Category Archives: Romance

Review: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis

Title: The Temptation of Adam by Dave Connis
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Adam Hawthorne is fine.

Yeah, his mother left, his older sister went with her, and his dad would rather read Nicholas Sparks novels than talk to him. And yeah, he spends his nights watching self-curated porn video playlists.

But Adam is fine.

When a family friend discovers Adam’s porn addiction, he’s forced to join an addiction support group: the self-proclaimed Knights of Vice. He goes because he has to, but the honesty of the Knights starts to slip past his defenses. Combine that with his sister’s out-of-the-blue return and the attention of a girl he meets in an AA meeting, and all the work Adam has put into being fine begins to unravel.

Now Adam has to face the causes and effects of his addiction, before he loses his new friends, his prodigal sister, and his almost semi-sort-of girlfriend.

Review:

The Temptation of Adam is a young adult novel about addiction. While pornography addiction takes center stage,  Dave Connis also touches on other types of addictions as well.

Sixteen year old Adam Hawthorne’s expulsion from school from an undisclosed infraction sets him on the path for treatment for his addiction to porn. A benevolent teacher, Mr. Gratcher, intercedes on his behalf with his school principal and as a result, Adam must spend one on one time with his teacher in addition to attending meetings similar to AA. He also must join Mr. Gratcher and three other young men, Elliot, Trey and Mark in Knights of Vice meetings.  Like so many people who have addictions, Adam is not only completely in denial about his dependence on porn, but he is also quite unaware of the reason he relies so heavily on it.  With a well-rounded group of people supporting him, (including his romantic interest,  Dez Coulter, and  his older sister, Abby), will Adam finally open his eyes to the truths that Mr. Cratcher is attempting to show him?

Adam is a highly intelligent young man who was blindsided by his parents’ divorce. Now referring to his absent mother as “The Woman”, he lives with his dad who is physically present, but emotionally checked out. Adam adores Abby, but since she lives with The Woman, they are not as close as they were prior to the divorce.  Since he is deeply in denial about his addiction to porn, Adam refuses to accept responsibility for the incident that resulted in his suspension. He is extremely resistant to  Mr. Cratcher’s attempts to help him but with the threat of permanent expulsion from school hanging over him, he has no choice but to continue attending meetings and spending mornings with his teacher.

Adam’s realization that he is addicted to porn occurs at a realistic pace. He gradually beings to understand the reasons why he turned to porn and  despite this self-awareness, he is often powerless to fight his addiction. His romance with Dez also offers him a new perspective on his destructive behavior and  provides him with an added incentive to try to conquer his demons.  Unlike the young men Adam meets, Dez is a bit of a stereotype and it is rather difficult to take her addiction to addictions seriously.

The Temptation of Adam is an engrossing and insightful young adult novel about porn addiction. Adam is well-rounded character who is genuinely likeable and easy to relate to despite his flaws. The storyline is well-developed and Dave Connis’s handling of various addictions is exemplary as is his realistic depiction of recovery. All in all, a well-written novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dave Connis, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sky Pony Press, The Temptation of Adam, Young Adult

Review: Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason

Title: Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason
Harmony Harbor Series Book Four
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

“Heartfelt and delightful!” -RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author

Romance writer Julia Landon knows how to write a happily-ever-after. Creating one for herself is a whole different story. But after a surprising–and surprisingly passionate–kiss under the mistletoe at Harmony Harbor’s holiday party last year, Julia thought she might have finally found her very own chance at true love. Until she learns her Mr. Tall, Dark, and Broodingly Handsome has sworn off relationships. Well, if she can’t have him in real life, Julia knows just how to get the next best thing….

Aidan’s only priority is to be the best single dad ever. And this year, he plans to make the holidays magical for his little girl, Ella Rose. But visions of stolen kisses under the mistletoe keep dancing in his head, and when he finds out Julia has written him into her latest novel, he can’t help imagining the possibilities of a future together. Little does he know, though, Julia has been keeping a secret that threatens all their dreams. Luckily, ’tis the season for a little Christmas magic.

Review:

Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason is an endearing holiday themed romance.

Julia Landon is upbeat, positive and always has a smile on her face. With the holidays fast approaching, she is stretched to her limits as she frantically attempts to get her latest novel turned in on time. Juggling many duties, she nonetheless never tells anyone no when they for help. For rather mysterious reasons, Julia is determined to ensure everyone in the Gallagher family is blissfully happy and she has her hands full trying to ensure her last matchmaking attempt succeeds.  She is also doing everything she can to make sure her secret crush Aidan Gallagher has everything he needs to win custody of his daughter Ella Rose. Unfortunately her attempts to secure his future with the Harmony Harbor Police Department run into numerous problems with the police chief, but Julia is undeterred as she continues her attempts to “fix” things for Aidan.

