Too Like the Lightning by Travis Beaudoin

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Andrew Madigan had everything he ever wanted.

He’d worked hard to build this perfect little life. A stable relationship with a successful man. A beautiful home in a quiet suburb. And best of all, a job where he spent his days talking about literature.

Then his tenure was denied and, too quickly for him to stop it, everything crumbled.

Now, with his dreams in the dust and his confidence shattered, Andrew has one summer to figure out his next move.

Bulbs, Florida, is like no place Andrew’s ever known. It’s small and provincial. It’s hot as hell. Storms roll through every single day. But Andrew just has to keep his head down. Finish his book, find a new job, put things back on track. Easy-peasy.

He didn’t plan on making a friend.

Coley Brandt has a green thumb and an easy smile. He’s much younger than Andrew, but he puts Andrew at ease, makes him feel at home. Their time together reminds Andrew what having a purpose feels like.

Suddenly, this long, lonely summer feels too short.

But Coley has dreams of his own, and they’re a million miles away from the life Andrew’s trying to get back.

Maybe this is just a summer fling. Maybe, like the lightning, it’s only meant to be glorious for a moment before it disappears.

Or maybe it’s something more.

Review

I don’t know what it was about this book, but it was the most satisfying read. It had an ebb and flow that made Andrew and Coley’s store easy to get lost in. I could see the cottage, the pond, and hear the shrill of crickets and frogs at night. Beaudoin brought the story to life and invited us into a rich, hot, Floridian world.

            Andrew lost everything that made him who he was. His job, his partner, his home. Florida was a means to recharge and get back on track with his writing. Finding a job would be nice too. He didn’t expect to find Coley.

            Their first encounter with each other isn’t the greatest. There may have been tears, but Coley was surprising. He may have been younger, but there was a sense of maturity in him. He was kind and didn’t judge Andrew for not knowing where he was going to end up past his time in the cottage. He slowly pulled Andrew out of his shell. Andrew helped with the yard work, took a swim in the pound, and went out with Coley.

            Andrew and Coley together was *chef’s kiss* spectacular. There was a chemistry that steadily grew from their first meeting. Uh, and those kisses? Can I get more of those? There was something about reminded me of my special somebody. I’d give this a three out of five on the spice scale.

            My heart hurt for Andrew at times. Then there were times I was rooting for Andrew to stay in Florida. He found his happy while he was there. He slowly learned who he was outside of his career. Coley helped him get there.  

            I loved that both Andrew and Coley encouraged each other to go for opportunities they may not have gone after on their own. How comfortable they became with each other. I laughed at Andrew shuffling through the kitchen naked. Coley and his red pick up truck coming to shake up Andrew’s world.

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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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Heart2Heart Volume 5

5 out of 5 Stars

Summary

Once upon a time, a bunch of authors wondered… what would happen if Heart2Heart, the dating and community app responsible for bringing together couples from all over the world, encouraged people to do something they’d never done before?

#NeverHaveIEver is trending on H2H, and fourteen authors who’ve never before appeared in a Heart2Heart anthology (and one who’s never left) have come together to show how funny, hot, and heartwarming it can be when H2H app users challenge themselves to do something outside of their comfort zones–from singing in public, to skinny dipping, to getting their first real kiss–while they manage to fall in love along the way.


As always, all proceeds from this anthology will benefit LGBTQ+ charities to ensure that love in all its incarnations will be celebrated and protected every single day of the year!

The Review

I was super excited to have the opportunity to read the latest batch of stories for the Heart2Heart Anthology. There were some authors I had followed and wished they’d get to participate at some point and HERE THEY ARE!!! These stories take place all over the globe and it’s exciting to see all the different settings.

Never Have I Ever … Dyed My Hair Flaming Red by Daryl Banner -Three Stars

I had the opportunity to meet Daryl Banner at a book signing, so since then, I’ve kept up with his work. Seeing his name pop up in this collection was exciting for me. He is one of the few authors I enjoy reading from their work from the first person point of view.

If you are a fan of the new adult genre, this will fit the bill for you. It’s more conversational, delves into the drama of stage work, and I could hear the characters’ southern twang in my head while I read.

Zakary is very young, learning who he is and what he wants in life. Jonatho, has a bit of an ego, but what director doesn’t? Zakary is right though; we need more stories that end sweetly and with a sense of hope. Instead of doom and gloom.

It’s a bit cheesy in places, but it was a fun, easy read.

 

Never Have I Ever … Spent the Night with Blanche by Louisa Masters – Four Stars

Okay, if you haven’t ever binged a few episodes of the Golden Girls, you need to treat yourself to that stat. It was the perfect meet-cute for Fin and Clay. A Golden Girls screening to get them to meet outside of the Heart2Heart app.

Also, I cannot get over Ripper’s character. The minute I laid eyes on him; I knew I’d love him. Big biker with a soft spot for the Golden Girls? Yes, please.

This was such a feel-good story that had me grinning throughout it.

 

Never Have I Ever … Been on a Date by Tal Bauer – Five Stars

Tal Bauer is a master at weaving romance into a heart-pounding thrill ride. He creates such strong, intelligent characters that it’s easy to connect with them, no matter where the story takes them. So, it was no surprise that I fell headfirst into a story taking place on Antarctica. I wish I could have gotten a full-length novel for these two.

A chance encounter twines Cletus and Damien together during the time they spend on Antarctica. A missed opportunity that turns into a second chance. Even if it’s not under the greatest of circumstances?

The steam level is fade to black, but it’s very the emotional connection between the men is as strong as you would expect from Tal Bauer’s work. There’s grit, heart, and happiness in their story.

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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.

 

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Winter of the Owl by Iris Foxglove

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary: 

Sava has the best house in all of Lukos. He built it himself, dreaming of the day when he and Milan, the man he loved, could live there and brave the harsh winters of Lukos together—only to be devastated when Milan was found dead in the spring. Fraught with grief, Sava resigns himself to spending his winters alone.

Then a stranger appears on his doorstep, and everything changes.

Victor is a scholar from Gerakia, a land known for its long summers and vibrant history, and he has never been more unprepared in his life. Abandoned on the inhospitable island of Lukos after a disastrous relationship, Victor has to adapt quickly to survive. It helps, of course, that he’s taken in by Sava, who has the biggest heart of any man Victor has ever known. Victor and Sava start to make a home together, growing close as snow falls outside, but the true danger of a Lukos winter is closer than they suspect…
 

Review

So many tropes in this one! Forced proximity, opposites attract, share one bed, snowed in, strangers to lovers, chosen family.

My heart broke for Victor in the beginning. I had a legitimate what the actually fuck? kind of moment. He’s such a bright character and to see someone so willingly just throw that away? Oh it hurt my heart. I was so glad to see he landed somewhere like Lukos.

In an island of exiles, Victor found something beautiful, a home.

Sava had been living his winters alone since the loss of Milan. He has steadily been building a home that would be fit for a mate. Sava has got to be the kindest soul out there. He’s definitely something you would look for in a partner, no matter what world you live in.

There were light BDSM tones. In this world there are dominates and submissives, but it’s not on the extreme end of the spectrum. While there are the traditional roles, Sava and Victor didn’t hold stead fast to them. Victor was very much the scholar, not the best at the home tasks. I found that adorable, seeing Sava step in and explain and teach things to Victor. He did it in a way that was not at all condescending towards Victor. You could tell they cared about each other.

The romance scenes between the two of them weren’t so steamy. You can definitely feel the chemistry between the pair. There were some great kisses between the pair. If you’re looking for something extremely graphic, you definitely won’t get that here.

The suspense or conflict in this was an easy one for me to figure out. I had that figured out pretty early on, but I kept reading because I loved Victor and Sava’s interactions. I knew there was a lot of their relationship I wanted to read about.

Overall, did I enjoy this? Oh yes. Will I read future books in the series? Yes. I needed the fantasy fix and there were so many tropes in this that had mee excited.

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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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If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

The Review

If This Gets Out was a good read. If you’re a fanfic reader, you’re going to love this novel so much. It was easy to read. The dialogue flowed well, there was a lot of it (I LOVE DIALOGUE and LOTS of it, it’s my jam). I could picture the hotels they were at, and I could see them performing on stage.

Ruben and Zach make up half of the boyband Saturday. Saturday is touring through Europe and trying to deal with the stress of their fame and the pressures of being teenagers on the edge of adulthood.

Throughout the tour, Zach and Ruben become closer as they deal with the drama of Angel and toeing the line around Jon because his father is management. It’s easy to be free and themselves around each other. But the closer they got; the further apart management pulled them.

Their first kiss, and everything after was so … sweet. A lot of the romance happened off-screen to fit the YA Adult sphere. Their kisses and little touches between them? I lived for it. There were times they couldn’t keep their hands off each other and I was all, yes please, can I get more of this? Because it was just that good.

Drama happened (of course) and the boys tackled it together. They truly were a family and cared for each other. That was a special bond, and I was glad to see it strengthen over the course of the book.

Spicy rating? Two out of Five

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Playing it Safe by Amy Andrews

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

The Review

Ya’ll know I’m a sucker for a good sports romance, right? Well, this one didn’t let me down. I think I’m finally coming out of my book funk.

Donovan has plays professional rugby for the Sydney Smoke. During his time with the team, he’s kept one of the most important aspects of himself a secret. His sexuality. He didn’t want to be the first player to come out and to face the media. It would be easier to face that challenge after retiring.

He didn’t account for Beckett Stanton.

Beckett doesn’t know much about rugby, but on his first day at work for the Sydney Smoke he knows he is immediately attracted to Donovan Bane. But he isn’t sure about being Donovan’s secret. The attraction keeps calling to him though. It’s hard to stay away from Donovan when he keeps showing up.

First things first, you don’t need to have read the previous books in the series to read this one. This is book 7 in the series and the first one I’ve read. Also, if you aren’t familiar with rugby, it’s not hard to follow.

The chemistry between Beckett and Donovan was intense from the get-go. They really couldn’t take their eyes off each other. They both had a lot going on and to consider, but once they made a decision, *fans self* Donovan was such an alpha-like character and to have him want to learn from Beckett? That’s my jam. I’d rate this a 🌶🌶.5 on the spicy scale.

I loved, loved, loved the fact Beckett watched Donovan play and how worked up that got him. I too have experienced that phenomenon and seeing it written into a book was pretty awesome.

I read this one over two nights and had fun reading it. 

To be released September 6th (my bday!!)

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

Rare Vigilance by M.A. Grant

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Everything has a price. Especially the truth.

From the author of Prince of Air and Darkness comes the first in a thrilling new paranormal series.

Former marine Atlas Kinkaid knows not to ask questions about the clients he protects at the behest of the elite Whitethorn security agency. Just like he doesn’t like anyone asking about his scars—scars left by a mysterious attack that haunts his every waking moment.

Consumed by the need to find out what happened to him, Atlas takes a job providing security to Cristian Slava, the indolent—and gorgeous—son of a notorious businessman. Cristian seems to be just another entitled client, but when nights at the club turn into secret meetings and people start going missing, Atlas realizes there’s more to Cristian—and to protecting him—than meets the eye.

But the same people who are after Cristian have something Atlas desperately craves: they know exactly what happened the fateful night he was attacked—and are willing to tell him everything…

 

The Review

 

I think I’m the odd man out here, but Rare Vigilance was okay. I think I was expecting a lot more than what I got with this book. It took me awhile to read, because I kept finding myself wanting to read something else.

How would I read this series? Wait until the next book comes out then read them back-to-back. I feel like it would be more enjoyable that way.

What did I like? The idea of the vampires in this world. Vampires can eat and drink regular food, but also need blood. There’s a bond/connection that can be formed with the donor. There was history behind Cristian and his family. Things were hinted at, but we weren’t given a full picture.

There was a lot of build up for the story to end on a cliffhanger. In several ways.

I’m a fan of slow burn romances, but this was the slowest of burns. I wanted more for the relationship between Atlas and Cristian. There were hints of intense chemistry, but something about it was unsatisfying.

Then the abrupt ending. I feel like there was no sense of resolution. I really wise this would have been released as one lengthy novel instead of being split up into two.

It might be the type of book for you though. Give it a try.

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