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Frankie & Al

Frankie & Al - Sue  Brown Self proclaimed twink Frankie has sworn off relationships, believing being single and having fun is the best way to live. That is until he's rescued thrice by "Green Eyes" Al.

This was a lot fast in the insta-love, a little rough around the edges, simple and uncomplicated. Entertaining enough.

Striking Sparks

Striking Sparks - Jordan Castillo Price Well damn…. that was quite eye opening!

Um, this was basically PWP showcasing Crash's uncanny ability to read people.

Unfortunate Andrew is seeking a way out of the confines of his life, thinking having his palm read will give him guidance. Instead he comes across Crash and I can safely say he got his answer in more ways than one.

Crash takes the reins and he is bossy, dirty, and kinky. He delivers - boy does he ever. I think Andrew still doesn't know what hit him.

Secrets

Secrets - Jordan Castillo Price Well the title of this story is definitely appropriate. Secrets abound in many forms this go around - suppressed memories, covert meetings, hidden agendas, and apparently a deep conspiracy.

This is probably my favorite entry so far because instead of just one mystery to focus on, new threads are emerging and contributing to an overall story arc that is just starting to show itself.

So you've got Vic, who is now starting to ask questions - questions about his job, his past and his relationship. He and Jacob are hot as ever, if not more so, but there are a few snags despite their growing feelings. You would think a paranormal mystery series centered around a self deprecating and awkward homicide detective wouldn't be so hot, but it is. I swear it is.

Supporting characters also contribute to the fun, as lie detector Caroline, precog Lisa, and crazy empath Crash feature prominently. This ends on a bit of a cliff hanger and I can't wait to see what comes next!

Thanks Sofia and Ingela for the BR!!

Run for the Roses

Run for the Roses - Elizabeth  Noble To recap, you have Val who is best friends with up-and-coming horse jockey, Janelle. She gets hurt after a scuffle with an abusive ex-boyfriend, which is the impetus for her estranged father Wyatt to make a reappearance. As she heals and mends her relationship with Wyatt, the meaning behind her "accident" unfolds something more sinister than any of them expected.

This was a pretty tame romantic suspense but I found myself liking it. Val has instituted a self imposed term of celibacy due to his own history with past abusive relationships. That comes to an end as silver fox Wyatt catches his interest and wins over his trust. As these two work together to uncover a scandalous horse racing conspiracy, they grow closer.

There was a maturity to this and basically no angst which I found refreshing. Sprinkle some light smex on a straightforward mystery and you've got a nice afternoon read. This entertained me enough that I will pick up the sequel at some point.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight - Cassandra Carr 2.5 Stars

Gawd this had so much potential.

First you have Vladimir, a native Russian playing professional hockey in the U.S. who has just allowed himself to wholly admit he's gay. A chance encounter arises and he meets Joe, who takes a little pity on his emotional turmoil and offers him friendship. So picture this - hot hockey player who's a gay virgin meets experienced hot ex-Marine who's reluctant but willing to show him all that he's been missing. The anticipated fireworks should be amazing right? Right??

I'll give points to the plot set up and the initial sexual tension. However when the pentultimate scene came Vlad losing his butt virginity , there was some emotional angst that aborted everything. That's fine. Explore your feelings, talk about it. However, nothing really was further addressed, nor did we see the attempt happen again. Instead we were just told it happened and I thought my kindle glitched on me! I felt cheated! This was also a bit more angsty than the first but at the same time, not angsty enough. Does that even make any sense? I guess I expected certain aspects to be explored (ie. Joe's struggle about going back into the closet) but other issues were focused on instead that lead to some bad vibes.

So due to personal preferences, this obviously didn't work for me as much as the the first book [b:See the Light|17366214|See the Light (Safe Harbor #1)|Cassandra Carr|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1360630376s/17366214.jpg|24131948]. However, I'll still keep this author on my radar.

Body and Soul

Body and Soul  - Jordan Castillo Price 3.5 Stars

This next chapter following lovable, slightly socially challenged Victor Bayne, sees him adjusting to his new work partner as they investigate a trio of missing persons. On a personal front, he's in a more established relationship with boyfriend and fellow cop Jacob Marks, and I loved reading about them as a couple.

The author continues to inject quirky insecurity in Victor's voice - he's not the suavest detective out there, and he's got to be the most squeamish medium around! Like Jacob, I found him to be loveable and relatable, faults and all. He's a bit inexperienced in the relationship department but you can see he's making an effort and wants to be the best boyfriend back. Also he's coming into his own and acquiring a little more confidence and assertiveness on the job which was fun to witness. As always the hot factor is still high in this (with a touch of dirty thrown in this time) - and I say that's always a good thing.

