Their Experience Was STAGED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m really excited to share a review for a new alternate universe M/M romance from Kim Fielding. You already know I enjoyed A SECOND HARVEST and LOVE CAN’T CONQUER, but STAGED is something altogether different. It’s a new episode in the Belonging ‘Verse series offered by Riptide Publishing, and it’s a really unique story setting. All the stories take place in a world very much like ours, except slavery was never outlawed…

Staged (Belonging, #3)About the book:
Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

Reader discretion advised. This title contains the following sensitive themes: dubious consent, explicit violence and non-consent.

My Review:
This book is the third set in the “Belonging ‘Verse” series that explores an alternate world where slavery was never abolished, and is set in current times. It is a stand alone read.

The book has these warnings: dubious consent, explicit violence, and non-consent. You need to understand that this is a fictional slave society. Slaves are not allowed to refuse any task or action desired by any master, even ones not their own. This book contains rapes and horrific beatings of slaves, including the MC, Sky Blue.

Sky Blue is a slave, born from a slave in a whorehouse, though his father was a well-known freeman singer. He was sold at age 8 to a music producer. He later took second in a slave singing competition, and toured the world with the all-slave band 2Nyte. These days he sings in a rundown club, and he knows his days are numbered there. He’s not surprised when he’s sold to a slave trader, and he’s fretful, awaiting purchase in a filthy warehouse where he’s caged all day and night. Then he’s bought.

Morgan Wallace seems wealthy and kind, at first, but he’s never handled a slave before. Sky is anxious for direction, and has no idea what to do with himself. He travels from NYC to San Francisco and there he learns the worst of his new experience. He and Morgan make the rounds at all-male, private, BDSM parties. Which are horrifying. Truly. Not only are the slaves there mistreated, they are disfigured and raped for the dubious enjoyment of their masters. These are freemen who take great pleasure in breaking the toys of their fellows.

Morgan seems genuinely apologetic and torn regarding his employment of Sky at these parties. He seemingly takes no pleasure in it, and spends days tending Sky’s wounds in the aftermath. He buys Sky all sorts of gifts, and it’s utterly confusing to Sky. Why? Why torture? Why make amends? Can none of these people see him as human? The answer to that is: NO. Sky challenges Morgan’s beliefs regarding the intellect of slaves, but Morgan’s in a position where he can’t stop his association with the horrible cretins, and manumission (freeing of a slave) is not allowable–unlawful–in any case. That said, he has a genuine affection for Sky. Sky’s also perversely attracted to Morgan–and often takes the upper hand in their private, intimate activities. Sky’s never had a home, only a place to stay where he was communally housed with other slaves. The apartment that he and Morgan share is the first place that feels uniquely home to him.

I don’t want to give away the big twist, but I will acknowledge that I expected it. Morgan’s activity is too shady, and his remorse too sincere. He’s clearly playing a dangerous game with Sky and his new BDSM associates, and he’s unable to pull out, even if it means hurting Sky more and more. Still, Morgan recognizes that Sky is as much a man as he is, and just as intelligent, debunking the indoctrinated fiction that slaves are somehow lesser beings, and unable to feel any sense of their position. This makes Morgan realize that his actions are all the more heinous.

I loved how Sky was so in touch with his humanity, and the limitations and injustice of his station. While there is absolutely a thriller/horrifying aspect to the book, the ending is truly tender and spectacular. Sky never imagined what his fate might be, but he made actual decisions–generally forbidden–that directed the course of his new life and happiness. When he had the opportunities to escape, he demonstrated, without any shadow of doubt, his humanity and commitment to Morgan. It was really so sweet, and I was happily rewarded by bearing witness to Sky’s HEA.

Writing a book from a slave’s perspective is never easy, I imagine. This whole alternate universe is a statement about control, and the lack of it. It allows deep investigation of the darker side of humanity, perspectives that linger malevolently on the side of our current experience, but have never really faded: entitlement, prejudice, absolute power, exploitation, and the like. It’s not a pretty picture–and surely exists on the fringe of society today. By internalizing these stories, readers are able to gain a new empathy for those who don’t have any real power over their destiny or livelihood. I enjoyed the previous two books in this series for that same reason. That said, none of the books are upbeat or happy, though they do end with an HEA, as well. There are no actual repercussions for owners who abuse their slaves, while there are many torments to which a slave can be subject, not the least of which is being sold off to work in dangerous mines. There is a small movement to abolish slavery, but it is still in its infancy.

You are warned in the blurbs–non-consent, violence and dark themes within. Let the reader be wary.

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

About the Author:
venicebigKim Fielding is the bestselling, award-winning author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Catch up to Kim on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

FOOL ME ONCE into Sexy Times–Excerpt and Review

FOOL ME ONCE BOOK TOUR
Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance from Katee Robert. FOOL ME ONCE is a fun and feisty romance between an agoraphobic gamer-girl and a rich-boy-turned-cowboy. I liked it!

fool me onceAbout the book:
Aubry Kaiser doesn’t like people—actually, that’s not right. She loathes people. With her crippling anxiety, there’s no way she can demo her favorite video game at a convention with five thousand other people. Maybe if she brings someone to act as a shield…

But the only person available is the sexy cowboy she can’t stand.

Quinn Baldwyn is in a mess of his own. He’s been dodging his wealthy family’s matchmaking attempts—and life advice—for years, but with his sister’s wedding on the horizon, he needs of a shield of his own.

He and Aubry can barely hold down a civil conversation, but in bed…fireworks. And the closer they get to Quinn’s sister’s wedding, the more he realizes that he might actually like Aubry.

Now it’s up to him to convince her she might actually like him, too.

How about a sexy taste?

She pinched the bridge of her nose. “If I say you’re right, am I ever going to live it down?”

He didn’t answer, and she opened her eyes. Their reflection was slightly distorted in the passenger window, but even she could see he had a seriously tense look on his face. She belatedly realized that they were pressed together, her back to his front, and that he was…

Oh my God. She couldn’t resist leaning back into him, just a little. Yep, that’s not a micro penis. A shiver worked its way through her, leaving goose bumps in its wake, and her nipples perked right up, showing through the thin fabric of her T-shirt. There was no way he didn’t feel her reaction, not with his arm creating a band across her ribs, his forearm against the underside of her breasts.

Even as she noticed, he started to release her, his hand sliding over her stomach, but he stopped when he hit her hip, his pinkie finger dipping below the waistband of her shorts, just a little. It wasn’t anywhere near anything vital, but that little intrusion made her moan all the same.

