ARC Review: Barrel Proof (Layla Reyne)

If I imagine Barrel Proof as a three-act drama, for me the story picked up starting from the second-act, when Aidan, Jamie, Mel, and the rest of the involved characters raise the stake when dealing with terrorist Pierre Renaud and his plan to create market chaos. I really liked the pace from that point on. It was quite thrilling and the actions were all worth it.

However, it turned out that I still carried grudges from the previous book, in which I was disappointed with Aidan. In the first act, Aidan finally discovers the secret that his lover slash partner Jamie and his boss slash sister-in-law has been keeping from him regarding the truth behind Aidan’s ex-husband’s death. I’m not going to end up ranting in this review so I’m going to make it short: I thought Aidan was acting immature, hypocritical, and GAH, such a drama king.

I really liked Jamie though — in fact, I thought he carried the case way more than Aidan. I loved Jamie for his ability, loyalty, and all around bravery. Personally, Jamie deserves more than that drama king Aidan. But well, I guess his heart speaks differently *shrugs*.

Overall, it is a nice series and I think can satisfy most MM readers.

 

RATING: 3 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:
 Barrel Proof
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Agents Irish and Whiskey, #3
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 62,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: August 7, 2017

ARC Review: Arrows Through Archer (Nash Summers)

One morning I woke, but the two halves of my heart did not.

 

I admit, Nash Summers’ writing is as beautiful as ever. And I’ve always been drawn to all those lonely people in my romance. Add with quiet setting, all the way in Canada that provides a chance for two souls who are connected by heartaches to connect without a lot of intrusions… this book just screams my name. Unfortunately, I’m not completely in love with it in the end.

I loved Archer … my heart went out to him. While I might not completely understand his state of mind, but I thought Summers was able to describe the raw emotion of grief. I wanted so badly for Archer to be able to pick himself up and be happy again. It might took Archer a while, even skirting into a destructive path after Mallory pushed him away the first time

However, I thought Archer was a survivor at the end of the book, with little help from few people that become important to him. I loved that Archer wanted to be the best person he could be, for Mallory, for his family, but first and foremost for himself.

I wasn’t completely happy with Mallory though. Sure, he was able to gently coax Archer out of his shell during the recovery period, and I liked him then … but darn, what he did afterwards made me quite angry. No matter his reasons considering Mallory was the adult one here (he seemed to bring up the age difference a lot), what he did to Archer was an a**hole move.

I was waiting for Mallory to do more grovelling. I wasn’t happy that Mallory only realized his mistake because ** SPOILERS ** Archer happened to visit Banff again for his work ** SPOILERS **. If Archer never came, would Mallory EVER try to fix everything? *hmph*.

Oh, and this is a matter of taste for sure, but I wasn’t a huge fan with the whole ordinary people finding goodness and feel of control with guns. I am just not a fan of guns in my romance, except if necessary for law enforcement officers … or gun kink)

In conclusion, Arrows Through Archer is a lovely read, even if not completely satisfying for me.

By the way, I was so thankful for Danny as a character, for his determination to keep Archer afloat and his acceptance for the relationship. In fact, Danny was probably one of my favorite secondary characters, ever!

Possible triggers/tags: grief, loss, age difference, family, mentions of suicide, recovery, hurt/comfort, homophobia

RATING: 4 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:
 Arrows Through Archer
Author: Nash Summers
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 264 pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchase Link: Amazon US, Amazon UK
Release Date: June 12, 2017

ARC Review: Cask Strength (Layla Reyne)

** THIS REVIEW IS SLIGHTLY SPOILER-Y, PROCEED WITH CAUTION **

I wasn’t happy — strike that, I was frustrated with the relationship drama in this one. I thought both men were being idiot (Aidan’s case) and whiny (Jamie’s case). I am going to rant now — so excuse my language — because Cask Strength was totally NOT what I was expecting the sequel of the promising Single Malt to be, at least in terms of the relationship.

So five months later, Aidan is back to his old ways of being a horndog, refusing to commit to Jamie. He is dating other men, even if he still has sex with Jamie. His reasons? Because he doesn’t want to get close to his “Whiskey”, because people getting close to him tend to be in harm’s way, and he doesn’t want to risk it.

Well, BULLSH*T. They are FBI agents, for God’s sake. Their job can be dangerous in the first place. What kind of a reason is that?! So f*cking lame. Plus I truly disliked Aidan being written a player when just few months ago Aidan was worrying and feeling guilty of jumping into new relationship with Jamie too fast. You know, considering his husband has only recently DIED! What the f*cking wrong with you, Aidan?

Sorry, it was NOT how I pictured Aidan would behave, and it left bitter taste in my mouth. Does Aidan have a complete character surgery somewhere between the release of Single Malt and this one?

Then there was Jamie — smart and competent Jamie — who is sadly being reduced into someone who becomes jealous of Aidan’s other men, then getting extremely upset because he realizes he doesn’t want to share Aidan, and he is falling for the older man … that it sort of interrupting how Jamie do his job. But then Jamie is going undercover, and BAM, there is his ex-lover there, muddling this already complicated relationship with Aidan. It made me want to scream, “Get your head out of your a**, Jamie! For God’s sake!

Oh, how I am NOT a fan when the relationship drama disturbs the working professionalism *grumbles*. Maybe this kind of supposed to offer angst for readers … but instead of being emotionally engaged, I found myself fuming and wanting to knock some senses to both men instead.

NOT a good reading experience, I tell you. Which is why I have to settle with my low rating.

On a better note — I was kind of intrigued with the gambling/identity theft case involving the basketball players. It was also fun seeing Jamie acting as the assistant coach, even if it was only for undercover and only for a little while.

Things were also moving forward with the other case surrounding the death of Aidan’s husband, Greg, as well as his work partner, Tom. Jamie was able to find more clues and answers — even if it still ended it a big twist! That twist is a great hook to ensure that I will NOT miss book #3 for sure. Let’s just hope that Aidan and Jamie clean up their mess and being a solid couple/partner next time I read them.

 

RATING: 2.5 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:
 Cask Strength
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Agents Irish and Whiskey, #2
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 61,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: May 1, 2017

ARC Review: At Attention (Annabeth Albert)

Lt. Apollo Floros loses his husband four years ago, leaves him a single dad with their two twin daughters to take care of. Dylan is the younger brother of Apollo’s best friend, 10 years Apollo’s junior, who currently needs a place to stay while he works his summer job. Dylan had huge crush for Apollo when he was a teenager … and he definitely still has strong feeling for the older man.

Personally, I think second-chance romance about a widower (or widow, in M/F case) where the first love died can be quite tricky to enjoy. As a reader, I must be convinced that the second love doesn’t simply substitute the first love. But, I don’t want the first love to be a strong shadow that overwhelms the second romance. At the same time, I also don’t want the first love to be easily forgotten to make way for the second love.

Yeah, like I sad, tricky.

Well, I would like to say that, for me, Annabeth Albert’s At Attention delivered. Albert plays the emotion and tension between the two men quite well. I enjoyed Apollo’s hot and cold attitude — yeah, sure, it might be frustrating to read at times, but it was right up my alley and I gobbled it up.

Apollo has a reason for acting like so — the combination of losing his husband and Dylan being younger, and a brother of his best friend for that matter. I will probably not like it as much if Apollo just jump Dylan’s bones from the beginning!! I thought the pace of the relationship was just right. Plus it gives me that somber moment that of course made me cry, of course

Besides Dylan held his own!! He is good with Apollo’s kids, he is quite understanding … and at that final moment, Dylan knows that he cannot force Apollo to deal with his loss. I loved how Dylan told Apollo that he needed grief counselor, that clearly Apollo was not okay. I loved that Dylan stepped back to give Apollo his space. I was proud of Dylan for that because he shows Apollo that he wasn’t that kid with crush anymore. He has grown up and he deserved Apollo’s respect — and if Apollo wants him back, Apollo needs to work for it.

