Title: Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding (Strawberries for Dessert #2 / Coda #7)
Author: Marie Sexton
Length: 40,539 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Established Relationships, Kids, Family, Gay Dads, Gay Marriage, Adoption, On Vacation, Germany, Arizona, Phoenix, Long Awaited!, Favorite Couples!
Rating: Really Liked It
Families should grow, not shrink. It’s been on Jon Kechter’s mind since before he tied the knot with his millionaire lover, Cole Fenton. Now hoping to adopt, Jon and Cole search for a mother-to-be willing to let them love her baby, but the interminable wait is wearing on them both.
Jon is close to his father, George, but until Cole, he didn’t have anyone else. Now George is pushing Cole to reconcile with his estranged mother. When the three of them spend Christmas with her in Munich, the results are disastrous. Jon and Cole resolve to stay positive, but no hope exists without a tinge of fear. Jon and Cole can’t help but wonder if their dream of being parents just wasn’t meant to be.
The most awaited book of the year! Well, maybe… probably! And ever since the listing came up on the DSP site I’ve been mourning the fact that I can’t get it in paperback, to complete my set 😦 I guess that means that Marie is going to have to extend the series somehow, because that would be a crime!
Anyway, I was so happy when I got this in my inbox for review. In fact, I knew I was getting it early so I made sure to go back and read Strawberries for Dessert, which would be somewhat fortuitous. For those of you not living under a rock, Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding continues the story of Cole and Jonathan. Let’s do a little recap. We first met Cole in the first book of the Coda series, Promises, as Jared’s past fuck buddy and good friend. He’s fabulously rich and traveling is his career, with a boy in every port shall we say. Jonathan is introduced as Zack’s ex-boyfriend and we meet him on page for the first time in The Letter Z, where the two couples (Matt and Jared, Zack and Angelo) run into Jonathan in Las Vegas while on vacation.
Then, the best book of the series (and it’s definitely not just me that thinks that!) introduced the two men to each other. Jared, playing matchmaker, gave Cole Jonathan’s number which he got in Vegas and Cole called Jonathan to introduce himself and ask him out the next time he was in Phoenix. Strawberries for Dessert shows their very rocky start to a solid relationship as they both deal with the massive changes in their lives: Jonathan’s father and his dead-end job, and Cole’s relationship with his mother and his neuroses about settling down, being enough for one man and being a gypsy spirit tied to one place. In Paris A to Z, all three couples convene in Paris for the wedding of Jonathan and Cole, and we get caught up on each relationship.
Fear, Hope and Bread Pudding starts not too long after their wedding and takes the couple through the next few tumultuous years of their lives. The sequel that we were all waiting for after Cole ended Strawberries… with the secret “I’ve always wanted to be a father”, starts with the two men planning their family. Creating a family is more to the two than just wanting a child to care for. Cole was completely alone in the world before he married Jonathan, estranged from his socialite mother and ungrounded from any real roots. Jonathan always felt immense guilt for taking away his father’s possibility of grandchildren, but mostly he wants to please Cole, who he knows would be an incredible, doting father to any child. With all of Cole’s money at their disposal, they immediately set the adoption process in motion.
Their lawyer lets them know up front that the process can be full of heartbreak and take years to conclude. But Jonathan and Cole don’t really understand what waiting means when they’re perfect applicants and are already decorating their nursery. After months and months the absence of a child and the presence of an empty room start to loom over Cole. His excitement over becoming a father is wrapped up in his need to create stability for himself and in some way make up for the damage in his relationship with his own mother. Jonathan is firmly on Cole’s side. But Jon’s father understands things from a different perspective, and his meddling creates a whole new dynamic in their growing family… if they can finally find someone willing to give them their child.
Sorry, that was way too long!
This sequel surprised me in a number of ways. First, I was always going to love this, just because it’s a story about Cole and Jonathan and shows us where their lives are going after we saw them last. But how Marie wrote their story surprised me in a few ways, foremost with Jon’s father taking a large part of the POV in the middle section of the book. At first I was quite unsure of what she was doing with that, but I grew to love it and understand the perspective that he could offer, even though it took time away from Cole and Jonathan. It was a real gamble, but I felt like it payed off.
I think that if I had not read Strawberries… right before this book that I may not have liked it as much. Part of the problem is that this story is actually quite short and reading the first book with this couple helped me with feeling like I got to spend enough time with them. Make no mistake, though. I’m not saying that this story needed more. There is quite a large progression of time and a quick pace that made this novella feel really full of plot and time with the characters.
So yes, without a doubt I recommend this one. If you haven’t ever read the Coda series, or Strawberries for Dessert (which you could technically read without the other books), then you should run to pick them up. It’s one of my favorite m/m series out there. And this book is a continuation of a story that I already loved.
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 5 Really Like It, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Adoption, Arizona, Coda / Strawberries for Dessert, Dreamspinner Press, Existing Relationship, Family, Favorite Couples!, Gay Marriage, Germany, Kids, Long Awaited!, Marie Sexton, On Vacation, Phoenix, Series
Title: Save the Date
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 31,978 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Gay Weddings, Exes, Closeted, Coming Out, Friends to Lovers, Sports, NYC, Boston, Rugby
Rating: Pretty Good
Tristan knows he and his ex-boyfriend Stuart were not meant to be, but that doesn’t make the invitation to Stuart’s wedding any less of a punch in the face. Tris decides that the only thing for it is to find a super hot date to prove to Stuart that he’s moved on and is doing just fine, thanks.
The path to the altar is fraught with obstacles, however, and Tris has to deal with the wilds of online dating, wardrobe malfunctions, men who look like pirates, emotional baggage, grooms with cold feet, and sports team rivalries before he even gets to the wedding. But when Tris stumbles on love in the last place he expects, he’ll need to let go of the past in order to move forward.
Tristan has been “getting over” his ex-boyfriend Stuart for two years now. But it takes getting an invite to Stuart’s wedding to his new boyfriend to make him realize that he’s not over him as much as he thought. During a powwow with his crew of straight guy friends and rugby team at their local sports bar, Tristan concludes that the only way he can really go to this week (which he’s already stupidly committed to) is to take a really hot date.
The road to finding suitable arm candy does not go as planned. Tristan is out of the habit of dating and picking up guys and going to bars is now firmly in his past. He’s not sure if he should take one of the friends’ suggestion to try online, but when even he admits that he’s at his last resort, he starts to do a little window shopping — only to find uncover a surprise secret that could not only serve as his answer to finding a date for the wedding, but might actually turn into something real. He started looking for a date thinking he was really over Stuart, but actually finding himself starting a new relationship brings up the fact that he just might not be.
The first thing I want to tell you is to go into this story with the idea that Tris really has a lot of growing up to do. I wrestled with this for a while and it’s been a couple weeks since I read this that I’m writing the review. I had a little bit of a problem at first because I felt like the relationship between Tris and his mystery guy doesn’t really get the showcase that it should. But now, I think that that really just wasn’t the point, which is a bit of a diversion in style from Kate McMurray’s previous work. Tristan finds himself starting a relationship when, even though he’s two years single, he’s really only mentally getting out of one. And all the complications with that start to drive a wedge between the new relationship. It’s completely the wrong time for him to fall in love, but no matter the bumps in the road, the two make it through it.
I ended up liking the story, but I still would have really liked more. I’m not just saying that I want more because I liked the book. It doesn’t matter how many times I say that I still hate it when I say it and other people say it. The truth is, I would have liked to get to know the new relationship just a little better, as well as the new guy. What we see of him is good because he’s supportive and a good guy. But I think that he had his own issues to deal with that we didn’t get to see as much and I would have liked to have some time for them to settle into the relationship into the story rather than have it end at, pretty much just after the climax. I had a similar problem with Blind Items, the book of Kate’s that I read most recently (and which I’m reviewing tomorrow). I’ll talk about it more in detail then, but many of you might have felt the same, which is that I wish we got just a bit more at the end. But, that’s a matter of individual opinion and perhaps Kate McMurray just likes to end the story on the highest note 😉
So, while this wasn’t a favorite of mine from this author, I still enjoyed it. It’s being released at the perfect time, Gay Wedding Season 😉 and I think that Kate is growing as an author with some more dynamic characters. So, I give her props for that.
