Besting the Bad Guys: BRICK–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from M. Tasia. BRICK is the first book in her new Fire Lake series set in good ol’ Texas. This odd couple romance features a retired Navy SEAL inadvertently setting up a whole new business operation when he’d only planned to recover and renovate the property he inherited from his great aunt.

About the book:

ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Ahhh, the good life. Goodbye Navy SEALs, hello rehabbing a rundown lake house he inherited. Being a former Lieutenant Commander will come in handy for Brick Matthews. He gets to boss himself around while tearing down a dilapidated shed and re-roofing his new home, among a hundred other things.

First he has to get rid of the smarmy real estate agent who’s been trying to buy the property for years. Sounds easy, until Brick uncovers layers of secrets, including attempted murder.

In the middle of the intrigue is a buttoned-down CEO with amazing blue eyes. Roman Furrow is so far from the type of man who hits Brick’s radar, he doesn’t see what’s coming until it’s almost too late.

Having never given away his heart before, Brick is damn sure not going to let anyone or anything hurt the man he’s fallen for. He’s been trained for this – he’ll protect him with his life.

My Review:

Brick Matthews has returned to Fire Lake, Texas to retire and pay homage to his Great Aunt Sophia–by rehabbing the house she bequeathed him when she died two years before. As a Navy SEAL out on missions, he hadn’t been able to return that often, but he loved Sophia deeply, as she was one of the few people who’d cared about, or for, him as a child.

He’s not pleased when a young woman enters his crumbling home, posing as a realtor, and ready to service any of his “needs” in order to get him to sell. First, he’s gay, and second, he’s not going to sell–not even if a woman’s trying to (poorly) seduce him into it. Turns out, she’s a broke single mom working for the realtor as a secretary, and he’d threatened to fire her and blacklist her through town if she didn’t get Brick to agree to the sale–one the scumbag was trying to arrange for years now. Brick’s lakefront property is highly coveted by his neighbor on the other side of the lake, a deplorable human by the name of Stephan Furrow, former CEO of Furrow and Son Investments.

It seems that Stephan is all about strippers, coke and riding around in his cabin cruiser on Fire Lake. His son, Roman, has him on an allowance, ever since he’d gotten the shares needed to wrest control of their company from his father’s mismanaging hands. Roman is a decent man, and has worked tirelessly, and thanklessly, for the past few years to restore the portfolios of their investment holdings after his lust-hungry father nearly bankrupted them. Some of daddy-dearest’s minions still work for the company, though, and they make trouble happen to see if they can destabilize Roman’s operations. When Brick comes after Furrow and Son for their shady tactics to take over his property, well, Roman is ashamed. He had no knowledge of Stephan’s involvement in coercing the secretary–who Brick has hired to help manage his construction projects.

Meanwhile, a few members of Brick’s old unit need some place to stay and something to do, so he puts them on renovation duty. Soon his house is a bustling place. Well, maybe not exactly bustling, but the bedrooms are filling up. Even has some room for Roman when his car breaks down near the property during a storm. The forced proximity of hiding in a storm shelter breaks open some raw feelings for both Roman and Brick–because they each see the deeply good core of the other during mutual rescue attempts. Beyond that, well, Roman and Brick get to talking. Seems Roman has had an inordinate number of “accidents” that coulda-shoulda incapacitated him. Were these just coincidences? Or, is there a plot to take out Roman, returning power and money into Stephan’s greedy paws.

This was a new-to-me author experience. I’ve read a lot of SEAL romance, and veteran romance, so I thought I’d really enjoy it. I kinda felt as though there was a lot of coincidence that overwhelmed me, giving me the sense that I already knew–or could reasonably anticipate–exactly what was coming next. All the bad guys were too sinister, and all the good guys were too heroic, making them all feel a little one dimensional, and the plot gimmicky. The pace of the romance felt too quick, as well, without sufficient time for Brick and Roman to really develop a lot of chemistry. It seemed like Roman was outstandingly naive, and his father cartoonishly malevolent. This book is a clear set up for the cadre of former SEALs that come to Brick’s aid to later find their own romances. I’m usually okay with that, but I think it was a little heavy-handed in this story. I might try another book in this series, just to see if I got a bad vibe on this one.

Interested? You can find BRICK on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

M. Tasia is an mm romance author who lives in Ontario, Canada. Michelle is a dedicated people watcher, lover of romance novels, 80’s rock, and happily ever afters (once the MCs are put through their paces), who grew up with a love of reading. She’s a firm believer that everyone deserves to have love, excitement, and crazy hot romance in their lives. Love should be celebrated and shared.

Catch up with Ms. Tasia on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Dangerous Ideas for the FAR PATROL– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new LGBTQ YA fantasy adventure from Alex Powell. FAR PATROL takes us on a journey of right versus might in a land where dragons and their human companions have big troubles in a rigid society.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

Will war tear their family and their country apart?

Ignius Lockden and their companion Kathely are ready for adventure. Joining Far Patrol was only going to be the beginning—they were right, but in all the wrong ways. Suddenly, there’s a war on the horizon and the two of them are stuck in the middle. Ignius wants to do what’s right, but it isn’t easy to tell what actions will lead to the correct ending. How is one young dragon supposed to change the course of history?

How about a little taste?

The first thing the dragon remembered seeing was the golden light right beyond the shell in front of them, flickering and lighting up tiny red and silver specks on the surface of their chamber.

It must be time, then.

They scrabbled at the curved inside of the shell, scratching away and scoring the surface. They felt the little nubs of their claws catch on the roughened inner surface. The dragon stopped, waiting to regain their strength. It was tiring work, and presently, the dragon fell asleep again.

They repeated this cycle in longer and longer increments, scratching away at the inside of their chamber. Waiting was over for them, and it was time to emerge. Sleep, wake, sleep.

Again, the light woke them, brighter this time. There were voices outside, and with some excitement, the dragon heard the voice. The one was here. It was definitely time now, and the dragon would stop at nothing to finally greet that voice.

It was a high voice, and it penetrated the shell unlike all the other voices outside. The dragon didn’t care about those ones. They needed to reach the one. Kathely.

The one. Their one.

That voice had started coming a long time since. The moon had cycled countless times, and the dragon knew it well, the voice of the one who spoke to them from outside. That one whispered things to them, told them all about life on the outside. The dragon liked these stories, and even though they couldn’t yet make complete sense of them, the outside called. Kathely was calling, right now.

“Ignius.”

The dragon rocked against the wall of their chamber, pushing as hard as they could. The shell, weakened by their earlier efforts, gave a little under their struggles. It was tiring, but Kathely was there, calling.

“Ignius, you have been Named. It is time to come forth.”

Ignius coiled their tail, lashing it against the weak spot of the shell. Then they struck again as they felt the shell fracture above them. The spikes on their tail made short work of breaking through, and once again, Ignius clawed at the shell, finding the opening. They forced it farther open, lifting their snout to the hole in the shell, taking their first deep breath of air.

They couldn’t see yet, but after a few sneezes to clear their lungs of fluid, they could smell those around them. The nearest person was Kathely, and their one smelled divine, like home.

My Review:

This is the first book in an expected series, as it’s not fully resolved by the end.

