Cover Reveal for TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME is a legal eagles romance between a battered man and the loving new partner his finds. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS, so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
Can he ever learn to trust again?
Brandon Weber’s old boyfriend almost beat him to death. Brandon survived, but still bears the emotional scars. Eighteen months later, he has withdrawn into himself, convinced he’ll never be able to trust another man.

Devin Macadam, fresh out of law school, has an exciting new job. He is also on the lookout for just the right guy, someone to take care of and love.

When Devin shows up for the first day of work at his new office, he meets Brandon, a legal assistant there. Sparks fly, but Brandon is paralyzed by fear and isn’t about to give another man the power to hurt him again. Devin, never one to give up easily, doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Both men feel the magic, but can their relationship ever get past the friend zone?

Too Close to the Flame is a dark-to-light, sweet romance featuring out and proud gay men, lots of feels, steamy love scenes, and a wonderful happy ending.

Trigger Warning: Too Close to the Flame contains specific memories of physical abuse.

Interested? You can find TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME on Goodreads and pre-order on Amazon. The book will be available on July 31st.

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Managing a DRAGON DECEPTION–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON DECEPTION features a couple of supernatural men raising a passel of dragon kits. I really enjoyed DRAGON CONSULTANT, which describes how demi-god Dane and precious dragon Mercury meet and fall for one another, so I couldn’t wait to read on in this series.

About the book:
A life full of children and mysteries to solve doesn’t leave much time for relaxation or each other, something Lumie wants to help fix for Dane and Mercury by way of arranging a picnic. But good intentions and life rarely cooperate, and Dane knows it’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

Hell turns out to be someone using Quicksilver’s name to destroy buildings, but there’s no way to tell whether the enemy is an impostor or a trap. Hopefully it won’t mean missing the picnic

My Review:
Dane is a demigod who shares his life and home with Mercury, an adult dragon. Mercury was destroying secret labs humans built to experiment on dragon kits and eggs–he adopted several orphaned and genetically engineered kits and Dane is raising them all as a family for the past five years. Each of the Kits has some special magical tricks, and Mercury has some powerful magic himself, being a precious Copper dragon. They have a loud and love-filled home, and Dane has established a small sanctuary dragon village within his domain of protection. There are lots of prejudices about dragons, because they have been traditionally considered wild and untrainable. Mercury and Dane have started to prove otherwise.

Mercury is an analyst for the SupFeds, but today he’s being paired with an impatient and surly female agent, Valerie, to investigate a suspected arson committed by Quicksilver–the alias Mercury himself developed when he was smashing dragon labs to bits. So, he knows this is a copy-cat situation, as he hasn’t destroyed any labs in roughly 5 years. Valerie is used to getting stonewalled and having to work double-hard for no acclaim, so she’d not enthused to be paired with Mercury, but Mercury is sure Valerie is sincere in her wish to hunt down the dragon torturers. The crime scene becomes a trap, as Mercury anticipated, and both Dane and the kit Lumie have to remove the tainted curse and save Mercury from a bad scene.

Valerie’s frustration melts a bit, learning how committed Mercury and Dane are to their cause to save dragons–and this includes her kit-sitting when Dane and Mercury head off to round up a female and her kits who barely escaped capture in Dane’s territory only a few days before. Turns out these two story lines interweave, as the arson perpetrator is hoping to catch a bunch of dragons for experiments.

This continuing love story highlights the partnership between Mercury and Dane, and how their quirky-odd family keeps everyone safe and well. Little Lumie steals the spotlight often, and his magic would be a fearsome as Dane’s if it wasn’t so quixotic. As with the first story, there are only glimpses at the physical relationship, but these are plentiful. It’s really a solid paranormal-adventure series with some romantic elements. I’m a fan of Dane and Mercury, and want to see the kits grow into their powers, soon.

Interested? You can find DRAGON DECEPTION on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

About the Author:
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Best Friends SEE THE LIGHT of Love–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Kate McMurray. SEE THE LIGHT features two lifelong friends finally connecting in the way one of them had always hoped.

About the book:
Up-and-coming Broadway actor Jeremy was given two days to get up and get out. Dumped by his long-term boyfriend and suddenly homeless, he needs a sofa and a sympathetic ear, stat.

Enter Max, aspiring makeup artist and Jeremy’s BFF and former roommate.

Max has been in love with his best friend forever. Now that Jeremy is back in his home, his old feelings are back, too. He’s happy to help his friend, but this time…it’s complicated.

When Jeremy gets his big break in a new show, the message of the play hits home. “Live life to the fullest” means recognizing how he really feels about Max, and that’s not complicated at all. Jeremy’s in love, and wants to move full steam ahead.

But Max has waited too long for Jeremy to look at him this way, and he doesn’t want to risk his heart. If this is just a rebound fling, or if Jeremy is only interested in Max because he’s convenient, it will not only shatter him—it will ruin the best friendship he’s ever known

My Review:
Jeremy has returned to New York from a stint acting up in Boston to find his boyfriend of the past few years has decided to shack up with someone else, and he has two days to remove his belongings from their shared apartment. He’s mad, really mad, with this whole situation. He puts most of his stuff into storage and calls up his oldest and dearest friend, Max, to see if he can spend the next few weeks on Max’s couch while he hunts for a new permanent residence and auditions for new roles.

Max, who has been in love with Jeremy since….ever agrees, knowing he’s risking falling hard and getting hurt. Max is a makeup artist and runs a modest studio for stage performers in the NYC theater scene. He also does drag makeup for his ex-boyfriend and other baby queens being shepharded by his ex. Right now, it’s not ideal for Jer to be staying with him, because he has a lot of design work in the pipeline, but he’d never refuse Jeremy’s needs–except when Jeremy begins making motions like he’s coming on to Max–because that is surely the road to heartbreak.

For Jeremy, being in Max’s apartment is like coming home. They’d been roommates for years until Jeremy was spending more nights with his now-ex and Max suggested he wanted a single place of his own. Truth was, Max was dying, seeing Jeremy fall for another man. With that distance, and his new role in a liberating LGBTQ-positive production, Jeremy is waking up to not only the deep feelings of love and attraction he has for Max, he’s also realizing that he inadvertently broke Max’s heart–and he’s ready to make amends.

This was a really engaging friends-to-lovers romance that imparted a lot of cool info about the Broadway scene, as well as how young struggling actors and artists go to battle each day to make their dreams reality. Max is a sweet soul, hiding in plain sight and offering the safe harbor fabulous Jeremy needs. When it comes to their dilemma of not being friends–because becoming lovers could mess this up–they have a break, by Max’s choice. He needs to trust the Jer will be by his side forever, and Jeremy definitely gives him the confidence to act on faith. The drag queen moments were fun, and I loved having both points of view giving me insight into this developing relationship. Sweet and uplifting, with a moderate amount of angst.

Interested? You can find SEE THE LIGHT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kate McMurray writes smart romantic fiction. She likes creating stories that are brainy, funny, and of course sexy, with regular guy characters and urban sensibilities. She advocates for romance stories by and for everyone. When she’s not writing, she edits textbooks, watches baseball, plays violin, crafts things out of yarn, and wears a lot of cute dresses. She’s active in Romance Writers of America, serving for two years on the board of Rainbow Romance Writers, the LGBT romance chapter, and three—including two as president—on the board of the New York City chapter. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with two cats and too many books.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Embracing Love in THE SCHOLAR’S HEART–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M fantasy romance from Antonia Aquilante. THE SCHOLAR’S HEART is the third story in her Chronicles of Tournai series. I really enjoyed THE PRINCE’S CONSORT, and THE ARTIST’S MASQUERADE, so I was eager to read Etan’s love story.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Though he is the youngest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart, happiest in a library surrounded by his books. He contentedly juggles his work for the prince’s government with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, a subject of particular interest to him because he shares the secret magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. However, Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries someone else.

Tristan is the oldest son of a wealthy merchant, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family. Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, but he can’t forsake his duty to his father, even if it means giving up the possibility of having Etan as a lover.

A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together again, but even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside once more. When the unimaginable happens, Etan and Tristan must come together and support each other through the ordeal…and maybe beyond.

How about a yummy taste?

Prologue
One year earlier

“There you are!”

Tristan’s musical voice made the simple sentence something special, or perhaps Etan’s feelings made it seem so. Etan smiled as he looked up from his book, a glow of warmth and welcome lighting him up inside.

Tristan strode into the small room Etan had claimed for his own in the palace’s labyrinthine library. He had a desk in the university library as well, but these days, out of necessity and preference both, he conducted most of his work in this cozy little room. Obscure history books filled the shelves lining the walls. The table in the center of the room held Etan’s notes on his studies and projects, all neatly organized so he could find anything he wanted quickly. But this morning he slouched on the comfortable couch instead, book propped in his lap.

He sat there, book forgotten as he watched Tristan, the morning sun streaming in through the window and glinting off Tristan’s bright gold hair. Tristan seemed to bring the sunshine into the room with him, brightening what had been an ordinary morning until that moment.

“Good morning, Tristan.”

“Good morning to you.” Tristan sent a flirtatious smile in his direction and skirted the table, coming closer.

“It’s good to see you.” He probably sounded ridiculous, but he hadn’t seen Tristan in a few days and, well, he’d missed him.

Tristan’s smile warmed, turning a bit softer. “You too.”

Etan frowned as Tristan flopped on the couch at Etan’s side. Not at the action, but at the look in Tristan’s eyes. The brilliant blue seemed shadowed somehow. “Everything all right?”

“Fine. Why do you ask?”

“No reason. You just seem a little…” Etan shrugged. He couldn’t quite put a word to it, and he couldn’t very well say he didn’t think Tristan’s eyes sparkled as much as they usually did. “Troubled, maybe.”

Tristan was quiet for a moment and then scooted closer and rested his head on Etan’s shoulder. “I’m fine. A little tired. What are you up to?”

“Doing some reading.”

“For work or pleasure?”

Etan suppressed a shiver at the way Tristan’s voice shaped the word pleasure. Certainly, it had to be unconscious on Tristan’s part, but it put ideas into Etan’s head he didn’t want there, not yet, not when he and Tristan hadn’t spoken of feelings between them beyond friendship. But he could see those feelings were there. Perhaps he should just come right out and kiss Tristan. Tristan seemed to be over what feelings he’d had for Amory, Tristan’s lifelong friend who was now married to Etan’s cousin. Etan didn’t see any of the emotion or longing he used to in the glances Tristan sent Amory’s way. Maybe Etan had waited long enough.

He’d certainly paused long enough before answering. “A bit of both. Want me to read to you?”

He’d read to Tristan before, many times, sometimes with Tristan sitting as he was now, snuggled up against Etan’s side, sometimes with Tristan lying with his head in Etan’s lap. Tristan seemed to like when Etan read to him, seemed to enjoy the legends and histories Etan habitually occupied himself with, seemed to even enjoy when Etan forgot himself and ran his fingers through Tristan’s soft hair as he read. Etan hadn’t read to anyone before except for his youngest sister, Meriall, but reading to Tristan was a far different experience from reading bedtime stories. He liked it, liked having Tristan close and hearing Tristan’s comments and reactions.

“I’m not sure I can sit still today. I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right.” He’d realized early on in their friendship Tristan was an athletic person who enjoyed being active and outdoors. Etan came to treasure the moments of stillness and quiet, when he saw Tristan’s intellectual side and his softer side in equal measure, but he enjoyed sharing the other more active times with Tristan too. Tristan always made the rides through the countryside and the hikes along the cliffs and the rambles over the beach fun. “What would you like to do?”

“Will you go for a ride with me?”

He thought briefly of the work awaiting him in the office he shared with Cathal, of his plans to spend the morning with his books and his studies before he returned to that work. And tossed it all aside with one glance into Tristan’s eyes. As he always did. His books would still be there when he returned to them later.

And he wasn’t convinced Tristan really was all right.

“Of course. Shall we go now?”

When Tristan agreed, Etan set his book aside and tidied away a few papers. On the way to the stables, they stopped in Etan’s suite so he could change into riding boots, but they didn’t dally otherwise. Stable hands saddled their horses quickly, and they mounted up. They rode together out of the palace gates and through the city, an easy conversation flowing between them. Once they left the city, Etan let Tristan lead. When Tristan took the road leading out to the cliffs, Etan knew his suspicions about Tristan’s state of mind were correct. Tristan seemed to prefer a gallop along the cliffs when he felt he needed to escape something, some pressure in his life. He talked to Etan about it sometimes, at least a little, but only after the ride.

As Etan expected, Tristan veered off the road as they neared the cliffs. The path he chose wound through some trees until it ended in the meadows overlooking the sea. Once they were through the trees, the view opened up before them, with fields dotted with wildflowers and a rocky precipice tumbling down to the vivid blue of the sea. The area was one of Etan’s favorites. He’d rather walk along the cliffs or picnic at the top so he could better appreciate the view, but riding was exhilarating too. Well, any ride with Tristan was. Tristan was a skilled and fearless horseman, who ended each ride flushed and smiling. Etan always wanted to grab him close and kiss him when he saw Tristan that way, to see if he could make Tristan breathless for another reason entirely.

Maybe today he would.

He put the thought out of his head as best he could for the moment as Tristan urged his horse into a gallop and took off parallel to the cliff edge. Etan hurried to follow. If he thought about it too much, he risked falling off his horse, which would certainly end any chance of kissing Tristan today.

Instead he concentrated his thoughts outward to the sea- and flower-scented wind blowing in his face, to the sunlight warming his skin. The day was perfect for spring, a little cool early in the morning but pleasant as the sun climbed. The sky was clear, the sea calm. There would be fishermen out in their boats, working to bring in the day’s catch. But they weren’t close; no one was close enough to intrude on his solitude with Tristan.

He watched Tristan, slightly ahead of him. Tristan really did ride well, better than Etan did, but then Tristan had probably spent most of his childhood trying to get on a horse while Etan had spent his sneaking off to the library. Or using his Talent to change himself into a cat and climbing trees. But, most often, the library. And given where Tristan had found him this morning, not much had changed. But he did come out when Tristan asked. Unlike when he was a child and his brothers would come and pounce on him and drag him from the room.

If Tristan wanted to pounce on him, it would be another story entirely.

After a while, Tristan began to slow his horse, and Etan followed. Upon reaching the point, they paused to take in the view and then turned back for home, riding side by side at a much more leisurely pace. Etan expected Tristan to be more relaxed, even laughing, after the long gallop as he so often was, but if anything, he seemed more pensive.

Etan let Tristan have his silence, even though it pained him to do so. He wanted to help, to make whatever it was right again. Tristan had cheered him up often enough, and they’d bolstered each other’s strength through bad times. But Tristan had to speak in his own time, and he’d never actually ask for help even when he did.

Tristan didn’t speak until they were almost all the way back to Jumelle. “My father wants me to marry.”

Etan’s brain stuttered. He had to have heard wrong. He whipped around to look at Tristan, but Tristan was still staring straight ahead. “What? Did you say he wants you to marry?”

“He’s dying, Etan,” Tristan said in a small, quiet voice that made Etan hurt.

“Tristan. I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.” Tristan glanced up at the sky for a moment, and Etan gave him his privacy to pull himself together, or what passed for privacy when they were riding side by side. “He wants me settled, since I’m to run the business when he’s gone. He wants the business settled too.”

Tristan’s family business was the largest shipping concern in Tournai, and as Tournai was a country rich in trade, owing in part to a quirk of geography, the business was a prosperous one. Etan could understand somewhat Tristan’s father wanting him to be settled down if he was to be both the head of the business and the head of the family. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but there was probably some real concern for Tristan in his father’s desire too.

Etan worked himself up to suggest perhaps the two of them could wed. Not right away, but they could make an agreement and use a betrothal period to see if they would suit. Etan believed they would, but he was already thinking of ways to convince Tristan and Tristan’s father, if necessary. Etan’s own father would be difficult, he was sure—as a duke, his father would want Etan to make a more advantageous marriage to a lady of noble birth—but he could deal with Father later.

But all those thoughts—all the hope that came with them—screeched to a halt when Tristan spoke. “I’m to marry a daughter of a friend of Father’s, Dariela. They think it will be good for the business.”

“You already know—you’re marrying a woman? That woman?”

Etan had no idea who she was—she might be a perfectly lovely person—but he couldn’t understand Tristan marrying her, or marrying any woman. Tristan preferred men, the same as Etan did. Etan had hoped Tristan might just plain prefer him.

“Father thinks it’s best. For the family and the business.”

“Yes, but—what about you? What do you think?”

Tristan shrugged. “I must live up to my responsibilities to the family and the business. I have to run everything as Father would want. He shouldn’t be dying so young.”

“I know he shouldn’t. It’s awful.” Etan scrubbed a hand over his face. “He’s been to see the healers? I’m sure Jadis would see him if I asked.”

“He has, and Amory already had Jadis examine him. This illness has gone on too long undetected and untreated. His heart is too weak now.”

“I am so very sorry, Tristan.” He wanted to pull Tristan into a hug, to hold him and try to bear some of the pain and grief for him, but they were on horses. And Tristan was about to marry someone else. “Are you sure about this marriage though?”

“I don’t see a reason not to marry her. Do you?”

The statement was a stab of pain to his gut. He had to bite back a gasp, it seemed so real, so physical. He managed to murmur something that might have been an agreement, because what else could he do? If Tristan didn’t see a reason not to marry this woman, Etan could hardly give him one.

By the time Etan arrived back at the palace, he felt as if a yawning, empty hole had opened inside him. His head was buzzing, and he couldn’t seem to think quite straight. His feet carried him to his office. But when he walked into the empty room, he just dropped down into his chair and stared at the polished top of his desk, clean of papers since he’d tidied up yesterday.

Tristan was getting married.

He and Tristan would never be anything other than friends, and Tristan obviously wanted it so, was fine with it. Perhaps Etan had been wrong about Tristan’s feelings all this time.

“Etan?”

Etan looked up, but it took him a moment to understand what he was seeing. He hadn’t even heard the door open. “Cathal.”

Panic, an emotion he seldom saw in his stoic older brother, flooded Cathal’s face. “What is it? What’s happened?”

“Tristan is marrying.” Pain spasmed through him as he said the words, but he had to say them, had to get used to hearing them. Tristan was marrying, and all chance Etan might have had with him was gone.

My Review:
This is the third book in a fantasy series, and likely best enjoyed when read in sequence, though it can be read as a standalone.

Etan is a cousin to Philip, the Crown Prince of Tournai, a small but well-situated country with a bustling trade port in its capital city of Jumelle. Etan lives in the palace with Philip his consort-husband Amory and Etan’s brother Cathal who is married to Flavian, an artist who escaped the emperor of Ardunn’s plots to enslave him for his Talent. Etan and Cathal are ministers (of a sort) in the governance of Tournai, indispensable to both Philip and Amory–with whom they are both family and close friends.

Two years ago Etan fell hard for Amory’s childhood friend Tristan, and he thought his love was reciprocated, though they had no physical demonstrations. Etan is a shy man, a noted scholar at the university in addition to his duties to the crown. He didn’t quite know how to approach Tristan with his desire for intimacy, especially because he was sensitive to Tristan’s heartbreak when Amory married the Prince. Over their acquaintance, Etan–who is usually best at home in his library–makes time to spend with Tristan socially. He was about to propose marriage when Tristan stuns Etan by deciding to marry a woman, and their friendship essentially disintegrates. A year has gone by and Tristan’s wife has just died in the process of childbirth. And duties to Tristan’s place as Amory’s oldest friend necessitate bringing Tristan and Etan back together.

Tristan never loved his wife. He preferred men, as his father knew, but Tristan felt pressured to marry a woman to create heirs for the shipping company he now runs. As the eldest of the family, Tristan runs the business since his father died shortly after his wedding. That was the reason to marry with haste, after all. He didn’t hate his wife, but they were more cordial acquaintances than lovers, and he’s mourning the loss of her in his baby daughter Bria’s life. Tristan is furious that his high-handed mother sent the Prince’s chief healer away during the birth because his healing Talent could have saved his wife–and he’s appalled that his mother has plans to take his infant to her own home to raise. No, he will not allow this, but his mother is sneaky. If she can’t raise the baby herself she’s going to pressure Tristan into another marriage to a woman who can raise the baby. It’s a problem.

Tristan is happy to welcome Etan back into his life, but he’s quick to notice that Etan is not the same close friend anymore. He’s reserved and their relations are strained. Tristan doesn’t understand, and he’s shocked when Etan sends his an evil eye one night when their paths cross, because Etan witnesses Tristan leaving teh gathering with intent to bed a man he picked up there. Etan has never gotten over the hurt he felt when Tristan married, but he’s never spoken about the depth of his feelings with anyone, let alone Tristan. Some hard truths have to come out if these men are going to salvage thier friendship, and plan for a future together.

As with the previous books, there is court intrigue and troubles both within and abroad. Tristan’s troubles are all domestic, and he’s pitted against his own mother for the right to live his adult life as he sees fit. He’s a doting father, and his love for Bria grows by the day. It is in contrast to the machinations of his mother that Tristan begins to see Etan in a new light. And, he’s eager to pursue a lasting liaison if Etan is willing. Etan, for his part, saw Tristan as his forever person, and he’s afraid to let himself love him again and get his heart obliterated. Still, he follows the counsel of Cathal, begining a physical relationship with Tristan if they can remain monogamous. He still keeps his emotions separate, for a time–even when Tristan is all in. And, when Etan finally decides to give his whole heart back to Tristan, it’s at the exact moment Tristan needs his unconditional love the most, because Bria is in danger this daddy is a hot mess.

I really liked the story, and how Etan and Tristan navigate their paths to reconnection. Their previous friendship was a solid foundation, but Tristan soon realized he was more selfish in that arrangement, never seeing or comprehending the lengths that Etan went to to allow their friendship to flourish. His awakening to these situations has come at a hard cost, but he strives every day to do it better, and be a better man. He regrets the compromises he made that shut Etan out of his life, but his love for Bria is a boon. The love story grew reliably and equally this second time around. Expect some real courting, lots of court business, and scholars getting a handle on new and exciting information. Tristan makes the big leap for love, and Etan is not long in following him.

Not sure where this series is going, but there are plenty of royal cousins who could get the happily Ever Afters in the service of Tournai.

Interested? You can find THE SCHOLAR’S HEART on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press gift card!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

Catch up with Antonia on Facebook, and twitter.

Growing Up and Getting Past SWEET REVENGE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Tilly Keyes. SWEET REVENGE features a man returning to his hometown to spend time with his sister and niece and falling for the yummy local baker who happens to be dating a tormentor from his past.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC.
About the book:
Riley’s not the scared, weak boy of years ago.

Strong, handsome, wealthy, and successful, he should be happy, but he’s not. He’s still tormented by the bullies of his school years, the cruelty he was subjected to. There’s only one way to silence those reverberating memories, and that’s revenge.

But while seeking it, he finds peace in the small village where he befriends Zac, the cake maker. Zac’s the first friend Riley’s had in decades, boyish and fun and, without a doubt, sweet. Feelings grow toward the cake maker, but his need for revenge still hovers in his mind.

When he discovers Zac secret, he wonders if revenge is really worth it with Zac in the crossfire.

How about a yummy taste?

Riley stared at the different bouquets of flowers, then groaned and rubbed his temple. Choosing flowers wasn’t supposed to be torturous. He reached for a bunch of yellow roses and stared at them long and hard. Roses were far too romantic, and it certainly wasn’t meant as a romantic gesture. He put them back and grabbed a bunch of white lilies while nodding. They looked nice, a bit droopy, a bit torn, but it was the thought that counted.

“Are you confessing your undying love or going to a funeral?”

Riley paused and turned to the woman beside him. The old lady clutched a woven bag to her chest and stared him down with her beady eyes. Her lips were framed by a mosaic of wrinkles, and she trembled slightly as she waited for a response.

“Neither…”

She hummed, stepping closer. Her hand closed around the lily stalks, and she pulled them from Riley’s hand. He wasn’t anticipating the strength and speed and was left clutching the air.

“Okay, then.”

“Lilies are what I expect to have at my grave,” she said, slotting them back in the flower stand.

Riley frowned. “That’s…that’s nice to know.”

“And roses are romantic, haven’t received roses in years. If it’s not meant as love, or condolence, what are you buying flowers for?”

“To say sorry, sorry for being a rubbish brother, and an even worse uncle.”

“Ah, well, there’s no tags on the flowers that say those exact words. Boy or girl?”

Riley looked down at himself, then back up at her. The woman rolled her eyes. “I didn’t mean you, did I?”

“No, of course not,” Riley said, scrunched his brow. “Girl, my niece. I’ve got a niece.”

“May I make a suggestion?”

“I’m sure you’re going to whether I say yes or no.”

The woman laughed, and her thin lips stretched in a smile. “Ditch the flower idea, alcohol is far better.”

“Alcohol?” Riley smirked.

“A bottle of whiskey, that was my favourite.”

Riley lifted his eyebrow. “Whiskey?”

She jabbed his bicep with her bony finger. “Don’t think I can’t drink you under the table.”

Riley rubbed his arm. “I 100 percent believe you could.”

“Good, now get to it.”

Her gaze followed him as he walked towards the cashier.

It was only a small village shop, and they kept all the alcohol behind the counter along with the medicines and cigarettes. Riley flicked his chin out at the man serving.

“What rose do you have?”

“We only have one, and it’s £3.99.”

Riley smiled tightly, nodding. “Guess that’ll do, then, can I have a box of those beers too?”

He didn’t particularly like Emily’s husband, but he couldn’t turn up without something for him too.

He paid and strolled out the shop, but a familiar croaking voice made him stop. He turned back to the woman and watched as she hobbled towards him.

Her thin lips tugged into a smile, and her pink cheeks looked fragile as it stretched. “Be a dear and help me cross the road.”

“Of course.”

Riley offered his arm for her to take and she latched on.

He led her across the road and once on the other side, released her arm. He looked down and noticed the flowers poking from her bag—white lilies. His mouth bobbed open as he thought of something to say, but she only waved him away.

“You’ve got something for your sister, but what about that niece of yours?”

Riley darted a look back to the shop, but a tapping sound had him turning back to the woman.

She knocked her frail knuckles against the window, and Riley looked inside the cake shop. He hadn’t been to the village for months, and the cake shop was definitely a new addition. The village shop barely stocked anything of use. There were boards covering the windows of the hair salon; the church looked haggard and crumbling. But the bakery gleamed, and the display he could see through the window was more at home in the posh areas of London.

Riley flashed a smile at the woman. “Thanks.”

She turned and waved over her shoulder.

Riley pushed inside the bakery, and immediately a sugary scent wrapped around him. He strolled up to the counter and admired the cake creations behind the Perspex shield. They were all identical and arranged in uniformed lines. Chocolate sponge, one that looked like lemon, and a pink one with a strawberry on top.

Riley looked up and craned his neck to see further into the bakery kitchen. There was no one inside, and he frowned, checking his watch. It was two o’clock, and he doubted the staff were still on break.

“Hello?”

Riley bunched his lips together and waited, but there was no reply. He turned, poised to go back to the shop, but the billboard caught his eye, and he moved towards it.

Adverts were nailed to the board, one asking for a tenant, one selling a wheelbarrow, and another an old sofa. They were scrawled in pen, and the pictures were black and white. Riley freed one of the pieces of paper and frowned. Not an advert, but a missing pet poster. Not a dog, or cat like he expected, but an African grey parrot.

