Review: After the Rain by Daisy Harris

after the rainReviewed by Jen

I think this may be my least favorite Daisy Harris book.  One of the reasons I looked forward to this Fire and Rain series was because I hoped we would be moving away from the NA themes of Holsum College into more adult romances.  Alas, we are not.   And unfortunately that was the least of my problems.

The story follows 20 year-old firefighter Logan, as he embarks on a gay camping trip to find his first boyfriend.  He recently broke up with his only lover, a woman, and now he wants to pursue the attraction he has always felt to men.  He is a loveable softie with a Texas twang and aw’shucks demeanor.  He’s a little… eager, but generally a good guy.  I can’t say the same for his love interest, Henri.  Henri is a total asshat.  It’s hard to get into a romance when one of the guys is a dick. [Read more…]

Review: From the Ashes

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve read so many of Daisy Harris’s Holsum College books, it felt a little strange to leave the school behind for this one. But fans of that series probably won’t feel like this one is too much of a departure.  Harris sticks with her NA m/m niche, only with a new city and a firefighter hook.  It’s still about her characters’ journey of self-discovery, falling in love for the first time, and figuring out what life as gay man means to each of them.

Jesse is 21 years-old and trying to make it on his own after his dad tossed him out for being gay.  He was getting by, taking a few college classes and working at a coffee shop, when his apartment caught fire, destroying everything he had.  [Read more…]

Review: My Fair Dork

Reviewed by Jen

Size really does matter. But bigger isn’t always better. No one understands that more than Harold.  There’s really no gentle way to say it.  His dick is really, really big.  So big, in fact, that it has been a constant source of embarrassment. It’s also, however, what drew Owen’s attention in the dorm shower room.

Owen has always known he was bisexual. But it has always been easier to just act on his attraction to girls.  After his eyeful of Harold’s goods in the shower, though, he can’t stop thinking about the awkward and somewhat dorky kid from England.  He decides to focus his energies on helping Harold find a bit of a cool-factor.

It doesn’t take long for Owen’s well-meaning experiment to cross the line of friendship.  And once they begin to get physical, Owen must decide whether Harold is worth outing himself on campus.

I can’t say this was my favorite among the Holsum College books, but it’s pretty in keeping with the rest of the series. It has the same strengths: a sweet coming of age gay love story and smoking hot sex.  It also has the same weaknesses: a relationship that develops at lightening speed with conflict resolution that is just as fast –plus the L-word way, way too soon.  Sadly, that’s my biggest romance peeve, so it drives me nuts over and over again.

I keep reading, though. Because the characters are sympathetic and the love stories are easy to root for.  Oh yeah, and the sex is super-good.  (*sigh*) If only these guys could wait more than two weeks to pick out matching china patterns…

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

My Fair Dork
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: October 13, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Genius and the Jock

Reviewed by Jen

This was another favorite for me in the Holsum College series.  It features two closeted male leads who come to accept who they are through their growing affection for one another.

Griffin and Raj first came together three years ago, though no one could call in an auspicious beginning.  Griff was a burly linebacker who couldn’t ignore the eyes of the towel-boy who always seemed to be watching him.  Unsure how to deal with the attraction, Griff cornered Raj with his big body and gave him a blow job neither one of them would ever forget.  Raj was so rattled by the experience, he quit his job and never came back.

Now Griffen is night watchman for the building that houses Raj’s lab.  He’s grown a lot since the locker-room incident and wants another chance with Raj.  The thing is, Raj is wary of him and afraid to acknowledge his homosexuality.  Griffen sets out to show him he has become a better man.  He slowly works his way into a friendship and, eventually, something more.

Griffin is a really likeable guy. He’s such a gentle giant.  It’s really cool how Daisy Harris flips the obvious roles for the two main characters, both in disposition and in the bedroom as well.

And speaking of the bedroom… That is one element of this series that never disappoints.  The sex is always hot without ever feeling over-the-top. Really good stuff.

