Author: Annmarie McKenna
Length: 30,500 words, 113 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance Mystery
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Cops, Injury, Assassination Attempts, Memory Loss, Recovery, Insta-love, Kittens!, HFN
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Sadonna
There’s more than one way to guard a body.
In the year since his car flew off a cliff, Detective Brennan McGuire has struggled to relearn the simplest tasks—like speaking without a stutter—and even more with trying to fill the gaping holes in his memory.
But when his daily visit to a local coffee shop turns into a melee of flying bullets, Brennan’s instincts take control.
So much for Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment. One minute he’s relaxing over coffee, the next his cheek is kissing concrete. Question is, is the gorgeous man on top of him his savior, or the one who took a potshot at his head?
As Keegan shepherds the too-quiet, too-skinny Brennan through the investigation, attraction flares into nights of white-hot passion. But with each scorching encounter, more and more of Brennan’s memories shake loose…and it becomes clear someone doesn’t want him putting those pieces together.
With Keegan’s oath to protect and serve putting him squarely in the crosshairs of a murderer, now the question is, who is protecting whom?
The blurb for this story pretty much tells it all and gives away the twist to the plot. Brennan has suffered a traumatic brain injury as the result of a car accident that he can’t remember. He was a police officer before the injury, but now he can barely order a drink and pay for it at the local coffee shop. While on his daily therapy exercise, he spies a shooter and lunges at the hot guy he thinks is about to get shot and in doing so, becomes a suspect. Somehow the police take forever to figure out that something is wrong with him (duh). Once they realize that he was an officer and that he is still recovering from the accident, they STILL think he might be involved.
Keegan begins to doubt that Brennan is involved and has him review mugshots in an attempt to identify the shooter. Keegan is convinced that this somehow has to do with the case he has just completed. As the investigation continues and he witnesses Brennan’s flashes of memory, he begins to suspect that something else is going on. During the second day of the investigation we meet Brennan’s aunt – who is a hoot – maybe my second favorite character in this story 🙂
Brennan and Keegan are definitely attracted and even though he kind of feels like maybe he’s taking advantage, Keegan just can’t seem to keep his hands off. Amazingly during sex, Brennan doesn’t even stutter and seems sure of himself and what he wants. Brennan’s old instincts seem to be surfacing more and more as the case continues which is a good thing for both of them. Keegan liked the Brennan he sees and wants to help him remember what happened and not just because he’s trying to figure out what’s going on with the assassination attempts.
I really wanted to like this book so much more! The blurb was intriguing and I liked both MCs – especially Brennan. The problem for me was the rushed, compressed time frame of this story – it’s literally two and a half days and the MCs are saying “I love you.” Also, I knew from the blurb and the story pretty much what was going to be the outcome and who the bad guy was. I hate when that happens! This would have been a much better story if it had been about three times the word count and we got a fully fleshed out relationship built between the MCs. Instead they spend one day together and they are “in love.” Not saying it can’t happen, but it’s just not that satisfying. I’ve read other books by this author and really liked them and there is nothing inherently wrong with this one. I just needed more relationship development to feel like I got the whole story.
Posted by Sadonna in 16-40k, 3 So So, Authors M-O, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: Amnesia, Animals, Annmarie McKenna, Cops, HFN, Insta-Love, Physical Injury/Trauma, Samhain Publishing
Title: Wouldn’t It Be Good
Author: Logan Zachary
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 6,000 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: MLR Mixtapes, Short Story, Bullies, Closeted, College, Coming Out (ish), Emotionally Damaged, HEA, Jocks/Nerds, Physical Injury/Trauma, Sports, Yearning
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Nikyta
Wouldn’t it be good to have music bridge the gap between two men?
Jason is the football god on campus, and Jeff is not. After an incident in gym class, Jeff leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Jason tries to help, but all he can do is leave a tape of mixed songs for Jeff hoping to help him feel better. Music can calm the savage beast, but can it bridge the gap between Mr. Perfect and Mr. Wrong? One song speaks volumes to Jeff, and his defenses begin to crumble as the men become closer and closer. Wouldn’t it be good to have a friend?
The first thing I need to say is that the blurb needs major editing. For those reading this book, please be aware that the main character’s name is Scott and not Jeff. In fact, Jeff is the bully who causes the ‘incident’ while Scott leaves school embarrassed and bruised. Between the time of writing this review and now, MLR has since updated their site to include the correct main character, Scott, in the blurb.
