Holiday Shorts!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing reviews for a few holiday-themed stories that will warm your hearts in this wintry season. FROSTBITTEN is a vampire menage, ANGEL VOICES is a New Adult M/M romance, and LOVE AND LATKES is a transgender romance. All of these are novellas, and have sweet themes of acceptance and new love.

frostbittenAbout FROSTBITTEN by Charlotte Stein:
Shy nurse Cora both dreads and lives for the moments she sees Zeke, an orderly at the hospital where she works. Zeke is too handsome, too compelling, too much, and seems totally unaware of Cora. But before she can bring herself to his attention, an explosion rips through the hospital Christmas party.

Zeke has noticed Cora—in fact, he’s so irresistibly drawn to her that he saves her from the explosion by turning her into a vampire, much to the jealousy and resentment of his partner, Merrick. Zeke hates being a vampire, and now that she’ll live, doesn’t want Cora to suffer his fate. If they can both resist the overwhelming instinct to bond, joining their bodies as Cora draws her maker’s blood, she might be able to return to her normal human life.

As Merrick uses every erotic trick to keep Zeke distracted from the blood passion, Cora becomes more and more drawn to both of her reluctant captors. And more and more happy to abandon her old life in exchange for an eternity with two hot immortal lovers. All she has to do is convince Merrick and Zeke that being a vampire isn’t all that bad.

Like FRECKLES and GLASS TIDINGS, FROSTBITTEN is also a part of the 2016 three book Holiday bundle offered every year by Riptide, and 20% of the proceeds are donated to The Trevor Project, which provides a suicide hotline and counseling assistance for LGBTQ teens, in particular, in crisis.

I’ve actually written a full review for FROSTBITTEN for Joyfully Jay, but I can tell you I really loved this MMF menage story. Zeke and Merrick are a couple, but Zeke and Cora seem to share a strong attraction. Zeke saves Cora from certain death when an explosion rocks their holiday party–by infecting her with a vampire virus. Merrick wants Cora to return to her human self, which she will if she doesn’t take blood from either Zeke or Merrick. Unfortunately, they’re all very attracted to each other. This is a really compelling, sensual read. Cora narrates the whole novella, and she’s clearly a vivid thinker. Plus, once she’s infected, her viewpoint becomes distorted and hazy, with a sing-song quality that lulled me along. I dug it. There’s a little bit of sex, in the middle and the end with M/M, M/F and MMF arrangements.

Find FROSTBITTEN on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

angel-voicesAbout ANGEL VOICES by Rowan Speedwell:
One frigid winter night a week before Christmas, college student Will stumbles into a church during choir practice, bruised by his own father’s hands. He’s out of the closet now — there’s no going back since his fundamentalist father learned the truth — but he’s also out of a home, a family, and a future. Will has nowhere to turn. No one to care.

Except . . . Will’s roommate, Quinn, cares. Maybe too much. He’s been attracted to Will since they moved in together, but never dreamed his crush was gay. With Will’s life in pieces, Quinn doesn’t want to push. He also knows he has more experience than Will, who’s never even been kissed.

Then Will’s father makes a reappearance, and Will has to learn to trust his heart more than the voices of his past. But it’s the season of miracles, faith, and hope, and Quinn is determined to teach Will how to love and be loved.

My Review:
Will is an 18 year old freshman attending his local college. When he returns to his home for the winter break his enraged father beats him nearly senseless and chucks him out into the cold, while his horrified mother watched. Will stumbles the eight miles back toward campus, dropping into a church to warm up. There he hears the choir practicing, and finds peace in his tumult.

He also finds his afro-Creole roommate, Quinn, who’s a tenor in the choir. Quinn had always thought his shy and reserved roomie was straight. Learning Will’s father assaulted him for being gay sets Quinn on a “rescue Will” mission. Quinn’s a sweet boy, whose family is large and supportive. He knows’ they’ll pitch in to help Will in whatever manner they can. With Will cut off from his family, they make plans to take him home to New Orleans for Christmas, and to seek out scholarship help if necessary.

Will, stunned that his roomie is gay, helpful, and attracted to him, allows Quinn to do his best–in all things. There’s a bit of steam, as Will experiences his first kiss–and more. He’s still shell-shocked over his father’s reaction, but it seems the rest of his family might just be okay with the gay. This is a Christmas romance novella, so everything happens kinda fast. I did love Quinn’s large and engaging family. They are all sweet, and wished I’d had more time to linger with them. I really enjoyed the interracial aspects here, and how inclusive it all felt.

While I’m a big fan of sexytimes, I kinda felt that happened a little fast, considering how injured Will was, and how little these guys really knew each other–despite being roomies. A little restraint would have gone a long way toward building some tension. That said, it’s a nice read, with some feel-good moments and what seems to be an HEA.

Interested? You can find ANGEL VOICES on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

love-and-latkesAbout LOVE & LATKES by BA Huntley
Allen’s day begins awful and rapidly turns into a living hell, leaving him without a job, without a car, without a phone, and without much hope that life will improve anytime soon. When friends urges him to bail on the city and come spend Hanukah with them, he agrees—and is glad he did when he meets Lucy.

My Review:
This is a short novella, just 32 pages, that has a diverse cast, with two gay men, and two transgender characters, a man and a woman, which I really loved. Allen tells this story of how his life seemingly turned to crap in one day. It was too compressed and too ridiculous to be believed, unfortunately. Still, Allen’s friend David, a pregnant transman, invites Allen to spend Hanukkah with David and his husband in Halifax.

While visiting, Allen meets Lucy, a transwoman, who Allen finds very attractive. They bond a bit over the few days they spend together. It’s a fresh start for Allen, it seems, which is nice, but a bit convenient. I didn’t like the beginning, because it seemed so implausible, but the parts once Allen got on the plane were decent. The Hanukkah bits were a side story, with the focus on Allen getting a new life and new love. I wished this was expanded, to allow for better character and conflict development. I liked the diversity, which was mostly unexpected considering the blurb. This is an okay read, good for a lunchtime diversion.

Interested? You can find LOVE & LATKES on Goodreads, Less Than Three Press and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in!

Be sure to comment on any holiday reads you’ve picked up this season, and how you liked them!

As always, keep reading my friends.

Surviving and Hoping with THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a transgender mystery romance from Kris Ripper. THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS is the third book in the author’s Queers of La Vista series, and brings the murder mystery discussed in GAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL onto the main stage. The featured couple is a trans-man, Ed, who falls for an adventurous lesbian woman.

qatrAbout the book:
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.

Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.

As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and probably best enjoyed when read in sequence, but it’s not mandatory.

Ed Masiello is a trans-man who lives in La Vista, CA, and works for the local newspaper as a low-level reporter. He really wants to write bigger pieces, but he’s young and new, and he’s stuck with fluff. It’s super frustrating because there seems to be a killer stalking the queer community in La Vista, and Ed thinks no one’s really making enough fuss. The best info is from an anonymous blogger named Togg, and that person’s really making the Queers of La Vista nervous.

While out blowing off steam at Club Fred’s, a known queer establishment, Ed bumps into a long-time acquaintance, Alisha. Alisha is fun and flirty and Ed doesn’t know how to take it. He’s always dated women, but he’s been transitioning for a year now, and his parts are changing due to the hormonal supplementation. Is he a novelty to Alisha, who he knows is lesbian? Or, is Alisha attracted to Ed as a man?

Short answer: she likes Ed.

They begin dating and it’s cool. Ed feels like this is great. A beautiful woman likes him, and they have satisfying sexytimes. Thing is, Alisha wants her life to be a grand adventure. Ed’s afraid to request time off from his job to travel. Plus, he’s getting super caught up in the investigation surrounding the La Vista killer–Ed’s the one who connects a seemingly-unrelated murder to the string–and verifies that all the victims were guests at Club Fred’s theme night parties. The whole queer community is in an uproar, and Ed’s obsession is having a toll on his budding romance.

I really like this series. It shifts the focus to different members of the queer community that may not have lots of fictional representation. I’ve read a few transitioning characters before, and Ed’s a good one. He’s struggling for acceptance on many fronts. His family is hostile to his transition, meanwhile he’s “passing” as male to people at work and his roommates–even if they pretty-much think he’s gay. Which is a conundrum for Ed. I had a few chuckles with the dude-bro roomies scenes, and their “advice” about dating women. There were some interesting sexytimes and I can only trust they are rather realistic, as I’ve not given a lot of scrutiny to TG persons and their bodies in transition. The author identifies as a trans-man, so that’s good enough cred for me.

This book brings the murder-mystery storyline of the series into the forefront. Previous to this we’d only heard of one murder, but the timeline fits as all these stories are not entirely sequential. There are many characters from the previous books brought back into the mix here, as a lot of the story occurs within Ed’s social sphere. He’s friendly with Jaq and Hannah from Book Two and also Dred from Book One. As killings continue, there’s an arrest, but that divides people even more. The accused is a fixture, and someone seemingly trusted by all. I will say, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to find the true culprit. Good thing that Ed figures out the way to happiness is not through chasing smoke trails in the sky, but finding a partner who’s there for you, and loves you not only as you are, but also as you will be.

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

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Real: COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT–Review & Giveaway!

banner-cowboys-dont-come-outHi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary interracial romance from Tara Lain. COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT is a standalone cowboy romance set in Maui, of all places!

Catch the excerpt and get in on the $20 GC giveaway below!

cowboysdontcomeout400x600About the book:
Rand McIntyre settles for good enough. He loves his small California ranch, raising horses, and teaching riding to the kids he adores—but having kids of his own and someone to love means coming out, and that would jeopardize everything he’s built. Then, despite his terror of flying, he goes on a holiday to Hana, Hawaii with his parents and meets the dark and mysterious Kai Kealoha, a genuine Hawaiian cowboy. Rand takes to Kai’s kid brother and sister as much as he drools over Kai, but the guy sports more prickles than a horned toad, and more secrets than the exotic land he comes from.

Kai’s earned his privacy and lives to protect his “kids.” He ought to stay away from the big, handsome cowboy for everyone’s sake—but since the guy’s just a haole on a short vacation, how much damage can he do? When all of Kai’s worst fears and Rand’s darkest nightmares come true at once, there’s not much chance for two cowboys who can’t—or won’t—come out.

How about a little taste?

