LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Check Yes, No, or Maybe (Meeting His Match #1): by Stormie Skyes

**Kindle ARC Edition**
Publish Date: January 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: n/a
Publisher: 4 Horseman Publications
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT+

First and Foremost, I just want to personally thank the author for giving me an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of this story for an honest review!

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Crappy job. Yes.

Take back an annoying ex. Definitely no.

Hit on the sexy new firm partner looking him over…maybe?

For Aaron Cambrian, life is lived by checklists. No matter how promising, everything – jobs, potential partners, cars, drinks, food, etc – needed to meet all his criteria or he walks away.

Everything changes one night at the cocktail bar when his best friend challenges Aaron to abandon his list and ask the first hot guy who catches his interest if he can buy him a drink.

Thanks to his old nemesis alcohol, Aaron takes the dare! The next thing he knows, he finds himself in the condo of an absolute stranger! It was supposed to be one drink. One accidental kiss… Good thing he’d never see the guy again.

Wrong! When the sexy new partner at Kimball & Marks law firm turns out to be the hot stranger, Aaron is faced with a life-changing decision: keep the checklist or lose the hottest, most frustrating man who ever stole his heart.

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I was happily surprised when the author and I connected on Instagram and I ended up receiving an ARC of this book! It hasn’t happened often to me…in fact, this is only the second time I’ve ever gotten the privilege to read something technically before it’s release date! It’s a great opportunity to add some hype for newly released books, and hey, if this somehow leads to me getting ARC’s of books by say…Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Leigh Bardugo, Elle Kennedy, or Sarina Bowen, I would for SURE volunteer to give an honest review of any of their upcoming stories! Just tossing that out there…

Check Yes, No, or Maybe is an easy, light-hearted, and cute romantic story with a touch of spice that’s also MM—which I’m also a big fan of! I’ll say it every time, but it’s great to see so many MM romance stories out now that weren’t as readily available for someone like me when I was growing up in the early 2000’s and questioning things. This book wasn’t perfect, but that’s honestly okay! You can tell the author had fun writing this story, and it did keep me reading to see what happened next, so if a book can keep my attention like that, and I mean I was up reading until three a.m. one morning, so I consider that a success!

The story mainly revolves around Aaron Cambrian, who’s a college student studying to become a chef while also working at a law firm to help pay the bills and rent, and he’s at low point in his life…his toxic ex has run out on him yet again, he feels like he’s one misstep away from getting fired, he’s constantly compared to his master chef father who abandoned him and his family, and it even feels impossible to walk up to a sexy stranger in a bar one night…

When the urging of his best friend leads him to do exactly that in their usual Friday night hangout spot, he surprises himself by ending up in bed with a hot stranger…only to later discover that of course the guy also just happens to be the new partner of the law firm he works at!

Maverick Waylan is smooth, charming, always dressed to impress, and has his eyes set on Aaron, who has to decide if the feelings Mav evokes is worth it all…

There are a few things I have to critique on with the story, which I do in greater detail further down below in my review, but again, it was an enjoyable story despite its faults, and I did have some hearts floating above my head for both Aaron and Maverick as I read on about their love story.

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice! There were a couple of heated moments between Aaron and Maverick that make the romance a little more on the spicy instead of the sweet side that I personally enjoyed. I’m a proud smut lover, so of course I’ll say that it made the story that much better! I only wish there was even more tossed into the story.
  2. The Cover Design! I love the simple, almost cartoony designs that romance covers are getting in recent memory. This cover is another great example of this artistic decision.
  3. It’s An Addicting Slow-Burn! It may not be the best written book I’ve ever read, but I can also admit that it did still keep me interested and kept me up late at night to see what was happening next. I was mainly invested in the sexual tension between Aaron and Maverick and HAD to read on until something happened between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Abrupt Ending…Big surprise I’m not a fan of the ending, but that seems to always be something I critique in my reviews when it comes to romance novels…It just felt so abrupt and there were a few things that were left unresolved that I wish we saw more of possibly!
  2. The British Slang Tossed Into Non-British Character’s Dialogue…Now I know Maverick is supposed to be a British character, but there were a few instances where some of the American characters say a word only someone who’s British would say…I did find myself double-checking to make sure this book was set in NYC because of it.
  3. Certain Conflicts/Side-Plots Are Never Fully Utilized…While I’m a big fan of the romantic plot of this story, it felt like a lot of subplots weren’t given nearly as much attention that maybe should’ve been in order to make this a stronger story. One example is Aaron’s father being a big celebrity chef that abandoned the family before the story took place, but the family still deals with paparazzi and getting their mugs in the tabloids…but thats kind of it…like Aaron has some issues with his father for all this, but it’s never really explored or develops more than that besides one instance that causes drama between him and Maverick. Another example is Aaron’s ex, Declan, and their whole toxic past. It’s referenced like one time but thats about it, like I feel like maybe some more background info could’ve made this stronger too. You also don’t feel like you get as much out of Maverick’s family too even though that was presented as a possibly big conflict for the couple to overcome. Also, for someone who’s worried about his crush running off about his strange quirk for writing lists, he doesn’t write a whole lot of actual lists in the book. I also feel like maybe there didn’t need to be as many side characters too, but they did make for it to be easier to read on in the story.

Conclusion:

Overall, Check Yes, No, or Maybe was an alright book that really is a sweet, romantic storyline between two male characters—something I’m always happy to read—and just have a light, easy, beach read of a romance novel. I feel like readers who are drawn to stories like Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston or Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall will enjoy this book too! They have the same lighter tone and also a similar style of setup.

It wasn’t the perfect story and honestly it left me questioning a few things as it ended, but I still found it entertaining and I can also say I did enjoy it! There was mainly a focus on the romantic development, which isn’t a bad thing, but if the author also put more attention onto the several other subplots happening, it would’ve strengthened the story a lot better in my opinion!

I still say to give this a try if you think you might enjoy this story, or if you’re just looking for a lighter, easy-going romantic novel to kill a plane ride with, or if you just need a little break from the heavier and darker material that you may read as well!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Most Romantic Books

Valentine’s Day is soon upon us—at least as I create this article—and that means romance is in the freezing winter air and couples of all shapes and sizes are going all out in order to feel the love on that special night!

For those like me who love a good book with a bunch of heartfelt romance, I decided to help my fellow booklovers out and create a list of some of my more memorable titles over the years and (hopefully) help someone find a new story to get their hands on and swoon over all the passionate confessions, the scorching love scenes, and enjoy it all as much as I have!

As you read the titles below, are there any on here that you agree with? Are there other books/series you recommend? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on one of the many social media platforms I’m on! To find those, simply scroll back up to the top and find the “Contact Info” page on the main menu; I love to hear recommendations and just talk about books with people in general.

Enjoy the list I created below, it is in no particular order!

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What If It’s Us: by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

This was such a sweet, adorable contemporary LGBT+ title that was co-written by two of the most prolific authors in YA fiction. Two young guys meet during summer break in New York City, and of course EVERYTHING that goes wrong actually happens before these guys can possibly have a happily ever after! I’ve been meaning to reread to be able to give a better book review on here, especially with the more recent news that there’s going to be sequel!

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From Blood And Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Also known as the best series of 2020 for me, these books have just taken me in mind, body, and soul! A Fantasy-Romance series that is oh-so bingeable, I can’t recommend these books enough, and with the third book coming out in April, those who’d just be starting these books wouldn’t have to wait as long as other members of the fandom for it to release already!

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Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

These books have been such a more lighthearted, fun, and enchanting series to read. You’ve got dangerous scavenger hunts, mysterious figures, handsome men with plenty of secrets, great romance, and plenty more where that came from. I’m going to start the third and final book soon and can’t wait to also post my Fancast soon too!

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It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

This book has a more serious tone than most of the others on this list, and has subject matter that may not be suitable for more sensitive readers, but the love story that is interwoven into the darker moments of this story will utterly take your breath away; I can’t recommend this book enough!

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The Off-Campus Series by Elle Kennedy

One of my favorite romance series ever, it’s a hilarious and sexy college romance series that I think anyone who’s a fan of the genre will enjoy. Elle Kennedy certainly knows how to write stories that are equally part sweet and scorching moments with all her couples in these gems; anyone who enjoys snark, smut, and smoking hot hockey players will really enjoy these!

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Him duology by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Another LGBT+ romance title, these books were amazing to find when I enjoyed Elle Kennedy’s other stories like the Off-Campus books. I absolutely had to read these when I learned she wrote about more hockey players, but this time it was M/M. A great second-chance romance when two former best friends return to the summer camp of their younger years and new passions are soon discovered!

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Serpent & Dove series by Shelby Mahurin

A surprisingly great debut, I loved the first book of this YA Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series when it was released. It has so many great romance tropes like “Enemies-to-Lovers,” “There’s Only One Bed,” “Marriage by Convenience,” and plenty more! I’m a little hesitant to start the next book because it’s gotten really mixed reviews (seems to have suffered from “second book syndrome”), but the third and final book’s cover was just revealed, so I’ll have to get to it soon by the time “Gods and Monsters” releases in August!

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Red, White, & Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

A M/M LGBT+ romance genre MUST READ! It was my favorite book of 2018 and was the kind of book I wish I had growing up back when queer titles weren’t as mainstream as they are now. I adored the love story that developed between the (fictional) first son of the president of the United States with the Prince of Wales! Ugh….PLEASE just read it.

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The Song of Achilles: by Madeline Miller

Totally expect waterworks with this book! It’s a beautifully written take on a classic greek tale that we’ve all heard before, but with a completely new take on it while being told from the perspective of a character who never really got the spotlight in “The Iliad” until now. Even though you know the eventual fate of the hero of this tale, the love that blossoms between Achilles and Patroclus makes you yearn for a possible chance that they’ll overcome all that comes between them!

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The Edge of Never duology by J.A. Redmerski

These books made me believe in soul mates…I’m totally serious! The story of Camryn and Andrew as they meet on a cross country bus ride is a story that I can’t believe isn’t more popular with other readers. They’re literally perfect for each other, and both discover new passions for life and each other along the way; this is such an underrated duology in my opinion!

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Again, But Better: by Christine Riccio

A lighthearted, beachy read about second chances with a shy, introverted girl moving abroad in order to find herself; this was a great book to lift my spirits! It was a little cheesy, not gonna lie, but I say it’s definitely worth a look at if you’re looking for an incredibly sweet romance adventure!

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River’s End: by Nora Roberts

I remember snagging my mom’s copy of this off the shelf back when I was in 7th grade and fell in love with this story. It has literally everything: Hollywood, Murder, Family, Mystery, Suspense, and a magnificent romantic journey over the course of many years for both Noah and Olivia. I was obsessed with this book as I grew up, and the copy was ragged over the many times I reread it, I definitely had to buy a new copy in order to keep it on my shelf!

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Chasing Red duology by Isabelle Ronin

I’m always a little skeptical of anything that gets published off Wattpad, but this New Adult romance duology was actually pretty decent! Caleb was at first a total player, but once it was obvious how smitten he was with Veronica, aka “Red,” he became a total book boyfriend to add to the list!

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From Ashes: by Molly McAdams

An utterly addicting book, I loved this book for the romantic storyline about Gage and Cassidy. The female main character definitely had a “Mary Sue” kind of vibe a couple times and has WAY too many guys that are so obsessed with her, but I had to keep reading every time until they got together! Lots of frustration over all that happens that possibly keeps them apart, but what a great romance title!

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The Hookup: by Kristen Ashley

This was an alright title, there wasn’t as much angst and drama to really keep my eyes glued to the pages, but the relationship that develops between Johnny and Izzy was certainly enjoyable nonetheless! An easy, beach read of a romantic story set in a small town was worth mentioning on here.

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The Hook Up: by Kristen Callihan

I know…it may be confusing to list two books with really similar titles and both authors are named Kristen, but this one is also such an amazing romantic story! It’s another college romance that New Adult fans will enjoy, Anna and Drew are another amazing couple that I discovered and think a lot of other romance fans will also enjoy!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Of course I had to recommend something from my favorite author! This Fantasy series is such an immersive and addicting story to get into, and the romance is considered top tier amongst many other fans. As I type this, I cannot wait for the fifth book to be released on February 16th; you know I had a copy pre-ordered way in advance!

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Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

For anyone who’s been a part of a fandom of any kind, you will for sure relate to the main character, Cath, in this YA/New Adult romance standalone. She’s starting her freshman year of college, and she must learn to live outside of her dorm room and in the pages of her fanfiction WIP’s of Simon Snow!

The Roommate: by Rosie Danan

An impressive debut novel, this book has hilarious sitcom written all over it with an uptight, east-coast WASP living under one roof with a male porn star! The banter is hilarious and sexy, and both characters are a ton of fun to read as they learn valuable lessons in sex positivity and where they belong in the world.

The Bargainer series by Laura Thalassa

A Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series that’s highly recommended for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Richelle Mead, these books have a love story that is worth checking out! Many years ago, Callie made a deal with a mysterious winged being known as “The Bargainer” and now he’s come to collect! The romantic relationship was the major highlight of these books.

Caroline and West duology by Robin York

This duology was a surprise for me at how much I actually really got into the story! With titles like these, I thought they were going to be pretty trashy smut, but the storyline is actually incredibly solid and both main characters really develop as they get closer and reveal their unrequited feelings for each other! Caroline deals with a vicious act from her ex, who posts explicit photos and videos of her all over the internet, and she finds herself running into West and finding comfort with him at his early morning shifts at a local bakery.

Check, Please! duology by Ngozi Ukazu

A hilarious and absolutely adorable LGBT+ sports graphic novel revolving around Eric Bittle, a figure skater who loves to bake and vlog, gets a scholarship to an Ivy League college, but has to join the Varsity hockey team! Crisp & clean artwork, and an engaging and relatable coming of age storyline, Bittle learns a lot about himself from his new circle of teammates, and tries to ignore the fact that he has a huge crush on his captain!

Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas

Another addicting book from my favorite author, this first part of her newest series has just about everything: murder, suspense, plenty of twists and turns, heartbreak, and some serious slow burning sexual tension between the two main characters of Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Alathar as they hunt down the demon who murdered her best friends. What they discover is another perfect example of how deep something like this plot can truly go!

The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

A scorching romance between a product trend forecaster and a male prostitute, what truly is noteworthy is how the female main character is actually Autistic! Having her have Aspergers made this romance title feel fresh within a genre that has a surplus of overly familiar tropes and clichés!

Anna and the French Kiss: by Stephanie Perkins

It’s a coming-of-age story about Anna, who moves to Paris for a year to study abroad, and finds herself falling in love with Etienne St. Clair. Yeah, his name sounds pretentious, but he is actually a total sweetheart who’ll have anyone swooning after him like our main character, but of course he has a girlfriend already!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han

A widely popular trilogy in the YA reading age group, the themes of family, first love, and dealing with change are incredibly relatable, and the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky is super sweet; Peter is a total sweetheart when it’s obvious he is crazy about her and will do just about anything for her in a moment’s notice. Sure you can just watch the Netflix movies, but seriously…the books are a whole lot better. Definitely give them all a read if you can!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Another popular book title that has also won quite a few awards, any book lists with notable LGBT+ titles more than likely includes this book because of the story between Dante and Aristotle and the summer they meet that changes both their lives. The prose feel so rhythmic together and makes you think it’s one gigantic poem, the ending will melt your heart and make you believe in happily ever afters for sure!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: by Becky Albertalli

This was such an adorable book to read! If you’ve seen Love, Simon you’ve got the whole jist of the book, but of course the book is always better, so why not look even further into the storyline of Simon and his secret messages with Blue?

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Perfect Chemistry trilogy by Simone Elkeles

These were a total guilty pleasure when I was younger, and they are also kind of a more modern take on the Grease-like setup of the blond popular girl falling for the bad boy from the wrong side of town. I know it sounds super cheesy, but the banter that usually goes with each of these storylines was well worth it! Those Fuentes boys have quite the colorful vocabulary!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, Romance

My Review: Boyfriend Material: by Alexis Hall

Publish Date: July 7th, 2020

Number of Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Genre(s): Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Mum patted him reassuringly. ‘Oh, Oliver … I am sure you are one of the best gays.’

I glanced back to find Oliver looking faintly flustered. ‘Mum, stop ranking homosexuals. It doesn’t work like that.'”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

In the summer of 2019, news was spreading quickly about a queer romance between a fictional first son of the first female president (also fictional) and the prince of Wales. It was one of the biggest queer romance titles simply because it had such a mainstream marketing campaign and got so much attention when compared to almost any other story like it previously published. Growing up, I was questioning myself and my sexuality, and one of my favorite places to go was always the bookstore. It would’ve made the doubt, the questioning, the fear, and the initial self hatred so much easier if there’d been more LGBT titles being showcased like there is now, which is why I’m so happy that younger readers have so many more titles available so they don’t feel so alone with so many questions.

Cut to the summer of 2020 a year later, and there’s this book that is also a summer queer romance release with the minimalist style that seems to be taking over the romance-genre book cover design with two handsome looking men, who of course look like total opposites! That that, plus the title being “Boyfriend Material,” I was instantly hooked and knew I’d love it.

Maybe this means there’s going to be that one big M/M romance novel released every summer? If so, I’m way more than A-okay with that!

I will admit this was a slower read just because it’s more character driven, which is a norm when it comes to romance titles, and lately I’d been making it a point to read more Fantasy-genre titles over romance, so this was a strange change of pace. The humor is what really keeps you going until the romantic feelings start to develop between the two main characters. I know, that’s not necessarily a selling point, but for anyone who enjoys quirky and extremely particular characters and british-style humor will get a kick out this title.

I will say this title isn’t as great as Red, White, and Royal Blue in the sense that this book doesn’t sweep you away as much because the romance in that was so whirlwind and enchanting and magical, and the romance in this title is much more grounded and realistic and down to earth, and also maybe therefore more relatable.

I don’t know about most readers, but it was actually so scary how much I could relate to the inner conflicts that both the main characters–Luc O’Donnell and Oliver Blackwood–were dealing with. Luc had a hard time growing up with a rockstar dad who ditched him and his mom when he was three, and he’s had run-ins with the paparazzi and them capturing all Luc’s less than stellar moments. He’s had a hard time being able to trust people, so he keeps himself at a distance emotionally so he doesn’t get hurt again, but it’s left him with a lot of self hatred, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. Oliver also has his own issues, but I don’t want to go as in depth about that because part of that is the whole experience of reading it for yourself, but all I can say is how I so deeply related to both the main characters and their inner struggles. That alone is what made this book one that I really enjoyed!

Since it’s a romance title, I suppose I’ll talk about that specifically too. The romance that builds between Luc and Oliver was a well drawn out slow burn of what is not necessarily enemies-to-lovers, but more haters to lovers, and there is a difference! At first, these guys don’t get along, they couldn’t be more opposite from each other in terms of lifestyle choices, clothing style, and even locations they frequent. Both of them need dates to certain events in order to stay off the hook from nosy parents, or to keep a job–which is totally illegal, but read the book for that whole argument–so through a mutual friend, they agree to be their fake boyfriend. It’s a rocky start, but as they hang out, test each other on basic facts, and get to know each other better, that’s when the tension builds and you see little moments or words said that makes your heart quench and you want to squeeze something out of pure affection.

These weren’t just your whatever kisses. They weren’t take it or leave it, get your coat on pulled kisses. They were everything I thought I could never have, everything I’d been pretending I never wanted, telling me that I was worth it, that he’d be there for me and put up with me and wouldn’t let me drive him away.

Oliver Blackwood was giving all that to me, and I was giving it right back. In the clutch of hands and the press of bodies and the urgent heat of his mouth on mine.”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. It’s not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”

— Alexis Hall, “Boyfriend Material”

What I Liked:

  1. The Humor! Perhaps one of the funniest books I’ve read ever if not this year alone, I really did find myself laughing at some of the lines the author dropped in this book, from both character’s dialogue to having Luc being our narrator throughout the course of the story. Some of it went over my head because some of it was definitely that british humor that’s not everyone here in America’s cup of tea, but the characters were all so distinct from one another; they all had their particular quirks that you came to expect from them whenever they appeared, and whatever they said or did. From Luc’s coworkers to his diverse inner circle of friends, it did feel over-the-top in some parts, but as you read on it’s exactly what you’d expect from each and every one of them all the same. The Nerd Daily‘s review on Goodreads said it perfectly: it’s like one of those 90’s sitcoms like The Nanny where it had that particular slapstick type of humor, but it works in the right setting!
  2. Both Character’s Inner Struggles! So I really felt the pain and inner turmoil that both Luc and Oliver deal with that makes them both believe there’s something wrong with them and they’re incapable of love. I won’t go into too much detail over what they are exactly, because part of the reading experience is figuring it all out for yourself, but man oh man…I can just say I’ve been where they’ve been and I still am somedays too. It made me root for them and their happiness even harder; great character development!
  3. Luc’s Mom! You know those mom characters that are just gems, and they absolutely steal the show/scene everytime they make an appearance? Luc’s mom is such a delight being a former french rockstar from the 80’s, and can’t cook at all which is a huge part of her charm, even with the crazy 85 year old lady who’s her best friend.
  4. Luc’s Friend Group! They had such a unique dynamic that I really enjoyed! There’s Bridgett who we see the most of; she’s super bubbly, always late, and works for a publisher and thinks she’s getting fired with every little fire that pops up with a client. There’s Tom, a young Idris Elba doppelganger who works for some secret service that has him travelling to undisclosed locations. There’s Priy, who’s an extremely gay muslim girl with braided hair, and will kick anyone’s ass who touches her pickup, and lastly, there’s Charles Royce-Royce (Yes. Both are named Charles Royce and got married).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending Was Rushed…This is becoming such a consistent issue with contemporary romance titles being published in recent years–at least it’s an issue for me–is how the ending feels so tightly packed, crowded, and/or just so last minute. The ending of the book is so important because sometimes it’s what leaves one last impression of the whole story with the reader, and I’m just not a fan of this occurrence happening, especially in books I really like or love!
  2. The Whole Thing With Luc’s Dad…So minor spoiler alert, but not really…. Luc’s dad, who ditched him and his mom all those years ago, is back out of the blue because of one reason that’s not the TV show he’s a judge on: he has cancer. That’s also not the reason why I have it under this part of the review, it’s more about how this subplot ends that I was less than enthused about.
  3. No Smut…Now, this is such a minor issue in all seriousness, but based off what I’ve read in the past, the fact that this book treats the romance scenes in a more fade-to-black kind of way was a bummer. Without going into too much detail, Oliver is really uptight and stuffy out on the streets, but wicked in the sheets, but you only get a minor impression of it in the book!

Conclusion:

Another hilarious, charming, and entertaining M/M romance title of the summer! It felt like Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall was this year’s version of Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which was by far the one really big LGBT romance that was a huge summer hit.

I recommend this title to anyone who love’s the LGBTQIA+ romance novels, I know I say this literally every time I post a review of them, but I’m so happy to see so many more titles in the queer romance genre that are being published + are actually mainstream, and aren’t hidden away in some off to the side shelf if you were to try to go looking for it in the local bookstore.

The playful banter, the hilarious characters, the inner conflicts of self doubt and isolation will grab your heart and pull you into such an endearing, character driven story of two unlikely guys who fall in love under the popular “fake relationship” trope.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Image courtesy of hollieblog.com

When his mom became the President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was casted as the American equivalent of a young prince. He’s handsome, charismatic, genius, but there’s one problem: Alex has major beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond.

When the tabloids get ahold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation with a wedding cake, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of both families devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagram-worthy friendship grows much deeper, and soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret, romantic, sexy affair with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry.

Unfortunately, life ain’t easy like a Disney movie like they make us want to believe, and everything that weighs against the two of them begins to threaten their relationship. It raises the questions: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through?

See my full book review of Red, White, and Royal Blue HERE!

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Alex Claremont-Diaz: Alfonso Herrero, Tyler Posey, or Diego Boneta

Alfonso Herrero is an Instagram model I’d discovered, and I thought he definitely looked the part. Go follow him and see all the sweet, romantic photos of him and his (real) boyfriend, and tell me you don’t get Alex-vibes from him!

Tyler Posey is a young actor who’s best known for starring in the reboot of Teen Wolf on MTV, and I got to say, I feel like he’d absolutely nail the mischievous smirk Alex gets before he says something to absolutely piss someone off!

Diego Boneta is an actor with a wide variety of roles he’s played: he’s been in the musical Rock of Ages, MTV show Scream Queens, and even played Aaron Samuels 2.0 in Mean Girls 2 (Yes, such a thing exists, and I’m sorry to those that had managed to forget about it).

June Claremont-Diaz: Clara Alonso, Ana de Armas, or Nathalie Kelley

Clara Alonso is a Victoria’s Secret model with some Spanish flair, and is absolutely gorgeous, so I could see her playing Alex’s older sister, June!

Ana de Armas did an amazing job in the film Knives Out amongst the more well known names included, so I think it’d be interesting to see her play a different kind of role like June if they make this book into a movie!

She was in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, she played a siren on The Vampire Diaries, and is on another CW Show, Dynasty; Nathalie has the confidence in any of her roles to nail the part of June.

Henry, Prince of Wales: Wyatt Nash, Jeremy Irvine, or William Moseley

Wyatt Nash is on a lot of shows I’m watching right now! He’s guest starring on Riverdale, GLOW, and can be seen on the show, Dear White People (All these shows can be found on Netflix). He’s not British, so I hope he could imitate the accent if he got casted!

This gorgeous specimen starred in the movie Warhorse, but most recently was seen in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Jeremy is in fact British, and is incredibly good looking, so I’d personally love to see him play Prince Henry of Wales!

Yes, who wouldn’t want Peter Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia movies to play another prince all these years later?! William, who I swear was a gay-awakening for me even when I had no idea what that even was, also already plays as Prince Liam on the TV show, The Royals, so why not continue his royal streak?

Nora Holleran: Hailee Steinfeld, Brenda Song, or Janel Parrish

Hailee Steinfeld has been a popular choice for mathematician Nora, and I can kind of see it; Hailee can definitely nail Nora’s quirkiness based off how she was in the Pitch Perfect sequels!

Anyone who is a millennial and grew up watching Disney Channel knows who Brenda Song is… London Tipton anyone? She has more recently been in The Social Network, guest starred on New Girl, and even starred in some thriller on Netflix. I don’t remember the title, but they pretty much spoiled the whole thing in the trailer…

Janel Parrish played Mona Vanderwall in Pretty Little Liars, and was in the romantic Netflix movie, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

Zahra: Lesley Ann Brandt, Zoe Saldana, or Tessa Thompson

I’ve been watching Lucifer on Netflix, and my girl Lesley here plays a demon who is a master in the art of torture, so I know she’d be amazing at the role of hardass secret service agent, Zahra!

Zoe Saldana is so great at playing sexy, badass female characters! Maybe she can step away from her Marvel movies as Gamora and play the role of Zahra in the (hopefully) upcoming release of a movie!

Another Marvel lady, Tessa Thompson also nails the role of a badass, tough-as-nails woman in so many of her roles.

President Ellen Claremont: Connie Britton

Connie is an American Sweetheart ever since she was in the Friday Night Lights TV show, and everyone wants her to be their mom, or just get close to her luxurious, iconic hair…don’t pretend like you haven’t thought about it!

Rafael Luna: Oscar Isaac, Joey Gonzalez, or Adam Rodriguez

Perhaps my favorite aspect to have come out the new Star Wars Movies–other than Daisy Ridley–Oscar Isaac is a popular choice I’ve seen to play the role of Rafael Luna.

A gorgeous man I discovered on Instagram, he’s also the CEO of mega workout program, Barry’s Bootcamp, so I guess he’s kind of big deal? I honestly don’t know, I’m not big into fitness, but look at his face!

Adam Rodriguez melted hearts in CSI: Miami, the Magic Mike movies, and even played a lustful literary professor in Jane The Virgin; Adam would be an excellent choice!

Senator Oscar Diaz: Jaime Camil

I loved this man’s extra-ness as Rogelio De La Vega in Jane the Virgin, plus he’s an incredibly handsome Mexican actor, perfect for the role of the Senator, who is also Alex and June’s father!

Mary, Queen of England: Judi Dench, or Helen Mirren

No explanation needed.

She doesn’t need one either.

Percy “Pez” Okonjo: Ncuti Gatwa

I haven’t personally seen this actor in anything, but I looked at some images of him, and he can pull off the flamboyant and fabulous style of Fez, who is Prince Henry’s best friend back across the pond.

Shaan Srivastava: Marwan Kenzari, or Rahul Kohli

Both men’s names came up on who would be an excellent fancast option for Shaan, so I couldn’t decide between the two and let them both have the spotlight!

Philip, Prince of Wales: Freddie Stroma, Harris Dickinson, or Josh Dylan

Freddie Stroma is the most recognizable guy in this bunch for me, he played Cormac McClaggen in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, but Harris Dickinson is in the newest Maleficent movie!

Catherine, Princess of Wales: Emma Thompson

I haven’t seen Emma Thompson in anything for quite some time besides playing the kooky Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter movies, I think she’d be an excellent choice for Henry’s mother!

Beatrice, Princess of Wales: Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, or Lily James

Catch Florence in the movie, Fighting with my Family, where she plays the young but talented WWE Superstar Paige! She had an edginess to her, and we see the same thing every so often in Beatrice throughout the book, so it’d be interesting to see her in this role.

I absolutely adore Emma Watson! I’d love to see her take on this role thats so different than what she usually plays, much like Lily James, but I think she’d do amazing at it either way!

I loved Lily in Baby Driver and the live-action Cinderella movie! She’s cute as a button, but I’d be interested to see how she’d play Beatrice, who has a lot of heavy issues with royal fame and substance abuse that weigh her down.

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGEntertainment’s Top 5 Reads of 2019!

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The year 2019 is quickly coming to a close, and the 2010’s are almost behind us! Frankly, it’s a gigantic relief and it makes me start to look back on the year I’ve had as a human being. I will admit it and say that it wasn’t necessarily an easy year, but I won’t bore any of my readers with the tragic details…

One thing it did teach me was who would really be in my corner when the going gets tough, and while I have my own inner circle, squad, tribe, fam, whatever slang term is appropriate for the times, books are always a warm presence in my life! Why not follow the trend and end the year with my top picks that I enjoyed throughout the last 11 months!