With that said, I don’t think I need to reiterate the blurb because it does a good enough job of describing the story. It’s a cute, easy read that goes by far too quickly. Scott is just about done with being bullied. He’s had a rough life and things are just getting worse for him. He’s a loner, though, and doesn’t fit in with others. Jason is the complete opposite: popular, well liked and good at sports. Jason’s sweet and charming and concerned about Scott when he gets hurt by Jeff. I felt really bad for Scott and I just wanted to give him a hug. I loved that these two connected over a mixed tape that Jason leaves for Scott. These two were adorable and I loved that Jason was so nice while Scott was so charmed by him.
This story started off really good. I was enjoying it and really liking the direction it was going in because it was heartbreaking but sweet. Unfortunately, pretty soon it started to focus on the purely physical part of their relationship and my enjoyment dimmed. I just couldn’t connect with them from there because I didn’t feel like they knew each other at all, even with going to the same school together for years. Then there’s the conflict, which felt incomplete and very rushed. It had me questioning why someone like Jeff would just walk away from tormenting Scott just because Jason claimed him as his boyfriend when Jeff never backed off from Jason’s protests in the past. It felt inconsistent with the rest of the story. More than that, their dialogue felt stunted and awkward.
Overall, it’s not a bad story. It could have been fleshed out further, characters could have been better developed and the conflict could have been tied up better but I still enjoyed the story. I would have liked to see Jason and Scott get to know each other deeper but as it is, this was a cute, quick story with a lot of potential.
Posted by Nikyta in 3 So So, Authors V-Z, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex, up to 15k Tags: Bullies/Bullying, Closeted, College, Coming Out, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, HEA, Jocks/Nerds, Logan Zachary, MLR Mixtapes, MLR Press, Physical Injury/Trauma, Short Story, Sports, Yearning
Title: Attachment Strings (A Jeff Woods Mystery, #1)
Author: Chris T. Kat
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 69k+ words, 244 pages
Genre: m/m, Contemporary, Romance, Mystery
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Alpha Men, Closeted, Cops, OFY, Kids, Physical Disabilities/Trauma, Physical Injury/Trauma
Rating: Really Liked It!!
Reviewed by Nikyta
Detective Jeff Woods and his partner have a new case. Someone has been making threatening phone calls to the mayor’s daughter, vowing to kill her disabled child. Though there have been accidents at the girl’s school—enough to take the threats seriously—the facts are few, and leads are sparse.
Needing a breather from the burden of the case, Jeff heads to a bar, where he meets Alex Fisher. Alex isn’t his type, but he’s young and cocky and perfect for a one-night stand. Or two. Soon Jeff starts thinking about how difficult and lonely it is being a cop, and that maybe Alex could fill a void in his life. But Alex has his own obligations: a disabled brother who is the target of threatening letters.
Jeff isn’t sure he’s ready to play house or overcome his prejudices, but he begins to think Alex might be worth it. Caught between his growing affection and his inner demons, Jeff struggles to focus on the case and protect Alex and his brother as the danger builds.
First, I just want to say that I love this cover! It’s what caught my eye at first and then I realized it was by Ms. Kat and I knew I had to have it right away and I’m so glad I read it!
Blowing off some steam after one of his cases goes unsolved, Jeff meets Alex, who’s as far from his type as he can get. No matter his rejections, Alex won’t take no for an answer and it isn’t long before these two are jumping into bed for a one-night stand. Except now Jeff can’t get Alex out of his mind and finding it harder and harder to deny he wants to see Alex again and with a little push, he does just that but things don’t exactly go as he planned. When the mayor’s daughter starts receiving threatening letters toward her disabled daughter, Jeff starts looking into other disabled kids and before long, Alex, and his brother Sean, fall right into the middle of Jeff’s investigation. Jeff wants Alex but with his prejudices, he can’t handle Sean, who he considers Alex’s ‘appendage’. It’s a rollercoaster ride for these two while Jeff tries to not only solve the mystery of the threats but to also work through his feelings and decide if Alex is worth all the effort.
At first, Jeff is one hell of a jerk. Most readers will definitely be turned off by him but my best advice is to just stick with it. He changes but it’s a hard, long process and he messes up during that journey. Jeff is aggressive, demanding and very stubborn and he’s this way to man, child or woman. His physical appearance is just as intimidating as his personality but he’s also judgmental and prejudiced to the point of heartbreaking. I loved that he was so unlikeable because that actually made him more likeable. I didn’t like his reactions to the disabled kids, in fact, his disgust towards them broke my heart. At the same time, I loved the struggle within him, the growth he achieves from his initial dislike to his grudging acceptance. Alex is the complete opposite in that he’s compassionate, gentle towards Sean and lovable. He’s stubborn and pushy but underneath it all he’s vulnerable and just wants someone to take care of him for once. Jeff gives him that opportunity and, if anything, I loved the relationship these two have because Jeff always knew the right moments to be tender and gentle. It starts off purely sexual but the situation they’re put into speeds along their feelings to something I really enjoyed.
While this book focuses on the mystery of whether threatening letters and injures to numerous disabled children is serious or not, it’s also very centered on the change Jeff goes through. From his views that he doesn’t want a relationship to developing feelings for Alex, who is in no way Jeff’s type but also how Jeff’s views on Sean – his disgust, how uncomfortable he is around him, and whether it’s even worth the effort to try – changes. You see a man who is essentially a brute slowly changing into a guy who wants to care for two of the most vulnerable people ever. It’s sweet but also heartbreaking and while the villain was easy for me to spot, the execution of how the author handled Jeff and his prejudices, as well as, his relationship with Alex and Sean, more than made up for it, IMO. That’s not to say the mystery was lacking, in fact, I really enjoyed it and liked that I was taken so deep into the investigation.
My biggest issue with this story was the ending. I take that back, the ending was actually really great, one that had my heart racing with me on the edge of my seat and I adored it wholeheartedly, but I wish more than anything Ms. Kat would embrace more epilogues because I felt like there needed to be more of a conclusion for after the fact. More than anything, I desperately wish there had been something to inform us on what happens next not just for Jeff and his job but for Sean, the school and ultimately Alex but also what’s next for Alex and Jeff, how this new development affects them. Beyond that, I think Alex could have been a bit more fleshed out because by the end, I realized I loved him to pieces but I didn’t really know him as a character either. Granted, this is the start to a new series so I’m probably just being very impatient right now.
Overall, I adored this book. It has its faults but what book doesn’t? I loved the conflicts that Jeff goes through when it comes to Alex and Sean but I also liked the mystery even if it was a tad predictable. The story is heartbreaking at times, funny at others and adorable everywhere else. I loved these characters and especially loved Sean. More than that, I have to say that Parker, Jeff’s partner, was a spitfire that I could never get a read on but found highly amusing. I’m glad this is a start to a new series because I can’t wait to read more about Jeff, Alex and Sean and to hopefully get some areas tied up better. As it is, this was a great story and I hope others are willing to give it a try and enjoy it as much as I did!
Posted by Nikyta in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors J-L, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Mystery, Romance, Sex Freq 3 - Average Story to Sex Tags: a Jeff Woods Mystery, Alpha Men, Chris T Kat, Closeted, Cops, Dreamspinner Press, GFY/OFY, Kids, Physical Disabilities/Trauma, Physical Injury/Trauma, Series
Author: Alex Douglas
Publisher: Torquere Press
Length: 63k words
Genre: m/m Scifi Romance (sorta)
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Alcoholics, Aliens, Bisexual, Co-Workers, Emotionally Damaged, Interspecies, Mate Bonding, Mercs, Otherworld, Past Abuse, Physical Injury/Trauma, Psychic/Empaths, Secrets & Lies, Space Travel, Tentacle Sex, Yearning
Rating: Pretty Good
Reviewed by Nikyta
Prez has been in the arms – or tentacles – of one too many brothel workers in his time. The memory of long-lost love is all he has, and it’s not enough. But no one in the Belaar-Andra system wants an alien half-breed for a partner, so life is as good as it can be. He’s making money, he’s going places, he’s got friends and a spaceship he loves – a decrepit cargo ship named Outcast. And now he’s got a new co-pilot, from the remote world of Aldor. Lan’s mysterious and doesn’t say a lot, but as they get to know each other, Prez starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in a long time – hope.
But the past hasn’t quite released him, and the Outcast isn’t done yet. On its final mission to deliver a mysterious cargo for the Belaari government, long-buried secrets start to stir. When his old co-pilot – and best friend – is finally himself again, Prez has a difficult decision to make, but Lan has other ideas about his own destiny. A rich man at last, can Prez finally get the things he really wants?
