4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Kate McMurray, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Across the East River Bridge by Kate McMurray

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Title: Across the East River Bridge (2nd Edition)

Author: Kate McMurray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 239 Pages

At a Glance: Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When historian Christopher Finnegan walks into a new museum in Brooklyn, he’s chagrined to learn its curator is his old academic rival, Troy Rafferty. Worse, Troy is convinced the museum is haunted and wants Finn’s help learning more about the ghosts. Finn and Troy have never gotten along and Finn wants to run screaming, but then Troy offers him an intriguing proposal: Troy will help Finn with a research project for his overbearing boss if Finn will help Troy solve a mystery involving two men who died in the building under mysterious circumstances in 1878.

Finn and Troy piece together the two men’s lives–and the quiet romance that grew between them–through diaries, newspaper clippings, and police reports. They’re both soon convinced the men were murdered. They’re also convinced the ghosts are real even Finn witnesses paranormal phenomena he can’t deny–and that they’re capable of affecting thoughts, feelings, and actions. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other despite years of animosity, Finn worries he’s being manipulated by the ghosts to stay with Troy and solve the case. Troy is convinced the love between them is real, but he’ll need to figure out how to get rid of the ghosts in order to prove it.

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Review: I first read Kate McMurray’s Across the East River Bridge back in September of 2012. A few years and more than a few hundred books later, when I chose to review it in its second edition release, I’ll confess that while I had the plot basics down, I clearly had forgotten some of the finer details that made it such a fantastic read—both the first time and now, the second. This book is many things rolled into one: an enemies-to-lovers story, a contemporary romance, a historical romance, a tragic romance, and then, to top it all off, there’s a paranormal mystery dating back to the 1870s that this author managed to finesse into a touching and sometimes intense read.

McMurray leads us into the story in modern day Brooklyn, where we learn that Christopher “Finn” Finnegan and Troy Rafferty have a history of their own—rivals from their college days, Finn has spent more than a decade loathing golden boy Troy for sabotaging his academic career by discrediting his dissertation research, which then resulted in Finn’s funding being pulled. Amongst the animosity that Finn still feels toward Troy all these years later is an undercurrent of sexual tension that’s been there between them from the start. And, added to it, there’s an intense frustration that Finn is still attracted to someone he hates so thoroughly—or tries to hate so thoroughly, at least. The setup for them working together, then, is a great foundation for the conflicted feelings Finn has throughout the book—how can he hate Troy and still want him so intensely? And how can Finn look inward in any sort of honest and rational way and continue to blame Troy for his failings? I have to say I felt a lot of frustration myself toward Finn throughout this book. His stubbornness and scapegoating of Troy makes it hard to excuse some of Finn’s actions and reactions, but a lot of that for me is because Kate McMurray makes Troy such a likeable and charming character. Where Troy may be intended to be Finn’s foil, it actually worked the other way around, and I liked the turning of the tables.

Where the author infuses this book with a terrible poignancy is in the historical research Finn and Troy delve into to uncover the mystery of Brill House, the museum of which Troy is now curator. There is a ghostly presence or two in Brill House that seems to lead directly to one-time owner Theodore Brill, and a border who eventually became Teddy’s lover, George Washington Cutler. Their story, of course, carries with it all the ingrained difficulties of the time in which these two men lived and loved. As Troy and Finn continue their investigation into Teddy and Wash’s deaths—an apparent murder/suicide—they uncover more questions than answers about the way in which the couple died. And, in the process, begin to agitate the spirits of the deceased as the ghosts become desperate for the truth of their deaths to be revealed. I 100% loved this aspect of the novel, not only from an emotional standpoint but from a writing standpoint as well. As Finn and Troy get closer to the truth, the more the tension and suspense escalate, and once the storyline reaches its climax, it plays out in true page-turner fashion.

Troy and Finn’s interactions throughout the story are part antagonistic, part full-on sexual, and their relationship builds from that as well as the eventual realization on Finn’s part that he’s going to have to give up the ghost, so to speak, and stop trying to make Troy the enemy. As feelings change and begin to look a lot like two men falling in love, the underlying question they can’t answer for sure is, how much is this metaphysical mystery manipulating them and their emotions. Finn’s not only skeptical about nearly every aspect of Troy’s theories on what happened to Teddy and Wash, but he’s so busy hanging on to the past that he can’t see what a great future Troy’s offering him, and I liked how these relationships contrasted—we see what a gift it is for Troy and Finn to be able to live together openly, a luxury that Teddy and Wash didn’t have. And, it may well have cost them their lives.

Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release. Whether you’ve read it before, or are considering reading it for the first time, I can say it’s a solid story that comes highly recommended.

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Giveaways, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: The Greatest Gift Blog Tour with Felice Stevens

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Title: The Greatest Gift (The Memories Series: Book 3)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count: 86 Pages

At a Glance: You’ll smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: After five years, Alex Stern and Rafe Hazelton have what seems to be the perfect marriage. Alex is entering his last years of residency and Rafe’s veterinary business is busier than ever. For Rafe, all that is missing is a child, but Alex, afraid of ending up to be a man like his father, isn’t as sure. He doesn’t want to make any mistakes.

When a new patient enters the hospital, Alex is drawn to the young, desperately ill single mother, who shares her fears for the future of her young son. Rafe worries about the toll on Alex becoming emotionally invested in a patient, yet he too can’t walk away once he meets the little boy, and together they vow to help in any way possible.

Families are not always born of blood— love is a gift no one can plan for. And sometimes from the darkest of tragedies, the brightest light will shine.

Christmas Dividers

Review: If you are going into this book hoping for, or thinking, you are going to get a sweet, fluffy romantic holiday story, this isn’t that book. There are many things in The Greatest Gift that are tough to read, and sad, and will completely break your heart.

But in this story, you will also find things throughout that are endearing, selfless, and sexy, as well as countless examples of absolute unconditional love. You’ll find yourself on this journey with Rafe and Alex, and all those around them, and will smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

I love Alex and Rafe and love that we got to spend more time with them. The Greatest Gift really is a great gift from Felice Stevens this holiday season.

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Author BioAbout the Author: Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jacob Z. Flores, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Karen, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Soul Struck by Jacob Z. Flores

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Title:  Soul Struck (The Warlock Brothers of Havenbridge: Book Three)

Author:  Jacob Z. Flores

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count:  224 Pages

At a Glance:  It really is a toss up which book I like best in this series.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: Like the electricity he commands, Pierce Blackmoor streaks through life on raw power and pure sexual energy. His conquests on the battlefield and in the bedroom form his foundation, but that bedrock crumbles when his younger brothers’ abilities surpass his own. Pierce finds himself at an all-time low, and clawing his way back to the top becomes his only concern.

Pierce’s plan to reassert his dominance, however, takes a backseat when he wounds Kale Aquilo, an emissary of the Beast King, lord of all shifters.

Kale’s beguiling nature shoots like a lightning bolt straight to Pierce’s soul, and when the soft-spoken Kale relays that a virus is killing his people, Pierce abandons his quest for power to do something he has never done before—protect someone other than himself.

As Kale, Pierce, and his brothers struggle to find the root of the magical virus spreading plague across Aeaea, the shifter island, they face a gauntlet of old and new foes. Soul struck, Pierce and Kale must uncover the truth behind the conspiracy gathering in the shadows.

Dividers

Review: Before I’d started this book, I was pretty sure that this was the one in the series I was going to like the least, since Pierce was nowhere near a favorite character of mine.  I mean, come on, he kind of came off like he was a power hungry jerk in previous books, and really, not at all that likeable.

But I was so wrong. Which really shouldn’t surprise me since any thoughts I’d had regarding what I was going to think of the other books in this series were all wrong too. I should have known better at this point… When Pierce finds Kale, then seeing his reaction to him, completely changed how I viewed this character. All of a sudden, being the most powerful wasn’t what was most important to him, and the journey with these two was amazing. You see almost a complete shift in how Pierce looks at things and in what becomes important to him.

With each new book we see another aspect of this world come to life, and it really is a toss up, now that I have read Soul Struck, which book I like the best so far, because honestly, the series wasn’t something I thought I would enjoy at all to begin with. After reading the first book on a friend’s recommendation, though, I now can’t wait to see what will come next.

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4.5 Stars, BA Tortuga, Genre Romance, Pride Publishing, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Blind Ride by BA Tortuga

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Title: Blind Ride (Roughstock: Vol. One)

Author: BA Tortuga

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 234 Pages

At a Glance: Blind Ride is a story about the love and caring of family, good friends, and the love between two special men.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Jason Scott has everything a bull rider wants—success, money and traveling partner Andy Baxter. When he loses his sight in an accident, he stands to lose it all. Jason Scott is at the top of the bull riding game, on his way to a winning season. Along with his traveling partner, Andy Baxter, he’s riding hard on the circuit, working around the country with all of the other bull riders and bullfighters, living the good life. The only thing he wishes he had is Bax, but he’s afraid to take the step that would make them more than friends, worried that it will ruin everything. When a terrible accident leaves Jason unable to see, his whole life goes south. Jason decides to chuck it all, determined to go home and hide at his momma’s ranch. Bax has other ideas. He wants to make sure his best friend doesn’t give up, and he hatches a plan that stuns Jason and makes their friends and family think he’s crazy. With the help of the other bull riders and a very persistent bull fighter named Coke, Bax convinces Jason to give life one more try. With Jason cautiously learning to hope, and his relationship with Bax going to the next level, life gets pretty complicated. Everyone gets in on the project, from Jason’s strong-willed mother to an entire ranch full of children, all of them working to help Jason do what he loves.

Dividers

Review: I am such a fan of BA Tortuga. She has added another series to my collection of cowboy stories, and has created more than just a story about bull riders and rodeos; it’s about the love and caring of family, good friends, and the love between two special men. Blind Ride also takes us behind the rodeo scene with the hard work and life threatening injuries that bull riders face.

Andy “Bax” Baxter and Jason “Mini” Scott are just two wonderful cowboys who love the rodeo. They have been friends for six years but have never taken the step to become more than friends. They spend their days traveling the rodeo circuit and even compete against each other, but they hold no grudges.

When Jason is hurt, there’s so much worry. Living in darkness, never riding again, losing out on a career that he loves, and maybe losing Bax, he even thinks of taking his life. But Bax is there for him and he doesn’t let Jason fail. When Bax goes back on the circuit he gets hurt and is done for the season, but he’s back with Jason and starts a plan to get him back on the circuit as well. It was really heartrending to watch Jason struggle with losing his sight—I can’t even begin to imagine how that would feel. He also has to deal with overbearing help, and to try to do things on his own.  Bax and Jason have a great support system besides Jason’s family.  We meet Coke Pharras, Dillon Walsh, Nate, AJ, Missy, and a sweet little boy named Benji.

The only issue readers may find in Blind Ride is in the narrative and dialogue, but BA Tortuga chose to leave things a little unpolished (see: the Author’s Note).  As for me, I didn’t see this as a problem. It just made the story more down to earth.

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4.5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Kenzie Cade, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade

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Title: Reindeer Games

Author: Kenzie Cade

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 68 Pages

At a Glance: If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Dashing von Stride has one thing on his mind: winning the window display contest for the Miracle on Main Christmas Contest. His plans are set and ready—and then he walks into his toy store, Reindeer Games, to find a sleigh that shouldn’t be there. The mystery sleigh sparks a new plan, however, and now all Dash needs is the perfect Santa to model his display after.

This year, the pranks with his reindeer have gotten out of hand. Instead of preparing for the Big Day, Niklaus Kringle is hunting for his missing sleigh. Locating it should have been easy, but games easily won are seldom worth playing…

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Review: Cute, sweet, lighthearted: any and all of these words could be used to describe author Kenzie Cade’s Christmas offering, Reindeer Games. If you are looking for a well written bit of fluff to take your mind off the holiday and its mad rush, look no further. This little story is the perfect ticket to some much needed getaway time from reality.

Cleverly based on the idea that Santa has children and that elves are the magic that is Christmas, the story begins with the reindeer having played a trick on Nik Kringle by hiding his sleigh right before the “big day”. Found by a toy store owner who turns out to have a little magic of his own, Dashing von Stride (Dash) discovers the sleigh standing in his display room and immediately uses it as the inspiration for the window decorating contest held annually in the small town of (wait for it) Wassail. I was laughing so hard at these fantastic names and the tongue-in-cheek humor the author obviously used when coming up with them.

When Nik and Dash meet, there is an immediate sense of rightness—of everything finally falling into place for both of these fellows. Once Dash is clued in to exactly who Nik is and why he is in town, the story moves swiftly to an immediate and delightful happy ending.

Pure fun and a sexy happy-ever-after is what this novella is all about. Nik and Dash could not be more perfect for each other, or sweeter, and did I mention hot? But honestly, there was little to criticize in this story simply because you can sense the pure delight the author took in crafting this holiday offering. The two main characters sensed their immediate bond, and wasted no time in exploring exactly what that meant. The mischievous and aerodynamically correct reindeer only added to the fun. Perhaps the only criticism I might have is that the smarmy and nasty shopkeeper who always seemed to take first place in the window contest was under utilized in this story. I felt like a slight tussle with him, one that might have threatened Nik and Dash getting to know one another, would have spiced up the story a bit. However, that was more a matter of my personal taste than a real fault in the story.

If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade.

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4.5 Stars, Amber Kell, Love Lane Books, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Angel, RJ Scott

Review: End Street: Volume One by Amber Kell and RJ Scott

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Title: The Case of the Cupid Curse/The Case of the Wicked Wolf (End Street: Vol. One)

Author: Amber Kell & RJ Scott

Publisher: Love Lane Books

Pages/Word Count: 201 Pages

At a GlanceA fun and often sweet twist on the paranormal genre.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Dragons, vampires, werewolves, fae, witches and one very confused human.

Sam, 100% human (no, really) inherits a crumbling building and a private detective agency from his Uncle.

Bob, a brooding stubborn and ancient vampire turns up at his door and refuses to leave.

Before Sam can say ‘I only want human cases’ he’s knee deep in werewolves, dragons, vampires and witches.

Book 1 – The Case of The Cupid Curse

Sam Enderson is a human detective who inherits a building from where his Uncle used to run a detective agency. He finds himself working for paranormal creatures despite his resolve to stick with humans only. To supplement his income as a new PI Sam rents out rooms in the large house.

Bob is a vampire and turns up on Sam’s doorstep to rent a room. Sparks fly and Sam is attracted to the vampire despite himself.

Sam is cursed by a witch, and has two cases landing on his desk. Werewolves, annoying ghosts and a grumpy gargoyle are enough to drive Sam mad. But somehow in amongst all of this he has to find a missing fae and a missing shifter child.

Book 2 – The Case of the Wicked Wolf

Naiads, humans, sirens and a challenge for Alpha make up the intricate story in the race to rescue the missing children.

Sam and Bob have more than just the case of one lost child to handle. Not only is Shelby Hartman missing, but other paranormal children have disappeared. The race to rescue the children is hampered by naiads, humans, sirens and a challenge for Alpha.

Hartman Hunter is desperate to find his daughter. He turns to the demon Danjal Naamah for help. The problem is that Danjal is the only person Hartman has ever loved—the man he let go for the sake of the pack…

Dividers

Review:  I really enjoy both Amber Kell’s and RJ Scott’s individual works, so finding this book, where both are involved, thrilled me. They have a similar writing style, and this joint project reads seamlessly. I almost don’t want to know who wrote which chapter, or how they did it, because I just loved the world they created.

The paranormal really isn’t out of the ordinary in this verse created by these two authors, and I loved how it meshed with the reality of the world. It was not a big deal to have a werewolf dance club as well a human one right in the same town. I also really enjoyed that the prejudices between the species weren’t glossed over. A few had made it past the boundaries to mix well with others, but there was still the stigma found in associating with other paranormals or even humans. There is also a message of tolerance and acceptance, too.

I almost felt really bad for Sam as he tried so hard not to get involved in the paranormal aspect of being a P.I., but he’s drawn in because his uncle was a bit unscrupulous. He handles it with panache, though, and doggedly pursues his cases to the end while adjusting to life with a cranky ghost assistant and a persistent vampire suitor.

Looking forward to the next cases, ladies, and thank you for an enjoyable read.

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4.5 Stars, All Romance Ebooks, Genre Romance, J.R. Gray, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Say Yes by J.R. Gray

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Title: Say Yes

Author: J.R. Gray

Publisher: OmniLit/ARe

Pages/Word Count: 93 Pages

At a Glance: Say Yes is a gritty story of control, and ultimately, of letting go.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Charles holds the key to salvation, but James has to say yes.

James failed. He tried to be what they wanted. He tried to deny it. He tried to be a good Catholic boy…but it’s become too much. He craves pain, submission. He’s denied himself far too long, and it’s eating him alive.

Charles thrives off the exchange of power. He knows the world revolves around control. It’s given and taken like currency, in business and in pleasure. He won’t get attached, though, or so he tells himself, until James turns his world upside down. He’s defiant and snarky, but Charles can taste the submission on him.

All James has to do is say one little word.

Dividers

Review: James is young, strong, vulnerable, and was brought up in an uptight, wealthy atmosphere. He has a façade permanently in place that projects the man he wants the world to see. When his father dies and his mother cuts him off, his world becomes all about survival and straddling a line between the world he knew and the world he now resides in. He is the epitome of a young man denying himself everything in the name of keeping his head above water.

