Marie Sexton, Total-E-Bound Publishing

Saviours of Oestend (Oestend #2) by Marie Sexton

“The hardest thing to do is watch the one you love, love someone else.” – Unknown

For Dante Pane, the torture of watching Deacon live with and love Aren Montrell was too much to bear. It caused him nothing but anger and resentment, and it compelled him to do something so destructive that the man Dante loves, the man who loves someone else, sends Dante away in humiliation.

That Dante is incapable of loving women and has learned to be ashamed of his attraction to men—a lesson that was beaten into him when he was just fourteen-years-old—is a misery that leaves him destined to live a lifetime alone. But if you believe the romantics, then you believe there’s someone for everyone in the world, even in a landscape as harsh and unforgiving as Oestend, even for a man for whom both women and men are unattainable; until he finds a woman who is the best of everything Dante needs to be whole and to be healed of the taint and the limitations of his desires.

Cami is that woman, the woman that Aren sends to Dante and the woman who eventually becomes a friend, but who isn’t able to trust in Dante enough to reveal the secret she hides. It seems shame is something both Cami and Dante have in common, and it isn’t until they finally have nothing left to hide that they discover there’s nothing shameful about who they are and how they feel about each other. It doesn’t matter whether or not there’s a label for that person or that love, whether or not she’s different; all that matters is you’ve found someone who gives you everything you thought you’d never have, and you realize the thought of life without that person underscores how very much you love and need the life you’re building with them.

Saviours of Oestend picks up where book one leaves off—with the wraiths still terrorizing most of this remote country in the dead of night and where plagues, the likes of which have only been seen in Ancient Egypt, wreak havoc on the land. Everywhere but the BarChi Ranch, that is, because it and its people have been claimed by Deacon, and that magick now protects the BarChi from the spirits of the dead. But there’s more to be done if the wraiths are to be sent on to their final resting place, more songs to be sung to the ancestors, stories to be spun to honor those who’d come before, and rituals to be performed, rituals where sex and magick and six become one.

There’s a certain fluidity to the relationships in this book, and if I’m being honest, I’d have to say that the dynamics of those relationships played a bigger role for me in this story than the paranormal mysteries of Oestend did. As always, whether that’s a positive or negative will depend upon the reader’s expectations.

Deacon and Aren have always had an open relationship with Frances, who is in love with Simon, who is straight and can’t feel romantic love for Frances but can love him in the only way he’s capable of, and whether that’s good or bad for Frances is up to the boy himself.

There’s Dante and Cami, the woman for whom there was no definition until she learned there was, and she found friendship and acceptance where she never believed there would be. And there’s Dante, the man who loved and lost Deacon, who finds that relationship ultimately healed because they’ve each found love, just not with the other.

These six people whose lives are intertwined become the saviours of the world in which they live. This is not six degrees of separation; this is six degrees of unity—not romance but ritual—and it might not work for those who’re expecting something else.

Saviours of Oestend is the catalyst for change, but I’m not sure if this is the end or the beginning of something else in this world. It feels done in some aspects, undone in others. I can’t say I loved this installment in the series as much as I loved Song of Oestend, but change is sometimes hard to accept until you see where it’s going to take you.

Buy Saviours of Oestend HERE.

Heidi Belleau, Small Gems, Storm Moon Press, Violetta Vane

Small Gems – The War at the End of the World by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Joseph is a man with a ghostly doppelganger, a Fetch, a soul-collector that is a minion of Death, a shadow that has followed Joseph since he was a boy battling a disease that has now been virtually eradicated from the world. Though Death seems to have marked him as her own, Joseph has escaped her clutches and is now a journalist, chronicling the Winter War in Finland, straying headlong into danger and tempting fate again and again, placing the Fetch in the unique position of defying his mistress but only delaying the inevitable.

Without Joseph, the Fetch does not exist. Without Death, the Fetch has no purpose. The Fetch is the one who follows Joseph, who walks through the valley as Death’s puppet and Joseph’s shadow, but he has become resentful of his purpose and has committed what ought to be the impossible—he loves the one whose soul he is to take. But nothing is fair in love or war, and temptation is poisonous and life is fragile. Fate is fickle. And the Fetch is ultimately committed to do his duty. But…

“This can’t be the end.”

Because death is the ultimate mystery, and who’s to say we get only one chance at life?

I’m not even going to pretend I was able to wrap my wee little brain around this story the first time I read it. The first read through was informative and beautiful, the prose poetic and spare and the setting atmospheric, all at once, but I wasn’t sure I got it the first time through. The second time I read The War at the End of the World, it was to absorb and experience and try to understand it in whatever way I could, for the mythology and mysticism around which the story is woven.

I’m still not sure I “get it”, but it sure is a beautiful tale of the inexplicable and mysterious journey we all eventually take, and it left me saying, “This can’t be the end.”

Download The War at the End of the World for FREE HERE.

4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, KevaD

Whistle Pass by KevaD

Charlie Harris has been summoned.

”Need you.” Two words that years before had meant something coming from the lips of someone Charlie believed had loved him. Those two little words effectively do their part to tempt Charlie to Whistle Pass, Illinois, where, rather than finding the man he’d fallen in love with in the trenches of World War II, he discovers an ambitious politician (and married man) in his place, and also learns, in a painful way, that politics in this city are intimately acquainted with corruption.

Danger, extortion, betrayal, and homophobia welcome Charlie and his incriminating photograph to Whistle Pass, a picture that is allegedly being used to blackmail Mayor Roger Black with a threat that could derail that man’s ambitious pursuit of the office of state representative if the photo is ever leaked to the press. In short, Charlie is Roger’s dirty little secret, and someone is hell bent for election to make that secret, and the photograph, go away—permanently. The only problem with that plan, however, is that Charlie Harris is nobody’s fool and won’t go down without a fight.

Involving hotel manager Gabe Kasper in the danger that has suddenly become Charlie’s life was not a part of the plan, but recognizing a kindred and sympathetic spirit in Gabe, that’s exactly what Charlie unintentionally does when he hands the photo over to the man for safe keeping. Falling in love with each other was also not part of the plan, but that’s exactly what happens as the two men become embroiled in what amounts to a nasty domestic situation with further reaching implications, revealed as the twists and turns keep wending their way through this story.

Whistle Pass has a lot to offer: mystery, intrigue, suspense, some homegrown justice, and an unlikely—some may say near impossible—romance between two men in 1955. Charlie’s particular affliction and the sense that he’d found safety and no small measure of comfort in Gabe was a lovely contrast to the hope they might overcome the odds of building a successful relationship in a time when their attraction to each other was equated with mental illness. It lends a bittersweet feel to the novel, while the setting and KevaD’s writing gives the book a noir-ish sense that complemented the plot very well. The well written characters, both major and minor, only added to my need to finish this book in near record time.

This book languished in my TBR pile for what seems like forever. The best compliment I can pay to it is that I could kick myself for waiting so long to bump it to the top of the heap.

Buy Whistle Pass HERE.

Kate McMurray, Loose Id

Out in the Field by Kate McMurray

After reading Joshua Martino’s Fontana, the outstanding fictional tale of a professional baseball player who is outed by a journalist and then falls victim to the aftermath of that invasion of his privacy, I was both hesitant and tempted to read Kate McMurray’s Out in the Field. Where Fontana does absolutely nothing to romanticize the plight of baseball player Ricky Fontana, Out in the Field takes a slightly less heart-wrenching but no less touching look at what it means to be gay in a world where testosterone and machismo and intolerance drive the attitudes of some players and fans alike.

Matt Blanco and Ignacio “Iggy” Rodriguez are the ballplayers who star in Kate McMurray’s fictional exposé of what it means to be forced to hide who they are from the prying eyes of the media and the public in order to play in the sport at which they both excel. Iggy is the rising star, whereas Matt is approaching the twilight days of his legendary career with the Brooklyn Eagles, and theirs is a May/December romance that thrives but is also tested by the terror of being exposed to the world, fearing the backlash of such a revelation and its impact upon their personal, and especially their professional, lives.

Theirs is a story of courage, which doesn’t have anything to do with being unafraid and has everything to do with facing that fear and persevering and standing up, finally, and being proud of not only who you are but also of whom you love. Matt doesn’t come out until after he’s already retired and written a memoir of his days in baseball, exposing what it means to be a closeted athlete, which doesn’t diminish that courage at all, but it’s really Iggy who risks everything by confessing his sexuality during his ascension into the major celebrity of professional sports and product endorsement.

There’s a line in Fontana that places the pettiness of this topic directly into the laps of those who seem to believe the private lives of public people are fair game—“The question isn’t, are we ready for a gay athlete? The question is, why do we have to ask if we’re ready?” And that’s truly the heart of the issue in Out in the Field; why is it even an issue at all, and why does finding out an outstanding athlete is gay suddenly diminish all that he’s accomplished and all that he’s still capable of?

Kate McMurray tackles this subject and wraps it in the romantic story of two men who become so much more than just teammates; they become each other’s touchstones, where home is wherever the other is and it becomes increasingly obvious that they would be willing to sacrifice everything if that sacrifice means they could live and love each other openly.

In Iggy and Matt’s world, it all works out much better than it did for Ricky Fontana, and these two books exemplify the extreme opposite answers to this single question. It’s difficult to say which would be the more realistic outcome—whether it would be as crushing as the aftermath of Ricky’s outing or whether it would be rather less complicated (and maybe too simplistic), as it was for Matt and Iggy. Maybe the reality lies somewhere in between, and maybe someday, who a person loves won’t be permitted to bring into question whether he can still play the sport he loves.

Buy Out in the Field HERE.


Small Gems – Bounty Hunter by Cornelia Grey

I’ve read quite a few of Cornelia Grey’s short stories and have to say I believe her to be one of the most creative and versatile authors in the medium. I’ve read and loved everything from her, from contemporary to paranormal fantasy to steampunk to pirate adventure, and now she’s tackled the Old West in Bounty Hunter and has done so in a spectacularly sexy fashion.

William Hunt has been predator to James Campbell’s prey for years, and that doesn’t appear to be a situation that will change any time soon. It’s not that William can’t catch James, but more a situation now of whether he wants to catch him—at least where the bounty on James’ head is concerned. Now it appears the cat and mouse game has suddenly transformed into a seductive game of catch-me-if-you-can, and the bigger question may very well be how hard will James try not to be caught?

The two men were once lovers but after a fiery parting of the ways and what could only be seen by William as a betrayal, James has lived a life on the run, playing the role of a western Robin Hood with William in constant pursuit of him in an effort to collect the very tempting bounty on James’ hide. When they finally meet again in an upstairs room of a saloon—after James has just partaken of the carnal delights of one of the girls-for-hire—temptation becomes something not influenced by cold hard cash but hot ruthless lust, and they begin a standoff that quickly rekindles the feelings for each other they’d long ago buried.

Intimidation, love, sex, guns, death, danger, and sins of the flesh are an entirely provocative experience for the reader as the story begins with the threat of a shootout but quickly becomes a different and erotic sort of gunplay between these two men.

Cornelia Grey alternates the story between the present and the past with the use of flashbacks, which did nothing for me but keep me on the edge from beginning to end in my need to see how the conflict between William and James would be resolved.

Speaking of the resolution, it was entirely unexpected and I won’t even begin to pretend I’m not dying for a sequel. Bounty Hunter begs for a sequel. I’m begging for a sequel and I hope Cornelia Grey is listening.

Buy Bounty Hunter HERE.

Author Bio:

Cornelia Grey is a creative writing student fresh out of univeristy, with a penchant for fine arts and the blues. Born and raised in the hills of Northern Italy, where she collected her share of poetry and narrative prizes, she is now based in London, and she is thoroughly enjoying the cultural melting pot that is the City.

Her interests vary from painting to photography, from sewing to acting; when writing, she favors curious, surreal poems and short stories involving handsome young men seducing each other. She loves collecting people’s stories and re-discovering lost tales that deserve to be told.

Her days are full and hectic: she reads, goes to flea markets, galleries, and the theater, and of course spends most of her time writing. When she’s at home, she likes to curl up with a book and the classic cup of tea and leaves chestnuts in the garden for the squirrel that comes around from time to time.

Bella Leone, Small Gems, Torquere Press

Small Gems – Fair Puckled by Bella Leone

Jackson Stuart is a doctorate student at Boston University, studying for his PhD in Celtic and Gaelic history. He’s on the verge of defending his dissertation when the opportunity arises for him to make a trip to Scotland to study the history of the Highland Games, not to mention it’s an opportunity for Jackson to return to his ancestral roots.

Playing research assisting to BU professor Dr. McKenzie also proves to be quite fortunate, as Jackson meets a tenured professor from Glasgow University, where Jackson has applied for a professorship. And as fortune favors the bold, it’s also a series of chance encounters with a compelling and dashing Highlander that leads to a fortunate and bold encounter, indeed. I must say it left even me a little short of breath myself.

There are two things that compelled me to read this sexy little story; the first being I can’t resist the mere idea of a man in a kilt. Yes, there are strapping, kilted men in this book and it seems the answer to the question of what comes between a Scot and his plaid is little more than a lucky breeze.

The second reason I was intrigued enough to read it was my curiosity of the title’s meaning. Yes, of course I Googled it and once I discovered its translation, well, look it up and see if it doesn’t make you even a little bit curious about what’s between its covers.

I was left wanting at the end of Fair Puckled, which doesn’t mean I didn’t like the story; it simply means I wanted to spend much more time with Jackson Stuart and his Highlander, Alexander McDougal. Let’s face it, the story ends at the beginning of something that promises to be really good and I’d like to see where that good could go.

Maybe I’ll just beg the author for a sequel and hope that fortune also favors the greedy.

Buy Fair Puckled HERE.

4 Stars, Amber Allure, T.D. McKinney, Terry Wylis

Kissing Sherlock Holmes by T.D. McKinney & Terry Wylis

Kissing Sherlock Holmes has everything in it a good mystery ought to have: treachery, treason, blackmail, murder, attempted murder, and most important of all, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson working the case.

It’s the spring of 1896 and Holmes and Watson have left 221B Baker Street to travel to Surrey, to Toddington Oaks to apprehend a spy in Her Majesty’s midst. There’s danger afoot every step of the way, especially for Watson, as Holmes poses as fiancé to one Miss Winnifred Farnham, daughter of Charles Farnham, twelfth Viscount Toddington, in order to apprehend the traitor to the crown. It seems a mere case of concentrating all Holmes’ deductive reasoning and detective skills on the one likeliest suspect. But as is usually the case, nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems and suddenly everyone becomes a likely suspect, as Holmes and Watson must re-concentrate their efforts on discovering the true identity of the treasonous subject.

With plenty of potential culprits now in the wings, but only one who will eventually take center stage, it becomes a race against time to find the key player in this intrigue because that person has Dr. Watson dead in their sites, in the most literal way, and there’s no way on earth Sherlock Holmes will stand for any more harm to come to the man he loves. Yes, that would be Watson. Who else did you think would be kissing Sherlock Holmes?

T.D. McKinney and Terry Wylis have pulled off a great coup, first in writing a believable romance between two of literatures most well know characters, but also writing this book so convincingly that there was not even a single inkling it hadn’t been written in 1896. As a dear friend put it so succinctly, “they NAILED the language,” and I couldn’t agree more. Why did I find the romance so believable? Largely because the self-professed misogynist, one Sherlock Holmes, convinced me he wasn’t entirely incapable of romantic feelings, merely that he hadn’t found the right person to direct those feelings toward until Dr. Watson gave him just the right clue to follow.

All the propriety, gentility, and customary underestimating of the women of the Victorian era are displayed to perfection in the narrative, and both Holmes and Watson are as authentic as they could possibly be, though re-imagined, obviously, as two men very deeply in love. Their affection for each other was ever present in Watson’s thoughts and Holmes’ knowing glances, even as they must hide the true nature of their partnership from everyone but those who’ve earned their trust.

The only potential distraction I could find with this book was that the identity of the true traitor became obvious a bit early, which only made the cat and mouse element more entertaining as the great Sherlock Holmes finally catches up to the reader.

If you’re a fan of the original Baker Street boys and don’t mind the idea of the two men professing their love for each other, give Kissing Sherlock Holmes a try.

Buy Kissing Sherlock Holmes HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, Lori Toland, Small Gems

Small Gems – Worth the Wait by Lori Toland

Fifteen years is a long time to wait for the continuum of time to catch up to you, and only in the imaginations of authors who will bend the laws of physics and play into the fantasy of being able to manipulate clocks and calendars, to move forwards or backwards to influence the future or change the past, is it possible to make that journey along with the travelers, in the space of moments.

Henry Wallens is a man of science, a brilliant man who has invented a self-renewing source of clean energy, but in doing so has also stumbled upon a way to deviate the linear flow of time. In other words, Harry has invented a device that makes time travel possible.

The notion of manipulating time isn’t a new one. H.G. Wells was dreaming about it nearly 120 years ago when he wrote the novel Time Machine. And what is nearly universal is that at one time or another, there are few of us who haven’t wished to change something in the past or to go back and relive an exceptionally brilliant moment or to travel to the future to satisfy a curious nature. It’s arguably one of the most tempting fantasies in fiction, maybe because it’s entirely unattainable in reality.

After a particularly disturbing nightmare leaves him shaken, Henry knows exactly when he wants to return to and what he wants to try to accomplish while he’s there, though he quickly discovers that the wanting and the trying are far easier than the succeeding, as he spends time with his teenage self, posing as his Uncle Tommy, and realizes that although he was a painfully lonely young man, to attempt to alter that part of his life would surely have a negative impact upon all his adult accomplishments in the field of science.

Henry also discovers that seeing someone from a man’s perspective gives him a whole new appreciation for what had escaped him as a teenage boy. The law of attraction is proven through less than scientific methods when Henry comes in contact with his high school science teacher, Ryan. The proof that like does indeed attract like is discovered through more impassioned means than the cold logic of hypotheses and clinical experimentation, as Henry finds himself wishing for more of that elusive and unattainable gift of time, but regardless of how attracted Henry is to Ryan, staying in the past is an impossible desire.

Fifteen years is a long time to wait but can also seem to pass in the blink of an eye.

Worth the Wait is well worth the reading. Beyond rooting for Henry and Ryan to find their happy ending, this is a story that had me participating right along in the fantasy—where would I go and what would I do, if I had the chance? Would I be able to resist the temptation to alter events beyond the point of my mere presence alone? After some serious consideration, it’s probably best I’m forced to stay right where I am.

Buy Worth the Wait HERE.

All Romance Ebooks, Kate McMurray, Small Gems

Small Gems – Lead Us Not by Kate McMurray

”Tis one thing to be tempted…another thing to fall.” – William Shakespeare – Measure for Measure (Act II, Scene I)

Lead Us Not is a scary-tale. No, not in a things-that-go-bump-in-the-night kind of way, but in a life-seems-to-change-overnight kind of way. You meet the man of your dreams, fall in love, move to New York City to pursue your hopes of becoming actors, and the next thing you know, eight years after you met, a single bit of innuendo from a near total stranger has you questioning every last thing you know to be true about the man you love and know better than anyone else in the world.

That’s the way temptation begins—with doubts—because even with reassurances and promises, those doubts can continue to fester in the darkest recesses of your mind, causing you to question every action, every reaction, every word, every excuse when the one you love is late or begins behaving differently or working longer hours. And the longer those questions and doubts hang out there, unspoken and unanswered, the wider the rift and the deeper the silence becomes until suddenly you find yourself looking. You see someone else in a different light, and you listen to their offers and their propositions…and you consider…but only for a moment.

And then you either succumb or resist. You are either condemned or delivered. The choice is yours alone but the consequences, bad or good, will be shared. The pain will be doubled if you choose poorly.

See? Scary.

Kate McMurray has written a story so subtle that it fairly blindsided me with its cunning. It made me question, “what if?” What if I was lead into temptation and I followed willingly, and then I’d fallen before I even realized I’d been pushed?

That’s exactly what reading this story was like—falling and loving every word of it.

Download this FREE story HERE.

