Bernie, A E Ryecart

Bernie, Barista Boys Contemporary Gay Romance by [Ryecart, A E]

This is the first book I've read by this author and, sadly, I came in at the very end of the series.  Don't worry, I've added the previous three to my wish list so I'll someday get to enjoy the rest of the Barista Boys.  Bernie is somewhat of a shepherd for all the boys and anyone that needs aid in their little corner of Soho.  The cafe is set up to be a sanctuary of sorts to those people who are homosexual and have no support or resources.  Saving people is what he does.  Since he gives succor to everyone  else we're left to wonder if that's enough.  Not enough for others, but enough for him?  Who comforts him?  Who makes a home for him?  Who eases his burdens?

 Bernie, A E Ryecart

Opening with a wedding we see just how much Bernie longs for someone to have for his own.  Those desires will just have to wait because on his own stoop is yet another person who needs him.  Fate has a way of combining what we need and what we have to give, though, and not always in a way you'd expect.

The man on his stoop is Jared and is far more damaged than he lets show.  Their first couple meetings aren't ideal at all but hesitation is pushed off in the name of moving forward and healing.  Jared gives in to his yearning and agrees to see Bernie.  More thrilled than he can say, Bernie pursues Jared and is drawn to him in a way he hasn't been for decades.  Both of these men are scared but not willing to let their connection fade away.

There's more than enough darkness in each of them.  Life definitely had their moments of spectacular suck-tasticness.  Watching them navigate courtship and falling in love both in spite of and despite their pasts was heartbreakingly dear.  I have to say that I loved Bernie slightly more than Jared.  Not that Jared wasn't great or deserving of reader admiration, there was just something about Bernie.  The choices he made in life, his devotion to caring for others because of his perceived failure, his commitment to Jared, his fear of being worthy of love for himself, his determination...all of it painted a picture of a man so deserving a partner.

The story was deep, sweet, tender, challenging, and really very good.  Both men found love and healing in one another.  Reading Bernie's story and seeing the happiness he facilitated for all the men around him made me want to read all of the Barista Boys stories.  Excellent book. 

 Bernie, A E Ryecart

Caraway Carter: PS, The Scarlet Lock

PS by [Carter, Caraway] The Scarlet Lock by [Carter, Caraway]

I like Caraway Carter.  I think a lot of his writing is touching and portrays people being human.  These two stories are solidly enjoyable for very different reasons.  The thing that connects them, though, is that there are people being fallible, frustrating, emotional, and just plain human in the most un-plain ways possible.  They each find themselves in interesting circumstances and bumble through their days attempting to find solace, peace, and to make life their own.

So, on to the reviews...

PS by [Carter, Caraway]I mostly like this book.  I'm actually left wondering how much I like this story, whether it's a lot or just a solid like.  There's a lot to like here with a solid cast of characters and a great premise.  Things become muddied, a bit unfinished, emotionally reactionary instead of based on wise decisions for the future, convoluted relationships, ambiguous expectations, and a slightly lackluster finish.  All combined, the book is interesting but could be awesome if it were streamlined a bit, I think.

The idea, the premise of the story is something I usually gravitate toward because it should be about self-discovery, healing, acceptance, and then romance to fill in the gaps.  One person as the focus only to add a second person to complete the journey that person has gone through to overcome what brought them to the point where we are introduced.  While those things are there, it's not the focus.  It gets frustrated and side-tracked by Sam, Kelly, James, their past, the attraction of others, and flirtation in general.  I'm not exactly sure how I would suggest fixing those things, because they each had their place, I think it was just the way those things were all put together that made it all a bit convoluted.

James and Gus have a real shot at something special.  Sam gets between them in more than just one way and I don't think it's completely dealt with.  Gus is vulnerable and gullible and by the end of the story I don't think he's in a place emotionally that he should be by the end of everything.  We see moments of focus and strength and determination but it becomes eclipsed by the drama surrounding the restoration.

