackles*.

Would I recommend reading this book? 100%, read it. It would be helpful reading the rest of the Stick Side series because other characters pop up in this.

 

To be released September 8th 2020 – Get your copy here

Packing Heat by Austin Bates

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.

My twin brother is the definition of a lost soul. And it bothers me, sure… but I didn’t even know he was out of jail until a steamy older bounty hunter showed up at my workplace, looking for him.

And tackled me to the ground in his place.

Now I’m out of a job and gunning for my brother, and there’s only one person I know who can help me find him – the bounty hunter who got me in this situation to start with.

They say that the enemy of your enemy is your friend, but I’m not sure that teaming up with Neo feels all that friendly. He’s my opposite in every way – I’m younger, he’s older; I’m loud, and he’s the strong, silent type. I’m omega… and he’s all alpha.

The more I get to know Neo, the less I want to be his enemy. But we’re only together for one purpose: to catch my brother.

Right?

Review

Let me start with the narrator, Christopher Kauzlarich. Looking at other reviews, you either love him or hate him. I LOVED Christopher Kauzlarich’s narration. His voice is exactly how I imagined Tucker would sound. Soft, considerate, and easy to listen to.

            On to the story!

            Tucker’s twin brother can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Neo, a bounty hunter, makes an easy mistake, thinking Tucker was who he was trying to find. This gets their romance started. Tucker, even as angry as he is with Neo, he can’t seem to stop thinking about Neo. Even though the man cost him his job.

            One thing you should know, Tucker is an omega and Neo is an alpha. They dance around each other in the beginning, but they compliment each other well. Tucker doesn’t bend to Neo’s will. He challenges the older man. Their chemistry intensified as the story progressed and they had some steamy romance scenes.

            Overall, this was a quick and fun read.

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Don’t Cry for Me by Rachel Lacey

Don't Cry for Me (Midnight in Manhattan Book 1)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Eve Marlow has her eyes on the prize: a third season of her popular business makeover show, Do Over. But when her ratings take an unexpected dive, Eve needs a blockbuster new client, or she can kiss season three goodbye. She has her work cut out for her, and that’s before she discovers a litter of newborn kittens in a trash can. Now she’s desperate to find someone to take them so she can concentrate on reviving her career.

Josie Swanson had to put her kitten rescue on the back burner when she inherited her father’s bar two years ago. Since then, she’s invested all her time and energy into keeping it afloat, but despite her best efforts, Swanson’s is going under. When she gets a phone call from Eve Marlow, host of the television show Josie applied to earlier that year, the woman she’s convinced can save her bar, Josie hopes her luck has finally turned.

Eve knows what she needs to succeed, and it isn’t Josie–or her bar. There’s no denying the chemistry sizzling between them, though. Josie’s personality is as vibrant as her turquoise-tipped hair. She stirs things in Eve that haven’t been stirred in a long time, but there’s a reason she keeps her heart under lock and key. Eve stands to lose a lot more than her TV show if she lets her guard down, no matter how tempted she is to see if Josie’s love would be worth the risk.

Review

Eve is doing her best to ensure her business makeover show makes it past season two. Josie is struggling to keep her father’s bar afloat and she put her career hopes, rescuing cats, on hold. A horrible instance of Eve finding abandoned newborn kittens draws these two women together. Eve reaches out in desperation hoping Josie would take the kittens off her hands. Josie teaches her the basics. Eve ends up working with Josie to rebrand the bar and ensure its success. The more time they spend with each other, the deeper their connection grows.

            What I really enjoyed about Don’t Cry for Me was how genuine both Eve and Josie appeared to be. They were themselves from the moment we met them on page. Eve is still grieving a loss, but Josie is the first person that she connects with. Eve fights the attraction in the beginning. She has a sense of professionalism that she holds herself to. But it’s hard to resist the whirlwind of Josie.

            I’ve always wanted to read a romance where the reality show hosts falls for a ‘contestant’ on their show. There were flirty moments and stolen kisses between the two women and it was just so good. I wish we would have gotten steamier scenes between them. Their chemistry was intense, and I wanted to see more.

            The writing was fluid, I could picture Eve, Josie, and the bar perfectly in my mind as I read. Josie’s friends were exactly like a couple of my friends and I loved seeing secondary characters like Adam and Kaia. I had fun reading their story and I was able to read it quickly. It was an escape from everything happening around me with work and class. I’m definitely going to give Lacey’s other works a read!

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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

 

Better Than People by Roan Parrish

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, walking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly…eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding and lots of love.

