Rabi and Matthew by L.A. Witt

A decades-old family rivalry is reaching a boiling point as the patriarchs vie for a seat in Congress. Democrat vs Republican, Muslim vs Christian, Hashmi vs Swain — the Midwestern town of Arbor Hills is one spark away from an explosion of violence. So when two men find themselves irresistibly drawn together at a party, only to discover they were born on opposite sides of a bloody battle line, Matthew Swain and Rabi Hashmi know they should leave well enough alone.
The pull between them is magnetic, though, and it’s too strong to ignore. Unable to resist, they meet again in secret. Generations of hatred can’t temper the passionate love growing between them, but two men falling for each other in the middle of a war zone can’t hold back the inevitable clash.
And when decades of political, religious, and personal strife finally come to a head, there will be blood.

I can honestly say, since the year’s almost over, that Rabi and Matthew is one of the hardest books I’ve read this year. My initial reaction when I finished… “Gotta admit… this was NOT an easy one to read, but there are also a LOT of people I’d love to recommend it to. ❤ ” For the record, that opinion still stands.

Although there were elements of prejudice on both sides in Rabi and Matthew, Matthew’s family set the bar for way too many people in the community. Matthew saw beyond the hate that his family lived by and not just for the obvious reasons. He was way more enlightened than the rest of his family. No one really knew him except for his best friend and they protected each other’s secrets. Even so, his friend didn’t understand the attraction to Rabi of all people. It was a dangerous attraction, but love is love and the hate had to end somewhere.

There was a price to pay though and it took something drastic to make everyone come to their collective senses. The only real issue I had with this book at all was how things kind of wrapped themselves up at the end. I’m not complaining though. I spent most of the book just waiting for the worst to happen… Rabi and Matthew didn’t exactly end with a perfect HEA, but it was close. In the end there was hope for the next generation between these families…

Sink or Swim (Anchor Point #8) by L.A. Witt

When need meets fear, can two very different men find common ground?
Alhazar Bukhari spent his Navy career in the closet. Now he’s retired, divorced, and hungry for the love he’s never had a chance to experience. He tries to put his faith in Allah to bring the right man into his life, but it’s hard to be patient after all this time.
Chaplain Dylan Pedersen spends his days counseling Sailors, and his nights with men he doesn’t know. Months after finally escaping an abusive relationship, he’s terrified of anything more than a physical connection. Maybe it’s a sin, but he’s too lonely to not let men into his bed, and too scared to let them into his heart.
When Alhazar’s civilian job brings him aboard the USS Fort Stevens, and his daily prayers bring him into Dylan’s chapel, the chemistry is instantaneous. Sex and friendship quickly evolve into more, but Dylan’s too haunted by his recent past to be the man Alhazar wants. Alhazar needs love, Dylan needs time, and if they can’t find some sort of balance, they’ll sink before they ever have a chance to swim.

When L.A. Witt decides to tackle a subject, she doesn’t hold back. I love the real life situations that she has her characters face in the Anchor Point series. Given that most of those situations are unique to the military makes things even more interesting. In Sink or Swim, Alhazar and Dylan had more than one obstacle to over come if they ever wanted to make a relationship work between them.

Despite those obstacles, Alhazar and Dylan had a lot in common. They both were previously married to women and had children. Alhazar married out of necessity, Dylan in an attempt to have a “normal” life. You’ll have to read Sink or Swim to get their personal back stories. Parts of both are heart breaking.

I respected both these men a lot. It was refreshing to “meet” a Chaplain – or any religious character – be as open, welcoming and respectful of other religions as Dylan was. I loved Alhazar’s devotion to his faith and learning more about it was an added bonus. His family dynamic with his ex-wife and children was great too. The circumstances were unique, but they made it work.

Both men slipped, they weren’t perfect and as much as I loved them, there was at least once where I wanted to yell at them both. There were a lot of odds against them and that balance they needed to find didn’t come easy. Alhazar had a strong need to protect those he cared about and Dylan felt like he needed to stand up to his fears on his own.

