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February Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

soft focus photo of the face and neck of a very cute dark-haired guy with blue blue eyes and pouty lipsHeartShip by Amy Jo Cousins – B A sweet, mostly low-conflict novella about Josh, a college football player (he’s heading into his final year and has been previously red-shirted so he’s 25) and Benji, a 32-year-old massage therapy student who meet on an online fandom for RWBY, a (real) American anime series. After they meet online, they take their conversations to Twitter and catch up once a week to live tweet episodes of RWBY together. Benji’s handle is “princessglitter” and he’s never actually specifically stated he’s a guy. Josh has never explicitly asked him. Benji assumes Josh thinks he’s a girl. But it doesn’t matter because Josh lives in Minnesota and Benji lives in Miami.

Until Josh, who has been sidelined due to a possibly football-ending injury decides to surprise his friend in Florida with a visit.

It’s not a gay for you story. It’s clear very early on that Josh has always known he’s gay. He just hadn’t come out yet, not even really to himself. However, once he meets Benji in person, their flirty online banter and the deep friendship they’ve developed spills over into physical intimacy. It’s fair to say that Josh takes to gay sex like a duck to water and he barely has a qualm about coming out – even to his teammates back in Minnesota. I read it as a “show the world as you’d prefer it to be” kind of thing rather than (unfortunately) actually realistic. There is a little homophobia referenced but it’s dealt with quickly and isn’t a big feature in the story.

Driven to Distraction by Olivia Dade

Asian woman with long dark hair and a sandy-haired bearded man in a blue t-shirt in a library, looking at a book togetherWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the author via NetGalley

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  IF THE BOOKMOBILE’S ROCKING . . .

Constance Chen is not the demure kind of librarian. Sure, her high-horsepower ride is Big Bertha the Bookmobile, but Con swears a blue streak, does her own home improvement, and wears steel-toed boots. She has a tight circle of friends, a demanding, beloved sprawl of a Chinese-American family, and a strict hookups-only policy when it comes to men. Her life is just how she wants it. Except for one maddeningly sexy footnote.

Sam Wolcott, her friend’s baby brother and the library’s IT star, has been throwing sparks with Con since he moved to town. To everybody else, he’s a thoughtful, sensitive sweetheart. To Con, he’s a cantankerous pedant, because if they don’t fight nonstop their clothes will spontaneously combust. Sam needs a commitment Con won’t—can’t—give. And neither of them will chance their hard-won bonds for pure lust.

Too bad Con and Sam have a whole week in a very tiny, very private space to sustain their dumb arguments. Alone. What happens in the Bookmobile might take their resistance right out of circulation . . .

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This book was a lovely surprise. Constance Chen (aka “Con”) is the type of heroine I don’t see a lot in the romance genre. She’s a tough, no-nonsense woman, who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it. She is blunt, prickly, a little brash and not looking for a relationship. She’s also a devoted sister and daughter and friend. Her close friendship with Penny, one of the other librarians in Niceville has her hesitating to act on her attraction to Sam Wolcott. And Sam has similar concerns. He has only just reconnected with his half-sister (they had different fathers) and she is the only family (apart from an extremely absent and disinterested mother) he has. He won’t do anything to risk that. He fears that if he starts anything with Con and it goes south, Penny will choose Con over him and then he’ll be alone. And that – being alone, is his greatest fear.

Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton

Offensive BehaviorWhy I read it:  I was provided with a copy by the author.

Disclosure: I’m friendly with the author on Twitter. We talk often. I know she’s a super cool person who won’t get bent out of shape if I don’t like a book she writes and I feel comfortable that I can say what I think without it being awkward. So I’m reviewing this one. As always, readers get to decide if my opinion is helpful to them.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Everyone is virgin at something

This is the story of a man who’s never done it, and a woman with the experience to teach him how.

Reid McGrath is drunk and intends to stay that way. It’s what a man does when the world he built gets ripped out from under him. He’s staked a claim on the back booth at Lucky’s where he can fixate on a dancer who makes him wish things were different.

Zarley Halveston dances under shimmering lights in a barely there costume, but it’s not the gold medal life she trained for. She expected to stand on an Olympic podium, instead she glitters under disco lights, gyrating on a chrome pole. Zarley can’t see the brooding man in the back booth, but she knows he’s there. He’s toxic, but it’s not her job to care, until the night he collapses at her feet and she has to choose to step over him or help him up.

Reid thought he’d hit bottom when he was fired as CEO of his own company, but knowing he’d needed the kindness of a stranger, and realizing she was the dancer he’d lusted after was a new low.

Question: What do a fallen golden girl and a sacked tech tycoon have in common except humiliation and failure?

Answer: The reawakening of a champion competitor and the sexual education of a frustrated geek.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Reid McGrath is the weird loner guy who starts a multi-million dollar tech company but manages to have almost no people skills. (I’ve met people like him – except with less money.) He’s been so focused on his company and coming up with brilliant apps and other software, he didn’t really have time for women (that’s his excuse anyway). But his woeful people skills collided with his company’s “No Asshole” rule and he was fired. From his own company. Oh the humiliation. The rage!

Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Alpert

Waiting for ClarkWhy I read it:  After the success of some of my other Love is an Open Road reads, I downloaded some other likely winners. This was one of them.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  My friends and I love cosplay, and this year we’re going all out for our city’s con. Yup, we’re going to go as members of the Justice League. I’m going as Batman, but I can’t figure out who’s going as a Superman. My friends are being a little cagey. What’s going on? How did I go from not knowing who Superman is to making out with the guy?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I was really charmed by this story, about two guys who had been best friends in college but had been estranged after a passionate kiss and a Rhodes scholarship (it’s complicated but it makes sense in the story!). Five years later, Bryce and his partners in the bar they own together, Gotham Coin, are setting up their own booth in Portland’s (fictional) PDX Comic Con. Bryce is dressed as Batman and other friends of his are in various other superhero costumes. To his shocked surprise, Superman turns out to be Clark Kenmore (I loved the name) – former BFF and the guy Bryce has been in love with since freshman year and has never quite gotten over.

Full Exposure by Amy Jo Cousins

full exposureWhy I read it:  The author tweeted the cover and I was pretty much all in after that. It’s FREE!!

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  There’s more than one way to be a rock star.

Evan Pak is a card-carrying geek (he even has the job to prove it), but when his photographer brother invites him to tag along on a photo shoot with rock star Riley Flood, he figures it will be two days of ogling and eye-rolling and nothing more. But the reckless bad boy is nothing like he expected, and Evan is mesmerized by the mix of cocky and sweet he sees in Riley. When a spontaneous idea ends with Evan stripping down under the hot lights for an intimate portrait for Riley’s next album cover, Evan is absolutely sure their connection won’t end when the lights are turned off. Especially since Riley can’t seem to keep his hands off the tattoos Evan hides under his clothes.

Even a spoiled rock star wants to give up control sometimes, if only for a weekend. The world is full of people who want things from Riley and the demands on him never stop. Evan knows exactly how to turn off the noise in Riley’s head and it starts by putting him on his knees.

Together, they will push each other higher and farther than either one of them have ever gone before. It’s easy to take risks when there’s a time limit on the game. But when their time is up, what comes next if they don’t want the game to end?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This story is told in three distinct parts. Part One is the longest and is where Evan and Riley meet at the photoshoot. It sets up, briefly, that Evan is a devoted son and the reason he lives with his dad is more than money. Riley’s character is a little opaque because the story is told entirely from Evan’s (third person) point of view. I got glimpses of a man who felt there was no-one on his side, one who was mainly being used as a cash cow and felt alone but it was mostly glimpses. Evan might be a “geek” and work from home in IT but he is not a pale, basement-living, never-see-the-sun stereotype, thankfully.

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