This is another winner from Albert for me. I cannot wait to read book #3 though because FRIENDS-TO-LOVERS! Yay!!

RATING: 4 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:

33280694Title: At Attention
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Out Of Uniform, #2
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 73,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchased Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Books
Release Date: April 10, 2017

ARC Review: Single Malt (Layla Reyne)

Single Malt is the first book of — what I assume will be — Agents Irish & Whiskey romantic suspense series. I assume it will be a trilogy, since currently there are three titles being listed; all will be released this year. I feel like I need to include advisory that Single Malt ends in sort-of cliffhanger situation. Not exactly related to the main characters’ life and death context, but there is a newly-surfaced information that will definitely play a SIGNIFICANT role to the development of the main arc.

After losing his husband, Greg, as well as his professional partner of 15-years, Tom, FBI Agent Aidan “Irish” Talley is now off undercover job and being transferred to Cyber. He is partnered with Jameson “Whiskey” Walker, twelve-years his junior, former two-time NCAA champion who turns to be a whiz in computer and hacking. Aidan’s boss wants him to train Jamie to be field agent, but at the same time, to work together to solve the accident that took away Greg and Tom’s lives.

I thought Layla Reyne — a new-to-me author — was able to write a balanced romance and suspense/action in this book. The chemistry between Aidan and Jamie is apparent. At the same time, the big case that they are dealing with, a hack threatening a high-security bio-containment facility which leads to potential deadly dirty bomb attack, is engaging. I enjoyed both part equally, even if sometimes the technobabble — oops, sorry Jamie — I mean, technical jargon went over my head.

For me, both men were likeable. Although I might be more attracted to Jamie. I couldn’t help it. There was more than meets the eyes with him. Jamie might used to be famous as basketball star, but he clearly knows his way around computers, and man, I love brainiacs. When Jamie shows his set of skills with hacking codes? So sexy! *grin*

There might be times when I thought Reyne was more “telling” than “showing” though; especially dealing with Aidan’s situation: his guilt over feeling attracted to his younger partner, and the fact that it has only been 8 months since his husband died. I felt that there could be a lot of tension, and feels, and hurt/comfort moments that weren’t fully materialized. But maybe I will get more of that in the next two books. There are still a lot of room for the relationship between Irish and Whiskey to progress. For a beginning, it was enough.

Like I said in the beginning, there is a cliff-hanger situation. I felt like I should’ve seen the twist coming. It is kind of a familiar “thing” in mystery/suspense genre. But I didn’t, not at all. So that was a good kind or surprise.

Bottom line, I enjoyed this. Can’t wait for book #2 coming in May.

 

RATING: 4 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:

singlemaltcoverTitle: Single Malt
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Agents Irish and Whiskey, #1
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 68,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: February 27, 2017

ARC Review: Connection Error (Annabeth Albert)

I LOVE Albert’s gaymers series so I jumped into the chance of requesting the ARC edition from Netgalley. After I finished, I found that I enjoyed it slightly less than the previous two books but still a very good read.

My biggest obstacle was probably because I couldn’t see where the romance was going, especially from Ryan’s point of view. It was easier to see what Josiah (the adorable younger man) wanted — he was into Ryan right from the very beginning. Despite the foot-to-mouth problem that Josiah was having when he first discovered that Ryan was a (view spoiler) but he was quickly redeemed himself. It was clear he didn’t see Ryan as different because of the extent of his injury. I truly loved him for that.

Ryan, on the other hand, was a little bit difficult for me to connect. I had to give KUDOS first for Annabeth Albert to have a not-physically-perfect character here. Plus the progress of Ryan of getting better, with the therapy and the surgery felt right. Nothing was easy for him. I could feel Ryan’s frustration, for someone who usually be in control, in command, to find himself dealing with compromise was definitely a challenge.

It was in terms of him approaching the relationship with Josiah that became a little bit of an issue. I wonder what Ryan wanted. Later on I could slightly understand that he was trying to make Josiah his project because in the way he could help Josiah made him feel like he could still do something. But was it simply because of his need for control or was his ego of wanting to feel needed? Was it some sort of hero complex? Again, it was more difficult for me to get Ryan which influenced my enjoying the story.

