Loving all the Portland Heat!

Hi there! I’m sharing some love for a series of novellas that have been steadily filling up my “read books” list. The Portland Heat series by Annabeth Albert is a contemporary M/M romance series featuring men, from all different backgrounds and stations in life, finding real love. The books all center on working men, who own or manage artisan-style cafes, you know those staples of foodie goodness. And I find the stories to be just as delicious.

About the series:
Portland, Oregon, aka Hotlandia, where the coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries are ready to serve everything piping hot, fresh, and ready to go—like the hard-working, hard-bodied men behind the counters—with no reservations…

Served Hot (Portland Heat, #1)About Served Hot:
Robby is a self-employed barista with a busy coffee cart, a warm smile, and a major crush on one of his customers. David is a handsome finance director who works nearby, eats lunch by himself, and expects nothing but “the usual”—small vanilla latte—from the cute guy in the cart. But when David shows up for his first Portland Pride festival, Robby works up the nerve to take their slow-brewing relationship to the next level. David, however, is newly out and single, still grieving the loss of his longtime lover, and unsure if he’s ready to date again. Yet with every fresh latte, sweet exchange—and near hook-up—David and Robby go from simmering to steaming to piping hot. The question is: Will someone get burned?

My Review:
Robby is a biracial Korean-American out gay man in Portland. He owns his own coffee cart and works very hard to support himself. He has a bit of a crush on one of his regulars, David (vanilla latte at 11:50 precisely).

David’s a tall, well-built man, a bookish sort, and Robby would love to make a move, but Robby’s not that sort. He’s also rather shy, and can’t get a definite read on David. It seems he’s got a curious eye on Robby, but is he gay? Robby’s very nervous, but finally makes a move, discussing the upcoming Pride festival. David’s non-committal, but surprises Robby there–revealing his attraction, and overwhelming grief.

Turns out, David had been in a long-term closeted relationship for years, until his partner died–inadvertently “outing” both David and himself in their rural Idaho community. David’s never had a true boyfriend–he and his lover never lived together, never went out as a couple, and experiencing the gay scene in Portland is a serious culture shock.

Robby had been with a closeted man before, and he doesn’t relish repeating the experience. David is out, but very quiet, very tentative, and still seeking grief counseling for his partner’s loss. Robby wants a real relationship, but it seems David is so used to being a filthy secret, he has no skills at being with an out man. Robby’s patience is long, and he really has to dig out his courage and force himself to be a more assertive partner.

It’s an excellent slow burn, with Robby and David having fits and starts, and exploring their relationship both physically and through conversation. There’s a bit of steam, but the focus is always on the relationship. These two are a good couple, and I enjoyed their sweet and tender story.

Baked Fresh (Portland Heat, #2)About Baked Fresh:
Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it’s all thanks to his rare ability to make—and keep—his New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking, or graduating from culinary school, Vic goes after what he wants—and gets it. This year? He wants Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter.

When he learns that Robin is suddenly single after being unceremoniously dumped, Vic is more than happy to offer a shoulder to cry on—or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into. But it’s been a long time since Vic’s gone on a date, and he’s nervous about risking his friendship with Robin. So when their flirtation turns into a steamy night together, Vic and Robin have to figure out if they’re friends with benefits or lovers in the making, and if Robin is ready for something more than just a rebound. There’s only one way to find out: turn up the heat…

My Review:
Vic is a 33 y/o baker who’s had a lot of loss in his life. He is father, uncle and cousin all died young to heart disease, so Vic had gastric bypass surgery a year ago. Since then he’s watched his diet, exercised and shed 110 pounds. He feels good, but his self-consciousness lingers. Vic does a lot of volunteer work helping to distribute day-olds from the bakery to a local homeless shelter, where he enjoys some repartee with Robin, a former shelter inhabitant who now volunteers there part-time. Vic’s had his eye on Robin for a couple of years now, but never approached him, well, because Robin is a young, beautiful man. And Robin’s also had a boyfriend…until recently.

In fact, Robin doesn’t want another boyfriend. He’s had a not-so-great past that included running away from home as a teen, doing drugs and turning tricks to survive. Sober for the past three years, he has difficulty with penetrative sex, and feels he’s “damaged goods” anyway. That the beefy baker, Vic, has any interest in Robin is a bit mindblowing.

Vic proceeds slowly with Robin, trying to gain any part of his attention. They agree to a fling, no commitments–because this is what Robin can tolerate and Vic will take any scrap Robin with throw him, but it ends up being supremely tender. Vic wants, more than anything, to reveal his deep attraction to Robin, but he’s afraid that will push Robin away, so he shows Robin in all the other ways how special he is. I really enjoyed watching these two build into a couple.

Robin is astounded at Vic’s patience and consideration as a lover. But, real life exists. Robin’s involvement at the shelter brings him into contact with kids who make the same choices he had. He feels as if not saving these kids, as Robin himself had been saved, is a personal failure, and it cuts deep. Vic wants to be there for Robin, but Robin’s emotions are everywhere. There’s a blow up, breakdown, and big love in this book. It’s sexy and somber, and whimsical and tender, by turns. For a novella there’s a whole lotta story, and enough sexytimes to remind us that dudes like it hot and ready.

Delivered Fast (Portland Heat, #3)About Delivered Fast:
Sure, Chris O’Neal has problems. His restaurant is still co-owned by his ex. His flannel-and-tattoos style is making him accidentally trendy. He can’t remember the last time he went out and had fun. But he’s not lonely, he’s driven. And the hot bakery delivery boy is not his problem, no matter how sweet his buns.

Chris is old enough to know Lance Degrassi’s sculpted good looks and clever double entendres spell nothing but trouble. Lance is still in college—he should be hitting the clubs and the books, chasing guys his own age, not pursuing some gruff motorcycle-riding workaholic. Especially when he’ll be leaving for grad school in a few months. But Lance keeps hanging around, lending a hand, charming Chris to distraction. Maybe some steaming hot no-strings indulgence won’t hurt.

Then again, maybe it will…

My Review:
Chris O’Neal is part owner of an independent coffee shop in Portland. His new bakery delivery man, Lance, is beautiful, young, and virile. And Lance is really into Chris, despite his beard, flannel and the ~15 year age gap. Chris really can’t fathom the attraction, plus, he’s not up for being hurt again. His previous boyfriend still owns part of his coffee shop, and Chris rather resents it. Also, Lance is really just too beautiful to be involved with such a broody bear. Or is he?

Lance makes no bones about what he needs–he wants a guy who will be casual, but not with anyone else. Lance is finishing college and applying for grad school. He works two jobs and helps out his family and friends all the time. He is focused and driven, but wants an occasional partner, and is sure that mature Chris can be that for the next several months. He cajoles Chris into it, but Chris balks continuously, always fearing that he’ll get attached and Lance will hurt him.

I loved the dynamic here. Lance really is a social butterfly and the shiniest gem in the jewelry box, yet he’s kind, selfless and generous. He sweet talks cantankerous Chris with ease, and aplomb. Chris tells this story, so we are caught in his self-torture over Lance’s age and inexperience. We see all Chris’ relationship regret and know why he chooses to hurt Lance rather than risk Lance reworking his future to include Chris. It’s all very O. Henry, and still reasonable and approachable.

I liked both of these guys, but I must say I liked Lance more. I was so glad that Chris got over his hang-ups, and liked the side characters who popped in. Will Barista Brady get his book next? This book is far seamier than the two previous, likely because of the friends-with-benefits strategy Lance employs to lure Chris in. Steam? Get ready to sweat! Yummy and engaging. A delicious love story.

Interested? You can find all the books here:
SERVED HOT: Goodreads  ||  Amazon  ||  Barnes & Noble

BAKED FRESH: Goodreads  ||  Amazon  ||  Barnes & Noble

DELIVERED FAST: Goodreads  ||  Amazon  ||  Barnes & Noble

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Happy Book Birthday to JUST A KISS! Excerpt and Giveaway

JustaKiss rdl banner
Hi there! Just joining in the release day hoopla for Kate Kisset’s JUST A KISS. I’m excited to dig in to this contemporary romance. Expect my review next week. In the meantime, scroll down for to sample an excerpt and to enter the Kate Spade tote bag giveaway!

JustaKisseBook-1About the book:
Just a Kiss Synopsis:
Three friends,
One Wine Country Villa
Six Santino Brothers
And lots of wine…

Reeling from the loss of her mother, Sarah Dupont catches her fiancé doing the nasty on top of her pastry table at their San Francisco Bakery.