Sometimes I wonder if there are any straight guys left at Holsum College.  But then again, with sex like this… who cares?

Yum.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by author for review 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Genius and the Jock
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: September 15, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Pride and Politics

Reviewed by Jen

Hunter is a character who was very difficult to like in the earlier books of this series.  He was not only a man-whore, but he was cocky, dismissive, and sometimes even downright mean to the men he hooked up with.  I’m happy to say that we see an entirely new side to Hunter in this book and we learn a lot about what makes him tick.

As we already knew, Hunter is part of a very politically connected family.  Now, he has been tapped to take part in his uncle’s vice-presidential campaign, serving as the token gay family member.  He’s getting a huge payoff for the gig, but just to be sure he stays on the straight and narrow, his uncle has hired Steve to serve as his image consultant –and generally as his wrangler.

Steve has no intention of doing anything more than his job when it comes to Hunter. But it quickly becomes apparent that there is more to Hunter than the arrogant ass he projects.  In fact, the more Steve sees of Hunter’s vulnerabilities, the more he allows his feelings for him to grow.  The story follows the development of their relationship and the impact it has on Hunter as a person.

I really enjoyed the first half.  I liked getting a behind the scenes look at Hunter and the dynamics of his family and his past.  I liked Steve and his steady influence –and as always, Daisy Harris is great with the sex and the sexual tension.

I did have some significant problems, though.  First of all, I felt like Steve’s decision to indulge with Hunter was very abrupt. It was no, no, no –and then yes really fast. I know what the impetus was, but I think I would have liked more time inside Steve’s head as he changed his mind.  This bothered me, but not nearly as much as the sudden introduction of BDSM into the relationship.  I felt like it came out of nowhere. Yes, Hunter is bossy and kind of supernova, but it seemed like he appreciated the different dynamic he had with Steve at the beginning of their relationship. And Steve surely gave me no inclination he might like to be a sub. He’s never even bottomed before.

Maybe it’s just that the whole dom/sub thing is not my bag, but I really didn’t get a whiff of this between these two until *BAM* Steve is gagged with a tie and shoving his ass in the air in the limousine.   I didn’t like this development and it was made worse for me because I didn’t see it coming.

This is book six in the Men of Holsum College series –and we’ve seen Hunter before– but this would work easily as a standalone.

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Pride and Politics
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: August 25, 2012
Publisher: Siren

 

Review: Bossy and the Brat

Reviewed by Jen

Calvin has been going through the motions to be the guy his parents wanted him to be. He got engaged to a girl from his hometown and tried to push aside his attraction to Tyler, the flirty freshman in his dorm. But he’s fighting a losing battle.

I was hesitant to start this book at first, because when I read the blurb I thought this was going to be a cheater story and I don’t really enjoy those. Thankfully, that is not the case.  Calvin and his girlfriend break up as the story begins. But that doesn’t entire clear the path for Calvin to act on his feelings.  At first, he honestly can’t admit them to himself.  Beyond that, he just finished up as stint as Resident Adviser in the dorm and there is a strict rule against him dating a freshman.

Tyler has never really had much luck at relationships. He’s the guy who is good for a quick hook-up, but no one really wants him for more. Part of the problem is that he is a little needy and he doesn’t really see it when men don’t give him the respect he deserves.  His love life stinks, but when he gets the idea that Calvin may be attracted to him, he jumps at the possibility of something between them.

Calvin quickly gives in to the temptation Tyler provides, but he’s still pretty hung up on the idea of breaking the rules. So he tries to force the relationship on hold and attempts to keep the attraction quiet. But it’s obvious from the get-go that it’s a train wreck waiting to happen.

One things that never fails in the Holsum College books is the sex.  First of course, we’ve got amazing tension… then, later, the payoff is really, really good.  I also liked that there was a friendship or at least a friendly acquaintance  between Calvin and Tyler before the book ever started. This allowed me to buy in to the tender feelings that developed pretty quickly.

