Review: Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker

Red Dirt Heart CoverTitle & Author: Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker
Release Date: February 20, 2014
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 162 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might. 

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely.

It’s the man with the red dirt heart.

My Thoughts: 

I may as well call 2014 “My Year of Reading N.R. Walker.” In a little less than two months, I’ve read ten titles by Walker. Every last one of them has well-developed plots, three-dimensional characters, witty dialogue, and so much cuteness that a basket full of fluffy kittens would lose a head-to-head competition.

So, imagine my delight when Walker’s latest novella, Red Dirt Heart, was released last week. I’m serious, people – I was Jessie Spano on caffeine pills levels of excited.

And I was not disappointed.

Red Dirt Heart won me over immediately with its descriptions of the Australian Outback. Walker’s words painted the most beautiful pictures in my head of hard-packed red dirt, thick layers of dust, scrub brush, rabbit-proof fencing, and weather-worn everything. I could feel the sun beating down and the drops of sweat rolling down my temple. I could smell the pungent scent of livestock (ahhh! Eau de manure) and leather saddles. I could hear the cows mooing and the creak of the boards as Charlie and Travis stepped on the veranda. In my head, the landscape is hard, unforgiving, and just a little romantic.

I haven’t been this captivated by Australia since reading Bryce Courtenay’s books nearly a decade ago.

The characters had me falling headlong into love almost as quickly as Walker’s descriptions did. It’s hard to articulate, but there was just something about Charlie and Travis and the way that they interacted with one another from the very first moment that sort of settled over me quietly. It was like putting on a favourite sweater – the one that’s soft and thin from a thousand washes, maybe a little stretched out and fraying at the cuffs, but you know you’ll never part with it because it’s warm and familiar and comforting. Charlie and Travis were warm and familiar and comforting. But their first conversation – just a casual recitation of the Station rules, really – gave me butterflies. Reading it, I was all dreamy sighs and dopey grins.

I swear, I was crushing so hard on these two characters that I think I would have flirted with my Kindle if it would have flirted back!

And it only got better from there. The chemistry between Travis and Charlie is awesome. The book is filled with all of these tiny, meaningful moments – trembly kisses, silent conversations in the kitchen, a hooked foot under the dining room table. Each and every one is special. And yet the sex was hot as sin! It was so hot that I was absolutely horrified at the thought of Ms. Walker shoving these boys together with only ten condoms between the two of ‘em.

(I think that might constitute cruel and unusual punishment, Ms. Walker – to your readers if not those poor boys. Ten condoms are not nearly enough for two men that pretty!)

One of the great things about this book is that while you know from the get-go that Travis and Charlie only have four weeks together before Travis has to go back to the United States, nothing about this story feels rushed or forced. Time sort of seems to stretch out, and everything about their relationship progresses naturally. You can see them falling in lust. You can see them falling in love. You even know what the end result of the book is going to be. And yet, at no point did I get the insta-love vibes that always serves to throw cold water on my enjoyment of a book. No, their slide into love just seemed so inevitable that time didn’t matter. *Sigh*

See? There I go again.

As far as the book’s secondary characters go, I thought Ma and George were great. They were both characters I’d seen before, but ones that I love so much for their love and acceptance and no nonsense attitudes that I didn’t care in the least. After all, these are the types of characters that remind me that sometimes the best family is the one you choose to build yourself.

It’s a difficult task to make the climax of any happily ever after story feel truly suspenseful and dramatic, but Walker managed to accomplish this in Red Dirt Heart. I figured out very early on in the book what was likely going to happen to Travis before his time in the Outback was finished. Even so, when my suspicions were confirmed, my heart started to beat a little faster. And when the situation dragged on a little longer than I had expected, I was left squirming in my seat barely refraining from yelling, “Stop torturing me, already!” at my Kindle.

Then there was the bit with Charlie. We all know that he was going to be outed; it had to happen in order to free him from his father’s ghost and allow the boys to move forward together. But it didn’t happen quite the way or with quite the timing as I was expecting. And I LOVED that element of surprise! I also loved seeing that moment of vulnerability with George afterward – it was heart-wrenching.

And then there was that final moment where the dumb boy finally realizes he’s being a dumb boy and that if he could just stop being so dang dumb for one freakin’ minute he could be insanely happy. Yup. I loved that moment too.

This book, you guys. This book! You need to read it.

Red Dirt Heart has easily become my new favourite book by N.R. Walker. It transported me to Australia and dazzled me with characters and a setting that refused to be ignored. If you love Walker already, you will love this book. If you haven’t discovered her yet, you couldn’t pick a better place to start. It’s awesome.

Quotable Quotes:

“You know, I read up on all the deadly animals you got out here. […] I’m guessing you don’t have any antivenin handy and we’re -” He looked at his watch. “-ooooh, a mere three hours and hello-complete-respiratory-failure from the hospital…”

***

“Peace,” I finally admitted. “He makes me feel at peace. And happy. And scared shitless.”
George smiled at me. “Sounds like love to me.”

My Rating:
2 Smooch3 Smooch

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Assault With a Deadly… Book?!

Banned Book

Fine print at the bottom of the ad says: “We keep ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ out of schools because of the bottle of wine in her basket. Why not assault weapons?”

Apparently, putting good books in the hands of children is a bad thing. Assault weapons? Not so much, according to the American government.

But the good folks over at Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, a “non-partisan grassroots movement to mobilize moms and families to advocate for stronger gun laws,” disagree. As well they should.

A few years ago, they launched a campaign featuring three ads, each with an image of two children in a school setting. One is holding a (mostly) harmless item; the other is carrying a big, black, menacing assault weapon. All three are very strong images that communicate an important message, but I’m sure it’s fairly obvious why I was drawn to this particular image. God, I love smart advertisements!

PS: Little Red Riding Hood? What a lush. *shakes head*

Review: Being Chase by J.J. Scotts

Being Chase CoverTitle & Author: Being Chase by J.J. Scotts
Series: Chase (#1)
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Publisher: Self-published
Pages:  unknown pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Wouldn’t it be nice to be a celebrity?

Liam Collins is desperate for a job. Forced to jump to the big city, he can’t believe his luck when he suddenly gets an offer from a prestigious publishing company. Absolutely ecstatic, Liam doesn’t even bother reading the details. But on his first day of work, he isn’t ushered to a quaint cubicle. Instead, he’s brought to a classy high-rise and told that he’s been hired to be the face of the best-selling author, Chase Preston.

When Liam first meets Chase, he’s so captivated by the mysterious man’s imposing figure and deep-set eyes. Maybe Liam really did get lucky.

All Liam has to do is go to fan meetings and award events as a stand-in for Chase. It actually doesn’t sound bad, but Liam soon realizes that being with Chase is harder than it appears. Despite the challenges of Chase’s arrogant attitude, Liam puts up with it. What he finds difficult to put up with is Chase’s sexy body and brilliant blue eyes.

Even worse, the feeling may be mutual.

Our Thoughts:

*À la Etta James* At last . . . our first official Buddy Review! And to help us mark the special occasion, we have the first book in a series, Being Chase by J.J. Scotts. Ecstatic to get a chance to read the ARC copies that would be sent to us in exchange for an honest review, we both said yes (honestly though, how could we have said no to the excerpt that was provided?It was a good one!).

Below are our thoughts on the book, which in short, boils down to that you need to read the first book because this series reads like it’s going to be really fun. And hot. And sexy. And . . . well, you get the picture.

Runell: Overall, I enjoyed it, but I did have some issues with it. Issues that could totally just be me, or issues that could have bugged you too. What’d you think?

Catherine: *laughs* Maybe it’s because I’m currently going through the soul-crushing experience of trying to find a job in my field, but Being Chase had me at “hello.” Unfortunately, as much as I found myself relating to Liam in those first few pages, the overall experience of reading this novella ran hot and cold for me; there were aspects to it that I really enjoyed and others that I felt just didn’t work.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a book, the main characters make or break a story for me. They need to be engaging and authentic and it never hurts if their chemistry together is off the charts. I loved that Being Chase had two very polar opposite characters with very distinct voices. What’d you think of Chase and Liam?

Runell: One of the issues that I had with the story was with Liam himself. The way he talked, the way he acted seemed . . . juvenile. Perhaps, the whole “I’m a small town guy” was played off of a little too heavily. In some ways, he just felt very meek and young to me – much younger than the 27 year old that he is supposed to be.

Catherine: Exactly! I felt like there were moments in the story in which Liam was sweet and honest and refreshing, but most of the time I felt like he was characterized as weak, immature, and . . . dare I say it? Feminine. Don’t get me wrong, not every character needs to be an alpha or charmingly arrogant, but I don’t want them to be a doormat either. I just felt that Liam went along with the crazy demands and atrocious treatment for far too long. I kept thinking, “surely he’s going to say enough is enough now, right?!” after each incident but he never did. Well, until . . .

Runell: Yes, yes, yes! Until! But let’s save that discussion for a little later. Personally, I thought that the voice for Chase was much stronger and self-assured. I liked it, but whereas Liam seemed so much younger than his age, Chase seemed far older than his.

Catherine: I picked up on that too, but I felt that it was authentic to his character. Chase is supposed to be this pampered, independent, talented guy who has been largely on his own for years before we meet him, so it made sense to me that he came across as more worldly and experienced than Liam.  That said, there wasn’t a lot that was likable about Chase in this short story. In fact, the man is an arrogant prick. I don’t necessarily say that as a criticism; I actually think a lot of readers are going to love Chase’s bad boy persona and I think Scotts writes this character particularly well. I know we’ll get more info about Chase and his history in the next story, so I’m trying to reserve judgement, but I gotta say that as of right now I think the man’s a straight up jerk.

Runell: You’re right. There doesn’t seem to be too much to like about Chase, but I am holding out for the idea that I will like him too. And regardless of the fact that you think Chase is a jerk, you can’t deny that those two scenes with Chase and Liam being . . . “intimate” were hot. I definitely liked those! 

Catherine: Ooooh buddy! J.J. Scotts does the steamy really, really well. I practically had to roll my tongue back into my mouth after that first scene. *fans face vigorously*

I think the thing that bothered me most about this novella was the lack of interaction between the two main characters – especially given their molten hot chemistry together. I understand that this is only the first in a series and that Scotts needed to establish context for the two characters to meet (so she’s earned some leeway from me for that), but Chase doesn’t even enter the story until 30% of the way through and then they only have two or three more scenes together. I guess I was just hoping that Liam would spend less time with secondary characters and more time with Chase talking, flirting, butting heads, and ramping up all that delicious sexual tension between the two of them. 

Runell: The lack of interaction between Liam and Chase didn’t necessarily bother me. I don’t know why exactly, it just didn’t, though I do agree with you there should have been more of it. One of the biggest issues that I had with the story was the whole “we control your life thing”. Uh . . . no, you don’t. I know that the job required him to be low key and to not really draw too much attention to himself as he is “the face” of Chase Preston, but everyone felt way too controlling and heavy handed for my taste. I mean… the thing with the cellphone?

Catherine: Ugh! The thing with the cellphone. *groan*

Okay then, I have to ask: what was your favourite part of the novella?

Runell: I got really excited when Liam punched Chase because it felt like he was finally standing up for himself.

Catherine: Oh my God! I loved when Liam punched Chase! It was like . . . BAM! No one likes a cock tease! Liam definitely got his man card for the first time in the story.

Runell: Yes. That’s exactly what Liam got when he punched Chase. His man card.

Catherine: *laughs* I think we may be taking an unholy amount of glee in Liam going all Evander Holyfield on our second leading man.

Runell: Yeah, but Chase can take it. 🙂

I also felt that her slide into the NA novel near the end was some of her strongest writing. It was weird and it did throw me off guard, but it was a lot stronger than a lot of the actual story was.

