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Mark Wills ~ Sinfully Sexy Book Reviews

I'm an avid reader and reviewer of m/m fiction. I also love historical novels and crime / thrillers.

Currently reading

Out of the Past
Jeffrey Ballam
The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection
Arthur Conan Doyle

A Little Too Broken

A Little Too Broken - Brad Vance Two guys who are physically damaged in different ways and therefore fighting the prejudices society hands them. This book gave me a different view on many things, for me it wasn't about the romance so much as more about dealing with everyday life when you have disabilities.

Tom is a war veteran from Afghanistan and loses both his legs during action and Jamie is HIV positive after one silly night we're he didn't take the necessary precautions and will now pay the price for the rest of his life. Both very different things, but also very similar in the way these guys have to cope with people's reactions. This was the part that made me feel so sorry for both of them which is exactly not what they wanted in probability, even if well meant. Therefore they have both given up on ever finding someone to love or having a relationship. I really liked the political views brought into the story along with the harsh reality of life. The military patching Tom up, discharging him and then "on your own buddy" the support network for such veterans needs a lot of attention. Jamie's situation is one more of "if you can afford the health insurance then everything is OK, if not - tough." Obamacare was mentioned several times and after reading this realised even more as a Brit / European guy, how desperately needed these reforms are. I felt my blood curdling with the anger, the hopelessness of the situation these guys are fighting. But they don't give up and keep the good work going. Very admirable.

They take comfort in their pets and Jamie is at a local animal rescue home looking for a suitable partner for his cat Jackson and literally bumps into Tom who is visiting with his dog Harry. Love at first sight? Is there such a thing well I like to think so, happened to me. You look at someone, there's a reaction you can't explain, but you know it's good but the problem is where do you take things from here? This is where the author very nicely lets you read the MCs thoughts. Another interesting aspect to this book. You get to really know and understand where these guys are coming from and why. Makes things a lot more realistic and understandable. For Tom the effects of PTSD is far worse than the physical disability. You are not aware of this until a certain part in the book, then the severe reality of this comes crashing home.

They are totally unsure of themselves their disabilities taking all their confidence away. This is totally normal but is exacerbated with Jamie and Tom constantly second guessing themselves and not believing that someone could be interested in them. Always used to people's reactions when they find out. Tom always wears long trousers to cover up his mechanical legs and obviously with HIV you don't know until someone is honest enough to tell you. They are so used to people turning away and making a run for it once they found out. So keep themselves very guarded as a means of emotional protection. However, the chemistry is a stringer pull. Here the author paces this out nicely and

Tom asks Jamie to help out at then animal rescue home to do the accounts on a volunteer basis and first they find a friendship, mutual understanding and a common ground due to their afflictions. It is a long way until they finally admit to themselves what is in front of their eyes and what their hormones are telling them. But it still takes a little intervention from to good friends, Ava whose Jamie's friend and Ed Toms's friend. I liked this aspect of good friends. Everyone needs someone to talk to but also give them a push when needed and this is exactly what these friends did. With a little advice and friendly cajoling make them both realise and wake up to the truth.

After they finally get their act together the last big obstacle is Tom having to tell his parents the revelation. He comes from a loving and close family and decides to keep his gayness a secret as not to upset them more. Thinking that they're conservative values would never let them except him being gay, as this was enough, but his boyfriend also being HIV positive. Well, the time comes where there's no way out if they wish to be happy together as a normal couple. One thanksgiving Tom takes Jamie with him and is determined to break the news to his parents and sister. Well, this part of the book was lovely and almost had me in tears. What happens? Well, Tom didn't need to say anything and the whole family turns the tables on him and Jamie. Really lovely. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens, but it was dealt with superbly and had me oohing and aahing for the rest of the evening - lol!

The interaction between these guys are good, although the plot in my opinion was a little thin, the main focus here really is about Tom and Jamie overcoming their obstacles and finding a love that they never believed they would ever be able to find again. The story took me a few chapter to get into, but there were some very nice moments in the story that made the wait worth it.

An enjoyable read which for me gets a solid 3.5 stars .

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Learning Curve (Life Lessons, #4)

Learning Curve (Life Lessons, #4) - Kaje Harper What a perfect end to a wonderful journey. I loved this series from beginning to end, gripping, emotional, full of suspense and everyday trials and tribulations. I just LOVED this book. It was a perfect round up of the series. I liked the way that previous cases were referred to in this book, tying up all the loose ends nicely before giving a perfect end to a wonderful story.

Mac is still recovering from his injury, he has made massive progress but not yet enough to go back on the force. He still suffers from panic attacks when people come up behind him and his speech still is not totally normal yet. However, although on disability leave he gets called in to interview someone who only wants to speak only to him.

The person being interviewed has a brother in Tony’s Creative Writing class and this is where once again the adventure begins. The crime story in this book makes for a great intrigue, but never takes the upper-hand of the plot, but more accompanies the whole scene of Tony and Mac coping with the kids, family life, their jobs, etc.

Tony’s parents have moved into town and can now help tony and Mac out with the kids. This is a great relief fro Mac and Tony making their lives easier a little. Tony’s parents are accepting of his ways and come to see Mac like a son-in-law. It seems the family situation is complete. However, there is still one last thing to do. Ben’s adoption.

I was on the edge of my seat hoping that the judge would see sense and that the best option would be for Ben to be with Tony. The whole scene from before, during and after the adoption was touching and wonderfully written. Kaje could really get behind the sensibilities of a 7 year old child and this part was wonderful. After they go to visit Ben’s maternal grandparents to give them the news and at the same time put them in their place. This was great to see how the grandparents had to swallow their views and play nice or Tony had the right to refuse them access to Ben altogether.

However, things aren’t going to smoothly for Tony at work. After he was accused of inappropriate relations with Quinn who is involved in Mac’s case after his father disappears talks to him alone. When the teenager breaks down in tears and breaks down on Tony’s shoulder, he puts his arm around him to console him, which the kid desperately needed, and at that moment a colleague walks in. It is obvious that she had other ideas of what was going on and draws conclusions before hearing the full story. This sort of attitude makes me sick. You’re gay so you have to be a pervert. She brings Tony’s GSA group into questions and calls for a meeting of parents and pupils. However, her plan backfires and I was whooping with joy when through this action Tony gains more support and comes out all the stringer for it – HA!

In the meantime Mac is still fighting to get back on active duty and is working on desensitising himself to his panic attacks while working on the case in hand. Tony doesn’t really want Mac to go back and put himself in such danger everyday. Tony must be the most level headed guy I have ever experienced, he installs a sense of security which Mac so desperately needs. Although Tony doesn’t really want Mac back on the force putting himself in danger, he soon realises thought that it is the job that defines Mac as a person and the person he fell in love with. Therefore he puts his personal fears behind him and lets Mac get back to his job and letting him do what he can do best.

As for what happens now? Well, I think Kaje draws a wonderful end and I can’t think after such a perfect end where the story could possibly go from here. I hope Mac and Tony are HEA!

A Little Complicated

A Little Complicated - Kade Boehme A little complicated? I found this situation to be completely convoluted, but needless to say things untangle themselves at the end thank goodness

Ryan works as a bartender and is very close to his sister Ellie. When it comes to dating men Ellie is a complete flake and has the attention span of a four year old, however she still has the romantic dream of true love and being together with one person for the rest of her life. Then out of the blue Brady turns up, a boyfriend that Ellie had dumped some eight years ago and decides to give it a second go. To Ryan's horror he thought Brady had left town years ago too, but apparently is now living below him in the same block of flats with his fourteen year old daughter. Ryan's life is now sent into a flat spin.

Eight years ago although Ellie was dating Brady who is according to him, bisexual, the one person he really was attracted to sexually was Ryan. Well they have a fling just before Brady is about to leave for Arizona. Ryan runs off ridden with guilt having sex with the man his sister is dating.

Brady is back and the fun starts again, although this time Brady's daughter, who Ryan would baby-sit for back then, is now a precocious 14 year-old and decides to play matchmaker.

Let's just analyse this whole situation for a moment; sister is dating man whose brother is attracted to, brother has sex with said man and falls in love even he can't except it because his sister is going out with this guy. This guy hasn't had sex with said man's sister and only wants to be friends the second time around , but also says he's bi. Like I buy that! Brother doesn't know this and is guilt ridden for shagging his sister's boyfriend. Everything comes to a head (no pun intended-lol!) and resolves itself with said bi-man falling in love and being happy with said girlfriend's brother. Confused?

Well, the deal here for me is that anything gets complicated as soon as bi-sexuality is involved. Sorry,that may sound prejudice, but through bitter experience not a theme I feel comfortable with. Not only is Brady torn in two, but it's also the complications it causes the third parties as well. Kade picks up this theme quite nicely,

"Gay men preach all day about being tolerant but they sure ain't when it comes to bisexual guys."

This is possibly true, but I know from experience as a gay man that date or have an affair with a bi-guy, at the very worst one who is married with kids, generally you'll end up on the losing side and your dreams of a loving relationship and skipping happily off into the sunset are shattered. Therefore if you can "shag 'em and leave 'em" then fine, but if not then it all becomes a little complicated to say the least.

Although Brady says he's bi (maybe due to his daughter; a result of a teenage pregnancy) I never really got the feeling he was. It felt more to me that Brady was a closet gay, who thought he would never be accepted by another man with a fourteen year old daughter in tow and would be more accepted by a woman. Although all the time he was apparently doing Ellie (both times and again no relationships between) he never once had sex with her! The big attraction was / is for her brother Ryan. Doesn't sound very bi to me now, does it?

Kade creates what seems at the beginning an impossible situation, with real and authentic characters but it all unravels itself in the end. Once again two men not communicating their true emotions with each other. But then if you could sort things out with a good chat for 30 mins then it would never be a story, would it? And to be honest the latter never really is the real one anyway, is it? People talk conveniently about characters communicating, but there are so many examples in real life where communication has broken down through various reasons whether private, political or international. I like the way that this story resolves itself and everyone gets their HEA.

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Counterpoint: Dylan's Story - Ruth Sims Counterpoint is the musical relationship of melodic lines playing independently but forming a harmonic whole. There couldn't be a more fitting title for this book. A story with many independent tales, but coming together in one grand finale.

It is very difficult to review this story due to it's complexity and length which is by no means a criticism but a complement as it stands out from the normal trope of m/m stories. Intricate, complex, intriguing, thought provoking and well balanced. Just like a musical score itself.

The main character in this story is Dylan a musical genius discovered very early while still in high school, but also obnoxious and arrogant. It's about his life's trails and tribulations of becoming a recognised composer. He has two loves in his life, Laurence a teacher at his college and Geoffrey a violin prodigy. When Dylan first meets Laurence it is at college and due to Laurence seeing the talent in the rough diamond and taking him under his wing. Over a nimber of years the relationship flourishes into an intense love. The only way they could do this was due to several circumstances, of which i won't go into here, but they both end up living in Paris. Here they lived out their dream and built a perfect home for themselves. During this period Paris was the more liberal city compared to Victorian London with it's conservative values.

"Well, to put it delicately, they insulted each other's mother, father, ancestry, religion, and the state of his bowels. You really need to learn French; English is so hopelessly civilised. The French can say the most divinely vile things and it sounds like poetry."

It is while being in France Dylan meets for the first time Geoffrey who is studying violin with Adler Schonberg who is a world renowned violin player. He meets these two at a party hosted by Ivy an American with loads of money and a great sponsor of the arts. Geoffrey is from Romanichel origin and has had a very different childhood to that of Dylan of which we learn more about gradually during the book.

Then a fatal accident means that Laurence is taken from Dylan and here I cried, no I'm not ashamed to admit it, the writing was so beautiful I could feel the pain, anger, hurt and greaving that Dylan was going through. However, this book is written in two parts which is a wonderful concept. Ivy gets Dylan back on his feet and gradually starts to come to terms with Laurence's death. He then decides to return to London. Shutting one chapter on his life and starting a new one. As the old saying goes,"It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

"TIME. Dylan wondered how the pasing of something without form, sound or taste could so pervadeeverything. TIME. He wishes he knew how to beat it, kick it, take out his anger upon it."

Back in London Dylan is getting to grips with his life more and more everyday and he visits his friend Schonberg who is now ailing in health. However, his understudy Geaoffrey takes care of his every need. Schonberg wants Dylan to write a concerto for Geoffrey. At the beginning the artistic animosity is there, but then grows it a rivalry and then into attraction. Dylan finds himself in love again, but at the beginning it is difficult for him still to let completely go of Laurence's memory.

Schonberg's brother and sister-in-law come to visit and while they are there he dies. This is their chance to get at Schonberg's money and concoct a plan which leaves Geoffrey going to jail. Here the unfairness of it all was hideous. Geoffrey due to his gypsy origins is treated like a second class citizen despite his talent and ends up doing hard labour. Dylan does not give up trying to prove his innocence and calls upon an old school friend, Rob who is a barrister. They manage to prove his innocence and Geoffrey is released.

After all this, Dylan is still struggling to get recognition as a composer and in a moment of inspiration starts work on his breakthrough concerto, Prometheus. He writes for Geoffrey to play but still has to convince the powers that be in the orchestra to let Geoffrey play it. All's well that ends well and eventually due to some influential friends the concerto is played with Geoffrey as the soloist upon request of HRH The Princess of Wales and the deserved recognition is arrives.

This book is incredibly multi-facetted and I loved it on manyl levels. First the time it was set in causing a whole set of problems that we don't even consider today. Having to be totally secret about your relationship or when some people knew they really had be close and trusted friends. Secondly ,the trials and tribulations of dealing with what life throws at you. Dylan is heart broken after he loses Laurence, but he finds love again and realises that life must go on and never to give up. Thirdly, Dylan never gives up in believing in himself as a composer. He was sometimes tempestuous, arrogant, irritating and obnoxious, but his belief in himself and his tenacity against all odds and despite what people said he never gave up and in the end got the recognition he deserved. Fourthly, I loved the character of Ivy, although a secondary character once she appeared on the scene she stayed a constant like a guardian angel, always supportive and always believing in Dylan. This book introduces many characters, but they all have their significant role to play and contribute to the whole, just like the musical strucutre and theory of counterpoint.

All in all an enthralling epic, that kept me riveted from beginning to end. Packed full of emotion, trials and tribulations, but all coming together in one grand finale.

All the way through this book I did have a constant earworm when reading about Geoffrey's violin playing and this was the violinist Joshua Bell playing the theme tune from the film Ladies in Lavender by Nigel Hess. However, if I was to suggest a playlist while reading this book it would be this;

1) Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor
2) Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major
3) Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor
4) Schumann Violin Concerto in D Minor

Looks like I have thing going for German composers I guess. Spot the odd one out - lol!

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In Sunshine or In Shadow

In Sunshine or In Shadow - Josh Lanyon Short, sweet and cute. A nice little home coming short story.

The Lion and the Crow

The Lion and the Crow - Eli Easton Dashing knights, chivalry, sword fights, castles, damsels in distress. A great medieval story with everything you could wish for

I loved this story, it contained everything that I love from this period. I couldn't have wished for more. The writing made the story totally believable and it was also pure escapism.

Sir William, The Lion, needs to rescue his sister and daughters from the clutches of a cruel and beast for a husband who abuses her. He goes to Lord Brandon to ask to raise an army to fight for his sister against her tyrannical husband Lord Sommerfield. His request is turned down, but Lord Brandon's youngest son, Christian known as The Crow offers his services to escort William to the castle of Lord Sommerfield and there he would challenge him.

Christian had already seen William at the tournament and was attracted to him immediately and this was mutual. They set out together and Christian breaks down the moral defences of William eventually and both give in to their carnal desires. I really liked the way the author made this all totally believable for the time. There was no lovey-dovey romance, but two tough knights caught up in their passion for each other. Though inwardly William is still battling with his demons as at that time it would have been a big no-no. William is chivalrous to the point of stubbornness which only ends up infuriating Christian however even The Lion for all his strength can't deny the feelings he develops for Christian.

Christian works out a rather unconventional plan to get the Lady Elaine out of the clutches of her husband and succeeds in killing him using subterfuge. This was a great idea and just loved the way that this was plotted out. After the rescue William's sister realises what is going on and talks sense into her brother.

"Sometimes, William, what the world asks of us is wrong. And when it is wrong, there is no honour in obeying it."

I loved Lady Elaine, she was calm and collected and said all the things her brother needed to hear. Even Christian realises that he would not be happy living any other life than to be with William. After coming up with yet another plan Christian confronts William.

"William, I have no choice but to live a life of lies. If I go home and marry a woman of my father's choosing, I will live a lie. At least I can choose the lie and find what happiness I can in the sanctity of my own home."

The plot was simple but effective and found the characters and emotions to be believable for that time. The descriptions were good and takes the reader back to a time of knights of old.

It was heading for a five star read for me personally, but then I got to chapter 8 and unfortunately something happened, that try as I might, I couldn't personally totally ignore. It did grate on me a little. The author uses the word bandit meaning outlaw. The word bandit for this period isn't etymologically correct. It was first coined in English at the end of the 1500s bandit deriving from the Italian word Bandito so for this period this word would never have existed. I know I maybe nitpicking and is only a small mistake that can be easily overseen. However, it is an historical novel and this just jarred my personal reading enjoyment a little knowing this fact. After all Robin Hood was an outlaw and not a bandit.

After all is said and done this is a free read and the author has done an excellent job, my comments above are intended as a little constructive feedback. I really enjoyed this short romp back to the Middle Ages and will definitely read more from this author. I also loved the cover!

Social Skills

Social Skills - Sara Alva This is a wonderful story of coming out, first-time love , first-love heartbreak and basically many “firsts” all happening at once.

Connor is in his first year at UVA, but the only thing he really feels safe with is his music and his violin. Painfully shy and socially awkward he finds solace in his music where he can run from the demands put on him by having to socialise at college. He is effectively a bit of a loner, a very sweet one admittedly, however playing in an orchestra is a social thing so he soon makes a friend, Rebecca, and with her finds himself a group of friends where at least he feels a little comfortable with.

I loved Connor sweet, innocent (yes, when he arrived at college he was still a virgin), a gentle soul, but I found his low self-esteem and panic around crowds excruciating. I could really feel his anxiety and embarrassment which has tendencies going on to panic attacks. He constantly berates himself in his thoughts, second guesses himself and gets angry with himself at his lack of social skills! The author let me really get into Connor’s thoughts and feelings with marvellous coherent writing. All this shyness must come from somewhere, maybe some things are inherent and genetic, but then.......

