Growing Up and Becoming AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sexy contemporary romance from Adriana Herrera. AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS is the fourth book in her Dreamers series, and I have read and enjoyed a couple of the others that I hope to review those in the coming weeks.

About the book:
Juan Pablo Campos doesn’t do regrets. He’s living the dream as a physical therapist with his beloved New York Yankees. He has the best friends and family in the world and simply no time to dwell on what could’ve been.

Except when it comes to Priscilla, the childhood friend he’s loved for what seems like forever.

New York City police detective Priscilla Gutierrez has never been afraid to go after what she wants. Second guessing herself isn’t a thing she does. But lately, the once-clear vision she had for herself—her career, her relationships, her life—is no longer what she wants.

What she especially doesn’t want is to be stuck on a private jet to the Dominican Republic with JuanPa, the one person who knows her better than anyone else.

By the end of a single week in paradise, the love/hate thing JuanPa and Pris have been doing for sixteen years has risen to epic proportions. No one can argue their connection is still there. And they can both finally admit—if only to themselves—they’ve always been a perfect match. The future they dreamed of together is still within reach…if they can just accept each other as they are.

My Review:
JuanPa Campos has been in love with Pris for…ever. They’ve been lovers before in their teens and twenties, but they were too young and too stubborn to make it work, despite a deep love for one another. Now, JuanPa has settled into a good life as a trainer to the NY Yankees, and he’s invested in himself, growing from the playa into a man grown and wanting to love a good woman.

Priscilla Gutierrez joined the NYPD because her immigrant father always wanted to join, but was unable. Twelve years into the job, her satisfaction is low. Being a woman of color and watching the disparities in justice for men of color, like the men she grew up with in their deeply-connected immigrant community in the Bronx, has gotten to be too much for her to take on the daily. She has a side hustle selling personal pleasure products for women of color, and it’s become the only good thing in her life–besides JuanPa. JuanPa has been her first love, her only true connection, but he’s always been too immature to support her the way she’s needed.

But now, he’s right there with the help. And the love. And the support. He’s everything Pris could want, but her biggest fear is falling so hard for this man, and messing up their friendship and the extended “family” dynamic of their friend groups. But, man is JuanPa turning her head sideways.

This is the last book in a series of POC finding love super hard. It’s really a great series with lots of Afro-Latinx influences of Puerto Rican and Dominican folk thriving in NYC. The culture clash of urban youth growing up in immigrant families with immigrant sensibilities is really wonderfully portrayed, in a way that’s accessible to readers who have little to not experience with people of color. The empathy I felt toward all of these characters helped me see the struggle of their situation, in life and in art. The previous three stories feature M/M relationships, so this book was a big departure, but one I really enjoyed. I probably don’t recommend starting with this story, only because there are so many character interactions at the beginning that tie up previous stories. I really loved the resolutions of those love stories, and it was a delight to see those folks help Pris and JuanPa get past their fears and embrace the love. Read the series in order, y’all!

Interested? You can find AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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!

Grieving and Starting Over–A WALK ALONG THE BEACH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a clean contemporary romance from Debbie Macomber. A WALK ALONG THE BEACH features a woman who’s suffered a lot of loss in her life, surviving more trauma while finding love, too. I’ve enjoyed several books from this author, including THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, IF NOT FOR YOU, and ANY DREAM WILL DO and MERRY AND BRIGHT, so I’m always interested in a new romance.

About the book:
Two sisters must learn from each other’s strengths and trust in the redeeming power of love in a touching new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

My Review:
Willa Lakey became little momma in her family in her teens when her mother died suddenly and her father devolved into alcoholism. Her elder brother Lucas soon left for the Marines and Willa tried to keep their family together, sacrificing herself to do this. A few years back Willa’s younger sister Harper was diagnosed with leukemia, and Willa was her chief caretaker. Harper’s disease was severe, but she survived the chemo and is now the picture of health, teaching aerobics and yoga at a studio in their small, coastal town of Oceanside, Washington. Willa’s worked harder to keep them together, as they are roommates in a little apartment not far from Willa’s coffee shop. Harper often helps out there, but it’s Willa’s pride and joy.

Willa, because she’s sacrificed so much, doesn’t value herself too highly–and she’s always anxious for the next shoe to drop. She gets strung out waiting for Harper’s yearly follow-up visits to assure everyone that she’s still cancer-free. And, she lives in awe of Harper, who is fit and beautiful, while Willa is a wallflower. But, the new man in town has his sights set on Willa–handsome and successful photographer, Sean O’Malley.

Sean retired from his pro baseball career when an injury permanently sidelined him. That’s when he re-evaluated his life choices, including the women he dated and the life he’d been living. He started pursuing photojournalism and has made a decent second career of it. He traveled to Oceanside on one of his trips and lived the small, quaint community enough to buy a modestly-priced home. And even though he detests coffee, he’s made a new habit of popping into Willa’s coffeeshop and ordering, just so he can get a minute of her conversation at the busy counter.

Willa can’t believe that such a handsome man as Sean could find her more appealing than Harper, and she’s a bit unsettled about the interest he’s showing her–even with Harper’s press to embrace the possibility of romance. With a little time they seem to have a good connection, but Sean’s due to make a trip to a remote area of South America, and it’s a bit of a setback personally–with less time to spend together. Meanwhile, Harper’s health is taking a serious turn for the worse, and Willa’s being tested to her limits.

