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    REVIEW: Beautiful Mistakes by Felice Stevens

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    Second Chances: Beautiful Mistakes – Felice Stevens

    The other side of loathing might be lust …

    Or love …

    Wolf
    Desire: What Wolf struggles with from the moment he sees Spencer Hawkins the first day of college.
    Fear: Not a word in Wolf’s vocabulary except when it comes to facing his feelings for Spencer.
    Lust: What he gives in to that changes everything between them. And his life forever.
    Denial: Something Wolf is all too familiar with—denying who he is and who he wants. It’s better this way, even if it’s tearing him and his friendship with Spencer apart.

    Spencer
    Hide: What Spencer does best. He hides from everyone, especially himself and the crazy attraction to Wolf he can’t shake.
    Walls: Spencer throws them up to protect himself from all the hurts life heaps on him—his mother’s death, his father’s indifference, and the men who share his bed and walk away.
    Betrayal: Not by just anyone. By Wolf. The one man he can’t forget. Or forgive.
    Want: Spencer wants to live in the moment, but he can’t stop thinking about that night. And it doesn’t help that he and Wolf keep knocking heads…and locking lips.

    Love: What these two idiots need to realize is happening between them. What started out as their ugliest regret could end up being the most beautiful mistake they ever made.


    Sometimes, you meet one character in a story and you just know right off the bat, their own book is going to blow you away.

    This is what happened with Wolf. I met him in Second Chances, Book 1. He barely said two sentences when I immediately latched on to him. Then seeing his antagonistic interactions with Spencer, I was super eager to find out what was going on between them. So much so that I didn’t wait to finish the first book and completely skipped the second. I jumped right to their story.

    Beautiful Mistakes is an angsty, slow-burn, frenemies to lovers romance of mega-lawyer Garrett Wolf and fashion stylist Spencer Hawkins. The tumultuous history of the two started way back in college. They were rooming with two other students, Elliot and Chess.

    For some reason, Wolf found himself attracted to Spencer. He couldn’t understand why because he has never been attracted to anyone. He never acted on it, not wanting to be just another one-night stand to the very active Spencer.

    Fifteen years later, the four are still friends. Elliot is now a freelance journalist and Chess, a college professor. Wolf still wants Spencer.

    Second Chances is a character-driven series. One of the things that makes Beautiful Mistakes the best installment is that both Wolf and Spencer are very compelling characters. They stood out individually and as a couple. The biggest hurdle of the first book was I didn’t care much about Elliot’s and Win’s issues. Here, I was heavily invested in Wolf’s welfare. I really, really wanted him to be happy because our boy is too hard on himself.

    Wolfie is the workaholic of the group. An enigmatic, dominating presence, he tends to be serious, scowly, blunt, and aloof. He has a deep, dark secret he spent his entire life running away from. And trying to make up for. He also thinks there’s something wrong with him because no one seems to interest him at all. Excerpt for one very infuriating man.

    He kept his desires strictly under lock and key for years, thinking he’s not good enough for Spence. Until one moment of weakness in Milan. Then, he ghosted the next morning. They kept that magical night a secret from their friends. Spencer was hurt by Wolf calling it a mistake. Things were progressively going downhill for them. It got so bad that Chess and Elliot had to stage an intervention.

    Gad! Spencer is annoying! The two tried, boy, they really tried, to talk things out. Several times too. My heart went out to Wolfie. It’s already difficult enough to explain his painful family history, much more about his complicated feelings for a friend. The idiot Spencer would interrupt with a ridiculous comment that would totally derail the conversation. It’s frustrating as hell!

    Spencer also has some family drama he prefers to leave in the past. He might be silly and outrageous, but he’s talented, ambitious, and driven. I loved the way his personality jives with Wolf’s sardonic humor.

    They clash because Spencer is a flamboyant, life of the party. His motto is the more, the merrier. Meanwhile, the demisexual Wolf doesn’t approve of Spencer’s cavalier way with sex. He insists his friend deserves so much more than randos. Me! Me! Poor Wolfie cries silently. Unknown to him, Spencer was also attracted to him since way back when. I wanted to crack their heads together.

    The push and pull between the two men was intense! They had that crazy good annoy-you-because-I-want-you-so-bad chemistry that makes the enemies or in this case, frenemies to lovers trope a joy to read. When they finally realized why they liked pushing each other’s buttons so much, BAM! Fireworks!

    I struggled with Elliot and Win’s story, The List. It didn’t have enough hook to keep me engaged. I also wasn’t so keen on Chess and Andre’s book, Footsteps of the Past. I would have loved to read about an established couple but Chess is kind of meh. However, these two couples make great supporting characters in the third book. I love how the four college friends plus the men in their lives built this lifelong bond with each other.

