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Carra at Making it Happen blog

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-13-18

Great stories, amazing narration!

With A Kick Collection #1 gives us four stories from the series—A Twist and Two Balls, Slap and Tickle, plus two short stories (one each for the couples of each of the two other stories), Nice and Snow, and Smack Happy. These stories have some supporting characters in common, in particular Patrick (the owner of the With A Kick ice cream shop) and Lee (Patrick’s employee), both adding some good depth to the each story.

A Twist and Two Balls

Eddy (aka Eduardo Mancini) is a bit over the top sometime actor who can be a bit camp at times and can also pour on the dramatic edge when needed…or even when not. Nuri is a Turkish cab driver with a big, loving family—including some brothers who can be as annoying as siblings can get…much to the amusement of readers.

You’d never expect these two to be the ones getting together after the way their first meeting goes, but they seem to fall into an easy relationship with not much angst. The little bit of conflict comes when family is involved, though it can easily be chalked up to a misunderstanding due to a lack of communication…which considering how early in the relationship it is, is completely understandable.

This is a relatively light story with a touch of heat, and I’d give this one 3.5 stars.

Slap and Tickle

So, I absolutely adored Phiz and his chaotic personality, clumsiness, and the absolute beauty of how he submits when Bryan takes charge. Bryan lives a very ordered life and likes taking control of things. When you think of perfect complements, Bryan and Phiz are exactly what you should be thinking of…Bryan’s order to Phiz’s chaos creates a perfect balance; they truly are the epitome of the idea of one person completing the other.

I saw parts of myself in both characters, so it was really easy for me to identify with both of them, and I found myself drawn to them almost immediately. Their story was easily my favorite of this collection, from the opposites attract to the touch of BDSM elements, from Phiz’s exuberant and hyper personality to Bryan’s staid and calming one. Everything about them led to an overall equilibrium in their relationship.

Phiz may come across as overwhelming for some readers, but I just loved him and was so glad he and Bryan worked so well together—and lets not forget to mention they were also incredibly hot on the physical side! Slap and Tickle was 5 stars for me!

Nice and Snow

In Nice and Snow we get to revisit with Eddy and Nuri during the Christmas holidays. This is a relatively quick short story, and not a lot goes on other than Eddy’s fretting about all of the Santa-dressed people in the city…until they pick up one particular Santa who turns things a bit upside down for them.

This story is a fun read with a touch of some Christmas magic, though there wasn’t much to it leaving me to give it 3 stars.

Smack Happy

I was really glad to see that Smack Happy let us jump back in with Bryan and Phiz again, this time for Valentine’s Day. It’s another short story, this time with more oomph and a nice touch of spice once Phiz presents Bryan with his present…after Phiz spouts off a round of his hyper-chaos craziness first of course. I know some people might find him annoying, but I still think he’s adorable and a bit child-like (at least until his naughty side comes out).

This was a nice bit of spice—thanks in part to Phiz’s present—and made for another fun read that might leave you needing to cool yourself off for a bit. 4.5 stars!

The Narration

I’ve found that Joel Leslie has a true gift for voices, especially when it comes to Brits and other non-American accents. In addition, he was dead-on with Eddy’s over-the-top personality and Phiz’s hyperactive, chaotic self, easily balancing them in the same breath with Nuri and Bryan’s more sedate, even natures. He effortlessly switched back and forth between the very opposite characters (or at least he made it seem effortless), showing great range in his voice characterizations. A solid 5 stars for the narration!

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-09-18

Love the story, excellent narration!

I always like returning to this group of characters in the Leaning Into stories, they’re such a wonderful group of friends who are there for each other and support one another even when at times they might not think what you’re doing is a good idea.

This author is really good at crafting characters with depth and who are very easy to care about. With Miles, at first glance you might just think he’s just one of those guys who is a bit over the top—campy when he’s in the mood for it, snarky when it’s needed (or when it’s not). But often that’s really a protective mechanism for him…particularly when what he’s protecting is his heart. He’s happy with his chaos, which is quite the opposite of Grant who is someone who needs his calm. With his stereotypical big Greek family (if you’ve seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, you’ve got the idea), and the pressure he feels to succeed and make his father proud—he’s really putting stress on himself, and at times he’ll just go along with his family just to keep the peace.

Miles and Grant clearly have chemistry together. Not just physical either (though holy wow are they insanely hot in that arena!)…they also click as friends, easily becoming each other’s rock and support. They slip into the roles of lovers and more like those roles were made for them—and they for each other.

There were some points that my attention did drift a little, and I really wish we could have had some of the story from Miles’ point of view. I think having insight to his mind and feelings on a deeper level than what Grant saw would have helped me become more immersed in their story.

Even given that, Leaning Into the Look was still a 4.5-star read for me, and I know fans of the series will really enjoy Miles and Grant together like I did. You could read this as a standalone, but I strongly feel you’ll enjoy their story a lot more if you read the other books in the series first since they both do appear in the other stories, but you’ll also get the background for the other couples that appear in this book. This story is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.

The narration: Nick J. Russo does another excellent job with the narration, continuing to give the characters of this series distinct voices that are consistent and make it easy to tell who’s who. I particularly enjoyed his voice for Miles, and the emotion he expressed with Miles’ exuberant personality. Steady pacing and great voices along with the consistency within the entire series for all of the characters made the narration 5 stars for me.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-18-18

Incredible performance-5 stars and more!

SJ Himes once again puts her incredible writing talent on display here in The Solstice Prince. In this story that takes place in Himes’ carefully crafted fantasy world, I found a slow-burn romance between two young men who are in some ways at opposite ends of the spectrum—one being royal and the other a commoner—and it others quite alike…namely in that they both have very special skills that they are both tremendously talented at wielding.

One of the things i loved about this story is how open, accepting, and just the kingdom of Pyrderi is—a stark contrast to its neighboring countries, a situation that in many ways parallels our own world. Though this is the first story in this new series, readers are not inundated with pages and pages of world building, instead it is presented throughout the book in the necessary portions of the story, with some aspects still left open to discover in subsequent installments (which I am excitedly looking forward to reading!).

Though it is obvious Prince Maxim is entirely smitten with Jaime from the start, things between them move slowly growing from friendship to courting to a deeply intense relationship without rushing, even if the time period covered in the story might indicate otherwise. It didn’t feel fast at all to me, with the story concentrating equally on Jaime’s situation as he returns to a more normal life after being enslaved and resumes his training, the ailing King and the affect of his poor condition on his family, and the developing connection forming between Jaime and Maxim.

I read this book in one sitting, as I was fully entranced and didn’t want to put it down. While it does contain a complete story in itself, there is the promise of much more to come; my curiosity is definitely piqued for more of Jaime and Maxim, but also to see what other stories come out of this world with either the characters already introduced or others to come. Jaime and Maxim are very strong main characters, but they are also surround by a well-rounded cast of supporting characters, and I found myself invested in all of them and can’t wait to read more.

Jaime and Maxim’s tale leans much more to the sweet side, with a gradual building toward much more near the end once their intimacy finally spills over. This perfectly fits the two of them, and their story wound up being a 5-star read for me…with special bonus points for the wonderful illustrations by Sarah Jo Chreene that can be found in special scenes of the book. I highly recommend this story to all M/M romance fans, and M/M fantasy romance fans in particular. I can’t wait to read more in this series, and especially to get back to Jaime and Maxim to see where they go from here. While the majority of this book is relatively tame in regards to intimate scenes, there does come a point where it moves into more and therefore it is meant for readers 18+ for some sexual content.

The narration: There are a lot of reasons Joel Leslie is one of my favorite audiobook narrators, and his performance of The Solstice Prince is a stunning example of so many of those reasons. First, there’s the reliably steady pacing; next, there’s the amazing accents—oh, so many beautiful, trilling accents…and each one individual to a specific character making it easy to know who is speaking; then there’s the way he injected such emotion into the characters’ dialogue, allowing the listener to really feel how the characters do throughout the story; and finally, his overall performance just really pulled me into the story even more so than when I was reading the ebook. But it really was all of those truly remarkable voices that did it for me. 5 stars for the narration, and where the ebook got bonus points for the fantastic illustrations, Joel’s voices get a whole bunch of bonus points from me as well—definitely one of those times where I wish there were more than 5 stars to award…I’ll just award them anyway here in my review :-)

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-27-18

4 solid stars for Leaning Into Touch!

I love second chance romance stories. There’s just something about having a chance at “the one that got away” that is just really appealing to me, and Leaning Into Touch is a great example of this trope.

I love the characters not just in this particular book, but in this series as a whole, and how they all fit together as a group. I did get a little frustrated with the others when they kept having a negative outlook towards Finn and his intentions with Josh, because just like Josh I wanted to believe in Finn too. Finn just checked off all sorts of boxes for me, including the hot Irish accent box ;-)

The additional plot point of Josh’s father’s new relationship adds a nice twist of tension to things, and I got a kick out of Josh’s mother’s baking issues. I really enjoyed getting to see Zane, Eric, Nick and Wes again…even if Josh kept getting warned off of Finn when the group was around.

Leaning Into Touch fits really well into the series, and while you don’t have to read the other books before starting this one, I personally would recommend that you do just to have the background on the other characters and get the taste of Josh and Finn that you’ll find in those books. This story was a very solid 4-star read for me…leaning towards a 4.5 (no pun intended). Fans of the series will be very happy with this book, and like the others it is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.

The narration: Nick J. Russo again does a great job with the narration, capturing the emotions of the characters quite well while delivering a perfectly paced story. My only issue is with Finn’s accent—as i mentioned in my review for one of the previous books in this series, it was inconsistent and didn’t come across as Irish to me. Since Finn was one of the main characters, that led me to knock off a star on the narration making it 4 stars.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-25-18

5 stars, my favorite Charlie David audiobook!

Originally released as three novellas—Getting Off the Ground, Infinity Pools, and On the List—this collection brings those all together and I’m actually very glad I was able to read and listen to this as one complete story. Given where the first two novellas ended, it would have driven me nuts to have to wait to read the next one each time as I loved this story of starting over and finding “the one”.

I found it easy to identify with Elliott—not from the left-at-the-altar aspect, but from the point of having to start over, and learning to take a chance. As for Derek, I always love a “player finds ‘the one’” trope, and boy was it tremendously satisfying to watch as Derek fell for Elliott. The circumstances that bring them together, and the way Elliott decides to go off his carefully scripted life made for such a good read, and I did not want to put this book down…or take off my headphones.

It’s become almost cliché to say a couple has chemistry that’s off the charts, or scorching hot, or any one of a number of similar phrases. Elliott and Derek? You can take all those phrases and just obliterate them with what they have together. And their wanting of each other is so persistent the also overused phrase of ****ing like bunnies would be quite appropriate…though even as intensely passionate and physical as they are, I only found that borderline gratuitous as opposed to over the top. Why? Because those scenes demonstrated how much they wanted each other and led to a deeper emotional connection, and even when they would purposely try to do things apart they were still drawn back to each other. The fact that the author can write these scenes so well doesn’t hurt either (and oh the kissing…*sigh*).

The first two novellas take place in Hawaii, and even with all of the physical scenes there is still plenty of story time devoted to enticing descriptions of the islands—so well done that I find myself wanting to rearrange my budget for a trip. It was easy for me to picture those scenes and see in my mind the beauty of the locations, especially since the first two parts are told from Elliott’s point of view, and it’s his first trip there.

The third novella is told from Derek’s point of view, and I was so glad to finally be able to hear his thoughts. With the conflict that arises with his family in this final part of the story, hearing his side of things helped to give the story another injection of emotion and introduce just that one bit of worry to keep things fresh and my attention fully attuned.

This collection is one of my favorite reads from this author, and easily gets a 5-star rating from me. The only thing that bugged me was the sudden change with Derek’s family at the very end as given the time frame it didn’t really ring true for me. But even that was not enough for me to waver in my rating…that’s how much I truly enjoyed the overall collection. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, this one’s for readers/listeners 18+ for adult language and copious amounts of explicit, holy-hell-that’s-hot sexual content.

The narration: I’m already a fan of Charlie David’s deep, soothing voice and have enjoyed the other audiobooks he’s done. But I can honestly say that of all the ones I’ve listened to that he’s narrated, this one is my favorite. He has a smooth, even pace, and so accurately voices the character’s emotions that you feel like you’re right in the middle of the story yourself, particularly when it comes to those physically intimate scenes. This is definitely one story collection where I will always go for the audio version before the ebook version when it comes to future re-reads (well, re-listens). 5 stars for the narration!

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-19-18

Sweet second chance for former crushes

This is a novella in the 1NightStand series, and mixes a little sweet with a touch of second chance romance and a heavy dose of nerd/jock matchup, and what you get is another great addition to this series.

Jason is the nerdy math kid in high school, subject to bullying at the hands of the jock and popular crowd, at least until the star baseball player he’s tutoring—Blake—gets wind of it. There’s a touching moment between the two during a comfort scene at the beginning of the story, but then they wind up going their separate ways until they meet up again seven years later.

While you can probably predict who Madame Eve has set up for Jason, how it all comes about and plays out afterward makes for a sweet, then sensual story…as well as a culmination of more than one high school crush.

This is a quick read/listen, yet it still gave me a satisfying story and characters with depth that I really did enjoy. The story was a 4-star read for me, and fits very well with the series. If you’re looking for something shorter that will still result in a thorough story, you’ll definitely find it here with #The Best Ever.

The narration: This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to with this narrator. He has a pleasant voice, and paced the story well, though sometimes the consistency of the voices was lacking. The sound quality seemed to change often throughout the story, which was a bit annoying at times. And while reading “#” (“hashtag”) over and over doesn’t bother me, hearing it said over and over actually did—though this is not due to the narrator, it’s just having that same word said out loud so many times in one story was distracting for me. Overall though, I was satisfied with this audiobook and will be listening to it again in the future.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-19-18

A solid 4 stars for this sweet & hot story

One of the main reasons I like this author’s books is the characters. I know I can count on them to carry the story, and make me feel invested in their lives and relationships. This does happen again here in Under the Boardwalk, with both Alexi and Cam quickly getting under my skin as I read.

The fact that they’ve both noticed each other from afar—and not just in the present time frame—comes across as sweet with a bit of longing, and when the first move is finally made it was one of those *happy sigh* moments. The fact that this is novella length though means that things progress pretty quickly between them. They each have issues to deal with…Alexi not having come out to his family, and Cam with his voice issues…so for me I think a longer story would have given more time to fully explore these while allowing for more relationship development.

Story length aside, there’s still plenty to get readers sweating with Cam and Alexi’s hot intimate scenes. And there’s enough drama provided by their individual issues to cause a good amount of angst. The different backgrounds from which Cam and Alexi come from also give the story some great contrast.

For a good, relatively quick read with a nice dose of heat to add to the sweet, Under the Boardwalk will definitely fit the bill. For me, it’s falling somewhere between a 3.5 and 4 star rating, mostly because I felt like it could use a bit more length to really give Cam and Alexi’s relationship time to grow more. This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.

The narration: As I often find it does when the narration is really good, Nick J Russo’s narration of Under the Boardwalk has me more solidly sliding this title into a 4 star rating. He voices the characters quite well, accents and all, particularly when it came to Alexi in the more emotional and more passionate scenes. Nick’s narration made me appreciate this story more, making repeated listens at a future date highly likely since I truly enjoyed the way he brought Cam and Alexi to life.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-08-18

Loved Nick and Wes, excellent story and narration

When I read the first book in this series, Leaning Into Love, I said that Nick just rubbed me the wrong way. I also said I hoped he'd be redeemed in a future book, and I am so very happy to say that Leaning Into the Fall does exactly that (yeah, I'm a sucker for those kinds of follow-up stories). Here in this book, we get to see exactly why Nick acts the way he does, and everything more I learned about him endeared him even more to my heart.

There's an innocence to Nick that, combined with his personality, makes it almost impossible not to fall for him. For me, the fact that he's a genius and an analytical super-whiz is like icing on the cake (I love the brainiacs!) But it also makes it seem like he's not sure what he wants-at least to others. Wes was simply put-amazing. He's experienced, intelligent, savvy and knows exactly what Nick needs--and is ready to take care of him. The two of them come together so easily, but Nick's insecurity gets the best of him-something that doesn't bode well for their relationship.

I loved that their relationship and feelings develop over time, and felt that Nick and Wes fit together like the proverbial puzzle pieces. I was almost distraught at the thought that Nick's difficulty trusting others and his way of thinking might ruin such a beautiful relationship, as any outcome other than the two of them together just would have been...well...WRONG.

Oh, and I loved, loved, loved Geordie. A bit flamboyant, definitely emotional, and certainly heartbroken-yet he still plays his supporting role wonderfully and I cannot wait to get his story at some point in this series.

You can surely say I'm hooked on this series, and Leaning Into the Fall was a 5-star read for me. This series has turned Lane Hayes into an auto-buy author for me...and M/M romance fans will definitely want to add this book to their library. While it can be read as a standalone, I think readers will appreciate Nick a lot more if Leaning Into Love is read first. This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and some hot and steamy M/M sexual content.

The narration: Nick J. Russo is always a pleasure to listen to, and I thought he did a great job with this book. The voice he gave to Wes I thought was particularly apt and made it very easy for me to visualize him in my head, and it was the same with Wes as well as Geordie. The one for Finn though was a bit inconsistent and didn't come across as Irish to me. Regardless, the rest of the narration was spot-on, and made the story an enjoyable listening experience. 4.5 stars for the narration.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-28-18

A good look at the start of Ethan & Rhett, 4 stars

After reading the book to which this is a prequel, The Distance Between Us, I was definitely interested in seeing how Ethan and Rhett had come to be in the first place. Since I became perturbed with Ethan in Distance, I was hoping to see a better side to him when he and Rhett first started out. I’m happy to say that was the case, and while that leaves me a bit more aggravated with him for Distance, here in Before There Were Three I thought his character was much more likable.

I loved the way Ethan and Rhett met in this book. It’s a strong meet-cute, and immediately drew me in to their story since they quickly hit it off. One thing that’s certainly not lacking in this book is their physical connection. They connect quickly, and over…and over…and over…and just for kicks, over again. There is no doubt that they are sexually compatible, with their physical chemistry almost a living, breathing entity in itself. So much so that it almost threatens to take over the story until a bit past the midpoint of the book when the emotional aspect of their connection begins to make itself known.

With as strong of a connection as these two form, it does make me wonder exactly how they could have gotten to the point they ended up at in Distance—though that’s a pondering for that book’s review. And while Ethan seemed in a much better place in this prequel, the first half of the story still made him seem like he was mostly in it for fun (which is what the two of them intended at first), and was kind of emotionally detached in the beginning.

The story clearly shows how Ethan and Rhett’s relationship slowly evolves from hookup to friends with benefits to more, with a strong emphasis on the physical side of their relationship prevalent throughout the entire book. It’s a good look at how their relationship came to be, though as strong as their connection is here it still leaves me puzzled how things could go so crazily sideways in Distance. 4 stars for the story, and a strong 18+ warning for adult language and quite a bit of explicit, crazy hot sexual content.

The narration: I always enjoy Charlie David’s narration; his smooth, deep voice is always a pleasure to listen to, and he keeps things on an even pace throughout the book. While there’s not a broad delineation in voices between the characters, it’s still easy to understand who is speaking since the story is told only from Ethan’s point of view. He definitely brought the story to life, and sure as heck gave the numerous physical scenes a VERY realistic touch. 4 stars for the narration.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-23-18

Fantastic narration of an amazing story!

There’s so many things I liked about this story. I love age gap books, and while the difference between Frank and Taylor is only ten years, the fact that they first meet when Taylor is only thirteen, and then getting points of view almost every year until they finally express their feelings as adults makes it seem like the gap is bigger than it is. This actually threw me off a bit and made it a little awkward to me even though I knew the gap was only ten years.

I also like the hurt/comfort theme, and that this leads to the unbreakable bond that forms between the two men over the years. Frank and Taylor's relationship could be seen as hero worship gone overboard, but that really is so far from the truth—even their friends and family who have figured out how the two men feel about each other know that is not the case.

Another aspect I liked was the first half of the story being told over time, showing how their relationship slowly develops from rescuer/rescued to buddies to close friends, to lust and then love. Once the story reaches the point where Frank and Taylor are exploring their feelings for each other fully, the emotion and deep connection between them grows even more intense, but never feels rushed or like it’s too much. And their physical chemistry—that was far enough off the charts that you may need some ice on hand to cool yourself down once things get that far.

Even though the development of Frank and Taylor's relationship provides plenty of romance to drive the story, there’s an added dose of drama and suspense related to Taylor’s parents’ murder. It’s enough to keep you on the edge for a while wondering exactly when things will go sideways, which adds some great tension to the story.

The cast of supporting characters is fantastic—I really loved how they all wound up becoming a big, unconventional extended family and how supportive they all were of both Taylor and Frank. All of these secondary characters were well rounded and brought depth to the story, and there’s even potential among them for other stories in the future (please? okay?).

Survivor was a 4.5-star read for me, and I already know this is one I’ll be re-reading in the future. I do recommend this to any M/M romance fan, particularly if you’re a fan of the tropes featured in this story as they are written well. This story is strictly for readers 18+ for adult language/situations and sexual content.

The narration: Nick J. Russo did an amazing job narrating this story. The characters had distinct voices, and they matched quite well to what I had thought they should sound like when I read the ebook version. The pacing was perfect, and it was very easy for me to get totally absorbed in the story as I listened. I know I’ll be queuing this one up again in short order…5 stars for the narration!

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