Kimberly Reviews: Linear Park by Ken Harrison

Title: Linear Park

Author: Ken Harrison

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 61

Characters: Sean, Nick

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 2.5 

Blurb:

Sean and Nick’s life together was a fairy tale: childhood friends who became lovers, high school sweethearts who married after college, both handsome professionals. Sean always enjoyed a few drinks, but after the death of his father, his alcoholism spiraled out of control… and it cost him everything. 

When Sean loses his job and becomes too surly and unreasonable to live with, Nick has little choice but to end the relationship. Sean can’t blame Nick for giving up—not after the arguments and the lies—but he longs for the happiness and love they shared before he spoiled everything. He resolves to get sober and win back his husband. But even if he wins his battle with alcoholism, will it be too late to save his marriage? 

Review:

I am always drawn to stories that involve established relationships, especially if the two characters knew each other growing up, so you would think Linear Park was right up my alley. And the concept itself was. Sean and Nick knew each other since kindergarten, fell in love, got married, and then ran into some marital problems as a result of a life tragedy. The set-up was great, but the follow-through left me desiring a bit more than was delivered.

When we pick up the story, Sean and Nick have been separated for about four or five months. Over the course of the next 60 pages, we get a lot of backstory on what their life was like before, interspersed with how Sean is focusing on the future and wanting Nick back. The disintegration of their relationship came about soon after they were married. When they returned from their honeymoon, they found out Sean’s dad had cancer and only three months to live. The toll of the ill health, as well as his dad’s subsequent death, caused Sean to turn to the bottle as a coping mechanism. And the more he drank, the worse his home life became. Finally, after Sean loses his job, accuses Nick of cheating, and ends up having to be bailed out of jail, his husband had enough. Nick’s breaking point causes Sean to have to shape up and try to repair his life.

There seemed to be a lot of telling in order to detail the four months of sobriety Sean achieves, going through the motions of attending meetings and fearing the worse when it comes to his broken marriage. Nick only enters the picture again when Sean leaves him a voicemail, hoping his husband doesn’t hate him, and Nick sends back a text message that he doesn’t. But the repair and resolution of their troubles don’t actually get a good focus for me. They have dinner, Sean agrees to go in as equal partners flipping a house with one of his friends from the alcohol support group, and then he sees Nick at a park where they kiss and the story’s over. I feel like I was very far removed from the story as a whole, and especially in having any kind of connection with Nick. Perhaps if these characters were returned to again, and more focus on them together was the intention of the plot, then I could be more satisfied. As it is now, I got a small taste of what might have been, but not enough story for what was.

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Kimberly Reviews: Heart Unheard by Andrew Grey

Title: Heart Unheard

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 200

Characters: Brent, Scott

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary

Kisses: 3.5 

Blurb:

The attraction between Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman peels the wallpaper, but Brent is Scott’s boss, and they’re both too professional to go beyond flirting. Their priorities realign after Scott is badly injured in an accident that costs him his hearing, and Brent realizes what is truly important… he wants Scott. 

Scott pushes Brent away at first, fearing a new romance will just add to his problems, but perhaps he will find unexpected strength and solace in Brent’s support as he struggles to communicate with the world in a new way.

Just as they decide the chance of a happy future together is worth the risk, Scott and Brent discover darker challenges in their way—including evidence that the “accident” Scott suffered may not have been so accidental. 

Review:

Andrew Grey is back the second book in the Hearts Entwined series, Heart Unheard. For those of you who did not read the first book, Heart Unseen, you may feel confused on trying to keep up with the character and plot references to the prior book when diving into this one. I gathered that James lost his sight in the first book, and that other characters from the garage may have played a role in the plot, but I went into Heart Unheard with a blank slate and hopes I wouldn’t be too lost when trying to follow along.

This time around, the focus is on Brent and Scott, the latter of which loses his hearing in an accident that is central to the overall plot. Tangled up in the recovery efforts, and uncovering the truth behind the car accident that maybe wasn’t such an accident, is Scott’s boss Brent. He decides to lay all his cards on the table and reveal to Scott just how much he really cares for the man. The book balanced all the emotional turns quite well, and made the journey of the relationship quite believable. I could really feel Scott’s frustrations over what he lost, his wariness to believe Brent would even want him now, and the determination that the two of them would journey through this incident together while looking toward a hopefully happy future.

Additionally, I liked the exploration of Scott and Brent’s parents as well. Firstly, Scott’s mom being in denial to accept that Scott might be deaf forever, her need to keep him protected and hope for a miracle for her child. And then his dad’s more realistic acceptance of what might be forever, but also a steadfast need to want to see Scott happy regardless of what life’s thrown at him thus far. Brent’s mom was a treat, as well as a great cook, but what really drew my attention most was Brent’s admittance as to what happened when his dad was killed. He’s been carrying around the burden of believing it was his fault, that if he had done things differently perhaps his father would not have died, but in the end he was able to work through that and find relief from his burden through the help of friends and loved ones. Quite a nice plot arc overall.