This is more women’s fiction with romantic elements, than a true romance. There is a lot of heartache, and heartbreak, in this story. Willa has put others before herself for so long, she’s nearly unable to ask for her own needs to be met. And, unfortunately, when she truly needs help it’s in short supply due to circumstance. She is resilient, however, and her grief and despair do get some resolution–and there is some joy to temper the pain. I think readers need to know that this is not a lighthearted breezy read; keep the tissues handy. But, it’s a good one, and I did enjoy the happy ending.

Interested? You can find A WALK ALONG THE BEACH on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, Walmart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 990 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Sixteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

There’s so much more to know about her, but I’d suggest heading to her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Showing Prudence When TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME is a legal eagles romance between a battered man and the loving new partner his finds. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS, so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
Can he ever learn to trust again?
Brandon Weber’s old boyfriend almost beat him to death. Brandon survived, but still bears the emotional scars. Eighteen months later, he has withdrawn into himself, convinced he’ll never be able to trust another man.

Devin Macadam, fresh out of law school, has an exciting new job. He is also on the lookout for just the right guy, someone to take care of and love.

When Devin shows up for the first day of work at his new office, he meets Brandon, a legal assistant there. Sparks fly, but Brandon is paralyzed by fear and isn’t about to give another man the power to hurt him again. Devin, never one to give up easily, doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Both men feel the magic, but can their relationship ever get past the friend zone?

Too Close to the Flame is a dark-to-light, sweet romance featuring out and proud gay men, lots of feels, steamy love scenes, and a wonderful happy ending.

Trigger Warning: Too Close to the Flame contains specific memories of physical abuse.

My Review:
Twenty-four year old Devin Macadam has just split from his cheating boyfriend, and taken his first position out of law school. He’s joined the firm partnered by his cousin, Liam Macadam, and historical crush, Aaron Roth. He’s feeling pretty awesome and his first day on the job is made better when he meets the most beautiful man he’s ever seen: Brandon Weber.

Brandon was abided by his last boyfriend, Jeb, who almost killed him. A month in the hospital, plus therapy, helped Brandon recover physically, though he’s still celibate more than 18 months later. His attraction to Devin is an unwelcome complication, and Devin’s sweetness and compassion are stirring feelings Brandon wishes he could ignore.

Liam, and his husband John, counsel both Devin and Brandon as their attraction to each other becomes plain to the folks in the office. Devin knows that Brandon has some secret pain, but Liam confidentially divulges Brandon’s history, hoping Devin will be sensitive to Brandon’s needs. John reminds Brandon that his life didn’t end with the abuse he suffered, and he should be open to the love that Devin is clearly offering.

The central focus of this story is recovery, and the major plot arc is really the developing relationship between Devin and Brandon. We learn a LITTLE about Devin’s job at the firm, and there’s a brief mention about the possibility of Brandon’s attacker causing trouble, but it’s largely ignored until very late.

The rest of the story is…sexy times. Lots and lots of tender and dirty sexy times. The biggest hurdles here are Brandon’s emotional issues surrounding his recovery and being a worthy and willing partner. There is a LOT of sex, and the plot was otherwise a little thin.

But, as a romance, the good guys find deep and abiding love, and they live happily ever after. So, I enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME on Goodreads and 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!

Reforged Future in HIGH HEAT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M smokejumper romance from Annabeth Albert. HIGH HEAT is the second book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE, so I was excited to read more about Garrick who was a secondary character in that book.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

My Review:
Garrick Nelson is a smokejumper, which is all her ever wanted to be. Except, a bad accident on a jump has sidelined him with severe injuries. He’s worked amazingly hard to get back on his feet, but, while he can walk, he tires easily and relies on crutches or a wheelchair for long periods of the day. That’s why he’s frustrated when he finds an injured stray dog on his porch. She’s skittish, and his lack of mobility hampers rescuing her as she darts away. He wheels himself to his neighbor’s house and enlists the help of her sexy grandson, Rain, to catch and clean up the dog.

Rain thinks Garrick, who is pan, is a delicious treat for his lonely days of keeping an eye on his crafty grams. I mean crafty in that she makes handicrafts–tye-dying cloth for clothes. It’s heavy work, and Rain’s mom has convinced Rain he should be there in case gram needs help–though she rarely does–yet she’s happy to take in her wandering grandson, anyway. He’s drifting since he didn’t get into the city fire training academy, but seeing how buff Garrick is–and knowing he’s a smokejumper–Rain makes a leap to ask him for advice in his physical training regimen. Garrick isn’t sure he wants to commit, but they bond over the care of the stray, who Rain names Princess, and it’s not long before the attraction sparks a brushfire of desire.

This story really handles the emotional toll of surviving a catastrophic, career-ending injury, and the attendant physical issues that arise. Garrick has trouble with sexual arousal, and his nerves aren’t all that sensitive since his spinal injury, but his interest in Rain is more than just companionship–though they do a lot of hanging out as they get to know one another. It’s Rain’s gentle guidance that helps Garrick re-center his life and world accepting his new normal from a viewpoint of ability, not disability. The change is important, because it brings emotional harmony to Garrick, whose depression was getting clinical.

Rain, for his part, does a lot of growing up while he’s in Garrick’s world. His training and focus helps him land a job on a fire crew, and he works hard cutting fire lines and running the comm for his team. He’s insightful and intuitive which helps him on the job, and with Garrick. He’s also body aware and a bit shameless from being raised by freeloving hippies. I loved his sense of compassion, and how he didn’t let the characterization of his youth color the decisions he made now. While he may have been a freewheeler, himself, meeting Garrick gives him a touchstone, a person to whom his life can be bound–for the good of both.

It’s sweet and tender, the way they care for one another. From adjusting erogenous zones, to researching vegan diets, these guys are shaping themselves into ideal partners for one another before they even realize how serious they are becoming. I really enjoyed this one, and expect we’ll get some mature heat for a lonely commander in the next installment. I can’t wait!

Interested? You can find HIGH HEAT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Unexpected Horrors THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary LGBTQ YA thriller with romantic elements from Damian Serbu. THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET features a teen boy who sees ghosts battling it out with the malevolent spirit haunting his family homestead.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Jaret Bachmann travels with his family to his beloved grandfather’s funeral with a heavy heart and, more troubling, premonitions of something evil lurking at the Bachmann ancestral home. But no one believes that he sees ghosts.

Grappling with his sexuality, a ghost that wants him out of the way, and the loss of his grandfather, Jaret must protect his family and come to terms with powers hidden deep within himself.

How about a little taste?

I trembled at the thought of returning to Nebraska for my grandpa’s funeral.

Even he told me not to return.

Of course, you can’t explain the situation to your parents, or say your concerns out loud to anyone, without the world thinking you’d gone bonkers.

Still, after my uncle called Dad to tell us Grandpa died, Gramps tried for the past day to keep me at home.

Yeah, my dead grandpa warned me not to go to Fremont, which meant no way I wanted to go either. I trusted him dead as much as I trusted him with all my heart when he lived.

But what Gramps and I wanted did not matter. Because we all planned to get into Dad’s Blazer and drive back to Fremont, to the big Victorian house that had comforted me so much my entire life as the embodiment of Gramps’s love, to the small town we’d left behind years ago.

Unfortunately, none of these dreadful thoughts took me away from the reason I shut my eyes a moment ago and worked with all my power to keep them closed.

Sitting on my bed next to my suitcase and hugging my knees close to my body, I knew Gramps still stood in the corner with a frown. His ghost was upset, and his agitation had to do with my going to his funeral.

Keeping my eyes shut, I reached over next to me, at least comforted by the presence of my dog.

Then my mind played a fucked-up trick on me, as I giggled at my thoughts. I wished for a support group. Hi, I’m Jaret, and I see dead people. Like the frickin’ movie, with what’s-his-name acting in it. The Die Hard guy. Not that I ever wanted to see ghosts. Nope, never did. But ever since I was a kid, as early as I could remember, I saw them. And I learned pretty quickly to keep my mouth shut about my visions, no matter how many times I saw them. People would look at me like I went nutso if I told them such stuff. The other high school kids would freak. My own parents signed me up for the shrink farm when I was in third grade because I told them about the old man ghost in my classroom who made mean faces at me when I got an answer wrong. But could I blame them? My story sounded bonkers and scared the shit out of them. For all I know, the ghost sightings proved once and for all I am nuts.

Back to my senses, I took a deep breath and peeked over at the corner. Still there. Gramps shook his head, the way I remembered from when he wanted to teach me a lesson when I was little. The love had sparkled in his eyes even as he’d reprimanded me, and his ghost form adopted the same demeanor, despite his displeasure with my insistence on traveling to Nebraska.

I almost tricked myself into believing he still lived, except I had watched him materialize out of nowhere in my bedroom. One minute I stared at my hot picture of Captain America, the next Gramps blocked the poster from view as he appeared to me.

“Gramps,” I whispered. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say.” My head pounded with a headache, always a sign the dead had arrived for a visit. “Please help me. I don’t know what you want. Or how I’m supposed to do it. I’m not in charge around here! You know I have no power.”

He shook his head again, and the word “no” echoed through my skull.

“I got your message!” I yelled as a jolt of pain crashed through my brain. “You don’t want me to go back to Fremont. But I can’t not go. What would I tell my parents?” They’d scold me about making stuff up about ghosts again. Or could I even mention the episode to Jenn and Lincoln, my sister and brother? Too embarrassing. “Gramps, I’m sorry. I have to go. Please understand.”

Again Gramps shook his head, but then began to fade away.

“No. Please. I miss you—”

He disappeared, and Darth whined next to me, her ears back, her big brown eyes worried. At least my head returned to normal, except my stomach turned over in knots. A very, very bad force lurked in Fremont, bad enough Gramps’s spirit left his house to warn me.

I pulled Darth into a tight hug, so she pushed her snout into me. Even she tried to keep me from packing. She listened to Gramps’s warning and took his plea to heart. Yeah, I’m a strange case. I bond with dead people and dogs. I petted her and she whined again. “Don’t be sad. You get to go too.” Of course, I figured my assurance might make the fear worse for her.

