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.

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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.

A Touch of Mistletoe

23597696
Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild Kink
Genre: Contemporary , paranormal, m/m
Published: 12/17/14
Reviewed by Anne
141 ebook pages

Overall this was a great anthology!  The standout stories for me were those by Talya Andor and Megan Derr.  Andor’s The Christmas Spirit is set in Japan and makes the most of the setting in a way that is fascinating to read about without begin overwhelming.  The romance between Ash and Yuki was sweet, too!  Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr also had a great world with potions and and generic old-fashioned setting.  It was interesting to read a story set in a world where a m/m relationship is a normal thing.  The chemistry (ha!) between the main characters was great, too.

Also very good were the stories by Pendragon and Ottoman.  Pendragon’s was the only contemporary and I thought Warren’s blindness was well handled.  Ottoman’s sex scene was super-hot and it dealt with some things I hadn’t read before.  One of the characters, M.C. is transgender and in the process of adjusting her social identity to match her internal identity.  I thought it was well done and had good world building, too.

Here for You by J.K Pendragon(m/m, contemporary)
Warren is blind and recovering from his wife’s death.  At a holiday party he finds himself under the mistletoe with a mutual and male friend.  He’s always considered himself heterosexual, but now his new friend has him wondering.

The relationship between Warren and Kyung moved pretty quickly, I thought.  They each have their own issues to deal with besides, Warren’s surprise bisexuality, which turns out not to be a big deal.  It was just the right amount to put in a short story, though.  Once in a while I felt like the story was a bit jumpy, but overall it worked well.
Grade: B

The Christmas Spirit by Talya Andor (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Ash is a black Southern American man living and working in Japan.  He specializes in paranormal investigations.  When he’s asked to look into a disturbance involving a figure skating star he’s immediately attracted, but thinks it could never work out.

There was so much I enjoyed about this story!  I wasn’t very familiar with Japanese culture, but I felt like I learned some by reading this story, and I never felt like I was wading through a travel guide to get that understanding.  The world building was good, too.  The reality of what it was like to be a friend of a psychic was interesting!  One of those “I’ve never thought about this before, but I bet that’s exactly what it’s like” moments.  I also appreciated how their relationship progressed slowly.  I’ll definitely be looking for more by Talya Andor!
Grade: A

A Beautiful Thing by A.F. Henley (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
This one had a promising start, but then a little fairy guy showed up and I was just done.  I have a thing again romance where there’s a guardian angel type character.  I know better than to read them.  I may have missed out on something good, but the odds of it working for me are very low, so I moved on to the next story.
Grade: DNF

Ad Meliora by E.E. Ottoman (f/trans, sci-fi/fantasy)
An-An and M.C. are out on a job Christmas eve.  M.C. needs to investigate and possibly exorcize something that’s murdered multiple people.  At they same time they’re dealing with some relationship issues, including how M.C. is transitioning away from a female identity.

The storyline about a transitioning person was about as foreign to me as the fantasy world building in this story.  It was very well done, but very new to me.  M.C. wants to be referred to as “they and their” instead of “she and hers” or “he and his.”  This was so new for me to read, and it really kept pulling me out of the story.  I think that’s just because I wasn’t used to it.  It was an interesting story, though, both for the paranormal side of things and the sexual side of things.
Grade: B+

Two Parts Mistletoe by Megan Derr (m/m, sci-fi/fantasy)
Kingston is a potionmaker.  He’s surprised to see Hux, his routine and anonymous hookup come into his shop.  The timing is right – he’d been working up the nerve to ask Hux if he wanted a relationship, but first they need to deal with the problem that brought Hux to his shop.

I enjoyed this story from start to finish.  It had a historical London feel to it, if historical London had men looking for husbands and magical potions.  It was probably a bit simplistic when it came to handling the crime that was committed, but I was excited enough about Kingston and Hux that it didn’t bother me.  I’ll definitely be looking for more from Megan Derr, too!
Grade: A