Book Review: Catch and Release (MM Merman Romance) by Isabel Murray

Quick Summary: The world’s worst fisherman stumbles onto the best catch ever when reeling in a mysterious man from the sea. Two fish out of water fall in love and try to find a place for themselves when one lives on land and the other at sea.

My Thoughts: Catch and Release is a beautiful, hilarious love story about basically falling for someone from outer space… or underwater. The writing is fantastic, though there’s only so much material to work with in this premise, and it goes on a bit too long.

Imaginary Rating System: 3.5 cryptids out of 5, except that seems unfair to the poor .5 creature

Our main characters

Joe used to be a hedge fund manager, had a near death experience, and changed his life. Now he’s a terrible fisher in a small seaside town. He’s minding his own business when he finds a strange man washed ashore.

Or is he a man? The guy’s caught in a net, and the situation escalates quickly when Joe tries to help.

The strange blue-haired person with gills doesn’t speak the language, is naked and well-endowed, and is instantly drawn to Joe. And weary/hostile to his buddy Jerry. And Joe is drawn right back, though he doesn’t know what to make of this encounter.

Joe doesn’t even really know what Dave is. They refer to him as a cryptid, a creature whose existence is rumored but not proven like Nessie, Big Foot, sirens, and mermaids. (However, we do learn what Dave is eventually.)

The Love Story

On the plus side, they’re attracted to each other from the jump. But they can’t communicate verbally. And humans aren’t well suited to prolonged periods in seawater. They come from different worlds and there aren’t cultural divides so much as species divides. Can they really make it work just based on the chemistry between them?

And yes, the name they give this buff, chiseled sea god… is Dave. It’s awesome.

Sidekicks and Shenanigans

Dave can’t really speak so Joe and his sidekick Jerry carry the brunt of the conversation, sharing their thoughts about Dave’s origins and what his behavior means throughout the novel. Jerry is great. He’s an older veteran fisherman who is absolutely no threat yet becomes the unwitting rival/enemy/pet of Dave throughout. He’s a lot of fun.

And many parts of the novel are light-hearted because making it work with an alien lover who doesn’t understand human customs has a learning curve. Dave woos Joe with fresh, sometimes frightening, fish, Joe worries Dave is a sea vampire for a bit, and there are some wild misunderstandings about mating rituals. It’s all very entertaining and hilarious.  

If the hilarity isn’t in play, then the writing is so descriptive and beautiful instead. It’s a joy to read and a lot of rich detail and lovely writing. However, the problem when communication is limited and their environments aren’t compatible? The title says it all. There’s only two options: catch or release. So they get together and must separate, catch and release, catch and release, rinse and repeat. It just didn’t need to be as long as it was for me.

More about Dave:

Without giving much away, Dave isn’t human or animal. He’s pretty much treated as something else entirely. That’s just something to keep in mind as some might be uncomfortable with this concept. The romance is a bit different than with shifters or vampires because those are partly human or were human once. Dave has some human-like features, but he’s largely alien.

Quote From The Novel:

Catch and Release by Isabel Murray

Joe McKenzie’s high-flying London life imploded six years ago, and it happened dramatically enough that paramedics were involved. That’s all in the past. Now, Joe couldn’t be happier living a solitary life as a fisherman on England’s wild northern coast.

Okay, he could be happier.

It’s not like he’s depressed or anything but, you know. The weather’s not great. Life’s a bit samey. He’s only thirty-eight. The idea of another forty years is a bit exhausting, to be honest. He passes the time pretending to be a fisherman but the truth is, he sucks at it.

Then Joe makes the catch of a lifetime when he stumbles across the mysterious Dave washed up on the beach—an enormous man with gills and uncanny power over the sea. Once Dave stops trying to kidnap Joe and/or kill Joe’s fishing buddy, Jerry, turns out he’s kind of…intriguing?

And not half as smooth as he seems to think he is.

There’s a lot Joe doesn’t know about Dave. He doesn’t know why Dave keeps disappearing or why he can’t seem to stay away. He doesn’t know what Dave wants from him. He doesn’t even know what, exactly, Dave is. And Joe can’t ask, because they don’t speak the same language.

Joe does know one thing, though. He is in love.

Which, great. How’s that going to end well?

Catch and Release is a gay paranormal romantic comedy featuring a truly terrible fisherman with an octopus phobia, a merman (maybe? Confirmation pending) with no sense of personal boundaries at all, constant communication fails, a whole lot of sea life not in the sea but in Joe’s house, yes, it’s dead, some epic yearning from both sides, and bewilderingly enough, maybe a way to make it work?

Book Review: Dead Over Heels by Arden Steele

I’m a little early for New Year’s resolutions, and I also don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I guess I’m trying to be more flexible by reading Dead Over Heels. I usually hate straying from series reading order, though since the books in the Blackhaven Manor series are connected yet about different characters I made an exception. This was the perfect time to read too since it takes place over the winter holidays.

Quick Summary: A troubled loner finds a fresh start in a magical town. Meeting his fated mate helps, but running into an unexpected ghost does not. Oh yeah, he sees dead people.

My thoughts: What a great winter/holiday novel about fated mates who suddenly find themselves living together during the Christmas season. The book is full of sweet romance, domestic ups and downs, and just a touch of heat.

Fictional Rating System: 4.5 tiny cat sweaters out of 5

Keywords and tags: Paranormal romance, holidays, age gap, werewolf, medium, ghosts, fated mates, cranky cats, crankier spirits, fluffy, finding home, acceptance

Characters and Story (and Curtains?)

Fritz, called this for many technical malfunctions in real life, is a sweet, clumsy guy who is used to annoying people and occasionally hurting himself with his klutzy mishaps. Adding in medium abilities only makes matters worse. Even though supernatural beings are known, he thinks he’s just a regular guy who happens to see ghosts and never stays in one place too long because people will ask questions or he’ll overstay his welcome.

Until he arrives at Blackhaven manor. He’s looking for a job, and they instead send him to the sheriff’s office. Said sheriff rightly assumes this is a set up because the manor literally hires everybody, they even have a job which is basically Official Opener and Closer of Curtains. This isn’t at all related to the plot, but it’s a detail I remember when writing this, and I still find it amusing.

Vander is the sheriff, who indeed hires Fritz. It would be kind of rude to not give his fated mate a job. But before they can get to know each other better, Fritz accidentally touches some evidence and gets saddled with a ghost. A nasty one. Vander doesn’t know what’s happening, but realizes he needs to tread carefully to make his mate comfortable and get him to open up. So what follows is Vander low-key wooing his mate while Fritz tries to handle his uninvited ghostly house-guest.

Sweeter Than Sugar Cookies

While most shifters are apparently not huge fans of sweets, this book is filled with sugary goodness as the pair live together and fall in love. All while dealing with enthusiastic family members, a touch of demonic possession (or close enough), and hilariously feisty animals.

Honorable character mentions go to the hellbeast/nice kitty they babysit and the formidable goose who battles a werewolf and wins.

Honestly this wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. It’s an enjoyable book I didn’t really fall in love with, but I still recommend because of excellent writing and such fun, silly scenes that are sure to be memorable. I think there are lots of people who would love this novel when looking for seasonal reads, romantic comedies, and sweet love stories with relatively low angst.

Book Quote

Dead Over Heels by Arden Steele

It’s been twelve years since the Awakening. Otherlings are out of the paranormal closet. The whole world knows that creatures like vampires, werewolves, and witches exist. So, seeing dead people barely even rates on the freaky scale. Right?

Wrong.

Fritz Tolliver figures he must have done something terrible in a previous life to be afflicted with such a curse. In fact, every bad thing that has ever happened to him can be traced back to his unwanted ability. So, when a stupidly hot werewolf who’s way out of his league claims to be his mate, he should be thrilled. And he probably would have been if he hadn’t gone and gotten himself haunted by a nasty spirit on the same day.

When a human male strolls into the station asking for a job—and promptly spills an entire Americano on him—Sheriff Vander Hale has a feeling it’s going to be a bad day. Then, the door opens, the wind shifts, and suddenly, his whole world changes. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his mate, no battle he wouldn’t wage, even if his enemy is technically already dead. Unfortunately, there’s just one problem with his plan.

He’d go to hell and back for Fritz, but how is he supposed to fight something he can’t see?

Series Info: Blackhaven Manor

Purrfect Harmony

Night and Fae

Dragon It Out

Pixie Little Liar

Dead Over Heels

Silent Knight

Best Friend’s Brother

Sorry in advance, but when talking about this book, My Best Friend’s Brother by KC Wells, I am legally obligated (by myself) to post this video too.

Unpopular opinion: much as I adore that song, I didn’t love My Best Friend’s Brother, the book.

The plot is straightforward, a slow build ‘forbidden’ relationship between a younger brother and his older brother’s best friend. The two friends are young guys who like hooking up and haven’t been in many serious relationships, and the friend is worried his brother would get hurt.

Since it’s developing romance and there isn’t really another plot, there’s not much to do in the beginning. The growing sexual tension is good, though there’s just a lot of conversations about food, what their plans for the day are, or sightseeing. The sightseeing stuff was kinda interesting since the characters live in California, but I was underwhelmed with the rest.

Don’t think there’s anything wrong with the simple plot or storytelling, Just wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t even mind the pace since it was a slow build, it’s just not much else was happening during the ‘build’ part, and when the relationship does take off, then it flies by, and boom, it’s over. I could have used a little more payoff.

However, apparently everybody disagrees with me because the reviews for this book all seem excellent. So what do I know? If you want a low angst love story with some steam, check it out.

Review: Realigned by Becca Seymour

While the title of this blog is Hella Gay YA, I’ve never been good at staying on topic. And as an author of gay romances, I figure the important part is ‘gay’ anyway. So I’m going to share my thoughts on the novella Realigned by Becca Seymour.

The cover needs a special shout-out. GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS, GORGEOUS COVER. Yes, I needed to say it three times because it can’t be said enough. BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS COVER. Especially in the gay romance genre, this is one of my favorite covers ever.

Quick Summary: When Shaun returns home to the Australian outback, he must decide what to do when his vacation ends, either go back to his life in the United States or stay and start a relationship with police officer Mitch.

Tropes and Book Details: best friends, friends to lovers, small town romance, second chance, short story, contemporary, sweet, steamy

My thoughts: Realigned is fun, fast novella if you want a cute read with a little steam. This is one of the books I picked up in a giveaway and I’m glad I got the opportunity as I hadn’t ready any Becca Seymour before, but it won’t be the last book I read from her.

Plot: Some old author guy once said ‘you can’t go home again,’ but eight years is a pretty long time to stay away. So Shaun returns to the small-town he left behind, his loving family, and the best friend he’s always wanted more from. And if their relationship evolves, can he be convinced to turn his vacation into a permanent change of address?

This is the question the plot revolves around, but it’s more there in the background while the focus is on the relationship between the guys. And their relationship is the best part, so this works out just fine. There is some drama about how Shaun left and revelations from the past, but most of the angst is in the past.

Characters: When people say it’s not rocket science, they aren’t talking to Shaun because he is a rocket scientist. Yet it’s the heart he has trouble with. Isn’t that the way it goes? And also, I am not a rocket scientist, so I’m not totally sure about his job. He works for NASA and does something with the earth, but I’m rounding to ‘rocket scientist’ anyway.

Shaun’s childhood best friend Mitch is a sexy sweetheart who put Shaun’s own happiness first in the past, but now thinks they can be happy together. What else could you want from a fictional boyfriend?

Quote about Mitch

Both grew up in a small Australian community that feels authentic to me and will to you too, unless you are actually from a small Australian community, and then I can’t say whether the experience will ring true for you, but it’s probably close enough for a short story.

Final thoughts: For me, this story is super interesting, very cute, and even a bit steamy. It’s an entertaining read from start to finish. If you enjoy reading standalone novellas about sexy dudes with Australian accents, best friends becoming more, or gay romance in general, you’re good to go and will love every second.

I’m the person who finds something good and wants more of it, so I wish the book was longer, but I also think that’s the mark of a quality story when you’re left wanting more. And as someone who takes forever to read, I do see the value of shorter fiction, though this one felt more like a snippet than totally complete to me. So the perfect time to read this is when you’re in the mood for a quick, feel-good read.

Quote from the book

That Feeling When Review

For my review of That Feeling When, my immediate instinct is to fill in the rest. What comes after that feeling when… the feeling when you’re what? There’s a specific thing S.M. James has in mind, and while I don’t think telling you what that is would be especially spoiler-y, it feels like a jerky thing to do.

Until I saw that it’s literally in the blurb describing the book. As it says, ‘how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?’ That feeling when you’re finally happy. There, it’s complete, I feel so much better.

Okay, without further ado, reviewing!

Quick Summary: Archie doesn’t want to be at a fancy summer camp for rich people, but he agreed to go if he didn’t get into the dance school he applied to. Famous actor Landon happens to be shooting a movie at the same place. Neither of them are looking for love, yet are drawn to each other.

Tropes and main elements: famous actor, blackmail, ballet, sexuality crisis, sweet romance, friends to lovers, developing relationship

Overall impression: This sweet novel is perfect for when you wanna escape into a love story. The book really captures all the feelings of falling head over heels and makes every moment Landon and Archie spend together feel special and intense, whether they’re rock-climbing, breaking an entering, or scuba diving.

from novel

2021-03-26 (2)

 

meetings

 Archie is the son of a media mogul who dishes dirt on celebrities. He’s trying to make it through the summer and doesn’t know what to do with his life if he’s not a dancer. His initial opinion on his sexuality seems to be, ‘god, not all male dancers are gay.’ Which, you know, is true, though this also doesn’t mean he’s straight. Growing up with money and the finer things in life, he’s not easily impressed with social status or people who throw around their social status. So when he stumbles upon a film shoot in progress, and Hollywood heartthrob Landon immediately bitches at him, he hates Landon on sight.

While Landon had an off day, he’s not who Archie assumes. By which I mean he’s a total sweetheart. I adore Landon, he’s everything good and perfect in the world. Seriously. Landon’s a sincere bi softie who loves his mother and is very cute when crushing on someone.

Despite his fame, Landon grew up with nothing, and to me is overall more relatable than Archie. Australian Landon is homesick, not used to being a star, and not totally on board with some of the changes he’s made to be a successful actor, like downplaying his aboriginal heritage and keeping his bisexuality secret. He doesn’t love acting so much as his hefty salary that helps provide for his large family back home.

Despite getting off on the wrong foot, this doesn’t feel like a story where the main characters start as enemies. Archie’s first impression, while understandable, is just so different than the reality. Landon’s subsequent apology and wholehearted efforts to make friends quickly make this clear, so Archie spends their initial encounters more confused about how to feel than anything else.

romance

Can a relationship fit as a slow burn and insta-love at the same time? If possible, this book completely qualifies. Despite a tense start, their interest in each other is immediate and feels inevitable, though it takes a while for them to get to know each other and for everything to come together. I enjoyed the pace of their developing relationship. And since they’re already low key crushing, every new morsel of info learned becomes thrilling and every interaction causes them to fall a little deeper. It’s easy to get swept away in the romance with them.

While other stuff is going on, this book primarily focuses on the romance. So if you’re digging the romance, you’re good to go. If you’re more interested in the blackmail elements, or their personal character development, or anything else other than the romance, maybe skip this one or you probably won’t feel satisfied when you’re done with the book.

plot

Both guys are facing some tough decisions, such as figuring out where their lives are headed. Plus, Archie has an impending sexuality crisis and there’s a blackmailer watching them and making demands. These issues come up now and then, though all feel secondary and take a backseat to the romance.

For example, Archie’s dad airs celebrity dirty laundry, and Landon’s a closeted celebrity. Hello, inherent drama! Yet there’s not as much as you might expect. By the time families arrive for the end of camp, it’s kinda hard to stop the relationship train or even slow it down. 

While I don’t think there’s a problem telling a love story this way, the characters and their personal stories interested me enough that I’d have been happy with fleshing out the other plots more and diving deeper into character development.

On the blackmail front, I will give credit where due. I made a guess about the blackmailer fairly early and stuck to my guns about it. I ended up being wrong, so congrats, book! You surprised me.

 

more

This paragraph has some general spoilers for the end.  The only thing that bugged me a bit was Archie’s attitude to his family. Despite his poor opinion of them, they seemed very loving and supportive. They took his coming out extremely well, though he seemed sorta underwhelmed about this. If he’d used the opportunity to get closer to them or there was more acknowledgement he’d gotten them wrong, it’d be fine. His dad was set up as a villain so much that it would have been a fun subversion of expectations, except Archie’s attitude read to me as, ‘well, that’s nice. Anyway, what’s Landon up to?’

Maybe I’m unfair for wishing he were a little more grateful. Should everyone accept LGBTQ+ sexualities without batting an eye or getting any credit for it? Yeah. Are we there yet? I don’t think so.

If I gave star ratings, I’d say four stars for this one. While not in love with the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through.