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Bottled Up by Andrew Grey

The Bottled Up series by Andrew Grey consists of 8 books which are centred around a group of friends who live in the same town.

Reading Order

  • The Best Revenge (book #1)
  • Bottled Up (book #2)
  • Uncorked (book #3)
  • An Unexpected Vintage (book #4)
  • Legal Artistry (book #5)
  • Artistic Appeal (book #6)
  • Artistic Pursuits (book #7)
  • Legal Tender (book #8)

Bottled Up (Bottled Up, #2)Bottled Up by Andrew Grey

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Sean Bielecki has built a new life, leaving an infamous identity and painful past behind. Now Sommelier Wines is Sean’s dream. And after taking in Bobby, a homeless teenager who was attacked in the alley behind his store, parental instincts wake in him that didn’t know he had, giving him new courage and direction. Officer Sam Davis has been watching Sean for a while-not because of his past-but because Sam wants to be a part of his life now. Sam finally asks Sean out, and they seem to click, but Sean is haunted by his memories. It all comes to a head when the man who attacked Bobby returns, awakening Sean’s buried fears, which are compounded by a hateful ex and a new lover who puts his life on the line for others. Can Sean come to terms with his past and present to move into the future? Or will his dream of love end before it starts?

So what did I think?

Needing to spend some time with some good people, I took the plunge into another Andrew Grey story. As expected I found a ‘hearts and flowers’ type romance.

This time the story involves Sean who owns the local wine shop and Sam, the town cop. Sean ends a relationship with a douche bag and on advice from Sean’s assistant, Sam ‘strikes while the iron is hot’, asking Sean on a date.

The romance between Sean and Sam is lovely, with gentle kisses and loving touches, “Thank you for everything. The dinner, the kisses, being held..” which suits Sean fine due to unwanted memories intruding when he moves beyond foreplay.

The story also includes a teenager, with Sean rescuing a sixteen year old boy who was being attacked in the back alley. This plot includes Sean’s fight for custody and fear of the attacker returning. Sean also struggles to let go of his fear of Sam being hurt on the job.

Bobby made a great inclusion to the story although perhaps wasn’t totally realistic as an abandoned and abused teen – he seemed a bit too nice and well-behaved! He also started calling Sean ‘Dad’ really soon after their meeting which seemed unrealistic.

All in all, a nice story, with nice characters and a happy ending – exactly what I expected! 3.5 stars

4 Stars

 

Check out the Book Trailer!

For more information on Andrew Grey and his books, check out his website.

I have also reviewed some of his more recent books: A Wild Ride and Organic Chemistry.

Buy Bottled Up on Amazon

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Take My Picture by Giselle Ellis

Take My PictureTake My Picture by Giselle Ellis

My rating: 3.5of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Aaron has no idea what he’s walking into when he shows up to pose for a famous—and famously bad-tempered—photographer. He certainly doesn’t expect to end up working as Jake’s assistant for five frustrating, thrilling, and crazy years instead of in front of the camera.

It all works until Jake realizes Aaron has become the focus of his life, a life that’s threatened when Aaron actually leaves him to start a relationship with someone else. Though it breaks his heart, Jake realizes he has to set his beloved muse free to have any chance of winning Aaron back.

Reprint: This short story was originally published in the Dreamspinner Press anthology Size Still Matters.

So what did I think?

I was expecting more of a light-hearted story, instead I got a story with humour but also emotion and sadness.

This was one of those books that drove me crazy, wondering why the characters couldn’t/wouldn’t just say what they felt – It’s not that hard to say “I love you” and their situation seemed so obvious!

Both characters are in their early twenties. Jake is a bit of an accentric, a photographer who had had success early. Aaron is an aspiring sculpture, with an almost manic sense of humour, who moves to New York and takes a job as Jake’s assistant.
They immediately hit it off, bouncing smart comments between one another. Over the next few years their lives become fully intertwined but they don’t acknowledge it is love although it is plain to others such as friend Alyson. They call at all hours and sneak into each other homes in the middle of the night and put each other before boyfriends…. not usual behaviour for people even if they are best friends.

The early part of the book covered the first five years of Jake and Aaron’s version of being ‘just friends’ but really illustrated how much they meant to each other. It was interesting to view their interactions but at times the ‘craziness’ was a bit much as it was exhausting keeping up with the banter!

I did feel a real sense of sorrow when Aaron and Jake split up but still struggled to fully understand why both men were loathe to put their feelings on the table. It is a lovely sentiment that “I want him to be happy more that I want him with me.” but why did Jake think he couldn’t make Aaron happy, particularly with Alyson telling him how much Aaron loves him? “He’d let him leave, let him out of the box, to go where he would. Jake owed him that much. For how long he had trapped him, he owed him his freedom.” Trapped him?

I liked the ending – it brought the men together, it was passionate, it was like it was meant to be. But as much as I wanted to see Aaron and Jake together, the story just drops poor Matt like he never existed. Matt is the man who loves Aaron but makes him see that his place is with Jake and even takes him to their final reunion. I would have liked reassurance that he was also happy.
3.5 stars

4 Stars

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★★★★ 3 by Jacob Z. Flores ★★★★

33 by Jacob Z. Flores

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Justin Jimenez has loved his partner, Spencer Harrison, for ten years. He’ll do anything for him—including bury his feelings for a man he met while he and Spencer were separated last year. Justin never planned to fall in love, and he certainly never planned to tell Spencer about it—but when a phone call wakes them in the middle of the night to inform Justin that his former lover, Dutch Keller, has been in an accident, he doesn’t have a choice.

Justin’s revelation shatters the fragile relationship he and Spencer were trying to rebuild. The weight of his guilt—both for hurting Spencer and for leaving a heartbroken Dutch to find solace in a bottle—crushes him. But what Justin doesn’t know is that Spencer and Dutch guard an explosive secret of their own. All three men are tangled in a communal web of lies, and unless they find the events in their lives that ultimately led them to friendship, passion, and betrayal, they won’t see the love at the heart of the pain.

So what did I think?

This was a really interesting take on the menage theme, focused very much on the emotional journey of three men who find themselves in a very tangled drama.

The original couple of Justin and Spencer have been together for ten years. They are successfully trying to get things back on track after a separation the previous year. But unknown to Spencer, Justin had an affair during their separation and found himself falling in love with the other man. When Spencer returns, and because Spencer had a prior claim on his heart, they get back together, with Justin determined to get over his feelings for Dutch.

Unfortunately Dutch doesn’t get over Justin easily with tragic ramifications. The result is a late night phone call to Justin which exposes the truth and starts the three men on a pretty intense and emotional journey.

This story has a lot of twists and turns. There is time spent in the past where we learn more of Justin and Spencer’s relationship, we learn how Justin met Dutch and we learn that Dutch and Spencer also share a secret. There is time spent in the current, where we see emotions continuing between Justin and Dutch as they deal with the fallout of the revelations and also see new developments between Dutch and Spencer. Lives become very much entwined and there are further conflicts and more repercussions.

This story was not focused on sex between the three men but there was sex between the different couples, mainly Justin and Spencer or Justin and Dustin and I did have a couple of issues. Firstly, Justin and Spencer have a couple of sessions with a ‘third’. I didn’t naturally see this fitting with their relationship and I definitely didn’t like their sexual dialogue. To me it sounded like fake porn and didn’t suit how I saw the characters of Justin and Spencer in my mind. Secondly, (view spoiler)[ I definitely couldn’t understand the lack of condoms in Dutch and Justin’s first encounter and Dustin’s easy acceptance when he finds out Justin’s boyfriend Spencer has HIV. (hide spoiler)]. Perhaps this trust was supposed to illustrate how significant their relationship was?

I liked the fact that the bringing together of the three men, with them acknowledging their feelings for one another, wasn’t an easy journey. It acknowledges the difficulties they face, within themselves and with the outside world. There is a sense that they will succeed because of the depths of feeling.

“After that, it was simply a matter of working out the intricacies of a relationship between three men.
It was a new concept for them and the world. After all, love was a joining of two hearts , two pieces of the same soul that locked together seamlessly. That was how the world functioned. Two people, two hearts, one relationship. That was the paradigm the rest of the world followed.
But they didn’t fit that model. Their hearts were bigger than what society had preconcieved notions about. After all, it was the universe’s magic, some unseen force, that brought them together. That bond pulled Justin and Spencer initially to each other, but it was that same power that brought Dutch into their lives, that somehow called both of them to Dutch, separately, just as strongly as it tugged upon him.”
………“They weren’t meant to be a couple. They were destined to be a trio.”

4 Stars

Check out the Book Trailer!

For more information about Jacob Z. Flores or his books, visit his website.

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Cold by Brandon Shire

ColdCold by Brandon Shire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Blurb…

Book 1: Prison is a brutal, heartless, and demeaning environment. No one knows this better than a man sentenced to life in prison for murder. Lem Porter is a high-profile prisoner who had a solid career ahead of him in a field he loved until he killed his brother. He has spent almost eighteen years behind bars and doesn’t have much hope left.

Anderson Passero had it all. He built a career, a name, and a relationship with a man he thought he loved. Only after he very publicly landed in prison did he realize how ignorant he’d been. He has eight months left on his sentence and he is eager to go home and put prison life behind him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he will always carry these eight months with him, and they may just help him to understand what love really means.

So what did I think?

This was a masterful piece of storytelling, a brilliantly told tale that was impossible to put down.

The story is set within the confines of a prison. It is a harsh world and portrayed that way. The story is beautifully crafted and takes the reader right into the world of inhabited by Lem and Anderson.

For me this was a story of contrasts. Contrasts between characters, contrasts within characters, contrasts in the environment.

Please be aware that this review might be slightly spoilerish

Lem is a long-time prisoner, spending most of his adult life incarcerated for the murder of his brother. He is a huge man physically, tall and muscular and feared by most other inmates. However there is little sign of him being violent or providing a reason for this fear. In contrast to the stereotype of his physical appearance, he is actually a thoughtful, intelligent, college educated man. He feels a true affinity to nature and works in the prison greenhouse. He has never caused any problems in his eighteen years of imprisonment which allows him some favours with certain prison officials and guards.

In contrast, Anderson is smaller man and unlike Lem, he has experienced a lot more of life outside of prison. He had a thriving business, a relationship and a family. Anderson is nearing the end of his sentence and his prime goal is to just get through the next few months without trouble. After many years in prison without proper human contact, Lem somehow manages to break through his shell, illustrating the true power of their relationship.

Lem’s story is one of mystery. He has never admitted to why he killed his brother. He purposely jeapardises his chance of parole. I am not sure whether he is punishing himself or protecting someone  but he is resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison. His feelings for Anderson are obviously so strong that he finally is prepared, after many long years, to put himself through the inevitable sadness and sorrow that caring about Anderson would bring, their parting being unavoidable.“When Anderson left, Lem would be left with the cold winter again.”

There are a few moments where the author takes us from within the prison confines to the world that Lem remembers – nature, the forest. “There was no sense in dreaming about it; he knew he would never witness that kind of beauty again.” His love for the outside is obvious in the small pleasures he derives from working in the greenhouse and waiting patiently for the bonsai to bloom. The bonsai finally bloomed for the first time in twenty years, much like Lem blooming with his feelings for Anderson.

This is not an easy or gentle story. There is an incident which is the true catalyst for Lem and Anderson being fully aware of each other. In some ways their relationship starts with a truly violent act. Anderson’s feelings for Lem must be truly strong for him to overcome his fear, start to trust and open his heart. “Lem had opened his vulnerability, touched him with something that was not just sex.”……..“He felt safe and wanted and secure, and it was the first time he really felt it in his entire life.”

There are people who are supporting both men. Anderson has him sister and his mother on the outside. For Lem, he manages to wrangle favours from the guards which allow him and Anderson to spend time together. These ‘favours’ also extend to protecting his own life. It is these favours that give the men a truly special night “I think I love you,” Anderson whispered as he heard his footsteps fade away.”

This book is intense and emotional. There is no happy ending for the men. For me there were tears. But for Anderson, there is hope on the outside. “I’ll never forget you,” he whispered as they turned toward the highway.”

I am desperately hoping that the next book is both released soon and has the happy ending that I am craving.

5 Stars

For more information about Brandon Shire and his books, visit his website.

Show your support and visit his website to purchase his books as the proceeds  from any purchases made through those links are donated to LGBT Youth Charities.

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