Reconnected So They FEEL THE FIRE –A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M hotshot fireman romance from Annabeth Albert. FEEL THE FIRE is the third book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE and HIGH HEAT, so I was excited to read on in this series.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild. Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

My Review:
Luis Rivera came to Painter’s Ridge Oregon when he was in elementary school. The youngest son in his family he felt a bit stifled in the remote location, but he made a really great friend, Tucker, who eventually became the love of his youth. Luis was a bit shattered when his dad was transferred back to LA, even though it brought him near to his extended family. Because Luis did not want to leave Tucker behind. They were juniors in high school and promises were made for Tucker to leave Oregon and join Luis in California for college and a life together. Unfortunately, Tucker’s dad had a heart attack in his senior year and Tucker was pressed to help run his family ranch–and he had to give up the dream of building an out and loving life with Luis–who didn’t want to wait any longer for his life to get started. Both Luis and Tucker had aspirations to be hotshot firefighters in the forestry service, and they did follow those dreams–in separate states.

Luis is an arson specialist working for the Forest Service and he’s unhappily single, now that his closeted partner was killed fighting a wildfire. As an unattached person, however, Luis’ superiors lean on him to make trips to other localities that need his expertise. So, he’s frustrated to again uproot himself for a temporary assignment. He’s incensed, however, when he learns that this assignment is centered in the Bend area, a short drive to Painter’s Ridge–and that his main contact will be Tucker, the boy who abandoned him twenty years before.

Tucker Ryland is a fire management expert working with the hotshot crews in central Oregon to maintain forest and minimize fire damage. He’s lived in Painter’s Ridge Oregon his whole life, but the small town isn’t feeling as homey as it had when he was married raising in his twin sons. He still co-parents living a few blocks from his ex-wife and her new husband, sharing meals with them and the teen boys, Walker and Wade a couple of nights a week. Tucker long ago came to terms with his demisexuality, and he and Heidi split amicable, but he’s getting lonely knowing that his sons will graduate from high school in a matter of months and their plans will likely take them far from their subdivision.

Tucker is melancholy over the loss of his relationship with Luis. He has only truly connected with Luis in his life; his marriage wasn’t planned and he and Heidi, his then-good friend, made the best of a tough situation. It was through her assistance that Tucker began to understand his sexuality, and both he and Heidi have been positive and open about it with their sons.

Luis has longstanding feelings of resentment, thinking that Tucker hid his sexuality and married Heidi as a beard and a way to remain hidden in his homophobic family. His misconceptions had caused him to hate Tucker, but being around him now reveals the truth, that Tucker is a good and honest man, and that Luis’ juvenile fears and hurt clouded a situation that could have been less fraught way back when. They are meeting again as grown men who’ve had some time, perspective, and unexpected patience to temper their feelings–and allow for a rekindling of their original friendship. For each man, the attraction is intense, and Tucker is ecstatic to have a more than platonic relationship to grow. There are the usual hiccups with the kids interfering. The boys aren’t necessarily trying to cockblock their dad. Actually, free-spirited Wade is digging the idea of Dad getting a boyfriend, while Walker, always the ruminator, is sure that his dad finding a partner will upset his own plans to stay behind in Painter’s Ridge with his girlfriend. I liked how both Luis and Tucker had great conversations with these kids, which clarified and solidified their growing bond.

The arson investigations that brought Luis to Oregon are nearly enough to keep him at Tucker’s side, but he’s not sure he wants to give up his city life for the country–again. And that gets Tucker thinking about what he wants for himself, a luxury he hasn’t had since before his dad’s heart attack in his high school days. This is a mature romance with some delicious sexytimes and a reunion of high school sweethearts that burns up the sheets. I really enjoyed it, and am hopeful we’ll see more of this setting in future stories.

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Realty, Renovation and Romance TIPPING THE BALANCE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55217708-rocking-the-boat” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>TIPPING THE BALANCE is the second book in his CalPac Crew series, which features a determined businessman chasing and catching the burly college graduate who could be his ideal partner…if only he wasn’t straight. This is a sequel to ROCKING THE BOAT with those MC characters weighing in on the love lives of a dear friend, and a former crew team member.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
The boys from ROCKING THE BOAT are back in TIPPING THE BALANCE. Nick Bedford’s best friend Drew St. Charles is a man with a dream. He wants to move from selling real estate and flipping houses on the side into renovating houses. Ideally, he’d find the houses and his boyfriend would flip them. Not that he has a boyfriend.

Brad Sundstrom, fresh out of college and working for his father in the family construction business, never believed he could dream of more…until he met Drew. When Drew wins a contract to restore the historic Bayard Mansion, they become the solution to each other’s problems. Drew needs someone to oversee the renovation and offers Brad, who wants out from under his father’s thumb, the job of project foreman.

Working in close contact makes the sparks between the two men burst into flame, and Brad takes his first hesitant steps out of the closet. Before long, spending the day together at work leads to nights spent together. It looks as if Drew’s dream is coming true, but then he is savagely attacked in a hate crime, and Brad panics.

Brad faces a crucial test. Will he overcome his fears and take his place at Drew’s side? Or will he retreat to the stifling familiarity of the closet?

How about a little taste?

“Are you sure you can’t get a general contractor’s license?” Drew wiped the sweat out of his eyes.

“Did you just whine?” Nick grunted as he muscled a cherrywood cabinet into place. “Besides, what about the one you already work with?”

“Shut up. Bob’s great, but I’m getting tired of hiring an outside contractor so this work passes inspection, and anyway, you’d be cheaper.” Drew set a level on the cabinet Nick had just installed and squinted at it as the bubbles moved sluggishly in the yellow fluid. “It’s not…quite…plumb.”

“How come you don’t have a contractor’s license?” Nick squatted down to tap a shim into place under the cabinet. Sweat soaked his shirt, as portable fans cooled the kitchen in theory only, but with the HVAC unit out, fans were all they could get in the summer heat.

Drew looked up from the level, struck once again by just how attractive his best friend was. Coaching the men’s crew at California Pacific College certainly encouraged Nick to keep himself fit—that, and his smokin’ hot boyfriend, Morgan. Some coaches let themselves go, but not Nick. Not for the first time, Drew found himself wishing they could’ve worked out, but they’d given that a whirl as undergraduates and both agreed they made better friends than lovers.

And what friends they were, pulling each other through hard times and celebrating the good. Drew had helped Nick win and keep Morgan. Nick worked like a dog all summer for Drew’s home renovation business. He was one of the few people Drew trusted besides himself to supervise each project from start to finish, the only other person whose eye for detail and quality touches matched his own. Nick treated the jobs done by St. Charles Renovations like it was his own name on the line, not Drew’s.

“Because getting my real estate license took all my time and money when I was younger, and now selling houses takes all my time.” Drew sighed. “The flipping was just a sideline, and now reno work for other people? It’s killing me, I tell you.”

“A sideline.” Nick snorted. “The best home flip in the area. Isn’t that what Sacramento Magazine named you this year? Spend the time on this it deserves, and the St. Charles property empire could grow by leaps and bounds.”

“It still will. I like a challenge.” Drew grinned wolfishly. “Besides, sleep is for sissies.”

“You would know from sissies.” Nick watched Drew carefully to gauge the reaction, faintly disappointed when Drew barely even rolled his eyes. “Is it level?”

“Yes.” Drew straightened.

“Good, now you can use those over-gymmed muscles for something besides filling a polo shirt and help me hang the next cabinet. That’ll be the last of the uppers on this side of the kitchen. The guys can help me hang the rest later.”

“I can’t get too sweaty. I have to show houses this afternoon,” Drew said.

“Don’t worry, princess, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in the room.” Nick laughed. “I just need someone to steady it and hold it while I get it bolted to the cleats. The pilot holes have already been drilled.”

“Seriously, Nick, how am I going to replace you?” Drew asked. “You’ll go back to coaching and your grad work all too soon, and I’ll lose my best crew leader.”

“I’m your only crew leader,” Nick pointed out.

Drew made a face. “Don’t remind me.”

“You and Renochuck have me for another two months, so make the most of it,” Nick said, “because after that I go back to just being your friend.”

“Renochuck?”

“That’s what Octavio and the guys call it.”

“Some of them barely speak English, and they still came up with Renochuck.” Drew shook his head. He wiped a speck of dirt off the rich red wood.

Nick eyed Drew askance as he bent over. “Bend from the hips, not your lower back.”

“Yes, Coach,” Drew sighed.

“Did you enjoy throwing your back out last fall?”

Drew smirked. “Oh hell yes, I had a fabulous time. It was the event of the season.”

Nick didn’t reply. He just glared at Drew, warm brown eyes to merry blue ones. “Did you enjoy the aftermath? No? Then do it my way. I do know something about bodies in motion, thank you very much.”

“Yeah, that’s what Morgan tells me.”

“Hands on.” Nick loftily ignored his friend. He squatted down and put one hand under the cabinet and used the other on top to steady it. “In three. One, two, and up!”

“Now I know,” Drew grunted out, “where that coxswain of yours gets his abrasive tone from.”

“No, that’s totally Stuart’s,” Nick said. “Besides, we’re crew. We’re not real bright, but we can lift heavy objects. Now, put those muscles to some use, Muscle Mary, and hold this steady while I drill it.”

“I’m sure you’re very good at drilling, seeing how much practice you’ve been getting.” The muscles of Drew’s arms and back strained to hold the cabinet in place as Nick hurried to secure it to the wall. Then he noticed something. “Why is the taller of the two of us the one who’s not holding this up?”

