These are the even dozen books we each chose as the very best, and we're excited to share them with you.
So, here they are, the best of the best for July.
Tina: The Art of the Heart by Dan Skinner - While heart-warming, The Art of the Heart also does what we are coming to expect from Dan Skinner. It makes us cry. For Zac’s loneliness, his rejection, his fear and anxiety about being found out. His pain just about comes off the pages in waves as he sees Rory with one girl after another. But then something magical happens. I won’t tell you what, because reading it will turn you into a big puddle of goo, and I don’t want to take that away from you.
Dan Skinner has done it again with The Art of the Heart. He has written something that touches every reader on such a soul-deep level, you remember what it was like when you were thirteen and found out for the first time what your dick (or clitoris) is capable of. The awe Zac feels, the confusion at his sexual awakening just…it really made me FEEL. There just aren’t the right words to describe it. Well, there are, and Dan used them! And the ones he used are just so, so… insert your choice of adjectives here. I can’t choose just one. The words Dan uses are just right. I strongly recommend this book to anyone with a heart.
Find the rest of Tina’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Sammy: Head-on by John Inman - The true genius of John Inman is that he takes an incident, a habit of our own, everyday life, and gives it just that small twist to create the most devastating of circumstances. His hero is our every man. Gordon Stafford could be you or I, and the idea that we might very well be in his place within the blink of an eye makes his story all the more gut wrenching. I have said this before about this author but it bears reiterating: John Inman builds characters that live and breathe and, in doing so, resonate beyond the page into our very lives. They take up residence there and leave behind indelible marks on our hearts and minds that subtly change the way we think and the way we view life. I dare you to read this novel and then text while driving ever again. It is the combination of this powerful portrayal of visceral events and uniquely real characters that make this novel, Head-on, simply outstanding.
Find the rest of Sammy’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Traci: Running Wild by SE Jakes - SE Jakes can write the hell out of a tortured soul with a horrific past, all tied up with a perfect bow of guilt. Her stories are fast paced, with hot men and hot sex, but can also be tender and heartbreaking. You cannot help but fall in love with her characters. She is one of the few authors whose books I can read again and again and again.
This story has everything you would want in a m/m book. It has hot, sexy men with tortured souls who are too stubborn and scared to trust or love. The only reason I gave this book a 4.5 vs. a 5 star rating was because it took me a good 20 to 25% to get hooked into the story. Remembering back to her past series, the first book lays out a lot of groundwork for future stories and characters, and it took me a while to wrap my brain around the storyline, but once I passed 25%, I could not put it down until the end. I am now a Rush and Ryker fan and have new book boyfriends (like I need another)… This is a great start to a new series! I cannot wait until the next book. Hopefully the next will be about Casey, Sweet, or maybe Linc and Gypsy. So many possibilities and so excited!!!!!! Enjoy!
Find the rest of Traci’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Jules: Going Up (Audio) by Amy Lane - Going Up has such wonderful, multi-faceted characters – our MCs, Zach and Sean being the most prominent, obviously – and Woodson does a great job of bringing them to life. From steady, businessman, Zach, to his wonderfully vibrant assistant, Leah, to the quirky, charming and lovely Sean…it was such a pleasure to listen to this book. The inflection, tone, and pacing were all fantastic. I was laughing out loud in all the right places!
I checked to see if this narrator had done any other M/M romances, and it doesn’t appear that he has. I hope Dreamspinner has the opportunity to sign him on for some other works – because I, for one, would certainly give them a listen!
Find the rest of Jules’ review, along with the buy link HERE
Lana: Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology - Not Quite Shakespeare has something for everyone, from old friends reconnecting and finding that time doesn’t diminish feelings to a man dialing his boss by accident and telling him what he wanted—and the boss fulfilling the request, as well as a really cute story about roommates who find that a mutual love of bread can create a relationship. Olive oil plays a major part!
All the stories were fun to read. They were cute and heartwarming, but let’s not forget the sex. Some stories had more sex than others but all had the right level of sexiness and hotness. For me, British men are a wet dream and the authors did not skimp on the Britishness or the sexiness. Just the accent alone is drool worthy, and I was reading them in an English accent. LOL
If you’re having England withdrawals, pick up Not Quite Shakespeare! It’s just as satisfying as scones and clotted cream but not as fattening, and will leave you hot and bothered!
Find the rest of Lana’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Lynn: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield - The pacing and flow of this story was smooth. Just when the author has you wondering what’s going to happen next, another layer is peeled back and the answer is revealed. The mystery element to this story was genius. While reading this, I never knew who was responsible for the mayhem running amok around the town. I believe the author did a fantastic job laying out the clues and hints to give the reader just enough to wet their palate and wanting more, and boy, does this author give us what we need. With twists and turns as only a good mystery can have, the conclusion to the “whodunit” question is just perfect. I’m not going to give anything away, but it was a person I least expected. Kudos to the author for not making it obvious.
The secondary characters definitely added some flavor to this tale being told. From Finn’s dying aunt to Dare’s co workers and the people we meet along the way, they were all very interesting and added a little something to an already wonderful read.
Overall, I enjoyed this very book very much. I highly recommend Home the Hard Way to those who love a good mystery with a nontraditional love story and a little BDSM on the side.
Find the rest of Lynn’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Jackie: The Ex Factor by RJ Scott - I feel that RJ Scott did a great job of showing the devastation that occurs both during and after living in an abusive relationship. She also showed us that no matter how bad things may seem there is always still a chance at a happily ever after. I loved the way Ben was gentle with Daniel when he needed it, but forceful when he had to be. I can’t recommend this book enough. If I didn’t have a TBR pile a million feet high, I would be rereading this one immediately. The Ex Factorcould very well be my favorite RJ Scott book to date. You won’t want to miss this one.
Find the rest of Jackie’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Kim: Boystown 6: From the Ashes by Marshall Thornton - As usual, Mr. Thornton weaves a very tangible mystery that keeps one guessing until the very end, and it’s also a chance to look back at the 80s, to a time when a little known virus was hitting the gay community. I’m giving Boystown 6: From the Ashes a high 5 Star rating and would also highly recommend reading all the previous Boystown mysteries, in their given order, to really appreciate this latest installment.
And yes, Mr. Thornton, I want more Nick!
Find the rest of Kim’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Chris: Let Love Live by Melissa Collins - Let Love Live is a beautifully written, very emotional book for this author’s first M/M story. She was able to get all the nuances and honest emotions of the characters just right. How what happens in the story shapes who Dylan is, how Conner has realized he wants more from life after his accident, and even dealing with Shane’s depression, self doubt and the final consequences of his actions. All of these pieces intertwined into one very well crafted story. I have to admit that Dylan has quickly become one of my favorite characters after reading this book.
This is the fifth book in Melissa Collins’s Love series; however, it can be read as a standalone without losing any storyline. The story is divided into three parts Before, After, and Forever. I will give the readers a warning that you’ll definitely need a box of tissues when reading this book. Now, don’t let you scare that off reading Let Love Live because it’s an absolutely beautiful love story with a HEA. I look forward to many more stories from Melissa Collins in this genre in the future.
Find the rest of Chris’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Rena: Mending Him by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon - There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more.
Find the rest of Rena’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Kathie: Behind the Curtain (Audio) by Amy Lane - The narrator makes all the difference. Mr. Bradley brought to life Dawson, Jared and Benji. He gave them each their own distinct voice, and it was immediately obvious that he understood the character and their motivation. An example would be Jared’s Voice; as you read the story, you learn that Jared has had to endure a lot of pain for his craft, but I knew that from the minute Jared first talked to Dawson. You could hear it in his voice. If a narrator is good, you, as the listener, will become part of the story. You will share in the pain—Dawson’s as he struggles to understand Jared , of loving someone so much but not being able to protect them all the time; the friendship between Benji and Dawson , as they taunt each other and always have each other’s backs; and Amber with monosyllabic conversational skills, with such a rough exterior and a vulnerability that Dawson will protect to the end; you get to be a part of it and it’s an amazing journey. And that, my friend’s, that is why you buy the audio version of this book. Mr. Bradley doesn’t just tell us the story, he brings us with him on the journey.
Find the rest of Kathie’s review, along with the buy link HERE
Me: Wicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper - The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.
I am so thoroughly infatuated with Wicklow’s Odyssey, with every nuance, every word the author shaped and finessed to tell the story through a vivid narrative and lush dialogue, that I want to bask in my love for it again. Just as Rhoades is the voice in Wicklow’s ear, a voice that soothes, directs, touches Wicklow without touching, R. Cooper directs us through this exquisite journey. I could likely write a second and third review of this book and come up with something new to love about it each time, that’s how rich Wicklow’s Odyssey is and I can’t begin to recommend it enough.
Find the rest of my review, along with the buy link HERE
And that does it for the month of July. Until next time, happy reading!