At Attention (Out of Uniform #2) by Annabeth Albert

Lieutenant Apollo Floros can ace tactical training missions, but being a single dad to his twin daughters is more than he can handle. He needs live-in help, and he’s lucky a friend’s younger brother needs a place to stay. He’s surprised to see Dylan all grown up with a college degree…and a college athlete’s body. Apollo’s widowed heart may still be broken, but Dylan has his blood heating up.
It’s been eight years since the teenage Dylan followed Apollo around like a lovesick puppy, and it’s time he showed Lieutenant Hard-to-Please that he’s all man now—an adult who’s fully capable of choosing responsibility over lust. He can handle Apollo’s muscular sex appeal, but Apollo the caring father? Dylan can’t afford to fall for that guy. He’s determined to hold out for someone who’s able to love him back, not someone who only sees him as a kid brother.
Apollo is shocked by the intensity of his attraction to Dylan. Maybe some no-strings summer fun will bring this former SEAL back to life. But the combination of scorching desire and warm affection is more than he’d expected, and the emotion between them scares him senseless. No fling lasts forever, and Apollo will need to decide what’s more important—his past or his future—if he wants to keep Dylan in his life.
 

Saying At Attention was packed with emotion would be a huge understatement. Readers were introduced to Apollo in Off Base, the first book in Albert’s Out of Uniform series. He didn’t have a huge role in the first book, but from just that little page time, I knew I wanted to get to know him better. Be careful what you ask for? Not really, but I did get more frustrated with him in At Attention than I expected.

Dylan, on the other hand, I loved from the moment he was introduced. He was younger than Apollo, but not by too much. He had a firm grasp on what he wanted to do with his life and had definite goals. That aspect of his personality lessened the age gap between them even more. I loved his determination to keep things professional, but it was a losing battle for both of them.

As much as I liked Apollo, the way he treated Dylan was what frustrated me. His grief over what he had lost was understandable, as well as his fear of losing again. That’s the only thing that allowed me to forgive him for almost breaking Dylan’s heart. There were a lot of emotional twists and turns, some great supporting characters and a couple of adorable kids who didn’t take over the story, but added to it. The perfect mix.

There’s more to come in the Out of Uniform series and On Point should prove to be interesting. I can’t wait to see what Annabeth Albert has in store for Maddox and Ben.

Strays (Urban Souls #2) by Garrett Leigh

Work, sleep, work, repeat. Nero’s lonely life suits him just fine until his best friend, Cass, asks him to take on a new apprentice—a beautiful young man who’s never set foot in a professional kitchen. Despite his irritation and his lifelong ability to shut the world out, Nero is mesmerised by the vibrant stray, especially when he learns what drove him to seek sanctuary on Nero’s battered old couch.
Lenny Mitchell is living under a cloud of fear. Pursued by a stalker, he has nowhere left to run until Nero offers him a port in a storm—a job at the hottest restaurant in Shepherd’s Bush. Kitchen life proves heady and addictive, and it’s not long before he finds himself falling hard and fast for the man who has taken him in.
Fast-forward a month and a neither man can imagine life without the other, but one thing stands in their way: a lifetime of horrors Nero can’t bring himself to share with Lenny. Or can he? For the first time ever, happiness is there for the taking, and Nero must learn to embrace it before fate steps in and rips it away.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I’ve only read 3 books by Garrett Leigh because every single one I’ve picked up has blown me away. Even though it’s been almost exactly 2 years since I read Misfits, the first book in Leigh’s Urban Souls series, it didn’t take me long to remember exactly why I liked it so much. It also didn’t stop me from wanting to pick it up for a reread. Those 3 books have also proven that this author has a talent for taking broken characters and putting them back together, only to rip them apart again. *sigh*

Nero liked spreading himself thin. He floated from job to job within the Urban Souls brand with little or no down time. He also considered himself straight, but curious maybe? His attraction to Lenny made him reevaluate a lot about himself. Lenny was the polar opposite of Nero as far as personalities go. He was friendly and normally outgoing, until his stalker kept him constantly looking over his shoulder. Pairing him with Nero was a crazy idea, but evidently Cass knew what he was doing.

