Dangerous Love DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly re-released M/M paranormal romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE has some heat and some horror as a man in his mid 20s falls hard for an older mysterious man, a new immigrant Sicily who may–or may not–be a murderous werewolf. If you liked THE PERILS OF INTIMACY, LEGALLY WED, or THE SECRETS WE KEEP you’ll likely enjoy this one, too.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
A monster moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from Seattle’s gay gathering areas.

In an atmosphere of spine-tingling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love cooking in an Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and…he can cook!

As the pair’s love heats up, so do the questions. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And, more important, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

When the secrets are finally revealed, is Thad and Sam’s love for one another strong enough to weather the horrific revelations revealed by the light of the full moon?

How about a little taste?

Music from his clock radio woke Thad Matthews at 6:00 a.m. The song, “Smokestack Lightning,” yanked him from a heavy, dream-laden sleep. Its energy forced his eyes open wider, caused synapses, eight hours dormant, to tingle, and made him want to move. Nonetheless, he slapped at the snooze button, silencing the bluesy wail, rolled over, and then pulled the comforter over his head. He was glad he had tuned his clock radio to KPLU, Seattle’s only all-blues all-the-time station, but he desperately wanted to recapture just a few more minutes of his dream, in which he’d found himself on the moors of England. All he could recall was that the moors themselves were appropriately fog shrouded and lit with a silvery luminance from above. Someone waited for him in the shadows and fog. And he couldn’t, for the life of him, know for certain if that someone meant to do him harm or meant to just do him.

He’d been having a lot of sexual dreams lately.

As much as he wanted to unravel the mystery of the dream—and to perhaps savor the vague sexual vibrations he was getting from it—sleep eluded him. He found thoughts of the day crowding in, preventing even the most remote possibility of a recurrence of slumber.

Thad sat up in the four-poster, rubbing his eyes like a little boy, and wondered why he bothered setting an alarm. He had no job to go to, no pressing engagements, no muse to answer to—hell, he didn’t even have an appointment for an oil change.

This day, like all his others, stretched out before him completely unmarred with obligations other than the requirements life imposed upon him, such as eating and going to the bathroom, which the erection poking up under his sheets compelled him to take care of. He called this morning wood a pee-on, because once he had put that particular need to rest, it most often subsided.

After stumbling to the adjoining bathroom and letting go with a flow that caused a mighty sigh of relief to issue forth from him, he thought once again that maybe today should be the day he looked harder into getting himself some employment—anything to put him into contact with other people and to fill his waking hours. Lord knew he filled out enough applications and answered enough Help Wanted ads on Craigslist to keep the officials down at unemployment sending him checks. But all his efforts, dishearteningly, were ignored.

It had been nearly four months since he had been laid off at Perk, the national chain of coffee shops headquartered in suburban Shoreline. Thad had been there for six years, in the marketing department, spending his days writing clever sayings for paper coffee cups and point-of-purchase signs for the stores. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. And writing phrases like “Plan on Being Spontaneous” paid the bills, even if it didn’t provide much creative or intellectual challenge. It helped sell coffee, and Thad never kidded himself: that’s why he was employed there.

Except now they didn’t need him anymore. Who would write the signs for their special Iced Coffee blend?

He gazed down at the bubbling golden froth in the toilet and flushed it away, along with his thoughts about his former job. He turned and rinsed his hands under the sink, then splashed cold water on his face. Standing up straight, he stared at his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror.

“You’re too young for a life of leisure,” he said to his reflection, rubbing his hands through his short, coarse red hair, which stuck up in a multitude of directions. People paid good money for products that would make their hair look as fetchingly disheveled as Thad’s did right now. He peered closer at himself, taking inventory of his pale skin, his gray eyes, and the constellation of freckles that spanned his nose and the tops of his cheeks. He flexed, thinking he was looking a little flabby around the middle.

“Workout day. I’ll head over to the gym today. I need it.” He sucked in his gut and let it out again, thinking it was empty and needed refilling. A Pagliacci delivery pizza only went so far. His slumber and active dream life, he supposed, had all but digested the pie.

Thad moved to the bedroom and began tossing pillows on the floor to make up his bed. He wasn’t sure why he bothered with this either, since it was unlikely anyone would see the military-neat bed except for him, when he would approach it once more this evening just to mess it all up again. But it was important to Thad to have a routine. Otherwise his days would blend into one meaningless chunk of time, formless, without definition or purpose.

It was becoming increasingly hard enough to distinguish Tuesday from Thursday—or Sunday, for that matter.

Back when he was putting in forty-plus hours a week, he envied the increasing number of friends and acquaintances who had gotten laid off during the economic downturn. The money they made on unemployment seemed like enough—at least for him and his modest lifestyle in his Green Lake studio apartment—and the freedom they had seemed worth the cut in pay.

But now he wasn’t so sure. The uncertainty of what would happen if he still wasn’t working when the unemployment checks dwindled down to zero hung over him like a vague threat. And the freedom wasn’t really so great, when that same threat prevented him from spending much money, lest he should need it down the road for luxuries like food and a roof over his head.

Worst of all was what the job loss had done to his self-esteem. Thad needed some meaning in his life, a purpose. That much had been instilled in him since he was a little boy, back in Chicago growing up in the working class neighborhood of Bridgeport, where his father was a cop and his mother waited tables at a Lithuanian restaurant.

He pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, padded out to the office area of his apartment, and plopped down in front of his laptop. He planned to check out the classifieds on Craigslist, then Monster, then CareerBuilder. When he was first laid off, he looked only at writing and editing jobs but had lately broadened his search to include, well, just about everything. Thad realized he would work retail, man a customer service phone line, groom dogs, or wait tables, as long as he had a job.

Yet the rest of the world hadn’t gotten wind of his eagerness to accept any kind of employment. Or if they had, they weren’t saying.

Before he went through the often-depressing ritual of cyber pavement pounding, he would check out what had happened in the world since he had stumbled in last night from an evening of self-consolation and vodka on Capitol Hill. He hit the little orange-and-blue Firefox icon on the dock at the bottom of his screen to bring up the day’s online news…

And was jolted right out of whatever sluggishness he was feeling. He stared at the lead article for that day’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A chill coursed through him, and he slowly shook his head as he read the details of that morning’s top story, titled “Brutal Slaying in Capitol Hill.” The article described how an as-yet-unidentified young man had been killed in an alley in the Seattle neighborhood known for its heavy concentration of gay bars and clubs. Thad had to stop reading for a moment to close his eyes because the gruesome details were simply too much to bear. His stomach churned. The man had not just been killed but had been literally ripped apart. Very little blood was found at the scene. And forensics had already determined that there was no trace of metal found on the victim’s flesh, which meant that the deed had to have been done with something other than a knife. The worst detail of all was the fact that the remains bore definite signs that much of the man’s flesh had been eaten. Authorities are keeping details to themselves regarding who—or what—the perpetrator could have been. The story closed with the usual cautions about what to do—don’t travel alone, avoid strangers and unlit places—when something so unsettling and violent occurs.

Thad exited Firefox sooner than he had planned and stared out the window. His heart thumped in his chest. Bile splashed at the back of his throat and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He had been in Capitol Hill the night before, having a dirty martini or three at Neighbours, one of the gay ghetto’s most popular hangouts. He wondered if, as he had made his way back to the bus stop, he had passed the killer or killers. If perhaps the killer or killers had eyed him, wondering if he would suffice for their demented purposes. He could see himself through their eyes, being watched from the shadows of a vestibule or an alley as he made his way back to the bus stop on Broadway. He wondered if he looked appetizing. He had been told on more than one occasion that he was “tasty” and “delicious,” but those doing the describing were not thinking of him as dinner—at least not in the conventional sense. He wondered if perhaps the only thing that had saved him was the coincidental passing of a boisterous group from the University of Washington, coming up alongside him just as the fiend in the dark was ready to pounce. He shivered. For once, rejection was a comforting thought.

