January 27, 2016

Suped Up: By The Rules by Elisabeth Staab + V-Day Plans

Series: Evergreen Grove 3
Format: Mobi
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: Self
Source: Author
Genre: Contemporary Romance | M/M

He thinks I want him because of the rumors around town. Because I think he’s easy. I want AJ, because he’s AJ.

No liars. No suits. Absolutely no straight guys…

AJ Fabin’s list of rules keeps him safe. Since getting kicked out of his parents’ home and attacked by a former escorting client, his rules and his life in the tiny town of Evergreen Grove provide a quiet haven. He may be lonely, and he may stick out like a sore thumb, but the folks like him well enough. When he’s not dodging his old pimp, things are peaceful.

Hayden Price is having a quarter-life crisis. Engaged to a woman he can’t connect to and working a job he secretly hates, he comes to Evergreen Grove to help his mother through a health scare. Returning to his childhood home makes Hayden reevaluate a lot of things, including himself. When he meets AJ and finds he can’t stand the mouthy jerk—almost as much as he can’t stop thinking about him—he has a lot more to change than his career.

To be together, they’ll both have to break all of their rules.

By the Rules is book 3 in the Evergreen Grove series, but reads as a standalone.

Oh the feels! And from a genre I very rarely read at that! AJ Fabin became a quick favorite when I first met him in At The Stars, what with his flamboyant fashion, quick wit, and kind heart, what's not to like?! Elisabeth Staab built AJ in the sidelines and after two books, his story is finally here and I'm super psyched for his HEA!

BY THE RULES is an M/M romance that's full of heart with a side of angst. Opposite AJ is Hayden Price, and when I say opposite, I mean OPPOSITE. If AJ is every color of the rainbow, Hayden is a monochromatic shade of gray with a Type A personality at that. I should also note that Hayden is still in the closet and this surprise attraction he has towards AJ was tenuous at first then blossomed into something fierce as the novel moved forward. However they have something in common and that is both their dads aren't really happy with them being gay which added to the conflict of the story.

EStaab peeled the layers of these two characters, amped up the romantic tension, and really build-up AJ and Hayden as individuals and as a couple. But inspite of all the angst and inherent angst because of AJ and Hayden's families, BY THE RULES isn't a heavy read, it's heartfelt and even funny in some places. AJ's backstory in particular surprised me which made his character development even more touching and left me feeling proud of this unicorn as if he's my own. And obviously Hayden isn't the same after AJ so his storyline is just as powerful but in a different way. 

BY THE RULES broke my expectations. It's a love story in every sense of the word from love of self, friends, family, to a significant other. AJ and Hayden's romance is slow burning and sure footed, very realistic and positive. What's even more surprising is this installment wasn't lusty at all. LOL New couples are usually on/in each other, going at it like monkeys. I expected a lot of sex here as the novel is swimming in testosterone, EStaab really tempered it and wrote a very lovely emotionally-driven story. Don't get me wrong, BY THE RULES is still sexy, it's just devoid of meaningless sex which is probably why I'm head over heels with it. Love it! Read it.

(AJ's POV)

You know that movie where the devastatingly handsome billionaire falls head over heels for the former rent-boy with a heart of gold and they ride off into the sunset with their limo, their unicorn collection, and a cuddly little Bichon Frise?

Okay, me neither.

Nobody’s ever gonna make that movie, because nobody would buy the premise. Not even if Julia Roberts does make the prospect look all kinds of glittery-ever-after on camera. And for real, I’m telling you I could rock a string of diamonds just as well as her (I could!), even if you wouldn’t catch me dead in an evening gown. Or doing a douche who drives a five-speed penis-mobile.

Well…maybe it would depend on the penis-mobile.

God bless Richard Gere’s fine ass in a three-piece, though. I may have a rule against dating a guy like the one he plays in Pretty Woman, but there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy. Like a big ol’ slab of red velvet cake, it may not be healthy for you to eat, but looking doesn’t cost any calories.

Rule #1: Watch out for rich guys in business attire. They’re sleek, gorgeous, and powerful looking, like jungle cats, and as likely to take a chunk out of you when your back is turned.

Rules aside, Gere’s chiseled cheekbones help me stay awake when I’m stuck behind my ratty, wood-paneled check-in desk, working dusk to dawn at The Grove Inn. Not much else going on at night in the speck of a town that is Evergreen Grove, NC.

Once in an extremely blue moon we get a flurry of activity after dark like a tired traveler or two, but mostly it’s me, my laptop, and my movie marathons. Next up is An Officer and a Gentleman, because I’m all about indulging a good movie star crush. Gotta get my feel-goods where I can.

Romance in Evergreen Grove

Elisabeth Staab

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but it’s a holiday that causes me a minor amount of terror. What do I get? Something romantic? Something silly? Something chocolatey? Well, the boys of Evergreen Grove are not immune to the struggle.

So I had a little talk with them all to see what they’d be getting their significant others. Their answers were… interesting.

Jake (At the Stars): Jesus, I don’t have a clue. Last year for Cassie’s birthday I got her a AAA membership and she wasn’t too thrilled. This year I tried to make it more personal but as much as she loves playing with our dog I guess getting her and Bentley matching sweaters wasn’t so cool either. So what the fuck do I know about romance?

Dante (Acts of Creation): Oh I’ve got it in the bag, man. My girl’s getting art supplies. It’s practical, but it shows I support her career plans. That’s L-O-V-E, dude.

Jake: No, that’s L-A-M-E. Trust me, I’ve gotten burned trying to go the practical route. Anyway, we know AJ’s gonna do something over the top for his guy and make us both look bad to our women. Then we’ll be screwed.

*both guys glare at AJ*

AJ (By the Rules): What? I’m cooking him dinner. Nothing fancy.

Dante: Nuh-uh. That can’t be it. What’d you get him for a present?

AJ: Nothing much.

Jake: He’s lying.

AJ: No lie. I got him a rock. A small one. More like a pebble, really.

Dante: You got your boyfriend a fucking pebble?

AJ: It’s kind of a thing. Whenever one of us goes somewhere significant we pick up a rock that seems cool or special and bring it back. It’s a way of showing we were thinking about each other. So for Valentine’s I went to the campground where Hayden and I first spent the night together and found a really nice one. Plus, I’m cooking him dinner. Like I said, not much.

Jake *groaning*: See? That’s the kind of shit I’m talking about. When Cassie hears that story she’s going to be all starry-eyed and I’m going to be stuck holding my balls in one had and a pink dog sweater in the other. Fuck, I gotta steal AJ’s rock thing.

Dante: Man, that’s cheating.

Jake: I know! One of those massive boxes of chocolates. The ones that are like three feet across.

Dante and AJ: No!

Jake: Man, just I’m just not good at this stuff…

What do you think? What’s your idea of a romantic Valentine’s gift?

Elisabeth Staab started hunting mutant hedgehogs back in 1842… Oops, wrong bio… Elisabeth Staab digs coffee, saucy stories, and sexy things that go bump in the night. Once, she ate dinner in a jail and liked it. She lives in the Washington DC area with her incredible family and does her best to juggle life while ignoring the laundry.

Follow Elisabeth
Website | Facebook | @elisabethstaab | Pinterest | Newsletter

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  1. Replies
    1. I have thick skin so it's very seldom that a book hits me this way

  2. I remember hearing great things about this author but I'm not that much into this kind of books, I usually can't connect that much

    1. I love all of her books so far. She has a PNR series, but that was cut too soon. Then there's this and a contemporary romance.

  3. Haha ... I love their little conversation. I'd totally be cool with my AAA membership paid for. And a coconut cream pie. He'd get laid for sure. lol. I need to read to series soooooooooo bad.

    1. Yes! Jump in the bandwagon, it has all the good flavors that I love!

  4. I'm stoked you loved this one, Braine. I'm getting ready to start it. ;) And the conversation between the guys was awesome! I gotta say I like AJ's idea of romance. We don't really do V-Day in our house though...unless you count a heart-shaped pizza for dinner. ;)

    1. Mr. Bookworm Brandee, you have an opportunity to surprise the Mrs. here!!!

  5. Damn you! DAMN YOU!!! Now I have to download another book!!! lol

    You know these sweet romances are my downfall. Do I need to have read the previous books first?

    1. You don't have to, but the first two were good too. However, I know you love M/M so you can start here and maybe it'll make you want the first two books.

      Just get it! lol

  6. I think I'll take a peak at the first book. I've not read many M/M romances, and the few that I have, sucked. Thanks for sharing!

    1. you and I are the same. You can take my word for it though, this isn't lewd or loud at all. It's very chill and all heart

  7. Glad this brought out all the feels for you!

  8. This sounds great! I like that it's not full of sex and these sound like characters I would really like. I'm definitely curious about this one!

    1. Oh yeah, if you're not into it you can skip those parts too and you still have an awesome book. It's not sex-centered at all

  9. This sounds so good. Often the m/m books tend to be my fave and more romantic. Plus, having the little character tidbit at the end about V-D makes me feel that I'm right. AJ FTW! LOL He totally rocks the romance.

    1. Oh you will love AJ. He's so adorable, he's a unicorn indeed!

  10. Can't resist a book with all the feels. Thanks for putting this on my radar.

  11. Haven't read a m/m book. Glad to see you enjoyed it!!

    1. This is a good place to start, it's not porn lol

  12. I love it when a book surprises me and grabs my emotions like that, too. I just read one that felt this way.

    Oh, hilarious! Love the character Valentine's Day Gift Idea chat.

  13. Aws poor Jake. lol Valentine's striking fear in hearts everywhere. Thanks for joining in on the tour, Braine!

  14. I love that this is more than just a romance..with self growth, family and friends.

  15. Ohh where do I sign up? It sounds d-lish!

  16. Oh boy, I need this one. Totally need to read this. haha I'm glad to hear you loved the story and yay for books without meaningless sex and emotional storylines. :)


  17. Thank you for the lovely review, Braine! *hugs*

  18. Awesome character chat, and LMAO at the AAA membership b-day gift! :D

  19. I love seeing a story that has great chemistry but also is equally matched with emotional intimacy as well. Always makes for a more satisfying reading experience. Glad you enjoyed it.

  20. I've been seeing this one around a lot lately, it sounds like a good one. I like those opposites attract type of stories. I like the sound of how it's heartfelt and deals with some difficult issues, but isn't a heavy read. Great review!

  21. Anything so full of heart sounds great to me.

  22. Oh Braine... I just want to meet AJ! Every review I've read of this book has been a 5 Star! Glad you loved it despite not being your usual genre!


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