Review: “The First Noel” by Joe Cosentino

TITLE: The First Noel
AUTHOR: Joe Cosentino
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Adrian Nicholas
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: No
LENGTH: 72 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 7, 2018
PRICE: $3.99 – e-book

BLURB:

Each Christmas has marked a milestone in Bobby and Paolo’s love story. But will this year be their last noel?
It’s no surprise Bobby isn’t feeling much holiday spirit—not when he suspects his husband, Paolo, might be interested in his new business associate, the incredibly handsome Noel. On top of that, Bobby’s father is hanging up his Santa suit at the department store due to health issues; and worst of all, Geoffrey’s birth mother, funded by antigay extremists, is threatening their family. She’s trying to take away Bobby and Paolo’s adopted son, but she’ll have to face their supportive friends, family, and pastor before she can tear Geoffrey from the only real home he’s ever known.
With so many challenges in their path, the December grooms will need an extra helping of holiday magic this year. Rumor has it Santa’s on his way to spread some holiday cheer


The First Noel is the third book in the Bobby and Paolo’s Holiday Stories. I really liked the blurb, and even though I hadn’t read the first two books in the series I figured I would give it a try, and I’m so glad that I did. I loved the story. The writing was wonderful with a great flow to it, and the characters were lovable and relatable and dealt with everyday issues and problems. I can’t wait to read the first two book to see what adventures I missed as their relationship grew. I also loved Noel and David. David is the attorney for the Adam and Eve Forever Organization—antigay extremists. David had been through a conversion camp to cure his gayness, and I loved how every time he had a gay thought he would snap the rubber band on his wrist. He sure did have a dirty mind every time he saw Noel. That rubber band sure did get a workout. I would love for Noel and David to get their own story. I would love to read more about them.

I loved Bobby. He’s feeling down and misses his husband, Paolo, because he is working such long hours and having to take clients to dinner to schmooze them. Because of all of the late nights, Bobby is feeling insecure and thinks that Paolo might be thinking about having an affair. Like I said, real everyday issues and problems and worrying about if your husband is cheating is definitely a real everyday issue between couples. He also has to deal with his father retiring as the department store Santa although I really loved the couple that replaced him as Santa and his elf—naughty Santa and his elf. The department store will never be the same, but everybody at the store just loves them. I loved them too.

I loved Paolo. He’s swamped at work and isn’t getting the credit and recognition that he should be, and so he decides to get his own clothing line with the help of a new celebrity sports client. But it all has to be done in secret since neither his work or his husband know that the work he has been doing isn’t for his job but so that he can go into business with the client he’s stealing away from work.
And if that isn’t enough drama for Bobby and Paolo, a woman shows up that says that she’s Geoffrey’s birth mother and that she wants him back. That she’s gotten her life together with the help of the Adam and Eve Forever Organization and that they’re going to help her get her son back. It sounded like Geoffrey had been through a lot and didn’t want anything to do with his mom. But with the help of some good friends like Noel, who’s supposed to distract the Adam and Eve’s attorney, David, and a little holiday magic their holiday wishes do come true.

This holiday novella is full of twists and turns, and it was a joy to read. I can’t wait to read more book by Joe Cosentino.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Christmas Kitsch” by Amy Lane

TITLE: Christmas Kitsch
AUTHOR: Amy Lane
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Alexandria Corza
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 200 pages
RELEASE DATE: Dec 7, 2018
PRICE: $6.99 e-book / $14.99-paperback

BLURB:

Sometimes the best Christmas gift is knowing what you really want.
Rusty Baker is a rich, entitled, oblivious jock, and he might have stayed that way if he hadn’t become friends with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. When Oliver kisses him goodbye before Rusty leaves for college, Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.
But nothing can help Rusty survive a semester at Stanford, and he returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. But with Oliver’s love and the help of Oliver’s amazing family, Rusty realizes that failing college doesn’t mean he can’t pass real life with flying rainbow colors.
Second Edition — First Edition published by Riptide Publishing, December 2013. (less)


Rusty Baker is 18 years old, a freshman at Stanford and in love with Oliver Campbell. But Rusty hates Stanford, hates to live with his parents’ expectations and dreams, and wanted just to be himself and love Oliver. When he comes back for Thanksgiving, he didn’t expect to end up homeless, jobless and alone, except he wasn’t alone, and Oliver and his family take Rusty in their life and love.

Christmas Kitsch by Amy lane was a sweet Christmas story about love, family and acceptance but something was off while reading it.
Rusty is the archetype of the white, blond, American boy coming from a good family and money. He’s the archetype of the football player not dumb but not smart either who hangs out with a bunch of bullies even if he disapproved but didn’t really act against them. He’s just an average guy who wants to work with his hands rather than his head. He thinks of himself as dumb or slow, and actually, the author made sure that the reader thinks that Rusty is a dumb, white, rich guy who hangs out with racist, homophobic bullies. Rusty changed his view of his friends and family when he meets Oliver.

Oliver is poor (in comparison to Rusty’s family), he’s American-Venezuelan, he has brown skin, with brown eyes, brown hair. He’s brown. Not my word, the author’s word. Actually, the whole “brown person” is a thing in this book. It’s how Rusty presented Oliver and his family to the reader, how Oliver can sometimes talk about himself, how the author made sure that the reader perfectly understood that Oliver is “brown” and despite it, he’s a good person, better than Rusty and his family.

It doesn’t sit well with me. I won’t talk about racism because I don’t want to throw out the accusation in the air. So I will talk about a poor choice of wording and vocabulary. I will talk about the lack of creativity and vocabulary from the author, the writer. I will talk about the inability of the author to write a book about a mixed-race couple and not being able to do it properly. I will talk about maladroitness of an author who tried to give a message of love and acceptance and failed. It’s not my first book about a mixed-race couple. I’m kind of fond of these books actually because the world is full of diversity and I liked to have it in my books. However, it’s the first time I’ve read a book where the skin color of a MC was so often referred to. For example when Rusty thinks about how lonely he would be if Oliver wasn’t in his life … “…. How alone I would be if it wasn’t for the little brown person sitting in my living room….”

It was a weird read for me because I loved those characters, they are adorable, beautiful inside and outside, I read between the lines and could see how beautiful and smart Rusty was. How this lost kid found his path with Oliver’s love. This book could have been wonderful, but all these weird vibes about skin color ruined it for me.

It could have been a 5 stars, but it’s just a 2.5 stars.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Romancing the Undercover Millionaire” by Clare London

TITLE: Romancing the Undercover Millionaire
AUTHOR: Clare London
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Alexandria Corza
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 254 pages
RELEASE DATE: Dec 4, 2018
PRICE: $4.99 e-book / $9.99 paperback

BLURB:

Can poverty and privilege find a loving compromise?
Alexandre Bonfils, a rich and spoiled second son, is tired of being ignored and decides to help when the family’s exclusive wine business is in trouble. Going undercover in the warehouse, he loves the adventure—and the chance to be close to the sassy and sexy manager, Tate Somerton.
Tate is hardworking and financially struggling, bringing up his siblings on his own. A suspected saboteur at work is his latest challenge, but now he also has a clueless, though very attractive, new intern. There’s an immediate spark between the ill-matched couple, until a shocking accident cuts short Alex’s amateur sleuthing.
While recovering in the generous care of Tate and his family, will Alex realize what belonging really means? Passion and pride come together to fight for the company they’re both committed to preserving, but can a personal bond remain when the dust settles?


Alexandre Bonfils is one of the heirs of Bonfils Bibendum, a prestige Wine family business. Alex isn’t as imbedded in the family business as his older brother, Henry, and his father, Charles, and both had decided to fire him (kind of) until Alex finds his own path. When Alex hears there’s some problem in one of the warehouses, he has the crazy idea to go undercover there and investigate the sabotaging.

Tate Somerton is the manager of the warehouse. He struggles between his job and his three little brothers and sisters and his grandma. He doesn’t have time to find love in his crazy life and surely not now with all the problems he has at the warehouse.
Alex expects to come to Bristol to find who is the saboteur and to go back to London like the prodigal son. He doesn’t expect Tate and his family, and he doesn’t expect to completely melt for the sexy manager and his circus family.

Can they have a happy ending despite their differences?
Romancing the Undercover Millionaire by Clare London was a sweet, adorable and fun read.
Alexandre is a diva; he was sheltered all his life. Born in a wealthy family, he never has to think about money or even find a job. He’s an heir of Charles Bonfils after all, but when his father kind of fired him, Alex realized he has to prove himself to his family. That’s why he had the crazy idea to investigate the sabotaging at their warehouse in Bristol and to go there undercover.

Tate Somerton is the manager of Bonfils & Bibendum’s warehouse at Bristol, and he’s the legal guardian of his three brothers and sisters. Even with his Gran and his BFF Louise help, Tate doesn’t have time for himself. Until he meets Alex.

I completely melted for those two guys. Alex is my favorite, a real diva, funny, sassy with a big heart. He’s disconnected from Tate’s reality (some situations are hilarious), but he adapted himself really fast and took the family as his own. Tate is more temperate and quieter, being the parent of 3 kids forced him to grow up and to take on maturity sooner than others. I loved how one is the balance of the other. How together they find the perfect equilibrium in their life and temper, and mostly I loved how, despite the appearances, they are more in tune and similar than what we think at first.

Clare London wrote a sweet and funny love story with a captivating plot. Indeed, between Alex and Tate’s love story, there’s also all the investigation parts about the sabotaging that give a good dynamic to the book.

I gladly recommend this book. It’s a beautiful, sweet and funny read that you can consume near a fire with a hot cocoa.

4 OptimuMM’s for the H’s, Amy and Freddie.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Secretly Dating the Lionman” by Sue Brown

TITLE: Secretly Dating the Lionman
AUTHOR: Sue Brown
SERIES: Cowboys and Angels
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Kanaxa
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 200 pages
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2018
PRICE: $6.99 – e-book/ $14.99 – paperback

BLURB:

Can a man burdened with family drama find his way into the arms of a happy-go-lucky stripper called Lionman?
Cris likes a drink at the Cowboys and Angels bar after his shift at the strip club—until one night when a trashed young guy named Mikey tries to kiss him. He’s not Cris’s type, but Cris is good enough to see the kid home safely. There he meets Mikey’s handsome older brother, Bennett, and there’s an immediate spark between them.
But Bennett might not be in a position to start a relationship, let alone with the carefree Cris. He’s trying desperately to hold his family together, with a younger brother who’s running off the rails and hostile parents who will never accept not just one, but two gay sons.
When Cris is unexpectedly fired and Bennett’s family drama escalates, they turn to each other for support. But can a shoulder to lean on develop into something much closer, something they both deserve?


Secretly Dating the Lionman is the second book in the Cowboys and Angels series by Sue Brown. This is the first book that I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be the last. I wasn’t able to read the first book in the series before reading this book, but I don’t think that I missed anything that would have affected this book. I think reading the first book would have enhanced my reading experience and I can’t wait to read it to find out more about how Gideon and Dan, who are the owners of Cowboys and Angels bar, met and became a couple.

I really enjoyed Cris. He works as a stripper at a straight strip club called Forbidden Nightz because it pays more than stripping at a gay club. His stage name is Lionman, and he dances to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” He enjoys his job but can’t stand the new club manager who keeps changing his shifts without notifying him which is screwing up his dating life. After work, he likes to get a drink at Cowboys and Angels where he runs into Mikey who he met at a gay speed dating event held at Cowboys and Angels. The attraction isn’t mutual because Mikey is so far in the closet he just might be in Narnia. But that doesn’t stop him from hitting on Cris when he gets drunk. When Cris does a good deed after taking home a very drunk Mikey, he meets his older brother Bennett. Bennett is everything that Cris is looking for in a guy. He’s older and has some mileage on him just the way that Cris likes them.

I liked Bennett. What makes him happy is making sure that the people that he cares about are happy. And so his big focus is making sure that his younger brother Mikey is happy. And if it makes his brother happy to continue to pretend to be straight and have a fiancé, then that is what Bennett is going to help him do, and if that means that he needs to make sure that Cris isn’t interested in his brother than that is what he will do. But Bennett didn’t expect to fall for Cris himself. Now not only does he have to worry about his brother coming out of the closet to his strictly religious parents but he will have to fight his own feelings to come out also in order to keep the man that he wants.

When Cris ends up getting fired, he will end up bartending at Cowboys and Angels until he can find another job that pays as well as stripping so that he can continue to pursue his first love, painting.

To enjoy this book, you don’t have to have read the first book, but I would recommend that you do so that you can enjoy all of the cameos from the other characters in the first book that are in the second book.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Hawaii Five Uh-Oh” by Z.A. Maxfield

TITLE: Hawaii Five Uh-Oh
AUTHOR: Z.A Maxfield
SERIES: Plummet to Soar
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: L.C. Chase
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 200 pages
RELEASE DATE: Nov 13, 2018
PRICE: $6.99 e-book / $14.99 paperback

BLURB:

Sarcastic cop Theo Hsu returns home to Hawai’i after realizing he wants more from his life… and also less. He hopes to reconnect with his past and make amends with his mother, who’s remarried to a cool, distant man, leaving Theo unsure where he stands.
It doesn’t take him long to figure out where he wants to stand, though: right next to his childhood best friend, tattooed detective Koa Palapiti. Theo would like to upgrade their relationship, but Koa is putting out some seriously mixed signals. It’s a mystery Theo can’t let go, but just as they start to connect, kidnapping, murder, and a deadly game with international stakes get in the way. Koa wants to keep Theo out of it, and if it comes to a choice between him and Koa’s partner, Freddie Ortiz, Theo doesn’t like his chances.
But even if Koa wants to push him out of the investigation, and his life, Theo still has a few tricks up his sleeve. It’ll take all his special gifts, ingenuity, risk-taking, family ties—and even some kinky undercover work—to save the day… and the man he never should’ve let get away.


Theo Hsu comes back to Hawaii, his home, after twenty years on the mainland. He doesn’t know where he stands with his mother and her new husband. He doesn’t know where to stands with his job, his life. But he knows one thing: he wants Koa Palapiti, his childhood best friend, his first (if not only) love.

Koa Palapiti is a dark, tattooed intense detective. With his best friend and partner Freddie Ortiz, they are the hot bad boys of the precinct. But Koa seems to have a lot of secrets and sends a lot of mixed signals to Theo.
Theo doesn’t know what to do? Can he pursue his dream to be with the man he loves? Does he have to move the past behind him and go on with his present? That’s what he’ll have to find out.

Hawaii Five Uh-Oh by Z.A Maxfield is book two in the Plummet to Soar series, but it can be read as a standalone.
I was happy to read this book, and I enjoyed a lot Plummet to Soar (https://optimumm.blog/2018/05/08/review-plummet-to-soar-by-z-a-maxfield/) where I met Theo the first time.

Theo Hsu is a cop, and after twenty years on the mainland, he’s come back to Hawaii. Theo is disconnected from his island, his people, his family. He walks on eggshells around his mother, his step-father, and his new colleagues. He tries to forget his past and move on with his present, like a good plummetee, but it’s easier said than done. Everything gets complicated when he reconnects with Koa, his childhood best friend and first love. Koa is trouble, with a big T. Something is wrong with him, and Theo knows it, but he doesn’t know how to help him, and Koa sends him a lot of mixed signasl, like a looooooooooot.

I adored Theo. I completely melted for him. He’s funny with a little tendency for craziness, but he’s also very smart and kind with a good heart. Even if he has a lot of doubt about Koa, he doesn’t give up on him, and until the last minute, the last moment, Theo tries to save them, to save their relationship and maybe their future. I really adored him, he’s so funny and smoking hot especially with Koa.

The story was told from only Theo point of view. We make this journey with him between his past and present. In my opinion, there were two plots. The first one is about how Theo can reconnect with his past and make up for the lost time. The second one focuses on Theo and Koa’s relationship and Koa’s secrets. The author was brilliant with her writing because through all the books we alternated between plot 1 and plot 2 until she makes them merge. It was very well done.

If you want to read a good contemporary romance, with suspense, mystery cops, some dirty secrets with kinky-crazy situations like only Z.A Maxfield can do, Hawaii Five Uh-Oh is for you.
I gladly recommend this book, it was fun, kinky and fresh.

4 OptimuMM’s for Te and Woody

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis