Book Recs By Tropes is a series where I recommend books according to tropes.
Second Chances: Beautiful Mistakes – Felice Stevens
The other side of loathing might be lust …
Or love …
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.
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!
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
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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This meme was created by Reading Marie. It’s a great meme because it’s nice and easy to do.
Rented Heart – Garrett Leigh
Ex-surfer-turned-businessman Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. Grief and loneliness keep him a solitary figure, and he likes it that way. There’s no room in his broken heart for anything else.
Rentboy Zac Payne left London and most of his demons behind, but he still only knows one way to make a living. When he spots Liam in a club one night, it seems he’s found his mark. But Liam proves nicer—and their connection far deeper—than he’d bargained for.
Their arrangement quickly becomes too complicated for Zac, who has other things on his mind: namely his BFF and wayward flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie the world, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.
Besides, Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life, too caught up in his own head to think much beyond the crazy heat he and Zac share. But when trouble comes to Zac’s door, putting his life in danger, Liam must set his grief and anger aside to pick up the pieces of Zac’s shattered heart and his own.
I am the type of romance reader who would all but demand exclusivity between the intended couple the moment they started noticing each other. I have no patience for love triangles unless its heading towards poly which is the only acceptable conclusion for me.
However, if your MC’s a rentboy, it could get pretty… tricky.
Fortunately, Rented Heart made the process almost painless. I don’t know what sorcery Garrett Leigh did but I somehow didn’t mind Zac hustling and even sleeping with his friend, Jamie while already having feels for Liam. So yes, trigger warning here, Zac had sex with other people.
This is a short book clocking in at around 5 hours plus. Dan Calley is the narrator as usual. I’m becoming a fan of how he’s bringing the author’s books to life. Realistic dialogues are one of the things I enjoyed the most about her books and Calley always delivered them in such a way that felt like you’re listening in on actual conversations.
The story did a good depicting the grim realities of of Zac’s world without diminishing the blossoming romance between him and Liam. Their meetings were bright spots that stood in contrast with the struggle to keep roof over head and help a friend in dire need. Although, it did feel too insta given that they didn’t even spend that much time with each other in the first parts of the story.
Still, it was quite an emotional rollercoaster. There’s fear that it would be over soon and the very real possibility of losing a best friend to addiction. There’s grief and hurt aplenty and comfort wholeheartedly given. There’s roadtrips, doggy cuddles and more cuddles.
There is also, trouble you could see coming from a mile away the moment Jamie came in the apartment with his stash. Wished it went another way.
Happily, Jamie redeemed himself. Zac and Liam acknowledged the rom-comness of their situation, shipped Jamie to California and lived the Pretty Woman dream.
Vivian Ward would be proud.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible UK for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
For angsty stories with lots of heart, Garrett Leigh is your girl. Read reviews of her books here.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Redemption – Garrett Leigh
Reformed gangster Luis falls hard for his boss. When friendship turns to love, it’s up to Paolo to convince him second chances are worth the pain.
Luis Pope is back on the street after a six year stretch in prison, but life on the outside seems just out of reach, especially when the whole neighbourhood knows his face for all the wrong reasons.
Paolo’s temper makes it hard to keep staff, and he knows Luis’s rep all too well. But his nonno believes in redemption, and Luis isn’t the tough guy Paolo remembers. Prison has left its mark, inside and out, and all the kindness in the world can’t fix the three inch scar on Luis’s skull.
And it can’t keep ghosts locked up. Luis’s the best worker Paolo’s ever had, and Luis’s happier than he’s ever been. But his old life doesn’t want to stay in the past. Trouble comes to call, and when it makes him an offer he can’t refuse, keeping Paolo safe hurts the most.
Redemption is an angsty, standalone MM romance novel, with second chances, found family, friends-to-lovers, and buckets of hurt/comfort themed loveliness.
Right from the time I read the blurb, I immediately had a good feeling about this.
There were FEELS indeed!
I was rooting for Luis from the start. He knew he made mistakes. He paid his dues and just wanted a fresh start. He just needed somebody to take a chance on an ex-con who doesn’t even have a coat for the winter.
Paolo wouldn’t have given him that chance. Even if he badly needed help at the cafe he’s running single-handedly. Even if he had a crush on the Luis Pope since they were schoolmates. He heard all about the notorious Pope brothers. But his nonno convinced him to give Luis a job. If Paolo doesn’t give him a chance, who would?
At first, Luis was relegated to busing tables and washing dishes. As the story progressed, he revealed other useful skills that made him invaluable. I loved how he smoothly stepped up and stepped in the role of cook when Paolo needed to care for his nonna.
The two men slowly learned to trust each other. I loved how their friendship developed. Paolo is a hot-blooded Italian you can’t argue with. He is annoyed about everything. He curses and grumbles a lot. Conveniently, Luis has a damaged ear so he doesn’t hear most of it. What he hears, he can sass back in his cool, quiet Luis manner.
The story did a good job portraying their relationship. It wasn’t perfect. Luis frequently withheld information to protect Paolo from his gangster brother. Paolo has a quick temper. But you can see how these two flawed men brought out the good in each other.
However, Luis thinks he’s not good enough. He can’t even get away from his manipulative brother who wants him back as a mule. He would do everything to keep Paolo safe, including going back to the life he already left behind. But he’s not giving up without a fight, not if he can help it.
Luis is wracked by anxiety. He also has an ear injury that was a result of being whacked with a pipe while in prison. This wasn’t the main focus but this held real consequences for him and was put to good use in the story. The injury was crucial in that seemingly made-in-passing, split-second decision that could have put him back in the box. This particular scene stuck with me for some reason. It was so minor I didn’t realize its significance until I was done reading.
This is an angsty read and hurt-comfort at its best. The character portraits were raw and real. I’m a lazy reader and sometimes when you get dramatic stories, the sentences feel heavy which makes reading a chore. Here the writing had that certain quality of delivering emotional punches yet still easy to read. There’s a sense of foreboding that keeps you turning the pages. Which is why I nearly finished this in one sitting.
Redemption is another top-notched Garrett Leigh creation. A moving story about second chances and do overs. Where choices had to be made even if you had no choice. And a simple bacon sandwich could mean the world.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Garrett Leigh is an auto-buy author for most MM readers. Read reviews of her books here and find out why.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect