5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 1 Star, Reviewed by Amy, Tara Lain

Review: Canning the Center by Tara Lain – Narrated by John-Paul Barrel

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Canning the Center

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: John-Paul Barrel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 9 hours and 17 minutes

At a glance: Tara Lain’s work shines through an otherwise flat and disappointing narration.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: Six foot seven inch, 300 pound Jamal Jones loves football, so when he finds out the ultra-conservative owner of his new pro football team fired their current center because he’s gay, bisexual Jamal decides to stay in the closet and hang with the females. Then, at a small drag show, he comes face-to-face with his sexual fantasy in the form of Trixie LaRue, a drag queen so exquisitely convincing she scrambles Jamal’s hormones—and his resolve to nurse his straight side.

Trevor Landry, aka Trixie LaRue, hides more than his genitals. A mathematician so brilliant he can’t be measured, Trevor disguises his astronomical IQ and his quirk for women’s clothes behind his act as a gay activist undergrad at Southern California University.

To Trevor, Jamal is the answer to a dream—a man who can love and accept both his personas. When he discovers Jamal’s future is threatened if he’s seen with a guy, Trevor becomes Trixie to let Jamal pass as straight. But Trevor risks his position every time he puts on a dress. Is there a closet big enough to hold a football pro and a drag queen?

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Review: I just simply adore Tara Lain. In Canning the Center, she writes about a budding football player in the professional environment who is very aware of his sexuality and what it will mean for his future in professional sports. This is a super sweet and wonderfully told love story with a little bit of controversy and a lot of awesome.

Jamal is every man and woman’s dream man. Gorgeous, tall, dark, and handsome. I adored this character and all his sweet, gentle, and old fashioned ways—everything about him. He is coming to the realization that although he states he is bisexual, he is actually gay. Introduce him to Trixie LaRue, a wonderful drag queen who is confident even though Trevor—the man behind the makeup—isn’t, and this is a recipe for success. Trevor is a genius and all around awesome guy. It was fun to see these two fall in love.

There isn’t one bad thing I can say about this story, and that’s saying a lot considering that the narration was awful.

If you’ve read my reviews in the past, you’ll know I am not a fan of John-Paul Barrel. I don’t understand how this man is still narrating books. I’m sorry, I know that sounds harsh, but he’s monotone and speaks almost phonetically, like he’s reading out every syllable. Add in his trying to do Trixie LaRue, and she sings too? Ugh. I need to pay better attention to who’s narrating a story before I pick it for review.

For Tara Lain’s book to shine through this awful performance shows what a wonderful and fun story she wrote.

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You can buy Canning the Center here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

Audible.com

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5 Stars, Avery Cockburn, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Playing for Keeps and Playing to Win by Avery Cockburn

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Avery Cockburn
Title: Playing for Keeps & Playing to Win (Glasgow Lads: Books One and Two)

Author: Avery Cockburn

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 325 Pages/360 Pages

At a Glance: I can conceive of no reason not to read these books!

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb Playing for Keeps: Rule One: No Drama!

Fergus Taylor is damaged goods. Reeling from a brutal breakup, he’s determined to captain his LGBT soccer team out of scandal and into a winning season. For that, he needs strict rules and careful plans. He does NOT need a brash, muscle-bound lad messing with his head and setting his body afire.

John Burns has a rule of his own: Don’t get attached. Boyfriends are for guys with nothing to hide. Nobody—not his university mates, not the men he beds—knows his family’s shame. Now his double life is starting to unravel, thanks to a certain Highlander whose storm-riddled eyes turn John inside out, who wears a kilt like he was born in it.

Fergus is the first man John wants to share his secret with—but he’s the last man who could handle it. John knows the truth would shatter Fergus’s still-fragile heart. But how can he live a lie when he’s falling in love?

Blurb Playing to Win: Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER to be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?

Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.

Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds, want different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.

Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other’s hearts.

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Review: So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Where has this author been all my life?

Have you read these books yet? If you haven’t, do it. I don’t know who Avery Cockburn is IRL, but one thing I do know is that this author has an immense talent for storytelling as well as for creating characters it’s utterly impossible not to fall in love with. I admit I picked up these books because Scottish men in kilts are Scottish. Men. In. Kilts. But then I began reading Fergus and John’s story and couldn’t put it down. The bonus is that when I got to Andrew and Colin’s novel, I loved it even more.

This series tells the story of an LGBT football league. For us Americans that’s soccer, and I’ll admit I don’t know the first thing about the sport, but I do know that the author hasn’t made the books as much about the football as they are about the team and its message—that the world of athletics is striving for change in a positive direction. That’s not to say, however, that these men and women don’t eat, sleep, breathe, live for and love their sport.

The theme of the series, at least so far, is one of opposites attract. These are storylines in which the deep sociopolitical divides of religion, as it is for John (a Protestant) and Fergus (a Catholic), and class, as it is for Colin (a low class commoner) and Lord Andrew (a wealthy aristocrat), introduces the two men in their respective books and then weaves the immense conflict in with secrets, lies, and flat out resentment about and of their differences. Cockburn weaves the angst into these books, not in a heavy handed or irritating way—as often happens in the angst-for-angst’s-sake novels we see in romance—but in a way that suits the climate of this country. The obstacles these men face are genuine, constructed by history and tradition, and the key to their finding a way to make a relationship work is in their willingness to cross those divides, sacrifice for the sake of the love that grows between them, and accept that their feelings for each other far outweigh the dogma of their ancestry.

Honestly, I can’t begin to do these books justice in words. I devoured them. Cockburn’s storytelling is rich, smooth and burns with the intensity of a good Scottish Whiskey. These characters, all of them, ooze an irresistible charm and draw the reader into not only their stories but their lives thanks to the author’s attention to detail, all the way down to the language of the country in which the series is set. Pure and unadulterated love is the only way to describe my feeling toward these books.

With each book Cockburn steers us toward the climactic arc with a deft and clever hand. By the time I got to the make-or-break point for the couples, I was so thoroughly invested in the relationships that their pain was my pain, and I don’t mind admitting I got a little choked up when everything seemed as though it was going to come crashing down around them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a little jaded over the years and after the thousands of books I’ve read and reviewed in that time, I have to give all the respect to an author who can make my gut churn and my heart hurt simply because they’ve made me love their characters. These books are a solid plus in the win column.

Sexy, steamy, erotic, whatever word you want to use to describe the way the author brings the characters together, they all fit. The lust is what brings them together. The love that grows between John and Fergus, and Colin and Andrew, is what keeps them together. And yes, they’re young (these are new adult novels), but there’s something there between them that makes you believe with all your heart that they’re together for the long haul.

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You can buy Playing for Keeps here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

You can buy Playing to Win here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Genre Romance, Loch Awe Press, Reviewed by Jules, Samantha Wayland

Review: Home & Away by Samantha Wayland

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Home & Away

Author: Samantha Wayland

Publisher: Loch Awe Press

Pages/Word Count: 402 Pages

At a Glance: This was the perfect book at the perfect time. It just made me feel…good.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: You can build a team, but you have to find your home.

Rupert Smythe is fond of many things. Callum Morrison isn’t one of them.

Rupert is a quiet, thoughtful business man and, sadly, a total wimp. Maybe not the ideal candidate to run a professional hockey team, but he signed on to do it anyway. As his life has reminded him on an almost daily basis since, this isn’t the most brilliant idea he’s ever had. And that was before Callum showed up.

Being in the spotlight is just part of being a professional athlete, but Callum needs a break. He arrives in Moncton unannounced, determined to help grow the team he just bought, and under the assumption he’d be welcome. Possibly he should have tried to make a better first impression.

Callum figures he can push through the rest of the summer, never expecting two kids, a host of friends, and his growing feelings for Rupert to derail everything he has ever believed about what he wanted, and what he could have.

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Review: I’m asking in advance for you guys to overlook the number of times I might use the words cute, sweet, adorable, charming, or lovely in this review; because Home and Away was ALL of those things. Now, I know that first sentence might send some people running – but don’t! Stop right there. It wasn’t sweetness overload. Honest. It was just…charming. It worked – all the way around.

Callum Morrison is a household name among NHL fans, especially those in Denver where he plays. He is your typical rough and tumble hockey player, who has come to spend the summer in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, to help out in operations with the Moncton Ice Cats, the professional hockey team of which he is part owner. Rupert Smythe, general manager of the Ice Cats, is the exact opposite of the type of person one would expect Callum to be interested in – and vice versa – but, when things start clicking between them, it’s like they were meant to be.

