Anya is married to Zac, a rock star, and while marriage and a baby have led them to a more sedate lifestyle than what once knew, they have brought a third person into their relationship many times. These have always been one-time encounters, and that’s fine with Anya and Zac. After all, they weren’t looking for anything deeper than that.
But then Anya realizes that she’s attracted to Cal, Zac’s best friend and bandmate, and neither Anya nor Zac knows how to process these feelings. Cal doesn’t know about the open relationship, and furthermore, if the feelings aren’t reciprocated—or even if they are and things take a bad turn—the aftermath could do permanent damage to Zac and Cal’s two decades of friendship.
While I don’t want to take too much time talking about myself in a book review, I do want to explain my sporadic review writing over the last few months. In short, 2020 was a year to be remembered, and it was often difficult to find the motivation to read and write. Fortunately, thanks to many—to borrow a word from this very book—charming things to read, I am hopefully back on the road to productivity.
But on to the book!
Jane Kent is a penniless waif who shows up on the doorstep of the esteemed Penhallow manse. She claims to have a connection to the family, and the letter she produces, as well as the strong family resemblance, is all the Penhallows need to take her in as one of their own.
Although Jane is twenty years old, she has never received a formal education, and arrangements are made for her receive tutelage from the local vicar, whose only other pupil is eight-year-old Wakefield Farr, the only son of the Duke of Radcliffe, the titular worst duke in the world.
Book Description: Some people search their whole lives to find love. He just wants to avoid it.
Teddy Spenser spends his days selling design ideas to higher-ups, living or dying on each new pitch. Stodgy engineer types like Romeo Blue, his nemesis—if you can call someone who barely talks to you a nemesis—are a necessary evil. A cute necessary evil.
Working together is bad enough, but when their boss puts them both on a new high-stakes project, “working together” suddenly means:
sitting uncomfortably close on the same plane,
staying in the same hotel room—with only one bed—and
spending every waking minute together.
Turns out Mr. Starched Shirt has some hidden depths, and it’s getting harder to ignore the spark Teddy feels with every brush of their hands, with every knowing look. He might not have been looking for this connection with Romeo, but will he ever be ready to let him go?
Chloe is a high school senior living in Los Angeles. Her mother starred in two popular television shows as well as Hallmark movies. Her mother also engaged in an elaborate scheme of cheating and bribery in order to help Chloe get into college.
The narrative alternates between Then and Now, exploring the dual perspectives of the events that preceded Chloe’s mother’s arrest as well as what she and her family do after being implicated in the scandal.
Ten Things I Hate About the Duke is the second book in the Dangerous Dukes series, and it begins immediately after the events of A Duke in Shining Armor. The Duke of Ashmont—His Grace with the Angel Face—whom readers last saw [redacted spoiler] has retired to a pub, where he encounters the headstrong Cassandra. Through a series of unfortunate events due entirely to his carelessness, Ashmont puts Cassandra’s already-shaky reputation into even greater peril.
This leads to what is known in modern vernacular to a “come to Jesus” moment for Ashmont, who after being left at the altar in the previous book, has begun to realize that he is a hot mess. He wants to make amends, but Cassandra wants nothing to do with this disastrous duke. Ashmont is persistent—but not in an invasive way—and he’s determined to prove to her that he is more than a party boy scandal-maker.
Rian’s life as the art teacher to a gaggle of displaced boys at Albin Academy should be smooth sailing—until the stubborn, grouchy football coach comes into his world like a lightning strike and ignites a heated conflict that would leave them sworn enemies if not for a common goal.
A student in peril. A troubling secret. And two men who are polar opposites but must work together to protect their charges.
They shouldn’t want each other. They shouldn’t even like each other.
Yet as they fight to save a young man from the edge, they discover more than they thought possible about each other—and about themselves.
In the space between hatred, they find love.
And the lives they have always wanted…
Just like this.
“The romantic longing, themes of bravery and confidence, and moments of cozy domesticity shine.” —Publishers Weekly on Just Like That
Just Like This by Cole McCade
This is a delightful “opposites attract” romance. Damon and Rian haven’t spoken much to each other, because they don’t think they share anything in common. But when a student who plays football and takes art class gets into trouble, they have to work together.
Their mutual frustration with each other turns into mutual attraction, but the more pressing concern is that they’re still trying to figure out what’s going in with their student, whose evasive answers are not yielding very much in the way of clues.
Their personalities are similar, despite their differences in vocation and outward appearance. Damon is buff and Rian is more ethereal, but they both pretend to keep to themselves and aren’t overly sociable, which is probably why neither tried to befriend the other before.
The attraction comes first, but as they get to know each other, both men lean on each other as “found family”, which strengthens their bond and allows them to rely on each other instead of keeping their feelings to themselves.
I would recommend Just Like This. While it’s the second book in the series, it functions well as a standalone. Rian does have a conversation with Summer, one of the protagonists from Just Like That, but readers won’t be lost if they start with this book. This is the fourth book I’ve read from McCade, and I’m looking forward to reading more in the future.
I received an ARC of this book from Carina Press/NetGalley.
Rian Falwell had a problem.
And that problem was currently staring at him through a messy tangle of black hair, from beneath a brow dotted with gleaming beads of sweat that—beneath the glassy afternoon light streaming through the windows—turned to glistening motes of amber against dusky brown skin.
Honestly, if Damon Louis was going to come barging into Rian’s studio like this…
He could at least have the decency to wear a shirt.
The P.E. teacher took up far too much space inside the tiny cubicle of a studio, his shoulders so broad they had almost touched both sides of the door frame as he’d stalked inside. He looked as if he’d just stepped out of the gym, with his wide, sculpted, scar-rippled chest glazed in a sheen of sweat and a pair of loose black track pants hanging off his
hips, the elastic waistband barely clinging to the narrow line cut below his iliac crest. His shoulder-length tumbles of dark hair clumped together, completely drenched, droplets dangling from the tips.
But as overheated as Damon looked?
His dark brown eyes were completely cold—glossed to reflective ice as he folded thick, brawny arms over his chest and took a slow look around the cluttered space of Rian’s studio.
Rian could track the line of his gaze—starting with the gloppy pile of clay on his pottery wheel; a pile that would eventually become a vase, but right now was just misshapen lumps of gray.
Then to the thin sheets of handmade papyrus parchment drying on a clothesline strung across the room, pulped and pressed from the fallen early autumn leaves of the trees around Albin Academy, an experiment Rian had been quite pleased with when it resulted in fine paper with a green-gold translucent fragility, flecked with bits of brown from the leaves’ veins and stems.
Next, the many half-finished canvases propped about on their easels, slashed with angry, bold strokes of paint in abstract designs.
The anatomical diagrams pinned to the walls.
And the extra large sketchbook left open on his worktable, displaying loose, light sketches of male bodies in motion, focused on capturing the flow of sinew in the turn of the waist, the tightening of an arm as it drew back, the extension of the body and curve of the spine during a long, lazy reach.
Damon’s eyes lingered longest on that one, his dark, expressive brows rising fractionally, almost mockingly—and Rian’s face burned.
All of these were his personal projects, all unfinished, but still things he put everything he had into.
So why was this stone-faced, unsmiling jerk standing here looking over them like he was about to assign Rian a failing score?
What was he even doing here at all?
Those dark brown eyes snapped back to him as if Damon had somehow heard the question snarling in the back of Rian’s mind.
“So,” Damon drawled, and Rian realized this was the first time he’d actually heard Damon speak in his three years at Albin Academy, rather than noncommittal affirmative mutters during staff meetings. His voice was deep, raw, gritty, with a subtle pull to it that didn’t quite seem to echo typical New England accents around Massachusetts. “I thought this was some kinda broom closet. Chambers and Walden know you’re using it for…” He tilted his head. A damp ripple of hair fell across the refined sharpness of his cheekbone, the tip practically licking at the corner of his wide, full, stern-set mouth. “…this?”
More at the implied scorn dripping from this than at the fact he’d been…uh…
Caught using school grounds for unauthorized purposes.
He doubted Principal Chambers and Assistant Principal Walden would particularly care. Especially when Rian had been using the storeroom as a studio since he’d been hired, and no one had really noticed—though considering Lachlan Walden had only been hired last semester, the assistant principal had more things to worry about than one rogue art teacher moving a few brooms.
So Rian drew himself up, lifting his chin as he reached for the wet rag hanging from the edge of his wheel and began wiping the thick patina of clay from his hands, peeling off the cold, clinging layer.
“My broom closet,” he said firmly. “Attached to my classroom. I’m allowed to use it as I deem necessary as long as it’s for educational purposes.”
Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in Seattle. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing contemporary romance and erotica that flirts with the edge of taboo—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats.
He also writes genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavored by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background as Xen. He wavers between calling himself bisexual, calling himself queer, and trying to figure out where “demi” fits into the whole mess—but no matter what word he uses he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA and POC representation and visibility in genre fiction. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts:
I want to begin this review by saying that despite the cute cartoony image on the cover, this graphic novel contains explicit sex scenes, and it is not suitable for children of any age.
Kennedy’s world turns upside down when he walks in on Seth, his boyfriend of six years, having sex with another man on their kitchen counter. Despite this monumental betrayal of trust, Kennedy is willing to work on their relationship, but Seth tells him the relationship has been over for a long time and he’s done forever.
A dejected Kennedy retreats into his beloved video games, and then the combination of a power surge and um—bodily fluids—zaps Kennedy into the world of video games.
As a young widow in Victorian England, Lady Katherine’s social station provides her with more opportunities than a less-connected widow in the same position, but nevertheless, there are some things that are frowned upon, such as using her journalistic skills to uncover a serial killer
NB: The text doesn’t refer to the perpetrator as a serial killer, but there’s a clear pattern between a series of killings around London.
When Kate runs afoul of Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham, she retires to the countryside and runs right into (quite literally) another victim.
And guess who shows up to investigate? Yes, that’s right—none other than infuriating…handsome Detective Eversham. At first, this development annoys Kate, but perhaps Andrew is not so bad after all.
When Jaq and Matt meet at work, it’s not very cute, but there’s no time for drama because if they don’t collaborate, they aren’t going to get everything together before the big product launch—with only three months away, the deadline is looming. But even though they don’t seem to have anything in common, there’s an ever-present undercurrent of desire.
Jaq was a single teenage father, who raised his daughter with the help of his mother. At the beginning of the book, he drops her off at Howard University, a huge accomplishment considering that he never had the opportunity to go to college himself. Now that his baby girl is settled, he plans to finally focus on his own career, as well as relax for the first time in 18 years—Jaq hasn’t had time for relationships because he always prioritized his daughter.
Matt, on the other hand, was married for 20+ years until his wife cheated on him with a much-younger man. He’s devoted himself to his career as a consultant and hasn’t prioritized relationships either.