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…
Series: Johnnies, Book 2 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on February 23, 2012 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Chase Summers has put together the perfect life. His girlfriend, Mercy, is perfect. Their relationship is perfect. And yet, Chase isn’t happy. And his construction job isn’t paying what he needs to give Mercy the life she deserves. So when he learns of a gay-for-pay porn website that is hiring–and pays well–he actually decides to give it a shot. After all, it’s just for money, right?
When Chase meets Tommy Halloran, however, he has to admit that maybe he’s not quite as straight as his “gay-for-pay” resume indicates. Tommy is a fellow performer, and while they never perform together on camera, they fall quickly into a romantic and sexual relationship that seems like it might provide them both exactly what they need. But Chase and Tommy both have demons to face. And Chase doesn’t seem very willing to face his. He’ll have to, though, if he wants to make it out of both of his relationships alive…
This is heavy. Heavier than you might expect from reading the blurb. It’s not really angsty, but Chase is carrying some massive baggage with him that comes to a head in some pretty dramatic ways. But what’s really inspiring in this story is the way that friends come together for each other and support each other when they need it–even if they’ve made some not-so-intelligent decisions to get into the situation in the first place.
Content warning: discussions of suicide and attempted suicide
Series: Blue Notes, Book 3 Published by: Dreamspinner Press on December 24, 2012 Rating: 4stars (★★★★☆)
Five years ago, Aiden Lind accepted a prestigious scholarship which took him to Europe and launched his opera career. Along the way, he also became involved with Lord Cameron Sherrington, a man he might go so far as to describe as the man of his dreams. But when Aiden catches Cam being intimate with another man, he decides it’s time to move on. And he suddenly reconnects with Sam Ryan, a man with whom he shared a short-lived relationship that ended when he received his scholarship.
Sam feels bad about dropping Aiden when he did. But the truth is that he was still getting over the death of his previous partner, Nick, and Aiden was the first guy he’d been with since Nick passed. He wasn’t as ready for a new relationship as he originally thought he was. But now that they’ve reconnected, he thinks he may be. But has he really put Nick in the past? And has Aiden really moved on from Cam and how their relationship ended? Their relationship will certainly be put to the test–and they’ll just have to hope it’s a test they can pass.
I have been enjoying this series since I picked up the first book. Part of it is likely that I am a musician myself, studied music in college, and those aspects of these stores just really resonate with me. But I know it also has to do with the fact that Shira Anthony always presents a compelling story with characters that draw you in and have you engrossed from the very first chapter. I’ve got three more books to read in this series, and I am definitely looking forward to them.
Published by: Dreamspinner Press on November 1, 2013 Rating: 3stars (★★★☆☆)
Don Jenkins has been in what most people would see as an unconventional relationship since his early teens. In fact, it’s so unconventional that those around him seemed to identify it even before Don did. Don’s best friend, Griffith McAllister, has been there for him since they first met. And Howard Campbell provided Don with his first sexual experience. But can a relationship really work with three people? It’s one or the other, right? People have to choose, don’t they? Or, when the heart wants what the heart wants, is there a way to make it all work?
Oh. My. Angst. Seriously, this is one of the most angst-filled books I’ve read in a long time. But it’s that good kind of angst that gently rumbles in the pit of your stomach just to make sure you don’t forget it is there. And there’s a lot here about trust. Not just trusting another person, but trusting yourself and trusting your heart. Basically don’t get in your own way when love presents itself, even if it doesn’t look like love in the way society has told you love should be…