Rupert and Callum just fit. When Rupert unexpectedly needs help with a family matter, Callum doesn’t hesitate to jump in, much to Rupert’s surprise. As the story unfolds, and they begin to truly know one another, their preconceived notions of each other get blown out of the water. I love how they grow together, and ultimately, end up finding their home with, and because of, each other.

There were soooo many parts of this book that had me grinning, laughing, swooning, sighing, and fanning myself – these boys were on fire – I can’t even begin to recount them to you. Just know that there is an adorable four year old, a couple of Ice Cats who will have you cracking up, a few great friends, some hockey, some awesome figure skating, and a bubble butt. Oh! And, the Morrisons. If you’ve read any of Samantha Wayland’s Hat Trick series, then you’re familiar with some of the Morrison clan already, but if you haven’t, let me tell you, they are fabulous. I think it’s also important to note that I had not read anything else in this world, or from this author previously, and it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this book one bit.

Could I make a couple of small criticisms about the book? Sure. There were a handful of editing issues…things happened perhaps a little quickly between the two MCs…the sheer number of gay people in the story felt a little convenient at times…Did I care about any of that? No. I absolutely ADORED these characters, and their story. This was the perfect book at the perfect time. It just made me feel…good.

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You can buy Home & Away here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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Giveaways, Jeff Adams

Guest Post, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Hat Trick 3: Penalty Shot by Jeff Adams

HT3-Tour

Today we’re so please to welcome author Jeff Adams back to The Novel Approach for a visit on his HT3: Penalty Shot Blog Tour. Enjoy Jeff’s guest post, the excerpt he brought along to share with you, and then be sure to leave a comment right here for the chance to win an e-book in the Hat Trick series.

Read on for all the details, and good luck!

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It’s great to be back at The Novel Approach today! Many thanks to Lisa for hosting me so I can talk about my latest novel, Hat Trick 3: Penalty Shot.

Hat Trick 3 is the final novel in the Hat Trick trilogy. Simon and Alex are in the senior year at the University of Michigan, playing hockey and planning their future. They also pay it forward in this installment as they take on coaching a youth hockey team so that a talented goalie, along with some other players, can play on an LGBT friendly team.

What surprises them as they start working with the youth team is the level of harassment that’s still out there four years after they came out, even in the era of You Can Play and more athletes coming out all the time. In fact, the way they end up working with the team is because the goalie, a young man who is on the flamboyant side, isn’t picked up for a team. Scottie, therefore, decides to form his own team and recruits Simon and Alex to coach it. As Simon and Alex see how good Scottie is, they can’t believe a coach would pass up his talent.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing they come up against. Once they’re a team, the other teams that are already in their division aren’t very welcoming. Even having two Michigan players as coaches doesn’t shield them from a couple incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct.

This theme of homophobia and harassment has cropped up in each of the three Hat Trick novels in different ways. I’m hopeful that this theme one day makes the trilogy a bit dated and people will read in disbelief that such a thing could happen. Sadly, it doesn’t look like that will be the case any day soon. You Can Play came about as I was putting the finishing touches on the first novel back in 2012-13. Yet, even now you hear too many stories about student athletes getting harassed for their sexual orientation. In Hat Trick 3, Simon and Alex have to approach it differently because they aren’t the ones being harassed, instead they’ve got to help their team deal with it.

It’s not all confrontation for the youth team though, there’s a lot of fun times there too as the team goes from a bunch of teens brought together at the last minute to a team that finds its groove. There’s even a bit of deja vu for Simon and Alex as a romance starts to blossom on the team, too.

If you’ve read other books in the Hat Trick series, I hope you’ll pick this one up to see how things go for the team as well as checking out everything else going on with Simon and Alex as they work towards their happily ever after.

I do have a giveaway to celebrate this release. One lucky commenter will receive their choice of one ebook from the Hat Trick series. So leave a comment or a question by 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, September 21, 2015. I’ll definitely come by to see what you’re saying and one of you will walk away with a free ebook.

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For this excerpt I’m offering up a little taste of what the youth team faces as they begin their season. I love how Scottie stands up to it, and how help comes in from an ally, too.

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Excerpt: The first Rainbow High game arrived way too fast. The team seemed ready, at least in spirit. There wasn’t nearly enough practice, but everyone said they were excited following yesterday’s session. Scottie looked great, and I looked forward to seeing him in a real game. We had some good shooters, especially Walt and Bryan. Based on the competition Walt told us to expect, we still needed work. The best practice in the world though was playing a real game.

Considering everything, Alex and I couldn’t have been happier with how the team had gelled in the past two weeks. They had a good time on ice and seemed to be bonding off ice, too, as much as their individual schedules would allow.

The parking lot of the rink was jammed as Alex, Hillary, Danny, Trent and I arrived, nearly an hour early. We wanted to recon some of the other teams in our division, and be here as our guys arrived. At least for this first game, all the coaches were present.

Two of our division’s games were already in progress, so Trent and Danny went to check those out as Hillary, Alex, and I took over a table to watch for our team to start trickling in.

“Excuse me,” said a guy in a Chargers jersey, as he came up to our group. I recognized the team name as one in our division. “I was wondering if I could get you guys’ autograph. It’s not every day you see the Wolverines’ captains just hanging out here.”

“Sure,” I said. Behind the autograph seeker I saw Scottie come in, rolling his huge gear bag behind him. “We’d be happy to.” The guy gave me a piece of paper, which looked torn from a spiral notebook, and a pen. “What’s your name?”

“Griffin,” he said. “What’s got you guys out here?”

“Hey, Simon, Alex, Hillary,” Scottie said, bumping fists with everyone. He sorta bounced between the three of us. “Great to see you.”

“Scottie, you’re here early,” Alex said.

“Yeah, I wanted to be here when the rest of the team showed. Be a good captain and all.”

“You guys know this sissy boy?” Griffin asked, his mouth hanging open.

I stood, and had a couple inches on the guy, even though he was in skates. Alex and Hillary circled around.

“We coach Scottie’s team,” I said. “That kind of talk isn’t very sportsmanlike. Not only have you insulted him, you’re not exactly making friends with us either.” I took Alex’s hand for extra emphasis. “Since you asked for our autograph, I assume you know that we’re a couple, right?”

“Well, yeah,” Griffin stumbled over his words, “but you guys don’t prance around. How’s he supposed to stop a puck? He’ll probably hide in the net when he sees what’s coming towards him.”

Scottie spoke up while remaining all smiles. “Do we get to play you today?”

“No. Unfortunately we don’t get the honor of wiping the rink with your…” Griffin stopped, considering his words further. Danny and Trent joined us as well. “…team. We see you in two weeks.”

“I can assure you I won’t be hiding in the net. I’ll be out front, waiting to knock down anything you send my way.”

“And I suggest your team take a good look at league rules,” I said, “which covers in detail that there’s no unsportsmanlike conduct tolerated.”

The guy looked dumbfounded. He searched the rink, maybe looking for some of his teammates to back him up, or for a way to get himself out of this situation. “You can’t tell me,” he said, finding a defiant streak, “that if you two acted like fairies that the Wolverines would’ve given you a look.”

“Given how good they play, I wouldn’t hesitate to recruit them.”

Whoa. Coach Rapp, decked out in his Wolverines jacket that clearly said who he was, managed to come in from nowhere. Griffin turned, seemingly ready to say something, but stopped when he saw who it was.

“And I’ve seen Scottie between the pipes,” Coach continued. “He’s good. Someone I’ll be keeping tabs on. Now, young man, who’s your coach?”

The guy turned white as a ghost. I thought he might pass out.

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Penalty_Shot_400x600Blurb: Life has a sneaky way of checking you into the boards.

The relationship that began when Simon Roberts and Alex Miller were in high school is about to cross another milestone as they begin their final year at the University of Michigan. It’s been four amazing years of love, friends and hockey.

Now it’s time to help pay it forward.

When a talented sixteen-year-old goalie is denied placement on a youth league roster, he asks Simon and Alex to coach a team of LGBT youth and allies. With the determination, hard work, and help of an amazing group of friends, they rally the team towards a winning season.

In the final installment of the best selling Hat Trick trilogy, Simon and Alex find everything they’ve worked so hard for is in jeopardy. When they’re thrown a devastating curve ball, the far-reaching implications put their entire future together on the line.

Buy Links: JMS Books || Amazon || Smashwords

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Jeff_headshot-400x600Author Bio: Jeff’s written stories since he was in middle school and became a gay romance writer in 2009 when his first short stories were published. Since then he’s written several more shorts and novels, including some in the young adult genre, and he plans to keep writing as long as wonderful readers keeping picking up his books.

Jeff lives in rural Northern California with his husband of twenty years, Will. Some of his favorite things include the musicals Rent and [title of show], the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey teams, and the reality TV competition So You Think You Can Dance. If forced to pick his favorite book it would be a tie between Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and David Levithan’s Every Day.

Learn more at jeffadamswrites.com

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify

*No residency restrictions apply

*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)

*Comments posted after the contest deadline will not be eligible in the draw

*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified

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Kate McMurray

Guest Post: The Long Slide Home by Kate McMurray

The Long Slide Home

Baseball and the Rainbow League

By Kate McMurray

It’s public knowledge that I’m a baseball fan, right?

I figure sports fandom is one of those things that knows no gender. At least not in my house growing up. My dad watches all of the sports. All of them. Even golf. And Sunday was for watching sports, so that’s what you’d find him doing. (True story: until he retired, pretty much the only things he ever read were trade publications related to his job and Sports Illustrated. Now that he has more leisure time, he seems to be in a phase where he reads rock star autobiographies, so he’s branching out, I guess?) Anyway, sports on everywhere. Even my mother watches football sometimes.

My formative moment happened at age twelve when my dad took me to my first Yankees game. I was hooked. We lost to the Orioles, too, I remember. I didn’t even care. And then, blah blah, I went to college in Massachusetts during the Yankees’ late-90s dynasty blah blah super fan blah blah wore Jeter jersey in the dorms just to antagonize people blah. Having to defend my team loyalty to the Boston fans I went to school with only made me a more devout New York fan, so you can imagine my delight when I moved to my first apartment in New York City and, on summer nights when a game was on TV and the Yankees made some truly remarkable plays? You could hear people in the buildings neighboring mine cheering. It was awesome.

I get that I don’t look like your typical sports fan. I like fashion and art and design, too. I’m not particularly athletic. I listen to opera for fun sometimes. I’m multifaceted, what can I say?

But this is old news. Let me tell you about two weird baseball-related things that happened this year.

First, I went to Flame Con in Brooklyn back in June. Flame Con is essentially an LGBT Comic Con, and it was held at Brooklyn’s legendary Grand Prospect Hall (you owe it to yourself to watch the commercial). Dreamspinner Press had a table there, but as I am not a writer of the sorts of sub-genres they were promoting (fantasy, sci fi, superheroes, etc.) I just went to the con as a spectator with a bunch of my friends. Who all cosplayed, by the way. I wore a dress with dinosaurs on it, because I like whimsy but full-on costumes make me uncomfortable. Anyway, my entourage members were all big comic book fans, so they were delighted to talk to some of the artists and get their pictures taken with other cosplayers. I, on the other hand, found a guy who draws a webcomic about a gay baseball league (sound familiar?!) and started chatting with him as my group moved through the ballroom of exhibitors. My friends left me behind. “Kate’s found her people,” somebody said.

So, leave it to me to find the one baseball fan in the sea of superhero comics, I guess.

The second thing that happened was a couple of weeks ago at a reader/author meet and greet. A young man walked up and started asking about my books. Trying to ascertain which of the books I had available I should give him, I asked, “Do you like baseball?” He looked at me blankly for a long moment and then said, “I’m gay,” as if that was an obvious answer to the question. When I clarified that, actually, I knew many a gay sports fan, he laughed and explained he just didn’t care for sports. So I gave him a different book.

I mean, your interests are your interests. Not everyone like sports (or fashion, or opera, or romance novels).

I think I like reading about things about which I am nerdy as much as I like reading about completely unfamiliar things. I tried to strike the balance in the Rainbow League books so that people who aren’t into baseball could still find them accessible but the hard core baseball fans could find delightful things, too. There’s a sabermetrics joke in the first book that I think probably six people will get, but I’m fine with that as long as readers can still enjoy the stories and larger themes.

So I hope you check them out!

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The_Long_Slide_Home_Final_FLATBlurb: Nate and Carlos have been the best of friends since their childhood playing baseball together in the Bronx. For the past few years, Nate’s been in love with Carlos, though he’s never acted on it and Carlos has never given any indication that he returns Nate’s feelings. Nate has finally given up, determined to move on and find someone else, especially now that Carlos has shacked up with his boyfriend, Aiden.

Carlos doesn’t understand why Nate has suddenly gotten weird, acting cold and distant at team practice for the Rainbow League. But if that’s how things are going to be, Carlos is done trying to figure Nate out. But then Aiden reveals he has a violent side, and Carlos needs his best friend’s support. On top of that, he starts to realize his feelings for Nate might not be limited to friendship. But in the aftermath of his relationship with Aiden, and with Nate having problems of his own, the timing is all wrong to make a real relationship work. As emotions run high, both have a hard time figuring out what is real and what is just convenient.

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

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Kate McMurrayBio: Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with base­ball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Links: Website || Twitter || Facebook

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3.5 Stars, Alexa Milne, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Chris, Totally Bound

Review: Sporting Chance by Alexa Milne

Title: Sporting Chance

Author: Alexa Milne

Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages

At a Glance: Even though there are some things that didn’t work for me in this novel, I’d still recommend reading it for yourself.

Reviewed By: Chris

Blurb: Sometimes keeping hold of love is just as hard as finding it.

Dan and Iestyn are looking for romance. A school trip, a love of history, a wedding, a tango, the game of chess, and their friends and family all help the two men to realise that they’ve finally found true love with each other.

Iestyn thinks that he’s completely ordinary and that Dan is the only out and currently gay rugby player anywhere. Being gay can be difficult enough. Being famous also has its problems. But being gay, famous and a sportsman can make finding love complicated. So when Dan Morgan meets Iestyn Jones and gives him his phone number, their road ahead has more than a few bumps to overcome.

Will Iestyn and Dan overcome the obstacles thrown in their paths? Or will fame destroy their lives as well as their love?

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Review: Sporting Chance is the debut novel from author Alexa Milne. The set up for the story is an adorable ‘meet-cute’ between Dan and Iestyn. While on a field trip with his students, Iestyn is surprised by Dan flirting with him and giving him his card for later. Of course, the students are in awe because Dan is the only openly gay, currently playing, professional rugby player in the sport. They think it is super cool that Dan is flirting with their teacher.

Now, this is not the set up for a start to an easy relationship for Dan and Iestyn. Both men have issues they need to work through to be good for the other. While Iestyn is the person all his friends turn to when they need things fixed, to listen to them, etc., his own support system isn’t that great because those friends aren’t the reciprocating type to support him when he needs it. I will admit there are a lot of secondary characters in this story on both Dan’s and Iessie’s side. There were almost too many characters in the story. This, for me, ended up detracting from the time that should be spent on Dan and Iestyn, who I really did like and wanted to have an awesome HEA in the end.

As this was a debut story, I went in with an open mind, knowing there might be things that could pull me out of the story. Fortunately, those times weren’t excessive but enough that I lost the pace of the story for a bit. The story was well written but contained too much of an info dump to keep me solidly in the story. I don’t have a problem with a word heavy book; in fact, I love longer books. A book that dumps a lot of unnecessary information about things happening around the characters, though, tends to pull me from the story. Ultimately, I wanted my focus to stay on Dan and Iestyn, particularly Iestyn, because he was just adorable.

Now this is just my reader/reviewer opinion, and I recommend reading this story for yourself because what doesn’t work for me might work for you. I am definitely going to give future works by this author a try because I really did enjoy her main characters and the basis for the story.

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You can buy Sporting Chance here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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5 Stars, Ai Press, D.H. Starr, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Jackie

Review: Wrestling With Passion by D.H. Starr

Title: Wrestling With Passion

Author: D.H. Starr

Publisher: Ai Press

Pages/Word Count: 247 Pages

At a Glance: Wrestling With Passion is a great continuation to Scott and Derek’s story.

Reviewed By: Jackie

Blurb: Scott and Derek’s epic passion continues into sophomore year with new challenges to face and overcome. There is one problem: How can you fight an adversary you can’t see?

Derek has always helped others, often placing himself in risky situations. Scott has lived with instability his entire life, moving from place to place, never able to set roots. Surviving the obstacles set in place by Scott’s unloving father and overcoming the threat of an unstable fellow student their freshman year, they start their second year of college believing they’ve overcome all of the barriers blocking their future happiness.

All that changes when a troubled student, Tim, enters their lives. Derek can’t help but reach out to the drug-abusing freshman. Scott can’t suppress the paralyzing fear of losing Derek, the one stable thing in his life. As they compromise their own internal needs in an effort to support each other, resentment builds and guilt festers.

Is this new obstacle, the demons that live deep inside each of them, the one that might tear them apart?

Dividers

Review: I have loved following Scott and Derek since they met in their senior year of high school. It was great watching Derek grow and come into his true personality with the love he finds in Scott. Scott, though, was a little trickier to like. But, once he finally came clean about everything in his life, he quickly became an all-time favorite character. When the boys went away to college, they faced some of the same growing pains all couples face, but they came through it stronger than when they began.

With the summer almost over, and Derek and Scott getting ready to head off to college for their sophomore year, they take a short weekend trip to have some alone time before the pressure of wrestling and classes and all the other time consuming tasks begin. During this trip, the boys share everything: their hopes and fears and, of course, plenty of smexy times. There are promises made, and both of them feel more secure together than ever.

The first day back at school brings their dorm-mate, Tim, into their lives, and it seems that is where the problems begin. After the issues Derek had their freshman year, after reaching out to someone in need, they are both leery of getting too close to this troubled young man. This situation by itself wouldn’t be a problem, but throw in Scott’s fear of losing anyone else in his life, and Derek’s feelings that Scott is trying to change him, and it leads to some troubled times for our two favorite guys.

As usual D.H. Starr takes us on a journey with Scott and Derek, both of them having to dig deep and be up front with each other about their deepest, darkest fears. Once they lay all their cards out on the table, though, it seems like they are better than ever. Wrestling With Passion is a great continuation to Scott and Derek’s story. I truly love the fact that these two haven’t just had an easy path to happiness, but have had to work hard to get where they are today. Their sexual chemistry is off the charts, and the love they feel for each other is one that seems to be able to overcome any obstacle that comes their way.

The believability of their relationship, and the fact that their love leaps off the page, is the direct result of the author’s writing ability. With every one of his books I read, I am more and more impressed with the way he brings his characters to life. His characters always seem to be able to overcome anything that comes their way, and what I appreciate most is that the obstacles they face are very believable and not contrived or over the top.

I completely adore Scott and Derek and if you haven’t read their story yet, I highly recommend getting to it right away. Begin at the beginning and love these boys just like I do. I don’t know what is next for them, but I will be first in line to witness it.

TNA_Signature_Jackie






You can buy Wrestling With Passion here:

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Kate McMurray, Reviewed by Janet

Review: The Windup by Kate McMurray

Title: The Windup (The Rainbow League: Book One)

Author: Kate McMurray

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 214 Pages

At a Glance: This first offering in the Rainbow League series was excellent.

Reviewed By: Janet

Blurb: Ian ran screaming from New York City upon graduating from high school. A job offer too good to turn down has brought him back, but he plans to leave as soon as the job is up. In the meantime he lets an old friend talk him into joining the Rainbow League, New York’s LGBT amateur baseball league. Baseball turns out to be a great outlet for his anxiety, and not only because sexy teammate Ty has caught his eye.

Ty is like a duck on a pond—calm and laid-back on the surface, a churning mess underneath. In Ian, he’s found someone with whom he feels comfortable enough to share some of what’s going on beneath the surface. The only catch is that Ian is dead set on leaving the city as soon as he can. Ty works up a plan to convince Ian that New York is, in fact, the greatest city in the world. But when Ian receives an offer for a job overseas, Ty needs a new plan: convince Ian that home is where Ty is.

Dividers

Review: The Windup is the first of what looks to be three novels in a series about a Rainbow baseball league in New York City. The subject of baseball in no surprise to any fan of Kate McMurray, and as usual, it is easy to see that she knows her stuff. But what it also does is provide a timeline for the relationships that are examined in the book. Baseball has a season, spring to fall, and that is the timeline for the characters to interact and develop their relationships, both of friendship between the players and other teams, and the romances that are the focus of the story.

As the first book in the series, The Windup has a lot of information about a lot of characters, I found the vast amount of names to be rather confusing in the beginning, almost like I was the new player in an established league, and I had to play catch up to fit in and get caught up on the histories and conflicts of the group. It was a sneaky technique that the author used to firmly place our sympathies with Ian, and invest our emotions in him. We were him. At the same time, we got our first impressions of him and the difficulties he faced each day, living with an anxiety disorder. Ty was harder to get a fix on, and again that was on purpose, as his insecurities were hidden and we had to learn to see below the surface of his character and get to know him in a deeper way. Very clever character building by Kate McMurray.

New York City is also explored in this book as a tactic of Ty’s mission to help Ian see another side of it, and to grow to love the city, in the hopes that he might want to stay there, as Ty doesn’t want him to leave. It was fun to do the not so touristy things along with the guys, and I enjoyed the outings and the glimpses into a city that has whole worlds within its limits.

While the Rainbow League was playing, we meet future story’s characters and are able to see where their stories might go. But at the end of the season, the story fall’s back on Ty and Ian, and focuses on the resolution of their conflicts, allowing them to shine as this novel’s MCs and prove their worth to each other. I loved the ending of the book. The lust they shared was allowed to grow into love, and a future together was defined. It all worked for me, the ends were tied, and all of the issues were addressed.

Kate McMurray may be known for her love of baseball, but I really hope this series establishes her mastery of dialogue and humor in her work. The book plays out like a movie reel in your head, constantly full of color and sound, the action of the games, and the bars the players go to afterwards. But for me, the snark and verbal clues that she crafted are what lingered, and I am eager to see what happens next in the series.

I have to admit to going immediately back and re-reading this book, as I turned the pages so quickly in excitement of the story I was worried I hadn’t absorbed all the details. It was as good as I thought it was, and that is where I recognised the quality of the verbal play in the book. I can only urge you to read this book and discover for yourself the skills and talents Kate McMurray shows her mastery of. This first offering in the Rainbow League series was excellent, and I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next books as soon as they are ready.

TNA_Signature_Janet






You can buy The Windup here:

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Dreamspinner Press, Kate McMurray

Character Interview: The Windup by Kate McMurray

The Windup

Character Interview with Ty from The Windup

By Kate McMurray

I thought, in honor of the release of the first book in my Rainbow League series, The Windup, it might be fun to sit down for an interview with Ty, one of the heroes of the book. The book is out now for your reading pleasure. So let’s just get right into it.

KATE: Hi, Ty. How are you?

TY: Can’t complain. Looking forward to the new baseball season.

KATE: Aren’t we all. So, tell us about yourself. How did you end up in New York?

TY: I grew up outside Dallas. My family is Texas, through and through. I was what you might call different. My family wanted me to do something manly like join the army or become a firefighter, but I wanted to be an artist. So I moved to New York for college and I’ve been here ever since.

KATE: Artists can be manly.

TY: Don’t I know it! I may design things for a living, but I’m all man, baby.

KATE: How did you get into baseball?

TY: Honestly? I played a little in school. Barely. Really, I joined the Rainbow League to meet guys.

KATE: Not for a profound love of the game?

TY: *laughs* Oh, honey, no. Baseball player butts, that’s all I’m in this for.

KATE: Can’t say I blame you.

TY: I knew you would get where I’m coming from. *holds up fist for bumping*

KATE: *fist bump* You have something of a reputation for being the token slut of the league.

TY: I don’t think that rep is entirely deserved. I mean, I get around, sure, or I used to before I met Ian. But tales of my exploits are greatly exaggerated.

KATE: Does that bother you?

TY: Nah. I don’t really care about what other people think.

KATE: Let’s back up for a moment. Tell us about the Rainbow League.

TY: It’s a hobby sports league for LGBT people. They offer a bunch of sports, but we, of course, are primarily concerned with baseball.

KATE: Of course.

TY: I mean, talk about reputations. You’re obsessed with baseball.

KATE: Not obsessed.

TY: Aren’t, like, all of your books about baseball?

KATE: No. I mean, maybe, like, half. But my last three books had almost no baseball-related content at all! I’ve written about opera singers and army vets and regular guys who live in New York who don’t even watch baseball. Just because I’m best known for this little book called Out in the Field about two Major League baseball players…

TY: Sure, lady. Anyway, the baseball part of the Rainbow League is co-run by my buddy Josh. He and this guy Will, who is kind of a competitive jerk-off if you ask me, manage eight teams. They all have dumb names, but they’re kind of fun. I play for the Brooklyn Hipsters.

KATE: Sure, dumb names. If by “dumb” you mean “cute and clever.”

TY: Keep telling yourself that. So, we play games once a week all summer and have practice in Prospect Park on the weekends, which is convenient because it’s right near where I live in Brooklyn.

KATE: Me too. We’re neighbors, you know.

TY: Wow, Katie. Your creativity runs over. Having a character live in your neighborhood, you must have broken your back doing research.

KATE: Look, bud. I could have made you live in the suburbs. Or Staten Island.

TY: Perish the thought.

KATE: You mentioned Ian, your boyfriend. What’s he like?

TY: He’s great! He works in hotels. He’s like that guy with that show on the travel channel where he goes to a hotel and makes it over in three days because it’s about to go out of business. Except Ian is hot and less shouty. Also, it takes him a year or two to rehabilitate a hotel.

KATE: How did you meet?

TY: He joined the Rainbow League. He went to high school with my friend Josh. When Ian moved back to New York after a while traveling around for work, Josh persuaded him to join. We recruited him to our team. It was lust at first sight, you know. I’m irresistible.

KATE: Sure you are.

TY: Anyway, Ian’s an anxious, neurotic sort, but I’ve figured out some ways to, uh, help him relax.

KATE: I’m glad, but keep it PG. We’re just about out of time, but I’ll let you have the last word. Tell us a little bit about what happens with you and Ian in The Windup?

TY: I don’t want to spoil anything, but basically, Ian and I meet and instantly fall hopelessly in love.

KATE: Uh, that’s not what happens.

TY: Okay, fine. We meet and start dating and, you know, I fall for him pretty hard because he’s a great guy, but we have some communication problems, and also, he’s determined to leave New York City when his job ends in a year. So I spend a good part of the book trying to persuade him to stay in New York. With me. So it’s not all sunshine and homeruns. There, happy now?

KATE: Yes, thank you.

TY: Want more? Check out The Windup, now available everywhere!

KATE: Thanks, Ty.

TY: My pleasure.

Dividers

The Wind Up_FINALBlurb: Ian ran screaming from New York City upon graduating from high school. A job offer too good to turn down has brought him back, but he plans to leave as soon as the job is up. In the meantime he lets an old friend talk him into joining the Rainbow League, New York’s LGBT amateur baseball league. Baseball turns out to be a great outlet for his anxiety, and not only because sexy teammate Ty has caught his eye.

Ty is like a duck on a pond—calm and laid-back on the surface, a churning mess underneath. In Ian, he’s found someone with whom he feels comfortable enough to share some of what’s going on beneath the surface. The only catch is that Ian is dead set on leaving the city as soon as he can. Ty works up a plan to convince Ian that New York is, in fact, the greatest city in the world. But when Ian receives an offer for a job overseas, Ty needs a new plan: convince Ian that home is where Ty is.

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press

Dividers

BlogTourCard-01Bio: Kate McMurray is an award-winning author of gay romance and an unabashed romance fan. When she’s not writing, she works as a nonfiction editor, dabbles in various crafts, and is maybe a tiny bit obsessed with base­ball. She has served as President of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter of Romance Writers of America. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. Visit her website at katemcmurray.com

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5 Stars, Ashlyn Kane, Genre Romance, Morgan James, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Winging It by Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James

Title: Winging It

Author: Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 300 Pages

At a Glance: From the terrific world building, the endearing characters and the solid plot and timelines, this book was simply so much more than I could have hoped for.

Reviewed By: Janet

Blurb: Gabe Martin has a simple life plan: get into the NHL and win the Stanley Cup. It doesn’t include being the first out hockey player or, worse, getting involved with one of his teammates. But things change.

Dante Baltierra is Gabe’s polar opposite—careless, reckless… shameless. But his dedication to the sport is impressive, and Gabe can overlook a lot of young-and-stupid in the name of great hockey. And Dante has a superlative ass in a sport filled with superlative asses.

Before Gabe can figure out how to deal, a tabloid throws him out of his comfortable closet into a brand-new world. Amid the emotional turmoil of invasive questions, nasty speculation, and on- and off-ice homophobia, his game suffers.

Surprisingly, it’s Dante who drags him out of it—and then drags him into something else. Nothing good can come of secretly sleeping with a teammate, especially one Gabe has feelings for. But with their captain out with an injury, a rookie in perpetual need of a hug, and the race to make the playoffs for the first time since 1995, Gabe has a lot on his plate.

He can’t be blamed for forgetting that nothing stays secret forever.

Dividers

Review: This book was absolutely brilliant!! I loved it. The writing duo of Kane and James is producing stories that are technically perfect, full of humor and excitement, and guys you just can’t help falling in love with. I can see the progression to excellence through their writing history, as each book gets better than the last; a single voice for the pair, strong characters, and seamless plots that are really out there and so very original.

This particular book is about hockey, professional NHL hockey players, and coming out against that background of media frenzy and the politics of professional sports. It may sound strange, though, that I don’t think of it as a sports book, per se, as the characters are so well developed that the focus is on them, their emotions and reactions, so the hockey is just a backdrop, a part of them and their world, and this is made clear to the reader.

Let me state clearly that even though I am Canadian, I have never had a pair of ice skates on my feet, nor have I ever watched an entire hockey game, clips on the news being my only personal knowledge of the sport, and yet I got the book. Ashlyn Kane and Morgan James present all the knowledge any reader needs to enjoy the book fully. It is hockey 101, total immersion. Any and every detail is covered – from the chapter headings as periods of play, the glossary of terms and players for reference – all come together to create an experience for the reader.

Gabe and Dante are the MCs and getting to know them was a real treat. Watching them dance their way into a relationship was even better. The sex was hot and their awkwardness was sweet. Gabe’s obliviousness made me want to shake him sometimes, and Dante’s earnest determination made me so proud. The full cast of characters were so well developed that reality just resonated off the pages. Winging It is masterfully written, a completely engaging story from start to finish, and really, just writing this brings it all back and I want to read it again. From the terrific world building, the endearing characters and the solid plot and timelines, this book was simply so much more than I could have hoped for – I can’t recommend it highly enough. This is not simply a book, it is an experience, and you will love it.






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4 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jackie, Teegan Loy

Review: Frozen Hearts by Teegan Loy

Title: Frozen Hearts

Author: Teegan Loy

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: The best college hockey player in the nation is hanging up his skates because he’s tired of living a lie. Five years ago, Erik Fox was forced by his father to change schools in the middle of the night when his father found out about his indiscretion. Erik had a boyfriend and hockey players do not date boys. Continue reading

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Keira Andrews, Loose Id

It’s Hot Off The Ice In Keira Andrews’ “Cold War”


“If you’re not gonna go all the way, why go at all?” ― Joe Namath


Title: Cold War

Author: Keira Andrews

Publisher: Loose-Id

Pages/Word Count: 100 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: After an explosive locker room confrontation with his Russian rival ends in the most surprising and intense sex of his life, American pairs skater Dev Avira needs to refocus. He’s worked for years to win Olympic gold, and he can’t let himself—or his partner—down. Distraction in the form of steely and smoldering Mikhail Reznikov is the last thing he needs as he prepares for the biggest competition of his life.
Continue reading

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Leta Blake, Self-Published

It’s Officially “Training Season”, And Leta Blake Wants To Give Away A Book!


TNA: Hi, Leta, welcome to The Novel Approach. We’re thrilled to have you here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, things that make you, you.

Leta: Thanks for having me, Lisa!

As for what makes me, me, I think the motto I have on my website sums me up well: author, human, and working hard to become stellar at life. I’m a mother, a wife, and I work a day job in addition to writing books. I try to do my best at all of my endeavors, but, as my motto says, I’m only a human being, so I fail and triumph and fail again. The last part of my motto—working hard to become stellar at life—is where the beauty’s at for me. It’s in the effort and the striving. I want to be a better writer, a better friend, a better mother, and a better person altogether. That’s me at the core, I think. Of course, I fail at that a lot, but it’s all about working for it, right?

As for hobbies, I’m a fannish person and become obsessed with characters from books or tv shows quite easily. In the past I’ve hosted Fanwork Friday on my blog where I celebrate something about fandom. I’ll get back to that eventually when things settle down with regards to Training Season.  I’m also passionate about music—the listening to it, not the making of it.

TNA: Have you always written M/M fiction? What compelled you to begin writing gay romance?

Leta: No, I haven’t. When I was a child, I wrote books a la L.M. Montgomery, then as a teen I indulged in that rite of passage known as emo poetry, and then as a young adult I gave up writing altogether, considering it a hopeless pursuit.

I started writing again about fourteen years ago due to stumbling onto slash fandom online. I think my books still retain certain notes that mark them as having graduated from the playground of slash fandom. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Personally, I think it can sometimes be a good thing because there’s generally something universal in the way romances are explored in fandoms.

I’ve given a great deal of thought as to why I write gay romance and my answers are pretty complicated and not nearly as simple as some media likes to paint the issue. It’s definitely not just because two guys are hotter than one, and it’s absolutely not because I think women are icky, and it’s not because I fetishize gay men. I think the full answer could make up a PhD thesis, but I do think my motivation has to do with writing stories that feel compelling and interesting to me, and which stories also tap into parts of my own psyche or our social constructs that beg to be explored. Not to mention, these are the characters who appear to me. I can’t bring myself to say to them, “Please go away and come back as a straight girl, okay?” LOL! I think they’d just never return!

