Hanaiki ~ Kasoku – Katsuaki Sassa
Symptom of Hanaiki: when your breath smells like flowers. Roughly 70% of youth have this. The symptoms occur when they fall in love for the first time.
This is a one-shot about a high schooler who couldn’t confess to his childhood friend for fear of losing him. So he tries to hide the flowers he disperses because of hanaiki.
I think this condition is pretty romantic if a little inconvenient. Specially if you have to keep your feelings a secret. This is my first time hearing about hanaiki but apparently it’s a thing in fanfic made famous by Korean girls. Gives a new meaning to the expression “coming up roses”.
Marital Bliss is a contemporary romance series by D.J. Jamison centering around a group of friends and how they found their other halfs. It started with the squee-tastic Surprise Groom, a fake boyfriends story full of authentic feels and delicious USTs up the wazoo. This was set in Bliss Island, a wedding resort venue owned by Caleb and his husband Julien.
The next two stories take us to the Triple J Ranch owned by Wyatt Jones who inherited it from his grandfather. The ranch is struggling and Wyatt is doing his best to keep it afloat by turning part of it into a wedding venue.
Marital Bliss: Wrangling A Groom – D.J. Jamison
Can two men keep a childhood promise for marital bliss?
Wyatt is overwhelmed after his grandfather dies, leaving him to take over the cattle ranch. The Triple J is floundering, vandals are targeting him, and his first and only love is finally within reach–and still holding a grudge. Wyatt has wanted to marry Diego since they made a childhood pact, but Diego isn’t back for their second chance.
When a funeral calls Diego back to Texas, he comes face-to-face with the cowboy who broke his heart. Resentment has burned inside him for years, but his anger wavers as he realizes just how much Wyatt is struggling to keep his head above water. The man he once loved is lonely and burdened, and Diego feels compelled to help him rediscover the strong, capable rancher he knows him to be.
Hostility gives way to passion, then friendship as they fall into a rhythm of work and sex. Wyatt has renewed hope he might wrangle the man he wants to be his groom. But Diego has a life waiting for him one thousand miles away, and love may not be enough to prevent history from repeating itself.
Wrangling a Groom is Book 2 of the Marital Bliss series, but can be read as a standalone.
Wrangling a Groom starts with the death of Wyatt’s grandfather. Wyatt’s childhood friend and son of his ranch foreman, Diego arrived for the funeral. The two had a pretty tumultuous history.
At the age of 6, they made a pact to marry each other when they turned 25. Wyatt and Diego were very close and even became boyfriends. They were unfortunately caught kissing by Wyatt’s grandpa who didn’t approve of homosexuals.
Wyatt was made to choose between the ranch and Diego. He chose his heritage and Diego promptly took off without saying goodbye. He ended up in Miami as a bartender.
After 6 years of radio silence, the sparks between the two men were still there. But Diego was still angry and Wyatt was still sorry.
A bulk of the story focused on the men working to get the ranch going as well as Wyatt’s determined efforts to renovate some buildings for the wedding venue. These parts were slow for me. I wasn’t particularly interested in ranch chores so I actually put the book on hold for a while.
But then I’m glad I decided to go at it once in a while because the story did pick up the pace a after bit. What eventually won me over was Wyatt’s endearing earnestness and willingness to put his whole heart on the line. I loved how he never held anything back.
On Diego’s first day at the ranch, he reminded him of their pact. He was eager to fulfill his promise. Diego outright said no. Then he offered his heart on a platter again despite Diego rejecting him once again. Diego was clearly still not over his anger.
But spending time together in the ranch as Diego helped out because of the lack of manpower did plenty to bridge the gap between them. They rediscovered their friendship and some good memories. They even made new ones. It was easy to see what the two men could have been had they never separated.
As far as friends-to-lovers went, this went on a circuitous route. It may take patience but the journey was worth taking. Once you get past the middle part, the charm of the story becomes more apparent.
I liked how everything connected back to Bliss Island. Wyatt met Diego’s friends, Caleb and Julien. They helped him with his new business venture. And then they helped Diego and him in their other new venture as Diego finally realized where he belonged all along.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Marital Bliss: Nobody’s Groom – D.J. Jamison
Can two enemies find love after a rocky start?
TJ hoped the Triple J Ranch would be a fresh start under a new name, with his tarnished family reputation behind him. He didn’t count on the young, spirited Colby provoking him at every turn. But when tempers boil over, TJ discovers that Colby’s disgust with him is more like lust, and that he’d do just about anything to tangle with the confused kitten.
Colby likes everyone, but something about the new, unfriendly cowboy on the crew gets under his skin. He doesn’t understand just how worked up TJ has him until his body reacts, shocking them both. Colby’s never been with a man, but he can’t fight the desire TJ’s rough hands have awakened in him.
It’s just physical, an opportunity to indulge Colby’s secret desires. But the young ranch hand’s innocence softens something inside TJ, and he can’t deny he wants more. He’s nobody’s groom, but could he be Colby’s love — or will his lies come between them?
Nobody’s Groom is a Marital Bliss novella. It can stand alone, but is best read after Wrangling a Groom due to overlapping events that may contain spoilers.
I was excited for this series’ take on the enemies-to-lovers trope. TJ and Colby were introduced as the ranch hands at the Triple J.
For some reason, TJ rubbed the normally affable Colby the wrong way. Colby blamed TJ when something goes wrong in the ranch. TJ being the new guy, he was the easy target.
The two were also opposites. TJ was big, gruff and silent while Colby was slender and talkative. TJ was out but quietly gay while Colby was straight but curious. It didn’t take long for things to ignite between the two because Colby was drawn to TJ like moth to a flame.
This story has good bones in it. There were some family drama in the mix but whatever plot it had was overwhelmed by too much sex scenes. Meh.
This novella’s timeline takes place alongside Wyatt and Diego’s. Many events were referenced so this is not a standalone.
2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like
A lot of contemporary romance fall flat for me but despite some complaints, Marital Bliss was able to draw me in and keep me engaged. It helps that that it is full of characters you can root for, well-loved tropes that feel fresh, writing that’s easy to go through, some angst, some drama, some laughs and definitely a lot of heart.
I’m looking forward to the next groom!
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Words of mine and songs must fail
But this oath binds us both
Now let us be
Like the solitary rose
Now have us drown
In truth’s garment of sound
And how strange to be here
Atop your floating bridges
Now we shall dive for abalone
You carry peaches and sugar
Still wrapped in the foliage
Of distant shores
A seafarer’s trade
An angry sacrifice made
This flight has now binder
What anger blinded
There is no rest yet
We strip each word bare
With the tenderest of care
And as your mouth longs for tears
My heart still flows toward you
Is it our calling
To live in peace with virtuous friends
Or to sleep inside
The cannon’s mouth?
I know that words of mine
And songs must fail
But this oath binds us both
For we have a pact of blood
With the sun
For we have a pact of blood
With the sun