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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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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Fell a bit flat for me sadly

Under the BoardwalkUnder the Boardwalk by Felice Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5*

I’m not sure just what it was which stopped this one from being a higher rating but I just didn’t really get into it.

It’s beautifully written, as I’d expect from Felice, but I just wasn’t bothered about either of the MCs which is totally on me and not on the quality of the story.

The setting is glorious, I could see, hear and smell the boardwalk, the sea, the heat of the beach, but I never connected to either Alexi or Cam.

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

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Sweet conclusion to the series

Your Superstar (Under the Stars, #4)Your Superstar by Raleigh Ruebins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5*

This rounds off the 5*Star boy band in love series with a truly sweet romance with the most famous band member of all – Chandler.

Newly divorced, Chandler’s incredibly naive when it comes to relationships and feelings as he’s only ever been with his ex wife since he was a teenager.

I loved watching him be totally clueless about why his friendship with Ash was so important to him and reading him falling in love without realising was super cute.

Ash was also a lovely guy, no misunderstandings or miscommunication here, just a guy determined to do the best he could in his producer’s role while fighting his attraction to the boss.
It’s low steam but lots of emotions and it felt organically grown, there’s no insta love here.

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Loved this one – romantic and sensual

Grasp (Significant Brothers, #2)Grasp by E. Davies

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this one even more than the first in the series and that’s going some because I really liked Splinter which got me over a huge book slump when I finished Axios: A Spartan Tale from Jaclyn Osborn

Blane and Falcon were a perfect partnership, although both had enough fears to mean they took their sweet time to communicate how they were really feeling to each other. However, there’s relatively no angst in this one and – once they do decide to try for a casual thing – the build up in sexual tension as they move from heavy snogging to blow jobs to frotting and then a full on sex scene which oozes chemistry and emotions, is absolutely delicious.

As with book one, Ed has snuck in song lyrics from various different artists, my favourite in this one being his Spice Girls line about If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends which had me chuckling out loud.

We also get to meet Falcon’s best friend Oscar, who has an interesting encounter with Blane’s “Significant Brother” Roman and let me just say – hot pilot with dancer – sign me up now please!

I just like Ed’s style of writing, it’s casual without being sloppy, it’s emotional without being overly dramatic, it’s expressive without relying on plot bunnies and it’s seriously sexy without being a porn fest.

It’s just normal people living ordinary lives falling in love and it works for me.

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

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My favourite of the series

All Note Long (Perfect Harmony, #3)All Note Long by Annabeth Albert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this one, just shades as my favourite of the three because Michelin needed Lucky to help him find his way but when he decided to go for it, he took it full on with no apology.

I felt so bad for Michelin through most of this book, I loved his demisexual status too and I think Annabeth did really well getting it across how he needed the emotional connection to let loose with his desires.

The sexual tensions in this one were both hot and steamy but also hugely emotional and tender and I loved how Lucky was quick to pick up on what was needed for Michelin to let himself free.

Great to see the guys from the other books, even in passing, and I liked the exploration of that last bastion of ‘traditions’ – country music – which is also finding it needs to move with the times when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation.

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