Review – Count The Shells by Charlie Cochrane

Count The Shells review book coverCount The Shells
Series: Porthkennack, #5
Author: Charlie Cochrane
Publisher: Riptide
Our rating: 3 stars

Publication date: October 16, 2017
Genre: Historical Romance (M/M)
Length: 253 pages
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Review Summary: A story of secrets and past loves, that had the potential to be a lot stronger than it was, but finished well.

Plot Summary/Description

It’s 1919. Michael Gray has lost most of his friends in the Great War, including his best friend and former lover, Thomas Carter-Clemence – though they’d already broken up, some years before the war started, after a stupid fight. Now, with his sister’s family, he’s come to Porthkennack where they always spent summers, and where Thomas’s younger brother still lives. But meeting Harry will stir up the past in a way that sends ripples through more lives than just Michael’s.

Count The Shells Review

I had high expectations of this book, which weren’t met right away. But I know I’m picky over certain things. Others may enjoy it a lot more. And really it was the first half where I had issues with it. I found the second half much stronger.

I liked the characters (although I wanted to know more about Harry) and I think the main relationship might have worked better for me if their first sex scenes hadn’t happened and the two men had worked through all their emotional stuff and secrets – which could have made a very powerful story – while they were attracted but before they got together. The resemblance of the younger brother to the older could have been deeply disturbing for our hero, but I felt it was all smoothed over too easily.

As a reading experience, it didn’t start well for me. I found the first few chapters especially slow and frustrating, as I kept getting annoyed over little things that threw me out of the story.

This is supposed to be 1919, but it felt like 1999. In 1919, a nursery maid wouldn’t socialize with the family. Her status was very different from a governess. She ate with other servants, if not eating separately with the children. A 9-year-old boy wouldn’t call a newly-introduced grown man ‘Harry’ – no freaking way. Not without getting severely punished for his impertinence. And people in Britain didn’t say things like “I guess so” and “I’m sorry for your loss.” Those are phrases of American origin that have crept into British English in the last 10-20 years.

I know Charlie Cochrane is British, and I know she writes a lot of fiction set in the early 20th century, so I can’t understand what happened here. A major edit fail?

I like this series and I enjoyed the way the caves etc were brought in. I’d certainly read more by this author. I guess I like more angst in my stories, and this one was frustrating because the potential was there but the angst was avoided. However, the ending was well done, with satisfying tie-ups to the family side of things. HFN rather than HEA, however.

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Review – Knit Tight by Annabeth Albert

Knit Tight review coverKnit Tight
Series: Portland Heat, #4
Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: April 12, 2016
Genre: M/M romance/Contemporary
Length: 112 pages
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Review Summary: A cute story of two guys falling in love over coffee and knitting.

Plot Summary/Description

Brady is a barista in Portland, juggling work with responsibility for four younger siblings after the death of his parents. He’s bisexual but that doesn’t mean he’ll drop his pants for anything that moves – and he doesn’t like the suggestion that bisexual guys are not to be trusted.

Evren is the nephew of Mira, the owner of the local knitting yarns store, who raised him after he came out as a teen and was rejected by his Turkish parents. He’s come back to help run the store because she’s sick. He’s also a popular knitting blogger, designing knits of his own.

They meet when the local knitting group holds its weekly meetings at the bar where Brady works. The chemistry is strong, but so are the obstacles – Brady’s family responsibilities and Evren’s distrust of bisexual men.

Knit Tight Review

My first book by Annabeth Albert, and I enjoyed it. The writing style is smooth, the characters are good together and the situation is believable. It’s in a series but each book covers a different couple so they stand alone fine.

The story is not that exciting – two guys getting together, without a lot of misunderstandings or hassle. There’s no villain getting in their way, and they fit together perfectly in bed, when they can finally nail down some time free of kids and sick auntie. A happy ending is theirs for the taking, they just have to decide they want it (or specifically, Evren has to relax his prejudices).

I like more conflict and angst. All of the drama was in their life circumstances and families, not in the relationship. Some people might find the sex weird but I found it hot, with enough kinks to make it down and dirty without going all the way to BDSM.

Something about Evren didn’t quite click for me, like he didn’t seem totally real, maybe because we don’t get his point of view outside of his thoughts on his blog. Those are sweet, and do show his feelings slowly emerging. But it’s at a remove, and he never completely opens up. Even near the end he wanted to shut Brady out of certain things. But it’s a cute, heartwarming contemporary story, an enjoyable read.

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Review – Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan

Lonely Hearts coverTitle: Lonely Hearts
Series: Love Lessons #3
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain
Our rating: 5 stars

Publication date: August 2015
Genre: M/M romance/New adult
Length: 312 pages
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Review Summary: A hurt/comfort college-based gay romance with one character I couldn’t get enough of, and another who was his perfect ‘other half’.

Plot Summary/Description

Baz Acker’s family has thrown enough money at him to keep his painful past firmly in the past. But what will happen when his college friends move on, and he has nowhere to go? Last year he took a bullet for Elijah Prince, and he’s never regretted it. But how does Elijah feel?

Elijah’s history has forced him to withdraw way into his own mind when things get rough. However much Baz attracts him, Elijah freezes in the publicity that comes with being the acknowledged lover of the son of an ambitious politician. Will Baz be the rock he yearns for, or the iceberg that sinks him?

Lonely Hearts Review

WARNING: this review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series. See our Fever Pitch review and I recommend reading that one first.

Elijah and Baz are a classic couple. Both of these two guys are prickly like cacti, for different reasons. They are the kind of characters any self-respecting romance reader will be rooting for. So we’re engaged right from the start – in fact, from the previous book, if we’ve read it. If not, you do get a summary of the climactic life-saving event, at the start of this one.

In Fever Pitch, Elijah was Aaron’s snarky and hard-to-know roommate, and Baz was the guy that everybody loved but nobody *loved* or even knew inside out. Events at the end of that book saw the two of them connected, instinctively on Baz’s part and involuntarily on Elijah’s, because of their separate personal histories. It takes the two of them a while to get past that, but when they do, the connection goes very deep.

Elijah grew up in a fundamentalist religious family, with parents who believe that as a gay man, he’s the spawn of Satan, and it’s their duty to kill him. Literally. Baz and his high school boyfriend were beaten up on the street and left for dead. Baz survived, disabled, but his boyfriend didn’t. Survivor guilt plagues him, and he doesn’t hesitate to take the bullet that’s aimed at Elijah.

This event creates a connection between them, but also a distance, because of the debt owed. The debt is greater because Baz is wealthy, and Elijah, without parental support, is penniless. Some authors would skate over these differences and bring them together whatever, but Heidi Cullinan is skilled enough to see that it’s not that easy. Elijah has a chip on his shoulder that takes a while to overcome.

Sometimes an author has to work to convince the reader that a happy ending will last, but not in this case. Elijah and Baz have very different backgrounds, but their issues are dealt with thoroughly, not swept under the carpet, but laid to rest permanently. The guys have enough in common that we can imagine them sticking very close together always, once their differences are accepted between them. Baz is outgoing and would have a lot of friends on the surface, but there’d always be a tight inner circle around just the two of them, that nobody else would or could breach.

A very cute couple and if you like a bit of angst before the HEA, as I do, don’t miss this one.

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