ARC Review: Back to You (Chris Scully)

A journalist who comes home to his sleepy hometown after two decades. A second-chance romance with the first boy he ever kissed. And an answer to the mystery of a missing teenage girl that might either make or break the possible future between the two of them

This book is (nearly) perfect for me in every way. It is MY kind of read.

From the moment it opens with Alex driving his car towards his hometown of Alton Pop. 3,200 I was bewitched with Chris Scully’s atmospheric prose. Alex returns home to visit his estranged dying father, after a call from his older sister. But Alex knows, he also going back to Benji Morning, his former best friend. Once Ben was part of Alex’s childhood life, they did everything together. And Ben was also Alex’s first kiss with a boy. Unfortunately, after Alex’s mother packed up their bags and left their father, Alex ceased to continue communication with Ben…

In hindsight, I suppose I could have Googled him, or found him on Facebook like any other long-lost friend, but I was already in motion, driving the extra hour east purely by instinct, as if Benji were my true north and I the needle on a compass.

However as he arrives in Alton, Alex is involved with a mystery involving Ben’s older sister. Twenty years ago, Misty Morning, disappeared without a trace; her case was considered a runaway. But a little over a week before Alex’s arrival, Misty’s car was found near a lake, and Ben’s mother insisted for the police to re-open the case.

The memory of Misty’s white Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme seeped into my brain, coalescing like a slow-developing Polaroid. Calling it a shit-bucket would have been generous.

Back to You is written solely from Alex’s perspective. While Ben’s POV is missing but I wasn’t completely bothered by it. For me, this is basically Alex’s journey. He is the one returning home. He is the one that needs to make peace with his father and his decision to ‘cut-off’ any communication with Ben. In a way that matters Ben’s is the solid one — like Alex said, his true north.

I was as engaged with the answer to the mystery as much as I did with the romance. Scully cleverly throws some red herrings before she reveals what really happened to Misty all those years ago. She skillfully navigates the dysfunctional family dynamic in both Alex and Ben’s family the serves a role to the mystery that both heartbreaking and thought-provoking.

At the same time Scully steadily develops the relationship between Alex and Ben, which is appropriate considering when they left things, the two men were only in a brink of their teenage years. Alex and Ben need to work through the years that they have been separated, to untangle what they are meant to each other then and now.

To me, this is a compelling story. It fulfills my (reading) heart’s desire for a strong plot and characterizations — and not simply leaning on sexual content. I did wish the epilogue to be more of a firm happily ever after decorated with sunshine and rainbows.

I have been a fan of Chris Scully since the very beginning — this is definitely her best yet and my favorite so far.

RATING: 5 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Back to You
Author: Chris Scully
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance / Mystery
Word Count: 70,500 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 12, 2017

ARC Review: Action (Quinn Anderson)

Action is the second Quinn Anderson’s book I read after her debut last year, Hotline. Unfortunately I have likes and dislikes about this book, and it ends up only within my so-so category…

First off, with having only one perspective, I didn’t feel like I have enough balance. Yes, I loved Pete Grifflow — I loved his babble, I loved his friends, I loved his mom, and honestly Pete’s insecurity issues were a bit endearing (except near the end). BUT I couldn’t say the same about his love interest, Evan Darko. He came off as a bit two dimensional and I always got quickly bored with gorgeous and perfect specimen anyway, which was how Evan was described (at least from Pete’s perspective).

Second, this book is LONG. While I didn’t exactly put it down because I was quite engaged with Pete, but at times I thought that the editor (or Anderson herself) could cut several scenes to make it a bit more effective. And may I say that I really didn’t find Pete’s smoking habit as attractive? Sorry, but I’m not a fan of smoker characters. So having THAT habit written on page annoyed me. Probably would be the scenes I expect to be deleted.

Third, while Pete did experience growth throughout the book, where he gained confidence while being with Evan, but I was not completely happy when even near the end Pete was still a bit in denial about his relationship. Like he wasn’t certain about what Evan saw in him, and he couldn’t even say that Evan was his boyfriend.

ALSO, I wasn’t completely happy with Pete’s decision about whether or not he should be honest about his job as a porn start to his mother.

Having said that, I liked how Anderson sort of “humanized” porn stars. I mean, they like doing what they do. They came to the industry with various reasons and there aren’t any angst, guilt, or humiliation coming from these characters. I also appreciated Anderson’s reaching out to diversity by having a Muslim female character — a friend of Pete — who also kicks ass in my opinion. Sana’s reply to one obnoxious customer at the coffee shop where Pete works his day job is one of my favorite scenes in this book.

In conclusion, I am still going to check out Anderson’s next books. But I hope she steps up her game and gives me a more stellar read than the two books in this Murmur Inc. series.

RATING: 3 out of 5
3-stars

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Action
Author: Quinn Anderson
Series: Murmur Inc. #2
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 97,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: June 5, 2017

ARC Review: An Unnatural Vice (K.J. Charles)

An Unnatural Vice is the second book in K.J. Charles’ Sins of the Cities series; featuring Justin Lazarus, the Seer of London who is famous with his séances, and Nathaniel Roy, son of archbishop (he has left church though) who becomes a journalist. If I am not mistaken, the timeline starts almost at the time around the ending of An Unseen Attraction. Nathaniel himself is a friend of Clem, one of the main characters in book #1.

Nathaniel is dead-set in exposing Justin’s tricks and lies. He thinks that Justin is an amoral man, who makes fortune upon people’s griefs. However he can’t dismiss the attraction he feels for Justin, first time he feels that way for another man since the death of his partner five years previously.

I thought this book was slightly a bit lagging in the beginning with Charles setting up the background, confrontation, and burning attraction between Nathaniel and Justin. While Charles always EXCELS in writing enemies-to-lovers / people with different background — I found myself at times a bit bored with Nathaniel’s inner conflict of being attracted to Justin.

I did loved Justin though — what can I say, Charles’ morally ambiguous characters are always attractive for me *laugh*. Justin doesn’t regret his occupation. People who can afford his séances are not from poor class anyway.

The book picks up its pace when murder and mayhem happens, Justin finds himself in the path of a killer who takes no for an answer, and he seeks refugees at Nathaniel’s. This was when I started to feel fully engaged with the two as a couple.

I loved those times with the two of them conversed about their lives and expectations. My heart sometimes went over for Justin when his confidence was dwindling — when he questioned Nathaniel’s motive for helping him. Because Justin really did take advantages of people and he wondered why Nathaniel was able to look past that.

Aside from the romance, An Unnatural Vice also shapes up the mystery around the missing heir that will be fully concluded in book #3. I, for one, look forward to that one.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: An Unnatural Vice
Author: K.J. Charles
Series: Sins of the Cities, #2
Genre: MM Historical Romance
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Purchase at: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble US, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: June 6, 2017

ARC Review: On Point (Annabeth Albert)

Maddox and Ben have been best friends ever since they were still in SEAL training. While they always have each other’s back, personality wise especially when dealing with love and relationship cannot be more different.

Maddox is a great sniper, but his passion is not the military. He loves baking, he wants to open a bakery, he strives in church activities. Basically, Maddox wants a life outside of the military, and he longs for a committed relationship, preferably with Ben, whom Maddox has been nurturing crush over for years.

Ben, on the other hand, avoid love and long-term relationship. It probably stems from the fact that Ben thinks people change their mind and leave — like his mother, like his ex-husband. So Ben embraces one night stands, sex with a lot of people, wild nights … anything but commitment. His only commitment is the military; and Ben thinks Maddox will always be with him in this case.

Until one mission gone awry, they almost die, and Maddox starts thinking of leaving…

—-

I have been wanting to read about best-friends Maddox and Ben so much, especially after getting a glimpse of Maddox’s feeling towards Ben in the previous book, At Attention. What can I say … friends-to-lovers, people! I don’t think I will EVER get tired of this particular trope. It has been one of my favorites since I read romance two decades ago.

It just evoked ALL THE FEELINGS inside me!

I loved all the tension that happened between the two men, how they approached the change from friends to lovers, how Ben trying to keep Maddox from leaving, how Maddox contemplating between wanting to live but at the same time not hurt Ben in process, I loved reading both Maddox and Ben’s perspectives.

