Write On Review-A-Thon 74 (March 27-29, 2020)

It’s been a while and from the looks of my review list, I really should have jumped back on the Write On Review-a-thon band wagon WAY before things got this out of hand. *sigh*

A little about the Review-a-thon:

Brought to you by Reading the Paranormal and the #boutofbooks-ers facebook group. This monthly review-a-thon is a chance to get caught up on outstanding reviews. Bring your to-be-reviewed list, block out some time, write reviews. It’s that simple.

This month’s review-a-thon will run from Friday, March 27th to Sunday, March 29th.

You can see Kelly’s post at Reading the Paranormal

Just so I don’t feel totally overwhelmed, I’m only listing the books I’ve read for review that I need to catch up on. I’ll throw in the others that I read if I get caught up. 😉

(FYI – Every review in red was written AFTER the review-a-thon ended – anything below the horizontal line was a book that I finished after the review-a-thon started – which ALWAYS happens.)

Found at the Rock Concert (Found #4) by Christi Snow

A wounded rock star, a bodyguard, and a CEO get trapped in a snowed-in cabin…
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. This is the start of an epic love story between three men. Three men who have a history twined together with encounters and impressions that have marked their years.
They just never realized how all those brief encounters would eventually change their lives forever.
Daniel, the rock star who survived a plane crash who’s trying to figure out how to live his life without his legs.
Luke, the bodyguard who made so many mistakes and now thinks he doesn’t deserve the man he’s loved for years.
Austin, the CEO who thinks he’s on the outside pulling the strings, but what he doesn’t realize is without him at the core, this relationship will never work…for any of them.
Three men, one snowy winter cabin, one epic love story waiting to be discovered…

I may or may not have mentioned that menage books are not my go-to, but I’ve been known to make an exception or two. Especially when it’s written by an author I trust that’s part of a series I love. So… picking up Found at the Rock Concert was a no brainer.

Although this is labeled as a stand alone, it crosses over a lot of the events that took place in Found at the Jazz Club. Which, by the way, is the perfect set up for a re-read, right? Anyway, since the back-tracking is from a totally different POV, it was just enough to get me back up to speed AND keep the story fresh.

On the surface, Daniel was the broken one in this trio, but really all three of them were broken in their own way. Luke had fought his attraction to Daniel for years and there was a lot miscommunication between the two of them. And then there was Austin. His one encounter with Daniel left an impression. One he never forgot. Regardless of his attraction, he thought that Daniel and Luke were meant for each other. Enough so that he planned an elaborate way to force them together. Luckily fate had other plans. All Austin had to do was trust his heart and the two men he was quickly falling for.

Nothing’s easy when it comes to love and when three hearts are involved it gets even more complicated. I loved the way that the author brought these three together and found a way to help them make it work. ❤

Hers to Tame (NOLA Knights #2) by Rhenna Morgan

As an avtoritet for the most powerful crime syndicate in New Orleans, Kir Vasilek doesn’t act without purpose, doesn’t speak without thought and never, ever loses his cool. The lives of his brothers, his family, depend on it. But then Cassie McClintock strolls back into his life, and staying cool is next to impossible. Cassie was the one who got away—and Kir is willing to break all his own rules to keep it from happening ever again.
It’s one thing to report on the Russian mafia; it’s quite another to sleep with one of them, especially one as dangerous, and as sinfully sexy, as Kir Vasilek. Even though the information he once provided helped make her career—and the memory of his touch still keeps her up at night—Cassie knows too much about his world to go down that path.
But when Kir reaches out for help after a rival family comes for one of his own, Cassie doesn’t want to say no, either to investigating a gruesome murder or to the heat that pulls her right back into his arms…and his heart. Taming Kir—and helping to save the family she’s come to call her own—is not the story she thought she’d write, but it’s the one she’s determined will get a happy ending.

Although I was sad when the Men of Haven series came to an end, it only took reading the first book in Rhenna Morgan’s NOLA Knights series to recover 😉  Yeah, His to Defend had me hooked and Hers to Tame sealed the deal.

Cassie was attracted to Kir, but after she heard disturbing things from her co-workers, she became leery and decided to keep her distance. That worked, until she ran into him again. And then Kir decided he wasn’t going to let her go again.

For me, the romance (almost) plays second to the family aspect between Sergei and those he holds close. Which includes his Haven brothers and their family and especially whoever Kir and Roman bring into the fold.

It took Cassie a while to get used to that kind of love and trust, but once she did, she no longer had any doubts about Kir. It was overwhelming at times, but not in a bad way. Kir helped her find herself along the way.

Mine to Keep is next and there was enough of tease at the end of Hers to Tame to make me wish for the release sooner rather than later. Roman’s next and given who his HEA is destined to be, things are going to get really interesting.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing (Big Bad Wolf #4) by Charlie Adhara

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…
Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.
With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.
The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.
With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead.

I adore Cooper and Park and this series gets better with each new addition. It should come as no surprise that Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing was no exception.

Cooper and Park’s relationship has grown serious to the point that they are living together. As much as Cooper loves his apartment, it’s become obvious that, while it’s comfortable for him and Parker isn’t complaining, the cramped space isn’t exactly practical. While he agrees that they need a new place and can’t wait to take their relationship to the next level, the options that Park has given him so far aren’t places that Cooper can see himself living. So yeah, there was underlying tension, which is why he had no problem abandoning the house hunting for some time away, even if it was for work.

And… even though it was for work, both Park and Cooper came to some revelations about themselves – both individually and as a couple. Cooper faced some of his fears and Park did as well. They grew as a couple without even expecting it to happen. Some of their realizations were a little heartbreaking, but it helped them heal old wounds they had almost forgotten about.

There was so much to love about Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing. The romance, the danger, the mystery and most of all how all of it just brought these two closer. I can’t wait to see what Charlie Adhara has in store for Cooper and Park next. ❤

Marry Him by Marina Ford

It was meant to be a one-night stand, not “I do.”
Joe Kaminski likes to go with the flow, a good trait to have as a young artist living in London. His laidback approach to life makes him a fish out of water when he’s hired at P&B Designs, a high-powered PR agency. The money’s good, but with his poor planning skills, he doesn’t see it lasting.
Harry Byrne likes his life the same way he likes his PowerPoint presentations: structured. Known for his dynamic personality, Harry suffered a blow when his seven-year relationship fell apart, souring his mood. The last thing on his mind is getting into another relationship, especially with a man who can barely make it to the office on time.
They’re not even supposed to like each other. But five years later, Joe and Harry are getting ready to tie the knot. They should’ve known it was only a matter of time before everything starts to fall apart: obstructive friends, well-meaning but meddlesome family, a hovering ex, international incidents, fires, pregnancies, and an airport chase. It seems their “I do”s were doomed from the start.

My initial response when I finished Marry Him: “Well, that was frustrating, but fun nonetheless. I think I need a break from angsty, miscommunication reads for a little while though….” Believe it or not, I (almost) stuck to that promise 😉

As frustrating as watching all the missteps (mainly by Joe) that happened along the way to their HEA, it was a fun trip. I know some readers were equally frustrated by the fact that much of the story went back and forth between the past and present. It may have been easier to just tell the story chronologically, but since the story took place during a 5 year span, for me, that approach kept things interesting. Just be forewarned…

On paper, Harry and Joe would be labeled the least likely couple to work, but they really complimented each other… eventually. The humor is what drove this story for me. The supporting characters were great, but not always helpful. More often than not, they added to the chaos. A lot of this couple’s problems would have been resolved with just a little bit of communication.

This was my first Marina Ford book, but I seriously doubt it will be my last.

Chaser (Chaser and Raining Men #1) by Rick R. Reed

Caden DeSarro is what they call a chubby chaser. He likes his guys with a few extra pounds on them. So when he meets Kevin Dodge in a bar bathroom, he can’t help but stare. As far as Caden is concerned, Kevin is physically perfect: a stocky bearded blond. But Caden gets tongue-tied and misses his chance.
When Caden runs into Kevin one night on the el train, he figures it’s fate offering him a second shot. Caden manages to get invited back to Kevin’s place for a one-night stand that turns into the kind of relationship he’s dreamed about.
But the course of true love never runs smoothly—Kevin and Caden’s romance is no exception. When Caden returns from a few weeks away on business, Kevin surprises him with a new and “improved” body—one that fits Caden’s shallow friend Bobby’s ideal, but not Caden’s. Caden doesn’t know what to do, and his hesitation is just the opportunity Bobby was looking for.

Another Rick R. Reed book and another near miss. Honestly, the only person in this book that I cared about was Kevin. That may sound harsh, but it’s how I felt, even when Caden finally came to his senses. And don’t even get me started on Bobby.

To be fair, it was a good story, but not a great HEA. Sure, things worked out for Caden and Kevin in the end, but I’m not so sure I wanted it to work out that way… which is not the way I expect to be feeling when I reach the end of what I expected to be a romance. *sigh*

That being said, I haven’t given up on this author or this series. Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe, but I’m also a fan of any author who can change my opinion of a character that I loath. Raining Men is next and it’s Bobby’s book. Right now the jury’s out on whether or not I want him to find a HEA. Rick R. Reed has his work cut out for him and I’m just curious enough to stick around and see if he can make it happen.

Hard Ride (Clean Slate Ranch #5) by A.M. Arthur

Five Weddings and a Fake Boyfriend
City slicker Derrick Massey has always had a thing for cowboys. So a roll in the hay with Kendall “Slater” Stamos during a rustic weekend wedding is more than A-OK. But when Slater’s forced to hang up his saddle for the season, Derrick surprises even himself with his proposition: be my fake boyfriend and get my family off my back about finding a permanent partner.
Though unexpected, the arrangement is a win-win. Derrick gets a plus-one for a slew of summer weddings and Slater gets a place to stay while he recuperates…with lots of casual fun in between. Which is just how the sexy cowboy likes it: casual. Yet it’s obvious the chemistry between them is anything but.
With the countdown to their “breakup” on, the more time the two men spend together. And the more it becomes clear that what they have could be real, if only they let it be.

I don’t think I could pick a favorite book in this series if I was pressed, but I can say that Hard Ride would be among my top choices. I can even forgive the fact that very little time was spent at the ranch. That’s mostly because the visits from all the “crew” made up for it… at least a little 😉

Slater and Derrick’s initial hook-up was casual, but it took them both a little off guard. It was something that neither one of them ever really forgot, especially when they were around each other. It made Derrick’s offer to give Slater a place to stay and recover easy. It also made Slater’s acceptance somewhat easy to accept.

It was fun watching these two men avoid the obvious. Neither one of them wanted their time to end, but Derrick was a little bit more than reluctant than Slater. He held secrets close to his chest that kept him from committing to anyone.

Once again, the sense of family in Clean Slate Ranch makes every book in this series a must read. It was especially true in Hard Ride, because with his found family, Slater found the acceptance that he needed and didn’t even know he craved. ❤

A Touch of Danger (Surviving Vihaan #1) by Elaine White

Drew’s life sucks. Saving money to escape his homophobic family is one thing, but his only paying gig at the moment is playing his father’s “only gay in the village” plus-one to every LGBT friendly business event.
Then his brother comes up with a plan. Sheffield needs someone to go undercover for his police investigation. Drew has all the qualifications: he’s gay, he has experience with exotic animals, and he’s college-aged. And he’s easily bought.
Going undercover to solve the mystery of a college campus smuggling ring was never in his plans. Neither was hot, perfect, house captain Rylee. The inside jokes about cats, animal prints, and talk of a place called Vihaan that forbids same-sex relationships, are just the tip of the suspicious iceberg.
Little does Drew know that he’s about to expose more than an illegal smuggling operation. The truth could be more lethal than he could imagine. And, despite it all, it might be his own secret past that kills him before the truth can be unveiled.

So, this one had promise, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters. Could be a “it’s not the book, it’s me” thing? I think that the main problem I had with A Touch of Danger was the world building. It’s not that it wasn’t great… it was just a little confusing. It got better the farther into the story that I got, so patience is a necessity with this one. *sigh*

As for the characters, they grew on me too. I liked Drew from the start, mainly because of his circumstances. He was in a no win situation when it came to his family, which is why he jumped on Sheffield’s offer. Even though he was basically using him and putting him in potential danger.

There’s more than meets the eye in A Touch of Danger. The residents of the house are just as much of a misfit in their world as Drew seems to be in his. Which is one of the many reasons that Drew seems to connect with them as quickly as he does. Rylee fights that connection as long as he can, but some things… well, you’ll just have to read this one to figure that one out.

As I said in my initial review when I finished A Touch of Danger, regardless of how I felt about this first book, I’m more than willing to give the rest of the series a try. I have a feeling that as the series continues, things will become clearer.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

For the record, I should probably give you a heads up by letting you know that this will be a rambling review. If you’ve been here before, you already know that I tend to do that when I review a book by an author I adore. For the record, T.J. Klune is one of those authors and unsurprisingly, The House in the Cerulean Sea is most definitely one of those books. Consider yourself forewarned. 😉

I have to admit that Linus didn’t win me over in the beginning. The more I got to know him though, the more I realized that the real reason I couldn’t connect with him was because he couldn’t connect with himself. He was lost and didn’t even really realize it. He wasn’t really living, but simply surviving. It took me a while, but in true T.J. fashion, once I connected with this amazing story it wouldn’t let me go.

I was as leery as Linus when readers were first introduced to Arthur and his charges. It didn’t take long to figure out that these kids were much more than their “classification.” It also didn’t take me long to pick a favorite. (I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my adoration of Lucy. ❤ ) Only T.J. Klune could make me fall in love with the Anti… well, that name or label just isn’t used in reference to one of Arthur’s charges.

Kids are a soft spot for me and The House in the Cerulean Sea pulled on all my heart strings. It did more than that though. there was more than one message. Without spoiling anything, but to give you just a taste of why this author is a must read for me…

“It’s not fair,” Linus said, staring off into nothing. “The way some people can be. But as long as you remember to be just and kind like I know you are, what those people think won’t matter in the long run. Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome.”

So yeah, Linus grew on me, just like he grew on Arthur and his charges. And then there was a theme that is front and center in a lot of T.J.’s books and one that I adore…

“A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea was much more than I expected. Sure, it was a little bit corny at times, but it made me smile. And yeah, the inevitable tears were there, even when I didn’t quite expect them. If you’ve never read a book by T.J. Klune, this is an amazing place to start.

“Don’t you wish you were here?”

Trust me, once you read The House in the Cerulean Sea, you’ll totally understand. 😉

 

 

 

the Ball Boy by Luca Guard

Devastated by the death of his father, Gage, an artist with a secret life, struggles to find his way back to “normal”. When rising baseball star Caleb arrives at his door, an unlikely romance simmers between them, but a cowboy coach, with major league ambitions of his own, will stop at nothing to keep them apart. Tempers flare as their deepest secrets are unearthed and the two must choose between chasing their dreams or embracing their newfound love.

Gah! I absolutely HATE giving negative reviews. I really, really do, but sometimes you just can’t escape it. Unfortunately, that’s the case with the Ball Boy. *sigh*

I really wanted to like this one and to be honest it had promise. On the other hand, this one came close to a DNF for me, but because it was so short, I didn’t give up on it. The bad part about that is that the shortness of this book was its ultimate downfall. There was way too much going on to cover in less than 100 pages. WAY too much.

On a totally different note, there was way too much… um… vulgarity? brashness? I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination – you can take a look at my reading list to prove that, but the Ball Boy was one of those books that was just a little bit over the top.

Like I said, the Ball Boy did have promise and I think that if it had a little bit more length, if the story was developed just a little bit more…