More Than a Cup of TEA–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet M/M trans romance from Matthew Metzger. TEA is the first book in his Cup of John series and features a big, burly, self-conscious laborer falling hard for a beautiful blind man…at first sight. There’s struggles and hurt/comfort, and a story that had me turning the pages.

About the book:
John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

How about a yummy taste?

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

My Review:
John is a big, burly, electrician whose last lover turned out to be a two-timing arse. Daniel had never planned to be a true partner to John, and turned on John is a terrible betrayal that’s left John concerned that he’s maybe more forceful with his lovers than he intended to be. Mired in low self-esteem and self-doubt, he’s stopped dating for the past 9 months.

He stumbles into a crowded tea shop one rainy afternoon and meets the most beautiful younger man. Chris invites John to share his table for tea. John accepts, entranced by Chris’s charm–and it’s a comfortable chat. John’s confused why someone so lovely would flirt with an ugly mug like him so openly, but soon realizes that Chris is blind. And, he’s sure it would be bad for him to accept Chris’ invitation for a date. Yet, lonely and buzzing with excitement, John agrees.

Over the course of several dates, spanning weeks, Chris and John spend more and more time together. Chris reveals the source of his blindness, and his daily battle with severe epilepsy. It’s also a bit of a surprise that Chris is transgender. John’s so caught up in love, that he’s willing to pursue a relationship–even though he’s sure outsiders will have a bad impression of such a thug “caring” for a blind man. As Chris notes, he’s always seen as an invalid, and anyone with him as a carer, not a partner.

John’s troubles with his past lover leads him to keep Chris a bit of a secret. He’s afraid to make any mistakes–and it ends up isolating Chris, for a bit. In order for John to develop a healthy relationship, it’s clear he needs to seek outside help–and it’s a good moment for him to reflect on the emotional damage he’s been hiding. I felt as though this all read very strongly true. Chris and John each have challenges they need to face–sometimes together and sometimes alone. They do support each other well, and John comes to terms with his self-hatred through careful introspection. It’s a tender experience, and I think I adored both John and Chris in equal measure. I’m glad it’s the first book in a series because I’d like to spend more time with these guys in the future.

Interested? You can find TEA on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Catch up with Matthew on his website or Twitter.

Coming Soon! HIS SCANDALOUS VISCOUNTESS

Hi there! Today I’m getting the word out about a sexy new historical romance coming soon from Sorcha Mowbray. HIS SCANDALOUS VISCOUNTESS is the third book in the Lustful Lords series, and one I’m eager to devour. I totally loved both HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS and TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS, so I’m surely going to clear my book queue for this new addition when it releases February 15th.

About the book:
Once upon a time, a boy and a girl fell in love…but prestige, power, and a shameful secret drove them apart.

Julia fled abroad after the death of her husband, Lord Fallthorpe. She has finally returned to England, but little has changed.

Except for her.

As a dowager marchioness, Julia lives and loves where she pleases. And the obnoxious son of her dead husband does not please. But what can an independent woman do? Why, create a scandal, of course!

Viscount Wolfington is no stranger to the wagging tongues of the ton. Between being a Lustful Lord and the scandal of his birth, he learned long ago that society had little use for him. So when he walks into The Market and finds the woman who once stole his heart being auctioned for a night of debauchery, he jumps at another chance to hold her–even for just a single night.

As Julia and Wolf unravel their pasts, will villainy win again, or will love finally conquer all?

Interested? While HIS SCANDALOUS VISCOUNTESS won’t be out until Feb 15th, you can pre-order it on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

You can also find HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS on Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay.

And, don’t forget TAMING HIS HELLION COUNTESS on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and GooglePlay.

About the Author:
Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.

She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!

For more information about Sorcha, please visit her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads. Join Sorcha’s newsletter to be the first to hear about upcoming releases. She’s loves hearing from her readers.

He was her DRAGON CLAIMED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-published dragon-shifter romance from Donna Grant. DRAGON CLAIMED is a novella in her Dark Kings series, (Book 14.5!) and really best enjoyed when read in order. I’ve liked SMOKE AND FIRE, FIRESTORM, BLAZE, and DRAGON BURN, so I’m eager to reach the “climax” of this sexy series.

About the book:
Born to rule the skies as a Dragon King with power and magic, Cináed hides his true identity in the mountains of Scotland with the rest of his brethren. But there is no respite for them as they protect the planet and the human occupants from threats. However, a new, more dangerous enemy has targeted the Kings. One that will stop at nothing until dragons are gone forever. But Cináed discovers a woman from a powerful, ancient Druid bloodline who might have a connection to this new foe.

Solitude is sanctuary for Gemma. Her young life was upended one stormy night when her family disappears, leaving her utterly alone. She learned to depend solely on herself from then on. But no matter where she goes she feels…lost. As if she missed the path she was supposed to take. Everything changes when she backs into the most dangerously seductive man she’s ever laid eyes. Gemma surrenders to the all-consuming attraction and the wild, impossible love that could destroy them both – and finds her path amid magic and dragons.

My Review:
Cináed is a Dragon King who has a talent for learning any skill with ease. He’s working on looking for any clues to the shadowy folks who’ve been trying to reveal and destroy the Dragon Kings to the world. While searching old newspapers for oddities, he comes across the story of a young girl who was found abandoned on a deserted isle off the Scottish coast. Cináed is captivated by the story, and asks some of the other Dragon Kings to assist him in finding out what happened to her.

Little Gemma had been trying to flee their island from a dangerous storm, but she returned to land to save their dog. The boat disappeared and she knew it was due to a great evil force–one she felt when she returned to her abandoned house. She was rescued a few weeks later–with no sign of her parents or brother. She grew up in foster care, and now makes a living as a freelance researcher. Cináed tracks her down to, unbelievably, the town just outside of Dreagan’s distillery and it’s there they connect.

Gemma’s drawn to Cináed like no other man she’s known, but she’s not willing to trust anyone with her secrets–until Cináed reveals some of his own. Then, Gemma finds herself on the hunt for answers to where her family disappeared to–and what being might have been the cause of it. Cináed is sure there’s a link to Usaeil, the Queen of the Light Fae, but Gemma’s past is still murky, yet important. Gemma must face her darkest fears, and the truth of her past, to ever find happiness in the future.

I liked this one. It’s a quickie of a read, with Gemma and Cináed realizing they are fated mates after a few interactions. Gemma’s childhood trauma made for a suspenseful opening and closing, with plenty of intrigue mixed in once Cináed found out her true name–and powers. It was an entertaining novella, and sure to please the fans of the series.

Interested? You can find DRAGON CLAIMED 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!

Dodging Past a HALF-LIFE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance with some paranormal elements from Gregory L. Norris. HALF-LIFE is a fast paced novella that pits cousin against cousin, and true love against dark magic for the fate of some rather nice fellas.

About the book:
Whitney Abbott travels to the seaside Maine town of Window to begin a new life in his uncle’s home. Robert Abbott is well-to-do and owns several high-end restaurants. Whitney will start at the bottom and work his way up at the flagship. But from the moment Whitney exits his car in the drive of the big, brooding house, he senses the sinister atmosphere surrounding his relations.

His cousin November, princess of the estate, feigns joy at having Whitney in town. And November’s handsome athlete boyfriend, Griffin, is an enigma. Soon after his arrival, Griffin warns Whitney to leave. With nowhere to go—and certain that his attraction to Griffin goes both ways—Whitney is drawn into November’s malevolent plans. Plans that will pit Whitney against dark supernatural forces in order to save both his and Griffin’s lives.

How about a little taste?

I hit the switch. The familiar cold, white glare from the overhead lights rained across the kitchen, prep station, and the industrial dishwasher, scenes of so many long shifts and leg cramps. The light did little to remove the greater darkness that hung over the back of my uncle’s restaurant. The gloom swirling outside had followed me into Abbott’s Table, one of your finer dining establishments along this part of Maine’s Rocky Headlands. Rain pelted the oblong window above the prep-station sink, where I’d cleaned and breaded untold thousands of shrimp. The ghostly aroma of garlic, lobster, and grilled meat hung over the place. Cloying, with an edge of lemon cleaner.

“Hello?” I called.

My heart hammered against my ribcage. I imagined my balls shriveling up against the root of my dick. An icy finger stroked my spine.

“Anyone here? It’s me, Whitney.”

Identifying myself made the creeping sensation even worse. The darkness had pursued me, constantly there at the periphery hiding in shadowy corners. Here in my uncle’s flagship restaurant after hours, the unwanted attention from sinister powers was more tangible, more intimate. I choked down a heavy swallow to find my mouth had gone completely dry.

“Griffin, it’s me. I saw your truck in the lot,” I said, aware of how my lips risked a smile at the mention of his name. Griffin. My heart raced for different reasons after that. “Griff?”

I checked the kitchen—empty. Willing my legs forward, I pushed past the rightward pair of swivel doors, hearing the awful voice of the restaurant’s manager, Marc with a c—Always keep to the right, that’s how it’s done at Abbott’s Table. The dining room sat dark and empty, chairs stacked upside down over tabletops, the floors swept, mopped, and shiny under the green glow of the exit lights.

I checked the bar and both of the public heads, finding the same result: no Griffin. My pulse continued its mad speed. Danger juice soured in my bloodstream. His truck in the far corner of the Abbott’s Table parking lot could have meant a hundred different things on any other night—Griffin out having fun with some of his hockey league buddies, late fun, guy stuff. I knew he wasn’t with the Ice Queen. No, after what had happened and the kiss that followed, Griffin wouldn’t have gone back to confront my cousin, November Abbott.

That kiss…

For a wonderful instant, the storm cloud dissolved, and I was in my car again, his big hand cupping my cheek, his mouth crushed over mine, claiming me as his and offering me all he had to give in return. I remembered the warm scent of pinesap, of Griffin’s magnificent body, the swell of his erection pressing against me as we kissed, and the certainty that what we both felt, while undeniably physical, went past simple attraction. Dare I again think it? Love.

I loved Griffin, and he loved me.

The rain pounding the world outside the restaurant’s windows unleashed eerie silver dapples across the dining room. I stood pondering, waiting for a sound, a sign. When none came, I turned and hastened back in the direction of the kitchen exit.

“Whitney…”

I dug in my sneaker treads on the rubber mat set between the kitchen and rear door, at first thinking I’d hallucinated Griffin’s voice. But then I faced the direction of the sound and found myself staring at the one corner of the restaurant I hadn’t thought to search: the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

Reaching the big stainless-steel door seemed to take longer than the actual few seconds. I tugged on the latch. The door resisted, as though someone was pulling at the same time from the other side. The inner voice that had told me a week earlier to turn around, to not travel north to the town of Window, Maine, was back, urging me to get out. Just leave. Run!

I drew in a breath, smelling the rain, the kitchen’s funk, and the trace of clean, athletic sweat from the T-shirt I wore—Griffin’s sweat, and Griffin’s shirt, borrowed on an afternoon that now felt part of another decade. I pulled harder. The door released. A gust of cold, foggy air billowed out.

The front part of the walk-in was already lit up from inside, even though the light switch was off. I pushed through the long plastic strips of the freezer curtain and into the wide space that housed expensive cuts of tomahawk steaks, bins of heirloom tomatoes and other fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, and, I discovered, one sacrificial altar.

I froze, my eyes recording details—the waxy candles, three, burning around the body on the folding table, the sprigs of Datura stramonium Devil’s Snare flowers draped around the nude man’s corpse laid out in a funeral pose. I recognized the patch of hairy, athletic lower leg, upon which a winged lion had been inked.

“Griffin,” I gasped.

A breeze that hadn’t been there the previous second whispered through the walk-in, stirring the leaves of bunches of basil, parsley, and other fresh herbs. My paralysis broke. I moved beside the table, my eyes wide, not blinking. Griffin, naked, his hands folded over his midriff. Even as I reached my trembling fingers toward his and the voice in my head screamed for me to run—run from the restaurant, from Window, Maine, and, above all else, from Griffin—my eyes recorded the pallor of his skin. Griffin’s flesh was gray in the flickering candlelight.

My hand covered his. A chill raced up my fingertips. He was icy to the touch. No, impossible—hours before, in that other era, he’d held me, kissed me. And I had seen proof of our tomorrow together even as the storm clouds raced over our heads. Griffin had pledged his love and promised to return.

I glanced at Griffin’s big jock feet—still sexy despite their grayness, up his legs, past his junk, and all the way to his eyes, clamped shut. I gripped his hands, the fingers interlaced in prayer, and squeezed.

“Griffin!”

The dead man’s eyes shot open. Gone was their beyond-blue color—what I’d come to think of as twin sapphire gemstones. What focused upon me now was a pair of predator’s eyes with a wolf’s silver sharpness. The hands beneath my fingers abandoned their illusion of prayer and seized hold of my arm. I shrieked, attempting to pull away. Right before the corpse’s legs swung out and the altar collapsed, toppling candles, I saw Griffin’s mouth open. He licked his lips. His teeth chattered. The dead man salivated hungrily.

And then his weight spilled on top of me, and he was snapping at my throat.

My Review:
Eighteen year old aspiring poet Whitney Abbott knows he isn’t welcome to his Uncle Robert’s estate in Window, Maine. Having no job or skills, he’s accepted the offer to come and work in one of his uncle’s upscale restaurants. Now that his parents have lost their home, Whitney also a place to live. Uncle Robert is a wealthy man, with a single daughter, November, who has always hated Whitney. She made any of his previous visits unbearable, and he’s suspicious of her saccharine demeanor when he arrives.

Whitney immediately meets Griffin, a near-twentyish young man who is affable, and inexplicably dating November–even though his gaze burns hot over Whitney. In a few moments of unguarded candor, Griffin warns Whitney there’s danger here, and to run while he can. Whitney isn’t taken by November’s ploys, and he questions November’s intentional use of Devil’s Snare in and around the home. Is she weaving it into necklaces for her father and Griffin to wear? And, why do they seem occasionally dead-eyed and extra-responsive to any of her demands? He’s just ingenious enough to wonder if there’s some sort of witchcraft going down, which preps him for the big showdown.

I liked the lyrical quality of this one, though I think the beginning was a bit too explicit in terms of plot. I would have rather a more gradual coming to understanding of all the quirks of this locale and Whitney’s relations. I was charmed by how sweet Whitney is, and how his immediate connection with Griffin grows into a life-saving love. As it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of time to develop a giant story arc, but this one was interesting and I had to shake my head in amusement regarding the manner in which Whitney revives Griffin from November’s power. Seriously, that was some amazeballs oral. In the end true, love reigns and November’s shenanighans seem to be halted. Expect the fair Whitney to save the day, and his new lover.

Interested? You can find HALF-LIFE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker.

Follow his literary adventures on his blog, Facebook, and twitter.

Falling for his DUCHESS BY DECEPTION–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new historical romance from bestselling author Marie Force. DUCHESS BY DECEPTION is so different from the other books I’ve read from this author, including FATAL THREAT and CAN’T BUY ME LOVE.

About the book:
In New York Times bestselling author Marie Force’s dazzling historical romance debut, the clock is ticking for a wealthy Duke who must marry by his thirtieth birthday—or lose his title…

Derek Eagan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essex—and encounters a man digging on his property. Except he’s not a man. He’s a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.

Catherine McCabe’s disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Duke’s home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Duke’s estate manager.

Derek realizes two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derek’s lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscount’s pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over again—this time with the Duke?

My Review:
This historical romance is set in Essex, England at the turn of the 20th century–so, around the time of electricity, the birth of the automobile, the beginnings of modern flight-machines and new-fangled indoor plumbing.

Derek Eagan, the Duke of Westwood, is less than a fortnight from his thirtieth birthday, and must marry or risk losing his estate to his greedy uncle. The details of his entailment require a marriage before his birthday, but Derek refuses to marry a simpering debutante and flees the ballroom scenes for his country estate. Upon his arrival, he encounters a person digging on his property. Derek mistakes the intruder for a man, but is surprised to find she’s a very ill woman. He brings her to his home, but pretends to be his estate manager–on account of the beautiful young Catherine being very much opposed to the aristocracy.

Catherine is a learned woman, recently made a “Lady” due to her father inheriting an earldom. Before that, Catherine had taught reading and writing to the local village children, and rode horses for sport. As a Lady, she’s too old to vie for a husband in the ballrooms of London, but her father has suddenly betrothed her to a vile viscount, one who isn’t above taking what he wants without waiting for a marriage license. Catherine, fearing the dreaded marriage ran off in the night and began the search for a key to untold treasure buried by her own grandmother ages ago. Derek is intrigued by the story of the riches left on his estate–he’s long known about the safebox this key would open–but he’s enraged about the viscount’s advances, and only wants to keep the lovely Catherine safe. It’s in this vein that he helps her escape to Gretna Green for an elopement–only, he hasn’t quite told Catherine that he’s the duke. And, well, the whole get married before the birthday thing probably isn’t going to go over well, either….once Catharine finds out.

This was a fast-paced romance with Catherine and Derek falling quickly for one another. Catherine isn’t amused when she learns her husband’s true identity–or his requirements for the inheritance. They have some serious problems, as a matter of fact, but some of this is smoothed over by Derek’s immense ardor for Catherine, who he considers a love match. He’s lucky that Catherine’s sister is a fan of his–she goes a long way to smoothing things over. I liked how spirited Catherine is, and how she stood up for herself in ways that didn’t feel artificial. Derek wounded her emotionally, and she doesn’t let it go until she’s sure he’s truly sorry. Plus, He makes it right in many awesome ways. There’s a lot of sexytimes–for Catherine and her younger sister, because we have a little story-within-a-story happening. That was yummy fun, especially as Derek and his cousin are well-skilled at the art of lovemaking. These two sisters get so much more than they bargained for, but mostly they find lovers and friends who they happily marry.

This is a standalone romance, but I can see that there will be another book coming–likely featuring a couple of wealthy bachelors that were good friends of Derek. I’d gladly read more!

Interested? You can find DUCHESS BY DECEPTION on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Plus.

About the Author:
Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance, including the indie-published Gansett Island Series and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series. In 2019, her new historical Gilded series from Kensington Books will debut with Duchess By Deception.

All together, her books have sold 6.5 million copies worldwide, have been translated into more than a dozen languages and have appeared on the New York Times bestseller list many times. She is also a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller, a Speigel bestseller in Germany, a frequent speaker and publishing workshop presenter as well as a publisher through her Jack’s House Publishing romance imprint. She is a two-time nominee for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award for romance fiction.

Her goals in life are simple—to finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.

Join Marie’s mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram. Check out her website or join one of Marie’s many reader groups.

ANTON Risks it All–A Review


Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary hockey romance from Brenda Rothert. ANTON is the first book in her Chicago Blaze series, and it’s a great start. Star pro hockey player Anton Petrov has one woman on his mind–the one he’s remained celibate for for over two years. Too bad she’s married to his teammate…

About the book:
He’s known as Father Anton to his teammates—the brooding, sexy captain of the NHL’s Chicago Blaze has a reputation for…not having a reputation. Just like his diet and sleep routines, celibacy is part of Anton Petrov’s on-ice mojo. Or so they say. Anton stays mum on the subject. If the world thinks he chooses to abstain from sex, so be it. Better that than the truth getting out: there is a woman he burns for, but he can never have her. She’s his teammate’s wife, after all.

Mia Marceau is finally on her own. Now that she and her husband are living apart, she’s finding the peace she was desperate for. She spends her days in classes and late nights bartending, making her own way in the world at last. After what she’s been through, as long as her husband leaves her alone, she doesn’t plan to rock the boat. He still has the power to hurt those dearest to her, and she can’t demand a divorce with such a high cost.

A chance encounter with Mia has Anton hoping for a shot he never thought he’d get. And while she’s drawn to the intense, serious hockey center, Mia’s leery about playing with fire. That’s all Anton has ever known for Mia, though—a living, burning desire that won’t be denied—no matter the cost.

My Review:
**Trigger warning–this book contains scenes of emotional and physical domestic violence.

Anton Petrov has had a challenging life. Born in Russia, he and his twin Alexei were shipped to Michigan for hockey training at the age of five. Anton had to work twice as hard to perform at the same level as Alexei, who has natural talent he barely nurtures. Alexei is on a rival team, but the brothers are very close. Anton is nearly Spartan in his approach to life–no booze, bad food or late nights when he’s in season. It’s been easy to keep away from entanglements, since the only woman who’s caught his eye in the past three years is Mia Marceau–wife of his teammate, Adam. Out one night with Alexei, Anton finds Mia working as a bartender at a dive bar in Chicago’s south side. How could Adam let this happen? Unless, they’ve split up…

Mia’s finally free of Adam’s emotional abuse, but she doesn’t have access to any of their money–he froze her out the second she left, and now he refuses to divorce her and extorts the funds to care for her beloved grandpa–he won’t pay unless she gives him sex. As destitute as she is, she can’t refuse Adam’s demands and risk her grandpa being put on the street. Though mired in Alzheimer’s disease, her gramps raised her when her mother flaked and Mia’s his only family. Even though Adam won’t grant Mia a divorce, she’s moved out and is taking night classes to complete her degree. She won’t be beholden to another man. Ever.

Meeting Anton at the bar is cataclysmic. Mia’s afraid that Anton will reveal her workplace to Adam, but he wants no part of that. All Anton wants is to be close to Mia–as a friend if that’s all she will allow. Not that he wants to break up her marriage–or will make a move on her while she’s still married. He hates that she walks home from the bar late at night, and starts popping by to give her a ride. They chat, and Mia begins to confide in Anton as a friend. Learning the depth of Adam’s abuse makes problems for Anton–he can’t respect Adam and it nearly comes to blows. When Anton needs a sitter for his adopted uncle, a foul-mouthed veteran who’s suffered two strokes, he reaches out to Mia–and she jumps at the chance to help because the salary is way more than she made at the bar. BOnus, she gets to be near Anton, who’s open admiration are a balm to her broken spirit.

This is a bittersweet romance for two lonely souls that are hungering for real love. Anton watches the shenanigans of his teammates and brother, but knows that’s not the life for him. He honors his commitment to be Mia’s friend, and he does this to the letter–even helping her find a pro bono attorney to help with her divorce. Adam’s emotional and financial abuse escalates when it looks as if Mia might escape his control once and for all, and that leads to some really huge conflicts in the book. I liked how this worked out–with Mia’s friends coming to her aid, but with her being a much stronger person and taking back the control Adam tried to steal. For me, there was a bit of repetitiveness in the book that bogged the pace, and it’s a REALLY slow burn due to Anton and Mia needing her divorce to happen and her to become mostly independent in order to feel able to take Anton as a lover. In the meantime there’s hockey and personal tragedy, and a super strong bond that only grows the longer they wait.

There’s just a bit of sexytimes near the end, and they are most satisfying. I love how supportive Anton is, without pushing Mia around with his wealth. I liked Mia a lot, and–as I am a South Side girl as well–I admired her independence and pragmatism. I was disappointed with Mia’s character development, because she’s a described as mixed-race black woman but she could have been any-woman. There is a lack of anything culturally-relevant in her character or mannerisms. That was a short-coming for me. Ultimately, the romance is sweet, the bad guy gets what’s coming to him, and there’s more hockey romance headed our way soon….for two side characters in this story.

Interested? You can find ANTON on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

About the Author:
Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

You can find Brenda on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Wattpad, Amazon, or sign up for her newsletter.
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