• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Swat Ed.: Fox & Bull by A.E. Via

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    Nothing Special: Swat Ed.: Fox & Bull – A.E. Via


    A fox can set many traps to catch his target—but this one only needs one to catch his.

    Dominic “Bull” Walker is used to the simpler things in life. Give him his own land to work, a strong horse, and twelve hours of daylight, and he is a contented man. But when someone threatens to take away the successful ranch that took him two years to rebuild, he’ll accept any help he can get to defend it.

    Mandel “Fox” Tucker is a sixth-generation SWAT soldier. It’s embedded in his bones to protect and serve his community. So when he gets word of the vandalism occurring on the Walker Ranch, he quickly volunteers the free time he has, thanks to his recent suspension.

    The brief visit Fox had with Bull four months ago had been a contentious—but powerful—encounter. Therefore, he’s not surprised when he shows up on his doorstep unannounced and has to pull out some of his best tricks to get past the six-foot-four, stubborn Texan.

    Fox is only there to safeguard what’s most important to Bull. But being on the ranch brings an awareness to him that he embraces with both hands. Nature, peace… love—things he never found in the city.

    This book contains the love story of two new characters. It is a part of a series but can be read as a standalone.
    There are no multiple pairings or sharing. Ends in a very HEA.

    Trigger Warning:Mild police violence. Scenes are not graphic.


    I have always been a big fan of the Nothing Special series since the beginning. Admittedly, many of the books were messy. It wasn’t until the 6th book, His Hart’s Command, that the series hit its stride. The 7th book, Ex Meridian, is my absolute favorite. It continues its winning streak with the 8th installment.

    Fox & Bull is the second SWAT Ed. The titular characters were introduced in the previous book’s epilogue. The two met for only a couple of hours but each made quite an impression on the other. Fast forward to the present time and we got Bull still trying to catch glimpses of his favorite SWAT soldier on the nightly news.

    Meanwhile, Fox, tired of being disrespected and unappreciated when he was doing his job well, decided to take a break. He grabbed the opportunity to investigate a break-in at the Walker ranch just so he could see the unforgettable cowboy one more time.

    Fox is a cunning, smart-talking cop who’s very good with a rifle. Bull is a hardworking man of few words. An astute businessman who built a successful ranch from the ground up after his old one was destroyed by a calamity. They are just a couple of guys who wants to love and be loved in return. Is that too much to ask?

    Fox has gone through hookups and one-night stands with people who fantasized about dating a SWAT soldier. But when things get serious, they were actually too chicken shit to put in the hard work required in a real relationship. Bull was engaged at one point but the bastard left him to die during a flood. So I couldn’t really blame the poor man for not immediately jumping into Fox’s arms no matter how badly he wanted to or how charming the other man was.

    The first scene they were together made me LOL. Bull got so tongue-tied and awkward at seeing his crush again, he tried to say three greetings all at once. He’s such a sweet guy! I was rooting hard for him.

    There was a deadline hanging over their heads. Fox will be called back to work after a couple of months. The author did a great job making each moment Fox was in the ranch count. The passion and heat jumped off the page. But what I loved most was how the story was able to convey, in the cozy domesticity and everyday ranch business, the way the two cherished each other tenderly.

    This is a wonderfully done opposites attract, slow-burn romance with a minor mystery, some action, and lots of humor. It’s more romance-focused than all the other books. There’s less action, with most of these scenes happening in the beginning and at the end. A huge chunk is spent with Fox building rapport with Bull’s employees, learning ranch work, and falling in love with a horse.

    The book had a fluffier feel to it as well. All the books had a strong sense of family and camaraderie. With the previous stories, the bonds are formed among people who constantly risk their lives for each other. Here, there is still that strong connection but the dynamics has a softer vibe. This is perhaps because the bonds are formed among people in a safer, homier setting. (Not sure if I’m explaining this part properly. Sorry if I’m not making sense (^_^;))

    The book is populated with lovable characters, both old and new. We see a lot of Hart and his boyfriend, Free, stars of the first SWAT Ed. Bull’s pop, Walker, and their housekeeper, Emma, were a riot! They are his biggest cheerleaders and all but claimed Fox their son-in-law the second he made his appearance at the ranch. Fox and Dale’s interactions were also hilarious. Bull’s best friend/ranch manager was very determine to cockblock Fox in the name of protecting Bull. Until Fox sicced a young, and very interested, ranch hand, Ridge, on the interfering idiot.