Criss Cross

Criss Cross - Jordan Castillo Price 3.5 Stars

The fun times continue for Victor Bayne, the psycop extraordinaire who can see dead people. This time around his ability is a bit off the chain - the ghosts are actually seeking him out, being more aggressive. To make matters worse he has some health problems and discovers his life is in jeopardy - perhaps by those closest to him.

So yes, I just basically rephrased the blurb :)
If you want a further exploration of the world building, as well as another peak at Victor and his boyfriend, then start reading! As with the first installment, Victor has a unique voice - a little less on the confident and suave - which makes him that much more endearing and relatable. I also loved Jacob - is he too perfect? Maybe. But you can't say that that isn't appealing. This was great entertainment and the hotness factor does not disappoint! That last scene?? *fans self*

Bite Marks and Bendy Straws

Bite Marks and Bendy Straws - DiscontentedWinter description

Ahh the evolution of what starts out as interest and turns into obsession. You really can't blame Derek. He never had a chance. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did.

This was genius, hilarious, and hot. More please!

Spring, Bax & Butterflies

Spring, Bax & Butterflies - Riina Y.T. American transplant Jacob arrives in Australia and it's a dream come true to play rugby at his high school in a country who loves the sport as much as he. Though they get off to a shaky start, Jacob and fellow teammate Baxter, eventually hit it off and become BFF's.

Here, you get to witness how their friendship grows and naturally evolves into something so much more, and it is touching and tender and hot. Of course there's some pointed angst in keeping their relationship a secret. Baxter has the potential to go pro and there's fear that being honest will ruin his chances. So yes, there's definitely roadblocks but they only served to strengthen and cement what was ultimately most important to them.

For me this was reminiscent of one of my favorite m/m stories [b:Superhero|18192707|Superhero|Eli Easton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1373758003s/18192707.jpg|25598041]. And I liked it for that very reason. These characters' personalities were so endearing; there's not a bad bone or thought amongst them. If you want an honest, poignant, heartbreaking but ultimately redeeming love story then this is for you! Even better, it's free through M/M Romance Group's online series Love Landscapes!

Whiskey and Wry

Whiskey and Wry - Rhys Ford 3.5 Stars

The second part of the the Sinners series did not disappoint. You have Damien who's desperately trying to piece together his fractured memories. He's not sure what's real, only that he needs to find his best friend Miki who will help unravel the answers he so desperately wants. Scared and paranoid, that feat isn't so easy to achieve. Barely scraping by, he meets up with pub owner Sionn and sparks fly of course. The danger Damien is in escalates as those he cares about get hurt or end up dead.

As I've read Ford's books, there's definitely a formula she adheres to. You have one hero who's a bit damaged, who's been through hell and has a hard time trusting. The other has his own demons to wrestle with, but at the same time he's unafraid in risking anything and everything to protect the guy he loves. This veered off just a bit from her usual MO where her alpha MC was versatile instead of the smaller man stereotypically always bottoming , which I totally appreciated.

So yes, Ford uses a lot of purple prose, a lot of descriptions, and a lot emoting. This lends to great romantic overtures and possessive claims showing that her characters are fierce in their feelings and fall fast. There's nothing wrong with that - just know it's a given with her stories. The smexy times are hot - make no mistake - and the Morgan clan continues to be a bright spot as well! Next up is big brother Connor's story which I hope will be a revelatory and interesting read!

A Perfect Game

A Perfect Game - Reno MacLeod, Jaye Valentine At first I wasn't so sure about this because I'm not big into bdsm especially if it's contemporary. However this was free so I figured, why not? If I choose to ignore the absolute eye-roll inducing insta-love, I think this was an overall pretty decent story

You've got Kit who's a star baseball player at his college. He's a cocky little shit and he lays eyes on his substitute teacher Liam and is instantly smitten. He sets out to seduce him and Liam of course, shuts him down. All caution is thrown out the window when they run into each other in Provincetown literally a few days later and proclaim love at first sight. I'm not joking. And the rest as they say, is history.

So first you have an age gap and then a role reversal where the older, more experienced guy is the bottom/sub. Then comes the kink. Now I haven't read a lot of bdsm and not to say that there's an age requirement… but this 20 year old is well versed in hot wax, whippings, exhibitionism, collars/claimings, master/slave situations, as well as fear play. Yep. He also remarked he would never do these things to another unless he himself had experienced it. And when did this all start? In between his playing baseball and camp and jr high through high school?? There was mention of him learning the whip starting at age 14 under the ruse of having an interest in Renaissance fairs! Wow. But what the hell do I know? I was a bit like a deer in headlights; I couldn't look away. These scenes to me were pretty separate from the actual smexy times so I could easily detach myself from that and enjoy the more "vanilla" parts.

In and amongst all of that was a pretty sweet love story, as well as some topical issues of parental acceptance and being out of the closet as a professional sports player. Suffice it to say, this had a lot of different elements to it - maybe one or all will strike your fancy.

Nothing Ventured

Nothing Ventured - Jay Northcote 3.5 Stars

Aiden agrees to run a crazy, grueling obstacle course and his best friend's cousin is ready to whip him into shape. What starts off as a grudging trainer/trainee relationship morphs into an excellent friends with benefits scenario.

Aiden doesn't do emotions or relationships.

Matt is firmly in the closet - he's bi but why go through the lengthy process of explaining that to anyone?

Not surprisingly, feelings and attachments develop. Since both stated they wanted sex only with no strings attached, how do they move beyond that?

Like the other books in this series, this was simple, quick, and easy with what I thought was some decent angst. The hotness factor only added to my enjoyment!

See the Light

See the Light - Cassandra Carr Wow. If you're ok with a lot of smex (and who isn't) then this is for you.

You've got Jason, NHL pro, who runs across his new Olympic coach Patrick, and he's never been distracted nor attracted to someone like this - ever. It's definitely insta-lust and luckily it runs both ways.

I was very pleasantly suprised by this. Again, make no mistake that these guys go at it fast, hard and wet. Perhaps what made it so hot was that Jason was basically inexperienced; his past encounters pretty much entailed anonymous one offs in bars. Patrick was fantastic in his patience and understanding but wasn't timid in the bedroom and was all for enlightenment.

Despite the high smex count, I felt it addressed the real issue of homophobia seen in many sports. The need and/or fear to feel compelled to stay in the closet was heart breaking but understandable and you could see how these guys struggled with that - Patrick an old hat; Jason just realizing what his future held.

This had my favorite kind of angst. You know the kind that entails want, doubt, jealousy, insecurity - the "I should know better but can't walk away since I can't help myself" kind. The pace is fast, there's an age gap with witty/funny banter and some decent dirty talk, plus the requisite emotional feels.

Did this end neatly? Maybe. Do I wish it was more drawn out with a proper epilogue? Absolutely. But it doesn't negate the enjoyment I had reading this. Sometimes in books, the smex isn't detailed or long enough or too descriptive. This for me was just right!

The Enlightenment of Daniel

The Enlightenment of Daniel - Eli Easton I'll be the first to say that I typically avoid stories with cheating but my OCD of reading a series in order and my like of Eli Easton pushed me to read this.

Kudos for Daniel for discovering what he wants/feels and going at it with single focus determination. There was definitely no straying from his goal.

Nick at times was a sympathetic character, stuck and in stasis from life's choices. I wish he had had the strength to move on before Daniel made his intentions known. Again, my dislike for cheating rearing its head.

To me, this had the least UST and smex of Easton's works I've read. That being said I still overall liked it if I don't dwell too much. And of course, things work out (maybe too simplistically/easily) in the end, but this is fiction and I'm ok with my need for happy endings.

City Mouse

City Mouse - Amy Lane, Aleksandr Voinov This sequel did not disappoint and we dive right in where Country Mouse ended. The question is can these two complete opposites make it when their basic makeup is so starkly different?

Banker Malcolm is so controlled. His self worth is tied up in his status and his paycheck. He's a major bit of a snob but he's just covering his own insecurities. His ambitions are sucking the joy out of his life and he's scared of letting go of his self imposed rules.

Sweet Owen is probably too laid back but that just works perfectly in sync with tightly wound Mal. His priorities are the simple things that make him happy. He sees a different side to his lover and enjoys bringing out the tender parts in him.

Make no mistake though - this was just as steamy as the first. It was fun watching these two navigate their new relationship. Their interactions were realistic, as well as sweet and hot. Add a touch of kink plus toys and playful dominance push/pull - all of which made it that much more interesting and entertaining!

This was an excellent afternoon read - thanks for sharing it with me Ingela!

Secrets and Ink

Secrets and Ink - Lou Harper 2.5 Stars
This surprisingly packed a lot into such a short story. There was romance and suspense. Maybe a sprinkling of magic with Jem being convinced he was cursed with bad luck. Throw in some out of nowhere kink from cop Nick and top it off with a murder mystery. Entertaining enough for a freebie.