Review: Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne

This book is connected to the Room for Love series by the same author (and connects with E.M. Lindsey’s On the Market series) but can easily be read as a stand-alone. However, I am glad that I have the full context of Beau’s relationship with his brothers for the few scenes that involve them. Beau is nothing like the five half-brothers he discovers as an adult, yet at the same time, he’s more similar to them than he knows. (It will never happen, but I’d love to be a fly on the wall if these six brothers ever had a frank discussion about their relationship dynamics with their partners.)

I was hesitant to read this book based on the indication in the back-cover text that Beau is a student of college professor Heath. However, Beau is in his mid-20s instead of fresh out of high school, and the two characters meet before realizing they will be together in a classroom. Both elements make a big difference in how the characters relate to each other, especially since Beau is the dominant partner in the relationship rather than Heath.

Speaking of, there is a high element of BDSM kink in this book that might not be for all readers. Heath is up-front about his concerns after his experience with a previous partner, and I loved how caring and considerate Beau is about their developing dynamic with that knowledge in place.

Books that make me scare a cat always get bonus points. In this case, I yelled out loud at a particular twisty moment that creates conflict between the characters (causing a cat dozing on my feet to sprint from the room). This revelation creates powerful emotional drama between the heroes and includes the perfect amount of angst for a deliciously happy ending. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to starting another series by this author.

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

Review: Perfect Hands Series by Nora Phoenix

This post contains reviews of all the books in the Perfect Hands series:

  • Firm Hand (Book 1)
  • Gentle Hand (Book 2)
  • Naughty Hand (Book 2.5)
  • Slow Hand (Book 3)
  • Healing Hand (Book 4)
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Review: The Rules by Jamie Fessenden

I’m not going to lie—this book is a little bonkers. But in a strangely good way. It’s a romance that is almost too implausible to be real, but have you looked at the world lately? These days, anything is possible, including a gay married couple hiring a private housekeeper because one of the husbands won’t wear any clothes. And then they all end up falling in love.

It’s not quite so simple, and all the characters are put through a bit of an emotional wringer. However, this book does an excellent job of highlighting the importance of communication in any relationship (no matter the dynamics). Every love story can get a bit messy despite the best of intentions. I also appreciated that despite one of the character’s mental illness, there is no attempt to “fix” his idiosyncrasies beyond keeping him healthy.

The first sexy interaction between characters required a bit of suspension of disbelief for me (it could have so quickly verged into bad porn premise territory). Once beyond that, however, the evolving relationship took on a more natural tone. This is in large part due to the aforementioned communication and trust shown as a result.

There’s not much more I can say without verging into spoiler territory (especially taken together with the back-cover text). However, this was a fun stand-alone book featuring a sexy ride and the perfect amount of angst. Then again, I might be a bit biased—one of the main characters is an author and his writing patterns are delightfully familiar, even taken as part of escapism.

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

Review: The Sharp Edge of Bliss by Sorcha Black

I’m not going to lie: the “alphahole” and hitman mentioned on the back-cover text are what initially drew me to this book. I scanned a few of the reviews, and many of them also seemed to enjoy Star’s character, so that was another contributing factor to why I chose to read it. Ultimately, Black sold me right away with her intense characters and their dynamic, along with the surprising ways she blew my expectations for this book out of the water.

Usually, the alphahole IS the hitman, so I had a great time trying to identify which category fit Avery and which fit Blaise, and how they expected Star to fit into their relationship. The slow reveal was fascinating, especially colored as it was by Star’s unique outlook on life. My heart broke for her multiple times while reading this, and it was fascinating to see that the same held true for her companions as they learned more about her circumstances, even while still from Star’s narrative perspective. For all that Avery and Blaise have a nontraditional relationship (and that’s putting it mildly), they still understand issues of consent and want Star to have that same freedom. Her later fears got me right in the feels as well, since they were utterly understandable thanks to her skewed viewpoint on how the world works.

I thought I’d be annoyed by not learning more about Avery’s actual “career” after the dark moment of this book, but in the end, none of that matters to the theme and evolution of this story. I am slightly irritated by a reveal in the epilogue, despite zero discussion of it beforehand. However, I’ve come to realize that even the most unique romance novels still might retain holdovers from previous expectations of the genre. Besides that minor blip, I devoured this book quickly and look forward to reading more by this author.

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

Review: Room For Love Series by Kate Hawthorne

This post contains reviews of all the books in the Room For Love series:

  • Reckless (Book 1)
  • Heartless (Book 2)
  • Faultless (Book 3)
  • Fearless (Book 4)
  • Limitless (Book 5)
  • A Very Messy Motel Brothers Wedding (Book 5.5)
Continue reading “Review: Room For Love Series by Kate Hawthorne”

Review: Our Little Secret (Finding Forever #1) by Rebecca Raine

Having enjoyed previous books by Raine, I finally decided to dive into her longer shared-world romance novel series. This short-but-sweet novel includes two bisexual men in a gay relationship who are searching for their third. They find her in the form of a former employee, and they turn up the romance once her contract with their company concludes. Except a relationship with two men is outside the scope of Julia’s carefully mapped life plan, so she agrees to a fling during her “funemployment” period before her next job starts.

This is a romance novel, though, so everyone catches feels amidst the sexy fun the three have together. Elements that I particularly enjoyed about this book include the emphasis Raine places on the non-sexy interactions between the characters, showing that their connection goes far beyond the physical. The premise ensures that Julia is never put in a position to have to “choose” between either man (my least favorite version of the menage relationship trope). Instead, the dark moment involves Julia helping correct a problem that had been simmering under the surface of Derek and Scott’s relationship for longer than either man had been willing to acknowledge.

I recommend this book to any reader looking for a short, relatively uncomplicated menage novel with the perfect amount of angst. I look forward to continuing the next story, featuring a character introduced here, and hopefully catching a glimpse of Julia’s happily ever after with the two men who are as lucky to have her as she is to have them.

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

As of the time of this posting, I have no immediate plans to finish this series.

Review: Irons and Works Series by E.M. Lindsey

This post includes reviews of the following books in the Irons and Works series:

  • Free Hand (Book 1)
  • Blank Canvas (Book 2)
  • American Traditional (Book 3)
  • Bio-Mechanical (Book 4)
  • Stick and Poke (Book 5)
  • Scarification (Book 6)
  • To Touch the Light (follow-up novella)
  • Last-Minute Walk-In (follow-up novella)
Continue reading “Review: Irons and Works Series by E.M. Lindsey”

Review: I Wished For You by Collette Davison

I needed something relatively fluffy and lower on the angst spectrum after reading a somewhat dark romantic trilogy, and this stand-alone novel fit the bill nicely. Seb, Matt, and Connor have been best friends since childhood, and the book is pretty much exactly as described—a lovely romance about the three main characters finding their way toward love together.

It all starts when Seb, recovering from heartbreak, drunkenly kisses his two best friends. It should have come off as cliché, but it comes from such an obvious place of love that it was adorable instead. Then, it gets even better when the three characters have mature, adult conversations about their feelings and fears. No toxic masculinity here, even from the previously straight friend of the group.

The various external complications involve lack of sexual experience, parental reactions, and one character’s particular fear that he might experience the same illness that took his mother too young. Again, the characters handle these issues with maturity, love, and support. The dark moment truly made me fear for two of the characters, but in the end, it serves to bring them closer together and cement the love they share.

An element I particularly appreciate about this book is that beyond Seb, who has been an out gay man since at least high school, the story places little emphasis on having Matt or Connor define their own sexuality. Ultimately, the love each man has for his best friends evolves into something more, and that’s all that matters—no labels needed.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet and often funny menage romance featuring three equally sweet and funny guys. There are plenty of feels go around, but ultimately, this book lived up to expectation, and I look forward to reading more by this author.

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

Review: Broken Pieces Series by Riley Hart

Broken Pieces (Book 1)

Like it says on the tin, this is a book in three parts, in which each part encompasses a complete love story arc. First, it’s the young adult love between Josiah and Mateo as they are thrust together in the foster care system. Then, the older and unexpected love between Josiah and Tristan as they craft a tentative friendship that quietly blooms into something more. Finally, Mateo returns to Josiah, but he becomes an integral part of the relationship already shared between Josiah and Tristan. At first glance, Josiah is the link between the two other men, but I also loved the quiet care that Tristan and Mateo share even beyond their connection with Josiah.

I often scoff at romance novels in which the characters appear to exist in a vacuum, with no external support system. In this case, however, Hart crafts lone characters with intention, featuring only two secondary friends with well-developed personalities of their own. In addition, Tristan’s mother is both the reason for his loneliness and the reason that he finally fully embraces being loved by Josiah (and Mateo) in the book’s sweetly poignant third act.

This is not a low-angst book, and the story features multiple darker moments that are part and parcel of the lives these characters find themselves in through no fault of their own. However, the journey is worth it for readers looking for a quiet sort of nontraditional love story that will make their heart ache and soar in all the best ways.

This book easily works as a stand-alone story, but I look forward to reading about these men’s lives as they continue to work on the multiple relationships that exist between them.

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

Full Circle (Book 2)

Falling into a relationship, even one with an obvious happily ever after, doesn’t mean all the problems in a person’s life are magically fixed—either externally or within the relationship itself. This is especially true for Josiah, Mateo, and Tristan, who each have enough issues for a complete subscription. Even who they are in the present directly affects their ability to be secure in their relationship, especially for Mateo (current parolee) and Tristan (prosecutor).

Mateo’s past as a gang member provides a direct external threat to these characters since his uncle has no desire to let his gay nephew walk away from gang life unscathed. Tristan reluctantly enters therapy, but his overall willingness (need) to give his men everything they deserve/want also threatens to spectacularly backfire until he’s able to be completely honest with them. And since this triad is not one that would work missing one of its three ingredients, Josiah is left to stress about his partners, especially when it’s evident that they are keeping secrets from him.

This novel is a sequel that does not work without first reading the previous installment, even though that one doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. It’s a satisfying wrap-up to the story of these three men as they work together toward the future they deserve. Specifically, this book is an excellent example of how relationships require constant work and communication to remain healthy, which is an idea I love seeing in the mostly fluffy world of romance novels. This book isn’t a dark romance, but it’s a more realistic representation of characters coming together, especially those who don’t look like obvious matches from the outside.

Once again, there’s no cliffhanger here, but I immediately launched into the conclusion of this trilogy to find out more about Ben’s story. Both books made for excellent road trip fare.

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

Losing Control (Book 3)

Hey, remember how damaged Josiah, Mateo, and Tristan were in the first two books of this trilogy?

They’ve got nothing on Ben and Dante.

At the end of the previous book, Ben’s experience wakes some previously suppressed demons in his head, sending his mental health into a tailspin. His previous fixes (including alcohol, but mostly sex) no longer work, causing him even more distress. When he runs into Dante, who freely admits to his own demons, the two characters experience a delicious push and pull in search of both control and escape with the other.

(I should note here that unlike many romance novels, this entire book is from Ben’s perspective. It creates a one-sided view of the burgeoning relationship, but Hart is excellent at also showing us what we need from Dante even solely through Ben’s eyes.)

Which man caves first is debatable because it’s clear they both have something to offer the other. The light BDSM framework creates something of a safety net because it allows Dante to force Ben to take care of himself physically—but it also lets Dante repeat some of the mistakes from his past. When both men catch feelings for the other and Dante refuses to allow him and Ben to continue on their mutually-destructive paths, the end result is not what either man expects.

That Ben experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is evident from page 1, but his recent kidnapping only exacerbates what already existed. Hart reveals information about Ben’s sister throughout the story, but the final bombshell had me recoiling from my Kindle. This will not be an easy read for some people, and I encourage heeding the warnings at the beginning of the book if necessary.

Even though Ben and Dante eventually get their happily ever after together, nothing about this book fits the traditional romantic arc framework. However, I felt strongly for both characters, even when I didn’t particularly everything about them. This is a solid conclusion to an equally difficult trilogy, and I have no regrets about reading any of it.

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

Review: Barretti Security Series by Sloane Kennedy

Loving Vin (Book 1)

At this point, I’m thoroughly invested in all the interconnected series Kennedy has created. The first book in the Berretti Security Series leans heavily on events in the Escort series, and it also fits in the Protectors and Finding worlds. I’m glad I looked into the recommended reading order because this book, especially, works much better with the full context of the Escort trilogy already experienced.

We meet both Vin and Mia at the end of Escort Book 3, Logan’s Need, and based on Vin’s reaction to Mia, I had a feeling their romance would be up soon in the reading list. Neither has much in common on the outside, but they are damaged in their own ways, and their jagged edges end up fitting together nicely. This romance arc’s physical side is satisfying on all fronts, but I couldn’t help but think that something important was missing. For all that Vin comes to care for Mia and her menagerie of other lost souls, I found that their love story seemed to evolve without them doing much actual communicating. With words. Like mature adults.

This is a short novel, so maybe I missed it behind the scenes. I’m glad that Vin and Mia find comfort and a home in each other after both experience such difficult pasts. I especially enjoyed Mia’s personal character development and how her need for independence clashed with Vin’s need to care for the woman he can’t help but be drawn to.

There are still some Berretti brothers in need of their happily ever afters, so I look forward to continuing yet another excellent Kennedy series.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Redeeming Rafe (Book 2)

My biggest complaint about this book is that Rafe doesn’t need to be redeemed. The symmetry in the title is nice, but Rafe is instead a broken soul lashing out. Luckily for Rafe, Cade is the one sent by Rafe’s brothers to investigate their hacking problem. Unluckily for Cade, he experiences an instantaneous connection with the youngest Barretti brother, putting him between a rock and a hard place when it comes to protecting everyone he has come to think of as family. Cade is the real hero of this story—an innocent bystander who does nothing except fall in love and then does everything to protect that burgeoning relationship, no matter how difficult it is.

This is yet another book in Kennedy’s extended universe of novels that is perfect for reading in the context of the other books. It’s a pretty big commitment, but I highly recommend it because every book has been worth it for the expanded scope of the story, even the ones that I don’t give five stars. We’ve already experienced Vin and Dom’s heartache over their missing brother. Kennedy wrenches us even further when we find out here just how bad things got for Rafe after his separation from his brothers as a child. These revelations put all the characters through the wringer, with the added complication of a target on Rafe’s head. This dilemma puts Rafe back into his brothers’ reach when Cade refuses to give up on the youngest Barretti

As usual, Kennedy does not shy away from showing readers the darker side of humanity regarding her characters’ backstories. Elements of this book are not an easy read, but the eventual happily ever after, which certainly doesn’t come easy, makes it all the more worth it. Rafe is my favorite of the Barretti brothers, now that I’ve met all four, but I have the feeling that Ren might give me a run for my money as I dive into the next book in this series.

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

Saving Ren (Book 3)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Declan and Jagger’s love for Ren does not “cure” his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kennedy does an excellent job with this book’s setup in that it is clear how Declan and Jagger’s non-romantic support is there until Ren is comfortable with seeking treatment for himself. Does the evolving relationship between the three men encourage Ren in this regard? Yes, but there is no “magical healing cock(s)” trope here, and I appreciate the author’s sensitivity in writing about this mental health issue.

Another element about this book I adored is how equal the three individual relationships between each of the three men are, even for Ren. Declan has hidden a torch for Ren for years, but it is the spark of Jagger coming into their lives that truly ignites the wildfire between all three of them. Even though the initial sparks between Declan and Jagger are of animosity, they are both completely united when it comes to prioritizing Ren’s health and safety. This prioritization ends up leaving Ren in the dark about specific Barretti family issues, causing the novel’s poignant dark moment. However, even when the relationship was at its most fragile, the love between the partners was evident and touching. After all, Ren is not the only one in this book to struggle with self and family issues. Jagger and Declan also travel complete character arcs that had me enjoying all three characters as individuals as well as a romantic triad.

I had a suspicion that this would be my favorite book of the series, which is definitely the case so far. Now, I suspect that this is far from the last we’ll see of Ren, Jagger, or Declan in the larger shared world of Kennedy’s excellent collection of romance series. I can’t wait to keep reading to find out.

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

Freeing Zane (Book 4)

Now that all four Barretti brothers (plus one former in-law) have found their happily ever after, I wasn’t sure how this book would fit into this series’s overall scheme. We’ve met both Zane and Connor before, as friends and former lovers of previous heroes. Still, neither man is directly connected to the Barretti family or even the security company owned by two of the brothers.

However, none of that matters. Almost all of the former heroes in this series make essential appearances in this book. What does link these books is that Connor and Zane both consider themselves damaged, a recurring theme. However, Kennedy once again blew me away with her ability to craft a romance between two “broken” characters who do not fix each other but instead allow each other the support and space to be their own heroes and save themselves. Along the way, readers enjoy a healthy dose of feels, sexy bits, and an excellent external plot that both supports and intertwines with the overall romance story.

Like too many contemporary veterans, Connor has left military service with problems that include limb loss, traumatic brain injury, and the accompanying post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s also searching for internal fulfillment in a sexual relationship, even one that doesn’t include traditional relationship elements. Enter Zane, who might be the perfect man to satisfy (pun intended) Connor’s needs, except he carries plenty of baggage of his own. That baggage was manageable until Connor snuck through every one of Zane’s mental barriers.

The external conflict creates multiple dark moments in this story without ever verging into melodrama, then makes a solid ending to the complete series. This book is a stunning conclusion to the overall Barretti Security Series, but I’m so excited to continue to the other books in Kennedy’s larger shared world.

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