Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Release Day Review ~ Destination Wedding by Xavier Mayne (+Series Review)

Release Day Review ~ Destination Wedding (Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Six) by Xavier Mayne (+ Series Review)

Title: Destination, Wedding!

Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Six

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: January 30, 2017

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M/M or More

Pages: 400

State troopers Ethan Brandt and Gabriel Donnelly are finally going to get their storybook wedding—sailing on an ocean liner to a castle in the English countryside! But when an Icelandic volcano scrambles flights all over the world, they must find alternate routes to the altar—separately.

Donnelly meets Sandler Birkin, a globetrotting courier who specializes in carrying rare artifacts and diplomatic pouches. He pulls a few strings to get Donnelly to the ship on time and then accompanies him across the Atlantic. Donnelly returns the favor by helping to find Sandler’s long-lost first love, Trevor Hendricks. Trevor's controlling, homophobic parents have brought him to Europe for a radical treatment to cure him of his homosexuality—and his love for Sandler.

Brandt, meanwhile, finagles his way around the globe with the help of Kerry Mercer, a sales executive whose spirit of adventure leads her to accompany him on his improvised journey. However, sharing hotel rooms with her presents a problem for Brandt who, despite being about to marry a man, still finds her attractive.

Once Brandt and Donnelly are reunited, they band together with Kerry and Sandler to plot Trevor’s rescue. But doing so might mean missing their own wedding.

Note: Destination Wedding and books 4 and 5 in the series were provided to Bayou Book Junkie by Dreamspinner Press for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement.

5 Stars! 

Finally!! The wedding we've all been waiting for is finally here. Ethan and Gabriel are two weeks away from their big day and the countdown has begun. Too bad things aren't going according to plan thanks to an ill-timed Icelandic volcanic eruption. Now both men are forced to find a way to their European wedding separately. Planes, trains and cruise ships, these men are determined to find a way to England and the castle that awaits them.

Gabriel had no clue what kind of adventure he was in for when he meets Sandler Birkin in the first class lounge at the airport. Sandler is an international courier, leads an exciting yet lonely life traveling the world. His many connections allow him to assist in getting Gabriel to the waiting cruise ship after his flight is canceled. From there Sandler will accompany Gabriel on the cruise that Gabriel had expected to share with Ethan.

At the same time, Ethan and his new friend Kerry are traveling through Mexico and Europe using Kerry's connections trying to make it to where the ship will dock. Brandt is grateful for Kerry's company but is also struggling with the fact that he finds her attractive. He can't help but overthink the fact that he may love Gabriel with his whole heart but he can't deny that he still finds himself getting aroused by women. Sharing a hotel room with only one bed becomes a nightmare for him.

Miles away Bryce and Nestor are determined to be there for their favorite Troopers. Knowing that there is no way they'll get a flight going East, Bryce concocts a plan to head West and taking a flight in the opposite direction to get there. First, though, their journey begins relying on Virgil, a trucker who agrees to take them to California. Of course with this being Bryce and Nestor, it is a wild and crazy ride.

Funny! This book is so funny I couldn't help but love it. While the separate journeys are emotional in many ways for both Gabriel and Brandt, the more serious tone is broken by the comedic exploits of Bryce and Nestor and their new friend Virgil. I'm pretty sure I laughed more at the things that come out of Bryce's mouth than I have laughed at anything this year so far.

Ethan made me a little sad though because I felt like he was struggling with his decision to be with a man for the rest of his life. Not Gabriel because he doesn't doubt even for a second how he feels about him, but his contemplation of his sexuality at this point in the story is heartbreaking. I want him to be so devoted to Gabriel that he no longer struggles with his sexual identity. While yes, it's romantic in theory, to love someone so much that gender was not even a factor in it, it's also disconcerting because it leaves me with this tiny niggle of doubt that he'll be able to spend the rest of his life in a "gay marriage" (don't take this to mean that I think he'll cheat just because he's also attracted to women. I just mean that I feel like he will never be able to stop worrying about labels and it may lead to problems in the future).

Donnelly, on the other hand, is comfortable identifying as a gay man. His self-discoveries are more to do with the fact that he had never had the chance to live his life as a gay man without being in a committed relationship with Ethan. He needs to learn how to be an individual and not just one-half of a couple. Sandler is trying to give him that but Gabriel is having a hard time not feeling as if it's wrong without Ethan.

Basically, just like with the first book in the series, this one is full of the laughs. Bryce and Nestor are absolutely hilarious and need their own reality show because I can't get enough of them. Like the second and third books, we have the mystery and intrigue, we have to see the Troopers at work after all. Like the fourth book, we are introduced to an array of new characters that are easy to fall in love with while getting the sweet relationship between Ethan and Donnelly.

I highly recommend Destination Wedding and the entire series!

Series Review: Brandt and Donnelly Caper (Books 1-5) by Xavier Mayne

Title: Frat House Troopers
Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File One

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: December 19, 2012

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M
Pages: 260

State trooper Brandt’s new assignment to infiltrate a sex-cam operation puts him in a very uncomfortable position, especially since he’ll have to perform naked on camera for his audition. Fortunately his partner and best friend, Donnelly, has his back—whether that means helping Brandt shop gay boutiques for sexy underwear or offering Jäger and encouragement while he researches porn.

Despite his mortification, Brandt gives the audition his best “shot”—and becomes an overnight sensation. But to meet the man behind the operation, he'll have to give a repeat performance, this time live on webcam opposite the highest bidder. Donnelly makes sure to win that auction for his partner’s sake, but their plan has a flaw: faking it is not an option.

In the aftermath, Brandt is a humiliated mess trying desperately to come to terms with what he’s had to do for the job and his own mixed feelings. But Donnelly has been on a journey of discovery of his own. Suddenly everything the two men thought they knew about themselves and each other gets turned inside out. Meanwhile, they still have a case to solve… but it may not be the case they thought it was.

5 Stars! 

Fun, Sexy and Outrageously Hilarious!

State trooper Ethan Brandt has no idea how he is going to pull off this new undercover assignment. He will need to somehow get recruited and hired on at an online sex-cam website where he will need to be naked on camera performing solo acts for viewers. Nothing in his training has ever prepared him for this kind of thing and it's not easy to think about how the whole experience is messing with his mind.

Gabriel Donnelly has been Brandt's partner for the past two years. There is no one in his life he feels more comfortable with, but when Brandt announced their new assignment, Donnelly had just as hard of a time imagining how Brandt will pull it off. Luckily, he has an idea of where they need to go to get Ethan prepared for his new persona and the men are immediately taken under the wing of a flamboyant tornado better know as Bryce, his over-the-top significant other Nestor and Brandt's new colleague Nick, who seems to love his job at the site.

Surprisingly, Brandt seems to be a natural and quickly becomes an audience favorite. This new found celebrity leads to an epic auction for a 1 on 1 live web show. Terrified of what this will entail, Brandt and Donnelly come up with a plan to have Donnelly place the highest bid and the two can just fake it for an hour. Unfortunately, however, Brandt realizes there is no way to fake anything and he and Donnelly will have to go through with it for real. When it's all over neither man is the same and they'll have to figure out what it all means.

When I first read this book, I thought it was cute and entertaining. I had trouble really getting into it, though, because it seemed hard to suspend belief long enough to truly appreciate it. This time, though, I found it absolutely hilarious and I had too much fun with it. It's over the top sometimes but it made me laugh out loud more than once.

While there is some inner angst (this is GFY) there isn't an over the top amount of turmoil that the MC's go through. Brandt and Donnelly are great together. Their banter is funny and entertaining and when they have their sweet moments it's even better. They have off the charts chemistry that carries throughout the entire series.

If you haven't read this one, I highly recommend it!

Title: Wrestling Demons
Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Two

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: April 9, 2014

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M
Pages: 276

Jonah Fischer’s high school wrestling career has been stellar, but now he’s the unwilling star of a series of videos that have hit the web. The whole world may have seen the evidence that his best friend turns him on. Jonah’s conservative family wants him cured, and his conventional town and school want him normal. The only person who still wants him just the way he is is Casey Melville, the same best friend who turned him on for all the world to see. Meanwhile, Casey begins to wonder if there’s more to his feelings for Jonah than he thought. 

Officers Brandt and Donnelly—lovers as well as partners on the job—have been assigned to find the culprit who posted the video. While investigating the case, they also help Jonah and Casey find their way through their feelings, and steer them toward refuge when Jonah’s family turns against him. But the mystery remains: who wants to hurt Jonah badly enough to post those videos, and why? Thank goodness Jonah and Casey have found friends—they’re going to need all the help and support they can get.

4.5 Stars! 

When a video surfaces on the internet of Jonah, a high school wrestler, in the locker room, all hell breaks loose. It's not the young man's virtue people are worried about, though. Instead, all anyone seems to care about is the reputation of the school wrestling team. Small town bigotry and conservative and religious views begin to overshadow what really matters which is Protecting Jonah.

Luckily, Jonah has Brandt and Donnelly working the case because there aren't many people he has in his corner. As his family and friends and even the people in town seem to turn against him, he doesn't have many people around he can trust. Casey, his best friend stands by him, though and together with Brandt and Donnelly show people that there is nothing wrong with who they ultimately are.

This was a much more serious book than the first and while the humor was what I loved in book one, this one dealt with some very relevant issues that young people face today. It's a sad thing reading how people turned against him but I loved the support he got from Casey, his best friend. To be publicly outed and learn that he can't even count on his family practically brought me to tears.

I again have to say I highly recommend this book.

Title: A Wedding To Die For
Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Three

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: December 15, 2014

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M
Pages: 250

When a high-profile gay celebrity couple asks two of the city’s most established vendors to provide cake and flowers for their wedding and they refuse, a resulting boycott threatens to shut them down. It’s up to the next generation in the family-owned businesses to save them from ruin. Justin Capella, baker's son, and Roman Montgomery, floral scion, work together to plan the gay wedding of the year. 

Justin and Roman haven’t seen each other since that fateful day in third grade when a single kiss shocked Justin and sent Roman to boarding school. As fate would have it, Justin and Roman rediscover love while working on the wedding. But disaster might pry them apart again. 

Troopers Brandt and Donnelly are working with a statewide task force for the rights of LGBT citizens—all while searching for a killer wedding planner. As guests at the "wedding of the year", they are the first responders when all hell breaks loose. In investigating, the troopers are led to a shadowy figure they believe seduced Roman into doing his bidding. But the real murderer will cover his tracks at all costs, including Roman and Justin’s lives.

3 Stars! 

Unfortunately, where I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, I was not as in love with this installment of the series. An issue seen more than a few times in real life, a gay couple is denied a wedding cake and floral arrangements by local vendors for their upcoming wedding. As a high profile couple, they bring light to the issue by going public about the discrimination they are faced with.

When the two vendors wind up turning things over to their sons who take on the task to "make things right", things get very very complicated. Justin and Roman are forced to face their past and the feelings they'd had to deny. They have unfinished business that they are forced to face no matter what.

In the end, though, while the newly married couple should be enjoying a wonderful beginning to their happily ever after, everything falls apart and Brandt and Donnelly must find out what happened and why.

I enjoyed the story and the characters but I felt almost like this particular story just didn't excite me the way the others did. It wasn't bad and of course, the writing was once again great, it just didn't stand out like book 1 with its humor and book 2 with its emotional rollercoaster ride. Roman and Justin were good together, however, as lead characters beside Brandt and Donnelly, they just didn't live up to my expectations.

I still recommend book 3, this is a fun series and each book has an important place in the overall story and the lives of Brandt and Donnelly.

Title: Spring Break At The Villa Hermes
Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Four

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: April 6, 2015

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M
Pages: 246

Troopers Ethan Brandt and Gabriel Donnelly celebrate the one-year anniversary of their engagement by flying south for a week of calm relaxation at the Villa Hermes, a gay boutique hotel on the beach. But when the rest of the guests turn out to be college guys on spring break (unwittingly booked into a gay hotel by a passive-aggressive travel agent), their week turns out to be anything but calm. 

Ted, one of the spring breakers, has harbored a crush on his roommate and best friend, Bark, since they met freshman year. Now, on their fourth and final spring break, Ted knows they must soon say good-bye. A lacrosse star and ladies’ man, Bark has no idea Ted has fallen for him—until a storm forces the entire group underground for twenty-four hours of stress and truth-telling. Bark doesn't want to say good-bye to Ted at graduation either. He just didn't know how to put his feelings into words or if he could face the consequences of speaking them. Brandt and Donnelly help the college guys through their crisis by showing them what love between best friends can grow into.

5 Stars!

Back to the laughs of book 1 and the sexy friends to lovers/GFY theme we saw in Frat House Troopers. This time, however, it's a group of college seniors on spring break that takes center stage and wow, are they entertaining! While there wasn't the emotional storm that we got in book two there were definitely moments that pulled on my heartstrings and made my eyes mist up when we find out what makes these young men who they are in life so far.

Brandt and Donnelly are on vacation in a beautiful yet intimately small hotel for their anniversary. The last thing they expect is to share the amenities with a group of college guys who'd unwittingly been booked into the gay hotel. When the guys find out that they won't be staying with the hordes of young spring breakers, they take it in stride and embrace the fun as best as they can.

The guys find they are ready to move forward and change things that aren't working in their lives. It's time to grow up and for Bark and Ted that means redefining their relationship from best friends to possibly something more. For Howie, he'll have to come to terms with his issues with his father and the money that seems to be his only true weapon. For Paul and Chad, they'll each admit out loud who they really are and what it all means in terms of their futures and last but not least Thor finds he has a lot still to learn about himself.

While this one is uproariously funny, it's also sweet and sexy and even at times a little sad. However, I highly recommend it. It adds something new and different to the series to keep it fresh and relevant yet also gives us a more grounded and grown-up Brandt and Donnelly.

There is also a nice compare and contrast to LGBTQ couples based on generations. We have the hotel proprietors Winnie and Vic, an old school gay couple who saw life for the community front and center during Stonewall. Brandt and Donnelly, who only recently in life found love in a time when change is truly happening yet still has a long way to go. Then there are these young men, still facing what is to come after college but they have an array of possibilities that Winnie and Vic's generation never could have dreamed of.

I highly, highly recommend this one!

Title: Bachelor Party
Series: Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Case File Five

Author: Xavier Mayne

Release Date: June 1, 2015

Category: Mystery/Suspense, M/M
Pages: 280

Med student Oliver Mitchell has discovered a way to make more tips as a bartender—put on ripped workout gear and serve drinks at the hip new gay club, Burn. The only catch is Oliver is straight. The staff and patrons don’t mind, though, and Oliver fits in well—until he meets James Buchanan Whitford, a local politician with a secret: he’s married. When James’s scheming wife attempts to catch him in flagrante with Oliver, they flee the city for the refuge of James’s cabin in the woods. There, Oliver faces a new challenge—he's starting to feel more for James than friendship. Their new relationship must survive political intrigue and small-town politics before they can be together.

With their wedding two months away, it's time for Troopers Ethan Brandt and Gabriel Donnelly to have a bachelor party. Ethan's older brothers are excited, but Ethan is not. As a straight guy who fell in love with another man, the whole ritual is fraught with complications, and he struggles to reconcile newly granted marriage equality with old traditions. Brandt and Donnelly work to help James and Oliver find their way to happiness while pulling off the bachelor party of the year.

3 Stars! 

This one is definitely my least favorite of the entire series and while I love Brandt and Donnelly, Bryce and Nestor and Xavier Mayne's writing, I really struggled to finish this one. The three stars I gave to book 5 is all based on those things because in all truth I didn't care for Oliver or James at all. 

James, unfortunately, felt fake to me and he lacked the maturity, in my opinion, of someone his age and in the position he was in. His story, while sad, wasn't something that made me emotionally connect with him and while he was much more likable than Oliver, I almost felt that his character would have served better elsewhere in the series, maybe with a different love interest. 

Oliver was my least favorite character in the series. I actually disliked him. I found him not only self-absorbed and a bit close minded but also I didn't like how his perception of things flip-flopped repeatedly. One minute he was the beacon of innocence, the next not so much. One minute he is straight nothing will change that, the next he's practically salivating over guys. He was trying hard to make sure James knew he was straight yet when it came down to it, he was also a tease. He knew how James felt about him yet he constantly flirted and made it clear he wanted James to want him. I hated it. 

While I may be in the minority with this one I will say I only recommend it because the series as a whole is awesome. 

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