Review by DMac: Bubblegum, by Sari Taurez

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Bubblegum, by Sari Taurez
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: October 9, 2017

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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Mixed emotions, betrayal, and lots of snarky banter! — Book Review: “Stranded”, by Helenkay Dimon

dimon-strandedStranded, by HelenKay Dimon
Riptide Publishing (November 23, 2015)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Buy Link: Publisher

* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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There are a few stories that I will buy without hesitation. Assassin boyfriends trying to kill each other over misunderstandings? Totally one of those plots!

Cabe got out of the gun-for-hire business the hard way—by nearly dying. Except then his former boss calls in one last favor for one final job. The mission should be simple: get a message to a retired operative in Alaska. But it puts Cabe face-to-face with the one man he doesn’t want to see and can never forget. Not after all the secrets and lies. Not after Brax almost killed him.

Brax Hughes lived hard and retired young to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Well, that was the plan, but before he can hang up his sniper rifle, he has one last mission: win back Kyle Cabe. Brax wants another chance, wants to come clean, but after months of lying to Cabe, he knows he could face a bullet—or worse—when they meet again. And they will meet. Brax made sure of that.

With a storm moving in and someone lurking outside the cabin, time is running out. Brax needs to talk fast and keep his weapons ready. And his best weapon is the truth.

Brax and Cabe used to work together, and spent their off hours in bed together. For two hardened killers, the idea of having a weakness– someone they love– is terrifying. But Cabe fell in love with Brax, and then had his heart broken when Brax shot him point-blank in the chest.

“You don’t get to decide how I love you.”

I love the mixed emotions that HelenKay wrote with these characters. The betrayal that Cabe feels, and Brax’s desperation to explain… but also the fact that they’re two stubborn, tough men who are totally emotionally constipated! Brax thinks he’s doing the right thing, protecting the man he loves, but Cabe doesn’t want or need protection.

“You almost sound like you care.”

“You know I do.”

The snarky back-and-forth was also very well done. There wasn’t a very strong conflict, though, but I don’t feel like it was that kind of novel. Just two men trying to work through years of training and a series of misunderstandings to come back together.

“You’re telling me I should shoot you.” Cabe looked far too happy to oblige.

“I’d prefer a punch.”

“That’s not near enough.”

This is a short novel, but a fun read. And 20% of proceeds from sales of it are going to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center!

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Blog Tour: “On the Run” by Michael Mandrake (Excerpt, Interview, and Giveaway!)

ontherun_pride_800 On the Run, by Michael Mandrake
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Action/Crime Thriller; Gay (M/M) Romance

Reader Advisory: This book contains the use of racial slurs.

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Welcome to the blog tour for Michael Mandrake’s new release, On the Run! This is the first in the PROTEKT series, which features a top-secret organization that works apart from governments to help those in need. I’m excited to host Michael’s tour here on Just Love today, because On the Run has an action-packed plot and multicultural characters!

Keep reading for an excerpt from the book, Michael’s thoughts on writing gay men of color, and your chance to win a Pride Publishing ebook of your choice!

Summary:

Who would’ve thought that a British hitman would fall in lust at first sight with an American felon? It could become deadly for both.

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

However, when Devlin receives the email, the pictures of the blue-eyed felon catch his eye and he is moved to go in a different direction. Instead of delivering Aiden to the airport, he has thoughts of taking him away and saving him from Ora’s wrath.

This move puts himself and Aiden, as well as his assistant, Miranda Ashley, in huge danger. Will Devlin keep Aiden safe despite the odds, or will he fail, causing Ora and his men to come after him?

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Book Review: On the Run, by Michael Mandrake (Rating: 2.5/5)

mandrake-on-the-runOn the Run, by Michael Mandrake (PROTEKT Series, Book 1)
Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 6, 2015)
Word Count: approx. 50,000 words
Genre: Gay (M/M) Action/Adventure, Romance

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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* I received an advanced copy of this novel from Pride Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

Hit men. Drugs. The Mob. Major League Baseball. It sounds like the plot of a high-budget action movie, and I was incredibly intrigued to read it based on the summary. Throw in two hot men who are instantly attracted to one another, and you definitely have my attention. But I think this novel would have worked out a lot better as just an action novel, leaving the romance behind.

Summary:

Aiden Moriarty is a Florida ‘herbalist’ who works with a performance-enhancing drug used by many athletes. One of them is baseball star Ivan Salerno, who was caught using the drug and is now on the brink of getting suspended. Because of Ivan’s connections with a rogue mob boss, Aiden is taken into a witness-protection program, working along with baseball higher-ups until he testifies.

The mob boss, Augustine Ora, has hired former British military officer and his best hitman Devlin ‘Brit’ Crawford to do the job. Ora has instructed Devlin to go to Miami, kidnap Aiden and take him to the local airport to be transported to Havana, Cuba, to be executed by Ora’s top officers.

The plot of this novel was actually pretty interesting. Aiden initially got into dealing drugs to famous athletes in order to make some good, quick money. The lifestyle of being the personal drug dealer to one of MLB’s biggest stars was enough to keep him from feeling guilty. But when Aiden has a change of heart and agrees to testify, he ends up in deeper trouble than he realized.

On the flip-side is Dev and his best friend Miranda. They’re British assassins-for-hire, and Dev’s next job is to get rid of Aiden before he can testify. But as soon as Dev sees a picture of Aiden, he can’t help but feel lust for the other man, and this kicks off a chain of events that leads to Dev, Miranda, and Aiden fleeing to escape Ora’s wrath.

But there are some serious, serious problems with the actual execution of this super interesting plot. Namely, the characters themselves, and Dev and Aiden’s “relationship”.

Look, lust is find. Instant attraction based on looks? Sure, I’ll buy it. But making a conscious decision to leave your job and risk your life for a man, just because he’s gorgeous? Um….mandrake-elsa-frozen-marry

Mandrake tries hard to make their relationship seem genuine. The issue is Aiden, who is uninteresting and has absolutely no skills. He’s hot. He wants someone rich to take care of him. He’s a sex fiend. That’s really about it for Aiden. Dev, on the other hand, is slightly more complex; he wants out of his job, and he dreams of retiring somewhere quiet to enjoy his life. He’s a big, black man in a world that negatively stereotypes big, black men.

People were always surprised when he said he lived in one of the most affluent spots in London. (ePub, page 11)

I absolutely despised Miranda. DESPISED. I’m sorry, there was literally nothing redeeming about her character. She is, to quote Dev, “crazy like a fox“, but I don’t think that’s a good thing. She constantly endangers their mission, she’s trigger-happy, and she has serious mood swings. This book could have done with 100% less Miranda, and 100% more actual strong, female character.

I give Mandrake credit for writing an interesting plot, and for trying to make sense of Aiden and Dev’s attraction. It almost felt, at times, like the author himself didn’t buy into the relationship, and had to justify it to himself and the reader.

“We haven’t had our first date, our first kiss, and I want this man more than I want to breathe. It’s something sexy about him other than his looks, charm and wit that I can’t quite place. It’s as if all of a sudden Cupid shot me with a bow and arrow. I don’t believe in all that instant love thing, Miranda, but I’m not thinking rationally when it comes to him.” (ePub, page 66)

In the end, this novel just really didn’t do it for me, but I think it made a valiant attempt at it!

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