Romance

My Review: It Happened One Summer (It Happened One Summer #1): by Tessa Bailey

Publish Date: July 13th, 2021
Number of Pages: 397 Pages
Publisher: Avon
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

‘Eh.’ She waved a hand. ‘There are thousands of me there.’

Brendan snorted at her joke. And then he realized she was serious.

‘Piper, there is nobody like you.’

She smiled like she was humoring him…

He pulled the car onto the side of the road, slammed on the brakes, and threw it into park. ‘Did you hear me?’ He reached over to tilt up her chin. ‘There is nobody like you.’

‘Why are you getting so worked up?’

‘Because I . . .thought I was an intuitive man. A smart man. But I keep finding out new ways I’m flying blind when it comes to something so important. You. You are important.’

– Tessa Bailey, “It Happened One Summer”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong.

~~~

Schitts Creek is easily one of my top favorite shows; I watched it 7 or 8 times in 2020 alone to get me through that train-wreck of a year, and In loved the comedy, the themes of family and perseverance, and even the queer acceptance and representation! It is perfect and I felt like I related to both David and Alexis Rose on different levels based off their personalities and behaviors…but the reason I’m mentioning all this in a book review is because this book was heavily compared to the hit comedy show, and once I heard this, I knew I had to get my hands on this book!

It Happened One Summer was a fun, uplifting, cute and even a little spicy summer romance read that is definitely one to pick up! The Schitts Creek is spot on, and I can even add that anyone who really enjoys those small town stories like Heart of Dixie, Virgin River, or even Sweet Home Alabama will absolutely love this book!

The story is about Piper Bellinger, a total Paris Hilton, Elle Woods, Kardashian, Alexis Rose type character who goes a little too far with a rooftop party one night after she gets dumped, and then as punishment is forced to relocate to a small fishing town in Washington; she and her younger sister must operate her late father’s dive bar.

From there, she learns about what sort of legacy her father and their family have left on the town, and she meets burly fisherman, Brendan Taggert, who is convinced she won’t make it a week without all her luxuries she’s taken for granted for so long…but before you know it, sparks begin to fly as they discover there’s more than meets the eye with each other…

The romance was done incredibly well, and both characters really helped each other out with their own inner baggage, which is so integral in order to make a romantic relationship believable and engaging. They really did have some great chemistry and some equally sweet and sexy moments between them.

It’s an easy, breezy sort of novel that’s easy to put up and down on the side table next to your beach bag while you catch some rays and/or sip on some drink with a mini umbrella as garnish–whether there’s alcohol in there too is entirely up to you!–but with how well written this story is, if its the kind of book you’re into, this is another great addition to your library or summer reading list!

~~~

It won’t let me just use my own name as my username.

‘Yeah, probably because about nine hundred Brendan Taggarts joined before you.

‘So what should I use?

‘CaptainCutie69,’ Fox spat out.

‘IGotCrabs4U,’ Deke supplied.

‘SlipperyWhenWet.

Brendan stared. ‘You’re all fired. Go home.’

– Tessa Bailey, “It Happened One Summer”

What I Liked:

