Out Today! Will and Patrick FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS–Review and Giveaway!

wake-up-married-banner-4Hi there! Today I’m sharing the release day festivities for the fourth episode in the Will and Patrick series. FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS is a sweet and sexy continuation of this M/M romantic comedy. You can check out my reviews for WAKE UP MARRIED, MEET THE FAMILY, and DO THE HOLIDAYS–but let’s also get to this next books shall we?

Catch the excerpt, my review and enter to win any of the Will & Patrick serial episodes (two winners!).

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00075]About the book:

Follow Will & Patrick in this fourth installment of the romantic-comedy serial, Wake Up Married, by best-selling author Leta Blake and newcomer Alice Griffiths!

Will and Patrick have embraced adding hot sexy-times to their fake marriage, but as their emotions deepen, they confront whether or not they want to be more than friends-with-benefits. Freshly free of a restrictive relationship, Will’s not ready for more than exploratory fun. And no matter how Patrick feels about Will, his own difficult past has left him wary of love.

The heat is high (and occasionally kinky) in this episode of the Wake Up Married serial, but Will and Patrick struggle to accept their mutual affection, much less confess it. How long will they fight their feelings?

How about a tasty morsel?

Wrung out after the long night, Patrick shovels in the eggs and toast he ordered from room service. His mind drifts lazily as he eats, but when he hears the shower turn off, his stomach churns. He hates that his brain can ruin a perfectly good moment with memories that make him twitchy.

“About last night…” Will’s voice cracks slightly.

Patrick’s heart stops.

“Maybe it shouldn’t happen again?”

A sharp, deep pain lances into Patrick and he can’t breathe. It’s so unexpected, this horrible feeling, and he can’t think of anything to say. But hope and lust surge together as Will shoves away from the door. He grabs Patrick so hard it hurts and kisses him until the world shifts under their feet.

Yep, it had happened again. Had it ever. God, their second night in a row of sex had been—

Patrick jerks back to the present as the bathroom door swings open and Will strides out fully dressed in a pair of trousers and a button-up shirt. The eggs churn faster in Patrick’s stomach.

Will sits at the breakfast table. He tests, calculates, and injects his insulin before starting on his cottage cheese on toast. He looks up, fixing Patrick with a resolute gaze.

Patrick dodges the look and pokes his eggs with his fork. “Do we have to talk about it?”

Will takes another bite and chews deliberately.

“Because I don’t want to talk about it.” Patrick’s much more interested in a “don’t think, just do” policy when it comes to sex with Will. He’ll take that over revisiting the surprising pain of Will’s near-rejection the night before.

Will’s brows draw low and he chews for a long, tense moment. Patrick’s heart lurches like a skipping record until Will speaks. “Really? So you think there’s nothing to talk about?”

“Nope.” Patrick’s fork scrapes against his plate. “I don’t see why there would be.”

Will, of course, has other ideas. Like that’s anything new. “Patrick, we had sex again last night. Three times.”

“I know what we did, Will.”

“And?”

“And I liked it. And I don’t regret it.”

Will pulls his lower lip between his teeth. “You really liked it?”

“Puddin’-pop, you were there. Do you doubt you’re the best lay I’ve ever had?”

“The best?”

“Unequivocally.”

Will grins and eats some more of his cottage cheese on toast, joy rising up like the sun on his face. “You too. I mean, you’re the best I’ve had.”

Shocking. Patrick wants an award for not saying that out loud. He reaches out and takes hold of Will’s fingers. “I like being with you. I like what we’re doing and I don’t want to talk about it.”

Will pulls his hand away and scratches his ear uncertainly. “Why?”

“Because I don’t want us to stop.” He clenches his fist on the table and summons the strength to say, “Unless you want to stop?”

Will shakes his head and studies the food. After putting some eggs on his plate and compiling another cottage cheese and whole-wheat toast sandwich, he clears his throat and tentatively meets Patrick’s eye again. “So you think it’s okay if we—”

“Screw without professing our undying love first?”

Will flushes but nods.

“We’re having sex, not committing a crime. Of course it’s okay. Why make it into something it’s not?”

Will butters his toast and carefully doesn’t meet Patrick’s gaze again. This. This is why Patrick doesn’t want to talk about things. “What did I say wrong now?”

Will shrugs and takes a bite of toast. He finishes chewing and swallows. “What would we make it into that it’s not?”

That’s what I don’t want to talk about.”

“Because you think I’ll say we can’t have sex anymore if there’s no hope of us really falling in love and making a little family together?”

Patrick breaks into a fine sweat. “Won’t you?”

He has no idea what thoughts the tiny hamsters on the wheels in Will’s mind are cranking out, but he can imagine they’re racing overtime as Will gazes at him silently. He feels like he might puke.

Will’s mouth tilts up at the corner. “No.”

“What?” Patrick chokes on his toast and has to grab a swallow of water.

“No, I won’t say we have to stop. We’ll keep on…you know.”

“Having sex.”

Will’s eyes go hot with lust. “Yeah. We’ll keep having sex.”

“I knew you liked it.” He leans forward, smirking. “Now, tell me what you liked best. In detail.”

Will adjusts his napkin in his lap. “I thought you didn’t want to talk about it.”

“I didn’t want to talk about ‘Oh, woe, it was wrong, and I’m still hurting over Ryan, and we’re getting divorced as soon as possible,’ because I know all that.”

Will finishes off his cottage cheese sandwich. “I get it.”

“Tell me all the dirty stuff. I want to hear how much you loved it.”

Will’s smile is soft. “Oh, I loved it.”

My Review:
This is the fourth episode in a serial novel, and should be read in sequence. I’ve read the first three and while the romance was slow to build–it truly began in the third episode–it is in full force now. While technically a novella, it’s over 40K words–so it’s a juicy read that’ll keep you occupied for hours.

Summary of the past three books: Will and Patrick have lived in the honeymoon suite of the Tallgrass Hotel in Healing South Dakota ever since their drunken “I Do”s in Vegas in early November. It’s now the beginning of January and they have finally consummated their marriage–twice. They cannot get a quickie divorce because doing so will cause Will to lose control of the Molinaro Trust–former mafia money that he has funneled into Good Works, a multimillion dollar humanitarian foundation. Patrick had lost his staff position in Atlanta and is now the chief neurosurgeon in the new Healing Hospital that Good Works has funded. Will had an emotionally abusive partner, Ryan, whose callous phone break-up triggered Will’s Vegas bender, and Will’s a recovering alcoholic and diabetic that Patrick has managed to keep healthy and sober for their entire marriage (barring the wedding night!).

In this episode, FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS, that’s exactly what’s going on. Will and Patrick have finally become sexually active, much to their mutual delight. Will has a lot of baggage to unload regarding sex, in part because his and Ryan’s sex life was horrendous and in other part because his family has rather peculiar ideas about sex, and homosexuality.

Will felt guilty having relations with a person whom he didn’t “love” but Patrick is someone that he does love–though he holds back from hoping/wishing/praying that they have a future together. Patrick continues to make it clear that he’s only sticking around until they can manage to get divorced. But that’s because Patrick doesn’t want to admit that he’s hopelessly in love with Will.

See, because he’s fighting his feelings

This is a real emotion-driven episode with both Will and Patrick airing their vulnerabilities and asking for absolution in the only way they can. I liked it so, so much. Also, the sexytimes. GAH! Smoking hot and not skimping on the deets. Expect a bit of kink to make an appearance. (I don’t consider that a spoiler as it’s part of the disclaimer at the front of the book.)

The connections deepen. Will and Patrick build strong bonds that both satisfy and frighten them. And, of course, just when I think these guys are FINALLY on track, well, Will’s family manages to screw it all up. Again. Perhaps.

I’m going to leave you with this song, this freaking song that always brings tears to my eyes, and pretty much sums up Patrick’s feelings for Will.

Dan Hill’s Sometimes When We Touch has QUITE SERIOUSLY been haunting me ever since I finished this episode. So, yeah, I’ve been filled to the brim with melancholy, bittersweet, sentimental, impossible love for three days now. Thanks Leta and Alice.

As the series goes, it’s just getting more and more delicious. Can’t wait for the next episode.

Interested? You can find Will and Patrick FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Clink on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win any of the Will and Patrick episodes. (Two winners!)
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Leta Blake
Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Alice Griffiths
A long-time reader of romance novels, Alice Griffiths finally took the plunge into writing, teaming up with best-selling author Leta Blake for the ‘Woke up Married’ serialized comedy. A lover of tropes, Alice enjoys mining old ideas and putting a fresh, funny spin on them. Formerly working in the newspaper industry, Alice is now an art curator. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

You can find out more about her by following her on Twitter and Facebook.

Love Like a CHERRY BOMB–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet contemporary M/M romance from Samantha Kane. CHERRY BOMB is the sequel to CHERRY PIE, and while it features a new romantic couple we still get to catch up with our old friends John and Conn.

Cherry Bomb (Mercury Rising, #2)About the book:

Their spark could be too hot to handle…or bring a dying town back to life.

Officially, Turnstiles CEO Brian Curland is in Mercury to set up a new data center. Unofficially, he’s using this trip to re-evaluate his life, because for a man who has everything, he’s feeling pretty empty.

He could buy any car he wants. But no, he had to rent a piece-of-crap Chevy—which is now broken down on the side of the road. When he’s rescued by a sexy local, Brian does what he always does. Go for what he wants, even if it’s just temporary.

Evan Michaels stops to help because that’s what good guys do. He grew up in Mercury, eventually becoming minister of the local Unitarian church. Though everyone knows him, being gay and being in a gay relationship are two different things. He wants Brian, but their affair has to be secret or he can’t play.

When Evan unleashes his long-suppressed sexuality, Brian is more than up to handling the heat. Yet even though they fall hard for each other, it might take the whole town to convince them it’s a forever kind of love.

Product Warnings: Contains an inexperienced minister, gay comic-book role play, dirty dancing in antebellum mansions, and some very naughty fireworks. Protective gear recommended.

My Review:

This is the second book in the Mercury Rising series and does not have to be read in sequence–though I recommend the first book, CHERRY PIE, too.

I really enjoyed this quaint contemporary M/M romance.

Evan Michaels is an out gay Unitarian minister in Mercury North Carolina who also runs the halfway house where his childhood friend Conner stayed after he cleaned out of drugs in prison. (Brief recap of the first book:  Conn and John were the MCs of CHERRY PIE and have developed a strong relationship. John is an internet millionaire, an app creator who’s eschewed the Cali life and decided that the cozy, but dying, town of Mercury is his new home. And John’s friend, CEO of an Internet portal company, Brian Curland has committed to building a call center in Mercury to provide jobs to the poor populace.)

Well, Brian thinks John’s lost his mind to move to “the middle of nowhere” and decides to do a bit of his own reconnaissance, and talk John into working for him back in Cali. Only, Brian’s not really an adventurer. He rents a wreck of a car, breaks down in a cellular dead zone, and is rescued by a beautiful, built man who seems to have a curious eye. And soft lips that Brian, without any ado, ravages. Yep, Brian’s impetuous.  Kiss a strange, muscular man you have known for 38 seconds? He’s lucky that he didn’t become a back woods missing person.

Evan’s shocked, but pleased. He’s attracted to the man in his truck, and he’s intoxicated by the feeling of being wanted sexually. Evan’s been a minister for several years, and while he’s out regarding his sexuality, everyone in Mercury sees him as being The Reverend, not just an ordinary man with needs. Plus, there are no secrets in Mercury. If he goes out with a man, the whole town will know. Would they still accept him as the spiritual leader he feels called to be?

So, fast forward about four hours, and Evan’s in Brian’s bed at the hotel living out some of the many sexual fantasies he’s indulged in during his last SEVEN YEARS of celibacy. I really loved the playfulness of this couple. They don’t expect a lifelong romance, and so they cast their fears aside and screw with abandon. It’s charming, really. They spend a week together, and it’s no secret between them that there is more than a fling happening. But, life gets int he way. Brian’s plans for the call center aren’t exactly what John (and Evan and the good people of Mercury for that matter!) had hoped. The truth of is it is a bit of a kick in the nuts for Evan, who loves Mercury and all his parishoners. It also marks the end of “Brivan” and their “secret” romance. For a time.

Expect some serious Cupid activity on the part of Brian’s on-again-off-again Trey, a popular bisexual actor with starry-eyed dreams for reuniting Brian and Evan. And expect for jaded Brian to go through an existential crisis that is entirely the fault of falling for a selfless man of God. There is little to the reunion, which was disappointing, as their chemistry was explosive and I’d have liked a parting pairing before this one ended.  That said, there’s another book in this series, and I’m sure it will feature Brian and Evan helping Trey with his (possible) pain killer + alcohol addiction. And I have my pick for Trey’s romantic interest all lined up.

This is a quick read with a sweet romance and a compelling plot arc in guise of reinvigorating a dying town. Americana is in full display from the formica-topped greasy spoons to the local color. I gotta get myself out to Kure Beach one of these days. Check out if it is as relaxing and romantic as it sounds.

Interested? You can find CHERRY BOMB on Goodreads, Samhain Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Samantha Kane lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children, two boys and one girl. With a master’s degree in American history, she spent seven years as a high school history teacher before becoming a full-time writer and mom.

She’s written books in all of the following series:  THE BIRMINGHAM REBELS, BROTHERS IN ARMS, THE SAINT’S DEVILS, THE 93RD HIGHLANDERS and MERCURY RISING

Catch up with Samantha on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Living and Loving OUTSIDE THE LINES–A Review

OTLmasterHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance series from Lisa Desrochers. OUTSIDE THE LINES is the first in the On The Run series that follows five siblings from a Chicago mafia family as they adjust to life within the Witness Protection Program. It’s a great start to the series, and I’m eager for the next book already.

OUTSIDE THE LINES final coverAbout the book:

From the author of the USA Today bestselling A Little Too Far series, the first in an edgy new contemporary romance series that follows a family on the run…

As the oldest son of a Chicago crime lord, Robert Delgado always knew how dangerous life could be. With his mother dead and his father in prison, he’s taking charge of his family’s safety—putting himself and his siblings in witness protection to hide out in a backwater Florida town.

Fourth grade teacher Adri Wilson is worried about the new boy in her class. Sherm is quiet and evasive, especially when he’s around his even cagier older brother. Adri can’t help her attraction to Rob, or the urge to help them both in whatever way she can.

But the Delgados have enemies on two sides of the mob—their father’s former crew and the rival family he helped take down. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds them. And if Rob isn’t careful, Adri could end up in the crossfire…

How about a taste of the meet-cute?

Port St. Mary Elementary is only about two miles from home. It takes a grand total of eight minutes to drive there. Technically, it’s a one-room schoolhouse. The tiny twelve-space parking lot butts up against an octagonal building, which, in fact, is just one big room inside. In the exact center of the building are the bathrooms and storage closets, and from there, folding accordion partitions section off each wedge of the octagon. Each wedge is a grade level, kinder through sixth, and a multipurpose room. To the right of the parking lot is a doublewide “portable” that houses the school offices and small staff room. Behind that, children are already gathering in the playground, which is really just a weed-infested lot with a slide and jungle gym that has been there since before I started kindergarten here.

When I walk around the octagon to the door marked with a big yellow four and step inside, it’s like deja vu all over again. Mrs. Martin (she told me to call her Pam when we talked on the phone about the lesson plan yesterday, but I can’t bring myself to) has had the same posters on the walls since the dawn of time. The presidential chart ends with Reagan. She had already been teaching fourth grade in this same classroom for, like, twenty years when I had her.

I move to her desk, to the right of the door, and set my bag on it. And that’s when I see the note from Principal Richmond.

A new student.

I brush my palms down my slacks again, a fresh jolt of nerves twisting my insides into knots. I was already going to be way over my head with a classroom full of nine-year-olds fresh off Christmas vacation and all sugared up on candy canes.

I look over the instructions. Sherman William Davidson needs his reading comprehension assessment, writing and grammar evaluation, and his math skills worksheet completed by the end of the week.

I blow a wisp of hair off my forehead and unpack my toothpaste and toothbrush, my journal, and a few of my favorite colored pens into Mrs. Martin’s desk, careful not to displace her things too much. I’m just pulling the assessments for the new kid from the file cabinet when the classroom door opens. I hear Principal Richmond’s gravel voice before I turn around. “…and his classroom is here. We just got word a few days ago that our regular fourth grade teacher is out on medical leave, but Sherman will be in good hands with Ms. Wilson. She’s a very capable substitute.”

I take a deep breath as I turn and hope he’s not lying.

I substituted five times during fall semester. For the most part, everything went great until I subbed for Mrs. Yetz’s eighth grade class the week before winter break. Somehow, what started out as a math lab on probability devolved into a liar’s dice tournament, complete with money changing hands. I wasn’t sure they’d call me back after that.

But when I see Principal Richmond waddle his round frame through the door, I straighten the scarf I tied over my favorite teal sweater and try to look as confident in what he said as he does.

