The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

21844019
Grade: C-
Hotness Level: Ember
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Don Tillman #2
Published: 12/30/14
Reviewed by Anne
287 ebook pages

I loved The Rosie Project. It was one of my favorite reads last year and one I’ve mentioned to friends off and on. It was funny and sweet and romantic.   When I saw that The Rosie Project was coming out, I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of it from NetGalley.  It was a disappointing read for me, mostly because I was expecting something funny, romantic, and sweet.  So, in an effort to present an honest review, I’m just going to use the back cover blurb for the book to explain what it’s about:

THE ROSIE PROJECT WAS COMPLETE BUT I WAS UNPREPARED FOR THE ROSIE EFFECT.

GREETINGS. My name is Don Tillman. I am forty-one years old. I have been married to Rosie Jarman, world’s most perfect woman, for ten months and ten days.

Marriage added significant complexity to my life. When we relocated to New York City, Rosie brought three maximum-size suitcases. We abandoned the Standardised Meal System and agreed that sex should not be scheduled in advance.

Then Rosie told me we had ‘something to celebrate’, and I was faced with a challenge even greater than finding a partner.

I have attempted to follow traditional protocols and have sourced advice from all six of my friends, plus a therapist and the internet.

The result has been a web of deceit. I am now in danger of prosecution, deportation and professional disgrace.

And of losing Rosie forever.

To me this blurb read like a marriage-in-trouble romance.  As it turns out, The Rosie Effect is not a romance. It was funny in places, but more sad than sweet. I’ve read marriage-in-trouble romances before and enjoyed them, because the focus in fixing the marriage and things getting better. For about 90% of this book things just get worse and worse. It’s painful to read, even though there are many funny parts.

Don’s friend Gene is back and I hate him even more than in the last book. There’s an evil social worker I couldn’t stand and very, very little interaction between Don and Rosie.  Seriously, Don and Rosie don’t have a whole lot of on page time together.  A lot of their problems would have been resolved if they’d been honest with each other or even just talked a bit more.  Instead, Don had several people giving him advice that he keep things from Rosie in the name of not adding to her stress level.

It was good as fiction, but it sucked as a romance.  As just general fiction I’d give it a B, but for romance I give it a D.  I’ll average those to a C- or 3 stars.   Giving this such a low grade is sad, because The Rosie Project was such an incredibly good book.  Is there a series that went off the rails for you with the second book?

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Off Campus by Amy Jo Cousins

22857416
Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m, NA
Series: Bend or Break #1
Published: 12/30/14
Reviewed by Anne
260 ebook pages

Tom used to be the wealthy son of a wealthy man.  All of that changed when his father went to jail for fraud.  He’d stolen millions from people, leaving them, and his son broke.  Tom has just a few semesters left of college, so he sets to work driving a cab and sleeping in his car so he can earn money to afford the tuition it will take to finish college and have a chance at getting back on his feet.  He’s exhausted and happy to finally be admitted into the off campus dorm for older students, but when he enters the room he finds Reese, who is NOT happy to see Tom.  Reese had been promised a single occupancy dorm room and he’s not going to share the complicated story of how that came to happen.  When they can’t get the college to reassign them to different rooms, Reese sets out on a campaign to make straight man Tom uncomfortable enough to leave of his own accord.  So Tom finds himself coming home again and again to sit in the hall listening to his roommate having sex with other guys.  And he starts to wonder how straight he is and what’s going on with his new roommate anyway?

This book worked for me on every level.  It’s not a light book, but there was plenty of humor, especially with Tom and Reese’s best friends.  You’ve got Tom coming out to himself about his feelings toward Reese, but still struggling with all the crap life has dealt him and just having too much on his plate.  And you’ve got Reese, figuring out how to deal with his past.  The guys cause each other more pain, but it’s not intentional.  It actually made me cry, which I usually hate, but it was so sad and so sweet in parts that I had to cry.

All that makes it sound like it’s a downer of a book, but it’s NOT.  It’s full of hope.  There are no magic penises.  There’s no super-healing amateur sex therapy.  In fact there’s actual therapy with an actual therapist, and it’s helpful, but it’s not overnight.  So, no magic, but lots of hope, and Tom and Reese doing what they need to do to get better for each other.

Besides all that, there’s some super hot sex and sexual tension.  This author can write sex scenes! I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

Note: the cover reminded me of Heidi Cullinan’s college series, which I loved.  I’d say if you liked that one you’ll like this one, and vice versa, though Cullinan’s series has a bit lighter feel to it.

Lone Wolf by Aleksander Voinov and L.A. Witt

23356485
Grade: B
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Series: Bluewater Bay #4
Published: 12/20/14
Reviewed by Anne
274 ebook pages

The premise for this book was so intriguing that I would have wanted to read it even if I hadn’t enjoyed other book s from the series already.  Hunter is a super famous author of an incredibly popular paranormal book series turned TV series.  He’s got a horrible case of writer’s block and is way behind schedule on producing the much anticipated 8th book of the series.  Then he breaks every rule there is for a writer and reads the fan fiction novel his online friend “Lone Wolf” wrote and he realizes it would be perfect as the 8th book in the series.

Lone Wolf is Kevin, and he has no idea that his buddy “Wolf Hunter” is the author of the series.  Then Wolf Hunter suggests they meet in person and Kevin is blown away.  Blown away by Hunter’s suggestion that his novel be the 8th book in the series, blown away by how much money that could make him, and blown away by the attraction he feels towards Hunter, a man he’s long idolized.

The main conflict in this story comes from Hunter being a long time bachelor used to his own ways and space and Kevin struggling with the rapid changes happening in his life.  Some of the problems could have been easily solved by the two of them talking to each other, but it was totally understandable that they didn’t.

The story sets they guys up as unequal in several different ways.  Kevin is a low level white collar worker and Hunter is incredibly rich.  Kevin is superfan of the Wolf’s Landing Series and Hunter is the creator of it.  Kevin is an aspiring unpublished writer and Hunter is an established and successful writer.  Kevin is young and Hunter is about twice his age.  On top of all that, Kevin and Hunter are starting a personal relationship and business deal at the same time.  Amazingly and wonderfully, all of these differences are addressed in the story and even discussed by the characters.

My only complaint is that all of these differences made me uncomfortable at times.  Having a relationship with Hunter and believing all of Hunter’s advice was really a vulnerable position for Kevin to put himself into.  I wanted to believe that Hunter was a good man, and, of course, he was, but at times the inequality of their… power (I think that’s the best word) made me uncomfortable.

The sex was smoking hot.  I love that long before they met in real life or before Hunter read Kevin’s novel, they exchanged erotic fan fiction.  They really had been friends with a lot in common for more than a year before they met in real life.  Their banter had me laughing, and I appreciated their running jokes about their age difference.

This is the fourth book in the Bluewater Bay series, books about the Wolf’s Landing TV show and book series.  I’ve read the first and second, and then skipped to this one.  I really think each book in the series stands alone.  There are characters from the previous books, but they don’t have large roles and it would be no problem reading these books out of order.  So far each book in the series has been written by a different author, and I’ve enjoyed that.  They’ve all been good and I’m looking forward to reading the others.  I’d recommend this book and this series to anyone who enjoys contemporary m/m.