Overall, this story had a ton of potential where Gus healed himself through growing to love himself with the added bonus of growing to love another man who saw what was inside Gus all along.  That was there in pieces and I wish it were more developed.  The cast was interesting and varied and gave insight into individual's expressions of sexuality and acceptance.  A good story with humans being humans while working together and strengthening a community.  3 stars.

 PS, Caraway Carter

The Scarlet Lock by [Carter, Caraway]I was surprised to have enjoyed this because I generally have a hard time with lots of angst and loss and anything remotely close to cheating but this book was poignant, the loss was formative for Brandon, I found myself vacillating between loving and hating then ultimately and completely loving Hubert, and I very much wanted to read Ben's letters and the various emails Brandon received.  The book was so beautiful even though it felt like I was drifting outside the story and yet drawn deep.

We learn a lot about Brandon and through him we learn about others.  The only complex character is Brandon, though Hubert comes in at a close second because of what Brandon shares and what we infer from events mentioned.

Overall it's a great read that leaves me feeling a little floaty...yeah, that's not at all helpful to you, but I can't think of a way to describe the feeling I'm left with.  Anyway, the end is only a tiny bit predictable and the revelation/confessions were sweet and illuminated so much about a lot of the unknown throughout the various letters Brandon wrote.  The epilogue confuses the timeline a little but you get the details of other things mentioned before so only at the very, very end that you get a complete picture of how things played out.  A short read that was well worth the time.  4 stars.

 The Scarlet Lock, Caraway Carter

Blackbird Fly Home, Kendel Duncan

Blackbird Fly Home (Doyle Global Securities Book 1) by [Duncan, Kendel]

Sometimes life will surprise you
Sometimes it will disappoint you
Sometimes it will kick you in the balls
Sometimes it will make you so happy you feel like you can fly
And sometimes, just sometimes, it will do all of those things.
The kick in the balls, both literally and figuratively, happened to Noah Pierce a long time ago. Ten years to be exact, when, to cap off a brutal and horrendous four-year relationship with the man who claimed to love him, that man buried a butcher knife in his side. It was the final wound in a seemingly endless cycle of bruises, cuts, breaks, sprains and other things that sent him to the hospital. He thought he was going to die. But when he opened his eyes in that ER room and saw a stranger with kind yet determined eyes looking back at him and with his boyfriend nowhere in sight, Noah knew that life was going to change for him. And it did.
For ten years he was stronger, he was better, he was……hollow.
He didn’t realize that last part until he saw one man. One pair of haunting blue eyes beside the very man who had ruined Noah all those years ago. One pair of frightened eyes. One pair of hollow, hopeless eyes that Noah couldn’t have walked away from if he tried…because someone else hadn’t walked away from him all those years ago.
Noah didn’t realize it at the time, but by saving Jesse Miller from the clutches of his ex, he was going to learn to fly…

There's a real worry that these two will jump from the frying pan into the fryer.  They do.  In more ways than one, actually.  Both of these men are damaged, hurting, and trying their best to cope with what life has thrust on them.  Noah is a decade removed from his nightmare until he comes face to face with it in a crowded bar.  But it's not the man of his past that has him frozen, it's the blue eyes of the man's new victim.  Unable to walk away when he should be running with all-due haste, he resolves himself to his fate.  Determined to save Jesse from his tormentor, he sets up a rescue and an escape.  But not everything goes to plan.

The two men suddenly become codependent and I don't think it's particularly healthy, but despite that glaring problem, they are actually perfect for one another.  It took a monster to bring them together and will take an act of God to separate them.  Unfortunately, that monster thinks of himself as God and does everything within his power to do just that.  Noah and Jesse have the support of Morgan and his entire team, though, so they won't be left alone to face their mutual tormentor.

Noah and Jesse jump straight into the deep end with their relationship.  There's really no superficial or surface things that they indulge in when getting to know one another.  I think this is an oversight and it would have increased my enjoyment if there were a moment or few of lightness and seeing these two men spending time being just me instead of having their growing feelings being swirled around with and nearly drowned by fear, apprehension, reassurances, and dredging up past hurts.

That aside, I think that there's immense healing and potential to be had by these two.  When they resolve their past they can move forward.  I really like that Jesse is the one to save Noah because despite needing Noah's rescue in the beginning, Noah has had an entire decade to repress and avoid all the darkness in him allowing it to grow and eclipse the hope his heart truly yearns for.  With Jesse's love and a well-timed and honest threat Noah makes the changes necessary for true and lasting healing to fix him.  They're a good pair.

Overall, this was an intense book that jumped from crisis to crisis yet had a hopeful, lighter resolution for Jesse and Noah.  Ending with the bombshell for Ten made for a great opening to the next book in the Doyle Global Security series.

 Blackbird Fly Home, Kendel Duncan

Elemental Dragons, Emilia Hartley

Elemental Dragons (4 Book Series) by  Emilia Hartley Emilia  Hartley

I received ARCs for books 2-4 because I got on this dragon train a bit late.  I've enjoyed all three books so far and each have earned a solid 3 stars for the most part.  There's a bit of a shaky world build and the characters could use some work, but overall the stories are good and flow easily well from one to the next.  There's a definite cohesiveness that is nice to see in this series and I'm more than willing to read more and find out more of how these dragons find their mates, band together as a species with their allies and forge their own peaceful, cooperative futures.

The Dragon's Lover (Elemental Dragons Book 2) by [Hartley, Emilia]I liked where the book was headed. There was a lot of promise with this story but I feel like it fell short on a few points. Overall, however, the book was enjoyable and the feels were relatively strong. It made me interested in the series as well as other books by this author.
Quinn had the potential to be a really strong character. She has the past, the excitement, the strength, the wit, the intelligence, and the beauty both inside and out to be a really well-rounded character. Where that fell short was in how much drama was packed into a relatively short book. There was too much going on and not enough focus to let her strengths really shine. Instead, she came off as being a bit flighty, unfocused, and overwhelmed by the emotions that came at her from virtually every direction. Being overwhelmed is understandable, I just feel like we read her as being constantly overwhelmed instead of level-headed, a trait we're made to think she has in the beginning.

Isaac had a great start too. He was passionate and interesting. The rest of the story didn't really do him justice though. We were also teased with learning more about his past but get no follow through there. Will there be more of him in the next book, even obliquely?

There could have been a great deal more of them together actually building something and establishing a connection and a foundation. What we were given was a bit superficial and then there's a ton of drama from many sources, and then the ending is hopeful and a little bit romantic. The story itself could use a lot of paring down and refining to make the events cohesive and the romance one that connects both characters and you as a the reader. 2.5 stars.

*Only 96¢!
 The Dragon's Lover, Emilia Hartley

The Dragon's Woman (Elemental Dragons Book 3) by [Hartley, Emilia]My heart aches when mate bonds are shunned, denied, or broken.  Marc has so much patience with Noelle though I don't think she always deserves it.  With her past I can understand her hesitation but I find her actions more than frustrating because of how long she denies who she knows is a good man.  Her dragon man is wonderful and I'm definitely on his side on this one.  They make a good partnership, however, when they band together to do something dangerous, a bit reckless, and for the good of their dragon family.  When they come together their passion is intense and filled with so much of Marc's heart that I find myself forgiving Noelle a little bit.  I do find her withholding important information frustrating, though, because for once I thought she was going to do the better thing, the right thing, but it turns out that she just goes right back to being a team of one while giving her mate lip service, both literally and figuratively.  When the worse comes to worst, though, she gives him the trust he deserves and he gives it right back.  Their mission is complete, but not without some losses, some gains, and discoveries that serve to help with all kinds of healing.  Overall, this story was pretty good and ended with light and humor when the beginning didn't promise such.  3 stars.

*Only 97¢!
 The Dragon's Woman, Emilia Hartley

The Dragon's Charm (Elemental Dragons Book 4) by [Hartley, Emilia ]This was Kenji's story and I was eagerly awaiting this one.  His partner, Morgan, was actually a good match for him. I did feel like they didn't truly end up on the same page, even in the end, but they were on their way there, so that was good.    I had quite a few moments where I got choked up on Kenji's behalf.   He was trying so hard to find his place, to become a version of himself and couldn't do it on his own.   Morgan was trying to make her place, to attain her dream but could do with a little support.   Together they could achieve all of that but life kept getting in the way of their future as individuals and as mates.   The GOE are ramping up their efforts in dragon domination and manipulation and it seems, throughout most of this book, that they just might succeed.  With modern technology and a few individuals who aren't afraid to stand up and speak out against injustice, they find that a peaceful future just might be possible.  Overall, this story was quite dramatic and had a very hopeful outcome.  3 stars.

*Only 96¢!
 The Dragon's Charm, Emilia Hartley

No Filter, Nora Phoenix

No Filter (No Shame Series Book 1) by [Phoenix, Nora]

I actually enjoyed this more than I thought I would.  I'm not a fan of any type of menage story, poly relationships, cheating, or anything similar to any of those things at all.  This story rides the line of a few of those things but with all the reasoning, descriptions, feelings, and circumstances behind them I find myself excusing what I would customarily shun.  Each of these men are damaged, frustrated, and coping the only ways they've found that bring a small measure of relief.

We start with Indy, on the run for her life for reasons we don't yet understand.  He's disguised himself as a woman and finds himself in a situation where that disguise might come crashing down.  In a store that's being robbed he helps Josh, a tall and attractive man who was about to become a victim in the worst way while being under the influence of a PTSD episode.  Indy helps him and knows that he's been discovered.

Josh, however, keeps his secret partly in gratitude for his help coming back to himself.  Unfortunately, there are two things that Josh's episode brought them.  One is a concussion and some other body damage, and two is an attractive officer of the law that might just be a connection to the past that Indy is desperately trying to escape.  Josh helps Indy get out of that sticky mess, at least for a while, and also gets him to the hospital in the capable hands of Noah.

Noah, a PA at the ER is strangely drawn to Indy despite having a connection to Josh.  We have suspicions about the relationship between Josh and Noah from the moment we see them in the same room together.  Those suspicions are confirmed and also confused when Indy is invited into their home.  The relationship is not what it seems but is also not what it's not...  Confusing?  Yes, and it stays that way right up until the end...kind of.  We know it will continue into the second book a bit because everyone is getting their bearings with all the changes that are happening to them as a unit and individually.

Pasts, beds, emotions, and responsibilities are shared back and forth between each combination of men you can think of here in this story.  There's an incredible amount of drama that isn't resolved, but we can see the beginning of the end for various situations by the end of this story.  The next, No Limits, is going to be just as intense of a ride if it's anything like the first.

I had lots of moments where I cringed because I didn't think I could handle the sharing stuff, but then when the perspective switched after those moments to someone who gave it a different light, a different view, I felt my heart settling.  What I saw as unfair, deeply disturbing, and frustrating, Indy saw as beautiful, healing, and gave him understanding where before he was completely lost.  With Indy's perspective I could see how so much of what was happening helped him to overcome parts of his past and encourage him to open up to a future that was much brighter than what he had previously experienced.  If he were written any differently I would have dismissed this book and given up before I even finished.  Because of Indy I enjoyed this story and am actually a bit eager to get into the second book where we get more of him but on the periphery.  I'm really keen to know how things will play out with introducing Connor to this messed up unit full of dysfunction, passion, distress, and need for healing.

*Get your own copy for only 96¢!
 No Filter, Nora Phoenix

Six Impossible Things continued...

Six Impossible Things (4 Book Series) by  Skylar Hill

Six Impossible Things: Part Three by [Hill, Skylar]...Continuing where things left off with the sudden appearance of the ex, Nora and Luke find that there's so much more to their potential than fun and common interests.  There's genuine caring, no jealousy, no games, and more than a little passion.  Luke isn't put off by the ex and deals with his posturing with grace, maturity, and such impeccably displayed apathy that it ended up being the perfect burn.  My respect for Luke jumped a thousand notches with that.  Nora was equally impressed.  Even more so with their trip to the cabin.  With a festival of regret and incredible passion they found a deeper level of caring and concern.  By sharing what they regret from their past with one another they get a glimpse into what they each suffer with.  Letting go of regrets can seem impossible, but with a good partner who genuinely cares about your happiness and well-being, you can find healing and a way to move beyond what holds you down.  By capping things off with some incredible heat and immense tenderness in Luke's cabin we can see just how perfectly Luke and Nora complement one another.  I'm way excited to see what their next date is going to be!  5 stars.

*Only 97¢!
 Six Impossible Things Part 3, Skylar Hill

Six Impossible Things: Part Four by [Hill, Skylar]The steam just doesn't quit between these two!  With even more lovin' to be had at the cabin they get a little bit of a late start heading back into town and Nora gets to show off her rosy glow to her best friends while registering for baby items for Margeaux.  Nora has great friends who are enthusiastic and supportive of Nora's happiness and fulfillment in more than just the bedroom.  They truly care for her and want her budding relationship with Luke to succeed because they can see that the two are perfect partners for one another.  Testament to that is Nora's way of getting to the heart of Luke no matter what happens.  With a sensual, open, honest, and vulnerable photo shoot she gets to see a part of him that he usually closes off from those who don't already know.  My favorite part of this book is the second email Nora sends Luke after the shoot.  Showing her care, concern, and understanding of what she captured in him is clearly demonstrating that she truly sees Luke and isn't afraid of what's there.  I am a little apprehensive about what's coming in terms of the connection between the brothers.  Not that I'm dreading it or think that it'll ruin things, but I can see a bit of fireworks and drama approaching and I'm both eager and nervous to see how it will all play out.  Overall, this part of the story is more subtle and insightful but no less wonderful for Nora and Luke's courtship  4.5 stars.

*Only 97¢!
 Six Impossible Things Part 4, Skylar Hill

The Playboy, Alice Ward

The Playboy by [Ward, Alice]

Sometimes who you've been clashes with who you want to be.  In Sloane's case, this wasn't a problem she thought she'd ever have.  And then there's Zane with his years of indulgence that have left him empty.  Both aren't aware that there's a storm of change coming, for both of them.

I like Sloane.  I like that she tries so hard and despite her strengths and talents, she's floundering.  She knows what she's always wanted and has worked so hard for and then when she finds that Zane is bulldozing all of her plans, she also realizes that the life she has built may not be the only thing she needs.  Her passion for Zane and her confidence in her sexuality is great because she accepts herself as a woman equal to Zane in his own blatant magnetism.  She's a good partner for him in the bedroom.  Outside the bedroom is a little more difficult to pin down.  Her determination to do her job becomes just that.  Determination without a lot of focused follow-through.  Zane is foiling a lot of her plans, yes, but her lack of experience in the field is pretty glaring the deeper they go.  I think that she would be better for me if she took a moment to think clearly and, especially once he was in the know, made a plan with him, use her resources to the best of her and his ability.  Instead, she becomes emotional and distracted.  She knows it, which I give her credit for, but she could be so much stronger.

Zane has no clue about what it really means to be a partner.  He's so cute when he tries, though.  He might be 30 but he's emotionally stunted and watching him come to terms with his feelings and all the consequences of being a part of Sloane's life is endearing.  While I don't like that he's too pushy and is also rash with his actions in the name of protecting the little woman, I do love his ability to apologize and try to look into the future and figure out a way to keep them together.

With such a short courtship they navigate all the tricky stuff in the beginning, which is refreshing, even if they don't have everything decided and agreed upon at the time.  We all know it takes a lot longer than a week to plan a life but Zane is determined to at least have some outlined ideas.  Sloane, on the other hand, is aware of a different part of the big picture and has trouble getting Zane to see her side of things.  When worse comes to worst and the drama explodes, those plans are not just left on hold, they seem to be shattered.  The consequences of the mission coupled with shaken confidence and radio silence combine to make the road to their future seem so unsure.  But Zane has different ideas.  His heart and his strength are perfect.  I love that he's so committed to Sloane.  He helps her through the difficult part of healing and acceptance.  Sloane's vulnerability is touching and her willingness to accept help is telling of her inner strength.

Overall, this was a good book.  A good story of overcoming difficulties, finding common ground, asking for forgiveness, and showing resilience.  Sloane and Zane found their ideal match through adversity and came out stronger on the other side.

*Currently only 99¢!
 The Playboy, Alice Ward

An Endless Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

 An Endless Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

This was a really sweet story with two people who have larger than average hearts.  One of them is escaping a past to find peace, the other is just escaping.  With Bonnie feeling like trouble is behind every tree and around every corner learning to let her guard down just long enough to let Dylan in is much harder than she thought it would be.  Not harder because letting him in is difficult, but harder because, no matter how hard she tries, she just can't keep him out.  Finding peace and healing and safety in a place that feels more like home than anywhere else keeps these two people together despite the mounting danger that works behind the scenes.  With more tenderness than tumult, these two find their own happy-ever-after and even find an addition to make everything sweeter.

Bonnie is on the run from something in her past and not from something she did, but what her brother got into.  I like her vulnerability and her innate kindness.  None of the danger following her can dim the light she has inside and it's irresistible to Dylan.  He makes a really good partner for her because he's seen flights of fancy, fake sweetness, the rat race, and more money than you can count and still chose to leave it all behind for something peaceful, something real.  When Bonnie shows up he's found the perfect addition to that ideal.  They have their ups and downs but my favorite thing about this story is that there was always honesty, communication, respect, and selflessness before the passion came in to round everything out.  They're great complements to one another and their HEA is absolutely believable.  Adding Tyson to the mix is the icing on the cake.

With the drama being built up but swiftly and mostly silently taken care of, the focus remained on peace and finding their true path, one that led them to one another and kept them on Mia and Carter's ranch.  There they could use all their talents and determination to make the camp even more of a safe haven and a place of healing and adjusting.  This was a solidly enjoyable story and is a perfect addition to the series.

 An Endless Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

*Fall in love with all the couples in the Kinds of Love series:

A Forever Kind of Love: A Billionaire Small Town Love Story (Kinds of Love Book 1) by [Lakes, Krista]

Between running a company and a recent attempt on his life, billionaire Carter Williamson doesn't need any more stress. So when a trio of orphan children breaks into the Colorado ranch he's hiding out in, his first instinct is to just let the police handle it. That was before their spunky social worker Mia showed up.


Mia Amesworth has worked hard to make sure that the Smith kids aren't separated from each other, but she can only do so much. With her own body unable to produce children, the kids are the closest thing to a family she's got. When the handsome ranch owner offers to let the three troublemakers pay for the damages with hard work over the summer, she happily accepts. When he suggests they go on a date, she can't say yes fast enough.

Even though Carter's secret assailant keeps threatening him, he feels like he might be falling for the small town girl. And though Mia knows that a family might not be in the cards for her future, she longs to create a life with Carter.

And then, a miracle happens...
 A Forever Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

A Hopeful Kind of Love: A Kinds of Love Novella by [Lakes, Krista]Ethan

Billionaire Ethan White was only in Colorado to support a friend. Without his help, Mia’s fundraiser for the kids could pull in less money. There was no way that he wanted to run into an old flame. Not at all.

Well, maybe just a little…


Laura Corbett hated a certain billionaire with every fiber of her being. She thought he crushed her heart on purpose. So when he showed up at the same charity fundraiser that she was working, she thought it was the worst thing that could happen to her night. Not until her little brother went missing in the blizzard did she realize how bad it could become.

Ethan and Laura must work together to find a missing child before its too late. Will this draw the once-lovers back together, or push them further apart?

