Historical Romance

Review: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

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Title: Unnatural
Author: Joanna Chambers
Genre: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 24 Nov 2015

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars




Synopsis


Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter. 

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down. 

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another. 

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Review


This is a spin-off story from the Englightenment series, a favourite historical mm romance of mine which I read earlier this year.

It's a slow burn romance full of tenderness and deep emotions. It focuses heavily on friendships and family and explores the difficult road for two gay men in Regency England from most dear friends to lovers.

The story is told alternating between in the past and the present and the intrigue and tension is slowly building. Iain and James are childhood friends and seeing how their relationship developed and changed and deepened (and sometimes faltered) as they grew up and became adults allowed the readers to experience in full their strong connection. There was admiration initially (on the part of James for Iain), mutual respect, shared interests and a growing physical attraction.

Ms Chambers has created some very engaging characters - James is just so lovable and sweet. He appeared fragile and vulnerable, but he was surprisingly strong and determined. James was sure of his feelings for Iain, loyal to him, yet no doormat but a proud young man who knows his worth and will not settle for less than he deserves.

Iain is wonderfully complex, so much more than what we saw from him in Enlightenment trilogy. His story, his growth into a fine young gentleman, a soldier, a devoted son who did his best to please a father who didn't deserve and couldn't appreciate his efforts. Iain's inner struggles, his moral dilemmas were heart-breaking at times and make him a really intriguing character, someone I cared deeply for.

I loved how the romance progressed slowly. It was a revelation for Iain who fought so hard against it, something he had never even dreamed of. Iain and James navigate a very close, very intimate friendship into a love relationship which they have to keep a secret in a strongly homophobic historical context. We see the POV of both characters which really gave depths and intensity of the story.

For fans of Murdo and David, I have to say there is a particularly pleasant scene with them at the beginning of the book that just melted my heart. A multitude of side characters in the story creates a rich historical background and a detailed pictures of the social situation at the time,

Overall, it's a lovely, tender romance, a recommended read for fans of the Enlightenment series and Ms Chambers' elegant and engaging writing.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Samhain

Author Spotlight

Friday Favourites #16: Vanessa North

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This the last Friday Favoruites post on the blog for this year and I'm very happy and excited to have Ms Vanessa North, author of mm romance, as my guest. Check her favourite things and book recommendation and read an excerpt from her upcoming title, Blueberry Boys (btw, it is super sweet and cute and a perfect holiday read).





1. Favourite place
Asheville, North Carolina - it’s a beautiful, friendly place full of amazing people. I lived there for a few years in the nineties and I’d love to move back—someday.

2. Favourite food and drink
My favorite food changes based on mood - sometimes it’s sushi, sometimes it’s a delicious cassoulet or a perfectly-grilled steak - and some days it’s a bag of corn nuts from the gas station. As for drink, I always love a crisp white wine.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
This is a hard one for me, because I rarely listen to music these days, but I have a lot of affection for 90s-era alternative rock, and if you play Sublime in my house, I’m gonna get up and sing and dance and make lewd faces and gestures until I embarrass someone.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
The Princess Bride—fencing, fighting, true love, miracles!

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Knitting is my favorite. It’s relaxing and keeps my hands occupied, and when I finish a project, I have something really cool to show for it. (or a sweater that is far too long, oops…)

Favourite books - please list at least 5 books you'd recommend to everyone. 

Ginn Hale’s The Rifter - amazing epic fantasy serial. I read it straight through in four days, an absolute wreck the whole time - came out the other side a totally changed woman and jealous as hell of anyone reading it for the first time.

Jordan Castillo Price’s Channeling Morpheus series. What can I say? Wild Bill and Mikey are my crack. I love those boys, and for a scary, sexy vampire roadtrip? It’s SO romantic.

LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird. LaVyrle Spencer is my single biggest influence as an author, and this book is one of my favorites. LaVyrle’s stories are not vast sweeping epics with loads of external conflict. They are journeys of the heart and spirit—where the dramatic arc comes from the characters changing and growing.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson - A sci-fi comedy/cyberpunk parody that was observant and funny and biting twenty years ago when I first read it—and is every bit as enjoyable today.

