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REVIEW: Unfit to Print by KJ Charles, narrated by Vikas Adam

sepia background with a head and neck silhouette of a Black man with short curly hair superimposed over it to look like a photo negative, sort ofWhy I read it:  One from my own TBL

Content Warning: Some depiction of prostitution for financial reasons.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  When crusading lawyer Vikram Pandey sets out in search of a missing youth, his investigations take him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address. He expects to find a disgraceful array of sordid bookshops. He doesn’t expect one of them to be run by the long-lost friend whose disappearance and presumed death he’s been mourning for thirteen years.

Gil Lawless became a Holywell Street bookseller for his own reasons, and he’s damned if he’s going to apologise or listen to moralising from anyone. Not even Vikram; not even if the once-beloved boy has grown into a man who makes his mouth water.

Now the upright lawyer and the illicit bookseller need to work together to track down the missing youth. And on the way, they may even learn if there’s more than just memory and old affection binding them together…

What worked for me (and what didn’t): It’s often easier for a novella-length story to give me a believable HEA when the main characters already know each other. In this second chance romance (is it second chance when the first chance was when they were only 15 or 16? – let’s go with it anyway, shall we?), Vikram and Gil both went to boarding school together. As the only boys of colour in their form, they shared a common bond which quickly grew into a devoted friendship, with some, er, teenage boy benefits. Vikram is the scion of a wealthy and privileged Indian family, Gil is the illegitimate son of a wealthy man and a Black housemaid. Gil was fortunate in that he was acknowledged by his father, who housed him and paid for his education. Vikram is a straight up and down type guy, Gil tends to gravitate to the gray areas and is more “street smart”  (my term); the latter used to help Vikram not be constantly beaten up at school (the white students not being happy with the idea that Vikram was at least their equal).

When Gil was 16, his father died and his half-brother Matthew booted him out with only ten pounds. He was forced to leave the school so suddenly, he wasn’t even able to tell Vikram. For the following 13 years, Vikram mourned his friend; after looking for him as best he could, he believed Gil to be dead.

REVIEW: Syncopation by Anna Zabo, narrated by Greg Boudreaux

lower face and shirtless and tattooed torso of a very hot guy with his arms crossed over his chest, against stage lights and superimposed above a cheering concert crowdWhy I read it:  This is one from my own TBL.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): Syncopation is the first book in the Twisted Wishes series by Anna Zabo. Twisted Wishes are a rock band on the rise, but the story begins with the exit of their drummer, Kevin. The remaining members, lead singer Ray Van Zeller, lead guitarist Dominic Bradley (aka Domino Grinder) and bass player Mish Sullivan are suddenly in need of a new percussionist.

Zavier Demos is a Julliard-trained tympanist who had been playing with orchestras and touring the world. But after a BDSM relationship with the conductor of his previous orchestra went sour when Zavier didn’t want romance, he’s been effectively black-balled.  Zavier loves all kinds of music and has been following Ray’s career in particular. Ray is just around 3 years younger than Zavier but they went to the same high school and, at one stage Ray asked Zavier to join his (at the time) garage band. Zavier declined, destined for Julliard and bigger things – or so he thought then. There was mutual attraction in high school but the age difference then was problematic – Ray was barely 16 so Zavier stayed far away.

REVIEW: Candy Hearts by Erin McLellan

Very edge of a the body and upper legs of a hot young white guy wearing only lacy boy shorts and holding a pair of pink boxer briefs from one upraised fingerWhy I read it:  I saw some buzz about this one on Twitter so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Mechanic Benji Holiday is so over Valentine’s Day and men who don’t get him. A weekend getaway with friends to escape the holiday hubbub is exactly what he needs. But William O’Dare—a stern and silent nightclub owner with “Be My Valentine” practically stamped on his forehead—throws a wrench into Benji’s plans.

William has spent years focused on his career, and it has cost him friendships and love. Inexperienced in the business of romance, he’s on the hunt for the perfect partner, and he’s armed with specific criteria to guide him. But William didn’t expect a hunky mechanic wrapped in satin and lace to show up on his doorstep.

Unable to resist their attraction, Benji and William agree to be secret fake valentines for the weekend, but secrets have a way of getting out. William gets struck by Cupid’s arrow, and as the weekend winds down, he doesn’t want fake or secret. He wants Benji to be his valentine for real and for keeps.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): What a charming delight this novella was! Benji was funny and sweet and he won my heart as he was winning William’s. And William was fabulous too in his own way. Benji is more out there, very emotionally open and a little messy. William is more controlled and reserved but the perfect foil for Benji. Both of them are emotionally vulnerable and very brave as they find their way toward one another and I loved how the dynamic shifted from one to the other in that regard.

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