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REVIEW:  Dirty Trick by Christine Bell

REVIEW: Dirty Trick by Christine Bell

Dear Ms. Bell,

I’ve enjoyed some of your previous books, especially Down For The Count (reviewed here by Jane). I think you can be relied upon to provide an entertaining sexy story with humour and fun. The problem for me with this book was that it was based on the hero deceiving the heroine. It was always going to be a problem and the longer it went on, the more problematic it became.  I suppose how much this kind of deception bothers the individual reader will be an indicator of how well the story works for them.

DirtyTrick
Grace Love, together with her BFF, Serena Elliott, runs Love Will Find a Way, a matchmaking agency located in Salem, Massachusetts.  Grace has a supernatural talent for pairing couples.  She calls it the “tingles” and it has never failed.  Unfortunately, she does not believe the tingles work for her.  Her other best friend is Patrick “Trick” Mathews, a SWAT officer who lives next door.  He is a player and although he makes her tingle all over and has ever since they first met, Grace will not go there.  Grace is severely lacking in confidence after being emotionally abused by her cheating  ex-fiance, Victor.  They were together for two years and in that time, he made her feel like a complete failure in just about every area but most especially in the bedroom.  She has no sexual confidence and in any event, has come to value Trick’s friendship so much she would not want to risk it for a fling.

Trick was instantly attracted to Grace and it didn’t take him long to realise that it was much more than just lust.  He hasn’t been doing the manwhore thing for more than six months but Gracie hasn’t noticed.  He’s desperate for a chance to show Grace how good they could be together – not just as friends.  What saves him from being a total douchebag is that he loves her.  He doesn’t want to just mess with her head and get his rocks off.  He does the wrong thing, but perhaps if not for the right reason, then maybe a right reason.

In Salem, Halloween is a big deal and there is a rich guy who has an amazing Halloween party every year. This guy is someone both Grace and Serena want to cultivate as a client – his imprimatur could take their business to the next level.  Grace’s date has cancelled on her and Trick offers to take his place to help Grace out.  However, Grace doesn’t like the idea because: reasons,  so she decides to go stag.  At the same time, Trick just happens (go with me here) to help out a friend who does special effects makeup and ends up with a Panther half mask (a proper one like they might use in a movie) out of the deal.  He decides to go to the party in disguise and see if he can show Gracie how could they could be together doing the horizontal rhumba.  And this is where the deception comes in. And  the suspension of disbelief.  Because Serena sees through his disguise straight away (she goes along with it because she thinks they’d be great together and she can see Trick loves Grace), but Grace does not.  Sure Trick uses some different soap and cologne and uses a Christian Bale-like Batman voice but how hard could it really be to work it out?

After a very hot encounter which also had some of the most hilarious (bad) dirty talk in the history of ever, Trick misses one opportunity after another to spill the beans and makes excuses to himself for doing so, as well as making excuses to have a further encounter (in a darkened movie theatre) to “seal the deal”.

The boost to her sexual confidence does make Grace realise that it is Trick she really wants and she decides she is up for the challenge and makes her move on him.

I don’t think it would be a spoiler to say that of course Grace finds out that Trick was deceiving her and that she doesn’t react well to it and Trick has to do an epic grovel to get back into her good graces (pardon the pun).  Whether the grovel is sufficient, whether his excuses/reasons are enough, will be a matter for each individual reader.

I was entertained by the writing and the chemistry between Trick and Grace.  I loved the friendship between Serena and Grace as well and I’m looking forward to reading about Serena’s HEA in what will surely be book two in the series.  Serena is quite the character.  Grace describes her friend thus:

Bloodline of a princess, mouth like a trucker. Another thing to love about Serena. Not to mention, if Grace had suggested they break into Seth’s house and replace his shampoo with hair removal cream, her friend would have been pulling the car around in three seconds flat. Forget hide the bodies. Serena was the type of friend who would plant the horse head and do the wet work.

The characters were fun and engaging and there was a moment of true snort-laughter for me with the bad dirty talk:

Maybe he even wanted a little dirty talk.
She swallowed hard and hoped the sound of the steam whistling covered the resulting gulp. Might as well let it rip. “Yeah. I want your c—” It stuck in her throat, and she tried again. “I want your big c—” Again, she couldn’t work it past her lips. He stared at her with a puzzled but patient smile. “I want your cock…a doodly doo…in-inside my p—lady area…business,”she expelled in a rush.
Oh God, no. What was that?

Ultimately though, deception in a hero isn’t a noble trait and that’s where the book fell down for me.  It’s kind of the whole premise though so it’s not like it can be overlooked.  Still, it was a lot of fun.  I give it a B-.

regards,
Kaetrin

 

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REVIEW:  Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

REVIEW: Waiting for Ty by Samantha Ann King

Dear Samantha Ann King:

I knew this book was a companion novel going in, and it did a solid job of standing alone – at least when it came to referencing the previous story. A friends-to-lovers premise and a Texan setting made this story sound like it could be something different for me; both contributed to some unique parts of the story, yet I found myself getting tired of some of the things you were trying to do. Stories about men finding their sexualities are relevant, but I honestly am too worn out by coming out plots to care about reading it again in an m/m novel, even if it’s done pretty well. That was my biggest problem with Waiting for Ty.

Waiting for TyA political reporter known for his talents in the field, Tyler Coil has one secret that he’s kept under wraps for the last few years: he’s in love with his best friend, Landon. Landon works as a cancer researcher in Texas, and he frequently entertains Ty in his bachelor-pad style apartment with a few rounds of beer. They watch sports together and Ty talks; Landon listens and adds in his two cents every now and again. Landon and Ty feel comfortable with each other. Ty just thinks that it would be impossible for Landon to love him as a lover, not just as a friend.

One night changes everything when Landon, who harbors his own secret affections, and Ty take a leap of faith and kiss. Kissing leads to sex, sex leads to the morning after, and the morning after leads to the two best friends admitting that their feelings run deep for each other. Ty and Landon are irrevocably in love with one another. Acknowledging that should be the end of it, shouldn’t it?

Both men harbor worries about what it could mean to come out. They technically identify as bisexual, but their attraction to one another is just far stronger than their physical attraction to women in general. Ty fears that being bisexual could lead to less reporting jobs with Texas being as conservative as it is; Ty’s family also presents an issue, the general group a little too traditional and closed-minded to accept something like being bisexual. Landon has his professional worries, too, but he’s just as concerned about Ty and the distance created by Ty’s concerns. Their relationship may not be able to stand so much worry, especially when the men are faced with the chances to take jobs that would separate them for a long period of time. Their love might not be strong enough to withstand the pressure of revealing who they really are to the rest of the world.

From the get-go, I felt like the story was disjointed. The characters have sex very early on, presumably because both harbor feelings for each other and have major man horny-ness upon realizing that those feelings are reciprocated. I felt like this happened a little too early considering that said men were dealing with a four-year friendship and were both paralyzed to so much as hint at their affections, yet immediately dove in physically after the ice was broken. I could see where you were coming from with the building of the sexual tension prior to the novella’s opening, so that was something I could at least logically understand even if I felt it was overly impulsive. The downside? The entire book read this way – like the characters were ready to be together, proved it to the reader, and then backtracked the relationship later on.

A lot of this is because of the way the coming out plotlines are handled. Ty’s family is very ‘traditional’ and prejudiced, but I think you did that well and showed just how painful it is to be from a family like that. I could see members of my family doing that, or families that live in my area, and the characterization rang true on a human level because of that. It made Ty’s worries about coming out more believable because his family was indeed a major problem that would stick with his character even after he fell in love with Landon. If that had been the main point of the coming out story and another conflict was more of the focus, I think the novella would have been much better, but that sadly wasn’t the case.

Ty and Landon both frequently cite professional worries for coming out. Maybe this is just a Texas thing, maybe LGBTQ people have an extremely hard time with professionalism there compared to some other states, but neither of these men hold jobs that, to me, felt jeopardized by their sexualities. Landon does scientific research; Ty is a reporter. They constantly say that it would be a major problem, yet it feels like a recycled excuse in order to add in extra conflict to the story. There are many successful LGBTQ reporters and scientists – and print reporters usually don’t have as much personal exposure with their pieces because of the veil of the printed word. As worrisome as it is to be LGBTQ in a professional setting, always facing the potential of a homophobic higher-up or coworker, it’s not something that would kill either of those careers, especially with established professionals, and I don’t think the author made the reasoning behind the worry clear enough to be as deep of a conflict as it was.

I think the characters themselves had good chemistry. The sex was hot, if occasionally awkward in the vocabulary used, and their dialogue worked well for me. Landon’s sisters were amusing, meddlesome types that accepted him quickly, and one of Landon’s neighbors also won me over with her protectiveness. That kind of trope is always cute to me, and each of the girls had a different personality. Your characters are endearing and make the story pop when it would otherwise feel like a boring re-tread of countless other contemporary m/m romances. Your characters clearly belonged together. I believed the HEA whole-heartedly, and I think the fact that these two had such history made that easy to stomach despite the short length of the story. The occasional bits of humor also helped to keep the tone from being too serious with all of the angst.

While Waiting for Ty had good writing and a fair shot at being a great novella, the romance just lacked conflict that felt organic to the relationship at hand. Landon and Ty needed more than worry about their sexuality in a professional setting for me to sympathize with them, if only because they never seemed to think about it or the reality of how relevant them being bisexual would be to a job that has nothing to do with the practitioner’s sexuality. It’s just something that’s been done before and done with more motivation behind all of the coming out angst. My final grade is a C-.

All my best,

John

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