I am such a fan of Diane Adams. Our December is another winner. By reading the synopsis, there were many ways this story could have gone wrong. Not to...moreI am such a fan of Diane Adams. Our December is another winner. By reading the synopsis, there were many ways this story could have gone wrong. Not to worry, though, because Alex and Jared's romance was handled beautifully.
There are a lot of sweet and fun moments between the two. Apparently, neither one can bowl to save their lives. Alex's best friend, Clark, adds another layer of depth as he supports Alex through his crush and helps Jared during his crisis of conscience.
They are both great guys and you will be pulling for them at every turn. Its a light, quick read with a lot of character. Perfect at 115 pages. (less)
If something could go wrong on this trip ... it did. Nothing is spared. And Amara always has some kind of twist or mystery element in her stories. Lau...moreIf something could go wrong on this trip ... it did. Nothing is spared. And Amara always has some kind of twist or mystery element in her stories. Laughing one minute, tense the next. It's a holiday story but its worth reading no matter what the season.(less)
No Apologies is a very sweet story in the best of ways. The telling of Aaron and Greg's story is clever and imaginative.
The story begins in the relat...moreNo Apologies is a very sweet story in the best of ways. The telling of Aaron and Greg's story is clever and imaginative.
The story begins in the relative here-and-now (2002), a point in which things aren't going very well for the pair. The hurt has been going on for a long time and Aaron, for one, is at his end. Greg's redemption plan has been in the works for a while and hopes it will be enough.
What unfolds is a version of how they met and the overall story of their humble beginnings. It is hard to watch as the bullies discover their relationship and the two young men are forced to question themselves, both individually and as a couple.
Even though the story is seemingly told from both POV, it really isn't. Its mostly Greg and how he sees life through Aaron tinted glasses. A fact that may jar some readers in a Bobby Ewing sort of way, leaving them to wonder what was real and what wasn't. Luckily, the present day Aaron serves as an anchor for the story within a story and should keep the readers on track. And Ms. Armstrong does a great job of clearing up any remaining confusion by the end.
The only drawback for me was getting so involved with the Aaron and Gregg from 1994 that the present day couple didn't seem as real to me. They were obviously at odds with each other, presumably because Greg isn't able to acknowledge being gay, let alone a relationship with Aaron. And it seemed the two spend a lot of time on opposite sides of the country as well. How did that happen? We can clearly see what Aaron means to Greg, but he is still unable express it simply. Instead, he has been writing their story, sold it for production, hired actors/directors/crew, and had the movie edited and printed for release ... all without Aaron's involvement. That takes years of planning (as Aaron later points out.) The result is supposed to be all the things Greg couldn't bring himself to say in real life. As much as Aaron seems to adore this insight into Greg after all these years, he is blown away by the amount of effort Greg put into trying NOT to say sorry with his own lips.
I loved that Aaron wasn't immediately swept away and gave Greg hell for his methods. That went a long way in reconciling the two versions of the couple. As well as Greg finally realizing what he had to do in order for Aaron to truly believe in them again. That part was very well done.
I have so much respect for this book and its sequel that I have had a hard time putting what I think into words.
On one hand, I had an immediate react...moreI have so much respect for this book and its sequel that I have had a hard time putting what I think into words.
On one hand, I had an immediate reaction between "what I would do" versus "what the characters do." As you'll see from some of the other reviews, Jayden is given a choice ... stay and submit or leave the house. His inner dialogue splits his decision so equally that the only reason we know he will stay is that it would have been a very short book had he decided to leave.
On the other hand, his experiences are not my own. As readers, we tend to want to escape into the character and I found that I could not. Stepping back to allow the characters to be who they are instead of who I am was critical in my understanding and enjoyment of these novels.
Decision made, we see Jayden thrown into the BDSM experience in a very abrupt fashion. As explained in the book, each person is different; some needing extra care as they become accustomed to the lifestyle, others needing that immediate cold-dunking, rip-the-band aid-off, full immersion into the community. I think JP Barnaby's choice for Jayden was a good one. Others may not agree, or may be uncomfortable, but Jayden's own inner dialogue would have talked him out of anything more subtle. As we see through their shared experiences, Jayden finds himself in ways that he never expected and wouldn't have known he needed. The addition of Lexi, in the role of confidant and fellow sub, softens the experience and helps guide Jayden through this new life.
I found the character development to be right on the mark. TFR is told from Jayden's perspective from start to finish. We know only what he knows, or what/how we as readers interpret the other characters actions. We get many insights into Lexi, her past and present, because of her many conversations with Jayden through his "training." We know how and why she has chosen this path, how she feels about Ethan, and how she feels about the addition of Jayden because she tells him. We know less about Ethan and his motivations because their relationship outside of the room is not nearly as developed as in it. The reader is able to gain a few insights based on Ethan's actions and Lexi's informed opinions, but Ethan is a controlled, reserved and extremely private person and for him to be more forthcoming with his subs would have gone against the core character Barnaby had created.
One of the main things that I liked about this story is that the characters made mistakes. The storyline didn't go in a straight line from beginning to end; it took lefts and rights, twists and turns. In one particular instance it stopped completely and had to re-trace its steps. This may un-nerve some readers. I found it essential. Other stories I have read with BDSM themes have been somewhat safe, best-case-scenarios. While they were wonderfully crafted and served as a great introduction to the topic, The Forbidden Room seemed more real. Great trust is needed to enter into a relationship of this nature; communication and clear definitions and limits are important, but that doesn't mean that misunderstandings and obvious mistakes don't still happen. The fact that Barnaby allowed the reader to see the raw experience instead of the rose-colored one was a big risk that I believe showed integrity to her work.
Didn't stop me from balling like a baby, though, when those mistakes happened.
In a book titled The Forbidden Room, I am not surprised that the majority of this novel is sexual and takes place in that room. Each encounter brings something new to the story. Some lessons were found in a gentle caress, some in more stark actions. How Jayden reacted to each experience was a big influence on how I responded to reading it.
The transition of Jayden from clueless to sub to dom spans nearly 2 years. Yet I was happy to see Jayden's interaction with his family outside the room. I think it was very telling of Jayden's growth. Without giving away a spoiler, I feel the scenes with his family are as much understandable as they are infuriating. They are also the source of Jayden's greatest mistake. He knew how important communication is and yet he held his tongue. His insecurities tempted him towards anger and colored not only his opinion, but ours as readers. While I still want to thump a certain sister in the head, Jayden's ability to admit his fault was crucial in his development.
The ending was not what I expected. I had gotten a few different glimpses of how it "could" go but was taken by surprise at the actual events. That alone made it a worth while ending, in my opinion.
Having read the synopsis of book 2 I decided to wait until it was released before I read the first. I am very glad I did. The second picks up right where the first leaves off but we see the next part of the story from Ethan's perspective. I will add a separate review for book 2 shortly, but I would highly recommend purchasing both so that they are read back to back and the flow is uninterrupted.
In total, I think The Forbidden Room is a well written exploration of 3 characters who are as diverse as they are similar. There is sex, there is friendship, there is love.
This is a nice, simple, quick story .... a beginning of a series about the lives and loves of 4 brothers. Fans of love at first sight will love this b...moreThis is a nice, simple, quick story .... a beginning of a series about the lives and loves of 4 brothers. Fans of love at first sight will love this book. And the dynamics between the brothers are fun. There are 2 points that drop my rating to a 3/3.5 for an otherwise enjoyable read ... and both have to do with timeline.
1) This first book is focused on Mischa, the youngest, edgy, and supposed "irresponsible" brother. And yet no sooner are we told that is who Mischa is he transforms into a romantic dreamer. Not that he can't be both, obviously, but the abrupt character change was off putting. I would like to have had more time to reconcile both sides of his personality.
2) As far as we know, Mischa and Donovan had only been together 2 or 3 months at the time of the family bbq at the end of the story ... and they were on their way to picking up their adopted son in another state. Even ignoring the unrealistic timeframe of adoption, adding a child so early in the relationship just seemed too forced, like they weren't a real "family" unless there was a child as well. I would have liked for the epilogue to have been at least a year or two down the road. (less)
This is another one for the easy read pile ... nice for when you need to relax with something quick and simple. We get more of the Blake brothers whic...moreThis is another one for the easy read pile ... nice for when you need to relax with something quick and simple. We get more of the Blake brothers which is a lot of fun, but this time Terry is center stage. He is instantly attracted to twin brothers Dex and Trick, but has to work out his own sexuality before he approaches them. Even with the wait the book has an insta-love feel to it that romantics will definitely enjoy. The major conflict is handled well and quickly which leave them to tackle a few other issues as a team.
And while this trio involves twins, this in not a twincest story.
The only drawback for me was the baby at the end, another baby=family scenario. It didn't bother me near as much in this one, though, since there seemed to be a better "wait time" involved.
I was very taken with this story. I had seen similar ideas where the subject of a portrait was a ghost or a gateway to another world or, like Dorian G...moreI was very taken with this story. I had seen similar ideas where the subject of a portrait was a ghost or a gateway to another world or, like Dorian Grey, a living replica fueled by their own painting, but this is the first one I have read where the man IS the portrait. Very cool twist. And the title is a clever play on words.
The pace was perfect for me. The book opens with the MC Tyler having had a good six months to come to grips with the break-up of his previous relationship. There are relevant bits sprinkled throughout the rest of the story, but we don't have to witness his darkest days. Thanks to his friends, there are several romantic options available to him throughout this story, but nothing seemed forced or out of place. Tyler's thoughts and responses were a very natural progression for a man with a healthy desire for sex but wasn't ready to jump into a string of one night stands. His preoccupation with Maxwell Friedland, the man in his nude painting, provides just the right amount of stimulus for his body and his mind.
The mystery surrounding the portrait is the first thing that has caught his attention since his break-up and he is happy to indulge in his historical training, digging around online and in old police files. What I really liked about this was that it wasn't all explained up with a bow. There is a nod to TV and how a convenient witness or a smoking gun would be found at just the right time, but that isn't how it happens in real life. The fact that important pieces of the puzzle were discussed and yet still ended up as dead ends went a long way in the believability factor of Max being trapped in the painting in the first place.
The way the paranormal aspect of this story is handled was as understated as it was genius. This is a love story above everything else so the "why" of Max's entrapment is explained in detail but the "how" is kept very simple. We see Max contemplate some of the most obvious explanations, but again, as with Tyler's searching, the way Maxwell's existence is portrayed over the decades isn't what I was expecting. What he is able to see and hear limits his POV, but he is able to fill the reader in when Tyler's research turns up gaps. And what Max is able to feel and experience in his current state was very well done, again, shooting holes in all the "convenient" outs that K C Burns could have used. The differences between Max as a consciousness and Max as a painting is amazing.
By the time the end came around I was more than ready to believe that each man knew enough about the other to be falling in love and I was wondering if we would get a chance to see how those closest to Tyler would react. No need to worry, it's in there.
Mary Calmes is a must buy for me. I love how a very common theme (shifters) seems original because of how she's approached it. The hierarchy of the sh...moreMary Calmes is a must buy for me. I love how a very common theme (shifters) seems original because of how she's approached it. The hierarchy of the shifters in this story is very fascinating. The main characters are colorful and interesting. There wasn't a lot of sugar coating going on, though. Some of the characters where mean and said horrible things ... mainly because of the couple being gay.
The are 2 reasons this is a 4 and not a 5.
1) repetition ... it had to have been said 6 or 7 times about how Jin was a male Reah, how that was so rare for the shifters to see a Reah at all and to find a male Reah was unheard of. We get Jin's back story too many times ... whether it be inner dialogue or when he was telling someone new. As good as the story is, repeating the same thing over and over was hard to overlook.
2) Jin's personality change. The first quarter of the book we hear about how he doesn't want to be mated because he feels the magically connection takes away his free will to choose his own partner. As a reah, he is chemically fated to only bond with a semei, the leader of the tribe, making him subservient to his partner and somewhat drone or slave-like to the connection. He isn't wrong. That's almost exactly what happens. There is still some bits of his tough-guy personality left, but mainly Jin becomes as tame as he feared. His stubborn trait is alive and kicking so that is the main reason he doesn't completely change his personality. Its also what has him convinced that Logan only wants him because of the novelty of the magical bond. And the fact that Logan is just as much a slave to Jin helps balance the changes so that it doesn't get too annoying.
Even with those 2 issues, I LOVED this book. So much happens that it is never boring.(less)
I can't get enough of Mary Calmes' stories and characters. There is always that blend of spark and spirit that is so fun to read.
Steamroller deviates...moreI can't get enough of Mary Calmes' stories and characters. There is always that blend of spark and spirit that is so fun to read.
Steamroller deviates a little from her usual in that the main character isn't very well liked. He's still pretty enough to have a few willing takers if he so chooses, but it wouldn't because they wanted to spend any real time with him. He has a few friends that "get" him, his humor, and his temperament, but other than that, he's on his own.
His love interest, Carson, however, is the talk of the town ... a star. Since we are never in his POV, we can only guess at his attraction, but I think the simple and idealistic explanation given within the novella sums it up fairly well.
And I have always hoped she would spend more time with the gritty, snarly one of the pairing as the main character. I love her loveables, but they are very hard to live up to. In Steamroller, Vince was much more accessible and I loved his attitude. His personality could have even been pushed a little darker and I would have still been happy.
And, as with all her books, the characters are never standing still. For such a quick read, quite a few things happen. I really liked the pace and easy flow. Nothing stands out as overdone, and everything works in that "If we believe it, then it will be so" way that Mary Calmes does so well.
I think most readers will spend most of the time reading this book with a huge, goofy smile on their face.