Camp by L.C. Rosen

I want to begin this review by saying that I have been looking forward to this book since it was announced because I’ve spent seven summers at camp as a camper/counselor and now my oldest goes away to camp too. With summer camp being cancelled for the year, I was looking forward to a camp story even more.

Randy has been going to Camp Outland for queer teens for years, but he wants things to be different: Randy wants to catch the attention of Hudson, a fellow camper, but Hudson only likes straight-acting guys, and that’s not Randy. But it could be, right? Randy spent the entire school year formulating a plan, and he shows up at camp as “Del”, who is totally not into nail polish and musicals and all the things that Randy likes.

And the plan works! Hudson notices Del right away and he doesn’t even realize that Del is the same kid he’s been going to camp with for four years, but as the summer progresses, Randy is spending all his time playing sports and doing ropes course challenges instead of being in the musical with his friends, and he begins to wonder if all the sacrifices he’s making are worth it.

As a veteran camper, I remember the intensity of summer romances, so I can empathize with Randy’s pining for Hudson, but he’s changing his entire personality for another boy and missing out on all the things that he loves—and more importantly, by doing this, he’s not being true to himself. That said, I truly understand why he would want to do something that drastic.

Camp provides an interesting retrospective on masc4masc culture, and how the attitude is already evident among 16-year-old kids. The campers might all have a place on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but there’s already a division among the returning campers; they choose to live in separate bunks, they sit at different dining tables, and they don’t even interact at group activities. However, Randy chooses to live in the “drama cabin” with this theatre friends, so some of the sporty kids end up sitting with the drama kids, and this leads to new friendships.

In Rosen’s book Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), he used the advice column medium to impart a lot of useful sex-ed information to the readers. In Camp, he uses a weekly camp program to share queer history with the readers. I love the way that both of these devices were blended seamlessly into the narrative.

I would absolutely recommend Camp. It captures the magic of camp perfectly. Randy is such a sweetheart, and he certainly learns a lot over the course of the book. I am already looking forward to Rosen’s next book.

Finding Joy by Adriana Herrera

Dominican-American Desta Walker has finally returned to Ethiopia, where his family lived for a few years when he was a small boy, and later, where his father died.

He meets Elias through his job, and the two hit it off right away. But being gay is still criminalized, so any sort of relationship has to be clandestine.

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Axel’s Pup by Kim Dare

I first heard about Axel’s Pup when my Twitter friend Holly mentioned it, rather fittingly, in a tweet about Best Books No One Knows About. I looked it up, saw that it was available via Audible Escape, and downloaded it immediately.

Almost as soon as I finished listening to all 20 hours and 40 minutes, I went back and purchased the Kindle edition of Axel’s Pup and my own copy of the audiobook.

Axel is the leader of the Black Dragons Motorcycle Club and he also owns the Dragon’s Lair pub where he and his friends spend most of their time. The Dragon’s Lair also serves as a BDSM for the queer community.

Needless to say, Axel is surprised when clean-cut young Bayden shows up on an expensive motorcycle. He dismisses the boy as a rich kid. But of course, appearances are deceiving.

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The Tutor by Bonnie Dee

I’ve had The Tutor on my list for a long time, and I finally listened to the Audible edition a couple of months ago. Once again, I am woefully behind with my non-ARC reviews, so I only now getting around to writing down my thoughts.

Graham has scammed his way into a tutoring job at a manor house, and he can tell that something is “off” from the moment he arrives. His two pupils, twin boys, run wild, and one of them doesn’t speak anymore.

Graham certainly has his work cut out for himself, and then there’s the issue of the enigmatic Sir Richard, the boy’s father, who is haunted by the past and reluctant to let anyone get close to him, especially not another man.

And what would a good gothic romance be without a ghost?

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Seven Summer Nights by Harper Fox

A couple of months ago, I ended doing a joint reading of Seven Summer Nights with my Twitter friend Vicky because the book was on both of our TBR lists.

Rufus was once a promising archaeologist, but he has returned to England in relative disgrace, and is obligated to take a commission examining a church in Droyton Parva, a small village in Sussex.

Archie is the local vicar, and he’s surprised to see such a prominent archaeologist assigned to his little project, but he’s even more surprised by Rufus.

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Her Lady’s Honor by Renée Dahlia

Lady Eleanor “Nell” St. George has returned to England from France after The Great War, but before she returns home, she needs to stop in Wales to return Tommy—her captain’s horse—to his home. She does not receive the warm welcome she expected; the competent captain she worked alongside in her veterinary duties has become callous and bitter. Nell intended to drop Tommy off and return to her own home, but she feels compelled to stay.

Beatrice Hughes is the captain’s oldest daughter, and her family has experienced unspeakable tragedy—their three oldest sons died during the war, and while the family patriarch has always been harsh, he is even worse now that he has come home. Bea is drawn to the elegant Nell, and doesn’t understand why she insists on staying at the farm now that Tommy has been returned.

The romance, however, is shadowed by another tragedy: the disappearance of Bea’s mother. I thought this mystery part was very well done, and while the resolution was not unexpected, it still came as a shock when the details finally fell into place.  

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If We Were Us by K.L. Walther

Sage Morgan is starting her senior year at the The Bexley School, along with her best friends Charlie and Nick Carmichael. Everyone thinks that Sage and Charlie would be perfect together, but Charlie is a serial dater and they’re strictly friends. Besides, Sage secretly kissed Nick at a summer bonfire on Martha’s Vineyard.

There’s also a new student at Bexley: Luke Morrison, a PG (post-graduate). He and Charlie form a connection almost immediately, but Charlie has always dated girls and he’s worried about what people will think if he starts dating Luke.

This book takes place over the course of the school year and unfolds from Sage and Charlie’s dual perspectives. The pace is a little slow at times, but this is exactly what boarding school is like in real life. There’s a whole lot of status quo, punctuated by moments of high drama. Needless to say, friendships are tested and the characters have to figure out who they are and what they want out of life.  

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The Hideaway Inn by Philip William Stover: Review and Excerpt

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Book Info:

3-Cover_TheHideawayInn_StoverTitle: The Hideaway Inn

Author: Philip William Stover

Series: Seasons of New Hope, #1

Length: approx. 64,000 words / 288 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Imprint: Carina Press (Carina Adores)

On-Sale: May 26, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Price: $14.99 U.S. 

ISBN: 9781335146939

Book Description: High school wasn’t the right time or place for their relationship to grow, but now, fifteen years later, a chance encounter changes both of their lives forever. No one in the charming river town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, needs to know that Vince Amato plans on flipping The Hideaway Inn to the highest bidder and returning to his luxury lifestyle in New York City. He needs to make his last remaining investment turn a profit…even if that means temporarily relocating to the quirky small town where he endured growing up. He’s spent years reinventing himself and won’t let his past dictate his future.

But on his way to New Hope, Vince gets stuck in the middle of nowhere and his past might be the only thing that can get him to his future. Specifically Tack O’Leary, the gorgeous, easygoing farm boy who broke his heart and who picks Vince up in his dilapidated truck.

Tack comes to the rescue not only with a ride but also by signing on to be the chef at The Hideaway for the summer. As Vince and Tack open their hearts to each other again, Vince learns that being true to himself doesn’t mean shutting down a second chance with Tack—it means starting over and letting love in.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! Read more

The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron: Review and Excerpt

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Book Info:

3-Cover_TheGirlNextDoor_CameronTitle: The Girl Next Door

Author: Chelsea M. Cameron

Length: approx. 60,000 words / 272 pages

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Imprint: Carina Press (Carina Adores)

On-Sale: May 26, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Price: $14.99 U.S. 

ISBN: 9781335146946 

Book Description: New York Times bestselling author Chelsea M. Cameron is back with the opposites-attract, sweet-and-sexy small-town romance you’ve been waiting for.

Iris Turner hightailed it out of Salty Cove, Maine, without so much as a backward glance. Which is why finding herself back in her hometown—in her childhood bedroom, no less—has the normally upbeat Iris feeling a bit down and out. Her spirits get a much-needed lift, though, at the sight of the sexy girl next door.

No one knows why Jude Wicks is back in Salty Cove, and that’s just how she likes it. Jude never imagined she’d be once again living in her parents’ house, never mind hauling lobster like a local. But the solitude is just what she needs—until Iris tempts her to open up.

A no-strings summer fling seems like the perfect distraction for both women. Jude rides a motorcycle, kisses hard and gives Iris the perfect distraction from her tangled mess of a life. But come September, Iris is still determined to get out of this zero-stoplight town.

That is, unless Jude can give her a reason to stay…

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! Read more

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

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Life is pretty good for Brooklyn teen Cal; he has an impressive follower count on the FlashFame app and he’s about to start an internship at BuzzFeed. But then Cal’s father announces that he has been selected for NASA’s upcoming mission to Mars, and the whole family is moving to Houston.

Cal thinks this is terrible: not only is his NY-based internship delayed indefinitely, but then he learns that he can’t even parlay his streaming journalism into providing content for his father’s new opportunity because StarWatch, a reality television production company has exclusive rights and they’re filming everything for their Shooting Stars show. Read more