Ignius is a dragon who is bonded with his Chosen human, Kathely. Both of these individuals are from the upper class of society and Kathely had talked to Ignius nearly all the days of the seven years it took them to hatch. For the past twelve years Ignius and Kathlely (now 19) were together always and trained on the daily so that Ignius could learn to read, converse and have proper court manners. They are now considered grown enough to find their own path in the world. This world is mainly ruled by upper class dragons, and their human Chosen, but it is run by the smaller middle- and lower-class dragons who maintain the backbreaking underpaid labor that keep the upper class folk in steaming baths, delicious food, and beautiful clothes. These lower-class dragons, and most of the mids, do not have human Chosen, and live in abject squalor, not that the upper class dragons much care. Ignius does not question his place in society, because he’s an upper class dragon and all of his superiors believe themselves to be superior, based on size, color, and lineage.

Ignius’ lineage is one of several in the upper class caste, and his aunt is the head of the Dragon Council that governs their land. Ignius wishes to follow his mother’s lead and be selected to Far Patrol, guardians of the borders of their land. His race of dragon is almost never selected to the North post, due to it’s extreme cold, but Ignius is proud of their placement until he experiences the bitter cold, and their first solo mission becomes a trap for themself and Kathely. Rebels from the lower class wish to raise the hue and cry of their plight, and Ignius is their first pawn in a strategic plan to gain equality.

Ignius is at first outraged, and wounded by Kathely’s frustration with the situation. They need a rescue but the Council is reluctant. It’s a daring situation, that leads Ignius and their friends into peril and punishment. Being sent back to the capital city gives Ignius an unprecedented look into the lives of the middle and lower class dragons, and their sympathies begin to waver. However, the dangerous ideas they are experiencing are nothing compared to the power play their aunt is hatching. It’s clear that politics is not Ignius’ strength, however their sense of right and wrong, their morality, is not undeveloped, and Ignius’ sure the recent political issues will lead their society into war. They want to stop it, but can they?

This was an interesting read, and I think it will be very much appreciated by fans of non-binary and ace fiction as well as lovers of high fantasy. I will admit to struggling at times with the pronoun situation, as Kathely is addressed as “they” like all the dragons were, and that was an anomaly which caused confusion for me. Also, there are SO MANY names and dragons and pairs of dragons + Chosen and names of the dragons houses and the human houses and ACK! It became really hard to keep them straight. Ignius seems to be asexual, as well as non-binary, and has underdeveloped social skills as well. They struggle to manage even the smallest of interpersonal interactions without double-thinking or consulting at least two others. The indecisiveness got a little wearing, especially as the stakes kept growing. It becomes clear that society is unraveling in ways that Ignius and their friends cannot abide, with ancient rites being adopted and cruelty on the regular. It’s time to stand for what is right, and Ignius and their friends position themselves in opposition to their families–for the first time ever. I liked Ignius, but I had not expected this story to be fully narrated by a dragon–not a dragon shifter. It was a bit of a switch for me. If you like fantasy and adventure without a romance arc this is probably a good read for you.

Interested? You can find FAR PATROL on Goodreads and NineStar Press.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Alex is an author of LGBTQ+ romance. They live in northern Canada where it snows six months of the year. Currently, they are pursuing a PhD in English, but that won’t stop them from writing about space vampires or cyberpunk hackers or whatever else pops into their head. Mostly a SFF writer, Alex sometimes dabbles in other genres including contemporary romance.

You can reach out to Alex on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.


Stacked Deck or FIGHTING CHANCE? Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Anni Lee. FIGHTING CHANCE is the first book in a series following a fame-hungry singer-songwriter and the jaded lyricist that falls hard for him.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

How can you write a love song before you’ve felt one?

Roland Finley is convinced he has what it takes to win the Battle of the Bands, a reality TV show where up and coming musicians compete for a record deal. But between college, work, and band practice, he hasn’t had time to experience any of the romance he sings about, and his amateur writing needs a lot of work. This is never more apparent than when a stranger in the park stumbles upon his notebook and tells it exactly like it is.

Jay McClintock wanted nothing to do with this silly reality show, but as the head writer for ALIVE Records, his boss had other plans. After being tasked with writing and coaching one of Roland’s biggest rivals behind the scenes, the only thing keeping him sane is teasing the strange (and low-key talented) young writer he encountered in the park.

Writing for the enemy should have been no big deal, but the more Jay accidentally (and not-so-accidentally) runs into Roland, the harder it is for him to come clean about his involvement with the show. Fortunately, there’s one medium through which they both know how to communicate: Song.

How about a little taste?

My heart was beating in perfect time with the crowd’s applause. Quick, loud, chaotic, completely out of control. A bead of sweat slid down my cheek, caught on my jawline, and dripped off my chin. I didn’t know if it was from my nerves or the heat of the blaring neon lights overhead. I can barely believe we’ve come this far. Would I be here if not for him?

No. Don’t think about him right now. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve a place on this stage with me. He never did. This is my one chance, and I’m not going to screw it up because of him.

I gripped the mic firmly and swallowed hard.

“I hope you’re ready to rock, Los Angeles!”

*

Three Months Ago

“Habanero Marmalade? What kind of a name is that?” Logan shoved another bite of garlic bread in his mouth, mumbling words between chewing.

“It’s the kind of name that people will remember. A little ridiculous, but also…deep. Poignant. Clever.” I leaned forward over the table, and I mentally deconstructed all the signs in the food court to spell our name. Using the Habanero from Habanero Juan’s and the Ma from Mama’s Pizza made for a fairly respectable logo.

“And fucking stupid.”

My guitarist had no class at all, clearly.

“Well, what do you want to call us then? If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”

“How about Death Ringer or Dragon’s Fury or something badass like that?”

“What? No. We’re not a metal band. We’re supposed to sound edgy, not like we eat children.” I stole a piece of garlic bread out of his tray and crushed it between my teeth as a symbolic display of my disappointment. Also, as a less symbolic display of the fact that I couldn’t afford lunch that day. “Look, as the writer and lead singer, I think I know more about what sounds good to people than you do.”

“Whatever, Roland.” Logan waved a hand in the air as if to knock away my self-importance. “You can have all the say you want as soon as you come up with something better than Hot Orange Jelly.”

“Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “But we need to have this settled by Friday if we’re really going to audition for the Battle of the Bands.”

“That’s four whole days away. Plenty of time.” Logan crammed an impressively large spindle of spaghetti into his mouth before he stood to toss out his tray. “All right, back to work.” He ran a hand through his hair and retied his bun to make sure it was neat and kempt enough for the jewelry shop. He was so tall, lean, and good-looking. I could only imagine how many diamonds he sold with his smile alone. Or how many relationships he broke up with a well-placed wink.

He gave me one last grin before he headed back. “The girls’ volleyball team has a game today. Go walk on over and find something more inspiring than your grandma’s pantry.”

Right. Because a bunch of jocks knocking a ball around is so inspiring. But despite my protests, we were going to have to agree on something if we were going to enter this competition. The Battle of the Bands was more than just a silly reality show. It was a chance at a dream in a world convoluted with fellow dreamers. If we could stand out there, we could stand out anywhere. But I needed Logan to take it seriously first. And I needed to figure out a name.

We had been through a couple of names already: Cheese and Cracker (my idea), Log Rol (his idea), Raining Soup (my idea), Dos Vikings (his idea), PIE-tastophic (my idea. In hindsight, I should probably stop coming up with band names while I’m starving). Having had no success with building a fan base doing local gigs, we both agreed that it would be good to get a fresh start for our TV debut. But I swear to God, coming up with names was the hardest part of being an artist.

I shook my head and grabbed my notebook. He was right about one thing, anyway. A walk would do me some good.

I left the mall and strolled back toward campus, cutting through the park on the way. I always liked this park. Birds chirped and whistled in the trees, creating the perfect ambience for deep thinking. Birds were what inspired me to sing in the first place. All those days sitting in my mother’s garden, listening to their high-pitched calls, watching them fly wherever they wanted to go. Their voices were the battle cry of freedom. Singing was freedom.

I glanced at the trees and whistled my best mockingbird call. Almost on cue, a mockingbird took to the sky. It flapped its wings to the music. Beautiful. I whistled again, and it came toward me. Closer. Closer.

Wait a second—too close! The bird swooped down and knocked into me with its wings. My notebook flew from my hands as I instinctively swatted it away. I always forgot that mockingbirds were assholes.

Once the bird flew off, I collected myself and looked for my notebook. A man stood before me, tall, poised, and sophisticated. He had frameless rectangular glasses that sat on a perfect nose, framed with light-brown hair that fell stylishly unkempt around his face. One of his black leather dress shoes sat pointedly atop my open notebook.

He reached down and picked it up. I watched on, dumbfounded, as his sharp blue eyes moved back and forth over the pages.

“Don’t read that—that’s private!” I heard my voice ringing entirely too loudly in the air, causing the remaining nearby birds to scatter. Something about the sky full of fleeing sparrows, surrounding this dark figure, felt like an image out of horror movie. Like he was an evil sorcerer learning all my secrets before promptly taking over the world.

“I can see why.” His voice was deep and smooth. “I wouldn’t want to share this drivel with anyone either.”

“It’s not…” I was too shocked to figure out how to respond. There was months of work in that notebook. My prized lyrics. My potential band names. Hand-scrawled sheet music. Everything that made up my hopes and dreams.

“I’ll shoot right past the goalie of your love. My puck in your net. Points on the headboard… Are you fucking serious?” He shut my notebook and tossed it over his shoulder, shaking his head in disgust all the while. Hearing my lyrics recited out loud was triggering all my fears and insecurities. Who the hell does this guy think he is?

“It’s supposed to be provocative…” I mumbled under my breath, averting my gaze so he couldn’t read the hurt in my eyes. “Th-that’s just the first draft. It was going to get way better before the competition.” I didn’t know why he was being so harsh anyway. Any words would sound like garbage if you said them like that. Any words… Right?

He walked past me with his hands in his pockets, his eyes hidden by the glare of the sun on his lenses.

“Find another hobby. You’re wasting your time.” He gave me one last kick in the heart before he stepped out of earshot. I watched as he walked away.

My Review:

Roland Finley and his best friend-slash-stepbrother Logan have been building their band for years. Both in college and working part-time jobs, Roland is sure that getting a spot on the Battle of the Bands reality show will be their breakout experience. Roland is the vocalist, who also plays keyboards, and Logan plays guitar. They don’t have a big following and their few gigs have all been for family or friends, but Roland has big dreams. He’s working on new songs for the show audition, and is startled to encounter a salty-tongued songwriter in the park near his dorm. Jay McClintock is a legend, the writer behind numerous top-grossing acts, notably Brad Garza, who Roland rather emulates. Jay’s sneering critique of the lyrics in Roland’s notebook is a lightning rod to help Roland write more heartfelt and cohesive lyrics. He and Logan, performing as Fighting Chance, grab one of the four LA-based band spots in the TV show. Along with longtime rivals Dread Theory, fronted by Lance Gold, son of an oil company billionaire and somehow former schoolmates with both Roland and Logan.

Jay McClintock is a man of secrets. He’s been raised under an alias after his family was murdered, but he’s become a notable songwriter, rising among the ranks at ALIVE Records. He’s made few friends over the years, though he and Brad are close–once lovers but better as friends. He’s not sure why Roland is so appealing, but he’s sure it’s only a whim. After all, his juvenile lyrics won’t get him into the competition. And, even if they do, well, Jay has been contracted by his company to write the songs Dread Theory will sing for the competition. Yeah, reality TV is a sham, when his own record company is just using it as a springboard for a rich man’s son to build an audience before the record launch. Yet, Jay’s intrigued further and further when Roland’s songs become more and more deep, and garner his professional as well as personal respect. He’d planned to toy with the kid a bit, but now, well, Roland’s fresh sound and virginal naivete call to Jay on a primal level.

This is a mostly fun and breezy rock romance, with some deeper currents relating to Jay’s backstory of violence. BRad makes some cameos, urging Jay to take his feelings seriously, even as Jay fears Roland’s response if he learns that Jay’s been providing the fuel for his biggest rival to steal his dream. And, well, the sex is both risky and amazing. Roland is an unqualified novice in nearly everything, and definitely relishes Jay’s attention and his expertise. They connect in ways Roland hardly dared to imagine, giving away all his firsts without a second thought. I liked Roland a lot, he’s peppy and sweet, the opposite of Jay, giving Jay the opportunity to display his softer underbelly–if infrequently. Logan and Brad can see the connection, however, once they’re all out in the open together, before Jay or Roland reveal their relationship.

The competition is fierce, but Fighting Chance is not going down without giving it their all–even after Jay’s behind-the-scenes activity becomes apparent to Roland. What he didn’t expect was the depth of his own feelings for Jay, nor the depth of Jay’s losses, and what fuels his own creative streak. The story ends with a Happy For Now, and a tease that Jay’s dark past with take center stage in the next book. I liked the rock romance part of the story, but felt the witness protection storyline was weak, by comparison. And, honestly, when did Roland and Logan attend class? These “college students” did nothing college-related but sleep in a dorm. For me that was an oversight which could have ramped up some tension, or fed into the growing fan base to prop these guys up.

Interested? You can find FIGHTING CHANCE on Goodreads and NineStar Press.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

You can reach out to Lane on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Jock + Nerd = Romance! RULES OF PLAY– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. RULES OF PLAY is the second book in her new The Script Club series, and features a literal rocket scientist falling hard for his childhood crush–a jock friend of his older brother. You can catch my review for the first book in the series, FOLLOWING THE RULES, but this one is fine read as a standalone, too.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.

About the book:

The genius, the mechanic, and a new playbook…

George-

My brother’s friend is hot. If you’re into flannel-wearing lumbersexual former jocks who eat donuts for dinner and still scribble to-do lists on their palms. I’m not. I’m a serious scientist in my final of grad school. Okay, I admit I have few quirks of my own. I also have a broken truck and a boss who thinks I can help him find love. I’m in over my head. Help!

Aiden-

A few quirks? Really? George the weirdest dude I know. He wears capes in public, brings a book everywhere he goes, and loves all thing spooky. He’s also the smartest person on the planet—who somehow thinks I can help him write a How-To-Get-A-Date playbook for his boss. Yeah, that sounds suspicious. I know baseball; I don’t know anything about love. But I can’t say no. I’ve always had a soft spot for George. I just didn’t count on falling for my best friend’s nerdy brother. This is against the rules, isn’t it?

Rules of Play is an MM bisexual awakening story where opposites attract and shenanigans ensue!

How about a little taste?

“The Script Club?”

I grimaced. “Well, yeah. That name came later.”

“You really are a little weirdo, aren’t you?”

The twinkle in Aiden’s eyes and his affectionate tone paired with an unlikely term of endearment were exactly what I needed to pull me from my infatuation-induced awkwardness.

I smacked his biceps playfully, then leaned against his side, staring up at the crescent moon in the twilight sky. “I am weird and I am proud.”