I thought Calvin’s concerns about “breaking the rules” to be with Tyler were a bit flimsy, since he was no longer an RA. And I felt like Calvin’s ex-fiance was a little too easy to accept that the man she was going to marry is boffing another dude less than a week after they broke up.  But I just kind of put all that aside to enjoy the story. It’s not an epic romance, but it’s a sweet and sexy read.

Rating: B-

*ARC provided by author for review

Bossy and the Brat
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: July 28, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Player and the Prude

Reviewed by Jen

Daisy Harris continues her Men of Holsum college series with what I think is the strongest installment to date.

The story follows the popular and carefree Brooks as he sets his sights on Matt, the tall, awkward roommate of an ex-hookup.  The conquest actually starts as a dare, but Brooks is legitimately attracted to Matt, so it quickly becomes more than that.

Matt is struggling to accept his wants and desires. He was raised in a strict Christian home that was very sexually repressed.  He has shed some of his hang-ups. He acknowledges that he is gay and wants to be with men. But he still believes that sex should be part of a real relationship and not some casual thing between strangers.  Beyond that, his sexual fantasies are darker than he feels comfortable with. He wants to dominate Brooks and thinks himself perverted for it.

I loved that because of Matt’s values, a real connection is given time to form between these two. Yes, it happens off page, but I am totally ok with that. The fact that they spent weeks kissing and hanging out made their trust level and emotional connection so much more believable.  Matt has some serious self-loathing about his BDSM inclinations and Brooks really is understanding and supportive of his needs.

I’m generally not a BDSM fan, but I understood Matt’s confusion and shame and it endeared him to me.  There was one scene that made me a little uncomfortable when Matt mistakes Brooks for an intruder and is turned on by attacking him.  But for the most part, I was down with the evolution of their relationship, both in and out of the bedroom.  Both characters were well developed and each did a lot of growing over the course of the story… so by the time we reached the end, I believed in their HEA.

Rating: B


*ARC provided by author for review

Player and the Prude
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: July 7, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Townie and the Twink

Reviewed by Jen

This third installment in the Men of Holsum College series was kind of a mixed bag for me.  There were some things I really liked, while others didn’t quite work. Let me give you a little set-up on the story.

Gabe is an openly gay college student who knows Nick only as an acquaintance through class.  But Gabe is a very perceptive guy and he recognizes the fact that Nick is likely gay.  In fact, after running into him at a pub one night, Gabe realizes that that Nick is in love with his very hot and very straight best friend.  Of course, Nick is in denial. He’s never considered himself gay in his life.

As a local, Nick doesn’t live on campus, but as he strikes up a friendship with Gabe, he starts hanging out at Gabe’s house… and eventually sleeping on his sofa.  It’s during a sleepover that their friendship turns physical.

I’m going to stop here and tell you what really works about this book: the sexy times.  From making out, to mutual masturbation… to eventually the big enchilada, Daisy Harris delivers.  The sex scenes are hot and believable, and every single one of them was great.  The other thing I really like about these books is how they are all so different from each other. I would imagine it would be easy for these stories to feel the same, but they don’t.  The characters have clearly defined voices and the issues are unique to each couple.

Now for what I didn’t like.  The first is a small thing. I felt like too fine a point was put on Gabe’s “mind reading” skills, especially early on. It was off-putting, redundant, and just didn’t feel organic.  The second problem was more significant and that was the fact that I had a hard time keeping up with elapsed time in the story. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if a chunk of time had passed or just a day.  By the end of the story, the guys referenced their relationship had been going on for “a few weeks,” but that was closest we got to any time reference that felt clear to me. And this ties into my third (and biggest) problem, which is the fact that these dudes are throwing the L-word around in a nanosecond.  A week, maybe?  Talking about living together and “forever” in less than a month.  Love too soon is my biggest peeve in romance of any kind.  It rips all the realism away from the emotions between the characters and leaves me feeling annoyed.

So like I said, mixed feelings. A sexy diversion, yes.  A romance that touched my heart, no.

