Dreamspun Desires, M.J. O'Shea, Poppy Dennison, Shira Anthony

Interviews, Excerpts, and Giveaway: Poppy Dennison, MJ O’Shea, Shira Anthony, and Dreamspun Desires

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I’m so pleased to welcome Poppy Dennison, MJ O’Shea, and Shira Anthony today to chat about Dreamspun Desires, the newest line of genre romance from Dreamspinner Press. These three ladies were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about the line and, for MJ and Shira, their books.

After the interviews, there’s also a giveaway with a couple of chances to win some great prizes:

Grand Prize: A 6 month e-book subscription to Dreamspun Desires
Runner Up: MJ O’Shea’s entire ebook backlist

Just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

And now, here are Poppy, MJ, and Shira.

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PoppyDennisonLisa: We’re so pleased to welcome Poppy Dennison to The Novel Approach today, not as an author but to chat with us about Dreamspinner Press’s new line, Dreamspun Desires.

Poppy, why don’t we start off by having you share with us what exactly it is you’re in charge of at Dreamspinner Press?

Poppy: Thanks so much, Lisa! I’m so excited to be here. I’m Dreamspinner Press’s Marketing Director. Basically, it’s my job to do lots of math. No really. There are spreadsheets of my spreadsheets! But it’s basically my job to create new ideas for Dreamspinner’s authors and turn them into reality.

Lisa: Let’s chat a little bit about this new line of genre romances coming in 2016 from Dreamspinner. First of all, how did the idea come about?

Poppy: It all started at lunch, as these things often do. In May of 2015, I attended the Romantic Times Convention and had an opportunity to have lunch with several Dreamspinner authors. We started reminiscing on the first romances we’d ever read and discovered a trend: we’d all started by reading category romances! I realized how much I missed that type of story so I basically sweet-talked the authors at the table into writing a category style romance for me. By the end of the day, word had spread and I had eighteen authors signed up to write one for me. Talk about a good day. *g*

Lisa: Would you like to tell readers what they can expect from the new line, what makes these romances different from the usual Dreamspinner publications?

Poppy: Readers can expect stories that take them back to the Harlequins they devoured in days gone by. These stories are sweet and angst free and happy endings are guaranteed! We want these books to leave a smile on your face! The difference between these titles and the regular romances Dreamspinner publishes is in their focus on the romance. These stories are a little shorter than our typical novel, and as a result, they don’t have room for any of the normal soul searching and man pain we normally see in romances. They’re sweet and focus entirely on the developing relationship.

Lisa: What advantages are there to purchasing a monthly subscription to the Dreamspun Desires line versus purchasing each book individually?

Poppy:  First, I have to say that the fact that we were able to offer these titles as part of a subscription makes me so darn happy! I remember getting those boxes of books when I was younger. Well, okay, my mom technically got them, but when she was done, I’d get to read them too! There was something about that box arriving that got me so excited! I hope our readers feel the same way about receiving their Dreamspun Desires subscription.

There are two subscription services available. I’ll start with the paperback service, as it’s the one most like the way category romances used to arrive. Each month, we’re releasing two Dreamspun Desires novels. Readers who purchase the paperback subscription will receive both paperbacks in one delivery! Basically, they’ll receive one of the titles two weeks before it’s available in ebook format! That’s not all though. Because Dreamspinner always provides our customers with a free ebook whenever they purchase a paperback, Dreamspun Desires paperback subscribers will also receive ebook copies of the titles on their release date. Talk about a great deal!

The second subscription service is ebook only. Subscribers will pay one discounted price and receive both ebooks on their release dates! Super simple!

Lisa: Will you give us a quick rundown of your contributing authors so far—at least those you’re allowed to announce publicly, and when we can expect their publications to hit the shelves?

Poppy:  Absolutely! Here is the lineup of authors through April of 2016:

January 1: The Millionaire Upstairs by M.J. O’Shea

January 15: First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

February 1: The Stolen Suitor by Eli Easton

February 15: The Lone Rancher by Andrew Grey

March 1: Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

March 15: Trial by Fire by B.A. Tortuga

April 1:  Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet

April 15: Unstable Stud by Ariel Tachna

We also have upcoming releases from Nikki Bennett, Jacob Z. Flores, Ava Drake, Kate McMurray, and many, many more!

Lisa: What sort of feedback have you received from both authors and readers about the launch of the new line?

Poppy:  Honestly, this experience has been a dream come true for me. When I first approached Dreamspinner’s Executive Director Elizabeth North with the idea, I was worried she’d think I’d lost my noodle. But along with Elizabeth, everyone has been so enthusiastic about the idea! From our authors, who jumped on board to write books to our readers who have reminisced with us about how they started by reading category… everyone has been so excited! I’m giddy and can’t wait for everyone to be able to hold these books in their hands!

Lisa: What’s been the most exciting part of this process for you so far?

Poppy: Oh gosh. I’ve been so excited at every step of the process… but I think the most exciting so far has been the day the subscription service launched on our website and we were able to share all the details with our readers. Everyone was so enthusiastic and I just couldn’t stop smiling! I’m still grinning, actually.

Lisa: Let’s chat a bit about the cover art for the line. I know you and I both remember sneaking a peek at our mothers’ Harlequin Romances back in the day. How important has the cover art been in the process of maintaining a distinct look and feel for the Dreamspun Desires line? Who’s been in charge of creating most of the covers thus far?

Poppy: The cover art design was such a fun and challenging process! I knew I wanted the covers for the Dreamspun Desires books to have the same look and feel as other category romance lines, but they needed to have the Dreamspinner twist! We enlisted Paul Richmond to design the covers and he’s done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of category romance.

Lisa: One of the other things we’ve chatted about is how the Gay Romance genre’s time has really come—time for it to become a part of the mainstream lexicon of romantic fiction. How do you foresee, or at least hope, the Dreamspun Desires line might further pave the way toward that goal?

Poppy: I think, in a way, category romances are a really safe place to start for romance readers who haven’t tried gay romance before. The vast majority of romance readers have read category romances from other publishers so they know what to expect. These titles capture those classic elements but add a modern take with a gay romance twist. No matter the genre, category romances are familiar and comforting. I want for readers who have never given gay romance a try to feel inspired to give these titles a try. After all, Love Always Finds A Way! :)

Lisa: On a final note, if you were to come up with a few selling points to convince us readers that the Dreamspun Desires line are the new Must Read books of 2016, what would those be?

Poppy: I think the biggest selling point to Dreamspun Desires is that these are true romances by authors who know how to tell a great story! If you’re a fan of category romance, these titles will be perfect for you. And if you’re new to the gay romance genre, you won’t be disappointed!

Lisa: Thanks so much for taking the time to be here with us today, Poppy!

Readers, for more information on the Dreamspun Desires line, including how to order your subscription, check out the Dreamspinner Press Page today (**Deadline for January subscription is December 15, 2015**)!

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MJ O'SheaLisa: Hi, MJ, and welcome. We’re so pleased to have you here for a visit today to chat about your new book in the Dreamspun Desires line, The Millionaire Upstairs.

MJ: HI!!

Let’s start with what feels like a good first question: why did you want to be involved in this new line of genre romance? Was there a nostalgia factor there for you at all?

MJ: Honestly, they just looked like they’d be so much fun to write. I loved the idea of writing characters in a world I’d never come close to living in (my book takes place in the Hamptons among the mega-wealthy and at a New York fashion label) and focusing on the pure romance element of it – the setting, the characters, and everything else. I think everyone needs a bit of escape.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about how writing this book differed from writing your other books. Did you approach it with a different mindset than you would, say, a book that required more conflict and angst in the storyline before your couple gets their happy ending?

MJ: Yes and no! haha. There were a few things I did differently. Since these books are, by nature, shorter than the typical novel, I got to focus almost completely on the relationship between the two main characters, rather than spending a lot of time on an extended cast. That’s not to say there isn’t a cast to back them up, I couldn’t resist, but they won’t have as big of a role as they usually would in one of my books.

I also got to play a bit with the r. I’ve written rock stars and vampires before, but most of my characters have been regular guys. Somehow plunking my MC in this castle in the Hamptons with a multi-millionaire, and then on Lake Como, and at celeb filled events, it was just that one extra bit of fantasy.

Lisa: What has been the most enjoyable part of participating in the Dreamspun Desire launch for you? Do you plan on contributing more books to the line?

MJ: The whole thing so far, honestly! It’s been really cool to be a part of something both old but new to our genre, talking about it with bloggers, readers, and other authors. I love seeing how excited (and yes, nostalgic) people get when they find out about the subscription service. It’s a huge honor to be the first one out of the gate, and while I’m a little nervous (okay, a lot lol) I still can’t wait to see what people think of the first few books!

And yes, I definitely will (and have!) – I’ve already written another called Duke in Hiding which I believe will be out in the late spring/early summer with Dreamspun Desires.

Lisa: What sort of feedback are you getting from your readers in particular about the collection? Have you noticed a lot of buzz and excitement in the community about it?

MJ: People have in general seemed really excited about it!  I’ve seen a lot of people reminiscing about reading their mom and grandmother’s category romances when they were kids (I remember my grandmother keeping hers in a cloth cover that had her initials stitched on it :) ) so it’s kind of like marrying the old with the new and from what I’ve seen the readers like that.

Lisa: Let’s talk a bit more specifically about The Millionaire Upstairs. Tell us a little something about your characters and what you feel their chemistry is.

MJ: I really wanted to play with a few elements, the forbidden aspect of getting involved with the boss, the fantasy of a “normal” guy getting swept up in the world of the rich and famous, and of course one of my favorite things which is a sassy, mouthy character and the “straight” man so to speak.