Aiden chuckled. “I like that about you. I like your idea too. It’s a good one. I should get in on that and collect a few new experiences before I quit the garage and move on to my next venture.”

“What would you do? I mean, what would you want to try?”

“I don’t know. Maybe something will come to me.” He set the half-eaten container of meatballs down and reached for his beer. “As for your boss…he needs a rule book.”

I shifted to face him. “What kind of rule book?”

“A dating rule book. It would be the equivalent of a sports playbook…a list of strategies and a backup plan if things go awry.”

“Okay, that makes sense. Step one, ask for a date.”

Aiden shook his head. “No. Don’t go in hot. Gotta practice a little finesse. It’s better to get to know someone—ask about their interests, share yours, and see if there’s anything there. Theoretically, that’s how I think it should work.”

“You’re right. They have to build a rapport.” I squinted. “He’s going to need an icebreaker.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Hit me with your best shot.”

“Uh…what do you mean?” I stammered.

“Pretend you’re into me and you want to get to know me.” Aiden quirked a brow and wiggled his fingers. “Ask me something.”

“What are your interests?”

He made an obnoxious buzzer noise and rolled his eyes. “Wrong. That’s a date question. A lame one, too. Would you really walk up to someone and ask them what they’re into?”

“No, of course not.”

“Redo. You’re trying to get to know me, but you can’t be too forward, and you can’t make assumptions. Got it?” He waited for my nod of agreement and continued. “Pretend we’re standing at the coffee machine at work on a Monday morning. And…action.”

“O-kay…what did you do last weekend?”

Aiden smiled. “Good one. And my answer…not much. I went to that college ball game I told you about last week, watched a lot of basketball, made arrangements to schlep your Bronco here, and played pool with Kenny and a couple of high school buddies. You?”

“I studied and hung out with my friends.”

He stared at me long enough for me to wonder if I had meatball between my teeth.

“If that’s all you have to say, you just killed this conversation,” he deadpanned.

I chuckled. “I did not. It was your turn to ask <em>me</em> something. That’s how it works in real life. I’m not that big of a dork!”

“But what about your boss?”

Good point. “Newton is a big dork. Very big.”

“Right, so this is where rules come into play. You have to pay attention and take hints and clues to heart. Almost everything I mentioned about my weekend had a theme…sports. I told you what I’m interested in without announcing, ‘I like sports.’ If you really wanted to get in my pants, you’d ask me a sports-related question.”

I shot to my feet, whirling my cape like a true badass. “Who said anything about getting in your pants?”

Yes, I was entirely in favor of the idea, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t said it aloud.

“Isn’t that the end game?” Aiden flashed a devilish grin my way.

“No! I mean, maybe for you, but not for Newton. I don’t think he’s hoping for sex.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Love!”

Aiden widened his eyes comically. “What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed in defeat, reclaiming my spot on the stoop next to him. “That’s why this is complicated.”

My Review:
George is the youngest child in his family. His two older brothers were huge jocks–Simon even played pro football before concussions sidelined him. And, Simon’s best friend Aiden has been the star of many a nighttime–and daytime–fantasy for George since forever. Aiden played football with Simon and baseball with their eldest brother, but George never got into “sportsball,” always sitting on the sidelines while his brothers played, usually wearing a cape, and always reading a book. George didn’t fancy himself a superhero, he was more goth/vampire inspired, and is a bit high on the socially awkward scale, with a low tolerance for peopleing. George is bisexual, but he leans more toward men than women in his sexual attraction.

George really adored how Aiden would stand up for him, like his brothers, whenever idiot jocks would pick on him. He’s a grown man now, working on his graduate degree in aeronautics and trying not to lean on his folks for help, so when his ancient truck breaks down, George is happy to oblige Aiden who suggests a creative way to pay for the repairs.

Aiden’s nearing 30 and wants more than working as a grease monkey for his homophobic uncle. He’s always loved athletics, and has been quietly taking courses that will help him become a scout for baseball teams. He even has some rudimentary algorithms put together to make this more structured, but he wants George’s mathematics brain to look over his calculations in order to confirm he’s on the right track. George is a little overwhelmed, with his internship and school–especially now that his incredibly awkward boss wants tips on how to woo a co-worker who’d made play for George. He isn’t really interested in her–a mutual feeling–but it’s convenient to claim he has a boyfriend to get his boss off his back, except now the boss thinks the “boyfriend” can also help him in his romantic quest.

So, George and Aiden spend a lot of time together, fixing the truck and watching baseball games, to help Aiden’s mission to become a scout. It’s quiet nights sharing the meals George’s mom delivers and moments of absolute discovery as Aiden confesses his own unrequited attraction for the shy but beautiful man George has grown into.

This is a sweet New Adult romance with lots of playfulness, and the expected family struggles, as George attempts to keep his fling with Aiden on the down-low to not upset Simon. I liked how this echoed the tension from FOLLOWING THE RULES, where Simon was keeping his interest in Topher–George’s good friend and housemate–on the super down-low. Aiden’s personal life is definitely changing, but in ways he’s ready to embrace as he finally follows his own path and becomes the man he’s strived to be. There are some dirty firsts, flirty moments, and caped crusades in this one, and I really enjoyed them all. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find RULES OF PLAY 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 loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards.

She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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


Knowing Where the Bodies Lay–SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG is the fourth book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I’m a huge fan! Previous titles include: MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE, SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE, and MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE, and this episode has Ellery Page, bumbling bookseller and outsider in a small town, caught in another mystery when one of his eccentric clients asks him to look into the ghoul that’s been terrorizing her. I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT and I BURIED A WITCH if you’re interested in magical realism M/M odd-couple romance from this author.

Scandal at the Solty Dog coverAbout the book:

Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove

Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.

My Review:
Screenwriter and former actor Ellery Page is finally settling into quaint but active Pirate’s Cove. He’s got himself a steady beau in Police Chief Jack Carson, even though Jack is continually challenged by Ellery’s penchant for getting caught up in murder plots in real life. They seem to have a truce on Ellery making unauthorized investigations–especially since the last time netted the criminal plus a cracked skull. Ellery’s just getting over his concussion when another mystery seems to be knocking on his door.

Miss Juliet Blackwell is an elderly woman and life-long resident of Pirate’s Cove. She is a spinster and peculiar, never letting people into her spacious, though now-crumbling, mansion. Ellery was asked to deliver some of her new book purchases, and while there he hears Miss Blackwell screaming in terror. He’s not terribly well, but he is able to climb through an open window and rescue Juliet who had a nasty fall and is terrified the ghost of her pirate ancestor has finally come a-calling to take her home to rest. Thing is, Ellery was sure another person was in Juliet’s home at the time of her “attack” though she later denies seeing anyone.

On a side note, a fellow Scrabbler, Libby, is filling in for her injured father, Tom, running their family tavern and boarding house, the Salty Dog Inn. Libby is a just 18, and she’s had some upsets with her dad taking sick and her last boyfriend getting into big legal trouble, so Ellery is pretty sure Libby’s reports of theft from her bar and kitchen are just borne out of pressure and exhaustion. However, his promise to quietly investigate lead to further mayhem. And, Jack is feeling decidedly salty about Ellery doing anything remotely dangerous, or sleuth-y, since the debacle at the Bloodworth crypt a few weeks back.

