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.

Get your copy here

 

Keeping Kellan by Amy Aislin

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3.5 Stars

Summary

Brant Harkrader is done living by other peoples’ rules. He may not know exactly what he wants out of life, but he’s perfectly happy letting that question figure itself out while starting a new job as a tour guide.

Too bad the one thing he does want—his sister’s BFF—only sees him as a little brother.

Or so he thinks…

Kellan Shelby-Briggs has never shied away from going after what he wants. And what he wants is the important contract that will put his brand new company on the map—and Brant.

Too bad Kellan’s career keeps yanking him away just as things heat up between them.

Now that Brant is back in town—up close and personal in Kell’s living space—can they finally get the timing right to go after the love that has eluded them both for too long

Review

Keeping Kellan is a falling for your sibling’s best friend story. I really liked that instead of falling for the brother’s best friend it was falling for the sister’s best friend.

Brant has moved back home, started a new job as a tour guide, and he isn’t sure what he actually wants to do with his life. He just knows it isn’t hockey.

Kellan is pursuing his career at full speed. He’s been burned at his previous company, and now he’s pushing to establish his company from the ground up.

Brant and Kellan have always been attracted to each other. They just thought a romantic relationship wasn’t ever going to happen. Now, they can’t seem to stay away from each other. The chemistry between them is intense. There are a lot of stolen looks and gentle touches. It’s the kind of romance that makes me all tingly.

Both men were extremely smart, and I liked seeing that. I could picture them lasting long-term, being able to match wit. They also supported each other in the work they did. They were equals.

This is a little bit of a fade to black romance, so the spicy level is a little lower. But it fit how Aislin wrote the story.  The focus, to me, was more on establishing their lives now that they were starting over. The romance came second. I do wish there had been a little more romance scenes, like dates (sex scenes are great, but not always needed).

This was a good addition to the series!

Buy your copy here

 

Hooked on You by K.Evans Coles

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3.5 out of 5 Stars

Summary

What’s a straight guy to do when he falls for his new friend?

Paramedic Connor Devlin is a stressed-out tower of a man. Hoping knitting will help him unwind, he visits a local craft shop, where he’s overwhelmed by the yarn selection but more so by his feelings for shop owner Judah.

Judah Bissel is tired of falling for unavailable men. He can’t help his crush on Connor, though, or wanting to get closer to the big, gentle bear. And that just might spell trouble because pining for straight guys is not Judah’s style.

As a blizzard pummels the city, the men hunker down together to wait out the storm. When the spark between them ignites, will the revelation that Connor feels more than friendship for Judah bring them together or tear them apart?

 

Review

Hooked on You was a cute, quick, friends to lovers romance.

Connor Devlin needs something to help him manage his anxiety, and knitting is his answer. His first visit to a yarn shop may have been intimidating, but that doesn’t stop him from taking on his first project. With the help of the shop owner, Judah, he able to take on his project and solidifies a friendship with the man.

What Connor never expected, was the intense, romantic feelings he had towards Judah. He had never had feelings like this for another man.

Connor and Judah fit together so well. Where Connor was muscled and bulky, I pictured Judah as lithe but a strong man. He was also very caring when it came to Connor. Which was sweet.

Their kisses were toe curling and intense, but a lot of the spicy scenes were fade to black. I didn’t mind that, because it fit their relationship and the vibe of the book.

Everything was solved a little too easily and the ending was abrupt. There were two extra scenes added to wrap Judah and Connor’s story up but I’m not a fan of those snap forward in time scenes. But you may fall in love with Connor and Judah!

 

Get your copy here

The Gentleman and the Spy by Neil S. Plakcy

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

After his father’s death Lord Magnus Dawson has more important things to think about than falling in love—like how to earn a living when all he knows is the idleness he was raised with, and the military training he received before selling his commission.

For Toby Marsh, the impetus is as great, though he doesn’t have Magnus’s family connections to fall back on. A scholarship student at Cambridge, he was forced to spend his last year in college as valet and sometime tutor to a brainless fellow student after his father’s sudden death. Now he scrabbles out a living as a freelance tutor.

Then a call from the Foreign Office brings them together. Toby disdains the idle lordling, and Magnus can’t seem to treat Toby as more than a servant. As they delve deeper into their assignment, the attraction between them grows. But can they envision a future together when so class and culture conspire to drive them apart?

The Review

Lord Magnus Dawson is down on his luck. His father has passed, but his older brother has control of the estate and he’s not offering Magnus work on the estate. Magnus is desperate for work and he stumbles into working for the Foreign Office because of his title.

Toby Marsh, who is also down on his luck. He has a degree but hates the idea of teaching, so he tutors to make ends meet. His specialty in languages and previous experience as a valet lands him a temporary job at the Foreign Office working as a valet for Magnus as they go under cover at a shooting party.

The attraction between Magnus and Toby is instantaneous. It’s got a bit of a forbidden love aspect to it that worked. Magnus and Toby are in different social classes and that is used for their undercover work.

There were parts of this that I was iffy on. What was their purpose of going undercover? I kind of lost that. Then some of the terminology got a little repetitive. I didn’t like that I couldn’t remember the purpose.

TRIGGER WARNING Scene – Toby Marsh scene message me if you want more info. I had to skim through it

What I did like was being able to see this from two separate classes and the issues that come from that. Also it was interesting to see the inner working of estates and how they work. There was detail that late me be exactly where Magnus and Toby were.

Get your copy here

 

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

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.

Get your copy here!

The Beautiful Things Shoppe by Philip William Stover

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Moving to eclectic New Hope, Pennsylvania, and running The Beautiful Things Shoppe is a dream come true for elegant and reserved fine arts dealer Prescott J. Henderson. He never agreed to share the space with Danny Roman, an easygoing extrovert who collects retro toys and colorful knickknacks.

And yet here they are, trapped together in the quaint shop as they scramble to open in time for New Hope’s charming Winter Festival.

Danny has spent years leading with his heart instead of his head. The Beautiful Things Shoppe is his chance to ground himself and build something permanent and joyful. The last thing he needs is an uptight snob who doesn’t appreciate his whimsy occupying half his shop.

It’s only when two of New Hope’s historic landmarks—each as different as Danny and Prescott—are threatened that a tentative alliance forms. And with it, the first blush of romance. Suddenly, running The Beautiful Things Shoppe together doesn’t seem so bad…until Danny’s secret threatens to ruin it all.

Review

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. I hated the beginning of this book. I almost DNF’ed it, that’s how much I didn’t like the beginning of this book. The enemy shopkeepers, forced to work together, just was written in a way that made me HATE Danny and Prescott. The way Danny and Prescott spoke to each other, just why? It made me angry. I would never treat anyone the way they treated each other.

But, I was one book away from meeting my reading goal for the year and I had invested a good amount of time trudging through the first 30% of it, I was determined to finish it.

I’m glad I did.

As soon as they got over themselves and started to get to know each other as the collectors they were, I liked them as characters. Prescott had gotten to know the people of New Hope and had fallen in love with the town. Danny found himself listening to Prescott as he sold his antiques and he started to understand Prescott.

They were complete opposites. Danny liked the vintage, toy, oddball collectibles. Prescott searched for historical pieces. They ended up working together, along with the town, to save two historical landmarks of New Hope. Of course, small towns means interfering do-gooders, pushing Danny and Prescott together. Which I loved!

Now, don’t expect a fiery romance scene in this book. But there were some toe-curling kisses exchanged and some very sweet moments between Danny and Prescott. I got a little teary eyed at how sweet they were.

So, like I said, love/hate. I detest the beginning 30% of this book but loved the last 50% of it.

To be released January 26, 2021

Jeremiah by Jayce Ellis

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Jeremiah Stewart’s sexuality is no one’s business. Not that he’s hiding it. When—if—he finds the right one, he’ll absolutely introduce him to Mom. But a late-night brush with a sexy stranger in too much lip gloss has him rethinking nearly everything…

To Collin Galloway, direction is a four-letter word. Sure, he hates his job, he hates living with his parents and he really hates watching everyone move on without him. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do, long-term, and he won’t figure it out by thirsting over Jeremiah, the superhot, superintense paramedic who is suddenly everywhere Collin looks.

When Jeremiah’s faced with losing all he’s worked so hard to build, he reluctantly accepts Collin’s help. They’re both determined to stay professional…which works about as well as either would imagine. But Collin only does closets with clothes, and Jeremiah has to decide if he’s finally found the one worth bringing home to Mom.

Review

I loved a previous book by Jayce Ellis and I fully expected that I would love this one as well. Jeremiah was a good read, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t a memorable read for me.

Jeremiah, a paramedic and still slightly closeted, is figuring life out. He’s facing a potential lay off and finding a new job, but in the process, he stumbles across Collin Galloway in the elevator in his apartment complex. As repayment for helping Collin get his friends home safely, Jeremiah gets help brushing up is resume.

Their attraction between them is clear. It burns steadily and grows the more they get to know each other. What I liked was their stay-cation. I feel like we got to know more about them while they explored DC and explored each other *wink* in the hotel room.

Get your copy here