Another note: I have this listed as a Love Triangle in the tags. Technically, that’s not true, but it is figuratively. I don’t want to discourage anyone who isn’t a fan of those from reading this book. The real third person in their relationship is specter of the past one that Tris just can’t seem to let go of yet.
Happy Release Day to Kate! And I hope all of you enjoy the book 🙂
Save the Date is out today from Loose Id!
Posted by Cole in 16-40k, 4 Pretty Good, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Boston, Closeted, Coming Out, Friends to Lovers, Gay Marriage, Kate McMurray, Kate McMurray Week!, Loose Id, NYC, Return of the Exes, Rugby, Sports, Weddings
Title: Can Anybody Find Me
Author: Julia Alaric
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Length: 13,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2- Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, Kiss Me at Midnight collection, Gay Marriage, Teachers, Established Relationship, College (Grad School), Speech Pathology, HEA
Rating: Pretty Good
Reviewed by Sadonna
Will is panicking. In ten days he’ll be thirty, and his life isn’t anything like he imagined it would be at that age. As he considers his future, he sees the possibility for failure. When he thinks of the past, Will sees all the opportunities and loves he’s lost. The only thing he can’t see is what’s right in front of him.
This is the second story I’ve read by this author recently and I think I am becoming a fan. Ah those birthdays with a 0 on the end. They all seem to loom large and it’s nearing Will’s 30th birthday and he is filled with doubts. He’s not sure he’s made the right decisions in his life and he’s looking a future that he just isn’t very excited about. He’s made a decision based on his love for his husband that he now questions.
Will is in grad school – speech pathology – but as he’s getting farther along in his program, he realizes that while he can make more money in that profession, he does not find it fulfilling. He is really happiest in his teaching job. But he is an uncertified teacher and he can’t pursue his earlier dream of a Ph.D. in history because of other decisions he’s made. He doesn’t want to be a disappointment to Andrew, his husband and he doesn’t want to ask Andrew to make changes he’s not comfortable with – like moving. They are legally married in Iowa and that’s really important to Andrew.
As the birthday approaches, Will becomes more and more panicked. He doesn’t want to betray Andrew’s confidence in him but he doesn’t know how to tell him, he really isn’t happy with this career choice. He loves Andrew more than anything and he won’t do anything to compromise his marriage, but he’s having a lot of troubling dealing with the sacrifices he’s made for that. As the day gets closer and the panic attacks a bit more intense, he realizes that the love for Andrew is his one constant and he needs to focus on that. While everything might not be perfect, they are perfect together and they will work through these doubts.
I really enjoyed the reality of this story. These are not picture perfect characters. They have weaknesses and flaws and that’s OK. They accept and love each other and that whether or not everything works out as they maybe thought it would when they were younger, their relationship is the thing that they will build their lives around and it will be enough.
Posted by Sadonna in 4 Pretty Good, Authors A-C, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between, up to 15k Tags: College, Existing Relationship, Gay Marriage, HEA, Julia Alaric, Kiss Me at Midnight collection, Less Than Three Press, Short Story, Teachers
Title: Two Lips, Indifferent Red
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 89k+ words, 326 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 2 – Romantic & Tame
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Arranged Marriage, Cancer, Ex-Lovers, Gay Marriage, HEA, Injured Character, Light & Sweet, May/December, Mystery, Rich/Poor, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Really Liked It
Reviewed by Nikyta
Kipp Llewellyn would rather follow his dreams than toe the family line, so instead of the support of his wealthy family, he has estrangement and a part-time job with Hunter, an in-demand interior designer. Hunter opens a new world for Kipp to explore—and not just for his career. It’s through Hunter that Kipp meets and begins what he thinks is a one-sided flirtation with Ham, one of Hunter’s customers.