He stopped and tried to hear over the rushing of the surf out beyond the reef if anyone else hid in the dark. No sounds. Fortunately, no big water hit this beach, so he didn’t have to worry about getting swamped. Actually, between the lapping waves and the brilliant moonlight, the scene resembled some fairy-tale romance. Fuck that.

Right where the dry sand verged on the wet, he flopped on his butt. What she’d said—that he settled for a good-enough life. That he wasn’t happy. Don’t I get to decide that?

He leaned back on his elbows. Yeah, but she’s right. I created a whole life—as if I was somebody else. Most people find “the one” and build a future so it suits them both. I imagined a cowboy and slid into his boots—Rand McIntyre. Say that with a drawl, son. Just one problem. I’m gay—always have been—and cowboys don’t come out. Where does that leave me? A-fucking-lone, pardner. Always will be.

You’re not the only gay cowboy.

Have you seen Brokeback Mountain? Shit.

Phosphorescence sparkled on the tops of the waves farther out. Pretty. Guess there could be all kinds of weird man-eating shit in that water.

Do you think more sharks and barracudas swim at night than during the day?

Yeah, right.

He sprang up, stripped his Hawaiian shirt off and tossed it on the sand, then pulled off the shorts his mom had given him. Commando. What would it feel like to have fishes nibbling at his balls? Not like anybody else was doing any nibbling. He strode into the water. Whoa! Not cold, just startling.

When he waded out past his thighs, his penis and balls started to float. He chuckled. Kind of like being a kid in the bathtub. Endless hours of fun playing with your own built-in toys. A few more steps, and he submerged to his shoulders. He gave a tiny shiver. Weird being sunk in inky blackness. Still, the water felt good. He kicked off and swam a few yards out, turned, and stroked back towards shore. He wasn’t a good enough swimmer to push his luck alone at night.

After treading water a couple of minutes, he pulled himself back into the shallows and sat on the hard wet beach. He glanced down. Some shrinkage, but his balls still lay on the sand. Remember to rinse them off or you’ll itch. Slowly he released his breath. What was he going to do? Answer? Same as always. Nothing. He couldn’t risk all the great shit he’d made to try to make it better.

My Review:
Rand McIntyre is a closeted cowboy running his own small ranch and B & B near Chico, California. He’s 26 and wishing he could build a family, but he won’t come out, fearing it would harm his business. He’s pulled along on a trip with is parents to Maui for Christmas, where he’s hounded by his well-meaning mother for not getting a girlfriend/wife and settling down.

It’s a problem when he meets a girl his parents love, and a sexy Hawaiian cowboy he wants to get to know better, Kai, on the very first day. Rand’s firm with his mother that Julie will ever only be a friend, no matter how much matchmaking she tries. I liked that. Obviously, closeted characters face a lot of internal conflict, and Rand is no exception. He really wants more, and he berates himself for not reaching out. Not taking a stand. We don’t learn until much later how a childhood incident has fed this desire to stay quiet, and to isolate himself from further injury. I wished I had seen a bit more of the foreshadowing on that, because–while I suspected there was a trauma–at times the clues seemed non sequitur and jarring.

Kai is taking care of his younger half-siblings, lying to all and sundry about his age, his abilities, and his home life in order to protect Aliki and Lani. They are sweet kids who’ve all had it rough. Kai works hard, but he can’t keep everyone out, and especially not Rand, who’s a great guy and eager to help. Besides, he’s so sexy, and Kai’s never had a boyfriend before. I loved the kids, and how cool they were. They have very distinct personalities, and Lani’s no joke a “little mother,” at twelve. She’s had to grow up too fast, but she’s got great instincts and she wants Rand to be a part of Kai’s life however they can work it out.

There’s a sweet bit of interracial loving, which I wished was explored a little more, but the sense of Hawaiian culture was always there. I loved how Rand put himself into really uncomfortable places to be the rock Kai needed. There were some great elements of family being the people who love you–not just your blood relations, which were sweet. The connection Kai and Rand felt from the beginning turned from attraction in to companionship pretty quickly, but there’s that moment of conflict that pushes them apart, too. There are lots of differences between Kai and Rand, and no matter what Kai won’t sacrifice the kids. The end is a huge grand gesture, with more than Rand riding to the rescue. As much as it seemed too much too soon, I still found it endearing, and lovely.

Interested? You can find COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.

She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

De-Grouching With A CHRISTMAS FOR OSCAR–Review and Giveaway!

oscar-bannerHi there! I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Alex Whitehall. A CHRISTMAS FOR OSCAR is a novella featuring a Christmas grouch and the chipper craftsman who wins his heart.

Catch the excerpt and get in on the book giveaway below.
christmas-for-oscar-coverAbout the book:
Oscar has never liked the holidays and all the surrounding rigmarole, but that doesn’t stop his best friend from dragging him along for her Black Friday shopping spree. The only perk of the day is that he meets Nathan while he’s there.

With sparkling blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a smile that won’t stop, Nathan is a Christmas elf in the flesh. He even spends his days in a workshop! But Nathan is more than his bright smile, and he may be just the right person for Oscar. Assuming, of course, Oscar doesn’t drive him and his holiday spirit away first.

How about a little taste?

With a sigh, Oscar searched for someone in the store’s dress-coded uniform, and wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse when he spotted the cute guy smiling winsomely, surrounded by a mob of people. The most attractive thing was that his mob was smaller than the mob surrounding all the other salespeople.

Gritting his teeth, he clenched the sweater and elbowed his way over through arguing women, grumbling men, and a few screaming children. And that was only across six feet.

When he finally arrived at his destination, he noticed his salesperson was six inches shorter than him, with curly blond hair, and wearing an elf hat. He had shimmering blue eyes and apple-round cheeks. He couldn’t possibly be real.

The bright-blue eyes flashed up to Oscar with a literal sparkle in his eye, although that had to be the overhead lights. “Hello! How can I help you?”

Despite his elfish appearance, the dude’s voice wasn’t high-pitched. In fact, to keep with the ridiculous metaphor developing in Oscar’s mind, it was more like caramel or hot chocolate. It was almost enough to make him forget where he was.

And then some jackass elbowed him in the back, hard, and he was shoved forward. He growled and pushed back, not taking his eyes off his little elf helper. “Hi. I was wondering if you have more sizes of this in the back? I need a small.” He held up the sweater in question.

The little elf’s lips puckered in thought. “I can check, sir, but I think what we have out is all we have. Wait right here.”

He was gone in a flash, and Oscar was left standing there, blinking at the space where the man had been.

“Ex-scuse me,” a woman lashed out. “Can we not stand in the middle of the aisle, puh-lease?”

He heaved a sigh and stepped back—the six inches he could—to let the woman pass. She scrunched her nose at him and hurried on to the next big sale. Restraining another sigh, he wished he could close his eyes and sink into the floor, or vanish, or at least run the hell out of here. But no, he waited, like a good friend, for the salesperson to return. And it seemed to be taking forever, but he was sure that was his imagination—and frustration—playing tricks on him.

Glancing around, he checked on where Marie was, because today he wouldn’t put it past her to leave without him or the sweater, and found her almost swallowed up in the jewelry section. He nodded and looked back to where his elf had been, only to find his helper had reappeared, cheeks rosier, curls somehow unrulier, and elf hat slightly crooked.

“Good news! There was one small tucked behind another bunch.” He held up a slightly rumpled blue sweater. “Looks like it may have gotten missed when the stock was brought out. It doesn’t look damaged or anything, but feel free to inspect it and let me know…”

The guy trailed off, probably because Oscar was staring at his hat. It shouldn’t have been humanly possible for a disheveled hat to make him that much cuter. But it did. Oscar slung the sweater he was still holding over his shoulder, reached out, righted the salesperson’s hat, and then tucked a particularly rebellious curl under the rim. There. He smiled. Much better.

“Uh, sir?” the guy asked, not quite squeaking, but definitely breathily.

Oscar’s eyes shot down to meet those sparkling blues. “Oh! Sorry. It was… You must have knocked it when you were getting the sweater. So I… It was only right that I help. Thank you. For the sweater.”

Certainly not for the pounding of his heart. He held out his hand for the top.

The elf’s uncertain, wide eyes scrunched up with his grin. “Thank you for fixing it.”

He really had the bluest eyes. It seemed like they would have to be contacts, but Oscar didn’t think even a company could manufacture that pure a blue.

“Ex-scuse me!”

Oh hell, it was the woman from before. Oscar couldn’t move much and was about to tell the woman she could probably go around, but the little elf flashed a customer’s-always-right expression and glided over, clearing the aisle and putting not much between them but the sweater.

Oscar’s breath caught. The little elf beamed up at him.

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”

Oscar had some ideas. Some very dirty ideas, actually. But then the elf blinked, casting a glance at the chaos surrounding them, and Oscar remembered now wasn’t a good time to be hitting on a salesperson.

And that he was waist-deep in Black Friday. He groaned and slid his fingers around the small sweater, gently taking it.

“I think this will be all. Thank you very much,” he murmured—well, as much as he could murmur and still be heard in this mess.

The elf’s smile widened—if that was possible, and somehow it was—and his eyebrows lifted with the excitement strewn across his face. “Well, I hope you have a good day. And I really hope you come back again sometime.”

My Review:
Oscar is a financial planner who has a major hate on for Christmas. It’s clear that this is a sore subject from his childhood. Despite his frustration with the excesses of the holiday season, he accompanies his friend on a Black Friday shopping spree, and that’s where he meets Nathan, a cheerful, if beleaguered, retail-worker. Nathan’s all smiles and helpfulness, with a bit of encouragement for Oscar to return for another visit.

And, he sort of does. Oscar returns to the mall, but he’s too nervous to go into the store. No matter, Nathan finds him. I loved how sweet their meeting were, and how they both felt that instant spark of attraction that blended into more as they got to know each other. A few weeks of seeming bliss later, Oscar and Nathan have their first big kerfuffle. Nathan wants to celebrate Christmas, and Oscar’s, well, a big grouch. And he makes it bad. And then he makes it worse. But, he really has grown to love Nathan, and he’s determined to make things right between them. Even if it means revealing his sordid, poverty-stricken Christmases-past.

This is a short bit of yummy Christmas confection. I loved Nathan. I thought Oscar was a bit of a freak with his Christmas-hate, but I did understand his distaste for the commercialization of the holiday. I thought he had a worse situation, to be honest, with regards to his family, and that wasn’t as sympathetic a scenario as I’d expected. When the whole truth came out, I found I liked him a bit less than before, but I didn’t hate him, by any stretch. He’s not a bad guy, just a grouch and a Scrooge, who finds love and (eventually) lets that rule his heart. So, happy ending to be had, and some yummy sexytimes, too.

Interested? You can find A CHRISTMAS FOR OSCAR on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a book from NineStar Press!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
If there are two types of people in the world, Alex Whitehall probably isn’t one of them, despite being a person. Their favorite pastimes include reading, horseback riding, sleeping, watching geek-tastic television, knitting, eating, and running. And wasting time on the internet. And spending glorious afternoons laughing with friends.

While Alex prefers sleeping over doing anything else (except maybe eating), sometimes they emerges from the cave to be social and to hunt for food at the local market. They can be found blogging, searching the Internet for more books to read, and tending after their aloe plant Cornwall. That’s a lie; the single plant has become an entire forest.

Catch up with Alex online on their website, Tumblr, and twitter.

IndiGo

Happy Book Birthday to INTERLUDE: FIRST NOEL–Review and Giveaway!

interlude-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a compelling contemporary M/M romance from Tal Bauer. INTERLUDE: FIRST NOEL is a sweet and touching love story between the President of the US and his former Secret Service protector. This is the second book in a series, and I think people who read ENEMIES OF THE STATE would love it.

Catch the extended excerpt below and enter to win a book in the giveaway!

interlude-coverAbout the book:
Before Ethan returns to DC…
Before he becomes Jack’s first gentleman…
Jack and Ethan share their first Christmas together.

Step back to Jack and Ethan’s first Christmas season and the tentative early months of their relationship under the world’s spotlight.
Three months into Ethan’s transfer-in-exile in Des Moines, Iowa, the pressures of dating Jack, the president of the United States, start to wear Ethan down. His weeks are measured by the days he works in Iowa, chasing counterfeiters and financial crimes, and the weekends he manages to steal with Jack back in DC. The media stalks his every move, he’s isolated by his coworkers, and loneliness hammers at his heart.

In DC, Jack tries to piece together a global alliance to take down the Caliphate, while the world seems focused on tearing apart his personal life. Hostility surrounds him from all corners of the globe, but a surprise offer from President Sergey Puchkov may pave the way for a tentative alliance…and perhaps the beginning of a friendship.

As Ethan finds himself in the middle of an investigation that rubs too deeply against his soul and Jack tries to balance leading the free world and keeping his and Ethan’s relationship going, the two men must face what their love has become…and where they are heading together.

How about a taste?

From the most prestigious posting in the Secret Service―protecting the president of the United States―to puzzling through counterfeiting investigations out of a tiny field office in the Midwest. And giving those investigations up to another agent, a junior agent, and running from the media.

He waited at the stoplight downtown, just before the turn into the Federal Building’s garage, listening to his wipers scrape snow off the window. The red traffic light blurred through the slush on his glass, tinting the inside of his sedan a dark crimson. Christmas lights stretched overhead, arching over the streets and between the buildings. Evergreen garlands clung to the streetlights, and LED wreaths hung at every intersection. Over the weekend, Christmas had descended, just days after Thanksgiving.

If he knew then what he knew now, would he do it all again? Make the same choices? Take the same risks? Kiss Jack―the president, his sworn duty, his job―and throw caution to the wind, going against his very bones, his dedication to his career and the Secret Service?

The wipers slid against the glass again, squeaking, and the light turned green. His tires slipped on the snow, skidding out briefly, but he slogged across the intersection and turned into the underground parking garage.

Of course he would. Those forty-eight hours each week with Jack made everything else worth it. Made bearable the isolation, the intrusive media, the sidelong glares and bitten off conversations that abruptly stopped in his presence.

How his toes would curl as they kissed. Jack’s smile, and the way his eyes lit up for Ethan alone. How Jack had looked at him when he burst into the Oval Office, gunfire cracking the air, taking out Jeff Gottschalk and Black Fox’s operatives. Like Ethan was his whole world, the sun rising in the sky just for him.

Ethan had never loved anyone like he loved Jack. And he’d never been loved by anyone the way Jack loved him. It was still new, just six months old, but that love had remade Ethan’s entire world. So far, he’d put up with anything. Everything. As long as Jack kept looking at him like that. Kept loving him like that.

But, it had been over two weeks since he’d last been with Jack. ‘Every weekend’ had turned into something else. Loneliness scratched at the base of his heart, and whispers of fear snaked down his bones.

Ethan wound through the underground garage and pulled into his assigned space, in the corner beneath the leaking air compressor and next to the dumpster that always smelled like stale piss.

Shepherd’s car was still in his space. Great. He’d probably already seen the news footage of him, playing over and over on the local stations before being picked up by the national news for prime-time replay. He’d be pissed. More than pissed.

Sighing, Ethan badged into the building and onto the elevator, punching the button for the Secret Service’s floor. When the elevator spat him out, he gave Agent Gibson a tight smile as he passed him.

Gibson didn’t smile back.

Ethan badged into the backdoor of the office, heading for his cube and his gym bag. On the way, he passed Shepherd’s open office door.

The TV hanging on the wall in his office was on, images of Ethan driving out of the motel parking lot playing on repeat as the news anchor droned on about how evasive he’d been, how he hadn’t answered any questions. About what his presence at the crime scene might mean. And, of course, wondering why he hadn’t been seen with the president, or in DC, in weeks. They were America’s most scandalous couple, perhaps the world’s. The question had been blaring from every radio, every gossip magazine, every late night talk show host, almost from the moment they’d been photographed kissing on the North Lawn. Were they still together?

Of course, the questions had gotten louder these past few weeks.

Shepherd’s glare fixed on Ethan. Shepherd pursed his lips as he perched on the edge of his desk, arms crossed over his slight pudge, a beer gut in the making. His tie was undone, the first few buttons loose.

Ethan grabbed his gym bag, slung it over his shoulder, and trudged to Shepherd’s door. “Sir, I left as soon as they arrived. She chased me down. I wasn’t trying to get in front of the cameras.”

Shepherd pinched the bridge of his nose. “What did I do to deserve you?”

Ethan stayed silent.

“Thanks to this―” Shepherd gestured to the TV. “—the US Attorney is going to have to answer a million questions about you from the whatever defense these guys cobble together. What you were doing there. Why you were involved.”

“I put the case together―”

“And then it was given to Becker. All of it. The entire thing. Your fingerprints were stripped from it.” Shepherd sighed again. “I don’t want some criminal defense attorney trying to drag the president into one of our cases. Asking about what kind of special favors you get, or what the president is interested in, or how you don’t play by the rules. We have to prove everything you do is one hundred and ten percent above board.”

“Everything I’ve done here has been completely legal―”

“It’s what you did before you got here.” Shepherd fixed Ethan with another hard glare. “It’s your character. The kinds of rules you break. A good defense attorney would rip you to shreds on the stand.”

Ethan’s chest felt like it caved in. “I have never compromised an investigation for any reason.”

“No.” Shepherd snorted. “You just compromised the president.”

Silence.

“Get out of here.” Shepherd waved Ethan away, dismissing him as he stood. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and the president, and I don’t want to know.” His hand cut through the air, before Ethan spoke. He jerked his chin to the TV, and the reporter musing about Ethan and Jack’s relationship being on the rocks, or worse. “But you’ve gotten grumpier these past few weeks. And that’s saying something.” Shepherd squinted at him. “Go do something about that. If the media is going to hound you everywhere, you don’t want them thinking you’re a half breath away from snapping. Don’t add fuel to the fire.”

Clearing his throat, Ethan nodded once while Shepherd shuffled papers on his desk, dropping a stack of manila folders into his drawer. “Sir, I have a question for you.”

Shepherd arched his eyebrows and grunted.

“I submitted my vacation request for the holidays, but you haven’t approved it yet. Is there a problem?” Ethan had lost vacation time in his demotion, and had used up what he did have flying back and forth to DC. He was scrapping the last days he had to put together a trip back east over Christmas. It wasn’t as long as he wanted, but it was what he had.

Shepherd barked out a harsh laugh, slamming a stack of papers down on his desk. “Why do you do this?”

“Sir?”

“Why do you pretend like you follow the rules? Like they even matter to you? You can break every rule we have and nothing will happen to you.”

“That’s not who I am,” Ethan growled. “I don’t act that way.”

“That’s exactly who you are. And exactly how you acted.”

Ethan’s frown deepened, turning to a scowl. “Sir, I don’t get any special treatment―”

“Of course you do!” Shepherd cried. His hands rose, and then he was shouting, pointing at Ethan as his face turned red. “Why do you even bother coming in? Why do you put up the pretense of being an agent? You’d make it easier for everyone if you just stopped pretending!”

“I’m not pretending!” Ethan roared. “I’m doing my job!”

Shepherd laughed, long and loud. “You stopped doing your job the moment you compromised yourself and the president!”

“I am still an agent―” Ethan seethed.

“You’re a Goddamn pain in my ass.” Shepherd cut him off. “And I have no clue why you’re still an agent. You shouldn’t be. You should have been forced to turn in your badge and your gun and got kicked out of the Service.”

Ethan’s jaw snapped shut, his teeth clicking together.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I don’t give a shit what you do. Come to work. Don’t come to work. Go on vacation for the entire month of December. Run away with the president and get drunk on some beach. I don’t give a shit. Just stop wasting my time, okay?”

Ethan nodded once. “Sir.”

“Get out of my office.”

His hand clenched around the strap of his duffel, and his teeth ground together, but he strode out of Shepherd’s office with his chin held high. Rage roared through him, deep in his veins.

There had better not be anyone in the gym downstairs. He had to get this out, pound it out into a punching bag until his knuckles split and he vomited in the corner. He had to get this out, because in three hours, Jack was going to call him on his computer, and he couldn’t face Jack like this. Not about to fly apart, quaking with too much fury and raw shame. It hurt, God, it hurt. But Jack couldn’t see that. He couldn’t ever see it.

My Review:
This is the second-ish book in a series and likely best enjoyed when read in order.

Ethan Reichenbach is a secret serviceman who had the Presidential detail for Jack Spiers when he was a leading candidate on the campaign trail. Spiers, a long-time widower, didn’t have relationships anymore, but he and Ethan developed a friendship that turned into something more as the election wore on and Jack won. They began a clandestine relationship that was passionate and sweet for both of these lonely men. The previous book describes terrorist plots to assassinate President, foiled by Ethan, and a dramatic back-from-the-dead rescue which ended in the President outing himself on the White House lawn, kissing Ethan in full view.

This book picks up with Ethan and Jack and their developing relationship. Ethan’s breach of ethical conduct resulted in a demotion, and reassignment to Des Moines to investigate financial crimes. Jack, being the president, is on the road for diplomatic missions, and he’s determined to take down the Caliphate terrorist forces in the Middle East that nearly killed both himself and Ethan–as well as taking responsibility for lots of other attacks in Europe and worldwide in the past decade. He needs to marshal international support, and is stunned to find the Russian Federation’s President Pushkin is a possible ally.

As a president, Jack’s facing lots of homophobic backlash from Congress and fellow world leaders, but he’s totally gone for Ethan, so he bears it all with strained patience. Jack lives for his weekends of private loving in the Residence. Ethan, too. He struggles with his reduced role in investigations, especially as he’s a pariah in his Iowa office and hounded by media wherever he goes. Ethan gets side eye and backhand comments all the time, which sucks because their attempts at keeping a low profile foments speculation that he and Jack are on the outs.

While Jack is busy planning an invasion to eradicate the Caliphate, Ethan’s counterfeiting investigation intersects with a murder/mafia human trafficking FBI investigation–and those guys don’t want Ethan’s help, either. Still, he’s determined to do his job to the best of his ability. He’s a man of character and integrity, no matter what people think of his romance with Jack.

As for their romance, it’s hawt. Whenever these guys connect, it’s a supernova of sex and tenderness. They are still exploring each other, and Ethan’s overwhelmed with his deep love for Jack, not forgetting that Jack’s new to same-sex relations, and almost stunned by positive Jack’s physical response to his masculinity. Jack is really amorous, and that’s heady and humbling for Ethan, who’s long been a bit self-conscious. I really felt their connection through the pages, and also grew melancholy whenever one of their weekends was set to end. It’s such a difficult time for them, with the holidays, and political intrigue, and work problems, but Jack and Ethan carve out a sensual and lovely time for each other at Christmas. Seriously, these guys need to get married, toot-sweet. I want them to wake up in each others’ arms every single day.

I haven’t read ENEMIES OF THE STATE, but I gathered enough of that story from the references that I was able to enjoy this one. I think I would have liked INTERLUDE even more had I read it in order, but that’s not saying much, as I really enjoyed this book on its own. The growing pains for Ethan and Jack’s relationship were so well described, and I didn’t feel it was angsty. They have real roadblocks to overcome, but they are all external. People and opinions getting in the way, yet Jack and Ethan remain determined to be the fantastic men they were before anyone discovered their secret love. I loved how being true to themselves yielded them unlikely allies and new opportunities. There isn’t a lot of action in the book. No dramatic car chases, life-changing events, or rescues, just a quiet, lovely romance. I’m fully expecting a proposal in the next book, and can’t wait for the first Presidential wedding.

Interested? You can find INTERLUDE: FIRST NOEL on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a free book from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal’s stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Catch up with Tal on their website, Facebook and twitter.
IndiGo

Light in the Darkness: BONFIRE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a paranormal M/M romance novella from Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt. BONFIRE is the sequel to VESPERS, which you know I really liked. Sara and Thad are back and need to solve a mystery in their own backyard.

bonfireAbout the book:
Silent night, holy hell.
Thaddeus and Sarasija are spending the holidays on the bayou, and while the vampire’s idea of Christmas cheer doesn’t quite match his assistant’s, they’re working on a compromise. Before they can get the tree trimmed, they’re interrupted by the appearance of the feu follet. The ghostly lights appear in the swamp at random and lead even the locals astray.

When the townsfolk link the phenomenon to the return of their most reclusive neighbor, suspicion falls on Thaddeus. These lights aren’t bringing glad tidings, and if Thad and Sara can’t find their source, the feu follet might herald a holiday tragedy for the whole town.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, and really should be read in order.

Thad and Sara are getting used to being a couple, planning a quiet, somewhat cheerful Christmas at Thad’s home in the bayou. Though a nominal Hindu, Sara’s parents celebrated a secular “American” Christmas, and he’s a little homesick missing his family. Thing is, weird lights are appearing in the mist, and leading people out into the murk. It even grabs hold of Thad, who (as a vampire) is totally light-sensitive, but it doesn’t affect Sara for unknown reasons. As such, Sara is a super important part of the investigation, which irks Thad–he wants Sara to stay home, be safe.

So this novella packs a lot of emotional punch. We see how Thad’s emotionally dependent on Sara, and that’s really endearing. They’re also working on their intimacy, which Sara loves and Thad’s trying not to treat as if it’s sinful. Hard for him what with being raised that way.

…I half carried him upstairs to our bed.
Our bed.
The bed I would share with him as long as he’d have me. Though at times my inner conflict still raged, Sara was a sin I couldn’t help but commit.

#Swoon, really. Because what’s more romantic than completely setting aside your biased, yet ingrained, religious beliefs to embrace love.

This mystery unfolds slowly, but has a big wallop of conflict. The “natives” aren’t happy about outsiders in the bayou, and are quick to blame the witch lights–visions of light that naturally appear and are dismissed as “swamp gas” but are instead serving as a beacon–on Thad, as he’s such a recluse that many feel he could be a malevolent force. Some of the townsfolk try to intimidate him into leaving. Then, a young girl goes missing and it’s pretty much torches and pitchforks time.

All of this is happening alongside the Christmas season, and the festive spirit that Sara’s trying to cultivate is dimmed by the mounting mystery. The climax is intense, with Thad and Sara combing the bayou for the missing girl, and the source of magic behind the light-beacons. I really enjoyed this, and loved that Thad embraced his human roots more. The affection growing between Thad and Sara is delightful, and I just can’t wait to read more of their adventures.

Interested? You can find BONFIRE on Goodreads and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Authors:
Irene Preston has to write romances, after all she is living one. As a starving college student, she met her dream man who whisked her away on a romantic honeymoon across Europe. Today they live in the beautiful hill country outside of Austin, Texas where Dream Man is still working hard to make sure she never has to take off her rose-colored glasses.

You can find Irene on her website and twitter.

About Liv Rancourt…

I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire…or sometimes demon. I write funny. I don’t write angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog is the cutest thing evah(!), and we’re up to three ferrets.

I can be found on-line at all hours of the day and night at my website & blog Liv Rancourt, on Facebook, or on Twitter. Come find me. We’ll have fun!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Love and Loss for THE NEXT COMPETITOR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary New Adult sports M/M romance from Keira Andrews. THE NEXT COMPETITOR isn’t a Christmas book, but it features fantastic male figure skaters, and that’s wintry to me! Plus, I’ve recently gotten hooked on YURI!!! ON ICE, a lovely new anime with respectfully-portrayed gay characters, so I was jazzed to read this one.

And that cover! #Swoon…

tncAbout the book:
If he risks his heart, can he keep his head in the game?
To win gold, figure skater Alex Grady must train harder than the competition morning, noon, and night. He’s obsessed with mastering another quadruple jump, and due to the lack of filter between his mouth and brain, doesn’t have a lot of friends. As for a boyfriend, forget it. So what if he’s still a virgin at twenty? The Olympics are only every four years—everything else can wait. Relationships are messy and complicated anyway, and he has zero room in his life for romance.

So it’s ridiculous when Alex finds himself checking out his boring new training mate Matt Savelli. Calm, collected “Captain Cardboard” is a nice guy, but even if Alex had time to date, Matt’s so not his type. Yet beneath Matt’s wholesome surface, there’s a dirty, sexy man who awakens a desire Alex has never experienced and can’t deny…

Note: This gay romance from Keira Andrews features opposites attracting, new adult angst, sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending.

This new version has been extensively rewritten, updated, and expanded into a new adult romance with explict on-page sex.

My Review:
This is a strongly-written New Adult M/M sports romance which features elite amateur skaters.

Alex Grady is a taciturn skater determined to win gold at the Olympics. He came to skating late, but has worked really, really hard to make it to the top, winning US Nationals in the previous season. He has a new coach, Mrs. C, who is a former Russian champion, and gives Alex the tough instruction he needs. It’s an Olympic year and he’s training in Toronto, isolated from his family in New Jersey, making few friends of his training mates.

Matt Savelli, one-half of a partners team, is an attractive man, one that Alex can’t help but notice. Looking is all Alex really wants. He’s known he was gay for most of his life, but he’s never had a boyfriend. Alex’s out to his family, but he keeps his sexuality private, fearing some judges may lower his scores out of prejudice, especially with hypermasculine skaters tearing up the ice with all their huge jumps. Plus, dating someone would just take time away from training, and Alex can’t afford it. His family’s financial situation is very much dependent upon Alex’s performance.

Still, as Alex interacts with Matt, he recognizes that Matt’s not the model of perfection he projects. Their friendship grows, a bit. And, when a tragedy occurs on the ice and Matt’s partner is injured, Alex is there to pick Matt up from his depression, encouraging him to skate singles for the first time in years. Not only that, they connect in a way Alex never has with a man before. The competitive atmosphere is exciting as Alex and Matt both strive for their personal Olympic dreams. At the end of the day, however, Alex is focused on winning gold, and he messes up with Matt, big time.

I really enjoyed all the skating bits. I’m (at best) a casual figure skating fan–I appreciate its beauty, but it’s not really my thing–yet I didn’t feel lost, or overwhelmed with the sport bits. The story is one of setting goals, and reaching for them over all other parts of life, and that self-sacrifice is something I do really connect with. Alex’s life has a combustive energy, with his no-filter mouth and his solitary habits. He’s socially-awkward and abrasive, as a result. Matt stayed away at first because of that, thinking the Alex was a big jerk. He isn’t, really, but his shell is tough to crack, and he’s petulant at times with a horrid habit of lashing out when frustrated. That said, he does make amends, and his tender heart is revealed in lovely ways over the second half of the story.

There’s also a sweet bit of sexual exploration here, because Alex begins the book as a virgin, and Matt takes care of that bit of business. Both sweet and tender, and hot and dirty, loving are on the menu, folks. There’s also some heartbreak, and a lot of personal growth in store for Alex. I loved that he began the book as a prickly young man, and ended as a freaking teddy bear.

Interested? You can find THE NEXT COMPETITOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!