Review: Alpha Chef by Sue Brown, J.T.’s Bar 2

AlphaChef
Cover Design by Garrett Leigh

I would rate this 3.25 stars.

Mitch’s brother Greg shows up out of the blue to J.T.’s Bar. He’s on the run from someone trying to kill him, having been in witness protection for fourteen years. When his marshall Riordan tracks him down and takes him away to safety, the attraction they have been battling for the last few years boils over with the forced proximity. The numerous sex scenes are steamy and more detailed in this one, so it works better as an erotic romance than a suspense/thriller. It is on the insta-love side because although Riordan may know almost everything about Greg, Greg knows next to nothing about Riordan and it’s his POV.

Unfortunately the character descriptions are still not very detailed, so there is nothing more about the covert ops team members, nor about the sheriffs or marshalls either. There are a few plot twists as they try to catch the bad guys, including the mole in WITSEC. When the danger is over Mitch’s and Greg’s parents show up, so the last third is family drama. This is actually my favorite part as Mitch and Greg bury their past and start fresh with Greg working as a cook at the bar. Greg also has to figure out how to move forward with Riordan. I felt more attached to Mitch and I really liked Greg and Riordan as characters.

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Review: Alpha Barman by Sue Brown, J.T.’s Bar 1

AlphaBarman
Cover design by Garrett Leigh, Black Jazz Design

I would rate this 3 stars

After J.T.’s sister Sharon is murdered, he resigns from a covert ops organization. Riley, his best friend since grade school and Sharon’s husband, goes to prison while JT just leaves his whole life behind, including his boyfriend Mitch and starts going by the name Jake. With the loss of Riley and Jake, the whole team crumbles as even two years later half the team thinks Riley is guilty, and half think he’s innocent. When Riley escapes from prison and makes his way to the bar, is he there to kill Jake, or something else?

Most of the characters are all veterans and ex or current law enforcement except for Howie, the bar’s co-owner. Jake seems a little clumsy for an elite ex-soldier. His abandoning his boyfriend without a word is a source of conflict for me. The one thing Jake and Mitch do right is sex, the talking not so much; even at the end of this I am not convinced they can have a mature adult conversation about their feelings. The other team members (Del, Si, and Ruiz) just seem to take this all in their stride and forgive Jake for disappearing, or at least there isn’t anything that shows differently. There is also a side insta-lust romance with Howie and Si. The foreshadowing is a little clumsy all heading towards a confrontation with the bad guy with a suprise plot twist coming out of nowhere. As a short novella, this is just a bunch of fun–nothing too detailed or angsty, with some mildly spicy sex scenes.

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**This series was originally published by Dreamspinner Press and has been self-published by the author. It is now exclusive to Amazon. She does sometimes sell through Payhip first, so signup for her newsletter.

 

 

Release Day Review: Inked Music by Sean Michael

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Rene Conette is a bored businessman looking for…something. The first impression is of complete privilege so I wasn’t sure if I liked him, but I found myself warming to him more and more as he is patient and kind, if used to getting his way. Gavin Turner is a musician with a haunting past: an obsessed fan kidnapped and tortured him. Once his interest in BDSM became public, people judged that he either enjoyed it or got what he deserved. The cast is completed by twin brothers Silas and Dev, former police who helped rescue Gavin and now work as his private security.

Gavin’s history sets up a way for Rene and Gavin to take time to establish trust before adding mild BDSM elements into their relationship. The sexual aspect does start surprisingly fast. The book is definitely erotic romance going from one hot sex scene to another, which is what the author does well. It’s the the dialogue in the getting to know each other scenes and the scenes between sex scenes that don’t seem to flow as easily. After setting up Silas and Dev as Gavin’s protectors and family, they are largely ignored for the rest of the book. There is more than one conversation about Gavin’s relationship with them not being sexual, which is a little repetitive. If they are supposed to be Gavin’s family and closest friends, it seems strange that Rene ignores them. I know they are supposed to be on duty, especially when outside, but in Rene’s home in a secure building where you have to be buzzed up, the fact that they are on high alert is a little odd to me. Really though it’s the smallest part of the book. The majority of the book is the sex scenes. While hot, they are pretty tame so this may be a good book for people who don’t like anything hardcore.

They are both wealthy, so they do live in their own little bubble on their own schedule. Work is only mentioned briefly. At the beginning, it did seem as though Rene was in the closet, or just very discreet, taking a female friend to all of his work or social functions. Given the issues Gavin’s last Dom had with his fame after what happened, it did make me wonder if that would also be addressed with Rene, but it’s never mentioned again. This book does end on a HFN/HEA. If the author does write another book with these characters, maybe focusing on the twins, I would like to see what would happen if Gaven was recognized and no longer able to be incognito and how that would affect their relationship. In the end, even for an erotic romance, I guess I wanted a bit more plot and a few more details. The book is surprisingly low angst for the subject matter, has steamy scenes, and a sweet, quick romance.

