5 Stars, Genre Romance, Megan Erickson, Penguin/InterMix, Reviewed by Jules

Excerpt and Review: Focus on Me by Megan Erickson

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Title: Focus on Me

Author: Megan Erickson

Publisher: Penguin/InterMix

Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages

At a Glance: Megan Erickson has hit another homerun.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…


Excerpt: “Why’d you come back?” I asked, my voice hoarse.

He licked his lower lip, the underside of his tongue running across the ridges on the surface. I wanted that to be my tongue. I wanted to feel those ridges when I kissed him, when those lips rasped over mine. He took his bottom lip and sawed his top teeth over it, abusing the skin. I reached up and gripped his chin, pressing below his lip until it popped out between his teeth.

He met my gaze and blinked. “Because you’re the first person in a long time to make me feel anything. And because I want you.” His voice was barely a tone, just a series of sounds skating up his throat. I hadn’t realized how badly I wanted to hear those words, said in such a desperate, pleading way. And not just from anyone, but from Riley, with his eyes locked on mine while my fingers gripped his chin.

I leaned in and brushed my lips across his. My eyes drifted shut, and when I opened them, our noses were touching. “Show me, then.”

His breath rushed out, fanning my face, and then he slammed his lips onto mine, the force of it banging my head on the door behind me. I groaned and speared my fingers into his hair, clutching the strands with both hands as he ravaged my mouth.

And God, what a kiss. Those full lips bruising mine, that wicked tongue doing crazy things in my mouth. He made soft moans in the back of his throat, like he was finally getting his favorite indulgence, that first blessed bite of rich, dark chocolate. He plastered his body to mine, gripping my hips and grinding his hardness into me.

I could barely keep up with his kiss as he licked into my mouth and dueled with my tongue. I gripped his head and held on, letting him take whatever he wanted, because fuck, I was finally getting to taste Riley.

When he finally pulled way with a loud smack, his hips were rolling into mine with gentle thrusts, and we were breathing hard, chests bumping. He nuzzled against my neck, nibbling below my ear. I closed my eyes as goose bumps raced over my skin.

“Can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he whispered.

“Can’t or won’t?”

He paused and then he nipped my earlobe. “Smartass.”



“Kiss me again.”

This kiss was less frenzied but no less intense. And now his hands were moving, sliding under the hem of my shirt. He brushed his knuckles over my abs, and I sucked in a sharp breath through my nose.

He pulled back and eyed my chest hungrily. “Take your shirt off, Col.”

I reached back with one hand and fisted my shirt at my upper back, tugging it over my head, then down my arms before I tossed it to the side.

He laid his hands flat on my pecs, then ran his palms over the smattering of hair I had on my chest. “I love how you look,” he said quietly, almost reverently, his gaze on his hands. He tugged a little on the hair around my nipples, and I grunted. He smiled.

If this were anyone but Riley, I would have been uncomfortable, maybe even embarrassed at the way I was being studied. But with him . . . I was almost proud of my size and my chest. Especially because of the way his eyes took me in, like I was a chocolate dessert. “You know I love how you look too, Catwalk.”

His gaze lifted to mine, and then he kissed me. Slowly. Like he was savoring the moment and my taste.

Fingers dipped into the waistband at my jeans. My belt rattled and loosened. Riley leaned back and pulled it from my belt loops, the leather slapping together as he tossed it to the side. He flicked open the top button of my jeans with one finger and lowered the zipper. He made a strangled noise when he found me commando. And then he sank to his knees.

Riley. On his knees. Shoving my pants down my thighs. Pressing his face along the length of my cock, his tongue licking one long swipe up the underside.

“Fuck, Ri,” I moaned, thunking my head back on the door and gripping his hair. “Fuck.”

Then that long tongue again, this time licking the seam of my balls, and I snapped my eyes open, because I didn’t want to miss a single moment of this. I wanted it burned in my brain, behind my eyelids, this sight of Riley between my legs, sucking one of my balls in his mouth, eyes closed, expression one of pure bliss.

His hand gripped my cock, pressing it up and into my belly while he licked and laved the skin of my balls. I loved this, always had, but not every guy was into this. It was like Riley was made for me.

And then his hand shifted, and a wet, hot mouth descended on the tip of my cock. I sucked in a breath and then watched as Riley slowly, ever so slowly, lowered his head, my shaft disappearing into his mouth as he took me down his throat.

My fingers flexed in his hair at the heat of his mouth and the swirl of his tongue. “Oh shit.”

He moaned, the vibration nearly bringing me to my knees. And then he began to work me. Like a fucking blow-job expert, he bobbed his head in time with his fist and rolled my balls with his other hand.