Oh, also, I felt that Josiah and Ryan spent more time apart rather than together because they lived in different part of the country. So often, they communicated via means of technology only, a lot of emails here back and forth … and I have never been patient with epistolary writing.

Due to Ryan’s health situation, there wasn’t a lot of steam here, but it also felt right. It would probably annoy me to no-end, if the story become highly charged with sex scenes when Ryan had to focus on getting himself to be better.

So I thought the characters and the plot to be well-written and strong. I liked that the ending didn’t feel like Happily Ever After, that the two men were still working on it but felt as SOLID.

I enjoyed this series SO MUCH. Probably more than Albert’s other series, Portland Heat.

RATING: 4 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:

28807263Title:
 Connection Error
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: gaymers, #3
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 66,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: September 05, 2016

ARC Review: In the Distance (Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin)

In the Distance is the third book in Nikka Michels & Eileen Griffin’s “In the Kitchen” series. After dealing with Ethan and Jamie’s relationship in the previous two books, this one brings forth Tyler Mitchell and Jamie’s best friend, Trevor Pratt.

I was excited when I saw the ARC being offered in Netgalley because I was very much fond of Tyler. Tyler first starts his story in book 2, a homeless young man who practically has been adopted like little brother by Ethan and Jamie then works his way around the kitchen, being taught by the two chefs. In this book, Tyler juggles the life as culinary student as well as the sous chef for Ethan and Jamie’s bistro.

I thought Tyler is a darling – he is determined to ‘pay forward’ the kindness that have been given to him by Ethan and Jamie. He volunteers at shelters and is also involved in shelter’s program at local schools. He comes a long way from that homeless teenager who is thrown out of his home because of his sexuality. It is always an admirable traits – someone who paves his (or her) way out of bad situation and makes the most of it.

Although, Tyler also suffers from trust issues – stems from being cast off by the people who supposed to love him unconditionally. This frustrated me somewhere along the way; because I thought Tyler is being too harsh to Trevor, when the other man made a mistake of telling Ethan and Jamie about Tyler’s ‘secret’. It is clear for me that Trevor only wants the best for Tyler, even if he might done it wrong. I admit that I wanted to reach inside the pages, took Tyler aside and told him to stop being too stubborn about it.

BUT, at the same time, I did enjoy reading how Trevor must work harder to get Tyler. Trevor is quite the opposite of Tyler – he comes from a privileged family, whose parents still love each other, being together for over three decades, and accept their son’s sexuality. Ethan mockingly calls Trevor “Trustfund” and I guess Trevor is used to get his way a little easier. Heck, even when Trevor spectacularly made a mess over his friendship with Jamie, when he contributed to Ethan and Jamie’s break-up, Jamie didn’t cut off friendship with him. So this is a new territory for Trevor, working hard to get Tyler to be friends with him, understanding Tyler’s issues about money, and so on.

There is a ten-year age gap between Trevor and Tyler but I was happy that it didn’t become a huge problem between the two of them. I mean, reading about one agonizing about age difference can be repetitively boring. Instead these two strike friendship before moving forward to the next step in their relationship. Yes, Trevor is careful because Tyler is younger than him, but he never rationalizing the age gap by pulling himself away from connecting with Tyler. We do get Ethan and Jamie being over-protective meddling brothers, but Tyler has a mind of his own, and refuses to just let both men control his choice.

Bottom line, the story has great slow-build progress of two men falling in love and maturing up together in the process. Definitely MY kind of story, which is why this is my favorite book in the series so far. I wonder if the authors plan to continue the series. Maybe with Nick, the young man from the LGBTQ-shelter who also starts working at Bistro 30? I would love to read about him…

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

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:

{EEB8C335-52AD-4057-8FE3-8DA4E98AB89B}Img100Title: In the Distance (In the Kitchen, #3)

Author: Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 104,230 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: June 15, 2015