Barely Surviving A TOUCH OF DANGER-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M shifter/paranormal romance from Elaine White. A TOUCH OF DANGER is the first book in the Surviving Vihaan series that features some shifters, and other former shifters, making their way on Earth.

About the book:
Drew’s life sucks. Saving money to escape his homophobic family is one thing, but his only paying gig at the moment is playing his father’s “only gay in the village” plus-one to every LGBT friendly business event.

Then his brother comes up with a plan. Sheffield needs someone to go undercover for his police investigation. Drew has all the qualifications: he’s gay, he has experience with exotic animals, and he’s college-aged. And he’s easily bought.

Going undercover to solve the mystery of a college campus smuggling ring was never in his plans. Neither was hot, perfect, house captain Rylee. The inside jokes about cats, animal prints, and talk of a place called Vihaan that forbids same-sex relationships, are just the tip of the suspicious iceberg.

Little does Drew know that he’s about to expose more than an illegal smuggling operation. The truth could be more lethal than he could imagine. And, despite it all, it might be his own secret past that kills him before the truth can be unveiled.

My Review:
Drew is a mid-20s out gay man who’s been shunned by his homophobic family for years. The only reason a recent reconciliation was made was because his wealthy and powerful father required a token gay attendee at work events. Having supported himself and his education by scraping by–and surviving an abusive D/s relationship–Drew is amenable to a bit of familial support, even if it comes with ties. Right now, he’s earning it going undercover for his brother Sheffield, a detective investigating a college frat for exotic animal smuggling. Drew is the perfect mole to discover if the gay frat brothers are keeping or selling big cats on the black market; he’s worked in zoos rehabilitating abused felines and is seeking a graduate degree in veterinary science.

Drew turns up on the doorstep of the frat and is welcomed on a temporary basis by the house captain, Rylee, who also offers him a spare bed in his own room. It’s a weird night with an inconvenient attraction and a blatant invite for sex from Rylee who manages his attraction to Drew in an awkward display. Yeah. Weird. In the next days, Drew is invited to stay more permanently, especially as Rylee senses that Drew has a secret lurking beneath his skin. Drew’s attempts to uncover the smuggling operation yield more questions than answers–and a tighter bond with his new house mates.

This was meant to be a mystery, I think, with the investigation that Drew is hatching, but his answers don’t make sense–lot many of the plot points. Drew learns that many of his housemates are refugees from a realm called Vihaan, a land where people are cat shifters. These men have arrived in the human realm because they couldn’t conform to mating females, and same-sex matings are illegal in Vihaan. Before escaping Vihaan, Rylee had a male lover, who conveniently turns out to be the same Dom who had kidnapped Drew, kept him in a drug-addled state, and raped him. Now in the human realm, Rylee and his compatriots cannot shift, but they still have cat DNA, which keeps the cops returning to the house looking for animals. Rylee is nervous that Drew’s experience with a Vihaan on Earth will lead to Drew developing cat abilities.

Drew’s afraid that his brother will come into the house and arrest Rylee and the rest of the Vihaan refugees. It’s a likely scenario, even if there isn’t evidence of any smuggling going on. The residents are all aliens, with false documentation and there are some shenanigans with recently arrived Vihaan that is highly incriminating. This also setting aside the Vihaan’s distant relation Foame brethren who live in-house and CAN partially shift.

The story was really confusing, and relied so heavily on convenience that I got distracted easily and wasn’t satisfied with the mystery plot the blurb hinted at. The tension was low, the sexytimes were awkward, and there was a LOT of explanations to sort out the other frat house members and their plights–definitely hinting at future stories way too hard. In all, I found it incomprehensible as either a mystery or a romance. The characters felt stereotypical and the love story forced. Drew found everything way too fast, with little difficulty and zero tension. Rylee was creepy-weird and his antics extra strange. Despite the repetition and over-description issues, I still felt like I didn’t understand the hows and whys of Vihaan, and how these refugees managed to finance the charity work they did to support other Vihaans in this realm. I didn’t think that Drew was touched by danger so much as disaster.

Interested? You can find A TOUCH OF DANGER on Goodreads, currently on SALE at NineStar Press, otherwise, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple Books. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Elaine White is the author of multi-genre MM romance, celebrating ‘love is love’ and offering diversity in both genre and character within her stories. Growing up in a small town and fighting cancer in her early teens taught her that life is short and dreams should be pursued. She lives vicariously through her independent, and often hellion characters, exploring all possibilities within the romantic universe.

The Winner of two Watty Awards – Collector’s Dream (An Unpredictable Life) and Hidden Gem (Faithfully) – and an Honourable Mention in 2016’s Rainbow Awards (A Royal Craving) Elaine is a self-professed geek, reading addict, and a romantic at heart.

Connect with Elaine on her website, twitter and Tumblr.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Inexplicably Bound by DRAGON MAGIC-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M/M menage fantasy adventure/romance from Megan Derr. DRAGON MAGIC feature for unlikely heroes on a quest to save their land from a demon.

About the book:
Four strangers. A shared moment long forgotten. A bond forged in desperation.

On the first day of the Festival of Counting, the beginning of the royal census that takes place every ten years, the royal city is filled to overflowing. Everyone is happy, excited, and proud to be counted amongst those who live in the glorious kingdom of Orhanis.

Then a demon strikes, killing thousands in mere seconds and leveling the city. As the royal castle burns, only four men remain to drive the demon away—and in their desperation, accidentally bind themselves together in a legendary Oath, unable to part ways until they find and kill the demon once and for all.

Mahzan, the King’s Jester, an orphan who clawed his way to the top and hides a fearsome magic… Sule, the notorious North Captain, who sacrificed everything to live as a strong, capable, highly respected man… Cemal, a priest who traveled the continent bent on revenge and now lives lost… and Binhadi, the mercurial shadow mage with a dark history and bloody ties to the throne…

Four men used to standing apart, standing alone, who must learn to stand together if they hope to save themselves and all of Orhanis.

My Review:
I enjoyed this tale of four men and the magic that binds them together. Orhanis is a land of magic, though not everyone embraces it. We begin with the Counting, a time of census for the citizens, and people crowding to the city where Mahzan, one of the king’s jesters is entertaining the masses. He’s a cunning man with hidden magic, and the ability to soothe the tempers of many. He notices key members of the crowd, including Sule–the Captain of the North Guard, Cemal, a jokey priest, and Binhadi, last of the shadow mages in his family. Each of these men holds magic–secretly in the case of all but Binhadi.

It’s not long before a fearmonger (an ancient demon) turns up and kills…most everyone in the king’s hall and throughout the castle and royal city. The jester, the captain, the priest and the mage are spared by linking their magic talents, and sending the fearmonger into temporary retreat. This inadvertently binds the four into a magical oath. Over time, they discover the extent of their bond, which binds and magnifies their powers until they face and defeat the fearmonger. And, thus begins the quest.

Their travels and trials bind them ever closer, bending their partnership into physical companionship. The menage, when it comes to be, is well-developed from mutual hardships and intimacy shared. Mahzan leads the pack here, happy for companionship wherever he can find it. Sule, due to internalized transphobia from his family, is a little more reticent. They travel the country of Orhanis trying to discover the origin of the fearmonger, and uncovering the violent history of their nation and the current rulers.

Their suspicions and struggles are magnified through a mental link, part of the growing bond. This allowed each man to truly see the heart of the others, and make a real effort to support one antoher. When their battle with the fearmonger comes, they are ready to sacrifice all–and create the most fearsome magic their world has ever seen. Treachery has infiltrated Orhanis, however, and the Epilogue set into the distant future gives the reader insight into the effects of the battle. A few reviewers were frustrated about this POV switch, but for me it confirmed the evil festering in Orhanis was still present, and there was a plan to eradicate it once and for all. I enjoyed this adventure. There were issues with pacing, at times, and the many POVs was a tiny challenge, but I felt the creativity of the quest and the deep characterization outweighed the flaws in editing.

Interested? You can find DRAGON MAGIC on Goodreads, Less Than Three Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple Books. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Megan is a long time resident of m/m fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies (especially all things James Bond). She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all around the internet.

Check out Megan’s website, blog, twitter and Tumblr.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

The Intrigue Commences I BURIED A WITCH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M paranormal romance from Josh Lanyon. I BURIED A WITCH is the second book in her Bedknobs and Broomsticks series, and follows the travails of Cosmo Saville, a non-practicing witch who needs his magic to save himself from certain death…but doing so risks his new marriage to a magic-hating human. For the meet-cute love story, you’ll want to read MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT, first.

About the book:
Something old, something new, something borrowed…something blacker than the darkest night.

Cosmo Saville adores his new husband, but his little white lies—and some very black magic—are about to bring his fairytale romance to an end. Someone is killing San Francisco’s spellcasters—and the only person Cosmo can turn to—the man who so recently swore to love and cherish him—isn’t taking his phone calls.

The only magic Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith believes in is true love. Discovering he’s married to a witch—a witch with something alarmingly like magical powers—is nearly as bad as discovering the man he loved tricked and deceived him. John shoulders the pain of betrayal and packs his bags. But when he learns Cosmo is in the crosshairs of a mysterious and murderous plot, he knows he must do everything in in his mortal power to protect him.

Till Death do them Part. With their relationship on the rocks, Cosmo and Commissioner Galbraith join forces to uncover the shadowy figure behind the deadly conspiracy…

Can the star-crossed couple bring down a killer before the dark threat extinguishes true love’s flame?

I Buried a Witch is the second book in the smart and sexy Bedknobs and Broomsticks romantic gay mystery trilogy. If you like endearing characters, spell-binding conflict, and spooky, good fun, then you’ll love Josh Lanyon’s tale of a blue knight and his slightly wicked witch.

My Review:
Even though he hasn’t practiced his magic in a couple of years Cosmo Saville is a powerful witch. Duc of Westlands and second behind his mother in the succession line to the Abracadantes craft tradition, Cosmo’s just not that into all the traditions. It’s easier for him to blend into the non-magic world if he doesn’t use his magic for everyday tasks, and he’s mostly successful with the exception of portal traveling–that’s just plain practical magic, so he can avoid traffic and what-not. Cosmo owns an antique shop in San Francisco and he recently discovered a grisly murder of a competitor in his field. Cosmo was under suspicion, but his relationship with the San Francisco police commissioner–John Galbraith who is now his newlywed husband–halted the inquisition. Plus, the mad wife of the deceased tried to kill Cosmo at his wedding. So, she got locked up.

And Cosmo’s rather sure she’s innocent…of murdering her husband, in any case.

Trying to get John and his colleagues to see his points, however, are driving a wedge between Cosmo and John. And, John’s already cooling off when he learns that Cosmo is a bona fide witch. Did he ensorcel John? Because John’s very much against witchcraft in all it’s forms. His half-sister Jinx “pretends” to be into the craft, and John indulges her “fancy” but the more Cosmo digs into that relationship, it seems that a witch acquaintance of Jinx’s might have information about the uncanny disappearances of several witches in the Bay area.

Unwilling to let go of his suspicions, Cosmo digs deeper into his own magical heritage. He’s been warned against marrying a mortal, so he should know better than to expect one to stick around when the magic hits the fire, but Cosmo really loves John and is deeply heartbroken when John takes some steps back. Is Cosmo’s investigation bringing the killer closer sealing his own fate, or setting fire to the only good relationship he’s ever had?

I loved the story telling here, and how John’s police instincts help him understand Cosmo’s craft abilities. The intertwining of the families, and friends, that is only just beginning for this new couple is fraught with extra complications of historical witch hunters and a murderer who is clearly still at work. I really liked the way Cosmo sticks to his guns regarding who he truly is, and how John takes the necessary time to reconcile himself to the situation. There are a few scenes of martial bliss to balance the strife that awaits. In the end, I’m pretty sure John will fall even harder for Cosmo, because who couldn’t, really.

The big conflict is coming, now that we know who’s on the hunt for witches. And Cosmo’s family has been shattered just enough to create extra havoc. With John and Jinx in the mix, plus some of Cosmo’s dearest witch friends gone missing the tension is high. I’m really looking forward to the final installment.

Interested? You can find MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple Books. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Seeing Beyond the SHADOWS AND DREAMS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently re-released contemporary F/F paranormal mystery/romance from Alexis Hall. SHADOWS & DREAMS is the second book in the Kate Kane Paranormal Investigator series, and I am a fan! You should really read IRON & VELVET before this book, otherwise you will struggle to catch up with the plot.

About the book:
I like my women like I like my whiskey: liable to kill me.

The two parts of being a paranormal private investigator I could really do without are being forced to eat bananas by an animated statue with a potassium fixation, and being put on trial for murder by a self-appointed council of vampire oligarchs.

To be fair, I did kind of do it (the murder, not the bananas). But I was kind of saving my girlfriend, who is kind of one of them.

On top of this, I’ve also wound up with a primordial queen of the damned trying to strangle me in my dreams. And the conspiracy of undead wizards who tried to sacrifice me fifteen years ago has decided that now is the best possible time to give it another go.

Throw in the woman who left me for a tech start-up, the old girlfriend who I might sort of owe eternal mystical fealty to and a werewolf “it girl” who can’t decide if she wants to eat me in the good way or the bad way, and I’m beginning to think life would be easier if I made better choices. Then again, it’d be a whole lot less fun.

My Review:
Kate Kane is a take-no-shit PI who totally drinks whisky for breakfast. Her specialty is in paranormal cases, and she’s particularly suited to this being half-Fae. Her mum is the Queen of the Wild Hunt and Kate can draw on her mother’s strength and power when necessary. She’s recently begun a relationship with Julian St. Germain, a M-Fing vampire Prince. When living, Julian was a pudding-eating lesbian nun on a vatican-sanctioned mission to murder vampires.

Kate saved Julian in the previous story, but it came at the expense of another vampire prince, and now the vampire council is deciding if Kate should be executed for this crime. It was unavoidable, and the vampire knew this going in–gave Kate the go-ahead in the moment, yet it’s her word against…well, a lot of vamps want her dead because this might weaken Julian.

Also, Kate’s ex-boyfriend Patrick, a simpering vamp, is afraid Kate will somehow-in-someway interfere with his new relationship with a girl who is, unfortunately, being targeted by the same cadre of power seekers that nearly killed Kate years before. So, saving the girl (and the world!) means maybe interfering with Patrick, a bit. And, he’s always good for a self-conscious laugh.

In the meantime, Kate’s dreams are being overrun by an undead entity, and packs of feral vamps seem to be swarming London. The dream-vamp is in charge of these newbie vamps, or is she? Kate needs the help of her ex-girlfriend, the Witch Queen of London, to make sense of it all–and she’s going to reach out to another ex to help execute a big mission…to stop her own execution.

Sound complicated? It is. Kate runs in strange circles, powered by bananas and whiskey, and she makes more messes than she cleans up. She has debts to the biggest power brokers in the paranormal world, and well, she’s going to have to pay up soon. Maybe with her life.

There’s a dash of sexytimes here and there, but these are more bittersweet as Julian maintains distance in order to make Kate less of a target for the vampire council. The addition of Kate’s pseudo-golem, Elise, is an excellent foil to Kate’s salty narration. I’m eager to read on and figure out who’s really pulling out all the stops to become the most powerful paranormal personage in all of the world… Lots of danger, suspense and intrigue as we delve ever-deeper into London’s secret paranormal societies.

Interested? You can find SHADOWS & DREAMS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

Catch up with him on his website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Brave in a New World: HOW TO RUN WITH THE WOLVES–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share an audiobook review for the newest book in the Mad Creek universe from Eli Easton. HOW TO RUN WITH THE WOLVES is the fifth M/M canine shifter romance in this series and I absolutely adore them all. Check out my reviews for HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR and HOW TO SAVE A LIFE because this series is amazing.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter the $10 Amazon GC giveaway below!
About the book:
Zeus loves his job on the new Mad Creek Search & Rescue team, and his inner Saint Bernard is finally being used to his full potential. When he sees a mysterious and wild-looking quickened—a dog shifter—at an earthquake site in Alaska, Zeus is compelled to investigate. Zeus falls hard for the primal beauty of Timo and of Alaska itself. Both call to his deep canine soul. But the Quimmiq pack’s laws are as harsh as the Alaskan winters, and Timo is out of his reach.

Timo’s pack of dog shifters left their Inuit village generations ago and have lived wild ever since. Not trusting the “one-skinned,” and with their numbers dwindling, the Quimmiq are on the verge of extinction. Timo is shocked to discover a whole group of “two-skinned” working as a rescue team, and he is particularly fascinated by Zeus, a gentle giant. He senses what Zeus feels for him… but it’s forbidden.

Can Mad Creek save this lost quickened clan? Perhaps—if they can learn how to run with the wolves.

My Review:
I listened to the audiobook version, so if my spellings are off–it’s because I don’t have a print copy to verify the names.

Zeus Barkley is a Saint Bernard quickened, which in this world means that he can assume the form of a man, or a Saint Bernard. He was born a quickened pup to two Saint Bernard shifters who are a happily mated couple in Mad Creek, California–the location of a huge quickened community. Zeus works for the California forest service, and has recently returned to Mad Creek, following his college educaiton, and training and working for the forest service. He’s surprised at how many quick now live in Mad Creek–and a little unsettled. Zeus likes a quiet life, and he’s very at-home amongst the forest trees and his peaceful cabin. Given his size, education, and experience in the human world, Zeus is soon tapped to join a Rescue Squad of quickened from Mad Creek. This is headed up by another forest service employee, Matt, who is not quick, but has mated with a quick, Deputy Sheriff Roman Charsguard.

Mad Creek’s rescue squad is called into service to help find survivors in the rubble of Anchorage following a big earthquake. Zeus finds an Inuit man who invites the who squad to his remote village in thanks for the rescue. Zeus also meets a native quick, Timo, who engages Zeus to help find his sister, Hitty, who has been trapped in a cave due to the earthquake. The Inuit man Zeus rescued says Timo is a Quimmiq, a mythical man-dog, and promises Zeus will learn more if he travels to his home village. There, not only do the Mad Creek folks learn the stories of sled dogs who became human, Zues is “kidnapped” by Timo and friends to become part of the Quimmiq pack.

Unable and unwilling to join the pack as a breeder, Zeus and Timo convince the pack alpha, Timo’s brother Yuki, to allow both Timo and Hitty to travel to Mad Creek to learn about the shifter population there. Yuki wants to learn the secret to good health of the pack–the Quimmiq pups have been dying and their pack is dwindling. Hitty herself is a sickly Quimmiq, small and born with congenital issues that might he managed in the “one-skinned” (human) world.

As an audiobook, the story rolls out in good time. Pacing and descriptions are on-point and evocative. We have alternating point of view, between Timo and Zeus, and their voices were clearly different–Zeus having a deep bass that is resonant and commanding without being brash. Timo is a trickster of a character, and we see his cunning and playful qualities, by turns. He isn’t as suspicious of Zeus and Mad Creek as Yuki is, and he’s twice as determined to find out why the Quimmiq are dying, but without giving away his pack’s weakness if he can. His parts are filled with concern and carefully couched language. And, the more time he spends with Zeus, the happier Timo is. He’s especially happy sharing couch time watching NatGeo with Zeus and sleeping (platonically) in that big soft bed…also with Zeus.

Quimmiq have different standards of modesty, and Zeus, as an acknowledged introvert, is far more prudish than most of the Mad Creek quick. It’s charming to witness his embarrassment and discomfort with his unexpected arousal for Timo. Meanwhile, Timo covers his lack of education and understanding with imperious requests. His thoughts on phones and their use are fun and real. He’s not sure why he’s jealous whenever people take an interest in Zeus, but he definitely likes having Zeus’ attention. He’s befuddled about the same-sex couples in Mad Creek, and asks direct questions about those situations where people will answer them. For Timo, mating is to produce pups–because that is his experience and model in Alaska. Could he take Zeus as a mate? Only in Mad Creek, where there are so many “two-skinned” (quick) and no alpha to get in the way. Yuki would never allow to virile healthy two-skinned like Timo and Zeus to mate–unless Timo can get the secret to making healthy pups and save his pack.

Because this book is the fifth in a series, we meet many characters whose stories appeared earlier. The book does a good job of clarifying who all these people are, and provides enough backstory that new readers won’t feel lost. Also, they interleave with one another well–Lance from book 1 is a confidante to Zeus since they grew up together in Mad Creek. He helps Zeus see that communication is key. Roman and Matt from Book 2 are supports to Zeus when things get dicey with Timo. Dr. Jason Kunik and Milo from Book 3 get to the root of the Quinniq breeding troubles–and Milo’s really helpful with managing Hitty’s medical problems. Curing Hitty is a tricky issue for Timo, who doesn’t trust one-skinned medicine, yet, seeing her thrive for the first time in her life? It shatters barriers Timo didn’t know existed. Like, the barrier to his own happiness, mating with Zeus. Rav from Book 4 provides the transport to and from Alaska, by means of the cargo planes that arrive at Mad Creek’s distribution center.

Every time I pick up one of these books, I’m astounded by the creativity and imagination in the storytelling. I want there to be a dozen more books, so I can keep dropping into this world and fall in love all over again with the many characters I’ve grown with over the years. It’s a slow burn but Timo and Zeus have their happy ending, and I’m thinking we’ll see more stories up in the Alaska setting, now that quickened folks have joined the Quinniq pack.

Interested? You can find HOW TO RUN WITH THE WOLVES on Goodreads, Amazon and Audible (US or UK).

And, don’t forget to  check out the previous books in this dog-gone fun series….
HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR, and HOW TO SAVE A LIFE.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 Amazon GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published more than 30 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
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A Path To Discovery OUT ON THE ICE–Audiobook Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new New Adult M/M romance from Lane Hayes. OUT ON THE ICE is the fifth book in her Out in College series, and features a college hockey player falling for a college baseball player. Catch my reviews for OUT IN THE DEEP END, OUT IN THE END ZONE, and OUT IN THE OFFENSE, for more info.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
About the book:
Colby Fischer is a bad boy with attitude and a chip on his shoulder. As a senior at a Southern California college, he knows this may be his last shot. He doubts he’ll ever become the hockey legend he dreamed of being as a kid, but he definitely doesn’t want to be an accountant. Things get interesting when he’s asked to train the new intern at his step-dad’s firm, who happens to be the troublemaker from his econ class. And the one guy Colby can’t stand.

Baseball is Sky Jameson’s life. He’s happy to be back at Chilton for his senior year, but he’s burned a few bridges and has a bit too much free time off-season. He could use the money and something to keep him busy until his season begins. But his accidental crush on his prickly coworker could be a problem. Colby is straight and Sky is in the closet. Their timing isn’t great, but the intense attraction is hard to deny. With his final season on the hockey team in the balance, Colby may have to decide if he’s ready to come out on the ice.

How about a yummy taste?

“What position do you play?” Sky asked, pealing the label off his water bottle.

“Right wing. Forward. Think of soccer where the front line moves the ball down the field. We do the same with the puck.”

“I know how it works. I’ve watched a lot of hockey.”

“Have you ever played?” I asked.

“No. Baseball was always number one for me. Besides, hockey is kind of…rough. There’s always a fight. And the game moves so fast, it’s hard to see the puck sometimes.”

“Not if you pay attention.” I raised my beer bottle in a mock toast and grinned. “And I like it rough.”

Sky pursed his lips and stared at me…or maybe he was staring at my throat. I couldn’t tell. “Me too. But not on the field. It distracts from the game.”

“In hockey, it’s part of the game. If you can’t defend yourself, your teammates, and the ice, you have no right to be out there. Might as well take up ice dancing or something,” I snarked, only half kidding. “And no offense, but ice dancing is a hell of a lot more entertaining than baseball. Trust me, I know. I played Little League for a couple of years. I used to beg the coach not to put me in the outfield. Geez, you could take a fuckin’ nap out there some days, you know?”

Sky laughed. “Fuck you. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Baseball is a game of strategy.”

“Strategy my ass,” I huffed, smiling to take the sting from my words…even though I kinda meant it. “It’s one of those weird sports where everyone gets pumped when nothing happens. ‘Oh, it’s a no-hitter. That’s amazing!’ Sure…but nothing fuckin’ happened! No one hit the ball, no one rounded the bases, no one slid to home plate. No one had to even wash their damn uniforms! And you know why?”

“Why?”

“’Cause nothin’ fuckin’ happened,” I replied, taking a long sip of my beer as I let the sweet sound of Sky’s laughter wash over me.

God, he had a great laugh. It made me like him a little more. And yeah, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, I liked Sky. He was smart, talented, easy on the eyes, and he had a sense of humor.

“That just proves baseball players are smarter than hockey players,” he taunted.

“Said no one anywhere ever.” I held my hands up in surrender when he flipped me off. “Hey, I’m kidding. I like baseball fine. I told you I follow the Tigers. I still have the jersey my dad bought me when I was ten. Dude, I’d wear it if I still fit in it. What’s your position?”

“Shortstop. I’ve played almost every position at one time or another but I like it the best. You gotta be quick, have a strong arm, and good instincts. I also have a long wingspan. That helps.”

“Makes sense. I don’t know about wingspan, but you gotta be quick in lightning fast hockey too with quick reflexes. Big ol’ quads help.” I smacked my thighs and chuckled. “Mine are kinda huge.”

Sky gave me a lopsided smile. “I noticed. It’s hot.”

“You think muscular legs are hot?”

“I do. Believe it or not, it wasn’t your sweet personality that made me look twice. It was your thighs.”

I snickered. “That’s weird.”

“Maybe, but it’s true. You always wore shorts to summer school. I used to come in a little late so I’d get a good look at you before I sat down. I purposely didn’t sit next to you because I knew I’d get caught staring. And the one day I did, you were the one who got caught.”

“Are you telling me that all this started because of my thighs?” I asked, narrowing my gaze suspiciously.

Sky nodded. “Basically…yes.”

We held eye contact for a moment then busted up.

And when our laughter faded, the mood changed all over again. I felt that same crackle of heat and sexual energy I always did when I was around him, but this time I knew what it was. And though I might have been unsure, I wasn’t afraid.

I leaned forward on my barstool and motioned for Sky to close the distance. He brushed his nose against mine. I held my breath and waited for him to make a move. Any move at all. When he blinked, I licked the corner of his mouth then pressed my lips to his and closed my eyes.

My Review:
Colby Fischer is a 5th-year college senior, who’s got semi-pro hockey dreams. Back in Michigan as a kid, he and his father bonded over hockey. Colby had mad skills. Then his parents divorced and he moved to California with his mom, who didn’t have money or time for hockey leagues, at least until she remarried and her new husband, Harry, could pay for Colby’s training. Conversations with his dad seemed to center on that hockey connection, and these are the memories Colby keeps close now that his father has died.

Sky Jameson is also in his 5th year of college at Chilton College in California. He missed out on a term of school last year when he freaked out and quit his team due to a falling out with his then-closeted boyfriend, Max, who was a fellow teammate. Sky wanted to come out–and he did to his conservative wealthy family. Then, his wealthy family started planning his conversion therapy and Sky beat a path back to Chilton. He’s still closeted on his team, even though Max has came out with his new boyfriend. To catch up with his degree program, Sky is taking summer classes at another college–where he meets Colby.

Turns out, Sky has been hired by Harry’s accounting firm, where Colby also keeps a seasonal job. He and Sky did not hit it off in summer school–Colby thought Sky was cheating off a quiz in their class–so Colby’s suspicious that Sky will be a bad worker for Harry, who is like the nicest guy on the planet. Colby and Harry have a tense relationship, mostly due to Colby’s struggles with grief and bad behavior, even though he knows Harry is a good man, and great partner to his mother.

The tension between Colby and Sky turns physical quickly, much to Colby’s surprise and confusion. He’s straight, right? Colby’s roomie had recently come out as bisexual, and hearing Elliot and his boyfriend getting it on inexplicably turns Colby’s crank. Sky admits to being gay–and closeted, and shunned, and embarrassed–after a lot of (frankly rude) probing inquiries by Colby, who’s adversarial at the outset. Both Colby and Sky are prickly guys, but they begin to rub the rough edges off one another through frank conversation and eventual experimentation. They both acknowledge the building attraction, and Sky offers to instruct Colby in the how-to’s of man-on-man loving. It’s an awakening for Colby, who isn’t only interested in Sky for the sex.

There are plenty of side issues, with conflict on Colby’s teammates and a bizarro pseudo-love triangle for Colby and a girl who’s interested in a jerk from his team. Colby’s navigating of his sexual identity is hard for him to manage. He’s afraid his teammates with reject him. For Sky, he’s afraid of some backlash from teammates about how he handled things with Max. The longer they stay in touch, the more they begin to fall for one another. And soon, it’s not only a matter of potentially coming out, but staying together in the face of rumors and drama.

This audiobook is a good listen, with great intonation from the narrator. I could easily tell Sky from Colby, and the female parts had feminine-sounding voices. The pacing is great, and I could really feel the tension, the confusion and the frustration that Colby experiences. The story is told from his POV, so we get a lot of his anger, his grief and his befuddlement about his growing attraction to Sky.

Sky has a dark background, and he owns his mistakes with Max, and his bestie Christian, made in previous books. He’d seemed an irredeemable, but–as I have learned from Out in the Offense–Hayes has a way of making a bad seed sympathetic and understandable. Sky has served his punishment, and is making amends on his own and with Colby. Sky is a patient and caring shoulder that Colby has needed for maybe the past ten years–and this really cements their bond. It’s a bona fide HEA, and a great story.

Interested? You can find OUT ON THE ICE on Goodreads, Amazon and Audible.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Beginning Again at THE ACADEMY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a New Adult M/M contemporary romance from Quinn Anderson. THE ACADEMY is a new adult romance for two young men who meet at college, and unexpectedly connect. I read and enjoyed FOURTEEN SUMMERS, so I decided to check this one out.

About the book:
True love stabs you in the front.

Nick Steele just wants a normal life, cliché or not. He had one once, back in Chicago. Before his father died and he took a year off from college to grieve. Now, he’s starting fresh at a prestigious—but tiny—Catholic university. Adjusting to small-town life will be a challenge, along with making friends and keeping his scholarship. All he wants to do is blend in, get his diploma, and go back home.

But Sebastian Prinsen—campus heartthrob and a notorious player—has other plans. He notices Nick right away and makes a bet with his two best friends: Who can kiss the new kid first? Nick seems immune to Sebastian’s charms, and yet genuine chemistry sparks between them. Even worse, real feelings do too. Sebastian falls more and more every time Nick blows him off, but if he comes clean about the bet, Nick will hate him forever.

The last thing Nick wants is to fall in love while he’s still grieving, but Sebastian feels like home to him. Nick wants that so badly he may ignore the warning signs and risk his fragile heart once more.

My Review:
Nick Steele had taken a hiatus from college to care for, and then grieve, his dying father. Fulfilling his promise to return for his degree, Nick enrolls at The Academy, a tiny catholic college in Evanston, Illinois–a near-north suburb of Chicago. There he meets Seb Prinsen–wealthy party boy–and his cadre of hangers-on. There’s an immediate attraction, but Nick isn’t ready to break out of his grief and Seb’s aggressive wooing is off-putting.

Seb is an only child of wealthy parents who are divorcing. He’s a dedicated student, and a dedicated partier–with a well-worn fake ID. He and his childhood best pals, Theo and Dante, who are also Academy students have a long-standing competition for the fate of Barbzilla–a mangled Barbie trophy. Seb’s dissolving family has made him yearn for simpler times and the challenge of beating his pals at something seemingly innocent. He’s intrigued by Nick–from their first meeting–and wagers that he can beat Theo and Dante at getting Nick to kiss him.

Classes go on, and Nick’s nerdy roomie is happy to accept Seb’s invitations for parties on Nick’s behalf. Nick is attracted, but he’s not happy. He doesn’t like Seb’s pushiness. It’s actually through conversation with Dante that Nick gets some insight beyond Seb’s smarmy veneer. And, he see what Seb’s been oblivious to: that Dante is in love with Theo. And, it seems the more that Seb begins to understand about Nick, the more he really wants a true relationship for the first time in his life.

So, the love story here is a little more on juvenile side, for New Adult. The way Seb pursues Nick was on the border of stalkery. The Barbzilla bet was totally middle-school, but it gave a good sense of Seb’s emotional development. He’s been a neglected child and always acted out for attention. Nick claims to see those vulnerabilities within a slew of drunken texts Seb leaves him by way of pouting that Nick skipped his fab party. Nick’s gravitas seems to mellow those tendencies, and foster more grown responses. It’s a bit of a slow burn–page count wise–to get the physical on, in accordance with Nick’s hesitance for jumping into a relationship. It isn’t a lot of actual time however. The coupling of Seb and Nick is complemented by Dante and Theo making their commitment, too. That was kind of fun.

In all, it’s a breezy read with a silly bet sparking an attraction that grows between two lonely souls who truly need connection. The epilogue leaves no doubt of the HEA.

Interested? You can find THE ACADEMY on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Quinn Anderson is an alumna of the University of Dublin in Ireland and has a master’s degree in psychology. She wrote her dissertation on sexuality in popular literature and continues to explore evolving themes in erotica in her professional life.

A nerd extraordinaire, she was raised on an unhealthy diet of video games, anime, pop culture, and comics from infancy. Her girlfriend swears her sense of humor is just one big Buffy reference. She stays true to her nerd roots in writing and in life, and frequently draws inspiration from her many fandoms, which include Yuri on Ice, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Buffy, and more. Growing up, while most of her friends were fighting evil by moonlight, Anderson was kamehameha-ing her way through all the shounen anime she could get her hands on. You will often find her interacting with fellow fans online and offline via conventions and Tumblr, and she is happy to talk about anything from nerd life to writing tips. She has attended conventions on three separate continents and now considers herself a career geek. She advises anyone who attends pop culture events in the UK to watch out for Weeping Angels, as they are everywhere. If you’re at an event, and you see a 6’2” redhead wandering around with a vague look on her face, that’s probably her.

Catch up with Quinn online on Facebook, twitter and Tumblr.

Rising to the Challenge–ON THE KALALAU TRAIL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M coming-of-age story from Robin Reardon. ON THE KALALAU TRAIL is the second book in her Trailblazers series, which features a young gay man discovering his world, and himself. I’ve reviewed ON CHOCORUA, and was intrigued enough to read on.

About the book:
Self-discovery. Sounds simple, right? After all, you’re already there. You’re already you. So it can surprise us that it takes so much time, and so much effort. It surprises Nathan Bartlett.

Nathan has lost two family members in a few years. It surprises him to realize he hadn’t known them nearly as well as he’d thought, and this makes him question his own worth. And it makes him feel like he belongs nowhere. So he goes on a spiritual quest.

Professional hike leader Conroy Finnegan–sexy, very masculine, and charismatic–leads Nathan to the Kalalau Trail on the island of Kaua’i, “… a place where magic happens, where the very names are magical: Na Pali. Ho’olulu. Waiahuakua. Hanakoa. Hanakapi’ai.”

Conroy seduces Nathan in more ways than one. He leads Nathan to paradise and lets him find his own way back. Nathan begins his journey as a searcher. On the way he becomes a seeker. These states of mind are different. And they lead Nathan on different journeys.

Walk with him.

My Review:
Nathan Bartlett was orphaned at the age of one, and raised by his maternal grandmother with his sister Nina (a year older) and his eldest brother Neil who is six years older. In the first book, Nathan was a college freshman and he spent that year coming out, falling for the wrong guy, learning how to NOT hike mountains, and grieving Neil’s sudden death in a hiking accident.

As this story opens, Nathan is a senior in college. He’s still living with El Speed, his freshman year roommate, and their friendship is strong. Nathan has continued his quest to commune with Neil’s memory by hiking nearby mountains. He’s even convinced El Speed to make some hikes with him. Nathan meets Conroy, a seasoned hiker, on a solo hike, and they sort of hit it off. Well, they complete the day together and have sex in the brambles at the days end, but it’s likely a one-off. Not so, it turns out as Conroy’s housesitting a place in Durham, where Nathan attends school.

El Speed is pulling away-ish, preoccupied with planning his summer wedding. Nathan’s free time leads him into no-strings hook-ups with Conroy–who’s a relentless top. Turns out Conroy also plans and leads hiking trips as a business–a constant vagabond with no ties to any place. Nathan’s desperate for connection, but his sister Nina warns that Conroy’s not the right guy…again. And, Nathan’s isolation only increases when he loses another of his two remaining family members. In a bid to find some peace, he signs up for one of Conroy’s trips–to hike the dangerous and wild Kalalau trail on Kaua’i. Conroy has convinced Nathan that the journey will help him see the spiritual in the mundane, and grow as a human. It’s Nathan’s choice, but making the trip means he’ll miss El Speed’s wedding. Their relationship has been strained for months and missing the big day could signal the final snap severing their connection.

I really like Nathan, he’s a decent guy, and his life is an utter emotional mess. He loses everyone close to him–and he continues to reach for people to fill the voids of family. His trip to Kaua’i is enlightening in many ways, and his infatuation with Conroy has run its course. The Nathan we have seen in the beginning of the story is still naive, and still boyish, but by the end he’s a resolute man, willing to make the difficult choices. He’s grown up and lived through devastation, and found he can get beyond the mundane issues and see bigger pictures and distant futures.

The descriptions of Nathan, his travels, his thoughts are very complete, and evocative of anyone in a journey to know their self better. And, the lush trails of Kalalau are rendered with as much detail as a quiet night spent saying goodbye to his childhood home. Nathan’s childhood is over, and his adulthood–which sat so uncomfortably on his shoulders at the beginning of this story–is deep within his grasp by the conclusion. He will face changes, and adventure in the next book, I am sure. But, just maybe he’ll find someone to walk his lonely trails beside him. Fingers crossed!

Interested? You can find ON THE KALALAU TRAIL on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Robin Reardon: “I am an inveterate observer of human nature, and my primary writing goal is to create stories about all kinds of people, some of whom happen to be gay or transgender—people whose destinies are not determined solely by their sexual orientation or identity. My secondary writing goal is to introduce readers to concepts or information they might not know very much about. On my website, robinreardon.com, see individual book pages for “Digging Deeper” sections that link to background information and research done for the novel.

My motto is this: The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

Interests outside of writing include singing, nature photography, and the study of comparative religions. I write in a butter yellow study with a view of the Boston, Massachusetts skyline.”

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Knowing One’s Heart: THE LOVE SONG OF SAWYER BELL–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a recently re-released F/F New Adult romance from Avon Gale. THE LOVE SONG OF SAWYER BELL is a coming out story for a young violin virtuoso who’s fallen for a quirky singer that inspired her years before.

About the book:
Indie rocker Victoria “Vix” Vincent knows a good thing when she hears it. The moment Sawyer Bell picks up her fiddle, magic happens. Beautiful and wildly talented, Sawyer is the perfect match for Vix’s band—and, just maybe, for Vix. The dynamic in any group is a delicate thing, but with Sawyer and Vix thrown together on tour, it’s not long before the line between bandmates and lovers gets a bit blurry.

The indie rock life is not what Sawyer ever saw for herself. She worked hard to get where she is—in her second year of Julliard, with a bright future in classical music. But instead of spending her summer working and rehearsing, she’s on tour with her secret high school crush. And even though it was only supposed to be temporary, Sawyer feels like she’s finally found a place she belongs.

This summer with Vix has been like a dream. But every tour must come to an end, and when Julliard comes calling, Sawyer will need to make a choice: continue on the path she’s chosen, or take a leap of faith and follow her heart.

(This is a re-release from a new publisher, but the story has not been changed from the original.)

My Review:
Sawyer Bell is a violin virtuoso finishing her third year at Julliard. Unfortunately, her dream-come-true of a scholarship to her school of choice has fallen into the “be careful what you wish for” category. The music is amazing, but the competition is fierce–cutthroat–and Sawyer’s plagued by doubts for her future, if she even enjoys playing her once-beloved violin any longer. All thirs year students were supposed to audition for summer chamber ensembles that tour the US and internationally, and Sawyer, well, let’s just say she didn’t get the job. Instead, she went home to Tennessee and auditioned for a temporary spot in an indie rock/Americana band touring the US in a van for the summer. Just don’t tell her uber-proud parents who think she made the European tour out of Julliard.

Victoria Vincent, called Vix by her pals, is the purple-haired, pixie-height, lead singer and head lyric/music writer for her band–also named Victoria Vincent. Their brand of music is good enough to get gigs at nearly all the dive bars from Chi-Town to Tallahassee and they ain’t never seen nothing like sweet and talented Sawyer Bell before. Well, Sawyer and Vix had a glancing meeting back in high school when Vix–a surly, smoking, class-cutting, counter-culture gal half-heartedly urged Sawyer to show up her band bullies and make her music dreams come true…which led to the Julliard audition.

Vix is bisexual and Sawyer thinks she in lesbian–not that she’s had any practice at it. She’s only had one lover, and he was a big disappointment. Vix is game to have a little fun on the road, but she doesn’t want to mess up the band’s chemistry. They have been sounding pretty good, even if their crowds aren’t large. Vix has a bunch of history with lovers on the road–and lovers in her band, and while she’s grown a bunch since then, she’s a bit unsure of taking on innocent Sawyer. And, when both these ladies feelings get engaged.

It’s a sweet and sassy summer fling for Vix and Sawyer, but when the summer ends, can they walk their separate ways? I liked both Vix and Sawyer. They are great main characters with complex issues and struggles to battle. Sawyer’s young, but she knows what she wants–and it’s not more frustration at school. She’s admired Vix from afar, and she’s developed more than a bit of friendship on top of attraction. There are tense times, and Vix gets some much-needed advice from trusted former lovers, to grasp onto Sawyer and hold on tight because they got something special. It’s a cool experience, riding along on their low-budget tour, seeing the musicians battle to capture the interest of lackluster crowds and the respect of one another.

This is the beginning of a series, so I’m wondering who’s next in the band to fall in love. Sawyer replaced the fiddle player who’d gotten suddenly married, so I’m eager to see if Kit or Jeff are the next to find love. In any case, it’s a really engaging New Adult rock romance, and I’d eagerly read on.

Interested? You can find THE LOVE SONG OF SAWYER BELL on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
Avon Gale lives in a liberal Midwestern college town, where she spends her days getting heavily invested in everything from craft projects to video games. She likes road trips by car, rock concerts, thunderstorms, IPAs, Kentucky bourbon and tattoos. As a queer author, Avon is committed to providing happy endings for all and loves to tell stories that focus on found families, strong and open communication, and friendship. She loves writing about quirky people who might not be perfect, but always find a place where they belong. In her former life, Avon wrote fanfiction at her desk while ostensibly doing work in non-profit fundraising for public radio and women’s liberal arts education, and worked on her books in between haircuts and highlights as a stylist. Now she’s a full-time writer, delighted to be able to tell stories for a living.

You can find Avon on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest or sign up for her newsletter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Surviving the WINTER MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a gay magical realism story by Kevin Klehr. WINTER MASQUERADE features a man waking up in a fantasy world and the only way home is to acknowledge his life is endangered by his partner.

About the book:
Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

My Review:
This fantasy/magical realism story was filled with twists and turns–and breaks with reality. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland for adults.

Ferris awakes on the Sea Queen, an ocean liner sailing a chocolate river. He’s unsure how he got there, and wonders what’s happened to his boyfriend, Harris. He seeks help from the first people he finds, a kindly musical trio made up of Olive, Cole and Scallywag–a child. They urge him to seek help from the Alchemist, but the Alchemist has been kidnapped to another dimension. So, Ferris’ brought to The Detective who’s aided by a talking, flying minihorse called Janus, and the Alchemist’s wife and mistress to help find Ferris’ way home.

They urge him to describe his home to see if he can retrace his journey. Each time Ferris tries to talk about Harris he is transported to another dimension where sweet Olive is trying to murder everyone aboard ship–notably Ferris. The Alchemist stands ready to defend Ferris, but Ferris must come to terms with the evil in his life before he can find his way home.

Through several iterations, Ferris begins to see the pattern–discussing Harris causes him terror, injury and pain. The persons in his Sea Queen journey all represent people in Ferris’ real life, friends and lovers he’s lost due to the abusive relationship he’s trapped in with Harris. Breaking through his self-isolating walls, through the fantasy comfort of the Sea Queen comrades, gives Ferris the impetus and strength to reach for the help he needs to escape–both the Sea Queen and his abuser.

It’s an imaginative way to relate the terror of domestic violence without being overt. Ferris is a good man, and he’s ashamed of the fearful and dire situation he’s allowed himself to fall prey to. His abuser has appropriately groomed Ferris, to remove those supports that would hinder his ability to control Ferris. The Winter Masquerade is a metaphor for removing the masks that hide our secret selves–and Ferris finally lays down his mask to his dear, but estranged, friends. It was then that Ferris began to remake himself into an independent man, one he could believe worthy of love.

It’s at times comical and confusing, in the way that Alice in Wonderland is both comical and confusing. It is only once Ferris returns to his real life roots that we begin to see and understand his real life problems. It takes time, but the resolution mentions Ferris finding the love of his life much later–when his heart’s finally healed and ready to accept that love.

Interested? You can find WINTER MASQUERADE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kevin is the author of a number of books including the Actors and Angels series and the Nate and Cameron Collection.

The Actors and Angels series are three comedies about theatre in the Afterlife, where two friends explore their love for each other through several lifetimes with the help of a gay angel. The third in the series scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel. The Nate and Cameron collection are two novellas that delve into a relationship between a dreamer and a realist, where the latter is coming to terms with loving second best. The two stories, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango, are also available in one paperback edition.

His dystopian novel, Social Media Central, explores a future where everyone is addicted to their screens and where murder is just a keystroke away.

And his new novella, Winter Masquerade, whimsically explains why Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own “Emerald City,” Sydney.

Catch up with Kevin on his website, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!