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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5 Stars, Joseph Lance Tonlet, Kink/Taboo, Louis Stevens, Self-Published

Review: Quillon’s Covert by Joseph Lance Tonlet and Louis Stevens

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Title: Quillon’s Covert

Authors: Joseph Lance Tonlet and Louis Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 186 Pages

At a Glance: I thank you for writing such an amazing profound love story. Because when you get right down to it, that is exactly what this is.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: Martin is a guy’s guy, one who enjoys the simple things in life: baseball games with his son, family days, barbecues, and date nights with his lovely wife.

Once a year for two weeks, Martin takes his son, Marty, to Quillon’s Covert, a rustic family cabin secluded in the beautiful California mountains. Since before those long days of learning to play ball, Marty has loved his dad, but as Marty matures, Martin starts to see something else settle in his son’s uncertain gaze. What’s there lingers a little more than it should, and it seems far more appraising than it once was.

As Marty shows every sign of taking the lead, Martin is faced with the tough choices most parents never see: lose his son by being a father, or try to balance what’s best for their relationship by being something… more.

But with another trip to Quillon’s Covert on the horizon, has the point of no return already begun?

Dividers

Review: Okay, where do I even begin? As I sat on this for a few days now, wrapping my head around what words to use describe this book, I’ve come to the conclusion that only one word says what I want to say: beautiful. It was beautifully written, presented beautifully, and definitely got my attention from page one. These two authors told an alluring tale that literally blew me away.

Getting this out of the way here, please heed the warning tags: This story contains incest, cheating, and light BDSM. Read the blurb, read the tags, you have been warned.

I’m going to reiterate again how beautifully written this story was. Spanning over twenty years, we watch Martin and son, Martin Jr. (he likes to be called Marty) begin a taboo, albeit consensual, loving affair. We get to know these two men as they take their annual getaway to a secluded family cabin called Quillon’s Covert. From the beginning we really get a sense of their mutual respect, closeness, and the overall great father/son relationship they have with one another. I think this was an important aspect to see, given the subject matter.

Having both POVs throughout the story was critical because we were privy to all the emotions the characters were experiencing. The reader needs to know beyond any shadow of doubt that their journey is one they chose individually, and then together. But even still, what I loved most were the conversations between the two. I loved the banter back and forth, the jokes, and the numerous nicknames Martin had for his son. It was a nice balance, considering some of the heavy life changing decisions being made between them. I loved the build up to them becoming lovers. I thought it was a great decision by the authors for Martin and Marty to have these deep conversations and internal reflections of what was to be. In the end, it was what they both wanted, and it was just beautiful.

Now, I mentioned cheating as one of the warnings. A lot of readers don’t like cheating, won’t read a book if they know it’s part of the story. For me, it was a non-issue. Yes, for all intents and purposes, Martin is a happily married straight man. And yes, Marty eventually finds happiness of his own with a partner he marries and has children with. But I saw the relationship between father and son as being about them and no one else. They are in their own little bubble when they are together, reconnecting in all ways and on many different levels for the brief amount of time they have that it’s almost like the world beyond them doesn’t exist. When they leave Quillon’s Covert, they go back to their own lives and loves until the following year. It just didn’t seem like cheating to me. I know some will argue the fact, so be it, I see it how I see it.

Overall, I loved this story. Going along with Martin and Marty, watching the progression of their relationship through the years was absolutely mesmerizing. Although the storyline is intense, taboo and unconventional, there is tenderness, love, respect, and laughter throughout.

Mr. Tonlet and Mr. Stevens, I thank you for writing such an amazing profound love story. Because when you get right down to it, that is exactly what this is.

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5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Holiday Romance, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus by Bey Deckard

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Title: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus (Baal’s Heart 3.5)

Author: Bey Deckard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 43 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this savory and sweet little morsel.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A Baal’s Heart short, following the events in Fated: Blood and Redemption

Plagued by terrible dreams, Jon begins to distance himself from Baltsaros and Tom. Perhaps a little holiday cheer is just the thing to help the three of them find common ground again.

Dividers

Review: Well, this is a first. I never thought I’d use the words “sweet” and “Bey Deckard” together in a review, but here I am doing that very thing. Never say never…

Careened directly follows the events in this series’ Fated: Blood and Redemption, so if you’ve not read book three yet, this short holiday novella may not pack quite the same punch for you as it would knowing the full scope of events in that novel. Of course, though I say this story has a tinge of the sweet to it, it also offers just that much of the bitter to remind you that the alternate universe Captain Baltsaros, Tom, and Jon inhabit isn’t one without its dangers and grief and pain.

Jon is in a bad way after what happened to him in Sormaheine, the dark shadows of anger and regret following him through his days and nights as he tries to drink away the memories that dog him…though he can’t escape his sub-conscious and the nightmares that manipulate his thoughts and drive his depression. This is where the bitter tempers the sweet in this story, complements the storyline without overwhelming, and, in the end, makes the turnabout that much more satisfying.

Writing a convincing threesome is exactly what Bey Deckard has done. Believing in this threesome and the dynamics of that relationship is exactly what readers of this series are able to do because this author has created three men who just work, plain and simple, in spite of the challenges thrown their way. Crafting this short story to coincide with this verse’s version of a winter holiday is the perfect scenario to offer healing to Jon and begin a mending of the relationship between him and Baltsaros. There was, without a doubt, some truly romantic gestures in Careened, and, as has been the case all along, a Baal’s Heart book wouldn’t be a Baal’s Heart book without a wildly sexy scene or two to watch these three connect and command and show readers the bond they share.

I loved this savory and sweet little morsel. What a great interlude with these characters at a wonderful time of the year.

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You can buy Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus here:

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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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Amazon

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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THE GIVEAWAY

Enter for the chance to win an e-copy of One Step Further & The Greatest Gift

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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.

Social Media LinksTwitter || Pinterest || Goodreads || Instagram || Facebook Author Page || Newsletter

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The Fine Print:

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3 Stars, Ceci Thornton, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Saved by the Shifter by Ceci Thornton

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Amazon

Title: Saved by the Shifter

Author: Ceci Thornton

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 212 Pages

At a Glance: In spite of some niggles here and there, the action sequences in Saved by the Shifter made for some suspenseful reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Nate Palmer is desperate enough to try anything to find his missing niece…

Nate has cared for his niece Beth since she was a baby, and now the sixteen-year old has disappeared without a word. The only clue he has is a letter she left behind from her birth mother. He’d do anything to find her, even if it means turning to a down-on-his-luck private investigator working out of a store front in a strip mall—one with the ability to sniff out more clues.

Dexter Armstrong is a lone wolf looking to use his tracking skills to do some good…

Dexter had a pack once, but left, disgusted by their lack of appreciation for their gift. But business is bad and his roof is leaking. He’s just about ready to throw in the towel on that lonely life when Nate walks in the door, looking helpless and smelling delectable.

Together they will travel to the seediest parts of LA

Even as he’s focused on finding his niece, Nate can’t help but be drawn to Dexter’s powerful dominance. And Dexter becomes more and more certain that Nate’s his fated mate. Can their attraction survive the reveal of Dexter’s true nature? And can they both survive the supernatural perils that they will face in their quest to find Beth—and to find the kind of love and family both have been dreaming of?

Dividers

Review: When Nate Palmer’s older brother, Craig, was busted for selling drugs to an off-duty cop and sent to prison, Nate became sole caretaker of his niece Beth. Beth’s mother isn’t in the picture any longer, having fled to parts unknown years before, so Nate truly is Beth’s only hope at a normal life—and they’d gotten along well, too, until Beth hit the terrible teens. Now Beth has gone missing, Nate is beside himself with worry and fear, and his one hope of finding his niece and getting her back home safely seems to be Private Investigator Dexter Armstrong.

That’s the quick setup for Ceci Thornton’s Saved by the Shifter, a novel that taps into the shifter bonding trope, albeit only shallowly, to bring Nate and Dexter together as partners in sex as well as in tracking down Nate’s niece. As I’ve said any number of times before, sometimes the device works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. A lot depends on how well the author convinces me, after that initial spark of lust has struck, that the two guys have what it takes to be a couple. I liked Dexter and Nate, and though I had some quibbles over their initial meeting and the lack of exploration in what they have in common other than lust, the fact they go through hell and back with each other did help to make the bond somewhat more believable. There’s something to be said for not only going into battle together but then surviving.

While Saved by the Shifter is categorized as a Mystery, I have to say I felt Dexter’s role as a PI was pretty well in title only, made so by the simple lack of a true mystery in this plot. We don’t have to wait long to discover what happened to Beth, and Dexter isn’t even the one who searched for the clues to track her down, so we don’t get to see him at work much in that role. The information on Beth’s whereabouts is effectively dumped in his lap, which I felt was a bit of a let-down as I’d prepped myself for a good missing person investigation, but once I understood the storyline was more Urban Fantasy than an all-out Mystery, the positive becomes the author’s ability to write a tense and suspenseful action scene. Of course, Dexter’s shifter half comes in handy along the way too, as he’s fairly certain of the danger Beth is in before it’s confirmed, so that added to the tension in the storyline and made for some excitement during the book’s climactic scene.

There are several things that, overall, I felt could have been explored in greater detail in this book, much of it revolving around Dexter as a character. I think the potential for him to be more interesting and layered was missed in the lack of background details about him—we get a few facts, but to make him more interesting, knowing where he came from, who he came from, what he came from, what shifter mythology inspired his character, would have gone a long way to building interest in him as a supernatural character for me. Essentially, we get no world-building to speak of (which left me with some distracting questions during Beth’s rescue), and even more confusing for me, was a group of shifters that materialized and disappeared from the story and left me scratching my head—one moment they appear threatening, the next, they were there to cover Dexter’s back. There’s a history there that most definitely was missing, and I’d have loved to know more of it—why they were antagonists one moment, saviors the next. And while I’m on the subject of characters, here, I will say I liked the sweet reunion between Nate and Beth, and felt the affection between them was genuine and well portrayed.

In the end, though I feel the book could have used some more exposition, I liked Saved by the Shifter for what it was—a vehicle to bring two likable men together to form their own little pack.

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4 Stars, Holiday Romance, Jay Northcote, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Review: What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote

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Title: What Happens at Christmas

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 113 Pages

At a Glance: Jay Northcote has another holiday winner here.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: When two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?

Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

Christmas Dividers

Review: So many delightful little bits in this story! It was easy to fall in love with Justin and Sean. As soon as I read the blurb for What Happens at Christmas I immediately snapped it up. Anyone who knows me, or follows my reviews at all, knows that friends-to-lovers stories are totally my thing. I love the level of comfort the characters have with each other, the level of trust, and that there is so much shared history. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been together since we were nineteen – friends since we were fifteen – maybe I’m just a product of the formula…but, I know it works.

Justin and Sean were both extremely likeable, and the story was funny, charming, and sweet. It’s not a new idea – pretending to be dating, to piss off an ex at the office party – but it was well-done here. I also really liked that they were both in love with each other rather than it being a GFY situation, for example. To me that made it much more enjoyable; what they each thought was unrequited love was really just bad timing and poor communication.

Jay Northcote has such a light, easygoing style, and the guys are very sexy and fun together. That’s not to say that the book is without substance. Sean has a strained relationship with his father, and they are somewhat estranged. He is pretty troubled over that situation, and what he is going to do with himself now that he’s come back to England. Justin and Sean both have reservations about pursuing a relationship. They are extremely afraid of ruining their friendship, and unwilling to risk it, so they spend some time unhappily plodding along. In some books this can become a big stumbling block for me. You know those books? The “Just talk already!!!!” books? I didn’t feel that here, though. In this book it was more, “Awwww…these poor guys.” Their trepidation is more endearing than annoying.

Northcote has another holiday winner here. The guys had GREAT chemistry. The office party scene was tons of fun to read – it was VERY satisfying to watch the sleazy ex squirm – I imagine it also had to be fun to write! Super low angst, this one is perfect for when you need that feel-good read. I thoroughly enjoyed this easy-breezy Christmas novella.

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5 Stars, AJ Rose, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lynn, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Reaping Havoc by AJ Rose

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Title: Reaping Havoc

Author: AJ Rose

Publisher: The Grim Writer Press

Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages

At a Glance: The concept of this story is amazing. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.

But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.

The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?

Dividers

Review: After reading a couple books from this author, I realize they’re becoming an auto buy for me. As I’m always looking for new authors to read, I’m looking for fresh story ideas too. This one was everything I was searching for.

The concept of this story is amazing. Mitch is a grim reaper. He collects the souls of those who have just died, and makes sure they get to where they’re going in the afterlife. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology. Instead of just one, there are thousands all over the world, kind of like a police force for souls. They get their assignments via email, where and when it’ll happen, and off they go. And then we have Nate, the new guy in town looking to start fresh after a devastating tragedy that has turned his life upside down. Life and death are about to get very interesting for these two gentlemen.

I loved getting both Mitch and Nate’s perspectives throughout the entire story. We see Mitch struggling with his pre-ordained destiny, and the realization that he may have to live his long life alone because of what he is, which has him resenting everything about it. Nate, still reeling from the death of his twin sister, is trying to move on with his life and make it on his own. I adored both of these characters. Any story that involves grim reapers is bound to be a little gory—there’s a lot of death and sadness—but with these two, their comic relief and off color humor made it a little lighter.

I really liked getting the visual and insight of what happens after Mitch collects the souls of the recently departed. It was fascinating to me. I just have a picture in my head of human balloons trailing behind him—kinda funny and sad all at the same time. The author’s mad writing skills definitely shine through.

I’m really trying not to give away spoilers here. I’ve seen some reviews that just blurt out everything about the story. To me that’s just wrong. The only thing I’ll say here, without giving it all away, is this: souls linger when they have unfinished business to attend to. Mitch notices a tagalong soul with Nate. This leads Mitch into thinking Nate is a fellow reaper. When the truth comes to light, it’s at times funny and endearing, but also sad and heartbreaking. But like I said before, there is a lot of humor throughout the book. It definitely balances out the death and sadness, so kudos to the author for bringing some light to the darkness.

I can’t go any further without mentioning one particular secondary character. He really made the story and without him, something would have been missing—Mitch’s father Charles. I really enjoyed his conversations with his son. Without saying the words, the respect Mitch has for his father just oozed off the page. I loved seeing that. He was full of experience and enlightened us with the backstory of how his family and others came to be reapers. For me, he was truly a memorable character.

Have I mentioned that I read this book in one sitting? Well, I did. And yes, it was that good. But let me tell you something. I’ve never had so many emotions going in so many directions at the end of a book like I did with this one. During the course of reading, I watched these two characters struggle and overcome so many obstacles. At this point, I am so invested in what happens to them that I’m on the edge of my seat. Just when you think it’s going to end one way, it loops back around and ends totally different. I literally felt like I was beat up after I read the ending. For those who like a happily ever after—oh, you definitely get one. But be prepared to go on a heart flopping ride before you get there, and it’s oh-so worth it.

What I loved most about this book was the originality of the storyline. I really enjoyed the author’s take on heaven and hell, soul collecting, and what maybe happens after death. I hadn’t read anything like this before, so to me, it was fresh, new and exciting to read. The author’s writing, as always, is smooth and seamless.

I really can’t say enough about how much I loved this book. I consider it a must read. If not for the storyline, then for those two adorable characters. Highly recommended.

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Jay Bell, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Kathie, Self-Published, Young Adult

Audio Review: Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell – Narrated by Kevin R. Free

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Amazon

Title: Something Like Lightning: Volume 5

Author: Jay Bell

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 14 hours and 18 minutes

At a Glance: Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Never stop running. No matter how often life trips you up or how many times your enemies knock you down, just get up and keep on moving until you find where you belong.

Kelly Phillips has been out and proud since he was a young teenager, and thanks to the gay youth group he frequents, he’s never been short on friends or lovers. But when you have almost everything, it’s hard not to focus on what’s just out of reach: a best friend who would be Mr. Right if he wasn’t already Mr. Straight. Or that handsome athlete at school who would be easier to wrangle if not for his angel wings. And then there’s the guy who might be a perfect fit, maybe even a soul mate…if only he wasn’t convinced he didn’t need anyone. Kelly has always been good at running. Now he must learn to chase, which will test not only his endurance but the durability of his heart as well.

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Review: Jay Bell is an auto-buy author for me.  It started with Something like Summer (the eBook published in 2011, the audiobook released in May, 2013), and from that point on, I have read every word of the Something Like series, and have listened to just about all of them. Listening to a Something Like audio is not a small commitment.  Something Like Lightning is 14 hours and 18 minutes, and it’s not a skip-ahead kind of listen. Jay Bell mixes so many characters into his story that if you do try and fast forward, you will miss a plot twist or, in Kelly Phillips’ case, a new opportunity in his love life or career.

The title of this book, Something Like Lightning, really describes the whole feel of the book. Not only is Kelly quick to make decisions, quick to get mad, quick to make judgements, and quick to fall in love, but the other characters are also quick to make decisions: for example, Nathaniel is quick to leave and really, pretty quick to come back to Kelly. What I liked and hated about Kelly was his confidence in himself. Before the accident he was very self-absorbed, but after the accident, he needed that confidence to keep moving forward. What surprised me is that towards the end of the story, I truly liked Kelly and wanted him to have a happy ending. And Nathaniel, who I thought was kind of a hero to go find a hole to bury himself in… what a shortsighted jerk! I know, very strong words from me, but just read or listen to the book. Jay Bell is such a great writer that you become invested in his characters. The next book in the series, Something Like Thunder, is Nathaniel’s story.  I suppose I am going to learn to like him. But really, Jay Bell… Do I have too?

What a talent Kevin R Free has. He doesn’t just tell us a story, he uses his voice to pull us into the world of Jay Bell.  Would I recommend that you purchase this audio and invest 14 hours of your time listening?  You bet I would! Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

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You can buy Something Like Lightning here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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5 Stars, JP Kenwood, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Games of Rome by JP Kenwood

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Games of Rome (Dominus: Book Two)

Author: JP Kenwood

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 339 Pages

At a Glance: If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In this sequel to Dominus, Gaius Fabius Rufus, the victorious general of Rome’s brutal Dacian Wars, finds his loyalties and his affections pulled in different directions. Should he return to Rome and secure his claim to the imperial throne, or remain at his seaside villa and protect his pleasure slave, the fierce Dacian prince, Allerix? Retaliation for the murder of his beloved friend beckons him home, but his desire for justice could put both him and Allerix in mortal danger. As Gaius’s deceptions multiply, another tragedy strikes. Will the Lion of the Lucky IV Legion be forced to sacrifice his besotted heart to achieve his aspirations for supreme power?

Every moment since Allerix’s violent capture has tested the young prince’s fortitude and cunning. If he can kill the triumphant emperor who decimated his Dacian nation, revenge and immortality will be his glorious, everlasting rewards. But to realize his scheme for vengeance, he must deceive the Roman master whose body he lusts, the handsome, arrogant man whom he has grown to adore and admire. Can two former enemies—the conqueror and the conquered—find trust and true love, or are the consequences of war destined to tear them apart? Can Gaius and Allerix survive the perilous games of Rome?

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic m/m fantasy set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Games of Rome is the second book in this alternative history saga—a tumultuous journey of forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception, and murder.

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Review: I love when a book meets every one of my expectations. I love even more when a book exceeds them, and JP Kenwood’s Games of Rome does just that in every way. I was so impressed by the author’s Dominus, and now, that book’s sequel has proven Kenwood’s talent for solid storytelling, building beautiful settings, offering the perfect amount of historical context, creating engaging and layered characters, and tapping into readers’ emotions. I don’t mind admitting this book wrung a few tears from me either. When an author can accomplish that, forming those sorts of attachments between reader and characters, it makes the reading all the more rewarding.

Gaius Fabius Rufus, the Lion of the Lucky Fourth, is many things–Commander, war hero, husband, master, and friend and former lover of Lucius Petronius. Where this book exceeded my expectations is not only that the historical setting is portrayed in such a way that grounds the reader in what feels like an authentic Ancient Rome, but that the book also is a compelling mystery–both in the past and in modern day Rome. Lucius’s murder becomes a central focus of Games of Rome as we watch Gaius grieve, promise retribution, seek absolution while often seeming a walking contradiction–warm and tender one moment, cold and commanding the next, charming and sometimes cruel. Gaius is nothing if not a mercurial man whose arrogance seems to know no bounds–if I’m being honest, he isn’t always easy to like–but is tempered by that ability to charm. Where the book offers a bit of the unexpected, however, is in its supernatural elements. This was so unexpected that I wasn’t certain how I felt about it at first, but it was woven into the storyline in such a way that became integral to the plot, and now I can’t imagine how the story would have been better without it. As for the modern day mystery, this is being teased out in the tiniest of morsels, and this installment has only served to pique my interest even more. Archeology uncovers its share of secrets from the past, though it doesn’t always provide answers. There are definitely more questions than answers right now surrounding the pair of skeletons discovered at a dig site, and I haven’t a clue what JP Kenwood will reveal in further storylines. All I know for sure is that the author baited that hook and I’m hanging on gladly.

