28 December 2014

Secrets and Charms by Lou Harper

 One hot ginger. One cool blond. The result is anything but lukewarm.

Out and proud from a tender age, Olly Blackwood is content with life in LA, working at a Hollywood gourmet grocery. There's only one thing missing: romance. He's had his fill of casual hook-ups. He wants a man for keeps, and he wants sparks.

He certainly gets them when he meets Rich Willson, who has the stormy temper to go with his fiery hair. But is he keeper material? He might be if only he'd come out of the closet.

After losing his disapproving father, his job, his girlfriend, and pretty much all his money, Rich packed up his secrets and moved to his actress sister s house to regroup and help her renovate. He doesn't like the curmudgeon he s become, but something about the perpetually cheerful Olly rubs him in a way that should be wrong, yet feels pretty damned right.

Over paint buckets and sanding tools, Rich finds Olly getting deeper under his skin. But when an altercation with a paparazzo comes back to haunt him, he finds that sordid Hollywood secrets can be murder maybe his own.

Warning: Contains a hot-tempered ginger, a cool-headed blond, redecorating shenanigans, and sordid Hollywood secrets. Happy ending guaranteed or your ticket price refunded.
Secrets and Charms was an enjoyable m/m romance with a twist of mystery for an added flavor. I really liked Olly’s character – he’s charming, friendly, loyal, and willing to give people more than one chance to make a good impression. And that last character trait is the only thing that helps Rich out when he tries to correct the first impression he made after his first encounter with Olly. As Olly is Rich’s sister’s friend who has agreed to help her with some of the renovations on her new house, Rich needs to learn how to play nice with “the fruit.”

Sadly, Rich is the homophobic product of his upbringing and is still reeling from the recent family troubles that necessitated him moving in with his sister, making it even more difficult than normal for him to interact with Olly in a civil manner. Actually, Rich’s father managed to do such a number on him that Rich appears to have been ignorant of his own homosexuality until he began spending time with Olly. Not surprisingly, this confusion causes Rich to lash out at Olly more than once. Fortunately for Rich, Olly is the kind of guy that fulfills his promises and continues to work alongside Rich on the renovations to Sandy’s home. I really liked the patience that Olly showed Rich after he realized that Rich was so far in the closet that he didn’t even realize he was in it. Even though Olly couldn’t relate to Rich’s situation, he made a conscious effort not to take Rich’s freak-outs personally and continued to encourage Rich to accept himself.

I liked the way is which Ms. Harper had Olly prod Rich without pushing him to accept his homosexuality, in part by posing questions in such a way that Rich was able to separate his emotional reactions from what he thought his father’s response would be from the logical acknowledgement that his father would not have accepted him either way. That Olly was the younger of the two was irrelevant in the situation because Olly had more experience in “living gay” and was more than willing to help Rich adjust to his newfound sexuality. In spite of Rich’s constant waspish behavior, the chemistry between the two was very believable in an opposites attract manner and made for some rather hot sex scenes. The subplots of blackmail and the impetus for Rich’s relocation just added to the whole Secrets and Charms experience and left me planning to go back and read book one in the Secrets series to see what else Ms. Harper has up her sleeve. 


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