Anne Brooke, Becky Black, Charlie Cochrane, Clare London, Elin Gregory, Elyan Smith, Emily Moreton, JL Merrow, JMS Books LLC, Jordan Castillo Price, Josephine Myles, Lillian Francis, Rebecca Cohen, Robbie Whyte, Sandra Lindsey, Tam Ames, Zahra Owens

Lashings of Sauce by UK MAT

“Variety’s the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor.” – William Cowper – The Task and Other Poems

• Post Mortem by Jordan Castillo Price
• Dressing Down by Clare London
• Et Tu, Fishies? by JL Merrow
• Zones by Elyan Smith
• Sollicito by Charlie Cochrane
• A Few Days Away by Elin Gregory
• Vidi Velo Vici by Robbie Whyte
• Shelter From Storms by Sandra Lindsey
• Faulty Genes by Rebecca Cohen
• Lost in London by Tam Ames
• My Husband by Zahra Owens
• Waiting for a Spark by Lillian Francis
• Social Whirl by Emily Moreton
• School for Doms by Anne Brooke
• Dragon Dance by Josephine Myles
• Reclaiming Territory by Becky Black

Lashings of Sauce is an anthology that is truly a celebration of LGBT fiction and all its diversity, with sixteen equally fantastic short stories that run the gamut from lighthearted to erotic to poignant, as each author places his or her own personal and memorable stamp on this collection, giving me something to love about every story, whether it was the characters who made me laugh or those who touched my heart as they struggled to find an identity in a world where pronouns and Self are sometimes at conflict with one another.

Some of these authors are new to me, some are reliable favorites, but whichever the case they all delivered in a big way. It would take forever for me to list, story by story, what drew me into the lives of each of these characters, but suffice to say there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a fan of historical, paranormal, or contemporary fiction, and regardless of how you identify.

There are stories of new love, lost love, and renewal; stories of temptation and unrequited love; stories of healing and hope; stories that made me laugh out loud, smile, sigh, brought a lump to my throat, and a few of them were just flat-out, unapologetically sexy. Whatever the case, whatever the conflict, whatever the course, each of the characters found the way to the beginning of their happy ending. These are stories of loving unconditionally and finding the perfect someone who makes you feel perfect in yourself, discovering a common bond that makes you feel an uncommon joy.

I read this book, expecting with each story that I couldn’t possibly love the next as much as the previous. This is one time I can say I’m so glad I was wrong.

Buy Lashings of Sauce HERE.

5 Stars, John T. Fuller, Lulu

When the Music Stops by John T. Fuller

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what is right.” – Isaac Asimov

I love books that make me feel like a hypocrite. When the Music Stops is most definitely one of those books.

There is a line between doctor and patient that is never to be breached. That line becomes even more solidly defined when the patient is incapable of speaking for himself, making decisions for himself, providing for his own wellbeing, but that is exactly the line that’s crossed in John T. Fuller’s perfectly compelling, atmospheric, and provocative story of Daniel Archer, a physician at Link Hill mental institution.

Mr. White is the young man who unwittingly instigates the doctor’s slow decent toward perdition, in this tale that questions what is moral and what is right when sexual attraction toward a patient crosses the line into sexual action. Where is the line drawn between compassion and ethical conduct, restraint and desire? Is a man capable of consent when he may not understand what’s being asked of him? Does it matter if the doctor is motivated by love and mercy for a young man who is incapable of defending himself, especially when it’s in defense of those who would seek to maim him in the name of science?

If this were a real world situation—a doctor pursuing a psychologically impaired patient—I’m not sure I could look at it so charitably, but in When the Music Stops all I could do was to stand behind Dr. Archer and watch and hope that he could touch Mr. White both emotionally and physically, to draw the man out of himself and to let love heal the young man’s broken mind. I couldn’t react any other way because the author drew me into the story and made these characters and their challenges real and sympathetic, even though I questioned my feelings the entire way through. Dr. Archer and Mr. White were complex and magnetic, even though Mr. White didn’t utter more than a single word throughout the story—a single word that came to mean everything to him for the rest of his days with Daniel.

There was a Victorian Gothic feel to the narrative, and the horror was all too real in an asylum where humans played test subjects to all manner of experimentation in the name of curing their afflictions. I loved this historical romance, from its somber beginning all the way to its bittersweet ending.

Buy When the Music Stops HERE.

Anyta Sunday, Self-Published

Shane and Trey (Enemies to Lovers, #1) and a Bonus Short, Get It by Anyta Sunday

“Lovers may be—and indeed generally are—enemies…” – Lord Byron

Shane and Trey, book one in Anyta Sunday’s Enemies to Lovers series, begins as a story of unrequited love and ends as a story of unexpected love between two young men who began as anything but friends.

Outing himself in front of his best friend Ryan—the object of his affection—his twin sister June, and his sister’s boyfriend Trey was the furthest thing from Shane Watson’s mind when it happened in a spontaneous burst of emotion, but that single monumental event was the catalyst for everything that happens for the remainder of this turbulent story of family dysfunction, accidental romance, friendship, and unconditional love between a brother and sister.

A years long friendship destroyed in a single moment by homophobia, an intimidating reaction from an enemy, and the support of his sister greet Shane’s outburst in the weeks just before they all leave for college. It was Shane’s revelation of his sexuality that instigated a transformation in Trey Brennan, the boy who’d once bullied Shane, which ignites the spark of a potentially destructive relationship, a relationship that puts a sibling bond to the ultimate test. And, in fact, it’s June’s unwitting interference that throws Shane together with her boyfriend, who has now become Shane’s greatest temptation.

Shane and Trey is a story of both the healing and destructive power of love and the tenuous bond of family and friendship. It is a story of acceptance and trust amidst the insecurity of a future that cannot promise forever, and of accepting each moment as the gift it is. It’s a story of misunderstandings and overcoming doubts and of finding a way to repair the past. It’s a sometimes bittersweet but ultimately hopeful drama that Shane charmed me through as he navigated his way along on a journey with no direction, only following his heart toward the boy who loves him.

Get It is a bonus short story at the end of Shane and Trey that follows the unrequited love theme in a friends-to-lovers story that proves blindness is in the eye as well as the heart of the beholder.

There is a vapor-thin line that exists between loving someone and being in love with him, and it’s a line that Benny Reece and James Stewart walk on opposite sides of, loving each other on different sides of the spectrum of friendship.

Both men are suffering the pangs of unrequited love, though James’ suffering has further reaching implications. Losing Benny is far too high a price for James to pay, and their friendship isn’t something he’s willing to gamble away on something with such long odds, even knowing the payoff could be infinite, so he keeps his feelings sheltered within the comfort of the status quo. But the longer he yearns for Benny and watches him pursue a guy who really just isn’t that into him—couldn’t possibly ever be as into him as James—the harder it becomes for James to hide.

And all it takes is a single, simple moment of clarity for Benny to finally open his eyes and heart to the possibilities that’ve been right there in front of him all along.

Between the wanting and the waiting and the getting, there was a lot to love in this short little story. The mounting frustration and tension built naturally into James and Benny’s relationship played out wonderfully and made me wish for just a bit more when it ended.

Buy Shane and Trey and Get It HERE.

*Note: This book is FREE to Amazon Prime Members.*

4.5 Stars, Carina Press, L.B. Gregg

Men of Smithfield: Mark and Tony by L.B. Gregg

Meet Mark Meehan and Tony Gervase: my new addiction. Actually, I suppose that will apply to all the men of Smithfield, Connecticut, once I’ve had the opportunity to meet the rest of them. No, not all. There are a few resident dirtbags there, but for now, I’ll focus that addiction squarely on Mark and Tony.

If ever there has been a couple doomed to poor timing, it seems it’s these two, as life and circumstances continued to wear away at the very foundation of their connection—a friendship that could’ve been so much more if Mark hadn’t been too young and Tony hadn’t been too scared, and if there hadn’t been another man standing in the way (see: dirtbag) who ended up causing no small amount of trouble for both Mark and Tony, and kept Mark so utterly oblivious to the obvious—the fact that Tony has been and always will be there for him because, hello, Tony loves him. I guess there’s a reason they say love is blind.

Albert Einstein once said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once,” but boy, does Mark put that theory to the test because as soon as he walked into church and concussed the hell of out his suddenly ex-boyfriend, Jamie Dupree—with a Bible, no less (which is also the precise moment I started loving hard on Mark)—it seemed like that’s when time and trouble tangled into a big ball of Mark not being able to outrun or out-think any of it. But he did discover one thing in the whole process: he had Tony, and that’s really all that mattered in the end. Well, that and the fact that he survived in spite of it all.

I loved this book, loved Mark’s voice, L.B. Gregg’s humor and style and the way she provided just enough backstory for Mark and Tony’s relationship to hook me without getting bogged down in too many flashbacks to build the foundation for their romance. I love exposition as much as the next person, but sometimes I need it more than others to buy into a connection. With Mark and Tony, that bond was almost tangible and in this case, seeing really was believing, so I didn’t feel at all as if I’d been deprived of anything that’d come before. All I know is that what happened during was fun and manic and sexy, and now I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the Smithfield men. I don’t know if I’ll be seeing Mark and Tony again along the way; if I don’t, I sure will miss them.

L.B. Gregg is re-releasing the Men of Smithfield series with Carina Press, beginning August 6, with Men of Smithfield: Mark and Tony. There is no Pre-Order/Buy Link available at the time of this post.

Evernight Publishing, James Cox

The Three Hour Man (Manlove at the End of the World, #2) by James Cox

“Lust’s passion will be served.” – Marquis de Sade

The Three Hour Man (yes, it means exactly what you think it means) is the sequel to James Cox’s The Last Cowboy, the series set in a post-Plague world where a majority of the world’s population has been decimated by a deadly virus, leaving only the strongest to survive in a wasteland of loneliness and pent-up desire.

Deon and Chase were introduced at the end of book one in this series, where their story was set up to tell and which now goes back in time, roughly six months earlier, to explain how the two men met. I debated on whether or not to say this could be read as a stand-alone, but I think it is important to read the books in order, if not for the character set-up, then for some of the world building that’s done in The Last Cowboy, just to set the mood for what’s happening in this present dystopia.

Vigilantism and extremism are de rigueur, it seems, as the social structure of the country begins to crumble under the strain of survival and the compulsion to procreate and repopulate the earth, and those who suffer the most are those whose desires run contrary to the mania of the few who are bent upon fulfilling the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. This is where Deon meets Chase, as the young man is set to be hanged for his refusal, not to mention his inability, to breed on command.

On a steady diet of loneliness, then suddenly not being alone anymore; on a steady diet of denial, then suddenly having what you’ve most craved within reach, lust and sex become the things upon which these two men feast and ultimately forge a bond where their desires extend to the idea of creating a new Utopia where people will live together peacefully and in acceptance of each other’s differences.

I’ll be honest, reading these books from a woman’s POV has been…interesting, to say the least. This series is unapologetically erotic; it’s the contrast of uninhibited and joyful and frenzied sex set against a backdrop of a world that no longer holds much joy but does hold the promise of a better future. These men explore and expose all their feelings on the surface; they’re direct and end up the better for it because they’re no longer afraid to reach out and grab whatever measure of happiness they can find. I’m afraid that some of the…uh…well, let’s just say that I’m not sure I have the right equipment to fully appreciate the view James Cox is giving me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy looking.

Buy The Three Hour Man HERE.

Charlie Cochet, Torquere Press

The Amethyst Cat Caper (Birthstone, #1) and Two Small Gems – When Love Walked In and Lost in My Waking Dream by Charlie Cochet

“The riches that are in the heart cannot be stolen.” – Russian Proverb

The Amethyst Cat Caper could easily have been subtitled, “or the Case of the Stolen Hearts,” for as much as the Gentleman Thief scarpered with said cat from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, it was Hawk and Remi who absconded with the true treasure in this quick-fire romance wrapped within the mystery of an Ancient Egyptian statue that is mistaken for a forgery when it unexpectedly lands in Tom Winchell’s Antiquities and Oddities shop.

Stanley Hawk is the hardboiled Pinkerton’s agent with the soft gooey center who is hired to solve the case of a break in at Tom’s shop, where he discovers that Remington Trueblood may very well be at the core of the mystery. And he is, just not in the way Hawk had originally expected. It was easy for Hawk to jump to some conclusions about Remi, based on the limited evidence that’d turned up before he met the younger man. Unfortunately, it was also easy for Hawk to underestimate Remi after they met, which led to a fair share of problems between them. Remi is essentially Hawk, turned inside out, as Remi’s beautiful surface conceals the heart of a lion who is much stronger than he appears. One thing these two men didn’t get wrong, however, was the spark of attraction that lit the moment they set eyes upon one another.

In a case of lust preceding trust, Hawk makes a promise he has no intention of keeping, although he does it under the best of intentions—to keep Remi safe from the elusive and thoroughly cunning man who is set on acquiring the statue in Remi’s possession but who also seems to have a keen personal interest in Remi himself. Hawk’s betrayal, however, is one that Remi is unfortunately all too familiar with, and one that might not be easily forgiven or forgotten. Until, that is, something far more priceless than the statue is stolen from Remi, right in plain sight.

The intrigue unfolds quickly in this first book of the Birthstone series, as does the romance between Hawk and Remi. It was love at first sight for the two men, and whether there were forces far more powerful at work than an irresistible attraction, it’s hard to say; nothing is impossible where the gods are concerned, I suppose. And it seems there are far more treasures yet to be discovered in Tom Winchell’s curiosity shop, which I look forward to discovering along with Hawk and Remi, hopefully sooner rather than later so I can see their relationship grow as well.

Buy The Amethyst Cat Caper HERE.

When love walks into your life, you don’t ask why; you just take it for the gift it is, and for Bruce Shannon and Jace Scarret, it’s the best Valentine’s Day gift ever in When Love Walked In.

When one door closes, another opens, and in Jace’s case, doors have been slamming shut in his life to the point that it’s left him broke, homeless, starving and without hope. But it’s a single door that’s left open by mistake, by chance, by whatever you want to call it, that’s nothing less than serendipity for Jace because it’s the door that leads to Bruce, and it was his compassion and generosity, along with maybe a little bit of feline intervention that paved the way to romance for these two men I’d love to know so much more about.

It was the door to Bruce that allowed Jace to finally close the door forever on the past in this sweet and romantic little story that, even though we don’t get to see it, sure does promise a happy ever after.

Buy When Love Walked In HERE.

“The future is a convenient place for dreams.” – Anatole France

If ever there was a book I’ve wanted a sequel to, it’s Lost in My Waking Dream, the historical/futuristic/sci-fi/time travelling story of a man, George Fitzpatrick, who fought in and survived World War I, though he didn’t manage to come away from it entirely unscathed. George suffers from post traumatic stress episodes that he has managed to survive only because of the voice he hears inside of him, the voice of a man, Noah Baxter, who lives more than a century away from George’s present.

In the time that George is, he has a fiancé he can’t love enough to marry, and an ongoing arrangement with a male prostitute who plays Noah’s stand-in because when you can’t have the real thing, you make do with what you’ve got. In the time that George belongs, the time when his heart exists and a place where he could live and love openly, Noah is working tirelessly to find his way to the man he loves. The question is can he cheat the seemingly insurmountable triad of time, space, and death to bridge the gap that has kept them apart for so long?

George is all too painfully aware he can’t pin his hopes on an impossible dream, a life he can’t possibly grasp in a future over a century away, so he wanders the life he has, lost and wanting so desperately what he can’t have, making choices he’d never considered before and fighting a losing battle simply because Noah said, “I love you,” and tore George’s world apart.

This is a story filled with melancholy and promise, one that I’d have loved to see expanded into a full length novel, but really, I’d just be happy with a sequel…okay, a full length sequel; that’s not asking too much, is it? I felt an immediate sense of connection to George and Noah and couldn’t wait to see how Charlie Cochet wrote them out of their terrible and tragic predicament. The only sense of disappointment I felt was in the fact that their story had to end.

Buy Lost in My Waking Dream HERE.
*Note: If you’re a regular Amazon customer, avoid buying this book from that site as there are terrible formatting issues with it. I had to return it for a refund and re-purchased the book directly from Torquere, which was fine. :)

Kirby Crow, Reya Starck, Riptide Publishing

Circuit Theory by Kirby Crow and Reya Starck

It seems the more I read, the harder it gets to find unique, so I feel really lucky that I’ve discovered more than a few books lately that have set themselves just that little bit apart from the standard in their originality; Circuit Theory is definitely one of those books.

Roleplaying games aren’t a new concept, but the internet has elevated roleplaying to a virtually realistic medium that has pulled gamers away from game boards and placed them in a room in front of a computer, where they are alone together with millions of other people on the World Wide Web.

The internet has been vilified as a killer of interpersonal relationships and communication skills; it has been heralded as a medium that has shrunk the world and drawn people of all walks of life together. It is a global village where a person can be as anonymous or as conspicuous as he wishes to be. It’s a cyber world where a person can portray himself the way he wishes he truly were; he can be an entirely different persona from the one he sees when he looks in the mirror and from the one who points and clicks his way through the affectation, no one the wiser.

For Dante Hera and Byron Koro, the realm of codes and bytes and bandwidth has taken the concept of partnership and drawn it into the construct of a virtual world where they can be lovers and form an emotional and physical connection in a way they could never do in the lives they live outside of Synth. Outside the world of Synth, they are separated by thousands of miles of land and ocean, so they work to form a bond of hearts and minds as their avatars compose and orchestrate a relationship inside a realm where physical contact isn’t of the flesh but of the fantasy.

Inside Synth, virtual people succumb to all the insecurities of fitting in and trusting and building relationships among fellow gamers playing sometimes exaggerated digital versions of their ideal selves in a pseudo-society that, to them, is very real. It’s a world that’s as unreal as it is meaningful to the people who choose to inhabit it, and is the only place in their world that exists where Dante and Byron can love and touch and have an intimate relationship with each other.

Don’t expect to get to know much about “the real” Dante and Byron. In fact, don’t expect to get to know too much about the virtual Dante and Byron either. But I think that’s the point of this story—that sense of disconnect in a life connected by cables, modems, and typos. How much do you really know about the person to whom you’re tied when that tie is ephemeral and can be cut by nothing more than a glitch or click of the mouse button?

Circuit Theory is a short story that really made me think about how the internet has become such an integral part of social relationships. It’s interesting and intelligent science fiction that truthfully isn’t so far from reality. I liked and disliked it at the same time for making me realize that staying connected and being part of a collective can still be a lonely and temporary business.

Circuit Theory is available for Pre-Order HERE and will be available for purchase July 30, 2012.

5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Edmond Manning

King Perry (The Lost & Founds, Book #1) by Edmond Manning

How is one supposed to find the words to review a book in which the author has already exhausted (Vin might love the irony of that x in such a lethargic word) all the most brilliant words in the English language to tell his story? Come to think of it, Vin might like the word lethargic. Maybe he’d think it’s a word that has rocked itself to sleep on the letter c. But I digress…

You just take a deep breath and hope to do your best, I suppose.

King Perry is, simply put, a spectacle of storytelling. It is a forty-hour-long journey narrated by a man the likes of which I’ve never encountered in all my years of reading. Vin Vanbly says, at one point, “Found Kings love paradox. Lost Kings love irony, the shadow of paradox.” If that’s true, then Vin is both the Lost and the Found, and though he calls himself the Human Ghost, if I were to try to find a way to describe him, I’d say he is the King of kings because he is the Storyteller King, and he who holds the power of words, sits upon the throne that rules the world.

Honestly, I just want to pour all the words out of this book and into my brain so I can keep reading it over and over again in my memory. I want to stand in the middle of its pages and shake it like a snowglobe until all the words skitter around me in an exhilarating (x!) swirl of luminosity. I want to bathe in these words until I exude exuberance (x, x!) in such vigorous doses that people can smell the ink seeping from my pores. That’s how much I loved this book. (Vin would probably be a little miffed at me right now for getting the word vigorous stuck on a continuous loop in his brain. For that, I’d apologize, but he’s right. It’s a wondrous word.)

Imagine if we all, Kings and Queens alike, were born into a Neverland where we become the tourists on the journey of life. We, the potential Peter Pans, incorporate all of life’s experiences in different ways, some of us holding on to the miracle and wonder of a mish-mashed childlike grownup innocence, while others of us have forgotten, or rather, lost the ability to remember what it once meant to feel warm, safe, oblivious to all the aches and disappointments life has to offer—the Lost ones. Now, imagine Vin Vanbly is the navigation system and the mechanic, the man who uses the cardinal points on the metaphysical compass of being to redirect the lives of those who need rescuing from the break-down lane of life’s highway. He is the tour guide and the technician who helps the Lost find their inner Kings and Queens again, and he does so by making himself the magnetic North toward which his Lost ones gravitate, even when they sometimes fight against the pull he has on them.

This is Vin Vanbly—the man whose own innocence was stolen from him as a child, but who loves so deeply and lives so passionately that he can’t bear to witness a fellow human being wandering aimlessly on his own journey. Vin is the alchemist and his love and his words are the quicksilver he uses to transmute the base metal of a Lost King into the Golden Found. His methods are more than a little unorthodox (how’s that one, Vin? Unorthodox?), and it’s difficult to predict where he’s going from one moment to the next, but the end result is all that matters, and the end result for Perry Mangin is that in a world that honors sameness, he dared to be different when it mattered.

There is a recurring theme in Perry’s life before he meets Vin: ”I always said I would, though.” Perry lives in a world of could’ve/would’ve/should’ve/haven’t, so Vin guides him through a series of adventures that will end with, no matter how outrageous and impossible to believe, the been-there-done-that marvel of flicking an emotional spinner and watching the needle land somewhere between crippling fear and liberating joy (hey, Vin, maybe that’s the definition of vigor), which results in Vin honoring Perry with the gift of healing his inner child and giving rise to his King.

Imagine standing in front of a painting and staring at it for hours, studying it, admiring it, absorbing it to the point that it imprints upon you so completely that when you close your eyes, it’s all you see on the backs of your eyelids. That’s kind of the way this book resonated with me, but I also get the feeling this is the way Vin has imprinted upon Perry, and vice versa. When they each close their eyes at night, they will see the other as shape and form and substance but also as color and sparkles and light and feelings and scent and the sounds of the love that evolved over their forty hours together, as Perry is destroyed and rebuilt into, not a new Perry, but certainly an improved Perry. Oscar Wilde once said that “every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” Maybe the Forgiver King and the Human Ghost are reflections of the personal brushstrokes Edmond Manning used to give these men substance.

King Perry is not a romance yet it is exceedingly romantic. There is not a traditional happy ending yet it ends happily. It’s part of Dreamspinner Press’s Bittersweet Dreams collection, yet I found it to be far less bitter than sweet. And finally, it is a journey of self-discovery and the pursuit of forgiveness of the Fates that cheated a boy of his father and made him afraid to open his heart.

I don’t want to diminish the brilliance behind this book, but Edmond Manning makes this storytelling business look effortless. There are words that thread together to tell a passable story; then there are words that layer, one on top of the other, like the bricks of a fairy tale castle with secret passageways and peaked turrets and even dungeons where dragons lurk in the shadows. Each and every sentence of this story builds upon the next to create an extraordinary and magical adventure. It is subtle yet overt, textured with humor and passion and compassion and eroticism. It is seductive and enchanting and I was completely charmed by the writing, the characters, and the story this author told so impeccably.

If you said to me, “Wow, you really loved this book,” there’s only one reply I could give, to quote Vin Vanbly:

”You’re probably right.”

Buy King Perry HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, Eden Winters

It’s An Eden Winters Friday – The Wish (2nd Edition), The Newly Re-Released Tinsel and Frost, And A New FREE Short, Valentine Wish

Two years and two months ago, I was brand new to the M/M romance genre, and it was two years and two months ago, with a book that I stumbled upon quite by accident in my frenzy to discover more, more, more books to feed my newly reawakened passion for reading, that I became a fan of Eden Winters and her novel The Wish, which, later that year, also made my Top Picks of 2010 list at Michele ‘n Jeff Reviews.

Why? What made The Wish stand apart from so many of the other books I’d read that year? If I had to name a single defining point that makes The Wish all that it is, I’d have to say it’s because of the singularly romantic, epically wondrous theme that, as William Goldman said in The Princess Bride, “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”

The Wish, you see, is a novel about two men, Paul Sinclair and Alex Martin, who share what I’ll call an unintentional bond with each other. They are men who couldn’t be more opposite in personality or lifestyle, as opposite, really, as up is from down and dark is from light. Theirs is, in fact, a hate-at-first-sight story based solidly in misperception, jealousy, suspicion, and outright mistrust of each other’s motives. But, oh but do they have one glorious commonality that will eventually enlighten their shared suspicions and dislikes, then lay them to waste—and that is a capital L kind of Love, a Love that has been both personified and exemplified to each of them individually since they were just boys. And that is the Love that could not be weakened even by death. If anything, rather than destroying that Love, death empowered it, and it is that kind of Love that Paul and Alex so desperately want; although it takes no short amount of time, as well as a bit of intentional interference from several interested parties, for the two men to reach the starting line of their long race toward a happy ending.

So, who are the men whom Paul and Alex hold in such high esteem and whose Love has set the bar against which all other love is measured? That would be their uncles, Byron Sinclair and Alfred Anderson, and their May/December romance is the Love that transcends the boundaries of what lies beyond.

Although Byron is never alive in the pages of this book, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist as a wholly developed and important presence in the story. I’d even go so far as to say he’s the life of this story; at least, he was for me because it’s his death that is the starting line for Paul and Alex and for Alfred, as well. It is the stepping off point for everything that follows, as Byron is the beginning and the end and then a new beginning for Alfred on the journey toward an eternal bond with the man who’d been his touchstone for nearly thirty years.

So see, where most other books offer only one love story, in The Wish I got two, and while one of those romances got off to a shaky start, it’s how it withstood the journey that counted. I can say with complete honesty that it unfolded beautifully and now that I’ve had a second chance to visit these characters, I’m reminded why they remain among my all time favorites; because their stories touched the sometimes cynical part of me that needs reminding true and forever love does exist.

**As an added bonus, Eden has offered a FREE short story, Valentine Wish that takes place in The Wish-verse and centers around two of its minor characters, Isaac Lewis and Thierry Guillaume, and it’s an after-Wish sweet that’s a lovely way to finish off the main course.**

Buy The Wish HERE.

Download Valentine Wish HERE.

“When the music changes, so does the dance.” – African Proverb

Before a car accident rerouted the direction of his life, before Tony became Tony and he was still Anthony, he was an accomplished ballet dancer and the stage was his world. But as the musical score of his life changed from Tchaikovsky to the pounding rhythms of the strip club where he now dances for tips, Tony learns a valuable lesson: if you give a man a tip, he dances for a day; if you give a man love, he dances for a lifetime.

This short and glorious little story is a tale of two Tonys and how far he travels from the spotlight of a celebrated ballet career to the footlights of a stage where wolf whistles and grasping hands and suggestive comments punctuate the bump and grind he does with his dance pole partner. Stripping can be an aggressive business, especially when there are those in the audience who can’t take their eyes off you, while all the time they’re looking down on you as an object to be groped and demeaned.

Tony’s first set may very well have turned out to be the lowest point of his dancing career if not for the fact that it resulted in the best gift he could’ve ever gotten that Christmas. Meeting Johnny “Frost” Davis might not have happened under the best of circumstances, but it turned out to be a pretty amazing event and one that revealed a lot about how truly wonderfully made these two men are.

What can I say? I want more Tony and Frost. Tinsel and Frost is sweet and sexy and just whetted my greedy little appetite, and I’d love to see more of their before and much more of their after someday soon.

Buy Tinsel and Frost HERE.

Ramblings, Videos

Grab Some Tissues And Watch…Just…Watch

I don’t surf the net much. Hell, I don’t even watch television much. I’m too busy reading, so I may be the last person on the planet to have seen this video. Okay, maybe not the last, but nearly three-million people have seen this video before me, so yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

This is the story of two men, one from right here in Indiana, that should cause everyone who opposes Gay Marriage to sit back and take a good long look at that position, though based on some of the comments on YouTube, the ignorant and bigoted are still determined to out themselves publicly, every chance they get.

This story is tragic and heartbreaking but has also become the catalyst for a project by Hollywood producer Linda Bloodworth Thomas that one can only hope will advance the march toward equality for everyone who wants to formally commit themselves to the person they love.

Shane and Tom’s story is difficult to watch, but well worth the time:

4.5 Stars, Charlie Cochet, Dreamspinner Press

The Auspicious Troubles of Chance (The Auspicious Troubles of Love, #1) by Charlie Cochet

“If you don’t create change, change will create you.” – Unknown

Even when Chauncey Irving isn’t looking for trouble, trouble seems determined to find Chauncey Irving, and there was indeed a time when the man went purposefully looking for it with a certain sense of obsessive need. Until, that is, a very wise boy taught Chauncey a little lesson about what it means to live and think and behave outside the confines of his own existence and to start considering the one who considers him above all others.

I knew the moment I started reading The Auspicious Troubles of Chance it was going to be unlike any book I’d ever read before, not only because Chauncey started out by talking directly to me from the pages of the book, but also because the man was bleeding from a gunshot wound when he decided it’d be a great idea to start telling the story of how he’d gotten from New York City to Buckinghamshire, England, by way of a short detour in Africa.

So how does an orphan who found himself on the streets of New York by the age of seven, working odd jobs—well, mostly losing odd jobs because Chauncey was and still is a bit of a pill—end up in England via Africa and the French Foreign Legion? That’s a long story and one Chauncey should tell because it’s his to share, but I will say it’s an awfully good one.

It’s where Chauncey’s life ended, really, there in the African desert, as part of a unit of ragtag soldiers who didn’t fit in anywhere but under the command of Jacky Valentine, quite possibly one of the most charming men I’ve ever encountered in the pages of a book, but that’s beside the point. The point is why Chauncey’s life ended, and that’s because Africa is the place he became Chance. Africa is the place where Chance was born to the reality that in order to change his life he was going to have to change his heart, and it was with the help of three teenage boys, clever beyond their years, boys who taught Chance that as bad as his life has been, if he’s vigilant enough, he’s bound to meet someone whose life has been worse, boys who eventually become part of a make-shift family with Jacky and Chance, that Chance finally came to the realization he could open his heart to the man who loved him in spite of the fact Chance had done everything to sabotage that gift.

Loving the first person narrative is easy to do when you love the narrator, and oh my, did I love Chance, even when he didn’t love himself and couldn’t move fast enough to get out of his own way. He tested Jacky’s patience and resolve nearly every step of the way, but he did so with wit and charm and no small amount of exasperating determination to do exactly the opposite of what he’d been ordered to do. It wasn’t easy for Chance to accept that Jacky loved him, given his past, and it wasn’t until Chance nearly lost Jacky forever that he was finally able to accept what change had created in him.

I had a sneaking suspicion after reading Roses in the Devil’s Garden that I could truly, madly, deeply become hooked on Charlie Cochet’s work. The Auspicious Troubles of Chance is all the proof I needed to quit suspecting and just let it be.

This is the first book in The Auspicious Troubles of Love series and I’m every bit as excited to see what’s yet to come for Johnnie, Henry, Alexander, and Bobby as I am glad to know that Chance and Jacky will be back along with them. I adore them all; their humor and their heart and their fears and all the promise of wonderful things yet to come.

Buy The Auspicious Troubles of Chance HERE.

2.5 Stars, G.S. Wiley, Torquere Press

A Recondite Matter by G.S. Wiley

“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us.” – H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

It was the year 1912, and the Titanic disaster was making headlines the world over, but there was a tragedy occurring much closer to home for Francis Holden-Burrell that April—the death of Sir Desmond Rivest, a mere week after the Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Sea. Desmond was a much older man than Francis, a man with a wife and daughter, and though Francis wanted much more, Desmond never crossed the boundaries of their friendship. He was a man whose life had been dedicated to the search for knowledge and adventure, but he’d ever forsaken exploring an intimate relationship with Francis in spite of how much he had apparently loved his friend in return.
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J.H. Trumble, Kensington Press

Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble

“But speechless was our love, and with veils has it been veiled. Yet now it cries aloud unto you, and would stand revealed before you. And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran

Praising a book I’ve loved isn’t really so hard for me. The hard part is knowing exactly how and where to start, and never before have I been in a situation where I’ve felt I have an unfair advantage because my thoughts and feelings about the book have been, not influenced or altered by the author, but have been supported and enlightened by the rare opportunity I had to discuss with her the characters and their motivations, as well as being able to ask why she chose to write the ending the way she did.

Don’t Let Me Go is a book that required a lot of hand-holding for me, for which I owe a huge thank you to Isabel, who cheered me on and talked me off the ledge when I thought the vice grip around my heart was going to cause the poor pitiful thing to burst like an overinflated balloon.

This is not an easy story to get through. There is angst and conflict, heartbreak and hope, anger and betrayal, misunderstanding and hurt, damnation and redemption, destruction and recovery, judgment and forgiveness and finally, healing. Nate Schaper and Adam Jeffries’ love is tested by a brutal crime, a crime which I discovered was loosely based upon an actual hate crime with far more tragic results, and though that love withstands the horrific aftermath of that violence, it survives only to be tested again and again, by bitter regret and insecurity, by a distance of miles that causes a distancing of emotions, by a blatant manipulation that severs what should’ve been an unbreakable bond, and in the end, by a misguided farewell that eviscerates their relationship and leaves it hemorrhaging its lifeblood all over a future that never had a chance to become.

Nate and Adam were a couple for the ages, a love story to end all love stories, until a chapter of their romance rewrote itself and rather than happily-ever-after, they became yet another tragic ending, overwhelmed by the weight of expectations and the burden of miscommunication. Where there ought to have been trust there was doubt and where that doubt was allowed to fester, it thrived, and just when it seemed they’d put paid to all the misunderstandings, Nate himself put the final exclamation point on how far adrift he and Adam had gone.

But where there is love, there is also the opportunity for salvation, and there is a point where letting go is all you can do in order to gain a new fingerhold on your life and to claw your way up from the abyss that had once been bridged by your faith in forever. This is a story where letting go doesn’t mean giving up; it means surrendering to the knowledge that you can’t change what has been but you can influence what is to come by embracing that faith once again, by owning the mistakes that’ve been made, and by seeking forgiveness for them at the same time. It is the knowledge that there is a pattern to every life and in order to see the picture completed, there are lines that must be connected from the past to the present, connections that had been broken that must be closed, things that had been left undone, words left unspoken.

This is a story of the strength of friendships and the immeasurable gift of unconditional support that’s not given to you for any other reason than kindness, compassion, and good still exists in the world. It is a story about not only growing up but also growing out and evolving and becoming the someone you need to be to find the peace you need to thrive.

I’m going to be perfectly honest—there are elements in this book that took me some time to wrap my head around in order to be able to accept them, but everything that happens to Nate and Adam along the way does happen for a reason. For these two young men, there truly is a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to keep silent, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate—every challenge they face has its purpose, even though it’s sometimes difficult to decipher and accept. Threaded through every fairy tale, there is a necessary evil. Woven into every hero’s journey there is an essential conflict. If there is no challenge to face, no dragon to slay, no obstacle to overcome, then there is no reward to be gained in the end, because there was never any danger of losing that which meant everything to you, that defines the very heart and soul of you, and that needs protecting in order for it to remain the touchstone of your existence.

I had myself prepared for a variety of different outcomes before this story ended, but I’m happiest with the one I got, though part of me wishes it never had to end at all. This is a story and these are characters I’ll not soon forget and may even revisit again someday if I’m brave enough to go through it all over again.

Buy Don’t Let Me Go HERE.

Ava March, Loose Id

His Client by Ava March

“It’s hard to pretend you love someone when you don’t, but it’s even harder to pretend you don’t love someone when you do.” – Unknown

Jasper Reed knows a little bit about what it feels like to be Nathaniel Travers. No, Jasper and Nate don’t travel in the same social and economic circles—Nate’s uncle is a viscount, and Jasper…well, Jasper’s a whore and is the bastard son of a gin-whore mother, so, no, these two men couldn’t come from more vastly different life experiences. But Jasper knows what it feels like to be Nate because Jasper understands what it feels like to watch the person you love, love someone else. He also understands that there’s no greater pain in the world than loving someone you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, you will never have. Jasper knows this because he loves Nate the way Nate loves his dearest friend, Peter Edmonton, the man who’s set to marry Miss Catherine Harper, the woman Peter loves and very much wants to spend the rest of his life with.

How much does Jasper love Nate? Enough that Jasper could’ve quit selling his body well before the fifth year of their association, but the idea of retiring and never seeing Nate again was far too high a price to pay to bear considering it. It’s not as though Jasper and Nate could be seen together in London, after all. Nate has not been Jasper’s only client over the course of his decade at Madame Delacroix’ brothel, and it would certainly not do to sully Nate’s reputation to associate publicly with Jasper, nor would it do to put Nate on a fast track to the gallows should his sexual preferences ever be discovered. So allowing Nathaniel to continue to pay for his services is the only way Jasper is able to gain any amount of time with the one man who has, from the very start, done the one thing no one else ever has—treated him with kindness, with respect; treated him like a human being rather than a whore whose only value is measured by what he can do on his back, on his knees, or bent over in whatever position he’s being paid to assume.

For five years, Jasper has been the one Nate has turned to and trusted with the pain of his unrequited love for Peter. For five years, Jasper has been the one Nate has turned to and trusted with the secret of his sexual proclivities. For five years, Jasper has been Nate’s beck-and-call boy, but now, after five long and heartbreaking years of knowing that the only reason Nate keeps Jasper’s company is because Nate pays for the pleasure of having his physical needs satisfied, Jasper understands that it’s time to end the pretense of their friendship and start over new, to begin again somewhere that no one knows who he is or how he made his living.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” turns out to be less a cliché and more a canon for Nate Travers when Jasper tells him goodbye. Nate had spent years pining for a man he couldn’t have, or more so, pining for the idea of a man he couldn’t have, all the while being so utterly blind to what was right in front of him, just waiting to be claimed. It took five years to build their relationship, a mere moment to lose it, and then just a matter of weeks for Nate to finally wake up to the realization that he’d just let the best thing to ever happen to him slip away as if all they’d shared had never mattered.

Now the question is, is it too late for Nate to convince Jasper that missing him has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with a love he didn’t recognize until it was no longer within his reach? And how far will Nate go to prove it?

I’m tempted to huff just a little that it felt as though Nate stumbled upon his feelings for Jasper a bit too quickly, especially after he’d spent the past five years with Jasper, pining over Peter. But that’s most likely due to the fact that for the majority of the book, it felt as though Ava March was trying to break my heart—and was doing an excellent job of it. When Nathaniel finally comes to his senses, there was a heaping sense of what-took-you-so-long? with a small side of well-that-seemed-easy-enough. But maybe that’s the way love is when you finally recognize it and can put a name to it and then come to the realization that you must get out of your own way in order to claim it—you want it with a sense of urgency born in the shame and embarrassment of it having taken you so long to figure it all out.

Regardless, His Client is another tick in my success column for Ms. March. I am a fan of her writing style, her Regency era settings, her characters, and the love stories she spins around them.

Buy His Client HERE.

5 Stars, All Romance Ebooks, Charlie Cochet

Small Gems – Roses in the Devil’s Garden (Fallen Roses, #1) – A Free Story by Charlie Cochet

“There is a rose in the Devil’s garden/In shadow it grows alone/Many things are dangerous now/In this garden we call home.” – Tiger Army, “Rose of the Devil’s Garden”

Roses in the Devil’s Garden is a short and sublime little story set in New York City during the height of prohibition in the United States, when the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution made it illegal to manufacture, transport, sell, and consume liquor in America, but the Amendment did more than further the agenda of the American Temperance movement; it was also the catalyst for the swell of organized crime in the US, as well as fostering rampant corruption within law enforcement, which is often a side-effect that comes along when enterprising men exercise the ability to exploit power and human want for financial gain. There was no gray area in those days: there were good guys and there were bad guys, and sometimes it was difficult to tell the difference between the two until you found yourself on the wrong end of a gun.

Agents Harlan Mackay and Nathan Reilly care about doing the job they were hired to do, even though they don’t care very much at all for the temperance movement itself or for the corruption it has bred. Their jobs involve nabbing the small fish that swim in the much larger pond of criminal activity, attempting to bait and hook the much bigger fish that remain in the shadows and who are the untouchables. Harlan and Nathan are two men who understand very well what it has meant to remain in the shadows in order to live their lives as they wish. In 1925, the very nature of their relationship was against the law, but six years after they met and shared their first kiss, in World War I France, their claim upon each other’s hearts is as strong as ever.

Or that was the case until a man from Nathan’s past, a man Nathan thought had died during the war, suddenly turns up in their precinct’s interrogation room, attempting to work a little information out of one of those proverbial small fish Harlan and Nathan had just nabbed in a speakeasy sting, and while Danny’s at it, he also tries to work his way back into Nathan’s life. Danny Brogan is Nathan’s childhood friend and his first love and he is a temptation the likes of which Nathan has not faced since he fell in love with and committed himself to Harlan. Danny is the Devil’s garden where temptation is the poisonous thorn on every rose, a poison that could very well kill what Harlan and Nathan have worked so hard to grow.

Roses in the Devil’s Garden was a first for me—the first time I’d read a historical romance constructed around the Prohibition, and the first time I’d read anything written by Charlie Cochet. It won’t be the last, guaranteed.

Every single thing about this book drew me in: the title, the cover, the setting, the time period, the writing style, and most of all, the men who populated the piece. Though it’s a short story and I didn’t get to spend much time getting to know Harlan and Nathan, I was immediately attracted to them, individually and as a couple.

