Pounding Skin (Skin Deep #2) by L.A. Witt

Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.
Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?
When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.
As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?
The Skin Deep, Inc books can be read in any order—come enter a world where gorgeous tattoo artists and hot Navy men find passion, pleasure, and a happily ever after together.

I just realized that I’ve been on quite a L.A. Witt run lately. It wasn’t intentional, she’s just had a LOT of books on my review list. Plus, she’s one of my go-to authors (if she writes it, I read it.) Which is rather ironic because I somehow missed the first book in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Back Piece, but I’m sure I’ll be rectifying that shortly.

Matt and Jon were an interesting mix. Jon had a reputation of being out and totally casual when it came to his sexuality, but he was a total tattoo virgin with no desire to change that status. Then he lost the bet. Matt was totally straight, or at least he thought he was. After a threesome birthday surprise for an ex turned friend, he wasn’t so sure. Then Jon walked into Skin Deep, Inc. and he really had his doubts.

These two guys were clueless and I mean that in a most endearing way. Jon had no intention of settling down, ever. He was perfectly content to jump from partner to partner with no strings attached rarely even a repeat ‘date’. Matt wasn’t exactly looking for a long term relationship either, but his attraction to Jon had him more than a little curious. Jon was more than happy to help him with his curiosity and have some fun while he was at it.

Matt wasn’t exactly in denial about his sexuality, he just never considered being gay, bi or anything but straight an option – mostly because of the environment he grew up in. Jon didn’t have to look far for examples of why even the most solid relationships never worked out, so he wasn’t willing to take a chance. These two falling for each other was inevitable… and more than a little entertaining.

As I mentioned, I haven’t read Back Piece, but after reading Pounding Skin, I really want to go back and read it. The supporting characters were great in Pounding Skin and Colin and Daniel made me want to get to know them better. The next book in the series is Cover Up and I can’t wait to see Nate find his true HEA. ❤ 

All Wheel Drive (Bluewater Bay #18) by Z.A. Maxfield

Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.
Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss. And that’s just how he likes it.
Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matters.

If you’re not a fan of angst revolving around totally broken characters, All Wheel Drive is going to be a hard book for you to get through. That’s not a warning to not read this one, it’s just an observation and since both Diego and Healy are both so heart brokenly… well, broken, I thought it was worth mentioning.

It’s also worth mentioning that even though my heart broke for both Healey and Diego, I found myself sympathizing more with Healey. There were a couple of reasons for this I think. First, readers who have followed the Bluewater Bay series have already met Healey. His twin brother, Nash was featured with Spencer in the 3rd book in the series, Hell on Wheels. Second, for lack of a better way to put it, Diego wasn’t really very nice to Healy. At times he was downright mean. It’s a good thing that Z.A. Maxfield gave readers his POV, otherwise it would have been really hard to find him worth of Healy. It’s also a good thing that Healy could see beyond the shields that Diego had so carefully put up – just another reason to fall in love with him more.

So, Diego grew on my despite his growly personality… because of Healy. That doesn’t mean that Diego didn’t help Healy see things from a different perspective too, because he did. He gave him a unique view of the world around him, his circumstances and even his family. Especially his sister, who was also wheelchair bound. Diego’s willingness to find a way to help Healy come to terms with the events that landed him back in Bluewater and maybe even a way to get beyond and out from underneath it didn’t hurt either.

There was a lot more to love about All Wheel Drive. The supporting characters, which included a lot of family, were front and center. I had already fallen in love with Healy’s family, but I really liked Diego’s too. His relationship with them showed a softer side that I really liked.

The only complaint that I have with All Wheel Drive is that it ended with everything not quite wrapped up. Diego was well on his way to completing his project, but not quite and Healy’s fate was still a little shaky. Other than that, this was a great addition to the Bluewater Bay series and it’s probably no surprise that I’m anxiously waiting for what comes next. 😉 

House of Cards (Porthkennack #4) by Garrett Leigh

Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.
Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.
Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.

I’ve mentioned before that Garrett Leigh has a talent for taken broken characters and putting them back together – but not before tearing them apart at least one more time. House of Cards, wasn’t quite that bad this time, but she did manage to break my heart regardless.

House of Cards began with Calum escaping a bad relationship with nothing but the clothes on his back. He had no idea where he was headed, but anywhere had to be better than London. Luckily he ended up in the perfect spot… for both him and Brix.

I loved these two together. Brix may have come to Calum’s rescue and offered him a chance to both rekindle an old friendship and a chance to start over, but Calum basically offered him the same. They gave each other exactly what they needed.

For a lot of reasons, this is hands down my favorite book in this series so far. From the main characters to the supporting characters, I fell in love with them all. This group of Porthkennack residents gave readers a whole different view of life there. Which brings up the fact that you don’t have to read all the books in the series to enjoy each one individually. I’m still not recommending skipping any of them… even though I’ve skipped the historical books in the series, for now at least. That’s just another do as I say, not as I do moment and since I haven’t used that excuse for a while, I feel totally justified. 😉

Broke Deep (Porthkennack #3) by Charlie Cochrane

Morgan Capell’s life is falling apart by small degrees—his father’s dead, his boyfriend dumped him, and his mother’s in the grip of dementia. His state of mind isn’t helped by his all-too-real recurring nightmare of the wreck of the Troilus, a two hundred year old ship he’s been dreaming about since his teenage years.
The story of the Troilus is interwoven with the Capell family history. When amateur historian Dominic Watson inveigles himself into seeing the ship’s timbers which make up part of Morgan’s home, they form a tentative but prickly friendship that keeps threatening to spark into something more romantic.
Unexpectedly, Dominic discovers that one of the Troilus’s midshipman was rescued but subsequently might have been murdered, and persuades Morgan to help him establish the truth. But the more they dig, the more vivid Morgan’s nightmares become, until he’s convinced he’s showing the first signs of dementia. It takes as much patience as Dominic possesses—and a fortuitous discovery in a loft—to bring light out of the darkness.

I’ve read the first book (Wake Up Call), Broke Deep and the fourth book (House of Cards) in the Porthkennack series. I skipped the second book because it’s historical. I don’t hate historical, but the genre isn’t one of my favorites, so I skipped A Gathering Storm. I may go back to the historical offerings in the series later, we’ll see…

I almost grudgingly have to admit that out of the three books in this series I’ve read so far, Broke Deep is my least favorite. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like Broke Deep, because I did. I also really like Charlie Cochrane’s writing. I guess it had to do more with the fact that I didn’t relate to Morgan and Dominic as easy as I did with the rest of the characters that have been introduced in the other books. Just a personal thing, so don’t let that deter you. To be honest, it may have just been the fact that I wanted more to their story. It felt like there was still a little bit of mystery left at the end – both for the characters and the actual ‘mystery.’ *sigh*

Even though Morgan and Dominic weren’t my favorite Porthkennack couple, I still enjoyed my time spent with them. Even though they hadn’t known each other long, there was an easiness about them when they were together. I also enjoyed the silly banter that masked a nervousness on both sides. That nervousness came from Dominic’s willingness to be there for Morgan and Morgan’s unwillingness to allow Dominic to go through the pain of losing him bit by bit, like he did with his mother.

Each book in this series adds another layer to the community of Porthkennack, yet none of them are really connected by anything other than the actual location. There’s also a hint of ‘magic’ centered around the town. Nothing blatant or even really alluded to other than the feeling that’s created by a place bathed in local lure and kept alive by the generations of locals who’ve lived there for centuries. Given Morgan’s vivid dreams of a historic shipwreck, I was kind of hoping for some ‘real’ ghosts in Broke Deep, but they only seemed to inhabit his dreams. Again, just me… I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. 😉

House of Cards by Garrett Leigh is next in the Porthkennack series and I’ll be reviewing it shortly, so stay tuned! 

Found at the Bookstore (Found #2) by Christi Snow

After suffering a traumatic brain injury the final football game his senior year in high school, Ryder Garrett’s life was never normal again. Most days he’s happy when he can remember the way home. There’s no room in his life for romance or love, which means he’s destined to die a virgin.
Stig Minton doesn’t remember what virginity felt like. Twelve years older than Ryder, he’s been around the block too many times to count and has the scars to prove it…both physically and mentally.
But as these two men come together to help with a wedding, they forge a friendship, a friendship they both desperately need. As their relationship evolves, feelings go deeper. But is it stupid to risk this new—and, yes necessary—bond in pursuit of something that’s doomed to fail?
They both think they’re too broken to make this work. But what if they’re wrong?
Two broken souls may just be able to find reparation in one another.

I loved Found at the Library, the first book in Christi Snow’s Found series. I walked away from Tommy and Max’s HEA already looking forward to Stig and Ryder’s story. I wasn’t disappointed. At all.

You can read Found at the Bookstore without having read Found at the Library, but both characters were introduced in the first book. Ryder is Tommy’s brother and Stig is not only one of Max’s closest friends, but his ex. Stig is one of those characters that are larger than life. Ryder is the exact opposite, definitely not Stig’s type. Yet, there’s something that draws Stig to Ryder. At first it’s just concern for Ryder’s safety, but it grows into much more without either one of them realizing it.

At first glance, it’s obvious that Ryder is broken, both physically and emotionally. What shouldn’t have surprised me was that Stig was broken in his own way. He hid it well… until he couldn’t, especially from Ryder. They were there for each other when no one else was.

Things aren’t easy between Ryder and Stig, but given where they both were emotionally, it shouldn’t have been. Stig made some bad choices. At least one of his decisions trying to keep Ryder safe was heart breaking, but I couldn’t get mad at him for it. The thing is that his actions were tearing him apart almost as much as they did Ryder. Those chapters were hard to read, but they made me fall in love with him even more.

There was a lot to love about Found at the Bookstore and not just Ryder and Stig. Spending time with Tommy and Max was great and there were a couple of new characters introduced that I’m really hoping readers get to know better. Their stories are just begging to be told and I may or may not have already hinted to the author about the need for this to happen. You’re welcome ❤

A recurring theme in this series so far has been art. Those who both create it and appreciate it. It’s also a series full of characters who are continually proving that “Doing Epic Sh*t” isn’t just an engraved statement on keepsake – which is just another reason why I recommend reading both books in this series.

 

Back to You by Chris Scully

Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.
Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.
As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.

I’ve only read one other book by Chris Scully, but Back to You made it pretty clear that I need to seek out more of her books. Until September wasn’t a mystery. It was more of an emotional story. That’s not to say that Back to You wasn’t emotional, because it was. In fact, the mystery just added another layer to the emotion. A huge layer – one that it was impossible to ignore.

Alex was the last person that Ben expected to have walk back into his life, but Alex couldn’t wait to reconnect with Ben. Things didn’t go exactly like Alex expected though, especially when Ben found out that Alex had more than one reason to come back. Alex got more than he bargained for and things got complicated fast.

I loved the connection between Alex and Ben and the fact that their initial reunion was strained made the story more realistic. Ben was leery of Alex’s intentions, but he was still drawn to him. The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Ben’s sister had a few twists and turns. The obsession that Ben’s mom had with her missing daughter didn’t help, especially since Alex’s interest seemed to fuel it.

I can honestly say that the mystery had me guessing until close to the very end. The outcome had a tragic impact more than one family, but it helped heal more than one too. The romance was as good as the mystery, which are just a couple of reasons why I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author. 😉

One Night with Rhodes (One Night #4) by Eden Finley

Blair Rhodes considers himself an equal opportunity player. He knew from a young age that he wasn’t entirely straight. Ogling his best friend’s older brother was the first thing that tipped him off. But Garrett Erikson is off limits. Always has been. Garrett is as straight as they come.
Garrett’s reputation as a womaniser precedes him, but it’s not who he is. Not even close. And when Blair turns up on his doorstep, heartbroken over a breakup, Garrett knows it’s a bad idea to go drinking with him.
One night is all it takes for everything to change.
For the past ten years, Garrett’s denied his desires to everyone, including himself.
And as much as Blair wants to be the guy Garrett needs, he needs to protect his own heart. Like his ex-boyfriend always told him: “Never mess with the straight ones. It only leads to trouble.”

I actually almost skipped this one, I think mainly because I hadn’t read the other books in the series. Then, one of my fellow bloggers gave One Night with Rhodes such a great review I couldn’t resist. 😉

Since I haven’t read the rest of the books in the One Night series, I’m not sure how the earlier books played out. The title and description may elude to ‘one night’ but this book covered a lot more than that. It was actually made up of many ‘one nights’. It sounds kind of confusing, I know, but once you read the book, it will make total sense.

The thing that struck me most about One Night with Rhodes was the patience and caring that Blair expressed for Garrett. He was there for him, even when he knew that it would hurt him to walk away. He did his best to protect his heart and still keep Garrett from crumbling and hurting himself. Blair was determined to help Garrett find himself and come out healthy and whole in the process. I also loved their friends and family. Even though they were totally clueless when it came to Blair’s orientation, they still cared.

One Night with Rhodes also had a slightly unique format that I kinda liked. The book opened and closed with pretty much the same scene, but a lot happened in between, which meant that most of the book was set in the past. It gave the story a slightly different perspective.

I also have to mention that even though this is the 4th book in the One Night series, it can easily be a stand alone. Characters from the previous books are a huge part of Garrett and Blair’s story, but there is a lot of back story in One Night with Rhodes that help keep readers up to speed. That doesn’t mean that I’m not curious about those first 3 books. It also doesn’t mean that I’m not seriously thinking about continuing the series. The next couple has definitely peaked my curiosity 😉

 

Relationship Status (Ethan & Wyatt #3) by K.A. Mitchell

Life doesn’t come with a syllabus.
Ethan knows firsthand that long distance is hard on love. If Wyatt is spending his summer at an internship in Pittsburgh, that’s where Ethan will be. Even if it means inventing his own career goal just to find a reason to stay with his boyfriend. He didn’t expect they’d be living in a hot, crappy apartment, with work schedules that keep them apart more than together.
Wyatt’s past has taught him to keep his head down and focus on living through the day. Loving Ethan has him looking to the future for the first time; he’s just not in as big of a rush to get there. It’s hard to trust in happiness when life has been busy kicking you in the nuts.
Together they’re getting the hang of real life, when a new responsibility for Wyatt throws everything off balance. Ethan’s doing everything he can to prove he’s in this forever, while Wyatt is torn between a future with Ethan and a debt to the past. Too bad they didn’t cover this in college.

Relationship Status marks the end of Ethan & Wyatt‘s story. I’ve really liked getting to know these guys and their story did come to a satisfying end… do you sense a but? Well, there isn’t one, really. It’s just if I had to pick a favorite book in this series, it would be the first. Although Boyfriend Material and Relationship Status were great and I liked getting more of Ethan & Wyatt’s story, I just liked Getting Him Back better. 🙂

Ethan & Wyatt have come a long way since readers first met them in Boyfriend Material. They learned a lot about each other and more than that, about themselves. I loved watching them come full circle in Relationship Status – with each other and those that they loved.

Finishing this series reminded me that there are a couple of books in the Bad in Baltimore series that I need to read. There are also quite a few other books written by K.A. Mitchell that I should probably check out.

Faking It (Ringside Romance #2) by Christine d’Abo

Max Tremblay should be happy. His night club, Frantic, is one of the most popular gay clubs in Toronto, and his childhood refuge, Ringside Gym, is well on the way to reopening. But when he finds yet another drunk in the alley beside the bar, Max isn’t sure this is the life he truly wants.
Grady Barnes has it all. He’s rich, famous, and wants for nothing. Well, nothing but a good relationship with his father. When he discovers that his father is going to force him into an arranged marriage, Grady has had enough. He tracks down Max, the man who got him to safety after a night of overindulgence, and makes him a proposal: pretend to be his fiancé for two weeks and he’ll invest in Ringside Gym.
When the pair travel to Vancouver to attend a family wedding, the flames of their mutual attraction ignite, and they discover that the only difference between pretend and reality is how well they can fake it.

I’m really loving this series. I’ve also got to admit that I’ve been really curious about Max since he was introduced as Zack’s best friend and business partner in Working It, the first book in the Ringside Romance series.

The description sets things up well, but there’s so much more between Grady and Max. There’s especially a lot more to Grady than the spoiled brat he first appears to be. I went into Faking It already liking Max, but it didn’t take me long to really like Grady too. So much so that I almost got aggravated with Max near the end.

Grady wasn’t perfect. He felt like he was fighting a losing battle. His father’s expectations were the polar opposite of what Grady wanted. Ignoring his father didn’t work because he seemed to have eyes everywhere. Seeing first hand what Grady was up against convinced Max to go along with his crazy plan. Spending time with him not only made him realize Grady’s potential, but it brought them closer than either one of them expected.

Getting to spend time with Zack and Nolan from Working It was an added bonus. Like I said, I’m loving this series and Making It, the next book in the Ringside Romance, sounds like it’s going to be just as good as the rest. 😉

 

Olive Juice by T.J. Klune

It begins with a message that David cannot ignore:
I want to see you.
He agrees, and on a cold winter’s night, David and Phillip will come together to sift through the wreckage of the memory of a life no longer lived.
David is burdened, carrying with him the heavy guilt of the past six years upon his shoulders.
Phillip offers redemption.

Not your typical T.J. Klune read… but that’s not a bad thing. Actually, after thinking about it a little more, there’s absolutely nothing typical about Olive Juice. That’s not a bad thing either.

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while for a couple of reasons. First, I needed time to wrap my head around this book. It was a fairly quick read, but it was by no means an easy one. Second, readers have been warned to not give away any spoilers – for good reason. That’s usually not an issue for me, but this one has me walking on egg shells and prepare yourself for one of my vaguest reviews. *sigh*

As the description states, the story starts with a text and a simple statement. “I want to see you.” Nothing about the rest of the book is simple though. It’s a lot of things. Painful, depressing, heart breaking and yet at times beautiful. My heart broke for both Phillip and David. Readers get glimpses of the past a little at a time, so things are revealed slowly. Which, oddly enough, kept the pages turning. I found myself needing to know where the pain was coming from.

After reading the description and knowing this author, I expected tears. As much as my heart broke for these characters, it didn’t affect me the way I thought it would. I’m not sure why and I know that it wasn’t the same for all readers. It was a powerful read regardless and it touched me in a way that not many books do. That is very typical of this author and one of the many reasons I love his work.