Book Review: Teach Me (The Alums Book 1) by Blake Oliver

“Teach Me” by Blake Oliver was such a beautiful story. 

I loved this book about two men with very different personalities and backgrounds finding each other and taking care of the other. Robb Porter is an ex Navy SEAL with a prosthetic leg, who’s not into men, or so he thinks until he meets yoga teacher Stephen, who’s tired of getting his heart broken by a string of straight guys experimenting with their sexuality. 

I thought Robb’s disability was very sensitively portrayed and it added depth and authenticity to the hurt/comfort themes in the book, one of my favorite tropes that often tends to be written in overwrought ways. Not so here. I also appreciated that the author didn’t shy away from portraying the brutal and testosterone-infused culture of the military that Robb came from, including all the homophobia and locker room talk. 

All in all, I loved this book. Some of their breakups seemed so hurtful I wondered that either would make their way back to each other, but I appreciated that each changed as characters to be there for each other in the end. 

Thank you to Booksprout for the advance review copy. I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Book Review: Game Plan (Vancouver Orcas, #1) by Amy Aislin

I have just fallen in love with hockey romances lately. “Game Plan” by Amy Aislin is Book 1 of a series that features different pairings on a farm-team hockey team in Vancouver, British Columbia. I really liked the author’s crisp, descriptive writing style and even more than that, her characters.

This is a sweet, heartwarming story about second chances, redemption, and overcoming mental health struggles. Matt Shore, new head coach of the AHL team the Orcas, is nursing a broken heart and bruised after a series of failed short-term relationships when his old flame, Pierce Langley Brown, comes back to town, bringing with him the added complication of being the father of one of Matt’s star players. Pierce ended things abruptly in a storybook romance during a messy divorce and a mental health crisis, and Matt doesn’t know if he’ll be able to trust him again, but he can’t seem to resist the charming antiques dealer and the history they share together.

I felt that Matt was a little too quick to forgive and give Pierce full access to his life after ruining his trust, but mostly I felt this was a sweet romance that sensitively handled Pierce’s mental health issues. I just thought Pierce needed to prove himself more. But I was quick to fall in love with both these characters, too, and the way that the author fleshed out the side characters in their lives. Thought it was refreshing that the sex scenes weren’t that graphic or detailed and it was more about character development and the growth of their relationship.

I’d definitely read more of this author’s work.

Book Review: Giving In by Rue Whitney

I’m a sucker for a well-written bi awakening story, office romances and bossy authority figure types, and “Giving In” by Rue Whitney had all those in spades. This was a breezy, tension filled romance with two characters that had an almost improbably rocky meet cute at the beginning, but the way the author handled the character motivations that helped your suspension of disbelief made up for it. I have also read enough awkward, clumsy bi awakening and straight-to-gay kinds of stories that the sensitive way this one was written was a breath of fresh air.

This is the story of Luka, a middle school art teacher who hopes to land a graphic designer gig at an advertising agency, who’d always thought he was straight until he meets his potential new boss, the arrogant Morgan “Fitz” Fitzgerald, who mistook an interview with his friend’s son with his call boy hookup and unexpected sparks fly.

Improbably, Luka doesn’t sue, and he’s back for more bossy Fitz, the only guy he’s ever felt an intense attraction for.

Loved the back-and-forth sexual tension in this story, the character development and the fast-paced plot in combination with the slower burn pace of their relationship. I would read more of this series and more of this author’s work for sure.

Book Review: All This Could Be Yours by J.V. Speyer

Overall, I enjoyed “All This Could Be Yours” by J.V. Speyer. It had a lot going for it. This is an enemies-to-lovers interracial mafia romance, lower on the spicy scale, which was refreshing. Straightlaced FBI agent Maddox Price goes undercover, posing as the boyfriend of a mob kingpin’s son, Tanner, who’s openly gay and wants to rat out his family, at Tanner’s brother’s wedding. I liked how the fake dating premise and the paranoia of Tanner’s family with the constant surveillance added tension and depth to their relationship.

This story had a lot going on. I expected Tanner’s trauma to be overwrought and the portrayals of his mobster family to be over-the-top stereotypical, but the author didn’t go the one-dimensional route, which I appreciated. I did not however buy that an FBI agent like Maddox, committed to seeking revenge against the mob his whole career, would suddenly switch to falling in love with a mobster after a week of feeling sorry for Tanner and his stories of the things that he had done. It needed better defined character motivations. Despite the instalove, I thought the characters were interesting. I just expected him to have developed feelings and maybe wrestled with that a little more than he did.

I also questioned the author’s legal research; they kept going on about how people couldn’t be convicted of crimes if they were committed under duress and I question their understanding of the law. Just a quibble as someone who works in the legal field; little details like that can throw me out of the story.

Despite my reservations, I found this an entertaining read with a plot arc that kept me interested to the end. I liked the growth of their relationship overall and the chemistry between them; if you don’t mind surface infatuation turning on a dime to instalove you may like this book even more than I did. It was a satisfying plot arc with a nice balance of action and romance. The author’s writing voice was engaging and the story was easy to follow. I’d read more books by this author.

Book Review: Love and War (Beast of Burden #1) by E.M. Lindsey

I’m not usually a fan of Omegaverse stuff. Although I find it intriguing, I also find the physiology bizarre and the mind of whoever invented this subset of werewolf lore is seriously twisted. If you don’t know, Omegaverse is a type of shifter-focused fantasy fiction that came from Supernatual fandom, because of course all twisted things come from Supernatural fandom. It involves a complicated hierarchical culture with Alphas, Omegas and Betas, psychic mating bonds and bizarre rituals, including male pregnancy – not trans men, but men with uteri. If you google an explanation of the so-called biology it is quite bizarrely complicated.

At any rate, I usually don’t like Omegaverse stuff because by and large it is fairly awfully written. The same old storylines and tropes. But I was intrigued by this series because the universe was so different; the idea of a dystopian hellscape in which werewolves and humans battled it out for dominance and experimented on each other drew me in. And it did not disappoint.

“Love and War” by E.M. Lindsey is the story of two prisoners in a human lab, the Alpha werewolf Kor and the human Misha, who help each other escape and join Kor’s wolf pack to plot revolution. This is a dark romance between the two with unsettling, deep themes that the author handled sensitively. Misha was experimented on by his father and genetically altered to be an Omega – not quite wolf, not quite human, and nobody is sure whether he’ll survive the change, or a mating bond with an Alpha wolf. But the two are inextricably drawn to each other.

The characters and the strong, engaging writing voice in this story kept me interested throughout the book. The worldbuilding in this was rich and beautifully imagined. I loved the idea of a battle-scarred general losing his sight and being forced to navigate leadership and a first-time mating bond while blind. I also liked how they handled Misha as an Omega; instead of making a docile, weak partner, Misha was complex and layered, someone who stood up to his mate and was a historian and philosopher, a soft counterpart to Kor’s recklessness.

The heat in this was quite spicy and I thought the sex scenes were well done. This series does have mpreg in it, which is normally a squick for me, and I fully expected to be weirded out by Omega sex. But the smut was well written and the pacing was spot on.

I’d read more of this series and by this author. The characters and the storytelling are what make this book unique.