The Long Way Around by Quinn Anderson

A wrong turn could lead to Mr. Right.
Sam Cooper is the definition of an introvert: shy, bookish, and the sort to think a wild Friday night involves ordering takeout. He enjoys his quiet life, but after a bad breakup, he’s been yearning for a change of scenery. Luckily, his best friend and former college roommate has the solution.
Wesley Reed—a jokester and expert Sam-handler—proposes an epic road trip to a wedding across the country. They’re both between jobs and boyfriends. Why not hit the open road and make some memories?
Stuck in close quarters for the first time since their dorm days, they’re both surprised at the heat that springs up between them. As best friends, they’ve shared so much over the years, so why does sharing a hotel room—and occasionally a bed—make them want more? Chemistry this smoldering is hard to ignore, but there are road blocks to their romance. Wesley’s keeping a secret, and Sam can’t rely on Wesley to drag him out of his comfort zone forever. If they’re not careful, their relationship may take the ultimate wrong turn.

Road trips, friends to lovers and secrets… what’s not to love 😉 Although I had a couple of minor little issues with The Long Way Around, I still loved the story.

On the surface, Sam and Wes seemed polar opposites, but that’s what made their relationship work. Wes gave Sam the strength to face his fears and make the trip to his sister’s wedding. Sam gave Wes the strength to face his deepest fear and come to terms with it.

So what were my issues? That’s a fair question… Wes’ secret wasn’t a minor one. To be honest, it should have been something that Sam picked up on a lot sooner than he did – even though I didn’t. I only say that because Sam and Wes were pretty much inseparable. I can’t really say a lot more because I don’t want to give anything away. Like I said, it was minor in the total scheme of things. It was important though and it shaped the way things worked out for both Sam and Wes.

This isn’t my first Quinn Anderson book and even though I’ve had mixed feelings about a couple of others, I’m sure it won’t be my last. 😉

 

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Consent (#MeToo #1) by Jason Letts

Would you sign on the dotted line?
Sarah has a painful past and not much hope for the future, especially after being forced out of her job leaves her struggling to make ends meet. She catches a break and lands a position at a tech startup but gets a tip that the staff is toxic to women and the stunningly handsome boss, Keenan Roche, is abusive and controlling.
Rather than run for the hills, Sarah decides this is her chance to strike back and maybe take them all down, but she discovers there might be more to Keenan than what her coworkers and his ex-girlfriends say, if only she’ll agree to find out.

I’ve been a fan of Jason Letts for a while now. My first introduction to this author was with Inevitable, the 1st book in his Inevitable Trilogy. Evidently I was a slacker back in 2011 because I didn’t leave a review. However, I did review both Impossible and Incredible, the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. The #MeToo series takes this author in a totally different direction and I was curious to see how he handled a contemporary setting.

There was a lot to like about Consent. I liked how Sarah was smart about her approach to the office setting, which definitely came from her past experience. Her past experience also made her a little too cautious. It made it really easy for her to latch on to the negativity that Chelsea (the only other woman who worked in the office) fed her. That’s also probably one of the reasons why I didn’t like Chelsea from the beginning. If someone is that miserable in their work place that they have to make everyone else miserable, it makes me wonder why they stick around.

Jason Letts delivered a strong message in Consent. Sometimes it was a little too strong, but it’s one that doesn’t need to continue to be swept under the rug, so I can forgive him for that. Keenan may not have been the monster that Chelsea initially painted, but he was complacent to what was going on in his office, which is in some ways just as bad.

Agency is the next book in the #MeToo series. After reading the description for that one, I’m not sure… However, this author hasn’t let me down yet, so I’ll probably pick it up sooner or later.

Until We Fall (Falling #5) by Jessica Scott

The darkness never forgets…
Caleb Gregory has spent ten years hiding in the dark, refusing to speak about the night his young life was destroyed. In his anger and his rage, he drank and fought until he drove everyone away until he had no one left.
The light casts a long shadow…
Nalini King has devoted her post army life to her passion: using yoga to heal her fellow soldiers. In doing so, she’s worked to forget the night her life burned down around her.
An unexpected storm…
When a storm forces them into the darkness together, these two wounded souls must face the demons of their past.
Because it is only in the darkest night that we can truly see the light.

Oh Caleb… After several books of working up to this character, I never thought I would have walked away from his story wanting more… but I’m also not surprised. Once again, Jessica Scott’s personal experience brings a realism to this series that is hard to miss.

I’ve said before that I love it when an author can take a character that they’ve effectively made unlikable into one that you can’t wait to find their HEA. Caleb definitely fell into this category. I have to admit that even when I’ve been frustrated with Caleb throughout this series (and there have been many opportunities) I still saw a spark of the man he could be from time to time. The thing is Until We Fall couldn’t happen until Caleb found himself and felt he was worth finding.

Nalini didn’t fight her demons with a bottle, but by going back to her heritage with yoga. I loved her strength and compassion. As unlikely as it seemed, given the Caleb that readers had gotten to know, Nalini turned out to be a perfect match for him. Both of them had pasts that neither were proud of, but they were finding ways to work past them. In a way, it was a good thing that they didn’t meet until Caleb was working on recovery. Mostly because sober Caleb and drunk Caleb were totally different people.

I loved these characters and hope that we get glimpses of them in the future. Caleb still has a long way to go and a lot of fences to mend. He has some great friends, so I hope he gets the chance.

Once Burned (Anchor Point #6) by L.A. Witt

Captain Mark Thomas’s world has been tossed on its head: A long overdue but still unexpected divorce. A promotion out of left field. Last-second orders to a ship where careers go to die. As the dust settles in his new home, he barely recognizes his life, but he sure recognizes the loneliness creeping in.
Diego Ramírez wants nothing to do with the military or its men. Not after the Navy burned him both literally and figuratively, costing him his career, his health, and ultimately his green card. Now working illegally in an Anchor Point bar, he keeps the military and its personnel at arm’s length.
But after a single moment of eye contact across the bar, Mark and Diego can’t resist each other. As a one-night stand quickly turns into more, Diego knows he’s playing with fire. Now he can stick around and let things with Mark inevitably fall apart, or he can run like hell and wonder what might have been. One way or another, Diego knows he’s about to get burned. Again.
50% of the author’s royalties from this book will be donated to charities supporting US military veterans who have been deported or are at risk of deportation.

If you’ve been reading the books in the Anchor Point series, you know that readers met Diego in the previous book, Going Overboard. He was Dalton’s best friend and earned just enough page time to make me really look forward to his story. I wasn’t disappointed.

Both Mark and Diego are more than a little bit broken when they meet. Diego has good reason to not want to have anything to do with the military. Falling someone who has obviously decided to make the military his career is someone he needs to stay away from. The problem is, once he gives in, he finds it hard to stay away.

Mark is lost. His marriage wasn’t a great one, far from it, but it was familiar. When he sees Diego for the first time, he’s more than a little surprised that the connection just feels right. These two are drawn to each other physically, but it doesn’t take long for them to form a real connection.

Diego is drawn to Mark, but he knows that there’s no future between the two of them. Trust is hard for him and Mark means well, but he’s oblivious to the situation that Diego is in. Not because he’s unfeeling, just because he had no idea how bad things really were and how precarious his situation really was.

For the record, L.A. Witt did an amazing job of handling this touchy subject. I fell in love with both of these characters and really felt for both of them. Diego because of the situation he was in and Mark because of his determination to make things right, regardless. This was definitely another great addition to the Anchor Point series and I can’t wait to see what comes next with Wash Out – the next book in the series. 

Junkyard Heart (Porthkennack #7) by Garrett Leigh

Tired of the London rat race and the heartbreak that comes with it, photographer Jas Manning returns to Porthkennack, the Cornish seaside town where he spent every childhood summer on his father’s farm. Resigned to year-round rain, wind, and homemade jam, he’s sorely unprepared for the impact that artsy carpenter Kim Penrose has on his heart.
Kim’s free-loving reputation precedes him, and he’s as generous with his inked-up body as he is with his time. The sex is hot, the easy friendship even better, and Jas’s time with him building his family’s new farmhouse canteen is everything Jas was missing in his empty city life.
But Kim’s carefree existence isn’t as simple as it appears. He’s worked hard to vanquish his demons and build his dreams, but the devil on his shoulder is ruthless, and when it comes to call, their happy bubble bursts like it was never there at all. The canteen opening looms, but Kim is gone in more ways than one, and it’s down to Jas to shore up Kim’s soul and convince him that he deserves his place in Jas’s heart.

I’ve said it before and I’m sure it won’t be the last time… Garrett Leigh’s ‘super power’ as an #EvilAuthor is to break both her characters and readers and slowly put the pieces back together. I know that going into every one of her books but the depth of feeling and heartbreak seems to catch me off guard every single time.