So, if you like Andrew Grey’s previous works, or are just looking for a great book involving two men who have to overcome a lot in life to get their happy-ever-after, then Heart Unheard might be the book for you. But you may find yourself wanting or needing to refer back to Heart Unseen to get the full effect of where these characters came from and where they’re headed. 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Lydia Reviews: Bone to Pick by TA Moore

TITLE: Bone to Pick

Author: TA Moore

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 240

Characters: Cloister Witte and Javi Merlo

POV:  3rd

Sub-Genre:  Mystery

Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Cloister Witte is a man with a dark past and a cute dog. He’s happy to talk about the dog all day, but after growing up in the shadow of a missing brother, a deadbeat dad, and a criminal stepfather, he’d rather leave the past back in Montana. These days he’s a K-9 officer in the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and pays a tithe to his ghosts by doing what no one was able to do for his brother—find the missing and bring them home.

He’s good at solving difficult mysteries. The dog is even better.

This time the missing person is a ten-year-old boy who walked into the woods in the middle of the night and didn’t come back. With the antagonistic help of distractingly handsome FBI agent Javi Merlo, it quickly becomes clear that Drew Hartley didn’t run away. He was taken, and the evidence implies he’s not the kidnapper’s first victim. As the search intensifies, old grudges and tragedies are pulled into the light of day. But with each clue they uncover, it looks less and less likely that Drew will be found alive.

Review:

Bone to Pick is a great mystery that is sure to pull readers in from the beginning.  Both the main characters are in law enforcement, one local and one federal.  Cloister is a K-9 police officer with a lot of baggage.  When the story opens he is taking down a druggie.  The author does an excellent job with the opening scenes and not only did it pull me into the story, it brought to mind episodes of COPS or PD Live.  I did have to laugh a time or two, especially when the meth head thought he saw a bear.

Cloister is pulled from his usual shift when a call comes in about a missing boy.  Arriving in Plenty, Cloister runs into Javi Merlo, an FBI agent he has history with.  There is a tension between the two men that will leave the reader wondering what went down between the two men.  I really liked the way the author handled the romance between the two men.  While the author could have easily had their relationship be one that developed fast and with little conflict, she did not do so.  Instead, the relationship between them is rocky at times and I wondered if there would even be an HEA for them.  This really added to the story and was one of the things that kept me turning the pages.

The mystery that is woven throughout Bone to Pick is one that really had me guessing.  I have to say, I spent a lot of time changing my mind about who the bad guy was.  I think the readers will be just as surprised by the way this part of the book plays out.  For me, it was a toss-up as to which I enjoyed more the romance or the mystery.

I will be looking out for more from this author and hope that there will be more books with these two main characters.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Kimberly Reviews: Train to Somewhere by Susan Laine

Title: Train to Somewhere

Author: Susan Laine

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 75

Characters: Charlie, Will

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Contemporary / New Adult

Kisses: 4 

Blurb:

At a party one night, Charlie Dean’s childhood friend Will Tucker accepts a dare and dresses up as a girl: clothes, hair, makeup. Seeing Will that way incites a riot of confused emotions in Charlie—and he responds by lashing out. He never meant to hurt Will, and now he must do some serious damage control.

During a school trip by train, Charlie and Will share a sleeper cabin. Charlie intends to mend fences, while Will figures it’s as good a time as any to broach the subjects of attraction and sexuality. They want to get their relationship back on track. But after the secrets they both reveal, their friendship can never be the same.

Review:

I tend to wander between adult, new adult, and young adult LGBT novels when I read. The different audiences means that the approaches to topics will vary, but when they’re handled with care and consideration, it makes for a wonderful book. This is the case with Train to Somewhere, which takes on the sexuality of two best friends and allows them to work through what labels might best define them.

The main focus of the book is on Charlie and his best friend Will. The moment that triggers the plot is a party that takes place near the beginning, where Will has to complete a dare chosen by their female friends. The dare turns out to be wearing feminine attire, complete with make-up, and the sight of Will all dolled up like this causes a very primal and angry reaction in Charlie. And while apologies and acceptances are passed around in the aftermath, there is still a lingering sense of unfinished business, and that’s what leads us to the main plot a week later.

Most of the rest of the book takes place on a train, where Charlie and Will and their classmates are headed out on a forty-hour train ride in order to go to a ski lodge for a class trip. And while their classmates are stuck in bunk-beds, Charlie has sprung for a private room for Will and himself. Good thing, too, because they have a lot to talk about and figure out.

Over the course of the journey, the two of them talk about labels, Will does some more visual experiments with feminine presentation, and they discuss what Charlie’s reaction might have meant in terms of attraction. It really was a thoughtful and caring story-line that showed two friends learning about each other and themselves.

And the book managed to detour from what I see most often, where the two best friends fall in love and are together forever afterward. For Charlie and Will, it takes time for them to grow up and find their own identifies before they can focus on the one who brings them the most happiness. I liked that they were able to do this, because in the end they could be sure of who they were and what they wanted in their lives.

Train to Somewhere is the third book in the Before…and After series:

  • After the Romance Novel
  • Kissing Lessons
  • Train to Somewhere

While I haven’t read the prior two, based on the amount of joy Train to Somewhere gave me, I might have to go back and read the prior installments. And I look forward to what Susan Laine has for us next! 

Reviewed By: Kimberly

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Gabbi Reviews: His Mossy Boy by R. Cooper

Title: A Beings in Love Story: His Mossy Boy

Author: R. Cooper

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 350

Characters: Martin Dyer, Ian Forrester

POV: 3rd

Sub-Genre: Urban Fantasy, Series

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

A Being(s) in Love Story

Years ago, a very intoxicated Martin nearly died in the woods outside Everlasting, and a beautiful creature saved him, although Martin’s done his best to forget it. He spends his time in a haze of weed as he avoids his emotionally abusive mother—and the way he feels about men. Martin is already a weirdo in his isolated small town; he doesn’t need a sexuality crisis too. He’s a mess, but someone—or something—always seems to take care of him, usually a tall, sarcastic deputy by the name of Ian Forrester.

No one knows much about Ian, which is how he and his family prefer it. Ian has resigned himself to a lonely life keeping his secrets and guarding his forest. It’s safe to dream of Martin, because Martin never remembers Ian helping him. Besides, Martin barely speaks to Ian, so nothing can ever grow between them. Right?

But with the dragons—and the magic—back in Everlasting, suddenly anything seems possible, even a happily ever after for two men who never expected one.

Review: 

I am a huge fan of the Being(s) in Love series. To me, it is so easy to get wrapped up in the lives of Ms. Cooper’s characters. Each person is unique and well-written and I can’t help but quickly become enamored with them.

Treasure for Treasure is one of my favorite books, so I was incredibly excited to read His Mossy Boy. Both Martin and Ian played a strong role in the Treasure for Treasure, so I was thrilled to see them get their own book and the story they told did not disappoint. I loved this book almost as much as I loved the first one and I hope Ms. Cooper continues writing more about these amazing characters.

Martin knows he is a disaster. He lives his life to please his horrible mother and because he is in denial of his bisexuality and other things he continuously represses, he is a borderline alcoholic and pothead. Because of his low self-esteem, Martin believes he is nothing but a big disappointment to everyone he knows and feels like he must apologize for everything he does.

Martin’s sadness and low self-worth really pulled at my heartstrings. I truly felt bad for him, especially when it came to having to deal with his HORRIBLE mother, so I was glad to see his character truly evolve as the story progressed. Martin is far from perfect and, even in the end, he is still edgy and afraid to believe he deserves happiness, but it’s because of this, that I thought his character was pretty realistically written. Sure, I wanted to bop him upside the head a few times. Throughout the story, Martin allows his fear to take over his life, so he makes a few terrible choices. What I liked about him is that he is learning to let go of this fear and allowing himself to be happy.

Ian also goes through a lot of self-growth. Because of how he was raised, he’s been pushing others aside and it’s this fear that has kept him lonely. I loved Ian because of his selflessness and need to take care of others…especially Martin. Though he is a caretaker at heart, Ian needs someone to look after him too, so I was thrilled to see Martin work hard to be that person for him. As a reader, I enjoyed watching Ian truly go through the process of learning to trust and giving in to his instincts, which allows him to become part of a small circle of friends. Through Martin’s adoring eyes and eventual acceptance, Ian I loved seeing him blossom into a happier and more fulfilled hero.

His Mossy Boy will not be for everyone. Ms. Cooper writes stories with heroes that go through a lot of push and pull and self-awareness and growth before they get anything close to a happy ending. Her stories are well-written and gripping to me, but they are also slower paced and thoughtful. So, if you want a quick resolution and prefer fast-paced stories, then most of her books, including this one, may not be for you. Personally, I love the slow-burn her novels give me and highly enjoy getting to know her characters and the world she creates. To me, His Mossy Boy and her other books give me everything and more when it comes to reading romance and I love every minute I spend reading her books.

His Mossy Boy is part of the Being(s) in Love series. Each and every story brings something very special into the world that Ms. Cooper has created. If you haven’t read any of them and you are interested in reading this one, I would read Treasure for Treasure first. Why? Because all of the characters play an important role in both books and I think Treasure for Treasure is an essential read before you read His Mossy Boy. I personally love all of the books in this series, so I highly recommend all of them.

The Being(s) in Love books are:

Some Kind of Magic

A Boy and his Dragon

A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing your Mate

Little Wolf

The Firebird and other Stories

The Dandelion and the Tulip

Treasure for Treasure

His Mossy Boy

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Gabbi Reviews: Tender Mercies by Eli Easton

Title:  A Men of Lancaster Novel: Tender Mercies

Author: Eli Easton

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 216

Characters: Samuel Miller, Eddie Graber

POV:  3rd

Sub-Genre:  Contemporary Romance, Series

Kisses:  5

Blurb:

A Men of Lancaster County Novel

Eddie Graber’s dream of a sanctuary for rescued farm animals was about to come true when his partner backed out at the last minute. Now Eddie risks losing the twenty-five acre property in Lancaster County—and all the hopes he held for it—before the project even gets off the ground. He needs help, he needs money, but most importantly, he needs to rediscover the belief in a higher purpose that brought him here in the first place.

Samuel Miller worked hard to fit into his Amish community despite his clubfoot. But when his father learns Samuel is gay, he is whipped and shunned. With just a few hundred dollars to his name, Samuel responds to an ad for a farmhand and finds himself employed by a city guy who has strange ideas about animals, no clue how to run his small farm, and a gentle heart.

Samuel isn’t the only lost soul to serendipitously find his way to Meadow Lake Farm. There’s Fred and Ginger, two cows who’d been living in a garage, a gang of sheep, and a little black pig named Benny who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.

Review:

Tender Mercies is the second book in the Men of Lancaster County series. If you follow my reviews, you already know how much I absolutely loved the first book, A Second Harvest. So, to say, that I was super-excited to read this story is an understatement and I can honestly say I enjoyed this story and highly recommended it.

Ms. Easton writes amazing characters that live and breathe off of the written page. Between her characters and the story they have to tell, her heroes live within my heart long after I finish reading their story.

Although I liked both men, Samuel was my favorite hero. Eddie is clearly a good man, but it was Sam and his heart of gold that won me over. My heart bled for him when his father shunned him, but it rejoiced as we get to watch Samuel truly begin to grow into a more confident, loving man. Not only is Samuel thoughtful, he is compassionate and learns from his mistakes. It was so easy to love him and I adored the sweet passion and love he had for Eddie.

Eddie also has a heart of gold. His determination to save farm animals is a noble one. Eddie quickly learns that things do not always turn out as we plan and although he finds himself questioning himself, it is through Samuel’s devotion and love that Eddie realizes that together they can achieve their dream.

As much as I adored these two men, I was thrilled that there was a quick cameo of Christie and David from A Second Harvest. Frankly, Ms. Easton could write more and more about all of these men and I’d be as happy as a clam!

I loved this book and I can’t wait until the next one in the series. *I hope it will be about Samuel’s brother* If you are looking for a heartwarming story with two amazing heroes, then Tender Mercies should definitely not be missed!

Highly Recommended!

The Men of Lancaster County books are:

A Second Harvest

Tender Mercies

Reviewed By: Gabbi

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Lydia Reviews: Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane

Title: Red Fish, Dead Fish

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 330

Characters: Jackson Rivers and Ellery Cramer

POV:  3rd POV

Sub-Genre:  Mystery

Kisses: 5

Blurb:

They must work together to stop a psychopath—and save each other.

Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Review:

Jackson and Ellery are back in Red Fish, Dead Fish, the second book of the Fish Out of Water series.  This is a series that needs to be read in order, so if you have not yet read the first book you may want to not go any further in this review.

The story picks up shortly after the end of the first book and the connection between Ellery and Jackson grows stronger with every page. I loved seeing the way Jackson has slowly come to understand that he is worthy of that love.  But while the love between these two is important, it is not the focus of this story.

Once again, the two men are trying to track down a killer, someone they have been after for a while.  There are times when the details are a little gruesome but it is necessary to the storyline and well done by the author.   The men run into obstacles along the way, everything from meth heads in Jackson’s condo to the death of his mother, which is done in such a way that the readers may be a little shocked.  Finding their killer is not easy and at times really takes its toll on Jackson but Ellery is there every step of the way, as is Mike and Jade.

Red Fish, Dead Fish is over 300 pages long and a lot goes on in those pages, too much to cover in a review without giving anything away.  Let’s just say that this is a story that fans of Ms. Lane should really pick up.  It is also one that those who love the mystery sub-genre should give a try, just remember to read the first book beforehand.  I cannot wait until the author brings these two back and hopefully we will not have to wait long.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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