Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 2, 2016 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
After struggling with addiction after returning from Army service, Jack McCall turned his life around and now devotes his time to a charity that assists homeless veterans in London. He’s devoted to the charity and the cause, and he works hard to do the best he can. Which is why he goes so far as to approach Edward Marsden, Viscount Routhsley, about supporting the charity. Edward is known for his philanthropy but he’s equally well-known for his philandering. As Jack gets to know Edward, however, he quickly learns that Edward’s public image couldn’t be further from who the man really is. The two have many things in common–and something Jack did not expect at all. As they grow closer, they struggle to keep their relationship a secret. Jack worries that if it got out, it might cast some doubt on what he did to secure the donation for his charity. And Edward doesn’t want his sexuality to overshadow the work he does for several important causes. But secrets can only be kept for so long, especially by those who are very much in the public eye. Eventually, they will have to make a decision and be willing to accept the consequences of whichever choice they make.
Perception is what defines reality. It can be easy for us, in the abstract, to say that people should follow their hearts when it comes to love. That’s the romanticized view anyway. Don’t let love pass you by. But for people whose actions and relationships will be scrutinized and picked apart first by the media and then by the general public, it’s not as easy as just thinking about what you want. The masses love a scandal. And we also love to fill in the missing details of any story with the juiciest possible explanations. So for people like a viscount or the poster-child for an important charity, actions and choices can have an impact. And the appearance of impropriety is just as good–in terms of public currency–as actual impropriety. This is an excellent look at what it means to find love in the face of celebrity and balancing the public good with personal choices. If only we could all just live our lives…
Series: Home for Hope, Book 3 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 14, 2016 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Kollin Haverty’s best friend, Riley Meadows, disappeared four years ago without so much as a word or phone call since. So when he shows up in town unexpectedly, Kollin isn’t sure if he should be angry or happy. Riley’s explanation for his absence doesn’t quite ring true for Kollin, but he decides to do his best to be supportive. And as Riley seems to have nearly completed his female-to-male transition while he was away, Kollin hopes that the time was good and helpful for him. The two reconnect and get closer, and they soon find that their feelings might go a bit beyond friendship. But that will only work if they can be honest with each other and it’s clear Riley is still keeping secrets. As they navigate the realities of pursuing a relationship Riley needs to figure out if he can tell Kollin the truth and Kollin needs to determine if he can be supportive of Riley no matter what–even if it means he might get hurt in the process.
This is the third book in a series, but it can certainly be read as a stand-alone story. I’ve not yet read either of the previous books, and I felt like I had no problem at all following and understanding the story. And it happens to be a very well-written and thought-provoking story at that. While I haven’t personally been in the position, I imagine that transitioning from a friendship to a romantic relationship would bring with it some unique challenges. Even though you already clearly care about the person as a friend, there is a subtle difference when you decide to open up that romantic part of yourself. There are risks involved. And there are new expectations. What might seem like it should be easy actually is anything but, which services to only complicate things even more. And that’s what we see play out here between Kollin and Riley.
I also have to take a moment to reference the inclusion of a trans character in this story. I’ll admit that I haven’t read many trans love stories–though I’ve no specific aversion to doing so. I feel like the author does a fine job of representing the character, telling his story, and being honest about the realities of what he faces in life and in the relationship.
Series: New Vampire Justice, Book 1 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 26, 2016 (2nd edition) Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Connor Locke is a rare vampire, a Tabula Rasa. When he bites someone, he has the ability to completely wipe their memories. Because he can work this power on both humans and other vampires, he’s considered dangerous by some and useful by others. But it means he needs to be careful what he does, where he goes, and who he trusts. So when he’s caught stealing blood to survive, he’s understandably suspicious of Lincoln Samuels, the New Vampire Justice Commander who saves Connor’s life, heals his wounds, and offers to help him. But as other forces prepare to move in on Connor and use him for their own purposes, he finds Lincoln might just be the one person he can count on. And together, they might just be able to change the world.
I’ve found that I’m reading more vampire stories than I think I have in the past. It’s not really a conscious thing; they’re just the ones that are popping up on my reading list at the right time lately. But I’m also finding that I’m enjoying the stories that I’m reading more than I think I did in the past. And that’s largely because I’m picking up books that are about more than the fact that a vampire is involved. There’s more going on in the story. Yes, one (or more) of the main characters is a vampire, but the story doesn’t revolve around that chapter after chapter after chapter. And an action romance like this one is a shining example of how to tell such a story without resorting to tropes to get through it…
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 16, 2016 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Elliot Graham is an architect who specializes in restoring old houses and flipping them for a profit. But when he purchases an old plantation home in South Carolina, there’s something about the place that makes him wonder if he’ll be able to part with it. He’s found something that he didn’t even know he was searching for even if he can’t exactly articulate what it is.
Ben Myers promised Patrick that he would wait for him to come back. And he’s someone who is true to his word. Even though that promise was made during the Civil War, Ben is still waiting in the same plantation house where they parted more than a century ago. A bit restless, Ben reaches out to Elliot and tells him his story. Elliot does his best to try to convince Ben that Patrick is gone and isn’t coming back, but Ben is devoted. And it turns out there may be a bit more to this love story than either of them realizes…
Are you someone who believes in fate? Even just a little? Well, even if you aren’t, I have a feeling you’ll still enjoy this well-written and engaging story of love that spans more than a lifetime. In life there are very few second chances–and sometimes even few first chances–and it’s imperative that we take the chances that we are given. Who knows, sometimes they may surprise us and we might even surprise ourselves. And that’s exactly what you’ll find here…
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on October 17, 2016 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Connor is seen as the golden boy, and he’s okay with that as long as it means a ticket out of the small town where he lives. He gets good grades, is athletic, works a part-time job, has a great girlfriend, and gets along with pretty much everyone. And that includes the new kid, Graham. Graham is a self-assured star soccer player who wears eyeliner. Wait, eyeliner? But that’s not the only thing Connor notices about Graham. He’s drawn to him and can’t get him out of his head. And that’s just not acceptable–it doesn’t fit into Connor’s plans. He can’t be with a guy and get where he wants to go, can he? But as the two spend more time together, Connor begins to wonder if he really can deny the truth about how he feels. And even if he can, is what he’d be giving up worth the tradeoff?
I struggle to find the words to describe just how much I enjoyed this book. I cannot help wondering how many young men out there go through exactly what Connor goes through in this book. And Graham, too, to be fair. While we often reflect on the fact that it is “easier” to come out now than it was years ago or that young people seem to be coming out at earlier and earlier ages, we can’t simply dismiss the idea that it can be challenging for many people. And the pressure we all feel to be a certain kind of person or achieve certain things–even when it’s not made explicit–can be overwhelming on its own. To face the reality that being true to yourself means giving up many of the things that we’re taught to expect out of life as children (or to at least realize that they won’t happen quite as we expect) can be scary. And it’s even scarier to have to sort that all out as a young adult.
This is, hands down, one of the best young adult LGBT stories I’ve ever read. And I give it a very strong recommendation for all readers, both young and old.
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on July 22, 2016 (2nd Edition) Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Lowell moves back to his hometown after his father dies so he can help out his mother. Coming back brings up a number of old memories, some of which hit him with a rush when he realizes his next door neighbor is Jase, an old friend and longtime crush. But Jase is straight, divorced, and a single father. All Lowell can hope for is to rekindle their friendship and to keep all of his other feelings buried deep, deep down where they can’t get him into trouble. After an odd night out with Jase, though, Lowell wonders if he should risk letting those feelings come back up into the present.
Much has happened in Jase’s life since Lowell left town. Yes, he got married. Yes, he had a child. Yes, he got divorced. And yes, he got custody of his daughter. But what Lowell doesn’t know is that there are many reasons Jase and his wife decided to split. And one of his wife’s terms of their custody arrangement was that their daughter would not know about Jase’s attraction to other men. Which would be something very hard for him to hide if he acted on his feelings for Lowell since he lives right next door. And as much as he wants to let Lowell in, he’s not willing to give up his daughter to do so. If only he could find a way to have both…
So much of this book’s synopsis looks like it may be just a major trope, but it really doesn’t read that way at all. Yes, gay kid comes back home to learn that straight guy he crushed on is actually not-so-straight. But all of the dynamics at play here make that only one part of an otherwise complex story. And believe me, you’ll be rooting for these two in the face of all the other forces at play even when they’re straight up sabotaging themselves at every single turn.
Series: Leaning N Ranch, Book 1 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on September 15, 2016 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Ford Nixel left his family ranch behind back when he was in college and never looked back. After Uncle Ty took in Stoney, Ford’s ex-boyfriend, and gave him a job, and then Stoney went off and had a kid with Ford’s (now late) cousin, he’d had enough. And he’s managed to make quite a life for himself with law offices in both Santa Fe and Austin. So when Uncle Ty announces he’s signing over his half of the ranch to Ford, it’s both unexpected and a bit unwelcome for all involved.
But Ford values the family ranch, and he wants to work to keep it going. And as much as he despises Stoney, he can’t hold those feelings against Stoney’s son, Quartz. So he moves in, deciding that he’ll only be at the ranch part of the time and spend the rest of his days immersed in his law practice. But it turns out the ranch may need more of his attention than he originally thought. And being so close to Stoney brings some intense feelings to bear–and not all of them are the burning hatred he would like to believe they are. But it also turns out that some of the facts of Ford’s situation with Stoney are not at all what he assumed. Can they put the ill feelings of the past behind them for the sake of saving the ranch? And in the process, might they also find those feelings they thought they lost so many years ago?
I would sum this up by saying it’s an entertaining and engaging story about two stubborn cowboys whose stubbornness gets in the way of their own happiness. These two… you’ll find yourself shaking your head more than once. But there’s also a great cast of supporting characters who are interesting and fun in their own right. And since this is the start of a series, I hope we get to see some focused stories involving some of them in the near future.
Series: Unbreak My Heart, Book 1 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 5, 2016 (2nd edition) Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
For the past three years, Brett Taylor has put everything he has into his ranch. After losing the man who meant everything to him, the ranch seemed like all he had left. And while Brett would say he’s doing just fine, those around him can see that he’s struggling to let go, to move on. And Brett’s mother has no reservations about making her opinion known. So when she brings JT Campbell to the ranch after finding him along the road, it’s clear she has more in mind than Brett giving him a job. And through her machinations, the two men grow closer. But JT has some baggage from his own past, and there are secrets that Brett isn’t very willing to share. Can they find a way to get past it and see if they can each truly be what the other needs?
This is one of those stories where the only obstacles the characters face are themselves. Brett is in his own way, but it’s not something he can see. And JT can’t find his way in, even though his professional training should give him some good ideas of how to approach the situation. Even with everyone around them rooting for the two of them to make it, they still struggle to make it through. But it’s a charming and endearing read, that I recommend for a cold or rainy day when just want something comforting and sweet. (And as long as you don’t mind wanting to shake Brett repeatedly throughout the book.)
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on August 22, 2014 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Jesse Morales expected his time volunteering for a week on the summer of Mt. Washington to be somewhat uneventful. But when he discovers a corpse out in the wilderness in the middle of the night, the aspiring mystery novelist finds himself right in the center of a real-life murder mystery. And when he meets one of the investigating police officers, Kyle Dubois, he wonders if there might be even more in store for him before he goes back home.
When Kyle heads out to the crime scene, he’s not entirely sure what to expect. And he certainly doesn’t expect to find himself drawn to the young man who found the body. But despite his annoying penchant for wanting to get involved in the investigation, Kyle cannot deny that Jesse is attractive. So much that he thinks he may need to do something about it–something he’ll have to explain to his partner, as Jesse would be Kyle’s first relationship since his wife died.
Despite Kyle’s better judgment, he decided to give Jesse a chance. And despite what should probably be Jesse’s better judgment, he inserts himself among the suspects, hoping he might be able to find out who committed the murder to solve the mystery and help Kyle–even if it means putting himself in grave danger.
This is probably one of the lighter murder mysteries that I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t have that dark feeling overshadowing it from the beginning like so many books of the genre tend to have as a feature. That’s not to say there aren’t some dark themes; they do crop up pretty strongly as one approaches the end of the book. But there’s space here for Kyle and Jesse to develop a relationship without it seeming completely morbid. And I have to say that I didn’t see some of the twists coming, which is something I appreciate in a good mystery novel.
Series: Portland Pack Chronicles, Book 2 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 16, 2015 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
It’s been four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started his investigation into the disappearance of Lacey, a young woman from the Portland Pack. Despite finding himself in danger more than once, he’s continuing to investigate, committed to bringing Lacey home. Now that he’s started working with a licensed private investigator, Corbin Reid, he’s hoping to learn more and be able to track down every possible lead.
There are days when Dylan Green would prefer that his mate not get himself tangled up in his private detective work. He admires and appreciates Avery’s dedication; he just doesn’t care for the fact that Avery’s investigations put him in danger. And Dylan’s wolf is very much the protective type, so he can’t just stand back and let Avery walk into situations where he might get hurt. But he knows that Avery’s just as unlikely to back down as he is, and the two of them will need to find a way to live with the current state of things.
But as Avery gets closer to finding out the truth about Lacey, the danger is likely to only grow–for both of them.
Of course I had to read the follow up to the first ever hedgehog shifter novel I’ve read. And I love that the authors carried over the same spirit, that excellent balance between humor and seriousness, that I enjoyed so much in the first book. And he same sort of unexpected twists and turns exist to keep readers guessing and on the edges of their seats…