The Review

Simon has severe anxiety. Jack has a broken leg. Who would have known that this would turn out to be the perfect combination? It’s hard to pinpoint why I enjoyed their story. Every time I sat down to read, I was left feeling hopeful and happy.

An app, PetShare, is what brings these two men together. Simon can’t have animals at home, his gran has allergies, but animals are the only things that make him feel calm. Jack is the first person Simon wants to be more than a ball of anxiety around. He finds himself feeling easy and comforted when he’s around Jack.

The steadily form a connection with every walk Simon takes Jack’s pets on. Their attraction grows the more they get to know each other. And their chemistry? Off the charts. Simon may live in a world full of anxiety, but with a few touches or well-timed words, Jack was able to Simon away from the overwhelming anxiety. He helped Simon feel free and he didn’t judge him.

Their romance, oh, it was intense. For someone who feels so deeply, it would only make sense that Simon would be as reactive as he was. Jack soaked in all that Simon had to offer, and wasn’t afraid to show him more.

They grew with each other, never leaving the other behind.

I could relate to both Simon and Jack. There is so much of my life that is ruled by anxiety that it’s hard to do what people find as ‘normal’. It made me crave finding someone like Jack who would understand. Maybe that’s why I loved their story as much as I did. Simon got his happy ending and made me feel like I could get mine as well.

 

To be released August 2020

 

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits, #2)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

The Review

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. I expected it to be overly floral and reminiscent of the boddice rippers that you may have found your mother hiding away from prying eyes. Despite the cover, this was an elegant historical romance that made me want to go back and find the first novel in the series.

Agatha Griffin never expected to find a colony of bees in her warehouse, but the woman who would come to her rescue was just as surprising of a discovery. Penelope Flood, bee-keeper extraordinaire spends most of her time taking care of the beehives around town. She floats between the wealthy and the tradesmen.

Through beekeeping, Agatha and Penelope form a bond. Penelope’s letters originally intended to keep Agatha updated on her relocated bees, shifted into companionship. I love when authors include letters between characters. You get a clear picture of their voice, their sarcasm and sense of humor. It feels intimate and genuine.

I melted once they finally gave in to their feelings. I’ll say this, I was not expecting the romance scenes to be written how they were. They weren’t cheesy or unbelievable. These women together were passionate, insatiable, and exciting.

While they were finding themselves as a couple, they found themselves as individual women. Agatha had to be strong, business-minded, and needed to take care of everything around her, found her match with Penelope. Penelope, who had grown used to loneliness found a true companionship with Agatha.

*insert wistful sigh here*

This was a great read, despite the cover, and I hope to read more from Olivia Waite.

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I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

EVERY MISSING PERSON HAS A STORY.

In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.

At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.

When another little girl in town goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much of her own story is she willing to reveal in order to uncover the truth?

Review

Dee Skinner’s life changed the moment she witnessed her best friend getting abducted at seven years old. Ten years later, she still lives in the same town, but in a different house. Sibby is a ghost that haunts Dee every day. She’s the girl who wasn’t taken. That guilt weighs her every action down.

She wasn’t able to help Sibby, but she finds a way to help others who have gone missing. As an anonymous podcaster, the Seeker, she hosts a true-crime podcast called Radio Silent. She focuses on missing person cases and works with the Laptop Detective Agency to find new leads and to find the missing.

Nearly ten years to the day, another girl goes missing in her town.

Dee struggles, wanting to stay away from the case but at the same time wanting to help find the missing girl. Is Sibby’s abduction related to Layla’s? A well-timed e-mail sends her down the rabbit hole to find out what has happened to both girls.

What I loved about the format of this novel, was the fact that the podcast scripts were included. I’m a huge true crime junkie and podcast lover. Being able to see how Dee worked to keep herself anonymous but she worked hard to help get answers from these families was exciting. She was determined to find answers and finally put in the work that her Laptop Detective Agency had been doing since episode one.

Dee meets Sarah, the attraction is immediate, but they balance each other. Where Dee is headstrong and throws caution to the wind, Sarah talks her off the ledge and finds a way to make sure they are safe from harm. Their romance takes a backseat to the plot, but the relationship was normalized in a way I wished my high school years could have been. She and Sarah got to go to the Winter Formal together, her parents didn’t make her sexuality seem anything but normal.

The action was a bit slow in the beginning, but once it got going? I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to find Sibby and Layla. I needed to make sure Burke was going to be okay by the end of it all. I had an inkling of who took Sibby, but the result for Layla? I wasn’t expecting that at all.

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