#BookReview: On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss

ATypical WWII Novel. In several ways, this is a typical WWII romance-ish novel, maybe of a Russian kind (ie, hard times all over the place, can be seen as depressing at times, yet ultimately a story of survival and love). In many other ways, this is a very *atypical* WWII novel. For one, it doesn’t take place in the more common Western Europe setting, but instead mostly in Soviet forced labor camps. For another, well, the whole “Soviet” thing doesn’t get seen too much in Western WWII historical fiction novels. And finally, this is actually directly based on the real-world travails of the author’s grandparents, making it the first time I’ve seen a novel of the type I myself hope to write someday. Overall truly a tremendous work, and very much recommended.

This review of On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss was originally written on November 30, 2020.

#BlogTour: The Secret Ingredient by KD Fisher


Once again we come to a Carina Adores Blog Tour, which are always awesome. Seriously, I haven’t encountered a bad book in this program yet, and I’ve found several authors doing this that have taken me to places I’d never been before – and that is always awesome. 🙂

This time, we’re looking at The Secret Inredient by KD Fisher.

Here’s what I had to say about it on Goodreads:

Fun Foodie FF Romance. This is a lesbian romance where the two ladies are about as opposite as it gets – one is a trained chef working for a corporate restaurant group, the other is a legacy baker who took over and revitalized her mom’s shop. As a short romance, it works well in that it hits all the requirements of the genre (yes, including sex) and executes each solidly – but you’re not going to get the conflict and growth of a 100 page longer book. Though there are still significant, more complicated than Hallmarkie, conflicts here. Ultimately a fun book that hits all the right notes and even manages to highlight the particular region it features very well. Very much recommended.

And below the jump, a page-ish excerpt from near the front of the book (Chapter 2, IIRC):
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#BlogTour: Feel The Fire by Annabeth Albert

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:
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#HypeTrain: Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters


In this second of two weekend-bookending #HypeTrain posts, we’re switching from MM romance to FF romance and from the high-stakes world of Hotshot firefighters to a more all-too-real-for-many-of-us tale of broken friendships and a road trip.

Today’s book is Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review channels:

What Happens On The Road Trip… Won’t Stay On The Road Trip. This was a fun road trip tale featuring classic road trip items, much angst, some increasingly hot sexy times through much of the back half (ish) of the tale, and, since it *is* a romance, a HEA to close. I’m not quite as prolific in the FF romance ARC scene as MF or MM, but this largely follows the standard romance format no matter the particular sexualities. (Though in my experience, MM tends to have the most sex for some reason.) If you like romance at all, this is definetly a book to try out. If you like road trip tales at all, this is definetly a book to try out. If you’re looking for a good summer read or even trapped inside (for whatever reason 😉 ) read, this is absolutely a good book to try out. Very much recommended.

As I mentioned, this really was a fun book, and I hope you’ll be open to trying it out no matter what you normally read. 🙂

#HypeTrain: High Heat by Annabeth Albert

In this first of two weekend-bookending #HypeTrain posts, we’re returning to the world of MM romances set in the world of hotshots and smoke jumpers that Annabeth Albert created a few months ago now in this second book in that series.

Today’s book is High Heat by Annabeth Albert, and here’s what I had to say about it on my normal review channels:

Less Smoke, More Fire. In this second book in a new series, we follow one of the people who was featured in the first book as he continues his recovery from events there. And the book really is more about recovery and coming to terms with limits rather than the more overt firefighting of the first book. Here we get a much more personal drama rather than being so intensely focused on the overall world of Hotshots and Smoke Jumpers as the first book was. And there is a *lot* more sex. Which fans of the genre will likely appreciate. But much less actual firefighting, though one scene in particular *strongly* evokes the real-life drama of the Yarnell Fire and the book Granite Mountain/ My Lost Brothers by Brendan McDonough or the movie Only The Brave that was based on that book. Ultimately a strong book in its own right, it manages to hold its own in this world and in this particular culture while being free to be its own entity… which is actually a large theme in the book itself. Very much recommended.

These have been my first books from Albert, and she is truly showing a solid range of overall styles here, going from intensely in the overall culture of Hotshot firefighters in the first book to a more character driven focus here. Truly impressive work, and I hope you’ll check it out. 🙂

#BookReview: Undeniably Yours by Brittany Cournoyer

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.

Featured New Release of the Week: Under An Alaskan Sky by Jennifer Snow

This week we’re looking at a solid romance set in the wilds of Alaska. This week we’re looking at Under An Alaskan Sky by Jennifer Snow.

As I say in the Goodreads review below, this was a solid romance novel that has most everything fans of the genre will want, and is a good enough story within that lane that even those who haven’t enjoyed romance novels before might like this one. Also, a solid Hallmark movie style romance, for those into that kind of thing.

What *really* drew me to this book though was Snow’s new alternate identity. You see, last year a book came out that I described as “one of the darkest, most disturbing books I’ve read in quite some time”. That book was All The Lovely Pieces by J.M. Winchester. Which happens to be this alternate identity of the author of this Hallmark-type romance, Jennifer Snow.

So, the dichotomy intrigues me – and points to Snow/Winchester’s strength as a story teller. To get such divergent books from the same mind is quite remarkable given the fact that so many authors tend to stick to one particular genre and, usually, even one particular type of story within that genre. And thus this week I urge you to not only pick up this particular book, but also the other one – which was a Featured New Release when it released last summer to boot.

As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
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#HypeTrain: Burn Zone by Annabeth Albert


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):
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#BookReview: Charming the Cheerleader by Maggie Dallen

Another Solid HS Romance from Dallen. This one perhaps has a bit more internal drama than many of Dallen’s stories, but overall is typical of her style – short ish (less than 200 pages on this one apparently) and Hallmarkie. She dives deeper into the issues her characters are facing – including new schools, new families, and other new dynamics – than she usually does, and it works well here. Very much looking forward to seeing more in this world. Very much recommended.

This review of Charming the Cheerleader by Maggie Dallen was originally written on January 12, 2020.

Featured New Release of the Week: Once Upon A Cowboy Christmas by Soraya Lane

This week we are looking at a romance book written by someone I previously knew as a historical fiction author. This week we are looking at Once Upon A Cowboy Christmas by Soraya Lane.

The book itself is, as I titled the Goodreads review below, a “solid romance”. It hits billionaire, cowboy, and second chance tropes all in one book, which is a feat unto itself at times. And it works well as an entry point into the series, even though it is Book 3.

But really what I want to talk about here is that dichotomy between the genres Lane writes in and how brave – and skillful – she is for doing so. Some authors may shy away from risking splitting their fan base or not wanting to take the effort to grow a “second” fan base, and let’s face it, far too many readers will absolutely refuse to read outside of a given genre. I’ve spoken with those types online numerous times, and honestly I just don’t get them. A good story is a good story, no matter the genre or language or anything else. And Lane has conclusively proven to me that she can give me a good story in at least two different genres – so I for one would *love* to see her try even more. 😀

I absolutely love when authors are willing to take risks, whether that means staying within one genre but doing nearly every subgenre possible within it, ala the “Modern Day Master of Science Fiction” Jeremy Robinson or pushing the bounds of their given genre ala Laura Heffernan’s Gamer Girl series or outright writing in multiple genres as Lane does. And I genuinely wish more authors had the balls to do it and more readers had the balls to follow authors they know can give them good stories no matter where that author decides to push themselves. Everyone involved in publishing, from the authors through the publishers through the sellers and all the way to the readers themselves would be stronger for it if authors would challenge themselves in this way. I get playing it safe and the reasons there, and let’s face it, there is arguably a steadier income stream from the author/ publisher side when authors choose to go that route. But, well, I’m a guy that has always lived by the words of Garth Brooks’s Standing Outside the Fire: “Life is not tried it is merely survived if you’re standing outside the fire.”

Take the risk. Live a little. If you’ve never read romance before, give this one a try. If you’ve never read Lane’s work before, this is as good a place as any to start. Stop reading this review and go buy the book already. 😉

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