Well, 2019 is ending soon, and I’ve read some outstanding books this year. In fact, when I was going through them, I realized I had a lot more five-star reviews than I thought. It was tough to narrow them down to make a list of the best of the best. I’ve got two very special series, a sweet and sexy family story, a hilarious mystery, and a delightful story about a bitter man who is completely steamrolled by a caretaker.

While I’ve come up with a “Top 5,” I encourage you to go through and give my other reviews a look. There are some real winners, even though they didn’t quite make it. This was an excellent year for reading, and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2020 will bring.

And now…here we go!

Into the Gray and A Lighter Shade of Blue by F.E. Feeley Jr. – These are the stories of Aaron and David. They meet at the office where they work…Aaron as a janitor and David as a lawyer. David is in the process of getting a divorce from his wife, and Aaron is a Harvard law graduate who’s trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. The men click, and Aaron invites David to come with him to his favorite bar for karaoke night. Things take off from there. Aaron brings David back to his apartment for a night of passion, but thanks to a Detroit snowstorm, one night turns into several more, and the two of them really get to know each other. The story continues as Aaron and David spend more time together, and fall deeper. With incredible dialogue, and some very real issues, the road to happiness isn’t very smooth. However, even though it’s not easy, and they’ve only known each other for a short time, they’re able to prove they’re in it for the long haul.

Aaron and David are very special to me. I fell in love with both of them, and they’re still in my heart. Their chemistry is off the charts, and I know I’ve used the word “real” already, but that’s the perfect description. I could see everything as if a movie was running through my head. I have to gush and tell you the author writes brilliantly. Everything is so smooth and powerful, and it absolutely mustbe read. Do yourself a favor and pick them up.

Coffee and Tea (A Cup of John series) by Matthew J. Metzger

These books tell the story of Chris and John. They meet cute after John decides to have a cup of tea and ride out a snowstorm. Their attraction is immediate, and they go on a date that leads to more. The men have to conquer a few issues as they become closer, including John’s self esteem problems thanks to a rather traumatic event. The dialogue between the men (and their friends) is fantastic. They’re very plausible and realistic…and sexy. Chris and John have so much chemistry, it would blow up any laboratory. Basically, all they want is to plan their wedding and build a home together. They must overcome a few speedbumps…once again, very real situations…but they come out stronger and more in love than ever.

Metzger’s writing style is outstanding. The chapters transition smoothly and the dialogue is perfect. I was completely immersed in the story. Chris and John are the type of characters that you might like to be friends with. Also, they’re so great, I never wanted the books to end. I remember thinking I’d like to hang out with them forever. PLEASE pick these up!

Review: Darkness Dawns by Zakarrie Clarke

Leo is blind and bitter. He wants to shut himself away from the world, and that means he wants to drive away any caretaker an agency sends to him. He’s taken by surprise by Ben, a recovering heroin addict doing his community service with the agency Leo hates. Within a few hours, Leo is relaxing and feeling more comfortable with another person other than his family. Ben is charming and funny and Leo finds himself laughing and having a great time. Leo and Ben have a smoking hot chemistry, and they fall in bed together quickly. However, they actually talk to each other, helping them get to know each other on a much deeper level.

I found Darkness Dawns to be sweet and charming. I laughed a lot and the love scenes burned up my Kindle. Zakarrie Clarke is a new author to me. I’m impressed by her style. The story is character driven, and there is a lot of dialogue. That dialogue is amazing. I felt as if I was in the room with Leo and Ben, listening to them. Lots of times, a dialogue heavy book can feel stilted and clunky. Not this one! It’s nicely done (and quite British). I can’t say enough good things about this story. It’s stuck with me, and I can almost guarantee it will stick with you too.

Family Camp by Eli Easton

Geo is a new foster dad to two troubled children. Desperately wanting to bond with them, he has booked a trip to a family-oriented summer camp. The five-hour drive to camp isn’t an easy one, and topping it off, they run out of gas a few short miles from their destination. Travis is a professional baseball player for the San Diego Padres. Seeing Geo’s car on the side of the road, he stops to help. The men feel a pull to each other, but a misunderstanding causes Travis to finish up and get away fast, leaving Geo confused. Imagine the men’s surprise when they find themselves at the same camp. It turns out Travis’ family own the place, and he works there as a counselor. Travis is aloof at the beginning, but he and Geo get the chance to talk, and that misunderstanding is solved. Geo and Travis have a smokin’ hot chemistry, and they begin a sexual relationship rather quickly. There is one little problem. Travis isn’t out, and he doesn’t necessarily plan on changing that. He doesn’t want to rock the boat, and he certainly doesn’t want to ruin his chances of being signed by the team again. This causes a bit of a rift, but together Geo and Travis overcome their issues and make their way to becoming a family.

I would say Family Camp is one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. Geo and Travis are nearly a perfect couple, and even though the children are troubled, they add another sweet layer to the story. It made me laugh a lot. I enjoyed it so much, I actually read it again as soon as I finished. It’s also in my re-read pile, and I know I’ll be revisiting it. I enjoyed how Easton was able to seamlessly take Geo and Travis from being uncomfortable around each other to a loving and sweet union. Travis’ conflicted feelings about coming out felt very real to me. I have to imagine it would be extremely difficult to decide to go against the grain and be not just a baseball player, but a gay baseball player. Speaking of feeling real, the issues with the children are difficult, but in the end, all the bumps are worth it. I think be fact they weren’t solved right away is a good decision by the author. Real life isn’t solved by chapter seven. All in all, Family Camp was a delight to read. This one is the gift that keeps on giving. Simply by writing this, I’ve decided to start reading it again this evening. Definitely pick this one up.

Midlife Crisis by Rob Rosen

Jack finds himself alone again. His boyfriend broke up with him, and now he’s depressed and questioning his life. He begins to think about a boy he was with in high school. Jack’s always wondered what happened to the boy he thought was his true love. Jack is a teacher, so he’s got an extended summer he can spend in his hometown trying to find his first love (his name is Bing, by the way). What Jack encounters along the way is mysterious, sweet, sexy, and life altering. We meet his parents, who are hilarious. There’s also Dave, a nurse at the local hospital who went to school with Jack and bullied him for being gay. Of course, Dave is gay himself, and has come to terms with it and enjoys spending time with Jack. Jack has a BFF who is also funny…a little snarky, and a lot supportive. Finally, there is Bing. He was difficult to find and very surprised to see Jack. Since Jack’s hometown is quite small, there are some background characters to fill in some space, and small town residents are always fun to read. They tend to be quirky and unique, and in this department, these folks do not disappoint.

I love a good mystery, and with Midlife Crisis, I got one. When I grabbed this one, I didn’t really expect it to become one, but I’m glad it did. The author sort of snuck it in until it became the story. I read this one from beginning to end in one shot. I didn’t want to put it down until everything was solved. I won’t give away the plot, because this book is just so good, it needs to be read to get the full effect. It’s well written and all the puzzle pieces fit together seamlessly. I’m impressed by Rosen’s style. It’s compelling, and the journey to the climax is steady, even as it gets more and more interesting. I was sucked in completely and felt like I was right there with Jack. I loved this. For me, this wasn’t just reading. It was an experience. An experience I highly recommend. It’s easily one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I encourage everyone to read it. It’s funny, sexy, and brilliant. Please read this one.

There you have it. My top five (or seven, counting the series) of the year. I’m so happy to have been able to have so many great stories to read. 2019 was an excellent year! I hope you get a chance to check out all of these fantastic books. There’s a little something for everyone, and any one of them would be an excellent way to spend a winter’s evening. So, wrap yourself in a soft, fuzzy blanket and grab one of these. You won’t be disappointed!

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