Meeting His Match DRAGON LESSON–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal YA romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON LESSON is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. Finally we get to see the mixed-magic kit Lumie grow up and find his mate. I fell into the previous titles DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA, DRAGON DETECTIVE, and DRAGON ADVENTURES, and have loved watching these characters grow and evolve in each story. Lumie’s known his mate for all long time, but now they’re grown and in college–and trying to keep trouble at bay.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
All Lumie wants to see is Goldie’s beautiful smile, but the only ee wants to see is Goldie’s beautiful smile, but the only expression he ever shows Lumie is tears. When Goldie asks him for a favor, Lumie leaps at the chance to finally see Goldie happy.

Goldie wants to live a life free of the fear that has chained him for so long, but breaking free once and for all may come with a higher price than he and Lumie are prepared to pay.xpression he ever shows Lumie is tears. When Goldie asks him for a favor, Lumie leaps at the chance to finally see Goldie happy.

Goldie wants to live a life free of the fear that has chained him for so long, but breaking free once and for all may come with a higher price than he and Lumie are prepared to pay.

How about a little taste?

The first time Lumie had seen Goldie in the flesh was one of the oddest moments of Lumie’s life. Lumie knew Goldie. He knew that shining golden hair, rosy in the sun like the gold was touched by fire. And those big golden eyes surrounded by dark-gold lashes were something Lumie had seen in his mind’s eye for years and years. He knew the moment when Goldie would come into his life, when Dane and Mercury would rescue him, but Lumie hadn’t understood what five years of captivity with the enemy would do to Goldie. Lumie had been lucky. He had barely been a day out of his egg when Mercury had come for him. Goldie had been held captive for far too long, and it had destroyed something inside of him.

Lumie had tagged along with Mercury, his daddy, when Mercury went to check on a mother dragon that had been rescued along with Goldie. When Mercury went into the house where the mother was staying with her new eggs, Goldie had snuck out the back door.

Looking back on that moment years later, Lumie realized Goldie was shaking in utter fear, but at the time, all Lumie had seen was the boy from his waking dreams.

“Hi!” Lumie had chirped happily. Goldie, on the other hand, had let out a shriek. He had stumbled back from Lumie, holding up his hands as if warding off a blow. Mercury and Martha, an air dragon in charge of the village, had come hurrying outside, and together they had coaxed Goldie back into the house. Goldie wouldn’t look at Lumie even once as he hurried up the stairs.

The encounter had left Lumie horribly confused for years. He knew what Goldie’s eyes looked like when he was smiling at Lumie: shining and bright. He had foreseen that happiness, but only in a dream rather than real life. Lumie didn’t understand the fear he saw inside Goldie. For the next thirteen years, Lumie had visited the village at least once a week and made a point of saying hello to Goldie. Eventually, Goldie stopped screaming and running from Lumie, but his fear never vanished.

Lumie had yet to see Goldie’s smile in person.

“Which wire?” Alloy hissed. From the slightly frantic tone of his voice, Lumie realized it wasn’t the first time Alloy had spoken. Lumie took his eyes from the gleaming gold-colored plate he had pulled off the security alarm, got his thoughts back to the present, and focused on the two different wires Alloy had pulled out of the guts of the alarm.

“It doesn’t matter which wire,” Lumie replied with a shrug. “Just heat them both really fast, then cool them off suddenly. Total wire failure won’t set off that sort of alarm.”

“Don’t even think about it,” Mercury snapped from behind them. The overhead light flickered on, bringing the foyer of the house Mercury owned with Dane into focus. Mercury had bronze-colored hair that fell just below his ears, and his bronze-colored eyes were sharp as he glared at Lumie and Alloy. He was angry. Lumie looked at the alarm box they had stripped and were about to destroy, and then back at Mercury’s glaring face.

Oh, he was mad about the alarm thing.

“I was just teaching.” Lumie grumbled. He held out the gold-colored plate, and Mercury yanked it from his hands.

“A, you’re both nineteen and should know better. B, you both promised me a thesis statement for the essay you have to write and one page from your algebra workbook before bedtime. You can teach Alloy about alarm systems when you’re not supposed to be doing other things.” Mercury growled. Magic flashed through the air, and the gold plate flew back into place on the alarm. The four screws Alloy had dropped to the floor flew into their slots and twisted until they were in place. “Plus,” Mercury continued in a softer tone, “you both left fingerprints all over the alarm system. Eventually someone would have noticed your tampering, and you both would have been caught.” He pulled one sleeve down over his palm and wiped at the gold plate before reaching out to snap the outer housing with all the buttons back onto the frame.

Alloy bounded off, and Lumie reluctantly followed. He had actually finished the math, but he hated essays. It would only take ten minutes to scrape together the one-sentence thesis statement, but he didn’t want to. At all. He had taken the damn test Mercury had wanted him to. His results weren’t back yet, but he had thought he was done with school with the damned GED out of the way. Mercury having the tutor continue to pile on more homework was ridiculous.

Instead of following Alloy upstairs, Lumie headed to the kitchen. He deserved a cinnamon bomb before having to go do his work.

Dane was already in the kitchen when Lumie walked in. He was on the phone, though, so he couldn’t speak up to stop Lumie from raiding the candy basket on top of the fridge. The happiest day of Lumie’s life was the day he realized he had finally grown tall enough to get to his candy on his own. Somehow Lumie thought that might have also been Dane’s unhappiest day, but he tried not to dwell on trivialities like that. Dane was super special in the magic world. Whatever. So was Lumie. That wasn’t even arrogance talking. Dane was the son of a god and a crazy lady from across the pond. Grandma came to visit every once in a while. Lately she had started bringing along her spell books. Those were interesting to read. Lumie had nicked a few since they were so much more interesting than the books Mercury had him reading.

Lumie’s powers, on the other hand, were… Well, he didn’t really have a way to define what he could do. As far as he knew, no one could explain why his magic was so odd. He was a fire dragon, so playing with fire was his favorite pastime—he liked it even better than tormenting Dane—but sometimes he saw things he shouldn’t, he could travel in ways a fire dragon shouldn’t be able, and he generally confounded Dane with the things he could do. That was part of the fun, really, and Lumie tried not to dwell on things that weren’t fun.

With his long blond hair pulled back into a tail at the base of his skull, Dane looked severe. His blue eyes glared pointedly at Lumie, so Lumie picked up the cinnamon bomb wrapper from where he had dropped it on the counter and put it in the trash. Taking care of the wrapper now was better than Dane’s magic yanking him back into the kitchen to do it later. Plus, if Lumie left too many wrappers lying around, the basket suddenly had a dearth of cinnamon bombs for a few days. It was punishment that Lumie did not enjoy.

Dane hung up the phone before Lumie could escape.

“That was the new secretary of defense,” Dane said. He was frowning down at the screen of his phone as he spoke, but he looked up at Lumie, and Lumie couldn’t help freezing in place.

He had seen this before. Daydreamed it, really. In the kitchen with Dane looking so serious. Dane was about to tell him something that would change his life forever.

Lumie didn’t want to hear it. He didn’t want to know. He liked his life right now. He was comfortable living in Dane’s home and eating the food Daisy, their caretaker, prepared for them. Nickel, Lumie’s adoptive brother, liked living away from home in the house he shared with his boyfriend, Platinum. All Lumie liked about that was since Nickel and Platinum had moved out, he had been allowed to take their bedroom for himself. Not having to share with Chrome any longer—not living in the constant mess Chrome was unable to ever properly clean—was amazing.

“He offered you a full scholarship to the college of your choice with the caveat that you come work for one of the defense agencies under his purview,” Dane continued before Lumie could stop him. “He apparently has an issue only someone of your skills can handle and is willing to do just about anything to get you to sign on.”

“He doesn’t know I’m available to hire through your consulting firm?” Lumie asked grumpily, used to speaking clearly around the cinnamon bomb stretching out one of his cheeks. It was too late; he had already heard what Dane had to say. His life was irrevocably changed. All he could do was try to keep the things he liked best safe when the turmoil hit.

“He wants to take out the middleman,” Dane explained with a shrug. “It will probably also cost them less overall to pay for your college and provide a steady work salary than to hire you through me.”

That didn’t surprise Lumie. Dane made the government pay through the nose. It allowed him to give people with fewer means the same service at a much more affordable price.

“Lumie, this is big for you. Your grades aren’t anything to laud, and you took an extra year to finish high school. Plus, a lot of colleges might discriminate against you because you’re a dragon. They’ll think you’ll wash out within a semester and not want to put any time or effort into accepting you.”

Everything Dane was saying was true. Dragons were one of the most uneducated creatures in the world—not because they were stupid or lacked the mental capacity for it, but because they didn’t have access to education in the wild where the majority of them lived. When they did venture into human civilization, their ignorance often caused someone to get hurt. Having someone from the secretary of defense’s office step in on Lumie’s behalf meant that none of those issues would be in his way, but Lumie had never been interested in college. He had taken his GED test only because Mercury and Dane had literally dragged him across the finish line. He didn’t even know if he had actually passed it yet.

“Alloy wants to go to college,” Lumie stated. He wasn’t sure if he was voicing a complaint that they hadn’t approached Alloy instead—even though Alloy lacked the specialized skills that made Lumie so distinctive—or whether he was grumpy that they thought they could buy him so easily.

“So we ask the secretary if he can get two college entrance letters,” Dane replied with an easy shrug. “Alloy might also have to agree to a few years working with the government too.”

“But he’s always liked what Daddy does and would apply to work for the SupFeds in a heartbeat if he could,” Lumie finished.

Mercury worked as a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Supernatural Investigations, which investigated issues that stemmed from the supernatural world. Dane worked with them often in his capacity as a private contractor with his Supernatural Consulting Firm, and Alloy had always wanted to join Mercury. Again, something Lumie wasn’t interested in. He liked his independence—and his laziness, to be perfectly honest. He picked the jobs he wanted to do whenever he felt like doing them. Getting tied down with an agency would end all that freedom.

“Let me think about it,” Lumie finally said after a few moments of silence.

Dane nodded. His smile was completely understanding. “You know Mercury and I only want you to be happy. If college isn’t for you, we can probably still work something out. Let me know what you think. Don’t take too long,” he added. “I don’t think this offer is indefinite, so we need to call the secretary back by Friday afternoon.”

Lumie nodded and rushed to escape the kitchen. He went upstairs to his private bedroom and flopped facedown on the bed.

It was too good an opportunity to pass up. College would suck, but it would make Mercury so happy. Afterward Lumie was guaranteed to have a good job where he could use his special skills to their fullest. It really was an amazing opportunity, but it meant the end of his simple and easy life.

And there was also Alloy to think about. Alloy, who was running down the very long driveway—over two miles long—every afternoon to check the mailbox to see whether his GED scores had arrived. As soon as he had his official letter, he was going to start applying to colleges. How would Lumie feel every time Alloy got a rejection letter from a school, and Lumie knew he could have saved Alloy from that pain?

Lumie snorted in disgust at himself. Was throwing away his freedom worth it for Alloy’s happiness? Probably, damn it, but it wasn’t fair.

He threw his body off his bed and twisted his magic around him in a way no other dragon could. His bedroom vanished from view, and he reappeared just outside a small town. The nearest house was just across the street. Lumie quickly rounded the building to get to the backyard.

The flash of golden hair in the sunlight caught Lumie’s attention first, and he eagerly hurried forward to Goldie’s side. Goldie wouldn’t have the answer Lumie wanted, but just being by his side for a few minutes helped soothe his roiling thoughts.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series and likely best enjoyed when read in order–but can be enjoyed on its own.

Lumie (short for Aluminum) is an 18 year old fire dragon kit, just maturing enough to be striking out on his own, but he’s not really keen on it. It’s nice living home with his foster fathers, Dane and Mercury. Dane is a half-god who controls the supernatural creature realm in the northeast US, and Mercury is a precious copper dragon with magic of his own. Lumie was experimented on in the egg, and maybe as a hatchling, but he was soon rescued by Mercury and later they were all picked up by Dane, as Mercury had fallen ill and couldn’t care for his six rescued kits. Over the years Dane and Mercury have made a cozy family–one determined to shut down dragon experimentation for good. Lumie’s magic is far different from a normal fire dragon, he can teleport, and walk through even Dane’s impenetrable wards. And, he’s prescient, with an uncanny ability to see the future. And Lumie know that his future is tied to Goldie.

Goldie is a precious gold dragon, which has more innate magic than ordinary element dragons. He was kept in a human lab for years before he was rescued, and the pain and terror of those days walks with him still, despite being 19. For near on a decade, Goldie has watched Lumie hang about the edges of his life in the quiet household where Goldie was adopted, as Lumie visits nearly every week. Lumie has flashes of Goldie smiling at him with love, but that’s a premonition; Goldie’s hardly ever even spoken to Lumie in all their time together. It’s funny that Lumie has almost verbal diarrhea around Goldie, who listens closely and wishes for half the fearlessness of Lumie. Lumie has big news for Goldie, though–he’s been offered a guaranteed admission and full scholarship to any college of his choice, if only he will agree to work for the Supernatural Federation, a government agency tasked with managing the well-being of supes and humans alike. Lumie has no interest in college, but his dear brother Alloy really wants to go, and Lumie suspects that Goldie does as well–he’s extremely into their schoolwork, though Lumie doesn’t know why. Lumie sees the promise in this offer, though, and promptly negotiates acceptances for Alloy and Goldie, once they agree.

Ultimately, Lumie sees the college path as a way to get Goldie to move in together, and maybe he’ll get to see that love-filled smile. It’s actually not too long before Goldie and Lumie are learning a whole lot about themselves and one another. Their college has all sorts of magic theory classes, and Lumie finally learns the source of his unusual magic powers. Goldie also learns how to shut out the emotions of those around him–and use his unexpected gift to waylay bad guys. And, just in time too, because they are now on assignment to track down some dudes who’ve been kidnapping supes and forcing them into bloodsport for gambling rings. Lumie had never expected his magic would fail him, but his new education helps him see a way past his captors, and right into Goldie’s arms forever.

This is a YA paranormal romance with innocent first kisses and dreams built on a vision of the future. It’s sweet and entertaining, with just the right amount of action to balance the romance. I love how Lumie had to really grow beyond his lackadaisical life, and skills, to become capable of being responsible for himself and Goldie. And Goldie’s growth from timid and shattered to fierce enough to defend his life-mate? So engaging. The more of these stories I read, the more I can’t wait to read another. I wonder if Alloy will find his mate in the next installment!

Interested? You can find DRAGON LESSON on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Connected at Christmas ANGELS IN THE CITY–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Garrett Leigh. ANGELS IN THE CITY features a young entrepreneur meeting an app developer in a broken lift, and somehow turning a fake boyfriend into a real one

Scroll down for more information and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
A fake relationship with a stranger. An office romance with doughnuts and white knights. An addictive arrangement—friends with benefits—fast turns to love.

Jonah Gray is rich, successful, and the most eligible bachelor in the city, according to his mother, at least. But the truth is, despite her efforts to pair him off, he’s fine on his own. All he needs is a date to the Christmas ball.

Sacha Ivanov is a lone wolf, content in the cycle of long days, late nights, and anonymous hook ups, but when a chance encounter in a broken-down lift brings a gorgeous copper-haired CEO into his life, everything begins to change.

As Christmas fast approaches, a favour for a stranger blooms into something more. He doesn’t do second dates or relationships. But for kind-hearted Jonah, his angel in the city, he might just change his mind.

Angels in the City is a Christmas themed MM friends-to-lovers, forced proximity, office romance. Expect fraught days, steamy nights, and true love built around festive snacks and Christmas trees.

My Review:
Jonah Grey is a 26 year old businessman running a successful advertising company. He’s grown up with wealth and privilege, and loving parents who would love to see him settled with a quality man. But Jonah works too much and too hard to bother looking for a date, let alone a true partner. Late for his parents holiday fundraiser gala that he hates attending, Jonah is only more frustrated that he gets trapped in the lift of his building. There he meets Sacha, the new hire at the tech company which shares the top floor with Jonah’s company.

It’s Sacha’s first day on the job, in a place he is certain is filled with idiots, and he’s not happy to be trapped in a lift. Well, until he gets a look at Jonah. Both men could form a mutual admiration society, and they aren’t shy about letting the other know. Jonah’s stress levels are high and Sacha settles him, even offering to attend the gala as a fake date—-never dreaming sexy ginger Jonah would accept such a preposterous offer. But he does, if only to keep one of his demons at bay.

Their night is a bit of a hit, and it doesn’t end when the gala does. Sacha takes Jonah home and manhandles him in all the right ways. For Jonah, he’d love a reprise, but Sacha is a one-night only guy…usually. Thing is their chemistry is amazing and while both men have issues and conflicts at work, they also know not to let a good thing pass by. They try friendship with benefits, and are a little surprised how lovely it works. And, how the friendship actually grows between them. But Christmas is around the corner, and Jonah’s mum is hoping he’ll bring Sacha to their country estate for the holiday. Sacha has his own demons regarding wealthy folks and loving families, so he’s a bit spooked by the idea.

I really liked this one. Interesting and diverse characters with solid backstory and relatable conflicts. Sacha’s do,estimated issues come to a head, unexpectedly, while Jonah learns to really dig deep and put himself out there for a man he’s starting to care for deeply. While there’s a hint of separation, part of this is the language and culture barriers, with Sacha being native Russian and having completely different sensibilities compared to Jonah. His tenderness is definitely present, but we only get glimpses, enough for Jonah to stake his happiness on it, anyway. I loved to peeks of vulnerability we got to see, and how caring both men are, especially behind the scenes. A solid romance, and a good use of the ‘fake boyfriend’ trope, with everything figured out in time for Christmas Eve.

Interested? You can find ANGELS IN THE CITY on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win and ebook of HOMETOWN CHRISTMAS.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer, cover artist, and book designer. Her debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards, and was again a finalist in 2017 with Rented Heart.

In 2017, she won the EPIC award in contemporary romance with her military novel, Between Ghosts, and the contemporary romance category in the Bisexual Book Awards with her novel What Remains.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with photographer Dan Burgess. Bonus Material available for all books on Garrett’s Patreon account. Includes short stories from Misfits, Slide, Strays, What Remains, Dream, and much more.

You can find Garrett on her website, twitter, Facebook and Patreon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Now Available OPERATION FAKE RELATIONSHIP–A Holiday Book Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Jay Northcote. OPERATION FAKE RELATIONSHIP features best friends doing one another a favor…and falling hard in love.

About the book:
Can a fake relationship between best friends turn into the real thing?

After years of estrangement from his parents, Nick is finally going home for Christmas, but not without backup. He wants moral support, so his best friend and flatmate, Jackson, agrees to pretend to be his partner so he can go with him.

It’s easy for Jackson to be convincing when his feelings for Nick are as genuine as ever. He put his crush on the back burner long ago, but acting out a role he’d love to play for real is harder than he imagined. Holding hands, kissing under the mistletoe, even sharing a bed for the sake of the charade… He can’t help wondering what he’s let himself in for, and whether his heart can take it.

Emotions run high as Nick grapples with family issues, and the sexual tension between him and his best friend becomes difficult to ignore. But if he and Jackson give into the temptation to be fake boyfriends with benefits over the holiday, what will it mean for their future as friends once Christmas is over?

Contains: best friends to lovers, pretend boyfriends, daddy issues, mistletoe, and a happy ending—of course.

Interested? You can find OPERATION FAKE BOYFRIEND on Goodreads and Amazon.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Conversation and Commitments: CATCH A FALLING SNOWFLAKE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from Ava Kelly. CATCH A FALLING SNOWFLAKE is the fourth book in her Snow Globes series. This book features a couple finding the next step in their relationship–and if that means cohabitation, and adoption…or something less commitment-y. I haven’t read the previous titles, but I caught on quickly to the continuing storyline.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
The previous winter, Leon followed his twin sister Sara to a new town where she could be with her partner, Amber. There, Leon’s boyfriend Nick, friends Jeff and Daniel, and their nine-year-old daughter Abby, swiftly swept him up into their lives, a newfound family.

After a year of growing their relationship, Leon is ready to take it to the next level. Nick, however, has been stalling. When Ben, Abby’s best friend, is suddenly abandoned, Leon is excited to finally care for the children he’s always wanted. Haunted by the mistakes of his past, Nick attempts to reconcile his feelings of inadequacy as a parent with Leon’s wishes.

Against the backdrop of winter holidays filled with traditions from around the world, it is up to Leon to decide if he’s willing to stand by Nick, or if he should find his happiness elsewhere.

Catch a Falling Snowflake, the fourth story in the Snow Globes holiday series, can be read as a stand-alone, but greater enjoyment will come with reading about these characters in the order written.

How about a little taste?

The community center was quiet for a Thursday. With vacation and beckoning winter celebrations a day away, Nick expected the ebb of youthful visitors to slow down. Besides, early afternoon was always the calmest, no matter the day. Perhaps that was why he’d chosen this particular time for the support group. Sure, it served those who worked nights, unlike most of the other meetings usually held in the evenings, but Dr. Mahler had had a few requests to organize one during the day, and that was where Nick came in.

He’d been back in his hometown for two years, and soon after settling in, he’d started attending one of the grief support groups. Not that his loss was still fresh, not after years, but as a check-in with himself. As an example for others that, yes, survival was possible. He’d made friends with the local therapist; she was supportive, and he’d booked a session or two when he needed an objective ear. He was doing well.

With a smile to himself, Nick checked on the coffee thermos on the side table, then made sure the heaters underneath the windows of the meeting room were turned on. Outside, snow fell in sparse flakes. Not enough to settle and disrupt activity, but enough to give the air that chilling bite of winter.

Beyond the hills on which the town stretched, the mountains rose toward the gray sky, covered in thick pine forests. He’d missed the view. Missed the people, the smells, the buildings.

He was back to stay. No matter what happened, he wouldn’t leave again. He’d made sure to have some safety nets this time around, just in case. Volunteering for the center, for one, running this group for another, and Dr. Mahler, whom Nick had grown to trust after two years.

Nothing, however, was more important than the people in his life.

Footsteps and voices from the corridor pulled Nick from his musings. He turned to greet the two people walking in, and then another, and another, until six strangers sat in the circle of folding chairs, staring at him. Nick cleared his throat.

“I guess we should start,” he said. “Hello, everyone. My name is Nick, and I’ll be your group leader here. I’d like to remind you that this is not a therapy session, but only a space to talk. If you feel like you need more, Dr. Mahler is here.”

He gestured then, to the side, where a small office was nestled behind glass windows, door closed. The doc waved at them from her desk, legs kicked up casually onto it, crossed at the ankles, an open book in her hand. She grinned and gave them all a thumbs-up.

Around Nick, a couple of people nodded, someone waved back, and the youth with their nose in the collar of their hoodie snorted. Nick made a mental note to check later on their age.

“Doc will be here until tonight, so if you wanna sneak back after we’re finished…”

That, at least, earned him some chuckles. Nick tried not to read too much into it. He’d been to meetings full of strangers before. This would be no different. Determination reinforced, he took a deep breath.

“We’re here to talk, but don’t feel like you have to. You can just listen, if that works. But I’d like to remind everyone to be mindful and respect the privacy of these meetings.”

All nodded, and Nick copied the gesture with a thank-you.

“Has anyone been to one of these meetings before?”

Headshakes and muttered noes.

“Well.” Nick shifted. “We talk about those we’ve lost. We talk about us. The weather. Sports. Music. That movie last week with all the sword fighting.”

“And blatant disregard for proper archery,” a woman said.

“That too.”

“Does it help?”

Heads swiveled to the person in the hoodie.

“It can,” Nick said. “Sometimes it helps to just be around people who’ve been through similar things. Not everyone processes in the same way, though, so it might not be as useful.”

“Have you— Did—” Hoodie shook themself into silence, and Nick nodded anyway.

“I’ve been there. Actually, this week marks a sort of anniversary for me, so I wanted to start by telling you my story if you’d like to hear it.”

That got him their attention. Curiosity and wariness, too, but it was to be expected. First time could be scary, especially under the strain of mourning. Nick remembered with clarity his first visit to an informal support group. His first group session, though, was hazy around the edges. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and clasped his hands together.

“I was born here. With the exception of college, I’ve lived here for twenty-six years. I had a wife and a best friend and a baby on the way.”

He’d had Lauren and Jeff, twins he’d known since childhood. Through shenanigans and quiet moments and major decisions, they’d always been there. Nick and Lauren had gotten married right after college, and four years later—

“My wife died during childbirth. I watched it happen, and it’s not an image I can ever unsee. It broke me enough that my immediate thoughts were harmful toward myself and the baby. A girl. Innocent and frail, and not at fault at all. I left before I even held her once, and then spent the next seven years healing. Wasn’t pretty. Hurt a lot.”

Nick swallowed and shifted, pausing to collect his thoughts.

“What happened to her?” Hoodie asked.

“My wife’s twin brother adopted her. He was also my best friend.”

Not anymore. Jeff had a new bestie. When Nick first met Amber, he hadn’t paid much attention. It had been a brief interaction as it was, two years back, when she’d provided a ride to Jeff’s place. Amber was tall and sometimes moved like she wanted to make herself smaller. Less visible. Quiet too. Later, Nick learned she kept most people at a distance. Not in any way that might’ve been rude or hostile, but more along the lines of hiding behind a hard, thick shell. Kinda like Nick used to be, way back.

A deep breath.

“I hurt both him and the kid,” Nick continued, “because I stayed away for a long time. No contact whatsoever.”

“You suck,” Hoodie commented, but Nick fully agreed.

“Yes. Grief can make us hurt others, even when we don’t want to. It’s not excusable, though it can be explainable. Still, being mindful of those I loved was a hard-learned lesson for me.”

“But now you’re back.”

Nick nodded. “We’re working on me making up for it.”

“How?” The question came from the side, a woman with a drawn face, hugging her middle with both arms. Nick recognized that look. Guilt.

“I returned two years ago,” Nick said. “Found my friend and the kid happy. There was even a second parent involved—my friend’s life partner. Instead of being reasonable, I blew it by being an ass to them. Said mean things, made threats. Friend’s partner made me see logic. I’m grateful for him being there. They got married this summer.”

He offered a quick grin, blinking back the sting behind his eyes. Daniel was someone Nick respected through and through. He was good for Jeff and Abby.

“I don’t understand why they forgave me for being such an ass, but they did. As for my long absence… That’s the part with more serious repercussions and has been a lot harder to work through. Friend is letting me though. He’s willing, but I had to take the first step. Say that first apology—” He looked at the woman who’d asked directly. “—and not expect it to be accepted.”

“Harsh.”

“Yes, but we make mistakes, and we must bear the consequences. The best we can do after hurting others is to allow them the space they need, and understand if they can’t forgive.” With a long exhale, Nick straightened. “It’s not that grim. Sure, in the wake of what you—we’ve all been through, it might seem that what comes ahead is insurmountable. Sometimes it is, in which case you either dig through or go around, or choose a whole different path. It might also be a long, drawn-out, tiresome battle. Grief is not easy. But it’s survivable.”

And that was the whole point. That was why Nick was there, opening himself up over and over again.

“My journey is in a good place right now. I’m an uncle for the kid, her parents are my friends, and hey, I even have a boyfriend. Accidental acquisition, it was very rom-com.”

Faces perked up with undisguised interest, and Nick offered them a small smile. He got it. After Lauren, when the pain had still been so fresh he could taste it, he’d latched on to happy tales as distractions on the good days. On the bad ones, not so much. Looking around the room, it seemed his current audience wanted to hear this part of his story.

The previous year, they’d spent part of the holidays on a training retreat with Abby’s elementary school chess club, along with other third graders from all around. Daniel and Amber had chaperoned, with Nick and Jeff trailing along.

“Last winter vacation we went to this resort in the Alps. It involved a lot of children, chess, and snow—more like yelling on the slopes, actually—but it was fun. First time I met him, he threw line after line of quips while I stood there, all coherence gone. In retrospect, I should’ve realized it, but you know”—he gestured—“I was unaccustomed to someone catching my interest so suddenly.”

Nick had replayed that particular moment in his head over and over again. Leon smirking, stupid green hat over curls poking out in tiny swirls at his temples.

“And then we found out we had to share a room. You’ll never guess—”

“There was only one bed,” said Hoodie with a groan.

“Yep! We had a connection during that short vacation, but we parted ways, and I thought that would be that. Only, after I’d gotten home, I figured I didn’t want it to end. I had no idea he was coming here for New Year’s, so on December 31st, he found me in the park, brooding over lost chances.”

A few half smiles twitched around the room. Hoodie gave a thumbs-up.

“So your anniversary is coming up,” an old man to the left commented.

“Indeed. Speaking of, friend and partner’s anniversary is on the thirtieth. Seems to be a trend with us.”

Not to mention Sara and Amber had gotten together around Christmas, too, as far as Nick could tell, but those two had several anniversaries they celebrated during the year, and Nick was unclear on which was what.

The old man nodded pensively. “Martha and I, we had it on Halloween. We celebrated the day before and the day after. She said we couldn’t let candy steal all our fun, though she loved giving it out.”

With that, the others started pitching in, and Nick gave himself an inner pat on the back.

My Review:
This is the fourth novella in a series, but it can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Leon is a trans-man who fell hard for Nick about a year ago. Nick has more baggage than he can carry on most days, but he’s been working toward it. He was married to a woman who died in childbirth and he didn’t cope well. He essentially abandoned his daughter to his best friend, Jeff, his wife’s twin brother and grieving uncle to young Abby. In previous novels in this series Nick returned to his old town, to check in on Jeff and Abby, and made a bit of a hash of it. Jeff is married to Daniel, a child psychologist and math teacher. They have a loving home with Abby, and they have embraced Nick and Leon. Leon’s twin sister Sara is Jeff’s current bestie–and her wife, Amber, is trying to conceive so they can have a child.

Leon has asked Nick to move in, and Nick has refused to answer. Nick still struggles with his self-worth, though medication and therapy have helped. He has a need for silent time, even though he and Leon are almost always sleeping together. Leon, who also teachers, gets a call to help out with a domestic issue. Ben, who is ten, is best pals with Abby–and well-known to the extended crew of Jeff and Daniel’s friends. Ben was in the foster care of his deceased mother’s sibling, who is married. This couple never intended to adopt him, and now that one of them has a new job opportunity, they’ve decided to leave him and Child Protective Services with a suitcase while they move across the country days before Christmas. Ben is heartbroken, as much as he will let on. He’s glued to Nick, as he’s a man whom he recognizes from all the time they’ve both spent with Abby at Jeff’s home.

Leon is a prime candidate for fostering Ben, so he claims him immediately to keep Ben in familiar surroundings. Leon would adopt him in a heartbeat, if he knew Nick was on board. But, Nick…well, he’s already failed at fatherhood once. And’ he’s not keen on trying again. It’s the holidays and Leon fells like Nick is slipping from his grasp. It’s a bittersweet moment of perhaps having his heart’s desire, in a new home, stable relationship and raising a child with a loving partner, knowing these dreams might not include Nick.

There’s a lot going on with all the different characters and their story lines. Thing is, I was able to tumble into this complicated and loving cadre of folks who really are the sweetest and most tender and loving of people. There is a happy ending, but not with the sparkling tinsel bow one might expect of a Christmas-themed romance. That said, Ben was taken in by loving folks, Abby displayed keen insight into her bio dad’s issues and Leon and Nick came out stronger and better than ever.

Interested? You can find CATCH A FALLING SNOWFLAKE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Ava Kelly is an engineer with a deep passion for stories. Whether reading, watching, or writing them, Ava has always been surrounded by tales of all genres. Their goal is to bring more stories to life, especially those of friendship and compassion, those dedicated to trope subversion, those that give the void a voice, and those that spawn worlds of their own.

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

New Connections CHECKED BAGGAGE–a TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M contemporary romance from Valentine Wheeler. CHECKED BAGGAGE is a Thanksgiving-based novella that features two men on separate personal missions unexpectedly meeting someone they can connect with.

About the book:
When Faris has to take a trip back to his family’s home in Lebanon to handle his grandmother’s estate, he finds himself caught between the world he left as a child and the world he’s built himself in the United States. After an exhausting stay with his boisterous extended family, all he wants is a quiet trip home before Thanksgiving with his parents in Massachusetts. But the weather has different plans for him.

Charlie’s father left when he was a toddler, and he’s never gotten the chance to connect with his paternal roots. A trip to the village his family left in the 1930s gave him the facts, but left him yearning for a history he still didn’t feel.

When both men are stuck in Beirut for the night unexpectedly, can they find the connection they’re missing and make it home by Thanksgiving?

My Review:
Faris is a Lebonese man doing his family duty to travel back to the homeland in the wake of his grandmother’s death. She had passed away a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and Faris’ parents are unable to travel back to manage her estate. He’s just finished all of these tasks and is at the Beirut airport to fly back to Boston, for Thanksgiving with his family, when his flights are cancelled. He’s stranded and unwilling to contact his relations for another night’s stay–they’re crowded into their homes and he’s all peopled out. While waiting to re-book for the next day, he meets Charlie, a sexy American whose flight is also cancelled.

They think they get reservations for rooms at a nearby hotel, and share a cab there, but it turns out the rooms were all booked up, and only one remains. So, Faris, with his better Arabic, makes a deal to book it–and offers Charlie the room to share. There’s only one queen bed, but as the night wears on these men share a lot of truth, developing camaraderie. Faris is bisexual, having had relationships with men, women and non-binary people back in Boston. He’s certainly attracted to Charlie, but believes he’s straight. Charlie offers to sleep on the floor, and while Faris starts out with this idea he eventually caves to offer Charlie half the queen bed.

Their intimacy deepens as the night wears on. And it leads to some sexytimes. The next morning is awkward–made worse when Faris calls for a clean break. Faris kicks himself over and over for his shortsightedness, and wishes he could have kept contact with Charlie, but a lucky break reuinites them, just in time for turkey dinner. It’s short and bittersweet, with a fun and charming ending. I liked how Faris was a bit of curmudgeon, and he had several changes of heart in the course of about two days. In the end, it’s super sweet and happy with Charlie bringing much needed lightness into Faris’ sheltered world.

Interested? You can find CHECKED BAGGAGE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Valentine (she/her) lives in Boston, where she goes by Lis and spends her time citing obscure postal regulations and arguing with a preschooler. She writes queer joy, often with a speculative twist, and always full of bisexuals.

She serves as Logistics and Fiction Editor for Wizards in Space Literary Magazine, and her work can be found at The Future Fire and Ninestar Press

You can catch up with Lis on her website and twitter.

Scorched By Love BURNING IT DOWN–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. <a href="BURNING IT DOWN is the third book in his CalPac Crew series. This book features a mature, but injured, fire battalion chief winning the broken heart of a man on the run from his abusive partner. I’ve enjoyed ROCKING THE BOATand TIPPING THE BALANCE, and enjoyed seeing the characters from those books return to advise our new couple.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Owen Douglas, Sacramento’s first out battalion chief, is grievously injured in the line of duty. When Brad Sundstrom finds out that Owen’s been noncompliant with his physical therapy due to depression, he pushes Owen into the Capital City Rowing Club’s adaptive rowing program.

Adam Lennox, a former collegiate rower, escapes an abusive relationship and makes his way to CCRC and quickly finds himself dragooned into helping out with adaptive rowing.

Owen, much to his surprise, finds both rowing and Adam much to his liking. When he realizes that Adam returns his interest, the sparks fly and they start a relationship. But even Eden has its snake, and Adam’s ex, Jordan, comes looking for him, willing to do anything to make Adam and Owen pay.

How about a little taste?

Late summer, approximately a year and a half after the start of Rocking the Boat.

Four months into his new job as battalion chief for Sacramento City Fire’s second battalion and Owen Douglas still couldn’t sit still. Sure, he knew the job from a theoretical standpoint, and every day he learned more from a practical standpoint, but he couldn’t ignore the niggling discomfort he felt when he saw those bugles on his collar. Like his new uniform didn’t fit quite right, and perhaps from a certain point of view, it didn’t. No matter how he squinted or how many times he turned it this way or that, he couldn’t see all that much light between his investigation into the arson at the Bayard House at the beginning of the year and his promotion to battalion chief. More to the point, neither could the men and women under his command.

Not to mention every time he opened his mouth, unicorns crapping glitter and rainbows popped out. At least, that was what people seemed to be waiting for. He liked to think he was discreet, that nothing at work proclaimed him Big Gay Owen, no snapshots of boyfriends, no photos of him shaking his ass on a Mardi Gras float, no matter how much fun he’d had in Sydney, just a subtle rainbow on his battered 4Runner, a bar no bigger than the head of a toothbrush. He tried not to play the gay card, but he was the first out battalion chief in the fire department’s history, and well he knew it. More to the point, the people under his command knew it. Maybe he was just making too big a deal out of it or felt guilty for being promoted over the heads of more senior firefighters.

His intercom buzzed with his secretary on the other end. “Yes?” Owen said.

“Prissy Morrain to see you.”

“Oh! Send her in, please.” He dashed to his office door. He didn’t expect her until tomorrow.

Owen routinely left his office door open, but he quickly got out from behind his desk to greet his visitor, and not just because she outranked him.

“Chief Morrain! I’m so sorry! I must’ve made a mistake in my calendar. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow—”

Prissy Morrain waved a manicured hand. “Retired Chief, and I’m a day early. We both have better things to do than make small talk over hors d’oeuvres over at some white-tablecloth restaurant. Did you bring your lunch today?”

Owen nodded. Since he was a “first” for the department, he’d sought out the advice of another “first,” the first woman battalion chief, now retired from active firefighting and promoted off to one side to do something less dangerous involving paperwork. “I’ll grab it out of the fridge. There’s a nice park a block away. We can eat there.”

“That’ll do fine.”

Prissy Morrain was a handsome woman, Owen thought; really, she could’ve been one of those older models, the ones with silver hair and flawless skin who pitched vitamins to women of a certain age. Her wrinkles weren’t so much age lines scoring her face with years but delicate lines of character radiating out from her eyes and around her mouth to accentuate a ready smile. How she’d managed that with a career spent fighting fires and sexism, he’d never know.

He spent the short walk to the park rehearsing what he wanted to say, but when Prissy asked, “So what’s the problem?” Owen could only blurt, “I’m just not clicking with the people under me. This station, sure. My office is here, but the other stations in this battalion not so much, and there’s one station that when I walk in everything stops for a few minutes while I walk back to talk to the captain on duty, and that’s just creepy.”

“Have you talked to human resources?”

“Don’t be absurd” slipped out before he could stop it.

Prissy laughed. “Smart man. You don’t want this on your record.”

And that was why he’d contacted her. “Team-building exercises aren’t my thing at this point and are just a waste of time. I’m not in a burning building with these guys. They simply need to function with each other and work in coordinated groups, and they do. But I don’t like getting the stink eye either.”

“Look, hearts of gold, most of these guys, but it’s a conservative profession. The younger ones are yours,” Prissy said, arching one eyebrow, “maybe even literally. There’s more than one gay man among the recruits, and you’re a fine-looking specimen yourself.” She peered over the rims of her mirrored sunglasses, holding up one hand when Owen opened his mouth to interrupt. “Of course, you know better than that, but you know what I mean. It’s the ones who’ve been around a few years, the ones who’re your age and older, you may have to prove yourself to, the ones who might’ve even been up for your job. They’re the ones thinking ‘fag’ behind their smiles.”

“Or not, some of them,” Owen grumbled. “A few of them don’t even bother to smile.”

Prissy chuckled. “They’ll soon learn the stupidity of that. They may be comfortable for A or B shift, but if they’re dumb enough to piss in the battalion chief’s Wheaties, then they’ll have plenty of time to learn the errors of their ways on C shift, or better yet, transfer to someone else’s command. Too bad for them you’ve got just about the best battalion in town.”

It was true. Since he’d captained one of the downtown stations, when he’d been promoted, the fire department put him into an entirely different battalion so he wouldn’t be in immediate charge of his old buddies. The open battalion encompassed Midtown, East Sac, and part of the Pocket, named for the land inscribed within a bend in the Sacramento River. Sometimes he wondered if it was a coincidence that the city’s first out battalion chief also oversaw the gayborhood. He shrugged mentally. Oh well, easier relations during fire inspections, right? “That just seems so petty.”

“And the frat boy antics aren’t?”

Owen sighed. “True enough.”

“It’s not something you want to do often, because you will hear from their union reps about that, and about anything else if they develop an axe to grind,” Prissy said, “but used strategically, it can make your point quite nicely, and the best part is, it’s hard to prove.”

Owen nodded his head slowly. “One hundred and sixty-eight hours in a week, and five stations to staff twenty-four seven in three shifts.”

“Exactly. If you need to, you can always find something miserable for someone to do for a shift or two.” She ate some of her sandwich while she thought. “One more thing, and I hesitate even to mention it, but it was something a few—a very few—of my own firefighters used against me.” At his quizzical look, she said, “Sexual harassment.”

Owen sat back, tossing his own sandwich down. “Oh, that’s just what I need.”

Prissy patted his hand. “Don’t go borrowing trouble. It hasn’t happened yet, but you need to be aware of the possibility. You’re an out gay man, and you supervise a lot of men, some of whom are, by your own admission, not very happy right now. If they can’t pin anything else on you, they may try that.”

“Did that happen to you?” Owen asked, no longer hungry.

“Oh yes. I was a by-the-book chief, and when they couldn’t come up with anything else, some union rep had the bright idea of sexual harassment. Male firefighters, female chief. It was a situation rife with possibilities. Too bad for them and their credibility none of it was true, which quickly emerged when it came to a hearing. The judge laughed them out of court. It may be the same with you. You’ll be a by-the-book battalion chief, but some of them won’t like you just because you’re you, and the only thing they’ll come up with is that you ‘looked at ’em funny’.” She snorted. “Like you’d go for their stringy asses.” She stood up. “You know how to reach me, so do it if you need to. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sculling. One of the advantages of seniority and a desk job is that you can take off more or less at will and no one will miss you. Of course, that’s one of the disadvantages too.”

Rowing. Brad. “Does everyone in this town row?”

“Only the best people. You should come check it out. The Capital City Rowing Club’s adult learn-to-row camps are about done for the summer, but there are still learn-to-scull lessons available.”

“Thanks for the talk. I really appreciate you taking the time,” Owen said, remembering a time he had been anything but by-the-book. The Bayard House. The second floor. Brad. He shivered at the thought of what they’d done. Unprofessional as it had been, it had also been damn hot.

And just the kind of thing people looking to take him down would eat up with a spoon. Fortunately, Brad didn’t seem like the kind to tell tales out of school. He was just too nice a guy. Brad had spent their one encounter thinking of someone else, someone who’d dumped him, and still the big sweetheart had pined for that other guy, even with Owen’s lips wrapped around his cock, and hadn’t that ever done wonders for his ego.

Owen wanted that, wanted that kind of devotion, he thought, sitting there in the leafy green silence of the park. Instead, like that time in the still-smoldering Bayard House, he was just the hookup. He got Brad off and sent him home and then followed up to make sure Brad called whatshisname. He liked to think he was more honorable than most, always the nice guy, always finishing last.

Then he heard the sirens and that was it, no more lunch. That was fine. He’d parted company with his appetite around the time Prissy had mentioned sexual harassment. The park was barely two blocks from the station, but he jogged back. “What’s going on?” Owen asked the dispatcher when he got back.

“A small grass fire at Cal Expo, sir. It doesn’t sound like anything to get excited over.”

Yet. In Owen’s experience, all fires were worth getting excited over, at least until proven otherwise. But maybe that was why he was a firefighter. He liked suiting up in his turnouts and racing to a fire in an engine running hot. He shook his head to clear the rising tide of adrenaline. He’d given some of that up to become battalion chief.

Then the radio went off. He picked it up. “Douglas.”

“I need four more alarms. This thing’s bigger than we were told. Much bigger, and it’s heading for structures.”

“On our way.” He put the radio down. “You heard Captain Chin. Get those trucks moving and notify Arden-Arcade,” he told the dispatcher.

“Beaufort!” he yelled for his driver as he ran for his office and his turnouts. A huge grass fire at Cal Expo that’s heading for the pavilions, and the state fair in less than a month. Why do I always end up involved in political fires?

He wore his turnout pants over his uniform. Sure, he’d sweat like a thoroughbred in moments in the heat once they arrived at the fire. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. The rest he chucked in the backseat of the command SUV with the communications equipment. Then he checked his watch as he climbed into the passenger seat. Less than five minutes. Not ideal, but at least he beat his driver.

Beaufort came running up seconds later. “Damn, sir. How do you do that?”

“Because I’m a firefighter.”

“Ha ha,” Beaufort replied, climbing behind the wheel and flicking the sirens and lights on. But it was true. After earning his bachelor’s in biological sciences at UC Davis, Owen had gone to the Fire Academy at Sierra College. Beaufort studied communications and joined the department in that capacity, along with driving Owen’s now important executive-level ass to big fires.

Owen glanced out of Beaufort’s side of the SUV. “Look—!”

All he could tell was that it wasn’t one of his, and then the enormous fire truck smashed into them, tossing the SUV aside like a rag doll. He lost consciousness as the airbags deployed with a thunderclap.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, but it can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Owen Douglas is the first out fire battalion chief in the Sacramento Fire Department. He’s in his early 40s and a little sad that he’s always the hook-up never the boyfriend. He’s responding to a fire when he’s involved in a fatal crash with an engine truck. He survives, though badly injured, and is upset that his young driver is killed. He’s despondent about his recovery, shying away from the necessary PT he needs to learn to walk again. His physical therapist is adamant that activity is necessary and pushes Owen toward adaptive rowing. Owen’s once hook-up Brad Sundstrom is a former collegiate rower, and he’s a coach on the open men’s rowing club that supports the adaptive rowers. Brad makes it a mission to get Owen to the water’s edge.

Adam Lennox is a veterinarian, and a man hiding in plain sight. After enduring more than a decade of an abusive relationship, Adam has changed his name and licensure and moved to Davis to restart his life. He’s learning to reintegrate with people outside of the watchful eye of his abuser, his college sweetheart named Jordan. Adam had been a collegiate rower and he joins the open men’s rowing club headed by Brad and his former college coach, Nick Bedford. (Both Brad and Nick were MCs in the previous stories.) Nick taps Adam to be a pair rower with Owen, when he turns up for adaptive rowing, and the chemistry is instant.

Both Adam and Owen suffer PTSD from their respective traumas. They are immediately attracted to one another, but neither feels whole. While they begin a tentative connection, Adam is living in fear that Jordan will return–and his hallmarks are appearing again. Owen’s got a pal on the police force, but it seems he might not be able to intervene until Jordan, who is both wealthy and wily as all get-out, is caught confronting or abusing Adam. Owen’s recuperation is put on hold when he’s mysteriously attacked, and Adam is sure that Jordan is involved. It could be someone for the fire department, though, as Owen’s position is pretty tenuous. He’s reinstated for active duty, but grudgingly and with a disability hearing that could bounce him out of the service he’s been a part of for two decades. With both their lives in flux, Owen isn’t willing to let Adam shut him out–not when he’s finally found a man worth loving and fighting to keep. Meanwhile, Adam’s just fighting to stay alive.

This story has some graphic bits of violence, and descriptions of violence against animals. There is a definite sense of the victim’s mentality, of feeling that pain and potential death at the hands of person he loved is simply inevitable. Owen’s strong and fearless love gave Adam hope in his times of complete distress. Owen needed to take charge of his own life in a way he had not, before getting the time his recuperation allowed him to invest in himself. These men finding such a deep love that satisfies on a soul-deep level was so sweet and bittersweet. It rides a fine line between romance and romantic suspense. I really enjoyed the tenderness, and the conflict, and of course the happy ending.

Interested? You can find BURNING IT DOWN on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

You can catch up with Christopher on Facebook, and twitter.

Unexpected NerdLove STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE is the fourth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH and STARTING FROM HERE, so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist and the geek…
Bobby J-
What can I say? I’m a man of many tastes. I know what I like, and I’m not afraid to go for it. And I like the adorable geek from the bar. A lot. He’s smart and sassy…and he doesn’t seem to know or care that I’m in a hot up-and-coming band. However, I just found out he’s the new intern at Scratch Records. Uh-oh, this could get tricky.

Cody-
Confession…I’ve flubbed my mission. My quest is to research cool things and interesting people before I start my job as aerospace analyst—not fall for a rock star. My internship won’t last long if I can’t control this infatuation. Bobby J might look like a bear, but he’s fun and sweet and…oh boy, I think I’m in over my head. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Starting From Somewhere is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll and a little nerdiness! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

Cody nodded as he pulled out his cell and typed a few notes. “Got it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Give me one shot before I go.” I motioned for him to start talking.
“A flirting shot. Okay.” He licked his lips nervously, then shook his head. “I can’t. Everything I’m thinking is…rude.”
I barked a quick laugh. “You have my complete and undivided attention. Bring it on.”
“Um…your jeans look tight. I can’t wait for you to stand up so I can see your ass. But I’d love to see your ass out of them too.”
I bit back a grin. “Okay. That was direct and kinda hot, but do not under any circumstances try that with anyone else on planet Earth.”
“Too much?”
“A tad.” I squeezed his shoulder as I stood. “Keep practicing. It was nice to meet you, Cody.”
“You too. I’ll walk out with you. I’ve done enough research tonight.”
I nodded, then led the way to the exit, holding the door open for him. I stepped outside and gazed up at the fast-moving clouds drifting over the half-moon before turning toward my new acquaintance. Cody pulled his keys from his pocket and smiled.
“Where’d you park?” I asked.
“Over there.” He gestured at the black Mini Cooper at the far end of the lot mostly hidden in shadows.
My chivalrous side kicked in out of the blue. “I’ll walk you to your car. I’m heading that way.”
Cody beamed at me. “Thank you. Are you working early tomorrow?”
“No, why you do ask?”
“I’m making polite conversation. No flirtation whatsoever. Although I was mulling over our earlier discussion and realized you’re guilty of double standards.”
“How so?”
“Earlier you said…and I quote, ‘I’d do you.’ You added something about doing ‘it’ over a bar, a table, et cetera. Ring any bells?” He pointed his key fob at his car and gave a satisfied nod when it beeped on cue.
I squinted warily. “Yeah, but—”
“When I told you I wanted to see your posterior in your Levi’s, I was somehow out of line. The logic confuses me. Why should you be able to say what you’re thinking, and I can’t?” He came to a stop at the driver’s side of his car and crossed his arms, silently issuing a challenge of some kind.
“Now that you mention it, I suppose that does seem unfair.” I scratched my beard thoughtfully, then turned around to show off my denim-clad ass. “Ta-da! I present my posterior.”
Cody snickered. “Very nice.”
“Glad you approve.” I pivoted to face him and fumbled with my belt. “I guess I could show you the whole kit and caboodle…or caboose.”
“No, no. Let’s not ask for trouble.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “If you say so.”
“I do. Kiss me instead.”
“Excuse me?”
He pursed his lips, looking uncomfortable as hell. To his credit, he didn’t back down. “You heard me.”
The husky note in his voice zipped through my veins like a secret elixir. The sudden onslaught of need and desire was a powerful combo. I stepped closer, wedging myself between him and the Prius parked next to his car. I was at least four inches taller than Cody and much bigger. I could squish him like a bug. I wouldn’t. I wasn’t that kind of guy, but he didn’t know that. He should be careful around men like me.
“Why?”
“Because I might never meet anyone like you again. If I do, I might not be confident, brave, or sincere enough to tell him what I want. I feel like this might be a chance I should take. I understand if you say no. I’m not your type. I get it. I’m not sure why you talked to me at all tonight. Or why—”
I curled my fingers around the back of his neck and sealed my lips to his.
So what happened to my gentlemanly resolve to not corrupt a nerdy, adorable dude barking up the wrong tree for some sexy action? I had no fucking clue.

My Review:
Bobby J is the lead guitarist for an up-and-coming L.A.-based band, Jealousy. We have met him before in STARTING FROM HERE, the third book in this series. Bobby J is out and loud about his bisexuality, and he’s not one to mince words about his interest or desires. He’s caught in a little bit of discomfort with Johnny, who plays in ZERO, another band in the indie Scratch Records label, due to an aborted tryst with a fan, and members of both bands are urging Bobby to smooth things over. He would like to, he’s just not good at communicating his needs or his feelings.

While out at a seedy bar near the recording studio, Bobby J meets Cody, a beautiful, tall and slender nerdy man who admits to be there for “research” purposes. Cody is a newly graduated aerospace engineer who really works on data mining, looking for trends and patterns. He has three months off before he’s supposed to begin working in the corporate world, and he wants to cut loose a little, find out what “real life” might be like if he wasn’t so tied to his schoolwork. Cody took a summer intern position managing the social media data for ZERO and JEALOUSY, before he ever met any of the band. He just wants to study their “cool” orbit, in addition to gathering data on all sorts of human interactions, like days at the beach, and baking certain cakes. He’s got some sexytimes and dating experience, but that’s with engineers–and his non-sciencey people-ing skills are soft. Cody find Bobby J crazy sezy, and wants to pursue something, if he can, but he also doesn’t want to bias his research. Bobby J, himself a closet geek, offers to open himself up for all sorts of study, so Cody can knock items off his list.

These two, despite seeming to be complete opposites, are a more aligned than one might surmise at first glance. Bobby J was raised by his father, a workaholic scientist, and he studied to be a doctor before dropping out and following his musical dreams. They have similar taste in geeky shows, and they harmonize more than Cody’s data might have predicted. It;s a sweet and sexy fling as summer passes. Bobby J finds reasons to pop into Cody’s cube and they each enjoy the other’s company so much, even when they aren’t sexing each other up, down and every which way. Cody doesn’t think he can truly fit into Bobby J’s musical sphere, and nearly heads for the hills, but Bobby J’s long since swooned for his sexy nerd and they end up lasting longer than the internship–by far.

Being part of the STARTING FROM series, it was fun to see other band members and how their own relationships have grown. The awkwardness between Bobby J and Johnny gets smoothed over, following some real talk that Cody hands out. From their closeness in previous stories, I had wondered if Bobby J and Johnny would become a unit, but they are too good at being friends, and their attractions lay elsewhere. So, I imagine we’ll see Johnny finding his partner in an upcoming book. In the meantime, I loved this nerdy bear-twink match kindle and scorch it’s way across the pages.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Happily Mated To a BLIND WARRIOR–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a M/M paranormal romance from the writing team of Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliot. BLIND WARRIOR is the third book in the Weaver’s Circle series and I was excited to read on in this paranormal romance/adventure series. Check out my review for BROKEN WARRIOR and WILD WARRIOR to catch up on the series developments.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter the $10 Amazon GC giveaway below!
About the book:
Grey Ackles
The Soul Weaver feels useless.
A burden endangering his brothers.
The last battle with the pestilents cost Grey his sight and powers.
Now he’s dependent on his vision rehabilitation therapist Cort to learn how to function on a daily basis.

But as he grows closer to Cort, Grey is left wanting his powers back for a new reason—how will he ever know if the man he’s falling for is actually his soul mate?

Cort Newton
There is some really weird stuff going on at that house.

Spell books, guns, and a giraffe in the backyard?

But no matter how strange it gets, Cort is not going to leave the grumpy writer.

Adjusting to sudden blindness is hard for everyone, but Grey clearly has deeper reason for needing his vision back at any cost. Cort just wished Grey would confide in him.

Even with Grey’s secrets, Cort has never been drawn to a man like he is with Grey and he will do anything to keep this man safe.

Blind Warrior is the third book in the Weavers Circle series. It includes fast-paced action, running through Savannah, secrets, shapeshifting, brainwashed assassins, a gorilla, sexy times, fun with water, insecurity, three crazy old ladies, and magic!

How about a little taste?

Grey reluctantly got out of the vehicle and felt his way to the warm hood. “Gotta be a lot of glass bottles in there for me to knock over,” he warned as Lucien placed a hand on his biceps.

“We’ll steer you in the right direction.” Lucien pressed on his arm as they started walking. “You need the exercise.”

“Makes more sense for me to wait in the—” he broke off when a horrid smell hit his nose. It was like rotting meat left out on a hot summer day. “Shit, pestilents,” he hissed. Fear gripped his heart, his lungs freezing in his chest. How the hell was he supposed to protect himself?

Pestilents were these…humanoid creatures…from another realm who were trying to kill him and his brother Weavers. Their world was dying, and they wanted to leech energy off this one to save their own. Grey and the other Weavers had been tasked to stop them, using magic they’d gained from three goddesses. Insane. All of it sounded absolutely insane, but it was now his life.

One positive was that they were easy to spot, thanks to their awful stink. They rotted slowly in this world because they didn’t belong.

“I just smelled them, too,” Lucien grumbled under his breath.

“Can you see them?” Grey asked.

“They have to be in the store. Do pestilents drink alcohol?” Baer’s voice was moving away from Grey, possibly toward the Jeep.

“How the hell would we know?” Lucien led Grey back, too. Doors opened around him and he reached out with his left hand, coming into contact with the familiar durable fabric covering the rear bench seat in Baer’s Jeep.

“That’s it? We’re going to run?” Grey slid inside the vehicle, inwardly fuming. They were running to protect him.

“You expect us to just attack them in broad daylight in a wine shop?” Baer’s voice came from the driver’s side this time. “I can’t believe they’re rallying forces this fast. We had a three-month break last time.”

“There is obviously more than one set out there, or they wouldn’t have been chasing us over the United States.” Grey grabbed the front seats and pulled himself forward to lean between them as Lucien got into the passenger side. “I don’t think we should just leave them.”

Lucien cleared his throat. “I see only one at the counter now.”

“Doesn’t mean there aren’t more in the back,” Baer countered.

“Why don’t you go in there and lure him out?” Lucien suggested. “See that field behind those trees? We could fight it there.”

Grey saw nothing, but he didn’t bother to point that out. All he knew was, he felt wrong running and leaving any pestilents free to attack them later. Or even an innocent human who just happened to get in their way. If there were only a few, Baer and Lucien would be able to easily take care of them on their own. “I think that’s a good idea. But you should both go inside, just in case there are more than one.”

“And leave you help-er…alone out here?” Baer snapped. He cursed softly. “Sorry, Grey.”

But he was fucking helpless, and he knew it. Before losing his sight, his powers hadn’t done a lot when it came to fighting, but he’d been able to shoot a gun, use a knife. He wasn’t bad in a fight. And he’d been able to serve as a lookout, offer cover for his brothers. Now, he didn’t even have that.

Of course, his powers were tied to his sight, so he couldn’t use those. All he got were the occasional broken thoughts and emotions from others. His ability to see auras had been nipped in the bud. As was his ability to see into people’s souls, to read their past, motives, desires, and thoughts. He didn’t know if he could still manipulate people, hadn’t even tried.

“I’m going in,” Baer announced. “I’ll lure him into the field and shift into something fierce. We’ll dispatch this asshole, grab our booze, and go home.”

My Review:
This is the third book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order.

Grey Ackles is a part of the Weavers, a group of men who have special powers to fend off the invading pestilents–humanoids from another realm who have been siphoning off the energy of Earth from centuries to keep their own planet alive. He’s the Soul Weaver, which means he can see into a person’s soul and read their mind. In previous stories we me the Earth Weaver and the Animal Weaver, and Grey isn’t really proud of his gifts. He can’t shapeshift into a ferocious beast, nor can he compel earthquakes or trees to impale pestilents with their branches–so he feels a little “less” than his brothers in this conflict.

And, now Grey is blind. It’s a new development, following an attack on a cadre of pestilents. Grey was severely injured and though his brother’s mate used Healing powers to recover him, Grey is still blind and suffering terrible headaches. As part of Grey’s recovery he meets with a vision rehabilitation therapist, Cort, who is meant to help Grey adjust to his newly-blind life and surroundings. Grey is despondent, felling that he has let down his team of Weavers, but they only want to see Grey heal.

Cort has no idea what he’s getting into with Grey and the rest of the maniacs that live on the Weaver compound. Cort knows that he’s attracted to Grey, and he can’t help offering a bit of human comfort, as Grey needs it. Cort is drawn into the zaniness of the Weaver life, helping to recover the Water Weaver and seeing pestilents literally swallowed by sand dunes ore witness giraffes on parade, courtesy of the Earth and Animal Weavers, respectively. One thing is clear, Cort is unwilling to let Grey come to harm, either by his own foolishness or the recklessness of his “family”. And, Cort is more than a little intrigued by the open and loving gay partnerships he sees with these Weavers. It’s not long before Grey admits that he’s got sexy feelings for his vision therapist, oh, and it’s too dangerous for Cort to be out on his own because there is a pestilent warlock who’s busy turning all sorts of humans into mindless killer in an attempt to murder any one of five Weavers before the sixth can arrive and complete the Circle. This means that Cort needs to stay on their Weaver compound and let the feels increase while they keep close quarters.

As this is a continuing saga, this was a great installment to allow Grey to build a rapport with his soul mate before seeing him and recognizing the soul bond that links them. Grey had that ability while sighted, but he falls head first for Cort even knowing that he could be making a big mistake. There’s tons of intrigue and some battles extraordinaire, but in the end it’s a love story for Cort and Grey, who do indeed form a soul bond. It’s sweet and tender, because Grey needs so much TLC, and Cort is just the man to dole it out with compassion and discipline.

I’m totally hooked on this series and cannot wait to meet the sixth Weaver and watch the Fire and Water Weavers find their soul mates–and the Circle defeat the pestilents once and for all.

Interested? You can find BLIND WARRIOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott have teamed up to combine their evil genius to create intense gay romantic suspense stories that have car chases, shoot outs, explosions, scorching hot love scenes, and tender, tear-jerking moments. Their first joint books are in the Unbreakable Bonds series.

Catch up with Jocelyn and Rinda on their website, Facebook, and twitter.

Now Available CHRISTMAS CRACKERS–A Holiday Book Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance collection from Jay Northcote. CHRISTMAS CRACKERS features three sweet and sexy novels that all have super happy endings.

About the book:
When two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?
Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

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

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

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

Best friends snowed in together. When the heat rises, will they get cold feet?
Getting snowed in at a remote cottage in Wales with someone he’d fancied for ages isn’t exactly how Sam expected to spend Christmas. His feelings for Ryan are pointless. Ryan’s straight—or so he thought.

Until now, Ryan’s kept his feelings for Sam buried. Why ruin a friendship over what might only be gay experimentation? Playing it cool seems safer, until a cold snap makes sharing body heat vital. In their Welsh safe haven, anything seems possible.

As Ryan’s reserve melts away, Sam wants more than stolen kisses under the mistletoe. But a sudden thaw means making decisions. They could face the New Year together—unless one of them gets cold feet.
My Review:
A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS:
Rudy is a 24 year old out gay man working at an LGBTQ charity in Bristol. Rudy’s a painfully shy man, yet intrigued by his new co-worker Zac. Zac keeps to himself, and likes it that way. He’s been hurt before, and doesn’t want to build friendships that would only fade. That said, Zac notices how Rudy quietly tracks him through the office.

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

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

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

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

COLD FEET:
Sam and Ryan are best friends and housemates at university in Brighton. They head out to Wales for a mini-getaway with another housemate Jon and his girlfriend, but plans go awry when Jon’s car breaks down and a freak snowstorm leaves Sam and Ryan mainly trapped in Jon’s parents’ cold cottage. San is out gay, and single. He’s had a longstanding secret crush on Ryan, whom he believes is straight, but Ryan…isn’t. He’s never been with a man, but he’s realized over the past year that he’s intensely curious about Sam, about maybe being gay, and wondering if he’s a creep for crushing on Sam.

Beyond a fireplace, the house is barely heated, and as Sam and Ryan tuck in for a far longer visit than they had planned they end up all in one another’s business–and beds–to keep warm. Mistletoe and cheap wine break the seal on Ryan’s true feelings, but he’s afraid to come out and ruin things in his life is Sam isn’t really into him. Sam, thinking Ryan only wants him for a bit of experimentation, is reluctant to let his true feelings show, too. They spend an idyllic Christmas together, meeting a neighbor willing to share her Christmas feast, and each man longs for more isolated time to continue their explorations. Unfortunately, life intrudes and they have to head home sooner than either would like, by that point.

It’s so sweet, and I really loved both Sam and Ryan who have some awkwardness when they reunite at their lodgings. It’s New Year’s Eve and both of them acknowledge they need to make some changes. I liked how they got their communication sorted just in time.

WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS:
This is an adorable friends-to-lovers romance.

Justin and Sean have been friends since they were seven years old. Justin came out early–mostly because everyone assumed he was gay anyhow–But Sean only came out a couple of years ago. Justin felt betrayed when he learned Sean was gay, because he’d fancied Sean for ages and felt he would have been a safe harbor, plus he would have loved to experiment with him when they were close together.

Well, it’s Christmas time and Justin is newly single–what with that cheater Andy revealing all two weeks ago. He’s about to call off his plans to attend the company Christmas party when Sean arrives and offers to go as his pretend boyfriend–to make Andy jealous. Sean has just returned from a 9 month trip, and he’s camping on Justin’s sofa until he gets a job and a flat. That said, he’s not unhappy about the close quarters. He’s wanted Justin for years, but Justin was always dating a bloke and the timing was never right.

Their time is close and friendly, with each man surreptitiously checking out the other, and their date is, well, super extra hot. All that closeness, and dancing and snogging…leads to more. But, can Justin and Sean turn the one night of passion into a relationship?

I loved the realistic feel to this one. These guys are so conscious of their friendship, and don’t want to harm it in any way. They are totally gone for each other, and hold back and hold back and hold back–until they just cannot hold back any longer. Each is afraid he loves the other more than he is loved, and each is completely and totally wrong. It’s the perfect twist and the best Christmas for each of them.

Also, HAWT. They coulda lit up the Christmas tree with their passion. This is a fast read, but doesn’t skimp on the feels.

Interested? You can find CHRISTMAS CRACKERS on Amazon US and UK.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Double Agents Test THE ENVOY’S HONOR-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M fantasy romance from Antonia Aquilante. THE ENVOY’S HONOR is the eighth story in her Chronicles of Tournai series. I really enjoyed THE PRINCE’S CONSORT, THE ARTIST’S MASQUERADE, THE SCHOLAR’S HEART and THE SORCERER’S GUARDIAN which are all wet in that fantasy world of magic and courtly manners. This book features intrigue and shapeshifting magic as well as love for two lonely men.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Second son of an earl and cousin to the Crown Prince, Griffen has worked hard to forge a career in diplomacy for the principality of Tournai, but he never expected his diplomatic skills would be necessary for a problem so personal to him and his family.

A delegation from the mysterious kingdom of Ivria has come to Tournai to make sure the secret of their people—the magical Talent allowing them to change into dragons—and therefore their kingdom itself remain safe. The delegation is concerned for Corentin, an Ivrian, and the man Griffen’s older brother is soon to marry.

The Ivrians seem to want to drag Corentin back to Ivria for the offense of revealing their secret, but Griffen refuses to let it happen. His determination puts him into contact—and conflict—with Kirill, a negotiator for the king of Ivria who possesses the dragon Talent himself. The two clash and connect, getting closer and pulling away as they try to negotiate the needs of their people and an unwanted attraction between themselves. However, just as trust might be growing between them, a plot is uncovered and a member of the Ivrian delegation murdered. Griffen and Kirill must discover who is behind both for the safety of their countries and the people they love…and for a chance to be together.

How about a yummy taste?

Griffen’s day had been utterly normal—boring, even—until the dragons arrived.

The only mildly interesting thing that had happened was Bastien for once being convinced to attend a family dinner at the palace. Griffen didn’t delude himself into thinking his persuasion and prodding had anything to do with his older brother’s decision. No, Philip’s order had gotten Bastien and Corentin, the man he would soon marry, here. The prince rarely ordered his family about—and never in this type of situation, so Philip’s edict had probably been at least half joking—but Bastien was too dutiful to ignore it, despite his preference to be something of a hermit.

Bastien wasn’t truly unsociable—he just preferred to spend his time quietly on their family’s estate of Ardesia and not at court or even in the capital. Since Corentin taught at the university here in the city, Bastien could no longer spend all his time at Ardesia, unless he wanted to be separated from Corentin, which he obviously did not. And since they were cousins to the prince—Philip’s mother had been their aunt—though they were not royalty themselves, they were expected to be seen at court perhaps even more than others. Griffen had no problem with the expectation, but his and Bastien’s similarities ended with their appearances. They looked almost identical but couldn’t have been more different in personality.

What Griffen had never understood was why it was so difficult to get Bastien to casual family gatherings. Tonight’s dinner was not a court function. They gathered in Philip and Amory’s private sitting room—the royal couple having created a homey place for themselves in the grandeur of the palace—sipping drinks and chatting before dinner. Philip and Amory’s son was with them; Philip held the sleepy toddler now, rocking Julien slightly as he spoke with his cousin Cathal and Lord Marcus. Marcus did some sort of mysterious work for Philip, but he was with them tonight because he was going to marry Alexander, another of Philip’s cousins. The match was an interesting one—the older, serious, self-contained Marcus and the mischievous, outgoing Alexander. Faelen, Alexander’s twin, was chatting with Amory, and Flavian, Cathal’s husband, with Maxen, the man Faelen would marry later in the year, bringing them more wine.

No, it most definitely wasn’t a court event or formal in any way.

This family had grown so much in the last few years—and grown closer too. Griffen loved it, was honored to be a part of it. He was tied to Philip by blood, but blood wasn’t what made a family. If only there wasn’t a hint of sadness dragging at him. So many of his family had paired off—more, had found love matches, something rare among royalty and the nobility who were more likely to marry for power or position.

And Griffen…wanted that for himself.

He’d had his share of affairs with various people over the years and parted amicably after each, everyone enjoying themselves and not looking for more. None of those liaisons had ever been serious or had a possibility of becoming so, which had been fine. Then. Somewhere along the way, it had stopped being fine to him.

“Everything all right?”

Griffen jumped a little before facing Tristan who’d come to his side. “Fine.”

Tristan frowned, an expression that always seemed vaguely wrong on his face. A bright smile seemed to go with his shining gold hair and sparkling blue eyes. Griffen had enjoyed his smiles, and other things, during the handful of nights they’d spent together. What they’d shared hadn’t even been something so formal as an affair, and it had been over long before Tristan married Etan, another of Philip’s cousins. Etan was here, too, talking in a corner with Bastien and Corentin—about something related to one of their studies if the faintly perplexed look in Bastien’s eyes was anything to go by.

“You seemed far away for a moment,” Tristan said, capturing Griffen’s attention again.

“Just thinking. I guess I’m easily distracted tonight.”

“I hope by something good.” Alexander winked as he appeared in front of them, decanter in hand, ready to pour more wine for them. His eyes narrowed as he studied Griffen. “Uh oh. Not good?”

Tristan’s gaze sharpened. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Griffen smiled, warmed by their concern. When neither man looked reassured, he added, “Really.”

And there wasn’t—though they still didn’t look as if they believed him. He was just…thoughtful.

A sharp rap on the door saved him from having to convince Tristan and Alexander. Before anyone could move to answer the door, it flew open, and Ligeia tumbled into the room.

Surprise froze Griffen for an instant. His sister had elected to stay home that evening—though Philip and Amory would’ve been happy to have her join them if she wanted—with Patia and Idalia, two of the cousins who’d become Bastien’s wards several months ago. She shouldn’t have been at the palace, certainly not looking wild-eyed and near panic with her light-brown hair escaping its pins and her dress one she never left the house in.

He broke his paralysis and spoke at the same time Bastien did. “Ligeia?”

“What happened?” Bastien continued. “Are you all right?”

She halted a few steps inside, after pushing the door closed behind her—it was amazing the guards had even let her through looking the way she did. “Fine, I’m fine,” she said, breathless. Had she run through the palace to get here? “But…”

“What is it, Ligeia?” Philip asked as her gaze darted around the room. He didn’t exactly use the tone of voice that Griffen identified as more prince than family, but the way he said the words commanded attention, nonetheless. From all of them.

Ligeia focused on Philip immediately and took a breath. “Some people came to the house, looking for Corentin. From, um, his home.”

Marcus and Maxen looked confused, but everyone else froze. They knew exactly what that meant.

The dragons.

My Review:
This is the eighth book in a fantasy series, and likely best enjoyed when read in sequence, though it can be read as a standalone. I have read books 1-4 in this series and still felt there was enough background to fill in the gaps I had from not reading books 5-7. This review may contain some spoilers for previous books.

Griffen is the second son of his family, his elder brother Bastien is the Duke of their familial estate in Ardesia. They are both cousins to Philip, crowned prince of Tounai, and Griffen works in the palace at Jumelle, the capital city as a diplomat. Bastien is engaged to Corentin, a scholar from a hidden realm called Ivria where the people have a magical secret they endeavor to keep from society-at=large: many of their number can shift into a dragon form. Bastien had been attacked and kidnapped in a previous story and Corentin’s magic both saved Bastien and revealed the secret of Ivria, at least to Prince Philip and his consort Prince Amory and certain other trusted members of Philip’s family and retinue. Griffen doesn’t think dragon magic is odd, and he’s happy for his brother’s happiness.

Griffen, Bastien and several other members of the prince’s family are dining in the palace for a private celebration over impending nuptials when a delegation from Ivria arrives unannounced and with little decorum. Kirill is among this number, but he’s startled and frustrated when the unofficial delegation leader makes unreasonable demands–to hand over Corentin to be returned to Ivria for questioning. The delegation was only sent to determine if the revelations Corentin had let slip posed any danger to Ivria or its interests–but Kirill is soon convinced that the unreasonable and crude demands his fellow envoy are making stem from a deeper plot, one that would reveal the dragon’s magic in an attempt to ignite a conflagration.

Kirill and Griffen are both working to help Corentin and smooth over this situation, and they are both caught in an unwanted attraction for each other. Kirill’s fellow delegates are encouraging this–either because they want to see him happy or they hope he can exploit the relationship. The delegates have been invited to stay in the palace, temporarily, so that Philip’s guards can keep an eye on them, and make sure they do not attempt to kidnap Corentin. Kirill knows this, and he doesn’t trust the people of the palace, or Griffen, for these reasons. Still, their communications become less intrigue-laden and more friendly–until one of the Ivrians is murdered in the palace gardens. Now Kirill’s missing is to find the murderer while extricting their group from Tournai with haste. Even if it means leaving Griffen behind. Maybe…temporarily.

This is an intrigue-heavy mystery that develops alongside the romance. Griffen is a good man and he’s willing to trust Kirill more than Kirill trusts him–and that’s find for a while. His excellent behavior and attention to details help Kirill to navigate the two walks he’s taking in the negotiations about Corentin and his growing regard for Griffen. We had met Griffen briefly in earlier stories, but he was never a central character before now. Kirill and his Ivrian compatriots are interesting and I liked learning a bit about their culture. Not all of them can shift into dragons, but Kirill can–and he shows a lot of trust to shift in front of Griffen once Griffen finds an isolated area for Kirill to stretch his wings. The romance develops slowly ans is adversarial at first, due to the nature of being from different nations and wanting different objectives–namely, Kirill is angry that Griffen has knowledge about his magic, and he’s afraid that knowledge will be used for harm. It takes time for Kirill–and his fellow delegates–to see the few people from Tournai who know their secret go to great pains to not let it be revealed to any new persons, thus protecting the Ivrians from the exposure they want to contain.

Griffen and Kirill develop a plan for further connection, once they agree that they want more than something casual. Kirill feels so seen and cherished by Griffen, who loves him in human or dragon form. Griffen really feels connected to Kirill, and their lives seem aligned both emotionally and diplomatically. Bastien and Corentin also share their happy ending with the greater group of friends and family that make up these books, with glimpses of folks who might become MCs of their own right in later stories. I’m a fan of this series and the magical world they encompass. Can’t wait for another story to hit the press!

Interested? You can find THE ENVOY’S HONOR on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

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About the Author:
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

Catch up with Antonia on Facebook, and twitter.