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Tag Archives: Second Chances

Pura Vida - Sara AlvaTitle: Pura Vida
Author: Sara Alva
Publisher: Self Published (m/m Goodreads Romance Group)
Length: 25,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Love Has No Boundaries story, Free, Short Stories, New Adult, On Vacation, Diverse Pairing, Costa Rica, Second Chances, at the Beach, College, Summer Break
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Simon has found himself in an open relationship for the summer—though not by choice. Instead of wallowing, he’s decided to make the most of a family vacation to Costa Rica by hooking up with the first hot guy available. Trouble is, he has no clue how to go about doing that.

Luckily, he runs into someone with a little more experience. But when the moments of lust turn into something more, Simon isn’t so sure he’ll be able to return to his old relationship. And there’s no way to hold onto this new one, either, as thousands of miles will separate them in only a few short weeks. Either way, he’ll have to learn to let go.

REVIEW

I’m really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have read it, I know, because it’s a free short from the m/m Goodreads Romance Group’s LHNB event. I usually keep up a little better with the stories than I have this year and I also try to do a couple mass reviews of some of my favorites. But, I’ve really missed most of them, just because there have been too many new releases this summer! And way too many of them that I’ve wanted to review 🙂 Thankfully, Sara did ask me to review this one and I’m really glad she did because it was so cute and a real joy to read.

Simon is with his father, mother and sister on vacation in Costa Rica where his father is in development of vacation homes. It’s the few weeks after finals just at the start of the summer and Simon is in a bit of a quandary. His boyfriend back at college, Leo, has pretty much parted his company without much fanfare, giving Simon a “let’s see what happens over the summer” goodbye that pretty much means he just wants to fuck whomever he likes until Simon is back to be his bedwarmer throughout the year. Leo is a little bit cruel, but even if he isn’t what Simon really wants, he’s what he’s got and Simon figures that he shouldn’t give up on a solid thing himself.

What better for him to do than try to find a summer fling himself? At least so that he doesn’t go back to Leo having pined for him all summer. But Simon doesn’t really know how to go about catching someone’s eye. There are a lot of cute guys at the beach of their resort and it seems so easy for his sister Alyssa to catch a cute guy. It isn’t until he stumbles up on the local migration of sea turtles hatching on the beach at night that he meets Juan.

Juan is a local that doesn’t show much faith in another American tourist at first, especially when the two get off to such an inauspicious start. But Simon rallies and when he actually shows interest in the turtles, Juan invites him to help with his nightly duties. It doesn’t take them long to find a chemistry between them, but even if Simon did start to have feelings for Juan, there’s no chance of anything happening when he lives thousands of miles away.

This is such a perfect and sweet vacation fling story and this author does it in a way that sets it apart. There’s no easy out that things could continue in the future, that one could stay or the other could follow at the end of their fling. There are real differences between them. But we get to that point by getting to know the two of them in all of their awkwardness and by doing so their relationship has heart where other stories with a similar premise might not. And that’s because there are such differences between them. Juan is a local who has had only too many opportunities to get to know different kinds of people, but so many of them through the facade of the resort, bringing him into contact with a type of person that he can’t understand might not be rich or spoiled. He’s someone who has to work hard for what he has, battle his own family against his sexuality, and then battle the people he comes in contact with every summer to be seen as more than a stupid village boy. Though they come from different worlds, Simon is different. He can’t seem to make himself believe that their fling could be no-strings attached. He just doesn’t know how. And part of that is because he’s the type of person who would find interest in the beauty of the turtles and understand the beauty in what Juan sees everyday.

I don’t know Sara Alva well. And this is the first work of hers that I’ve read — no matter how many times I’ve remembered how much I want to read Social Skills. But, I can see from reading this story that she’s someone who really cares about what she writes and that she writes because she loves it. I’m not an author, but I can understand that. I want to read Social Skills now more than ever, because I feel into her prose and it was so easy and comforting to get lost in. I’m excited to see what to make of a longer story. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had so many people tell me to read it by now 😉

If you missed this one in all the crush of the free stories this summer, then definitely go get it. It’s sweet and heartfelt and you’ll probably find a new author that you like.


Cold Hands (College Fun and Gays #6) - Erica PikeTitle: Cold Hands (College Fun & Gays #6)
Author: Erica Pike
Publisher: Self Published (Ice Cave)
Length: 13,900 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Sequel, Series, Short Story, Enemies to Lovers, Ex-Bullies/Bullying, College, Past Abuse, Hurt/Comfort, Second Chances, Grovel you Bastard!, Public Sex, Carnivals
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

“Hot-Hands” and Casper have been dating for a month, but their relationship is about as smooth as shattered glass. It doesn’t help that Hot-Hands is racked with guilt over his high school bullying of Casper, or that Casper darts away whenever his boyfriend gets a little too frisky.

Desperate to hang onto Casper, Hot-Hands tries to earn back the trust he destroyed years ago, so they can face their disastrous past and have a chance at a happy future.

Note: Cold Hands focuses on high school bullying for being gay. This is the sequel to Hot Hands and contains big spoilers if read first. Hot Hands is free of charge here.

REVIEW

Hot Hands was by far my favorite story in Erica Pike’s College Fun and Gay series, so you can imagine my excitement when she said that she was writing a sequel. Cold Hands is almost as much of an antithesis to that first story as it’s title. Hot Hands introduces us to Casper — a college student who was brutally bullied, more like abused, in high school for being gay — and his ex-bully and middle school crush Jaime. Casper shows up to college and is surprised and devastated to learn that one of the ring leaders of the guys who tormented him is not only there but also in some of his classes. He does everything he can to avoid Jaime, but doesn’t know that a lot of Jaime’s bullying stemmed from his own awakening homosexual feelings towards Cass. His physical and emotional abuse for most of his teen years have really impacted him. He’s shy and doesn’t understand why he’s still attracted to one of the men who abused him, which also messes with his head. His attachments soon turn to another man, however, a man he starts to call “Hot-Hands” because of the way the man’s hands draw him out and make him feel sexy and interesting whenever he’s accosted by this same hard-breathing man in the dark. It’s a serious case of having a secret admirer, but Casper has his suspicions and soon finds them proven wrong. All that time, Casper had inadvertently been giving himself up to the man who caused him so much pain and now he’s more confused than ever.

Cold Hands resumes this story from Jaime’s point of view, which is a serious change in how we understand the story. Cass is a thinker who constantly analyzes his feelings and thoughts, but because of their unique relationship he knows very little about what Jaime really thinks and Jaime’s motives. The change in point of view starts this sequel off on a different foot. We immediately see that Jaime has real regret about the way he treated Cass in the past and that his feelings now are genuine, and also that he’s a different man now. He understands himself and has grow up in the two years they spend apart. Now, he’s out of the closet and over the shame that he grew up with from a conservative family and town. Still, Cass doesn’t know that. He’s still confused about Jaime’s motives and his own. How can he trust himself and his feelings if he’s seriously considering having a relationship with his abuser?

The real difference between the first story and the second isn’t the point of view, but in the focus of their relationship. If you look at these stories together as one, then this story is the payoff. The first was the setup, the background and the premise — the meetings in the dark with Casper’s “secret admirer” and the subsequent reveal of his real identity — but, Cold Hands is the meat and bones of their relationship. This story carries on to peel back the layers and find out if these guys have a solid base to build any relationship upon and how they go about doing that. The change in point of view facilitates that because by nature of their relationship as abuser/victim, Jaime automatically sees the bigger picture than Cass. Casper is still mired in confusion about his feelings and dealing with understanding Jaime and his actions and in evidence of how that abuse affected him, he’s battling his own self-esteem.

I’m so glad that Erica decided to continue their story because I think that it is only in retrospect that this story feels as if it completed the first. Cold Hands makes the whole story better by giving us a chance to see them work through the consequences of their actions in the first story, and that in turn gives them the HEA they deserve. This also shows in the sex in both stories. So much of the first story takes place while Casper thinks “Hot-Hands” is someone else entirely that a lot of those scenes were exploratory, sexy and hot in a situational way, playing on the mysterious suitor with a dirty and exhibitionist twist. I read that story as a really good piece of erotica with an engaging plot. This story moves their physical relationship into a place of intimacy, so much so that it’s often too difficult for Casper to really handle.

I definitely recommend these stories to all of you, though you absolutely have to read Hot Hands first. Well done Erica and thank you for writing this story so I could spend more time with Cass and Jaime!


AudibleLGTitle: Audible
Author: Dawn Kimberly Johnson
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Length: 18,765 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Short Story, 2013 Daily Dose – Make a Play, Sports, Athletes, Football, Closeted, Media Intrusion, Second Chances, HEA
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Sadonna

BLURB

Three years ago, cameraman Powell Perdue and quarterback Talbot Wojewódka called it quits, citing irreconcilable differences. Powell wanted to live honestly, while Talbot felt he couldn’t and still succeed in professional football. One knee surgery and a trade later, Talbot finds himself back in town and quarterbacking for the Raptors, a struggling expansion team. Powell’s also back, working as a cameraman for KJOC-TV, following two years in Amsterdam and a second failed relationship.

When an interview meant as a publicity play throws them into each other’s path, they’re forced to face a love that never quite died and wounds that never fully healed. For any hope at a win, they’ll have to change up the game. Talbot must brave walking through his closet door and into Powell’s arms, and Powell must risk his heart one more time by standing his ground and giving Talbot a second chance.

REVIEW

This is a fictional account of what it might be like if an active playing in the NFL were to become the first “out” player in the league.

Talbot Wojewódka is an NFL quarterback who has been traded to the team from his hometown.  He’s working his way back from a serious knee injury and hoping for a few more good years in the league to secure his retirement.  He hasn’t planned well and he’s been the victim of blackmail as he has tried to stay in the closet during his career.  His one real relationship with Powell Perdue, his high school/college boyfriend ended when he realized he wasn’t being fair to Powell.  Bot hasn’t had an easy life with his family either and is truly and desperately lonely.  He tries to make friends with his new teammates and then gets thrown for a loop when the local TV station decides to send Powell and a female reporter to profile him for the team.  He’s completely caught off guard by seeing Powell again for the first time since their breakup and the same old feelings surface.

Enter the twin children of the football team’s owner: Melicent, a beautiful straight woman who has designs on Bot and Melvin, a gay man who after struggling with his sexuality for years is making a success out of being a sports reporter.  Melvin immediately recognizes Bot as a closeted player and while he’s pretty harsh with him, it’s something that Bot needs to hear and Melvin shocks Bot into coming clean about his past with Powell.  Melvin ends up being a hero of sorts in this story – to himself and others.

Things don’t really go very well when Powell and his work crew end up at the same bar where Bot and Melvin are having a heart to heart.  Bot makes a move on Powell and ends up a bit the worse for wear.  Both men are torn up about their past breakup and while they obviously still have the same feelings, nothing else has changed.  They don’t see each other again until the season opening game and an on field incident throws them together in a dangerous situation that has far ranging repercussions.

I wanted to like this story more.  I’ve enjoyed the other stories I’ve read by this author, but I felt like there was a little bit too much in this story for the word count.  For some reason, I found all the convoluted family relationships intertwined with the story of Bot and Powell distracting.  The football team owner’s ex-wife being Powell’s boss at the TV station, Melvin and Melicent at the radio station and working for the team respectively, and then ultimately Gingham, the owner himself all are wrapped up in this story with their own issues.  I really would have liked more interaction between Powell and Bot in the present.  While it’s not my favorite story by this author, it’s still an enjoyable read and I hope one day it’s not just a fantasy.


skyhuntersutherlandTitle: Sky Hunter (Skybound #3)
Author: Fae Sutherland
Publisher: Carina
Length: 53k words
Genre: m/m Sci Fi Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Series, Series Finale, Netgalley, Space Opera, Royalty, Second Chances, Secrets & Lies, Unrequited Love, Bounty Hunter, Coup d’état, X-Dress
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Jeret hasn’t looked back since running away from life as a crown prince and joining the Crux Ansata’s crew, but when the Ansata returns to his home system, he finds his father ill and a traitor maneuvering for control. Now that he’s a full-grown man, he can’t just walk away again.

Letting Jeret escape was the biggest black mark on bounty hunter Dagan Nu’aim’s otherwise distinguished years as a royal guard. When he catches Jeret back in-system, Dagan seizes the chance to regain his lost honor and bring the wayward prince home.

Jeret’s not so sure he wants to go, but the reignition of his old crush on Dagan complicates the issue. As the two unravel a tangled plot against the crown, their old friendship lights up with a fiery new desire. And when the traitor strikes and the two men must choose between duty and freedom, neither is certain which to pick.

REVIEW

I’ve been looking forward to this Skybound series finale ever since the first book when I knew I wanted to read Jeret’s story most. I think that a lot of other readers have felt that way too, at least from what I’ve seen. Of all the crew of the Annie, Jeret is the one who seems to have the most secrets. He’s secretive himself, but enigmatic and funny at times, always with a smart quip in response to the others and always wanting to prove himself since he’s the youngest and in many ways considered the baby on board by Torrin. Whether it was intended by the author for Jeret to become such a favorite, I’m not sure. But it does mean that a lot of people who read this series were eagerly awaiting his story, which gives this third book in the series a lot of pressure to stand up to.

Of all the secrets that Jeret could have had… I never expected that he’s a runaway prince! That in itself was a surprise, that I wish that I had found out in the book and not the blurb. But, it’s a good hook to bring people to the story, even if they haven’t been reading the series up till now. The runaway prince is a solid character that always seems to draw in readers. Torrin, Rain and Jeret are the only ones left on the Annie after Cookie left in Sky Runners to live with his new love Neith, who the crew rescued from an intergalactic brothel where Neith had been sold and kept against his will as a whore. Now, with the crew reduced to three and two of those — Torrin and Rain — in a relationship themselves, Jeret feels a bit like the third wheel. Add in the fact that he was always seen as the baby of the crew anyway, and it had Jeret thinking about his past.

When Torrin announces that they’re headed to a planet near the one that Jeret escaped from, he does everything he can to convince Torrin and Rain that heading for a job there is a bad idea, especially when he learns that Torrin has agreed to ferry a shipment that must have come from his home planet. Jeret knows that something is wrong if those on his planet are smuggling off the expensive ore, underneath the nose of the COP, but his caution is ignored by the others.

When they land on the nearby planet, Jeret has no idea that Dagan — once the man who was his guard, his best friend, and the man who held his unrequited love as a 15 year old crown prince — has resumed the search for the heir to the empire under the name of his king. When Jadakira (Jeret’s real name) escaped as he always wanted to do at 15, Dagan lost everything. His failure to protect the prince led to the loss of his whole world and his ultimate banishment from the planet. But Dagan knows Jadi well and it only takes him six months to track his whereabouts and learn about his tenure as part of the Crux Ansata’s crew.

But Jeret, no matter his remaining feelings for the man he once loved as a kid, will not allow anyone to return him to his home planet. He has never had a desire to be king and what he loves most is the mechanics of the Annie, his crew and their adventures in space. His birthright is a cage he escaped years ago. But when he learns that his father, the King, is dying and a traitor planetside is angling to steal the throne, Jeret knows that he has to find the culprit. But he’ll fight Dagan and his “duty” to the King the whole way, and hopefully in the end be able to return to the life he wants to lead.

There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed. There is quite a bit of history between Jeret and Dagan and I thought that their relationship played out beautifully. Both are stubborn and refuse to budge from their ultimate goal: Jeret to return his home planet to the way it should be and then return to the crew of the Annie; and Dagan wants to help Jadi, still not quite understanding his true desires. The fact that Dagan failed in his duty all those years ago is a mark against his pride and he will do everything to return Jadi to his father before his death. The reconciliation of their desires takes most of the book and we really get to see their stubbornness play out against each other over and over, though not too far as to be frustrating. The push and pull between them gave the story the most enjoyment for me, because as the story evolves and they learn to work together for a common goal their true feelings come to matter more than their pride.

On the other hand, I was pretty disappointed in the external plot. The plot to overthrow the king and Jeret and Dagan’s plan to ferret out the traitor. For most of the book the tension mounted and they moved closer and closer but the ending really fizzled for me. First, the traitor was not who I expected, but that was because I never felt as if they were introduced into the plot to even become a suspect. I’m not a big fan of when authors do that. The culprit should have been introduced much earlier. And second because the final confrontation, while a bit satisfying for the characters, seemed a bit… anticlimactic.

So the real interest for me in this story was Jeret, and his love interest Dagan. I enjoyed their back and forth courtship, and I will admit that the tension created by the external plot was more of a device to play into their feelings for one another than the other way around. I think that if you read this story alone, without reading the first two then you might not have the prior interest in the characters to make this a very satisfactory read. I read this because I’d read the first two, and I had an interest in learning more about Jeret. And while I did find what I wanted, this book as a complete story was a little bit disappointing.

So, I recommend this for those of you who, like me, have read both Sky Riders and Sky Runners. For all the books, I found the romances in them the best part of the books. Looking back at this as a series, I would have probably enjoyed more of a central story arc over the whole series that drew them together. But, they are the way they are 😉 And I did find enjoyment from them.


bloodbathory185Title: Blood Bathory: Like the Night
Author: Ari McKay
Publisher: Torquere
Length: 123,500 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal Romance
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Co-Authored, Vampires, Shifters, On the Lam, Past Trauma/Abuse, Cops (FBI), Friends to Lovers, Best Friends, NYC, Paris, Artists (Photographer), Grief, Second Chances, Sexy to the 999s, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Villain, Mythology
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children”.

Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.

REVIEW

These two authors have been one of my favorite writing teams for a while now, and I knew that I wanted to review this book before I’d even heard of it or read the blurb. So when I finally did read the blurb I was even more exited, especially for such a long book. And finishing it took me a couple of days, mostly just because I wanted to enjoy it, so I spent my time reading it totally for pleasure and enjoying every twist and turn.

Evan St. John and Will Trask have a tumultuous past. Roommates their Freshman year of college at Columbia, they soon grow to be friends. Evan is openly gay and an art photography student, always carrying around his camera, while Will is a manly jock through and through. For reasons that Evan never understands, Will sticks by him and the bullying he was experiencing dwindles when people start to realize that Will will aways have his back. As they grow closer Evan starts to understand Will better, including Will’s White Knight Complex, his need to protect and care for those he loves, to an almost fanatical, save-the-day to-the-rescue level.

Their dynamic changes when Evan’s sister is dying of cancer and their relationship grows during the emotional period — Evan is distraught and barely keeping himself afloat while trying to understand and come to terms with her turn for the worse. And Will picks up the slack, in more ways than expected. But the grief sends Evan running to Paris and three years go by, where Evan becomes a famous fashion photographer taken on by The House of Nadasdy, run by famous and infamous Elizabeth Nadasdy, and Will becomes an agent with the FBI.

We’re first introduced to Evan in Like the Night as he escapes Paris during the day to fly to New York City and seek help from Will. He’s a newly made vampire under the gruesome and tyrannical rule of Elizabeth Nadasdy, a modern day remnant of her famous human days as Elizabeth of Bathory. Above all (except herself), she loves beauty and hoards a collection of “children” all turned by her for their extraordinary beauty, which she believes deserves to be preserved for eternity. Evan was a prize for her, and his rejection of her extraordinary “gift” is tantamount to the ultimate betrayal, something she relishes punishing him for. But Elizabeth doesn’t expect the trouble it will take to find and deal with Evan. With him, someone whose beauty hides his intelligence and cunning, are a group of allies who seek one common goal: the eradication of Elizabeth Nadasdy. And of course Evan has Will, his White Knight, ready to stand in front of any threat to his best friend.

I really just loved this book. I took a while to read it because it is long, but it is also totally packed with plot and, just about everything under the sun, making the book seem even longer than it is. There’s an economy to the writing which gives you SO much story for just the first book of a series that it gave me the time and the opportunity to really sink into the story. What came through in this story most strongly for me was the pervasive mood of fear and impending doom. This is all because of the fact that Elizabeth is built up to such supervillain status that she’s made to be almost omniscient, with unlimited power. Add to this a connection between vampires and their sire, or maker, and the fact that Elizabeth could peek in on Evan at any moment and even make him do things or spy on his relationship with Will, or their planned resistance of her make the story suffused with tension.

I found the villainous characters in this novel to be quite interesting. We have Elizabeth who is the typical diabolical character. She relishes in the pain of others and not only causes death and despair because it gets her something (money, fame, power, etc.) but also because she enjoys the suffering of others. She firmly believes that she’s more worthy than anyone else to have the status that she does because of her beauty and the vision she has for the future. But, sometimes diabolical is boring. No matter how outrageously cruel Elizabeth can be, she’s still a character that doesn’t take too much effort to understand. My favorite villainous character is her daughter Anna, who I suspect will become a crucial and central character to the future books. Anna is raised in the shadow of her diabolical mother. She’s always second best, but raised to revel in the same cruelties as her mother. She’s made a vampire both because of her beauty which is similar to her mother’s, but also as a gift from her. But hundreds of years of oppression make Anna rather different from her mother. Though I suspect that they both have similar depth of cruel possibility inherently in them, Anna’s choices are governed by her hate of her mother and her acceptance that her only meaning to her mother is what she can do for her. That makes her cruel, but much more interesting than her mother. And of course, it’s going to be great when the two really turn on one another 😉

Anyway, I’m super excited for the second book. I hope it isn’t too far away. But honestly, I can’t really be sad because this is the first book in a while (that is the first book of a series) that actually gives us enough story to satisfy us for the first installment. 123k words is pretty long, yes, but it allows the book to give full and adequate world-building while also giving us a real story that will be carried on in the second part. We have a full and self-standing plot with only a few loose ends to pick up in the next book. If this is the case for the next books as well, then I can only imagine where this story will go before it ends!

Definitely Recommended!

GIVEAWAY RULES

Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of Blood Bathory: Like the Night by Ari McKay. The giveaway will last until Midnight CDT on Tuesday, July 16. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to the author so the winner can receive their book.

Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.

Thank you and good luck!

GIVEAWAY CLOSED


KM_TheBoyNextDoor_coverlgTitle: The Boy Next Door
Author: Kate McMurray
Publisher: Loose Id
Length: 61,221 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: Kate McMurray Week!, Re-Reads, Closeted, Coming Out, Second Chances, Childhood Friends, Baseball, Kids, Divorce, Nasty Exes, Small Town America, Neighbors, Caregiver
Rating: So So

BLURB

When Lowell moves back to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother, the last person he expects to see living in the house next door is his childhood friend Jase, grown up now and more attractive than ever. Jase had starred in many of Lowell’s teenage fantasies, but Lowell is convinced Jase is straight. And yet, as they rekindle their friendship, it begins to look like Jase might not be so straight after all.

Jase has problems of his own: his troubled ex-wife has allowed him full custody of their daughter on one condition: he never exposes her to his affairs with other men. The arrangement works just fine until he starts falling for Lowell and a whole new world of possibilities opens up for him. But how can he have a relationship with a man and still keep his daughter?

REVIEW

I tried to read this book once before. It wasn’t too long after I first read Kindling Fire with Snow, which I really liked. And… I couldn’t make it through the book. Ultimately, I DNFed it and went on. I think, though I remember little of the reason now, I didn’t have any real hangups with the book, I just couldn’t get into it. And now that I’ve read all of Kate’s backlist, I was eager to try it again. Chances are I was just not in the mood the first time around. In fact, that’s how it seemed as I started reading this again. By the midway point, though (which is where I stopped the first time), I started to remember the reasons I had a hard time reading it. This time around, it bothered me less. Still, I’d probably say that this is my least favorite book from Kate McMurray.

Lowell moves back to his hometown after the death of his abusive alcoholic father to care for his mother and unknowingly moves into the house next door from his childhood best friend and crush, Jase. They’ve both grown up quite a lot in the intervening years. Lowell, the first out gay student at their high school, flew the nest at the first opportunity for the city, where he created a life for himself at NYU and then as a graphic designer. Jase, the popular baseball jock in high school, followed his sport to college where he met his ex-wife and ultimately fathered a little girl. But Layla was the only kind thing during those years. Jase, calling himself a coward, married Karen even though he knew he was gay and went on to try to live the perfect suburban life. It didn’t work out. They divorced when he came out to her just two years ago from the start of the book. Again, his six year old daughter Layla is the best thing that ever happened to him, but her mother is an absentee parent leaving him with sole custody but a mother who drops into town every few months giving her daughter false hope of a real relationship. And besides her own problems with alcohol, her bouts of outspoken homophobia to Jase are mostly a plea for a return to how things used to be an an unwillingness to move on without blaming everything on Jase.

My real frustration with this book are Jase and Karen. For the most part, I feel like their actions and choices are based in solid history in the story, so I at least understand why they make the choices they do. Still, I have a hard time watching them play out when it seemed to create a bit of extra angst that I had a hard time with. I think mostly, though, I wished there were a better balance in this story between the despair that Jase feels toward just about every area of his life with the hope that I needed to make the story feel not to angsty. I recognize that this is a matter of personal taste, so I have no qualms saying outright that it was just me that had a hard time here. I just couldn’t get close to Jase. Even though I understood that he was willing to sacrifice his happiness for his daughter, there are time where he seems hell bent on sacrificing his own happiness just because of his own guilt (not divorce/broken-family guilt, but like, childhood Catholic guilt) and I didn’t feel like I understood how he was raised enough to make that picture clear for me. This is what made Four Corners work better for me. In that book, the flashbacks give a really accurate portrayal of their childhoods, and I felt like that was missing here. I just couldn’t always justify Jase’s choices and I’d find myself getting angry with him. On the other hand, I felt a love/hate relationship with the character of Karen. Partly I feel like I understood the way she was but then she’d say some things that took it a little over the top for me and I’d realize that I just wasn’t sure if I didn’t know enough about her or if she was still a bit of an archetypical villain. I couldn’t make up my mind.

It’s pretty different reading this, though, on the other side of having read and enjoyed all of Kate’s other work. I can see, especially from this book, where she’s really grown as an author. So, please, take this review as one of the many out there because I know there are readers who really liked this book and where the things that bothered me weren’t even an issue for them.