Aidan is extremely suspicious of Julia which has resulted in quite a few inauspicious run-ins between them.  Despite knowing she is keeping secrets, he is also very attracted to the quirky, perky darling of Harmony Harbor.  But with his divorce behind him, Aidan is concentrating on improving his relationship with Ella Rose while also trying to gain custody of her.  Although he is frustrated by Julia’s interference in nearly every aspect of his life, he is also charmed by her.

Despite feeling a little lost due to not reading the previous novels in the Harmony Harbor series, Sugarplum Way is an enchanting holiday love story. Julia is a likable character despite being just a tad too perfect. Aidan is realistically depicted and it is wonderful watching his scenes with his daughter.   The romance between Aidan and Julia is slow moving and peppered with witty banter and laugh out loud humor.  Although the storyline is rather busy due to several story arcs, Debbie Mason beautifully weaves the various threads into a cohesive and entertaining novel.  Readers of the previous books will enjoy this latest addition to the series whereas newcomers will most likely feel confused by the first few chapters. All in all, a charming love story with a few mystical (and magical) elements.

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Filed under Contemporary, Debbie Mason, Forever, Harmony Harbor Series, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sugarplum Way

Review: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

Title: Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter
Blue Ridge Series Book One
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Former free spirit Zoe Collins swore she’d never again set foot in Copper Creek or speak to the man who broke her heart. But return she must when her beloved Granny dies, leaving the family legacy to Zoe—a peach orchard nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?

Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.

As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

Review:

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter is a heartwarming novel with an underlying theme of second chances. With more than just a second chance at love romance, this first installment in the Blue Ridge series is also a lovely story of new beginnings and healing.

Five years ago, Zoe Collins and Cruz Huntley’s relationship ended due to lack of communication, immaturity, insecurities and family disapproval. Zoe impetuously fled town with Kyle in order to pursue her dreams of becoming a musician. Cruz remained in town where he repaired his friendship with Zoe’s brother Brady while trying to get over losing his first love. Now, five years and many, many regrets later, Zoe returns for her beloved grandmother’s funeral and finds the courage to leave Kyle who has become increasingly controlling. Zoe also knows she needs to reveal the secret she has been keeping from Cruz but will it destroy any chance she has at possibly reconciling with the man who still holds her heart?

Zoe is one of the those characters readers might find difficult to like. When she was young she comes across as more impetuous and immature than “free spirited”. It is also difficult to forgive her choice to not tell Cruz the truth before she runs off with Kyle. Despite not being particularly likable, it is all too easy to understand how easy it was for her to allow Kyle to manipulate and control her.  After finally breaking free from her abusive relationship, Zoe initially remains a little timid and unsure but she gradually regains her self-confidence and sass.  Despite these changes, she is a little slow to own up to her terrible choice regarding keeping quiet about a MAJOR decision she made before leaving town, and Zoe is forced to deal with the consequences once Cruz stumbles onto the truth.

While Zoe is impetuous and a little thoughtless, Cruz is steadfast and loyal.  He reluctantly agreed to keep their relationship under wraps in the past and wtheir romance was discovered, her family’s reaction fed into his doubts and insecurities.  Zoe did not help the situation by her rash decisions and it was rather easy for external forces to take advantage of his uncertainties. In the intervening years, Cruz conquered his demons with the help of Zoe’s grandmother and his insecurities and lack of self-esteem are now a thing of the past.  Cruz still harbors feelings for Zoe, but once he stumbles onto her secret, will he forgive her for her lie of omission?

With a slight element of suspense and a gentle undercurrent of faith,  Blue Ridge Sunrise is an engaging romance with endearing characters. While Zoe does not always make the best choices, she does undergo believable growth throughout the story. Cruz has already come to terms with his emotional baggage but he must decide whether or not to absolve Zoe for not being honest with him. Although it takes a backseat to Zoe’s struggles to move past her mistakes, their renewed romance is quite sweet. Despite some of the predictable elements of the storyline, this first installment in Denise Hunter’s Blue Ridge series is an enjoyable read with interesting characters that readers will relate to.

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Filed under Blue Ridge Series, Blue Ridge Sunrise, Christian, Contemporary, Denise Hunter, Rated B, Review, Romance, Thomas Nelson Publishing

Review: Back in the Game by Erin Kern

Title: Back in the Game by Erin Kern
Champion Valley Series Book Two
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

WHEN YOU PLAY FOR LOVE, YOU PLAY FOR KEEPS

Stella Davenport wasn’t made for small-town life. Sure, teaching ballet in Blanco Valley, Colorado, is great, but she longs for the chance to perform in a big city. Stella swore she’d never let anything get in the way of her dream-until sexy, broad-shouldered Brandon West walks back into her life. Stella is determined to resist him, even if arguing with Brandon is sexier than any foreplay.

For Brandon, it’s always been just him and his son, Matt. Knowing that love only leads to heartbreak, he isn’t looking to expand his family any time soon. Stella, with her long, gorgeous legs and infectious laugh, is a breath of fresh air he didn’t even know he’d been missing. But when she’s offered her dream job in Chicago, will he be willing to put his heart on the line?

Review:

Back in the Game by Erin Kern is a somewhat angsty romance between two protagonists who are both carrying A LOT of baggage. This second installment in the Champion Valley series can be read as a standalone but the failed date between the couple in this outing occurred in the first book in the series.

Respective events from both Stella Davenport and Brandon West’s pasts continue to affect them well into adulthood. Stella’s childhood with her flighty and inattentive mother and a traumatic event that occurred when she was a teenager have left her with claustrophobia and anxiety. Following a career ending injury and a shocking break up, she moved to Colorado where she  has built a thriving business as a ballet instructor. Although it has been a year since Stella’s disastrous date with Brandon, her attraction to him burns hotter than ever.

Single dad Brandon is struggling with his son Matt’s plans to leave Colorado after graduation to attend college and play football in Texas. He is desperately hoping Matt avoids some of the missteps he made at the same age so Brandon is a little overprotective of his son.  With little time, energy or desire to date since his long ago divorce, he finds it impossible to stay away from Stella but will his unresolved issues from his relationship with his ex-wife prevent him from giving a relationship with Stella chance?

Stella and Brandon are interesting characters but readers will have to suspend disbelief to enjoy their romance. They have not spent much time in each other’s company yet, with just one glance, Brandon seems to magically “know” about Stella’s struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. While their banter is initially amusing, it becomes extremely frustrating since they both use humor and sarcasm to avoid discussing their respective issues which gives their scenes together a superficial feel. Their inner monologues also lack much depth since they mainly focus on their sizzling hot desire for each other.  They do not date in the traditional sense because their interactions mainly consist of accidental meetings around town. Overall, Stella and Brandon’s romance feels superficial and somewhat rushed due to the reliance on contrived encounters instead of actually dating. It also does not help that the novel takes place over a rather short amount of time.

Although the romance element in Back in the Game is underwhelming, both Stella and Brandon undergo tremendous character growth. Brandon’s son Matt is brilliantly developed and he manages to steal every scene he appears in.  Erin Kern brings the novel to a heartwarming conclusion that will satisfy old and new fans of the Champion Valley series.

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Filed under Champion Valley Series, Contemporary, Erin Kelly, Forever, Rated C+, Review, Romance

Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford

Title: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
Murder and Mayhem Series Book One
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Erotic, Romance, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 236 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

Murder and Mayhem: Book One

Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life—until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again—not after his former partner falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still makes his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence—and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

Review:

Murder and Mayhem is the first suspenseful installment in Rhys Ford’s new mystery series, Murder and Mayhem.

Ex-thief Rook Stevens is walking the straight and narrow now he has opened a collectible shop. So when he arrives to find the very dead body of former associate Dani Anderson in his shop, he is at a loss to understand who killed her or why.  Despite his prior walk on the crime side, Rook is a genuinely kind, caring and compassionate man who goes out of his way to help those who are less fortunate than he is.

Rook’s relationship with his newly found grandfather, Archibald, is a work in progress.  Rook and Archie take great pains to hide the fact that they care about each other and their scenes together are as funny as they are heartwarming. Archie has his grandson’s back no matter what but Rook cannot help but feel great remorse that his grandfather is smack dab in the middle of this increasingly dangerous situation. But Rook is not one to reveal his tender side, so he continues to keep everyone at arm’s length including the cop he has some personal history with, Detective Dante Montoya.

Dante and his former partner worked very hard to build a case against Rook several years earlier, and when their efforts came up empty, Rook became his personal white whale. Never imagining their paths would cross again, Dante does everything possible to ensure he and his new partner, Hank Camden, do everything by the book. However, this plan quickly falls by the wayside when his relationship with their chief suspect crosses over into very personal territory when Rock is very nearly killed.

By this point in the investigation, Dante has very strong doubts that Rook had anything to do with Dani’s death. When the body count continues to rise, he and Hank look to Rook’s past to try to figure out why Rook has been targeted and more importantly, by whom.  Rook makes no secret of the fact there was animosity between him and Dani but since he gave up his thieving ways soon after their last job together, he can think of no explanation for her being in his shop.  With Rook’s input, Dante interviews someone who gives him a possible motive for everything that has been happening, but has he discovered this information too late to save Rook?

Despite the circumstances of their unexpected reunion, there is no denying the sexual tension that underscores Rook and Dante’s interactions.  Dante is a by the book detective who is upfront with both his boss and Hank about their history and he tries to ignore his attraction for Rook.  The circumstances surrounding them giving into their mutual desire are a little unrealistic but there is no doubt there is more to their relationship than just sex. Dante is pretty much an open book with everyone and he has no reason to hide his sexuality. Rook’s default is to deflect and deny so he is not exactly onboard with admitting to himself, let alone Dante, that there might be more to their relationship than sex.  Will Dante find a way to sneak past Rook’s formidable defenses?

With an intriguing mystery, plenty of action and a colorful cast of characters, Murder and Mayhem is a fast-paced and engaging novel. Rook and Dante are wonderful protagonists and their budding romance is an absolute joy to watch unfold. Their sex scenes are definitely on the steamier side but there is little doubt there is more to their relationship than sexual chemistry.  Rhys Ford does an outstanding job with the mystery element of the storyline and the novel comes to a stunning, adrenaline-laced conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, Gay, Murder and Mayhem, Murder and Mayhem Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Rhys Ford, Romance, Suspense

Review: Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford

Title: Tramps and Thieves by Rhys Ford
Murder and Mayhem Series Book Two
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Gay, Erotic, Romance, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 210 pages/Word Count: 80,852
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the Author

Summary:

Murder and Mayhem: Book Two

Whoever said blood was thicker than water never stood in a pool of it.

Retiring from stealing priceless treasures seemed like a surefire way for Rook Stevens to stay on the right side of the law. The only cop in his life should have been his probably-boyfriend, Los Angeles Detective Dante Montoya, but that’s not how life—his life—is turning out. Instead, Rook ends up not only standing in a puddle of his cousin Harold’s blood but also being accused of Harold’s murder… and sleeping with Harold’s wife.

For Dante, loving the former thief means his once-normal life is now a sea of chaos, especially since Rook seems incapable of staying out of trouble—or keeping trouble from following him home. When Rook is tagged as a murder suspect by a narrow-focused West LA detective, Dante steps in to pull his lover out of the quagmire Rook’s landed in.

When the complicated investigation twists around on them, the dead begin to stack up, forcing the lovers to work together. Time isn’t on their side, and if they don’t find the killer before another murder, Dante will be visiting Rook in his prison cell—or at his grave.

Review:

Rhys Ford jumps right into the action in Tramps and Thieves, the second installment in the Murder and Mayhem series starring reformed cat burglar Rook Stevens and his cop boyfriend L.A. detective Dante Montoya.

Although Rook willingly walked away from his previous life, he cannot deny he misses a few of the thrills from his illicit past. So when the opportunity arises for him to take a brief walk on his former wild side, he is quick to agree. What he does not count on is winding up smack dab in the middle of another murder investigation after discovering his cousin Harold Martin’s corpse. Things go from bad to worse when homicide Detective Mark Vicks is convinced Rook killed Harold in order to assure his future inheritance from their wealthy grandfather, Archie. Since Dante is quick to realize Vicks is going to pin Harold’s murder on Rook, he and his partner, Detective Hank Camden get their boss’s official blessing to conduct an unofficial investigation of their own.  With the bodies piling up at an alarming rate and someone gunning for Rook, Dante and Hank are desperate for answers, but will they catch the killer(s) before it is too late?

Although they are rather comfortable in their new romance, Rook is still a work in progress as he tries to let down his defenses and completely trust Dante.  While Rook is not quite as uneasy with their emotional intimacy, he still finds it difficult to open up to Dante.  Rook is also making strides with his relationship with Archie, but his grandfather still has a habit of lashing out when he feels vulnerable. Rook’s reaction in the aftermath of Archie’s verbal assault is a testament to how much healing he has undergone since meeting Dante.

While they still avoid discussing Rook’s past, Dante has absolutely no doubt that Rook has nothing to do with Harold’s death.  He is very protective of his new boyfriend and his first instinct is to ensure Vicks does not pin Harold’s murder on him. Following a somewhat traumatic and dramatic discovery, Dante and Hank’s unofficial investigation becomes official but finding a motive for the murders remains elusive. When numerous attempts are made on Rook’s life, Dante is under even more pressure to wrap up the case sooner rather than later.

Although the investigation is fast-paced and intriguing, there are a few passages that are overly detailed and just a touch long winded. Some of the banter between the various characters (especially Hank) is irritating since it adds little to the storyline and these discussions occasionally occur at questionable times.

With scorching hot love scenes, a beguiling mystery and an eclectic cast of likable characters, Tramps and Thieves is a pulse-pounding addition to the Murder and Mayhem series.  Dante and Rook are appealing protagonists who perfectly complement one another despite the vast differences between them.  Their relationship is heartwarming yet filled with plenty of heat and sexual tension. The murder investigation keeps the novel moving at a brisk pace and Rhys Ford brilliantly obscures the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the murders until the novel’s exciting conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, Gay, M/M, Murder and Mayhem Series, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Rhys Ford, Romance, Suspense, Tramps and Thieves