Nick grinned at him. “Because I’m the drilling expert, remember? There,” he said as he put the last bolt in. “That’ll hold it while I finish up. You can let go.”

Drew lowered his arms. “Seriously, how’s it going with you and Morgan?”

He pretended to listen as Nick rattled off a list of his boyfriend’s virtues, but Nick’s syrupy smile answered the question well enough. “I’m sorry, what’d you just say?”

“I asked if you were going to be around this weekend,” Nick said. “I’m meeting his parents for the first time, and I’m scared shitless. I’m hoping you’ll be around so I can send panicked text messages from the bathroom.”

“Meeting the parents? It must be serious.” Drew smiled.

“You know it. He’s it, the only one I’ll ever want.”

“Some of us might like the chance to find that for ourselves, you know.” Drew pretended to be very interested in a small pile of loose screws.

“Aww, jeez, not Brad Sundstrom again. I keep telling you he’s straight.”

“Just his phone—”

Nick put the drill down. “Look, Drew. You know I can’t give out his information without his permission. It’s a confidentiality issue, among other things. I was his coach, technically a college official. I can’t just hand out phone numbers like that.”

Drew knew all about Nick’s scruples, having listened to him endlessly gnaw his guts out about his interest in Morgan. He supposed he ought to be grateful to Morgan for taking matters into his own hands, if not because Morgan made Nick happy, then because it shut Nick up. “Then will you at least give him my number if he asks for it?”

“Drew—”

“C’mon, Nick. It’s a fair question. Don’t I at least deserve the chance to get shot down?”

“I just don’t want to see you hurt,” Nick said quietly.

“I’m a big boy, babydoll. I can take care of myself.”

“I know, and yeah, if he asks, I’ll pass your number on.”

Drew looked at his watch. “Shit, it can’t be that late, can it?”

“It can be, yes. Late for the showings?” Nick asked.

“Just about. Everything looks great so far, but keep in touch, and let me know if you hear from the counter fabricators, will you?” Drew said, already heading for his car.

“Of course.” Nick picked up his drill.

Drew tried to mop the sweat off his brow as he rushed for his car but only succeeded in pushing it up into his brown locks. He had just enough time to run home and shower before he showed the first of the homes to his clients. Yeah, rummaging around in the dirt and sawdust probably wasn’t the best idea, but he couldn’t give up fixing up homes, he just couldn’t. What he hadn’t told Nick was that some days, he felt like he’d made a huge mistake in getting a real estate license instead of going directly into repair and improvement. Working his way through the building trades might’ve seemed strange after getting his bachelor’s degree in business, but it would’ve been handy when he got a contractor’s license. While he’d never wanted to be a designer, there was something almost magical about watching a dump of a home rise from the depths to become a showplace, limited only by budget and imagination. The cabinets with their reeded glass inserts, the soapstone counters that were supposed to have arrived last week, the reclaimed Indonesian teak floors covered with marine varnish to repel water, the lighting, all of the pieces fitted together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle only he could solve—that was why he couldn’t keep out of it.

But how—oh how—was he going to replace Nick?

My Review:
Drew St. Charles is a realtor and home renovator in the Sacramento area. He has been flipping houses for years, but ir only now really focusing of home renovations. He doesn’t have a contractor license, however, and his main contractor is retired–only coming on to the job sites near their final inspection to ensure everything is up to code. Drew’s also routinely enlisted his college bestie, Nick Bedford, to run his construction crews in the summer when Nick doesn’t have classes or coaching responsibilities, but Nick has made it clear this is the last summer he can do it. Nick and his boyfriend/fiance Morgan are planning to move for graduate studies, once Morgan graduates next spring, and Drew is frustrated for a couple of reasons. First, Drew wants a partner in love and business. He’s a little melancholy that he and Nick never worked out, and that Nick is deliriously in love with Morgan. And, he also needs to get a good, solid contractor who will help him in his business plans. Beyond that, Drew has a hankering for a former member of Nick’s crew team, Brad Sunderstrom, who just graduated from CalPac College, and Nick won’t give over Brad’s number.

Brad is a hot mess of a big lug. He’d met Drew St. Charles at a few of the crew meets last season and knew there was something special about him–despite him being gay. Drew was smart, classy and successful in real estate, which is what Brad would hope to be. He had thought he was getting a job building homes in his father’s real estate development company, but instead he’s been saddled with selling an inferiorly-developed suburban tract that is sure to be bankrupt as NO ONE wants a home there. He spends his days in solitary confinement at the housing sales center with nary a visitor or a call. Brad’s been told his whole life that he’s stupid and a waste of space by his father, and he pretty much believes this. If he could “make something” of himself, he’d get the trust his mother had bequeathed him and be able to move out of his abusive dad’s home, which is why Brad initially reaches out to Drew for advice in selling the homes of his development.

Drew is elated to hear from Brad, even if he has to give Brad the terrible news that his development homes are substandard and overpriced–two huge reasons they aren’t selling. Their lunch meeting does yield fruit in that Drew learns Brad’s been building homes for his dad’s company since high school, and has the necessary skills to make a crew foreman. And, with a bit more training could qualify for a contractor’s license. Drew’s attraction hasn’t faded a bit, but Brad’s definitely straight. That’s not a reason for them to stay apart, though, especially when Drew offers Brad the crew foreman job and gets him to sign on to the huge renovation bid he’s planning on Bayard House, a derelict state landmark home that should be the Sacramento mayor’s residence but needs significant restoration to be livable. Brad is jazzed and even cuts his hours on his dad’s development project to accommodate this opportunity, something that really rubs his old man the wrong way. And, it’s not long before Brad has another opportunity: assistant coach for CalPac men’s crew, now that their team has tripled in size since Brad and the crew won the west coast championships the previous spring.

The more time that Drew and Brad spend, the more than Brad begins to admire Drew, and this admiration is accompanied by sexual attraction for a man for the first time in Brad’s experience. It’s stunning, and scary for Brad, who has lived with his father’s casual homophobia his whole life. And, yet, Drew is a man who believes him intelligent and capable and it’s the first time Brad has felt cared for since his beloved mother died. This leads to some small explorations, mainly kissing and cuddling, that prove the arousal for both men–and Drew is at first happy with this. The closer they become, the more Brad is willing to explore his attraction for Drew sexually, but he is loath to even consider himself bisexual, and especially not gay, no matter how far these explorations extend in terms of sex. Brad’s repeated denials of his same-sex attraction are wearing on his own esteem, and Drew’s last nerve. Drew fought hard to break free of the closet, and Brad’s unwillingness to consider coming out, or be seen in public with Drew, is eventually too much to overcome.

Naturally, there are outside challenges to the situation. The renovations were going pretty well until Drew is gay bashed one night. The aftermath results in a long separation, and the surety that both Drew and Brad had love in their futures before this tragedy. The situation is also complicated by bad communication and hurt feelings on both sides, but Brad is not a man to let down his love twice, and he finally picks up the pieces of his shattered self-esteem and does what is required to win back Drew’s love and affection. This, by the way, happens only after Brad acknowledges his gay attraction–aided by a burly fire chief on an arson investigation.

There are issues with this story, regarding realities of life in construction projects that seemed a bit beyond reasonable, and long periods of not a lot happening when ti seemed A LOT should be happening. But it was super fun watching Brad figure his life out. He seemed to be such a horrible guy in the first book in this series, but he recognized his problems then and tried to fix them, and works doubly hard in this story to make amends for past mistakes. Drew has a hard road to recovery, and he’s really about to give up on his dreams by the time Brad reappears in his life–with better news than he could have ever dreamed for. The long separation certainly did make these hearts fonder, and Brad’s hard work during that time bridged the gap that had opened in their lives. He and Drew make a happily ever after, and their realty and renovation business isn’t only the business partnership they build together; their private life is a masterwork of craftsmanship that they aren’t keeping on the down-low any longer.

Interested? You can find ROCKING THE BOAT on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

You can catch up with Christopher on Facebook, and twitter.

Finding One’s Path DRAGON ADVENTURES–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M paranormal YA romance from Mell Eight. DRAGON ADVENTURES is the sixth book in the Supernatural Consultant series, which features a dragon, a demigod and a passel of maturing dragon kits. This story is a brief departure from the stories, centering on two growing kits who are being raised by William Armistead, a fellow territory leader to Dane. I fell into the previous titles DRAGON CONSULTANT, DRAGON DECEPTION, DRAGON DILEMMA, and DRAGON DETECTIVE, and have loved watching these characters grow and evolve in each story. This new one features two maturing dragons tracking evil human scientists and finding their mates in one another.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Aqua and Rios are bored, which is always a recipe for disaster. Going on a trip might not solve the cause of the boredom, but they know it will distract them for a while. Except, Rios runs into a nix trying to save his river from drug smugglers and Aqua is kidnapped by a bunch of angry fire salamanders. Their fun adventure quickly turns into a desperate fight for survival, and they’re not certain they’ll be able get back home ever again.

How about a little taste?

“Ugh.”

“Blarg.”

“Pbtth.”

“Frrpth.”

“That’s enough, boys.” Uncle Willy’s frown of displeasure was pronounced. Rios shut his mouth on another fart noise and Aqua did the same at his side. The long table was quiet, Rios realized, and they were all staring at him and at Aqua. Uncle Dane, with his shiny blond hair, was easily recognizable sitting farther down. He was hiding a smile, but the rest of the people didn’t look happy at all.

