Falling Into Place by Tia Fielding

Falling Into PlaceFalling Into Place by Tia Fielding

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first read by this author and not my last. Thanks to the reviewers at The Armchair Readers for getting this book on my radar. The cover totally turned me off. So much so that I didn’t even bother to read the blurb or reviews until I saw it on Armchair Reader. Personally I am simply NOT A FAN of drawn, cartoonish covers. It takes a good review from a trusted source to get me over my initial heebie jeebies.

The beginning of this story ripped my heart out. The middle put the pieces back together again. The end left me feeling warm, hopeful and fully satisfied.

It’s an amazing journey through, at first, how a very emotionally damaged man deals with loosing his wife/Domme to divorce, moving away from his two children, and re-entering the workforce after being a stay-at-home Dad for a year all while also dealing with nearly crippling depression.

As we follow Scott we also meet his younger boss Milo.

Milo is a former NHL hockey player who was injured and now runs the sports wing of a publishing company. He is handsome, successful, friendly, and caring.

The connection between two previously heterosexual men throws them a curve ball that they decide to embrace. Milo, though not a Dom, learns the best way to take care if Scott. Scott is happy to serve and submit Milo at work and personally.

The journey these two men take together is so, so beautiful.

I loved this book, loved the HEA and for those interested though they visit a sex club there is no public play for our two heroes.

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Tattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin

Tattoos & TeacupsTattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am totally basking the beauty that is this book.

Tattoos & Teacups is a five-star read for me but it’s the most unusual five-stars I’ve ever given. There is no one moment that jumps out and grabs you as “OMG – this is super awesome”! What happens is a slow slide into a deeply beautiful relationship between an unlikely pair of men.

Robert is a 32-year old college professor and he and his family are originally from Scotland. They moved to the states when Robert was 16 so he has spent just over half his life here. He views himself as boring, predictable and old. He is single and fairly content to be that way. As a whole Robert is a very mature, emotionally healthy man. This isn’t to say he doesn’t have issues. What it means is that he is not drawn as a character that has a deep, dark secret that is going to explode any future relationship.

Chris is a 23-year old drummer in a band, though he calls himself a percussionist. He and his band are in the area for few months because one of the band members has family in Boston. While there he is doing weekend gigs and working part-time as a percussionist for the orchestra. He’s happy and light of heart, very friendly and people are drawn to him. Chris comes across as pretty mature for 23 and also fairly emotionally healthy. There is something revealed about his past towards the end of the book but it’s not something that got in the way of the forward motion of the relationship.

These two men are opposites – the rather proper Professor who is clinging to his Scottish heritage and the heavily tattooed musician who is only in town for a few months. But when Chris gives Robert his number at a bar Robert does call him and they rather quickly settle into a relationship.

As noted by other reviewers this is a tender romance that seems to evolve over a great length of time but in reality is only a few months. These two men are so….wonderful together. They balance each other out beautifully and each grows within personally within the context of the relationship.

About 3/4 of the way through, as the relationship got deeper, I started getting that tight feeling in my chest and ended up crying. The emotion portrayed was that strong. Just wow.

This book is about Robert and Chris’ relationship and that’s it. Everything else just kind of glances off of that relationship. There are some good supporting characters but they are not frequently on page. Told entirely from Robert’s POV we mostly see Chris because that is who he spends the most time with.

There are something that people pointed out as problems – a best friend that was well developed and should have had more page time, Robert’s daughter could have had a more prominent role in the story and the actual time line of the deepening relationship could have been a bit longer. Yet those things meant ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to me.

It was the Robert and Chris show. I love these men and I’m so glad they got their HEA.

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Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3) by Heidi Cullinan

Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs, #3)Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy crap! I cried. I just cried. That was THE BEST BOOK EVER.

Adam is one hot mess who is trying so hard to live a life in spite of nearly crippling anxiety and OCD. As someone with both of these disorders (though in much lesser degree) I so appreciate and am so impressed with the way the author handled all if Adam’s issues. Trying to have a relationship with someone who has a mental illness takes a special kind of strength and patience (ask my amazing husband). But it can be done. People with mental illness deserve and can have a loving, stable, fulfilling relationship.

Denver is a wonderfully sensitive, understanding and patient man with his own set of luggage to deal with. Low self esteem can be nearly as crippling as mental illness and the author deals magnificently with how self image can be damaged and how it can impact relationships.

On top of all of that amazing stuff there is a beautiful D/s relationship that played out between these two men. The relationship also shows how a healthy D/s dynamic can be healing. Can help people who might turn to unhealthy outlets cope. How, with the right structure, there can be a wonderful amount of both tenderness and firmness.

God, this book just totally hit all my buttons in a perfect way. Totally relationship driven with a realistic happily ever after. Mental illness does not go away but you can be happy, healthy and whole in spite of it.

I leave you with a quote that I highlighted and read several times with tears in my eyes:

“It was better than the first time. Not because Adam was tied up, though that was nice. Not because Adam stared up at him with liquid Bambi eyes—through glasses, because Denver had made him put them back on—though that was hot. It was because it was Adam, all of him, who opened up and took him in, who let him fuck out his air and trusted him to make it okay. Adam with OCD. Adam with all his fusses and fears. Adam who wasn’t just a curiosity, but Adam, the only person Denver wanted to see when he woke up and before he went to bed.”

Excerpt From: Cullinan, Heidi. “Dirty Laundry: A Tucker Springs Novel.” Riptide Publishing, 2013-01-20T05:00:00+00:00. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

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Going back to college at 40

I was 17 when I first attended college – right out of high school hoping to become an English teacher.  There was not too much I enjoyed about that experience.  Though my roommate and I had been friends when we decided to room together we had a falling out about half way through the first semester and the room was always tense.  At the time I was engaged to my first husband and he didn’t like that I was away from him (college was about 2 hours away from home).  It was the first time I got a taste of his controlling and possessiveness.  We had quite a few relationship problems through that first semester which caused me untold amounts of stress.

As a high school student I easily coasted through my classes with minimal work and above average grades.  Suddenly having to WORK for my grades totally threw me and I was a very unhappy camper.  Being unhappy with the amount of work I needed to do I decided to stop going to class cause, hey, there was no one there to tell me to get up and go to my 8 am gym class!

In the end I returned home after one semester, encouraged by my boyfriend.  The best thing that happened to me that semester in 1990 was I met my BFF (who I went to Ireland with in October 2012) and she is a true sister of my heart.

A few years later I ended up in business school and successfully obtained a Paralegal Certificate.  Being a bit older I was more disciplined and obtained very good grades.  However I ended up in a catch-22 situation.  In order to obtain a job as a Paralegal I needed to have practical experience as a Paralegal.  That was something I wasn’t able to get because I was working while attending school.  After that I ended up as a clerk in the records department for a large insurance company.

1994 saw me living in the Adirondack mountains with my first husband, working as a nurse’s aid in a local nursing home.  I figured I’d give college a try again, this time to become a Registered Nurse.  Since becoming a nurse’s aid I discovered I really loved taking care of people in that capacity.  I made it through about half a semester before I found out I was pregnant and discovered that being pregnant and dissecting fetal pigs did NOT mix.

That was my last college experience for quite some time.  Being a mother, wife and a full-time employee pretty took up every last second I had.

I was employed by a large insurance company working as a Disability Case Manager.  It was, on paper, an excellent job.  The people I worked with were great.  Overall I enjoyed what my job was supposed to be and I was very, very good at it.  Sadly the job itself was stressful by nature.  Dealing with nearly 100 people who were sick or recovering from surgery or injury and depended on me for a paycheck was difficult.  Throw in the need to work with various doctors offices to obtain medical information, following the contract each employer had with my employer, follow rapidly changing federal and local laws, increasingly high expectations for production from my employer and I was growing more and more unhappy.

My job was glancing off the medical field – I field I had previously enjoyed being involved in.  I started to think about a career change that would require going back to school.  So in 2010 I enrolled full time in my local community college hoping to become a RN.

