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

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

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Canning the Center

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: John-Paul Barrel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 9 hours and 17 minutes

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

Reviewed By: Amy

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

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

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

Dividers

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

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

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

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

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

TNA_Signature_Amy

 

 

 

 

You can buy Canning the Center here:

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Audible.com

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Tara Lain

Review: Sinders and Ash by Tara Lain

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Sinders and Ash (A Pennymaker Tale)

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 145 Pages

At a Glance: I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Housekeeper Mark Sintorella (Sinders) works diligently at a resort hotel while designing clothes anonymously, hoping to get into fashion school. Then his carefully planned life is upended with the arrival of Ashton Armitage, son of the fifth richest man in America—and the most beautiful guy Mark has ever seen. Ash must find a wife or he’ll lose his grandfather’s inheritance, and he settles on Bitsy Fanderel. But secretly Ash is gay, and the guy who cleans the fireplaces sets his heart ablaze.

Further stirring the pot is the little elf of a man, Carstairs Pennymaker, who has Mark wearing his own designs and masquerading as a girl to impress the fashion investors in the hotel. When the clock strikes twelve, two beautiful princesses line up for the wedding—but one isn’t a woman. Will the slipper fit? Only Mr. Pennymaker knows for sure.

First Edition published by Amber Quill Press, LLC, 2012.

Dividers

Review: When Mark’s mother died, his family kicked him out because he’s gay. Living on the streets, he eventually gets a job working in housekeeping at a luxury hotel. The hotel staff have nicknamed him Sinders because he works so hard at his job to save enough money to attend fashion designer school. When a guest of the hotel notices one of the shirts Mark has designed, that guest, Mr. Pennymaker, insists Mark wear more of his designs in front of his fashion investor friends. The biggest problem is that the only other thing Mark has made from his designs is a dress.

Ashford Armitage, known to most as a rich playboy, arrives at the hotel in order to find a wife before he turns twenty-five. Otherwise, according to his grandfather’s will, he stands to lose an inheritance worth millions of dollars. Unbeknownst to most, however, including his parents, Ashford is gay. So Ash kind of figures that Bitsy is the one for him, and when he proposes a business arrangement between the two of them, well, Bitsy balks because she’s not sure that she wants to give up her life for a life of luxury, and Bitsy has her own little secret. But the amount of the money involved is tempting…

Mark and Ash finally meet when Ash saves Mark from a sexual assault by one of the hotel workers, and Mark is so overcome by Ash’s good looks that he kisses him then runs away. I found that I really enjoyed Sinders and Ash, it followed an old fairytale favorite of mine, Cinderella, so I expected after I read the blurb that Ash would be chasing Mark when Mark was dress-up as a women. Not so! But it did put a smile on my face when Ash couldn’t figure out why he was attracted to Mr. Pennymaker’s neice.

Sinders and Ash is different, and it really had me laughing out loud at some of the antics and what male parts could be made to do (sorry, you just have to know how my weird imagination works, and I’m not surprised that these brief bits caught my attention). Some of Sinders and Ash is gooey fluffy, some of it kind of had a point, and I’ll have no problem reading more of this series since this book kept my interest throughout.

TNA_Signature_Kim

 

 

 

 

You can buy Sinders and Ash here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating - 4.5 Stars, Reviewed by Lisa, Tara Lain

Audio Review: Knight of Ocean Avenue by Tara Lain – Narrated by K.C. Kelly

Audio Gem

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: Knight of Ocean Avenue (A Love in Laguna Novel)

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator:: K.C. Kelly

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 9 Hours and 33 Minutes

At a Glance: K.C. Kelly delivers a knock-out performance of Knight of Ocean Avenue.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgment blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising-star celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

Dividers

Review: As a general rule, I don’t listen to audiobooks, and I think each of us, to a reader, will acknowledge that we can read just fine all by ourselves, so when I choose to listen to a book, the last thing I want is to be read to. I want to be performed for—I want the narrator to use inflection and to vary his cadence and to show his acting prowess by bringing each character to life through the vocal gymnastics it takes to make every role player unique and distinct.

Well, let me just say that K.C. Kelly mastered Tara Lain’s Knight of Ocean Avenue, elevating this novel to something so much more than a simple romance.

First off, I believe it helps that this story is so damn lovely that it’d have been a complete shame to hand this performance off to someone with lesser talents than Kelly so obviously possesses. Can a twenty-five year old man not know he’s gay? I don’t know if I can give that an unequivocal yes, but Ms. Lain and Mr. Kelly sure made me believe it was possible. First of all, Billy Ballew (whose last name, I must confess, did, unfortunately, go through a couple of different pronunciations throughout the narration) is a great big loveable, beautiful man. Billy may be a blue collar diamond-in-the-rough, but the guy’s got a heart of gold as well as a sterling reputation with the men he supervises on his construction crew. K.C. Kelly endears Billy to us by helping us understand, through the author’s prose, what an upstanding good guy our romantic hero is—in spite of the fact he also will be the first to point out all of his own failings, the biggest of which plays part in his not taking the test to get his contractor’s license. And, as we continue to listen to Billy’s inner dialogue, we witness the slow realization that his relationships with women haven’t failed for lack of good intentions but have failed in a lack of enthusiasm for being with a woman. Billy, simply put, is so busy trying to live up to his mother’s expectations of him as a straight man that he’s only succeeding in living down to all that wasted potential.

That all changes, however, as Billy’s going through his latest breakup, and, just as his bruised and battered self-esteem is busy warring with his confusion over why he can’t keep a woman, he ends up coming to the rescue of Chase “Shaz” Phillips. And, comes face-to-face with his destiny.

As a flamboyant designer, K.C. Kelly brings Shaz to life in all his fabulous fabulousness, and he’s the perfect foil to Billy’s physical masculinity. Shaz is out and proud and shines in all his gay glory, while Billy can’t figure out why the hell he’s drawn to the gorgeous Shaz like a magnet to steel. Once it dawns on him that he’s actually attracted to Shaz in a sexual way, and we see that Shaz is equally enamored of the fashionally challenged and straight Billy, we watch (or listen, rather) as Billy wars with the knowledge that Shaz’s flamboyance may be an obstacle to any sort of relationship—even a friendship—because Billy can’t see himself in any sort of scenario in which he’d fit into Shaz’s world or Shaz would fit into his. Which goes a long way to grabbing us by the heart and gives the story its emotional punch.

Filled with a great cast of supporting characters, from Ru, Shaz’s best friend and business partner (who sounds like a cross between Truman Capote and Droopy Dog, which made me smile), to Billy’s sisters (who I loved), to Billy’s co-workers, Knight of Ocean Avenue is such a pleasure to listen to. Even the urge to dislike Billy’s mom is tempered by our understanding that she truly only wants what’s best for her boy, and thought she was bulldozing him toward happiness when in truth she was making him miserable. But, where the rubber meets the road, she proves that what’s best for her son is her unconditional love for and support of him.

There’s nothing sweeter than a well written romance, unless it’s a sweet and well written romance being narrated by a talented voice actor. Which K.C. Kelly is, in abundance. He delivers this story to his listeners with such a deft voice, bringing Billy and Shaz to life, helping us feel how grateful these two men are to have found each other, that he almost makes us forget he’s reading Tara Lain’s words.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

You can buy Knight of Ocean Avenue here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Audible.com

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Tara Lain

Audio Review: Winter’s Wolf by Tara Lain – Narrated by Max Lehnen

Audio Gem

Title: Winter’s Wolf (Tales of the Harker Pack: Book Three

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator:: Max Lehnen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 8 Hours and 31 Minutes

At a Glance: The twists and turns in this book keep you guessing in a good way. No matter whether you are reading, or being read to, Winter’s Wolf is hard to put down.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Winter Thane was raised on the two cardinal rules of werewolf existence: don’t reveal yourself to humans under penalty of death, and there’s no such thing as a gay werewolf. It’s no surprise when his father drags him from his wild life in remote Canada back to Connecticut to meet his old pack in hopes it will persuade Winter to abandon his love of sex with human males. Of course Dad’s hopes are dashed when they come face-to-face with the gay werewolves in the Harker pack.

Winter takes one look at FBI agent Matt Partridge and decides bird is his favorite food. Partridge is embroiled in an investigation into drug dealing and the death of a fellow agent. He can’t let himself get distracted by the young, platinum-haired beast, but then Winter proves invaluable in the search for clues, a move that winds them both up in chains and facing imminent death. Winter quickly learns his father’s motives are questionable, the pack alphas are a bunch of pussies, humans aren’t quite what they seem, and nothing in the forests of Connecticut is pure except love.

Dividers

Review: I decided to do something different with this book – I downloaded the actual book and read along with the narrator. I am a fast reader and wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but I can wholeheartedly endorse the process after trying it. I truly enjoyed watching the words go by on the page as Max Lehnen read them aloud to me. This book has a more complex storyline than the others in the series, and as such, there was no skipping ahead or putting it down mid-read. This was an excellent book to listen to as well as read along with because you got a good and captivating story, which kept all your book-loving senses engaged.

Winter Thane is a wild, lone wolf. Raised in the wilds of Canada, he is still a baby by werewolf standards. Home schooled by his Alpha father, he has a brilliant mind to go with his alphanta body, and a keen moral compass and sense of self. When his father decides they must return to his father’s original pack in Connecticut, Winter’s solitary life is upended by what they find there. Not only is Winter faced with questioning everything his father has always taught him, but he comes up against drug dealers, a pack coup in the works, and an FBI agent who is more than what he seems.

Matt Partridge is proud of what he has accomplished in the FBI. He’s young for a field agent, but he’s smart and has worked hard to get where he has. Investigating a mysterious drug ring in his hometown in Connecticut is a little frustrating for him – until he meets Winter Thane, and then things start happening way too fast and intense. Winter is a wolf and he’s decided he wants partridge for dinner, but the harder Winter falls, the more elusive the FBI agent becomes.

Winter’s Wolf is a story about finding family, discovering family, and becoming family. In the end, Winter discovers that having mates you would live and die for is what pack is all about. Max Lehnen does a really good job with the narration on this one. I could hear the emotions in his voice as he narrated, and he brought the characters to life. I would definitely recommend the audio form of this book, by itself or in combination with the e-format. Reading along really helped me enjoy the audible even more.

TNA_Signature_Carrie

 

 

 

You can buy Winter’s Wolf here:

Audible.com

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3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Tara Lain

Review: Knave of Broken Hearts by Tara Lain

Title: Knave of Broken Hearts (Love in Laguna: Book Two)

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 224 Pages

At a Glance: In my opinion, this follow-up was definitely not as good as Knight of Ocean Avenue, but I’m still enjoying the series.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

Dividers

Review: Knave of Broken Hearts, the second book in Tara Lain’s Love in Laguna series, is, if simplified, a romance about a blue-collar construction worker who falls for a rich, extremely handsome cardiologist. It’s not simply a straight ahead romance, however. There are a few important themes and messages at play throughout the book – overcoming fear and learning how to be who you are, accepting who you are, and being unwilling to compromise who you are to please others. Also, neither of the main characters are exactly what they seem and are both dealing with very stressful personal lives.

At first, I had a difficult time getting into the story; I didn’t immediately engage with the characters. But, since the same thing happened when I read Knight of Ocean Avenue, the first book in the series, and I ended up loving that one, I figured I would be invested before long, and, for the most part, I was.

I fell for Jim first, partially because of knowing him a bit from the first book, but also because his character was more richly developed. His backstory, especially the stuff with him and Hiro, and his estrangement from his family, was very interesting and engaging. I loved how Jim took the bull by the horns with the job opportunity that Billy gave him. He showed a lot of growth throughout the book – small lapse in judgement with regard to his father’s scheme and his part in it aside – and showed that he could really be someone that Billy, his brother, and everyone else could be proud of. Speaking of the brother…I ADORED Jim’s younger brother, Ian. He was smart and refreshing, lots of fun, and just a sweet kid. I reeeeaaally hope that the author is going to give him a story down the road in this series!

Ken’s character was a tougher sell for me, but I did grow to like him, especially in the last quarter of the book. And, even though I liked the Japanese culture elements, and thought it was sort of cute that his mother finally decided to embrace the fact that her son was gay, and tried to fix him up with a guy instead of girls, I honestly felt like he could have had more depth. In fact, Ken and Jim’s relationship just never quite took off for me. Though I thoroughly loved the ending – the gift that Ken gives Jim actually made me cry – I felt like they spent too much of the book either misunderstanding and dancing around each other, or having strange, sporadic, rushed sexual encounters. The attraction was established…we knew that they wanted to get into each other’s pants…but the love connection didn’t have much strength.

A few other observations…

The supporting cast was pretty great. I already mentioned Ian (Adored! Please give him a book!), but Constance, the building owner of the job the crew is working on, turned out to be a great gal (I love a strong female character who isn’t a cliché), and Billy totally stole the few scenes he was in. I absolutely loved all the moments with Billy and Jim.

ALL of the parents were assholes. Okay, Ken’s dad wasn’t an asshole per se, and his mom did end up trying to meet him halfway, I guess. But, Jim and Ian’s father? Total Asshole. And Constance’s dad? Asshole.

And, finally, what the hell with Mickey and the rapist crew? That came off a bit like unnecessary drama, especially that final scene with them. I wish there had been another way to show the pressure on Ken to be who his parents wanted, and get across the stress his mother put him through, other than to set him up with that nutjob.

I’d have to say that while I liked it, in my opinion, this follow-up was definitely not as good as Knight of Ocean Avenue, but I’m still enjoying the series and looking forward to Ru’s book coming next!

TNA_Signature_Jules







 

You can buy Knave of Broken Hearts here:

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Giveaways, GRL 2015 Featured Blogger Tour, Tara Lain

Countdown to GRL 2015 – Character Interview and Giveaway with Tara Lain

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Today we’re so pleased to continue the countdown to GayRomLit 2015 celebration with Tara Lain and the guys from her new novel Knave of Broken Hearts. We put together a little interview with Jim Carney and Ken Tenaka, and Tara is also offering the chance for one reader to win an e-copy of Book One in her Love in Laguna series, Knight of Ocean Avenue.

To enter for a chance to win, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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TNA: Hi, Jim and Ken, welcome to TNA. I know Tara usually fields all the promo for her books, so does it feel a little weird for you two be here with her readers to talk about yourselves? Who had to talk who into doing it, or were you both on board from the start?

Jim: *Jim shuffles his feet* Ken definitely had to talk me into this gig, but he explained that it would be good for Tara’s novel if we agreed to talk to you, so here I am.

Ken: *Ken puts a slim hand on Jim’s shoulder* He’s shy but he’d do anything to come through for a friend. As for me, well I’m so happy to get to work out my shit with my family, I’ll tell the world.

TNA: Speaking of weird, does it feel a little strange to know you guys are the subject of an entire novel about how you met and got together? What was the strangest part of the entire storytelling process for you?

Jim: *Jim shrugs* It got me off my ass and made me look at myself. Hard but worth it. *He threads his fingers through Ken’s*

Ken: I’m Japanese. We’re not used to opening our kimonos in public, so this whole experience was weird. But look how well it came out.

TNA: So, Jim, we already know you’re a big fan of Yaoi. What do you love about it?

Jim: Yaoi was Hiro’s thing first. He was my closest friend. Looking back, I realize it was an easy way to get me comfortable with gay sex. But the thing I loved most was the yaoi hero who looked like Ken. He really turned me on. Man, that guy was real to me. I’d never seen anything so beautiful or so sexy. Then, of course, I saw Ken in the flesh and that did it. He looked just like that character – but better. I knew I couldn’t hide anymore.

Ken: But did you notice that in his dream scenario the guy who looks like me is the uke (bottom) and the character who resembles Jim is the seme (top)? I don’t know how he worked that one out?

Jim: Oh come on, you know you love it.

Ken: *grinning* Ya think?

TNA: Have you ever been to YaoiCon before? If so, what’s the atmosphere like? Do you have plans to take Ken sometime?

Jim: No, I’ve never been, but I have to confess I’d just as soon keep Ken close to home. Exposing him to a lot of gorgeous Asian guys would probably turn me green with jealousy.

TNA: This year is the first time you guys will be attending GayRomLit. What made you decide this was the event and the right year to attend it?

Ken: *Ken adjusts his shirtsleeves* As you know, Tara’s been going to GRL since the first event. She loves the conference and loves seeing all the people who support gay romance. She’s told us so much about it, we can’t wait to go. I mean, she’s had some other guys with her in former years, but this is our GRL. I think Tara’s readers are going to like us best.

TNA: Are there any authors you’re most excited to meet? What are some of your favorite books in the genre?

Ken: Tara’s got a lot of favorites, but she has breakfast a lot with ZA Maxfield and KC Burn. I know these authors really help her and inspire her, so I look forward to meeting them. Plus, ZAM wrote a book called Drawn Together with an Asian hero who looks like a girl. I can relate.

TNA: Have you looked over the schedule of events? What are you most looking forward to attending?

Jim: Tara keeps talking about this big reader party she’s going to be throwing with a bunch of other authors. Readers will be guessing little known facts about the authors and winning prizes. Sounds like fun to me!

TNA: Given the historic ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on June 26th, what were your feelings the moment you heard? Were you together when the news broke?

Jim/Ken: Of course, we’re from California, so we’ve been planning a wedding with a whole helluva lot of help from my mother since we moved in together. But realizing that our marriage will assure our status and that of the children my mother so desperately wants us to have in every state is a huge relief to both of us.

TNA: One last question, then, for the readers who can’t attend GRL this year, and for the readers who’ll be there in San Diego with us. Would you consider sharing a short excerpt from your book? Maybe one of your favorite scenes, and telling us a little bit about what makes it so special?

Jim: Okay, I’m going to share a scene that’s really hard for me. It’s a moment that I’d like to forget – but I’m grateful it happened or maybe I would never have realized how much Ken meant to me. Here it is —

Dividers

Except: Shit, the old man couldn’t even know what his plan would do to Jim. He just thought he was arranging Jim’s life for him, and he knew Jim would hate that. No way he could understand he was condemning Jim to misery and breaking his heart. Sweet Jesus, he’d be so happy if he knew.

He dropped his head on the steering wheel. Ken. Oh God, Ken.

Come on, he won’t miss you. He’ll move on in one day.

He picked up his phone and held it against his chest. But I won’t.

A tapping on the truck’s window brought his head up, and he stared into a flashlight. Behind it he could just make out the security guard from the gate. He rolled the window a couple of inches. “Yeah.”

“No loitering in this vicinity. Would you please move on?”

The top of his head exploded. “Fuck you!” He smashed his fist against the window, the edge of the phone caught the glass just right and cracked it into a spiderweb of pieces, as the perfect pain seared up his arm, into his shoulder, and out though his brain. He cranked the key, stomped the gas, and pulled out as a Porsche wheeled around the corner. The Porsche skidded to the side as Jim floored it, and the old truck showed it was pissed too as it sailed down the road toward the ocean, leaving the sports car driver leaning on his horn. His hand hung at his side. Oh shit, that hurts. Hurts. Good.

I could go to Ken’s. He’d fix it. I could tell him everything. Maybe he’d fix that too? His hand trembled. Why would he do that? Take on the chairman and board member of the club he loves? Take on a doctor who could ruin his career? For a casual date with no future? Shit, why?

He could practically hear the discomfort in Ken’s voice, feel his embarrassment at having to tell Jim that no way was he wrecking his life for a quick lay.

Before he could crap out, he switched the phone to his left hand on the wheel and pushed the speed dial number. He heard the ringing.

Ken sounded happy. “Hi, baby, on your way to see me? I made some salads. I know, you hate anything healthy, but I promise to slather them with blue cheese.”

“Can’t. Can’t come. I’m so sorry. Family matter.”

“Oh hell. I’m really sad not to see you, but I sure know about family. Can we get together tomorrow night?”

“No. No. I’m going to be tied up. Oh God, tied up for a while, quite a while.” Bile rose up his throat, and somehow his face got wet.

“Jim, are you okay?”

“Yeah. Just hurt my hand. But I’m fine. Thanks. Thanks for everything.”

“Jim, wait—”

“Can’t.” He clicked off, pulled to the side of PCH, jumped out, and puked his guts all over the scrub grass beside the highway that led to Crystal Cove.

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Knave of Broken HeartsBlurb: Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job, and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares. How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | All Romance eBooks

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Tara LainAbout the Author: Tara Lain, like so many novelists, wrote her first book at five. Writing ability got her through college when there wasn’t enough time in the day, and, shortly thereafter, it became a marketable skill. Very early in life, people started paying her to write — scripts for industrial films, brochures, magazine articles on semiconductors. She became a really successful non-fiction “ghost-writer”.

Where to Find Tara: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page

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THE GIVEAWAY

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KnightofOceanAvenueBlurb: How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgment blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising-star celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

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Teasers

Teaser #1 - Knave Of Broken Hearts

Teaser #3 - Knave Of Broken Hearts

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Cheers, everyone, I hope you’ve all had a fantastic weekend! Thanks so much for stopping by to see what we have coming up in the week ahead. I hope you’ll come back to visit with our guest authors and to check out some of the reviews we have in store for you.

Here’s what’s on tap:

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Monday – We have Lexi Ander stopping in for a visit to help us kick of the week, on her Surrounded by Crimson blog tour

We’re also hosting author Shae Connor today on the What Happened in Vegas?? blog tour

Tuesday – We have Tuesday twofer for you today, when authors Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Cade drop by on their Prickly Business blog tour

WednesdayR.J. Jones is our lead-off guest today on the Black and Bluhe blog tour

We’re also welcoming Carole Cummings back for another edition of Genre Talk with author Deja Black

ThursdayCharlie Cochet is our guest of honor today on the Against the Grain blog tour

Friday – And finally, Tara Lain is wrapping up the week to help us celebrate the GayRomLit 2015 Blog Tour, with an interview with her guys from Knave of Broken Hearts

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And that does it for now. Until next time, happy reading!

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sadonna, Tara Lain

Review: Knight of Ocean Avenue by Tara Lain

Title: Knight of Ocean Avenue (A Love in Laguna Novel)

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 254 Pages

At a Glance: What a wonderful start to a new contemporary series from a favorite author!

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgement blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.

Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising star, celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?

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Review: Oh, how I enjoyed this book! This might be my new favorite Tara Lain book. :)

The wonderful opening scene has our hero, Billy, in a coffee shop waiting for his girlfriend. He’s nervous about the meeting, but he’s trying to distract himself when a beautiful and captivating man walks into the shop. He can hardly take his eyes off of him. Probably not an auspicious start for a conversation with his girlfriend. ;)

Billy is in construction. He left high school early to work to help support his family after his father suffered a heart attack. He’s worked multiple jobs to pay his parents’ mortgage, pay for his sister’s school, basically everything except take care of himself. He does have his own apartment, which he’s proud of. He managed to teach himself to read but never even got his GED because of test anxiety. He still feels like he’s not smart enough to be more. He’s just a simple, blue-collar guy surrounded by people smarter and classier than he’ll ever be. But he really does like his job, and he loves his family and coaching his Little League baseball team.

His sister Rhonda is getting married, and boy is she marrying up. Her fiancé Mitch’s family is paying for pretty much everything, and part of the deal is that she has a stylist planning the big day. Rhonda wants Billy to have the full treatment for her wedding – clothes, hair, etc. His other sister, Theresa, who is like a second mother to him, thinks it’ll be great, and she totally supports him in whatever will make him happy.

Then we meet Billy’s mother – who is a royal pain in the behind. She’s very disappointed that Billy isn’t married and producing grandchildren for her yet. I literally wanted to slap her multiple times. I mean, seriously? The guy is working two jobs to pay HER mortgage. (By the way, we never hear why SHE isn’t working to help pay for anything, and it’s not like she still has kids at home either – except that she’s “traditional” – can you tell this is a hot button issue for me??) How he even has the time or the inclination to date, let alone take on more responsibility for more people? He’s got a family he’s providing for! But, enough about the irritating mother.

Billy agrees to meet with the stylists, and lo and behold – it’s the beautiful redhead from the coffee shop. Billy recognizes him at one, and he’s a bit overwhelmed to be surrounded by Shaz (real name Chase Phillips) and his crew at the salon. While he finds Shaz intriguing, the whole styling thing has him a bit stunned. And he really needs to get his head together, as it were.

Billy has made a really nice life for himself. He has two cats, an apartment he’s making into a home, a job he likes and is good at, his Little League team he loves coaching, a family he cares deeply for and gives everything to, so why isn’t he happy? What’s missing in his life? He’s truly afraid to find out, especially since he thinks he might know the answer, and if he’s right, it would mean big trouble with his mother.

Sissy, Mitch’s cousin, is a member of the wedding party too, and she likes Billy. She really likes that he’s not a gold digger and just after her money, and that really he seems to want nothing from her at all. They agree to “couple it up” for the wedding to keep everyone happy, and to maybe be friends and have a good time during all the pre-wedding festivities. Sissy is actually a nice girl and while she may give off a ditzy vibe, she’s actually got a good head on her shoulders. Billy likes her and they look out for each other.

As preparations go forward for the wedding, Billy and Shaz spend more time together. They get to be friends – helping each other out with various interests that they have in common. Shaz is afraid he’s developing a bit of a crush on a straight guy, and Billy is afraid he’s not good enough to be Shaz’s friend, and what if he wants it to be more?

Things get crazier as the wedding gets closer, and Billy and Shaz’s relationship gets really, really complicated. Billy is really trying to figure things out and he’s still convinced that he’ll never be good enough for Shaz. Talk about the path not being smooth! But eventually Billy has had enough. He figures some stuff out and finally does some things for himself that he isn’t sure he’ll survive, but he’s sure he won’t survive if he doesn’t do them.

The resolution to this story is so very rewarding. I really enjoyed every single second of this book. All the secondary characters are really well written – even that PITA mother. I loved the rest of Billy’s family and Shaz’s “family” as well. This story is really about being true to yourself and finding what makes you happy then just going for it, even if you don’t think it maybe fits all your visions of what your life would be like. What a great lesson! I wish I had learned that lesson a lot sooner in life. :)

This may be my new favorite story from this author, and I have loved quite a few of her books. I’m so looking forward to the other books in this series that are planned. There is a lot of material to be mined here, and I think this is the author to do it. Well done!







 

You can buy Knight of Ocean Avenue here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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2.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 2.5 Stars, Reviewed by Sadonna, Tara Lain

Audio Review: Outing the Quarterback by Tara Lain – Narrated by John-Paul Barrel

Title: Outing the Quarterback

Author: Tara Lain

Narrator: John-Paul Barrel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 8 Hours, 30 Minutes

At a Glance: This is definitely not my favorite from this author, and I am still not convinced audiobooks are for me.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Will Ashford lives in two closets. He meets his wealthy father’s goals as both the quarterback for the famous SCU football team and a business major, but secretly he attends art school and longs to live as a painter. And he’s gay. But if he can win the coveted Milton Scholarship for art, he’ll be able to break from his father at the end of his senior year.

In a painting master class, Will meets his divergent opposite, Noah Zajack. A scarred orphan who’s slept on park benches and eaten from trash cans, Noah carefully plans his life and multiple jobs so he has money and time to go to art school. Will’s problems seem like nothing compared to Noah’s. Noah wants the scholarship too and may have a way to get it, since the teacher of his class has designs on him–a plan about which Will isn’t happy.

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Review: Hmmmm. Where to start. I am really a fan of this author, but this book just didn’t work for me. I do think part of the issue was the narrator, but I also had issues with the story.

Will Ashford is the starting quarterback of the fictitious Southern California University football team, and his girlfriend is the head cheerleader. That would all be great except for one big fat problem – Will is gay. He has no desire to go to the NFL, and he really just wants to paint, so he’s taking a Master class under an assumed name. He’s a really talented painter, and he wants to win a scholarship to attend Art school so that he can leave his family expectations behind and not have to worry about tuition, etc.

