3 Stars, Daisy Harris, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Sadonna, Samhain Publishing

Review: Twofer by Daisy Harris

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Title: Twofer

Author: Daisy Harris

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 176 Pages

At a Glance: Not my favorite book by this author, but an interesting take on two guys who want to play the same role.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Bottoms up!

If a college freshman can’t get laid in sun-drenched Miami, he’s doing something wrong. Frankie Perez is determined to help his roommate get some man action in any way possible.

When Frankie’s arsenal of dating apps, fashion advice, and playing-hard-to-get lessons doesn’t work, he realizes Jeremy needs remedial help. Except tutoring Jeremy in the art of sex gets steamier than Frankie expected—and it scares the hell out of him.

Jeremy’s not sure why he’s wasting his time hooking up when he’s only got eyes for the slinky, sexy roommate he comes home to at night. But the hotter their chemistry simmers, the quicker Frankie dances away.

In near desperation, Frankie suggests the two of them team up to find a third to top them both, forgetting that two bottoms aren’t immune from lusting after each other. In a world where every man is an option, choosing one to love can be the sexiest risk of all.

Warning: Contains questionable morals, copious immature hijinks, an X-rated photo shoot, and disastrous threesomes. Sex toys were misused (but not harmed) in the making of this book.

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Review: Twofer is the thirteenth book I’ve read by Daisy Harris. I just loved her Men of Holsum College series and her Ivory Tower series as well. Both of those series also featured college guys who are figuring things out for themselves and making their way in the world, so I thought I would enjoy this one too.

This story, however, was a bit different than the others. Frankie and Jeremy are about as different as two people can be—background, personality, you name it. The one thing it seems they do have in common is that they are both bottoms. Jeremy, however, is a pretty sheltered guy and has zero experience with any guys. Frankie is VERY out and has a very active sex life, but he’s not into relationships at all. He does feel bad that Jeremy seems to not be any closer to finding a boyfriend, though, so he decides to help.

This is a case of the road to hell being paved with good intentions. The advice that Frankie gives Jeremy and his “help” seems to cause even more problems than Jeremy had to start with. Things get a little steamy and then a lot awkward between them thanks to Frankie’s ill-advised “help.” Frankie also becomes aware that maybe he’s not that interested in finding somebody else for Jeremy.

There are a few things in this books that some people won’t like, including additional partners for Frankie and Jeremy that they sometimes like to include. For those who want only the primary couple in their books and no extracurricular playmates, then this book is not for you. Personally, I had no issue with the way they conducted themselves because there was total honesty and agreement in their pursuit of fulfillment in their relationship. I also thought that part of the story was handled well.

The only niggling issue that I had with the story was Jeremy’s character. I felt like we don’t get to know him as well as Frankie, and I would have liked to have seen more of his story. With Frankie we get his family and his jobs and his social life, and with Jeremy we pretty much get school and his time with Frankie and his attempts to find a toppy boyfriend.

Overall, while not the strongest work from this author, Twofer is still an enjoyable read, particularly for the adorable Frankie.

 

 

 

 

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5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Genre Romance, L.A. Witt, Reviewed By Carrie, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Not Safe for Work by L.A. Witt

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Title: Not Safe for Work

Author: L.A. Witt

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 341 Pages

At a Glance: This is another great hit from L.A. Witt!

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: They’re a match made in the dungeon…until their secret gets out.

Bored senseless in a meeting, architectural modeler Jon McNeill amuses himself with a kinky dating app on his phone. Then the app matches him with another user…who’s six feet away. Suddenly Jon finds himself on the same page as someone way above his pay grade: millionaire property developer Rick Pierce. His firm’s biggest—and hottest—client.

The app isn’t kidding either. They’re a perfect match. Jon’s a Dom, Rick’s a sub, and bondage is their thing. Both guys are well into their forties, know their way around the bedroom, and definitely appreciate a good suit. And the best part? They’re a match outside the bedroom too.

But office relationships aren’t easy to keep a secret. When the truth comes out, Jon is certain he’s about to get fired. Instead, his bosses throw him a curve ball—an ultimatum that puts both his job and his relationship in jeopardy.

Warning: Contains literal and figurative sex machines, blindfolds, a sub being punished during a business meeting, enough rope to tangle up a millionaire, and a Golden Girls marathon.

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Review: Jon McNeill is an architectural modeler. Rick Pierce is his firm’s biggest client and the reason the architectural firm is solvent. Jon has been told not to talk to clients, which ordinarily is something he has no problem with–until he hooks up with Rick on a kinky dating app. Jon is a Dom, and finding a sub as perfect as Rick is something that, at this stage in life, he thought he would never find.

L.A. Witt’s Not Safe for Work is so well written. It was refreshing to read how two men in their mid-forties navigate the real world and make their love and relationship work–I found this mature romance engaging, and the Dom/sub dynamic totally believable because these men had a very clear idea of what they wanted vs. what they needed from the relationship. I loved these characters and how they came alive off the page. I could practically smell the glue in Jon’s workroom. The secondary characters are interesting and keep the humor going when the emotions get heavy between the two men.

I highly recommend this book. The BDSM theme is there and a major part of the relationship between these men, but as they grow to love each other, it’s how they make it work day-to-day that is the real story. This is another great hit from L.A. Witt!

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4.5 Stars, Historical Romance, Joanna Chambers, Reviewed by Lisa, Samhain Publishing

Review: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

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Title: Unnatural (An Enlightenment Story)

Author: Joanna Chambers

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

At a Glance: Unnatural is a beautifully written friends-to-lovers romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: The heart breaks but does not change.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Warning: Contains a dashing military hero with one weakness—a scientist who feels their chemistry in every cell of his body. Kissing in the rain, skinny dipping, and emotional flashbacks. Huzzah!

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Review: Joanna Chambers’ Unnatural is a beautiful love story between two friends, a friendship that began long ago when James Hart, a then nine-year-old boy, was saved from drowning by thirteen-year-old Iain Sinclair. Or, at least Iain thought he was saving James from drowning. That not being the case, however, James took great offense at Iain babying him. But that all changed slowly as their first awkward encounter blossomed into a years long friendship, one in which James fell madly in love with Iain, and Iain dutifully ignored those feelings as well as his own.

Chambers has such a lovely writing style which plants you directly into the atmosphere of this novel of manners and its early 19th Century setting. Iain is by far the more complex of the two men—a painful family history; a father whom Iain is ever doomed to disappoint, regardless of his heroism; his eye toward duty meaning he must keep James always at arm’s length. James, meanwhile, as the younger and less worldly of the two, may be the more innocent but is also the far more pragmatic of the two men. As a scientist, James sees his surroundings with a more studious eye and therefore, he understands his feelings for Iain as a simple part of his nature. It’s Iain for whom this book is titled, no doubt about it.

At the outset of the novel, James and Iain have gone through a situation so troubling that it’s caused them to part ways on the worst of terms, and then it’s through flashbacks that Chambers unravels their story. James never strayed far from his family home, while Iain had joined the army with dreams of his heroism perhaps helping to earn his father’s regard and respect. Upon his leaving the army, Iain is determined to make things right between himself and James before he leaves for India and a new mission. This is where the story sets about resolving the conflict that presents itself through the flashbacks, and it’s perhaps one of the hardest battles Iain has ever fought—both with himself and against his feelings for James, as well as with James, as James has no desire to open himself up to being hurt by Iain ever again. There was a good bit of struggling on Iain’s part to come to terms with his feelings, his own happiness, and the danger of loving James, and the journey to their reconciliation was well worth the trip.

If you love a good historical romance with all the built-in turmoil the time period presented for the men who loved the love that dare not speak its name, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Unnatural to you.

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Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway: The Winter Wonderland Blog Tour with Heidi Cullinan

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We’re so please to have Heidi Cullinan bringing a little holiday romance to The Novel Approach today, on the tour for book three in the Minnesota Christmas series, Winter Wonderland. Enjoy the exclusive excerpt and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good luck!

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Winter WonderlandBlurbFinding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.

Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex. No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice

Buy Links: Samhain Publishing || Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Excerpt: When Paul arrived at the Parks farm, Daryl Parks got off his tractor and came over to shake Paul’s hand. “Good to see you, Paul. How’s business?”

“Going well, thank you.”

“Say, do you guys repair iPods? The one we use in the shed stopped working, and I can’t even find a way to open the thing up.”

“Well, I can repair them, but I’m not certified. And I have to tell you I’m about a one-to-one ratio, fixing vs. breaking it more.”

Daryl chuckled. “That’s a sight better than I’ve managed. Would it be okay to give it to you today, or should I bring it by the shop?”

“I can take it, sir.”

Daryl grinned and slapped Paul on the shoulder. “Come on. Kyle’s in the back. I’m coming along to watch, because he never stopped to take a shower like Jane told him to, and he’ll be fit to be tied now that you’re here.”

Paul wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he followed Daryl Parks.

The farmer gestured to the far side of the yard. “We were clearing snow this morning and accidentally busted the dragon and the princess. Linda Kay sobbed like you wouldn’t believe. Guess this was a very special princess. Jane told her to leave him be, but Kyle wouldn’t hear of letting her wait. That boy’s soft as jelly for his sister.”

Daryl led Paul to the side of the garage, where Kyle crouched diligently over a five-foot sculpture. Linda Kay stood bundled beside him, watching intently—until she saw Paul approaching. Then she poked Kyle in the arm and whispered, loud enough for them to hear in Logan, “Hey. Your boyfriend is here.”

Kyle had been in a kind of work trance, but at this he startled and rose, giving Linda Kay a look that said there would be retribution later. “It can’t be two fifteen already, can it?”

“It’s two twenty, actually,” Daryl said with a grin.

Kyle winced and clutched at his hat. “Oh my God, I haven’t showered or anything.”

“Which is your own fault, because your mother called you at least four times.” Daryl glanced at Paul and indicated the sculptures with his head. “So, what do you think? He’s not bad with a pile of snow, as far as I reckon.”

As understatements went, this one was a whopper. Behind Kyle was a dragon, at least ten feet long and four feet high. Its tail wound around a real rock, which had been painted to look like a gold nugget. Its head rested on a stump—subtly, as the dead tree was clearly for support only—and it breathed snow-fire that arched across a small snow-brick wall. It was so alive it looked ready to leap across the fields. The scales, the eyes, even the fine detail on the flames were stunning.

But the dragon was nothing compared to the snow princess who stood beside him. She was a sculpture, carved out of a single, solid block of snow. Her shoulder-length hair blew in unseen wind. Her snow-cape billowed over a poufy gown with intricate beads and folds. Her crown sat boldly on her head, and in her hand was a star-shaped wand with gold beads in the center. What caught Paul by the edge of the heart, though, was the face. It was a beautiful, wide-smiling face, with a stubby nose, slightly slanted eyes and bit of tongue protruding past the lips.

In short, it was an ice princess with Down syndrome.

Paul realized they were waiting for him to respond, but all he could do was shake his head and keep staring in wonder. “Amazing,” he managed at last. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Kyle used a mittened hand to shield his eyes from the weak afternoon sun as he looked back at the house. “I really do need to shower. Do you think they’ll be mad if we’re a little late? I can be fast.”

Paul would see to it they weren’t. “You go get your shower. Don’t rush.”

Kyle blew him a kiss then pointed the knitwear at his father. “Help her mist them down so they freeze hard tonight. Just a mist.”

Daryl waved his son off, and Paul stayed to watch as Linda Kay, carefully supervised, misted her snow sculptures with the large spray bottle she’d been clutching. Several times she cackled, a noise both wicked and charming at once. At one point, as if seized by sudden joy, she held the spray bottle aloft, tipped her head back and sang loudly and in no key whatsoever, “Valley high, I call yoooooooou.” Then she resumed her spraying, until her father told her she needed to stop or she’d wreck them.

She relinquished her bottle to Daryl, but she tugged on Paul’s arm when he tried to leave. “Take my picture,” she said, beaming. “With the snow princess. Because we’re both pretty cute, right, sexy man?”

“Linda Kay.” Daryl’s tone was a warning.

Linda Kay chuckled again, sticking out her tongue. Laughing, Paul got out his phone and urged her to get closer to her doppelgänger. He took several pictures, one with her standing at attention, one with her mimicking the pose, and one with what Linda Kay called her baby-eyes pose, which Paul assumed was supposed to be bedroom eyes. In each photo, her tongue protruded.

After four more photos, Linda Kay attached herself to Paul’s arm. “Okay, hot stuff. Let’s go get hot chocolate and snuggle, okay?”

He couldn’t help but laugh with her, and though Daryl tried to get him out of his role as escort, Paul gave him a nod to let him know this was fine. She had such joy. Plus, she was all kinds of saucy and smart. A little inappropriate, missing several social cues, but on the whole, delightful.

Once they were in the house, she showed him where to put his boots, made them each a hot cocoa in a Keurig machine, and tugged him toward the den. “Come on. The babies are all sleeping, so we have the TV to ourselves. We’ll watch a movie while you wait for Slow Poke.”

Jane Parks appeared from around a corner. She smiled briefly at Paul and greeted him before turning to her daughter. “Kyle will be ready in a few minutes. You do not have time for a movie.”

Linda Kay crossed her arms over her chest. “Fine. I’ll show him just the valley high.”

She plunked Paul on a soft brown sectional and bustled to the DVD player. Soon the opening titles of South Pacific played on the screen. Tongue out in concentration, Linda Kay punched at the remote until she queued up a scene. She bounced and giggled as she pushed play. “Here we go. Valley high.

The scene was a bunch of soldiers on an island—well, an island movie set, because it was an old movie, from an era when there was no such thing as green screen or special effects. A black woman started to sing about a lonely island, and when she got to the chorus, Paul realized she was singing Bali, not valley. A quick check on his phone revealed this song was “Bali Ha’i”, where the matriarch of an exotic island lures the lead so he can fall in love with her daughter. Linda Kay, however, was clearly singing valley high. Singing it at the top of her lungs, from the bottom of her belly. She sang to the woman on the screen, to the far side of the room, to the window. She sang with abandon, and with no clear words ninety percent of the time. Until the song called for valley high.

As the song wound to an end, abruptly a bright tenor filled the room, sending a tingle down Paul’s spine. Kyle—hair artfully styled, green sweater making his complexion glow, jeans snug enough to show off his slim hips—sailed into the room, arm extended as he joined Linda Kay in an unusual duet. When he sang with her, she hit more of the words, but mostly she garbled along until she got to the good parts.

Paul noticed Kyle got all the words right, except like Linda Kay, he sang valley high.

When they finished, Linda Kay clapped and pulled her brother down to kiss him on the cheek. “I love you, Kyle David.”

“I love you too, Linda Kay.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m going to go with Paul for a while. I’ll be home around dinnertime, and I’ll kiss you before I go to work. Okay?”

She swatted him playfully and stuck out her tongue with mischievous glee. “Go on, you lovebird. I’ll catch your act later.”

Kyle raised apologetic, slightly helpless eyebrows at Paul. “So. Should we go?”

Paul rose. “Ready when you are.”

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Heidi Cullinan head shotAbout the Author: Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. A member of Romance Writers of America since 1999, Heidi has served as president of Rainbow Romance Writers, run local chapter newsletters, and volunteered for committees on the national level. In addition to teaching writing since 1993, she also served as the writer’s workshop coordinator for GayRomLit Retreat for 2013. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

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5 Stars, Heidi Cullinan, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan

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Title: Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas: Book Three)

Author: Heidi Cullinan

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 205 Pages

At a Glance: Winter Wonderland is full of Christmas magic and warm feels. I loved absolutely everything about it.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Finding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.

Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.

No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

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Review: I’ve always wanted to know – but keep forgetting to ask – who writes the “Warnings” for Samhain’s books? Is it their folks? The author? The warnings are usually fantastic, often hilarious, and are almost always on point as far as connecting with the story – but, this one was especially genius and perfect, so I had to share it again here in my review…

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

There is indeed a ‘toppy twink’, some rather marvelous penises made out of snow, and a truckload of holiday swoon.  As a huge fan of this series, I have been dying for Paul’s story. I wanted to savor this book once I got my hands on it, but I, of course, devoured it instead. Heidi is so good at hooking her readers so quickly and so thoroughly – once you start there is just no way to not go full steam ahead until you’ve ingested the entire thing. Also – I can’t stop staring at the cover. Seriously. Staring. Like, I want it as a poster on my wall.

The MCs in this book are both incredible. I don’t think I can adequately convey how much I love Kyle. Siiiiiigh. What is there to say about Kyle? Oh, I know what… He. Is. So. Perfect. Like, amazingly, wonderfully, swooningly – BUT, also believably – perfect. I say ‘believably’ because he is also completely genuine, and, well, believable. He is so well grounded and confident in himself, and his heart is just immense. But, he is also a bit unsure of the future, and can admit that he doesn’t handle every situation as well as he could. He’s real.

Kyle gives his all to the people in his life. Whether it’s his family, the patients at the care center where he is a nurse, or especially his sister, Linda Kay, he goes all in and shows them that they are a priority, and that they are loved. His relationship with Linda Kay is incredible. She is amazing, he is amazing with her, and the two of them together are such a treat to read. Kyle also befriends Paul’s neighbor, Edna Michaelson, and becomes an important part of her life. Basically, he touches everyone he comes in contact with.

Then we have Paul. Kyle has had a crush on Paul for years, and has finally decided to act on it and show Paul how great they could be together. Paul is so hung up on their age difference, though, and the way he – the whole town really – has always viewed the younger Kyle, it takes quite a bit of pushing before anything starts to happen between them. The age issue isn’t the only obstacle, though. Paul’s family has also spent years making Paul think that he isn’t good enough, and that he isn’t deserving of love. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course; Paul is so deserving of love. Kyle, with a little help from some friends, just needs to work extra hard to convince Paul how right they are for each other. Right from the start, Kyle pulls no punches. I LOVED this early scene, where Kyle first shocks, and arouses, his crush.

“I’m not an infant, I can’t help my body type, and if I got you in the same room as a bed, it wouldn’t be my ass sore in the morning.”

Oh my…

As usual, the sex scenes are intense, fun, and hot as hell. Kyle and Paul have a ton of sizzle. They are so much more than their physical heat, though…simply watching these guys fall in love and discover that they want to be everything to each other was the stuff of perfect holiday romances. Winter Wonderland is full of Christmas magic and warm feels. I loved absolutely everything about it. I hope Heidi never stops writing this series.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Lou Harper, Reviewed by Taz, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Secrets and High Spirits by Lou Harper

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Title: Secrets and High Spirits (Secrets: Book Four)

Author: Lou Harper

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count:  137 Pages

At a Glance: I found this an enjoyable book, and I plan to go back to the first three books to read the stories of the other characters I met in Secrets and High Spirits.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Their love is an explosive cocktail—stirred, shaken, and served with a twist.

Teag and Bruce dream of opening their own bars, but that’s where the similarities end.

Teag, a popular bartender at West Hollywood’s hottest club, is willful, opinionated, and likes to take charge. He envisions his future bar as a boozy oasis for craft cocktails. Unfortunately, while he’s big on ideas, he’s short on funds.

Bruce, on the other hand, is a tower of pirate-tattooed muscle with a laid-back attitude. While he’s good with people, he’s a walking paradox—a wannabe boss with a weakness for bossy men.

Their partnership is a natural fit, but every time they meet, sparks fly as they rub each other the wrong way. Or is it the right way? In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to tell.

Between renovation pitfalls, meddling friends, and miles of police tape, Teag and Bruce struggle to keep their venture—and their budding relationship—from going up in flames. And not the good kind. More like the one on the top of a B52 shot.

Warning: Contains a whipcord-lean and whip-smart bartender who knows what he wants—and how hard he wants it—and a go-with-the-flow bar manager who secretly likes to be told how hard to give it.

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Review: Secrets and High Spirits was a wonderful read. I was a little nervous about picking up a series at Book Four, but this was a complete standalone and easily enjoyable without having read Books One, Two, and Three. In doing a little research on Amazon, I recognized the names of characters from this book, so my guess is that each book is its own story, and the various characters take center stage in different books. I’ll have to verify with the author to make sure this is right, but it appears to be the case.

Let’s start with the title. It was perfect. The main characters are opening a bar together, and both are adept at mixing drinks…but there’s also a subplot of the history of the building they bought, which had once been a bar called the Blue Parrot. The establishment seems to be haunted by one of the original patrons, although this particular ghost is more of the friendly variety and kind of a presence but not a character.

The two protagonists were an interesting match. There was a definite Dom/sub feel to this book in the sense that one character loved to be in control and the other loved to be controlled, although there was no BDSM (in case you associate Dom/sub and BDSM). The Dom is smaller and guarded, whereas the sub is a burly tattooed muscle man whose looks belie a gentle and accommodating nature.

Along the journey of coming together to become partners—first in business, later in bed—we meet a rich cast of characters who bring humor and depth to the storyline. Each character pushed the story further and helped the reader to better understand the main characters. There is a suspenseful mystery element woven in which helps to ramp up the action and pace of the book. The sex, while infrequent, is very hot when it occurs.

Since the book was more of a novella length, or perhaps a short novel, the relationship between Teag and Bruce was not as fleshed out as if could have been. The two take a while to lower their guards and accept the other one in. This slow process helped to ramp up the tension and to build suspense and maybe a bit of anxiety as we read to find out how they will find one another. Once they are together, the stresses, fears, and misunderstandings that threaten to tear brand new relationships apart are not as fully developed. For instance, when Bruce sees that an old lover had called Teag, it could have been a great catalyst for the two characters to hit a conflict only to work through it and become stronger because of their struggle and communication.

In the end, I found this an enjoyable book, and I plan to go back to the first three books to read the stories of the other characters I met in Secrets and High Spirits.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Lexxie Couper, Reviewed by Lana, Samhain Publishing

Review: Bare for You by Lexxie Couper

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Title: Bare for You (Outback Skies: Book Three)

Author: Lexxie Couper

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 111 Pages

At a Glance: Bare for You is an entertaining story of love in the outback.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Not all cowboys ride horses.

Jeremy Craig is on the cusp of being named the deputy prime minister of Australia. Which means he’s got to play his cards right and stay deep in the closet. Australia is a lot of things, but there’s no way the country is ready for a gay prime minister. So far, it’s been an easy ruse to maintain. Until he meets Ryan Taylor. Then all bets are off.

Ryan is sick of the Brokeback Mountain jokes. For starters, he’s an Australian stockman, not an American cowboy. For another, he spends most of his working days alone in a helicopter, not on the back of a horse. As Wallaby Ridge’s only contract heli-musterer, he gets to escape any small-town scorn high in the sky. He’s happy up there. Lonely, but happy. Who needs passion and wild sexual pleasure in their life when they have the boundless skies of the Outback, right?

Then Jeremy Craig climbs into his chopper…

Warning: This book may change your opinion of politicians. It also contains scorching, no-holds-barred passion between two alpha men, one with a Ryan Gosling fetish and the other with a secret deeper than the ocean. Yes, it’s that complicated.

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Review: Bare for You is a hot tale of a rough-around-the-edges outback pilot and a prim-and-proper government official who clash in the best of ways. You just know that innuendos will fly and feathers ruffle.

I really enjoyed this book! Even with the subject matter of a closeted politician wanting to keep his sexuality under wraps, the book stayed light and airy—maybe because all of the hot sex and a really sappy HEA, and that’s all right with me!

Ryan Taylor is a pilot in the Australian outback. He is out but lonely. Jeremy Craigh is the closeted politician with dreams of one day being the Prime Minister of Australia. He’s spending a week in the outback doing public relations for his post. When Jeremy steps off that plane, Ryan’s world is turned upside down. To Jeremy, Ryan is his walking wet dream, and he’s not sure how he is going to survive the week.

The storyline follows the usual guidelines, but it was very well written. The lust-to-love scenario, even though it’s a fantasy, was very sweet and I was totally hooked. I loved Ryan and Jeremy together. Ryan took charge of every situation he was in. I loved his cocky attitude. Jeremy on the other hand was very reserved, but he had to be in his line of work, and showed his adventurous side when the clothes were off! In the end he followed his heart, and it was the perfect HEA!

Bare for You is an entertaining story of love in the outback. If you have a need for a sexy Aussie cowboy hooking up with a “straight” laced politician, with hot sex and witty banter thrown in, then this story will hit the spot.

TNA_Signature_Lana

 

 

 

You can buy Bare for You here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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A.M. Arthur, Giveaways

Character Interview and Giveaway: The World As He Sees It Blog Tour with A.M. Arthur

AM Arthur Banner

Please join us in welcoming author A.M. Arthur today on the tour for her latest novel The World As He Sees It. Enjoy the character interview with Gabe Henson, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win a Grand Prize Goodie Basket, featuring 1 signed paperback of The Truth As He Knows It, 1 signed paperback of The World As He Sees it, plus a bunch of other goodies (notebooks, cute post-it’s, etc…).

Swag Pack

Good luck!

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Hi, A.M., thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we get to Gabe, tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

AM: Hello! I’m a contemporary m/m romance author (who occasionally dips into paranormal). I hail from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, equal distances from beaches and corn fields, and I currently share my apartment with two rascals of kitties.

My current book, The World As He Sees It, is the second in my Perspectives series with Samhain Publishing. It’s Tristan and Gabe’s book, and anyone who read the first Perspectives knows why Tristan is super special. He has severe short term memory loss, which prevents him from living a fully realized life. Gabe spends all of his time and money taking care of his alcoholic mother, which prevents him, also, from living a fully realized life. I’m so excited for readers to finally get their story.

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Q: What do you find attractive in a man?

Gabe: Certain physical things will always be a turn on, I won’t lie about that. I mean, one of my jobs requires being naked with some of the best looking men on the planet. But other than being fit, I love a guy’s eyes. Eyes can tell you so much about a person. Also confidence. Knowing what you want and going for it, and I’m not just talking about in bed. In life too.

Q: What’s the first thing that went through your head when you saw Tristan?

Gabe: The first thing I thought was “I want to hug him.” It’s weird, I know, but our first meeting was pretty unusual, because he was freaking out and upset, and I didn’t know how to help him. All I knew was that I wanted to hug him and make it better. When I saw him again, a month later, the first thing I thought was “holy shit, he is as beautiful as I remember.”

Q: Do you think you’ll insist the author visits you again?

Gabe: I won’t insist, but I think Tristan will. His recovery is an ongoing, never-ending thing, and he’ll want the future reassurance that things are okay with us.

Q: Before you met Tristan, what was your ideal man?

Gabe: Hot and hung. Before Tristan, I wasn’t looking for anything serious or long-term. I had too much going on at the time, and I’d been hurt pretty badly by the one relationship I tried. So mostly I wanted sex, and I found a way to get good, regular sex with a lot of hot, hung men. I never realized Tristan was my ideal guy until I met him.

Q: You’re going out for dinner. What’s your favorite food?

Gabe: I’m so glad Tristan isn’t here to say sausage and try to make me blush. That’s his favorite thing lately. My own personal favorite food is my Dad’s homemade vegetable lasagna, but I don’t go out for that exactly. If I’m choosing a restaurant, it’s because I know they make a good steak. A medium-rare steak with blue cheese and a baked potato is heaven on a plate.

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The World as He Sees ItBlurbLove knows no limits…but fear could keep them from seeing it.

Gabe lives a double life. As Gabriel Henson, he works multiple jobs to support his remorseless, alcoholic mother. As Tony Ryder, he does internet porn for extra cash and regular safe sex without complications.

Yet when he encounters a scared young man freaking out in a night club, he’s compelled to reach out. Ever since then, the memory of that young man has haunted him.

Tristan Lavelle lives his life thirty minutes at a time. After a traumatic brain injury three years ago, he gets through his day recording his life in spiral notebooks and sticky note reminders.

A month after Tristan’s embarrassingly public meltdown, another chance meeting with Gabe sparks a warm, emotionally fulfilling email relationship. Both men crave more, but fear of the next step stands between them.

Until Tristan gets the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial that could improve his memory—if the side effects don’t kill him. But for Tristan, the possibility of a real life with Gabe is worth any risk…

Buy Links: Samhain Publishing || Amazon || ARe

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Author BioAbout the author: A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland.  She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop.  She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories.

When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder.  She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

Contact her at am_arthur@yahoo.com with your cooking tips (or book comments).

Social Media Links: Facebook Page || Twitter || Pinerest || Tumblr || Blog

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates & Stops:

20-Oct

Love Bytes

Mikky’s World of Books

Hearts on Fire

The Novel Approach

21-Oct

3 Chicks After Dark

Bayou Book Junkie

22-Oct

Prism Book Alliance

Just Love Romance

23-Oct

Bookaholic Confessions

TTC Books and More

26-Oct

MM Good Book Reviews

Divine Magazine

Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

27-Oct

Velvet Panic

Michael Mandrake

Amanda C. Stone

28-Oct

Happily Ever Chapter

29-Oct

Inked Rainbow Reads

30-Oct

Book Reviews and More by Kathy

2-Nov

Dawn’s Reading Nook

It’s Raining Men

The Fuzzy, Fluffy World of Chris T. Kat

3-Nov

Iyana Jenna

My Fiction Nook

4-Nov

Bike Book Reviews

Foxylutely Book Reviews

5-Nov

Jessie G. Books

6-Nov

BFD Book Blog

9-Nov

Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

10-Nov

Cathy Brockman Romances

Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy

11-Nov

Kimi-Chan

12-Nov

Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies, Oh My

Joyfully Jay

13-Nov

Rainbow Gold Reviews

16-Nov

Molly Lolly

Nephylim

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The Fine Print:

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

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4 Stars, Delilah Devlin, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lana, Samhain Publishing

Review: Hotter With a Pole by Delilah Devlin

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Hotter With a Pole (Firehouse 69: Book Two)

Author: Delilah Devlin

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 77 Pages

At a Glance: Hotter With a Pole is a sexy story that hits the spot and will surely make you beg for more.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: When your heart is stuck in the wrong gear, a quick fix isn’t going to cut it.

When Noah buys a classic ’68 Camaro from a fellow firefighter’s widow, he hopes it will ease some of the grief crushing his heart. But the grinding noise under the car’s hood sends him straight to a mechanic. Something about the burly, imposing Hoyt sparks Noah’s interest, and it’s not just Hoyt’s ice-blue eyes and bad-boy biker looks. It’s the mutual interest they have–Club LaForge.

After losing his partner to cancer a year ago, Hoyt never thought he’d feel the same kind of rush with another man. But his reaction to Noah throbs deep in his body like the rumble of his Harley.

LaForge seems like the perfect place to meet and work off some sorrow, to feel alive again. But the flood of desire quickly gets hot enough to melt their emotional barriers into unexpected connections.

Connections Hoyt isn’t sure he’s ready for…especially since history has a scary way of repeating itself.

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Review: Hotter With a Pole is pretty hot novella regardless of the pole! Honestly, I don’t know what a pole had to do with it, except maybe one of the leads was a fireman. LOL. This is a short and sexy read that left me needing a fireman to hose me down.

The two leads meet because of a car, and they go on a wild ride that will change their lives forever. Noah, a firefighter, buys his dead friend’s car to keep his memory alive. Hoyt is the mechanic that fixes the car and brings out a side of Noah that Noah wanted to explore. Noah wants to explore his submissive side, and Hoyt, being a Dom, is more than happy to help. They begin a torrid relationship and it just gets hotter from there.

This story is basically about relationships, how they start and develop. I really enjoyed Noah and Hoyt because each complemented the other. Hoyt was the alpha who took control but was not overbearing. And Noah presented this alpha exterior, but underneath it all, he wanted to be taken care of. There is mild BDSM in the book. If this is not your thing, then you should skip it. For me it wasn’t over the top and it was very well done.

Hotter With a Pole is a sexy story that hits the spot and will surely make you beg for more.

TNA_Signature_Lana

 

 

 

You can buy Hotter With a Pole here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, M. Keedwell, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Samhain Publishing

Review: Dark Economy by M. Keedwell

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Dark Economy

Author: M. Keedwell

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 287 Pages

At a Glance: Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Love can’t stay buried.

Medical student Cadell Meredith has been known to acquire “volunteers” from the occasional pauper’s grave in order to improve his surgical skills. While the legality of this practice is a bit murky, he wouldn’t go so far as to call it out and out robbery.

His latest acquisition, however, is different. The body on his table was obviously healthy, wealthy—and murdered. Cadell feels compelled to seek justice for the dead man, but while dissection comes naturally to him, crime investigation is unfamiliar territory.

Furthermore, he’s caught the attention of one of those new police officers, Blaine Breton. A handsome, sentimental fool who insists Cadell is a criminal. A criminal! Cadell is the first to admit he’s no saint, but he’s no killer.

A marvelous game of cat and mouse ensues as Cadell seeks to expose the truth while hiding his own secrets. A task that grows ever more difficult as his desire for Breton grows…and the danger deepens.

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Review: Dark Economy is set in London, in 1829, and the author has really brought this time period to life. The writing style, settings, and the old English accent give the book its historical feel. We find that it’s also a time of indecision in the medical field, as well as intolerance toward gay men. It’s quite the page turner, full of suspense, danger and humor.

As Cadell Meredith is a medical student, you will find an abundance of medical terms (you may find yourself checking the dictionary—I know I did) and an autopsy or two, so if you’re a little squeamish, you have been warned. Cadell is a fascinating character, and we find his emotions in a whirlwind over not only Blaine Breton but an old acquaintance, a new acquaintance, his medical studies, and sleuthing! He’s a brilliant medical student and artist who has connections to the burial sites of paupers. He does a little grave robbing in order to get hands-on practice, which, of course, is against the law, but he feels justified because his passion is medicine, and he strives to be the best. He uses his artistic talent to draw diagrams for his professor to use at lectures. When he acquires a particular body, and discovers a murder, though, he sets out to find justice for the individual.

Blaine Breton is a policeman, staunch in his belief that Cadell is grave-robbing criminal. They both have different opinions on grave robbing, and of each other, which causes hostility between the two. At almost every turn, Blaine is there to just make Cadell as miserable as possible. In fact, they are driving each other crazy! But, Blaine also has a soft side, and even though he tries to be tough, there’s also a shy side to him. Blaine is still a little bit of a mystery to me.

When tragedy strikes, the first person Blaine runs to is Cadell. That’s when the emotions and respect between them start to come through. After Cadell spends some time with Blaine, he decides to share information he has about the possible crimes and murders that have been happening. Blaine and Cadell team up with other fellow policemen to go after the suspects and try to solve this complicated murder mystery.

M. Keedwell’s Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

TNA_Signature_Maryann

 

 

 

You can buy Dark Economy here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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4.5 Stars, Ally Blue, Reviewed by Kim, Samhain Publishing, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Myth Adventures by Ally Blue

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Myth Adventures (Mojo Mysteries: Book Three)

Author: Ally Blue

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 192 Pages

At a Glance: Ally Blue knows how to throw in just the right amount of spooky angst to keep me motivated to turn pages.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Something evil is going down in Atlanta…

Adrian Broussard and Greg Woodhall are attending OutlantaCon, Atlanta’s annual gay geek conference, and are looking forward to a weekend of cosplay and general nerdy fun. As they mingle with other conference goers, though, Adrian feels a strange, cold energy emanating from a man dressed as a satyr.

Encounters with storybook creatures roaming the streets only increase the chilly tendrils teasing Adrian’s sixth sense—strong enough to cause disturbing visions of Greg’s existence being erased.

When a girl at the conference goes missing, then turns up dead, clues literally drop in their laps as Adrian begins to fear the cold, alien energy is engulfing the whole city. And in danger of swallowing up his lover.

To Adrian’s horror, his worst nightmare is realized. Now both he and Greg must call on reserves of strength and resourcefulness they never knew they possessed to save Atlanta, and each other.

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Review: Ally Blue is one of the first M/M authors I ever read, and she lured me into the world of M/M romance. She knows how to throw in just the right amount of spooky angst to keep me motivated to turn pages and see what’s going to happen next in her stories. And, ever since I read Oleander House, I’ve been hooked on the Bay City Paranormal Investigation series. Now its spinoff, the Mojo Mysteries series, has me hooked too, and so far, I think Myth Adventures is the best of the Mojo books.

I was immediately drawn into the storyline when Adrian saw the satyr and sensed that something was off. When Greg disappeared, like their friends, it especially piqued my interest—to the point I had to restrain myself from rushing through the pages. The portals have returned with a vengeance! And I like the fact that Adrian and Greg’s relationship is so solid throughout the story.

My only problem with Myth Adventures was that I was left guessing what happened to a couple of the characters, though I can kind of guess, but still, I wanted to know! Maybe I’ll find out for sure what happened to them in the next adventure.

TNA_Signature_Kim

 

 

 

You can buy Myth Adventures here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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4 Stars, Bonnie Dee, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Samhain Publishing, Summer Devon

Review: The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: The Shepherd and the Solicitor

Author: Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 161 Pages

At a Glance: If you want a good historical fiction romance, you really can’t go wrong with this pair of authors.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: When a storm is brewing, taking shelter could be the most dangerous move of all.

One careless, public sign of affection cost Daniel Pierce’s lover his life at the hands of a hate-filled mob. Grief-stricken, Daniel retreated from society to a sheep farm in the wilds of the north. Years later, Gregory Tobin erupts into his solitary life.

Sent to confirm the existence—or the death—of the Pierce family’s lost heir, Tobin isn’t sure he’s found the right man. The gruff, shaggy hermit calling himself Jacob Bennet bears little resemblance to photographs of the younger Pierce. Tobin needs more time to study his quarry.

With lambing season in full swing, Daniel grudgingly admits he could use an extra hand. Through a long, exhausting night, they parry back and forth as Tobin probes closer and closer to the truth. And something beyond casual attraction simmers between them.

They come together in a crash of desire, but ultimately Daniel must overcome the terrors of the past to reconcile the man he was with the man he’s becoming—a man capable of loving again.

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Review: If you want a good historical fiction romance, you really can’t go wrong with this pair of authors. I have yet to read a novel by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon that I didn’t enjoy. The two just know how to write good books, and together they’re a winning combination.

After the death of his lover, Daniel Pierce flees London to become the lonely shepherd, Jacob Bennet. Hiding away in the north, he fights his nightmares and tends to his sheep. Being alone is just what he wants. Or is it? When solicitor Gregory Tobin is sent to find Daniel, the missing heir, Bennet wants nothing to do with him. He’s alone for a reason, and he wants to keep it that way, but Gregory just won’t leave. And with lambing season in full swing, it’s hard to turn down the extra help. So Gregory stays, and the longer he’s there, the more the men begin to desire each other.

While this book might not have the most original plot, it’s well written and I truly enjoyed the characters. Gregory is dangerously open in his interest in Bennet, but as they’re alone, there’s only a small worry they’ll be caught. And Bennet is stubborn, but given his history, his caution is understandable. I loved their first meeting and all the way to the last page. I mean, it’s hard not to love a man who gets trampled by overly friendly sheep, or who names the newborn lambs and figures out a way to save the one who isn’t getting enough food from its mother.

The setting is also beautiful. From the rolling hills to the small cottage Bennet lives in, I could easily picture it and wanted to be there with the men. Like Gregory, I started to see the pleasure in the simple yet challenging life of raising sheep out in the wilds of the north, with hardly anyone around. Talk about peaceful.

If you’re looking for a read with two different yet strong male leads, set in the country of historical England, look no further. Fans of Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee will enjoy their latest collaboration.

TNA_Signature_Jennifer

 

 

 

You can buy The Shepherd and the Solicitor here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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Giveaways, JL Merrow

Guest Post and Giveaway: The To Love a Traitor Blog Tour with JL Merrow

To Love a Traitor Banner

Keeping it Stiff

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and it’s great to be here as part of the To Love a Traitor blog tour!

Today I’d like to talk about keeping it stiff.

I’m talking, of course, about a young man’s upper lip. Why, what were you thinking of? ;)

Keep a stiff upper lip.

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanIt’s a phrase that’s come to embody a certain, very British, kind of spirit. The blitz spirit. Courage under adversity. The sort of quiet, capable stoicism that keeps its head while all around are losing theirs (and blaming it on you).  But where on earth does it come from?

According to The Free Dictionary, “This expression presumably alludes to the trembling lips that precede bursting into tears. [Early 1800s]”

Which is all very well, but why is one only supposed to keep the upper lip stiff? Are we to conclude that a modicum of manly chin-wobble would be acceptable?

Perhaps that was what EM Forster was thinking of when he complained of British public (ie posh private) schoolboys that

They go forth [into the world] with well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds and undeveloped hearts. An undeveloped heart – not a cold one. The difference is important.

In other words: just because one does not allow others to see what one feels does not mean the emotion is not there underneath. Forster would have liked the British male to be allowed to show his emotions, but in this area as in others he was swimming against the tide.

In Victorian and Edwardian Britain, there was a strong movement, fuelled by Darwinism and Imperialism, against overt sentiment of the sort that was in previous centuries perfectly acceptable. To weep copiously was now the sign of the so-called savage, or at the very least of a continental European (which was almost as bad). Generations were taught that public emotion, particularly if displayed by a male, was un-British and worthy only of ridicule and censure.

Luckily for all our psyches the tide is now on the turn and has been for a few decades: you only have to look at the tremendous outpouring of public grief displayed on the death of Princess Diana to see how far we’ve come, although there’s still a long way to go.

However, despite the association with British public schools, cold showers and games for ruffians played by gentlemen, the origins of the phrase stiff upper lip are—brace yourselves—actually American:

Self-esteem…is indicated by a short muscle which acts upon the upper lip, causing generally a fullness and stiffness in the middle…one who has it large can “carry a stiff upper lip”.

Outlines of a New System of Physiognomy published in New York in 1849

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Question: Keep a stiff upper lip—or let it all hang out? You choose. ;)

Giveaway: I’m offering a free ebook from my backlist to a randomly chosen commenter on each blog post.

And there’s a grand prize of a signed paperback copy of To Love a Traitor for one lucky commenter on the tour. I’m happy to ship internationally, and the more blog posts you comment on, the more chances you get!

I’ll be making the draws around teatime on Monday 28th September, GMT. Good luck! :D

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JL MerrowJL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

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To Love a TraitorWounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

Available in ebook and paperback: Samhain Amazon US | Amazon UK | ARe

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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)

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

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sadonna, Samhain Publishing, Z.A. Maxfield

Review: Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield

Title: Crossing Borders (2nd Edition)

Author: ZA Maxfield

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 316 Pages

At a Glance: A delightful story of an unlikely couple who make us believe in the possibility of true love.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Two dudes walk into a bookstore…

Tristan knows he’s got issues. His latest ex-girlfriend knows it too. He can’t blame her for dumping him—even though she gets her brother to do it for her. Since he can’t stop staring at said brother’s package, he figures it’s about time to put a label on those issues. He likes guys.

He heads to a local bookstore with what he’s sure is a foolproof plan to find someone to show him what he’s been missing. But who should crash his little adventure? Officer Michael Truax, who gave him a really expensive ticket back in high school for skateboarding without a helmet.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for years…to give him a second ticket. Suddenly faced with “Sparky”, all grown up and looking to get laid, Michael’s protective instinct kicks in—and presents him with an opportunity that’s hard to resist. After all, the kid must know what he’s getting into, so why not?

But when a man with a plan connects with a man with a hunger, the result is nothing short of explosive.

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Review: So, first of all, I’ve already taken a LOT of crap from my friends because I hadn’t read this book until now. I know, I know *smh*. What can I say??? I have thousands of books in my library, literally, and my life keeps getting more and more chaotic, so I’m just doing what I can these days. :) In my defense, though, I have read eleven other Z.A. Maxfield books and I’m a HUGE fan. I knew I would love this book – even more than I loved the late lamented Borders. :(

When we first meet Tristan, he’s figuring out that maybe he has some exploring to do – as in, maybe he should be exploring guys and giving the whole girl thing a rest, since it doesn’t seem to be working for him. His grand plan involves setting up at the local Borders and trolling for a perspective “date” who can maybe show him the ropes, or at least a good time. The last thing he expects is to be co-opted by Officer Helmet – his nickname for the officer who gave him a very expensive ticket when he was in high school for skateboarding without one. A helmet, that is.

Turns out Officer Michael Truax (aka, Officer Helmet) has a nickname for Tristan too – Sparky – and not because of Tristan’s bright red hair. Michael is onto Tristan’s plan pretty quickly, and he’s not sure it’s such a good idea. He has a feeling Tristan has no clue what he is potentially setting himself up for, and he doesn’t like it. Especially when maybe Michael has another plan in mind.

Tristan is completely blindsided by Michael’s interest in him and at first, he’s really skeptical. But as he gets to know Michael, he cannot believe that this is the guy for him. They are incredibly hot together. Tristan may be a beginner, but he’s a smart guy and learns quickly. After spending a couple of nights and days together, it’s pretty obvious that this is really something special. While there are a few bumps in the road, mostly they get it right.

But Tristan has to be honest with his family – especially his mom, who is trying to hold everything together since her husband’s tragic and sudden death a couple of years before. The whole “Thanksgiving with the families” day is hilarious. There are some really funny moments with Tristan’s younger siblings, as well as some touching moments with his widowed mother, who is doing her best to keep moving forward.

Then a new tragedy strikes that casts a pall over Michael and Tristan’s love affair. There is a bit of interference from someone outside the relationship that may or may not be well-intended. Tristan is definitely overwhelmed by so many things that he’s not sure he can risk a future with Michael. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and plenty of support. And, he has Michael.

*Sigh* ZAM is truly a master of writing intimate family dramedy. As usual, her dialogue and the emotional IQ in this story is spot on. I so loved these characters and Crossing Borders sucked me in from the first page. Tristan and Michael, and their families and friends, feel like people you’ve known forever – and in a good way. :) If you haven’t read this yet, I highly recommend you do it right away. I mean, you don’t want to get crap from all your friends for being the LAST one to read this book, do you? ;)

 

 

 

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4 Stars, Historical Romance, JL Merrow, Reviewed by Lisa, Samhain Publishing

Review: To Love a Traitor by JL Merrow

Title: To Love a Traitor

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 202 Pages

At a Glance: I think fans of historical romance will find plenty to love about To Love a Traitor.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

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Review: JL Merrow and a Historical Romance are an irresistible combination for me. Not only do I love her characters, but I love her writing voice—which probably goes a long way towards explaining why I love her characters.

In To Love a Traitor we get two of the better examples of this author’s gift for creating men who immediately endear themselves to us. George Johnson is on an undercover mission, assuming an alternate identity in order to find the traitor who’d betrayed his brother and cost Hugh his life in 1917. It’s effortless to feel compassion for George’s need to get answers to the questions that haunt him, as the loss of his brother only serves to underscore the overall consequences of him standing by his decisions during the war.

Meanwhile, Matthew Connaught is the man suspected of treason—of giving up England’s secrets to the Germans while Matthew himself avoided being sent on the mission that ended in the ambush where his fellow officers perished. Guilty? Well, JL Merrow makes it all but impossible for us to believe it from the moment Matthew makes his first appearance on the page, which creates a nice contrast to our empathy for George. As the story progresses, though, the question remains in the back of our minds whether Matthew’s charm is all smoke and mirrors, or, if he’s really just that lovely a man?

As the author lays out George and Matthew’s story for the reader, we want George to both succeed and fail—to succeed in his goal of finding closure for himself and Hugh’s fiancé, Mabel, but also to fail in proving that Matthew is the man who would commit such a foul and underhanded deed against his country and his fellow countrymen. Why? Because Matthew is one of the most charming and luminous characters this author has ever created. Matthew shines in every scene, our veteran who came back from the war physically less than whole, and because of this, we can’t help but root against George even as we watch the man fall victim himself to Matthew’s many charms.

To Love a Traitor is a sweet romance tempered by George’s subterfuge, his secrets and motives, and the story’s 1920’s setting, which, in itself, adds the built-in challenge of two men beginning a relationship and finding love in a less than accepting time. George and Matthew and the simple pleasures they find in spending time together elevate this story from one that might have offered us a standard-fare historical romance into a love story that speaks to the optimist in us all, and that hopeful part of us that wants to believe love truly does overcome every obstacle, while this novel’s climactic moment does nothing but reinforce what is felt from the beginning—that Matthew is utterly irresistible and that George never stood a chance against him. And, in the end, the only traitor in this story would have been the man who would betray what his heart knew long before his head.

I think fans of historical romance will find plenty to love about To Love a Traitor.

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4 Stars, Amy Jo Cousins, Genre Romance, New Adult, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Review: Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins

Title: Level Hands (Bend or Break: Book Four)

Author: Amy Jo Cousins

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 293 Pages

At a Glance: With Level Hands, Amy Jo Cousins shows us once again how well she can write young guys.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.

Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots.

The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they met, Denny taught Rafi to fly across the water, rowing hard in a knife-like boat. Now, two years later, on the wings of a rowing scholarship, Rafi is attending Denny’s elite college.

Even before the excitement wears off, Rafi is struggling with classes and fending off rumors that Denny’s family, not Rafi’s talent, won him his spot. To quash the gossip, Rafi tries to steer clear of the man he wants. A plan that evaporates in the fire of renewed attraction.

But Carlisle’s academic pressure cooker has Rafi barely treading water. And when a family crisis hits, both Rafi and Denny must pull hard to keep their relationship from capsizing in rough waters.

Warning: Contains a surly Dominican-American guy determined to show no weakness, a golden boy who knows his soft spots, some seriously dirty bachata dancing, and an excellent excuse for voyeurism in the locker room.

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Review: Rafael Castro definitely feels like he’s in over his head when he arrives at Carlisle to join the rowing team, and take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given to attend such a prestigious college. He feels he has to constantly show his gratitude, and to prove his worth, which ends up almost being his downfall. No matter how much he kills himself for the team, or works at his studies, he never allows himself to simply appreciate the gift he’s been given.

Denny Winslow desperately wants to help Rafi. Wants to share some of his burdens and help him reduce his stresses at school. Denny has wanted Rafi since he was seventeen, and Rafi was the first boy he ever kissed – but not until he turned eighteen, at Rafael’s insistence. Unfortunately, things don’t start out like he hoped they would when he found out Rafi was coming to Carlisle.

These guys drove me bonkers. Ok…Rafi drove me bonkers. Ha! But, you know what?? I liked them. I like how authentic they feel. How imperfect they are. How much their indecisiveness and refusal to pull their heads out of their asses at times made me want to throw my Kindle. Because that’s real life. Sometimes it takes a while to figure shit out. Sometimes the road is bumpy, and you can’t see the forest for the trees. But, our stubborn Rafaelito got there, man. He got there.

With Level Hands, Amy Jo Cousins shows us once again how well she can write young guys. The dialogue is sharp, and the crew scenes, as well as the scenes of Rafi and his roommates just hanging out, felt very natural. I really dug all of the rowing stuff, actually, more than I thought I would. Cash, who we initially met in Off Campus, the first book in the series, is completely awesome and hilarious, of course, and stole every scene he was in. And the chemistry between Rafi and Denny is fantastic. Sexy bachata dancing scene? Check. Hot as hell hiking scene? Check and check. When these guys are not needing to be smacked upside the head, and are clicking romantically, it’s ON.

There were a few little inconsistencies that threw me, the big one being Rafi all of a sudden referring to himself as ‘a black guy’ about halfway through the book. It was definitely mentioned that he was mixed race, but he had clearly been identifying as Dominican for the ENTIRE book up until that point, so it just seemed very strange to all of a sudden change that up.

It takes him a while – and thank God Denny is basically a massive sweetheart with an extremely long rope and high tolerance for taking Rafi’s shit – but Rafi finally starts to figure things out. In spite of his stubbornness and the ridiculous notion that he needed to push Denny away, I found myself rooting for Rafi throughout the book, and I’m sure you will be, too! And, don’t forget to click the link at the end of the book to subscribe to Amy Jo’s newsletter to get a bonus chapter!

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Heidi Cullinan, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Review: Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan

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Title: Lonely Hearts (Love Lessons: Book Three)

Author: Heidi Cullinan

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 325 Pages

At a Glance: If this book isn’t perfect, I sure couldn’t find the flaws, and I read it twice just to be sure.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Even hot messes need a happily ever after.

With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.

With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.

Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp.

When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.

Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.

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Review: In my reviews of both Love Lessons and Fever Pitch, the first two books in Heidi Cullinan’s Love Lessons series, I used the word ‘perfect’ – and I’m going to use it again here. If this book isn’t perfect, I sure couldn’t find the flaws, and I read it twice just to be sure. ;) Lonely Hearts is Baz and Elijah’s story. It’s my favorite of the series. And, it is perfection.

The title is just one of the myriad of wonderful things about this book. The theme of loneliness runs throughout…What makes them lonely, and how can they help each other not feel so alone. This passage hit me right in the gut…

“It makes me feel shitty and alone. I don’t want to be alone.” He sagged. “But I think maybe I have to be. Even in a crowd of people, my heart will always ache.”

The statement resonated in the furthest hollows of Baz’s soul. “Then we’ll be lonely hearts together.”

Both Elijah and Baz are profoundly lonely and coping in similar ways – i.e., largely through sarcasm, substance abuse, and sex – but when their hearts find each other? Swoon City. They do slowly begin to realize that they don’t have to feel alone, as there are so many unbelievably amazing people in their circle. All of the other residents of the White House, of course – Aaron and Giles, Mina and Jilly, Brian, and the fabulous new edition, Lejla/Lewis – along with Pastor and Liz, Ed and Laurie, Walter and Kelly, Marius, and Damien. As with the other books in the series, the ensemble is, once again, beyond fantastic.

One of the issues that Baz is having as Lonely Hearts begins, is dealing with the fact that Damien and Marius are graduating and moving out of the White House. Those two have been his confidants, his protectors, his cheerleaders, and his best friends since Baz started at Saint Timothy. Especially Marius. Not having them around in his daily life is a HUGE transition for him, and Heidi Cullinan does a fabulous job of portraying how that loss affects Baz, as well as how, as that hole is filled by Elijah, Baz depends on them less and less.

Elijah initially fights his attraction to Baz – Ok, he doesn’t fight that hard. They do have sex in the Tesla in chapter two, so he isn’t able to resist him for long. We see this reaction about a quarter of the way into the story:

So naked, so fucking naked without those glasses. So young. So handsome.

So Baz.

Elijah let out a sigh of surrender.

Eyes crinkling and twinkling in the shadows, Baz smiled.

The relationship between Baz and Elijah may begin in an unlikely manner, and they are both broken, hot messes at the start, but their growth is undeniable. The way they grow together, with each other and because of each other throughout the story is brilliant and gorgeous. They go from snarky comments and smart-ass flirtations, which they both use as armor, to open, honest grown-up interactions. And, somehow the sex just gets hotter and hotter!

One of my other favorite things about the story is that it is once again filled with music and pop culture references. At my house we are massive Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli fans, so I LOVED all of the nods to Howl’s Moving Castle (Baz and Elijah’s relationship is compared many times to Howl’s and Sophie’s, which is…wait for it…perfection) and all of the other Miyazaki films. Also, for a chunk of my reading I listened to Heidi Cullinan’s Spotify playlist that she made for the book. Completely. Fabulous. If you’ve never done this, I highly recommend it, especially this playlist; it was too good.

In closing…

Go. Read. Now.

I highlighted fifty-seven passages in this book, you guys. Fifty-seven. Highlighter orgies like that don’t happen every day. Read this book. Or, the series if you haven’t started it yet, beginning with Love Lessons, of course – because Walter.

Sidenote: Ed and Laurie are a FANTASTIC addition to this book. If you want to know their story, and haven’t read Dance with Me, it’s being rereleased with an amazing new cover on September 8th!!

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5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Mel Bossa, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Craving’s Creek by Mel Bossa

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Title: Craving’s Creek

Author: Mel Bossa

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 220 Pages

At a Glance: Craving’s Creek is truly a gripping page-turner.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: For the man he loves, he will fight—body, mind, and soul.

Fourteen years ago, on a sun-drenched summer day on the banks of Craving’s Creek, Ryde swore to his best friend, Alistair, he’d never be alone in the world. Though Alistair was destined for the priesthood, there was something beyond holy about the first kiss they shared.

But a fun camping trip went horribly wrong when Alistair was involved in a horrific incident.

Now, at age thirty-one, Ryde’s life is a mess of alcohol and the painful imprint of his last look into Alistair’s desperate eyes. Since the evil they encountered on that shore, his first love has been lost to him—until he learns a friend’s wedding is to be officiated by a priest named Father Alistair Genet.

Amid the rush of emotions, one thought crystallizes: Ryde’s love for Alistair not only has never died, it’s stronger than ever. Stronger than God. But it may be no match for the church…and the repressed memories that are slowly tearing Alistair’s mind apart.

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Review: Craving’s Creek is truly a gripping page-turner. I was absolutely enthralled by this story. The blurb only hints at the drama that lies within the book; the story itself is MUCH more intense. I had a few guesses as to “the evil they encountered on the shore,” but having an idea of what might happen didn’t prepare me for the actual fear and sadness that hit me when reading it.

The emotions that you feel when an author puts characters through different experiences are a direct result of how good a job that author does at making you connect with those characters. Mel Bossa did a fantastic job. Both so well-developed and interesting, I was invested in Ryde and Alistair from the word go. When they were happy and carefree together, I was happy. When the unimaginable happened, and they were thrust into hell, my heart was ripped out.

The one constant in the story was Ryde’s love for Alistair, which was keenly felt all throughout the book. I liked Ryde so much. His strength, wit and sass always shone through, whether he was standing up to Alistair’s mother, interacting with his baby sisters, or challenging the priests at the presbytery after he reconnects with Alistair. Even while struggling with alcoholism he never comes off as weak to me. And the strength he has to draw on to help Alistair begin to heal is amazing.

Alistair is such a unique character. Very pure and childlike, and incredibly smart, yet so naïve at the same time. I loved the descriptions in the book of his beauty; I felt like I could see him perfectly. His story arc was so engrossing, I couldn’t put the book down. And his absolute faith and trust in Ryder, both when they were boys, and again when they reconnected as men, was truly beautiful. In fact, his unwavering faith in general was fascinating, as it was both his salvation and very nearly his destruction. Religion is a tough topic to tackle in a novel, and there are certainly some controversial viewpoints here, but ultimately the beauty of Alistair’s faith was nicely juxtaposed with Ryde’s disdain for organized religion.

There were many heart-racing moments, and moments that felt hopeless, but these guys have a wonderful cast of characters in their corner. Ryde’s parents are completely fantastic, and Jamie – Dr. Scarborough, the psychiatrist who helps Ryder, and then later, Alistair, deal with the trauma of what they went through when they were seventeen – was an amazing doctor and a good friend.

The end was a bit of a rollercoaster. I got a titch worried that things weren’t going to be resolved in time, and that perhaps I was headed for a cliffhanger. And then I thought, rather than the big, dramatic showdown, the author was going to take it in a different direction, which I was actually ‘ok’ with. But, then she DID do the big dramatic showdown before wrapping things up, which also worked fine. While it wasn’t a cliffhanger, it did leave me wanting a tad more closure. I would definitely not object to seeing more of these guys in the future! Either way, though, I’ll be checking out more of Mel Bossa’s work.

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Giveaways, Heidi Cullinan

Interview and Giveaway: The Lonely Hearts Blog Tour with Heidi Cullinan

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Heidi Cullinan today, on the Lonely Hearts blog tour. Enjoy her interview, then be sure to enter the TWO giveaways we’re hosting:

The first giveaway is a comment-to-enter contest for the chance to win an Ebook of Lonely Hearts or your choice of an Ebook from Heidi’s Backlist. To enter, leave your comment right here before Midnight Pacific time on Monday, August 17, 2015. Winner will be selected on Tuesday, the 18th, and notified by email for prize delivery.

The second is a tour-wide giveaway of swag, which includes a paperback copy of Lonely Hearts, a BluRay of Howl’s Moving Castle, a figurine, and a pack of Black Butler playing cards. Click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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TNA: Heidi, let’s pretend for a minute you’re in a relationship with one of your leading men. Who would that man be, and why is he your “type”?

Heidi: Randy, because he’s the most fun. And because I know he’d do vagina for the fun of it. Though since I always say he’s basically me, that’s terribly narcissistic.

I’d also do Ethan, because I basically married him. All the new adult guys feel like my babies, though. Doing them would make me feel like I should be arrested.

TNA: Which one of your characters would you most want to drop everything for and go on a roadtrip with? What would make him (or her) a fun traveling partner?

Heidi: You do realize I want to answer Randy again. And I’m going to. Because he’s Randy. We’d end up in jail in some backwater town and he’d still make it a party.

TNA: Which one of your books do you think would translate best to the silver screen? Why? If you were casting the movie, who would you choose to play your leading men?

Heidi: Oh man. Well, the one I’m pining for most right now is Clockwork Heart, which I’m still editing, but man, I want to see the pirate airship! Though Fever Pitch I want for the song and dance numbers. I’d want some ingénues to play the guys and girls, so it really feels like they stepped out of the page and not a Hollywood call list.

TNA: Of all the settings you’ve written into your books, where’s the one place (real or imaginary) you’d most like to visit? What makes it somewhere you might even like to live?

Heidi: Logan, Minnesota. It could never actually exist, but to be honest I’d love to live in a remote small town, except that they are never like they are in fiction. Real life is far more grim, isolated, and depressing.

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LonelyHearts300Blurb: Even hot messes need a happily ever after.

Love Lessons, Book 3

With the quiet help of his wealthy family, Sebastian “Baz” Acker has successfully kept his painful past at bay. But as the end of college draws near, his friends—his buffer zone—are preparing to move on, while his own life is at a crippling standstill.

With loneliness bearing down on him, Baz hooks up—then opens up—with Elijah Prince, the guy Baz took a bullet for last year. The aftershocks of their one-night stand leave giant cracks in Baz’s carefully constructed armor. For the first time, the prospect isn’t terrifying.

Accustomed to escaping his demons by withdrawing into his imagination, Elijah isn’t used to having a happy herd of friends. He’s even less comfortable as the object of a notorious playboy’s affections. Yet all signs seem to indicate this time happiness might be within his grasp.

When Baz’s mother runs for a highly sought-after public office, the media hounds drag Baz’s and Elijah’s pasts into the light. In the blinding glare, Baz and Elijah face the ultimate test: discovering if they’re stronger together…or apart.

Warning: Contains sex in a Tesla, sex in a cupboard, sex under a piano, kinky role play, and a cappella RuPaul songs. Just a couple of boys groping, battling, then finally loving their way to becoming men.

Buy Links: Samhain Publishing | Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Barnes & Noble

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Excerpt: Baz’s only response was to quirk an eyebrow and draw Elijah closer. An extended remix of “Get Lucky” played, and Baz was trying to lead them in a dirty dance, but it hadn’t escaped Elijah’s notice Baz barely moved at all, doing his best to keep his weight off his left hip. Elijah had assumed the handful of pills Baz popped in the car was Baz joining the party. Obviously those drugs truly had been medicinal.

He flicked the center of Baz’s chest. “What the fuck are you dancing for, if you hurt?”

“Honey, if I only danced when I didn’t hurt, I never would.” He drew Elijah closer, bringing his stomach into contact with Baz’s groin. “Besides, moving around usually helps.” Sounded like a crock of shit to Elijah, but he was tired of keeping track of Baz’s BS. “So

you’re telling me you hurt all the time? That sucks.”
“Beats being dead.”
The quip had an edge to it. “What the fuck happened to you in high school, anyway?”

Too late, Elijah remembered the Xanax lack of filter. He held up his hands. “Forget it. Ignore me. Or lie. Tell me you fell out of a jet or something.”

Baz pushed hair out of Elijah’s eyes. “I was bashed outside of a Boystown bar on my sixteenth birthday. I lived. My boyfriend didn’t.”

Elijah stumbled. He shook as he recovered his balance, staring intently at Baz.

What did Baz find that night you first met in Saint Paul? You, trapped in an alley with a bad trick. Must have been one fuck of a flashback. That’s why you freak him out. You’re a goddamned ghost. You probably even look the same as the old boyfriend.

Elijah told himself it was fucking stupid for the knowledge to hurt. What, he thought one fucking blow job through a moonroof meant fairy godmothers were real?

Baz’s eyebrow arched over the glasses. “No pity, and all Xanaxed up too. I’m impressed.”

“I’ve been to reparative therapy. Some of us get our hell in one whap upside the head, some of us spend ten months on our knees.”

You are an asshole, Elijah’s rusty conscience screamed at him, but Baz only smiled. “I like you, Elijah Prince.”

Elijah tried to throw his walls back up, but he was far too drugged. “Fuck.”

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4.5 Stars, Barbara Elsborg, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Samhain Publishing

Review: Breaking by Barbara Elsborg

Title: Breaking (Fall or Break: Book Two)

Author: Barbara Elsborg

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Page/Word Count: 321 Pages

At a Glance: Breaking pretty much had everything I look for in books that I love.

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb: Archer Hart, former SIS assassin, has just completed a freelance hit job when he finds himself in a sniper’s scope. The bullet whizzing past his ear is a clear message: someone wants him dead. Retirement will have to wait, as his only choice is to assume a new identity—and keep running.
Conrad Black is a broken man. The injured barrister has come to the beach to recover from a hit-and-run “accident”, with plenty of time to wonder who might be wishing he’d been left dead instead of partially paralyzed. When he spots a surfer in trouble, he throws his crutches aside to pull the man to safety.

One glance at Archer takes Conrad’s breath away. And Archer finds himself envying the hands Conrad is using to pet his dog. But as the net tightens, both men can feel the targets on their backs heating up. The only thing that will save them is the truth…before death snatches away their one chance at love.

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Review: Alright…so, I read the book and got ready to write the review and looked up the book to get the blurb, and what do I see…? A super-hot cover that has Archer on it, exactly how I had pictured him while reading the book.

Breaking pretty much had everything I look for in books that I love. I love stories with law enforcement, military, hit men, that kind of thing, and this book had Archer! Archer was trying to get out of the business; he was closed off from any emotion, had nobody; didn’t want anybody, or more correctly, didn’t think he deserved anybody. And, due to a screwed up childhood and all those little steps along the way, didn’t know what it was like to love or be loved… He was broken.

Another thing I love in my books is alpha-type guys, and this book had not only one but two! Where Archer is out breaking the law, Conrad is on the side of the law—he’s a barrister. He may have grown up different than Archer but ended up just as lost and broken. I’ll admit that after reading the first book in this series, I wasn’t looking so forward to Conrad’s story. I didn’t like him all that much in Falling. I was wrong! Once you learn more about him, and why he acted the way he did, and watch as him and Archer start to mend each other, you can’t help but fall for these guys. The back and forth sarcasm between the two of them had me smiling, and when these two get together, the sex scenes are crazy hot!

I love a good drama. I love reading through and trying to figure out who the bad guy is. Sometimes it can get frustrating when you get it figured out right from the beginning, but that wasn’t the case here. I had a hard time putting the book down because I couldn’t wait to figure out who was after the guys.

The only issue I had as that the pace seemed to drag a little through the middle. There was just a little too much reading where I thought, didn’t we already do this? But, overall, I really loved the book and look forward to reading more by this author.

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3.5 Stars, Genre Romance, L.A. Witt, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Kim, Samhain Publishing

Review: What He Left Behind by L.A. Witt

Title: What He Left Behind

Author: L.A. Witt

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 238 Pages

At a Glance: I had mixed feelings about What He Left Behind, because no matter how good the intentions, something bad always seems to rear its ugly little head.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Can you ever have a second first time?

Josh Carver thinks it’s just another lunch with his best friend, Michael—until Michael confesses he just turned down a date with his hot veterinarian crush. It seems Michael’s abusive ex left him more scarred than Josh realized.

Josh and his husband, Ian, have done their best to help Michael leave his horrific past behind, but even Josh is stunned when Ian suggests that Josh help Michael with his fear of physical intimacy. After all, it isn’t like it would be the first time—Josh and Michael were once each other’s firsts.

A hesitant first kiss, and Josh and Michael’s natural attraction eases the way. But with Michael still balking at the prospect of sex with someone new, Ian steps into the breach.

Everything is fine and dandy until emotions become so entangled, their friendship—and a marriage—could be at risk.

Warning: Contains three guys who will do anything for each other, a hot tub that’s always the right temperature, and a cat with an attitude problem.

Dividers

Review: What He Left Behind left me feeling 50/50. From the first page my interest was caught, as Michael is telling Josh about his inability to trust in an intimate relationship with anyone after his abusive ex did a number on him. Now, from what I gathered, Josh and Michael were each other’s firsts in everything, but it never really says why these two never became a couple, just that when Josh is telling his husband Ian that Michael is having problems becoming intimate with others because of Steve, Ian suggests that maybe Josh can help out with that problem.

My distrustful nature at this suggestion had me asking myself, “Now, who are you sleeping with, Ian?” Nobody is that good of a friend to suggest his husband sleep with someone without a reason. But Ian’s reasoning is that he cares about Michael as a friend, and that everything should be done to help him out. And, since Josh was once Michael’s lover, who else could be a better candidate to help Michael?

Needless to say, Josh does agree to help Michael out with his intimacy problems, at which point most of the story then becomes an erotic therapeutic journey. Since Michael is doing so well with overcoming his fears about sex, it is then suggested that it’s time to try it out with someone who Michael knows but hasn’t slept with yet.

Ian is then elected for the job.

Like I said before, I had mixed feelings about What He Left Behind, because no matter how good the intentions, something bad always seems to rear its ugly little head. Ian and Josh, not being professionals, really took a chance that they could have done more harm than good with Michael. And, it did cause some problems with their marriage along the way.

There’s a happy ending, but in real life, messing with someone like Michael, who has been traumatized, could have been a disaster, and I can’t help but feel that the ending was resolved too quickly. I think all three of them needed to visit Dr. Hamilton.

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4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, JL Merrow, Reviewed by Jules, Samhain Publishing

Review: Played! by JL Merrow

Title: Played! (The Shamwell Tales: Book Two)

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 216 Pages

At a Glance: There was a little section at about three-quarters of the way through where I felt like it was dragging a bit. These guys danced around each other for sooo long. But, for the most part, the burn was good, as was their chemistry all along.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.

A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.

Warning: Contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

Dividers

Review: All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart. – J.L. Merrow

I realize it’s only the second book in the series, but I do so love some Shamwell Tales. With Played!, JL Merrow has given us another bit of light, sassy, English fun. The formula here is basically the same as that in Caught!, once again pairing a working class fellow with a somewhat upper-crust, more educated one, but it works. I enjoy that dynamic, especially when the working class guy blows stereotypes and expectations out of the water, as Sean did in the first book, and Con does fantastically in this one.

The characters in Played! are once again fun, quirky, and sweet. Tristan, a talented stage actor, is adorably fabulous. Wordy and pretentious, I can see that he would be off-putting to some, but I found him funny and charming as hell. Here are a couple of my favorite moments that describe Tristan’s character:

He beamed at the stranger and barely restrained himself from a ‘hel-looo gorgeous.’ “You must be Sean.” The man’s face twisted, and he rubbed the back of his neck, displaying some nicely honed triceps and a tuft of armpit hair. Tristan’s inner princess swooned dramatically.

And:

Yes, that should do it: respectably covered, but with a hint of debauchery. And, nobody did debauchery like Tristan. He blew his reflection a saucy kiss and hurtled downstairs to open the door.

Con, the village handyman, is stoic and sexy and strong. And smart – even though he feels he isn’t. His friends recognize his talent for voices, and memorizing the material from all of the audiobooks he listens to, and encourage him to take a shot at a part in the local village production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Tristan offers to help coach him, which feels like both a blessing and a curse to Con, who is trying desperately to thwart Tristan’s flirtatious advances.

I loved that it felt like I was reading a play within a play throughout much of the book. The parallels between Con and Tristan and their A Midsummers Night’s Dream counterparts, Bottom and Puck, were fantastic. Very clever stuff. And I loved all of the Shakespeare, both within the ShamDrams production, and otherwise scattered throughout the story. At times it even felt like I was reading and Auntie Mame style romp. So fabulous.

There was a little section at about three-quarters of the way through where I felt like it was dragging a bit. These guys danced around each other for sooo long. But, for the most part, the burn was good, as was their chemistry all along, and when they finally got it together, it was fabulous! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it. I have a couple of guesses, but can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next from Shamwell!

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, JL Merrow, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy, Samhain Publishing

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Title: Heat Trap (The Plumber’s Mate: Book Three)

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 255 Pages

At a Glance: I think fans will be pleased with this one, despite a few glitches here and there.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.

Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.

With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.

The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.

Dividers

Review: Fans of JL Merrow’s Plumber’s Mate series will be both gnashing their teeth at this installment and deliriously happy at the outcome simultaneously. Many loose ends are tied up in this third novel, and a few secrets that threaten to tear Phil and Tom apart are uncovered as well. It’s a challenge to create a synopsis for this one due to the fact that there are so many relationship-changing events taking place. Suffice it to say that while trying to dig up dirt on an unsavory boyfriend from the barmaid’s Marianne’s past, a devastating secret comes to light that is almost the undoing of Tom’s fragile trust in Phil.

All the old regulars are present in this one. Gary and Darren are married and continue to provide some real comic relief throughout the story. The news about Tom’s real father is finally discussed between Tom and his Mum, after an awkward attempt by Greg to force the family to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Mayhem and physical injury are once more part and parcel of the latest mystery, and Tom lands in the hospital once again. All in all, some pieces of the book were formulaic but so comfortable—so witty and sweet and just darn fun.

However, I felt there were some threads introduced that never really went anywhere—Phil’s desire to see Tom develop his abilities, for instance. It was the source of an argument between them, and then left fallow till almost the end of the novel when a strange, brief incident scared Tom and lay to rest any further exploration of his gift. All in all, it was underdeveloped and too easily tied up.

Also, there were a few new side characters introduced who had some devastating interaction with the bad guy, Grant Carey. I really didn’t understand why they were a part of the story since there was never any resolution to their problems. I understood that the couple’s stress and obvious marital discord would feed into a bigger issue between Tom and Phil, but again, I’m not sure those scenes did much to further the plot line.

Heat Trap is definitely not a standalone story. Reading the first two books is important to understand the dynamics between this motley crew, and their easy repartee. I think fans will be pleased with this one, despite a few glitches here and there. Tom and Phil come full circle in this novel and those who have been waiting for the two men to finally commit to some sort of future will not be disappointed.

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4.5 Stars, Daisy Harris, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Samhain Publishing

Review: Ghost in the Flames by Daisy Harris

Title: Ghost in the Flames (Fire and Rain: Book Five)

Author: Daisy Harris

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count:

At a Glance: I don’t want to give too much away about how these two managed their relationship, but it sure held my interest throughout the story.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Seventeen years ago, firefighter Rick Turner kissed a boy, and he liked it—then he paid a horrible price. Now he spends his days running from who he is and what he wants, his nights hooking up with a man who doesn’t fill the aching hole in his soul.

Until one night, newly dumped, he gets into a fistfight and is picked up by a cop-and-counselor team…and the counselor is none other than the guy who gave him that fateful first kiss.

Stan Gable relishes serving people who actually want his help. When he encounters grown-up Rick—and oh my, how he’s grown—Stan’s first instinct is to step in and use his counseling skills to ease Rick out of his fears and out of the closet.

But Rick’s prickly temper and lack of self-acceptance make him his own worst enemy. Before Stan can help Rick overcome those obstacles, he’ll have to take a look deep inside…and heal his own guilt before he can heal the man he still loves.

Warning: Contains a blustering, angry, and very closeted firefighter, and a counselor who doesn’t know how to mind his own business. Flashbacks of a gay bashing could be upsetting to some readers.

Dividers

Review: As the blurb for Ghost in the Flames reveals, seventeen years ago, Rick Turner kissed a boy and then paid a high price for that kiss—he was caught by a gang of teenagers who beat the snot out of him. While in the hospital recovering from the bashing, Rick starts to distance himself from both his gay tendencies, and, from Stan.

In the present, after breaking up with his f**k buddy, who was also in the closet, Rick finds himself drunk and in another type of fistfight outside a bar. The police are called and it’s here that Rick meets up again with the boy he’d shared his first kiss with. Stan Gable barely recognizes Rick because the man is totally beefed up, and Rick only remembers that Stan was the one who ran away when the bashing started. Woo-eee…does Rick have some issues with that one!

As it turns out, no charges are pressed, but Stan offers to take Rick home since he’s still a bit sauced. It didn’t help on the drive home that Stan starts up with the counseling questions (I’ve never heard of the police teaming up with a counselor, but it sure sounds like a damn good idea, considering the situations they find themselves in), but Rick sidetracks with a subtle pass while still denying he’s gay. In fact, Rick comes off as a bit of a homophobic jerk, but once I learned his story, my opinion of him changed. The plot then thickens, and this is how the two again start up a tentative friendship.

I don’t want to give too much away about how these two managed their relationship, but it sure held my interest throughout the story. I liked getting to know both Rick and Stan, with all their quirks. As much as I enjoyed From the Ashes, Ghost in the Flames makes me want to read the rest of the Fire and Rain series to see what I missed out on. The books are officially on my TBR shelf. I also loved the fact that Ghost in the Flames is set in the Northwest. Hey, what can I say? I love reading stories about my home state! There’s also the added bonus that Rick is a firefighter, something that I find hard to resist reading about—a man in uniform.

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