Review: Accepting the Fall by Meg Harding

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 
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Summary: Confronting the past is never easy.

Cole Whitaker is happy. He has the job and boyfriend he always wanted. His heart’s in no danger of being broken, and he can’t ask for more from life. As a kindergarten teacher, he sees it all; however, one troublesome student has him reaching out to the parent, wanting to help. There’s something about Savanah that tugs at his heartstrings.

He never expected her father.

Zander Brooks hasn’t had an easy life, and he’s made some mistakes. Freshly retired from the military and working as a firefighter, Zander thought he’d left Cole in the rearview mirror. He’s not expecting him to appear in St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. Suddenly, his biggest mistake is being shoved in his face.
This is Zander’s chance to close a door he’d never fully shut, but time with his former flame might change his mind.

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★★★★

I loved this second-chance romance so much, without realizing it I even finished it within one single day (more like single evening) and that never happens because I’m a very slow reader.

The story is about Cole, a gay kindergarten teacher, and Zander, a Black bisexual firefighter whose daughter is in Cole’s class. Cole and Zander both grew up on military bases and they meet each other again after almost two decades of having had a relationship that ended abruptly as teens.

It’s hard to find anything I didn’t like about this book, to be honest.

I loved the single-parent aspect, and how Zander didn’t really know what to do with a little kid (he only had her for a few months because her mom dropped her on his doorstep and disappeared) but how he loved her so much and always wanted to do what was best for her. He is working as a firefighter and his job makes him a little absent from his daughter’s life at first but he learns to do things with her and how to be a great dad. I also loved that this wasn’t a story about him coming out and that his colleagues and friends knew about him being bisexual and nobody had a problem with it.

Cole was a sweetheart and he loves the kids he’s teaching and seeing him with all his pets and farm animals had me so soft. He is also in an established relationship at the beginning of the book, which is something that initially I didn’t like because I never know where a story might go from there. Fortunately there was no cheating and instead we were given enough time (I believe in the book a few months passed) to see why his current boyfriend wasn’t good for him. It’s not that he was a bad guy or anything (I also hate when someone is in an abusive relationship and finds a new partner, because I’m never sure that they love the new partner or if they’re really just looking for something better). In fact, the guy was great on paper, but just not what Cole needed in his life.

Once things with Cole’s ex ended, the romance took up from there. Cole and Zander’s dates were so adorable and once they started dating there was no real obstacle to their romance. Most of the conflict was from their time together when they were teens, and I loved seeing snippets from the past to understand what had gone right and what had gone wrong.

I also liked the focus on Savanah’s mental health and trauma of her mom leaving her and how she interacted with the world (mostly Zander and Cole, but also the other kids) because of it. I just wanted to hug her and make sure she was okay and I cried with that epilogue because yes, she turns out okay and loved.

So, I can’t recommend this book enough if you want to read a cute second-chance romance with a single parent trope and an out and proud bisexual Black man.

TW: mentions of past homophobia, past break up, car accident, hospitals, child abandonment

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Review: On the Fly by P.J. Trebelhorn // for the f/f sports romance lovers out there

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Courtney Abbott is a gold-medal-winning Olympian who always dreamed of playing in the NHL. But breaking into a man’s game is nearly impossible, and she’s put her all into playing in a semi-pro women’s ice hockey league.

Concert violinist Lana Caruso and her teenage son return home to care for her father. The move is only temporary, though—as soon as he recovers, Lana plans to return to Chicago and her position in the orchestra.

Court knows Lana isn’t going to be sticking around for long, but she’s used to living life on the fly. She doesn’t think for even a second she’ll end up truly falling for Lana, but when hearts are on the line, love becomes the one game she can’t afford to lose.

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★★★★.5

This book is a romance between hockey player Courtney Abbott and Lana Caruso, a violinist who has to take time off from her orchestra in Chicago in order to help out her family because of her father’s health issues. Lana also has a teenage son so there’s a single parent trope in this too, which I really liked. Because he’s 15 and plays hockey too, he had kind of a important role and I thought the scenes with him were really cute and endearing.

I thought that because the romance was going to be between an athlete and a violinist, this book wouldn’t focus so much on the sports element, but I was wrong and I really enjoyed this aspect. Particularly I loved how fierce Court’s teammates were when it came to backing up one of their own, even if it was usually against a new member of their own team who caused trouble. In this it reminded me a bit of The Foxhole Court, just in how violent and threatening some scenes were. It’s nowhere near TFC levels though. Although at the beginning it was cool to see this strong friendship among women, it also annoyed me that the main conflict had to be a teammate who was causing trouble for no reason other than the fact that she’s a bigot and has a problem with Courtney being a lesbian. That grew old soon and it distracted from the romance and the cute scenes. If I’m reading an f/f book I usually don’t want to be reminded of queerphobia. I also didn’t like the implication that because she’s a homophobe she has to be secretly closeted and not accepting of her own sexuality. It’s a tired argument that’s only meant to justify bigotry.

On Lana’s side of the story, she has to help out in her family’s pizzeria and try to find a relationship with her parents where she doesn’t really have one. I am Italian and I have to say that I recognized Lana’s family’s mentality as typically Italian and not in a stereotyped way. It was the small things that made it real and I don’t know if the author really did her research or what but I thought it was spot-on.

The romance itself was really good. I liked them right away and how flirty they were with each other. I really felt for them because they knew the time they had was limited since Lana would go back to Chicago after a few months. Something that was different compared to other romances was the fact that the book stretched onto a long time period, overall I think about two years? It had some necessary time jumps at the end but that was expected, however even while Lana was still in town sometimes I thought the pacing was a bit off.

There were a few other things that bothered me like the equivalence that having breasts = being a woman, or the fact that sex was treated as something everyone needs to have, and one comment in Court’s POV about bisexual women that I thought could have been edited out (Lana is a lesbian but Court initially thinks she’s bi because she has a son, and thinks in her internal monologue that she doesn’t have a problem with bi women but doesn’t want to hear about their sex with men, which….was really not prompted by anything and just made me uncomfortable) but overall I had a really good time while reading this and I would definitely recommend it for fans of f/f and sport romances.

TW: lesbophobia, mention of suicide, past death of a parent, cancer, hospitals, violence, the d slur

Review: Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 
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Summary: In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

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★★★★.5

Okay so don’t mind me while I SQUEAL because this book made me feel all kinds of feels. I was weirdly in the mood for an M/M romance where one of the guys has to raise a kid on his own, but get this: BOTH guys are raising THREE KIDS. Together.

I don’t think I could’ve asked for more from this trope. This had everything I wanted: cute domestic scenes, funny shenanigans, one of the guys who’s clueless about kids at the beginning and the other one who’s already a pro at it. It was also very emotional because of the circumstances in which Isaiah and Mark come to take care of the kids, since their parents died. I think the portrayal of grief (especially from Mark’s part) was realistic enough without making the book darker than it needed to be.

The romance itself was so, so good and soft. I can’t think of another word for it and y’all are gonna have to take it from my cold, dead hands. SOFT SOFT SOFT. While there is some lack of communication when it comes to the legal situation with the kids, the communication between Isaiah and Mark is great in their relationship. I don’t really want to spoil anything about it but it’s too cute and I’m still squealing.

Talking about the representation, Isaiah is biracial, just like the kids are, but it’s sort of a blink-and-you-miss-it thing. Isaiah is also gay and Mark is grey-ace or demisexual (he isn’t sure of the exact label, but he is ace-spec). I don’t want to go into the specifics of what I think of Mark’s asexuality and how it was handled, but I want to say that a thing I found a bit weird was how there didn’t seem to be a distinction between sexual and romantic orientation. Mark talks about sexual attraction and romantic crushes as if they’re one and the same, and while they might be for some people, I think the two are very different things. In any case, there’s never any talk of aromanticism or being on the aro spectrum as well as the ace one. Other than this, it was great to see that Isaiah was understanding and respectful of Mark’s sexuality and knew enough about asexuality without Mark having to explain the ABC of it, which is sometimes the case with m/m romances where one character is ace.

I 100% recommend this book if you’re a fan of the trope with kids, if you want to a super soft romance between two guys grieving and if you’re looking for ace rep.

TW for homophobia, death of loved ones, mentions of drunk driving, mentions of alcoholism, war injuries, grief.

ARC Review: Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert // me, loving a paranormal romance?? more likely than you think

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: This Halloween, love bites back… hard.

Chastity Adofo knows a monster when she sees one. As soon as Luke Anthony wanders into her family’s coffee shop, she recognises the evil lurking beneath his charming smile and fantastic arse. The handsome werewolf is determined to have her—but she’s determined to cut out his heart.

Little does she know, Luke’s plans for her are far more pleasurable than murder. And when the full moon rises, all bets are off…

Warning: Mating the Huntress is 30,000+ words of red-hot, Halloween-themed romance. This novella contains one flirtatious, cursed creature of the night, one badass, knife-happy heroine, and forbidden lust at first sight. Please read responsibly!

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★★★★

Honestly?? Leave it to Talia Hibbert to write a romance between a werewolf and a human and make me fall for it hard.

Y’all know paranormal romance isn’t my cup of tea but I trust Talia with my life and she didn’t disappoint.

So, this book is about Chastity, a Black fat woman from a family of werewolves hunters, who’s been forbidden to hunt since birth because of a prophecy. But her instincts are still those of a huntress, and she knows that the new customer at the cafe where she works is not a human but a werewolf. So she decides to take her destiny into her own hands and prove herself to her family, but things don’t go as planned when the werewolf doesn’t hurt her and is instead kind to her and wants to please her in every way possible.

This is a novella of a little bit more than 100 pages in its physical copy I believe, and yet both main characters were developed so well. The insta-lust is definitely explained and it makes sense in-universe so it wasn’t a turnoff at all. I also loved how awkwardly sweet Luke was at the beginning when he was trying to ask Chas out, honestly how can you not love a grumpy, artsy werewolf who has learned to control his violent instincts and is only trying to be with his mate?

Yes, after the first two times the word mate was used I managed to stop cringing and actually enjoyed this aspect too. Key – not overusing it, which Talia didn’t. Also, she did everything right. Consent was always there, the fact that Chas is his mate didn’t make him feel entitled to anything she might not have wanted to do, and everything that happened between them was in human form.

I also loved how low on external conflict this was, and the fact that the family was so open about the whole werewolf thing. It made me enjoy the romance without being worried about anything else coming up.

This also takes place around Halloween so if you’re into that and into romance this is definitely something you should consider reading around this time of the year. I 100% recommend it.

ARC Review: Thrall by Avon Gale & Roan Parrish

I was sent this book as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Dating Sucks & Love Bites 

Happy couple Mina Murray and Lucy Westenra have begun to garner national attention for their quirky New Orleans true-crime podcast, Shadowcast. When Lucy’s brother Harker disappears while researching the popular new dating app Thrall, they’re thrown into a real-life mystery. Aided by their social media expert, Arthur, and Harker’s professor, Van Helsing, they follow the trail, hoping to find Harker before it’s too late.

When their investigation crosses the path of a possible serial killer, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur. And as they race against the app’s countdown clock, so does the line between friendship and love. What starts as a flirtatious rivalry between computer-savvy Arthur and techno-averse Van Helsing becomes much more, and Mina and Lucy’s relationship is tested in the fires of social media.

As they get down to the wire, the group discovers that nothing on their screens is as it seems—including their enemy.

A modern retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula

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★.5

Thrall is a novel that tries to be many things. Modern Dracula retelling, queer romance(s), thriller, mystery, all told in an unique format. Some things worked better than others, but while the attempt at being a multi-genre novel was certainly admirable, it didn’t completely succeed at it.

First off, I liked the main characters. Lucy is a bisexual Black woman and co-host of Shadowcast, a true-crime podcast. She’s also the sister of Harker, who goes presumably missing at the beginning of the novel. Mina is the second co-host of Shadowcast and Lucy’s girlfriend. Arthur is their social media manager and is later instructed to keep in touch with Van Helsing, Harker’s anthropology professor, in order to find out anything relevant that might give them a clue about Harker’s disappearance. Van Helsing (VH) is an older character (I don’t think it was specified how old is he really is, I imagined him around 45 or 50 year old, while Arthur is 28) and is new to technology and chats, which was both fun and a little repetitive to see.

I found the beginning of the book rather slow, pacing-wise. This was kind of counterbalanced by the fact that the book is entirely told in chat logs, emails, podcast transcripts, tweets, etc., which made it easier and faster to read. Other times the pacing was faster, but overall I can’t say that it was consistent. It mainly depended on how much page time was given to the romance(s) at any given point, because the plot basically paused a few times to allow for the romance to develop instead of organically integrating the romance in the plot, if that makes sense.

The main relationship was between Arthur (bi) and VH (gay). Despite the pacing issues I just mentioned, I found their romance interesting even though I don’t care much for that age gap, and I liked the way the authors managed to use the format to their advantage. I think it wasn’t easy but it definitely worked well for me as a romance.

Something I loved is how this wasn’t purely about a M/M romance but also about an (established) F/F one. Although it wasn’t given as much page time as the M/M one, it had a few both cute and steamy moments. Not only seeing that on page, but also thinking about all the people who exclusively read M/M and imagining how mad they’re gonna be about the F/F sex scenes? Oh, that is truly priceless.

Err, anyway.

I actually want to talk about the bi rep and give a little warning that some might find Arthur’s history to be the slutty bi stereotype. I wasn’t bothered by it because whenever his history was mentioned it was always heavily implied that it’s his character and insecurities that made him act the way he did, so there was never an in-text correlation between his bi-ness and that. There was another scene that actually did bother me and it was the sex scene between Lucy and Mina where Mina (who is a lesbian) is basically writing a story from Lucy’s POV and at the beginning it focuses a lot on male gaze. They’re in a club and Lucy’s dancing with a guy and then Mina steps in and they dance and she keeps mentioning how none of those guys will have her and then they go to a bathroom where they know they’ll be heard (by the men outside) if they have sex. It made me feel icky because it added a male gaze even though there was absolutely no need for it, and I didn’t like how that seemed to have some sort of correlation with Lucy being bisexual. The scene turned out great and hot but I can’t shake the feeling of wrongness at the beginning where there was too much talk of men for it to feel safe to read as a queer woman.

Moving on, I usually love things that defy a genre or are multiple genres at once. With this novel, I feel like that could’ve worked much better with some more consistency in the way the narrative worked. It was mostly fine, hence the 3 stars, but there were a few things I really couldn’t let myself care about.

First of all, since a lot of the book takes place in chat format, I hated when they were talking about the actual plot and like, being scared about the things that were happening and then they were flirting with heavy innuendos in the next message. That made me roll my eyes so hard and it happened too often. If you’re scared for your life or your brother’s life or whatever, I don’t think you feel like thinking about sex in the next line. It was just too much.

Then, I know I haven’t talked much about the actual plot because it’s best to actually read it but I found the ending very anticlimactic and not really like it fit the rest of the novel. It kind of… changed the whole genre of the novel? Or maybe not really, but look, there’s not much else I can say without spoiling things. Just, the ending actually made me drop the rating from 4 to 3 stars, and the more I think about it the more plot holes I find that just don’t make any sense.

To add another point, since this is marketed as a modern retelling of Dracula: I’ve read Dracula probably like… 10 years ago and I don’t remember anything about it, but there was still very little Dracula-y about it if you look at it from the perspective of the legacy that Bram Stoker left to the literary world. I really don’t want to drop spoilers but let’s just say that there are no actual vampires in Thrall, and the bridge that was used to further connect it to Dracula was ridiculous in my opinion.

I’ve talked about the format but let me reiterate that I thought it was brilliant and cleverly used and probably the only way it was sort of a retelling of Dracula. I hope to see more novels told like this in the future, in any genre, because it’s a lot of fun.

As you can see from my review, there were things that worked and didn’t work for me. I have to 100% admit that if this hadn’t had a lot of queer rep I would probably have given it an even lower rating. Overall I would recommend it if you’re curious about reading a very queer romance/mystery with a format you probably haven’t seen used before (at least for this type of book).

ARC Review: Syncopation by Anna Zabo

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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I really wish the cover wasn’t Like That

Summary: Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

book review - pink

★★★★.5✩

Syncopation is a book that I expected to love, and while I did love a lot of it, I also can’t give it the full five stars I was expecting to give it when I started reading. I did enjoy it a lot though and I can’t wait for the sequels.

First off, I had never read a book about a band even though I know there’s a lot of them. This was my first. I loved the music/band element so much! I also loved that Zav came from a classical background, it was kinda cool to see that a musician can do both genres. There was also talk about socio-economical privilege (why Zav could afford a musical school) and I’m glad it was there.

Also, I loved the fact that everyone in the band is queer. Ray and Dom are gay, Mish is queer (not otherwise specified in this book but I really hope she gets her own sequel), and Zav is aromantic pansexual.

I can’t really comment on the aromantic aspect myself but ownvoices aro reviewers have found it great and the representation meant a lot to them. Here’s two reviews you can check out ➝ review by Acqua • review by Min.

I need to say that while in the middle of the book I was struck with a bad case of “oh god I’m so not in the mood for an adult contemporary book”, so a lot of my enjoyment was influenced by this mood. The sex scenes (well, all the bdsm stuff tbh) were also not really for me, but that’s something I was prepared for before starting the book, and once I read the first couple of those I skimmed the other ones because the point they made was clear: this book and Ray and Zav’s relationship is all about the trust between them.

A few other things bothered me and those had nothing to do with my mood. Mainly I found a few plot points predictable and Carl to be a little bit too much of a stereotype of a bad guy for my tastes. I also thought that sometimes the double POV was a bit repetitive; what I mean is that sometimes one character would wonder about something that we already knew from the other’s POV and that was a little annoying to read. But it’s minor flaws in an otherwise great book, and I highly recommend it.

 

Natural Enemies by Roan Parrish: Surprise Release Blitz + Giveaway

Surprise release date: April 17, 2018

Sale: $.99, for one week

Price: $3.99, as of April 25, 2018

On sale at:

AMZ: https://amzn.to/2H2GOvY

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/natural-enemies-roan-parrish/1128496850?ean=2940155618591

On sale in: ebook and paperback

Pages in print: 150

NE release graphic

Synopsis:

When opposites attract, love blooms in unexpected places.

Buttoned-up botanist Stefan Albemarle has felt like an outsider his whole life. As a result, he mostly keeps to himself—makes it easier not to notice that no matter how he tries, people think he’s a know-it-all and a snob.

Freewheeling urban gardener Milo Rios has worked hard to get where he is, and he’s passionate about his job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He can get along with almost anyone, but no one has ever made him care enough to stick around.

When Stefan and Milo meet on Milo’s tour of the Botanic Garden, it’s hatred at first clash. But hatred quickly turns to lust as Milo shows Stefan how exquisite it can feel to lose the control he’s clung to for so long. As Stefan’s mask begins to slip, Milo sees a deep vulnerability in the prim academic. Once he’s experienced Milo’s world, Stefan can admit that he wants more from life than professional success. If they can work together, Stefan and Milo just might be able to cultivate the future they both yearn for.

Natural Enemies Cover FINAL

About Roan Parrish:

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.

Connect with Roan:

websitenewsletter  | twitter | facebook | goodreadsinstagram | pinterest

Giveaway:

Win one of three prizes: 1) swag pack of Roan Parrish goodies or 2) 1 of 2 ecopies of any back catalog book by Roan Parrish (reader’s choice!)  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0355/