  1. The Spicy Sex Scenes! Okay, so looking at the cover, it’s pretty subtle and makes you assume this story is going to be pretty clean and wholesome, right?……..WRONG! I was happily surprised to see that were was some spice sprinkled into the romance and while I’m not unfamiliar with erotic content, I still raised my brow at a few things that went down in this book, ONLY because I wasn’t expecting it to happen in this type of romance novel!
  2. The Hint of More to Come With Another Character! So while this book revolves around Piper and her personal story of growth moving from LA to a small town, I liked that her sister, Hannah, also got some attention and it’s hinted at how there’s more to her story that continues! I’m glad Piper had a more level headed sister to help her with her predicament, it also gave us some lovely moments of family and sisterhood.
  3. The Grumpy/Sunshine Trope! Total opposites attract here with Piper and Brendan when they meet each other and unexpectedly start to fall for each other! Think a Hollywood Paris Hilton, Elle Woods, Alexis Rose type of character falling for the rough, tough, burly, rugged, and moody fisherman, and they’re dynamic is actually such a huge highlight! I loved their romantic development as they went from weary acquaintances-to-friends-to-lovers.
  4. The Deeper Messages/Themes! You’d probably expect a story like this would be pretty shallow and just pure fluff entertainment, but much to your shock, you’ll discover that there is actually some hidden depths to the story and that there were some worthwhile lessons to be learned! Stuff like inner vs. outer beauty, change vs. tradition, grieving the death of a loved one, moving on, self confidence, materialism and wealth, growing up, and of course family!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Some of The Dirty Talk is CRINGE…While I loved that there were some pretty sexy scenes within this book, I will also admit that once or twice there were times where the dirty talk was so bad, I swear i’ve heard better lines in a bad porno…It made me laugh, and while this book is a fictional rom-com, I wasn’t laughing for the right reasons.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was a funny, uplifting, heartwarming, and even heart-rate accelerating summer romance novel that is a great selection for anyone who loves these sorts of books, or for anyone who wants a book to read because of their love for movies/shows like Schitts Creek!

I originally thought this was going to be a standalone novel, and it totally could work as one if the author wanted it to, but there is a sequel titled Hook, Line, and Sinker expected to release March 1st, 2022 according to Goodreads! You can bet I’ll want to get my hands on a copy and keep reading this wonderful story full of wonderful characters!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1): by J. Daniels

Publish Date: October 4th, 2016
Number of Pages: 416 Pages
Publisher: Forever
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

Love was a risk. It was wild and unpredictable. You could either hold on for the ride, not knowing how it would end, or you could let go and never know the amazing you could have had.

– J. Daniels, “Four Letter Word”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Fate. Hate. Love. Lies.

Which four letter word will change their lives forever?

Sydney Paige was never so mortified to hear the words “wrong number” in her life. She meant to tell off the guy who broke her best friend’s heart but unleashed her anger on a perfect stranger instead. And now her world is turned upside down by the captivating man who wants to keep her on the line.

Brian Savage is living a life he’s quickly come to hate-until Sydney’s wild rant has him hooked and hungry for more. Soon the sexy woman on the phone becomes the lover in his bed. But Brian has secrets, and the closer he lets Syd get, the harder it is to shield her from the devastating mistakes of his past . . .

~~~

Hey guys, Glad to be back with my latest review on here, and I gotta say that this latest erotic romance title was a VERY happy surprise for me; I really enjoyed this book! I’ve never read books by this author before so I had no idea what to expect, but she really brought the spice! I was worried for the first chunk of the book because of how somber and depressing the tone was surrounding the main character, Sydney, and her predicament. But the book really picked up quickly and got a lot better from there on!

Sydney Paige has hit rock bottom as she walks out on her husband who doesn’t even look away from the TV as she does so, and moves to a new town to move in with her best friend, Tori. She decides to have a full fresh start; new home, new hair, new job, almost new everything. Both girls have been burned by the men in their lives, and Sydney does something really out of character one night and decides to call Tori’s ex and give him a piece of her mind! She calls the wrong number that’s off by one digit and that’s where the story really starts to begin…

She inadvertently meets Brian Savage and their relationship starts from there from calls and texts and late night conversations to the possibility of meeting in person. He’s not in a good place in his life either, and Sydney quickly becomes the only light he can see above all the darkness.

I quickly got wrapped into the story and really enjoyed how Brian and Sydney’s relationship developed throughout the story and how much both of them grew individually along with it. When you summarize their story it would seem so extra and over the top—I mean, what are the odds of meeting someone like this based off one wrong digit for someone’s number?—but reading it makes you really, truly believe it and that love does exist in this dark and crazy world we’re all living in.

It was a rather quick read and not too heavy, just how I like my romance novels, and the added spice of the sex scenes made it even more enjoyable than others.

I say if you’re looking for a well written, smut-filled romance that has both spice and utter sweetness, this is a choice I definitely recommend!

What I Liked:

  1. How Long It Took For Brian and Sydney To Meet! Part of the journey was how long it took these two to actually meet in real life. They start off as speech bubbles in their text chain and get closer and closer and they even have a few close calls where they would’ve met up in real life and it fills you with anxiety in the best way because you wonder if it’ll happen now or not. The author dragged out their eventual meeting in such a good way, when they eventually do it just makes it all the more explosive—in more ways than one!
  2. The Smut! This book was hot, nuff said. There were plenty of angsty, heart-wrenching deep moments in the book, but there was also a lot of hot-as-hell dirty scenes and oh so amazingly descriptive. Smut lovers will especially enjoy this book for this factor alone!
  3. Tori and Jamie! I really became invested in these two as a potential couple down the road. Tori is Sydney’s best friend, and Jamie is Brian’s, and their relationship definitely adds some sexual tension with the promise of more down the road! Tori is waitress at a local beachfront diner and Jamie is a pro surfer and total player, so him chasing her and her rolling her eyes at his lines and player antics were a fun addition to the story!
  4. How Brian and Sydney Help Heal Each Other! Both have some massive baggage going on in their lives even before they met each other, but I loved how they both help each other fight through the issues in order to become stronger on the other side of it all. It helps make their relationship and their love feel all the more powerful and real.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending…I swear I say this about every romance novel I read, but the ending just feels really rushed and tossed together. There’s usually some issue that drives a massive wedge between the lovers and they get together in the end, but it seems like the authors just always have to throw in some last minute crisis just to add that much more drama, and it’s just something I’ve seen too often in this genre and am just not a fan of.
  2. I Didn’t Care For A Lot of the Side Characters…Besides Tori and Jamie, I just wasn’t really invested in any of the side characters. Sure, maybe that’ll change in the next books since this is a series, and they’ll get more attention when it’s their turn/book, but again besides Tori and Jamie, I’m not all that interested to see what happens down the line with most of the side characters…

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an incredibly well written erotic romance that I definitely recommend for anyone who’s looking for another of these types of books to enjoy. It’s one that isn’t by Colleen Hoover or on Booktok, but it’s still a very good story, and if you like romance novels with some good smut, I say give this a look!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, Romance

My Review: One Time Only (One Time Only #1): by Lauren Blakely

Publish Date: November 18th, 2020
Number of Pages: 350 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): LGBT, Romance, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

I shouldn’t do this. I need to stop. I will stop. I swear, I will. I promise. But . . . Not. Quite. Yet.

– Lauren Blakely, “One Time Only”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A fiery, passionate MM romance novel from #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Blakely…

Ever hear the story about the bodyguard who falls for the rock star?
Yeah, it never ends well.

Each day I remind myself that it’s my job to protect Stone. And nowhere in the job description does it say I should lust after the charismatic, charming rock star.

But every night I spend with him the attraction grows more intense, electric, undeniable.

Until one night in a limo when we combust.

One time only will have to be enough.

Because the mistakes from the past are chasing me.

And If I give in again, I might lose everything.

Good thing I’m strong, determined, and dedicated to resisting him.

But after a close call at his concert, all bets are off.

And in his hotel room, we strike a brand new deal.

One that can’t end well for me, but I do it anyway. Because sometimes you grab hold of the desire. And other times, the desire takes hold of you.

~~~

One Time Only was just a quick, lighter, sexy, and fun novel to enjoy while I’m taking a break from the Fantasy genre! It plays up on the forbidden factor of the bodyguard and the enigmatic rockstar having a hot, secret affair behind closed doors. What I especially liked about this one in particular was how it was a M/M romance with a slow burn, but still had plenty of steamy moments to really enjoy too.

Jackson Pearce is a bodyguard for rockstar, Stone Zenith, and while he’s only worked for the musician for a few months, he’s been in this line of for about five years and absolutely loves it, he wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his career, not even the sinfully sexy rockstar he watches over! The problem is, there’s an obvious connection there; the lingering looks, the banter, the attraction, it’s all there and only grows more and more the longer they spend time together. Based off the title, you can guess that they give into their urges and agree to one night to get it out of the way so things can go back to normal, but of course, it only leads to more and more. they can’t get enough of each other!

I definitely liked the chemistry between the two men and their relationship as it developed throughout the book. You could really feel the longing they both had for each other as they couldn’t be together, and yes while there was plenty of smutty goodness, there were also softer and more tender moments that make you truly believe they’re right for each other and that this is more than just a sexy fling.

Sure, there’s nothing really new and it feels like any other bodyguard/celebrity client romance trope type of story, but the author still makes it a fun story with her writing and I still think it’s a pretty dang good book for anyone who’s looking for another forbidden romance with the bodyguard, or if you’re looking for another M/M romance in particular!

Did I ever tell you about the rock star who fell for his bodyguard?’

‘Let me guess. Did the bodyguard fall hard for him too?’

‘So damn hard.’

‘Sounds like our love story. And maybe your next song.’

‘It absolutely does.

– Lauren Blakely, “One Time Only”

What I Liked:

  1. The Forbidden-ness of Jackson and Stone’s Relationship! The author plays up the taboo, riskiness of their secret fling and how wrong it is to sleep with the client, so of course that makes all the secret sex they keep having all that much hotter and risque!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Nothing New…If I had one critique, it was just that this wasn’t entirely a memorable book that I will gush about for years to come. Sure, I love that it was a M/M romance, and I enjoyed the forbidden factor like I’m sure I’ve mentioned plenty already in this review, but nothing really stood out to me in terms of characters, storyline, development, not really any of it.

Conclusion:

Overall, One Time Only was a quick and fun read that is a great addition for anyone who wants to enjoy the forbidden bodyguard/celebrity, M/M, and secretly dating romance tropes! It isn’t anything too innovative or unique that makes it really stand out from the many other romance titles out there that fall under these storylines, but it was still very enjoyable nonetheless.

Sometimes mood readers just need a specific storyline like this and are in need of it ASAP, well I can say those of you that fall under that category most likely will enjoy this book in particular. It definitely satisfies in the needs to enjoy those particular tropes

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: A Touch of Darkness (Hades & Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

Publish Date: May 23rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Hades chuckled, leaning in so that when he spoke, his breath caressed her lips. ‘Oh, darling. You don’t know what I’m capable of.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows – and it’s forbidden.

~~~

This was a total mood read, and while there are plenty of things that I thought could’ve been way better about it, it still at least served its purpose and entertained me as a reader. While some aspects were underdeveloped more than I cared for, what this story did give me was an erotic romantic tale with a sprinkling of fantasy elements added on top, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as that’s something that you’re looking for.

I’ve been in the mood for some greek mythology related stories, and I’m usually really drawn into novels that get compared to the retelling of the classic tale of Hades and Persephone, so I’m so incredibly sad to say this wasn’t the best out of the many in that regards. It was still good enough to keep me interested and had me reading late into the night, but the romance factor was the main reason for that along with just having the whole classical mythology aesthetic on top of it all.

The writing was very so-so; It felt a little amateurish and choppy in some parts…not to mention there were a few typos and names mixed up…

This version of Persephone wasn’t the greatest portrayal of her character…

The sex was hot!

The Gods/Goddesses live amongst us!

The worldbuilding was simple, but effective!

Overall it wasn’t a bad book by any means, but I have similar feelings to it as I did for Laura Thalassa’s Bargainer series…I’d only read the first book for that, but the story focused mainly on the romance, had a simple world constructed with the possibility of more to explore as you read on, but not enough of the other aspects to make it a greater fantasy-genre book were developed as much as they could’ve been. It felt like I was just reading another version of the 50 Shades millionaire romance stories but the guy’s name just happens to be Hades this time around. At least from my perspective, I can say it felt like this story was less problematic than the franchise by EL James was…

With all that said, I can praise the romance factor that this book offered. I thought the author did a splendid job at it with the sexual tension that was built up between Hades and Persephone! At least, I can say I personally enjoyed it. It wasn’t the greatest, but it was still keeping me reading on. Some could argue that some of the lovemaking scenes felt out of place or excessive, but c’mon…..lesbehonest, we all know the smut is one of the main reasons people are drawn to these books to begin with. I certainly did not think this way!

~~~

‘Let me worship you,’ he said.

She remembered the words she had whispered to him in the back of the limo after La Rose. You will worship me, and I won’t even have to order you. His request felt sinful and devious, and she reveled in it.

She answered, ‘Yes.’

– Scarlett St. Clair, “A Touch of Darkness”

What I Liked:

  1. The Slow-Building Sexual Tension! The sparks between Hades and Persephone were (of course) a major highlight of the book. The author really did a good job of giving their relationship a slow burn that made the moments whenever they gave into their lust and passion all the more satisfying! Side note, but I was also such a fan of the scene later on in the book when the two of them are freakin’ couples goals when they had a movie night in their sweats and baked cookies…
  2. It’s an Unorthodox Retelling! So not everyone will like this retelling simply because it doesn’t necessarily follow the original story to a T. Things have definitely been switched around, or completely different ideas have been sprung forward to at least make it feel like something completely new. I just know there are certain readers who are really sensitive to that sort of thing, and will strongly dislike something if it doesn’t perfectly match up, kind of like when a book gets turned into a movie or TV show and doesn’t follow the book all that much.
  3. The Modern Day Greek Gods Living Amongst Us! The worldbuilding was honestly more on the mediocre side, but it still worked rather well for the sake of the story. In this world, The greek gods and goddesses live among us, and they’re very much still in charge. They’re like the A-list celebrities a lot of us idolize: Hades runs the night-clubs and casinos, Dionysus has the world’s best wine vineyards, and I think you get the picture…There’s a red carpet scene with all the glitz and glamour and paparazzi cameras flashing as they all make their appearances, and it made me think how much more fun even events like the MET Gala would be if we could see deities like Apollo, Aphrodite, and yes even Hades making appearances at these sort of events. Overall, this aspect of the whole book was very fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Grammar/Spelling/Typos…It happens at the very beginning, but there are some noticeable errors along these lines that were a big turn off…I mean, if something is published—traditionally or independently, I’d hope there wouldn’t be something like this in the book itself. I’m not reading someone’s fanfiction on Wattpad, this is an actual published book! I don’t know, it lessened my expectations and made the quality of it go down in my eyes.
  2. The Smut is Overhyped…I’m glad to see how many people like this book, or even this whole series, but I will admit that the actual sex scenes didn’t fully live up to the hype for me. They were good, but I was thinking they’d be better based off so many glowing reviews this book has. I was also maybe hoping for something…darker and more erotic and tantalizing, and maybe with more magical abilities put into play to spice things up a bit…
  3. Not Sure How I Feel About the Villain…This is the first time I’ve seen Demeter set up as the villain in the whole story revolving around Hades and Persephone, and while I say this is a more original take, I’m not sure how I feel about it to be honest. In the story, Demeter is always known as the caring and doting mother, but this time she’s painted as cold and manipulative and just an all around frigid bitch! I don’t know, I think the idea of having a positive mother/daughter relationship is always a better way to go, but that’s just a personal preference to me. I’ve just seen shitty parents used as the outer conflict for a character in the romance-genre way too many times, and it’s just so cliché for me too.
  4. Very Little Magic…Some other reviewers on Goodreads say this, and I have to agree: there were times this felt like just another millionaire romance, and not really something that has the legendary Greek God as the main character. It did feel almost like a “50 Shades of Grey” + Greek Mythology kind of setup quite a few times. At least this time it’s a little less problematic. There just wasn’t as much magic as I was hoping, it was very underdeveloped, but maybe more will happen in the later books! Fingers crossed…
  5. Persephone Isn’t All That…I wasn’t the biggest fan of Persephone in this particular story. She was headstrong and fierce at times, and more power to her for that, but she was also just pure plot convenience too. She was just way too naive and there was just WAY too much miscommunication with her in order to add conflict into the story for my liking.

Conclusion:

Overall, I liked but didn’t love this book, but it certainly filled the need for some Greek Mythology related fiction that I’ve been kind of craving as of late. It focused more on the erotic romance and less on the grandeur of having the powerful and magical gods among us, which is fine, but I want to see more stronger fantasy aspects going forward!

I recommend this book, and possibly this series, to those who really enjoy authors like Sarah J. Maas, Laura Thalassa, and even Jennifer L. Armentrout. This author’s writing isn’t as up to par with these other names, but the overall themes and aesthetics of the story and what is given attention to within the plot will appeal to those who enjoy their books.

The big question I had going forward was which book to read next in the series. Technically, there’s two options: A Touch of Ruin which follows after this book and still follows Persephone’s point of view, or there’s also A Game of Fate, which is actually this book all over again, but this time it’s told from the perspective of Hades! Do you go forward, or see everything from the other side of things? Maybe I’ll try and read the beginning of both and see which one I want to read first? If you’ve read these books already, what do you suggest? Let me know!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, Romance

My Review: Collide (Blackcreek #1): by Riley Hart

Publish Date: November 8th, 2013
Number of Pages: 286 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): Romance, LGBT, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

This wasn’t ending, and he didn’t know if it would ever end, and Coop didn’t know if he wanted to celebrate, cry, or destroy the whole fucking world.

– Riley Hart, “Collide”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

At ten years old, Noah Jameson and Cooper Bradshaw collided mid-air when they dove for the same football. For three years, they were inseparable…until one day when Noah and his parents disappeared in the middle of the night.

Noah and Cooper never knew what happened to each other. Now, seventeen years later, after finding his boyfriend in bed with another man, Noah returns to Blackcreek looking for a fresh start. And damned if he doesn’t find his old friend grew up to be sexy as sin. Coop can’t believe Noah—the only person he trusted with the guilt over his parents’ death—is back. And gay… Or that Cooper himself suddenly wants another man in his bed for the first time.

There’s no denying the attraction and emotion between them, but can they overcome the ghosts of their pasts to have a future together?

~~~

This was a nice, short, lighter read to enjoy while I’m taking a small break from Fantasy; I don’t know why, but lately as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing that I only seem to be in the mood to read smutty romance novels. I have tons and tons of Fantasy-genre tales on my shelf, and on my desk, and on the floor near my bed, and on my dresser (basically my room is a giant pile of growing books that will hardly shrink anytime soon), but that doesn’t matter because I just want simpler, lighter, and just overall easier to read right now.

Back to this book, but it was a great addition to my growing collection of M/M romance titles.

It was far from perfect and actually there are quite a few things I wish could’ve been better about it, but it still fulfilled what I wanted out of it: it had some really good smutty sex scenes and also just an overall swoon-worthy romance between the two main characters, and even between two side characters too. It was cute, it was absolutely so funny with the banter, it was heartwarming, it was sexy and sizzling, and isn’t that all we really want in a romance novel?

It was the perfect distraction for Cooper to ignore the flood of…contentment… Hearing that their friendship had meant to Noah even a portion of what it had meant to Coop. Which, as a kid, had been everything.

– Riley Hart, “Collide”

What I Liked:

  1. The Smut! If you’re looking for a quick but super hot and smutty book to read, this is a great choice for you! The smut in this book is super well done and really hot content, especially with the whole dynamic of the two main characters with Noah and Cooper. Noah being openly gay for much longer has him kind of in the role of the “mentor” or teacher in a way with how he takes Cooper through the ropes of what they do and what he’s willing to try out as they explore their relationship. Which brings me to my next point…
  2. The Relationship Between Noah and Cooper! I really liked their dynamic for the most part in this story. I like romance stories with the tropes like “second chance,” “small town romance,” “keeping it a secret,” and “friends-to-lovers” and reading about how much these two guys care about each other and the moments where their friendship shine through are so soft and affectionate and heartwarming, which is also so cozy when in comparison to all the scorching hot sex scenes. I find it funny I’m saying this when I’m also a reader who usually doesn’t turn towards a specific story for its fluff versus steam.
  3. The Friends/Side Characters! Both Cooper and Noah have a friend on the side that really be there for them when they individually need it, and even better that they actually end up hooking up! Wes and Braden’s romance gets introduced in this story, but they’ll get the spotlight in the next installment which will be fun because I want to see more of their certain dynamic too!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. How Cooper Is Only Gay For Noah…So the whole “GFY” is an iffy one because sometimes I feel like it’s not the most realistic storyline, but I guess it depends on your own personal views of sexuality. It’s such a fluid subject nowadays, and their are so many different terms and identities that are out there now, and while I can say I support it all and hope anyone who’s questioning who they are has the courage and confidence and support to figure it out, I feel like the “gay for only this person” is a little questionable, or maybe it’s because it’s not explored far enough in this story. Before Cooper reunites with a returning Noah, he was sleeping around with women and never really questioned his sexuality (at least that’s the impression I got). Noah coming back into his life calls a lot into question, and just like that, Cooper is no longer the straight guy he’s always been known as. I also know that there’s no set time of when you are supposed to have this all figured out; some people discover their sexuality at a young age while some may not discover it until they’re 50 with a wife and kids….but the point I’m trying to make is that maybe I just feel like the shift was too quick and not a whole lot of it was explained or explored as much as I wanted it to be. Maybe the author didn’t want to make it that deep of a story at the time this was written, but I guess I was just hoping for more answers in this regard. Like I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the fact that a label isn’t put on a whole lot of him or their relationship was frustrating! I’m never one who needs to compartmentalize stuff like that, so I’m confused at myself about it too, like maybe I’m not as open minded about it all?
  2. The Homophobic Side Characters…With Cooper being a firefighter and sort of coming out of the closet in a sudden way, he deals with some homophobia with some of his fellow coworkers and even a little bit from his uncle. It’s not really an outright hatred of gay people, but it’s more these snide, rude comments and jokes they all make that any gay guy has heard in their life and has made it hard to come to terms with yourself if you yourself are questioning or in the closet. It brought back terrible memories of times in middle school and high school casually say the word “f*g,” or “that’s so gay…” as a way to instead say how something is stupid. I know there are still people who are honestly just against gay people and don’t accept it, but part of me always wishes we didn’t have to face this kind of rejection in fiction, like why can’t books with gay characters at the forefront just not deal with homophobia?
  3. WAY Too My Flashbacks…I’m never someone who’s a big fan of them to begin with, and this book had wayyyyyyyy to many as well. I get it, a lot of the story revolves around Noah and Cooper meeting as kids and how their friendship/relationship has blossomed from it all, but I feel like the amount of flashback scenes could’ve been reduced. I know the past is important to learn from in order to grow and move forward, but in this case I’m falling under the whole “the past is in the past and let’s leave it that way.”
  4. Grammar Issues…The book felt a little amateurish with all the many commas and just simple grammar issues that popped up throughout the book. I mean, I’m not perfect at it all the time either, but when you read a published book you just expect more and hold this sort of thing to a higher standard. You’d think the editors and multiple sets of eyes who look over these words before they’re sent to print would fix this sort of thing.

Conclusion:

Overall, “Collide” by Riley Hart wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, but this was still an enjoyable story that’s a great consideration to anyone who loves M/M romance with plenty of fluff mixed with steam. It’s so great for fans of “second chance” romances or “friends-to-lovers,” or “gay only for you” type of stories. Noah and Cooper have quite the story here, and while it wasn’t exactly mindblowing, that hopefully doesn’t detract from when I say I still really enjoyed this book too, and plan to read on in this series with the two friends who hooked up in this book who also get the spotlight on them too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell