Finding Home by Garrett Leigh

How do you find a home when your heart is in ashes?
With their mum dead and their father on remand for her murder, Leo Hendry and his little sister, Lila, have nothing in the world but each other. Broken and burned, they’re thrust into the foster care system. Leo shields Lila from the fake families and forced affection, until the Poulton household is the only place left to go.
Charlie de Sousa is used to other kids passing through the Poulton home, but there’s never been anyone like his new foster brother. Leo’s physical injuries are plain to see, but it’s the pain in his eyes that draws Charlie in the most.
Day by day, they grow closer, but the darkness inside Leo consumes him. He rejects his foster parents, and when Charlie gets into trouble, Leo’s attempt to protect him turns violent. When Leo loses control, no one can reach him—except Charlie. He desperately needs a family—a home—and only Charlie can show him the way.

Have you ever read a book and found yourself wanting to be friends with the characters? People that touched you in a way that you just wanted to get to know them better? Although I adored Leo and Charlie, I was in awe of Kate and Reg. They were so incredibly good at not only fostering, but truly loving, caring and accepting, plus they just seemed to sense each child’s limits and needs. They were the core of this amazing family and they expected nothing less from each member. To me, that’s a huge part of what made this story work for me. *sigh*

I’ve mentioned before that Garrett Leigh has a talent for totally breaking a character and then slowly put the pieces back together, while taking the reader right along with them. There’s always hope though and that’s what keeps the pages turning, for me anyway. Readers witnessed from the very first chapter the pain that both Leo and Lila went through. Even before the tragic day that left them without parents, their life wasn’t easy. Home had little or no meaning to them and trust wasn’t something that they could give easily. Finding the Poulton family was their hope, it just took Leo a while to figure that out. Except for his connection to Charlie. I love that connection.

Charlie was a good kid with a good heart. He loved and respected his family – even though they drove him nuts sometimes – and trusted them. Leo wasn’t a bad kid, he was just a kid who found himself in a bad situation. To him family was Lila and he would and had been doing everything in his power to keep her safe. He refused to depend on anyone else because he’d learned the hard way… over and over again… that it was him and Lila. He was physically and mentally hurt and broken and angry and then he met Charlie.

I love the way that their relationship grew. Charlie did his best to prove to Leo that the whole family was behind him. Leo did his best to keep his distance from everyone but Charlie, but the Poulton family was a force to be reckoned with. I loved each and every one of them. Kate and Reg proved over and over again that although they were the parents and they had strict expectations for each of their kids, they respected the kids just as much as the kids did them – their opinions mattered.

I hope I’ve made it obvious that this book touched me in a way that few others have in a while. If you’re a fan of Garrett Leigh, but not a fan of the YA genre, I still recommend that you read this one. It’s not always easy and it’s not exactly angst free, but this author held nothing back and ended up finding both Leo and Lila the home… and family… they deserved. ❤

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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. 😉

Five Dares by Eli Easton

Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.
But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod . As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.
But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

Oh Andy and Jake… I loved these guys. I loved the spontaneity of Andy and the fact that Jake always had his back. As the story progressed and the author gave readers little glimpses into their past, I grew to love them even more.

Andy and Jake were quite a pair. They both worked hard to get to where they were. They’d been together forever and for the first time in forever they were heading in totally different directions. It made a crazy kind of sense to pull off one last stunt. Crazy being the operative word. 🙂

Five Dares was one of those books that was just as much fun as it was touching… and heart breaking. Jake had his life after graduation planned. He had a job and his sister was waiting for him. Andy has his future planned too, but it wasn’t a future he was excited about. Leaving Andy behind was only part of what he dreaded.

Both Andy and Jake learned a lot about themselves in Five Dares. They also learned a lot about each other. They had a unique relationship and a great one. I loved that they finally found out exactly how much they meant to each other. The dares were a crazy way to figure it out, but whatever works, right? 😉 

 

 

Natural Selection (Human Design #2) by Katie Allen

There’s something wickedly naughty about love on the run
Darwin Bloom has no true identity—his laboratory creators made sure of that. Darwin isn’t his real name and living on the lam doesn’t exactly allow for deep romantic relationships, but the feelings he’s developed for engineer Tom Cooper are strong enough to try.
Tom Cooper’s life changed forever when he met Darwin. Gone are his fears of intimacy—Tom wants to do whatever Darwin asks, whenever he asks. How is it that the big, beautiful construction worker can seem dangerous and delicious at the same time?
But when Darwin’s mysterious past comes back with a vengeance, there’s more than just incredible sex at stake. Darwin promised Tom he’d never leave him…but keeping him safe might mean doing just that.

I picked up Natural Selection before I realized that there was a previous book. Honestly, it didn’t make a big difference. I wasn’t totally lost, but I did find myself wondering exactly what did happen to Darwin when he was held captive and essentially used as a lab rat. For that reason and the fact that evidently all the characters who will eventually have their own story were introduced in Erotic Experiments, I’ll probably have to go back and read that first book. Enough references were made that I wasn’t lost, but I still want to fill in the blanks.

As for Darwin and Tom? I really liked their story. They were both drawn to each other, but they both had their own reasons for keeping their distance. I loved the push and pull of their relationship, my only complaint is that I wanted more. Everything got semi resolved between them and then… it was just over. Hopefully, readers will get more of Darwin and Tom later… speaking of which….

The next book in the series is Carnal Chemistry and I personally can’t wait to see Calvin find his HEA. It promises to be interesting.

On a side note, this series was previously released under the titles Experimenting with Ed, Darwin’s Natural Selection, Chemistry with Calvin and Aristotle’s Anatomy. I think I kinda like the new titles better 😉 

Off Campus (Bend or Break #1) by Amy Jo Cousins

Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.
With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.
But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.
Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.
Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.
Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.

This is only the 2nd book by Amy Jo Cousins that I’ve read. The first was a Holiday novella, Glass Tidings and since I really enjoyed that one too, I really need to pick up more of her books. Maybe I can rectify that by continuing the Bend or Break series. 😉

I really liked both Tom and Reese – and they were both broken in very different ways. Seems to be a theme in my recent reads, doesn’t it? Since this book is told strictly from Tom’s POV, readers found out his back story fairly early. At least most of it. Reese’s issues were a mystery, but once Tom found out why he was promised a room to himself. Why he was so crushed when he found out Tom was his new roommate, things changed. For both of them.

To say that Off Campus was filled with angst would be a slight understatement. Granted, there was good reason for it, but I still wanted to smack some sense into Tom more than once. He couldn’t see past his determination to do everything for himself and as a side affect, he had little trust for anyone but himself. Even Reese. Which almost caused him to lose everything. *sigh*

Both of these characters grew a lot and I loved them even more by the end. I also love their friends – Cash and Steph. Spoiler: I’m definitely going to have to read this series up to The Girl Next Door 😉

Foxglove Copse (Porthkennack #5) by Alex Beecroft

After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.
Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.

Porthkennack gets more interesting with each new book…. I’m obviously really enjoying this series, although I still haven’t picked up the historical titles. For now I’m sticking with the contemporary offerings and Foxglove Copse is one of my favorites.

Sam was a mess, but a lovable one. He was slightly broken and the farther he stayed away from his family, the better off he was. Ruan was the exact opposite. He was strong and sure of himself and he had love all the love and support from his family he could ask for, and sometimes even more. I loved his family connection almost as much as I loathed Sam’s.

There was a lot going on in Foxglove Copse beside the budding romance between Sam and Ruan. A little bit of mystery and danger thrown into the mix, which really kept the pages turning. There was something pretty scary going on in the normally quiet village.

Each book in this series is written by a different author and they can all be read as a stand alone, but there is a thread of connection. That thread’s even stronger in Foxglove Copse and I really liked the unexpected connection. I have to admit that those historical books in the Porthkennack series getting more and more tempting.  Odds are I’ll probably cave eventually. The next book in the series is Count the Shells, an historical offering by Charlie Cochrane. 

Controlled Burn by Erin McLellan

At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.
Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?
But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.
But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.

I almost missed this on. Thank goodness I pay attention to my favorite bloggers/readers because otherwise I would have missed an amazing read. It’s also my first Erin McLellan read, which isn’t surprising, since it’s her first book – but the fact that Controlled Burn is her first book is surprising because it was just that good. I’m rambling aren’t I?

The odds of Joel finding himself in a class where his worst memory was used as a case study in a class were crazy, yet that’s where he was. The only thing that made things easier was Paulie, but he pushed his feelings about him away, because that was safer. Safe is easy and Paulie didn’t accept easy.

This book had so many layers. Joel was trying hard to hide from the past. What he went through was traumatic and the aftermath was heartbreaking. He literally had no support so hiding, burying his feelings was second nature. Paulie didn’t have it easy either, but he didn’t let his past dictate his future. He made Joel want to come out of hiding, but he still kept his past to himself… until he couldn’t anymore.

I have a real soft spot for characters who don’t get the love and support from their parents that they deserve – because honestly – that’s kind of a basic requirement for a parent. Joel’s parents were in serious denial about everything, especially his dad. And Paulie’s parents? I don’t even know where to start with them. I’m just thankful that he and his sister had his aunt.

And then there’s Joel’s roommate, Travis. There’s no indication that this is a series, but I’m seriously hoping that Travis eventually gets his own story. Regardless, I’ll be watching for more from this author.

Permanent Ink (Art & Soul #1) by Avon Gale & Piper Vaughn

At twenty-three, Poe Montgomery is going nowhere. He still lives in his father’s basement and spends most of his time tagging with his friends. When an arrest lands him in debt, Poe accepts the front desk job at Permanent Ink, the tattoo shop owned by his father’s best friend, Jericho McAslan. Jericho is nearly twice Poe’s age, but with his ink and prematurely graying hair, he quickly takes the starring role in Poe’s hottest fantasies.
Jericho is known for his ability to transform poorly designed tattoos into works of art, but he was once as aimless and misdirected as Poe. Wanting to pay it forward the way someone once did for him, Jericho makes Poe his apprentice and is determined to keep things strictly professional. Easier said than done when Poe makes his interest—and his daddy kink—abundantly clear.
Jericho can’t resist Poe or their intense chemistry for long. But between the age gap, tension with Poe’s father, and Poe’s best friend calling him a sellout, they’ll need to ensure they’re both on the same page before they can rewrite their rocky start into something permanent.

This one had its ups and downs for me, but in the end I was pleasantly surprised….

Okay, I discovered something as I read Permanent Ink. I’m not a fan of ‘Daddy’ kink. It may not have been so weird if not for the fact that Jericho’s best friend was Poe’s father, but that obviously upped the weird factor for me. Other than that, I really did like Jericho and Poe’s story and given the fact that Jericho is the founder and owner of the tattoo parlor, this was a perfect place to start the Art & Soul series.

As obvious as it is, I can’t not say something about the Poe/Raven references in Permanent Ink. It was a creative bonus that kind of drew me in (I may or may not have mentioned before that I have a thing for all things Poe 😉 )

There were a lot of other relationships in Permanent Ink besides the one that developed between Jericho and Poe. Some of them were more complicated than others and not all of them were healthy. I loved both Poe and Jericho’s relationship with Poe’s dad. I also liked the relationship between Jericho and his other good friend Callum. Blue and Poe? Not so much.

The jury’s still out on whether or not I continue the Art & Soul series. I’m a huge fan of authors who turn my opinion around about characters that I didn’t like. This writing duo has their work cut out for them if the next couple turns out to be Callum and Blue. *sigh*

 

 

Making It (Ringside Romance #3) by Christine d’Abo

Devan knows exactly what he wants from life: a good career, a husband who loves him, and a child to call his own. He’s working at the perfect job, and has found the man of his dreams in Eli. That only leaves one box left to tick. When his friend offers to be a surrogate mother for Devan and Eli, he’s convinced all his dreams have come true.
Eli has been fighting his entire life. Fighting to keep his sick mother safe, fighting his frustration, and fighting daily as an up-and-coming MMA star. The one thing he can’t fight is the feeling that he’s made a terrible mistake agreeing to be a father with Devan. On the worst night of their lives, Eli knows Devan is better off without him, and leaves.
When Eli returns three years later he comes face-to-face with Devan and a son who might be his. Devan has moved on with his life, but seeing Eli once again reignites forgotten passion. Yet if Eli wants to make it work with Devan, he must decide if he’s ready for the biggest fight of his life.

The beginning of Making It was heartbreaking and it didn’t get much better from there. This is one of those books where I was exceedingly glad that readers got both POVs. Otherwise Eli wouldn’t have stood a chance, I would have totally sided with Devan after Eli broke his heart and his trust. Because Christine D’Abo let us into the turmoil surrounding Eli’s heart and mind, my heart was breaking for both of these men.

There was a lot to love about Making It. I loved Devan’s relationship with his son. I loved the growing relationship between Eli and the baby that may or may not be his. I loved the cautiousness from Devan that was totally warranted and believable in their situation. He didn’t want to risk his heart or his son’s, which made me love him even more. I loved Eli’s determination to make things right because he knew how bad he had hurt Devan, even though neither one of them had all the facts. The only thing that frustrated me was what it took to knock some sense into Devan… What I really, really loved was how Eli’s friends didn’t cut him any slack for his actions, both past and present.

I think what I love most about the Ringside Romance series is the sense of family. These guys have had each others’ backs for a lifetime and the new men in their lives just added to the circle. I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’m not sure why I thought that Making It was the last book in this series, but finding out that Losing It is coming next was a pleasant surprise. 😉

 

Get A Grip (Blue Water Bay #19) by L.A. Witt

If a tree falls in Bluewater Bay . . . could it be fate?
A year after his divorce, Shane Andrews isn’t interested in dating—not that he has time, between three kids and a demanding job as a grip. When a windstorm knocks a tree onto one of the Wolf’s Landing soundstages, Shane’s there to help with the mess . . . and so is firefighter Aaron Tucker.
A former smoke jumper, Aaron’s an adrenaline junkie and way too restless and reckless to be relationship material. As far as he’s concerned, monogamy is for penguins, and he’d rather be alone than tied down. Signing up to be a stepparent? No, thank you.
But after a scorching-hot night together, they’re hooked. Aaron is a taste of the excitement Shane’s been lacking, and Shane’s pushing buttons Aaron didn’t know he had. The more they’re together, the less Aaron craves wild nights with other men . . . but the more Shane wants to play the field like he never got to in his twenties.
This could be the love neither man knew he needed, but only if Shane gets his feet back on the ground before Aaron walks away.

Yep… it’s another L.A. Witt addition to my review pile. She’s been one busy author lately, but I’m NOT complaining. Especially when she found time to introduce readers to another Bluewater Bay couple. Aaron and Shane turned out to be among my favorites. 😉

Besides the fact that I loved Aaron and Shane in Get a Grip, I loved the twist. Neither one of these guys were looking for anything serious, as a matter of fact, Aaron hardly ever looked beyond a single encounter. There was something about Shane that pulled him in though. Shane felt the same pull, but he had his kids to think about as well as the fact that he had only really experienced long term relationships, which hadn’t exactly worked out so well. He was definitely not ready to tie himself down again. And there was the twist… the playboy found himself ready to settle down and the family man wanted to keep things casual.

There were a couple of other things that I really loved about this story. The supporting characters were great (especially Leo… I liked Leo a lot 😉 ) The mutual love and respect that Shane shared with his ex was great. That love and respect carried over to the kids, which won me over even more. (I’m secretly kind of hoping that readers get to see more of Leo… ❤ )

Needless to say, Get a Grip was a great addition to the Bluewater Bay series. The next book in the series is Three Player Game by Jaime Samms, which I’ve already read and reviewed. Coming in October is Anna Zabo’s Outside the Lines.