Review: ‘Dream’ by Garrett Leigh

36423334Published January 23rd 2018
240 pages

When unrequited love leaves Dylan Hart sleepless and nursing his wounds, instinct draws him to the one place he’s found mindless respite in the past—Lovato’s. It’s a place for every fantasy — for crazy-hot encounters — where a night of insane NSA sex brings relief to Dylan’s fragile feelings.

It should be a perfect escape, and for one magical night it seems that way, but then worlds collide, and reality bites when his hookup desperately needs a friend. Surely Dylan can’t trust his instincts when friendship has bruised his heart so badly before?

The deck is stacked against former ballet dancer Angelo Giordano ever finding real love. At least visiting Lovato’s offers respite from a life defined by illness; a glimmer of light in the dull grey of his so-called life without dance. But then he encounters Dylan — a glorious ray of the brightest sunshine — who makes his heart pound once more with purpose.

Angelo’s mind is blown by this man, but the disease that ended his career won’t let him bask in new love. He’s drowning, and Dylan can’t save him while insecurities swamp them both. The only way to make it means confronting their demons.

If Dylan can turn his back on the past, and Angelo can face his uncertain future, maybe they can chase their dreams together.

It’s a new Garrett Leigh release! My favourite kind. And oh my lord….HOT. DAMN. In every sense of those words. It’s packed with everything Garrett is best at; angst and hurt and grit, but also a real sense of comfort and healing. The perpetual ray of sunshine that is Dylan from ‘What Matters’ returns, and meets the heart-breakingly tortured soul that is Angelo.

And boy, do they meet in spectacular fashion. There’s no messing around, it’s straight in with a smokin’ hot encounter in a dark, grungy sex club. Entirely anonymous, blindfold included, but there’s an immediate connection. Angelo is so drawn to Dylan, captured by this angelically beautiful man completely at his mercy, and Dylan falls apart beneath his powerful touch. There’s certainly never a doubt about their chemistry.

This whole book was a constant contrast of light and dark, Dylan with his sunny attitude and Angelo shrouded in dark clouds and mystery. I really like that Dylan had such a normal job, nothing glamorous or sexy, and he really loved it. That whole environment suited him more than I expected it to, and it really emphasised his inherent need to help people. He’s slowly trying to bring that bright spirit of his into Angelo’s world, but Angelo has these walls around him, boxing him in and weighing heavily on his shoulders, and it’s a real battle for them to get any kind of emotional intimacy.

The physical stuff, though? That they can do. There’s such a raw magnetism between the two of them. And the way Angelo transforms in the club is so damn sexy. It’s like he finally gets to be the man who he is deep down, all the pressure lifts off his shoulders so he can stand taller and command everything. He’s understated, he doesn’t need to be brash about it, the power just oozes out of him. But once they leave he starts to crumble, his body can’t hold him up anymore. It was genuinely painful to read how Angelo was at war with himself, physically and mentally, and it’s no wonder he feels so hopeless.

But once they start to get better at that whole communication thing, it finally gives them the opportunity to show a bit of affection and get closer. Dylan is so wonderful at taking care of Angelo, who’s so vulnerable that it broke my heart, and Angelo comes to crave that soothing comfort he provides. He feels like “Dylan’s touch brought him back to life”, and it’s such a fleeting thought for him, but it holds so much truth. And it’s obvious at the time that it’s going to continue to be even more true for them further down the line.

It does get quite heavy at times, being in Angelo’s head. He’s so despondent, forever asking himself why someone like Dylan would want him. He really can’t see it. Angelo’s self-esteem has been demolished by his illness, so he just can’t see anything good about the person he’s become because of it. In his head, he’s just this total mess, and he believes Dylan deserves the whole fucking world, so he’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop; tearing my heart into pieces the whole time because he has so much to give and it killed me that he couldn’t see it.

As deep and dark as this book may get, it’s also real and charming and Dylan keeps injecting these rays of light. As does Rhys, I love Rhys! He’s exactly what Dylan and Angelo needed, swooping in at the right moment to help them fix things. He’s level-headed and easy-going, the calm in their storm, and I’m very much looking forward to his book. I was also very taken with the sexy doctor that Angelo had the good fortune to meet, and a little birdie told me that was the gorgeous Marc from ‘Between Ghosts’! Who is also getting his own book, ‘Soul To Keep’, that comes out in April (that I have been lucky enough to read already and oh holy wow it’s incredible). Yay for wonderful intertwining worlds!

Somehow Garrett manages to get me every time with her little twists. I should learn to expect them by now, but I never see them coming. Just when things are looking up for the lovely boys, when you’re finally starting to believe they’re on the right track, communicating and being mature and falling in love…enter stage left DRAMA THAT HAS MY HEART IN MY THROAT. But all that hurt is always followed by the most wonderful comfort, and the scene in this book where Angelo and Dylan are stretching together, healing together, made my heart so full. Seeing Angelo more positive and in control, recognising his own progress and using it to help Dylan, it was beautiful. These two really felt made for each other.

The epilogue was everything I needed, it was damn near fluff for Garrett (fluff in a sex club, who knew?). Dylan and Angelo are not the same contrast of light and dark anymore; they’re keeping each other in the light. They endured the pain of the journey and came out the other side believing in their future together, and that loveliness mended all the little pieces of my heart that had been shattered throughout this story. I adored it.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Down by Contact’ by Santino Hassell

33637825Published January 16th 2018
220 pages

Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

It’s finally here! Well, it got here 5 days ago and I consumed the whole thing in a day and then forgot to write about it, so here we are. It was easily the most anticipated book of the month for me, and apparently everyone else too. And Mr Hassell NAILED IT. Enemies-to-lovers at its finest, and better than Illegal Contact as far as I’m concerned.

Simeon is the same sexy, flirty sweetheart he was in book one, and Adrián…well, Adrián’s a total, straight-up asshole. I couldn’t wrap my head around how Simeon was ever going to fall for this guy. He’s homophobic as much as he likes to say he isn’t, he’s aggravating  and offensive and stubborn and cocky, and it’s hard to see how he’s ever supposed to redeem himself. He needs a serious reality check. He’s also obsessed with Simeon, clueless about how all those feelings churning inside him are actually serious thirst issues, and it was so satisfying seeing it slowly dawn on him and watching him be totally powerless to it.

The dialogue and the thought processes were really funny, I was constantly smiling to myself, and there was great sparring between the two MCs that really amped up the sexual tension. That little game they were playing was only ever going to end one way, and damn when they got down to it, it was smokin’. I’m not sure anyone can write a hotter sex scene than Santino. Raw and real and steamy, seemingly innocuous thoughts that hit below the belt (in the best way). Not necessarily trying to be romantic, just bringing the honesty.

I really enjoyed the backdrop of the community centre, Sheila and Yaritza were absolute gems. Their friendship, their passion and work ethic, their senses of humour; I’d really like to see some more of them. And the kids were total scene-stealers, all smart and sassy and keeping Simeon and Adrián on their toes. Two giant athletes being owned by little punks, I loved it.

I think the attraction to this book was Simeon, falling in love with him in book one and wanting to know his story, but this was totally Adrián’s book for me. I loved being in his head, loved the voice that Santino gave him, acknowledging that he’s a dick like that’s just who he is; then getting to witness his personality overhaul. He accepted the shit about himself and he changed it. He wasn’t having that bullshit anymore. No excuses, just making himself a better human. Can we have some more of that please?

At its core, this is a glorious love story; displaying the good, the bad and the ugly of professional sports, locker room culture and toxic masculinity. It’s a story of attraction and redemption and self-discovery, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Now it’s time to start counting down the days until Book 3 arrives…

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Relay’ by Layla Reyne

35918522Published January 8th 2018
237 pages

Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.

I love me a sports romance. I don’t even need to know a whole lot about the sport involved, I just always really enjoy them. Which is helpful in this case, because I can’t say I know anything about the world of professional swimming. But this book was full of all the things I love about sports romance; mainly passionate, fit, competitive, talented athletes. It’s hard to go wrong with those.

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Best of 2017!

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I managed to hit the 300 book mark this year, which is a little bit crazy. A lengthy commute to and from work every day has helped me out in that regard. And reading that many romance novels has made it a struggle to narrow it down into a handy little list, so this isn’t all that short, but that can only be a good thing! This post will be about 2017 releases, I’ll try and get a post up about the pre-2017 releases that I read this year soon, because there’s some seriously incredible books that need a mention. So let’s get into it!

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My Week in Holiday Romances! (#4)

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This is going up a little later than I’d have liked it to, I finished the last of these books almost a week ago, but Christmas got busy and my laptop was abandoned for a few days. But here we are! This will be the last of my holiday romance reviews this year, but what a season it’s been. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. These three books were a wonderful way to end it, and if you’re still looking for festive reads to finish off your year, there’s a couple in here I’d definitely recommend.

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