I watched my spit-slick shaft disappearing between those beautiful full lips. His cheeks hollowed as he sucked, rotating his wrist along with his head in a twisting motion that had me immobile. I could feel the orgasm starting, my balls tightening.

But there was one thing missing.

“Look at me,” I whispered.

He kept his eyes closed and didn’t react to my words.

“Ri, look at me.”

Still nothing.

I reached down and cupped his chin, my thumb pressing into the corner of his mouth, where my shaft slid in and out. “Baby,” I said softly, my accent thicker with arousal. “I want to see your eyes.”

He paused, then his eyelids raised as he pulled back. When only my tip remained in his mouth, his gaze met mine.

There was so much there, swirling and whirling, all his emotions—his need—right at the surface, and he knew it too, as the color rose on his cheeks. I saw why he wanted to keep it from me. And like the selfish bastard I was, I wanted it anyway. I’d asked for it.

With his eyes on mine, he bobbed his head once, twice, and then I was done. With a cry and a tightened fist in his hair, I shot down his throat. It felt like I came for five minutes straight, because Riley kept on sucking and swallowing, wringing every last drop from me.

Riley let my softened shaft slip from his mouth, a small smile on his lips as he kissed the wet tip. I leaned my head back against the wall, closing my eyes because my head was spinning. My hand was still in his hair, but my fingers slipped as he moved. My feet were lifted as he pulled off my boots and socks, one by one, then removed my pants. I opened my eyes as I stood in front of him, naked.

I licked my lips. “You gonna let me return the favor now?”

His eyes were at half-mast, his lips red and swollen.

He stepped closer, still in his T-shirt and jeans. He gripped my hip and then slid his hand around my waist to palm my ass. He leaned in close and pressed a kiss to the hinge of my jaw. “You gonna let me have this?”


Review: I am a HUGE fan of the first book in this series, Trust the Focus, and with Focus on Me, Megan Erickson has hit another homerun. It is another road trip story, yet it’s completely and utterly different. Different vibe, different guys, just an all-around new, awesome experience.

The subject matter in this book is much more intense than that in Trust the Focus. Here, Erickson tackles the very serious issues of depression and anorexia – unfortunately, Riley suffers from both – and Colin eventually figures out that the issues are bigger than both of them, and that Riley needs real, professional help. At first things are wonderful and exciting, and as Colin pointed out, the good times were great. Unfortunately that couldn’t last, though, and their relationship quickly becomes one of codependency and enabling. The topic of mental illness of any kind is, sadly, so often mistreated in books, but Erickson handles Riley’s depression and anorexia realistically and with respect.

One of the other themes in the book that was also presented so well was with respect to self-perception. Neither of the guys sees himself as the other sees him. Riley sees Colin as this hot, sweet, Southern charmer, as someone he could be with for the long haul, but Colin sees himself as a not-so-bright hick who fails at just about everything. Colin initially sees Riley as Catwalk – a gorgeous, worldly guy who he is definitely not worthy of, yet when Riley looks in the mirror, he doesn’t like what he sees. At all. We gather most of this through Colin’s POV, as well as some conversations, but the emails to Landry that the author uses to allow us glimpses into Riley’s head were priceless and perfect. (I only wish we could have seen Landry’s replies!) I love this quote from one of Riley’s emails:

…Because he’s light and he doesn’t deserve all the dark that’s in my head. I’m like a plant, though, and no matter what, I find myself leaning toward his light.

The family and friend support system in the story are also amazing. The guys are struggling on their own throughout most of the book, but many people are on the sidelines, ready to have their backs when they need them. Riley’s parents are wonderful. Colin’s are too, for that matter. So many LGBT fiction books tell the story of the unaccepting, abusive, close-minded parents who disown their kids – and while this is a horrifying, everyday reality for too many LGBT youth, it was refreshing to read about two sets of supportive, loving parents, because those parents are out there as well.
I have to share one more quote from Colin’s little sister, because she was so very sweet – and wise…

“You made a difference in his life, just like he made a difference in yours. You have to quit keeping this tab in your head of what you lost and what you won. Because then you miss the journey.”

And, what a journey it is. *sigh* Megan Erickson has done a fantastic job with Colin and Riley’s story. Some of the most powerful moments in the book are also some of the toughest, including the promised cameo of JusLan, which comes at a pivotal moment…but it’s all beautifully written and not to be missed!



You can pre-order Focus on Me here:

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4.5 Stars, April Kelley, Extasy Books, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Getting Back to Good by April Kelley

Title: Getting Back to Good (Pickleville: Book Five)

Author: April Kelley

Publisher: eXtasy Books

Pages/Word Count: 103 Pages

At a Glance: The best story in the series yet.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Luis Flynn has been fighting depression off and on most of his life. He figures it’s genetic or a product of his childhood or something. Whatever it is, he thought he’d won the war between himself and depression, until it seems to come back again. Little by little over the course of a few months, Luis finds himself slipping further and further into that black hole.