To Kipp’s astonishment, Ham asks him for a date. Unfortunately for Kipp, a mysterious phone call summons him home, where his father gives him an ultimatum: save the family company by marrying billionaire Hyde Wyndham, in which case all will be overlooked, or never set foot in his home again. But meeting Hyde leaves Kipp stunned and betrayed, because Hyde is actually Ham.
A guarantee of marriage is no excuse for making Kipp feel foolish, and Kipp had enough of the gilded cage in the first twenty-one years of his life. He turns Hyde down, stating that marriage should be about love rather than convenience. If Hyde wants him, he’ll have to court him the old-fashioned way.
This is a hard review to write, mostly because I don’t really know what to say. The blurb does a pretty good job of explaining the basics of the story so I don’t think it needs repeating. The only thing that probably needs mentioning is that Kipp’s father absolutely hates him, which plays a big role in the story. More than anything, though, this is a book that deals with reunions, scandals, affairs and deceit but not in a severely malicious way. If you like soap operas then you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Kipp is a sweet kid. At twenty-one, he’s made the best life he can have without the support of his family while going after his dreams. He’s feisty and quirky but also innocent and sexy. He grew up privileged but now he’s almost frugal which makes him a great match for Hyde, who’s at least twenty years older than Kipp. Hyde grew up poor but made himself into a rich and well-known business man. He meets Kipp eighteen months before Kipp knows of the arranged marriage so he’s gotten to realize Kipp isn’t into him because of his money. Their relationship is odd because you don’t really see their developing connection but you can just tell how much they both adore each other.
The plot takes you on a wild ride ranging from allergies to illnesses, deceptions to affairs, and illegitimate children to cowardly ex-lovers. The one thing that is obvious through the whole story is that Kipp and Hyde trust each other explicitly and while they might get in some sticky situations, it’s easy to see that they won’t be swayed by deceitful people. One of the things I really enjoyed, though, is Kipp’s relationship with his grandfather. I adored that man and his regret over Kipp and Kipp’s mom. I also like that this story is so family oriented. Kipp reconnects with his estranged family in the time he and Hyde are planning their wedding and he also gets to meet family members he never met before. There’s also the added benefit that Hyde, who was not wanted in that town when he was younger, can rub it in all the arrogant people’s faces that he’s richer than them and has managed to snag such a beautiful and sweet man.
My only issue with the story is that sometimes I felt like Hyde treated Kipp like a child and Kipp’s acceptance of Hyde’s secrets grew frustrating for me. As a fiancé, Hyde should have been communicating with Kipp about certain things instead of just saying something along the lines of everything will be fine or don’t concern yourself with it. There are no doubt unanswered questions about the story but I didn’t mind so much the mysteriousness because of everything that happened over the course of the book. Although, I will say that I hated Hyde’s ex, Aaron Richardson, talk about someone I wanted to strangle! The only other thing readers might have an issue with (although I didn’t) is that Kipp sometimes could have been a woman instead of a man, for example, at times, his mannerisms were feminine and his speech was like how a cultured wife would speak. This story also took place over, more or less, a week so some might think everything happens too fast but, in my opinion, it was fast-paced without being rushed. Everything happened in its own time and were dealt with when needed to be.
All in all, there was something special about this story. I’ve always been a fan of Tinnean’s books but this one pushed all my happy buttons. Yes, it does have a feel of modern day Harlequin with a dash of soap opera to it but I found the story highly entertaining. I didn’t mind how much drama there was, unnecessary or otherwise, because it flowed so well with the rest of the story. It was an easy, enjoyable read because it featured a lot of different conflicts and situations that never made the story lose its appeal but more than anything, this one was sweet with a ton of funny and amusing moments. It’s adorable and I loved the fact that it left me with a smile, especially since I found the ending so incredibly sweet.