Fuck.” The word was barely audible, but she felt it in the way his body tensed behind her.

She shivered again, torn between telling him to back off and getting the top button of her jeans all undone for him. If she didn’t make a decision—and fast—he was going to back off again. It was written all over the tension she could feel emanating from his body.

Aubry started to reach for his hand, still undecided on whether she wanted to encourage or threaten him, but he moved, bending down to brace one hand on the truck in front of them, the other still on her hip. The move brought his mouth against her ear, and his harsh exhale made her shake.

She arched against him. She couldn’t help it. Her body took over, a primal part of her knowing he could give her all the pleasure she could handle, and was only too happy to extend an invitation by rubbing her ass against his hard length.

His grip on her hip tightened, but he didn’t try to stop her. “You’re playing a dangerous game.”

She knew. They had to stop for so many reasons, the least of which was that they were on the side of a freaking highway and it was only a matter of time before a car drove past.

But she didn’t want to stop.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, but can be enjoyed on its own.

Aubry Kaiser is a reclusive gamer woman, who’s had a hard life. She made the best of it by playing videogames, notably Deathmatch, and getting a degree in computer programming. As an adult, she struggles to connect with humans, and has one close friend, Jules. Aubry receives an exclusive invitation to play a beta-version of the newest Deathmatch, at the DeathCon conference. If only she didn’t have crippling social anxiety. Or a giant bodyguard who’d make sure she arrived safely and was approached by no one.

Quinn Baldwyn is a rich boy turned cowboy. His oil baron parents have long-eschewed his reluctance to join their blue blood world, and have attempted to make him thoroughly miserable. His little sister, Jenny, is due to be married in two weeks–and he doesn’t want to go because he knows his folks will harass him into conflict. If only he had a date specializing in salty repartee who’d keep the family claws at bay…

Okay, so Jules totally hooks prickly Aubry into taking placid Quinn to DeathCon and Quinn into taking Aubry to the wedding on an extended road trip. She doesn’t push them to make things physical. Nope. That all started on a lonely highway to San Diego with a car breakdown. It’s so steamy, you might need a towel to wipe off your e-reader screen. Aubry and Quinn aren’t soul mates, but they are attracted by their verbal sparring. Usually Aubry’s acid wit sends men on the run, but Quinn turns all her jabs into parleys. It’s rather fun and certainly entertaining.

I liked the slow reveal of their building feelings. As they spend more and more time buried within each other, both Quinn and Aubry recognize they have excellent chemistry–it’s not enough for them to risk Jules discovering their attraction once they return from their extended road trip, however…at first. Determined, Quinn–with some seriously sexy moves–is able to convince Aubry they should give it a try.  And, then his family pretty much spoils everything. For a time.

There’s an HEA here that’s really super cute. I don’t want to reveal much, because it’s so unique and I hate to spoil. Rest assured, Quinn and Aubry are on the exact same page with each other by the end, despite their initial differences. It’s a quick, fun read that really entertained.

Interested? You can find FOOL ME ONCE on Goodreads, Amazon (US and UK) Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

About the Author:
New York Times & USA TODAY Bestselling Author Katee Robert learned to tell stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her favorites then were the rather epic adventures of The Three Bears, but at age twelve she discovered romance novels and never looked back.

Though she dabbled in writing, life got in the way—as it often does—and she spent a few years traveling, living in both Philadelphia and Germany. In between traveling and raising her two wee ones, she had the crazy idea that she’d like to write a book and try to get published.

Her first novel was an epic fantasy that, God willing, will never see the light of day. From there, she dabbled in YA and horror, before finally finding speculative romance. Because, really, who wouldn’t want to write entire books about the smoking-hot relationships between two people?

She now spends her time—when not lost in Far Reach worlds—playing imaginary games with her wee ones, writing, ogling men, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Catch up with Katee online on her website, Facebook, Twitter , Pinterest, Instagram , and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Healthy UNDER MY SKIN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA romance from Laura Diamond. UNDER MY SKIN brings together two teens who are survivors of loss–a heart transplant recipient and the twin sister of the heart donor. It’s interesting, but has flaws.

Under My SkinAbout the book:

Bookish Brit Adam Gibson is one wonky heartbeat away from a fatal arrhythmia. But staying alive requires Adam to become keenly focused on both his pulse and the many different daily medications he must take in exactly the right dosages. Adam’s torn between wanting to live and knowing that someone else must die in order for him to do so. He needs a new heart.

The pressure is getting to him. Adam stops talking to his friends back home, refuses to meet kids at his new school, and shuts his parents out entirely. His days are spent wondering if can cope with having a dead man’s heart beating inside his chest, or if he should surrender to the thoughts of suicide swirling around in his head.

And then a donor is found…

Outspoken artist Darby Fox rarely lets anything stand in her way of achieving her goals . Whether it’s painting, ignoring her homework (dyslexia makes a mess out of words anyway), kissing a hot boy she doesn’t even know, or taking the head cheerleader down a peg , no one has ever accused Darby of being a shy. She also happens to be the twin sister to a perfect brother with good looks, good grades, manners, and the approval of their parents – something Darby has never had.

Darby’s always had bad timing . She picks the worst time to argue with her brother Daniel. In a car with bald tires, on an icy road in the freezing cold, the unthinkable happens. In a split-second, everything changes forever.

My Review:

3 Stars for this contemporary YA romance.

Adam is a 16 y/o Londoner living in New York. His family had relocated to the US because Adam has an unspecified heart condition that is worsening to the point that he’s too sick in general, but not sick enough to be prioritized on the heart transplant list. He lives in some upstate NY town that has a really great heart transplant team…wherever that is. Adam is severely conflicted about his condition. He sees the struggles his parents are enduring, and hates witnessing their suffering on his behalf. As his heart function precipitously declines and he’s hospitalized, he has no faith that he’ll receive a donor heart in time, and wonders if he even deserves to get one. He’s just a kid, and has no outstanding qualities. His manipulative counselor, Dr. Shaw, believes Adam is depressed, and strongly hints that he’s suicidal. It’s borderline abusive, and I had serious problems with Dr. Shaw’s ethics and actions throughout the book.

Daniel and Darby Fox are fraternal twins. While Darby is a talented artist, she struggles with school due to severe dyslexia. She’s also an impulse free spirit. Daniel is a stellar student and champion athlete. Darby feels their parents favor Daniel in everything, though she dearly loves Daniel. He’s a great guy. The blurb already tells readers that Daniel dies and Adam gets his heart. It’s really sad. I agree.

Adam and Darby meet in the hospital and hit it off. Darby was severely injured in the car wreck that killed Daniel. Adam is currently recovering from his transplant. Neither really wants to discuss their medical issues–Adam is still conflicted, and not sure how to handle the physical issues he’s now experiencing. A racing heart was a sign of trouble–now he’s being tested with all sorts of exercise, and he’s getting panic attacks. Dr. Shaw’s manipulating him, and her new medications for his depression and anxiety are freaking him out. He can’t discuss his fears with his parents, as they think he’s as suicidal and Dr. Shaw says. Darby is a breath of fresh air, but Dr. Shaw does some completely unethical things that keep them apart.

I think I’d have liked this story a whole lot more without Dr. Shaw. As a person who has worked in the medical field a long time, I understand that the machinations in this book would be enough to get a physician severely reprimanded, if not have her license disciplined or revoked. It created a whole lot of unnecessary drama, in a story that was already rife with conflict and complications.

Both Darby and Adam are riddled with survivor’s guilt. They have long-term medical issues. They have parental issues. They have survived serious illness and injury. That’s a lot. Then, they meet a person who might make all their suffering fade, just a bit. And–instead of fostering connection and openness–the psychiatrist breaks anonymity, reveals her own inner traumas to teens, and prescribes medications that the patient has trouble taking. Oh, and she’s really, really antagonistic. I’ve been in therapy sessions. Never has the psychiatrist acted so rashly, brashly and foolishly as this caricature. I understand the author is a psychiatrist; if she was presented a case file of Dr. Shaw I wonder if she’d recommend her be sanctioned. I sure would, if she treated my son like Adam was treated.

The end is tied up too neatly. The only upside I found was Adam got a new therapist, and his parents were made to understand some small degree of the fallacies they’d been fed by Dr. Shaw. It seems like Darby and Adam will be getting along, perhaps having some romance. I wished I had had more of that story, and less of the freaky shrink completely messing Adam around.

Interested? You can find UNDER MY SKIN on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:

Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist currently specializing in emergency psychiatry. She is also an author of all things young adult—both contemporary and paranormal. An avid fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and anything magical, she thrives on quirk, her lucid dreams, and coffee. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found sniffing books and drinking a latte at the bookstore or at home pondering renovations on her 225 year old fixer upper, all while obeying her feline overlords, of course.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Rocking Out A Broken Heart: SUMMERLYPSE–Review & Giveaway!

Summerlypse tour bannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway in support of a new, diverse YA romance from Gerardo Delgadillo. SUMMERLYPSE is a rollicking adventure, with a Texan boy losing his heart, and finding it all over again. In Mexico.

Be sure to enter to win a $20 GC below.

summerlypse coverAbout the book:

After his crush rejects him, seventeen-year-old Colton catches a plane to Mexico, hoping to forget all about girls. But a night out at a dance club crowded with long legs in miniskirts doesn’t help, especially when he meets the club’s beautiful DJ, Alex.

In awe of her mixing skills, Colton finds it hard to believe Alex is deaf. As they bond, she asks him to help her win a DJ contest behind her rich, estranged father’s back.

Colton’s not a wimp or anything, but millionaires with armed bodyguards are not his ideal vacation buddies. The only problem—if he helps her, he may fly back home in a body bag.

ADVANCED PRAISE
“Packed with unexpected twists and South-of-the-Border danger, Summerlypse grabbed my attention from the first enticing page. With a quirky writing style that offers both depth and entertainment, Summerlypse is an original, diverse story that will delight anyone looking for a unique spin on teen relationships.” –Anna L. Davis, Author of Open Source (Enhancement Series)

“SUMMERLYPSE by Gerardo Delgadillo is a great young adult story about two unlikely friends who team up hoping to win a summer DJ contest in Mexico. This book has a well-defined cast of complex characters with a thoughtful focus on the hearing-impaired. An entertaining read!” ~ K.S. Jones, award-winning author of Shadow of the Hawk

“SUMMERLYPSE is a great read.  The characters are real and well crafted, and the story kept me interested to the end.  I liked it. I recommend it.” — Rickard B DeMille, author ofTweet Revenge, Hellfire, Defending Daniel

My Review:
This is a very sweet YA contemporary romance that has an interesting and positive Hispanic setting and characterization.

It’s the end of junior year and Colton finally works up the nerve to ask out his crush, Miranda, only to learn that she’s not interested. At all. He’s crushed, and looking to lick his wounds, which is how he ends up on a flight to Mexico with his best friend, Martin–to stay with Abuelita for two weeks. Colton’s a blonde, blue-eyed lanky kid, who catches the eye of many a senorita, but he finds a real spark with DJ Alex, cousin to Martin’s girlfriend.

Alejandria isn’t like the girls Colton normally finds attractive. She’s thin, and petite, and dresses much like hoodie-wearing Colton, but he’s drawn to her. When he finds out that she was injured in a kidnapping gone wrong, which resulted in her deafness, he’s even more intrigued. Knowing that Alex’s father has tons of money scares Colton, especially when Alex’s bodyguards take him to meet her dad. See, Alex hates her father, his wealth, and lifestyle; she’s cut him out long ago, and won’t even accept his money to get cochlear implant surgery. Colton can help her win the Summerlypse DJ competition, and the prize money will get Alex the surgery–no help from her detested father needed.

It’s not simple. It’s, like, the opposite of simple, in fact. Colton’s drawn in to a world he can barely fathom, with gun-toting bodyguards, a threatening father, constant risk to reveal all his secrets, and one DJ that turns his volume to eleven. I liked Colton, though I sometimes felt as if his voice was muddled into that of a person who wasn’t a native English speaker. I loved how he embraced all of this strange and wondrous Mexican experience, having botched conversations in Spanish, braving the treacherous streets on foot and by car or bus. Looking for his happiness, even if it means turning down the many texts and emails from suddenly interested Miranda. Alex is The One, he’s maybe 80% sure, and he’s willing to do ANYTHING for her, which was absolutely charming. I loved that he attempted to mend the fracture between Alex and her father, even as her dad’s interference was a constant problem.

This is a fairly clean read, with minor language issues, and some underage alcohol use. The setting wasn’t quite fleshed out enough for me, though I appreciated the wide range of locales. Mexico is a big place; I wanted to know where we actually spent our time. The Summerlypse competition was cool, and I liked how Colton threw himself in head-first, to help out a virtual stranger. Their instant connection had all the thrills of infatuation, and was very sweet to experience. Expect a bit of kissing, and nothing more. While I liked Colton’s adventure a lot, I did struggle to connect to him, a bit–mostly due to his internal voice. He’s almost too fast and rambling, in his brain. That said, I loved the diversity of characters, and this cool peek at a teen’s eye in Mexico.

Interested? You can find SUMMERLYPSE on Goodreads, and it’s currently only $.99 on Amazon through Aug 14th.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Gerardo Delgadillo lives in the Dallas metropolitan area with his wife and children and dogs and cats and the occasional rabbit. Originally from San Francisco and raised in Mexico, he loves to write about contemporary teens in distress in English and Español. So no magic, dragons, or unicorns.

Gerardo’s fun facts:
– At the tender age of sixteen, when giant lizards ruled the world, Gerardo was a DJ–turntables and all.
– Cloud computing is his area of expertise–just don’t ask him what cloud computing means.
– He loves football, the one played with the feet by footballers, La Liga from Spain being the best.

About his novels:
– His writing must be emotional, or else…
– He believes in the Oxford comma, but the Oxford comma doesn’t believe in him.
– Loves first person present tense POV.

Catch up with Gerardo on his website, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram.

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Taking Charge in Their PRIVATE CHAMBERS–Release Day Review

Private Chambers SquareHi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and excerpt for a new BDSM menage romance from Cleo Pietsche. PRIVATE CHAMBERS is the fourth book in her Laywers Behaving Badly seris, and I had no trouble following along, even though I hadn’t read the repvious books in the series.

Privat Chambers CoverAbout the book:
Maisie’s dominant bosses won’t budge: for her protection, she must marry one of them immediately.
On paper, they’re perfect. Ethan Brennbach, Trent Banno, and Raphael Lattimore are rich, gorgeous lawyers. The powerful billionaires give Maisie exactly what she needs, from every angle imaginable. But after overhearing them arguing, she knows the devastating truth.
They don’t want her, not forever.
Unable to tell them the truth, soon she’s acting out. But her bosses have their own carefully laid plans.
They will bring Maisie under control, one way or another…

How about a little taste?

Maisie whirled through the empty conference room, gathering abandoned coffee mugs, crumpled, dirty napkins, and fallen chunks of glazed cinnamon rolls. Last night’s manicure was already chipped—not that pink fingernails did much to offset the ugliness of her janitorial uniform.

She made a second pass to collect the newspapers. As she was dumping them into the recycling bin on her cleaning cart, a word caught her eye.

Ballystock.

She glanced around, but she was still alone in the bright room. Her arm snaked out for the paper.
Fire Destroys Murdered Man’s Mansion—Norman Ballystock’s New Home Goes Up in Flames!

There was a photo, a mess of charred timber marring a meticulous stretch of landscape.

Holding her breath, Maisie skimmed the article, irrationally terrified that her name would appear. It didn’t, of course.

Maisie frowned.

She could think of three people who were capable of arson, or at least arranging it. Ethan Brennbach, Trent Banno, and Raphael Lattimore. Her former bosses. Her dominant lovers.

The men who were insisting she marry one of them—and she wouldn’t even get to choose which one.

They had promised to make the Ballystock problem go away. Was the fire their work? If so, why?

Those men never did anything without a damned good reason.

A cold feeling churned in the pit of Maisie’s stomach. She shoved the newspaper into the cart and wheeled it into the hall.

It was lunchtime, and she needed to get some air.

My Review:

This is the fourth book in an erotic BDSM series, but I was able to enjoy it, although I hadn’t read the previous books.

Maisie is a young woman who had been an administrative assistant in the law firm of L B & B. She was recently, publicly, fired–as a way to put off an investigation into her affairs. And, Maisie has many affairs, not the least of which is her menage BDSM relationship with the three partners in the law firm. Ethan Brennbach, Trent Banno, and Raphael Lattimore are rich and powerful, and delight greatly in punishing Maisie in the most erotic ways. But, more particular to this story, Maisie’s knowledge of pedophilic and horrifying Norman Ballystock has put Maisie in grave danger of arrest. Norman’s dead, and the murder investigation is creeping ever closer.

In order to protect their sub, Ethan, Trent and Raphael devise a plan to have one of them marry Maisie–and she’s not enthused. She’s only known them for a short while and she’s new to D/s; she doesn’t believe that they are really serious about her. She doesn’t want to be a burden, and she’s afraid this will bind her to men who don’t truly want her.

This was an interesting read, with sweet and sexy moments. Also, some really NSFW dialogue and one rigged trial with filthy consequences. I liked the interactions between Maisie and her Doms. Each one seems to have different objectives, when it comes to pleasure/pain, though we mostly see Maisie with Ethan or Trent. It seems that Raphael had some big scenes in the previous story.

Maisie has lots of growth to make in this book, and she does well, earning more praise than punishment, and an unexpectedly willing groom, who cannot wait to collar his sub with his best friends and partners, to boot.

Boy, that wedding night sounds like it’s going to be nuclear. Stay tuned…

Interested? You can find PRIVATE CHAMBERS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and AllRomance.

About the Author:
If Cleo isn’t writing (or reading!) erotica, she’s probably sitting on her balcony, watching the wind blow through the trees. She loves horses, snowstorms, and piña coladas. If she won the lottery, she would hire an assistant to take care of the technical side of e-publishing so that she could write all day.

Catch up with Cleo on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

IndiGo

Available Now HAPPILY EVER ALL-STAR!

happily ever all star now liveHi there! Today, I’m helping to get the word out on a new contemporary sports romance from Sosie Frost. HAPPILY EVER ALL-STAR is the fourth book in the Ironfield Rivets football series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

happily ever all star coverAbout the book:
Veteran running back Jude Owens is one of the best and most respected players in the league. A brutal concussion nearly ended his career, but Jude refuses to retire without earning the ultimate honor—a championship.

But first, he needs me to clear him to play. As the Ironfield Rivets’ neurologist, I usually treat bad boy quarterbacks and beastly linebackers. I can’t be impartial when my lifelong crush hops onto the exam table. Not only is Jude gorgeous and a gentleman, he’s my brother’s best friend…and the father of my unborn baby.

Or so everyone thinks.

Jude offers to pose as my boyfriend and the baby’s father to save my reputation. In return, he needs my help to stay on the field. The pretend romance keeps me close enough to take care of him, but I can’t protect my heart. Our stolen kisses and nightly indiscretions have transformed this fake relationship into something so very real.

I can’t complicate our arrangement by falling in love, especially as Jude’s obsession with football blinds him to everything but the game. When his symptoms worsen, the only way I can protect him may be to sit him on the sidelines. But ending his career will ruin our Once Upon A Time.

It’s up to me to save my prince charming…
Even if it means I lose my happily-ever-after.

Interested? You can find HAPPILY EVER ALL-STAR on Goodreads, and is currently $.99 (or FREE on KU) Amazon (US & UK).

susie frost football
Haven’t read this standalone series yet?
Now is your chance!
Bad Boy’s Baby: Amazon (US & UK)

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About the Author:
Sosie Frost is no stranger to quirky, embarrassing, and wild situations, and she’s channeling all that new adult angst into fun romances!

From marching at the high school homecoming game without her trumpet (a punishment for forgetting the instrument on the band bus), to accidentally tucking her prom dress into the back of her tights before pictures, and even accidentally starting a chemical fire in the college chem lab, Sosie has the market cornered on crazy stories.

But hey, writing is a better outlet than therapy right? 😉

If you want funny, charming, and steamy romances, you’ve found the right author!

Sosie lives in Pittsburgh with her hubby, her two cats, and thrives on a near constant stream of gummy bears.

You can find Sosie online on her Facebook or Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
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Gothic Mystery: THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released gothic mystery from Brent Hartinger. I have really enjoyed his contemporary M/M romance series, including THE THING I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW, BAREFOOT IN THE CITY OF BROKEN DREAMS, and THE ROAD TO AMAZING, but THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE is a completely different type of book. Four teens, a remote cabin, and unknown assailants on the loose. Wow. I loved so much of it!

Three Truths and a LieAbout the book:
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

My Review
This is a chilling YA gothic mystery with turns that make the reader really wonder…

Rob, Liam, Galen and Mia are four high-school seniors weeks before graduation. Liam and Rob are dating, and Liam is best friends with Mia, who is dating Galen. They sort-of get along. It’s not easy because Rob is new to the group, and he’s the one telling the story. Also, Galen is a goofy guy, and seems to get-off on teasing Liam and Rob, sexually. I mean this as: he has no shame flaunting his body and trying to arouse Liam and Rob, because he’s a very good-looking guy. Mia thinks that’s kinda funny, even if it’s uncomfortable for Rob and Liam.

As a bonding experience, they take a weekend trip to Mia’s family’s remote cabin on the Olympic Peninsula three hours from their homes in Seattle. Getting there is an adventure. They stop in Marot, Wash and the town and folks are nothing less than eerie. Mia’s family had sold some of their land, and it was clear-cut–making the townies hostile. Rob, the narrator throughout, is freaked out. The cabin’s little more than a wreck, and so remote they need a satellite phone for emergency use. Which promptly goes missing. And, the outhouse explodes. And so many freaky things happen that Rob’s SURE they are being stalked/hunted by the Marot weirdos.

This is a gothic mystery, and the fifth character in the story is truly setting. From oily-aired Seattle alleys and shady tattoo parlors to the constantly-dripping temperate rainforest with its startling, yet hidden, clear-cut patchwork, enveloping the cabin and teens, you can be sure that the settling is thick, overwhelming and troublesome. Remote, and desolate, with nothing but acres and acres of dangers and possibilities. I got chills, much the same as Rob described.

I honestly don’t want to give away too much plot, but you can expect a whole lot of death and destruction in the story. Despite their bonding skinny-dips and fireside chats, the teens are a-dropping and Rob’s frantic to escape this fate, by any means necessary. I didn’t see the big twist, at all. Which was terribly refreshing. As I’ve read several of the author’s books, this one marked a complete departure into gothic mystery/horror. What a fantastic addition to his library, really.

Interested? You can find THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About Brent Hartinger:
I am Brent Hartinger, and I live to write.

For the last twenty years, I have made my living writing just about everything that involves words.

My most famous book is probably my 2003 gay teen novel, Geography Club, which has been adapted into a feature film starring Scott Bakula, Marin Hinkle, Ana Gasteyer, Justin Deeley, and Nikki Blonsky. It was released in selected theaters and on VOD on November 15, 2013.

You can find Brent on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Saved by Kismet–MATE CALL-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet M/M dragon-shifter space-opera romance novella from Amber Kell. MATE CALL is the fifth book in her Dragon Men series, but it was fully enjoyable on its own.

Catch my review and enter to win a $15 GC in the giveaway below!

Mate Call 400About the book:

King Zeir had it all, a prosperous kingdom, a fated mate and the love of his people. But when his mate dies he goes half mad with grief and transforms into his dragon form. Unable to get past his sorrow, he pines for the love he never fully knew.

Colton Lanx has known nothing but travel. His parents flew from planet to planet, never settling down. Becoming a navigator was an easy choice to make until an error by his captain forced him down to the planet Dragait.

Two men joined by destiny have to overcome their past if they wish to build a future together.

My Review:

3.5 Stars for this dragon-shifter, space opera, M/M romance.

Colton Lanx is a navigator on an explorer ship who’s got serious problems with his inept, ego-centric captain. Despite his certification, Captain Jael altered Colt’s course coordinates which has brought their starship too close to the atmosphere of Dragait, a planet known to be populated by reclusive dragon shifters. Dragait is the homeland of Colt’s father, Seltin, but Colt has never been there. He’s a half-dragon, though he’s never shifted.

Unable to correct the course in time, Colt joins his crew in evacuating. He’s “rescued”  by a space dragon, Baroy, who ferries him safely through the atmosphere.

King Zeir isn’t happy that an escape pod has landed in his kingdom. He hates outsiders, and loathes anyone not of his realm. He’s been in his dragon form for nearly a century, since the loss of his mate, Seltin. Even if they hadn’t fully bonded, Zeir has mourned his loss and doesn’t ever wish to find another mate. The appearance of a newly-shifted golden dragon from the wreckage of the escape pod trips all Zeir’s buttons, however. He feels the mate call, now, far stronger than with Seltin. Learning that Colt is Seltin’s offspring, Zeir is sure his previous mate call was simply for Seltin’s bloodline–and that Colt is his true mate. That’s a small problem, compared to how frustrated he is that he has a mate at all. He doesn’t want to mourn another partner. Add to that, Zeir must confront his father-in-law to be: Seltin, his previously-claimed mate. Gotta cause a bit of discomfort at the wedding, don’t you think?

There’s some machinations regarding the exploration company, Captain Jael, and the interest each man feels for  the other. The book moves along at a rather brisk pace, with a couple stops to allow Colt and Zeir to bond. The conflict level is mild, with quick resolution to all difficulties. The sexytimes were good, but not boiling hot. I had expected a bit more steam, to be honest. That said, my biggest issue with the book was dialogue. I’m a firm believer in story-appropriate language, and I often get pulled out of fantasy books–like this one–when the dialogue is too pedestrian. Too everyday, too now. It’s my own hang-up, perhaps, but I really like to feel transported by a fantasy, and hitting speed-bumps in the diction takes me out of the story. Otherwise, it’s a cute breeze-read.

Interested? You can find MATE CALL on Goodreads, Amazon, All Romance, and Smashwords.

Other books in the series: Mate Dance, Mate Healer, Mate Hunt, and Mate Test.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $15 GC from Amazon or AllRomance–winner’s choice.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Amber KellAbout the Author:
Amber Kell has made a career out of daydreaming. It has been a lifelong habit she practices diligently as shown by her complete lack of focus on anything not related to her fantasy world building. When she told her husband what she wanted to do with her life, he told her to go have fun.

During those seconds she isn’t writing, she remembers she has children who humor her with games of “what if” and let her drag them to foreign lands to gather inspiration. Her youngest confided in her that he wants to write because he longs for a website and an author name—two things apparently necessary to be a proper writer.

Despite her husband’s insistence she doesn’t drink enough to be a true literary genius, she continues to spin stories of people falling happily in love and staying that way.

She is thwarted during the day by a traffic jam of cats on the stairway and a puppy who insists on walks, but she bravely perseveres.

Catch up with Amber on her  website, Facebook and twitter.
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The Big Chance to Get CLOSE TO YOU–Review and Giveaway!

CTY Tour BannerHi there! Today, I’m sharing a review and giveaway for the latest contemporary romance from Kristen Proby. CLOSE TO YOU is the second book in her Fusion series, and fully enjoyable on its own, though we still have a lot of people from LISTEN TO ME on the page.

CLOSE TO YOU releases August 9th, but you can drop down and catch the excerpt and enter the $25 GC giveaway right now!
CloseToYou_PB_FinalAbout the book:
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby comes the second novel in her sizzling Fusion series.

Camilla, “Cami,” LaRue was five years old when she first fell in love with Landon Palazzo. Everyone told her the puppy love would fade—they clearly never met Landon. When he left after graduation without a backward glance, she was heartbroken. But Cami grew up, moved on, and became part-owner of wildly popular restaurant Seduction. She has everything she could want…or so she thinks.

After spending the last 12 years as a Navy fighter pilot, Landon returns to Portland to take over the family construction business. When he catches a glimpse of little Cami LaRue, he realizes she’s not so little any more. He always had a soft spot for his little sister’s best friend, but nothing is soft now when he’s around the gorgeous restauranteur.

Landon isn’t going to pass up the chance to make the girl-next-door his. She’s never been one for romance, but he’s just the one to change her mind. Will seduction be just the name of her restaurant or will Cami let him get close enough to fulfill all her fantasies?

How about a little taste?

“Oh, sweet Jesus, don’t ever stop doing that.”

I grin and watch as I knead her feet. Upon closer inspection, I see that they’re callused, and despite being nicely painted, they’re a bit of a mess.

“I hate my feet,” she murmurs softly. “They’re rough and callused and horrible.”

“I don’t mind,” I reply honestly. “But you should spoil yourself sometimes and go get one of those froofroo pedicures.”

“I do. But I wear shoes that are bad for me, and I hate socks, so this is what I’m stuck with.” Her eyes slit open to watch me as she shrugs. “I don’t care. My shoes rock.”

.“I’ll rub your feet for you anytime you want.”

She grins softly and I want to pull her in my lap and hold on tight. I want to kiss her madly and lay her back on this couch and uncover her body, inch by inch, discovering what makes her moan and what makes her sigh.

I want to do all of the things I’ve fantasized about for longer than I can remember.

Instead, I sigh and pat her ankle, then stand. “I’d better go.”

She stands with me and follows me to the door. “Thank you for dinner. You didn’t have to do that.”

“Yes.” I turn to her and push her blond hair back over her ear. Scoot is winding his way through my legs, purring. “I did. Thank you for today.”

Before she can push me away, I lean in and press my lips to her forehead, breathing her in, and wanting to stay.

“Are you going to get that last house?”

“If you promise to visit.” I pull back and see her bite her lip, then firm her shoulders.

“I’ll visit.”

I nod and leave her before I do something stupid like scoop her up and take her up to her bedroom to spend the rest of the weekend with her.

She’s not ready for that. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, which shocks the fuck out of me because I’ve never had a problem with carrying a willing woman off to a bed to have my way with her.

But this is Cami, and a fun romp on a mattress isn’t the only thing I want with her. Not that I really know what I want with her.

I do know that she deserves more than a weekend in bed, and the thought of someone else giving it to her makes me crazy.

My Review:
Cami is best-friends and business partners with Mia, and totally gone for Mia’s older brother Landon–has been since she was a kid. Only, she’s not a kid anymore. She’s a grown woman, with a degree and a divorce. She’d jumped into a marriage with her college sweetheart while Landon was half the world away, running sorties as a US Navy pilot.

After a decade in the service, Landon’s home now–grounded and released from duty after a high altitude ejection that injured his neck. He’s otherwise intact, though unable to pilot, and has returned to Seattle temporarily to assist his father’s construction business while his dad prepares to retire. Meeting Cami again is like Homecoming, with a twist, she’s all grown up. As much as he can sense that she wants him, it’s nothing to the inferno he’s bottled up waiting for just the right moment.

This book doesn’t leave the reader waiting for the HEA. It all seems to happen really fast…which made me (rightfully) suspect there would be a big complication. Not giving away that part, but I did connect with the characters throughout their rough patch. They don’t separate, but the trajectory they had imagined hits a bump, and it means they need to reconfigure their landing pattern, just a bit.

This is a quick read, with a sweet couple that almost struggles to believe their good fortune. Cami holds a torch for the boy she once knew, and isn’t quite sure this adult Landon is the man for her…at first. Landon does a great job of putting Cami first, and being the stand-up man she’d idolized. Plenty of loving and swooning and dream-closets in the making, here.

Interested? You can find out more about CLOSE TO YOU on Goodreads, and preorder it in advance of its August 9th release on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

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Preorder CLOSE TO YOU, fill out this form, and receive an email with the Exclusive Short Story, GROW WITH ME, featuring Will and Meg from Kristen Proby’s PLAY WITH ME in the With Me in Seattle Series after Release Week!

ListenToMe_coverAnd don’t miss the first novel in the Fusion Series, LISTEN TO ME! I really enjoyed it. Addy is a hard-working woman who isn’t about to let another man walk all over her. Jake is a musician who’s made some bad decisions–and isn’t sure he’s atoned for them.

Together, they are and open flame near a gas can. It’s only a matter of time before they ignite.

Amazon ** Barnes & Noble ** iTunes ** Kobo

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble! (winner’s choice)
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Author Pic_MontanaAbout the Author:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Kristen Proby is the author of the popular With Me in Seattle series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong characters who love humor and have a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type—fiercely protective and a bit bossy—and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves. Kristen spends her days with her muse in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys coffee, chocolate, and sunshine. And naps.

Visit Kristen online on her website, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, or sign up for her newsletter.
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Moving On WITH OR WITHOUT YOU–Review and Giveaway!

WoWY-BannerTemplateHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary YA M/M romance form Zane Riley. WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is the sequel to GO YOUR OWN WAY, and these books should probably be read in order for best enjoyment.

Be sure to drop down and check out the excerpt, author interview and get in on the $25 GC or book giveaway!

With or Without YouAbout the book:

In the much-anticipated sequel to Go Your Own Way, high school seniors Lennox McAvoy and Will Osborne pick up right where they left off—navigating the tumultuous waters of a new relationship and dealing with Will’s disapproving father.

When a violent incident forces Lennox to give up his independent ways, he must come to terms with his past just as Will is grappling with his future. As Will’s college plans become reality, will Lennox have the courage to go after the opportunities he doesn’t think he deserves?

How about a little taste?

The band room was empty when he pushed the door open, but the piano was set up like it was almost every afternoon these days. Only Mr. Robinette and a music stand littered with sheet music was absent.

“Hello?”

The silence struck Lennox as odd, but as he sat down he also realized how strange it was to announce himself. So much had changed since the first time he’d snuck in here to play on his own. Now he was auditioning for some college he still couldn’t fathom.

To make Will happy. And maybe a little bit for himself.

“Ah, I wondered if you were going to show up.”

Mr. Robinette was behind him, the door to his office now wide open. He’d taken off his tie and undone a few buttons on his shirt like he did most afternoons when they practiced.

“You just want to play it through a few times or mess around with something else?”

Lennox took a seat at the piano, but didn’t both opening his bag. He’d memorized the piece he was playing by Valentine’s Day and now, almost two weeks later, he could write it out measure for measure on blank sheet music. But playing it was becoming repetitive. For two hours, three times a week, almost nonstop with the same four pages and nothing else.

“I’d rather try something new. That piece is getting a little old.”

Mr. Robinette smiled and pulled a chair up beside him. “I had a nightmare the other night and it was the theme song while I ran around a haunted house Scooby Doo style.”

“You didn’t catch a ride in the Mystery Machine, did you? I’ve always wanted that van.”

“I’ve got a lunch box version of it. It doesn’t fit much though because it’s too narrow. Anyway, play what you want. I’ll be here until about four-thirty, so it’s all yours.”

As Mr. Robinette returned to his office, Lennox pulled what had become his music notebook out of his bag and opened it to the latest page. He’d taken to composing during class when he should have been taking notes, especially calculus where he had no reason to pay attention anyway.

The latest page was a tune he’d come up with while the other kids had been tapping their pencils and erasing answers. Every moment of his life carried a rhythm, a melody, and an emotion he could create with, and his notebook was becoming a testament to that. He played through everything he’d jotted down over the past few days, but after several rounds he kept coming back to one. It was a piano version he’d tried—and mostly failed—to create of one of the songs Will had played on a loop a few weeks ago.

“I’m getting ready to lock up!”

Mr. Robinette’s voice carried out of the office and into the band room. A few minutes and several jingles of Mr. Robinette’s keys later, the office door was shut and Lennox was closing the cover on the keys.

“That last piece you were playing, was it a cover?”

Lennox shrugged as they headed for the door.

“It was supposed to be. Didn’t sound much like the song.”

“Well, the others did. They were all really good, even the ones that weren’t covers.”

“Uh, thanks.”

Lennox watched him at the door to the parking lot for a moment. He’d been a great help over the last month—all year if Lennox was honest. Mr. Robinette had believed in him in his own way since school had begun, and thanks to him he had a decent shot at this audition.

“Thanks for… all of this. I actually feel like—just thanks.”

Mr. Robinette gave him a genuine smile and patted him on the shoulder.

“You’re very welcome. Let me know how it goes when you get back, okay? I’m rooting for you. Got all of my fingers and limbs crossed. You deserve the chance. Don’t doubt that or yourself.”

“I-I won’t.”

It was funny to have so many people believing in him after so long. Happiness was a strange feeling as well. Until he’d let Will into his life he couldn’t remember how to capture such a feeling in his chest and keep it there.

Thoughts from Author Zane Riley!

Hi! I’m Zane, and I’m a queer transgender writer from northern Virginia. Currently, I’m in the process of packing up to move to Washington state, so I’m pretty busy at the moment, but also very excited. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, although I didn’t get truly serious about it until college when I switched my major to Creative Writing.

With or Without You is my second novel and a sequel to my first. It continues Will and Lennox’s story as they finish up their senior year of high school. As they begin to learn how to navigate their growing relationship, Will plans for his future in college while Lennox struggles to accept that his future is more than surviving until the next day. They each begin to forge their own paths only to realize that the futures they each want may lead them away from each other.

Tell us something no one else knows about your characters.
Will has never broken a bone. He sprained his ankle once in Little League, but that’s the worst injury he’s ever had. Considering how clumsy he is, it’s a miracle he hasn’t broken as many bones as Lennox.

Lennox, on the other hand, has broken close to a dozen bones. Most of those were fingers from when he was little and kept putting him fingers in places he shouldn’t. Like the line where the car door meets the body of the car. The others were broken ribs from his teenage years.

Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it?
I’ve had a few spats with writer’s block over the years. I know a lot of people keeping trying to force themselves to write through it and end up getting even more frustrated than before. Usually, once I recognize I have a block, I shut my documents, notebooks, etc. I don’t even consider writing. I go out and see friends or go outside for a walk when I’d normally be writing. Finding other activities, even a mindless video game, helps me decompress whatever’s blocking me. After a few days, I’ve usually found the root of the problem and can start writing again.

What book you’ve written would you like to see made into a movie?
With or Without You is only my second book, and it’s a sequel to the first, so my options are a bit limited, but I’d pick the second one. It has a stronger plot and a much more defined ending than my first novel. The movie would definitely have to be NC-17 though, ha ha. Can’t lose all the sexual moments in Will and Lennox’s story otherwise the whole narrative would change.

Do you work on an outline or plot or just let the story takes you where it wants to go?
I let the story take me wherever the characters want to go, especially with Will and Lennox. It’s a necessity with a character like Lennox. I’ve written other stories where I do a little bit to outline a basic structure, but a lot of the time, I spend enough time letting the story evolve in my head and then just write. In some ways, I guess I memorize the important pieces of what’s going to happen. It feels more natural for me to write from my own head than from a list on a sheet of paper.

My Review:
This is a book about two out gay teens in a small Virginia town. It’s the sequel to GO YOUR OWN WAY and I think I might have liked it better had I read the first book. It contains graphic scenes of homophobic violence as well as sex between two consenting 18 year old boys.

Lennox is a black, gay high school senior who has been quite literally abandoned by his family in rural Leon, Virginia. Lennox is a musical wunderkind, trained in music performance and composition by his musician mother, who took her own life when he was young. His father never recovered from that loss and drank himself to death, leaving Lennox and his younger, disabled sister, Lucy, in the care of their grandparents. When Lennox came out, his grandfather was very angry. Lennox was attacked by homophobes in his school, and he struck back hard; he was arrested and incarcerated in a juvenile facility where he was molested by older boys. He’s now on a monitored release program, with a leg monitor. His grandfather wants nothing to do with Lennox and arranged to leave him to serve out the rest of his time in Leon. Lennox lives in a ramshackle hotel that is more dangerous for having several other residents who are violent homophobes. Lennox has little regard for himself and is a brash kid, generally lashing out verbally at anyone who might attempt to get close.

Will is a well-liked out gay white boy who is a good student and star athlete. He’s never had a boyfriend, but Lennox has come to town and they are negotiating a relationship together.
***All of this occurred in the previous book.***

When this book opens it’s Thanksgiving, Will and Lennox are a sexually active couple and Will wants Lennox to leave his crappy motel to live in his house with his father and step-mother, Ben and Karen. They are cool with Will being gay, but Ben has problems with his son dating a black thug criminal, which is how he sees Lennox. Karen is a nurse, and Ben is rehabilitating from a heart attack. Despite Will’s desire to have Lennox move in, Lennox won’t–he can’t bear Ben’s scrutiny. That said, the homophobes attack, and Lennox has no choice but to accept Will’s help and Karen’s care.

Will is a bright kid with a bright future, and he wants to share that vision with Lennox. Despite Lennox’s penchant for self-loathing and self-sabotage, Will sees the best within him and encourages him gently, but steadily, to apply to music school. In Boston. It’s really far from Virginia, but won’t be too far from NYU, where Will is applying for college. Lennox is terrified to fall for Will and be abandoned again, but realistic about his inability to pay for any school, let alone music school. His grandfather’s paltry allowance barely kept him fed; it surely won’t cover tuition.

I think this book has some great moments of hubris and deep love. Ben recognizes his callous treatment of Lennox hurts his relationship with both Will and Karen. He tries to see the good in the foul-mouthed boy who makes no bones about all the sex he’s having with his son…which was something I found grating, as a reader. I surely wouldn’t want any partner of my children being so crass, and I get that it was a defense mechanism for Lennox–who learned to wear his sexuality as a protective suit–but it was too much for me. The constant baiting wore me out, especially as Lennox was quite literally co-habitating with Will in the basement. I found a lot of respect for Ben in growing past that to discover the tender side of Lennox. Lennox could learn a lot from the phrase: Gratitude is an Attitude…

There is no question that Will is gone for Lennox, and Lennox is slowly but surely able to reciprocate this affection. He has many challenges to overcome, and emotional intimacy is one of them. Another is a general absence of faith. He’s been abused so often, and abandoned by everyone who should have cared for him that he feels worthless, and unworthy of love. He’s blown away when Ben stands up for him against his grandfather’s venom. He’s mystified when kids want to be his friend. He’s flummoxed that a music school might accept him. All of this comes out as sarcasm, frustration and anger, because Lennox is prickly-by-nurture. I liked how Will’s constant affection and determination to ‘be there’ gave Lennox the strength to trust people, and himself.

Throughout the book, Will and Lennox build a stronger physical relationship. Will was a virgin when they had met, but that’s no longer the case. Expect plenty of how-to scenes, and many more deep-connecting moments. Will demands that Lennox look at him–see him–when they make love, because this IS love to him, and he needs Lennox to be engaged. It’s tender even when it’s tense. They have adventures in big cities, and giant dreams to chase. The book ends on a hopeful note, and with a promise to keep the story going.

For me, as a reader, I think this story jumped in too fast. I get that it’s a sequel, but I didn’t know any characters or any history, and too many giant things were happening in the first couple chapters that didn’t make any sense–having not read the first book. Others who have read that story will probably like the beginning, but it was a tough go, for me. Being a reader of many series, I always appreciate when there is a mingling of the history to properly orient me to what’s happening now, because it might be years between books–and I may have literally read hundreds of stories in the interim. Even with my excellent memory, I like a little backstory to get me into a book. So, that hindered my appreciation from the start. Lennox is a tough kid to like, by design. He’s belligerent and unconscionably rude. Even those closest to him are in his line of verbal fire, and it got to me. By the end, however, I could see him mellowing, and that’s a good sign that he’s growing up and out of his tantrum phase. It’s a testament to the strength of Will’s love that he never let Lennox rub him raw, and he never let Lennox give up on himself. Will is a great kid and his parents are solid support, for both boys. While I struggled to like Lennox, I swooned for Will. I’m hopeful that they each find a good path in the next book–which requires them to separate for college. There’s a lot of conflict inherent in that premise, and I expect that these guys will continue to be intimate with the phrase: the struggle is real.

Interested? You can find WITH OR WITHOUT YOU on GoodreadsInterlude PressAmazonBarnes & Noble, iTunesSmashwords, AllRomance, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press gift card or one of 5 e-copies of ‘With Or Without You’ by Zane Riley.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Meet the author:
Zane Riley is a transgender writer who wrote his first work of fan fiction in the fourth grade. He is a recent transplant to Vancouver, Washington where he spends his time watching long distance baseball games, hiking, and exploring the musical depths of the internet. His first novel, Go Your Own Way, was published by Interlude Press in 2015.

Catch up with Zane on Goodreads, Facebook, and twitter.

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