Charles exudes dominant sexual tension. Running into the enigma that is James piques his interest in a way not many things have. Oh, he wants James, wants him bad—but first he has to get James to say yes.  The sexual tension between these two men is almost ludicrous—the banter, the flirting, the emotions underneath are heady.

The magnetism of the characters J.R. Gray has created is palpable. There is tight, fast paced writing in this short story and because of that, we get a complete story arc and believable, well-rounded characters with plenty of relationship building. There is a BDSM element to the story, but it is not the focus, merely an element in it. James must learn to embrace himself even if no one else does, and Charles has to overcome past hurts and defenses to be what James needs. In the end, it takes courage for both men to say yes and to find their own power in the doing of it.

This was my first book by this author, but after this novella, I bought another book written by him because of the narrative power he developed in this short story. I hope this is the beginning of a new series for J.R. Gray, as I would love to revisit these two men and get another glimpse into their lives.

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Betting on Forever by Felice Stevens

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TitleBetting on Forever (The Breakfast Club: Book Two)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count:  231 Pages

At a GlanceIf you’re looking for a sweet and romantic book without a lot of angst or drama, just a nice story about two guys falling in love, then this book is for you.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  A weekend fling in Atlantic City couldn’t be more out of socially shy Zach Cohen’s comfort zone, but a bet with his best friends forces him to put aside the humiliation he’s hidden for years and step away from behind his computer screens and online world. When he meets Sam Stein, despite their spark, Zach expects nothing more than a night of passion and a kiss good-bye. Yet weeks later, he can’t keep the man out of his head.

After a split-second decision with tragic results ends his twenty-year police career at the same time as his relationship falls apart, Sam Stein is drifting through life. At his best friend’s urging, he agrees to a trip to Atlantic City to clear his head. What Sam doesn’t plan on is meeting Zach Cohen, whose sweet nature and honesty has him thinking maybe he could move forward, until Zach leaves him without explanation, reinforcing Sam’s belief that people can’t be trusted.

Well-meaning friends refuse to let Zach and Sam hide from each other, forcing them to realize their weekend was much more than a one-night stand. Before that can happen, Zach must come to terms with his past and stand up for his own independence, while Sam has to learn to take a chance and believe in himself and people again. All bets are off when dreams become reality, and forever doesn’t seem to be long enough.

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Review: When I read the first book in this series, Beyond the Surface, it was Zach’s story that I was looking forward to the most. I have a fondness for and can relate to those characters who are a little geeky, shy, and quiet; those who sit off to the side, observing and hoping not to be noticed.  Zach certainly fit that bill, and Sam did too, in some ways.

Things aren’t all sunshine and happiness throughout Betting on Forever. There were misunderstandings and issues that needed to be worked through, but they are dealt with without a whole lot of craziness. You can sit back and are able to enjoy some of the simple things going on between Zach and Sam while they are falling in love—we get to watch them stroll down the beach holding hands, laughing and joking and letting go while flying kites, or just relaxing at home. And it’s nice that the other characters in the series are still around, and we get updates on what’s going on with them without it taking over the story.

While I loved Zach’s story, and it was nice catching up with Julian and Nick, now I can’t wait for Marcus’s story to see how his HEA will work out. If you’re looking for a sweet and romantic book without a lot of angst or drama, just a nice story about two guys falling in love, then this book is for you.

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Pat Henshaw, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Blame It on the Fruitcake by Pat Henshaw

Small Gems

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Title: Blame It On The Fruitcake (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015

Author: Pat Henshaw

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 36 Pages

At a Glance: Blame It on the Fruitcake is a sweet and funny love story. A perfect morsel of yummy goodness for this holiday season!

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Fruitcake is the laughingstock of the holiday season. But can it be an aphrodisiac instead? Motorcycle mechanic Sam McGuire is surprised to find a gaily wrapped box on his doorstep with a piece of fruitcake accompanying an invitation to a holiday party.

Wondering if he’ll fit in, Sam attends the party—mostly to get more of the fruitcake he falls in love with—and meets Jay Merriweather, his new neighbor. The lure of Jay’s big family and its holiday tradition of enjoying Grandma’s fruitcake hook Sam, as does the sexy man himself.

But Sam can’t imagine why handsome, college-educated Jay would want someone like him, who was raised in a children’s home and barely graduated high school. Maybe the magic of the holiday season can help two men who seem so different come together like the ingredients in a well-made fruitcake.

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Review: Blame It on the Fruitcake by Pat Henshaw is another delightful story from the Dreamspinner Advent Calendar Package entitled Sleigh Ride, a swiftly moving short story that brings together what seems like polar opposites and solidifies the idea that the heart knows what it wants despite what seems like insurmountable differences.

Sam McGuire has lived most of his life knowing that he is not the kind of guy anyone would choose to love. For years, as an orphan, he watched others be snatched up into middle class happiness by beautiful people who barely gave him a second glance. Now, as a successful mechanic and shop owner, he still believes that he is hardly a catch for some well-educated college boy who cleans up way better than he ever would.

Very much a loner, he is shocked when a small package appears on his doorstep containing an amazing piece of fruitcake and an invite to his neighbor’s party. After suspiciously and grudgingly tasting the cake–after all, everyone knows fruitcake is literally scraping the bottom of the holiday treat barrel–Sam decides to attend the party…in order to get more cake! Little does he know he is about to meet a guy who will challenge all his tightly held low opinions of himself, and of his certainty that he will never be worthy of being loved.

Author Pat Henshaw is a new author for me and I can honestly say, based on this little gem of a story, I will be looking up her backlist ASAP. Sam is such a sweet guy under his gruff exterior. Everything about him, from the way in which he dresses to his rough dialogue, was just so right and realistic. I honestly felt both these main characters were the perfect example of guys I’d be likely to meet in real life. There was such a genuine air about this author’s writing that made this instant attraction between Sam and Jay so understandable and believable.

Sam’s past created such a deep well of loneliness within him that it lent credibility to his automatic decisions that he would never be good enough for Jay. Jay’s admissions of feeling like he was pretending to be something he’s not allowed Sam to understand that appearance really is not all it’s cracked up to be, and it’s what lies beneath the exterior that really counts.

Blame It on the Fruitcake is a sweet and funny love story. A perfect morsel of yummy goodness for this holiday season!

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You can buy Blame It on the Fruitcake here:

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Brandon Witt, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Jules

Audio Review: Then the Stars Fall by Brandon Witt – Narrated by Andrew McFerrin

Audio Gem

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Amazon

Title: Then the Stars Fall

Author: Brandon Witt

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Narrator: Andrew McFerrin

Run Time: 12 Hours and 21 Minutes

At a Glance: Definitely check this one out, guys!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: The death of his wife four years earlier left Travis Bennett a shell of the man he used to be. With his dog by his side, Travis raises his three children, manages his business, and works as a ranch hand. But every day, every minute, is an aching emptiness.

Wesley Ryan has fond memories of the small Ozark town of El Dorado Springs. Seeing it as a safe place to put his failed relationships behind him, Wesley moves into his grandparents’ old home and takes over the local veterinary clinic. An early morning visit from Travis and his dog stirs feelings that Wesley seeks to push away – the last thing he needs is to fall for a man with baggage and three kids as part of the package.

Life, it seems, has other plans.

Dividers

Review: Then the Stars Fall is a gorgeous piece of writing by Brandon Witt. It was the first of his stories I’ve read – or, listened to, as the case may be – and it certainly will not be the last. It’s a big story. Very heavy at times, though there is also a good amount of levity to help balance it out. The story is beautiful, and complex; as such, it needed a certain kind of intensity brought to the narration, and I have to say that Andrew McFerrin does a superb job with the performance.

Wesley is trying to settle into his new life in El Dorado – the home of his beloved grandparents, who left him their house – and definitely is not looking for love. In fact, the plan was to swear off men entirely, for the time being anyway, after his recent, painful breakup. The plan was not to fall for a local, widowed father of three. Wesley never even saw Travis Bennett coming. Of course, the same can definitely be said of Travis…He absolutely did not see Wesley coming.

This book covers a lot of ground…family, loss, friendship, small town small-mindedness, homophobia, and ultimately, romance, love, and second chances…and has a variety of fabulous characters for you to love or hate (mostly love). Witt created a villain in John Wallace, whom McFerrin voiced with such venom that I actually cringed a few times when hearing him come into a scene. Without question, this is a book that will make you feel. Here are some of my actual notes from the audio about my feelings while listening!

Chapter 6 – I don’t like that he is downplaying the attack from John Wallace. I think he was right to feel threatened – there was a VERY aggressive advance, if not a full out sexual assault.

Chapter 8 – Wendy is hilarious, saying ‘to make your brown eyes pop and look a little sinister.’ Win win. – about the red glitter eyeliner.

Chapter 10 – I do love this narration. I looove his Wesley voice.

Chapter 10 – the end. So good. (The talk in the barn before the kiss. And, the kiss.) “They kissed. Animals slept. They kissed. The barn continued to stand. They kissed. Maybe a few stars fell.” Sigh.

Chapter 11 – Wesley talking about how hot Travis is…So funny.

Chapter 15 – God I love Wesley – berating himself for not being able to stay away from Travis.

Chapter 21 – Iris Linley – such a fabulous busy body… “You’re both nice men. And, those Bennett children need a mother.” *diez*

I actually ended up listening to it twice. The narration got better and better the more I listened. Good, good stuff. Definitely check this one out, guys!

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You can buy Then the Stars Fall here:

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4.5 Stars, JMS Books LLC, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, W.S. Long

Review: Love and Pain by W.S. Long

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Amazon

Title: Love and Pain

Author: WS Long

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 45000 Words

At a Glance: Overall, a well done mystery/romance!

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Sequel to Love and Murder

After their too-thrilling courtship that included capturing his former lover’s killer, Jake Chandler has started a new life for himself with FBI agent Xavier. Living together is wonderful, but moving to Washington D.C. has resulted in temporary jobs that don’t last long. When Jake finally lucks out on a too-good-to-be-true position with a big law firm, Xavier suspects Jake’s new boss is crooked.

With some sleuthing, snooping, and close calls, Jake gets deeper into trouble at work, and conflicts with Xavier make his world start to crumble. When a key witness is shot to death in front of Jake, they both begin to realize how high the stakes are. Can Jake and Xavier get through these threats and find happiness with each other?

Dividers

Review: Love and Pain picks up a few months after Love and Murder, when the main characters, Jake and Xavier, are starting their new life together. You don’t have to read the first book, but it would help a great deal as this book is tied to it and can be a tad confusing in the beginning if you do not know the backstory from the first novel. This book takes a while to get going, but is highly enjoyable once it does.

Xavier is an FBI agent, taken out of the field because of his last case (Love and Murder), and he practically itches to return to field work. Jake is a lawyer, taking short term assignments while looking for a permanent job in Washington, DC. When a law firm hires Jake and the offer seems too good to be true, Xavier gets suspicious and soon discovers that old cases for the both of them are coming back to haunt them. Above it all, though, this is a romance, and the mystery surrounding these men is there as a complement to their love story. How far are you willing to go to keep someone you love safe? Jake and Xavier each answer that question in this book, and it’s amazing. The way the mystery plays out is totally believable, and I give credit for that to the fact that the author is a lawyer. The way the pivotal characters are all linked together is credible and makes the story a believable crime drama played out on the page.

Love and Pain can be a little flat in places, like the author’s writing style is a work in progress: things are stated baldly, almost stilted in places where you wish he would use a few more words and make the imagery flow instead of stating facts. However, this is not the case for the entire novel, and the places where he allows more nuance of these characters makes them come alive and become real, and it is these incredible places that make the rough spots seem not so significant.

I am always on the lookout for really good crime/mystery stories, and I really enjoyed this book and will look for more from this author, as I think he holds great promise in this genre. Overall, well done!

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You can buy Love and Pain here:

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4.5 Stars, Abigail Roux, Audio Book, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 4.5 Stars, Reviewed by Karen, Riptide Publishing

Audio Review: Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux – Narrated by Brock Thompson

Audio Gem

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Amazon

TitleShock & Awe (Sidewinder: Book One)

Author:  Abigail Roux

Narrator: Brock Thompson

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Run Time:  3 hours and 59 minutes

At a GlanceBrock Thompson was a new to me narrator, and I was pleasantly surprised by his performance.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: After barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him get back on his feet – after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.

Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part…or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address. Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other – friends and brothers in arms or something even deeper – before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.

Dividers

Review: I absolutely loved this book when it came out, and I’ve read it multiple times since then, so I was excited to listen to this audio. I haven’t had a chance to listen to the Cut & Run series audiobooks yet, but now I’m going to have to get them so I can listen to all of them in order.

Brock Thompson was a new to me narrator, and I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. The different characters’ voices were distinct; I didn’t have any issue following along or knowing who was talking throughout the audio. I thought that the narration of the story was just as hot and sexy as the book itself—nothing was taken away from the story at all.

Usually I listen to audiobooks while I’m at work, not really my thing to listen in the car or at home, but some I just can’t stop listening to and have to have them playing wherever I happen to be, which was the case with Shock & Awe—I started listening at work, continued in the car, put my headphones on and listened while grocery shopping, then again in the car on the way home, and since there was only a little left at that point, I finished up sitting on my couch at home. In other words, I didn’t want to stop listening before I got to the end, and now I can’t wait to start Cross & Crown and continue listening to the guys’ story.

A highly recommended listen.

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You can buy Shock & Awe here:

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4.5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Magic & Mistletoe

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Amazon

Title: Magic & Mistletoe

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 114 Pages

At a Glance: Annabelle Jacobs has the recipe for holiday magic and romance all sewn up in a sweet little package in Magic & Mistletoe.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Christmas is Harry’s favourite time of the year, but it looks like he’ll be spending it alone. When it comes to the men he fancies, his luck is non-existent. Harry’s nerves always get the better of him—especially when he tries to talk to Andrew, the hot guy downstairs.

Everything changes when Harry meets a mysterious girl in the woods who professes to be a witch. He dismisses her claims, but when odd things start happening to him, he has to reconsider.

Andrew was attracted to Harry from the start, but their awkward encounters put him off. All goes well until Harry opens his mouth—and ruins it with his stupidity and silly comments. When Harry suddenly becomes more relaxed and they have a proper conversation, Andrew realises his first impression was wrong. As the days count down to December 25, they get swept up in the Christmas spirit and their relationship moves faster than either expected.

A little winter magic might have been the push they needed, but Harry worries that when it wears off, he’ll no longer be the man Andrew wants.

Dividers

Review: Harry has a problem with overstating the obvious. He gets tongue tied and has a tendency to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind—even if that thing makes him look like a bit of a git for pointing out stuff that doesn’t need pointing out. He’s gotten so tongue-tied around his sexy neighbor, and has managed a near perfect record of saying the wrong thing at the right time, that Andrew thinks Harry’s nothing but a big jerk. Which sucks for Harry because Andrew is a guy he’d really love to know better.

Annabelle Jacobs has the recipe for holiday magic and romance all sewn up in a sweet little package in Magic & Mistletoe, a title I couldn’t resist any more than I could its adorable cover. A walk through the woods with his friends brings Harry face to face with a woodland nymph who decides to take matters into her own hands where Harry’s concerned, and gives him the gift that keeps on giving—namely, the ability to keep his gob shut when he’s about to put his foot in it again.

Little coincidences, surprise favors, helpful nudges (a fortuitously placed mistletoe here and there) all serve to bring Harry and Andrew together. And then, of course, the magic isn’t only of the supernatural variety, if you catch my drift. It turns out that these two guys are pretty great together. But… is that because of Harry’s interfering helper? And if so, what possible hope does Harry have of keeping Andrew once the spell wears off and Harry goes back to being his usual tongue-tied self? This is where we get a little bit of angst in this otherwise feel-good holiday romance, just enough to give us a reason to cheer for the story’s happy ending.

It’s a good thing Christmas comes but once a year because I don’t think my heart could take being warmed so thoroughly the other twelve months. Magic & Mistletoe is another check mark in the winter romance win column, and a book that’s sure to bring you a little holiday cheer.

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You can buy Magic & Mistletoe here:

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Amazon UK

Amazon UK

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4.5 Stars, Historical Romance, Joanna Chambers, Reviewed by Lisa, Samhain Publishing

Review: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

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Amazon

Title: Unnatural (An Enlightenment Story)

Author: Joanna Chambers

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

At a Glance: Unnatural is a beautifully written friends-to-lovers romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: The heart breaks but does not change.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Warning: Contains a dashing military hero with one weakness—a scientist who feels their chemistry in every cell of his body. Kissing in the rain, skinny dipping, and emotional flashbacks. Huzzah!

Dividers

Review: Joanna Chambers’ Unnatural is a beautiful love story between two friends, a friendship that began long ago when James Hart, a then nine-year-old boy, was saved from drowning by thirteen-year-old Iain Sinclair. Or, at least Iain thought he was saving James from drowning. That not being the case, however, James took great offense at Iain babying him. But that all changed slowly as their first awkward encounter blossomed into a years long friendship, one in which James fell madly in love with Iain, and Iain dutifully ignored those feelings as well as his own.

Chambers has such a lovely writing style which plants you directly into the atmosphere of this novel of manners and its early 19th Century setting. Iain is by far the more complex of the two men—a painful family history; a father whom Iain is ever doomed to disappoint, regardless of his heroism; his eye toward duty meaning he must keep James always at arm’s length. James, meanwhile, as the younger and less worldly of the two, may be the more innocent but is also the far more pragmatic of the two men. As a scientist, James sees his surroundings with a more studious eye and therefore, he understands his feelings for Iain as a simple part of his nature. It’s Iain for whom this book is titled, no doubt about it.

At the outset of the novel, James and Iain have gone through a situation so troubling that it’s caused them to part ways on the worst of terms, and then it’s through flashbacks that Chambers unravels their story. James never strayed far from his family home, while Iain had joined the army with dreams of his heroism perhaps helping to earn his father’s regard and respect. Upon his leaving the army, Iain is determined to make things right between himself and James before he leaves for India and a new mission. This is where the story sets about resolving the conflict that presents itself through the flashbacks, and it’s perhaps one of the hardest battles Iain has ever fought—both with himself and against his feelings for James, as well as with James, as James has no desire to open himself up to being hurt by Iain ever again. There was a good bit of struggling on Iain’s part to come to terms with his feelings, his own happiness, and the danger of loving James, and the journey to their reconciliation was well worth the trip.

If you love a good historical romance with all the built-in turmoil the time period presented for the men who loved the love that dare not speak its name, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Unnatural to you.

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You can buy Unnatural here:

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4.5 Stars, Avery Cockburn, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Play It Safe by Avery Cockburn

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Title: Play It Safe: A Glasgow Lads Story

Author: Avery Cockburn

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 65 Pages

At a Glance: I just keep loving on these boys so hard.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In this followup story to Playing for Keeps, Fergus and John must overcome bad advice, broken headboards, and the Doppelgänger from Hell to find their forever bliss. A must-read for Glasgow Lads fans—and for new readers, a short ’n’ sweet intro to this hot new Scottish gay-romance series!

“Fancy a game of hide-and-seek?”

After living together for three months, Fergus Taylor and John Burns have come to love each other’s quirks, and the bond between them is starting to look permanent. But when John wants to take things to the next level, Fergus balks, haunted by the betrayals in his own past.

To overcome these fears, Fergus and John must embark on an epic journey, one that tests their faith, their trust, and their ability to keep a cool head in a hot, hot place.

Note: Like all Glasgow Lads books, Play It Safe may be read as a stand-alone story.

Dividers

Review: It’s no big secret how much love I have for Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads. John and Fergus, Colin and Andrew (I have yet to read the prequel, Play On), both couples stole my heart in their respective books and never even tried to give it back. And I love that sometimes when that happens, when I get the couple’s HEA but wish there could still be just a wee bit more to the story, the author goes and gives me exactly what I want. That’s what Cockburn’s done for John and Fergus in Play It Safe.

First let me say that though this novella is billed as a standalone, I don’t feel as though I’d have experienced the fullest depth of love for it had I not had the boys’ backstory. Or, the likelihood is that I’d have liked it on a different level, because there’s no disputing it’s still heartwarming and sexy. John and Fergus’s beginning in Playing for Keeps hinged a good bit on trust issues—Fergus was short on trust because of a bad breakup; John didn’t do much to foster it because of a rather volatile secret he was keeping. The inability for Fergus to give of himself fully becomes the cornerstone upon which the author builds Play It Safe. Does Fergus trust John enough to take their relationship to the next level—a level that requires complete faith in a place where Fergus has been burned before? I thought they were there, but I was wrong, so that’s my roundabout way of saying that had I not had all the puzzle pieces in place, the story would have been perfectly lovely but maybe not as emotionally engaging as it was.

That said, I adore this little vignette. This is the true beginning to John and Fergus’s happily-ever-after, as they work through one final obstacle so they can start their future together. And I must say, they got a little creative in a fun and seductively suggestive way; playful, but there was also a good bit of tension of the non-sexual variety that gave the story an edge too, which does nothing but make the sweet part that much more gratifying once we get there.

If you haven’t read this series yet but are planning to, please don’t read this first. Read Playing for Keeps first. It’s so worth it, and then you can slip right into Play It Safe without a hiccup. Again, it’s so worth it and I’d bet you’ll want to anyway. I can say this with almost no reservations because Avery Cockburn has created all these new adult characters you can’t help but love, with all their charm and charisma just oozing off the pages. That’s how they get under your skin and worm their way into your heart, they’re just that loveable.

The conflict in this story is so real for Fergus, and John just keeps going on to prove how utterly wonderful he is. Fergus was afraid he may have given John enough rope to hang himself. John didn’t tighten the noose, though. He didn’t even come close. He just left the rope behind as a trail to lead Fergus back to him. And it was priceless.

I’m head over heels for this series and its characters. It’s one of my best discoveries of 2015, no question about it, and I’m hoping like crazy to hear more from Colin and Andrew, sooner rather than later.

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You can buy Play It Safe here:

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4.5 Stars, Cecilia Tan, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight by Cecilia Tan

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Amazon

Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight

Author: Cecilia Tan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 258 Pages

At a Glance: And the beat goes on…

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: The latest volume in the award-winning web serial about coming out and coming of age in the music business of the 1980s and 1990s.

As the calendar moves from 1990 to 1991, Daron Marks is trying to stay true to his heart.

But life is tough when you’re a talented musician whose life is controlled by gigantic mega-corporations. Daron is trying hard not to think about that, though, when he invites Ziggy to spend Christmas with Daron’s chosen family: his mentor Remo and the guys from the band Nomad. Ziggy’s career is taking off at rocket speed; meanwhile Daron spends a few months living in New York City working with one of the music industry’s hottest producers and then takes a gig to hit the road with Nomad. Even with the industry pulling them in different directions, Daron and Ziggy’s paths keep crossing. Can they rebuild a relationship without music tying them together? And what is that mysterious song Daron keeps hearing on the radio?

Volume 8 cover chapters 585 through 636 of the online web serial.

Dividers

Review: Have I mentioned yet how much I love this series. Yeah, I thought so, and that opinion hasn’t changed yet. I do have to say, though, that I’m wondering how much more gah! there can possibly be. It’s gah in a good way, though.

Daron and Ziggy. Well, they’re still dancing around each other—same tune, different beat—and tiptoeing over their issues and feelings, so not much has changed there in spite of the fact I thought, “Oh, here we go! There’s the ‘L’ word…” Then nope. I kind of L-word, in a masochistic sort of way, that Cecilia Tan is keeping things so close to the chest with these guys, though, because knowing that Daron’s telling this story in an autobiographical fashion, we’re seeing decades of his life from a current day perspective, and there are many years to go before we get to the 21st century, let alone to 2015. There’s time. There’s time to find out who Daron ends up with. Assuming he ends up with anyone.

And then there’s Colin… Say what, now?

I grew to feel an immense amount of love for Colin—sometimes guitar tech, sometimes CPA—in Volume Eight, and I have to wonder if it’s been sneaking up on me or if that love for him has been there on a slow simmer all along, and it’s finally just bubbled over because it became more evident how well he sees Daron and is sensitive to his moods and needs. Colin can take one look and know that Daron’s keyed up, and knows what it’ll take to undo him, and if that’s not something worth exploring, I don’t know anything about anything. Which I probably don’t because there’s still the enigma that is Ziggy. Is the real question (at least, my real question) whether either of these guys—Ziggy or Colin—are long-term boyfriend material? Cecilia Tan sure threw me a curveball with Colin here, and while I wasn’t expecting it, I can’t wait to see what, if anything, is going to come from it. Which is the awesomely aggravating thing about serialized fiction: that long slow burn of the payoff. But, if nothing else, Colin has proven to be the best friends-with-benefits guy ever.

Or, maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

One of the things I’ve feared as this series progresses is the “second verse same as the first” potential inherent in Daron and Ziggie’s maybe/maybe not relationship, and yet with each installment, Tan has thus far displayed an impressive ability to balance their storyline with Daron’s journey as a musician and a young man who’s growing into his sexuality and finally owning the fact that sex with men isn’t shameful. This is an author who knows her character intimately, and because she loves writing him, I love reading him, angst-ridden guy that he is and all.

We see Daron as more than the guy who loves Ziggy, and we even see him as more than a guitarist, although music is a massive part of who he is. We see him as a brother, a friend, and a surrogate son to Remo Cutler, and Daron allows us in on his most intimate thoughts and feelings and conflicts, and the bottom line is that he’s one of the most deeply drawn and thoroughly explored characters I’ve ever read. If you love character driven fiction and getting into the headspace of the people telling you stories, not to mention fabulous dialogue, this series pretty much owns that in an intricate and what I would declare a singular way. At least, I’ve never read anything like it yet in the M/M genre.

I obviously can’t force anyone to read a book, but if there ever was a series that I’d love to have someone to share my love of it with, it’s this one. Reading these books isn’t even akin to reading fiction, really. It’s like reading a man’s diary, and because Daron’s open and honest and human, which means he’s flawed, he’s also completely endearing.

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You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume Eight here:

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4.5 Stars, Anne Barwell, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 4.5 Stars, Reviewed by Maryann

Audio Review: Shades of Sepia by Anne Barwell – Narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo

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Amazon

Title: Shades of Sepia (The Sleepless City: Book One)

Author: Anne Barwell

Narrator: Michael Ferraiuolo

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 Hours and 59 Minutes

At a Glance: I have now read the book and listened to the audio, so whichever you choose, I think you will be pleasantly entertained.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: A serial killer stalks the streets of Flint, Ohio. The victims are always found in pairs, one human and one vampire.

Simon Hawthorne has been a vampire for nearly a hundred years, and he has never seen anything like it. Neither have the other supernaturals he works with to keep the streets safe for both their kind and the humans.

One meeting with Simon finds Ben Leyton falling for a man he knows is keeping secrets, but he can’t ignore the growing attraction between them. A recent arrival in Flint, Ben finds it very different from his native New Zealand, but something about Simon makes Ben feel as though he’s found a new home.

After a close friend falls victim to the killer, Simon is torn between revealing his true nature to Ben, and walking away to avoid the reaction he fears. But with the body count rising and the murders becoming more frequent, either, or both of them, could be the killer’s next target.

Dividers

Review: Shades of Sepia is a novel set in modern times, where we meet Ben Leyton in Flint, Ohio. He meets Professor of History, Simon Hawthorne, which leads us to the introduction to Boggs Castle. The castle is home to Detective Jonas Forge, Coroner Lucas Coate, and Boggs, an old southern gentleman. There they live and try to coexist with each other, which is humorous and serious at times, but they all remain friends, no matter what.

This audiobook is narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo, and I thought he did a really good job with the different emotions and voices for each of these characters. I liked his English accent for Simon, and the slight New Zealand accent for Ben. I also felt he did great with Boggs and the old southern gentleman’s drawl. He did a fantastic job with John’s vocals too, as you can just feel the evil dripping off this character. I felt Ferraiuolo narrated the story at a good pace and with the creativeness inspired by Anne Barwell’s storytelling. He really brought the story and characters to life. I have listened to other narrations by Michael Ferraiuolo, and I am becoming a fan.

Jackie’s review of this e-book was posted at TNA in March of 2014, and I think it’s right on the nose, outstanding and a series worth following. I have now read the book and listened to the audio, so whichever you choose, I think you will be pleasantly entertained.

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You can buy Shades of Sepia here:

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4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Jessie G., Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Safety in Numbers by Jessie G

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Amazon

Title: Safety in Numbers (Sizzling Miami: Book Five)

Author: Jessie G

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count: 241 Pages

At a Glance: I truly enjoyed the way Jessie G developed Safety in Numbers, a well-rounded story of the four guys, as brothers and friends, and as couples.

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb:  “Bros stick together no matter what.”

When Chris and Liam made that promise, they had no idea how important it would become or how it would be tested in the most brutal way. Nine years later, their bond cemented in blood, that relationship is all they have to hold on to.

“No matter what happens, this friendship will be the one constant we can count on.”

When Billy and Owen made that promise, they knew exactly how dangerous the world could be. They survived prison by protecting each other and they survived freedom by holding that promise sacred. Now they want more than just to survive and they want it from the brothers whose bond is as strong as their own.

“We are stronger together than we’ll ever be apart.”

When Owen reaches his breaking point, Chris jumps at the chance to make things right for all of them. With the future in their grasp, will they realize their strength is in their numbers and finally become the family they crave?

Author’s Note: This is NOT a foursome, but the story of two couples that needed to be told together.

Dividers

Review: When I originally read the blurb for this book, I had some reservations about its focus being on two separate couples. Knowing what I did from reading the previous books in the series, I kind of got the reason for it, but I usually prefer the focus of my books to be on one relationship. I was afraid it would take something away from the storyline, or I’d feel as if I’d missed out on something, but that was really not the case with Safety in Numbers. It quickly becomes obvious that there was no way to tell these characters’ stories separately. Although not a foursome, as the blurb states, they really are a unit.

I truly enjoyed the way Jessie G developed this plot, a well-rounded story of Chris and Liam, and Billy and Owen, as both brothers and friends, as well as their relationships as couples. I honestly felt as though I got even more out of this story than I would have were the focus only on one pair. We also get little glimpses of characters we have already met and loved, as well as meeting a few new characters who all keep the story flowing.

This book ended with me being satisfied with where it took me, and looking forward to what is to come. Safety in Numbers is my absolute favorite in the series so far!

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4.5 Stars, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: King of the Kitchen by Bru Baker

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Title: King of the Kitchen

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy a real romance and slow buildup kind of story.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Rising kitchen talents Beck Douglas and Duncan Walters have been on the foodie paparazzi radar for years, since their status as heirs to two of the biggest celebrity chef empires around makes them culinary royalty. Beck is known for his charm and traditional food as cohost of his uncle’s popular TV cooking show, while Duncan earned himself a reputation as a culinary bad boy, both for his refusal to work in his father’s restaurants and his avant-garde approach to cooking.

They’re also heirs to a food rivalry that could put the Hatfields and McCoys to shame, and when they’re photographed in the middle of a heated argument, the press goes wild with speculation. Damage control ensues, with a fake friendship engineered by PR cronies that leaves both of them secretly pining for more.

Beck chafes under his uncle’s micromanagement, and Duncan’s relationship with his homophobic father becomes even more tenuous when Beck and Duncan start getting closer. It’s hard to hide their chemistry on national television when Duncan joins Beck’s cooking show, but they won’t be able to take their relationship—or their careers—to the next level without breaking a few eggs.

Dividers

Review: Duncan Walters is the culinary bad boy.  Young, brilliant in the kitchen, he works at various restaurants around Chicago, including a diner, refusing to settle down. His espouses the cooking regimen of molecular gastronomy, having graduated from college with a molecular biology degree, even though he is happiest slinging fried eggs at the diner. Duncan’s father is a 4 star Michelin chef, and Duncan started working in his dad’s kitchens when he was twelve. But, his relationship with his homophobic father is tenuous and, frankly, has soured Duncan on relationships, period. Duncan keeps it light, no strings, no long term commitments in love and his professional life – it’s just easier that way.

Beck Douglas is heir apparent to the culinary King empire. Managing several restaurants by night, by day he is the face of the King of the Kitchen TV show. Nephew to Christian King, the culinary powerhouse, Beck has no time for anything personal; there just are not enough hours in the day. To keep himself sane, he runs on a tight schedule, his every move scripted; it is the only way he can even try to live up to all that is expected of him. Being attracted to a man who wears t-shirts with stupid food slogans on them, or Chucks with his tuxedo, is just not an option.

I loved these guys.  This story takes a long time to develop, these men have a lot to overcome both personally and professionally, and they do it all in the public eye since they are celebrities of a sort. As such, they don’t have a real “moment” until the book is 75% done. Don’t get me wrong, we have witty dialog and awesome secondary characters that keep this book moving, and the way it all plays out is totally believable. These two men are like balls that keep pinging off each other, each new collision knocking off all the extraneous bonds of their lives until just the two of them remain, and they can’t resist each other. You will love all the food references, and the TV show could absolutely be on a channel today.

In the end, this book is about two men, though and the restaurant and food references are just aspects of these two men, adding depth and reality to the characters. I would highly recommend this book if you enjoy a real romance and slow buildup kind of story. This was my first Bru Baker story, but it definitely will not be my last!

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4.5 Stars, Dark Hollows Press, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Victoria Sue

Review: Broken Circle by Victoria Sue

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TitleBroken Circle (Sirius Wolves: Book Two)

Author:  Victoria Sue

Publisher: Dark Hollows Press

Pages/Word Count: 202 Pages

At a Glance: So, is this book good? Yeah. Any book that can make me care that much about characters and cry so hard is awesome.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Blaze, the most powerful werewolf on the planet has found his omega, Aden. Together with Conner and Darric they finally become true mates, fulfilling an ancient prophecy by the goddess Sirius and forming Orion’s Circle. The battle against the terrorist group, the Winter Circle, has begun.

Blaze, however, is fighting his own battle. Aden is due to birth a child, and despite Blaze’s six hundred years of being an Alpha, nothing has prepared him for his hardest challenge yet — how to become a father. His struggles are hurting the people he loves the most and threatening their bond.

The madman who kidnapped and tortured Aden still hasn’t been caught, and when the worst happens and their circle is broken, Blaze has to fight his biggest threat yet – his own inner weakness – an enemy against which his Alpha strength will be useless. Blaze has to learn that true strength is only found in forgiveness, and sometimes the most powerful weapon is love.

Dividers

Review: A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series, and I was absolutely delighted by the world Victoria Sue set up. The mythology, the characters, the storyline…all of it was so fresh in a shifter-saturated market. This second book continues the story started in the first, and follows Aden, Blaze, Conner, and Darric as they discover the joys of fatherhood and navigate an increasingly dangerous world.

