Review : A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke

I would rate this 4 stars.

In the beginning, Patrick is seeing his son Peter for the first time in two years after coming home from Afghanistan. Patrick’s ex-wife Christy really drop kicks Patrick into the deep end, and expects him to adapt and act appropriately without any frame of previous reference for how to deal with his new gender bending, vegetarian, 11 year old son who loves Saturday morning Drag Queen Storytelling at the local library. Of course, the idea that Patrick’s ex is a POC, that he acknowledges the issue for his son, was the only thing that made me give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, it switches to Andrew’s POV: he is lonely and having trouble dating. At first most of his personality is funny and snarky asides, which come from his drag persona Ann. When they meet while Andrew is out of drag, Patrick realizes maybe it’s a good idea to get to know who his son spends time with. If this keeps him from looking like a bigot, then all the better.

Being inside Patrick’s head and listening to what is coming out of his mouth at the beginning is cringeworthy. All anyone has is what they are taught until they know better, then they need to do better, and he does. Patrick’s most important consideration seems to be for Peter be happy, but Peter is still figuring things out and the effects of bullying are difficult to read. I’m not a huge fan of babies or kids in books, but Peter is a huge part of why this all works rather than just an excuse for Andrew and Patrick to get together. I like that Patrick likes Andrew, and isn’t just attracted to Ann. Although that can be hot too when written right, the author is clear that Patrick isn’t ever pretending Andrew is Ann or fetishizing Ann in any way. In many ways Andrew is too good to be true: always patient, kind, understanding, good with kids, and good natured in general.

The timeframe is a bit too short to believe the 180 Patrick does from the beginning of the book to the end because there’s nothing gradual about this, but I remember seeing an episode of a show called Faking It on Channel 4 in the UK in 2002. It was about people who have a complete career change in four weeks and a heterosexual ex-navy officer learns to be a drag queen. Not that Patrick goes that far (lol), but that someone really can learn to have empathy, respect, and integrate into a new way a thinking, a new community, if they make the effort.

As for the bi for you and first time tropes, Patrick reads demisexual to me, having only been in two prior relationships, one of which was his wife. This is a heartwarming story of a father who discovers who he is and what he wants for himself later in life. While it has all the feels and hot love scenes, it’s because I wanted the fairytale, rather than it was entirely realistically fleshed out–it’s an easy read with surprisingly low angst. But, sometimes life does slot into place just like it ought to and those times are magical whether real or on the page.

The cover design is by Alexandria Corza. I think it’s striking, but it doesn’t show the family aspect of the story.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review :A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Snowstorms And Second Chances by Brigham Vaughn

Snowstorms
Cover design by Brigham Vaughn. Cover Images: © Africa Studio/AdobeStock © theartofphoto/AdobeStock © janecocoa/AdobeStock © LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/AdobeStock

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

On Christmas Eve, Erik is stuck in an airport bar on a business trip to Buffalo when he meets a travel writer named Seth. This is a week after Erik’s twenty year marriage has ended. After a mix-up in their accommodation they end up being roommates. Erik’s company owns the inn. I was a little worried at first since Erik is not the nicest guy and stress seems to make him worse. Their odd conversations turns strangely sexual. The awkward flirting continues as Erik wrestles with being attracted to Seth, but it sounds like Seth has been the only person he’s been attracted to for over a decade so he just…goes with it. Seth is a little too good to be true. The intimacy and trust, since they are both open and honest people, makes the sex more than just physical. What’s great about this is they actually communicate about their hopes and fears. This happen fast yet had moments that were sweet and hot. However, I felt a little removed from it like it engaged my head rather than my heart.

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Review: Close To Home by Cate Ashwood, Sawyer’s Ferry 4

Close To Home
Cover Design © 2019 Cate Ashwood http://www.cateashwooddesigns.com

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

Although this is the fourth book in the series, it could be read as a standalone. I have not read all four of these in order and didn’t feel like I missed anything important as each book focuses on a specific couple. Witt flees to Sawyer’s Ferry after horrible violence. His friend Logan and his partner Jackson take him in while he’s recuperating. Mason is the brewmaster at Copper Creek; he met Witt once and there was just something about Witt that stuck with him. When Logan and Jackson need to leave for both a family visit and their preplanned vacation, Mason offers to watch over Witt while he’s still in his cast and dealing with the fallout from his situation. Mason’s sister April is a cop, so when Witt’s past trouble follows him to this small Alaskan town, he just may have the help he needs to rebuild his life.

I would call this a great beach read. This is a sweet, summer romance with dark bits that turns into more. Witt is introverted and has had a series of heartbreaks in his life. If you are a fan of the hurt/comfort trope, this is in dual first person POV so the reader can see Witt is not being taken advantage of. Mason helps Witt learn self defense–a main point of this story is Witt taking his power back and trying to make decisions about what’s best for himself rather than to make others happy. With this being the first major relationship for either of them, they have more than enough to deal with in a matter of weeks. Yet, the difficulties they face draw them together rather than tearing them apart, giving them a solid foundation to move forward with. I appreciate that some might find this instalove or think the plot a bit unrealistic. It is particularly low angst for the subject matter. The epilogue takes place in the future and gives the reader the opportunity to see the HEA due these two. If you want likeable characters, coming out for you, and first time stories, you could try this one.

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Review: Shift by Joel Abernathy, Flesh And Bone 3

Shift cover

I would rate this 3.75 stars.

This is the third book in the series about werewolves, vampires, and hunters. These should be read in order for the overarching storyline. These books don’t have white hats, but shades of gray with graphic sex and violence. This is Andrei’s story of how he meets Mihail showing alternating POV. It makes sense, in this world, that they would end up thrown together–both know death and the hunt. This is a coming of age story in many ways and shows their gradual loss of innocence, breaking away from their family influences/duties and finding out who they are and what they can live with.

After all the nontraditional pairing in the first two books, I’m not sure why everyone expects Andrei to just fall in line with tradition, especially with his past. This has that Romeo and Juliet quality, except they actually have known each other for most of their lives. The plot is similar to the second one featuring Mason and Vasil, so the author had to throw us a curveball out of nowhere in regards to Andrei. That’s not quite fair, there was a little foreshadowing, but I feel like the actual plot didn’t need it on top of everything else. It just seems to be there for a certain type of sex to occur. This is trope city with friends to enemies to lovers, dirty little secret, alpha/omega, first time, and dubcon all present.

One of the emotional components I really liked about this story was something I understand: abuse, being feral, and then being vulnerable when you feel loved and unable to access that rage for protection anymore. There are so many psychological issues that ring true to human existence included to help ground the story a bit. That’s especially important when writing about characters who are not “good” or necessarily likeable.

In the beginning the story seems slow and clunky, but gets better as you see the threads of the plot weave in and tighten. The author is consistent and committed to this over the top, angsty style so it makes sense to just revel in it. Then it all ties back to books one and two, making it all inevitable. All the interesting world building from book one isn’t really used or visited again. It’s also a shame that we see all the characters from the first two books, but they have just walk-on parts with no sense of their personality. These books have been about finding home and someone who will love you, scars and scarred psyche and all, yet I didn’t really feel it. The way this book ends for Andrei and Mihail, the way the series ends, has a nice symmetry.

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Review: Building Forever by Kelly Jensen, This Time Forever 1

Building Forever Cover
Cover By: Natasha Snow

I would rate this 4.5 stars

Charlie is a widower with a teenage daughter and a crush on his neighbor. Simon is on the rebound and rebuilding his life in a new state at a new job. When Simon’s ex Brian steps back into the picture, and Charlie needs to prioritize his daughter Olivia over his love life, things get complicated.

I find that I like the dual POV in alternating chapters approach rather than the willy nilly style some authors have. Seeing their relationship unfold from both sides made me care about each of them and I never struggled to figure out whose thoughts were whose. Charlie is adorable. His admitting he was bisexual and sharing that with his friend and daughter was handled in the confident way of someone who is honest with themself and others while still showing his doubts and anxieties. Simon is more serious and cautious, taking longer to think things through. I laughed out loud a few times; I felt weepy a few times too, and cringing–there was definately cringing. They burn up the sheets, but in a way that is real and human. They connect in that way that people do when they are actually honest when getting to know each, other instead of just putting on a face.

Their story is engaging with interesting side characters that give it richer layers: Simon’s friend Frank, Charlie’s friend Phil and his neighbor Cassie, Simon’s new business partner Aurther, even Charlie’s daughter Liv are all there to show us different facets of the MCs.

The difficult part about being in love and staying in love is the daily decision to–the decision to stay when things hurt, or are not fun and easy, but still confront and fix them. To think about what someone else needs even if they don’t communicate well or ask for help is part of building a partnership. Stressful things can either pull people apart or bring them closer together, and that’s a choice too.

Sometimes I feel like I judge books too harshly, like I’m being mean, but then I read a book like this and I know that all the books I gave a lower rating to are missing what this book has, and I feel fine about it. This is the kind of romance I want to read, regardless of genre.

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