He’s also had a crush on Royce, his boss, since the day he met him, not that he would ever admit it. Luis can tell Royce finds him attractive, and they even kiss, but Royce constantly pushes him away, which doesn’t help his inner struggles.

When it comes to relationships, timing is everything. With Luis and Royce, the timing might be too off.


Review: I really feel that Getting Back to Good is the best story so far in April Kelley’s Pickleville series. Dealing with depression and cutting are a reality for many people, and there are many who don’t get the love and support that’s reflected in this story. Many don’t recognize, or are even afraid to admit, they have these problems. April Kelley did a really great job of bringing these types of issues to light.

This story is told in a progression of the two main characters, Luis and Royce. The story follows Luis through his battle with relapsing into depression, including the cutting. This was his way of dealing with an abusive childhood, rejection, confusion and the feeling of losing loved ones. But Luis recognizes he is slipping back into the darkness and tells his brothers, Brad and Caden, that he needs to go back into treatment to get better. He looked to his older brother Brad as his rock, but Brad looked to Luis as being the one who was the strength in the family.

Royce also has to come to a reality that Luis has strong feelings for him, but Royce had made Luis feel rejected and confused by playing the age card and the “no involvement with employees” rule. Even though Royce is strong and tends to be gruff, he is very caring and protective of family and friends. When he sees Luis at his lowest point, he regrets how he treated Luis. Once he enters the hospital, Luis doesn’t want to see Royce at first, but he gives himself time and calls Royce to come and visit him. Royce discovers that Luis is afraid that everyone will leave him. Royce has to face his own fear that he could lose Luis, and how much he really cares for him.

My feeling was that Luis didn’t see how he has always been strong in his own way. It was also heartwarming to see how his brothers and friends provided love and support during Luis’s recovery. Luis deals with his issues and comes out to live, love, and accomplish a fantastic journey by himself, returning to a great life.

I highly suggest reading A Tarnished Strength (Pickleville: Book Four) to understand the full dynamic of the brothers Luis, Brad, and Caden.



You can buy Getting Back to Good here:

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4 Stars, Annabeth Albert, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Resilient Heart by Annabeth Albert

Title: Resilient Heart

Author: Annabeth Albert

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 118 Pages

At a Glance: Resilient Heart asks its readers to bring our empathy to the reading of this story

Blurb: NOTE: This is a previously published work. The title, author, and/or publisher may have changed. Originally released as part of the Unconditional Surrender bundle, now available as a stand-alone novella complete with BRAND-NEW 10,000 word short story/epilogue.

When a wounded soldier is forced to accept help from his former best friend, both men discover the true strength of their entwined hearts.

Army IT specialist Xander keeps his emotions wired as tight as his NETCOM gear, but when he’s seriously injured by an IED, his whole life unravels. Running out of options, Xander must accept help from his ex-friend-with-benefits, Mackey. However, Xander’s had feelings for Mackey for years, and close quarters only complicates his emotions. Further, Xander doesn’t know which is worse: combating his inner demons or dealing with Mackey’s guilty kindnesses.

Mackey’s always kept his emotions close to his chest, but now he’s got a secret that could destroy his one chance with the man he cares far too much for. Both men will have to heal their wounded hearts to ensure a future together.

Entwined Future (Bonus Epilogue): In this new short story, Mackey has news that could change everything for him and Xander, but a visit from Xander’s family jeopardizes Mackey’s plans–and forces Xander to confront some harsh truths.


Review: Annabeth Albert digs deep and comes up with a healthy dose of emotion in Resilient Heart, a story that portrays the physical, psychological, and all too human impact of war.

Xander and Mackey are two soldiers who served their country post-DADT but still toed a cautious line, keeping their stolen trysts a secret and guarding their feelings for each other behind the pretense of a best-friends-with-benefits label, all while they were both beginning to feel so much more than a simple physical need for each other. These details are offered in retrospect through the narrative, as the story begins well after their affair had started. Xander and Mackey have a longer history than is fleshed out in Resilient Heart, but we get enough back-story to know that somewhere between sex and friendship, love took root and grew in a fertile soil of silence and lies of omission.

This story takes place following Xander’s discharge from the Army, after an IED exploded and changed the course of his life. The author explores the fallout not only of Xander’s physical and emotional injuries but the effects and psychological impact of those injuries on Xander and on his relationship with Mackey. PTSD, physical impairment, and depression inform Xander’s life now and have a direct effect upon Mackey as well. Nearly losing Xander, not to mention the unspoken guilt he harbors for the unforeseeable role he played in all of it, has caused Mackey to do what he didn’t have the courage to do before—admit he needs Xander in his life as something more than a convenient means of scratching a sexual itch. Once Mackey steps up to help Xander through his recovery, Albert lays the groundwork for the conflict: every interaction between the two men becomes a trek through an emotional minefield, Mackey never knowing when the next sentence will set Xander off.

Being a novella, we get just a small glimpse of the greater part of Xander’s recovery, focusing on the bitter reality of his having survived only to come out alive but altered. It took time for Xander to appreciate the fact he lived after the explosion that changed him in tangible and intangible ways, going through the motions while fighting his demons. It took a confession from Mackey and bringing all his secrets and lies out into the open to push Xander to the brink, forcing him to make a decision about his future.

Resilient Heart asks its readers to bring our empathy to the reading of this story, to invest ourselves in the cost of serving in the military and imagine the sacrifices both Mackey and Xander made in order to hide their relationship, then to feel our way through the conflict and the impact Mackey’s confession made. Both of these men made mistakes but, in the end, resolved to correct them together, and the bonus epilogue, which wasn’t available in the Unconditional Surrender bundle, gives us a sweet and satisfying resolution to their romance.

You can buy Resilient Heart here:

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5 Stars, Cheryl McIntyre, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Chris, Self-Published

Review: Let It Be by Cheryl McIntyre

Title: Let It Be

Author: Cheryl McIntyre

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 134 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: I’m the happy one. The dependable one.

The shoulder. The anchor. The pillar. The rock. The matchmaker.

I’m the one you call when you’ve had a bad day. When you need to vent, or scream, or cry. I will always be there to comfort you. It’s a gift. A talent. A role I’ve happily played. I’ve helped my friends become who they were meant to be. I’ve watched them move away, find love, start their lives. Continue reading

Alexis Hall, Riptide Publishing

“Glitterland” Is The Story Of A Man Fighting His Way Out Of The Dark And Into The Light

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.” ― Anaïs Nin

This is a story about Ash. He’s bi polar and suffers from panic attacks and depression. He’s a famous author who is about to find out that despite all his faults, he is worthy of someone’s love.

I’ve never been around anyone who suffers from panic attacks or depression. As the story is told through Ash’s POV, it was interesting to read about the challenges he faces day in and day out. At times it was sad and tough to read about what it takes for him to even go outside, the feeling of dread, of hopelessness and most of all his fear of having another breakdown in public. I believe the author gives the reader a very realistic look of someone with this type of disorder.

Ash was a very hard character to like, but I felt myself being drawn to him. He’s dark and angry, putting himself down and being negative about everything in his life. Throughout the story, he’s always going on about how he’ll never be good at having a relationship. He feels he’ll just let everyone down. How he’ll just make a mess of everything, so why bother. Even with all the negativity he was spewing about, I wanted him to find a special someone to help him come out of his darkness. No one could have predicted, least of all Ash, that that someone would be a flashy model named Darien with a fake tan, wearing sparkly clothes and nail polish. Darien is truly a memorable character.

When we first meet Darien, Ash is thinking he’s just a one night stand like all the others he’s brought home. Darien doesn’t seem too bright and is certainly not the type Ash usually goes for. Darien is so sweet and loving. I liked him right away. He has a carefree way of looking at life, always positive. I didn’t always love how Ash treated Darien, but the prickly behavior followed Ash’s established character. When Ash acts out, Darien just barrels through, refusing to be pushed away out of fear. His tenacity and simple honesty ends up paying off as he becomes a calming presence in Ash’s world. The change is Ash is subtle at first, but as the story progressed I suddenly realized I was starting to like Ash. I loved these two together. As it turns out, Darien is exactly who Ash needed and wanted, he just hadn’t known it yet.

The turning point in this story occurs when Ash feels cornered while talking to old school mates at a wedding. He says some really hurtful things about Darien. Of course, Darien overhears the conversation and is devastated. This is the first sign that Darien may not always be around and it shakes Ash to the core. Picking up the pieces, he starts seeing all the ways that Darien had touched his life and is embarrassed with himself that he didn’t try harder to reciprocate. I loved how the author kept the realism of Ash’s bi-polar and anxiety disorders and yet showed growth within his character. Even though it is a major challenge, he goes through a lot of effort to find and share the real him with Darien.

I didn’t like how the author wrote out Darien’s accent word for word. It was a major distraction for me in the beginning. I even put it down a few times and came back to it later. After reading for awhile, I had gotten so engrossed in the story that I just overlooked it. I’m glad I decided to finish this book; otherwise, I would have missed out on a great story.

Reviewed by: Lynn

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