Rediscovering the FIRE IN YOU–Review and Giveaway!

fiy-review-excerpt-tour-bannerHi there! I’m so excited to share an excerpt and review for a new contemporary romance from best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn. FIRE IN YOU is long-time friends-to-lovers romance featuring a gal who fell for a lost boy way back when, and the man finally making good on his promise.

Check out the excerpt, and review, and get in on the giveaway below!
fire-in-you-coverAbout the book:
From the # 1 New York Times and International bestselling author comes a richly moving story about heartbreak and guilt, second chances and hope. Full of familiar, fan-favorite characters and no two people more deserving of a happy ending, Fire In You will burn bright beyond the last page…

Jillian Lima’s whole world was destroyed in a span of a few hours. The same night her childhood love, Brock ‘the Beast’ Mitchell, broke her heart, her life was irrevocably altered by the hand of a stranger with a gun. It takes six years to slowly glue together the shattered pieces of her life, but Jillian is finally ready to stop existing in a past full of pain and regret. She takes a job at her father’s martial arts Academy and she’s going out on her first date since a failed relationship that was more yuck than yum. Jillian is determined to start living.

She just never expected Brock to be a part of her life again. But he’s firmly back in her life before she knows it, and not only is he older, he’s impossibly more handsome, more teasing and more everything. And when he sees Jillian, he’s no longer capable of thinking of her as the little girl who was his shadow growing up or the daughter of the man who gave him a second chance at life. He sees the woman who’d always been there for him, the one person who believed in him no matter what.

Brock knows she’s the one he should’ve made his, and what begins as a tentative friendship quickly turns to red-hot chemistry that sparks a flame that burns brighter than lust. Falling for Brock again risks more than her heart, because when the sorrow-filled and guilt-ridden past resurfaces, and a web of lies threatens to rip them apart, the fallout could lay waste to everything they’ve fought to build together, and destroy the dreams of those they care most about.

How about a little taste?

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I gasped.

Brock’s eyes widened and then he threw back his head, laughing loudly and freely. “Ms. Lima, language.”

My face turned blood red. Did he seriously just say that to me?

Andre’s smile was a bit sly as he eyed the both of us, and I knew—I just knew—he was fully aware of the fact I had no idea Brock was going to be here. Just like my mother had to have known and just like my father had failed to mention.

My family was a bunch of assholes.

“Okay, I’m going to go—uh, pretend to do something,” Andre said.

Brock’s brown eyes were trained on me as he stepped aside and clapped the shorter man on the shoulder.

“Good luck,” Andre said to him, and my hands balled into fists.

The half-grin appeared on Brock’s mouth and he waited until Andre had disappeared. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you use the word ‘fuck’ before.” His gaze flipped to the ceiling. “Well, there was the one time you tripped over your own feet and banged your knees off the pool deck. Pretty sure you yelled ‘fuck’ then.”

“This is not happening,” I murmured, heart thumping heavily in my chest.

“Actually, I think you yelled ‘fuck’ when your uncle Julio caught you trying to sneak out of the house. You remember that, right? You were trying to follow me—”

“You can stop,” I snapped, “with the walk down Fuck Lane.”

That grin increased, spreading into a full smile that caused my stomach to dip. I placed steadying hands on my desk. “Please tell me I’m dreaming right now.”

“If you were dreaming, I’d hope we’d both have less clothes on.”

“What?” My jaw hit the top of the table. Was he flirting with me? Not entirely surprising. If you looked up “flirt” on the internet, I was sure it had a picture of him grinning the panties right off of some chick, so I guessed a fiancée wasn’t going to change that.

Chuckling, Brock leaned against the door and folded his arms across his broad chest, stretching the material of his white button-down. My gaze dropped. Yep. He was wearing the damn Chucks. “You’re not dreaming, Jillian. I’m the new General Manager and you’re my assistant manager.”

“There is no way,” I said dumbly.

He glanced around, arching a brow. “Is it really that surprising?”

I wanted to scream yes, but I should’ve guessed it the moment I saw Brock Friday night. Anger swept through me. Not only did I feel incredibly stupid for not figuring out Brock was my new boss, I was extremely pissed everyone in my family had basically set me up.

Taking a deep breath, I asked, “Can you give me a second? Please?”

Brock didn’t move for a moment and then he unfolded his arms. “Your wish is my command.”

My fingers curled around the edge of the desk to stop myself from throwing something at him. The moment he stepped out of my office, I hurried to the door and closed it behind him. Storming back to the desk, I pulled my cellphone out of the little slip inside my purse and jabbed my finger on my father’s contact.

He answered on the third ring, his accented voice way too cheery for this time of the morning. “Jillian, my baby girl, are you—”

“Brock is the new General Manager?” I whispered-yelled into the phone.

“You’re at the office already? It’s not even eight-fifteen— Wait, Brock is already there too?” He laughed. “That is surprising.”

“That’s not really important right now.” I took a deep, calming breath. “Brock really is…he’s the GM?”

“I don’t think you really need to ask that question,” he responded. “Especially when you know the answer to it.”

Closing my eyes, I held the phone so tightly I was surprised it didn’t shatter into a million pieces. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would it have a made a difference?” he asked.

Yes. A thousand times yes, but I didn’t say that. I refused to admit that. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re going to have to ask him that.” There was a pause. “I didn’t offer you this job because I thought you couldn’t handle working with him or that you would be calling me on your first day, thirty minutes before you should even be there.”

Ouch.

“And I’m not saying that to hurt you, hon. You know that. Hurting you is the last thing I’d ever want to do.” There was another gap of silence while I contemplated knocking the computer off my desk with a ninja kick, and then Dad said, “You can do this.”

Then he hung up on me.

What in the hell?

My Review:
4.5 stars for this slow-burning contemporary romance.

I wanted to say this was a second-chance romance, but it didn’t quite fit that mold–the lovers hadn’t had a break-up, per se.

Jillian Lima and Brock Mitchell have known each other for twenty years. That’s when Jillian’s father took Brock, as cast-away kid, off the mean streets of Philly, and raised him as his own. Brock was 14, Jillian was 8, and she idolized her burly new housemate all her life since. When she got into high school, she was more than gone for him, and she spent hours, days and weeks caring for Brock when he was injured in mixed martial arts competitions.

See, Jillian’s father has run the Lima Academy in Philly her whole life. He trained Brock to become a world-champ MMA fighter, and Jillian always imagined a life working at the Academy, and building a life with Brock. But, Brock always saw her as a little sister, and discounted her youthful love to infatuation. Plus, he didn’t want to upset her father by dating Jillybean, who was too young to be acceptable.

Six years ago, when Jillian was nearly 21, she went out with Brock, thinking they were going on a real date. For this naive gal, putting on make-up was practically a novelty. Still, the night wore on and more and more of his friends, and sexier women, showed up, and he bailed, sending her on her way without even taking her for the dinner he’d promised. It broke her heart, and the criminal who attacked her on her way home broke her spirit. It took over a year to finish off the reconstructive surgery she’d needed, but her world had long since imploded.

Now, she’s ready to start her life over again–at 28. Jillian has accepted a position working as an assistant GM at the Martinsburg, WV, Lima Academy. It’s a huge pay raise and will help her finance the trips she’d always planned to make but never did. Only, she learns on her first day that the GM for the facility is Brock. Dealing with him on a day-to-day basis is frustrating. She’s hardly put all her mixed feelings behind her, and learning that Brock’s no longer engaged does funny things to her emotional state. There’s no doubt the attraction still exists, but she’s not capable of moving things forward in any way.

No matter. Brock’s flirtatious and fun, with a significant amount of complimenting his Jillybean. He’s determined to win her heart, and his dear friend, back.

It’s a bit of a slow burn–lots of Jillian agonizing over her fears and incapacitated by her mortification over her longstanding love for Brock. She knows he knew, and she’s trying to be professional. Still, he chips away at her defenses relentlessly, making everyday forays into her personal sphere–even interrupting a date, cordially, as if he’d “happened” to be in the area. It looks like their lives take the same course, but there’s a wee bit of conflict near the end. Both Jillian and Brock have to learn to let go of the past, in order to grow into a future together. I thought is was a low-conflict read, with a nice development of the romance. Brock and Jillian have a good, solid history, with a loving family that supports their budding relationship. There’s a bit of sexytimes after the halfway point, but much of it revolves around Jillian learning to love herself, changed as she is after the attack.

External conflicts finally hit within the 90% mark, and it seemed a bit late, especially as Jillian mostly had to settle those on her own. She does develop a bit of strength way at the end, though I’d wished to see her fierceness a lot sooner. That said, Jillian and Brock do develop the love of their lifetime by the end of the book.

Interested? You can find FIRE IN YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win a signed set of Wait For You books (US only).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
# 1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. She spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories…which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. Jennifer has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Reviewers Choice Award for Wait for You, the 2015 Editor’s Pick for Fall With Me, and the 2014/2015 Moerser-Jugendbuch- Jury award for Obsidian. Her young adult romantic suspense novel DON’T LOOK BACK was a 2014 nominated Best in Young Adult Fiction by YALSA.

She also writes Adult and New Adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
Catch up with Jennifer on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
InkSlinger PR Blogger Banner - New

Christmas Loving With GLASS TIDINGS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a lovely contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Amy Jo Cousins. GLASS TIDINGS is an older/younger love story featuring an orphan and loner in small-town America. Like FRECKLES, GLASS TIDINGS 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.

There’s a link below to join the giveaway post over at Joyfully Jay, for a chance to win $20 in books from Riptide.

glass-tidingsAbout the book:
Eddie Rodrigues doesn’t stay in one place long enough to get attached. The only time he broke that rule, things went south fast. Now he’s on the road again, with barely enough cash in his pocket to hop a bus south after his (sort-of-stolen) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Midwest, USA.

He’s fine. He’ll manage. Until he watches that girl get hit by a car and left to die.

Local shop owner Grayson Croft isn’t in the habit of doing people any favors. But even a recluse can’t avoid everyone in a town as small as Clear Lake. And when the cop who played Juliet to your Romeo in the high school play asks you to put up her key witness for the night, you say yes.

Now Gray’s got a grouchy glass artist stomping around his big, empty house, and it turns out that he . . . maybe . . . kind of . . . likes the company.

But Eddie Rodrigues never sticks around.

Unless a Christmas shop owner who hates the season can show an orphan what it means to have family for the holidays.

