Cephalopod Coffeehouse July 2016–Discovering the Truth of TWO BOYS KISSING–A Review

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Hi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic YA book by David Levithan. I first read his collaboration on WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON with John Green, but TWO BOYS KISSING is his own work, and it is staggering. It won the Stonewall Book Award, and Mr. Levithan was honored with the 2016 Margaret A Edwards Award in June. You may want to check out his acceptance speech, which is fantastic.

Two Boys KissingAbout the book:
New York Times bestselling author David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

My Review:
I wonder if I can get this book on my son’s high school’s reading list. Truly.

Two Boys Kissing is an interesting and engaging read following the lives of roughly nine characters over a weekend. The focal point of the book is a Guinness World Record breaking kiss–32 hours and change long. It happens between two former boyfriends, to raise awareness of homophobia, specifically a hate-crime beating of a classmate. In the tapestry of the story we encounter two boys who meet at a gay prom, and experience the newness of first attraction/love. We experience the sedate affection of an out couple, who still struggle to define their identities. And, we follow a loner boy whose world implodes when his parents discover he is gay.

The narrator is a haunting Greek chorus of the dead. Gay men who were beaten, murdered, slayed by their own hand, or ripped away by the chilled fingers of AIDS. The insight, the care, the lightness of this chorus of men I wished I’d known brings me, as a reader, personal melancholy.
Such waste. Such misfortune. Such tragedy.

Still:

We do not want to haunt you too somberly. We don’t want our legacy to be gravitas. You wouldn’t want to live your life like that, either. Your mistake would be to find our commonality in our dying. The living part mattered more.
We taught you how to dance.

No, the chorus is there to hover and inform, not imbue with guilt.

There are few things that can make us quite as happy as a gay prom.

Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.

There is a power in saying, I am not wrong. Society is wrong. Because there is no reason that men and women should have separate bathrooms. There is no reason that we should ever be ashamed of our bodies or ashamed of our love. We are told to cover ourselves up, hide ourselves away, so that other people can have control over us, can make us follow their rules. It is a bastardization of the concept of morality, this rule of shame.

I seriously had chills in reading this book. At the heart of it, Craig and Harry are two boys who are willing to make a public stand. Their classmate Tariq was assaulted by a group of gay-bashers while waiting for his father to pick him up from the movies. He was alone, and wondered how they knew. Through careful omniscient vignettes we learn that Craig is closeted, on the verge of coming out, while Harry is out. Harry’s parents are supportive, and when Craig is overwhelmed with sadness following Tariq’s beating and their budding friendship, he enlists Harry’s help taking a stand–doing something the fallen couldn’t even contemplate in their time: planning a public kiss to beat all others.

Meanwhile, nearby, Neil and his boyfriend Peter have many a date night. Peter’s parents are cool with him being out. Neil’s parents silently accept, but do not openly approve of their son. They experience the moments of Craig and Harry’s kiss via the live webcast, but also in person when they are compelled to be there, to witness a moment in history that is specifically relevant to them.

Meanwhile, nearby, the GSAs of neighboring high schools have organized a gay prom in a community center, and blue-haired Ryan meets pink-haired Avery. Can Ryan accept that Avery was born different? Those moments of sheer magic, finding a kindred spirit, and potential partner. Potential joy and potential pain are in high concentration.

Meanwhile, nearby, Cooper’s father sneaks into his room to discover the explicit chatting he’s been doing on gay websites. The rage is astounding, and sets depressed and despondent Cooper on a reckless search for something, something more than the nothing of his life and how he feels about himself.

The story is fiction based on an historic record-setting kiss between two college boys. The characters in this story are all teen boys in high school. Parallels to their experiences are being drawn throughout, and when tragedy seems to be about to strike, there is still hope. The kiss is not without problems. Both Craig and Harry must stand the entire time, lips touching. There is no time for toilet breaks, to eat, barely enough to take a sip of water via a lip-locked straw. No one can hold them up, or prop them in any way. Haters come to call and attempt assault, despite the presence of law enforcement. The kiss is live-streamed, news broadcast and subject to grave disapproval–of the parental kind. Distractions abound, and at any moment either Craig or Harry could succumb to the fatigue that is tearing at them, but they strive to achieve what neither could have done alone: be a beacon of hope, be an agent of change on an international level.

It’s hard for me to read a book with no chapters. Life intrudes, and makes me need to “find a stopping place.” This book made me never want to stop, despite the life intruding part.

Interested? You can find TWO BOYS KISSING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and bookstores and libraries everywhere.

About the Author:
David Levithan is an American children’s book editor and award-winning author. He published his first YA book, Boy Meets Boy, in 2003. Levithan is also the founding editor of PUSH, a Young Adult imprint of Scholastic Press.

You can catch up to him on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and, maybe, head on over to my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers, to see what books they found most interesting this past month.

Rough Love ROLLER GIRL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary F/F romance from Vanessa North. ROLLER GIRL is the third book in her Lake Lovelace series, which includes DOUBLE UP and ROUGH ROAD. The book features a transwoman finding strength, love and community.

Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace, #3)About the book:
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.

Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.

Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.

With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.

My Review:
This is the third book in the Lake Lovelace series and features a trans-female character and a F/F romance. It can be enjoyed on its own.

Tina Durham was a professional wakeboarder who married young, before she could articulate that she was really a woman. This came as a surprise to her wife, and ended their marriage once Tina’s transition became complete. Tina now works as a personal trainer, and struggles with social anxiety, afraid that she’ll be assailed by transphobic people.

Tina meets Joanne “Joe” Delario when she responds to Tina’s frantic call for a plumber. They hit it off, and Tina accepts Joe’s invitation for a drink. Tina’s a bit disappointed when Joe uses the meeting to ask Tina to try out for her roller derby team. Tina’s never played, but the idea of competing again is attractive, and the derby is trans-friendly. She agrees, even if it means not pursuing a relationship with Joe; Joe has a no-dating policy for her team, due to a previous problem with it all going bad. Tina likes the idea of a girl-bonding experience, and she does well at the first try-out.

Despite their intentions, Joe and Tina begin a physical relationship. They’re really too attracted to each other; and Tina hasn’t been with anyone since her divorce. Their interactions are steamy, and affirming. But Tina doesn’t want to be a secret, and doesn’t understand why she should be: other women on the team are dating. It’s Joe’s hang up, and it causes Tina a lot of pain, especially because she’s dealt with secrets most of her life.

I liked the story here. I’ve read a few lesbian romances, and a few trans ones, too. I love the diversity I saw on the page, and Tina’s positive experiences. As a transitioned former pro-athlete, she becomes a bit of a sensation for her team, garnering news coverage. It leads to some great experiences for her with fans in transition. That was really sweet. I also liked her professional persona, and how compassionate she was with her favorite training client, and all her uplifting moments with despairing teammates. That was great. On the flip side, the time frame didn’t match up with the pacing, for me, so the romance felt a bit rushed. Also, the “no dating”/secret dating policy didn’t work for me as a conflict. It felt like a false choice, and brought in unnecessary drama. There were likely other issues that could have kept Joe and Tina separate, that would have had more emotional punch, so that fell a little short, for me.

In all, I expected that Ms. North would write a F/F story that would be filled with heat and heart, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not a fan of roller derby, and have about zero interest in it, personally, but those scenes were clear enough that an ignorant reader like myself could follow along, and feel the tension of the team, and Tina’s emotional investment. When I consider adult recreational sports, most are co-ed. Roller derby initially seemed an odd choice, but I understood it, because it was an activity that was exclusively female, and accessible to novice non-athletes. Any other type of sport would have likely been closed-off for Tina, or her less athletic teammates. The friendships, and team dynamics, that Tina explores in the course of the story really helps to pull her loose from her social anxiety, as does her relationship with Joe. For a character who’s growth arc was already enormous before she appeared on the page, Tina still found ways to expand her life and find unexpected happiness.

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

Vanessa NorthAbout the Author:
Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Dangerous Allies? CERVENA–Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway!

BannerTemplateHi there! Today I’m excited to share an exclusive excerpt and giveaway in support of a new contemporary M/M romantic thriller from Louise Lyons. CERVENA is the story of a man who finds love, only to get caught in the crossfire between gangsters and his business partner.

Check out the little taste below, and be sure to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC or a backlist book!

Cervena-HighResAbout the book:
When Joel Jones finds a homeless Russian, Sasha, outside his gay nightclub in Prague, he cannot find it in his heart to turn him away, so he offers him a home and a job as a dancer and stripper.

Despite a fifteen-year age gap, romance develops between them, but is interrupted when Joel has to return to England for many weeks to deal with a death in the family.
Upon Joel’s return, he is horrified to discover his business partner, Karel, has gambled away the club’s money and put them all at risk. Joel buys him out of the club, but when Karel continues to gamble, the people he owes pursue Joel for the debt instead—and they’ll stop at nothing to get paid.

Suddenly Joel and those he cares about—especially Sasha—are in danger, and Joel finds himself with no choice but to seek the help of known criminal, Vincenc Jankovic. Ensuring a happy future for himself and Sasha will mean a struggle and some difficult decisions, but Joel is determined to protect what they’ve built together.

How about a taste?

The sound of my cellphone ringing penetrated my sleep and I jerked awake, heart pounding. I sat up and grabbed my phone from the bedside table.

Rosalyn Calling.

“Shit!” There was only one reason my sister would call at—I glanced at the luminous hands on my clock—four thirty in the morning. I touched the green button and held the phone to my ear. “Ros, what happened?”

“Joe, you have to come home.” Her voice was thick with tears and I jumped out of bed, groping for the light switch. “We’re at the hospital. Mum’s bad.” She broke off on a sob. Panic filled me and my stomach turned over.

“All right, Ros, I’m getting dressed now.”

“Give me the phone, love.” Steve spoke in the background, and after a muffled sound, he came on the line. “Joel, Marie had a heart attack about an hour ago. They brought her in by ambulance. They had to shock her, but we don’t know yet how she’s doing.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I dragged on a pair of boxer briefs and struggled one-handed with a sock. “I’ll get a taxi to the airport and book a seat from my iPad. Where’s Rachael?”

“We left her with Andy and Clare next door. Their little girl, Emma, is her best friend.”

“Yeah, I know. Go take care of Rosalyn. I’m on my way.”

“Safe trip.” Steve hung up and I dropped my phone onto the bed. Within ten minutes I’d dressed in jeans, a warm sweater, boots, and coat, and had a large piece of hand luggage packed. I dug my passport out of a drawer, slipped my iPad into its case and my phone into my pocket, and rushed to the door.

Luckily I found a taxi in Wenceslas Square. The driver had just dropped off a customer and I hurried toward the car, waving my arm. He waited and I dived into the back seat.

“Airport,” I panted. “Quick as you can.”

Wow! This book sounds packed with feels and action. I’ve heard great things in the reviews already!

Interested? You can find CERVENA on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon (US or UK), Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click this Rafflecopter giveaway libk for your chance to win a backlist book from Louise and a $10 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:
Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of 8, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late 20s.

Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.

You can find Louise online on her website, Facebook, twitter and Pinterest.

pride

Scared New World–FIGHT THE TIDE–Release Day Review and Author Interview!

Hi there! Today I get to welcome a fave author to my blog! I’ve read and reviewed at least five M/M romances from Keira Andrews, and I’ve loved each one. FIGHT THE TIDE, her newest book, launches today! It’s the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS, one of my favorite books of 2015.

I had to reach out and get some comments from Keira on writing, her plans for the future, and Olympic opinions. Catch my interview and review below.

Fight the Tide (Kick at the Darkness, #2)About the book:
Adrift in a post-apocalyptic world, they only have each other. Is it enough?
A virus that turns the infected into zombie-like killers spreads through a burning world thrown into lawless chaos. Lovers Parker and Adam have escaped to the open sea when they hear a message over the airwaves from a place called Salvation Island—a supposed safe haven.

Orphaned as a child, werewolf Adam has always longed for a pack. He’s eager to investigate the island, but Parker doesn’t think for a nanosecond that the voice on the radio can be believed. He doesn’t trust anyone but Adam and is determined to keep it that way. They don’t need anyone else complicating their struggle to survive. Or do they?

Danger on the high seas can surface in a heartbeat, and if Parker and Adam aren’t careful, the current will drag them under.

This gay romance is a dystopian adventure featuring a werewolf, his boyfriend, and their struggle to find a place to call home.

Some fun thoughts from Author Keira Andrews…odd-ball questions provided by moi!

Kick At The Darkness and Fight the Tide are your first steps into paranormal fiction. Do you have plans to write more books in the genre?
I do! There’s going to be a third book in this series about Parker and Adam, and then a fourth centered on a character you’ll meet in Fight the Tide. I’ve really enjoyed writing paranormal, so will likely write supernatural books not connected to this series in the future as well.

What is your best tool keeping you happy and motivated as a full-time writer?
I truly love writing romance and although it’s a job with pros and cons like any job, my genuine passion for it keeps me motivated. If I’m feeling particularly lazy or burned out, I think about how much I hated working in an office. Imagining myself back in a cubicle is an excellent inspiration to get my butt in gear!

From your social media, it seems you are a huge fan of Olympic sports. Being that you’re Canadian, do you prefer Winter or Summer Games? What events are you most looking forward to watching in the 2016 Summer Games?
I am indeed a huge Olympic sports fan, and yep, as a Canadian (and a massive figure skating nut), the Winter Games are my fave. I do love the Summer Games as well, and I’m really looking forward to the diving, rowing, and gymnastics in particular. American gymnast Simone Biles is phenomenal, and I can’t wait to see her crush it.

What is your favorite trope in romance writing? Older-younger? First love? Enemies-to-lovers?
So hard to choose, but I definitely have an affinity for an age difference. Looking at my backlist, it comes up a lot! So does hate to love, and I also really enjoy a virgin.😀

If you could only have either Marilla or Matthew Cuthbert as your parent, who would you choose, and why?
Ohhh, that’s a tough one. They’re both so wonderful in their own way. This is like Thunderdome. I guess I’d have to choose Matthew since he’s just so sweet and kind. And now that I’ve been pondering it, I really need to bust out my Anne of Green Gables DVDs!

My Review:

This is the second book in a series, and should be read after KICK AT THE DARKNESS. Some spoilers for KICK AT THE DARKNESS included.

It’s contemporary times, but it’s also the end of times. The world was infected with a virus that has decimated the population and turned the infected into mindless zombies. Adam and Parker were students at Stanford, Adam a 23 y/o films studies grad student, and Parker an 18 y/o freshman in Adam’s class when everything went bananas. They escaped California on Adam’s motorcycle and headed east, to see if Parker’s family survived the carnage. Along the way they were attacked, fell for each other, confessed some startling secrets, got over themselves, were held hostage, escaped from real and present dangers–many times–and hit the coast. Only to discover Parker’s family long gone.

They bundled up and took off for safety in a yacht, and that’s where Fight the Tide picks up. Parker and Adam are making their way south along the east coast. Parker is a trained sailor; his family owned a yacht and he sailed regularly in his childhood. That said, he’s never made such a long trip without more skilled partners–his father and elder brother–and he knows going into the open ocean is a very dangerous prospect. Staying close to shore isn’t easy either. It’s nearing the end of hurricane season, but storms could disable their boat, or send it crashing to the shore. Being near the coast allows them to drop into port now and again to scavenge supplies. Adam, who is a werewolf, always makes these trips as he’s immune to the virus, and his heightened strength and senses allow him to avoid or overcome any zombies that attack. That doesn’t help Parker, alone on the boat, when pirates board.

Despite Parker’s general wariness, he helps rescue a boat in a storm, picking up two adults and their kids. This companionship is mostly welcome, especially by Adam, who is a drifter and grateful for any pack he can cobble together. Adam and the other adults want to make sail for Salvation Island, a place not on any of Parker’s maps, yet whose beacons come across the radio frequencies every evening. Parker’s sure it’s another trap, and is adamantly against, but circumstances force even his will–when he needs to get help for one of his passengers.

There is constant action in this book. It’s a rollicking ride, with danger lurking from page-to-page. Parker isn’t good with people, and his suspicious nature is bolstered with each new tragedy. He’s also haunted by the pirate attack, and he’s ashamed that he can’t move past it. Adam’s a bulwark, but he can’t be everything for Parker. Plus, the calls of Salvation Island prove to be a siren song he has trouble resisting. I think if Adam had the ability to sail that far, he’d have forced Parker’s hand much sooner.

Despite the harrowing plot, there is still a strong romance here. Parker and Adam are two men in love, and they take great pleasure exploring their relationship in ways that were soopa-hawt. Serious. I had to stop and fan myself at times. As the book drew near it’s end, I was glad to watch Parker and Adam make it to safety, even as the seeds for a third book were clearly sown. Safety shouldn’t be the only goal, in Adam’s mind, not when there are so many humans struggling. I foresee a werewolf invasion, one that liberates humans and hopefully helps eradicate the virus–but that’s my own hope! Also, the author has mentioned a fourth, related, book, and I expect it will involve one of Parker’s rescues–Jacob–who will *fingers crossed* find a safe haven and partner down the road.

For paranormal/post-apocalyptic stories, this one’s really on the contemporary-realistic side of those genres. There’s little shifting, and the zombie menace is easy to imagine. I liked the elements of sailing included here, and thought it reflected a wealth of carefully-collected and sparingly delivered knowledge of actual sailing. I never felt overwhelmed by it; and I grasped how dangerous it was–in a way I had never really expected. In short, it felt so real, I could nearly taste the salty ocean spray on my face. I’m so in on this series, I might need to take drastic measures to get book 3 as soon as possible. Highly recommend!

Interested? You can find FIGHT THE TIDE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, AllRomance, and Smashwords.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Criminal Intent: BAD DOGS AND DRAG QUEENS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary police M/M romance from Julie Lynn Hayes. BAD DOGS & DRAG QUEENS is a romp of a book, with thieving pooches, fast-talking Feds and an assailant beating down drag queens.

Bad Dogs and Drag Queens (Rose and Thorne, #1)About the book:
Vinnie Delarosa and Ethan Thorne are partners—on and off the clock. Federal undercover detectives, they’re part of a covert task force designed to promote goodwill between the feds and local authorities. They lend an unobtrusive helping hand wherever it’s needed. No credit required.

Vinnie and Ethan work primarily in the Southeast region of the United States and live together in Richmond, Virginia. A mugger problem brings them to Roanoke, where Vinnie is thrown out as bait to catch the man who’s been snatching purses in a city park, but they end up with more than they bargained for. Why is Vinnie always the one who has to wear the dress? Ethan says it’s because Vinnie looks much prettier in a skirt. How can he argue with that?

Expecting to return to Richmond afterward, Vinnie and Ethan find themselves assigned a new case instead. They are to go undercover at The Stroll, one of the biggest gay nightclubs in Roanoke. Someone is terrorizing both the customers and the performers. Could they be dealing with a hate crime? Someone has to protect the drag queens of Roanoke, so it’s Vinnie and Ethan to the rescue!

The author is donating 10% of the royalties from this book to No Kid Hungry. Visit nokidhungry.org for more information about this organization.

My Review:
Federal Agents Vinnie Delarosa and Ethan Thorne wrap up investigating a purse snatcher in Roanoke, Virginia when they get assigned to a new case: hate-crimes against the performers and customers at a drag club. Vinnie’s the guy putting on all the gear, while Ethan keeps a close watch. And, at night, he gets to unwrap his sexy man. It seems Ethan has a real love for his lover, Vinnie, in drag.

They work undercover, and Vinnie has to assume a cover as Boom-Boom Sanchez, a classy gal on the drag stage. Ethan’s a bartender in the club, and they scope out the suspects together. The mystery is rather fun, and quickly resolved, with Ethan and Vinnie setting down some roots in Roanoke–even adopting a formerly-criminal dog, Bennie. Vinnie tells the tale, and while I didn’t find the premise terribly plausible (two Federal detectives that get assigned to assist local law enforcement on such low-stakes cases) it was still entertaining. Vinnie acts more like a class clown, than a detective, to me, though I liked his scathing tongue. The book is short, and it’s a breeze to read. Ethan’s a dear heart, always up for helping Vinnie out of his clothes–or into a tender embrace. They have a very sweet dynamic, even if their out relationship seemed as unlikely as their assignments. (Even het couples aren’t partners on the police force…)

Interested? You can find BAD DOGS AND DRAG QUEENS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

About the Author:
Julie Lynn Hayes first began publishing short stories and poetry in the 1990’s, when it was a different ballgame altogether, and Ebooks hadn’t been dreamed of yet. That changed in 2010 with the acceptance of her first romance novel. She’s come a long way since that first book appeared, and is finding the journey a very educational one.

She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and her cat Ramesses. She often writes of two men finding true love and happiness in one another’s arms, and is a great believer in the happily ever after. She likes to write in different genres, to stretch herself in order to see what is possible. Her great challenge is to be told something can’t be done—she feels compelled to do it.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys crafts, such as crocheting and cross stitch, needlepoint and knitting, and she loves to cook, spending time watching the Food Network. Her favorite chef is Geoffrey Zakarian. Her family thinks she’s a bit off, but she doesn’t mind. Marching to the beat of one’s own drummer is a good thing, after all. Her published works can be found at Dreamspinner Press, eXtasy Books, and Wayward Ink Press.

Catch up with Julie on her blog, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Stuck in the Middle–HIATUS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M/M menage contemporary romance from LA Witt. HIATUS is a bittersweet, but realistic, read featuring a married couple who is divorcing and their third–who tries to keep them together.

HiatusAbout the book:
Three’s a disaster when things come unraveled.
Rock star Nate Keller is on top of the world, but his headlining tour has one drawback. It keeps him away from his boyfriends, Theo and Cameron, for weeks at a time. Yet after four-and-a-half years—and a lot of hard work—the trio is still going strong.

But then Cam comes to visit with devastating news. After seventeen years together, he and Theo have agreed to a trial separation. Nate tries desperately to fix his lovers’ broken relationship, but there’s only so much he can do from the road.

At home, Cam tries to carry on, but feels like his whole life is spiraling out of control. Theo struggles to cope with the split as his depression worsens. They’re both spinning their wheels, quickly losing hope they can keep it together—and keep the man they both still love.

Desperate, Nate drops everything in a last-ditch attempt to pull their trio back together before they hit rock bottom. Except their love could already be shattered beyond repair.

Warning: Contains two men who must face how broken they are before they can fix their failing marriage, and the man who loves them both—but doesn’t know how to save them.

My Review:
This is a bittersweet menage M/M/M story that explores a disintegrating marriage, and the reasons behind the collapse. It has a happy ending.

3.5 stars.
Cam and Theo are a married couple. They’ve been together 17 years–since college–and just over four years ago met Nate, singer in an up-and-coming band. They were up for some fun, and it worked so well, that Nate joined them, permanently.

Well…the book opens with Nate ecstatic for one of his rendezvous nights on the road with his sexy boyfriends, only to find Cam waiting for him. Because Theo is moving out of their house back in LA. Nate’s blindsided and hurt, and Cam’s a mess. They make love, but it’s bittersweet.

Rinse and repeat that a few times. Sometimes Theo comes, sometimes Cam comes, see–while they can’t live together, neither wants to lose Nate. It’s a bad situation.

What Nate learns, as he strives to get his men back together is that Theo’s been suffering depression for a long time. And, Cam’s been struggling with borderline-OCD and panic attacks for a long time, and neither noticed the other’s problems because they were too wrapped in their own mental illness.

There is a lot of bitter in this book. There are also points of extreme sweetness. As a person who’s suffered depression, I felt it was more bitter than sweet. As a person who’s weathered rough patches in a long marriage, it was raw to experience echoes of similar distance in the characters on the page.

It ends with a very reasonable and relatable and realistic reunion. That was really satisfying, but I still had a LOT of angst–some on the page, some of my own baggage–to heft before I got to the good parts. Those good parts coming at the very end of the book.

Poly romances are often hard to relate to, but it’s not hard to relate to the unraveling of love. Nate was such a dear, really stoking the fires to get Cam and Theo to reconcile, but his efforts were in the wrong place, because only the people breaking up can do the making up–as Theo and Cam realized.

The mental illness issues were carefully described, and felt very real–especially the depression as I have first-hand experience with that. I liked how the solution was never complacent, not: “we’ll get over it.” Once Cam and Theo claimed their issues, they got productive help managing their emotional state. Part of their delay seeking counseling was fear that any marriage counselors would tell them they needed to cut Nate loose. I could relate with that fear, as poly relationships are not given the same weight as marriage, and that prejudice proved a hindrance to their health. Still, there were several lights at the end of the tunnel, and the end proved to be both happy and sexy.

In all, it worked for me. I just wished it had been a little more upbeat.

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

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

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Uncomfortable Truths Might Be ANYTHING BUT LOVE–Review And Get A FREE Book!

AbLblogTourHi there! I’m so excited to share my review for a new contemporary romance from Daisy Prescott. I really enjoyed the first two books in her Wingmen series, READY TO FALL and CONFESSIONS OF A REFORMED TOM CAT, so I couldn’t wait to return to idyllic Whidbey Island in ANYTHING BUT LOVE.

Check out the links below so you can catch get READY TO FALL FREE (for a limited time) to whet your appetite.

AnythingbutLoveAbout the book:
Another wingman bites the dust in this enemies to lovers story…
For the past year, I’ve been working my butt off to start my own coffee company on Whidbey. A weekend in Cabo with sun, tiny bikinis, and vacation hook-ups is exactly the kind of tension relief I need.

What I don’t need is a bruised jaw, having to bribe my way out of jail, a hellion set on ruining my life, and my mother seeing a picture of my assets on “The Twitter.”

Caribou Caldwell is my worst nightmare.

Unfortunately, she’s also the star of my sexiest dreams.

What happens when a small town guy becomes the focus of a million fantasies? As Erik Kelso navigates his sudden notoriety, will his feelings for Cari turn out to be anything but love?

Anything but Love is the third book in the Wingmen series, a spin off of Modern Love Stories. Like all Wingmen books, it can be read as a standalone romantic comedy.

My Review:
This is the third book in the Wingmen series, but can be enjoyed on its own. Expect cameos from the other MCs Tom and Jon, but this story is all about the youngest Kelso brother.

Erik Kelso is a 28 y/o single, tri-athlete running a coffee business on Whidbey Island, Washington. He lives with his slightly elder brother, Carter, in a house the locals have dubbed the “Phallus Palace” because it’s just the two dudes and Carter isn’t shy with the ladies. Erik actually is. He rarely dates and hooks up even rarely. His life is pretty much Whidbey Joe, training, and taxiing his drunk father home from local hangouts.

Carter and Erik sneak off on a low-budget Cabo vacation and the final night out is a whirlwind. Erik and Carter hit a bar, Erik bumps a gal with a D-Bag boyfriend who proceeds to spark a fight. While sweet-talking the policia is not his specialty, he manages to keep both himself and the D-bag from arrest for a mere $50. The girlfriend isn’t thrilled, even if she’s smoking. Erik can’t believe such a fox would hang with such a loser.

The next day, Erik and Carter go cliff-diving, and Erik takes a dive sans suit. He’s got a tight body from all his training, and he’s not especially shy about it. He’s not quite prepared to have his butt plastered all over the Interwebs, with speculation that those Buns of Glory belong to a popular celeb, however. When the hordes learn they don’t, the chase is on to find out WHO IS THAT GUY!!!

Mortified, Erik does some tracking to find out the source of his shame–none other than the smoking girl from the bar. He tries to legal eagle his way out of the mess, but he can’t; no one can find Caribou, that bar gal who pretty much haunts Erik’s sexy dreams. And when Cari shows up on Whidbey to set the record straight, well, the t-shirts will fly.

Oh, this was a rollicking romp of a romance. It’s really fun because Erik is a near-recluse with phobias that play out in his horror-soaked brain. Like, he’s always thinking someone bad–or even, say, zombies–might attack, and how to survive in the advent of an apocalypse. It did crack me up. He’s painfully shy around women, but talks a big game in front of his dude friends–which was a fun juxtaposition. He’s also very sensual, and when he and Cari do connect, it’s hot. Lots of special attention, and extra orgasms.

In the meantime, he’s fending off the cougars who pretty-much make a game of spotting his butt and posting pics on the ‘net. There’s an exuberant ‘zine gossip columnist who makes it his mission to bag this Hot @ss Guy, and the web posts are a scream.

I liked the enemies-to-lovers angle. I liked Erik’s weirdness and awkward approach to everything. For being an introvert, Erik’s a very approachable character, endearing and sweet. I really connected to his internet infamy and the fear that his mother might find him bared to all. It’s so true that once posted, it’s there forever, and it was really interesting to have a male character react to such a predicament. His constant embarrassment is entertaining to everyone, except him, and yet he’s totally good-natured about it. Still, he does manage to turn his 45 minutes of fame into some new business that helps out his folks and others in the community. He and Caribou have their HEA and the book sets up two more books in the series, for singles Carter and Dan.

As a critique, I had a little trouble getting into the story. The book is written in first person-POV and Erik’s name isn’t mentioned until Chapter FOUR. I kept turning pages, waiting to see who was telling me this story, and that was a pretty long wait. It made it hard for me to connect. Also, Erik’s a little agoraphobic, suffers a little anxiety and a little ADHD, I think. His thoughts zip along faster than my 7 year old on Pixy Stix. Just saying that I had a teeny bit of trouble keeping up at times. Especially when he dipped into his “survival modes.”

I really did enjoy, and look forward to further Wingmen shenanigans.

Interested? You can find ANYTHING BUT LOVE on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES

READYTOFALL_FREE

Get READY TO FALL (Wingmen #1) for FREE!

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N

24327646

CONFESSIONS OF A REFORMED TOM CAT (Wingmen, #2)

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N

————–

new daisy prescott full sizeAbout the Author:
USA Today Bestselling author Daisy Prescott lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with her husband and an indeterminate number of imaginary housegoats. When not writing about people falling in love, she can be found traveling, gardening, baking, and reading a good book. Her novels include the Modern Love Stories series, the Wingmen series, and several short stories. She’s also working on expanding the world of Bewitched this fall.

Catch up with Daisy on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, or sign up for her Newsletter.

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