A Charm of Finches (Venery #2) by Suanne Laqueur


A Charm of Finches (Venery #2) by Suanne Laqueur

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5 out of 5 Stars

This is probably the most difficult review I’ve ever written. How do you proclaim love for something so heart-wrenching? When one of the characters goes through an ordeal beyond your most horrid imagination? When the story is about loneliness and despair? It feels sacrosanct to shout that this book is amazing and everyone should read it.

But really, everyone should.

A Charm of Finches delves deep into the tough subject of male rape survivors and connecting with others on a human level. This book will shred your heart and stitch it back together piece by delicate piece. The theme of loneliness and surviving—but not really living—is prevalent in all three main characters. It’s jam-packed with emotion, and the characters will stick with you long after you’ve finished their story.

We first met Javier Landes in book 1 of the Venery series, An Exaltation of Larks. If you haven’t read Larks, I highly recommend it, though it’s not strictly necessary before reading Finches. Jav has finally decided to give love a chance, and love comes in the shape of a therapist named Steffen Finch. Stef hasn’t given much thought to a relationship with a man, but the attraction between the two men is undeniable. While Jav and Stef are getting to know each other, a young man named Geno Caan is spiraling down toward rock bottom.

Geno’s life was picture perfect until he became a victim of a horrendous crime. He’s trying to survive, but the world looks like a completely different place now. It’s bad enough he lost those closest to him. Then he realizes the world doesn’t even believe his story. How can he have a life when he’s so alone?

Landing in art therapy sessions with Stef, Geno slowly begins to trust again. He forms a friendship with Jav and begins to get his life back on track, but the journey is long and full of landmines waiting silently to explode.

Ms. Laqueur has a way of reaching deep into your soul and rearranging everything you thought you knew on an elemental level. Her words are powerful and moving, and she has done justice to a subject that rarely gets spoken about. She writes therapy sessions as if she were a fly on the wall, and the pain of sexual assault is vivid even when not described in horrid detail. I felt everything her characters felt—every high and low, every heartbreak and every triumph—thanks to the imagery that put me right in the scene with them.

This is my top book for 2017, and though the subject matter isn’t pretty, everyone should read this epic tale of survival.

Please note that although I have included Romance as one of the genres for this book, it is not the main focus of the story.

All of my reviews of Ms. Laqueur’s books can be found under the author spotlight tab.

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Complexity (The Kinky Connect Chronicles Book 4) by Harper Miller

Complexity (The Kinky Connect Chronicles Book 4) by Harper Miller

Complexity Cover

4 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Complexity by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Personal trainer Manny is always up for a good time. Doesn’t matter if it’s with a woman or a man. He’s secure in his sexuality and enjoys the no-strings sex he can get from the kinky website where he’s a member. But when Chris comes along, everything changes. Manny develops feelings he wasn’t looking for. Even if Chris feels the same, an open relationship between the two is impossible due to Chris’ life in the spotlight.

Complexity is book 4 in the Kinky Connect Chronicles, which features kinky standalone novellas with interracial couples. Each story is told as a confession of one of the Kinky Connect members, providing the reader with character-driven narration rather than the watered-down version found in typical fiction. This story is no exception with Manny’s slang and Hispanic phrases. As with all of the stories in this series, it’s well-written and enjoyable.

Beyond the method of the telling of the story, I liked both main characters and could understand their positions but had a bit of a difficult time grasping and accepting the conflict between them. Manny lamented about wanting to find his Lego piece (a metaphor I appreciated), and then he was upset with the situation when he actually did fall in love. I understand that the length of the story didn’t allow for much development, yet still felt something was missing that would have allowed me to connect more with the relationship. Manny’s anger at Chris for not telling him who he really was up front didn’t resonate with me either. They met through a website, so it was unlikely for either of them to spill their secrets before meeting in person.

Overall, it was an enjoyable tale with a unique style. Ms. Miller will keep me coming back for more with stories like this.

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Noah by Cara Dee

Noah by Cara Dee

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Noah by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

In Breaking Free and With Brave Wings we met Noah Collins, Assistant Director and life of the party. Now Noah has his own book, aptly titled Noah, where we pick up several years later when he thinks his life is in order and he’s happily committed to his girlfriend. But Noah’s life gets thrown upside down in a matter of hours when he finds his girlfriend cheating on him and then loses his entire family in a plane crash. If you haven’t read the other two books, no worries because Noah can easily stand on its own.

Julian is Noah’s stepnephew, someone Noah hasn’t had much chance to get to know over the years. He’s also the only person who understands what Noah’s going through considering Julian also lost his family.

Noah and Julian form a bond over their grief and begin to help each other work through their pain. They recognize how their bond could become unhealthy by depending on one another too much, especially when things become sexual. While Noah doesn’t identify himself as gay or even bisexual, he’s never been opposed to same-sex relationships. He’s just never had many relationships at all. The pair need to heal separately before they can explore the attraction between them.

Both Noah and Julian are well-developed characters. We see Julian as shy and timid, yet he excels in music and is able to express himself more freely through his songs. He has deep-seated issues to work through, and even though the book is written in Noah’s point of view, we get a good glimpse of how Julian grows and becomes more assertive throughout his healing.

Noah has always been a take-charge kind of guy and the life of any party. But in his grief over losing his whole family, he becomes lost. Add in what feels like an unnatural attraction to his nephew, and Noah doesn’t know which end is up. He wants to help Julian as much as he can without overstepping any lines, but the closer they get the more his attraction grows. It’s so interesting to watch Noah go through all these changes. And just when things seem to be going well, other issues pop up that the pair have to handle together.

One of the things I love about this story, and all of Cara Dee’s books, is the way the secondary characters are incorporated. While they’re in the background, the writing style allows their personalities to shine through and builds depth to the plot. It’s also great to get a peek at what’s going on in the lives of the characters I loved so much in the previous books.

Another stellar story from Ms. Dee. My other reviews of her books can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

Falling From The Sky by Nikki Godwin

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Falling From The Sky by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Sixteen-year-old Ridge McCoy hopes that summer basketball camp will not only improve his jump shot, but his life as well. He’s been in a holding pattern ever since his father’s death in a plane crash, and he doesn’t know how to deal with his mother, his brother, or even his girlfriend. When the carousel operator at the local mall, Micah Youngblood, offers to show Ridge what each of the carousel horses mean to his tribe, Ridge reluctantly accepts. It has to be better than hanging out with the guys at basketball camp, who are only interested in girls and beer.

As the friendship between Ridge and Micah grows, so do deeper feelings, as well as Ridge’s confusion. There’s nothing wrong with a summer fling, but Ridge may be doing some falling of his own and he’ll have to decide if this relationship can stand the distance.

Falling From The Sky is a young adult male/male romance about two high school boys—one who is sure of his sexuality and doesn’t need labels, and one who thought he was sure of his sexuality but begins to have questions. The YA M/M plot was a departure from what I typically read, and I’m glad I took a chance on this book.

When the story started, Ridge was a bit of a mess, beyond typical teenage drama and hormones, and hoping summer camp would be the escape he needed. Ridge’s father had passed away in a plane crash and he didn’t know how to deal with the remaining feelings. He also didn’t want the pity that came along with his father’s death and suspected his girlfriend only stayed with him because of that. His characterization pulled me in right away, and I fell in love with the boy who stopped in the middle of parking lots and prayed for airplanes.

The confusion of his life carried right through the story to when he met a strange new friend, developed feelings and had to deal with those feelings, and right up until he had to make decisions concerning his future. At times I could feel Ridge’s confusion right along with him. In one scene, I was able to feel pain from not only Ridge, but Micah as well.

If there was anything holding this book back, it would be the lack of an epilogue, a few minor inconsistencies, and some editing errors, but truly these were not enough to detract from the wonderful and emotional writing. I absolutely loved this story and look forward to reading more by this author.

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Public Display of Everything by Cara Dee

Public Display of Everything by Cara Dee

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5 out of 5 Stars

Cory Matthews can’t keep a job and is just barely keeping his head above water living in hostels in London. When he’s approached in his favorite pub by a nervous younger man offering him a job, Cory has no choice but to hear the man out. Flynn Wright runs a successful website for voyeurs, and his members have been begging for the chance to see Flynn in action. But Flynn doesn’t think he’s appealing enough to satisfy his members, so he wants to hire Cory to pose as his body double. As desperate as Cory is for money, he accepts Flynn’s offer—to masturbate in a location where the members will be able to watch.

Cory’s attraction to the quirky younger man only grows as they spend more time together and become friends. But he’s been burned before and is afraid to put himself out there. All he wants is to be able to be himself and not be judged for it. When he finally expresses his intentions, Flynn is more receptive than expected. Both men have some demons in their past to work out before they can truly be happy. Leaning on each other might be just the thing they need.

