Lots of promise from this debut author

His Heart or Mine (Individualists #1)His Heart or Mine by C.S. Joyce

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of promise from this new to me author but just needing some polish.

NOTE 18/09/2018: I’ve just found out the ARC I had was unedited due to circumstances out of the author’s control so I feel I need to point this out.

That aside, the story itself is quite angsty and I didn’t find either character particularly engaging at first. Adam is so deep in the closet he’s practically mothballed. Jacob at first seems to be a sweetheart but he viciously turns and inflicts pain on those he’s supposed to care for if he feels under threat.

Neither of them is very sympathetic at all but the book itself kept me reading because I wanted to see how their inevitable about-face would take place.

There’s still loads of bumps on the way and towards the end, it felt a bit like we were lurching from one crisis driven moment to another.

But the narrative managed to pull itself together and there was a very sweet epilogue which puts them in a very strong HFN with a HEA on the horizon.

I’m definitely interested in book two though as the brief glimpse of one of the protagonists in this book whetted my appetite.

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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This book ripped me right down the middle

Patchwork ParadisePatchwork Paradise by Indra Vaughn

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book ripped me in half.

I’m rating it right in the middle because, for me, it’s two stories in one and while I absolutely adored one aspect of it, the other annoyed me.

So, to explain further, the love story and the love after loss element was wonderful. The insight into Sam and Ollie’s relationship was perfect.

The pain, the gradual awakening of realisation that you have to move on in whatever way works best, that there can be a new love without betraying the old. This was done brilliantly.

What I didn’t need, and what drove me to a point of almost stopping reading, was all the rest of the unmitigating angst. From Sam’s parents turning into arseholes, from the angsty of Ollie’s best friends Cleo and Imran’s relationship exploding into drama, to the unexpected baby drama, it just became too much.

Now, I actually loved baby Milo and how he brought along a new future for Ollie with Thomas but everything else about his appearance was just more drama!

So, as a love after loss romance, wonderful, as a new romance in its own right, just too much dramady!

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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So many layers to this beautiful – and at times bleak – romance

Whisper (Skins, #2)Whisper by Garrett Leigh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full review in the morning, well the later morning when it’s not 2.17am!

Right, here we go. This book is pure Garrett Leigh. It’s all about finding love in unexpected places, it’s about overcoming the odds, it’s about hope, it’s about never giving in and never stopping fighting. It’s about Harry and Joe.

Harry is Rhys’ brother from Dream (if you’ve not read that yet, why not?!) and he’s floundering. While on the surface he’s successful with his Instagram blog, his physio and private clients, his book deal, inside he’s lost and hurting.

He sees the love between his client, and now friend Angelo, and his partner Dylan – both guys are hot but he’s not into threesomes – and he’s envious but unsure of what exactly he’s jealous of – the sex or the closeness and love the men have found.

Harry’s also struggling with his own mental health. He’s great at giving advice but not so hot at following it himself and he’s starting to drown under the stress.

When he’s given the chance to go on a sabbatical at a Cornish farm he’s still not 100% with the programme but goes anyway. What he finds is something completely unexpected – Joe.

And oh boy is Joe something! Hot-headed and quick to fly off the handle, struggling to keep the farm going, not dealing with anything that isn’t the day to day care of his rescue horses (and other associated menagerie) and put out by the thought of some bloke sleeping in his much loved and dead granddad’s bedroom.

This is a slow, slow, burn. There’s clearly an attraction but there’s just so much other stuff going on in both men’s heads that they really can’t get a minute to breathe. Garrett amps up the tension slowly, with external pressures of money, Joe’s deadbeat dad’s antics, the in-built prejudice that a Roma family has to deal with, his sister Emma’s agoraphobia, too many horses needing rescuing and nowhere to put them, and Harry’s increasing panic that he’s not going to be able to write the book about wellness and mental health when his own is tanking.

I was totally on edge, in a good way, while I was reading this story, the time just flew by and before I knew it, almost 2/3rds of the book had gone past before Harry and Joe finally get it together and let’s just say, when they do, all bets are off and it’s a gorgeously written scene of acceptance and emotions and just finding that space to breathe.

This romance isn’t as erotic as Skins #1 was but it never suffers for it. Harry and Joe connect on so many levels that the physical is just one outward manifestation of that. That’s not to say the sex between them isn’t smoking hot either, because it is, but it’s intimate, it’s small and between just the two of them.

There’s a lovely surprise guest appearance in this book from Dex, whose story is told in Heart and it was so great to see him and Seb still going strong and there’s such a strong sense of family in this narrative. The secondary cast of characters fully complement the story being told and are unique and bring their own selves to life.

As with every Garrett Leigh book, there’s great research, this time around the Roma/Gypsy heritage and lifestyle and it shows in the authentic feel to each character in this extended family. The cover, as always given Garrett’s talents as a cover artist herself, is sublime and the strength depicted in Harry is perfectly mirrored in his actions as he finds a place for himself alongside Joe and the mixed up crazy that is Whisper Farm.

#ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The fangirling, as will ever be the case with this author, is all my own work and I’m not a bit ashamed of it.

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Loved this angsty installment in the Hearts & Health series

IMG_4833Surprise Delivery by D.J. Jamison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full review to come tomorrow as my Kindle’s about to die 😉

Oooh this one was angsty! Or rather, this one was more angsty than previous ones have been but it was also exceptionally good and I loved pretty much all of it while also raging at Eric’s horrible family at the same time!

I felt so bad for Casper but I also wanted to shake him at times because he’d just fixed in his head that anything more deep than sex would be betraying his lost love Kage. I liked that Kage wasn’t an overwhelming presence overall in the narrative though. When he was mentioned, it completely fit into the direction the story was going.

Eric was awesome though. Not quite the uptight Hospital Administrator he’d appeared in the series’ earlier books but actually quite willing to let go when given a reason to do so and desperately wanting to do the right thing for his niece and the hospital’s budget.

I liked the angsting but I was glad it didn’t go into unreasonable territory and that Casper realised he’d screwed up (even though it didn’t happen until the end of the book, it was warranted) and did all he could to rectify his mistakes.

It’s also seriously hot!

#ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

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The length of this one may put readers off but the slow burn is worth it

Untouchable

Untouchable by Ruthie Luhnow & Kay Simone

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a 4* for me simply because of the length, I felt the same situation arose over and over (the internal monologuing and second guessing of the other person’s thoughts and feelings just got a bit wearing for me personally).

But, that aside, the rest of this book is a beautifully written exploration of how two completely different and disparate people can actually turn out to be perfect for each other and just “understand” how the other one ticks and know how to comfort and support them.

Both Kay Simone and Ruthie Luhnow have written books I’ve previously 5*ed and thoroughly enjoyed and I thought this collaboration between the two of them highlighted and showcased each of their great writing skills for both a sense of place and in the beautiful language used.

It’s written in first person present, which can be a little difficult to get your head around and is one of the reasons for me that the first quarter of the book just felt like it was going on forever with very little happening.

However, once Harp and Parker actually admit to their blossoming feelings, the pace kicks up a gear and we start to see some real character development as Harp gets over his insular nature and Parker begins to stand up for himself and not feel quite so unworthy. Both men have suffered from the slings and arrows of life so it’s joyful to see them start to open up to each other.

There are hurdles along the way though, and this means there’s a lot of angsty and only a little steam – which actually makes sense given the unique natures of each individual man.

I love a good May to December and Harp is almost two decades older than Parker (who is 26), which again leads to a whole other level of anxiety and insecurities and what I liked about this story is that the relationship didn’t all of a sudden remove all those characteristics.

Both men remained anxious at times, insecure at times, fearful and with all their hang ups, but they also grow and adapt, learn to be flexible and rely on the other.

I think this will appeal to readers who enjoy a slow burn, it is glacial at times, but because of the quality of the writing, it’s something you (generic) can live with as it marches on to what’s a bit of a swoony epilogue.

#ARC kindly received from the authors in exchange for an honest and unbiased review

Lots of positives in this debut read from a new to me author

Our Stage (Weldstone Harbor, #1)Our Stage by James T. Prince

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

3.75*

I have lots of thoughts about this book, most are positive and I enjoyed reading a new author who clearly has a lot of talent.

I do have a couple of negatives, the main one being that, for me, the book went on too long without the narrative justifying it.

There was a fair bit of repetition about David’s anxieties and what he was feeling (and while it’s never said, I think it’s fairly clear he’s either demisexual or gray ace) and Louis’ inability to clearly state his feelings left me a bit frustrated at times.

Also, the big misunderstanding element, in this case a missing letter, was a neat way to bring tension but when combined with all the other angsty things which were going on, again just felt a bit forced.

But the positives did make up for these two issues which will probably not be a big deal to other readers. The writing style is nice and clean, the setting is very well described and brought to life, the secondary plot was handled well and with a lot of sensitivity, and David and Louis were both uniquely fascinating in their own right.

#ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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Release Day Blitz: Closets are for Clothes by Addison Albright

 Universal Buy Link

 Length: 43,199 words
Publisher: JMS Books
 
 Blurb

Mike’s life is carefully compartmentalized. He’s deep in the closet to his family back in Kansas, but lives life honestly and openly in Austin. He’s unnerved when Wes, his old university crush, turns up at his door in answer to a roommate advertisement, but quickly sees the potential…benefits of the arrangement. Wes has never doubted nor denied his sexuality. With the support of his family he’s an out and proud LGBT activist.

On the scale balancing his self-esteem on one side, and the love of his family on the other, Mike has to decide which weighs more. Is Mike being fair to his parents by not giving them the chance to know his real self? When the delicate balance of his life is disrupted, he decides he’s tired of living a lie. Will Wes understand his concerns, or will their fledgling relationship crumble under the strain of Mike’s uncertainty?

Excerpt

I walked down the narrow aisle with a book jammed under my arm and holding my carry-on bag in front of me as I focused on the labels for the rows. Due to the effect my nerves were having on my stomach, I was beginning to regret the meal I’d eaten during the two-hour layover in Houston.

I found my aisle seat, but it was occupied. Nobody sat in the window seat. This leg of my trip used a smaller plane—Wichita was hardly a bustling hub—and there were only two seats on either side of the aisle.

My shoulders stiffened, waiting for the request. My guess was he had a traveling companion, but they’d booked their flight too late to get two seats together. I’d be willing to trade, but I hoped it would at least be to another aisle seat. I wasn’t claustrophobic at all, but I preferred the freedom an aisle seat provided.

I stopped in front of my row and looked at the man, my eyebrows raised questioningly. He stood and stepped into the aisle. I opened my mouth, but wasn’t entirely sure what to say. He hadn’t moved on. He stood as if waiting to sit back down after letting me in. “I’m sorry.” I held up my boarding pass. “Apparently, there’s some confusion. This is my seat, here.”

“You don’t mind, do you?”

My whole body tensed at his tone. As if he simply assumed I’d switch seats for no obvious reason beyond he preferred mine. Which frankly—dammit—was likely to happen because I was non-confrontational and this wasn’t worth the fight. But it pissed me off that he wasn’t asking, acting like it was a done deal, and he didn’t even try to offer justification. He also had the kind of smile you see on people trying to sell you a load of crap, be it a used car or a dubious political position.

“Is there a problem?” The inquiry came from behind—a male voice with a polite but firm tone.

“No problem,” the man in front of me said. The slick politician smile that had come so naturally to him now seemed strained, or rather, a mild sneer supplemented it. “We were just switching seats.”

“Sir, do you want to switch seats with this gentleman?” the flight attendant asked.

“Gentleman” was a generous term for the jerk, but points for diplomacy. I was sure the answer was obvious. I’d booked an aisle seat because that’s what I preferred. But I imagined that wasn’t the real question. I wasn’t sure if the flight attendant would rather, like me, avoid a confrontation, or if he’d like to see the pushy bastard put in his place. I knew which I’d rather see if I were a random spectator, but I wasn’t.

“I’m willing to switch.” But I refused to say I “wanted” to. It was a cop-out, but it would be miserable enough sitting next to the guy for the next couple hours without adding the possibility of his simmering hostility to the mix.

I hefted my carry-on bag into the overhead bin and sidled across to the window seat. I sat with my book in my lap and stared out the window at the tarmac, hoping it was clear I wasn’t interested in making small-talk and wished to be left alone.

The man parked himself back in the seat that should have been mine, and the flight attendant made his way toward the back of the plane.

“Jesus H. Christ. We had it under control,” the man muttered.

Apparently, being left in peace was too much to wish for. As my dad liked to say, you could wish in one hand and—

“Don’t know why that faggot felt he needed to stick his nose in our business.”

My grip on the book tightened and I spun without thinking toward the man. “Excuse me?” My tone oozed with aversion. I didn’t try to hide my feelings, so I’m sure the incredulous disgust I felt at his use of that word showed on my face as well.

Was it Wes’s influence or was I more likely to stick up for someone else than for myself? I wasn’t sure which, but I found I couldn’t let that go without expressing my repugnance at his shameless and vocal bigotry. I didn’t even know if he was simply using the word as a general derogatory insult or if he’d assumed the flight attendant was gay because of his career choice.

His lip curled as a soft snort puffed from between his thin lips. “I said, I don’t know why that fellow felt he needed to stick his nose in our business.”

That wasn’t what he’d said. I hadn’t imagined it. But I wasn’t going to pursue it. If nothing else, at least he knew his prejudice wasn’t always going to be accepted when aired in public. The more people realized it was bigotry that needed to be hidden in a closet, not the targets of it, the better the world would be. Yeah, Wes’s activism was influencing me.

I turned back to the window, closed my eyes, and counted to ten before reopening them. This was the last thing I wanted to deal with on the flight home to come out to my parents. My gut was churning enough without this added stress.

I’d been rather proud of how I’d managed to push aside my uncertainties the past two weeks and return to being my regular normal self. Right up until it had been time to head to the airport, anyway. I’d studied Wes’s pamphlets, and Greg had taken a set of them home, too, so he could be prepared on my behalf. That alone had taken a huge share of the weight off my shoulders.

Even so, now that the big moment was looming, it took a concerted effort to not be that jittery guy on the plane that everyone kept an eye on, waiting for them to crack and brandish a nail file that had slipped by security. Sure, there was a good chance everything would be fine. But there was still a possibility that my relationship with my parents would never be the same, and there was a huge sliding scale of degree for that potential unpleasantness.

Would my dad react similarly to the man sitting next to me? Under pressure, faced with his son admitting to being gay after he’d spent years talking about how wrong he felt that was, would he crack? He’d never used that word—“faggot.” He’d never used any kind of derogatory word.

Thinking back, I knew Greg was probably right about Dad’s apparent angle during his campaign to convince me it would be wrong to be gay. It all boiled down to the motivations behind his efforts. Was it as simple as he’d convinced himself I was making a choice, and wanted the best possible life for me, or did he think there was something intrinsically wrong—sordid, contemptible—with being gay?

Would I lose his respect? His love? Would holidays forevermore be tense? Helen was on my side, thank goodness, but what if Dad were to become convinced that I couldn’t be trusted around her two young children?

I shifted in my seat, trying to get comfortable, but it couldn’t keep my mind from picturing him mining for all his arguments from only websites that were biased against LGBTQI+ people and not seeking the truth from a fair balance of sources. If that was the case, then there’d be a good chance he’d bought into a lot of the bullshit they were peddling. The fact he’d held off saying the more disparaging claims didn’t mean he hadn’t read them and thought there might be something to them.

The plane taxied down the runway and took off, and I turned my gaze to my book. I’d brought Andy Weir’s The Martian because I’d read it before and loved it, and I’d figured I might be distracted, so it’d be best not to try to follow a new story.

I opened the book, read the first three lines with the character thinking he was “pretty much fucked,” and closed it again. I didn’t believe in omens, but that summed up how I felt. It was just a question of degree.

About Addison
 

Addison Albright is a writer living in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay (sometimes erotic) romance in contemporary settings. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, french fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.

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