Reviews

What readers and reviewers are saying about CJane Elliott’s recent works.

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Serpentine Walls

This is the coming of age story of Pete Morgan.  Pete is starting his junior year at college and gets the heartbreaking news that his parents are splitting up after years of marriage.  There were no signals that his father was unhappy or having an affair

and yet, this is what’s been happening. Crushed beyond belief that true love and commitment doesn’t exist, Pete wants nothing to do with love or relationships.

That is until he gets back to school and meets Sexy Aiden and they hook up.  He’s so hung up on Aiden and yet knows that Aiden isn’t available.  Aiden keeps proving that to him time and again.  Yet for Pete Aiden is still what he wants and thinks about.  To try and rid himself of his fascination of Aiden, Pete starts hooking up with Jed, the cute young rugby player.  Pete knows that he’s using Jed and yet he can’t bring himself to stop.

Pete meets and becomes friends with Matthew, a grad student who helps Pete with his student film project.  Pete and Matthew are both ignore that they are attracted to each other and just try to be friends.  That works well for them, even knowing that they are attracted to the other.

Pete’s story is an interesting blend of heartbreak and learning about yourself. I like how Pete’s flaws are front and center.  He’s a young man who is dealing with the split of his parents.  His belief in love is shattered and he’s deciding to live his life without the heartbreak.  He falls for the “Bad Boy” and gets his hurt.  It’s life as a 20 year old.  He’s selfish, childish and yet he’s got this big heart where his friends and family are concerned.

This story flowed along to the beat of Pete’s life.  Sometimes it went smoothly and others were rocky.  You were taken on this ride of pure emotion.  There was anger, lust, heartbreak, sadness, joy and pain.  You run the emotional gambit during this book.  I like that it brought me back to those days when everything was running on pure emotion and you felt that the world wasn’t what you once thought it was.  I loved how Pete had to change his way of thinking and that he had to accept responsibility for his actions.

I loved the ending.  It was hard won the happiness and peace that he achieved.  To see him grow into this person who knows that the world isn’t perfect and yet, you can still find love and happiness.  That your life can be better than you imagined once you move out of the dark place that you were in.

Roberta

3.5 Stars, Sid Love

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Pete Morgan is a junior in college and life has thrown him a curveball. His dad recently left his mom for a younger woman, and Pete has a lot of anger inside. He has a lot going on at school; he’s an Echols scholar and a member of the University Singers. He has decided to make a film as part of his academic program, and he’s surrounded by a group of fun, loyal friends. Pete’s love life, however, is not as promising.

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When Pete meets Aidan at a party, he’s taken with him. Aidan is gorgeous and popular and an incredible lover, but he’s also emotionally unavailable, which he makes clear to Pete from the get-go. Discouraged by Aidan, Pete begins a relationship with Jed, who’s not really his type, but helps keep him company and keeps him sexually satisfied with their frequent “video game” dates. Pete knows he’s leading Jed on, but Aidan isn’t offering him anything more than sporadic attention, and Jed keeps him from feeling lonely.

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As part of his academic program, Pete decides to make a film. He doesn’t have much experience, though, and so his friend Matthew agrees to help him. Matthew quickly becomes Pete’s best friend. He’s funny and easy-going and would give Pete the shirt off his back. When Pete starts having feelings for him that go beyond friendship, Matthew makes it clear that he’s celibate, and that their relationship won’t be going anywhere. Pete wants Matthew in his life in whatever form, but their time together becomes increasingly frustrating as Pete sees Matthew for the amazing man that he is.

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Serpentine Walls is one of those novels that is a journey. If you’re looking for instant gratification — an easy romance — this is the wrong book for you. This is also why I liked it so much. It kept me reading because I didn’t really know where it was going. There was a large cast of characters and the path to true love was a bumpy one. It didn’t always go in the direction that I would’ve liked, but it got where I wanted eventually, and I thought it was a rather interesting trip to get to that point.

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The characters are the star of this book. Pete is surrounded by a wonderful group of friends, who are supportive and lovely and everything you’d want from a university experience. From his adorable roommate to his long-time, loyal best friend, to his crazy cousin, Bud, they were all multi-dimensional and intriguing and made me wish they were my friends as well. The plot isn’t that revolutionary, but the characters make it exciting to read and easy to get involved in.

