Taken by A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an alt/history novel where slavery is legal and wealthy families buy companion slaves for their teen children as a symbol of status, and well, for companionship. A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY by Darrah Glass is a gay novel, and though the characters are all 16 it is NOT YA.

I’ve read a few interesting iterations on this theme of male sexual slavery. Notably COUNTERPUNCH by Aleksandr Voinov, ANCHORED by Rachel Haimowitz, and AN UNUSUAL WHORE by Belinda McBride.

I’m not sure why this subgenre of gay romance is so compelling, but I find there’s a lot of heart in these stories. And, especially in, perhaps irrationally, hoping that masters come to an arrangement with their intimate slaves that is more one of equity, than of superiority.

A Most Personal Property (Ganymede Quartet Book 1)About the book:
In the heat of August 1900, Henry Blackwell—rich, handsome, and painfully shy—anticipates the purchase of his companion slave, that most personal of properties, with equal parts excitement and dread. There are limits to what a gentleman might do with his slave and still remain a gentleman, and what Henry craves goes far beyond what’s allowed.

Martin, a slave from House Ganymede, is the most beautiful young man Henry’s ever seen, and he’s ready and willing to do as Henry commands, but Henry’s afraid to ask him for what he really needs. A master needn’t care what a slave thinks or how he feels, but Henry can’t help wanting Martin to like him anyway. If Henry could be certain Martin wanted the same things he does, he might be bold enough to reveal his secrets.

Unfolding against a backdrop of progress, privilege and turn-of-the-century amusements, the four installments of the Ganymede Quartet present an erotic coming-of-age fantasy of Gilded Age New York in which young men from the richest families form intense bonds with the slaves who serve them.

My Review:
I loved this book. I read the FREE prequel, A SUPERIOR SLAVE, and adored Martin, the Top Boy of all the Ganymede Companion slaves up for sale in August 1900. (See my review here.) It oriented me to the alternate reality/Historical world in which these books are set.

In Martin’s world, rich people buy slaves for their pubescent children to use as sex surrogates. So, a wealthy boy of sixteen would go to an auction of male Companions. He would purchase one who would become his valet, and trusted life-long Companion, meaning that sexual relations with his Companion was a socially acceptable alternative to low-class whores, unsavory working-class women, or self-polluting masturbation, well at least until he married. At that point his companion would become a personal secretary with no further sexual duties.

This story is told from the POV of Henry, a wealthy boy with a big secret. He’s queer. He’s always desired boys, mostly his best friend Louis’s older brother James. He wishes for a Companion, not because he is anxious to have sex–as all his rich friends are–but because he doesn’t wish to be different from them, left behind. His nouveau riche father is respected, but Henry recognizes that his social station is tenuous. And, while his friends have all been having chats with their fathers regarding slave ownership, Henry’s father has made no mention of it–despite the fact of Henry’s father having his own Companion.

How humiliating it would be to not have a companion slave! If Father wold not give him one, maybe he would at least allow Henry to go to a different school, some abolitionist institution where his companionless state would not be unusual or shameful.

But how would Henry get anywhere in life without a slave of his own? A man of their class without a companion might as well be no gentleman at all.

Turns out, Henry worried for naught. His father did in fact plan to purchase a Companion for him. Of course, there is that old chestnut: be careful what you wish for…

What Henry wanted out of life was to share something tender with another young man, to reveal his secret self and act out all his shameful fantasies with his precious friend, and he wanted to be able to do this without censure or reproof.

Although Henry would never be allowed to have this sort of relationship with another free boy, he could have some of what he wanted with a slave; he would be encouraged to have it, even…However there were limitations on what a gentleman could do with a slave and still remain a gentleman and everyone understood what they were. There would be no kissing, no caressing, no mutuality; such things were the province of fairies and queers, and Henry would not be allowed to become and invert.

He wasn’t willing to concede he was a fairy, but he might well be queer.

Quite the conundrum when he meets Martin at the auction.

Every line of his body was taut and graceful. Again, he met Henry’s eyes and gave him a shy, beguiling smile. Henry looked away to hide his blush. The boy was so beautiful he made Henry’s heart ache.

Martin is won at the auction, after a furious bidding war, and Henry is at once elated and frightened.

