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Saturday, January 2, 2016

By The Rules by Elisabeth Staab (Review)

Title: By The Rules
Series: Evergreen Grove #3
Author: Elisabeth Staab
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Format: Ebook received for review
Pages: 257 per Amazon

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 a vicious attack 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 re-evaluate 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.

I've been waiting since book one (At The Stars) to get AJ's story, and now I finally have!!  AJ has been this enigmatic and charismatic character since the beginning, and he grabbed my attention on every page he graced.  To say I loved his book would  be putting it lightly.  By The Rules is absolutely the best m/m romance I've read!

I've read a few male/male romances.  Not a ton, but a few.  And none of them hold a candle to AJ and Hayden.  Why?  Romance.  Elisabeth Staab brought the romance.  She brought the jitters, the fears, the careful and shy glances.  She brought all of the things that make my stomach flutter in a traditional romance to this unlikely pair.

Picture AJ.  He's this tall blonde force of color and smiles.  He has a very checkered past, and it's constantly trying to disrupt his future.  He's been shamed and hurt on every level.  But yet, here he is in Evergreen Grove, developing a new family and a new network of friends.  Because these new friends are his new family.  He gives them everything he's got, and he gets it back.  He is outspoken, brave, caring, and nurturing.  He even befriends people who are completely opposite from him in every way (I mean YOU, Dante - Acts Of Creation)  If you read any of these books and didn't fall in love with AJ immediately, I'd wonder what was wrong with you.

And then you have Hayden.  He's originally from the Grove.  He moved to the big city because he felt like he would never escape the Grove if he didn't. He became a very young corporate shark.  He dresses the part, his girlfriend even fits the role.  If you think of a powerhouse type of man, it's him.  But yet, something is missing.  Hayden has had a few.... well, experiences in his past, where he touched base with other men.  But he's never really gone so far as to label himself homosexual.  But when he meets AJ, his heart opens just a smidge, and that's with a bad meeting.  When things get good between them, you see this suit shed his city greys for a more fulfilling life.

AJ and Hayden kind of follow the enemies to lovers plot line.  Even though they "hate" each other, they keep finding themselves next to the other, thinking about the other, flirting with the other.  There is a long road ahead of them.  One of them is scared to go forward with this attraction to see if it can be a relationship, and the other is ready to give it a try.  And that right there is a surprise.  Staab continually surprised me with this book, she continually made me smile.  And she brought all the feels that a traditional romance would bring, even more so.  The first kiss was amazing, the first accidental touch was heart stopping, and every other first these two had was beautiful.

Maybe you don't like m/m romances.  Maybe you have had the experiences I have had, where they just miss that special something that makes your heart flutter.  I don't know.  But this book is different.  This couple has made me yearn to read more of their story, even though I read this entire book.  This whole series has been a beautiful work of art. Each couple has separate and different storylines, and yet they all end up at this beautiful small town of Evergreen Grove.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I'm ready to pack my bags and go there, myself!

Elisabeth Staab loves passionate stories and happy endings. Her books have been called “emotionally delicious,” “action-packed,” and “gloriously snarky.” When not writing romance, she enjoys date night with her husband, reading Harry Potter with her kids, and marathoning her favorite books or TV series.

Find Elisabeth Staab Online

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