Rejection, under these circumstances, was the new “getting lucky.”

Still, some poor soul had not been as lucky as he had, and today forensics was probably busy trying to figure out just who this unfortunate soul was. From what Thad had read, it didn’t sound like they had much to go on. Dental records, maybe? What kind of animal would not only kill a fellow human being but also eat his flesh and drink his blood? Was this a human being at all? Thad had heard of bears occasionally making their misguided ways down from the mountains and into Seattle, but they usually got no farther than suburban parks and backyards. And the “bears” that routinely cruised the Capitol Hill neighborhood were of a much more cuddly variety.

Surely, though, an animal couldn’t have been roaming around busy Capitol Hill on Friday night. The neighborhood, on weekend nights, was a blur of barhoppers and partiers, its hilly streets filled with people and cars jockeying for position. Loud and well lit, it was the kind of neighborhood that would scare the shit out of an animal, at least an animal with normal fears and inclinations. This had to be the work of a person, or people, right? And whoever was behind such a thing had to be majorly warped. Thad had a quick vision of pale-gray eyes and enormous canine teeth until he banished the imagery to the back of his brain, grateful for another kind of canine distraction.

That distraction had just sidled up beside Thad, her arrival signaled by a clicking of toenails on hardwood. Thad glanced down at his gray-and-white Chihuahua, Edith, staring up at him with her dark eyes. Her tongue stuck out one side of her mouth, giving her a both comical and wizened appearance. The dog was about a hundred years old, and Thad thought, for better or worse, she was his very best friend in the world. Edith got up on her hind legs to paw at Thad’s lap, indicating to him that he was not the only creature in the house that had to pee first thing in the morning.

Thad got up and, with Edith following impatiently behind, slid into flip-flops and grabbed her leash. “C’mon, sweetheart, let’s take a little walk down to the lake, and then we’ll see about getting us both some breakfast.”

My Review:
Thad Matthews is a man in his mid 20s who’s recently been laid off ans is enjoying a bit of R & R in his Seattle apartment while he job hunts and lives of unemployment. He tries to stay fit and has recently signed up to volunteer at a local food bank that serves gay shut-ins. He’s a super daddy to his chihuahua Edith, and he would really like a guy to settle down with, but no one has seemed right in the longest time.

He checks out a brand new cafe one night and meets the owner, a secy Sicilian bear named Sam Lupino. Sam and Thad have an instant connection and their night only begins with Sam feeding Thad all the best of his cafe’s kitchen. It unexpected, but delightfully, ends with Sam absolutely blowing Thad’s mind in bed. And, best news of all, Sam wants a repeat and a real relationship.

Meanwhile, Sam’s life is “complicated” and he can’t really commit on account of family issues. Thad thinks Sam must be closeted and playing him like a side-piece, but it’s more that Sam’s adult son, Domenic, is extremely homophobic. Sam is afraid to upset his family dynamic and Thad is heartbroken. Through his volunteer efforts Thad meets Jared, who really wants to date Thad–but his heart is still bruised by Sam. And, there’s some back and forth where Sam and Thad do connect in ways that might lead to more.

However, there is a murderer on the streets of Seattle. Twice in the past two months–always on the full moon–men in the gay community have been brutally slaughtered in areas known to be cruising zones. Jared is nearly attacked, and he leans on Thad heavily as he recovers from the shock. Thad’s dreams are plagued by nightmares of werewolves, and he’s starting to piece together the nights he sought out Sam and couldn’t find him were always on the full moon. Is Sam a brutal killer? Is Thad losing his mind?

This is a really cool take on the werewolf horror trope and harkens back to Silver Bullet, a fave movie from my youth. The werewolf is definitely under control–but Thad and Jared are also in its sights. Sam’s mysterious behavior provides a great counterpoint to the building tension, and while I had picked the killer out in the first part of the story, there were enough turns to keep me 100% engaged and turning those pages. There’s a significant amount of suspense, and while the ending is technically happy, there is certainly a lot of loss and gore until we arrive there. It’s a perfect Halloween read.

Interested? You can find DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Cover Reveal for NICE CATCHING YOU

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a holiday M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. NICE CATCHING YOU features a closeted top college hockey player falling hard for a law student he meets by chance. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS and TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
What happens when the No. 1 college hockey star in the country falls in love—with a man?
Nick Johnson, a top prospect for a pro hockey team, has a secret: he’s gay. Tired of living in the
closet for the sport he loves, he sees no way out.
Jacob Meyer’s string of bad boyfriends left him cynical about love. Instead, he focuses on his
studies as a third-year law student. With a new job waiting for him, he’s eager to graduate and
move on.

On a school-sponsored trip, Nick and Jacob meet in a most unexpected way. When Nick tells
Jacob his secret, they decide to hang out, just as friends. But their attraction is too strong to
ignore, and they soon begin dating.

Since Nick is a big man on campus, it doesn’t take long for people to notice his attachment to
Jacob. All hell breaks loose when the relationship gets out. As the national media descends,
university officials try to figure out how to solve their “problem.” Their efforts divide Nick’s
team, inflame fans, and put Nick and Jacob’s futures in jeopardy. Will the men be able to
survive a plot to destroy them without derailing both their careers?

Nice Catching You is an out-for-you romance featuring a lot of love, exciting hockey, and a
beautiful holiday. There’s also plenty of steam and a very happy ending.

Interested? You can pre-order NICE CATCHING YOU in advance of it’s October 30th release on Amazon.

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Fitting Together LOCKSET–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. LOCKSET is the second book in her University Square series and features a harried lawyer returning to her hometown to settle her father’s estate finding love with a local locksmith. I really enjoyed ON THE SQUARE, and we get a glimpse at some of those characters in this story.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

How about a little taste?

After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

Excerpt

Lockset
Brenda Murphy © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Eunice Park glared at the ringing phone on her desk. On the third ring she picked it up. “What is it?”

“Sorry to bother you, Eunice, but your father’s on the line. He insisted I connect him.”

Eunice leaned forward and straightened her posture. “What?”

“Your father. Says it’s urgent. Want me to take a message? Or leave him on hold till he hangs up?”

Eunice swept her hair back with one hand and closed her fist around it, barely resisting the urge to tear it out. “No. I’ll talk to him.” She took her reading glasses off and tossed them on the top of the stack of trial transcripts and depositions on her desk.

“Eun?” James Park’s rich baritone filled her ear. Her Korean name, spoken in the way it was meant to be said, made her heart squeeze. She detested Eunice and still cursed the day she had chosen to use it instead of her true name.

“Yes.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s me.”

Silence stretched out between them, harsh and violent. Eun settled back into her chair. Her father’s silence and its power over Eun had weakened over the years. Eun knew his trick. Wait for the other to become so uncomfortable they spilled their secrets and told you everything you wanted to know. For once, Eun would not give in. She set her gaze on the clock on her computer screen. One minute. Two minutes. Eun fiddled with the edge of her blotter.

At three and one-half minutes her father cleared his throat and spoke. “Come home. I need to see you.”

“Nothing’s changed.” Eun chewed her lip.

“I need to see you.”

“Why now? I’m not coming home to be berated again. You made yourself clear five years ago. I’m not backing down. Not this time.”

“I’m not asking you to. I have something to discuss with you. I can’t do it over the phone. Please. This weekend?”

Eun rubbed her forehead. “I can’t. I’m buried. I have dog of a case, my cocounsel is an idiot, and I’ve got closing arguments next week. The weekend after?”

“If that’s the best you can do.”

“What?” Eun’s voice rose as anger she had managed to contain bubbled up. “Oh hell no. You can’t call me up out of the blue, demand I see you, and then act all pissy if I can’t drop what I’m doing and run home. Not after what you pulled last time. I’m lesbian, Dad. I’ve been lesbian, I’m going to be lesbian. Nothing is going to change that.”

“I know.” The defeated tone in his voice scraped against Eun’s battered heart.

“I have to go.”

“Will you come?”

“Next weekend.”

Her father disconnected the call. Eun fell back into her chair. Late afternoon sun raked the tops of the high-rise buildings surrounding the office building. Red-and-orange light, reflected off the glass, shone through the floor to ceiling window and glinted off the framed print on the wall opposite her desk.

Her stomach rumbled, an audible reminder of her neglecting to eat breakfast and lunch. She tapped her pen on the desk and glowered at the stack of transcripts on her desk as she rang her assistant. “Order us some food, please.’

“Have a hankering for anything?” Sally’s soft drawl spilled through the phone.

“Whatever you want.”

“You okay?”

“I will be.” Eun spun her pen in a circle, a wave of guilt for keeping her assistant after hours swept over her. “You don’t have to stay. John must miss you.”

“He does. But he also knows how important this case is. Faizal’s okay?”

“Sounds wonderful. That gyro salad they do.”

“Baklava too?”

Eun’s mouth watered at the thought of the sticky honey-sweet dessert. “Of course.”

“On it.”

Eun hung up and spun in her chair to face her bookshelf. The black-framed photo of Eun and her father at her law school graduation was opposite a photo of Eun and her mother at Eun’s kindergarten graduation. She closed her eyes as the memory of the last fight she’d had with her father surfaced. Anger and humiliation over his demand she go to conversion therapy surged through her as strong and as raw as that evening. Memories of other interventions, his relentless set-ups with eligible young men, and the shocked expressions of his church friends when she told them all the only thing she was sure of was they were all going to hell bubbled to the surface.

Her stomach ached: too much coffee, and not enough food. She reached into her drawer for the ginger chews she kept at hand. She unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth to quell her stomachache and glanced at the clock on the computer screen. It would be at least forty-five minutes before Sally was back with their food.

Her phone vibrated with a message. The glowing read notification sent a rill of excitement down her spine. Maybe a quick fuck would be the ticket to a good night’s sleep. A glorious, no-real-names hotel-room sex fest would be delightful. She thumbed open the Hit Me Up app and opened the message.

Disappointment washed over her. The message was from her most recent date. A bold butch who had given Eun several mind-bending orgasms that had made her strongly reconsider her self-imposed no-more-than-one-date rule. Until she stalked the woman on social media and found out she was not single as her profile claimed. Eun detested cheaters. She deleted the woman’s message without reading it and tossed her phone on to her desk.

My Review:
Eunice Park is an out lesbian litigator living in Chicago. She is estranged from both her parents for different reasons. Her father essentially disowned her for being gay, while her mother left when she was young due to a drug habit. She’s startled when her father calls–after 5 years of no contact–and demand she come home to see him. Eun can’t really take off on a whim, but she makes plans to come the following weekend. And, then forgets due to work stress. And, the next call Eun receives from her hometown of Sikesville, Ohio is from the police letting her know her father has died.

Morgan Wright is a locksmith, running her family business and the person the police (her sister) calls on for a welfare check ad Mr. Park’s home and office. So, she’s there to discover the body and Mr. Park’s rambunctious dog. A softie for fostering strays, Morgan brings home the abandoned pooch. It’s not long before she encounters Eun, who is struggling with the guilt and frustration of missing her father while still being so angry at how their once-loving relationship changed. Her mother is no support, and her uncle is hateful, homophobic and out for his inheritance. Morgan’s steadfast companionship is a boon, and helps her weather some of the immediate storms.

The funeral is one thing, and their quick connection makes the intimacy between Eun and Morgan even more bittersweet, because Eun knows she needs to return to Chicago and face the wrath of the senior partner in her practice over the last case that went terribly wrong. Eun has no reason to stay in Sikesville, even with a growing attraction to Morgan, but bigger forces are at work, and Eun’s dad’s journals seem to be key in getting to the bottom of what seems a secret affair and perhaps extortion. Eun’s about to set out for Chicago when the mystery takes a turn into arson.

And, Morgan’s not so please being considered a bit of distraction–even knowing that Eun isn’t meant to remain n their small town. But, the more tragedy that sets in , the more that Eun realizes her life has been devoted to the dreams of others, and she now has the opportunity to start living her life for her own self, and with a woman who’d be proud to stand by her side.

It’s a sweet and sexy story with lots of struggles and make-up sex and two classy ladies that find a home in one another–wherever that might be. I liked the clash of cultures and how Eun navigated the disparate parts of her life. There’s a bit of drama near the end that went way into the danger zone, but it was only obliquely related to Eun and Morgan, so I didn’t get too worked up over it. Let’s just say that dinner at Mai’s restaurant was never so bloody! We got a little glimpse of the stories from ON THE SQUARE, and I think a look forward into a future love story.

Interested? You can find LOCKSET on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list.

Catch up with Brenda on her website and Facebook and Instagram.

Magic and Mayhem in THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M supernatural romance just released from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER features royals, superheroes and intrigue, with a slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the book giveaway.
About the book:
Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.

Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.

But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

My heels clicked in rapid succession as I walked down the centerline of the grand executive hall. It was far afield of the offices on lower floors. It took minutes to get all the way up there, which was why I’d needed to make haste. Left unattended on nights when he would rather have been any place but at his post, the Prince had a tendency to disappear.

The floors were made of marble and their design was quite ornate—a wide white border off to each side, with an elaborate design forming a runway down the middle. It wasn’t a pattern, but a work of art, its geometric pieces reminiscent of stained glass. It gave the sense of walking on a rug made of stone.

Hues from garnet, to ruby, to tawny, to rose made up elements of a palette that swirled and faded to ambers and golds. They complemented magnificent oil paintings of Abarran countryside that lined the grand corridor’s high walls. Spaced-out sitting benches rendered the space worthy of entertaining. Yet, he kept it to himself, and spent most of his time alone.

The downstairs offices were another story. They were filled with six-by-six-foot cubicles configured en masse for the Ministry’s rank and file. Enclosed offices here and there were reserved for mid-level managers: MLMs, as we liked to call them. I inhabited one of the better of these offices—a space in the corner on a higher floor with a not-bad view—though an MLM I was not.

Ostensibly, I was the Head of Internal Affairs, which was exactly her intention—a gross understatement considering my deep involvement with the covert side. Not making that last fact public was by design. My list of responsibilities was too long to name—too long for me to remember most days. Yet, the highest of my duties was to babysit him.

He was Prince Xabier Garrastazu, third in line to the South Abarran throne, son of Prince Frantzisco, nephew to the Queen, and Duke of Brix. He was also the Minister of Powers—the highest-ranking official at this agency and—despite my charge to keep him from making too big a mess out of things, he was—technically—my boss.

“Is he in?” I asked Eusebio, more for his benefit than mine. I knew the Prince’s comings and goings. I had eyes on him at all times. I tried not to roll my eyes as Eusebio made a production of picking up the phone to announce my arrival. The Prince enjoyed forcing me to wait to be let in.

Good.

The more ridiculously childish and infuriatingly vain Prince Xabier, Duke of Brix, chose to be wherever I was concerned, the easier it was to ignore his ridiculous appeal.

“Your Grace.” As usual, I greeted his back, the part of him that always seemed to face me when I walked into his suite. Even from behind, the man was magnificent. Broad shoulders filled out a perfectly tailored button-down made of fine fabric and subtle herringbone design. Today’s shirt—white if you weren’t paying attention—was the faintest of lilac. He was the epitome of a dashing prince.

To be clear, I was paying attention, not only to the way its snug fit showed the definition in his shoulders—to the place where the fabric stopped and his rolled-up sleeves gave way to skin. For all the hard work he didn’t do, there needn’t have been any rolling up of sleeves. In my most outlandish of theories, he did it to torment me.

“Mr. Otxoa,” the Prince greeted blithely, not turning toward me just yet. He stood on a rug in the sitting area with his gaze remained fixed on the fire. His office was a projection of the man himself—pleasantly fragrant, clean to a fault and dripping with style. Tufted wingback chairs with ottomans flanked a matching Chesterfield, all three in a dark teal. Fire glow warmed his features, casting appeal on the planes of his face, flattering the smooth line of his nose and cutting shadows from his diamond jaw.

I stopped at the edge of the rug next to the drink trolley that carried only wine. Its twin at the other end of the Chesterfield was all crystal decanters and spirits. When he turned, I was meant to bow out of deference. This was always the most difficult moment—the one when he first cast his gaze upon me. I faltered at the devastating beauty of his eyes.

“And what have you for me tonight? More documents to sign, no doubt. More supos with powers run rampage?”

He made no secret of the fact that my presence vexed him. Unencumbered by the burden of common birth, the Prince was under no obligation to feign politesse. Logic dictated that his resentment stemmed from me holding him to task. Instinct told me that the sport he made of pushing my buttons was something more.

The Prince finally cast his sapphire gaze upon me and I did bow then, thankful that the deep hue of my skin made it easy to hide my flush. Blood that he could not see rushed to my cheeks and prickled my nose and burned the tops of my ears. If he resented me, I, too, resented him. Training the Prince was not supposed to be so difficult as this.

My Review:
This is a fun and magical enemies-to-lovers supernatural, royal romance.

Prince Xabier has a secret magical power that he is trying to keep from his queen. As third in line for the throne, Xabier wishes he didn’t have so much responsibility as director of the Ministry that oversees the magical powers of the various royals in Abarra. Xabier’s power helps ripen the grapes in his family’s vineyard to bottle-able perfection.

It’s hard for Xabier to escape the tedium of his Ministry position, and especially so because the head of Internal Affairs, Zain Oxtoa, is always on his tail to sign one order, or another.

Zain has a secret mission: to watch Xabier and determine how his superpower is developing. The Queen is sure that Xabier’s growing power could be the one to help unite and manage the powers of all the unruly royal supes. Zain is trying to get Xabier to act as an agent of the law in the way of the official guidelines. And, boy, each of these men had a simmering attraction for the other.

I really loved how Xabier thought he was pulling some shenanigans, but meanwhile he was really falling directly according to a plan the Queen had envisioned. I loved how Zain really cared for Xabier, and was so conscientious to allow him the freedom he needed to really find his own place in their world. We get a great look at how these two cleave together as Xabier enters an in-depth training to hone his skills in magic wielding. The magic aspects were creative and added sparks of humor and whimsy, while the relationship grew and developed. There are bits of sexytimes, while the growing confidence Xabier has in his new skills is countered by the feeling that Zain’s willing to sacrifice his own love to ensure that Xabier has the future one envisions for a prince.

I enjoyed this one, and would have loved to read more of the stories of Abarra. It’s part of a connected series of novels by different authors, but it’s easy to enjoy each as a standalone.

Interested? You can find THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 ebook copies of THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Kenzie Blades is a queer author of romantic LGBTQ+ fiction and is the alter ego of a multi-award winning author who writes other fiction under a different name. Kenzie lives in San Francisco and enjoys lots of things that start with the letter B, like bacon, bourbon and books.

Catch up to Kenzie on their website, Goodreads, and Instagram.

Finding a Love That’s WORTH IT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary New Adult romance from Chloe B. Young. WORTH IT relates an unconventional romance between a college sex worker and the nephew of his previous john.

About the book:
The price of love could be too high to pay.

Elliott Meyer is a dedicated student . . . and a part-time sex worker. College is expensive, and after his mother’s death left his family struggling, he’s desperate to avoid drowning in debt. Problem is, he just lost his only client. Time to hit the clubs and find a new benefactor before bills start piling up.

Enter Aiden Kent: rich, handsome . . . and the nephew of Elliott’s former client. Rather than letting this drive a wedge between them, Aiden offers Elliott an opportunity. Aiden’s stressed out and has no time for a relationship. He’s eager to hire Elliott to provide all the benefits of a boyfriend with none of the responsibility. And they both swear it’s only a little weird.

But when their business arrangement starts to become a full-on relationship, things get complicated. Elliott won’t accept money from a romantic partner, and Aiden won’t continue their relationship if Elliott’s sleeping with other clients. With his future on the line, Elliott’s left with a terrible decision: risk his bright academic future, or lose Aiden forever.

My Review:
Elliott Meyer is a 21 year old sophomore in college. He goes to school in LA and is determined not to borrow a penny to do it. His father, a police officer, has been in dept up to his eyeballs ever since Elliott’s mother died, following a prolonged illness. and the house up-keep is too much for his small-town cop salary to afford. So, Elliott has decided he’s going to earn his tuition money as a part-time escort. He had a sugar daddy a few months ago, and older, wealthy lawyer who enjoyed parading his blatant boy toy every place he could. And, he paid Elliott handsomely. IN fact, sometimes his money got int he way–because he became manipulative with his funding. Elliott walked away, but he didn’t get too far.

While out prowling for a new john, Elliott encounters Aiden Kent, the nephew of his previous “employer”. Elliott had met the man before, because Aiden is a lawyer at the same firm as his ex-john, which happens to have numerous Kents as staff and partners. So, Elliott figures he’s gotta scram from that scene, lest Aiden mess up his search for a steady john. It’s a little unsettling when Aiden, who is only 28, and both wealthy and sexy to boot, makes an offer for Elliott to consider. Aiden would like a companion, and regular lover, but the demands of his job at the firm tend to interfere with real relationships. Plus, he sometimes feel like prospective boyfriends are more into his name and wealth than who he is a s a person–a general homebody after working 60_ hours a week. For a monthly sum Elliott could spend three nights a week keeping Aiden company and having some spine-melting sexytimes, too. Despite the initial awkwardness, Elliott agrees.

This fake boyfriend love story follows a mostly predictable path of increasing familiarity giving rise to feelings on both sides. Elliott has some good prospects in the offing, including a possible scholarship and growing tutoring opportunities. But, he wants to help his dad too much to rely on piecemeal options. Within a couple months of their bargain, Elliott’s internal conflict is getting way out of proportion. He loves Aidan, so he can’t keep charging him for sex. Not if they are TRUE boyfriends. Aiden wants Elliott to lean on him, and let the money worries drift away, but it’s not something that Elliott can consider; he has no illusions about the monetary struggles of indebted college graduates, and with plans for a Master’s and doctorate, Elliott isn’t willing to gamble on Aiden’s charity or his own solvency.

I loved Aiden in this one and I liked Elliott a lot, too. It’s clear that he is still immature, at times, and that’s fine because most young people really don’t get grown until they are in the mid-20s. Elliott’s thoughts of returning to prostitution become more and more untenable as he deals with the temporary loss of Aiden from his life. It’s a nice wake-up call and allows us to see the vulnerable side of Elliott, who can be a bit prickly and snooty as a character, and meet his dearest friend and his father to straighten out his priorities. The end fell into place exactly as I suspected it would, and I’m glad to say it was entirely happy. There are lots of steamy, sexy moments from nearly the beginning, and they become more tender and passionate as the love story builds.

Interested? You can find WORTH IT on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Misanthropic Love CAT’S GOT YOUR HEART–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary New Adult romance from Jem Zero. CATS GOT YOUR HEART is a sweet and snarky, enemies-to-lovers romance between a man who wants to replace his sister’s missing cat and the pet store employee who refuses to adopt a cat to him.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
A fluffy feline isn’t the only thing they’re fighting for…

Adopting a cat doesn’t sound hard. Then Jericho Adams meets Harinder Mangal, the surly pet store employee who loves animals and hates customers. Their first encounter inspires more than simple loathing—it puts the ball in motion for an absurd game of deceit that boasts a fluffy cat named Dumpling as the prize.

Harinder hates Jericho’s attitude, especially when it comes to owning a pet. He attempts to chase the other man from his store and is shocked when Jericho overcomes every obstacle, no matter how bizarre. Not only that, but he generates some of his own wild inconveniences that leave Harinder seething in his ugly sweater and mom jeans.

Before either man can get the other to crack, Harinder finds himself unexpectedly homeless. Despite their mutual antagonism, Jericho invites Harinder to crash at his place. The increased proximity makes it difficult for Harinder and Jericho to maintain their respective ruses, not to mention stopping themselves from actually caring about their pet-parenting rival.

How about a little taste?

Jericho Is Not Prepared

There’s a Petco another half hour down the bus line, but it’s snowing and Jericho doesn’t have that kind of time. Well, he does. But his phone is only at thirty-seven percent battery, and he’s not patient enough to go that long without entertainment. Fortunately, there’s a small hole-in-the-wall ten minutes from his apartment.

Aquariums & More doesn’t have a website, but according to Yelp, the “more” includes live pets. Half the Yelp reviews complain about hostile and unwelcoming employees, but that’s none of his business.

The pet store looks even shittier in person than it did in the picture. Multiple neon signs have been added since the pixelated, overexposed image was captured—probably somewhere in the early 1800s. Combined, they shine so brightly they distract from the puke-green awning, torn from years of weather, with faded navy font that looks like it’s trying to be Comic Sans but isn’t quite.

The visual assault is such that Jericho briefly overlooks the grime on the windows and how there seems to be something alive inside the trash can.

Any animal bought from this place is guaranteed to have three kinds of rabies and possibly congestive heart failure in addition to being intellectually dishonest and a kleptomaniac. It’s perfect for his sister, Shiloh, so Jericho spits a wad of tasteless gum into the cigarette disposal (he isn’t going near that trash can) and steps inside.

The bell on the door jingles merrily, but upon passing the threshold, there’s no one in sight: no customers, no pimply teenage employees, not even a grizzled old man to regale him with stories of putting live mice in freezers.

Alrighty then.

Along the entire front wall is what must be a six-foot-long, gargantuan tank full of…sand and wood? Jericho looks closer, blinking when he sees some small things skittering through the thick foliage. Oh, hermit crabs.

“They’re not for sale,” a rough voice says behind him.

He startles, but not enough to make a fool out of himself. Instead of swinging around to face whoever came up behind him, Jericho casually rolls his back. See? He isn’t bothered in the least.

“There’s a sign right there.” He points down at the far corner of the tank where Hermit Crabs $5 per ea. is written in Sharpie on an off-white piece of cardstock. It’s placed away from the reach of the fluorescent tank lighting as if someone doesn’t want it to be noticed.

A dark hand reaches into his line of sight and unceremoniously rips the sign off the tank. “That was a prank,” the other person says. “Feel free to ignore it.”

“Okay,” Jericho says—because sure, whatever—and turns toward the speaker. The voice made him expect someone at least moderately intimidating, but the fluffy hair, round cheeks, and full lips are suspiciously cherubic despite the rather genuine scowl. Also, this guy is, like, five feet tall, give or take a few inches. “Do you work here?” He’s dubious about whether or not this is customer service or an attempt at stealing his lunch money.

The guy rolls his eyes—which makes Jericho think the answer is no, and he’s about to be held at gunpoint in a pet store—and then he grabs the front of his mustard-yellow sweater and tugs the wrinkles straight to reveal a worn laminated tag that reads: Hello, my name is Harinder. The first thing Jericho notices is that his nails are painted black, although heavily chipped. The second thing he notices is the bottom of the nametag where the phrase How may I assist you? has been cut off at the bottom and heavily frayed.

Harinder drops the sweater and reaches up to brush his overgrown bangs out of his eyes, then folds his arms over his chest. It turns him into a puffball of rumpled wool and flyaway hair, which Jericho fails to find either professional or impressive. A hissing alley cat, at best.

Speaking of. “Do you have any kittens?”

If Harinder’s face looked offended before, now it looks straight-up murderous. “If you want a kitten, I invite you to look into one of the mills of inbred, abused, unloved, soon-to-be-abandoned, backyard-bred animals. Might I suggest Craigslist, or some cushy chain pet shop balanced on the rusty, beloved seesaw of quality photography and appalling ethics? There’re at least three of them downtown.

“If you want to pay five hundred dollars for an animal you’ll only care about until it stops being small and inoffensive, be my guest, but I’m afraid I can’t fff— I can’t help you.”

Jericho blinks very, very slowly. He didn’t miss that aborted f-bomb, but as with the Yelp reviews, that isn’t Jericho’s problem. He tries again. “Do you have any…cats?”

Hunching his shoulders around his ears, Harinder jabs a thumb at the wall behind him. “Cat kennels are through that door.”

“Thanks.”

There are, in fact, no kittens. However, the eight kennels filling in one side of the room give him enough to choose from. The moment he catches the attention of the room’s inhabitants, there’s a chorus of noise as all the cats come to the doors of their steel prisons to bat fluffy paws through the bars in a sordid appeal for pets.

Jericho obliges the nearest one, threading his fingers through a gap and allowing the animal to smash its head into them, purring enticingly. He wiggles his hand as best he can to facilitate a more effective petting motion. This one is a skinny tabby, and the note on the front of its—his—cage says he’s two years old and calls him Princeton.

It’s such an obnoxious yuppy name that Jericho can’t help but snort. What a terrible name for a cat. He shakes his head and moves to inspect the next prisoner.

In total, there are nine cats. Two green-eyed, gray longhairs inhabit one of the lower cages. They remain curled around each other, staring dispassionately at Jericho from the back of the kennel.

“Fuck y’all too,” Jericho comments, leaving both “Lacey” and “Casey” to their own shitty devices.

A ten-year-old Abyssinian boy going by the name of Sir Charles immediately becomes his favorite. Jericho loses about five minutes trying to cram his whole hand through the tight bars so he can stroke his sleek honey-colored fur.

He doesn’t think giving Shiloh a pet that might die soon is the best idea, and he isn’t prepared to take on his own cat, so he moves on.

He ends up two cages to the left, shoulder pressed against the wall, studying a creamy Siamese point. She has a shaggy medium-length coat, faint textured stripes, and piercing blue eyes, with which she regards him coolly before padding over to give his extended fingers an inquisitive sniff.

Her body is long and lanky. Regal, Jericho thinks for all of thirty seconds before he looks at her infocard and discovers that her name is Dumpling.

A short, surprised laugh bursts from his chest; Dumpling’s ears flick backward in disapproval. She’s perfect. At a solid four years, she’s old enough to know how to use a litter box and, hopefully, a scratching post, but isn’t quite aged enough that he has to worry about being strong-armed into frequent vet-related errands.

The adoption fee is sixty-five dollars. A little steep, but manageable. Before he can do anything about it, the door to the kennel room bursts open and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony Performed Entirely by Cats nearly deafens him.

Harinder snarls. “What the f—” His teeth settle for a moment on his bottom lip. “—are you doing?”

“Just looking,” Jericho says, pulling his hand away from the cages and shoving it in his pocket as if he was doing something wrong, although he’s pretty damn sure petting cats in a pet shop is not actually illegal.

“I’ve heard people use their eyes to do that,” is the surly reply. Of course this jackass would go there.

“Gonna call the cops?” he asks, rolling his eyes. Jericho is used to threats of police intervention in his simple existence. No innocence when you’re Black. Even being albino doesn’t change that.

Harinder’s face clouds. “I wouldn’t.” Then he wraps his whole fist around a cable lying against the room’s back wall and gives it an unnecessarily forceful yank. A thick brown curtain rolls up to the ceiling, exposing a greasy window. Harinder doesn’t say anything more, but the message of “I can see you and will rain unholy hellfire down on anything that displeases me about your conduct” is clear.

Jericho doesn’t respond. He only finds his voice when Harinder turns toward the exit. “Hey, wait. I want to buy a cat.”

Harinder stops dead, spine stiffening. Again, Jericho imagines some kind of small, furry creature raising its hackles in a misinformed attempt to look threatening.

“We don’t sell cats,” Harinder says, voice gravelly.

“Uh, what?”

He turns around, jaw clearly set. “I. Said. We don’t sell cats, you—” He clamps his mouth shut.

“What are these here for, then?”

Harinder’s eyes flick to the kennels, then back to Jericho. “They’re up for adoption.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Jericho rolls his eyes again. “Fine. How do I ‘adopt’ a cat?”

My Review:
Jericho is an albino Black male approaching his 21st birthday and he’s upset his only living relative in the world, his twin sister, Shiloh, by allowing her demon of a cat (Mephistopheles) to escape into a dark night in their nondescript East Coast suburban town. He thinks that buying a replacement will heal the rift that’s cropped up. He lives alone in a one-bedroom and supports himself since he was 17 and escaped the “loving” supervision of their abusive uncle. Jericho owns his introverted nature and is 100% socially maladroit, but he is a successful cartoonist for his own webzine and Patreon supporters. So, it can’t be that hard to buy a cat, right?

He stops at the nearest pet store to home, Aquariums & More, because shop local, right? And that’s where he meets Harinder, a small, pudgy young man who is absolutely not going to allow Jericho to adopt one of the cats in the back. No, Harinder has hoops for days that he makes prospective adopters jump through, knowing that few will bother to continue with the process through a 10-page compatibility survey, bogus community service hours requirement, and anything else he can dream up to deter folks. See, Harinder’s pretty much primal when it comes to animals and he’ll piss off eighteen dozen humans if it means not letting one unsuitable pet owner take an animal from his care.

And, care Harinder imparts. He is fastidious in his treatment and cleaning of animal cages working well beyond his clockable hours as the sole customer-facing employee in Aquariums & More. Harinder’s boss, an aging Indian man, only keeps the store as a venue to showcase his custom tank builds, and he’s rarely on-site. Essentially, Harinder has license to torment uneducated customers and is unbothered by the terrible Yelp reviews. Jericho sees through his game pretty quick and being a contrary sort regards his mission to adopt a replacement cat for Shiloh as a challenge. And Jericho aims to win.

Being self-employed gives Jericho the flexibility to enter the store on the regular and meet or exceed all of Harinder’s ridiculous stipulations. His presence and keen observational skills puts Jericho in a position to recognize that Harinder’s actually very principled and dedicated to the animals at the store, engendering a grudging respect. . He also witnesses harassment of Harinder by friends of his housemate, and is likewise present when Harinder’s tenuous living situation implodes.

The snark and walls each man has built to protect themselves from the meanness of their existence begin to crack as Jericho solicitously brings Harinder and what remain of his belongings into his own apartment. It’s sweet and entertaining, and the attraction that Harinder has tried to not acknowledge definitely blooms in this hot house. None of this is too overt. These guys are generally not impetuous, and they don’t need more than companionship, at first. Of course, having Harinder in his place means that the ruse to adopt the cat is far more complicated, especially as Harinder has a deep desire to adopt the one cat that Jericho wants–if he could house a pet, that is. The more that these two men connect, the more the deception tears at Jericho, until it becomes too much to bear–and Harinder is not happy. Things had been going so well, though, that Jericho’s quick thinking and growing affection are soon enough overcome their conflict.

This is a fun book to read, with great pacing and a delicious slow burn. There are definitely race issues at play, and Harinder’s view of Jericho’s struggles is interesting, and supportive. I rather felt as if the author was writing a book from a British English perspective, as the American details seemed a bit vague and generic. That said, the characters were engaging, the plot creative and the enemies-to-lovers trope well-executed. Expect a happy ending and a well-housed cat, or two.

Interested? You can find CAT’S GOT YOUR HEART on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jem Zero is a disabled lesbian who lives in a house built by zir great-grandfather with zir family and two rescue greyhounds. Zir work is unapologetically queer and strives to communicate the frustration of being limited by one’s meatsack & brainjuice.

While arguing zir way through an Accounting Certificate, Jem makes a living as a portrait artist and, similar to most tortured creators, is attempting to establish zirself in creative writing.

You can catch up with Jem on zir website, Facebook, and twitter.

Living One’s AMERICAN FAIRYTALE–Promo and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a promo and giveaway for a sexy contemporary romance from Adriana Herrera. AMERICAN FAIRYTALE is the second book in her Dreamers series, and you can find my review for the fourth book, AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS, here.

About the book:
Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.

New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily-ever-after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.

Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.

Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.

Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.

I wrote a full review of  AMERICAN FAIRYTALE on Joyfully Jay  and if you go read my TBR Pile Challenge review and make a comment by midnight on Saturday you will be entered in the weekly drawing for one of two great audiobook bundles from Tantor Audio, and the month-wide drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite filled with 50 ebooks from NineStar Press!

About the Author:
Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

Her debut Dreamers, has been featured on Entertainment Weekly, NPR, the TODAY Show on NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Oprah Magazine.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Catch up with Adriana on her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Overcoming Daddy Issues STARTING FROM SCRATCH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is the second book in the Starting From series. STARTING FROM ZERO and STARTING FROM HERE recount the falling in love stories of two members of an LA-based indie band called Zero.

Drop down to catch my review and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
Charlie Rourke is an ultra fabulous human whirlwind on a mission to launch the next biggest band in the world. However, he might have taken on more than he could handle when he signed on to manage Zero. Promoting a rock band and finding gigs shouldn’t be hard. They’re a talented group with a ton of star power. If Charlie can find the right record label, he’s sure he can help them get to the next level. The only problem is the skater boy slash bassist with a quirky sense of humor. He’s annoying and silly, and he’s exactly Charlie’s type. Except he’s straight.

Ky Baldwin isn’t afraid to switch things up. He loves a challenge as much as anyone, but Charlie doesn’t make things easy. Zero’s manager is a force of nature with a razor sharp tongue, a quick wit, and a no-nonsense attitude. Ky can’t stop thinking about him. Winning over Charlie becomes Ky’s pet project. But when the ice between them thaws, neither is prepared for the intensity of going from enemies to lovers. They’ll have to decide if they’re willing to start from scratch and take a chance on the unexpected.

My Review:
Charlie Rourke is a 25 y/o out gay internet influencer who has signed on to manage the indie band Zero. He met the lead singer, Justin, through his godfather, Grey, and Charlie wants to use his platform to promote their band as his true career path. He’s a business man, raised in Tinsel Town by Grey who was his father’s secret lover and more of a dad than Sebastian Rourke ever was. With Zero’s promotions to work on, Charlie has a direction, one that fills his time with purpose–besides caring for his 9 year old half-brother, Oliver. Ollie is a lonely kid, and he struggles to make friends. Charlie has a bit of a trouble with obsessing over small details, and right now he’s mostly stressing over the devotion of the bass player for Zero, and some rather nasty reviews of the band that are starting to gain traction.

Ky is the bass player in Zero and Charlie is more than a challenge to him. Ky is bisexual, not that he advertises. He’s a bit of a skater-man, could have maybe been pro, and he’s more into the band than Charlie suspects. Also, Ky’s way into Charlie–who returns his interest. Ky is amazing with Ollie, which pretty much demolishes all of Charlie’s reservations for falling hard for Ky. Ky has some secrets, mainly what a craphead his old man is, but he’s more that willing to schedule regular visits to teach Charlie to skateboard. And, to still Charlie’s whirlwind brain with a simple kiss, or a silly prank.

These mismatched men connect in ways they hadn’t predicted. It’s a fun counterpoint to the family drama each one faces. Charlie’s always felt a bit ignored by his father, while Ky’s dad is a manipulator extraordinaire. This means that they are both fiercely-independent in their own affairs, but they also long for a steady partner who will provide the missing emotional support in their lives. The subplot pulls in Declan McNamara, an ally-turned-rival who seems to be the focus of the nasty reviewer hounding Zero’s shows. The negative reviews are gaining traction and threaten to upset the recording contracts that Charlie is negotiating for Zero. Declan was involved in a band-destroying love triangle that caused Justin, and his drummer-pal Tegan, to break off from Gypsy Coma, the band they were a part of before forming Zero. And, as Charlie is well aware, bad publicity in the social media space can sink a band faster than a terrible song.

I listened to the audiobook version, and I really enjoyed the pacing and narrator’s range, which was able to manage female and child voices as well as the lower register of Ky and Charlie’s manic-mania dialogue. I was glad to keep going with this series, and looked forward to Tegan’s love story, which was the next book to come out.

In this story the issues each character has with his father affects the path of their life. Charlie doesn’t want to lean on his dad for much, because he’s been so unreliable. He does trust his dad’s keen insights and promotional advice, however, which do make a big impact on the resolution of the story. For Ky, he long-since realized that his father is only interested in his own happiness, and he is so mean-spirited and toxic that Ky is better off without contact–and that’s how he likes it. It was a nasty turn, his dad’s way of ingratiating himself into the Zero sphere, but Ky effectively closes the door, and solidifies his place in the band. Their love story is engaging, and well-told in the audiobook.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SCRATCH on Goodreads, Amazon, and Audible.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Enemies to Lovers STARTING FROM HERE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM HERE is the third book in the Starting From series. STARTING FROM ZEROkicked off this rock romance series with each member of the band Zero finding a solid lover. This book features former childhood friends turned rivals in an enemies-to-lovers story.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
Two bands, one goal, and a second chance…

Declan-
Everything is finally going well. I have a new band, a new label, and a debut album coming out. And then my drummer breaks his wrists. Just my luck. I need a quick replacement to record one more song, but my options are limited, and of course, the obvious candidate hates my guts. Okay, so I may have given him a few reasons over the years, but isn’t there an expiration date on holding a grudge?

Tegan-
I don’t trust Declan McNamara. Sure, he’s talented, smart, and has more sex appeal than any one person should be allowed. And yeah, he may be a rock star in the making, but beware—he’s trouble. However, our new record label’s survival may depend on a truce and extreme measures…of the fake boyfriend variety. If it’s our best shot at the big time, I’m willing to set the past aside and start over…here and now.

Starting From Here is a MM, bisexual romance rock and roll style…rival bands, fake boyfriends, and a second chance at a new love story. Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The sound of cheerful squealing rang in the background before she hung up. I stared into space for a minute or two, feeling very…alone. I didn’t want to slip into teenage levels of self-pity. There was really nothing lamer than a privileged grown-ass adult whining about mommy issues. I flipped through television channels, pausing on a special about great white sharks. Then I tossed the controller aside and picked up my cell again.
Would you ever swim with sharks?
My phone buzzed immediately. I smiled when Tegan’s name lit the screen. Are you high?
I wish. Swimming with sharks is a thing. People get in cages and film themselves being surrounded by predators…for fun.
People are fucking crazy.
True.
What are you watching?
National Geographic. I was hoping for a sex in the wild segment, but I got sharks instead.
Shark sex?
I grinned. Nope. I don’t think I’m ready for that.
It’s not exciting. Fish sex is seriously unhot.
True.
My chuckled morphed into a belly laugh as I sank deeper into the cushion. I shared a quick story about the saucy squirrels who were getting it on outside my window last spring. Tegan teased me for being a rodent voyeur, then recommended a few human porn sites I might appreciate instead.
Btw, it’s officially midnight. Congrats.
I stared at the screen for a moment. I typed and erased two or three thank-yous that seemed a little too effusive. I didn’t want to come across as too excited or too grateful and somehow clingy, so I gave up and pressed Call.
“Hey.”
“Are you really fucking calling me?”
I chuckled. “Yeah. I am. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. But it’s midnight, and I hate talking on the phone, so good ni—”
“Don’t hang up.”
“What’s wrong?”
I stared at the TV unseeing. “Nothing. I just…I’m keyed up and I need someone to talk to. What was your first release like? I know Zero’s record is still doing well. But…what was like in the beginning? How’d you feel?”
Silence.
“You want the truth?”
“Yeah.”
“It was anticlimactic.”
“Oh. That’s kind of depressing.”
“No, it’s just life. Nothing ever happens as fast as you want it to. You’ve got to be patient and keep doing your thing,” he advised. “We came home from our summer tour thinking we made it. What didn’t turn into superstars, but we made progress. And every day it gets better. But who knows what will happen? Maybe you’ll wake up at number one. Just stay positive and…stop torturing yourself.”
I smiled when Tegan’s uplifting advice gave way to exasperation. It was cute.
“It’s what I do. I excel at the art of self-sabotage. Ask my mom. If I bomb, you can be sure she’ll be the first one to say ‘I told you so.’ She’ll choose her words carefully, though. She’ll be kind-ish before she gently suggests that it’s time to throw in the towel and join the family firm. Fuck my life.”
“But it’s your life. The honor of making mistakes or kicking ass is all yours. You wrote those songs to be heard. Not everyone will love what you do, but plenty of people will. You just gotta be right in your own head. Ask yourself if you gave your best. Did you?”
“Of course.”
“You’ll do just fine, then. If you sell a million copies, great. If not, you’ll still learn something.”
Silence.
“Thanks. I needed that,” I said softly.
“You’re welcome. Now go to sleep.”
“I’m an almost rock star, and it’s midnight. My night is just beginning,” I lied, stifling a yawn.
“Have fun, rock god,” he snorted.
“I’m kidding. I’m channel surfing.”
“You mean porn surfing?”
I barked a quick laugh. “No, I get my porn on the internet like everyone else. I was watching that show about hoarders. It made me feel better somehow.”
“You’re a freak. Get your computer and jack off. You’ll feel better, and you’ll sleep better,” he advised sagely.
“Thanks, Dr. Monroe. I’ll report back in the morning.”
“Not necessary. Especially if there’re boobs involved.”
“I watch more dick porn than chick porn. I watched a great locker room scene last night. The coach and the quarterback. Sexy as fuck.”
“Are you really sharing a spank-bank story?”
“Yeah, you want the link?”

My Review:
Tegan Monroe is a drummer for the newly-formed band Zero. He’s out gay and in his late 20s he’s been feuding with a childhood friend Declan McNamara for the last few years. Declan, Tegan, and their friend Justin were all part of a band called Gypsy Coma, which imploded when a love triangle was revealed. Tegan and Declan has been on and off lovers before that, but Justin and the band’s lead singer, Xena, had a spectacularly bad breakup which ended Gypsy Coma.

Justin and Tegan then formed Zero, while Xena went in one direction and Declan formed a band called Jealousy—which was signed by the same indie recording label that signed Zero, Scratch Studios. Despite their recent issues, the history behind Tegan and Declan is a powerful force, and Tegan’s personal struggles cause him to seek out Declan as a favor to his ailing mother. Declan’s trying to avoid getting trapped by his manipulative mother into some kind of scheme that would either reintroduce Xena drama, or cause Declan to drop out of his band, just on the cusp of breaking out in the LA music scene.

To get ahead of the stories and cut off a return to scandal, Declan and Tegan agree to pose as fake boyfriends to build buzz before their upcoming tours. No one knows that they’ve already begun some low-key reconciliations of the hate-sex kind.

This is an interesting twist on the enemies-to-lovers trope by having Declan and Tegan share a long-standing friendship that had already been sexual, before the introduction of all the drama. Pushing the fake boyfriends subterfuge onto them was a good foil to allow them to fully explore what they were already doing—just without the angst of trying to continue with the down-low tactics. These guys have always been attracted to one another, but they were never in the right headspace to build something long lasting. And jealousy, the emotion not Declan’s band, has definitely been an issue.

I like how Declan is so over all the sniping that he’s finally honest about everything. It helps when the spin-doctors start their voodoo to build the buzz. Tegan is definitely suffering, especially because of his mom’s illness, and Declan is strong enough to be the support he needs. The match between them has always been fraught with drama, but this time they decide to let the past stay there and just pick up from where they are. And that made all the difference. Expect some angry-sex morphing into friendship and happier moments before the drama creeps In. It’s a happy ending, and I think it may not be the last connection between Zero and Jealousy, going forward.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM HERE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Now Available! THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER–Excerpt and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance just released from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER features royals, superheroes and intrigue.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the book giveaway.
About the book:
Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.

Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.

But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

My heels clicked in rapid succession as I walked down the centerline of the grand executive hall. It was far afield of the offices on lower floors. It took minutes to get all the way up there, which was why I’d needed to make haste. Left unattended on nights when he would rather have been any place but at his post, the Prince had a tendency to disappear.

The floors were made of marble and their design was quite ornate—a wide white border off to each side, with an elaborate design forming a runway down the middle. It wasn’t a pattern, but a work of art, its geometric pieces reminiscent of stained glass. It gave the sense of walking on a rug made of stone.

Hues from garnet, to ruby, to tawny, to rose made up elements of a palette that swirled and faded to ambers and golds. They complemented magnificent oil paintings of Abarran countryside that lined the grand corridor’s high walls. Spaced-out sitting benches rendered the space worthy of entertaining. Yet, he kept it to himself, and spent most of his time alone.

The downstairs offices were another story. They were filled with six-by-six-foot cubicles configured en masse for the Ministry’s rank and file. Enclosed offices here and there were reserved for mid-level managers: MLMs, as we liked to call them. I inhabited one of the better of these offices—a space in the corner on a higher floor with a not-bad view—though an MLM I was not.

Ostensibly, I was the Head of Internal Affairs, which was exactly her intention—a gross understatement considering my deep involvement with the covert side. Not making that last fact public was by design. My list of responsibilities was too long to name—too long for me to remember most days. Yet, the highest of my duties was to babysit him.

He was Prince Xabier Garrastazu, third in line to the South Abarran throne, son of Prince Frantzisco, nephew to the Queen, and Duke of Brix. He was also the Minister of Powers—the highest-ranking official at this agency and—despite my charge to keep him from making too big a mess out of things, he was—technically—my boss.

“Is he in?” I asked Eusebio, more for his benefit than mine. I knew the Prince’s comings and goings. I had eyes on him at all times. I tried not to roll my eyes as Eusebio made a production of picking up the phone to announce my arrival. The Prince enjoyed forcing me to wait to be let in.

Good.

The more ridiculously childish and infuriatingly vain Prince Xabier, Duke of Brix, chose to be wherever I was concerned, the easier it was to ignore his ridiculous appeal.

“Your Grace.” As usual, I greeted his back, the part of him that always seemed to face me when I walked into his suite. Even from behind, the man was magnificent. Broad shoulders filled out a perfectly tailored button-down made of fine fabric and subtle herringbone design. Today’s shirt—white if you weren’t paying attention—was the faintest of lilac. He was the epitome of a dashing prince.

To be clear, I was paying attention, not only to the way its snug fit showed the definition in his shoulders—to the place where the fabric stopped and his rolled-up sleeves gave way to skin. For all the hard work he didn’t do, there needn’t have been any rolling up of sleeves. In my most outlandish of theories, he did it to torment me.

“Mr. Otxoa,” the Prince greeted blithely, not turning toward me just yet. He stood on a rug in the sitting area with his gaze remained fixed on the fire. His office was a projection of the man himself—pleasantly fragrant, clean to a fault and dripping with style. Tufted wingback chairs with ottomans flanked a matching Chesterfield, all three in a dark teal. Fire glow warmed his features, casting appeal on the planes of his face, flattering the smooth line of his nose and cutting shadows from his diamond jaw.

I stopped at the edge of the rug next to the drink trolley that carried only wine. Its twin at the other end of the Chesterfield was all crystal decanters and spirits. When he turned, I was meant to bow out of deference. This was always the most difficult moment—the one when he first cast his gaze upon me. I faltered at the devastating beauty of his eyes.

“And what have you for me tonight? More documents to sign, no doubt. More supos with powers run rampage?”

He made no secret of the fact that my presence vexed him. Unencumbered by the burden of common birth, the Prince was under no obligation to feign politesse. Logic dictated that his resentment stemmed from me holding him to task. Instinct told me that the sport he made of pushing my buttons was something more.

The Prince finally cast his sapphire gaze upon me and I did bow then, thankful that the deep hue of my skin made it easy to hide my flush. Blood that he could not see rushed to my cheeks and prickled my nose and burned the tops of my ears. If he resented me, I, too, resented him. Training the Prince was not supposed to be so difficult as this.

I just got my review copy of this one, and look forward to sharing details in the coming week.

Interested? You can find THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 ebook copies of THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Kenzie Blades is a queer author of romantic LGBTQ+ fiction and is the alter ego of a multi-award winning author who writes other fiction under a different name. Kenzie lives in San Francisco and enjoys lots of things that start with the letter B, like bacon, bourbon and books.

Catch up to Kenzie on their website, Goodreads, and Instagram.