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.

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.)

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…

IM by Rick R. Reed

The Internet is the new meat market for gay men. Now a killer is turning the meat market into a meat wagon.
One by one, he’s killing them. Lurking in the digital underworld of Men4HookUpNow.com, he lures, seduces, and charms, reaching out through instant messages to the unwary. When the first body surfaces, openly gay Chicago Police Department detective Ed Comparetto is called in to investigate. At the scene, the young man who discovered the body tells him the story of how he found his friend. But did this witness play a bigger role in the murder than he’s letting on?
For Comparetto, this encounter is the beginning of a nightmare—because this witness did more than just show up at the scene of the crime; he set the scene.
Comparetto is on a journey to discover the truth—before he loses his career, his boyfriend, his sanity… his life. Because in this killer’s world, IM doesn’t stand for instant message… it stands for instant murder.

Wow… okay, I’m not an extremely critical reader, so things that might bother other people about IM didn’t really bother me. Like the fact that Ed lost his job at the CPD with little or no investigation. I would hope that’s not the norm… Okay, so maybe it bothered me a little bit, but only because it was totally unfair. It left Ed on his own to find out what really happened.

Ed figured out who the serial killer was, but it was impossible to prove. Especially since the person he suspected was supposedly dead. So… searching for a dead man is Ed’s only lead.

I’m one of those readers that likes alternating POVs and IM contained quite a few. The ones that stood out the most were the POV’s of the actual victims. IM actually begins with one of these chapters. I kind of liked that unique approach. It definitely added to the suspense.

A touch of romance, a suspenseful mystery, more than a little danger… everything I love in a good suspense. I’ve read more than a few Rick R. Reed ARCs lately and some of them have been hits, some of them have been misses… IM was definitely a hit.

Unforsaken (The Fallen Guardians #1) by Cassie Laelyn

Hidden deep in the Snowy Mountains, lives a brotherhood of immortal Guardians, banished from the Heavens.
​After centuries of exile, Head Guardian Raven can taste Hell. One wrong move could destroy his soul. When Fate assigns him a female mortal to protect, his forbidden desire becomes a distraction he can’t afford. Giving in to temptation risks plummeting into the fiery pits of Hell, dragging her along with him.
​Tayla Eason is on the run, escaping a horrific attack on her life. When she lands in the arms of the sexy, alluring man who saved her, the shadows of her past swiftly close in. But when Fate throws a twist, Tayla’s forced to choose between saving Raven’s soul or fleeing before the creatures strike again.
​In an ultimate test of love, the two must battle against the almighty Fate. But will it be enough to save them both?

Every once in a while, I realize that I’ve locked myself into a reading rut. I stick with the same authors, genres and/or publishers without even realizing it. It’s not exactly a comfort zone, I strayed away from that a long time ago. It’s more like a force of habit. I have to consciously do a different search when I’m looking for ARCs or new reads. It was during one of those searches that I found the second book in The Fallen Guardians series. On a whim, I checked out the publisher and found out that the first book was also available for review. So… here we are…

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I should probably mention that I’m very happy that I stumbled upon Cassie Lealyn’s new series. The world building included a refreshing take on fallen angels with a mythological twist. Even though this was the first book in a new series and there was a lot of background to cover, it wasn’t a distraction from Tayla and Raven. Raven’s brothers, their connection to the woman he was sworn to protect and other forces just added to the story. The fact that Raven was “broken” and Tayla was the one person who could make him whole. The only problem was, she shouldn’t have been.

This story had pretty much everything I love about PNR. The supporting characters were intriguing, not to mention witty. There was enough danger and mystery to keep the pages turning. The take on fallen angels was unique and the romance was both hot and sweet. Unforgotten is next and after meeting Aric in Unforsaken, I can’t wait to read what happens next.

Heartsong (Green Creek #3) by T.J. Klune

All Robbie Fontaine ever wanted was a place to belong. After the death of his mother, he bounces around from pack to pack, forming temporary bonds to keep from turning feral. It’s enough—until he receives a summons from the wolf stronghold in Caswell, Maine.
Life as the trusted second to Michelle Hughes—the Alpha of all—and the cherished friend of a gentle old witch teaches Robbie what it means to be pack, to have a home.
But when a mission from Michelle sends Robbie into the field, he finds himself questioning where he belongs and everything he’s been told. Whispers of traitorous wolves and wild magic abound—but who are the traitors and who the betrayed?
More than anything, Robbie hungers for answers, because one of those alleged traitors is Kelly Bennett—the wolf who may be his mate.
The truth has a way of coming out. And when it does, everything will shatter.

Oh Robbie *sigh*, oh Kelly *sigh*… oh T.J. *glares* If you’ve read any books by T.J. Klune, no explanation is necessary.

I really don’t know how to explain Heartsong without giving anything away. Rest assured, it was full of the usual angst, wit and inevitable heartbreak that readers have come to expect from the Green Creek series, but the approach was slightly different. And that is all I’m going to say, except stick with it and be patient. Sorry?

If you’ve read the other books in the Green Creek series, which you should before you pick up Heartsong, you know that the Bennet Pack has a few battles left to fight before things settle down for them. (If it’s been a while since you’ve read Ravensong, you might want to consider a quick reread to get yourself up to speed – just a suggestion.)

The first part of the book focuses on Robbie and… well, you’ll have to keep reading Heartsong to understand, but it’s worth it. A lot’s happened since the end of Ravensong. Betrayal from unexpected sources, love found… and lost, heartbreak, danger, suspense and more. I can’t honestly say I loved every minute of it because there was a lot of pain involved in Heartsong, but there was still a lot to love.

The bonds of the pack were stretched to the limit and there were trust issues where there never were before, but pack is pack, family is family and nothing was more important to the Bennets. That’s one of the things I love about this series. Loyalty, family and most importantly love flow strong between the wolves, humans and even the omegas.

And then there was the ending *glares at the evil author one more time*. Nothing will ever be the same for some members of the pack. The next book is Brothersong and it’s going to be bittersweet, mainly because it marks the end of the Green Creek series. If, like me, you’re craving just a little bit more once you finish Heartsong, you can visit T.J. Klune’s website and read or even listen to Feralsong, a free short story he wrote for his faithful fans. Given how things ended, I don’t think I can hold off reading Brothersong once it’s released. I can’t wait to continue the Green Creek series – especially since it features Gavin and “stupid” Carter. 😉