Catherine: Huh. The slide into Chase’s NA novel annoyed me. I agree that it was some of her strongest writing, and I actually think that it would make a really successful NA series, but I thought that it was a solid 3-5 pages that Scotts could have chopped in order to add a scene between Liam and Chase that would have heightened that sexual tension I was looking for. 

Runell: Yeah, I hear you.

Overall, as the first part in what is supposed to be a “serial”, it’s a fairly stable foundation in which, hopefully, will only prove to grow stronger and more firm with each book. Though I’m hoping against hope that the reason why Liam was hired to be Chase’s face was not because of his scar. If it is the reason, however, I do believe that has got to be one of the most shallowest story plot devices ever used. Just sayin’ . . . Damn that “cliff hanger” though.

Catherine: Okay, I know my review of Being Chase hasn’t been the most glowing I’ve ever written, but here’s the bottom line: I think that the series has an unique premise, the characters have excellent chemistry together, and Scotts’ writing shows great potential for improvement. After reading that damn cliffhanger, I’m totally hooked and can’t wait to see where Scotts will take these characters.

Catherine’s Rating:

2 SmoochHalf
Runell’s Rating:

1 Smooch1 Smooch1 Smooch

*A big thank you to J.J. Scotts who generously provided Runell and me ARCs of Being Chase in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The Apothecary’s Garden by Julie Bozza

The Apothecary's GardenTitle: The Apothecary’s Garden
Author: Julie Bozza
Release Date: May 1, 2013
Pages: 204
Read: January 22-23, 2014

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Hilary Kent, a Londoner all his working life, retires to Wiltshire after an estranged cousin unexpectedly leaves him an inhabitable tower surrounded by an overgrown physic garden – and that’s when graduate student Tom Laurence suddenly erupts into his life, convincing him that together they can restore the ancient garden to its former glory. Tom’s cheerful friendship is the best thing that’s ever happened to Hilary and he’s perfectly content with that until, to his astonishment and confusion, it seems that Tom’s affection for him is beginning to grow into something more … something he feels he probably shouldn’t allow.

My Thoughts:

Once upon a time . . .  Those four little words have always — past, present, and future — evoked feelings of magicalism and a world where dreams — all dreams — have the ability to become truth; all you have to do is wish it so. And though those words suggest a world of fantasy, of make-believe, they also suggest the possibility that once upon a time the story actually occurred, that the events that are unraveled actually took place, and that the people that the once upon a time belong to actually breathed their story.

So while, yes, a world of fantasy are breathed into existence because of those four little words, a world of reality, of anyone’s reality, are brought forth into the light and made aware to everyone who has the time and inclination to find it.

I can only hope that once upon a time the story between Hilary and Tom actually took place because this slowly formed friendship that then unfolds into love . . . It’s just a love, that if it existed, made the world a little better of a place.

I know, I know, I know that this book pushes a lot of people’s comfort zones because no one can deny that the age gap between Hilary and Tom is huge. Saying that the age gap is just too big to get over though is like saying that love between two people have an age limit. Now, does that make sense? It sure doesn’t to me. As far as I’m concerned, as long as everyone is of legal age and no one is being hurt (physically, emotionally, or mentally), then you can love whomever you want to.

And while Tom and Hilary’s story revolves a lot around their age difference, it’s not their entirety. It’s not what defines their love, it’s just rather a small, minuscule part of it that helps make it whole and theirs.

This was my first book by Julie Bozza so I can’t compare this work to any of her others, and I don’t want to compare it to any other author’s work because that’s like comparing apples and oranges (cliché, I know, but it’s true). All I know is that if her other work is anything like The Apothecary’s Garden, I’ll give it a go. One thing I do have to say that truly says something about Bozza’s talent as a writer (at least to me) is that while they’re a lot of exclamation marks thrown about in this story, which is a huge pet peeve of mine, I felt that, for once, the exclamation marks helped define the characters. I didn’t feel like they made what the character was saying feel forced, or fake, which is how a story begins to feel when an author uses too many exclamation marks; instead, I saw it as a way that she used to help show the eagerness of both Tom and of Hilary.

Like I said, Bozza is good.

Apothecary’s Garden is an extremely underrated book, but it deserves to be so much more than that, so do yourself a favor and pick up the book, forget about the age difference, and just read for Tom and Hilary.

Read it for their once upon a time . . .

Quotable Quotes:

“Hey, thanks,” Tom said as he took the cup of tea.
“Thank you for making it,” Hilary countered.
“Oh, that’ all right. I hope you don’t mind–”
“Not at all,” Hilary smoothly lied. Or, rather, told what he wanted to be the truth. There should be a special term for that. It should have positive connotations . . .

“You’ve got great hands, you know… I love watching them make tea, and handle fine china. Carry a tray so perfectly steady. Or tug a weed out of the ground, and then grasp the wheelbarrow’s handgrips. They’re competent, and they’re strong… and they’ve seen life.”

My Rating:

1 Smooch1 Smooch1 Smooch1 Smooch1 Smooch

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Review: Safeword by A.J. Rose

Safeword CoverTitle & Author: Safeword by A.J. Rose
Series: Power Exchange (#2)
Release Date: June 2, 2013
Publisher: Voodoo Lily Press
Pages: 333 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.

Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.

The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.

But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?

My Thoughts:

6:00 a.m.

No, that is not the ungodly hour I had to get up this morning; it’s the time that I finally made it to bed, bleary eyed and exhausted after staying up all night to finish reading A.J. Rose’s Safeword (the second installment in his Power Exchange series).

And it was so, so worth it.

Safeword picks up in the aftermath of the trauma left by the Breath Play Killer in Power Exchange and to say that it’s an unsettling place to be would be a gross understatement. Ben and Gavin have been through hell together. They’ve had their sanctuary invaded, their bodies abused, and the foundation of their relationship ripped apart. Somehow they’ve come out the other side, but that trauma is like a permanent black mark on their lives – colouring their reactions to everything that comes after.

But, as A.J. Rose said every time I railed at him via Twitter for putting some of my favourite characters through hell:

The bigger the catastrophe, the bigger the catharsis.”

And he was right.

Rose did a fucking fantastic job of showing the struggle that these characters went through during this novel. The anger, the pain, the guilt, the fear, the frustration, and the never-ending tension that stretched and stretched until you just knew something or someone was going to snap – it was all there on the page. And through all that – or, perhaps more accurately, above all that – was the love that Ben and Gavin felt for one another. I never doubted that the love was there, but the struggle was written so realistically that there were points in the novel when I worried that the characters may not recover enough to make it together. Those were the moments when my gut clenched uncomfortably and tears prickled behind my eyes. I know I’m a giant sap, but this book moved me.

As strong as Rose’s characterizations of Ben and Gavin are, the novel’s secondary characters shouldn’t be overlooked. Cole’s great and Gavin’s partner, Myah, is one of the best supporting female characters that I have come across in a long while. She’s complex, intelligent, intimidating, intensely loyal and protective. She’s also witty and thoughtful and capable. I love that she’s a compassionate human being who hasn’t let what she’s seen on the job make her jaded, but she’s also tough as nails when she needs to put scum (and homophobic a-holes) in their place. In other words, she’s an admirable character regardless of her gender (though her gender is worth noting simply because so few female characters of her depth and ability exist in the romance genre). It probably says a lot that if Myah existed in real life, I both would never want to meet her in a dark alley AND I would want to be friends with her.

In terms of the mystery at the centre of Safeword, I thought that it was extremely well done (much more complicated, unique, and realistic than the one in Power Exchange). The pace of this case was slow and the results of Ben and Myah’s legwork often frustrating and coming to nothing, but the tension and urgency were palpably building under the surface the whole time. When the serial killer is revealed and then tracked across the city, I wasn’t left yelling “it’s about damn time!” at my Kindle the way I did with Power Exchange. No, this time I was swept along for the ride, wishing I had an “oh-shit” bar to hold onto.

My only real complaint about the mystery aspect of the novel was that while I thought Rose built a plausible case for why the serial killer did what they did (and their motive seems authentic given what we knew about them), I still felt like the sexual aspects of the crimes were never fully explained to my satisfaction. Regardless, it was interesting to see how another character responded to trauma in a completely different way than Ben and Gavin did. It was like a glimpse into how Gavin’s recovery could have gone had he not had such an incredible support network or been as strong as he was.

(FYI, it is incredibly difficult to write about the serial killer without giving away major spoilers, so please excuse my vague language.)

Bottom line: I loved this book (and the series as a whole).  Power Exchange and Safeword combine cops, BDSM, sexy men who love other men, thrills and suspense, genuinely emotional moments, and a whole lot of other stuff that I love to read about all in one nearly perfect package.

So perfect that I wish that there were a third book in this series.

I know, I know – I’m being incredibly selfish. Ben and Gavin deserve to put all of the murder and mayhem behind them and enjoy their hard-won happily ever after, but my heart wants what it wants (and it wants more Ben and Gavin). They are one of my favourite couples in the MM genre, so even though I’m grateful that Rose gave these characters a satisfying end without making it into a sappy Hallmark event, I’m sad to see the last of these boys.

I guess I’ll just have to re-read it. 🙂

If you don’t pay attention to any of my other book recommendations, pay attention to this one:

Read the Power Exchange series. You won’t be sorry. 

My Rating:
2 Smooch3 Smooch

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My Funny Valentines

In honor of the holiday in which the mascot is a little cherub who dons only a diaper (because that’s sexy), I decided that I was going to share my favorite couples of all-time. While I love making lists, I didn’t realize — and looking back on it, I can’t believe I thought this was going to be easy — how hard it was going to be. Sure. A few of them were a given, but most of them I actually had to sit down and think. 

I haven’t had to do that since I graduated last May. It’s a miracle I still remember how to do it. 😉

At first the list was just going to consist of my top five favorite couples, but I couldn’t for the life of me narrow it down to just five, so I just chose seven because it’s my lucky number, it’s my post, and as of right now this country is still a democracy so that means I can do whatever the hell I want to . . . *clears throat* Sorry. Got off on a little tangent there. I won’t do it again . . . At least not in the same post. 😉

Anyways, let’s get on with it because these couples (M/M and M/F) are a lot sexier than any diaper wearing cherub could ever hope to be . . .

And for your enjoyment, a little Frank Sinatra.

Tangled

7. Drew Evans and Katherine Brooks in Tangled and Holy Matrimony by Emma Chase.

I read — and loved — Tangled back in June last summer on a road trip to Ohio. From my little nook in Georgia all the way to the little nook in Ohio where we were going, it’s close to a ten hour drive. We did that drive in one day, which as you could imagine was a long ass day. And when I wasn’t driving, I was reading. Tangled was one of the books that got started and read on the drive, and I knew from the very beginning that I had never — and probably will never again — read a male character that’s quite like Drew. He’s sexy, hilarious, rude, and crude all in the same go. Usually that kind of character would rub me the wrong way, but Drew rubbed me in all the right places, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the guy. And Katherine? She doesn’t take any of Drew’s shit. She’s got brains, she’s beautiful, and she has plans. As you might imagine, these two made quite a pair.

On the Island6. T.J. Callahan and Amy Emerson in On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves.

Another one that I read last year sometime during my second semester of school . . . and one in which I sneaked read any chance I got. It’s that good. It’s that amazing. And I loved T.J. and Anna that much.

I was a little weary going in at first because of subject matter, but I like books that push the edge, push the boundaries on what society thinks is right, and as long as it’s done right then I’m all for reading anything no matter what it’s about.

On the Island? It was wrote perfectly. T.J. and Anna’s relationship evolves realistically from teachor and student to fellow survivors who need each other to survive to friends, and, finally, to a man and a woman who have grown to love each other. As you might be able to tell from the evolution in their relationship, this book takes place over a series of years, and if you haven’t read it, then I highly suggest you do because this book is beyond worth it.

5. Robert Westfall and Andrew McNelis in Where You Are by J.H. TrumbleWhere You Are

The second M/M that I had ever read, the first being Trumble’s Don’t Let Me GoWhere You Are is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. What makes it so? Besides the writing, Robert, a senior in high school, and Andrew, his math teacher, are one of the most beautiful couples that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. A risqué subject matter, the story is written so well, and the characters are so real, that, honestly, I don’t see how anyone could think their relationship wrong.

Could it have happened at a better time? Perhaps, but then that would be counterproductive of the story, so . . . why don’t you just do yourself a favor and read the book if you haven’t already and then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Plan B4. Danny Marshall and Lance Lenard in Plan B by S.J.D. Peterson.

I love this book. I love, I love it, I love it. It’s one of my all-time favorite books and one of the many reasons that it is one of my favorite books is because of Danny and Lance. Danny, by himself, is reason alone to read this book. He’s out there, sarcastic, and not ashamed of who he is. I’ve read a lot of reviews, however, that say they didn’t really like Danny’s personality. For me, that’s where Lance comes in. Lance, in his awkward GFY way, mellows Danny out. 

And in the same token, Danny helps Lance figure out who he really is. And then together they make one of the cutest couples . . .

I’ve got to reread this. Now.

3. Thomas Elkin and Cooper Jones in the Thomas Elkin trilogy by N.R. WalkerElements of Retrofit

So, I have a secret to share . . . I love older men, and I love men who love older men. I have never been put off by large age gaps between couples (fictional or otherwise). It’s most likely due to the fact that there is a large age gap between my own parents. In any case, I’ve read several reviews or comments where people had issues with there being such a large age gap between Tom and Cooper. You know what I have to say about that?

*Puts on Boston accent* Fah get about it! *Clears throat*

Seriously. That’s not the point to the series. The point is that no matter the age, if you have a connection, you have a connection. No matter the age, if you love him, you love him. And you should never let anyone who has something against the age difference try to get in your way.

Tom and Cooper didn’t let their age stop them from being seriously hot. Like . . . damn.

Diversion2. Lucky Lucklighter and Bo Schollenberger in the Diversion series by Eden Winters.

Oh sweet heavenly Jesus and all that is holy . . . Lucky and Bo are two of the hottest characters I have ever read. Just thinking about all the things they say to each other, do to each other . . . *Fans self* So. Freaking. Hot.

Complete opposites, one would think that they wouldn’t work, but somehow they do and . . . God, it’s just explosive. And for two men who have a really hard time showing just how they feel (Lucky more than Bo), you can tell that they honestly do care and love each other.

I marathoned this series (the three books that are out so far), and I don’t do that. I can count off on one hand in which I actually have, so when I do do that, then you know that the it’s really good.

1. Ty Grady and Zane Garrett in the Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeline UrbanCut & Run

My OTP . . . the reason why I learned what OTP meant. I fell in love with them from the get-go. The moment they first kissed in that hotel bathroom? *Dead*

The best thing about Ty and Zane though is that you get to see them actually fall in love. I mean, yeah, you see that with every couple you read about in a romance book, but with the series being as long as it is, it’s not an instant thing. It’s very gradual, and even when they do realize that they are in love with the other, they don’t immediately come out and say it. They wait a book, and then tell the other. 😉 And another one of my favorite things about them? Just because they are in love — deeply — they still argue, they still disagree! They’re still their own person! Hallelujah! (And the make-up sex is freaking ah-maz-ing).

Anyone that has read this series and has fallen in love with Ty and Zane know there are a million and one other things that can be said about them, but they also know it’s hard to put into words. Ty and Zane just are and that’s what makes them beyond imperfectly perfect.

❖❖❖❖❖❖❖

Well, there you have it people. My list of my favorite couples, couples that I could continuously read about and never get tired of. This list is by no means complete, but for time’s sake (because who wants to be here for the rest of eternity?), I had to cut it down to a much more realistic number.

I know I missed a lot of fan favorites, but this is my opinion, so why don’t you comment down below and tell me if you agree, disagree, or you just have to ask, “How the hell could you have forgotten about . . .”

Review: The Accidental Cupid by Xavier Mayne

The Accidental Cupid CoverTitle & Author: The Accidental Cupid by Xavier Mayne
Series: A Valentine Rainbow
Release Date: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 51 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

While performing as Cupid on Valentine’s Day, Josh has the unpleasant task of delivering a break-up message to Dallas from his girlfriend, Jess. Jess is convinced Dallas is gay, and when Josh tries to comfort him, he finds she may very well be right. When Dallas’s best friend Austin arrives, it’s up to Josh to show both young men the love and acceptance they’ve always had in each other

My Thoughts: 

Every year for the last 10 years, my girlfriends and I have skipped Valentine’s Day celebrations. I mean… Hearts? Flowers? Declarations of undying love?! BLECH! Count me out. Instead, we’ve gotten drunk, eaten discounted chocolate, and made cards for each other on February 15th. (For those of you not in “the know,” February 15th is Flag Day here in Canada. Or, as we like to call it: The Unofficial Holiday of Single People!)

However, as awesome as getting tipsy and putting maple leaf stickers on hand-made cards is, I thought I’d do a little something different this year. Since I’m a romance book blogger now, I thought it’d probably be a good idea to read and review a traditional Valentine’s Day short story. Well… maybe not totally traditional – I still wanted to read about two dudes falling in love, after all.

Which brings me to Xavier Mayne’s adorably quirky short story, The Accidental Cupid.

Just over 50 pages in length, The Accidental Cupid proved to be the perfect way for me to dip my toe in Valentine’s Day’s undoubtedly rose-scented waters. I loved almost everything about this story, from the off-beat opening concept of a poor college kid doing a humiliating job to make a little extra cash for school, to the totally cringe-worthy recitation of the breakup poem (can you imagine receiving a Dear John letter written in iambic pentameter?!), and the fact that penis-shaped gummy candies were the final nail in the coffin of Dallas and Jess’s relationship. I loved that even though Josh seemed like a genuinely nice guy, he was also realistically painted as the horny toad that most eighteen year-old men are. I even loved that Mayne acknowledged my need to *face palm* when he introduced Dallas’ roommate… Austin.

While I’m gushing, I might as well say that I also really enjoyed the story’s narrative style. Overall, I thought that it was bold, quick, and refreshing. Josh’s snarky, innuendo-laden internal monologue was hilarious and at times eerily similar to my own thoughts of what was happening on the page. Unfortunately, I think this success actually hurt the story a little in the end. By the time Austin strolled into the apartment, I was already completely invested in Cupid finally getting a little action of his own and so I resented Austin’s presence in the story and ultimately found his character to be rather two-dimensional.

People are likely to criticize the story for all of its oh-so-convenient elements. Admittedly, it was awfully convenient that the Cupid delivering Jess’s break up message also happened to be gay and not in a committed relationship that could have prevented him from getting handsy with Dallas. It was even more convenient that Dallas’ roommate happened to be both gay and utterly in love with Dallas. And it was beyond convenient that a man who’d been so firmly in self-denial for the first 25 years of his life would not only realize he was gay, but have sex with TWO different men within an hour of this life-altering realization, and then feel so strongly about Austin in return that he is says his “I love yous” before the spooge on his chin even dries.

But honestly, who cares about all of that?!

I say, suspend disbelief and cut the author some slack. This isn’t The Odyssey;  Mayne has 50 pages to give readers sweet, sexy, funny, Valentine’s Day romance, and he delivered all of that and more.

Still, I can’t help but feel bad for Josh; poor guy was just trying to help a brotha’ out with his sexuality and he ends up back in the closet with what has to be the cruelest case of blue balls known to man. I guess it just goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished (not even if you’re Cupid)!

Quotable Quotes:

“Somewhere there’s a kitten trading his ball of yarn for a fifth of vodka because he knows he’ll never be this cute.”

My Rating:
2 Smooch2 Smooch

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