“Who’s a pretty boy, then?”

Riley startled at the voice and pressed the poster to his chest. He flashed a look at the man behind the counter and laughed softly.

“You scared the hell outta me.”

The man blushed and bit his lip. “Yeah, I don’t know why I did that. I saw you with the poster, and it kinda popped into my head.”

“And out of your mouth.”

“Yeah.”

Riley repinned the poster and walked towards the counter. The man was younger, midtwenties at a guess. He swept his black hair back over his head and fixed his warm eyes to Riley’s. There was a flutter in Riley’s gut that unnerved him.

“So, they haven’t found the parrot?”

“Nope, that posters been up since I opened.”

“The bakery is yours?”

The man puffed up, not to shove his muscles in Riley’s face but to show him the apron smudged with chocolate. “Yeah, it’s mine.”

“This place is real nice.”

“Thank you, it doesn’t bring me much money, but I enjoy it.”

Riley frowned. “Not everything’s about money. Happiness is more important.”

The man smiled warmly, then stuck out his hand for Riley to take. “I’m Zac.”

“Riley.”

He frowned and looked down at their shaking hands when he felt stickiness. Zac glanced down, then up at Riley again.

“Well, that’s embarrassing.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Sorry for the wait, I was in the back, and I’m not strictly open right now.”

Riley darted a look back to the door and widened his eyes when he realised the shop was in fact closed.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise.”

Zac waved the comment away. “If I open all day, I’ll get overrun. I’ve got the breakfast pastries in the morning and the cakes and muffins in the afternoon.”

“You do this all by yourself?” Riley scanned all the cakes with wide eyes. There were so many it was hard to imagine one guy could do it all.

Zac ruffled his black hair with a tinge of embarrassment in his cheeks. “Yeah, I buy some stuff in and make the rest. My kitchen porter comes in at four and cleans everything up. He’s Dave—he’s a nice guy, but his taste in music is awful.”

“What does he listen to?”

“Very loud rock where you have no idea what the singer’s screaming about.”

“Ah,” Riley said, looking away.

Zac rocked back on his heels. “By that ‘Ah’ I’m guessing you’re a fan.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“So, Mr. Terrible-taste-in-music, what brings you here?”

“My sister, she lived in the village. I’ve been a bit of a crap brother recently, wanted to surprise her.”

Zac drew his eyebrows together. “What’s her name?”

“Emily Mathews.” Riley sighed.

It was a small village, but still with a population of a thousand or so—there was no way this man could know who she was.

“Ah. With little Maisy, right?”

Riley was rarely stunned, but it took an extended blink and a squeeze to the bridge of his nose before he could speak.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“So, you’ve been a rubbish brother, then, and you want to make amends.”

“Something like that.”

My Review:
Riley is a grown man returning to his hometown in the UK (somewhere) to reconnect with his sister Emily and school-aged niece Maisy. He’d sold his business interests and took 6 months traveling to “find himself” and didn’t bother to check in so he’s in Emily’s bad books. Riley meets Zac, the new and talented local baker, while he’s buying a sweet treat for his surprise apology visit. Riley hates returning to his hometown because he was beaten and bullied from a young age, and he still suffers panic attacks thinking about his chief tormentor, a boy named Aaron. As the days pass, Zac and Riley hit it off, and Riley begins to feel a little more settled having a friend in town. Riley even takes the apartment above Zac’s rented shop, deciding to stay indefinitely to help Emily care for Maisy since her now ex-husband abandoned them.

Each day, Riley and Zac converse and share a coffee while Zac readies the shop. It’s a great friendship with subtle hints of maybe more until Zac confesses he has a wealthy boyfriend…named Aaron. Despite his misgivings, Riley continues to befriend Zac, and the confirmation that his tormentor is dating the man he’s crushing on still doesn’t derail this burgeoning friendship. At least, not until Aaron meets Riley, and then it’s old habits all over again.

This is an okay read. For myself I had struggles because I’m a detail-oriented person and I felt a distinct lack of the kind of details I usually enjoy. I like to know about the setting, and the ages of people, and roughly how they made their living. This story was all very generic about those sorts of things, which frustrated me, but may not be a big deal to another reader. I also wasn’t sure if there was a language issue, but it seemed like there were missing words in places, leaving me scrambling to intuit the context, at times. Not sure if this was because I had an advance copy, and those issues were cleaned up in the final edit–but it also bothered me. I grew tired of overlong patches of dialogue, too, where it carried too much of the plot. People do not converse in paragraphs…

Truly, however, the biggest issue I had was the “revenge” arc that was completely non-existent. Supposedly, Riley is going to take revenge on his biggest bully, the man whose very voice or presence STILL gives him panic attacks. Not once did he make any such plan. His whole plan was to AVOID Aaron at all costs. Only in the VERY end when Aaron was making physical threats did Riley make the jump–to protect someone other than himself. I really felt like Riley got a “sweet reward” by falling hard for Zac and having his love returned, versus getting revenge. It’s an otherwise breezy romance.

Interested? You can find SWEET REVENGE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****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:
Tilly lives in a small village in the UK, surrounded by fields, and meadows.

By day, she’s looks after her two lively boys, but by night…she’s usually asleep, too exhausted to write, but sometimes she gets lucky, sometimes she settles down with a nice cup of tea and sinks into a story.

She hopes you enjoy them.

You can catch up to Tilly via email: tillykeyesauthor (at) outlook (dot) com

They are THE EXTRAORDINARIES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing the love for a YA LGBTQ romance that’s out today from a long-time fave author, TJ Klune. I’ve mostly reviewed Klune’s paranormal Green Creek series (WOLFSONG, RAVENSONG, and HEARTSONG) on Joyfully Jay, but THE EXTRAORDINARIES I got for myself. I fell hard for BEAR, OTTER, AND THE KID years ago, and I pick up Klune’s books whenever I can, now.

About the book:
Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

My Review:
Nick Bell is a 16 year old out-gay boy who has a fierce group of queer friends. There’s Seth, who is likely gay but never dated anyone. He’s Nick’s oldest and dearest friend–Nick expects to spend a lifetime of friendship with Seth. Then, there’s Gibby, a take no crap baby butch black girl in her senior year. Gibby is in a committed relationship with Jazz, head cheerleader of their high school. And, Nick is sort-of friends with Owen, his rich and popular ex who relishes needling Seth.

Nick’s world is a little richer by virtue of true superheroes, dubbed “the Extraordinaries,” who save people with their superpowers. Nova City, where Nick lives, is home to Shadow Star, a superhero that can pull shadows to do his bidding, as well as his arch nemesis, Pyro Storm, who uses fire to wreak havoc. Nick is unabashedly crushing on Shadow Star, and has written literally hundreds of thousands of words in fanfic celebration of a possible love between Shadow Star and everyday boy “Nate Belen”. This mission and crush has helped lift Nick from the depression he suffered when his mother was tragically killed two years ago.

Nick’s dad is a cop and his only remaining family. They have a good relationship, but Nick struggles to connect with people in general due to his ADHD and neurodiverse situation. This is likely why he cannot see that Seth is actively pining for Nick–and it’s soon clear that Nick is missing the biggest secret in Nova City: he’s actually friends with the Extraordinaries that he idolizes.

Nick’s mission is to be normal at school, allaying his father’s fears for his future, but also to join the ranks of Extraordinaries, so he can:
1. get Shadow Star to fall in love with him, and
2. protect his dad from harm.
Much of the story is Nick strategizing hare-brained plans to unlock his Extraordinary potential. His awkwardness and complete obliviousness to reality is shake your head funny, but Nick isn’t the butt of jokes. His sincerity and desperation bring a gravitas to him, even when it’s clear that most everyone can see the bigger picture while Nick’s trapped in minutia.

Nick’s anxiety, depression and ADHD are a huge part of his character’s personality, and I really enjoyed the mental rollercoaster that Nick lived in. I felt how deeply it encompassed his worldview, and how frustrating it was to struggle with these hurdles minute-by-minute and pill by pill. Nick’s impulsive nature is further rattled when his dad gets injured while protecting people from the increasingly more dangerous battles between Shadow Star and Pyro Storm.

This is the first story in a series, and I seriously could not stop turning the pages. I was charmed and intrigued throughout, only slightly discombobulated by the fanfic opening. I adored Nick, and his narration is a masterstroke of YA voice. His one-sdied love afair with Shadow Star morphs into something much greater, and more satisfactory as he gains both knowledge and perspective. Expect some boys kissing!

We get some solid leads on the direction of the next story by well-placed clues about previous Extraordinaries that have disappeared, and the startling occurrences that shield Nick when Shadow Star and Pyro Storm are involved in battle. It’s a coming of age story, in many ways, but it’s also a coming to terms story, with Nick being a (lovable) petulant teen, confused why his dad now insists that Nick “leave the door open” when Seth visits his room. He clearly doesn’t get that they are only best pals! He’s also mortified by his dad’s “protection” demos involving items like bananas and vague threats of talks with his service pistol handy. There is so much awesomeness packed in this story, I can’t believe my iPad didn’t explode with cape-wearing kittens and chocolates filled with rainbow ganache.

I’d honestly read this story over and over, and highly recommend it to YA readers, and fans of superhero or LGBTQ stories. Like every Klune book I’ve ever read, I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel.

Interested? You can find THE EXTRAORDINARIES on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

You can catch up with TJ on his website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

A Hard Partnership for ANDRE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Jayce Ellis. ANDRE is the second book in her High Rise series that feature men of color finding professional success and love. Check out my review of JEREMIAH for another great read, though these books feature separate storylines.

About the book:
After a week filled with nonstop work, André Ellison heads to the club to blow off some steam. One night off is the perfect distraction from the project that’s about to make his career—or tank it completely. A few drinks in and he leaves with a smoking-hot stranger for some scorching, burn-the-sheets-up sex.

Marcus Thompson is going places, so he can’t think of a bigger waste of time than being put on loan to a two-bit firm to prepare some small-time report. The last thing he wants—or needs—is his impeccably dressed, hot-as-hell one-night stand as his boss.

As they work side by side, their attraction grows to a fever pitch, but there will be no kissing, no touching and absolutely no sex until the project is over—if they can wait that long.

My Review:
Andre Ellison is a 34 year-old black man living in D.C. and running his one-man financial analyst company, which caters to small-time investors. He’s got a degree from the Wharton Business school, and had a career working at a big investment company, until his STILL closeted ex-boyfriend (who STILL works for that firm) filmed Andre in a super compromising position and then “anonymously” shared the video with the firm’s partners. Andre could have fought through the situation, but he used it as an opportunity to make a clean break, against the wishes of a partner, and Andre’s mentor, Harold. Andre has a long-term complex about his sexuality, with hypermasculine ideals stemming from the barely disguised contempt of his brother and the pernicious way this had colored his family interactions. Andre is nearly apologetic about his sexuality, and though he desires trying bottoming, that switch in his head is set to “better be the man not the woman” and messes with his mojo.

Though Andre left Harold’s firm four years ago, Harold has recently asked Andre to submit a proposal for a small firm-big firm partnership to manage the wealth of a multi-generational old-money family, the Penningtons. Andre’s firm has make the cut of three–and he’s getting an intern from Harold’s firm to manage the final proposal. Andre is anxious about all of this, because he’s a micromanager and he knows this portfolio would be the make-or-break opportunity that would enable him to hire full-time help. He goes out to a nearby club to blow off some steam on the Friday night before his intern is set to start, and meets a delicious specimen of masculinity, Marc, who tests all of Andre’s boundaries. They hook up, and it’s amazing, but was only destined to be one night.

Marcus Thompson a black 25 year-old Wharton MBA student nearly finished with his summer internship for a big-time wealth management company and he’s sticking to his plan of managing foreign investment portfolios. There’s a level of detachment in that, and he’s big on risk assessment. He’s also grown up in a family where his father pushed hypermasculine ideals–which intensified when Marcus came out at age 11. All the cooking and housework he did while caring for his sick mother was highly frowned upon by his father, though they otherwise accept him. It was his dad’s idea to go into finance, and Marcus has no real passion for it. Yet, he’s pretty sure he’s being pawned off on a small firm project as punishment for his unwillingness to “play nice” and go out drinking with his fellow interns. He’s mad enough to go out clubbing with his long-time friend, and summer housemate, Jake. Marcus thinks he can blow off his frustration so he can blow the mind of his new “boss”. And, Dre makes one hot bed partner for the night. Shit hits the fan, however, when he turns up at Ellison Investments on Monday morning and learns that Andre is the man he’d had on his mind all weekend. He does NOT want to play nice anymore.

This is an engaging twist on the boss-employee love story. First, Andre and Marcus are both very stubborn men who are inadvertently in close quarters after they developed a sexual connection. Second, both men have some internalized self-hatred to exhume to get on track. Third, their professional partnership is destined to last three weeks at most–so they decide to bank their simmering attraction until the project is complete. Fourth, Marcus has no desire to work in Andre’s firm, but he’s drawn to the man–and he’s intensely passionate about caring for Andre, who works crazy hours to manage his client list. Fifth, Andre is not TECHNICALLY employing Marcus, as he’s paid from Harold’s firm. Still a power imbalance remains.

I really liked how the attraction grew over the course of the few weeks of their close acquaintance. Further, each man helps the other to confront and deconstruct the toxic masculinity they’ve absorbed through their male family members. They each meet the other’s family–not always by design–and their fresh perspective makes all the difference in the interpersonal interactions and their own internalized loathing. Those moments were especially rewarding because they were points of great self-reflection and growth for each man.

Naturally, while the romance is developing and the professional side is becoming promising, there will be moments of intense conflict. I think this was handled deftly, because it could have been wrapped up quicker, but in a way that may have been less satisfying. These are both strong, educated, intelligent black men. They need time to work through their feelings, and plot a course to reconciliation. Marcus was the one to walk away, and he’s not sure how to ask forgiveness. Andre has realized that he’s met his forever man, and even if their relationship might be unconventional–even for a gay partnership–he’s willing to be the man Marcus wants to care for. It’s a satisfying read, and definitely reflects cultural touchstones of Afro-American life, both middle class and beyond. I loved Andre’s dear friend and colleague Fiona, who is a proud black Domme with a white boy sub connected to Marcus’ sphere. She rocks it all day, every day.

While part of a “series” the connection points are made within the apartment building in which Andre lives, where Mr. Johnson, the doorman, takes great interest in making sure his “children” (Andre and Fiona) are well-cared-for. I loved that “old heads” nod to the Afro culture; Marcus knew he needed to earn that man’s respect if he was going to be a part of Andre’s life long-term. The family dynamics are clearing up for both Andre and Marcus, thanks to some frank conversation, and their happily ever after is 100% assured by the end of this story. Expect some hot office innuendo, and scorching sexytimes from the outset.

Interested? You can find ANDRE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jayce Ellis is an author and an attorney. You can connect with her on twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Adulting Pressures OUT ON THE SERVE–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 SERVE is the seventh book in her Out in College series, and features a newly pro volleyball player falling hard for his new roommate. Catch my reviews for OUT IN THE DEEP END, OUT IN THE END ZONE, OUT IN THE OFFENSE, OUT ON THE ICE and OUT IN SPRING for more on this sweet and sexy series.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
About the book:
Roommates to friends to lovers…
Elliot:
I need a roommate fast. Even a temporary one. Beggars can’t be choosers. Going pro after graduation has been intense, and time is precious. Thankfully, Braden seems cool. He’s a little quirky…and very sexy. Of course, I would never get involved with a roommate. That’s a bad idea. Isn’t it?

Braden:
Moving to Long Beach seems like a no brainer. It’ll be a perfect chance to wind down before grad school and a nice respite from my folks. Plus, my new roommate is a great guy. A little messy, but sweet. Gotta admit, I like him more than I should. And we’re off to a strange start when a mutual friend hooks me up with his ex. Elliot’s the one I want, but going from friends to lovers is a risk. We could end up out on the serve…or we could win it all.

Out on the Serve is a low-angst MM, bisexual romance starring two roommates, one neat, one messy, beach volleyball, a lot of sand, and a little summer fun. This story is part of the Out in College series but can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

Ten minutes later, I tied a towel around my waist and opened the bathroom door to release some steam just as Braden opened his bedroom door.
It might have been my imagination or wishful thinking, but I could have sworn he eye-fucked me before he met my gaze.
“Mornin’,” I said in a raspy voice.
“Good morning.”
“How’d you sleep?”
“Pretty good. Are you going to the beach today?” he asked awkwardly.
“Yeah. I’m leaving soon.”
“Hmm. I heard the swell is huge,” he said in a fast, clipped tone.
I crossed my arms and leaned against the doorjamb. “Yeah, I heard that too. There’s some big storm off the coast of Mexico.”
“Right.”
“Want to come with me?”
“To Mexico?”
I barked a laugh. “No, dork. To the beach.”
Braden chuckled. “Believe it or not, I’m going to the theater. Sophie talked me into trying out the assistant gig. Hopefully, it’ll keep me out of trouble.”
And there was the opening I needed. I wasn’t sure how to word it, though. The hint of unease between us told me that I should proceed with caution. We had to be on the same page and willing to try something new and—fuck. My window of opportunity was closing. Braden’s cheeks reddened as he mumbled a good-bye.
I grabbed his wrist before he closed his door, ignoring the spark and sizzle that zipped along my spine. “Hang on…thank you.”
“For what?”
“The cereal.”
“Oh.” He let out a half laugh and yes…his face went a shade pinker. Fuck, that was both cute and hot at the same time. “It was silly.”
“I love silly. I’m a huge fan of all things ridiculous. Ask anyone.”
“I believe you.”
“Good. So…let’s agree that this doesn’t have to be weird. We’re grown adults. Well, you are anyway. We can call it a celebratory kiss if you want and move on. What d’ya say?”
“Yes, okay. I’m—I’m sorry about”—he circled his wrist meaningfully—“everything. I overreacted.”
“You mean the part when you yelled at me for getting sand on the floor? I forgive you.”
“No, I was serious about that part.”
“I know. But don’t worry about the other thing. Boners happen.”
Braden sputtered. “I did not have a boner.”
“Liar. We both did. Might have been your mom’s fudge,” I teased.
“You think my mother’s homemade fudge gave you a hard-on,” he repeated incredulously.
“Dude, chocolate totally gives me wood. Or maybe she added a chemical substance that made us too relaxed.”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know…weed?”
Braden snickered. “Unlikely. My mom is very proper. I don’t think she even knows what weed looks like.”
“Hmm. You seem kind of proper too. Do you take after her?”
“Maybe, but I know what weed looks like,” he assured me. “My roommate in the dorms my freshman year was very fond of the stuff. We didn’t get along at all. He was a total—”
“Slob?” I supplied, quirking my brows.
“Yeah.” He shrugged carelessly. “I was probably overbearing, but in my defense, I come from a super rigid household. I’m an only child, and I was sick a lot when I was little. I had colic and sensitivity issues. I’d break out in rashes if I was in the sun for five minutes or if I ate citrus. My asthma was off the charts. I had a nebulizer at home, and I carried inhalers everywhere I went.”
“That’s a lot of information,” I said with a laugh.
He winced, then sucked in a deep breath. “Sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My geek is showing.”
“Ha. Nothing wrong with that. You like me, eh?”
Braden chuckled. Like I’d hoped he would. “What makes you think that?”
“You kissed me. Twice. We might as well get married and pick out His and His towels. Thoughts?”
“Great idea. Just don’t tell my mom. She’d have a heart attack. She was already worried I’d moved in with you because you were my…”
“Boyfriend,” I supplied.
“Yeah, except she has a hard time saying that word, so it comes out in a strained whisper like…boyfriend.” Braden modulated his voice to sound like a scared woman. He grinned when I busted up laughing, and I could have sworn a ray of sunshine burst through the wall of our apartment.

My Review:
Elliot has just graduated from Long Beach State and begun his career as a pro volleyball player. He’s bisexual, and open about it with his accepting friends and family, having just gotten over a breakup with Drew. Before that he dated Anna for a few years. They’re still friends, but Elliot is working on adulting. That’s why his current roommate, Sophie, is moving out. Sophie is an actress and has had a long-standing and unrequited crush on Elliot for years now. When he made it clear that they would only be friends, she decided to move out ASAP cajoling a friend, Braden, to take her sublease. We have met Elliot and Sophie before. Elliot was living with Colby Fischer (OUT ON THE ICE) before Sophie moved in and Sophie is a dear friend to Phoenix (OUT IN THE FIELD). Elliot is immediately attracted to Braden, who is a volleyball player he knew graduating from nearby Chilton College.

Braden is beginning grad school at UCLA in the fall, and is looking to live anywhere but home with his religious s-mother. He has one year of NCAA eligibility left, and he’s set to join UCLA’s team, but this summer he’s all about Shakespeare. He’s a finance guy with a love for theater, how he met and befriended Sophie. They have both auditioned for a summer Shakespeare play, and Braden’s using this experience to convince his mom he can be out on his own, instead of returning to their home for the summer. Plus, Braden is totally attracted to his new roomie, Elliot, even though Elliot is a total slob, and pretty hopeless in the housekeeping/adulting skills zone. When the play kind of falls through, Braden find himself spending more time with Elliot–who’s receptive to his needs for cleanliness and order–playing volleyball and hanging out.

And, that’s when the sexytimes begin.

This is a low-angst New Adult sports romance with a fair amount of sexytimes and a sweet connection story. Elliot’s pro partner is a smarmy wheeler-dealer, and he gets Sophie involved in crafting their social media–with off-court twists, like setting him up with Anna, Elliot’s ex. And, maybe, setting Elliot back up with…Drew? He really ants to play up the Rainbow angle, while Elliot just wants to play hard. There’s a lot of awkward going on, especially when Braden’s mom won’t get that he’s bisexual–no matter how many times he’s stated it as fact.

Both Braden and Elliot think the connection between them will end when the summer does, and Braden moves on, but what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if they decided to stay together as long as they like? It’s a no-brainer situation, since it requires so little alterations to their original plans. I liked how these guys took charge of their situations and had the conversations necessary to bring happiness into their lives on the regular. Sweet and sexy!

Interested? You can find OUT ON THE SERVE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****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.

Now Available! BEFORE I DIE by Nikki Ash

Hi there! I spreading the word on a new contemporary romance out today from Nikki Ash. BEFORE I DIE is a heart-stopping and intense stand-alone romance.

Five Dark, Decadent, and Delicious Stars!” – K Webster, USA Today Bestselling Author

“This book is one of the most gut retching, captivating books that I have read in my life” – Goodreads reviewer

About the book:
Things I want to do before I die:
Go to a club
Get drunk
Kiss a stranger
Go on a mission trip

I’m drowning. Trapped beneath my mother’s expectations. Suffocated by my religious upbringing. My life has been full of well-crafted decisions—none of them made by me.

On the outside I play by the rules, but on the inside… I have dreams. A list. A tattered scrap of paper tucked away from the world, only I know about.

Some items were easy to check off. Others, though, will require me to take a huge leap out of my comfort zone.

One night changes everything. While at the club for my birthday, so I could check off another item on my list, I did something I never imagined I would have the guts to do: I got drunk and kissed a stranger.

What I wasn’t prepared for was how that one kiss would change the course of my life, making me realize life is more than a list to be checked off. It’s about living in the moment so you don’t miss the ones not on the list—the ones you didn’t even know you wanted.

Interested? You can find BEFORE I DIE on Goodreads and it’s on sale at $2.99 for a limited time + FREE in Kindle Unlimited!!! Kindle US, UK, CA, AU.

About the Author:
Nikki Ash resides in South Florida where she is an English teacher and mom by day and a writer by night. When she’s not writing, you can find her with a book in her hand. From the Boxcar Children to Wuthering Heights to the latest Single Parent Romance, she has lived and breathed every type of book.

Reading is like breathing in, writing is like breathing out. – Pam Allyn

While reading and writing are her passions, her two children are her entire world. You can probably find them at a Disney park before you would find them at home on the weekends!

Connect with Nikki on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Unsure How to Become BOYFRIEND MATERIAL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand-new contemporary M/M romance from Alexis Hall. BOYFRIEND MATERIAL is a sweet and sassy love story for a tangentially-famous man and a bit of neurotically-ethical barrister who agree to be temporary fake boyfriends.

About the book:
Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

My Review:
Luc O’Donnell is in his late 20s and son of 80s rockers. His parents never married, and he never actually met his father, Jon Fleming, who’d moved on and toured with a different band, making a tabloid nuisance of himself for the most of Luc’s youth. His last serious boyfriend sold stories of their relationship, including compromising pictures, for an interview, and it’s left Luc feeling emotionally violated and preternaturally suspicious of any man who might take an interest. Now, Jon Fleming is back on the British music scene as an advisor to rock wannabees on a reality show. And, Luc’s many foibles are prime for the tabloids to print. Luc works as a fundraising manager for an obscure dung beetle charity, and this miserable job is in jeopardy when some of the usual donors take offense to the sensationalized antics that Luc hasn’t really committed, but are now in the papers.

He’s got to find a respectable boyfriend to win back the snooty donors, or find a new job. But who will hire this pariah? Better yet, who would really date him?

Luc’s friend sets his up with Oliver Blackwood, a decent and ethical vegan barrister who Luc is sure looks down on him from his moral high ground. Oliver is in dire need of a partner for his parents’ anniversary luncheon, and he’s willing to become part of Luc’s circus life to make this onerous occasion palatable. Luc tells the story so we get a lot of his emotional issues, but he begins to see that Oliver’s seemingly perfect life is a carefully constructed facade to paper over the isolation he’s long felt in his family.

Luc and Oliver are the sweetest men, both needing love and reassurance that they aren’t making horrible messes of their lives. Fleming’s not only on the telly, he’s making in-roads with Luc’s mum and seems to want to make amends to Luc, as well. Luc’s horrified by the tawdriness of the situation, and leans heavily on Oliver’s steadfastness to survive some of these encounters. Oliver is a great guy, noble yet a little sanctimonious, but he treats Luc better than a boyfriend, and Luc strives to be even half as good. Their communication becomes more necessary than perfunctory, and they develop a bond that neither wants to acknowledge in total–because they believe this is a meant to be temporary.

I love fake boyfriend tropes, and this one is extremely well-done. The friends and family drama is on point, and Luc’s self-deprecating humor is a constant delight. His sensitivity and emotional vulnerability are so raw, and I was glad that a good man like Oliver was there to help him patch himself up. Their sexytimes are tentative, at first, but tender and loving as they gain a keen interest in one another.

I honestly fell hard for Luc, and his quest to live a decent life and have a decent guy was so engaging. He’s got a brain that never shuts off, and it was a bit of a thrill ride as his feelings for Oliver ramped up. It was hysterical how Luc figuratively and literally cleaned up his life–including his apartment, because he wanted to be someone that Oliver could admire–not even realizing how much Oliver admired him already. I loved how he stood up for Oliver, especially against Oliver’s own family who all treat him rather shabbily. There’s a big conflict near the end, where Luc needs to make a grand gesture and it surely goes to heck in a handbasket, but he still ends up winning Oliver back for a happy ending.

I finished reading this a couple of months ago, but re-read it so it would be fresh for the release. It’s a book worth reading over again, and I still laughed out loud repeatedly as I absorbed Luc’s deep-seated self-consciousness for the second time. I loved these guys and was only sad to see the book end.

Interested? You can find BOYFRIEND MATERIAL on Goodreads, 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!