Review: Virgin Flyer by Lucy Lennox

Cover Art: Steamy Designs Cover Photo: RafaGCatala

I would rate this 4.5 stars.

At first glace this seems like a love triangle with Teo in love with his childhood friend of twenty years Chris, and his growing feelings for a one night stand turned friend, Jack. But Chris, who is bisexual, acts heterosexual for his parents, and while happy to have sex with Teo if they keep it on the down low, is not ready to come out and settle down in his twenties. When Teo loses his virginity to Jack, he starts to realize childhood dreams are just that. Teo is ready settle down and he is a forever type of guy. As Chris does everything in his power to manipulate his friend in order to keep him close and under his power, Teo is finally learning that there is a difference between love and being in love. Jack learns that maybe his happiness with traveling and playing the field is just what he tells himself to avoid being hurt or hurting others. What Jack wants is Teo, but being in love with someone who is in love with someone else is not on his agenda.

Switching POV between Teo and Jack is utilized to great effect, allowing me to enjoy seeing them fall in love from both sides. This led with the erotic, but subtly pulled me into a romance; the sex scenes are hot, hot, hot…yet surprisingly sweet. This features an age gap and a fake boyfriend trope with forced proximity. Their conversations flow naturally. I laughed and got choked up; I got so attached to everyone. They are adorable together, and as their passion grows into friendship, I was rooting for them. As their friendship changes, it’s not that they don’t communicate, it’s that they don’t check-in with each other when their feelings start to change, leading to misunderstandings. Learning about Teo’s relationship with Chris through his fleeting thoughts about past events makes me want to smack him, but it’s his current treatment of Teo that makes me want to punch him out. I also realized he is navigating the difference between his vision of his future and holding on possessively to the person actually most important to him, like a safety net. Kudos to the author for giving me an understanding of Chris without his POV, humanizing him through Teo’s eyes.

All the side characters here are very effectively integrated into the story: family, co-workers, patients, clients, etc. Jack is a pilot and Teo is a nurse while Chris works in the family’s medical business. If I had a quibble, it would be that while Jack’s family is shown, Teo’s family is not. However, the secret to Jack is his family whereas Teo’s character is best seen through his caregiving for everyone he knows, especially parts of Chris’s family he has known all his life. It’s nice to see people handle things maturely without a lot of drama: people who grow through their experiences, work out their differences, and support each other. The author foreshadows the story well, so I knew exactly where this was going, but I never felt like it was formulaic even with the expected grand gesture. It’s great to have a romance story actually touch me emotionally without me feeling manipulated, without the focus on some sort of emotional trauma or being high angst. I have to say this is an excellent romance that I throughly enjoyed.

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**This author does have books for sale at Barnes and Noble and Book Depository, but not this one at the time of this post.

Review: Silent Heart by Amy Lane, Search And Rescue 2

Cover Art © 2020 Alexandria Corza

I would rate this 3.5 stars.

This is the second book in the Search And Rescue series. Damien was a key character in that book, so although this could be read alone, it would have more emotional impact read in order. Damien is in love with Preston, a dog wrangler who trains service dogs and search and rescue dogs used in law enforcement. Damien’s business partner Glen is his best friend and Preston’s brother. While Damien is still dealing with the aftereffects of the crash in book one, he has yet to move forward with acting on his feelings for Preston. When Glen disappears in Mexico trying to extract a “punk kid” named Cash during an earthquake, Damien and Preston mount a rescue with their friend Buddy.

Damien met Preston on leave from the military when he came home with Glen. Preston was 13 so Damien has watched him grow up, their friendship a close one. It’s the main reason he has hesitated, afraid he will lose his chosen family if things don’t work out. His injuries and mental health are other reasons he has given himself for holding Preston at arm’s length. Preston is in your face honest, gruff, and hard to figure out (although the word isn’t used, he seems autistic to me.) But Preston can make decisions too, and he is tired of waiting for his happily ever after so he makes his move. I think it needs to be this way so that the reader is never confused that Preston is being taken advantage of. Glen seems like he would be supportive, but he may have inadvertently kept Damien and Preston apart because of bad advice at a critical time.

Their story is told through their ongoing fight about changing their relationship to a romantic one as well as being seen in memories and flashbacks so the POV switches around. This was a little difficult for me to get into; it starts slow and there were moments I couldn’t keep thoughts and dialogue straight. There is a little repetition about how Preston organizes his thoughts and what he needs to focus. It’s difficult not to compare this with the first book: I was invested in Damien’s health because I was right there with him when he was sick and injured. Because this is focused on Damien’s and Preston’s journey to find Glen, the reader isn’t with Glen when he is injured and since the author doesn’t spend a lot of time with Glen in either book, I was less emotionally attached to his character. This uses forced proximity to get Damien and Preston together, and uses Glen’s situation to set-up the next book for him and Cash. Being with Preston’s POV also creates distance as his difficulty handling strangers and changes to his routine slow the pacing. Overall, I’m glad these guys got their HEA, I just wanted to feel more excited about them getting out of their own way.

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Review: Love Is All: Volume 2 edited by Xio Axelrod

Copyright © 2019 by Xio Axelrod LLC

I would rate this whole collection 3.75 stars.

This is a charity anthology, so I tend to think of the stories as a thank you for donating money. All anthologies are a mixed bag and people will like different stories than I do, but here are a few of my favorites from this collection. There is a variety of combinations (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, M/F) with bisexual, trans, and ace represented. They are all contemporary except for the one historical, paranormal romance. The foreword by Roan Parrish is quite eloquent.

R.L. Merrill, Pinups and Puppies (F/F, 4 stars)

This is told from the first person POV of Marianne, who is struggling with grief and reintegration after her retirement from the Air Force. She owns a vintage plane and volunteers to transport dogs to help shelters who find them homes. That’s how she meets Dinah, who co-owns the shelter. They both seem to have great support systems filled with family and friends. With great chemistry, their lives and interests slot nicely together, making them a cute couple.

Susan Scott Shelley, Sugar Crush (Bliss Bakery Series) (M/M, 4.5 stars)

Jack, a horror novelist, gets to know a baker named Gabriel when he joins a softball team to help his friend Shane. This has an opposites attract trope with great sexual tension and friends as extended family. This is about fitting into someone’s life and making room for them to fit into yours–giving each other a safe space and carving out shared time, while still having their own interests. Also, not letting fear or the past get in the way of the future.

Xio Axelrod When Frankie Meets Johnny (M/M, 4.25 stars)

DJ meets contractor/teacher in this hurt/comfort tale with an age gap. This story is what you make it. I highly recommend listening to all the songs that he plays for a hell of a good time. If an artist is mentioned, but not a song, pick one that has a title that fits the scene. I would have rated this higher, but I couldn’t tell if this was Johnny’s first time with a man or he was demisexual? There is certainly a misunderstanding I think could have been handled better, but the story is charming.

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