• book,  Uncategorized

    AUDIO REVIEW: The Night Of by Tal Bauer

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    The Night Of – Tal Bauer

    You’ve heard this story before: a guy supposedly kills himself, but his best friend can’t accept it. He calls in an investigator he knows to take a second look, certain there’s more going on.

    I’m the investigator. Secret Service Agent Sean Avery. The guy who called me? My ex, Vice President Jonathan Sharp. And the guy he doesn’t believe put a bullet in his brain?

    That was President Steven Baker.

    The deeper I dig, the more things fall apart. I’ve got a dead president inside a locked room. A hidden note. A secret gun. A missing CIA officer.

    And no one I can trust.

    Now Jonathan’s in the crosshairs, and if I don’t figure out what really happened that night at Camp David, the love of my life might be the next president to die.

    ***This M/M romantic suspense features smoldering forbidden love and a May/December second chance romance that ignites your pages.


    I’m not too keen on politicians as the love interest but the premise for The Night Of intrigued me right away. Secret Service Agent Sean Avery is doing night patrols at the G8 Summit. All while trying really hard not to think about that fateful night exactly one year ago. The night he spent with Jonathan Sharp, the VPOTUS.

    It was a drunken night he barely remembered, but Sean was convinced he fucked up so bad he really should be in jail. His angsting was interrupted by a gunshot and a dead president. The next thing he knew, he was called by the VPOTUS, now POTUS, to investigate if it was indeed suicide or murder.

    The case was a locked door mystery and a damn good one. Sean’s investigation had him involved in federal pissing contests and unearthed evidence that cast him and Jonathan in a suspicious light,

    The book had one heck of a twisty turny plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. Although I had my suspicions regarding a certain well-placed individual, it kept me guessing until the third act. This was when Sean’s spidey senses started tingling around this person as well.

    The WHO might be relatively easy to suss out but the WHY and the HOW was what made the mystery so clever. Things came to a head, in the Oval Office no less. It was such a super intense, super suspenseful climactic scene, I held my breath the entire time.

    The book deals with a lot of heightened emotions that jumped off the page. The grief was almost unbearable. The way the writing and narrator John Solo brilliantly portrayed it, I deeply felt how devastated Jonathan and the First Widow were.

    The aga-gap, second chance romance between Sean and Jonathan was beautiful and tender. I loved how the two men were both strong and vulnerable. Sean may smart-mouth his way around his colleagues, but it’s easy to see how badly shaken he was to have a president die under his watch. It was also easy to see how much he loves Jonathan.

    Jonathan making Sean coffee exactly the way he likes, even after That Night!, slayed Sean. Jonathan, stoic ex-military general and new POTUS, giving his trust, his heart, himself to Sean, slayed me! ♡✧。 (◍>◡<◍⋈)。✧♡

    My favorite part was Sean counting how many times he could make the famously unsmiling Jonathan smile.

    Almost no one could make him smile, but damn it, I had. I’d felt like the biggest man in the whole damn world the first time I’d teased a smile out of him. It was the first time my heart had stutter-stepped, too, the first time I’d realized I was fucked. But not as fucked as that night, when—

    This part had the reader guessing about that night a year ago. Why is Sean beating himself up over it? What exactly did he do that he feels guilty Jonathan was still so nice to him after all this time?

    For their confrontation scene alone, I highly recommend experiencing this story as an audiobook. John Solo is a narrator who takes you inside the story and his portrayal of this particular scene was sublime!

    The way he emoted Sean’s self-flagellation with such rawness, the way he voiced Jonathan’s response with such vulnerability, that scene felt so real. It was like I was there in the Oval Office with them. And the way he portrayed the love scenes, lowering his voice to a whisper, he gave them an intimacy most narrators don’t bother to do. I was struck with the odd feeling of wanting to give them privacy.

    The Night Of is Tal Bauer doing what he does best, gripping romantic suspense that breaks the heart into pieces and puts it back together again. The audiobook is the perfect marriage of writing and narration. All in all, an experience worthy of the Presidential Seal of Approval.

    Rating:
    5 Stars – absolutely perfect

    Soundtrack: Night
    Artist: Zola Jesus
    Album: Stridulum


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  • 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


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    SWAT ED.: FOX & BULL

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Exposed by H.L. Day

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    Exposed – H.L. Day

    A survival gay romance

    Sometimes salvation comes from the most unlikely hero.

    When Tate Gillespie is marked for death for a crime he didn’t commit, his life crumbles. In a world where ‘justice’ is meted out by a relentless military force, he’s going to need more than a mythical guardian angel. His life down to seconds, he’s saved by the mysterious X, a knife-wielding man he’s never even met before. But who is X? Is he the man who threatens and kills without a second thought? Or the strangely gentle man who only seems to act that way around Tate?

    X is a shadow. A wraith. A man who flits through the city virtually unseen. He’s got no time for people when knives are far more reliable. X does have one weakness though—the man he’s been keeping safe for years who doesn’t even know it. He’d burn the whole world to keep him alive. But what he won’t do is stake his claim. Tate’s not his and he needs to remember that, no matter how close they might become.

    With the military in hot pursuit, they’re going to need to rely on X’s skills to keep them both alive. Tate’s feelings are growing with every hour they spend together, but X is a tough nut to crack. Can two people from very different backgrounds really find common ground? Or will one of the many perils they face throughout their long journey drive them apart?

    It’s all about survival. Not love. Isn’t it?

    Exposed is a 132k action/adventure story featuring two men who couldn’t be more opposite.


    Exposed is a book where everything came together fabulously. Starting with the model on the cover who is spot-on as X. I was also thrilled to hear that not only was the narrator fantastic at bringing the characters to life, he delivered the story with an Australian accent. It’s such a rare treat!

    When I first read the blurb, I was super intrigued by the shadowy figure lurking in the dark. My guts told me this is going to be so good. It turned out to be one heck of an adventure and a touching chronicle of one man’s unconditional love and devotion.

    The book immediately pulled me into a dystopian world in what was supposedly the former Australian continent. The world-building is straightforward but detailed enough to set the vibe properly. The more affluent citizens lived in cities ruled by martial law. The rest lived in slums.

    There are talks of other cities, some underground, others, probably nothing more than myths. There is one somewhere in the north, past the desert, said to be a utopia for all. Nobody could verify its existence because none came back to do so. Either they did find the place or more likely, they died trying.

    Tate blissfully carries on with his life as a pharmaceutical employee in the city, unaware of the guardian shadow watching over him. One day, he was set up for a crime punishable by death. Just as he was about to be executed by the military police, he was saved by a mysterious knife-wielding man. The two quickly set off to find a haven and freedom, with the military hot on their heels.

    X is an assassin from the slums. This is a man who loves his knives so much he doesn’t let anyone touch them and live. He’s very anti-social, very taciturn, very broody. He is a hard man living a hard life. His sole purpose was to protect Tate, whether or not the man knew of his existence. Ask him how long he has been stalking him. That is how long he has been hopelessly in love with Tate.

    X!!! The name is perfect! I love him!!! X’s strength as a character was what carried me through the story. I’m happy the story is told in dual 1st person POVs because being inside X’s head was everything!

    The man is soft for Tate and only for Tate. He was a badass through and through. He’s tough even to himself. He doesn’t believe he is worthy of being loved. Not even when Tate already said he liked him.

    “It’s possible to want something but to not let yourself have it.”

    My heart went out to X during these moments. The man has a habit of talking himself into believing nobody’s going to love a killer like him. Mind you, he’s still very butch about it. The part that hit me the hardest was how X never, ever expects anything in return from Tate. He would have been okay with just escorting Tate to the underground city. Then, he would go off to the desert and die happy knowing the love of his life was safe.

    Tate took some time winning me over. He’s chatty, naïve, and occasionally bratty. He was slightly annoying at some points. But to give Tate his due, he was smart enough to figure X out. Also, he accepted X for who he is, dark past and all. The part where I appreciated Tate the most was where he truly understood how much the knives meant to X.

    The romance was both intense and gentle. The connection between X and Tate was a palpable, slow-burning energy, building heat until it went nuclear. It was a beautiful rendering of unrequited love getting requited.

    The characters and the romance developed over the course of their adventure. I don’t really go for stories where a long journey is involved because the traveling part bores me. Here, I did feel a very slight drag.

    However, the author skillfully kept the momentum going. I loved how she balanced the action scenes with the more emotional ones. I enjoyed how one moment we get crazy ninja moves and throat-slitting, then we get some downtime of X cleaning Tate’s wound with excruciating tenderness. And then it’s back to adrenaline-pumping chases and explosions. And a LOT of walking!

    Exposed is my first H.L. Day and definitely won’t be the last. It’s a brilliantly executed dystopian action/adventure love story driven by compelling characters that leave their mark. Gritty, suspenseful, thrilling, and deeply moving, it is two men’s mad dash to freedom and a hard-fought journey towards a lifetime together.

