Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways, Santino Hassell

Guest Post and Giveaway: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Santino Hassell today, on his Sutphin Boulevard blog tour. Enjoy his guest post, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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Is it ever “just sex”?

As I write each book in the Five Boroughs series, I realize there are common themes between a few of the novels. Particularly people who go from friends to lovers. People who think they can do the casual thing and be satisfied with “just sex” only to realize it’s not possible for them. They always want more because they end up consumed by feelings of affection and possessiveness that have no place in a casual arrangement.

I probably write about this type of romance so frequently because I’ve experienced it several times in my own life. Several of my lovers have started as friends and several of my fuck buddies inevitably turned into lovers (or ended disastrously because one of us couldn’t maintain the casual aspect). If you’re like me—someone who doesn’t always click with people or who rarely latches on when attempting to date strangers—it’s not hard to imagine why you might catch feelings for those rare individuals who get you.

When you find someone who accepts the real you, someone who doesn’t expect you to be “on” all the time, it’s a special thing. And if you happen to be attracted to that person… well then that’s when things get complicated. And that’s where things got complicated for Michael and Nunzio in SUTPHIN BOULEVARD.

Michael and Nunzio have known each other for twenty years and they’ve been best friends every step of the way. They had each other’s backs while growing up in Jamaica, Queens, were family to each other when their own parents were too broken to function, and have never made a life-changing decision without consulting each other. Suffice to say, they’re the most important people in each other’s lives.

And that’s before the first time they have sex. Which happens in chapter one.

After writing the first draft of SUTPHIN BOULEVARD, I had some conversations about why I chose to put such an intense sex scene in the first chapter. There’s a possibility it would turn readers off and there’s also a possibility that it would imply the book has a hedonistic/light tone when that’s far from the truth. The book tackles some heavy themes and contains serious subject matter, but sex is important to Michael and Nunzio’s evolving relationship and that’s why the book starts with them being intimate for the first time.

It happens after a night of partying (after Michael tries to get over a recent breakup), and it unveils a new aspect to their relationship that neither man can ignore.

So, what do you think, readers? Does casual sex ever work? Can it ever be “just sex”? Let me know in the comments!

© 2015 Santino Hassell.

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

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

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

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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SH Author PicAbout the Author: Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is 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 At: Website | Facebook | Newsletter | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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THE GIVEAWAY

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

Buddy Review: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell

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

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

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

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Title: Sutphin Boulevard (Five Burroughs: Book One)

Author: Santino Hassell

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 264 Pages

At a Glance: Go. Buy. Now.

Reviewed By: Jules and Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That cover, tho…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mary Calmes, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Amy

Audio Review: Quiet Nights by Mary Calmes – Narrated by Greg Tremblay

Title: Quiet Nights (Mangrove Stories)

Author: Mary Calmes

Narrator:: Greg Tremblay

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 2 Hours and 11 Minutes

At a Glance: I have listened to Greg many times, and no matter how many times I hear his narrations, it always sounds like a fresh and new story with a new voice.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: It’s a lovely little life Kelly Seaton leads. He’s got his own landscaping business, a nice little house, and his best friend, Cosimo Renaldi, and Coz’s goofball family who have adopted Kelly as their own. Sure, it’s a little lonely at night, but it’s a sweet deal, and Kelly can’t chance ruining it by letting on that he wants more – has always wanted more – with Coz.

Then Kelly’s past comes to town, bringing bad memories and hurt feelings that start to break Kelly down, and Coz just doesn’t understand why Kelly won’t let him be the support and strength that Kelly’s always been for him. They’ve already been through war, Coz’s devastating injury, and starting new careers in Mangrove, Florida. Why shouldn’t they face their chaotic pasts and build their future of quiet nights… together?

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Review: As soon as I saw a Mary Calmes book on the review list, I snatched it up. I have read every one of her books, and here is why she moves me so much: Mary writes real people. She doesn’t just create a great love between two characters. She creates a universe of loveable characters that I couldn’t live without. Her books never lack in depth, even in a shorter story.

Coz’s family was one of my favorite parts of this story. They made me laugh and cry and wish for this book to never finish. The scene when Coz’s mother introduces her kids to her new boyfriend had me crying I was laughing so hard. Coz and Kelly’s relationship was the driving force of this story, and it was fun to see them realize that they belonged together. I did want the Britton situation to conclude earlier, but that is just a personal preference. I hope I get to visit Mangrove again soon.

Narration: Greg Tremblay. I mean, there is really nothing else to say. This seasoned narrator does what he does best: he gives life to a wonderfully told story with his brilliant performance. I have listened to Greg many times, and no matter how many times I hear his narrations, it always sounds like a fresh and new story with a new voice. He is one of the most talented in the bunch.