Then you meet Connor’s mother – it all becomes totally clear why Connor is the way he is. His mother is totally over-bearing, dominant, demanding, manipulative, dictatorial and, and..........words fail me. No wonder the boy is so shy. Connor's father isn’t much help either as he is just as much under the thumb as Connor. The only one who really knows how to cope with his Mum is his thirteen year old younger sister. At first she comes across as your normal irksome little sister, but later I learned to like her A LOT! Connor’s parent’s has his complete life planned out for him and he doesn’t even get a say in what he wants. I know for a lot of people this character of Connor’s domineering mother maybe a little stereotypical, but this is necessary to understand Connor, the way he is and where he’s coming from, and I guess such mother’s also really exist.

OK, back to college ~ Connor his a high achiever! Connor's anthropology teacher suggests he gives remedial lessons. I also thought that the lecturer here was also thinking about trying to bring Connor out of his shell a little. He gets glittlesto football jocks, Michael and Jared to tutor. Although Michael drops out, Jared still keeps coming to his class with Connor and it’s obvious there is something more there than just remedial teaching sessions.

The attraction grows and the rest is history so to speak. It is now a journey full of discovery, high emotion and changes. First Jared tries to keep their relationship secret, can’t have a gay football star, can we? Connor wants more than a closeted football player can give and this leads to a break-up. At this point I could have cried buckets for Connor, there is nothing worse than breaking up with the first big-love in your life. Oh the hurt! Connor now pulls himself together with the help of Rebecca and starts a new life at college, still a little shy, but you can definitely start to see the change. This time it’s Jared’s turn, he realises how much he misses Connor and tries to win him back, but then Jared is outed! MAJOR DISASTER for the football player. Now not used to dealing with “not being the popular guy” Connor needs to treat him gently and help nurture Jared’s hurt ego and dealing with snide remarks from his friends.

Coming out is a very different experience for everyone. Here the author takes two examples, Connor choosing to out himself and Jared being outed involuntarily. I found this a nice contrast and plot device. Making Jared now the one needing help from Connor, whereas before it was the other way round. Coming out can be a traumatic affair and in this book we get to read both sides of the coin and its effects. Some people being more accepting than others, Jared has to learn that if he loses friends now that they were never really true friends to begin with, the question is will Jared be able to cope with his outing. I also liked the way the author handled the different reactions of the parents. Jared's mum being understanding, although upset, accepts her son's sexuality, but Connor's parents are indifferent and cold. Here Connor's sister comes up trumps. This is a very true to life situation and the most harrowing part about coming out is the reaction of parents for many young people.

I loved this book as the characters felt real. Yes, they were young, all around 18 to 20, but oh the emotional turmoil of being a young adult. The author conveys these feelings wonderfully and delivers a believable and heart warming story.

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Love on a Wing and a Prayer

Love on a Wing and a Prayer - T.A. Webb I just love a military story, I guess it takes me back to my 10 years in the Royal Air Force. *reminisce*

This is a really sweet story, well written and realistic. Davey is a pilot in the Navy and due to the military's attitude, or so he thinks, has kept himself firmly banged up in the closet. This is all about to change when his hormones rocket sky high after Chuck joins the flight crew.

I love stories I can relate to with my own experience. I knew exactly how Davey felt, as this was me, during my childhood;

"But as early as I could remember, there was something different about me, and I instinctively knew not to talk about it."

....and later when he was in the military like myself;

"It was easier to keep my sexuality to myself and not risk the sidelong looks, the subtle snubs and the whispering."

Oh, I have so been there and know how that feels.

As for being gay and in the military, is this story realistic? Well, at least things are now different in the British Forces. When I was in the RAF (1986 - 1996) homosexuality was against military law and would lead to an immediate dishonourable discharge. The military law against homosexuality has now been abolished. But a lot later than in civilian life, only lifting the ban in 2000. Gay men and women can now serve without the fear of being "caught out" and facing court martial, as it was in my time. I loved my life in the RAF, but it was only their short-sightedness at the time that forced me to make my decision to leave. No regrets though. Today the story is very different, in 2004 the RAF entered a float in the Manchester gay pride parade with 60 service men and women in uniform. A very welcome sight for me today at any pride parade. The British military today is an equal opportunities employer I'm glad to say.

I loved the way that Gio had known about Davey all along, but as good comrades should, he only saw the great man in Davey and the other was no problem. He was genuinely delight for Davey that he had found someone he could love. This is a sign of a truly good friend. The writing portrayed this feeling of comradeship that I only ever experienced in the RAF and the way it is done here made me feel yet again all warm and fuzzy.

This story left me uplifted and feeling good at the end, knowing that it is OK to be gay and serve your country today. Unfortunately, I was just to early (old) and missed it - lol!

Thank you Tom!
Junction X - Erastes The swinging 60s in the UK? - The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Pirate Radio, Mary Quant, bell-bottoms, The Avengers, Alfred Hitchcock, hippies, Twiggy, Afros; all sounds familiar, right?

Gay in the 60s in the UK? – illegal, sexual deviant, arrest, imprisonment, behavioural therapy, aversion therapy, electric shock treatment, blackmail, hormone treatment, running scared, living a lie; still sounds familiar?

Junction X is set in 1962 in the UK and if you were gay that was your future, or you made sure you just didn’t get caught. Eddie is married to Valerie and outwardly they are the typical, 60s suburban family with two kids. Inwardly their sex-life is practically non-existent and when it does happen it’s a thing to be got over with rather than enjoyed and celebrated. This was the fate of many gay men at this time locked into loveless marriages out of fear of the alternatives. Being socially conditioned into believing that they were perverse in some way by harbouring feelings for other men. This was a time that if you weren't married by a certain age then people would start asking the awkward questions and start talking behind your back.

"Looking back at what I thought was nothing more than a mild deception, I see that I was attempting to be the man she wanted me to be....attempting to fit someone else’s mould, even back then. I suppose it’s because people don’t look for aberration where there is an established routine."

Ed and Valerie's former neighbours Claire and Phil have moved away and new neighbours arrive. Eddie Discovers his latent gay tendencies due to Phil who is a little bit of a sexual opportunist in my opinion. They basically use each other for sexual favours that they obviously can't get from their wives, but Phil is obviously the one that can separate the one from the other, much easier than Ed.

When the new neighbours arrive with their seventeen year old son Alex then Ed's world is thrown for a loop and he finds himself slipping deeper into a world full of lies and deceit in order to keep the happy family pretense going at least outwardly and covering up his affair with Alex.

"For there wasn’t a day after this when I wasn’t lying to someone. Perhaps because it was I’d stopped lying to myself".

There is definitely no HEA to the end of this story, it's a bittersweet and slightly melancholic tale of a love with no possible future. True to the times of what being gay, even if the word existed in its present form then, meant in 1962. An attraction and affair that can only be doomed before it starts. No gay man at this time would have been left with any other choice and that's what makes this story even more tragic. Although Alex was only seventeen at the time and a few months away from his 18th birthday, in 1962 it was a no go anyway, despite the age.

The writing is beautifully done and you feel the internal struggle going on in Ed, fighting with his feelings of emotion and attraction against his social conditioning of knowing that this is not allowed and would never be accepted. Love will out and eventually it does, but Alex plays a key role in winning Ed over with his exuberance and confidence. I thought this was interesting seeing Alex, although younger, was the one who was more open, sure of himself and knew exactly what he wanted after recognising what he saw in Ed was just not his imagination.

There were a couple of things where I thought whether or not this could really have been. Could a seventeen year old in 1962 really be so forward, sexually self-assure, possibly a virgin, but knowing more exactly what he wants than a 33 year old man? But the narrative art of the story kept these questions at bay, making Alex and Ed totally believable as characters. I loved the way Phil and Ed called their quickies "episodes." It made it seem all so detached and purely physical as it probably was, at least for Phil anyway. They would very often have an episode in a compartment on the train commuting to work. However, I did find myself asking about the risk of being caught, it's something I wouldn't really consider attempting today, let alone in 1962 on a busy commuter train; old style trains with compartments or not. I couldn't really imagine that they could be that alone and take that risk. However, no risk, no fun!

Valerie, Ed's wife, also plays a central role in this story, trapped in a marriage that is less from satisfying it must have been just as bitter and disappointing for her too. She may come across as someone who is cold and unaffectionate, but then she has a husband who can't really love her like she really should be loved. Rough deal if you ask me.

This book can only be described as a touching, intricate and beautiful story. Deftly written using Ed as the narrator. You read Ed's innermost thoughts, feel his longing and suffer his anguish, being able to sense the excruciating internal conflict in him up to the very end where there is only one way out.

"Elation is a bubble that lasts for tiny tiny moments but leaves something of its memory in scents and sounds so that later, when you need that boost, you can close your eyes and remember happiness."

The Sexual Offences Bill passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on 4th of July 1967. It received the Royal Assent on 21st of July 1967. Thus lifting the illegality of gay sex between consenting males. This left me sad thinking about how different it could have been for these two guys were they in the here and now. Although this work is fiction how many men must have gone through a similar ordeal in those times. This book has left me reflecting how lucky we are today and how much more still needs to be done throughout the world in raising awareness. Oh, and have the tissues ready for the end of the book, you might need them.

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Dirty Cop - Kyle Adams Witty, snarky and hilarious. Another quickie on the way home from work
Dirty Boys - Kyle Adams Short, sweet and cute ;-)

Dirty Fighters

Dirty Fighters - Kyle Adams Haha - never read about having a wrestle to decide on who's going to top!

Blessed Isle

Blessed Isle - Alex Beecroft I don't possess enough adjectives or superlatives to describe how I feel about this book. Beautiful, amazing, breathtaking, divine, gorgeous, exquisite, pulchritudinous (looked that one up!), magnificent, stunning, delightful, elated, I could continue forever. I just didn't want this book to end.

Captain Harry Thompson has made good. Coming from a working class background he is put in command of HMS Banshee the flag ship for a small fleet of ships taking cargo to Australia. On board he meets his First Lieutenant, Garnet Littleton, and the internal struggle of duty to The Crown or succumb to one's feelings begin. This is a time where sodomy will take you straight to the gallows.

"They’ll pillory us and pelt us with excrement. They’ll mock and laugh and whisper. They’ll take away the twenty years of my life I spent working for this: my rank, my ship, my duty, my king and country. My pride.

So the need to be circumspect in all things is imperative. These guys go through hell and back, through adventure on the high seas, through raging storms, marooned on an island, giving themselves over to their fate and then fashioning a world for themselves to be happy as best as they can in this time. The cargo; they have been charged with taking convicts to Australia. Harry because of his lowly beginnings understands on a certain level the suffering of the convicts.

"I can’t find it in me to blame them for what they did. I’d have done the same had I been caught scrumping apples, confined in chains for months, tossed and forgotten as human ballast in the utter dark and freezing cold of the underwater hull. If I’d gone into that a man, I’d have come out a monster. I can’t blame them."

After escaping storm and a mutiny from the prisoners they end being marooned on the proverbial desert island. However, there is nothing tacky or Robinson Crusoe about this part of the story. It just emphasises the love they have for each other but also their differences. Garnet misses civilasation, however Harry finds a freedom he has never known before.

"To me, this is the reality. Out there they make us pretend. They force us into lies or hiding. Here I’ve been free to be myself for the first time in my life. You and I, it’s the first honest thing I’ve ever done. And that’s because this place has given me the freedom to do it.” A little sigh of amusement mingled with melancholy. “Your prison is my refuge."

They are picked up from the island, but their initial joy will be short lived. Harry realises the Navy isn't everything and his ties to Garnet are now so much closer than any sense of duty. After being found out on board the HMS Pandora, the ship that rescued them, by its captain it seems their fate is sealed. However, a twist of fate allows them to escape and make a new start.

"I’ve had enough journeying. I think it is time to stop.” It is surprising what a man can give away and still remain himself. With that decision, we lost our family, our friends, and our country, but as I rolled onto my back and looked up at the stars, I felt as though I had in some small way received my island back. “No man is an island, entire of himself,” says John Donne, but two may be, together, needing nothing else.

The writing is descriptive and lyrical, but doesn't spare on the reality of the situation either. I smelled the rancid conditions on board. The odour of stale food, rot, Typhus and death. The scent of tar and pitch, sea water and damp. I suffered the exhaustion of the crew battling their way through storms and making little headway. I felt the elation and joy in Harry on the island being able to live a way of life they wanted, free from persecution. I mourned with Garnet and his longing to get back to civilasation. I panicked at the fear of the truth coming out and the pair of them being marched to the gallows; of the angst during the storms. Basically, through the author's writing I lived this book.

This book is written as a journal, each character being a chapter or journal entry. This was a wonderful notion, it was like readng someone's personal diary and getting to know their innermost thoughts and feelings. However, it was not disjointed, Harry's journal entry always picking up nicely and relating to something in Garnet's and vice versa. A way of sharing, a joint dairy with individual perspectives. The style changes between each journal entry and you soon get the feeling that Harry is the conservative, duty bound responsible captain and Garnet is your more flambouyant, risqué and bumptious character. I just loved this whole idea of them writing their lives down and this being locked away until a time where it would be safe to read such a thing.

"I am resigned to the deception, but still I resent it. I would be honest if I could. I am an honest man, it is only the world that forces me to lie. To that end, I am sealing this completed diary and depositing it in my bank, to be released when we are both dead. I think of it as a message in a bottle, cast out into the seas of time. May the future reader know what we have not been permitted to say in the present: that we were happy.

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When You Were Pixels (Syntax #0.1)

When You Were Pixels (Syntax #0.1) - Julio-Alexi Genao I always said, "I don't do science-fiction / dystopian." Well, now I can say, "Converted!"

Short and compact, but this little gem fits a lot into a few pages.

A securtiy guard, Antho, is watching an assassin on his monitor and is immediately attracted to him. Probably due to his own loneliness and living conditions. After an accident Antho takes the assassin back to his room, all in fear of his life a relationship develops that is as heartbreaking as it is hopeful. The assassin suffers from acute memory loss and keeps forgetting where he is, but Antho is always gently reminding him in a caring way.

"You were hurt. I brought you here to take care of you. You were safe here. You are safe here."

This was repeated several times, like a mantra, throughout the book and I could feel the caring in Antho, if not a little desperation in his own lonely existence looking for a soulmate. The situation is inevitably hopeless and it has a bitterweet ending where Antho leaves this story as a letter in one of the pockets of the assassin for later. For me it was like Antho was giving a part of himself to accompany the assassin on his way that he should never be forgotten. You could feel longing, desperation, loneliness, companionship, love and loss. It was all there in one compact little bundle.

It wasn't the plot that carried this book for me, but the style of writing. Short, staccato sentences, using only a minimum of tenses gave it a futuristic, digital feel to the story. However, it was also poetic in it's own right and the emotions came across all the more stronger for it. Julio creates a totally futuristic and believable world and I found myself engrossed. Has left a lasting impression on me.

Yep, this story has left me thinking maybe I should try another science-fiction / dystopian book. If thirty-five pages of intense prose can change my preferences to this sub-genre of M/M romance then maybe I'm ready for another go.

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Don't Trust the Cut - Kade Boehme This book deals with real life; ugly warts and all! Real emotions, real reactions, real trials and tribulations. Reality is not pretty sometimes, but happiness can be found if you're prepared to fight for it.

I liked this book at lot due to the fact that it doesn’t give one-sided characters, the characters are very real and complicated but then again that’s life. For me this book didn’t just have the standard two MCs, but four main MCs. That’s why I’m going to start my review with by looking at the characters individually.

Tucker – recovering from a past he’d rather forget and put behind him, makes him strong but yet insecure. When he meets Jesse for the first time not knowing how to handle the situation he bolts for the door like a scared rabbit even though the attraction is there. Anyone who has ever experienced love at first sight will know that feeling when someone looks at you, where your legs are like jelly and you get the proverbial butterflies in your stomach. Even when Tucker meets Jesse a year later at the restaurant where he works at, the feelings are exactly the same. Due to this encounter he becomes friends with Jesse and Miranda. Although he knows that Jesse is with Miranda he still feels the pull and lets his feelings guide him. At the beginning of their relationship Tucker sees it as just a good thing while it lasts, but has no delusions that due to Jesse’s history it’ll probably all come to an end at some stage. He feels he can’t trust Jesse completely as he is just trying to come out of the closet and could bolt back in there again should he not be able to deal with it. As time progresses he realises that it is more than a fling and sees the change in Jesse that he feels responsible for. However, he is still not able to tell Jessie about his past and this becomes a major stumbling block later in their story. His stubborness and jumping to conclusions will be his undoing. Tucker is a loving sole looking for a home, someone he feels he can love and trust for the rest of his life. But this trust isn’t easily given for reasons I could totally understand. This doesn’t become really apparent until near the end of the book. But this problem is there from the beginning, accompanying him, underlying his every motive. We even know from the first chapter that the Canadian holiday is all a ruse for the real reason he had been away.

Jesse – is your stereotypical closeted gay. He couldn’t be more in the closet with the doors securely shut if he tried. This all stems from many factors, his being in the marines; fear of rejection from his mother and friends, a very real situation. I felt sorry for Jesse, trapped, scared, not happy inside, fearing rejection from the people he cares about. Although he knows deep down he is gay, he is just trying to lead the life that everyone expects of him. This may seem very noble, but in the end it will lead to no good, he will unintentionally hurt people around him even more by not being honest with himself. Then he meets Tucker who turns his world upside down and gives him the strength to do something about it, knowing he will never be truly happy in his life until some ground breaking revelation takes place. Tucker is that revelation. Tucker gives him the strength to recognise what has been staring him in the face all this time and to do something about it. He knows he’s been living a lie all this time, but has been too scared to do anything at all about it. Yes, it probably isn’t fair to Miranda in the beginning, but then what’s fair? That’s life. I’ve met enough married men in gay bars in my time too due to the usual reasons of “the wife is away for the weekend” or “I’m just in town for the week,” blah, blah, blah! Needless to say I steered well clear of them as it would only lead to grief with all the baggage these sorts of guys carry around with them. Unfortunately, in Tucker's case he couldn't. There are all sorts of reasons, either they’re bi and just want to fool around or they are trapped with so many responsibilities they can’t make that jump to coming out. But this isn’t just a gay thing, how many women have had affairs with married men who keep promising them they’ll leave the wife and kids, etc. and never do! Jesse’s story is a real coming out story, with all the fear and angst that goes with it. He turns his world inside out. I know through my own experience how excruciating this can be and fear of rejection is a real big deal, especially when it involves your parents, no matter how old you are. I’m glad to say that with my parents this was not the case, but all too often gay men and women are totally rejected by their parents even in this day and age. This process is also a slow one and doesn’t happen over night. You first tell friends and then find the courage to start to tell the family. Here Jesse first confides in a good friend, Nathan, to see what his reactions would be. Thank goodness Nathan is accepting and still sees Jesse as the friend he has always been. To be honest I did it exactly the same way myself. Therefore the first part of the book dealt with this whole situation perfectly, didn’t rush it and gave it the time necessary to develop. Jesse gets there in the end but it’s a long journey and Tucker giving him the reassurance he needs, not by instructing him or telling him what to do, but just by being there for him, non-judgemental, caring and letting him just be Jesse. So Jesse is a very real and believable character. He goes through big life changes, comes out the other end and makes it!

Alison - What a woman! Witty, sassy, intelligent, caring and protective; everything you could wish for in a best friend and more. Although she may appear originally to be a little ditsy, you soon realise that there is a more serious character beneath the façade. Alison was my hero. She obviously cares a lot about Tucker’s welfare, but this is the most natural thing in the world for a caring best friend. She is obviously someone who cares enough about Tucker that he doesn't get into a situation or the state where he was before. To be honest Tucker's Alison is exactly like a very good friend of mine. We do absolutely everything together. I can talk to her about everything; she comforts me, kicks me up the ass when needed, makes me reflect on my actions, is honest with me and listens. We do all sorts of crazy funny shit together that maybe is only funny to us but we don't care (thinking of the kitchen routine between Alison and Tucker with the music when Jesse comes in), go shopping together and give each other fashion advice, etc. Basically she cares about me just like Alison does with Tucker. Like a sister really and I do the same for her. As real close and best friends love each other in a special way. OK, it was mentioned a couple of times that she flicked her hair, but hell which girl with long hair doesn't? I know my friend does out of habit occasionally, doesn’t mean I think any less of her. Although Alison is suspicious of Jesse’s motives at the beginning which is natural enough, totally ends up accepting him after she’s satisfied Jesse is genuine and good for Tucker. A good judge of character and I was happy to read she also found her soulmate in the end. I could feel the unconditional joy Alison had in knowing that Tucker was truly happy after such a long time. I loved Alison, a real good friend to have when the chips are down.

Miranda – Miranda, oh Miranda! A woman with many layers, complicated and not the total bitch everyone would like her to be. That would be all too easy. At the beginning Miranda for me was your typical girl who only wanted the fancy wedding, house, children, golden retriever and trophy husband. She obviously thought she would have this in Jesse, but alas this was not to be. The dream was to be shattered. She knew about his past love affair with a man and his time in the marines, before they got together, but believed that she could be happy with Jesse, even though there was always an underlying doubt. Living in a relationship with doubt is never going to be good. Even I have been down the cover girlfriend path, here referred to as Jesse's beard. After Jesse meets Tucker she obviously sees this as a trial for thier relationship and forces him in Tucker’s direction, by encouraging boy’s nights, etc. only to see if Jesse can resist temptation. Scheming to say the least. That was the first dumb thing she did. Then she makes friends out of Tucker and Alison again I reckon to see how Jesse behaves around Tucker. Another trial by fire for Jesse. Tucker and Alison were friends with both Jesse and Miranda before their relationship really gets underway and although Tucker is Jesse's catalyst, still remain friends with Alison maybe out of a sense of duty. This happens, you make friends with a couple and then they split up, you don't want to take sides as you're friends with both, but it is very difficult to remain completely impartial in these situations.However, Alison gets the measure of Miranda early on and develops what I would call a “love-hate” relationship, but always on guard for Tucker’s sake. When Jesse breaks up with Miranda she is obviously upset and hurt. Who wouldn't be? She still appears at Tucker’s and Alison’s house to talk to Alison, but then again I reckon this was only a ruse to try and find out what was going down. Alison remains guarded and knows exactly what the ulterior motives are. Then one night she comes around on a surprise call and finds Jesse kissing Tucker in the kitchen, she remains composed and externally doesn’t seem to be affected by it, but this is all show for a plan that she has concocted to get her own back on Jesse. Extremely calculating! Basically revenge by the jilted lover by any other name. When she invites them all to her birthday, I was thinking, WTF! But then the birthday party arrives and the plan becomes all too clear. Tucker and Jesse are there and she invites Jesse’s mother, yep, all hell breaks loose when Jesse’s mother discovers he’s having an affair with a man. This was a hateful and spiteful plan on behalf of Miranda, but she was hurting and this can make people do horrible things. Although in the end she probably did Jesse the biggest favour of his life. Enough time passes and we find out that Miranda had an affair while still with Jessie, so there's a great case of the pot calling the kettle black! However, in the mean time she also manages to get herself in the family way and thus became a fallen angel for her parents, experiencing rejection for herself first hand. Divine retribution if you ask me. Time passes and is a healer and when she meets Jesse again and tells him the news about her pregnancy then obviously enough time had passed that they could talk to each other again putting their pasts behind them. Can ex-lovers become friends? Well, it has been known to happen. However, her predicament mellows her and she becomes really forgiving of Jesse and what he did. Therefore the path is cleared to make a new start of being just good friends. Do people change? Well, I would like to think they do and Miranda became more forgiving after she got over the initial hurt. Miranda goes through several transitions which is probably hard to accept but becomes a better person due to it.

The story - for me this book almost seemed to have two distinct parts. The first half deals mostly in my eyes with Jesse's emotional turmoil and his coming to terms with who is and coming out. A big change for anyone and these things do not happen overnight. Therefore the slower pace is OK and it did still keep my interest. Tucker is the catalyst, but never forces Jesse to do anything in a rush that he may regret later. Although try as Tucker might to keep things as a light hearted affair, the lad had fallen heed over heels for Jesse but tries to deny it to himself out of self-preservation and not wanting to get hurt again. This develops the story nicely, understanding where these two characters have come from, Jesse's journey is necessary in order to understand what comes later. I could feel the emotion and internal struggle both these characters were having for very different reasons. Jesse coping with his eventual coming out and Tucker hiding his ghosts of the past from Jesse. There's no doubt these guys are in love, but neither can admit it to each other at this stage. The question is did Jesse cheat on Miranda? Well, if you think kissing is cheating then maybe, but I think the more troublesome problem was Jesse living a lie for the reasons I stated above which would eventually destroy the relationship anway. So Miranda you could say had a lucky escape before she tied the knot and the responsibilities become even more, making things even more difficult to to cope with.

In the second half of the book the pace picks up and the proverbial shit hits the fan. First at the birthday party and then later Jesse discovers Tucker's secret and comes to confront him with it, even if it was well intended Tucker couldn't deal with it and shuns Jesse away thinking he's doing him a favour and releasing him from his own fucked up world. Here Tucker cuts his nose off to spite his face. Here we see the stubborn and unreasonable Tucker. Although the hurt on both sides is big neither seem to be able to accept each other's reasons for their behaviour. Much later Tucker meets Jesse at an event with pregnant Miranda in tow. Jesse and Miranda have obviously buried the hatchet, but Tucker immediately jumps to all the wrong conclusions and sends him hurtling back into that place he had so long fought to avoid. This is where Jesse's tenacity, patience and love for Tucker pays off and they find their way back to each other again. But this time it's solid and for keeps. This part of the story left me completely wiped out with emotion, sheesh what a roller-coaster ride this was.

This book has many facets to contend with, is intricate and complex. Almost autobiographical in its nature, the book deals with many ups and downs of four characters. The only character that remains steady as a rock and a tower of strength through all of this was Alison. A safe harbour in a storm. Whatta girl! This story takes place over a long time, maybe even over a couple of years and I just felt that this was handled a little clumsily. The timescale could have been handled a little more logically and I felt at times I had missed months with no clue to as where we actually were. Almost like a mental blank out. This is only a small personal observation which has stopped me giving it four stars. But this doesn't detract from the wonderful and powerful writing, the emotion was palpable and left me emotionally drained. Kade's style is not overly flowery, but he manages to convey a power of emotion in his words that I really love. The characters were realistic and just as complicated as any real life situation. Whether we understand this or not for me doesn't matter. That's life. A great book and I will look forward to more from this author.

Another great buddy read with Tina, Macky and Gina
Covet Thy Neighbor - L.A. Witt The church and sexuality; a potentially explosive combination and boy did this book start with a bang. Wham bam thank you ma'am to be exact!

Seth - is a tattoo artist who was thrown out of and cut off from his family as a young man after telling them he is gay. This this was too much for his family being ultra-conservative Christians and couldn't reconcile their beliefs with Seth's revelation about his sexuality. He was left to fend for himself from a very early age and subsequently loses all faith in religion.

Darren - is a minister and has suffered the narrow mindedness of people too in his own life, but he never gave up his beliefs or faith. However, at least Darren's family could reconcile their differences eventually loving him and supporting him as a family should.

You couldn't get two characters who are more apart on ideals and beliefs if you tried and yet when Darren moves into the apartment next to Seth's both their worlds collide and they are thrown for a loop. After Darren arrives, Seth takes Darren out for an evening to show him around town. The chemistry is there and the evening ends up with them having sizzling sex. The traditional one-night stand with all the recriminations the morning after. Despite all this Seth can't get Darren out of his mind and they still can't keep their hands off each other.

"If there was anything worse than an awkward morning after, it was two awkward mornings after in a row."

I found this was great writing from the author, you could feel the MCs awkwardness and yet their longing for each other. At the beginning the first couple of times both sides try to ignore what is so obvious, just having stress relieving gratifying sex, but no commitment or strings. Yeah, right!

As the plot unfolds you can feel Seth's internal struggle is heart is split in two. On the one hand he finds Darren the best thing that has happened to him in ages, on the other he can't accept what he had experienced as a child, the church represents everything that went wrong with his life. So there's no way he could fall for a minister.

I loved the character of Darren, patient and non-demanding on Seth. A minister who smokes pot gets a tattoo done and has no problems about his sexuality. Wow - not your stereotypical minister, quite the opposite in fact.

"I wasn't sure what to make of a gay minister who smoked pot, had the occasional one-night stand, and now had a tattoo"

However, you are never left in any doubt about the conviction in Darren's faith.

These two guys play a merry dance around each other until Seth finds out that Darren is responsible for a hostel which shelters and looks after LGBT teenagers who have been thrown out of their families due to their sexuality. He goes one evening and meets a young girl who is a loner and always sits to one side. As she tells her story, Seth can totally relate to his own history and gains the trust of the youngster. This was such a beautiful part of the story. Sadly this also happens all too often in real life too.

However, even though Darren realises he is in love, it's the one thing that Seth is still defensive about. After the subject is broached Seth goes on the defensive and shuns Darren away and ends up making himself totally miserable. His excuse being that after what happened to him he couldn't possibly have a relationship with a minister. The real truth being he doesn't want to take the risk of being hurt like that again should things not work out. After being miserable for quite a while he plucks up the courage to speak to Darren and then one of the most beautiful kiss and make-up stories I have ever read transpires.

OK, it can be argued that the plot of this story is very simplistic, however for me the plot was not the defining fact here. I loved the way the author got real feeling and emotion into her writing. You could feel the internal anguish Seth was going through, Darren confident in everything, these two constantly going around in circles until they find the common understanding that they need to accept each other and give the relationship a go.

When I first thought about reading this book my main apprehension was the religious theme. Again all too dangerous for any author to fall into the stereotypical trope of Church (bad guys) and outcast son (guy to be pitied upon). This was not the case. Once again L.A. Witt deals with this theme superbly. Giving a non-discriminatory view by presenting both sides of the coin. Seth had suffered as a young man due to his family being super religious, but Darren is a mirrored opposite who despite himself having experienced rejection even within the church itself, has never given up on his faith. This was handled by the author absolutely beautifully and it is this, the opposing views that find their common ground in the end is the substance for me that rocks this book!

While I was reading this book I thought it was quite fitting to hear the latest news headline about what Pope Francis had said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Then L.A. Witt writes in her book, "But I realised who I was, and God wouldn't reject me for that."

Another great buddy read with Tina, Bev and Gina

~ A copy of this book was provided by Riptide Publishing for a fair and honest review ~
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