5 Stars, Aisling Mancy, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Shira Anthony

Review: A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy

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Title: A Solitary Man

Authors: Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 304 Pages

At a Glance: Solitary Man is action packed, suspenseful, has lots of dangerous moments, and it deals with important subject matter as well.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Sparks fly when Chance meets tall, sexy Xav at a Wilmington bar and they have the hottest one-nighter of their lives. But Chance doesn’t do repeats, Xav seems detached, and they go their separate ways without a word. Later, when closeted Assistant District Attorney C. Evan “Chance” Fairchild meets Dare’s Landing’s newest deputy sheriff, Xavier “Xav” Constantine, Evan isn’t only wary. He’s irritated as hell.

Xavier is a former FBI agent turned deputy sheriff who is hot on the trail of a South American child prostitution ring. Evan is fighting to put an end to rampant cocaine trafficking and chafing under the thumb of an election-hungry boss. When someone tries to kill the eleven-year-old witness who holds the key to both their investigations, they’re forced to work together as they put their lives on the line to protect him. As Chance and Xav collide in the heat of a sweltering North Carolina summer, dodging bullets and chasing bad guys isn’t the only action going on.

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Review: After the DEA causes the death of two young boys, Xavier Constantine makes a career change, from FBI agent to Deputy Sheriff.  He heads up the Crimes Against Children Task Force in Dare’s Landing. While dealing with the loss, he finds himself educating his team about child sex rings and drug trafficking.

Chance Evan Fairchild, Assistant District Attorney, is still dealing with dark issues from his youth. He’s a loner and doesn’t let anyone get close to him, and is more than satisfied being closeted. He doesn’t like that drug trafficking has come to his corner of the world, and he vows to get to the bottom of it.  He’s not real happy about Xavier, the new deputy sheriff, though. But after a heartbreaking end to a stakeout, Chance’s eyes are opened, and he finds himself teaming up with Xavier to protect a young boy and help to put an end to trafficking.

I think Xavier is a great character. Even though he’s out, he still has to face some intolerance, but he wasn’t portrayed as the “tough guy” character. He’s just a man standing up for what he believes in. I liked the banter with his mother and siblings, even though it was brief. He also shows patience and understanding with Chance, and never put pressure on him to reveal his issues. Sadly, I didn’t get the feeling that this is the beginning of a series, so I would have liked this story to end a little differently.

A Solitary Man has a solid group of characters, including John Carson, Twyla Faye, Sheriff Winston, Ridley, and Billy, who become a top notch team. The story is action packed, suspenseful, has lots of dangerous moments, and it deals with important subject matter as well: child and drug trafficking, and psychological damage that is caused by confinement. Greed plays a big part of this story too, and what sick and perverted people will do for money. Anthony and Mancy did an exceptional job of bringing these issues to the forefront.

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5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, HelenKay Dimon, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie, Riptide Publishing

Review: Stranded by HelenKay Dimon

StrandedTitle: Stranded

Author: HelenKay Dimon

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 155 Pages

At a Glance: Oh heavens, this was a good book!

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Brax Hughes lived hard and retired young to a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Well, that was the plan, but before he can hang up his sniper rifle, he has one last mission: win back Kyle Cabe. Brax wants another chance, wants to come clean, but after months of lying to Cabe, he knows he could face a bullet — or worse — when they meet again. And they will meet. Brax made sure of that.

With a storm moving in and someone lurking outside the cabin, time is running out. Brax needs to talk fast and keep his weapons ready. And his best weapon is the truth.

* * * * * * *

NOTE: Twenty percent of the proceeds from this title will be donated to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center.

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Review: Do you like military style men with intriguing stories to tell? Then you will love this book like I did!

How do you describe Cabe and Brax… They are intense, male, alpha, dominating, controlling, broken, fierce, passionate, powerful, and consuming. These two men NEED the truth they find in each other, but they both have trust issues and control issues, and it is painful but oh-so-worth-it to watch them work through them.

Kyle Cabe was a product of the foster system; if it taught him anything, it taught him not to trust anyone. Ever. It was that lesson that makes him such a great operative and keeps him alive. That is, until Brax Hughes, another operative, wormed his way inside Cabe’s walls. Of course, then Brax shot and tried to kill him. Now Cabe is retired, as retired as a man can be from the business, and he wants to fade into anonymity and find peace.

Brax wants to retire also. After all, he is supposed to be dead. But Brax has one last mission, and that is to make sure that Cabe knows the truth of what happened that day he shot him. How does he convince the only man he has ever loved that he shot him in order to save him? These men’s lives are built on carefully crafted lies, and to get to the heart of them is a convoluted story full of intrigue, with missions gone bad and good intentions gone wrong. The passion between the two is never in question and, oh my, the sex is hot, but these two men have big obstacles to overcome, and the largest obstacles are inside themselves. I highly recommend this book!

HelenKay Dimon has dipped her toe into the M/M genre before, even though she mainly writes M/F, but all of her books are intense romances about intense people, and the attention to detail is what makes them so freaking good. I hope she produces more for the M/M genre, as it is greatly enhanced with her presence.

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5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Wilde City Press, Zathyn Priest

Review: Inside His Reflection by Zathyn Priest

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Title: Inside His Reflection

Author: Zathyn Priest

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 294 Pages

At a Glance: Once again, Zathyn Priest proves he is an outstanding storyteller.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A blind date leaves Harry reeling, and another date goes as badly.

Scars on Elijah’s face are clues of a broken soul, yet Harry can’t walk away. Not even when he learns Elijah sees a dead man in mirror reflections.

Elijah’s sanity snaps. Blamed for crimes he didn’t commit, Elijah has already survived a brutal murder attempt and now hides under a Protection Program. Harry must have faith he is innocent and fight for Elijah’s stolen rights.

Can Harry do this without losing his mind, his own rights, and the man he loves?

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Review: Harry lives in the outback—on a farm that also serves as a five star resort that is run by him, his identical twin brother, Henry, and their family. After agreeing to meet a blind date in Adelaide, Harry actually ends up meeting the wrong guy. Harry tells himself to step away—to leave the strangely aloof “Elijah” alone, but there is something so haunting about the young man, so lost, and so broken. Before he knows it, Harry is wrapped up in the nightmare that has haunted Ashley for so many years.

Elijah, aka Ashley, has been hiding for ten years under federal protection. Relocated from England to Australia, Ashley must hide who he is due to being accused of raping his foster brother, Rylan, then age 6. When he was supposedly discovered enacting the deed, Rylan’s father brutally beats, rapes and nearly kills Ashley, leaving his body disfigured and his mind fractured. When Ashley is forced into relocating, he loses contact with his twin brother Chris. Now, thinking Chris is dead, and terrified that Harry will discover who “Elijah” really is, Ashley begins to fall apart. And when all is said and done, there may be nothing left of Ashley for Harry to love.

Inside His Reflection by Zathyn Priest boasts a multi-layered plot with ample twists and turns. With each chapter, the author leaves a trail of crumbs for the reader to decipher, and brings them one step closer to understanding just what happened to fourteen-year old Ashley on that horrific night so long ago. As the layers of lies and secrets unfold, you begin to understand just how fragile a hold on reality Ashley has, and how difficult it will be for Harry to gain his trust. Yet Harry is nothing but patient, and perhaps the most compassionate character this author has written to date.

Loving and gentle, Harry sees beyond the shadows that surround Ashley, and remains steadfast in protecting him as best as he can. Ashley is so broken—mourning the loss of his twin brother who was his to take care of—his to guard and his to love; in essence, his world. Cast off by their parents, both boys have only each other to cling to, and in the end, even that is taken from them.

Inside His Reflection is a rich and tender love story that takes some very dark twists and turns. This is a love story that nearly expires before it can achieve stability. Yet, again and again, this author re-knits these two gorgeous characters together, making Harry and Ashley true survivors in a world that is determined to keep them apart. This novel is a story of healing and love and one man’s fight for sanity and reason. It is a journey that two men take to establish their love for each other despite the very real truth that time for them may be running out.

Once again, Zathyn Priest proves he is an outstanding storyteller who creates deeply wounded characters who learn to live with their brokenness and find the strength to move beyond it into a world where love and happiness are truly possible.

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4 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Melanie Hansen, Reviewed by Jules

Review: Signs of Life by Melanie Hansen

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Title: Signs of Life (A Resilient Love Story)

Author: Melanie Hansen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 234 Pages

At a Glance: Overall, this was a good romance, a nice second chance story.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Successful lawyer Jeremy Speer has it all—a loving husband, a beautiful home, and a cherished dream that’s about to become reality. He’s learned not to take happiness for granted, meeting the challenges of life and love head-on with unwavering commitment and fierce devotion. A series of tragic events leave Jeremy shattered, adrift on a sea of unimaginable pain. He’s able to piece his life back together, but instead of embracing it, he merely exists, using isolation and punishing physical exertion to keep the world at bay.

High school teacher Kai Daniels has a heart for at-risk kids—he was one himself, and a teenage brush with the law and some troubled years behind bars left him scarred inside and out. With courage, hard work, and the support of friends, he’s built a fulfilling life that leaves no time for a relationship.

An intense encounter with Kai at a gay club ignites a spark in Jeremy that he thought was extinguished forever, but he’s unwilling to destroy the fragile peace he’s managed to create, and he leaves Kai humiliated and disappointed. Things should have ended there, but a bizarre occurrence brings the two together in a way neither of them expected.