Posted by Nikyta in 5 Really Like It, 76-100k, Authors S-U, Contemporary, Heat 2 - Romantic & Tame, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Arranged Marriage, Cancer, Dreamspinner Press, ex-lovers, Gay Marriage, HEA, Injured Character, Light & Sweet, May/December, Mystery, Rich/Poor, Secrets & Lies, Tinnean
Title: The Marrying Kind
Author: Ken O’Neill
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Length: 264 pages
Genre: Gay Romantic Fiction
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Gay Marriage, Activism, Made Me Cry, Totally Heartwarming
Rating: Love It!!
Wedding planner Adam More has an epiphany: He has devoted all his life’s energy to creating events that he and his partner Steven are forbidden by federal law for having for themselves. So Adam decides to make a change. Organizing a boycott of the wedding industry, Steven and Adam call on gay organists, hairdressers, cater-waiters, priests, and hairdressers everywhere to get out of the business and to stop going to weddings, too. In this screwball, romantic comedy both the movement they’ve begun and their relationship are put in jeopardy when Steven’s brother proposes to Adam’s sister and they must decide whether they’re attending or sending regrets.
This is a book that I want everyone I know to read!
I’ve been eyeing this book for a while, especially altering seeing some great reviews. I think I was most intrigued because this book is about a different side of gay marriage that I’ve read before. From the very first page, I was in love Steven’s voice.
It all starts when Steven starts to notice Adam changing. They’ve been partners for about 7 years, and they generally seem like the perfect couple — they have two children (well, cats), they watch old movies together, and they are similar and different in all the right ways — essentially, they’re quietly compatible. Steven’s nature is to let Adam’s changes slide until he starts to get freaked out that something really, no really serious is going on. Then, Adam decides to take action. He’s tired of planning weddings for people when he can’t have a “real” one of his own.
They decide to do what they can to spread their message. Steven uses his column with The Gay New York Times to spread their message and implore those who agree to boycott the wedding industry. Unfortunately, at about the same time as the column goes live, Adam’s sister and Steven’s brother who have been dating for a while now decide to get married. What do they do? The problems really start to escalate when people catch onto their message, driving a huge wedge between their families.
Told through Steven’s publicly quiet demeanor but inner snarky voice, The Marrying Kind doesn’t let up from the moment the story starts. Steven’s narration switches consistently from present quick paced wit to memory, history, and cultural references, all offering some insight to the present. His voice is so funny that I laughed out loud throughout the entire book and was marking passages on my Kindle over and over.
The activism in this novel might be the spark, the catalyst that sets everything in motion and the undercurrent that keeps it moving forward. It also holds a huge message for readers. That message is achieved, though, through the shifting familial ties and family dysfunction that laces them all together. It’s a bit like looking at two sides of a coin — when the shit hits the fan, everyone is facing everyone else’s ugly sides. It’s the way that families are, and I really have to give this author props, especially for such a resounding job in his first novel. I always admire authors who can truly juggle a large cast, without dropping anyone and continually interlacing their actions and emotions throughout the group. This author does that really well here, usually offering Steven as the observer, quietly narrating (with his own hilarious commentary) as it all happens. The fact that the story never loses sight of the fact that they’re a family, a truly mashed up American family, takes the story from admirable to heartwarming.
There is really a lot to recommend about this romantic comedy. New York City is almost a second character and I love when authors really get that right. The voice of Steven is pivotal to the story. Despite bringing all the charm and quirky insight to the story, the events could have turned the tone a bit depressing in another character’s point of view. Instead, Steven is constantly avoiding the real issues with anything he can think of until he truly has to face them. The secondary characters really sparkle, especially in ensemble settings.
I really think this is a book that people will love and I hope that more people hear about it. I know I’ll be doing my best to recommend it to everyone I know!
Posted by Cole in 6 LOVE IT!, 76-100k, Authors M-O, Gay Fiction, Heat 1 - Sweet/None, Rom Com, Sex Freq 1 - None Tags: Activism, Bold Strokes Books, Gay Marriage, Heartwarming, Ken O'Neill, Made Me Cry, Netgalley