Zack’s Awakening by Jaclyn Osborn

Title : Zack’s Awakening       Word Count : 213 pgs
Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : Fear. Zack Greyson had never known the true meaning of the word until he suspected he might be gay—which wasn’t an option for the personal trainer and ex-football star. He’s tried to convince himself that his attraction to men is nothing more than just a mere curiosity, but when Jackson Parker walks into his life, that façade comes shattering down.

Jackson Parker is used to rejection because secrets never stay hidden forever. Left slightly broken and with no sense of belonging after his family’s rejection, he’s sought love in all the wrong places before. But meeting Zack, the hazel-eyed jock with killer dimples, Jackson steps out of his comfort zone and fights one last time for the happiness he knows he deserves.

Falling for a supposed straight guy was crazy, but for once, Jackson feels like his luck has changed, and he’s finally found someone who won’t throw him away. However, Zack struggles to discover who he is and who he wants to be. When his fear of coming out drives a wedge between him and Jackson, only one question remains: Which is stronger: love or fear?

My Review : Fear is an emotion that can often cause us to act irrationally. Zack understands this all too well. Zack has always been this all American popular jock that everyone loves and want to be around. Coming to terms with the fact that he is gay is very hard for him to do. He keeps on worrying about the perceptions of others. I found this very strange , since his own brother Gabriel is fabulously flamboyant in his gayness. Zack is very protective of his brother, and their father loves both of his sons unconditionally.
When we are first introduced to Jackson, I immediately feel the hurt that he feels from being rebuffed by Zack someone who he has become close to, but constantly pulls away when things get heavy. I guess what they say is true that no two ‘coming out’ experiences are alike. There were times when I felt like strangling Zack for being so concerned about others’ perceptions and hurting the people who mean the most to him. Jackson showed a lot of strength and patience and tried his best to give Zack the time that he needed to come to terms with being gay.
However, it took losing Jax and hurting his sweet brother Gabriel to finally get Zack’s head out of the sand. I really liked Zack in book 1, but I just found it hard to warm up to him as a main character in book 2. It was hard for me to reconcile the sweet caring brother to the very stubborn man who refused to step out of the closet proudly. Eventually , Zack and Jax got where they needed to be to forge a strong relationship. In my opinion, it took way too long for Zack to ‘man up’ and stop hurting sweet Jackson.
The main event for me was seeing the previous beloved characters Gabriel and Michael and watching how in love they still are. Gabriel is still as fabulous as ever and Michael is very much in love and pampering his princess. Their wedding was beautiful and caused me to get all weepy. I give this my ratings of 4 – lose the underwear.

Like No One is Watching by Jaime Samms

Dusty has finally landed a job he thinks he’ll be able to keep long-term, even with his broken brain and bum knee. He didn’t anticipate that cleaning a dance studio would reawaken his yearning to dance—even though he is no longer capable—or that meeting the studio’s director would rouse his dormant libido. Or his sleeping heart.

Conrad thinks his life is finally complete with his successful dance studio and a steady stream of students. When Dusty arrives, he rediscovers his thirst for a man who will let him hand over control and give him the undivided attention he’s never had. The trouble is, Dusty isn’t sure he’s worthy of the studio director’s submission.

To make their relationship work, Dusty will have to trust his ability to dominate the powerful and beautiful dancer, and Conrad will have to stop talking long enough to hear Dusty’s promises.

My Review : Right off the bat , it is clear to see that Dusty has a very low self-esteem. He is the janitor of a dance studio who thinks of himself as just a mere janitor. He is overly self critical and always points out he is a high school dropout. This is a way to insulate himself from the pain and hurt that comes from being judged by other people. At first , he is not sure how to react to the owner of the dance studio Mr. Conrad Kosloff, a man who obviously comes from affluent beginnings. Conrad is a sophisticated dancer who is drawn to the cute janitor. He sees someone who he can really be himself around without any worries. Their stations in life are like day and night. They have to see if it’s worth bridging the gap.
Conrad has been hurt badly in the past. His lovers often take too much from him or cheapen their relationship. He is looking for that perfect someone who can appreciate all he has to give as a lover without taking advantage. The stereotypical roles are reversed for these two, with Dusty becoming the more dominant demanding one in their sexual exploits. This shift was new, exciting and very freeing for Conrad who was expected to always be in control of all aspects of his life.
It is very hard for both these men to live their lives beyond society’s mandates about who gets to be priveledged. The gap is wider than they could have imagined. Dusty’s backstory is that he was a very bright upcoming ballet dancer who was beaten to an inch of his life for being different which led to severe brain damage. He has to deal with the long lasting effects which causes him to forget something as simple as getting home or remembering where his mailbox is located. He has a bum knee and he has not danced for years for fear that his knee will fail him. It is a touchy subject for him and this is one area he will not explore with Con.
Their budding relationship comes to a standstill when Con makes a very insensitive comment about their different station in life. If they want to move forward they will have to learn to navigate around these landmines that are a part of their lived realities. Conrad might have grown up in money, but he has seen his fair share of tragedies. His twin sister died because he was not able to provide a bone marrow transplant to her; he was rejected by law based on the premise that he is gay. Conrad has grown up a very lonely life of feeling that he was always just not good enough for his family to value him.
Conrad begs for another chance to be the man that he knows can be the perfect partner to Dusty. For this to happen , Dusty will need to let Con into the most intimate parts of his life , teaching him how to live with a man with brain damage. He has to trust Conrad to be an anchor and help him through the fuzziness that is his everday existence. In a way dance is the balm to sooth his soul and repair some of the damage to his body. I give this my ratings of 3 – it was ok, give it a try.

Tales From the Edge 2: Living on the Edge by L. M. Somerton

Title : Living on the Edge         Word Count : 37,371
Genre : Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : Sometimes it takes willpower to resist temptation but courage to give in.

Aiden Keller is a brilliant and intriguing young man. When he’s convicted of hacking, his sentence takes him to The Edge, a high-end corporate training company with a mysterious sideline. There he is given into the custody of its owner, the enigmatic and demanding Heath Anders, and his business partner Joe Dexter.

From the moment Heath takes charge of Aiden he recognises the boy’s submissive nature, even though it is well hidden beneath a veneer of snarky attitude. But for twelve months, Aiden will be his responsibility and Heath cannot allow himself to get involved whilst the boy is obliged to obey him.

Aiden settles into his new life with the help of Olly, Joe’s pretty, submissive boyfriend, who is very perceptive when it comes to noticing the sparks of attraction flying between Aiden and Heath. Slowly and gently, he teaches Aiden that submission is not a weakness and to accept his desire to be dominated.

Unable to resist, Heath starts to test Aiden’s willingness to be obedient, and against all the odds, love (and lust) start to bloom. Aiden, however, is not quite what he seems and his past is about to endanger all their lives.

My Review : This is the second book in the Edge series and I really had high hopes for it. I was drawn to Heath from the first moment meeting him in book 1. Sadly , I was really dissapointed. I didn’t feel the connection between Heath and Aiden so much. Aiden was sent to the Edge as an alternative to a prison sentence for a technological crime he committed. From the moment he laid eyes on Heath , he was instantly attracted but he was definitely intimidated by him.
Heath is certainly attracted to Aiden as well. Aiden is feisty and willful and Heath can’t wait to make him submit. Heath is afraid to abuse his power while Aiden is at the Edge, so he introduces him slowly to the BDSM lifestyle with the help of the precocious Olly and the very dominant Joe. Olly drops hints to make Aiden curious about submission. Heath likes the challenge, but Aiden was a little too resistant to my liking. There are different forms of dominance and submission, but I just did not feel connected with these two. Heath was too much into chastity and orgasm denial and this just did not float my boat. I give this my ratings of 3 – it was ok, give it a try.

Sex & Mayhem 6: One Step Too Close by K. A. Merikan

Title : One Step Too Close        Word Count : 135000
Genre : Dark Contemporary Gay Romance

Blurb : – One love. One motorcycle club. Two stepbrothers.

Ryder. Controlling. Ambitious. Protective.

Jed. Self-destructive. Trapped. Lonely.

Their love? Forbidden. Taboo. All-consuming.

For Jed, the Coffin Nails Motorcycle Club is family. With them, he learned how to think, what to enjoy, and how to fight, but there is one thing he knows his friends can’t find about. They would never accept him as gay, and so his life is a constant struggle with desires that fill him with despair. Only there is a much darker secret lurking in Jed’s heart. His feelings for his stepbrother, Ryder, go far beyond brotherly. Trapped with a yearning that can never be fulfilled, Jed spirals out of control and unwillingly puts the love of his life in danger.

Ryder is climbing up the ranks. Recently promoted to sergeant-at-arms, he has it all: drive, respect, and the love of his biker family. When his stepbrother gets into trouble with the law, Ryder decides to take the blame and save him from a long sentence. Deep inside, he knows there is nothing he wouldn’t do for Jed, but through a desperate attempt to suppress his own hidden desires, he might irreversibly break the man he secretly loves.

But finding out what they feel for each other will test their loyalty to the Coffin Nails MC and change their lives forever.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: Outlaw motorcycle club, criminal activity, forbidden love, stepbrothers, blackmail, homophobia, alpha male

Genre: M/M dark romance, suspense, drama

Length: 135, 000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content that might be considered taboo. Explicit content, strong language, violence. Reader discretion advised.

My Review : The life of an Outlaw biker is definitely not an easy road to travel. Step brothers Jed and Ryder knows this only too well. They belong to the Coffin Nails MC, Louisiana chapter. We were first introduced to these bikers in the third installment of Guns N Boys where they butted heads with Dom and Seth Villani. The two step brothers are both harboring deep dark secrets. Not only are they secretly gay, they are both secretly lusting after each other. K.A. Merikan does it again, where they take a secondary character who is totally unlovable and make their readers succumb to them as main characters.
Jed is now portrayed as this vulnerable, yet cocky young man that remains true to his initial character, but also showcasing his true personality.Ryder has always been the strong voice of reason that takes care of his younger brother Jed and keeps him in check. Ryder would do almost anything to protect his brother. Over and over again we see him stepping in to save Jed from his self destructive ways. It soon becomes apparent that Jed is slowly dying inside from self hatred and this unrequited taboo love that he feels for Ryder is overwhelming.
Things come to a head when Ryder saves Jed from committing suicide. All of these pent up feelings overflow when Jed explains to Ryder why he believed this was the only way out. Ryder feels guilty for the pressure that he himself forced on Jed by telling him to supress his homosexual tendencies. He feels especially ashamed and hypocritical, because he knows that he is guilty of repressing these same taboo feelings for Jed.
Finally coming together was refreshing and very explosive for both of them. They delved into their new relationship with a hunger and passion only two starving men would know. Ryder treats Jed to all the love and caring that he’s always entertained for the younger man and Jed willingly soaks this up. They enjoy a full week without too much interruptions, but they know they have to deal with the harsh realities of their lives soon.
As usual Ryder has to protect Jed when a video surfaces of him in a compromising situation. Jed’s devious ex Dana is using the video to blackmail him. Luckily they are able to diffuse the situation, but before they know it they are back in another shit storm. Their passion makes them careless and their unnatural relationship is exposed to one of their vindictive comrades who is homophobic. Surprisingly, he keeps their secret.
The secrecy of their sexuality becomes too much for Jed and he outs himself to the members of the club. This doesn’t go over well and is definitely not accepted. They decide together to go Nomad. They leave their chapter and ride the open roads on their own terms. They are much happier for their decision and even though they have lost their MC brothers, what they have gained with each other is incomparable and can withstand anything. I really enjoyed this one and I believe this was the perfect novel to break my self imposed hiatus. I give this my ratings of 4 – lose the underwear.