Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a fantastic contemporary M/M romance from Jeff Erno. SPEEDY REWARDS is an ensemble story that captivated me from the first page. The story weaves between characters in and around the Speedy Mart, a gas station/convenience store, set in an economically depressed area of rural Michigan. What these folks get up to in such a small space! Outlandish, and yet fully believable.
Scroll down to check out the totally NSFW excerpt and enter the giveaway, too!
About the book:
Phil Mitchell pours his heart and soul into his job as manager of Speedy Mart, a local convenience store. He loves his work and he loves his fellow employees, but when it comes to his personal life, Phil is lonely and depressed and still pining for his long-departed ex.
He embarks upon the week from hell where anything that can go wrong does. It begins with a truck crashing into his outdoor sign and only goes downhill from there.
Add an asshole homophobic boss hell bent on seeing him fired and Phil realizes he needs to put into place a plan to save himself and his job.
First step in his plan… do something about his love life.
Meanwhile, Ezra, one of Phil’s team members, is dealing with his own roller coaster ride of a week.
As is Brandon, the local cop…
And Mark, the homophobic boss…
Perhaps, with a little… luck, the next week will be better.
How about a little taste?
Esdras Manuel Covington, aka Ezra, smiled as he slid behind the wheel of his 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix.
“Bitch, you better start,” he said in his most sincerely threatening voice as he slid the key into the ignition. As he turned the key, the engine chugged to life, sluggishly at first, until he depressed the gas pedal, revving the motor.
Ezra about jumped out of his skin. His head snapped toward the passenger sideof the car where two palms pressed against the window. The smiling face of a familiar customer beamed between the outstretched hands.
He powered down the window. “Jesus Christ, Jeremy! You scared the fuck outta me.”
The twenty-something he-man grinned mischievously, the corners of his mouth curled upward as his lips peeled back to reveal a row of gleaming white teeth. “Yo motherfucka. Wassup?” With his forearms resting against the ledge, he leaned in. “You off work, man?”
“Yeah, I just got out.”
“I got something,” Jeremy said, lowering his voice. “Special fucking delivery.”
Ezra straightened his posture just a bit and raised his eyebrows. “Dude, that was fast.” He jerked his head slightly, motioning for Jeremy to get in the passenger seat.
Jeremy stood about six foot three inches with broad shoulders and the build of a bouncer. Actually, he did work as a bouncer on the weekends at some nearby club. Of course, that wasn’t his main gig. He also worked security at the Fashion Warehouse, a women’s clothing outlet in one of the nearby strip malls. He definitely put the “body” in “bodyguard”, with his rippling, muscular pecs and abs, and bulging biceps.
“Gonna pull around back,” Ezra said as Jeremy adjusted the seat, sliding it back to accommodate his long legs. “Dude, I didn’t expect you to deliver so quick.” He shifted into gear and backed out of his parking space then pulled around to the rear of the building.
“I told ya, man. I’m hooked up.” He slid his hand into the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a baggie.
Ezra parked where he could clearly see if any other vehicles were approaching, but made sure he was not in plain sight of the Speedy Mart patrons. “I… uh….” He turned to face his friend.
“Man, I don’t get paid till tomorrow. I had the cash, but….”
Jeremy’s smile never faded, and with a shrug he tossed the bag of weed into Ezra’s lap. “I know you’re good for it, man. You won’t be playin’ me.”
“Dude, this is like… man, you don’t gotta trust me.”
“Oh, I don’t trust nobody.” He reached into the inner chest pocket of his jacket and removed a pack of Marlboro Reds, flicked one out, and seized it with his lips. He fired it up with a Bic then released a stream of smoke out the open window. “Never said I trusted you. I said I know you’re good for it.”
“Oh. Well, thanks.”
Again, he shrugged. “That’s what friends are for, right? You scratch my back, I scratch yours.”
“Right.” Ezra nodded then stared down at the dope. “This ain’t no eighth,” he said.
“Quarter,” Jeremy said. “Consider it a blue-light special. Since you’re a first-time customer, ya know.”
Ezra grinned. “Really? So, it’s like, same price?”
“Pretty much.” He turned in his seat, not just tilting his head, but shifting his entire upper body, and placed his fingertips against Ezra’s cheek. “Of course, it’d be cool if you—ya know—expressed your gratitude.” He patted, then gently slapped, the cheek a couple times, staring into Ezra’s eyes.
Ezra’s heartbeat quickened as his gaze locked onto Jeremy’s. Though he wanted to speak, to reply in the affirmative, he suddenly couldn’t find his voice. So he simply nodded.
Jeremy slid back, reaching down to locate the control to recline the seat. Ezra stared at his long legs, now spread, and the sight triggered a ripple of fluttering in his own lower abdomen. A familiar tingling, undoubtedly operant conditioning. Jeremy didn’t have to be more specific or cajole him in any way. Ezra already knew. He sensed what Jeremy was after. He could feel it in his gut.
He slid a slightly trembling hand onto Jeremy’s thigh.
Jeremy’s laugh alone could have seduced Ezra, low and sultry. Evil? Well, at least tempting. He took a long drag from his cigarette and then flicked it out the window before settling back in the seat and unbuttoning his fly.
It felt like a dream or a movie, certainly not real. Ezra had chatted with Jeremy numerous times in the store. They’d established a rapport, which in turn had facilitated the transaction that just transpired. Though Ezra at times allowed himself to get overly flirty, he’d never deliberately come onto Jeremy. To Ezra’s knowledge, he’d offered Jeremy no clue of his orientation.
“I knew a joint wasn’t the only thing you liked to smoke,” Jeremy teased.
Ezra slid his hand farther up Jeremy’s inner thigh. “No. I like a nice fat blunt occasionally.”
Another bout of rumbly laughter escaped Jeremy’s throat as he looked into Ezra’s eyes. “I definitely got a fat one for ya, boy. You have such soft, pouty lips.” He extended his arm, pressing against Ezra’s mouth with his index finger. Ezra parted his lips and sucked in the digit, barely an inch then slowly retracted.
“Aw, fuck yeah,” Jeremy moaned.
Ezra felt the throb of a growing bulge beneath the fabric of Jeremy’s cargos. His pulse pounded, throbbing in conjunction with his own hard-on. He shifted in his seat, maneuvering his position to work around the gearshift, and carefully unzipped Jeremy’s fly.
Whew! Well, I guess you figured out that this is NOT a kiddo book… I loved every minute of it. I got chills, actually, reading that piece because Ezra’s about to get a real eye-opener in that scene.
This is an ensemble cast book, with intersecting points of view centered around the Speedy Mart, a small-town convenience store/gas station in rural Michigan. If you are a fan of LOVE ACTUALLY, the cult-classic CLERKS, or PULP FICTION (sans the murders) you will love this story.
The main character of the entire story is Phil, manager of the Speedy Mart. He is a 35 y/o, out gay man who has worked in retail his whole life. His tenacity and compassion as a boss helps his eclectic team of workers thrive. Among the employees at the Speedy Mart is an aging drag queen, a secret-drinker Wiccan BDSM Domme, a glam boy, and a gruff–former-alcoholic-former-homeless assistant manager. The Monday morning rush at the Speedy Mart is no joke, and it’s further complicated when Ezra (the glam boy) is nearly hit by a Coke delivery truck. The driver, Vince, makes a heroic save resulting in minimal property damage, which brings Phil’s overbearing and homophobic manager Mark to the scene.
It is now that Phil’s professional life begins to unravel. And it isn’t helped when Ezra is held up at gunpoint the following day. Mark has an ax to grind with Phil, and it’s of a deeply personal nature. His solutions for Phil’s store: fire everyone, including Phil, but Mark can’t make that happen without some HR documentation, so he turns the screws tight waiting for the Speedy Mart to topple. With the turmoil at work, Phil is unlikely to find respite, but he does–with Humberto, a young, suave Mexican-American handyman.
Meanwhile, having two near-death experiences turns Ezra into a mess. His best friend, Jeremy, is not much help–going through some intense relationship issues with his “open relationship” live-in boyfriend, Vince–the Coke deliveryman.
There are further and deeper connections between the many characters in this story, but they all flow seamlessly via the multiple points of view. I developed such love for this quirky cast, and wanted everyone (excepting Vince) to have an HEA. I was really, really close to getting that wish-come-true. Even Mark was redeemed, and in the sexiest way possible.
Speaking of sexy, I did like the sexytimes. The book likely has more per-capita oral action than I’ve read before (if you recall the excerpt above…), but there are some rather tender scenes blending in there, too. I really felt emotionally engaged the whole time. Expect to laugh, swoon, shake your head, and wish to punch out a character, or two. *evil-eyes Vince*
I was captivated by the close interactions this “work family” displayed–and how they banded together to support Phil in his professional and personal life. My one complaint? I didn’t get to experience the company picnic! These people are a total hoot, and I was sad to turn the final page.
Interested? You can find SPEEDY REWARDS on Goodreads, and get 40% through 6/21 at Wayward Ink Publishing. Regular price on Amazon (US, UK, DE and AU), Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.
Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win one of several prizes including a $20 WIP Gift Card, a $10 WIP Gift Card, or an ebook copy of Speedy Rewards
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the author:
JEFF ERNO began writing LGBT fiction in the late 1990s. Although an avid reader and amateur writer from a very young age, Jeff pursued a career as a retail store manager in Northern Michigan. When his first gay-themed novel was published, he was shocked that anyone would even want to read it. So far, he’s published over thirty novels. Jeff lives in Southern Michigan, where he works part time at a convenience store.
Jeff’s writing credits include a variety of themes and sub-genres including male romance, Young Adult, Science Fiction, erotica, and BDSM. He is the winner of a 2012 Rainbow Award and an Honorable Mention in 2011. His style is unpretentious and focused upon emotionally-driven, character-based stories that touch the heart. Jeff is especially passionate about young adult literature and combating teen bullying and youth suicide.
You can catch up with Jeff on his website, Facebook, Twitter, or by email.