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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The Love Study by Kris Ripper

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

Review

When I saw The Love Study I grabbed this book up to read and review without hesitation. There aren’t enough books out there that feature nonbinary characters as a love interest.

Declan, always introduced to new people as, “This is Declan, he left his boyfriend at the alter” doesn’t have the best dating record. When he meets Sidney, a YouTuber with an advice show, an opportunity jumps him in the face. Sidney will arrange a series of dates and his report of how those dates went would be featured in Sidney’s YouTube show The Love Study.

What I enjoyed about the dates? Each date was so different from the one before it. Then, of course, we figure out why the dates weren’t as successful as they could have been. Declan is attracted to and has chemistry with is Sidney.

When they finally get together, it was the sweetest thing ever. There were moments I had the cheesiest grin when they would spend time together. Sidney was an introvert, through and through, which I related to so much. I’m good with spending moments of quiet with another person and I’d be content with that. You don’t really get to see introverts portrayed the way Sidney was and I was all about it.

The banter between all the characters was so much fun. Like, the Marginalized Motherfuckers? LOVED them in all their messy goodness. I could see why their friendship had survived for so long.

There were a couple of issues I had with The Love Study. I couldn’t picture either Sidney or Declan at all. It made me crazy not being able to picture them in my head as I was reading. Then the conflict towards the end, it left me with a meh feeling.

Overall, this was a good read. Would I recommend it to other readers? Yes! We need more diversity and this was refreshing and easy to get lost in!

Pre-Order your copy here

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

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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Huntsman by Morgan Brice

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Three out of Five Stars

 

Summary

A grieving wolf. A hunted fox. Fated mates, thrown together by chance, and the looming threat of a fabled Huntsman who might tear them apart forever.

Fox shifter Liam Reynard is running from a killer. He uproots his life to find sanctuary in Fox Hollow, deep in the Adirondack Forest in New York.

When his car breaks down, sexy wolf shifter Russ Lowe comes to the rescue, and one touch makes it clear they’re fated mates. Neither man was looking for love, and both are still mending from past heartbreak. When mysterious fires and disappearances threaten Fox Hollow, Liam fears the killer is hot on his trail. Can he protect the town and his fated mate from the evil hunting him, or will an ex-lover’s betrayal cost Liam everything he loves?

Huntsman is full of sexy shifters, hurt/comfort, second chance love, sincere psychics, hot first responders, found family, and fated mates.

Review

I want to preface this by saying that I am normally a huge fan of Morgan Brice. I absolutely love all her work.  Huntsman was not it for me. It was an okay read, but I expected more than what I read. If you enjoy the fated-mates trope, this is definitely a book you’ll want to check out. It has a sweet romance between a fox-shifter and a wolf-shifter that is weaved throughout, action takes a backseat in this one.

Liam Reynard, fox shifter librarian, is on the run from a Huntsman. With little warning, he packs his bags and heads to the one place he can think of, Fox Hollow. A former professor offered him a job and now it’s his only hope for safety.

His car breaks down just outside of town and Russ Lowe, wolf-shifter, firefighter, and tow truck driver, comes to his rescue. From the moment they meet, sparks ignite between the two of them. Neither man put much thought into fated mates, but it seems like they are it for each other.

One aspect of Huntsman that I did enjoy was the fact that it was a shifter story, where the characters were able to live their lives out loud in Fox Hollow. I’ve had a difficult time finding shifter stories that aren’t mpreg and I was excited to see this wasn’t a mpreg story. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great mpreg stories, but sometimes you don’t want that.

Also, the secondary characters (I’m sure will also get their own books), teased Russ mercilessly because of the preternatural sniffers. It always makes me laugh and feel a little bit of second hand embarrassment for the characters.

Fox Hollow felt like a small town that I would want to be a part of, but I felt like there was something missing throughout the entire novel. Everything wrapped up too cleanly and quickly. I wanted more than what I got. 

Get your copy here

Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary:

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

The Review

This was a low-angst, quick-to-read, romance.

Caro Cassidy runs a hockey school for girls. She keeps her personal life close to the vest and doesn’t advertise her sexuality. She adheres to a strict professional policy. In comes Amy Schwarzbach, lives her life out loud and doesn’t let anyone tell her how she should live her life. She does her best to encourage girls to be true to themselves while playing hockey in a safe space provided by Girls and Goals.

