Review: Break My Shell by K.A. Merikan

About halfway through this book, I felt the urge to tweet about it:

“When you think you’re gonna read a ridiculous kinky romp and it turns out to be a really sweet, poignant love story instead.”

I’ve gotten to the point (due to the sheer amount of reading being done) that I’m no longer officially reviewing every book I read for the blog. I tend to leave just two or three sentences on Goodreads for the stories that lean more toward straight-up erotica. Based on what I have read so far from Merikan, a team of authors I thoroughly enjoy, in conjunction with this book’s blurb, I fully expected this novel to fall in that category. Instead, I found myself sucked into the main character’s life and drama and thoroughly engrossed in the peculiar situation he’d found himself in.

The novel begins pretty much the way it says on the tin, with Max launching himself into Dayton’s life in the strangest (but sexiest?) way possible. Immediately after, however, we learn the reality of Max’s situation and why he was in prison to begin with, and it’s easy to see why Dayton originally latched onto Max from a distance and then has no idea what to do with him in real life.

Ultimately, the way Dayton uses Max as an escape from “real life” ends up being more accurate than he could have ever expected. Max throws a wrench into the existence Dayton though he was resigned to. Despite the occasional sexiness, this book is just as much about Dayton coming into his own as it is about the nontraditional origins to their relationship. As one of the authors replied to my tweet above, “as sweet as it is dirty,” and well worth the read.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Made Marian Series by Lucy Lennox

This post contains reviews of all the currently available books in the Made Marian series:

  • Borrowing Blue (Book 1)
  • Taming Teddy (Book 2)
  • Jumping Jude (Book 3)
  • Grounding Griffin (Book 4)
  • Moving Maverick (Book 5)
  • Delivering Dante (Book 6)
  • A Very Marian Christmas (Book 7)
  • Made Marian Shorts (Book 7.5)
  • Made Mine (Book 8)
  • Hay (Book 8.5)
  • Made Marian Mixtape (Book 9)
Continue reading “Review: Made Marian Series by Lucy Lennox”

April Wrap-Up & May Goals

It’s been a quiet month here at Casa Siamese, with all the big news over in the spouse’s department. He started a new job and has to wear business casual for the first time in his life (as opposed to jeans and a hoodie when he was a shop technician or the military uniform he’s worn for 8 years). I had fun buying him new clothes, but he has now discovered the endless frustration joy of having to pick out what to wear every day. Meanwhile, I thoroughly enjoy this whole permanent telework gig, in which I live in yoga pants and tank tops.

Otherwise, the only news is that I got my second vaccination shot last Friday, and I already have a dinner and game night planned with the bestie in 2 weeks. We haven’t been able to hang out in person in 16 months, so I’m super excited.

What’s the first thing you’re looking forward to doing once you’re fully vaccinated? (Or when your social group is vaccinated if you are unable to be for health reasons.)

Oh, yeah. This happened earlier this month.

April Wrap-Up

  • Words were added to Steel Legacy (book 7). Let’s not talk about how many words.
  • Seriously, I think this month existed in some sort of weird void.

May Goals

  1. Add more words to Steel Legacy!
  2. Participate in Balticon 2021. This event is being held online again this year, so I’ll be sure to share the free registration links for the panels I participate in. Rumor is that I will get to moderate a panel on The Old Guard, so I know you won’t want to miss that!

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews

  • The Geek and His Bad Boys by R. Cayden (4 stars)
  • One Room at the Inn by Colette Davison (5 stars)
  • No Shame Series by Nora Phoenix
    • No Filter (#1) (4 stars)
    • No Limits (#2) (4 stars)
    • No Fear (#3) (5 stars)
    • No Shame (#4) (5 stars)
    • No Angel (#5) (4.5 stars)
  • Coming Out on Top by Nora Phoenix (5 stars)
  • Giving Consent Series by Kate Hawthorne
    • “Worth the Switch” (#0.5) (4 stars)
    • Worth the Risk (#1) (4 stars)
    • Worth the Wait (#2) (4.5 stars)
    • Worth the Fight (#3) (4.5 stars)
    • Worth the Chance (#4) (4.5 stars)
    • Desperately Seeking (supplemental novellas) (4 stars)
  • Charisma Check (Roll for Love #2) by Charlie Novak (5 stars)
  • Goode Boys Series by Sean Ashcroft
    • Troublemaker (#1) (5 stars)
    • Heartbreaker (#2) (4.5 stars)
    • Risktaker (#3) (4 stars)
  • Forever Wilde Series by Lucy Lennox
    • Facing West (#1) (5 stars)
    • Felix and the Prince (#2) (5 stars)
    • Wilde Fire (#3) (5 stars)
    • Hudson’s Luck (#4) (5 stars)
    • Flirt (#4.5) (4 stars)
    • His Saint (#5) (5 stars)
    • Wilde Love (#6) (5 stars)
    • King Me (#7) (5 stars)
    • NautiCal (#8) (4.5 stars)
  • Finding Series by Sloane Kennedy
    • Finding Home (#1) (4.5 stars)
    • Finding Trust (#2) (4 stars)
    • Finding Peace (#3) (4.5 stars)
    • Finding Forgiveness (#4) (4 stars)
    • Finding Hope (#5) (4.5 stars)
  • Love Beyond Measure Series by E.M. Lindsey
    • The Edge of Heaven (#1) (4.5 stars)
    • Love in Slow Motion (#2) (5 stars)
  • Close Proximity Series by Lily Morton
    • Best Man (#1) (4 stars)
    • Charlie Sunshine (#2) (4.5 stars)
    • After Felix (#3) (5 stars)
  • Date in a Pinch (Naughty in Pendleton #1) by Brigham Vaughn (5 stars)

Twins or quotations marks?

Review: Date in a Pinch (Naughty in Pendleton #1) by Brigham Vaughn

Are the odds of such a meet-cute as this happening in real life slim to none? Of course. Luckily, this is a romance, so when Neil accidentally “outs” himself as interested in kink, Alexander is more intrigued than horrified. As teachers, they have to be relatively careful about who finds out about their interest in this lifestyle, even when two queer teachers initiating a relationship is nothing to blink at in this small town.

Thus, Alexander takes Neil under this wing, and the fun starts. Their initial encounters are sexy AF, despite the emphasis on kink rather than traditional “getting to know you” activities intended to lead toward a committed relationship. Except the easy, natural friendship that grows between them means the line starts to blur whether the characters like it or not, despite Alexander’s stubborn resistance based on past experience. I’m a total sucker for the “idiots in love” trope, especially when it’s evident to everyone around them that a romantic relationship between the characters is inevitable. Neil and Alexander make a delightful couple, and I enjoyed the scenes in which they interact on a personal level as much as the kinkier scenarios.

Vaughn uses these characters to introduce us to an entire town filled with unique characters that I look forward to exploring further in the author’s planned linked series. Considering I devoured this book in a single evening, I have the feeling that I won’t be disappointed by future installments.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Close Proximity Series by Lily Morton

Best Man (Book 1)

Lily Morton came as a highly recommended author from various sources. I recently read and enjoyed her newest novel, a paranormal romance, and was pointed here as an excellent intro to her contemporary romance. Zeb and Jesse immediately captured my heart with their distinctive personalities, which are large enough to be memorable but subtle enough not to fall into stereotype.

The story and overarching plot are evident from a mile away, but I adored the journey nonetheless. The premise itself is a bit bonkers, but it once again plays to Zeb’s character (and those of the “villains”). How Jesse handles the situation of a house party filled with people who appear to hate his friend is an utter delight, and I giggled out loud many times while reading.

I may be a sucker for weddings, but not quite in this context. Zeb’s disruption of set expectations (and his obvious character development moment) was all the more satisfying in this regard, as were his encounters with others about his feelings for Jesse. Honestly, Zeb was the only one concerned about the age gap between them, which is an element to this story but not the entire premise. Overall, this is a medium angst book that felt very low angst because of every character interaction’s humorous tone, even when the discussion itself is meant to be on the more serious side.