Sasha is sarcastic and quippy, both in awe of the people he works with and around every day, and still not ready to take any attitude from them. Harrison is cold at first and a bit standoffish, but somehow can’t manage not to let Sasha behind his huge walls.

Lisa: Would you care to share a short excerpt with us?

MJ: Sure! I’ll put part of the first scene in here, which takes place two years before the rest of the book. Sasha is about to interview for the job he’s always wanted – working for Joanne Kingsley co-owner and Harrison Kingsley’s older sister :

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Excerpt: You’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, Sasha Sobieski.

He most assuredly wasn’t. Sasha had been in New York for a couple of years, and some days he still wasn’t used to it, but nothing hammered in the fact that he was far, far away from home like standing in the place he’d been dreaming of since he was twenty-two. The place he’d decided was his destiny.

Harrison Kingsley—only ten years old and already a force to be reckoned with in global fashion. The label was fashion forward, timeless, and unique. Gorgeous. Notoriously exclusive. Even more notorious for being hard to land a position at. There had been whispers back at school about how impossible it was to impress the hiring personnel at Harrison Kingsley, how you might as well just pack it in if that was your goal. He’d decided years ago not to listen.

Sasha hadn’t wanted anything so badly in his entire life.

Harrison Kingsley Headquarters was jaw-drop gorgeous. The 34th Street offices were everything an exclusive fashion label’s offices should be—chic, classic not trendy, and intimidating but somehow welcoming at the same time. It was light and airy but somehow colorful. Like he’d entered the mind of a fashion genius, which in a way he had.

Sasha knew he’d found his home.

He sank down onto a pale apple-green upholstered chair in the waiting area in front of a large copper reception desk. He wasn’t nervous about the interview, although by all rights he should’ve been. If Sasha thought about it for more than a few moments, about who he was there to see, then he’d probably start palpitating.

Joanne Kingsley was a big deal in the fashion industry. Big. The biggest of big. Working for her was exactly the opportunity he needed. If he got the job—no, when he got it. No negative thoughts. Working for Joanne Kingsley somehow seemed inevitable. Sasha Sobieski of Hawk’s Prairie, Kansas, and brand-new Parsons graduate, belonged with her. He felt it in his bones.

Inner pep talk aside, Sasha’s nerves kicked in when he was called into Joanne Kingsley’s office. His stomach bubbled a bit as he followed the receptionist down a hallway lined with photographs of runway shows all over the world. He clutched his ancient leather satchel and prayed to the fashion gods that he was exactly what the lovely and powerful Ms. Kingsley was looking for.

I got past all of the preliminary interviews, Sasha reminded himself. Not just anyone got to interview with Joanne Kingsley herself. He was one of probably five at most. Just that was an honor. Sasha crossed his fingers and sent the best vibes he knew how to send out into the atmosphere. I’m the right fit for the job. Joanne Kingsley will adore me. Sasha had always been a believer in good vibes. He hoped they did him proud this time.

He didn’t know exactly what to expect from the esteemed Ms. Kingsley. Sasha had seen the society pages just like everyone else, the shots of her in the front row at other designers’ shows all over the world—McQueen, Saint Laurent, Lhuillier, Elie Saab. She always looked fabulous and powerful, fashionable and just a bit unapproachable. They reached her office door. Sasha took a deep breath and made one more fervent wish before the door swished open silently.

Joanne Kingsley was perched on the corner of a large white antique desk. Her office was, for lack of another word, perfect—champagne-colored woodwork, dark teak floors, luxurious rugs, expensive antique furniture, prints of their own designers’ drawings displayed in thick gold-leafed frames on the walls. She stood and walked across the room to greet him by the door. Which was already not at all what Sasha had expected from someone like her. He nearly swallowed his tongue.

Is this actually happening?

Joanne was a good four inches taller than his own five feet six inches, her body all sexy curves and long limbs. Her face was beyond gorgeous, with high cheekbones, pale skin, and long-lashed gray eyes that tilted up on the outside. Her signature mane of fiery red hair was down for once, instead of in a chic but intimidating updo. Held from her forehead with only a gold headband, it cascaded in coppery waves across her shoulders and back. She wore one of their label’s dresses, current season, of course. It was sleeveless and rich, vibrant emerald green, nipped under her full breasts, and it flowed to the ground in casual silky rivulets. The green made her pale skin glow, and the red of her hair shimmered jewellike against it.

Joanne Kingsley looked like she belonged lounging on top of Mt. Olympus with a goblet of wine instead of among mere mortals on earth. Sasha couldn’t believe he was in the same room with her.

“Welcome. Sasha, correct?” And then she smiled, friendly and disarming.

How am I supposed to react to that?

“Yes. Sasha.” He reached out and shook her hand. He was rather shocked that his vocal chords even worked.

“You came very highly recommended from one of my favorite old professors. I’m excited to get to know you.”

Joanne walked around to her desk seat and sank gracefully into it. “Sit, please.” She gestured at the plush seat across from her. It was the same exact model as her own. None of those games of making the guest feel smaller with a shorter, less throne-like seat. Sasha liked her already.

“Thank you for having me here today. I just wanted to say I’ve been following Harrison Kingsley for years. It’s an honor to even meet you.”

Joanne Kingsley giggled. Giggled. “You know, it’s still surprising to hear people say things like that, Sasha. Thank you.”

Sasha grinned in return.

The interview went smoothly after that. Perfectly, even. “Call me Jo, please” was charming and talkative, wanted to know everything about Sasha, and was exactly the person Sasha wanted to be in ten years. Harrison Kingsley’s name might be on the clothing’s labels, he might be the one in his Hamptons castle with drawing boards, swathes of fabric, and a bunch of designer minions, but it was Joanne Kingsley who made the real decisions. Sasha wanted to do anything he could to help her with that process.

Creative director of a major fashion label. Just thinking the title made chills run up and down Sasha’s spine. It was what he wanted more than anything… someday. A boy could dream. For the time being, he’d be honored if he could merely assist one.

Joanne skimmed over his resume one more time and then let it fall shut. “One quick question. Just curious. This says you recently finished Parsons, but you’re twenty-eight. Career change?”

Sasha shook his head. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid. It took me a lot of hours waiting tables back home in Kansas to save enough to move to New York and enroll in school. It’s not a cheap city. I’m sure you know that.” Not that it had ever been a problem for the Kingsleys. According to their bio, they grew up in Harrison Kingsley’s insane castle of a house in the Hamptons, and Joanne had bought her nearly as palatial apartment on Park Avenue not long after their label took off.

“It’s not.” Joanne took a deep breath. “Listen. I probably shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to anyway. When can you start?”

“Start?” Sasha was confused for a second. And then he got it. He choked on his own breath. “Start. Hol—I mean, I can start whenever you want me to. I don’t have any prior commitments.”

Ohgodohgodohgod. She just hired me. Joanne Kingsley had just hired him. Sasha thought he might faint.

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MJ: And that’s the beginning of Sasha’s new life working for Joanne Kingsley…and eventually her brother;)

Lisa: What can we expect coming up from you next? Would you like to share some info on your current WIPs and upcoming releases?

MJ: After this book, I have one called Pawsitively in Love which features a pet salon owner and a host of furry friends (and takes place in my neighborhood, which I’ve never done before!) And then after that, my second Dreamspun book Duke in Hiding will be out…I think you can guess what that one will be about by the title.

Right now I’m working on a buddy road trip story. I can’t seem to stay away from the best friends to lovers theme…I just love it so much <3.  This one doesn’t have a definite schedule yet, but I’d assume summer/early autumn.

Lisa: Thanks so much for being here with us today, MJ. It’s been great to chat with you.

MJ: Thanks for having me stop by! I hope you enjoy the books J

Xoxo

MJ

Lisa: Find MJ O’Shea on Facebook, her Website, and sign up for her Monthly Newsletter

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MillionaireUpstairs[The]BlurbHe might be hard to work for, but he’s impossible to resist.

Sasha Sobieski has the perfect job working at legendary American fashion house Harrison Kingsley—or at least he used to. He just never thought he’d have to work for Harrison Kingsley himself. Harrison is exacting, difficult, cold, and hands-down the sexiest man Sasha has ever seen.

After years at the top, Harrison Kingsley knows what he wants, when he wants it, and exactly how he’d like it to be delivered to him. What he wants most right now? His new assistant. Sasha is mouthy, opinionated, and he drives Harrison mad. Problem is, Harrison can never tell if it’s with anger… or desire.

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press

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Shira AnthonyLisa: Hi, Shira, and welcome. We’re so pleased to have you here for a visit today to chat about your new book in the Dreamspun Desires line, First Comes Marriage.

Let’s start with what feels like a good first question: why did you want to be involved in this new line of genre romance? Was there a nostalgia factor there for you at all?

Shira:  OMG, yes! I used to gobble up Harlequins and Silhouette romances when I was in college. And although I hated the pat endings (even worse when the heroine gave up her career to “get married”), I love the warm and fuzzy way they made me feel. So when Poppy and I were chatting at RT (Romantic Times conference) in Dallas this past spring and I mentioned that there were times I wished I could write a sweet romance instead of an angsty one, she asked me why I didn’t write one. And then she proceeded to tell me about an idea she had for a new line of category romances. I guess you could say that was the birth of Dreamspun Desires.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about how writing this book differed from writing your other books. Did you approach it with a different mindset than you would, say, a book that required more conflict and angst in the storyline before your couple gets their happy ending?

Shira:  It did take a bit of a re-set for me. I tend to write angsty romances or complex romantic fantasy stories, so the idea of a simple, sweet story was a little frightening! Before I started writing, I read an old Harlequin to remind myself of the feel of those tropey romances. There’s a real rhythm to those classic romance novels, a completely different pace than for the books I was used to writing. I tried to distill the essence of the category romance and then when I was imagining the story I wanted to write, I kept that framework in mind.

So for example, the story starts off with the two MCs “meeting cute” in the first chapter. From there, the story and the sexual tension builds and builds until finally neither MC can resist the other. Of course there are challenges in the relationship and misunderstandings. There is also character growth from both characters. But there’s no knock-down, drag-out angst of the kind readers might find in some of my other books.

Lisa: What has been the most enjoyable part of participating in the Dreamspun Desire launch for you? Do you plan on contributing more books to the line?

Shira: It’s been exciting seeing it all come together, from the early conversations to seeing the art concept for the covers (I think I squeaked when I saw it!). Then seeing how it all came together, with the subscriptions, the taglines on the books, the cute blurbs that end with a question—all of these things were so much fun!

Yes, I’m planning on submitting at least another book to the line. I’m working on a very sweet, second chance at love story that will probably be released as a Dreamspun Desires title. Writing First Comes Marriage was just so fun, I had to write another.

Lisa: What sort of feedback are you getting from your readers in particular about the collection? Have you noticed a lot of buzz and excitement in the community about it?

Shira: The feedback has been AMAZING. Truly. So many of our readers came to gay romance from heterosexual category romance that I think they’re as excited as we, the authors, are. I think many feel, as I do, that category romance has a special place in the general romance genre and that gay romance can embrace those sweet, romance-forward stories in a way that’s authentic and Twenty-First Century.

It’s funny, but for me, these books represent the kind of romance I wanted to read way back when, but couldn’t find. I really believe that while romance readers are looking for fantasy components in romance, they still want stories still grounded in some semblance of reality. But they don’t always want that reality to hit them over the head either. Sometimes we just need the warmth and hope that we take from a classic romance story.

Lisa: Let’s talk a bit more specifically about First Comes Marriage. Tell us a little something about your characters and what you feel their chemistry is.

Shira:  Jesse Donovan is a billionaire businessman who has to get married or he’ll lose control of his family’s company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist who works as a barista in New York City. Theirs is a marriage of convenience, and it’s supposed to be just business. Both men genuinely enjoy each other’s company, but Jesse is New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor and Chris is perfectly happy being single after his parent’s disastrous marriage.

For me, the friendship was first and foremost in my mind as the two men get to know each other. I wanted their sexual chemistry to grow out of that friendship and take them by surprise. Each has his own motivations for getting married, and neither expects the marriage will be anything but business. There’s lots of push and pull for the first half of the book, as each fights his attraction to the other. And when they finally do give in to their desires, it’s a revelation for both.

Lisa: Would you care to share a short excerpt with us?

Shira: Sure! This is an excerpt from Chapter Six:

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Excerpt: Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.

“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.

“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.

“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”

Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.

“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.

Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.

It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.

Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.

“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”

“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.

“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.

Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?

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Lisa: What can we expect coming up from you next? Would you like to share some info on your current WIPs and upcoming releases?

Shira:  I’m working on another tropey romance, this one about second chances at love. The working title is A Class Act, and it’s the story of a history professor and a Hollywood action star whose ten year marriage is about to end in divorce. I’m also working on the final installment in the Blood Trilogy, my time-traveling French vampires, entitled Blood and Eternity. I’ve also got a possible spinoff story or series based on secondary characters from my Mermen of Ea Trilogy that’s in the works.

Lisa: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Shira. It’s been great to chat with you.

Shira: Thanks so much for having me! It was a pleasure.

Lisa: Connect with Shira on Facebook, her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and her Website

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DreamspunDesires_FirstComesMarriageFS4Blurb: When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!

Jesse’s in a pinch. To keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal: in exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million-dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?

Watch for Buy Links Coming Soon to Dreamspinner Press

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

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

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

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Amazon

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

Author: Christina Lee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

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

Reviewed By: Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You can buy The Deepest Blue here:

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Amazon US

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(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

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

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

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

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

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

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4.5 Stars, Ariel Tachna, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Cherish the Land by Ariel Tachna

Title: Cherish the Land (Lang Downs #5)

Author:  Ariel Tachna

Publisher: 220 Pages

Pages/Word Count:  Dreamspinner Press

At a Glance:  A fantastic ending to a wonderfully written and heartfelt series.

Blurb: Seth Simms never wanted to be a cowboy, although to listen to his best friend, Jason Thompson, tell it, he isn’t one. He just happens to have lucked out in coming to live on Lang Downs with his brother ten years ago. He found enough stability to finish high school and go off to university, but he never really believed Lang Downs would be the same haven for him that it had become for so many others. He’s too messed up in the head. No one would accept someone with his issues.
All his life, Jason has had one goal: to come home to Lang Downs as resident veterinarian when they need his skills and jackaroo when they don’t. And it means he gets to spend time with Seth during his occasional visits, even though his dream of going from friends to lovers is hopeless since Seth is straight.
When Seth unexpectedly comes home to stay, Jason takes it as the boon it is. But juggling a relationship with another jackaroo and his friendship with Seth isn’t easy, and that’s before Jason realizes how deep Seth’s issues run and how dangerously Seth chooses to cope with them.

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Review:  Can I just say that I love Ariel Tachna’s writing? Because I most certainly do. I know when I see her name that I am in for a wonderful read.  Almost everything I’ve read by this author has been extremely well written and wonderfully engaging on all levels.

Cherish the Land is just that, too. I didn’t realize when I chose this book that it was the ending of the series, but I soon figured it out after reading the first few pages of the book. As such, I had to start back at the beginning. Although Tachna weaves the backstories of the rest of the books in with a deft hand, I don’t think this book could be read as a standalone.

Just a little background, which, I hope won’t spoil the series too badly. Lang Downs is a sheep station in the Southern Tablelands, New South Wales, Australia. Many people have come to work at Land Downs to find out that Lang Downs is a home that welcomes the right type of people. In this series, it is home to several men who just happen to have a troubled past, and are gay. But, there aren’t only gay couples on Lang Downs, and it is this mixture that adds richness and realism to not only this final chapter but the entire series overall.

Jason grows up on Lang Downs and is in love with his best friend, Seth. He leaves to go to school to become a vet. It is his desire to return to home to Lang Downs and be as happy as possible with or without Seth.

All Seth wants to do is escape—his past, his issues, and the feelings he’s harboring for his best friend. He’s good with machines and leaves Lang Downs after only living there for three years. He goes to Sydney to become an engineer, only to discover he really wants to be back on Lang Downs with Jason. Both boys, individually, decide to return to the sheep station, and their pining begins. With the help of a jilted lover, Jason and Seth come to realize their feelings for one another.

I really liked Jason when he was introduced in the first book of the series, and when Seth was introduced in book two, the boys became fast friends. I could see a love match in the making and was eagerly awaiting their story.  Though I really enjoyed how they came together, I felt a bit cheated that the story didn’t focus entirely on Jason and Seth. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, just that I felt there wasn’t enough about the two of them as adults in this book.

The other thing I liked about the book was how the issues and pasts of the characters fit with their age group. Seth and Jason are the youngest couple on Lang Downs, and the issues they face are normal for young gay couples, especially in a remote area where being gay isn’t always accepted. Once they are out, everything seems to happen very quickly with them. The fast, and permanent, relationship they make have Seth freaking out a bit, and he runs from both Jason and Lang Downs. Jason has no clue why this happens until we learn that despite Seth finding a home on Lang Downs, he still has issues he isn’t ready to face.

The issue kinda comes out of nowhere, but it is deftly explained by Tachna, and I could see how Seth’s characterization fit the issue. Trigger warning and a spoiler: the books all deal with some sort of real life issues, including but not limited to, homophobia, a bashing incident, PTSD, and rape, and this book’s specific issue is the subject of cutting. So, yes, hefty stuff, but all the issues are researched beautifully and wonderfully written so the reader gets both sides of the story with minimal confusion. I ran the gamut of emotions with this series, and this book especially, but I loved it all.

I adored how Jason stands by Seth even when he doesn’t fully understand why Seth does what he does. Seth eventually realizes that facing his problems, with the help of Jason and the family he’s made on Lang Downs, he can have his happily ever after with Jason. The story concludes with a roundup of all the couples on Lang Downs, bringing a happy ending to the series of this ragtag family.

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You can buy Cherish the Land here:

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5 Stars, Amy Lane, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Reviewed by Kathie

Audio Review: Forever Promised by Amy Lane – Narrated by Paul Morey

Audio Gem

Title: Forever Promised

Author: Amy Lane

Narrator:: Paul Morey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 12 Hours and 6 Minutes

At a Glance: The audio version of Forever Promised is twelve hours and six minutes of pure joy

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Crick has been home from Iraq for five years, Jeff and Collin are finally married, and Shane and Mikhail are quietly making lives better for the dispossessed teenagers who come their way. Everything is right in Deacon’s world, but nothing ever stays the same.

When Deacon’s best friends, Jon and Amy, answer the call of an opportunity in Washington, DC, Deacon figures that’s life. You love people, and they leave you, and you survive. Even Benny, Crick’s little sister, is close to grown and ready to start her own future. But Benny loves Deacon, and she owes him – she may move beyond The Pulpit and Levee Oaks one day, but not without leaving something of herself behind. And so she offers Deacon and Crick an amazing gift… and a terrifying decision.

Benny’s offer forces Deacon and Crick to dredge up every past mistake and offer of redemption. And not just the two of them – everybody is forced to examine the chances they’ve been given and the promises they’ve made. In a real family, a child is a promise, and to the men and women of Promise Rock, keeping that promise will change their lives forever.

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Review: This is the final audiobook in the Promise Rock series, but if you have not read the series, it’s okay, you can start anywhere you want. Each book tells a tale about a different couple, but if you start from the beginning, you also get more of the history of the whole cast of characters who have touched Deacon’s life in one way or another. I am not going to try and give you a summary of the book, but one part of Jackie’s review (of the e-book) back in June of 2013 I especially liked, so I’m quoting it: “This book was truly a happy book. Yes, there are some sad parts; yes, there are some emotional parts. Most of my tears were happy tears. I guess if I have to give up the guys and gals from Promise Rock, I can rest assured that they are all happy, they are all loved, and their story will live on with the next generation.”. She does the best job of reviewing. What I have been tasked to do for The Novel Approach is to talk about the audio version. Okay, I didn’t ask to review this audiobook, I begged.

The audio version of Forever Promised is twelve hours and six minutes of pure joy! And those hours went by so fast that I had to listen to it again. I wasn’t ready to leave the Pulpit or Promise Rock. When you have a strong narrator it allows the listener to empathize with the characters, whether in sadness, happiness, pain or, my favorite, sexual tension. Paul Morey has that talent. Every audio I have listened to by him has been excellent. Morey not only narrated this book but also the preceding books in the Promise series, and I think that makes the difference. He knew the characters and you could hear it. When a character was crying in the story, Paul Morey cried too, and, of course, then I did too. All the emotional high and lows were heard through his voice—not easy to do, I can imagine. What a gift that was to this series. Read the series and listen to it on audio. It will be well worth your time and money.

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You can buy Forever Promised here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jackie, Self-Published, Silvia Violet

Review: Coming Clean by Silvia Violet

Title: Coming Clean

Author: Silvia Violet

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

At a Glance: Silvia Violet has done a wonderful job, as usual, with this story.

Reviewed By: Jackie

Blurb: An unexpected inheritance lands Jeremy a large house and plenty of money to take a sabbatical from his job teaching poetry at a small college. He intends to sell the house and take off on a new path to discover what he wants out of life. Then he meets Connor. The attraction he feels to a man so different from himself is no less shocking than his change in financial circumstances, but Connor is in the closet and Jeremy wants a life lived out in the sun.

Connor is a former Force Recon Marine who runs a housecleaning business. When he’s hired to get Jeremy’s house market-ready, he’s startled by how attracted he is to his client despite their many differences. But his past, especially his final mission, weighs heavily on him. He’s not certain he can be the man Jeremy needs, but no man has ever made him want to take a risk like Jeremy does.

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Review: If there is one thing I can’t resist it is a plot with a military man. Make him a man struggling with his past and his present, and that just makes me melt. Throw in a slightly nerdy bookworm who makes it an opposites attract story, and I am SOLD.

Jeremy is a lit professor who just inherited a large home and enough money to give him the opportunity to take a sabbatical to write a novel. Unsure whether he wants to keep the home or not, Jeremy decides to hire a cleaning company to get the house ready in case he does decide to sell.

Enter Connor. When Connor returned to the civilian sector, he found that he could put his cleaning skills to use. With the help of his best friend’s sister, he opens a cleaning service and through word of mouth, his company is hired by Jeremy.

When these two meet there is instant chemistry, but, unfortunately, Connor has lived his whole life in the closet, and Jeremy is most assuredly out and proud. This leaves Jeremy wondering if Connor is even gay, and Connor trying to decide if he can risk leaving his closet for the man who flips all his switches.

There are a few things holding Connor back, the biggest of those things being his best friend and fellow ex-Marine, Mario. Luckily Mario’s sister Sabrina gives him some great advice, and maybe sets up a situation or two to push Jeremy and Connor together. And while Jeremy’s best friend David isn’t too sure about Connor in the beginning, he does eventually come around and when he joins forces with Sabrina, sparks begin to fly.

These two guys couldn’t be more different, but they seem to mesh very well. They have just enough in common to complement each other. Their differences are enough to keep things interesting for sure. When things seem to be going well for them, some miscommunications lead to the two of them almost losing everything they ever wanted. To fix things, Connor has to decide if his closet is as comfortable as Jeremy’s bed, and Jeremy has to decide if he can be patient enough with Connor’s gradual coming out.

Coming Clean was a fun story to read. I loved Jeremy’s character. There is just something about a nerdy professor type falling in love with a former Marine. The only thing better than that is that same former Marine falling right back.

The supporting characters in this story were very entertaining, and the fact that they wouldn’t let the two men screw up a good thing when they saw it was perfect.

Silvia Violet has done a wonderful job, as usual, with this story. Reading about a hardened Marine falling in love over Shakespeare was very sweet. I would love to be able to revisit these two in the future. They truly brought a smile to my face, and this is definitely a book I would re-read when I needed a pick me up.

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You can buy Coming Clean here:

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, John Inman, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Chasing the Swallows by John Inman

Title: Chasing the Swallows

Author: John Inman

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Just because this novel may not have been my cup of tea, that does not diminish the breathtaking scope and treatment of a love story that spans decades.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Sometimes an entire lifetime can be spent in the arms and heart of one person. It is not so with imaginations, for they go anywhere they wish.

David Ayres and Arthur Smith are about to find that out. When they meet as young men within the garden walls of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, one man from one continent, one from another, an uncontrollable attraction brings them together. But it is something stronger than attraction that holds them there. It is love. Pure and simple.

After forty years, when the fabric of their existence together finally begins to fray because of David’s imaginary infidelities, it is with humor and commitment that they strive to remain in each other’s heart.

And turning fantasy into reality, they find, is the best way to do it.

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Review: I feel it’s important to remind ourselves that we should review with the thought in mind that objectivity is the goal. While it’s nice to know if a reviewer liked a book, I think it’s more important to know a book’s strengths and, in turn, the author’s skill at writing a solid and convincing story.

There comes a time in any relationship where the romance dulls, where it takes just a bit more work to stay connected to the other person and maintain that “spark” that brought you together in the first place. For some, this is easy to do, for others, it takes a shock or two along the way to remember just how much our spouse means to us. For David Ayres, it took the idea of nearly losing the man he loved to pull him from a deeply rooted and routine fantasy life where he imagined himself in sexually compromising situations. Fantasy was David’s addiction and as we all know, what really faces us each morning across the bed can rarely live up to the fantasies that play out in our heads.

Luckily for David, his husband Arthur had no such problem. You see, David fulfilled every fantasy for Arthur. He loved David completely and with such tenderness that forgiving his husband those routine sexual musings was commonplace. But something else was afoot in David and Arthur’s marriage, a thief of sorts had entered their life, and it would prompt such change, such devastating awareness, that David would not only abandon the fantasies that he so richly enjoyed, he would recommit himself to loving Arthur as fully as Arthur did him.

Chasing The Swallows unfolds the life of two men now in their sixties from the time they first met to the present day. Interwoven with current day life, we discover step-by-step the journey these two have taken to arrive where they are today. There are moments of such tenderness, a discovery of a strong and lasting love, and yes, times of pain and hurt, of lashing out at one another and nearly losing the love they both so desperately wanted and found in each other.

Arthur was so incredibly patient with the wandering mind and heart of his husband, David. In turn, David lost touch with what was always right before him, the center of his joy, the love of his life. How he lost it was as gradual as how it grew, and, thankfully, David discovered before it was too late that any good and healthy thing needs nurturing and tending, or it will wither and die. Due to Arthur’s fierce loyalty and deep well of love, David was never without a reminder of just what it was that he was slowly destroying with his endless fantasies and lusts. And so, step-by-step, we are given this intimate view of how two men keep their love alive over the span of several decades.

By using flashbacks, John Inman keeps the story moving and the desire to see how the characters’ lives played out fresh and interesting. But, this author also does not shy away from showing us the darker underbelly of long-term relationships, and just what compromises and adjustments need to be made to keep love alive and help it to endure. This was a gritty, realistic story that spoke of great highs and equally deep lows in the life of two men who were determined to remain in each other’s lives and love each other fiercely.

My one criticism is small but important. I felt there were times that the story leapt from one decade to another without clearly delineating where we were headed and where we ended up. At times, I was unsure if we were in the present, or midway, or back at the beginning of Arthur and David’s relationship. It was not always clear to me where we were in the time continuum of their past and present. However, this did not happen often and had just a minor impact on my enjoyment of the novel overall.

I feel it is important, before I close this review, to state two facts about this novel and my very subjective feelings about it and this author. I really enjoy John Inman’s body of work, he is an auto-buy for me, and I take such pleasure in reading his imaginative and lush stories. However, I personally had great difficulty with Chasing The Swallows. Suffice it to say that I did not care for David very much by novel’s end. I felt him to be selfish and callous toward a man who would love him despite his less than kind treatment of the same. However, just because this novel may not have been my cup of tea, that does not diminish the breathtaking scope and treatment of a love story that spans decades. For that alone, this novel is one you may want to check out.

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Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Karen Stivali

Blog Tour: Moment of Clarity and Moments in Time by Karen Stivali

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The last installment of Karen Stivali’s Moments in Time series, Moment of Clarity, has just been released. At the same time, the paperback Moments in Time that contains all three novellas in the series has also been published!

Moment of Clarity hires (1)Title: Moment of Clarity
Author: Karen Stivali
Length: novella
Genre: gay romance, contemporary, new adult, college.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Blurb: Spending the summer together on Fire Island brought Collin and Tanner closer than ever, but back in their conservative college town, challenges confront them at every turn.

As they search for their new normal in their old environment, Collin’s brother Sean surprises them with help when they need it most. But when word about their relationship gets out, trouble erupts with friends and family. When Collin’s relationship with Tanner becomes an issue in his brother’s custody battle and Tanner struggles with his feelings for a heartbroken Wendy, Collin wonders if everyone he cares about would be better off without him in the picture.

In order to save them both, Tanner must make it clear to Collin that their love for each other is all that matters.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner Press | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

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MomentsinTimeFSMoments in Time – Series Paperback:

Contains books 1, 2, and 3 – Moment of Impact, Moment of Truth, and Moment of Clarity.

Dreamspinner Press

Haven’t read books 1 and 2? Then hurry up as Moment of Impact and Moment of Truth will be on sale for 99 cents for a limited time (May 5 -18).


Moment of Impact:

Outside Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room is a dangerous place. Beyond his door the students of his small, conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family who’d disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his incredibly sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Their room makes a perfect place to hide away and fall in love. The moment they cross the line from roommates to lovers, Collin becomes caught between their heavenly passionate encounters and the hellish reality that someone might find out and destroy everything. Tanner’s not used to being so confined, and wants to show the world how much he loves Collin. But Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.

Buy Moment of Impact: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | All Romance eBooks

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Moment of Truth:

Collin expected to spend another summer fixing cars and working at the college pizzeria. Instead, he’s living in a beach house on Fire Island, waiting tables at a hip seaside restaurant and, for the first time since he and Tanner got together, they can publicly be known as boyfriends. Being “out” takes some getting used to, but with the help of new and old friends, Collin is happier than he ever imagined. And more in love. But newfound freedom brings unexpected challenges, and when friends get flirty, old insecurities arise. Moments of doubt and jealousy threaten their happiness, and Collin and Tanner must confront the truth or risk losing it all.

Buy Moment of Truth: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

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Want more? Moment of Silence and Moment of Fate, featuring secondary characters in Collin and Tanner’s story, will be released in late 2015 and early 2016.

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. Her 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:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

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4 Stars, A.F. Henley, Genre Romance, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: Baby’s on Fire by A.F. Henley

Title: Baby’s on Fire

Author: A.F. Henley

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I can’t profess to reading all of AF Henley’s books, but I can say I’ve not read one yet that has disappointed.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In 1974 Gerry Faun gets the break of his life—an opportunity to meet gorgeous, openly bisexual, glam-rock idol Mark Devon. Mark’s world is new, exciting, and Gerry finally gets to explore the side of his sexuality that he’s kept hidden. But the press is everywhere, and when Gerry’s father gets wind of what’s going on behind his back, Gerry ends up on the street. Mark offers to let Gerry come along with the tour and Gerry jumps at the chance. The tour is a never-ending party—and the start of what seems to be a perfect relationship for him and Mark. Until Mark’s manager decides Gerry isn’t worth the trouble he’s stirring up.

In 1994 Gerry is finally coming out of some tough times—he has a job that pays the bills, a car that hasn’t quite broken down, and a small rental in Jersey City. After a decade of barely getting by, if life was as good as it was going to get, Gerry figures he’ll manage just fine. It would be easier if he wasn’t still haunted by the man the media won’t let him forget, the man who stole his heart and then broke it… the man that’s shown up pleading for a second chance.

Dividers

Review: There are so many things I simply adored about A.F. Henley’s Baby’s on Fire. It’s a story of redemption and second chances, at its heart—not necessarily a new motif in romantic fiction, but the circumstances around which Gerry Faun and Mark Devon loved and lost were unique to them, a bit nostalgic and even somewhat tragic, and that, I very much enjoyed.

At the tender age of twenty, in 1974, Gerry finds himself star-struck by glam rocker Maxx Starlight—think Ziggy Stardust—Mark’s on stage persona. The genesis of Gerry and Mark’s relationship revolves entirely around a chance sexual encounter, one that eventually leads to Gerry losing his family, though Gerry quickly becomes immersed in Mark’s world: an unfortunate calamity of drugs, booze, facade, and duplicity perpetrated by those who are out to use and manipulate the superstar for their own gain.

This story, however, opens in 1994. Gerry, by then, has hit middle age, works a rather mundane 9-to-5 office job, though it pays the bills, and hasn’t seen or heard from Mark Devon in twenty years. Gerry is barely avoiding tumbling over the precipice into a lonely and miserable existence. The reader is engaged from the outset by living his story backwards through flashbacks, as we see an older Gerry juxtaposed with his younger and far more idealistic self. The effect this narrative choice has on the novella is twofold; it teases the story out, the reader knowing the romance between Gerry and Mark had not only failed but failed epically, as well as the added advantage of having the opportunity to see Gerry’s hope and optimism decay toward the disillusionment he still carries around from a past he can’t seem to escape. Nor, in fact, does it seem he really wants to. In these flashbacks, we watch the gradual realization that Gerry’s not only out of his element in Maxx Starlight’s stratosphere, but that he’s also in love with a man who doesn’t seem to know exactly who he is when out of the spotlight. There’s a bit of a “kill your heroes” lesson learned as Gerry, who is at first awed and worshipful of the glitter and glamour Maxx exudes, sees the image tarnish by degrees while he learns his love for Mark doesn’t shine nearly as bright as the money and the stardom.

As the bitter overtakes the sweet from present to past and back to the present, the past comes back to call on Gerry, a call he’s none too happy or willing to answer. Mark is looking for forgiveness and another chance to do right by the man he’d betrayed two decades before, a private failure that overshadowed nearly every surface of his public success. This was the point of total emotional engagement in the story for me, as Henley doesn’t make this reunion in any way easy. Gerry harbors so much hurt and resentment toward Mark for abandoning him in what he came to believe was their one-sided love affair, a resentment we eventually see as the pain of that abandonment seeping through the knowledge he’d never truly stopped loving his betrayer.

While the greater part of the resolution of conflict between Gerry and Mark takes place off-page, something I’d have preferred to see play out in more intimate detail, the satisfaction comes from those twenty years not simply being swept under the proverbial rug. While we don’t see the slow repair of Gerry’s heart, we are given a timeline of the building of this new and more solidly grounded relationship, which eventually leads to a sweet and heartwarming end.

I can’t profess to reading all of A.F. Henley’s books, but I can say I’ve not read one yet that has disappointed. Baby’s on Fire is no exception, and would recommend it when you’re in the mood for a not-quite-contemporary, not-quite-historical romance that makes its couple work for their happy ending.

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4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, J.A. Rock, Loose Id, New Adult, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Take the Long Way Home by J.A. Rock

Title: Take the Long Way Home

Author: J.A. Rock

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 225 Pages

At a Glance: J.A. Rock serves up an edgy and twisted story that is a journey so important I think each of us will find a small piece of ourselves in Dresden.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Dresden Marich has failed out of high school three months shy of graduation. He’s infatuated with his online friend, Evan, alienated from his family and former classmates, and still trying to recover from his father’s death six years ago. He’s also keeping a troubling secret about his older brother, Gunner, who is away at boot camp.

Then Dresden meets Caleb, a judgmental environmentalist who’s hardly Dresden’s fantasy come true. But Caleb seems to understand Dresden’s desire for rough sex, big feelings, and, ultimately, safety. As Dresden becomes embroiled in a farmers market drama involving Caleb, a couple of bullying tomato enthusiasts, and a gang of vigilante vegans, he discovers he might be willing to trade a fantasy relationship with Evan for a shot at something real with Caleb.

But Dresden fears telling quick-to-judge Caleb his secret, and the news that Gunner is coming home sends him fleeing to California for a chance to meet Evan in person and hopefully fall in love. When the encounter doesn’t go as expected, Dresden faces a choice: stay in California and carve out a new life, or take the long road home to his family, Caleb, and a past he must face if he has any hope for a future.

Dividers

Review: Dresden Marich spends each waking moment second-guessing everything he does, feels and says. Due to both the trauma of losing his father, and his brother committing abuse that went well beyond normal brotherly rivalry, Dresden is locked in a downward spiral that finds him failing school three months before graduation. Not only must he contend with a mother who holds herself aloof at the best of times, he must also grapple with spiking and flagrant emotions that bring up such harsh anger and self-hatred inside him that they leave him breathless. Every day he logs online to not only have online sex with Evan, who lives in California and is shadowy at best, but he hooks up with older men and performs degrading acts just to see how far he can push himself. He is, in a word, wounded and out of control.

Then he meets Caleb. Caleb who reclaims old wood and carves it into something new and fresh. A young man who himself is equally trapped in a house full of memories that hold him captive. These two young men come together and something happens…Dresden gradually realizes he wants more from life, he wants more for himself. He can beat the anger and sadness if only Caleb can put up with him long enough for him to become a better person…a person who can accept and, in turn, give love. And Caleb realizes it is time to let go of the past and its regrets and live in the moment where love awaits him.

I would like to assure you that this brief synopsis along with the author’s own blurb gives you enough of this incredible story to make sense of all that goes on in Dresden’s world. But, I am afraid I can make no such claim. Each page of this story is a moment of decision, a second of truth, and Dresden must adjust to each thing that happens or lose himself irrevocably. The damage done by his mother in refusing to acknowledge what happened between Dresden and his brother, Gunner, serves to be the rotten core from which springs most of Dresden’s own self-loathing and anger. But Caleb, sweet, lost Caleb, will be the one to finally break through to Dresden and make him see what potential lies within him and help him to discover he is worthy of love and happiness.

J.A. Rock serves up an edgy and twisted story that is a journey so important I think each of us will find a small piece of ourselves in Dresden. He embodies those moments where we cannot seem to find our own goodness, our own worth. In equal moments of sadness and joy, Take The Long Way Home leads us on a trip that systematically sheds all our safety nets and leaves us bare, ready to be remade, to discover our own value and that we can love despite how we feel.






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3.5 Stars, Andrew Grey, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Fire and Water by Andrew Grey

Title: Fire and Water

Author: Andrew Grey

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I would recommend this to someone who enjoys Beauty and the Beast elements in their stories, with an added bit of mystery and a dash of suspense.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Officer Red Markham knows about the ugly side of life after a car accident left him scarred and his parents dead. His job policing the streets of Carlisle, PA, only adds to the ugliness, and lately, drug overdoses have been on the rise. One afternoon, Red is dispatched to the local Y for a drowning accident involving a child. Arriving on site, he finds the boy rescued by lifeguard Terry Baumgartner. Of course, Red isn’t surprised when gorgeous Terry won’t give him and his ugly mug the time of day.

Overhearing one of the officer’s comment about him being shallow opens Terry’s eyes. Maybe he isn’t as kindhearted as he always thought. His friend Julie suggests he help those less fortunate by delivering food to the elderly. On his route he meets outspoken Margie, a woman who says what’s on her mind. Turns out, she’s Officer Red’s aunt.

Red and Terry’s worlds collide as Red tries to track the source of the drugs and protect Terry from an ex-boyfriend who won’t take no for an answer. Together they might discover a chance for more than they expected—if they can see beyond what’s on the surface.

Dividers

Review: I love the types of stories that don’t always deal with the perfect faces and bodies. I like a bit more realism in my romance, where the MCs are not so physically perfect, among other things (You know, us ordinary folk like to hope for love too). Lol. And this is what drew me into Fire and Water.

What I liked about Terry Baumgartner was that he actually had that moment of shame over a comment he made about the scars on Officer Red Markham’s face, and with the help of his friend, Julie, decided to better himself as a person. After all, it bothered Terry that he’d become something like his ex boyfriend, especially when his ex started to treat Terry like more of as a prized possession than a person of worth.

When Terry and Officer Red finally meet again, it’s Red’s Aunt Margie who brings the two together. As Terry gets to know Red, he finds a very gentle, kind soul behind the scarred, tough policeman’s exterior. It’s not long before Terry finds himself not only liking Red but also finds himself attracted to him as well.

My only problem with Fire and Water is that I wished there had been more in the developing relationship between Terry and Red, that it didn’t feel rushed because of the ex boyfriend, who wouldn’t go away, or because of the drug situation Red was investigating. I wanted more human interaction and not so much sex between the two MCs; something that tells me, yes, these two belong to each other. The conversations, when they talked, were very sweet and meaningful.

I would recommend this to someone who enjoys Beauty and the Beast elements in their stories, with an added bit of mystery and a dash of suspense.






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5 Stars, Alexis Hall, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Riptide Publishing

Release Day Review: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Title: Waiting for the Flood

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 106 Pages

At a Glance: Waiting for the Flood is a really lovely piece of writing.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: People come as well as go.

Twelve years ago, Edwin Tully came to Oxford and fell in love with a boy named Marius. He was brilliant. An artist. It was going to be forever.

Two years ago, it ended.

Now Edwin lives alone in the house they used to share. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to build a future from the fragments of the past.

Then the weather turns, and the river spills into Edwin’s quiet world, bringing with it Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight, this stranger with roughened hands and worn wellingtons, but he offers Edwin the hope of something he thought he would never have again.

As the two men grow closer in their struggle against the rising waters, Edwin learns he can’t protect himself from everything—and sometimes he doesn’t need to try.

Dividers

Review: There is no way that my words are going to do Alexis Hall’s words justice, but I’ll give it a shot…

Waiting for the Flood is a really lovely piece of writing. I can’t speak to the author’s style in general, as this was the first work of his that I have read, but this novella was gorgeously poetic. Every word choice and sentence structure felt deliberate yet effortless, and the whole thing flowed beautifully. It took me a full chapter to get into it and truly hear the voice – but, once I got into the cadence of the story, I couldn’t put it down.

While also a wonderful tale of second chances, letting go, and new love, Waiting for the Flood is mainly about Edwin’s resurrection, so to speak. Deeply hurt when his previous partner left him, Edwin has spent the last two years simply existing. He has basically cut off communications with his friends from when he and Marius were a couple; and spends all of his time restoring old books, correspondence, and ephemera, which is his hobby as well as his job. He seems resigned to being alone – in fact, doesn’t feel he’s worthy of anyone’s attention – so when a sweet, attractive, civil engineer falls into his life, Edwin almost sabotages things before they have a chance to take off.

Adam is such a kind, gentle, wonderful man. Edwin feels that he’s too good to be true. Adam listens, really listens, to Edwin, appearing to hang on his every word. This is a huge thing to Edwin, a life-long stutterer who has spent his entire life feeling as though people were so hung up on his trying to get his words out that they didn’t ever truly hear what he was actually saying. The exchanges between these two characters are smart, witty, and heart-warming. I giggled and swooned several times throughout the awkward courtship.

It was beautiful to watch Edwin come around and open himself up to the possibility of love. It was beautiful when he decided to trust Adam with his heart (and Adam is so worthy of that trust). It was beautiful to see the rebirth of Edwin, with the patient guidance of Adam, through the backdrop of the flood.

The story can be enjoyed on many levels. It is deeply philosophical at times, but can also be enjoyed as a lighter, romantic read. Try this one out, the next time you’re looking for a lazy Sunday read, perhaps. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

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5 Stars, Andrew Grey, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kathie

Audio Review: The Fight Within by Andrew Grey – Narrated by Andrew McFerrin

Title: The Fight Within

Author: Andrew Grey

Narrator:: Andrew McFerrin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 Hours, 7 Minutes

At a Glance: Andrew Grey writes the stories and Andrew McFerrin bring them to life

Blurb: Bryce Morton needs a change of scenery. Since his partner’s death a year ago, he’s become withdrawn and quiet, so his friends, Jerry Lincoln and Akecheta (John) Black Raven, convince him to go camping with them on a Sioux reservation. Though he’s not immediately sure he’s done the right thing, Bryce becomes more interested when he meets Paytah, the man who owns the reservation’s trading post.

Paytah Stillwater’s life is filled with hurt, and sometimes the only thing he has left is pride. After being abused as a child and disbelieved when he spoke up, he has withdrawn into himself-but he can never truly put his past behind him, because the source of his pain still lives on the reservation. Paytah is proud of his heritage and careful with his heart, but when Bryce commits a selfless act of kindness for one of the reservation’s children, the walls around Paytah’s heart begin to melt.

Bryce and Paytah each fight the pain within them. When Paytah’s abuser sets his sights on one of the reservation youngsters, Bryce and Paytah must set their individual fights aside. Finding a way to stop the abuser unites them to fight their way forward-together.

Dividers

Review: What a great partnership, Andrew Grey writes the stories and Andrew McFerrin bring them to life.

Why did I buy this book? Because it’s a male/male romance written by one of the best authors in the genre. Why did I buy the audio? It was a no brainer. As a matter of fact, when I saw the audio was available I did a little happy dance. I am really not the type to do happy dances, so you know it must be good.

Andrew McFerrin again does a great job narrating this story. His gift is that he has the ability to develop each characters’ personality with his voice. Paytah’s life has been filled with disappointments; you can hear it in his voice, not just his words. Bryce has also withdrawn from the world, trying to cope with the loss of his partner. Bryce’s voice grows stronger as he learns to trust and fall in love again. The sadness is there in the beginning, and the happiness is there in the end. And let’s not forget Mr. Grantham. You can hear the sneer in his voice, the snake in the grass whine. Oh, I wanted to stomp on that man’s foot.

Andrew Grey writes romance, and does a great job, but sometimes he plants a seed in his books, a seed of awareness. The message I personally got from this audio is: I celebrate the Native American culture by buying the trinkets, being a tourist, and going to their casinos. These are all good intentions, but how about the next time I travel, instead of buying the trinkets made in China, I buy a basket made in South Dakota or a bracelet made by one of the craftsman who have rented a booth at Crazy Horse Monument. Who will benefit from this purchase? Me, of course, and maybe a small child named Wamblee.






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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!






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

Review: Tangled Mind by Posy Roberts

Title: Tangled Mind

Author: Posy Roberts

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 76 Pages

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

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

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

Dividers

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

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

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

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






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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jackie, Sue Brown

Review: Chance to be King by Sue Brown

Title: Chance to be King

Author: Sue Brown

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 132 Pages

At a Glance: A very good, very Sue Brown story

Blurb: After working nonstop for two years, actor Eric Pawlowski desperately needs a respite from his grueling schedule and the crippling migraines that come with it. Thinking that a few weeks in a secluded cottage is just the thing, his vacation gets off to a rough start when he almost mows down the only other guy who lives on the remote road. Fortunately Thomas is quick to forgive, and soon he, Eric, and Eric’s two dogs are palling around like they’ve known each other for years.

But when Eric witnesses Thomas coldly order a lost stranger off his property, he starts to question how well he knows him. Despite a mutual attraction that has Eric cursing every time a well-meaning member of the nearby small town interrupts their attempts to get intimate, Eric wonders if acting on his desire for Thomas will get him involved in a situation he shouldn’t be in. When his rented cabin catches fire in the middle of the night and the firemen call it arson, it confirms Eric’s suspicions.

To keep Eric with him, it’s up to Thomas to come clean about who he is… and his involvement in a decade-old web of tragedy and revenge into which Eric has unwittingly walked.

Dividers

Review: Sue Brown has always been a go-to author for me, and I just know when I see a book from her that I am going to like it. Lucky for me it seems the trend is holding true.

Eric is finally getting a long overdue vacation from his never ending job. Two weeks away with his dogs sounds a lot like heaven. Getting lost on the way to his cabin while half asleep just reassures him that he needs this break. Little did he know that almost mowing down a local while turning his car around will put him on a course that even Hollywood couldn’t have thought of.

Thomas leads a fairly secluded life. After almost being run over, Thomas finds a reason to be more sociable. That reason is Eric, the man renting a cabin on his property. The two men form a quick bond, and soon they are completely inseparable.

When Eric is awoken by a fire in the cottage he is renting, he barely escapes with his life. This leads to him staying at Thomas’s house and the two men end up growing closer, until Eric begins to notice Thomas acting hot and cold with no explanation.

After the fire is ruled arson, Thomas and the local authorities believe an event from his past is the excuse for the attack. Eventually Thomas and Eric have “the talk”, and all is revealed by both of them. The conflict for Eric is whether he can stay where there is trouble, and how in the world is he supposed to leave Thomas. Once all the revenge seekers and the ex-boyfriend angst are handled, Thomas and Eric have to figure out a way to balance their very separate lives if they want there to be a future for them.

Ms. Brown has once again written a wonderful story with some completely loveable characters that are slightly flawed but definitely not irredeemable. One aspect of her writing that is consistent from book to book is her knack for keeping the pace of the book moving steadily right up until the big reveal. I felt the relationship developed quickly but believably. No unrealistic insta-love here!

Overall, I feel this is a very good, very Sue Brown story, and I would recommend that every time.






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3.5 Stars, Amber Allure, Genre Romance, K.M. Mahoney, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Learning to Love Cats by K.M. Mahoney

Title: Learning to Love Cats

Author: K.M. Mahoney

Publisher: Amber Allure

Pages/Word Count: 61 Pages

At a Glance: Simple, sweet, and quick

Blurb: Mike isn’t much of an animal lover. His sister, however, insists that every little boy needs a pet, which is how he finds himself sitting in a veterinary office, trying to explain the facts of life to his six-year-old nephew while holding a dead hamster in a shoebox. It’s not one of his finer moments. So of course, it’s just his luck that in walks the cute, shy, and utterly lust-worthy Riley Laytham. But Mike has never been one to let an opportunity pass him by, no matter how awkward the situation might be.

Riley isn’t used to guys flirting with him, and he definitely didn’t expect it to happen at the local vet office. In the kennels, no less, surrounded by dogs and cats, and under the close scrutiny of one overly inquisitive little boy. Riley’s first instinct is to make his excuses and run, but Mike is persistent.

Their first date is a disaster. They have nothing in common, and Riley’s cats seem determined to end the budding relationship before it can get started. For some reason, though, Mike isn’t running. Now Riley just has to decide if he can make it work with a guy who staunchly declares that he doesn’t like cats.

Dividers

Review: Mike doesn’t like cats…but he does like the man who breeds them very much. But between his allergic reactions, Riley the cat breeder’s considerable skepticism, and Mike’s determination, somehow Riley Laytham is going to be Mike’s—come hell or high water.

A cute, flirtatious short story, Learning To Love Cats by K.M. Mahoney absolutely demands you check your disbelief at the door. Insta-love, crazy funny and so very sweet, Mahoney weaves a magical short tale about falling in love despite one’s own disbelief that they could ever be the object of someone else’s desire. Riley is so hesitant to believe that Mike could really love him after only a few dates. But Mike is certain that Riley must be his, and he will even learn to like those darn cats to prove it.

This is not a long, involved or angsty love story; rather, it is simple, sweet, and quick. But in a short span of time, the author manages to create two lovely characters, a sweet side cast of brothers and nephews, and spin a story that is fun and witty. This is just a kindhearted story to fall into and enjoy—looking for much else will disappoint you, be forewarned. While there may be flaws in the telling, Learning To Love Cats is a lovely tale of love and happy ever after.






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4.5 Stars, A.M. Arthur, Carina Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Chris

Review: Stand By You by A.M. Arthur

Title:  Stand By You

Author:  A.M. Arthur

Publisher: Carina Press

Pages/Word Count: 189 pages

At a Glance: solid, well-written storyline with flawed but redeemable characters

Blurb: Three months after his rescue from an abusive boyfriend, twenty-two-year-old Romy Myers has landed his first legitimate job, bussing tables at his friend’s new coffee shop. The job has brought him some stability after years of abuse have left him feeling damaged and broken. He’s working hard on his panic and social anxiety, and those things are often tempered by the big, burly presence of Brendan Walker.

From the moment ex-football player Brendan helped rescue Romy from his ex’s abuse, he’s wanted to protect him. And he does, from a distance, with joking text messages, a new gym routine to toughen him up and a genuine friendship. So far it’s been easy, but Brendan’s feelings aren’t just friendly anymore…

When an argument spirals out of control, a hot and heavy make-out session causes Romy’s friendship with supposedly straight Brendan to reach a new level. The last thing Romy wants is to fall for another guy who could potentially shatter him, but Brendan also wakes up a part of him he thought had been destroyed by violence, his heart.

Dividers Review:  This is the third book in the Belonging series and because the stories are interconnected, it’s best to read them in order.

We met Remy briefly in the first book in the series, and saw his rescue from his ex’s traumatic abuse in the next book, Maybe This Time. Remy was lucky that he has friends who were brave enough to come help him escape from his ex and give him that second chance to find his way. That doesn’t mean Remy isn’t affected by what happened, though. In fact, he feels more lost than ever. Remy is suffering from serious anxiety, and even PTSD, but he’s determined to power through it. Starting work in the café helps him at first, but his friendship with Brendan is really what helps Remy.

Brendan is one of my favorite characters in this series, even though at first we really don’t know much about him other than he helps with Street Feed. He’s a solid, good guy, though, and that shows on the day they rescue Remy. His strength and even-tempered nature help Remy and eventually, they develop a solid friendship. Remy turns to Brendan and is able to talk to him more than any of his other friends. Brendan, in turn, is the only person who is able to calm Remy down when his anxiety or PTSD flares. Eventually their strong feelings develop into more than just friendship, and it causes them to examine themselves for what they really want next.

I have always liked Remy, even at the brief views of him in the first book, No Such Thing. He was snarky and hiding how alone he was, but he made you want to just wrap him up, take him home and cuddle with him. Brendan, though, was the one I was excited to see as one of the leads in this book. His solid strength and compassion really came through in the last book, even though he wasn’t on-scene much of the time. I was seriously cheering these two on by the time things got hot and heavy, because they both deserve to be happy and have someone that’s there for them.

Now, this isn’t necessarily an easy book to read because of the trauma and issues that Remy ends up going through, but to see the end result when you hit that final page is well worth it. This book fits well with the other two in the series, and I have to say is just as addictive as the other books.  That makes these books very easy to pick up and read over and over again.

A.M. Arthur has quickly become one of my go-to authors for that solid, well-written storyline with flawed but redeemable characters. Her characters really are the backbone of all of her stories. Their ability to overcome what life throws at them and find that happiness at the end of the storm is what keeps me coming back for more.

I recommend this book for those that love a good story with flawed characters who can pull through what life throws at them.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, K.A. Merikan, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: The Devil’s Ride by K.A. Merikan

Title: The Devil’s Ride

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 370 Pages

At a Glance: Fast paced, a couple I loved, and drama of the escapist variety

Blurb: — You don’t fuck with the club president’s son. —

Tooth. Vice President of the Coffin Nails Motorcycle Club. On a neverending quest for vengeance. The last thing he needs is becoming a permanent babysitter for a male hooker. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Amy Lane, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Candy Man by Amy Lane

Title: Candy Man

Author: Amy Lane

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 136 Pages

At a Glance: Highly recommended

Blurb: Adam Macias has been thrown a few curve balls in his life, but losing his VA grant because his car broke down and he missed a class was the one that struck him out. One relative away from homelessness, he’s taking the bus to Sacramento, where his cousin has offered a house-sitting job and a new start. He has one goal, and that’s to get his life back on track. Friends, pets, lovers? Need not apply.

Finn Stewart takes one look at Adam as he’s applying to Candy Heaven and decides he’s much too fascinating to leave alone. Finn is bright and shiny—and has never been hurt. Adam is wary of his attention from the very beginning—Finn is dangerous to every sort of peace Adam is forging, and Adam may just be too damaged to let him in at all.

But Finn is tenacious, and Adam’s new boss, Darrin, doesn’t take bullshit for an answer. Adam is going to have to ask himself which is harder—letting Finn in or living without him? With the holidays approaching it seems like an easy question, but Adam knows from experience that life is seldom simple, and the world seldom cooperates with hope, faith, or the plans of cats and men.

Dividers

Review: Let’s begin this review with discussing Darrin, who is the owner of Candy Heaven in Old Town Sacramento. The candy man has this neat little trick he does with Pixie Stix that makes what happens in this story a bit magical. I absolutely love when Amy Lane uses magic to weave her stories, and the magic begins in Candy Man when Darrin predicts, with the help of a Pixie Stix, that a disenchanted young man is headed in their direction and needs to be sweetened up a bit.

Adam Macias has a POS, broken down car that has caused him nothing but trouble, so after selling it for bus fare, he heads to Sacramento to housesit for his cousin Rico, who has left to serve an internship in New York. Adam finally makes it to Sacramento, but not before Rico has gone. What he soon finds out upon his arrival is that Rico’s cat is crazed and the dog, Clobber, is just a bit too affectionate, but at least he has a home for six months. Now, all Adam has to do is find a job.

Numerous attempts later, he comes across a Help Wanted sign in front of a shop called Candy Heaven, and applies for the position of general help. As they near closing time of Adam’s first day on the job, he nearly faints from hunger, so Darrin calls for a delivery from their resident sandwich boy, and this is how Adam and Finn first met.

And man, Finn crushes real bad on the tall, dark, and broody guy Darrin has just hired, and as they get to know each other, slowly, Finn finds out that Adam, under all his tough exterior, is a really sweet guy.

Candy Man is another winner by Amy Lane. I just love that she can surprise me with the way her mind works, and gets me to laugh out loud at how long it takes for a guy in the bathroom to do his business.

All in all, I highly recommend Candy Man to Amy Lane’s fans, and to her soon to be fans.








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3 Stars, Cheryl Dragon, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Jackie

Review: Blake’s Home by Cheryl Dragon

Title: Blake’s Home

Author: Cheryl Dragon

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 110 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Plenty of men have tried to get ranch hand Blake Louis to The Love Shack but none succeed. At the White family ranch, Blake has found friends and a home. He desperately wants to stay. Yet he must keep his shifter secret and avoid his feelings for Jared White. This job has to work out. No one ever wanted him forever—none of his family did—so why would a rich successful rancher want more than a roll in the hay with a dirt poor ranch hand?

Screwing the staff is a bad idea but Jared White needs more than sex from Blake. The men are friends but he’ll risk it for a chance at more. Love has never worked for Jared and a childhood rival delights in sabotaging him. Jared can’t give up hope. He believes that Blake is the one.

The only smart place to start is The Love Shack, a neutral place where Jared isn’t the boss and Blake isn’t the hand. Determined to win Blake’s heart, Jared delves into Blake’s past. As amazing as the sex is, Blake resists sweet promises. Love, trust, and happiness are as crazy to Blake as the bobcat he can shift into.

Dividers

Review: I am a huge fan of shifter stories, and an even bigger fan of cowboy stories. Having said that, I figured this book would be right up my alley. Honestly, in some ways it was, and in some ways it wasn’t.

Blake Louis is not only an undercover bobcat shifter, but he is also gay. In the past, both of these things have caused him a lot of trouble. Working on the White family ranch has at least made the gay thing less of a problem for him, but he still has to hide his shifter side. Or does he?

Jared White is Blake’s boss and one of the owners of the White family ranch. That is the biggest problem for Blake. Not only is Jared his boss, but he is rich and powerful. He also isn’t a shifter. How in the world will Blake be able to overcome all these obstacles?

Well, like a song from my youth, there is a little place back in the woods called The Love Shack. This place is basically an old, converted barn turned bar that sets at the meeting point of the four largest ranches in the area. All the owners and hands go there to let off some steam and kick their heels up. Blake believes if he and Jared come together at The Love Shack they can meet on even ground.

This leads to some pretty steamy times between the two men, but it doesn’t solve all their problems. Eventually, Blake finds out that his shifter issue may not be as important as he thought it was, but some unfortunate situations lead to misunderstandings.

Jared’s childhood rival tries to drive a wedge between Jared and Blake and it will take some help from their friends and a lot of communication to get to the heart of the matter and put these men on the right track for their happily ever after.

I liked the basic outline of this story and I absolutely loved the characters. The one thing I didn’t like about this story was the over-used Big Misunderstanding storyline that took too long to straighten out. Overall this was a good read, and I would be interested in any other books that come along in this series.








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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Keira Andrews, Reviewed by Janet, Self-Published

Review: Holding the Edge by Keira Andrews

Title: Holding the Edge

Author: Keira Andrews

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 88 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Gay figure skaters keep their relationship secret–and end up on thin ice.

Misha Reznikov has an Olympic gold—and a secret lover who just happens to be the silver medalist. Now that their competitive days are over, Misha and former rival Dev Avira are setting up house in LA and giving their relationship a shot in the real world. They agree that keeping their romance strictly under wraps is best for their pro careers and Misha’s family back in Russia. So what if Dev hasn’t told his parents, and they never eat out for fear of being spotted? It’s not perfect, but they’re together.

But as they prepare for a special holiday skating show on Christmas Eve in Dev’s hometown, tension builds. How long can Misha and Dev keep their love secret–and what happens if one of them wants to stop hiding?

Dividers

Review: What a wonderful book. Holding the Edge is the continuation of Cold War, where we met Dev and Misha and watched them fall in lust. Misha’s voice tells the story as they step away from competition and the international spotlight, and begin to build a life together – quietly.

” We may not be competing anymore, but we are still in the skating world. There are rules, even if they are not written down.”

This conflict between who and what they are, and where they want to be, is the driving force of the story. As Dev and Misha get closer emotionally, the heat of their physical relationship is very powerful. It’s sexy and good, and binds them closer together to a point it is hard to hide their ‘coupleness’.

Keira Andrews takes the time to develop the characters secondary to the MCs, adding layers and depth to the story, giving it a richness that adds to the impact of the story upon the reader. I was drawn into their world and was invested in their hope for the future. I have never skated and have only been in a rink once, but I could clearly see their world and be a part of it. I fretted and worried about them, I hurt for them, and I was angered by the politics that pressured them to remain hidden, as too did their own fears. Keira is very successful at writing from Misha’s POV. There are wonderful Russian flavors that scent the story, leading to the holidays and the touching conclusion.

This is a powerful and timely story, with many overtones – but the strongest feeling I had was excitement. I was glad to be a part of the story and had to immediately reread the whole book to see if it really was as good as I thought. It was great to see the lust from Cold War develop into love in Holding The Edge….I think I have another favorite Christmas story too. Keira Andrews has just become an auto-buy for me.








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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mary Calmes, Reviewed by Jackie

Review: Blue Days by Mary Calmes

Title: Blue Days

Author: Mary Calmes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 98 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Falling for a coworker is rarely a good idea, especially for a man getting a last chance at salvaging his career. But from the moment Dwyer Knolls sees the beautiful but socially awkward Takeo Hiroyuki, he seems destined to make bad decisions. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Susan Laine

Review: The Sensualist & the Untouched by Susan Laine

Title: The Sensualist & the Untouched

Author: Susan Laine

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Page/Word Count: 324 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Being over thirty is not an issue for Corey Paige. Being frigid and a virgin, however, is a huge problem for the only son of a newspaper magnate. No matter the risk, Corey’s intent on resolving both problems in one go.

Enter Lucian Allard, a wealthy hedonist with a notorious reputation at club Boudoir—and an unconventional sexual mentoring program for those who suffer from dysfunctions. As the two men begin a sensual journey to awaken Corey’s libido, Corey’s frigid body isn’t all that begins to melt. His untouched feelings also spark to life.

Though a family emergency puts a halt to awakening Corey’s senses and desires, Corey and Lucian grow closer as friends. Then an unexpected kiss from Lucian in Corey’s most desperate hour changes everything. Now Corey must decide if the program is still an aid or an obstacle to two lonely men trying to maintain a professional detachment but falling hopelessly in love.

Dividers

Review: This book hit a number of firsts for me: my first review for The Novel Approach Reviews, my first book from the author, Susan Laine, and my first incredibly character driven novel. When I got this book to review, I pretty much hit the jackpot on those accounts, because this book took me for a serious ride.

As I said, this book is very much character driven. Corey and Lucian are complex characters that complement each other perfectly. As the title suggests, one is a hedonistic sensualist and the other is literally untouched – a self-professed frigid virgin. It might not sound like the perfect match, but believe me when I tell you it isn’t.

Told through both Corey and Lucian’s perspectives, the novel starts with Corey going to a psychologist for help with his frigidity. The help he gets is rather unconventional, as he is sent along to Lucian, who is a sexual mentor. Throughout the novel Lucian works hard at opening Corey up to the sensual side of life, and introduces him to all that is sensual: sounds, smells, taste, touch. Please note, I did say sensual and not sexual. Not everything is always about sex, though most of the time the end goal is getting Corey to reach that point.

If you’re looking for a fast paced story, this is not it. It is slow because of how character driven it is; however, I don’t think that takes away from the story. It actually enhances it. The detail to every setting is incredibly written. I was placed time and again in each room with Corey and Lucian, whether they were at Lucian’s penthouse, Corey’s apartment, Heather House, or Boudoir. I started to see, smell, and feel everything Corey felt. I even wanted to be there in person experiencing those things with him.

Susan Laine is a talented author. The level of detail is astounding and clearly researched. It makes me wonder if she knew all of these things beforehand, or if it was researched just for the book. If the latter, then this was an unbelievable undertaking.

I highly recommend this book. If you’re not a fan of character driven novels with a slower plot, give this one a chance. It might just win you over with the beautiful details and overall…sensuality.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

 

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4 Stars, Chris Owen, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Torquere Press, Tory Temple

Review: Never too Early: The Beginning by Chris Owen and Tory Temple

Title: Never too Early: The Beginning

Author: Chris Owen & Tory Temple

Publisher: Torquere Press

Pages/Word Count:

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Firefighters Chancellor Shanahan and Tucker McBride have been together for years. They’ve been through the rough patches and come out the other side, although shift work, misunderstandings, and stubborn personalities can make things interesting. Chance knows that he and Tucker love each other, however, and neither of them have any interest in other people. So what happens when they meet another couple with a similar relationship? An unlikely friendship could take a possible turn. Continue reading

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