Poker Night: Full House

Title: Poker Night: Full House
Author: Carol Lynne
Publisher: Total-E-Bound
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novella
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn

THE BLURB

Life hasn’t been easy for Marco De Le Santo. He’s spent the last eight years raising his young brothers and sister. At the age of twenty-four, Marco finally has the chance to explore his feelings for Kent Baker, his boss. He knows Kent thinks he’s a playboy, but Marco’s finally ready to tell his friend the truth about his secret life. What would Kent say if he knew Marco came with three kids under the age of eighteen?

Kent Baker has watched Marco since the day he stepped into his office. As owner of a construction company, Kent has seen his share of good-looking men, but none of them hold a candle to Marco. Kent has waited years for Marco to grow up and realise there’s more to life than partying and random men, but with each year passing year, he becomes bitter.

When Marco finally opens up to Kent, will his boss be angry at the deception or can they build a future that includes Marco’s, already, Full House?

THE REVIEW

Full House is the fifth and last installment of Carol Lynne’s Poker Night series. Each story has covered one of each of a mixed-bag of six gay friends (Zac, Marco, Angelo, Trey, Kent, Bobby) who meet for a bi-weekly Saturday-night poker game, or in this case, the final two “friends,” Marco and Kent.

Full House opens to mason Marco coming home to fighting younger brothers, a scared baby sister, and the news his good-for-nothing, abusive, thug of a father is back in town looking to “reconnect.” He has had a difficult life raising his family by himself and few people know what he really does on his time off. One of his only outlets is the bi-weekly poker game with his friends, but even there he has problems as boss Kent, to whom he’s been attracted for years, thinks the worst of him and doesn’t hesitate to call him on it every chance he gets. He would love to be with Kent, but it’s obvious that he isn’t good enough for the wealthy man. Kent may have every creature comfort, but he is lonely and wanting nothing more than to settle down with someone special.  He has spent the last eight years watching Marco grow up as a respected employee, secretly wanting him while hating Marco’s assumed “lifestyle” of partying and sleeping around — or so he thinks. When the truth all comes out, can both of their dreams come true, or are the challenges too great?

As the series comes to a close, I surprised myself by finding that I liked this book the best. Yes, it was predictable and perhaps a bit saccharine at times, but it worked for me. I think part of it is because both credible and sympathetic protags are known quantities from reading the other stories, that they have known each other for a very long time, and though the relationship movement was fairly quick here, the feelings they both have are not insta-whatever in nature, as some of the other installments have been.

I was prepared to have some problems because I was sure that the turn-around in emotion for these two, once the truth was out, would be unbelievable. They have bickered for years at the poker games over Kent’s pre-disposed notion of what Marco is about and I had difficulty thinking that the author would be able, especially based on the way some of the other books were executed, to make a change in their relationship and interaction without me rolling my eyes. I thought she was successful, however, as the character development, self-reflection and conversation between Marco and Kent was deeper here than in previous books — definitely a welcome change.

The external conflict with Marco’s father didn’t feel forced or implausible, and the resolution worked as well as it could have for me, and I thought Marco’s siblings were realistic.

One thing: based on my review of Different Suits, Angelo seems to have gone back to his “old,” tougher personality in this book, which felt odd.

OVERALL

Full House is a tidy wrap-up for the series, and the book I liked the best. Ultimately, the series had ups and downs for me, but with the bookends of installments one and five, one I feel I can recommend picking up.

11 comments

  • Could I just say a word about the cover and the decision to cut off the heads and replace them with playing cards?

    I hate to say it but the cover is really important to me as a buyer. (I try not to judge the book by the cover but there you go.) This particular cover wouldn’t have even enticed me to read the blurb.

    Reply
    • Good evening Tricky. Yeah, none of the covers are great, and the cut-off heads here don’t make it very appetizing, I agree.

      Reply
  • I agree with you about this one being the best of the lot in this series…

    A big plus of me was the fact that Lynne had teased us with these two from the first book – so I was about ready to see what sort of scenario she was going to put them in…

    The siblings I liked as well and there scenes, were short, sharp and unexpected as kids their age would be…

    Lynne is a guilty pleasure author for me – I will read her stuff irrespective of what she write – it’s the not rocking the boat sort of material, it’s also alot of mood reading stuff and it does hit the spot for me when I am in that mood….

    Thanks for your thoughts…

    E.H>

    Reply
    • Hi EH. I am glad this one worked for you as well, and that you seem to be a fan of the author. You’re right, this isn’t the great American — or British — novel, and there will be those who are just looking for something for that mood you describe. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  • Wave, Campus Cravings is a series I’ve heard some other readers rec if they were to recommend Lynne. I think I need a break, but perhaps, maybe at some point I’d pick it up. And you are welcome.

    Reply
  • Lynn
    I actually like some of Carol Lynne’s books and one series in particular – Campus Cravings. This is one author that you either love her books or you don’t – there doesn’t seem to be much in between.
    *
    I think I will read these books to see how she handles the characters. It’s been a long time since I’ve read one of her series (most of the books I read by this author go back probably a couple of years and my tastes have evolved since then.) 😀

    *
    Thanks for doing such an excellent job on these reviews Lynn – much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Wave,
      I’ve read most of the “Campus Cravings” as well and liked them in a entertaining soap opera kind way but lost interest in the later offerings. (and I couldn’t stand the Demakis brothers… ;)). I also liked “Sweet Topping” in her “Cattle Valley” series quite a lot.
      But in the end I stopped reading her stories. And still – she has a new series out called “Bodyguards in love” and I feel tempted. She usually tackles lots of interesting issues that are not dealt with very often in most romances.
      *
      If her stories could just work for me… 🙁

      Reply
  • Hi Tam. The author, this book, or the series isn’t for everyone. Hell, I’m not even sure it was for me! There were issues with the other books, as you could tell from my reviews, and I’m not sure I’ll read this author again based on that, BUT I do think that this one was a fine read, and book one worked, so in the end I’ll recommend the series with some reservation. I can say that the author does have both very loyal fans and those who won’t read her for a number of reasons, so it it is definitely personal, as we know readers can be.
     
    There were common themes that were present in the end: insta-love and -relationships, overcoming challenges, diversity in friends and lovers, lots of smexxin. Some of these worked for me and others didn’t. Based on comments throughout the reviews, I’m guessing that other readers will agree.

    Reply
  • I don’t think this series is for me Lynn because of some of the hallmarks of this author’s writing style that doesn’t work for me, BUT, I have to say I loved reading your reviews every day or so and in essence following the story through your eyes. So than you for sharing that.
    *
    I have found when I kind of binge read a series like that by some authors I suddenly find things repetitious or common themes that you might not notice if you read the books several months apart. Not sure if you found that. But other authors I’ve read several books within days and haven’t seen that at all. Just depends on the author I guess.

    Reply
  • I hadn’t read the other ‘Poker Night’ stories in the series, so I did have a few eye rolling moments. There are times when I read some ebooks where I wonder if the authors have ever been in a serious relationship or have only read about them. Maybe not having the background between Kent and Marco greatly colored my perception of how their new relationship evolved.

    One gadget of writing that bothers me is verbal dumps. Especially when one (or more) character(s) has(have) been reticent. People don’t instantly change from being reluctant to speak about their personal lives to blurting everything out as quickly as they can. Sometimes it does work, if laced and interwoven the right way.

    I didn’t get the feeling that Kent or Marco were really in the place to ‘tell all’ as quickly as they did.

    It wasn’t a bad story, but there were some unbelievable elements in the story that had me closing it down for hours at a time. It’s too bad because I do love a single man takes care of sibs (or other young ones) through adversity stories. (Like ‘The Nest’).

    Maybe, one of these days when I have nothing else to read, I’ll pick up the other Poker Night series stories, read them and then re-read this one. Might make a difference. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Merith, and thanks for chiming in as someone who read the book. I do think that the love/hate relationship build-up from the other books made a difference here for me, and perhaps something that would may or maybe not change your view. They’ve known each other both socially and professionally a long time, and the verbal dumps you mention — nor the pace their new relationship took — didn’t bother me because of that. I can see, however, that it would, be an issue for some readers.
       
      If you do decide to read the entire series and it changes your mind, please stop back and let us know.

      Reply

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