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    REVIEW: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

    Midcentury NYC: We Could Be So Good – Cat Sebastian

    Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.

    Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

    Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

    Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.


    Lots of conflicting feelings here.

    We Could Be So Good, Book 1 of Midcentury NYC by Cat Sebastian, is one of those modern historicals I’m exploring since Regencies and Victorians aren’t doing it for me recently. Set in the late 1950s New York, it’s a best-friends-to-lovers romance between a closeted newspaper reporter, Nick Russo, and his newly awakened bisexual friend, Andy Fleming, the publisher’s son.

    The book is touted as a “Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” in that comparative marketing style I hate. I usually see this when a niche genre/indie author (is this the proper term?) is marketed to mainstream readers (again, not sure of the proper term). It’s helpful to a wider audience who might want to venture into queer books, but I prefer the book to stand on its merit.

    That said, I’d love it if more people discover Cat Sebastian and other brilliant MM romance authors. That way, their books would be popular enough to be picked up by Hollywood. My dream is to have my favorite books turned into movies. Sometimes, I entertain myself with the idea that if I win the lottery, I’d create my own production company just for that purpose.

    Anyway, I’ve seen the movie version of the royal rom-com, though I’ve no idea about Evelyn Hugo. There are a few similarities to the former.

    There’s the opposites attract trope where Nick is uber-competent and Andy is a bumbling himbo who can’t even shut a drawer without getting his tie caught. There’s the class difference where Nick comes from an Italian immigrant working-class family while Andy is third of his name and has more money than he knows what to do with. They also had to keep their blossoming romance on the down low.

    There’s also a wonderful found family for Nick, Andy, and their queer/non-queer friends. I loved that, by some unspoken agreement, they built a safe space for everyone in Nick’s building apartment.

    The story has all the ingredients that make a Cat Sebastian book a swoony, unforgettable experience. The scenes are brimming with mutual pining and longing and fluffy, adorable moments wrapped in cozy domesticity. There’s so much love and kindness between Nick and Andy, and I adore them! They reminded me of the author’s squee-tastic friends-to-lovers masterpiece Two Rogues Make A Right.

    Sadly, the feels didn’t soak through to the bone. I wasn’t squee-ing. The romance is of the slow burn variety, which I usually love, but it’s so damn slooow that the slowness is all I could think about. I was audiobooking this, and even the great Joel Leslie couldn’t stop the draggy feeling. 

    The glacial pace is compounded by the fact that there is barely any plot. It’s just Nick and Andy doing not-so-exciting everyday things and sending feels to each other. While era-specific LGBTQIA issues are tackled, as well as Nick’s family woes and Andy having his bisexual awakening, these threads felt shallow.

    I wanted to love the book so much but it is what it is. I’d still recommend this, since many people loved it and YMMV from mine.

    We Could Be So Good is a story of loyal friends, complicated families, and hopeful lovers against the backdrop of the Big Apple. It could have been all my yes had it been faster. Overall, a cozy, sweet romance built on kindness and care that falls in that place between like and love.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: So Good
    Artist: Public Library Commute
    Album: Close to the Sun


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    REVIEW: Evolved by N.R. Walker

    Evolved – N.R. Walker

    In 2068, androids are an integrated part of human life. Big Brother no longer just watches from the shadows. It’s in every household.

    Lloyd Salter has OCD issues with noise and mess, and he’s uncomfortable with human interaction. When his ex claimed the only thing perfect enough to live up to his standards was an android, Lloyd dismissed it. But two years later, after much self-assessment, he thinks he may have been right.

    SATinc is the largest manufacturer of androids in Australia, including the Fully Compatible Units known as an A-Class 10. Their latest design is the Synthetic Human Android UNit, otherwise known as SHAUN.

    Shaun is compatible to Lloyd’s every need; the perfect fit on an intellectual and physical basis. But Lloyd soon realises Shaun’s not like other A-Class androids. He learns. He adapts. Sure that SATinc is aware Shaun functions outside of his programmed parameters, Lloyd must find a way to keep Shaun safe.


    This is the second time I try reading Evolved. The first time was in 2018, when it was first released. I struggled so much with the book that I DNF’ed. I still have the draft of my initial thoughts on it and already have a song for it. The review was pretty negative, and since I didn’t finish reading, I didn’t post it.

    I thought I try my luck again, and this time, I was determined to see it through. I would like to say second time’s the charm, but no. It was still a struggle. Though I could see the good parts, and they made it worth it.