Looking back on the year of books that I’ve read—My Goodreads Reading Challenge was 65 titles—I’ve noticed a lot of the books I was drawn towards tended to be within the Romance genre. There were plenty of Fantasy genre selections too, but Romance kind of owned it this year; I believe it is because I am so happy to see how many LGBTQ+ titles are now out there on the market. Back when I was an angsty young lad trying to survive just growing up and figuring out my place in this crazy world—I totally still am by the way—there weren’t as many available, nor were the ones that were really marketed that well and/or showcased like they are now. Representation matters (in all positive forms)!

Below are my top five titles that really seemed to have stuck with me, and left a huge impression on me amongst the many titles I got my hands on. They are in no particular order because I simply loved all of them as they continued to ignite my passion for books, reading, storytelling, and be sure to click on the linked titles to see my full reviews (who knows, you may discover your next favorite title!)

I hope you all enjoy my selections, have a great holiday season and happy new year, and Thanks for Reading!

Red, White, and Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

An excellent addition to the ever-growing LGBTQ+ representation in literature, this book is an enemies-to-lovers romance between the bisexual first son of the president of the United States (who’s also half-latino) and the Royal Prince of Wales. Alex and Prince Henry were complete couples goals, and so much fun to read! This was Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, so I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in future book titles!

Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey: by Ngozi Ukazu

Another LGBTQ+ romance to add to my selections, this time in Graphic Novel form. This story follows figure skater, vlogger, and baker–Eric Bittle–as he goes off to start his freshman year of college to continue competing on the ice, but instead joins the hockey team! It’s an adorable coming-of-age story as he juggles adjusting to a whole new world on the ice with bro-ey hockey jocks, discovering more about his sexuality, and deal with his growing crush on Jack Zimmerman, the Junior Hockey team captain! The hilarious, memorable characters and the gorgeous illustrations were what really drew me in, and I absolutely loved this first volume! I am also so excited for the second volume to release in print in Spring 2020!

New Camelot Trilogy (American Queen, American Prince, and American King): by Sierra Simone

A scorching, seductive retelling of the iconic Arthurian tale that involves a passionate, secret affair amongst the President of the United States, his wife, and the Vice President. Excellently written from multiple perspectives as the whole story is slowly revealed; these books are freakin’ hot and unlike any other romance/erotic title(s) I’ve ever read before! I can’t recommend these enough to anyone looking for something 1000x better than Fifty Shades of Grey!

Again, But Better: by Christine Riccio

A debut work of YA-Contemporary fiction from a well-known Youtube Book Reviewer, this novel was an ultimate feel-good, coming-of-age uplifting story that reminds us to live life to the fullest, even when we aren’t always allowed a second chance to do over our past mistakes! A little amateurish in terms of prose and plot, but this title helped me out of a rough patch and has an amazing message that can really speak to just about anyone who reads it!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1): by V.E. Schwab

Probably my favorite Fantasy genre book I read this year, V.E. Schwab really impresses with this book for its unique, imaginative, multi-universe London setting based on color, a magical being who can travel between them to send messages while wearing a transforming overcoat, a cross dressing female pirate who hopes for more, and dangerous, dark magic that makes a surprise return after being believed to have been lost long ago…

There are my personally selected Top 5 picks for the year! It was hard to condense the many titles I’d read down to these 5, so maybe next year I’ll raise it to my top 10! There were plenty of other titles that I really enjoyed, and so I’m granting them their own little section of this post, check them out below! (The titles with links attached are ones that I’ve previously reviewed, the others are ones that will be on here soon!

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BONUS CONTENT:

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2019 Honorable Mentions:

The Wicked King & The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #2 & #3): by Holly Black

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1): by Leigh Bardugo

Him (Him #1): by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Caraval (Caraval #1): by Stephanie Garber

It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

The Captive Prince Trilogy (Captive Prince, Princes Gambit, and Kings Rising): by C.S. Pacat

The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

Verity: by Colleen Hoover

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So, there you have it! 2019 was filled with many amazing titles that made for a great year of reading! 2020 is just around the corner, and with the new year fast approaching, my plan is to get even more heavily into Fantasy genre titles/series to not only enjoy them, but to also start narrowing in on ideas on what I want another future writing project to be about: Yes, I want to write a fantasy novel/series sometime!

So far, all I’ve got is that I want it to include queer romance, mermaids/sirens, more found family dynamics as a group embarks on some sort of journey, animal companions/guardians, half-bird folk, possibly two ancient dragons destined to return and battle it out, and a secret school of female assassins! We’ll see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell