Book Review – Off Balance by Jay Hogan

Painted Bay #1
Publisher: Southern Lights Publishing
Pages: 301
Characters: Judah/Morgan
POV: 1st
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Series

When JUDAH MADDEN flees his tiny suffocating home-town in New Zealand, for the dream of international ballet stardom, he never intends coming back. Not to Painted Bay. Not to his family’s struggling mussel farm. Not to his jerk of a brother. Not with his entire life plan in shreds. And certainly not into the tempting arms of MORGAN WIPENE, the older, ruggedly handsome fisheries officer who seems determined to screw with Judah’s intention to wallow in peace.

But dreams are fickle things. Shatter them and it’s hard to pick up the pieces. Hard to believe. Hard to start again.

But the hardest thing of all? Finding the courage to trust in love and build a new dream where you least expected it.

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I’m already a huge fan of this author, and I was hooked on this story as soon as I started reading. I love small town romances, and the mix of characters, romance, and drama. I’m hanging out for book 2 in this series as I’ve fallen for not only Judah and Madden but also the other inhabitants of Painted Bay and want to read their stories.

The author doesn’t pull any punches in giving her characters difficult obstacles to overcome. Poor Judah works hard to achieve his dreams and then gets them pulled out from under him. I liked how the prologue is written in present tense as it gives more poignancy and urgency to his literal fall, and then the rest of the story in past tense as he picks up the pieces of his life. Very nicely done. The medical research shows, yet doesn’t overpower the storyline. There is an undercurrent of reality throughout, both good and bad. I liked that although Judah can only manage what has happened to him, rather than be rid of it, he slowly comes to realise he can have a future and a good one at that, despite it not being the one he had originally envisioned.

I enjoyed how Madden and Judah’s relationship and friendship grows as they thaw towards each other, despite their determination not to. Their actions speak far louder than words, and it’s so much a given way before they admit their feelings. I love how obvious it is that Madden loved his wife, and how he still speaks to her. Also loved the banter and how Madden gives as good as he gets. I like my stories with snark. I liked how Madden’s job plays a part in the story, and as I’d expect with one of these author’s books, the action/drama kept me up late reading. She writes edge-of-seat suspense wonderfully well.

The supporting cast are fabulous, and I already want their stories. There’s a great mix of friends, family and quirky townspeople. I particularly liked Terry, Hannah, Jon, Martha, and Judah’s mother Cora, and the family and community vibe.

The epilogue is perfect for these guys and a wonderful HEA.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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