5 Stars, Caitlin Ricci, Cari Z., Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Worth the Wait by Caitlin Ricci and Cari Z

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Worth the Wait (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Caitlin Ricci and Cari Z

PublisherDreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 32 Pages

At a GlanceWorth the Wait is a sweet coming together story for the holidays.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: When Tate promises his niece Addie he’ll get a book signed by her favorite author, he never expects to end up in a line four blocks long with sleet coming down around him. It’s three days until Christmas and he’s cold and miserable, but Addie will be devastated if he gives up.

A cute guy who offers him an umbrella is just the encouragement Tate needs to stick it out, especially when Brandon brings him something hot to drink. But the signing ends before Tate can get to the front of the line, and Tate is sure he’s ruined Christmas for his niece. Luckily Brandon gets him in to see the author, who happens to be his mother.

A simple thank you isn’t enough for Tate, and neither he nor Brandon wants to end things there. For two men unused to such an instant mutual attraction, the Christmas season just got a little more merry.

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Review:  I’ve read Cari Z before and loved the stories, but Caitlin Ricci was a new-to-me author. I’ll be looking into more of Ricci’s work now too, because I absolutely enjoyed this gentle coming together story.

I think I have said before that I love holiday stories, and Worth the Wait is no exception. I will be adding this one to my permanent re-read holiday list. The writing on this was seamless, and I couldn’t tell where the authors had switched off, if they had done so. Fantastic job on a short story and not one word wasted.

Tate seems like a loving and cool uncle to his niece, and I loved the way he and Brandon hit it off. Brandon reading to Addie melted my heart. I also really liked the fact that they had this attraction between them, but there was no insta-love or jumping right into bed. It wasn’t rushed, just some sweet kisses, coffee and dinner—two guys figuring out a way to be together for one another, and for the holidays, without the introduction of immediate sex. In fact, I’d let my teenage daughter read this one with no qualms whatsoever.

TNA_Signature_Angel

 

 

 

 

You can buy Worth the Wait here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Therese Woodson

Review: Hapless by Therese Woodson

Small Gems

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Hapless (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Therese Woodson

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 49 Pages

At a Glance: I thoroughly enjoyed this short story from start to finish. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading it.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: All Ty wants is to propose to his boyfriend, Micah, before Christmas Eve. He has the perfect ring, the perfect setting, and the perfect plan, but the universe has other ideas. A sprained ankle, a choking woman, and a crying sister are just the tip of the iceberg as Ty stumbles toward his happy ever after. Now, as Christmas Eve looms before him, he has to figure out how to ask the biggest question of his life without his perfectionism getting in the way or he might lose the person he wants to spend the holiday, and every day after, with.

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Review: Ty wants to propose to Micah – before Christmas Eve – he does NOT want to be cliché.  He has plans. Why does everything have to be so hard?

Hapless is the delightful story of two guys who just know that the other one is “it” for him.  Micah and Ty have been together for three years. They graduated together, each got good jobs, settled into an apartment they love in a city that works for both of them. Ty can be a little uptight about things, though, and planning his proposal to Micah is the hardest thing he has ever done.

“Micah was always a whirlwind, chaotic and beautiful. Ty had fallen in love instantly. Micah possessed a wild spirit Ty found liberating… Micah was everything Ty didn’t know he wanted until he saw him…”

As try after try goes awry in this story, you just can’t help but really root for Ty to finally get it right.  The writing is witty and superb, with anecdotes like “Attempt number two was officially like swimmers in Jaws – dead in the water.” The running timeline down to Christmas keeps you in suspense; you can’t quit reading because you have to know what Ty is going to come up with next, and what the universe is going to come up with to counteract him.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short story from start to finish. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire time I was reading it. Sometimes we have to be reminded of the Who and Why of doing things, not just the How. I really enjoyed Therese Woodson’s writing – I will definitely be looking for more by this author.

TNA_Signature_Carrie

 

 

 

 

You can buy Hapless here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, Holiday Romance, LC Chase, Reviewed by Jules, Riptide Publishing

Review: A Fortunate Blizzard by L.C. Chase

TNA Page Turner Resized

Amazon

Amazon

Title: A Fortunate Blizzard

Author: L.C. Chase

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 179 Pages

At a Glance: Grab this book and curl up by the fire one weekend soon! You’ll be so glad you did!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: There are worse things than being stranded in a blizzard….

Artist Trevor Morrison has always appreciated the little things in life, treating each day as a gift. And with good reason: he’s been on the transplant-recipient list for too long now. When he learns just how numbered his days truly are, he resolves not to take them for granted. But he won’t be unrealistic, either—which means romantic commitments are off the table.

Marcus Roberts seems to have it all. He’s handsome, financially sound, and on the fast track to partnership at a prestigious law firm. In reality, though, his drive for success has meant no time for friends or relationships. Add in the fact that his family discarded him long ago, and he’s facing yet another holiday season alone.

When the biggest snowstorm to hit Colorado in decades leaves Marc and Trevor stranded at the same hotel, a chance encounter and a night of passion leads to more than either of them expected. Finding comfort in each other is a welcome surprise, but time is not on their side. Either they find a way to beat the odds, or they lose each other forever. 

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Review: A Fortunate Blizzard by L.C. Chase was my first holiday read this year, and it was a fantastic way to kick the season off. I LOVED this story. As I was thinking about this book, and going back over my notes and highlights, I ended up reading the entire thing again, because it is just that yummy and swoony! As I was looking over my notes, though, I came across this highlighted quote:

“…the snow was beautiful to watch – peaceful in its silence, tranquil in its insistence that the world stop and take a breath, release its grief, cleanse its soul, and start anew.”

Not only is that exactly how I feel about snow, but it’s also a perfect summation of the story. Both Trevor and Marc are in need of ‘taking breaths, releasing grief, and starting anew.’ One of the central themes in the book definitely has to do with fresh starts – Marc letting go of his family angst and his drive to fulfill someone else’s dreams, and Trevor, obviously, quite literally needing a new lease on life –  this snow quote gave me feels and perfectly captured those elements in the book.

Trevor and Marc are fantastic together. And, sexy as hell. The immediate attraction between them – particularly Marc’s strong reaction to Trevor – is so well done. The tension in the beginning is perfect, and they are ridiculously hot together. The relationship happens quickly, but it completely works. The spark is there from the get-go, and they mesh so well with each other. I love how Trevor really sees Marc, and how he inspires him to seize life and rediscover his passion. Both characters are wonderful, but I found myself very drawn to Trevor. His story is extremely powerful, and the way he handles his dire situation – even his deciding to keep Marc at arm’s length – is so admirable. I completely adored him.

This story has all the components of a fabulous holiday read. It’s well-written, with a wonderfully easygoing style. It’s so romantic and swoony, but with the right amount of drama. The conflict is really well done – has you on edge but not wanting to throw your Kindle into the fireplace. And, there might be a few tears (I still can’t with Trevor’s letter to Marc!). Grab this book and curl up by the fire one weekend soon! You’ll be so glad you did!

TNA_Signature_Jules

 

 

 

 

You can buy A Fortunate Blizzard here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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

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

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

TitleShock & Awe (Sidewinder: Book One)

Author:  Abigail Roux

Narrator: Brock Thompson

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Run Time:  3 hours and 59 minutes

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

Reviewed By:  Karen

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

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

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

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

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

A highly recommended listen.

TNA_Signature_Karen

 

 

 

 

You can buy Shock & Awe here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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Giveaways, Max Vos

Guest Post and Giveaway: The My Hero: The Olympian Blog Tour with Max Vos

Olympian_BT_Banner

Please join us in welcoming author Max Vos to The Novel Approach today on the tour for his newest novel My Hero: The Olympian. Enjoy Max’s guest post, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win some books.

Good luck!

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Howdy y’all. A great big thanks to Lisa and those at The Novel Approach for letting me drop in today.

I wanted to say a little something about my newest release, My Hero: The Olympian. It is the sequel to My Hero. Johnny and Rich are back at it, this time as an established couple, something a bit different. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a book that tackles a pair that are already together.

This one picks up right where the first one left off. Although this is a standalone novel, it does help to have read the first one. Having that history behind these two, and what they went through to be together would make it a better read I do believe.

Of course, being young college men, they love food and sex and will often combine the two. For those of you who have read My Hero, you’ll understand. Yes, they are at it again.

As in the first book, the secondary characters are there and a few new ones. I do love my back up folks in a book. To me they just add depth and are always good for a laugh and good times. Not a lot of angst here, but enough to keep things interesting.

As you can tell by the excerpt, there is always a little mischief with these two. I hope you’ll take the time to get to know these two. They are a lot of fun to be around.

Thanks again for letting me bend your ear,

Max

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TheOlympian_FSTITLE: My Hero: The Olympian
SERIES: My Hero Series #2
AUTHOR: Max Vos
COVER ARTIST: Alex J. Corza
LENGTH: 129,600 words approx
RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2015
BLURB: After a romantic evening, Rich and Johnny face the light of day as a couple. Johnny’s coming out forces them to face some serious repercussions as the world of collegian jocks adjust to their first openly gay football player.

Rich is still working towards the World Diving Championships with his hopes and dreams set on the 2012 London Olympic Games, while as a couple they deal with concerns closer to home.

With the support of friends and family, the young couple grow closer together, but with prejudices and adversity at every turn will Johnny and Rich be able to tackle the world together?

No matter what, Rich will always be Johnny’s hero.

Buy LinksAmazon US || Amazon UK

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Excerpt: “No, I’m not going to and there is nothing you can say that will make me either.” Johnny crossed his arms, a defiant look on his face, his eyes narrowed slits.

“Oh come on, John, I wear them.” Rich held up the skimpy black racing briefs. “For me?”

Johnny looked away. “No. I said no and I mean no.”

Rich leaned in close to Johnny so only he could hear. “If you wear this, I can guarantee you some of the best sex in your life. If you think I get turned on by jock straps…”

Johnny glared down at Rich. “You don’t play fair.”

“Wasn’t it you who recently said that all is fair in love and war?” Rich smirked as he dangled the tiny briefs in front of Johnny.

“It better be the best ever.” Johnny let his arms drop. “Okay. But you promised.”

Again, Rich leaned in close. “Maybe even join the mile high club.”

Johnny’s eyebrows shot up and a grin blossomed on his face. “Deal.”

“Are we done here?” Dan called to the two college men. He was standing at the counter, credit card in hand.

“One more thing, Dad.” Rich hurried over to him. “This.”

Dan raised his eyebrows slightly. “Oookay then.”

Rich snickered when he saw Johnny blushing.

“I think this will be all,” Dan said to the clerk.

“I’m going to give you a discount,” the young woman said as she rang it up. “It isn’t every day that we can say an Olympian wore some of our gear.”

“I’m not an Olympian yet,” Rich commented.

“Rich Miller, I’ve known you my entire life, and if anyone is going to be an Olympian, it’s you.” Michelle Stubbon smiled at Rich as she started putting the pile of swimsuits, track suits, shorts, and other things that he and Johnny needed for London in a bag.

“Thanks, Michelle. I appreciate the confidence everyone has in me.”

“Just remember us lowly folk when you come home with Olympic gold,” she laughed as she handed Dan the receipt.

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Max VosAbout the Author: Max Vos is the bestselling author of My Hero. He is loved by his readers for his ‘inappropriate’ side, bringing hot and steamy sex to his writing. Not hemmed in by a single genre Max has the ability to woo you with sweet romance, move you with the power of his words and make you question your definition of love.

Having retired in 2011 after more than 30 years as a chef, Max turned his creativity to writing. You can always find wonderful Southern charm, well rounded and vibrant characters with a good meaty story line in a Max Vos book. Each book will give you something new and amazing to love.

::  Facebook  ::  Twitter  ::  Website  ::  Blog  ::  Google+  ::

DividersTHE GIVEAWAY

Winner’s Prize: E-copies of My Hero and My Hero: The Olympian

Runner Up’s Prize: E-copy of My Hero: The Olympian

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates and Stops:

November 15: Bike Book Reviews

November 16: The Purple Rose Tea House || Nic Starr

November 17: The Land of Make Believe || Rainbow Gold Reviews

November 18: Carly’s Book Reviews

November 19: Cia’s Stories || Drops of Ink

November 20: Love Bytes Reviews || Hearts on Fire

November 23: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words || Draven St. James

November 24: Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

November 25: Bayou Book Junkie

November 26: Divine Magazine

November 27: Jackie’s Book Reviews

November 30: Gale Stanley

December 1: Daydream Believer Book

December 2: Garrett Leigh || Amanda C. Stone

December 3: The Novel Approach || The Hat Party

December 4: Sue Brown || Jessie G Books

December 7: Diverse Reader

December 8: Man2ManTastic || MM Good Book Reviews

December 9: BFD Book Blog

December 10: Gay.Guy.Reading And Friends

December 11: TTC Books and More || Foxylutely Books
December 14: Louise Lyons || Gay Media Reviews
December 15: Loving Without Limits

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Giveaways, Keira Andrews

Guest Post and Giveaway: The If Only In My Dreams Blog Tour with Keira Andrews

Keira Banner

We’re so pleased to welcome author Keira Andrews back to The Novel Approach today on the tour for her new Holiday Romance, If Only In My Dreams. Enjoy Keira’s guest post, then be sure to leave a comment below answering Keira’s question, and you’ll automatically be entered for the chance to win an e-book from her backlist (**excl. If Only In My Dreams**).

Good luck!

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Thanks so much to TNA for having me here today to celebrate the holidays and my new romance, If Only in My Dreams. I don’t know about you, but I have certain movies I watch every holiday season without fail. Movies are such a part of tradition in my family, and Christmas is no exception.

Without further ado:

Top 5 holiday movies 

5. Die Hard: My favorite holiday action flick! Because amid all the heartwarming family movies, I need a bit of ass kicking and taking names. Not to mention deliciously evil Alan Rickman. :D

4. Elf: “You sit on a throne of lies” is the greatest single line in a holiday movie ever. I also adore Zooey Deschanel’s singing voice. So much to make you smile in this movie!

3. The Ref: Such a funny little movie with a terrific cast. The leads are fabulous, of course. Glynis Johns (who also appears in my #1 pick) steals the show as the mother-in-law from hell, and Christine Baranski is perfect, as always. (“Slipper socks—MEDIUM!”)

2. Bridget Jones’s Diary: Oh, Mark Darcy! *swoons* This movie begins and ends with the holidays (turkey curry buffet!), and has become a Christmas viewing tradition. I love every single thing about it.

1. While You Were Sleeping: As with my #2 pick, I love everything about this movie. It’s sweet and funny and utterly charming, and doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. An underrated holiday classic!

Which movie tops your holiday list? Let me know in the comments! And here’s a little bit about my new holiday romance. Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season!

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00058]Blurb: To be home for Christmas, they must bridge the distance between them.

Charlie Yates is desperate. For days. Charlie promised his little sister Ava he’d be home for her first holiday season since going into remission from leukemia. Now he’s stuck on the opposite coast and someone else grabbed the last rental car. Someone he hasn’t even spoken to in four years. Someone who broke his heart.

Gavin Bloomberg’s childhood friendship with Charlie ended overnight after a day of stolen kisses. With years of resentment between them, they don’t want to be in the same room together, let alone a car. But for Ava’s sake, Gavin agrees to share the rental and drive across the country together.

As they face unexpected bumps along the road, can Charlie and Gavin pave the way to a future together?

Read now: Amazon.com || Amazon global (should take you to your home store) || All Romance || B&N || iTunes || Kobo || Smashwords

Add on Goodreads

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Excerpt: “It’s an act of God.”

I forced a smile at the older woman behind the Sojourn Airways counter. “It’s probably not the time for a theological debate, but I’d say it’s more an act of Mother Nature.” I tried to laugh, and it limped out as a sad little ha-ha.

Her flat expression, pulled tight by her graying bun, didn’t so much as flicker. On her purple uniform vest was pinned a button that read: Customer service is our bag. No baggage service fees! “Sir, that’s the official airline designation for weather conditions that are beyond our control.”

“Right, gotcha. Look—” I checked her name tag. “Look, Susan, the thing is that I need to get on a flight to New York ASAP. JFK, LaGuardia, Newark—whichever. I’ll even take Philly if I have to.” I forced another smile. “I can always go for a cheesesteak.”

The grim line of Susan’s mouth was unchanging. “There are no flights in or out of SFO today. As I told you earlier, our system has already rebooked you.”

“For the twenty-sixth!”

“Yes.”

“But Christmas is the twenty-fifth!” The desperation I’d been trying to keep at bay with incredibly lame humor sank its claws into me with a mighty swipe.

“Is it? I had no idea.”

Well, at the very least it seemed Susan’s alien leaders had implanted a sarcasm chip even if they overlooked the compassion one. I inhaled deeply. “I realize this end-of-days-style fog has backed everything up, but you can’t rebook me for after Christmas! That’s ridiculous!” I thought of Ava’s round little face, streaked with tears as I’d left for college, and how I’d promised I’d be home for the holidays. “I have plans. I have to get on the next flight out. I have to.”

Susan tapped her computer, not even bothering to look at me now. “I didn’t rebook you, Mr. Yates. The airline did. All flights yesterday were canceled as well, and this is the busiest travel season.” She recited the lines in much the same manner as my mom reading out IKEA instructions as we put together the Billy bookshelf in my bedroom. “There are thousands and thousands of passengers ahead of you. The blizzard on the Eastern Seaboard had already contributed to a huge backlog before this fog set in.”

“But I promised my baby sister I’d be home.” I knew I was whining, and my voice wavered as my throat tightened.

Susan’s mouth turned down as she glanced at me. Her tone softened. “If there was anything I could do, I would do it.”

This unexpected sympathy made it worse somehow. I cleared my throat, the threat of imminent tears a horrifying possibility. Don’t do it, Charlie. Man up. “Okay. Thank you. Do you think I could get out on another airline?”

“I’m afraid they’re all in the same boat.”

“Standby?”

She shook her head and waved a hand at the mass of humanity clogging the terminal behind me. “Everyone has the same idea. As I mentioned, there were already dozens of flights canceled before yours. The twenty-sixth is the absolute earliest you’ll be able to get out, and that’s assuming this fog lifts soon and the rain stops. And if it doesn’t start snowing heavily on the East Coast again.”

With a nod, I shuffled away from the counter, dragging my huge, stupidly pink suitcase behind me. I might be a total homo and unashamed of it, but fuchsia was not a color I’d have chosen for my luggage. Ava had picked it with such delight that I hadn’t been able to say no. At least it had four wheels and was expandable, which was handy since it was stuffed with Christmas gifts.

I’d gotten Ava some old-school Transformers building sets and retro Star Wars action figures I’d hunted down. Princess Leia was her favorite, since even at eight, Ava had excellent taste and understood that the classic trilogy was superior like whoa. On eBay, I’d found Hoth Leia, original recipe double-bun Leia, and even a rare Cloud City Leia, along with a bad-ass Boba Fett.

Now Ava wouldn’t get any of it for Christmas morning. I wouldn’t be able to wake up with her at the ass-crack of dawn to open our stockings, then burst into our parents’ room to drag them out of bed because Christmas was way too much fun for sleeping.

A preteen standing by a pile of luggage whined, “It’s not fair!” to her parents, her arms crossed over her chest and tears in her eyes.

Snorting, I muttered, “Since when has life been fair?” Pretty freaking rarely in my estimation, and never when it came to Ava. I escaped into the nearest bathroom to splash water on my face and get my shit together. My cheeks puffed as I blew out a long breath and examined a fabulous new red spot on my chin in the mirror.

I’d gotten a haircut yesterday since my Aunt Wendy was going to do a group portrait for us by the tree with her fancy camera. This was a big Christmas for the Yates family, and now I wasn’t going to be there. I ran a hand over my thin brown hair, which curled at the ends if I didn’t keep it short. Ava’s did too, but it wasn’t quite long enough yet to curl fully.

We’d Skyped the other night, and she’d proudly run a brush through her couple inches of growing hair. She’d gained weight too, and I couldn’t wait to hold her and feel her solid and healthy in my arms.

I had to suck in a breath, the ache to see her and my parents again a hollow burn in my chest. I grimaced at my reflection. My eyes were already red from the prior night’s insomnia. I never slept well the night before taking a flight due to my paranoia that I’d miss my alarm somehow.

Ava and I had the same eyes: a deep, warm blue, easily bloodshot, and not good at hiding emotions. Our grandpa always said that even though we were ten years apart, we should have been twins.

I’m actually going to miss Christmas. I’m going to break my promise.

The fear that I’d been trying to keep at bay roared up, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew it had only been a dream, and that dreams weren’t prophecies or visions, or any of that shit. Yet I shuddered as I remembered the dream hospital I’d finally been able to reach after missing Christmas because I’d kept driving down the wrong roads, taking endless turns.

The dream—nightmare¬¬—doctor had said the relapse had happened too quickly, and there was nothing they could have done. My parents had already left because Ava was gone. I was too late. My baby sister was dead and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye. Choking down a swell of nausea, I closed my eyes and breathed in and out.

It was only a dream. She’s okay.

I splashed my face again, getting water all over my hoodie and not caring. Of course they were out of paper towels, so I wiped my hands on my jeans.

I aimlessly walked the terminal, squeezing between clumps of fellow dispirited would-be passengers and their mounds of baggage. My messenger bag tugged at my neck, and I impatiently adjusted it on my shoulder. It was Saturday morning, and school was out for kids, exams were over for college, and winter vacation was here. Too bad we’d apparently be spending it at San Francisco International Airport, or for me, back in my empty dorm.

Fa la la la la.

A bank of TVs blasted CNN, and I stopped to watch the anchor with suspiciously gleaming teeth put on his serious face beneath a swoop of perfectly coiffed hair. Pulsing red letters took up half the screen, screaming: WEATHER ALERT!

“We’ve just survived snowmageddon in the east, and now it’s the West Coast’s turn! Torrential rain has hit the Pacific Northwest, extending down into Northern California. And it’s FOGmageddon for San Francisco!”

I rolled my eyes. The media’s impulse to add “-mageddon” to otherwise non-threatening words needed to be taken out back and shot, along with “gate” suffixes. Watergate was a million years ago. Get over it, people.

The smug bastard on TV actually smiled. His name was probably Chip, or perhaps Blaine. “Along with the rain, the fog in San Francisco has reduced visibility to the extent that officials are advising folks to stay home. Forget pea soup—this stuff is molasses!”

With a sigh, I trudged on. Might as well catch the AirTrain to the BART station. The thought of hauling ass—and my giant suitcase—back to a ghost town campus was seriously depressing. I reminded myself this wouldn’t be the worst Christmas I’d ever had, but it was cold comfort. The last two yuletides jointly held that title, and I prayed they would never be defeated.

I found the AirTrain sign, along with another: Rental Car Center. I stopped in my tracks, barely avoiding getting rear-ended by a luggage cart and a man who muttered a curse as he wheeled around me. I called out an apology as I stared at the sign, my pulse increasing with a hum through my veins.

Was it possible? Could I make it back in time if I drove? There was rain and fog here and snow out there, but surely in the middle I could make up some time? If I powered through on Red Bull and Twizzlers, I could do it.

Yanking out my phone, I googled the driving time from San Francisco to Norwalk, Connecticut.

43 h (2,952.6 mi) via I-80 E

It was basically straight across the country through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and finally into Connecticut. Which sounded insanely exhausting, but was totally doable. Factoring in stops for eating and a few hours of sleep in the backseat here and there, I’d get there with time to spare. I could make it home for Christmas morning.

Adrenaline zinged through me with this new plan of action, and I hurried to the AirTrain platform. The loop through the terminals to the Car Rental Center was interminable, and I drummed my fingers on the plastic handle of my suitcase until the woman crammed between me and the door gave me an understandable death glare.

I practically dove down the concourse, dragging my suitcase along. Amazingly enough, there were hardly any people at all in the rental area, and I grinned as I approached the first counter. I wouldn’t even have to wait! This was clearly an amazing plan, and perhaps even an Act of God. It was meant to be.

NO VEHICLES AVAILABLE

I blinked at the sign. Okay, next counter. My heart sank a little when I saw a sold-out sign there too. Onto the next. And the next.

And the next.

Of course there were no lines. There were no damn cars left. I kept going just in case, but each rental company I passed was out of vehicles.

As I approached the last one—one of those cheap car places stuck in the back corner—my feet dragged and my shoulders slumped. For all of fifteen minutes, I’d thought Christmas and my promise to my sister could be saved.

As I neared Expedition Car Rental, my heart skipped a beat. I peered closer, scanning the area. There was no sign. There was no sign! In a burst of excitement I raced the rest of the way, barreling into the counter. The young woman behind it jerked her head up from her computer.

“Hi! Sorry to startle you. I need a car. Do you have a car?” I forced myself to take a calming breath and read her name tag. “Sorry, Sook-Yin. I really need a car.” I smiled what I hoped was my most charming smile, because I didn’t need Sook-Yin refusing my patronage on suspicion of me being on crack or meth or huffing the nitrous oxide from whipped cream bottles.

She tilted her head and gave me a regretful closed-lip smile. “I’m so sorry. I just rented our last vehicle.”

Panic and disappointment combined to make my mouth dry and chest tight. “Please. You have to have another one. I’m begging you. I will get down on my knees. I’ll pay extra. I’ll pay whatever you want. Please. I need a car. Or truck. SUV. Minivan. Motorcycle. Anything with wheels and an engine.”

“I’m very sorry.”

I dropped my head to the counter with a dull thunk. “I can’t believe this is happening. Please let me wake up in my dorm and realize this nightmare was just my subconscious being a bag of dicks as usual.”

Sook-Yin made a sound that might have been a stifled laugh, but her tone was sympathetic. “I really am sorry. Hold on, let me check our other area locations. You might get lucky.”

Other locations! I hadn’t even thought of that. I lifted my head and watched her type, holding my breath. Please, please, please, please

She sighed and tucked her dark hair behind her ear. “Nope. But I’ll check the other companies for you.”

My lungs burned as I waited, my hands in fists to stop from drumming my fingers on the counter. The CIA should forget waterboarding—watching someone else search for information on a computer when you’re dying to know the answer is pure torture. Sook-Yin tapped, her eyes scanning the screen, and my heart pounded. There had to be one freaking car left to rent in the Bay Area. There had to be. I’d go to Oakland. Jesus, I’d bus it to Modesto if I had to. Please, please, please, please

Then she gave me the head tilt/sad smile again, and I knew it was hopeless. She didn’t have to say it. I tried to smile back. “Thanks for checking. It was really nice of you.” My brain whirled. What about Greyhound? Sure, it was the busiest travel time of the year and the buses would be loaded with people who couldn’t get flights, but maybe. “I guess I’ll try the bus.”

She winced. “I’ve heard they’re overbooked. And there was that mechanic’s strike? There aren’t enough buses, apparently.”

“I guess the trains are sold out too.”

“Do you want me to check?” Her gaze shifted to something behind me, and she smiled. “Excuse me for a second. Ah, there you are,” she said to someone. “Did you find the Starbucks?”

“Yes, thank you. I’m caffeinated and ready to hit the road.”

My whole body seized. It couldn’t be. It was not possible.

Not. Possible.

I slowly turned and…wow. Gavin Bloomberg—still as annoyingly tall and hot as ever—was actually standing there in a fitted brown leather jacket with a blue travel mug in one hand and a little rolling gray suitcase resting by his suede Pumas. He blinked at me, and after a moment his lip curled.

“Charlie?” He appeared as horrified as I felt.

Of all the car rental places in all the freaking world… I concentrated on a civil tone. After all, we were eighteen and officially adults now. “Gavin.”

“Uh…hi.” He stared at me the way he might a piece of gum after walking around on it all day and prying it free from the bottom of his shoe, with little pebbles and a bunch of shit dried into it. He ran a hand through his thick, short hair, and even under dull fluorescents I couldn’t help but notice the rich auburn highlights. His sideburns were longer than when I’d last seen him at graduation in June.

I was weirdly struck by a memory of the summer we’d met, and how almost every day we’d stretch out in the sun by the pond, and he’d close his eyes while I watched his hair dry, the whole time aching to touch.

“Do you guys know each other?” Sook-Yin asked.

I nodded. “I guess. Not really. I mean, we went to high school together.” This was definitely a nightmare, but sadly I was all too awake. Time to evacuate. “Well, I should go.”

“Wait!” Sook-Yin’s face lit up. “Are you both trying to get to the same place? Maybe you could drive together?”

My brain was so dumbfounded at Gavin’s unexpected presence that I hadn’t even processed that he’d obviously rented a vehicle. Oh. My. God. Of course he’d snagged the last car. Of course. Because he got everything he wanted.

Gavin glanced between me and Sook-Yin. “I’m going back to Norwalk.”

“Me too. But we can’t…” I waved a hand between us.

Sook-Yin’s brow creased. “But it’s the perfect solution, isn’t it? I can add another driver to the contract. I’ll even waive the extra fee. You’re already paying more since you’re under twenty-five. Obviously it’s up to you, though.”

“Uh…” Gavin stared at her with dawning horror in his brown eyes.

I shared that horror. There was no way—no effing way!—Gavin Bloomberg and I could drive to Connecticut together. It was impossible. It was unthinkable. It was the worst idea ever.

But fuck me. It was my shot.

As much as I hated it, this was my way home for Christmas. Gavin and I could split the driving and gas, and we could totally make it for the twenty-fifth with tons of time to spare.

“I can’t…it’s…” Clutching his travel mug, Gavin stared at me.

“I promised Ava I’d be home for Christmas.”

The hard edges of Gavin’s gaze softened, and he exhaled. After a long moment, he nodded. “Then I guess we’d better get going.”

“I’m so glad this worked out. What a small world. Can you give me your license?” Sook-Yin started entering my info, apparently oblivious to the tension in the air. “Wait, do you two actually live on the same street?”

Gavin and I nodded silently.

“Wow, what are the odds?” Smiling, she printed off a new contract. “Do you go to the same school out here too?”

“No. He’s at USF and I’m at Stanford,” Gavin answered.

I blinked. He knew where I went? Mom’s voice echoed in my mind.

“Hon, guess who’s going to Frisco for college too?”

“Please don’t call it Frisco.” I rolled another T-shirt and squeezed it into my pink suitcase. “And no, who?”

“Your friend Gavin! Isn’t that wonderful? I’m so glad you’ll have someone from home out there with you.”

The fact that Gavin was most certainly not my friend—and had not been my friend since Pete Stiffler’s party at the beginning of ninth grade—had been lost on my mom. In her defense, her plate had been pretty fucking full the last few years, and I’d never even hinted at a problem.

“I just need you both to sign here, and initial here, here, and here.” Sook-Yin circled spots on the contract.

Gavin picked up the pen, passing it to me when he was finished. The plastic was warm from his fingers, and my stomach danced the way it used to when Gavin was close by. I felt fourteen again and hopelessly out of my depth.

After marking my last initial, I passed the contract back to Sook-Yin, who ripped off a copy and slid it into a narrow folder. She handed Gavin a key. “Here you go. It’s in spot C-thirty-seven, but since it’s the last car left, it won’t be hard to find. It’s a Jetta, but don’t worry, I only charged you economy class. Have a safe drive, and happy holidays!”

We smiled and thanked her, and I followed Gavin to the garage. In silence, we rode the elevator down, and in the subterranean concrete maze, the only sound was the rumbling drone of our suitcase wheels and the odd car driving by. The Jetta waited, navy blue and four-doored, boxy with its sedate and practical German engineering.

A man chewing gum approached from the little Expedition office, which was more like a shack. He wore coveralls and a baseball cap. “Got the last one, huh?”

I smiled tightly. “Yep.”

We inspected the car, circling it to make sure there were no dings or scratches. Gavin signed the form, and the guy started the engine. “Tank is full, and you’re ready to go. Have a good one.” He shuffled off.

Gavin popped the trunk and eyed my pink monstrosity. “Are you moving back or something?”

“No.” I stubbornly didn’t explain further and hefted up the suitcase.

After fitting in his little gray case, Gavin closed the trunk. “I guess I’ll drive first?”

“Sure.” It was all very civil and so freaking bizarre, oh my God.

I went around to the passenger side, buckling my belt and pushing the seat back for maximum leg room. I was only five-nine compared to Gavin’s ridiculous six-one, but I still liked to stretch out. Especially since we were going to be in this car for forty-three hours—and that was with clear weather and no traffic jams. I barely resisted the urge to whimper. Just getting out of the Bay Area took forever in good conditions, let alone FOGmageddon.

After adjusting the mirrors, Gavin backed up. Neither of us spoke as he navigated the winding levels of the garage, and at the exit he stuck the provided parking ticket into the machine. The mechanical arm jerked up to let us pass, and home had never felt so incredibly far away.

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Will Charlie and Gavin be able to put the past behind them and get home for Christmas? Find out in If Only in My Dreams, available now!

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author: After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

Where you can find Keira: Website || Newsletter || Twitter || Facebook || Goodreads || Amazon Author Page

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The Fine Print:

*Contest Closes at 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, December 7, 2015
*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
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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, Bru Baker, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Talk Turkey by Bru Baker

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Talk Turkey (Sleigh Ride: Advent Calendar 2015)

Author: Bru Baker

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 58 Pages

At a Glance: This is an incredibly delightful tale of turkey woe.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Carson is a California transplant settling into life in the Windy City. On his first Christmas away from home, he assures his worried family he’ll be having a real Christmas dinner.

Recent culinary school graduate Tom Stockton earns some extra money giving out cooking advice at the Talk Turkey hotline. Tom’s honeyed voice and sharp sense of humor are attractive to the lonely Carson, and Carson finds reasons to call the hotline again and again. But on Christmas Eve, Carson’s call is less playful and more panicked with the big meal looming. Carson is just looking for advice, but Tom has a surprise in store that might lead to much more.

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Review: Carson has been in Chicago for less than a month, and the loneliness of his existence is starting to overwhelm him. Too new in his job, he doesn’t have the option of vacation time to go home to California for the holiday.

“It said a lot about Carson’s current state of mind that he’d named the turkey currently taking up a good three-quarter of the real estate in his refrigerator. Sure, he’d be eating it. But that didn’t mean he shouldn’t name it. Especially since it was doing such a great service for him, being his sole companion for Christmas dinner. At the rate it was defrosting – which was interminably slow – it would be coming as a guest and not the meal, which was all the more reason to name it.”

Carson is in such a state because of his turkey that he calls the turkey hotline number he found in the grocery store, and meets Tom – a recent culinary school graduate who is working the hotline for extra cash during the holidays. What follows are delightfully well written and witty vignettes of Carson’s turkey troubles, and Tom’s sage advice peppered with a sharp sense of humor. Bru Baker writes a moving story of a young man navigating his first holiday on his own with uplifting humor and amusing secondary characters. The fact that Carson’s mom set up a Pinterest page for him with turkey boards is refreshingly current and relatable. How the author puts the two men together was ingeniously clever and had me laughing out loud.

I am becoming a huge fan of Bru Baker, she is an excellent writer whether the story is long or short, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, Mary Calmes, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Jules

Audio Review: Where You Lead by Mary Calmes – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Where You Lead

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Run Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes

At a Glance: You should definitely add this one to your collection of holiday feel-good romances!

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: ATF agent Peter Lomax isn’t a hearts and flowers kind of guy, but he can be possessive, and it caused problems until Carver Fleming. Carver may be part of the art world, but he gets Peter, loves belonging to the man, and Peter treasures the way Carver understands them together.

Carver loves Peter, but he’s fully aware that six months doth not a commitment make. Carver wants to make the relationship last forever, but he’ll have to leave their life in Chicago to take care of the family he loves. He wants to do it with Peter by his side, but going from the city of Chicago to tiny Colt, Kentucky is a big change.

Carver has only one Christmas wish: Please, oh please, let Peter fall enough in love with Carver’s family to follow Carver home.

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Review: Listening to this audio was such a treat; I had forgotten how much I loved this little Christmas story. Coming in at under two hours – just 68 pages for the novella – it’s not a huge time investment but packs a lot of punch. To create a good short story, the author must hook the reader almost immediately, and Mary Calmes is a master at this. In Where You Lead the opening sequence is hilarious and is instrumental in getting you invested in the characters.

Pete is your typical “man’s man”. As an ATF agent who isn’t afraid of throwing himself in front of a gun to save a hostage, some might find his pairing with mild-mannered gallery owner Carver Fleming unlikely. Six months into the relationship, however, things definitely seem like they are for real – at least, that’s what Carver is counting on, Pete also feeling this way as they head to his family’s home in rural Kentucky for the holidays.

The story is fabulous and the narration is equally so. Greg Tremblay’s performance is perfect in its simplicity. His voice is so rich and has such a great tone, I could honestly listen to him for hours! He does an incredible job at keeping the voices distinct, and with the dialogue. The whole thing is just so understated and classy and flows so well. I loved it!!! You should definitely add this one to your collection of holiday feel-good romances!

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April Kelley, Giveaways

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Leave It All Blog Tour with April Kelley

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We’re so pleased to welcome author April Kelley and the Leave It All blog tour today. Enjoy the excerpt from the book, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Good luck!

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Leave it AllBlurb: Lucas just wanted to be a normal human being, but normal is highly over-rated.

Lucas Speck had been just some guy who worked at an office supply store and house-sat for his snowbird parents. He was nobody special. Or that’s what he thought before the headaches start and weird things start to happen to him. When people start chasing him his whole life gets turned upside down.

Bennett Somerset is a dragon shifter, who likes his quiet life in his quiet town. He isn’t looking for complications. He already has a family that defines the words, weird and crazy, to perfection. Good thing they live in a small town where nothing ever happens. That is until he smells the most delicious thing in the world and realizes it’s his mate. His little witch of a mate just made things way more complicated.

Book LinksGoodreads ǀ Website | Amazon ǀ Smashwords ǀ ARe

FREE on Kindle Unlimited, which means if you buy the book outside Amazon, you will also receive a free short story:

Dragon’s & Mistletoe

On a shopping trip to the mall with his brother-in-law, Lucas makes a bet he’s not one hundred percent sure he can win.

Christmas was Lucas’ favorite holiday and this year would be the best ever. Gone was his boring, less than stellar life. Now he had his dragon shifter mate and a family that actually liked to spend time with him. What more could he ask for?

Well, he wanted his mate to wear one of the ugliest Christmas Sweaters in the known universe. He had a hundred dollars riding on it. His mate could be as stubborn as a…well, a dragon, at times. He just might lose this bet, after all.

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Excerpt: Bennett came closer and sniffed the air. He jumped down next to Forrest and sniffed his hair and clothing. “You smell good.” Bennett’s cock got hard and he backed up, away from Forrest. “Why do you smell like that? Who have you been around?”

“New renter is all. It’s why I’m here actually.” His brother bounced around on the balls of his feet.

Bennett frowned and dismissed the wonderful smell. It was easy to do, especially when he moved away from Forrest. “Whatever it is, I said no.”

“But he needs a job and you need help. It looks like rag city threw up around here.”

That smell drifted to him again, but this time it hadn’t come second hand off Forrest. He turned and saw the most beautiful man Bennett had ever seen. Bennett’s cock hardened in his coverall and his eye changed. His dragon was pacing, wanting closer to their mate. Bennett stalked around Forrest, taking in deep breaths as he drew closer.

The cute little man took a step away from him then and his eyes widened. “Forrest,” the man said his brother’s name in a panic, which pissed Bennett’s dragon off.

Bennett growled out a warning to his brother to stay away from his mate.

“What is he? Oh, God, get him away from me before I freak the fuck out and lose my shit.” The man held a hand up in an attempt to stop him. “Seriously, dude. I don’t know what your problem is but I don’t always have control when I’m scared. Kinda like now. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m sure you’re a perfectly nice guy who just so happens to be looking at me like I’m a cheeseburger.”

