Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

34346381New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

It’s no secret that Santino Hassell is my favorite romance writer, right? So when I heard he was publishing a sports romance book, I was thrilled. For someone who doesn’t like sports all that much, I’m especially fond of romance books featuring athletes, so a sport romance book + my favorite author was just the combination I needed.

Illegal Contact was a fun, delightful read. It’s not my favorite Hassell book (Concourse/Interborough/Sunset Park are), but all the stuff I came to like in this author’s books are back: complicated characters, good writing and, more importantly (at least to me), relationships that make sense. That’s the one thing I look for in romance books: relationships where I can see why the characters are together and why they came to like each other. Illegal Contact excels at this.

I think the main reason this one didn’t become a favorite is that I didn’t relate with the characters that much and I kinda need this to really love a book. I do think I’m going to like the second book, Down by Contact, much more. I loved the little of Simeon we saw here in Illegal Contact and now I can’t wait to read his book.

In conclusion, Illegal Contact is a really good story with complex, well developed characters and a wonderful relationship. Definitely recommended. 4.0 stars.

Review: The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

34608556Princess Anette doesn’t love her fiancé, Prince Everett, and despite constant assurances from everyone around her, knows she never will. It’s not that he’s terrible, it’s simply that she doesn’t love anyone, or want to be with anyone, the way the rest of the world says she should.

But princesses must marry princes. She’s expected to have her proper happily ever after. So Annette tries her best to be happy in her new life—until she catches her husband with the stable boy, and in a moment of anger wishes Prince Everett would just disappear.

And then he does.

Boy, do I have Thoughts(tm) on this book.

Full disclosure: I’m aroace and I think the author is also aroace. So there is that. Also: spoilers ahead.

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Review: Caught! by JL Merrow

34747619Behind Robert Emeny’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But then he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.

Sean Grant works in pest control, lives on a council estate, and rides a motorbike. Robert is an ex–public schoolboy from a posh family who drives a classic car. On the face of it, they shouldn’t have anything in common. Yet Robert can’t resist Sean’s roguish grin, and passion sparks between them even after an excruciatingly embarrassing first date.

Too bad the past Robert’s hiding from is about to come looking for him. His increasingly ludicrous efforts to keep his secrets are pushing Sean away—but telling the truth could make Sean leave him for good.

This book was so much fun.

For many reasons, but the main one is the protagonist, Robert. He’s pretty unique and interesting, and I absolutely loved his voice. Reading this story from his perspective made the whole thing more…. well, fun. He’s not your average m/m romance MC and I liked reading about him/liked seeing this story from his POV.

Sean, the love interest, was an interesting character too, but he didn’t captivate me as well as Robert. The secondary characters were also awesome, especially Rose, Robert’s best friend, Sean’s twin nephews and some of Robert’s students. They brought the story to whole new level and protagonized some of the most funny moments in Caught!

The one thing that bothered me, though, were the… weird? comments about Sean being bisexual or random comments about someone looking or not looking trans. That was just… so unnecessary and brought literally nothing to the story. What was the point of it? None. It was certainly not funny.

I’m not sure if I’ll continue this series (kinda because of these comments, to be honest), but Caught! was a fun read. 4.0 stars.

The Other Five Percent by Quinn Anderson

34857690Logan Vanderveer has a joke he’s been telling since college: he’s ninety-five percent straight. He did some experimenting in school, but none of the men he fooled around with inspired him to abandon “the plan”: meet a nice girl, get married, and settle down, just like his parents always said.

None of them except Ellis Floyd, who aroused desires and feelings that scared Logan. So much so that he abandoned their burgeoning relationship just as it might have become something. But four years later, Ellis is back, and Logan finds himself questioning his sexuality in a big way.

Ellis doesn’t fit into Logan’s plan. He’s happy being a starving artist, whereas Logan has sold his soul to corporate America. Ellis is ripped jeans, and Logan is tailored suits. And, most notably, Ellis is out. But seeing him again is dredging up memories—like how it feels to kiss Ellis, and that time they almost went all the way. With chemistry like theirs, Logan isn’t sure he can—or should—keep ignoring the other five percent.

I got an e-ARC of this book through Netgalley.

Well, this one was disappointing.

I can’t even begin to explain why it was disappointing because… well, nothing about it worked for me, which was a (very sad) surprise. Even thought I hated the ending of Hotline by the same author, that book had awesome writing and really interesting characters. Reading it was pleasant, fun. But reading The Other Five Percent was almost painful.

First, because it’s too short. There is no time to develop the characters & their relationship, no time to really get to know them. Second, what we get to know about the characters isn’t that interesting. Logan and Ellis have no depth and I couldn’t care less about them & their past relationship.

But what made me really dislike this book was how condescending Ellis was about Logan’s sexuality. Now, don’t get me wrong: I completely understand why Ellis was angry because he had every right to be, but there is line between being pissed off your ex-boyfriend won’t even admit he likes men and using his denial to be condescending about his sexuality with other people in front of said ex-boyfriend. The whole thing was so unnecessary it was a bit cringey.

Logan’s eureka moment about wanting to be with Ellis/accepting he’s bi also came out of nowhere, so I also can’t blame Ellis for not believing it at first. Honestly, this book had no payoff whatsoever and was almost completely unsatisfying.

There’s also been criticism of this book’s title by bisexual readers.

2.0 stars for The Other Five Percent.

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

23766634Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

As I’ve said before in my review of Empire of Shadows, I have a complicated relationship with SJM’s books. Some of her worldbuilding interests me, as do one or two of her characters, but her worlds and stories are so problematic and so white, cis, allo and straight that now I’m just waiting to read the last books of her series to say good bye to her writing completely.

(Spoilers ahead) (I do mean it: SPOILERS AHEAD).

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Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

30364779Ashton Townsend is the most famous celebutante of Manhattan’s glitterati. The black sheep of his wealthy family, he’s known for his club appearances, Instagram account, and sex tape. Most people can’t imagine him wanting for anything, but Ashton yearns for friendship, respect, and the love of his best friend—amateur boxer Valdrin Leka.

Val’s relationship with Ashton is complicated. As the son of Ashton’s beloved nanny, Val has always bounced between resenting Ashton and regarding him as his best friend. And then there’s the sexual attraction between them that Val tries so hard to ignore.

When Ashton flees his glitzy lifestyle, he finds refuge with Val in the Bronx. Between Val’s training for an upcoming fight and dodging paparazzi, they succumb to their need for each other. But before they can figure out what it all means—and what they want to do about it—the world drags them out of their haven, revealing a secret Val has kept for years. Now, Ashton has to decide whether to once again envelop himself in his party-boy persona, or to trust in the only man who’s ever seen the real him.

It’s no secret that the Five Boroughs series is my favorite romance series ever. As I’ve said before, it was what got me into reading romance again and some of these characters are in my list of favorite characters ever written. So yeah, I was really excited for this book and I’m so glad to say it didn’t disappoint.

Continue reading “Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell”

Review: Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer

33976926Jeremy Reeve is one of the best divers in the world, and he’s worked hard to get where he is. He intends to keep pushing himself with one very clear goal in mind: winning gold at the summer Olympics in two years. That medal might be the only way to earn his father’s respect as an athlete.

Brandon Evans is everything Jeremy isn’t: carefree, outgoing, and openly gay. With his bright-blue eyes and dramatic tattoos, he’s a temptation that Jeremy refuses to acknowledge. But Jeremy can’t ignore how talented Brandon is—or that Brandon has no interest in using his diving skills to compete.

They’re opposites who are forced to work together as teammates, but Jeremy’s fear of his own sexuality and Brandon’s disinterest in anything “not fun” may end their partnership before it begins. Until a single moment changes everything, and they help each other discover that “team” can also mean family and love.

This book was… complicated.

You know, I’m at this weird place where I can recognize that this one is good, but that it just wasn’t for me. The characters are interesting and well developed and I really liked Jeremy and Valerie’s (who is also a diver) friendship, but… I just didn’t want Jeremy and Brandon to end up together. Or, putting it in another way, I didn’t care if they got together or not, and I certainly thought Jeremy still had a lot to apologize for in the end.

So yeah. No way this book could’ve worked for me.

In a way, I felt like the ending was a bit anti-climatic, though I can’t explain why without giving away all the spoilers. Jeremy’s realization re: his father was the most obvious thing ever (and I don’t think it was intended to not be obvious, but still) so it felt like Jeremy’s change only came because the clock was ticking and the Olympics were happening. If it – the Olympics – hadn’t happened, would him have realized what he did? Maybe, but not for a long time, and that bugs me. The climax of the book is more or less unrelated to the actions of the characters, and that threw me off a bit. Plus, I never understood what Brandon & Jeremy saw in each other, so I wasn’t that invested in their relationship.

There are also lots of slurs in this book, which eventually wore me down a bit, so here’s the warning for those who might be affected by them. It’s usually Jeremy’s family who says them, so be careful.

In the end, Heels Over Head is a nicely written story with interesting characters & relationships that just wasn’t for me. Others might love it, so I still recommend it. 3.0 stars.