    First, the plot is pretty standard for human/android romances.

    Philosophy professor and perpetual loner Lloyd Salter purchased a Class A Companion Android, Shaun, from SATInc. Shaun was programmed to be fully compatible with Lloyd’s personality and sexual preferences. Class A Androids are the most human-like of all the android classes, but Lloyd was starting to notice Shaun is evolving far beyond his Class A capabilities.

    My first reaction to this is, gay Absolute Boyfriend, anyone? Technosexual romances, or even just the usual sci fi story, almost always feature androids evolving or acting as human-like as possible. My Star Trek crush, Data, being an early example.

    I got pretty bored with how most of the plot revolves around Shaun’s androidness. It felt a lot like how older MM romances frequently revolved around the person’s sexuality. Maybe because I’ve seen it done a million times already, I would have preferred Lloyd be a bit cynical rather than being too star-struck by Shaun.

    Which brings us to the main character. The story is in Lloyd’s first person POV. This was a tough hurdle for me because I don’t like Lloyd at all. I don’t actively hate him. It’s just if we were boyfriends or roommates, we’ll probably end up killing each other. We’re the same and opposites in all the wrong ways.

    Lloyd has OCD and mysophobia. He is socially awkward and has only one friend. I could sympathize as a fellow loner, but I don’t like Lloyd’s sterile version of perfection. I want to introduce him to kintsugi so he could appreciate how flaws can make something perfect in an interesting way. He’d probably hate the discordant beauty of punk while I revel in it.

    And just like him, my lack of social skills and the scarcity of people who can tolerate my difficult personality, I wouldn’t be surprise if I settle for an android companion in the future.

    However, N.R. Walker is a master of her craft. The storytelling was engaging, the prose written in a way that makes it easy to read, even through some challenging scenes. The sci fi elements were well-conceived, and if Shaun got too technical in his droid-speak, it’s quickly translated into more understandable terminologies.

    At the heart of it all is the romance. And this is where the book outdid itself. Even with my dislike of Lloyd and even knowing Shaun is built to be the man of his dreams, the chemistry was still palpable, the romance sweet, and their connection soul-deep.

    Shaun was so charming he made Lloyd a hell of a lot more tolerable. I wished really hard that the story is written in his POV. It would be interesting to see Lloyd from a different perspective.

    Because say what I will about Lloyd, but the man has the kindest heart. The reason I don’t hate him entirely is because he treats Shaun with the utmost respect. I loved that he acknowledge his personhood because artificial though he is, Shaun can think, reason, learn, joke, and feel.

    The plot significantly picked up once Lloyd started worrying about Big Brother, a.k.a. SATinc, watching him. Things became more dynamic, and we see Lloyd’s friend, Jay, playing a key role. I really enjoyed this part because we see Lloyd and Shaun interacting with the outside world, and Shaun was having the time of his life. And charming people because this android is a ray of sunshine!

    Evolved is a mixed bag for me. The plot might be factory-settings basic and the MC is an acquired taste, but it is a story powered by a lot of heart. And that’s all that matters!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Binary Love
    Artist: The Rakes
    Album: Capture/Release


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    One Line Reviews Of Some Books I Read This Year (July – December 2023)

    This is a round up of the books I read on the 2nd half of this year that I’m too lazy to do a full review.

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    REVIEW: Imperfect Illusions by Vanora Lawless

    Devastating Magic: Imperfect Illusions – Vanora Lawless

    A drafted empath. A dreamwalking poet. A world at war.

    Chicago, 1917.

    Idealistic, aspiring poet, Elliot Stone can make people feel euphoria or horror with a simple touch. But that’s only part of his magical abilities. He can also wake in the dreams of people he cares deeply for.

    Stubborn, fiercely independent Warren “Sully” Sullivan is an illusionist with a secret of his own: he feels the emotions of others as visceral sensations. That, and a lifetime of fending for himself, has left him guarded.

    On their last night of freedom before shipping off to training—military and magic—Elliot and Sully indulge in an explosive, emotional night together. Elliot assumes it’s a one night stand and nothing more, until he awakens in Sully’s nightmare. The urge to rescue Sully is impossible to resist. And when dream-Sully begs him to keep coming back, something Sully would never do while awake, Elliot can’t resist that either.

    As real life draws them into battle, their shared dreams become a refuge that only Elliot recalls. So when Elliot has the opportunity to recruit Sully to the secret elite unit of magical soldiers he leads, he’s willing to risk everything for the man he’s fallen in love with in dreams. But being away from the front lines doesn’t mean Sully’s safe. Now they battle enemies with twisted magic where their secrets are a liability.

    Can they bring their dreams—and love—to life? Or will the war cost them everything?


    Historical MM romances set during WWI are few and far in between. Add to that super soldiers with magic, and it’s definitely a must-read!

    Imperfect Illusions is the series opener of Devastating Magic, set in an alt-universe where some people developed magical skills. At first they were shunned, but with the war, governments realized their skills could be useful, and they were drafted into military service.

    Our heroes, Elliot Stone and Warren Sullivan, a.k.a. Sully, were men of certain inclinations who met and had a wonderful night together. They parted the next day for service, thinking they wouldn’t see each other again, but to their surprise, they were training together along with other recruits.

    Elliot has the ability to influence people’s feelings through touch but can also secretly dreamwalk. He comes from a wealthier family and so was made captain. He’s a passionate man who likes writing poems, not really someone you would expect to be a soldier, much more an officer.

    Sully is an empath and has the ability to create illusions. A man whose temper easily runs hot, he frequently has to tune out other people’s emotions, or else he would go mad. He suffers from nightmares caused by childhood traumas, something that Elliot helps him with whenever he enters his dreams.

    The premise is built on the romantic idea of meeting your lover in dreams when far apart in real life. Elliot walks into Sully’s dreams, and there, they talk about things they can’t talk about in their waking lives. Their interactions are free-er, without fear of the homophobic society of their time.

    Thing is, Sully doesn’t or refused to remember these times. Elliot keeps his extra ability a secret, or he’d be put to work even in sleep. Dream Sully is more accepting and more honest to himself and his lover, confessing fears and secrets to Elliot. Real world Sully pushes and pulls, confused about his feelings for a man he’s so drawn to after spending only one night together a lifetime ago.

    As a romance, the book delivered a compelling story of forbidden love between two men who constantly put their lives at risk. Equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming, with precious stolen moments and a swoony HFN that made it so much worth the risk and heartaches.

    As a fantasy, the world-building is adequate enough to establish that it is WWI and that there are people with superpowers governments are using as special forces. Beyond that, it didn’t delve into details like, magic systems, origins, classifications, etc.

    The setting reminded me a bit of the long ago TV series Young Indiana Jones, but this being alt-universe, there were some liberties taken with the historical elements. In truth, I didn’t feel the 1917-ness of it. The writing didn’t provide many historical details that would have made the era come alive. It feels more like they just borrowed WWI military clothes and did something vaguely WWI-ish.

    Also, Elliot and Sully were from Chicago. I thought Americans only joined during WWII. Maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, this is a fantasy book, so no biggie.

    In terms of storytelling, it was slow going at the start. It got to the point that I had to put the book on hold for a couple of months. I’m glad I gave it a second chance because it hit its stride about time the boys finished training and were deployed in separate countries.

    From here, the plot was mostly about Elliot’s and Sully’s missions, how the war took its toll, and how the two men were reunited again. One of the more interesting threads is the German plot to deploy a nerve gas that turns people into zombies.

    I thought it would be more exciting if the story started with the MCs as established soldiers and focused more on the mission to stop the nerve gas. It would made the story more dynamic and action-oriented. But it’s understandable the book opened with the one night stand and went through the training to establish the connection between Elliot and Sully. Also, I think the consequences of their mission might be connected to the events in the sequel, which I am looking forward to.

    Imperfect Illusions is a story of love that endured nightmares, stigma and war. The pace is slow in the beginning, and the writing glosses over some details. Imperfect it may be, still, it’s an emotional book that grows on you, and you’ll find yourself rooting hard for Elliot and Sully!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Dream
    Artist: Boo Seeka
    Album: Between The Head & The Heart


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    REVIEW: Where the Devil Says Goodnight by K.A. Merikan

    Folk Lore: Where the Devil Says Goodnight – K.A. Merikan

    — Forgive me, Father, for I will sin —

    Adam. Catholic priest. Celibate. Does not yield to temptation.
    Emil. Sinner. Seducer. Snake. Hot as hell itself.

    After a sheltered childhood ruled by religion, all Adam wants is to be a good priest and make his parents proud. But it’s hard to stay virtuous in a big city like Warsaw, and when he makes one slip up, his life spirals into ruin. He is sent to a tiny mountain village where he hopes to live down his shame and work on restraint.

    But staying celibate becomes far from easy when he meets Emil, a local man with long dark hair, a mysterious past, and as little morality as he has luck. Emil has no qualms about flirting with a priest. Worse still, he seems hell-bent on tasting forbidden fruit and unearthing the desires Adam has always kept hidden.

    The odd village hides secrets far more sinister than Adam’s insatiable lust for Emil. Old Slavic magic looms everywhere. Superstition mixes with reality. Someone is watching his every move. Someone follows him in the dark, lurking in the shadows of the ancient forest. Adam is plagued by disturbing events, and Emil could be his only salvation even if he is the devil himself.

    Can a priest shepherd the black sheep to safety or has he been the wolf all along?

    POSSIBLE SPOILERS:
    Genre: Dark, paranormal M/M romance
    Erotic content: Scorching hot, emotional, explicit scenes
    Themes: Occult, witchcraft, Slavic superstition and myth, folklore, priest, forbidden love, hurt/comfort, metalhead, little town, temptation, religion, paganism, cult, old gods, possession, demons, magic, homophobia, bigotry, prejudice, coming out, fish out of water, soul mates, mysterious man, tease and denial
    Length: ~ 120,000 words (standalone)

    WARNING: This story contains scenes of violence, offensive language, self-harm, and morally ambiguous characters.


    I’ve wanted to read this ever since they unveiled that gorgeous cover. The thing is, K.A. Merikan is a hit or miss with me. It took two tries before this book finally stuck.

    Where The Devil Says Goodnight has a setting rarely seen in MM romance. The story mostly took place in a small Polish village of Dybukowo, picturesque, eerie, and timeless in a way that feels jarring whenever they mention modern technology like internet or cellphones.

    Father Adam, a young priest caught with a porn mag in his room, was sent from Warsaw to the village to keep him away from temptation. But temptation came in the form of a tattooed metalhead and village pariah Emil. At first, Adam tried offering just his friendship, but the lure was too strong, and with a dark entity giving him all his deepest, darkest desires, it wasn’t long until Emil and he became secret lovers.

    I was ready to dive deep into everything the story promised to offer. Occultism, Slavic paganism, dark magic and how they blend and clash with Catholicism is fascinating to someone whose own country, halfway across the world from Poland, is similarly influenced. These are the best parts of the story, and they made the horror elements extra creepy.

    Sadly, the book didn’t delve deeply enough into these, just touching the surface. The plot straddles the line between paranormal and horror. The midnight church scene scared me the most when narrator Wyatt Baker used special effects for his demon voice. Man, it gave me a jolt! And that was when I fully committed.

    The paranormal elements were mostly lowkey, the kind that Adam would shrug off as his imagination or thought he was being gaslighted. I preferred the paranormal to be more overt, just so there would be excitement to keep the plot from dragging. The story moved slowly, with only the narrator’s energetic delivery to keep me going. And it’s a long ass book too.

    I am not a fan of religious officials as gay romantic leads because they tend to be miserably hard on themselves. The story is in dual POV. Adam’s internal dialogue is childishly naive, self-flagellatory and mistrustful, making him pathetic rather than sympathetic. The man willingly sleeps with Emil, then gives me whiplash with his denials and accusations right after.

    I hate it when people, cheaters especially, don’t take responsibility for their actions. Instead they blame the “seducer,” the “tempter,” or the devil for leading them into sin. Almost always after they do the deed, Adam would blame Emil for leading him away from the righteous path, even accusing the poor guy of putting a spell on him. Dude, you can always say no and walk away. Emil wasn’t holding a gun to your head.

    Emil is the more interesting character, a country bad boy who’s more worldly than the virgin city mouse while also a cinnamon roll of sorts. The villagers consider him as a cursed good-for-nothing. He comes from a family of whisperer women, a kind of witch or shaman dealing with the old gods of the land. His most loyal companion is his black stallion, Jinx.

    Emil tries his hand at various endeavors, from palm reading to wine making, so he could earn enough money to leave. The man really tried but with his abysmal bad luck, there’s always one reason or another he cannot leave the village. A lonely gay man with few options and a non-believer, he has no qualms sleeping with a closeted priest he soon fell in love with.

    The romance was my least favorite simply because I wasn’t convinced it would work. There’s too much lack of trust for them to function as a couple. But I’m glad I stuck around till the end, because when Adam let his beast out, and a fabulous beast he is, he was way more likable. I wish he did it earlier, because it was almost too late, but he and Emil finally convinced me they were it.

    Where The Devil Says Goodnight was a tough read but worth it in the end. The almost unconvincing romance and unlikable MC was offset by the atmospheric setting, the fascinating glimpse into Slavic culture, and a satisfying conclusion that made all the difference. YMMV but all in all, a mix bag of blessings and curses.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Tethered Bones
    Artist: Talos
    Album:


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    REVIEW: Wayward by Mary Calmes

    Wayward – Mary Calmes

    Maksim Lenkov is certain he’s not a good man. His father isn’t, and since Maks is his second in command, then certainly, he’s just as evil. The list of sins is long, and there’s no getting around that. What’s messing him up is that despite all that, in the midst of life and death, his only friend tells him he’s been a blessing; law enforcement is treating him like he prevented more bloodshed than he caused, and everyone is concerned with doing right by him. Why? And how is Maks supposed to figure out who he is, when everything he thought he knew is suddenly turned upside down? It only gets weirder once he begins his new life in witness protection. Because if he’s a guardian angel of women and children, dogs, and one eccentric heiress, can he really be a bad man? Added into the mix is a handsome, loyal deputy chief of police, who lives next door and thinks Maks hangs the moon. Is it possible that living in hell never actually made him into the devil? Perhaps it was only a wayward life, and now it’s time to chart a new course.


    I’m on a mob boss falls in love with cop streak, it seems. Last week’s read was the dark and possessive Take Me Apart, and the week before that was the fluffy rom-com Pretty Policeman. This week’s read combines the two. 

    Wayward by Mary Calmes gives us something we don’t often see. A reformed mob boss living a new life with a cop. The story is divided into two parts that are polar opposites of each other.

    It started with the sordid life of much-feared bratva second in command, Maksim Lenkov. As the younger son, he was tasked to inherit the criminal side of their family and has to live in the shadows. Meanwhile his older brother, the golden boy, Pasha, lives in the limelight as the billionaire heir handling real estate and other above board businesses.

    This part was the most compelling for me. Here we have Maks, a reluctant bratva boss, secretly working in the shadows behind the shadows to make life better for his men and their families. He is adamant that the Lenkovs do not traffic humans, do not sell drugs, or handle prostitution. A stance that came biting him in the ass.

    It’s a story of betrayal of epic proportions that suckerpunched Maks with cars and bullets. I was as shocked as Maks when it happened! It was a miracle he survived. Then he turned around and dropped his own bomb on them.

    The second part is a redemption fairytale of sorts. Maks, now with a different last name, is driving to the small town of Rune to his new home. He stumbles upon two injured dogs that he took to the vet. There, he learns that the dogs are own by woman whose abusive husband wouldn’t let her daughter keep them.

    Said abusive husband and his buddies came to the clinic intending to rough them up, but Maks jumped in to save them. He was hailed a hero. And this became the running theme, Maks ending up saving someone and everyone adores him, much to his bewilderment. People tend to be scared of him before.

    In keeping with the fairytale vibe, Maks’s new home is in a crumbling Victorian estate of a famed eccentric heiress, Ada Farley, who promptly took a liking to Maks and hired him as the caretaker.

    Right off the bat, Ada practically signed away all her money to Maks just because she feels good about him and trusts him as the caretaker who would rebuild her estate. The banker handling her account, also took an immediate liking to Maks and keenly gave him access. All these, knowing the man just arrived in town and knowing jack shit about him.

    I am on the fence with the book. I feel it should be two different stories, while at the same time, I loved that we see the before and after of a reformed criminal’s life, where the Maks grabbed his second chance and ran with it. Reading about a ruthless bratva boss with a moral compass appeals to the anti-hero fan in me, but seeing that former mob boss thriving as a regular law-abiding citizen is an endearing story that doesn’t get told often.

    While some aspects of the bratva thread were stretching it a bit, some parts of the the redemption fairytale were simply ridiculous. The second part was written like an OTT rom-com, and it fell flat to me.

    The romance also felt like an afterthought. Maks and Deputy Chief Gale Malloy met nearly halfway through the story already. This would have been okay. Gale is a sweet guy but totally forgettable. And the romantic development, or lack thereof, was forced through a couple days. It would have developed more naturally had it been given more chapters or a sequel to grow.

    One aspect I like explored more is Maks using his bratva-acquired abilities to help the police. There was a scene where Maks was able to find a missing child because the bratva had to deal with a lot of kidnappings in past, so he knew what to look for. It would be interesting to read about him help solve crimes.

    Overall, Wayward is a mixed bag. It is a gritty story of family and betrayal, and a tale of redemption and second chances. While the ridiculous antics and lack-luster romance took away some stars, I loved Maks living in the shadows and walking the straight and narrow. He made the two worlds worth the journey!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Wayward Love
    Artist: Jeremy Enigk
    Album: World Waits


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    REVIEW: Can’t Help Falling in Love with an Alien by Chloe Archer

    Tentacular Tales: Can’t Help Falling in Love with an Alien – Chloe Archer

    River

    Working for the Alliance is a sci-fi nerd’s dream–aka mine–come true. I’ve even won the heart of my grumpy-sexy alien boyfriend. Nothing can bring me down, baby. I’m walking on freaking sunshine! Except now one of Kai’s douchey AF exes decides to turn up like a bad case of crabs. I don’t trust him one bit. But I’ve got even bigger problems to worry about. Like helping some awesome aliens in trouble, and maybe moving in with Kai, who’s totally going to propose any day now—right? Oh, and my shady relatives might be hiring an assassin to take me out. So, you know, a day in the life of River Sullivan. I’m sure everything’s going to be fine. Won’t it?

    Kai

    We’ve finally got a new lead on the drug dealer targeting extraterrestrials on Earth. But the more we unravel in this investigation, the less I like it. Outside of work though, things are going amazingly well with my adorable mate–dear galactic gods, how did that happen? But with an ex back in my life and wanting to be friends, and the threat of a potential assassin looming, things are getting a little complicated. I love River with both my hearts—and all five tentacles—but even I’m worried I might not be able to protect him from the dangers ahead. Also, I need to figure out how the heck I’m going to propose to him. River deserves something “epic,” and I don’t want to let him down. Am I going to be able to deliver?

    Can’t Help Falling in Love with an Alien (Tentacular Tales #2) is a (116,000 words) M/M sci-fi rom com and the second book in the series. It should be read in chronological order. This installment features a pajama party date that will go down in infamy, inappropriate team t-shirts, a half-baked love poem, more Captain Starblade and Lord Vardox, drunken shenanigans courtesy of spaceship moonshine, unexpected mating instincts, plenty of new aliens with problems for River to solve, and tentacles galore. And possibly an epic proposal? This book has an HFN ending and no cheating. Never fear—there is a guaranteed HEA by the end of the series!


    Can’t Help Falling in Love with an Alien, Book 2 of Tentacular Tales, continues the tentacular shenanigans of interspecies couple River Sullivan and Captain Kai Genaro. It picks up after the events of the second book, where the Alliance is working on the case of drugs being smuggled and illegally used on the resident aliens of Las Vegas. It also moves Kai and River’s relationship forward.

    I’m on the fence with this second book. I understand why the author went with the direction the story went. It makes sense to follow River’s career in the Alliance, as well as clues to his alien heritage, not to mention the riveting, super epic love/hate affair between Captain Starblade and Lord Vardox. It takes a special kind of genius to make me more excited about a fictional couple written by a fictional character than the actual MCs of the story.

    And I enjoyed watching River deploy his crazy ideas to help aliens integrate better in human society. The fact that he genuinely wants to help the displaced aliens, and his ideas are ingenious and effective are points in his favor.

    But I also want the series to follow a different couple per installment. I am dying to read about the notorious playboy Mel winning over the demisexual Big Lebowsky, Uncle Benjie. And the petite but spicy twink, Evan, seducing the hulking blue virgin alien, Zion.

    I am sad to say the book was too long with a saggy middle I struggled to go through. And because I am extra bitter about recent anxiety-inducing events in my work-life, I am not happy with how Kai is frequently put in embarrassing situations supposedly in the name of love. I sympathized with Kai at how even his mother relishes her son’s humiliations. All because he’s the introvert of the family, and introverts are always being forced out of their shells.

    Kai is a grump but he’s a good guy. It was endearing how he wants to be a better person for River. Personally, I think it is River who should learn to reign it in sometimes. (Again, don’t mind me. I am just tired of loud people right now.)

    Happily, the story picked up at the third arc. The Magic Mike climax really brought the energy up several notches. Those multi-colored aliens sure knew how to bring the house down! This is why I love River’s wacky ideas!

    Can’t Help Falling in Love with an Alien is an entertaining sequel (especially when I am in a better frame of mind). I’m in it for Kai and the rest of the not-so-loud characters, humans and aliens alike. Most especially the hotter-than-blue-stars romance between Captain Starblade and Lord Vardox. It’s a book that needs to be written, and its going to be out of this world! So please, please, please write it, Chloe Archer!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Alien Lover
    Artist: Luscious Jackson
    Album: Electric Honey

    P.S.

    Tentacular Tales must be read in order. Witness a relentless courtship, a sci-fi erotica gone viral, and an intergalactic Tom Jones in It’s Not Unusual To Be Loved by an Alien


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    REVIEW: Puzzle for Two by Josh Lanyon

    Puzzle for Two – Josh Lanyon

    It was like those crazy detective novels he read as a kid…

    Fledging PI Zachariah Davies’s wealthy and eccentric client, toymaker Alton Beacher, wants to hire an investigator who can pose as his boyfriend while figuring out who is behind the recent attempts on his life. And Zach, struggling to save the business his father built, is just desperate enough to set aside his misgivings and take the job.

    But it doesn’t take long for Zach to realize all is not as it seems (and, given that it all seems pretty weird…). The only person he can turn to for help is equally struggling, equally desperate–but a whole lot more experienced–rival PI Flint Carey.

    Former Marine Flint has been waiting for Zach to throw in the towel and sell whatever’s left of the Davies Detective Agency to him. Still, he’s unwillingly attracted to the game but inexperienced accountant-turned-shamus, and can’t help offering a helping hand when Zach runs into trouble.

    Especially when it’s hard to imagine any worse trouble than having your client murdered.


    Puzzle for Two is a standalone novel by Josh Lanyon. It has a contemporary setting but also that Golden Age noir vibe that the author loves to reference in many of her books.

    The story is from the POV of accountant-turned-PI Zachariah Davies who, along with his sister Brooke, is struggling to keep the family’s PI business alive. Then, wealthy toymaker Alton Beacher waltzes in, offering $12,000 for Zach to play his boyfriend to find out about the death threats to the already married businessman. Smelling the fish from a mile away but unable to say no because they had ZERO clients, Zach very reluctantly agrees.

    The case is more complicated than Zach bargain for. Realizing they need more people to cover the investigation, he begrudgingly hires their rival, the more experienced ex-Marine-turned-PI Flint Carey. The man was willing to help, but was also quick to berate Zach for taking a case that is so patently bogus AND kept pushing offers to buy their detective agency.

    The two men were polar opposites. Zach is inexperienced, a little too naive, and the type who avoids telling the truth so as not to hurt. If I’m feeling charitable, I would say he’s the type to see the good in others, but he tested my patience. There were high-tension scenes that could have been resolved had he just been more upfront.

    Conflict came from the his interactions with his manipulative ex, Ben. This pest just wouldn’t stop inserting himself in Zach’s life while making it all about himself, AND blatantly ignoring the fact that they already broke up 4 months ago. Had Zach just told him point blank he has no feelings for the guy anymore, it would have saved us from all that drama. Their scenes were not pleasant to go through, and the plot could have done without.

    On the other hand, Flint is not really a cynic but more of a realist due to years of experience. He’s blunt and antagonistic with Zach, who returns snark for snark. A typical Josh Lanyon love interest but nicer. A guy who says what he means, doesn’t play games, and always willing to lend a hand to a struggling rival.

    I thought the mystery was pretty straightforward but trust the author to throw me in for a loop with twists and turns, suspense, and a whole bunch of questionable characters. While the book isn’t my favorite from the author, I was still completely absorbed because the storytelling is very engaging.

    Puzzle For Two has all the usual Josh Lanyon elements but is far from stale. While it had its share of self-absorbed exes, it’s also highly entertaining, humorous, and fun. All in all, a satisfying comfort read from a go-to author.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Puzzle Pieces
    Artist: Tiger Trap
    Album: Tiger Trap


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    REVIEW: Aisle Be There by Charlie Cochet

    Runaway Grooms: Aisle Be There – Charlie Cochet

    They say your wedding day is the beginning of your happily ever after.

    But I’m pretty sure they never stood on a sweltering Florida beach getting ready to promise forever… only to change their mind at the last minute and be assaulted by a crustacean while fleeing the scene.

    Once upon a time, I was a respected Navy officer. A guy who made a career out of managing chaos.

    Now, I am the chaos, a groom on the run from my ex-fiance and his dad’s goons. Oh, and the guy driving the getaway car? That would be my ex-boyfriend, Jett.

    Gorgeous. Brilliant. A guy I couldn’t help falling in love with twelve years ago.

    The guy I realize I’ve always loved.

    Did I mention he’s also a famous rock star on a sold-out summer tour?

    This situation has disaster written all over it. But if I can manage the chaos, maybe I’ll get my happy ending after all.


    Readers keenly following The Kings and their friends were teased by the opening scenes of this cute meet-disaster, second chance romance with a fake rock star boyfriend thrown in the mix, in the book Sleight of Hand.

    Aisle Be There runs in the same humorous vein as Four Kings Security and its spin-off, The Kings: Wild Cards. Gage Kingston, cousin to Wade Kingston, aka King, is having the worst cold feet a couple of hours before his wedding to an overdramatic artist/influencer. A hermit crab in his suit finally drove him to run away, only to end up almost causing a tent stage to collapse and being rescued by none other than the rock star Jett Stevens, lead singer of Queen’s Hart. Also his ex.

    I love Charlie Cochet‘s writing, and this offering is chockful of things I enjoy in her books. There’s the wacky found family in the awesome septuagenarian Queen’s Hart members who treated Jett like family. There’s the snark, the crazy antics, and the swoony romance with an adorable ex-military boyfriend in Gage.

    This series is more of a straightforward contemporary romance compared to the action-oriented Kings series. Jett has big shoes to fill after his dad, Hart Stevens, passed away. Passionate and just as talented as his legendary dad, he is, nonetheless, doomed to forever live in the shadow of that legend, dimming his own brilliance in the process.

    Which Gage was quick to observed, having seen Jett at his best in their younger days. And as a good boyfriend, even a fake one at that, did everything he could to make Jett feel like himself again. It had him butting heads with the band manager, Jett’s uncle, a manipulative, money-hungry bastard.

    I had a lot of fun with this book, and being a lifelong rock music fan, I get a kick out of the bands namedropped here and there. Gage and Jett were adorbs! The cameos from the Kings and their friends were the cherry on top.

    However, the story almost lost me at the crucial 3rd arc. I’ll try not to spoil it too much. It’s the part were the evil uncle was driving a wedge between Gage and Jett. He spewed some bullshit about Jett causing the self-sacrificing Gage to run away because of well-meaning crap of not wanting to ruin Jett’s dream. It frustrated me so much I wanted to throw the book.

    First, it is well-established that the uncle is a manipulative bastard who will say anything to keep Jett under his thumb. Jett is aware of this. Had tried several times to fire the bastard, only to be outwitted. Gage is also very, very much aware of this. Plus, he just told himself he’s going to fight for his second chance with Jett. And, even made a note to talk to Jett, especially about his uncle.

    Gage had confrontation with the evil uncle, who went on a villain monologue and told Gage he was bad for Jett’s dream project. Which the singer was supposedly working on for months but Gage had never heard Jett mentioned before. The dork could have recorded that little speech on his cellphone and showed it to Jett. So maybe he couldn’t record the bastard secretly. HE COULD HAVE TALKED TO JETT!!!!!!! ASK HIM ABOUT THE DAMN PROJECT IF IT EVEN EXISTS!!! ARG!!!!

    Instead, the idiot hastily packed his bags and ran away, even after Jett begged him to stay. WITHOUT ASKING JETT ABOUT THE DAMN PROJECT OR EVEN CONFIRMING WHAT THE EVIL UNCLE TOLD HIM. WHO EVERYONE KNOWS IS A LYING LIAR WHO LIES!!!!

    Past this trainwreck, the conclusion won me over again with a grand gesture we could only dream about from our favorite rock stars. So yeah, this rockin’ trip down the aisle ain’t perfect, but it’s still quite a show!

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: Be There
    Artist: IAMDYNAMITE
    Album: Wasa Tusa


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    Aisle Be ThereUS | UK

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