Review: ‘Daniel’ by R. J. Scott

Published June 20th 2018
210 pages

Daniel worked hard at college, using coping strategies to shut himself off from any situation that might hurt. But, persistent nightmares and fears for his future drive him to revisit the past. Now Legacy might be the only place to give him a chance at peace.

After the tragic loss of his parents, Corey is head of the family now, and the welfare of his three younger sisters are what matters the most. Corey is desperate to find Daniel, tell him the truth and somehow convince him to keep secrets. Even if this leads to heartbreak. 

When the world crumbles around Corey, and Daniel is running scared, Legacy ranch is their only hope.

I read the whole Legacy Ranch trilogy in the lead up to this release, but I have yet to read R.J. Scott’s Texas series. It’s been on my TBR list for so long! And although the extra details on characters and events from that series may have given this trilogy a little more depth for me, it certainly stands alone quite comfortably as a series.

The subject matter of this book and its predecessors is a delicate one, definitely one to avoid if you’re triggered by talk of rape and abuse, but R.J. Scott handles everything with such care. It’s very much painful to read at times, every character has a journey to go on, but the rewards will warm you to your core.

What struck me the most about this book, and this series as a whole, is how the romance almost takes a back seat. The most important element of the story is how the man at the centre of it manages to move past their awful history and grow to open up and trust and love. It’s a powerful tale of healing, and the romance these characters find is a demonstration of that. R.J. Scott gives these men a really lovely depth, and unique as they are, the bond between them all is tightly woven.

Daniel’s history is perhaps the most painful of them all. Picked up on the street and forced into a world of disgusting abuse at only 14 years old, and having to live with the vivid memory of that torture years after it ended, he’s a young man in a bad place. He may be at college and trying to make a life for himself, but he’s alone and trapped in the terror of the past, being held back by its power. And when Corey first enters his life, he only makes things more difficult. Both of these men are dealing with trauma, Corey is battling devastating grief, and it takes a lot of time for them to begin to find comfort in each other. But when they do, the gentle passion between them is really quite special.

It follows the pattern of the previous two books, the prospect of love helping Daniel to heal and find a sense of peace. He’s able to put what happened to him to bed, and allow himself to find and accept the joy he deserves. A real heart-wrenching and heart-warming story, and a wonderful end to the series. I think everyone could do with a visit to Legacy Ranch.

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Whisper’ by Garrett Leigh

38482523Published May 1st 2018
258 pages

Lonely physiotherapist Harry Foster has the world at his feet. A full client list, a six figure Instagram following, and a publishing deal for a book he doesn’t have time to write until his agent offers him a break—a retreat to the wild south west coast.

Cornish horseman Joe Carter is lonely too. Rescuing horses and managing Whisper Farm takes up most of his days, and by night he plays chicken with the farm’s perilous bank accounts.

At his sister’s unwelcome suggestion, he rents his only bedroom to a bloke from the city, and when Harry arrives, he’s everything Joe isn’t—calm, patient, and gorgeous enough to be exactly the kind of distraction Joe doesn’t need.

Harry doesn’t have time for distractions either—even shirtless farmers riding bareback past his bedroom window—but his moody host proves impossible to ignore.

On paper, they have nothing in common, but Joe is beautiful…glorious, and when an accident puts his life in Harry’s healing hands, the whisper of true love is inevitable. If the trouble that put the farm on its knees in the first place doesn’t get in the way.

Goddammit, Garrett Leigh. Is there anything this woman can’t do? She kills me every single time. Whisper was packed with everything I’ve come to adore from Garrett, tortured souls finding healing when they discover that person who they were meant to be with. Plenty of angst and darkness, but always remedied with peace and strength and love.

I am a sucker for a story where rescuing animals involved, so this being set on a horse sanctuary is a huge bonus for me. Characters working with animals gets me weak in the knees, and it gave me a real connection to Joe. The strength of that man is unbelievable. He’s battling so many forces working against him and he doesn’t even realise how selflessly he deals with it all. Everything he does is for the farm and for his family. He’s no golden boy, he hasn’t always made the best decisions, but he’s a truly good man. Even if not everybody can see it.

It was Harry that I completely fell for. The kind of man who looks like he could take down an army but he actually wouldn’t hurt a fly. He appears polished and put together, but underneath all of that he carries so many anxieties and insecurities. But he’s this pillar of safety, I just wanted to seek shelter in his arms. No, on the surface he may not seem to have a lot in common with Joe, but they are both inherently good. They love hard, care endlessly, and always put others before themselves. They needed each other, and the universe found a way to bring them together.

This is the kind of book that helps you heal along with the characters. My heart felt so full by the end. It didn’t hurt seeing Dex from Heart, knowing he and Seb are still going strong all these years later. Knowing his horses are still going. There was so much joy to be found in this story, I can’t wait to read it again and again.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Medley’ by Layla Reyne

39684953Published April 30th 2018
207 pages

Sebastian Stewart was never Mr. Dependable; he was more the good-time guy who only wanted to swim, party, and ink tattoos. Until he cost his team the Olympic gold four years ago. Bas is determined to do right this time around—by his medley relay team and his rookie mentee.

Jacob Burrows is in over his head. The Olympic experience—from the hazing, to the endless practices, to the unrelenting media—makes the shy nineteen-year-old’s head spin. He’s trying to be everything to everyone while trying not to fall for his gorgeous tattooed teammate who just gets him—gets his need to fix things, his dorky pirate quips, and his bisexuality.

When Jacob falters under the stress, threatening his individual races and the medley relay gold, he needs Bas’s help to escape from drowning. Bas, however, fearing a repeat of his mistakes four years ago, pushes Jacob away, sure he’ll only let Jacob down. But the only path to salvaging gold is for Jacob to finally ask for what he needs—the heart of the man he loves—and for Bas to become the dependable one.

The follow up to ‘Relay‘ is here! I was waiting for this one. Although Alex and Dane’s relationship was wrapped up nicely in the last book, there was so much story left to tell when it came to the team heading to the Olympics. And, of course, we’d been given a tease of something happening between Bas and Jacob, and I needed to know where that ended up.

So here we are. The team are deep into Olympic training and thankfully dealing with a little bit less drama this time. Although only marginally less. Bas and Jacob, mentor and mentee, are dancing around each other. Hopelessly attracted but each burned by past events that keep them from even trying to be together.

Jacob is adorable, he’s young and sweet, but he carries a lot on his shoulders. He idolises Bas, he wants him badly, but he won’t ever ask him for more because he’s been left before and he can’t go through that again. Bas is jaded and tortured with guilt, and won’t let himself have Jacob no matter how much he wants him, because he doesn’t want to end up hurting him. (Bas is also absolutely bloody gorgeous, all tall and built and tattooed with his blonde dreads. I am all about that man.) They’re an unlikely pair in the best kind of way. I loved their connection and their chemistry, every interaction was always simmering with potential.

There is so much build up with these two. For the majority of the book there’s not even a hint of them getting together. To the point that I feel like I didn’t actually get the best idea of what they’re actually like as a couple. There was a lot of pining, and almost giving in to temptation. Their friendship was a wonderful thing, but it was always tinged with longing and holding back.

But the story kept on moving, with excitement and competition and a villain in the form of Bas’ ex, so there was still always something happening. I got the closure plot-wise I wanted, and the MCs found their way to each other in the end when they broke through the wall they’d built between them. I genuinely really enjoyed this book, probably more than the first one because I connected with these characters a lot more. I think I just wanted a little bit more romance between them.

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Squared Away’ by Annabeth Albert

37544729Published April 16th 2018
336 pages

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

THIS SERIES, YOU GUYS. Every single book in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series has blown me away, and this is no exception. Annabeth’s writing is flawless as far as I’m concerned, and every story always leaves me feeling warm and cosy and fulfilled. And the characters, especially in this series, are gorgeous. This is book number 5, and although it stands just fine on its own, I highly recommend reading the rest of the series simply because it’s all stunning.

As for this book in particular, it completely lived up to the rest of the series. The characters are charming and vulnerable, and their relationship is a real journey. It’s quite emotionally heavy, dealing with loss and grief, family and sexuality, but everything is handled so wonderfully. Delicate without avoiding the hard truths.

A lot of the relationship development revolves around Mark discovering and learning about his demisexuality, Isaiah helping him explore the attraction between them that Mark hasn’t ever really felt before. The trust and intimacy of it was beautiful. They’re both obviously head over heels for each other, but they won’t say it in fear of the other not feeling the same. Waiting for the other one to move on. And there’s always various tensions getting between them with all of the family drama around them. They do really have to work to get their happy ending, because there’s not just the two of them to think about.

There was definitely moments where I found the miscommunications overly frustrating, in a way that I was rushing through chapters trying to find the resolution, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book too much. Everything else about it was just so lovely. There was, of course, a wonderful cast of extra characters visiting from previous books that were a joy to see again, and only added to the story. And now I can’t wait for Bacon’s book to come along in July…

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Soul to Keep’ by Garrett Leigh

39590738

Published April 2nd 2018
239 pages

Recovering addict Jamie Yorke has returned to England from California. With no home or family to speak of, he sticks a pin in a map and finds a small town in the Derbyshire Peak District. Matlock Bath is a quiet place—he just needs to get there, keep his head down, and stay clean. Simple, right? Until a chance meeting on the flight home alters the course of his so-called life forever.

Ex-Army medic Marc Ramsey is recovering from life-changing combat injuries while pulling nights as a trauma specialist at the local hospital. Keeping busy is a habit he can’t quit, but when Jamie—so wild and beautiful—bursts into his life, working himself into the ground isn’t as compelling as it used to be.

Marc falls hard, but chaos lurks behind Jamie’s fragile facade. He’s winning his battle against addiction, but another old foe is slowly consuming him. Both men have weathered many storms, but the path to the peace they deserve might prove the roughest ride yet.

It’s a Garrett Leigh release! *throws confetti around* I actually got my hands on this a few months ago and I’m so excited that it’s finally out in the world and I get to talk about it. I’ve even read it twice, it’s a truly special book. It does work just fine as a standalone, but I know I really felt the benefit of re-reading Rented Heart (where we first meet Jamie) and Between Ghosts (where we first meet Marc) first. And both of those books are utterly gorgeous too so I’d highly recommend those in any case.

Jamie was a troublesome one in Rented Heart. He made it very difficult to fall in love with him. He was in the dark depths of addiction and he didn’t want to climb out of them, so it was always quite painful to read about him. When we meet him again in Soul To Keep, he’s heading back to the UK from California where he’s been clean and sober for a year. But even though he’s not using, he’s still carrying the heavy burden of his addiction on his shoulders so his head isn’t a happy place to be.

Marc has quite literally been through the wars since we’ve seen him last (aside from his very brief cameo in Dream), so he’s still trying to navigate civilian life whilst adjusting to his new physical limitations. He’s got his own burdens to bear. But when he meets Jamie, it’s like fate. The universe thrusting them together, the stars aligning and all that stuff. There’s no denying the pull between these two.

At first, a lot of their budding relationship is based in Marc’s inherent need to mother people. He wants to look after Jamie, make him feel safe and cared for and appreciated like everyone else in his life. But Jamie is so resistant to being helped, not wanting to inflict himself on anybody. He’s forever running from the good things in his life before he can ruin them, convinced that he’s poison. It’s painful to watch him recognise the strength in everybody else, what they’ve been through and overcome, but not see it about himself. It was always going to be a battle for these two to make it together, but I never doubted that they would.

Jamie is fighting himself constantly, warring with the way his brain works. It’s so heartbreaking. Everything about him is so raw, so tortured. Garrett really does write these broken souls so powerfully. But she also always manages to give them the person they really need the most, and Marc is just that for Jamie. He’s this fortress of strength and safety that Jamie can take shelter in, so kind and gentle it soothed my soul. He was a balm for my own anxieties, never mind Jamie’s.

I really loved how brutally honest Marc and Jamie were when they talked to each other. Their communication wasn’t perfect, they didn’t open up every time, but when they did they didn’t hold back. They were always so open to the way each other thought. It was so satisfying to read, I never found myself frustrated with them or willing them to have a certain conversation. They always managed to work through things themselves and I absolutely adored that about them.

As always with a Garrett Leigh book, there was a good ol’ dramatic twist that has your heart in your throat, and this one damn near killed me. But what I liked about it was seeing how Jamie handled things, showing just how far he’d come. I was so bloody proud of him I could have cried. But seriously Garrett, don’t ever scare me like that again.

It seriously warmed my heart to get to visit Nat and Connor from Between Ghosts and see them still going strong. Nat is as surly as ever and Connor just as sharp. I really like the potential of Connor and Jamie’s friendship, they’re both such intelligent minds and have such intense feelings for their military men, they’re more alike than they first appear. It comforts me that Jamie will get to have that kind of friend in his life.

This book is right up there with my favourites from Garrett. It’s powerful and emotional and watching the characters grow together and heal has helped heal a part of me too. Marc and Jamie have had to weather so many storms, but they find what they truly deserve in each other. Yet another stunning book from an absolutely wonderful author.

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Invitation to the Blues’ by Roan Parrish

38510053Published March 28th 2018
220 pages

Eight months ago Jude Lucen fled his partner, his career, and a hospital in Boston after a suicide attempt. Now back in Philadelphia, he feels like a complete failure. Piano has always been his passion and his only escape. Without it, he has nothing. Well, nothing except a pathetic crush on the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Faron Locklear came to Philly looking for a fresh start and has thrown himself into tattooing at Small Change. He’s only met Jude a few times, but something about the red-haired man with the haunted eyes calls to him. Faron is blown away by Jude’s talent. What he isn’t expecting is the electricity he feels the first time they kiss—and the way Jude’s needs in bed speak directly to his own deepest desires.

Jude and Faron fall fast and hard, but Jude has spent a lifetime learning that he can’t be what the people he loves need. So when the opportunity arises to renew his career in Boston, he thinks he has to choose: music, or Faron? Only by taking a huge risk—and finally believing he’s worthy of love just as he is—can he have the chance for both.

THIS BOOK. THIS SERIES. THIS AUTHOR. Everything is just so good. So so so SO good. With every book I read from Roan Parrish, I get more and more blown away by her way with words. She just gets better and better. This book was absolutely stunning.

We met Jude and Faron in the first book of this series, ‘Small Change’, but I do feel like this book stands pretty well on its own if you haven’t read that (although I highly recommend that you do anyway, because it’s one of my favourite M/F books of all time). There are characters who pop up from the first book, but this is most definitely entirely Jude’s story. And god, is it heartbreakingly gorgeous.

I will say that it’s not always the easiest story to read. Not because of the writing, that is flawless, but the subject matter is pretty heavy. Jude is seriously depressed. There’s no sugar-coating it, he is not in a good place. He’s coming back from a suicide attempt, feeling worthless and hopeless, feeling like a failure and undeserving of love. Like he’s not worth the effort. He’s having to deal with his manipulative ex and the loss of the music career that was his whole life. It’s difficult to be inside his head, seeing how badly he’s hurting and not being able to reassure him.

But that’s where Faron comes in. These two were so completely meant to be. Faron is captivating and compassionate and so completely in tune with what Jude needs. He doesn’t see him as damaged or broken, he sees the beauty and strength and passion inside of him that Jude can’t see himself. It’s one of those romances where neither of the people involved are perfect, but they are truly perfect for one another. Faron brings Jude back to life, brings him back out into the world, brings him the all-encompassing, unconditional love and understanding he’s always needed.

As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety myself, this was quite a therapeutic read for me; watching someone battling demons like mine let someone in to love them as they are. I saw a lot of myself in Jude, so him getting his happy ending was quite overwhelming in the best kind of way.

Essentially, this was a powerful romance full of everything I’ve come to adore from Roan. Poetic writing, gorgeous characters with deep connections, delicious descriptions of food (and some not so pleasant ones, but still just as vivid) and, of course, a wonderful canine companion. I felt completely wrung out by the end, but also like a little broken part inside of me had been healed. It was simply beautiful.

5/5 stars

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