The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick (Bout-of-Books 24 Review)

When she was a child, Joey Kinkaid, assigned as a boy at birth—wearing Mom’s purple sundress and an imaginary crown—ruled the Baker Street neighborhood with a flair and imagination that kept the other kids captivated. Day after day, she led them on fantastic after-school adventures, but those innocent childhood days are over, and the magic is gone. The princess is alone.
Even Eric Sinclair, the Prince Eric to Joey’s Princess Ariel, has turned his back on his former friend, watching in silence as Joey is tormented at school. Eric isn’t proud of it, but their enchanted youth is over, and they’ve been thrust into a dog-eat-dog world where those who conform survive and those who don’t… well, they don’t. Eric has enough to deal with at home, where his mother has abandoned him to live in isolation and poverty.
But Eric can’t stay on the sidelines forever. When Joey finally accepts her female gender and comes to school wearing lip gloss, leggings, and a silky pink scarf, the bullies readily take the opportunity she hands them, driving Joey to attempt suicide and leaving Eric at a crossroads—one that will influence both their lives in not just the present, but the future.
Is there a chance the two teens can be friends again, and maybe even more?

First, this is my 3rd Mia Kerick read and there’s something I’ve just gotta say… My first read by this author was The Art of Hero Worship. The next was Scarred. In each book so far, the “voices” of the characters were totally unique and fit those characters perfectly. I have to admit that when I first started Scarred, it kind of threw me, but the more I read, the more I realized that there was no better way to portray those characters. By the time I got to The Princess of Baker Street, I expected it and the author did not disappoint.

My first reaction when I finished The Princess of Baker Street was that even though this was definitely Joey’s book, it was just as much Eric’s – especially since it was told from his POV. My heart went out to both these young people. I don’t remember middle school being a scary time for me, but as a parent, I honestly couldn’t wait until all three of my daughters were past it. I hated what they went through and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it… and I tried. It was just the whole atmosphere and that included the adult staff. It was a miserable time for all of us and we were just fighting the normal everyday stuff. Nothing compared to what Joey and Eric faced. So, for a lot of reasons, this one just about broke me. *sigh*

It would have been easy to get mad at Eric, but he beat himself up enough. I could also kind of relate to that kind of mentality. He was just trying to survive the best he could with little or no support. Then there was Joey, who was just trying to be who she knew in her heart she was meant to be. The story was a perfect portrayal of how things change as children grow older. Their innocence and acceptance is replaced by what adults and society ingrain in them as the “norm”.

The second half of The Princess of Baker Street was full of hope. Things were far from perfect for either of them, but they were better. Their support system didn’t necessarily grow, but it tightened and I was honestly and truly happy for them. ❤

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Mess me Up (Bear Bottom Guardians MC #1) by Lani Lynn Vale

When Rome Pierce moved to Bear Bottom, Texas, it was his intention to lay low. To not be seen. To find a way to heal his body and soul—as well as his son’s.
Nobody would know by looking at him that he used to play professional football. Not with the Bear Bottom MC cut covering his back, and definitely not with his friendly smile completely obliterated.
No longer is there charm in each smooth word that comes out of his mouth. What’s left is an angry, bitter, scared man that’s terrified one day he’s going to wake up and his entire world is going to be gone.
Nobody knows what drove him to leave the game he loved—nobody but her.
She’s the one person that has helped him make it through the dark days and even darker nights. She’s the bright and shining star in his pitch-black sky.
And he doesn’t even know her name.
He should be afraid that she knows things that not anyone—not even his best friend—knows.
Yet, with each encounter, he gives what little bit of his soul remains, and before he knows it only two people on this earth—one dying and one too afraid to live—make his life worth living.
Until one day he has to choose—the love of his life, or the life he brought into this world.
Two impossible situations. One decision that would change him forever.

This one starts with tears of heart wrenching grief and ends with tears of joy… I might forgive this author… eventually.

Some books are harder to read than others and Mess Me Up – guess which category this one falls in? At least during the first part. The grief that Rome experiences is overwhelming and he almost drowns himself in it, which is understandable. Because the emotions in Mess Me Up are so raw that it might serve as a trigger to anyone who has experienced this type of grief should probably steer clear of this one, so proceed with caution.

The second part of Mess Me Up was much easier, but no less emotional. Rome had a lot of people who wanted to look out for him and support him, but he kept them all at a distance. Especially Izzy… but she was determined to be there for Rome whether she wanted him to or not. She had her own past that made her want to keep her heart under lock and key, but she knew Rome was worth the risk and she couldn’t walk away.

I know a lot of readers had a hard time with this one and I totally understand why and respect their opinion. I also agree with that there should have been a disclaimer for those that may be sensitive to the subject. As for me, a warning would have been nice, but I can pretty much handle anything that an author puts their characters through as long as they leave them with hope and a chance to heal… Although this story just about broke my heart for both Izzy and Rome, I think that they were both left with a hopeful future and stronger in the end.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a Lani Lynn Vale book and I obviously have some catching up to do. Even though this is the first book in the Bear Bottom Guardians MC series, readers met evidently met Rome in Vale’s Simple Man series. So the question is, do I continue the Bear Bottom Guardians MC series, or back track to all the books I need to catch up on… decisions, decisions.

Scarred by Mia Kerick

Even in paradise, beautiful faces can hide scarred souls.
ONE tropical island.
Placida Island’s gentle ocean breezes and rolling surf beckon to those who wish to reside in remote tropical serenity.
TWO men living in self-imposed exile.
Wearing twisted ropes of mutilated skin on his back and carrying devastating damage in his soul from severe childhood abuse, Matthew North lives alone in a rustic cabin on the shore, avoiding human contact.
Gender fluidity his perceived “crime” against family and friends, Vedie Wilson flees his childhood home so he can freely express his identity.
THREE persecutors seeking their warped view of justice.
Vedie’s past refuses to stay in the faraway city he left behind when family members, intent on forcing him to change, threaten the precious peace he’s found.
TOO MANY scars to count.
Their beautiful faces masking deeply scarred souls, Matt and Vedie live in hiding from the world and each other.
Can they unite and embrace each other’s painful pasts, leaving the scars behind, to find love?

This was not an easy book to read, but I’m glad I did… Also, I’m not a “judge a book by its cover” kind of reader, but every once in a while (and not often enough) a cover captures a character perfectly. This one comes so close to how I pictured Matt in Scarred that it’s scary…

Both Matt & Vedie were broken. They both ended up on Placida Island to escape and hide. Matt was hiding from his past and Vedie was trying to find a place to be himself and feel safe while doing it.

Watching Matt keep his distance from Vedie and lie to himself about his feelings for him was painful. Watching Vedie try to be what Matt needed to be and knowing it would never be enough was even more painful. They loved each other, they needed each other, but there was too much baggage between them… My heart broke for them throughout most of Scarred.

There’s hope though and it takes them almost losing each other to find it, but eventually they do… and a lot more than they expected.

The Art of Breathing (Bear, Otter & the Kid #3) by T.J. Klune

Tyson Thompson graduated high school at sixteen and left the town of Seafare, Oregon, bound for what he assumed would be bigger and better things. He soon found out the real world has teeth, and he returns to the coast with four years of failure, addiction, and a diagnosis of panic disorder trailing behind him. His brother, Bear, and his brother’s husband, Otter, believe coming home is exactly what Tyson needs to find himself again. Surrounded by family in the Green Monstrosity, Tyson attempts to put the pieces of his broken life back together.
But shortly after he arrives home, Tyson comes face to face with inevitability in the form of his childhood friend and first love, Dominic Miller, who he hasn’t seen since the day he left Seafare. As their paths cross, old wounds reopen, new secrets are revealed, and Tyson discovers there is more to his own story than he was told all those years ago.
In a sea of familiar faces, new friends, and the memories of a mother’s devastating choice, Tyson will learn that in order to have any hope for a future, he must fight the ghosts of his past.

This is the second time I’ve read The Art of Breathing (I should probably mention that it won’t be my last…) For some strange, unexplainable reason, I neglected to write a review the first time. The only excuse I may have is that this book gave me such an emotional hangover that I couldn’t come up with anything coherent to write… For the record, waiting and reading it again hasn’t helped, but I owe it to this book and series to give it a try…

The Art of Breathing is told from Tyson (the Kid’s) POV. It’s rather ironic in a way because the other books in the series are told from Bear’s POV and in this book Tyson realizes, much to his dismay, that he and his brother have much more in common that he’s comfortable admitting. 😉

There were a lot of surprises in The Art of Breathing. A lot of tears, a lot of laughs and a fair amount of heartbreak. As per usual with T.J. Klune, those moments can make you shed tears of laughter followed by tears of heartbreak within the span of just a few pages… I kinda both love and hate him for that. *sigh*

Tyson wasn’t in a very good place through a lot of The Art of Breathing, mostly because of Dom. Because of that, regardless of how unfair it was, I spent a lot of this book not very happy with Dominic. Nothing’s exactly as it seems though and as the story unfolded I actually fell right back in love with him. Their story needed to come full circle and I understand why things happen the way they did, but it didn’t make experiencing them through Tyson made them any easier. I think to me, regardless of how much he’s grown in this series, I’m always going to see him as just the “little guy” we met in Bear, Otter and the Kid.

Tyson was at the center of this story, but there was so much to love about The Art of Breathing that I’m not quite sure I can list it all. To be honest, I decided to re-read the Kid’s book for a couple of reasons. First, the next book in Klune’s At First Sight series is coming out soon and since Why We Fight is Corey/Kori’s book and I first met him/her in The Art of Breathing, I wanted to refresh my memory. Second… I have decided that 2019 will be the year that I finally put on my “Big Girl Pants” and read The Long and Winding Road.

Bear, Otter and the Kid was my first T.J. Klune read and this series has pulled me into an author’s world like no other. Saying goodbye to these characters isn’t going to be easy, but like this review, I owe it to them to finally see it through. ❤

Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3) by Kelly Jensen

Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.
Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.
Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.
But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

I didn’t want to like Brian, but he started working on me just a teeny tiny little bit in Renewing Forever so I knew it was inevitable. What I didn’t expect was to adore him – that was a total surprise ❤ I also didn’t expect for Chasing Forever to be my favorite book in the This Time Forever series – but that just happened too. Well played Kelly Jensen, well played indeed…

So, what tipped me over the edge? It wasn’t just one thing, it was a little bit of everything. The glimpse into his past, his determination to protect Josh and a few well kept secrets all added to my love of this seemingly unlovable character. Things aren’t always as they seem and Brian had become quite adept and keeping his best traits well hidden.

There was a lot more to love about Chasing Forever besides Brian. The supporting characters were great, which included new characters as well as those from the previous books. There were a few characters that brought out the “momma” in me and made me want to jump into the book and shake some sense into them… I also liked the focus on second chance romance for all the characters in this series who thought they had reached an age where that chance had passed them by ❤

Brian was the perfect way to end This Time Forever, but I’m still sorry to say goodbye to this group of friends. I’m really looking forward to what Kelly Jensen has in store next for readers. 😉

Rough Trade (Woodbury Boys #3) by Sidney Bell

Quick-witted hustler Ghost is no stranger to living dangerously; survival has always been the name of the game.
He’s just always gone it alone.
Now he’s got the wrong people breathing down his neck, and the only way out demands placing his trust in the unlikeliest of heroes: Duncan Rook, a gruff cop whose ethics are as solid as his body.
Cozying up to a criminal is hardly what Duncan’s reputation on the force needs—especially when that criminal is temptation personified. Ghost is Duncan’s polar opposite, and the last person he expected to fall for.
So then why does every imaginable scenario for taking down their common enemy end with Ghost in his arms?

Oh Ghost… I’m always sad to see a series end, but it was inevitable. After all, there were only three boys and the only one that this series could possibly end with was Ghost. Rough Trade provided a perfect balance in what seemed like impossible odds against both Ghost and Duncan….

Readers who have followed the Woodbury Boys have seen many sides of Ghost, but even those who had known him the longest couldn’t really say that the knew him. His friends loved him, worried about him and would pretty much do anything for him, if he’d let them. He kept his distance on purpose. He loved his friends too, but he didn’t really like knowing that they knew it. He even gave himself excuses for doing the things that he did for them. He depended on no one but himself and he wanted to keep it that way. He also didn’t care about what other people thought about him, until Duncan.

I, like a lot of other readers, wondered who Sidney Bell could possibly pair Ghost with and Duncan was definitely not what I expected. He was perfect though. The dynamic between Duncan and Ghost was crazy and ironically fun considering that they were basically on the run from the beginning of Rough Trade. Ghost’s “logic” about right and wrong and skirting the law drove Duncan nuts. On the flip side, for reasons that not even Ghost understood, he wanted to be “good” and not disappoint Duncan and that drove ghost nuts. The attraction that Duncan felt for Ghost and his determination to ignore it at all costs kept the tension thrumming between them. Ghost had no idea how to deal with that determination and Ghost being well… Ghost, considered it a challenge.

Aside from the romantic tension flowing between Ghost and Duncan, there was a lot going on in Rough Trade. They were on the run from two very powerful people in powerful positions. The odds were definitely against them and they had to find a way to rely on others while still trying to keep them safe. That alone kept the pages turning. Readers also learned a lot about Ghost’s past and none of it was easy.

I can’t pick my favorite in this series. From the time I picked up Loose Cannon I was hooked and couldn’t wait for Hard Line. Rough Trade brought everything to a satisfying end and is just one of the reasons why Woodbury Boys has been added to my list of favorite series.

Rabi and Matthew by L.A. Witt

A decades-old family rivalry is reaching a boiling point as the patriarchs vie for a seat in Congress. Democrat vs Republican, Muslim vs Christian, Hashmi vs Swain — the Midwestern town of Arbor Hills is one spark away from an explosion of violence. So when two men find themselves irresistibly drawn together at a party, only to discover they were born on opposite sides of a bloody battle line, Matthew Swain and Rabi Hashmi know they should leave well enough alone.
The pull between them is magnetic, though, and it’s too strong to ignore. Unable to resist, they meet again in secret. Generations of hatred can’t temper the passionate love growing between them, but two men falling for each other in the middle of a war zone can’t hold back the inevitable clash.
And when decades of political, religious, and personal strife finally come to a head, there will be blood.

I can honestly say, since the year’s almost over, that Rabi and Matthew is one of the hardest books I’ve read this year. My initial reaction when I finished… “Gotta admit… this was NOT an easy one to read, but there are also a LOT of people I’d love to recommend it to. ❤ ” For the record, that opinion still stands.

Although there were elements of prejudice on both sides in Rabi and Matthew, Matthew’s family set the bar for way too many people in the community. Matthew saw beyond the hate that his family lived by and not just for the obvious reasons. He was way more enlightened than the rest of his family. No one really knew him except for his best friend and they protected each other’s secrets. Even so, his friend didn’t understand the attraction to Rabi of all people. It was a dangerous attraction, but love is love and the hate had to end somewhere.

There was a price to pay though and it took something drastic to make everyone come to their collective senses. The only real issue I had with this book at all was how things kind of wrapped themselves up at the end. I’m not complaining though. I spent most of the book just waiting for the worst to happen… Rabi and Matthew didn’t exactly end with a perfect HEA, but it was close. In the end there was hope for the next generation between these families…

Trusted (Until You #3) by Karrie Roman

Zach Piper has escaped his father’s cult only to find himself in a world he doesn’t understand. Abused and neglected, he’s grown up an outcast among outcasts. He has no business trusting anybody after what he’s been through, but when Cameron Cronin takes him in and shows him a world he never knew, he willingly hands over his trust. In Cameron he finds honor and decency—someone who cares.
Cameron lives without love and he prefers it that way. He never wants to fall in love again. The last man he loved shattered Cameron’s heart as surely as his trust. When he takes in much-younger Zach, who recently emerged from his own hell, he hears the familiar whisper of long-dead feelings. But he doesn’t want to love. He cannot trust he won’t be broken again if he does.
As time passes and the two men get to know each other, Cameron’s feelings for Zach deepen whether he wants it or not. But just when Cameron decides to trust in Zach, and act on the love he knows is there, both of their pasts come storming back to threaten everything they’ve built. When their lives hang in the balance they must trust each other enough to get out alive.

I didn’t start this series with the first book, but I did start with Sentinel, the second book in Karrie Roman’s Until You series. Starting there wasn’t too bad, it basically just made me want to read Shipped to get to know Ryan and Lucas better and see how their story began. I have a feeling that wouldn’t be the case if you started with Trusted. There are just too many “players” and even though you get some of Zach’s back story in Trusted, his connection to Cam and the rest of the characters start in Sentinel. So… the lesson is – don’t start here. You’re welcome. 😉

Now, as for Zach and Cam’s story? I loved these two together. Zach had been through so much and there were very few people he could trust. He never had any doubts about Cam though, from the moment he met him, there was a connection. What Zach didn’t know was that Cam had his past that left him emotionally scarred. Not only was he afraid to hurt Zach, but he didn’t feel safe risking his own heart.

I think one of my favorite things about this series so far is the family aspect. Some by blood, some by chance, but the connections couldn’t be stronger. Zach may not have had much of a family before, but he definitely made up for it. There’s also more to come in the Until You series and I can’t wait for the next book. 😉

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. 😉

 

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.