Rating: 3 stars out of 5 This is the fourth book in the series focusing on Ellis and his crush on one of his customers from the firing range named Bryndon. Previously Ellis seemed enamored with Clark; there is definitely still hero worship involved, complicated by doing BDSM scenes with Clark and his husband, but […]
I would rate this 3.75 stars.
This is the third book in the Stars From Peril series. Although there is mention of Jaxon Powers and Landry Bishop from book one and two, this works well as a standalone. Cal Walters is a 23 year old artist who knows the right people. His insecurities about whether people buy his art because he’s talented or because he’s trendy due to his friends, has given him a little chip on his shoulder. Due to a bet with his friend Merc, he has to go on three blind dates. Third time’s a charm when he meets 28 year old Teofilo Vabriga-Kastav, playboy prince of the tiny nation of Porvunia and passionate art lover. Teo has insecurities of his own, never knowing if people like him for himself, or just want to be with him because of his family. He just doesn’t tell Cal he’s a prince…
The meet cute is actually, cute. I wasn’t sure about either character at first–Cal is standoffish and Teo is a bit too smooth–but their facades crumble fairly quickly. Seeing most of the book from Cal’s POV, at first he’s attracted to Teo, but not quit sure he likes him. Teo’s POV is used more sparingly to great affect. Seeing how Teo describes Cal and how Cal makes him feel hooked me into the story. He may be privileged and a bit spoiled, but he is actually a nice person and has a sincerity about him that’s surprising. Cal’s starting to develop that cynicism of living in California and being in the wealthy art scene, but he’s just a kid from Nebraska trying to protect himself. When Teo creates a painting competition in Porvunia in part to lure Cal there, they give in to their passions. Their intimate time is sexy, fun, and filled with laughter. Cal kids himself this is a one night stand, but they are already too taken with each other and he knows it’s more. Lying to yourself is difficult if you’re an honest person by nature. The dynamics here are fascinating as Cal’s in charge, even though he’s the commoner and younger. When his anxiety or fear gets the better of him in various circumstances, it’s Teo who steps in to help him relax or sort things out. They fit.
Teo’s family, his bodyguards, Cal’s friend Merc, Cal’s Gram, and other characters from the small town of Peril help move this along, but no one does more than Anita, his guide in the capital city of Velenik. She makes Porvunia feel more real with tours filled with fun historical stories. She is also loyal and proves herself to be truly caring of the prince and her royal family. This book is full of charming little details, whether of a foreign country, or of the Nebraska landscape, a thriving city or a small rural town. Still, it’s Nebraska that burns more brightly here when Con shares his home and all the people he grew up with, who have their own stories.
This really works through the opposites of being working class vs wealthy, an only child vs large family and having no father and absentee mother vs hundreds of years of extended family. Yet, their love of the arts united them. They have both had the benefit of fortunate fate and grew up having very little privacy albeit in very different fish bowls. When an emergency tears them apart, it would be easy to let life get in the way, to let it move them in different directions, but Teo is not having it. This is the point where, as farfetched as the story seems, it gets even more farfetched. For instance, Teo getting rid of his bodyguards when he should be worried about being kidnapped for ransom, or his rushing in and thinking he knows what a small town needs to “save” it. There is plenty of foreshadowing here to show the reader the way through. It’s sweet, and no matter how unlikely, I wanted it to happen just like that even if I didn’t know it at the time.
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I would rate this 4.25 stars.
Although the third book in the series, this can be read as a standalone with no issue. Owen is a former investment banker. After a bout with cancer, he has decided to volunteer alongside park rangers in the Alaskan wilderness. There are little glimpses of his Asian family home life. His illness has made him less shallow, more willing to have fun and try new things. As a professional ranger Quill has no interest in a green city slicker volunteer but his best friend and partner Hattie has a new desk job and he can’t do his job alone. Quill hates change–set in his ways he is a private man. Owen is a people person and has the experience needed to slot into Quill’s work, and life, if Quill will let him. Owen needs to recognize some things might be more important than his bucket list. Even for people with a lot of snow experience, this is a dangerous job. If they can learn to trust each other, they can both have everything they didn’t know they wanted. This is a slow burn, opposites attract story that ratchets up the sexual tension over several months out in the wilderness together.
I like that Owen is a take charge, independent man who doesn’t take help because it’s easy, but will ask for help or listen when he needs it. I like that he is honest about how he feels and what he wants. I like that he is thoughtful, that he never takes charge in a way that would be taking advantage of Quill. Being privy to Quill’s past experiences is necessary as he doesn’t always communicate that with his words, whereas Owen will. Most of this book is about Owen battling his own wants and needs–confronting his own past traumas and unhealthy learned behaviors. Quill also accepts responsibility for his decisions, never blaming Owen for them.
This book focuses on the delicate dance of shared intimacy moving them forward, and different life experiences holding them back. The most difficult part is Quill battling the hyper-masculinity he was taught and learning to let Owen be a real partner and take charge when it’s the best thing to do instead of fighting it because he thinks he should. Owen’s cancer isn’t just mentioned once as a plot reason for this volunteer experience; it’s discussed naturally throughout the course of the book, both to explain its mental affect on Owen’s outlook, and as something a lover of his would need to know and understand. Every time I started to feel a little cabin fever, there is some emergency or situation with park visitors to break up that monotony. All the things that happen emphasize the effect of learning to live in the now and enjoying the ride. That’s when Owen’s POV is the most poignant, when he realizes this is not just fun and games to him, that things happen that can’t be planned for.
All three of the books in this series show how people think themselves into a box. I love it so much when they allow themselves to think their way out of the box too. I liked how even with the circumstances, things are not magically fixed, conflicts not glossed over. The sex scenes, always hot, ramp up as the intimacy turns them into something more. Yet, Quill’s eloquence was still a little too smooth all of the sudden, the epiphanies and big gesture a tiny over the top. Still, if that’s the only real fault I can find, that means this is a really well done, solid romance novel with likeable characters that I wanted to find happiness together.
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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 When two Doms meet in a bar and are enamored with each other…someone has to submit or they need a third. There are plenty of books like either of those scenarios, but this is something more nuanced. Clark owns a Bar named Glow, but is also part owner of […]
Rating:3.75 stars out of 5 This is the third book in the series featuring five brothers who own a tattoo shop together. The whole series has a strong theme of survival and friends as family, so they would have the best emotional impact if read in order, but there is so much recapping that it’s […]
I would rate this 3 stars.
This is actually the second book in this series. The first book, Accidental Baker, works like a prequel. It would be helpful to read it first because it introduces the reader to four couples. Yes, it’s an insta-everything meet cute, but it has a magical realism quality that makes it charming. Zest is very different stylistically, with less dialogue and being more inside the characters heads, with a lot of explaining. It focuses on Donnie and Will, alternating their POV. There are three more books planned, one for each couple, with obvious involvement of all the couples in this small community. Since it starts the next day after the previous book, I found the long recap odd and a little annoying.
I wanted to like these characters, but it was difficult for me. Will is too good to be true, but there isn’t much depth there. He seems less fleshed out than Donnie even though the reader gets his POV also. Donnie is uneven. Yes, at his age he is still figuring things out. This is his first real relationship. Still, at times I found him patiently and softly taking charge when he needs to and then wobbling to please everyone. He has self esteem issues, but is pretty easygoing and gets taken advantage of. He doesn’t like Will speaking for him, yet he he opens up to Trev and allows him to intercede on his behalf rather than dealing with his friends and their expectations on his own. When he has to take on so much responsibility, he is overwhelmed and shuts down. I also found it odd that Will talks to Donnie about employment right after sex with neither of them seemingly worried about dating and working together every day, or what would happen if this doesn’t work out, let alone Will making himself vulnerable as a business owner to being exploited or a lawsuit. The love scenes themselves don’t really add anything to this story.
As for the secondary characters, I didn’t like Donnie’s friends, Maisie or Henry. Abi isn’t in this book at all. Will has no friends, having just moved to town. Simon has a walk-on. Trev is used as a foil for Donnie to find help in unexpected places. Jez and Eric pop up. Will’s ex is vapid. Will’s mother is very inconsistent as a character all within the same scene. My opinion would be that the character interactions weren’t handled deftly. People are complex and the writing needs to show that rather than having the people be so contradictory, which doesn’t automatically make them multidimensional. When the main conflict of the story comes to a head, it didn’t ring true to me and I wasn’t emotionally invested. I have read other books by this author that I have enjoyed in the past, so maybe this series just isn’t my cup of tea.
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Holden moved away from Baltimore nine years ago; his life is now in Ithaca where he’s a veterinarian. He has his best friend Gavin and his pit bull Peanut. But when he gets a call his twin brother Hendrix has been shot in the line of duty, he rushes […]
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 In this series the first four are a unit with a shared plot, the fifth is a wedding, the sixth is a misstep adventure (in my opinion), and this one is more related to the spin-off, Ward Security. In fact, if you haven’t tried the spin-off series, this might […]
This was painful for me to read because I have a chronic illness with similar issues. People are sometimes great when conditions are acute (like an emergency), but not so great when illness is chronic. They especially are not going to want to know details about your bowels, pain, depression, or anthing else unpleasant. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s not fun. So, I empathized with Drake immediately. In this world that is so sex driven, most people would try to avoid falling in love with someone who couldn’t or might not be able to have it–regardless of the reason. They like to think if the person they are already in love with got a serious illness or had a horrific accident, that they would stay…most won’t. But this, knowing ahead of time and still being willing to get involved with someone, tells you all you need to know. That’s why even though there is not a lot of dating and this all takes place in less than a year, I had no trouble believing the romance. Their lives are meshed together, their families and friends are blended. Parts of Drake’s life suck, and he’s been hurt, but haven’t we all? He is still pretty darn mean at times with his defense mechanisms, but it’s difficult to be nice when I am in pain–I lose sleep, patience, and my filter–so I get it. The petty crap and unimportant minutiae that many people focus on holds no importance for me. This is true for these characters also. They deal with live and death in their jobs. When people have health issues they can mostly hide given good timing and acting, it’s tempting to gloss it over and not let people see. The issue comes when people invite me out and I have to say no because I don’t feel well–most people finally just stop inviting me. If I go anyway and am not full of “all the fun”, I am a Debbie Downer. Even less fun is when people only see me when I am healthy, and then have a difficult time believing how I feel when I have health issues. Or, they see me when I don’t feel well and think, it doesn’t look that bad. What’s the big deal? I’m not constantly in the hospital or bleeding all over, so how bad can it be? This can be hurtful. People also always want to tell me what to do or use to fix me and make me better. While I appreciate it on one level, it is a bit egotistical to think they can cure what ten years of specialist doctors haven’t been able to with their talk of herbal tea, meditation, or vitamin supplements. I find this story believable because the people who will stay with you (romantic and platonic) are the ones who see you, believe you, and just accept you as you are. People who just want “fun” all the time are acquaintances or will drift away.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 In an unfortunate series of events, Drake meets Caleb. This is meeting the right person in the wrong circumstances–or maybe not! It starts with an enemies to lovers vibe. Frankly, I didn’t quite feel the attraction during the hate phase, but once it gets going I was really rooting […]
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 The blurb to this book really captured my attention. The story, seen through Ryde’s point of view, takes place over 15 years and is broken down into three main parts. The first part shows Ryde’s intense attraction and focus on his neighbor Alastair. The reader gets to see the […]