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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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REVIEW:  Sweet Tea for Two by Genell Dellin

REVIEW: Sweet Tea for Two by Genell Dellin

Dear Ms. Dellin,

Last year the first book in the Honey Grove series was one of my surprise hits making my sparse Top Books list. I was so eagerly awaiting this follow up that I haunted your website and Amazon watching for word of its release. When I finally saw that the e-arc was available, I zipped Jane a request to ask for a copy and did a happy dance in anticipation. My feelings after finishing it are making me wonder if I’ve become a h8ter or if I was just hoping too hard for lightning to strike twice.

Sweet Tea for Two by Genell DellinRock Springs, Texas is a quiet little town where everyone knows everyone else and makes everyone’s business their business. Lilah Briscoe was in the center the town’s speculation last year when her long lost granddaughter, Meri, finally came home for a funeral then blasted out of town and back to NYC as fast as she could before personal heartbreak brought her back. In an effort to save Lilah’s Honey Grove Farm from foreclosure, the two eventually (pardon the pun) cooked up a plan to open Honey Grove Kitchen using produce bought from local farmers and made into organic goodies. Along the way, Meri also became involved with local bad boy Caleb Burkett – the one who up until then had been a rolling stone and thorn in his asshole father’s side.

With Caleb as a third partner in HGK, the romance is continuing but there’s a new threat on the horizon in the form of developers who want the area rezoned to allow farms to be bought up and turned into bedroom communities. Horrified at the thought that she still might lose her farm and that the community could be irretrievably changed, Lilah is determined to browbeat the local judge, who is running for reelection, into a vote against rezoning before she tackles her neighbors into voting for him and against his opponent. Meri is hellbent on HGK being a success which isn’t doing her perfectionist tendencies, blood pressure or romance any good. Caleb wants to help her but with a ranch to build up from dirt and a father to spite at any opportunity, he can’t always just drop everything to fuss over fruit. Can the Briscoe women keep their heads, their hearts and their livelihood from going under?

As I said, I so wanted to love this book. Then I settled for so wanting to like this book. Then I settled for so wanting to finish this book. The two main threads – Meri and Caleb’s romance and Lilah’s fight to keep the rezoning laws from being changed – began to wear on my nerves fairly quickly. The Briscoe women are tough, tenacious and determined. They’re also stubborn as an eight legged mule and as hard to reason with. Frankly, by the end of the book I couldn’t see why any man would want to try.

Early in the story, someone complains to Lilah that she always thinks she knows best. Well, she does and she spends the book almost bashing people over the head with her views and trying to force them to see things her way because she certainly isn’t about to try and see the other viewpoint since it’s wrong. No that’s not strong enough. It’s Wrong!! When the POV of the chapters swung back to the election and Lilah’s tireless efforts to show everyone how right she was and how wrong any other possible outcome would be, I groaned. Enough already, I don’t care anymore about this or about the two older gentlemen vying for Lilah’s attention. The actual election and determination of the zoning brought me no joy beyond the realization that this plot part was finally done with.

Unfortunately, Meri and Caleb’s romance left me equally wanting. I had thought they were well on their way to a HEA at the end of “Honey Grove.” Not quite there yet but cruising along the highway of love as two mature adults. The book opens with a charming scene of the two of them, working together, seemingly happy. How quickly that all falls apart and I feel as if I’m back reading square one with their relationship. Okay, I can deal with a couple hitting a few speed bumps but not the one note “cry in your beer song” this turned out to be. Meri soon begins to wind herself tighter than trebuchet and fling rocks on Caleb’s head because he dares – he dares! – to actually spend time working on his ranch rather than work himself into knots over every detail, trivial or otherwise, of HGK. How damn dare he! And each tiny event at which he doesn’t spin out of control is more proof that he doesn’t love her and that their relationship can never work. Never, ever! I get her abandonment issues and her need for perfection which all stem from her childhood with a feckless mother but by the time she veers towards a hissy fit over the tartness of a load of apples I wanted to smack her. Apples, Meri? Really? I’m surprised her kitchen staff didn’t beat her over the head with a bottle of lemon juice.

I suppose I could have dealt with a bit of both Lilah and Meri going off the deep end if it were only once or twice and if there had been other things to balance these two issues. But instead the whole book revolves around these and little else. On and on with it until I was nearing the end of the book and and counting down the pages until I was done. The anticlimactic zoning issue wasn’t helped by the whiplash changes in the romance which left me disbelieving in Meri’s change of heart at Caleb’s change of heart. I can tell that more books are planned for Honey Grove but I don’t know if I’ll be along for the ride even if you do know how to use “y’all” and portray a small Southern town. C-

~Jayne

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