Love at First Sight (Home Series #4) by Cardeno C.

Love at First Sight Blurb: Do you believe in love at first sight? Jonathan does: the moment he glimpsed the striking David from afar, he was hooked, but David disappeared before they could meet.
More than three years later, Jonathan gets a second chance-he and David finally meet face to face, and the two fall into a passionate love affair. David turns Jonathan’s previously lonely life into a fairy tale, giving him more than he ever imagined. But the past few years have been hard for Jonathan, and he’s terrified that his young son and scandalous past will be too much for David. If they’re going to build a future together, they’re both going to have to dig deep: David for the courage to share himself in a way he’s never considered… and Jonathan for the strength to tell the truth.

Rating: 3 stars

Review: This was a very strange read for me. Yep, it was. At first, I was intrigued by Jonathan and his story. Having read a bit about him in the previous book and I was curious to see how he ended up there and how he worked it all out. At the beginning, I got into the story but as I kept reading I started getting more uncomfortable. Why, you ask? Well you see, I am all for love and romance, I like sweet and I am a fool for love, however, I am a realist and even though I know that this is fiction I just could not grasp the whole ‘love at first sight’ issue. Call me a cynic, but moving to a city you don’t know at 18 years of age just because you fell in love with the eyes of a stranger it is just plain unbelievable and doing it after deciding to be a father to your child? Well, that is just naive. Not to mention that it so happens that the feeling is reciprocated by David right away.

Now that I got that out of the way (which explains my 3 stars rating), I’ll get to the good parts. I appreciated the fact that the author gave me enough insight into Jonathan’s life to ‘justify’ some of his actions and thoughts. I felt like I could understand him better, maybe not accept blindly the whole ‘love at first sight’ concept, but enough for me to understand where Jonathan was coming from. Now David, he was harder to accept. Once again the author gave us great insight into his character, but that just made it harder for me to believe his change of heart. I know…I know it’s just a book but it just didn’t seem feasible. If it would have developed within the course of months maybe then I could have accepted it. But within weeks? I could not overlook it. For me Sam was a great addition to the story, since he managed to bring a whole new side of David to the front. David’s friends too played an intricate part in the story for me, since through them the author gave us the “before-Jonathan” David. I could have done without Nick and Kathy, but I guess they played a part too! (Sorry, you will have to read and see!) 😉

The writing was very good. Every emotion Jonathan and David expressed, be it insecurity, lust or love, was exceptionally written. The dialog was very engaging and the emotions brought to the page were very strong. That is one of the things I love most about this author. The written words always touch me just right, be it humor, passion or pain. Of course, their chemistry was hot! Their first time together felt rushed-in, but I guess it went along with the whole ‘love at first sight’ thing.

Having said all this, I am not disappointed in the least. I am very glad I read it and got to experience Jonathan and David’s story. I have my pet peeves and the whole ‘soul mates’ and ‘love at first sight’ bits are just some of them (at least in Contemporary Romance), so I accept that maybe this book was not for me.

All that being said, I encourage you to give this book a try in spite of my review. You may surprise yourself and end up loving it!

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises #1) by Amy Lane

Keeping Promise Rock (Promises, #1)Blurb: Carrick Francis has spent most of his life jumping into trouble with both feet. The only thing saving him from prison or worse is his absolute devotion to Deacon Winters. Deacon was Crick’s sanity and salvation during a miserable, abusive childhood, and Crick would do anything to stay with him forever. So when Deacon’s father dies, Crick puts his college plans on hold to help Deacon as Deacon has helped him.

Deacon’s greatest wish is to see Crick escape his memories and the town they grew up in so Crick can enjoy a shining future. But after two years of growing feelings and temptation, the painfully shy Deacon finally succumbs to Crick’s determined advances and admits he sees himself as part of Crick’s life. It nearly destroys Deacon when he discovers Crick has been waiting for him to push him away, just like Crick’s family did in the past.

When Crick’s knack for volatile decisions lands him far away from home, Deacon is left, shell-shocked and alone, struggling to reforge his heart in a world where love with Crick is a promise, but by no means a certainty.

Rating: 5 stars

Review: Amy Lane has done it to me again. She has turned me inside out by giving me an insight into Crick’s and Deacon’s love story. And what a story it was! She wrapped me up from the very beginning, making sure I was as tightly wrapped up in the story as all the characters were. The pace was amazing, giving us glimpses of two great characters, their everyday life, inner struggles and interaction with others. First, introducing me to Crick, who my heart went out to immediately. Then, I got to know Deacon and my heart broke for him on the spot. He was so shy, so strong and loyal, that you couldn’t help but love him. Crick was too, strong and loyal, but he had an inner strength that made you believe he could surpass anything thrown at him (which he did, mostly). But Deacon, my God. I’ve never felt so much for a character before. I found myself crying with him at every turn (which happens mostly with Amy Lane’s books!).

The characters were fully developed. It was beautiful to see how the MCs came into themselves and gave each other to one another without question. Of course, every character played a special role in this story and helped it come together beautifully.

The writing was exceptional. Each scene carefully worded to bring every emotion to life. Be it happiness, loneliness, humor or heartbreak. The sex scenes were both sensual and emotional and the MCs ‘screw-ups’ were so beautiful executed that I felt I was right there with them (of course, most of the time I wished I was right there with them to smack some sense into them, but that happens often when I read).

Anyway, the story of Crick and Deacon is amazing. The things they had to endure were heartbreaking and at times I didn’t know if they could get over most of them. But leave it to Amy Lane to bring it all together seamlessly. This one goes directly to my keep pile.

Under My Skin by M.L Rhodes

Under My Skin (Under My Skin, #1)Blurb: “The smart guy”—Sebastian Keller’s lived with that label most of his life. Though he hasn’t always appreciated it, and it hasn’t exactly made him a man magnet, he’s put his intelligence to work building his store, Great Escapes Travel Book Shop, to the point it’s now the favorite recommendation of travel agents in the St. Louis area. His customers—especially the jet-setting senior citizens—love him for his amiable personality.

He doesn’t feel very amiable, however, when Rad Tattoos moves in next door to Great Escapes. Its owner, Dylan Radamacher, rubs Sebastian the wrong way from the get-go. The man’s insufferable, stubborn, and, worse, a bad boy. Everything Sebastian loathes. To add insult to injury, Sebastian’s certain the loud music, the congested parking lot, and the constant colorful parade of the counterculture in and out of the tattoo studio are scaring away his loyal, conservative customers.

And yet, much to his annoyance, the teasing sparkle in Dylan’s eyes, his hot, inked body, and come-hither voice set Sebastian’s libido on fire. Sebastian’s “been there, done that” with the bad-boy type before, though, and almost lost everything because of it. There’s no way he’s going down that road again.

But when Dylan sets his sights on Sebastian and is determined to take him for a walk on the wild side, Sebastian knows he’s in big trouble. It’s going to take all his smarts and a whole lot of willpower to resist the sexy tattoo artist before the man finds a way to burrow deeper under his skin…

Rating: 4 stars

Review:  Great read! I loved this story…of course, I love tattooed, sensitive men with hearts of gold too, so it was a perfect fit. I liked that Dylan opened himself to accept more from Sebastian and I was very happy to see Sebastian trying to trust and open up his heart to Dylan.

Hard Fall (Deputy Joe #1) by James Buchanan

Hard FallBlurb: Deputy Joe Peterson is Mormon and in the closet. Then ex-con Kabe Varghese lands in town on parole. When a tourist falls off the mountain, Joe finds he needs the help of this cliff climbing adrenaline junky to solve the case. Will Kabe tear him apart or does Joe need to fall hard before he can start living?

Rating: 5 stars

Review: Joe, Joe, Joe…this was one of those books that grabbed me right from the start. I loved, loved, loved Joe. His voice drew me in instantly. His humor, his tough side and especially his vulnerable side. Kabe was awesome too and when they got together…I couldn’t get enough. The dialog was superb, the additional characters complimented the story perfectly and the sex scenes…uff! And what amazed me more, was the way the author managed both to entertain me and educate me about some aspects of Mormonism. The way he presented Joe’s struggles with his acceptance of himself, his desires and his religion and how he weaved it into an amazing story of self-acceptance, blew me away.

Where He Ends and I Begin (Home #3) by Cardeno C.

Where He Ends and I BeginBlurb: Jake Owens, aggressive, physical, blunt and brave, is a football hero turned city cop. Nate Richardson, his best friend since before forever, is thoughtful, quiet, and kind, a brilliant doctor who has always known who he is and that Jake is the love of his life—and loyal, courageous, straight Jake has never had a clue.

But Jake has been nursing his own case of the unrequiteds, and he’s never been as straight as Nate assumes. Nate may think their passionate explosion is a fluke, a result of too much closeness for too long, but Jake is bound and determined to prove to him otherwise. For Jake, the question isn’t how they ended up in bed together… it’s how can he convince Nate that he wants and needs to stay there.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: I was a bit skeptical going into this book. At the end of He Completes Me the author introduced us to Jake and Nate and there was talk about soul mates and well, I an NOT a believer. At the beginning, everything fell into place very quickly for the MC’s so I was constantly wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. At first, like some reviewers have pointed out, I found the switching of POV’s and the repetition on the same events boring. However, along the way, I kind of liked it. I thought that it added a lot more insight into each character’s insecurities, struggles and emotions. To me it felt like I was reading their own personal journals simultaneously and it helped me understand the depth of their relationship and connection so much more. And I’ll be honest, it felt like I was spying, so that was great too! 😉

Needless to say that the writing was exceptional. Cardeno managed to convey every thought and every emotion in a way that helped me fully connect to the MC’s. The characters were fully developed along the book. From their dreams, emotions, struggles and insecurities. Every event written added so much more to my understanding of the characters that in the end they felt like friends to me. I loved to see how Jake finally opened up emotionally to Nate and how Nate slowly came into their relationship. Their connection sometimes was a bit absurd, but it is still fiction so I can overlook that and just deduct half a star.

You can get this book and others from this author at Dreamspinner

Life After Joe by Harper Fox

Life After JoeBlurb: It’s not the breaking up that kills you, it’s the aftermath.

Ever since his longtime lover decided he’d seen the “heterosexual light,” Matt’s life has been in a nosedive. Six months of too many missed shifts at the hospital, too much booze, too many men. Matt knows he’s on the verge of losing everything, but he’s finding it hard to care.

Then Matt meets Aaron. He’s gorgeous, intelligent and apparently not interested in being picked up. Still, even after seeing Matt at his worst, he doesn’t turn away. Aaron’s kindness and respect have Matt almost believing he’s worth it-and that there could be life after Joe. But his newfound happiness is threatened when Matt begins to suspect Aaron is hiding something, or someone…

Rating: 3 stars

Review: I liked the story well enough. I just couldn’t connect with the characters at all. I think what spoiled it for me was that everything felt too rushed. First, if Matt was so distraught about losing Joe, who he’s been with for 6 years and known from childhood, to the point of a suicide attempt, how can I believe for a moment that he has fallen in love with Aaron so quickly. And if Aaron’s loss was of such magnitudes and so recent that he speaks his dead lover’s name in his sleep and still keeps his emails, how could he have fallen in love with Matt. It was just too unreal for me. If it would have taken place throughout a year I would be overjoyed with happiness for them.

That said (which is why my rating is 3 stars), the writing was good and the emotions expressed on the page were overwhelming. The characters were developed enough for me to get a glimpse of them but the story felt hurried and the ending just flat. In my opinion, it could have been a 5* book with just a few adjustments.

He Completes Me (Home #2) by Cardeno C.

He Completes MeBlurb: Not even his mother’s funeral can convince self-proclaimed party boy Zach Johnson to put aside his flamboyant ways or even think about settling down. He is who he is, and no one can make him change. But when he meets Aaron Paulson, his brother’s best friend, Zach has to step back and re-evaluate his perceptions of love and family.

Aaron insists he’s falling for Zach, but Zach is certain Aaron sees him as just another project—one more lost soul for the idealistic Aaron to save. Zach isn’t broken; he doesn’t need to be fixed. Aaron’s insistent, though, and Zach finds himself tempted. Zach wants to believe in happily-ever-after, but can he let go of his pride long enough to see Aaron’s heart?

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: This is one of those books that captures you and doesn’t let go. It’s been two days and a couple of books since I’ve read it and I can still laugh at some of the things Zack narrates. He was such a character (pun intended!). Yes, he was a slut and a party boy, but his sarcasm, humor and vulnerability got to me. I admit, it took a while for the urge to smack him upside the head to subside, but in the end I loved him as if I’ve known him all my life. While I loved Aaron and his loving and accepting personality, I couldn’t help but wonder about his ‘too-good-to be true’ personality. I take my fictional characters very seriously (yeah I know!) so this was bit of his personality I just could not overlook.

I am glad that the author turned the “insta-love” around, it gave the story more credibility. It gave me a chance to get to know Zach and his feelings and understand where he was coming from and it provided Aaron the chance to prove that his “love” was not fleeting.

Once again, the writing was excellent. The dialog was filled with humor and emotion, which helped me feel like I was right there with them in every scene. And let’s not forget the chemistry! It was hot! I also liked that the story was developed in stages. It wasn’t all set and done right away, it took its time and gave me more glimpses into their everyday life.

You can get this book and others from this author at Dreamspinner

The Doors of Time by Felisblanco

The Doors of TimeBlurb: Fanfiction: Supernatural (TV series)

It’s not like Jensen doesn’t try to fit in and make friends, he really does. It just seems like nothing he does is good enough for them. If he smiles they blink. If he speaks they stare.

And whenever they see him coming they get this panicked look in their eyes like they want to run away and they don’t even know why. A touching story about love, fate, destiny, and finding the one person that’s made for you in a world that isn’t.

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Rating: 5 stars

Review: Where to start? This book is not a short read. It is certainly not a light read. But it is an EXCEPTIONAL read! The author takes you on a wonderful ride. From the MCs childhood to their adulthood. This journey was filled with so much self discovery, love, understanding, prejudice and hurt that at times I had to take a break and get myself together.

The writing was brilliant! Every emotion was perfectly expressed. I enjoyed every emotion from heartache to laughter. At one point I was laughing out loud and snorting like a nut! I felt each and every struggle, both from the main characters to the secondary ones. The world the author created was beautifully written, it drew you in and you could see every butterfly, every flower, feel every musical note and every emotion that Jensen conjured.

This is one of those reads that totally takes you by surprise, gets a hold up you tight and stays with you long after you finish reading. It is that good, but hey, that just my opinion!

The Island by Lisa Henry

The IslandBlurb: Shaw is in Fiji to sell a stolen painting to the crime boss, Vornis. It will be the deal of a lifetime, if Shaw can pull it off. But then Vornis parades his latest toy around in front of him—a captured DEA agent whose time is running out. It’s none of Shaw’s business, and it doesn’t matter that under any other circumstances Lee would be exactly Shaw’s type: he’s young, he’s hot, and he might even have a personality if they hadn’t beaten it out of him. Too bad there’s no way Lee is getting off the island. Too bad there’s nothing Shaw can do for him. And too bad there are some lines that even Shaw won’t cross.

Keeping his hands off Lee proves harder than he thinks, but Shaw’s not stupid enough to fall for the tortured captive of a dangerous crime boss, is he? If he did, it wouldn’t be just his job he would be risking—it would be his life.

Publisher’s Warning: Readers with a history of rape or sexual abuse may find elements of this story disturbing.

Rating: 5 stars

Review: Not much to say about this book that hasn’t been written before. The writing was superb, the author took great care in taking us through Shaw and Lee’s experiences on that island. From the start you could ascertain Shaw’s inner strength and resolve with the author giving us glimpses into his psyche. I could understand both his actions and his thoughts and could not fault him for either of them. As for Lee, I just wanted to get him out of there and shelter him from further harm.

The author’s pace was both excruciating and exciting. At times, I didn’t think I could get through the scenes and Lee’s inner turmoils. They were a very hard read for me. And Shaw’s too, because I could really understand his hesitancy and his determination not to get involved. It was exciting, because I really did want to see how it all came about, what the result would be and how the author would bring it all together in the end.

I wouldn’t recommend this book just to anyone, but it is an amazing read, full of emotions, heartache and turmoil. To me this book served as a reminder that inner strength and trust placed in the right person can help you cope with most anything. A really beautiful read.

Gambling Men: The Novel by Amy Lane

Gambling Men: The Novel

Blurb: Quent Jackson has followed Jason Spade’s every move in business and in poker since their first day as college freshmen. Eight years later, when Jace finally decides Quint is the one man he can’t live without, he sees no reason for that to change.

But as much as Jace believes that poker is life, no one gave Quent the same playbook. After their first passionate night, the real game of love and trust begins, and Jace has been playing alone too long to make teaching the rules easy. Jace only speaks two languages: one of them is sex, and the other one is poker. Between the two, he needs to find a way to convince himself to take a chance on love—and Quent to take a chance on him. It’s a lucky thing they’re good at reading the odds, because they’re playing for keeps, and this is one high-stakes relationship that’s definitely worth the gamble.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: And here we are. For a minute there I thought this would be a 3 star book. I had to step away for a minute and think about my lovely Jace. You see his whole life is based on poker. And I know nothing about poker, so most of his ‘life lessons’ were lost on me! I had to re-read some passages because HELLO! this is an Amy Lane book and for me to give one of her books less than 4 stars was unheard of. So I had to make sure I had all my points covered.

But that aside, this was a wonderful book. Both Quent and Jace were lovable characters. Their relationship was solid as friends and it was a nice journey to see their relationship develop as lovers and life partners. At times, I could not understand some of the things Jace did or said, not until he ‘showed his hand’ and brought his emotions to the surface. Throughout the book I felt that there was much more to him than what was being revealed and that is one of the reasons I read the book in one sitting. Quent, well, he was adorable. He had such an understanding quality to him and he had the perfect amount of ‘je ne sais quoi’ to counter-balance Jace’s personality. All in all, a wonderful couple!

The writing was amazing. Amy Lane always manages to bring so much emotion and humor to her books and this was no exception. I was laughing in some scenes and others had me crying…oh the vulnerability of some of Jace and Quent’s actions and dialog! Man, they were excellent!

So with great pride I say that I stayed in the game, I upped the “ante” and did not “fold” and at the end of it all I survived the “showdown”. (yeah I know!)