In the Raw by Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin
Thanks to NetGalley and Carina press for the review copy.
Fellow culinary students James Lassiter and Ethan Martin lust after each other in secret, but each man assumes it’s a one-sided thing. Lassiter, the pretty-boy rich kid feels the pressure from his soul-less conservative parents to go into the family business: corporate chain restaurants with cheap ingredients, uninspired menu items, and down-trodden employees. On the other side of the spectrum, white-trash Martin and his sister are orphans who look out for each other, and work hard to make it in the big bad world of professional chef-ery.
When a class competition throws them together, sparks fly and tempers flair. The initial action is all ego grinding, which is what I’m calling it when the massively over-inflated balloon of their delicate male opinions of themselves just fruitlessly squish against each other to no particular end. But what starts out as anger turns quickly to passion when the two figure out how to “work out” their differences.
In the Raw does end up being quite an adorable little love story, although I personally think it’s pretty schmaltzy, and totally unhealthy. Martin is a fucking headcase. What the author may have intended to be sexy bad-boy attitude came of as emotionally abusive nutcase to me. Any one of the terrible things he says to Lassiter both before and after they consummate their relationship are grounds for a break-up, number deletion, and the end of all contact. And his sad sack excuse that he’s poor, works too hard, and therefore has no manners is totally shit.
For the extremely affordable price of $3.99, its a good get for anybody who’s into cooking, and doesn’t mind one character hitting several red flags in the emotional abuse warning list.
4 stars out of 5
Starstruck by L.A. Witt
Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy.
I’ve reviewed several other L.A. Witt titles, and you guys know I love her. While I wasn’t as enamored of the recent Noble Metals as I have been of her other work, Starstruck brings her back up to level. L.A. is definitely one of the top performers in the gay romance genre, and I really appreciate the diversity of her work.
In Starstruck, retired actor Levi is offered the part of a lifetime on the hit supernatural drama Wolf’s Landing, if only he’ll stay in the closet. This seems like business as usual until he meets his smart, attractive, interesting, and very out co-star Carter. Then things go downhill fast.
Their friendship quickly has both men questioning their principals and their priorities. Carter refuses to hide, but could he make an exception for Levi? Levi can’t throw away his last chance at a meaningful career for a love affair, but he knows Carter isn’t just an affair.
The tension is at eleven. Each man has valid reasons to stay away, but the heart wants what it wants. In well-turned phrase and practiced drama, Witt makes what very well could have come across as schmaltzy Teen Wolf fan fiction into a beautiful story of attraction, personal growth, and honesty. I mean, Levi plays a werewolf named Max Furman, for Christ’s sake. FURman.
The Bluewater Bay series itself is also an interesting experiment. Riptide plans on publishing at least ten Bluewater Bay titles, each one a standalone novel, each one written by a different popular Riptide author. I’m really looking forward to everyone’s interpretation of the small coastal logging town in Washington, and how the natives interact with the cast and crew of the show that’s both reviving and over-running their tiny, isolated town. I look forward to reviewing them all.
4.5 out of 5
Black Dog by Cat Grant
Thanks to Netgalley and Samhain Publishing for the review copy.
This book is totally sweet. Homeless runaway Tom stumbles in the path of serial mentor and lost-boy collector Eddie, who introduces him to local gym owner and boxing trainer Danny. Old friends Eddie and Danny work together to help Tom overcome the damage his abusive dad did, but can they overcome their own mutual trauma?
Tom wants to be a boxer, but first he needs to get over his range in order to develop the emotional discipline necessary to be a good fighter. Danny wants Eddie, and visa versa, but first they have to get out of their own way.
Black Dog moves fast, and the drama comes from the plot, not the characters or their inter-personal angst. Well, mostly. Danny and Eddie’s issues with each other are a little hysterical, but you can chalk that up to the fact that they were young men when things first went south between them.
There were some moments when I hated Tom, but I tend to dislike young people on principal. I wouldn’t give it much consideration. This being the first in a series, I look forward to seeing the characters develop in the next books. I especially look forward to more of Eddie and Danny’s story, and to Tom growing up and not being so whiney and entitled.
3.5 stars out of 5