Unfortunately this one wasn’t quite what I expected

61377807Hot Lips by Tara Lain

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, while I came to enjoy the romance between Tito and Ari overall, there were a couple of things which didn’t sit right with me.

I’ll get to them in a bit and they will be spoiler tagged.

My biggest issue I think with this one overall, and compared to the previous three books, is that it kind of only felt Canali-adjacent.

Yes Tito is a cousin not a brother, but he’s still been hanging around the series quietly in the background but here, he’s removed from that setting to live with the other MC through a set of circumstances that aren’t really given full weight.

The basic premise is that Tito was sent here after a mugging which we learn in this book was more of a hate crime. He’s lived with them for a few years and has been working away in the garage apartment keeping to himself.

After a couple of drag Queens at a local club are victims of a similar hate crime, we discover Tito has been receiving threats from someone he thinks is connected to his New York mugging and to Tito’s online drag Queen persona Tina, who has a YouTube channel featuring advice and make-up tips etc.

So far, so good. Tito gets involved with the club both to assist out with their website and with a charity fundraising event, but also to help Detective Ari Cohen – (who we’re bluntly informed in a bit of an expository Prologue) is a gay Jewish man who likes men dressed as women both in drag and not – with investigating the recent crimes.

Now, the chemistry between them was off the charts from their first meeting at the Canali compound when Ricky brings Ari to meet Tito and find out more about his stalker threat.

But, and here’s where I felt more work needed to be done, they jump from attraction but ‘we should stay away from each other, we’re too complicated because of our love of Drag’ into a physical lust driven couple of encounters and then came the scene I found pretty troubling.

***SPOILER***

Having only had a couple of sexual interchanges and without any discussion about being in a relationship, Tito ends up sleeping in Ari’s bed after a scary incident and Ari wakes up fully aroused with Tito riding him.

Now in a fully committed relationship, waking your partner up by mutual pleasure wouldn’t be a big deal, neither would it seem out of place if you were just having a hook-up.

At this point in time though both have had internal thoughts of love but there’s not been any conversation about what they’re doing or where they’re heading in the long term.

So this, imho, is borderline sexual assault as there’s been ZERO discussion or consent given over fully penetrative sex in the middle of the night while one partner is asleep or even if they’re actually in a relationship at this point, and it just felt off.

If this had been in an MF book I’m pretty sure the reaction to it would have been damning. Ari is on board with it but, for me, the whole tone just felt icky. YMMV.

***END SPOILER***

Following this, the pacing then shoots off all over the shop without settling down as we get a copycat crime that’s not connected; Tito worries over his appearance as Tina at the club’s fundraising event; Ari’s parents tell him they’re heading to visit; Tito and Ari go on a house decorating and remodelling spree and eventually the villain strikes.

***SPOILER***

I really liked the idea of there being two completely separate people involved in the kidnapping for quite different reasons, again there wasn’t enough build up given to either of their reasons imho.

The obsessed character had only appeared in the book a couple of times and the violent attempted murderer’s justifications needed more page time for his twisted rage to feel like it was a true threat.

Ari shows up to save the day after Tito has partly escaped and then there’s a weird scene in which as many Canalis as possible turn up to say they don’t care Tito has a drag queen personality.

***END SPOILER***

Overall though I liked Tito and Ari both individually and as a couple. Ari’s cat Moshe is a cute addition and all ends with a suitability happy future on the cards.

This isn’t a horrible book by any stretch, I think i was just left a bit disappointed in comparison to others in the series.

Uncle Ricky’s book is definitely my favourite and the one which seems to be the most rounded out but I also enjoyed the other two pairs.

I’m not sure if this is the last in the series or not but on the whole I’ve enjoyed reading about the Hot Cannolis.

#ARC kindly received from GRR Reviews in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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