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Catalysts by Kris Ripper

Plot: Will Derrie wants to find someone who craves the same things he does in the bedroom, that is kink and lots of it. When his brother introduces him to male Dom, Hugh, Will doesn’t think a man could ever help him give him what he needs. But as Hugh and Will begin spending time together, Will’s ideas about himself and his desires change…and when Hugh adds Truman to the mix, and their duo becomes a trio, all notions of love and desire morph into something unexpected.

Why Judith Loved It: Phenomenal writing aside, what makes Catalysts so wonderful is that it challenges the ideas of love and desire so eloquently. Will is a man who traditionally self-identifies as straight and the notion that another man could help him find fulfillment is unthinkable. Watching him grow and change over the course of this book is unbelievably real and his verbal and sexual growth is so erotic and delicious. I love books where the hero is pushed to examine and question himself and his ideas of who he is as a person, and then to grow from that. Will is challenged on all levels by Hugh and when he finally feels comfortable with the fluid nature of his sexuality, he’s challenged yet again by the introduction of Truman to their group. It is sensual and intelligent and Ripper is adept at knowing when to push and hold off. The result is a read that will stick with you far after you’ve finished reading.

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In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

Plot: Professor Daniel Mulligan takes a one year teaching job at a small university in the middle of nowhere Michigan. He expects to put in his time and then move on to bigger and better things (as long as he stays far away from his blue collar upbringing and hateful family in Philadelphia). He doesn’t expect to make friends in his new home, but when sexy local handyman, Rex, saves him from a near disaster and injects his life with laughter and comraderie, Daniel realizes that he might just need people in his life after all.

Why Judith Loved It: Roan writes prose unlike anything I’ve read before. She takes a simple premise – put city kid professor in a small town, mix in sexy handyman, and see what happens – and turns it into something groundbreaking. The world is crafted beautifully and the characters are wholly real and vivid. The love between Rex and Daniel grows organically and even though they are completely different in likes and upbringings, their differences complement each other and make their relationship stronger. The love scenes are smoking hot and there is no angst. It would have been so easy too make Rex a bit dastardly, but Roan doesn’t pull that cheap gimmick and her book is infinitely better for how very good the characters are.

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Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan

Plot: Jeremey doesn’t judge Emmet for his autism. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in clinical depression. When his illness reaches a breaking point, Emmet rescues him and brings him to The Roosevelt, a quirky assisted living facility. As Jeremey settles in, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is inside. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.

Why Judith Loved It: Heidi Cullinan is a master storyteller. No lie, I went into this a little trepidatious. A relationship between an autistic man and a severely depressed man? The thought scared me. But Heidi knocked this out of the park and blew to bits all my pre-conceived notions on what makes a love story. This story is about love, yes, but also about characters finding strength and depth of character within themselves. It’s about learning to rely on others when you never could before. It’s about finding hope when people told you hope was impossible. It was gorgeous and heartbreaking and ultimately, uplifting.

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This list of top picks is brought to you by: Judith who reads books like it’s her job and has far too many book projects going on at one time.

Find her on Twitter @bingeonbooks or Facebook Binge on Books.

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