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M/M

His Heart’s Revenge by Jenny Holiday

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 23rd July 2016
His Heart’s Revenge by Jenny HolidayHis Heart's Revenge by Jenny Holiday
Series: 49th Floor #4
Published by Entangled: Indulgence on June 20th 2016
Pages: 210
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four-stars

Alexander Evangelista is a millionaire with all the trappings: houses all over the world and hot guys lined up whenever he’s in need of some no-strings-attached company. He's on his way to world domination.
A CEO in his own right, Cary Bell is competing for a major client with his boyhood crush. He’s never forgiven himself for betraying Alex. But with his professional reputation on the line, he’s going to have to find his inner cutthroat if he wants his new company to succeed.
Alex isn’t about to let his nemesis steal a client out from under him. It’s time to break Cary’s company—and his heart.

‘His Heart’s Revenge’ revolves around a thoughtless act two decades ago set two people on very different paths that forked then converged again in a high-stakes meeting. Alex’s and Cary’s tenuous friendship was shattered during a summer camp and since then, both have suffered in their own way. Their reunion – as somewhat laughable as it is to think that they never quite forgot their 2-decade old love – is hostile, yet fraught with tension as they inevitably slip into enjoying the chemistry that they’ve always had together.

The draw of this book really, was Jenny Holiday’s characters who circled each other like sharks and then went down like wildly, complete with metaphors and awful innuendos that had me laughing at the most inappropriate times. Alex’s journey from quiet teen to ruthless corporate banker is charted out with so much sensitivity that I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him; at the same time, Cary’s genuineness is just as appealing when it becomes clear that he simply made a stupid but monumental mistake with Alex when they were teens. It’s simply unfortunate that his words had such power to change the course of Alex’s life drastically.

Picky as I am about M/M romance, there are times when I stumble across one that’s a keeper and ‘His Heart’s Revenge’ is probably one of those, even as a standalone when it’s clear that this is part of a series with. Holiday’s assured and persuasive writing simply reminds me of the primary element that I find compelling about this specific genre of fiction and strangely enough, it doesn’t have anything to do with the sex scenes at all: the way men behave with each other as they struggle with their emotions because it’s always enjoyable to have something so different from the push/pull elements of M/F romance. And because I felt as though I couldn’t say goodbye to Alex and Cary by the end of the book, that was when I knew Holiday had done it right.

four-stars

The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th June 2016
The Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay DimonThe Talented Mr. Rivers by HelenKay Dimon
Series: End of the Line #2
Published by Loveswept on September 13th 2016
Pages: 176
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four-stars

As the son of an international crime lord, Will Rivers only inherited one thing after his father died: trouble. The Pentasus organization deals in kidnapping and murder, and Will wants no part of the power grab that’s tearing leadership apart. But the only way he’ll be able to escape is with some help from his former bodyguard, Hunter Cain, whose sculpted body and brooding looks keep Will awake at night. Somehow, Hunter has resisted the tension between them . . . until, suddenly, he gives in.
As a German intelligence officer working deep undercover, Hunter has a very good reason to keep Will in the dark about his identity and his intentions. Although the sex is hot, Hunter’s true feelings are a growing liability. Now the only way to save Will from his old life is to push him deeper into danger. But when two strong men are each determined to protect the other, the heat isn’t just combustible—it’s a firestorm.

For all of two months, Hunter Cain never broke his cover, until an incident that puts his mission on the line. Becoming the bodyguard of the son of an international crime lord is equally incidental, and for all his ability to put his mission above all, his mark this time around, makes him stray into deeper shades of grey that he has never quite known.

I must admit that reading a same-gender romance requires a bit of adjustment on my part. Always. Particular after months or weeks of M/F couples whose dynamics and relationships have been cut crystal clear in all the romance tropes available in the market these days, unlike the more fluid ones here, which I personally find alluring because of this marked difference. There isn’t a person who assumes or mimics the feminine role, no conventional structure to follow with the sexual dynamics that come into play, but rather, just the tumble into carnal desire between two men.

