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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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    WE COULD BE SO GOOD: Kindle I Audiobook

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    REVIEW: Beloved By The Boss by Leighton Greene

    Morelli Family: Beloved By The Boss – Leighton Greene

    M/M Mafia Romance

    It’s good to be the Boss. That’s what I thought my whole life.

    Now I am the Boss. I’ll shoulder that responsibility with my beloved husband beside me. As long as I have Finch, I can handle whatever life throws at me.

    But what they say is true: Be careful what you wish for.

    My Family has been decimated. My allies are few. I’m holding onto power by a thread.

    And the truth is, my husband is more vulnerable than ever. He’s always been a lost soul, and now he’s suffered yet another crushing loss.

    I can’t protect him from Fate’s cruel blows. But I’m determined to protect him from our enemies, no matter what it takes—as soon as I get my own house in order.

    Because I’m starting to wonder if there’s a traitor in the Morelli Family…

    If I can’t even trust my own men, how can I keep my beloved safe?

    Beloved by the Boss is the sequel to Married to the Mobster, and is the second book in the Morelli Family Mafia Romance series.


    My mafia romance streak continues with Leighton Greene‘s Morelli Family. This series has one of my all-time favorite couples, Luca and Finch.

    Married To The Mobster, Book 1 of the series, was released in 2020, and since then, I’ve been waiting for the audiobooks. It wasn’t until last year that the author announced none other than the great Michael Ferraiuolo would be narrating, and I was ecstatic because his style suits the characters to a T!

    And it was a spot-on performance for Beloved by the Boss!

    In the first book, Luca was forced to marry Finch to save the young man’s life. Unknown to the mobster who forced the marriage, the two had a meet disaster that ended in a magical night and a separation of 5 years. Majority of the book, we see Luca putting Finch at arms length despite obviously worshipping the ground he walks on.

    Beloved by the Boss takes a 180-degree turn. Luca, now smarter and with his priorities straight, is the new Don Morelli struggling to gain the respect of his capos and other families. Finch is the center of his universe, and the two have Friday date nights and open communication. Luca is committed to putting Finch first, consequences be damned! And boy, were there consequences!

    The Commission, an organization overseeing all the Families, is calling Luca to explain Don Augustino Morelli’s death, along with the death of a made man from the rival Fuscone Family. The Morellis also had to find out who is snitching on them to the Fuscones. As if there’s not enough on their plate, the Donovans’, the Irish mob headed by Finch’s sister Maggie, appears to be working with their rival family.

    What I remembered most about Finch is that he is a fun character. He’s a sassy twink and a spoiled rich kid who “wilted like a lettuce left out the fridge” when he was forced to slum it (at that time, Luca was just a regular mafioso and wasn’t rich yet). Now, he’s still sassy and spoiled, and uses his considerable smarts as the unofficial consigliere.

    And because the humor was what I remembered most, I forgot how gritty this series could be. The story is told in dual POV. Luca’s POV showed his struggles as the new Morelli boss dealing with one major loss after another. Finch’s POV is all fun and games until the twists and turns slammed in! It was betrayal and death at every turn!

    It’s heart-breaking because most of the deaths and betrayals are connected to him directly and they hit him hard! Finch wasn’t just there to make saucy comments. He was also a grieving son, a reformed drug addict, a vulnerable target, and a mob boss’s husband trying to roll with the punches life and mobsters threw at him.

    Luca and Finch don’t know who to trust, not even those related by blood. I loved how the two went from strength to strength, working as a team because

    “When you want something done right–”
    “Do it with your husband,” I finished for him.

    Their romance is still as sizzling as ever, the chemistry even better now that Luca reveals an unexpectedly poetic side with his swoony lines. And it tickles me pink every time I hear him call Finch “baby bird” or “angel.”

    And it’s not just the chemistry. I also loved how they grew as a couple and as individuals. The scene where Luca surprised Finch at the wake spoke volumes about how well they knew each other and how far Luca will go just to be there when Finch needed him.

    I love reading about mafia politics and it was fascinating to see the Commission in action or the divide between the west and east coast families. The writing struck a good balance between humorous and dark, and between the action, romance, and suspense.

    The supporting cast stood out as well. Frankie and Celia have always been there, so I hope to see them in future books despite what happened (It was tragic and bittersweet). I’m excited for Angelo’s book and Aiden’s, too. One casualty gutted me because he was such great character, and I’m sorry we won’t be seeing him again.

    Beloved by the Boss is a compelling story of two men deeply entangled in marriage and the mafia. It is an almost perfect sequel to an entertaining mafia romance. I took away half star because it went on a bit too long. Overall, emotional, thrilling, and hella swoony!

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

    Soundtrack: Fire On Up
    Artist: Paper Kings
    Album: Look At Me Now

    P.S.

    Morelli Family should be read in order. Witness the meet-disaster and Luca’s pining for his “baby bird” in Married To The Mobster.

    Also, the book models are perfect as blue-eyed devil Luca and golden-haired Finch!


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    BELOVED BY THE BOSSKindle | Audiobook

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    REVIEW: The Reanimator’s Heart by Kara Jorgensen

    The Reanimator Mysteries: The Reanimator’s Heart – Kara Jorgensen

    A reluctant necromancer, a man killed before his time, and the crime that brings them together.

    Felipe Galvan’s life as an investigator for the Paranormal Society has been spent running into danger. Returning home from his latest case, Felipe struggles with the sudden quiet of his life until a mysterious death puts him in the path of the enigmatic Oliver Barlow.

    Oliver has two secrets. One, he has been in love with the charming Felipe Galvan for years. Two, he is a necromancer, but to keep the sensible life he’s built as a medical examiner, he must hide his powers. That is until Oliver finds Felipe murdered and accidentally brings him back from the dead.

    But Felipe refuses to die again until he and Oliver catch his killer. Together, Felipe and Oliver embark on an investigation to uncover a plot centuries in the making. As they close in on his killer, one thing is certain: if they don’t stop them, Felipe won’t be the last to die.


    This year, I developed a soft spot for underdog necromancers, with books such as Malum Discordiae and The Necromancer’s Light showing that the much-maligned death magic, like any ability, can be used for good, too. As Cassius from Malum Discordiae said, among magic users, necromancers are the most respectful of the dead.

    The Reanimator’s Heart introduces us to another cinnamon roll necromancer, Oliver Barlow, a neurodiverse medical examiner for the Paranormal Society. A lover of solitude and quiet, Oliver is also lonely, socially awkward, and acutely aware of people’s unflattering opinions of him. His only friend is Gwen Jones, a telekinetic who works in the library.

    Oliver has been secretly crushing on veteran investigator Felipe Galvan for ten years. They don’t have much interaction at first but are soon prompted to work together on the case of the mysterious death of a nun.

    Later, after many encouragements from Gwen, Oliver gathered courage to ask Felipe to dinner only to find him dead in his room the same way the nun died. In his shock, he accidentally reanimated Felipe. Now, they were tethered to each other and must remain close at all times.

    The book opens The Reanimator Mysteries. The series is set in an alt-New York where some people have magical abilities. Many of them work for the Paranormal Society, an organization that handles cases relating to anything supernatural. This is a world where anything from vampires, shifters, demons to magic users exist.

    There are some very light steampunk touches, such as steamers, which are their cars, and the presence of pneumatic tubes as means of communication. The Paranormal society is housed in a huge building with dormitories, archives, offices, and a fantastic magical library I would LOVE to explore!

    Homosexuality is still considered taboo, but members of the Paranormal Society pretty much do as they please. Women also hold positions of power within the its ranks. Other than these liberties, it’s stays true to a vague 18th?19th?-century setting.

    The story is written in dual POV in an omniscient third person style, where Oliver’s perspective is presented, and then immediately shifts to Felipe’s in the same paragraph or section. I liked this style a lot because I don’t have to wait for the next chapter to know the other character’s thoughts. The pacing might be a tad too slow for my liking, but there are no info-dumps, the need-to-knows flow seamlessly with the narrative.

    I am also glad we get experienced magic users from the get-go. Although I’m mildly disappointed there are no bombastic displays of magic here, the kind that makes your jaw drop. Magic is used sparingly and are mostly muted affairs deployed when murder is being committed or the dead is being raised.

    Oliver is especially careful not to show how strong his powers really are, knowing full well the stigma. He has a very nuanced code of morality when it comes to using his necromancy following rules he set up for himself. At the same time, Oliver doesn’t actually know much about his magic because of lack of books on the the topic and because he doesn’t use it enough to test its limits.

    Felipe is a healer, a skill useful only to him because he can only do it to his body. Much, much later, he was able to channel his healing abilities to help Oliver. It’s only the first book, so I’m expecting more spectacular magical developments in the later installments.

    And I’ve got to say, Oliver and Felipe are two of the most endearing people you could know! I just loved them individually and together! I’m happy Oliver finally found the person who understood him and let him be himself. And Felipe finally have someone worth staying home for and introducing to his unconventional family.

    Majority of the plot focused on Oliver and Felipe’s magical connection and their blossoming romance while they investigate the murder. The mystery was very intriguing, especially as the opening scene shows the murder happening. It was a phenomenal opening, and it set my expectations high. The book delivered most of its promises and made me excited for the next one.

    My favorite part was how Oliver, ostracized for being different and strange, grew in confidence and strength with the help of a loyal friend, the love of a good man, and most of all, the indomitable spirit of a lone wolf. As a solitary creature myself, I find our boy pretty inspiring and relatable.

    One thing, though, the conclusion wasn’t clear on what the bad guys’ goals were. Was it to raise an undead army? Open a portal to another world? Or control people through magic?

    While I’m glad there are no villain monologues, I was hoping Oliver and Felipe would have a dialogue about what exactly were the bad guys’ endgame. Also, I’m not sure whether this thread is connected to the sequels or if it was all wrapped up.

    The Reanimator’s Heart is a sweet story of love and friendship, an uplifting portrayal of understanding and acceptance, and a gripping tale of magic and death. Don’t mind my juvenile wish for magical flash and bang, overall, this book is suspenseful, fascinating and deeply heartfelt!

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

    Soundtrack: Alive
    Artist: Zeds Dead & MKLA
    Album:


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    THE REANIMATOR’S HEARTKindle | Audiobook

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