I cannot really say much because that will spoil the whole story. Let’s just say that there was progress happening, characters growth, that wasn’t just because of or due to sexy times. THAT I always appreciate so much in romance. I guess it also helped that while Ben leaned a lot to physical sex, Maddox didn’t :). Plus that epilogue was GOLD.

The only reason why I couldn’t rate it a bit higher was because the beginning was a little muddled with flashbacks and military action. But in overall, On Point is probably definitely my favorite of the series so far.

RATING: 4.25 out of 5
4stars

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:


Title:
 On Point
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Out Of Uniform, #3
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 73,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, iTunes
Release Date: June 5, 2017

ARC Review: Enemies Like You (Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers)

For those of you who have read the FREE novella, Enemies with Benefits, the story will start at Chapter 9. For those who haven’t, well, Chapter 1-8 of this book is basically the novella

Enemies Like You the first installment of Enemies with Benefits series as well as the debut of collaboration between Joanna Chambers and Annika Martin ends up being on the lower end of “just okay” spectrum for me.

My biggest problem to enjoy this enemies-to-lovers romance is because I only cared about one half of the equation, while dismissive towards the other. You can imagine myself being bored with one narration (and skimming a lot!) and wishing that I could read this book solely from one character’s perspective.

Let me explain…

Enemies Like You is written using two narratives. One is Will, the CIA freelance assassin who is dead set to kill Sergei Polzin, the man responsible in killing Will’s bands of brothers. The other is Kit, the British bodyguard extraordinaire who also poses as Polzin’s girlfriend when needed.

I am not familiar with Annika Martin’s writing or how this duo works, but based on her background, being an American, I assume Ms. Martin tackles Will’s chapters and Ms. Chambers writes Kit’s.

I didn’t have a problem with Kit’s chapters. In fact, I LOVED them… I loved Kit. I thought Kit had layers that kept me very much engaged throughout: a bodyguard who cross-dressed on occasions, with an artist soul. Kit didn’t protect Polzin simply because it was his job. Oh no, Kit had reasons to do it and readers would learn about this as the story went on.

It was Will’s chapters that made me struggle so much. I thought Will was very flat and two dimensional as a character. While I could try to suspend my disbelief, the fact that he ended up thinking with his d*ck during mission made me want to get my money back if I am CIA. I disliked how Will’s chapters were basically only providing the physical interaction (sex and more sex: blowjob, masturbation, and so on) of the story.

It was very disappointing for me because I thought Will had a great background for this story. After his army brothers died Will basically had suicidal mission. He became an effective assassin (although I question his reputation during this mission) because he just stop caring. I wish THAT is being more explored. Instead I felt completely detached from Will and wish I could just read more of Kit’s chapters.

In fact, Will seemed to have more nuanced, to be more ‘human’ when he was written from Kit’s point of view…

That is my reason for my rating. I am not sure if I want to read the next books. I love Joanna Chambers; she’s one of MM historical authors who is responsible for my liking that genre (I avoid historical romance before, at all cost). So I want to follow this series for her. But I’m worried that Ms. Martin’s writing might not be my cup of tea (based also from her backlist titles that seem to be more sexy than romantic).

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

RATING: 3 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the author for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:


Title:
 Enemies Like You
Author: Annika Martin & Joann Chambers
Series: Enemies With Benefits, #1
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 251 pages (Amazon)
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchased Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: May 15th, 2017

ARC Review: Tracking You (Kelly Moran)

“You are no star, Gabby. You’re the sky. The rest of us are just circling your orbit.”

Excuse me while I swoon…

Sometimes you have a feeling that a book will be wonderful. This is one of those occasions for me. From the very beginning, I felt my heart being enchanted by both Gabby and Flynn. I loved these two so f*cking much.

Gabby Cosette is the girl-next-door… she is the good girl that everyone likes to be friends with, but not exactly attracted to her as something more. Gabby longs to have someone who wants her for her, who loves her, who worships her, because she is worth all that.

Flynn O’Grady, the middle of the O’Grady doctor, has been born deaf … so he is used to being invisible. People don’t really know how to engage with the deaf boy, do they? But Gabby has been Flynn’s best friend for over two decades. There isn’t a significant moment in Flynn’s life that he can’t think of not sharing it with Gabby. Because of that, he doesn’t act on his secret attraction on Gabby. Especially because Gabby isn’t romantically interested in him – or so he thinks.

Oh, these two *hugs them tight*. I love friends-to-lovers trope, and I think that Tracking You is this trope being written AMAZINGLY WELL. I believed on the process of Gabby and Flynn moving into something more. They have been in each other’s lives since the forever! I could also believe the conflict. With this trope, usually the argument is “I don’t want to risk the friendship” … and that can be dangerous because it is easy to make it lame and repetitive.

Not here though. I could understand how Flynn thought that he was dragging Gabby down. His life is tightly integrated with Gabby. She is in both his personal and professional life. Does Gabby choose this life because she wants to or simply because she is his friend? That as kindhearted as Gabby is, she wants to make Flynn’s life easier … like she did more than twenty years ago when she demanded to learn sign language to be able to communicate with Flynn.

I LOVED the conflict and the internal arguments that happened between both our heroine and hero. I loved Gabby for being so wonderful, gentle, loving, loyal, and tough in her own way. I loved Flynn for being flawed (not because he is deaf, but because he can’t see what is good for him! Stupid boy). And I loved them together.

This is definitely one of my most favorite romance novels of the year. It has almost everything I want … including the grand gesture that put me all teary eyed. I only wish Ms. Moran adds another chapter or an epilogue just to wrap this one with colorful rainbow tie

Now I cannot wait to read Drake’s story.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Tracking You
Author: Kelly Moran
Series: Redwood Ridge, #2
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: May 23, 2017

ARC Review: Intercepting the Chef (Rachel Goodman)

Intercepting the Chef is the first book from new-to-me author Rachel Goodman’s upcoming series “How to Score“. It features rising star chef Gwen Lalonde and Logan Stonestreet, NFL golden boy and quarterback for the Colorado Blizzards who is also best friend with Gwen’s twin brother, Chris. After being fired by her ex-boyfriend celebrity chef and is forced to return home to Denver, Gwen is hired by Logan to be executive chef for his restaurant that he develops on behalf of his mother’s love for food…

I enjoyed this romance — but I must admit that while I thought Logan was such a darling, I had a difficult time to warm up to Gwen. This more or less influenced my opinion.

I know that as a woman, I can be quite hard on heroine characters in the romance books I read. I did applaud Gwen’s determination to fulfill her dream of having her own restaurant. I admired her for being focused on her passion. Because we need females like that too, right? Those who strive to excel professionally; not just in relationship.

Unfortunately, Gwen also felt distant and aloof to me. It was slightly difficult to emotionally root for Gwen because she came up as being dismissive and judgmental over other people’s dreams and issues. Like when Gwen was surprised that her brother did charity (because she always thought of Chris as shallow). Or that Logan didn’t like all of the aspects of football (because Gwen thought Logan enjoyed the glory of the game). For someone who was fired because she assumed that her ex-boyfriend would be thankful of what she did, I was hoping that past experience made Gwen more humble than she was.

I couldn’t help wishing that Gwen to show a softer side once in a while because I found myself taking side with Logan when they had their arguments.

I couldn’t find a lot of faults of Logan. He was warm, and kind, and clearly loved his mother. I felt sorry for Logan because everybody in his life — his father, his agent, his coach, his teammates — seemed to only see him as a franchise. They didn’t care that he was in pain, that he was injured … they only wanted him to bring the win and the money. I wanted to hug Logan and to protect him from all harms. So with Gwen keeping their relationship at arm’s length, sometimes I wondered if Gwen was good enough for Logan.

With this being the start of a series — and I didn’t find any issue with Goodman’s writing — I think I will keep my eyes out for future books in this series. I am quite interested to read romance featuring Gwen’s brother, Chris, or her best friend, Missy. They were two secondary characters that definitely caught my attention here.

 

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

 

 

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Intercepting the Chef
Author: Rachel Goodman
Series: How to Score, #1
Genre: MF Contemporary Romance
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Purchase Links: Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
Release Date: May 2, 2017