There’s a harder edge to HelenKay Dimon’s End of the Line series that drew me into the first book and continues to draw me in even now, more so perhaps because it’s an M/M story, of two men who circles each other warily in the games only males can play. The ‘softer’ emotions are absent here, just as you’d expect two hard men to react, never quite talking or acknowledging their feelings straight on. I found Hunter and Will more fascinating than bosom-buddy characters for these reasons, as though they existed on a different plane than I do. Yet there’s this dark thread of attraction and the zing of chemistry that makes this unusual bodyguard/charge relationship really sing, coupled with Dimon’s punchy writing, which makes the story a surprising but memorable standout for me.

four-stars

Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 10th March 2016
Mr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay DimonMr. and Mr. Smith by HelenKay Dimon
Series: End of the Line #1
Published by Loveswept on May 24th 2016
Pages: 210
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three-stars

Fisher Braun knows how to keep a secret. As a covert paramilitary operative, his job—and his life—depends on it. He’s at the top of his game, ready for action and always in control. No enemy has ever brought him to his knees, but one lover has: Zachary Allen, the man currently sharing his bed. The perfect package of brains and brawn, Zach is someone worth coming home to, and Fisher hates keeping him in the dark about what he does. But the lies keep Zach safe. Until the day Fisher loses everything. . . .   Zachary Allen is no innocent civilian. Although he plays the tech geek, in reality he’s deep undercover for the CIA. In a horrible twist of fate, the criminal enterprise he’s infiltrated has set its sights on the man whose touch drives him wild. Zach would do anything for Fisher—except blow his own cover. Now, in order to save him, Zach must betray him first. And he needs Fisher to trust him with all his heart if they want to make it out alive.

Even as a one-night stand in a bar slips unexpectedly into a routine of living together, Fisher Braun doesn’t question this too much until a kidnapping goes wrong and betrayal hits him square in the face of Zach Allen with whom he thought he’d something real. In a case of double crossings, undercover identities and an operation gone wrong, Zach and Fisher (both hardened men) must learn the hard way what happens beyond trust is shattered and the difficult consequences of keeping a personal life apart from the soul-sucking demands of their CIA superiors.

I requested for this not particularly for a HEA as I usually do, but rather to satisfy a burning curiosity about how men in a partnership dealt with their emotions – away from a sports setting – and how women authors perceived and wrote them. And how, apart from the M/M sex – which I wasn’t entirely too interested in, to be honest -, the tone and voice would differ had this been a M/F book.

It turned out that my initial suspicion about the male form of emotional repression was right (regardless of gender orientation) and this book confirms it when 2 men punch out their frustration rather than articulate what’s exactly wrong in their relationship. The hard-edge, grittier, more unforgiving bits of alpha male personalities came to the fore in Zach and Fisher, lending the story a weightier, gruffer and sombre feel than the usual kind of crackling chemistry that runs through the usual M/F pairings that I always read about.

Clearly, ‘Mr. and Mr. Smith’ isn’t a book for everyone despite the ongoing action and suspense; the whole clandestine operation feels a little dopey at times, and the main characters are clearly too stubborn for their own sakes, but it has already left me wondering about the direction in which HelenKay Dimon will take this series.

three-stars

Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports/ Young Adult 8th March 2016
Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle KennedyUs by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: Him, #2
Published by Rennie Road Books on March 8th 2016
Pages: 328
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five-stars

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.
Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.
Or can they?
When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

I’m struck as always, by this particular series, not because M/M isn’t usually my cup of tea, but because of the very human choices that both Jamie and Wes face in spite of their gender – and their courageous decision to choose love – a point that is reiterated throughout the book – is the only thing that keeps me coming back.

‘Us ‘has to be one of the hardest, most painful but most rewarding reads I’ve ever had. If I’d cheered for Jamie and Wes in the first book rigorously, this book cataloguing their difficulty in staying afloat, trapped in their miserable bubble with the weight of expectations bearing down on them was akin to watching a train wreck happening in slow motion without any way to stop it. (Or perhaps this is entirely because of the very typical tendency of males not to talk at all?)

Jamie and Wes are compelling characters that have somehow taken root and grown into monstrous proportions in my head, despite their stupidity with each other at times. I’m reminded again, of this very special friendship that had begun in a humble summer camp that stayed solid even as things started to go wrong and when it all ended well, I was happy again – for fictional characters who’d come to life to strongly that they could have easily been any of my friends.

Even then, I’m entirely unprepared to say goodbye, as these guys and the team drink their hearts out on the last page – and I can only hope there’ll be another book past this one.

five-stars

Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports/ Young Adult 19th August 2015
Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle KennedyHim by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: Him #1
Published by Rennie Road Books on July 28th 2015
Pages: 276
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five-stars

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?
Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.
Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.
Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

I’m typically wary when I start a M/M romance book, but I didn’t expect to be drawn into their drama so quickly…and ended up learning quite a few precious life lessons on identity, self-worth and sexuality through the fictional characters of Wes and Jamie in the process. If that isn’t what fiction is supposed to do, then what is?

five-stars
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