This is the first book in a new series and it sets things up perfectly for a budding romance between Danny and Detective John Flynn, a man Harlan and Nathan literally talked down from the ledge of despair and a man I can’t wait to get to know better. There is also a secondary character, Julius, who plays a small but significant role in the story. I’m keeping my fingers crossed he’ll get his own book in the series as well.

My single biggest wish, though, is for the upcoming books in the series to be longer. Much, much longer.

Download Roses in the Devil’s Garden HERE.

4.5 Stars, Anyta Sunday

(In)visible by Anyta Sunday

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Those are the final three words of Anyta Sunday’s wondrous (In)visible and to be perfectly honest, there are no three words I could come up with that would better sum up all that this book was for me. Part coming-of-age story, part fairy tale, part fantasy, part love story, this novel is so much more than I’d expected it would be when I began reading. It is a journey of self-discovery for two young men, filled with all the teenage angst of awakening sexuality, first love, the first kiss, and the bitterness of loss when fate and misfortune burden Rune and Scott with the curse of witnessing the harshest realities of the world around them, all too soon.

From the opening paragraphs of this book, as Rune stands at the edge of a river, contemplating yet another attempt at ending his own life—as he’s done every year for the past three years—the mystery and the need to unravel the tangled threads of his affliction begins. Rune is invisible, you see, which I’d mistakenly believed to be a metaphor for a lost child who’d been overlooked, ignored, dismissed, and become dispensable, but it soon became very clear that I was wrong. No, Rune is not the unseen; he is quite literally the invisible, a curse handed down to him by his mother, and one that figures prominently into every aspect of this narrative. Rune is the personification of magic and mystery and it didn’t take but a few sentences for him to cast his spell on me.

It was a fateful but fortunate accident that Rune and Scott met at the edge of that river. It was also a fortunate twist of fate that somehow Scott could see Rune. Though Rune is able to will himself visible when he wants to, Scott, whether it was with his eyes or his heart, could see through the aura that shields Rune from others. Why? Well, that’s never spelled out for the reader, which is probably as it should be because sometimes there are no concrete answers to all the mysteries of the universe; some things must be accepted solely on faith.

Three years of running from a horrific and life-altering event that would reshape the pattern of Rune’s already tormented existence, ends when Scott invites Rune into his life and offers him sanctuary from the loneliness of his invisibility. They form a friendship made all the more significant by its rarity, as their bond is one that is not shared with anyone but the two of them, and it is a bond that, in the awkwardness and anxiety of the growing sexual awareness of two fourteen-year-old boys, blossoms into a sweet and innocent first love.

Until tragedy intrudes upon the idyllic summer the boy shared, and the past comes back to torture Rune in one horrific and misunderstood event, forcing him to sacrifice his own happiness as the only option to protect Scott from the contamination of Rune’s affliction.

For four years, Scott lived with the notion that Rune hadn’t loved him enough to stay and see him through the single defining moment of his young life—the death of his father, Scott’s misguided guilt over his culpability in that tragic event, and the subsequent decline of his mother’s fragile grasp on her sanity. Those four long years were spent with the knowledge that a boy whose entire world fit into a single small bag that was always packed, always with him, and kept him ready to run on a moment’s notice had abandoned Scott without a single word of explanation. What Scott didn’t know was that Rune was never far away and when, by chance, they meet again, all the pain and heartbreak Scott endured may be too much for all the love Rune feels for him to overcome, a love which, upon reflection, is the light that guides Scott, the light that embraces him and finally enables him to see himself as worthy of all Rune has to offer.

Nowhere was it ever promised that this would be an easy journey, and it wasn’t. In fact, I had myself fully prepared for a tragic ending, tissues at the ready, which is why I forced myself to sit on my opinion of this book for a couple of days. Oddly enough, I felt a bit disappointed when it ended happily. But what initially felt anticlimactic to me after the emotional tug-of-war of the entire book, was really more a misperception on my part of what this story wasn’t—or maybe what it was—which is, at its heart, a fairy tale love story in which the magic of love overcomes a curse and binds two young men together in a happily-ever-after. Exactly what a fairy tale is supposed to do.

Anyta Sunday has authored a fully unique and fantastical story constructed around two characters with whom I instantly and irrevocably fell in love. I read all two-hundred-nine pages of this book in a single sitting, absorbed every beautiful word of it, which is maybe the best compliment I can pay to it.

*(In)visible appears to be available only in Kindle format and can purchased HERE.*

Ava March, Carina Press

Rogues (Brook Street #3) by Ava March

“The difference between friendship and love is how much you can hurt each other.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

Linus Radcliffe and Robert Anderson have been friends for eighteen years, have even, on occasion, been friends with benefits in spite of the fact that Rob is an aggressively straight man, as committed to finding his next widow or unhappily married woman to bed as Linus is devoted to homing in on the next willing man he can use to slake his lust.

Robert was Linus’ first—his first man, his first kiss, the first to touch Linus’ in all his most intimate places, but over the course of their friendship, Linus has willed himself to let go of any hope he’d once held that he and Robert would ever be anything more than just friends. Linus hasn’t given up on having Rob in his life but has come to accept that, in spite of the pain of surrendering a dream, there are simply some things that are not meant to be, and a future as Rob’s lover and partner is one of those things.

It seems, however, that regardless of Linus’ hard fought intentions to keep the status quo of their relationship intact, Robert has inexplicably become determined to redefine the parameters of whatever it is that’s been going on between the two of them over the course of nearly two decades. Robert’s serial philandering suddenly isn’t so appealing to him anymore, and being forced to watch Linus make his way through the men of the ton hurts in more ways than Robert can express verbally, so there’s little left for him to do but to let his actions speak for him, determining that it’s time to go on the offensive and storm the walls Linus has built to define their friendship and to protect his heart. Robert launches a full-frontal assault in declaring himself and his wants. What he doesn’t expect, however, is for Linus to go on the defensive and thwart the attack so effectively.

Linus understands that Robert tends to want what he can’t have, which makes Robert’s pushing of the boundaries that’ve been safe and comfortable, if not altogether pleasant, all the more painful, for Linus feels he has no choice but to repel his friend’s advances. The harder Robert pushes, the further Linus retreats with the fear that even the slightest change in the circumstances between them will cause an outcome that Linus absolutely could not bear. Not having a forever with Robert is difficult enough. Not having an anything with Robert is intolerable.

So, when there’s nothing left to do but to do something that feels a lot like surrender, it’s Robert who concedes. For Robert, the only course of action is his own inaction. In order to keep Linus in his life, in whatever capacity Linus is capable giving, Robert must let go and send up a silent prayer that whatever lies within Linus’ heart and whatever will come of it, that he, Robert, is worthy and will be enough.

It’s truly something when you can say a book isn’t your favorite in a series, yet are still able to say that you loved it, all the same. Brook Street: Rogues is that book for me. While there weren’t the challenges of the social inequities of Lord Benjamin and Cavin’s relationship, the sexuality conflicts of Sasha and Thomas’, or the betrayal of Oscar by Julian that delayed their happiness, there was a definite poignancy in this friends-to-lovers story: the fears of destroying a trusted bond, the acceptance that friendship is enough, and the sure knowledge that discretion is a fair price to pay for a forever love.

Buy Brook Street: Rogues HERE.

Ava March, Carina Press

Fortune Hunter (Brook Street #2) by Ava March

“Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Oscar Woodhaven may be the loneliest man in all of London in spite of the fact that he’s young, excessively wealthy, a member of the London ton, and has a small but loyal group of friends with whom he associates. One would assume that Oscar’s life was both filled and fulfilling but one would be wrong because despite the fact that Oscar’s social calendar is indeed full, he is still an incredibly lonely man who is rarely appreciated for who he is but for what he has.

The death of his parents saw Oscar taken in by an aunt and uncle who did little more than tolerate his presence and milk his insecurities because it bought them a comfortable life. They didn’t want Oscar himself but they certainly did want the inheritance and all the property and prestige that accompanied him when they claimed him. Yes, Oscar has trust issues because for most of his life, people have seen him not for the priceless gifts he can give of himself—kindness and loyalty and friendship—but for the material objects and status by association his wealth can provide.

Julian Parker, a black sheep by virtue of being born into the wrong flock of Lord Benjamin Parker’s family, returns to London from America, penniless, saddled with his father’s poor reputation, without social prospects, and in search of a wealthy woman to marry in order to secure his financial future. Marriages of convenience were more the rule than the exception in London society, after all, so not being at all attracted to, let alone in love with the woman he settles on isn’t much of an excuse for Julian not to blindly pursue his objective, and meeting Oscar proves to be a most fortunate advantage for this poorest of the Parker clan.

Who better than the wealthy and connected Oscar to help Julian gain entrance to the social circles he must infiltrate in order to accomplish his goals? And it’s with the best of intentions that Oscar opens his home and purse in friendship to Julian. But, of course, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road to love is paved with broken hearts, and some of the most painful lies aren’t the ones you tell but the ones you purposefully omit. When Oscar quickly becomes so much more than a benefactor to Julian, it’s those lies by omission that prove to Oscar he has been seeing things most decidedly as they are not, which leaves Julian with nothing else to do but to prove to Oscar that love is not a deception and that the Julian who was is not the Julian who will be—a man in whom Oscar can place his trust and the man who will love Oscar for who he is and not for what he can buy.

Brook Street: Fortune Hunter is the story of the worth of a man and the weight of his integrity. It is the story of a man who gambles away love and friendship along with his self respect, and loses far more than he’s prepared to pay. Julian Parker must determine the value of his character, the cost of his convictions, and determine what he’s willing to forfeit in order to gain, not the least of which is his own honor and the respect of the man whose worth is immeasurable.

There’s a definite blueprint to each book in this blueblood series, a design I’ve been more than happy to follow to each happy ending that Ava March has constructed from the conflicts her characters navigate. Redemption and second chances are won only after the men suffer for the love of the other, each reward coming at a price but one each man is willing to pay in defiance of what society demands, for the sake of his own happiness.

Buy Brook Street: Fortune Hunter HERE.

Ava March, Carina Press

My True Love Gave to Me (Brook Street, #0.5) by Ava March

“Love is a reciprocal torture” – Marcel Proust

From the start of this forbidden romance, it’s exceedingly clear that Thomas Bennett is not as invested in Alexander Norton as Alexander is invested in Thomas. Where Alexander thrives in the glow of the all-encompassing love he feels for Thomas, the polite and well mannered Thomas, a man who is strong and confident and so sure of himself in every other way, is knocked entirely off kilter by the way his body reacts to his Sasha.

From the tightening of his posture, to the instinctive flinch from even the most innocent of public physical contact, Sasha expects that one day those immediate reactions in Thomas will fade, as Thomas grows more comfortable with the love they feel for each other. What Sasha did not, could not expect, however, is that Thomas’s heart would be so little invested in their relationship that it would be Thomas himself who would fade from Sasha’s life, as though he’d never existed at all.

Running away from England, from Sasha, as well as from his own sexuality, Thomas disappears to New York City for four years, never offering even a single word of explanation to the man who had been willing to give of himself entirely in spite of the complications of their relationship, to the man Thomas cruelly abandoned just before the Christmas of 1817, after he’d raised Sasha’s hopes then destroyed them in a single decisive move. What Thomas does discover is that an entire ocean and the passage of time are not enough distance to diminish his feelings for the nineteen-year-old boy who’d awakened the man he was meant to become.

But the Sasha that Thomas returns to England for, the Sasha that Thomas hopes to win back, no longer exists. In his place is a cold and cynical man who was left devastated when Thomas rejected and abandoned him and the gift of his love. Now, it will take everything in Thomas’s power to prove himself worthy of forgiveness and to convince Sasha that the love they felt for each other is still there burning just beneath the surface, even if it means Thomas humbling himself and accepting cruel treatment when that’s all Sasha has to offer.

Though Ava March wrote My True Love Gave to Me as part of Carina Press’ Men Under the Mistletoe holiday collection, the Christmas theme shouldn’t keep you from reading this one now, especially if you’re a fan of well written Regency romance. This story can be read as a standalone even though it’s staged in the same setting of the author’s Brook Street series, a series that I’m discovering a huge passion for, beginning with the book Thief.

Ava March draws the reader into a well written world that transports you directly into the lives of the London ton and into the lives of these men who dare to love despite the danger and the odds against them. I, for one, can’t wait to make my way into the next two books, expecting they’ll be every bit as lovely as the first two.

Buy My True Love Gave to Me HERE.

Cornelia Grey, Gryvon, Lydia Nyx, Penny K. Moss, Peter Hansen, Storm Moon Press, Sumi

Weight of a Gun – An Anthology Edited by Elizabeth Hyder

The gun is to the phallus what the vampire bite is to intercourse, an erotic metaphor the authors of the six short stories in the Weight of a Gun anthology have spun to varying degrees of success, exploring a serious kink and a seriously provocative appetite for the dangerously erotic.

As is to be expected, there’s a common theme that threads its way through each of these stories, and the weapons that become the playthings that are used to incite and tantalize take the term “shoot to thrill” to the next level of carnality. Though that element became somewhat repetitious, the winners of this collection of stories were the authors who took the common threads and weaved them in entirely original ways.

Cornelia Grey’s outstanding Bounty Hunter leads the way, in an Old West tale of lovers turned adversaries turned predator and prey in a sexy game of catch me not if but when you can, as the catching definitely promises to be the more thrilling part of the chase between William Hunt and James Campbell. Not only was the story incredibly sensual but it also promises to bring more heat between these two compelling men.

Sumi’s uniquely exceptional My Rifle Is Human is an Alt U/Fantasy set just behind the front lines of a war where the humans are the weapons, where the Ordinance and the Gunslingers who help them to “become,” engage in sex play as the means of arming the soldiers for the battlefield. Fil is a Gunslinger who hasn’t had much luck with his past Ordinances, but that all changes when he’s paired with Morris Levanton, a man whose destiny and his relationship with his Gunslinger is slow to develop but that discipline and the focus he places not upon the sex but upon the needs of the man with whom he’s been paired, pays off when Morris’ enhanced abilities lay waste to the enemy. I loved the relationship between these two men and wish I could’ve gotten a bigger taste of this world.

In the Pines, the haunting and wonderful contribution from Lydia Nyx, is a paranormal tale of a murdered soul tethered to the instrument of his demise, and an ex-NYPD cop injured in the line of duty, who now lives in Anchorage, Alaska and has been relegated to desk duty because of those injuries. Terry stumbles upon the gun that was used to shoot and kill Flynn, the ghost who finds Terry in the man’s dreams, and teases and torments anyone unfortunate enough to be in possession of the weapon that brought about Flynn’s untimely death. Flynn is merely seeking justice for the wrong done him, and Terry is the only man with the intellect and background to bring Flynn’s soul peace. In an ending that I can only be described as bittersweet, both men seem to find what it is they’ve been looking for.

The remaining stories in this anthology, while not quite meeting up to the standards set by the above three contributions, did each work in their own right and merit consideration.

Peter Hansen’s sci-fi offering Changing the Guard is an off-world story set in the barren and lonely landscape of a frozen planet, where Tomi Vuorela is presiding over the security of a remote access node as punishment for insubordination. When Andile Harper shows up without authorization from Tomi’s superiors, the tension between the two men plays out in an erotic game of assumptions and accusations. There’s no romance here, only two men who seek and find physical pleasure on either end of a gun.

Gryvon’s The Machinist is monsters and mayhem and danger, set in a alternate universe where the machinist in question, Avery Belfour, has just been busted out of prison, but not at all to his apparent advantage, as he is hunted down and eventually recaptured by a man Avery knows only as Harrow, a name that it quickly becomes clear is exceedingly fitting to his character. Avery escapes one prison only to become captive to another, and of all the stories in this collection, I felt this one contained the most dubiously consensual sex. While it was never divulged exactly for what purpose Harrow needed his own personal machinist, taken as straightforward erotica, it delivers.

Rounding out the anthology is Penny K. Moss’s Compromised Judgment, a story that left me feeling, in the beginning, as though I’d been dumped in the middle of a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language and had no means of understanding what was happening all around me. The story is set in an alternate universe, where I was more distracted by attempting to pronounce all the strange names and attempting to figure out what they meant, than I was diverted by the story. The key to enjoying this one, I believe, is just to concentrate on the characters, Ignác and Konrád, and to understand that Ignác’s objective is to expose a weapons smuggling ring, and Konrád is the man he’s going to use to help him do it, that is if Ignác’s attraction to Konrád doesn’t get in the way of his professional duties to his country.

Buy Weight of a Gun HERE.

Cari Z., Storm Moon Press

Small Gems – In All Your Ways by Cari Z.

Lucifer was cast out of Heaven for the sins of pride, jealousy, and avarice, and those who fought alongside him, against the Archangel Michael and the heavenly hosts, fell with him to Earth to live among the temptations of human want, or to the Underworld to exist for all eternity amongst the hellfire and brimstone as punishment for their sin of acting in selfishness rather than exalting God and acting through His divine grace. But angels are capable of transgressing in other ways too, if loving another and placing him before God in your heart can be considered a mortal sin.

In Cari Z’s In All Your Ways, the angel Renat is cast from Heaven for the sin of loving Emiel and placing him above both God and His Earthbound children. The profession of that love and the hope that Emiel would fall with Renat is shattered when Emiel chooses God above all else and Renat falls, to become the demon Renat, winning a place at Morning Star’s left hand and shepherding the souls over which God and Lucifer battle, ensuring the damned are tormented accordingly for their sins.

This free short story is a beautiful and romantic depiction of love overcoming and overwhelming all, in an act that one sees as an outrageous sacrifice while the other sees it as a righteous gift. It is a story of patience and the sharing of a grace that has nothing and everything to do with divinity and the yearning to give everything of yourself to the one you have claimed as your own. It’s a story of God’s benevolence and Lucifer’s timely remembrance of a similar love he’d once known, and is a journey of falling and loving, with the hope and the promise that a life lived honoring that gift is enough to win a soul’s ultimate reward.

Download In All Your Ways HERE.

Kaje Harper, Smashwords

Lies and Consequences by Kaje Harper

Christopher Fletcher is a habitual liar. He’s also an author, so he’s well versed in creating fictions, and he uses that talent like an armor to protect a Christopher no one truly knows, maybe not even Christopher himself.

Chris has crafted a variety of persona in his adult life—the timid writer, the dutiful son seeking God’s benevolence through the approval of his parents, the fiancé, even a Self whom he has named Robin, an orphan and a club twink. Robin is the doppelganger, who, through the looking glass, is the mirror opposite of Chris: confident where Chris is shy, colorful where Chris is subdued. These different characters reside in a single man and he has become so accustomed to weaving a tangled web of lies over the years that he practices to deceive even himself.

Ian McCallum is not the sort of man who frequents clubs like the Gold Coast, but he’s there playing wingman to his best friend Trent on the night he meets Robin, the blue haired club twink that a man like Ian would never be attracted to. Only he is. And for a man like Ian, a man for whom being in control is an imperative, the out of control Robin effortlessly draws Ian into his web and into a place where survival for Ian becomes a question of whether he can come to terms with how much of himself he’s willing to compromise for the sake of the man with whom he’s fallen in love, even the parts of that man that never truly existed.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them because no one knows himself better than he himself does. Unless you’re a man who has spent his entire life trying to be who his parents expect him to be—perfect—and has been pretending so long that he’s not entirely sure which parts of himself are real. White lies, small lies, big lies, lies by omission: Christopher has spun them all. The question for Ian becomes whether he can stop expecting Chris to be someone other than who he is and who he needs to be to cope with his dysfunctional childhood.

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and the series of unfortunate events that happen to Ian McCallum and Christopher Robin Fletcher are the sorts of things any author would kill for his Muse to visit upon him, because they are the stuff of which only a writer could dream up to have happen to two protagonists in a novel—bar fights, plane crashes, stalkers, kidnappers, shoot-outs—Kaje Harper keeps Ian and Chris busy just trying to stay alive, let alone coming to terms with the way they feel for each other.

There’s a lot of plot to absorb in Lies and Consequences, so much so that there were times I found myself becoming a little impatient to get to the resolution of the story. Every situation Ian and Chris were involved in interfered with and complicated their relationship even further, but those dangers and deceptions also helped to progress things between the two men, to help Ian come to terms with his feelings for Chris, so it’s difficult to find too much fault based on my own eagerness to see how things would unfold.

Kaje Harper has generously offered Lies and Consequences for FREE, not terribly common for a full-length novel; I’d definitely say the time I spent with Chris and Ian was well worth the cost.

Download Lies and Consequences HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, Ellen Holiday

Inside the Beltway by Ellen Holiday

Evangelism and politics have a lot in common, when you think about it: Whoever speaks loudest and glad-hands best draws the most money to his coffers to further promote his agenda. Whoever puts the best spin on the proselytizing from the media pulpit wins the most souls. Whoever can convince the masses he is the way and the truth and the light draws the most sheep to his flock. The only difference in the two jobs is the final destination. In Washington, D.C., the Promised Land has a specific address—1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In a city filled with spin doctors and silver-tongued orators who can almost always be counted on to give good oral, Senator Davis Hudson is a man who’s becoming frustrated with the party line. He’s a man who has always been able to trust his tongue to deliver the right message, even if his brain wasn’t entirely engaged in the point on which he was pontificating. In a city where so many languish in relative obscurity, overshadowed by their peers who seemingly thrive upon inviting attention to themselves, Davis has suddenly, and questionably, thrust himself into the spotlight, where scrutiny and speculation throws more than his political aspirations under the microscope.

Kurt Lamb is the man who becomes an unintentional chink in Davis’s political armor. Kurt is a former media analyst who, after a bad break-up, puts his theater training to use and becomes a makeup artist for CNN. He and Davis meet when the senator begins doing the requisite political press junkets that come with taking a strong stand and voicing that stand so vehemently and eloquently that it draws attention to him, like predators are drawn to fresh meat. The spark of attraction between the two men is instantaneous and not altogether comprehensible to Davis, seeing as how he isn’t gay. It doesn’t take long, however, for the man whose career is all about pressing the flesh to put an entirely different spin on the meaning of the phrase.

Does it take immeasurable courage to continue to pursue a dream, even when that dream will mean drawing the media, the American public, as well as every political and religious group with an agenda into your personal life? I’d have to say, yes, it does, especially when there’s a bitter and ambitious ex-wife waiting in the wings to be sure the path you’ve chosen is paved with stop-sticks to let the air out of all your hopes and ambitions.

Washington is a city of alliances and antagonism, a city where you find out who your true friends are only when the tide of public opinion begins to turn against you. Politics is a stage where only the most accomplished actors, those whose images are the best scripted by their handlers, succeed. Davis Hudson, in his pursuit of a personal life that is redeeming, fulfilling, and gives him the strength to pursue a public life that isn’t at all about him or whom he loves, but is about the desire to represent the nation, as a whole, stands out as a man of character in the face of adversity.

Inside the Beltway is a book that you read and can’t help but hope for a day in the not too distant future where the oath to execute the office of the President of the United States, and to protect and defend the Constitution, is based on the content of that person’s character alone.

The message in this story was hopeful and encouraging, and I enjoyed the way Ellen Holiday delivered that message subtly rather than it becoming overwhelming. While I’d have loved to have been given a little more insight into the development of Davis and Kurt’s relationship, the build up from attraction to love, I couldn’t help but become invested in the part these two men played in changing the face of the political nation.

Buy Inside the Beltway HERE.

Dreamspinner Press, P.D. Singer

Fire on the Mountain (2nd Edition) by P.D. Singer

Jake Landon believes he’s going to spend the summer after his college graduation fighting wildfires in the Colorado Mountains, partnered with some cantankerous and hygiene-challenged geezer who’ll make Jake forget that he’s at all attracted to men. Fighting fires will eat up a few months, and then some, of the year he’s taking off before he starts pharmacy school, or, at least that was the plan, but plans don’t account for much of anything if the fates refuse to get with your program, which makes Jake’s idea to stay in the closet until he can figure a way to get out become a whole lot more challenging when he ends up partnered with Kurt Carlson—walking, talking temptation—the man who lights a fire in Jake’s libido hot enough to rival anything Mother Nature could possibly whip up.

It’s a shaky start for both men, for reasons that have nothing to do with ability or experience and everything to do with attraction, but Jake and Kurt quickly form a working partnership, become friends, and, eventually, come to discover that the connection they feel is as elemental to them as the fires they fight are to nature. It’s a slow burn as their desire chases them like the flames on a shifting wind and when they finally succumb to it, the results are scorching, and before I knew it, I was completely invested in them and my hope for a long and lovely romance.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading P.D. Singer’s work, it’s that I always learn something, whether it’s what mise en place means, how a hedge fund works, or what it feels like to be thisclose to becoming a victim of your job. There is no “this seems really authentic” about her work. It is authentic and never fails to draw me in every time.

I’m sorry to say I never got around to reading the first edition of Fire on the Mountain, (why, I have no clue) so what’s been improved upon, I can’t say. But I can say whatever it was, the improvements made for some seriously sizzling summer reading.

Buy Fire on the Mountain HERE.