Monday, October 23, 2017

AotM: The Shape of You & Under the Boardwalk by Felice Stevens (Reviews+Giveaway)

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The Shape of You

Genre: Contemporary MM Romance

Too big. Too fat.

All his life Eric Sontag has judged himself on his size, believing love and friendship aren't in the cards for someone like him. Tired of being alone and scared of his doctor’s warnings, he enrolls in a nutrition support group, determined to change his life. When a beautiful thin man sits next to him, he can’t believe they have anything in common, but conversation between the two soon proves first impressions aren’t always what they seem.

Drifter. Loner.

Corey DeSantis has always been the scrawny waif; he’s tired of struggling with his art and with life. Scarred by the disappearance and death of his drug-addicted mother, he doesn’t wish for love, believing it will bring him nothing but pain in the end. Now his only hunger in life is his desire to paint…until a health scare and his mentor force him to attend a nutrition class where he meets a man who piques his interest. One drunken kiss later, Eric is all Corey can think about.

The same, yet different.

An unlikely friendship is born with both men wanting more but afraid to listen to their well-guarded hearts. When Corey receives shocking news leaving him angry and helpless, it’s Eric he leans on, to help see him through, while a surprising career opportunity finds Eric leaning on Corey for advice. One night of explosive passion leads to a second and soon neither man can imagine a life without the other. Life is shaped by the challenges accepted and roads not taken but as Corey and Eric walk the path together, they’ll discover the most beautiful destination of all. Love.

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4.5 Stars

When Eric has an eye-opening visit with his doctor, who stresses the health problems, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, he is currently facing are a precursor leading him to the same early death his father suffered. Eric takes the doctor's advice seriously and joins a group focused on healthy eating. There he meets Corey, but he's not sure why the slender man is there. He can't have any problems associated with food, can he?

I applaud Ms. Stevens for taking on multiple eating disorders. Corey and Eric live on opposite ends of the spectrums of eating disorders, but one can be just as dangerous as the other. As a person who's also lived on both spectrums and understands the struggles with food, the author handled the subject matter with realism and it seemed well researched. I see a lot of myself in these characters. I understand the insecurities and the low self-esteem issues they faced.

Because of those insecurities, this was a slow burn. Both men had to learn to believe that the other truly wanted them. There is a lot of push and pull throughout the story that, and while it can get annoying at times, it made the story that much more realistic.

I loved both Eric and Corey. They both just want love but feel they don't deserve it. They were both extremely likable characters and I just wanted to hug them. The chemistry between them was amazing, something that's never missing in one of Felice's stories, and the sex was smoking hot.

The story is well-written and paced well. I loved that even in the end, as perfect as that ending was, Ms. Stevens keeps it realistic and shows that the battle with weight and self-esteem never ends. It's always there. I've read a few other stories surrounding this subject matter and this is by far the best yet. She definitely got the emotions these characters face is dead on. Very enjoyable and absolutely recommendable story!

***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

4.5 Stars!!!

Eric Sontag is overweight, lonely and lacking confidence, he has been fighting with his weight all his life and after a health scare, he's ready to give it a try again. When he's partnered with Corey DeSantis in their Nutrition class, he can't really figure why the slim man is there, but as they spend more time together, Eric realizes thin people can suffer weight issues as well. 

Corey has never been too interested in food, but losing more weight also means that his boss won't employ him as his model any longer. 

Corey and Eric become good friends, with certain added benefits when their attraction for each other gets the best of them, and they provide support for each other. They both have a lot of issues they have to work through and that might get in the way of them becoming something more.

I loved that we got to see both sides of the weight spectrum shown in this book. I think it's quite easy to forget that being underweight can provoke just as much health problems for people as being overweight can and Felice Stevens did a great job at showing us this with The Shape of You. I just adored that Eric and Corey could provide each other with the support they both sorely needed, but also that Corey could help Eric find his confidence and learn to trust others and Eric could help Corey find the courage to contact his mother and find his inspiration once again. It was inspiring to see them work through their issues and come out stronger in the end. I loved the progression from strangers to lovers, it was so organic and I adored the chemistry between them, despite (or perhaps because of) the bumps in the road due to their respective issues with relationships.

This was such a fantastic, enjoyable read, realistic, poignant and encouraging, well-written and perfectly paced, with lovable characters you can't help but want to see succeed and find their HEA. 

Definitely recommendable!!!

***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

4.5 Stars!

Partnered up at a nutrition class, Eric and Corey both are struggling with their relationship with food and self-image Each at opposite ends of the spectrum, Eric being overweight and at risk for heart attack and stroke, Corey being dangerously underweight and at risk as well. Both men try to find a way to love themselves and shed the self-loathing they've developed since childhood. 

Their friendship is natural and feels so right. But as great as it feels to confide in each other and open up to someone who understands, it's also complicated. Neither man trusts easily and their issues with their pasts and how they view themselves complicate things. It becomes obvious that they must trust each other and themselves and their friendship deepens. 

Eric and Corey are wonderful for each other because these two men give their support and care effortlessly. They have an undeniable connection and it's so sweet because it is truly based on who they are as a person. Each man sees something in the other that most never get to see, whether because they can't get passed the outside package or because they weren't given the opportunity to. 

It was sometimes hard to read because as a person who struggled with an eating disorder in the past and still struggles with my relationship with food and my body, I felt for these characters. Eric hit me hard because I've found myself so many times dealing with that same self-doubt that makes it hard to trust when someone says you're fine how you are. Corey broke my heart as well because as much as we see when someone struggles with being overweight and somewhat understand, we don't always see how hard it is for people who are underweight. 

This is a beautiful story of learning to love yourself and finding those around you who see you for you. It's about friendship and support, the courage to face your past and the pain associated with it. It's about falling in love and connection and reaching out for things you want. Felice took two men who are so different on the outside but so similar on the inside and created a beautiful love story. 

I definitely recommend The Shape of You. 

***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by the author/publisher for my reading pleasure in hopes of an unbiased opinion, a review was not a requirement.***

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Under the Boardwalk 

Genre: Contemporary MM Romance

Beneath the famous Brooklyn landmark, love is hidden but not denied:

All his life, Alexi Kharpov has dreamed of traveling to unknown exciting places instead of working at his family’s frozen custard stand on the famous Coney Island boardwalk. Every year is the same until a gorgeous man picks a spot in front of his stand to sing, captivating him with his beautiful voice. After two summers of listening, it might finally be the time for him to cross that boardwalk and take a chance.

Opera singer Cameron Maxwell has traveled the world, but the sight of the beautiful man serving custard to tourists touches his heart like nothing ever has before. A summer fling might be exactly what he needs to put his problems out of his mind, but the last thing Cam expects is to want the summer to last forever.

It’s a season of discovery for both men who learn to dig deep within their heads and hearts to decide whether secrets old and new should remain buried, or if love is too important to keep hidden under the boardwalk.

5 Stars!!!

Alexi comes from a very conservative Russian family and works at their frozen custard stand on Coney Island's boardwalk. He's gay, but he dreads his family finding out for fear of their reactions. He's been crushing on the handsome man that sings in front of his stand for the last two summers, but he doesn't think he stands a chance with him. 

Cam has been eyeing the gorgeous blond guy at the ice-cream stand and when they finally start talking, sparks fly between them. They grow closer as the summer advances, however, Alexi is not out and Cameron is fighting his own issues with his health and anyway, this was only supposed to be a fling, wasn't it?

I'm going to be perfectly honest here. I wasn't too sure I was going to like this book at first. It was too sweet and instalove, but Cam and Alexi won me over. They were adorable and hot and their chemistry and love was palpable, this was no fling at all, even if they were kind of fooling themselves. It felt natural, despite how fast it happened and frankly, I couldn't get enough of how perfect they were for each other. Cam gave Alexi the strength to finally stand up for himself, to overcome his shyness and his fear and it was amazing to see him grow and be the man he wanted to be. And similarly, Alexi gave Cam the support he needed when he found out he needed surgery again. 

I have to say I adored Alexi's mom and his Babushka, they were just amazing and I was in tears during a highly emotional scene with them. Cam's parents were awesome as well. I wasn't too sure about Dmitri, Alexi's cousin, or Alexi's father (who I really wanted to slap silly) but they came around in the end.  

Overall, this was a fabulous read. It's short, but it packed quite the punch. I laughed, I cried, I awwww'd and melted with the fantastic characters and story that Felice Stevens wove together. Under the Boardwalk is definitely a must read for me!

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

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Felice Logo

I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

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  1. I haven't read that many but Felice's is a great story

  2. One of my favourites is "The Weight Of It All" by N R Walker.

  3. I enjoyed both Shape of You and Weight of it All.

  4. I can't recall reading any yet

  5. Thr Shape of You was fantastic. Another one dealt with bulemia, it was Back Piecr

  6. The Weight Of It All by N R Walker and I also liked Not a Game by Cardeno C.

  7. The Shape of You by Felice Stevens.

  8. Congrats on AotM, Felice, and thanks for the good review, Mari, Tracy, and Jaymie. I'm going the other way with a book, this one on eating disorder that Suki Fleet interweaves seamlessly as part of her street kid environment in Foxes.