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 😉

Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North

BlueberryBoysConnor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.
Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.
Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1Connor and Jed fell into an unexpected love story. It was a sweet story between two men who deserved more from life than they had gotten. Jed’s family found it hard to accept him for who he was and Connor’s brother was a bigot and a bully… but nothing was exactly like it seemed and sometimes that’s a very good thing.

This was also a story that I wished could have ended differently for both men. Not that their story didn’t end in a very satisfying HEA, but it was kind of bittersweet for both of them. Life has a way of turning things around though and they deserved to be happy. Finding that happiness with each other was more important in the big picture than where it was found. 😉

DragonFlyRating4

Rough Road (Lake Lovelace #2) by Vanessa North

RoughRoadEddie Russell is many things: A wealthy pillar of the community. An outrageous flirt. A doting best friend. A masochist with a kink for brawling with his bedmates. But he is definitely not a man who invites intimacy. His friends are close but few, his lovers rarer still.
When Eddie runs his Mercedes off the road on a hot July afternoon, Wish Carver comes to his aid—and leaves his number in Eddie’s phone. Wish, a road crew worker half Eddie’s age and sexy as sin, seems fascinated by Eddie’s different sides. Mutual attraction and compatible kinks ignite the sheets, but it’s their connection outside the bedroom that Eddie begins to crave.
When the two come down on opposite sides of a local issue, Eddie finds his growing feelings for Wish at odds with his business interests and his devotion to his best friend, local wakeboarding legend Ben Warren. Torn between old loyalties and his new love, Eddie is reluctant to make a choice. But he knows he can’t make Wish wait too long to make up his mind.

CreativeDeedsReadsDisclosure1I have to admit, when I was reading Double Up, I wasn’t quite sure how to take Eddie. He was a little ‘out there’ to put it bluntly. He gave off a vibe that pretty much told the world that he didn’t care what they thought, which, once you got to really know him, was kind of endearing. Which means that I also have to admit that he kind of grew on me. His love, devotion and total and unrelenting support of Ben totally won me over. That same devotion almost cost him everything in Rough Road.

I liked Wish from the moment he was introduced and realized way before Eddie did that he would be good for him. Eddie had a whole list of reasons why things could never go further than casual with Wish – namely the age difference – but none of them really held any weight. By the time he became comfortable with the idea of being a couple with anyone, it was over. Or was it?

There was so much to love about Rough Road. I loved Eddie’s loyalty to Ben, even though it almost ruined everything. He was also loyal to his friends, family and community. I loved Wish’s determination to make things work, within reason. I loved Eddie and Wish as a couple. I also loved getting to know a little bit more of Eddie’s history, that explained a lot about who he was and those little tidbits made me fall in love with him just a little bit more.

If you read Double Up, then you know where Eddie’s sexual tastes lie. I’m not a huge fan of BDSM, but if it’s an integral part of the story, I’m okay with it. Since that’s a huge ‘kink’ for Eddie, it definitely plays a part in their relationship, but it’s not an overwhelming part of the story. It’s there, it’s who Eddie and Wish are and that pretty much covers it. I’m only mentioning it because, while it’s an important aspect of Eddie and Wish’s relationship, the connection between these two goes well beyond that.

I’m not sure if there’s more to come in the Lake Lovelace series, but I’ll be ready if there is. I really like these guys and their group of friends and family.

DragonFlyRating4

Double Up (Lake Lovelace #1) by Vanessa North

DoubleUpKnowing he’s loved can make any man fly.
Fifteen years ago, Ben Warren was a wakeboarding champion: king of big air, ballsy tricks, and boned grabs. Until a career-ending injury left him broken in ways he still has no hope of fixing. Now he takes his thrills where he can get them, and tries not to let life hurt too much.
Then Davis Fox arrives in Ben’s sporting goods store with a plan to get in touch with his estranged brother by competing in the annual wakeboarding double-up contest. The catch? He’s never ridden before. It’s crazy, but Ben’s a sucker for the guy’s sob story—and for his dimples, too—so he agrees to coach Davis.
Davis is everything Ben isn’t: successful, confident, and in love with life. And he wants Ben to love life—and him—too. But before Ben can embrace a future with Davis, he needs to remember how to hope.

Have you ever passed a book over the first time you saw it but gave it a second look when the next book in the series came out? Yeah, that’s what happened with Double Up. When the ARC for Rough Road caught my eye I realized I needed to play catch up. I’m glad that I did, because there was a lot more to Double Up than I expected.

Double Up had pretty much everything you could want in a hot summer romance. A hot younger guy. A not so much older sports legend. A crazy, over protective best friend and crazy family issues. Like I said, there was a lot more to this story than the obvious. Both Ben and Davis’ back stories had their fair share of heart break. Ben was devastated by his sports injury in more ways than one and Davis had to go to extreme measures to re-connect with the only family he had left that he cared about. I’m not sure which one of these two I fell in love with first, but by the end I loved them both.

Rough Road, the next book in Vanessa North’s Lake Lovelace series, features Ben’s best friend Eddie. I can’t wait to see what the author has in store for him. 😉

DragonFlyRating4