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: Finding Home (Meg Harding)

I wanted to see who I was when no one else was around. Turns out I’m the same as I am with him. He didn’t change me. He lets me be me.

I think Meg Harding steadily becomes a favorite author of mine because Finding Home is another satisfying read. There is a charming tenderness to this story with a slow burn(!) relationship development that perfectly fits my taste.

Recently lost his job and separated from his cheating husband of nine years, Jaden Matthews comes to Serenity, Florida, after his passing grandmother leaves Jaden a part-time ownership of a gym with his three half-brothers, whom he never knows existed. Jaden hopes for a change of pace in Serenity, a short vacation to maybe clear his head and to get back on track, while sorting out the business. He doesn’t expect his half-brothers wanting to get to know him better. And he surely doesn’t expect Chase Michaels…

I fell in love with Jaden right from the very beginning — his quietness, his uncertainty, and his awkwardness when facing with three half-brothers and people who don’t seem to understand personal bubble … I was very much drawn into that.

I loved how Ms. Harding makes that personality of Jaden NOT as weaknesses, but more of like his quirks, a real part of Jaden that makes Chase loves nonetheless. Jaden doesn’t completely get a makeover by the end of the book. He’s still Jaden but he is ready to be selfish, embraces chances for himself rather than trying to please others and not to rock the boat.

I loved Chase for befriending Jaden, for taking Jaden the way that he is, and of course by slowly letting Jaden out of his shell. Plus Chase teaches yoga and he has soft heart for rescued animals. How can I not love this guy as well?!

Jaden and Chase’s relationship is sweet and fulfilling, and I was having a wonderful time being in their company. I actually wish for more chapters so I can feel secure with their HEA. Or maybe Ms. Harding can somehow return to this town — maybe with a certain bisexual brother *wink*

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:
 Finding Home
Author: Meg Harding
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 232 pages
Publisher: Oceanside Press
Purchase Link: Amazon US, Amazon UK
Release Date: July 3, 2017

ARC Review: House of Cards (Garrett Leigh)

I admit that I have only read two books by Garrett Leigh and I tend to avoid her works because I am worry about the level of angst. Well, I am satisfied to say that in House of Cards , the fourth entry to the Porthkennack series, Garrett Leigh successfully balances the angst, the drama, and the hopefulness between the two main characters.

Yes, it started with Calum Hardy being down on his luck, losing his place of work and money, with practically no place to go and nothing owned thanks to his bastard cheating of a boyfriend. While Brix Lusmoore has secrets of his own, one that he has been carried along as personal baggage for the past four years.

However, it never gets to the point where I thought the angst was written ‘for the sake of angst alone, you know? It is somber, probably supported by the atmospheric location of Porthkennack, but at the same time it also feels earnest. This town simply becomes sanctuary where all these characters belong.

I loved the slow burn (and oh, how it SLOWLY burns with low level of steam as well! *heart feels content*) romance between Calum and Brix. Although they know each other from a decade ago, that they are friends, but it takes time for both to acknowledge their feelings and to act on it. I loved the contemplative conversations that Calum and Brix have as they slowly learn about one another that didn’t happen the years before.

I loved the connectedness between Calum, Brix, and the rest of the ‘strays’ that Brix collected as part of his tattoo shop crews. Each of them has their own story to tell, although Lee, who steadfastly becomes Calum’s best friend, is the only one with a solid background.

And gosh how I loved the good-for-cuddling hens and the cantankerous cats *laugh*

“There’s a home by the sea for any emmet who’s got the heart for it. My nan taught me that.”
“Did she? What do you think she’d say about my heart, eh?”
“That it was made for mine.”

All in all, for me, House of Cards is a wistful, quiet, and at its core — I think — a very romantic story.

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:

Title: House of Cards
Author: Garrett Leigh
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 66,000 words
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: July 17, 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: Accepting the Fall (Meg Harding)

I first read Meg Harding’s story a couple of years ago — and I think I have read almost all of them. Personally, I think this is her best work so far. It feels down-to-earth with everyday people and real relationship problems. Not to mention this is a slow burn second chance romance that involves a single father and a kindergarten teacher. Needless to say I am a SUCKER for the tension in this book which I think is written very, very well.

Seventeen years ago when their family were both stationed in Germany, Zander and Cole became a couple. However, Zander determined to never let anybody close, because they all leave in the end, so he broke things up with Cole. I LOVE the emotional conflicts that happened at present time between the two men. It is clear that the feeling is still there; still strong even if they haven’t seen each other for almost two decades.

I appreciate that Cole doesn’t immediately give in to his feeling once he acknowledged it and accepts that Zander wants to give their relationship a second chance. Cole was hurt all those years ago and he won’t let Zander get away easy. That is where the slow-burn comes from. It takes time for both of them to be together. Not to mention that when this story starts, Cole has a steady boyfriend.

In fact, that is probably the major reason for me not being able to rate this book higher. As much as I love complicated love stories, anything that involves third person is not easy for me to read. I hate seeing the other person getting hurt, especially if it’s not their fault.

In between Zander and Cole reconnecting there is of course Zander dealing with his daughter. I like kids in my romance, but Savanah isn’t an easy child in the beginning. It does give a perfect excuse for Zander and Cole to keep line of communication open but at times I admit that Savanah tries my patience as well *smile*.

There is another angst included near the end in relation to Cole’s  mother. I’m not sure if it’s needed at all, to be honest. However, I’m not too annoyed by it.

The epilogue, by the way, is perfection *sigh*

RATING: 4.25 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:
 Accepting the Fall
Author: Meg Harding
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 286 pages
Publisher: Oceanside Press
Purchase Link: Amazon US, Amazon UK
Release Date: June 8, 2017

ARC Review: A Ballad of Confetti, Cake and Catastrophes (Helen Juliet)

Nicholas Herald has one task, to sign up a musician for his big sister’s wedding. Of course he forgets all about it and have to scramble with new plan. By chance, he meets a busker playing on city street, so he asks the guy Fynn to perform at the wedding.

Helen Juliet’s A Ballad of Confetti, Cake and Catastrophes is a pretty cute tale about exploring (and finding out) one’s sexuality. I am not sure if I can count it as coming of age, since Nicholas is twenty years old, but it feels like so because of the way Nicholas dealing with his attraction with Fynn. It also feels quite contemporary with the number of reference to popular culture.

Unfortunately, for me at least, this story also quite focused on the wedding preparation. There are a LOT of family members coming in and out of the pages like flurry hurricane. It feels quite crowded and at more than 100k it also became tad too long. I admit that I lost my attention because I wasn’t particularly in the mood to read about too many characters outside of the ‘main’ couple. I wasn’t interested enough to keep track of who’s who — apart from Nicholas and Fynn — which rather affected my reading enjoyment.

Still it is a nice read and well, your mileage may vary 🙂

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:
 A Ballad of Confetti, Cake, and Catastrophes
Author: Helen Juliet
Genre: MM New Adult / Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 100,000 words approx
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchase Link: Amazon US, Amazon UK
Release Date: May 24th, 2017

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

 

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:

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