I feel like I waited forever for this book to come out. I am so grateful to Heidi Cullinan for the ARC, because I don’t think I would have been able to take it if I had to wait all the way to April 8, 2014. For those of you who have managed to stay sane, the wait is almost over, and Tough Love will be hitting the shelves next Tuesday. *Dances happy dance*
Tough Love is a nice continuation of the SD series. For me, it was like coming home and visiting old friends. It was so good to see Mitch, Sam, Randy, and Ethan (the boys) again! We get to meet Mitch’s half-brother Chenco Ortiz, (squeee!), a talented drag performer trying to make a name for herself and bad-ass kinky daddy Steve Vance. They make quite the pair, let me tell you.
It’s an SD book, so of course there is plenty of drama, antics by Randy, Crabtree’s there too (the sadistic bastard), and of course they end up in Vegas, because Vegas is just as much a character in the SD series as the people themselves.
The Sex: The sex is hot. HAWT. There is one scene is Mitch’s truck, that OMFGHCS! There was however, some kink in this book that was not my thing. There is some pretty hardcore BDSM, and there (view spoiler)[is needle play. I am not a needle girl. (hide spoiler)] It absolutely works for the characters and fits in the plot of the book, so no problems there, but be prepared, my vanilla snowflakes, to have your boundaries pressed.
I hope you enjoy your much-anticipated visit to the SD universe as much as I did. Tough Love delivers drama, angst, love, romance and seriously kinky sex, all wrapped up in a nice SD bow. Enjoy!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is a lovely story. I absolutely loved it. My advice to readers: this is a curl up with a blanket and hot chocolate, mid-day on a weekend kind of...moreThis is a lovely story. I absolutely loved it. My advice to readers: this is a curl up with a blanket and hot chocolate, mid-day on a weekend kind of read. I cried and teared up repeatedly, so if you read it at night before bed you will end up with puffy eyes and a headache in the morning. Still totally worth it though. Thanks Eden, for this beautiful story. P.S.- The sex is really hot too!(less)
Even as I start this review, I am still conflicted about this book. There were parts of it that made me uncomfortable. I really like...morePenny’s Rating: C+
Even as I start this review, I am still conflicted about this book. There were parts of it that made me uncomfortable. I really liked it, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is because it wasn’t easy to like. It pushed my boundaries, and really made me re-examine some of my own opinions, especially my opinions regarding what I do and do not consider to be consensual sex.
Israfel (Raf) is a 29 year old Catholic priest. He knows he is attracted to men, but he considers his homosexuality a disease and an affliction, in fact he chose to become a priest so he could lead a celibate lifestyle. Enter Nate Mulligan, a 17 year old, that’s right he’s a minor, who is an altar boy at Israfel’s new parish in a conservative small town in New England.
In summary: Israfel and Nate are insanely attracted to each other, to the point where Nate won’t leave Israfel alone about it. Israfel struggles against his own urges, but gives into an falls for Nate. For obvious reasons, they keep their relationship a secret. They are found out by Michael, Israfel’s twin brother, who threatens to expose their affair to the Bishop. It’s only when Israfel thinks he’s lost Nate’s love that he finally begins to come to terms with who he is, and what will truly make him happy. Issues/ Comments:
1. Sexual relations with a minor. O.K., let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Nate is 17, and Israfel is 29. Blaydon goes out of her way to make sex with a minor work as a plot device, and Nate is only a few months shy of 18 at the start of the novel. Nate is the initiator of their sexual encounters, and he is clearly not a victim, but I am still not completely ok with it, and I don’t think I have to be. It would bother me just as much if this were a hetero relationship, it’s simply my instinctive reaction to the premise of a 17 year old getting involved with a much, much older person. It works on paper for Nate and Israfel, but should probably be avoided in real life situations. It is made clear towards the end of the book, that the age of consent in the state that the story takes place is in-fact, age 17, so what’s happening in the book is not statutory rape. It would have been nice to know that for sure earlier in the story. I found a site: http://www.avert.org/age-of-consent.htm which raises awareness about HIV/AIDS. The link lists the ages of consent for heterosexual and homosexual sex in different countries and in U.S. States. There are a few states in the U.S. where you have to be 18 to consent to sex, but in most states, the age of consent is 17 or 16. I could go on and on about this one, but I think in spite of my own reservations, Blaydon justified and defended Nate’s age as best she could.
2. Nate Mulligan. Nate is a strong, sexually charged, astonishingly confident character. Never in my life have I met a 17 year old who was so clear on what he/she wanted as Nate is, much less a 17 year old who was home-schooled and educated by his super-conservative, super-Catholic mother, like Nate was. While Nate is clearly not a victim, and is very much a willing and active participant in his love affair with Israfel, I was left wishing he was real, and knowing he is not. The world would probably be a much better place, if all of us could be as awesome as Nate Mulligan.
For example, towards the end of an argument he has with Israfel, Nate declares, “…you know what else I realized, Israfel? I don’t want to be like you , okay? I am not going to toe your fucking party line and lie about what I do, what I am. There is nothing f***ing wrong with it and I ‘m not going to spend a single second with someone who thinks there is, someone who’s ashamed of me.. I am nothing,” he raps out, “to be ashamed of, I am fucking worth being with, and I am not going to spend another second with someone who thinks otherwise….” (page 119)
Let’s just say, I know few adults who would be able to so clearly articulate their own self worth.
3. The plot meanders, especially in the beginning. Israfel’s own inner monologue of self-loathing is all over the place, and it’s really not clear where the story is going. I almost stopped reading around the 20 page mark. It isn’t till you get to page 31, where Nate confesses his attraction to Israfel,(in a big way), that the plot really starts to move. It’s enough of a jolt to make you wonder if the first 30 pages were written after the rest of the book was already finished.
4. The relationship that develops between Nate and Israfel is intense. Their sexual encounters are racy, arousing, and sweet, Israfel is a complete innocent, having only ever kissed a boy a few times as a teenager himself. Israfel’s growth and transformation as he comes to terms with his own sexuality was complete and very believable.
5. Religion plays a role in Israfel’s initial beliefs, and in his transformation. Blaydon avoided directly addressing religious arguments for or against homosexuality, but did point out some biblical discrepancies, and raised several questions, but ultimately Israfel’s answers come to him in a rather unexpected and humorous way. I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I will say no more.
6. I can’t help but feel that there was a scene missing from this book where Israfel confronts his twin brother Michael a second time. Though it is clear that Michael would never accept Israfel as a gay man, It seems in the story that this was an issue left unaddressed for the rest of Israfel’s life.
For all of its flaws, this was an incredible book, and well worth reading. C+.(less)
If someone had told me before I offered to review this book for Net Galley that First Impressions was a gay contemporary romance no...morePenny's Rating: B +
If someone had told me before I offered to review this book for Net Galley that First Impressions was a gay contemporary romance novel that follows the plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I would have told you that there was no way that would work as a novel. So I am glad I didn’t know that when I started reading. You would think that the title, First Impressions, which was Austen’s original title for Pride and Prejudice would have tipped me off, but no. Perhaps I was distracted by the yummy shirtless man painted on the cover, but I was a few chapters into the novel before I noticed the familiar Austen plot. Yes, I am an Austen fan, and P&P is one of my favorite novels of all time. I do not think you have to be a Austen fan to enjoy Mr. Koehler's novel, but for me, being a fan of all things Austen added a whole other level of enjoyment to Koehler's tale.
The characters that Mr. Koehler created for this tale are endearing and hilarious, and work beautifully in their roles as P&P characters. Cameron, who takes the part of Elizabeth Bennett, and Henry, who plays a very well endowed ex-porn star version of Mr. Darcy, are prefect in their roles. Their encounters are both wonderfully awkward, and increasingly adorable as their attraction for each other builds, but neither has the courage to admit their true feelings.
As for the rest of the Austen's characters, Koehler made brilliant choices and created some really funny character's as a result. Who would have ever though that Lady Catherine could be a wealthy porn empress drag queen? Or that Wickham could work as a slut friend and meth user? Or that Mr. Collins could be a crazy gangster who takes Cameron along for a drive-by shooting while on a date? Plus, don't even get me started on the hijinks of Cameron's completely inappropriate roommates and best friends, aka the Bennett sisters.
More than anything else, I loved the fact that even though I knew the overall plot of the novel, Mr. Koehler's tale continually surprised me. He managed to write an amazing modern-day version of one of my favorite novels, plus it's humorous, and to top it off, unlike an Austen novel with its sexual tension and longing glances, this tale has some pretty hot sex as well! This is a must read for any M/M fan who loves Jane Austen. Thank you Mr. Koehler, and if you ever decide to tackle a re-telling of Persuasion, I am so there.(less)
I don’t know if I ever read a novel before where the two main characters had such a hard time communicating with one another. It was...morePenny's Rating: B+
I don’t know if I ever read a novel before where the two main characters had such a hard time communicating with one another. It was like they were different species from different planets, and even though it was infuriating at times, I loved that. Author R.Cooper beautifully wrote two people who are super attracted to each other, but are seriously so different that they often don’t even “get” what the other is saying. In real life, you see this dynamic all over the place, especially in casual relationships, but I have never seen a story where this dynamic was explored so completely, or written so well.
Cooper writes these two so well. I found myself fascinated by the conversations between Charlie and Will. They had so many layers to them. I did feel like at times they each needed a translator though. I realize that may not sound like a good thing to some of you, but I loved that this was not your typical fluffy one-dimensional “easy” romance. That being said, there are probably some people who will find the communication issues between Charlie and Will to be a turnoff, but for me, they worked.
“I only understand you half the time.” “I know, right?” Will answered, deadpan, then he twirled his finger around by his temple in the elementary school gesture for crazy. “I figured that out yesterday. The thing is, well, forget the thing, it’s not important.”
“Are you talking to yourself?” Charlie couldn’t tell if he’d had too much coffee or not enough. Strangely, Will blinked and looked just as lost in the second before he rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
“Charlie.” He breathed and then wet his lips. “Charlie,” he tried again, and he moved away from the wall. He didn’t get close this time, only straightening before he stopped. Whatever he said to himself this time was too quiet for Charlie to understand. “I’m normally not the one doing this, and trust me, I am totally confused, except that there’s just something hot in how stern you get, and I’ve seen you so, so gentle, and sometimes you say the best things, but….” Will cleared his throat, then took a deep breath. “What are you doing tonight? Well, this afternoon. Evening-ish, I guess. Today,” he added with one hand out, while Charlie was still processing the first part, which had to be a joke or a misunderstanding. His pulse was thundering either way, a chill in his chest despite all the hot coffee. “What are you doing today?” (Play it Again Charlie, R.Cooper, page 73)
There are also a ton of old movie references throughout the book, some more obscure than others. Will is an old Hollywood movie buff, and frequently references many, many movies including such classics as Casablanca, Sabrina, one of my favorite movies Stage Door, which is an early Katherine Hepburn pic, Breakfast at Tiffany's and more. I'm including the following conversation pertaining to Breakfast at Tiffany's as an example.
Will’s eyes narrowed, then dropped. “Cat knows a good thing when he sees it,” he declared, considering for a moment, then relaxing. “He’s very fluffy. Does Sergeant Howard brush all that nice fur?” Will put out his hand again before Charlie could admit to brushing Sam, then quickly snatched it back.
Charlie barely heard the hiss. “What are you doing to him?” He started to bend down to look, but Sam had apparently recovered enough to sneeze at him and stalk a few feet away. He hobbled for the first step, and then his gait was smooth. “You can barely see where his leg was broken,” Charlie added, since they were both watching, and turned around. Will stood up but kept his eyes on the cat. His mouth was crooked, as though he could have laughed. “Not unless he’s had a bad day.”
“He’s all right.” Will was quiet. “Aren’t you, Cat? Poor cat! Poor slob without a name.” He looked up, his eyes very green. “Hardly a wild thing, though. Do you think he likes me?”
“He hissed at you,” Charlie pointed out. Then Will’s words clicked. “And his name isn’t “Cat.” It’s Sam. This isn’t Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’m hardly going to toss Sam out and run off to another country.”
“You brought it up first,” Will shot back without pausing. “Maybe I could get him to like me.” It was on the tip of Charlie’s tongue to ask why Will would bother, but Will was still talking, quick but thoughtful. “Wait, what are you talking about? She doesn’t run off to another country. And I thought I was Holly Golightly in this scenario. That’s what you said when you… the other night. This is what comes of too much banter. I get confused.” He scratched his chin, and Charlie decided there wasn’t enough coffee in the world for anyone to keep up with Will.
“In the book, she runs away,” he explained around the smile fighting to slip out.
“In the book!” Will nodded wisely. “Ah. The movie, Charlie, I’m talking about the movie.” Will said the word “movie” with reverence. Charlie shut his mouth, and Will leaned his head to one side. “You have seen the movie, right?” he asked suspiciously and then put a hand to his heart. “Oh my God, you haven’t!”
“Call the police,” Charlie offered, waving his hands in a vague impression of excitement, and Will’s mouth fell open. Charlie cleared his throat and kept his expression even when Will slowly cracked a smile. It was a warm smile, almost delighted, and Charlie ducked his head. It hadn’t been that big of a joke, but he felt like his ears were stinging. He coughed. “Anyway, I can’t stand around discussing movies with you all day. I have to get started outside before it gets too hot.” (Play it Again Charlie, R.Cooper, pages 75 & 76)
How freaking cute is that? Anyway, I found it to be meaty, fulfilling, satisfying, and devastatingly sexy. Not only did I root for Charlie and Will every step of the way, but the chemistry between the these two is knee weakening!
It's adorable, and heartwarming, and will make your toes tingle. Go read it.(less)
I will never be able to look at bunny slippers the same way again! The imagery in this book blew me away. I can't wait for Not So Innocent, the next b...moreI will never be able to look at bunny slippers the same way again! The imagery in this book blew me away. I can't wait for Not So Innocent, the next book in the series. (less)
Ok. Wow. This novel is sizzling hot, and not at all what I expected when I bought this ebook. Based on the book description, I was ex...morePenny's Rating: A
Ok. Wow. This novel is sizzling hot, and not at all what I expected when I bought this ebook. Based on the book description, I was expecting some sort of trite story with good naughty bits, and instead ended up with an amazing novel, complete with a compelling story, characters that you fall in love with, and devastatingly hot, hot, hot, sex and sexual encounters. Did I mention it's hot? Not only that, but the two main characters are firefighters, of the FDNY variety. If you've ever seen the FDNY calendar, you know what level of hotness we're talking about here. If you are looking for a great guy/ guy romance, Damon Suede delivers.
Here's the publisher synopsis from Dreamspinner Press. "Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181: Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately Dante is strictly a ladies' man and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For 10 years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until Dante is nearly bankrupt and proposes the worst possible solution: HotHead.com, a gay-porn website where uniformed hunks get down-n-dirty… Now Dante wants them to appear there— together.Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?"
You can understand why I thought what I did right? I mean, a couple of super hot, supposedly straight firefighters end up making gay porn for money? How is this anything more than a cheezy erotic novel? So, gorgeous kilt-wearing Griff is in love with his best friend Dante. They've known each other since they were kids, and Griff is basically a member of Dante's Italian-from-Brooklyn family. They both work for the same firehouse, they're both gorgeous, and they don't have any problems getting girls. But Griff wants something else entirely from Dante, and he's terrified of losing his best friend if Dante finds out his true feelings.
The entire story is told from Griff's perspective, which leaves the reader guessing along with Griff about what Dante actually wants throughout most of the book. The chemistry between Dante and Griff is astounding, and adorable. Plus I love Dante's family! I lived in NYC for a while and I know my NYC Italians. Hell, I married one of them. The slang and expressions used by the characters are spot on, and so is the relationship of tight knit Anastagio family.
The book also addresses some tough issues, like struggling with being in the closet, family acceptance/ rejection, and in particular: gay-bashing, which is addressed through one of Hot Head's secondary characters, (spoiler alert) the self destructive paramedic Tommy, who will be featured in his own story- Hard Head, coming out from Dreamspinner Press later this year. I can't wait!
There's not a whole lot more I can say without giving away some of the best parts of the story, and quite frankly, you don't need me to ruin it for you. It's worth experiencing for yourself. One of my favorite reads in 2011. (less)
Marie Sexton just doesn't disappoint. This was a beautiful love story. I fell in love with the characters. Sexton also tackled some difficult and hear...moreMarie Sexton just doesn't disappoint. This was a beautiful love story. I fell in love with the characters. Sexton also tackled some difficult and heartbreaking topics in a very honest way. I loved it so much I read it twice back to back! (less)
Okay, I'll admit it. This book was not my cup of tea. This was my first experience reading anything by Eric Arvin, and bottom line,...morePenny's Rating: C-
Okay, I'll admit it. This book was not my cup of tea. This was my first experience reading anything by Eric Arvin, and bottom line, this just wasn't my style. Arvin however, has written quite a few books. They all have been pretty well received, and have good ratings on Goodreads (which I have found to be pretty reliable for ratings). In fact, Galley Proof itself had been given four stars by Goodreads readership overall. Which is why I don't really know if you'll agree with me on this one. The writing isn't bad, and Logan's internal monologue is pretty funny at times, but I just couldn't get into it, and I wasn't able to relate to the characters.
For comparison, I felt the same way about Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. If you like that type of book, you'll probably like Galley Proof. I think what it comes down to is that I have trouble with passive heroes and heroines. I didn't see Logan as a fighter, he very much went with the flow, and let the actions of others have a tremendous influence on his life. His life at the start of the book can best be described as mundane (boring and safe), and though things change along the way for him, it seems like none of it is really his doing. It's all just happening around him, and he is simply reacting to whatever happens. I get really frustrated reading stuff like that, because as a reader, you can see the writing on the wall, but you still have to watch the main character go through all of this pointless crap to get from point A to point B. Though real life is full of people just like that living in their own oblivion, I don't always have the patience to read about it.
The characters were well-developed, and had some great quirks, but I didn't actually like any of them. Maybe because they fell so well into their archetypal roles. Logan's editor and love interest Brock came across to me as a huge tool (he's supposed to, to a degree), and Logan's roommate Janey, was the quirky funny, loyal and annoying best friend (she's supposed to be annoying to a degree too). Logan himself I found to be likeable, but passive.
Look, I don't want to tear this book apart. Logan does go on a journey of self-discovery in this book, and he does learn a great deal about himself, even if it does take him forever to get from point A to point B. There were also some good moments in this book, for instance, I enjoyed Arvin's approach Logan's writers block (it was interesting to watch him struggle to balance his vision with the vision of his editors). I also was entertained by watching the drama unfold as Janey created a war between their neighborhood religion peddlers (Mormon missionaries and Jehovah's Witnesses), and by Logan's bizarre escape to hide and heal in Europe. The ending is happy, but it's not your conventional happy ending either, which is pretty cool now that I think about it, even though it irritated me as I read it. I have some very Randian ideals when it comes to happy endings, apparently. Anyway, like I said, this wasn't the book for me, but I am going to check out some of Arvin's other novels. I'll let you know how that turns out.(less)