Anne Reviews: The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler

TITLE: The Gilded Scarab

Author:  Anna Butler

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 316

Characters: Rafe/Ned

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Series, Steampunk

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

When Captain Rafe Lancaster is invalided out of the Britannic Imperium’s Aero Corps after crashing his aerofighter during the Second Boer War, his eyesight is damaged permanently, and his career as a fighter pilot is over. Returning to Londinium in late November 1899, he’s lost the skies he loved, has no place in a society ruled by an elite oligarchy of powerful Houses, and is hard up, homeless, and in desperate need of a new direction in life.

Everything changes when he buys a coffeehouse near the Britannic Imperium Museum in Bloomsbury, the haunt of Aegyptologists. For the first time in years, Rafe is free to be himself. In a city powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston, and where powerful men use House assassins to target their rivals, Rafe must navigate dangerous politics, deal with a jealous and possessive ex-lover, learn to make the best coffee in Londinium, and fend off murder and kidnap attempts before he can find happiness with the man he loves.

Review:

This story starts with a full on action scene which hooked me into the story immediately.  One of my first thoughts when reading this story was about how cool the technology is, and how I love the way the author has set up this steampunk type world.  It’s not just the technology which is well thought out and detailed, but everything about this world.  It felt as though I was reading about somewhere with a rich history rather than just something put together for this story.  I loved the way the author takes our technology and gives it a slightly different spin, like the characters using datareaders instead of ereaders.

I thought the social set up was very interesting with the different houses, the hierarchy within them, and the way in which a house pays for an individual’s education but is then owed something in return.  I enjoyed the politics within the story, and the layers it added to the world building.  As an aside, I’m also a big fan of the author’s Taking Shield series—she does a fabulous job with world building and politics in that too, although it’s a very different world from this one.

I loved the characters who inhabit this world, and in particular Rafe and Ned, although I guessed Ned’s true identity very early on.  This story is really Rafe’s as he and Ned don’t meet properly until mid way through the story, but I thought that worked well.  I liked the way Rafe and Ned’s friendship grows over time, and how they want to get to know each other, which is very sensible, especially considering their society’s stance on same sex relationships.   It fits with the time period in which this AU world is set, with its echoes of our own from the mention of Wilde, and WWI which is a few years off here.

I connected to all the characters immediately and found myself trying to work out who was who, and whether they were good guys or not, although I don’t want to comment too much about one character as that would be giving the plot away.  As an aside, I very much enjoyed the mention by a couple of customers from the colonies of New Zealand.  The supporting cast is great, and I enjoyed their interactions as Rafe sets up his coffee shop.

The action scenes as the tension and plot rack up are very edge-of-seat, and had me sitting up late reading as I needed to know what happened next.  Although this is book one in the series, I’ve already read and reviewed book two—which I loved as much as this one— and really hope the author has plans to continue writing about Rafe and Ned, and their life and adventures together.

I’d recommend The Gilded Scarab to readers who enjoy rich world building including a good dash of politics, solid storytelling, and interesting characters.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

Get over the mid-week blues by reading a HOT new release by JMS Books!


TITLE: Expedition 63 Book 2: Dark
AUTHOR: T.A. Creech
ISBN: 9781634866330
GENRE: Gay Interracial Sci-Fi Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 36,633 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Sequel to Dusk

As the stranded inhabitants of the Space Station mark the opening of their second year since the world ended, Saito Naotatsu is determined to shake off some part of the grief infecting their temporary home. Maybe find a little happiness, too, with his best friend and communications specialist, Turlach Quinn.

The situation explodes when Turlach finds his attraction to Saito confusing and relentless. At every turn, it seems Saito is there to break his control. With the Station falling apart around their ears and the crew breathing down his neck, Turlach finally has enough.

Problems keep piling up. The crew is weary and waiting. Earth is a dark shadow of what it once was. Will they ever get home? Is there even anything left to go home to?


TITLE: Freelance
AUTHOR: William Holden
ISBN: 9781634866323
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 6,632 words
PRICE: $1.99

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When Jeremy, a high-profile photographer, agrees to take on Alan, the most popular male underwear model in the business, things are bound to develop. After their first freelance gig in Morocco, they spend a drunken night together. Was it more than a one-nighter for one of them?

Six months later they find themselves in Provincetown. While there, Alan meets Dylan, an adoring young fan who ends up getting the night of his life in Alan’s bedroom.

Unable to control his jealousy, Jeremy takes matters into his own hands and plays a risky game to get rid of Dylan. Will his plan backfire, destroying their working relationship as well as any hope for love? Or can Jeremy and Alan admit there was more to their one night stand than they are willing to admit?


TITLE: In All the Wrong Places
AUTHOR: Arden Forrest
ISBN: 9781634866347
GENRE: Lesbian Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 40,670 words
PRICE: $4.99

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Samantha struggles to maintain her life as a respected member of society in a small town, while desperately seeking a female lover. Barry, Sam’s husband and best friend, encourages her to explore and fulfill her dreams and desires, until Sam meets Valerie.

Valerie is everything Sam is not. Sam quickly succumbs to Valerie’s sexual magnetism, tumbling into a volatile weekend relationship with hard core, aggressive Valerie. Soon, Sam’s life spins out of control. Barry spends more and more weekends alone with her children, while Sam gets drawn into Valerie’s unsavory lifestyle.

Sam is determined to fit Valerie into her life, but unable to recognize Valerie’s destructive behavior. If Sam can’t find the love and peace she’s looking for with Valerie, where will she go?


TITLE: Love Songs Box Set
AUTHOR: J.D. Walker
ISBN: 9781634865654
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance Box Set
LENGTH: 90,047 words
PRICE: $6.99

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This new box set by best-selling author J.D. Walker features seven sexy stories of men who find love through the power of music. Contains the stories:

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Georgie Baldt is dissatisfied with his life. Working dead-end jobs leaves little time to find that spark he’s lost, let alone someone to love. Then a trick from his past becomes his new produce manager. Ry Archibald remembers Georgie, but they end up arguing constantly at work, despite the sexual tension between them. Georgie decides it’s time for a change. Will Ry tag along for the ride?

Love, Love Me Dude: Tory Cuthbert is shocked when Wheeler Ridley, a man from his past, arrives at his motel. Meanwhile, there’s Maury Landrum — handsome and willing, yet Tory can’t seem to take the next step. When Wheeler hits on Tory without recognizing him, Tory reveals all. But Wheeler remembers things differently. Then Maury resigns. Tory has to act quickly before he loses what he never knew he had, forever.

Loving Me, Loving You: Hanson Yoo is tired of his job, and doing things to please his mother. A harrowing encounter at night in an alley leads him to Lindsey Grier, a man he’s sure would never look at him twice. But he is looking, and Hanson doesn’t know what to do about it. A serious misstep and a life-changing moment lead him to take charge of his future and do something for himself, this time.

Norwegian Woody: Woodrow “Woody” Anker grew up with the Zumpanos, and he’s in love with the eldest son, town Sheriff Rafe Zumpano. Problem is, Rafe is an alcoholic in denial and Woody wants to know why. When he finds out the truth, Woody doesn’t know how to move beyond all the lies. It takes a punch in the face, a hard kiss and even harder words to get these men to a place of trust. And love, maybe.

Paint It, Black: Engelbert Trentworthy — call him Trent — doesn’t take himself seriously. He sleeps around, thinking that’s all he deserves because of his black past. And then, he meets photographer Elias Lane, whose photos of Trent cause havoc in his life. Elias wants more from Trent, but Trent’s not having it. So the dance begins, and Elias will do anything to get past Trent’s barriers, because he’s perfect.

Purple Daze: When Gabe St. James meets Beebub Beaumont, he knows it’s love. But his best friend is larger than life and not meant for the small town in which they live, and all too soon, he goes away to college. The day Beebub comes home, all the feelings Gabe has tried to bury return to the surface, and resentment rules his actions. Beebub wants Gabe, but Gabe, he’s not so sure anymore.

Take Me Back: Gus Atchison despises Seb Paddington for choosing a job in another state over their relationship. But Seb keeps coming back to town, trying to start something up between them again. They end up arguing and finally call a truce. However, when Seb returns four months later, he’s too thin and Gus realizes he still has feelings for Seb. Will Gus take him back? Or will they remain at odds forever?


TITLE: Perfect Man
AUTHOR: Shawn Lane
ISBN: 9781634866477
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 21,954 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Alex Nichols’ sister sets him up on a blind date with the perfect man, a man who has haunted his dreams for ten years. Craig Fontaine was his fantasy as far back as high school, but Craig did his best to humiliate him then over coming out.

Now, ten years later, they both have successful careers and Craig claims to be gay.

At first Alex is certain this is Craig’s version of a joke, but it soon becomes clear things have changed. Craig really is gay and hotter than ever.

But Craig has a dark past that threatens their future, and Alex may lose his perfect man before they have their chance at happily ever after.

Gabbi Reviews: Wooing the Lighthouse Keeper by Charlie Richards

Title: Tales of the Briny Nix, Book 1: Wooing the Lighthouse Keeper

Author: Charlie Richards

Publisher: eXtasy Books

Pages: 84

Characters: Wayne, Zarek

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Shifter, Mermen, Series

Kisses: 2

Blurb:

Beneath the Deep: From the sea, mysterious things can arise.

Wayne needs a place to hide when an angry ex-boyfriend sends questionable pictures to several board members at the school where he teaches. Substituting as a lighthouse keeper for his buddy’s father, he finds stark beauty in how the waves crash on the rocks and solace in their sound. His buddy, Easton, drops by with pizza and wine to buoy his spirits, and together they find a naked man on the beach. Bringing the injured man inside his temporary home, Wayne learns the stranger’s name is Zarek, and he doesn’t want to be taken to the hospital. Against his better judgment, maybe because the sexy, black-haired man kissed like a God, Wayne agrees…even though he knows the man’s story is bogus. When Wayne learns the truth, can he wrap his mind around everything and accept his new reality? Or will he wipe his hands of the sexy Zarek at his earliest opportunity?

Review:

When I was offered to read and review Wooing the Lighthouse Keeper by Charlie Richards, I admit I was super anxious to read it. I am a fangirl of Ms. Richards, and generally, I like and even love a lot of her books.

Unfortunately for me, Wooing the Lighthouse Keeper was a disappointment for me.

I haven’t read many Merman stories and maybe I held this book up to a higher standard than was met. In my opinion, the story itself was very rushed and not well-thought out at all.

There isn’t much world building at all. Every explanation about Zarek’s world is simplistic at most. There were so many unanswered questions that I almost quit reading this book several times. The only reason why I didn’t was because I usually like this author’s stories and I hoped somehow, she would be able to wrap all of my questions up in a neat bow.

It didn’t happen.

I also didn’t feel the emotional connection between the two men. Their relationship felt strained and this left me feeling disappointed. Everything was rushed. Between Zarek and Wayne’s non-connection and the watered over story itself, I’m sorry to say this book isn’t for me.

However, Ms. Richards is an excellent author. She has so many books that have fulfilled me and many readers with many hours of enjoyment. I love her Beneath Aquatica’s Waves series is one of my favs. Plus, she writes wolves and other shifters like no other. Her books are enjoyable and fast-paced, and I read them when I need a pick-me-up, so I’m not sure why this one is so discombobulated. I am going to read the next book in the series, Seashells, Surf and a Merman.

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to purchase Wooin the Lighthouse Keeper by Charlie Richards

Do you need something good to read this weekend? Check out some amazing NEW releases from JMS Books!


TITLE: Angel and Firebird
AUTHOR: Nell Iris
ISBN: 9781634866309
GENRE: Gay Romance
LENGTH: 5,285 words
PRICE: $1.99

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Five years ago, Phoenix lost his lover Gabriel, his angel, in a horrific hate crime. All Phoenix wanted was to follow Gabriel into death, and he struggled a long time trying to get his life back together. All this time later he still hasn’t been able to put the past behind him and forget about the love of his life.

On the anniversary of Gabriel’s death, Phoenix’s apartment building catches fire. Will Phoenix do the reasonable thing and save himself, or can he rise from the ashes to reunite with his beloved angel?


TITLE: Never in a Million Years
AUTHOR: David O. Sullivan
ISBN: 9781634866231
GENRE: Gay Interracial Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 21,586 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Kenji is a third-generation Japanese-American and a gregarious fellow. He’s also gay.

When he buys a new condo, he meets James, the somewhat heavy-drinking ass who lives next door. Even if the guy were gay, Kenji wouldn’t date him in a million years.

Despite their differences, Kenji and James form a friendship which slowly moves into the bedroom. Kenji is falling for James, but can James come around to accept he’s really gay? Does he love Kenji, or will the relationship die out before it even begins?


TITLE: Stolen Hearts
AUTHOR: Kassandra Lea
ISBN: 9781634866316
GENRE: Gay Western Romance
LENGTH: 12,059 words
PRICE: $2.99

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Rafael Pederos is awakened in the middle of the night by his wheelchair-bound sister Pearl. Someone’s in the barn where they shouldn’t be. Rafael tells her to call the cops as he storms out to chase off the rustlers, but he’s too late. They’re already gone, and they’ve taken four pregnant mares with them. Now the future of the Pederos Ranch is up in the air.

This is where Chad Masters comes in. As a detective-ranger, he swears to track down the missing mares. But that’s easier said than done when he realizes there’s something about Rafael he can’t resist. Now if he can just get past the gruff exterior and teach Rafael how to love again.


TITLE: Summer Cowboy
AUTHOR: R.W. Clinger
ISBN: 9781634866422
GENRE: Gay Western Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 21,414 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Professional book critic Parker Rexx leads a mundane life in Pittsburgh. The only excitement he really has these days is his faltering relationship with boyfriend Kasey Lowman. Lately Kasey hasn’t been paying attention to Parker, beginning the end of their romance.

Summer days are looking up for Parker ever since sexy cattle rancher Jobe Rider arrives. He’s staying through the end of August as he cares for his aged grandfather. Suddenly Parker’s life becomes very interesting.

Truth is, Parker can’t stop watching the summer cowboy. As his relationship with Kasey crumbles, a fresh one flourishes with Jobe. Soon the two become heated lovers. Unfortunately, August is coming to a quick end. Will Parker be able to keep Jobe, or will he be forced to give up his summer cowboy?


TITLE: Wrenching
AUTHOR: Deirdre O’Dare
ISBN: 9781634865838
GENRE: Gay Western Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 21,032 words
PRICE: $3.99

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Mal has not had an easy life. He’s struggled to overcome a lot of roadblocks and hardships as he built himself a life as a mechanic, despite a serious handicap. He’s admired rancher Dan from afar but never dreamed events would play out to land him in the amazing spot of being able to do a real service for his secret hero. Can he maintain his cool and a safe distance when they’re sharing a house and working to resolve a dangerous mystery?

Dan says he does not have employees but friends who help him run the ranch he inherited from his father. Challenged by his younger step-brother and facing dangerous sabotage to his truck, he enlists a young mechanic to help solve the puzzle. He’d always wanted a real brother or a partner he could trust but his step-brother is not the right guy to fill that role. How about Mal, who brings some fine but rare qualities to the Flying W?

Gabbi Reviews: A Love to Remember by Sarah Hadley Brook

Title: A Love to Remember

Author: Sarah Hadley Brook

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages: 79

Characters: Graham Hayes, Sam Morgan

POV: 3rd Limited

Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance

Kisses: 3.25

Blurb:

Graham Hayes decided long ago he’d never be in a relationship. It was better to stay single than to fall in love only to be left alone, which he was certain would happen to him. He’d seen Alzheimer’s ravage his family members all his life, leaving their loved ones to deal with the fallout. Some of them stayed, but some didn’t. Graham isn’t going to risk it.

When he hires nurse Sam Morgan to take care of his dad during the day, his pledge to stay single is put to the test. He soon finds it difficult to maintain a professional distance.

Graham’s guarded his heart for so long, but his resolve is crumbling. Will he be able to conquer his fear to give himself a chance at love? Can he trust Sam to stick around for better or worse?

Review:

A Love to Remember is a sweet story. Full of promise and hope for the future, it is a lovely story I liked.

Since the blurb does an excellent of describing the story, I won’t rehash it. I will say that I enjoyed the different relationships between all the characters in this book. I admit I haven’t read many stories with one of the secondary (or main) characters having Alzheimer’s disease, so I thought Ms. Brook had an interesting backstory and premise to the story itself. I think the author did an excellent job at describing the sorrow, worry, and fear of a relative dying of Alzheimer’s disease. I liked how much Graham worked at keeping a good relationship with his father and appreciated how much Graham wanted to continue to take care of him as long as he could.

I also understood why Graham was so fearful of contracting the disease itself and could empathize as to why he did not want to have a long-lasting relationship. Though Graham keeps potential love interests at a distance, it was easy to see what a loving heart he had.

I liked Sam, too. Although the story is told through Graham’s point of view, I thought the author did a decent job at allowing us to see what Sam was going feeling through the eyes of Graham. I liked how persistent Sam was as to getting Graham to give their budding relationship a chance and I thought the chemistry between them was pretty good.

All in all, A Love to Remember, is a pretty good read. I did feel like it was told a little too quickly and that it hashed through things faster than I wanted, but it was still an enjoyable story to read. There is a definite insta-love factor between the two men. As a general rule, I enjoy insta-love most of the time, but this one wasn’t as fleshed out as I would have liked. I also liked Marc *Graham’s best friend* and would like to have read more about him.

A Love to Remember by Sarah Hadley Brook is a quick read that I enjoyed and I’m looking forward to reading more books written by her.

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to purchase A Love to Remember

Anne Reviews: All the World’s An Undead Stage by Angel Martinez

TITLE: All The World’s An Undead Stage

Author: Angel Martinez

Publisher:  Pride Publishing

Pages: 151

Characters: Carrington/Erasmus

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Urban Fantasy, Series

Kisses: 5

Blurb: 

Carrington Loveless III, skim-blood vampire and senior officer of Philly’s paranormal police department, has long suspected that someone’s targeting his squad. The increasingly bizarre and dangerous entities invading their city can’t be a coincidence. So when a walking corpse spouting Oscar Wilde attacks one of his officers, Carrington’s determined to uncover the evil mind behind it all.

As a rare books librarian, Erasmus Graham thought he understood some of the stranger things in life. Sharing a life with Carrington’s shown him he didn’t know the half of it. They’ve survived attack books and deadly dust bunnies together and got through mostly unscathed. Now his world and his vampires appear ready to collide again. Books are missing from the rare books’ collection—old tomes of magic containing dangerous summonings and necromancy. He’s certain whoever’s been stalking the Seventy-Seventh is composing their end game. It’s going to take a consolidated effort from paranormal police, librarians, and some not-quite-authorized civilians to head off the impending catastrophe.

Review: 

This series has been on my radar for some time, and it didn’t disappoint.  Although I started with the latest book—and am planning to go back to the beginning and work my way forward—it didn’t detract.  Given the number of characters, it did take me a while to work out who was who, but I think the author does an excellent job in explaining everything for new readers without it becoming an info dump.

I love the world building in this story, and that the police squad is a mix of different supernaturals all working together to solve crime. I read a lot of urban fantasy and I always enjoy seeing the unique way in which authors approach supernaturals, especially vampires.  These vampires are a little different in that they see their reflection, and can walk in daylight but get sunstroke, and I’m curious as to the hints that Carrington’s relationship with Erasmus is having some interesting side effects.  I also liked the fact that Carrington has family, rather than being very old, which is a common vampire trope.  I’m looking forward to reading the series from the beginning to find out more about his background.

The relationship between Erasmus and Carrington is a real strength in the story. I loved the easy sense of humour between them, and it was obvious that they are comfortable together.  I had to smile when Erasmus referred to Carrington as ‘his vampire’, and Carrington called Erasmus ‘my librarian.’  I always love reading about librarians who kick arse, but still are very much librarians in their love of books and ability to research.  The rest of the squad are an interesting mix, both in personality and abilities, and I love Audacity—she’s adorable!  Nice Poe reference with the raven being called Edgar, and I appreciated the choice of name for the coroner. I haven’t read a story before with animated items of clothing as characters, and I thought the author pulled that off extremely well.

The author is obviously having fun writing this series, and I loved all the literary references in this story especially when someone is horrified that a zombie is mangling Wilde.  After all, that is just not on. Erasmus’s mothers being fans of Supernatural and offering advice was a hoot, and I enjoyed the way people in this world just take things in their stride. Of course, there’s a database of necromancers—I would have been disappointed if there hadn’t been one.   I had a bit of a giggle with the choice of name for one character—Ms Teecosi— and the question “To the Batcave?” which is answered by “To the library!”  This is my kind of story!  The story does get a bit crazy in places, but that added to my enjoyment of it, and I got the impression crazy is a way of life for these guys.

I’d recommend All the World’s An Undead Stage to readers who enjoy urban fantasy with a bit of humour, likeable characters who work together and feel more like family than work friends, and fabulous world building.

More please.

Reviewed By: Anne

Click HERE to purchase All the World’s An Undead Stage by Angel Martinez

 

 

 

Kimberly Reviews: Stand by your Manny by Amy Lane

Title: Stand By Your Manny

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 232

Characters: Sammy, Cooper, Felicity, Tino, Channing

POV: Third

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

Learning to trust and falling in love. 

Sammy Lowell has his hands full juggling his music, college, some pesky health problems, and making the uncles who raised him proud. He needs help fulfilling his after-school duties with his siblings. Nobody can be in two places at once—not even Sammy!

An injury puts Cooper Hoskins in a tough spot—if he can’t work, the foster sister he’s raising can’t eat. But years in the foster system have left Cooper short on trust, and opening up to accept help isn’t easy.

Luckily, family intervenes—Cooper needs a job so he can care for Felicity, and Sammy needs someone who can see past his illness to the wonderful things he has planned for his life. Each heals the damaged places in the other’s heart. But falling in love is a big responsibility for young men deep in family already. Can the two of them get past their fear of the immediate future to see forever with each other?

Review:

Amy Lane is back again, with a third entry in her Mannies series:

  • The Virgin Manny
  • Manny Get Your Guy
  • Stand By Your Manny

This time around, we are treated to the adventures of Cooper, finding a secondary career as a manny after he has an accident at his construction job. Admittedly, this is my first foray into the series, so I assume that we were introduced to at least his boss, Brandon, and Brandon’s boyfriend, Taylor, in a prior book, since they were the bridge between Cooper and his new adoptive family. Regardless of my prior lack of knowledge, though, I think I got a good handle on who was who and how they all interrelated.

The situation with both Cooper and Sammy was interesting and their approach to love was really well done. They are each other’s firsts, which was sweet, and there’s definitely the sense that they will be together for the long haul. Cooper’s background was rough, but he and Felicity have a home now. And Sammy’s background was fraught with medical issues, which will impede his ability to venture too far from home. Together they are set to strive for greatness and have a rich life together. And they will continue to have a strong family base, with an extended network of support that will be there for them no matter what they might need.

The family devotion of Tino and Channing to their kids, both old and new, was wonderful and I wished we could have gotten a bit more glimpses at them together. Well, more of Cooper witnessing it, since the momentary jump to the uncles’ point of view felt a bit jarring. I prefer when authors stick to one point of view, or at least alternate clearly without a temporary detour to one-off point of view revelations. Additionally, I was hoping we would have seen more of Cooper interacting with the children as well, since that was his new job. He says he adores the kids, but it was a bit more telling than showing. Instead, the focus was on Cooper and Sammy’s emerging relationship, as well as Sammy’s complex health issues. While I enjoyed it, I was hoping for more roundedness in the storyline.

Despite these drawbacks, though, I did become very interested in the universe overall, so I am hoping Amy Lane returns to these characters and additional characters again. In the meantime, I can go back and read the former books in the series. If you’re looking for a nice, sweet romance that has some real obstacles to overcome before a happily ever after, you will definitely enjoy Stand By Your Manny. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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