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Review: Let’s begin at the beginning. Full disclosure right up front. The first chapter of Signs of Life will gut you. Not even kidding, I was crying within five pages. Then, just when you think you’ve made it through…BAM! Jeremy suffers another unspeakable loss. I have to admit I questioned the necessity of it…the cruelty of it…but then, if one thing happened without the other, it would have been a completely different story, and this is the story the author wanted to tell. So, I plodded on. Then, while grieving, Jeremy lashes out VERY cruelly at his dear friend. I absolutely questioned his behavior and his character at that point, horrible losses or not. So, yeah…it was a rough start.

Fast forward two years – Jeremy has moved to Bend, Oregon and is attempting to put his life back together. I love this quote from a scene where he is contemplating renovations on his new law office, as well as his renewed interest in life:

Suddenly he was itching to get to work, to make all of these dreams a reality, to rebuild his new life from the ashes of his old one as best he possibly could.

Part of the reason for his new zeal for moving on with his life is his attraction to Kai Daniels. Kai is smokin’ hot. An ex-gang kid turned school teacher who, as it turns out, pushes ALL of Jeremy’s buttons. The attraction these guys have for each other jumps off the page. The author’s descriptions of them are vivid – I felt like I could perfectly picture the quasi-bad boy thing Kai had going on at times, with his eyeliner, lip piercing, jewelry, and swagger; and Jeremy’s lean runner’s build, clean cut good looks, and sex appeal in a suit were also clearly etched in my mind.

It took me quite a while to actually come to like Jeremy – over a third of the book – which was a bummer, but once he started to thaw out a little, and especially once he warmed up to the kids who were fulfilling their community service at his property, I definitely started to fall for him. Obviously, he went through unimaginable hurt. I don’t want to come off as insensitive about that. At all. As I said, I was crying with him and hurting for him in chapter one. But, I did have a hard time with his behavior afterward. That being said, again, by the second half of the book and beyond, I was loving me some Jeremy.

I completely dug Kai’s character – he had me at hello – and was sucked into his whole backstory. I also love a good bromance, so his relationship with his best friend, Loren, was pretty sweet but also sort of crazy and co-dependent. Kai’s relationship with Loren hindered his ability to fully explore what he had with Jeremy, so I was glad when they sorted it out at the end. And, though I haven’t seen it confirmed anywhere, I strongly suspect that the next book in the series will be Loren’s book.

Overall, this was a good romance, a nice second chance story. The angst was heavy, though largely in the first half, and the sex was steamy. Also, the epilogue was fantastic. I didn’t read Everything Changes, the first book in the series, though now I’m dying to dig into Jase and Carey’s story. I’m sure fans of the first book will be very pleased with the ending here. ;)

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4 Stars, Chris McHart, Drama, Genre Romance, Rawmance Publishing, Reviewed by Lynn

Review: Small Steps by Chris McHart

Title: Small Steps

Author: Chris McHart

Publisher: Rawmance Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

At a Glance: Overall, this was a great read that I would recommend for everyone.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: Ben Amann currently hates everything: The accident that temporarily put him in a wheelchair, the fact that he has to go for rehab and live in an assisted living home as well. Sebastian Hofers, the good looking but equally bad-tempered new assistant to his rehab therapist changes that.

Sebastian has two choices after causing an accident while driving drunk: community service hours or go to jail. The decision is a no-brainer, and so he meets Ben at the rehab center. The two of them hit it off and slowly, Sebastian sees more than just a patient in Ben.

But their growing relationship faces hard trials, not only because of Sebastian’s heavy drinking, but also because of the truth: The two of them already met on an icy street, eight months ago.

Can love and forgiveness overcome the overwhelming guilt and resentment?

Contains: Two ill-tempered men, a lot of hang-ups, a shared hope, and a destroyed dream.

Trigger Warning: deals with alcohol abuse and alcoholism

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Review: This was my first time reading Chris McHart. The author chose to write about a serious problem in this country, drunk driving. The blurb definitely piqued my interest and for personal reasons, I was intrigued to see where the author was going to go with this story.

We get to meet the characters, Ben and Sebastian, almost a year after the accident—from their chance meeting at the rehab center, to their daily routines. We get to know them as individuals too, through their POVs, and see a budding romance. A romance that maybe isn’t going to work out the way they want.

Now, from the blurb, we know Sebastian caused the accident that put Ben in a wheelchair. As a reader, I have mixed feelings about knowing something the characters don’t. In some cases it’s necessary, but I feel with this story that I wish I hadn’t known. I think because of that knowledge, the beginning of the story was a little repetitive. I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and was wanting the author to get on with it and let them know who the other one was already. To be honest, it took me out of the story a bit.

Some may not agree with me on my assessment of Sebastian here, but I kinda felt bad for the guy. He was an absolute train wreck, and no one was reaching out to help him. He was on a downward spiral through most of the story, and at times, it was very difficult to watch. Part of me wanted to shake him and tell him to grow the hell up, stop drinking, haven’t you caused enough damage? But the other part of me was screaming at those around him, can’t you see he needs help? I really just wanted to pluck him from the pages and give him a smack and a hug all at the same time.

Ben, on the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of his at the beginning. I know, he’s the victim here; it wasn’t his fault; I should feel sorry for him. I didn’t. There was something about his whiny, poor me attitude that I just didn’t like. He deserved to have a poor me attitude, I know, but I wasn’t feeling it. He does redeem himself towards the end of the story, though, and I often wondered if the author meant to make his character not so likable, or is it just me? It’s probably just me.

I will say the author did a tremendous job in keeping this story real, in the alcoholism storyline and the havoc which this disease can cause. Seeing the aftermath and how it can truly change the lives of so many people was very realistic. Bottom line: it’s a story of acceptance, forgiveness and learning to love and be loved.

I loved the minor characters who really put their mark on this story. Marco, being an old friend of Ben’s, added a little lightness to a pretty heavy subject. And Niko, I loved him. A new friend of Ben’s and eventual roommate, he was a godsend to both main characters, in so many ways. I don’t know if the author has any plans for Niko, but he definitely has a story to tell, and I for one would love to read it.

As the saying goes, no one reads the same story. Some may see these characters a lot differently than I do, so don’t pass this one by. Overall, this was a great read that I would recommend for everyone.

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5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Mel Bossa, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

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Title: Craving’s Creek

Author: Mel Bossa

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages

At a Glance: Craving’s Creek is truly a gripping page-turner.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: For the man he loves, he will fight—body, mind, and soul.

Fourteen years ago, on a sun-drenched summer day on the banks of Craving’s Creek, Ryde swore to his best friend, Alistair, he’d never be alone in the world. Though Alistair was destined for the priesthood, there was something beyond holy about the first kiss they shared.

But a fun camping trip went horribly wrong when Alistair was involved in a horrific incident.

Now, at age thirty-one, Ryde’s life is a mess of alcohol and the painful imprint of his last look into Alistair’s desperate eyes. Since the evil they encountered on that shore, his first love has been lost to him—until he learns a friend’s wedding is to be officiated by a priest named Father Alistair Genet.

Amid the rush of emotions, one thought crystallizes: Ryde’s love for Alistair not only has never died, it’s stronger than ever. Stronger than God. But it may be no match for the church…and the repressed memories that are slowly tearing Alistair’s mind apart.

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Review: Craving’s Creek is truly a gripping page-turner. I was absolutely enthralled by this story. The blurb only hints at the drama that lies within the book; the story itself is MUCH more intense. I had a few guesses as to “the evil they encountered on the shore,” but having an idea of what might happen didn’t prepare me for the actual fear and sadness that hit me when reading it.

The emotions that you feel when an author puts characters through different experiences are a direct result of how good a job that author does at making you connect with those characters. Mel Bossa did a fantastic job. Both so well-developed and interesting, I was invested in Ryde and Alistair from the word go. When they were happy and carefree together, I was happy. When the unimaginable happened, and they were thrust into hell, my heart was ripped out.

The one constant in the story was Ryde’s love for Alistair, which was keenly felt all throughout the book. I liked Ryde so much. His strength, wit and sass always shone through, whether he was standing up to Alistair’s mother, interacting with his baby sisters, or challenging the priests at the presbytery after he reconnects with Alistair. Even while struggling with alcoholism he never comes off as weak to me. And the strength he has to draw on to help Alistair begin to heal is amazing.

Alistair is such a unique character. Very pure and childlike, and incredibly smart, yet so naïve at the same time. I loved the descriptions in the book of his beauty; I felt like I could see him perfectly. His story arc was so engrossing, I couldn’t put the book down. And his absolute faith and trust in Ryder, both when they were boys, and again when they reconnected as men, was truly beautiful. In fact, his unwavering faith in general was fascinating, as it was both his salvation and very nearly his destruction. Religion is a tough topic to tackle in a novel, and there are certainly some controversial viewpoints here, but ultimately the beauty of Alistair’s faith was nicely juxtaposed with Ryde’s disdain for organized religion.

There were many heart-racing moments, and moments that felt hopeless, but these guys have a wonderful cast of characters in their corner. Ryde’s parents are completely fantastic, and Jamie – Dr. Scarborough, the psychiatrist who helps Ryder, and then later, Alistair, deal with the trauma of what they went through when they were seventeen – was an amazing doctor and a good friend.

The end was a bit of a rollercoaster. I got a titch worried that things weren’t going to be resolved in time, and that perhaps I was headed for a cliffhanger. And then I thought, rather than the big, dramatic showdown, the author was going to take it in a different direction, which I was actually ‘ok’ with. But, then she DID do the big dramatic showdown before wrapping things up, which also worked fine. While it wasn’t a cliffhanger, it did leave me wanting a tad more closure. I would definitely not object to seeing more of these guys in the future! Either way, though, I’ll be checking out more of Mel Bossa’s work.

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4.5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published, Varian Krylov

Review: Trasmundo: Escape by Varian Krylov

Title: Trasmundo: Escape (Book One)

Author: Varian Krylov

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages

At a Glance: Love and war create a beautiful contrast in Varian Krylov’s Trasmundo: Escape.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Strange, quiet Luka doesn’t live in this world; long ago he took refuge in his art, escaping into surreal mindscapes inspired by his favorite painters. In the beautifully monstrous realms of his imagination, he is safe from the pain of his losses: his family, his friends, his hope.

Until war breaks out, and he is forced to flee the only home he’s known since he was thirteen.

Captured by an enemy soldier, young Luka is marched across brutal terrain, toward a fate known only by the bearded menace holding him prisoner. Quick with a knife, tireless and strong, Tarik guards the purpose of his mission as he takes Luka deeper and deeper into enemy territory.

When the soldier discovers the painful secret he has been hiding since childhood, Luka fears he is about to endure a new kind of cruelty, worse than being abandoned, ostracized or beaten. Or is it possible the soldier holding Luka prisoner is the one person who isn’t afraid of the truth behind Luka’s silence and lies?

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Review: Varian Krylov’s Trasmundo: Escape is a beautifully drawn love story; beautiful because of its contrasts in both setting and characters, and romantic for the same reasons.

Set in a war-torn Xukrasna, where poor men are recruited to fight rich men’s battles, and ethnic cleansing is the objective, Luka’s nationality is marked by his blue armband the same way the Star of David badge once demarcated a Jew during the Holocaust. What truly sets Luka apart in this story, however, is the boy himself. Nineteen, no family, no real friends, and working in a barber shop while trying to put himself through art school, we embrace Luka and his innocence, his delicacy, and are then given a roadmap within the narrative which pinpoints all the places where he’s broken in both heart and spirit. Made to feel ashamed and fearful of his sexuality, punished for his desires, Luka is the epitome of the lost boy and throwaway child, but we witness his true journey’s beginning when he’s driven out of the only place he’s known as home since the age of thirteen.

Rescued by a Good Samaritan after being exiled from a refugee camp, beaten and left tied to a tree, Luka sets out on his own, though he has no idea where he’s going or what he might find once he gets there. His life is irrevocably altered when Tarik, a soldier for the enemy, finds Luka and takes him prisoner. But, things aren’t exactly as they seem at first glance. From this moment on, Krylov gives readers a voyeur’s view into the lives of these two men as they make their way cross-country—refugees and countrymen from opposing factions who don’t buy in to the political or religious propaganda—facing hardships and unforgiving landscapes while transforming slowly from kidnapper and kidnapped to something so much more. From a safe distance, we watch as these two men go through all manner of adversity, face danger, and bear no small amount of suffering through things we can only imagine and hope we never have to endure. The author’s stoking of our empathy is done effortlessly as our love for both Luka and Tarik grows, just as their love for each other builds against the backdrop of war, shared intimacies within stolen moments together that are tender and touching in their urgency.

Opposites defined not only within their country’s political machinations but in personality as well, we initially see Luka as the frightened rabbit caught in a snare, while Tarik is strong, capable, and eager to explore his growing attraction to Luka. As the first tentative touches give way to a desperate physical need, we see Luka in a war of his own, a battle between his long-held belief that he is an abomination and his deep desire to be loved by Tarik. Until, that is, we begin to see glimpses of a subtly emerging strength in Luka. Where it might have been easy to dismiss him as fragile, we see in him the strength of a survivor, and just as in war, his progress is made in a series of advances and retreats.

As Tarik and Luka’s trials and travails come to a tension-filled climax, I was so fully invested in their lives that each emotion—the happy, the sad, the terrified—was an emotion I shared right along with them. Varian Krylov goes straight for our compassion, and succeeds in wringing every bit of it for her characters.

Trasmundo: Escape isn’t a war story but an anti-war story, where love is the weapon that conquers the ideology of hate. Luka and Tarik are far from their journey’s end, but we are left with a tentative hope—tentative because there is still so much uncertainty in their future in a country that doesn’t recognize or accept their love, but hope nonetheless that whatever comes their way, they’ll face it together as Escape becomes Exile.

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5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Reviewed by Lisa, Santino Hassell

Buddy Review: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

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I try not to hoard all the books submitted to us for review. Truly, I do try. But sometimes a book comes along that I want to read and review really, really bad. The problem is that sometimes someone else wants that book really, really bad too. That happened with Sutphin Boulevard. Jules and I read this book–not so much together, because we’re separated geographically by a three hour time zone difference, but we burned up the texting apps on our phones along the way in our virtual love-fest of it.

You won’t find a Point-Counterpoint aspect to our reviews. We love this book the same, so the only thing you’ll find different here is our writing and reviewing styles. Suffice it to say, though, that we’re still talking about Mikey and Nunzio, even now.

And when you read as much as we do, that sort of book is a rare beast, indeed.

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Title: Sutphin Boulevard (Five Burroughs: Book One)

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages

At a Glance: Go. Buy. Now.

Reviewed By: Jules and Lisa

Blurb: Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been friends for two decades. From escaping their dysfunctional families in the working-class neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens to teaching in one of the city’s most queer friendly schools in Brooklyn, the two men have shared everything. Or so they thought until a sweltering night of dancing leads to an unexpected encounter that forever changes their friendship.

Now, casual touches and lingering looks are packed with sexual tension, and Michael can’t forget the feel of his best friend’s hands on him. Once problems rear up at work and home, Michael finds himself seeking constant escape in the effortless intimacy and mind-blowing sex he has with Nunzio. But things don’t stay easy for long.

When Michael’s world begins to crumble in a sea of tragedy and complications, he knows he has to make a choice: find solace in a path of self-destruction or accept the love of the man who has been by his side for twenty years.

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Jules’ Review: Santino Hassell’s writing has been described as ‘gritty’. And it is that, no doubt. But, it’s also full of beauty and heart and wit. And romance. I swooned HARD for these guys. The writing feels authentic, not researched. Santino Hassell is simply a great storyteller, and great storytelling begins with great characters. Lisa and I couldn’t stop talking about this book for weeks after we finished it. One of the things we both kept coming back to was that final scene, and how utterly perfect and gorgeous the writing was. Another thing that was repeated numerous times, though, in varying degrees of flail, depending on the scene being discussed, was how much we just fucking LOVED these characters. They are so real, and there is so much meat to them…we honestly just couldn’t get enough.

Sutphin Boulevard is Michael’s story…Michael’s journey…but I have to start with Nunzio. Gahhhhh, you guys. This man is so far beyond sexy there isn’t even a word for it. Some of the descriptions of him in the book are perfection – made even more perfect by the fact that they are views of him through Mikey’s eyes…

Nunzio’s pale blue eyes flashed the way they did when he was ready to light the fire on his Sicilian temper and go explosive on someone who had pushed him – or someone he cared about – a little too far.

Nunzio had always been the charming one of our duo. The one who could get an allegedly straight frat boy to drop his pants with no more than a suggestive comment and a raised brow.

Aside from being sexy, and fiery, and beautiful, though – even more importantly – he’s also the best person Michael has ever known.

I have so much love for Nunzio – for both of them – but, Nunzio is the tortured hero. The one holding everything together, until it becomes too much even for him. This line…

“I wish I knew what to do to help you. Both of you.”

Heart-wrenching. I loved every single minute he was on the page, and would have loved to be even more inside his head…but to feel his hurt directly through him, instead of just through Michael’s observations, may have put the angst level over the top.

Okay, let’s talk about Michael. As I said above, this is his journey, and I’m not gonna lie, it’s a rough one. Things haven’t been right since leaving his life in Manhattan, and moving back to his childhood home in Queens after his mother passes away. His brother Ray, who, at twenty-five, still can’t get his act together, also lives there and is a constant source of frustration and stress for Michael. We get hints throughout the book that Michael can’t handle his life, at least the turn it has taken in the last year, very well. The way he leans on Nunzio for support, and his constant need to escape, are evident from the beginning. But, once his father shows up out of the blue and announces that he’s moving back in, and that he’s dying, the shit truly hits the fan.

Born of his feeling trapped by his situation at home, Michael’s downward spiral is so tough to read. Clearly on the path to self-destruction, but feeling powerless to stop it, his apathy at times was maddening. How could he not care that he was about to lose his job? How could he put everyone through all of this agony, when even he admitted he knew full well what he was doing? How was he so blind to the rightness of his relationship with Nunzio, when he himself had observed so many times how centered Nunzio made him feel, and how he was the only one who could make him feel that way? Addiction, folks. That’s how.

Santino Hassell nailed the alcoholism/addiction aspect of this story – and, it was a huge part of the story. The emotions, the excuses, the denial, the apathy – not to mention Nunzio’s (and Ray’s) struggle and helplessness at watching it all go down – was soooo realistically and beautifully written.

Michael’s inability to handle the changes in his life, the biggest one, of course, being the shift in his and Nunzio’s relationship, leads him to heavier substance abuse. The heavier substance abuse causes him to withdraw and refuse to face what’s going on with them. His crippling fear of ruining their friendship almost takes everything away from him. Michael knows that he can’t live without Nunzio. He knows deep down that Nunzio is everything – that their relationship is everything – but, he can’t piece it all together because there is so much other ‘clutter’ in his life. He does finally have a moment of clarity in rehab, however, and we get this unforgettable line:

My thoughts had rerouted to an option I’d never even considered before: my best friend, my one-and-only, my fucking soul mate, Nunzio.

Where their friendship is the stuff of legends – completely rock solid, honest, and unbreakable – their romance is even more so. When I tell you these guys are ON FIRE, I mean their chemistry will melt your brain. The sex scenes in this book are BE-YOND hot.

Before wrapping up, I want to quickly touch on a few other important things…

A bit more about Michael: He’s so much more than the angst train he’s on throughout much of this book. He’s passionate, he’s sexy, he’s smart, he’s a fabulous teacher who is great with his students (the classroom/teaching scenes in this book are completely fantastic), and in the moments when he allows himself to be happy with Nunzio, we see how free and alive he can be.

David: Such a complex character. I can’t wait to get to know him better in the next book. Michael refers to him as a “poor, confused baby gay,” and I think that’s him through most of this story. Trying to fit in at McCleary. Trying to work through his mixed attraction and hero-worship of Michael and Nunzio. And, making bad decisions and poorly-handling his current relationship. The author does a good job of keeping him just this side of endearing, while also using him as a source of conflict in the book – but, we don’t truly get to see David, I don’t think, until the brilliant rehab scene when he and Ray go to visit Michael. That scene showed his potential as a friend, and how he could be a positive in Michael’s life. Fabulous stuff.

This book is amazing. Go forth and 1-Click!! You’ll be so glad you did! And now, I’ll leave you with this final thought:

That cover, tho…

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Lisa’s Review: This book… I have no idea how to express how much I love this book. Not loved. I’ve said, “I loved this book!” more times than I can count, but there is no past tense going on here. I am actively, right now, in love with this book in an obsessive way. Sutphin Boulevard is not a novel that ends at its final words. It’s a book that makes you want to read it over and over again, and I’ve read its final pivotal and epiphanous scene so many times I almost know it word for word now. That single scene is written so beautifully, is so subtly nuanced with need and emotion and hope, and resonates so deeply within the metaphor of Nunzio and the role he will play in Michael’s recovery from his addiction that I still can’t stop reading it even weeks later.

Sutphin Boulevard is so much more than a simple story of lifelong friends who fall in love. It’s a story of family dysfunction and all the ways in which the burden of becoming his father’s pawn and his adult brother’s keeper pushes Michael Rodriguez to the brink; then, eventually, sends him headlong over the edge into self-destruction. This is the story of a man who is connected so irrevocably to his best friend that his own emotional insight is obscured by the depth of intimacy they share, never imagining it as anything more than friendship. But most of all, this is the story of the crippling weight of problems Michael cannot solve, which leads him to the only solution he can live with, the one solution that could very well kill him. And, tear Nunzio Medici out of his life forever—which could very well produce the same result.

Santino Hassell has introduced subjects both simple and complex in Sutphin Boulevard and then penned a gorgeous novel around them, the story of one man hell bent on self-sabotage, and another whose love for that man is so profound that giving in to his feelings is the only option; giving up is his last—and unacceptable—resort. Hassell sketches an outline of Mikey and Nunzio at the outset of this novel in a blistering scene that would begin the altering of their friendship; then spends the rest of the word count shading and filling the story in, layer by layer, so we understand on a visceral level how deep their bond is, even as Michael is frustratingly unaware of all of Nunzio’s cues. Michael is our unreliable narrator when it comes to his and Nunzio’s relationship, and, in some ways, he is his own antihero while he is everything to everyone else—teacher, son, brother, mentor, friend… He’s so busy being everyone else’s someone that he forgets how to be the hero of his own life.

As the disease of addiction becomes Mikey’s self-fulfilling prophecy, and the only legacy his father left the one son who was supposed to fall far from that family tree, we are plunged along with him into the abyss created by alcoholism and drug abuse, watching while Michael begins to crave the abyss and the oblivion it provides, sinks deeper into the bottle where Nunzio can no longer reach him; nor is Nunzio’s love enough to light Mikey’s way through the darkness of his resentment and despair, his grief and anger, his need to escape his own life and the affliction it’s become.

Santino Hassell makes no clichés of his characters, nor does he shrink from the ugliness of Michael’s downward spiral. We watch as it affects his relationships, his job, and his interactions with David Butler, the man who could have become nothing more than a pastiche of every tedious and predictable stereotype we’ve seen in fiction, but in yet another show of finesse, David’s role extends beyond the predictable to the point that I loved him, much to my surprise; so much so that I’m at Defcon 1 maximum readiness for his book and the exploration of his friendship with Michael’s brother Raymond.

Sutphin Boulevard is a novel that explores the human condition at its best and worst: from hope to heartache, from wreckage to redemption, from family drama to relationship trauma, this story draws you in from the first to the last scenes. Its characters are real, and most of all, they are human, with the inherent frailties and faults that befall us all. Watching Michael’s personal life crumble even as he continues to mentor his students in the job he loves and was meant to do is a testament to the strength and wisdom he gifted to everyone but himself.

I’ll say here what I wanted to say in the first sentence of the first paragraph of this review. Read this book. Just…read it. Ironically, in the best possible way, it is itself deliciously addictive.

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3.5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Amy, Sara York, Self-Published

Review: Velocity by Sara York

Title:  Velocity (Flight HA1710: Book Two)

Author: Sara York

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count:  89 Pages

At a Glance:  While I liked this second entry in the Flight HA1710 series, I was a bit disappointed in it as well.

Blurb: The crash of Flight HA1710 brings life into focus for Phil Stewart. Before meeting Davin Tierney, love seemed only a myth to Phil, but one night in New York City changed everything, giving him something he didn’t even know existed. But Phil wasn’t comfortable saying I love you. During the crash, Davin suffers a brain injury, leaving him in a coma. Phil wonders how love can be so cruel to give him Davin and then take him away so suddenly.

Davin never intended to give Phil a second look, but Phil broke through barriers and made amazing overtures before stalling on the word love. The crash changes everything, and he’s no longer willing to play it safe, but can Phil actually change from the playboy Davin first met?

Dividers

Review:  While I liked this second entry in the Flight HA1710 series, I was a bit disappointed in it as well. This could have had the emotional impact that the first installment had, but fell flat for me. The writing was clear and easy to follow, but it had several inconsistencies that threw me out of parts of the story. They may have been personal issues, so YMMV. In the end, though, I did like the story.

This chapter starts with backstory of Phil and Davin meeting as Phil is taken to the hospital after the crash. He awakens and his utmost desire is to find Davin, but the nurses continue to sedate him when he inquires about Davin because he gets rather excited in doing so. More backstory happens in these drug-induced flashbacks, and we get to see a bit of the relationship of the two men pre-tragedy.  I really enjoyed the changes Phil was making in his life, and how shy Davin was becoming more sweet and sexy.
When Davin makes his physical appearance, I was relieved his injuries weren’t as serious as first presented. Yet, my angst-loving heart also quickened at this. How would these two men continue if one was disabled? Not that I wished Davin ill, but I love the dynamics of relationships, and this one had changed so much. How much more could they take?

But it was not to be. I won’t spoil it by telling you what happens, just know that I really started to have an issue with the story. Because of more inconsistencies with plot and the romance not matching, I am torn about my reaction to the book. It started out so wonderfully emotional and deep, but it ended up more about sex than anything else.

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5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, John Goode, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: When I Grow Up by John Goode

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Title: When I Grow Up (Tales from Foster High: Book Eight)

Author: John Goode

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages

At a Glance: John Goode makes it laughably easy to say, “I highly recommend this novel to you.”

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: After graduation, Kyle Stilleno and Brad Graymark move to California to pursue their dreams. But high school sweethearts are called that for a reason, and their love rarely stands up to the test of time. As money, school, sex, and jealousy test their relationship to the breaking point, Kyle and Brad fight to hold on to the love that brought them together.

But when a frantic phone call sends them back to Texas, they discover love and understanding might not be enough this time.

Dividers

Review: Holy expletive, Batman, what just happened? Okay, I had to, sorry, but to start a review for this one any other way would just feel wrong! Let me try again. First, if you are a Tales from Foster High series fan, get ready, because, in the immortal words of Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!” Oh dear. All right, before any credibility I have as a reviewer dissolves into some other applicable quote, let me begin to discuss with you When I Grow Up by author John Goode.

I am afraid I must begin by stating that if you have not read this series, this novel will lose quite a bit of its impact without the background story those previous seven novels will provide. I should also mention here that I highly recommend you read Robert Halliwell’s book A Way Back to Then prior to diving into this one so that you are up to speed on what has happened to the character of Robbie, and have met his new boyfriend Sebastian. Finally, if you are looking for a lengthy synopsis on Mr. Goode’s latest gem, you will not find it here, for to give you that would mean giving away too much of a story that you must read and savor.

So, what can I tell you about When I Grow Up? I can relate that the novel picks up with Kyle and Brad as they arrive in California and begin life after high school in a tiny apartment above a family run Chinese restaurant. Kyle is convinced of three things: One, that he will do anything to be successful in his pursuit of a degree from Berkeley. Two, that he is so far out of his league in almost every aspect of his new life that he is doomed to fail. And three, Brad will most assuredly be dumping him for someone else before the week is out. In other words, welcome to Kyle and his ongoing insecurities.

Brad, on the other hand, remains clueless as to why his love for Kyle and his ever impossibly positive outlook about his and Kyle’s future will never be near enough to weather the storm that is about to hit the pair of them. Growing up is one mother of a disturbance for most, but for these boys it will be the near undoing of everything they hope for and love. You will watch as their lives spiral out of control, and just want to leap into the story and shake them both in the hopes they wake up before they destroy each other.

John Goode has this uncanny ability to create stories that have that gloriously scary yet exhilarating feel of being on a runaway roller coaster. You love the ride but pray you survive the end of it. This latest Foster High installment nearly did me in. Every character you love, and some you hate, is in this story. They converge in a town that is still able to destroy a person with its inability to move forward, to see all the dark and nasty secrets that are covered in that sweet home town persona it gives off. Each character has their part to play in supporting Kyle during one of the toughest chapters in his life, and all of them will do whatever it takes to protect one of their own. The problem is that Kyle is nearly beaten by none other than himself. He has used up every get out of jail free card he has with Brad, and there really may be no way to salvage what he has come so very close to destroying on the path to growing up.

So, I offer this advice to you. Read every single word and chapter of this novel; trust me, it is vital you do so. Revel in how this author creates such an imperfect world, peopled with very flawed characters, and reveals through their interactions with each other how much those who society marginalizes can love and support one another. Delight in the idea being offered that while life can be so very hard, it can also contain such impossibly perfect moments that it gives a person the strength to carry on despite the odds being stacked against them. Finally, enjoy every single second that you can visit with these amazing characters once again.

When I Grow Up is told in multiple parts, narrated from the perspective of several characters, and is such a gripping story that you will not be able to put this one aside before hitting the very last page. This author, his writing, his stunning ability to weave a story just gets better each time, never fails to leave me shaking my head at the truth and compassion his novels impart. John Goode makes it laughably easy to say, “I highly recommend this novel to you.”

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Drama, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 3 Stars, Reviewed by Maryann, Rick R. Reed

Audio Review: Third Eye by Rick R. Reed – Narrated by Chad Tindale

Title: Third Eye

Author: Rick R. Reed

Narrator:: Chad Tindale

Publisher: DSP Publications

Run Time: 8 Hours and 57 Minutes

At a Glance: A multifaceted story that could have benefitted from more emotion in the narration.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and a lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed – he isn’t sure which – with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls’ parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the “third eye”.

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between the two. Little do they know that nearby, another couple – dark and murderous – are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.

Dividers

Review: “Fawcettville Pennsylvania a town where nothing ever happens”.

Cayce D’Amico is a single dad to his seven year old son Luke. He’s just an ordinary guy, doesn’t make a lot of money, works at the Elite Diner, lives in an old house, but he gives his all to provide for and love Luke. Cayce was no stranger to abandonment; his ex-wife Joyce had decided, four years earlier, that she no longer wanted the burden of Luke and Cayce, and left them both. Marc, Cayce’s ex, also abandon him and their dog Oreo. And on top of all that, Cayce’s mother doesn’t think her son is responsible enough to take care of Luke.

While Luke is playing in the backyard, Cayce is inside, cooking and trying to keep an eye out for Luke. Then Cayce starts to get strange feelings and realizes a storm is coming. He takes Oreo with him to bring Luke inside, but quickly realizes the boy is no longer in the backyard. When Cayce’s search turns to panic, a neighbor points him in the direction of the dead-end at the woods. As the storm worsens, Oreo spooks and runs for home, leaving Cayce to head into the woods by himself, at which point a tree branch is hit by lightning and hits him on the head.

Luke makes it home and finds his father is not there. Worried, he calls his grandparents. When his grandmother answers the call, her first thoughts are how irresponsible her son is. Luke’s grandfather runs to check on his grandson, sensing something is terribly wrong. He tries to encourage Luke, and they head out into the storm in search of Cayce.

When Cayce awakens in the hospital, after suffering a series of nightmares about his son, he starts having thoughts about different people and can’t figure out why, but still, his main concern is Luke. Dr. Carlos Soto comes to attend Cayce and tells him his parents had brought Luke in the night before. Cayce tells Dr. Soto that he doesn’t remember anything about the accident, but the doctor assures him he will recover just fine. Cayce asks to see his son, and also wants to see the newspaper since he’s heard he’s become somewhat of a celebrity. To Cayce’s surprise the paper isn’t delivered by hospital staff but by Dave Newton, the journalist who wrote the article about Cayce’s accident. As Cayce checks out the article, he notices another about a missing girl, Lucy Plant. Then the nightmares really start!

When Cayce begins experiencing images of some gruesome and frightening things, he has to make a decision about whom to tell. His choices aren’t that great, and he could be facing serious trouble no matter who he chooses, so he settles on Dave, but when he doesn’t hear back from the reporter, he takes matters into his own hands. When Dave does meet up with Cayce again, it’s under less than ideal circumstances, but a special bond forms that night between the two men, and Dave has to make a choice between being a friend or reporter. While Cayce is still haunted by images and feelings, he suffers the worst fright of all when Luke is kidnapped.

Rick R. Reed’s Third Eye is a novel layered with deceit, naïveté, abuse, rape, and murder, and may not be for everyone, but the plot flows well and moves along at a good pace. Reed has created a story that shows how vulnerable young people can be if there is neglect involved, which is sad, because situations like this do exist in society today. It is scary in the fact that fiction can become a reality.

Chad Tindale does a passable reading of Third Eye. It was a somber performance, but I don’t know if this type of story could have been read any differently. He did a good job of distinguishing characters’ voices, but I felt there could have been more emotion reflected in parts of the reading.

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5 Stars, Ashley John, Drama, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Sink or Swim by Ashley John

Title: Sink or Swim (Surf Bay: Book Five)

Author: Ashley John

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 284 Pages

At a Glance: There is the part of me that still loathes Finley, and then there is a part of me that wants to see him as I do in this book and hug the broken boy that lost his heart in Surf Bay.

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb: Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, British teenager, Finley, is given a fake passport and forced to forget the life he’s always known. When he arrives in Surf Bay, he meets his uncle, Monroe, and he learns his time in America isn’t going to be a vacation. From the second his plane hits the ground, he is dragged into a world of organized crime, working under his uncle’s wing.

He is forced to share a tiny apartment with another of Monroe’s employees, Jay, and they soon become puppets, acting out Monroe’s terrible crimes, side by side. When their work starts to become increasingly more dangerous, Finley is torn between his need to obey his uncle and his need to protect Jay.

As his life spirals out of control, he falls deeper and deeper into a world filled with money, crime and power and his only form of escapism is in his growing love for Jay.

Can Finley resist the lure of a life-changing proposition from his uncle, while still protecting the one he loves, or will he make sacrifices, which could change the course of his life, forever?

*This is the 5th book in the Surf Bay series. It is an origin story for Finley and not a HEA romance novel (although it does have romance elements). It is recommended that you have read the other books in the Surf Bay series first, although this CAN be read as a standalone (no cliffhanger) or as a prequel to the rest of the series*

Dividers

Review: There isn’t a book by Ashley John that I haven’t loved, and Sink or Swim is no exception. This author has an incredible knack for taking characters that he has built up for us to hate, and be the bad guys, and then showing us a different side of them; and although you don’t forget the things that they did that made you dislike them, you can’t help but fall for them in the end. From the moment Finley is introduced in the previous book, I loathed him. There were really no redeeming qualities for me, so going into this book, I already had a pretty strong opinion about how I felt about him. Then I started reading and it all went out the window. Well, alright, not all of it… In this book we are going back in time, before book one of the series, so all of what we know of Finley happens after these events, but you do get to see a completely different side to him.

About two chapters in, I was sitting curled up on my couch feeling sorry for Finley, and knowing how he ends up, I was wishing things would turn out different for him (even though I already knew they didn’t). Finley and Jay together were so sweet and so innocently and completely in love—something that is hard to picture with the Finley we had previously known. The end broke my heart (yup, I was a sappy weepy mess), and I think it broke Finley to his soul and then thinking ahead, you break even more knowing what comes later.

Although I am a reader who loves her HEA, and was warned before reading that this wasn’t going to have one, I ended the book with a mix of emotions. There is the part of me that still loathes Finley, and then there is the part of me that wants to see him as I do in this book and hug the broken boy that lost his heart in Surf Bay.

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3 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Jules, T.T. Kove

Review: Scarred Souls by T.T. Kove

Title: Scarred Souls (Scarred Souls: Book One)

Author: T.T. Kove

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages

At a Glance: What I’ve decided I’m going to take away from this book is a little bit of hopefulness for these guys.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: On a cold, wet afternoon Damian stumbles across a young man huddled beneath a tree crying his eyes out. He’s got more than enough problems of his own, but is compelled to give the bloke a place to crash for at least the night.

Josh is used to being alone, and most days it’s easier than trying to deal with people who can’t, or won’t, understand him. When Damian takes him in for the night, Josh assumes it’s going to be one more go round of sex and get out in the morning.

Neither of them expects the friendship that develops, and they’re far from prepared when friendship starts to turn into more.

Dividers

Review: I’m finding this to be a tough one to review. It was a very tough one to read; if I hadn’t been reading it for review, I likely wouldn’t have finished it. I don’t mind angst – I have read many books that were tough but in the end I found to be beautiful – however, the angst here was a bit excessive, which is simply not how I personally like to spend my reading time. But, the more I sit with it, the more I realize there were aspects that many may find appealing in a story, and that the author was ultimately trying to write a story of hope.

The subject matter is very dark for the most part. Between our two main characters, Josh and Damian, T.T. Kove covers sexual abuse, substance abuse, self-harm, depression, borderline personality disorder, domestic violence, and suicide. Scarred Souls is definitely the perfect title for this book. Josh and Damian are absolutely scarred souls, and looking back on the story, almost every single character in it is scarred to some extent. I found it exhausting that with the exception of two very minor characters, who have very little page time, there were NO happy people in this book.

I understand wanting to tell a story about troubled characters. Wanting to write an abuse-survivor story. Wanting to simply educate readers about the different hurts that people can feel, or a certain facet of mental illness. However, not only is it my preference, but I also believe it’s more realistic, to have some more-or-less stable and happy people in the story. The closest this book got was Silver, Damian’s best friend and roommate, who I liked very, very much. Silver is a tattoo artist, and since the next book scheduled in the series is apparently titled Inked Souls, I’m going to be saying my little prayers that we will be getting Silver’s story in that book!

So, what I’ve decided I’m going to take away from this book is a little bit of hopefulness for these guys. Though it’s extremely difficult for Josh, given his BPD, Damian has given him reason to have little glimpses of hope for the future. Damian accepts Josh for who he is. Doesn’t pressure him to “get better” or be anything or anyone he isn’t capable of being. It feels realistic for Josh, and attainable, I think. And, for Damian, Josh has allowed him to finally be able to be close to a person and have it feel right. Maybe his natural connection to Josh will eventually lead to even more comfortable intimacy between them. It certainly seems bleak throughout the majority of the book…but, who knows? Maybe these guys will be okay after all.

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5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, John Goode, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Last Dance With Mary Jane by John Goode

Title: Last Dance With Mary Jane

Author: John Goode

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 60 Pages

At a Glance: Last Dance With Mary Jane is nothing short of a love letter, trimmed in despair and steeped in pain, but an outpouring of love nonetheless.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: 2nd Edition

Peter was devastated when he lost his love, Shayne, in a car crash. Though he knows nothing will bring Shayne back, Peter takes solace in listening to Shayne’s voice mail, just to hear his voice one last time. He’s not prepared when one night, Shayne answers the phone.

A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

First Edition published by Silver Publishing, 2012.

Dividers

Review: We really rarely get second chances. It would be nice to think that we could, especially when that second chance could come after something so final as death. But, what if it somehow did work out, and life ended up giving us another chance to right something we got so very wrong? Wouldn’t that be worth all the suffering we had to endure, grappling without loss?

Peter has lost his husband. No, he and Shayne were never married but still, after so many years together and all they had been through, surely they could be considered married. But now Shayne is gone, and Peter must live with an emptiness so wide and deep it threatens to drown him every single day. In order to cling to some small piece of Shayne, Peter goes through the torture of calling his cell every day just to hear his dead husband’s voice. Imagine Peter’s shock when Shayne answers the phone.

I would love to tell you that this story has a wildly wonderful happy ever after. But I must refer you to the title and those very stark words “Last Dance”. They are key to this amazing piece of work by author John Goode. This is nothing short of a love letter, trimmed in despair and steeped in pain, but an outpouring of love nonetheless. Narrated by the survivor, Last Dance With Mary Jane is suffused with just a bit of mysticism and layered in a thin coating of the supernatural. What if we were given one more chance to make it right with the person we loved so fiercely? That is the thrust of this remarkably raw and tender story. When you peel away all the reasons for living without the one you love, you are left with nothing to live for unless it is to rectify something you should have done while you still had the chance. Peter is given that opportunity—the one none of us would normally ever have, and when he snatches it up, the story John Goode put to paper becomes an exquisite moment of storytelling you will not want to miss.

Last Dance With Mary Jane is one man’s second chance—his do over, if you will—and it is beautifully written, compelling and tender beyond compare.

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4.5 Stars, Drama, DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: In the Flesh by Ethan Stone

Title: In the Flesh

Author: Ethan Stone

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 320 Pages

At a Glance: In The Flesh is a top notch cop story with enough heat and grit that you will not want to put it down until you reach the last page.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: 2nd Edition

Reno Detective Cristian Flesh is an out and unashamed cop, but his slutty ways might be his downfall. Christian lives by a strict set of personal rules, preferring hook-ups and anonymous encounters to committed relationships. His guidelines work for him… until one of his tricks is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect.

Leave it to handsome lawyer Colby Maddox to save Christian’s life. He takes the case and the attraction between them is quick and undeniable. After several passion-filled encounters with Colby, Christian unexpectedly wants to break all his rules. However, before they can contemplate a future together, they’ll have to clear Christian’s name and find the real murderer.

Dividers

Review: Gritty, raw and explosive are all excellent adjectives to describe this second edition release of Ethan Stone’s novel In The Flesh. Everything about this book is so visceral and the man behind the action, the sex, the badge, all so very compelling and real. This novel strips away any pretense of polite interaction and instead, gives you an “in your face” story that holds you spellbound to the last page.

Cristian Flesh has rules. Rules he lives by that keep his heart intact and his emotions tightly coiled behind a wall he has carefully erected. From the simplest of things, like no kissing, to the raw and painful, no talking about his past, Cristian rolls through life never repeating a one night stand and never really standing still long enough to understand why he is so very alone at the end of each day. Much like his private life, his career as a cop speaks of no bullshit police work that nearly always ends in arrests. While he is out and proud in the police force, it will be his hidden affair with a prominent pastor that will eventually be his downfall. Framed for a murder he did not commit, surrounded by dirty cops on the dole, Flesh must rely on a deeply closeted lawyer to save his career. In the end, he will have to either begin to tear down the wall and break a few rules, or lose the one man who can actually penetrate years of loneliness and deeply ingrained feelings of no self worth.

Author Ethan Stone is a no-nonsense writer who drives home his point in every vignette he sets up. His plot is intricate and spellbinding. His characters are flesh and blood men who live hard, work hard and, at the end of the day, turn to each other for solace and release. If you are looking for a sweet romance, you are coming to the wrong novel. However, if you are looking for fast paced action and characters you can sink your teeth into, then you have come to the right place. In the Flesh sets one man on a collision course with every rule he has established to keep his head in the game and the demons that haunt his past at bay. Perhaps the only flaw I can find in this novel is that there are times when the dialogue seemed a bit stilted, forcing the characters to occasionally feel jerky and just a bit off center. However, I found that those moments were then replaced with such intense feelings and emotions, as well as non-stop action sequences, that I was immediately drawn right back into the story.

In The Flesh is a top notch cop story with enough heat and grit that you will not want to put it down until you reach the last page.

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You can buy In the Flesh here:

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4.5 Stars, 5 Stars, Amy Lane, Audio Book, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Amy

Audio Review: Black John by Amy Lane – Narrated by Gomez Pugh

Audio Gem

Title: Black John

Author: Amy Lane

Narrator: Gomez Pugh

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 10 Hours, 39 Minutes

At a glance: Amy Lane weaves a tapestry, a multicolored masterpiece where there is hope for the damaged.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: John Carey is just out of rehab and dying inside when he gets word that Tory, the guy who loved him and broke him, has removed himself from the world in the most bitter way possible – and left John to clean up his mess.

Forced back to his hometown in Florida, John’s craving a hit with every memory when he meets Tory’s neighbor. Spacey and judgmental, Galen Henderson has been rotting in his crappy apartment since a motorcycle accident robbed him of his mobility, his looks, and his boyfriend all in one mistake. Galen’s been hiding at the bottom of an oxy bottle, but when John shows up, he feels obligated to help wade through the wreckage of Tory’s life.

The last thing John needs is another relationship with an addict, and the last thing Galen wants is a conscience. Both of them are shocked when they find that their battered souls can learn from and heal one another. It doesn’t hurt that they’re both getting a crash course on how growing up and getting past your worst mistakes sure beats the alternative – and that true love is something to fight to keep if your lover is fighting to love you back.

Dividers

Review: Bear with me as this is my first review; therefore, I am going to do a bit of a two parter. The book itself and Pugh’s performance. One word for this book is Superb! I have been a fan of the Johnnies books since the beginning. One of Amy’s many talents when writing books is her originality. In a series that easily could have become cookie cutter, Amy takes it to places you wouldn’t expect, while still giving you what you want the most. I have been waiting with anticipation for Amy’s book about John for a while. Throughout the Johnnies series, he is there as the figurehead and leader of this emotionally broken group of young men.

Black John is done in two parts. John starts out in rehab, explaining his descent into addiction, which we definitely grasp in Dex in Blue. After receiving a letter from his estranged family about the suicide of the one love he lost, Tory, John has to fly to Florida to handle Tory’s death and funeral arrangements, fresh out of Rehab. John goes to Tory’s shitty apartment and cleans up after a man who was so deep in addiction he couldn’t find his way out. Galen is the next door neighbor, and oh, how I adore this flawed, lost, broken soul. He is at his rock bottom when he meets John, and an unlikely friendship spawns out of this awful event. The first half of this book is going down memory lane and seeing the life John lead, and why he is who he is. I typically have a hard time with flashback-heavy books, but as only Amy Lane always does, she makes the flashbacks flawless.

The second part of this book is the love story between Galen and John. This part takes place in Florida, as these two build their relationship.You travel through Galen’s rehab and John trying to integrate back into life in California as these two characters strive to create a life they can live together. I felt every single step forward and back John and Galen take.

Amy Lane weaves a tapestry, a multicolored masterpiece where there is hope for the damaged. She shows you that although love doesn’t conquer all, if you discover love, it can inspire you to be a better you.

Narrator: Being around the Audiobook world for awhile makes you aware of the different narrators, and whom you tend to prefer. I had the pleasure of listening to all of the Johnnies books on audio, which had been narrated by Sean Crisden. When I saw that Gomez Pugh was narrating the fourth Johnnies book, I was a little nervous the change would affect my opinion of this book negatively. I now can say that it absolutely didn’t affect my opinion. I was extremely surprised by how well Gomez Pugh did with this book. I had previously listened to Gomez, and thought he did a good job but didn’t seek him out when looking at Audiobooks. I can tell you I feel this was his best work by far. The majority of this book was John and Galen talking or John talking to Tory. The only thing that bothered me a bit was that he did Dex’s voice like a surfer, and Dex definitely isn’t a surfer. He did extreme accents for Tommy and Kane as well. Outside of these small problems, I feel that Pugh’s performance was stellar. He had me actively engaged and excited to get back into the car every day.

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You can buy Black John here:

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5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, R.E. Nelson, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Palace Dog by R.E. Nelson

Title: Palace Dog

Author: R.E. Nelson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 206 Pages

At a Glance: A moving and romantic story that brings to life, in an atypical way, a time and place that many would rather forget.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: In April 1975, as the government in Saigon is falling, Michael Andrews prepares to make his way back to Vietnam to find the love he was forced to leave.

But Michael’s journey begins four years earlier. He joins the Air Force to keep out of the Army and out of Vietnam, but his first assignment is teaching English in Saigon to members of the Vietnamese military in an Army program called Palace Dog.

As an artist, and a man, before his time in Vietnam, Michael found life lonely and unsatisfying. In the midst of war, Michael searches for direction and meaning. He ultimately finds love and hope with Thao, a young Vietnamese art student, only to have their already uncertain future wrenched from them when he is pulled out of the country.

For Michael, his return in 1975 is inevitable and without question, though the outcome he hopes for is anything but assured.:

Dividers

Review: I really hope that younger people will read this, although I worry that they won’t. As a student of history and, in particular, the war in Vietnam, I was immediately intrigued by this book. I’ve made it to SE Asia but only to Thailand, with tiny forays into Laos and Myanmar, and I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t do the Cambodia extension.

One of my favorite courses in college was America in the 60s. I was a kid then, and I never really appreciated how demoralized and depressed and disappointed young people must have been in their government and the older generation until I took that course. The Kennedy assassination, the Civil Rights fight, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the war in Vietnam all contributed to the complete disillusionment of a generation. I’ve read a LOT of 1960s/70s Vietnam narratives by different types of writers and participants in this war. This book also stood out as a story nearly as much about the people of Vietnam as the American protagonist.

Southeast Asia is a very different place for Michael Andrews. The weather alone takes time to get used to. The crowds of people, the black market, the traffic, the constant noise – all are very different from his American life. He’s also dealing with keeping his sexuality under wraps. We get to see how his fellow teachers are dealing with being in the country as well. As we see this story from Michael’s point of view, our perspective is that of the outsider – observing the very different world around him. One of the things I particularly appreciated was that this story focused not so much on the military aspects of Michael’s journey but more on the personal relationship side. We see Richard and Danny and Randy, who are fellow Air Force guys, and each of them represents different experiences: the guy who is fighting everything and staying drunk/stoned to make it through; the guy who meets a Vietnamese woman and fathers a child; the closeted guy just trying to serve his time and get out. We even have friendly fire.

Michael is definitely on a different path and this book ultimately shows us his growth and development and acceptance – both in himself and how he wants to interact with the world. His rushing out to get things doesn’t seem to work well for him. As he comes to accept himself and what it is he really needs and wants, he learns to just back off and wait and take what is offered. His tentative relationship with Thao, the brother of one of his Vietnamese students, is, of course, the heart of this story and the romance. It’s not a steamy romance, per se, but it’s a solid love story of two characters caught up in a world where they have very little control.

Of course, the end of the story coincides with essentially the fall of Saigon. I was twelve years old when that occurred, and I still remember it. It was so strange to think that was truly the end of the Vietnam War. And, of course, if you happened to still be in Vietnam, it was far from the end of a lot of things – including execution, reeducation, hard labor and other dire circumstances. It’s clear the fear and desperation from those wanting to escape was fully warranted. I read the second half of the book dreading what might happen to Michael and Thao.

The author covered a lot of ground in this book, and I for one really enjoyed the journey. This is a beautifully written personal history type of a romance that I definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in reading about the time period, coming of age, or cross cultural relationships.

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3.5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Lynn, S.C. Wynne

Review: Damaged Heart by S.C. Wynne

Title: Damaged Heart

Author: S.C. Wynne

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 134 Pages

At a Glance: A recommended read, but be aware of an angsty ass ahead.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: Cory Johnson was just twenty when he fled Bayville, following his father’s suicide. Estranged from his abusive mother, he’s made a new life for himself as a successful lawyer in Los Angeles.

When Cory’s mother dies he grudgingly returns to his hometown to handle the estate. Rhys Tucker owns the construction company that is going to renovate Cory’s childhood home. But Cory is unaware that Rhys has harbored a crush on him since they were in high school. When Cory comes home Rhys takes that opportunity to get close to Cory. Or at least try to.

Their physical chemistry is undeniable, but will Cory ever be able to have a real relationship with Rhys after being so emotionally scarred by his past? Can a heart as damaged as Cory’s every really come home?

Dividers

Review: This was my first time reading this author, and while I enjoyed the story, it was a frustrating read.

Cory left his small hometown right after high school and is now a successful lawyer living in LA. After his mother dies, he comes back home to settle her estate and renovate the house in order to sell and get out again as soon as possible.

Rhys is a younger, former classmate who’s had a crush on Cory forever. Be it old lovers, friends who become lovers, etc., I do love a story in which two people reconnect and fall in love. It’s what attracted me to Damaged Heart and made me want to read it.

As expected, they reconnect and are attracted to one another. However, the majority of the story is Rhys trying to help Cory get over his less than conventional childhood so he could learn to love and be loved in return, a fine story goal except that I felt it threw the balance of the couple off. I got that Cory had a very hard life with his parents; they were a little on the crazy side. His mother, specifically, was abusive, which made his life unbearable and left him emotionally unstable. What I didn’t get was his constant whining and indecisiveness when it came to Rhys. To put it bluntly, I just didn’t like Cory at all. I’m usually all for the damaged character, my heart goes out to them, and I’m rooting for them to get better, find love and live happily ever after. I just didn’t feel this way about Cory. I do like having his POV throughout the story. It brought more understanding about his insecurities, why he doesn’t want to let anyone in, and I liked that. It still didn’t make me like him anymore, but I had a better appreciation for his feelings.

My reasoning comes from the way he treated Rhys. I’m telling you, Rhys has the patience of a saint to put up with Cory’s rudeness and his tendency to just be an ass. I would have sucker-punched this dude about midway through the book, and said good riddance. But Rhys being his sweet, lovable self doesn’t, and by the end of the story Cory does redeem himself, just a little bit, in my eyes. He slowly comes to realize he can be happy with Rhys as long as he stops fighting his feelings and just lets it happen. I do like how the author does eventually show Cory’s progression from an angry, disillusioned young man to a man who is finally willing to take a chance on the one thing that could bring him happiness—Rhys.

Now, I really liked Rhys’s character. He was your typical good guy. He’s close to his family, had a normal upbringing, an all around good guy. The torch he’s carried for Cory after all these years tells me his feelings for him are genuine. We don’t get his POV, but the author brings his personality alive through dialogue and clear actions. There is little doubt to his motives throughout the story or of what he is thinking. If we aren’t getting his POV, this is the next best thing.

I realize there will be some characters I’m just not going to like, so it’s nothing personal. Actually, I believe the author has created characters that are true to life, even though they’ll frustrate the hell out of some readers. I will say the writing here is top notch, it was fast paced, and the words ran really smooth. The storyline kept me interested enough to see it to the end in spite of my personal feelings for Cory. I give the author a shout out for making me feel that way about a fictional character. It doesn’t happen often.

A recommended read, but be aware of an angsty ass ahead.






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5 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Lucy Marker, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Broken Mercies by Lucy Marker

Title: Broken Mercies

Author: Lucy Marker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Broken Mercies is a book that held me in thrall from start to finish.

Reviewed By: Janet

Blurb: Musician Daniel Gilchrist has decided he’s broken.

He doesn’t deserve Jeremy Evans, a sensible, sweet artist who insists they belong together. Bad choices after a hellish childhood make Dan more suited to guys like his ex-lover, a toxic mega-star who wants to resume their affair.

But Jeremy is irresistible, and he’s survived a few nightmares of his own. He challenges Dan to get rid of the false shame imposed by his mentally ill mother. Her twisted zealotry had influenced his choices, and it’s time to stop blaming himself for inadequately protecting his little sisters from her cruelty.

While Dan wrestles with old guilt, his former lover persuades him to collaborate on a song that protests religious bigotry. Dan grows suspicious of the star’s odd behavior, and then law enforcement shows up.

That clinches it—Dan really isn’t good enough for Jeremy. Somehow he’s managed to drag the poor guy into danger.

Dividers

Review: I loved this book, but I cannot say I enjoyed reading it. Lucy Marker has written a book that is very painful to read. Mental illness, abuse, and addiction are just a few of the themes in this story; add in religious angst and hate crimes, and you can easily see why this might not be an easy book to read.

Dan and Jeremy, though, they are a wonderful couple and we instantly want a future for them. Dan is a musician/songwriter and feels in sound and lyrics. Jeremy is an artist with paint and color and sees things so differently from Dan. They are drawn to each other and share strength and wisdom from their different perspectives to build up each other throughout the story. They are so good for each other that we can’t help but wish them well, and feel for all their stumbles.

The skill that Lucy Marker has to capture the reader is really quite phenomenal. There are so many truly ugly details of the MCs’ history that we learn, but they themselves are never ugly. We completely empathise with them because they are firmly aware of their personal responsibility for their addiction, and are sincerely trying to overcome it and move ahead in life. Each character in this tale is given so much depth; built in layers of history and interactions between the MCs, and it enriches the experience of the reader very much.

Broken Mercies is a book that held me in thrall from start to finish. I could not put it down; there were no gaps or pauses in the flow that would allow it. I felt completely wrung out at the end of the book; so many emotions had been tugged at and drawn upon throughout the story. This is a book that I will read again, but only after time has passed, as the hangover lasted for weeks and random comments or phrases that I heard in the days after I finished it sparked flashbacks to different scenes in the book. BUT, and this is a big but, there is so much hope and love and determination in this story that even though I was exhausted, I was smiling. The HEA that Dan and Jeremy earn is so believable and well written that I was thrilled for them. The journey may have been hard to read but the ending was exactly right. I couldn’t have been happier with the author.

Broken Mercies is an excellent book and well worth any tears that may fall.






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5 Stars, Audio Book, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, J.P. Barnaby, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Review: Spencer by JP Barnaby – Narrated by Tyler Stevens

Title: Spencer

Author: JP Barnaby

Narrator: Tyler Stevens

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 Hours, 33 Minute

At a Glance: Between JP Barnaby’s writing and Stevens’ performance, it gave Spencer a touch of reality—bad things do happen to good people.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: It’s been nearly five years since Aaron woke up in the hospital so broken, he couldn’t stand the sight of his own face. The flashbacks no longer dominate his life, but he’s still unable to find intimacy with his lover, Spencer Thomas. With time, patience, and the support of his family, his therapist, and his loving partner, Aaron has figured out how to live again. The problem is, Spencer hasn’t. His life has been on hold as he waits for the day he and Aaron can have a normal relationship. Hoping to move things forward for them both, he takes a job as a programmer in downtown Chicago, leaving Aaron alone.

Reeling in the wake of Spencer’s absence, Aaron receives another shock when his attackers are caught.

Now, he must testify and verbalize his worst nightmare. Publicly reliving his trauma without Spencer at his side destroys his precarious control. But he finds someone who can understand and empathize in Jordan, who watched his brother cut down in a school shooting. With Spencer gone and the DA knocking at his door, Aaron seeks solace in Jordan, and Spencer will have to risk everything to hold on to Aaron’s love.

Dividers

Review: Our very own Lisa did a very riveting review on the book version of Spencer, and I wholeheartedly agree with what she had to say about it.

Spencer was frustrating for me to read and listen to, mainly because I understand where Aaron is coming from. His life was literally stolen from him during a night of terror, and no matter what, through his eyes life for him will never be the same again. How this young man goes about reclaiming his life is nothing short of a miracle. Others would have let the bastards win by giving up. It’s frustrating for Aaron because he would like nothing better than to be free of his monsters. Knowing that he’ll struggle with PTSD for the rest of his life, he still keeps trying to improve his life and his relationship with Spencer.

It’s frustrating for Spencer, who loves Aaron but doesn’t know exactly what to do for his lover. Spencer is having trouble accepting that Aaron has to do things in his own time, in his own way. But while Spencer does love Aaron, I could see that he wanted to spread his own wings when he took the job in Chicago. It was something Spencer needed to do for himself.

What made Spencer less frustrating was when Aaron had a chance to meet others like him. It made the world a little less lonely and scary, knowing there were other survivors like him who were willing to give him hope that someday things might work out. Jordan made a really good friend to talk to about the PTSD, and the surprise guests that appeared in Spencer gave Aaron a look into his future, if he could manage to take back control when it came time to testify.

I’m was so glad that Tyler Stevens narrated Spencer. He did such a outstanding job with Aaron it was only fair he continue with this second story. Between JP Barnaby’s writing and Stevens’ performance, it gave Spencer a touch of reality—bad things do happen to good people. But with a whole lotta love and support, the victim can transform into a survivor and take back control of their lives.






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4 Stars, Drama, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Posy Roberts, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Tangled Mind by Posy Roberts

Title: Tangled Mind

Author: Posy Roberts

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 76 Pages

At a Glance: The author draws the reader into the story very well, if painfully

Blurb: For years Beck Lund has taken care of his volatile boyfriend, Brady, always putting Brady’s needs above his own and walking on eggshells to keep the peace. After Brady overdoses on heroin, his death devastates Beck. Thankfully Beck’s best friend, Timothy Kallis, finds him the help he needs. Beck slowly starts to recover and moves in with Timothy to get back on his feet, but he’s oblivious that Timothy is secretly nursing romantic affection for him.

Beck focuses on his own healing for the first time in his life. After months of challenging his codependent tendencies and learning how to stand up for himself, Beck finally starts to trust his gut and hopes to one day love again. Timothy is patient throughout, taking care of Beck in ways no one ever has. But if Beck can’t recognize Timothy’s affection for him, it might be too late for them to move beyond friendship.

Dividers

Review: Posy Roberts states in her acknowledgments that this story came to her in a torrential downpour of emotions. That is an accurate assessment of the opening of the book. We witness the overdose death of Beck’s partner of ten years, and we wallow in his grief for several chapters right beside him. During these beginning chapters, we also learn about Beck and of the details of his long relationship with Brady. We want Beck to break free of the remaining tendrils from that life, and to heal and be healthy. It is a very emotional time in Beck’s life, and the author draws the reader into the story very well, if painfully.

One thing that I loved about this book was the relationship between Timothy and Beck. Timothy is a friend of long standing to Beck, and you know that Timothy loves Beck and wanted him healed and well, but there was no timetable imposed, no sense of anything but acceptance for Beck’s struggle with his grief. The chapter headings were quirky too, relating to the steps of healing in grief and the growth in the relationship between the two men. They formed a closer friendship, and Beck moved into Timothy’s home as a roommate as he needed help to get back on his feet, and he needed companionship as well.

Confusion is the title of chapter seven, and this is the turning point in the story. Timothy has told Beck how he feels, and they had a lovely sexual interlude, but then it is morning. I think that Beck is finally ready to move forward with his life, and so does he. But confusion, right…Timothy runs and Beck has to really look and see what he has grown into. This is a very dark book that deals with a man’s journey from a very unhealthy relationship, and his struggles with grief and his own sense of self. As he grows into an emotionally healthy man who is able to stand on his own two feet and be happy about himself, he learns how to be a partner and value being equal in a relationship. Beck’s new strength makes us happy for Timothy, as he will get the partner he deserves after being the best kind of friend that Beck needed for so much of the book.

I was sure of the HEA that was the conclusion of the story. The characters were well built and fit with each other; they had a relationship that I could only see good things happening to. My only complaint is that I would have liked more of the happy, an epilogue for more of a glimpse into their future, maybe a holiday celebration shared with their friends, something nice to balance the heavy of the start of the story.






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5 Stars, Anyta Sunday, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jackie, Self-Published

Review: Rock by Anyta Sunday

Title: rock

Author: Anyta Sunday

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Igneous.

When Cooper’s parents divorce, he finds himself landed in Week About—one week with his mum and one week with his dad.
Only, it’s not just his dad he has to live with. There’s Lila, too: The other woman, the one who stole the rock-solid foundation of his life.

And then … Continue reading

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3 Stars, Drama, Extasy Books, Reviewed by Lynn, Scarlet Blackwell

Review: Into the Light by Scarlet Blackwell

Title: Into the Light

Author: Scarlet Blackwell

Publisher: eXtasy Books

Pages/Word Count: 104 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Sheriff Sean Keller hides a terrible secret – he watched a heinous crime committed eighteen years ago and did nothing to prevent it. Now he finds himself face to face with Eden Gray, the victim of that crime, who is now not so much the boy anymore, but the man. Eden makes Sean sit up and remember those forbidden desires he thought he had locked away forever and the guilt which has blighted his life. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Kaje Harper, MLR Press, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Storming Love: Nelson & Caleb by Kaje Harper

Title: Storming Love: Nelson & Caleb

Author: Kaje Harper

Publisher: MLR Press

Pages/Word Count: 87 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Nelson Dunn has a settled routine – an evening security-guard job, days off for his therapy dogs, occasional club sex, and good books. He sometimes dreams about more, but he’s made himself content. So when Hurricane Lauris strands Caleb Robertson at his house, Nelson has mixed feelings about having an attractive guy in his space. Especially when nothing more can possibly happen. Continue reading

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