Review: “Raise the Red Flag” by Eric Del Carlo

TITLE: Raise the Red Flag
AUTHOR: Eric Del Carlo
SERIES: –
PUBLISHER: DSP Publications
COVER ARTIST: Tiferet Design
GENRE: Science Fiction
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 200 pages
RELEASE DATE: January 23, 2018
PRICE: $6.99 – e-book/ $14.99 – paperback

BLURB:


In an 1867 that never was, the American colonies are finally gearing up to revolt against oppressive British rule enforced by advanced technology. British airship captain Hamilton Arkwright is captured by the rebels when his vessel is commandeered. The insurgents are also aided—reluctantly—by young Jonny Callahan, a thief and ne’er-do-well who would rather carouse on the streets of New Orleans than fight for independence. When the two seemingly opposite men are thrown together on a harrowing journey across the war-torn colonies, they must grudgingly rely on each other for survival. Despite their efforts to resist, the attraction between them threatens to throw a wrench in their plans to remain enemies.
They battle their way through American guerrillas and a demolition-derby-type highway to reach the decimated streets of Chicago, where British forces are preparing to commit a war crime of enormous magnitude. Though affection has grown between them during their mission, they are still on conflicting sides, and they may have to choose between loyalty to their causes and their love.


Raise the Red Flag is an alternative history fiction story mixed with a little bit of steampunk. From reading the blurb, this book seemed to cover a few of the sub-genres that I love, so I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, for me, this book just didn’t quite live up to the expectation.

Hamilton Arkwright is the twenty-eight-year-old captain of an airship in the British Navy’s Royal Airborne Fleet. Hamilton was born to a British military family in America, but due to him being “American” he will never progress far up the ranks. Even though he knows that people look at him like he’s an outsider, he’s fiercely loyal to his position and the Crown. Hamilton has known for years that he was attracted to men, but he’s only ever had the occasional hook-up as it’s too dangerous to pursue/risk anything else. When Hamilton arrives in New Orleans, he hears the other men talking of bars that should be avoided, but these are exactly the bars Hamilton is interested in going to. At the bar, he meets Jonny or J.C. as he’s calling himself, and the two men decide to take their night further and head to Jonny’s room. As they head out, Hamilton and Jonny are met with a group of three men who attack Hamilton and bundle him into their vehicle. Too late, Hamilton realises that Jonny isn’t the man he thought he was, and that he was part of the attack plan the whole time.

Jonny Callahan is a twenty-one-year-old petty criminal and member of a street gang in New Orleans. Jonny was born in New York, but due to his criminal activity, he never sticks around in one place for any amount of time. Since arriving in New Orleans, Jonny has been with a few men, most importantly, Kane, the boss of the street gang he’s part of, but Kane discovered that Jonny was also seeing other men too, so now he’s keeping his head down and trying to stay away from all of the places that he knows Kane may go. When one of the members of the gang talk Jonny into helping lure a British airborne captain away so as they can capture him and his ship, Jonny doesn’t realise what he’s got himself involved in until the act has been carried out and there’s no going back.

While on the ship together, Hamilton and Jonny find that they are very attracted to each other, even after everything that’s happened. They agree to work together to get out of the situation that they’ve found themselves in, but will go their separate ways afterwards without taking things further between them. That plan seems like a good idea until their situation takes another unexpected turn, and the two men are forced to stick together for safety’s sake. Along the journey, they grow closer and feelings develop that neither man expected. But when Hamilton finds out about a plan that the British are going to implement, for the first time in his life, he’s conflicted about where his loyalty stands. Is it with his job and the British, or with the man he’s come to care about and the Americans they’ve met along their way?

I have to admit, I did really struggle with this story/book. I found it very hard to get into when I started reading, and the main reason was due to the vocabulary that was used. Now, I’m far from being a literary genius, but I’m not brainless, and I found it difficult to put some of the words into context to understand the meaning. I’m British, English is my first language, yet I had to really concentrate on what I was reading a lot of the time, which took away from me being able to enjoy the storyline. I think someone who doesn’t have English as their first language will have issues with this book and the writing. I also didn’t really feel like the relationship between Hamilton and Jonny came across as realistic. I mean they had only known each other a couple of days, and part of that was under false pretences, and Hamilton was thinking that he had fallen in love with Jonny. There’s insta-love, and then there’s forcing something to make a plot work, on this occasion it felt forced and insincere. Don’t get me wrong, the longer the book went on, the better it got. And from around seventy-odd percent, I started to really like what was happening plot-wise, and found myself liking the characters too. It’s just a shame that it took so long to get to that point.

For me, this book was more of a miss than a hit, but maybe that was due to not being able to enjoy it right from the start. There’s nothing to say that you won’t love it from the very first paragraph. As they say, each to their own.

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

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Review: “The Hockey Player’s Heart” by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss

TITLE: The Hockey Player’s Heart
AUTHOR: Jeff Adams and Will Knauss
SERIES: Hockey Hearts
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Bree Archer
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 226 pages
RELEASE DATE: January 16, 2018
PRICE: $4.99 – e-book/ $9.99 – paperback

BLURB:

Hometown hero. Hockey superstar. Perfect boyfriend?
When hockey star Caleb Carter returns to his hometown to recover from an injury, the only thing he’s interested in is a little R & R. He never expects to run into his onetime crush at a grade school fund-raiser. Seeing Aaron Price hits him hard, like being checked into the boards. The attraction is still there, even after all these years, and Caleb decides to make a play for the schoolteacher. You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take, right?
Aaron has been burned by love before and can’t imagine what a celebrity like Caleb could possibly see in a guy like him. Their differences are just too great. But as Aaron spends more time with Caleb, he begins to wonder if he might have what it takes to win the hockey player’s heart.


Caleb Carter and Aaron Price have known each other since they were kids. Growing up in Forest Grove, New York, Aaron was best friends with Caleb’s older sister, Pam, but also tutored Caleb in Geometry to help him stay on the hockey team. These tutoring sessions are where Caleb developed his crush on Aaron. Aaron now works as a teacher in the elementary school in their home-town where Pam is the principal, but Caleb is a star pro hockey player living in New York City and playing for the New York Rangers. Their lives can’t be any more different.

When Caleb is injured, he decides to return home to visit his family and stay out of the spotlight while he’s recovering. Pam asks if Caleb would be willing to take part in the school fundraising carnival by signing some autographs and pictures to help raise money, and he’s more than happy to get involved. But what he didn’t expect, was to see an older, and even more attractive Aaron there too. All of the feelings and nerves he had when he was around Aaron when he was younger suddenly came rushing back. Caleb decides at that moment that he needs to do whatever it takes to spend time with Aaron and to see if the friendship they once shared can become something more. Now that they are both out, proud, and single, Caleb is going to show Aaron exactly how he feels, and he won’t give up on his man without a fight.

Aaron is stunned by how good Caleb looks when he sees him in the school. But a bad experience and relationship when he lived in California has made it hard for Aaron to get close to anyone and trust them with his heart. And although there is an attraction between them, and he can see Caleb is interested in being more than friends, Aaron doesn’t think that a hot, rich and famous guy like Caleb would want someone like him when he could have his pick of men.

Long-brewing lust and passion eventually take over, and Caleb and Aaron discover what they’ve been missing out on for years. But Caleb’s life and Aaron’s past threaten to destroy the new-found romance before it’s hardly had a chance to begin.

The book was an enjoyable and easy read. I really liked the characters and the storyline. It was cute without being overly sweet. But I do have one criticism, and that is the pace of the story. It was a slow-burn romance which is fine, but personally for me, it was just too slow. I felt like I was just constantly waiting for something to happen, then when I thought it would be the moment, I’d find that I was still left waiting. Apart from that one thing, everything else was good. The ending was incredibly heartwarming and left me with a big cheesy smile. I really hope Dimitri gets a book of his own because he was a character I was really fond of and would love to get to know him more.

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

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Review: “Someone to Kiss” by Scotty Cade

TITLE: Someone to Kiss
AUTHOR: Scotty Cade
SERIES: –
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Reese Dante
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: No
LENGTH: 69 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 27, 2017
PRICE: $3.99 – e-book

BLURB:

Dane McCormick’s job negotiating leases and building out furnished office suites takes him all over the country. He stays until the job is done—and then he moves on. As satisfying as the job is, it leaves him no place to call home and no chance to build a personal life. After arriving in Greenville, South Carolina, for a job, a severe stomach virus knocks Dane for a loop. He finds a local urgent care clinic… and a tall, dark, and handsome doctor who goes well above and beyond his duties to treat Dane. The doctor’s bedside manner makes Dane forget all about his stomach flu.
Carter Baldridge has dedicated his life to caring for others. Since graduating from medical school, he has spent all his time and energy building his urgent care business. But the morning he steps into his examining room and sees Dane McCormick on the table, he realizes it might be time to devote some attention to a part of life he has neglected. The spark is there, but so is a major obstacle in the form of Dane’s peripatetic lifestyle and a bad experience in Carter’s past. Both have to decide if the risk is worth the reward.


When I started reading this book, I thought there had been a mix-up, because what I was reading didn’t match what I had read in the blurb. But as the story went on it all became a little clearer and made a lot more sense. *silly me*. When the story got going, I found it to be really quite cute and heart-warming, and at times a little emotional. For a short story, it was a really satisfying little read.

Dane and Carter met at Carter’s urgent care clinic when Dane had become unwell. The two men hit it off straight away and found that they wanted to spend more time together. As the relationship progresses and things start to get more serious between them, Dane’s best friend and boss, Bill, drops the bombshell that Dane is being re-assigned to another job in Virginia and then Seattle, which will last for about 18 months. Carter and Dane are both devastated by this news and know that it means the end of their relationship. Dane can’t stay where he is because it would mean letting Bill down and giving up a job that he enjoys, and Carter can’t give up his clinic that he’s built up to move with Dane either.

The story is mostly about the two men reminiscing about the four months since they met. Their first date, their first kiss, and their first holiday season. But it’s also about the pain and hurt of giving up on someone and something that you really don’t want to because in your heart you know that what you feel is real, and what’s happening isn’t how you planned on it going.

I liked this book a lot. The story was a great concept and a little different from the usual super-sweet Christmas/holiday stories that I’ve read. The author really brought the characters to life with all of the different emotions that they went through. It was very sincere. The ending was what really clinched it for me though, it was just adorable and perfect, and I didn’t know whether to smile or cry.

So yeah, this is a book I’d definitely recommend, it’ll put your heart through the wringer, but in the end, you’ll be left feeling all warm and fuzzy.

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

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Review: “Getting His Man” by B.G. Thomas

TITLE: Getting His Man
AUTHOR: B.G. Thomas
SERIES: Dreamspun Desires
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Bree Archer
GENRE: Mystery/Suspense; Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: Yes
LENGTH: 238 pages
RELEASE DATE: December 15, 2017
PRICE: $4.99 – e-book/ $9.99 – paperback

BLURB:

A love story worthy of an old movie… with a new twist.
Artie needs a hero, a man like those he’s always revered in Golden Age films. His drug-dealing jerk of a roommate got him arrested, and since his savior isn’t likely to sweep in and save the day, Artie calls a bail bondsman.
August has always imagined himself a hero from a black-and-white movie, but he’s never found a man willing to let him play that role—at least not until he gets the call from Artie.
Both of their dreams might come true, but not before August must use his skills as a bounty hunter as well as a bondsman. Artie is on the run for his life, and August must protect him and help him clear his name. Only then can they both finally get their man.


When I saw this book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although I love a good crime story with a bit of romance included, I’d never read anything about a bail bondsman/bounty hunter. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, because this book was a really sweet and enjoyable story, and I couldn’t help the smile I found myself with when I finished.

Artie Bailey is twenty-four years old but looks a lot younger. He’s always been attracted to men who are a few years older than him, especially when they’re tall, masculine and sophisticated. But Artie can’t seem to find anyone who wants anything more than sex from him. Everyone he meets that he thinks he would like to go further with all tell him the same story, that they want a manlier man as a boyfriend or husband material. Not that Artie looks feminine in any way, he’s just smaller in stature and looks young, so most people don’t really take him seriously. His best friend Ross is exactly what Artie wants in a man, and although Artie has a little bit of a crush on him, he’s happy for things not to go any further, because he’d rather have Ross as a friend than nothing at all. And he knows that he can trust and rely on Ross to be there for him no matter what. Artie shares an apartment with Willie who’s a small-time dealer, and he absolutely hates it because Willie’s always partying and smoking pot with his friends, and has no consideration for Artie at all. When the cops wake Artie up in the middle of the night and arrest him for drug dealing, he has a mini meltdown. Artie is as straight-laced as you can get. He doesn’t swear, he barely drinks alcohol never mind do drugs, but he’s also quite naïve and always wants to see the good in people and situations. So when he’s taken to jail at the police station, he automatically jumps to the worst case scenario and thinks his life is over.

August Sterling may be a bail bondsman and bounty hunter, but he’s not the rough and tough guy people expect him to be. August is a complete gentleman with impeccable manners to match. He loves eating at fancy restaurants, going to the theatre to take in a show, and relaxing at home with a nice glass of wine and some jazz music. He wants a man who he can take care of, but who can also be independent and know his own mind. August doesn’t want someone to control, but someone he can look after and share his interests with. When August’s office gets a call about Artie needing to be bailed out of jail, he goes down there not expecting anything more than another young guy getting caught for committing a crime he’s clearly guilty of. But when August sees Artie, he knows straight away that this is not one of his normal cases. Artie is a nervous, emotional wreck, and seeing him looking like he does, and clearly in need of help, gets August all worked up. Because Artie is exactly the type of guy August would go for in any other situation, and the fact that they’re standing in jail does nothing to stop the lust and attraction August’s feeling.

August can’t help but feel a kind of protectiveness towards Artie when he hears what happened to him, so he promises to try and help Artie clear his name. As the two men spend more time together, they become closer, even though August knows it would be unprofessional to go any further, but there’s something about Artie that makes him want to throw all the caution aside and just go with his heart. August and Artie discover that they have a lot of things in common, except for musical tastes, and the more they learn about each other, the harder it is not to cross the line that’s been set. When Artie’s life is threatened by some gang members, August starts calling in some favours he’s owed, because he’ll never let any harm come to the man he’s started to fall for in a big way.

This book was honestly just a fabulous little read. Yes, it was sometimes sickly-sweet, but I really didn’t mind at all. It was quite a slow-burn romance, but again it worked well for the story. August was a brilliant character, he was the classic dream man, and I seriously had butterflies in my tummy every time he did something nice for Artie. Another thing I liked, was that for once the cover model actually resembled the picture of August I had in my head, so well done to the author and cover designer for getting it right. I think it really does make a difference, especially when its such an important character.

I know not everyone enjoys extra-sweet romance, but for me, this was a winner, and I loved that I got the chance to read it.

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

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Review: “Desperately Seeking Santa” by Eli Easton

TITLE: Desperately Seeking Santa
AUTHOR: Eli Easton
SERIES: –
PUBLISHER: Pinkerton Road
COVER ARTIST: –
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
E-BOOK: Yes
PAPERBACK: No
LENGTH: 225 pages
RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2017
PRICE: $3.98 – e-book

BLURB:

Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.
Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.
As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?
NOTE: This 50,000 word short novel features a new couple but includes Jordan and Owen, from the author’s book “Superhero”. It can be read as a stand-alone.


First of all, I’m just going to say how much I freaking love Christmas and everything about it, stories, movies, songs, bring it on, I can’t get enough. I’m probably worse than a child *giggles*. So as you can imagine, when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. I’ve read a few other Christmas themed stories that this author has released, and I really, really loved them, so I had high hopes for this one, and I wasn’t let down. It was the most perfect, sweet, heart-warming, feel-good Christmassy story I could have asked for, and it had just enough emotional scenes to get me choked-up and teary eyed before leaving me smiling with joy again.

Gabe Martin is a journalism student who’s also working as an intern at the local newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Gabe wants to be an investigative broadcast journalist, getting down in the nitty-gritty of the big stories, but instead, his boss has asked him to cover the piece they do for the charity dinner that benefits the local children’s home. Gabe thinks that it’ll be too boring and no different to every other year that the story has been run, so tries to find a way to make the story more interesting. When he interviews the people who organise the dinner, he discovers that for the last four years, there has been a new Santa coming to give all of the children their gifts, but no one knows who he is. He just comes in, sees the children and then leaves again without sticking around to speak to anyone else. Gabe thinks this is the big story he’s been looking for, so he plans to find Santa and show the town who he is.

When Gabe’s best friend, Jordan, asks him to go along with him to his boyfriend’s wrestling meet, Gabe agrees to go, even though he knows nothing about the sport. But when they take their seats and the college team enter the gym, Gabe is immediately drawn to the biggest member of the team, Mack, who is the only undefeated wrestler in the team’s history.

Mack McDonall is the college team wrestling star. He’s won every match he’s fought in and isn’t intimidated by any of his opponents. Everyone around him has told him he has what it takes to go pro, but Mack isn’t interested. He plans on becoming an engineer and working with coastal cities to help with their defenses to prepare for the effects of climate change. Looking at him, he’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley. His size and reputation as an undefeated wrestler tend to scare most people off, but away from the public and the gym, Mack is the opposite of what everyone thinks. He tends to keep to himself and is gentle and careful with his movements so as not to frighten anyone or cause a scene. Underneath the big burly exterior, is a gentle giant with a huge heart.

Gabe and Mack are definitely interested in each other, but Mack hasn’t had an easy life and finds it hard to open up and trust people, so dropping his guard to let Gabe in, is no easy task. And when Gabe tells Mack of his plan to find the secret Santa, Mack doesn’t know if he can be with someone who could invade someone’s privacy like that and possibly end up hurting the children at the home because if it.

Everything about the story was wonderful. I can’t find a single negative comment to make about it. Mack was just an amazing man, he could thaw the Snow Queen’s heart he’s that special. This is a book I will read again and again. I know Christmas stories aren’t to everyone’s taste, but if you do enjoy them, then this should definitely be high on your TBR list this year, you really won’t be disappointed. But have the tissues ready too.

***I would like to thank the author for the privilege and opportunity of reading this ARC. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

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