“Really, William. This is an important meeting. Send the children away,” Ming said sharply. She was the tiny Asian woman who controlled everything west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. The entire table was full of territory leaders, and Uncle Willy had explained who each one was and the territory they controlled before they’d arrived for the North American Territory Leaders Conference that occurred every ten years. The last conference had been in Mexico, and the next two or three were going to be in the US before it went back to Mexico. Uncle Willy controlled Canada, and he always hosted the conference after Mexico.

Uncle Willy had been very stern with the boys about the conference. He had been teaching them all about his duties as territory leader and wanted them to sit quietly so they could listen and learn. But that was boring!

Rios opened his mouth to explain how bored he was, but Uncle Willy’s frown grew even sterner, so he shut his mouth again. Uncle Willy was his and Aqua’s caretaker. He had found them making a mess in a river and had ended up adopting them instead of punishing them. Living with Uncle Willy was fun. He played games with them and taught them magic. Even though they had to do chores, it was much better than living in the wild. Uncle Willy had even lost a lot of weight over the years so he could go swimming with them; he wasn’t skinny, of course, but he could keep up now, at least. But then he had said that being fifteen years old signified that they could now take on some responsibility. Well, if responsibility meant sitting in boring meetings while people did a lot of useless talking, then responsibility was awful.

Both Aqua and Rios hated being bored, and Uncle Willy knew that. Rios hoped his answering pout at Uncle Willy explained his reasoning.

“Go on, then,” Uncle Willy finally said with a sigh. Rios refrained from cheering happily as he jumped down from his seat and scampered out of the room after Aqua.

It took them ten minutes to realize there was nothing to do outside of the meeting either.

“Nickel should have come,” Aqua grumbled into the pillow that he used for a face-plant. His blue hair was spread around his head like a wave.

He should have. Rios couldn’t agree more. Nickel was awesome. He was an older water dragon, about twenty-two, and Aqua and Rios had been playing with him for ten years. He had taught them so much about their shared magic and was happy to see them whenever they could convince Uncle Willy that they should go visit. Except, the last four years of their friendship hadn’t been nearly as fun. Nickel had a new playmate: an air dragon named Platinum. Instead of coming to the territory leaders’ meeting with Dane like Nickel should have, he was home playing with his new best friend. It wasn’t fair.

Aqua rolled onto his side so his face wasn’t being smushed by the pillow. He growled under his breath and then let out a heavy sigh. They were both brothers, and the fact that they had definitely hatched from the same clutch was obvious in their shared brow line and rounded chins. Aqua’s nose was a little longer than Rios’s, his eyes a smidge wider, and he was about four inches taller, but they were clearly brothers. They hadn’t been entirely certain of that fact when they were younger and had been confused for twins more times than Rios could count. When they had been kits covered in identical blue dragon scales with identically colored hair, no one could tell them apart. Only as they grew had their differences become apparent, but as far as the issue of being bored and being abandoned by Nickel, they were of the same mind.

“We should go tell Nickel how sad we are that he couldn’t come,” Rios whined, knowing he was speaking what Aqua was also thinking.

“Not on the phone,” Aqua grumbled in reply immediately. The phone number for Nickel’s new house that he was sharing with Platinum was written in a little book kept next to the phone in the kitchen, but a phone call wouldn’t convey just how upset they were with Nickel. It had to be done in person.

“Uncle Willy won’t take us there when he’s still in the middle of a meeting,” Rios mused aloud, “and Uncle Dane isn’t going back home until the meeting is over, so we can’t tag along with him.”

“So we’ll have to travel on our own,” Aqua said insistently.

That made sense to Rios. They weren’t too far away from Dane’s territory, or at least Rios didn’t think so. Uncle Willy owned big houses all over Canada. He didn’t want to use his main house—where they lived most of the time—for the meeting, so he had brought them all to his house in Ontario instead.

“Wasn’t there a map on the wall of Uncle Willy’s office?” Rios asked. They didn’t spend too much time in Ontario, but they had made sure to thoroughly explore the house.

They ran out of the living room eagerly, up the stairs, and down the hall to the office. Since Uncle Willy was downstairs in the meeting, they didn’t knock. Aqua threw the door open and they piled inside.

It wasn’t hard to find the map on the wall. It was only about five feet by five feet long, and Rios could easily grip the wooden frame and take it off the hook. Some of the lines were a bit different than Rios thought he remembered, but it was definitely a map of North America. Although, only the right half of the US portion of the map had the lines that denoted the States. The rest of the map was mostly blank. It definitely looked weird, but they could still pinpoint where Uncle Willy’s house was in Canada and Uncle Dane’s house was in Massachusetts.

“There is a river, see!” Aqua ran his finger down the big lake that Rios knew was called after a big bird. Lake Seagull didn’t sound right—maybe it started with an H, but it wasn’t Hawk. The big lake connected to another slightly smaller lake via a river, which then connected to a third lake that was close to where Dane lived.

It looked like it would be faster and much more direct to walk on land, but they were water dragons and could traverse through the lakes and rivers at much greater speed. Once they got to the last big lake, they could find smaller rivers to get to Nickel’s house.

Aqua held his finger over the distance from the third lake to Massachusetts and grinned at Rios. “It’s only a few inches long. With our water magic, we can get there in a few hours.”

Something didn’t seem quite right—weren’t they supposed to measure with a ruler or something a little more accurate?—but it sounded like too much fun not to go anyway. Rios glanced at the clock, which read eleven in the morning.

“We had better pack lunch,” he said with his own grin.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in a series, and contains two short novellas of paranormal YA adventure that’s able to be enjoyed as a standalone.

For readers of the series, we encountered William Armistead in DRAGON DILEMMA. William is a territory leader for Canada, and he adopted two wild water dragon kits some years back. He’s a super powerful magical being, but a struggling parent, so he leans on Dane–who is the Northeast US territory leader–and adoptive parent to 7 young dragons for advice. Dane has been raising dragons for nearly fifteen years, and is partnered with a dragon, so he’s a great resource. Dane’s in residence in Canada for a territory leader meeting when “Uncle Willy’s” 16 year old water dragon kits, Aqua and Rios, get bored and decide to hare off to Uncle Dane’s territory and play with their pal Nickel, who is a now 22 year old, mate-bonded, water dragon.

The silly kits use an ancient, decorative map to plan their route, sure they can traverse Lakes Huron and Erie in a matter of hours to meet their friend. The plan goes well awry. Rios, who is using his magic to guide their rowboat realizes that they cannot continue in the dark–even though they have only passed into a riverway leading to Lake Erie. He guides the boat to shore and ties it off, much to Aqua’s chagrin. They pass a chilly night in the boat, Aqua sleeping and Rios restless–until he witnesses some folks on an unlit boat dropping crates into the water. Rios is interested, but doesn’t necessarily want to get his clothes soaked. Instead, he’s startled by a green-haired boy with a fish tail who drops into his boat. The boy’s tail split into legs as he dries watching the drug smugglers deposit their product into his river. Rios is stunned by all this activity, and charges off after the boy–who he calls Nixie after learning the boy is a nix, not a merman. They pull the drug-loaded crates to shore in an attempt to hide them from the the accomplices who should be arriving anytime before sun up to claim the crates and head back to US territory with them. Nixie has been monitoring this situation for a long time–he says the drugs leak into the water and kill the fish. He’s been alone trying to manage the problem, and immediately goes into hiding when the Canadian Coast Guard arrives and arrests both Rios and Aqua–the only beings on the scene of a suspected drug handover.

This is a sweet and interesting adventure, which leads Rios to not only his mate, but also his calling. As Dane has counseled William, the kits need to find a purpose in order to fully mature. This may happen while out on an adventure, and so he should support the kits in going off on their own, just a bit. And, as Dane remembers, sometimes the kit will find their mate as a result. Uncle Willy gets called in to account for his kits, and learns of Nixie and the drugs, and how the smugglers will return–which puts Rios front and center to rescue Nixie, whom he is frantic to save. He can’t keep his thoughts away from the green-haired, green-eyed nix, and how isolated he thought the young man was.

Uncle Willy rolled with it, and Nixie becomes a part of their growing family. Meanwhile, he and Rios have new missions, and what looks to be careers and a future together. And, this, unfortunately leaves Aqua out in the cold. The second novella begins about a year after Nixie arrives with Rios. Rios, having found his mate and his purpose is growing and maturing at an alarming rate, and Aqua…is not. He’s feeling sullen and maybe a little vengeful toward the nix who’s got his brother so captivated. Uncle Willy is so tired of Aqua’s griping he urges him to go find his own adventure–assuring that he’ll help Aqua if and when he gets into a jam.

Aqua is game for this plan, and packs some food and drinks with a few changes of clothes into a knapsack. He’s mastered flying and takes off from Saskatchewan to find his own new path. He flies and glides south for hours, until he’s tired and hungry. Landing in a dry and barren area, he eats a bit of his packed food and is about to head off again when he’s clobbered from behind and kidnapped into a shack in the middle of what seems to be a desert. Aqua is unwillingly brought into a family squabble between four fire salamanders, one of whom, Ash, appears to be albino. Ash is the youngest of his family and unable to live in the sun and fire his siblings thrive in. Hes eldest brother has begun a feud with the neighboring fire dragon, following a falling out over a match their sister made with a female fire dragon. And it is this man who is holding Aqua hostage, thinking he’s a dragon spy.

I liked how Aqua had to use his wits and his skills to help save himself, and then figure out a way to manage the discord between the salamanders and the dragons. Ash, due to his isolation in the cabin, has had little contact with the dragons, and he’s a little mystified of them. However, once they connect with the local council, both Ash and Aqua can see that this feud is an outgrowth of his brother’s antiquated ideas and prejudice. Standing up for himself and his sister puts Ash on the outs, leaving him homeless and vulnerable in a place he can’t survive. I’m not going to go into the ins and out of the plot, but I will share that Aqua connects to Ash in a permanent way, and he knows he won’t leave Ash to suffer there in the Utah desert.

Both of these stories are sweet, innocent and imaginative. William’s dragon kits are truly maturing and it was so fun to watch them flounder a bit, as they figured out their places in the world. There’s so much magic, and its always so engaging to experience this world, that I can’t imagine not picking up the next book–whatever that may hold.

Interested? You can find DRAGON ADVENTURES on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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.

Family Ties and Futures Found THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly-released M/M novel with romantic elements from Marie S. Crosswell. THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING features a retired rodeo star who’s struggling with his life choices, and his close cousins who have issues of their own.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Former pro-rodeo champion Smith Rose and his cousins Cooper and Christa Boone live a quiet life together in the town of Cody, Wyoming—until the summer of 2015 shakes them to their foundations.

Stuck in an unhappy rut since his retirement from the rodeo five years prior, Smith is forced to reckon with his past, present, and future when his former friend and lover John Henry Walker shows up at Smith’s bar. Meanwhile, the Boone sisters face a threat they never would’ve predicted when an out-of-town stranger begins to stalk Christa after meeting her at a party. While trying to support her sister and their cousin, Cooper secretly agonizes over her fears of their little family splitting apart and where that would leave her.

When Smith, Cooper, and Christa’s problems converge in a dangerous confrontation, will the three of them survive?

How about a little taste?

Cody, Wyoming
Summer, 2015

The three of them sit sprawled in a booth: Smith, Cooper, and Christa. Their table’s littered with beer bottles and the shucked off metal caps. Smith’s got a cooler on the floor alongside his seat because this is his bar and he can do whatever the hell he wants. He opens each beer with the bottle opener on his key ring. His cousins got a pretty good buzz going on, the two of them pink-faced and smiling, leaning into each other. Smith is mellowed out, not drunk. He doesn’t watch the saloon or Georgeanne filling in for him at the bar, just nurses his drink and considers his cousins.

“There is no way in hell I’m riding fifteen hundred miles on the back of a motorcycle,” says Christa.

“Why not?” Cooper whines. “Labor Day weekend, it’ll be beautiful. We won’t see weather that good in between here and Austin until next spring, which is almost a year from now.”

“I wouldn’t go in the spring either. I’m not traveling that far on a bike. Period.”

“You don’t even have to worry about the bike. I’m the one handling it. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the scenery.”

“I wouldn’t be enjoying anything, Cooper! I’d be terrified the whole way. What’s fun about that?”

“I wouldn’t even go fast!” Cooper says. “I’ll cap it at five above the speed limit; I promise.”

“Eighty miles an hour on a motorcycle is still enough to kill you!”

“Okay, first of all, it would be seventy half the time, and second of all, why don’t you trust me? I’m not some reckless yahoo looking to cheat death taking a corner too fast, and even if I was, I would never gamble with your life.”

Christa gives her sister an indulgent smile. “It’s not about you. It’s about all the things you can’t control. My fear included.”

Cooper sighs in defeat and blinks at Smith sitting across from her. “Will you go with me?”

Smith pauses. “Might follow in the truck.”

Cooper rolls her eyes. “Forget it. I’ll go on my own.”

“You’re not making that trip alone, Cooper,” says Christa, sipping on her beer.

“Well, I wouldn’t have to if you’d come with me.”

Cooper’s been restoring a 1966 Triumph Bonneville T120TT all year, tinkering with it in her spare time at the garage where she’s an auto mechanic. She reckons she’ll be finished with it by the time September rolls around, and she’s been pestering her sister about a long road trip to Texas.

Christa ignores Cooper’s pouting and gives Smith a pointed look. “You coming to the rodeo with us?”

“No, ma’am,” he replies and draws on his beer. He’s sitting in the interior corner on his side of the booth, and he’s got his left arm stretched out along the top of the seatback behind him. He might be hiding a little, from the rest of the room.

“Smith. Come on.”

“Every year, you two go out there, and every year, I don’t. I figure that’ll never change.”

“Why can’t you just suspend your boycott for one night and spend some time with us?”

“I’m spending time with you right now. I’ll follow you anywhere, except the damn rodeo. Why don’t you skip the rodeo and do something else with me? We could take the motorcycle course at the DMV and get licensed.”

Christa makes a face at him. “Very funny.”

“Well, we’re going tomorrow night, with or without you,” Cooper says to Smith. “And I’m betting whoever places first in bronc and bull riding won’t come anywhere near your records, like I always do. Then I’ll be proven right like I always am. At least half a dozen people will recognize me and Chris as your family, ask us how you’re doing, and then recount some memory of your glory days we’ve both heard about a thousand times. We’ll smile and nod and agree you were the best in the West, shake hands, and go home.”

“Clearly, I’m not missing anything,” says Smith, his face shaded under the brim of his cowboy hat.

“If you hate the rodeo so much, why did you decide to live in Cody?” Christa asks. “You could’ve gone back to Rawlins or Cheyenne. Left Wyoming altogether.”

“Cody ain’t a bad place to live.” Smith flicks his eyes past his cousin and gives the saloon a once-over. “You two are here.”

“We’re here because of you,” says Cooper.

Smith glances at her but doesn’t respond, draining his beer bottle instead.

My Review:
Smith Rose retired from the professional rodeo circuit a three-time world champion rider, and settled in Cody, WY where his younger cousins, Copper and Christa Boone, have also decided to live. It’s a small town, and Smith has a honky-tonk style bar and he lives on a spread of acreage in a trailer.

Cooper has long followed Smith through the years, his biggest fan and even now she watches over him, fearing that he’s fallen into a depression. Cooper and Christa are two of the few people in the world that know Smith is bisexual. He’s always kept his activity with men on the down-low and retired in part due to fears over being outed. Smith had one long-ish term relationship with a fellow cowboy on the circuit, a bisexual black man called John Henry Walker. And when John Henry called it quits, it broke a little something inside Smith.

Cooper is an asexual butch mechanic, and her love for Smith and Christa is great. She’s afraid that they will each find a partner and move on leaving her alone. So, she’s poised to observe the change in Smith’s demeanor after John Henry shows up in Smith’s saloon. And, she’s further troubled by an aggressively charming Nite Rodeo rider who seems to be stalking Christa.

John Henry has made it clear he’s riding in the Wyoming-area rodeo circuit this summer, and Smith doesn’t waste time tracking him down. Their sex is still mind-blowing and both men are more touched by the moment than they can let on. John Henry reveals he has a long-time girlfriend whom he plans to marry, but while he’s our on the rodeo he’s not planning to be monogamous. He’s not actually a player, John Henry has long had a love for Smith Rose, and this summer was his attempt to makes sense of his feelings and conflict, before he takes the plunge to either come out and make a life with Smith or marry his girlfriend.

There are many points of view that converge in this story, and there’s a lot of heavy lifting put into the the thoughts and reflections of each character. Cody is small, and people who fall into the quilt bag of the LGBTQIA rainbow are struggling to find family. To feel if they can be safe and out at the same time. John Henry has a double worry, of being out and black, in an area and profession that is undoubtedly white supremicist. The contrasting viewpoints allows readers to really feel the turmoil of these people as they connect and struggle to decide how to live their lives with love and joy. It’s a quiet story, and not exactly a romance. There is happiness, love and peace within, but there isn’t a real romance-y ending. I liked the story a lot, and I loved the characters. For people who love westerns, scenic reads, and deep, emotional introspection, I would recommend this one.

Interested? You can find THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Marie S. Crosswell writes long fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Her novellas Texas, Hold Your Queens; Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart; Alchemy; and Cold, Cold Water are available online wherever digital books are sold. Her short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Betty Fedora, Plots with Guns, Tough, and other indie crime fiction publications. She’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing. She lives in the American West.

Catch up with Marie on her website.

Reconstructing a Love START TO FINISH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly released M/M mystery romance from Pamela A. Williams. START TO FINISH is the first book in the Ian Start mysteries and I really liked how it developed.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Ian Start is an art professor and poet, living and teaching in Providence, Rhode Island. After suffering an infection in his leg that left him disfigured and traumatized, he’s been struggling to regain his emotional balance and find his voice again in his poetry.

It doesn’t help when one of his students is murdered, and he’s implicated. The chemistry is still there between Ian and Jake, who is his ex and the investigator, but being a suspect presents a barrier to their reunion.

Furthermore, Ian’s injury left a massive scar, both physically and emotionally. He is not convinced anyone else should have to live with his disfigurement and his nightmares.

How about a little taste?

As I hobbled to the door, I could see, through the leaded glass, a stout Black man in a dated tweed blazer. He was staring intently at my approach, which made me wish that I was dressed in more than a robe and flannel pajama bottoms. Opening the door, I saw that there was a second man, a few steps down, looking out toward the street. “Professor Ian Start?” said the man in front of me.

“Yes?” I said, tearing my gaze away from the familiar pale ginger head.

“I’m Detective Henry Ransom from the Providence Police Department. May we have a few minutes of your time?” At that point, the tawny head turned, and it was, as I knew it would be, Jake. Right on cue, Ransom said, “This is Detective Jake Quinn.” Our eyes met and held. In the moment, I was delighted to see him. But in my moment of pleasure, I could see wariness and warning in his eyes, a slight shake of his head that clearly said don’t acknowledge. I immediately assumed there were some gay identity issues at play and kept my trap shut. Everyone knew I was gay, but I was well aware of guilt by association.

“Yes, of course, come in. We were just having coffee. Can I get you a cup?” Ever the perfect host, eh? With no small amount of trepidation, I led them to the kitchen where Rita was sitting at my little table. It looks out over a small terracotta-tiled patio with a wildflower garden beyond, looking bleak and dead in the frigid morning with black stems and flower heads that hadn’t been tended to before the winter frosts.

“Yeah, coffee would be good,” said Detective Ransom. I raised my eyebrows at Jake, who merely nodded. I knew he took it black but inquired of both anyway. Rita introduced herself, and they all shook hands. I didn’t get a handshake. I began to feel very nervous. My knuckles started to prickle.

Rita rents my street-level apartment. Short and trim, with crazy hair from an indeterminate ethnic background, she’s my closest friend even if she is a social worker. I had an overload of social workers during the time I was in the hospital, all telling me how fucked up I was going to be when I got out. After that, I swore off them permanently, but Rita was the exception. Despite our connection, Rita was a little bit of an enigma; quiet as a whisper, I never heard music or a loud voice from her apartment, so it was hard to tell if she was home or not, and I never knew if she had company because she apparently didn’t keep regular hours. But every Sunday morning without fail she’d be at my back door with croissants and hot chocolate and dressed in tight stretchy sportswear, perfectly comfortable with me in pajama bottoms and my faded silk robe. And that’s how a Sunday morning found us, the second of January, a sunny, cold winter day, when we heard the knock at the front door.

“I’m going to head back downstairs, Ian. If you need anything, just call.” And then she was gone. Cops can do that: clear a room instantly.

I poured two cups from the carafe and retrieved a carton of milk from the refrigerator for Ransom, letting him pour. “What’s going on?” I asked.

Ransom spoke. Jake didn’t say a word. “You are acquainted with a Thomas Wilson.” Statement, not a question.

“He was a student of mine, yes.” The answer to the nonquestion.

“Was?” Ransom asked, a hint of a challenge in the tone.

“Yes,” I said warily. “He’s taken his last drawing class. I teach drawing.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” Again Ransom. Christ. This was bad. I was going to hear that Thomas was missing. Missing or hurt, or…no, not going there. My stomach roiled a little.

“What’s going on?” I asked again. And in nearly a whisper. “What kind of detectives are you? Missing persons?” Yeah, like there are missing persons detectives. I was hoping for the best out of the only other option.

“Homicide,” said Ransom. I sat down hard on the nearest chair. Ransom then asked again, “When was the last time you saw Thomas Wilson?”

No, I do not want to hear what’s coming. “The last day of class. Um, the twelfth, I guess. He helped me load portfolios into my car. Are you telling me Thomas is dead?” Jake nodded but said nothing. “Are you sure? Sure it was Thomas? What happened? When?” They were wrong, had the wrong kid, were talking to the wrong instructor. I stared uncomprehendingly at Ransom. I couldn’t meet Jake’s eyes at all. I felt helpless. My knuckles began to itch, and I distractedly scratched at them.

My Review:
Ian Start is an artist and writer working as an adjunct professor at RISD–Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. He’s independently wealthy, no thanks to a huge lawsuit payout he got after an injury at a chain restaurant turned into a flesh-eating disease he barely survived. Prior to the infection he had an on-again off-again relationship with a sexy paralegal in NYC, but that guy disappeared during Ian’s recovery, which was prolonged and agonizing. He has deep tissue loss and scars in his thigh making his former passion of running impossible. Ian has also lost contact with his mother since the injury–she had a hard time handling the aesthetics of it.

One of Ian’s students, a young gay man call Thomas, has been murdered, and Ian has been clumsily implicated as a person of interest. It seems that Thomas, whom Ian knew well as a student, was turning tricks to pay his expenses at school since his family had disowned him in his teens. The news is shocking to Ian, who would have gladly helped out Thomas if he had known. Ian is also unsettled that one of the lead investigators of the murder is Det. Jake Quinn, a man Ian dated heavily in one of his off-times from his NYC beau. The broke up badly, and Ian still has feelings for Jake, but he’s too mired in his own self-disgust over the state of his leg–and how he hobbles on a cane now instead of being the virile man of his pre-infection days.

Ian is determined to do right by Thomas, even in death and pays to bury him, collects his personal drawings before they are trashed by the landlord’s cleaning crew and generally makes it clear to Jake that he won’t rest until Thomas’ murderer is found. Ian is initially a suspect, but the original leads turned out to be planted, and Ian’s sure that the case is growing cold. All his poking is aggravating the situation, however, and Ian finds himself not only threatened, but attacked in his own home. Jake is steadfast in his feelings that Ian should stay out of it–but he’s also warming to reopening their closed love story , if Ian’s up for it. There’s a good deal of soul searching in this slow burn mystery-romance. Ian is an interesting character, and he sees patterns and symmetry where others may not. He’s afraid to hope that Jake might become a partner to him, because he feels so unlovable, and that vulnerability is really poignant. It doesn’t help that Jake has some complications, an old lover who wants to rekindle things might beat Ian to the finish line there. Ian does solve the mystery, but it’s not a triumphant experience with as much tragedy that occurs in the climax.

I loved how Ian rediscovers himself in the course of the few months of this story’s timeline. He’s been depressed for so long, and he has to battle his inner doubts over and over to make things right for Thomas, and between himself and Jake. There is a happy ending, on the romance front. The mystery, as I mentioned, gets solved with a maximum of carnage, and that was more dramatic than I had truly anticipated. The book is quiet, with such lyrical prose I was one hundred percent in the head and experiences of Ian from the beginning. I really liked the story and wonder how Ian will continue to solve mysteries now that he and Jake are coupled up.

Interested? You can find START TO FINISH on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Pamela A. Williams is a Clinical Social Worker living and working on the Southcoast of Massachusetts. She is the daughter John E. Williams, winner of the 1973 National Book Award for Augustus. She has always had writing in her blood but has only lately found the serenity and confidence to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will).

Ms. Williams comes from a widely varied background. She’s worked in manufacturing, retail, graphic arts and the mental health field. She tries to bring these experiences to her writing to create well rounded, believable characters. And she remains forever honored and grateful to her clients who have shared their personal stories and broadened her view of humanity. She is awed by their resilience and trust.

She lives with two cats, of course.

Catch up with Pamela on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Dangerous Love DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly re-released M/M paranormal romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE has some heat and some horror as a man in his mid 20s falls hard for an older mysterious man, a new immigrant Sicily who may–or may not–be a murderous werewolf. If you liked THE PERILS OF INTIMACY, LEGALLY WED, or THE SECRETS WE KEEP you’ll likely enjoy this one, too.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
A monster moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from Seattle’s gay gathering areas.

In an atmosphere of spine-tingling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love cooking in an Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and…he can cook!

As the pair’s love heats up, so do the questions. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And, more important, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

When the secrets are finally revealed, is Thad and Sam’s love for one another strong enough to weather the horrific revelations revealed by the light of the full moon?

How about a little taste?

Music from his clock radio woke Thad Matthews at 6:00 a.m. The song, “Smokestack Lightning,” yanked him from a heavy, dream-laden sleep. Its energy forced his eyes open wider, caused synapses, eight hours dormant, to tingle, and made him want to move. Nonetheless, he slapped at the snooze button, silencing the bluesy wail, rolled over, and then pulled the comforter over his head. He was glad he had tuned his clock radio to KPLU, Seattle’s only all-blues all-the-time station, but he desperately wanted to recapture just a few more minutes of his dream, in which he’d found himself on the moors of England. All he could recall was that the moors themselves were appropriately fog shrouded and lit with a silvery luminance from above. Someone waited for him in the shadows and fog. And he couldn’t, for the life of him, know for certain if that someone meant to do him harm or meant to just do him.

He’d been having a lot of sexual dreams lately.

As much as he wanted to unravel the mystery of the dream—and to perhaps savor the vague sexual vibrations he was getting from it—sleep eluded him. He found thoughts of the day crowding in, preventing even the most remote possibility of a recurrence of slumber.

Thad sat up in the four-poster, rubbing his eyes like a little boy, and wondered why he bothered setting an alarm. He had no job to go to, no pressing engagements, no muse to answer to—hell, he didn’t even have an appointment for an oil change.

This day, like all his others, stretched out before him completely unmarred with obligations other than the requirements life imposed upon him, such as eating and going to the bathroom, which the erection poking up under his sheets compelled him to take care of. He called this morning wood a pee-on, because once he had put that particular need to rest, it most often subsided.

After stumbling to the adjoining bathroom and letting go with a flow that caused a mighty sigh of relief to issue forth from him, he thought once again that maybe today should be the day he looked harder into getting himself some employment—anything to put him into contact with other people and to fill his waking hours. Lord knew he filled out enough applications and answered enough Help Wanted ads on Craigslist to keep the officials down at unemployment sending him checks. But all his efforts, dishearteningly, were ignored.

It had been nearly four months since he had been laid off at Perk, the national chain of coffee shops headquartered in suburban Shoreline. Thad had been there for six years, in the marketing department, spending his days writing clever sayings for paper coffee cups and point-of-purchase signs for the stores. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. And writing phrases like “Plan on Being Spontaneous” paid the bills, even if it didn’t provide much creative or intellectual challenge. It helped sell coffee, and Thad never kidded himself: that’s why he was employed there.

Except now they didn’t need him anymore. Who would write the signs for their special Iced Coffee blend?

He gazed down at the bubbling golden froth in the toilet and flushed it away, along with his thoughts about his former job. He turned and rinsed his hands under the sink, then splashed cold water on his face. Standing up straight, he stared at his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror.

“You’re too young for a life of leisure,” he said to his reflection, rubbing his hands through his short, coarse red hair, which stuck up in a multitude of directions. People paid good money for products that would make their hair look as fetchingly disheveled as Thad’s did right now. He peered closer at himself, taking inventory of his pale skin, his gray eyes, and the constellation of freckles that spanned his nose and the tops of his cheeks. He flexed, thinking he was looking a little flabby around the middle.

“Workout day. I’ll head over to the gym today. I need it.” He sucked in his gut and let it out again, thinking it was empty and needed refilling. A Pagliacci delivery pizza only went so far. His slumber and active dream life, he supposed, had all but digested the pie.

Thad moved to the bedroom and began tossing pillows on the floor to make up his bed. He wasn’t sure why he bothered with this either, since it was unlikely anyone would see the military-neat bed except for him, when he would approach it once more this evening just to mess it all up again. But it was important to Thad to have a routine. Otherwise his days would blend into one meaningless chunk of time, formless, without definition or purpose.

It was becoming increasingly hard enough to distinguish Tuesday from Thursday—or Sunday, for that matter.

Back when he was putting in forty-plus hours a week, he envied the increasing number of friends and acquaintances who had gotten laid off during the economic downturn. The money they made on unemployment seemed like enough—at least for him and his modest lifestyle in his Green Lake studio apartment—and the freedom they had seemed worth the cut in pay.

But now he wasn’t so sure. The uncertainty of what would happen if he still wasn’t working when the unemployment checks dwindled down to zero hung over him like a vague threat. And the freedom wasn’t really so great, when that same threat prevented him from spending much money, lest he should need it down the road for luxuries like food and a roof over his head.

Worst of all was what the job loss had done to his self-esteem. Thad needed some meaning in his life, a purpose. That much had been instilled in him since he was a little boy, back in Chicago growing up in the working class neighborhood of Bridgeport, where his father was a cop and his mother waited tables at a Lithuanian restaurant.

He pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, padded out to the office area of his apartment, and plopped down in front of his laptop. He planned to check out the classifieds on Craigslist, then Monster, then CareerBuilder. When he was first laid off, he looked only at writing and editing jobs but had lately broadened his search to include, well, just about everything. Thad realized he would work retail, man a customer service phone line, groom dogs, or wait tables, as long as he had a job.

Yet the rest of the world hadn’t gotten wind of his eagerness to accept any kind of employment. Or if they had, they weren’t saying.

Before he went through the often-depressing ritual of cyber pavement pounding, he would check out what had happened in the world since he had stumbled in last night from an evening of self-consolation and vodka on Capitol Hill. He hit the little orange-and-blue Firefox icon on the dock at the bottom of his screen to bring up the day’s online news…

And was jolted right out of whatever sluggishness he was feeling. He stared at the lead article for that day’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A chill coursed through him, and he slowly shook his head as he read the details of that morning’s top story, titled “Brutal Slaying in Capitol Hill.” The article described how an as-yet-unidentified young man had been killed in an alley in the Seattle neighborhood known for its heavy concentration of gay bars and clubs. Thad had to stop reading for a moment to close his eyes because the gruesome details were simply too much to bear. His stomach churned. The man had not just been killed but had been literally ripped apart. Very little blood was found at the scene. And forensics had already determined that there was no trace of metal found on the victim’s flesh, which meant that the deed had to have been done with something other than a knife. The worst detail of all was the fact that the remains bore definite signs that much of the man’s flesh had been eaten. Authorities are keeping details to themselves regarding who—or what—the perpetrator could have been. The story closed with the usual cautions about what to do—don’t travel alone, avoid strangers and unlit places—when something so unsettling and violent occurs.

Thad exited Firefox sooner than he had planned and stared out the window. His heart thumped in his chest. Bile splashed at the back of his throat and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He had been in Capitol Hill the night before, having a dirty martini or three at Neighbours, one of the gay ghetto’s most popular hangouts. He wondered if, as he had made his way back to the bus stop, he had passed the killer or killers. If perhaps the killer or killers had eyed him, wondering if he would suffice for their demented purposes. He could see himself through their eyes, being watched from the shadows of a vestibule or an alley as he made his way back to the bus stop on Broadway. He wondered if he looked appetizing. He had been told on more than one occasion that he was “tasty” and “delicious,” but those doing the describing were not thinking of him as dinner—at least not in the conventional sense. He wondered if perhaps the only thing that had saved him was the coincidental passing of a boisterous group from the University of Washington, coming up alongside him just as the fiend in the dark was ready to pounce. He shivered. For once, rejection was a comforting thought.

Rejection, under these circumstances, was the new “getting lucky.”

Still, some poor soul had not been as lucky as he had, and today forensics was probably busy trying to figure out just who this unfortunate soul was. From what Thad had read, it didn’t sound like they had much to go on. Dental records, maybe? What kind of animal would not only kill a fellow human being but also eat his flesh and drink his blood? Was this a human being at all? Thad had heard of bears occasionally making their misguided ways down from the mountains and into Seattle, but they usually got no farther than suburban parks and backyards. And the “bears” that routinely cruised the Capitol Hill neighborhood were of a much more cuddly variety.

Surely, though, an animal couldn’t have been roaming around busy Capitol Hill on Friday night. The neighborhood, on weekend nights, was a blur of barhoppers and partiers, its hilly streets filled with people and cars jockeying for position. Loud and well lit, it was the kind of neighborhood that would scare the shit out of an animal, at least an animal with normal fears and inclinations. This had to be the work of a person, or people, right? And whoever was behind such a thing had to be majorly warped. Thad had a quick vision of pale-gray eyes and enormous canine teeth until he banished the imagery to the back of his brain, grateful for another kind of canine distraction.

That distraction had just sidled up beside Thad, her arrival signaled by a clicking of toenails on hardwood. Thad glanced down at his gray-and-white Chihuahua, Edith, staring up at him with her dark eyes. Her tongue stuck out one side of her mouth, giving her a both comical and wizened appearance. The dog was about a hundred years old, and Thad thought, for better or worse, she was his very best friend in the world. Edith got up on her hind legs to paw at Thad’s lap, indicating to him that he was not the only creature in the house that had to pee first thing in the morning.

Thad got up and, with Edith following impatiently behind, slid into flip-flops and grabbed her leash. “C’mon, sweetheart, let’s take a little walk down to the lake, and then we’ll see about getting us both some breakfast.”

My Review:
Thad Matthews is a man in his mid 20s who’s recently been laid off ans is enjoying a bit of R & R in his Seattle apartment while he job hunts and lives of unemployment. He tries to stay fit and has recently signed up to volunteer at a local food bank that serves gay shut-ins. He’s a super daddy to his chihuahua Edith, and he would really like a guy to settle down with, but no one has seemed right in the longest time.

He checks out a brand new cafe one night and meets the owner, a secy Sicilian bear named Sam Lupino. Sam and Thad have an instant connection and their night only begins with Sam feeding Thad all the best of his cafe’s kitchen. It unexpected, but delightfully, ends with Sam absolutely blowing Thad’s mind in bed. And, best news of all, Sam wants a repeat and a real relationship.

Meanwhile, Sam’s life is “complicated” and he can’t really commit on account of family issues. Thad thinks Sam must be closeted and playing him like a side-piece, but it’s more that Sam’s adult son, Domenic, is extremely homophobic. Sam is afraid to upset his family dynamic and Thad is heartbroken. Through his volunteer efforts Thad meets Jared, who really wants to date Thad–but his heart is still bruised by Sam. And, there’s some back and forth where Sam and Thad do connect in ways that might lead to more.

However, there is a murderer on the streets of Seattle. Twice in the past two months–always on the full moon–men in the gay community have been brutally slaughtered in areas known to be cruising zones. Jared is nearly attacked, and he leans on Thad heavily as he recovers from the shock. Thad’s dreams are plagued by nightmares of werewolves, and he’s starting to piece together the nights he sought out Sam and couldn’t find him were always on the full moon. Is Sam a brutal killer? Is Thad losing his mind?

This is a really cool take on the werewolf horror trope and harkens back to Silver Bullet, a fave movie from my youth. The werewolf is definitely under control–but Thad and Jared are also in its sights. Sam’s mysterious behavior provides a great counterpoint to the building tension, and while I had picked the killer out in the first part of the story, there were enough turns to keep me 100% engaged and turning those pages. There’s a significant amount of suspense, and while the ending is technically happy, there is certainly a lot of loss and gore until we arrive there. It’s a perfect Halloween read.

Interested? You can find DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Cover Reveal for NICE CATCHING YOU

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a holiday M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. NICE CATCHING YOU features a closeted top college hockey player falling hard for a law student he meets by chance. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS and TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
What happens when the No. 1 college hockey star in the country falls in love—with a man?
Nick Johnson, a top prospect for a pro hockey team, has a secret: he’s gay. Tired of living in the
closet for the sport he loves, he sees no way out.
Jacob Meyer’s string of bad boyfriends left him cynical about love. Instead, he focuses on his
studies as a third-year law student. With a new job waiting for him, he’s eager to graduate and
move on.

On a school-sponsored trip, Nick and Jacob meet in a most unexpected way. When Nick tells
Jacob his secret, they decide to hang out, just as friends. But their attraction is too strong to
ignore, and they soon begin dating.

Since Nick is a big man on campus, it doesn’t take long for people to notice his attachment to
Jacob. All hell breaks loose when the relationship gets out. As the national media descends,
university officials try to figure out how to solve their “problem.” Their efforts divide Nick’s
team, inflame fans, and put Nick and Jacob’s futures in jeopardy. Will the men be able to
survive a plot to destroy them without derailing both their careers?

Nice Catching You is an out-for-you romance featuring a lot of love, exciting hockey, and a
beautiful holiday. There’s also plenty of steam and a very happy ending.

Interested? You can pre-order NICE CATCHING YOU in advance of it’s October 30th release on Amazon.

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!

Fitting Together LOCKSET–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. LOCKSET is the second book in her University Square series and features a harried lawyer returning to her hometown to settle her father’s estate finding love with a local locksmith. I really enjoyed ON THE SQUARE, and we get a glimpse at some of those characters in this story.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

How about a little taste?

After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.

Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.

Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.

Excerpt

Lockset
Brenda Murphy © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Eunice Park glared at the ringing phone on her desk. On the third ring she picked it up. “What is it?”

“Sorry to bother you, Eunice, but your father’s on the line. He insisted I connect him.”

Eunice leaned forward and straightened her posture. “What?”

“Your father. Says it’s urgent. Want me to take a message? Or leave him on hold till he hangs up?”

Eunice swept her hair back with one hand and closed her fist around it, barely resisting the urge to tear it out. “No. I’ll talk to him.” She took her reading glasses off and tossed them on the top of the stack of trial transcripts and depositions on her desk.

“Eun?” James Park’s rich baritone filled her ear. Her Korean name, spoken in the way it was meant to be said, made her heart squeeze. She detested Eunice and still cursed the day she had chosen to use it instead of her true name.

“Yes.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s me.”

Silence stretched out between them, harsh and violent. Eun settled back into her chair. Her father’s silence and its power over Eun had weakened over the years. Eun knew his trick. Wait for the other to become so uncomfortable they spilled their secrets and told you everything you wanted to know. For once, Eun would not give in. She set her gaze on the clock on her computer screen. One minute. Two minutes. Eun fiddled with the edge of her blotter.

At three and one-half minutes her father cleared his throat and spoke. “Come home. I need to see you.”

“Nothing’s changed.” Eun chewed her lip.

“I need to see you.”

“Why now? I’m not coming home to be berated again. You made yourself clear five years ago. I’m not backing down. Not this time.”

“I’m not asking you to. I have something to discuss with you. I can’t do it over the phone. Please. This weekend?”

Eun rubbed her forehead. “I can’t. I’m buried. I have dog of a case, my cocounsel is an idiot, and I’ve got closing arguments next week. The weekend after?”

“If that’s the best you can do.”

“What?” Eun’s voice rose as anger she had managed to contain bubbled up. “Oh hell no. You can’t call me up out of the blue, demand I see you, and then act all pissy if I can’t drop what I’m doing and run home. Not after what you pulled last time. I’m lesbian, Dad. I’ve been lesbian, I’m going to be lesbian. Nothing is going to change that.”

“I know.” The defeated tone in his voice scraped against Eun’s battered heart.

“I have to go.”

“Will you come?”

“Next weekend.”

Her father disconnected the call. Eun fell back into her chair. Late afternoon sun raked the tops of the high-rise buildings surrounding the office building. Red-and-orange light, reflected off the glass, shone through the floor to ceiling window and glinted off the framed print on the wall opposite her desk.

Her stomach rumbled, an audible reminder of her neglecting to eat breakfast and lunch. She tapped her pen on the desk and glowered at the stack of transcripts on her desk as she rang her assistant. “Order us some food, please.’

“Have a hankering for anything?” Sally’s soft drawl spilled through the phone.

“Whatever you want.”

“You okay?”

“I will be.” Eun spun her pen in a circle, a wave of guilt for keeping her assistant after hours swept over her. “You don’t have to stay. John must miss you.”

“He does. But he also knows how important this case is. Faizal’s okay?”

“Sounds wonderful. That gyro salad they do.”

“Baklava too?”

Eun’s mouth watered at the thought of the sticky honey-sweet dessert. “Of course.”

“On it.”

Eun hung up and spun in her chair to face her bookshelf. The black-framed photo of Eun and her father at her law school graduation was opposite a photo of Eun and her mother at Eun’s kindergarten graduation. She closed her eyes as the memory of the last fight she’d had with her father surfaced. Anger and humiliation over his demand she go to conversion therapy surged through her as strong and as raw as that evening. Memories of other interventions, his relentless set-ups with eligible young men, and the shocked expressions of his church friends when she told them all the only thing she was sure of was they were all going to hell bubbled to the surface.

Her stomach ached: too much coffee, and not enough food. She reached into her drawer for the ginger chews she kept at hand. She unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth to quell her stomachache and glanced at the clock on the computer screen. It would be at least forty-five minutes before Sally was back with their food.

Her phone vibrated with a message. The glowing read notification sent a rill of excitement down her spine. Maybe a quick fuck would be the ticket to a good night’s sleep. A glorious, no-real-names hotel-room sex fest would be delightful. She thumbed open the Hit Me Up app and opened the message.

Disappointment washed over her. The message was from her most recent date. A bold butch who had given Eun several mind-bending orgasms that had made her strongly reconsider her self-imposed no-more-than-one-date rule. Until she stalked the woman on social media and found out she was not single as her profile claimed. Eun detested cheaters. She deleted the woman’s message without reading it and tossed her phone on to her desk.

My Review:
Eunice Park is an out lesbian litigator living in Chicago. She is estranged from both her parents for different reasons. Her father essentially disowned her for being gay, while her mother left when she was young due to a drug habit. She’s startled when her father calls–after 5 years of no contact–and demand she come home to see him. Eun can’t really take off on a whim, but she makes plans to come the following weekend. And, then forgets due to work stress. And, the next call Eun receives from her hometown of Sikesville, Ohio is from the police letting her know her father has died.

Morgan Wright is a locksmith, running her family business and the person the police (her sister) calls on for a welfare check ad Mr. Park’s home and office. So, she’s there to discover the body and Mr. Park’s rambunctious dog. A softie for fostering strays, Morgan brings home the abandoned pooch. It’s not long before she encounters Eun, who is struggling with the guilt and frustration of missing her father while still being so angry at how their once-loving relationship changed. Her mother is no support, and her uncle is hateful, homophobic and out for his inheritance. Morgan’s steadfast companionship is a boon, and helps her weather some of the immediate storms.

The funeral is one thing, and their quick connection makes the intimacy between Eun and Morgan even more bittersweet, because Eun knows she needs to return to Chicago and face the wrath of the senior partner in her practice over the last case that went terribly wrong. Eun has no reason to stay in Sikesville, even with a growing attraction to Morgan, but bigger forces are at work, and Eun’s dad’s journals seem to be key in getting to the bottom of what seems a secret affair and perhaps extortion. Eun’s about to set out for Chicago when the mystery takes a turn into arson.

And, Morgan’s not so please being considered a bit of distraction–even knowing that Eun isn’t meant to remain n their small town. But, the more tragedy that sets in , the more that Eun realizes her life has been devoted to the dreams of others, and she now has the opportunity to start living her life for her own self, and with a woman who’d be proud to stand by her side.

It’s a sweet and sexy story with lots of struggles and make-up sex and two classy ladies that find a home in one another–wherever that might be. I liked the clash of cultures and how Eun navigated the disparate parts of her life. There’s a bit of drama near the end that went way into the danger zone, but it was only obliquely related to Eun and Morgan, so I didn’t get too worked up over it. Let’s just say that dinner at Mai’s restaurant was never so bloody! We got a little glimpse of the stories from ON THE SQUARE, and I think a look forward into a future love story.

Interested? You can find LOCKSET on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list.

Catch up with Brenda on her website and Facebook and Instagram.

Magic and Mayhem in THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M supernatural romance just released from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER features royals, superheroes and intrigue, with a slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the book giveaway.
About the book:
Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.

Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.

But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

My heels clicked in rapid succession as I walked down the centerline of the grand executive hall. It was far afield of the offices on lower floors. It took minutes to get all the way up there, which was why I’d needed to make haste. Left unattended on nights when he would rather have been any place but at his post, the Prince had a tendency to disappear.

The floors were made of marble and their design was quite ornate—a wide white border off to each side, with an elaborate design forming a runway down the middle. It wasn’t a pattern, but a work of art, its geometric pieces reminiscent of stained glass. It gave the sense of walking on a rug made of stone.

Hues from garnet, to ruby, to tawny, to rose made up elements of a palette that swirled and faded to ambers and golds. They complemented magnificent oil paintings of Abarran countryside that lined the grand corridor’s high walls. Spaced-out sitting benches rendered the space worthy of entertaining. Yet, he kept it to himself, and spent most of his time alone.

The downstairs offices were another story. They were filled with six-by-six-foot cubicles configured en masse for the Ministry’s rank and file. Enclosed offices here and there were reserved for mid-level managers: MLMs, as we liked to call them. I inhabited one of the better of these offices—a space in the corner on a higher floor with a not-bad view—though an MLM I was not.

Ostensibly, I was the Head of Internal Affairs, which was exactly her intention—a gross understatement considering my deep involvement with the covert side. Not making that last fact public was by design. My list of responsibilities was too long to name—too long for me to remember most days. Yet, the highest of my duties was to babysit him.

He was Prince Xabier Garrastazu, third in line to the South Abarran throne, son of Prince Frantzisco, nephew to the Queen, and Duke of Brix. He was also the Minister of Powers—the highest-ranking official at this agency and—despite my charge to keep him from making too big a mess out of things, he was—technically—my boss.

“Is he in?” I asked Eusebio, more for his benefit than mine. I knew the Prince’s comings and goings. I had eyes on him at all times. I tried not to roll my eyes as Eusebio made a production of picking up the phone to announce my arrival. The Prince enjoyed forcing me to wait to be let in.

Good.

The more ridiculously childish and infuriatingly vain Prince Xabier, Duke of Brix, chose to be wherever I was concerned, the easier it was to ignore his ridiculous appeal.

“Your Grace.” As usual, I greeted his back, the part of him that always seemed to face me when I walked into his suite. Even from behind, the man was magnificent. Broad shoulders filled out a perfectly tailored button-down made of fine fabric and subtle herringbone design. Today’s shirt—white if you weren’t paying attention—was the faintest of lilac. He was the epitome of a dashing prince.

To be clear, I was paying attention, not only to the way its snug fit showed the definition in his shoulders—to the place where the fabric stopped and his rolled-up sleeves gave way to skin. For all the hard work he didn’t do, there needn’t have been any rolling up of sleeves. In my most outlandish of theories, he did it to torment me.

“Mr. Otxoa,” the Prince greeted blithely, not turning toward me just yet. He stood on a rug in the sitting area with his gaze remained fixed on the fire. His office was a projection of the man himself—pleasantly fragrant, clean to a fault and dripping with style. Tufted wingback chairs with ottomans flanked a matching Chesterfield, all three in a dark teal. Fire glow warmed his features, casting appeal on the planes of his face, flattering the smooth line of his nose and cutting shadows from his diamond jaw.

I stopped at the edge of the rug next to the drink trolley that carried only wine. Its twin at the other end of the Chesterfield was all crystal decanters and spirits. When he turned, I was meant to bow out of deference. This was always the most difficult moment—the one when he first cast his gaze upon me. I faltered at the devastating beauty of his eyes.

“And what have you for me tonight? More documents to sign, no doubt. More supos with powers run rampage?”

He made no secret of the fact that my presence vexed him. Unencumbered by the burden of common birth, the Prince was under no obligation to feign politesse. Logic dictated that his resentment stemmed from me holding him to task. Instinct told me that the sport he made of pushing my buttons was something more.

The Prince finally cast his sapphire gaze upon me and I did bow then, thankful that the deep hue of my skin made it easy to hide my flush. Blood that he could not see rushed to my cheeks and prickled my nose and burned the tops of my ears. If he resented me, I, too, resented him. Training the Prince was not supposed to be so difficult as this.

My Review:
This is a fun and magical enemies-to-lovers supernatural, royal romance.

Prince Xabier has a secret magical power that he is trying to keep from his queen. As third in line for the throne, Xabier wishes he didn’t have so much responsibility as director of the Ministry that oversees the magical powers of the various royals in Abarra. Xabier’s power helps ripen the grapes in his family’s vineyard to bottle-able perfection.

It’s hard for Xabier to escape the tedium of his Ministry position, and especially so because the head of Internal Affairs, Zain Oxtoa, is always on his tail to sign one order, or another.

Zain has a secret mission: to watch Xabier and determine how his superpower is developing. The Queen is sure that Xabier’s growing power could be the one to help unite and manage the powers of all the unruly royal supes. Zain is trying to get Xabier to act as an agent of the law in the way of the official guidelines. And, boy, each of these men had a simmering attraction for the other.

I really loved how Xabier thought he was pulling some shenanigans, but meanwhile he was really falling directly according to a plan the Queen had envisioned. I loved how Zain really cared for Xabier, and was so conscientious to allow him the freedom he needed to really find his own place in their world. We get a great look at how these two cleave together as Xabier enters an in-depth training to hone his skills in magic wielding. The magic aspects were creative and added sparks of humor and whimsy, while the relationship grew and developed. There are bits of sexytimes, while the growing confidence Xabier has in his new skills is countered by the feeling that Zain’s willing to sacrifice his own love to ensure that Xabier has the future one envisions for a prince.

I enjoyed this one, and would have loved to read more of the stories of Abarra. It’s part of a connected series of novels by different authors, but it’s easy to enjoy each as a standalone.

Interested? You can find THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 ebook copies of THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Kenzie Blades is a queer author of romantic LGBTQ+ fiction and is the alter ego of a multi-award winning author who writes other fiction under a different name. Kenzie lives in San Francisco and enjoys lots of things that start with the letter B, like bacon, bourbon and books.

Catch up to Kenzie on their website, Goodreads, and Instagram.

Finding a Love That’s WORTH IT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary New Adult romance from Chloe B. Young. WORTH IT relates an unconventional romance between a college sex worker and the nephew of his previous john.

About the book:
The price of love could be too high to pay.

Elliott Meyer is a dedicated student . . . and a part-time sex worker. College is expensive, and after his mother’s death left his family struggling, he’s desperate to avoid drowning in debt. Problem is, he just lost his only client. Time to hit the clubs and find a new benefactor before bills start piling up.

Enter Aiden Kent: rich, handsome . . . and the nephew of Elliott’s former client. Rather than letting this drive a wedge between them, Aiden offers Elliott an opportunity. Aiden’s stressed out and has no time for a relationship. He’s eager to hire Elliott to provide all the benefits of a boyfriend with none of the responsibility. And they both swear it’s only a little weird.

But when their business arrangement starts to become a full-on relationship, things get complicated. Elliott won’t accept money from a romantic partner, and Aiden won’t continue their relationship if Elliott’s sleeping with other clients. With his future on the line, Elliott’s left with a terrible decision: risk his bright academic future, or lose Aiden forever.

My Review:
Elliott Meyer is a 21 year old sophomore in college. He goes to school in LA and is determined not to borrow a penny to do it. His father, a police officer, has been in dept up to his eyeballs ever since Elliott’s mother died, following a prolonged illness. and the house up-keep is too much for his small-town cop salary to afford. So, Elliott has decided he’s going to earn his tuition money as a part-time escort. He had a sugar daddy a few months ago, and older, wealthy lawyer who enjoyed parading his blatant boy toy every place he could. And, he paid Elliott handsomely. IN fact, sometimes his money got int he way–because he became manipulative with his funding. Elliott walked away, but he didn’t get too far.

While out prowling for a new john, Elliott encounters Aiden Kent, the nephew of his previous “employer”. Elliott had met the man before, because Aiden is a lawyer at the same firm as his ex-john, which happens to have numerous Kents as staff and partners. So, Elliott figures he’s gotta scram from that scene, lest Aiden mess up his search for a steady john. It’s a little unsettling when Aiden, who is only 28, and both wealthy and sexy to boot, makes an offer for Elliott to consider. Aiden would like a companion, and regular lover, but the demands of his job at the firm tend to interfere with real relationships. Plus, he sometimes feel like prospective boyfriends are more into his name and wealth than who he is a s a person–a general homebody after working 60_ hours a week. For a monthly sum Elliott could spend three nights a week keeping Aiden company and having some spine-melting sexytimes, too. Despite the initial awkwardness, Elliott agrees.

This fake boyfriend love story follows a mostly predictable path of increasing familiarity giving rise to feelings on both sides. Elliott has some good prospects in the offing, including a possible scholarship and growing tutoring opportunities. But, he wants to help his dad too much to rely on piecemeal options. Within a couple months of their bargain, Elliott’s internal conflict is getting way out of proportion. He loves Aidan, so he can’t keep charging him for sex. Not if they are TRUE boyfriends. Aiden wants Elliott to lean on him, and let the money worries drift away, but it’s not something that Elliott can consider; he has no illusions about the monetary struggles of indebted college graduates, and with plans for a Master’s and doctorate, Elliott isn’t willing to gamble on Aiden’s charity or his own solvency.

I loved Aiden in this one and I liked Elliott a lot, too. It’s clear that he is still immature, at times, and that’s fine because most young people really don’t get grown until they are in the mid-20s. Elliott’s thoughts of returning to prostitution become more and more untenable as he deals with the temporary loss of Aiden from his life. It’s a nice wake-up call and allows us to see the vulnerable side of Elliott, who can be a bit prickly and snooty as a character, and meet his dearest friend and his father to straighten out his priorities. The end fell into place exactly as I suspected it would, and I’m glad to say it was entirely happy. There are lots of steamy, sexy moments from nearly the beginning, and they become more tender and passionate as the love story builds.

Interested? You can find WORTH IT on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!