Best in the series for me and a passionate romance

Cover Up (Skin Deep Inc., #3)Cover Up by L.A. Witt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is, in my opinion anyway, easily the best in the series with two characters who felt relatable and believable.

Nate has been on the periphery of the other two books in this series, he’s Jon’s best friend, his RIO (Radar Intercept Officer), his wingman, the guy who’s always had his back. At the end of book two, the reader was left with Nate’s discovery of his husband Caleb’s cheating and his 10-year marriage crashing around him.

Lucas was the new guy at Skin Deep, an expert at covering up other tattoos and, at 28, already divorced twice from impulsive relationships both as a teenager and at college. He’s struggling running two other jobs and his confidence has been knocked by a mistake he made freehanding a tattoo and not looking for anything when his and Nate’s worlds collide.

Now, a disclaimer here, I think LA Witt is one of the finest proponents of emotionally driven characters and her talent for writing sex scenes which bounce off the page with their chemistry isn’t matched by many, so this book was just my cup of tea.

The instant attraction between the two is palpable, you can feel it like a lightning strike and it’s a no brainer for them to fall into some hot sex. But, as the weeks go on, the hook-ups start to feel a bit more like friends-with-benefits and then the months lengthen out and everything slides a bit more into a relationship.

For both men there are unforeseen consequences. Lucas realises, as Nate’s tiger tattoo – the one his ex-husband also has – remains uncovered, that he’s become the crutch Nate’s using to avoid dealing with his pain and grief from the divorce and Caleb’s cheating.

Nate hurts Lucas, unintentionally, but it’s something which needed to happen because he realises he hasn’t dealt at all with the the end of his marriage and covering up his tattoo isn’t going to help at all. There some real conversation between Nate and his ex which allows him to realise that what he has with Lucas is even more precious to him and leaves him wondering how he’s going to fix things.

The ending is a sweet conclusion to what has been a slow and steady falling in love of two people who never set out with the intention of doing that. There is an honest expression of emotion and hopes for the future and we also see Colin and Daniel from book one concluding their HEA with a truly sweet proposal and wedding and expectations that both Jon and Matt, and Nate and Lucas, will be following them down their own HEA aisles in the not too distant future.

I don’t know if there are any other books planned in this series, there’s no obvious other characters to pick up the narrative, but I’ve enjoyed each one for different reasons.

#ARC received from the publishers via NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review

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Gentle pacing and lacking in angst equals a sweet romance

Maybe This TimeMaybe This Time by Annabelle Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just like her fellow West Country author Jay Northcote, there’s something about Annabelle Jacobs’ writing which speaks to me and I always enjoy her romances.

This one is no exception with two older MCs, one 30 and one 38, who almost accidentally fall into a friends with benefits relationship that slowly develops into more.

I loved both Matt and Ryan, neither of them were dramatically angsty, the majority of tension and conflict coming from Matt’s father’s frailties and his stubbornness over wanting a ‘proper’ relationship.

Ryan, having been burnt before with an FWB relationship, is keeping his feelings guarded but the way they slip I’ll not something more felt organic.

This book is also unashamedly British, another thing I love this author’s work for. We have bacon butties and brown sauce, copious cups of tea, drunken Friday nights with curry afterwards, fry ups for breakfast and Tesco Express (a supermarket mini-store for the non Brits).

Loved it. It only loses a star for being perhaps a bit too sweet and easy, not that I’d expect dramady just for the sake of it. But Matt’s turnaround was possibly a little quick.

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Great poly romance not sure about the actual story

The RulesThe Rules by Jamie Fessenden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5*

I’m completely in two minds about this one, the poly side of it I felt was brilliantly handled, how the two expanded to become a three.

But, I’m not sure that I really felt the narrative itself gave enough depth, there’s a lot of words that didn’t actually say much. Boris and Thomas were clearly in love with each other and their relationship was solid. Hans clearly fancied both of them and their attraction to him grew.

The secondary angle with Boris’ family and his historic abuse seemed, however, to come from left field and felt like it was there as a tension causer specifically for the plot rather than reading like an insight into Boris’ character and past.

Still, I did believe the three men fell for each other and issues of jealousy and how to interact between each pair and as a threesome was very well done. The sex became a little similar though as the book went on, which again is probably more realistic than lots of hot monkey sexing!

Overall, it was well written but didn’t perhaps grab me as much as I’d hoped.

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Simply beautiful, love in its purest colours

Dear Mona Lisa...Dear Mona Lisa… by Claire Davis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, a disclaimer. I live nine miles away from the setting of this book. Friends who’ve reviewed it have waxed lyrical about the beauty of the setting and how it has a real sense of place.

I had to take a moment as beautiful isn’t a word normally associated with this stark Northern Victorian industrial heritage town. But then, the more I read this book, the more I realised they were right.

Bradford isn’t ever going to be picture postcard but there’s an honesty to this city, built like Rome on a number of hills, and it’s surrounded by the austere bleakness which inspired the Brontes, by the philanthropic benevolence of Sir Titus Salt, by the legacy of the mill owners in Cartwright Hall and Lister Park.

This book made me see this city again, one I’ve so often turned my nose up at (apart from The Alhambra which I’ve always loved), and see it through the eyes of a man finding the courage to reveal his deepest truth.

The colours of dawn, promises of a new day and a fresh start, run throughout this story. Warm oranges, clear blues, an occasional grey – it rains a lot “Up Norf” – passionate reds, delicate peach and deeper purples, also bring to life the animals who act as guides to Tom and Loz’s journey.

I loved it and yes I know I’ve not really gone into the narrative of the book but that’s deliberate as I do firmly believe this short story should be read blind, with no hints of what is to come.

Just be heartened that all ends as it should and Mona Lisa definitely smiled.

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Everything I hoped it would be and then some

Someone to Call My Own (Road to Blissville, #2)Someone to Call My Own by Aimee Nicole Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been waiting for this one ever since Gabe got the shock of his life when he thought he saw Nate Turner – a man he’d once slept with and who had been murdered – and it turned out to be his twin Jonathan Silver.

I’d wanted Nate not to be dead, so this was the next best thing I thought but actually, that’s doing Silver a disservice as he turned out to be a wonderful character in his own right.

And his perfect man, the one he hadn’t seen coming, was Emory Jackson, broken by the death of his husband five years ago, something he blamed himself for, and haunted by psychic abilities which started after the crash which took River’s life.

Together they were dynamite but it took a long time to get there. Jon never gives up though, once he realises Emory is his happy ending, he waits for the other man to acknowledge they have something special.

It was interesting reading through a lot of the story from the insider’s perspective as we’d seen Emory and Jon’s first meeting through the eyes of Josh and Gabe in their books.

I loved everything about this one, including the side plots which I hope are going to result in stories for Jon’s two best friends Beau and Corbin.

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This return to Mad Creek is a delight

How to Save a Life (Howl at the Moon, #4)How to Save a Life by Eli Easton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5*

When I heard Eli Easton was returning to her Howl at the Moon series I was delighted, they were some of the first shifter books I read.

There’s lots of good stuff goes on in this one but there’s also elements I found a bit odd or grating – Rav’s use of bae made me cringe, it felt wholly out of keeping with his character (plus it’s a truly irritating affectation).

Sammy also came across as way more innocent and childlike than even Milo did in book three, he really was like a puppy in human form. It made the relationship between him and Rav a little bit lopsided for a while.

But there were also lots of lovely bits, Sammy being so new as a quickened meant his whole outlook on life was beautifully joyful and positive. Catching up with the pairs from the previous books was great too, Roman and Matt are still my favourite couple.

I know other reviewers have expressed dislike for Lily but I actually like her, she’s definitely a “head bitch” in the actual dog sense, wanting to be responsible for the happiness of the pack like the ultimate mother on steroids.

It did feel like a conclusion to the series too, with long term plans in place to keep the secret and provide employment and future development for the town although I would have loved to read Simon or Rex’s stories.

So I’ll bid farewell to the quickened, theirs has been a unique take on shifters that I’ve mostly enjoyed.

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Needs its own heat rating – seriously packs a sexy punch

Wheels Up (Out of Uniform, #4)Wheels Up by Annabeth Albert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book needs to come with a heat warning. And an ice pack, probably a fan and definitely should be enjoyed somewhere the reader can artfully swoon because it is – without any shadow of doubt – the sexiest and downright kinkiest of the series.

Ben and Maddox remain my favourite pair but Dustin and Wes are approaching the top quickly in their bid to win my affections as best Out of Uniform couple yet.

This book had everything, kinky scenes which bucked the stereotypes, steamy and emotional sex, actual angst caused by real conflict and situations not just for plot points, the detailed military elements I’ve come to expect from this series and, finally, an ending which leaves you sighing at the beauty of a loving relationship overcoming all obstacles.

Bravo Annabeth, this one is gorgeous – just like the scorching hot cover.

#ARC received from Carina Press via NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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