Circle of Darkness (Genesis Circle #1)

Review of Circle of Darkness (Genesis Circle #1) by Aimee Nicole Walker and Nicholas Bella

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Angel is a waiter in an Italian restaurant, who also has visions. When one of his visions shows him that his sexy customer’s life is in danger, he will stop at nothing to keep D’Angelo safe. D’Angelo is a man who leads a solitary life fighting the evils of this world. When his favorite eye candy/waiter from his favorite Italian restaurant informs him he’s had a vision of D’Angelo in danger, D’Angelo is not surprised. He lives his life in danger. But when Angel persists in trying to ‘save’ him, an unlikely and reluctant partnership forms between the two men. Evil keeps growing and D’Angelo is forced to seek the help of others to save the world. Can his partnership with Angel protect both men from danger? Will they be able to do what needs to be done to save the world?

** I gave this book 3 stars. I usually like books by Walker, but this was not a great read for me. The story was inventive and detailed, but I think that was also its downfall for me. There was way too much to remember. Good chunks of this book were simply info dumps to provide content. It was hard to wrap my head around all the different rules, the different creatures, the school, the evil things and their level of evilness, etc… There was so much information it was overwhelming. I did like the genre and am actually looking forward to the next book since it seems like it will be about Lorcan and Christian, which would be awesome since Christian hates vampires. But that will make it so much more interesting.

As for this book, there were too many near misses for me, that I started to get bored. I think they almost caught the Stone of Asaroth 4 times before the conclusion. It just felt drawn out and overdone. I also found it incredibly convenient that D’Angelo had a sudden change of heart towards Angel once D’Angelo almost died the way Angel predicted. He wanted almost nothing to do with Angel and constantly rebuffed Angel until then but suddenly he needs Angel in his life… The build-up/attraction could have been played up a bit more for me. I also didn’t like that Chris was mostly left out of this story. I understand that we were not supposed to know that much about him because he will be getting his own book, but it made this story seem weird that Chris and D’Angelo were in business together but he was hardly in this book. It was very noticeable to me and just made the story feel off. I loved Jinx and Vixen and wonder what will happen with Meggie. But I would say my favorite part of this story was that it set me up to want to read the second book. I now have a foundation for the world and an introduction to the characters. So though I didn’t love this book, I am looking forward to the next one.

The Summer of Us

Review of The Summer of Us by Lily Morton

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John is very good at what he does, with the exception of his failed marriage. As a lawyer, he’s used to getting things sorted for other people. He plans to take the summer to win back his ex-wife. As his annual summer trip to his villa in the south of France approaches, he finds himself extending an invitation to the one person in his small group of friends who despises him.

Matt is a self-made man with a very successful business. As a favor to a friend, he has agreed to oversee the renovation of his friends’ villa. He’s shocked to receive an invitation from John to stay with him for the summer. He’s not sure how he will survive the summer under the same roof as the arrogant, high spoken, albeit gorgeous man.

The two men agree to start over and set aside their differences to make the summer more pleasant. As a tentative friendship blooms, Matt reminds himself that John is straight and very much courting his ex-wife. John finds himself drawn to Matt on multiple levels and can’t understand why, since he’s supposed to be straight. As the summer wears on, neither man can resist the pull he feels to the other. But what will happen when events conspire against them and the summer ends? Is that all this was meant to be, just a summer fling, or was it something more?

** I would give this book 4 stars. I always love a good gay-for-you or first-time gay story. This was sweet and I enjoyed the build-up of the relationship. I especially like characters that don’t fight their new attraction. John questions himself and his attraction to Matt, but he’s fluid enough and accepting of himself to see where things lead and to let his feeling guide him. He doesn’t run and hide or cast Matt aside. And Matt is understanding enough, to let John set the pace. I did think it was a little odd that both men had a visit from their respective ex’s, even though neither was invited to John’s villa. But it made for some easy tension and good drama. I did enjoy the book, but I think I was looking for a little more, considering how much I liked Deal Maker also by Lily Morton. I think if I understand correctly, this was the first gay novel written by Morton, so perhaps her approach and development have gotten better over subsequent novels. All in all, a nice weekend read.

The Innocent ( The Cowboy Gangster, #7)

Review of The Innocent (The Cowboy Gangster, #7) by C. J. Bishop

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“When Clint and the boys “clean house” after discovering a small dangerous operation of child sex traffickers, they find themselves pulled into a nightmare of unparalleled proportions where children are nothing but “merchandise” and the depth of depravity and abuse reaches beyond human comprehension.” ~ C. J. Bishop

** 5 unequivocal stars for this latest Bishop installment **

Having read now 31 novels by Bishop, all revolving around the Phoenix Club or its associates, I can easily state that this is another knockout. I personally have never found another series to be able to compete with the level of what these novels offer. There is so much contrast between the black and white, but the gray area these novels include is phenomenal. The dichotomy of all the layers to each character is outstanding. If you are like me, and have followed these books from the beginning, you can easily continue to follow along with the characters and their personalities. That being said, if you have never read any of the Phoenix books or the Cowboy Gangster novels, it would be best to start from the beginning. Each book picks up right where the last book left off, with almost no review of previous events; these are not standalone novels and the primary characters have already been introduced. There are several POV’s shifts from several different couples and individuals.

Ok, wow. Where to even start on this one. I was actually a little leery of reading it because I had heard it was even darker and more intense than the previous CG novels, plus the length needed time for reading. And this book did not disappoint. This was spectacularly gritty, and dark and very intense. I haven’t cried that many times in one reading of any book, ever. Usually I cry at the end or at the climax, when the tension is highest. I pretty much cried on and off throughout this whole read. And not only because of the horrific events, but also because, in the same novel, there is so much LOVE. These characters are deep, emotional, raw, and complex and the story just brings that out of the characters effortlessly. These characters are so human. They see the good/bad, light/dark in everything they do. It’s so utterly relatable as a reader (circumstances notwithstanding), and as a human being. To try to be a good person, try to find love that you are worthy of, try to accept yourself with all your faults and successes. There are not many novels out there that can incorporate such depth of feeling and emotion, to such varying degrees. Heartbreak and extreme depravity, seamlessly woven together with love and family.

I don’t feel the need to touch on the actual plot points or events. Those are what they are and can be taken with a grain of salt. This is a work of fiction. As such I expect liberties and allowances to be made. For me this whole series is really about love, acceptance, family, trust, understanding and all the inner-workings thereof. Yes, it’s extremely gritty, and the themes are dark, probably not a read for the faint of heart, but if you can handle all that and want to read a story about the love that binds couples and the families you choose, this is a must read.

Salvation (Caldwell Investigations #1)

Review of Salvation (Caldwell Investigations #1)  by Alison Hendricks

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Avery is a reporter by day and the newest team member at Caldwell Investigations in his free time. He has been working on his own following a missing person case. With little to go on, he brings the case to his team. One new lead could be everything Avery needs to break his case and find the missing boy.

After the death of his daughter, Warren had secluded himself away to a cabin in the wilderness. When he spots a young man scrambling through the rugged terrain, looking ill-prepared for the weather, Warren doesn’t want to get involved. But his conscience convinces him to report the sighting.

Will Avery get the break he needs? Will the tip Warren provides thrust him into an investigation he has no desire to be a part of? What will happen when the optimistic Avery faces off with the pessimistic Warren? Will the boy spotted in the wilderness be the one Avery has been looking for? When inclement weather threatens the search, will everyone make it out alive?

** I would give this book 4 stars. Although a good deal of this story seems highly improbable, the idea was fun and the story was entertaining. I appreciated the prologue in this book, as it gave us the setting and pov of our missing young man. This story mostly followed Avery and Warren’s search for Ian, so I’m not sure what to expect from the rest of this series. Will every book follow Avery and Warren solving cases or will each person on the team get their own book?

Like I said, the whole scenario seemed highly unrealistic. I do believe that people go missing all the time, especially youth who have been kicked out of their homes for being queer. That part of the story was handled really well for me. And I loved Avery a little bit right from the start for being the only one in Ian’s corner (aside from Roger). My biggest complaint would be when Avery and Warren were traveling through the wilderness with almost no supplies. They somehow manage to go several days with only granola bars and a survival blanket. Yet they had flashlights to search the cave? Also, why was Tobias’s cabin 2 hours away by vehicle, but Warren had just luckily seen Ian near his cabin while he was out collecting firewood? If Warren and Tobias were acquaintances, would they really look after each other’s places with that distance between them?

I could appreciate that some liberties were taken to make the story more workable, and I definitely did enjoy it. There were several on the edge of your seat moments and lots of action. I was of course, so glad Ian was found mostly safe and unharmed, but so much of this was really hard for me to suspend my disbelief. I just found myself asking so many questions that seemed to take away from the story. But overall, a good mystery/adventure, with a lovely ending. If we do expect to follow Avery and Warren on another investigation, I’ll look forward to what Alison has in store for us next.

Rising Tide (Changing Tides #1)

Review of Rising Tide: A Changing Tides Novel, Book #1 by Bryce Winters

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Harris is a cardiac surgeon on suspension from his job, pending a malpractice lawsuit. Spending a month in the small town of Seaside, OR sounds like a terrible idea for riding out the legal trouble Harris is facing. However, when a hunky young blonde man catches his eye, Harris thinks a vacation fling might just help him pass the time and be just the distraction he needs.

Reid was raised in Seaside and when his mother passed away, he took over her restaurant. Living in a tourist town, Reid has learned his lesson about hooking up with out-of-towners. Unfortunately, there is just something about the hot doctor sitting at his bar that makes him want to throw his rules out the window.

Will Reid be able to hold out on his attraction for the visiting doctor? Will Harris be able to walk away once he realizes his attraction to Reid might be more than he bargained for on his vacation?

** I would give this 4 stars. This was a sweet story that had the realistic feel of finding attraction while on vacation. Harris figures he might as well indulge while he’s on leave from work, meanwhile Reid is doing all he can to keep from doing anything with a tourist. I suppose both pov’s are reasonable to consider, but in this case, attraction and chemistry are just part of the picture.

I liked Reid’s backstory and connection to the town, that felt really genuine. I wasn’t so sold on Harris and his being a cardiac surgeon. I feel like we just kept being told that he was some amazing doctor, but never really got to see that side of him. I am glad there will be more books to come in this series. I am really looking forward to Linc’s story, as I assume he will be next since he will be recovering at the Changing Tides Inn. I’m also hoping Dylan will be getting a story. As proprietor of the inn, he will bear witness to all the love connections occurring in this series, so it would be fitting if his story was last.

 

Order Up

Review of Order Up by Declan Rhodes

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After being kicked off a reality TV cooking show for lack of an interesting personal life, chef Anthony returns home to continue on with his passion. His pride and joy, ‘The Pampered Prawn’ is the food truck he runs with a friend. Excited for a new location to sell his creations, Anthony’s love for his food brings good things his way.

Bryan is an overworked and underappreciated member of the team at Smithview. When he is passed over for a promotion because the company wants a more family-oriented image, Bryan is frustrated and determined to find someone for himself. A quick stop for lunch at one of the new food trucks near his job may provide the end of his search.

When both men see an opportunity to help themselves by forming a fake relationship, they are both on board. But the more time they spend together, the more the word ‘fake’ doesn’t seem to apply. Will both men get the change they were looking for in their careers?

** I would give this story 3 stars. I was really looking forward to another Declan Rhodes novel, but this was just a bit lacking for me. I realized this was written in 2016, so it was a much earlier work for Rhodes. The Winter Sports books I liked so much, were written in 2018 and I would love to say I can see a great deal of improvement in Rhodes’ writing from then to now. The stories are much more full and detailed.

I did like the story and getting booted off the reality show was a really great premise for the novel. Anthony seemed to be a very likable character who truly had a vision and love for his craft. Bryan felt a little flat for my tastes. He had a winning smile and was very supportive of Anthony, but otherwise not much there. I felt both men could have used some secondary character support, maybe a bit of family or some history about their personal lives. They seemed to have just been dropped into our laps with little to help us empathize with them or give us a reason to cheer them on.

My one other beef with this story was Leo. He seemed like a really great friend of Anthony’s and was actually someone from his past that gave us a little insight into who Anthony was. I understand that Leo was jealous of all the success Anthony was getting, but I just didn’t like the way he stormed out and we never heard from him again (Though I did appreciate the scene because later we learn that that’s when Bryan finally falls in love with Anthony). I felt that if Anthony and Leo were that good of friends to start a business together, they would be expected to have a row or two, every now and then. Not something that would end their friendship and ruin their business relationship. What would have happened to their friendship/business if Anthony were to have won the TV show? Would Leo have been jealous of that too? Just seemed like maybe a bad character trait for Leo if he couldn’t handle the accolades.

Deal Maker

Review of Deal Maker by Lily Morton

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Jude is a highly successful model with obligations and secrets. He’s resigned himself to a life of hook-ups and no feelings. When he needs to find a temporary place to live for the summer, he meets Asa. Asa is a former movie star who’s taken time away to raise his young son. He’s larger than life with a warm personality and an inviting air that draws people in. Asa agrees to let Jude stay with them in exchange for his help as his PA. The men make a deal that will last the summer. But when hearts and feelings become involved, what will happen when the summer is over? Jude can’t ever have a relationship and Asa has been burned too many times.

“But a deal’s a deal and they said it was just for the summer. What can Asa do with a man who has forever in his eyes and goodbye on his lips?” ~ Lily Morton 

*** 5 AMAZING STARS ***

OMG, this is everything!

I don’t even know where to begin… Not only was the story so incredibly good but it was hilarious!! I haven’t laughed so hard from a book in a long time! I couldn’t go to sleep that night because I kept laughing and just wanted to keep reading. I’m snickering right now even just remembering some of the scenes. LOL!

Wow, both Jude and Asa were fantastic characters, but of course, Billy was such a scene stealer as well. So much comedy can come from the innocent mouths of children and air-headed models who count calories. It was just the perfect combination of warm loveable characters, lighthearted humor, and steamy romance (throw in a puppy rescue and you can guarantee we’ll have hearts in our eyes). I loved the way Asa was so trusting of Jude with Billy as if Jude was just a part of the family. And Jude was amazing! I could totally see this book being picked up as a movie. It had the perfect setting and cast of secondary characters as well. I loved the tender nature and loyalty of Peggy, and the doom and gloom, glass is always half empty attitude of Amos. They rounded out the leads and added the perfect compliments to the family dynamic. There were also several appearances from Dylan and Gabe from Rule Breaker as well. This is definitely going to be added to my list of favorite books to reread.

 

** Green Eyed Monsters ** (A Jude and Asa short story – takes place between the end of the book and the epilogue)

Can be found at http://lilymortonauthor.com/extras/

I gave this 4 stars. After reading such a fantastic story, I was a little let down and frankly, this made me uncomfortable. I didn’t like the implication or thought of someone coming between Jude and Asa. I loathed Hayden. He was vile and I hated him for trying to separate the perfect couple. Maybe this was still a well written short, but it just left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t find it to be so much about jealousy as someone purposely trying to break them up. I might have liked it better if it was simply a case of misplaced jealousy. But in Hayden’s case, he actually was delusional in thinking Asa still might want him, so he was planting doubt in Jude’s mind. I was hurt on his behalf for what he went through. I didn’t mind Malachi so much since he was fairly innocuous. But what a coincidence that they both had an ex at the same place and the same time. That part of the story was a bit more tolerable for me.

Rule Breaker

Review of Rule Breaker by Lily Morton

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Dylan has been the executive assistant to his jerk of a boss for two years. Every day he plans out new and inventive ways to kill the arrogant and cold man he works for. But when circumstances force Dylan to see Gabe in a new light, things may not be as they have always seemed. Once Dylan’s view of the intriguing man has changed, what is he to do when he realizes his heart may be involved. Can he melt the heart of a man sworn to freeze him out? Will Gabe break his rules to never let anyone in?

** I gave this book 4 stars**

With one book I have become a Lily Morton fan! This book was so good. The quality of the writing and voice used were amazing. Morton is a very descriptive storyteller. I loved how the characters slowly realized their views of the other could be more than just physical attraction. They both knew they were attracted to the other person on a surface level and made every effort to keep it that way.  Only once they started to see another side of the other, did things really take off. Although I will admit that even up to about 40% of the way through the novel, I couldn’t imagine how Gabe would ever turn the corner into a likable character. I hated him and how he treated Dylan. He was such an asshole. Even as I knew in my head they would end up together and there was going to be a character shift, I just couldn’t feel it in him. I was very glad Morton was able to change my mind and bring Gabe around (I will admit that I was ready to jump ship on him though when he brought in the third on Valentine’s day. Ugh… Jerk. LOL). Dylan had a heart of gold to forgive so easily. Of course, I’m glad all worked out for the pair and the ending was super sweet.

 

*** Scrambled Eggs and Lemsip*** (Gabe’s Proposal)

The follow-up short story can be found at http://lilymortonauthor.com/extras/

I seriously loved this!!! I loved this more than the book and totally gave it 5 stars!! It was everything a follow-up should be. All the sweet and tender with the most romantic feels. I got all teary-eyed and sniffly! Totally amazing… Sigh… 🙂

 

Trained to Win: Winter Sports, Book 2

Review of Trained to Win: Winter Sports, Book 2 by Declan Rhodes

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Figurative bad boy of ice skating, Tristan, has a reputation for wearing all black and skating to rock music. He safeguards his heart and keeps his distance from relationships to avoid being placed in vulnerable situations again.

Jordi is a happy-go-lucky college hockey player who also skates short track speed skating occasionally. Walking through Chicago one cold winter night, Jordi is stopped in his tracks by a mesmerizing ice skating performance. Only Jordi can’t figure out if his fascination is from the man, the ice skating or the buzz of the crowd.

When a chance meeting and a shared kiss tilt both men’s lives on their axis, how can they come together when Jordi isn’t sure if he even likes guys and Tristan trains across the country?

** I gave this book 4 stars. I really loved the premise of a chance encounter and the building up of a friendship/relationship over time and distance. I liked that Jordi was so fascinated with Tristan he was totally open and willing to explore something new with him.

Rhodes’ style of storytelling must strike a chord with me because I have loved these two books. The way he portrays real life and the complications and setbacks we all face, really make these stories genuine and relatable. We have probably all found ourselves in a situation where we found someone we were attracted to or connected with while on a vacation or away from home. Only to discover that person lives somewhere else entirely. You might say you would keep in touch and even swap contact info, but reality creeps back in once you return home. That was the case with Jordi and Tristan. Even when Jordi goes out to visit Tristan in California and only gets a few hours with him during his whole trip, things come up and stuff gets in the way. What makes relationships work is the desire and willingness to connect, to seek out the other person and be upfront with your circumstances. In this story, events transpired to naturally bring the two men together again but they stuck it out as well, making a difficult long distance relationship work.

This book felt very natural and organic in the way the two men came together. I appreciated that, as so many stories try to force the characters into conforming to situations to make the story work. Of course, a bit of tweaking is needed at the end to ensure all is well but I was pleased with how it all turned out in the end.

Built For Speed: Winter Sports, Book 1

Review of Built For Speed: Winter Sports, Book 1 by Declan Rhodes

James is a college hockey player with a need to conquer the ice. On a trip to Chicago for Christmas, he encounters another skater on the ice at Millennium Park ice track. James is intrigued by the speed of the other man and strikes up a conversation that will change his life.

Lucas is visiting his sister, from Amsterdam, in Chicago over Christmas. He is a retired speed skater who only skates now for the love of the national sport. When he issues a friendly challenge to an American, things take an unexpected turn.

With an entire ocean between them, can the two men make a relationship work? When disaster strikes, will one of the men have enough strength to overcome the setbacks of both?

** I would give this book 4 stars. I really enjoyed the reality of the setting in this book. So often the characters in the book have the world at their fingertips and this story presented real-life challenges for both characters. They met in a happenstance way while they were both visiting Chicago and quickly discovered they were literally worlds apart. I loved that they faced the very real circumstances of a long distance relationship and dealing with their daily life on their own. I also loved that the characters broke up a few times. The challenges of distance and miscommunication, pride and embarrassment are very real obstacles that every relationship has to deal with. Rhodes portrays these situations in very realistic fashion. I also enjoyed the way the ending pulled everything together with Lucas getting a job in Chicago, not too far from James. Once they both get out of their own way, the path is an easy one for them to walk.

I also really like that these books come during and around the time of the Winter Olympics of 2018. Perfect timing for these great stories as we all just fell in love with winter sports all over again!