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You can buy Quiet Nights here:

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Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways

Excerpt and Giveaway: A Casual Thing by Annabelle Jacobs

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Annabelle Jacobs back today, with an excerpt from her new Dreamspinner title A Casual Thing. Enjoy this little tease from Patrick and Will’s story, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-title from Annabelle’s backlist, winner’s choice.

Good luck!

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I wanted to write a story that was funny, and sexy, but also with a touch of angst to bring about a happy ending, and A Casual Thing is the result. It’s the first contemporary novella I’ve written for Dreamspinner Press, and is a big change from my usual paranormal or fantasy stories, but was also a lot of fun to write.

I love writing about college-age boys because it takes me back to my own college days. I did an electronic engineering course, so naturally the majority of the people on it were boys, and Patrick reminds me of a lot of them!

~Annabelle Jacobs~

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CasualThing[A]Title: A Casual Thing

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: 138 pages

Genre: Contemporary gay erotic romance

Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Release Date: Wednesday July 1st

Blurb: Patrick Mason travels to Bristol to spend the summer with his brother, Ben. He’s cat sitting for the first two weeks while Ben goes on holiday. But Ben neglected to tell him he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Will Adams—Ben’s mate and Patrick’s long-time crush—is staying in Ben’s guest room while he waits to move into his new house after a breakup.

Against his better judgment, Patrick convinces Will that a little no-strings fun is just what they need. Patrick doesn’t want to get involved with a guy on the rebound, and Will isn’t interested in starting something serious with a student. But Patrick’s never been good at separating sex from feelings, and this time is no exception. As their weeks together draw to a close, they need to decide if they have something worth pursuing or if it’s really just a casual thing.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Excerpt: Patrick stopped, the words dying on his tongue as he noticed Ben wince.

“No.” He jumped off the bed, fisting his hands in his hair. “No fucking way. Ben, please tell me you’re not leaving me alone for two weeks with the guy I have a huge unrequited, and frankly, embarrassing, crush on?”

Ben shrugged. “He needed somewhere to stay. I’d sort of forgotten you had the hots for him.”

“How could you forget?” Patrick paced in front of the bed. “The last time I was here, I tried to climb into his lap and told him how hot he was. In front of his boyfriend.”

“Oh yeah.” Ben grinned, and Patrick stopped his pacing to punch him on the arm.

“It’s not funny.”

“It was hilarious.” Ben ducked out of the way when Patrick tried to punch him again. “Look, you were drunk. We all were. He doesn’t hold it against you.”

“But he won’t have forgotten.” The whole thing still made Patrick cringe every time he thought about it. He may have been drunk, but sadly not drunk enough to wipe the horrifying experience from his brain.

“Sit down. I think you might be overreacting just a tad.” Ben even used his finger and thumb to demonstrate how much he thought Patrick was overreacting before grabbing Patrick’s arm and yanking him back down onto the bed.

Patrick sighed. Fine. Maybe he was being overly dramatic, but come on. This was Will. Tall, dark, and handsome, and as easygoing as Ben. He oozed charm and made you want to curl up with him somewhere warm and never ever move. Well, that last part could just be Patrick.

Fuck.

He was going to make such an arse of himself. He flopped onto the bed and covered his face. “I hate you. You are the worst brother ever.”

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Annabelle_Jacobs_logoAbout the Author: Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

Author Links: Twitter | Website | Email | Facebook profile | Facebook Author page

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4.5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: A Casual Thing by Annabelle Jacobs

Title: A Casual Thing

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 138 Pages

At a Glance: A Casual Thing turns complicated in a lovely and romantic way.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Patrick Mason travels to Bristol to spend the summer with his brother, Ben. He’s cat sitting for the first two weeks while Ben goes on holiday. But Ben neglected to tell him he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Will Adams—Ben’s mate and Patrick’s long-time crush—is staying in Ben’s guest room while he waits to move into his new house after a breakup.

Against his better judgment, Patrick convinces Will that a little no-strings fun is just what they need. Patrick doesn’t want to get involved with a guy on the rebound, and Will isn’t interested in starting something serious with a student. But Patrick’s never been good at separating sex from feelings, and this time is no exception. As their weeks together draw to a close, they need to decide if they have something worth pursuing or if it’s really just a casual thing.

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Review: One of the side effects of being an avid reader is that there is a definite point where you feel like you’ve been there, read it all before. Some of us even have the t-shirts. But the tried and true romantic tropes still work in this genre, and in Annabelle Jacobs’ A Casual Thing, they work so well.

A Casual Thing explores sex as both an action and an emotion, when circumstance sets Patrick Mason up in a rather uncomfortable but fortunate opportunity to act on his crush on Will Adams—who not only happens to be six years older than Patrick but is also his brother’s best friend. The tension and discomfort, offset by both men trying to come to a casual friends-with-benefits arrangement for the fourteen short days they’ll be together, plays well against our own awareness that things are never simple or casual, certainly not as simple or casual as Patrick and Will believe it will be.

There are no complicated plot twists or manufactured angst for angst’s sake in this novella, just the very real and believable scenario in which two men find a set of complications they bring on themselves. Patrick and Will are great protagonists, which is all I needed to elevate A Casual Thing from the realms of standard romantic fare to something sweet and hopeful, charming and endearing. The author makes us want these two men to realize that sex is the long-term complication to their short-term living arrangement, and when everything starts going to pieces, I was invested enough to demand she put things back to rights because I knew if Will would just give Patrick a chance, they could be something pretty amazing together.

I love where this story ended—no rushed I love yous (we get how these two feel about each other through body language and don’t need the forced endearments), and on more a promise than a trite and tidy happily ever after. Does that mean there’s more to come for this couple? I’m not sure, but if there is, I’ll be first in line to read the rest of their story.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mary Calmes, Reviewed By Carrie

Release Day Review: Sultry Sunset by Mary Calmes

Title: Sultry Sunset (Mangrove Stories)

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 78 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this book – I love this series.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Hutch Crowley is well-liked in the small resort town of Mangrove—he’s got friends in his new neighbors, he’s the owner of the town grocery, and he’s building a community center—but he’s still unlucky at love. Every man he’s attracted to is either taken or simply not interested, including his best friend, Mike Rojas.

When Mike came to Mangrove two years ago, Hutch gave him a job and a place to stay in his guesthouse, where Mike has remained ever since. Despite the rumors circulating about them, Hutch knows Mike is straight and looking for the right woman. But his friends disagree, and after some hints to the contrary, even Hutch finally has to admit that maybe the rest of the town sees something he’s been missing. If Hutch wants to spend each sultry sunset with the man of his dreams, it might be time to figure out what’s going on with his best friend’s heart.

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Review: First let me say I am a huge fan of Mary Calmes – she is one of my go-to authors whenever I need to read a real good story – like this one! This is a best friends-to-lovers tale, but when the switch is flipped, it feels like a natural progression of their friendship, not a whiplash moment. Mary Calmes has created a community with this series, so her characters are friends and neighbors, and recur throughout the Mangrove books.“It was always beautiful in Mangrove. Even on gray, overcast days when it rained cats and dogs, even when the wind whipped through the trees and you could hear chimes ringing up and down the street, and even when nothing moved or stirred and it was simply a hot, sticky, humid mess, no one could look around and say the view wasn’t stunning.”

We meet Hutch Crowley for the first time in book one of this series, Blue Days, where he is so enamored of his small town he refuses to sell his house to developers. Hutch shows up again in book two, Quiet Nights, where he goes on a date with the MC, Coz. We learn from Book Two that he should value himself more, that he is rather self-deprecating and doesn’t realize the positive effect he has on others. Because of this, we have already met Hutch, we know he’s the blonde haired, blue eyed handsome town grocer. He’s confident to the world but has issues with self-worth; he is giving and generous and has an incredibly quick wit.

Mike Rojas is broken when he lands in Mangrove. Mike lost his wife, a woman he loved dearly, to cancer, and he leaves his life and job behind, gets in his car and eventually ends up in Mangrove.“Mike was stunning, drop-dead gorgeous, but that wasn’t what I noticed first – instead it was the pain etched on every part of his face.” It is Hutch’s generosity and care, giving Mike a job and place to live in his guesthouse, that allows Mike to heal and move forward with his life. This book catches Hutch and Mike two years after their first meeting, and they have become best friends, living in each other’s pockets. Mary Calmes hits us with the little things – the smallest of touches – to let us know how they already feel about each other. “’Okay.’ Mike grinned, his thumb sliding back and forth over the underside of my wrist.” References like this happen throughout the book as Hutch and Mike slowly reach that “aha” moment when they give in and reach for each other as more than friends. “He knew me so well, all those nights together, the endless conversations, the constant banter, and the complete, unconditional support. We’d been in the middle of our relationship before either of us even knew we’d begun.”

I loved this book – I love this series – and realize, this is a standalone story. A community is made up of a lot different personalities, and as such, each of these books stands alone. But, I can guarantee you, if you read this third installment in the series, you will probably go back and buy books one and two. Just sayin’.