Speaking of Cass, one of my favorite parts of Strays was the time readers got to spend with him as well as Jake and Tom. I loved those guys, which is one of the reasons why I’m seriously thinking about a re-read of Misfits. The other is the way that they take care of their own, whether the recipients want it or think they need it. I’m not sure if there are any other books in the future for Urban Souls, but I do know that there are quite a few other Garrett Leigh books that need to be added to my TBR pile. Stay tuned. 😉

Single Malt Murder (Whisky Business Mystery #1) by Melinda Mullet

Abigail Logan never expected to inherit a whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands. But in the first novel of an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery, Abi finds that there are secrets lurking in the misty glens that some will go to any lengths to protect . . . even murder.
When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter.When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.
Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.

So, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a rut with my reading lately – especially with my review requests. Not that I needed to add anything to my TBR shelf, but I do like variety 😉 That’s how I stumbled upon Single Malt Murder and I am so glad that I did. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Abi, Liam, her best friend Patrick and the close knit group of people in the community her Uncle Ben had called home.

There was so much to love about Single Malt Murder, that I’m not sure where to start. I obviously loved the characters. The writing was great and the dialogue between the characters flowed nicely (clipped, unnatural conversations between characters drive me nuts!) The mystery had me trying to figure out ‘who-done-it’ almost to the very end. I had my suspicions, but just like Abi, I talked myself out of most of them. There was a hint of romance, which in this story, was just enough. There was an elderly character that was spry, witty and respected by pretty much everyone and her common sense observations were helpful to Abi. Liam was a great addition to the story and a true champion (I love it when a dog is as much of a supporting character as the humans they interact with.) What’s not to love about this perfect combination?

Of course, there was a lot more to Single Malt Murder, but I don’t want to give anything away. There were parts of the story and the way the author handled them that were refreshing. Needless to say, I can’t wait until Death Distilled, the second book in Ms. Mullet’s Whisky Business Mystery is released.

On a side note, have you ever had someone bring something to your attention and not be able to get it out of your head? I got so engrossed in Single Malt Murder that I didn’t even give the spelling of Whisky a second thought… until I noticed that one reviewer said that it bugged her. That’s all it took for me to do a little research. Turns out there’s a reason for it and Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits does a wonderful job of explaining it in their 2009 post – Whiskey vs. Whisky: What’s the Difference?. I love learning new things, don’t you?

 

Hard Justice (Body Armor #2) by Lori Foster

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous…
Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size—skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage, and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she’s sweet and intriguingly innocent. It’s a risk-free assignment, until he’s required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in. 

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life—going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it’s not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that’s real, raw and absolutely against the rules…

So, I’ve almost forgiven Lori Foster for ending her Ultimate series. You see, I loved those guys and gals and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them yet. Turns out that Ms. Foster wasn’t quite done with them yet either because they made appearances a couple of times in Leese and Cat’s book (Under Pressure) and readers got to spend even more quality time with them in Hard Justice. That ended up being just an added bonus for Justice and Fallon though because as much as I loved Under Pressure, I think I may have liked Hard Justice even more.

The last thing he expected when he was assigned to protect Fallon was to fall for her. No, he really did expect a spoiled princess and Fallon was anything but. On the flip side, Fallon expected another cookie-cutter body guard who stuck out like a sore thumb. Neither one of them got what they expected. Fallon was down to earth and wanted to be ‘normal.’ Justice was a powerful presence that was hard to ignore. Watching them tip-toe around their mutual attraction was fun.

What was even more fun were the guys’ reactions to Fallon and Justice. He couldn’t hide his true feelings from those who knew him best and they couldn’t resist ragging him about it. They also couldn’t resist Fallon’s charm any more than Justice could. Loving Justice’s friends was a given because readers had already been introduced to most of them, but Justice’s grandmother was a hoot and his mother was amazing. His interaction with both of them just made me fall in love with him more (and it had the same affect on Fallon 😉 ) Fallon’s parents even won me over little by little.

Beyond the characters and the romance, the ‘who-dun-it’ mystery was pretty good too. It was one of those mysteries where you thought you had it figured out, but then there was a twist, and then another one and characters you thought you despised turned out to be not so bad and… you get the picture. Basically, Hard Justice was a great read (not a surprise) and it left me wanting more (also, not a surprise.) I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for the rest of the series because there is definitely more to come.

Growing Pains (Toronto Connections #3) by Cass Lennox

Gigi Rosenberg is living his best life: performances in the big city, side gigs at a dance company, a successful drag act, and the boy of his childhood dreams who now adores him. Even if the boyfriend part isn’t the sparkly ride of passion he expected it to be, life is sweet. So when his sister’s wedding calls him back to his hometown, he sees an opportunity to show the hicks from his past how wrong they were about him. Only, his boyfriend isn’t quite on board.
Brock Stubbs left their hometown and his parents behind for a reason, and the prospect of facing them again is terrifying. He swore he’d never go back, but Gigi has made it clear refusal isn’t an option, and Brock will do nearly anything for him. There’s just one deal-breaker of a problem: Brock promised Gigi he was out to everyone, including his parents. He lied.
It’s magical to run into the sunset together, but staying the course takes work. For Gigi and Brock, going home feels like the finale of a long, disappointing year. Sometimes love isn’t all you need.
 

If you’re paying attention, you may have noticed that I read the first book in the Toronto Connections (Blank Spaces) series, but not the second (Finding Your Feet) and now I’m reviewing the third. It’s not my usual squirrel brain hard at work, this time I skipped one on purpose. Not sure why, but Finding Your Feet just didn’t grab me, but Growing Pains did. In case you’re curious, I’ll probably skip The Wrong Woman too, but you never know…

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’m really glad that I decided to read Growing Pains. I really liked Brock and Gigi’s story… for a lot of reasons. I’m kind of a sucker for a story that brings out the ‘momma bear’ in me and Brock did just that. It would have been easy to sympathize with Gigi in Growing Pains, and I did… kind of.

You’ll have to read the story to understand, but one of the reasons why I loved Gigi’s family so much was because they loved him, supported him and they were everything that Brock’s family wasn’t. What made me really respect them was the fact that they saw his faults and weren’t afraid to call him out on them. To Gigi’s credit, he may have complained a little, but he loved them for it. They weren’t perfect, but not many families are. The point is, I loved the honesty as much as I loved the unconditional love. On the flip side, I walked away from Growing Pains with absolutely no respect for Brock’s parents at all.

I may find myself going back to pick up the two books I skipped, but right now I’m fine with the taste of Toronto Connections I decided to read. You’ll have to let me know if I missed anything if you decide to read the whole series. 😉

Finding Our Forever (Silver Springs #1) by Brenda Novak

The search for her birth mother brought Cora Kelly to the New Horizons Boys Ranch. Getting a job there was easy enough, but confiding in Aiyana, the ranch’s owner, that she’s really her daughter? Cora’s not sure she can do that, not unless she’s confident the news will be welcomed. And once she gets to know Elijah Turner–Aiyana’s adopted son and ranch manager–that decision becomes even more difficult.
Although Elijah can’t deny his deep attraction to Cora, he’s always struggled with trust. Anyone with his past would, and there’s something about the ranch’s newest employee that isn’t exactly as it seems. But if the feelings she awakes in his guarded heart are any indication, she might be just what he’s long been waiting for.

Yet another confession… Finding Our Forever is the first book by Brenda Novak that I’ve read. Although I do have a short list of favorite authors, I’m not a huge contemporary M/F reader for the most part. I do like to sneak one in from time to time, so hen I saw this offered for review, I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t blown away either. Don’t let that deter you though because it was a sweet story.

Actually, one of the reasons why I picked this one up was because of the description. I thought that I could relate to Cora. No, I’m not adopted, but I didn’t know my father. To me, he was, and still is, just a name on my birth certificate. The only thing that I was ever told about him was that I really didn’t want to know anything about him. (Try telling that to a teen and see what happens.) I’ve gotten over the curiosity, to an extent, but there’s always that nagging little voice that just wonders… I may never have followed through or pushed the issue, but I still knew exactly what drove Cora to jump at the chance to find her birth mother.

There was a lot more to the story though. Eli was easy to fall for, especially for the way he rose above everything he had gone through as a child. Even the supporting family and friends were great. There was a lot to admire about Aiyana and the life that she built for herself and the boys that she helped. Basically, this was a feel good story that I did enjoy, but things got wrapped up a little too easily. I’m not usually a fan of drama, but there was a lot of build up and tension centered around what Cora was hiding and how she was going to reveal it to everyone. The actual moment was kind of anti-climatic. Regardless, I’m glad I read Finding Our Forever. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the rest of the Silver Springs series, but you never know. I might even check out some of Brenda Novak’s other series. 😉

Darkness (Common Law #3) by Kate Sherwood

darkness_500x750A murdered prostitute. An obvious suspect. Clear evidence. For once, Jericho Crewe has a straightforward crime to investigate, and Wade Granger isn’t involved.
It all seems so simple, but Jericho’s instincts won’t let him rest. As he investigates, he finds troubling suggestions that the murder is a part of something larger and more sinister. But working within the boundaries of the law may keep him from finding the truth. If Jericho doesn’t break the rules, an innocent man may rot in jail while a killer remains free to strike again.
Inevitably, it all comes back to Wade. Because who else knows as much about breaking rules? And who else knows Jericho the way Wade does—not wisely, but far, far too well?

This series really knows how to blur the lines between right and wrong. It’s pretty clear where those lines converge by the description of Darkness. It’s also getting harder for Jericho to ignore Wade’s twisted logic, especially when the law doesn’t seem to be on the right side of things.

Jericho doesn’t always follow the book, but outright breaking the law isn’t something he’s willing to do. Wade doesn’t have the same black and white vision that Jericho has and in Darkness, there doesn’t seem to be any other way to free an innocent man and keep the guilty man from walking away. This book puts both men (Jericho and Wade) on the line and the story is intense, in more ways than one.

I love the dynamic between Jericho and Wade in the Common Law series. Wade’s not any easier to figure out for the reader than he is for Jericho, but it’s obvious that there’s more to him than his shady dealings. It’s obvious he cares, which is what keeps Jericho coming back even though he knows it’s not the smart thing to do – which he’s reminded of on a regular basis by other characters who care about him. Jericho sees something in Wade that others don’t though and that’s what keeps me wanting them to find a way to get past those blurred lines.

Darkness was a turning point. A couple of mysteries were solved and Wade and Jericho are definitely getting closer, but Kate Sherwood isn’t done with them yet. There’s one more book left in the Common Law series and as anxious as I am to read Home Fires I’m not quite ready to say good-bye. *sigh*

 

The Discipline (Lessons in Control #2) by Jade A. Waters

disciplineHow far would you go to fulfill a fantasy?
Maya Clery has taken risks before. Her relationship with Dean Sova started out as a risk—a series of sexual assignments, each hotter, wilder, more intense than the last. Exploring her submissive side with a powerful, trustworthy Dominant has been everything she hoped for, everything she needed.
Dean pushes Maya to her limits—it’s one of the things she loves most about him. But as they push the boundaries outside their sex life, meeting friends and family members, Maya realizes there’s still much she doesn’t know about the man with whom she’s sharing her bed.
And when a fantasy simmering between them becomes their latest challenge, past secrets begin to reveal weaknesses in their relationship that neither is ready to face.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I liked the first book in the Lessons in Control series, The Assignment, but as you can tell from my review, even though I liked it, I had some minor issues with it. In The Discipline, I’m sorry to say, I had even more. *sigh*

Okay, so I didn’t hate The Discipline. Maya and Dean had come a long way since they first met. They’d gotten close and learned a lot about each other, but not everything. Their relationship was as hot as ever and Dean found new ways to push Maya, which she loved. What she didn’t love was the fact that she knew he was hiding something from her. And there lies my issue…

Dean was broken by events from his past, but he didn’t share that with Maya. Instead he stalled her whenever she brought things up. The secrecy was frustrating, for both Maya and me as a reader. So much pain, frustration and craziness could have been avoided if Dean or someone… anyone would have filled Maya in on just a little bit of Dean’s past. What he hid from her was a big deal and, once again, he put her in a situation that got out of hand because of his irresponsibility.

