Working Hard HEALING HIM–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M/M menage romance from AT Brennan. HEALING HIM is the second in her The Den Boys series, and features a survivor of child sex abuse finding love and healthy intimacy with not one but two men of his dreams. It’s a standalone steamer!

Scroll down to meet two of this triad in a sweet excerpt and to enter the backlist book giveaway!
About the book:
“I hated that I was like this, but after years of trying to work through it I was beginning to feel like I’d never be normal.” ~ Cody
Hiding the fact that I was in love with my best friend Isaac used to be the most complicated part of my day, until a chance meeting with a handsome stranger named Jonah sent my life into a tailspin. Scars from my past have stopped me from giving in to my desires for so long, but I’m done being afraid. I want both men. I just don’t know if I’ll be able to trust that anyone can love me.

“I knew it was a bit messed up, but there was no jealousy or envy when I thought of my men together.” ~ Isaac
I’ve loved Cody for as long as I’ve known him, but have always held back because of his past. Then I met Jonah and I knew there was no way I could choose between them. I want it all—the man I’ve loved for so long, and the one I’m quickly falling for. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

“I wanted to believe it was all true, but I couldn’t push aside the fear that I was just a distraction until the two of them got together.” ~ Jonah
After having my heart broken I never thought I’d find love again. I wasn’t looking for anything real, and then I met not one, but two men I can’t resist. Isaac and Cody are everything I ever wanted but didn’t know I could have. I want to believe the three of us can work, but a part of me can’t get past the fear that I’ll be the odd man out, again.

*This is Book 2 of The Den Boys series, but can be read as a standalone – no cliffhangers.

How about a little taste?

“So, start with Insidious?” I asked Cody as we flopped on his small couch.

“You’re evil.”

“What? We’ve seen it so many times you should know when the freaky parts happen. I could have said I Spit On Your Grave.”

“That movie was messed up, not scary.” Cody shook his head and took the beer I held out to him. “I’m never watching that one again.”

“True, how about The Grudge?”

“Fine, but I swear to god, if you change my ringtone to that creepy moaning noise, I’ll never speak to you again.”

I grinned and opened my computer to cue up the movie. We might be able to joke about that incident now, but at the time it had been anything but funny.

The first time we’d watched it together we’d only been friends for about a month. I’d waited until Cody had fallen asleep then downloaded the moaning sound the demon character made as his ringtone. Then I’d snuck into the bathroom, blocked my number and called his phone. We’d been at my place that night, and he’d flipped out.

I’d felt terrible at how badly I’d scared him. I’d thought he’d get a good laugh out of it and that would be the end of things, but he’d been so freaked out he hadn’t been able to sleep for hours.

That was the night I’d learned a little bit about Cody’s past, and why he hadn’t handled the joke well. It wasn’t so much the ringtone that had scared him, it had been waking up in my bed alone, scared and disoriented.

It had taken a few more months for Cody to open up and tell me more about his past, and every time he told me something new my heart broke a little bit more for him. Even now I’d learn about something he hadn’t told me yet, and I’d wish I could take away his pain.

The more time I’d spent with Cody, the more I’d realized that he was an incredible person. He wasn’t just sweet and kind, he was caring and fiercely loyal. He was also beautiful.

At five-nine he wasn’t short, but with his slender build and cherubic face he seemed so much younger than twenty-one. His big blue eyes were wide and expressive. He wore his blond hair shaved close on the sides but long on top, so it was constantly falling over his forehead and brushing the tops of his cheeks if he didn’t continuously push it back. Everything about him was so beautiful it was almost painful, and it hadn’t taken me long to fall in love with him.

If he’d been any other guy I would have asked him out on a date, and gotten to know him as a romantic interest instead of as a friend.

My Review:
Cody is a 21 year old man who has just gotten his first apartment, and thrives in his job as a bartender at The Den. He’s a survivor of forced child prostitution and abuse, and fled the foster care system before getting help and counseling at Open Arms, an LGBT-centered shelter in his town. It’s where he met the owner of The Den, who hired him and set him up with living arrangements. Cody suffers nightmares of his abuse, and has an aversion to touch that he’s been working through slowly and carefully with his best friend, Isaac. And, Cody has a big crush on Isaac, though he’s sure he can’t be a real partner for him. He’s never even had a first kiss, let alone a voluntary sexual encounter, and the idea of being physical with anyone induces panic-attacks and guilt.

Isaac is gone over Cody, but he’s content with the close friendship they have developed if that’s all Cody can ever handle. He knows some of Cody’s history and has been instigating little touches and platonic contact at Cody’s request for the past year. That said, when Isaac meets the newest counselor at Open Arms, Jonah, who’s come to visit Cody at The Den, Isaac isn’t a little turned on. He’s a lot. And Jonah, well, he can’t get over how sexy Cody and Isaac are. He expects they are a couple, but he’s happy to go home with Isaac when Isaac admits to being single.

Cody is a little sad that Isaac and Jonah might hook up, but he’s confused regarding how aroused that prospect makes him. He’s hardly noticed attraction for himself, but the idea of Isaac and Jonah together pushed all his “on” buttons. When he and Isaac discuss it, Isaac’s floored that Cody has feelings for him, and he’s overjoyed when Cody wants to kiss him! Their discussions lead to more than kissing–Jonah’s attracted to both Cody and Issac, and is down for expanding their sexytimes, to allow Cody to watch, and participate as much as he can.

Yep, sexual healing is the nature of this book. I’ll be truthful, this one is all about the feels, and getting it on. There were some accessory intrigues, and some other characters do interact with our budding trio, but it’s really focused on how they can fashion a relationship that counts them as equal shares in the experience. You’re going to want to keep a squeegee handy so all the steam doesn’t cloud the screen. I liked how carefully Jonah and Isaac were with Cody, and how they let him join them at his pace. For me, considering how pervasive and horrific the abuse Cody suffered, I though he came around a little quicker than I’d expected. Jonah has some reservations, too, thinking he’s just a passing fancy for Cody and Isaac. He’s been broken-hearted by a couple guys and is sure they won’t want him around long-term either. It’s sweet when they convince him it’s not true.

This one ends with an HEA, times three, and I liked this story enough to want to read new books down the road, especially whenever Isaac’s twin Noah get his own book.

Interested? You can find HEALING HIM on Goodreads and Amazon: US and UK.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from AT Brennan.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
A.T. Brennan, who also writes under the name Mandie Mills, is a romance and erotica author. A native of Ottawa, Canada, she enjoys picking up and moving from city to city every few years. A former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, current entrepreneur and freelance writer, she enjoys spending her days working on her many projects and her nights writing and not getting enough sleep. Currently she lives on Canada’s East Coast with her family, both two- and four-legged. She enjoys collecting books and exploring the different sides of romance and romantic expression in her works.

You can visit her at website, or on Facebook for AT Brennan and Author Mandie Mills.

Near the Climax–DRAGON BURN-Review and Excerpt

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly published dragon-shifter romance from Donna Grant. DRAGON BURN is a novella in her Dark Kings series, (Book 11.5!) and really best enjoyed when read in order. I’ve liked SMOKE AND FIRE, FIRESTORM, and BLAZE, so I’m eager to reach the “climax” of this sexy series.

About the book:
Marked by passion
A promise made eons ago sends Sebastian to Italy on the hunt to find an enemy. His quarry proves difficult to locate, but there is someone who can point him in the right direction – a woman as frigid as the north. Using every seductive skill he’s acquired over his immortal life, his seduction begins. Until he discovers that the passion he stirs within her makes him burn for more…

Gianna Santini has one love in her life – work. A disastrous failed marriage was evidence enough to realize she was better off on her own. That is until a handsome Scot strolled into her life and literally swept her off her feet. She is unprepared for the blazing passion between them or the truth he exposes. But as her world begins to unravel, she realizes the only one she can depend on is the very one destroying everything – a Dragon King.

In this scorching Dark Kings novella, New York Times bestselling author Donna Grant brings together a determined Dragon King used to getting what he wants and an Ice Queen who thaws for no one.

How about a little taste?

Sebastian was there.

She turned her head to look at him. He met her gaze, his clear eyes holding some kind of emotion she couldn’t quite name, but through it she saw the fires of desire as if he were lit from the inside with them.

It caused her stomach to flutter in excitement and her feet to stop working. She stumbled, which caused his arm to wrap around her waist as he drew to a stop and hauled her against him. They stared silently into each other’s eyes as the crowds parted and walked around them. The steady thumping of his heartbeat could be felt beneath her palms.

What was it about Sebastian that made her forget herself? She was a different person with him, one that not only enjoyed his touch—but craved it.

The problem was, she liked how she felt around him. She enjoyed how he made her feel, and how she wanted to feel. The desire, the need, the hunger. She reached for it, accepted it.

Embraced it.

She didn’t know how long they stood there lost in each other’s eyes. For a brief moment, she wondered if it was one-sided. Could Sebastian feel the same as her? Did she dare allow herself to follow wherever this road led, no matter how many doorways she walked through?

No matter what it might expose within herself?

No matter what longing it might reveal?

No matter if she found herself walking alone?

She was standing on the edge of a precipice while he stood on nothing but air, holding out his hand and urging her to jump. Never one to take such a chance, she found herself wanting to do just that.

Even if it meant that she could hit the ground so hard she might never get up again.

It was strange to even consider any of this. Yet here she was. There should be more fear, more concern. Perhaps it was the desire overshadowing those other emotions.

“Gianna,” he began.

Her cell phone vibrated in her purse, causing her to jump and shattering whatever had held them enthralled. She couldn’t help but wonder if destiny was trying to tell her something. It was the second time they’d been interrupted that day when she’d felt sure he was going to kiss her.

My Review:
Sebastian is a Dragon King who promised to help Ulrik no matter what centuries ago, and he regrets having to bind Ulrik’s magic to prevent the destruction of humanity centuries ago. He doesn’t believe that Ulrik is the menace behind the troubles facing the Dragon Kings of Dreagan. So, he’s off to Venice to investigate a lead in the search for Ulrik. It seems there’s a man who looks quite a lot like Ulrik operating there under the name of Oscar Cox, and Seb believes him to be Ulrik’s disgruntled uncle Mikkel in disguise. Seb positions himself to meet Cox’s beautiful American assistant, Gianna Santini, in order to gain access to her boss and discover his true identity.

Gianna is done with relationships. Divorced and bitter, she eschews meeting men and prefers to be solitary–filling her time with her work for “Oscar Cox,” a powerful British man to whom she’s an assistant. She loves Mr. Cox’s power and how quickly she’s risen within his company. Still, the man seated beside her for the past two nights at her favorite tavern is quite attractive. And, when she strikes up the nerve to chat with him, Seb’s brogue is tasty, too.

They begin a tentative acquaintance, and Gianna is intrigued by Seb’s sensuality and chivalry. Both are drawn to the other, and this is odd for many reasons; Gianna’s not interested in having alover after her disastrous marriage and Seb’s sworn to not take a human lover. Still, they have an easy-going day sharing breakfast and sightseeing. Gianna, wanting to experience more of the thrill of Seb, invites him to the masquerade ball she’s arranged–hosted by Oscar–and that’s when things get hinky.

Seb’s as attracted to Gianna as he’s ever been to any being. And, he’s conflicted about setting himself in her path, because she’s clearly in trouble. At the ball Seb’s suspicions are confirms, and Gianna’s boos recognizes that another Dragon King has been in contact with her. Expect capture, torture and potential casualties. Okay, definite casualties of you count Dark Fae henchmen in the body count. Seb’s connection to Gianna and Constatntine, King of the Dragon Kings, enables him to find out the truth behind Ulrik’s betrayal and Mikkel’s role in their millenia-old feud. Seb also meets the powerful Druid who’s been summoned to destroy both Ulrik and Constantine.

 

There’s still plenty of plotlines to weave together; this novella is a rather self-contained romance for Seb and Gianna, though it adds some critical pieces to the mix…if only Seb and Gianna could remember what those were. Dang Druids and their memory stealing charms. If my count is correct, partnering Seb with Gianna means that only Constantine and Ulrik are single Dragon Kings–and I expect they will find mates and settle scores in the final book, which I’d expect to come out in the coming months.

Interested? You can find DRAGON BURN on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! MR. BIG–Review and Excerpt

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and excerpt for a New Adult romance form Delancey Stewart. I rather liked her book MEN AND MARTINIS, so I thought I’d try another book. MR. BIG features two disconnected people finding peace, and problems, with one another. Not least of which because one is the CEO of the company the other works for….

About the book:
Once upon a time, I had everything: money, power, a multimillion-dollar company, a loving family. Well, at least I thought I had everything. Then my parents died, and I found out my whole life was based on a lie. That’s pretty much the moment when I went numb. Told the world to f*** off and went on a bender of epic proportion, just to see how far I could fall before I hit rock-bottom.

Now I’m back and all I want in this world is my morning—okay, afternoon—coffee. Then one of my employees has the nerve to call me out for cutting the line at the coffeehouse at the company I own. Sure, I’m a little scruffier than usual, but come on, bitching out the CEO? Not a smart career move. Just who does this smart-mouthed ball-buster think she is? And more important, what do I have to do to get her number?

Holland O’Dell may be uptight, but I wouldn’t mind taking her back to my place and ripping off that business-casual blouse/skirt combo and burying myself in her curves. She pushes my buttons, but at least I’m feeling something. And whatever it is, I won’t stop until I get more.

Advance praise for Mr. Big

“Mr. Big is the kind of smart, sexy delight that every woman deserves to read! [Delancey] Stewart will make you believe in true love in this steamy, heart-wrenching tale.”—USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone

“With a smart, feisty heroine and hot, tortured hero, Mr. Big has everything I look for in a contemporary romance. Witty, sexy, and full of heart!”—Melanie Harlow, USA Today bestselling author

How about a little taste?

“Where did you come from, Holland?”

“That’s a good question.” I wasn’t trying to dodge, but I didn’t have an answer. Plus, I wasn’t sure he was speaking geographically.

“Were you born and raised in Los Angeles?”

So he was speaking geographically. “Maybe,” I said. “I was raised here. I don’t know where I was born, actually.”

He raised an eyebrow in question.

I took a deep breath. “I was abandoned. They found me in a cardboard box at a hospital in Long Beach when I was a couple weeks old.”

I watched his eyes, waiting for the predictable sorrow, the sympathy most people offered when they heard about my inauspicious beginnings. Hale’s eyes reflected something else, though—they flashed with anger.

“I grew up in foster homes.” I shrugged.

“You were adopted?” He whispered the words, as if he couldn’t believe what he was saying.

I shook my head, a little confused at his reaction. For a moment I wondered if the revelation made him think less of me. It had certainly made me think less of myself for a lot of years. “Nope. Never adopted. Just fostered.” My salad came and I was thankful for the distraction.

Hale watched me intently, a crease between his dark eyes. He seemed about to say something, but then turned his head and stared out at the ocean instead. The sun was flashing on its surface, glittering like cellophane ribbons. I waited for him to ask more questions, but he seemed lost in thought.

We ate in relative silence, me enjoying the sunlight and warmth, and the entire avocado I’d convinced the waitress to bring me. Hale appeared to be focused on something inside his mind, something he didn’t seem apt to share. I decided to push. “What about you?”

His eyes snapped back to mine and then he shook his head, saying nothing.

“Seriously? I share but you don’t?” After spending most of the morning being thoughtful and kind, Mr. Big Dick was back. His face was closed and anger bubbled in his eyes as he turned his focus to his burger. “I see how it is,” I pressed.

He paused, a fry partway to his mouth, and then his hand lowered again, his shoulder slumping. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you.”

“Okay . . .”

He dropped the fry and leaned back in his chair, a deep sigh escaping his lips. “It’s more that I don’t really know.” He stared down at his plate as he said, “I was adopted, actually. But I’ve only found that out recently.” His voice was cold, almost clinical, like this was a distant fact to be examined, not something integral to who he was.

“And you’re upset?” It was a stupid question. A dark frown had crept over his face and he looked much more like the broody asshole I’d met at Cody Tech than like the almost sweet man who’d been helping me since then. He was clearly upset.

A smile flickered over those incredible lips, but it did nothing to tamp down the sadness in his eyes. “I don’t know. Yes. It’s complicated.”

Without stopping myself this time, I reached for his hand, my own fingers covering the long square tips of his where they rested on the table. He started slightly, as if I’d shocked him, and then relaxed, his thumb reaching around to rub a line across the top of my fingertips. I suppressed the shiver that ran through me. The pain in his eyes had ebbed, and he looked up at me with something that felt a bit like wonder.

My Review:
Holland O’Dell is an algorithms expert who’s hired in the only suitable position (for a woman) at her dream company Cody Tech: in sales. It’s disheartening, but Holland’s a fighter. She survived three foster homes after being abandoned shortly after birth and has cobbled together a small nucleus of friends that she considers family. She’s also got a great idea for restructuring one of Cody Tech’s earliest device designs, and an in with a contact at Major League Baseball. Id she can refine and sell the product, she might garner enough support to get hired into her dream position in project development.

Oliver “Hale” Cody is a young man adrift. He’d struggled with his posh life for just over a year, and went on an adventure to “find himself” when he thought the need for him at his own company was overblown. Cody Tech was started by his father, and everyone assumed he’d just take the reins once he finished schooling, but Oliver didn’t feel like he’d earned his position as CEO. While on his journey towards himself, Oliver’s parents were killed in a car wreck, and Oliver’s idyll was at an end. The truth of his adoption was revealed by the attorneys of the estate, and Oliver’s reeling from a sense of complete loss. Who was his true family? Not only didn’t he know this big secret about himself, how could he trust his parents’ decisions? His shenanigans and drunken rages have destabilized the company, and caused a major shake-up. While Oliver is mostly too distraught to care, he notices a woman, Holland, working late at the company, and admires how she doesn’t take his crap. Seeing that she’s working on a product he’d developed with his dad, he’s intrigued, and wants to help her fine-tune it.

Through his repeated attempts at connecting with Holland, Oliver learns a lot about himself and his company. He learns about her childhood and feels a kinship for lost familial connections. He learns his company has a long way to go to overcome the ingrained misogyny and sexism. His attraction to Holland is a welcome advent into his broken emotional state, and Holland returns his interest–until she learns he’s the CEO. By then, however, they’ve already gotten physical, and hooked MLB for the project Holland developed and Oliver tweaked.

Then, there’s drama. It’s all really rational and reasonable: Holland not wanting people to believe she climbed the corporate ladder using sex with Oliver, not her creativity and hard work. Oh, and there’s a couple break ups/make ups that cause each of them to really consider the meaning of family, and merit-based rewards, and feminism, and equality. I don’t want to give too much away, but the plot has a few turns I wasn’t expecting. That said, I think I mostly didn’t expect them because they were 99.9% unlikely to happen anywhere in real life, and I’m not an unrealistic person when reading realistic fiction. So, yeah, I kind of rolled my eyes on those things, and kept reading on anyway. The relationship-building between Oliver and Holland is hard work, they are young people for all their career accomplishments: both 26. Yeah, that was unrealistic, too. And, Oliver came off as sullen and spoiled for a good part of the book. Granted, I liked when he was happy, but a lot of the time he felt whiny to me. I liked Holland a lot, and wanted to assure her–like her good friends did–that she didn’t have to be so very independent. It’s really not how the corporate world works, but I could appreciate that level of naivete because of her age.

There’s a happy ending for all, and some steamy bits, too. It’s not a terribly long book, and will likely appeal to people who enjoy romances featuring smart-pants gals and a CEO that’s not too pushy.

Interested? You can find MR. BIG on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Delancey Stewart has lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns. She’s been a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer and a wine seller. Despite lots of other interests, she has always been a writer.
A military spouse and the mother of two small boys, her current job titles include pirate captain, monster hunter, Lego assembler, story reader, and tech writer. She tackles all these efforts from her current home outside Washington DC.

Catch up with Delancey on her website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Unexpected Attraction TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP–Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly revised and expanded M/M contemporary romance from Jay Northcote. TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP sounds like spring break gone severely wild, but it’s a sweet story about a man falling for a morris dancer.

I’ve adored all Jay’s books to-date including SUMMER HEAT, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, and THE LAW OF ATTRACTION, and TOPS is another stellar story about getting over prejudices and accepting love at the right time.

About the book:
Will Rowan’s festival fling with sexy dancer Seth lead to something more permanent?

Rowan is stuck at a folk festival helping out a mate, and it really isn’t his scene. The yoga and singing workshops are bad enough, but morris dancing is the final straw. Bearded men with beer guts prancing around wearing bells—who wants to watch that?

All Rowan’s preconceptions are shattered when he meets Seth—a morris dancer, and the stuff Rowan’s fantasies are made of. Seth persuades Rowan to come to a dancing workshop, and Rowan’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to know Seth better. The attraction is mutual, and a lesson filled with innuendo and flirting leads to an incredible night together.

When Rowan arrives home, he’s gutted to find that Seth has given him the wrong phone number. Assuming Seth did it on purpose, Rowan resolves to forget about him. But fate—and friends—conspire to get them back together. Will they manage to stay in step this time around?

A much shorter version of this story was originally published in the Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology by Dreamspinner Press. This version has been revised and extended. Almost half of it is new content.

My Review:
Rowan is a young British man helping out his pal sell cheap tat at a weekend concert festival when his mind is figuratively blown. He has memories of festival morris dancers, a rag-tag lot of beggar-types who are well known in many areas of Great Britain. Morris dancing is essentially an English folk-dancing style, and there are many “sides” (teams of dancers) in the UK and worldwide that celebrate this tradition. The groups I’ve read about wear constructed costumes of rag shirts in black and purple, but images I’d gathered often showed persons dressed in an almost lederhosen-type of outfit. They invariably involve bells attached to the legs/knees of the dancers and sometimes employ a bit of play acting with swords or handkerchiefs. as they perform their choreographed dances.

So, all that to say: Rowan thinks morris dancers are the epitome of lame until he meets Seth, a tall, dark and sexy morris dancer performing at the festival. Rowan gets conned into an open-air lesson and he and Seth truly hit it off, but is their connection due to only be a weekend affair?

Turns out Seth and Rowan don’t live to far from one another in real life. Rowan senses his connection with Seth was more than just a festival fling, but he’s disheartened that Seth doesn’t reach out as he’d promised. I liked how Rowan’s friend stepped in and cleared up some of the mystery–and all of the melancholy. Seth really did dig Rowan, but circumstances were bad, and then awkward. It’s a short, but fun, read with a total HEA for Seth and Rowan. I did love how Rowan had to admit his preconceived notions about morris dancing, and the folks on their “sides” aren’t as as dreadful as he’s intimated. He was wrong and he manfully accepted that and made his apologies. This paved the way for a sweet and sexy fling that turned into far more than he’d even anticipated.

Interested? You can find TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

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

Cephalopod Coffeehouse August 2017–ANY DREAM WILL DO-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a sweet, clean romance from Debbie Macomber. ANY DREAM WILL DO features a female ex-con who builds a new life with the help of a little divine guidance. This is the fourth book in the New Beginnings series which includes THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON and IF NOT FOR YOU, but is easily enjoyed as a standalone.

About the book:
Shay Benson adored her younger brother, Caden, and that got her into trouble. When he owed money, Shay realized she would do anything to help him avoid the men who were threatening him, and she crossed lines she never should have crossed. Now, determined to start fresh, she finds herself in search of a place to stay and wanders into a church to escape from the cold.

Pastor Drew Douglas adored his wife. But when he lost her, it was all he could do to focus on his two beautiful kids, and his flock came in a distant third. Now, as he too is thinking about a fresh start, he walks through his sanctuary and finds Shay sitting in a pew.

The pair strike up a friendship—Drew helps Shay get back on her feet, and she reignites his sense of purpose—that, over time, turns into something deeper, something soulful, spiritual, and possibly romantic. Even Drew’s two children are taken with this woman who has brought light back into their lives. Perhaps most important, Shay learns to trust again as she, in turn, proves herself trustworthy to her adopted community.

But Caden’s return to town and a disastrous secret threaten to undo the life Shay has tried so hard to rebuild. It will take the utmost courage and faith if she and Drew hope to find healing and open their hearts to a brighter future.

My Review:
Shay Benson served three years after taking money form the bank where she worked to help her younger brother, Caden, pay off his drug supplier–and save his life. It’s time she never wanted to spend, but she didn’t have anyone left in her life to keep her or Caden out of harm’s way.

Now freed, she has $100 and some hand-me-down clothes with which to begin again. Tired and cold in the December weather, Shay stops into a church to find a little warmth. She also find Pastor Drew Douglas, a man still fighting his grief over the passing of his beloved wife three years prior. Pastor Drew makes it his mission to help Shay find shelter, and his connection with a womens’ center gets Shay not just a place to stay, but also counseling and job training. Over the course of a year, Shay and Drew see each other sporadically. His friend runs her jobs program, and she sometimes watches his daughter in a center-sponsored childcare. Both his children, surprisingly, gravitate toward Shay and want to include her in family dinners and special moments.It’s not long before Drew acknowledges his own attraction to Shay’s gentle nature and abundant kindness.

Though, it’s not all easy. Drew’s parishoners aren’t keen on him marrying an ex-con–not when there are so many “decent” women to marry. And, Drew’s bombarded by offers on many side before he recognizes that Shay is the gal for him. Naturally, there are some crises, and Shay falls under suspicion of wrong-doing–only to have things turn out sunny in the end.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of religious romance, but I really appreciate the delicate position of a minister looking for love. It brings an interesting gravitas to a romance. There’s no steam here, but there are plenty of feels. Drew’s plagued by doubt and guilt–in his faith and his love. Shay’s a good woman who had a bad start in life, and she’s paid her dues more than twice. I was glad she found a good stable man to love her, but she’s not going to take any guff from him either. I sure liked the ‘atta girl moments, and had a few times where I shook the bed holding in my laughter. Poor Pastor! Those eligible ladies sure had high hopes, and he’s called tot he carpet a few times defending Shay from some nasty allegations. Expect a hefty helping of redemption in this one, and all the folks who initially cast a gimlet eye on Shay ended up being smitten with her in the end. Its a sweet read, and I enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find ANY DREAM WILL DO on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, WalMart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

about the Author:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 990 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Sixteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

There’s so much more to know about her, but I’d suggest heading to her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and don’t forget to pop in and see my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers sharing their fave reads of the month.

Strange Bedfellows: THE DRUID NEXT DOOR–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary paranormal romance from EJ RUSSELL. THE DRUID NEXT DOOR is the sequel to CUTIE AND THE BEAST, and the second book in the Fae Out of Water series. Each book follows the love story of one of the three brothers, high-ranking Fae of the Seelie court. In this cal Lord Maldywn (or Mal) find love with his tree-hugger neighbor—who turns out to be a druid.

About the book:
Professor Bryce MacLeod has devoted his entire life to environmentalism. But how effective can he be in saving the planet when he can’t even get his surly neighbor to separate his recycling?

Former Queen’s Enforcer Mal Kendrick doesn’t think his life could get any worse: he’s been exiled from Faerie with a cursed and useless right hand. When he’s not dodging random fae assassins in the Outer World, he’s going toe-to-toe with his tree-hugging neighbor. And when he discovers that the tree-hugger is really a druid, he’s certain the gods have it in for him—after all, there’s always a catch with druids. Then he’s magically shackled to the man and expected to instruct him in Supernatural 101.

All right, now things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Until a mysterious stranger offers a drunken Mal the chance to gain back all he’s lost—for a price. After Mal accepts, he discovers the real catch: an ancient secret that will change his and Bryce’s life forever.

Ah, what the hells. Odds are they won’t survive the week anyway.

My Review:
Mal Kendrick was cursed while saving his brother’s life. He lopped off the hand of the Fae Seelie Queen’s consort–rotten though he was–and won’t gain the use of his own hand until he’s restored the Queen’s consort in full–not that she wants him back. So, he’s cut off from Faerie in the human realm, and feeling rather sorry for himself. Plus, he’s having the devil of a time fending off the lesser Unseelie Fae who seem to delight in tormenting him, the former Enforcer of the Queen, now that he’s got a bum right hand.

Bryce MacLeod has devoted hsi life to caring for the earth and building sustainable living spaces that allow development to accentuate nature, not obliterate it. Thus, he’s right torqued off when he sees his attractive but surly neighbor, Mal, tossing a bottle at the coyote taking refuge in the wetland that borders the gardens at the rear of the properties. What he doesn’t know is that the “coyote” was a glamour-sporting Unseelie polluting their land, and Mal’s about to open Bryce’s eyes in more ways than one. Turns out Bryce is an undiscovered druid, unknowingly raised in the arts by his grandmother, who passed several years before. When Mal’s brother-in-law David, from CUTIE AND THE BEAST, gets word of Bryce’s latent powers he enlists his dear friend, a Druid priestess, to help train Bryce.

And these life lessons are necessary because it seems the Unseelie and the Queen’s consort are now after the both of them. To hasten Bryce’s learning in all things supernatural, he and Mal are magically tethered to stay in close proximity. This makes things both awkward and sexy. For example, they gots to share a bed, because the distance from the sofa to the bed exceeds their tether length. When they do that, well, it hurts, bad. Awkward because Mal’s been recruited to aid another Fae in gaining his freedom from a different curse–and this dude, let’s call him Steve, claims to have he’ll have the power to undo Mal’s curse once his own curse is lifted. But, Mal’s sworn to secrecy over this opportunity, and he needs to connive and convince Bryce to walk into Faerie with him to complete Steve’s tasks.

So, it’s complicated, as is the attraction between Bryce and Mal. Mal’s usually a dominant lover, but Bryce has Druid Voice which can compel most any person to do his bidding. Is their kinky-times the result of true desire, or compulsion? That was a real dilemma and one that both Mal and Bryce faced together and alone. They seem to burn the sheets up, but neither man wants to continue if it’s not a real connection. Though, Mal’s super charmed by Bryce’s Mr. Fix-it nature, and how he helps Mal gain the ability to defend himself, and protect them both, from the Unseelie invaders. Their adventures to gain Steve’s tokens are dangerous and revelatory; Bryce gains a lot of power and insight when he steps into Faerie. His mission to stave off the pollution in his world and the rot growing in Faerie seem to be linked through the Queen, and he’s afraid Mal’s chicanery on behalf of Steve will lead to destruction of both realms. Yet, he can’t not trust Mal. He’s developed a real rapport over the course of their adventures, and he wants to see Mal returned to his uncursed state, even if it means Mal walks away.

For me, this second book really brought a lot more of the supernatural and lore into the world-building. The first book was fun and quirky, but Faerie was a realm to avoid. This time we’re in Faerie at least half of the book, so we get to understand the politics of the space, and the inter-relatedness of the human and Faerie realms. I did see the path the ending would take rather early, and was gratified that it came together in the manner I was anticipating. Mal and Bryce have some real discussions that lead to a strong bond, and a mutually beneficial relationship in the end. This book has more sexytimes than the first, and they were pretty randy. O.O I’m a fan, and I needed a fan. Speaking of fans, the third book features the third Kendrick brother, a revered bard of Faerie who sings in a band in the Human realm. Looking forward to seeing that stalwart soul find a new mate.

Interested? You can find THE DRUID NEXT DOOR on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

There’s a three-tour wide giveaway of a $50 GC to Riptide Publishing, and you just need to head on over to my friend Joyfully Jay and comment on her post in order to be entered!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
E.J. Russell writes romance in a rainbow of flavors — from M/F stories grounded in absurd contemporary reality to M/M tales splashed with the supernatural — but you can be sure that while the couple makes their way to HEA, they’ll never stray too far into the dark.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Strong Love in BLENDED NOTES–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review, interview and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Lilah Suzanne. BLENDED NOTES is the third book in the Spotlight series and features the Happily Ever After for Grady and Nico, who we met in book one, BROKEN RECORDS, which you should probably read first. I’ve also liked book two, BURNING TRACKS, though you don’t have to read that one to enjoy BLENDED NOTES.

About the book:
Grady Dawson’s future looks bright. He’s at the top of his country music career, has a close-knit group of friends who have become his Nashville family, and has found solid ground in his personal life as he plans his intimate, private wedding with Nico, his stylist turned lover turned love of his life. It seems Grady has finally left his difficult childhood and tumultuous youth behind.

That is, until his past shows up on his doorstep, news of his upcoming nuptials is leaked to the media, and his record company starts issuing demands that challenge his integrity as an artist and as a person. The foundation Grady built his new life on begins to crumble and fast. Can he have his future if he’s haunted by his past? Can he continue making music if it means comprising his convictions? Must he make the ultimate choice between a private life with Nico and the public demands of his career?

How about a little taste?

Grady’s earliest memory of his mother is watching her leave. It wasn’t the first time she dropped him off at Memaw and Granddaddy’s house, and the remembered moment itself is unremarkable: He’s standing by the road; a cloud of dirt from the driveway into the trailer park lingers hazily in the air; he can see the taillights of her car lit red at the stop sign. The right one blinks a signal, the car turns, and she’s gone. Memaw came to collect him soon after, and he doesn’t recall what he did next—whatever rambunctious five-year-old boys like to do. Maybe he got on his bike and tore around the neighborhood, training wheels be damned. Or maybe he found a squirrel to harass with a makeshift slingshot of forked stick and rubber band. Maybe Memaw plunked him down in front of their old jumpy television.

Sit down for five seconds, Grady. Land’s sake! she’d say, with a look rather similar to the one Nico has when Grady comes around to the aisle where Nico is browsing for home decor. Grady had wandered off when he spotted an old gramophone on display.

“There you are.”

“Here I am,” Grady confirms, dropping a kiss onto Nico’s cheek. Nico leans into him with an easy, comfortable affection that grounds Grady, makes him feel wanted and safe. Grady takes a clear glass bottle from the shelf filled with clear glass bottles of all shapes and sizes and colors and asks, “Do we need apothecary jars?” The label on the jar reads: Green Pain Pills.

Nico takes the jar and turns, holding it up so it catches the sunlight streaming through the plate glass windows in the front of the boutique. “I mean, we don’t not need apothecary jars.” He tips his head and narrows his eyes, assessing the jar before putting it back on the shelf. Nico is determined to fill their new home with things that represent them; it’s sweet, but, for Grady, unnecessary. Nico expresses himself visually: his clothes, his hair, the elegant yet assertive way he holds himself. Of course he’d want knickknacks and furniture and art that speak to the life they’re building together. For Grady, it’s less tangible, not a particular thing he could put on a shelf. It’s two toothbrushes in the holder, the sound of a familiar car pulling into the garage, the lingering scent of Nico’s cologne in their bed, the way Nico brushes a peck to Grady’s lips before he leaves: never a goodbye, always a see you later.

“Did you find something you wanted?” Nico moves on to a display of antique paperweights. One looks like a crystal ball.

“Oh, yeah.” Grady lifts his eyebrows and quirks his lips. Nico shakes his head at that, picks up the crystal ball paperweight, and passes it slowly from hand to hand. “I knew you were going to say that and yet—”

“And yet you still asked,” Grady finishes, teasing, “Why, I think you may even like it.”

Nico hums. He puts the paperweight back. “I suppose I must, considering that I am marry—” He snaps his mouth shut, then glances around to be sure no one overheard him. They’re alone in the store, but still Nico mouths the end of that sentence: “Marrying you.

And, lord, but does that thrill Grady to his bones, silent or spoken or acted out with charades. He’s marrying Nico, they’re getting married, he and Nico are marrying each other. Grady can tell his own smile is goofy, and Nico has one to match. In the quiet corner of this very unusual store, they can be openly giddy—for a moment.

Some thoughts from author Lilah Suzanne

Today I’m interviewing Lilah Suzanne author of Blended Notes, the third and final book in the Spotlight series. Hi Lilah, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

Do you have pictures that you use for your characters? Can you share them with us? For Grady my character visual inspiration is a model named Cole Monahan and for Nico, a model named Diasuke Ueda. I’d like to encourage you all to do a Google image search on both of them for a little, uh, inspiration of your own.

What kind of book would you like to write that people would see as a huge departure for you? Since my books are all contemporary rom-coms that stick pretty close to reality, at some point I’d like to try a historical romance or maybe a fantasy or sci-fi story, really dig into research and world building in a way I haven’t done before.

Have you ever killed a character? Was it traumatic for you? Though I don’t kill off any characters in Blended Notes per say, Grady is coping with the death of his estranged father, which brings up a lot of old grief for his grandparents who raised him, so this book does deal with death and loss quite a bit. It wasn’t really traumatic for me, I knew it was coming and it was necessary for Grady’s development, though Grady might disagree!

Favorite location you’ve ever written about? I have a new short story out right now called After the Sunset about two strangers who inherit a farm that’s set in the Snoqualmie Valley in Washington state, about an hour outside of Seattle. It’s the most incredible place I’ve ever been, like a magical forest with green moss covering everything and crystal clear water and these lush green mountains. I’ve been dying to write a story set there for a while, and finally had a plot to go with it.

What’s your favorite season and favorite activity for that season? Fall. Does bundling up in blankets, drinking a warm drink and reading count as an activity? Or is that really the only fall activity worth doing?

My Review:

Grady Dawson and Nico Takahashi made quite a splash in the country music scene when they fell for one another back in BROKEN RECORDS. Grady is an up-and-coming country singer and Nico a flamboyant stylist in LA, but they’ve relocated to Nashville and Nico, a private man, is settling into the celebrity status–not that he’s happy with some of the irate fans who blame him for Grady “dumping” a popular female country singer…

It’s good though. They’re planning their secluded, paparazzi-free, wedding and a life together. Only, well, Grady’s under pressure to change the single he wants to release on his forthcoming album. It’s a love song he wrote for Nico, and clearly talks about deep love between men–a topic too scandalous for the record label’s management. In fact, they’re holding up the release of his album until he makes the change which puts Grady into a “Breach of Contract” situation. And, the potential for Grady to lose everything–money, property, and his recorded music–in a lawsuit is high. It’s enough to drive Grady into depression, and kills his muse.

Add to this, Nico’s struggling with the wedding plans, the lack of privacy, and Grady’s self-isolation. He wants to help Grady find his bearings, and this might include opening some rather deep wounds in the hunt for Grady’s parents to be guests at the wedding. Grady’s been so long estranged, he has no desire to reconnect, but he might not have a choice.

This was an interesting read, with a lyrical and nostalgic tone. Grady tells this whole book from start to finish, and we get some insights into the darkness of his childhood, which includes substance abuse, abandonment and poverty. He was raised by his grandparents from early childhood because his too-young parents couldn’t stay employed or sober. I loved the realistic experiences we re-live through Grady’s memories. The juxtaposition lends a palpable fear to the legal battle Grady’s refusal to re-write his love song brings to his present. What if he’s soon-to-be destitute? Should he even marry Nico who could be saddled with Grady’s debt? And, should Grady just swallow his artistic pride and re-record the song so it’s palatable to heterosexuals? This quandary of conscience forms the biggest conflict of the book, and it’s both poignant and easily accessible to the reader.

The resolution to the conflicts are interesting and engaging. I had already lost my heart to Nico, but he swept me off my feet again with all his changes to accommodate Grady and their life together. Likewise, Grady’s tension and inner conflicts are so raw and exposed that he’s impossible not to connect with on multiple levels. Bits of steam here and there, but those aren’t the parts that struck me hardest. The end of the plot lines are so positive that it’s beyond HEA. These characters are ones to root for and cheer on throughout, and their happiness merits multiple celebrations. Good thing we get to experience it over and again.

Interested? You can find BLENDED NOTES on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Target, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this a Rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press gift card or one of FIVE ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and Broken Records, which was named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews Magazine.

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