Line and Orbit by Sunny Moraine and Lisa Soem - one of the best sci fi romances I’ve ever read, hands down. I loved the world-building, the sense of time and place. The characters were great and I was really invested really quickly. This could easily be made into the best movie ever. 



Author Bio and Links

Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.


Vanessa North's latest book, Blueberry Boys, a sweet mm romance, releases on Nov 30. Check the blurb and  enjoy an exclusive excerpt .


Book Blurb

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.


Pre-order links: Riptide / Amazon 


Excerpt


Blueberries. Row upon row, acre upon acre. Connor’s arms ached with the memory of his first summer job. The dew glinting off the grass and leaves set his heart thumping thickly in his chest. Six said it was nostalgia, half dozen said grief. He lifted his camera from where it hung heavy around his neck and snapped a few photos. It was early yet; the golden hour hadn’t arrived, so there wouldn’t be any magic in the images. But he hadn’t come out here to make magic. He’d come to make a eulogy.

How many times could one man say good-bye to the same place?

He heard the diesel engine long before he bothered to turn around. This would be Bruce’s—no, Scott and Connor’s—tenant, probably wondering what Connor was doing here. Sure enough, the dually rumbled to a stop beside him, and a slender man about his own age stepped down from the cab. Brown hair and eyes, a hint of crow’s feet around the latter, unremarkable and yet appealing. Beautiful in that way strangers were, before you learned they hated cats or liked the wrong kind of country music.

“This is pr-private property. You c-can’t shoot pictures here.” The tenant’s voice was quiet, but with a firm set to his chin, he clearly meant business.

“It’s okay.” Connor tried to find a smile to offer him, but all he had was his name. “I’m Connor Graham.”

The man’s smile faded, and he ducked his head, swiping his Red Sox hat down and into his palms. “Man. I’m s-sorry. About your uncle.”

“Thank you. You’re the tenant, right? I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.” I hold his future in my hands; I should know his name.

“Jed J-Jones.”

Hell of a name for a man with a stutter.

Jed extended his hand slowly, like an afterthought. Connor reached to grasp it and ended up holding the hat. Jed flushed, grabbed it back, and placed it on his head with an exasperated huff. Then he took Connor’s hand in his, shaking firmly.

Jed’s hands were thin like the rest of him, fingernails stained purple around the edges. Connor didn’t know whether that spoke to his work ethic or his grooming habits, but found these farmer’s hands striking. He let go and lifted his camera.

“May I?”

“It’s your farm.” No bitterness there, just acquiescence.

“No, I mean, may I take your portrait?”

Jed’s face shuttered. “W-what for?”

“Because the first hour after sunrise, the world turns gold and gorgeous. Any minute now, the light is going to catch every bush here on fire—it’s going to be amazing. You’re here, you’re part of it, and I’d like you to be in the photograph.”

“Out here with b-burning bushes?” Jed raised a soft brown eyebrow and smiled.

“Please?”

“I guess.” He shrugged, then took off his baseball cap again. His hair was flattened close to his head, but puffed out a little around his ears. Hat head. Not something Connor was used to seeing in the city among the darlings of the male model set. And yet Jed lifted his chin with a model’s instincts, and the line of his jaw, the jut of his cheekbones were thrown into prominence. Beautiful.

“Here.” Connor pointed to the end of a row of bushes. “Stand just to the right of this one.” He stepped back and waited for the light. Jed studied Connor for a long moment—bemused or annoyed, Connor couldn’t tell—then turned his face to the east and watched in silence.

Jed was painted in gold and rose as the sun crept above the horizon. All around him, the sunlight caught on dew, limning the branches and leaves and casting a halo around Jed’s hair. It was almost enough to make Connor believe in angels. But not quite.

The clicks of Connor’s shutter sounded rapid-fire, loud in the morning stillness. Sure, he’d come out here to take photos of the farm, but this, this was so much better. This was the kind of portrait that won awards—a modern farmer, his baseball cap under his arm as he greeted the dawn. It felt intimate, sacred even. Connor wasn’t a lifestyle photographer, nor a documentarian. A photograph like this, of a man in his element, seemed surreal to someone who plied his trade in the carefully crafted falsehoods of fashion photography.

Jed turned his face back to Connor, smiled, and said, soft as can be, “Ch-cheese.”

Connor snapped a last shot and then lowered the camera. “Thanks.”

Jed ducked his head and nodded.

“I’ll let you go back to work.” Connor gestured to the truck. “I’ll take a few more photos of the farm, if that’s okay.”

“It’s y-your farm.” Jed repeated with a shrug. “I just work it.”

Connor nodded, awkward in the face of Jed’s acceptance of his place here. A place Connor didn’t feel a claim to, and didn’t want to. “Okay, thanks.”

Placing his hat on his head, Jed tipped it gently in Connor’s direction and climbed back into his truck. Connor watched him drive away, ignoring the temptation to photograph the tracks he left in the mud like so much graffiti. Jed was here. He wasn’t what Connor had expected when Marty Sullivan told him there was a tenant living in the main house and working the land.

The farmers he’d known as a child had been men like his uncle—big, brawny, and well used to a day’s work. Jed Jones was built like he’d fall over in a strong wind, with a body more in common with the lithe young things Connor photographed than with the rednecks who’d had no patience for Bruce Graham’s chubby sissy-boy nephew.

“Ch-cheese.”

Models didn’t say “Cheese.”


Comedy

Waiting on Wednesday: Happily Ever Ninja by Penny Reid

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Happily Ever Ninja (Knitting in the City #5)
Author: Penny Reid
Genre/Themes: Romantic comedy
Release Date: 19 Jan 2015

Add on Goodreads
Pre-order: Amazon






Synopsis


There are three things you need to know about Fiona Archer… I would tell you what they are, but then I’d have to kill you.

But I can tell you that Fiona’s husband—the always irrepressible and often cantankerous Greg Archer—is desperately in love with his wife. He aches for her when they are apart, and is insatiable when they are together. Yet as the years pass, Greg has begun to suspect that Fiona is a ninja. A ninja mom. A ninja wife. A ninja friend. After fourteen years of marriage, Greg is trying not to panic. Because Fiona’s talent for blending in is starting to resemble fading away.

However, when unexpected events mean Fiona must take center stage to keep her family safe, her response stuns everyone—Greg most of all. It seems like Greg’s wish has come true. 

Except… not. 

When all is said and done, can Greg handle this new version of his wife? Will his irrepressible cantankerousness push her away? Or can the couple find a way forward without either being forced to step back into the shadows?

*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this? - It's Penny Reid. nough said. Seriously, I love her romantic comedies so much, she write the bestest awkward characters and they all get involved the craziest shenanigans ever.

Side note: The standalone prequel novella, Ninja at First Sight is available early and it's just 0.99 on Amazon. I highly recommend to read it as well, because you get the meet the young Fiona and Greg and they are so cute young loves!

Amy Jo Cousins

Review: Real World by Amy Jo Cousins

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Title: Real World (Bend or Break #5)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Genre/Themes: M/M romance, Holidays
Release Date: 17 Nov 2015

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars




Synopsis


When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.

Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.

Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.

At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.


Review


This is book 5 in Ms Cousins' Bend or Break series and it's a sequel to the first book, Off Campus, bring us back to Tom and Reese, now an established couple, a few years after graduation.

I find Ms Cousins has the uncanny ability to steal some of my thoughts and give them to her characters. It was Rafi in Level Hands who could be my twin in so many ways and here I felt deeply connected with Tom, so much that it felt surreal at times.

This is not just a sweet follow up story. Both Tom and Reese had a lot of issues to deal before they came together and we see them still struggling with the hurt/burden of their pasts. Things get especially difficult for Tom and because he is the quieter, more introverted of the two, he reacts rather badly the situation, at least initially. He finds himself under so much pressure, most of which he places on himself and refusing to talk about it with his partner. He comes really close to losing everything and this possibility becomes his wake-up call.

I loved everything about this story, it felt real and natural and there were some sweet romantic moments that brought happy tears to my eyes.

I could relate to Tom's anxiety and nerves about everything happening in his life. His reaction to shut everybody out, to solve every problem on his own so as not to be a burden to the people who love him, his fear he might be a burden to Reese/or any of his friends came so very close to some of my own fears.

I got deeply immersed in his struggles, felt bad for him, rooted for his HEA!

Reese was great as well, more mature than in Off Campus, yet still vibrant, full of life and emotions. His enthusiasm was truly infectious. We see him doing everything he can think of to help support Tom and to save their relationship. Seeing how they made mistakes, yet never gave up on each other was inspiring. they were aware of the difficulties in  their relationship and tried to work things out. I loved that they manage to speak openly, despite it being so difficult for Tom to open up.

As much as I liked Reese and Tom, I also loved seeing Cash and Steph again, even a glimpse of Denny and Rafi and their happy, healthy relationships all made my heart full.

And we gets bits of Cash (and Steph) and they were such fun!

This story has the perfect perfect romance HEA and to avoid spoilers I will just say that it was so sweet and romantic, yet never sappy, just real for these two guys. 

Fans of the series should not miss this book! It's a sweet and sexy holiday romance, engaging and real, in this magical of Ms Cousins creating a story and characters that stay with you long after you finish reading the book.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iBooks / Samhain


You can find my reviews of the previous books in the Bend or Break series in my Review Policy and Archive tap above.

Author Spotlight

Friday Favourites # 15: Joanna Chambers

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My guest in the Author Spotlight on the blog today is the fabulous Ms Joanna Chambers, author of Enlightenment series (review) of historical MM romance. I was late reading this series but I read the three books one right after the other and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed them all. 

Ms Chambers shares her Friday Favourites - a curious mix of Scottish, British, French and American favourites. Make sure to read her great recommendations for queer historicals (I haven't read any of them yet, but I'm adding most of them to my TBR list right away).



Interview Q&A with Joanna Chambers

1. Favourite place
I love to visit new places but my favourite place remains the city I live in, Edinburgh. I feel a romantic attachment to it. It's not just that it's beautiful with wonderful architecture, a dramatic landscape, and a fascinating history. To me, it's so much more than that. When I first moved here, at seventeen, it was from somewhere I didn't want to be, a place that I longed to escape. So Edinburgh is freedom to me. Sanctuary. And I love it with all my heart.

2. Favourite food and drink
This is too hard!! I love to eat. And drink. Okay, so, one of our family games is to say what we'd pick to eat if we could only have one meal for the rest of our lives, so I'll answer it along those lines. My pick would be a perfectly cooked (rare) steak with green beans and bearnaise sauce. And a nice glass of red wine.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
These questions are hideous, Ellie! I adore music of all kinds. I can't pick one genre or one artist! I do have a tendency, though, to obsess - I will listen to the same thing endlessly for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next thing. My current obsession is the music of Jacques Brel (performed by him and others). His songs are super dramatic and filled with emotion (which I love!) - rage and longing and crazy happiness. And they have this extraordinary poetic sensibility. I'm presently trying to find the very best versions I can of all my favourites.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
I don't watch much TV - maybe 1 or 2 hours a week, less now that Great British Bake Off has ended - but I like This Week with Andrew Neil, especially when he's got Alan Johnston and Michael Portillo on. I love movies too but don't watch as many as I'd like to. I prefer the big screen but with kids rarely get to the cinema. I recently loved a Swedish film called Force Majeure.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Easy. Reading. I feel bereft if I don't read at least a little every day. 

Favourite books - please list at least 5 books you'd recommend to everyone....

Ellie, you're killing me! OK, I'm going to pick 5 queer historicals (not necessarily romance) that I love because of how immersive they are:

1. As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann - to me, this is the gold standard of historical fiction. It's set at the time of the English Civil War, when there was no real concept of sexual orientation and eternal damnation was an ever present danger. This is NOT a romance, be warned. What it is, is wonderful and wrenching and fierce. It wrecked me. Took me days to recover from reading this one

2. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters - my favourite Waters book is probably Tipping the Velvet, but in terms of historical immersion, this earlier Victorian piece is a very rich broth indeed.

3. The Only Gold by Tamara Allen - turn of the century New York. Allen has a wonderful ear for this time and this fabulous story, set in a bank, and looking at themes of honour and responsibility is typical of her. Rich and beautifully structured.

4. Captain's Surrender by Alex Beecroft - age of sail perfection.

5. Maurice by EM Forster - I'm really shoe-horning this into my self-styled parameters because this was a contemporary-set piece when first published. Now, it's a period piece. Set in Edwardian England, this is the story of a man redeemed by his queerness. Doomed by birth and nature to a stodgy, narrow-minded, middle-class life, Maurice is forced to question and examine his nature by his homosexuality and thereby redeemed.


Author Bio and Links

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna's muse likes red wine, coffee and won't let Joanna clean the house or watch television.



Joanna Chambers' latest book, Unnatural, a spinoff of the Enlightenment series, releases on Nov 24. I was lucky to read an ARC and I can tell you it's one truly beautiful, very romantic and passionate story. 


Blurb

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter. 


Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down. 

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another. 

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Pre-order links: Amazon/ B&N / Samhain

M/M romance

Waiting on Wednesday: Sunset Park by Santino Hassell

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Sunset Park (Five Boroughs #2)
Author: Santino Hassell 
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, M/M
Release Date: 11 Dec 2015

Add on Goodreads

Pre-order link: Dreamspinner




Synopsis

Raymond Rodriguez's days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.

David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.

Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.

*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this? - Because I'm a big fan of Mr. Hassell's writing and I just loved the first book in this series, Sutphin Boulevard so much. We meet both David and Raymond there and I must admit I'm really curious how they get together as a couple. 

Jill Shalvis

Review: My Kind of Wonderful by Jill Shalvis

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Title: My Kind of Wonderful (Cedar Ridge #2)
Author: Jill Shalvis
Date of publication: 22 Dec 2015
Genre / Themes: Small town romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add to Goodreads


My rating: 4 Stars



Synopsis

Bailey Moore has an agenda: skiing in the Roc
kies, exploring castles in Europe, ballroom dancing in Argentina. Now that she has a second lease on life, she's determined not to miss a thing. What she doesn't realize is that item #1 comes with a six-foot-one ski god hot enough to melt a polar ice cap. She doesn't want to miss out on him either, but Hudson Kincaid isn't the type of guy to love and let go. And as gorgeous as Cedar Ridge is, she's not planning to stick around.



As head of ski patrol at his family's resort, Hud thinks he's seen it all. But never has he run into someone like Bailey. She might look delicate, but her attitude is all firecracker. And her infectious joy touches something deep within him that he's been missing far too long. Now he'll just have to convince Bailey to take a chance on her biggest adventure yet . . . something rare and all kinds of wonderful.

Review 



I needed a comfort read and as usual, Jill Shalvis' romances came to the rescue. My Kind of Wonderful (in the second book in her latest series, Cedar Ridge, set in a mountain ski resort, a setting the works great for me.

This story had so many of may favourite tropes in romance - a heroine who is fragile on the outside but all tough and determined on the inside, a hero who is protective and caring, loving fiercely his family and friends but pretty clueless when it comes to his personal life.

The story touches of serious issues (serious illness), family obligations and support, moving one, accepting the past with your mistakes and really, really looking to the future.

Bailey was a great heroine, a woman trying to find her place because up to now she has been forced to look on life from the sides and make no plans for the future. She has a list of things to do but then life happens and she has to quickly adapt her list. I love how fierce and determined she was. The way she went about being honest about her feelings for Hud, not playing games, acting coy or clingy was touching and real.

Hudson was a complex character on his own. He carried so much guilt and burden on his shoulders, yet he always took time to help the other, to be there for his family and friends. Life had thought him not the rely on anyone, even the family he so dearly loved. It took him quite a while to accept the change of plans life threw at them. He did not think there was a place for a woman in his life (and heart) but Bailey surprised him and took residence in his world without really asking.

The romance was hot and tender at the same time. It started as one time thing which soon became a few more times till the forever kind of relationship. The road to Bailey and Hud's HEA was not that easy though. The constant going back and forth, especially on the part of Hud, got tiresome and annoying towards the end. I wanted him to realise what he had and what he needed in life so much sooner but alas, he just needing some more prodding and good natured ribbing by his siblings to get the picture.

I absolutely love the family dynamics Ms Shalvis builds in her stories - there so much fun and love and warmth and caring about each other - which makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Overall, after loving the first book in the Cedar Ridge series, Second Chance Summer (review), I really enjoyed this one too. It hit all the right buttons for me and left me happy with a smile on my face. A recommended read for Ms Shalvis' fans and any other lovers of contemporary romance.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

M/M romance

Review: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North

03:51

Title: Blueberry Boys
Author: Vanessa North
Date of publication: 30 Nov 2015
Genre: M/M Romance

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4 stars



Synopsis

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

Review


I've read Vanessa North before and enjoyed both Double Up and The Last Drop. I was immediately attracted to this book because the blurb read a cute small-town romance, just what I needed. And the story didn't disappoint, I had great fun reading this.

It's a lovely slow burn small-town romance, low on angst and drama and with very life-like characters which made it very easy for me to relate to their story.  

Ms. North has a created a rich story with well-drawn complex characters, who are real people with imperfections and flaws, They are not physically perfect, Connor has a slight belly and has struggled with his body issues all his life and Jed's stammer makes even shy and closed-off, limiting his expression of feelings and emotions. 

The small-town setting with the town gossips, Jed's close-knit religious family worked really well for me. I like how Ms North showed her characters immersed and involved in the life of their community - family and small hometown for Jed , the world of male fashion photography for Connor. 

What I liked the best in this story is how real the characters and their struggles felt to me. I appreciate that despite being sweet and cute this story never became sappy. There were these little things that held it safely grounded in reality - family issues, the difficulties of coming out for someone who hates to be the focus of attention, Connor's difficulty at being with someone who is in the closet, the practical side of two people who live and work in different cities coming together.

I liked the religious aspect of the story as well. Religion was important for Jed and I felt happy for him that he found a way to accept his gayness and his belief in God in a way that make him happy and gave him peace and satisfaction. His beliefs were something personal and intimate and the way it was not made flashy and preachy really resonated with me.

I absolutely loved the romance in the story. It was a slow progression from friends to lovers to true partners, overcoming fears and forming deeper connections for both Connor and Jed. Their intimacy grew naturally, at a pace that suited them both. 

The main conflict was also well done, Connor and Jed had personal issues to overcome as well as some rather practical obstacles to being together. Their relationship was a work in progress, the differences between them being there and numerous and they didn't disappeared overnight. Both Connor and Jed wanted to make the relationship work and tried hard to do it. There were the inevitable mistakes but, thankfully no misunderstandings or lack communication to drive them apart.

The story was made even richer and more engaging with a great set of side character. I liked how it all fit together - the big city and the small town, the farmer and the fashion photographer, the male models and the Jed's family. They are so different on the surface but Ms North presents them as people mostly, with strengths and weaknesses and as such they grow and change, make mistakes but also learned from them. 

Overall, it's a sweet, slow burn romance between real people dealing with real issues which I greatly recommend.

Pre-order link: Riptide


Historical Romance

Waiting on Wednesday: A Seditious Affair by K. J. Charles

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen #2)
Author: K. J. Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical romance, M/M
Release Date: 15 Dec 2015

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Pre-order: Amazon / Penguin





Synopsis

Silas Mason has no illusions about himself. He’s not lovable, or even likable. He’s an overbearing idealist, a Radical bookseller and pamphleteer who lives for revolution . . . and for Wednesday nights. Every week he meets anonymously with the same man, in whom Silas has discovered the ideal meld of intellectual companionship and absolute obedience to his sexual commands. But unbeknownst to Silas, his closest friend is also his greatest enemy, with the power to see him hanged—or spare his life.

A loyal, well-born gentleman official, Dominic Frey is torn apart by his affair with Silas. By the light of day, he cannot fathom the intoxicating lust that drives him to meet with the Radical week after week. In the bedroom, everything else falls away. Their needs match, and they are united by sympathy for each other’s deepest vulnerabilities. But when Silas’s politics earn him a death sentence, desire clashes with duty, and Dominic finds himself doing everything he can to save the man who stole his heart.

*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this book? - The simple answer is because I loved the first book in the series, A Fashionable Indulgence (review), I want to read more this world. Both Silas and Dominic are intriguing characters from what we have already seen of them and though I'm not a big fan of BDSM, I'm really curious how their relations will play out in the end.

Horror

Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

04:15

Title: Stygian
Author: Santino Hassell
Date of publication: 26 Oct 2015
Genre: MM romance, Paranormal

Santino's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 Stars



Synopsis 


Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band's enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he's finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

Review


Stygian is the story of four queer bandmates going on a summer retreat to compose some music but instead find themselves in the midst of a Gothic horror tale of manipulations and lies.

I'm not much of a horror fan and initially wasn't sure if this story was for me but I really like Mr. Hassell's writing and decided to give it a try and I'm really glad I did it.


It's not a horror story of gore and blood and violence but rather a creepy, atmospheric tale of emotional abuse, manipulation, isolation and nightmares.

It's told from Jeremy's point of view and found his perspective truly fascinating. He is as an unreliable a narrator as they come, worried that he's going mad and then determined to keep it together. His thought process of discerning the truths and lies around him was scary but also totally absorbing. More than once I wanted to jump into the pages of the book and shake him and hug him and tell him "You are OK. Everything will be all right. Trust yourself and your instincts."

I have a soft spot for characters like him - a little lost, a lot of mistreated, yet good-natured and kind and loving. And he acted like a hero just when it was needed. Jeremy is definitely my favourite of the four bandmates. I saw Kennedy through the infatuated eyes of Jeremy and found him likeable but didn't feel as deeply connected with his as I felt with Jeremy. 

On the other hand, we have Quince and Watts involved in a dysfunctional (non)-relationship, each fighting his own demons. 

Then in come the Caraways - Hunter and Laurel. Seen through eyes of Jeremy they were both entralling and mesemrizing and at the same, scary and inhuman. It was only Kennedy that didn't fell under their spell. Jeremy repeated kept giving in to their sweet-talking and false loyalty and friendship only to back away and "come to his senses" after that. 

Hunter and Laurel were not your typical in-your-face dark blood-sucking vampires, though things got pretty bloody towards the end. I read them throughout most of the story as the embodiment of negative, manipulative people who prey on the most velnerable and emotionally fragile around them. Unfortunately, we all meet such people in our lives and I could fully see how both Quince and Jeremy (to a lesser extend) fell into their charms. Jeremy's journey to his ultimate resistance was a fascinating.

The story was well crafted, it sucks you in and never lets you go, even after you read the final page, especially then. The ending leaves the characters all safe and sound but I fear it's a long way till their HEAs.

I really wanted more at the end - more of Jeremy and Kennedy being together, of Quince hopefully recovering from whatever happened to him, of Watts finally getting his sh*t together. of Hunter. 

Fans of Mr. Hassell's writing will enjoy this story and I can defintiely recommend it to fans of paranormal romances too. 

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Are / Dreamspinner 

Historical Romance

Waiting on Wednesday: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.


Title: Unnatural: An Enlightenment Story
Author: Joanna Chambers
Genre/Themes: Historical, M/M romance
Release Date: 24 Nov 2015
Add on Goodreads



Pre-order links: Amazon / B&N / Samhain






Synopsis

James and Iain's story - offshot of the Enlightenment series.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter. 

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down. 

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another. 

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this? - I just finished the Enlightenment series and I absolutely loved all three books. Ms Chambers writes the most perfect historical romances - detailed, true to the times stories of love and intimacy and hope with just  a touch of political intrigue and social issues. This is a spin-off story set in the same world as the Enlightenment series and I can't wait to read it (secretly hoping for just a little more of Lord Murdo and David).

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