Rating: C

*ARC provided by author for review

Townie and the Twink
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: June 11, 2012
Publisher: Siren

Review: Diva and the Frat Boy

Reviewed by Jen

Nathaniel is not the kind of gay man who will ever pass as straight. He’s out and he’s proud, but it’s more than that. He doesn’t walk, he sashays. He wears lip gloss and half shirts. He is the stereotype of the over-the-top effeminate bottom, who bats his eyelashes and hangs a disco-ball in his bedroom. He is, essentially, the polar opposite of Greg.

As president of the gay frat on campus, Greg doesn’t hide his sexuality. But he is masculine and conservative. He plays sports and studies law. He’s never been bullied or teased for who he is. He fits in and has never thought much about it.

When Nat pledges to join Greg’s fraternity, Greg is wary about acting on his attraction to the younger man. Mostly, he worries about the imbalance of power in the relationship, as the frat considers whether to accept Nat among its ranks. But once they make their decision, Greg decides there is no longer a reason to hold back. And he makes his move.

Nat never dreams that Greg could want more from him than a quick sexual encounter. And the story focuses a lot on Nathaniel’s perception of himself, of Greg, and of what the two of them could be to each other. In many ways, the story is about the contrast between these two; whether these opposites can do more than just attract, but to find love long term.

I have to admit, I didn’t enjoy this installment quite as much as I did College Boys. I think it’s because there were times that Nathaniel made me uncomfortable. I suppose there is some irony in that, because so much of the story is about how he makes everyone else uncomfortable by simply being who he is. And as I got to know him better, I realized how much of it is a defense mechanism. There were times he felt a little like a caricature, but not all the time. There were some poignant moments too, especially when we got a glimpse into his real life when we visited his mother’s home. Something about those glasses made him seem so vulnerable…

It was interesting to see the stereotypes and prejudices that exist inside the gay community. As for the relationship, I liked it. The sex was hot and realistic. (I love that Greg carries lube in his pocket.) But the “Daddy” nickname didn’t float my boat. Still, a good story, and I will stick with series.

Rating: B-  
 
*ARC provided by author for review

  Diva and the Frat Boy
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: May 14, 2012
Publisher: Siren
 

Review: College Boys

Reviewed by Jen

Chris is a sweet, straight, southern boy, attending a small liberal college.  His move to a new dorm room puts him right next door to Peter, a friendly gay man who is out and proud.  The wall between their small rooms is paper thin, and the two become fast friends, talking though plaster as if it’s not even there.

Peter has a huge crush on Chris, and he never dreams the attraction may be returned.  But that’s exactly what begins to happen.  Chris slowly accepts his attraction and curiosity about Peter and reaches out to see if they can have a future together.

First of all, I have to say that I read this novella in one sitting, because I didn’t want to put it down.  I really enjoyed the writing style and the story itself. This isn’t just a romance, but also a journey of self-discovery for Chris.  He’s a good guy with aw’shucks charm. But Peter stole the show for me.  Daisy Harris does such a great job taking us through his emotions as he struggles with his growing feelings for Chris and his looming fear of rejection.  And then there’s the sex… which I thought was very well done.  From their tentative early forays together to the abandon they reach later in the story, it was hot –and sweet– and it definitely put me in the moment.

My only quibbles were small ones.  The first is the relative ease in which Chris accepts this major change in his life.  From what I could tell, this is a guy who has never questioned his sexuality, and he’s going from denial to begging for a shag at lightning speed.  Don’t get me wrong, I am glad he can figure all this out without hurting Peter in the process, but I would have expected a little more reticence or freaking out than he did.  (*small spoiler*) I also could have done without the talk of marriage at the end.  These guys are still new –and young.  A HFN ending would have left me warm & fuzzy and satisfied, without the need for that extra step.

But these things aside, I really did like it.  And if Daisy Harris decides to write another story about side characters Nathaniel and Greg, I would totally read it.  4 stars.

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
College Boys
by Daisy Harris
Release Date: April 9, 2012
Publisher: Siren