The cover art is by L.C. Chase. It shows Gaven, insular and alone, focused on what matters most to him. He’s described as being thin with dark hair, dark eyes, and tattoos so this isn’t quite how I pictured him.

Buy links: Dreamspinner Press |   Amazon |  Kobo |  Barnes and Noble 

Book Details: ebook, 1st edition, 193 pages
Expected publication: April 9th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644051092
Edition Language: English

via A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: Inked Music by Sean Michael — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: The Blueprint by S.E. Harmon, The Game 1

The Blueprint Cover
Cover Artist is Kanaxa

I would rate this 4.25 stars.

Kelly Cannon is having a very bad night. This book throws you in the deep end immediately. But sometimes you can’t ignore things anymore and Kelly is in love with his best friend, NFL player Britton “Blue” Montgomery. With Blue under so much pressure in his career, to have to worry about losing his best friend too is not helping. I can say I liked Kelly right away. I loved the use of humor. It took me longer to warm up to Blue, but then he does get less time on page at the beginning. After being in their heads, I can say these two deserve each other. The most difficult part of this book is being in Blue’s head, how does he not know?! Oh course, it’s obvious why. But, there comes a point when he can’t lie to himself anymore either. Turning a 17 year friendship into a relationship is not without its ups and downs.

This just feels natural. I love their interactions. Even during sex, they are themselves with humor and banter. Just when I thought they couldn’t be mature about things, they proved me wrong. The reminiscing about childhood events really works in this story as they both think about how much their relationship means to them. Kelly’s family adds so much to this story, I can’t imagine it without them but, it makes Blue’s family a glaring omission. I would have liked to see them too, even though his dad doesn’t sound pleasant. There is nothing about his brother. Still, they have made an impact on who Blue is and it would have added another layer.

There were small issues I had, like how accepting everyone is, which is less realistic than the rest of the book. There is also the timing of Kelly basically giving Blue an ultimatum–while I understood his feelings and why, the particular moment had me more sympathetic with Blue than Kelly. Maybe that’s on purpose though, and I just didn’t realize it. For anyone who likes friends to lovers, the nerd and the jock theme, and bisexual for you, as well as a coming out story, this is your book. Because there is a full range of emotions here, and it’s realistic without being overly dramatic, it doesn’t feel like a list of tropes.

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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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Review: All He Ever Needed By Cate Ashwood

all-he-ever-needed cover
Cover design by Cate Ashwood

Ethan just graduated college and is working as a barista. Jase is a firefighter for the Seattle fire department. Ethan’s girlfriend Allison calls Jase to say they broke up so Jase races over to check on Ethan and ends up taking him out of town to his uncle’s cabin where they spent a lot of time as kids. Jace is in a really bad spot here, trying to be friends to both parties during the breakup and this could have been explored more to give this a bit more depth. The story is told in alternating POV so we get both views of what is happening.

The care that Jase shows Ethan, the thoughts he has and the actions he takes, really clue us in that this is beyond most friendships. It is also clear he has no idea; to him it is natural to be this way with Ethan. Jase never thinks about why he hugs and cuddles Ethan so much. This is mostly about reminiscing about their relationship. When Ethan tells Jace he is gay, Jace is utterly shocked. He feels angry and betrayed without being able to articulate why. Once Jase sees Ethan differently, he starts to notice things he didn’t before, like subjects they avoided. And now he’s picturing things he shouldn’t be. Ethan’s coming out has him questioning everything he knows about his best friend.

The author has framed this as a coming out bisexual story. When they come together, it seems natural, like an extension of their relationship. Ethan is terrified it will change their friendship or that Jase will freak out. But, a vacation in the woods in a place that holds sentimental value for them is different from day to day life, with jobs, friends, and family. As soon as they leave the cabin, they both falter in completely different ways. Jase falters about being honest with his friends and starts treating Ethan like we imagine he’s treated his girlfriends. Ethan has always been with Allison and has no frame of reference to deal with dating or navigating a relationship with anyone else. The author provides a sounding board for Ethan in the form of a friend named Tyler. Poor Jase seems left to work it out for himself.

Jase coming out to his colleagues was a little worrying without knowing whether they would have his back. He could have actually been putting his life in danger and that wasn’t addressed. Also, I have to say that I read an uncorrected advanced reader copy, so maybe this issue will be resolved before publication, but I was confused about time periods/ages as they conflict in a few places.

The epilogue takes place a year later so we can catch up with all the characters for all the feels to get our HEA. I would recommend this for a short, low angst, easy read.

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

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