Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz

After breaking his arm on set, Wolf’s Landing stuntman Ginsberg Sloan finds himself temporarily out of work. Luckily, Bluewater Bay’s worst B&B has cheap long-term rates, and Ginsberg’s not too proud to take advantage of them.

Derrick Richards, a grizzled laid-off logger, inherited the B&B after his parents’ untimely deaths. Making beds and cooking sunny-side-up eggs is hardly Derrick’s idea of a man’s way to make a living, but just as he’s decided to shut the place down, Ginsberg shows up on his doorstep, pitiful and soaking wet, and Derrick can hardly send him packing.

Not outright, at least.

The plan? Carry on the B&B’s tradition of terrible customer service and even worse food until the pampered city boy leaves voluntarily. What Derrick doesn’t count on, though, is that the lousier he gets at hosting, the more he convinces bored, busybody Ginsberg to try to get the B&B back on track. And he definitely doesn’t count on the growing attraction between them, or how much more he learns from Ginsberg than how to put out kitchen fires.

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Book 5
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Riptide Publishing

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

For me, this story is all about Ginsberg. He is big-hearted and full of life. Ginsberg is a transgender man and it is clear that he has not had the easiest of lives, but he is still so optimistic and strong and brave.

Derrick, on the other hand, is anti-social, grumpy, and has huge issues with his sexuality and making sure he is a "man." I thought over time I'd grow to like Derrick, but it didn't happen. He was weak and far to inept for a man his age.

I really enjoyed seeing the impact that Ginsberg had on Derrick's life, especially watching the turn-around at the B&B. Also, this being my first book with a transgender main character I was curious about the sex. This is not a book where the characters jump into bed together right off the bat so I had a bit of a wait, but it was worth it. The sex was hot. Overall, The Burnt Toast B&B was a good read.

Derrick is a Bluewater Bay local, running what is notoriously the worst B&B in the area. When a sodden and injured stunt man shows up looking for a room, Derrick tries his hardest to send him running so he can shut down his business. But Ginsburg has lived in worse situations and he isn’t going anywhere.

I loved Ginsburg. A formidable ball of energy, he’s slight but fierce and he starts sorting out Derrick’s life and his B&B from the moment he arrives. Unapologetically high maintenance and more than slightly camp, he is bewildering to Derrick who has spent much of his adult life in logging camps. As a trans man, we see momentary flickers of self-consciousness but he is more sure of himself and his gender identity than Derrick ever is.

Where I loved Ginsburg, I really struggled with Derrick’s character. Trapped in a life he didn’t ever want, he is full of emotional baggage and quick to unleash his anger on others. He is supposed to be the older man, but his insecurities make him seem quite adolescent and far too helpless at times.

Because I struggled with Derrick, I also found it difficult to invest in the relationship between Derrick and Ginsburg. Every time Derrick hurt Ginsburg with his “manliness” insecurities, I wanted Ginsburg to run from him and not look back. Instead, Ginsburg just lets Derrick be awful to him. I liked the way Ginsburg gave Derrick confidence, rebuilding the B&B and his sense of identity, but I didn’t feel these two ever became full partners.

I wanted the end of this story to tie everything together neatly for me, but it left things a little too blurry. Happily for now works well in young adult and new adult writing, but it doesn’t quite work for two men in their thirties. There are some lovely moments in this story, but it isn’t one of my favourite Bluewater Bay books.

The Burnt Toast B&B can be read as a standalone, and out of series order. I started the series by reading the newest ones, and have been slowly working my way through from the beginning, with absolutely no issue with confusion.

While enjoying the storyline, I struggled at the start due to the slower pacing, detailing, and the showing of physical actions. Once I connected with the characters, I had an easier time reading without interruption and found it to be an enjoyable, lighthearted read.

Derrick is a burly lumberjack who is now forced to run a B&B after his parents passed away. He's struggling to make ends meet, while systematically pushing clientele away. I was confused by his inability to run the B&B after being the sole owner for 2 years, after his backstory stated he did maintenance/cleaning/cooking all through his childhood, so why now at 35 is he completely clueless? Resentful, grieving, struggling, Derrick decides it might be best to close the doors on the B&B.

The B&B opened in 1997 (stated by Ginsburg's narration), this book was published in 2015 when Derrick was 35. I need to point out, Derrick's backstory featured bullying and being the brunt of jokes all through school for being a 'maid' in the B&B. BUT, due to his age, the B&B opened the year he graduated from high school/just after he graduated from high school, as a legal adult. I just needed to point that out. I only noticed because Derrick and I are exactly the same age. This contradicts the backstory entirely.

Just as Derrick makes a decision to close the B&B's doors, in walks in Ginsburg, needing a place to recuperate from an arm fracture for 8-12 weeks. He's a 31-year-old stuntman on the show the Bluewater Bay series revolves around. Ginsburg is a FTM transgender. I need to state that The Burnt Toast B&B doesn't delve too deeply into Ginsburg being transgender. Which I appreciated, because Ginsburg is a person, not just a transgender person – his characterization was about his character, not his gender. I will state, the novel tries very hard to break down gender stereotypes and generalizations, but this may come off as preachy, in-the-face to some readers.

Derrick's gruff, slightly immature, and emotionally stunted due to the need to appear manly – he also seems to have an issue with effeminacy, yet is okay with it at the same time. Derrick is a walking contradiction in all things, with his characterization never nailed down, so I couldn't predict how he would react/behave in any given situation. I felt the authors were conflicted on how to write Derrick – as this was a joint venture, perhaps this is why Derrick felt as if he had two conflicting personalities.

Ginsburg is easy-going and helpful (I truly enjoyed Ginsburg – an amazing character). They both bring out another side in each other. The balance of their relationship was solid. While there is attraction from the get-go, it is in no way insta territory. Their romance has more of a slow-burn feel, which I appreciated greatly. They bond while Derrick tries to push Ginsburg away by making the place unlivable, which reminded me of The Money Pit in how dilapidated it was. I was slightly thrown-off by this, as this was Derrick's inheritance, and it was disrespectful to his parents' hard work and memories to systematically destroy the place.

The conflict was miscommunication-based, which is why I couldn't rate the novel higher, mixed with the timeline inconsistencies I mentioned above, as that is a pet-peeve of mine when it comes to plot development. I also didn't feel as if I got a real grasp on who the characters were. There was so much depth that Ginsburg could have shown, but it just skimmed the surface of his character.

Overall, The Burnt Toast B&B was an enjoyable read, a good addition to the Bluewater Bay series, but I felt it fell short of its potential.

Heidi Belleau

Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write.

She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!)

When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.

Connect with Heidi

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Rachel Haimowitz

Rachel is an M/M erotic romance author and the Publisher of Riptide Publishing. She's also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her... if not so much for her characters.

When she's not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.

Connect with Rachel

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Google+  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) by Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz to read and review.

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