Forgive the Low Star Reviewers, For They Know Not What They Do. Apparently I had a *completely* different experience with this book than most of the other ARC readers, because while this thing wasn’t mind blowing in the slightest, it was a solid romance with a crap ton of sex, characters who both despised and loved each other, and a solid concept for at least a short series. Really, it was fairly standard ish romance – which is all that I really expected here. If you’re looking for LGBT romance, this isn’t it – and never claims it is, despite the author being more well known in that space. If you’re looking for sweet or clean or tidy… this isn’t that either. There is a lot of hard core, rough, passionate, hate filled sex – because that is the space these characters are in after the way life has treated them over the last decade, and the last thing either of them wants to be dealing with is the one that got away all those years ago. And yes, there is an out and proud gay brother – and another brother whose sexuality is less clear in this text – who will be the foci of the next book in the series. Which alone merits reading this series, as *extremely* few authors have the balls to combine different sexualities into the same series – or even write books outside a set sexuality. I’ve actually already started the other book, since I’m also reading it early – for a blog tour, in fact – and so far it continues in the same tone as the others.
Ultimately, I would’ve read this one from the hate filled reviews alone – just because when a book gets *so* heavily panned, I find myself reading it for myself just to see if indeed the hatred is warranted. It wasn’t in the most personally-famous case of me doing this (reading DIVERGENT trilogy because ALLEGIANT got this same level of hatred over its ending), and it isn’t in this book either.
This book, and so far this series, is a refreshing change of pace in so many ways, and is therefore very much recommended.
This review of Forgiven by Garrett Leigh was originally written on January 22, 2021.
Welcome back to yet another Blog Tour from Carina Press, the first of two this week in as many days. Both feature excellent though very divergent tales, and we’re gonna see my own reviews of each, a couple of pages from when the characters first see each other in each, and all of the relevant details to make it really easy for you to jump over to your eBook market of choice and buy the dang books. 😀
First up, we have the most recent entry (and possibly last, if it is a trilogy?) in Annabeth Albert‘s High Heat series, Feel the Fire.
Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:
Feel-Good Finale. This second-chance romance tale, seemingly the last book of this year’s Hotshots series, was a solid way to go out. It is *very* loosely coupled with the previous two books – both prior couples make cameos – but can largely be read as a standalone. Fans of the MM genre will like this one, as it contains pretty well all of the standard elements of the genre. But that actually gets to one of my quibbles with the book. One of the guys here is alternatively described as both demisexual and asexual – which are both elements of the spectrum that don’t get mentioned as much, and thus it is always awesome to see. Yet in playing too much into genre expectations, to me it felt like Albert did the asexual aspect a disservice in almost making it seem that an asexual may just turn out to be a horn dog… with the right person. Similar to a character described as being comfortably childfree winding up with a kid at the end of the tale. (Note, that is just an example – in this particular tale one of the two is actually already a father.) The other quibble? Not enough actual firefighting in this book, particularly relative to the other two books in the series. Though the jobs here are actively away from the front lines, and for what they are, the jobs seem well represented in and of themselves. Still, a solid tale and a satisfying conclusion. Very much recommended.
And after the jump, a 2 page-ish excerpt from near the beginning of the book, when one of our leads learns he is about to run into the other for the first time in many years:
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert”
Slow Burn Yet Ultimately Satisfying. This is a friends to lovers book where *everyone* can see these two guys belong together… except one of them. The deep friendship is apparent from the first words of the book, and Cournoyer does a particularly good job of establishing that up front – to the level that at times it feels like this book should be deep into a series with these two characters as recurring secondary characters, rather than an apparent standalone. Ultimately it hits all the notes fans of MM romance will expect, with a fair amount of drama and fun thrown in. Very well done, and very much recommended.
This review of Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer was originally written on June 16, 2020.
Been a while since I’ve actively done a #HypeTrain post, and while my ARC work has been going strong I haven’t been participating in as many Release Day blitzes – mostly *because* my other ARC work has kept me so busy. But this week we have a special treat – a MM romance set in a community that normally has been a bit more… resistant… to such romances. So let’s get started with this blitz, shall we?
The book in question is Burn Zone by Annabeth Albert, a Carina Press (an imprint of Harlequin) effort, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review distribution sites:
MM Romance Set In The World Of Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers. This is book 1 of a new series that takes a fairly bold and atypical approach – it sets a MM romance in the hyper masculine world of hotshots and smokejumpers – paramilitary firefighter specialists seemingly primarily employed in the western part of the US. (Having spent my life in the southeastern corner of the US, I’ve never heard of these groups outside of this book, Smokejumper by Jason Ramos – which I still need to actually read – and Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers by Brendan McDonough / Only the Brave, the movie based on that book.)
And Albert does an excellent job of combining the genre expectations of MM romance, where the sex seemingly plays as big a role as the actual romance a lot of times, with the real world implications of such a romance in such a world. At least based on my reading of Granite Mountain – my only view into that world before reading this book – the details provided seem accurate, from the way the teams work and effectively live together to the dangers they face both in training and in actual firefighting missions. And even in the larger world, with how uncommon anything beyond “normal” MF romance is within that community and thus the resistance a “non-standard” couple could/ likely would face there with family and friends.
Truly an outstanding effort in the field, I very much appreciate the author being willing to take risks and go into atypical areas. Very much recommended.
Below the jump, an page and a half or so excerpt that IIRC was about 30% ish through the story of the book (no real spoilers within it, and honestly it is a type of scene here that I probably would have asked for even if I had requested a custom excerpt):
Continue reading “#HypeTrain: Burn Zone by Annabeth Albert”
Light And Fun – Mostly. In this installment of the Valentine’s Inc Cruises MM romance series, we get paranormal author Pandora Pine’s effort, and it is indicative of her stylings while only tangentially being related to her overall world. If you’re like me and have been on many cruises, there’s a lot here that will bring back your best memories – including Stingray City in Grand Cayman and the Magic Chair at Mahogany Bay. If you’ve never been on a cruise before, this is a good introduction to what ship life can be. If you’ve been curious about Pine but are a bit leery of paranormal stories, this is an excellent way to see how she tells a story while only having the barest mention of her normal schtick. (And btw, her paranormal stories are awesome, so you should try them anyway.) This is a somewhat standard ish romantic comedy in that there is obviously the fight right before the happily ever after, but really that is the only time this book really veers away from being as light and airy as a cruise is supposed to be. Excellent work, and I’m looking forward to more from both this series and Pine.
This review of Ship Happens by Pandora Pine was originally written on August 9, 2019.
Great Game. If Heffernan’s friend Maggie Dallen’s latest book was a Hallmark Movie of the saccharine sweet variety, this one is closer to one of the rocky road jalapeno ice cream variety. Still mostly funny, but deals with some weightier issues in a mostly sweet manner with a hint of burn-your-mouth spice. Heffernan takes several risks with her characters that are rare, and that is much appreciated by this particular reader. The narrator is a gamer – and not a video gamer, which has gained a degree of acceptance in mainstream modern society. No, this narrator is a *board* gamer. And bi. And one of her best friends is demisexual – an orientation I’ve literally only seen used in *one* other book. And the driving narrative force is a board game tournament. And there are several weighty issues that could drag the book down, but Heffernan deftly keeps the focus on her primary couple as they haltingly get together. Excellent work, I’m very much looking forward to the next one. Very much recommended.
This review of She’s Got Game by Laura Heffernan was originally written on July 31, 2019.
Beyond White Hot. In this book, Jasper and Harrison finally get their story. But as always with a Carly Marie book, there is a kink involved here – and it involves Greg Joseph, one of the Navy SEALs introduced in Book 2 of the series. Complete tale in regards to Jasper finally becoming comfortable with himself, but several unresolved – and set up on a silver platter – issues remain for a blatant sequel, the first chapter of which Marie provides at the end of this book.
This review of Close to Home by Carly Marie was originally published on June 27, 2019.
Strong Story, Abrupt Ending. This was a strong story of two women brought together by circumstances largely out of their direct control… wherein such circumstances happen to be a prison riot on the moon. Excellent tale from both the military and business sides, and without too much “science fiction” other than the setting itself (and *some* of the tech, but that level of tech is rarely mentioned in the story). Other than the very abrupt ending that feels like the author wanted to end the book with the final words of the last chapter and only tacked on an epilogue after an unknown third party insisted on it, the story was amazing. The ending was *almost* enough to drop it a star, it was that jarring. Still, a very much recommended book.
This review of Across the Dark Horizon by Tagan Shepard was originally published on June 4, 2018.
Masterful, With a Singular (non-fatal) Flaw. 20 years ago right around now, I gave an extemporaneous speech in my high school speech class that told this fantastical tale of alien adventures that took place over an extended time period. I thought it was an awesome story, and I had fun telling it. I thought the speech went amazing! And then my classmates and teacher started chiming in just absolutely eviscerating it. As it turned out, I had forgotten the very premise I had been told to work with: that the story had begun just the night before.
This book is an absolute masterpiece of a romance, with the fairly explicit sex MM romance is somewhat known for. The primary characters are charming in their own ways, and each has their flaws that are never glossed over as is the case of some tales in the general romance genre. The settings are amazing, and the extended time in the remote southeastern corner of Washington State (I googled the location) was astounding – it worked to further the plot while also enhancing the story.
The one flaw this story has is the same one my speech had all those years ago – in telling such a superior tale, the author gets his timings mixed up quite a bit. Things that happen overnight are spoken of in the section after speaking of things that happened over a much longer period of time,and this is a recurring problem of this tale – enough that I felt I had no choice but to ding it a star, as a one time blip of even that level could have been simply noted in this review yet forgiven on the rating.
Truly a masterful work, and I want to read the stories alluded to in the epilogue… 😉
This review of Aiden Inspired by Blake Allwood was originally published on April 18, 2019.
Ronan Expects A Friend… And Gets A Father. This was my first book of Pine’s long running Cold Case Pychic books after having read both of the spinoff series Ghost Detective books so far. And despite being book 11, a reader truly can come into this series and not be lost – said reader will just know how several things turn out over the previous 10 books that will be spoilers to those tales, but with this being a romance series to begin with most of them are fairly obvious anyway.
In this particular tale, series original Ronan O’Mara answers the door as he heads back to his first day at work in several months expecting a friend… and finds his father there, asking for his help. The mystery here is fairly typical of Pine in my experience, with mostly detective based questioning people and finding evidence of things with a few tense moments of confrontation in semi-dangerous situations.
Great read, and a solid entry point into the series if you don’t mind the mild spoilers. Very much looking forward to more.
This review of Dead Wrong by Pandora Pine was originally published on April 10, 2019.