It was great seeing other characters from previous stories. Even though it would be easy to pick any one of the books in the Anchor Point series up as a stand alone, having those simple connections between the characters adds a lot to each book. I think that’s what I might like best about series books that include different characters with each book and L.A. Witt does a great job at including those previous characters seamlessly. So… if you haven’t started the Anchor Point series up yet, you could start with Sink or Swim, but I’d start with the book that started it all… Just Drive. You can thank me later 😉

Wash Out (Anchor Point #7) by L.A. Witt

Casey Olson has always known he was destined to be a Navy SEAL, and the best day of his life was when he was accepted into training. The worst day was when a snapping bone ended his dream.
After three combat tours in five years, Logan Carter left the Marines and self-destructed. Now he’s sober and, thanks to a forgiving ex with friends in high places, has a promising job as a civilian contractor. All he has to do is stay on the rails and out of a bottle, even when his demons won’t leave him alone.
Logan likes his job, and he really likes the gorgeous man at the next desk. Casey tries not to check Logan out, but who is he kidding? From the start, despite their best efforts, neither man can resist the other. Sizzling chemistry leads to sex so hot they can both almost forget why they’re stuck in this office to begin with.
It would be perfect, except Logan can’t stop reliving wars he’ll never forget and Casey can’t stop grieving the SEAL he’ll never be. And they’ll never have a future together until they can make peace with their pasts.

I loved these guys, I really did, but I also got aggravated with them more than once. I also sympathized with both of them. However, if I had to take sides with either Logan or Casey, I’d have to go with Logan.

Before anyone points this out, I know that I usually don’t choose sides. Especially when both characters are living with their own brand of pain. I could just relate to Logan’s honesty. He had been where Casey so desperately wanted to go and even though he knew that Casey didn’t want to hear it, he couldn’t hold back the relief that Casey wouldn’t have to endure what he did. Casey couldn’t see past his pain and loss and lashed out at Logan every time he voiced that relief. They both had issues that they had to work on individually and even though age was never mentioned (at least not that I noticed) Casey had a lot of growing up to do along with the healing.

Having said all that, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like Casey, because I did. I also think that they were good for each other. In a strange way, Logan’s past helped Casey see things in a way that he never had – and never really wanted to see before. Logan had screwed up, a lot, but he was making up for it and he was also a lot stronger than he gave himself credit for. There were a couple of close calls, but even at some of his lowest points, he pulled himself back up.

Wash Out was most definitely Casey and Logan’s story, but it was great seeing past characters. Readers who have followed the series had met both Casey and Logan in previous books briefly. It was nice finding out what happened to Casey after his accident and giving Logan a chance to make up for everything he put Clint through in Afraid to Fly, the second book in L.A. Witt’s Anchor Point series. I was also really happy to spend some more time with Diego from Once Burned. And yeah, you can probably read each one of the books in the Anchor Point series as a stand alone, but I like all these little glimpses into past characters.

Once Burned (Anchor Point #6) by L.A. Witt

Captain Mark Thomas’s world has been tossed on its head: A long overdue but still unexpected divorce. A promotion out of left field. Last-second orders to a ship where careers go to die. As the dust settles in his new home, he barely recognizes his life, but he sure recognizes the loneliness creeping in.
Diego Ramírez wants nothing to do with the military or its men. Not after the Navy burned him both literally and figuratively, costing him his career, his health, and ultimately his green card. Now working illegally in an Anchor Point bar, he keeps the military and its personnel at arm’s length.
But after a single moment of eye contact across the bar, Mark and Diego can’t resist each other. As a one-night stand quickly turns into more, Diego knows he’s playing with fire. Now he can stick around and let things with Mark inevitably fall apart, or he can run like hell and wonder what might have been. One way or another, Diego knows he’s about to get burned. Again.
50% of the author’s royalties from this book will be donated to charities supporting US military veterans who have been deported or are at risk of deportation.

If you’ve been reading the books in the Anchor Point series, you know that readers met Diego in the previous book, Going Overboard. He was Dalton’s best friend and earned just enough page time to make me really look forward to his story. I wasn’t disappointed.

Both Mark and Diego are more than a little bit broken when they meet. Diego has good reason to not want to have anything to do with the military. Falling someone who has obviously decided to make the military his career is someone he needs to stay away from. The problem is, once he gives in, he finds it hard to stay away.

Mark is lost. His marriage wasn’t a great one, far from it, but it was familiar. When he sees Diego for the first time, he’s more than a little surprised that the connection just feels right. These two are drawn to each other physically, but it doesn’t take long for them to form a real connection.

Diego is drawn to Mark, but he knows that there’s no future between the two of them. Trust is hard for him and Mark means well, but he’s oblivious to the situation that Diego is in. Not because he’s unfeeling, just because he had no idea how bad things really were and how precarious his situation really was.

For the record, L.A. Witt did an amazing job of handling this touchy subject. I fell in love with both of these characters and really felt for both of them. Diego because of the situation he was in and Mark because of his determination to make things right, regardless. This was definitely another great addition to the Anchor Point series and I can’t wait to see what comes next with Wash Out – the next book in the series. 

Going Overboard (Anchor Point #5) by L.A. Witt

Second-class petty officers Dalton Taylor and Chris Ingram have been best friends since coxswain’s school. Now they’re stationed together in the harbor patrol unit of NAS Adams. They’re content as friends, but secretly, they both ache for more. Neither makes a move, though; while Dalton is out and proud, Chris is closeted—even from his best friend.
Then another coxswain’s negligence nearly drowns Dalton. After a taste of how easily they could lose each other, neither man can keep his feelings hidden anymore, and it turns out love and sex come easy when you’re falling for your best friend.
Things aren’t just heating up between the friends-turned-lovers, though. The Navy is investigating the accident, and the harbor patrol chief isn’t going to let his star coxswain go down for dereliction of duty, even if saving him means throwing Dalton under the bus.
As the threats and gaslighting pile up, Chris and Dalton need each other more than ever—as shipmates, friends, and lovers. But if their chief prevails, the only way they can save their careers is to let each other go.

Anchor Point is turning into one of my favorite Military Romances. I’m not sure if I can say that Going Overboard was my favorite in the series, but it’s close. There were a couple of things that made this book unique to the series and although it could probably be read as a stand alone, there were a couple of key characters who would make it worth reading the rest of the series. If for no other reason, just to get to know them better. 😉

So what makes Dalton and Chris’ story different? Well, first, they’ve known each other for a long time. They started out together, got separated for a while, then ended up on the same base. They had a long history and they had grown to love and respect each other long before there was any romance between the two. Especially since Dalton had no idea that Chris was gay because he kept it hidden from everyone, including him. On the surface it may have seemed unnecessary, but the color of Chris’ skin had subjected him to more than enough discrimination. He didn’t need to add being gay to the mix. Plus, falling for your best friend is complicated. There was just too much to lose.

The other thing that makes Chris and Dalton’s story different from the previous stories in Anchor Point is that they were being personally attacked by a superior officer. All the couples before them had obstacles to overcome, but they were different. The battle that Chris and Dalton were fighting seemed so daunting to them that they had no choice but to give up. There were times that I wanted to push these two into trusting someone, anyone, who could stand up for them and actually help. They had to make that decision on their own though. I think the “mom” in me came out because these guys seemed so young compared to all the characters who had come before them.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the Anchor Point series. At least one of the characters in Once Burned was introduced in Going Overboard, which promises to keep things interesting. 😉

Romantic Behavior (Bad Behavior #4) by L.A. Witt & Cari Z

Detective Andreas Ruffner is no fool—he’s found a man who loves him, puts up with him, and has stuck with him through hell and back, and it’s time to put a ring on it. Darren Corliss is the love of his life, and he wants the whole world to know it.
Now the fun part—the wedding!
Well, after the not-so-fun part of planning the wedding in between dealing with overbearing and impossible-to-please family members. With future mothers-in-law driving them both up a wall, the guest list growing out of control, and the wedding getting ever more complicated, Darren and Andreas have to wonder if they’re in over their heads.
But they’re going to make it to the altar if it kills them . . . and at this rate, it just might.

I admit it, I’m never really happy when a series comes to an end. However, if it does have to end (which most of my beloved series eventually do) Romantic Behavior is a perfect example of how it should be done (in my opinion anyway 😉 )

Andreas and Darren have been through so much, it’s about time they get their HEA. Nothing comes easy for them though, not even something as deceptively simple as planning a wedding. There are in-laws, outlaws and everyone in between. I was beginning to wonder if they could actually pull it off.

These two were determined though and with the love and support of everyone that mattered, they finally reached their well deserved HEA. I’m still sad to say good-bye to one of my favorite romantic suspense M/M couples, but I have no doubt that this dynamic writing duo will be bringing us more amazing couples (either together or on their own) to fall in love with in the future. 😉

New Hand (Bluewater Bay #23) by L.A. Witt

Months after his husband’s death, Garrett Blaine desperately needs a fresh start. He sells his house in Seattle, leaves his accounting job, and starts bartending in Bluewater Bay. There he meets a man who wakes up his nearly forgotten libido.
Jesse Connelly’s friend with benefits bolted after Jesse disclosed his HIV status. Stood up and stinging, Jesse tries to drown his sorrows . . . and finds an unexpected connection with a lonely bartender.
Jesse and Garrett quickly bond over a shared love of comics and card games, and they can’t get enough of each other between the sheets. Not even a bumpy start and a fifteen-year age gap can derail them as they go from strangers to lovers, then friends, then much more.
But as Garrett’s feelings for Jesse deepen, so does his grief for the man he lost—especially as he sees hints of his late husband in his new boyfriend. Now Garrett has to figure out if Jesse is his second chance at true love, or if Jesse’s just filling in for the man he’s never fully grieved. And he needs to figure it out soon, because Jesse’s starting to wonder the same thing.

I have to admit, I was more than a little sad when I found out that New Hand would be the very last book in the Bluewater Bay series. Even so, I’m happy to say that it ended on a high note and it was rather appropriate that L.A. Witt wrote both the first and last book in the series (plus a few in between.) I really like these multi-author series. They not only introduce me to authors that I may not have otherwise known about, but they also give perspectives on a whole spectrum of ideas, situations, issues… that I didn’t know existed or never considered. In the Bluewater Bay series, there were even a couple of F/F books thrown into the mix, which isn’t one of my go-to genres. I can’t say that I’ve become a true fan, but I like stepping out of my comfort zone from time to time. Even though most of these books would have been easy to read as a stand alone, I personally think that you get a lot more out of each book if you’ve read them all. New Hand is a good example of that. Not only were some of the characters from Starstruck (the first book in the series) but Jesse was introduced in Outside the Lines, and characters in that book played an important role in New Hand. Just my opinion though. Honestly, there are very few books in the series I wouldn’t recommend. 😉

As for Jesse and Garrett’s story – these guys took turns breaking my heart. They were equally broken for very different reasons. Garrett was grieving and trying to run away from the memories. Even though he was attracted to Jesse from the first time he saw him, he spent a lot of time in his head second guessing his feelings. It didn’t help that he had well meaning (and some not-so-well meaning) friends and family re-inforcing those doubts. It seemed like for every positive step forward he took, he was pushed back two or more.

In the mean time Jesse was dealing with rejection and he couldn’t risk his heart any more by being a rebound for a grieving man. Once he realized that Garrett’s response to his admission wasn’t rejection, things got better, but he still wasn’t sure. The crazy part was, neither was Garrett, but he didn’t want to give Jesse up. He just had to convince him of that before it was too late.

There was a lot to love about this book. If you’ve been here before, you know how I feel about supporting characters and New Hand had some of the best. I fell in love with Lydia, Simon and Ian from Outside the Lines all over again, but especially Lydia. There were even more characters from previous books thrown into the mix which was also fun. Garrett went a little fan boy from time to time, which was kind of adorable, especially since he was the older man in this May/December romance.

So yeah, New Hand brought this series to a satisfying end. I’m kinda hoping that some of the authors treat readers to at least a peek at a few of the characters in the series in the future. Even if that never happens, I’m pretty sure that this is a series that I’ll pick up again.

Reckless Behavior (Bad Behavior #3) by L.A. Witt & Cari Z.

After too many years of putting his job first, Detective Andreas Ruffner is getting his priorities straight. He’s ready to spend some quality time with his adult kids, not to mention come clean about some things he should’ve told them a long time ago. And introduce them to his partner and boyfriend, Darren Corliss.
But in a heartbeat, a family dinner turns into Andreas’s worst nightmare. When the dust settles, one of his kids is hurt, and the other three have been abducted.
Andreas is going to find his kids, and nothing, not even a broken ankle, is going to stop him. Thank God for his sharp, level-headed partner . . . who has a crisis of his own pulling him away when Andreas needs him the most. As both men try to support—and lean on—each other, they get no closer to finding the kids. And the longer the children are missing, the less likely it is they’ll ever be found.

This series has always been packed with emotion. Not surprising, considering the fact that a powerful #EvilAuthor duo combined forces to create the Bad Behavior series. They pulled out ALL the stops with Reckless Behavior.

In Reckless Behavior, both Andreas and Darren are dealing with their own personal nightmares. They’ve never needed each other’s support more than now, but neither one of them is in a good place. They wanted to be there for each other but events spiraled out of their control. When Darren tried to be there for Andreas, he was hurt by the fact that Andreas tried to give him the space to deal with what he was going through… and it went both ways. They were a mess, but they wanted nothing more to be there for each other, even though both of them were crushed. It was totally heartbreaking which made this book impossible to put down. I just wanted things fixed for both of them.

There was no easy fix and the bad guy was not who I expected it to be, but I can’t say I was totally surprised either. This book was full of suspense, love, heartbreak, and craziness. There was even a little bit of time for some heated romance… which was a much needed distraction for both the characters and the reader. Yeah, Reckless Behavior was that intense.

On the plus side, I liked getting to know Andreas family – including his ex’s. There was still a lot of love and respect there, which says a lot about Andreas. He still has a way to go to make up for some precious lost time, but he’s getting there. With Darren’s influence and help.

There’s at least one more book in the Bad Behavior series and I’m really hoping that Romantic Behavior lives up to its title 😉 This couple definitely deserves a little more romance and a lot less danger.

Cover Up (Skin Deep Inc. #3) by L.A. Witt

After ten years of blissful marriage, Navy Pilot Nate Chandler is divorcing his cheating husband. Single for the first time in years, Nate is numb to all emotion and kisses any chance of another relationship goodbye.
Not only is Nate struggling to get through this divorce, but his body is branded with a permanent reminder of his failed marriage: a matching tattoo with his ex. Searching for a place to cover up his old tattoo, Nate finds himself at the Skin Deep, Inc., where he meets the young and charming cover-up tattoo apprentice, Lucas Brandt.
From just flirty glances to steamy hot encounters, Nate and Lucas dive headfirst into a fling of hookups. But worried that he’ll forever be Nate’s “cover up” rebound relationship, Lucas fears that their love won’t be anything more than just skin deep. What was once just a casual attraction, Lucas now hopes to turn into a real relationship. But will he be able to convince the still tender-hearted Nate to fall in love again?

So evidently I’m not only on a L.A. Witt kick, I’m also on a military kick… Like I’ve mentioned before, L.A. Witt is on a role and I haven’t read all her available titles, but there are a few that I just couldn’t resist. The Skin Deep Inc series is one of them. On a side note, if I hadn’t already decided to go back and read Back Piece (the first book in the series – I have no idea how I missed that one) Cover Up would have made the decision a no-brainer.

Nate pretty much broke my heart in Pounding Skin – his break up with his husband of 10 years almost convinced Jon that true, long standing love didn’t exist. Thankfully, things worked out for Jon and and Matt, but I’m equally thankful that Nate got his chance at a true HEA.

Lucas may have been an apprentice at Skin Deep Inc, but he was really just using that title as a crutch. He was especially talented at covering up tattoos that people weren’t happy with for one reason or another. He could have become a full fledged artist, but he lost his confidence with one screw up. He was still trying to get over it when he met Nate.

I gotta admit, even though I wanted Nate and Lucas to be each other’s HEA, I thought things moved a little too fast. Yet, I felt the connection that these two had. Nate had no intention of getting close to anyone else and Lucas had been burned himself a couple of times. He had no intention of being anyone’s rebound. Love had other plans for these two, but that didn’t mean things were easy.

On a side note – isn’t it great when books take place in areas that you recognize? I live really close to Virginia Beach, which is where the naval base and the tattoo parlor are. Cover Up was even cooler for me though because Lucas and Nate traveled across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and took Rt. 13 north through the Eastern Shore of Virginia, which is where I actually live. It was a quick trip, but it was really fun reading about such a familiar area.

It was great being with Jon, Matt and the rest of the characters again. Colin and Daniel – who were the first couple introduced in Back Piece – also played a fairly important role in Cover Up. Which is just one of the many reasons why I need to go back and read their story from the beginning. You can read any of these stories as a stand alone, but I bet once you read one, you’re going to want to read them all. 😉

Rank & File (Anchor Point #4) by L.A. Witt

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize—making master chief and retiring after thirty years of service.
Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things—once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.
When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give—Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.
But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.
Except—too late.

Readers met Will in Chief’s Mess. Although he was a supporting character, he suffered a lot in that book, but he also offered a lot of support for Noah. So, going into Rank & File, I already had a soft spot for him.

Since his break up, Will hasn’t been interested at all in even looking at another man…until he met Brent. It wasn’t a normal meeting, but after that, neither man could get the other out of his head.

There was nothing simple about their relationship though, even when they tried to trick themselves into believing that what they have is casual. A relationship, even a casual one, is forbidden by their ranks. As long as they keep the careers that they have worked hard for, any kind of relationship is impossible. My heart broke for both of them because regardless of what they did, they were destined to lose something.

I’m really loving this series and getting glimpses of the previous couples, even small ones, is one of the best parts. Going Overboard is next and I can’t wait to see what happens next.