This is a fast-paced mystery that really digs deeper into to history of Pirate’s Cove, as well as that of its enigmatic citizens. I loved the scandal, as well as the cave explorations–a tunnel system that dates back to the pirate age and has been in continuous use for sometimes-nefarious dealings. Jack is stellar as a foil to Ellery, who really IS trying to not get murdered, or injured, this book. They made a sweet couple in investigation as well as back home. It was awesome to see a peek behind Jack’s tough exterior, and I’m very much looking forward to watching him and Ellery fall deep into love in future stories.

It’s a little less dramatic than the previous books, in that the death doesn’t come at the beginning of the story. Ellery’s a champ throughout, and his compassion–even for his biggest enemies–is really astounding. I flew through this story, much like the previous books in this series, and I recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries, especially those starring LGBTQ characters.

Interested? You can find SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Dangerous Guests MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE is the third book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I just adored it! Like MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE and SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE, Ellery Page, bumbling bookseller and outsider in a small town is caught in another mystery when there’s a murder during a masquerade party and the prime suspect is a young man who’s fallen hard for Ellery.  I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT and I BURIED A WITCH if you’re interested in magical realism M/M odd-couple romance from this author.

Mystery at the Masquerade coverAbout the book:

Love is in the Salt Sea Air–and So is Murder!

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood. Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery

My Review:
Screenwriter and former actor Ellery Page is finally settling into quaint but active Pirate’s Cove. He’s got himself an unexpected invitation for the party of the season, a masquerade ball at the Bloodworth house–one of the many pirate mansions dotting the cove. It turns out that Julian Bloodsworth-Ainsley is a big fan of Ellery, finding him both mature and attractive, and he wanted a chance to spend some time with Ellery that could be fun and lead to frisky times. Though Ellery is a bit smitten with Police Chief Jack Carson, it doesn’t seem that Jack is ready to make any true advances, due to his long-standing heartbreak and fear of commitment. Besides, Jack’s pretty busy investigating the rash of burglaries that have been plaguing the grand houses and wealthy of Pirate’s Cove for the past few months.

Flattered by Julian’s attention, Ellery mostly enjoys the masquerade, until Julian’s uncouth and mean stepfather turns up dead. While the man’s mistress and wife are both suspects it’s also Julian that Jack has his eye on–after finding the body and messing up the crime scene. Ellery feels terrible for Julian, because he believes the young man is being set up, and Jack seems pretty resolute on developing a case against Julian. And, of course, Ellery is still plagued by the editor of the local paper, who thinks that it’s Ellery’s activity which deserves far more scrutiny.

I loved how Ellery is now becoming a man of the town in his own right. His friends are all in his corner, and his eye for detail is definitely a point in this amateur sleuth’s favor. He’s willing to go the extra mile for his friends, new and old, and it shows in all his actions. I love that he finally takes on the editor of the paper, and stands up to Jack for Julian’s sake when it’s necessary. His bookshop is a hub of fellow sleuthers–though they are more overt than Ellery, who, more often than not, stumbles into scenes and clues as opposed to LOOKING for a mystery to solve.

This case leave a lasting mark on Ellery, one that gives both him and Jack pause. Recognizing (again for Jack) the shortness of life spurs them both on to becoming a bit more serious. Don’t expect steam, it’s a cozy mystery with a dash of a romance.

I flew through this story, much like the previous books in this series, and I recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries, especially those starring LGBTQ characters.

Interested? You can find MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Animated Love ELEMENTAL RIDE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal romance from Mell Eight. ELEMENTAL RIDE features bikers, elemental sprites, and danger, but seems to be a standalone…for now.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Rawley isn’t the type to crush hard and fast on anyone, but he’s helpless when it comes to Reign, the new mail carrier. Even his bikes and his job as enforcer for a local motorcycle gang, the center of his world, don’t compare to his interest in Reign. Unfortunately, Reign doesn’t seem to be as interested—but secrets and magic have a way of turning everything upside down and Rawley discovers he not only loves one man, he loves four.

How about a little taste?

Apparently, the doorbell worked. Not much else in the apartment complex did, but as the damn thing buzzed its loud vibrating hive of angry bees clamoring a second time, Rawley quickly understood why. The thing was so frigging annoying that it was likely never used, thereby saving it from the continual decay the rest of the place exhibited.

It was far too early for those thoughts though. Rawley groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face while levering his body off his rumpled bed and stumbling toward the door. A glance at the clock over the oven on his way past told him it was only eight thirty in the morning. Since he hadn’t gotten to bed until after six, it was pretty damned early to him.

When Rawley threw the door open, no one was there. He blinked stupidly at the empty space and then carefully leaned out and glanced down the hall with the lone, blinking light bulb overhead.

A guy glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Rawley’s door opening and quickly spun on his heel to hurry back. He was wearing a uniform, Rawley saw immediately, and it set him on his guard. Cops weren’t a welcome presence here. Then he noticed the Sylph Post logo on the breast—an artistic logo that, should Rawley twist his head just right, could read Swift Post instead—with a nametag clipped below it that read Reign. He lifted an incredulous eyebrow. Sylph Post was basically the USPS, but was privately owned. Anyone who didn’t trust the USPS or thought Sylph was faster or cheaper went with Sylph instead. Since Sylph had access to mailboxes and also shipped packages, a lot of people used them. Rawley liked not having a government organization going through his letters or coming to knock on his door, so he used Sylph almost exclusively. Still, he hadn’t expected to see one of their employees at his door.

“Mail hasn’t been delivered here in over two weeks,” Rawley drawled. He had stupidly left his gun in the drawer of his bedside table, but it wasn’t difficult to summon a fire sprite to the hand he hid behind his back.

“I know,” the courier gushed, his blue eyes wide and guileless. He held out a brown square package toward Rawley. “I’m Reign, your new Sylph deliveryman. I ended up filling your mailbox with everything else and couldn’t get this in.” The shipping label said it belonged to the supplier Rawley had ordered a part from over a week ago.

He glanced back at Reign, who was grinning uncertainly, his dirty blond hair a little too long under his official hat. That grin started to fade slightly under Rawley’s nonplussed stare, but he still resolutely held the package out. Rawley let the fire sprite fade away before slowly reaching forward to take the package. Nothing happened except the man’s grin returning at full force. He nodded politely to Rawley.

“Have a good day, sir,” Reign said before turning and heading back down the hall and to the staircase that led out of the building.

Rawley stepped back so he could close his apartment door and walked over to his small kitchen table to set the box down. He hunted up a box cutter to slash the tape holding the package shut and carefully tipped it so the packing peanuts spilled across the plastic tabletop. He half expected a trapped sprite to erupt from the box as the peanuts were rearranged, and he was more than prepared for anything that might attack him, but instead he only found the custom side panels he was adding to a customer’s crotch rocket.

Maybe Reign really had been a mail carrier?

If Rawley’s apartment was a piece of crumbling shit, the surrounding neighborhood was far worse. This was gang territory. If you didn’t have a motorcycle and came strolling through this block, you were liable to end up lynched. A couple of blocks over were a bunch of water sprite wackos; only people who held one or more water sprites under their skin were welcome. Was the guy dumb enough to deliver the mail there too? Rawley hoped not. Those big blue eyes didn’t deserve to be darkened by a violent death.

Rawley shook his head to clear those thoughts away. It wasn’t any of his business what happened to the mail carrier, no matter how pretty Reign was. Rawley took one last look at the peanuts and the side panels strewn across his kitchen table, mentally shrugged, and decided to fuck it all until he had enough sleep to actually be thinking straight again. He stumbled back across the room and gratefully dropped onto his bed. Rawley pulled the blanket up to his chin and let sleep take over.