In this class, Will meets Noah – who is both a model and a rival painter, and Will’s entranced by him. The instructor of the class is also interested in Noah, and his recommendation may be a key to getting this scholarship. For Will, though, trying to keep up on his painting class, his football practice, his other courses, his internship at his father’s company, as well as keeping off the radar of the campus YouTube gossip hound, and continue to feign interest in his girlfriend while also trying to keep the proverbial closet door shut and locked, is taking a big toll on him.

When Will runs into Noah outside of class, at one of Noah’s jobs, all he can think of is not being outed as an artist. Noah respects him as an artist, but he doesn’t think much of him as a person. And that’s before he knows that Will hasn’t exactly been forthcoming.

The character I like the most in this story is actually Will’s best friend Jamal, who is the center on his football team. He really is the kind of best friend everyone needs. I’m looking forward to reading his story, which is the second book in this series. Jamal always has Will’s back, doesn’t judge, and tries to do whatever he can to help Will out of whatever crappy situation he finds himself in. And Will would do the same for Jamal.

As the story progresses, of course Will cannot continue to hide his orientation from Noah when he is so attracted. They have a complicated relationship not only because of the art scholarship they both really want but because they come from such different worlds. Will feels trapped in the gilded cage, and Noah has never had any kind of stability in his life, other than what he has managed on his own.

Of course, as these things go, there must be a moment of truth when Will is put in the position to confirm or deny his orientation, his life choices, and his career aspirations. He is not only going to have to face the press, the football fans, and his father, but he’s going to have to face Noah and make a decision about how he’s going to live his life.

So why do I say this audio book didn’t work for me? Truly, I didn’t care for the narrator. To make sure, I read some of the book after I had finished listening to it, and I liked it a LOT more when I was in control of the story. His attempt at a sort of “sultry/sexy” voice for Will just was difficult for me to listen to and felt very put on and over the top. Then his older adult voice characterizations just did not sound right to me at all. Will’s dad and the art professor both sounded like they had chronic constipation. Honestly, the best characterization, I thought, was Jamal. That voice I could believe. He sounded age appropriate, and his speech pattern was much more authentic.

The other issues I had with the story are probably personal taste. I do not like penis nicknames and this one had a doozy. I know he’s a young guy, but no. And I also didn’t care for some of the other nicknames either. Finally, I just could not like Will as a character. The first, probably, eighty percent of the book, I felt like I was forcing myself just to get through it, and only in the last twenty percent did I finally want to know what was going to happen.

I will definitely read the next story in this series – but I will be reading it to myself. ;) As usual, YMMV.






You can buy Outing the Quarterback here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Jackie, Tara Lain

Review: Outing the Quarterback by Tara Lain

Title: Outing the Quarterback

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 216 Pages

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: Will Ashford lives in two closets. He meets his wealthy father’s goals as both the quarterback for the famous SCU football team and a business major, but secretly he attends art school and longs to live as a painter. And he’s gay. But if he can win the coveted Milton Scholarship for art, he’ll be able to break from his father at the end of his senior year. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Reviewed by Lynn, Tara Lain

Opposites Attact In Tara Lain’s “Wolf in Gucci Loafers” – Reviewed by Lynn


“You never know what you are going to want until you see it clearly.” ― Shirley Jackson


Title: Wolf in Gucci Loafers

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 234 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Socialite Lindsey Vanessen wants someone to love who will love him back—an impossibility for a gay, half-human, half-werewolf. Too aggressive for humans, too gay for wolves, and needing to protect the pack from human discovery, Lindsey tries to content himself with life as a successful businessman. But when someone starts kidnapping members of wealthy families, Lindsey meets tough cop Seth Zakowsy—the hunky embodiment of everything Lindsey wants but can’t have.
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Dreamspinner Press, Tara Lain

Tara Lain’s “The Pack or the Panther” Is A Worthy Addition To The Paranormal Genre


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


Title: The Pack or the Panther

Author: Tara Lain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 202

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Cole Harker, son of an alpha werewolf, is bigger and more powerful than most wolves, tongue-tied in groups, and gay.
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