Superb start to new military series from Annabeth Albert

Off Base (Out of Uniform, #1)Off Base by Annabeth Albert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love military romances and I love Annabeth Albert so this was a marriage truly made in MM heaven for me.

How much did I want to just grab Zach and give him a massive hug?! The poor guy had so much shit to deal with and his fears about being gay felt so real, especially with the background Annabeth gave him. This book is not for the fainthearted with it’s continual insidious low levels of homophobia.

I honestly don’t think anyone who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ+ can truly understand, even if we can absolutely empathise and sympathise, just how damaging it can be when a percentage of the world thinks there’s something fundamentally wrong with you simply because of how and who you love.

This book takes the military, a hotbed of testosterone and masculinity, and focusses on what it’s like to be gay within those uniforms but it does it on a relatively low level, giving the reader insight into how things can still be a problem even with the repeal of DADT.

Zach is such a complex character, never one note but fully expressed as a young man proud of his service but also scared and bewildered at the hostility expressed against anyone who might possibly be gay by a minority of his team mates. The threat hanging over him from bullying draws him back to his confused youth with an older brother who behaved in the same way and parents who never stepped in the way.

Pike, by contrast, is out and proud but also scared to commit having been burnt once before by a “straight” guy who let him get too close and he desperately tries to just be friends with the taciturn Navy SEAL even though he’s attracted to him and his nature is to be a flirt. He senses how Zach is struggling and does his best to make it easier.

Their gradual slide through friendship into lovers is extremely well done, the tip off point resulting in an explosive encounter which leaves them both reeling. I loved every single bit of this book and never wanted it to stop and now I can’t wait to get to read the others.

Apollo is next and I’m sure hoping there’s a guy waiting to bring joy and sunshine back into his life following the death of his husband because who wouldn’t want the kick ass LT to be happy?!

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Regency spy romp with an Indian setting is enjoyable but nothing new

The Secret of the India Orchid (Proper Romance)The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a decent Regency tale spiced up with a bit of a spy mystery and set in the British Empire out in India, which added colour and flavour to the narrative.

Unfortunately, I’d spotted the villain as soon as he first appeared on the page but that didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the story and the way the plot followed through was well done and didn’t drag endlessly on.

The romance element of the book was also well crafted, with both Sophia and Anthony appearing as properly fleshed out characters. There has been, I believe, one book before this one with the same setting and characters but concerning Sophia’s brother Jack and his romance, which I hadn’t read but it didn’t interfere with my understanding of the relationships in this book.
There was a little exposition at the start and then the story set off on its own journey without a lot more and was allowed to show itself without needless telling.

I liked Sophia, she’s a slight variant on the usual Regency heroine but her personality was rounded and her actions believable. Anthony was more on the lines of the Napoleonic spy – an earl masquerading as a rake and wastrel – and, again, his actions felt true.

Overall I enjoyed this book but it’s nothing I’ve not read before within this genre so it didn’t stand out as being new or a novel concept.

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

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Epic introduction chapter kicks off another brilliant story

Finding Hope (Finding Series, Book 5)Finding Hope by Sloane Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t think I’ve ever read an opening chapter that was at once both incendiary levels of hotness and intriguing enough to lay out the main narrative until this one.

Seriously, Sloane Kennedy is one of the finest writers of MMM I’ve ever read, she has a supreme talent for not only making them volcanic levels of sexual tension, but also deeply emotional and erotic where one of the three never feels like a spare wheel.

This book takes us back to Dare, where there’s an extended level of connection with both Ronan’s Protectors and the Barretti security guys, but which we’ve not had a story from for quite a while.

Beck, eldest adopted son of Cade and Rafe Barretti needs to get away from Seattle and so goes to spend the summer with Cade’s former military partner Jax and his husband Dane, where he’s going to work for Callan at his ranch.

Along the way he has an encounter in a club bathroom with not just one man but two, both of whom he never expects to meet again, which leaves him reeling from the intensity.

So he’s shocked into panic when he discovers the man who made him fly on emotions is Quinn, Callan’s right hand horse man. On his panicked flight from Quinn, he crashes his car and discovers the second of his bathroom partners is Brody, a paramedic.

Where the story goes from here is cleverly woven through the lives of both the close knit family in Dare but also ripples back to the extended Seattle crowd. Beck is drowning until the point at which he gives in and lets himself float with the support of Quinn and Brody.

Beautifully unravelled throughout the romance, we find each of the three has fears they have been struggling to live with but which they find a way of coping when they’re in the arms of the others.

No magic dick in this one either – yay thanks Sloane! – happiness is worked for, professional help is sought, and communication is had to make these three work at their relationship.

The scene where they exchange I love yous is beautifully crafted and feels truthful and well earned. I loved this book and was ridiculously happy when I saw it released early.

Now Sloane, bring out the next Protectors book early please!

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Simply beautiful tale of love

True Colors (True Love, #2)True Colors by Anyta Sunday

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful, simply beautiful. This book is not a unique trope, it tells the age old story of two young men who were once the truest of friends before it all went horribly wrong.

What is unique about it though is the simple but so very clever way Anyta uses colours to signify emotional states and moments of connection, both negative and positive, throughout this romance.

We have, of course, met both Oskar and Marco before, in the Wish You Were Here anthology short story which was also published as a stand alone late last year Bottle Boy. Now we find out just what happened to push them apart for more than two years.

This is a tale of broken teenage hearts, a piratical play, fears over being hurt again, and a young man who needs to see his own soul burns just as sunburnt yellow bright as he once saw his best friend’s shining.

I’m just a little bit purple and maybe a tiny bit pillar box red after reading this.

#ARC received from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Utterly compelling end to this Regency series

A Gentleman's Position (Society of Gentlemen, #3)A Gentleman’s Position by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh Richard, you and your sense of position and fear of abusing your power, you beautiful idiot. And David, brilliantly clever David, what a pair you made.

This book stunningly brings to a close Charles’ Society of Gentlemen stories with a pairing which is both utterly compelling and also extremely frustrating as society position and hide-bound adherence to the rules of the Ton keep two men so obviously perfect for each other apart.

There’s not as much overt politics on this one, it’s much closer in tone to a traditional Regency romance with the hero fighting to overcome obstacles in his way and learning a few painful home truths along the way.

There’s also more of a sense of adventuring in this one as the Ricardians must rely once more on David’s impressive talents to keep their secrets and see off once and for all an enemy of the group.

There were odd bits which I didn’t think worked quite as well as the previous novels when Charles used actual political events to twist her plot around. Richard’s trip to the wilds of Yorkshire to visit his estranged mother seemed simply to be a vehicle through which he and David could be alone enough to ‘have a moment’ rather than a necessary journey.

However, that’s the only real niggle in what is another wonderfully realised glimpse into a period of history which saw huge political unrest and change in Britain.

Oh and a final thought, Charles brilliantly places people of colour and a ftm transgender character right into the heart of this world with narry a second thought. Their skin colour and sexual identities are referred to only in passing and only as part of a deeper exploration of the incredibly dangerous line this group of men were following simply because they loved within their own gender.
I think sometimes it pays us well as a society to see how far things have changed and why they still need to go further and why we should never stop fighting for people to be allowed to love.

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Superb follow up to the first in this Regency series

A Seditious Affair (Society of Gentlemen, #2)A Seditious Affair by K.J. Charles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find myself lacking the necessary words to properly articulate just how much I loved this book. I’ve read many a Regency romance which uses the Cato Street incident as a plot point but never one which so skilfully weaves it into the narrative for an unconventional relationship between two men at opposite ends of both social and political spectrums.

That Charles also manages to make this a story of BDSM is really tantamount to her talents in writing this period of British history. Her phrasing, the use of time period correct dialogue and the objects which would have been available in the early 19th century, all work to add authenticity to her crafting of two truly individual men.

Dominic is driven, a Tory and a firm believer in the work he does at the Home Office, he’s also repressed, struggling with desires he’s been told are degenerate on top of the fact he is an ‘unnatural’ man and he’s still hurting from the knowledge his former lover couldn’t cope with those desires more than a decade earlier.

Silas, on the other hand, is as radical as they come, having already faced one flogging and a four month gaol sentence in his youth. He’s angry and agitating against the Government from his bookshop in Ludgate, while attending once a week at a select brothel where he puts his rages to better use helping an unnamed man.

They’ve talked and debated and burnt up the sheets for more than 12 months when they discover each other’s identities during a Home Office raid on Silas’ shop. Feelings on both sides are painfully bruised and Silas gives Dom a black eye to show for it.

Charles then takes them through a turbulent politically motivated dance of desires and wants, made harder by Dom’s duty and Silas’ pride.

Sex is incredible, the feelings these two men have for each other jump from the page in a tumult of emotions, despair, eroticism, brutal force and tortured submission. Dom needs to give in to Silas and sometimes he needs not to and to have his will taken from him instead. Silas knows his lover intimately, never pushing too far but taking Dom to the point at which he can surrender without guilt.

These two are an amazing pair and their relationship is carefully built and developed under the backdrop of the said Cato Street plot. When lives are put at risk, those around the two men must find a way to put personal feelings aside and Dom and Silas must find compromise without the cost of their love.

This truly is a bodice ripper, just without the bodice and a whole load of fancy coats instead. Regency romance at its absolute best.

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This is a very sweet story but it felt a bit lacking in exploration of the issues raised

Danced Close (Portland Heat, #6)Danced Close by Annabeth Albert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5*

I’m not sure where I’m going with this review because there were elements that I absolutely loved and parts where there didn’t seem to be a full fleshing out of the situation.

I loved that this book introduced a genderfluid character in Kendall, but it then didn’t really go anywhere else with expanding on what that meant, other than in terms of him liking to look pretty and have a more ‘feminine’ style on some occasions.
Yes it mentioned the issue of what people thought or how they reacted towards Kendall’s fluidity as a brief throwaway, but it seemed more to just be there as the unique tick for his character.

With Todd we got a bit more depth into his sobriety and the causes of his previous addictions but the reader was also left to assume how he ended up with other complications in his life which would have been better explained I felt.

Both had had relationship issues in the past which made them wary and perhaps too easy to fall into doubt and the mini dramatic angst moment just didn’t really feel earned by the narrative.

However, having said all of the above, this series is fundamentally about finding love among the disparate people who make up this crazy world we live in and ultimately, the romance between them worked, and worked well, as a believable relationship.
As it’s Albert, there’s also a super sweet epilogue showing them still together and still happy.

#An ARC was kindly provided through NetGalley by the publishers in return for a fair and honest review.

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