I sighed as I stood, Darth mimicking me, and then grabbed my suitcase and headed upstairs, Darth on my heels.

“Look at the bright side,” I told her. “First we have a long car ride through Nebraska! And—Dad informed us no one can take a cell phone. How cool, right? No contact with the real world the whole time!” While Dad often flipped out about our being on our phones too much, he’d lost it with total abandon today. He forbade any phones on the trip, whatsoever. We all caved, though, because, well, first the order came from our dad. We never won those battles. And I think we all figured the phone rage related to his grief.

Darth tilted her head at me, trying hard to understand my words. “Plus, Gramps doesn’t even have a computer!”

We always dealt with the old-world nature of visiting Gramps, but we needed to bury him, which made the whole thing feel like total bullshit. No phones. No computer. Like 1890 all over again. Not to mention the ghosts fucking with me more than usual.

All these dreadful thoughts continued to float through my head as one cornfield after another flew by on the trip to Fremont. I stared out the window the entire time. But my mind kept reminding me we hurried toward a black hole, with nothing good at the other end.

I stifled another inappropriate giggle. The latest horror movie, starring Jaret! The dark stairs seemed foreboding, so I headed right down them! The evil monster ran into the woods. I charged in there alone after the beast! Every movie watcher screamed to go the other way, but the idiot actor plodded right into the danger. Except I became the idiot. Fuck me.

Plus, my head hurt like I got it smashed between two elevator doors. No way to forget the bad premonitions when your head reminded you of them every second.

Thankfully, we all stayed pretty quiet for the entire trip, given the grief of the moment.

My Review:
Jaret Bachmann is a closeted high school senior with an even bigger secret than his sexuality: he can see ghosts. He’s been able to his whole life, but it’s particularly poignant now that his dear Gramp’s spirit is popping into his bedroom in Colorado to warn him against returning to the family homestead in Fremont, Nebraska. Jaret would love to be able to stop his family from returning there, but he doesn’t have that power, and he’s afraid if he tells his parents about his sight they’ll commit him; previous experience did land him in counseling until he recanted.

In Fremont, the entire family is staying in the ancestral home, Jaret’s family, and that of his dad’s brother as well. THey have decided they want to sell the house instead of keeping it, because his aunt is terrified of the ghosts that live there. No one has actually seen a ghost, okay, no one by Jaret and he ain’t telling. Still there’s a lot of weirdness. Jaret’s dad and uncle agree selling the house is a decent plan, but not before they locate the precious heirloom jewelry that Gramps had usually kept in some arcane spot under the floorboards–which is now empty. Everyone agrees that the jewels must be in the attic, because that the one place no one has looked–and the door is unable to be unlocked. It’s also the spot that Gramps’ ghost keeps warning Jaret away from…and he’s stuggling to keep it together until the funeral.

One good thing about returning to Fremont is meeting Steve, a football player who is inexplicably drawn to Jaret on the night they meet as Jaret walks his dog (and comfort animal), Vader. Vader has been a super ally for Jaret, barking her head off whenever malevolent spirits amble past. Steve is a nice distraction, but his interest seemed way too quick, considering he’s never found dudes that interesting, even ones related to the owner of the town’s famous haunted house. The interest is enough to give Jaret some courage, however, and he finally confides his big gay secret to more than just Vader.

This story is centrally about Jaret coming out about this powers to talk with the dead, (and more) and his sexuality. There is a deeply held family secret at the heart and root of Jaret’s abilities and if the family will only just listen and believe, he might just save the day. I thought Jaret’s deductions about his powers, and how gaining access to the sacred family gems revealed even more power that Jaret was able to harness. The story behind the ghost haunting the Bachmann family is rather sad, and has led to innocents dying in the past. The ghost is sure that homosexuality is a perversion that must be eradicated from the family, but the WHY of that conviction is pretty melancholy. Jaret’s a quick thinker, and great improviser, so he fakes it until he can make it–and that spunk made him more interesting.

On the whole, the language of the book was a bit lackluster, with lots of f-bombs and tired repetition of scenes giving the impression of laziness, instead of detail. How many times is the ghost going to accost Jaret? Or, send his mom to find him while he’s canoodling with Steve? Spoiler: all the times. The pace could have been tighter, but Jaret did read like and immature kid, so there’s bonus points for that. There were some weird plot situations that made little sense, like why Jaret’s dad would ban cell phones on this trip? What parent does this? Also, I got WAY tired of the autocratic dad thing, with Jaret’s dad and uncle making completely ludicrous plans and everyone going along because they were the “men”. I was glad Jaret finally grew a spine, and his ingenuity in taking care of the ghost was cool. The way he and Steve fell into “deep love” in a matter of days was less cool.

In all, it was a cool ghost story, with a teen finding powers deep within himself that enable him to stop the horror his family had been suffering for a few generations. The writing wasn’t as tight as I’m used to for YA, and the instalove was nearly more unbelievable than the paranormal magic thriller that served as a backdrop.

Interested? You can find THE BACHMANN FAMILY SECRET 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:
Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published The Vampire’s Angel, The Vampire’s Quest, and The Vampire’s Protégé, as well as Santa’s Kinky Elf, Simon and Santa Is a Vampire with NineStar Press. The Bachmann Family Secret is (clearly) now available.

Keep up to date with him on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Finding Home THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance from Jillian Liota. THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING pairs two strangers who meet on a plane and find the emotional “home” they’ve been missing for years.


About the book:
Ruby Roberts is heading to Cedar Point to connect with the father who left her behind. Easy conversation with the handsome man sitting next to her isn’t what she’s expecting from her cross-country flight, but it’s not something she’s complaining about, that’s for sure.
Boyd Mitchell is flying home for some end-of-summer relaxation and time with his favorite people – his family. A talkative seat-mate that pulls him out of his shell is the last thing he wants, but he can’t seem to resist her charm.

When Boyd and Ruby end up in the same lakeside town, their banter and flirtation quickly become a steamy fling that leaves them both breathless. Neither of them are expecting to find a romance that has them both reconsidering everything they used to believe about love.
As their time in Cedar Point comes to an end, the two will have to decide whether they want their connection to turn into a real-world relationship, or whether wanting more is nothing but trouble.

How about a little taste?

“Sorry for rambling,” I say, giving him another smile. “It’s way too early in the morning to be debating something so highbrow. So, how ’bout them Sox, huh?”
Boyd looks at me with a twinkle in his eyes, a kind of friendly charm I wasn’t expecting from him, regardless of how well we got on with our chat.
What I wouldn’t give to look at that kind of handsome joy every day for the rest of my life.
A stupid thought, sure, but still true.
“I bet you ten dollars you can’t name a single player on the team this year.”
I narrow my eyes, trying to hide my smile as I shake my head. “I’m not a gambling girl.”
“You’d gamble if you knew you were probably going to win.” His response is as quick as lightning. “People only choose not to gamble when they’re afraid they’ll lose.”
“That is so not true.” I giggle. “Some of us poor folk don’t gamble because we can’t take the risk. Not all of us are first class aficionados with money to throw around willy-nilly.”
“Nobody says willy-nilly anymore.”
I snort. “Clearly that’s false, because I just did.”
He bites his lip and shakes his head, and I can’t help the little thing that keeps bouncing around in my chest.
We like him, it tells me. We like him a lot.
Is this flirting? We are definitely flirting, right? I hope so, because it has been far too long since I’ve enjoyed a good flirt sesh with someone as handsome as Boyd.
That’s a lie.
I’ve never flirted with someone as handsome as Boyd. He is in a league of his own.
Before I can say anything else, the plane lurches forward, and it feels like my stomach is going to fall out of my body.
My eyes slam shut and my throat closes up, my hands gripping the armrests for dear life as the plane barrels down the runway, all the good feelings from my talk with Boyd rushing out of me with a surreal quickness.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
I’m like that for who knows how long before I feel a hand on top of mine, the warmth and roughness surprising me enough that my eyes fly open, taking in the man sitting next to me.
He lifts my hand and twists his fingers in mine, the sensation robbing me of my voice—and maybe my sanity.
For the rest of my life, I’ll remember exactly what he says to me. Not just the words, but the soothing tone of his voice and the earnest caring in his eyes, so surprising from someone I was expecting to ignore me for the entire flight.
“It’s okay to be afraid,” he says. “I can’t take that feeling away from you, but I can hold your hand until it’s over so you know you’re not alone.”

My Review:
Boyd Mitchell grew up in Cedar Point, a small mountain town in northern California and his family still lives there, for the most part. He’s finished with grad school and working for a tech incubator in Boston now, but each year he’s scheduled to return to Cedar Point for a two week “vacation” reunion with his family. He loves his family, but he HATES small town life, and everyone being up in his business is the worst…but the pretty, chatty lady at his side in first class is surprisingly not a bother. Nope, this introvert breaks out of his shell for the first-time flier with a huge problem.

Ruby Roberts is 24, single and a massage therapist. She never met a stranger in her life, because she makes friends nearly instantly. She’s a bit terrified of flying, that’s no lie, but she’s also scared of where she’s headed. Some podunk town that’s the home of the father who abandoned her twenty years ago. Ruby loves her mom, and thinks of her as a hero for raising her alone, but she’s always wondered if her dad missed her any. After reaching out and some conversations, she’s agreed to fly to California and stay for a ten-day visit to become reacquainted with her father and meet his wife and half-brothers. She hasn’t bothered to tell her mom who she’s visiting, though, and the secret is eating her alive. Thankfully, sexy Boyd is a big distraction.

Long and the short of it, Boyd’s family property is right close to Ruby’s dad’s home, and since her dad took a business trip without her knowing–and the step-mom is about a welcoming as a polar bear with a paw injury–Ruby is grateful to have Boyd to cheer her up, and spend time with her, since she’s so isolated. Boyd loves how Ruby fits so well with his siblings, and feels especially bad that her reunion with her dad is not currently happening. But the make the most of it, hanging out, doing yoga, eating Boyd’s mom’s fab cooking. And falling in love.

This is a sweet and breezy romance but it was a bit verbose for me. I found myself skimming a good deal just because I got tired of the elaborate, repetitious, and finely detailed descriptions of…everything. Some folks might dig it, but I thought the word count could have been cut by a third and the story not suffer a bit. There’s small town drama of exes wishing reunions, and Ruby’s dad ends up being super lackluster. But Boyd, who is the most introverted and least likely to have any fun person prior to Ruby’s advent, is suddenly Mr. Social. It was almost too big a transformation. I liked Ruby, though I got tired of her attitudes about sex and orgasms, as she was too decided about all that and it just ruined the intimacy most of the time.

There’s some miscommunication that threatens the growth of the relationship, but Boyd’s able to win Ruby’s heart in the end once they are both back in Bean Town. I can only imagine the next story in this series will feature Boyd’s sister Briar, who’s freshly out of a bad romance by the end of this book.

Interested?You can find THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jillian Liota is a new author writing contemporary romance and new adult fiction. She lives in Kailua, Hawaii with her amazing husband, 2 cats, and 3-legged pup.
She is the author of the new adult romance novel The Keeper, which focuses on a female college soccer goalie, as well as the follow up novella, Keep Away. Her newest release, Like You Mean It, is in the contemporary romance genre and has a more mature voice, as it follows a pregnant mother finding love in a new town.

She has a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and she is passionate about all things improvement, development and organization.

She’s also a big fan of taking walks with her husband and dog Maia, reading romance (obviously), watching a handful of horrible reality TV shows, and exploring the island she calls home. Check out her Contact page for more information on how to connect.

Connect with Jillian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

What the Heart Needs: THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary Boys Love manga/graphic novel from Edako Mofumofu. THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU features two young Japanese men who’d been lifelong friends, but drift apart because they can’t admit their love for one another.

About the book:
Kasumi and Kyousuke are polar opposites when it comes to personality. Kasumi is reserved, soft-spoken and shy; Kyousuke is energetic and has always been popular among their peers. As the saying goes though, opposites have a tendency to attract, and these two have been fast friends since elementary school.
To Kasumi, Kyousuke has always been a hero to look up to, someone who supports him and saves him from the bullies. But now, school is over; their relationship suddenly becomes a lot less simple to describe. Facing the world — and one another — as adults, both men find there are things they struggle to say out loud, even to each other.

My Review:
This is my first Boys Love manga/graphic novel, and I must say, I really liked it. Kasumi and Kyousuke are two Japanese men who met in grade school. Kasumi comes from a home of loneliness and neglect, and he’s withdrawn as a result. Kyousuke is a popular and active kid whose excellence in drawing and design is denigrated by his father, an accomplished graphic designer. They both have wounds, and each is glad to make the acquaintance of the other in school.

Once they graduate they drift apart, however. Kasumi doesn’t know why, and it leads him into unsatisfactory relationships. Kyousuke was a child when he recognized his unnatural attraction to men, and he’s long since internalized his father’s homophobia. He doesn’t want to ruin Kasumi’s life by latching onto him like a pervert, so he pulls back, thinking it will set Kasumi up for finding the “right” (heterosexual) path. Learning his absence has hurt Kasumi is a big turning point for Kyousuke–and amends are made.

(C) Edako Mofumofu. Panel from THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU published by TokyoPop

The art was evocative and approachable with little touches of body humor. It’s was realistic, not representational, and the sexytimes were not shy. I had no trouble feeling in the moment with these characters, whether the scenes were mundane or intimate. Kasumi is the dark-haired one in glasses, and Kyousuke has light hair. Their opposite looks mirror their opposite temperment, with Kasumi hiding behind his hair and glasses, while Kyousuke is only satisfied when he’s winning attention. He works hard for the right kind of attention, and Kasumi idolizes him, loves him, because Kyousuke was the only person in his life who really cared if he lived or died.

Their struggles as a couple are dramatically rendered, and adequately resolved. At least between them. I didn’t see any public acknowledgement of their love, but that may be normal and excepted both culturally and within this format.

Interested?You can find THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Christmas in July! BETTER NOT POUT–Sale and Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Annabeth Albert. I read BETTER NOT POUT a WHILE back, but never had a chance to post a review. Now, it’s on sale for $1.99, so I figured I’d share the sweet and sexy Christmas love…

About the book:
One hard-nosed military police officer.
One overly enthusiastic elf.
One poorly timed snowstorm.
Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?

Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.

Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.

The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

My Review:
It’s the week before Thanksgiving and Sergeant Major Nick Nowicki is dressed in an ill-fitting Santa suit on his way for a PR shoot in Mineral Spirits, a timy hamlet in upstate NY. His CO at Fort End’s hubby usually does the Santa gig, but he’s suffered a heart attack and Nick doesn’t have to asked twice for this favor. He likes Commander Grace–even as he hates this final post of his military career; he has one month left in his 28-year enlistment now that the army has decided not to renew his commitment. Nick isn’t close with his family, due to a tragedy that broke his parent’s marriage and his mother’s many years of alcoholism. In his life and career, he’s been mainly solitary, with only one long-term boyfriend who hit the road while he was deployed. A native of Phoenix, Nick has virtually no experience in driving the harsh winter storms that are a part of life near Fort End, and he can’t wait to retire to Florida where he plans to open a fishing charter with an old army friend.

Teddy MacNally is a small town boy through-and-through, and at 28 he’s made good for himself he’s made good for himself. Always been a compassionate one, he got a masters in social work and came back to Mineral Spirits–where half the town is one relation or another–to run the Helping Hands Resource center. He raises funds that help folks with basic needs and right now he’s dressed as an elf for the Where’s Santa? photo spread that the local paper publishes to drum up donations for the center’s Giving Tree, a Christmas present for needy kids-type of thing. And, Saint Nick is sure a grumpy Santa. But Teddy sees a loneliness in Nick that he empathizes with–he’s pretty isolated in Mineral Spirits. Not counting the sleazy, married men on his Grindr, there aren’t any male companions in a reasonable distance.

Nick doesn’t want to form any attachments to Mineral Spirits, or Teddy and his loving, oversharing, family because he’s leaving in a month–but a bad snow storm lands Nick in Teddy’s home for a night and their attraction grows irresistible. And, due to on-going Santa duties and Nick’s current car trouble, he’s reliant upon Teddy for a few more carpool situations. So, he can’t really turn down the many invites he gets, from Teddy his sister and brother, to attend the MacNally Thanksgiving. And, when his CO gives him leave for the entire holiday weekend…well, Nick may want to protect his heart, but he understands the logic of finding some sexy solace with Teddy, even if the sexy elf is nearly 18 years younger than himself.

But, man, those nights they spend are real nice. And, well, Teddy is a grown man–not a kid, no matter his baby face. Being around the MacNally’s, who are about as non-dysfunctional as any family Nick has ever met, helps Nick see that his sad life experience isn’t the only one out there. And, As Teddy hopes, Nick can envision himself in a place where he has a real community, and maybe a true love to boot. If only Nick didn’t have these plans to relocate to Florida…

This is a sweet and sexy age-gap romance in a picturesque small town with two engaging leading men. I liked how they found both comfort and a confidante within their arrangement for camaraderie. Their progression from acquaintance to more follows a quick but acceptable path, due to each man being rather lonely, and finding a chemistry and kinship that suited. The age gap was a big problem for Nick, but Teddy’s assertiveness and independence kept chipping away at Nick’s preconceived notions about young guys wanting young partners. They are a special couple, and I enjoyed watching them fall in love.

Interested? You can find BETTER NOT POUT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

A Pointed Partnership VARIABLE ONSET–A Review

Hi there! I’m sharing a review for a newly released M/M contemporary romance from Layla Reyne. VARIABLE ONSET features an introverted FBI instructor and analyst, now on the case of the serial killer he’s studied for more than a decade, while also pairing off with the most frustrating academy student as his partner. While their chemistry might be explosive, their timing is not helpful. Not with a clock on the

About the book:
To catch a killer, a special agent and his former student will need to get close—to their target, and each other. Layla Reyne returns with a stand-alone romantic mystery.

When the serial killer known as Dr. Fear seemingly reemerges after a cooling-off period, Special Agent Lincoln Monroe wants on the case. He knows his research on the calculating criminal, who targets couples and uses their worst fears to kill them, could prove invaluable. But nothing can prepare Lincoln for the agent waiting for him in Apex, Virginia: a brash and cocky former student. Carter Warren is everything Lincoln is not, and somehow everything he wants. And they’ll be going undercover. As newlyweds.

For Carter, seeing Lincoln again—and flustered to boot—pokes his raging bear of a crush something fierce. He thinks posing as lovers will provide the perfect bait for Dr. Fear. But pretending to be married forces them to confront fears of their own…like giving in to the very real chemistry between them.

With evidence pointing to the possibility of a copycat killer, Lincoln and Carter will have to race to separate truth from fiction. But when another couple goes missing, finding the killer will test every ounce of their training, skills and the strength of their bond like never before.

My Review:
FBI Academy forensic genealogy professor and Agent Lincoln Monroe is an out bisexual caregiver for his teen daughter. He has a great relationship with his ex-wife, a globe-trotting state department employee and his sister who babysits his daughter if he goes on assignment. Lincoln’s thesis work was profiling Dr. Fear, a serial killer that captured random couples and subjected them to their worst fears for 40 hours, or until they died–which they all had. He’s been active for 25 years, and never caught, but now it seems a copy cat has kidnapped a senator’s daughter and partner, and Lincoln is pressed into active duty. The senator, a former agent, was Lincoln’s mentor and the former lead investigator of the Dr. Fear crimes.

Lincoln is an introvert and suffers intense stage fright and fear of fire. He’s awkward and goofy, and not ready to be paired with a former Academy student who pushed all his buttons in class eight years ago, Special Agent Carter Warren. Carter was in the western Virginia mountains looking up old wrecks to find his missing birth parents when he found a connection to the Dr. Fear victims. He’s arranged a cover story for himself and Lincoln in winter wonderland Apex, Virginia, where they will have unimpeded access to police and genealogical records to help find not only the copy cat, but also the true Dr. Fear. But, uh, they are posing as husbands, much to Lincoln’s discomfort.

Carter has had a crush on his former professor since that very first class, and he’s not beyond having some liberties, if time allows. Not that it really does, with the clock ticking on the missing couple. Their endeavors are hampered by lack of familiarity with the small town folks, oh, and being attacked by crazies and the police department getting firebombed. While one case gets wrapped, two more pop up and the spotlight seems to shine on either the former, or current, police chief–who happen to be lifelong Apex residents…and brothers. When local residents are kidnapped, it’s up to some amazing detective work, involving the bells and whistles of forensic science and good ol’ library research, to bring this killer to justice.

This is a fantastic romantic suspense, with two MCs that have both tremendous respect and attraction for the other. Lincoln and Carter are great guys, who make the best of the tension, but never let their professionalism slide. It’s a total slow burn on the romance, while these men devote themselves to overcoming all the obstacles to find the killers at-large. There were moments of levity, especially regarding Lincoln’s self-deprecating humor and Carter’s mooning over his crush. And those also brought some nice tender moments, as these men bonded over their deep-seated insecurities. It’s a standalone romance, but I’d read another book with these two if it came available.

Interested? You can find VARIABLE ONSET on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Layla Reyne is the author of the Fog City, Agents Irish and Whiskey, Trouble Brewing, and Changing Lanes series. A Carolina Tar Heel who now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, Layla enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance.

Catch up with Layla Reyne on her website, Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads, or sign up for her newsletter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Now Available! THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance form Jillian Liota. THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING pairs two strangers who meet on a plane and find the emotional “home” they’ve been missing for years.


About the book:
Ruby Roberts is heading to Cedar Point to connect with the father who left her behind. Easy conversation with the handsome man sitting next to her isn’t what she’s expecting from her cross-country flight, but it’s not something she’s complaining about, that’s for sure.
Boyd Mitchell is flying home for some end-of-summer relaxation and time with his favorite people – his family. A talkative seat-mate that pulls him out of his shell is the last thing he wants, but he can’t seem to resist her charm.

When Boyd and Ruby end up in the same lakeside town, their banter and flirtation quickly become a steamy fling that leaves them both breathless. Neither of them are expecting to find a romance that has them both reconsidering everything they used to believe about love.
As their time in Cedar Point comes to an end, the two will have to decide whether they want their connection to turn into a real-world relationship, or whether wanting more is nothing but trouble.

How about a little taste?

“Sorry for rambling,” I say, giving him another smile. “It’s way too early in the morning to be debating something so highbrow. So, how ’bout them Sox, huh?”
Boyd looks at me with a twinkle in his eyes, a kind of friendly charm I wasn’t expecting from him, regardless of how well we got on with our chat.
What I wouldn’t give to look at that kind of handsome joy every day for the rest of my life.
A stupid thought, sure, but still true.
“I bet you ten dollars you can’t name a single player on the team this year.”
I narrow my eyes, trying to hide my smile as I shake my head. “I’m not a gambling girl.”
“You’d gamble if you knew you were probably going to win.” His response is as quick as lightning. “People only choose not to gamble when they’re afraid they’ll lose.”
“That is so not true.” I giggle. “Some of us poor folk don’t gamble because we can’t take the risk. Not all of us are first class aficionados with money to throw around willy-nilly.”
“Nobody says willy-nilly anymore.”
I snort. “Clearly that’s false, because I just did.”
He bites his lip and shakes his head, and I can’t help the little thing that keeps bouncing around in my chest.
We like him, it tells me. We like him a lot.
Is this flirting? We are definitely flirting, right? I hope so, because it has been far too long since I’ve enjoyed a good flirt sesh with someone as handsome as Boyd.
That’s a lie.
I’ve never flirted with someone as handsome as Boyd. He is in a league of his own.
Before I can say anything else, the plane lurches forward, and it feels like my stomach is going to fall out of my body.
My eyes slam shut and my throat closes up, my hands gripping the armrests for dear life as the plane barrels down the runway, all the good feelings from my talk with Boyd rushing out of me with a surreal quickness.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
I’m like that for who knows how long before I feel a hand on top of mine, the warmth and roughness surprising me enough that my eyes fly open, taking in the man sitting next to me.
He lifts my hand and twists his fingers in mine, the sensation robbing me of my voice—and maybe my sanity.
For the rest of my life, I’ll remember exactly what he says to me. Not just the words, but the soothing tone of his voice and the earnest caring in his eyes, so surprising from someone I was expecting to ignore me for the entire flight.
“It’s okay to be afraid,” he says. “I can’t take that feeling away from you, but I can hold your hand until it’s over so you know you’re not alone.”

Interested?You can find THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jillian Liota is a new author writing contemporary romance and new adult fiction. She lives in Kailua, Hawaii with her amazing husband, 2 cats, and 3-legged pup.
She is the author of the new adult romance novel The Keeper, which focuses on a female college soccer goalie, as well as the follow up novella, Keep Away. Her newest release, Like You Mean It, is in the contemporary romance genre and has a more mature voice, as it follows a pregnant mother finding love in a new town. The next novel in the Like You Series, Like You Want It, will be published in Spring 2019
She has a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and she is passionate about all things improvement, development and organization.
She’s also a big fan of taking walks with her husband and dog Maia, reading romance (obviously), watching a handful of horrible reality TV shows, and exploring the island she calls home. Check out her Contact page for more information on how to connect.

Connect with Jillian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.