Lydia Reviews: You Never Know by Mary Calmes

TITLE: You Never Know

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 200

Characters: Hagen Wylie and Mitch Thayer

POV:  1st POV

Sub-Genre:  Contemporary

Kisses: 4

Blurb:

Hagen Wylie has it all figured out. He’s going to live in his hometown, be everybody’s friend, explore new relationships, and rebuild his life after the horrors of war. No muss, no fuss is the plan. He’s well on his way—until he finds out his first love has come home too. Hagen says it’s no big deal, but a chance encounter with Mitch Thayer’s two cute sons puts him directly in the path of the only guy he’s never gotten out of his head.

Mitch returned for three reasons: to raise his sons where he grew up, to move his furniture business and encourage it to thrive, and to win Hagen back. Years away made it perfectly clear the young man he loved in high school is the only one for him. The problem? He left town and they have not talked since.

If Hagen’s going to trust him again, Mitch needs to show him how he’s grown up and isn’t going to let go. They could have a new chance at love… but Hagen is insistent he’s not reviving a relationship with Mitch. Then again, you never know.

Review:

You Never Know is a fast-paced read by author Mary Calmes, and one her fans are sure to enjoy.  The story is told in the first person by Hagen Wylie and is a story about second chances.  Hagen, and our other m/c, Mitch, were high school sweethearts with their lives planned.  Mitch would head off to college where he would hopefully catch the eye of an NFL recruiter, while Hagen would catch up to him later.  But as things have a way of working the boy’s plans fall apart and so does their relationship.

Fast forward to the present and Hagen has a successful construction company and a secret, friends with benefits relationship with a well-known actor.  He is also living with the after-effects of his time in the military.  As for Mitch, he went on to find his fame and fortune in the NFL.  He married, had two children, and divorced.   Then he returned to his hometown to raise his boys and win back Hagen.

I liked Hagen from the beginning and his reaction to finding out Mitch was back as the book starts had me laughing.  I loved how he acted as if it was no big deal while those around him were spazzing about it.  Even those new to town seem to know the men’s history together and wonder how Hagen is going to react.  When the two do meet up again it is done in a way that readers will not expect and lets you see just how strong a connection the two men still have.

Hagen, however, is reluctant to get involved with Mitch again and rightfully so.  I liked that the author did not have them start over as if nothing had ever happened.  Instead, she makes Mitch work for his chance with Hagen and he even acknowledges that he has a lot to make up for.

While I did enjoy this story, and will be reading You Never Know again in the future, there is one point in the story that I wish would have been different.  Although the story covers a short period of time, the story is to the halfway point before Mitch shows up.  I would have liked to have seen him and Hagen spend more time together, yet in some ways, it seems that Hagen spends more time with Ash, his friend with benefits than he did with Mitch.  While that was a bit of a sore point for me, it did not keep me from giving this book a 4, as the time Hagen and Mitch do spend together was well done.

Those that like Ms. Calmes books are sure to like this one, and for those who have not yet tried any of her books I recommend you give this one a try.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Gabbi Reviews: Stitch by Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden and Sue Brown

Title: Gothika, Book 1, Stitch

Authors: Kim Fielding, Eli Easton, Jamie Fessenden and Sue Brown

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 294

Characters: Multiple Heroes

POV: Varies

Sub-Genre: Paranormal, Anthology

Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Gothika: Volume One

When a certain kind of man is needed, why not make him to order? Such things can be done, but take care: Much can go wrong—but then, sometimes it can go wonderfully right. Imagine…

In The Golem of Mala Lubovnya, a seventeenth century rabbi creates a man of clay to protect the Jews, and the golem lives a life his maker never imagined, gaining a name—Emet—and the love of a good man, Jakob Abramov. But their love may not survive when Emet must fulfill his violent purpose.

In Watchworks, Luke Prescott lives as a gentleman in a London that never was. His unique needs bring him to famed watchmaker Harland Wallace. Romance might blossom for them if Harland can come to terms with loving a man and keeping him safe.

In Made for Aaron, a young man in an asylum for being gay met the love of his life, Damon Fox. Twenty years later, Aaron thinks his life is over when Damon dies and then disappears from the hospital. Aaron is determined to find the truth, but secrets hide the unthinkable.

Reparations unfolds on the harsh planet of Kalan, where weakness cannot be tolerated. When Edward needs help, his life becomes entwined with exceptional cyborg slave, Knox. But when Knox remembers things he shouldn’t know, the two may pay a blood price for their taboo alliance.

Review:

Stitch is a Multi-Authored Anthology that left this reader yearning for more! Each and every story was intriguing and filled with plenty of romance with unique and well-written characters. I was quickly swept up into the addictive storylines these authors’ created and loved every minute I spent reading it.

One of the things that I’ve come to expect when it comes to reading Anthologies is that there are going to be some stories that I’m going to love and some that don’t resonate with me as a reader. I was floored by all of the creative storytelling abilities each of these authors have and enjoyed the stories they had to tell.

I can’t really pick a favorite story or a least favorite because I loved them all. Each and everyone brings something special to the anthology and if you like plenty of romance and even some nail-biting gothic suspense, this is definitely the book for you.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Kimberly Reviews: High Balls by Tara Lain

Title: High Balls

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 163

Characters: Theodore, Snake, Andy

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

Though only twenty-six, single father Theodore Walters lives with his head in the clouds and his feet firmly planted in reality. At the center of his life is Andy, his seven-year-old son, with whom he shares no DNA, though nobody—including his religious-fanatic in-laws—knows that, and Theodore will do anything to keep them from finding out. Theodore works hard to get his PhD and the tenure and salary that might follow to make a better life for Andy—but the head of his department thinks his dissertation on Jane Austen and romance novels is frivolous. 

Theodore’s carefully planned life goes off the rails when he walks into a popular Laguna Beach bar and meets the bartender, “Snake” Erasmo, a pierced and tattooed biker who sends Theodore’s imagination—and libido—soaring. Snake has even more secrets than Theodore and couldn’t be a less “appropriate” match, but he might be the only guy with the skills to show Theodore that happily ever after is for real.

Review:

An intriguing storyline, a dose of mystery, and some family-time bonding all makes for a wonderful novel from Tara Lain. This novel is part of the Balls to the Wall series and makes for a great new addition.

If you’d like to read all the novels released thus far, the order is as follows:

  • Volley Balls
  • Fire Balls
  • Beach Balls
  • Fast Balls
  • High Balls

Theodore and Snake’s relationship might appear to be a case of opposites attract, but we soon learn that the two might have more in common than first thought. Plus, with Theodore’s son Andy thrown in, they have the makings of a true forever family. I love a feel-good story! There were a number of interlocking plotlines going on in this, which made you want to keep turning the page to figure out where it would go next. Not only is there the developing relationship between Theodore and Snake, but also a custody threat from Andy’s grandparents that might put their ultimate happiness in danger. And if that weren’t enough, there’s also the stress of Theodore going through his PhD defense and working against the departmental disrespect that he’s constantly having to face because of his chosen research topic. It all makes for one grand adventure.

While I liked the story very much, there were a few drawbacks that reduced my enjoyment just a bit. First was the wandering POV, switching between Theodore and Snake, sometimes in the middle of the chapter. I’m more of a fan of a dedicated POV when reading, or at least a switch that comes at a chapter break to give it more separation. Secondly, the reference to Theodore’s fellow TA kept switching between his first and last name. It kept confusing me, and I had to pause to remember that the two names were the same person. Lastly, the character of JP Rellico was very flat and did not pose any sort of threat, nor any sort of real interaction with the plot. He was a seen, but not heard entity that caused little drama since the custody issue was cleared up relatively quickly.

However, even those few drawbacks weren’t enough to detract completely from such a great novel. I loved the evolving relationship between Theodore and Snake, the flawed and complicated nature of both their characters, and how they overcame many obstacles to end up together. I am rooting for their happily ever after. They deserve all the happiness, because they certainly provided me happiness while reading.

Recommended!

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Kimberly Reviews: Waking the Behr by Pat Henshaw

Title: Waking the Behr

Author: Pat Henshaw

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 88

Characters: Ben, Mitch, Connor, Abe

POV: 1st

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:

Both Ben and Mitch think they know exactly what they want. Turns out, they don’t even know their own hearts.

Good old boy Ben has dated women his entire life, while gay nightclub owner Mitch has never considered unsophisticated country boys his type. But after they start hanging out, the small-town contractor and the urban entrepreneur are both stunned by the electricity sparking between them.

As they step outside their comfort zones to spend time together, Mitch finds he enjoys rural car rallies, and Ben is intrigued by the upscale bars Mitch owns in San Francisco. When they share their lives and grow closer, they start to question the way they’ve always defined themselves. Then they kiss and fling open the door to love. Now they must step up and travel the road that may lead to happily ever after—even if that path isn’t one they ever expected to walk. 

Review:

Love doesn’t follow the rules, as main character Ben soon learns in Walking the Behr. Although both his brothers, Abe and Connor, have come out as gay prior, Mitch never thought he’d do so as well. That is, until Mitch wandered into his town and into his life. Now Ben is wondering what this new-found attraction means and if he’s been hiding a part of himself all his life.

What I liked about this story is that the author didn’t immediately jump from attraction to acceptance too quickly. Ben has to take time and really consider why he’s suddenly attracted to a man. And he also must consider if that attraction is even real, since it’s a jumble of emotion inside his head and all new feelings for Ben. The ongoing pull between being territorial over Mitch and wondering if his brother, Connor, is actually the better partner for this rich city boy was a great thread that ran through the first part of the book. It made the developing relationship feel more real.

The one component I didn’t like, or perhaps just didn’t understand, was the presence of Mitch’s ex, Glen, throughout their tour of Mitch’s clubs. He was just annoying and always-present, but didn’t seem to pose any real threat, even when he was described as looking for a fight. If he had been utilized as a real threat, I could see him playing a more dynamic role. At present, though, he was just a detour from the story that I could gladly overlook. 

All in all, though, Walking the Behr was a sweet, romantic story of two men who seemed to be such opposites, yet found commonality in their love for one another. I’m not sure what the future holds for Ben and Mitch, but I do know that I enjoyed seeing the two of them becoming one.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Kimberly Reviews: I Heart Boston Terriers by Rick R. Reed

Title: I Heart Boston Terriers

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 54

Characters: Aaron, Christian, Mavis, and Becca

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:

When Aaron finds Mavis, an emaciated and shy Boston terrier, at a pet adoption fair, his heart goes out to her—completely.

When Christian, manning the adoption fair for the Humane Society that autumn Saturday, finds Aaron, his heart goes out to him—completely.

This is a story about embracing love, whether it’s for someone who walks on four legs or on two. Mavis’s journey back to wholeness and finding her forever home parallels the story of two men discovering each other at the perfect moment—a moment that defies logic, propriety, and common sense. But when did love ever follow a rational course?

Review:

I am always a fan of stories involving pets, so finding a Rick R. Reed novella centering around the adoption of a dog was a nice treat. We first got to know Aaron and his sister, Becca, when they are visiting an adoption fair at the local pet shop. And then we meet Christian, who seems to feel there are some sparks flying between him and Aaron, since he purposely tracks the man down in order to pursue whatever level of relationship they might have.

The build-up of the romance between Aaron and Christian was more a hook-up with a “maybe more later”, but I do feel like there is something there that they can work off of and see where it goes. Both men were crafted in a way that made them feel real, with flaws and all. I appreciate that in a story. And Mavis, of course, was a treat to get to know…even if the glimpses we got of her were brief. 

While the writing was stellar overall, there was a noticeable issue with one part of the character trio. Becca, Aaron’s sister, is a bit uneven in her portrayal. She pushed Aaron to adopt Mavis, but as soon as the dog destroyed her footwear she was ready to drop Mavis back off at the shelter. And she seemed shocked when her brother had actually bonded with his new dog. What did she expect? You don’t just adopt a dog, love her one day, then kick them out the next. At least Aaron stood up for Mavis, even if Becca did an about-face in the middle of the storyline. I just couldn’t follow the ups and downs of Becca’s reactions. And with this being such a short story, it became more noticeable.

I Heart Boston Terriers is a feel-good novella that’s a good taste of potential romance, yet leaves you wanting for more. First published by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure back in 2012, this updated second edition retains the same storyline without expansion, and that’s a shame. I feel like so much more could have been explored in this, especially with the talented Rick R. Reed wielding the pen. I look forward to more character-driven storylines from him in the future, and hopefully more pages. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: P.S. I Spook You by SE Harmon

TITLE:  P.S I Spook You

Author:  S.E. Harmon

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Pages:  256

Characters:  Rain Christiansen and Daniel McKenna

POV:   1st

Sub-Genre:  Ghost, Mystery

Kisses:  4

Blurb:

SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him.

Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex.

It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.

Review:

P.S. I Spook You is the type of story that grabs me from the beginning. Rain is a reluctant medium. He does not want to be seeing ghosts or delivering messages for them.  He tries his hardest to ignore them because giving in could mean the end of his career with the FBI.  As it is, his boss still believes he is not yet ready to return to work, and instead of putting him back with his BAU team, Rain has been assigned a bunch of cold cases to go through.  One of those cases brings him back in contact with Daniel, someone he has history with.

Daniel is Rain’s ex and to say their break up was rocky is an understatement.  While Rain left to follow his dreams, Danny stayed with the local police department.  He is unsure how he feels about seeing Rain again, but he does not plan on starting up where they left off.  While these two try so hard to fight their feelings, they find themselves become close again.  I like the chemistry between them and really love that the author takes the time to build things up and solve old problems instead of just throwing them together for the sake of a sex scene.

The relationship between Rain and Danny is not the only thing that will hold your interest in this book.  The case the two men are trying to solve will keep you turning the pages to see what will happen next and who killed the young girl.  I liked the little twists that surround this case.  The author really keeps you guessing, and the way this part of the story is wrapped up was very well done.

I will be looking for more by this author and should she decide to write a follow up to P.S. I Spook You, I will be one of the first to buy it.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Anne Reviews: Five Minutes Longer by Victoria Sue

TITLE: Five Minutes Longer
Author: Victoria Sue
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 205
Characters: Talon Valdez/Finn Mayer
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Series, Romantic Suspense, Paranormal
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Talon Valdez knew when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced were viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.

Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.

Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI from the time he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying, homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with deadly abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.

Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives—four weeks for them to survive.

Review:

I got hooked by this story from the very first page.  What often makes or breaks a story for me is its characters, and I loved the contrast between Finn and Talon.  While Talon has powers, Finn has had to find a way to work around his dyslexia, and hold onto his dreams despite the shitty hand life has dealt him.  While his brother did come across as a little stereotypical at first, sadly it reflects life and some of the people who populate it a bit too well.  There’s another character I’m keeping my eye on who I suspect is not the nice guy he portrays himself to be, but time will tell.

The world building in this story is interesting, especially with the way it could be present day, but for the twist of the enhanced gene that becomes active in some at puberty. I thought the fact that 50% of humans distrust those who are enhanced was very realistic.  Some might argue that parents wouldn’t turn their back on their own children, but sadly this has been shown to be true as well.

The story itself kept me reading way too late several nights in a row for just one more chapter… It’s gripping, and I thought the action scenes were well written, and edge-of-the seat.

I was really happy to learn that this is the first in the series, and I already have book two loaded on my tablet as part of my TBR list.  Although the ending of this one is satisfactory for now, I figured Finn and Talon’s story wasn’t over, and I’m hoping the other team members of HERO (Human Enhanced Rescue Organisation) will get their own stories, as it’s obvious they have them to tell.

When I read a review copy, I usually take a lot of notes about what happens—and my reaction—for said review, but with this story I got so caught up with the characters and everything happening that there’s very little written down.  It’s the reason it has queue jumped my review pile ahead of books I’ve read and still need to write reviews for!

I’d recommend Five Minutes Longer to readers who enjoy reading romances with suspense,  interesting world building, and characters who stay with you long after you close the book.

Reviewed By: Anne

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