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

xmasangel

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.

Continue reading

Review: ‘Santa Daddy’ by Keira Andrews

42904546Published November 29th 2018
130 pages

Hunter Adams is hopelessly adrift after college. He’s still a virgin, can’t find a real job, and has no clue what to do with his life. In desperation, he returns to his humiliating old job as an elf at the Santa’s Village in his hometown’s dying mall. The Santa on the job is an unexpectedly sexy lumberjack, twice Hunter’s size and age. He makes Hunter feel very naughty—too bad he’s grumpy and intimidating.

Years after the tragic death of his partner, Nick Spini has his beagle and long, hard days on his Christmas tree farm. That’s plenty. But he can’t refuse a loyal friend’s plea for help and finds himself filling in as Santa at the local mall. Despite Nick’s attempt to stay aloof, the beautiful, anxious young man playing elf brings out his long-dormant daddy instincts.

When a surprise blizzard traps them alone in Nick’s isolated forest home, their attraction burns even brighter. Will they surrender to the sizzling connection between them and find the release and comfort they crave?

This is a sweet, tasty morsel of holiday loveliness. And kinkiness. There’s Santas and elves and Christmas trees and all that festive goodness, along with a big age gap and an awful lot of sexy-times!

There is definitely a plot to go along with the sex, and that was key to my enjoyment of this story. It’s full of things I adore; the MCs being snowed in together, the older grumpier guy falling for the perky younger guy, excellent dog content; it’s got the big things I’m drawn to. The characters are well fleshed-out for such a short book, troubled pasts being healed by new attraction. I genuinely enjoyed the story from start to finish.

I only wish it was a little bit longer! Not necessarily in a I-didn’t-want-it-to-end way, but in a way I wanted them to have more time to build something together. Everything moved very quickly; and although I’m certainly not averse to insta-love stories, given Nick’s long-standing grief and Hunter’s complete inexperience, I’d have felt more of the connection between them if they’d had the chance to ease into things a bit more. Exploring and learning together rather than jumping in at the deep end.

It was still a very fun, sweet and sexy read that I’d recommend to anyone looking for just this kind thing!

3.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Crossroads’ by Garrett Leigh

41822040Published November 20th 2018
109 pages

Angelo Giordano and Dylan Hart are more in love than ever, but their reality is far from ideal. With Dylan working in London, and Angelo recovering from chronic illness in Cornwall, they rarely spend more than few nights under the same sky.

Dylan is struggling. Being apart from Angelo is killing him, and he’s at the end of his rope. Angelo can’t live in London anymore, but can Dylan give up his whole life and move to a place that often feels like the end of the world?

As the end of a tough year approaches, they reach a crossroads. Dylan returns to Cornwall for Christmas and Angelo can’t imagine watching him leave again. Can the love that surrounds them on Whisper Farm show them the way home?

Did somebody say holiday romance? Written by Garrett Leigh?? Sold!

Garrett originally posted the chapters of this story as a serial on her Patreon, but I forced myself to hold off because I wanted to read the whole thing at once. I just don’t have the temperament for waiting a week between chapters, I’m a devour it whole kind of gal. And devour it whole, I did! This is a short and sweet little novella, but don’t go thinking it’s ooey gooey Christmas fluff. It may be set at Christmas, but it holds its own as a continuation of Dylan and Angelo’s story.

All the couples from the Skins series are present so we get a lovely glimpse of all of them, but the focus is very much on Dylan and Angelo. I don’t really think you could read this as a standalone, you’d at least have to read Dream to really understand what’s going on. How they’re dealing with Angelo’s illness and the distance between them, balancing their work lives with their relationship. Real life issues that they work through together. It’s so satisfying to see these two grow together, showing just how perfect they are for each other.

It’s got all my favourite things from Garrett, angst and heat and emotion, but it is definitely on the lighter side (not the heat part, that’s just as hot as ever!). There’s a big ol’ surprise thrown in there too, but thankfully not one of the heart-stopping kinds. It’s the fill-you-with-joy kind, and I won’t spoil it for you.

Even though it’s short in length, it brings everything to a warm and fuzzy close and ties it with a ribbon. Everything I could have wanted from this holiday-themed addition to the series. I could read about these boys forever…

5/5 stars

Review: ‘The Husband Gambit’ by L. A. Witt

42610128Published November 16th 2018
302 pages

Marry me for 1 year. Payment: $1.2 million.

Hayden Somerset is convinced the ad is a joke, but he responds anyway because, hello, $1.2 million. He’s broke, living in a tiny apartment with two roommates, and exhausted from praying his ancient car survives just one more week. His skyrocketing rent and crushing student loans aren’t helping either. At this point, there isn’t much Hayden wouldn’t do for that kind of cash.

The ad isn’t a joke. Jesse Ambrose is absolutely serious. His father, the charismatic patriarch of a powerful Hollywood dynasty, has his eye on politics, and he’s counting on California’s liberals and progressives to elect him. But Jesse knows what his father believes when cameras and voters aren’t around. As the election looms, he’ll do anything to force the man’s hand and show the public who Isaac Ambrose really is.

Anything, including marrying a stranger so his father will make good on his promise to disown Jesse if he ever takes a husband.

Now he just has to wait for his father to take the bait… and try not to accidentally fall in love with his fake husband.

Fake-boyfriends/fake-husbands might just be one of my favourite tropes of all time. I can never resist it, especially when it’s written by an author who I love. This book takes things to a whole new level as the two MCs actually get married. Like, for real, legally married. Big fancy ceremony and everything. Jesse is trying to expose his father as the homophobic bigot he truly is, and the only way to get him to show his hand is by making his marriage as convincing as possible. And Hayden is desperate enough for the money that he barely thinks twice about doing it.

Of course they both just so happen to be beautiful men who find each other interesting and charming. Being married isn’t exactly a hardship for either of them. And of course they start falling for each other. Rather predictably there was plenty of self-doubt; both men thinking that their feelings are one-sided and that jazz. The emotional development wasn’t exactly ground-breaking, but the circumstances that set up the whole situation were so completely different to anything I’ve read before that I was hooked from start to finish.

This book managed to touch on a number of important subjects; homophobia, abusive parents, class divides, racism and sexism in Hollywood; but nothing ever got too heavy. There was drama and intensity, but everything flowed so well and Jesse and Hayden had truly excellent chemistry, in every department. The romantic aspect did sometimes have to take a backseat to allow the plot to keep moving forwards, but at its core the story is one of family and falling in love. I loved it.

4.5/5 stars

Review: ‘Mr Frosty Pants’ by Leta Blake

42734237Published November 7th 2018
273 pages

When Casey Stevens went away to college four years ago, he ghosted on his straight best friend, Joel Vreeland. He hoped time and distance would lessen the unrequited affection he felt, but all it did was make him miss Joel more. Home for the holidays, Casey hopes they might find a way to be friends again. But Joel’s frosty reception reminds Casey of just how hard he had to fight to be Joel’s friend in the first place. It’s going to take a Christmas miracle to get past that cool façade again.

Joel isn’t as straight as Casey believes, and his years of pining for Casey have left him hurting and alone, caring for his abusive father and struggling to get by. Unable to trust anyone except his rescue dog—and with no reason to believe Casey is interested in him for more than a holiday fling—Joel’s icy heart might shatter before it can thaw.

Can Casey and Joel’s love overcome mistrust, parental rejection, class differences, and four long years apart?

The release date of this one got brought forward, so I’m a few days behind in posting this, but I’ve finally gobbled up this fabulous Christmas romance from Leta Blake. Don’t let the cheesy name and pretty cover deceive you, this isn’t all sweetness and light. This is a holiday romance with depth and angst and heavier moments that have this book holding its own as an excellent novel regardless of the seasonal setting.

This is a friends-to-lovers story where the two MCs when they first reunite at the beginning of the book aren’t actually friends. There’s a lot of unrequited love, resentment and desperate pining. Throw in some internalised homophobia, feelings of worthlessness and abusive parents and it’s not necessarily the cheeriest holiday romance you could pick up at this time of year.

That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom. At all. I had a smile on my face for a lot of this book. It’s got genuine moments of levity and humour. The character development and relationship growth is truly wonderful, the way Joel and Casey rekindle their friendship and let it blossom into romance brought me those hopeful and joyous feelings I associate with the festive setting. They may have been childhood friends, but they still came from different worlds and that had put up so many obstacles. But no obstacle was ever going to be big enough to keep these two apart in the end.

My favourite character had to be Joel’s dog, Bruno. I’m a sucker for any kind of canine companion, and Bruno was such a teddybear. He epitomised the way this story made me feel by the end, fantastically warm and fuzzy. I would highly recommend adding this book to your TBR list this Christmas.

4/5 stars