Public Display of Everything is a wonderful male/male romance that will have you falling in love right along with Cory and Flynn. Neither man is unsure of their sexuality, yet they both have issues to deal with and show growth throughout the story. I loved the format of the book, which began most chapters with a message from an unknown person to Cory. It gave hints to Cory’s past, but I was surprised by the revelation of who the messages were from and what the issue was.

Flynn is so adorable you’ll want to keep him for yourself. He’s quirky and nerdy, and he’s extremely unsure of himself at the start of the book. Watching him become more confident throughout the story was so satisfying. I loved when he apologized for cursing but then cursed even more, and also how his expressive vocabulary continued even in the height of passion. Flynn knew his social skills were lacking, and every time he looked up how to handle a situation on the internet, I fell in love with him even more. By the end of the book, his confidence had grown by leaps and bounds.

Even though Cory was a confident character right from the start of the story, there were still some things that brought out his insecurity, like the fact that he was a klutz and could make a mess of the simplest situation. His protectiveness of Flynn was sexy without going overboard. But Cory also had to learn there was a difference between showing off his sexual orientation just because he could and actually being comfortable with who he was and who he loved.

I loved this story from start to finish, and would definitely recommend it to fans of male/male romance. I’ve reviewed several other books by Cara Dee, and all reviews can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Inestimable Blessings by Amanda Young

Inestimable Blessings by Amanda Young

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2 out of 5 Stars

Lee Calder knows what he wants out of life. He has a wonderful career as a physical therapist and a baby on the way via surrogate. The only thing missing is someone to share his blessings with him, but he’s okay with that as long as he gets to be a father. He’ll keep daydreaming about his hunky neighbor Finn while he enjoys life.

Literally stumbling onto his neighbor and finding out the other man is also gay is quite a surprise. While their attraction grows, Lee has to find a way to tell Finn he’s about to become a daddy without scaring Finn off.

Inestimable Blessings is a M/M contemporary romance about finding love when you least expect it. While Lee was happy to raise his child alone, finding someone to share his family with would be the icing on the cake. Finn also wasn’t looking for love after being burned by his ex. And he certainly wasn’t looking for a ready-made family.

Although I loved the premise of this book and enjoy family-centered romance, there were a few things that missed the mark for me. Lee was quick to anticipate the problem of Finn rejecting him because of his impeding fatherhood when Finn had given no indication he wouldn’t be receptive to the idea. It felt like the author was telling us what the issue would be instead of building up to something. The summary also misled me to believe there would be some big rescue between the two men when in actuality it was nothing like that. There was also a bit of unnecessary cliché.

I found the dialogue somewhat awkward as well as editing and formatting issues. There were some inconsistencies, like telling us that the surrogate had four children but later saying she had two. Several chapter breaks were missing, and there was some random highlighting in the electronic version. A professional editor and formatter would have made a world of difference in this book. These days, there are so many choices that it’s not worth it to read something that’s not professionally done.

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Touch to Surrender (Touch Series Book 3) by Cara Dee

Touch to Surrender (Touch Series Book 3) by Cara Dee

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5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Touch to Surrender by the author. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Brayden and his girlfriend Evangeline have embarked on a Master/sub/sub relationship with Master Cooper, which works out well for everyone. Mark, their Master, enjoys having two subs, even if he’d like to take his non-sexual relationship with Brayden further. Brayden can’t bring himself to admit out loud that he’s bisexual, and he certainly isn’t able to act on it after his father drilled into his head how wrong it is.

But Master’s job is to push limits, including Brayden’s. After watching a homosexual scene between another Master and his sub, Brayden gives a little. When he winds up alone in bed with Mark, Brayden’s barriers break down, and he’s finally able to give in to what he really wants.

Touch to Surrender is book three in the Touch Series by Cara Dee. Each book is a short BDSM story, and they should be read in order. Touch to Surrender picks up right where book two, Twice the Touch, left off. You will still understand the dynamics of the relationship between the characters if you haven’t read the other books, but trust me that they are all worth reading and are best when read in order.

In this book, we get inside the head of a male sub who is having difficulty acknowledging his bisexuality. He wants Mark’s touch, and even wants to touch Mark in return, but feels like it’s wrong to give in to that because of his father’s beliefs. I loved how Mark showed Brayden—and Evangeline—that it was okay for two men to be together. In the context of a BDSM scene, Mark brought in another Master and sub, both men, who also happened to be married. Brayden had no choice but to watch because his Master ordered him to, and then he also had no choice but to admit there was nothing wrong with what the two men in front of him were doing.

Cara Dee has a way of always keeping things realistic. Brayden didn’t just forget what he’d been taught because of the scene he watched. We got to see his true struggle the following morning when he was alone in bed with Mark. He continued to fight his natural urges until he couldn’t take it any longer. Mark’s openness about what he wanted from Brayden pushed him gently, as only a Master could do, resulting in a happy Master and sub, as well as quite a hot read for the reader.

I have yet to find a work by Cara Dee I didn’t love, regardless of the genre, even if it wasn’t something I’d typically read. Touch to Surrender was no different. I look forward to reading the rest of the Touch Series. All of my reviews of Ms. Dee’s books can be found under the Author Spotlight tab.

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Captive Guardian (Witches Amulet Book 2) by Paulina Woods

Captive Guardian (Witches Amulet Book 2) by Paulina Woods


2 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided with a copy of Captive Guardian by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Michael, second in command of the gargoyle army, is captured by evil witches and taken to New York where he is placed in a penthouse cage. His roommate, Marcus, is a male witch who has only ever known a life of captivity. Marcus was raised to breed powerful witches. Realizing Marcus is his mate, Michael vows to find a way to free them both, but Marcus doesn’t know how to live outside of captivity.

Once free, the men take refuge with a coven of vampires while they wait for Michael’s strength to return so he can open a portal and take them to his home. When they return to Michael’s home, Marcus is finally able to meet his sister Milcah, another powerful witch. Marcus will need to decide if he wants to be part of the quest to overthrow the evil witches and become Michael’s mate, or if he’d rather return to the simple life he’s comfortable with.

Captive Guardian is the second book in the Witches Amulet series. Although I was assured this was a standalone book, I did not feel it could be read and fully understood without having read the first book in the series, Stone Guardian. The beginning of Captive Guardian picks up right where Stone Guardian left off, and as with the first book, the quest doesn’t advance much in the second book. I assume it will be continued in another book to be added to the series.

I enjoyed the paranormal aspect of the story, which included gargoyles, witches, vampires, and fae, but felt the story was lacking in quite a few areas. The main focus of the book was the relationship between Michael and Marcus, with the attraction from both of them being instantaneous. There was not enough focus on the quest to save the world from the evil witches. That felt more like a sub-plot.

Marcus was a very immature, simple, and needy character. Some of his characterization called for this as he had spent his entire life in captivity, but at times he seemed more like a young boy rather than a grown man capable of making decisions for himself. Barely any discussion revolved around Marcus’ powers, or his history and how he became captive, or on what his part in the quest to save the world would be.

Like book one of the series, this book contained numerous formatting and editing errors as well as unnatural dialogue. A character name was spelled wrong, and the wrong name was used several times. “Tuscan Mountains” was used frequently, although the characters were in Arizona (not Italy). I believe the term the author was looking for was “Tucson Mountains.”

The story essentially ends with no resolution, leaving the reader hanging once again. It is not necessarily a cliffhanger ending, but not a true end to the story either. Overall, it did not entice me to read more.

Yesterday I posted my review of book 1 of the Witches Amulet series, Stone Guardian. You can find it by selecting Romance/Paranormal from the Review tab.

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Freeing (Fading Volume 2) by E.K. Blair

Freeing (Fading Volume 2) by E.K. Blair

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4 out of 5 Stars

Jase Kinrick knows he’s gay; he just doesn’t know what to do about it. After fooling himself and everyone else in high school by dating a ton of girls, he’s excited to start his life over when he moves away for college. The problem is he still can’t quite accept himself, so even though he’s open about his sexuality and has many flings with other men, he can’t commit to a relationship.

When Jase meets Mark, a sexy musician and fellow architecture student, Jase has to find a way to accept himself for who he really is. Mark doesn’t do flings, so if Jase wants to continue exploring his growing attraction to Mark, he’s going to have to make some big changes in his life.

Freeing is an interesting story of someone who has come out of the closet yet still hasn’t fully accepted himself for who he is. Jase is sure his family won’t approve of him being gay—and he finds he’s right when his parents kick him out—but even after coming out to them, he still struggles to be open in his relationship with Mark. Even though he pushes Mark away and can’t fully accept himself, Mark is patient and understanding, leading Jase in the right direction with quiet determination. Mark’s love for Jase is unwavering, and even though Jase also loves Mark, it still takes time for him to be comfortable in his own skin. I truly enjoyed this twist on the male/male romance.

Jase also has a best female friend, Candace, who loves Jase and is accepting of his sexuality. When Candace finds herself in a horrible situation, Jase is there for her without question. I loved seeing Mark’s continued determination with Candace. He showed his love for Jase by truly caring for Candace and being understanding when Jase needed to be with her. Mark never questioned Jase and Candace’s relationship, and he even accepted Candace into bed with them (in a non-sexual way) when she needed comfort.

Although the love between Jase and Mark was obvious from their actions, there were some aspects that could have used a bit of work. The little loving touches between Jase and Candace—a kiss on the forehead, a hug here and there—were more believable than the touches between Jase and Mark. Because Jase held back with Mark, the times they did touch weren’t as convincing as they could have been. Even toward the end when Jase had finally accepted himself, it still seemed like something was missing.

There were parts of the narrative that were repetitive, making it seem like the author didn’t trust the readers to remember the details. I also felt there needed to be a little more explanation for why Kimber, Candace’s roommate, seemed to disappear from the story. Kimber was extremely involved with Jase and Candace in the beginning, and although she was left out of Candace’s recovery, there was never any mention of her once she got mad at Candace.

Overall, the story was enjoyable and well-written. I would definitely read more by this author and more of this series. Freeing is book two of the Fading series, and it can be read as a standalone.

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Outcome (Aftermath Book 2) by Cara Dee

Outcome (Aftermath Book 2) by Cara Dee

 Outcome Cover

5 out of 5 Stars

*I was provided a copy of Outcome by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*

Chase Gallardo hasn’t fully gotten over his kidnapping and five months in captivity, even though it’s been three years since he found freedom. The reason he believes he was targeted, that he’s gay, is just one more reason to keep his true nature to himself, even if it means a life of celibacy. He’s happy helping others and owning the bar he’s spent most of his life trying to afford.

Remy Stahl is on a downward spiral as his guilt eats away at him. He feels responsible for the kidnapping of ten men since he unknowingly gave his half brother the money that funded the kidnapping. His friends want to save him from the self-destructive lifestyle he’s adopted, but Remy doesn’t feel worthy of being saved.

A chance encounter between Chase and Remy, the person Chase was forced to portray during his time in captivity, sets both men on a path toward healing—and toward each other. They both will need to accept help from friends who are more like family, and they’ll need to lean on each other in order to get through the issues they face. When they develop feelings for each other, Chase will have to decide if he’s ready to face the world as a gay man or not.

Outcome is the second book in the Aftermath series by Cara Dee, and it is just as amazing as the first book. Although it builds on the story started in Aftermath, Outcome can definitely be read as a standalone. It focuses on different characters, but the main characters from Aftermath play a big part in Outcome. It is also so much more than a M/M erotic romance. Both Chase and Remy have a lot of growing and healing to do as part of the outcome of the kidnapping that took place three years prior.

Chase likes to fix everyone else’s problems but has never been good at accepting help for himself. Throughout the story, he learns it’s okay to lean on others for support. Sometimes it’s little things, like allowing his friends to help out at the bar, and sometimes it’s bigger things, like coming out of the closet after so many years of hiding and realizing that his friends won’t judge him. A relationship with Remy—half brother of Chase’s kidnapper—is the last thing Chase expects when he offers to help Remy with his issues. But it ends up being the icing on the cake as the two men lean on each other to get through their problems.

Remy’s guilt over what he feels is his part in the kidnapping leads him to no longer care what happens to his life. He’s been abandoned by his family and feels like he has no one left. But when his friends Minna and Andy try to save him, he begins to realize he has something to live for and that family doesn’t have to come from a blood relation. Once Chase enters the picture, Remy finds he can help the other man by helping himself. And accepting love from Chase heals Remy more than he ever thought possible.

I truly enjoyed reading Outcome and watching these men learn to open up and accept friendship and love. Cara Dee writes stories that are real and down to Earth, with problems that don’t disappear at the drop of a hat. Following this journey to self-discovery was fulfilling and exciting. This is another must read for fans of M/M erotic romance.

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