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: Fair Chance (Josh Lanyon)

There has been 6+ years since the first book, Fair Game, and 2+ years since the second one Fair Play … and I must say that one may not want to read this as stand-alone, especially since the mystery is pretty much related to the case of book #1.

I admit I wasn’t quite impressed with book #2. I wasn’t convinced that it was a needed sequel. So I approached this one with a little trepidation.

Well, guess what, I loved this better than book #2.

One thing that made me happy was that the relationship drama between Elliott and Tucker was pretty minimal. Yes, Tucker will always be protective of Elliott. Yes, the fact that Elliott seems to get himself into trouble by inserting himself to FBI cases will always make Tucker not completely happy. Plus there’s the big question whether Elliott wants to go back to law enforcement field…

However, it is also clear that both men finally make a deal to work through it. They both promise to talk about it and not go into bed angry. In that sense, their relationship is better than the previous book. Thus, I was really happy on that front.

And the mystery was GOOD! I was glued in, especially after Tucker went missing (no it’s not a spoiler, it’s written on the blurb!). There’s always an added suspense to a crime/mystery when the one missing is the MC’s loved one, which what happens here. So, I was REALLY invested with everything!

I did miss Roland though. Elliott’s relationship with his father has always been a delight for me to read; and one of the highlights of the whole series. Roland doesn’t have a lot of scenes but he’s still quite an important figure here. I just wish he had more pages.

Now, there’s quite an important decision that Elliott makes in the professional capacity. Because of that, I can somehow see the potential of this series to have more books in the future. Which, as a fan of Lanyon’s mystery books, will be an awesome thing 🙂

PS: Elliott gets himself a dog!!

 

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:

 


lgcover-9781459293618Title:
 Fair Chance
Author: Josh Lanyon
Series: All’s Fair, #3
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 71,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: March 13, 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

 

11613309

 

 

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: Off Base (Annabeth Albert)

I want to know your story. I want to be more than a footnote to this chapter of your life.

 

At any other days, the level of homophobic behavior coming from Zack’s parents and military ‘buddy’ will turn me off faster than a speeding train. I realize that homophobic attitude is real and it’s a present problem, but I also have come to a place in my reading M/M preference that I want to embrace the happiness/positive representation instead. I wonder if the holiday season helps me to enjoy this book better. I usually feel mellow this time of year — and more forgiving.

Because of that, I wasn’t too bothered with the way Zack handled his closeted self, his keeping secret of his sexuality to his parents, and Zack’s inability to stand up to himself against his SEAL buddies when the gay jokes become too much and enter the blackmail/hostile/bullying territory. Yes, I may be frustrated — Zack is a SEAL albeit still in training, he should be a bad ass! — but I was able to understand his choices.

I will stand with my belief that coming out is personal — and not everyone is brave enough to do it with variety of reasons. I should know. I still haven’t come out to my parents in real life about my asexuality; although my sister knows.

I will not scoff Zack for trying to keep his relationship with Pike a secret — even from people who can and will understand. Besides, there are moments where Zack is willing to step up, like accompanying Pike to the campus art gallery show, or when he console Pack at the vet’s office. I couldn’t be too annoyed by his attitudes… heck, even Pike’s cats love him.

Of course there were also times that I thought of Pike being too much of a kindhearted saint for his sake. I loved Pike for understanding of Zack’s fear. I loved Pike for not pushing Zack before his lover was ready. I wanted to hug Pike so badly when he thought that he might not have the future he wanted with Zack, and had his heart broken.

The thing is, when Zack and Pike are together, they are wonderful. I loved when Zack started to open up to Pike. I loved their romantic moments, in the bathroom, in the bedroom, just at the comfort (and safe) of their home. Their moments were sweet and made me very happy.

I thought Albert was able to balance out the bad situation with the support from Zack and Pike’s friends, as well as showing other military characters who are out with their sexuality. I also thought that the focus of Zack when he was off base with Pike helped ease the bitter taste I had to go through whenever I read that SEAL buddy of Zack making his nasty taunts.

In overall, I love this start of Albert’s new series. Cannot wait to read the next book, At Attention coming in April 2017. There is already a lieutenant with a sad story and I want him to have his HEA.