What I liked about Out on the Ice was the fact Caro and Amy were polar opposites, but they still fit together. Caro had gotten stuck in a repetitive cycle, but Amy makes her consider what how she could change for the better.

Amy was a bisexual character and If eel like there aren’t enough books with bisexual characters, and they talk about their previous partners. It was a genuine representation.

A lot of the romance was off screen, so if you’re looking for that you aren’t going to find that here. It was very sweet.

I was left wanting, but this was a good debut for Kelly Farmer .

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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.

Get your copy here

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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Just Like That by Cole McCade

2-TourBanner-JustLikeThat_McCadeThree out of Five Stars

Summary

Summer Hemlock never meant to come back to Omen, Massachusetts.

But with his mother in need of help, Summer has no choice but to return to his hometown, take up a teaching residency at the Albin Academy boarding school—and work directly under the man who made his teenage years miserable.

Professor Fox Iseya.

Forbidding, aloof, commanding: psychology instructor Iseya is a cipher who’s always fascinated and intimidated shy, anxious Summer. But that fascination turns into something more when the older man challenges Summer to be brave. What starts as a daily game to reward Summer with a kiss for every obstacle overcome turns passionate, and a professional relationship turns quickly personal.

Yet Iseya’s walls of grief may be too high for someone like Summer to climb…until Summer’s infectious warmth shows Fox everything he’s been missing in life.

Now both men must be brave enough to trust each other, to take that leap.

To find the love they’ve always needed…

Just like that.

Review

Just Like That is a story of one man finding himself years after a profound loss and another that is learning who he wants to be.

Summer Hemlock is fresh out of university trying to find his career, he didn’t expect to land back home in Omen, Massachusetts. He secures a position teaching at Albin Academy boarding school, directly under the man who he fosters a crush on while he was a teenager, Professor Fox Iseya.

At their first meeting, Professor Iseya has little faith in Summer’s abilities. I hurt for Summer in these moments, because it felt like Professor Iseya was tearing him to pieces and didn’t even care about the damage he was doing. Summer acted out, in a moment of bravery, and kissed his childhood crush. From that action, the entire course of the school year changes.

A daily act of bravery, Summer gets a kiss from Professor Iseya. The kisses turn into something more and hold a different meaning to them both. Summer whittles away at the walls Fox had put up since the passing of his wife. Fox allows himself to feel something other than nothing and they get lost in each other in the process.

The steam factor on this one I’d give a four out of five. Each scene was intense, full of passion that had been so tightly bound for so long, it was explosive once they were together. A May/December romance, featuring workplace, desk top sex? Woo, I was not expecting that.

Why did this get a three out of five stars? For me, I was expecting so much more. There was so much focus on Fox, with only a brief moment when Summer figured out what he wanted in life. I wish there would have been more to their relationship. I was left wanting, but still satisfied with the resolution of the story.

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Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

Review

I have so much love for this book! I don’t have much time to read when I’m in class, but I stayed up late two nights in a row to finish Boyfriend Material.

Having a rock star for a father isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Luc O’Donell will end a relationship before it starts. It’s better to end it before he winds up in the tabloids with the world wondering how much further he could fall. When his job is at risk, he’ll do whatever he can to keep it. Oliver is the perfect person to help him clean up his image and save his job. Scandal doesn’t happen to Oliver, the barrister and vegetarian. They couldn’t be more different from each other, but they both need someone to take as a plus one.

Luc, bless it, I just wanted to tell him, “It’s okay to be who you are and to live your life.” He doesn’t trust anyone and it’s entirely understandable. He’s had some of his worst moments plastered across the tabloids. Oliver, goodness, he needed all the hugs. He strives to be the best and nothing but the best.

I think why I enjoyed their story so much was because I relate so much to both Luc and Oliver. I don’t trust easily, and I’m awkward and odd. I have my own way of doing things and I don’t appreciate people trying to change that.

The arrangement becomes beneficial and is the worst kept secret. It cracked me up with how many people knew they were fake boyfriends. Despite all the fakery, Luc and Oliver had a legitimate connection with each other. They challenged each other to be better and to learn how to trust again.

I think one of my favorite parts was at Oliver’s parents Ruby Anniversary. Luc makes this amazing gesture and I was sitting in my bed sitting up straight and cheering him on. Someone needed to do this for Oliver. He was worth having someone on his side like Luc was.

There were misunderstandings, through the course of things, but the chemistry and attraction between them, even as fake boyfriends? It burned intense and brightly. It was so damn good when they were together.

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