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April KelleyAbout the Author: Living in Southwest Michigan, April resides with her husband and two kids. She has been an avid reader for several years. Ever since she wrote her first story at the age of ten, the characters in her head still won’t stop telling their stories. If April isn’t reading or writing, she can be found outside playing with the animals or taking a long walk in the woods. If you wish to contact her, email authoraprilkelley@gmail.com. Please visit her website at authoraprilkelley.com

Website ǀ Blog | Facebook ǀ Facebook Group ǀ Twitter ǀ Google+ ǀ Pinterest

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*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
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4 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Dreamspinner Press, Grace R. Duncan, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Beautiful Boy by Grace R. Duncan

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Amazon

Title: Beautiful Boy

Author: Grace R. Duncan

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 280 Pages

At a Glance: All in all, Beautiful Boy is a good BDSM story with some wonderfully intimate moments that carried the novel.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Malcolm Tate hung up his flogger when his submissive sought out another Dom and landed in the hands of a serial killer. Convinced his lack of dominance sent his sub away, Mal has spent two years blaming himself for what happened. But when his best friend finally convinces him to go back to the local dungeon, Mal’s grateful. Especially when he wins beautiful, submissive, firmly closeted Kyle Bingham in a charity slave auction.

College grad Kyle hasn’t earned enough to move out of the loft his conservative, homophobic parents bought, much less to buy any of the other things still in their name. When he’s won at auction by the hot, amazing Mal, he’s shocked that anyone would want him. No one else seemed to—not his parents, his former Doms, or any of his disastrous dates.

But Mal does want him and Kyle lets his guard down, only to be outed to his parents. With his world crashing down, he must find a way to trust Mal—and their developing relationship—or risk losing everything.

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Review: Two men who feel they have little left to give find one another in Grace R. Duncan’s novel Beautiful Boy. One is a submissive who has been misused by other Doms who failed to see the worth of the man who had the strength to offer his submission to them. As a result, Kyle is certain he has nothing to offer a Dom. Not only does he feel his outward appearance is lacking, he is sure his inward need to serve is somehow inadequate and simply not good enough. The other man is a Dom who blames himself for the reckless behavior of his former submissive whose life ended at the hands of a serial killer. Mal cannot bring himself to even consider taking on another submissive and has not dabbled in the lifestyle for some time.

A charity auction brings the two men together, and when they engage in a scene, there is an instant attraction that is hard for them to resist. Before long, they become deeply involved and despite Kyle’s persistent worry that he will never be good enough for Mal, the two men find themselves on the cusp of committing to a D/s relationship. However, Kyle comes from a wealthy family desperate to maintain appearances. In their lives, there is no room for a less than perfect son—certainly not a gay one. Now Kyle worries just how long Mal will be content to hide in the closet Kyle currently inhabits.

Beautiful Boy has some incredibly rich moments of loving care between its two main characters. Mal and Kyle are so well suited to each other, and the way in which Grace R. Duncan writes the numerous scenes these two engage in is both realistic and breathtaking. The aftercare—the compassion and protection that Mal extends to his submissive after pain play is rife with incredible tenderness. It is so sweet that you cannot help but fall in love a little with these two. The BDSM elements are definitely hardcore at times and yet always carefully controlled by Mal and, as such, they ring with an air of authenticity.

While the story did have an overload of sex, it was well thought out and fit within the plot such as it was. I felt that more interaction between Kyle and his parents would have lent some credence to their role in his life and, in turn, would have allowed for his need to remain closeted to be a bit more realistic. Because we spent time in this novel with Mal’s friends and his family, he became a fully fleshed out character with what felt like genuine needs and concerns. Kyle was much more one-dimensional and, as a result, not nearly as interesting to read about as his Dominant, Mal. Consequently, the big showdown between Kyle and his parents was more of a passing moment and hardly seemed worthy of the buildup it received in the story.

All in all, Beautiful Boy is a good BDSM story with some wonderfully intimate moments that carried the novel.

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Tara Lain

Review: Sinders and Ash by Tara Lain

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Title: Sinders and Ash (A Pennymaker Tale)

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 145 Pages

At a Glance: I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Housekeeper Mark Sintorella (Sinders) works diligently at a resort hotel while designing clothes anonymously, hoping to get into fashion school. Then his carefully planned life is upended with the arrival of Ashton Armitage, son of the fifth richest man in America—and the most beautiful guy Mark has ever seen. Ash must find a wife or he’ll lose his grandfather’s inheritance, and he settles on Bitsy Fanderel. But secretly Ash is gay, and the guy who cleans the fireplaces sets his heart ablaze.

Further stirring the pot is the little elf of a man, Carstairs Pennymaker, who has Mark wearing his own designs and masquerading as a girl to impress the fashion investors in the hotel. When the clock strikes twelve, two beautiful princesses line up for the wedding—but one isn’t a woman. Will the slipper fit? Only Mr. Pennymaker knows for sure.

First Edition published by Amber Quill Press, LLC, 2012.

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Review: When Mark’s mother died, his family kicked him out because he’s gay. Living on the streets, he eventually gets a job working in housekeeping at a luxury hotel. The hotel staff have nicknamed him Sinders because he works so hard at his job to save enough money to attend fashion designer school. When a guest of the hotel notices one of the shirts Mark has designed, that guest, Mr. Pennymaker, insists Mark wear more of his designs in front of his fashion investor friends. The biggest problem is that the only other thing Mark has made from his designs is a dress.

Ashford Armitage, known to most as a rich playboy, arrives at the hotel in order to find a wife before he turns twenty-five. Otherwise, according to his grandfather’s will, he stands to lose an inheritance worth millions of dollars. Unbeknownst to most, however, including his parents, Ashford is gay. So Ash kind of figures that Bitsy is the one for him, and when he proposes a business arrangement between the two of them, well, Bitsy balks because she’s not sure that she wants to give up her life for a life of luxury, and Bitsy has her own little secret. But the amount of the money involved is tempting…

Mark and Ash finally meet when Ash saves Mark from a sexual assault by one of the hotel workers, and Mark is so overcome by Ash’s good looks that he kisses him then runs away. I found that I really enjoyed Sinders and Ash, it followed an old fairytale favorite of mine, Cinderella, so I expected after I read the blurb that Ash would be chasing Mark when Mark was dress-up as a women. Not so! But it did put a smile on my face when Ash couldn’t figure out why he was attracted to Mr. Pennymaker’s neice.

Sinders and Ash is different, and it really had me laughing out loud at some of the antics and what male parts could be made to do (sorry, you just have to know how my weird imagination works, and I’m not surprised that these brief bits caught my attention). Some of Sinders and Ash is gooey fluffy, some of it kind of had a point, and I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

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

Release Day Review: Magic & Mistletoe

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Magic & Mistletoe

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 114 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Magic & Mistletoe here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Karen, Rhys Ford

Release Day Review: Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford

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Amazon

Amazon

TitleFish Stick Fridays (Half Moon Bay: Book One)

Author:  Rhys Ford

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count:  200 Pages

At a Glance:  As much as I love all of Rhys series, and I’m sad some are coming to an end, I’m thrilled at such an awesome beginning to a new one.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suited him just fine—until his baby sister died and he found himself raising her little girl.

Staring down a family history of bad decisions and reaped consequences, Deacon cashes in everything he owns, purchases an auto shop in Half Moon Bay, and takes his niece, Zig, far away from the drug dens and murderous streets they grew up on. Zig deserves a better life than what he had, and Deacon is determined to give it to her.

Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu blows into his bookstore, and then he’s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid walks in, hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe but Deacon tempts him to step over the line… just a little bit.

More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.

Unfortunately, Zig isn’t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strikes leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too.

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Review: I always forget, until I read Rhys Ford, how much the little details in a book can help paint the picture and add to the experience of reading. And yes, reading one of Rhys Ford’s books is an experience.

In Fish Stick Fridays (along with every other book I’ve read by this author), she does an amazing job with the details. While reading, you can almost see, feel, smell, hear and touch what’s happening around the characters you’re reading about, and she does it without being wordy or drawn out. Such talent.  I’ve decided that I can no longer say every one of her books is my new favorite. I think they are all amazing, and this is another to add to the list.

I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the book and was already head over heels for Deacon; how he is with Zig, still on edge, bad ass, protective, patient, and she pretty much has him wrapped around her little finger. I mean, really, how can you not love him when he is willing to put on a tutu for her? I loved it!

Zig was probably my favorite character in the book. If I were ever to have a kid, I would almost hope they would be as awesome as Zig. Well, no, but I wouldn’t mind having a niece or nephew that awesome.

The relationship between Deacon and Lang is sweet and chaotic, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching them figure it all out one day at a time, amongst all the craziness happening around them.  As much as I love all of Rhys Ford’s series, and I’m sad some are coming to an end, I’m thrilled at such an awesome beginning to a new one.

TNA_Signature_Karen

 

 

 

 

You can buy Fish Stick Fridays here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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Damon Suede, Giveaways, Karen Stivali, Santino Hassell

Excerpts and Giveaway: The #NYCDreamer Blog Tour with Karen Stivali, Santino Hassell, and Damon Suede

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We’re so pleased to be hosting authors Karen Stivali, Santino Hassell, and Damon Suede on the #NYCDreamer blog tour today. Enjoy the exclusive excerpts from each of books, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an autographed paperback copy of each book.

Good luck!

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MomentofSilenceBlurb – Moment of Silence: Growing up, Jason Stern led a charmed life complete with devoted sisters, a father who was one of Brooklyn’s most respected rabbis, and a mother who made the world’s best babka. He headed to NYU ready for anything—except falling for the wrong guy, coming out, and getting disowned by his once-loving family. In spite of that, Jason managed to graduate with honors. He’s got friends who treat him like family, and he’s proudly running the largest LGBTQ teen shelter in Manhattan. Life is good, but he’s still falling for the wrong men.

When charming, sexy Quinn Fitzpatrick begins work at the shelter, Jason falls hard and fast. Quinn is tall, blond, funny—damn near perfect. Only if Quinn’s gay, even he doesn’t seem to know it. If he does, he’s not telling anyone. And he’s about one ceremony away from becoming a Catholic priest.

Long hours of work turn to long nights of talking and laughter, and Jason dares to hope this time he’s falling for the right guy. But Quinn’s got a past to deal with and major decisions to make about his future. When Quinn leaves for a silent retreat, Jason knows the silence may change everything.

Pre-Order Link: Dreamspinner Press

Other books in the Moments In Time seriesMOMENT OF IMPACT (Book 1) || MOMENT OF TRUTH (Book 2) || MOMENT OF CLARITY (Book 3) || MOMENTS IN TIME (a compilation of Books 1-3)

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Excerpt(In this scene Jason and Quinn have gone out to grab a bite to eat together and Jason is teaching Quinn the joys of all the ethnic foods that are so readily available in the area of the East Village where they’re working together to expand the local LGBTQ Teen Shelter.)

Pierogi were just what the evening required. We got two orders, potato with fried onions and cheese, doused in butter. To round things out, we added a gigantic link of kielbasa and finished it all off with blueberry blintzes. By the time we were done eating, I was so full I could barely move.

“This was awesome.” Quinn licked a purple streak of blueberry off his fork before setting it down and pushing his plate away.

I was too mesmerized by the sight of his tongue to speak right away.

The waitress stopped at our booth. “All set?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

She placed the paper check between us, and Quinn reached for it, but I grabbed it first. “I’ve got this one. Make up for the popcorn you gave away.”

“You don’t have to do that.” He pulled out his wallet and put a twenty on the table.

“You can’t let anyone do anything for you, can you?”

Quinn’s eyes bugged, then softened. “Yeah, I guess I do have a problem with that sometimes.”

“Sometimes?”

“Okay, most of the time.”

“You know what they say. The first step is admitting you have a problem. And the second is letting me pay for dinner.” I stuck the check and enough money for the meal and tip under the glass sugar shaker, then grabbed Quinn’s twenty, folded it in half, leaned over, and tucked it into his shirt pocket.

My fingers were in the pocket before I fully realized what I was doing. Then the whole universe condensed into the drag of my fingers on that two-inch-square area of his chest. His rock-solid chest that tightened the instant I made contact. My own chest froze, devoid of air. I’d forgotten how to breathe. All I could do was think about the fact that I had my hand on this man who’d consumed my waking and sleeping hours for weeks. And I had to let go. Literally.

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Karen StivaliAbout the Author: Karen Stivali is a prolific writer, compulsive baker and chocoholic with a penchant for books, movies, and fictional British men. She’s also the multiple award-winning author of contemporary and erotic romances. She writes novels about love…like real life, only hotter.

Karen’s lifelong fascination with people has led her to careers ranging from hand-drawn animator, to party planner, to marriage and family counselor, but writing has always been her passion. Karen enjoys nothing more than following her characters on their journey toward love. Whether the couples are m/f or m/m, it’s guaranteed that Karen’s novels are filled with food, friendship, love, and smoking hot sex—all the best things in life.

When Karen isn’t writing (and often when she is), she can be found on Twitter attempting witty banter and detailing the antics of her fruit-loving cat, BadKitteh. She loves to hear from readers (and other writers), so don’t hesitate to contact/follow/like her at:

Twitter || Facebook || Website || Pinterest || Goodreads || E-mail

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SunsetParkFSBlurb – Sunset Park (A Five Boroughs Story): Raymond Rodriguez’s days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend, so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.

David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation, since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.

Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.

Pre-Order Link: Dreamspinner Press

Other Books in the Five Boroughs SeriesSUTPHIN BOULEVARD || Book 2: FIRST AND FIRST coming in April 2016

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Excerpt: St. Mark’s Place was crowded with the usual blend of posers, hipsters, and NYU students. I only knew the place had once been a haven for punks and alternative rocker kids because Oli got all woe is me about it, even though he’d transformed himself from a teen who had used safety pins instead of zippers to a guy who wouldn’t go anywhere without a shiny, wingtip shoe. The only surviving relics of that era seemed to be the street vendors selling pipes and bongs, a thrift shop that catered to the eccentric, and an overpriced punk rock boutique that I could not step in without feeling like an intruder.

