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Book review: To Love and To Cherish by Addison Albright

to love and to cherish

Warning: my review probably contains spoilers!

I love Addison Albright’s books. Simple as that. Ever since I read Cultivating Love the first time, I’ve connected with her books and her characters on a deep level. There’s something about the realness she manages to convey that speaks to me. She writes about real people, people I would love to be friends and hang out with. Don’t get me wrong: there are a time and a place for the stereotypical romantic heroes. Who hasn’t swooned by the imaginary feet of the broody bad boys, the smoking hot firemen, or the tortured heroes?

But lately, I’ve found myself craving something different. I’ve found and fallen in love with Willow Scarlett and their quirky, wonderfully weird characters. And I’ve fallen in love with Addison Albright’s real, regular guys.

They are guys with regular jobs, regular lives, and regular feelings. That might sound boring, but to me, it’s very exciting. Almost anyone can write about imaginary things like werewolves and hobbits. But it takes a skilled person to write realness.

I’ve fallen in love with most of her heroes. They aren’t guys that express their love in a large bombastic way by proposing on a billboard or sweeping their stuff off the desk so they can make love right this minute. No, they’re guys that show their love in small, but meaningful ways. Like leaving a glass of water and pain pills on the bedside table for your injured fiancé, like Emmitt does for Nash in To Love and To Cherish.

When we meet Nash he’s bitter and jaded because of how his engagement with Sam from ‘Til Death Do Us Part ended. And with good reason. In fact, he’s so cynical, he proclaims “Fuck love!” and agrees to marry Emmitt for convenient reasons.

But after Nash’s accident and subsequent memory-loss, he gets a reboot. Nash and Emmitt agree that Emmitt won’t tell Nash what happened, that he will regain his memories in his own time, if at all. Usually, I’m not a fan of keeping secrets, but the way Addison handled it was excellent. Emmitt doesn’t go behind Nash’s back. Instead, they talk about it like mature adults and agree on it together. You know, like real people would do.

There are several instances in the book that easily could have gone south but don’t because the characters behave in a rational manner. The way Nash feels about what happened with Sam for example. He realizes it wasn’t Sam’s fault and he’s being the bigger person about it. I love that about Nash.

Reading about how Nash evolves from bitter and jaded and following along as he falls in love with Emmitt, is wonderful and believable. Both Nash and Emmitt are wonderful, three-dimensional characters. Nash has a really hard time all through the book, but he tries his hardest to move on and to be a good person. Emmitt is really dreamy; how he’s secretly been interested in Nash for a long time, but still offers to set him free when Nash loses his memory. It’s lovely to see how they’re both committed to each other from the start, but especially after Nash’s accident.

What I love the most about this book is the intimate moments between Nash and Emmitt that’s sprinkled throughout the story. I really love how Addison writes intimacy between lovers. It’s another thing that feels real to me. Like it could be a scene taken from my own life.

I would be remiss if I wrote a review about this book without mentioning Grampy, Emmitt’s grandfather. He’s a wonderful character, a mischievous old man who loves his grandson wholeheartedly and who accepts Nash fully. In fact: if I got one complaint about To Love and To Cherish, it is that Grampy needs more on-page time.

TL;DR: this is a heartwarming story about two men finding love after giving up hope on finding The One. But most of all it’s a story full of real, wonderful characters. I warmly recommend it!

5-stars

 

 


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Short story recommendations

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again: I absolutely love short stories. Many times I prefer to read a short story instead of a 400+ page novel. I’m not necessarily a big fan of all the side plots and the unnecessary drama you need to fill up all those pages. I want to read about the romantic couple, not about everything else happening in their lives.

And these last few weeks I’ve read three excellent collections of short stories, so I thought I’d share.

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Snapshots by Addison Albright

I’ve already told you that I had the privilege of beta reading Addison’s collection of short stories, but that didn’t make me any less excited to read the finished versions. I absolutely love reading the final product of something I’ve critiqued or betaed: it’s like watching a child grow up.

And I wasn’t disappointed with the result: I loved every one of them. What I like most is that it’s such a diverse collection of stories, ranging from a meet cute in an adult video arcade to an established couple getting married, and everything in between. It’s an aptly named book: the reader is treated to snapshots from the different couples’ lives, a brief look into their relationship.

Most of them leave me wanting more, which I consider a good thing. It means I wasn’t bored with the story, it kept my interest the entire time, and I’m hungry to know what happens next in their lives. I want to know what happens to George and Blaine in King Kong vs The Skinny Pirate—will their relationship work out despite them being so seemingly different? I would love to read about how Darryl and Warren in Now and Forever met, their story before the marriage. And I definitely want to read more about Evan and Gary, in my favorite story Cow Pie Bingo.

TL;DR: Snapshots is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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Falling Hard: Stories of Men In Love by Dale Cameron Lowry

I found this collection of stories via the #RainbowSnippets group I joined a few weeks back. I click around and read all the other authors’ contributions and this jumped out at me immediately. It was something about the language and the way the author treats the words that made me weak in the knees. And after the second week in a row with the same reaction, I decided I needed to buy it.

And I was not disappointed. All of the stories are magical, there’s no other word for it. The emotions leap off the page in Dale’s writing and I was mesmerized and couldn’t put it down. I even loved Far From Home, which is a sci-fi story and I don’t read sci-fi (I prefer to watch it, thank you very much!) But the concept of the story was so clever and original, so it was impossible not to love it.

The stories in this collection is also diverse and interesting. I loved everything from the shy ghost in Ghost of a Chance, to reading about how established couple Mike and Ken meet a third guy that they can’t seem to forget in Pacific Rimming. But I think my favorite was Loggerhead. I’ve always said I don’t like reading about established couples because the author always fucks up their relationship for the sake of the story—but that’s not the case here. Loggerhead tells the story about how Jake and Eric find their way back to each other. And it contains my favorite quote:

“I never forget that I love you. But sometimes I forget how important that is to me.”

*swoon*

TL;DR: Falling Hard is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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A More Perfect Union by B.G. Thomas, J. Scott Coatsworth, Jamie Fessenden, and Michael Murphy

I’ve read this collection of short stories before, when it was just released. But the other day I felt like something short and cute and thought I’d just read one of the stories before bed time. 

Yeah, right. As if. *snort*

At 5:30 AM, I put it down after re-reading all of the stories again, and they were even better this time. I love the premise of the collection, I’ll cut and paste it here for you (taken from Goodreads), if you’re not familiar with it:

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I can’t decide which story I love most. Flames by Coatsworth tells the story about Alex and Gio, and how Gio gets badly hurt in a fire. I love to read about Alex’s journey from being afraid of commitment to how he’s willing to do anything to get Gio to come back to him.

Jeordi and Tom by Michael Murphy is about a young couple. They show extraordinary bravery and loyalty and fight for each other against a homophobic family in a small Kentucky town. Someday by B.G. Thomas is a story about a Lucas who met Dalton in kindergarten and knew from the start they would get married one day.

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So cute! And so right. What if two boys fall in love, why shouldn’t they be allowed to marry? It’s incomprehensible.

But maybe it’s Destined by Jamie Fessenden that’s my favorite after all. And even though I love the story about how Jay and Wallace meet, get separated by life and circumstances, meet again, and finally start building a life together, I think it’s the dedication from the author that makes me love it the most.

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 TL;DR: A More Perfect Union is awesome. Read it. 😀 

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I warmly recommend any of these collections of short stories. If you haven’t read them, I strongly suggest you run to your nearest virtual bookstore and buy them—you won’t regret it.

And if you have suggestions about short story collections you think I’d like, feel free to tell me in the comments 🙂


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Book review

I wrote in my summary of the best books I read 2016 that I’d review some of them here on the blog eventually. Here’s the first: 

Cultivating Love by Addison Albright

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This is a story about an established couple, and usually I don’t read those kind of books. I prefer reading about people getting to know each other and falling in love. Another reason I try to steer clear of established couples, is because authors tend to be mean, mean people, who think up lots of drama for the poor unsuspecting couple, and I prefer my HEAs to be of the forever, totally unbelievable, kind. You know, where the guys ride off into the sunset, holding hands, professing their undying love, and never ever break up or argue.

So this was a different read for me, but good different. Don’t get me wrong, there was drama, but it came from outside sources, and I’ll even go so far as to say it was beneficial for the guys as a couple.

The relationship between Ed and Joe starts out being solid, but not very romantic. They don’t cuddle, or hold hands, and they have very specific rules for sexy-times. So while they’re both in it for the long haul, the other doesn’t necessarily know it.

But when something happens that changes their lives and their relationship, it pushes them both to takes risks in their relationship. To dare to ask for more and to give more. To want more, not just sex, but intimacy and closeness.

Addison Albright has done a phenomenal job of showing the progression in their relationship. They take small, careful steps and they worry about what the other person is going to think, but I love that they both put themselves out there. I love seeing them taking a chance on each other, even if they aren’t always using so many words doing it.

It works wonderfully with the characters Albright has created. They are two ordinary guys, trying to find their way in life. They’re not super ripped, alpha males showing their love in grand, bombastic gestures, but that doesn’t make the story any less romantic. It might not be not flowers and chocolate and loud declarations, but instead they express their love in a way that’s deeply meaningful for the characters, something I find incredibly romantic.

I’ve read several of Albright’s novels, and one of my favorite things is how well she writes quiet, intimate moments between characters. Moments that fill me with warm, fuzzy feelings and makes me sigh happily. This book is full of them and I simply adore it.

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The only thing negative thing I have to say about it, is that I don’t like the cover very much. I mean: why is the N in “Cultivating” so large compared to the other letters? It’s weird. Unfortunately, it put me off reading this book for the longest time, which is too bad because it’s a wonderful story.

I give Cultivating Love my warmest recommendations. Just skip the cover and immerse yourself in a quick, heartwarming read. You won’t regret it.

5 feel-good stars.

5-stars


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New: book reviews

Today I introduce something new here on the blog: Nell’s book reviews. I’m kind of bad at writing reviews,  I don’t really know how to talk about a book without giving away spoilers because if I talk about it I want to talk about everything. I find it somewhat easier when it’s a book I don’t like (because ranting is easy, right?), but if it’s a favorite I don’t really know what to say. I get all love-struck and tongue-tied. But I’m an avid consumer of reviews so I thought it was time for me to give back to society. And it’s great practice. So here it goes.

How to Walk Like a Man (Howl at the Moon #2) by Eli Easton

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First of all, let me start by saying that even if this is the second book in the series it’s no problem to read as a standalone.

Some books you know from the first page—or even the first sentence—that you’re going to love. How to Walk Like a Man was just like that. I got this warm fuzzy feeling when I started reading it and I just knew.

I’m picky when it comes to paranormal books. I like urban fantasy, but not high fantasy, and I’m fine with shifters or vampires in a contemporary setting. What I like most about this series is the very creative take on shifters, that it isn’t the regular old Alpha/Omega Wolf. It’s about dogs that “quicken”, i.e dogs that had such strong bonds to their human owners they somehow get the ability to shift into a human after the owner passes away.

It’s a completely original concept and very charming. Maybe dogs aren’t as sexy and dangerous as wolfs, but I really love the quirky factor. And I love that Easton gives the quickened dog-characteristics when in human form.

This book is about Roman who’s a quickened German Shepherd and Matt, a human DEA-agent. The characters are great, but I love Roman most of all. He’s so brilliantly written and adorable it’s impossible not to love him. He’s only been quickened for about two years, so there’s lots of aspects of being a human he’s unaware of, something that makes for many hilarious moments in the book.

Matt is also a nice character, but he pales somewhat in comparison to Roman. Their chemistry is believable and they start out as friends and work their way from there.

But…and here comes a big but. I have a big problem with multiple POV’s in romance novels. And I don’t mean the MC’s, the romantic partners, I’m perfectly fine with dual POV, or even triple if I read a threesome. But I really don’t like when the reader is suddenly thrown into the sheriff’s or even the villain’s head.

So while the good parts in this book is SO VERY GOOD, I’m pulled out of the story with the sudden POV-changes to other characters than Roman or Matt. For me it takes away from the flow of the story, and I found myself skimming those chapters, thinking they were unnecessary and sort of lazy.

I read the good parts and they made me laugh and cry and ache inside. I grumbled over the Goodreads five-star rating system because I wanted to give it ten stars…and then—BAM— a POV-change pulled me out of the story.

I really, really want to give this book five stars, but I can’t. I didn’t feel the other POVs were necessary and the book would have been tighter without them. But the majority of the book is told from Roman’s or Matt’s POV and there’s nothing I can say about it other than FABULOUS!

I end my first review with a passage from the book. I laughed so hard I disturbed my husband’s phone meeting 🙂 (The ex-dogs don’t get all human traits at once, the develop gradually. So this is the first time Roman gets an erection in his human form:)

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Despite my complaints about the multiple POVs I highly recommend this book. I give it four-almost-five strong stars, out of five.

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