We’re introduced to two other potential couples in this book, and I look forward to reading their stories as well. While I didn’t mind the obvious plot arc to this book, I hope the others in this series feature more unique storylines.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Charlie Sunshine (Book 2)

This plot’s trajectory is pretty evident from the get-go in this adorable “friends-to-lovers” story. Charlie and Misha have such a close friendship that it’s no wonder neither man has much luck with relationships; they already get all of their emotional needs met by each other. However, their personality differences are what prompt the problems with this scenario. Misha might be content with a never-ending string of random hookups, but Charlie has no idea why he can’t seem to manage a full-fledged romance.

Part of this is also because Misha has functionally ruined him for other men, and thus Charlie ends up settling for less than he deserves. Then, it’s easy for the potential partners to let Charlie’s epilepsy chase them off when Misha is always nearby to swoop into caretaker mode. As an added wrinkle, the roommates-in-love trope is a mere step away from “there’s only one bed!” so it’s no wonder the two men eventually do end up in said bed together.

Morton brings her characters to life with clever dialogue that feels almost too smart to be authentic. However, it easily adds to the escapism of her writing, so I find myself leaning into it with an easy suspension of disbelief. The dark moment of this book also does not fall out the way I expected, which was a bonus. Clever, adorable characters plus delightful supporting characters (since no one exists in a vacuum) made this book a fun read that was an excellent follow-up to the first in the trilogy. I look forward to reading the final installment now that Morton has teased that particular relationship for two books.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

After Felix (Book 3)

First of all, I was extremely pleased to see that Morton includes the first half of Felix and Max’s relationship in this book. We get to experience every moment of their first brush with happiness (and every moment of the pain caused by their lack of communication and Max’s lack of self-awareness). These characters are unique enough that the experience is necessary for this second-chance romance, rather than some hand-wavy references to “oh, we dated once, and it didn’t work out.”

The way the two men circled each other each time we saw them together in the previous books of this trilogy only heightened the anticipation, especially since we already know that both men regretted (to some extent) the first breakup. The encounter that forces the two men back into close proximity (hey, the series title is there for a reason) is ridiculous enough to fit right in with Morton’s storytelling, even if the way Max takes advantage of it would not ring true if we weren’t already familiar with how the greater cast of characters connect to each other.

For a trilogy with such dynamic personalities, these two fit right in. I thoroughly enjoyed both versions of their relationship, the fun and sexy time together and the sarcastic yet still vaguely affectionate time apart. Max more than makes up for his past transgressions when he sets out to woo Felix back, finally letting the other man in now that he’s gotten his act together. Even though I think the story is better with the slow burn element of the previous two installments, I whole-heartedly recommend this book as an excellent example of the second chance trope, featuring two memorable and enjoyable characters in their own right.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Love Beyond Measure Series by E.M. Lindsey

The Edge of Heaven (Book 1)

On the surface, this book shouldn’t really work. It feels like “how many romance novel tropes can we cram into one story?” Let’s see: fake date to a wedding, falling for the escort, hidden identity, getting back at an ex, idiots in love, and finally, there’s only one bed! Except Lindsey has proven to me time and time again that she is fantastic at both character and storytelling, which meant that I was immediately sucked into Julian and Archer’s situation and read with my heart in my throat for their happily ever after.

For all that this book’s main events take place over a handful of days, Lindsey still evokes the feel of a “slow burn” romance in the narrative. The story is a series of quiet, character-driven moments, even when tensions rise (both the angry and sexy kind). Archer’s love for his chose profession drips off the page in how he shares it with those around him, and it’s immediately apparent that this draws Julian to him whether he likes it or not (even when Julian is half-convinced Archer is making it all up). In contrast, Julian’s varied interactions with his family lead Archer down the same path.

Throw in some fantastic supporting characters (family, friends, and villains) and a wedding, and I’m hooked. This might not be the first book I’d recommend for readers new to Lindsey’s work, but it’s one I’d hope readers come to eventually. I fell in love with her writing all over again while enjoying it, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Love in Slow Motion (Book 2)

“Slow motion” is not a metaphor in this title—Lindsey has proven once again to be the master of the slow-burn romance. However, instead of dragging, this story entranced me on every page as Ilan and Fredric circle each other. The characters have known each other for some time, but their dynamic shifted only in the past year. In typical romance novel fashion, communication is the tripping point to their happily ever after (in this case, disclosing their relationship to Fredric’s son/Ilan’s best friend).

Half the joy in this book is watching Fredric and Ilan start new phases in their lives. That they start these phases in the same town is reasonably incidental, but it does lead to one of my favorite moments in the book as Ilan puts the fear of G-d into a jerk going on a date with Fredric. Ilan is, of course, terribly surprised that Fredric is attempting to date men, and as a stand-in for the son who now lives across the ocean, sets out to prove that Fredric deserves so much better than what he got from his abusive ex-wife for so many years. Sparks inevitably fly, but sparks may have been flying for years, and neither man was prepared to acknowledge them before now.

I usually want to smack romance leads until they recognize what they have in their potential partners, but I was more inclined to coddle these two men until they got their act together here. That’s part of Lindsey’s writing gift, in which even the quietest of moments are poignant and romantic. This is another book of hers worth savoring. I highly recommend this series to readers looking for the perfect slow-burn romances in which time, like everything else about love, is incredibly relative. I look forward to returning to this series when more books are available.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Finding Series by Sloane Kennedy

This post contains reviews of all the currently available books in the Finding series:

  • Finding Home (Book 1)
  • Finding Trust (Book 2)
  • Finding Peace (Book 3)
  • Finding Forgiveness (Book 4)
  • Finding Hope (Book 5)
Continue reading “Review: Finding Series by Sloane Kennedy”

Review: Forever Wilde Series by Lucy Lennox

This post contains reviews of all the books currently available in the Forever Wilde series:

  • Facing West (Book 1)
  • Felix and the Prince (Book 2)
  • Wilde Fire (Book 3)
  • Hudson’s Luck (Book 4)
  • Flirt (Book 4.5)
  • His Saint (Book 5)
  • Wilde Love (Book 6)
  • King Me (Book 7)
  • NautiCal (Book 8)
Continue reading “Review: Forever Wilde Series by Lucy Lennox”

Review: Goode Boys Series by Sean Ashcroft

Troublemaker (Book 1)

Queer is a spectrum, and bisexuality is often rendered invisible in the M/M romance genre. That is not the case here, as reformed “troublemaker” Aiden accompanies Carter to a wedding as his fake date. Trouble is the plan here, to disrupt Carter’s mother’s plan to connect him with an old girlfriend. However, trouble of another sort emerges when Carter finds himself interested in Aiden as more than just his best friend’s younger brother. (Aiden, on the other hand, is living the dream as his childhood crush on Carter is fulfilled.)

The burgeoning romance is sweet, and it’s a solid through-line to the external wedding drama. Carter’s mother is the obvious villain here, but Ashcroft is deft at setting her up as a character who genuinely believes she knows what’s best for those in her family (even her ex-husband), and it is when they step outside of those lines that things go “wrong.” When Aiden attempts to deflect some of her harm onto himself, Carter realizes just how damaging his relationship with her is. Even if he and Aiden aren’t going to live happily ever after, Carter embraces living his authentic life with Aiden’s support. Support also comes from the surprising sources of his father and the ex-girlfriend, in additional story elements that are delightful for how unexpected they are.

Carter’s character development in this book is more pronounced, and it extends beyond his sexual orientation. In contrast, Aiden’s is more subtle but just as integral to the story. This is a story that is just as much about familial love as it is romantic love, and I look forward to the other Goode boys also finding their happiness.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Heartbreaker (Book 2)

On the surface, Felix is living his dream as an author, writing full-time. Except his publisher doesn’t agree with how the final book in the series should end, which means Felix has hit a brick wall when it comes to finishing said book. His agent packs him off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, and the handyman happens to be the best friend he lost touch with as a kid.

In reality, the only plausible thing about any of that is the publisher disagreeing about book content. But this is a romance novel, and the wish-fulfillment shouldn’t be limited to the two adorable main characters getting their happily ever after.

Kieran is asked, again, to play the part of a fake boyfriend, but this time he doesn’t turn down the opportunity to liven up Felix’s Instagram account and prove to the publisher that Felix is a good role model for readers of his YA book series. Along the way, Felix agrees to be more than a fake boyfriend for appearances only. Both men promptly catch feelings (way beyond friendship-level) once the relationship turns physical. Luckily, Kieran has a support system more than happy to prompt him and Felix back together.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the “fake boyfriend turns guy bisexual” happening twice in a row in a series, but this book is different enough from the previous that I didn’t mind it. The emotions are here, too, but in a different context. Of course, after two books of watching Kieran and Aiden’s younger brother be oblivious to Morgan, I can’t wait to finish this trilogy and see all the Goode brothers get their happy endings.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Risktaker (Book 3)

This book shares some aspects with the first two in the trilogy, such as the fake boyfriend and “only one bed!” tropes. However, the difference lies in how both main characters are already secure in their sexual orientations and that a current friendship already exists between them. Devin doesn’t need a date to prove anything to anyone, but he doesn’t want to share a cabin with his ex, and if he manages to show said ex that he’s moved up in the world, all the better. Too bad he’s already half in love with the person he asks to help him out.

And too bad that person is already half in love with him back. It’s not a hardship for Morgan to pretend to be Devin’s boyfriend, except that it brings them closer together in all the ways he wasn’t prepared for after pining from a distance. Luckily, well-meaning friends manage to get these “idiots in love” together properly, amidst the surprisingly high drama of a kayak competition. (Of which I know little about, but the author makes it easy to follow along without the necessary background knowledge.)

The “dark moment” between the characters isn’t terribly dark, but it does show how both men can only hurt each other because of how much they love each other. Between some delightful sexy bits, some of my favorite romance tropes, and plenty of cameos by other familiar faces, this book was a sweet closing story to the trilogy.

Binge-reading this trilogy might lead to burnout on the tropes in common, but splitting it up over a few weeks was the perfect distance in time to enjoy each book for itself.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Charisma Check (Roll for Love #2) by Charlie Novak

Reading this book when I haven’t been able to attend a fan convention in person for nearly a year was both bittersweet and precisely what I needed at the same time. I’m not a cosplayer (you’ll find me over in the writing and fandom tracks), but Novak captures perfectly everything that I love about the con scene lifestyle, from the dichotomy of that “working vacation” feeling to only interacting with some people in person fewer than a handful of times a year. I can’t say that I’ve got an enemy-with-benefits to hook up with in convention center bathrooms, but Edward and Izzy’s frenemy run-ins almost make me miss the few convention regulars I’m not terribly fond of.

Edward verges into being a caricature in the previous book in this series, but this story shows how he uses his carefully curated personality as a defense mechanism. It’s no wonder that he and Izzy get under each other’s skin so well when Izzy is very much a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. I had so much fun with the romance trope progression Novak follows for this book, from “enemies-with-benefits” to “there’s only one bed!” to “idiots in love.” Everything about it worked, even the random friendship with movie stars (I have my own wacky stories about the unexpected connections that can spawn opportunities thanks to that weird insular universe of the convention scene).

On the character side, Novak also does a great job showing how the “reality” of someone who is regularly invited to conventions is very different from what is portrayed on social media—and how that social media presence can skew reality. Obviously, the author wrote the events in this book to induce the romance element between the main characters. Still, it’s interesting to think how they could have gone on as they had been for quite a while if this book took place before the advent of social media (and/or if there had been more than one bed).

I’m so pleased that Novak decided this world needed to be a series because I’ve had so much fun with both books. I look forward to the next installment, and I hope the author rolls lots of natural 20s during her writing skill checks.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.