    If there’s one book that badly needs an epilogue, this is it. I can’t believe it left Wolfie and Spence standing in front of a window. I need more!

    Still, Beautiful Mistakes is a well-written finale. It flowed just right and hit a perfect balance of emotional notes. The book is deep and moving. Many times, heartbreaking. But it’s also funny, snarky, sweet, and heartwarming.

    The way Wolf and Spencer zing throughout the book! The way they became each other’s rock when the past caught up to them. How right it felt when they finally came to terms with their feelings and let each other in. It’s beautiful and damn near perfect!

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

    Soundtrack: Beautiful Mistake
    Artist: Mango
    Album: Beautiful Mistake

    P.S.

    I might have jumped the line but Second Chances is best read in order. Witness hopeless romantic Elliot find his ideal match in hotshot detective Win in The List. Watch long-time boyfriends Chess and Andre rediscover why they’re stronger together in Footsteps Of The Past. All the while, you can enjoy the delicious USTs building up between the bickering dorks. The first two books have rave reviews so I think you can’t go wrong with this series.


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    SERIES REVIEW: Hot Shots Books 2 & 3 by Annabeth Albert

    I was very eager to delve into these two book of the Hotshots series mostly because of the elite firefighter theme. I have not read many of those yet and this was my first introduction to smoke jumpers.

    The first installment Burn Zone was an enjoyable series opener. The next two books feature other smoke jumpers working in the same base as Linc and Jacob. The books can be read as standalones.


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    Hotshots: High Heat – Annabeth Albert

    Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .

    Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

    Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

    Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: Burn Zone, High Heat, and Feel the Fire.


    High Heat is Garrick and Rain’s story. Garrick is an injured smoke jumper undergoing physical therapy. He met the carefree, twenty-something Rain when he was asking his neighbor’s help in dealing with a wounded lost dog who strayed in his yard.

    This is an opposites attract, age-gap story about healing. Garrick was not only injured physically, he also had issues getting it up. Garrick found himself drawn to his younger neighbor. Rain gradually became an indispensable part of Garrick’s life along with the dog, now named Cookie. He helped him with Cookie, as well as with Garrick’s sexual healing.

    Thing is, I know their connection was there. Just that, I wasn’t connecting with the characters. I don’t feel invested in what happened to them.

    I was more interested in the job aspect. Here specifically, because Garrick was being offered a position as dispatcher while he was recovering. I liked that we will see firefighting from a different point of view but it’s taking too long to get to those parts. There’s just not enough of the smoke jumping to keep me glued.

    Sadly, DNF’ed.

    Rating:
    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
    Artist: The Who
    Album: My Generation


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    Hotshots: Feel The Fire – Annabeth Albert

    The third installment of Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild .

    When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

    Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

    Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

    Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

    Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts. Don’t miss the Hotshots series from Annabeth Albert: High Heat, Burn Zone and Feel the Fire. (less)


    Thought I would feel better with High Heat. This one’s a childhood friends-to-lovers, second chance romance, something I always enjoyed.

    Tucker and Luis were best friends from their grade school days up until high school when they started discovering they both like boys. Specifically, each other. Luis wanted to come out but Tucker had more conservative parents who he knew would not take it well. Luis’s family moved to California when they were seventeen. The two boys exchanged promises that Tucker would follow later on. That was the last they saw each other.

    Their reunion decades later was all sorts of awkward. There were the whys that needed to be hashed out, sparks of attraction that threatened to ignite once again. Not to mention, how to explain to Tucker’s family.

    There’s great chemistry between Luis and Tucker. Their shared history lent their current attraction extra weight both in the bad and good sense. There’s the baggage to deal with but there’s also a deep connection they can only find with each other. This is especially important because Tucker is demisexual.

    There are a lot of promising things here. Also, a gray/ace character is right up my alley. They weren’t enough to keep me hanging though. As the story progressed, I found myself less and less engaged with the story. The going felt slow. For a book about fires, the delivery wasn’t generating enough sparks with me until it got to the point where it left me cold.

    Comforting myself with the thought that Tucker and Luis get their HEA, eventually. Too bad I have no patience to stick around and see it happened.

    Rating:
    2.5 Stars – far from hate but not quite a like

    Soundtrack: Fire And The Thud
    Artist: Arctic Monkeys
    Album: Humbug

    P.S.

    I’m sorry that not feeling things is the theme of today’s reviews. Doubly sad because I had such high hopes for these two blazing books. I’m not writing off Annabeth Albert yet. I heard good things about her other books so I’m definitely giving those a shot.

    On to better things now.

    3.5 -star review of Burn Zone here.