Title: Better Than Bundle
Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 726
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 4 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
Sometimes you have to seek something better than what you already have… In Better Than Good, Matt Sullivan never thought he’d have a need to question the labels he’s used all his life, until he meets Aaron Mendez, a man who doesn’t believe in labels. In Better Than Chance, Jay Reynolds is falling for his sexy boss Peter Morgan, but can Jay be happy with what Peter can offer? In Better Than Friends, Curt Townsend and Jack Farinelli develop an unexpected friendship based on their mutual love of baseball, but is that enough to become even closer? In Better Than Safe, Paul Fallon, a fashion advertising guru, deals with enough chaos in his working life; he doesn’t need more when he goes home at the end of the day. Quirky, flighty, and wise beyond his years, Seth Landau challenges Paul’s ideas of safety and might just tempt him into taking a chance.
If you are a fan of Lane Hayes (and really, who isn’t?), be sure to pick up the Dreamspinner Press bundle featuring the four great books in the “Better Than” series.
I’ve done a short review of each book in the bundle along with a rating, and have also included links to reviews by other reviewers here on Gay Book Reviews. My rating for the bundle is 4.25 stars (which would have been higher except for Better Than Safe’s 3.75 star rating). Hayes has a knack for writing strong beautiful men (Peter, Jack), men with a love of the creative arts (Aaron, Paul, Seth) and even a khaki-wearing attorney (Curt). Each of the MCs have palpable chemistry and Lane Hayes writes gloriously hot sex scenes, but she really excels in creating characters who just plain work well together … after a few initial misgivings. I also liked the way the characters in this series have intertwining lives, and throughout the series we get updates as they move from love to marriage and beyond.
Better Than Good – Matt meets Aaron one night at a DC gay bar and immediately starts re-evaluating his heterosexuality. Matt has never been in a relationship with a man, but he is mesmerized by the quirky, funny and very beautiful Aaron who is out and proud. Told in Matt’s POV, this sweet low-angst story follows Matt as he works to live an authentic life with Aaron. “I had never felt so connected and one with a partner. A wave of feeling, so strong I was weak with it, made me wonder why everything was so much better with Aaron.” I gave this story 4.25 stars for its plot that kept my interest throughout and great chemistry between Aaron and Matt. In 2013, guest reviewer Zac D gave Better Than Good a 4 star rating.
Better Than Chance – Jay (Aaron’s high-maintenance stubborn bestie from Better Than Good) is involved in an intense work project where his work crush, Peter Morgan, is the team leader. “However, once I had to interact with him, infatuation fled and I was left wondering why the most gorgeous ones were either straight, taken, or just plain assholes.”
When Peter helps rescue Aaron from an incident at the bar, Aaron informs Jay “Hunky boss man has the hots for you” and sets them up on a date under the guise of meeting Peter for drinks to thank him for his help. Peter’s GQ model looks paired with a killer soft southern accent intrigue Jay, and Peter is equally smitten:
You’re a little wild and reckless too, not to mention completely fucking odd at times, but maybe that’s part of your charm. I find you insanely attractive. I wish I didn’t. I mean… you know what I mean. This can never happen, but… you interest me.
They decide on one night of sex – one night of wicked very hot wild monkey sex – which quickly leads into a friends with benefits situation when Peter says he’s not boyfriend material or interested in a relationship. Cue the amazing passionate off-the-charts fantastic sex, and soon Peter and Jay become real friends. But when Jay wants more, Peter has to decide if he can overcome his past and enter fully into a life with Jay. I loved Jay and Peter, although there was a bit of needless miscommunication along the way. 4.5 stars.
Better Than Friends – Curt (Matt’s roommate from Better Than Good) and Jack (Peter’s ex from Better Than Chance) meet at Jay and Peter’s wedding. As Peter starts a new life, Jack tries to move forward with his own future, becoming intrigued by Curt, a khaki-wearing eminent domain and property acquisition attorney. Curt, for his part, is absolutely fascinated and awestruck by tall gorgeous Jack, who owns a motorcycle shop and a gay leather bar. The problem is, Curt thinks Jack is way out of his league. To which Jack replies:
For as confident a man as you are in your work and with your friends, I get this vibe from you sometimes that you don’t think I really am attracted or interested in you. I don’t want you to think I’m playing a game. I’m not. I find you really fucking insanely attractive. In bed and out of bed. That means while we’re watching sports or eating dinner. You’re going to need to work on believing me.
While Jack and Curt absolutely sizzle together … oh sweet lord, they almost go up in flames … that insecurity manifests itself in Curt continuing to see Paul Fallon – their mutual friend Aaron initially set them up – for a series of coffee dates and dinners. It took me a while to get past Curt’s low self esteem-fueled indecisiveness and I think his continued worrying needlessly slowed down the flow of the story. But once both Jack and Curt let go of their fear and the past, their HEA is well-worth the wait. 4 stars.
Better Than Safe – This book was my least favorite of the bundle. We meet Paul Fallon earlier in Better Than Friends, and he carries that stiff British upper lip into Better Than Safe. Cashmere-sweater-wearing Paul is set up with model / guitar player / artist Seth (by Aaron, who else?) and their first coffee date is a disaster. A second chance encounter brings them together and wild hot sex ensues, but I felt their relationship lacks that undeniable hot something that Jack & Curt and Jay & Peter had in abundance. I was never quite sure if Seth was just a total jerk, if Paul was ever going to stop being such an OCD prig, and if they were ever going to deal with the elephant in the room and actually communicate about their issues. Unlike the other couples in this bundle, I was never sure that Seth & Paul really worked as a couple, until the very end of the book. In September of 2015, reviewer Renee gave Better than Safe a 4.6 star rating, so I think it’s fair to say that perhaps your mileage may vary on this book! I would rate it 3.75 stars.