One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

Grade: A-
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Lucky Harbor #12
Published: 10/14/14
Reviewed by Kate
368 pages

Tanner is the last of the Lucky Harbor Charters trio to pair up.  He’s happy being a loner, taking care of everyone in his life but not risking his heart.  Callie has been sent to Lucky Harbor, where she grew up, to determine if her grandma, Lucille, is crazy or not.  She’s was left at the alter years ago and is not willing to put her heart on the line again.  A very casual relationship between Tanner and Callie seems to be just what they both need.  Until they both start to want more.

Tanner is my new favorite Shalvis hero, although Anne would tell you that I say that about every Shalvis hero I read.  But seriously, when you read about the sucker valentine from high school you’ll completely understand why I melted for a fictional hero.  I think Tanner’s going to be my new book boyfriend (shh…don’t tell my husband).  Callie is such a wonderful, quirky character.  Her grandmother is Lucille, so can we expect anything else?  But behind her funny and klutzy exterior there’s such a genuine fragileness that you can’t help but root for her as she struggles to get over the pains and disappointments of her past.

We’ve reached the final Lucky Harbor book and I have to admit to being a little sad at seeing it come to an end.  However, Shalvis did such a marvelous job of finishing the series strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes for us next.  If you haven’t read a Lucky Harbor book yet, you’re missing out on a funny and heartwarming small-town series.  Pick up any book in this series and you’ll find yourself going back to read the rest.  But I think this one’s my favorite of the bunch.

Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, NA, m/m
Series: Love Lessons #2
Published: 9/30/14
Reviewed by Anne
297 ebook pages

Aaron isn’t really excited about starting college, in fact, he’s having a hard time even picking a college to go to.  He is excited about living on his own, though.  He won’t be under his father’s thumb any more, and there might even be room for him to come out.  Giles is excited to start college.  High school was hell for him, and he’s hoping college won’t have any of the bullying and cliques that left him feeling like he was the bottom of the barrel.  A chance encounter at a party neither one of them wants to be at leaves Aaron with a new sexual experience and a college t choice made.  Unfortunately the same encounter leaves Giles feeling rejected again.  So, when they get to college, where both are involved in the music program, Giles is not as happy to see Aaron as Aaron was hoping he would be.

I felt like this was a story written just for me.  One part Glee, one part Pitch Perfect, and one part Heidi Cullinan goodness was a perfect mix.  Heck, it even had a huge musical closing act!

Surprisingly, I felt like the romance, though it was good, wasn’t the strongest point of this story.  The real strength of the story was the coming of age that Aaron and Giles went through.  Some of that involved them being together, but a lot of it happened more in parallel, separate from their relationship.  It’s full of good messages, but they’re not shoved down your throat.  There’s acapella, unrequited love, just the right amount of angst, and some incredible parents.  I loved every single word of it!

The only thing I could even begin to complain about is how much Walter and Kelly (from the first book in the series) appeared in this one.  But, really, I can’t complain, because Walter and Kelly were awesome!  They also have an integral part in the story, they weren’t just reappearing for the good feels of it.

I highly recommend this book!  It’s going on my Best of 2014, and it’s in my top 5 right now!  I did read Love Lessons, the first book in this series, before reading this one.  I think you’d appreciate a couple of the secondary characters more if you read in order, but I also think you’d be fine if you read this one as a stand alone.  It’s a great read!

Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m, NA
Series: Love Lessons #1
Published: 10/1/13
Reviewed by Anne
257 pages

Love Lessons is a story of randomly assigned college roomates who become great friends and possibly even more.  Walter Lucas is a junior who ends up needing a room in the dorms last minute.  He’s the gay version of the Big Man on Campus.  He’s most looking forward to hooking up with the new freshman class – at least the gay male portion of it, anyway.

Kelly Davidson is a freshman at Hope University.  He’s been looking forward to leaving his small town and living truly out as a gay man.  He’s also a little naïve and very cute.  He’s not looking to hook up, he’s looking for a Disney style Happily Ever After.  He knows that’s unusual, but he knows what he wants.

At first, it wouldn’t seem like these two would work together well as roomates, but what you come to see is that Walter has a much bigger heart than he lets on , and Kelly is much more confident in himself than it appears.  Together, that leads to a great story!

Kelly and Walter both have story arcs in this book. Neither one needs to make huge changes, but Walter’s journey is a bit bigger than Kelly’s.  Walter’s always had all the money and not enough of the attention he needed.  He’s been let down a lot.  Learning to trust Kelly is a big step for him.  For his part, Kelly’s just getting used to being out as gay, and wondering when he’s ever going to feel like a grown up and like he fits in somewhere.

There’s a medium level of angst in this story (something I struggle with in NA books) but it’s offset by some awesome humor and the overall light tone.  Kelly’s obsession with Disney cartoon movies is a line of humor that had me smiling a lot.  The contrast between Walter’s leave it all hang out style (not literally) and Kelly’s more private one is very well written.

The thing that made me really love this story was that it IS a love story.  It’s so sweet to see Kelly and Walter fall for each other and then to see them realize what’s happening, too.  It’s a great story.  I also enjoyed Kelly’s family!  There’s a scene where Walter comes to visit Kelly and his family bearing gifts.  Kelly’s understanding of what’s going on, how he talks with his parents, and their response… it’s one of my all time favorite scenes.

I loved this book, and it’s going on my Best of 2014 list.  I’d highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys m/m romance.

Trivia Bonus:  the Disney art of David Kawena and the art of Tom of Finland are both mentioned in this story.    If you haven’t seen them, then you should go look now!  (David Kawena link below, just Google image Tom of Finland.)  I’d already scene Kawena’s work, but the Tom of Finland stuff was interesting, too!  Google them both – but not while you’re at work or with young children!

David Kawena: