Finding Love IN THE RING–Release Day Review

in-the-ring-fb-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new M/M sports romance from Rie Warren. I’ve really liked her M/F romance, including Carolina Bad Boys STONE, LOVE, STEELE and CHROME, so I was excited to check out this new series. IN THE RING features a closeted gay boxer and the sexy trainer he falls for.

in-the-ringAbout the book:
The biggest fight of his life isn’t . . . In the Ring.
The bright lights. The roaring crowd. The chance at a championship belt. The not-so-little secret Liam Shaughnessy—the Bonny Bruiser—is fighting to keep tucked far away.

Liam got the pussy pounded out of him on the mean streets of Cin-city—the other Sin City. The oldest in a Catholic clan where his da never pulled any punches, he went from geek boy to the golden boy of the boxing world care of his fists. Liam’s on the fast track to having it all . . . all except the one man he wants.

Michael Fairweather makes pretending to be hetero goddamn difficult for Liam. The man is blond and beautiful and just so happens to be Liam’s trainer. With a penchant for doing shirtless yoga, giving midnight massages to loosen Liam’s muscles, and sometimes even taking it out in the ring with him. To say Liam has porn-style fantasies about Michael is an understatement.

Michael’s out and proud. Liam’s only proud of what he can do in the ring. He can’t risk his career, least of all for someone unavailable. Michael has a lover. Liam has the lies he lives every day. And when his money-grubbing manager gets involved as the title win approaches, Liam doesn’t know what hit him.

Fight to win. Fight with honor. It won’t be easy, but that’s okay. Nothing worth fighting for ever is.

My Review:
Liam Shaughnessy survived an abusive childhood and the mean streets of Cincinnati. He’s fought and trained to rise out of the underground bareknuckle boxing circuit into the heavyweight boxing matches. Having money means he can take care of his mother and three younger siblings. It also means he can afford luxuries like his own training staff and management. It doesn’t mean he can afford to come out, however.

Michael Fairweather has fought his way back from a debilitating injury in soccer to become a take-no-nonsense boxing trainer to Liam, on his path to the championship belt. He’s also out-and-proud, and exactly the man Liam would date, if he could date a man, that is. Also, Mikey has a long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart, Wade, and that’s pretty complicated.

When Mikey learns that Liam’s not straight, that Liam’s been pining for Michael for more than a year now, Michael’s in a bad position. And Liam’s heart is set to be smashed.

This book moves a little fast for me, with periods of prose (especially at the beginning) that felt more like I was being told the story, than that I was engaged in the story. So, it wasn’t until maybe halfway through that I got invested. Liam’s a decent guy in a tough spot. He wants to win the heavyweight championship so he can financially support his family, though this was a bit of a side plot, really, and he wants to have a loving relationship with Michael. Michael has a lot of passive-aggressive nonsense going on, with odd fits of jealousy whenever Liam’s posed with women. This didn’t make much sense, considering Michael has a man, and fully believed Liam was straight. I did understand, later, when they were together, how this would rankle, but the early jealousy was mystifying, for me. I had trouble bonding with these characters, because they didn’t read as fleshed-out as I’d like, and I got frustrated with Liam’s constant obeisance to his homophobic manager. Liam didn’t seem willing to stand up for himself, ever, and that was troubling for a man who’s all about power and strength in the ring. Further, Michael seems trifling and spoiled, with little concern but his own emotional well-being. As a side issue, the time-frame of the boxing and boxing-related activities seemed too compressed, something the sports fan in me railed against strongly. It made for circumstances that taxed my ability to suspend disbelief, though I doubt many readers follow boxing enough for it to raise concerns for them.

In all, there’s some good feels, including desire, elation, joy of having love returned and some more heartbreaking moments, too. Expect sexytimes, big growth of a geek-turned-street-fighter-turned-boxer and an HEA.

Interested? You can find IN THE RING on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s currently $.99 for a limited time.

Rie WarrenAbout the Author:
Badass, sassafras Rie Warren is the author of Sugar Daddy and the Don’t Tell series—a breakthrough trilogy that crosses traditional publishing boundaries beginning with In His Command.

She lives in gorgeous Charleston, South Carolina with her small family where she basks in the sunshine during the day, and adjourns to her woman cave at night. A nocturnal creature, she stays up way too late talking to herself, her characters, and anyone who will listen. She’s all about writing with heat, heart, and a hint of the dark, and she doesn’t shy away from the impossible.

Rie’s work has been called “edgy”, “daring”, and “some of the sexiest smut around”.

You can find Rie online on her website, Amazon, sign up for her newsletter, on Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Negotiating Love-A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet new contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Jay Northcote. A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS is a New Adult romance between a loner and his new workmate. It’s so sweet and tender, I rightly swooned.

afamilyforchristmasAbout the book:
Zac never had a family of his own, but Rudy has enough to share.
Shy, inexperienced Rudy has a crush on Zac from the moment his new colleague walks through the door. On an office night out before Christmas, Rudy finds the courage to make a move, and they form a tentative bond. When he discovers Zac will be alone at Christmas, he invites Zac to come home with him.

Zac prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Yet when Rudy offers him a family Christmas it’s impossible to resist. With no parents of his own, Zac is pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Rudy’s. The only drawback is that everyone assumes they’re a couple. Unwilling to disappoint Rudy’s mum and make Christmas awkward, they decide not to deny it.

It’s not a chore for Zac to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend, but the pretence makes him want things that scare him—things like a real relationship with Rudy. Zac’s suffered enough rejection in his life already and is afraid to risk his heart. If he can get over his past rejection and let Rudy inside his armour, he might get more for Christmas than he ever imagined.

My Review:
Rudy is a 24 year old out gay man working at an LGBTQ charity in Bristol. Rudy’s a painfully shy man, yet intrigued by his new co-worker Zac. Zac keeps to himself, and likes it that way. He’s been hurt before, and doesn’t want to build friendships that would only fade. That said, Zac notices how Rudy quietly tracks him through the office.

Out for a work pub night to celebrate Christmas, Rudy and Zac spend a lot of time talking. They get along, especially as they’re both well-lubricated by tequila. After one excellent kiss Rudy’s overcome by the drink, pukes, and Zac kindly offers to walk him home. Too late to get a cab back to his own place, Zac accepts Rudy’s offer to share his bed. Platonically. Their nighttime conversation alerts Rudy that Zac is planning to spend Christmas alone, because he has no family. Rudy can’t help inviting Zac to join him on a visit to his family’s large farmhouse for a cozy holiday.

I really loved the patient unfolding of this romance. Zac has been on his own for years now. He feels unlovable, and is a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and open affection he experiences from Rudy and his family. I really loved how Rudy and Zac took time to make the other comfortable. Rudy’s family is blissfully clueless, and mistakes Zac to be Rudy’s boyfriend. Thing is, Rudy’s never had a boyfriend before, and his sexual experience is severely limited. To save face, and keep the happy going, Zac offers to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend for the duration of their trip.

For Zac, falling for Rudy is immeasurably difficult to prevent. Rudy’s earnest and giving and compassionate and loving, and his family is more of the same. Not having his own family, Zac basks in their generosity. Plus, it’s no secret that Rudy’d be down for more than friendship. In fact, that’s what Zac proposes–a fling to bolster the image of their “relationship.” That’s dangerous terrain, however, because Zac’s afraid that he’ll cling to Rudy out of a misplaced desire to truly be part of his loving family, and not just on his own merit. Zac’s never had a boyfriend either; he’s scared of getting hurt–precisely why he’s never hooked up with a man he’s known before. Anonymous sex is all he’s ever allowed himself, until Rudy.

The vulnerability for both men is really high. It’s really tender and completely fraught with tension of the best kind. I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough. There’s kisses, and big firsts, and kitten rescues, and love. Lots and lots of love. The secondary characters are all really awesome, people I’d love to spend a holiday with, in any case. And, the end is a solid HEA.

Interested? You can find A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

signal boost

Close Quarters–JUST DRIVE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a contemporary M/M military romance from LA Witt. JUST DRIVE is the first book in her new Anchor Point series about seamen finding love in the Navy. I’ve really enjoyed HIATUS, WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND, RAIN SHADOW and LEAD ME NOT from Ms. Witt, so I jumped at the chance to read JUST DRIVE. It’s soooo good!

just-driveAbout the book:
For Sean Wright, driving a cab in the tiny Navy town of Anchor Point isn’t an exciting job . . . until he picks up just-dumped Paul Richards. A drive turns into a walk on the pier, which turns into the hottest hookup Sean’s had in ages.

After a long overdue breakup, Paul can’t believe his luck. Of all the drivers, he’s picked up by the gorgeous, gay, and very willing Sean. Younger guys aren’t usually his thing, but Paul can’t resist.

One taste and neither man can get enough . . . right up until they realize that Paul is Sean’s father’s commanding officer and the last man Sean should be involved with.

With two careers on the line, their only option is to back off. It’s not easy, though; the sex and the emotional connection are exactly what both men have been craving for a long time. But Paul has devoted twenty-four years to his career and his dream of making admiral. If he’s caught with Sean, that’s all over. He has to choose—stay the course, or trade it all for the man who drove off with his heart.

My Review:
Sean Wright is a Navy brat. His father dragged him all over the US even after his parents divorced. Dad, as a Navy Senior Chief, made more than his mother, and though he’s 22 years old, Sean’s going to college in Anchor Point, their newest locale, on his dad’s GI Bill money as a dependent. Sean’s been out for years, and his father is loving and supportive.

Sean works as a cab driver in Anchor Point, to supplement his income, and picks up Captain Paul Richards one Friday night. It’s clear his passenger is having a rough night, so Sean follows his directive to “just drive.” They spend some time in the car, and out at a lonely pier, and notice that each man is attractive, and interested.

44 year old Paul is one of few “out” captains in the Navy. He’s been busting his butt for 24 years in the hopes of making Admiral, and is newly stationed in Anchor Point as commander of Naval Air Station Adams. Before he was able to come out, Paul had two broken marriages to women, and he’s not proud of it. He’s still not able to find a man to settle down with, however, because his travel always upsets his partner(s). He’s frustrated and down when his newest relationship fizzles, but catching the eye of his sexy young cabbie is an immediate panacea. Paul and Sean spend a very sweaty night at a local no-tell motel, exchanging only the barest of info. Paul accepts Sean’s card, in case he needs other transport, but neither man can shake the connection they made that night.

Paul calls, and Sean comes. And that’s not a pun. Their hook-up nights become more frequent, and involve more than just sex–they’re inadvertently building a relationship. It seems to be going great–Paul and Sean get along well, and have a solid connection–until Paul learns that Sean’s father not only works on his base; Chief Wright is in Paul’s chain of command.

That means both Paul and Sean’s father could be discharged if Sean and Paul are discovered. For two men that have devoted their lives to the service, this is an untenable risk–and Sean’s father makes that clear.

What began as a one-off had grown into something real, however, and both Sean and Paul have to fully examine their lives, careers and aspirations. Would Paul walk away from the Navy for Sean? Could Sean accept that type of sacrifice? What sort of life would they even have together? Sean’s heartbroken, and Paul’s surly. The fallout is personally dramatic, with Sean deciding that the best way for him to make himself available to Paul is to stop being a Navy dependent. Thing is, Paul’s got his own plans, and they involve never letting the Navy ruin his love life again.

Expect a lot of soul-searching, and sexytimes, and seamen…😉 The story is tender and sweet, with a good dash of angst, because Paul and Sean can’t seem to quit each other. That leads to lots of clandestine meetings, which are deliciously gut-wrenching. I have a special affinity for older-younger and “we shouldn’t”/”just one last time” connections, especially when the characters have multiple ‘last’ times. The resolution was really satisfying, with a storybook HEA.

Interested? You can find JUST DRIVE on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Offered Up As BAIT–Review & Giveaway!

bait_fbbanner_dspHi there! Today I ‘m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M romantic suspense novella from Elizabeth Noble. BAIT is the fifth book in her Circles series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone. I really liked GONE AWAY, and I love the remote Wyoming setting, so it was a must read, for me.

Catch the author notes, review and comment to win in the book giveaway below!

baitfs_v1About the book:
Tyler McCall has made mistakes. He was a teacher—before he fell for a student in his school. That misstep cost him his job and everything he’d worked for. He moved to the Black Hills of Wyoming to start his life over, and he’s happy working at the Big Rock Inn near Devils Tower.

Linden Bourne, a no-nonsense FBI agent Tyler had met before, returns to Wyoming hot on the trail of a killer. The previously unexplored attraction between them grows—which is good considering they’ll be spending a lot of time together when a blizzard strands them at the inn. Cut off from the outside world, with no power, they’ll need to rely on their wits and each other to survive.

Especially when it becomes clear they’re not alone—and the danger they face comes from more than the elements.

Thoughts from Elizabeth Noble

Hello, I’m Elizabeth Noble and thank you for having me today!

Believe it or not, deciding on the locale for a novel can be a huge part of the plot. Where the action is takes place has the ability to greatly influence how the characters act and react to any given situation.

In Bait, the majority of the story takes place near the Devils Tower in Wyoming, USA. There of course is the spectacular beauty of the land. It’s a wilderness location and that in and of itself makes this place mysterious and exotic. There are no palm trees and beaches, but pine trees and snow.

It is that location, the trees, the snow, the remote location that creates the thriller portion of the story. FBI agent Linden Bourne is trying to piece together clues that will help him catch a killer. What he doesn’t realize is in doing so he’s driven to the very spot where that murderer is stalking their next victim.

The next victim, Tyler, is the man Linden has come to question. This killer could have just as easily hunted their intended victim in a city. However, placing the story out in the wilds of the Wyoming Black Hills, in the winter, in a blizzard adds a whole other layer to the danger the characters face.

The elements of nature are a very hazardous adversary. You can’t reason with high winds, low temperatures and white out conditions. The only real choice is get out of the way. Now, throw an unknown person or persons into the mix who is hell bent on driving our heroes into those elements and the suspense ramps up.

Most readers know the feeling of having the power go out in a storm, or trying to travel through poor weather conditions. It’s a short leap to imagining fighting your way through heavy snows, cold so frigid it’s deadly and unfamiliar terrain.

In Bait, I’ve taken the story’s location and used it as more than a backdrop. The land, the weather has the potential to become another executioner. Not only do Linden and Tyler have to survive a human threat that is hunting them, but deadly natural conditions that are far more perilous.

My Review:
Though part of a series, BAIT is easily read as a standalone. It does bring back two side characters from the previous book, GONE AWAY.

FBI Special Agent Landon Bourne is headed back to the Black Hills of Wyoming to either catch a killer or save a man he’d recently met. Tyler McCall had been a high school teacher in Ohio, another life ago. As a recently minted teacher, he didn’t balk when he met an attractive younger man, not realizing Dimas was a student in the high school. Their affair was turned in, Tyler went to prison, and more than ten years has passed with no contact between them.

Tyler started over near Devil’s Tower, doing odd-jobs, at first. He now delivers beer and mans the reception desk for a local motel. It’s honest work and he’s glad for it, but he’s lonely. It’s a big surprise when Agent Bourne shows up at his hotel, hours before a blizzard is set to begin. It’s even more of a surprise when Agent Bourne’s investigating the possible murders of three of Tyler’s former students.

Is it Dimas, on some sore of spree? Or was it Tyler? Landon’s pretty certain Tyler wasn’t mixed up in these deaths, which had been framed as either accidental or suicides, but that means Tyler might be a target. As the blizzard rages on and the hotel loses power, and contact with the rest of the world, Tyler and Landon scramble to stay warm and safe. If only the elements were their problem.

I had just a bit of trouble with the set-up of the story. It didn’t make a lot of sense that this agent, stationed in Arizona, would be the only person sent to question/apprehend Tyler, rather than a local agent–or pair of agents. The suspense elements once the story got going were interesting, however. This is a pretty short read, which didn’t allow for as much character development. That said, the way they interact felt engaged and committed. They don’t drop into bed, they develop an uneasy partnership–that deepens as they are confronted by more and more peril.

The climax is really intense, and I did love how it all got resolved. Expect a desperate chase, several near-death experiences and a sunny HEA.

Interested? You can find BAIT on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and All Romance.

About Circles….
Every life is a circle, and sometimes those circles connect and overlap in unexpected ways, even if the patterns they form aren’t obvious at first glance.

Past and present, from the wilderness to small towns and cities, the greedy and evil seek to exploit the vulnerable. The brave men of law enforcement fight to protect the innocent and punish the guilty—but they’re not alone. Men from all walks of life are called to stand beside them and solve these mysteries. Along the way, lives intertwine as couples are reminded that one thing makes the struggle worthwhile: love.

You can learn more about all the books in the series here.

****GIVEAWAY****

This book features people meeting their untimely ends in the way they most feared. Leave me a comment on the way you’d be most afraid to die for a chance to win one of Elizabeth Noble’s backlist reads. (2015 and earlier, no book bundles)  Winner chosen at random.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into fan fiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for a good mystery complete with murder and twisty plots as well as all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.

Elizabeth has three grown children and is now happily owned by an adorable mixed breed canine princess and one tabby cat. She lives in her native northeast Ohio, the perfect place for gardening, winter and summer sports (go Tribe and Cavs!). When she’s not writing she’s working as a veterinary nurse, so don’t be surprised to see her men with a pet or three who are a very big part of their lives.
Elizabeth received several amateur writing awards. Since being published several of her novels have received honorable mentions in the Rainbow Awards. Her novel Jewel Cave was a runner up in the 2015 Rainbow awards in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category.

Catch up with Elizabeth on her website, Goodreads, Amazon, Dreamspinner, Facebook, twitter, Pinterest or sign up for her newsletter.

Stepping Into Love: FLYING WITHOUT A NET–Review and Giveaway!

fwoan_fbHi there! Today I’m sharing a fantastic contemporary M/M romance from E.M. Ben Shaul. FLYING WITHOUT A NET is a book about finding common ground between the desires of the heart for an Orthodox Jewish man who recognizes that he is gay–and the cautious partner who walks a path with him. Really, really sweet.

Catch an excerpt, my review and get in on the $25 GC and books giveaway below!

fwoan-900px-front-tumblrAbout the book:
Dani Perez, a secular Israeli working as a software engineer in Boston, has never had trouble balancing his faith and his sexuality—until he meets Avi Levine, a gay Orthodox Jew and sign language interpreter. As they fall in love, Dani finds himself wanting Avi in his life, but he can’t understand how Avi reconciles what his religion demands with what his body desires. And although he wants to deny it, neither can Avi.

Despite the risk of losing Avi forever to a religious life that objects to their love, Dani supports him through the struggle to find an answer. Will they be able to start a life together despite religious ideology that conflicts with the relationship they are trying to build?

How about a little taste?
From Avi’s prayer…

Tefilah: Create for Me a Pure Heart

In these, the earliest hours of the day after Yom Kippur, please, Hashem, hear my request.

      My heart is torn. I am caught between love of You and Your mitzvot and love of myself. Love of myself and love of my family. Love of my family and, perhaps, the possibility of love for another man.

      I know. It’s too early for me to call any feelings I have for Dani anything other than friendship. And I know that from the perspective of halacha, of Your laws, there is no sin involved in thoughts, in feelings.

      But what if those thoughts, those feelings, cause others pain? What if by my actions, or at least by my consideration of future actions, I am causing pain to another person.

      To my parents? To my family?

      I stood next to Abba at shul all day. We sat in the same seats that we have used for as many Yom Kippurs as I can remember. But I was a different me from whom I have been. And when we struck our hearts with our fists and asked forgiveness “for the sin we have committed with false denial and lying” and “for the sin we have committed by disrespecting parents and teachers,” I couldn’t help but look over at him and also think about Ima sitting in the women’s section on the other side of the mechitzah. When they find out, when they learn that I am not exactly the son they think I am, when I tell them that I am still their Avi and I hope they can still love me, how will they react?

      I have friends who have left Your path when they could not find a way to reconcile their love for You with their love for another man. I do not want to turn away from all of Your laws, from the way I have been taught and from the life I have grown up loving. But I fear that my parents will reject me outright when I tell them.

      I should have more faith in them. I should have more faith in You. Please, Hashem, help me to have faith.

      Lev tahor be’rah li, Elokim–God, create for me a pure heart. Al tashlicheni milfanecha–do not send me away from before You.

From Dani’s point-of-view

“All of the dati people I knew before I came out, they all thought that gay people were an abomination. And while, yes, I’m learning that not all dati people feel that way, I still have trouble understanding how someone can identify as dati and gay,” Dani said. “I mean, yeah, halacha doesn’t mandate thought, just action. But how many people know that? How many people practice that?”

“A lot of people know. Think of it this way. Halacha has a lot to say about kashrut. But not everyone keeps the same type of kosher, even among the dati community. So, for example, I don’t hold that you have to only eat glatt meat or chalav Yisrael milk, but other people do. That doesn’t make my type of kosher any less legitimate than their type of kosher. The people who only eat glatt or chalav Yisrael won’t eat the food I make, but that’s because of how they interpret the rules. In my experience, most of them don’t believe I’m not keeping kosher; they just hold by a greater stricture.”

“We have a difference of opinion on how to interpret the law,” Avi continued. “Judaism allows for that; we have a long tradition of different communities having different standards, all of which are considered legitimate interpretations of halacha. Same with this. My interpretation of halacha has no problem with my being gay and my being frum. Someone else’s opinion of halacha may not be as inclusive, but those people may also say I don’t keep kosher enough or that the fact that I have a television in my house or an Internet connection means that I’m not frum. I disagree. My community disagrees. If they don’t like my interpretation of halacha, they can leave me to my life. I’m not going into their houses and saying they have to be accepting of my kashrut standards, but at the same time they cannot come into my house and tell me that I cannot eat my own food to my own standards of kashrut.

Avi stopped and took a breath. Dani closed the distance between them and took Avi’s hand. “Okay, motek, I get it,” he said. “I think. I mean, it’s still a huge thing for me to work through, since I have been so used to the dati community that I know judging me simply for whom I choose to love. I just… Until I met you, I had never met an Orthodox Jew who was open-minded about gays. So I admit it will take me some time to adjust my biases. Please be patient with me, motek.”

“We’ll be patient with each other,” Avi said, bending for a kiss.

Some fun thoughts from author E.M Ben Shaul:

Favorite location you’ve ever written about?

It’s a tie between Boston and Jerusalem. I have written much more about Boston, because I’m from Boston and know it very well. Boston is my home, and it is in my blood. But Jerusalem is in many ways my spiritual home. I lived there for six months between high school and college, and I visited before then, but even though my actual exposure to the city was not very long, Jerusalem is in my bones and in my heart.

What’s your favorite season and favorite activity for that season?

I would like to be able to say that Spring is my favorite season, because after a long, cold Boston winter, there’s something very special about the weather warming up, the snow melting, and the trees starting to bud. But I’m allergic to tree pollen, so Spring is also the time when I cannot breathe comfortably. Also, in Boston we get allocated five true spring days per year, and we try not to use them all at once, so we’ll have weather in the 60s one day and then it will be back down in the 30s and snowing. So, Fall is my favorite. I love to take long walks in the Fall. The trees are gorgeous while their leaves are changing color, and the air just smells crisper. The days tend to be comfortable for walking, and the evenings are cool enough that it makes sense to pour a hot cup of tea and curl up with a good book.

My Review:
Dani Perez is a secular Israeli who lives in Boston. He’s introduced to Avi Levine by a mutual friend and is immediately attracted, but warned off. Dani has a reputation for having flings, and Avi’s friend knows that Avi isn’t that sort of man.

Avi is an Orthodox Jew, and growing up in his dati/frum (religiously observant) community he’s known that he can only have romantic physical contact with the person who would be his marriage partner. He’s 33 years old, only recently came to grips with his attraction for men, and has kissed three women in his whole life. He is, in his own words, an innocent. And he’s scared to give himself physically to anyone, as it’s a sin outside of marriage. The catch? Gay marriage is still not accepted within the Orthodox community.

Dani is willing to build a friendship with Avi, and see if it leads to more, because he finds Avi’s spiritualism and deep consideration of his morality to be a refreshing perspective. The more time these men spend with each other, the more they connect–and the harder it is for Avi to completely devote himself to a pure life. He’s also afraid that his parents, and shul (temple), might cut him off, and this would be emotionally devastating.

This is a beautifully written and engaging story about finding a path that reconciles conflicting desires. Avi is a student of Judaism. He discusses his conflicts with his rabbi, and seeks advice regarding how to be a sexually active gay man, and also how to still live within God’s law. It’s also a story about patience and building a deep love, because Dani is the catalyst for much of Avi’s study–Avi would have looked into it on his own, at some point, but he does it now, with fervor, knowing that Dani is willing to walk this path at his side, and at his pace.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t troubles; because there are. Dani’s afraid to love Avi too much, and learn that Avi simply won’t ever become a partner to him. He’s also afraid to pressure Avi in any way, physically, and he considerately waits for Avi to make his moves. Avi’s unused to physical touch, as this is not part of his dati life. Even holding hands and hugging is something only done between married partners or close relations. I honestly loved the tenderness that resulted from these tenets. Dani understands what it means when Avi tentatively touches his hand, or takes it when they walk, or offers a fleeting kiss. He accepts that Avi is closeted, with the understanding that Avi will come out…eventually. (It totally happens, though I wished we’d seen his reveal to the parents!)

The book is almost all told from Dani’s point-of-view, and his experience of being beside Avi on this adventure into love. We get Avi’s most intimate thoughts in the form of prayers he makes on his journey. He’s so remarkably earnest, begging God to help him find balance between his devoted spiritual life, and his desire to have a fulfilling relationship. Avi’s not content being asexual; he wants whatever sexual contact that he can have within the strictures of his faith. I found that so immediately relatable, as I’ve seen that same desire present in persons of the fundamental Christian faith, where I was raised. Seriously, I pretty much teared up whenever I read one of Avi’s prayers. I so wanted him to have the love of his God and his life, and not be in spiritual conflict.

Dani has his own hurdles, namely Avi’s family, to surmount. He’s an outsider to their community, and a contemporary gay man. Could he possibly be a good partner for Avi? It’s more than simply knowing the prayers, and understanding the terminology. Avi’s Orthodox faith is a constant presence, between them, at first. His dietary restrictions and shul responsibilities aside, Avi’s very much wrapped in his dati world. But as the story goes on, it’s easy to see how this faith grows and envelops both men. There are moments of extreme frustration for Dani, without question. But, he doesn’t become bitter. His love is so tender and patient, and he finds contentment in their closeness, even if it doesn’t quite become physical–or very physical. Being the first man for Avi to kiss, or touch, or see naked, it’s a gift, almost, for Dani. Because he understands how hard Avi considered before making those overtures, and Dani finds that is in itself fulfilling. Dani doesn’t want Avi to sacrifice himself for Dani’s own needs, Dani wants Avi to choose him wholeheartedly, so that they can both revel in their love for one another. And, spoiler, this happens.

The book is not a sexy book. There are some moments of sexytimes, but they are few and fraught. The romance is heady, nonetheless, with Dani and Avi both finding exactly what they’d needed in each other. There is a whole lot of Judaism, which I found interesting, but I’m a goy married to a secular Jew. (My hubs likes the idea of me being a shiksa, but I digress.) I’ve heard or spoken some of the prayers, I’ve been around the Reform community for twenty-five years. For me, this was a window to a beautiful religious experience, though I can imagine others might not be so captivated. And, I loved the handy glossary at the back, because holy smokes is there a lot of Hebrew and Yiddish terminology. I didn’t find it inaccessible, as the definitions and context clues are well-placed, but it was nice to have an official resource.

Finishing this book, I had one thought in my head: I sure hope Avi finds a way to adopt a child with Dani, because I want these beautiful men to have a family. They were that real to me.

Interested? You can find FLYING WITHOUT A NET on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, AllRomance, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link to win a $25 IP Gift Card + Multi-format eBook of Hold. Five winners receive Flying Without a Net eBook.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
E.M. Ben Shaul lives in many communities. An Orthodox Jew and writer of gay fiction, E.M. lives in the simultaneously gay-friendly and Jewish-friendly Boston area with her husband and twin daughters. A technical writer by day and freelance editor by nights and weekends, E.M. likes to knit, cook and coin neologisms. E.M. seeks to explore the seeming conflict between religious teachings and the heart’s desires.

Connect with author E.M. Ben Shaul on her websiteFacebook and on Twitter.

Tough Love Learning YOU ARE NOT ME–Review & Giveaway!

you-are-not-me-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a New Adult coming-of-age story from Leta Blake. YOU ARE NOT ME, the sequel to PICTURES OF YOU, is set in Knoxville, Tennessee, and follows a newly graduated, newly out teen looking to find his tribe. There’s a dash of romance, but it’s bittersweet.

Catch the excerpt below, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of two copies of PICTURES OF YOU.
you-are-not-me-coverAbout the book:
Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

How about a little taste?

The stool next to me wasn’t empty for long. Minty dropped onto it, his purple tutu rubbing against my chinos and his thin, white arms curled up to rest on the bar. He stared at me for a long, curious second. “I’ve met you before, right?”

“Yeah.” I shook off my disappointment and gave him my attention. “Last spring, up on campus.”

“Did we fuck?”

I almost choked on my soda. “No.”

“Right.” Minty frowned. “Did I suck you off?”

I stared at him.

“Well?”

“My car was broken down,” I said slowly. “Daniel helped me.”

Minty grinned. “Oh, right! I remember now. You looked amazing that night. Made of moonbeams. Everyone was made of moonbeams.” He tilted his head. “You look all right now too.”

“Thanks?”

Minty laughed and fluffed his tutu. He turned away from me to hammer his fists on the bar. “Jolly Zima, Barry! Watermelon! Hit me!”

Barry rolled his eyes, but he pulled a Zima out from the fridge and popped the lid, then reached under the counter and came out with a watermelon Jolly Rancher, unwrapped it, and dropped it into the drink. Minty slapped three dollars down and took a dainty sip.

“Ah! Perfection!” He turned to me with his eyelashes lowered flirtatiously. “Anyway, back to what you were saying. We haven’t fucked yet?”

Startled, nervous laughter bubbled out of my mouth.

“Minty,” Barry said. “Drink your Zima and leave Peter alone.”

“Sure thing. You’re the boss.” Minty sighed and leaned toward me conspiratorially. “He won’t fuck me either. What’s a girl gotta do these days? I mean, I look good, don’t I?”

I looked him over—white, though scuffed, ballet slippers, purple tutu, toned, pale, lithe arms, and his made-up face. “Sure. You look really pretty.”

Minty grinned. “Aw, you know how to make a girl feel nice.”

“Didn’t I just see you downstairs with two guys, though?”

“Two? Please. That’s just a warm-up.” He sniffed.

Renée appeared at my side, dropping an arm around my shoulder. “Minty, doll baby, I need you backstage in an hour. You’re my naughty boy tonight.”

“Okay, but I want to wear my tutu.”

“You’ll be gorgeous.” Renée grabbed hold of Minty’s face and looked him over. “We need to put some eyelashes on you too.”

“And red lipstick.”

“Yes! Every man in this room will ache to be in that pert ass of yours.” She glanced at me and then back at Minty. “Except Peter here.”

“He catches?” Minty asked.

“Like Johnny Bench, baby.”

I didn’t like my positional preferences being discussed like it was any of their business, but I was mystified that Renée seemed so certain about it. Was there something about me that screamed loves it up the ass?

“How do you know who Johnny Bench is, woman?” Barry handed Renée a milky-looking drink topped with brown liquor.

“I listen!”

“I’ve never mentioned baseball to you and you know it.”

“Of course not. You’d never do that to me. Earl at Ringo Comics, though, he babbles on and on about it when he’s trying not to come. Earl says I catch like a pro.” She patted her ass.

Daniel was right last spring when he said Robert and Renée were the same but different people. Robert could be sassy and forthright about his sexual shenanigans, but raunchy details rarely left his mouth. My face burned.

“Hear, hear!” Minty cried, throwing back his head to draw a long swig from his Zima.

Barry frowned. It was the first time I’d seen Barry look even moderately unhappy about Renée—or Robert’s—indiscretions.

“What?” Renée asked defensively.

“Earl’s positive.” Barry’s gaze bore into her. “You used a condom?”

“Of course!” Renée licked her lips and shifted nervously to her other foot, her hip cocking out. “I always do. You know that.”

Minty bit his purple-painted thumbnail, eyes going distant. “I’m probably positive. I should get tested. My mom wants me to get tested.”

Barry nailed Minty and Renée with a frustrated glare. He reached under the counter and pulled out two condoms. Then his gaze shifted to me and he pulled out a third. “For fuck’s sake, use these. Every time. Every damn time.”

Renée stuffed the condom in her bra. Minty held it up in front of his face and then gave it a kiss before lifting up his tutu to tuck it into the waistband of his white briefs. Nodding, I pocketed the one Barry handed to me, even though I wasn’t going to need it. Adam was in Italy and the casual sex Minty and Renée played with was something I’d never risk.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order. It’s June 1991, and the AIDS epidemic is at it’s peak, as is tension with Middle Easterners, as we’re in the midst of the Gulf War.

Peter Mandel is nearly nineteen, and just graduated from high school in Knoxville, Tennesee. He’s gay, and out to his parents and a few friends, notably his boyfriend, the BF’s siblings, and his drag queen boss. Peter otherwise keeps a low profile because he’s been attacked for his sexuality, and to spare his mother pain; as a child she’d seen her elder brother brutally killed for being gay.

Peter’s boyfriend Adam thought he had a fool-proof plan to shield them from scrutiny: he got a girlfriend, Leslie, who he maintains a sexual relationship with, as well as with Peter. It killed Peter for their time together in senior year, but now it’s summer and Adam’s gone to Rome to live with his parents until college begins in the fall. His letters and calls to Peter all describe the big changes that will happen when he’s back, but Peter’s not so convinced. He’s not comfortable being a piece on the side any longer, and he cares for Leslie, too–feels like a big jerk for lying to her, in fact.

Peter meets Daniel through Robert/Renee, the lovely black drag queen he works for. See, Peter’s a photographer, and he does Renee’s publicity, as well as helps edit his filmography of famous drag queens. Daniel is a college student at UT, just like Peter, and they develop a good friendship, as well as an attraction. Daniel doesn’t want to make a move, though, knowing Peter is holding out hope the he and Adam will build a stronger relationship when Adam returns–despite the fact that they’ll attend different colleges in different states–and Leslie will be with Adam.

So, yeah. There is a bit of romance, as Daniel and Peter spend more and more time together. Peter gets to know all of Daniel’s close friends, and he sees how important it is to live his truth. Plus, he’s filling out of his gawky-awkward stage, and finding that men are very much attracted to him whenever he gets out to the gay clubs. Should he wait for Adam? Is he only prolonging the heartbreak?

This book is really rich with description of the times and occurrences. I love the throwbacks of corded phones, answering machines and film cameras. Developing!! Argh! There’s also some really poignant moments regarding HIV/AIDS because Daniel is an outreach volunteer, and he gets Peter involved in some home care visits with a man who’s dying of AIDS. Wow! That was so freaking intense, and I only expect it’ll get more so in the next book. The context of HIV/AIDS is such a strong element of the book, with every person advising Peter on his safety, and some serious problems when risks are unnecessarily posed.

Emotionally, Peter struggles with doing what he believes is right, and what is right for him. So many times I wanted to just pull him in for a long hug, and tell him to Get Rid Of Adam!!! Alas, I’m but a reader, and I must follow the path he chooses. The good part is: all of it. It’s gritty, and scary, and captivating living life through Peter’s opened eyes. He finds unlikely allies, and builds true relationships–even repairing a lot of the damage within his own family. His parents’ benign neglect was more damaging than they realized, and they do a lot of soul-searching and reconnection in this book. That was fabulous. Peter does make mistakes, and I think he gets pretty lucky in some parts–particularly dealing with some substance use he wasn’t quite ready for. While the romance is almost incidental to the story, it does exist. Expect it to be bittersweet. The end is upbeat, and I’m eager to see how Peter takes to his first semester in college.

Interested? You can find YOU ARE NOT ME on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win on of two ebooks of PICTURES OF YOU.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

IndiGo

Out Today! FIRE IN YOU–Excerpt and Giveaway!

fire-in-you-fb-banner
Hi there! I’m so excited to share an excerpt for a new contemporary romance from best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn. FIRE IN YOU is long-time friends-to-lovers romance .

Check out the excerpt and get in on the giveaway below!
fire-in-you-coverAbout the book:
From the # 1 New York Times and International bestselling author comes a richly moving story about heartbreak and guilt, second chances and hope. Full of familiar, fan-favorite characters and no two people more deserving of a happy ending, Fire In You will burn bright beyond the last page…

Jillian Lima’s whole world was destroyed in a span of a few hours. The same night her childhood love, Brock ‘the Beast’ Mitchell, broke her heart, her life was irrevocably altered by the hand of a stranger with a gun. It takes six years to slowly glue together the shattered pieces of her life, but Jillian is finally ready to stop existing in a past full of pain and regret. She takes a job at her father’s martial arts Academy and she’s going out on her first date since a failed relationship that was more yuck than yum. Jillian is determined to start living.

She just never expected Brock to be a part of her life again. But he’s firmly back in her life before she knows it, and not only is he older, he’s impossibly more handsome, more teasing and more everything. And when he sees Jillian, he’s no longer capable of thinking of her as the little girl who was his shadow growing up or the daughter of the man who gave him a second chance at life. He sees the woman who’d always been there for him, the one person who believed in him no matter what.

Brock knows she’s the one he should’ve made his, and what begins as a tentative friendship quickly turns to red-hot chemistry that sparks a flame that burns brighter than lust. Falling for Brock again risks more than her heart, because when the sorrow-filled and guilt-ridden past resurfaces, and a web of lies threatens to rip them apart, the fallout could lay waste to everything they’ve fought to build together, and destroy the dreams of those they care most about.

How about a little taste?

Making my way through the narrow pathways between the tables, I headed back toward the bathroom. Only once I pushed open the double doors and stopped in front of the water-spotted mirror did I realize I’d left my purse at the table, so there’d be no reapplying my lipstick.

I pumped soap onto my hands and waved them under the facet. Water flowed, washing away the suds as I slowly lifted my gaze to my reflection. Normally when I looked at myself, I didn’t really pay attention longer than was necessary to put makeup on without ending up looking like a tutorial gone wrong.

Standing here now, I really looked at myself, though.

I used to wear my hair up all the time, but I’d stopped doing that every day. My hair now hung in waves and the ends curled over the tips of my breasts. I also used to have heavy bangs, but thank God they were long gone. I’d finally learned how to put on eyeliner. That was another miracle. The slight flush of my face darkened my naturally tan skin. My lips were fuller and my nose straight.

My hair was parted to sweep to the left so it shielded my cheek…and my cheek didn’t look that bad, especially considering how it looked the first time I’d seen it after…after days in the hospital.

Hell, my entire face had been one hot mess.

There was a deep indentation in my left cheek, almost like an icepick had been shoved in there, and as I stared at my right jaw line, I was still amazed by what reconstructive plastic surgeons could accomplish. Half my face had literally been pieced back together with an iliac crest graft with a reconstruction plate and a crap ton of dentistry to give me back a full set of functional teeth.

Plastic surgeons didn’t have magic wands, but they were magicians. If you weren’t looking at me straight on, you’d have no idea that my right jaw was thinner than my left.

You’d have no idea what had happened to me that night.

Now I stared back at myself just like I had done that night, six years ago, standing in a bathroom, mere minutes before my entire life came crashing down.

It wasn’t that I hated the way I looked now. The fact that I was alive meant I was one of those rare, walking and breathing statistics.

But even knowing how lucky I was didn’t change the fact that I felt…deformed. That was a harsh word to use. I didn’t like to whip it out often. Doing so on what was so far a pretty good date was probably not a good idea.

Taking a deep breath, I shook my head. I didn’t need my thoughts going in that direction tonight. So far, the dinner had been amazing. Grady was nice and he was cute. I could maybe see myself going out with him again, to an art exhibit, and maybe coffee.

And that was what had freaked me out.

I was not going to let living freak me out.

Nope.

I could give him a chance and not worry about whether or not I was settling.

Turning from the sink, I dried my hands and then readjusted my hair so it fell forward, over my left shoulder and cheek. I walked out of the bathroom and into the narrow hall, gaze trained on the floor as I took about two steps before I realized someone was standing right outside the door, leaning against the wall. Before I nearly plowed into him.

Gasping, I took a step back. All I could see were finely cut black trousers paired with…with old black and white Chucks? What an odd combination, but those shoes reminded me of…

I gave a little shake of my head and stepped to the side. “Sorry. Excuse—”

“Jillian.”

I stopped.

Time stopped.

Everything stopped except my heart, because it was suddenly pounding in my chest too hard, too fast. That deep, rough voice. I recognized it all the way to my very core. Slowly, I lifted my gaze, already knowing what I was going to see but refusing to believe it.

Brock Mitchell stood in front of me.

Expect my review next week, but I CAN tell you it’s a solid romance with two long-time friends finding their first, and last, love.

Interested? You can find FIRE IN YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win a signed set of Wait For You books (US only).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
# 1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. She spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories…which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. Jennifer has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Reviewers Choice Award for Wait for You, the 2015 Editor’s Pick for Fall With Me, and the 2014/2015 Moerser-Jugendbuch- Jury award for Obsidian. Her young adult romantic suspense novel DON’T LOOK BACK was a 2014 nominated Best in Young Adult Fiction by YALSA.

She also writes Adult and New Adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
Catch up with Jennifer on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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