    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: I’ll Fall With Your Knife
    Artist: Peter Murphy
    Album: Cascade


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    EXPOSED

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  • book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Real Trouble by Elle Keaton

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    West Coast Forensics: Real Trouble – Elle Keaton

    Two men on opposite sides of the law: will they be able to set aside their differences and trust love?

    Danylo Peters has issues, lots of them. He’s not on Piedras Island by accident, he’s not a nice guy, and Peters isn’t his real name. Dany’s in hiding, trying to escape his family’s influence and start a new life. But Dany must have been born under a bad sign because the very man he’s really running from is one of the first he runs into.

    A new life in a new town seemed like the right decision for Soren Jorgensen, especially after a difficult case left him recovering from a gunshot wound and lonely as he’d ever been. Finding Dany living on Piedras brings back all the feelings he’d tried to lock away. He’s angry and bitter and Dany is not going to continue to get away with his old tricks. Too bad Dany is just as compelling as he ever was.

    The two men find themselves on opposite sides of Soren’s first case on Piedras, but neither is able to deny the attraction between them. They keep finding themselves in compromising situations; if they’re found out there will be Real Trouble.

    Real Trouble is set in the Veiled Intentions world, while familiar characters appear Real Trouble can be read as a standalone. Real Trouble is a dual POV following Soren Jorgensen and Danylo Peters as they fight their way to their HEA and is the first in the new West Coast Forensics series.


    I love how Elle Keaton keeps bringing us back to Piedras Island, part of the real life San Juan archipelago in Washington. The first time I’ve known this place in Veiled Intentions was through the rather grim eyes of Niall Hamarsson, It felt like such a bleak place then. It slowly revealed to be a charming vacation town the longer Niall hung around his now husband, Sheriff Mat Dempsey.

    This summer hotspot is not without its darker side. Yet another local was found murdered. With the newly married sheriff and his private detective husband away on their honeymoon, it’s up to the new deputy, Soren Jorgensen and island native, Deputy Birdy Flynn to solve this case.

    They also had to investigate the fire that damaged a landmark hotel. To Soren’s shock, he saw the last person he expected to see working as the hotel’s new chef. His ex, Danylo Petyr a.k.a. Dany Peters. Suspect in the fire incident and member of a notorious crime family.

    Dany’s history is tied to events in the other books. In an effort to leave his sordid past behind, he moved to the island under an assumed name. He’s now a hardworking, talented chef. Still as headstrong, troublesome and goddamn alluring as Soren remembered.

    The deputy is a stoic, taciturn, gentle giant Dany likes to poke and provoke. The two were sorta together some years back. Dany disappeared after Soren was shot by Dany’s cousin. As their paths crossed again, they found the flames still burned hot even with the old hurts, the anger and the bitterness.

    They might not be favorites or that memorable, I still found Soren and Dany likable, individually and as a couple. Their relationship development might not be that strongly established given that they had more page time apart than together. And they weren’t really communicating properly. However, their shared past already gave them an insta-connection. That, plus the swirling mix of intense emotions that drew them together convinced me that these two were meant for each other.

    A huge chunk of the story is devoted to the case. This is the type of mystery where I don’t particularly care who had done it, I just liked tagging along with the detectives because the author made it enjoyable to do so. The investigation took me around Piedras. The setting was familiar and comfortable yet still offered new avenues to explore.

    This opener has the same vibe as its sister series. It’s written in a straight forward style that kept the plot constantly moving. I really liked that even without the flash and bang, the book was consistently engaging. It’s filled with characters that felt like old friends and new ones I want to know better.

    Fans of the author’s other series, Accidental Roots would recognize Soren and Danylo immediately. I haven’t read that series yet but I had no problems following their backstories. Although, I do think some readers might feel like they’re dropped in the middle of a story because of the many established characters and some references to events in the author’s previous works. I recommend starting with Veiled Intentions first.

    Real Trouble did a great job as a police procedural. It has a second chance romance that’s good enough for me to root for. It’s also an engrossing story about small town camaraderie, family ties, building friendships, honesty, setting new roots and becoming a better person. All in all, it’s worth the trip.

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

    Soundtrack: Trouble
    Artist: Cage The Elephant
    Album: Tell Me I’m Pretty

    P.S.

    Witness how an antisocial ex-cop found heart and home in arms of the good sheriff of Piedras in Veiled Intentions. Check out my reviews: Conspiracy Theory, Long Shadow and Black Moon.


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      US |  UK

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