Other than my frustration with the characters, The Discipline was still a pretty good read. On a side note, I’m not sure if it was because of that frustration or not, but I found myself skimming over some of the sex in The Discipline. I’m not a prudish reader (have you seen my book list?) but by the end, I’d had enough and there didn’t seem to be much new. Regardless of how Dean and Maya frustrated me, Jade A. Waters isn’t done with this couple yet and neither am I. I’m hoping that they’ve learned from there mistakes and they’re working their way toward a deserved HEA, so I’ll stick with them.

DragonFlyGreen3-5

 

Dating Ryan Alback by J.E. Birk

datingryanalback_500x750Ryan Alback has almost everything he’s ever wanted: a successful acting career, a dog who adores him, great family and friends, and a life outside the closet. The only thing missing is a boyfriend — but Ryan’s been burned by Hollywood relationships before, and he’s not eager to try one again.
Jason Santos has almost everything he’s ever wanted: a fulfilling career teaching middle school, a house in a city he loves, and parents who support him in every way. Too bad he can’t seem to forget the ex-boyfriend who rejected his marriage proposal.
When a talk show host launches a dating contest to find Ryan a boyfriend and Jason accidentally wins, neither of them expect anything to come from it. Yet somewhere between a disastrous massage and a mud sinkhole, they both start to wonder if this date could be more than just a public relations stunt. But before they can move into the future, they’ll both have to learn to let go of the past.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1This is one of those super sweet romances that has a couple of characters who you can’t help but want to be happy. I have to admit though that I got a little annoyed at Ryan more than once…

Jason had no desire to enter the contest, much less hope to win, but his well meaning friend gave him no choice. Ryan was a ‘victim’ of the same kind of well meaning friend. The weekend date had absolutely no hope of going anywhere for either one of them, only it did… almost.

There was a whole lot that I liked about Dating Ryan Alback. The supporting characters were great, including the dog. The chemistry between Jason and Ryan was great too… when they weren’t trying to fight it. Honestly, the only thing that I didn’t like about Dating Ran Alback was Ryan. Well, to fair, I didn’t exactly not like him, I just didn’t like the way he jumped to conclusions. I could forgive him the first time, but… you’re just going to have to read this one for yourself and see if you feel the same way.

DragonFlyGreen3-5

 

Single Malt (Agents Irish & Whiskey #1) by Layla Reyne

singlemaltThe heart’s a resilient beast
Eight months after the car crash that changed everything, FBI agent Aidan Talley is back at work. New department, new case and a new partner. Smart, athletic and handsome, Jameson Walker is twelve years his junior. Even if Aidan was ready to move on—and he’s not—Jamie is off-limits.
Jamie’s lusted after Aidan for three years, and the chance to work with San Francisco’s top agent directly is too good to pass up. Aidan is prickly—to put it mildly—but a growing cyber threat soon proves Jamie’s skills invaluable.
Jamie’s talents paint a target on his back, and Aidan is determined to protect him. But with hack after hack threatening a high-security biocontainment facility, time is running out to thwart a deadly terrorist attack. They’ll have to filter out distractions, on the case and in their partnership, to identify the real enemy, solve the case and save thousands of lives, including their own.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I’ve got a few fellow readers/bloggers whose advice I take when they send me a book recommendation, no questions asked. That’s why that even though Layla Reyne was a new author, when I was told Single Malt was a book that I needed to read, I jumped on it. One book in and I can already tell that I’ll be pouncing on each book in the Agents Irish & Whiskey as soon as they’re available.

Aidan was broken, but he had a huge support system, which included his boss/sister-in-law. Jamie’s been attracted to Aiden for years, but out of respect for Jamie’s marriage he never acted on those feelings. Of course things get complicated when they become partners.

I loved the connection between Aidan and Jamie, but there were a lot of other things going on in Single Malt. There was danger, mystery, guilt and strong family/friend connections that introduce a lot of great characters that I can’t wait to get to know better. It basically looks like Agents Irish & Whiskey is going to have pretty much everything I love about romantic suspense.

Then there was the ending… let’s just say things are going to get really interesting and the second book in the series, Cask Strength can’t come soon enough.

DragonFlyGreen4-5