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4.5 Stars, A.E. Via, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Self-Published

Review: Here Comes Trouble by A.E. Via

Title: Here Comes Trouble

Author: A.E. Via

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 296 Pages

At a Glance: Starts a bit slow, but picked up and then left me wanting more

Blurb: Detectives Mark Ruxsberg and Chris Green are very good at their jobs. Being the enforcers for God and Day’s notorious Atlanta PD Narcotics Task Force causes the crazy duo to get into more trouble than they can often get out of. The pair never misses out on an opportunity to drive their Lieutenants crazy with their dangerous, reckless, and costly stunts, landing them in the hot seat in front God… often.

Ruxs and Green love their jobs and they don’t mind the very demanding schedule that leaves them little time for socializing or dating. It was fine with them, they enjoyed hanging out with each other anyway.

However, most of the men in their close circle of friends and colleagues are pairing off and settling down. God has Day, Ro has Johnson, and their Sergeant Syn has Furious.

For the past several years, Ruxs has only sought out the advice and company of one person, his partner and best friend Green, and vice versa. Both of these alpha males are presumed straight, but neither can deny the heat that’s building in their once ‘just friends’ relationship.

Dividers

Review: First off, I just want to say how much I love the cover of Here Comes Trouble. Secondly, A.E. Via is a new-to-me author. When I picked up this book for review and then discovered there were two other books in the series before this one, well, personally I’m not one who likes to read a book out of order, so I found and downloaded the other two and read them first. While Here Comes Trouble could technically be read as a standalone, I found that I enjoyed it more after reading Nothing Special and Embracing His Syn, so I was more familiar with the characters involved.

The romance between Ruxs and Green started off slowly, as friends and partners at work, but all it took was a nudge to take it one step further. That nudge being that ever since Ruxs spent the night at God’s and Day’s place, overhearing the two lovers making out upstairs, Ruxs had started to have guilty fantasies about his partner, Green. But, unbeknownst to Ruxs, Green had been with men before. He just never really acted on it once he was promted to God’s team.

As the two are dancing around each other, there are a couple of interesting developments in the storyline, apart from the relationship between Ruxs and Green, such as Ruxs’ relationship with his alcoholic, drug addicted mother. The woman really was a bitch, and there were a couple of times I just wished Ruxs would’ve just told her so and quit being so nice. Not to mention the need for Ruxs to attend a few Al-Anon meetings, because his mother really was a lost cause.

Then there was Curtis, who I was first introduce too in Nothing Special. I really enjoyed reading about what happened to this young man after God let him go after the store robbery. It seems like there may be a sequel with his story…maybe?

All in all, I really enjoyed Here Comes Trouble. Even though it started off a bit slowly, it wasn’t long after, when Ruxs and Green realized their attraction to each other, that it picked up. There were a couple of parts that had me barking out a laugh or two, too, especially during Ruxs’ first time.

I’m so looking forward to reading more from this series!






You can buy Here Comes Trouble here:

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5 Stars, Amber Allure, Drama, Genre Romance, K-lee Klein, Reviewed by Sammy

Love Can’t Be Denied In K-lee Klein’s “Never the Perfect Moment”

“I realized I’m in love. It’s always been right in front of me.” – Richelle Mead


Title: Never the Perfect Moment

Author: K-lee Klein

Publisher: Amber Quill Press

Pages/Word Count: 84 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Bryan Monroe has always catalogued his life in terms of moments—right moments, wrong moments, perfect moments. But when his best friend and partner on the police force, Chrys Delos, is shot in a raid gone bad, it’s one of the worst moments of Bryan’s life. Continue reading

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Cover Reveal, Dreamspinner Press, Mary Calmes

Cover Reveal : “All Kinds of Tied Down” by Mary Calmes


All Kinds of Tied Down400x600


Blurb: Deputy US Marshal Miro Jones has a reputation for being calm and collected under fire. These traits serve him well with his hotshot partner, Ian Doyle, the kind of guy who can start a fight in an empty room. In the past three years of their life-and-death job, they’ve gone from strangers to professional coworkers to devoted teammates and best friends. Miro’s cultivated blind faith in the man who has his back… faith and something more.
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Arianna Paige, Self-Published

A Friendship Turns To Love In Arianna Paige’s “Second Chances”


“Once old things were broken off, amazingly beautiful things could grow in their place.” ― Denise Hildreth Jones