“I used to cut school down here when I was a kid,” Raymond noted as we bypassed the new high-rise buildings that were being constructed along St. Mark’s Place.

“Haven’t been back in a minute.”

“What did you do down here?”

Raymond gave a rolling shrug, eyes flicking over cramped doorways leading to narrow gift shops and eateries. “It didn’t used to be tourist central. There was a tattoo and piercing shop down those stairs that didn’t card me,” he said, jerking his chin across the street. The place he was talking about was almost hidden by a staircase leading up to a brownstone, and more stalls with snarky tourist gifts. One vendor was selling an array of neon wigs. “And The Continental was a venue for indie bands. Now it’s just some bar.”

“I didn’t take you for the indie band type,” I said. “Or I wouldn’t have before I scoped out your Spotify playlists.”

“You really do be snooping, don’t you?”

“I’m a curious person.”

“You’re a creeper.”

If only he knew just how creepy I could be. Like watching him sleep for a few minutes before waking him up in the morning (Raymond almost always hit snooze on his alarm enough times to actually be late), or wearing his hoodies or sweaters not just because the excess fabric was cozy, but because they smelled like him. But he hadn’t yet caught on to those things, and I wasn’t going to tell him.

We walked to the end of the block before veering down a short staircase to the Afghan restaurant. It was mostly empty except for a few couples sitting at the tables around the perimeter of the dim space, so I pleaded with the hostess to seat us at the elevated table by the window with the masses of cushions in lieu of chairs. It was swathed in gold and maroon, overly decadent, but it made me want to squish in next to Raymond instead of sitting across from him. I lingered by the side of the table until he rolled his eyes and scooted over to make room for me. Us sitting next to each other looked exceptionally gay, but Raymond either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

We ordered mantoo and ashe soup, two different kebabs, and a quorma dish to share. I also pointedly ignored Raymond’s snickers as I ordered peach flavored hookah. The hookah went mostly ignored while we sampled the food, primarily because eating off the same plate as Raymond in public was making me conscious of details I would have otherwise ignored. How his body was half turned to me, our knees pressed together, the way he leaned in to reach something and did not shy away when I automatically pushed back his hair. Many simple, easy moments that added up to a degree of implied intimacy only seen with couples.

“These people probably think we’re on a date,” I said once the plates were cleared. “We look like we’re together.”

Raymond looked at me as he exhaled a cloud of peach-scented smoke. “Your point being?”

“These people don’t care. It’s, like, queer central down here.”

I wrapped my lips around the mouthpiece, enjoying the dampness from his mouth. The taste washed over me, and the inhaling and exhaling soothed me.

I blew smoke into his face. He didn’t fan it away, and I thought he looked even more attractive in the dim, golden light with wisps of smoke hanging between us.

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Santino Hassell image

About the Author: Santino is a writer of queer romance heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Find Santino: Website || Facebook || Newsletter || Twitter || Goodreads || Amazon

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Pent UpBlurb – PENT UP: Mix business with pleasure and take cover.

Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.

Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold-running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?

What’s a bullet catcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford, and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt (Chapter Four): Sometimes a plan is just a list of things that don’t happen.

Ruben talked Andy into working out and some basic self-defense training. In exchange, Ruben consented to hit the paths in Central Park three mornings a week at dawn. He refused to sleep over, but the tradeoff seemed fair.

Ruben made it downtown half-awake, freshly rinsed and wearing old soccer shorts and duct-taped Nikes. The Iris doormen watched them leave with undisguised pity. What did they know about staying in shape at forty?

Madness.

The first time they met in the Iris lobby at 6:00 a.m., Andy chided, “The early bird catches the worm.”

“Sure.” Ruben raised one grumpy brow. “But the early worm gets eaten by the bird.”

What he learned is that jogging is legalized suicide.

Ruben, a few steps behind for much of the trek to the park, watched the sweat spread across Andy’s back like faint wings and then creep toward his waistband before they’d even started in earnest. He’d forgotten that it was almost July.

They ran.

Andy, for his part, led the way silently, allowing Ruben to follow the subtle cues of his body. No need to speak really. Together, they fell into a lope that Ruben hoped he could sustain without puking, pissing his shorts, or passing out.

Central Park was shaded but the morning sun still drizzled over them like hot grease. Humidity made breathing slow and arduous as they pounded the concrete paths under the trees. His quads burned and after ten minutes he could feel sweat glinting off him with every step.

Andy obviously knew how to pace himself, matching Ruben tread for tread. He was slippery with perspiration but looked relaxed and happy for some horrible reason. His corded legs took the terrain effortlessly.

Ruben focused on keeping his breath steady. He’d been cooped up indoors for too many weeks. He hadn’t realized just how much he missed sun, trees, sky. On the other hand, his thighs and calves felt flayed raw.

Without thinking Ruben took off his T-shirt and wrapped it around his fist. Too hot to feel self-conscious. Besides, he’d been in New York long enough to start losing the Florida color, his brown skin dulling to a fishbelly-beige. Sunlight slid over his shoulders like a heavy robe.

Andy looked him up and down but said nothing.

Suddenly jogging seemed like a great idea.

After fifteen minutes, the air didn’t even feel hot anymore and Ruben could feel his thirsty skin drinking the crazy green light that snuck through the trees. Sweat slid down his ribs, staining his waistband dark.

Andy gave what sounded like a big, satisfied sigh and Ruben realized he could hear it as if Andy had exhaled right into his ear because the city was so far away.

Quiet.

Aside from the scuff of their shoes on the path, the noises of Manhattan waking up had all but vanished. No cars yet. A dozy scent of bark and fresh grass hung in the air and the skyscrapers rose like geometric cliffs too distant to deserve caution. He snuck a look at Andy and caught him looking back.

Andy nodded and raised his eyebrows, some secret arcing between them.

Not that Central Park was a secret, but that it hid one: this mild dappled glow that filtered out the city. Strange, but somehow familiar.

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Damon SuedeAbout the Author: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Having lived all over, he’s earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter.

Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been a full-time writer for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com.

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates and Stops:

30 November: Prism Book Alliance
30 November: The Novel Approach
1 December: FB Party (with 8 authors)
3 December: Guilty Pleasures?
4 December: Love Bytes Reviews
9 December: Joyfully Jay
11 December: Ever After
14 December: Heroes & Heartbreakers
17 December: FB NYC party
21 December: Scandalicious Book Blog
28 December: Sinfully Sexy…

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Elizabeth Wilde, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Defiant Loyalties Blog Tour with Elizabeth Wilde

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Today we’re so pleased to welcome author Elizabeth Wilde on the Defiant Loyalties blog tour. Enjoy Elizabeth’s guest post, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a credit for a free book from the NineStar Press website.

Good luck!

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When I was a little girl, I used to write.

Books, plays, interactive mystery whodunits. I used to make board games, record radio shows, and film homemade movies. I once wrote an entire play and made some of my friends act it out at my house. I based it on the sinking of the Titanic, because I was a bit morbid like that, but it had a touch of South Park, too, since I thought it was hilarious to “kill” one of my friends over and over again à la Kenny.

I had big dreams as a kid of a career in writing but, like most childhood dreams, reality hit and that dream was shelved. I figured it was not only shelved but impossible, absolutely unheard of. I hadn’t written a thing in fifteen years. In fact, I’d forgotten entirely that I ever loved it in the first place.

Opening up a word processor again three years ago to put fingers to keys, writing and writing until something stuck. It felt like a liberation, like it was meant to be. I shared stories with close friends to much enthusiasm and encouragement, found other friends in the writing community who were equally as supportive, and now here I am, sharing a weird story from my warped little youth during a blog tour for my debut novel. Every day I’m struck over and over again by how life can change in the blink of an eye, from the most unexpected places.

This opportunity means the world to me. Despite my hours/days/weeks/months grappling with it, whipping its stubborn self into shape, this book also means the world to me.

Defiant Loyalties is a story about love against the backdrop of corruption; about two people on seemingly opposite sides coming together to defy every authority. It’s a tale of trust, of loyalty in adversity, and I hope it excites you to read as much as it excited me to write!

The adult in me may be worrying about every leg of this journey, but that little dreamer is having the time of her life right now.

~Elizabeth Wilde

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defiantloyaltiesBlurb: All Jack Preston has ever wanted is freedom: from his father’s oppressive political reign, from his mother’s dying memory, from his own guilt in the part he’s played to get George Preston to the top. When an assassination attempt is made on his father’s life, Jack is thrown into a dangerous game of lies and espionage, and as his whole world destabilizes, he finds himself turning to the most unlikely person for help.

Alex—the assassin who started it all; the man whose face haunts Jack’s dreams—becomes his only ally. As they come together to fight a bigger enemy, Jack’s attraction becomes a risk too large to take and too powerful not to. Will falling in love with a dangerous killer play right into his enemy’s hands? Or will Alex risk everything to protect the son of the man he was sent to murder? Loyalties will be tested and sacrifices made, but Jack will learn that some things are truly worth fighting for.

Buy Link: NineStar Press

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Excerpt: He approaches the thoroughfare in a daze, drugged off the powerful sensation of gravity tugging him home, and the shadowy figure he spots halfway down doesn’t concern him for half a minute or so while he happily indulges himself.

Until suddenly it does.

His steps falter but don’t stop, axis of gravity abruptly shifted, and now Jack’s walking toward the figure instead, in the grip of some terrible, warped sense of inevitability with his heart rate kicking up.

His boots against the ground feel like a march, and he finds he’s angry. Fraught with fear, yeah, but angry nonetheless. Worse, it’s a petty anger, a kind of outrage that’s got him thinking how dare you even though he’s almost positive he brought this one on himself.

The figure stands with his stance wide and easy and his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket, casual as anything. He’s wearing All Stars and Jack has to be fucking hallucinating right now, spent too long obsessing over this with no exposure to the outside world to ground him.

The figure tells Jack, “Hey,” thoroughly doing away with that notion.

“Hey?”

The Goddamn assassin raises his eyebrows. “It’s a term of greeting.”

“Yeah, thanks,” Jack snaps. “Gotta say, it’s a massive improvement from your first one.”

The guy shrugs a shoulder, mouth quirking up at one corner, and fuck, Jack had somehow forgotten how striking he was. Under the sodium lampposts, standing against the gray-shaded sugar maples, he’s almost otherworldly—or maybe that’s just Jack’s abused brain whirring, fever-pitched imagination running wild with him like a kid let out for the first time on its own.

“Is this it, then?” Jack goes on, still dripping in sarcasm. “Time to say my prayers?”

“Walk with me?”

Jack does an honest-to-God spit-take, levelling a glare. “Walk with you.”

“You can keep repeating what I say if you like.”

Jack does, thanks. “Walk with you?”

“You haven’t gone running to your armed guard for help,” he points out and then, with a quiet weight, “It’s important.”

I’m sorry about this. Jack hears it over and over, a litany always inhabiting him, and this man had stood in his father’s study with a gun, apologizing for a murder he was a split-second away from committing. Two days ago he’d handed Jack a threatening note, flirting with him while he did it.

Jack shakes his head. He wrenches himself away, one, two steps, turning his back on the face that’s been dogging him for a week now because if he doesn’t—

“Jack.”

If he doesn’t, Jack’s going to do something like fucking walk with him.

Back still turned, Jack states the very obvious. “You know my name.”

“Lotta people know your name. Your real one, anyway.”

He spins at that. “How did you—”

“This is important,” the man repeats gravely, but there’s still an easiness to his stance, a kind of open appeal. He’s drawing Jack in just like the flirting; good at his job, Jack thinks dizzily.

“Tell me your name, first.”

He doesn’t answer right away, sound of nothing but the trees swaying while he looks up at Jack with his head tipped down—really good at his job, then. There’s a definite reluctance there, but beyond that, Jack really can’t guess what he’s thinking; maybe games of chess in his head, working out moves and countermoves, assessing Jack for danger.

“Alex.”

Jack tries it out in his mouth—“Alex”—and finds it suits him whether it’s real or not. “Fine, Alex, let’s walk.”

Alex cocks his head, gesturing to the end of the thoroughfare so Jack supposes they’re heading away from the house and out into the city. A small mercy, at least.

They fall into step, Alex tossing Jack curious little sideways glances but otherwise staying perfectly quiet, until they come out onto the boulevard and under the open night sky, clear except for the spotty clouds moving time-lapse fast in the lower atmosphere.

There, Alex belatedly speaks. “You’ve been drawing attention to yourself.”

“That an art pun?”

Another curious glance and Jack stays looking resolutely forward; he’s really not sure indulging himself or this guy is the right thing to do.

“Maybe. Thanks for the sketch, by the way.”

“Oddly polite for someone who handed me a threat in return.”

“Which you didn’t take seriously.”

“So that is why you’re here, because I googled some asshole judge?”

“Look, Jack—”

Jack immediately bristles. “Why am I drawing attention to myself? What’s so important that you gotta follow me around town and spirit me away into the night like this, after you—after you tried to fucking—”

“I was sent to give you the note,” Alex interrupts, carefully placing every syllable like they’re practiced. “I wasn’t sent tonight.”

Jack turns his head, trying to get some sort of equal footing here. “And what does that mean?”

“I’m trying to help you.”

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Author BioAbout the Author: Elizabeth is a debut author from the north of England. With a long-time passion for writing, at eight years old she attempted to write and illustrated her very own Goosebumps books, as well as an ongoing series of solve-it-yourself mysteries, and several stories about a single lady living her life with an unfortunate perm. One day she hopes that practice will pay off, but until then she’s been recently adopted by two cats and gets by working for the government.

Email || Website || Twitter

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Love Lane Books, Reviewed by Taz, RJ Scott

Review: Max and the Prince by RJ Scott

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Max and the Prince (Bodyguards Inc.: Book Three)

Author: RJ Scott

Publisher: Love Lane Books

Pages/Word Count: 131 Pages

At a Glance: To read one of RJ Scott’s books is like stepping into a perfectly crafted world.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Bodyguard Max Connery is used to being mistaken for being younger than he is.

Being carded every time he buys a beer is usual. Even though he’s just turned twenty eight and has two tours in Afghanistan as a pilot under his belt.

When a threat is made on the life of a prince attending University in the UK, Max is the perfect choice to blend in with students and to keep Prince Lucien safe. Even if it means joining the swim team to be by his side.

But, when death visits the University, abruptly this job is a long way past keeping the prince happy and safe. Instead Max has to keep Lucien alive.

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Review: Ah, to read one of RJ Scott’s books is like stepping into a perfectly crafted world where you know you’ll meet rich characters and experience a satisfying plotline and well-developed emotions. And this book did not disappoint.

Max is a bodyguard, and everything about him goes along with the images you’d expect for such a beefy hunka deliciousness. The prince, Lucien, is truly a prince, strong, a swimmer, along with all of the images you’d expect to go along with that.

As would be expected, the two get off to a rocky start, Max believing Lucien is a spoiled heir to wealthy parents. Of course, that’s far too simple a story for someone like RJ Scott. No, Lucien may be innocent and somewhat inexperienced (especially when it comes to sex), but he’s no pushover and definitely not spoiled. I will say that Lucien’s lack of sexual experience makes for some really hot scenes.

As the story unfolds and max digs deeper and deeper into the mystery of a stalker whose set Lucien in his sights, feelings of love and connection ignite, and the gravitational pull of the attraction between these two men is unmistakable.

Since this isn’t a long story, I don’t want to give away too much, but each chapter drove the story forward, and I couldn’t wait to find out how the mystery unfolded.

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2.5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Dawn Flemington, Loose Id, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Naked Mailman by Dawn Flemington

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TitleNaked Mailman

Author: Dawn Flemington

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 121 Pages

At a Glance: Interesting concept, but too much packed into a novella.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Mailman Ken Lane is bored with his life. Nothing exciting ever happens to him. That is, until a nude man attacks him and leaves him bound and naked in the back of his mail truck. After all the excitement, Ken can’t stop thinking about the man, especially when he ends back up in Ken’s life and turns it upside down.

Correctional Officer Devon McLaren is a BDSM Dom non-shifting werewolf whose personal life has gone abruptly to hell. The subject of a non-consensual drug experiment, Devon is trying to get to the FBI with information regarding a drug cartel that would really rather he didn’t. On top of that, he’s consumed with lustful thoughts of the mailman he attacked and longs to do many kinky things to him.

Despite the danger, Devon takes Ken on the run with him, hoping that a trusted friend will help them out (and give them a place to do some of those kinky things). But when said friend proves to be a part of the problem, they’ve got to get out of the jam together, before Devon’s pack is destroyed. But can they, or will their obsession with each other get in the way?

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Review: The title alone of this book intrigued me, and I knew I had to read it. It has BDSM, shifters; I mean, really what more could I want?

Ken Lane, mailman, thinks nothing exciting ever happens in his life, but this all changes one day when out on a routine route, he is attacked, his clothes stolen, and he is left naked in the back of his mail truck. After several days of the news turning him into the Naked Mailman, he tries to resume his normal life only to find Devon, the man who stole his clothing, has broken into his apartment. What follows is an interesting adventure where Ken is dragged around the state, and he learns that werewolves exist. Throw in tarot reading coworkers with completely accurate horoscopes, and drug cartels, and you’re in for a ride.

While the beginning of the book was interesting and left me amused, I started to struggle by the time I got about halfway. Not only is there a lot going on in this story, there’s just not enough room for it. You have werewolves, BDSM, illegal drug experimentation, the FBI… the list goes on. Ken is dragged through it all, his world turned upside down, and he just goes along for the ride. Why? Because Devon is good looking and turns his submissive side on.

It seemed a stretch for me, and the issues started early. For example, I understand that Ken is a submissive, but to have your life threatened while at work and being forced to strip? I can see how it’s a fantasy for some, but this just didn’t feel right. Fast forward a few scenes and let’s talk about the blowjob Devon demands in a public restroom while they’re both wearing clothes they bought off homeless men. I had to cringe just at the thought of the smell of the dirty clothes. But that wasn’t even what bothered me the most. Once they meet Sir Gary—Devon’s Dom human friend—they’re offered the use of his playroom. Ken has never been involved in BDSM. He just knows about it, knows he’s a submissive, and that’s pretty much it. But they engage in a scene.

Without a safe word.

So despite Ken saying no, Devon doesn’t stop, and then Ken soars and floats and he’s happy. But the lack of the safe word while Ken was saying no bothered me. Because it seemed to me like he did want Devon to stop, and because there was no communication beforehand, he had no real way of telling Devon to stop if he really wanted him to.

Some of the dialogue is awkward, such as Devon and Gary referring to each other as Sir Gary and Sir Devon. I get that they’re Doms, but it just felt forced for these characters.

There’s more involved in the book such as the fact that Devon is a shifter who can’t shift—it’s described at one point as a handicap—but there’s just too much to mention in the review.

If you enjoy shifter books with BDSM themes, you may be interested in this book, but as for me, while enjoyable at first, I struggled to finish this one.

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Excerpt and Giveaway: The Old Spark Blog Tour with AT Weaver

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We’re so pleased to welcome author AT Weaver on the Old Spark blog tour today. Enjoy the exclusive excerpt we have for you, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

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Blurb: When Kevin loses his job and boyfriend, he has no option but to return home for the first time in over ten years.  He packs up his cat, Josie, and heads for Kansas City.  Once home he learns the subject of a teenage crush is single. Can a chance encounter in a bar ignite an old spark inside Kevin into a new flame between the two?

Buy Links: Amazon || CoolDudes Publishing || Gumroad

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Excerpt: …He drove around town for about an hour looking at the changes made in the last ten years. There was the new Kauffman Center. Beautiful in a weird sort of way. He drove through the Power and Light District which was lit up for Christmas. The lights of the Marriot Hotel on 12th Street changed and rotated in various patterns. His stomach reminded him he hadn’t eaten lunch and he went to a restaurant on Broadway that he remembered as having good home-style food. He ordered a hamburger from the waiter and caught the eye of another diner. Maybe that’s what I need. Maybe I need to get laid.

He left the restaurant, drove around the Plaza, and watched the shoppers. Closer to Westport, he pulled into a parking lot next to a building with a rainbow flag. Inside, he walked to the bar, sat down, and ordered a beer. He turned with his back to the bar and looked around. A small dance floor occupied one end of the room with tables on two sides of it. About twenty men and women sat with drinks and cigarettes. An aroma of food and stale smoke hung heavy in the air. Another room held a pool table and two manly dressed women played. A sign on the wall advertised a drag show later that night.

A man rose from one of the tables, walked up to the bar and patted Kevin’s shoulder. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t little Kevin.”

Kevin grinned. “Watch it with the ‘little’. I’m not a kid anymore. How are you Chris? Would you believe we were just talking about you the other night?”

“That must have been why my ears were burning.” Chris motioned to the bartender. “Bring me another beer and one for my friend, Kevin, here.”

“Probably better not,” Kevin said.

“What? Are you too good to drink with me?” Chris raised an eyebrow.

“It isn’t that.” Kevin shrugged. “It’s just that my limit is one when I’m driving. If you insist, how about a Coke?”

Chris nodded. “Good rule.” He ordered the Coke. “I don’t have far to go to get home. In fact, I could walk if I had to.”

The bartender set the bottle of beer and glass of Coke on the bar.

Chris took a drink of his beer. “So what are you doing in here?”

Kevin grinned. “Probably the same thing you are.”

Chris tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “And that is?”

“Having a beer and checking out the scenery.” Kevin let his gaze roam down Chris’ body and back up. “I must say, the scenery just got a lot better.”

Chris raised his eyebrow. “Careful there, Kid. I’m a bit old for you.”

“You’re closer to my age than Mark was to yours.” He grinned. His heart pounded at his not-so-subtle flirting. I can’t believe I’m talking to Chris like this. He probably thinks I’m crazy.

Chris shook his head. “Are you home for Christmas?”

“Not really. I’ve moved back temporarily.”

“Last I heard, you were in San Francisco working for some big interior design company.”

“Yeah. They went bankrupt due to the economy.”

“That sucks. No one to help you out out there?”

“No. When I lost my job, my boyfriend bailed also.” Kevin rubbed the back of his neck. “He went crying home to his mother.”

Chris frowned. “Must have been ‘true love’.”

Kevin chuckled. “Yeah. He was in love with my paycheck.”

“Didn’t he work?”

“Only part-time jobs. He was too busy with his ‘music career’ to work full-time.” Kevin formed air quotes.

“Ouch. So you were supporting you both?”

“Pretty much.”

“Did you love him?”

“I thought I did. In fact when the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in all fifty states, I almost asked him to marry me.” Kevin ran his fingers through the heavy, blond bangs and pushed them off his forehead. “I’m glad now I didn’t. Toward the end, I was beginning to see how egotistical and self-centered he is.” He chewed on his bottom lip. “He didn’t like to go places with me because his mother, who was also his ‘manager’, thought it would hurt his career if his few fans knew he’s gay.”

“That sucks.”

“Forget about me. I was sorry to hear about Mark. I didn’t know until Dad said something the other evening. It’s been several years since I’ve been home. I just assumed you still lived next door.”

“Yeah.” Chris rubbed the back of his neck. “It hurt like hell, but the pain is easing.”

A loud blast of music signaled the start of the drag show. A woman came out on the dance floor/stage and announced the first act.

Chris took the last drink of his beer. “How about we get out of here?”

“What do you have in mind?”

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Author BioAbout the Author: A.T. Weaver is the pen name of a grandmother of eleven, great-grandmother of one. She lives with her cat, Cleopatra, in downtown Kansas City, MO.

When she was growing up, the word gay meant happy and carefree and homosexuals were called queer or ‘one-of-those’. However, she never heard those terms until she was married and a mother.

In 2003, through a TV show called Boy Meets Boy, A.T ‘met’ over 3,000 gay men in a Yahoo group. These men educated her as to the inequalities suffered by the LGBT community and she became a staunch ally. She visited one of the men in San Francisco who lived just up the street from the Castro. As he showed her around, they stopped in front of what was once Harvey Milk’s camera store. Her question, “Who was Harvey Milk?” started her education into Gay history.

A. T.’s aim is to move you in some way. Whether you laugh or cry, love it or hate it, she welcomes all comments, whether good or bad.

Links: Email || Blog 

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5 Stars, Andrew Grey, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Love Comes Unheard by Andrew Grey

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Title: Love Comes Unheard (Senses: Book Five)

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a GlanceA sweet addition to a wonderfully rounded series.

Review By: Angel

Blurb: Garrett Bowman is shocked that fate has brought him to a family who can sign. He’s spent much of his life on the outside looking in, even within his biological family, and to be accepted and employed is more than he could have hoped for. With Connor, who’s included him in his family, Garrett has found a true friend, but with the distant Brit Wilson Haskins, Garrett may have found something more. In no time, Garrett gets under Wilson’s skin and finds his way into Wilson’s heart, and over shared turbulent family histories, Wilson and Garrett form a strong bond.

Wilson’s especially impressed with the way Garrett’s so helpful to Janey, Connor and Dan’s daughter, who is also deaf. When Wilson’s past shows up in the form of his brother Reggie, bringing unscrupulous people to whom Reggie owes money, life begins to unravel. These thugs don’t care how they get their money, what they have to do, or who they might hurt. Without the strength of love and the bonds of family and friends, Garrett and Wilson could pay the ultimate price.

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Review: Any Andrew Grey book is an instant read for me now, as I just love my feel good happy endings with a bit of reality. Love Comes Unheard is the fifth book in the Senses series. The Senses series involves many couples, several characters with disabilities, and how they go about their individual lives. The characters from previous books in the series make an appearance in the follow-ups, so I don’t think this can be read as a standalone. I really recommend that you start from the beginning with Love Comes Silently.

I really enjoyed seeing disabled characters as the stars, so to speak, in this series. Most times the MCs are often hale, whole and practically perfect, so it was a good change of pace. Each disability is treated with respect and understanding, and really made this series for me. Grey doesn’t disappoint with his happy endings either, in spite of the subject matter.

For this particular book, the disability is deafness, and while this has been touched on in a previous book, I liked that Grey went more in depth with these particular characters. Wilson and Garrett were fun to watch as they built their relationship. In addition to the disability aspect of the story, there was also an age disparity issue and one of homophobia, all of which was handled just as delicately as the disability.

I also loved seeing Connor, Dan, and their family again, and how this couple’s relationship had progressed. Garrett meshed so well with the family that it was hard to believe he hadn’t been there from the beginning. Getting Wilson’s background story was just fantastic for me, as I adored his character when he was introduced in the last book. Love Comes Unheard is a sweet and wonderful addition to this already delightful series of hope and love.

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Book Blast and Giveaway: The Family Series Blog Tour with Cardeno C.

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 Strong Enough


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When a casual hookup turns into the potential for love, staid Spencer realizes he wants to build a life with vibrant Emilio.

When twenty-two-year-old Emilio Sanchez sees handsome Spencer Derdinger walking by his construction site, Emilio makes it his goal to seduce the shy professor. Getting Spencer into bed isn’t difficult, but Emilio soon learns that earning the trust of a man deeply hurt will take time and patience. With a prize like brilliant, sweet Spencer on the line, Emilio decides he is strong enough to face the challenge.

Spencer is surprised when he’s approached by the gorgeous construction worker he’s admired from the safety of his office window. Acting spontaneously for the first time in his thirty-eight years, Spencer takes Emilio home. When the casual hookup turns into the potential for love, Spencer realizes that if he wants to build a life with Emilio, he’ll need to be strong enough to slay his personal demons and learn to trust again.

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Something in the Way He Needs

 

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Controlled Asher didn’t expect to fall for free-spirited Daniel, but they’ll find what they desperately need in one another.

Police captain Asher Penaz’s staunch professionalism bleeds into his home life, down to his neatly pressed attire and spartan apartment. He enjoys being in charge and in control, so his sudden and powerful attraction to the lighthearted, free-spirited Daniel Tover throws him for a loop. In his entire life, Daniel has never gotten what he needs, so he moves to the next place, the next job, the next attempt to find something worth staying for, always landing at the top of his game, but never feeling like he belongs.

The chemistry between Asher and Daniel sizzles, but with all that fire comes the risk of getting burned. As both men struggle to learn themselves while getting to know each other, the lines of desire and control blur. If Daniel and Asher can walk through the flames together, they might find what they desperately need.

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Dividers More Than Everything

 

Cover - morethaneverythingTime might not heal all wounds, but with two motivated and strong-willed men on a campaign to win him back, Charlie will get more than he ever thought possible.

As a teenager, Charlie “Chase” Rhodes meets Scott Boone and falls head over heels in love with the popular, athletic boy next door. Charlie thinks he’s living the dream when Scott says he feels the same way. But his dreams are dashed when Scott unexpectedly moves away.

Years later, Charlie meets brash and confident Adan Navarro, who claims all he wants is a round between the sheets. After eight months together, Charlie is convinced Adan returns his love. But when the opportunity comes to be open about their relationship, Adan walks away.

Time passes and life moves on, but when Charlie learns the only two men he’s ever loved are now in love with each other, his heart breaks all over again. Scott and Adan tell Charlie they want him back, but Charlie doesn’t know if he can trust two people who have hurt him so deeply. Time might not heal all wounds, but with two motivated and strong-willed men on a campaign to win him back, Charlie will get more than he ever thought possible.

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The Half of Us

 

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If short-tempered Jason can open his heart and life to optimistic Abe, he might finally find the family he craves.

Short-tempered, arrogant heart surgeon Jason Garcia grew up wanting a close-knit family, but believes he ruined those dreams when he broke up his marriage. The benefit of divorce is having as much random sex as he wants, and it’s a benefit Jason is exploiting when he meets a sweet, shy man at a bar and convinces him to go home for a no-strings-attached night of fun.

Eight years living in Las Vegas hasn’t dimmed Abe Green’s optimism, earnestness, or desire to find the one. When a sexy man with lonely eyes propositions him, Abe decides to give himself a birthday present—one night of spontaneous fun with no thoughts of the future. But one night turns into two and then three, and Abe realizes his heart is involved.

For the first time, Abe feels safe enough with someone he respects and adores to let go of his inhibitions in the bedroom. If Jason can get past his own inhibitions and open his heart and his life to Abe, he might finally find the family he craves.

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

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

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

Review: Shiver by Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

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Title: Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds: Book One)

Authors: Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 301 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Maryann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mary Calmes, Reviewed by Sammy, Short Story

Review: Easy Evenings by Mary Calmes

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Title: Easy Evenings (Mangrove: Book Four)

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 77 Pages

At a Glance: Several huge plot holes turned this novella from a sweet little romance into a rather confusing story.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Lazlo Maguire doesn’t do relationships—he does transactions. Six months of the year, he’s an expensive rent boy in Manhattan, and he moves so fast that settling down could not, would not, ever enter his mind… except for once. Britton Lassiter he meets man to man, not as hustler and mark, and it’s too good to be true when the lawyer wants to keep Lazlo even if he has to share him with the job.

But Lazlo has his reasons to walk away from the man he’s grown to love. The other six months of the year, he is laid-back Laz, a shopkeeper in the sleepy coastal town of Mangrove, Florida, where the artist he never allows himself to be in the Big Apple shines through. He lives for his time by the ocean, the place he hides his secrets and nurses his broken heart.

Then fate intervenes, and Laz gets the surprise of his life when he spies Britton in Mangrove—but it’s not meant to be… not until Britton sees the change in him and wants to be a part of Laz’s new life so that every evening can be easy… together. Hopefully the secrets that tore them apart won’t come back to haunt them.

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Review: Let me begin by saying that author Mary Calmes writes very sweet and lovely romance stories. This is an author I go to when I really want a bit of escapism. Her stories are most notable in that any great conflict is usually quickly resolved, her people are beautiful, angst is minimal, and there is always a swift and loving happy ever after. So, it’s safe for me to say that when I choose to review one of her stories, I look at them in this light, with an eye more toward fantasy than realistic m/m relationships. Her latest installment in the Mangrove series, Easy Evenings, is no exception.

Lazlo Maguire is a rent boy. He divides his year between time in Manhattan, where he provides sexual hookups for a variety of clientele, to the quiet town of Mangrove, Florida, leading a quiet life as a shop keeper and creating sculpted wind chimes and various other things out of metals. When he meets Britton Lassiter, his world is turned upside down. Britton makes him want things that he can’t possibly have, and feel things that he’s never felt before. For the first time, here is someone who could possibly make Laz walk away from his rent boy existence. But Lazlo’s life is not his own and despite how much he would like to have that happy ever after with Britton, the responsibilities he has will never allow him to give up the empty life that holds him prisoner.

The story picks up when Laz return for his six month stint at home in Mangrove, and discovers that Britton has moved his law practice to the same town. Without much of a clue as to the why and how, we discover Britton has taken out a restraining order against Laz, and one can only assume that is because Laz has been attempting to reestablish their relationship. This would be the same relationship that Laz walked away from after realizing that Britton was worthy of much more than a rent boy for a life partner. All of this is done in flashback style, narrated by Laz himself—so it is sketchy at best. Then there is a sudden twist in the story when a little three-year-old girl is unceremoniously dumped on Lazlo’s front porch, and he is informed that he is the father. Suddenly everything changes, including his relationship with Britton.

Laz is one of the sweetest characters I’ve ever read about. The reasons behind his being a rent boy almost broke my heart. The sweet little girl that he is left with is quite precocious. While she seems a bit too old in her outlook for the age of three, and her dialogue is way too sophisticated for that age as well, I was able to overlook that as the way in which she was written made her truly delightful. These two really captured my heart in a big way—I wanted them to be happy in every way possible.

Britton was a real study in contrasts. Needing to submit to Laz in the bedroom while, at the same time, so fiercely eager to take care of Laz outside of it, I felt I knew so little about him. This was really Laz’s story from beginning to end, and I felt that Britton was a bit underdeveloped as a main character. However, the two made a fiery match and were very well suited to each other. Unfortunately, this was a swiftly moving story and as a result, I felt like major chunks of the story were left untold. For instance the reasons for the restraining order were never really discussed. And just as quickly as it was mentioned, Britton was dropping it in order to be with Laz.

Also, the declaration that he had never had unprotected sex other than with Britton was a blatant lie, particularly since earlier in the story he relates how one evening he had sex with a trick’s wife which apparently produced the little girl Katie. Then again, we are told in the story that he never gives out his real name while turning tricks in Manhattan, except to Britton, yet three years after that one evening, the stepfather currently stuck with Katie after her mother had died is able to track Laz down without knowing his real name. There is a hint that Lazlo knew more about Katie’s mother, but it was never explained so it left me unsure as to how Katie even came to exist.

Ultimately, it was these huge plot holes that turned this novella from a sweet little romance into a rather confusing story. Every time one of these inconsistencies ripped me from the pages, I had to make a concerted effort to put my head back in the game and continue the story. I have read other short stories by this author and found them to be quite lovely. Unfortunately, Easy Evenings had too many troublesome and conflicting details to make this a romance I could recommend.

TNA_Signature_Sammy

 

 

 

 

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Book Blast and Giveaway: Jesse’s Diner by Cardeno C.

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Blurb: Two men with a shared history and a mutual attraction must be honest with themselves and each other so both their dreams come true.

Quiet, unassuming Tanner Sellers spends his time running a diner in Hope, Arizona. Not particularly social, twenty-two-year-old Tanner keeps to himself and enjoys his simple life, but he longs for someone to call his own. In his most secret fantasy, that someone is sexy Steve Faus. But Steve is his friend’s father and mentor’s widower and therefore off-limits.

Despite some challenges, thirty-nine-year-old Steve Faus has had a good life. He’s extremely successful at work, has a great relationship with his college-age son, and lives in a wonderful town. Eighteen months after losing his partner, the one thing Steve lacks is someone to share his life. If Steve is honest with himself, that someone is the young man he has known and cared about for years. Steve and Tanner want one another, all they need is a little push in the right direction to make both their dreams come true.

 

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EXCERPT:

Chapter 1

“Tanner, Mike’s on the phone for you.”

“Thanks, Miranda.” I set down the knife I was using to julienne peeled broccoli stems, wiped my hands on my apron as I walked into the tiny office off the kitchen, and then picked up the phone handset. “Hi, Mikey.”

“Hey, Tanner. Did I catch you at an okay time?”

“Yeah.” I dropped into the beat-up leather chair. “Lunch crowd is gone and the dinner rush won’t start for another couple hours yet.”

“What’s for dinner?”

“Your pop’s broccoli coleslaw. Jared McFarland had a great crop this season so he gave us a bunch.”

“Still using Pop’s recipes at the diner, huh? You know you don’t have to.” He paused and lowered his voice. “Same with his name.”

Mike’s father had opened Jesse’s Diner thirty years earlier and everyone in our small town of Hope, Arizona had loved the food almost as much as they’d loved the man. Jesse had been a father figure to half the town, myself included, and a year and a half after he died, we all still acutely felt his loss.

“This will always be Jesse’s Diner,” I said firmly. “I’m just taking care of it for him.”

“He left the diner to you, Tanner. No conditions or strings. He wanted you to run it, not turn it into a mausoleum.”

Unsure of how to respond to the reminder that Mike’s father had left his business to an employee instead of his son, I cleared my throat and wriggled uncomfortably.

“I’ve told you a million times that I have no issue with it. My pop knew I’d never move back to Hope to run the diner and my dad has more than enough money to put me through school.”

Both true statements. Shortly after high school graduation, Mike had moved to Las Vegas for college and immediately proclaimed Sin City as his forever home. His fathers weren’t surprised because Mike had always wanted to live in a big city, and frankly, they were just thankful his new home was only a three and a half hour car ride away. Plus, while the diner had brought in enough money for Jesse to get by, his partner Steve Faus had been the primary bread winner in their family.

“Don’t go silent on me, Tanner. The whole town knows you love that diner as much as my pop did and they’re glad he left it in your hands. Quit feeling guilty about it and doing everything exactly like he did. He would have wanted you to make it your own.”

“I, uh, changed the way we deliver the checks,” I admitted quietly.

After a pause, Mike asked, “The way you deliver the checks?”

“Yeah. You know how we had those black plastic trays?” I rubbed my lips together.

“Uh-huh.”

“I replaced them with old books.”

“Books?”

“Old books.” I nodded even though Mike couldn’t see me. “I picked a couple dozen of them up at Second Hand. Now we tuck the check into the book, bring it over with a pen, and encourage the customers to write a note inside. Everyone’s been having fun sharing comments and reading what other people wrote. It’ll get even better as the years pass and the pages get filled. People can see what they said when they were younger. Kids can see what their parents wrote, someday even their grandparents.”

I loved the idea of ongoing connections through generations. It was something I’d missed in my own life, that sense of being part of something. Living in Hope helped because the community was exceptionally tightknit, but I’d moved there as a teenager so I didn’t have the same ties as many others.

“That’s a…charming idea. Very Hope.”

Exactly. “Thanks.”

“What else do you have planned?”

“What do you mean?” I clenched my jaw.

“Come on, Tanner. I’ve known you since you were sixteen. You have other ideas for the place.”

Intentionally misunderstanding, I said, “Your pop was a great cook. His recipes are perfect.”

“Yes, he was.” Mike sighed wistfully. “And you make them really well. But I meant the diner itself. You can’t let all those hours you spend watching HGTV go to waste.”

“I don’t—”

“Six years, Tanner. We’ve been friends for six years.”

Which meant he knew me better than anyone. I’d met Mike in high school when I was a scrawny junior trying to get away from a couple of seniors who loved to tease and torment me, and Mike was a giant freshman who had no trouble stepping in front of them and putting a stop to the problem. I had been equal parts grateful and surprised. Grateful because nobody had ever stood up for me before then. Surprised because Mike nonchalantly told me he had two dads and anyone who had a problem with gay people would have a problem from him.

I knew I was gay before I reached my teens, and the school bullies probably picked on me because they suspected it, but nobody had ever said it out loud until that moment. And I’d reacted to Mike’s casual proclamation with the same knee-jerk, shame-fueled fear as I did to his observation that I enjoyed decorating shows.

“Fine. I like remodeling shows. So what?” I said defensively.

Admitting I watched television programs marketed toward women played into a stereotype I wasn’t quite willing to embrace and yet couldn’t escape. My mannerisms were too effeminate, my voice too soft, and my body too underdeveloped. Jesse had always said men came in all shapes and sizes and there was nothing wrong with how I looked, but that was hard to believe when I was attracted to guys with larger, hairier bodies, deeper voices, and more rugged features. For that matter, so was Jesse if his partner was any indication. I had nearly swallowed my tongue the first time I’d seen six foot, five inch, two hundred twenty pound former college football player Steve Faus, and six years later, my reaction to the older man was only slightly less humiliating. Thankfully, Steve either didn’t notice my obsession with him or he was too polite to mention it.

“So nothing,” Mike said. “Watch whatever TV shows you like, man. I’m just pointing out that the diner walls probably haven’t been painted in thirty years and the booths are just as old. Don’t pretend you’re fine with the duct tape holding the tears in the vinyl together. You keep that tiny guesthouse you rent from the sheriff shiny enough to do surgery on the floor so I know you’re itching to update the diner and I say go for it.”

I squirmed again, this time because he was right—I wanted to fix those problems and more. “I might freshen a few things up. We’ll see how the money pans out at the end of the year.” And if I had the nerve to push aside Jesse’s memory and truly take his place. “Anyway, I doubt you called me to talk decorating tips. What’s up?”

“My dick,” Mike said and then immediately snorted and giggled.

“That joke wasn’t funny when you were fourteen, and it’s gotten progressively less funny over the years,” I said dryly.

“I think it’s hilarious.”

“That makes one of us.”

“Whatever, dude. You’re too uptight. You need to get laid.”

“I can’t believe girls are actually willing to go out with you when you talk like that.”

“I’m hot.” He lowered his voice and suggestively said, “Besides, I do other things with my mouth they really enjoy. Like Naomi, this girl I’m seeing now, she goes wild when I—”

“Don’t tell me about your sex life, Mikey. I don’t want to know.” It was the truth. Mike was the closest thing I had to a brother, so I’d never had so much as an ounce of attraction to him. Or maybe that was because I’d used up all my attraction tickets on my unhealthy obsession with his dad.

“Hey, man, I’m doing you a favor. Hearing about my action is as close as you are to getting any.”

“For all you know, I’m getting plenty of action but I’m too much of a gentleman to talk about it.” Lies. My sex life was embarrassingly non-existent and my personal life was just as lonely.

Mike scoffed disbelievingly.

I didn’t bother to push the point because, frankly, there was no way he’d buy it. “What do you want, Mikey?”

“I need you to do me a favor and check in on my dad.”

“Your dad?” I squeaked. Lovely. Now Mike would either think I was going through a second puberty or notice my inappropriate reaction to the mention of his dad. Hoping he hadn’t been paying close attention, I cleared my throat and spoke again. “What’s, uh, going on with your dad?”

“The vice president of his company called me. She said he isn’t himself and they’re making him take time off.”

Jesse’s death had come as a shock to all of us—pancreatic cancer that hadn’t been detected until Jesse lay in the hospital unconscious. Two days later, he was dead at the age of sixty-seven.

“He’s mourning the death of his partner. Of course he isn’t his old self,” I said defensively. “And by the way, calling someone’s kid to talk about his job issues is completely unprofessional.”

“My dad’s worked for that company forever and they’re worried about him. His boss and I get along. She didn’t have anyone else to call.”

When Mike still lived in town, I hadn’t known Steve as well as I’d known Jesse. Some of that was because of how frequently he traveled for work—the man was an unrepentant workaholic. But I’d also limited our interactions because I’d been uncomfortable with my reaction to him. After all, it takes a special kind of pathetic sleaze to not only lust after a friend’s father, but also the partner of a man who had taken me under his wing. But now that Mike had moved away and Jesse had died, Steve lived alone, so when he wasn’t traveling, he stopped by the diner for dinner and I always made sure to say hi to him and chat for a little while. That meant I now knew Steve well enough to realize how much he enjoyed his work.

“If they’re so worried, they should talk to him, not you. And your dad loves his job! Why would they take that from him when he already lost…” I didn’t need to finish that sentence because Mike knew exactly what his dad had lost. The whole town mourned Jesse’s passing but only Steve had shared his home and his bed for decades. I couldn’t begin to imagine his pain.

“Arguing with me won’t change anything, Tanner. I’m not his boss.”

Realizing my reaction was over the top, I drew in a deep breath and said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay, but a company doesn’t bench its star sales guy and lose tons of money unless something’s wrong. I have classes and tests, but I’ll drive down there if you can’t help my dad.”

“Of course I’ll help him,” I snapped. After everything Jesse and Mike had done for me, I’d never turn my back on their family. Even if this particular family member had fueled countless inappropriate fantasies and guilt-inducing dreams.

“Cool. Call me after you see him and let me know what’s up. If he needs me, I’m there.”

Seeing Steve Faus meant I’d be up. That much was certain. I mentally smacked myself for using Mike’s bad humor. “I have to go, Mikey.”

“Later, Tanner.”

***

After getting through the bulk of the dinner rush, I filled takeout containers with the daily special, broccoli coleslaw, and a wedge of chocolate cake, and left the diner in Miranda’s and Joe’s capable hands. Founded in the late 1800s, Hope was a mix of new and old construction sprinkled in an area just under eight square miles in size and, as always, I enjoyed strolling through town. I used the quiet time to remind myself that I was doing my friend a favor by helping my mentor’s partner; I was not going to ogle a hot guy.

Unfortunately, the half-mile walk from Main Street to Steve’s mint green Victorian didn’t take long enough to accomplish what six years of the same internal lecture had failed to do. So with a resigned sigh, I adjusted my dick in a way I hoped would hide my inevitable arousal, held the bag of food in front of myself for the same reason, and rang the bell.

The house was two levels, each a decent size, so I patiently waited for Steve to answer the door, but as the minutes ticked by, I began to wonder if Mike was wrong about his father being on a break from work. I walked across the wraparound porch and peeked into the windows, not quite sure what I was looking for, but unwilling to abandon Steve if he needed help. Everything looked the same as it had when I’d last been there, which was before Jesse’s death. No lights were on, no shoes or jacket left out, nothing to indicate someone was home.

I stepped off the porch, walked backward across the lawn, and peered at the upstairs windows. The drawn curtains prevented me from seeing much, but the master bedroom light was on and I caught a flash of a silhouette through the glass. If Steve was home, why wasn’t he answering the door? A pang of worry hit me. Maybe Mike was right to be concerned. With a deep breath, I squared my shoulders and marched back up the porch steps.

“Steve,” I said in a volume I hoped could be heard through the wood door but not by the neighbors. “It’s Tanner Sellers.” I rang the bell and knocked. “I brought dinner.” After waiting for a full minute, I knocked again. “Steve, I know you’re there. Can you open the door?” I swallowed thickly. “Please?”

A few beats later, the lock clicked and the door swung open, revealing a disheveled, but still gorgeous, Steve Faus. “Hi, Tanner.” He sighed and dragged his fingers through his thick, black, and currently unruly hair. “Sorry. I was on a work call. What’s going on?”

A string of thoughts raced through my mind.

How do you always manage to look so damn hot?

I know you’re not working right now, so you couldn’t have been on a call for work.

Do you bite your lips or are they naturally full like that?

What happened at work?

Can I bite your lips?

Are you wearing underwear under those sweats?

Mike’s worried about you.

Please don’t be wearing underwear.

Thankfully, I had years of experience curbing my brain-to-mouth reflex when it came to Mike’s dad so instead of any of those things, I said, “I brought dinner,” and pushed the bag forward.

“Dinner?”

“Lasagna.” I bobbed my head. “It was today’s special. Broccoli coleslaw too.”

“Thanks, but I have a ton of work so—”

Not wanting him to brush me off, I said, “And chocolate cake. You love chocolate cake.” Which I knew because it had been served at Mike’s fifteenth birthday party, and when Steve had taken a bite, closed his eyes in bliss, and moaned, I had nearly ejaculated in my pants.

“Chocolate cake?” Steve flicked his gaze to the bag.

“Uh-huh. Just made it this morning so it’s still fresh.” I glanced down to make sure the bag still blocked my groin, the memory of those moans and that expression still affecting me five years later. “Do you have milk? I forgot to pack some but I can run over to Smitty’s and—”

“You don’t need to go to the store. My fridge may be bare, but I keep the essentials on hand.” Steve reached for the bag and then stepped to the side to make room for me to enter. “That pretty much consists of salt and vinegar chips, coffee, and because I can’t drink my coffee black, milk.”

I blinked, my surprise over that statement eclipsing my concern about having a noticeable hard-on. “That can’t be enough for a guy your size.” I cringed at my own comment, bit my lip, and hoped the heat in my cheeks wasn’t visible. “It’s a, uh, good thing I brought you dinner.”

“That was nice of you.” Steve put his hand on my back, urged me forward, and then closed the door.

The touch was simple, casual, fleeting, but it still set me on fire. Being around Steve without Jesse, Mike, or a diner full of people as a buffer gave me nowhere to escape. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, willing myself to calm down. So what if Steve Faus tripped every single one of my buttons? I was twenty-two, not sixteen, and a hot guy shouldn’t scramble my brain into oblivion. Not even a guy with a tall, muscular body, thick black hair, piercing blue eyes, and a deep soothing voice.

Oh, who was I kidding? I was sunk.

“Do you want to eat in the kitchen or the dining room?” Steve asked.

Bedroom, I thought. God, I was incorrigible. “Either one’s fine by me. Wherever you’re most comfortable.”

“I’ve been working so much lately that I’m almost never here, but when I am, I tend to eat on the couch or over the kitchen sink.” Steve smiled softly, his expression at once self-deprecating and endearing. “It’d be nice to sit down for a real dinner.”

My heart ached. “Dining room it is then.”

“Thanks, Tanner.”

I nodded, my throat too thick to speak. Resisting Steve was a challenge in any setting, but seeing the normally strong man vulnerable without reaching out to touch him was unbearable.

“I’ll get the plates.”

“Okay,” I croaked. I swallowed hard and walked into the dining room as Steve went to the kitchen.

Closing my eyes, I took deep breaths to calm down. I could do this. I could be Steve’s friend. We’d both lost someone important to us when Jesse passed and we both missed Mike since he’d moved away. There was no reason we couldn’t be there for each other. I was an adult now, a business owner. I was mature and responsible and perfectly able to keep my libido in check.

“Is everything okay?” Steve’s deep rich voice was tinged with worry.

I opened my eyes, ignored my uncooperative libido, and forced a smile onto my face. “Yes, fine. Sorry. I was, uh…”

“Daydreaming?” Steve grinned. “You’ve always done that.”

“I have?” I blinked in surprise.

“Uh-huh.” Steve nodded and set the plates and silverware on the table. “I remember when Mike first brought you around, you used to get this far away look on your face all the time, and when you saw us notice, you’d get embarrassed and blush.”

My cheeks heated. I knew exactly what Steve was describing and they weren’t daydreams. Well, maybe they were, but they were very specific daydreams, the kind people categorized as fantasies, and they were always about Steve.

Needing a change of topic, I said, “Do you want me to dish the food out?”

“Sure. I’ll get placemats.” Steve stepped over to the antique buffet. “Too fancy?” he asked, holding up placemats and cloth napkins.

“No, that’s nice. I can’t remember the last time I used a real napkin.” I opened the bags of food and dished portions onto each of the plates. “It was probably Christmas dinner when my grandmother was still alive.” Which was over three years earlier.

“Same here.” Steve put the placemats down across from each other on the long wood table and then ran his hands over them, making sure they were straight. “Jesse had so many people over for the holidays that we used paper plates and plastic forks. I bought these placemats at least five years ago, but I don’t think we ever used them.”

“I remember those dinners.” I had been one of the many guests at their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter meals. “Jesse was good about giving us strays somewhere to be.”

“He was.” Steve sighed sadly. “I’ll go get drinks. I have coffee, milk, water, and beer. Pick your poison.”

On the one hand, beer usually helped me relax. On the other hand, I barely held myself in check sober, so combining alcohol and Steve was probably a recipe for disaster.

“I’m good with water.”

Quickly dipping his chin in acknowledgement, Steve left the room. When he returned a couple of minutes later, he had a glass of water in each hand and a Heineken tucked under his arm.

“It won’t bother you if I have a beer with dinner, right?” he asked as he set my water glass down.

He was leaning over my shoulder, his body heat warming my back and his breath ghosting across my cheek. If we had been naked, the scene would have been straight out of my fantasies.

“Not a bother,” I rasped. I bit my lip and held my breath, waiting for Steve to move to his side of the table. Looking at the square-jawed face and crystal blue eyes all night without leaping across the table would be an exercise in restraint, but if I had to inhale Steve’s scent and stay close enough to touch him, I’d pass out from sheer desire.

“The food smells great.” Steve straightened and inhaled deeply. “Did you hear that growl?” He patted his stomach as he walked to his chair. “I must be hungrier than I realized.”

“No, uh, I didn’t hear.” The sound of my heart pounding in my ears had drowned out everything else. “But I brought plenty of food.”

“Thanks.” Steve sat down, picked up his silverware, and arched his eyebrows. “You’re eating too, right?”

I glanced down at my plate and then picked up my fork. “Yes.”

“Good.” He ate a bite of coleslaw and then raised his beer bottle to his mouth. “When I’m traveling, I either eat alone in my hotel room or with a bunch of clients so I’m on all night. One of the things I liked best about being home was having a quiet dinner and just talking. But now…” He loudly breathed out, shook his head, and then took another bite. “Thanks for coming tonight, Tanner. This was just what I needed.”

Right then and there, I made a silent promise to bring Steve dinner the following night. And the night after that. And the night after that too. I couldn’t do much to make up for what he had lost, but a hot meal and company I could provide. And I’d find a way to keep my leering and drooling to a bare minimum.

 

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

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

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