“Ms. Wilson,” he says, waving me over. “This is your new student, Sherman.”

Sherman is a wiry little thing with unruly brown hair and clothes that hang off him a little. He looks as if he’d vanish into himself if given the chance.

“He goes by Sherm,” the man standing next to him says.

I look up into some of the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen. Heavy dark brows curve over irises the color of honey with burgundy flecks through them. Thick brown waves are loose around a strong face with angled cheekbones, and a square jaw covered in two-day stubble. Set in flawless olive skin are lips so firm and red they make me forget the frown that’s turning them down slightly at the corners. He’s just so…gorgeous, like something out of a magazine or a movie. And he’s tall—well over six feet of broad shoulders tapering to narrow hips under his blue button-down shirt. The tails are loose over pressed jeans that fit him just so. Everything about him is tailored and cultured and nothing like any of the year-rounders who live on this bumpkin island. But it’s not just the way he looks. A blend of confidence and something else I can’t identify but makes him feel a little intimidating wafts off him with the spicy cologne I keep catching hints of. He’s nothing like anyone I’ve ever met, even at Clemson.

I feel my jaw dangling and snap it closed, pulling myself together long enough to extend an arm. “I’m Adri.”

Principal Richmond clears his throat, and when I flick a glance his direction, I know my ogling didn’t go unnoticed. His brow is deeply furrowed and his frown curves so low it makes him look like one of those marionettes, where their chin is a whole different piece of wood than the rest of their face.

My eyes bulge and I shift my outstretched hand to Sherm. “I mean, Miss Wilson. Welcome to Port St. Mary, Sherm.”

The boy just looks at me with sad eyes the color of his…father’s?

My gaze gravitates back to the guy towering over me. Could he be Sherm’s dad? He looks way too young to have a nine-year-old. He also looks all business. There’s nothing soft or nurturing in his cold, sharp gaze as it flicks around the classroom, silently assessing.

“What’s on the other side of those partitions?” he asks Principal Richmond.

“The third and fifth grade classrooms,” he answers.

The guy’s eyes continue to scan the room. “He’ll spend all day in here?”

The principal nods. “Except when he’s on the playground.”

“Is there security on campus?”

Principal Richmond looks momentarily perplexed, rubbing his round stomach as if he’s thinking with it. “Not as such. We have yard monitors during recess and lunch, and the teachers are responsible for the children when they’re here in class.”

“What about lunch?”

“He can bring his own lunch, or buy a bag lunch from Nutritional Services for three dollars. Either way, if it’s nice weather, the children eat outside at the picnic tables. On rainy days, we open the partitions and they eat inside as a group.”

The guy reaches into his pocket, but Principal Richmond holds up his hand to stop him when he comes out with a thick wad of cash. “We don’t allow students to carry money on campus. When we’re done here, I’ll take you to the office and have you purchase a scan card for Nutritional Services.”

The guy nods, then moves to the door and jiggles the knob. “The exterior doors are left unlocked?”

“During school hours, yes.” Principal Richmond answers, moving to my desk and shuffling through the papers I pulled for Sherm.

The guy’s full lips narrow into a tight line and he scowls at the door. He spins and starts toward the door in the back of the room, leaving no stone unturned.

I wipe my hands down my slacks again and decide just to ask. “So, you’re Sherm’s father?”

His feet stall on the chipped linoleum and he seems to finally notice I exist. “Brother,” he answers, and that one word seems to carry the weight of the world with it as it falls from his mouth.

His eyes make a slow sweep of my face, and as they trail down my neck, the front of my sweater, over my hips and down my legs, I’m frozen in place, paralyzed by the intensity of his gaze.

Principal Richmond shoves some papers in my face, breaking the spell. “You still have fifteen minutes until the bell. Maybe you can get Sherman started on these.”

“Um…” I grab the papers out of his hand as Big Brother blinks, some of the thickest lashes I’ve ever seen hiding those incredible eyes. “Yeah. We’ll do that…”

Principal Richmond guides Big Brother to the door. “Let’s get out of their way and let them get started. I’m sure Sherman will have a positive experience here. Children his age tend to adjust quickly,” he’s saying as the door swings closed behind them.

My Review:

This is the first book in a new series about five siblings in the WITSEC program, escaping their crime lord family in Chicago. This first book details their new beginning in a sleepy Florida gulf coast town, and the love affair that rises between Rob–heir to a mafia empire and Adri, small town sheriff’s daughter.

Two weeks ago 25 y/o Rob Delgado killed a man who held his 9 y/o brother Sherm at gunpoint. He ran and entered witness protection, along with their sisters Lee and Ulie and brother Grant. Their father is already in Fed custody for racketeering, and Rob had managed their mafia empire until this power struggle broke out. His siblings are less than pleased with the upheaval in their lives, but it was either come along or never have contact with Rob and Sherm again. They came.

23 y/o teacher Adri’s been living at home with her father for the past six months–ever since her mom died suddenly. It’s not easy for them–there’s a lot of silence. That said, they have a good and loving bond, they’re simply wrapped in grief. Adri takes a substitute teaching job in the tiny town school, and her new student on her first day is Sherm. And she’s sure there’s a lot going on behind Sherm’s silence. Hearing that his parents are dead, well, that’s troubling. Even more troubling is Sherm later admitting that his dad’s in prison, and the timeline for his mother’s death is way off from his guardian’s (Rob’s) claims. Adri can’t pretend she’s not attracted to Rob–and Rob’s frustrated with his own attraction to Adri.

He can’t fall for a local, he tells himself. They could all be whisked away if danger follows them. Plus, Rob’s got a plan to restore the balance of power back in Chicago, and that could mean a normal life for his siblings, even at the expense of his own.

The story is interesting, though I felt the pacing was slow. I wanted there to be some resolution of any front: Rob’s interest in Adri, Adri’s interest in Rob, the plan to return to Chicago, all that–just a few chapters faster than when they came. There’s a lot of tension in the book–between Rob and his siblings, Rob and Adri, Rob and Adri’s uber-protective father and BFF, Chuck. It gets a bit draining when there’s no let up in the tension, actually. That said, the sexytimes, when they finally happened, were rather spectacular. Adri’s quite the sex kitten, which I liked. I wanted her to completely own that part of herself–especially as I wanted to throat punch her dad and Chuck for their Neanderthal-esque “gotsta protect the wimin” mentality.

Seriously, Adri’s dad’s abuse of police power was exasperating. I was five seconds from calling for an Inquiry.

That said, this is a good start to what seems to be an engaging series. I like the Delgados and I’m curious to see how all this drama plays out. I’m betting the next book will have a Romeo-and-Juliet storyline featuring Lee and a certain rival gangster…which is definitely intriguing.

Interested? You can find OUTSIDE THE LINES on Goodreads, Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

lisaauthorAbout the Author:

Lisa Desrochers is the author of the USA Today bestselling A Little Too Far series and the YA Personal Demons trilogy. She lives in northern California with her husband, two very busy daughters, and Shini the tarantula. There is never a time that she can be found without a book in her hand, and she adores stories that take her to new places and then take her by surprise.

Connect with Lisa on her website, her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Dark Fantasy in INKED–Review and Giveaway!

inked tour banner
Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly released YA fantasy novel from Eric Smith. INKED is the story about a land steeped in magic and terror and the young folks that have to find a way to safety, if such a place even exists.  I really liked it!

Catch my review below, and be sure to enter the giveaway for your copy.

inked coverAbout the book:
Tattoos once were an act of rebellion.
Now they decide your destiny the moment the magical Ink settles under your skin.

And in a world where Ink controls your fate, Caenum can’t escape soon enough. He is ready to run from his family, and his best friend Dreya, and the home he has known, just to have a chance at a choice.

But when he upsets the very Scribe scheduled to give him his Ink on his eighteenth birthday, he unwittingly sets in motion a series of events that sends the corrupt, magic-fearing government, The Citadel, after him and those he loves.

Now Caenum, Dreya, and their reluctant companion Kenzi must find their way to the Sanctuary, a secret town where those with the gift of magic are safe. Along the way, they learn the truth behind Ink, its dark origins, and why they are the only ones who can stop the Citadel.

Eric Smith takes you on a high-octane fantasy adventure, perfect for anyone who has dreamed of being different… only to discover that fate is more than skin deep.

Advance Praise:
“INKED is an action-packed read with a hero I could root for, magic I wanted to have, and a vivid fantasy world to back it all up. Smith’s prose had me turning pages way past my bedtime.” – Susan Dennard, author of SOMETHING STRANGE & DEADLY

“A fast-paced page-turner from Eric Smith filled with magic, mystery and mayhem.” – Kristi Helvig, Author of BURN OUT

“With a lively cast of characters and a captivating idea, INKED draws its readers into a world where magic lives on every page.” Kat Zhang, author of The Hybrid Chronicles series

My Review:
Caenum is due for his Ink, and in the Realm governed by the Citadel, magical Ink tattoed into your skin determines your fate. If your Ink says you’ll be a farmer, then you are a farmer. If it says you’ll be a swordsman, guess what you’ll be… Caenum’s afraid that his Ink will take him far from his farm and his grandmother who has raised him. He’s also afraid that it will separate him from Dreya, his neighbor and best friend, the girl of his dreams even if he’s afraid to admit it.

Caenum toys with the idea of running away, becoming one of the Unprinted rebels who live outside the Realm’s borders, but doing that will take him away from everyone he loves just as well. On the night before Caenum’s Inking, Kenzi, one of the Scribes who has traveled to Caenum’s village, experiences a magical meltdown and Caenum is caught in the crossfire. Kenzi–newly Inked himself–is the most feared of beings, a Conduit. The Ink in his skin unleashed latent magical powers that manifest dangerously. Caenum’s grandmother insists Caenum take Kenzi to Sanctuary, a hidden village of Conduits, before the soldiers of the Citadel arrive to kill Kenzi. Unfortunately, before they can escape the townsfolk go mad, the solders arrive and the bloodbath that results leaves Caenum, Kenzi and Dreya on their own to find Sanctuary–a place, it turns out, they all need to go.

Okay, so this is a really interesting fantasy story about kids overcoming all odds to get to a safe haven. And, when that happens they recognize there is no safe haven in their world. Sanctuary is not freedom, it is another type of prison, and the people there have radical ideas for enacting change: outright rebellion. Imagine if Magneto was running the X-men, and you’ll get an idea of the megalomania at work. I liked the story, though I wished it had dug deeper, and been more thorough. There were moments when the time frames seemed too convenient, too unrealistic. People tied to beds for days need a place to use the facilities, folks. And, that said, Caenum’s suddenly thrust into a battle–with little-to-no training–and expected to “wing it” as a hero. It was a bit hard for me to digest. Especially as he was so ‘naturally’ good at it. (O.o)

There are some romantic elements here but they are understated. Barely a kiss on the page. I did really enjoy the camaraderie that developed between Caenum, Dreya and Kenzi, and I found their individual talents to be interesting, and the plot compelling. I guess it’s me being greedy for a book that satisfies me completely. It’s not a long tale, and I was able to inhale it over the course of an evening. While the story ends (kinda abruptly) there’s no cliffhanger. It’s clear, however, that there is a continuing menace regarding the attitude of the Citidel toward Conduits–don’t ask me the source of Ink please–and a new story could spring from the necessary battles for complete freedom. *fingers crossed*

Interested? You can find INKED on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an e-book of INKED and a signed poster!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

eric smithAbout the Author
Eric Smith is the author of THE GEEK’S GUIDE TO DATING, out now via Quirk Books, and INKED, a YA novel out with Bloomsbury Spark. His writing has appeared locally in the Philly Weekly, The Inquirer, and on Philly.com. He’s written for the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Boing Boing, and is a regular contributor to BookRiot and Geekosystem.

His essays have appeared in the Bygone Bureau and The Apiary, and his first published piece will appear in THE ASTEROID BELT ALMANAC with the Hand & the Hand Press in April 2014. He’s the co-founder of Geekadelphia, a popular hyperlocal geek blog in Philly, and the Philly Geek Awards, a ceremony honoring local geeks in his city. Eric holds a BA in English from Kean University and an MA in English from Arcadia University. He currently lives in Philly. You can find him on Twitter at @ericsmithrocks and @geekadelphia.

Catch Eric online on his website, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Cover Reveal and Giveaway: WHISTLE BLOWER

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Hi there! I’m excited to share a cover reveal and giveaway for what looks to be a contemporary M/M romantic suspense novel from Dev Bentham. WHISTLE BLOWER is on my TBR, so look for a review in the coming weeks.

Until then, check out the cover, excerpt and get in on the book giveaway! Pre-order links below, too…
WhistleBlowerFS

About the book:
Money can’t buy happiness. Jacob Nussbaum knows this better than anyone. He’s a corporate lawyer deep inside a huge New York firm, where he works overtime, sacrifices any chance at a personal life, and has been selling his soul for years. With a secretary as his only friend, he trudges on, until his whole world is blown apart by a manila envelope of photos—evidence that one of the firm’s partners is the dirtiest lawyer in one hell of a filthy business.

In search of the truth, Jacob travels to a small northern Wisconsin fishing resort. There he meets Ben Anderson, a brutally lonely man, who knocks him off his feet. Ben prompts Jacob to reevaluate his life. He’s a dozen years older than Jacob, still recovering from the death of his long time love, and doesn’t want to leave anyone a widower. But a jaded New Yorker on a soul-searching mission might be just the man to convince the grieving Ben that it’s never too late to begin again.

How about a little taste?

Ben got waylaid by a bunch of little things, so it took him longer than he’d expected to get back to the dock for Nussbaum’s—Jacob’s rowing lesson. As Ben approached the dock, Jacob was facing away, staring out over the lake. Which was good, since he was naked except for a skim of bright red Lycra that barely covered his ass. And what an ass. What a body in general. It had been a long time since Ben had seen a muscular olive-skinned back on which dark hair grew in such fascinating patterns. Manny had a back like that. Ben had loved to run his tongue along the thin lines of fur along his lower back. Manny hadn’t been hairy, really, just never quite naked. Jacob had that same look, except he was younger, stronger, and better built.

Feeling uncomfortable with that comparison, Ben tore his eyes away from Jacob’s body. Aside from leaving him feeling unfaithful to Manny’s memory, this was neither the time nor the place and, in all probability, not the man to indulge that kind of fantasy. Ben cleared his throat, and Jacob turned around. Jesus. Who’d have thought under all those clothes, there’d be this—high definition, perfect tone, and all that gorgeous skin. Ben forced himself to meet Jacob’s eyes. He reached into the boathouse, pulled out one of the clean tee shirts he kept for changing after rowing, and handed it to Jacob.

“It’s easy to get sunburned out here.” For the love of God, he had to cover up the guy if he was going to teach him anything, other than…. He cleared his throat again. “The beginner scull is up here.” He walked back up the dock to the boat rack, yelling at himself the whole way for unprofessional thoughts.

As Ben uncovered the practice scull, he was hit by an unexpected wave of memory. Manny had bought it for him their first summer in the Northwoods. It had taken Ben two years to outgrow the added stability and another to decide to try Manny’s MAAS. He ran a finger over the fiberglass patch from when he’d run the boat into the shore. Manny, from his own scull twenty feet away, had admonished, “Never get in a fight with a rock. The rock always wins.”

From behind him, Jacob asked, “Need any help?”

Ben straightened and walked to the far side of the boat. “Get the stern, would you?”

Jacob picked up his side of the boat, and in a monkey-see-monkey-do motion, lifted it onto his shoulder. Ben turned around, settling the bow onto his left shoulder, and led the way back down to the dock. On three they flipped the scull into the water. Ben squatted beside the boat, pointing and describing the various parts until he felt comfortable enough in his role as teacher that he could glance over at Jacob, who knelt beside him. Jacob was focused on the boat, taking in Ben’s instructions. Ben exhaled. Jacob covered up and concentrating on the boat was easier to deal with than he was as a just-about-naked man basking in the sun at the end of the dock.

Ben noticed Jacob’s shoes for the first time. No shorts, no water shoes. Evidently Mr. Nussbaum had been expecting an entirely different resort vacation, probably involving mai tais on the beach and plenty of bikini-clad young women. If he tipped over in the scull, which he was going to do, everyone did when they were starting out, those shoes would take a long time to dry. Ben had an extra pair of water shoes. Maybe they’d fit.

“What size feet do you have?” he asked.

Jacob glanced up. “Ten. Why? Does it matter for the stirrups?”

Of course he wore tens, because otherwise the physical comparison wouldn’t be perfect. “Your shoes will be awkward as hell in the stirrups. You need something lighter and better in the water. Don’t worry. I’ve got some you can borrow.”

Jacob wouldn’t fit in Ben’s nine and a halfs, but Manny’s old tens were still where they’d always been, on the top shelf in the boathouse. Ben found them. He brushed off the dust and cobwebs. The shoes weren’t sacred, and it wasn’t disloyal to let Jacob wear them. They were just old water shoes with cracks in the soles. Ben grabbed a pair of oars and stepped back onto the dock, dropping the shoes by Jacob. “Try these. I’ll get the oars set up.”

Ben fixed each oar in its oarlock, concentrating hard so he wouldn’t have to watch another man put on Manny’s shoes. Then he set about teaching Jacob Nussbaum the rudiments of rowing.

I got my hands on a review copy of this one, so be sure I’ll share all the fantastic bits with you very soon!

Interested? WHISTLE BLOWER comes out Feb 5th, but you can pre-order it now on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Kobo, AllRomance and Barnes & Noble.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a signed paperback copy of Nobody’s Home OR an ebook, reader’s choice, from Dev’s backlist which can be found here.

About the author:
Dev Bentham writes soulful m/m romance. Her characters are flawed and damaged adult men who may not even know what they are missing, but whose lives are transformed by true love.

You can find Dev on her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dev.bentham
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Daddy’s OUT! What Next?

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a just-released M/M romance form JL Merrow. OUT! is a contemporary romance that features a mature divorced man getting his new life started, with a hot young boyfriend. Oh, and his daughter’s there to take him down a peg, or three.

Out! (Shamwell Tales, #3)About the book:

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Product Warnings: Contains historically inaccurate Spartan costumes, mangled movie quotes, dubious mathematical logic and a three-legged pub crawl.

My Review:

This is the third book in a series but can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

4.5 Stars.
Mark is a 39 y/o closeted gay man, who is recently divorced from his wife and assumed custody of their 14 y/o daughter Fen. His ex-wife is the only one he’s told of his sexuality, and he thinks he’s been canny enough that no one will suspect. He’s given up his lucrative career as a tax advisor (one of those blokes who tells the uberwealthy where to hide their money from the taxman) and moved out of London into Shamwell, a countryside village that is the location of all books in this series.

Mark hasn’t had regular contact with Fen in a long time. Even when he lived with her, he was basically a workaholic and hardly saw her. He has fond memories of her being a doting child and immediately thinks he can quell her spate of rebelliousness–that which got her expelled from her school–by installing her in a private school in Shamwell. Oh, poor deluded father. Fen has no trouble giving dear old absentee dad the raw side of her tongue. Or, well, the silent-but-haughty treatment. Don’t get the wrong idea about Fen, she’s aces.

Patrick is a 25 y/o aid worker who is well-out as bisexual, and still gets along mighty well with the locals in a men’s social group, the Spartans Society. He meets Mark when Mark shows up for the club, and begins going out with the group. Patrick’s drawn to Mark, but Mark puts him off. He doesn’t want to tip Fen off about his sexuality. (Oh, poor deluded father!!) Funny thing, Fen KNOWS all about Daddy Dearest, even if he doesn’t wish it so.

I adored how addled Mark was regarding being a parent. I guess I thought he had it coming to him, on account of being a bit pompous and overconfident and still endearingly oblivious. He felt like he was so slick, and so savvy and this 14 y/o girl thwarted him, and befuddled him, and figured him out and played him, by turns. In truth, Patrick owes that girl a life-debt, as she was the one who not only addressed her father’s closet full of skeletons, she pushed her father to find a new partner. Fen, for herself, wants a stable family. And she doesn’t care if she has two dads in her home. At all. Turns out two of the people she most bonds to in the book are Mark’s flamboyant gay former-assistant, and Lex the genderfluid assistant to Patrick.

There’s some issue issues between Patrick and Mark regarding Mark’s former job as a tax (cheat’s) advisor. This has to do with social services in England, and the lack of them when people don’t pay their taxes. It was a very minor part of the story. I liked it for my own self, mostly because I’m rather sanctimonious about people paying their “fair share”, but I doubt that’s the case for every reader. That said, its a SMALL part of the narrative and the one part that Patrick’s mother–a bit of “tarty” lady who disapproves of her son’s choice in partner–actually tries to smooth over.

There isn’t too much heat here. There were a few frustrating interrupted trysts and false-starts (for the characters and myself) Every time Mark and Patrick seem to get things rolling there’s an interruption–for the first two-thirds of the book. That said, I liked the book a lot. It’s funny and smart and I loved that Fen was so great a kid. That girl has a right head on her shoulders. I did really like Patrick, and I liked how Mark had to really grow up, and become the adult he’d rather been playing at his whole life.

Interested? You can find OUT! on Goodreads, Samhain Pblishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through was a 2013 EPIC Award finalist, and her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy. Her novel Relief Valve is a finalist in the 2015 EPIC Awards.

JL Merrow is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Controversial YA in FIRSTS–A Review

Hi there! It’s 2016 and as a resolution, I’m on a quest to read books that have been challenged or banned. Despite all the reading I do, it’s not the easiest for me, as I generally read books that are newly published, or soon to be published. Books that make the Banned or Challenged list with the American Librarian’s Association are generally books that have been out in circulation for a while. So there will be some throw-back books, for sure, but I’m also going to highlight books that are controversial enough that I think they might one day make the list.

Today, I’m sharing a review for FIRSTS by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a contemporary YA novel with romantic elements. I think you’ll understand why the book has what I call a ‘trainwreck’ plot–in that we can all see the horrific turns and expect a figurative blood bath for the protagonist. The story/content are explicit enough that I would be shocked if there are no objections to this book in the offing. (Not that I condone censorship!!! Just sayin’!)

FirstsAbout the book:
Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward, fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time- the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy- so far. Her absentee mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn- or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her reputation and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, FIRSTS is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

My Review:
FIRSTS features a supremely unlikeable MC, Mercedes, a high school senior who is spending her un-chaperoned nights sexually-educating the clueless virgins of her high school.

Yep. Guys nervous about your first time with your girlfriend? Call Mercedes. On the super-down-low, though, as you wouldn’t want your actual girlfriend to find out you had a one-nighter with another girl.

Okay–so THIS BOOK has a trainwreck plot. Mercedes is a smart girl, awaiting her MIT acceptance, with a wealthy father she hasn’t seen in three years and a Cali socialite mother whose longest relationship has been with her plastic surgeon. Kim, as Mercedes calls her mom, is despicably clueless and emotionally abusive. Mercedes has been wholly shamed into strict diets and couture life, with little to no parental affection. I know, I know…poor little rich girl. Still, the absence of parenting leaves Mercedes vulnerable to predation when she’s young–and her own first time was little more than acquaintance rape by a manipulative older boy when she was thirteen.

And, Mercedes doesn’t want the fumbling firsts for other girls. She’s sure her “good deeds” will be of benefit, but she’s rapidly sucked into some rotten scenarios under the misapprehension of control. Mercedes thinks basically anonymous sex will protect her from the hurt/pain of connection with another human. Also, she thinks setting the mood and being in her own sanctuary–her boudoir–will provide control to a situation that is fraught with intimate danger. All of these fallacies become plain to Mercedes as the story goes on. (As the train builds steam going around that blind curve…)

Boys talk. They do. They find a way to use her “service” to their own end, and Mercedes falls into a shame spiral. That’s nothing compared to the shock and EEW of finding herself on the bad end of a one-sided fascination from her best-friend Angela’s virgin boyfriend, Charlie.

Mercedes has few friends. She admits to being bad with people. Really bad. She has excluded herself from the regular company of god-bothering Angela, because Angela’s all about “saving herself” and Mercedes has (essentially) been “ruined” since 8th grade. And, the virgin thing started at the beginning of senior year–so their friendship has become more strained. As more and more boys fill up Mercedes’ log book, Mercedes finds herself more estranged, and seeking further validation. She sets up a regular sex date with her lab partner, Zach, who is a remarkably open-minded guy.

Zach is a great guy, really, and only wants to date Mercedes. He loves her, and is thwarted from telling her, well, by Mercedes who doesn’t want that closeness. New girl Faye also turns Mercedes’ head. There’s an open flirtation there, and it looks like Faye and Mercedes might hit it off, but Charlie’s lurking in the background and doing really REALLY nasty (and illegal) things to ensure his place in Mercedes’ bed–all without Angela finding out.

Expect there to be video fall out. Expect there to be slut-shaming and fighting and angry girlfriends and electronic humiliation and public airing of a pseudo-sex tape. All while NOT ONE ADULT is the wiser. (That sound you heard? That was a a big huh? from me.)

What I liked about this book:
1. The “Life Goes On” message. Mercedes is called to account and harassed, assaulted and nearly raped a second time. Her closest friends stick by her side. They go above and beyond the pale to help cast Mercedes’ deeds into Yesterday’s News.
2. Mercedes learns that her value exists in herself, and that friendship is a valuable endeavor. Mercedes doesn’t believe herself worthy of love or affection–and finds it hard to accept those overtures, from anyone. At first.
3. There are no easy resolutions in life. When you upset people, you have to bear the results of that–not regarding the episodes of assault on school property, however. That shoulda been nipped in the bud by administration. And the Sharpie attacks on her locker would have been painted over by my kids’ schools toot-sweet–not left to languish in all their slur-ry glory…
4. Realistic, if crappy, response to Mercedes’ shenanigans. I’m not a fan of slut-shaming, but this book is actually designed to take on slut-shaming, by being sorta sex positive. So one must endure the firestorm of hate to “endure” it, in Mercedes’ life.

Stuff that made me set the book down for a bit:
1. Trainwreck plot. As a mature woman, I have perspective that Mercedes lacks. I knew her little enterprise would become public knowledge from the outset. When it all got to be TOO much–especially Charlie’s overtures–I needed to take a break. It’s no fun turning every page and wanting to smack the narrator twice.
2. Lack of punishment for Mercedes’ attackers, be they physical or sexual. I had a hard time believing that Charlie’s “punishment” was being outed as a jackass who spilled the beans. What he actually did was criminal, and should have resulted in some legal repercussions. The hallway tormentors also got off with no notice. In what world, I wondered.
3. The double-standard of girl versus boy “promiscuity” was only barely scratched at.

No one is going to find Mercedes or her actions likable. She doesn’t particularly like herself very much, for reasons other than her sexual activity. I believe, however, that some readers will find her sympathetic. Back in my younger days, we had the “Jerry Springer” standard for decency. If your actions didn’t get you called in as a “guest star” on the seedy Jerry Springer Show, then you were still “decent.” Mercedes has a distinct “Jerry Springer” vibe, which makes sense.

All the best trainwrecks appeared on that show.

That said, the book is interesting as a study in moral contrasts and contemporary puritinism. FIRSTS is clearly going to a challenged book for the very fact that kids haz sex, and not just a little bit, in this book. Don’t hope for fade-to-black, everything plays out in cringe-worthy living color.

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

About the Author:
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn writes contemporary fiction for young adults. Her debut, FIRSTS, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin’s Press in 2016.

Laurie went to school for Journalism, where the most important thing she learned was that she would rather write made-up stories than report the news. She also worked as a model, a job that took her overseas to Tokyo, Athens, and Paris.

Laurie now lives in London, Ontario with her husband Steve, who is very understanding when she would rather spend time with the people in her head. Laurie can mostly be found writing happily at her desk, with the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua on her lap. Laurie drinks way too much coffee, snorts when she laughs, and times herself when she does crossword puzzles. Laurie is represented by the amazing Kathleen Rushall of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!