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Publisher's Summary

Sometimes holding on means letting go.

After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he's center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children's mother, he doesn't want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn't want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

©2014 Leta Blake (P)2017 Leta Blake

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Story

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Just about as perfect as the book!

I read Smoky Mountain Dreams for the first time three years ago and I fell in love with it and has remained one of my favorite books ever since, so of course, I was going to jump at the chance of listening to it.

Let me tell you, if I loved it the first time around, finding it "a fantastic, emotional rollercoaster read!", I absolutely adored it this time around, too.

I cried, I laughed, I drooled over the fabulous sex scenes (especially the one in Jesse's workshop office, damn I'm never going to look at pearls the same way again!), but above all, I fell in love with Jesse and Christopher, with Brigid and Will, with Jackie and Joe and their children, with Christopher's gran and even with Gareth! They were all such well-rounded, tridimensional characters, with good and bad things and everything in between, making them so much more realistic to me.

Christopher was definitely my favorite character. He was so loyal and loving, only wanting someone to really see him and love him because of who he was, always willing to forgive, and be second-choice, which broke my heart several times. I'm so happy Jesse could give him what he needed in every sense, to be part of a family.

"Life's too short to waste it arguing about whether or not you're sorry enough for something I damn well know you're sorry for." That has to be one of my favorite quotes from the book and I think it shows a lot of Christopher's character. Even when Jesse messed up (several times, I might add), he was always willing to listen and forgive, perhaps not quite forget, but he tried to understand Jesse's motives.

I loved Jesse, even if he could be selfish and I wanted to throat punch him at one time, at least he actually realized he'd messed up (with some help from Amanda and Gareth) and made up for it, putting Christopher first when he needed him the most.

The chemistry between Jesse and Christopher and the progression of their relationship as they fall in love, was natural and organic and their love transcended the pages.

John Solo did a fantastic job with the narration, perhaps the kids' voices could have been a bit better, but it was still very enjoyable. He has a lovely tone of voice and he managed to inject it with the appropriate amount of emotion during all the scenes to translate Leta Blake's words to audio. One thing, though, if you're listening to the last, say, 4 or 5 chapters while driving, you might start crying so beware. Other than that, it was as perfect as the book. Highly recommendable!

Story: 5+ Stars
Performance: 5 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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I don't know what to say ....

I read this book a week or so ago, and I promised I will write it review when I will listen to this book again because I couldn't contain and explain all my emotions.
how could I? this book is incredible! marvelous! unbelievable! and maybe even undescribable!!! you may think I'm exaggerating' but believe me and I read a lot of males and males books...but this book it's not a simple romance book .no, it's much more!
the feelings are in every step, in every breathing, in every syllable.
the words are flying and touching your soul... you can feel the understanding, the love, the excruciating pain of each and every character. even the annoying characters had their own feelings , they're on truth, and their own beliefs.
I felt like I was part of this book I didn't just heard or read a story... no it was just undescribable.
you may think I keep pronouncing the same words , but believe me I'm not !I'm truly fascinated...
The lyrics of the songs we're so pretty the kids we're so sweet and so mature for their ages...
the main couple oh I can't describe how sweet and indulging and in love they were...
PS the steamy parts we're definitely very very stimmy!!!
John solo was amazing I could feel every move they made, every breath they took!! and every freakin moan... I think this is the best book I read and heard this year I truly hope I could hear much more books from this genius author and from this amazing narrator 😍😍😍

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Excellent story, superb performance

Some choices can change your life forever...
After trying his luck at Nashville and being told he lacks what is needed to succeed as a professional singer, Christopher Ryder is happy performing at Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park. A gift for his beloved gran brings jewel designer Jesse Birch into his life. Jesse turns out to be his greatest fan, and the spark of their instant connection soon changes into an all consuming flame…
Jesse Birch’s life turned out to be completely different from what he expected. Openly gay as a teen, he ended up marrying his best friend Marcy and having two kids with her. Then, a tragic accident ends up with Marcy in coma in a hospital. Jesse has been struggling to raise his kids and fighting to give Marcy a dignified death, not having time for himself. When Chris enters his life, Jesse realises sometimes life gives you second chances at love...
Wow! Beautiful, intense story here. There are really many things going on, all important. This is basically a hurt-comfort story, where both characters have deeply emotional issues they have to get over in order to find happiness. On Jesse’s side, his anger and his guilt at what’s happening to his wife is his main problem. On the other hand, Chris has attachment and self-esteem problems that come from a dysfunctional family environment, where his extremely religious step-father has always abased him. This brings out another of the topics in the story, the religious zeal of many of the characters and how it affects their views on life. There is a lot of opposing views and anguish related to this. Another interesting thing is the matter of Jesse’s bisexuality and how it is viewed by the people surrounding him, and even by himself. All this topics combine with a really intense romance to create a wonderful, unique story where feelings are raw and consuming.
John Solo’s narration is amazing, simply superb. His ability to bring those characters alive, to convey the feelings and intensity is incredible. I must recognise he made me blush, smile and even cry sometimes. His performance turns a very good story in a memorable experience I can’t recommend enough.
Excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved Chris and Jesse's scenes

At almost fifteen hours this is a long story with many supporting characters and plenty of backstory to discover about Chris and Jesse that has a bearing on their future together. It’s not all dumped in one go, but is subtly woven into the narrative.

Anticipating Christopher finding out the truth about Marci’s vegetative condition overshadowed their early relationship for me as I knew there’d be some fallout from this. And when he realised, I loved the angst that followed. It was from this moment on that I was gripped by the story and I particularly enjoyed the second half of the story. It culminated in a wonderful ending with some unexpected happenings.  In fact, I went back to listen to the first half again knowing the direction the story was headed, and appreciated the events and characters more as a result.

This is a story of finding your family and accepting who you are, who you love and want to spend your life with. There are some very touching moments, as well as some scenes that will no doubt make you angry with the characters. Christopher is a wonderful, considerate, caring person, and the way his parents and his ranting step-father treat him is heartbreaking.

Chris and Jesse are perfectly matched and fall swiftly for each other. I was surprised they hadn't really encountered each other beforehand. Luckily, they manage to snatch some alone time and their sex scenes are smoking hot. The parent in-laws are great, as are Joe and Gareth who are supportive of Chris. I also liked Jesse’s children and how Brigit gradually comes to accept Chris. Her paper crane project definitely tugged on the heartstrings.

So yes, it’s a long story with lots going on, but the main relationship is given plenty of focus and time to develop. The story is well written and the character interaction is in depth and excellent throughout.  The dialogue comes across as real and the conversation at the Thanksgiving meal had me laughing out loud at one point.

John Solo’s narration is superb. He gives each character their own distinct voice that matches their personality and he portrays the emotion perfectly within each scene and with such feeling. I particularly liked the sexy, husky voice he gave Jesse. The descriptive writing built up a clear image of each setting and with John’s storytelling it made for easy and very enjoyable listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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love this book and so will u

this book has happy and sad and some good sex I used a credit on it and it was worth it I wish there where more of leta blake book on audible I have both that are on here and I love them

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Exactly what I expect from Leta Blake - Superb!

If you could sum up Smoky Mountain Dreams in three words, what would they be?

Beautiful love story

What was one of the most memorable moments of Smoky Mountain Dreams?

The chemistry between Jessie and Christopher is fantastic. They have so much to overcome but you could feel the love they had for each other shining through.

Have you listened to any of John Solo’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't but I will be searching out other books he's narrated. I loved reading the book but John Solo breathed extra life into Jessie and Christopher for me.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Everyone deserves another chance for love.

Any additional comments?

I have so far enjoyed everything Leta Blake has written, her books are completely different from each other but they have all the feels! If you haven't tried this Author yet, I would highly recommend

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Wonderfully involving story

What did you love best about Smoky Mountain Dreams?

The story line and characters are wonderful. John Solo really brings them all to life, giving emotion and providing each character with their own personality with his voice.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Smoky Mountain Dreams?

Personally, I loved when Jesse sat down with Bridgette and was talking about his relationship with Chris and what it means for them. Chris comes out of the living room and together they come to an understanding regarding Jesse and Chris' relationship and Bridgette's mission to create 2000 paper cranes by Christmas in order to fulfill her and her brother's wish with regards to their mother. <br/>There was so much emotion in this part. Bridgette is only 12 and in some ways comes across older but in a lot of ways she's younger, struggling to understand her dad's new relationship and what is happening with her mum. Brought a tear to the eye but was beautifully written and read.

What about John Solo’s performance did you like?

His infliction with all of the different characters is great! He truly brings all of them to life throughout the story.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The same as above, the scene with Bridgette, Jesse and Chris, and also the scene on Thanksgiving at Chris' Mum's house with his Gran, Mum, Bob, Jackie and her husband and his children. A lot of strong emotion from several of the characters, some unexpected support for Chris from his brother in-law and it all culminates with a trip to the ER......a typical family Thanksgiving?

Any additional comments?

I love, love, love this story. I hadn't read it before listening but will definitely be going back and doing that. It's very involving, has a great support cast - Jesse has his sister, parents-in-law and a rare conversation with his mother. Chris has his Gran, friends at the SMD and a rare family conversation. <br/>One thing, when it came to the end of the book (This is Audible....) wanted so much more! What happens next? Do they do.....? Does Bridgette become.....? How does Marcy......?<br/>Please let there be a follow up of some kind!<br/>An amazing book to listen to. John Solo is a wonderful narrator and I would definitely recommend this book.<br/>I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

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Started slow but I'm glad I stuck with it.

This one took me a bit to get into. At first, I didn’t really care for the vocal performance and there were a couple of things in the story I didn’t like (which I’ll get to in a bit). I’m glad I stuck with it because I really liked the story!

The vocal performer underwhelmed me at the beginning…and it’s hard to describe but his voice just bugged me (sorry I know that’s not very descriptive). However, as the story progressed he changed my mind and I was pretty impressed with his performance. He had several voices – both male and female and I really felt the emotions of every character. His voice for Jesse was SEXY and perfect!

This story has several subplots so there is a lot going on. First and foremost are Jesse and Christopher forging a relationship however all the subplots touch and/or affect their relationship. Christopher broke my heart more than once. His parents were awful to him (and OTT holy rollers). His mom is unbelievable. He struggles with family issues until almost the end of the story. He’s never been anyone’s priority except his gran’s and he desperately wants that. He also has very low self-esteem and self-worth. He’s a super sweet guy and has a good outlook even though he’s been mistreated most of his life. Jesse is SMITTEN with Christopher from the beginning. He’s been a silent fan of his for a couple of years through his theme park performances. When they meet, the chemistry is off the charts. I hurt for him for what he’s going through with his wife and kids. He was pretty awful to Christopher at one point and I didn’t feel like he made amends sufficiently (but that’s my hang-up). I do love them together and think they make each other better and stronger. Jesse’s kids play a role in their relationship that goes through a huge struggle but Christopher actually ends up reaching Jesse’s daughter when Jesse couldn’t. Jesse’s in-laws are awesome. Gran is awesome.

Although I liked the story, I did have a couple of issues. My biggest issue is with Jesse and his wife. The flashback to how they got together was…frankly, terrible. And I didn’t like anything about that scene. I also would have liked to understand how things started to fall apart for them before the accident. That would have helped sell the ‘I’m actually gay, not bi’ storyline for me because Jesse seems to still be in love with her at times. Another issue is there was a super quick touch to the possibility of some bdsm between them that was completely abandoned. My last issue is the book is LONG and there are a couple of dangling plotlines that need to be finished.

Overall, I recommend the book – whether you read or listen to it.

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i really enjoyed this book.

i liked rhe characters and setting. The storyline seemed unique to me. I would read another book about these characters or by this author.

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Amazing voice acting brings story to life

I absolutely love Leta Blake's books and have worked my way through the majority of her catalog, however Smoky Mountain Dreams is one I never got to until the opportunity to review the audio book came up. I was very torn over this book. There were some things I liked, some I didn't, but the amazing narration pulled everything together and gave it the boost it needed for me to enjoy.

Smoky Mountain Dreams is a long book. The plot doesn't take place over that long of a period of time, but there are a LOT of pages. The audio book runs just shy of 15 hours. Since the timeline of the story isn't that broad, the majority of the words are just tons and tons of detail and dialogue. This has its pluses and minuses. On one hand, there is a lot of detail and background and character building making the story very rich and the characters more dimensional. On the other hand, there are many places that really dragged. Listening rather than reading didn't afford me the chance to skim or read a bit faster over these dragged-out scenes as I would while reading. And several scenes could be cut or tightened up to shorten the overall page count without sacrificing the story.

As per usual for Leta Blake, the characters are very well developed and their connection is very well detailed and natural. There is no insta-love and no instant fixes. Jesse and Christopher are both &quot;broken&quot; men. Jesse's wife has been in a permanent vegetative state for the past five years, and he's raising their two children alone while battling with his sister-in-law over pulling the plug and allowing Marcy to move on. Christopher has absolutely zero self-confidence or self-worth. He's a musician who didn't make it in Nashville and is now singing back-up at a local theme park. His uber-religious family has shunned him and preaches at him on a regular basis. He's pretty convinced that runner-up is where he belongs and it's all he deserves. It's heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time. They do fit very well together - Jesse provides the strengh that Christopher needs in order to see he deserves more. Christopher provides the quiet support and understanding that Jesse needs in his hectic, stressful life.

The family dynamics in this book were very well done. I didn't necessarily like every family member, or every family interaction (as we aren't intended to), but the complexity of the families showed a lot of work on the author's part. Both main characters have varied, complex, dynamic relationships with each family member and I really appreciated reading about them and how they added to the story.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the weird reversal on the gay-for-you trope (which I hate). Rather than what you might expect - Jesse being a heterosexual man who is surprised to be attracted to a man - we find out Jesse is a gay man whose only heterosexual attraction and relationship was with his wife, Marcy - essentially, straight-for-you. The way Jesse thinks about and talks about his relationship with Marcy was very problematic for me. Jesse talks about how, while he loved his wife, he was very unsatisfied with their sex life after a certain period of time because he missed having sex with men. This just plays up the toxic idea that bisexual people cannot be satisfied in a relationship, and will always be missing what they don't have, will be unfaithful, or will end a relationship because they want the other gender. Throughout the book, this storyline continuously threw up red flags and made me uncomfortable. I didn't think it added anything to the plot that the inverse couldn't have done - Jesse married to a man who was involved in an accident and ended up in a vegetative state.

The narration was stellar and completely saved the story for me. If I'd read this book rather than listened to it, it very well may have been a DNF, or at least a not-right-now kind of read for me. However, John Solo does a phenomenal job. I haven't had the pleasure of listening to his audio books before, but that is a mistake that will be remedied. His pacing was perfect, the feeling and emotion he puts into the words just made everything better. It was true voice acting - not just reading words on a page. If you're interested in this story, I definitely recommend picking up the audio version and immersing yourself into John's narration. It was perfection.