Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tender with a Twist by Annabeth Albert

One kinky wood carver. One younger chef looking to try new things. A series of lessons that bring both men more than they bargained for…

Curtis Hunt has made a name for himself as a chainsaw wood carver, winning national competitions and operating a small business in Rainbow Cove, Oregon. As winter whittles away his tourist traffic, his goal is just to survive the season and try to not get lost in grief for his dead lover. It’s been two years, but he’s sure he’ll never be over the love of a lifetime. However, his body has a certain restlessness that he doesn’t quite know how to calm.

Logan Rosner knows a thing or two about restlessness. It’s what drove him to Rainbow Cove to be a chef at a bar and grill run by his friends. And it’s what drives him to a single sizzling encounter with the local legendary lumberjack. Both men get far more than they expected and learn that first impressions aren’t always accurate…

But when Logan proposes a series of sexy lessons, Curtis must decide how much he’s willing to risk. He knows he can’t afford to get attached to Logan’s good cooking, his easy smiles, or his caretaking, but he keeps going back for more, even as deeper emotions become involved. Soon, Curtis must decide whether to risk his heart again or risk losing Logan for good.

Tender with a Twist is a 79,000 word stand-alone gay romance with a May/December theme, featuring a second chance at love, opposites attract, loads of sexy times with mild BDSM elements, and one emotionally-charged, guaranteed happy ending with no cliffhangers.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
~  Available with KindleUnlimited  ~

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4.5 stars of woodcarver meets chef magic!

This is the second book in the series, and is even better than the first! The romance here starts off in a most unexpected arrangement – but anyone who knows the talents of Ms. Albert will be reassured that there will be the ending that we all desire.

Logan is the chef in the new restaurant bar, co-owned by him, Adam, and Mason, star of book one. We learn that he is a slim, preppy, young looking 27, which belies his dominant inclinations. And whilst he may have been noticed by Curtis, the grumpy, grieving woodcarver, not necessarily for that reason.

As they come to an arrangement, which suits both and neither at the same time, we watch the tendrils of love and care develop. By getting the story from both Curtis and Logan, the issues are revealed and the attraction grows. The other characters add to the whole, but never take away from the leads – they are most definitely front and centre throughout the story!

Now it has to be Adam's turn, and he is so cynical, that I can't wait to see how and who!

What’s not to love about a bearded, muscled, backwoods chainsaw artist? Colin is introduced to readers topless, sweaty, and engrossed in his craft – and I fell hard at first glance. By the time I’d learned his tragic backstory, I was madly in love.

We got to know Logan in the first book. He’s a chef working with his two best friends to establish a restaurant and gay-friendly bar in the small town of Rainbow, Oregon. Logan isn’t quite as complex a character as Colin, but I loved his passion for food and his complicated relationship with his parents.

The first story in this series was pretty vanilla and family focused so I wasn’t expecting the BDSM in this book (I know – I shoulda read the blurb!). There is a whole lot of BDSM here. Colin and Logan get to know each other through kink. There were elements of the kink that I enjoyed. I always love a good Shibari scene and I enjoyed seeing Logan grow into himself as a dom. For me personally, there was a bit too much pain play, but then I’m never a huge fan of S/M scenes.

The romance in this story is complicated and frustrating. I kept wanting to shake some sense into Colin – but then we’d see him battered by another wave of grief and I’d be in bits. Colin and Logan are an unconventional pairing for many reasons but there are beautiful moments when they fit together perfectly.

Surprisingly, for a BDSM heavy book, this is actually a really sweet story. I really loved the complexity of Logan and Colin and I enjoyed their journey towards their happily ever after.

I am thoroughly enjoying this little town of Rainbow Cove. I love how different each character is within the series.

Tender with a Twist is book two in the series but can be read as a standalone. It is Curtis and Logan's story.

Curtis is the cranky woodworker in town. He's quiet and when he does talk, he's gruff. He lost his longtime partner a couple years ago. Before Troy died, Curtis was outgoing, loved riding his motorcycle, and being with his friends, but now he's the complete opposite and keeps to himself, except his kink, which he's still practicing only because he needs the pain.

Logan is the chef at the Tavern. He's noticed Curtis while he's been in the restaurant. He's a vegan and Logan goes out of his way to make sure he has an option for him on the menu. What he doesn't expect is the harsh way Curtis speaks to him. Logan is younger and looks vulnerable. Something Curtis isn't interested in until Logan proves otherwise.

I really enjoyed Curtis and Logan. Curtis is a broken man through most of the book, holding on to the past. My heart hurt right along with him. Tender with a Twist pulled me in and I couldn't get enough.

I can't wait to see what's next for this small town.

A later in life, coming-of-age tale meets a second-chance romance, featuring light BDSM play.

Tender with a Twist is the second installment of the Rainbow Cove series, but it can easily be read as a standalone.

A love-hate reluctance and a push-pull vibe, readers met both main characters in the previous book, which had sparked the need to learn more about Logan and Curtis.

Logan is one of three friends who own and run a bar/restaurant together. Logan is from a sheltering family, as the only child, but has also lived a sheltered life. This chef is trying to break out of the mold and discover who he is at the age of 27. In a way, this is a coming-of-age tale for Logan, as he struggles with looking younger than his years, deals with the trauma of being bullied in junior high, and the sheltering nature of his family and his childhood friend turned ex. He hasn't had much life experience.

Curtis has life experience in spades. The crusty woodcarver is still grieving for his late partner. He's set in his ways, and doesn't believe he deserves happiness since his partner passed away. For Curtis, Tender with a Twist is a second-chance romance, as he battles fellow friends and loved ones who think he should martyr himself for life in tribute to his lost partner's memory.

Through the evolution of the story, Logan knows what he wants and earns the confidence to go after it, while Curtis ignores what he wants and earns the courage to take it. Usually I struggle with a noticeable age-gap, especially when a lack of life experience widens the expanse. But, with that being said, Logan and Curtis fit well together – a good balance. Intellectually equal, both wanting the same things in life, just waiting for the other to get on the same page at the same time.

Commentary on the BDSM portions: In the beginning, I felt it was a bit too informative (textbook), and it took away from the overall scene. However, with someone new to BDSM (reading and in life) the way it was presented made it easier for the reader to understand, giving less information and allowing the scenes to shine as the novel evolved. I do believe Tender with a Twist would make an excellent first novel for anyone on the fence about reading about BDSM, fearing it violent or brutal in nature, when that couldn't be farther from the truth.

The novel explored power-exchange (I appreciated the view on how this is not size-related, as larger doesn't make you a top in BDSM, just as it doesn't in the bedroom). Bondage. Light impact play.

I enjoyed this novel, and would have read it in one sitting had I not been interrupted by life, and look forward to Adam's story.

Note on a pet-peeve of mine, as a writer of over 20 books featuring BDSM themes: the abbreviation of dominant is no different than mom/dad/sister/brother/aunt/uncle/pastor/principal/sir/ma'am, and those grammar rules apply. Dom shouldn't be capitalized unless it's being used as a proper noun, taking the place of the person's name as a title. "Dom, give it to me good!" Otherwise, it should be lowercase. "Logan, thank you for being my dom."

Avid Reader☆☆☆
M/M BDSM Romance
So, I think I'll be in the minority here, but I just could not get into this story. There was a good push-pull relationship, but it became almost too much back and forth. I was ready for their happy ending at about 70% of the book.

Logan is a chef and owns and runs a business with his best friends. He isn't a perfectionist, per se, but people do tend to underestimate him. I liked his snarkiness when necessary and I really liked how he was able to find himself in this story. However, I felt that because people underestimated him, he didn't set super high expectations for himself either. Getting involved with Colin on a "teaching" basis seemed like a horrible deal.

Then you have Colin. He's a bit older than Logan and has suffered a great loss. However, he let the loss completely take him over. And even when he is given a second chance, he squanders it over and over again. I hated the "kid" nickname and felt that it was overused and it just became an annoying way for Colin to push Logan away.

So, while I thought that the happily ever after was successful, it just dragged for me. The romantic dynamic between the two was developed, but the push pull was just frustrating.

This series is pretty good. Curtis lost his husband in an accident several years ago and isn't ready to move on, he just needs a little fix every once in a while. Logan was in a crappy previous relationship and wants to truly be himself. These two are smoking hot together. I liked the concept of someone a little smaller being the aggressor and wanting a big man and taking control. The sex is off the charts hot and even when they aren't doing the nasty, they are good together. I hated Logan's family and I hated Curtis's mother-in-law, they were just so mean. I am glad both men finally spoke their minds and got what they both wanted. I am eager to see who the next book is about. Great addition to the series, really enjoyed.

Also Available in the Rainbow Cove Series

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
~  Available with KindleUnlimited  ~

For reviews & more info, check out our Trust with a Chaser post.

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Connect with Annabeth

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Tender with a Twist (Rainbow Cove #2) by Annabeth Albert to read and review.

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