My Review:
Eddie Rodrigues is kicking himself bigtime for hanging out with his new boyfriend instead of following the Ren Faire folks south for the winter. But, the promise of a homecooked Thankisgiving meal with a good-looking man seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was.

That’s why Eddie took off. This time. He’d foolishly let himself believe he was worth more than the cast-offs he’d come to expect in life–since way before he left the foster care system. Naturally, because Eddie’s life sucks, his boyfriend’s car craps out on the highway halfway to Nowhere, and Eddie has to tramp through field and backroad through freezing slush until he reaches a town. Just as he’s getting close to the bus station, he witnesses a girl get struck by a runaway car. It’s near midnight, and he knows no one, but he can’t leave her alone. His cries for help bring exactly that. Now, as the lone witness to the accident, the police officer in charge asks a friend to put Eddie up for the night so that she can question him in the morning.

Grayson Croft hasn’t had a man in his home in more than a decade. He gave up on love when Brady left him behind for the big city. He works two months of the year, running The Christmas Shoppe, a seasonal store opened by Gray’s grandmother. As it seems Eddie might need more than a single bed for a single night, Gray offers him a job at the shop. He can always use some help, and–learning that Eddie’s a glassworker–he offers to sell any ornaments Eddie might make on consignment.

Eddie accepts because he’s in a jam. During his travels his protective eyegear got smashed in his bag, and he doesn’t have enough money to replace them. Without the dark-lensed glasses, he can’t use his torch to bend glass. Thus, he’s got no marketable skills for the next Ren Faire, and that’s not acceptable. Gray buys the glasses as a part of the deal Eddie makes with him–and it’s the first good turn Eddie’s had in a long, long time.

Working in the Christmas Shoppe sets Eddie off thinking about his lonely life, and how he has no one in the world who really needs or knows him. It’s somber, but it’s not sad, because it’s becoming clear that Gray is coming to depend upon him. THey work well together, and they have similar interests in hobbies–they both love to read, and enjoy quiet nights before a fire. It’s so fun how Eddie teaches Gray to use his tidy fireplace, and how they pass cozy evenings on the sofa reading together.

That’s not to say that there’s no attraction; there is. Gray doesn’t want to take advantage of Eddie, and Eddie thinks Gray doesn’t want him. This does get resolved, nicely, and they each make the perilous emotional steps toward building something more. Eddie’s craft is amenable the other seasons, and Gray has an empty shop after December. Could it be a studio? Could they build a life together?

At first, Eddie’s got a wandering soul, and Gray’s not a traveler–but sometimes, for the right person–people are able to envision more than the world they’ve always known. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, and Gray isn’t quite ready to take the necessary steps when he needs to, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable. Expect some drama regarding small-town values, hit-and-run drivers and an orphan with a leave-first mentality. Also, sexytimes before a fire, book-nerd discussions and one sweet, sweet reunion.

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

To purchase GLASS TIDINGS with FRECKLES with one other book at a BIG discount, and for The Trevor Project donations, click the Bundle Page here.

****GIVEAWAY****

For a chance to win $20 in Riptide book cash, head on over to my pal Joyfully Jay, and leave a comment on the giveaway post.
Good luck!

Amy Jo CousinsAbout the Author:
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series. Amy Jo is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Greenburger Associates.

Readers interested in autographed copies of Amy Jo’s paperback books can order them from Chicago’s fabulous independent bookstore, The Book Cellar. They can ship anywhere, and will email me to let me know there are books to be signed if you care to order them!

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Family Trouble For THE HERO–Excerpt and Review

the-hero-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new military/spy romance from Donna Grant. THE HERO is the first book in her Sons of Texas series featuring the Loughman brothers trying to save their father from the Russians, the world from a bioweapon, and maybe finding love.

the-hero-coverAbout the book:
Owen Loughman is a highly-decorated Navy SEAL who has a thirst for action. But there’s one thing he hasn’t been able to forget – his high school sweetheart, Natalie. After over a decade away, Owen is returned home to the ranch in Texas for a dangerous new mission that puts him face-to-face with Natalie and an outside menace that threatens everything he holds dear. He’ll risk it all to keep Natalie safe – and win her heart. . . .

Natalie Dixon has had a lifetime of heartache since Owen was deployed. Fourteen years and one bad marriage later, she finds herself mixed up with the Loughman’s again. With her life on the line against an enemy she can’t fight alone, it’s Owen’s strong shoulders, smoldering eyes, and sensuous smile that she turns to. When danger closes in, she holds close to the only man she’s ever loved…

How about a little taste?

The days of Natalie going back to her house to have a glass of wine and watch episodes of Criminal Minds or Doctor Who were long gone. Ever since the day she saw Ragnarok in that report and called the number Orrin had given her, her life had changed.

That’s when she and Callie had begun talking several times a day.

The sound of another chopper flying low overhead caused her to glance up. It looked like another military helicopter, which immediately made her think of Owen. Again.

She sighed. After all the wasted years, she thought he’d be gone from her thoughts. It seemed she was forever wrong when it came to him.

“There’s another one. I’m betting it’s them,” Callie said.

“Think there’s any way I can look around without them knowing?”

“You mean without Owen knowing? Doubt it.”

She knew Callie was right, but that didn’t mean Natalie had to like it.

“How’s work?” Callie asked.

Because she worked for the Russian Embassy, and she wasn’t sure if they listened to her conversations, she and Callie never spoke of her work. The fact that Callie brought it up meant there was a reason.

“Busy. I had a hard time getting away.”

“Time isn’t on our side.”

Of that, she was clearly aware. “How long do you think we have?”

“I don’t know. Everything hinges on finding it.”

It being Ragnarok—a bioweapon.

How different her life would be if Orrin hadn’t contacted her in July. She wouldn’t be embroiled in kidnapping, espionage, and murder.

And yet . . . it felt as if this were the exact place she needed to be.

Then again, that could be her heart trying to convince her this all led back to Owen. As far as she was concerned, men were pigs. She’d had enough of the lies, the cheating, and the bullshit that always went with dating.

She was happy living the single life, not having to clean up after anyone, share her closet, compromise on where to eat or if she got to watch her favorite shows. There was no one taking her covers, snoring, or—

“Natalie?”

“Sorry,” she told Callie. “I was thinking.”

“About Owen?”

“About all of it. The shit is about to hit the fan as soon as the boys learn what’s going on.”

Callie snorted loudly. “Then let it. Where have they been these last ten years? Have they even bothered to send a fucking text? No. They have no idea how badly that hurt Orrin.”

“I doubt they think about it.” She should know. In the year she’d been with Owen, there were two things never discussed—his mother’s murder, and his feelings about his dad.

“Which just pisses me off,” Callie said tightly. “If I had a dad like Orrin, I’d never be far.”

“I know.” Callie was another who didn’t discuss her family. And with a family as infamous around Hillsboro as the Reeds, it was no wonder.

The Reeds were drunks and criminals of the worst sort. It had been Orrin who helped Callie escape all of that. And why she thought of Orrin as a father.

“We have to find him,” Callie said.

Natalie slowed the car and put on her blinker as she prepared to pull onto the Loughman Ranch. “We will, Callie. We will.”

“Even if we have to do it on our own. If the jackasses Orrin calls sons won’t help, then I’ll make sure they’re not around to interfere.”

That made Natalie smile. If anyone could do that, it was Callie. What she lacked in height, Callie made up for in intelligence and talking rings around people. Few could keep up with her.

“I just turned into the ranch.” She felt a flutter in her stomach.

Excitement or dread? She wasn’t sure she knew.

My Review:
Natalie and Owen were high school sweethearts. Natalie’s heart was broken when Owen left for college the day after graduation, without a word, or a look back. She went on to college and studied languages. Fourteen years pass. An expert in Russian, Natalie spent years in St. Petersburg before recently returning to her Dallas roots to work for the Russian Embassy.

She hasn’t been home long when Owen’s father, Orrin, asks for a favor. Knowing that he’d been a Navy SEAL, and still mourns his wife’s murder 20 years before, Natalie’s eager to help. Getting info on Ragnarok, a top-secret bioweapon, wasn’t exactly what she’d expected.

Owen and his three brothers are pulled from their covert assignments and dropped off at their family ranch to discover their family in shambles. Wyatt, a black ops Delta Force Marine, Owen, a Navy SEAL, and Cullen, a Marine recon specialist, haven’t seen each other in person for years. Their family crumbled after their mother’s murder, and with their hostility toward their father. Learning that their aunt and uncle have been murdered, and their father kidnapped after stealing Ragnarok from the Russians, sets these three on high alert. Aided by Natalie, Callie and Mia, these sons of Texas need to save the world…now.

As a reader, I wasn’t impressed with the set-up. I thought it was too vague, too cloak-and-dagger to have these guys literally air-dropped on their ranch with no government contact. Callie worked directly for Orrin, and she and Natalie had some limited knowledge of the Ragnarok mission, but it felt contrived and unrealistic to have these gals do the heavy job of debriefing the Loughmans, and setting up the plan of attack on recovering the bioweapon and Orrin. I was mystified that Owen has such a strong reaction to seeing Natalie, in comparison to his rather muted emotional response to the deaths of his beloved aunt and uncle, and his missing father. For me, this felt superficial and hollow, and it didn’t endear me.

I did appreciate that Natalie was really torn over her feelings for Owen. She loved him once, and his cowardly way of disappearing was hard to take. Still, it’s been a long time, with no contact, and both Owen and Natalie are very much preoccupied with their rekindled flame, as opposed to the present dangers. Natalie’s been targeted by Russian assassins and they keep dashing off on reconnaissance missions to determine what it is they are dealing with, and who the major players are. The best scenes were those narrated by Orrin in captivity. He’s such a stalwart man, unwilling to compromise any of his sons, even as he’s tortured.

Essentially, this is a romance with some spy/suspense elements. There’s a little bit of sexytimes, but not much, considering all the internal battles these folks wage regarding their attraction. The conflict isn’t resolved at the end, though Owen and Natalie are completely reunited. Expect Cullen to find love in the next book, and (hopefully) he and his lucky lady might rescue his father, too.

Interested? You can find THE HERO on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, IndieBound, iBooks, Kobo, and Tantor Audio. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

Want more info on the Sons of Texas series?
https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAuthorDonnaGrant%2Fvideos%2F10154515917050700%2F&show_text=0&width=560

The Protector (Sons of Texas, #2)THE PROTECTOR will be out January 3rd.
Check out the awesome pre-order incentive going on now for Donna’s new military romance series!!

Pre-order THE PROTECTOR you will receive a bonus scene that features Owen and Natalie from THE HERO. The scene will NOT be shared anywhere else. It will be exclusive to those who pre-order THE PROTECTOR and fill out this form.

To be entered you MUST FILL OUT THE FORM. All pre-orders are acceptable as long as you have an order number from the retailer you purchased from.

Pre-order THE PROTECTOR on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM, iBooks, IndieBound, Kobo, Powells, and Tantor Audio.

donna_grant_newAbout the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her “totally addictive” and “unique and sensual” stories. Her latest acclaimed series, Dark Kings, features a thrilling combination of dragons, Fae, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children and an assortment of animals in Texas.

Catch up with Donna on her website, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr, Audible, and Tantor.
1e96c-enchantress2bdesign2b25262bpromo2btour2bbanner

Christmas Got Them WRAPPED TOGETHER–Review and Giveaway

wrapped-blitz-bannerHi there! I’m super excited to share a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. WRAPPED TOGETHER is a Christmas story in the Portland Heat series of novellas that features an odd couple friends-to-lovers love story. Expect some cameos from the boys of KNIT TIGHT, too!

Catch the excerpt, my review and get in on the $20 GC giveaway, below.

wrapped-together-coverAbout the book:
In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected . . .

How about a little taste?

This excerpt comes from chapter one of WRAPPED TOGETHER, when Hollis and his long-time frenemy Sawyer engage in a friendly bet sure to put their holiday cheer to the test!

****

I took a sip of my now tepid, almost-gone tea. Ugh. The good barista was on duty, the one who went with Ev from the knitting store and who always happily made my tea with the same care he did the fancy coffee drinks. I left the group, happy to have the excuse of needing a refill, but as I stood in line, Mary Anne joined me.

“Hollis Alcott, we almost never see you at these things!” Her voice seemed to ring out above the din. “Will you be participating in the contest this year?”

“I doubt it. My fall display is already set.” I tried not to sound too dour—she always had the best houseplants and had custom-ordered the rare fern I’d wanted.

“Ah, well, that’s too bad. You let me know if you change your mind. I’d be happy to lend you some poinsettias or other decor. I know you could do a splendid, tasteful window.”

It was my turn to order, so I gave her a smile as a reply before handing Brady my stainless-steel tumbler for tea and ordering a scone to go. I had to wait down at the other end of the bar for my order, and as I was waiting, Sawyer came loping over, a smile on his boyish face. His wide shoulders stretched the hoodie in distracting ways.

“Hollis! Did I hear you say you’re not decorating?”

“You did.”

He frowned. “I know how much you hate the holidays, but I bet you’d get an uptick in sales if you decorated. I heard Mary Anne offer to help. I could, too. I’ve got gobs of lights.”

“Thank you but no.” Truth be told, I could use the increase in sales, but it wasn’t enough of a motivator to get me ready for the onslaught of red and green.

Sawyer’s head tilted, considering. Oh no. I knew that look too well. A Sawyer who was scheming was downright dangerous. “We should bet, you and I.”

“No,” I said firmly. I stepped away from the coffee bar to let Mary Anne and others wait for their orders, but Sawyer kept step with me, effectively pinning me in between two tables on my path to the door. I sighed and repeated my objection. “No. The last time we bet, I believe you cracked a wrist.”

Sawyer waved a hand, dismissing my concern. “We were fifteen. We’ve had other bets since then.”

We had, but there was one in particular I was determined not to remember right at that moment. This was the peril of having known someone for almost two decades. “How precisely would one even bet on this?”

I let my inner musings escape before I could rein them in, and Sawyer smiled. He knew he had me. Whatever nervousness and shyness captured my tongue around large groups did not, unfortunately, extend to Sawyer. “Well, I was thinking whichever of us makes it into the top three is the winner of our bet, and then the loser has to do whatever the winner wants for an evening.”

Oh, I did not like this. “Anything?”

“That wasn’t a no.” Sawyer’s grin showed the sort of charm that made him so darn popular. “And I wasn’t thinking of something kinky. Trust me here, Hols.”

“Don’t call me that.” And I most certainly did not trust him. I was pretty sure the always-affable Sawyer didn’t have a kinky bone in his body, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t up to something. “But I could get you to do any task of my choosing?”

See, the thing about me that Sawyer knew was that I have a very hard time resisting a bet. Always have, hence the aforementioned bet freshman year of high school about jumping over auditorium seats during drama class. I’m also notoriously cheap. And as it turned out, I did have a job for him.

He nodded. “Anything.”

“I have a bathroom I want painted at my store. Including the trim.”

Sawyer, to his credit, didn’t look remotely pained. “That’s fine. I’m good at painting.”

“And you? What would you want?” I had no idea why I was asking. I certainly wasn’t planning on agreeing to this ridiculous plan.

“A surprise.” He winked at me.

“I don’t like those.”

“I know. Which is why you need one. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll specify no sex or nudity involved.” Sawyer had mercifully dropped his deep, clear voice to softer tones. I still bristled at the thought of anyone overhearing this.

“Or humiliation, public or otherwise.”

“Oh, Hollis, you know me better than that.” He held up his hands. They were big, capable hands, and I had to blink to get my eyes to look away. “Now, come on. I dare you. Bet me.”

My Review:
4.5 stars for this sweet and spicy M/M Christmas friends-to-lovers, odd-couple romance. It’s a part of the Portland Heat series, and easily enjoyed on it’s own.

Hollis Alcott and Sawyer Murphy have known each other since middle school. They are both halves of a twin, and Hollis’ sister Char was besties with Sawyer through high school–and she married Sawyer’s twin, Tucker, several years ago.

Hollis is a serious introvert, very uptight about his public and private life–even if he has none. Sawyer is out and proud, a braggart back in high school when he would casually relate all his exploits to Char, and Hollis, by default. He was too fearless, and too fanciful, for Hollis, even if Hollis couldn’t help being swept away by Sawyer’s gregarious nature. Still, too risky to even come out before he was on the other side of the US, gong to school on the east coast while his family lived in Portland, Oregon.

Three years ago Hollis and Char’s parents died in a skiing accident, and they have dealt with it in their own way. Char’s family lives in her childhood home, growing more offspring and engaging with life while Hollis runs his own carefully-curated craft paper, ink and pen shop. He’s a fussy man, wanting to project the perfect image of perfection, while inside he’s a neurotic wreck. He’s still very much attracted to Sawyer, who runs a card and gift shop in the same Main Street business area as Hollis and pals from KNIT TIGHT, Ev and Brady’s yarn and coffee shops. Hollis is a big fan of Ev’s knitted scarves, and those come in really handy when Sawyer gets his lips on Hollis’ very sensitive neck… #Hickeys!!

But first, the premise: Hollis is always down around the holidays, and their business association is running a window decorating contest to boost sales. Sawyer bets Hollis that his shop will come in top three, and if Hollis’ store wins, he’ll do some manual labor around the shop–but when Sawyer wins, it’s a date night.

Hollis can’t understand why Sawyer wants to play with him, but he’s much too fragile to hand his heart over to a man who’s been notorious for quitting everything. Sure, they’re rolling up on thirty now, but Sawyer’s still too brilliant a light for Hollis to look into often. He’s scared, having little-to-no experience in relationships, yet Sawyer is a patient, and persistent force. Plus, their familial and business connections continue to wrap them together, even when Hollis would rather run for the hills.

That said, Sawyer’s thrilled by the little bit of kink he susses out of Hollis’ reactions. It seems Hollis really likes a bit of dominance, and rope bondage. Oh, and some orgasm denial. Yes, our buttoned-up fusspot Hollis is dirty dirty boy, when he feels safe enough to let himself play with a partner. Their deep connection and the rekindling of their friendship allows Hollis to let go with Sawyer. Sawyer’s so grateful for this kinky peek into a man he’s wanted for years. They get it on for a bit–until Hollis’ complete paranoia regarding Sawyer’s motives finally kicks in.

This is a really sweet book. Lots of hurt/comfort for Hollis, and a heart-to-heart moment with his ghosts, to remember that he’s a good guy who deserves far better than the grief-shrouded, showplace home of a life he’s built for himself. Only when he opens his door to Sawyer’s big love and hearty plans does Hollis recognize that his memories don’t all have to be blanketed in sorrow, and that new experiences can be as lush as the life he once had.

It’s a quick read, with great guys–and nice cameos from Ev, mostly, of KNIT TIGHT. Expect a heartwarming read, with a solid HEA. Also, a nosy cat, and a couple moments that might require a tissue. (Pretty much universal for me and Christmas reads…)

Interested? You can find WRAPPED TOGETHER on Goodreads, Kensington Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Kobo, iTunes and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
IndiGo

Finding Love IN THE RING–Release Day Review

in-the-ring-fb-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new M/M sports romance from Rie Warren. I’ve really liked her M/F romance, including Carolina Bad Boys STONE, LOVE, STEELE and CHROME, so I was excited to check out this new series. IN THE RING features a closeted gay boxer and the sexy trainer he falls for.

in-the-ringAbout the book:
The biggest fight of his life isn’t . . . In the Ring.
The bright lights. The roaring crowd. The chance at a championship belt. The not-so-little secret Liam Shaughnessy—the Bonny Bruiser—is fighting to keep tucked far away.

Liam got the pussy pounded out of him on the mean streets of Cin-city—the other Sin City. The oldest in a Catholic clan where his da never pulled any punches, he went from geek boy to the golden boy of the boxing world care of his fists. Liam’s on the fast track to having it all . . . all except the one man he wants.

Michael Fairweather makes pretending to be hetero goddamn difficult for Liam. The man is blond and beautiful and just so happens to be Liam’s trainer. With a penchant for doing shirtless yoga, giving midnight massages to loosen Liam’s muscles, and sometimes even taking it out in the ring with him. To say Liam has porn-style fantasies about Michael is an understatement.

Michael’s out and proud. Liam’s only proud of what he can do in the ring. He can’t risk his career, least of all for someone unavailable. Michael has a lover. Liam has the lies he lives every day. And when his money-grubbing manager gets involved as the title win approaches, Liam doesn’t know what hit him.

Fight to win. Fight with honor. It won’t be easy, but that’s okay. Nothing worth fighting for ever is.

My Review:
Liam Shaughnessy survived an abusive childhood and the mean streets of Cincinnati. He’s fought and trained to rise out of the underground bareknuckle boxing circuit into the heavyweight boxing matches. Having money means he can take care of his mother and three younger siblings. It also means he can afford luxuries like his own training staff and management. It doesn’t mean he can afford to come out, however.

Michael Fairweather has fought his way back from a debilitating injury in soccer to become a take-no-nonsense boxing trainer to Liam, on his path to the championship belt. He’s also out-and-proud, and exactly the man Liam would date, if he could date a man, that is. Also, Mikey has a long-distance relationship with his high school sweetheart, Wade, and that’s pretty complicated.

When Mikey learns that Liam’s not straight, that Liam’s been pining for Michael for more than a year now, Michael’s in a bad position. And Liam’s heart is set to be smashed.

This book moves a little fast for me, with periods of prose (especially at the beginning) that felt more like I was being told the story, than that I was engaged in the story. So, it wasn’t until maybe halfway through that I got invested. Liam’s a decent guy in a tough spot. He wants to win the heavyweight championship so he can financially support his family, though this was a bit of a side plot, really, and he wants to have a loving relationship with Michael. Michael has a lot of passive-aggressive nonsense going on, with odd fits of jealousy whenever Liam’s posed with women. This didn’t make much sense, considering Michael has a man, and fully believed Liam was straight. I did understand, later, when they were together, how this would rankle, but the early jealousy was mystifying, for me. I had trouble bonding with these characters, because they didn’t read as fleshed-out as I’d like, and I got frustrated with Liam’s constant obeisance to his homophobic manager. Liam didn’t seem willing to stand up for himself, ever, and that was troubling for a man who’s all about power and strength in the ring. Further, Michael seems trifling and spoiled, with little concern but his own emotional well-being. As a side issue, the time-frame of the boxing and boxing-related activities seemed too compressed, something the sports fan in me railed against strongly. It made for circumstances that taxed my ability to suspend disbelief, though I doubt many readers follow boxing enough for it to raise concerns for them.

In all, there’s some good feels, including desire, elation, joy of having love returned and some more heartbreaking moments, too. Expect sexytimes, big growth of a geek-turned-street-fighter-turned-boxer and an HEA.

Interested? You can find IN THE RING on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s currently $.99 for a limited time.

Rie WarrenAbout the Author:
Badass, sassafras Rie Warren is the author of Sugar Daddy and the Don’t Tell series—a breakthrough trilogy that crosses traditional publishing boundaries beginning with In His Command.

She lives in gorgeous Charleston, South Carolina with her small family where she basks in the sunshine during the day, and adjourns to her woman cave at night. A nocturnal creature, she stays up way too late talking to herself, her characters, and anyone who will listen. She’s all about writing with heat, heart, and a hint of the dark, and she doesn’t shy away from the impossible.

Rie’s work has been called “edgy”, “daring”, and “some of the sexiest smut around”.

You can find Rie online on her website, Amazon, sign up for her newsletter, on Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Negotiating Love-A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet new contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Jay Northcote. A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS is a New Adult romance between a loner and his new workmate. It’s so sweet and tender, I rightly swooned.

afamilyforchristmasAbout the book:
Zac never had a family of his own, but Rudy has enough to share.
Shy, inexperienced Rudy has a crush on Zac from the moment his new colleague walks through the door. On an office night out before Christmas, Rudy finds the courage to make a move, and they form a tentative bond. When he discovers Zac will be alone at Christmas, he invites Zac to come home with him.

Zac prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Yet when Rudy offers him a family Christmas it’s impossible to resist. With no parents of his own, Zac is pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Rudy’s. The only drawback is that everyone assumes they’re a couple. Unwilling to disappoint Rudy’s mum and make Christmas awkward, they decide not to deny it.

It’s not a chore for Zac to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend, but the pretence makes him want things that scare him—things like a real relationship with Rudy. Zac’s suffered enough rejection in his life already and is afraid to risk his heart. If he can get over his past rejection and let Rudy inside his armour, he might get more for Christmas than he ever imagined.

My Review:
Rudy is a 24 year old out gay man working at an LGBTQ charity in Bristol. Rudy’s a painfully shy man, yet intrigued by his new co-worker Zac. Zac keeps to himself, and likes it that way. He’s been hurt before, and doesn’t want to build friendships that would only fade. That said, Zac notices how Rudy quietly tracks him through the office.

Out for a work pub night to celebrate Christmas, Rudy and Zac spend a lot of time talking. They get along, especially as they’re both well-lubricated by tequila. After one excellent kiss Rudy’s overcome by the drink, pukes, and Zac kindly offers to walk him home. Too late to get a cab back to his own place, Zac accepts Rudy’s offer to share his bed. Platonically. Their nighttime conversation alerts Rudy that Zac is planning to spend Christmas alone, because he has no family. Rudy can’t help inviting Zac to join him on a visit to his family’s large farmhouse for a cozy holiday.

I really loved the patient unfolding of this romance. Zac has been on his own for years now. He feels unlovable, and is a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and open affection he experiences from Rudy and his family. I really loved how Rudy and Zac took time to make the other comfortable. Rudy’s family is blissfully clueless, and mistakes Zac to be Rudy’s boyfriend. Thing is, Rudy’s never had a boyfriend before, and his sexual experience is severely limited. To save face, and keep the happy going, Zac offers to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend for the duration of their trip.

For Zac, falling for Rudy is immeasurably difficult to prevent. Rudy’s earnest and giving and compassionate and loving, and his family is more of the same. Not having his own family, Zac basks in their generosity. Plus, it’s no secret that Rudy’d be down for more than friendship. In fact, that’s what Zac proposes–a fling to bolster the image of their “relationship.” That’s dangerous terrain, however, because Zac’s afraid that he’ll cling to Rudy out of a misplaced desire to truly be part of his loving family, and not just on his own merit. Zac’s never had a boyfriend either; he’s scared of getting hurt–precisely why he’s never hooked up with a man he’s known before. Anonymous sex is all he’s ever allowed himself, until Rudy.

The vulnerability for both men is really high. It’s really tender and completely fraught with tension of the best kind. I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough. There’s kisses, and big firsts, and kitten rescues, and love. Lots and lots of love. The secondary characters are all really awesome, people I’d love to spend a holiday with, in any case. And, the end is a solid HEA.

Interested? You can find A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

signal boost

Close Quarters–JUST DRIVE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a contemporary M/M military romance from LA Witt. JUST DRIVE is the first book in her new Anchor Point series about seamen finding love in the Navy. I’ve really enjoyed HIATUS, WHAT HE LEFT BEHIND, RAIN SHADOW and LEAD ME NOT from Ms. Witt, so I jumped at the chance to read JUST DRIVE. It’s soooo good!

just-driveAbout the book:
For Sean Wright, driving a cab in the tiny Navy town of Anchor Point isn’t an exciting job . . . until he picks up just-dumped Paul Richards. A drive turns into a walk on the pier, which turns into the hottest hookup Sean’s had in ages.

After a long overdue breakup, Paul can’t believe his luck. Of all the drivers, he’s picked up by the gorgeous, gay, and very willing Sean. Younger guys aren’t usually his thing, but Paul can’t resist.

One taste and neither man can get enough . . . right up until they realize that Paul is Sean’s father’s commanding officer and the last man Sean should be involved with.

With two careers on the line, their only option is to back off. It’s not easy, though; the sex and the emotional connection are exactly what both men have been craving for a long time. But Paul has devoted twenty-four years to his career and his dream of making admiral. If he’s caught with Sean, that’s all over. He has to choose—stay the course, or trade it all for the man who drove off with his heart.

My Review:
Sean Wright is a Navy brat. His father dragged him all over the US even after his parents divorced. Dad, as a Navy Senior Chief, made more than his mother, and though he’s 22 years old, Sean’s going to college in Anchor Point, their newest locale, on his dad’s GI Bill money as a dependent. Sean’s been out for years, and his father is loving and supportive.

Sean works as a cab driver in Anchor Point, to supplement his income, and picks up Captain Paul Richards one Friday night. It’s clear his passenger is having a rough night, so Sean follows his directive to “just drive.” They spend some time in the car, and out at a lonely pier, and notice that each man is attractive, and interested.

44 year old Paul is one of few “out” captains in the Navy. He’s been busting his butt for 24 years in the hopes of making Admiral, and is newly stationed in Anchor Point as commander of Naval Air Station Adams. Before he was able to come out, Paul had two broken marriages to women, and he’s not proud of it. He’s still not able to find a man to settle down with, however, because his travel always upsets his partner(s). He’s frustrated and down when his newest relationship fizzles, but catching the eye of his sexy young cabbie is an immediate panacea. Paul and Sean spend a very sweaty night at a local no-tell motel, exchanging only the barest of info. Paul accepts Sean’s card, in case he needs other transport, but neither man can shake the connection they made that night.

Paul calls, and Sean comes. And that’s not a pun. Their hook-up nights become more frequent, and involve more than just sex–they’re inadvertently building a relationship. It seems to be going great–Paul and Sean get along well, and have a solid connection–until Paul learns that Sean’s father not only works on his base; Chief Wright is in Paul’s chain of command.

That means both Paul and Sean’s father could be discharged if Sean and Paul are discovered. For two men that have devoted their lives to the service, this is an untenable risk–and Sean’s father makes that clear.

What began as a one-off had grown into something real, however, and both Sean and Paul have to fully examine their lives, careers and aspirations. Would Paul walk away from the Navy for Sean? Could Sean accept that type of sacrifice? What sort of life would they even have together? Sean’s heartbroken, and Paul’s surly. The fallout is personally dramatic, with Sean deciding that the best way for him to make himself available to Paul is to stop being a Navy dependent. Thing is, Paul’s got his own plans, and they involve never letting the Navy ruin his love life again.

Expect a lot of soul-searching, and sexytimes, and seamen… 😉 The story is tender and sweet, with a good dash of angst, because Paul and Sean can’t seem to quit each other. That leads to lots of clandestine meetings, which are deliciously gut-wrenching. I have a special affinity for older-younger and “we shouldn’t”/”just one last time” connections, especially when the characters have multiple ‘last’ times. The resolution was really satisfying, with a storybook HEA.

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

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!