Title: Second Chances

Author: Arianna Page

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 48

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: Richard Forrest is your average working stiff just going through the motions. Childhood baggage keeps him “in line” but away from some of the things he truly wants. Adrian, or Rain as Richard calls him, was one of those things. After nearly two years of separation, Richard bumps into Rain and their incidental meeting results in old emotions flaring to life for both of them despite everything in the way.
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Chris Scully, Dreamspinner Press

Cuddle Up With Chris Scully’s “When Adam Kissed Me”


“Loving someone and having them love you back is the most precious thing in the world.” ― Nicholas Sparks



Title: When Adam Kissed Me

Author: Chris Scully

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 120

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Nine and a half weeks ago, Joe Massone got the surprise of his life when his straight best friend and secret crush, Adam, kissed him. At the time, Adam was recovering from an accident that left him with temporary amnesia and broken ribs, so Joe isn’t sure if he should take it seriously. Is Adam really gay? Or was the blow to his head to blame? Having secretly loved Adam since they were teenagers, Joe doesn’t want to get his hopes up and have his heart broken.
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A.M. Arthur, Dreamspinner Press

“What You Own” Offers Hope In Second Chances


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ― e.e. cummings



Title: What You Own

Author: A.M. Arthur

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: For Ryan Sanders, the Paige Community Center is more than a place where he teaches at-risk teens about musical theater. He found a sense of belonging there during one of the hardest times of his life. With the center facing a financial crisis, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep the doors open—even soliciting fundraiser donations from Langley-Quartermaine Financial.
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Riley Hart, Self-Published

Riley Hart’s “Collide” Is A Book You’ll Be Glad You Ran Into


“Even the best fall down sometimes, even the wrong words seem to rhyme, out of the doubt that fills my mind, I somehow find you and I collide.” – Howie Day



Title: Collide (Blackcreek #1)

Author: Riley Hart

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 332

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: At ten years old, Noah Jameson and Cooper Bradshaw collided mid-air when they dove for the same football. For three years, they were inseparable…until one day when Noah and his parents disappeared in the middle of the night.
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CR Guiliano, MLR Press

Capture “His Wayward Heart” As Soon As You Can



“Everyone has something they can’t live without.” ― Cassandra Clare


What happens when you fall head over heels in love with your best friend in junior high? What happens when said friend is also your first kiss, your first lover and your on again/off again bed partner? You would assume that these two men would end up living their HEA together in wedded bliss right? WRONG!
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All Romance Ebooks, Max Vos, Self-Published

Max Vos’s “My Hero” Is A Friends To Lovers Romance



“[Heroes] rarely turn into heroes because they are super-humans, but because of circumstances. Heroes rarely think. Heroes just act.” – Aleksandr Voinov



BLURB: When he was sixteen years old, Rich Miller saved a young man from drowning at his local pool. Little did he know that years later, as a senior in college and Olympic diving hopeful, Rich would meet up once again with Johnny Milloway, now a big football player – and when Rich says big, he really means ‘bear’. The shy jock remembers his savior, and the two men become friends.

Johnny isn’t put off by the fact that Rich is gay. In fact, the more time he spends with Rich, the more curious he becomes. Johnny wants to know all kinds of things – what it’s like to kiss a guy, for instance. Only it doesn’t stop there…

Rich finds it difficult to believe that this relationship can go anywhere. Johnny is straight, and Rich isn’t prepared to deal with the heartache he knows will come his way in the future. He has enough on his plate as it is – the Worlds are just around the corner, his father would rather watch a football game than spend time watching his son dive… What he doesn’t count on is Johnny, who can be very determined. And having Johnny in his life proves to be a catalyst for some pretty earth-shattering changes.
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Carina Press, Samantha Ann King

Samantha Ann King’s “Waiting for Ty” Is A Bromance Turned Romance

“Only the united beat of sex and heart together can create ecstasy.” ― Anaïs Nin



This novella packs a quite a punch from the beginning. Ty and Landon are best friends from college. They have over the course of their friendship developed a very close relationship and have, in fact, fallen in love. Ty stands outside Landon’s apartment at the start of a weekend in which the “buddies” are supposed to have a friendly weekend together. Ty wonders how he’s going to get through the weekend intact, given the strong amorous feelings he has for his best friend Landon. Little does he know that Landon has the same feelings and is on the other side of the apartment door wondering the exact same thing. Their passion erupts quickly over the course of an evening fueled by beer, pizza, and basketball. I have to admit that the first few chapters of this book are a wild, breathless, “oh my goodness, that’s freaking hot” ride. After the weekend, and Ty and Landon’s passion, and, for that matter, the readers’ passion having been satiated, Ty and Landon part ways not knowing how they are going to make such a relationship work. The rest of the story is spent with both characters coming to grips with the love that they share and how to make their love work.

With that said, I have to put my man cap on and say that like many a good “passionate experience”, you just wanna curl up and go to sleep afterward. Unfortunately, after a great big gigantic burst of passion, the story just never gears back up to the fiery explosion in the beginning. I certainly wanted to find out how the book ended and continued reading, but the action never reached the heat that the beginning promised for me.

Both characters repeatedly tell their friends and family that they are “bisexual” and not gay. Perhaps as a gay man I found this a bit off-putting. I certainly understand bisexuality, but to have it presented to me repeatedly became an irritation. I was telling the characters after a while, “Come on guys! You are taking it up the bum from one another! You may like girls but you are G-A-Y. Accept it and please move on!” I also have to say that the ending was one of the most anticlimactic that I have ever read. I kept trying to turn the page on my iPad thinking, where is the rest of the story?

As a reader, if you like a breathless beginning and then a long interlude of foreplay with a sweet kiss good night, then you will like this quirky novella.

Reviewed by: Bruce

You can buy Waiting for Ty here:

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All Romance Ebooks, Anyta Sunday

Anyta Sunday’s “Taboo For You” Gets Jackie’s Stamp Of Approval

Love is like a friendship caught on fire. – Bruce Lee

One thing I love about reading is discovering a “new to me” author. After reading M/M books for a few years I thought I had read or at least heard of most of the best authors in the genre. Then one day, Lisa sends out an email telling us that she has a book by Anyta Sunday that needs reviewed. I haven’t read anything by Ms. Sunday before, but Lisa tells me she is great, so I figured I would give it a whirl.

The three main characters in this story are Sam, the loveable almost 30 yr old. Luke, who is Sam’s very attractive next door neighbor. Then there is Jeremy, Sam’s 14 yr. old son who is walking a path that could lead him exactly to the same place Sam is in, if things don’t change.

I almost instantly fell in love with Sam. Once I started reading about Sam’s life I could relate to what he was feeling. Being 14 and having sex for the very first time and it changes your life forever. On his fifteenth birthday Jeremy, his son, was born. So, there went college, parties and just basically being a kid. Our twenties are the time in our life where we go a little wild, experiment sexually and basically find out who we are deep down. Sam had made a list of all the things he wanted to experience before his 30th birthday. So now, with three weeks to go he is determined to complete the list.

Luke has been Sam’s next door neighbor for the last seven years. Luke and Sam are the best of friends. However, we soon find out Luke wants more. Luke had to leave town for an extended period to assist his mother through a cancer scare. While he was away he realized that he’s in love with Sam. The biggest problem with this realization is that he has never informed Sam that he is gay. Before leaving to help his mother, Luke found Sam’s list, and Luke is determined to help Sam complete his list.

Jeremy, oh sweet little Jeremy. I like Jeremy a lot. He is a normal teenager and his main goal in life is to figure out how to spend as much time as possible with his girlfriend over the summer. First he is going to have to get his mother to stop with the condom on the banana training. Since his parents made him when they were his age Jeremy doesn’t get any opportunity to be alone with Suzy. So he comes up with the great plan to pretend to be gay to throw his parents off the trail.

Most of the items on Sam’s list are the usual things twenty-somethings do. He dyes his hair, pierces his ear and walks out on a check in a restaurant. Luke helps him tick one more item off his list, swimming with the great white sharks. The final item on the list is on one hand the best and on the other hand the worst. Luke wants to tell Sam he is not only gay, but in love with him. Before he gets the chance Sam proposes an agreement to “experiment” with Luke sexually. Luke agrees and the situation is equal parts heaven and hell for Luke. Finally, when he can’t take it anymore Luke confesses all to Sam and his greatest fear is realized. Sam doesn’t know what to do with the information and through a series of misunderstandings, the two men end up estranged. Luckily for Luke and Sam, Jeremy’s mother raised a wonderful young man who figures out, eventually, that the world does not revolve around him. Jeremy comes up with a plan that will either bring Sam and Luke together or will end their friendship for good.

I know it may sound cliché, but this book made me laugh and it made me cry. Just witnessing the devotion Luke has to Sam and Jeremy is something we all hope for in a mate. I am excited that this is the first in a new series and I have the feeling I will be reading many more books by this author. I cannot wait to see what Anyta has in store for us and I hope that we may get to pop in and see Sam and Luke in the future. I highly recommend this book, and I will definitely be exploring Ms. Sunday’s books further.

Reviewed by: Jackie

You can buy Taboo For You here:

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Luke Hartwell, Watersgreen House Books

Luke Hartwell’s Atom Heart John Beloved and Nathan’s Story – If You Can Bear The Journey, They’re Worth The Trip

I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. – Song of Solomon 6:3






First of all, I want to give credit where credit is due for introducing me to Luke Hartwell and this beloved set of books. If not for the tireless efforts of Elisa Rolle to promote the best in LGBT fiction, year after year, I may never have experienced the beauty that is John Parker and Nathan Cernoch. So, thank you, Elisa, for all that you do.

Atom Heart John Beloved and Nathan’s Story are companion pieces—John Beloved can be read as a standalone but shouldn’t be; Nathan’s Story must not be read as a standalone or you will miss out on everything that makes these boys and their evolution so entirely crucial to where they begin.

The books are each told from the first person point-of-view, so in writing both books, Mr. Hartwell has eliminated the oft dwelled upon first person criticism—that thoughts and emotions in the storytelling process are limited to that of the narrator and leave too many unanswered questions about secondary characters, their feeling, and their motivations. I have to confess that as I was reading John Beloved, all I could think about was getting into Nathan’s head for a bit to gauge his thoughts, and knowing that was going to be possible made John’s story all the more compelling.

John and Nathan’s beginning—the story that is the start of them—happens in Sunday school at a fundamentalist evangelical church in the small, conservative city of Weston. Just thirteen years old at the time they meet, their story follows them through their high school graduation; through horrors unimaginable but all too real; through sex and secrets; through the mundane days in the lives of teenage boys, to the revelations that no one, let alone teenage boys, should have to face; through denial and ultimately, acknowledgement.

Nathan is the gay friend, John, the straight—he’s so straight and pursues sex with such aggression, in fact, that the girls he screws are little more than willing holes in his chase for orgasm. Mary seems to be the only girl who means anything to John, but even she is not enough to keep John faithful to her, nor enough for John to consider denying the gift of himself to his best friend.

John and Nathan begin a sexual journey in their senior year of high school—Nathan because he’s in love with John and will take whatever small piece of himself John is willing to give; John because he loves Nathan enough to want to be the one to make him happy; though for John, there can be no emotional strings attached to the act of fucking—he submits, allows Nathan to use his body, but cannot be anything more than the willing hole in the same way he’s made of the girls he has sex with. That is his penance, steeped in the knowledge that he is not nearly good enough for Nathan to love.

There is darkness in these books, the sort of evil that couches itself in holy righteousness. There is darkness in these books, the sort that couches itself in non-consensual sex, pedophilia, dubiously consensual sex, self-loathing—the sort of loathing that makes a boy deny himself the right to love fully and to be loved completely, in return.

John Parker is a work-in-progress, and Nathan Cernoch loves him enough to settle, to be patient, to be grateful of that giving, even if the giving can’t include the promise of forever. These books are the evolution of love and acceptance and, ultimately, of a future that neither boy could have foreseen when they’d first met, a future that feels like confirmation and redemption. There are still secrets between John and Nathan, secrets that, if discovered, may hold the potential for some serious consequences, but for now, John and Nathan have found the love together they so desperately need.

There is a reason Luke Hartwell is a Rainbow Award winning author: Atom Heart John Beloved and Nathan’s Story speak for themselves and are all the proof you need as to why. They are passionate and provocative books, written with the intent to explore beliefs, to challenge the status quo, to question what it means to love, to at times shock and to incite reaction from the reader.

These are not books for the squeamish; they are books to be experienced as well as read. The parts and pieces of the story are sometimes disturbing, and sometimes the experience will leave you questioning the definition of love, but in the end, they will leave you with the belief that it can be found in the one who makes you feel at home.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these books wholeheartedly, if not for the content that some readers may find disturbing. I will say that every word on every page, as painful as they sometimes are, are one-hundred percent necessary to the story, never gratuitous, so my recommendation comes with that caveat. For me, it simply made the experience all the more rewarding.

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Atom Heart John Beloved and Nathan’s Story here:http://www.amazon.com/Luke-Hartwell/e/B008G82KOW/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

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N.R. Walker, Self-Published

N.R. Walker Proves That Falling In Love Isn’t Always Easy In Blindside (Blind Faith, Book 3)

Don’t you ever let another put their hands on something that’s already yours, because you might end up breaking your own heart. – Jonathan Anthony Burkett

Blindside is the third book in the Blind Faith series by N.R. Walker. This is the long awaited story of Mark Gattison, best friend to Carter Reese from books one and two.

Mark has been a favorite character for most of the people that read this series. I know for me I couldn’t wait to see him get his HEA. However, knowing Mark as well as we do, we knew it wouldn’t be an easy path. The Mark we fell in love with is the Mark we saw in this book, and that is why he had such a long row to hoe.

Once we meet Mark’s mother, we finally get a glimpse into what molded Mark into the man that he is. With five failed marriages and a habit of trying to be Mark’s friend instead of his mother she has never given Mark any example of what love should be. Now, I am not saying she is a bad mother, just not the most nurturing. So, is it any surprise Mark can’t see what is right in his face?

From Mark’s point of view, he and Will are best friends. They are totally in sync and have the best friend banter down pat. They get along so well most of the time people think they are a couple. While reading this I felt bad for Mark. It was clear from the beginning that no matter how much he tried to find Will a boyfriend, he was the only man Will wanted.

It is obvious from the beginning that Will loves Mark. Mark still believes that he doesn’t want or need a relationship and he is happy just playing the field. Will finally seems to give up on Mark and moves on once he meets a new guy. When things get serious between them Mark starts to get this weird feeling, like he is losing his best friend. When Mark finds out the new guy has been abusive with his past boyfriends he tries to tell Will, but Will isn’t buying it. Eventually Mark proves to Will the guy is no good and the two friends start to mend the rift between them.

A bad reaction to an intimate moment causes Mark’s world to crumble around him. When Mark finally confesses to Will that he loves him and his love is rejected, Mark experiences physical pain from the emotional trauma. Luckily for him Carter and Issac come in to save the day.

As funny as this book was in parts, the last few chapters will definitely pull at your heartstrings. There is some soul-searching for Mark and some honest realizations for Will. Once they truly talk to one another about their feelings, they start to mend what they both have broken.

I loved the ending of the book, the love the two men build is something we should all strive to find within our lives. Mark is finally at peace with his life, with Will and with himself. I don’t think we could have asked for anything more for our favorite best friend. This book was a great addition to the series and if it is the last book, then I feel the series ended wonderfully. N.R. Walker did a great job with Mark and Will and I would highly recommend this story to anyone who loves a great love story.

Reviewed by: Jackie

You can buy Blindside here:

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Amazon Digital Services, Anyta Sunday, Self-Published

My Thoughts On Lenny And Lenny For Your Thoughts by Anyta Sunday

Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves. – Tabitha Suzuma

Leonard Krause is in the process of moving away from the past. Forward, after all, is the only direction he can move when the single reason he’d even think to cling to what once was has abandoned him. There’s no point really in trying to hang on to the years that were, or try to hang on to all the memories, when all they can possibly do, especially the good ones, is end in pain.

Lenny’s in the process of moving from the village of Waldau to the city of Berlin, but there are a few things he must factor into the equation before he can complete the transition from past to future, the most important being that he must make the move as uneventful for his oma as he possibly can, which means he must manufacture as much of the present for her as he’s able to within the walls of their new home. The move will also bring him closer to his best friend Ben and his sister Carolyn, not to mention it will keep him away from his cousin Julien, the cause of poor Lenny’s broken heart.

Lenny For Your Thoughts is the story of four childhood friends, told in chapters alternating between the present and the past and allowing the reader to live through all the events and secrets and dreams that led Lenny and Julien directly up to the point that Julien betrayed Lenny and broke his heart.

If I thought I was going to have a difficult time accepting a romantic relationship between these two men related by blood—which, if I’m being honest, I thought I might—Anyta Sunday quickly put my fears to rest by creating characters whose journeys forged bonds that went far beyond family and friendship and delved into a sole-baring kinship. (And yes, it’s spelled correctly. :) You’ll get that charming little detail of the story when you read the book. )

This is the story of the taboo relationship between two cousins who spent years falling in love with each other and moments falling apart, thanks in large part to Julien’s mother but made just as difficult by the fear of rejection from everyone they love. But, in the end, when all thoughts and feelings were accounted for, when things were done and said that couldn’t be undone or unsaid, it was Julien’s denial of Lenny that caused the greatest harm.

I adored this book and the attention the author gave to each moment that led to the culmination of Lenny and Julien’s love story. Oma was such a surprising treat, and Ben and Carolyn both got their own happy endings too, which was a nice compliment to the conflict in Lenny and Julien’s relationship. Before I knew it, I’d become nearly as invested in the supporting role players as I was in the story’s MCs.

Lenny For Your Thoughts is, at its heart, a story of rejection and redemption, a story of revelation and second chances, and ultimately, it is a story of the unstoppable force that is love, which is a concept I’ll gladly buy into, especially when it’s told by and for characters I’ve grown to love.

You can buy Lenny For Your Thoughts here:

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