Review in Progress: Uniform Appeal (an Anthology)

Uniform Appeal CoverTitle & Author: Uniform Appeal by Various Authors (Anne Regan, Editor)
Release Date: April 11, 2011
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 308 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
Everyone loves a man in uniform. From the Armed Forces to civil service, it’s often a matter of logistics to balance work and love in life, and these men are specialists, up to the task of finding romance amidst crime, fire, and military service.

My Thoughts:

I have a love/hate relationship with anthologies.

On the one hand, they’re a great way for me to try a bunch of new-to-me authors with relatively little investment of money and/or time. I mean, who wants to shell out $6.99 for a full-length e-book or spend all day reading hundreds of pages only to find out that the author’s writing style is completely not to their taste? Not this girl. So I was pretty excited when I stumbled across Uniform Appeal; not only did the anthology include enough short stories about men in uniform to permanently melt my ovaries, but with the exception of Lisa Worrall, all of the authors were ones whose work I hadn’t had a chance to read yet. Yipee!

That’s the upside of anthologies.

The downside? The anthology is 308 pages long and there are 16 stories included in it. If you’re doing the math, you’ll know that means that not only are these all short stories, but they’re all short short stories. This might not be a problem for some readers, but I’ve always found that it was the richness of the main characters and the connection – or lack thereof – between them that was one of the biggest determining factors in whether or not I enjoy a book. No disrespect to these authors, but it’s damn difficult to make me feel anything for a character in only a handful of pages.

Still, Uniform Appeal has men (lots of men!) in uniform (lots of uniforms!). How could I truly resist?

Below, I’ve broken the anthology down story by story to tell you what worked and what didn’t.

Chasing Jamie by Eric Arvin:
I hate to say it, but this story read like a hick’s stream of consciousness exercise. The author provided too many extraneous details about the couple’s life and history together for a story of this length. Though I’m sure this was intended as a way to give his characters more depth, I found that it only served to pull focus from the central action of the story, leaving it feeling chaotic and melodramatic. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the titular character; Jamie came across more as a petulant child than a grown man in a serious, committed relationship. I found myself completely apathetic to him and his pink tights. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true – I did want to put him in a time out. (Does that count as caring?!)

The one thing that I will say for this story is that Arvin did a good job of creating a distinct voice for Wade’s character using a drawl and regional expressions. When combined with the carnival atmosphere of the setting, these details helped to give the story a strong sense of place and time. [1.5 smooches]

Famished by Lou Harper:
Well, I have no idea what the title had to do with the story, but I liked what I read. Neither of the main characters were terribly original, but the story was well-written, well-paced, a little bit funny, and a lot a bit sexy. The tone was perfectly flirtatious, and Sean’s character was just awkward enough to be endearing. In short, it was everything that I was looking for in a story about a man in uniform (a motorcycle cop, no less!). After this, I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on a full-length novel by this author. [3.5 smooches]

Delayed in San Diego by Pepper Espinoza:
Chandler’s in a bit of a jam; his restaurant has failed, he’s flat broke, and he’s headed home to Utah so that he can be with family while he licks his wounds and tries to get back on his feet. Cody is a U.S. Marine returning from a harrowing tour of duty in Afghanistan. After years of bravely serving his country while denying who he is and who he loves, he’s ready to come home and move on. The only problem is, he doesn’t have a home to go to. When a winter blizzard grounds all flights to Salt Lake City, Cody and Chandler find the perfect way to kill time between flights — together.

I LOVED THIS STORY! Espinoza may have only been working with a handful of pages, but she managed to push every one of my humina humina buttons and still tug my heart strings. I found myself caught up in the action, entranced by the characters’ chance meeting, their first shy, clumsy overtures, and their downright combustible chemistry in the bedroom. These men were sexy as fuck together, but it was the hints of vulnerability and their willingness to take a chance on more than a one night stand that ultimately won me over. [4 smooches]

Hot Stuff by Maria Albert:
This story had such promise! It started out with a sexy, but exhausted man running a stop sign and being pulled over by a cop. Bow-chicka-bow-wow! The exhausted man is Drake, a firefighter and all around do-gooder. The patrol cop, Perrin, is a cute blonde twink and a rookie. I can hear the porn soundtrack revving up in the background, can’t you? But before Perrin can even issue Drake a ticket, there’s a shooting, and a car accident, and Perrin ends up injured and in the hospital with Drake at his bedside.

By this point, I am enjoying the story – the characters are likeable, the action’s good, there’s two men in uniform for the price of one, and we’re about to get some sexy time… aren’t we?! Nope. We’re about to get a whole lot of extraneous I-don’t-give-a-fuck-about-this details. I didn’t need a sub-plot about an arsonist. Nor did I need one about a gay-bashing. Oh, and I especially didn’t need to be introduced to 15 secondary characters by name, get a run-down of Perrin’s entire family tree in excruciating detail, and listen to a back-story for each of them. I just want witty banter, smiles, sex, and a couple of feels, thank you very much. But I didn’t get that. Instead, I got our main characters’ first – and only – sex scene given to us as a DREAM SEQUENCE. [2 smooches]

Duty by Emily Moreton:

Discovering Columbus by Shae Connor:

Fire House Flame by Paul Taylor:

Sold! By K.R. Foster:

Heat of the Moment by Dawn Douglas:

Double Cross by Lesley Hastings:

The Night Shift by Louise Blaydon:

Jean-Paul by Ryan Loveless:

Walk a Mile by G.R. Richards:

Secrets and Lies by Jay Starre:

The US Male by Lisa Worrall:

Good Things Come… by Rowan McAllister:

My Rating:

*My overall rating is the average rating of all stories in the anthology.

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Review: Brand New Flavor by E.M. Lynley

Brand NewTitle & Author: Brand New Flavour by E.M. Lynley
Series: Delectable (#1)
Release Date: November 21, 2012
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 105

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

When artisan ice cream maker Jericho Brown first meets food writer Cameron Clay at a charity tasting event, they get along like strawberries and chocolate sauce. Jay’s unique flavors thrill more than Cameron’s jaded palate, but after a delicious encounter in Jay’s delivery truck, where extra-creamy frozen treats are not the only delights sampled, Cameron loses Jay’s contact info—and any hope of a real date.

Desperate, Cameron convinces his editor to host an artisanal ice cream contest in hopes of drawing out the elusive genius. But more complications threaten to intervene. Will Jay even enter the contest? Or will the chance of a happily ever after melt away?

My Thoughts:

Ironically, there’s nothing brand new about Brand New Flavor by E.M. Lynley. This story is a former Supernatural AU fan fiction; the author has simply changed the names of the main characters, given the story a quick edit, put it on Amazon, and decided to charge you $4.00 for it (you can read the FREE version here:…).

Now, I have nothing against well-written fanfic – anyone who knows me knows that I love me some Sterek! – but this story just didn’t do it for me. At all.

Spoiler alert: Jay and Cam meet and bang in the back of an ice cream truck in the first 5 pages of the book. Unfortunately, the scene was too abrupt for me to enjoy – I didn’t know enough about the characters yet to be emotionally invested in them, and the sex wasn’t nearly hot enough for me to just let go and enjoy the smut. The whole thing fell flat and left me thinking about health code violations and how sticky both parties were going to be in the aftermath (neither of which was the author’s intention, I’m sure). Following the wham, bam, thank you ma’am action, our fearless MCs part ways. They spend the next 80% of the story caught up in their own heads due to former relationship baggage AND as victims of not one but THREE overly dastardly and vengeful secondary characters.

[insert aggressive eye roll here]

And then, at 85%, Jay and Cam are reunited and it feels so goodI couldn’t care less. The two men see each other across a crowded room. Cam smiles stupidly. Jay laughs stupidly. And then they both escape back to Cam’s place to bone.

…and I was bored out of my skull and just waiting for it all to be over.

Personally, I found this story to be an I-did-not-like-it/1-star-worthy novella. However, I can appreciate that even though I felt like I was reading the script for a bad Meg Ryan movie, the story was well written and well edited, which earned it a second star.

Delectable? Sorry, try barely palatable. I just can’t recommend this one to friends or discerning readers.

My Rating:

2 Smooch

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Speed Dating Bibliophile Style: March (Catherine)

I Heart Books

(Probably more than is healthy.)

Last month I read a couple of books. Then I put my sassy pants on and wrote a single sentence book review* for each of them. It was kinda like the fast-food version of book blogging, but it worked out so well that I thought I’d do it again in March.

Only this time… I refuse to wear pants. Betcha didn’t see that coming, did ya?!

1. Unbreak My Heart (Unbreak My Heart #1) by K-Lee Klein: A quietly beautiful story about a drifter who falls in love with a brokenhearted cowboy musician in a way that feels both authentic and inevitable.  [4 smooches]

2. Floodgates by Mary Calmes: A fluffy popcorn read that was let down by a doormat of a main character, too many ludicrous plot points and improbable red-herrings, and an entire gaggle of extraneous characters. [2.5 smooches]

3. Charlie, Rentboy by J.P. Barnaby: A sexy short story that grabbed my attention with its narrative style and the Cockboys on the cover, but had a happy ending (get your minds out of the gutter!) that felt… hopeful.  [3 smooches]

4. Secrets, Skin and Leather (Secret Series #1) by Sean Michael: All porn and no plot, this book had little to no character development, repetitive dialogue, clunky narration, and inexcusably bad punctuation. [1 smooch – DNF’d at 33%]

5. Trouble & the Wallflower by Kade Boehme: With its three-dimensional characters, realistic depiction of a sweet but sometimes rocky opposites-attract relationship, and a bittersweet ending, this book by new-to-me author Kade Boehme far exceeded every expectation I had for it. [4.5 smooches]

6. All in a Duke (Gambling on Love #1) by Ava March: This M/M historical romance was the perfect balance between sweet and sexy, with great characters and a realistic struggle towards their happily ever after. [4 smooches]

7. Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek by R. Cooper: While the characters in this short story are familiar, Cooper makes them enough against type to feel fresh and interesting, their dialogue both snappy and mundane, and their HEA satisfying in its realistic work-in-progress nature. [3.5 smooches]

8. The Perfect Play (Play by Play #1) by Jaci Burton: I really tried to enjoy this contemporary M/F romance, but even though there’s no denying the steam level of those sex scenes, having two main characters who were nearly flawless bored me to tears. [2 smooches – DNF’d at 60%]

9. Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) by Abigail Roux: The eighth installment of Roux’s fantastic Cut & Run series, this book disappointed me with its beyond ludicrous plot and its startling lack of focus on the series’ main characters Ty and Zane, but gained ground in some other areas (e.g. the relationship between Ty and Nick and between Nick and Kelly) and provided a few solidly sweet/cute/funny moments to appease my mushy heart. [2.5 smooches]

10. Stripping the Pain by Kathleen Lee: A friends-to-lovers short story that deals with too many big-ticket issues (sexual abuse, BDSM, etc.) in too short a time-frame (which makes it seem a little exploitative). [3 smooches]

11. From the Ashes (Fire and Rain #1) by Daisy Harris: A great novel by a new-to-me author that gave me a main character (Tomas Perez) whose voice felt fresh and unexpected, yet entirely relatable. [3.5 smooches]

12. After the Rain (Fire and Rain #2) by Daisy Harris: One of the main characters is a firefighting cowboy, gay sex virgin, who saves puppies, and the other is a snarky French-Canadian obsessed with coffee; my ovaries never stood a chance. [3 smooches]

13. Keeping Sweets by Cate Ashwood: A solidly sweet but entirely predictable story about a wannabe porn star who falls in love with his porn Yoda (like Amy Lane’s Johnnies series but with very minimal angst). [3 smooches]

14. Doctor, Doctor (Groves Anatomy #1) by Scarlet Cox: This short story is pure fantasy that reads like the raunchiest porn you’ve ever watched (but not in a good way). [1 smooch]

15. A Fostered Love (Foster Siblings #1) by Cameron Dane: A book about two men with troubled pasts finding a home in each other  that manages to balance the sweet, the angsty, the primal, and the thrilling. [4 smooches]

16. Snowfall (Foster Siblings #3) by Cameron Dane: A sweet, gooey (and insanely hot!) glimpse four years into Jonah and Christian’s life together that made me deliriously happy to read. [4 smooches]

17. Taboo For You by Anyta Sunday: A totally adorable GFY romance told from three rotating perspectives (the two MC’s and the one MC’s teenage son) that is equal parts sweet, frustrating, poignant, and sexy. [4 smooches]