Now, I have a serious problem with moderation.  Pretty much everything I do is balls-to-the-wall.  This was no exception.  So back to school full time after 20 years away.  While working a very stressful full time job.  My kids were older (the baby was 15) but still needed me and of course I had a husband and a home.

I managed a full year with a 4.0 GPA and I really enjoyed my classes.  I was excited to learn new things and be working towards a long time dream of mine.  However a few weeks into my third semester I hit a wall.  It was hard and it was messy.  I spent two weeks coming home from from class and breaking down in hysterics.  My poor husband spent so much time calming me down.

See, I have a history of depression that had been fairly well controlled.  Increasing job stress and 80-hour weeks wrecked me and I hit an all time low.  Though I didn’t admit it to anyone I was suicidal.  I ended up withdrawing from school to focus on work.

It took me almost two years to recover from what I had done to myself.  Doctor’s appointments, medication changes, therapy, a job change and a decision to quit work.  Finally I was emotionally healthy again.  And ready to go back to school.

January 2013 I returned to college as a full time student with 17.5 credit hours.  I’m the oldest person in all of my classes.  Because I am taking day time rather than night classes I’m with those that are pretty fresh out of high school or transferred in from other colleges.  There are a few returning adult students but so far…yeah…I’m the oldest at 40.

This time around I’m hopeful and I’m focused.  My baby will be graduating June of this year and I’ve already got two kids that are in college full time.  When I go back in August for my next semester four out of our family of five will be full time college students.  Wow.

My two year degree will most like take closer to five years total. I’ve been out of school so long there are quite a few courses I need to take before I can even touch the classes I need for the degree I want.  While I’m still planning on being a RN I’m also open to change.

If you want, you can call this my New Year’s Resolution – finally completing my education.

Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton

Strawberries for Dessert (Coda Books, #4)Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes I can be tough for me to get into books written in the first person narrative. Being as nosy as I am I really like to get into both main character’s heads. Marie Sexton does a very good job of letting us see Cole through Jonathan’s eyes and through emails from Cole to his good friend at the beginning of each chapter.

Jonathan is a driven workaholic who still holds a torch for his first lover from 10-years ago. His job requires frequent travel and has very little down time. Both of those two situations make it impossible for him to have a relationship, instead he picks up men in clubs or bathhouses to scratch that itch when needed.

Cole is flamboyant, sometimes a drama queen and he travels quite often and for extended periods of time. His one relationship failed spectacularly and given is lifestyle of travel he has a man (or more) in every port so to speak. He’s not looking for a relationship, just someone to have sex with when he is in Phoenix.

Connected by a long term friend of Cole’s – the first date Jonathan and he go on is a disaster that ends with Cole walking out but leaving his number. Though Cole isn’t his type Jonathan surprises himself by calling a few weeks later sort of hoping to hook up.

They come to an agreement to a non-exclusive relationship when both of them happen to be in Phoenix as the same time. What follows is the kind of romance that leaves me breathless.

All the angst is within the relationship – normal misunderstandings, misplaced pride, fear, uncertainty. Then comes the acceptance, the understanding, the warmth, tenderness and love.

These two are a fantastic couple and I totally believed in and felt they earned their happily ever after. Marie Sexton is on my auto-buy list.

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Just a Kiss (The Bradfords #5) by Erin Nicholas

Just a Kiss (The Bradfords, #5)Just a Kiss by Erin Nicholas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say about Just a Kiss?

First I can say that I am a total Erin Nicholas fan girl. Complete with squee and stuff! She is one of my auto buy authors – regardless of subject matter and I have read her entire back list. She is one of those writers that superbly craft character relationships, complete with their ups and downs and that keeps me coming back for more.

Second I can say that I do not want The Bradford series to end. *sob*

Just a Kiss is Kevin’s story. Finally. I’ve been in love with Kevin from the beginning for a few reasons – he’s solid, steady, amazingly generous and a positively portrayed Christian man. That’s something hard to find outside of inspirational romances.

Kevin is strong in his faith and rather than preach and shove things in the faces of those around him, he lives it. He, as his heroine Eve comes to see, walks the walk. He does not judge, offers good advice and is always a supportive shoulder. Someone as wonderful as this totally deserves his HEA, don’t you think?

Eve and Kevin married the day they graduated from high school and spent less than 36 hours together. He thought their marriage had been annulled and whoopsie…nope! Eve never signed the papers.

What follows is explosive sexual chemistry, a brilliant 10-year old half-brother, lies, confusion, longing and some pretty awesome sex. Most of the obstacles in this relationship are emotional and trust issues. There are some outside forces but those are more to amp things up rather than creating the actual problems. I love this in a story.

Both Kevin and Eve grow and progress forward in a realistic manner throughout the book. It really is a joy to watch them rediscover each other – as they are now and not how they were 14-years ago. It is also wonderful to see most of the supporting characters come back to add their two cents and support.

I found every aspect of this story to be plausible – from Kevin’s conversion, Eve’s falling away from the faith, their difficulties with each other and their expectations of one another and their eventual HEA.

Another win for Erin Nicholas as I wait for her next release!

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Night Whispers (ShadowLands, #1) by Alisha Rai

Night Whispers by Alisha Rai

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m an Alisha Rai fan and that’s the only reason I purchased this book. Generally I’m not a fan of anything with Zombies because, well, Zombies don’t say romance for me. In addition to having Alisha Rai on my auto-buy list I also love a good post apocalyptic romance. There is something about people being pushed to reach into themselves to survive that fascinates me. This book hit all the high points for me and was, in my opinion, a raging success!

Set in a world a few years after an Illness spawns Shadows (aka Zombies)and governments have reacted by throwing bombs around Night Whispers is the story of Jules and James. And I love them. Love, love, love them!

Jules is a kick ass heroine, literally. A former gang member and drug addict she has gotten clean and is working for the surviving government in a form of search and rescue. She finds humans who are on their own in a very hostile world and helps get them to various safe zones. In her search and rescue work she also has to kick some Zombie ass! Woot!

For the past year Jules has been working with James, a former CIA analyst who has been hidden safely in an underground bunker. James is a superbly drawn beta hero. Brainy, thoughtful and quite romantic. He has been working with Jules via high tech surveillance equipment for a year. They are able to speak to each other and he can see her surroundings but they have never physically met. He is borderline agoraphobic but his feelings for Jules push him way outside his comfort zone when she is in trouble.

These characters are already in love when we meet them – though neither of them are aware of that fact. Circumstances are such that it is HIGHLY unlikely they will ever physically meet. This makes the relationship quite safe for both of them and their respective neurosis. *grin*

It is awesome to see this beta hero at work. So many times a book with start with a beta and end up with some super alpha hero midway through. Thankfully James stays beautifully true to form – scared, nervous but pushing through to try to take care of his woman. And James is in no way weak, he is flawed. And it’s wonderful!

While Jules is physically capable of taking care of herself she is scared to death of relationships and being dependent on another person. James is perfect for her with his gentle persistence.

In addition to a solid romance, complete with hot sex, Rai also delivers a well developed, interesting world with compelling secondary characters. Several of whom I am looking forward to seeing in future books. It’s indicated that this is a series, however I’m not sure how many are planned. I do know that I will be quickly buying them as soon as they are released.

Well done Alisha Rai! Can’t wait to see what is coming up next!

“You have me. You know I won’t leave you. You know I’ll cross states and territories and I’ll fucking battle monsters just so I can stand by your side. But you’re so scared something will still happen and I’ll leave you one way or the other, so you’re responding by pushing me away first.”

She thought of that burning anger that had fueled her battle against the Shadow the night before. Her anger at James, specifically, though he had never abandoned her, not once. She knew better than anyone how fickle love and loyalty could be. Even if he found her, there was no guarantee he would stand by her side forever. “Shut. Up.”

“No. Not when you’re insisting on using that hero complex of yours to convince yourself that you’re saving me instead of killing us both. Fuck that, Guerrero.”

“Don’t talk to me like that, Bennett. You aren’t my boss here.”

“I was never your boss. I was always your man.” He grabbed hold of her hips and yanked her close, his lips swooping down to capture hers. At the first touch of their flesh, the anger between them shifted to passion. He groaned, his lips and tongue devouring her.

They really shouldn’t do this right now.

Aw, fuck it. Jules responded, kissing him back, rubbing her tongue against his.

A Younger Man (Cabin Fever #3) by Cameron Dane

A Younger Man (Cabin Fever #3)A Younger Man by Cameron Dane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just don’t even know where to start with what I loved about this fantastic book. First off I am a Cameron Dane *squee* fan-girl. To be honest I haven’t met a Dane book I didn’t like and I certainly was not disappointed here.

Noah is, I believe, 42 and has recently ended his long time marriage by coming out as gay. He maintains a close, friendly relationship with his ex-wife and adores his two teen sons. This character is amazingly mature, settled and knows exactly what he wants. What is at the top of his list right now is a loving, committed relationship with a man who is at the same point in his own life. However Noah has a problem. He has never dated nor been intimate with another man. After years of marriage to the only other person he has ever had a romantic relationship with he is at a total loss as to where to start.

He is amazingly appealing on many levels – hard working, honest with both himself and his family, loyal, protective, generous and he wants so badly to be in love. Coming out was hard on him, while most people were accepting his beloved father is now distant and cold. It’s breaking Noah (and my) heart.

Taking the advice of his 19-year old son to actually get out there and LIVE Noah starts going on dates. He grows increasingly frustrated at his lack of interest in any of these men.

Zane is 24 and has sole responsibility for his two young siblings. Before that he was sole caretaker of his ill step-father. His step-father’s sister is trying to take the children away, against the dying wishes of her brother. So Zane is doing everything in his power to provide a solid, stable, loving home for them. Because of the fact that Zane has been a caretaker from the age of 15 he has never had a romantic or intimate relationship with anyone. Yet he knows exactly what he wants when it comes to his siblings and when it comes to Noah.

This character is also amazingly appealing. He is young but mature and he is in a hell of a situation. Though he is doing his best he has been kicked out of his apartment and has landed almost literally at Noah’s feet.

Being the kind of man he is, Noah offers Zane his help. Desperate and scared Zane takes the help and what happens is a slow growing, gentle, passionate relationship.

Cameron Dane writes relationships at a whole different level and while there are outside forces in this book that present problems to Noah and Zane’s budding romance it’s the complicated relationships between family and friends that really drive this story forward. In so many books the outside forces can seem like exactly what they are…plot devices to keep the main characters apart. In this book they are organic and resonate as something each character would actually do. The reasoning behind the decisions made are logical and realistic. The resolutions are honest and also organic and in being so we don’t have plot devices – we have real life.

This book took me quite a bit longer to read than usual. I went slowly and savored every word, frequently re-reading entire passages several times (something VERY unusual for me). And the book still ended way to quickly for me. I wanted to see more of the day to day life of these characters. I wanted to immerse myself in their world. I wanted to befriend them, support them and encourage them.

This book is also sexually explicit – as all Dane books are – but it’s not porn. Again the sex, the level of intimacy between these two men, is totally and completely organic. The build up to their first encounter is slow and steamy, involving lots of fantasy and not a little bit of angst. They explode when they touch each other, nearly every time, and each time is as exciting to the reader as the last. Damn but Cameron Dane can write a love scene.

Sadly this book did come to an end with a wonderful epilogue that tied things up and assured us that this wonderful couple did have a HEA. So now I wait for the next Cameron Dane book.

Though the third in the Cabin Fever series this book can easily be read as a stand alone.

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Just for Fun (Bradfords, #4) by Erin Nicholas

Just for Fun (Bradfords, #4)Just for Fun by Erin Nicholas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am seriously crying right now. Why? Because this book is over. It’s over damnit! Gahhh….. Why do I let Erin Nicholas do this to me? Why do I let her drag me into her world, her character’s lives and then I fall so deep it’s like a slap in the face when it’s over? Ugh.

Let’s see if I can write this review without getting all fangirl. Most likely not.

Doug “Dooley” Miller is the easy going, laid back, sexy paramedic I developed a crush on over the course of the first three Bradford books. Kinda like your older brother’s best friend – he is always in the background and you get used to him being part of the environment but there are these brief moments when he is center stage and you look at him like…wow, there is something more there.

In Just the Way I Like It we get hints that Mr. Easygoing No Relationships has some depth. Some layers that are waiting to be peeled back. We also learn that he is all about relaxed, easy going women that don’t require vast amounts of shine and polish. He wants his dates to like jeans and t-shirts as much as he does. Having them on and off.

The book opens when Dooley’s hook-up from a charity dinner hunts him down at his favorite bar and asks him to go to Chicago with her for 3 days. Gotta love a girl who knows what she wants and why she wants it. Gotta love a guy that hooked-up so well that girl went digging to find him. While Dooley wouldn’t mind a few more trips through the sheets with her he can’t commit to going away from home for that long.

Morgan James is a class act who admits Dooley is the best she’s ever had and she’d like an encore please. She needs him to act as a sexual distraction from her ex during her business trip. Seeing as how is the only man who has ever exceeded her ex’s appeal in bed he is the only man for the job.

The trip goes to prove that they light up all of each other’s bells in bed and have almost nothing in common outside of it. However Morgan wants to keep seeing him and makes a proposition that is as logical as it is offensive. Dooley shoots it down and closes her out of his life.
Not one to take no for an answer Morgan wages her own war to get Dooley back into her life, finally ending up taking matters into her own hands and ending up on his doorstep.

What follows is an odd courtship but one that is perfect for who Dooley and Morgan are.

In typical Erin Nicolas fashion the strength of this book is the intricate, interwoven relationships between all of the characters that get page time. Watching Morgan fall in love with Dooley’s family and friends is as beautiful as watching them fall in love with each other. It’s absolutely refreshing to find that both of these characters are mature, emotionally healthy people. No raging insecurity, no deep dark secrets. Just the beautiful complication called life getting in the way of their relationship.

I love all Erin Nicholas books but so far I’ve loved this the most. Having a favorite supporting character take the lead, seeing the happiness of the couples from the previous books and learning even more about what a wonderful friend Kevin is…this book just totally did it for me.

Can’t wait for Just A Kiss, which is Kevin’s book, due in October. OCTOBER? What’s up with that??? Please write quicker Ms. Nicholas. Please?

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Crescendo (Boston Avant-Garde 2) by Kaitlin Maitland

Crescendo (Boston Avant-Garde 2)Crescendo by Kaitlin Maitland

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars

While the blurb I read said this was a m/m/f menage it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. This is book two in a series of what is currently 3 books with book 4 due in August 2012. I was able to read it as a stand-alone without too much difficulty.

Seth and Josh have been best friends since elementary school. They are also law partners who share an apartment. They are not, however, gay. They are straight and share women.

Leslie is a musician with a secret past who dated Seth and broke up with him when he wanted something more serious and explained about he and Josh sharing women.

She goes to Seth to ask for he and Josh to represent a friend who is starting out a custody battle, offering them a portion of her earnings for her classical musical group as payment.

The story itself is okay though in reality Leslie’s hidden past is not much use as a plot device. The difficulties inherent in a menage, as well as each character’s emotional wounds, would have been enough of a conflict.

I was disappointed that the m/m part of the menage was actually not a romantic connection. The men were comfortable with each other and with coming in contact during intimate moments but it was not anything that either one of them were aroused by. This is a must for me when it comes to menage – that all three partners are equally in love with and aroused by the others.

Overall it was a decent book but I won’t be headed back for others in the series. This ended in what I’d call a happy for now and not a happily ever after.

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