From the Emperor to clients to slaves, Gaius has a life filled with a variety of diverse people and experiences, all entrenched in the Ancient Roman culture and portrayed beautifully in these books. I don’t know much about this historical period but can say Kenwood seems to have not only an interest in but an affinity for the era. Ancient Rome dominated, it was the seat of some of the world’s most impressive art and architecture, and the Romans were responsible for many advancements in civilization at the time, but, to our sensibilities, it was also a barbaric time in which people sat in arenas and watched prisoners of war be eaten for sport. Slavery was commonplace – both household servants and pleasure slaves, male and female, owned by both Gaius and his wife, Marcia – and these books feature several prominent slaves in key roles. Sex, for Gauis, is a near sport in itself, where he can display his prowess and dominance and, with one slave in particular, his benevolence, and those moments of contradictory cruel tenderness come to the fore. Alle, a Dacian prince, war prize, and now, Gaius’s most prized possession, has captured his Dominus’s heart and has added another dimension of intrigue to the plot. Their relationship is fraught with complications and questions and potential hazards. Can either of these men manage not to betray each other? I can hardly see how it will be avoided and am anxious to see how their relationship progresses.

One of the more interesting characteristics of this series is Gaius’s marriage, as well as the social contradiction of men having sex with other men. There is no expectation of monogamy in the marriage as is certainly portrayed on Gaius’s part; nor is bisexuality strictly taboo. It was, however, unacceptable for men to engage in a sexual relationship with a peer. Same sex encounters were left strictly between slave and master, which is what adds such a poignant end note to Gaius and Lucius’s affair. I love that these books are informative but not in a textbook way. The author weaves these small details into the plot in a way that makes them all the more interesting, and, when it comes down to it, makes this series unique in the LGBT fiction genre.

If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

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You can buy Games of Rome here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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

Review: Betting on Forever by Felice Stevens

Amazon

Amazon

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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You can buy Betting on Forever here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Paranormal, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Maelstrom by Jordan L. Hawk

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Amazon

Amazon

Title: Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Seven)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 268 Pages

At a Glance: Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Between his father’s sudden—and rather suspicious—generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first.

Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder. Someone is sacrificing men in dark rituals—and all the clues lead back to the museum.

With their friends Christine and Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must discover the cult’s true goal before it’s too late. For dark forces are afoot at the very heart of the museum, and they want more than Whyborne’s codex.

They want his life.

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Review: “Widdershins knows its own.”

Trying to write this review in any kind of linear fashion is proving to be impossible. I’m trying to stick to some kind of organized format, but my brain keeps jumping to the brilliance, the sheer brilliance, of chapter fifty-seven. Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk. The entire book is extraordinary and mind-blowing – but chapter fifty-seven is indescribable. One thing I do know is that I don’t want to come down from this high; I want to wallow in this one for a bit. I truly think Maelstrom is my favorite of the series to date.

In this seventh book of the series, Widdershins, with its maelstrom of energy lying beneath the earth, is a hotspot for cultists far and wide, and our heroes once again find themselves smack in the midst of the goings on. The latest batch of books donated to the museum has brought all the crazies to the yard, and Whyborne and Griffin must, of course, work together to foil them before all is lost.

It should come as no surprise that one of the things I love most about Maelstrom is the continually growing relationship between Ival and Griffin. They are as in tune to each other as ever, and must draw on that closeness throughout the story. In parts of Hoarfrost, Griffin was in a rough place, and needed Whyborne to keep him from breaking apart – here, however, it is Whyborne who largely needs grounding and clarity. I love that turnabout and all of the different ways we get to see their love for each other. The tender, poignant moments toward the end (*cough* chapter fifty-seven *cough*) are magnified a hundredfold because of their ever-strengthening bond.

So, of course the love story is amazing…but you better believe that all the other Jordan L. Hawk trademarks are there as well. Action, peril, creepy creatures from the Outside, humor, and a razor sharp wit. Not to mention perhaps the hottest sex scene in the series yet. I actually thought my brain was going to explode. No joke.

I already mentioned the humor, but want to touch on it a bit more specifically. The magic of these books is obviously in the world building and the storytelling – but a part of that magic also has to do with the delivery. And Hawk nails the delivery every time. Whyborne has tons of great one-liners. Griffin has a new motor car, which is an endless source of comic relief. The wedding prep and talk that is peppered throughout the book is fabulous. And, I absolutely had to share this gem, from our dear Christine:

“We’re going to be married, damn it, and Whyborne is going to walk me down the aisle…It’s going to be perfect, even if I have to kill every one of these bastards myself!”

In short, Maelstrom is fantastic. I don’t know how the hell Hawk keeps making each book better than the last, but she does. She’s kept the series fresh through seven books, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the eighth! Coolest. Books. Ever.

TNA_Signature_Jules

 

 

 

 

You can buy Maelstrom here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, M.A. Ray, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: The High King’s Will by M.A. Ray

Amazon

Amazon

Title: The High King’s Will (Steel for the Prince: Book One)

Author: M.A. Ray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 185 Pages

At a Glance: The High King’s Will takes off on an exciting and action packed adventure.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “The High King’s will crushes all before it. …Fare well, Eagle Eye Wormsbane. If you can.”

Eagle Eye’s world is full of magic. Fairies love him, and his only real friend is the resident unicorn, but since he killed the Worm of Shirith, nothing feels the same. When he collides with beautiful, broken Brother Fox a second time, he knows there’s no going back.

“I’m not in love with him. He needs help, that’s all.”

There’s no shortage of monsters in Fox’s life. The Worm was nothing compared to his own father, High King Beagar. When Eagle suggests an escape, Fox seizes the idea–and he wants Eagle with him.

“Damn propriety! I don’t want a servant! I want you to be my friend!”

The High King’s designs send Eagle and Fox across the sea to Rodansk, a land of summer sunshine at midnight and endless winter dark. Between the two, low-caste Eagle presents the bigger threat to Beagar’s power, and he didn’t even know it. Now that his Prince is giving him so much to lose, he won’t go down without a fight.

“Don’t be afraid. …I’m with you.”

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Review: Filled with magic, betrayal, danger, and mayhem—not to mention a couple of engaging heroes—M.A. Ray’s The High King’s Will sweeps readers along on an exciting high fantasy adventure. Digging into this story, I have to confess I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a fable or folk lore or a fairy tale. It turns out the answer is yes, I was reading a little bit of all those things, and I found this book to be a delightful tale with a New Adult feel.

Eagle Eye has just been named Wormsbane. He’s slain a dragon and saved the life of Brother Fox, the Crown Prince, but feels unworthy of the title that’s been bestowed upon him by the High King Beagar, certain that it wasn’t skill but luck that was with him that day. When the author introduces us to Eagle and Fox (whose names are what kept me wondering at the start of the book if I was reading a fable or maybe the re-imagining of a Native American folk tale), we don’t learn as much about the slaying as we do about the High King—namely that he’s never going to be up for father of the year. He’s abusive in some brutal and heinous ways, and as the story evolves, we see exactly why Fox is so eager to set off with Eagle to see the world when he has the opportunity.

What I didn’t understand for a good ways into this tale is exactly what sort of creatures Eagle and Fox are. I only knew for sure they weren’t at all human—it’s actually a bit difficult to get a good mental picture of what they do look like, at least for me—but the author does make sure we get a clear picture of this fairy tale world inhabited by trolls, dragons, fairies, elves, as well as humans, not to mention the magic and courage our heroes possess. The world-building along with my compassion for Fox and respect for Eagle made for some good binge reading.

As it turns out, the High King allowing Fox to set off on his adventure, accompanied by Eagle as his guard, wasn’t a rare kindness displayed by a father toward his son. There were much more sinister motives involved, and as the boys discover their journey is going to turn into a fight for survival, this story draws you in to all the danger they face, in the classic hero’s journey fashion. The action scenes are well written and fraught with tension, making for a brisk paced read.

Our young lovers have only just begun, and there are more than a few obstacles they’ll have to overcome, not the least of which is that Fox’s life is the stuff of nightmares and there are many things he’s done and had done to him he can’t put behind him. As the book draws to a close, we’re also left on the cusp of change for Eagle… Yes, the story ends in a cliffhanger, so what that change is remains to be seen. I’m looking so forward to book two to find out, and can only hope these boys will find a talisman of good fortune or that fate will throw some luck their way. Something tells me they’re going to need it.

I’m always excited to be introduced to new authors, and if the entire series lives up to the promise of The High King’s Will, M.A. Ray is one I’ll be paying close attention to.

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You can buy The High King’s Will here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

Amazon DE

Amazon DE

Amazon AU

Amazon AU

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4 Stars, Christina Lee, Genre Romance, Giveaways, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: The Deepest Blue Blog Tour with Christina Lee

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Amazon

Amazon

Title: The Deepest Blue (Roadmap to Your Heart: Book Two)

Author: Christina Lee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

At a Glance: There’s just enough angst to go with the sweet to make The Deepest Blue a pleasant way to spend a few hours reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Rugged and conventional Callum Montgomery enjoys running Shady Pines hunting preserve, except for the secret that’s eating him alive. When his sister brings a date for a family wedding, he can’t stand the arrogant city slicker with the stick up his perfectly fine ass. He doesn’t understand his draw to Dean, who pushes his buttons at every turn, but he’d never dream of betraying his sibling over some lust fueled fantasy.

Handsome and conscientious Dean Abbott is a research assistant in his university’s biology lab. When his roommate, Cassie, begs him to be her pretend date in front of her meddling family, he begrudgingly agrees to help. He doesn’t anticipate being enchanted by the countryside, the colorful cast of characters, or her sexy and brooding straight brother.

When contempt turns to passion and leads to stolen moments in a sugar cane field, Callum can’t help longing for the kind of connection he believes he can never have. But not even the world’s most heart-melting kiss can bridge the vast philosophical differences between the men.

Dean’s return to his urban lifestyle leaves him restless, his mind continually wandering to the charming setting that spoke to something missing deep inside him. Because you can take the city boy out of the country but you can’t make him forget the intriguing man he left behind.

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Review: After running across Christina Lee’s The Darkest Flame on my Amazon recs, and One-Clicking it, I knew I wasn’t really taking much of a risk in accepting The Deepest Blue for review. I liked the author’s voice in The Darkest Flame—though I must admit I’d expected it to be a bit grittier since the story is set in and around an MC—but her characters Smoke and Vaughn were easy enough to root for through the drama and on to their happy ending. Now, having finished this second book in the series, I have to say if I had to pick a favorite of the two, it’d be no contest. The Deepest Blue wins.

At its heart, this book is a City Mouse/Country Mouse story, and has everything you might look for in an angsty genre romance: one man out and proud, the other deeply in the closet; two men on the opposite ends of the spectrum, socially. This is a true opposites attract story in almost every way. Dean Abbott is the college student, environmentalist, vegetarian city boy to Callum Montgomery’s small town rural guy. Callum helps run his family’s hunting preserve; he’s the brains behind the business, so before you go and think he’s a backwater hick, he’s most definitely not. He and Dean are an intellectual match, no question, and once Callum stops being so abrasive and decides Dean isn’t a half bad guy, we see how each of these men begin to open up to each other, and how they really do complement one another. They may have diametrically opposed views on what Callum’s family does for a living, but all that does is serve to ignite the spark Christina Lee lights between them.

The primary issue when these two meet and those sparks fly, however, is that Callum believes Dean is straight. And, why wouldn’t he? Dean is attending a family wedding at Shady Pine’s as his best friend and roommate Cassie’s date/maybe boyfriend. Cassie…who just so happens to be Callum’s sister.

The complication is all neatly served, and then the fun is in getting to watch the story unfold—through the friction, the secret Dean and Cassie are keeping, and most especially through the sexual tension that’s always thisclose to the surface between Dean and Callum. The story is told in alternating points of view, so we get both sides to their story, which I thought worked well given their situation. We don’t stand by and watch Callum struggle with his attraction to his sister’s “boyfriend,” we get a firsthand account of the fear he feels of someone in his family discovering his deepest, darkest secret. And the why of it is plain as well. We also get to experience Dean’s conflict—his wanting to be truthful with Callum because the attraction between them definitely goes both ways. I ended up really liking both of these guys, individually and as a couple.

As secondary characters go, Callum’s family was pretty great. I especially loved his younger brother Billie and would gladly read a novel with a grown up version of him in it somewhere down the line. He’s sweet and innocent and struggles with some physical limitations, and he stole every scene he was in. He’s the kind of kid you just want to hug the stuffing out of. What becomes evident quickly, something we see through Dean’s point-of-view, is that Callum underestimates just how wonderful his family truly is.

Overall, as contemporary genre romance goes, The Deepest Blue ticks all the relevant boxes in the category. Its characters are engaging, and there’s just enough angst to go with the sweet to make it a pleasant way to spend a few hours reading.

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You can buy The Deepest Blue here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

Once upon a time, I lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. I spent my days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at my favorite hangouts.

Now I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I’ve been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn’t until I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that I realized I could turn the fairytales inside my head into the reality of writing fiction.

I’m addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. I believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.

I write Adult, New Adult, and M/M romance.  I also own a hand-stamped jewelry business, which requires me to stamp letters and/or words onto pieces of silver. They go hand-in-hand perfectly.

Visit my WEBSITE. Or my FACEBOOK author page. You can also find me on TWITTER.

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4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Boys Who Go Bump in the Night by Josephine Myles and JL Merrow

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Boys Who Go Bump in the Night (Mad About the Brit Boys: Book Two)

Author: Josephine Myles and JL Merrow

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 84 Pages

At a Glance: Short stories and the supernatural and this pair of authors combine to make for some really good reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When boy meets (supernatural) boy

Buckle up as two queens of British gay romance take you on a whistlestop tour of all things paranormal. Vampires, genies, ghosts, magicians and shifters all get their chance for a bit of boy on boy action, in five erotic stories that span the range from the humorous to the sublime.

Will you seek to make your fortune with magic and ritual, or pin your hopes on a genie’s power to grant wishes? Discover a shifty young man on a Scottish shoreline, meet a hapless garlic farmer who’s been turned into one of the undead–and if you dare to venture into the cellar, gird your loins for a horny ghost!

These stories have all been previously published, but are now available exclusively in this anthology.

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Review: Some authors you read no matter what: don’t care about the blurb, don’t care about the sub-genre, you just read them. Josephine Myles and JL Merrow happen to be two such authors for me. Combine this with my love of short stories, and Boys Who Go Bump in the Night was pretty much a guaranteed win.

Several of the stories in this anthology are short enough I might even call them flash fiction, but the common theme (besides the fact they’re all previously published) is that they share a paranormal/fantasy element, and some of them are just purely erotic and don’t play at being otherwise. JL Merrow starts the collection with Leeches and Layabouts, and the first thing that stands out is that the story is told with the author’s trademark sense of humor and gift for taking a fairly mundane human woe and turning it into a clever boy-meets-vampire story. A vampire who grows garlic? Yep. A human who loves living off of government assistance just a little too well. Yep. It’s the perfect marriage of need and want when Art interviews for a job with Crispin, who loves his garlic but can no longer eat it because, well…vampire. But ingenuity abounds, and Crispin gets both his man and his garlic fix.

A horny incubus in Something Queer, blood magic and stone circles in Sacrifice add to the mix of supernatural offered in this anthology, leading to the final two tales. JL Merrow’s Et in Orcadia is my absolute favorite of the five in the collection. It’s a story that blends the tragedy of lost love, the romanticism of man’s call to the sea, and a mysterious stranger who knows that call better than any human. But he also knows the allure of the land and the desire to comfort a man in his grief. A grief they both share. I loved the emotional intimacy of Runi and David’s story, brief though it was. It did a fantastic job of plucking at my sentimental heartstrings.

Finally, bookending the lighthearted beginning of Boys Who Go Bump in the Night is Josephine Myles’ One Last Wish, a fun and sweet little story about a poor genie who’s just tired of being imprisoned in his lamp for the past two hundred years. Scott is the lucky human to rub Xavier’s lamp just the right way—three wishes are his—but Scott ends up surprising Xavier with the way he chooses to use them. And then, well, they end up rubbing each other just the right way.

If you love one of these authors, or both of them, and love a good short story, I don’t think you can go wrong with this collection.

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You can buy Boys Who Go Bump in the Night here:

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3.5 Stars, Eli Easton, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Review: Midwinter Night’s Dream by Eli Easton

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Amazon

Title: Midwinter Night’s Dream

Author: Eli Easton

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 121 Pages

At a GlanceI’m a massive Eli Easton fangirl, she knocks so many things out of the park, but this one left me wanting.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Micah is the hippest, most chill guy on campus. But when he gets the hottest kiss of his life from a cute guy during a game of ‘spin the bottle’, Micah’s cool turns into a puddle of anxious goo. Sure, Micah’s always been a little bi-curious, but he never thought he’d pursue a guy, much less a guy who doesn’t seem to be interested in getting caught.

Leo is passionate about two things: gay rights activism and acting. He stays focused and in control, and he never, ever, dates straight guys. When a chance spin of a bottle at a party has him locking lips with Micah Springfield, president of the Delts, dread-headed, serial-dating, straight Micah, Leo is determined to forget about it, no matter how incendiary the sparks or how gorgeous Micah may be.

Leo has bigger problems. His senior project is directing Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream just before the Christmas break. When his venue cancels at the last minute, Micah offers the use of his parent’s barn in rural Pennsylvania. Leo’s play may be saved, but what about his heart? Between Micah’s sweet lips, his family’s welcoming arms, and a devious bulldog who is determined to play Puck, Leo may find himself falling under the spell of Christmas magic.

Dividers

Review: Eli Easton’s Midwinter Night’s Dream was one of my most anticipated holiday reads this year. After falling in love with the Springfields in last year’s Unwrapping Hank, I couldn’t wait for Micah’s story. Smooth, mellow, cooler than the other side of the pillow Micah. Who would he be paired with? How would it all play out? Would we get to see much of Hank and Sloan? For the most part I was happy with the story, but I have to admit that this one had a few misses for me also.

The characters were a hit. I really do love Micah. I actually had a very dear friend in school who was (and still is) just like Micah. Got along with everyone, great to hang out with, gorgeous – the whole package. And, I thought Leo was a good match for Micah. The early spin-the-bottle scene, where the guys kiss for the first time, was super fun and smokin’ hot. These guys definitely had great chemistry! In fact, I loved Micah’s whole overall reaction to Leo. His fondness and admiration for him felt so genuine and really shone through. He was completely smitten with Leo; it was adorable.

The setting was another hit.  I love reading NA books, and always think the college settings are fun…but, in this case I’m talking about when the storyline takes us to Micah’s parents’ home. The Springfield farm at Christmas is so magical in my mind. I absolutely ate up Eli Easton’s descriptions of the barn, and the snowy fields, trees, etc., during the snow shoeing scene. I can so clearly picture the beauty. I also thought all of the play stuff was fun – the idea for Leo’s senior project was fantastic, and it was the perfect catalyst for bringing everything together.

There were absolutely many things to be enjoyed in this book, but, unfortunately, it’s time to talk about the misses, the biggest one being the ‘extra’ storyline with Leo’s best friend, Helen, and Micah’s almost-girlfriend, Yasmine. First of all, I have no issue whatsoever with F/F stories. If the addition of this bit into the book was a device for Eli to introduce Helen and Yas because she intends to write a lesbian story, that’s fine. I could see that intention. Furthermore, this has NOTHING to do with “not wanting girl-bits in my M/M books.” I simply thought it didn’t work here. It felt forced, or thrown in. Yas gave me whiplash with how quickly she goes from not quite getting that Micah doesn’t like her like that, to making out with Helen.

And, directly related to the above is the fact that I would have much rather had more page time with Micah and Leo. We simply just didn’t have enough of them together. The times that they were together were fantastic – Spin-the-bottle…fabulous snow-shoeing scene…hot barn sex – I wish there had been more. There were also two quick mentions of Micah having a possible submissive streak – when he melted into their first kiss, and then Leo later muses about it as well – that I SOOO wish would have been further explored.

I’m a massive Eli Easton fangirl, she knocks so many things out of the park, but this one left me wanting. Wanting more Micah and Leo time…more holiday time…definitely more out of the epilogue. It just felt like it wrapped up too darn quickly for how long it took them to get together. Do I still recommend it? Of course. I mean, Christmas novella! Awesome glimpses of Sloane and Hank! There’s still plenty of charm – it just wasn’t my favorite one of her stories.

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You can buy Midwinter Night’s Dream 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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2 Stars, Abraham Steele, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Hidden Shifter by Abraham Steele

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Amazon

Title: Hidden Shifter (Fated Date Agency: Book Seven)

Author: Abraham Steele

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 249 Pages

At a Glance: Hidden Shifter is one of those books where I loved the premise but the follow-through suffered under a lack of backstory and knowledge of the -verse.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell. Your fated mate is dead.”

Samuel Hillwell is in mourning for a man he’s never met. The handsome alpha waited too long to contact the Fated Date Agency. There was always a stock trade or a trip to Europe that seemed more important. His mate passed away just days before he reached out. As he goes into a downward spiral, questioning everything he’s based his life on, he can only wish he’d had one night with his deceased omega.

Caden Grey is on the run. After surgically altering his face and travelling across the country, the former kindergarten teacher still can’t stop looking over his shoulder for the people who want him dead. Now that he’s arrived in Clover Grove, he should finally be able to take a breath. But he’s just starting to get settled there when a dazzling man runs up to him. A man who knows Caden’s previous name.

Will Samuel figure out the truth about the tormented omega? And if he gets into Caden’s heart, will either of them be safe?

Hidden Shifter is Book 7 of the Fated Date Agency series. It also stands alone as a complete 200-page gay shifter romance novel with steamy content and male pregnancy.

Dividers

Review: Abraham Steele’s Hidden Shifter, book seven in the Fated Date Agency series, is billed as a standalone novel, and I accepted it to read/review under that assumption, so I’ll start by saying that even though this particular installment may feature a new couple in the series, I do feel like I must have missed out on some world-building by starting seven books in. Which, ultimately, was a real detriment to me as there were some things that just didn’t work because I didn’t have enough info going in.

The beginning of the story is great, filled with a lot of emotion and suspense, and I was completely invested in where the author was going with it—Samuel Hillwell finally carving out a niche of time in his otherwise work-aholic schedule to call the Fated Date Agency and find his true mate… Only to discover that the man who would have been his perfect other half had just died in a car crash. I empathized immediately with Samuel at being so close to opening a new chapter in his life, only to have it cruelly taken away, and I liked the emotional connection the author built there.

When we’re introduced to Caden Grey, a few things are obvious, not the least of which is that he’s not who we think he is, but that he’s also fleeing in terror from an unknown but credible threat. And I don’t think it’s revealing too much here, as the blurb does state that Caden Grey isn’t his real name, to say that fate is indeed playing a role in Caden’s life, as his cross-country exodus, with no fixed destination in mind, lands him practically on Samuel’s doorstep. And, even after plastic surgery, Caden can’t hide who he is from Samuel.

Unfortunately, this is also where the plot began to lose traction for me. The one true soul mate trope is a tried and true one, but sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. Where it didn’t work for me here, overall, isn’t in the speed with which Sam and Caden came together (I actually was dying for them to meet and then liked that the author kept us in a little bit of suspense once they did), but in that once they did get together, there wasn’t any significant amount of word count spent on making their relationship solid enough for me to invest in. There were some sexy moment, some sweet domestic moments, but overall there was so much outside angst going on in Caden’s life that him giving in to his and Samuel’s connection didn’t happen until circumstances forced him to commit to the idea of Sam as a full-fledged mate. Reading a romance and then not being able to invest in the romance part of it is a bit of a buzzkill, to say the least.

But where I felt my experience with this book suffered most, as I said at the outset, is in the world-building. There’s no background story here, so we don’t know anything at all about these shifters, their origins, their mythology, or why the gay omega shifters are the only males who can get pregnant and give birth. I honestly was at a loss here, and will say this—on a personal level, a dripping, self-lubricating anus didn’t conjure up any sort of appealing mental images for me. Juicy wet underwear calls to mind an inherently female eroticism, and while this anatomical detail may or may not be canon in the mpreg lexicon, readers do deserve some foundation to make this aspect of the story even slightly more palatable.

By the time the final deus ex machina is pulled out of the pocket of miracles in an effort to save Caden’s life, I was so distracted by all my unanswered questions that I think any resolution to the story would have been less than satisfying to me. The Alphas didn’t act all that alpha-like, and Caden, the Omega, wasn’t as submissive as one would expect an omega to be. In the end, the motivation for Caden’s flight wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out—we’re told why he ran but get no supporting details about why his wolf misbehaved; we’re told that humans are a factor, but there’s technically only one significant human in the entire storyline; and when the danger does arrive at Samuel’s doorstep, the motivation was not only a bit flimsy but the antagonist doesn’t come off as dangerous as much as he does spoiled and juvenile.

Hidden Shifter is one of those books where I loved the premise but the follow-through suffered under a lack of backstory and knowledge of the -verse. Your mileage, of course, may vary if you’re already familiar with the series.

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You can buy Hidden Shifter here:

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Mary Calmes, Self-Published, Short Story

Hannah’s Big Night (A Jory and Sam Thanksgiving Ficlet) by Mary Calmes

Hannah's Big Night

Hannah’s Big Night

© Mary Calmes 2015

“Where are you going?” I asked my older brother as I walked into his room.

“You’re not supposed to just come in here,” he snapped at me.

“Yeah—yeah,” I said dismissively. “Where are you going?”

He sighed irritably, which was my cue to leave it alone, leave him alone, but he was climbing out his bedroom window onto the roof above the porch, so I had to know.

“Go to sleep.”

I scowled at him. “It’s ten o’clock at night; in what realm of your dodgy imagination am I going to bed this early?”

“Stop,” he groaned. “You’re not British.”

“Are you sure, guvnor?”

He rolled his eyes. “You’re especially not Eliza Doolittle. Being her in one play does not make it so.”

I shot him a look, one he knew, and took a deep breath. I was tired of the run around from my brother, Kola Kage, so I filled my lungs to make sure the yell would carry when I let it out.

“No—no—no,” he gasped, darting across the room, grabbing my hand and pulling me down beside him on his bed. “C’mon, B, you gotta let me go out and check on Anthony.”

“Who?”

“Anthony Mascaro.”

“Oh, that’s your friend who borrows your bike.”

His scowl was back. “What?”

“Ugh, really? This is me you’re talking to.”

He considered his audience for a moment, but come on…

“How do you know he borrows my bike?”

“’Cause every morning at around four, he parks your bike behind the house so you have it to ride to school with me and Pa.”

He grunted.

“And last night it wasn’t there, and that was a whopper of a lie you told Pa about leaving it at the park last night.”

Kola squirmed. “I feel bad.”

“You should feel bad ‘cause Pa’s not getting you a new one ‘til after Christmas, and now you look like a scrub walking while we’re both riding.”

His face scrunched up. “A scrub?”

“Just—that’s what Melody Thompson said.”

He thought a second. “How come Melody Thompson already wears make-up?”

“I wear make-up,” I said, sticking up for my friend.

“Only when you’re in a show,” he reminded me.

I nodded. “She wants to be pretty.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about that.”

I dropped my chin and then looked at him because really, we both knew he was full of poop. “Really?”

He groaned.

“Just tell me what happened already,” I pressed him. He was my brother, he couldn’t keep anything from me, I could always get it out of him. “The bike’s gone and you think something happened to Anthony?”

“Yeah.”

“Then tell Daddy,” I told him.

“No,” he said, looking scared. “Anthony said if he gets in trouble, he’ll get taken away from his Mom and she’ll have to go back to where she lived before and he’ll have to go to Foster Care.”

“What’s that?”

“If you don’t have any family, that’s where you go?”

“Who doesn’t have a family?”

“Lots of people.”

“Yeah but,” I was trying to figure it out. “If you don’t have a family, where do you go on Thanksgiving?”

“Anthony says they eat at a shelter.”

“Oh,” I said, nodding, finally something I understood. Last Thanksgiving, me and Kola, Daddy and Pa had all gone to a shelter and served food for the homeless people. “I didn’t know they let kids go to the shelter.”

He nodded. “They do.”

I took a breath. “Yeah, but how come this is about your bike?”

“Well, at night Anthony rides around his neighborhood on my bike and watches for police cars. If he sees one, he makes a call on his cell phone.”

“He has a cell phone?” I was so jealous. “How come?”

My brother shrugged.

“How come he doesn’t use his own bike?”

“It got stolen.”

“Oh, that’s sad.”

“Yeah so now they told him if he doesn’t watch out for police, he has to deliver stuff to people.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad. It’s better than riding a bike in the middle of the night.”

“Yeah, but he’ll have to make his deliveries during the day.”

“And then he’d miss school.” I said, putting it all together. “I see.”

“So, could you please help me?”

“How?”

“Just stay here and if Riley comes upstairs, you––”

“Nuh-uh,” I said, shooting him down. “I go with you.”

“But I gotta find Anthony and the bike.”

“I can help you; I’m good at finding stuff.”

“B––”

I took a deep breath again.

He shoved me over on the bed. “Fine, whatever, just don’t yell.”

“Okay,” I said, so happy he was letting me help him. “Where does he live?”

He made a face. “Kinda far.”

“How far?”

“Like we need to take Pa’s bike.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “Just let me change.”

“B,” he whined. “Come on, we gotta go before Daddy and Pa get home from dinner.”

I snorted. “They went to that awful place with the real napkins; they’ll be gone for hours.”

“But you don’t need to––”

“Silence,” I commanded before telling him to go downstairs and tell our cousin Riley that we were going to watch a movie. Not that she cared; she’d be talking to her boyfriend all night, but it was always better just to say something. Misdirection was key. Daddy said that’s what you did when you were undercover, which, technically, we were.

“Oh God,” Kola groaned when I got back to his room.

“What?”

“Why are you wearing that?”

“Why wouldn’t I wear this?”

“We’re not stealing the bike from anyone.”

“How do you know? Maybe somebody stole it and we’ll have to steal it back.”

“Yeah, but you know that cat burglars don’t actually wear cat ears,” he said snidely. “And there’s still glitter on them from Halloween.”

“Shhhh,” I ordered before climbing out the window.

He was right behind me. “Be careful,” he said, and his voice went up high because it was crackling lately.

Downstairs, we darted around the house, got Pa’s beach cruiser out of the garage—it had fat wheels but still wouldn’t make it too much longer with the snow—and Kola got on before I got on the handlebars. We weren’t supposed to ride like that, Pa didn’t like it, and I couldn’t wear my helmet because of the cat ears, and Kola’s had reflectors on his that he didn’t want to attract attention… so we were both without them. We were double in trouble if we got caught but if Pa caught us, the helmet situation was the least of our problems.

We rode down Harlem Avenue for a while, and then Kola turned off on one side street, and then another, and another, until the street lights weren’t bright white anymore and instead, a sort of dull yellow. There was a ginormous vacant lot we had to go around, and then dark alleys that were creepy that we rode by, and finally Kola announced that we’d reached Anthony’s building. It took more than an hour to get there, and it was really cold. My nose felt like it was going to freeze off.

“Where are you gonna hide Pa’s bike?” I asked my brother.

We looked around for a few minutes, and Kola found a tarp in one of the alleys, and we put it behind a dumpster. Inside the building, we found Anthony’s last name and went up three flights to his apartment.

It was loud inside and a lot of people were arguing in the halls, and there was graffiti but not the pretty kind I liked. When we got to where Anthony lived, the door was open, which wasn’t safe, and Kola called his name.

“Now who the hell is that?!”

We both peered around the corner and there was a lady on the floor, bleeding from her nose and lip, and a man was holding her hair in his fist. There was blood on his other hand, probably from where he’d hit her—it was easy to tell, I watched a lot of TV, so I knew these things—and she was crying.

“Please, Luis,” she begged him.

“What are you doing?!” I shrieked at him.

He let her hair go when he reached for me, and she scrambled to her feet, grabbed me and Kola, and ran us into a bedroom and locked the door.

“Kola?”

We both turned and there was Anthony, on the bed. When he sat up, I saw that one of his eyes was big and puffy and couldn’t open, and he was bleeding like the lady.

“Is she your Mommy?” I asked him.

He nodded and then looked back at my brother. “You guys gotta get outta here before Luis hits you too.”

“Help me!” Mrs. Mascaro rasped, trying to push a really heavy chest of drawers in front of the door.

Me, Kola and Anthony all rushed to help her, and then once we moved it, we all got on Anthony’s bed. His mom stared at me and my brother, touching both our faces.

“He would’ve…he was going to…and then Anthony… and now I don’t have a choice and…who are you?”

She was kind of out of it, and crying, but she was bleeding and she had a really big bump on her head, so it made sense.

“This is Kola and his sister B,” Anthony told his mom, crawling over to sit by her, and taking her hand.

“Where’s your phone,” I asked him. “Kola said you have a cell phone.”

He reached under the mattress and passed it to me as somebody started banging on the door.

Mrs. Mascaro screamed, which scared me, but I only dialed faster. After a second, he answered.

“Who’s this?”

He sounded growly but that was because he didn’t know it was me yet. “Daddy!”

“B?” He sounded confused which made sense since this wasn’t our phone at home. “Who’s phone is this?”

He had Riley’s phone number programmed into his so again, the question made sense. “Daddy, there’s a man trying to hurt Anthony and his mom, and we’re in their house, and he’s trying to break into the room.”

Anthony’s mom screamed again.

“B,” he said, and it was like he didn’t have any air. “Where are you?”

I passed the phone to Kola because I didn’t know, and he gave Daddy the address as he listened a moment before moving the phone away from his ear and putting it on speakerphone.

“Keep the phone on,” he directed us. “And talk to Pa.”

“Pa,” I whimpered.

“Hi, B,” he said, his voice shaking. “Tell me what’s happening now?”

“The bad man is trying to get in, but the dresser is super heavy.”

“Okay,” he said as there was a huge bang and the chest of drawers moved a little.

“Pa, it’s moving,” I said, getting really scared.

“Don’t worry, B,” Kola told me, and then he got off the bed, and even though Mrs. Mascaro yelled at him to get back, he walked over to the door at the same time it sort of blew up.

The dresser got thrown sideways and the door flew open, and there wasn’t just Luis anymore, there were two other guys with him, standing there. Kola was so brave, facing them, and even when one of the men made like he was going to hit him, he didn’t move.

“You better leave us alone,” he told them. “My Daddy’s coming and he’s a marshal.”

“He’ll kill you if you hurt us,” I screamed at them.

Luis grabbed Kola by the throat, and I got up and ran to him. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I didn’t want him to hit my brother like he hit Anthony and his mom. But when I reached them something weird happened, and he looked at me and then he looked again like I surprised him. I lifted the phone to my ear to tell Pa what was happening, but he took it from me, hurling it into a wall, then shoved Kola down and grabbed me.

I tried to use my Tae Kwon Do moves on him, but I was only a yellow belt, Kola was blue, but one of the men had a gun. Daddy had told us not to try and hit someone if they had a gun.

One of the men picked me up and carried me out of the room, and when Kola tried to run after me, Luis slammed the door in his face.

I got slung over the guy’s shoulder and when I tried kicking and punching, he put me down on one of the landings, I wasn’t sure which one, and Luis slapped me really hard across the face. It hurt bad and I started crying, even though I knew it was weenie. Luis grabbed my arm tight and dragged me down the stairs and outside, and then he put me in the backseat of a car. Luis got in the back with me, and the other two got in the front and the tires made the whiny noise when we drove away.

It was weird to be in a car with strangers, and I tried to think of how long I was going to be grounded when I got home.

“I need you to call your Daddy,” Luis told me, shoving a phone at me.

I was confused. “I already called my Daddy, he was coming.”

He shook his head. “Don’t play dumb with me, I know who you are little girl, I’ve seen your picture in the paper.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant.

“You’re Aaron Sutter’s kid.”

What? “Nuh-uh.”

“Yes, you are,” he snarled at me like a dog, “I saw you in the paper just this morning.”

And I got it. “Oh, that’s because I went to the Aquarium with him last night,” I explained. “My Uncle Duncan had to work, so I went with Uncle Aaron to the fundraiser gala.” I loved going with him, and sometimes I even got to go when Uncle Duncan was there. But I always got a new dress, and I had a white princess coat I got to wear that had crystals for buttons that I wore with my white gloves. Sometimes I even got new shoes, but Pa told Uncle Aaron I couldn’t have new ones every time. But last night was special because I even wore my tiara. “But he’s not my Daddy, he’s my Uncle.”

“Uncle my ass—that’s your father, so you better get him on the phone because if he wants you back in one piece, he’s going to pay.”

He had the guy in the passenger seat pass him a phone from the glove compartment and it was really old, one of the flippy kind that I knew was a burner because Daddy said that’s the kind crooks used, and he shoved it into my hands and told me to call my Dad.

It was lucky for me that I had four numbers memorized and they were Daddy’s, Pa’s, Auntie Aja’s, and Uncle Aaron’s. So I dialed and it rang a lot of times before he answered.

“Who is this and how did you get this number?”

“Uncle Aaron,” I said and sniffled a little ‘cause I was a bit scared. “I need some money.”

“What?”

Maybe he couldn’t hear me. “I’m in trouble and I need some money.”

The phone was muffled for a minute. “B?”

“Yeah.”

“You need money?”

“Uh-huh.”

He chuckled. “Honey, does your father know you’re calling me?”

“No.”

“And why not?”

“Because I got taken.”

“Wait, what?” He said, and now he sounded like he couldn’t breathe just like had happened to Daddy. “Honey, where are you?”

“A man has me.”

“What man?”

I put the phone on my chest. “Can I tell him who you are?”

Luis shook his head and I put the phone back to my ear. “He said I can’t tell you.”

He took a breath. “Ask him how much money he needs to bring you to me.”

I looked up at the Luis. “How much money do you want?”

He snatched the phone from me. “Sutter, if you ever want to see your little girl again, you need to deliver ten million dollars to Navy Pier by midnight.” He listened then. “I’ll call you back with the details.”

Ten million dollars was a lot of money. I wasn’t sure I was worth that much. “Can I talk to him?” I asked Luis.

“No,” he snapped and hit the END button.

I started to cry because I really wanted to talk to Uncle Aaron, but then I remembered what Pa said about getting kidnapped. He said that you had to always try and get away. You never had to stop. And Pa knew a lot about being kidnapped—he was kind of an expert since it happened to him more than once. Daddy always said it was ‘cause he was a trouble magnet, but Pa said that was nonsense. My Uncle Dane said the magnet stuff was true too, but Uncle Dane thought I was one too, and that was just bananas. So I wiped my face on my sleeve—which Pa didn’t like, but I didn’t see me asking Luis for a Kleenex—and I checked to see if the door was locked.

Our van at home locked automatically. As soon as Pa moved the stick thing to the D, you could hear the doors lock, but this car was old, there weren’t even shoulder seatbelts in the backseat where I was, and so the door wasn’t locked since I could see the button thing was up.

When we stopped at a light, I pretended like I was gonna barf, and Luis told me to roll the window down. But I pulled the door handle and opened it instead.

“Kid!”

I fell into the street, and there were a lot of cars, but I ran fast and they missed me, and when I got to the sidewalk, I ran some more.

I got kinda turned around, but then I saw The Flamingo and I knew where I was. Sometimes I got mixed up—did Daddy work in the U.S. Courthouse building or the Federal building?—but last time we went there, Kola said it was the thirty story one and not the forty-two story one, so I ran to the right one and pounded on the door a second before I saw the two men walking up the street. Both of them had the same star as Daddy hanging around their necks, so I got to them as quick as I could. As soon as I reached them, one of them knelt down to talk to me.

“Sweetheart, what are you doing out here so late?”

It was kind of hard to breathe because I ran so far. “I’m––”

“You’re Hannah, aren’t you?” The other man said. “I’ve seen your picture.”

It was neat how big the man’s eyes got. “You’re Sam Kage’s daughter?”

I nodded.

He picked me up, which normally, since I was ten now, I didn’t like, but I was tired and getting cold, so it was okay.

“What happened, honey,” the marshal who wasn’t holding me asked. “Why’re you here?”

So I told him about Anthony and his Mom and Kola, and me and Pa’s bike—because that was important—and Kola being brave, and Luis hitting me, and the other two men and how I had to call Uncle Aaron, and how much ten million was, and how come Luis thought I was Uncle Aaron’s daughter, and how silly that was, and how far I’d run.

“Okay,” he said as he used his card to make the door open, and pulled his gun out at the same time.

Once the three of us were inside, he put his gun back in the holster before we all went up in the elevator.

“You can call me B,” I told the man who was holding me.

He smiled at me. “Well, you can call me Ian, and this is Miro.”

They were nice, and I wasn’t scared one bit, and when we got to the office, they took me to the breakroom and put ice on my face and gave me a juice box to drink. I didn’t really like grape, apple was my favorite, but I didn’t want to make them think I wasn’t appreciative. Pa always said you had to be nice even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.

After a few minutes, Miro passed me his phone.

“Hello?”

“B?” Daddy sounded funny, like he’d run far too.

“Hi, Daddy, are you mad at me?”

He coughed. “No, baby, I’m not mad at you.”

“Is Kola okay?”

“Yes, love, Kola’s fine.”

“Is Anthony okay?”

“Yes.”

“And his mommy?”

“Everybody’s fine, sweetie. What’d—did those men hurt you?”

“Luis hit me on the face,” I told him. “Miro gave me ice to put on my cheek.”

He coughed again. “But that’s all?”

“Mmmmm-hmmm.”

I heard him take a breath. “

“Daddy, you can’t let Anthony get taken away from his Mommy, okay?”

“I won’t.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”

“Do they have to go back to his Mommy’s country?”

“No, B.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

“And could they come and have Thanksgiving with us at Nana’s?”

“They’re not going to be here tomorrow, B, so no.”

I knew Daddy made people safe by moving them far away and giving them new names. I didn’t know how he did that, but Pa had explained that much to me. “Okay, so long as they’re together that’s all that matters, right?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh, Dad, did you get Pa’s bike?”

“Kola made sure I got it, yes.”

Such a relief. “Are you coming to get me now?”

“Yes, honey, I’m on my way.”

“Will you call Uncle Aaron and tell him I don’t need the money?”

There was a long silence before he said, “I’m sorry, what?”

So I told him about calling Uncle Aaron, and then he had to get off the phone and I gave Miro back his. “I wonder why Daddy didn’t want to talk to me anymore.”

“It ain’t like that,” the other marshal, Ian, told me. “He wants to talk to you, but he’s gotta call your uncle and tell him everything’s all right, and then he’s gonna go pick that guy up and feed him his teeth.”

“Ian,” Miro whispered.

“What?” He gave Miro the look Kola gave me when he thought I said something dumb. “He is.”

“It’s okay,” I told Miro, patting his hand. “Daddy always says that if anybody hurts me or Pa or Kola that he’ll kill them, so, you know, he might shoot Luis in the head.”

They were both staring at me like I was an alien or something.

“What?”

Miro cleared his throat and took my hand in his. “Sweetie, your Daddy doesn’t go around shooting people, but that man that took you is in a lot of trouble. Your Daddy has to alert Chicago PD and tell them that he kidnapped you and asked for a ransom. Before, we weren’t sure why he took you or even if he did it on accident, but now we know he had a plan. That changes things. That’s a federal offense.”

“Does that mean super in trouble?”

“That’s exactly what that means,” Ian said, smiling at me.

I smiled back because sitting at the table with them, I knew nothing else bad was going to happen to me.

A while later, I was sitting at Miro’s desk helping him look for his mouse that other people liked to take, and watching Ian smell a mango that he took out of the fruit basket.

“That’s a huge basket,” I told him.

He grunted.

“A nice lady sends it to us once a month,” Miro told me. “We helped her kids out when we were in Phoenix.”

“May I have one of the apples?”

“Go for it.”

I was picking one when I heard my Daddy.

“B!”

When I turned around there he was, and I ran to him as fast as I could.  It didn’t take long since he was running too, and when he reached me, he scooped me up and hugged me.

He held me super tight, and I wiggled so I could get my arms around his neck. I kissed his cheek and held on and even though I was okay, I started to cry.

“It’s okay, B, I’ll always find you.”

“I know,” I told him.

He gave me one last squeeze, and then there was a noise by the elevator and there were more marshals, and Luis and the two other guys all in handcuffs.

Luis looked like Anthony and his mom now, all bloody and bruised. I watched him walk by and he almost stopped to look at me. His mouth dropped open, and I was going to say, “See, I told you,” but it was bad manners to gloat. Uncle Dane always said so.

“Daddy,” I whispered up at him. “Did you feed Luis his teeth?”

He glanced over at Ian, who only smiled before he knelt down next to me. “I just had a quick word with him about taking children who don’t belong to him.”

I nodded. “I understand, it’s ‘cause you love me.”

“I do indeed.”

As Daddy and I went down in the elevator, I asked him how come Pa and Kola didn’t come up.

“I didn’t want Luis or those guys to see Kola again, and I didn’t want them to see Pa.”

“In case they come back for revenge,” I said, getting it. “Good call.”

He squinted at me. “You know what’s going on, right, because you watch a lot of television?”

I nodded.

“Of course you do,” he sighed. “We’re going to the emergency room after this, you know.”

“Ugh.”

“You and Pa sure do like that place.”

“We don’t like it,” I promised him. “Sometimes it just happens.”

He made a noise like I was full of it.

“You know,” I said, squeezing his hand as he looked at my cheek. “I know what I’m gonna say this year when we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.”

“Oh?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And what is that?”

“My family and Miro and Ian.”

“Miro and Ian, huh?”

“Yeah.” And then I thought of something. “Maybe you should invite them to Thanksgiving dinner at Nana’s.”

“They’re good,” he said in that way he had where it sounded like the sound was coming out of his chest.

He picked me up as the elevator doors whooshed open, and I saw Pa and Kola on the other side of the room by the doors. They both came running.

“I can’t wait to get home,” I told Daddy before they reached me.

“That’s good,” he said, “because you and your brother are going to be grounded until the end of time.”

I really didn’t mind. It was home after all.

 

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Jocelyn Drake, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Rinda Elliott, Self-Published

Review: Shiver by Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

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Title: Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds: Book One)

Authors: Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 301 Pages

At a Glance: I seriously think this will be an exciting series. It left me hungry for more!

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Lucas Vallois is always in control. He’s building an empire in the glittering city of Cincinnati and created his own family from his three close friends. The self-made millionaire has everything he wants within his tight grasp. But his world starts to crumble after he’s jumped by a trio of thugs late one night after leaving a club. The warning is clear—give up his new property venture or end up dead.

Caving to the demands of his friends, Lucas accepts the help of bodyguard, Andrei Hadeon, as he hunts for the source of this new threat. But as Lucas gets closer to uncovering the danger, he realizes the sexy Romanian bodyguard poses an even bigger risk to his carefully constructed world. Trapped by a need he never expected, Lucas must find a way to deny the shiver of longing he cannot control.

His brother. His warrior. His heart. Four friends. Unbreakable bonds.

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Review: In Shiver, we meet four interesting and somewhat mysterious men:  Lucas Vallois, businessman; Dr. Ashton “Snow” Frost; Ian Pierce, chef; and Rowe, security. Lucas and these men have a very unique bond, and they are all the family he has. We find that Lucas is the strength and the glue that holds them all together, and with these men he can let his guard down. He also has a dark dangerous side that no one can control.  Lucas is willing to invest his money in giving back to the run down parts of Cincinnati, but someone is making a great effort to stop him.

Rowe steps in and demands Lucas have a bodyguard, Andrei Hadeon, former professional martial arts fighter. Lucas is by no means happy with the bodyguard situation, or with Andrei. He doesn’t do dating, repeats, or straight men, but he does know that he wants Andrei. Andrei has some things to figure out about himself, and I thought the conversation that he and Ian had made him look at things more clearly. The chemistry between Lucas and Andrei leaps off the pages, not just physically but emotionally. They both struggle with whether they are right for each other. Their story doesn’t seem to end with a HEA, but they do agree to work on it.

And I can’t forget to mention Detective Hollis Banner. He’s a thorn in everyone’s side, especially Lucas’. He’s going to be one character who will rock the boat.

Shiver was a surprise, a fast paced page turner filled with danger, suspense, wild fight scenes, and a crazy descriptive car chase. And, was not without humor. Oh, and the passion will tug at your heart strings. Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott are just amazing with the written word. I seriously think this will be an exciting series. It left me hungry for more!

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You can buy Shiver 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.

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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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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Mercy Celeste, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Out of the Blues by Mercy Celeste

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TitleOut of the Blues

Author:  Mercy Celeste

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count:  219 Pages

At a Glance:  If you are already a fan of Mercy Celeste, you need this book. If you haven’t read her yet, I think this would be a wonderful place to start.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: Whoever said you can’t go home again should change that to should not go home again. As in EVER!
Mason Foxworth swore on his grandmother’s bible never to return to the small Georgia town he sort of grew up in. And for eight years he’d succeeded in keeping that promise. Until his twin sister decided she needed to get married…back home…and she’d invited their parents. Wasn’t this going to be a just a fabulous weekend?
Since leaving the Marines, Kilby Adams rarely ever left his farm and now here he was in Georgia, as best man at his stepbrother’s wedding. Out of his comfort zone and with too many people that he doesn’t know Kilby has nothing to keep his mind off the past except the gorgeous brother of the bride.
And wouldn’t you just know it, there was only one room left at the Inn and Kilby would have to share it, with Mason, who was straight and….yeah, this was going to be one hell of a weekend.

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Review: Back in February I was gifted a book. It was one of Mercy Celeste’s books, and I loved it!  Since then, I have proceeded to buy every one of this author’s books that I could. I haven’t gotten them all yet, but I will get there. She is absolutely on my list of auto-buy authors.

I am usually not a huge fan of angst or tear-your-heart-out books—truthfully, I have enough tears in my real life and reading is my escape from that—but I can honestly say I have no problem picking up a book by Ms. Celeste, knowing it is going to rip me to shreds. The stories are really just that good, and Out of the Blues is no exception.

There is a lot of drama going on in this book, multiple difficult issues addressed, and crazy family to deal with, but it is done so wonderfully.  And, boy oh boy, can Mercy Celeste write some hot scenes. As much as I enjoyed all of the developments and the relationship between Mason and Kilby, the relationships they had with other characters were almost more enjoyable at times. The relationships with their siblings were sweet and made me even more grateful I am close to mine.

Then, when Mason’s dad shows up and he tells him about Cody, I was a hot mess. I was actually a hot mess through multiple parts of the book, but luckily I remembered to put my Kleenex next to me while I cuddled up on the couch for hours to read. I couldn’t seem to force myself to put this book down.

I don’t know what to say without giving away parts of the story, but really if you are already a fan of Mercy Celeste, you need this book. If you haven’t read her yet, I think this would be a wonderful place to start.

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You can buy Out of the Blues here:

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4 Stars, Alice Griffiths, Genre Romance, Leta Blake, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: Will and Patrick Do the Holidays by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

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Title: Will and Patrick Do the Holidays (Wake Up Married: Episode Three)

Author: Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 117 Pages

At a Glance: The soap opera fun continues for our bold, beautiful, young, and restless duo.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A couple’s first holiday season is always a special time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are magical when you’re in love. Too bad Will and Patrick’s marriage is a sham and they’re only faking their affection for each other. Or are they?

Sparks fly in this episode of the Wake Up Married serial. Will the sexual tension between Will and Patrick finally explode in a needy night of passion? Or will they continue to deny their feelings?

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Review: Do you ever wish you could put your own words into characters’ mouths? Words like, “I’m a big boy and you’re a big buttinski, so I would enjoy it if you’d just butt your buttinski face right out of my adult beeswax.” And, “God, Ryan, you’re such a ginormous friggin’ douchenozzle assface, so I would love if you would just bugger off right now, thank you.” Yeah, me too. I want to write Will Patterson’s dialogue. No, not really. But those are an approximation of words I wish Will would say. He’s too busy being a nice guy, though, and is also too busy feeling like shoe poop because of stupid Ryan the assface boy. I love Will. I don’t love Ryan.

But, let’s move on before this gets any more immature, shall we?

What is it about the holidays that make occurrences occur? Especially occurrences of the warm and fuzzy variety. Whatever it is, Will and Patrick do the holidays. But, do they do each other? It’s what we’ve all been waiting for since their drunken marriage and raucous sexcapades in Vegas, yes? Well, I won’t tell, but what I will say is that I love where Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths have gone in this episode of the further adventures of Will and Patrick, fauxlyweds and pseudo-husbands who, hey, I think are becoming rather fondish of each other.

I also think Patrick’s heart grew three sizes in this special holiday episode, and even though we’re still learning bits and pieces about his past, he’s showing an incredible depth of regard for Will and his health, both his mental and physical health, in spite of Patrick acting somewhat like a feral human at times. Now, for a guy who’s supposed to be an arrogant jerk, he’s behaving uncharacteristically solicitous toward the man he’s also supposed to be trying to divorce. He also kisses babies, or baby, at least, so I think Patrick’s fronting. He’s just a marshmallow playing at sauerkraut. One might also observe that Dr. Patrick McCloud seems to be getting entrenched in the day to day operations of Healing’s hospital. One might also think the place is subconsciously growing on him. Just like Will is. If you ask me, I think he’s starting to like some of the Whos down in Whoville.

As has been the case since Episode the First, Blake and Griffiths have blended their voices seamlessly to create a sometimes funny, sometimes warm, sometimes touching and even a little bit angsty story. I’ve grown to love these guys, have a full on loathe-fest with Ryan, love Will’s grandmas, think his little brother and sisters seem pretty cool. And wish his mom and uncle would quit with their opinionated opinionating (see: adult beeswax buttinski faces). But they mean well, and Will is showing some signs of learning to quit letting other people tell him how he should think and feel. That Ryan… oh, he just has everyone so snowed. Everyone except for Patrick, that is. Patrick has had Ryan’s number since day one. Now Will just needs to accept that maybe he doesn’t love Ryan as much as he’s addicted to the idea of needing him in order to stay sober. You know, replacing one unhealthy addiction for another. Patrick would hate that bit of psychobabble.

Will and Patrick have already rung in the New Year in this episode, in a wonderful way, I might add, so we won’t be seeing them again until after our holidays. Will 2016 find our lawfully wedded duo undone? Or will the clean slate of a new year see them turning over a new leaf? Is the L-dash-dash-dash word anywhere in their future? And, more importantly, when the hell is someone going to give Ryan a good old fashioned roundhouse to the nuggets for me?

Stay tuned, readers. I don’t think we’re going to want to miss any of the action and suspense and drama yet to come as this world turns.

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You can buy Will and Patrick Do the Holidays here:

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Author Bios

Leta BlakeLeta Blake

Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more about her by following her online:

On the web || On Facebook || On Twitter

Author BioAlice Griffiths

A long-time reader of romance novels, Alice Griffiths finally took the plunge into writing, teaming up with best-selling author Leta Blake for the ‘Woke up Married’ serialized comedy. A lover of tropes, Alice enjoys mining old ideas and putting a fresh, funny spin on them. Formerly working in the newspaper industry, Alice is now an art curator. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

You can find out more about her by following her online:

On Twitter || On Facebook

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2.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Niko McQueen, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Deranged by Niko McQueen

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Title: Deranged (Ivy Hollow Chronicles: Book One)

Author: Niko McQueen

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 126 Pages

At a Glance: Deranged needed a bit more storyline for me to buy into its romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Adam Rossmore is a rich party boy who doesn’t answer to anyone. He’s played the orphan card for too long and it’s gotten him out of every DUI, arrest, and fine.

Until now.

When a judge slaps him with community service at the insane asylum, Ivy Hollow, Adam thinks it’s all a joke. Until the doors lock and he starts meeting the residents.

Christian Hale has lived at Ivy Hollow his entire life. He seeks solace in his music—and whatever orderly happens to be nearby.

When Adam hears Christian play the piano for the first time, the music draws him deep into Christian’s web and he must fight an arousal that is both confusing and exciting.

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Review: Sometimes a blurb makes a book irresistible, and I was totally hooked by the premise of Niko McQueen’s Deranged. The idea of music and one man’s affliction coalescing into a love story is one you don’t run across often, and I wanted to see what the author did with it.

Christian Hale’s mental breakdown isn’t spelled out to the letter when the story begins, but we do get just enough innuendo to know what’s happened to cause it. The scene was written in a way that vaguely reminded me of the movie Shine and David Helfgott’s psychological collapse during the Rachmaninoff solo—an intense and slow motion wreckage of a man’s mind caught in the grasp of his music. Christian’s psyche shatters while playing the piano, but the story then fast-forwards without offering any more information about the schism, so we can only assume that his suffering at the hands of someone he thought he could trust has lead to the PTSD-like episodes we’re told about later.

Adam Rossmore is a musician in a band, though details about that are sketchy at best. We do know that he’s an arrogant party boy womanizer, though, and in spite of him thinking he’s above the law, he’s finally used up all of his get out of jail free cards when he’s busted for DWI, so one bender too many offers him two choices—community service at Ivy Hollow, or prison time. Adam is advised by his attorney/uncle to choose what should be the lesser of those two evils, and, of course, Adam isn’t happy about either, but Ivy Hollow gets one-hundred-fifty hours of his service. This is the basis for the setup of the story’s romance, and I have to say I had a difficult time buying into the idea of what boiled down to live-in community service as a means of plopping Adam into Christian’s orbit. I’m no expert on community service, though, so maybe it is a thing.

And now, here’s where I get to be nitpicky and difficult. Not only that, but I also get to start by saying that I really wanted to love this story so much more than I did. In the end, Deranged didn’t work for me because it left too much plot and character development on the drawing board, which, for me, left the story hobbled and the romance not terribly credible. I can buy into the insta-love romantic trope, but I need something to make it believable, and there just wasn’t enough narrative in this story for me to do anything but try and fill in the blanks of an already difficult relationship to grasp hold of. I can’t go into much detail without giving up spoilers, but suffice it to say that the plot didn’t allow its characters to evolve in a way that made their relationship convincing. A common love of music is great, and would have been a fantastic foundation to build something on, but the attraction starts out with lust and ends with sex, with no real exposition of why we should believe these characters belong together long-term, and, all told, that wasn’t enough for me to root for them.

In addition to the insta-love theme, Adam is also straight, so this is a gay/bi/out-for-you story as well, an idea that, when done well, is one of my favorites in the genre because it supports one of the more romantic tropes—that labels can mean squat. But again, going back to the insta-love the story leaned on, I didn’t see much from Adam to make me believe he’s got any feels for Christian that go anywhere beyond lust and curiosity. We get a lot of inner monologue and self-directed incredulity that he’s hot for Christian, but that’s angst not character construct, and there were too many important details missing for me believe that Adam had fallen in love with another man. Add to that a conveniently timed and somewhat coincidental side-story that introduces Christian’s “real” one true love, a guy who appears and then disappears again within the space of a mere few pages (there are several other characters who are introduced then do little more than serve as set dressing as well), and all it really does is give Adam the chance to show his jealous and possessive streak.

Overall, this novella all went rather sideways for me. What I was left with at the end of Deranged is the impression that sex was the magical cure-all for Adam’s straightness, and that Christian was in no way healthy enough to be the guy Adam should be hanging his future happily-ever-after on. His mental instability, whatever it is, and the cause of it, is sort of brushed off as a non-factor, which was too bad because I think it could have been a really compelling part of the storyline.

As much as I loved the idea of this novella, and in spite of there being some sexy moments, Deranged left me wanting.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Deranged here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Cardeno C., Genre Romance, Giveaways, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kathie, Self-Published

Audio Review and Giveaway: He Completes Me by Cardeno C. – Narrated by Alexander Collins

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Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: He Completes Me (The Home Collection: Book Two)

Author: Cardeno C.

Narrator: Alexander Collins

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 8 hours and 25 minutes

At a Glance: He Completes Me gives us just what Cardeno C. promises: a love story with a happy ending.

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Not even his mother’s funeral can convince self-proclaimed party boy Zach Johnson to tone down his snark or think about settling down. He is who he is, and he refuses to change for anyone. When straight-laced, compassionate Aaron Paulson claims he’s falling for him, Zach is certain Aaron sees him as another project, one more lost soul for the idealistic Aaron to save. But Patience is one of Aaron’s many virtues. He has waited years for a man who can share his heart and complete his life, and he insists Zach is the one. Pride, fear, and old hurts wither in the wake of Aaron’s adoring loyalty, and as Zach reevaluates his perceptions of love and family, he finds himself tempted to believe in the impossible: a happily ever after.ch doesn’t need to be fixed, and he refuses to be with someone who sees him as broken.

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Review: What a great love story! Cardeno C. just does it for me.  Each of the books in this collection are unique yet tell a story about coming together to form a more perfect union.  Roll your eyes, I get it.  But what is a perfect union? My definition is two or more people who come together and protect each other, love each other through sickness and in health, happiness and sadness, and trust each other no matter what comes their way. And there is pleasure in knowing that in any book I read by this author, I will get my happily-ever-after.  There’s comfort in that.

He Completes Me gives us just what Cardeno C. promises: a love story with a happy ending.  Zach is quite a character, showing up at his mother’s funeral in a skin-tight pink tank top and white pants, trying to tell the relatives he just doesn’t give a damn what they think. But what we learn about Zack as the story unfolds is that he does give a damn and uses anonymous sex, clothes, and a snarky attitude as armor to protect himself from being hurt yet again.

Aaron Paulson is Zach’s complete opposite. Or so it seems. His defense is to take care of people at the expense of himself. Zach points out many times that Aaron is taken advantage of way too often, especially by Zach own brother, Dean, and sister in law, Kimberly. Aaron is also blessed with patience, and to get Zach to admit his love for Aaron, it takes a lot of patience. It also takes a lot of trust on Aaron’s part to wait for Zach to come to his senses (that’s my opinion).

The audiobook is fantastic. The narrator, Alexander Collins, just has the sexiest voice. It sounds like smooth butter and sweet cream, and he does a great job of capturing the personalities of both Aaron and Zach. The added surprise for me was the additional chapter that was added on the end. Thank you, Cardeno C. and Alexander Collins. You make this reader/listener a very happy person.

TNA_Signature_Kathie

 

 

 

 

You can buy He Completes Me here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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Cardeno C.About the Author: Cardeno C. – CC to friends – is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few “awwws” into a reader’s day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno’s stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever- after sunset.

Cardeno’s Home, Family, and Mates series have received awards from Love Romances and More Golden Roses, Rainbow Awards, the Goodreads M/M Romance Group, and various reviewers. But even more special to CC are heartfelt reactions from readers, like, “You bring joy and love and make it part of the every day.”

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THE GIVEAWAY

Cardeno C. is offering the chance for one lucky listener to win an audio copy of He Completes Me.

Good luck!

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