18. His Client by Ava March: Ava March sweeps you into her stories by creating characters you’ll care about, then sprinkling liberally with smokin’ hot sex, genuine affection, and a hard-won happily ever after; His Client is no exception. [4 smooches]

19. To Feel the Sun by Marie Sexton: Eight pages of poignant perfection. [5 smooches]

20. This is What a Cold Lake Looks Like by S.A. McAuley: A 4-page story that reads like the most heartbreaking poetry. [4 smooches]

21. Slide (Roads #1) by Garrett Leigh: With its unique characters and gripping story, Garrett Leigh’s Slide will break your heart but leave you wanting more. [4 smooches]

22. Marked (Roads #1.5) by Garrett Leigh: This “missing scene” from Slide was perfect – sweet and sexy and if you read this without getting just a little turned on when Ash tattoos Pete, I’d check for a pulse. [4 smooches]

23. Coffee Shops and Condoms by Eden Winters: Effectively a PSA on safe sex, this cute friends-to-lovers story about two sexually inexperienced teenage boys is sweet but purposeful. [3 smooches]

24. Blind Faith (Blind Faith #1) by N.R. Walker: Not my favourite by this author, but Blind Faith was another sweet novella with mostly likable characters (I wanted to throttle Isaac after his last temper tantrum), a few tear-jerking moments, and a gooey happily ever after. [3.5 smooches]

25. DILF by Twentysomething: The third person present tense narrative style of this Teen Wolf / #Sterek story took a little getting used to, but the dialogue was so spot on, the characters so endearing, the humour so well-written, and the sheer cuteness factor so overwhelming that I couldn’t help but adore it. [4 smooches]

26. Normal Enough by Marie Sexton: A raunchy muscle car kink/fetish novella from the same woman who wrote the adorable twisted fairy tale, Cinder: A CinderFella Story. [3 smooches]

27. Where the World Ends by Kade Boehme: This book had strong, likable characters, palpable tension, blisteringly hot sex scenes (facial cum shots – yeah, buddy!), and a setting both familiar and alien, but I found that it lost momentum in the last third of the book and not all of the conflicts were resolved in way that I found personally satisfying. [3.5 smooches]

* I sometimes use punctuation in a shameless (and often incorrect manner) to give myself a second sentence. Don’t judge.

There you have it – my picks and pans for the month of March. Is there something you’ve read lately that I need to bump to the top of my TBR pile? Please let me know in the comments section below.

Speed Dating Bibliophile Style: February (Catherine)

Reading AloneOkay, I’ll admit it: I am a bad, bad book blogger.

Ninety-nine per cent of the time when I finished a book, I don’t want to blog about it. If it was a good book, I want to ride that sweet high while I scour my To-Be-Read pile looking for the next awesome story that is going to make me laugh or cry or blush furiously before I melt into a giant puddle of lust and hormones. If it was a bad book, I need something to wipe it from my memory STAT – like chasing a shot of cheap tequila with a really good imported beer.

Alas, blog posts do not write and post themselves (no matter how much I sometimes wish this were true).

Still, I know me, and I’m not going to magically turn into the person that reviews every book I read. So, for those times when I absolutely cannot tear myself away from finding and reading the next shiny book right this second, Runell suggested writing a ONE sentence book review to tide over the bookish hordes (uh… I guess that’d be you guys).

Surely even can manage a single sentence between books, right?! Right.

So I dubbed these mini book reviews Speed Dating Bibliophile Style and there you have it. I hope you enjoy these bite-sized morsels!

1. Sixty-Five Hours (Sixty-Five Hours #1) by N.R. Walker: This gay-for-you/out-for-you MM romance novel may not be entirely memorable, but it’s a sweet, sexy, fun book that is way too good to be free. [3 smooches]

2. Sixty-Five Hours: The Twelve Days of Christmas (Sixty-Five Hours) by N.R. Walker: This super short story was sugary sweet, completely over the top Christmas cuteness and I loved every Diabetes-inducing word of it. [4 smooches]

3. The Nothingness of Ben by Brad Boney: A great book that took me through a wide range of emotions but ultimately left me feeling buoyed and optimistic. [4 smooches]

4. Newton’s Laws of Attraction by M.J. O’Shea: The friends-to-lovers trope is one of my favourites, and O’Shea always seems to find the perfect balance of sweetness and bittersweetness for her novels. [4 smooches]

5. The Flesh Cartel #1: Capture by Rachel Haimowitz & Heidi Belleau: Objectively, this was a well-written start to what many tell me is a compelling and addictive series, but I only found it sickeningly violent with a beginning so abrupt it left me feeling disconnected from the main characters. [1 smooch]

6. Way Off Plan (Firsts and Forever #1) by Alexa Land: This book was one giant, cheesy, endearment-filled insta-lovefest with an entirely improbable plot and a laughable conclusion, but I read the whole thing with a big, stupid grin on my face. [3.5 smooches]

7. Broken Pieces by Riley Hart: My feelings about this deeply moving book are difficult to articulate, but it has probably become one of my favourite of all time – one that I know I will be drawn to re-read and recommend to friends for many years to come. [6 smooches. That’s right, 5 smooches just wasn’t enough!]

8. Fire Balls (Balls to the Wall #2) by Tara Lain: This horribly titled novella was an awful combination of cheese and sleaze (with the added bonus of cheating and main characters that sound like 13-year-old girls). [1 smooch]

9. Learning to Feel by N.R. Walker: This book about the unlikely love that blossoms between a workaholic doctor and an artist in small town Maine is a sweet, fun tale of self-discovery that gets a little gooey towards the end. [4 smooches]

10. Totally Covered by Sean Michael: A deliciously spicy BDSM short about an injured cop and the two growly Doms who just want to tie him up and looooooove him. [3 smooches]

11. All In by Alexa Land: This book had a way, way over the top Days of Our Lives-esque melodramatic vibe to it, but between the gooey insta-love that this author seems to favour and the curiously PG-rated BDSM scenes, the whole thing fell kinda flat for me. [2 smooches]

12. Hot Ticket (A Serving Love Story) by K.A. Mitchell: I loved the dynamic between the alpha male and the naive virgin in this hot short story, but the story itself both began and ended rather abruptly. [3.5 smooches]

13. Tag Team (Guards of Folsom #2) by S.J.D. Peterson: A definite improvement over the first Guards of Folsom novel, Tag Team is a sweet novel that’s more about the depth of the bond between its main characters than it is about three-way sexy times. [3 smooches]

14. Smartass (part of the Love Has No Boundaries anthology) by Lynn Lorenz: A free short story about a veteran and a t-shirt maker who’s more damsel-in-distress than smart-ass – not a lot of sugar or spice. [2 smooches]

15. Getting Rowdy by Lori Foster: This book was the classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me”; I really enjoy this author’s work and the previous books in the series, but I found that given my newly discovered love of M/M, the M/F romance just couldn’t hold my interest this time around. [3 smooches]

16. Saving Sam (Zero, Ohio #2) by Megan Slayer: A sweet (but not entirely memorable) short story about old friends who get a second chance at love. [2 smooches]

17. Queers by A.J. Rose: A slow-building story with multiple story lines, complex characters living complex lives, and a hard won (but completely satisfying) happily ever after.  [4 smooches]

18. Lazy Valentines (Lazy Days #2) by K-Lee Klein: This totally cute (and free!) short story picks up just four days after Lazy Sundays ends and manages to bring a wonderfully surprising amount of emotion and character development in so brief a story. [3.5 smooches]

19. The Proposal (A Valentine BDSM Story) by Nik Valentine: I was exactly in the mood for something naughty, short and not too serious, and this story delivered all of that. [3.5 smooches]

20. A Better Man (The Men of Halfway House #1) by Jaime Reese: A book about second chances and being true to yourself that is both sweet and incredibly romantic. [4 smooches]

21. The Accidental Cupid (A Valentine Rainbow) by Xavier Mayne: An adorably quirky Valentine’s Day short story with a kickass narrator; Josh (a.k.a. Cupid) is bold, snarky, and refreshing. [4 smooches]

22. Unintended by M.J. O’Shea: No one writes about those first blushes of young love and self-discovery quite like O’Shea – her stories always get me right in the feels and leave me smiling like a dope. [4 smooches]

23. Blah Blah Valentine’s Day by Kyle Adams: Though not poorly written, this short story was not particularly sweet, sexy or snarky, and it ultimately failed to hold my interest. [2 smooches]

24. Elements of Retrofit (Thomas Elkin #1) by N.R. Walker: Another smart, sexy short story from Walker with a fun May-December twist and plenty of panty-dropping architectural jargon. [4 smooches]

25. Clarity of Lines (Thomas Elkin #2) by N.R. Walker: There’s nothing not to love about this second helping of dreamy Thomas Elkin and his sassy boy toy Cooper Jones – it’s smart, funny, and feels-filled. [4 smooches]

26. Sense of Place (Thomas Elkin #3) by N.R. Walker: A fantastic conclusion to Walker’s Thomas Elkin series that was even funnier and sweeter than the first two combined, with plot points that just made my heart sigh. [4 smooches]

27. One Good Deed by Andrew Grey: A wonderful book about risk, reward, guilt, grief, forgiveness, and love (so much love). [3.5 smooches]

28. Being Chase (Chase #1) by J.J. Scotts: The first in a series, Being Chase has a unique premise and a lot of potential, but not as much interaction between the two main characters as I had hoped for/would have liked. [2.5 smooches]

29. Paper Planes by M. Jules Aedin: This book was equal parts poignant, deliciously filthy, and unexpectedly funny – I loved it! [4 smooches]

30. Heat of the Moment (Out of Uniform #1) by Elle Kennedy: This short story was well-written and the naughty bits were plenty entertaining, but the plot and characters were wholly unoriginal. [2 smooches]

31. Pole Star by Josephine Myles: A free short story filled with two sexy main characters and tonnes of fun British-isms. [3 smooches]

32. Southern Winterland (By Degrees 0.5) by Taylor V. Donovan: A sweet, sexy introduction to the By Degrees universe that made me feel for the characters and want to get to know them more. [3 smooches]

33. Ten in the Bin by N.R. Walker: Classic Walker, this short story was sinfully sweet and left me with a massive case of the warm fuzzies. [4 smooches]

34. Quid Pro Quo (Market Garden #1) by L.A. Witt & Aleksandr Voinov: The first in a series of short stories about rent boys, Quid Pro Quo was scorching hot. [4 smooches]

35. Three’s Company by N.R. Walker: This super sexy menage novel felt like a brand new Walker too me; more raunchy than sweet, it took a little getting used to. [3.5 smooches]

36. Str8te Boys by Evangeline Anderson: A super fun, super hot, way over-the-top short story about two “str8te boys” playing “gay chicken” and falling in love. [3.5 smooches]

37. Someday It Will Be by S.A. McAuley: This short story was beautiful – poetic, even – but it fucking destroyed me emotionally. [5 smooches]

38. Taxes and TARDIS by N.R. Walker: Another solidly cute, opposites attract-type novella from Walker, but it was missing just a little bit of the spark that I love about her work.  [3 smooches]

39. Physical Chemistry by Jana Downs: For me, this short story blew hot and cold so often in the beginning it gave me whiplash and the whole thing ended up feeling amateurish and clunky. [2 smooches]

40. Professor’s Keeper by Nicole Dennis: A cute short story about an unlikely couple, but between the insta-love and the fact that the voice of Rhys was inconsistent (flip-flopping between extremely proper and good ‘ole boy), it had some definite issues. [2 smooches]

41. The Boy Who Belonged by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock: A delicious second helping of Lane and Derek that was incredibly loving and sweet, but spicy  enough to push me out of my comfort zone as a reader (unsurprisingly from these two talented authors). [4 smooches]

42. Red Dirt Heart by N.R. Walker: A fantastic novella that transported me to the heart of the Australian Outback, introduced me to two amazing new men, and wrapped me up with warmth and acceptance and love. My favourite N.R. Walker title to date. [5 smooches]

43. Cinder: A Cinderfella Story by Marie Sexton: This fantastic twisted fairy tale was a light, sweet, FUN retelling of an old classic that gave me the expected happily ever after in a completely unexpected way. [4 smooches]

44. The Broken Road Cafe (The Broken Road Cafe #1) by T. A. Webb: In terms of plot, characters, and writing, this book was a bit of a mess (and the “cliffhanger” ending was both lackluster and frustrating). [2 smooches]

45. The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick: A wonderfully written YA novel about high school, bullying, identity, the consequences of our actions, love, and forgiveness, this book is at times confusing, funny, heart-wrenching and inspiring. [4.5 smooches]

46. Sno Ho (Sno Ho #1) by Ethan Day: A charming short story that had tonnes of laughs, throw-me-up-against-a-wall sex, and some surprisingly sweet moments. [4 smooches]

Read a book lately that I simply can’t miss (or one I should avoid at all costs)?! Feel free to leave your own single sentence book reviews in the comments section below.

Review: Code Blue by Stephani Hecht

Code Blue CoverTitle & Author: Code Blue by Stephani Hecht
Series: EMS Heat (#5)
Release Date: October 1, 2010
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Pages: 104 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
As a firefighter, Justin has learned the hard way that bad things always seem to come in threes and the sudden turn of events in his life is no different. First, major budget cuts to the fire department force him to take a part-time job as a medic and his new partner hates not just him, but all men in general. Next, his rig gets stolen by some drunken bum named Indian Jack, who then crashes it into the local planetarium. Finally, some punk named Clayton shows up and stirs up all kinds of trouble.

Young and way too damn hot looking for his own good, Clayton has come to Flint to claim back his first love, Dylan. There is just one problem with that: Dylan is already in a committed relationship with Justin’s best friend, Kaleb. Since Justin loves Kaleb like a brother, he intervenes by coldly telling Clayton to leave Flint and never come back. To his annoyance, not only does the younger man refuse to leave, but he somehow manages to get a job at one of the local hospitals. So now not only does Justin have to face that Clayton is not going away, but he has to see him every day – all the while fighting the growing attraction between them.

Then Justin learns that everything about Clayton may not be as it seems. The younger man harbors a past and secrets from which he’s never healed. Despite himself, Justin finds he is drawn closer to Clayton and knows nothing will stop him from tying to protect the troubled man. Will Justin be able to help him become whole, or will Clayton be lost to him forever?

My Thoughts:
Well, that was mediocre.

Let me back up for a sec…

I was first introduced to Stephani Hecht’s EMS Heat series by a Goodreads friend (and fellow M/M romance junkie) in December 2013. All she had to say was that the eighteen-book series revolved around a group of doctors, paramedics, nurses, and firefighters who live and work in the rather economically depressed city of Flint, Michigan, and I was all grabby hands and “gimme, gimme, gimme!” (after all, I’m fairly certain that the only thing better than one man in uniform is two men in uniform).

I read the first novella in the series, Running Hot, that night and enjoyed the heck out of it; I thought the story was a perfect balance between sweet and sexy, the main characters were equal parts smokin’ hot and adorkable, and the ending had a twist that I totally didn’t see coming (you can find my full review for Running Hot here).

Since then, I’ve read the next four novellas in the series and they’ve been good (good, not great). Running between 80 and 140 pages each, I’ve found these stories to be the perfect palate cleanser between longer and/or more intensely emotional books.

But now I think I’m bored.

Code Blue is the fifth installment in the series and it was… just okay.

I must confess that I liked Clayton’s character quite a bit. While a little stereotypical for the gay son of a preacher, his back story was nothing short of heartbreaking and I found my heart immediately going out to the poor guy. But despite having endured a hellish few months at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for him, Clayton managed to remain a sweet, kind, humble guy. I appreciated his independent streak, chuckled over his sheltered upbringing, and found his enthusiasm for pop culture and gay sex strangely endearing.

However, as much as I liked Clayton, I felt almost nothing towards Justin. Well, except for the fact that I was mildly annoyed with his mercurial mood swings and attitude changes towards Clayton — he was smitten, then he was suspicious and irate, then he was annoyed, then he was vaguely accommodating, then… BAM! He was so deeply in love he couldn’t see straight. And yet somehow the character’s personal roller coaster of emotions and reactions didn’t grab my heart and pull me along for the ride.

Overall, I thought the chemistry between the two characters was okay (but nothing to write home about), the sex was okay, too (but again, not as scorching hot as earlier novellas in the series), the dialogue was passable (but mundane), and the ending was sweet (but forgettable). All in all, it was a perfectly satisfactory story, but one whose title I’m struggling to remember even as I write this review.

That can’t be a good sign, can it?!

My Rating:
2 Smooch

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