Promo and Reviews: FINLEY: Ella Frank

Ella Frank
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Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
It's time to come home, Finn.  

It’s been seven years since Daniel Finley left his hometown in Florida for the hustle and bustle of Chicago’s city life.  

Since then, he’s worked hard for his position at the prestigious law firm Leighton & Associates, even when it’s caused distance and isolation from his family and friends. But that’s all about to change.  

On his thirtieth birthday, he receives the one thing he never dared hope for. Something that was promised to him years earlier—a note. One simple sentence from the man he’s never been able to forget.

Six words will forever change the course of their lives.  

Brantley Hayes has it all. Or so he thinks. When he first made the decision to take a job down in Florida, his family thought he was crazy. But, after years of living in the quiet beach town, he finally feels a sense of community. He’s surrounded himself with friends who are like family, has a job he loves, and owns a spectacular beachfront property that is his sanctuary.  

Yet he still feels unfulfilled, as if a piece of the puzzle is missing, and he knows exactly which piece it is. On an impulse, he follows through with a promise he made years earlier. A promise to call home the one he sent away.  

Nothing is as simple as it seems.  

After years of separation, the former lovers are reunited, but Brantley wasn’t expecting to encounter the high walls now guarding Daniel’s heart.  

Daniel may not be the same person he was when he left, but he knows that the first step to healing is the note in his hand.

***A spin-off from the Temptation Series***

Finley is the first novel I've read by Ella Frank. Despite coming highly recommended to me by our very own Kim, I had a lot of trouble getting into this story; in fact, I almost gave up on it multiple times in the first half of the book. I'm glad I persevered, though, because it turned out to be a solid and very enjoyable read.

I suppose the best classification for the story line in Finley  is second-chance love. Daniel "Finn" Finley, a highly successful lawyer on the verge of making partner at a Chicago law firm, returns to his Florida hometown for a two-week vacation after receiving a "come home" note from his former professor and lover of three-plus years, Brantley Hayes, seven years after the professor forced Finn out of his life with an action that, though made in Finn's best interest, resulted in heartbreak that did not heal in all those years. Finn's anger falls away a few days after his return when they fall back into love just as deeply as they had all that time ago, but it's a love destined for another heartbreak, as Finn cannot give up his new life and career to move back permanently, nor can he ask Brantley to leave all that he has in Florida.

My problem with the book, as I hinted at earlier, is that I really struggled to get into the story during the first half. Part of this was my impression of the characters themselves. During the first half, Finn comes across as a total dickhead. That in itself isn't a problem, but he manifests his harbored anger from the split with the less-than-brilliant idea that if he spends the two weeks fucking Brantley's brains out, then maybe he can finally get over him. Really? I would think a highly successful lawyer would have been able to logic his way through the idiocy of that little proposition even without a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios at the start of the day. Meanwhile, Brantley seems little more than a weak-kneed pile of wishy-washy mush at the return of the now-even-hotter Finn instead of a man Finn would have looked up to so much in college. 

I'm not entirely certain, though, that I would have paid close attention to these character problems if I hadn't been pulled out of the story so often by the writing style in the first half of the book. Two things caused this. First, it suffers from an issue that every writer of MM (or FF, or even ménage) must be very wary of: the potential for ambiguity caused by excessive pronoun use. It's almost inevitable in such a book to run across at least one sentence or paragraph that has to be reread in order to figure out which "he" did what to which "him" with which of the "his"es what entangled in the other "his" what-have-you. Such is the nature of the beast. But it's beyond distracting when I have to do it as often as I did in the first half of the book. And second, instead of giving the back story of before Finn's leaving Florida in a tidy lump at the start of the book, the author chooses to give frequent memories in the form of multiple-page flashbacks scattered throughout the book, primarily to illustrate the change in the power dynamic of Finn and Brantley's relationship before and after the split. I don't mind the sparing use of flashbacks as a writing device, but here their overuse felt heavy handed and overly formulaic: here's a flashback of some event (like their first kiss), and now here's the event from now of their second first kiss (see how it compares?); now we're remembering the time when he said such-and-such, and back to the present, the words are spoken again, this time by the other one. Blah! Seriously? I'm not an idiot, so you don't have to pound it in with a bat to make the connection obvious. Just tell me the story, and if I can't make the connections, then I'm the dumbass.

Okay, yes, I'm done ranting now. Remember I said that I persevered? After the halfway mark, things improve drastically on all the issues I had prior to that point. Once I got there, it was full speed ahead, and I finished the book in that sitting. It's really too bad it took so long for me to feel the passion and love between these two because, really, they are interesting characters, the story is compelling with an appropriate amount of angst as befitting the situation, and the attraction and chemistry between Finn and Brantley is the sort of thing we all wish we could have.

I know this author wrote a trilogy of MM books prior to this one. I wish I had read those first because there was an interaction toward the end of the book between Finn and the main characters from that trilogy that, at least temporarily, reverted my view of Finn back toward how I felt in the first half of the book. I know this sort of scene is a common hat-tip to loyal readers so I'm not docking for it, but even so, I wish the scene here had had a real point instead of just being throw-away to the Finn/Brantley plot.

So all things considered, yes, I really liked Finley. I wanted to love it -- really I did. I just didn't get there. Hopefully I'll be better prepared for the next one in the story line.

Daniel Finley has been summoned home to Sunset Cove, Florida by Brantley Hayes, his older first love who is also the one who sent him away to Chicago seven years ago.

Daniel is now back, but he's not the same easy-going guy. He's hardened, cynical, and guarded. He has always been direct, but now he is downright bossy, demanding, and likes control. Brantley used to be the more dominant one, but now he feels even older and more vulnerable. He's intellectual, caring, and a bit stuffy, but also has a magnetism about him.

Finn's agenda is to come and stay two weeks and get Brantley out of his system once and for all. He still has some anger and resentment about being sent away and about what it meant for both of their lives. There is more of  a role reversal now with Finn becoming the more dominant one and taking over control more. Finn loves teasing and pushing Brantley, and Brantley is just fine letting Finn take on more of a role of aggressor. But they are both dynamic, strong characters that play off each other well.

As they fall back into each other's lives and reconnect, there is an underlying desperation, a twisting up of the past and present, and fear of rejection and loss again. Each touch, each longing glance, and memory adds to their incredible sexual tension and need. Their chemistry is explosive and they cannot resist the pull. But can they really keep feelings out of it when neither of them really let go of the them in the first place? They've really just been on pause for seven years.
And now they know they are on borrowed time. Their lives and careers are fully established in other parts of the country. Both of them are just about to achieve their highest career goals that they have worked years for. There is no easy resolution that does not include major sacrifice.

What happens this time when it is time for Finn to go?

Both of the guys were charismatic, sexy, and likable. I adored them both. They both had unique personalities that grew and changed over the years and their interactions together even shifted. I loved their power exchanges and how they could make the other lose control. And how strong their bond was despite the years and distance. At the heart of this story were two men with an intense, soul-deep connection that had been broken but was still strong despite the cracks. As they began to repair them, it was beautiful, passionate, and emotional.

It is so intricately woven, layered, and the build up just kept me in suspended animation. I was tense during the whole story as it kept building. 
 I rejoiced in their happy moments, and sometimes my heart plain hurt. I laughed and cried. I wanted them to find a miracle to make it all work out. It was a challenging journey for them both to face their shared past and come together in the present with an uncertain future looming ahead of them. 

This is a mix of a forbidden student-college professor romance and second-chance M/M love story. It was heartwarming, heartbreaking, passionate, sweet, and swoon worthy. It made me want to believe in  soul mates, faith, hope, and the power of true love. It is told in both Finn and Brantley's points of view in present and in clearly marked flashbacks, so we were able to see their connection growing in both time periods.

I loved the side characters of Brantley's animated professor friend, Jordan, and Finn's sarcastic, crude, gym owner buddy, Derek. Ella, PLEASE we need more of them! I also liked Finn's mom and sister, Katrina. They all added some extra humor and drama to the story. And there was a super fun cameo of a couple that made me squeeeee outloud! Ella Frank was the author that started me reading M/M when I was not sure it was for me. I trusted her when TRY came out and it has now become one of my favorite genres (and her Temptation series is one of my all time faves). And I am so glad that she is taking another foray into the M/M genre, because she brings amazing, unforgettable male characters and stories that touch my heart. 

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review. 

Devil's Kiss (Sunset Cove #2)
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Expected May 24, 2016

What do you do when the one you least expect to matter…
 Ends up mattering the most? 

Derek Pearson likes to think he’s an easygoing guy. Uncomplicated, upfront, and unapologetic with what he wants. His what you see is what you get attitude is on prominent display for anyone who cares to look, and his foul mouth is right there to back it up should you miss the point. 

However, what you see isn’t always what you get, and only a select few have ever glimpsed the real man under the brash exterior. Among them? 

Professor Jordan Devaney. Complicated, high-maintenance, and vibrant, he’s Derek’s opposite in every way. From the moment they saw each other, a love-hate relationship began.

But what happens when one person wants more?
EllaElla Frank

Ella Frank is the author of the #1 Bestselling Temptation series, including Try, Take, and Trust and is the co-author of the fan-favorite erotic serial, A Desperate Man. Her Exquisite series has been praised as “scorching hot!” and “enticingly sexy!”  

A life-long fan of the romance genre, Ella writes contemporary and erotic fiction and lives with her husband in Portland, OR. You can reach her on the web at www.ellafrank.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ella.frank.author  

Some of her favorite authors include Tiffany Reisz, Kresley Cole, Riley Hart, J.R. Ward, Erika Wilde, Gena Showalter, and Carly Philips. 


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