A little trivia, Off Base is a spin-off from Annabeth Albert’s #gaymers series. Both Zack and Pike first appeared in the third book, Connection Error: Zack is Ryan’s roommate and Pike is Josiah’s friend who’s obsessed with military guys. In fact Ryan and Josiah make their appearance here as well (and Ryan have an update on his relationship with Josiah!).

 

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:


31950854Title:
 Off Base
Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Out Of Uniform, #1
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 73,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: May 30, 2015

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

 

11613309

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: Crushing on the Cowboy (Sarah M. Anderson)

Based from Goodreads Page as well as reading a couple of reviews at Dear Author, this novella might be an expansion of Mitch and Paulo’s story line that was just secondary or being in the background of the other couples at Anderson’s rodeo world.

I thought the story was dry and lacked emotion. It was crammed with Mitch’s personal fear of being outed — since rodeo world was not very kind to gay men. At the same time, I felt that Mitch’s internal conflict as well as the feelings between these men were told to me rather than shown. Maybe because this is the author’s first full jump into the M/M romance, she still tries to find the balance of telling a story from perspectives of two men? In any case, it was rather hard for me to feel connected to Mitch and Paulo that way.

In addition, amidst of broken conversations between Mitch and Paulo (Mitch was not exactly fluent in Portuguese while Paulo didn’t speak English very well), it had too much sex scenes for my taste, instead of relationship development.

I did give a point for one particular thing. I actually thought it would end up in a cliche way … like them being outed in public or maybe Paulo gets badly injured which leads to love confession at hospital. It was nice to know that it wasn’t the case.

ALTHOUGH… at the same time, the ending was way rushed. To me, it felt like it was tying up some loose ends which happened in the other books but the author just didn’t want to explain them all again here.

Maybe Crushing on the Cowboy will work better for the fans of this author’s works, or for those who are starting their experience of reading M/M Harlequin romance. Unfortunately for me, this novella didn’t impress much *shrugs*.

 

RATING: 2.5 out of 5
25stars

 

11613309

 

 

 

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:

30064734Title:
 Crushing on the Cowboy
Author: Sarah M. Anderson
Series: Rodeo Dreams, #3
Genre: MM Contemporary/Western Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: June 27, 2016

ARC Review: Beta Test (Annabeth Albert)

Characters have always been an important element for me to enjoy in a contemporary romance. Once I click with a character and empathize with their journey, including romantic built-up, the probability for me to love the story will be high.

In Beta Test, I fell hard with Tristan. Maybe because he is an introvert like me, maybe because I knew exactly what Tristan feels when he needs a time alone, or when he feels like he hit a quota of social interaction. I can’t help feeling like Tristan and I share a soul spirit or something. So I definitely empathize with him and I cheered hard for Tristan when he fights for his happiness.

Ravi and Tristan are as different as the sun and the moon, but then when they are forced to spend time together — ROAD TRIP, BABY! — they realize that they are actually good together.

Ravi is the extrovert one, the impulsive one. Ravi loves to socialize, involves with various charity works. At the same time, Ravi is the one most likely to avoid any situation that feels uncomfortable for him — case in point, avoiding his sister’s wedding because he doesn’t want to deal with his mother and grandmother.

Meanwhile Tristan is the introvert one, the planner one. He plans everything to the T — with color-coded spreadsheets — to make sure that everything goes well. But at the same time, for me, Tristan shows more of a rebellious streak compared to Ravi, including finding a job in a game developer company which is not what his parents have planned. Oh, and despite Tristan not exactly showing his ‘gayness’, but he doesn’t exactly keep it a secret from his disapproving parents.

So Beta Test is a case of opposites attract done right. Ravi and Tristan’s romance is developed slowly but effectively. You can feel the chemistry, how Ravi and Tristan compliment one another when they are together. Yes, there were conflicts but you know that in the end, Ravi and Tristan definitely learn from each other, from their differences, from their arguments, from their lovemaking, and realize their happy ending is worth fighting for …

The only thing that stops me from giving higher rating is because in the beginning, the story felt a little bit off. It took me a while to get hooked. Maybe because I am not a gamer? Also some of the game talks went over my head, totally didn’t understand any of the references *lol*. However, in overall, this one is another winner from the pen of Annabeth Albert.

 

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:

27286868Title: Beta Test (gaymers #2)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 64,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: May 30, 2015