Seven months have passed since the first book, and Aden is ready to give birth to a baby. Yes, he is male, for readers just tuning in, so this book does have mpreg. The logistics are explained in the first book, and I found it fascinating as Aden and his alphas dote on their child. But there’s a lot at stake. Orion’s Circle is getting more powerful, but Aden and Blaze have not finished their bonding ceremony, and there are new threats to contend with. The villain, Madden (from the first book has disappeared), and a terrorist group that seems to be made of wolves is threatening wolf/human relations.

I can’t say much without giving too much away, but I will say a few things. First, you absolutely must read the first book to get the full story. The author does a decent job of catching readers up, but not everything is explained. Second, this book is devastating. There is a major character death and I sobbed in bed, reading to the end through wet lashes. That’s how much I was affected. I honestly didn’t think it would bother me as much as it did, and I had to eventually take my glasses off because they were so blurred with tears.

So, is this book good? Yeah. Any book that can make me care that much about characters and cry so hard is awesome. That’s not to say there aren’t issues, however. Like the first book, there are some inconsistencies. The baby’s name is mentioned before Aden and Blaze decide on it, which is frustrating. There are also instances of repetition that could have been cut. I started skimming at one point because it got to be just too much, but in the end, the author’s character building really brought me in and kept me engrossed in the story. I just really wish more attention had been payed to the editing.

Now, there is a third book, and I currently hold it in my hands. I’m afraid to read it, though. Why? I don’t think my heart can handle another blow like it did with this one. And I’m all out of tissues. Any more tears and I might need to start using the towels in my bathroom to sop up the mess.

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Poppy Dennison, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Dogwood Days by Poppy Dennison

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Title: Dogwood Days

Author: Poppy Dennison

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 129 Pages

At a Glance: With snappy dialogue, cleverly written characters, a small town warmth and a blossoming love story, Dogwood Days is a delightful journey down America’s main streets.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Jefferson Lee Davis is happy with his life in the city until his favorite uncle has a bad fall and he rushes to Holly Creek to make sure Uncle Sherman is okay. Jefferson Lee knows how to navigate small Southern town’s politics and the residents greet him with open arms. Everyone but the town’s sheriff, Zane Yarbrough, that is.

Dogwood Days, the town’s biggest festival is looming, so Jefferson has to step up and take over his uncle’s job as the town blogger, even if that puts him right in the sheriff’s path. Quirky neighbors, meddling family, and a sassy best friend all come together to make Jefferson Lee’s life in Holly Creek a full-time adventure. When he loses his job back in the city, Jefferson Lee has to start a new job search that will take him away from the town he’s learning to think of as home. Will this big city boy find sweet romance in the arms of a small town sheriff or will the allure of the city call him back?

Dividers

Review: Jefferson Lee returns to his roots in order to help his beloved uncle after an accident left him with a broken leg and concussion. While his hometown has a definite place in his heart, the small town gossip and lack of privacy tends to drag a bit on Jefferson’s nerves. However, he agrees to help his Uncle with the town blog and the upcoming dogwood festival, and begins to settle in for the short term. Little does he account for a determined Sheriff who is clearly smitten, and a town who wants nothing more than to hold onto one of its own—especially since that one is Jefferson Lee, himself.

Author Poppy Dennison is a wizard at creating a sweet little town and inhabiting it with all manner of colorful people. We are not just given Jefferson Lee to discover, but his Uncle, his best friend Clover, the local diner owner, the town Sheriff, and the list goes on and on. Each one of these characters is so delightfully written, from nosy busybodies to fiercely loyal friends, and in the midst of them all is Jefferson Lee, who takes up the mantle of his hometown with grace and ease.

At its heart, Dogwood Days is a slice of Americana, with Holly Creek being the quintessential small town that turns out to be a sweet, close-knit community waiting to lure the reader in. Inhabited by delightful people who want nothing more than one of their favored sons to settle in and make his home there once more, Holly Creek becomes a clever little side character in this tender love story. It was so easy to understand why Zane would fall for Jefferson Lee. He was part crazed, part overfed, and part romantic all rolled into one. In essence, completely lovable and just down right nice to boot.

With snappy dialogue, cleverly written characters, a small town warmth and a blossoming love story, Dogwood Days is a delightful journey down America’s main streets. Don’t be surprised if you want to stay.

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4.5 Stars, Gwen Hayes, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Don’t Stop Believing by Gwen Hayes

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Title: Don’t Stop Believing (Silver Pines: Book One)

Author: Gwen Hayes

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 59 Pages

At a Glance: This book had me at “Mr. Literary Tightpants.”

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: The Ogre from the Hill

Simon Powell, the town recluse, only comes to town to deliver firewood and get supplies. Two days before Christmas, he sees the new librarian’s car in a ditch and knows he can’t leave him on the road, but it’s too late to take him back to town. He’ll have something he’s never had in his cabin in the ten years that’s he’s lived there…company.

The Book Nerd from the City

Adam Parker moved to the small community to make big changes in his life, but being snowbound with the bearded lumberjack in his rustic cabin was something he’d thought only existed in his fantasies. Simon pushes away anyone who wants to get close to him, but Adam sees what he’s hiding in his heart and he wants it. Badly.

A Christmas to Remember

Adam smells like cinnamon and redemption and Simon aches to run his fingers over the scrape of stubble on his cheeks. To pull him into a kiss. To reignite feelings he’d denied himself for too long. Life is right there, blazing in the eyes of the town librarian. A man who isn’t afraid of him. But he learned long ago that everything he touches gets tainted, and he’ll do anything to keep his darkness away from Adam’s light.

But Adam has something else on his side—he’s been a very good boy this year and all he wants for Christmas is Simon.

Dividers

Review: Don’t Stop Believing, the new Christmas novella by Gwen Hayes, is an absolute delight. Since the author is new to me – I believe this is her first M/M book, though she is an established M/F romance and YA author – I had no idea what to expect, and was immediately and pleasantly surprised. In fact, I may have snickered out loud and highlighted basically all of page 4. So, yeah…the writing grabbed me very early on, and never let go.

Simon lives on his own, keeps to himself for the most part, and that’s just the way he likes it. Though he’s referred to as ‘the ogre from the hill,’ and a recluse, he’s actually very well-liked in the small, mountain town of Silver Pines, Washington. I was completely taken with Simon, and was intrigued by his story. He’s a hero, an animal lover, a real live lumberjack… who reads. Swoon. Hello! What’s not to love? I found myself constantly wanting to hug him. He was just a solid, good guy.

Adam finds himself taken with Simon also, while stranded at the sexy lumberjack’s cabin during a snow storm, and things quickly heat up between them. However, Simon is a tough nut to crack. He’s not forthcoming about his past or his personal life, and tries to push Adam away even though it’s clear that he wants him just as much. When he finally pushes too far, and Adam does leave, Simon has to figure out a way to make things right. Queue awesome Christmas cliché plot device. Which was wonderfully schmaltzy, and I ate it up.

He hadn’t always been an ogre. Somewhere, very deep inside, the old Simon still lived and breathed. Every stupid Christmas movie he’d ever seen suddenly made sense. The magic was real. Just yesterday, he’d been trying to avoid being a cliché. Today, he was going to be the biggest fucking Christmas Miracle Cliché he could manage.

This book had me at “Mr. Literary Tightpants.” Though somewhat predictable, it was a fabulously executed Christmas romance; I loved every bit of it. The writing was sharp and witty, and the pacing was perfect for a short story. I’m told there are more books coming from the quaint little town of Silver Pines, and though they won’t be centered around Simon and Adam, specifically, they will be making little cameos. I would definitely love to read more of these guys – so, I guess that will have to do for now. ;)

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Victor J. Banis

Review: A Prayer for the Dead by Victor J. Banis

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Title: A Prayer for the Dead (A Tom and Stanley Novel)

Author: Victor J. Banis

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I was entertained by the entire series, and I look forward to the next mystery from Mr. Banis to see what he has in store for Tom and Stanley.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Does murder follow Tom and Stanley around, or do they follow the murders?
After a hospital stay, Stanley is invited by Father Brighton to convalesce at St. Marywood, an isolated monastery on the ocean cliffs of Big Sur. Upon arrival, Stanley finds Father Brighton dead. The order’s doctor writes it up as a death by natural causes, but those seem to be quite prevalent at the monastery. The recent demise of a young brother who fell from the cliffs is described as an accident, but Stanley’s nose is twitching. Plus the order’s finances have taken a sudden, mysterious turn for the better. Is something rotten at St. Marywood?
Stanley and Tom can’t resist digging around even if it means testing their tumultuous relationship against a gaggle of handsome, young, virginal, and—they are told—gay men.

Dividers

Review: Before I could begin A Prayer for the Dead, book seven in the Tom and Stanley Mystery series, I dug into the vault of and read the first six books. Each of the books are page turners, with danger, humor, a variety of murder suspects, and unique plots. If you really like murder mysteries, this series offers everything from drag queens to friars in monasteries, and a lot more in between. Even the first book, Deadly Nightshade (which suffered from horrible editing), held my attention to the very last word (but don’t worry, the editing has gotten better).

But the reason I mention the previous six books in the series is because this isn’t only a continuing series about Tom Danzel and Stanley Korski. Stanley’s best friend Christopher Rafferty, and Carl Hunter from a previous book(s), finally get to meet in A Prayer for the Dead. In this book, we find Stanley and Chris making a trip to St. Marywood at the invitation of Father Brighton, a friend of Christopher’s. This in itself is different because Stanley and Chris do some investigating of their own when they discover Father Brighton dead. I was impressed by how well Stanley and Chris did as a team. When Stanley finally gets to fill Tom in on all his findings, they put their heads together about the murders and find themselves on a road trip to Mexico. They come up with several possibilities, but are really surprised by the outcome, just as I was.

What I find extremely interesting in this series is Tom and Stanley.  Even though they are really good at solving mysteries, they really haven’t solved the mystery of their relationship. Tom still considers himself straight, but he loves Stanley. Stanley has been the only man that Tom has been attracted to, and he has a great need to protect Stanley, but he’s really “not interested in anything gay,” and the temptation for women still crops up at times. Stanley is gay and proud of it, but he always has his doubts that Tom will leave him for the straight life. Tom doesn’t want to go to gay clubs or hang with Stanley’s friends–Chris is the only one Tom has made a friend of–and both have walked the fine line of temptation.

Even though Tom has made some changes, I really like Stanley’s character best.  He has really grown throughout the series. Out of his love for Tom, he has come up against some hard decisions, and sometimes I question whether or not they will make it as a couple.

I was entertained by the entire series, and I look forward to the next mystery from Mr. Banis to see what he has in store for Tom and Stanley.

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, K.C. Wells, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: First by K.C. Wells

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Title: First

Author: K.C. Wells

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 296 Pages

At a Glance: In spite of some flaws, this was a gorgeously written love story.

Blurb: It’s taken Tommy Newsome a while to get his head around being gay. Growing up in a small town in Georgia, hasn’t prepared him for the more liberal life of a student at the university in Athens. Add to that the teachings of his parents and his church, and you have one shy young man who feels out of his depth. Working on his daddy’s farm hasn’t given him any chance of a social life, certainly not one like the clubs of Atlanta have on offer. Not that Tommy feels comfortable when he gets to sample it—Momma’s lectures still ring loudly inside his head.

All that changes when he goes to his first gay bar and sets eyes on Mike Scott.

When Mike’s not behind the bar at Woofs, he’s busy with his life as adult entertainer Scott Masters. Twenty years in the industry and the times, they are a-changing. Mike’s not had much luck in the relationship department, but as his mom is fond of telling him, you keep fishing in the same pond, you’re gonna reel in the same kind of fish. Maybe it’s time for a change.

And then a beautiful young man asks Mike to be his first….

Dividers

Review: Tommy was raised in an ultra-conservative farming community where “god-fearing” men and women did not discuss sex, nor did they deviate from the bible subscribed man/woman pairing or even allow impure thoughts to occupy space in their minds. Now, in college, all the worries Tommy has had over the last few years have come home to roost, and for the first time, he is fairly sure he may be gay. Added to that, his roommate is definitely bisexual and a bit of a slut to boot, and is constantly encouraging Tommy to pop his “cherry” and find someone to date.

In short time, Tommy begins to undo all the untruths and close-minded bigotry he has grown up with over the years, beginning with a trip to his very first gay bar. Once there, Tommy finds himself drawn to the older bartender who seems to be the very embodiment of someone Tommy could not only trust but might actually be the one man Tommy could give himself to sexually for the first time. Mike Scott is a weekend bartender at the gay sports bar that Tommy visits every weekend. While he has definitely spotted the handsome young man who sits at the end of the bar nursing his cherry coke, Mike also knows the kid is way too young for him. Besides that, once Tommy got wind of Mike’s real occupation, he would no doubt run far away…just like so many others had done in Mike’s life. However, Mike hasn’t pegged Tommy correctly—he is a determined, if awkward and painfully shy, young man. Tommy knows one thing with great certainty—he wants Mike to be his first and he won’t take no for an answer.

First is an incredibly beautiful coming-out story, featuring a tender first love trope and two gorgeously written leading men. I’m not sure how anyone could read this novel and not fall head over heals in love with both Mike and Tommy. Tommy’s shy and innocent demeanor was so well crafted that he made even the hardest of hearts melt in his wake, and no doubt readers with any maternal instincts will want to scoop this boy up and keep him safe from harm. Tommy’s journey to self-discovery and sexual awakening was one major story line in this long novel.  The way in which the author kept tightly to Tommy’s journey, making it both realistic and compelling to read, was sheer genius. Such depth and clarity was given to creating both men in this story—making it a real delight to read such well-formed and realistic characters despite how incredibly innocent and unschooled Tommy appeared to be during the bulk of the novel.

Mike Scott’s journey was the second major plot point to this story. Mike was an incredibly conflicted man. Wounded by past failed relationships and growing ever more weary in an industry that seemed to be steadily embracing more and more risky decisions regarding unprotected sex, Mike is at a real crossroad when young Tommy Newsome steps into his life. Every person who Mike had grown to care for outside the porn industry has left him. Either they could not accept his participating in sex with multiple partners, or they balked at the idea of being in a relationship with him after finally discovering he had no intentions of walking away from the job. Either way, Mike had no one to share his life with in a time when he was so desperate to have that kind of intimacy in his life. Not only did Tommy’s age give him pause, the idea that Tommy would run straight for the hills should he find out Mike’s real job was a constant worry for the handsome bartender.

I fear this review is not really doing justice to the subtlety of this author’s expertise at striking the careful balance she achieved when writing such an innocent character as Tommy. It takes a very deft and skilled hand to create such an innocent young man, who is on the cusp of both sexual and mental awakening. On the other hand, it also takes immense patience to not go the easy route and make an older, world traveled porn star into a stereotypically callous and sexually preoccupied character, but that was not the case in this novel. Tommy and Mike were depicted as real men grappling with honest emotions and fears, and who bravely struggle to live their lives on their terms. In short, I was awed by the realism that infused every page of this story.

For a good portion of First, we watch these two cautious men dance around each other, each giving up bits of themselves in a slow building pas de deux that is as mesmerizing as it is beautiful. The tenderness, the romance, the gradual sharing of confidences and the sweet tendrils of growing love between Tommy and Mike create such a delicate bond that is constantly overshadowed by Mike’s secret. It was the fear of that ax falling, that secret being revealed, that also lent a hand at making this a gripping tale.

Unfortunately, there were also two minor plot points that left me a bit confused and ultimately pulled me from this sweet romance, which temporarily left make me a bit uncomfortable with the trajectory the plot took as a result. The first was the idea of “cuddling up” to a porn buddy that was casually tossed into the storyline. Mike seemed to fully embrace this practice despite being in serious relationships both in the past and presently with Tommy. Since the storyline doesn’t put parameters around Mike’s “cuddling,” which I assumed was a euphemism for casual sex or comforting holding and kissing when the need got to be too great, I was led to believe by Mike’s inner musings that he did not consider this cheating. Even though while involved with Tommy Mike does resists actual sex with a former lover, he still kisses and holds the man in bed. Perhaps it’s my narrow view of relationships, but I felt that was crossing a big line from a hug and kiss on the cheek to comforting a friend. Plus, considering Mike was already lying to Tommy about his porn job, it felt doubly wrong and smacked of cheating. I felt Mike was fully aware of how much Tommy trusted him, therefore in any reading of this discussion on cuddling, I felt fairly certain Mike had crossed a line.

The second had to do with the ending—which, given Tommy’s difficult time with accepting Mike’s job and the fact that he lied to him, seemed way too easy a fix. Please don’t get me wrong, this was a gorgeously written love story and despite the age difference, I was fully on board with this partnering and with their genuine love for each other. I simply thought that the same amount of time spent in building this loving dynamic should have also been spent on the rebuilding of trust that needed to take place once Mike’s lying had been revealed. No other place in this novel did I feel that the author was trying to veil some form of ignorance on Tommy’s part as just virginal and relational naïveté. But the ending and Tommy’s quick capitulation after being blindsided by the discovery of Mike’s occupation was just a bit too out of character. Wisely, K.C. Wells created Tommy to be a pragmatic and thinking young man—this too rapid acceptance and reestablishment of a trusting relationship thrust all that into suspect for me.

However, nothing can negate the fact that K.C. Wells has risen to an all new level of storytelling with this latest offering. This author continues to hone her craft and plum depths of excellence in creating outstanding stories time and again.

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