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 😉

 

On Point (Out of Uniform #3) by Annabeth Albert

Never fall for your best friend…
Pushing thirty, with his reenlistment looming, decorated navy sniper Maddox Horvat is taking a long look at what he really wants in life. And what he wants is Ben Tovey. It isn’t smart, falling for his best friend and fellow SEAL, but ten years with Ben has forged a bond so intimate Maddox can’t ignore it. He needs Ben by his side forever—heart and soul.
Ben admits he likes what he’s seen—his friend’s full lower lip and the perfect muscles of his ass have proved distracting more than once. But Ben’s still reeling from a relationship gone to hell, and he’s not about to screw up his friendship with Maddox, too.
Until their next mission throws Ben and Maddox closer together than ever before, with only each other to depend on.
Now, in the lonely, desperate hours awaiting rescue, the real challenge—confronting themselves, their future and their desires—begins. Man to man, friend to friend, lover to lover.

These boys just about broke me. *sigh* Ben and Maddox have been the fun ‘non-couple’ for a while now. Their relationship was inevitable, but it wasn’t easy.

Maddox and Ben both did some soul searching while they were waiting for their rescue. Things started getting complicated once they got home. They were both dealing with the fact that they almost lost each other. Maddox was more than ready to give them a chance, but Ben was so afraid of losing Maddox that he was afraid to risk it.

I loved these guys, but I wasn’t kidding about them just about breaking me. It would have been really easy to get upset with Ben for his reluctance, but he was truly terrified. When Maddox stalled on re-enlisting, that terror was magnified. He tried to over compensate and be the ‘perfect boyfriend’ but that drove Maddox nuts. He just wanted Ben.

I also loved seeing the characters from the previous books in the Out of Uniform series. They loved and supported Ben and Maddox. They also knew that Maddox and Ben cared about each other and were more than room mates long before they did. So yeah, they almost broke me but it was totally worth it in a way. I walked away from this one feeling good about the future Ben and Maddox were finally ready to build with each other.

Spectacle (Menagerie #2) by Rachel Vincent

When their coup of Metzger’s Menagerie is discovered, Delilah and her fellow cryptids find their newly won freedom brutally stripped away as they are sold into The Savage Spectacle, a private collection of “exotic wildlife.” Specializing in ruthless cryptid cage matches, safari-style creature hunts and living party favors, the Spectacle’s owner, Willem Vandekamp, caters to the forbidden fetishes of the wealthy and powerful. At the Spectacle, any wish can be granted—for the right price.
But Vandekamp’s closely guarded client list isn’t the only secret being kept at the Spectacle. Beneath the beauty and brutality of life in the collection lie much darker truths, and no one is more determined than Delilah to strip the masks from the human monsters and drag all dark things into the light.

The second book in Rachel Vincent’s Menagerie series was just as intense and thought provoking as the first. In some ways, even more so. The members of Metzger’s Menagerie had a small respite from their captivity and that taste of freedom made what came next even harder to take.

The description only touches on the horrors that Delilah and her friends and other cryptids had to endure when purchased by the Savage Spectacle. Willem Vandekamp was the perfect villain and his sweet, spoiled wife was even worse. Just like Menagerie, there was a loud and clear message just below the surface. The creatures in Spectacle were much more humane than the humans that not only kept them captive, but used them in horrific ways. The captors also played on their weaknesses and it didn’t take long for Willem to figure out how to play the connection between Delilah and Gallagher to his advantage.

As hard as parts of Spectacle were to read, the intensity, imagery and action kept the pages turning. Delilah never stopped trying to find ways to escape. She refused to give up, even when her punishments came close to breaking her. Watching what her fellow captives were forced to endure was the only motivation she needed. That and her vow to destroy Willem and everything he stood for.

The ending of Spectacle didn’t seem as abrupt as the end of Menagerie, but it still left me wanting the next installment sooner rather than later. The fate of many characters were left hanging in the balance and then there’s the interesting twist…  Needless to say, the last book in the Menagerie trilogy is already on my TBR list 😉

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. 😉

 

Risky Behavior (Bad Behavior #1) by L.A. Witt & Cari Z.

It’s day one of Darren Corliss’s career as a detective, and not only has he been assigned a notoriously difficult partner, but the guy might also be a pill-popping dirty cop. Internal Affairs needs proof, and Darren gets to be their eyes and ears whether he wants to or not.
Detective Andreas Ruffner doesn’t play by the rules, and he doesn’t play well with others. With bodies piling up and a list of suspects who are way above his pay grade, the last thing he needs is a wet-behind-the-ears kid for a partner. Or babysitter. Not even if that partner is easy on the eyes.
As Darren gains Andreas’s hard-won trust, they both realize there’s more than just mutual suspicion simmering beneath the surface. But their investigation is heating up as quickly as their relationship, and Darren has no choice but to go along with Andreas’s unorthodox—and borderline unethical—methods. As IA puts the squeeze on Darren to give up the man he’s falling for, he has to wonder—is Andreas the only cop left in this town who isn’t dirty?

I’ve read several books by Cari Z and even more by L.A. Witt. Whenever I see a book written by either one of them I’m intrigued. Having them join creative forces? Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to pick up Risky Behavior.

I love well developed ‘broken’ characters and Andrea definitely fell into that category. He had everyone convinced that he it was safer to keep their distance and he worked hard at keeping it that way. He also had a secret that he worked even harder to keep hidden.

Even though Darren wasn’t necessarily broken, he still had his own secrets. He also had a sense of honor and loyalty that kept him from jumping to conclusions before he had the whole story. It didn’t take him long to figure out there was a lot more to Andrea than what was on the surface.

This book had everything I love in a new series. Plenty of heat between the good guys, suspense, action and characters that were easy to fall for. I can’t wait to see what this talented duo has in store for Andrea and Darren as the Bad Behavior series continues.

Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer

Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.
Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.
They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye. But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

So, I think I’ve established that I’m a fan of M/M romance, but F/F? Not so much. Don’t ask me why, because I have no reasonable explanation. I just can’t get into them and believe me, I’ve tried. So, why didn’t I even hesitate to pick up Thaw? Well, that’s simple. I fell in love with the characters in Whiteout and I couldn’t resist seeing where the rest of the books in Elyse Springer’s Seasons of Love series took them.

Abby was one of my favorite supporting characters in Whiteout. She was a great friend to Noah and in Thaw, he got to return the favor. I really enjoyed getting to know her even better, as well as a few other characters from the first book. Abby gained quite a few friends when she became friends with Noah.

Gabrielle had earned her reputation as the Ice Queen honestly, but Abby saw something in her that others hadn’t. The same was true of Gabrielle’s reaction to Abby. She didn’t let her guard down or open herself up to many people. There was something about Abby that drew her in and let her relax, just a little. That was enough. What little time they got to spend together alone was good. When they were out in the open, things were tense. There was more than one misunderstanding and one that finally was the last straw for Abby. Things aren’t always what they seem and secrets have a way of hurting the last people you’d expect. My heart broke for both of these characters equally at different times during Thaw. They were both fighting their own private battles and I couldn’t help but root for their HEA because by the end, they totally deserved it.

If Thaw was any indication, I’m pretty sure that readers haven’t seen the last of Gabrielle and Abby. I like it when a series keeps characters together, especially since they’ve been so supportive of each other. That seems to be a theme in this series. Heatwave is next and it’s another F/F book in the Seasons of Love series. It also features another one of my favorite characters from both Thaw and Whiteout. Seems that Sara will be in for some surprises of her own and I can’t wait 😉

 

Surrender the Dark (Dark #1) by Tibby Armstrong

Benjamin Fuller is a hunter, born and bred. Blinded as a child by the vampire who slaughtered his family, he’s blessed with a second sight that allows him to catch and kill his quarry. What his gift can’t help him see coming is his fierce, almost carnal attraction to the mystery man who claims to be a fellow hunter and whose touch triggers both lust and revulsion. When he gains the upper hand, Benjamin vows to bring his enemy to his knees.
After many years spent in exile, the only one who can help restore Tzadkiel Dragoumanos to his rightful place as War King is a blind hunter with golden curls, a lithe dancer’s physique, and distinctive facial scars—scars Tzadkiel gave him two decades ago. The mere scent of Benjamin Fuller provokes an unwelcome rush of insatiable desire. Yet to win an all-out supernatural war, Tzadkiel must resist the ravenous hunger to possess his prey—for now.

I honestly can’t believe that Surrender the Dark is the first book by Tibby Armstrong that I’ve read. I’ve been following her for a while now and I really did think that I’d read at least one of her books, but I was wrong. There’s obviously nothing I can do about that now, but after finishing the first book in her newest series, I’m hooked and anxiously waiting the next book in the Dark series.

Not surprisingly, it was really easy to sympathize with Benjamin. I’ve got to admit that I was wondering exactly how the author was going to bring these two characters together after all the pain that they caused each other. Tzadkiel was the enemy. He was a monster that had tricked Benjamin, caused him to lose his sight and killed his family. Things aren’t always exactly as they seem though and there were a lot of interesting twists in Surrender the Dark.

Once I started to understand Tzadkiel’s history and how things really played out I wasn’t sure who to sympathize with because I found my heart breaking for both of them. So much so, that I wasn’t disappointed at all to find that the real enemy in Surrender the Dark wasn’t who I expected.

Beyond the story, the writing in Surrender the Dark drew me in. The descriptions were almost poetic, but not over the top. The characters were well developed and there was even humor laced within all the pain, anger and danger. Just a few of the reasons why I’ll most definitely not only be following the rest of this series but I’ll also be searching out more books by this author.

The conflict was over between Tzadkiel and Benjamin by the end of Surrender the Dark, but there’s still more to come. More than one character’s fate was undecided. Even though the next book, Taste the Dark, centers around at least one of those characters, I’m pretty sure readers haven’t seen the last of the King and his mate. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to it. 😉

Cask Strength (Agents Irish and Whiskey #2) by Layla Reyne

Professionally, the FBI team of Aidan “Irish” Talley and Jameson “Whiskey” Walker is as good as it gets, closing cases faster than any team at the Bureau. Personally, it’s a different story. Aidan’s feelings for Jamie scare the hell out of him: he won’t risk losing another love no matter how heart-tripping the intimacy between them. And loss is a grim reality with the terrorist Renaud still on their trail, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake.
Going undercover on a new case gets them out of town and off the killer’s radar. They’re assigned to investigate an identity theft ring involving a college basketball team in Jamie’s home state, where Jamie’s past makes him perfect for the role of coach. But returning to the court brings more than old memories.
As secrets and shocking betrayals abound, none may be more dangerous than the one Jamie’s been keeping: a secret about the death of Aidan’s husband that could blow his partner’s world apart and destroy forever the fragile bonds of trust and love building between them.

The plot thickens… Single Malt ended with quite a revelation – that Jamie promised not to share with Aidan. It also left Jamie in a very precarious position. He was getting closer to Aidan and secrets between lovers never ends well.

I gotta say, I’m loving this series and Cask Strength cemented that feeling. Even though these two characters broke my heart – more than once. Jamie was all in when it came to his feelings about Aidan. The only thing was that Aidan was only all in when he was physically with Jamie. Nothing’s ever exactly what it seems and things started getting really interesting when the agents went under cover.

I don’t want to give too much away, but both Jamie and Aidan thought they had reason to be jealous. Jamie seemed to be in his element when he got back on the court. Then lines started blurring when Aidan worked under cover way too well.

As things in the identity theft case started to wrap up, the case they left behind took another strange turn. The cliff hanger in Cask Strength wasn’t quite as crazy… well, not in the same way, anyway… as Single Malt. That doesn’t mean that I can’t wait to pick up Barrel Proof. Even though I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be ready to say goodbye to Jamie or Aidan, Cask Strength ended in a twist that I never saw coming and I’m kinda hoping that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, but…

Forest of Thorns and Claws by J.T. Hall – Bout of Books 19 Review

Donovan McGinnis, a veterinarian and conservationist at a research center in Sumatra, is fighting to save the rainforest from poachers and politicians alike. One day he discovers a tigress trapped by a snare, and while treating her injuries, she bites him. He becomes ill with strange symptoms that leave him feverish and dreaming of the jungle and blood.
Kersen and his family are part of the Harimau jadian, a clan of tiger shifters hidden away in a secret village near the rainforest. When Kersen’s sister is caught, he knows he must free her before she infects someone with their magic and reveals their secret.
But Donovan has already been turned, and only time will tell if he can control the tiger within. Kersen must help him, but will the fierce attraction between the pair bring ruin to them all? With the rainforest under threat from outside forces, they may be doomed anyway, unless Kersen and Donovan can find a way to defeat the danger from inside and out.

I love books that convey an important message without being ‘preachy’ about it. You know what I mean, right? Forest of Thorns and Claws was one of those books. The message was about conservation and the affects that both legal and illegal actions can have. The story was centered around two very special characters. One who fought for the wildlife and its habitat even before he knew its magical secrets and the other who lived in that magical world with his family. That would have been enough to draw me in, but there were tigers, one of my favorite big cats, so I probably would have picked this one up regardless.

Kersen belonged to a clan of tiger shifters who had kept themselves hidden from humans for centuries. It was important to keep their secret, but it was even more important to rescue his sister. Once he found out that Donovan had been infected, he had more than one issue to handle. The doctor could be an ally, but what if he wasn’t. He had to get him away from the other humans before things got worse. Once he started spending time with Donovan, the attraction between them added another element.

Having Donovan turn into a shifter was kind of poetic in a way. His devotion and respect for the tigers was apparent in everything he did. It didn’t take him long to feel a part of the clan, which took his protection instincts to a whole new level. Thrown into the mix were untrusting villagers, a political and bureaucratic nightmare and a meddlesome friend. Needless to say, there wasn’t much down time in Forest of Thorns and Claws.

The romance was heated and intense, the suspense was gripping and the message was clear. If you read Forest of Thorns and Claws, don’t skip the author’s notes at the end. Her personal message to readers is worth the read. Enjoy!

 

Summer Stock by Vanessa North – Bout of Books 19 Review

Tabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey. How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder?
Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around.
As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.

Summer Stock was a lot more than I expected. The cover (although I NEVER judge a book by its cover 😉 ) promised a fun summer romp in the sun. Although it did deliver on that promise, even the supporting characters had a lot of extra baggage that they hid behind those playful smiles.

It was easy to spot the ghosts of Trey’s past. His ex did a real number on him, both physically and emotionally. He had a long way to go before he could even think about trusting someone. A Hollywood TV star was definitely not the type of person he was looking for. As transparent as Ryan’s life seemed, there was a lot that he kept hidden. Hiding behind the facade was easier than baring his soul, especially with a summer fling.

Things got complicated when all the people that were not only dealing with their own problems, tried to protect both Ryan from Trey and Trey from Ryan. It was compounded by the fact that part of Trey’s defense mechanism seemed to sabotage any hope they had at building a relationship and Ryan’s lack of self esteem made him an easy target. Despite all that, I was really hoping these two would make it. Readers could tell if they let themselves, they’d be really good for each other.

By the end of Summer Stock I even started to respect the characters that I wasn’t sure about in the beginning. I love it when that happens. Don’t avoid this one if you’re just looking for a fun summer read – not to mention a dog that steals the show more than once. It really does deliver on that end, there just happens to be a lot more to the story than you may be bargaining for, and that’s never a bad thing 😉