Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan

20625174
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!

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Ink and Flowers by J.K. Pendragon

Ink and Flowers

Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m, Coming Out, novella
Published: 6/4/14
Reviewed by Anne
89 pages

Luke, a shy anxiety ridden college student, needs a place to live. He’s practically broke and determined not to have to move in with his overbearing family. There’s a guy that comes into the flower shop every week who scares the heck out of Luke, just due to his rough looks and many tattoos, and the fact that he hit on Luke once. His name is Cooper. Cooper makes Luke a hideous bargain – have sex with me and you can sleep on my couch. Luke has spent a lot of time telling himself he’s not gay, but he agrees to the bargain anyway.

This is a fairly straight forward set up for a novella, and you certainly get the story promised, but there’s a LOT packed into this novella! You’ve got a controlling and repressing family, severe depression, anxiety that’s not really addressed, the question of paying for art school, Cooper’s career and mysterious trauma, Cooper’s habit of handling problems by running away, and erectile dysfunction! It’s a bit too much for this short of a story.

It was refreshing to read about a couple who didn’t have immortal hardons for each other, but I was disappointed that it seemed like their sex life depended on the ability to have an erection. I expected to see a discussion or practice of non-ejaculatory ways to be intimate. But, then again, I’m already complaining that there’s too much packed into this book! It was also interesting to read about a character with anxiety and see how it affected his life. But, again, it was disappointing that no treatment was pursued. Luke’s anxiety had a big impact on his life. So much so, that it’s difficult to believe that it will go away just because he’s come out.

This story is told solely from Luke’s POV, but that worked for me. The mystery around Cooper’s motivation and his transformation from jerk to sympathetic character was well done! Luke’s character growth made me want to stand up and cheer! Despite having so much packed into it, I enjoyed the story and would read more by this author.

Let It Ride by L.C. Chase

Grade: B
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m, cowboy
Series: Pickup Men #2
Published: 5/26/14
Reviewed by Anne
195 pages

Bridge Sullivan wakes up one day after a scorching wet dream and thinks he just might be gay.  After a hilarious talk with his penis he’s not really sure about being gay or bisexual, but he’s quite sure he’s Eric-sexual.  He’s a pretty self-accepting kind of guy.  Not much bothers him.  So, once he figures out he’s got a thing for Eric, he decides it’s time to act on it.

Eric Palmer is a paramedic on the rodeo circuit that Bridge works.  He’s openly gay and has become good friends with Bridge and his circle of buddies over the past year.  For the first time in a long time, he feels like he belongs.  He’s surprised by the signals his straight friend is sending him, and even if they mean what he thinks they mean, he’d never do anything to screw up this group of friends he has.  Eric is very attracted to Bridge, but determined not to take any risks.  Bridge only scares him more when he tells Eric he’s not looking for a one night stand – he wants a relationship. 

This was a nice story that worked best in the last quarter of the book.  The reasons behind Eric’s hesitancy to allow himself to attach to Bridge are hinted at during most of the book, but not spelled out until near the end. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until those reasons were made clear that I found them believable.  So the first part of the book suffered because Eric came off as over-reacting.  I do think my own history as a foster parent makes stories including foster care a harder sell for me.  

Overall, though, it was a good read and a pretty low conflict story, which I enjoy.  I loved the rodeo setting and camaraderie between Eric, Bridge, and their friends.  The fact that Eric refused to just throw a condom on the floor, and in fact turned getting a garbage can into a pretty hot scene earned the book bonus points from me!

This story is the second in this series, but it stood alone just fine for me.  I’d recommend it for any m/m reader who has love for cowboys and rodeos!