Ellie Reads Fiction

23 Aug 2016

Review: The Butch and the Beautiful by Kris Ripper

Title: The Butch and the Beautiful (Queers of La Vista #2)
Author: Kris Ripper
Publication Date: 22 Aug 2016
Genres: Queer Romance, f/f

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebook / FB Group • Goodreads
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My rating: 3.5 Stars



Blurb 

Jaq Cummings is a high school teacher who really wants a committed relationship—as long as it doesn’t keep her out late on school nights or interrupt Sunday mass with her dad. She is absolutely not about to fall for the hot-mess divorcĂ©e she hooks up with even if said hot mess pushes all her buttons. Jaq’s white knight days are over.

But one hookup with Hannah becomes two, then coffee, then more incredibly hot sex. And unlike most of Jaq’s exes, Hannah’s not looking for someone to come on strong. In fact, Hannah comes on plenty strong enough for both of them. But she’s just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s in the process of moving across the state, and Jaq can’t take a chance on yet another relationship where she defaults to being a caregiver instead of a partner.

Just when Jaq decides her relationship with Hannah is far too precarious, a crisis with a student reminds her of her priorities and makes it clear that sometimes, you have to take big risks to get what you really want.

Review 


This is the second book in the Queers of La Vista series and it's a f/f romance. I haven't read many of f/f stories so far and was curious to see how this one will work for me. I quite enjoyed it and think it's a worthy second instalment in the series though i have to admit I liked book 1 more.

This is a rich, multi-layered story covering different aspect of the lives of queer people and this diversity and complexity is the thing about the book which I liked the most. it did build on the community we started to see in thew first book and both the leading couple and the supporting characters felt like real people - they have their work and social circle, their families and friends/enemies. 

besides the sort of whirlwind romance between Jaq and Hannah, this story gave the readers insight in school/community life of the the queers in La Vista - issues queer kids face in school, issues of the queer community itself (being outed, being limited to interacting openly with the same small circle of people (who accept you and where you feel safe being yourself).

The story is told from Jaq's point of view and we get to see different sides of her personality and I loved them all. She is a great teacher who cares about her students. She has a very healthy and heart-warming relationship with her father. She has trusted and loyal friends (Zane is just as great as she was in the first book). I found her being lesbian and religious at the same time an interesting element in the story and I think the author presented this compacted relationship really well.

We see much less of Hannah and her inner musing remind a mystery for the reader. this is probably why I felt less connected with her. She is flighty and flamboyant, spontaneous and so very feminine to Jaq's butch nature. 

Both she and Jaq were grown women dealing with a lot of personal stuff and trying to navigate a relationship. There was no artificial drama, just a series of small challenges they had to overcome.

Kris Ripper gives us the already familiar smooth, leisurely writing style which I find very fitting to the stories in the series. If you are looking for real life stories queer stories of love, told engagingly, I strongly recommend that you give this series a try.

Purchase links: Amazon / Riptide 


17 Aug 2016

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Title: Fast Connection (Cyberlove #2)
Authors: Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
Genre/Themes: Contemporary mm romance / bi characters / ex-military
Release Date: 11 July 2016

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My rating: 4.5 Stars




Blurb


After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic 'Nicky' Costigan--the skirt-chasing player. They don't know I've been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys.

When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it's for one-night only. That's fine with me, because I'm down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn't take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again.

He's got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he's as addicted to me as I am to him. He can't resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke's rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated.


Review


This is the second book in the Cyberlove series and I enjoyed it just as much as the first.

Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson once again show how well they work together as a writing team creating yet another engaging contemporary romantic story. It had everything I look for in a romance - great chemistry, hot sex, intimacy, humour, some drama, some real-life issues, memorable characters and at the heart of it, a love story, not a perfect, once-in-a-lifetime true love, but a real one with setbacks and fights and doubts and gradually making things work out for everyone. We get the dual POV of Dominic and Luke and I loved how it revealed their different takes on love, sex, relationships and life in general.

I found Dominic a really interesting character, not what I expected after meeting him in book 1. He was this complex mix of laid-back and easy going, seemingly confident and knowing about life, but inside he was insecure and directionless.

Dom's struggles with adjusting to life after leaving the army were presented in a way that made it easy (for me) to relate to him. His family situation, his lack of clear direction in life (both personal and professional) is something most people face at some point in their lives. It gave a certain NA feel to Dom's character but actually one can feel a little lost and ready to try new things at the same time at any age.

Luke was Dom's opposite in many ways but they also had a lot in common - the military past and they both had to face the tough decision what to do after leaving the army. What I liked especially is that with Luke the authors explored a set of very real issues but ones not often the subject of romance - teenage kids, divorce, relationship with the ex. Oh, I'm so glad the trope of the evil ex-wife/girlfriend which, unfortunately, is so common in m/m romance was not used here., What we get instead is ex-spouses who have a healthy, friendly relationship and do their best to care for their kids.

Both Dom and Luke are bisexual and I liked how their previous relationships with women were presented as part of who they are without judgement or contempt. I wish there was more of that portrayal of bisexuality in contemporary romance, both m/f and m/m.

Luke and Dom have scorching hot chemistry but they complemented each other outside the bedroom as well. Dom's easy going nature helped Luke loosen up and start enjoying life more. At the same time Luke gave Dom a much needed boost of confidence and support to make some important decisions about his future.

I loved that we saw both characters deeply involved in their families. I also loved how they progressed from from Grindr hook-up to just sex to having a real relationship. Their romance had its moments of doubts and insecurity and wild passion and domesticity and it all felt natural and believable.

The family dynamics were also very important in the story. The romance didn't exist on its own, it was very much entangled with the life of the those closest to Dom and Luke and this was yet another element that made it real and authentic to me.

Fans of Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell will definitely enjoy this book which can be read as a standalone, though I highly recommend to start the series with Strong Signal.

Purchase links: Amazon | ARe | BN | kobo | iBooks

21 Jul 2016

Review: Forbidden Fling by Skye Jordan

Title: Forbidden Fling (Wildwood #1)
Author: Skye Jordan
Date of publication: 26 July 2016
Genre/themes: Contemporary Romance, Small-town

Author's links: Facebook / Website / Goodreads / Twitter
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My rating: 4.5 stars




Blurb

Delaney Hart has come a long way from her wild youth, dating tattooed bikers at her father’s bar, The Bad Seed. But when his death pulls her back to Wildwood, California, she must stay to renovate the dive he left her. And also face the lies and secrets that sent her running ten years before.

When Wildwood’s chief building inspector, Ethan Hayes, shows up on the property, Delaney doesn’t recognize him. The last thing he wants to do is save the bar where his cousin died in a brawl. But the good boy from her past is all too willing to remind her of the bad girl she used to be. And one night of passion leaves them both in a compromising position.

The last place Ethan should be is in Delaney’s bed. Guilt, family pressure, and plans for a brewpub of his own make shutting down The Bad Seed his top priority…until his feelings for Delaney interfere. Because her future depends on the success of the bar’s renovation and his dreams are rooted in its failure, their forbidden romance may be destined for heartbreak.

Review


I have read and very much enjoyed Skye Jordan's Renegades series - contemporary romances involving Hollywood actors and stuntmen. These stories are witty and sexy, without too much drama and just feel-good sweetness.

When I saw Ms Jordan was starting a new series I was curious to try it. This time she offers her readers a small-town romance and I'm always on the look out for such stories. There is often risk for them to come off as cheesy and too sentimental but I'm happy to report that this was definitely not the case here.

Forbidden Fling offers a surprising depth of emotion and a really detailed and convincing portrayal of the complexity of family relationships, love, guilt and the struggle to be your own person.

This is an explosive story including family feuds and broken dreams, on the one hand, and on the other it's a love story that shows such delicious sexual chemistry between Ethan and Delaney and their lust for each other gradually turning into love and devotion.

Delaney was amazing, a strong and determined person who tries to build a future for her (and her two sisters) out the ruins of their past. She is a reformed bad girl who has to prove to everyone and mostly to herself that she has a future back in her hometown, that she can turn her life around and stop running from the past and start working on her future in the place where she belongs.

I very much liked Delaney but found Ethan even more interesting - a smart professional and with a promising future, yet totally under the thumb of his family, guilted into submission, force to give up his dreams (for now or forever). 

Their meeting proves life changing for both of them. It sparks a wild attraction between them but also pushes them to be better, to try harder, to go for their dreams (despite the conflict arising between them and despite the dangers this places them under).

There is a lot of going back and forth in Ethan and Delaney's relationship, some pretty bad secrets, yet itit didn't feel too much foe me. The problems they face are not easy to solve and it did take them some time, some sacrifice, a lot of re-evaluation and determination to deal with them.

Overall, this is a complex, detailed story set in a richly built background. It has a strong small-town feel which I loved and explored family relations that are messier than most. In short, this is the perfect summer read and strongly urge you to pick up for your vacation.

Purchase link: Amazon


19 Jul 2016

Review: Burn Down the Night by Molly O'Keefe

Title: Burn Down the Night (Everything I Left Unsaid #3)
Author: M. O'Keefe
Date of publication: 9 Aug 2016
Genre/themes: Erotic Romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars



Blurb


The only thing that matters to me is rescuing my sister from the drug-cooking cult that once enslaved us both. I’ve run cons my whole life, and I’ll use my body to get whatever I need. Max Daniels is the last connection I have to that world, the one person reckless enough to get involved. Besides, now that his brothers have turned on him, he needs me too.

The deal was supposed to be simple: a place to hide in exchange for rescuing my sister. Now he’s my prisoner. Totally at my mercy. But I’m the one captivated. Enthralled. Doing everything he asks of me until I’m not sure who’s in control.

We both crave the heat. The more it hurts, the better. But what if Max wants a different life now, to leave the game . . . to love me? I thought I knew better than to get burned. Now I’m in too deep to pull away. And the crazy thing is . . . I don’t want to.


Review

I'm a big fan of Ms O'Keefe's writing and this series are really breaking my heart. Max and Joan's story is even more powerful, intense, darker than the Annie and Dylan's. 

I had the impression that Joan was actually older because of the self-confidence and assured way in which she acted with in the first book. What we see here is that she is in fact much younger, her confidence and bravado is mostly on the outside, a mask she wears to protect herself.. In fact the Joan we get to know in this story  is very much lost and in doubt about everything in her life.

Max, well, he is the rough and tough and ruthless biker club president we expect him to be. At the same time he is put in the rather unusual situation of being on the run from his club brothers and at the same time being held hostage by Joan. All this brings out a whole new side of his character to light which was fascinating to see.

There is lots of sexual tension in this story as usual in Ms O'Keefe's romances. A lot of their misery and frustration and anger at the world and the hard life they had to deal with, was expressed through the sex they had. The angry, punishing sex they had did push my comfort level but at the same time I liked how it led to Max an Joan opening to each other and becoming truly intimate. 

They are so much similar, both hardcore, angry and impulsive, yet desperate to make things right, loyal to their families but also plagued by their pasts and mistakes they have made. All this makes it rather difficult for them to express love and affection, either romantically or for their families in general. Giving up on all their coping mechanisms and survival mechanisms is a slow and painful process. It was not easy for either of them to dare to hope, to dream of a future they could look forward to.

Overall, I would describe this romance as a powerfully erotic story with a touch of danger but well within the limits of consent and doing (sexual) things everyone enjoyed (even the one-time with a third party involved). I liked how the characters presented their sexuality without judgement. Joan's bisexuality wasn't an issue for anyone and it was also not made into a shocking element in the story.

I'm sure fans of Ms O'Keefe will enjoy this romance and if you haven't read her books before and you like exquisitely written, intense erotic romance, I strongly urge you to give this series a try. While Burn Down the Night can be read as a standalone, it's even better if you read the previous two books (which go together) - Everything I Left Unsaid (review) and The Truth About Him (review).

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks 

15 Jul 2016

Review: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Title: Bitterweet (True North #1)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: Contemporary romance, Small-town 
Release Date: 14 June 2016

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars



Blurb

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.


Review


I will start with saying that I absolutely love Sarina Bowen's writing. Her Ivy Years series is my favourite NA series and her M/M hockey romances Him and Us, co-written with Elle Kennedy are just as amazing. I was really excited when I heard she will be writing a new series, sort of small town romances and I jumped at the chance to read the first book, Bittersweet.

On paper I should have loved this, a sexy hunk ex-sports star in college turned into a farmer and cider maker and the super sexy, somewhat flighty college hook-up who is trying to make it in the restaurant business.

I enjoyed a lot in this story, yet it ended as an OK read for me. Whole food business and Audrey's struggles and adventures in it were quite fun to read. And what I liked the most in this book is Griff's life on the farm - the interactions within his family and friends, the small-town feel - shone through the story and warmed my heart.

The romance is where I struggled a bit. It's a second-chance love story, with Griff being more involved even back in their college days. Their present-day chemistry was off-the-charts, but for the relationship lacked depth. It read like your usual, cliched and stereotypical NA college affair - it was all about lust and sexual pleasure and felt like feelings and real intimacy were lacking, at least initially.

I expected more maturity in the relationship, both Griff and Adrey acted like adults in the other aspects of their lives, or were at least trying to live up to their responsibilities and the expectations the others had of them.

In general I think there are one too many stereotypes (the evil ex-girlfriend who turned out to be a nice person after all, the super evil mother who also had a change of heart by the end, and more) which make the story just average and in many ways predictable.

I still enjoy Ms Bowen's style and have high hopes for the next books in the series, which I definitely plan to read. If you don't mind some instalust and NA angst in your romance, you should give this one a try. It wasn't a big hit with me but it might work better for you.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

PS: The second book, Steadfast, which tells Jude's story is out already and I enjoyed it much more and will be reviewing it soon.
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