ARC Review: Off the Ice (Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn)

I am going to say that it’s TWO for TWO for me, when it comes to Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn’s writing partnership, after Permanent Ink. Because I loved this one as well!

Off the Ice is the first book of the new trilogy, Hat Trick, featuring Tristan Holt, a defenseman for Atlanta Venom, and Sebastian Cruz, sociology professor at Georgia State. It has a number of tropes that may attract readers of this genre. Let’s see … student/teacher, age-gap, d/s kink … and well, hockey players!

The two men meet when Tristan enrolls for summer course during his season break and takes Sociology 3201 where Sebastian is the professor. Initially Sebastian — despite his PhD in sociology and his lecture about perceptions, mind you — ends up falling into stereotype trap as he thinks that Tristan is just a jock, who plagiarizes his fellow student’s paper. Boy, I LOVED that scene where Tristan reminds Sebastian about it, takes him down a peg *laugh*. They don’t start dating after the final grade is given though, to avoid breaking the rule.

The main conflict of the book is nothing new, especially if it involves non-straight athletes. Tristan being in the closet, afraid of the repercussion of being an out player, versus Sebastian’s out status and unwillingness to be a secret lover. Having said that, I didn’t think it was angst-heavy. We still have a lot of them being in the state of sexual bliss, outside of Tristan coaxing Sebastian to start paying attention of hockey. Addressing the issue is being kept until later in the book to act as the bridge to deliver the happy ending.

All in all, it’s a great start to introduce readers to the series. I already look forward to reading the upcoming books. I hope the next one is about Ryu, the Venom goalie.

 

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

The ARC is provided by the authors via A Novel Take PR for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

Title: Off the Ice
Author: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn
Series: Hat Trick, #1
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 70,900 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: October 30, 2017

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ARC Review: Tender with a Twist (Annabeth Albert)

Logan Rosner has been holding back a part of him that he knows is true, that he is a Dom despite his baby-face look and posture. But his only experience of coming to a leather scene in Portland ends up with disaster so he knows better to give it another try, especially in small town like Rainbow Cove. But he dreams to have Alpha men as his sub — men like Curtis Hunt, the reclusive chainsaw wood carver of Rainbow Cove.

Curtis Hunt lost the love of his life a couple of years before. Since then, he slightly withdrew from the world, except for his best friend and mother-in-law. He no longer stays in the house he lived before with his partner, he no longer ride his bike; Curtis wants everything to stay exactly the same. Except that Logan is making his heart beats a little faster, and when he sees what Logan is capable to do, he knows that Logan can be someone to satisfy his needs for pain and submission. Even if Logan doesn’t look like his type.

Tender with a Twist (such clever title, by the way) is definitely one of my most favorites from Annabeth Albert. I loved the theme(s) that this book has: from not judging a person by their look, reaching for your dream, finding the courage to show the world outside the person you know you are inside, as well as holding to new love after losing one…

I loved the progress of Logan and Curtis’ relationship. What starts as “lessons in D/s practice” — Logan’s clever idea, to make Curtis agrees to the sexual arrangement between them — turns into something more as they learn about each other’s dreams and fears. And as a reader who usually prefer less to no sex, I devoured each and every sex scenes in this book. They don’t feel gratuitous to me. They feel like progress.

Everything else also feel justified — including the fears that Curtis has regarding this newfound love he feels about Logan, especially when faced with other people’s judgments.

With Tender with a Twist, Annabeth Albert has proven once again why she is one of my must-read authors.

 

RATING: 4.25 out of 5
4stars

 

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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:
 Tender with a Twist
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Rainbow Cove, #2
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 264 pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Amazon Global
Release Date: October 2, 2017

ARC Review: Suspicious Behavior (L.A. Witt & Cari Z)

Suspicious Behavior is the follow-up for Risky Behavior, which was released in May 2017. If the first book plays rather heavily on the procedural/mystery while at the same time developing the romance between Andreas and Darren, this book is more about the consequences of Andreas and Darren shaking up the department (and the city) while navigating their status as something more than professional partners.

Andreas and Darren are basically pariahs at their precinct now. No one wants to work with them because they are considered traitors. Cops don’t rat out other cops. Both men resort to take a case from other precinct; cases that might link to a serial killer that has never been caught.

Urgh, I wanted to smack down the other detectives who make it difficult for Andreas and Darren to do their job. Fuc*king a$$holes! I really don’t get the whole “blue bloods” loyalty thing. Those cops exposed are dirty, damn it! Or maybe I’m never really do well with authority who abuses their power :p.

As for Andreas and Darren, I loved that they were solid, despite the problems from work or Darren’s family (as in his brother’s declining health). I think this time the spotlight falls on Darren. He is dealing with the possibility of carrying the same early-onset Alzheimer’s gene as his brother. Darren worries about that, and he worries that he cannot do his job well.

Previously Andreas is the difficult one, the jackass who doesn’t play nice with his partners. In here though, Andreas accepts his relationship with Darren. He … mellows a bit, I think. Repeatedly Andreas says that he wants to help Darren deal with both physical stress and emotional stress. He also comes forward about his health and relationship status with his daughter.

I definitely enjoyed the change!

The mystery is not as heavy as the first book; we find out who the bad guy is about halfway. I don’t mind though, I enjoyed the change towards more personal plot. Plus reading about Andreas’ interaction with his youngest daughter was ADORABLE!

So another satisfying read for me — too bad I have to wait until next year to read book #3 (damn it!). I mean the BLURB!! It promises intense action!!

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:

Title: Permanent Ink
Author: L.A. Witt & Cari Z
Series: Bad Behavior #2
Genre: MM Contemporary / Mystery Romance
Word Count: 74,700 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 21, 2017

ARC Review: Permanent Ink (Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn)

I am a fan of both Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn so I was really excited to read this collaboration from both of them. BOY this one was good! I LOVED it.

First thing first… maybe I was in the right mood for this book because I enjoyed the daddy kink! It was a kink that I usually avoid, but somehow in here it worked well. Probably because both men owned it! Or probably, like my friend said, “It’s your hormones talking” *laugh*. In fact I vehemently wished that there were more spanking, paddling, and gagging the boy involved… and I was rather bummed that it didn’t happen *pout*.

I know, SHOCKING, coming from me

What I loved the most about Permanent Ink was the complex characters. We have Poe, a 23-year-old brat who loves his graffiti art and probably gives his dad, Landon, a lot grey hairs with his attitude. Then we have Jericho, a 40-year-old tattoo artist and owner of a tattoo shop who also a good friend of Landon. When Poe is arrested once again for vandalism, Jericho offers a job via Landon to help Poe to pay his dad for the lawyer’s fee. It t is a way for Jericho to “pay it forward” because a long time ago, someone gave Jericho a second chance to get his life in line.

I loved that the slow burn — Poe IS the son of Jericho’s best friend, so it’s complicated — but boy the chemistry and tension sparkled between these two. It wasn’t just the romance though, there was personal development too, which for me was VERY important. Poe matured up as the story went along. He realized the importance of tattoo and different kind of art. He became respectful towards Jericho. In short, he GREW up. While Jericho learned a different way to appreciate art and life (“You remind me that life is like art. It isn’t static“); I guess being with Poe made Jericho wanted more of what he was content with.

Another thing that I loved was the description and appreciation of TATTOO ART. I don’t have tattoos but I could feel how this was important for both authors. It became an extra character, I think, in this book

The only thing that I wish to be more present is the relationship outside the tattoo shop. I want to see how Jericho and Landon connect outside of the art. Because I believe that is also important for a long-lasting relationship, right? Oh and also, what’s up with dangling the readers with paddle gift and NOT write in on page, authors?!

As a reader, for me, one of the signs of great writing collaboration is when the two authors can mesh their style seamlessly that I can forget that actually two minds are involved in creating the book. In that point, I thought Permanent Ink delivered. I didn’t know which author wrote which character and I didn’t really care. This book has deliciously sexy romance with two characters I genuinely care about. I cannot wait for the next book in this series — or for more collaboration between Gale and Vaughn!

 

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:

Title: Permanent Ink
Author: Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 67,800 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: August 7, 2017

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