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The biggest problem I had with this novel was the reason the two main characters are kept apart for so long — the celibacy decision. I have no problem with people who decide to remain celibate, as long as their in a convincing reason, like waiting until marriage or religious ideals, etc. Remaining celibate for three years because you were in a relationship that went sour seems highly unlikely. Especially when you have strong feelings for someone and that is the only thing keeping you apart. As this was the framework of the entire novel, it was the one repeated problem I saw throughout.

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Overall, though, I’d recommend this novel by new to me author CJ Elliott. It was well-written and a lot of fun to read, and I love a book that leaves me guessing until the end.

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A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

Amy

4.5 Stars, Joyfully Jay, M/M Romance Reviews and More

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It was a really great story, just had a slow start. It was hard to keep my attention on it, so I had to space the reading out.

Pete is a sweet and loving man, who goes for one-night stands but always has to fight his romantic side. It seemed like he wanted a relationship, but had a difficult time getting there. Matthew has his own issues, but knows Pete may be the one for him. Now all they had to do was get over their conflicted issues. The sex is hot throughout the whole story, but when it comes down to them, it is tender in parts and hot in others. They go through what all couples go through, the good and the bad. It had certain parts of the story that were enduring and just downright adorable.

It had a great story line that was wonderful written and told in just the right mood to understand each step in their relationship. I like stories that are just a bit shorter and faster told, so for me it took a bit to get into it. However, this is a really good story and you will absolutely love the characters. They are young and full of spirit, that you can’t help but fall in love with. Their problems even make it more tender and caring; make you want to cheer them on.

This is a story that you would read late at night, with a little bit of music in the background and wanting a relationship of your own.

Lisa

3.5 Hearts, MM Good Book Reviews

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So I don’t know that I would have picked up this book had I not been approached to read it. Nothing against the author or the brilliant cover, it just wasn’t on my radar. However, I would have been missing out. Serpentine Walls is a sweet New Adult tale of one man trying to find love while trying not to get attached. It centers around Pete, a Junior at University of Virginia who is just trying to get through the year after his family breaks up. His friend and roommate, Angie, announces that this is the year that they both will find The One. Pete is skeptical and determined to stay only casual with any encounter.
I loved this book because it did not follow any formula that I have seen. As a matter of fact, you spend much of the book wondering just who The One will be (because of course he has to find him, Angie said so). It is not a huge angst-fest, just a subtle romance that smacks the heroes in the face at differing times. This book kept me coming back for more. I stayed up late 2 nights in a row reading it, because I just didn’t want to leave Pete’s world. I would love, also, to see a book for Aidan so I can get some more insight into his motivations (as long as we get to revisit our friends from Serpentine Walls).
Is this book perfect? No, but few are. There is a sweetness, without the saccharine. There is a subtle humor. There are believable characters who do what College students do. I can see myself re-reading this when I need a comfort read in the future.
I would like to thank the Author and Dreamspinner Press for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Brandilyn

4.25 Stars, Brandilyn Reviews Books

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“Realistic portrayal of finding oneself in college

The first thing I liked about CJane Elliott’s Serpentine Walls was the title. I fell prey to the urge to search Serpentine Walls on Google and I’m glad I did; the University of Virginia, where the story takes place, has beautiful Jeffersonian serpentine walls that wind through the campus, adding to the classic college feeling of the story.

The students in CJane’s novel also very effectively caught the essence of the college scene. Her main character Pete Morgan realistically deals with many of the challenges that college life brings—intense friendships, sexual exploration, the potential for creativity and excellence offered by solid academics, the confusion over finding out who one is and how one fits into the social order. It brought me back to my own college days.

Pete has additional challenges added to his plate, though, as his parents have separated just prior to his leaving for school. This adds additional strife to his already lacking ability to trust in people and relationships. CJane weaves together the two struggles of Peter Morgan successfully, so that his need to accept and be accepted in a relationship mirrors his need to come to terms with his family life.

Elliott’s novel also deals with other themes that people starting out on their lives as adults face: making sense of whether or not people are truly what they seem, the indulgence of alcohol in twentysomethings’ lives, living with the consequences of your actions, and doing unto others as you would have others do unto you. But the most substantial issue that Serpentine Walls examines is the concept of taking a risk. It takes until the final chapter, until which time you are perched on the edge of your chair wondering how circumstances for Pete will fall into place, for Elliott to completely express the story’s main theme: if you take a risk, you may lose your heart, but if you do not take a risk, you may never find “the one”.

Serpentine Walls is a realistic and engaging story of a young man finding himself during a volatile year in college. Recommended.”

4 Stars, Amazon, Kris

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“This book showed the complications of attraction and love. Many a book would have us believe that one cannot love one person without feeling attractions for another. Love just isn’t that simple!! I was pleased to see that displayed in Pete’s life. Oh yeah, and the creepy teacher? They’re everywhere!! I would have loved to see more development in the romance between Matthew and Pete, just to have a few more ‘near misses’. Love isn’t a bed of roses. People get hurt, either by accident or by sheer callousness on the part if another. It was all in this book.

Any plans for a story with Aiden? I so hate to have seen him left in that situation!”

4 Stars, goodreads, Chutchy

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“Trawling through the DSP website one day to check on upcoming books, my eyes were immediately drawn to the cover of this one. The blurb sounded interesting….I’m so glad I took a chance on it!! 4.5 stars from me…


Pete Morgan is on his way from home to the University of Virginia to resume his studies after his mum has told him that she and his dad are getting divorced. Neither he nor his other siblings (3 brothers and a sister) are happy at the news as you’d expect, and of course, his mum is shell-shocked, she wasn’t aware that her husband was carrying on behind her back with the book-keeper!! Pete and his travelling companions Angie, John and Bud (his cousin) have all been together since high school, and are really good/best friends, but this year John is moving in with his girlfriend Cleo and Angie and Pete have got a house together instead of rooming at the University, and Angie has declared that this year is the one that she and Pete will find their ‘soul-mates’.

There is so much going on in this book, the pace doesn’t slacken for one minute. The author’s writing is crisp, the story doesn’t lag in the middle and the characters are ‘fleshed out’ really well…even the ones that you don’t particularly like. Hopefully, we find out that Angie was right, for both herself and Pete. Anyhoo, I’ll leave this review here, this was a nice old-fashioned romantic story and a real treat. Do I get my HEA…well, I had a big grin on my face at the end so that will obviously tell you something.”

4.5 Stars, goodreads, Bev

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Stay Right Here

Sparks fly as soon as Mark and Bryan first meet at the local bar for open mic night. Both Mark and Bryan have a love of music and they are drawn together immediately after they meet. Soon, they are so captivated with each other they steal a kiss, and as good as it was between them, Bryan is immediately guilt-ridden because he lives with his older boyfriend. Even though he’s been unhappy and has felt restless with his relationship for some time, Bryan is determined to make it work between him and his boyfriend, so he vows to keep his relationship with Mark on a ‘friends only’ basis.

 As Mark and Bryan become closer, Bryan becomes more tormented both with his relationship with his boyfriend and his budding feelings for Mark. He has so much in common with Mark, for once in his life he really believes he’s made a deep connection with him, but since he still cares for his boyfriend, he remains conflicted. But when Bryan is faced with a life or death situation, he realizes who he wants to be with for the rest of his life. Will Bryan leave his boyfriend and take a chance on a life with Mark?

 Stay Right Here was an interesting read for me. I enjoyed watching Mark and Bryan’s relationship develop from strangers to a deep love between them. I thought the storyline was fast-paced and the lives of these characters really kept my interest. But in some ways I struggled reading this book. I understood why Bryan was together with his boyfriend, David. David was stable, older and helped Bryan when he was down. In many ways, David was Bryan’s security blanket, so I understood why he was reluctant to let David go. The problem with me was: I liked David and I thought David deserved better than what Bryan was giving him. David was kind and thoughtful, and he really wasn’t Bryan’s type, but I felt bad for him. Because of Bryan’s confusion about what he needed to do about David, he comes across a little selfish and there were times I didn’t like him very much. I even felt sorry for Mark, too. I realize that life can be messy and we are each faced with difficult decisions, and the author does a great job portraying that. Bryan is far from perfect, and in some ways this makes him an interesting and refreshing character, I just never really warmed up to him.

 I honestly don’t know how I feel about this book. In many ways it’s well-written and it’s obvious the author knows her characters, and how to write an emotionally charged read. But I personally never liked Bryan that much, so the book never really took off with me. Also, the book is written in 3rd person, present tense. This distracted me at first, but soon I got used to it. I have a feeling there will be people who really will love and connect with the characters of this book, but unfortunately I never did. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’ll definitely try this author again. I liked her easy storytelling ability, and believe it or not, I liked the scorned boyfriend David. It would be interesting to read a story about him getting his own happy ending, after his life with Bryan.”

3 Stars, goodreads, Gabbi

Also read other reviews by Gabbi at Top 2 Bottom Reviews

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Mercury In Retrograde

“Alex is an actor, heading surely and inevitably towards 30, wanting nothing more than to have his soul mate by his side. He has a successful career, money out the yang, houses, travel when he wants, and the promise by his astrologer that he will meet his soul mate within the next few months. When old lover Jeff shows back up in his life, he is sure Jeff is The One.

So Alex, in between movies and in need of a vacation, rents a lodge in Oregon for a week for just him and a few of his closest friends. A week in the woods, no fans, romance in the air, and nothing to do but bond with Jeff is the plan.

Ben is on staff at the lodge. He’s the rafting guide, a free spirit who follows his inner voice to Oregon after finishing his degree. He trusts the little voice, whatever it is, to show him what he needs. He is 25, single and loves the outdoors. This life is good for him. For now.

The two men meet, and there is attraction and chemistry, but Alex is convinced Jeff is is soul mate, and Ben is too good a man to poach. Even when Alex gets a rude awakening. The friendship grows between the two, and when the week is over, Alex hopes they can still stay in touch when he returns to LA.

Life has a way of waylaying the best laid plans and intentions. Will a chance encounter in LA reunite these two, or drive them even further apart?

This is a sweet and touching tale of a man who knows what he wants, but is sometimes his own worst enemy in getting it. Alex is every one of us – wanting love, determined to have it but oh-so-blind about the truth in others’ hearts. The heart wants what the heart wants, and poor Alex thinks he wants Jeff. Even though it has blown up in his face before, he just wants love to happen so badly he is willing to settle. And when something really good shows up in his face, he is just so blind to it.

CJAne Elliott has shown how even the smartest of us can be dense. How love can make a man blind and yes, dumb. And how good intentions can be so misguided as to almost ruin a very good thing. I alternated between wanting to knock Alex’s head off and going, “Awwww”. His heart was in the right place, but man, could his head use some work!

And Ben – how could a man not fall in love with him. Romantic, sexy, interesting. Everything Alex wants. Isn’t it funny how misunderstandings, pride and sheer stubbornness can keep us from the very things we want?

And when Alex finally surrendered – so nice. So sweet. “He felt held – not literally with the way Ben’s strong arms gripped him – but held, caressed, like his soul was being gently rocked, and it was amazing, too much almost, but perfect and terrifying and exhilarating and…right”. Sigh.

Very nice story. Read it with your heart, and forgive foolish pride.”

4 Stars, goodreads, T. A. Webb

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Alex is ecstatic when his astrologer tells him that he’s going to find his true love, just in time for him to not spend his thirtieth birthday single and alone. It’s even better that he’s just gotten back together with Jeff, an old love. Could the timing be any more perfect? He’s still celebrating when a vacation brings him to a lodge in Oregon, where he meets Ben, the lodge’s river guide. Ben’s cute and a great listener, but Alex’s destiny is Jeff… isn’t it?

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this story, torn between hippy-dippy and Hollywood drama. I’m delighted that it turned out to be neither.

Alex was charming, quite understandably torn between Jeff, with whom he’d been in a steamy relationship before, and Ben, a new acquaintance who just clicked. I could actually see him as a Hollywood star, if a particularly down-to-earth one, but the conveyance of him as such wasn’t all that defined his character. His relationship with Jeff (by whom I was also pleasantly surprised in the end) worked as far as believability goes; it was easy to see them as friends in the end.

Ben was a little more difficult for me to get into, especially when he started in on marching orders from God, but I still liked his steadfastedness. The God-demands made him sound a little creepy-stalkerish, but not so terribly for me to be too weirded out to like him.

The chemistry between Alex and Ben was good, sweet and well drawn out. I liked that it took them a while to work up to even a kiss, so that by the time it happened I could believe in what they shared.

This isn’t a story about sex; what sex there is takes place primarily off-screen, tastefully implied without providing a blow-by-blow. It’s a nice change from stories where the characters fall into bed together ten pages in. It’s more about the characters coming to know each other than it is about tab A into slot B, rinse and repeat.

The story itself is the perfect length for its purposes, neither too long nor too short. I might wish for more time spent with the characters, but that would have been padding, and I’d rather the time spent be quality over quantity.

In the end, I really rather liked this little story. It just worked for me, and I’m happy to have spent time in its small corner of the world.

4 Stars, goodreads, Shana