Devastated, she calls her best friend, lifestyle reporter, Danica Vargas. Danica convinces Sarah to start fresh, and rent a room with her at an historic mansion in Sonoma Valley.

With two roommates who act like the sisters she never had and a feisty landlord to stand in as the grandmother she always wanted, Sarah’s opens a café on the Sonoma Plaza. Her life changes the moment the little bell on the door rings and the notoriously sexy actor Jamie Santino, swaggers in.

Jamie, one of the six Santino Brothers, of Napa Valley Winery fame, needs baking lessons for his new movie and Sarah is just the woman to teach him. Wine flows, their love affair heats up and a tempestuous femme fatale enters the scene.

How can Sarah trust that Jamie isn’t acting when everything he says seems too good to be true?

How about a little taste?

Help me get a grip, I’m melting into her eyes… He took a beat to compose himself.

“What would you like me to do Sarah?” he asked.

She moved closer and parted her lips.

I’m going, going

“I think I’d like you to kiss me now.”

Gone…

On tiptoe and cradling the back of his head, she guided him to her.

No one could surprise him in the love department except Sarah Dupont. He skimmed his hands over the outline of her soft curves and pulled her in tighter. She tasted like cabernet and cake, and he closed his eyes so he could savor her lips.

A low moan escaped her, and hit him in the gut. He didn’t know where to start with his hands and moved them over the sexy arch of her back and pressed her closer to him.

“The tree,” he said quickly, not wanting to be away from her mouth. “Does the tree hurt your back?”

“Don’t stop kissing me,” she said. The need in Sarah’s voice surprised him, making him strain against his jeans. He fought to slow down, to wait, to catch a breath before he lost it.

He swept his lips across her cheek. “Sarah.” When he reached her earlobe, he nipped. She felt luscious and pliable in his arms. He almost couldn’t handle listening to her quick breaths and the feeling of her heart pumping so fast against him.

“Sarah.” He nuzzled behind her ear, kissing and sucking her neck. “Don’t make me stop.”

She groaned between breaths.

He felt drunk, but he’d had only had a few glasses of wine. Touching, kissing and listening to her whimpers made him feel like he could tip over any minute and bury himself into her.

Interested? You can find JUST A KISS on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win the Kate Spade tote bag filled with goodies!
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

HeadshotKateKissetLGFile.About the Author:
Former San Francisco Radio Disc Jockey Kate Kisset has a passion for telling great stories. After playing thousands of Hot AC, Country, Rock and Oldies tunes, for her primarily female fan base, she changed her tune and became an author.

Just a Kiss is the first book in her wine country romance series, The Single Girls Wine Club.

She lives in Northern California and Santa Barbara with her family and rescue pup “editor” Luciana Parmigiana, where she hikes, reads, listens to music, and drinks wine.

Catch up with Kate online on her private Facebook Readers Club, website, Amazon Author Page, Twitter, Facebook Page, and on Goodreads.

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Hard Truths in LOVE DRUNK–Review and Giveaway

Love Drunk BT banner
Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review of LOVE DRUNK from Libby Rice. This is the third of her Second Chances series. It’s a contemporary romance/mystery that centers on deceit, wine and love–not necessarily in that order.

Check out the excerpt, free book offer and giveaway below.

LoveDrunk-1200x1800About the book:
The love that lies built?

Wine importer London Whitley dots her I’s and crosses her T’s. Her meticulous nature insulates her from fears that she might just be crazy, as in certifiably, medically nuts. When her almost ex-boyfriend winds up dead at her hands and she’s soon accused of importing counterfeit wines, London’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble. There’s help to be had, but only in the form of an imposing stranger who threatens her ruin.

Trevor Rathlen is lucky to have escaped his marriage to a murderess alive and merely indebted to men who think the exquisite London Whitley’s innocence is a façade. A computer security specialist by day and hacker by night, Trevor agrees to return the favor owed by learning London’s secrets. The task should be an easy one, except Trevor is short on trust, London is long on lies, and together they battle an infinite attraction.

How about a little taste?

Secrets and strategies swirled in London’s head, mixing with a need that had begun to pulse between them the moment his mouth had overtaken hers in the warehouse. The two of them played with a fire that flared hot, but unstable. London should play the game of Trevor safe. She should keep her cravings buried and hand over what she knew about her flailing company, including its most problematic ex-employee.

If she did, Trevor would immediately learn about the nature of her ex’s death. The move would resolve his suspicion professionally—a good outcome because he’d be out of her hair with the least amount of hassle—but also push him away personally.

A not-so-good outcome.

Maybe an intolerable, unacceptable, unspeakable outcome.

The idea of revealing facts certain to repel the intense and complex man overhead made her stomach pitch and roll, a warning that for the first time her body had ideas, too. A prickle beneath the skin, a warmth between the thighs—both said London didn’t want to be staid or level anymore.

You’re on a bed. Barely dressed. His hands are on you.

Keep them there.

Because she knew she would lose him sooner or lose him later. The question had become: How much of Trevor Rathlen could London have before he became a casualty of her gravest mistake?

******

“Trevor.”

His name sliced through the charged silence. In that way London had of saying a lot with a little, her tone struck him as subtly, meaningfully, different than her earlier apologies and then her desperate pleas for help in the warehouse.

This time it contained a request.

Her reclining position let the hospital gown fall against her skin, skimming over the bountiful curves that had blown his imagination all through her shower earlier in the night.

By then he’d known she would be all right. With the scare over, her biggest problem would be lingering headaches and dehydration, which had left plenty of bandwidth for him to be jealous of the attending nurse.

He’d cracked down on how badly he’d wanted into that sterile little bathroom because no way was he lusting after a woman in need of a crash course on the nobility of truth.

Unfortunately, his lofty, better-than-thou ideals hadn’t tempered the urge to distract the nurse with lies about buzzers and sirens in the hall so he could sneak in and go down on London in the shower. Only sturdy locks had kept his ass squarely on the couch.

Now her eyes held a dark invitation instead of her customary uncertainty. It seemed London didn’t trust him enough to tell him what she was hiding, but she did trust him enough to touch him.

To let him touch her.

Maybe his friend had had the right idea about women—sex for secrets—all along.

London, sleepy-eyed and relieved, looked perfectly willing to be plied.

Trevor shifted away and rolled his head back. When he spoke, he did it to the ceiling. “I know that look.”

The London he knew would reply with another apology, an instant and visceral retreat from her tiny step toward what she wanted.

Except she didn’t. “Really?” London whispered. “What does it mean?”

Anticipation thickened their mutual stillness, and his cock. No matter how badly he wanted them to, the overhead tiles didn’t get any more interesting upon increased inspection. Barren and white within a metal framework, they practically dared him to turn back to what mattered in the room.

To temptation. To madness.

When he risked another glance, London hadn’t budged. Green eyes met his stare evenly, as though their battle of wills, her injuries, the counterfeiting, even the remaining mysteries they both knew she guarded, all belonged somewhere far from her bed.

Freshly scrubbed, London smelled of soap and lotion. Moonlight gleamed against a natural glow that had replaced her earlier pallor. Black curls tumbled across her pillow in artful tangles. Fresh and unkempt, she looked impossible but real, a magazine spread that wasn’t.

He leaned in, caging her torso with spread arms. If she wouldn’t guard herself, Trevor didn’t have the strength to do it for her. “That look is a demand.”

“For?”

Me.”

Beneath him, her chest expanded on a slow, deep inhale.

“And, London?” he said. “Unlike you, I won’t renege once I decide to give what you’re asking for.”

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

London Whitley is a wine importer with big problems. She spent two years dating one of her employees, who turned out to be an abusive man. While she attempted to break off their relationship one evening, he broke her wrist and her retaliation, kicking out to keep him away, he fell…and died. It was ruled accident, but the wounds are fresh. Oh, and a stranger is cyberstalking her.

Trevor Rathlen is a former army operative who runs a cyber security company. He’s also newly divorced from his wife–who had killed his sister in law (her lover), and he detests liars. His pals have roped him into finding out London’s secrets–because some of the wine her company is selling is downright tainted. And, possibly counterfeit.

London has no idea what’s going on–tainted, counterfeit wine? It was all purchased by her dead ex, and the crates of the swill keep arriving with payments due.

This was an interesting mystery, but it got a little convoluted. London’s sister Clara had insider knowledge, and says…nothing! I wanted to kick Clara in the teeth. Trevor is a ‘nice’ guy in comparison to London’s ex, hopefully, but he seems to get angry quick. His temper had me kinda nervous. Plus, he’s a bit grabby hands. I cannot believe the sex scene in the hospital…people who get methanol poisoning have killer headaches/go comatose and yet London seemed ‘down’ for it within hours. It was a head scratcher. Another big problem for me was the Whitley parents medicating their own child. That breaks so many moral and ethical standards that both of them would have had their licenses stripped. They were also the most unbelievable psychiatrists I’ve read. I get that some parents have unreasonable expectations for their kids, but these characters are more “mean unreasonable caricatures” hyper vigilant with one child and not watching the other at all–it was logically inconsistent. Most of the backstory was dumped in, which hampered the pace.

I was glad that London finally took charge of her life, way to grow up, darling! The Hungarian hunt for wine counterfeiters seemed….wow. There was a whole lot more going on there than London could have expected, but still–naive is the word I’d use to describe London. It seemed like she didn’t have much of a handle on her life and work, though she did gain a lot of insight. By the end I liked her.

Interested? You can pick up LOVE DRUNK on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and All Romance eBooks.

And, since you’re here, why not GET A FREE BOOK!

Art-Crossed Love (Second Chances #2)Art-Crossed Love FREE (Second Chances #2):

Can love be more than a four-letter word?
When photographer Cole Rathlen and painter Lissa Blanc partner for a prestigious project that will pull them from the mountains of Colorado to the palaces of India, Lissa quickly realizes that more than diverging ideals hinder their search for success and salvation. Was Cole’s life upended by a tragic but unavoidable choice or something more sinister? While Lissa can’t delve into the mystery but not the man, Cole can’t resist a tenacious soul that refuses to leave him chained. As the truth closes in on a project finally sprouting wings, will Lissa sacrifice her chance at success to set Cole free? Or will Cole shrug the chains of lingering regrets to prove that those who love the most, love again.

Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo | All Romance eBooks | Art-Crossed Love Goodreads

Love Me Later (Second Chances, #1)Love Me Later (Second Chances #1):

Can they love right on the redo?
Scarlet Leore enjoys a glittering existence among New York society’s elite. Ethan Blake is a prizefighter knocking his way through school, counting on his winnings to bankroll the dreams that won’t fit in a boxing ring. When the two meet, neither can deny the instant attraction that wells between the hulking fighter and the heiress who is miles and millions out of his league.

Years later, Scarlet is a lawyer handling a high-stakes merger for Ethan’ company draws them together. But theirs is a world that won’t tolerate an attorney falling for her client. They’ll need more than lust and forgiveness. They must bridge the chasm of a tormented past to understand who they are today.

Amazon | All Romance eBooks | Kobo | iBooks | Love Me Later Goodreads

***GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a signed set of the Second Chances books!
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

LibbyRicePhoto-WebResolution (1)About the Author:
Before becoming a writer, Libby was first a mechanical engineer in the data acquisition industry (voltmeter anyone?). Preferring writing to technical design, Libby headed to law school and eventually practiced patent law for several enterprising years (patent application covering a voltmeter anyone?). Finally realizing that technology just wasn’t her bag, she traded the voltmeters for alpha heroes and the women who love them.

Today, Libby writes contemporary romances from the foot of the Rocky Mountains, where she lives with her husband, a bona fide rocket scientist (he stuck with the voltmeters!). When not writing, Libby loves good food, even better wine, and traveling the world in search of the next great story.

Libby loves hearing from readers! Join the fun at Libby’s blog where you can sign up for Libby’s new-release e-newsletter, or find her on Twitter, Facebook, Author Goodreads, and Instagram.

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Getting Real in A CASUAL THING–My Review for Joyfully Jay

Hi there! Today I’m back with a book I recently reviewed for Joyfully Jay. It’s a New Adult M/M romance that’s a lot sweet and a bit spicy. This is the first book I’ve read from Annabelle Jacobs, but it won’t be my last.

A Casual ThingAbout the book:
Patrick Mason travels to Bristol to spend the summer with his brother, Ben. He’s cat sitting for the first two weeks while Ben goes on holiday. But Ben neglected to tell him he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Will Adams—Ben’s mate and Patrick’s long-time crush—is staying in Ben’s guest room while he waits to move into his new house after a breakup.

Against his better judgment, Patrick convinces Will that a little no-strings fun is just what they need. Patrick doesn’t want to get involved with a guy on the rebound, and Will isn’t interested in starting something serious with a student. But Patrick’s never been good at separating sex from feelings, and this time is no exception. As their weeks together draw to a close, they need to decide if they have something worth pursuing or if it’s really just a casual thing.

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s short and sweet, perfect for an empty afternoon. And that cover is really perfect, as the entire romance kicks off with a simple dropped towel… 😉

Expect some steam, some regret, and some break up to make up–HEA style.

You can check out my complete review over on Joyfully Jay. Pick up the book on Amazon, All Romance or Amazon UK.

About the Author:

Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

You can find Annabelle online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Love Following THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a book released today!! A new contemporary romance from Amy E Reichert. THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE is a love story of food, Milwaukee, and two mismatched souls. As a Chicagoan, I was skeptical, but yeah, it made me curious about that quirky city two hours north…

The Coincidence of Coconut CakeAbout the book:

YOU’VE GOT MAIL meets HOW TO EAT A CUPCAKE in this delightful novel about a talented chef and the food critic who brings down her restaurant—whose chance meeting turns into a delectable romance of mistaken identities.

In downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lou works tirelessly to build her beloved yet struggling French restaurant, Luella’s, into a success. She cheerfully balances her demanding business and even more demanding fiancé…until the morning she discovers him in the buff—with an intern.

Witty yet gruff British transplant Al is keeping himself employed and entertained by writing scathing reviews of local restaurants in the Milwaukee newspaper under a pseudonym. When an anonymous tip sends him to Luella’s, little does he know he’s arrived on the worst day of the chef’s life. The review practically writes itself: underdone fish, scorched sauce, distracted service—he unleashes his worst.

The day that Al’s mean-spirited review of Luella’s runs, the two cross paths in a pub: Lou drowning her sorrows, and Al celebrating his latest publication. As they chat, Al playfully challenges Lou to show him the best of Milwaukee and she’s game—but only if they never discuss work, which Al readily agrees to. As they explore the city’s local delicacies and their mutual attraction, Lou’s restaurant faces closure, while Al’s column gains popularity. It’s only a matter of time before the two fall in love…but when the truth comes out, can Lou overlook the past to chase her future?

My Review:

Lou is a chef with her own restaurant, Louella’s, eeking out a living in Milwaukee. She works hard and loves her work, something her fiancé Devlin, a high-powered attorney, doesn’t understand. She’s somewhat content with life, until she finds Devlin in a compromising position with a paralegal–it throws off Lou’s entire day and she has a wreck of a night at her restaurant–serving a botched meal to an undercover food critic.

Al Waters is a London transplant whose scathing food reviews have earned him some fan mail, but few friends. His experience at Louella’s is positively sickening, and he’s not willing to give the chef another chance to poison him. His review is the beginning of the end for Louella’s, and rightly so!–in his opinion. Serving undercooked fish is a health hazard….

Al meets Lou at a bar where she’s gone to cry out her sorrows–and they hit it off. Neither of them want to talk about work, but Al’s complaints of the city Lou loves earns him a bona fide tour guide–she wants him to love Milwaukee before he leaves it. Thing is, Al starts falling for Lou, and she for him. Neither is really ready to commit to anything–Lou has a restaurant falling apart and Al wishes for bigger cities/writing markets, but their bond is developing. Until Al realizes who Lou is, and how his article killed her restaurant and dreams–and he’s sick over it. He tries to make amends, but can’t. He tries to walk away, and can’t.

So he does the only thing he can do–support Lou through it. And fall in love. It’s not a one-sided affection.

Well, until Lou learns who wrote her restaurant’s review, that is….

This was a really sweet story with plenty of heart and well-rounded characters. Lou is a beloved person and chef who had a really really bad day–and she triumphed within her loss. Al was an uptight jerk who melted in Lou’s capable hands. He secondary characters are very well-drawn and add a good deal of seasoning to the story. Plus, the love of Milwaukee just pours off the page. I’m a Chicagoan, and this book made ME start to love Milwaukee–a true feat! I really enjoyed the tour throughout the city, and the fun cooking bits and pieces. I honestly would have loved it more had there been any physical heat on the page, but the book is cleaner than my empty dishwasher. Alas.

Still, it’s a quick read with emotional depth and a few quick twists that kept the story moving. Lots of great tension regarding how and when Lou would find out Al’s deception. I wasn’t shocked by the bearer of this bad news, and really liked that Lou didn’t ever give up or cow to the whims of people who didn’t keep her best interests at heart. She’s a great character, and the coconut cake recipe at the end made for a sweet finale.

Interested? You can find THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received an advance copy of this book via NetGalley.

Amy E. ReichertAbout the Author:

Amy Reichert earned her MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed her writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, she loves helping readers find new books to love. She’s a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, she loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and test the limits of her DVR.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

The World Between INK AND SHADOWS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m featuring a new urban fantasy–which I’m sure will become a series–from Rhys Ford. INK AND SHADOWS is my first book from Rhys Ford, and I’m glad to saw it was a stellar read. This is a M/M book, but there is little romance and no sex. It really only has gay characters, some of whom want relationships and others who do not…but the STORY is about the Veil and what lies in wait behind it.

Ink and Shadows (Ink and Shadows, #1)About the book:

Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.

The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.

When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

My Review:

The Four Horsemen, Death, War, Pestilence and Famine are immortals who live on earth, hidden behind the Veil which shrouds the Fae, Darkfae and other immortals, like the Vitues: Faith Charity, Peace and Hope (among others like Gluttony, Lust and Luck…) from the sight of mortals. Except crazies and seers can sometimes see them. Kismet is likely crazy, but he’s had the “gift” of sight since childhood. He is terrorized by his constant observations of wraiths and ghosts, including that of his younger brother who was inadvertently poisoned by their addict mother. Kismet is crippled by his visions, and self-medicates with heroin to keep the wraiths from attacking his mind.

Kismet sits at the center of an intricate plot to remove some immortals from their Calling. See, if people need help crossing planes, Death can be summoned. If someone is in need of Hope, she must appear–and this is a tiring existence for an immortal. Some want to settle down, have a “normal” life, perhaps even fall in love, and Kismet’s ability to see through the Veil may hint at deeper abilities. Spiking his heroin dose with an agent of magical origin kicks off the action.

Pestilence, known as Mal to his Horsemen, is lonely. He wants a partner outside of his group, and he’s too inexperienced as a Horseman to properly wield the Veil. War (Ari) yearns for more than kinship with Death, the eldest and most powerful of the Horseman. Ari is indefatigable in his pursuit, and Death welcomes his closeness, but keeps it platonic, fearing the loss of his soul if he should lose Ari, his best friend and confidante, for any reason.

Ari and Mal encounter Kismet while on patrol, and he’s in serious trouble–a powerful wraith has been summoned and is nearly finished killing him…except, Kismet survives the attack in the same fashion that an immortal might. It freaks both Mal and Ari out, and Mal insists on bringing him to Death for advice. Pretty much things get bad right after that.

As I mentioned, this isn’t a romance, though the background is set for advancement of romance in a later book. Also, this book fully resolves, while still leaving plot arcs available for a sequel, or series. Through it all we have good guys acting badly, “bad” guys behaving with honor, new friendships (Kismet and Mal) and deepening ties (Ari and Death). I really enjoyed the back-and-forth banter between the Horsemen, and also how committed they are to holding each other up. This book is almost exclusively told from behind the Veil, with the immortals carrying most of the POV. I did have some issue with the rapid POV shifts–this is a particular peeve of mine. I like to stay in one character’s head for a scene, but the POV jumped constantly. It was less jarring than other books I’ve read, but still detracted from my enjoyment.

On the plus side, the prose is stellar, really wrapping the reader in this world within a world. The emotional landscape is rich and I had a great experience feeling Death’s pain, Ari’s deep love, Mal’s isolation and Kismet’s fear. The action is fast and fierce, with copious attacks, rescues and near-death experiences for far too many immortals. Looking forward to the next installment! (Fingers crossed for a some love scenes!!!!)

Interested? You can find INK AND SHADOWS on Goodreads, DSP Publications, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and an overworked red coffee maker.

Find Rhys online here:  website, Goodreads, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

 

 

Life After the Apocalypse–STRAIN, A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for STRAIN, the first book in the Strain series by Amelia C. Gormley. This is a fantastic sci-fi, dystopian M/M romance, though the romance is slow to build.

Strain (Strain, #1)About the book:

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might confer immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. Which means that soon Darius might have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

My Review:
The story is set on Earth, more than a century from now. After more than 100years of constant aggression to settle interests in the world, the US military struggled to recruit new soldiers. So, it’s scientists created a virus with which to infect its soldiers to generate supersoldiers, and a poison pill to its enemies at the same time. The effect was devastating, leaving an airborne virus that caused Rot, degeneration of the skin and brain and yielding revenants: hungry, carnivorous uncontrollable humans who are for all intents and purposes zombies.

Rhys has lived in a sheltered community, an abandoned monastery in rural Oregon, for the past 7 years– since age 12. His mother died two years ago and the only remaining adults were Father Maurice and his son, Jacob. They despised Rhys–having suspected him of being a homosexual from his youth–and routinely beat and starved him. Jacob was given Rhys’s younger sister as a bride, in accordance with Father Maurice’s demands, and the book opens with Rhys positioned as bait for marauding revenants while the good Father, Jacob, Rhys’s sister and nephew all escape. Only, it doesn’t go down like that. Rhys fights back–still trying to distract the “revs” and is nearly overcome when the cavalry arrives. And, by cavalry, I mean the original infected supersoldiers.

The soldiers of Project Juggernaut are super in every way: strength, stamina, accuracy. They take down the revs, but not before Rhys’ sister, nephew and the Father are killed. Jacob, that miserable abusive gobshite survived because he ran, leaving his “wife,” toddler son, and father to be attacked.

The “Jugs” aren’t sure what to do with Rhys and Jacob. The are clearly at risk for Rot, but the medic officer argues that transmission of the original virus–via copious sexual intercourse with the Jugs–could help Rhys and Jacob develop immunity to the mutated strain causing Rot before they develop symptoms. It’s a super longshot, and the platoon commander, Darius, is reluctant. Previous Jug leaders had created mini-empires by capturing civilians and raping them into submission–creating new Jugs in the process, and Darius is loathe to taste that power. Rhys even volunteers to die, knowing that he’s likely infected, and this changes something for Darius. He’s intrigued by Rhys, who is so small and scrawny and fierce at the same time.

All of this happens in the first 50 pages, or so. It is fascinating! All those years of being punished (beaten and starved) by Father Maurice and Jacob for his “unnatural perversion,” and yet, given the choice of Rot or Jug life, Rhys remains hesitant while Jacob is only to happy to drop trow. Rhys’ scared out of his mind of developing Rot, and sure that Jacob will find some way to torment him if he shows any inclination of enjoyment of sex. As the platoon makes it’s way back to camp, Rhys and Jacob submit to the “treatment” and I don’t mean this in any porny way, at all. It is rough and brutal, and some non-consent is part of the bargain. It affects Darius, who becomes inordinately possessive of Rhys–against his own better judgement.

I absolutely loved this story. It was an intriguing look at ethics and morality in a post-apocalyptic world. And, I dug that the author flipped the script on man-on-man action–making it vital to Rhys and Jacob’s survival. Growing up in the HIV/AIDS era as I have, and being disgusted by the dismissal of it as a “gay plague” that too many smugly thought well-deserved, I could appreciate the irony and also the necessity of this device. I so wanted Rhys to come to terms with his issues–but it is truly all he can do to keep up with the fast-paced Jug patrol and also keep out of Jacob’s line of fire. Rhys doesn’t mind having a sexual partner–Darius, actually–but the treatment is to “inoculate” him with as many variants of the strain as possible, which means multiple partners daily.

The story is simply brilliant in its treatment of bullying, the balance of power, life after bioholocaust, and the need to live a good life, as good as possible, in extreme situations. I was captivated from the beginning. There are a few tender moments, and many that aren’t so tender. That said, this is a romance, and you can expect an HEA for Rhys–but only after he is pulled so far through the plot-wringer that he’s *almost* superhuman.

Many thanks to the publisher, Riptide Books, who supplied a review copy.STRAIN has two companion novels coming in the next two months, JUGGERNAUT and BANE. I have read both of these, and they are incredible.

Interested? You can find STRAIN on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout the Author:

Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major ebook retailers, and be sure to check http://RiptidePublishing.com for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and her upcoming post-apocalyptic romance, Strain.

You can contact Amelia on Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!