The Stud

The Stud (It’s Just Us Here #5) by Christopher X. Sullivan: Review by Lost in a Book

The Stud (It's Just Us Here #5)

Blurb:

An asexual man is now in a sexual relationship with a male model… and is in over his head.

Chris and Mark’s relationship evolves. Both men learn to depend on the other during trying times. Chris is in the closet with his family, but Mark doesn’t add pressure and remains a solid support. Meanwhile, Mark is struggling to reconnect with his parents and older sisters and Chris is the catalyst that enables the vain male model to return home.

All good things must come to an end, and if you’ve read this far in the series, you should know that the last few chapters of this book contain the long-foreshadowed Big Fight. This self-portrait was written as a romance… but not every story gets a happy ending.

[The Stud is Book Five in a ten book series. You can read this as the mid-point of a four book arc. You should probably read the friends-to-lovers story (contained in the first three books) to understand the fullness of the characters, but this isn’t strictly necessary. Book One, Book Four and Book Eight all serve as ‘jumping in’ points for the series.

It’s Just Us Here: The Stud is a 118,000 word journey of two men connecting in a deep, spiritual way as they navigate a sexual relationship while juggling careers, friends and family.]

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5 Stars

The Stud is definitely my favorite so far on the journey of Chris and Mark in It’s just Us Here. Apparently I’m a masochist because this one hurt and I loved it. Not the pain they went through, but that it makes you feel throughout the entire book.

For most of this book, there’s a surface level feeling of happiness between the MCs. They seem to be on the same page, in love, and increasing their sexual exploration. But, lurking under the surface is pain and heartbreak evident from the very beginning. I could *feel* the decline of their relationship in the little moments; the moments that seem insignificant but have huge implications for the future.

“We had our differences and they were plain to see… and it wouldn’t be easy to work around my limitations… but it was so easy to be with Mark”

Mark and Chris are trying to please the other person at a detriment to themselves and it’s impossible to keep up without breaking. The closet scene with Mark was soooooooo sad to me. The lengths Mark is willing to go to keep Chris close when it goes against his very nature just ripped my heart out. There are so many red flags along the way that made me want to stop and scream, “WOULD YOU JUST ACTUALLY TALK TO EACH OTHER.” I don’t want lack of communication to be confused with using a misunderstanding or miscommunication trope in a romance novel. This is real life and it’s as if Chris and Mark are trying so hard to be together, be everything the other person could ever want or need, that they lose themselves in the process. They stop speaking up on the big and little things that might not always be of major importance but to them, it’s another crack in the crumbling foundation.

So sadness be damned, I loved this book. Not to worry though, there are many reminders that the overall “story” ends with a HEA. They just have to find a way to repair all these cracks or demolish the building and start over. Remember that this is a REAL story. About real men, dealing with real emotions and real life events. Definitely recommended.

Trigger- addiction, depression

Copy provided for honest review.

Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke: Review by Lost in a Book for @BMBR

Not Dead Yet (Not Dead Yet #1)

Blurb:

Dying isn’t what it used to be. 

Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.

His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.

As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.

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4 Stars

Not Dead Yet is a pleasant surprise with a unique feel amidst the overwhelming monotony of many paranormal romances. Don’t get me wrong, there are ghosts and some other paranormal elements that appear throughout the genre. However, this one felt different and held my attention throughout.

This is a paranormal mystery with a lot of dark things happening. It’s almost impossible to provide tidbits without revealing spoilers because so much happens and it all interconnects. Wes has the ability be alive and enter the plane of the dead. He embraces this ability as it provides a way to live without drawing attention to the fact that he never ages. Wes allows very few people in his inner circle and when he witnesses a murder while on the other plane, he ends up working with the one man who held his heart 30 years ago, Detective Hudson Rojas.

Wes is loveable and full of life (minus the dead plane parts) while Rojas’ is growly, cranky, and analytical. Rojas’ is also one of the very few people Wes has ever felt sexual attraction with (*cheers* some ACE representation). They have baggage from the past but their feelings after 30 years apart are still there even if Growly McGrowlerson runs hot/cold with Wes on the regular.

“My heart hurt and I wanted you. Not just in a sex way, but in a heart way.”

The characters are well connected and fleshed out. They have chemistry and heat but sex isn’t and doesn’t have to be the main attraction to their relationship. As both men work together to solve these murders, their chemistry, humor, and feelings sneak through without their approval. The plot is engaging, the secondary characters are entertaining and utterly endearing (🥰 Evan), and the suspense had me guessing along the way.

Towards the end, the events started becoming too OTT for my taste. Also, Rojas is a detective and he broke the CARDINAL rule (If it’s not, it should be). Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it but he did a certain something and I was left scratching my head.

There should be a trigger warning for mentions of suicide. I enjoyed Not Dead Yet and I’m hoping Evan gets his story next. Recommended.

 Copy provided for honest review.

The Partner

The Partner by Christopher X. Sullivan: Review by Lost in a Book

The Partner (It's Just Us Here #3)

Blurb:

An asexual man falls in love with a male model… and they make it work.

Chris and Mark try to separate.

It doesn’t go smoothly.

Why was it so easy to grow close, yet now so difficult to pull apart?

Maybe they can pretend one last time… can they pretend to be boyfriends for a week? Can that solve their problems?

 

 

 

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5 Stars

Welp, I was raging after the 2nd book. Like, spitting fire, tantrum throwing rage for days hours seconds before hopping onto the 3rd book (thank you for dispensing the first three at once, Chris). That ending ruined all hope of adulting until I got to a “pleasant” place in this one, The Partner. I use pleasant lightly because there were tons of feels in this. Chris goes through so many emotions in this book as he struggles with his feelings on his relationship with Mark, the type of relationship they will have, what he will and will not be able to contribute, etc…

Chris doesn’t sugar coat his quirks. He lets them allllllllll hang out and Mark is totally here for them. Mark’s a trooper. If he wasn’t so steadfast in his feelings for Chris (even though we know what’s coming, I don’t believe it ever came down to not feeling enough), I don’t believe Chris would have come out on the other side to have a partnership with so much love. Mark dusts himself off after every missed hurdle and keeps on going.

Actual footage of Mark trying to progress their relationship:

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Ok, all silliness aside, They have come a long way and seem to be finding some footing with their new relationship. That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, it’s real life and growing pains are inevitable. They work through issues (even if Chris is having lots of internal dialogue that provides a case of whiplash). Alongside the real issues are humor and love. Again, that’s life. Although, reading from Chris’ perspective makes me giggle more. Because quirks. 😂

Did I mention that this is a REAL story? About real men, dealing with real emotions and real life events? I will 100% continue on this journey of finding love while sometimes getting lost and needing to take the scenic routes. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

The Companion

The Companion (It’s Just Us Here #2) by Christopher X. Sullivan: Review by Lost in a Book

The Companion (It's Just Us Here #2)

Blurb:

An asexual man has met a male model… and they became fast friends.

The summer has been magical so far for both Mark and Chris. Their friendship has grown naturally and quickly, but now it will be tested in ways that go beyond casual friendship.

Both men are generally tight-lipped about their internal struggles. Can they be trusting enough to evolve from mere friends to something deeper?

Mark, the globe-trotting man who usually treats friends as accessories to be changed with the seasons… finds Chris to be a steadying, consistent companion. Mark sees something in Chris that is so tantalizing… and starts to dream of a settled future he used to mock.

Chris, the often reserved writer who always seeks to avoid confrontations… enjoys Mark’s youthful, untroubled personality and is unable, or unwilling, to guard his heart around the straight-acting model. Chris has always felt most comfortable in friendships with straight men and lesbians… because then there’s no chance of sexual pressure.

[ADVISORY: This 100,000 word installment is the continuation of my self-portrait, It’s Just Us Here. You should read Book 1: The Friend before reading this, but I don’t think you’ll be completely lost if you start here. I have written this series as a romance so some of you will be expecting a HEA… this installment doesn’t have that.]

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5 Stars

I’m telling y’all again, these pages are laced with crack.

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I know I haven’t kept my love of this “story” a secret but I’m still amazed at how real it all is and how much feeling each stage of Chris and Mark’s relationship can evoke.

I mentioned in my review of The Friend that they have an intimacy that isn’t seen in many intimate relationships. Chris and Mark are very much different but seem to crave the closeness of each other. This isn’t a problem for many except that their idea of closeness differs drastically as an already deep “friendship” deepens. By now, Chris and Mark have began sewing each other into the very fabric of their beings. Mark is treading carefully forward (and loving it) while Chris is panicking and one touch lingering look sweet word light breeze away from calling a time of death on the progression of their relationship. What they have *is* a romantic relationship and that realization creates an emotional tail spin.

I love the change that takes place in this installment. There are so many feels of elation, anxiety, happiness, hope, and almost paralyzing fear. Chris wants someone to share his life with yet is insecure with his ability to fit into a relationship. To become a pair, love someone so much, and still fall short.

How I ended my previous review on the first installment still fits and I’ll probably end them all this way…

Did I mention that this is a REAL story? About real men, dealing with real emotions and real life events? I will 100% continue on this journey of finding love while sometimes getting lost and needing to take the scenic routes. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.

The Friend

The Friend (It’s Just Us Here #1) by Christopher X. Sullivan:
Review by Lost in a Book

The Friend (It's Just Us Here #1)

Blurb:

An asexual man meets a male model… and slowly falls in love.

Mark, the model, has not been challenged in his life and is emotionally withdrawn. He returns to Chicago in the hopes of reconnecting with his college friends, but everyone has moved on without him, starting families and growing up.

Chris, the writer, is socially awkward and introverted. He actively tries to be as invisible as possible.

The two men meet one day in Chris’ favorite park and strike up a friendship. Since this is written as a romance, you probably have a pretty good idea where the story goes from there.

You’d be wrong. (Well… and kinda right.)

I’m Chris and this is my story. It’s not a traditional romance. This is my version of a Happily Ever After, which means Mark and I became great friends… and that’s it.

Mark and I end this first installment of my self-portrait in a Queer Platonic Relationship. There was cuddling and emotional closeness, but nothing remotely sexual… at least not to my mind. Mark obviously wanted more and he would eventually get it, but this book, Book One of It’s Just Us Here, would have been my perfect, ideal romance.

If you need banging and crazy monkey sex to keep your interest in a story, then jump in at Book Four of this self-portrait (The Lover). Otherwise, come along for the ride and meet the man who would sweep me off my feet, Mark Wolff, one of the top ten most self-absorbed men in the whole world.

[NOTE: This book is a 95,000 word romantic self-portrait featuring the beginnings of a queer relationship. It is the first book of a trilogy, which is itself part of a larger trilogy. Low heat… for now. I don’t think we need trigger warnings for this book, but future installments might warrant them. Maybe that can serve as enough of a warning? Warning: this book if full of life.]

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5 Stars

I’ll start off by linking my review for The Book of Beginnings which is where I started on my journey with Mark and Chris and became hooked. Fangirling is probably more accurate. *unapologetic shrug* Warning: This linked review goes well beyond (spoilersish in nature when considering what this book focuses on) The Friend but I feel that my review was much more eloquent (well, as much as I can actually be when squeeing) than what will take place in this review for the single installment of The Friend. I’m not going to walk through this book because the blurb does a great job of explaining exactly what to expect with this “romantic self-portrait.”

My initial thoughts after reading this book were, did I really just read a little over 300 pages about becoming friends? About single individuals finding common interests, while deepening their connection platonically? With some of their interactions having more intimacy than those in physical relationships? It’s not just a book about meeting a friend, it’s so much more because these men are opposites with their own hangups, hard limits, deep feelings, and insecurities. Any other story and I would’ve been sleeping if I had to read that much about a simple friendship. But I think these pages are laced with crack and kept me coming back for more. In this case, the crack I’m referring to are two quirky (both are in their own way) men understanding who they are as individuals and finding their way to a deep relationship that is soooo much more than Friends.

Did I mention that this is a REAL story? About real men, dealing with real emotions and real life events? I will 100% continue on this journey of finding love while sometimes getting lost and needing to take the scenic routes. Recommended.

Copy provided for honest review.