“He belongs to you now.” Father reminded him. “He’ll attend you at school , of course and Timothy will want to teach him a few things. Beyond that, you may do with him as you see fit.” Here, Father cleared his throat. “Within reason.” Henry blushed and turned away as Father added in a low voice, “You’ll remember what we’ve talked about. He’s a handsome boy, and you’re both of an age…” It was too mortifying for words and Henry hoped that Martin hadn’t overheard.

Even the normal duties of Martin attending as a valet are fraught with troubles for Henry.

Martin helped him pull his shirt over his head and put it in the laundry basket with the collar and cuffs. Before Martin could put his hands on Henry’s fly, Henry hurried to unbutton his own trousers and let them drop to his ankles; he did not want Martin touching his waist, his hips, his thighs. He did not trust his body to behave in proximity to Martin. He stood in his undershirt and drawers feeling miserably vulnerable and exposed.

Martin knelt at his feet, removing Henry’s socks. He looked up at Henry and smiled. “Do you change your underthings with your dinner clothes, Sir?”

If he said yes, he’d have to be naked in front of Martin. “Uh, no,” he said.

But none are more problematic as when Martin makes his other, more interesting, purposes plain.

“Is there anything I might do for you, Sir?” Martin asked. getting more slowly to his feet. “Anything at all?” When Henry did not immediately answer, he added, “I should be very happy to serve you. That is what I’m here for,” in a low, intimate tone.

So, while Henry is totally gone for Martin, he’s terrified of being found out a queer. While all Henry’s friends make hard use of their Companions, Henry is a paragon of restraint. So much so, Henry is afraid Martin suspects something is wrong with him.

“Is there anything I might do for you, Sir? You’ve been so generous with me, Sir. I’d be pleased to be of service.” He stood before Henry, hands behind his back, shifting from one foot to the other. He looked so hopeful. He had to be wondering what was wrong with Henry. Maybe he even guessed.

Fast forward to the HEA. Because there is one. Henry, slowly, learns to manage his fears–prodded on when one of Henry’s classmates assaults Mertin. In the period between, from purchase to service, Henry and Martin develop a solid rapport. Martin is Henry’s intimate confidante, and his closest friend. And the passion they later share is only more sweet for all the development.

Martin, though, seemed happy with Henry’s paltry compliments. He ran his hands over Henry’s body, such voracious hands. “You want to be a real lover to me, don’t you, Henry?”
“Yes,” Henry said fervently. “Yes, I do.”
“Then we’ll be lovers, Sir, and no one else need know.”

No mistakes, this is a scorching read. Not suitable for kiddos, but truly enjoyable for those who like historical romance, and particularly gay romance. I loved the language. I loved the setting, and the period. I loved the long wait, as Henry worked through his fears. I ached for both him and Martin–who is totally smitten with Henry and can’t understand why Henry recoils from his subtle advances. I eagerly await the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find A MOST PERSONAL PROPERTY on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I read a review copy from NetGalley.

A MOST SUPERIOR SLAVEA Superior Slave (Ganymede Quartet Book 0.5) is a FREE prequel novella which absolutely drew me into this world, and made me fall in love with Martin and his simple dream of being purchased by a good-looking young man who would be kind, honest and loving. Oh, and who might have younger siblings that he could play with. Oh, and who might become a discreet lover. Okay, perhaps Martin had pretty high ideals. For a slave, they’re unrealistic, flighty and uppity desires. But, heck, those are the same dreams to which I think anyone might ascribe. This book is told from Martin’s POV and involves a whole lot of polyamory. After all, companion slaves need to know how to have sex if they’re going to be good companions. And Martin, well, Martin is the best.

You can find A MOST SUPERIOR SLAVE on Goodreads Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Darrah Glass is a writer and generally inquisitive person who likes her fantasies to be as historically accurate as possible. She loves research, sex scenes, and researching sex scenes. She’s married and happily childless, does yoga, never cleans her house, likes shoes and toenail polish, and is vain about her hair. As far as her priorities are concerned, she’d rather write than do just about anything else, and she drives a 15-year-old car but carries really nice purses.

You can catch up with Darrah on Goodreads, her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends! :)

Happy Book Birthday to Laura Kaye’s HARD TO COME BY–Review and Giveaway

HTCB RDL Banner

Hi there! Today’s a big release. Best-selling contemporary romance author has unleashed her fourth book in the Hard Ink series. HARD TO COME BY brings veteran-amputee Marz together with an unlikely love interest…the sister of his adversary. This is an ADULT read.

Hard To Come By CoverAbout the book:

Caught between desire and loyalty…

Derek DiMarzio would do anything for the members of his disgraced Special Forces team—sacrifice his body, help a former teammate with a covert operation to restore their honor, and even go behind enemy lines. He just never expected to want the beautiful woman he found there.

When a sexy stranger asks questions about her brother, Emilie Garza is torn between loyalty to the brother she once idolized and fear of the war-changed man he’s become. Derek’s easy smile and quiet strength tempt Emilie to open up, igniting the desire between them and leading Derek to crave a woman he shouldn’t trust.

As the team’s investigation reveals how powerful their enemies are, Derek and Emilie must prove where their loyalties lie before hearts are broken and lives are lost. Because love is too hard to come by to let slip away…

How about an excerpt?

Marz was playing with fire. He damn well knew he was. But that didn’t make him want to pull away.

He just wanted more of the heat.

Marz nuzzled the side of Emilie’s face with his nose, his lips. She turned her face toward him and offered her lips. He couldn’t refuse.

Capturing her mouth on a tortured groan, Marz poured every ounce of his longing and confusion and desire into the kiss. They grasped at each other and Emilie turned in his arms. He pinned her against the railing and planted his hands in her hair. She opened to him and accepted his tongue, sucking him in until Marz’s blood ran hot and his hard-on ached. He ground himself against her and devoured every little moan and whimper and gasp she spilled.

Trailing kisses from her mouth to her jaw to her ear, Marz dragged a hand down her body and grasped her breast in his palm. She cried out and her head dropped back, drawing his mouth to her neck, where he licked and sucked and nipped as he kneaded her soft flesh. “You are so damn sexy.”

Her hand flew to his hair and grasped the back of his head. “Touch me,” she said. “Don’t stop touching me.”

Marz pulled away long enough to do a three-sixty scan. The lighthouse cast a dark shadow over them, and the pier was otherwise empty. His heart raced and his pulse hammered. He dove back in, trailing kisses down her neck to her collarbone, which he traced with his tongue. Her nails scratched deliciously at his scalp and her grip urged him down.

Through the thin material of her blouse and bra, he mouthed and flicked at her nipple. He shifted the deep vee of the neckline to reveal a lacy royal blue bra. He tongued her through the lace until she was panting and moaning and writhing against the railing.

“Oh, my God,” she rasped as he shifted her shirt and moved to her other breast. This time, he tugged the lace down to bare the deep pink of her nipple. She tasted and smelled like something fruity and sweet, and it made Marz hunger for more. “Derek,” she gasped. “Yes, yes, yes.”

My Review:
I really enjoyed this! Derek “Marz” DiMarzio has had a lot to overcome in his life. Abandoned at age five, he shuttled through the foster care system and then, into the army. It was there, within his Special Forces unit, that he found family–and all that got shot to Hell about a year ago, when his unit was ambushed, three of his comrades killed, and it came to light that his commanding officer was a drug-runner. Dishonored and disheartened, Marz also has to come to terms with the loss of Righty–his leg, blown off when a grenade landed nearby. His battle buddy, Bennett, still barely speaks to him–shocked from the impact and the knowledge that Marz push him from the blast.

Now the final five members of their squadron have come together to help clear their names, and undo the horrors set in motion by their deceased commander. The three previous books in this series centered on these wounded warriors finding love at the wrong time, and now it’s Marz’s turn.

Emilie Garza is a licensed psychologist, so she knows there’s something really wrong with her brother, Manny. Ever since he returned from Afghanistan he’s paranoid, and sullen, and liable to cause physical harm–and that’s just what she knows. What she doesn’t know is how deep Manny is into the heroin dealing Church gang. She wants Manny to get treatment for his PTSD–and he won’t–but his behavior is only becoming more erratic and more dangerous. How can she convince this man, the one who stepped up and became the father figure she needed when their own dad left, to get treatment?

Well, she’s gonna try her darnedest. In the meantime, she’s just met a man–Derek–and he’s so different from her cheating ex-husband! He’s kind, and thoughtful, and keeping really tight surveillance on Emilie because, well, Manny seems to be a kingpin in the conspiracy that killed his friends and disgraced his unit. Not that Emilie knows anything about the dark side of Manny’s life.

Bigger problem? Derek Marz is falling for Emilie. Hard. She’s a down-home, honest gal who turns all the knobs for Marz–a man starved for family, and affection.

I really appreciated how conflicted Marz is. He knows he’s taking advantage of this situation, and he hates himself for it–at the same time relishing in the first real connection he’s ever had with a woman. He’s a tremendously sympathetic character, working tirelessly to clear his name and to protect Emilie from the problems that surround Manny.

Emilie is a strong character, too. She’s steadfast and loving, her world is all about family and giving back. Her acceptance of his amputation is really heartwarming–and admirable. For Emilie, finding Derek seems too good to be true, and those fears are founded when she learns of his covert mission. He’s got a real battle on his hands to win her back–and keep her out of the crossfire. I’m glad this was an HEA, because I love when two good people find love, even if the road to happiness is littered with land mines.

Interested?  You can find HARD TO COME BY on Goodreads, Amazon, Amazon.ca, Amazon UK,  B&N,  iTunes, and Kobo Purchase before December 2, and get awesome bonus content!

And don’t miss the other Hard Ink books, now available:

Hard As It Gets

Hard As You Can

Hard to Hold On To

 

Praise for Hard to Come By:

“Rough sex and explosive fights power Kaye’s fourth Hard Ink novel, a thrilling adventure that feels more like an action movie with a romantic subplot than a typical contemporary romance. New readers will head straight for Kaye’s backlist after powering through this installment.” ~Publishers Weekly Starred Review


“TOP PICK! If you’re looking for danger, gritty action, and sizzling passion, then Kaye has just the book and the series for you.” ~RT Book Reviews Magazine

***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win

One of two signed copies of HARD TO COME BY or

one of FIVE Amazon or B&N $10 Gift Cards!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Oh! Feel free to join the Facebook Release Party today at 12-9pm EST

Lots of Laura’s author friends will be celebrating and giving away books and swag.

LauraKayeAbout Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

Website | Facebook |Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

Inkslinger

Love Meets Renovation in WOOD, SCREWS & NAILS

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review of a super-sexy, totally sweet, contemporary gay romance. Piper Vaughn’s WOOD SCREWS & NAILS takes a stand-up guy and shoves him between a rock, and a very, very hard place.

Wood, Screws, & Nails (Hard Hats, #1)About the book:
Aaron Costa’s summer was all planned. Despite having to remodel the family lake house, it would be a vacation of sorts, and he had every intention of enjoying it—until the friend who was supposed to help him got injured and left him in a lurch. He decides to take the opportunity to bond with his son and hires Julian and his roommate, Malachi, to assist.

As a broke college student, Malachi could use the money, and spending the summer with Aaron for eye candy sounds like a dream. “Look but don’t touch” becomes his motto. But when Julian starts flaking on his responsibilities and Malachi and Aaron are forced to spend long hours alone together, their mutual attraction is impossible to resist.

Aaron can’t fight the temptation sexy Malachi presents. But more than their age difference stands in their way, not the least of which is Aaron’s semi-closeted status and the fact that he’s never openly discussed his sexuality with his son. He has no idea how Julian will react when he learns his father is not only gay, he’s also dating his best friend.

My Review:
FIVE Do-It-Yourself stars!

You know how, sometimes, you read a book and the second it ends you want to start over? That giggly bubble of happiness is bursting in your chest and you can’t believe it all turned out…perfectly?

That’s me right now.

I’ve read some other Piper Vaughn books, and loved the close relationships the men built against tough odds, but this one just GOT me.

Aaron is 37, a hardworking contractor from Chicago’s suburbs. He’s gay, but not OUT to his family, and especially not to his college-aged son, Julian. Aaron was a teen, trying to figure out his sexuality by messing around with his friend Carrie when she got pregnant. His parents took her in, and they’ve had a good life–though Carrie married another man who has been a great stepfather to Julian.

Needing help rehabbing his parents’ lake house in Lake Geneva, WI, Aaron asks Julian to spend the summer there–and earn a bit of cash. Julian agrees, and enlists his best friend and roommate, Malachi, for the task.

Malachi is an out gay 21 y/o man. He’s Brazilian and a dedicated worker, aspiring to become a teacher. For years he’s learned carpentry from his own father, so this summer job is perfect. Problem? Well, Malachi thinks Aaron’s pretty perfect, too. See, Malachi’s seriously into older men, and continually working around Aaron’s big, toned body is just the spark to light Malachi’s fire.

The two men recognize the value of their friendship, comradery and enjoy working together, but the sexual tension is fierce. It doesn’t help that Julian’s soon sulky and then shirking outright. Aaron’s upset over the friction between himself and Julian, and finally succumbs to Malachi’s desire to soothe him.

It’s eReader-melting, quite honestly. Well, until Julian arrives at a most INOPPORTUNE moment. Ahem. Catching a full-on ‘drilling’ session between father and friend wasn’t on his To-Do List. Ever.

There’s lots of hurt feelings, embarrassment and apologies, but at the end, oh the end!, it’s an HEA to make the most curmudgeonly smile. For real! *swoon* I received a free copy of this book via Goodreads in exchange for my honest review. The newly-released second book in Vaughn’s Hard Hats series (HOOK LINE & SINKER) is on my TBR shelf.

Interested? You can find WOOD, SCREWS & NAILS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Dreamspinner Press. There’s a special on at Dreamspinner–through 11/24 the discount code: Vaughn1123 will get you 25% off Piper’s books!

About the Author:
Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two thousand book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.

You can catch up with Piper online on her website, Goodreads, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends.

Happy Book Birthday to SUGAR RUSH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! I’m happy to offer up a spunky contemporary romance as today’s book. SUGAR RUSH, by Belle Aurora, is a quirky rom-com with the largest bunch of foul-mouthed characters I’ve ever liked. They may be Croatian, but they could be my extended Irish family…and the love is fun.

About the book:
Max Leokov has watched the people around him find love. At one point in life, he not only wanted that, but lived for it. He loved once. He loved with all his heart. His heart broken, he was left to care for his young daughter.

He deserves a second chance.

Helena Kovac has spent years studying, worked her ass off to get her degree. She doesn’t have time for love. Hell, she doesn’t have time to mess around, even. Books and work are her life.

Everything else comes second.

When Max and Helena join forces to help his daughter, Ceecee, they are shocked at the spark between them.
A cynic.
A workaholic.
When love hits, it hits hard.

And sometimes, love hurts.

My Review:
Helena got snubbed by the world’s biggest flirt, Max, while attending her sister Nat’s wedding. She took it pretty hard, which is why she’s cold to Max after moving to NYC for a job. Thing is, Nat’s extended family includes Max, and Helena and Max have to interact. It’s actually a sore point for Nat that Helena’s so bitter.

Max has had bad luck in love. His first love, Maddy, got pregnant young, and suffered PPD. Then, she was negligent and it caused a horrific spine injury to Ceclia, their infant child. In the aftermath, Maddy fled, leaving young Max and his big family to care for the paralyzed Ceecee. And he does this extremely well–the whole dad-thing. But he’s not ready to hand his heart over again, maybe ever….except Helena is too intriguing.

Helena’s a physical therapist, and Max immediately catches on to how much Ceecee likes her–hopes to turn their friendship into regular therapy. It works, perhaps a little too well for both Max and Helena. Their constant interaction fans the flames of interest into an inferno of attraction. But Helena doesn’t want a man to interfere with her career and Max is too wounded to step out of his celibacy. Okay. Not for long. They “date” sorta.

Of course, Max’s whole family is ecstatic, and it’s clear that Helena’s heart is getting in too deep, but what about Max? Yup. He’s a tough nut to crack. And he messes up spectacularly. Good thing he’s found the exact right woman…especially when he tells her to hit the bricks.

Plenty of times I laughted out loud. Couple times I teared up. Lotsa feels in this rom-com deluxe. I didn’t read the first two books in this series, so I got a bit swamped in the initial mish-mash of names, but I plowed through and definitely enjoyed the book.

Interested? You can find SUGAR RUSH on Goodreads, AMAZON: US, UK, or AU.

Also Available:

Friend-Zoned: AMAZON: US, UK, and AU, B&N, KOBO, iTUNES
Love Thy Neighbour: AMAZON US, UK, and AU, B&N, KOBO, iTUNES

About the Author:
Belle Aurora is twenty seven years old and was born in the land down under. At an early age she fell in love with reading. Boredom one summer had her scouring the bookshelves at home. She stumbled across Sandra Brown’s Breath of Scandal and fell in love with romance.

Having been brought up in a loud and boisterous family of Croatian descent, she developed a natural love for dramatics and humor. Only some years ago had she discovered a new love:  humorous romance novels. Kristen Ashley and R.L. Mathewson had opened a brand new world where she could lose herself yet feel safe and at home in their stories. Belle has been known to become a screeching banshee while anxiously awaiting their newest titles.

Belle never thought she would write. It had never interested her until recently. Friend-Zoned began to form and in February 2013 Belle typed the words Chapter One. And she fell in love.

With words.

With writing.

With a creative imagination she never knew she harbored.

Friend-Zoned is the first in the Friend-Zoned series. Keep an eye out for this cheeky author online on her Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

***GIVEAWAY

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
Signed copies of Friend-Zoned and Love Thy Neighbour (2 available)
or one of 5 e copies of SUGAR RUSH

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal! LOLA CARLYLE’S 12-STEP ROMANCE

Lola Carlyle’s 12-Step Romance

by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Release Date: 05/05/15
from Entangled Teen

Summary from Goodreads:
Lola Carlyle is lonely, out of sorts, and in for a boring summer. So when her best friend Sydney calls to rave about the fun she’s having at a luxurious Malibu rehab (it’s basically a spa!) and reveals that the love of Lola’s life, Wade Miller, is being admitted, Lola knows what she has to do. Never mind that her worst addiction is decaf cappuccino; Lola is going to rehab.

Lola fakes her way into Sunrise Rehab, only to discover she’s actually expected to be an addict. And get treatment. And she has insane roommates, and an irritatingly attractive intake advisor, Adam, who’s determined to thwart her at every turn. Worst of all is the strictly enforced NO ROMANCE rule.

Oh, and Sydney? Is gone.

Turns out Sunrise is more jail-like than spa-like, and it’s going to take more than Lola bargained for just to get through the program.

About the Author
Danielle Younge-Ullman is a novelist, playwright and freelance writer. She studied English and Theater at  McGill University, then returned to her hometown of Toronto to work as professional actor for ten years. Danielle’s short story, Reconciliation, was published in MODERN MORSELS—a McGraw-Hill Anthology for young adults—in 2012, her one-act play, 7 Acts of Intercourse, debuted at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival in 2005, and her adult novel, FALLING UNDER, was published by Penguin in 2008.

Danielle lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters. Catch up with her online on her Tumbler, twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Book Blitz Organized by:

Going for a SLEIGH RIDE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a fun and frisky gay Christmas romance from Heidi Cullinan. SLEIGH RIDE is the second book in the Minnesota Christmas series and it will heat your heart just and your naughty bits…

Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas, #2)About the book:
The way to a man’s heart is on a sleigh.

Arthur Anderson doesn’t want anything to do with love and romance, and he certainly doesn’t want to play Santa in his mother’s library fundraising scheme. He knows full well what she really wants is to hook him up with the town’s lanky, prissy librarian.

It’s clear Gabriel Higgins doesn’t want him, either—as a Santa, as a boyfriend, as anyone at all. But when Arthur’s efforts to wiggle out of the fundraiser lead to getting to know the man behind the storytime idol, he can’t help but be charmed. The least he can do is be neighborly and help Gabriel find a few local friends.

As their fiery arguments strike hotter sparks, two men who insist they don’t date wind up doing an awful lot of dating. And it looks like the sleigh they both tried not to board could send them jingling all the way to happily ever after.

Warning: Contains a feisty librarian, a boorish bear, small town politics, deer sausage, and a boy who wants a doll.

My Review:
Arthur is a foul-mouthed, free-loving gay lumberjack in rural northern Minnesota. He’s a big, loud ginger who can’t understand why his best pal, and usual bedmate Paul, has decided to move out. Just because their other pal Marcus has found THE ONE doesn’t mean Arthur and Paul need to commit to each other. Does it? Because Arthur isn’t the committing kind.

Gabriel Higgins is an uptight librarian, serving the fine people in a tiny Minnesota town not too far from his own homestead–not that he’s been back there in 15 years. No, being gay isn’t acceptable to his family, and Gabriel’s kinky fantasies aren’t actually acceptable to him. He’s not interested in a relationship–well, because having one and losing it would be too soul crushing. Best to avoid on all fronts.

Of course, Arthur’s mother is set on being a yenta–she is sure the town’s shy, intellectual librarian is perfect for her randy, but virtually illiterate, son. Who coulda guessed Arthur’s overbearing nature and relentless verve would crumble Gabriel’s defenses? (Take note: some fictional mothers do know best!) Also, seeing Paul move on, albeit unsuccessfully, is a great push for Arthur to find someone else–not that he thinks he will.

Okay, this book was interesting to me on a few levels.

One, the sexual chemistry was good. Arthur is the perfect foil for over-analyzing Gabriel. He takes control sexually, and emotionally as well. Both men struggle with open communication; Arthur because he thinks less of himself and Gabriel because he’s afraid of his own desire. As the plot moved it was easy to see how far these men cast themselves from people. How they walled themselves away, never dreaming they could find a lifemate. It was charming to experience their vulnerability. The smexytimes were interesting, and there was real tension at points, due to miscommunication and prejudice. Loved how it resolved.

Two, I enjoyed the literary references. Arthur hates reading–a lifelong problem fostered in his youth due to a librarian constantly decrying his choice of material–comics. It takes Gabriel about 8 seconds to win Arthur over to the power of literature when he begins reading to the kids at story time. I nearly laughed thinking of this big lumberjack wishing he could circle up with the kids on the carpet. And, when Gabriel reveals his own personal graphic novel collection to Arthur, it’s incendiary. I probably got so into this theme because I keep hoping I’ll find the right media to entice my hubs into reading with me. (No dice, thus far…)

Three, I totally got how important a free and open library can be to a community. Especially in rural areas, a library is a boon to people who may have no recreational outlet. It can become the lifeblood of conversation, support and entertainment. Gabriel took his role very seriously–and sought to incorporate multicultural works into his story time lessons–bringing color and culture to a vanilla world. This really touched a nerve for me. I was a library devotee as a kid. It was through my reading that I learned A LOT about myself, and the life I wanted to have as an adult. Growing up suburban poor, I hit the library all the time for free movies, reads, and special events. In fact, I still do. And, I take my kids. I love the different books presented at story time and how engaged my boys get in a well-read book and story session. They look forward to it, and I saw that same charm alive in this story.

Four, I really dug how the kink was handled. Gabriel has a hard time letting go–to the point that he likes to be “forced” (consensually) into sex. He has longed for a dominant lover, one who will safely push him into the roles he wants to assume sexually, but is too timid and ashamed to claim on his own. Arthur is a perfect match in this regard as he’s naturally both dominant and compassionate. He’s got a super tender side–honed by years of serving as a surrogate father figure to his young nephew. One thing I wished I had seen more of in this story: Gabriel taking the lead sexually. While he was adventurous and all, it was always with Arthur at the reins. I would have liked to see Gabriel lavishing Arthur with the same attention Arthur gave him. I get that they had a D/s dynamic going–but it wasn’t formal and Arthur could have used a bit of reinforcement.

In all, I had a great time with this one. It’s perfect for fans of slightly kinky M/M romance.

Interested? You can find SLEIGH RIDE on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the author:
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her family. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state’s LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Heidi enjoys reading, watching movies and TV, and listening all kinds of music.  She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Heidi is an active social networker, updating on Twitter, FacebookBlog, and of course has good old-fashioned email.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

The Future Exists in THE BOOK OF IVY–Review and Giveaway

The-Book-Of-Ivy-TOUR
Hi there! Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE BOOK OF IVY sponsored by YA Bound Book Tours. For other stop on the tour click here. This YA dystopian romance by Amy Engel is a compelling read.

The Book of Ivy (The Book of Ivy, #1)About the book:
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

My Review:
I wasn’t sure what to expect based on the blurb: 16 y/o Ivy Westfall is arranged to be married to the only child of the President of their post-apocalyptic town, and then she’s supposed to kill her new husband. I was genuinely surprized at how well I liked this book.

In this dystopian future, there aren’t many people left: 10,000 in the fence-protected Ozarks town of Westfall. No one knows about the rest of the world because anyone venturing out of the fence is killed (presumably). Ivy’s father is the lone child of the town’s founder, and his town of Westfall was seized in a police coup by the grandfather of her husband-to-be, Bishop Lattimer. Ivy has been coached throughout her life that the Lattimers are evil, and need to be deposed. Her elder sister, Callie, was originally betrothed (in the arranged marriage system of Westfall) but Bishop objected and it is now Ivy’s duty–not only to marry him, but also (in accordance with her father and Callie’s plans) to kill him.

Quick note, because of the history of nuclear war and disease, the lifespan of this world is lower, and younger procreation yields healthier babies, hence the marrying of teens with the objective of early pregnancy. Also, it’s a bit of a 1950’s world where the wives are strongly expected to remain home as baby incubators–something which greatly dismays the literate and curious Ivy.

Frankly Ivy is terrified. She has been home-schooled and rarely ever mixed with anyone, let alone boys. She can’t understand why Callie was passed over; cunning Callie is petite, dark and lovely while Ivy is too tall and too awkward and too impetuous. Still, Ivy presents herself for the marriage, because to not agree to marrying is a crime in Westfall–one that carries a banishment (death) sentence. Ivy is afraid Bishop will assert himself as her husband against her will (read: rape her), and yet, he doesn’t. At all. I wasn’t sure if he was interested in girls, or not, for a bit there. It seems Bishop wants a real relationship with Ivy–not just a sex partner.

Meanwhile, Ivy has been told her entire life that President Lattimer killer her mother. Remaining with Bishop teaches her the folly of trust–her own family lied, repeatedly, in order to gain Ivy’s cooperation. The more time Ivy spends with Bishop, the more she realizes that she cannot achieve her family’s goals. And why should she! Vengeance is not a dish Ivy is comfortable serving–warm, hot or cold–and cold is not the way to describe her new feelings for Bishop.

I really enjoyed this book. I had a few qualms–it seems that Ivy and Bishop pretty much do….nothing. Unorthodox Ivy barely knows how to cook and requests a job so she doesn’t have to sit around all day. Bishop is being groomed to replace his father, but he spends long hours just hiking around, lazing about in the sun. Pretty poor showing for a world where the collective number of citizens is barely twice the population of my son’s high school. I can’t fathom anyone being spared in terms of skill training. This seemed a glaring oversight in the world-building. I did appreciate the frank discussions of domestic violence, and the hardships of forced marriage very much.

The romance that blooms between Ivy and Bishop is organic and well-paced. He has no trouble calling her out for “putting on a show” for others, and demands her honest affection–which she is reluctant to give. How can she give her heart to a boy she is required to kill?

Ivy, of her own self, is an admirable character. She has real spirit and a desire to do right, no matter her familial influences. Her willingness to sacrifice for Bishop was heart-rending. I eagerly await her next adventure.

And check out this trailer. Seriously gave me chills!

Interested? You can find THE BOOK OF IVY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, iTunes, and Google Books. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Bookmarks***GIVEAWAY***

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win
a whole lotta book swag, including a signed book, a necklace,

or even jeweled booksmarks.
There will be 6 winners. US Only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

amy engelAbout the Author:
Amy Engel was born in Kansas and after a childhood spent bouncing between countries (Iran, Taiwan) and states (Kansas; California; Missouri; Washington, D.C.), she settled in Kansas City, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and two kids.  Before devoting herself full-time to motherhood and writing, she was a criminal defense attorney, which is not quite as exciting as it looks on TV.  When she has a free moment, she can usually be found reading, running, or shoe shopping. The Book of Ivy is her debut YA novel. Find her online on her  http://amyengel.net/ or .

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitter