This post includes reviews of the books in the Camassia Cove Universe series. I’m reading them in a weird mix of the order listed on Amazon and the author’s recommended reading order on her website.
- Out for the Holidays
- Power Play
I’m pretty solid at this point in knowing what romance tropes I do and do not enjoy. However, I’m always willing to make an exception when I already know I appreciate the author, so I took a chance on this single-father book. I’m pleased that I did because it was probably not the traditional arc this trope tends to take. From the meet-cute to how Dominic and Adrian eventually come together could have even been okay without Dominic having a daughter. Instead, his relationship with Thea is both adorable and served as great character motivation.
Dominic would not have even traveled to Camassia Cove if not for his desire to be with his daughter again and provide her with the best care possible. He repeatedly sacrifices his pride in favor of her best interests. As added icing, he actively attempts to educate himself on Thea’s needs rather than trying to mold her toward “normalcy.”
Adrian is an incredibly soft touch, and he’s honestly lucky that Dominic is as good of a person as he is. As a reader, I appreciated that their growing relationship did not include the usual angst of “Oh, I couldn’t” between them due to their differing circumstances and unequal situations. Instead, it’s obvious to pretty much everyone else that they make each other happy, and I loved their happily ever after together.
This book includes plenty of dark themes, but it is not a dark book. I recommend it to anyone who is already a fan of Dee’s work, even if it’s not the book I’d direct new readers to start with (unless I know that they have vastly different taste in romance tropes than I do).
I put off reading this book and then kicked myself for it afterward. I’ve never not loved anything I’ve read by this author, and this story is no exception. Zach has had a lot on his shoulders since long before he became an adult, and at 27, it’s past time he’s had the chance to live for himself. His planned encounter with Henry is less meet-cute and more last-ditch effort to help his little brother’s best friend (once again proving how much responsibility he carries for himself). However, Henry and his own BFF Martin are happy to take Zach under their wings and let him enjoy a week for himself for the first time.
What follows is less about Zach figuring himself out and more about acknowledging his authentic self and finally demanding something that makes him happy. That happens to be Henry, and I enjoyed the initial lack of angst on Henry’s part as they first come together. But obviously, there still has to be a dark moment, and Henry caves to the supposed “pressure” of their age difference first. Zach’s reaction is insane enough that I scared the cats by laughing so hard (possible spoiler there, oops). Even the distance between them isn’t enough to destroy what they’d built together, even unintentionally. Eventually, both characters realize that the difference between them has less to do with age and more with how willing they are to embrace what they could build together.
Dee takes a story that is very much about a young man embracing his sexuality (coming out) and making it accessible to any reader with the greater theme of living as your authentic self despite what anyone else says about it (even those who love you). I can’t wait to read the follow-up novellas to this lovely couple (and their extended found family).
Out for the Holidays
This novella is such a fun follow-up to the main book. Henry and Zach are back in full force, and their adventures together (both of the sexy and everyday life variety) are epic without ever feeling particularly unrealistic. This story is a great example of how life continues even after the “happily ever after,” with conflicts that involve someone from Henry’s past, adventures in raising a teenager, and balancing two otherwise very different lives and personalities. Luckily, the bond between Henry and Zach is stronger than ever, and we’re one step closer to forever with them. I’m thrilled, however, that Dee doesn’t seem to be done with these characters just yet and that another novella is in the works.
Though this book does not technically belong in the Camassia Cove universe, I was intrigued by Noah and Julian’s story after meeting them in Out and Out for the Holidays. I initially had no interest because I’m pretty picky about what “taboo” novels I’ll read, but I already know that I love everything I’ve read by Dee and wanted to give this one a chance.
The age-gap element to this book is obvious from the get-go, but otherwise, the taboo aspect isn’t that big of a deal as the “relationship” between the two men is explained at the beginning of the book. Julian is the stepson of Noah’s sister, so there’s already not a biological connection. In addition, Noah has only been a distant figure in Julian’s life, rather than an integral adult figure to his childhood. He’s the cool uncle from the other side of the world who sends gifts when appropriate and shows up at extended family functions. Therefore, the angst of the connection that grows between these men is the biggest for Noah himself, in the form of fearing he’d be a disappointment to his deceased family. Ultimately, Noah’s acceptance of himself and his love for Julian is the heart of this love story, and I found myself thoroughly enjoying it.
As usual, Dee also populates her stories with strong secondary characters so that the main heroes don’t exist in a vacuum. Noah’s found family of close friends is a fantastic support to him throughout the book, and I love that no one ever really comments on the sex/gender of who Noah ultimately falls in love with. The fact that Julian is a man is honestly the least of Noah’s hang-ups about the entire situation, and I always appreciate books that embrace the spectrum of possible love.
I definitely hope to run into Noah and Julian in later books by this author, whether in Camassia Cove, Los Angeles, or elsewhere.
I first met Madigan and Abel in Their Boy, and I’m a bit cranky at myself that it took me so long to finally read their story. I fell in love with them even more here, and though this is an age-gap romance, it’s also a story about soulmates and not fighting the inevitable. This is not a fantasy novel, but it is about two people almost made explicitly for the other. I should note here that although the difference in their ages causes issues due to social conventions when they do come together in a romantic/sexual fashion, nothing inappropriate occurs between the characters (even internally) before Abel is a legal adult.
An aspect of this book that I especially enjoyed is the depiction of Abel’s bipolar disorder and how it affects his daily life and overall emotional well-being. As someone who also experiences anxiety, I felt a certain amount of kinship with Abel and how he relates to those around them, be they friends or family. Speaking of friends, I also loved that although this book is very much about the relationship between Abel and Madigan, the friendship between Abel and Gray is also treated with importance and not left behind just because true love happens.
A kink element exists in the relationship between Madigan and Abel, but it is not the book’s focus. It is light enough that readers uninterested in BDSM romance shouldn’t have a problem with how it is used here. At the same time, those who do appreciate power dynamic relationships should enjoy how these characters incorporate it to help Abel maintain his mental health.
Like with pretty much all of the characters I meet in Dee’s various shared world romance novels, I hope I run into this sweet pair again in the future. (And yes, I did immediately read Their Boy again after this because I wasn’t ready to be done with them quite yet.)
Note: This novella is available as a free download on the author’s website.
I closed out my visit to Camassia Cove (for now) with another visit to Adrian and Dominic from Home. These painfully adorable men have been together for a year now, and I also got a few scenes with Dominic’s daughter Thea, who appears to be thriving under their dual care. This novella features some of my favorite things, such as romance, cameos by characters I adore from other books, and a glimpse into the future with characters I love just being happy in their lives together. If you enjoyed the first book, this sequel is not to be missed.
Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Goodreads.