Both Kim and Jas were broken in very different ways. Kim was fighting his personal demons and Jas was working on starting fresh and leaving his past back in London where it belonged. These two were so good together, when they were together. Kim didn’t think he was worthy of Jas and Jas wasn’t so sure he was worthy of Kim. They were quite the pair. Yet Jas saw beyond Kim’s past and wanted to help him realize his total worth. He wanted to prove to him that he was more than his demons and his past. He didn’t always go about it in the right way, but his heart was always in the right place.

Pretty much all of the books in the Porthkennack series can be read as standalone, but I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the past couple even more because they loosely tie into previous books and characters. Jas’ family was great. The interactions between Jas and Kim’s friends were easy and seamless. I loved the support and sense of family that they provided for Kim. Junkyard Heart was a perfect addition to the Porthkennack series and another beautiful heartbreak from this talented author.

Snowcroft Restoration (Snowcroft Men #4) by Christi Snow

Two years ago, Law Wyman went undercover for an FBI investigation that went sideways. It cost him both the love of his life and his sanity. The nightmare still haunts him, and so does some unfinished business…Ian Mayne, the son of the man who ruined his life.
Two years ago, Ian had to face the truth about how his father spent a lifetime torturing and trafficking LGBTQ teens. Ever since, Ian has done everything he can to make up for his dead father’s many sins through his law enforcement job. Too many paid in horrific, horrible ways at his father’s hands while Ian kept the truth about his own sexuality hidden.
Law is doing all he can to save Ian, but Ian has no idea about Law’s history with his dead father. When the truth comes out, it could cost them both everything.
Two men…both horrifically haunted by what happened. Is it possible they can find healing together? Only if they have the courage to face their demons and each other…

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this book. Law has been breaking my heart since the beginning of the series. In Snowcroft Lost, Law lost the love of his life. In Snowcroft Safehouse, readers spent time getting to know him even better and in the process he broke my heart even more. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m kinda glad that we had to wait for Law’s HEA. It gave both Law and Ian a chance to not only find themselves, but each other. (That doesn’t mean that Ms. Snow has been totally forgiven however… her #EvilAuthor status is still in good standing.)

I never got as attached to Ian as I did to Law, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel for him. He had suffered totally different losses, but they were just as haunting – which left him just as broken. His need to pay back for his father’s sins took him away from Snowcroft on a mission to save a friend.

Which brings us to the fact that this book had two parts. The first was away from Snowcroft, where Ian went on a solo undercover operation to find a missing friend and Law went to offer his support – whether Ian wanted it or not. Even though Ian barely knew Law and his history, Law wasn’t in the dark at all. He not only wanted to help Ian, he was attracted to him. That attraction only grew the closer they got to each other and given the circumstances they were thrown into, closeness was inevitable.

These two had a few emotional obstacles to get around, but they were so good together, their HEA was inevitable. I knew better (knowing this author) than to relax once they finally made it back to Snowcroft in the second part of Snowcroft Restoration. It was great having them back in familiar territory though, especially since they were surrounded by family and friends. There were still some emotional hurdles, but I loved watching their plans unfold and the ‘restoration’ begin.

Danger, heat, emotion, humor and a strong sense of family. This series pretty much has it all. I’m really, really happy that their is more to come and the introduction of some new Snowcroft residents is guaranteed to keep things interesting. I can’t wait to see what Christi Snow has in store for readers next. ❤

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. ❤

Foxglove Copse (Porthkennack #5) by Alex Beecroft

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

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

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

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

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

Hopeless Romantic by Francis Gideon

Nick Fraser is a true romantic. He wants the guy instead of the girl, but other than that, he wants everything his favorite rom-coms depict: the courtship, the passionate first kiss, the fairy-tale wedding. But after breaking up with the love of his life, Nick wonders if anything fairy-tale will ever happen for him.
Then he meets Katie, who’s just like a rom-com heroine. She’s sharp, funny, sweet, and as into music and punk culture as Nick is. What’s more, he’s incredibly attracted to her—even though she’s a woman. Nick has never considered that he might be bisexual, but his feelings for Katie are definitely real.
When Katie reveals that she’s transgender, Nick starts to see how much he doesn’t understand about the world, queer identity, and himself. He is hopelessly in love with Katie, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and Nick’s friends and family may not accept his new relationship. If he wants it all, he has to have the courage to make his fantasy a reality.

First, a little insight into why I read some of the books that I do. I stayed away from the LGBTQIA genre for a long time because I didn’t think I could relate to the characters. I was wrong on so many levels. I can see that now. My go-to books and authors now include a pretty wide array of LGBTQIA, some of which have even helped me learn a little bit about myself, who knew?  I’ve only read a handful of trans books, and not knowing anyone who is trans I couldn’t tell you which ones have come closer to portraying a true trans man or woman. To me, that’s not the point. I’m not trying to be insensitive, just the opposite. I try to read books that may help me understand where people from all walks of life are coming from. Hopefully, it’s making me a better person in the long run. Maybe, maybe not, but since I live in a community where I’m sure the full spectrum of LBGTQIA people live right beside me, but for many reasons (family, church, neighbors, school, etc.) don’t feel safe being themselves, reading this genre is the only way I have of gaining even a little bit of understanding. Hopefully, one day, that will change, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

For all those reasons, I’m not really sure how to write this review. I try not to read other reviews before I write mine, but this one was hard because the reactions were intense. This is the first book by Francis Gideon I’ve read, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I liked the story and the insight. If nothing else, it’s made me want to read more transgender books, because honestly, just like every other person on the planet, I would imagine that no two transgender people are the same or handle things the same way.

Again, I’m not trying to be insensitive, but I could relate to Nick. He was learning and yes, he may have faltered… a lot, but he was trying. He was also a bit flustered because being attracted to Katie kind of threw him. He had identified as gay his entire life and finding out that Katie was trans, relieved him in a way. I’m not saying that was right, it wasn’t. He just grasped at it in an effort to come to terms with the fact that he was attracted to a woman. Once he did come to terms with it, he still slipped a little, but he was trying.

Katie was an amazing character. She was patient with Nick, but she didn’t let him get away with his pre-conceived ideas and she made him take a good hard look at himself, more than once. She could have kicked him to the curb and left him more than once, but she saw something in him that wouldn’t let her. Love is love after all. 😉 On a side note, the thing that I noticed more than once was that from the very beginning, Nick only saw Katie as a woman. People around them, total strangers could see the masculine side of Katie, but Nick never did. To me it meant that he saw her for who she truly was… just a thought.

So, Hopeless Romantic may not have been the perfect portrayal of a trans/gay couple, but for me it was a sweet romance between two people that loved each other. Nick may have come off as insensitive to some, probably rightly so, but I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t make the at least some of same mistakes, but not purposely. Wrapping your head around something you’ve never experienced before isn’t always easy, but knowledge is powerful and sensitivity goes a long way regardless of who you are.

Loose Cannon (The Woodbury Boys #1) by Sidney Bell

Released after five years in the system for assault, streetwise Edgar-Allen Church is ready to leave the past behind and finally look to his future. In need of a place to crash, he’s leaning on Miller Quinn. A patient, solidly masculine pillar of strength and support, Miller has always been there for him—except in the one way Church has wanted the most.
With his staunchly conservative upbringing, Miller has been playing it straight his whole life. Now with Church so close again, it’s getting harder to keep his denial intact. As they fumble their way back to friendship after so many years apart, Miller struggles to find the courage to accept who he really is. What he has with Church could be more than desire—it could be love. But it could also mean trouble.
Church’s criminal connections are closing in on the both of them, and more than their hearts are at risk. This time, their very lives are on the line.

I almost skipped this one. Thank goodness another author/blogger/reader that I trust suggested that I pick up Loose Cannon, otherwise I would have missed an amazing story. 😉

I’m a huge believer in not judging someone from mistakes made in the past, especially those made when you’re young… within reason. First, they have to own up to those mistakes and not make excuses. Second, they have to want to make a better life for themselves. Church was that kind of person. He knew he screwed up and he was honestly ashamed of the actions that caused him to eventually end up at Woodbury. He was determined to make up for what he put Miller through and prove to himself that he was a better person… and not his father. Fate had different plans and there was literally no way that Church could have avoided the situation he ended up in.

I really liked Miller, but he frustrated me. Yet, ass frustrated as I got with Miller and his denial, I understood where he was coming from. That denial was engrained in him by his father and religion. There were times that I felt that Church deserved better, but so did Miller. His relationship with Church wasn’t the only thing that he was denying himself though. His fear of loosing everything kept him from seeing what he needed most and kept him from being truly happy. He almost lost it all.

The supporting characters in Loose Cannon were pretty amazing. There were very blurry lines between right and wrong and a lot of the characters fell into that gray area. I’m still not sure how I feel about a couple of them, which is just one of the many reasons why I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I’m pretty sure Tobias’ story is next, which is good. He was such a great, supportive, upbeat character. And then there was Ghost… it stands to reason that Sidney Bell would make readers wait to get to know him better, but I have a feeling that that wait is going to be torture.