Review: ‘Play Hard’ by Avery Cockburn

44596044Published April 23rd 2019
135 pages

Robert McKenzie lives to work. He’s fresh out of university as a video-game entrepreneur, and his new app could actually save lives. But burning the candle at both ends means missing out on the best parts of his own life—including his boyfriend, Liam.

Liam Carroll works to live. His job as a bartender pays the rent—if not always the heating bill—and that’s plenty for now. But Robert’s workaholism reminds Liam his own life is going nowhere, and his own dreams are scaring the pants off him.

To jolt them out of their ruts, Robert invents a new game: He and Liam are to take turns offering each other sexy new challenges with irresistible rewards.

Of course, Robert gets more than he bargained for, as Liam takes their game in one surprising direction after another. Whether it’s in the bedroom, on the football pitch, or at the pub (or even the supermarket?), the things they learn about each other—and themselves—could change their lives forever.

This book was everything I needed! I always crave follow-ups to couples I love where there aren’t any big fights, no huge miscommunications, just lots of love and hard work trying to keep things as good and exciting as they were in the beginning. This is the follow-up book I’ve always wanted!

The Glasgow Lads series is one of my ultimate favourites, Avery Cockburn nails it every single time for me. Liam and Robert aren’t necessarily my favourite couple from the series (Colin and Andrew forever!), but I still love them dearly. They’re the true friends-to-lovers pairing that nobody can deny were meant to be. I’d have been thrilled by a second story from any of the Glasgow Lads, but I could feel in my soul that an update from Liam and Robert would bring me joy.

There were so many time where I was bracing myself for the inevitable fight and idiotic moment where the couple fall out because of egos or misunderstanding, but hallelujah! These guys didn’t conform! They actually talked to each other. They communicated like grown ups. They fit so perfectly into each other’s lives and knew exactly what the other needed. No words I could type would do justice to just how grateful I am for this book. Avery Cockburn didn’t go looking for drama, she didn’t manufacture unnecessary disagreements. She simply demonstrated just how much these two men loved each other and were willing to put in the work to keep each other happy.

This novella explores all the ways these boys know how to keep thing fresh and stimulating and romantic. It’s very sexy, Liam and Robert really know how to push each other’s buttons, but at the heart of every action is so much love. They want to build each other up, support each other, and make sure that the other is truly happy.

I could not get enough of this book, and I wish that all the couples in every book I’ve read could be revisited like Liam and Robert were. It was light-hearted and fun, but it was a real insight into how these guys will really make it in the long run. I cannot rate it highly enough, and I will be patiently waiting for whatever instalment Avery Cockburn has for us next in this spectacular series.

5/5 stars

 

Review: ‘Arctic Sun’ by Annabeth Albert

42354665Published April 1st 2019
384 pages

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in super hot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

Oh man. This book. I’ve got so many damn feelings about this book. I will read every word Annabeth Albert ever writes, and that is impossibly even more true after reading Arctic Sun. This felt like a slightly new direction for her. It was as beautifully written as ever, but there was something more intense about this book that I feel like I haven’t read from her before.

The whole story, but especially the first half of the book is very gently paced. Two men meet in the gorgeous surroundings the Alaskan wilderness, and it’s definitely on the slow-burn side of things when it comes to their romance. There’s chemistry from the start, but that goes along with a lot of avoidance and frustration and denial, and it feels like a very natural journey for these two very different people to take.

They’ve both got their demons, rather dark ones that infiltrate their minds quite a lot, and there’s a few parts of this story that I found really difficult to read. Mostly figuratively as all the emotions beat me up from every angle, but also literally at times as I could barely see my Kindle screen through the tears pouring down my face!

Both Griffin and River have weights on their shoulders, and the way they think about themselves is a tough thing to digest when from an outsider’s perspective it’s easy to see all the good in their hearts. But as rough a journey as it was for them, Annabeth guides them gracefully to a place where they can help build each other up and find somewhere safe to grow together.

This book went to new places I’ve never been with Annabeth Albert before, but I’d trust her to take me anywhere she wants to go. Her writing will always be right up there with my favourites, and I just know that this new series is going to be an adventure.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Family Camp’ by Eli Easton

44437664Published March 28th 2019

When Geo signs up for Family Camp, he envisions nature hikes, s’mores, and a chance to win over his recalcitrant new foster kids, Jayden and Lucy. He’s tried to become a dad for so long, and he hopes the three of them can be the family he’s always wanted. What he doesn’t anticipate is the prickly and gorgeous camp counselor who constantly comes to his rescue.

Travis spends a week every year at Camp Evermore, the camp his adoptive parents own. As a pro baseball player, his presence guarantees a full campground and excited campers. He has one rule: never, ever mess around with anyone at camp. His profession demands he stay in the closet. But one sweet and funny new dad is about to test all his resolve.

Sparks fly for Geo and Travis, and not because of the nightly campfire. Having been a foster kid himself, Travis is drawn to Geo’s sincerity and big heart and to his kids. The four of them just fit. But will this be a summer romance? Or can they find a way to be a family long after Family Camp is over?

Oh man, this was such a feel good read! Geo is desperately trying to realise his dream of being a dad, and he’s taking his two new foster kids to a family camp for the week to do some bonding. A part of me wondered if it was going to get a bit cheesy or predictable, but everything felt so real and genuine. I was sucked in from the start.

It’s as much a story about family as it is about romance, there’s no way it could have been any different, but the balance was wonderful. I was rooting for Geo’s relationship with his kids as much as relationship with Travis. With Travis’s history of being a foster kid himself, he was just as eager as me to see Jayden and Lucy let their guards down and feel safe with Geo and his huge heart.

Both Travis and Geo were such good men, it warmed me down to my toes. But it wasn’t just a story overflowing with sunshine and flowers all the time, there were trials to be faced. So much trust had to be built, truths had to be faced, weights from the past left behind by everyone involved. But even with all of that complexity woven in, it didn’t take away from the feel-good factor.

I can’t wait to see what else Eli Easton will bring us with this series!

4/5 stars

Review: ‘Jude’ by Garrett Leigh

44588388Published March 24th 2019

Isha has spent the last year watching his BFF get his happily-ever-after. He’s proud of Dom, but…it hurts to see him so free while Isha’s love life is still on lockdown. Only Isha’s ex-wife knows the secret that he’s kept caged for so long—that he’s queer too, and he’s lonely.

Jude’s too chained to his work to notice what he’s missing by being terminally single, but a new face in the village soon catches his attention. City boy Isha is gorgeous, and when he starts to haunt Jude’s reptile shop as well as the hook-up app on his phone, he’s a welcome distraction from Jude’s business problems.

For a control freak like Isha, letting Jude under his skin is an existential meltdown, but Jude’s not in the market to be anyone’s queer crisis, not when he’s facing troubles of his own. Unlocking their lives could push both men apart forever, but it might be a risk worth taking if sharing is the key to their happy future.

I was excited about this book before I even knew what it was. Garrett was asking teasing questions about what to name the Exotic Pet Shop in this story and I knew from that point onwards it was going to be at the top of my TBR pile. I am a massive animal lover, every shape and size, and all the reptiles (plus the parrot!) in this book were stunning. I could genuinely read a book about Jude’s day to day life working in his shop…

But really the animals were just a welcome bonus in an incredible romance between two beautifully flawed men. Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely moments I wanted to bang their heads together for trying to push each other away when they had such ridiculous chemistry, but that was all just part of the rollercoaster I’ve come to expect from every story Garrett Leigh writes.

I loved every facet of this book, I really struggled to put it down. There’s so much complexity and, of course, plenty of angst. Jude dealing with his epilepsy was eye-opener for me as it’s not something I’ve ever known about, and I liked how although it had its influences on Jude’s life, it didn’t define who he was. Isha’s convinced it’s his job that drives him too, but I could see through that. He can think of himself as a bad father all he wants, but he lives for his kids. And of course the kids were complete and utter scene-stealers! Absolute gems.

These two men…they fit. It didn’t seem like they should, but they did. It was never going to be simple for them, but they got the ending they both genuinely deserved, and I like to think they were finally starting to see just how good they are, as people and as a couple. Hands down my favourite book of the series. Garrett, you nailed it yet again!

5/5 stars

Review: ‘Noble Hops’ by Layla Reyne

41081538Published February 11th 2019
320 pages

Everything Dominic Price has worked hard to uphold is about to come crashing down on everything he holds dear.

So much for the quiet life. Just as assistant US attorney and brewery owner Dominic Price is settling into a comfy new chapter with his partner, FBI agent Cameron Byrne, the sudden death of Nic’s father puts their happily-ever-after in jeopardy. Nic immediately suspects foul play, his prime suspect a notorious gangster his father was indebted to—only now the loan shark is out for blood.

Cam has been longing for Nic to finally let him in on this very personal case. But when Nic’s belief that he’s the sole Price heir is upended, the line between personal and professional starts to blur, leaving Cam unsure of where he stands.

Nic is depending on Cam’s kidnap and rescue expertise to save his recently discovered family member before it’s too late. But with a dangerous threat closing in, the ghosts from Nic’s past cast long shadows. Any relationship could crack under the pressure, but for Nic, finding his family might mean losing the love of his life.

Another gorgeous series from Layla Reyne comes to an end. And I can summarise the whole thing by calling it the epitome of the word family. It’s my favourite thing about all the books, but especially this one. Yes there is romance, real soul-warming romance because Nic and Cam are so damn perfect for each other, but their relationships with their family and the friends that are their chosen family are just as integral as their relationship with each other.

It wouldn’t be a Layla Reyne novel without action and drama and suspense, and this series finale provides plenty of that. Duncan Vaughan is at his villainous worst, but that means Cam and Nic are at their heroic best in trying to bring him down. Nic’s secrets are laid out for all to see, but despite the small waver of doubt, there really is no question of Cam’s loyalty to him. Their love for each other emanates from the pages, and it’s true that together they can do anything.

And to top it all off, the whole gang from the Irish and Whiskey series are right in the thick of things. There’s no breaking the bond these guys all have with each other, it’s hard not to want to be a part of it. This strong foundation, a wall of defence, a united front. A real family.

It’s a rollercoaster of emotion; with ghosts from the past, old loves and new family; it was a story that I couldn’t put down and I didn’t want to end. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see of these characters… (Eddie’s story, anyone?)

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘The Other Book’ by Roe Horvat

43380012Published January 30th 2019

It was supposed to be just sex… Famous last words.

Tyler doesn’t overthink pleasure and avoids complications. He knows it might be stupid to get involved with his closeted boss, but the temptation is too great. At first, the cold and beautiful Joel Sandstrom seems to loathe Tyler’s guts.

Except one late night at the office, his reasons become clear…and his control breaks.

Every time they touch, Joel’s stony face comes alive, harsh lines smooth out, and for a minute, he looks serene. Happy, even. Just sex – dirty, intense, spectacular sex.

During their covert encounters, Tyler discovers the power he has over the lonesome man, and it’s a heady feeling. What if he could set Joel free and give him peace of mind? When Tyler realizes how much Joel needs him, he doesn’t regret breaking his own rules.

I’ve only actually read one Roe Horvat book before this one, so I didn’t have any kind of set expectations when I started this one. But Horvat prefaces the story by explaining the meaning behind the name of it, that it was named because it was a departure from what he’s written in the past. So me having not read much of his back catalogue didn’t give me much of a starting point. The impression I have is that his previous books haven’t had a lot of sexual content, and this one…this one definitely does.

This book is a hot one! It is a lot more than that though, it is a love story. There’s a story to back it up. I didn’t necessarily connect with the story though, not at first. I wasn’t sure I liked Tyler to begin with, and I didn’t really understand why Joel was attracted to him. They clashed in an uncomfortable way that I just wasn’t drawn to. Things started to make more sense as we got a better glimpse at Joel’s motivations, and I warmed up to the story from then on, but I wasn’t…captivated. Something was stopping me from completely losing myself in their story, and I can’t put my finger on it.

Do not get me wrong, I did enjoy it. The further into the book I got, the more I got to know the characters, the more I genuinely liked them. I could see why they worked together. I was rooting for them. I wanted them to work through all the things they needed to, personal things and family drama. I was invested in their success as a couple. Maybe they fell for each other too fast and too hard? There was definitely an element of insta-love there, a zero to sixty that felt too quick to me. But looking at other reviews I’m definitely in the minority on that one.

I always feel mean when I have these kinds of feelings towards a book, but I also know realistically I can’t fall head over heels for every book I read, and this is one of those ones that I really liked but didn’t adore. But I would still recommend the hell out of it!

3.5 stars

Review: ‘Cash’ by Garrett Leigh

43188699

Published January 22nd 2019

Cash is a car mechanic with a secret. Head down, sleeves up, he hides from the past as much as his shattered heart, until a reluctant stumble into a Tottenham bar ends in the one night stand of his dreams.

Hunt saboteur Rae can’t believe his luck when he wakes up the next morning. Cash is gorgeous, and the hottest hook up he’s ever had. He doesn’t expect to see him again, until a twist of fate lands him on Cash’s doorstep a few months later.

United by a cause that’s broken Cash before, they are drawn together. They have more in common than they ever imagined, but with Cash haunted by the past, and Rae so tangled in the present, it’s not long before love isn’t enough to keep them alive.

The follow-up to Lucky takes a departure from England’s most beloved sport, and turns to it’s most controversial (and rightly so, it’s illegal for a reason!). It’s been a long time since fox hunting made the headlines here, and I think it’s easy to assume that after it was made illegal, it just stopped happening. Garrett Leigh throws us right into the thick of it and shows us how the brutal killing of animals for sport is far more prevalent than it ever has a right to be.

This is a book that has everything we know and love from Garrett Leigh, angst and grit and drama, but it’s fair to say that fox hunting and sabbing is what dominates the pages. Not necessarily the acts themselves, there isn’t any gratuitous detail but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to read, but sabbing really is a lifestyle that consumes those who participate so it has to play a leading role.

Rae is an involved as anyone can be, he’s there on the front lines, fighting for the animals that can’t fight for themselves. He’s strong and he’s passionate and he has the biggest heart. And he’s beyond committed to the cause, it’s his whole life. Cash has left that life behind after it hurt him in a way he didn’t think he could ever recover from. But the intense physical connection he makes with Rae runs far deeper than either of them realise.

It’s only after reading some other people’s reviews that I realised that this book could be seen as unbalanced, favouring the action and the politics over the romance, but I never saw it that way. When you’re as passionate about a cause as these men are, the cause will always come before anything else. They’re fighting for something much bigger than themselves, even when it pushes them away from each other. It’s raw and it’s real and it was so true to the people that they are. If more romance had been shoe-horned in there, it wouldn’t have been a true representation of what they stood for, what they were devoted to.

Their happily ever after doesn’t come easily, but it is so rewarding, for them and for the reader. Cash and Rae are bound together by more than love, and that’s what will make them last forever.

4.5/5 stars