Prez is the captain of the cargo ship Outcast and in desperate need of a new co-pilot since his old one becomes temporarily unavailable. Lan from Aldor answers his prayers but while Prez is considered a freak even among all the aliens, Lan is the one with the mysterious heritage. When Prez gets a contract to deliver some secret cargo, Prez thinks he’s finally made it big. What none of them expected was for the cargo to cause a lot of problems for not just Prez but for Lan, as well.
The world this author painted was a fascinating thing. I loved the variety species, planets and how they were all different and unique. I gobbled that up because it was such an integral part to the story in relation to who and what Prez was but also because it was interesting to see how Prez was treated just because of what he was. I loved Prez most of the time because of his quirky sense of humor but Lan was probably my favorite. He’s like a robot almost that doesn’t understand Prez and the others but eventually finds not only friends in them but a home with them. I loved how different Lan was but I really wished there had been more focus on him and his world! More than that, Lan’s situation broke my heart. He was so confused at times and had to handle things on his own but the eventual outcome of his situation had me so sad, I almost cried! And, no, I won’t spoiler you on that!
While I loved the story and the world, I can’t deny that I got annoyed over the sex with other characters outside the MCs. Generally, I don’t like this but sometimes I can see the merit of it. In this case, there were more sex scenes between Prez and others from brothels than there was between Prez and Lan. Not only that but I didn’t feel the connection between Prez and Lan. There weren’t many feelings of love, admiration or even lust between them until the very, very end. Granted, Lan is asexual BUT I took offense to the fact that Prez was his mate yet some unknown princess took Lan’s virginity after Lan realizes his connection to Prez. It annoyed me more than anything else in the book did. With that said, there still wasn’t any middle ground between their friendship during the whole book to all of a sudden this love they have for each other by the end. It was confusing and didn’t feel like it fit with the story. Beyond that, some aspects of the world were confusing because the words were either not explained or some scenes that I felt like were vital were glossed over.
All in all, I felt like there was too much focus on others and their sex together but not enough on the actual couple, which really hindered the story. However, the journey Prez, Lan and their friends go on was a great adventure. I loved the universe and the unique species the author created because it made for not only a fun and enjoyable ride but for some funny moments as well. For those sci-fi fans out there, give this one a try because it does have a great setting.
Posted by Nikyta in 4 Pretty Good, 41-75k, Authors D-F, Heat 4 - Spicy & Smutty, Romance, SciFi, Sex Freq 4 - Very Often Tags: Alcoholics, Alex Douglas, Aliens, assassins/mercs, Bisexual, co-workers, Emotionally/Physically Damaged, Interspecies, Mate Bonding, Otherworlds, Past Abuse, Physical Injury/Trauma, Psychic, Secrets & Lies, Space Travel, Tentacle Sex, Torquere, Yearning
Title: The Unforgiving Minute
Author: Sarah Granger
Length: 72,925 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Tennis, Sports, Athletes, Closeted/Coming Out, Awesome Female Characters!, Past Injury/Trauma, Nasty Exes (and I mean nasty!), Famous, Paparazzi!, Around the World settings, Animals, Meet the Parents, Rich/Poor, HEA, Adorable!, Light & Sweet
Rating: Really Liked It!
Ryan Betancourt has got it made: he’s reached the top tier of the tennis world thanks to a wild-card entry to the US Open. Ryan is meeting players he has idolized for years, including his teenage crush, Josh Andrews. But he isn’t ready for the politics and manipulation that come with life at the top.
Josh Andrews is closeted, private, and difficult to get to know. He’s been playing tennis since he could walk, won his first tournament at five, and was sent to Spain at thirteen to attend a tennis academy. Before a knee injury forced him into a year off, he was ranked the number one player in the world. Now he’s back—and intent on winning.
Josh and Ryan first meet at a tournament in Brisbane. Ryan excitedly greets Josh only to be ignored. Crushed, he realizes the golden boy of tennis isn’t all he seems. Only in the team-building environment of training for the Davis Cup does Josh open up enough for them to grow closer. Their developing relationship is everything Ryan ever wanted, and he is blissfully happy. But inevitably they have to play against each other, and everything changes.
So that’s how I feel now, just having finished this. In the words of Fake Joy Behar Fred Armison, So What? Who Cares? This might not be the perfectly executed book, but it wins on more than one account, most importantly rating high on the Swoon Meter!
It took a late blooming start for Ryan Betancourt to play in the big leagues, against his childhood idols and masters of tennis, but in the past year something clicked for him. His maybe late but now meteoric rise from the Futures and Challengers tournaments won him a wild card place in the US Open, and his new more confident playing gave him the points the enter the top tier of international men’s singles and entrance into the most celebrated top tournaments worldwide. Sincerely optimistic without fault, Ryan starts the season in awe of the his new contemporaries, many who used to grace his teenage walls. One, more than any other, however, has always been his idol. Perfectly poised in tennis and life, Josh Andrews is the wunderkind of tennis on his comeback after a torn ACL and several year absence from the circuit. Meeting his inordinately beautiful and talented hero in real life… well, that’s a big disappointment.
Ryan’s personal life seems to progress with his success at the game, and the more time he spends as a part of the famous and elite players, the more he realizes he deserves to be among them. In correlation, his confidence in his own performance shines. It seems that everyone has undervalued him, but that’s only because his successful rise is climbing faster than their expectations. He soon finds that he has friends and a place among the top tennis world.
Ryan is eternally optimistic, but with that comes a tenacity and perseverance. When he still can’t get his mind off of Josh Andrews, even when everyone else seems to have a conflicting observation about the man, Ryan decides to speak to him himself. Soon after, their paths continue to cross and the two become friends. But what Ryan expected to find in Josh Andrews is rather different than what he finds — a conflicted, somewhat broken man only held together by the determination to win.
The biggest part of what made this book so satisfying was in the creation of Chase MItchell, the antagonist. Granger is pretty crafty in the trajectory of Mitch’s character, though I have to tell you that while I couldn’t have said just what direction the book ultimately took, I didn’t warm up to him at all. (Pardon me while I go off on a tangent you might not understand unless you’ve read the book!) When we first meet him he comes off with just the right amount of cultured charm, which (probably intentionally) slightly rubs the reader. He seems like the kind of guy with ulterior motives, but he’s handsome, charming and doesn’t really display any kind of negative behavior — at least to Ryan. It’s was also pretty clear to me that he had some secrets by his few mentions of Josh to Ryan and the fact that Ryan is never in the same room as both of them. By the time the story is set up to reveal the real Mitch, he goes from confidante and friend to Ryan yet coming betwixt the two of them to the absolutely perfect target and one of the reasons to bring Ryan and Josh together for a final time. And when you finally hear about all of his past deeds and crimes and realize just how despicable of a man he really is, then he’s the perfect antagonist, and a perfect opportunity for Josh to get his comeback. And through Josh, Ryan as well. (Okay, tangent over.)
What originally drew me to this book was the tennis aspect. I took tennis lessons from age 5 to 14 and was pretty good, actually. I never would have gone anywhere — I just don’t have the drive for it and I’m the least competitive person. I like to read about athletes that push themselves because that was never me. This definitely gave me what I wanted, but I was drawn into the story immediately by Ryan, who is an enigmatic narrator. He’s driven yes, but without many of the faults of exceedingly talented athletes — like ego, aggression and other stereotypical Type A behavior. And of course, he’s the underdog. We naturally want to cheer him on.
All I can really say is that analysis aside, this was just a really enjoyable book to read. Part of that is the action, which cut into the drama nicely. Also, that creation of such a satisfying antagonist in Mitch. There’s quite a bit of detail about tennis and some jargon about the game that some reader’s might not quite understand. I found the detail about the whole system much more intriguing, and though I know very little about the real life tennis world to compare, the story came off as authentically set in the real world and not an idealistic one. But mostly, it read like a novel masquerading as a novella, meaning that the reading experience passed by in no time because of my enjoyment of the story and becoming immersed in the characters. There’s no deep analysis of them or a really intricate plot in the narration, but instead a light tone and satisfying finish that made me a fan of Sarah Granger. Now, I need to go back and read her other story published earlier this year — The Long Road Home.
Posted by Cole in 41-75k, 5 Really Like It, Authors G-I, Contemporary, Heat 3 - Sexy & Mild, Romance, Sex Freq 2 - Few and Far Between Tags: Adorable!, Animals, Around the World settings, Athletes, Awesome Female Characters, Closeted, Coming Out, Dreamspinner Press, Famous, HEA, Light & Sweet, Meet the Parents, Nasty Exes, Paparazzi!, Physical Injury/Trauma, Rich/Poor, Sarah Granger, Sports, Tennis