TNA: What was your first published M/M title?

Leta: I co-wrote a short series of re-imagined fairy tales with Keira Andrews. The first was Earthly Desires, a m/m take on The Light Princess by George McDonald.

TNA: If you could go back in time to the moment you sat down to begin writing that book, what’s one piece of advice you’d give yourself now that you have the benefit of hindsight and experience?

Leta: I’d tell myself, “You don’t have to make it a novella, even though that was the plan. It can be as long as it needs to be.” I did learn that lesson with Love’s Nest, though, the last of the series. It is twice as long, nearly, as the first two books, and I think it needed to be.

I’d also tell myself to use the words “light, charming, whimsical” on the cover request page so that the cover might actually fit with the tone of the book. Alas, we put the word “warm” on the cover request sheet and that changed everything. The book cover looks very brutal but the book itself is light-hearted for the most part. This is what I would most go back in time and tell myself, actually. Though it is a lovely cover if the book had a different vibe, as it is, the cover haunts me.

TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about your latest novel Training Season. Do you remember the moment you came up with the idea for the book and what inspired it?

Leta: I do. I was watching this Johnny Weir fanvideo. It was fairly soon after the last Winter Olympics and I was following a great deal of figure skating talk via the usual fannish outlets. The story of Johnny Weir’s rise and fall from figure skating grace was being rehashed quite a lot in those circles. Watching the video, I found myself asking all kind of questions about what drives athletes to compete, what leads them to self-sabotage, and what can turn a person prone to that kind of behavior around. The character in Training Season was born in the moment of the fall at 1:41 in this video. I believe the lyrics definitely impacted the character’s birth, as well, especially. The questions asked by the song and the line “in any other world you could let it all unfurl” definitely made me wonder what kind of world would allow a person to overcome a tendency toward self-sabotage?

Now, Rob Lovely came along later when I was listening to some country music with my grandmother when she was still alive. The song “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” came on and I was still obsessing over the figure skating character. Suddenly, I was like, “What if the ‘any other world’ was actually somewhere in the country, like, say, Oklahoma or Idaho, and the romantic interest was a rancher?”

Music inspires me a lot, often in weird ways!

The choice to set the book in Montana, though, was not immediate. I originally set it elsewhere and wrote the entire first draft that way. I did a ton of research on the location, adding in references to scenery and area landmarks. It was only in the second round of hard edits that it became clear that there was no way I could possibly have the book set in the original location. It would entail changing the entire timeline of the book or scrapping about one third of the scenes. So, I started hunting again, and when I found Whitefish, I knew. It was a perfect match. And also lead to me writing about 20,000 more words that wouldn’t have been in the book at all.

TNA: How much research did you do to make sure you got the world of competitive skating and all the technical terms just right?

Leta: Well, I’d always loved figure skating, but I’d been a mostly casual fan until 2010. It’s amazing how educational fandom be! I spent about six months during the writing of the first draft reading/watching/following all that fandom had to offer on the subject and I keep that up to an extent even today. I have new favorites (like Denis Ten and Adam Rippon) and new not-favorites (like Max Aaron, though he seems like a lovely person). All of that definitely helped in writing the book.

In addition, Keira Andrews, my sometime co-writer and all-the-time friend, is a massive, huge, wildly big figure skating fan, and as the editor of my book, she helped to make sure the timing of competitions were correct, as well as the judging system, and to nail down the little ins and outs of the sport. There’s basically nothing the woman doesn’t know about figure skating!

TNA: Matty Marcus and Rob Lovely are the MCs of the book. If you were to give readers a thumbnail sketch of who they are, what are some things you’d tell us about each of them that would best reveal their characters?

Leta: Matty – dedicated, flawed, loving, loyal, competitive, self-sabotaging, stubborn, kinky

Rob – loyal, lost, stuck-in-a-rut, loving, generous, patient, supportive, insightful, kinky

TNA: Or, if I asked Matty and Rob, what are some things you think they might say about each other?

Leta: I think they’d probably say the same things! Though they’d probably both add words like: amazing, smart, funny, beautiful, sexy, frustrating, and lovable. Those words are possibly all true, too, depending on your view of the characters! :)

TNA: Rob and Matty explore dominance and submission in a variety of ways in the telling of their story. What prompted you to explore that component of their sexual relationship, and how was it important to the overall development of their romance and of them as characters?

Leta: Well, it all came down to the character of Matty for the most part. He was so self-sabotaging that I started asking myself, “What does he really need? What would a partner have to bring to the table in order to give Matty the courage he needs to succeed—or fail—on the ice?” Then Rob stepped up and said, “I’ve got this.” So, I let him do what he wanted and saw that, yes, Matty did respond well to the various lessons implicit in dominance and submission, such as giving up control and facing fear.

TNA: Which character, Matty or Rob, was most difficult to write and why?

Leta: Rob, definitely. Because the book was in Matty’s POV, he didn’t always know what was going on with Rob. The final scenes with the confrontation and resolution were especially hard. Rob was fairly resistant to revealing his feelings and motivations to me. I’d say it was only on draft twelve or so that Rob finally, finally gave me what we needed for the scenes to really work. Also, he didn’t come to me fully formed the way Matty mostly did. I had to go back in through multiple drafts and strengthen his motivations so that there were hurdles for him to overcome and a nice growth arc for him, too.

TNA: There are some pretty great supporting characters in this novel. Do you foresee a scenario in which you might consider writing a spin-off or two of Training Season?

Leta: Aw, thank you! I’ve heard from a number of people that they’d like to see Angus and Bill’s story, and I’d love to write that. It is absolutely on my radar and I’d really like to have it by next winter, but I have my doubts given my other ambitions for 2014.

I’ve also heard that some people would like to see Kevin’s story, and I’ve even had a bid for Elliot’s story. (Though no one has asked for Julien’s story. Poor Julien! He’s really an okay guy. For real!) I’m less sure about writing Kevin or Elliot (or Julien), but perhaps. If I suddenly find myself inspired, I’ll go for it.

Strangely, the spin-off book that keeps harassing me to the point that I’ve already jotted down a very rough bit of a scene from it is Ben’s future story. Thing is, Ben’s straight, so I’m not sure how many people will care to read about him. I want to make his story one of two romances in the book, with the other being Ben’s gay best friend’s romance with a hockey player. Ben, on the other hand, is in love with Cardew’s older sister who thinks that Ben is Cardew’s closeted boyfriend. Oh, the ridiculous drama! ;)

*********

“Ben, is this your way of coming out?”

He smiled widely at the asshole with the microphone pointed at his face. He hoped Cardew was enjoying this press conference, because he sure as hell was having plenty of fun screwing with the reporters.

“I am out.”

“You are?” The buzz from the media grew louder.

“Yes, I’m out as a straight man who has no fear that his masculinity will be threatened by skating pairs at the Gay Games with the prettiest, most artistic, and most brilliant male skater on the ice today.”

Cardew gave a dainty wave. “That’s me.”

No one seemed to give a damn about Cardew, though, which irritated Ben. This was supposed to be Cardew’s big moment not his. He’d had plenty of his own. That was the entire reason he was doing this. He wanted to help his best friend have his time to shine.

“Did your step-father put you up to this?”

“Matty?” Ben laughed. “I’m my own man. Matty may do some choreography work for Cardew and me, but otherwise he sticks to the applause portion of the program when it comes to my skating career.”

*********

And that’s all she wrote on that front! Who knows? Maybe I’ll go there with this idea, but the Angus and Bill story is definitely on my radar. I just need a dozen more hours in a week and to only require two hours of sleep a night. Then we’d be good to go! That’s doable, right?

TNA: If you were to choose a favorite scene from the book, what would that scene be and why?

Leta: I’m pretty fond of this one—

“And Elliot is going to be in New York City, and I swore I’d never miss a New Year’s Eve in New York,” Matty whined, stretched out across Rob on the sofa.

Rob held the agricultural journal he was reading a bit higher, trying to see it over Matty’s body. “I’m devastated on your behalf.”

Matty narrowed his eyes. “I thought you liked my family.”

“I do. I’m sorry they can’t come for Christmas. I was ridiculing your vow to always be in New York for New Year’s Eve.”

“You’re heartless.”

“Uh-huh.” Rob flipped a page and yawned widely.

The day before Rob had helped Terry, Dino, and Bing wrangle some cattle that had trampled a fence and gotten into the woods near the national park. It’d been exhausting since three of the cows had decided they were not going to budge from the apparently delicious patch of dry, brown winter grass they’d discovered under a tree. To make it worse, once they’d driven the adventurers back onto Rob’s land, a bunch of snow had dumped on them as they’d mended the fence.

Rob had dawdled over breakfast, and was lazing around with Matty. He’d mentioned something about getting caught up on the books, but he hadn’t moved from the sofa yet, and it was verging on nine o’clock. Matty shifted on Rob’s body and made himself more comfortable.

“I’m trying to read about the possible advantages of adding a milk goat operation to the ranch, sweetheart. You’re kind of in my way.”

“The advantages of a milk goat operation. Did I truly just hear those words?”

“Goat milk soap is all Bing talks about.”

“I feel like I’m in some kind of insane alternate universe where if I look out the window I’ll find Amish buggies. I will, won’t I?”

“If you’re lucky. Otherwise it means you’re stuck in Montana getting fucked by some crazy sadist rancher.”

“God, that sounds like a really bad sex book you’d pick up to read on an airplane.” Matty scooted a bit on Rob’s body, making him grunt. Matty spread out his hands to demonstrate the title of the book, knocking the journal away. “‘Big Sky of Desire’ by M. O. Lester. The story of young, lithe figure skater, Bobby Barker, trapped for the winter in a small Montana town and robbed of his innocence by the lecherous attentions of his sadistic neighbor, Mark Beauty. Tied down against his will and struck with leather horse whips, Bobby realizes his own inner strength and love for rough sex — ”

“I have leather horse whips, actually,” Rob said.

“You do?” Matty sat up, nearly smacking his forehead against Rob’s chin.

“Of course. Have you seen my ranch?”

“Oh my God, go get them!”

Rob laughed, pushed Matty off, and stood up slowly, stretching. “Actually, I was thinking we should head into Missoula to do some shopping. Most of the shops stay open late this time of year. I have some things I need to get for Ben. Last I checked, you need to pick up a few things for your folks.”

Matty blinked. “You’re passing up whips for shopping?”

“You’re bitching about shopping?” Rob countered.

“I feel so torn!” Matty pulled at his hair. “Oh my God. You suck.”

“Go on, take care of the horses and get ready. I’ll pick you up in an hour.”

“Two. I have to look my best if we’re going into the city. Someone might actually see me in the city.”

“People see you here.”

“Yeah, but they don’t even look twice now. My fashion goes to waste. It’s like I’ve become boring to them or something.”

Rob kissed him and rubbed his thumb over Matty’s lower lip. “Never. Impossible. And I’ll pick you up in one hour.”

“If I say yes, can I have whips later?” Matty asked a little breathlessly.

Rob frowned. “I’ll think about it. I don’t like the idea of marking your skin.”

“Don’t turn into a prude on me now,” Matty whined.

Rob kissed him again. “Don’t push me. Or you might find there’s a price.”

Matty clasped his hands together over his heart and called out as Rob left the room, “Would that price be leather horse whips?”

“Go home!” Rob yelled back.

Matty flopped on Rob’s sofa and stared up at the ceiling. “Oh my God, horse whips,” he whispered to himself, trying to figure out how he was going to lose his erection.

TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Training Season with us?

Leta: Certainly!

A week later, Matty opened the six boxes of his belongings his mother had mailed, trying to find where she’d packed the fur coats, his make-up, and his underwear. It was as though she’d run from one corner of his room to another, randomly adding things to the boxes, with little rhyme or reason. They’d all been marked Matty’s room as though that described the contents in any helpful way.

He found his make-up in a small cardboard box beneath his gym socks and a gold, sequined vest he’d worn for a competition when he was fifteen. He had no idea why his mother had included it, but he put it on, because, aside from Flathead Lake and the glint of the sun on the mountains, it was the sparkliest thing he’d seen since arriving in Montana. It lifted his spirits in an unexpected and very necessary way.

Matty sighed as he took his make-up into the bathroom and began organizing it on the vanity. Looking through the products, he opened one of the small jars of blue, glittery eye shadow, and applied a little to his eyelids absentmindedly. He thought about how he was going to survive the next six months, and wondered if he’d be able to train himself enough to lure in a renowned coach.

His heart was set on Valentina Chapayeva from the Ukraine, and he swallowed hard and sent up a small prayer that by April he’d have what it took to gain her interest and join her rink in New York. Even though he was a national champion, he was afraid he’d been out of sight so long that he’d be out of mind in the skating world.

He sorted through the body glitter, lipsticks, and rouge, finding a few things that he’d nearly forgotten about. He looked in the mirror, puckered his lips, and ran his hands through his hair.

Music. Yes, he needed some music — something fast to get his body moving. He fiddled with the stereo in the living room and figured out how to dock his iPod.

Eight songs later, he had glitter body paint smeared on his chest, his eyes done up in brilliant blues and greens, and bright, cotton-candy pink lipstick on his lips. Wearing only his track pants and the gold sequined vest, he was far from fierce, but still shiny, and that made him feel almost as good. He danced across the room, easily keeping the rhythm with no one’s judging gaze to throw him off. He gave his body over to it, and spun around madly, jumping, kicking, and leaping.

He paused in the middle of the room, feeling a little flushed, but not winded. He was glad his workouts back home had increased his stamina. His current plan was to get up every day, have a small breakfast, get the horses settled and then work out, either in a gym, on the ice, or both.

Matty recognized how bratty it was to complain about the ranch house. After all, it had amazing amenities. Margaret’s exercise room beside his bedroom had a treadmill and Bowflex. He supposed on days he couldn’t get into Kalispell for a proper workout in the Athletic Club (something else arranged for him by Margaret) it would do to help keep him strong. He also had a plan for skating when he couldn’t get into Whitefish’s rink.

He’d discovered his plan B when George had walked him around the ranch, pointing out various areas that the horses sometimes lingered. As they’d walked, Matty had noticed two men on horses, riding among the cattle on the hill below.

“Rob’s ranch hands,” George explained. “He’s got four employees over there now. Rob’s expanding his operation. He’s finally making a bit of a profit, I reckon. First time since his old man died, I think.”

Matty nodded absently, his eyes fixed on something else entirely. To the left of where George pointed, there was a very large, seemingly shallow, mostly circular pond. It was situated in the shadow of the mountain on one side and sheltered on the other by a large, fat pine. Though the temperature had climbed to almost forty that morning, Matty could see the glitter of ice over the shaded top of the pond.

He’d studied it carefully as George talked on and on about horses and the neighbor’s cattle, and ranch hands and profits, finally interrupting him to ask, “Does that ever freeze over?”

“Sure. It’s halfway to frozen over now. Give it two more days of temperatures like this and it’ll be frozen half through.”

“How deep is it?”

“Not that deep.” George had smirked like he was amused by something private. “That’s Margaret’s little personal Flathead Pond. Built it for her when I bought the place from Rob. She wasn’t too happy because she wanted land on the lake. I couldn’t pass up the good deal Rob offered me, so I told her I’d build her a damn lake.” George chuckled, a sound Matty hadn’t heard him make before. “Oh yes, she was fit to be tied over this here pond. First she was mad and then she laughed until she cried.” He grinned. “Yep, Rob’s ranch manager, Bing Lozar, dug this out for her and had it lined.”

“Has anyone ever skated on it?” Matty had asked.

“The boys do it all the time. Used to pretend to be Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier out there.”

Matty had smiled, thinking that George might not have liked it if his grandsons had pretended to be Matty Marcus out there. “Mind if I skate on it, sir?”

“Fine by me. Just don’t bust your head.” George had pointed his finger at him. “If you do, don’t even think about suing me.”

With that in mind, Matty had gone out to the pond already that morning and found it was definitely frozen several inches down. It wasn’t the best surface, but in an emergency it would do.

Another song came on, and Matty ran a hand through his hair. He twirled a bit more, the room flashing by, and he allowed himself to sink into the spin, the dizzy familiar feeling of the world going into a precarious balance.

A loud crash brought him front and center.

He stood panting, listening for something more. A rolling crunch rattled through the room. Clutching his chest, he jumped. The noise seemed to come from the front porch.

Matty grabbed a coat from the box next to him — his mink from his last trip to Russia — and slipped it on. His heart raced as he tiptoed toward the living room window.

Was it a bear? Did bears live in Montana? And why had he never thought to investigate that possibility before now? What if it was an elk? Were they dangerous? Maybe it was a coyote, or a wolf, or just a really big, scary person.

He peered out the front window. He squinted into the sun and saw nothing but pine trees and cows like always. The knock on the door, a heavy, hard thudding, made his heart race like he was sitting in the Kiss and Cry waiting for scores to come in.

Matty glanced in the mirror by the front door, smoothed his hair, wiped a stray bit of eyeliner away, and threw his chest out and his chin up. Matty Marcus was rocking the glittery glory on a ranch in Montana. Never let it be said that rural locales took any shine away from this bitch. He opened the door.

The man on the front porch, with his hand raised to knock again, was blond, and he might as well have been Montana personified — tall, strong, and heart-stoppingly handsome. He was also probably not a day over thirty.

“Uh…” The man cleared his throat and flung his thumb over his shoulder toward the hill. “Hi. I’m the neighbor. Thought I’d bring some… ah…”

He didn’t seem to know where to look. His eyes slid down to Matty’s bare chest peeking out from the fur coat and gold sequined vest, and then down over Matty’s track pants to his bare feet. The man swallowed and looked away. He kept talking, though.

“I brought some firewood up from the barn. Thought you might need it…or want it. It’s supposed to get pretty cold tonight. I figured you didn’t have any close to the house yet. George doesn’t bring it up unless he needs it. So I brought some. Up. For you.”

Matty felt his practiced “now we’re talking to the media” smile settle on his face. He stuck out his hand. “Thank you. That’s very kind of you. I appreciate you thinking of me.”

The man shook firmly. “Rob Lovely,” he said. “I live over the hill and a few acres over.”

The name was definitely fitting, Matty thought.

He supposed since he was dressed up in glitter and blue eye shadow, he should be glad the guy wasn’t running away to alert any local homophobic hicks with baseball bats that the Pages had a flamer living in their house for the winter.

Matty pulled his coat around himself a little tighter when Rob released his hand. “Matty Marcus. Nice to meet you.”

“So, are you from Missoula?” Rob said, his face revealed how much he doubted that.

“What makes you think I’m not from Polebridge?” Matty asked a little coyly, bringing up a town Margaret had mentioned was located almost due north of Whitefish and had less than 30 residents.

He waited for the guy to stammer through an answer that could be summed up as Matty failing the good ol’, pussy-loving, ranch-raised country boy looks test.

“Margaret said she was bringing in a friend’s kid from the city,” Rob said, rubbing his hands together, and keeping his eyes focused out toward the pastures.

“Oh,” Matty said, amazed at how sweetly the guy had side-stepped an awkward moment. He even felt a little guilty for trying to set him up to begin with. “Well, I think by ‘the city’, she actually meant The City, as in New York. She seems to think I’ve lived there, even though I haven’t. I’d like to, though. I will one day.” His nipples ached from the cold, so he pulled the fur completely around his torso.

“I’ve never been, but I’m sure it’s exciting,” Rob said, his eyes moving to where Matty had covered up his exposed skin. “Is that a mink?”

“As a matter of fact, it is,” Matty said, running a hand down its softness.

“My ex-wife’s mother had one of a similar style, but it didn’t look nearly so…” Rob flushed. “I mean…uh, it looks better on you. Well, um, I mean…”

“Thank you,” Matty said, putting him out of his misery.

“You’re welcome.” Rob said, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his coat. “It’s been a strangely cold October. Probably not the best of weather. Have you been able to get out and explore at all?”

“I’m still settling in,” Matty said.

“Right.” There was a silence as Rob swallowed hard and rubbed a hand over his forehead like he had a sudden headache. “Well, I piled the logs over there.” He nodded toward the side of the porch. “I, uh, should let you get back to…” He smiled and used his head to indicate Matty’s state of dress and state of being. “That. Or whatever.”

“Thank you. I’d invite you in, but I’m sort of in the middle of this, so…” Matty paused and Rob flushed again, looked away and cleared his throat.

Matty retreated into the house, closing the door partway as he spoke. “Thanks again for the firewood. It was very thoughtful of you.”

“Anytime,” Rob said, backing away a few steps. “Just give me a call if you need anything. Help with the horses. Or whatever you need help with.” He looked embarrassed for a moment, but then he offered Matty a fantastic smile. His teeth were white and straight and his eyes glowed. Matty noticed that they were green and very kind.

“I might take you up on that,” Matty said, putting one bare foot on top of the other.

The movement seemed to catch Rob’s eye. He looked at Matty’s feet again before clearing his throat again. “Please do. I’m the neighborly sort and I’m happy to help.”

Rob lifted his eyes again and a small wave of attraction washed over Matty. God, he needed to get laid if he was getting turned on by stammering Montana ranchers.

Rob nodded and lifted his hand and let it drop. Then he turned and trudged back through the front yard. Matty watched him walk, noting the sure, easy swing of his step as he crossed the lawn and then mounted the foot of the hill.

When Rob was a dark smudge against the sky, Matty shut the door and leaned against it. He glanced at himself again in the mirror and imagined being Rob Lovely from Montana. What had it been like to find this fabulous creature on the other side of a neighbor’s door? It must have been like stumbling across The Man Who Fell to Montana. He laughed softly at the thought, threw off his coat, and sashayed to the kitchen for a mid-morning cup of piping hot water with bitters to trick his still-hungry stomach.

TNA: Do you have any works-in-progress you’d like to talk a little bit about?

Leta: I have far too many works in progress! I need an intervention!

Let’s see, I currently have two novellas submitted to different presses. I have a trans* novella that I’d like to complete this year. Marie Sexton and I have bandied about an idea for a fun short novel. I definitely have to finish at least the first full-length novel in the Stalker Series. I started it for the LHNB event at Goodreads, but realized when the book topped 40,000 words and wasn’t even halfway complete that there was no way I’d be able to finish it before the deadline, so I had to do a fast short story set in the same universe to fulfill that obligation. I feel guilty that I haven’t been able to get the reader’s requested full-length book out yet, though, so that’s definitely on the top of my to-do list. Not to mention, I love the characters and think it will be a fun book for readers!

In addition, I’m working on a m/m coming of age novel that I hope to release as a serial. I’m not sure how that will play out and I reserve the right to change my mind, of course, LOL, but I’m leaning that direction right now. It would be an eight part serial featuring plenty of sex, hooray, and some angst, and drama.

I’m modeling it a bit after soap operas, though my best friend says that’s an unfair description, since there are no evil twins, no characters that are declared dead and come back to life, and no storylines that depend on major misunderstandings. I suppose it might be more accurate to say I’m inspired by the WIP phenomenon in fandom. I like the idea of writing something that people will follow along because they love the characters and want to see where they end up, but it wouldn’t be a work in progress, because I have no intention to release any part of it until the entire work is finished.

There are more. I’ll stop there. ;)

TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?

Leta:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Blog

Training Season Buy Links:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks
Smashwords

The Blurb:

Figure skater Matty Marcus is willing to sacrifice everything for his Olympic dream. Despite his unquestionable talent, Matty’s lack of discipline cost him Olympic gold once before. Now the pressure’s on to do whatever it takes to make the team again. Still recovering from an injury that nearly ended his career, he needs a coach who can keep him in line, but top coaches don’t come cheap. Without the backing of his federation, Matty can’t afford to stay in the game no matter how badly he wants to win.

When a wealthy fan’s whim brings him to rural Montana for a lucrative house-sitting gig over the winter, Matty does his best to maintain an elite-level training regimen. Despite fears that his flamboyant style might not be well-received in these rugged surroundings, the residents turn out to be surprisingly tolerant and welcoming. Even more surprising, Rob Lovely, the handsome young rancher next door, proves to be much more than a cowboy stereotype. Just as Matty requires a firm hand to perform his best on the ice, Rob shows him how strong he can be when he relinquishes control in the bedroom. Taking his new-found courage back into the rink, Matty drives himself harder to find the inner fire he needs to go for gold.

But a powerful new love and the best sex Matty has ever had aren’t going to win him a medal. Competition has a timetable, and to achieve his Olympic dream, he’ll have to join his new coach in New York City, leaving Rob and his life in Montana behind. As he faces the ultimate test of his spirit, has Matty truly learned how to win—on and off the ice—during his training season?

*********

TNA: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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All Romance Ebooks, Kate Aaron

The Ball Is In Love’s Court In Kate Aaron’s “Ace”



“Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it’s all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest.” – Andre Agassi


Brian Scagill is Britain’s number one tennis player, groomed and driven hard not to settle for anything less than becoming the number one player in the world. Lexi Horvat is a Croatian expat who no one would’ve guessed would advance as far as he did in the tournament during which they met. Neither of the men are technically out players, but neither of them has ever denied who he is to protect himself from the scrutiny of being a gay athlete either, and Ace is their story, from their first meeting, through the wins and losses and on to a relationship that quickly becomes public after an on-court kiss makes it pretty obvious to the world that Brian and Lexi are more than competitors and so much more than friends.
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