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

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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

Review: ‘Rough Terrain’ by Annabeth Albert

41121276Published January 14th
368 pages

Navy SEAL Renzo Bianchi has a soft spot for Canaan Finley, and not only because the man makes a mean smoothie. He’s the first guy to get Renzo’s motor revving in a long time. But when he agrees to Canaan’s insane charade—one all-access fake boyfriend, coming right up—he never expects more than a fling.

Creating a hot Italian SEAL boyfriend to save face seemed like a good idea…until his friends called Canaan’s bluff. Now he’s setting off into the woods with the very man who inspired his deception, and Canaan is not the outdoorsy type. The sparks are already flying when a flash flood separates them from their group, leaving Renzo and Canaan very much trapped…very much alone in the wilderness.

Working together to come up with a plan for survival is sexier than either of them expects. But back in the real world, being a couple is bringing its own set of hazards…

It’s a bittersweet thing writing this review, as this book is the last in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series, and I really don’t want it to be over. Seven books plus various little accompanying ficlets is a very generous series, but when the writing and the characters are this good? I could happily continue to read them forever.

I’ll admit it took me a little longer than normal to warm up to this one, I think I just couldn’t connect to Canaan and Renzo at first. They hadn’t given off hugely endearing impressions when they’d briefly appeared in previous books in the series, and I couldn’t picture how they’d work together. But once they started getting closer, once I got a better glimpse into their lives and their thoughts, it was easy to see how all the pieces were going to fall into place.

Canaan is stuck on the outside of a life he had to leave behind to help look after his grandparents, and now he’s pursuing a new career in geriatric nursing and working in a smoothie place to pay the bills. There’s a lot more depth to him than there initially seems. And he’s a lucky boy, because the smoothie place is a regular stop for all the post-training SEALs and there is some serious eye-candy that comes through the door (including my ultimate fave from this series, the wonderful Bacon himself!).

One of those dishy customers is Rooster, a nickname he’d really like to lose, who has appeared in the series before and has always seemed to be a little too cocky and narcissistic to me. Oh, how wrong I was! There’s a determination and a vulnerability under that well-groomed exterior, and a very big heart. Renzo feels a connection to Canaan from the start, but both of them hold back, assuming it can’t go anywhere. But they were just as wrong as I was about Renzo.

There’s unsavoury exes, SEAL heroics, the weight of family expectations and a whole bundle of emotional to-ing and fro-ing. It’s a real journey for these two, summing up the ups and downs of the entire series, and Canaan and Renzo’s happy ending is a wonderful way to end things. I’ll miss these characters and all the ones that have proceeded them, but I can’t wait for what other things Annabeth Albert has up her sleeve. I’ll no doubt love them just as much.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Is It Over Yet?’ by L. A . Witt

43184087Published January 8th 2019
176 pages

Rhys Powell and Derek Scott are divorcing. Mistakes have been made, lines have been crossed, and there’s no going back. Both men are exhausted and ready to move on.

But their daughter is getting married soon. In the name of not putting a damper on her wedding, Derek and Rhys agree to keep the divorce on the down-low and show up as the happy couple everyone still believes they are.

And between a roller coaster of a road trip and the love and joy surrounding the wedding… Derek and Rhys just might remember why they fell for each other in the first place. Are they only kidding themselves? Or can a rekindled spark really light the way to forgiveness?

This is a totally different concept to anything I’ve ever read before, but it’s a concept that had me hooked from the moment I read the blurb. Derek and Rhys have been together for nearly a decade, they’ve fallen in love and gotten married and helped to raise a child together, but we only get to join them once things have gone past rocky and into the disaster zone.

Rhys made a mistake, Derek retaliated, and all the trust they used to have has crumbled around them. They can barely stand to be in the same room together anymore, but circumstances force them to keep on living together. It’s tense and uncomfortable and they just want it to be over. And on top of that they can’t even make it public knowledge that they’re looking to divorce because they don’t want to ruin their daughter’s engagement and wedding. The world is conspiring against them. At least that’s the way they feel.

This is a romance novel, we know they have to make it to a happy ending, so it’s quite the rollercoaster watching these two dance around each other, question their decisions and butt heads and yet keep gravitating back towards each other. They’re stuck in that place of needing it to be over while wishing it didn’t have to be for the majority of the book, which I found I got just a little bit impatient with. That magical moment where they decide to try again came almost out the blue. Yes, I knew it was coming, but the turnaround in feelings almost gave me whiplash.

I still really enjoyed this book and experiencing this couple’s journey, it was something different and L. A. Witt handled an emotional situation very well. Two men who are hurting remembering why it was they were so in love? Yeah, it charmed me.

3.5/5 stars

Series Review: The Christmas Angel

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In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas Angel through the years. Whether it’s the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk), post World War II (L.A. Witt), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday), 2018 Europe (RJ Scott), the Christmas Angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need it’s blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.

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