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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Deathbrew Affair (Lethal Webs #1) by Nancy Northcott

He’s the King of Control Freaks.
I’m the Queen of Winging It.
Together, we’ll save the world….
Unless we kill each other first.
I’m Casey Billings, an American operative in the London office of a covert, multinational agency. I’m working with an MI5 officer, Jack, Lord Bainbridge, to bring down a bioterrorist who plans to unleash a pandemic. We’re posing as newlyweds to infiltrate the community that’s a cover for the bioweapons operation. Unfortunately, we don’t play well together, and not only because of Jack’s distracting, off-the- scales hotness.
I grew up poor in a mill town, and he’s an aristocrat with more money than a third-world country. Besides that, I fly by the seat of my pants while Jack lives by his plans for every contingency and takes charge of everything. Including me. Or so he thinks.
Basically, we’d like to strangle each other. But we have a pandemic to stop first.
Then all bets are off.

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve been a fan of Nancy Northcott since I read her first book, Renegade, in which she created an amazing world filled with intrigue, magic and romance. She didn’t have to twist my arm to give her new romantic suspense series a try. Especially since I had already gotten a taste of her contemporary writing in her novella, Danger’s Edge, which was included in the Capitol Danger anthology – which has a loose tie-in to The Deathbrew Affair.

Let me just start off by saying that The Deathbrew Affair is the beginning of what promises to be an amazing series. The story is told entirely from Casey’s POV. There are times that I really enjoy getting into each character’s head and I admit, I would have liked to know exactly what was going on inside Jack’s more than once. In this case though, not knowing was a part of the suspense. It actually provided an additional layer to the mystery.

Although The Deathbrew Affair was a great romantic suspense, it wasn’t necessarily a ‘who-done-it’ because from the very beginning, the ‘who’ was pretty obvious. The real challenge for Jack and Casey was to prove that the bad guy was the mastermind – but his possible accomplices came a little too close to home.

I absolutely loved how Jack and Casey were ‘thrown’ together. The attraction was immediate for Casey, but she knew better than to get involved. Sometimes the head and the heart don’t cooperate and that was definitely the case between these two. They were so much fun, plus they worked well together. Their personalities meshed even though on the surface they seemed worlds apart.

I absolutely can’t wait for the next book in this series. The Deathbrew Affair came to a satisfying close, but there is definitely (and thankfully) much more to come.

Intertwined Hearts (Snowcroft Men #3) by Christi Snow

Three people who’ve given up on love…
Hudson:
After a brutal, late-night attack in his restaurant left Chef Hudson Richmond too traumatized to even enter his restaurant again, he escaped to Snowcroft. Now he’s trying to find a new normal when the reality of his world is a man’s touch makes him sick and his dream has become his nightmare.
Leigh:
Leigh Vaughn lives in a man’s world running Vaughn Construction with her brother, Jamie. She’s tried to be feminine and failed over and over again. Growing up with only her brother, father, and construction crews to guide her, Leigh has no idea what a feminine wile is, much less how to deploy them. But when Jamie and Trevor begin to research finding a surrogate to carry their baby, she knows this is something she can do. Hell, it’s not like those parts are getting used for anything else.
David:
When this small town came looking for a new police chief, David Warner jumped at the chance. After a traumatic betrayal by his partner on the police force, he’s burnt out and jaded. And his love life has been even more depressing than his work life. He’s made one true connection in the last five years, but she disappeared without a trace the next morning.
Three people who have given up on love, may just find a new beginning where they least expect it…in Snowcroft. But love is only supposed to happen in twos. How can they make it work with three intertwined hearts?
Trigger warning: This book features story-lines that involve past assaults and betrayals, but has a guaranteed HEA for three people who couldn’t deserve it more. male/male/female.

I have absolutely no idea where to begin with this book… First, I gotta be honest here, menage is not my ‘go-to’ when I’m looking for a romance. However, when the situation is right and it’s either recommended by a reader I trust or written by an author I’ve learned to trust, I’m perfectly willing to spread my eclectic branches out just a little bit farther. Intertwined Hearts fell into many of those categories for me. First, it was written by one of my favorite contemporary authors; second, I’ve already started the Snowcroft Men series and I had absolutely no intention of missing even one book centered around these characters.

I’ve been reading M/M romance for a while now and I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out that Christi Snow was going to venture into writing books in this genre. She and I read A LOT of the same books so I not only trust, but look forward to her recommendations. I fell in love with her story telling when I began her When the Mission Ends series. Now, I have no doubts about picking up either anything she recommends or writes. As cautious as I am about my menage books, I had absolutely no reservations about Intertwined Hearts because I knew that these characters were in very capable hands and would be treated well. Trust me when I say that if any characters deserved kind, loving care, it was definitely Hudson, Leigh and David.

I can’t tell you how much I loved these characters. On the surface, Hudson was the most ‘broken’ of the three, but after spending time with each of them, it was easy to see how much they needed someone to help put them back together. Leigh longed for a real relationship that she had convinced herself she wasn’t built for. David had been betrayed by his partner so he had trust issues that compounded him being able to make a true connection with anyone. Jamie and Trevor (Snowcroft Lost) had no idea what they were doing when they inadvertently brought these three together – in David’s case, anyway. Bringing Hudson into Leigh’s life was purely intentional. 😉

The healing that took place between these three characters was amazing to watch unfold. I don’t want to spoil the “process” for anyone else, but Christi Snow handled the pain and fear with the loving care that I expected. Oh, did I mention that there were tears? Yeah, there were and I’ve ALMOST forgiven this author for the hope, followed by the despair that I didn’t see coming… My heart broke for these characters more than once, but as promised in the description, the healing happened. This story wouldn’t have been nearly as believable if it would have been easy.

Hudson, Leigh and David are the center of Intertwined Hearts, but the supporting characters are just as important. Jamie and Trevor are both adorably and annoyingly protective. Even characters that I didn’t care for in the beginning started to grow on me. Then there were Law and Ian. Their story is next and I have to say (and I may or may not have said… more than once) this one is a long time coming. If I didn’t know better I’d swear that Christi Snow has enjoyed torturing her readers with the wait for Snowcroft Restoration throughout this series. 😛

Stone Cold (SoulShares #8) by Rory Ni Coileain

Maelduin Guaire is a Fae with a mission. An obsession, really. He’s trained his entire life to become the greatest scian-damhsa, blade-dancer, the Fae have ever known, for the sole purpose of killing the blade-dancer who murdered his father and gave House Guaire its reputation as the Cursed House. Now he’s followed Tiernan Guaire through the Pattern to the human world, to fulfill his oath or die trying… but the passage has cost him all his skill with a blade.
Terry Miller, Josh LaFontaine’s business partner at the Raging Art-on Tattoo and Piercing Parlor, has the worst luck with men since… well, since ever, as far as he’s concerned. Years ago, he walked out on a great thing with Josh, when Bryce Newhouse offered to play sugar daddy for Terry’s ballet company; then Bryce kicked him to the curb, and Terry ended up relying on big-hearted Josh to help him get back on his feet. And now a too-good-to-be-true stranger has turned up in Terry’s half-built dance studio, with a beautiful sword and a bloody nose.
In order to regain the grace and skill he needs to keep his vow, a Fae cursed with the inability to love must SoulShare with a human convinced that love runs screaming when it sees him coming. All with the Marfach looking over their shoulders. No pressure.

Okay, so it took me a while to get into Stone Cold, but once it grabbed me, it didn’t let go. I didn’t have this issue with the first 5 books in the series, but it’s been a while since I’ve read any of the books in this series (I read Blowing Smoke in 2015.) Also, I inadvertently skipped Mantled In Mist (#6) and Undertow (#7) so I’m pretty sure both contributed to the slow start. Sometimes you can fall effortlessly back into a series after a break, but so much happens in the SoulShares series and what affects one pair seems to affect them all and not knowing all the characters made things just a little confusing. Lesson learned. 😉

Once I caught up, I couldn’t put Stone Cold down. Terry’s a character that’s been around for a while in the SoulShares series and finding his SoulShare was long overdue. Both Maelduin and Terry had their reasons for fighting the pull that they felt toward each other. Maelduin was cursed to never love and Terry was unlucky in love. He either picked the wrong person or pushed the right ones away. Things are never quite what they seem in this world of magic.

The Marfach was as gruesome as ever and magic was running rampant – and not always in a good way. As I said, a lot happened in Stone Cold and evidently a lot happened in the books I missed. I’m definitely going to have to go back and read those two books before the next one is released. Stay tuned!

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. 😉

Bad Boy’s Bard (Fae Out of Water #3) by E.J. Russell

As far as rock star Gareth Kendrick, the last true bard in Faerie, is concerned, the only good Unseelie is . . . well . . . there’s no such thing. Two centuries ago, an Unseelie lord abducted Gareth’s human lover, Niall, and Gareth has neither forgotten nor forgiven.
Niall O’Tierney, half-human son of the Unseelie King, had never lost a wager until the day he swore to rid the Seelie court of its bard. That bet cost him everything: his freedom, his family—and his heart. When he’s suddenly face-to-face with Gareth at the ceremony to join the Seelie and Unseelie realms, Niall does the only thing inhumanly possible: he fakes amnesia. Not his finest hour, perhaps, but he never revealed his Unseelie heritage, and to tell the truth now would be to risk Gareth’s revulsion—far harder to bear than two hundred years of imprisonment.
Then a new threat to Gareth’s life arises, and he and Niall stage a mad escape into the Outer World, only to discover the fate of all fae resting on their shoulders. But before they can save the realm, they have to tackle something really tough: mending their own broken relationship.

I’ve really liked this series, but I’ve gotta admit, out of all the brothers, Gareth was my least favorite. It was pretty much inevitable that he would be the last brother of the three to find his soul mate… or find him again.

To be honest, even when Niall and Gareth ‘found’ each other, I still wasn’t a fan. They did eventually grow on me, but it took a while. I wasn’t impressed with Niall’s decision to fake amnesia – being honest would have saved a lot of heartache. They both ended up doing things that I didn’t like, but to be fair, I think my opinion may have been colored a tad bit by my love of David, Bryce, Alun & Mal.

There was bitterness, deceit, heartbreak and eventually healing, but, as I said, it took a while to get there. The journey to their HEA was full of twists and turns and some heated moments. In the end, both Gareth and Niall ended up redeeming themselves and I ended up liking them both. If I’m totally honest though, David and Alun (Cutie & the Beast) are still my favorite. ❤ Since all the brothers have come full circle, I’m fairly certain that Bad Boy’s Bard is the final book in the series. I won’t complain though if E.J. Russell decides to revisit this world in the future. 😉 

 

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? 😉 

 

 

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. 

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 😉 

Death Distilled (Whisky Business Mystery #2) by Melinda Mullet

Award-winning photojournalist turned whisky distillery proprietress and amateur sleuth Abigail Logan returns in the charming follow-up to Single Malt Murder.
It’s been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited. With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour. But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes shepherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep—all within the first twenty-four hours. Still, nothing’s more stressful than murder. . . .
Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels—and Abi’s girlhood crush. After meeting him in person, Abi can’t say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show . . . or figuring out who’s trying to kill him. Turns out someone’s been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run. Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he’s next on the chopping block. And the band has a devil’s share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift through—all before the killer takes another shot.

I am so glad I stumbled upon this series. Single Malt Murder was like a breath of fresh air on my reading list and Death Distilled turned out to be just as refreshing. I like mixing up my reading genres from time to time 😉

Abi turned a little fan-girlish in Death Distilled. I suppose that’s understandable, but because of that she kept second guessing herself. I still had faith in her gut instinct, even though she wasn’t always right. To be fair, there were a lot of twists and turns in this one and I honestly didn’t figure out who the ‘bad guy’ was until just before Abi did.

This series is turning into one of my favorite mysteries. There are more than a few quirky characters, an adorable dog (that’s now got his own flock of wayward sheep) and a somewhat budding romance. There was also more than one mystery within the pages of Death Distilled and I loved that way the secondary one turned out. The best part is that there’s obviously more to come and I can’t wait to see what Melinda Mullet has in store for the residents of Balfour.