    There was OTT ridiculousness near the ending when God and his squad bulldozed their way into the ranch. I was rolling my eyes at all the silly male posturing. It’s a thing with this series. Sometimes it works, sometimes it’s just plain stupid.

    Another niggle is Mercy, Bull’s horse. He said he had the horse since he was a little boy. He is now 33. Mercy is, what, more than 20 years old? I’m not sure about a horse’s lifespan but that horse is really old. And Bull is still working him hard.

    Minor quibbles aside, I enjoyed this story a lot. Fox and Bull are great additions to Nothing Special‘s impressive roster of alpha males. As a couple, they light up the page with their fabulous chemistry and unwavering devotion to each other. Their romance was a building of trust, and a promise of commitment. These are two men who truly appreciated what a precious gift it is to find someone brave enough to stick around.

    .Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Just Stay
    Artist: Mauve
    Album:

    P.S.

    Fox & Bull can be read as a standalone but is best experienced after meeting God, his husband, Day, and their merry band of troublemakers. Check out my reviews of the first seven books:
    Nothing Special
    Nothing Special Books 2-6
    Ex Meridian


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of Fox & Bull. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    US |  UK  

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    SWAT ED.: FOX & BULL

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Wood by A.E. Via

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    A True Lover’s Story: Wood – A.E. Via

    This isn’t a romance about billionaires, movie stars, or models. This is a story of two ordinary, working-class men, dealing with life’s real problems, and trying to find love along the way.

    It’s been a long seventeen years but Herschel Wood Jr. is finally a free man and he’s looking forward to reconnecting with his old cellmate, Bishop Stockley, who promised him a place to stay and some help getting back on his feet. Wood had a good life once upon time when he’d owned one of the most successful tattoo shops on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront – until a fatal accident that was his fault cost him everything.

    Now at forty-six years old, all Wood wants is to work in another shop on the beach and find a mature, easygoing man to settle down with. But when he gets to his new place and finds he has to share the small trailer with Bishop’s childhood friend, he wasn’t expecting a sexy, smart-mouthed brat that enjoys pushing a man to his limits.

    Wood pressed in tight until there was only misunderstanding between them, his mouth mere inches from Trent’s parted lips. “You wanted to get a reaction out of me you annoying, immature little shit… now you’ve got one.”

    Trent Armstrong has never been considered a catch. He’s a twenty-nine year old laborer, an ex-con, and not the easiest person to get along with. He’s used to being the one people cast to the side when they’re done with him. Everyone he’s ever cared about has walked out of his life without a backward glance, so he’s used to the loneliness. His foul mouth and quick temper are a great defense mechanism and an easy way to hide his hurt.

    From the moment the tattooed, silver-haired man walked into the house there had been nothing but tension, side-eyeing, and sparks between them. Trent has always held back a side of himself that he’s terrified to explore, and without warning Wood’s voice, his maturity, that maddening scent, and even his damaged past all trigger feelings that Trent thought he’d buried deep long ago.

    Trent went completely still when Wood dragged his nose over his forehead and down the side of his face. His voice was shaky, and his breaths were hot and swift along Wood’s throat. “What the hell are you doing?”
    “I’m doing what you want me to do.” Wood whispered. “I’m playing your bullshit game, Trent.”

    The True Lover’s Stories are connected standalones. Each title features a different couple but will contain previously mentioned characters.
    No multiple pairings. No cliffhangers. Ends with a HEA.
    Note: This is a steaming agnsty, age gap, new-to-love romance.


    Trigger Warning: AA Recovery 


    Wood is the second book of the True Lover’s Stories. Readers of Book 1, Bishop, knew Trent Armstrong as the titular character’s hot-headed, mouthy bestfriend. By all accounts, the man was into girls. It took a silver fox ex-con with beautiful tattoos for him to admit, that might not be exactly the case.

    Herschel Wood Jr was mentioned in the first book as Bishop‘s beloved mentor. After almost two decades, he was finally released from prison. Now it’s time to pick up whatever’s left of his old life. Bishop‘s dad, Mike, offered to rent him his trailer. He’s to be rooming with a young ex-con who hated him at first sight but was also giving that certain unmistakable look that pinged Wood’s gaydar.

    I was excited for Trent’s story. He was an interesting character. He’s practically a brother to Bishop and a second son to Mike. He’s doofus and has a temper but his antics were entertaining. I wanted to see how this dork deals with his gay-for- you moment.

    I loved how Wood and Trent found their common ground despite their many differences. One was a mature, levelheaded former tattoo artist who wants to reclaim his lost art, the other was a bratty construction worker with a penchant for jazz music. Both a bit broken and a little lonely and realized they enjoyed each other’s company if they, well, Trent really (because this guy is an idiot), were honest with themselves.

    I really liked Wood’s explanation when said he would choose a cactus tattoo to represent Trent and it’s not because he’s prickly. It showed how perceptive the older man was, seeing through Trent’s bluster to his core.

    For all his faults, Trent’s loyalty shone through. When Wood’s demons got the better of him, it was him who doggedly nursed the other man back to health. Those scenes were the best parts of Trent.

    For Wood, the author went out of her way to emphasize the age difference, giving descriptions of how prison aged the character. This is different from the usual route most authors take where they tend to highlight how youthful the older man looks despite his age. It’s also more realistic which I appreciated.

    Wood has gone through and done a lot but he’s not jaded. He still has some optimism left, enough to give him strength to start anew. He has the kind of grace that comes with age and wisdom. Fine wine indeed. With that, he’s also in denial about his alcoholism.

    The book tackled the struggles ex-cons go through once they regain their freedom. We follow Wood as he goes about finding a job, deal with discrimination, meet people from his past, and tie up the loose ends. The story executed this theme well.

    I wanted to like this story more but unfortunately, the thing plodded along oh so slowly, especially the first half. If I thought Bishop was slow, the pace here made it a real struggle to keep going. I even put the book on hold for a couple of months.

    Trent’s development, from antagonistic to civil to interested to committed, was done believably and progressed at a good pace. It’s just that the writing made things feel slow. I gave it a go once in a while until I hit the point where things moved faster, which was around the second half.

    The last stretch could have been done better. The scheming ex felt forced, so were the petty jealousy. The most ridiculous part for me was the ending where out of the blue, Mike, who is straight and has a serious girlfriend, suddenly had the hots for a young, sex-addicted twink. It seemed like a ploy just so the next book will be connected to the rest. Do we really need another gay-for-you, age-gap story for this series?

    Wood might not have gone about it fast enough but it delivered the angst, the hurt comfort, the redemption and the happy ever after for two men who very much deserved their second chance. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire but I still liked it overall.

    Rating:
    3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it

    Soundtrack: My My My!
    Artist: Troye Sivan
    Album: Bloom

    P.S.

    Wood can be read as a standalone but I recommend meeting the wonderful Edison, whose old world charm and culinary magic won the heart of an equally awesome and talented man. Bishop is really great and his story is much better. Check out my review here.


    If you like my content, please consider using my Amazon affiliate links below to buy your copy of A True Lover’s Stories. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying Amazon purchases at no additional cost to you.

    US: Bishop | Wood
    UK: Bishop | Wood

    You can also use my Bookshop affiliate links to buy paperbacks and MP3 CD audiobooks and help support independent bookstores.

    WOOD

    If you like my content, please consider supporting me on Ko-fi. Your donations will help keep this website going. Thank you so much!

  • Uncategorized

    LAST YEAR I WAS READING…(December 2, 2020)

    This meme was created by Reading Marie. It’s a great meme because it’s nice and easy to do.