My Review:

Rawley is a bike mechanic for his motorcycle gang in a treacherous city. This is a land of humans, though sprites of all elements also live here. Rawley is host to all four elemental types of sprite: air, fire, water and earth, keeping the various sprites sequestered to different areas of his body. Having these sprites in his skin gives Rawley powers that enable him to be a big bad biker, and keep from being attacked.

In this treacherous area the mail is not regularly delivered, so Rawley has a private service–which is also irregular. He hasn’t had a delivery in weeks, but suddenly Reign appears being all cute and capable and bearing packages. Rawley is unexpectedly attracted, and it seems like Reign might also be interested–but the next time he sees “Reign” his eye color is different and he’s going by the name Leif. Is he the same man? Or is Rawley meeting someone with elemental poisoning?

This is such an engaging and creative story–that seems to have a future as Rawley and Reign/Leif (among others) find common ground, escape evil scientists and discover a new area to settle the bike gang into. I was totally intrigued by Reign’s mysterious origins, as well as his sad story. I loved how Rawley and Reign bonded over puppy love, and finding unexpected partnership as they navigate difficult living environments.

I would gladly read on if more stories are coming.

Interested? You can find ELEMENTAL RIDE 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:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

You can catch up with Mell on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

The Right Place for a SEA LOVER–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from J.K. Pendragon. SEA LOVER is a standalone story featuring a trans fisherman in Canada who finds an injured merman on the beach by his home, and rescues him. If you’d like to read more from this author, check out JUNIOR HERO BLUES, which is a fun LGBTQ YA superhero romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $50 GC.
About the book:
Ian is happy with his life in a remote Canadian fishing town, where he has only the sea and his fishing crew for company. People say being alone is terrible, but he’s never had any problems with it.

Then his peaceful life is thrown into upheaval when he finds an injured merman washed up on the shore. With no idea what else to do, Ian takes the merman home and nurses him back to health.

But as he helps S’mika heal, a bond begins to form, and Ian starts to wonder if maybe there is more to life than being alone…

How about a little taste?

He found the merman on the beach as the sun was setting orange over the horizon and the waves were turning a deep green with foamy, silver tips. The tide was going out, and every time the waves washed over the body lying prone in the surf, they took swirls of dark blood with them.

Ian’s first thought was that it must be a seal, injured and washed up on the beach. He resolved to come back in the morning, drag the thing up to his cottage, and burn it so it didn’t rot and stink to high heaven for the next couple of weeks. But as he got closer, another wave washed in and rolled the figure up and over, so that it was lying on its back. As it rolled, Ian saw a long, spindly arm drop to the side and a mess of shiny, black hair.

He dropped the net and tackle he was carrying and ran, his heavy fishing boots sinking into the sand and catching on the rocks and seaweed as he sprinted towards the figure. He fell to his knees at the man’s side as the waves washed up over his body once more and was distracted for a moment, frantically checking vitals before he glanced over and saw the tail.

Ian sat back on his knees and gave a weak laugh. It had to be a joke. Some very realistic art project that had befallen unfortunate circumstances. But then the figure breathed and convulsed forward, coughing and spitting. Ian stared as the man, or boy—he didn’t look older than twenty—frantically pulled himself over onto his side and pressed his head to the sand, gagging. Then his face tightened, and he made a keening, painful noise, before glancing down at the thick, blubbery, black tail.

Without thinking, Ian lunged forward. “Don’t move,” he said hoarsely, and the boy looked up at him, his dark eyes showing no sign he understood what Ian was saying. His hair and skin were both dark, too, and Ian wondered briefly if the tail was some sort of cultural attire. Or maybe there was a movie filming in the area that he hadn’t heard about? Then he decided that it didn’t matter, because the boy was obviously badly injured, and he needed to get whatever it was off. He reached for his knife at his side and swore when he realised he’d left it in the bag with his tackle.

“Shit. Lie back.” He gently pushed on the boy’s shoulders so he understood. The boy complied, lying back with another whine of pain as Ian moved his hands down his torso, desperately trying to find the place where the brown skin met black pelt. He couldn’t.

“What is this?” he asked, flabbergasted. “How do I get it off?”

He glanced up in time for the boy to make a twisted face. The boy opened his mouth, obviously frustrated, and let out another high-pitched cry, followed by a noise that was halfway between a growl and a bark. Then his head whipped back, and he convulsed again, bringing the full weight of his tail up, and Ian saw the injury—a gash, deep enough to cut through the muscle and possibly tendons. It was difficult to see the depth of the injury, because blood was gushing up out of it as he thrashed.

The blood spattered Ian in the face, and he wiped at it, stunned. This was not normal. Being a fisherman meant he had to be able to handle himself in tense and stressful situations, and usually he was great at it, but this…? This was something else.

“Hey,” he said sharply as the boy writhed on the blood-soaked sand, obviously in terrible pain. “You need to stop moving. You’re only going to make it worse. Do you understand me?”

He didn’t know what he was going to do. He couldn’t possibly carry him, and trying to move him would only make things worse. He had his cell phone on him, but there was absolutely no reception out here. He should go and get help. Get his truck and drive it into town, letting emergency services know. But what would they do with something like this? Ian stared at the limp tail on the sand, blood gushing out of the warm, velvety, and obviously very real tail. His mind was in a fog, and all he could think about were news crews and scientists and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The boy was looking up at him now, his eyes glazing over a little.

“I-I’m gonna be back,” Ian stammered, standing jerkily. “Stay here.”

He ran the rest of the way home, not bothering to pick up the net and tackle he’d left on the ground, not letting himself think about anything until he’d jumped up into the seat of the old Chevy pickup and revved the engine. He stared at his wild eyes in the review mirror for a moment, wondering if he was going crazy. Then he put the truck into gear and screeched out of the driveway.

The seal-boy wasn’t moving when he got back. Ian drove the truck up next to him on the beach, tires skidding in the soft sand, and jumped out to check on him. His eyes were shut, the silvery sand coated his face and body, and his skin was cold and clammy. But he was still breathing. Ian got up again, pulling his heavy raincoat off as he lowered the tailgate. Then he went to the boy and wrapped the raincoat around him, moving his arms into position and rolling him onto the coat and into a bundle.

He staggered a little as he lifted. He was strong, but the boy was deadweight, and the tail was ridiculously heavy. The bleeding seemed to have slowed, and Ian hoped it wasn’t because he had bled out completely. He dropped the prone body onto the tailgate and jumped up to roll him onto his back again, checking for vitals. He was still alive, breathing shallowly, but Ian didn’t know if he was going to make it. Normally, he’d apply a tourniquet to the limb, but in this case, that didn’t seem to be an option.

He swore and pulled the tailgate shut, jumping over the side of the truck bed and hurtling himself into the cab. He tried to drive carefully, but he knew it wasn’t going to matter how gentle the ride was if the boy bled out before Ian could get at him with his medical supplies.

The sun had set completely by the time he pulled up to his cottage, and the porch light flicked on as he hurriedly unlocked the door and let himself in, swatting at the mosquitoes buzzing around him. He grabbed at the old striped couch, dragging it around so it could be easily accessed from the door, and then rifled through a cupboard, pulling out the old, dusty first aid kit.

When he got back out to the truck and lowered the tailgate, the boy was awake again, staring at him with glazed, frightened eyes.

“Come on,” said Ian in what he hoped was a gentle voice. He reached out and slid the raincoat forward, hauling the whole bundle up into his arms. The boy groaned, his voice sounding more human now, and distinctly pained, and Ian carried him into the house.

He kicked the door shut behind him and deposited the boy as gently as he could onto the couch. His hands were bloody again—Ian noticed as he fumbled for the light switch, illuminating the room with dusty, orange light that definitely wasn’t bright enough. Next to the couch, there was an old end table with a lamp, and he grabbed for it, fumbling to knock the shade off and set it up next to the tail, which was drooping off the couch and oozing blood onto the hardwood floor.

“Okay,” he said as he reached for the first aid kit. “It’s been a few years since med school. How many…five? I dropped out too.” He gave a hoarse little laugh. The boy was looking down at him through groggy eyes, and Ian knew he didn’t understand a word he was saying. But talking helped. “Not that I have any idea how to patch this up anyway,” he continued, pulling on his gloves hurriedly and opening a package of sterilized wipes. “I was trained to treat humans. And I’m guessing you are not that. This is gonna hurt, by the way.” A morphine drip would be nice. So would a sterile hospital bed. But this was as good as it was going to get.

The boy hissed as Ian wiped the wound clean, and when Ian pulled out a needle and cotton thread, he lifted his arms and tried to sit up.

“No!” said Ian sharply, raising a hand, and the boy sank back down, his eyes wide in a mixture of anger and fear. Ian finished sterilizing the needle and thread and held them out to show him. “I’m going to stitch the wound shut. I need to, okay? Or it’ll keep bleeding.”

The boy didn’t look reassured.

“I’m trying to help you,” said Ian firmly, eyes locked with him. “You need to trust me.”

“Trust me,” repeated the boy, so accurately that, for a moment, Ian thought he must speak English after all. He looked like he was thinking hard, which must have been difficult, considering the amount of pain and blood loss he’d suffered. Then he glanced down at the wound and back at Ian.

Ian took that for permission and started stitching. The boy was quiet as he did it, and Ian was worried he’d fallen asleep again. It was best he stay awake, at least until Ian could get some water into him. But when he glanced up, the boy was staring at him, flinching only slightly as the needle pierced the flesh.

“I’m Ian,” said Ian, touching his hand quickly to his chest. “I-an.”

“Ian,” said the boy, emphasizing the an a little too much. His voice was clear, and surprisingly deep, considering how young he looked. “Sss…” he said, and broke off into a hiss as Ian tightened and tied off the first stitch. “S’mika.”

“Smika?” mumbled Ian, wiping away a trickle of blood and pulling another stitch through.

The boy frowned at him. “S—” He made a glottal stop. “—mika.”

“S’mika,” said Ian, and laughed a little at how ridiculous this was. “What are you, S’mika?”

S’mika rattled off something in a language that Ian was absolutely certain he’d never heard before, but S’mika’s tone suggested he’d said something like “I can’t understand you, dumbass.”

Ian shook his head and continued working, his hands thankfully steady. S’mika groaned and lay back, and Ian quickly tied off the last stitch and moved up to check on him. He was shaking, and the skin around his mouth was dry and crusted white. A hand on his forehead confirmed he was clammy and feverish.

“Damn it,” said Ian, and he stood and rushed to the sink to pour a glass of water. He brought it back to S’mika, who looked at it, confused. “Like this,” said Ian, taking a drink of the water.

After watching carefully, S’mika took the glass in shaky hands and brought it to his lips. He made a face at it, as if it wasn’t acceptable somehow, before downing the whole glass and passing it back to Ian. Ian took it, feeling like he was the one in shock, and went back to bandaging the wound. “We need to elevate your…um, legs,” he said, once he’d finished taping the gauze to the soft pelt. “It’ll help with the blood loss.”

S’mika looked annoyed that he was talking so much, so Ian shut up, and S’mika let him lift his tail gently onto the arm of the couch. He’d never been too up close and personal with a seal, but he was pretty sure this was a seal tail. It was thick and blubbery, ending in two stunted flippers with claws. “I must be high out of my fucking tree,” he muttered. “Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and this’ll all have been a really weird dream.”

He glanced at S’mika to see that his eyes were closed again, and Ian decided to leave him like that. If he died in the night…well, Ian would deal with that if it came to it. He suddenly felt incredibly tired. He’d been up before dawn and pulled a long day, and although he’d just celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday a month ago, he was starting to feel the wear and tear of hard living in his bones.

“I’m going to bed,” he said, gesturing at the door to the bedroom. “Call me if you need me.”

S’mika just looked at him, eyes heavy, but reassuringly a little more alert. “Ian,” he said, and Ian supposed that meant “Thank you.”

My Review:

Ian is a trans fisherman who is trying to figure out his life. He’d been in medical school, but with all the treatment for his transition he didn’t feel comfortable any longer. He loves the sea and has moved to a remote cottage to pause and ponder how best to move forward with his life. Ian’s coming into his own working for a boat owner, Mike, and on a crew that sometimes spends days at sea fishing. While doing some shore fishing he finds an injured body on the beach, and is shocked to discover it’s a merman. Ian rushes the merman to his home, calling upon his rusty medical training.

S’mika is unwelcome in the sea. He broke his ranks, loving another merman despite his assigned role as a fisherman for a stronger merman. There is an unique hierarchy to his life, and wanting more than his station allowed meant that he was cast out–violently, it seems. Ian is able to nurse him back to health between fishing trips, and S’mika is both a fast learner (of language and customs from the TV) and good company for lonely Ian.

This novella brought back images of the movie “Splash” from my childhood, but with a different context. S’mika’s emotional journey into adapting to life on land was interesting, as was Ian’s transition from lonely curmudeon to caring partner. S’mika is a hoot, giving Ian what-for about his limited social life, and being generally playful and engaging, coaxing out a happier side to Ian

It’s a totally interesting read with great mer-person details, and a happy ending I’d be interested to explore further.

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

 

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

You can catch up with J.K. on Instagram, and twitter.

Hockey Romance! TOP SHELF Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M hockey romance from the writing team of RJ Scott and VL Locey. TOP SHELF is the first book in their new Boston Rebels series. A pro hockey player comes out–under duress–but now that he’s living his truth can he be brave enough to finally act on his longtime crush?

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $10 GC or some backlist books.

About the book:

Acting on the attraction to his best friend’s brother has always been off the table for Xander until a passionate hookup with Mason at a beach resort begins a love affair that burns long after summer ends.

Mason specializes in assisting same-sex couples on their journey to becoming parents and fighting every rule that blocks his way in the stuck-in-the-past agency that hired him. Living in his brother’s pool house is rent-free, and every cent he earns he saves for his dream—that one day he’d have his own company helping others. The downside is that he has to see his annoying brother every day, the upside is that his brother’s teammates from the Boston Rebels make regular visits. The eye candy that passes Mason’s window is almost enough to make him consider dating a hockey player, but not just any player though. Ever since Xander—his brother’s childhood friend—came out as gay at a press conference, Mason’s puppy love has turned into a burning attraction he can no longer ignore.

Hockey has been one of Xander’s main focuses since he was old enough to balance on skates. Well, hockey and Mason Kingsley, but Mason was always unattainable. Now that he’s about to see thirty candles on his birthday cake and is no longer hiding the fact he’s gay, he’s ready to find a soul mate to make his life complete. A summer vacation is just what he needs to have time to think, but when the Boston Rebels arriving in paradise with Mason in tow, thinking is the last thing he needs. One torrid night under a balmy moon and rules about not messing with his best friend’s brother vanish on a warm, tropical breeze.

Summer romances don’t generally last past Labor Day, but with the new season about to begin Xander and Mason are going to have to face the world and decide if their love is real enough to withstand everything.

How about a yummy taste?

“Thanks. That means a lot.” I got a little emotional. Eli gave my shoulders a squeeze.

“It’s great that you’re willing to toss the gloves for me but maybe you should let me handle any instigators. Remember the last time you threw down with Adler Lockhart? The dude whipped you like a rug.”

Eli made that pig-like snort sound. “In my defense, he caught me unaware with some stupid joke about a rabbit, a priest, and minister walking into a bar. While I was trying to figure out whether he meant rabbit or rabbi, he sucker punched me in the face.”

“Dude, that was no sucker punch. People in the rafters saw it coming.”

Eli tugged me into his chest. We bro hugged for a long time then we broke apart. “We better get to that meeting, but we’re not done discussing this. And don’t ever hide shit from me again. We made a blood pact.”

I smiled. The first smile to grace my face in days. “I won’t do it again.”

My Review:

Xander Holden is a top defenseman on the Boston Rebels professional hockey team. He’s also a closeted bisexual man. He has never had a long term relationship, but he’s lived a very discreet life and he’s supremely upset that one small tryst leads him to come out publicly–to avert a scandal or blackmail. Xander has a lot of friends on his team–some of whom are queer. His very best friend, Eli Kingsley, is a little miffed that Xander never confided in him, but he’s going to be even more hacked off if he finds out that Xander has a long-time crush on his younger brother, Mason.

Mason Kingsley is an out and proud gay man, who is just opening a new adoption agency–one that specializes in helping queer couples adopt. Mason has known Xander his whole life, and has definitely been half in love with him since adolescence. All grown, and helping to plan the ultimate 30th birthday getaway for Xander, Eli and himself in the Caribbean, Mason is hard-pressed to not admit his deep and strong attraction.

This is a sweet romance that has a bit of hockey, mostly because we spend a lot of time with the team, who all show up for the getaway. Their season ends abruptly and they are unhappy about it, but Xander feels like the spotlight is definitely on him. His spirit is wounded, and Mason’s sexy shenanigans are a fun distraction. Well, until Xander recognizes that he really adores Mason as more than his bestie’s “kid” brother. Now, Xander wants way more than just the fling Mason offers–he wants everything Mason is willing to give him. Mason’s dreams of a whole life together with Xander seem to finally be coming true, but there is definitely public fall out for dating a celebrity, and it might squelch his new agency before it even gets started.

I felt like this book moved really quickly, and it only worked because Xander and Mason had such a long acquaintance before they admitted their mutual attraction. The coming out was a little traumatic, but less than I’d anticipated. As an entree to the new series, we have a really good sense of all the players on the Rebels and who might find a boyfriend next.

Interested? You can find TOP SHELF on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 gift card or 2 backlist books from the authors.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

Catch RJ on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, twitter and LibraryThing.

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, Dr. Who, Torchwood, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, two Jersey steers and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.

When not writing lusty tales, she can be found enjoying her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.

You can find her on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and tsú.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Love In Service NO FLAG–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M military romance from Liz Borino. NO FLAG has been re-released and is the first book in the After Everything series. This story follows a gay military couple that weather Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Domestic Discipline, and major trauma after being injured in the act of service.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

How about a yummy taste?

Chapter One: The News

July 7, 2012

Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”

“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.

Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.

“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.

“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.

“Are you ready?”

“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”

“When?”

The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.

“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”

“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”

“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”

Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”

Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”

Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.

“Will…” Seth began.

“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”

“Will…”

“Please, Seth.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.

But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.

Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.

My Review:

This book was originally published in 2013, and the second edition seems unchanged.

Captain Mike Kelley is a military intelligence officer and West Point grad who’s spent a lot of time in counterintelligence and translating threats. He’s near the end of his commission and has no plans to re-up. It’s 2010 and President Obama has instituted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a policy that is meant to somewhat protect gay servicemembers from dishonorable discharge.

Mike is an orphan, and he made his way through life carefully, using ideals like respect, honor, and sacrifice as cornerstones of his life. He’s looking for a submissive partner who would be interested in Domestic Discipline, which–in my woefully uninformed opinion–means that one partner has authority, and the other follows the rules of the home, which they could form together. Mike has very specific ideas about domestic tasks, in that he has a “right” way and all other ways are not acceptable. Mike meets Will while out at a gay bay in Philly. Will is a bartender, but he’d like to own his own place, more of a coffeehouse for LGBTQ folk to feel safe.

Will is intrigued by the Domestic Discipline, and attracted to Mike. He’s not so sure about Mike’s OCD habits, or punishments for not meeting Mike’s exacting standards. And, he’s REALLY not into the military, especially since Mike’s work is highly classified. Their relationship grows close pretty quickly, within months Mike asks Will to move in and, in early 2011 when marriage equality is still being debated, there are two months until the end of Mike’s commission he asks Will to marry him. Though their marriage isn’t recognized by the military, Will agrees on one condition: Mike does not re-up. Mike doesn’t, but with mere weeks before his commission expires a surly commander tells Mike he’s being deployed to Afghanistan.

An arcane bit of military regulations allows commanding officers to extend commissions for up to one year following the expiry of service. This Stop-Loss program makes a big rift for Mike and Will, who were just about to open a business together. They do their best to navigate a fledgling marriage, new business, and transglobal interaction via Skype. The discipline part of their marriage is tricky to navigate remotely, but it’s helpful for both men to keep this piece of normalcy. Will’s friends are highly skeptical, with his female best friend making all sorts of trouble, to interfere with Will and Mike’s marriage–with some unexpected chicanery and definite violation of personal boundaries.

During deployment Mike and Will have a mantra: No Flag, which means Mike commits to make every effort to come home alive. They say this to one another every sign-off from every call. Mike’s stress levels are high, and Will’s being as accepting as he can of all the secrecy, but once Mike’s base is bombed and he can’t tell if his husband is alive or dead it marks a new level in Will’s commitment to Mike.

I liked this one a bunch, and I was glad for the reminder of the rapid changes our society has undergone in the past 10-15 years. Repeal of the prohibition of gay service members, national marriage equality, and enhanced efforts to make veterans whole, be they amputees, or suffering depression/PTSD. Mike is the only member of his unit to survive the blast and subsequent raid, and he has vital information that could save thousands on American soil, if only he can remember/relive those horrific memories. It’s interesting that so much of the story (the first half) is told in flashback, and when we finally reach the “present” we experience flashback through Mike’s fractured memories. Both Mike and Will are compelling characters, though I will admit to loving Will more than Mike, whose OCD is a little nerve-wracking. I will admit to not quite understanding the nuances of Domestic Discipline versus a 24/7 D/s power exchange, but I think it was made adequately clear that both Mike and Will benefited from this experience. They seemed to have a deep connection that was only strengthened by their adversity.

Mike is a different man when he’s returned to Will, mostly due to his lack of confidence following amputation. He is not sure he can be the man that Will needs, that Will will find him less attractive, and that his disability will render him unable to exert his discipline. This seems to be mainly resolved by the end of the book, but it’s still early days of his recovery. Also, this is the first book in a series, so I’m left with the feeling that there will be further conflict and PTSD moments for Will and Mike to weather. I would definitely read on.

Interested? You can find NO FLAG on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.

When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.