Will they find the boy in time?
 A Hopeful Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

A Wonderful Kind of Love: A Billionaire Small Town Love Story (Kinds of Love Book 2) by [Lakes, Krista]

There are only two things that make billionaire Ethan White's heart race: fast cars and Laura Corbett. Unfortnately, Laura wants nothing to do with his playboy ways. Ethan thnks that everyone has the wrong idea about him, including his stalker, and he's determined to prove them all wrong. When Ethan's business partner wants to open a new car R&D facility in Colorado, he jumps at the opportunity to be closer to his two passions.


Thrust into the new responsibility of raising her siblings by the death of her parents, Laura Corbett doesn't have time for awkward hookups, let alone a relationship. So when the billionaire she had a one night stand with shows up in town, she pretends he doesn't exist. She can't let anything come between her and her family.

But nothing can prepare her for the way that Ethan connects with her brother and sister. And she can't deny the fact that jumping in his bed makes her come alive. Everything seems like it'll be normal again, maybe even better than normal.

But Ethan's stalker disagrees...
 A Wonderful Kind of Love, Krista Lakes

The Stone, Seb L. Carter

The Stone (Lockstone Book 1) by [Carter, Seb L.]

Murder is always a good place to start, right?  There's an incredible amount of dark aspects to the story and yet there's still a glimmer of hope that keeps you from giving up.  A story of unsuspected magic, Tir na Nog, the fae in all their guises, drama, and world-ending plots, The Stone is setting up a great beginning for an exciting series.

I was actually glad that the romance was placed below all the craziness included in this story.  It made the focus less on the two men and more on all the tangled threads on which the world's fate rests.  With Liam at its center there are an incredible number of pieces to the puzzle and can get a bit confusing.  What makes that okay is that you're right in the same boat as Liam, learning about all the people, entities, factions, and pieces and how everything fits together.

Patrick was actually a pretty interesting character for me and one that I preferred over Liam.  He has a good heart and is swept along and manipulated just like the rest of everyone else.  The reason he's in Liam's life and what he does in the beginning of the story is forgivable when you see just how much of a pawn he is and all the lives he has to weigh when he made his first commitment.  Granted, he didn't ask all the questions first, but knowing what we know by the middle of the book, even if he had asked those questions they wouldn't have been answered satisfactorily anyway.  We always see that honestly is best in the beginning, but since he had legitimate concerns about coming clean it made it easier to forgive him.  He becomes a strength and a support to everyone in the story by the end of the book and proves himself a hundred times over.

Liam starts off great as someone we can feel sympathy for, root for his progression, and support in his education.  That doesn't last, however, and he's plagued by uncertainty, insecurity, and immaturity that gets worse when truths are revealed.  He's rash and reckless and all the intelligence and survival instincts that he had in the beginning go forgotten as he learns more and as the pressure mounts.  I kept hoping for him to calm his sh** and pull himself together but it just never happened.  Since this is book one in the Lockstone series I have hope that he'll grow up and really be the hero I saw glimpses of in the beginning.  I'd say he's only human and should therefore be given a little leeway with all the craziness, but, well, if you read the book you'll know that's not quite true...

Despite Liam going downhill as a character of strength and interest, the rest of the cast is compelling, even the "bad guys" and I'm excited for where this story is going.  There are so many elements to the story to sort out and many more harrowing situations to face.  This book did a commendable job not getting bogged down in the details and also giving just enough attention to them that there's a positive direction to go.  There are still secrets, motivations, and players to discover and withholding them in this book didn't decrease the understanding and enjoyment of it.  A great start to what's bound to be an exciting series.

 The Stone, Seb L. Carter

High Hopes, Dashed Reality

Beauty and the Gargoyle (The Gargoyles of New York Book 2) by [Baker, Tamsin]  Too Many Fairy Princes, Alex Beecroft Maxx Neon by [Langley, Lina]

Beauty and the Gargoyle (The Gargoyles of New York Book 2) by [Baker, Tamsin]I was hoping so much for this story. Without reading book 1 I found that I was missing a bit of background, not just on Roman, but on the peril the gargoyle shifters find themselves in. I would recommend reading book 1 first, but that's not exactly necessary, it would just help.

The hunter stuff wasn't the reason for the lower rating, though, it was the complete lack of information about Isabella and then no romantic build other than a bond and some steamy time between the sheets. Now, there's nothing wrong with insta-bonding in the case of shifters an their mates, or Beloveds as they're called here, but when there's no time or inclination given to knowing anything about the person after that. The book is quite short so I know there won't be a ton of background or getting-to-know-you, especially when there are hunters to fear, but even a little wouldn't hurt! We get one small bit of background before the bedroom activities begin, but that's just not enough for me.

Overall, the synopsis promised tenderness, drama, and a really great story. The reality, however, fell far short of the author's capabilities.  2 stars.

 Beauty and the Gargoyle, Tamsin Baker

 Too Many Fairy Princes, Alex BeecroftThis was an alright book.  The premise sounded quite interesting with attractive fae men, struggling artists, conflict, world-hopping, and a bit of dangerous attraction.  Kai was more apathetic than I hoped he would be.  He has talent in virtually everything but takes all of it for granted.  He has feelings that he was taught to abhor and deny and discard.  This is a troublesome thing because the human he's imposing on is inspiring quite a few of those pesky feelings.  In this world fairies have just as many stories about humans as humans do about them and most of them are quite unfortunate.  These stories color Kai and Joel's first meeting and may of their interactions throughout the book.  Most of the issues get worked out, and that's fine, it just takes a really long time.  The Dagnar situation was a bit of a surprise but not unexpected, I believe that was one of the best parts.  Confessions were sweet and tender, the steam was pretty much non-existent, but their connection was pretty solid.  Everything was concluded satisfactorily, the writing was just a bit dull.  Even the conflicts with guns and war in Vagar were muted instead of intense.  Overall, the book was fine, it was just a bit dry when it could have been so much more...well, more everything.  2.5 stars.

 Too Many Fairy Princes, Alex Beecroft

Maxx Neon by [Langley, Lina]I had high hopes for this story because it looked like it would be about a person who had what looks like a dream life discover that their world had yet to be complete.  Completed by a good man.  Well, it was this, but the story itself was very dry, very plodding in its progress.  Max is a great musician and a star, bigger than he gives himself credit for.  I enjoy that he's humble and sincere when he's obviously very popular.  He's also unashamed of who he is and who he chooses to be with.  This is a foreign concept for Eli who seems to be shy and recovering from a possessive ex.  Eli is taking a break from a career of his own and unexpectedly finds himself capturing the attention of a rock star.

Their first meeting is something new for both of them and neither one wants their time together to end.  There's a lot of holding their tongues against the thoughts of something more and something beyond their one night together.  They start with the next day.  By the end of what seems to be a perfect day, however, Eli freaks out and pushes Max away.  Max is appropriately confused, hurt, and a bit offended.  What happens after that is something that requires lots of groveling, from Eli.  I didn't exactly expect for it to be Eli that needed to be making amends, but the way things play out here was pleasantly surprising.  Except that it wasn't pleasant at all.  I like that it didn't conform to what I thought might happen, but that's the extent of it.  Eli does something that's selfish, frustrating, and short-sighted.

Watching them work things out was frustrating because Max was just so nice, so generous, so forgiving, so understanding.  It made him seem more like a pushover and a doormat than someone with a strong sense of self.  I'm glad he was so mature, but he was so very bland all the way through that his good points are also the points that make him somewhat boring.  Eli was my least favorite.  He was prideful, insecure, selfish, and has no idea what groveling means.  He knows to say he's sorry, but aside from what he agrees to near the end I don't see him trying to make amends.  Things could be good as things go forward, but I'm not pinning a lot of hope on them, to be honest.  2 stars.

 Maxx Neon, Lina Langley