All Romance Ebooks, Piper Vaughn, Small Gems

Small Gems – An Oral Fixation by Piper Vaughn

Reading An Oral Fixation made me wonder what Dr. Freud would’ve thought about it. He’d have likely come to the diagnosis that Cooper Bradshaw had suffered from some sort of neglect or trauma during the oral stage of his development which has now caused him to be a little bit obsessed with getting the taste of his best friend Quinn Reed’s skin all over his tongue. Pish. I think Cooper’s just fixated on licking and kissing and nibbling on the man he loves. Completely and totally normal.

This sweet little short is a story of best-friends-turned-lovers, though the course to true love was not without its share of complications along the way. Timing has been a huge obstacle for the two men, as either Cooper or Quinn, or both, seemed to have always been in relationships with other people, and breaking up with a sure thing in order to take the risk on something that didn’t come with any guarantees of success seemed like a really bad reason for a break up. Of course, staying in a relationship with someone when your heart and focus belongs to someone else isn’t exactly being honest either, but nobody’s perfect.

As Cooper, Quinn, and their friends Patrick and Lonnie set out on a road trip to SoCal, both Cooper and Quinn find themselves free for the first time, at the same time, in…well, ever. Quinn begins to believe in the possibility of this being their time. Finally. But it’s Cooper’s inquisitive tongue and roving lips that convince Quinn the possibility is much more like a sure thing.

Nineteen pages (that’s nineteen FREE! pages) is all it took for me to become entirely absorbed in the story of a couple of guys who, for some time, seemed to be the only two not to realize they were head-over-heels in love. It’s a good thing they both finally got with the program, and it’s a good thing I didn’t have to wait long for Piper Vaughn to make it happen.

Download An Oral Fixation HERE.

4 Stars, Fantastic Fiction Publishing, Lynn Kelling

Whatever the Cost by Lynn Kelling

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

And Whatever the Cost, at times, had me questioning just how strong a man really needs to be, because, gods, there’s finding strength through adversity, and then there’s just a point where life and circumstances beat a person down so entirely that it forces you to examine whether he’s entirely broken beyond the point of survival, let alone repair. There’s making your characters suffer for the sake of great conflict, and then there’s making your readers suffer death-by-fiction. Slowly. One chapter at a time.

On the surface, this novel doesn’t appear to be terribly complex. It’s the story of two high-end prostitutes, Liam and Jacen, who fall in love with each other and decide their lives, as they’d lived them up to that point, could not continue. Sex was just sex, an act, a paid performance complete with costumes and props and all the right lines, until, that is, Liam and Jacen’s bodies each imprinted the touch of the other. They began to need, to want something more than the physical, to demand that no one else be allowed access to the most intimate parts of themselves save for the one who owned his heart.

But that’s the simple recap of the plot, and it’s not until you look at this book from the standpoint of the characters and their afflictions that you realize there’s much more to it than just a couple of whores who find love amidst the emotional disconnect of their jobs. In fact, this really could be reviewed as two separate books because the story that begins and the story that ends are about men who become so many different variations of themselves along the way that it’s difficult to cipher who each man truly is beneath the façade of practiced seduction and role playing they’ve become accustomed to. The first half of the book is filled with the erotic tension of their attraction; the second half is an exploration of their dissociation with what it means to just…be.

There is a metaphor in the book, in the concept of role playing, that whores are merely accomplished actors who get paid for having sex rather than for their thespian skills. The heart of the issue for both Liam and Jacen is that they’ve spent so long becoming whomever the client pays them to be that they have no idea whom they truly are as people. They work for The Company: go where The Company tells them to go, do what The Company tells them to do, be whom The Company tells them to be, give as much and as often as The Company tells them to give, and endure whatever The Company demands they endure, including being forced to have sex with each other while a wealthy female client watches, a situation that nearly ruins Liam but is the catalyst for everything that follows.

It’s difficult to be your own man when you’re an owned man, and that’s the crux of the problem for Liam and Jacen when they finally decide to run and once again find themselves assuming new and different identities. Liam is such a fragmented and fractured personality that he has no idea which of the many characters he’s played over the years he truly is, and Jacen, who is gay-for-pay but truly does love Liam, has a difficult time being who and what Liam needs him to be, partly because Liam himself doesn’t even know, but also because Jacen has a difficult time being on the receiving end of sex (unless he’s being paid), which is something that causes no small amount of conflict because Liam desperately needs to top in order to feel in control of this one important aspect of his life. They are both men who suddenly find they’re fighting for control and facing choices they’d never had before, and that fight nearly tears them apart in the process, until Liam finally begins to understand he doesn’t have to be who he believes Jacen needs and wants him to be, and can complete himself and make himself whole again by becoming an amalgamation of some of the more comfortable roles he’s played, including Leah, the only woman Jacen needs in his life, and the only part of Liam that will allow him to give Jacen even a fraction of control.

The conflict and danger the two men face which keeps them looking over their shoulders with the sure knowledge that each morsel of contentment they find is tainted by the fact they are still, on paper, owned by The Company, supplies a good bit of tension to the story. The angst is entirely in the relationship between the two men, their histories, and the relationship with themselves when they must become reacquainted with whom they are.

There is evil, there is horror, there is recovery, and there is salvation in the end, as both Liam and Jacen find purpose and promise in a future carved from the detritus of misery. If you’re looking for a light and easy read, this is definitely not the book to pick up. This is melodrama in its purest form, but not in a way that felt at all gratuitous to me. It ultimately is a story of the triumph of love and the strength these two men find in themselves and in each other.

Writing the book in the omniscient 3rd person, present tense worked really well for me, within the concept of the actors playing their roles. The style choice places the reader firmly in the moment, in each and every scene, as the author directs the characters’ thoughts and actions. The only thing that caused some minor difficulties for me were the proofreading issues that were glaring enough that I couldn’t seem to overcome them affecting my reading experience, though overall, I very much enjoyed the journey these two men traveled to find happiness in their own little corner of the world.

Buy Whatever the Cost from the publisher HERE, or at

5 Stars, Carole Cummings, Dreamspinner Press

Incendiary (Wolf’s-own #4) by Carole Cummings

“…when you really love something, then it loves you back, in whatever way it has to love.” – John Knowles, A Separate Peace

And sometimes the same applies to someone, and that alone has to be good enough because to expect anything more is asking too much of the one you love. To want anything less devalues the gift of that love. To beg for it because you so badly need it in order to feel alive, leaves room to doubt that it’s real. To be able to recognize it, not the words but the actions that signify it, gives it legitimacy. To be able to accept love in whatever form it’s offered because it’s the only way that person is capable of offering it, gives it strength. Simply because a man’s soul can’t afford the price of the words to express it doesn’t diminish the emotion. Sometimes actions and the motivations behind them are thoroughly eloquent all on their own.

For Fen, Jacin, Jacin-rei; the Incendiary, the Catalyst, the Untouchable who wanted…no, that’s wrong…who needed nothing more than to be touched (because a need is an imperative); the unlovable who is loved in spite of how much he feels unworthy of it; the man who has been taught, across lifetimes, that love can only mean betrayal; for that man, existence is a curse. For him, love is pain. His sacrifice is to live; his punishment is to be denied that which he craves to his very core; his affliction is to need and to be needed but to be unable to receive and to give freely; each death is nothing more than a path to rebirth to begin the cycle of torment over and over again, and each lifetime becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, doomed to repeat itself because that torment robs him of his sanity.

“My kind were not meant for the love of another, but that could not stop me from wanting it, so I watched for it very carefully.”

But watching for it is very different from recognizing it, and recognizing it is very different from accepting it, because in a world where every boon must be balanced by a forfeit, how can one man possibly be both the gift and the sacrifice? So you doom yourself to repeat the same mistakes indefinitely, you convince yourself that if you try harder to be perfect, you’ll be loved perfectly. But the person you love doesn’t love you, he only wants to possess you. He wants your soul because to own it, to twist and brutalize it until it lays shriveled and dying in the darkest shadows of your very being means you have no value but to the one who wants to use you. It means you’ve given away everything of yourself and of your Self, and you become nothing but a tool to be manipulated by whomever can make you believe the worst possible lies about who you are and why you even exist.

Until, that is, you find the someone whose arms become the someplace you feel safe. Until you find the purpose of your life is to live your life purposefully. Until you discover the truth behind the lie that has been your existence. Until you find someone who wants to lay claim to you, not because he wants to use you or enslave you but because he wants to protect you and offer you the freedom to choose your own path. Until you unlearn all you’ve been taught and stop fighting against the one who can save you. Only then can you be redeemed.

And only then do you discover there is more than one way to save a soul, but no one ever said the soul that’s saved must be your own in order for you to find salvation. No one ever said the heart’s blood you protect must be your own heart’s blood. Sometimes the soul you save is the one you’re entrusted with, and the only way you have to love is to guard that soul with your life. You keep it safe because that’s how you love. And that has to be enough because it’s all of yourself you have to give.

It is redemption. It is a story of oppression. It is the magic and the mythology of mortals and immortals. It is the mythos of the Six, who usurped the One to become the gods of the world. It is the story of the One who returns to seek vengeance and to regain control of the world that rejected him. It is the story of the children of the gods who carry out the gods’ orders and ensure the balance between the mortals and the immortals. It is the story of an immortal who must discover who he’s meant to be so he can guide the inception to his conclusion so he can begin anew, to fulfill a legacy of becoming the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the god-maker and –slayer, the world-changer and –destroyer, to become more than the Incendiary has ever been before. It is the story of a man who was created to be a tool of Fate, Fate’s Fool, who was betrayed by his lover-god and died a thousand small deaths as penance for defying that god who’d claimed to love his Incendiary but proved with savage equanimity that his love came with conditions.

Wolf’s-own is the saga of three brothers who love in whatever way they have to love—one loves a brother who no longer is, or maybe never was; one loves without provision, even if his actions and words say otherwise; and one has no idea how to love, because to love means to lose. To love means to need. To need means to suffer.

Incendiary is the final chapter in an epic tale that spans the journey of two heroes. It is the end of the beginning, the beginning of the end, the full-circle story of the gods’ and their playthings and the malevolence and manipulation of immortals who would pervert the old magic in a bid to take over the world.

Wolf’s-own is an experience; that’s all there is to say. It is a journey for the reader, the story of a man who was ordered to steal the heart’s blood of an immortal but ended up only stealing his heart instead, and gaining a soul to protect in return for all that he’d lost of his own. There is the Balance.

I loved this series, from inception to conclusion, connected with it in a way I don’t connect with many books, and this is the only way I have to show it.

Buy Incendiary HERE.


Where Nerves End (Tucker Springs #1) by L.A. Witt

Where nerves end, fear begins. Where nerves end, doubt exists. Where nerves end, caution rules. Where nerves end, there is touch, pain, the warmth and shiver of skin against skin, and that is the place Jason Davis and Michael Whitman begin.

Where Nerves End is the first book in the Tucker Springs series (the second from Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan is due later this year), and is the story of two men who, through necessity and desperation, find themselves sharing a house and expenses to offset the financial struggles of each of their businesses.

Jason owns a nightclub called “Lights Out”, and though a series of life-changing events has caused the club to become a burden and source of continual stress for him more than the fulfillment of a dream, he is determined to see it survive, even if it means depleting his own finances to make it happen.

Dr. Michael Whitman is an acupuncturist and divorced father who is, himself, struggling to make his business thrive in a downturned economy. So, how do a gay nightclub owner and a straight acupuncturist meet? Through a mutual friend and tattoo artist, Seth, who convinces Jason that Michael can relieve him of the lingering and chronic pain of an accident.

Skeptical but desperate to try anything, Jason agrees to an appointment with Michael, and for the first time in years, finds relief that doesn’t come in pill form, or from self-inflicted pain diversion. The problem, however, is that Jason’s choices come down to acupuncture or eating that week, which really is not a choice at all.

Where Nerves End is a story of temptation, and we all know that ”the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” Living together is an exquisite form of torture for Jason, who is incredibly attracted to Michael in spite of the fact that Michael is straight. Living together is an exquisite form of torture for Michael because his attraction to Jason quickly has him questioning the fact that he has lived his entire life being the man his parents and society has expected him to be.

Michael’s desire to be true to himself and his feelings for Jason conflicts with his desire to be a good father and to do what’s best for his son, which causes him to pull closer to Jason and push him away at the same time, with the fear of succumbing to the temptation of being in a relationship with a man.

This was a lovely start to this series, angsty and complicated by the responsibility of doing what’s right for the good of a child, yet being true to oneself in the process. I look forward to seeing what the next book brings to Tucker Springs, Colorado.

Buy Where Nerves End HERE.

Alex Beecroft, Carina Press

His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft

”To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction,” – Sir Isaac Newton

His Heart’s Obsession is the story of a man who loves another, and in an equal and opposite reaction, the object of his desire, desires another. It’s unrequited love which provides for the emotional conflict in this short and affecting story of forbidden passion in the tropics, aboard the HMS Swiftsure, in the year 1752.

Lieutenant Robert Hughes is harboring a secret passion for fellow officer Lieutenant Hal Morgan, which presents enough of a problem, in and of itself, as sodomy in the British Royal Navy could find a man hanged for the indiscretion. To compound the problem, however, is that Lieutenant Morgan is keeping a secret of his own—he is in love with Captain William Hamilton, a man who would never consider returning Hal’s affection in anything less than the camaraderie of their naval duties.

This is the story of one man who is willing to risk himself and his heart to declare his love for the man he wants so desperately, and another whose passion for a man he realizes he can never have may be more the case of a safe obsession than an actual willingness to risk giving his heart to another.

Robert’s need to make Hal aware of his feelings, as well as the need to redirect Hal’s feelings for their ship’s captain causes more than enough angst in their already contentious relationship as fellow officers. Robert advances and Hal retreats in what initially is a poorly orchestrated attack, on Robert’s part, of Hal’s defenses. In a lovely and metaphorical way, as Robert becomes a more competent officer onboard ship, the more calculated, controlled, and ultimately successful his strategic assault becomes. It simply took Robert “speaking” in a language Hal could understand—the language of actions and not words—to make Hal see the truth. But not before tragedy nearly robs them of the chance to explore their possibilities.

As with Alex Beecroft’s False Colors (which I loved), His Heart’s Obsession is as much an homage to the Age of Sail as it is a story of forbidden love and the danger it represents. While I’d have liked a bit more exploration of the whens, hows, and whys that lead up to Robert falling in love with Hal, I very much enjoyed what came after.

Buy His Heart’s Obsession HERE.

3 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Greg Herren

Murder in the Rue Dauphine (Chanse MacLeod #1) by Greg Herren

The stage is the Crescent City; the script, blackmail and murder; the director of the action, Chanse MacLeod, ex-cop and private investigator who is embroiled in a case where prostitution and extortion crawl into bed together and end up with his client, Mike Hansen, taking a nap of the eternal variety.

Mike was a hustler who managed to leave more than a few enemies behind him, providing for a healthy list of reasonable suspects in the wake of his murder. Having retained Chanse’s services to investigate and discover who’s blackmailing his latest sugar daddy, a very married and very closeted and very prominent man, Mike ends up with a bullet in his chest for the trouble, along with an epitaph written in his own blood that has many in the gay community believing his death was the result of a hate crime.
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Ethan Day, MLR Press

Second Time Lucky by Ethan Day

The only way to ensure you’ll fail at something is by not taking a chance and giving yourself the opportunity to succeed. Luke Landon and Owen West learned that lesson the hard way, but they were young and the way they felt about each other was a little scary, for lack of a better word. Fortunately for them, though, life is filled with opportunities and though second chances can be a rare event, when they come around, you have to grab hold for all it’s worth so you can at least say you gave it your best shot this time around.

Luke’s vulnerability is couched in sex and sarcasm, (something Ethan Day writes so very brilliantly) his deepest seated fears hidden beneath a layer of self preservation that he began developing from the age of eleven, when a family event left Luke emotionally exposed and feeling utterly betrayed.

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, in Luke’s case, that means running as fast and as far as he can in the opposite direction, cutting his losses before they have the opportunity to cut him first. He’s a serial squeeze, a bag ‘em and tag ‘em, then move on kind of guy, and has been so since he and Owen drifted apart fourteen years earlier. But call it what you will: fate, fortune, destiny, karma, serendipity; the end result is that the two men get a second chance at love, and while it’s not all smooth sailing, it is a beautiful and oh-so-sexy romance to watch unfold.

Owen is as steady as Luke is changeable, and watching them work and fight and grow and make mistakes with each other was both funny and hugely rewarding. The failure of Owen’s eleven year long relationship with his ex, Tommy, wasn’t due to his lack of commitment but from his being with the wrong man. And it could be argued that Luke’s failure to commit to one man wasn’t based in a lack of ability but was due to the lack of the right man in his life—the right man being Owen, and the right time being the moment they saw each other again after so many years spent drifting through life, waiting for the right one and the right time to come along.

I know I probably say this with every new Ethan Day publication, and I do sincerely mean it each and every time: Second Time Lucky is my favorite book yet. And Luke and Owen just kicked Boone and Wade out of the top spot of my all-time favorite Ethan characters.

Luke, for all his attempts at being a lot of surface, has the substance of a richly drawn character with faults and feelings and insecurities and scars that he doesn’t even realize need healing until Owen comes along with all his strength and support and shows Luke that it’s okay to hurt, and it’s okay to face the past, and it will be alright because where Luke never had a safety net before, he now has Owen to catch him when he falls, and to love him in spite of himself. They are realistically imperfect men who are realistically perfect for each other, and their story is one I can’t recommend highly enough for being touching and clever and so very romantic.

Buy Second Time Lucky HERE.

Amber Allure, Anne Brooke, Small Gems

Small Gems – The Delaneys at Home (The Delaneys #5) by Anne Brooke

Liam O’Connell is up to his eye…err…balls in Delaney twins, and it doesn’t seem he could possibly be any happier about it. He’s gone from being Mark and Johnny’s plaything, to dating them, to living with them in the span of these five short stories, and I’ve loved every single minute I’ve spent watching these boys and their relationship evolve.

On an erotic scale of one to ten, The Delaneys at Home is right about an eleven, as Mark—who is always superbly in charge—and Johnny—who is always supremely delicious—show Liam—who is always perfectly witty and loveable—exactly what it means to become a part of their family and to be loved by them, as well as the consequences (of the truly combustible variety, I might add) of not being entirely forthcoming with them about every aspect of himself.

With each new installment in this series, my anticipation grows exponentially for the next. I wish the stories were longer, I wish Anne Brooke could write them faster, and if I’m being totally honest, I think I sort of wish I had my very own Delaneys to play with. :-D

If you’re a fan of this sexy little series, don’t miss this one. I think it may be my favorite yet.

Buy The Delaneys at Home HERE.

5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Joshua Martino

Fontana by Joshua Martino

Fontana is a brilliant book. And I don’t mean that solely in the intellectually brilliant sense of the word; I mean that it is also luminous and powerful, and it made me angry and it made me cry, and it’s been some time since I’ve read a book that engendered such a strong emotional reaction in me.

First, let me caution you that this book is not a romance, though it is the love story, of a sort, between a young man and the sport at which he excels, and a journalist and an extraordinary athlete, and the sport that that journalist, Jeremy Rusch, reveres. No, Fontana is literary fiction and is told in the first person from Jeremy’s POV as he covers the New York Mets for his small and struggling NYC paper, and the career of Ricky Fontana during one epic season when the twenty-year-old wunderkind held America’s pastime and, indeed, the world in the pocket of his mitt and the sweet spot of his bat.

During one memorable summer, when nearly every baseball fan’s (and many non-fan’s) attention was trained on the Mets and a young man from Rhode Island who was set to break the long standing records of two of the sport’s greatest—Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio—and doing so in a single, monumental season, Jeremy was struggling with the failure of his marriage, alcoholism, and the near anonymity of a career that would change dramatically with just one scoop, a single byline that would set him apart from his colleagues and propel him from the dregs of mediocrity. Jeremy accidentally finds that scoop in his pursuit of Ricky, and in a moment of avarice, trades his personal integrity for career gain, opening a Pandora’s Box and releasing a storm of bigotry and intolerance upon Ricky, a gay athlete. “On a warm, wet June night, I said yes.” And at that moment, the moment Jeremy Rusch traded his soul for a story, my heart broke just a little for a fictional athlete named Ricky Fontana.

In the aftermath of Jeremy’s article that thrust Ricky from the closet in which he’d so adamantly guarded his personal life, many of his once adoring fans turned viciously on the player they’d so recently worshiped. What was once the fervor of veneration becomes vilification as a national debate rages over whether homosexual athletes should be allowed to play in professional sports. Touching upon religion, politics, and the way in which the campaign to support Ricky turns every bit as ugly as the crusade to crucify him, Fontana is a glowing and glaring example of the media’s (and the public’s) twisted infatuation with the private lives of public people.

Fontana is the story of a young hero whose meteoric rise and subsequent crash back to earth, puts him in the center of a Salem-Witch-Hunt that overshadows his incredible accomplishments in the sport that means everything to him. Ricky only ever wanted to play ball, but instead becomes the poster child in the raging debate over gay athletes. In spite of his best efforts to pay for his privacy, the public ends up taking its pound of flesh in their “right to know” everything about him, and in that violation, Ricky, a man of integrity and loyalty and incredible courage, remains strong and focused and succeeds in doing what many thought was the impossible.

And then, at the age of twenty, his legend both tarnished and secure in the annals of baseball, Ricky fades into history.

Fontana is a book within a book, a story that Jeremy has written chronicling his own personal losses and triumphs, as well as those of Ricky Fontana. It is both Jeremy’s personal account of that summer, as well as a series of interviews with Ricky’s ex-lover Peter Morgenstern, that comes together in an outstanding novel that should make everyone examine the need to label and the fascination with what goes on in the privacy of a person’s bedroom.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will be a long while before I can think about Ricky and his struggles and triumphs without a lump coming to my throat and a tear coming to my eye.

**This title will be released July 16, 2012, and can be purchased HERE.

Heidi Belleau, Loose Id, Violetta Vane

Hawaiian Gothic by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

There’s nothing I love more, in terms of fiction, than the surprise of a book turning out to be something so much more than I’d expected it would be when I started reading it. Sometimes it’s the characters who are a revelation. Sometimes it’s the story itself. With Hawaiian Gothic it was both, and it was terrific.

Part paranormal fantasy, part legend of the islands, part love story that transcends the boundaries of the earthly plain, this is the story of military veteran Gregorio “Ori” Reyes and his painfully poignant relationship with his best friend Kalani Lihilihi, a connection that itself transcends the boundaries of friendship, though the bond was never spoken of nor acted upon until tragedy both separated and then reunited them in the unlikeliest of ways.

Theirs is the story of an accidental curse and the aftermath of a devastating hate crime that left Kalani lying to waste in a hospital bed and left Ori serving a stint in Leavenworth prison, dishonorably discharged for his efforts to return to Kalani’s side.

Ori’s desperate attempts to rescue Kalani from the grip of the powerful bond that tethers him somewhere between dead and alive leads them on a metaphysical journey to an incredible realm where the danger is all too real. It is ultimately a journey where sacrifice becomes the key to escaping the in between and the question becomes on which side Kalani will choose to fall—and whether Ori can let him go.

It is a journey where secrets are revealed, secrets that, for Kalani, are imperative to who he is—or who he believed himself to be. It is a journey of healing, for both Ori and Kalani and for the man who helped them find their way back to each other, a man who finally righted a wrong done to a son paying the price for the sins of the one he called father.

Action, suspense, danger, mythology, fantasy, and the ultimate love-overcoming-all-odds romance transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary in Hawaiian Gothic and placed Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane on my “authors to watch” list. I guarantee I’ll be getting to know their work better in the near future.

Hawaiian Gothic is available for purchase June 12, 2012, HERE.

Ava March

Thief (Brook Street #1) by Ava March

Lord Benjamin Parker has been granted the serenity to accept the things he cannot change. He has been granted the courage to change the things he can. And he possesses the wisdom to know the difference.

Benjamin realizes that he has no passion for women, no desire to marry and provide an heir, but he must prove it to himself, once and for all, that what he feels is real. He’s tired of fighting his attraction to men, tired of worrying about the consequences of his desires, tired of going through the motions, and tired of the not-so-subtle hints from his siblings that it’s time for him to settle down. If he can engage in an encounter with another man, and finds that he enjoys that encounter, he will accept that he is an “unnatural” and will live the life he’s meant to live rather than subject a woman to a life of unrequited feelings.

There’s a medieval proverb that says, “a fox is not caught by gifts,” but Benjamin’s single and incendiary encounter with Cavin Fox nullifies that adage, because the gift that Benjamin gives the clever and elusive Fox snares him as surely as if he’d fallen into a steel trap.

Cavin Fox is a grifter and Benjamin was to be nothing more than his next mark for the evening. He was to seduce Benjamin and relieve the nabob of all his valuables, but instead, Benjamin stole Cavin’s heart when he entrusted the thief with his first sexual encounter with another man. It is more than Cavin’s conscience can bear and is enough to make the man begin to rethink his entire existence; it’s enough to make him wish he were someone different, to be a better man and to be a man who is worthy of Benjamin’s affection. ”The fox changes his fur but not his habits?” No, Cavin disproves that proverb as well; his transformation is complete when he falls in love with a man who is seemingly beyond his reach.

Brook Street: Thief is the story of two men from diametrically opposed social classes in Regency England and the way they find each other and connect in a time when the love they share dares not speak its name. Benjamin and Cavin overcome the obstacles that would otherwise keep them apart, believing that love will always find a way.

This is my first experience with Ava March’s work and I couldn’t be happier to have given this book a chance. The foundation has been laid for the next book, and while it’s not a continuation of Benjamin and Cavin’s romance, I do sincerely hope the two men make an appearance in Fortune Hunter because I liked them too well to let them move on just yet.

Buy Thief HERE.

Smashwords, Tasha D-Drake

Me, Myself and I by Tasha D-Drake

Ah, here we go again—me sitting around eagerly anticipating a sequel to a book that baited and hooked me in with the oddity of its premise. Yes, Me, Myself and I is that book, and yes, I cannot wait to see what the author has in store next for these characters.

This book, in what I believe is ultimately going to be a trilogy, is little more than a tease, really. It introduces the reader to actor Tristan Havering, who has just wrapped up his role as a supervillian in a blockbuster sci-fi movie series in which his character ultimately finds redemption and returns to the side of the just.

In a freak turn of life imitating art, Tristan is propelled into a parallel reality—or is he? That’s the real question here: was he dreaming or did the events truly happen as he lived them? Whichever is the case, Tristan is thrown into an alternate universe where the movie sets on which he had immersed himself in the role of the broken and deadly antihero Devon, have suddenly become an elaborate scene where his co-actors are not actors at all but are in reality the people whom they portray in the films. When Tristan comes face-to-face with the “real” Devon—well, that’s when things get really strange, weirdly erotic, and that’s when I knew I couldn’t wait to see how the author was going to progress the story arc because, yes, there is no resolution at the end of Me, Myself and I, only a little more bait on the hook.

I loved the twists and turns and mind games this book played on me. If the utterly inexplicable wrapped in a puzzle of the completely impossible is at all appealing, this book certainly delivers.

Oh, and did I happen to mention it’s FREE? You can download the book from Smashwords HERE.

Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press, Small Gems

Small Gems – Do-over by Amy Lane

What if took an act of divine intervention to ensure you’d live long enough to find your soul mate?

What if it took multiple acts of divine intervention to make you embrace who you are, to find the courage to accept yourself, to finally see yourself as beautiful because someone else sees your grace and the kindness that radiates from within and thinks you couldn’t be more perfect? What if it took divine intervention to help you find the courage to tell your parents who you are—even though they already suspected and they love you, regardless—so you could be free to admit to yourself whom it is you love?

What if it took multiple acts of divine intervention for you to see that if your destiny doesn’t quite work out to plan, it’s okay because the life you’ve lived so far has been really good?

Engall Carpenter gets the do-over of a lifetime from his accidental guardian angel, Dagiel, though they don’t quite get it right the first time…or the second or the third…thus the accidental part of the equation, but that’s what intervention from the heavenly hosts is all about, making the impossible possible.

Engall loves Chandler and Chandler loves Engall; it’s just that neither of them has found the courage to let the other know it yet and they need a little nudge from above to make it happen, even though those little nudges keep throwing Engall under the proverbial bus—sometimes the literal bus! Well, no one’s perfect, not even a certain beatific and sarcastic angel, but he eventually gets it all figured out and even finds his own happiness in the end with his very own angel. And maybe, just maybe, those who’ve fallen in love here on earth are merely the divine who’ve fallen from Heaven, and our soul mate is the one and only angel with whom we are destined to be. Anything’s possible.

Do-over is a charming and funny little story about the gift of acceptance and the beauty of seeing yourself for who you are and not how you look.

Buy Do-over HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, John Goode

Maybe With a Chance of Certainty, End of the Beginning & Raise Your Glass (Tales from Foster High Series) by John Goode

In their most broad and most literal terms, John Hughes’ films defined the angst of my–and maybe every other ‘80s teenager’s–high school years. Pretty in Pink (if you thought Andie should’ve picked Duckie Dale, raise your hand!), Sixteen Candles (::sigh:: Jake Ryan), and The Breakfast Club (yes, I would’ve chosen John Bender), each are the consummate definition set to film of what it means to be an outsider, to be different, to be the victim of preconceptions and misconceptions and bullying, and to crush hard on someone you believe is entirely unattainable.

John Goode’s Tales from Foster High series is everything that was so brilliant about these movies, the only difference being that if John Goode had written them, Duckie and Blane would’ve fallen in love; Jake would’ve ended up on that dining room table kissing The Geek over the birthday cake; Andrew Clark, the athlete, would’ve walked into the sunset holding hands with Brian Johnson, the brain.

This series follows Foster, Texas high school seniors, Kyle Stilleno (the brain and maybe a little bit of the basketcase, too) and Brad Greymark, the athlete—the invisible nerd and the popular jock—who fall in love and endure the trials and turmoil of coming-of-age and coming out in a small, conservative north Texas town. Theirs is a story of courage in the face of fear, and of standing up for yourself, your beliefs, and for those who are powerless to stand up for themselves when confronted with bigotry and discrimination within the establishment. They are two boys from very different walks of life who discover that their home lives maybe aren’t so different after all, and who are both attempting to cope with their roles as sons within highly dysfunctional families, as they’ve each built invisible walls around themselves to mask their burdens.

In a relationship where their roles might otherwise be defined by expectation, Kyle and Brad discover that who they are—or who they believed themselves to be—is influenced and transformed by how much they grow to care for and want to protect each other from those who would make them suffer for the sake of their differences. The brain becomes the brawn in their relationship as Kyle, along with his mother, Brad’s parents, and a whole host of others fight the powers-that-be to defend Brad’s right to be treated fairly and equally.

I can’t begin to praise the three novellas in this series enough, beginning with Maybe with a Chance of Certainty, through End of the Beginning, and finally to Raise Your Glass. John Goode has introduced two heroes who are nothing less than wonderful, engaging, and courageous.

The author infuses these books with humor and warmth and angst, perfectly capturing the power of first love and skillfully depicting what it means to fight for and be proud of who you are.

” You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is
a brain,
and an athlete,
and a basketcase,
a princess,
and a criminal.”
– Brian Johnson (The Breakfast Club)

This is a story about labels and breaking free of those definitions.

If you love well written YA, I can’t recommend these books enough.

Click on the covers for buy links to each book.

Loose Id, Lori Toland

The Long Con by Lori Toland

Nathaniel Bradley is an agent for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, SOCA for short, a British agency that focuses upon the theft of valuable art work across Great Britain and Europe. When a priceless heirloom disappears from his grandfather Lord Bradley’s home, Nathaniel makes it his personal mission to hunt it down and retrieve it at all costs. Unfortunately, the price he pays is his heart.

Tony Terranova is a Mafia son in New York City, which is where Nathaniel’s search leads him as he enters a dangerous game of cloak-and-dagger, playing both sides against the middle in an effort to thwart a group of con men who’re looking to sell a “fake” to Tony, a fake that is, in fact, the real thing. Posing to the group of cons as Bradley, a hustler, Nathaniel is aiming to steal the treasure back from Tony (who’s interested in purchasing the stolen art), and returning it to its rightful owner. What Bradley didn’t plan on happening is to have his heart stolen by Tony, the very man who is his mark in this game of duplicity.

The Long Con is a quick and erotic summer read that had some nice twists and turns in the end, as a few key characters aren’t who they seem to be. Bradley and Tony’s romance is of the insta-love variety, so do be aware of that as well. If you prefer your relationships to be more thoroughly explored, adjust your expectations or you might be disappointed.

There is also some ultra-light BDSM within Bradley and Tony’s relationship, but it’s really more implied than exposed, so again, consider that as well when approaching the book. There were times I felt the Dom/sub aspect in the bedroom blurred the lines between whom was to be playing which role, as Bradley wasn’t the absolute Dom I’m more familiar with in the sub-genre, but Tony topping from the bottom lent a sexy twist to the heavy sexual content.

The story comes to a satisfying HEA, though secrets and lies and deception keep things interesting along the way. So if you’re looking for some erotic romance to while away a few hours this summer, or if you’re already a Lori Toland fan, this may be just what you’re looking for.

Buy The Long Con HERE.