GHOST WOLF To the Rescue–A Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m back, and sharing a review for a new paranormal M/M romance from Hurri Cosmo. GHOST WOLF features a lone wolf finding more than a pack when he seeks his future. Scroll down for my review and to enter the $25 Amazon GC giveaway!

About the book:
Hi, my name is Trevor. I’m a wolf shifter.

I say that like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I was simply running off a ton of steam one day when I was around eleven and bam! Okay, not quite that easy or fast but it happened when I was young and stupid. I’m also gay. I say that like I know what I’m talking about with that too. I simply don’t.

I’m grown up now and living in the big city which has me too busy to much care about either one of those things. I get out and run my wolf when I can, trying like hell to stay out of the local pack’s territories. Belonging to a “family” just sounds like too much work, and honestly I don’t have time for such things. Besides, I was told when I was young the color of my wolf was all wrong. Too silver…or something. Metallic. I kinda thought it looked cool in the full moon. “Pack Alpha would kill ya soon as look at ya.” My grandpa used to say. Course he wasn’t my real grandpa. Just an old man who lived down the street, but he was a shifter too and I thought he knew it all. He probably knew diddly either, but a guy can’t be too careful. And romance? Way off the radar.

Only now someone has started killing wolves. Started leaving broken bodies lined up in a nice little row next to the high school in my home town and it’s got me to thinking. If a shifter is killed in his or her wolf state, do they stay that way? Were these dead wolves like me? The hell of it all is this: being a shifter isn’t common knowledge. It bothers me enough that now I want to find out more. See if there’s anything I can do. Kind of like a super hero.

Oh yeah. Probably forgot to tell you this too. I can turn invisible.

Yep, Ghost Wolf to the rescue

My Review:
Trevor is a young wolf shifter who learned on his powers on his own–with the help of a neighbor he called Grandpa. Grandpa was a shifter too, and held some knowledge and more secrets that he shared with Trevor through his will.

We start with him as a youngish boy–and follow him up to a new town as he works on his college plan. When there, he meets more shifters; some of whom find him very much attractive. One of these is Ryan Jarfang and another is Keith Karlack–both alphas of neighboring shifter clans. Ryan had been betrothed to a female shifter, but breaks that off when he senses Trevor is his Fated Mate. Trevor hasn’t owned up to Ryan about his special power, being able to disappear, that he’s able to use in moments of danger.

This is an interesting read, but I definitely struggled with it. Trevor had troubles assimilating in his new world, but he just keeps running from them. Ryan has to track him down again and again, as he rebels. Their rapid courtship sparks conflict between the packs. Trevor did get on my nerves, and I really felt like the book started too soon. We could have picked up with him being in college, not in middle school, and I probably would have liked the story more. It otherwise seemed to drag, and then jumped forward with coincidences that felt a bit disingenuous.

For the shifter story, there was some interesting pack dynamics, and the fated-ness of Trevor and Ryan coming together wasn’t the interesting part. The way they were able to call on higher powers–connecting the real with the super-paranormal in ways that I hadn’t read before. I liked that part. Unfortunately, it felt too long to get there. Expect some different dynamics and a side of mpreg, too.

Interested? You can find GHOST WOLF on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Hurri Cosmo lives in Minnesota where she holds tight to the idea that there, where it’s cold a good part of the year, she won’t age as fast. Yep, she avoids the truth as much as she avoids mirrors. But one of the reasons she loves writing is reality doesn’t always offer up a “happily ever after” and being able to take control of that is a powerful lure. Being a happy ending junkie, writing just makes them easier to find. Oh, she doesn’t mind “real life” and she does try to at least keep it in mind when she writes her stories, but she truly loves creating a wonderful couple, knowing they will fall in love and have their HEA. Every – single – time. And, of course, that is exactly the reason she loves reading this genre, too. Give her a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, and her computer, whether she is reading or writing, and she will entertain herself for hours. The fact she actually gets paid to do it is Snickers bars on the frosting on the cake.

Catch up to Hurri online on her website, blog, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Rebuilding in THE OFF SEASON–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary sports romance from Megan Green. THE OFF SEASON is a sweet romance between a wrongly-accused baseball star and his neighbor-in-need. It’s an unexpected romance for two people who’d closed themselves off to the idea of love. I liked it!

Scroll down to enter the $25 GC giveaway!
About the book:
He had it all…

The day Ian “Tag” Taggart’s world comes crashing down around him, he’s sitting in a fast food drive-thru, waiting for an order of fries. Golden boy of the MLB and shortstop for the Washington Rampage, Tag quickly finds himself losing grip on his superstar life with the use of two awful words: sexual assault.

The only problem? He’s innocent.

Tag’s willing to do anything to prove to the world he’d never commit the crime he’s been accused of. So when his agent suggests taking a break from the spotlight, he listens. The quiet town on Maple Lake is everything Seattle isn’t. And Lexi Barnes is everything he wasn’t expecting to find.

Running from a past she can never escape, Lexi wants nothing to do with her new neighbor. But fixing up an old house takes more work than anticipated, and the new guy in town happens to have quite the set of carpentry skills. She won’t let herself fall for him though. She has no room in her life for love.

If only someone would tell her heart that.

He’s funny and charming. She’s closed off and rude.

Together, they’re like fire and ice.

Prepare to get burned this Off-Season.

My Review:
Ian “Tag” Taggart is a shortstop for the Washington Rampage, a pro baseball team, who’s well-known as a ladies man, and all-around good guy. Until a one-night stand accuses him of rape. Six months later, his accuser drops her charges in exchange for a big payday. It’s the off season, and the Rampage had a rather poor season; some folks believe it was the spotlight of Ian’s accuser casting pall over the team. With months of downtime before spring training, Ian ships off to Maple Lake, to lay low in his best friend’s lake house.

Lexi Barnes hasn’t had a drink in 18 months. Not since that fateful night , anyway. She doens’t want to think about the damage she caused, or her old life in Chicago, but it’s still a noose around her neck. Rehabbing a rundown lake house is meant to fill her days and night, but soon, her athletic and sweet neighbor Ian is helping to hang the shutters and sharing meals. The more time they spend together, the more they connect, and though Ian comes clean about who is–and what he’d been accused of–Lexi’s still afraid to open up.

Thing about being in the spotlight, like Ian, is that reporters are always looking for the fresh dirt to write about. Just as Ian and Lexi are solidifying their love, a curveball comes along to disrupt the scene. I liked how they dealt with their issues, and how trusting Ian is, where Lexi is concerned. While there are some sexytimes here, it’s not the main thrust of the book. They connect emotionally first, and their physical moments are brief in terms of page time. I liked both Ian and Lexi as characters. Each had some tough stuff to get over, and they needed to find a reason to start caring for another person again. It’s sweet and a little sexy, with some nice romantic elements.

Interested? You can find THE OFF SEASON on Goodreads, and Amazon (US, UK, CA and AU).

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Megan lives in Northern Utah with her handsome hubby, Adam. When not writing, chances are you’ll find her curled up with her Kindle. Besides reading and writing, she loves movies, animals, chocolate, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. She loves hearing from readers, so drop her a line!

You can find Megan on her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, or check out her Reader Group.

Bad Juju in WICKED CHARM–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a contemporary YA mystery/romance from Amber Hart. WICKED CHARM is an interesting read about two kids finding a connection, and the killer who might be trying to cut them loose.

Catch my review and enter the gift-blast giveaway down below.
About the book:
Nothing good comes from living in the Devil’s swamp.
Willow Bell thinks moving to the Okefenokee area isn’t half bad, but nothing prepares her for what awaits in the shadows of the bog.
Girls are showing up dead in the swamp. And she could be next.
Everyone warns Willow to stay away from Beau Cadwell―the bad boy at the top of their suspect list as the serial killer tormenting the small town.
But beneath his wicked, depthless eyes, there’s something else that draws Willow to him.
When yet another girl he knew dies, though, Willow questions whether she can trust her instincts…or if they’re leading to her own death.

How about a little taste?

Though Gran’s land is mostly wet, there’s solidness, too. My eyes trace the long path that cuts the property between Gran and Mr. Cadwell in half. I’m expecting to see nature—the kinds of birds Dad and Mom study, snakes, grass, and forever sky—the same things I’ve seen every morning since moving here with Dad and Mom to help Gran, who’s ailing but doesn’t like to admit it.

I get halfway down the path with my stare before my eyes snag on something. A serving spoon falls from my hand with a clatter into the sink.

“Who,” I whisper, “is that?”

Across the way stands a boy. He’s staring at me, wearing a twisted grin like he knows me. The wind ruffles his depths-of-the-ocean black hair. He’s wearing a dark shirt and dark jeans, and I cannot tear my eyes from his.

Gran hobbles over and looks out the window. “What is he doing so close to our side?”

“You know him?” I ask.

I can’t stop staring out the old weathered screen.

“Hell right, I do. Grandson of the evil next door. Trouble in living form. Someone oughta hand that boy a Bible. Change his life forever and ever, amen.”

Gran curses a lot. “Hell” is her favorite word.

“Hell, you’d better look away first,” Gran says. “B’fore he snares you for good.”

I wonder if she’s right. I want to look away first. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t want to look away at all.

“Mother!” Dad’s voice enters the room a moment before he does. “Did I just hear you cursing around Willow again?”

I rip my eyes away—though it’s hard—to see Dad clad in shorts and a T-shirt, ready for another day of observation. He and Mom are ornithologists, scientists who study birds. Mom follows Dad into the kitchen and takes a seat at the table; her strawberry-blond hair is braided and slipped through the adjustable hole in her hat. Dad’s hair is like Gran’s and mine, his eyes, too. Mom’s eyes are blue, and I’m secretly glad mine are not. I enjoy being like Gran.

“It’s not good to curse around her; she’s only seventeen,” Dad continues.

In Florida, Dad and Mom studied birds so much that I hardly ever saw them. Here’s no different, but at least now I have Gran to keep me company.

“Doesn’t matter, and you know it,” Gran says. “A heart is a heart is a heart. A few words here and there won’t change that.”

My stare goes to the window again. The boy is gone.

“Quit looking for that boy, you hear?” Gran says, knowing.

“I’m not looking for him,” I reply. But I’m a lying liar.

“What boy?” Dad asks.

I join him and Mom at the table.

“No one,” my lying self answers.

“Stop thinking about him,” Gran says.

“I’m not!” I say, frustrated. But only because she knows me so well that I can’t hide myself from her.

Clearly Gran isn’t a fan. We drop it and eat our breakfast, Dad and Mom jabbering about some new species of bird they think they’ve discovered. Gran watching me like a hawk. And me wondering about the gorgeous black-souled, trouble-in-living-form grandson of the evil next door.

My Review:
Willow Bell has just come to like in the Okefenokee swamp with her aging grandmother and her parents–who are ornithologists and often gone on bird-watching excursions. Her grandma’s property has one close neighbor, Mr. Cadwell, who her Gran states is the Devil. He shares his home with his twin grandkids, Beau and Charlotte. Willow, Beau and Charlotte are all seniors in high school, and Willow notices Beau rather soon after her arrival. His fierce stare and attractiveness pull her in, though she gives good weight to her Gran’s warnings about Cadwells and how they will break a woman’s heart.

Beau has a big reputation as a heartbreaker, and it’s well-earned. Still, Willow isn’t too starry eyed. She may find Beau attractive, but she’s also a girl with a mission on her mind. She wants to explore her new surroundings and make new friends. Any interaction with Beau is long on exploring–outside of one’s own mind–and short on the physical. Beau is deeply private, and the rumors swill regarding his parents and their long absence–though that didn’t make much sense to me; its a small community. Nosy parkers abound. Still, he likes that Willow gives him the space to be real, and he confides in her some of his deepest secrets. Their bond is tested once the bodies of two girls turn up in the swamp. Two girls that Beau briefly dated. Is Beau involved? What about his friends, who seem a mite too jealous of Beau getting all the girls to swoon for him?

Willow is quick to defend Beau, but evidence points to someone close to him, and she’s not sure how to take it. Naturally, Beau defends his own, but the answer only comes to light when his family is threatened. It’s an interesting mystery/romance as Beau and Willow fight for their love against both Willow’s disapproving Gran, and the killer. I liked the action bits, and the context. The swamp is so well-described it’s almost another character in the book. These kids truly love their world, and are highly protective of the land and people who live there. That was interesting to experience, as a reader.

The end is a nice twist, with a killer that wasn’t the first suspect to mind. While Beau and Charlotte deal with their own personal tragedies, Willow’s there as a buffer, a friend, and more for Beau, just like she started.

Interested? You can find WICKED CHARM on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, and AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and GooglePlay. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a gift bundle including a $10 Starbucks card, a signed copy of WICKED CHARM, and two ebooks.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Amber Hart resides on the Florida coastline with family and a plethora of animals she affectionately refers to as her urban farm. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She’s the author of Wicked Charm and the Before & After series for teen readers, and the Untamed series for adult readers. Visit her online at http://www.amberhartbooks.com

Catch up with Amber on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Out Today! Dangerous Times for THE STATION–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a new historical M/M romance from author Keira Andrews. THE STATION takes us back to England in the early 1800s when buggery was a crime punishable by death. Why, then, would a young gentleman incriminate himself to spare the life of his accused stable master? I have loved other period pieces by Ms. Andrew’s including KIDNAPPED BY THE PIRATE as well as more contemporary (A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA) and even paranormal (KICK AT THE DARKNESS) titles.

Scroll down to read my review and enter to win a backlist book for Keira Andrews in the giveaway!
About the book:
Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster spied on stable master Patrick Callahan mastering another man, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death for his crime, Colin speaks up in his defense and confesses his own sinful nature. They’re soon banished to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick never asked for Colin’s help, and now he’s stuck with the pampered fool. While it’s true that being transported to Australia is a far cry from the luxury Colin is accustomed to, he’s determined to make the best of it and prove himself. Although Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale, he’s inexorably drawn to sweet, optimistic Colin.

From the miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must rely on each other. Danger lurks everywhere, and when they unexpectedly get the chance to escape to a new life as cowboys, they’ll need each other more than ever.

This historical gay romance from Keira Andrews features an age difference, an eager virgin, hurt/comfort, and of course a happy ending.

How about a little taste?

Waiting only a moment after knocking, Colin’s mother, Elizabeth, entered his room. Colin glanced over from the window seat. He’d been watching Patrick in the meadow exercising the young colt born several days before. “Yes, Mother?”

Elizabeth was forty-two and quite beautiful, with a regal nose and posture and the same thick, chestnut brown hair as Colin. “You haven’t bathed yet? Guests will be arriving within the hour.”

“I was about to, if you’d leave me to my privacy.”

When he wasn’t studying or walking the grounds, Colin whiled away the hours sitting by his window reading novels of thrilling adventures in faraway lands. Sometimes Patrick would appear in the meadow, training the horses. Colin’s book would lie forgotten on his lap as he watched Patrick at work. He seemed as if he belonged in one of the fictional tales Colin devoured. Colin could easily imagine him with sword in hand.

“Of course, dear. I had Charles press your jacket. It’s hanging there.” She pointed across the room, where, sure enough, his formal wear waited. “Katherine was partial to that one, if I do recall.”

Colin couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Yes.”

“Darling, you gave up on Katherine far too easily. Tonight will be another chance for you to win her hand. You’re quite a catch, you know. Off to Cambridge soon. Katherine will want to ensnare you now.”

“Mother, Katherine Crawford has turned her favor elsewhere. She’s moved on.” So had he. Most definitely.

Elizabeth’s pretty face pinched into a frown. “It’s an honor that the Crawfords are attending this evening. You will be on your best behavior. I don’t know what exactly you did to ruin things with Katherine, but tonight you will do your utmost to undo it.”

“Yes, Mother.” He would attempt no such thing, but Colin had learned years before that arguing with his parents got him nowhere. Soon he’d be at Cambridge and he would be able to make his own decisions. Soon he’d have a new life.

Mollified, Elizabeth closed the door behind her. Flopping down on his bed, Colin thought of Katherine and cringed. It wasn’t until a most ill-fated outing with Katherine Crawford several months ago that Colin had admitted to himself that his interest in Patrick was far from intellectual.

Katherine was a beauty, all glossy blonde hair and moist, pink lips. For some reason Colin couldn’t fathom, she had shown an interest in him at a holiday gathering down the road. The courting had begun soon thereafter, with Colin escorting Katherine on various activities. Unlike William, who railed against the inconveniences of chaperones, Colin was grateful for the matrons’ presence.

He liked Katherine well enough. She was intelligent and kind and pleasing to look at. But Colin knew something was missing. Katherine didn’t set his blood on fire, and he rarely thought of her when she was absent.

The absences were as long as Colin could manage while still maintaining the guise of courting. He was a perfect gentleman at all times with Katherine, which he found a simple feat. William and his school chums all needled him in private and made winking suggestions of what was actually going on between him and Katherine, and Colin let them believe what they wanted.

The Lancasters and Crawfords had both been guests at a country estate for an Easter celebration. Colin’s sister, Rebecca, was delighted. On the ride over, she had chattered constantly about the beautiful Katherine and how she might one day be her sister-in-law. Colin loved his sister dearly but wished she’d find a new interest.

Colin had been fast asleep the first night at the country estate when Katherine crept into his room. Despite his protests about the impropriety, she’d insisted he dress and accompany her for a moonlight stroll. He hadn’t really a choice.

It went badly.

Despite Katherine’s obvious beauty and heaving bosom, Colin had remained utterly uninterested. He’d tried. Truly, he did. Under a large willow tree, Colin had kissed Katherine and caressed her soft skin under her skirt, her hand firm on his wrist, guiding him. He had been unable to get excited, and when she’d reached for him to find him flaccid, Katherine Crawford had had quite enough.

She’d stomped back to her room and avoided Colin for the remainder of the weekend. Colin could hardly meet anyone’s eyes. His family had obviously required an explanation, and he’d had none.

When they returned home after a torturous journey, Colin had jumped from the carriage, eager to be away from his inquiring parents and sister, who’d demanded to know how Colin had made such a mess of things. Colin had almost barreled straight into Patrick, who had come to take the horses. At the sight of him, his lean muscles, his maleness, Colin had been struck with the vivid memories of what he’d witnessed in the stable that day long ago. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from begging Patrick to take him into some dark corner and have his way with him.

That was what he wanted. He would never want the Katherine Crawfords of the world. No matter how beautiful, how rich, how ideal for a wife. Colin wanted a man. Oh, God, did he want a man.

Can I be of assistance?” Patrick had affected a guileless expression, and Colin had realized he’d been staring dumbly.

Awkward and ready to crawl out of his own skin, Colin had mumbled something and hurried off. All the denials he’d repeated to himself had finally been silenced. He’d locked himself in his room, took himself in hand, and, muffling his face in a pillow as he thought of Patrick, attained the most satisfying release he’d experienced since that day at sixteen years old, hiding in the stable.

Remembering now, Colin stroked himself quickly, careful not to muss himself too much before the party. He thought of Patrick, of his Gaelic lullaby and of his grunts as he’d penetrated the man in the stable years before. As he rubbed himself with one hand, legs spread, Colin caressed his lips with his fingertips, imagining what it would be like to be kissed—really kissed. He didn’t even know if men kissed each other, but he would like to try it.

Sometime later, Colin straightened his navy tie and vest under his dark jacket and peered into the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom. His large eyes were a deep brown that matched his hair, and his jaw was narrow. His nose was straight and unremarkable. Katherine had once told him that his smile turned her knees to jelly and his eyes were bottomless pools she could stare into for eternity.

Colin doubted it, somehow.

He decided he looked as presentable as he was able to and went to join the party. Naturally, the first person he saw was Katherine. Dressed to the nines in an ornate, yellow, bell-shaped gown and looking lovely, she was laughing gaily at something William had said. Her hand was placed just so on his arm, and Colin saw the flash of her eyes as she spotted him. She laughed again, even louder.

Colin felt like laughing himself. If she only knew. Before he could do anything, Rebecca towed him into the drawing room, her voice low and urgent, grip firm. “Honestly, I don’t know what William is thinking. You mustn’t pay them any mind, Colin. Are you very upset?” Her pretty face, very much like their mother’s, creased with worry.

Shaking his head, Colin kissed his dear sister’s cheek. “I won’t give it another thought. William is welcome to her. Perhaps Father will take some solace if the family is connected to the Crawfords in the end.”

Rebecca, fourteen and very dramatic, hugged him tightly. “Oh, Colin. You’re ever so brave.”

Biting back his mirth, Colin thanked her and pointed her toward her newly arriving friends from down the road. He made his rounds of the soiree, shaking hands and making polite conversation. Dinner was served, and Colin listened to a neighbor tell him about what a wonderful time he’d have at Cambridge. Colin hoped it would be true. The one thing dampening his excitement about finally getting away from home was that he’d also be leaving Patrick behind.

As he spooned his custard, Colin brooded. He knew it was deeply foolish, since the strange affection and desire he had for Patrick was certainly one-sided. He’d only been a child when they were friends. Even if by some miracle Patrick desired him now that he was grown, would Colin really have the nerve to lie with another man? His trousers tightened at the notion, and he was glad for the napkin across his lap.

After dinner, Colin endured the ladies’ singing and gentlemen’s card games. Unable to shake Patrick from his mind as the night wore on, he found himself walking to the stable, unable to stay away. He was almost there when a cry came up. A man burst out from the large wooden doors and fled across the meadow, barely visible in the darkness. In the lantern light from the stable, Patrick tumbled outside, followed by two men Colin recognized as shopkeepers in the next county. Brothers named Harris, he thought.

Colin realized he was running and skidded to a halt just as one of the brothers landed a vicious kick to Patrick’s ribs. “Stop!” Colin shoved the man aside. Blood already streamed from Patrick’s nose and mouth.

The man ignored Colin as if he were naught but a fly, and kicked Patrick again. “Unnatural piece of filth!”

Several other guests who heard the melee drew near. The other Harris brother called out to them. “We need the inspector. A crime’s been committed here.”

“What crime?” Colin demanded.

The man spit at the ground where Patrick lay beaten. “Buggery.”

The world tilted on its axis, and Colin’s stomach churned. He realized Patrick’s breeches were loose, and that the man he’d seen fleeing must have been…

Suddenly Colin’s father was there. In the lantern light, Colin could see the rage on his father’s face, and it chilled him. Edward was short and stout, yet an imposing presence. He issued a terse command to the Harris brothers to follow him and bring Patrick.

Patrick was dragged around the back of the manor house, a growing number of curious guests following. Several women were told to go back to the party, and the servants watched with wide eyes as the brothers hauled Patrick through the kitchen. Inside Edward’s study, a group of men gathered. Patrick was deposited on his knees in the middle of the room as Colin crowded inside with the others. They were soon joined by Colin’s mother.

“What’s going on?” she hissed to her husband. “There are whispers everywhere.”

Edward barely spared her a glance. “This is no place for a woman. An ungodly crime has been committed. Go see to the other guests and tell them everything is fine. We don’t want this getting out.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what’s happened!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed.

The man who’d kicked Patrick spoke. “My wife is feeling ill, so my brother and I went to the stable to ask for our carriage to be brought round.”

“Ill? Not from the food?” Elizabeth appeared horrified.

“For God’s sake, woman, forget the food!” A vein in Edward’s temple throbbed, and Colin feared his father might explode with rage.

“Where’s the other one?” Colin glanced behind him, surprised to hear William’s voice. Apparently the whispers were indeed spreading.

One of the Harris brothers answered. “Gone. I think it was the Nelsons’ carriage driver. Quick bastard, we couldn’t catch him. This one was still tangled up in his breeches. Caught him dead to rights.”

“No need to get the courts involved. Take him out back and hang him from his bollocks,” said one of the other guests.

There was a murmur of agreement, and Edward seemed to seriously be considering it. Colin’s panic increased exponentially as the tension simmered. Many of those present had long been into their cups, and a reckless air swirled through the room. He looked to Patrick, who knelt silently, blood dripping down his face, his hands now bound behind his back. Colin hadn’t seen who restrained him.

“Kill him,” agreed one of the Harrises. To Patrick, he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be put out of your misery now than rot in a jail cell knowing you’re going to the gallows? We’d be doing you a favor.”

The murmur of assent grew frighteningly loud. “Should have expected it from an Irishman,” someone shouted.

“Hang ’im! Save the courts some time and money.” The bookkeeper from the local village reached for Patrick, attempting to haul him to his feet as other men cried their agreement.

“No!” When all eyes turned to him, Colin realized he’d spoken aloud. “No. You can’t kill him.” He thought of that day six years before, when Patrick had raced after him and plucked him from the fleeing stallion. His heart hammered as it had that day.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “Colin, the punishment for buggery is death. It’s what he deserves. This man—if you can call an animal a man—is a degenerate criminal.”

“Then so am I!”

Silence gripped the room in an instant, as if everyone held their breath collectively. Elizabeth went pale. “Colin, you have no idea what you’re saying.” She pulled his arm, urging him toward the door. “I’m sorry, everyone; he’s had far too much brandy this evening. He isn’t himself.”

Colin yanked his arm away. “No, Mother. I know what I’m saying.” He swallowed, his throat dry and thick. “I am myself.” Perhaps for the first time.

A shocked William spoke up, his eyes wide. “Colin, this is madness!”

Edward simply stared, stunned into silence for the first time in Colin’s memory. Elizabeth pulled at him again, but Colin shook free. “If you will kill this man for his crime, then you’ll have to kill me too. Shall you take me outside and string me up?”

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Patrick spoke for the first time, and all eyes turned to where he knelt. He stared at Colin with dazed astonishment.

The sound of Patrick’s voice seemed to spur Edward out of his daze. Edward turned a murderous gaze on Patrick. “If you’ve laid a finger on my son, I swear—”

“I’d sooner bed a horse,” Patrick sneered.

“And probably has!” a voice called out.

Colin felt a ridiculous stab of pain at Patrick’s words.

Patrick went on. “Sir, your son is clearly not in his right mind.”

William’s father, John, a lawyer, spoke next. He was tall and distinguished, the opposite of his brother, Edward. He seemed to be the only calm person left in the room. “Colin, are you saying you’ve committed acts of buggery?”

“Yes.” Even if it wasn’t true, Colin couldn’t let them kill Patrick. At least not tonight, not if he could help it.

Elizabeth shrieked and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, my son. What have you done? It can’t be true!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. They’ll have to kill us both.”

“Don’t listen to him! For God’s sake!” Patrick tried to stand but was shoved back down by Edward, whose face flamed with rage.

John spoke up. “No one’s killing anyone.” He turned to the Harris brothers. “Did you witness the act?”

One of them laughed tersely. “Didn’t have to. They heard us coming, and the other one was off and running. But we saw and heard enough to know what was going on.”

John pondered this, and everyone waited. He seemed to have quietly taken control of the proceedings, for which Colin was grateful. He hoped Patrick wouldn’t be harmed any further for the moment.

“No concrete evidence. None in regards to Colin either,” John said after a lengthy pause.

“Because it’s not true!” Elizabeth cried.

John ignored her and turned to Edward. “I have some friends in the magistrate’s office who should be able to help. I’ll go speak to George Crawford and get him on our side. But too many people have heard Colin’s confession. Something must be done.”

Edward nodded grimly, not looking at Colin. He pointed to Patrick. “We’ll keep this one locked in the pantry for the night. Colin will be in his room with a guard placed outside. William, take him upstairs.”

The shock of his actions slowly settling in, Colin didn’t resist as William led him away. They opened the door to the study to find the hallway crowded with party guests. Katherine was among them, her delicate face transformed into a hard mask. “Fiend!” She dashed down the hall, weeping.

Accusing eyes glared from all sides, and William led Colin to the servants’ back stairway, sparing him the spectacle of being marched up the grand staircase. In his room, Colin tried to speak. “Will, I…”

William raised a hand. “Don’t.” He shook his head sadly, his expression deeply wounded. “I don’t understand. I’ve always thought of you as a dear friend. A brother. Now I feel I’ve never known you at all.” He turned his back, closing the door behind him. A moment later, Colin heard the key turn in the lock, and his life as he knew it was over.

My Review:
Colin is the only son of a wealthy gentleman, growing up in England in the early 1800s. He knows he’s different from the other boys his age, including his strapping cousin Will, who is allowed to go to school with the local lads, while Colin must be kept home for private lessons with his tutor. He hates formal education, and struggles to endure the challenges, but his father will make a Cambridge man of him, yet. Colin’s also aware he shares a shameful secret with the stable master, Patrick, because he witnessed Patrick buggering a man int eh stable years ago, and it’s the single most arousing image of his youth. He’d been friendly with Patrick at the time, helping with the horses care and riding for hours on his own horse, but it’s left him with a terrifying crush and a need for space so he doesn’t reveal his unnatural attraction.

As things go, Colin’s family hosts a grand party and Patrick is discovered in the act of coupling with a guest’s coachman. The guests clamor to hang Patrick on the spot, and Colin won’t let this injustice go unspoken. When he can’t dissuade his father, he jumps full stop into the melee confessing that he himself (well maybe not yet physically but in his heart!) is also guilty of the crime. This confession cools the mob mentality, even as Patrick denies Colin’s assertions. Still, the blood fever breaks and Colin finds himself and Patrick transported to Australia as part of a prison work gang. The voyage is long and awful, and many don’t survive. Patrick doesn’t want to be indebted to Colin for saving his life, only to sent to the wilds of Australia, but they reach a rapprochement, with Patrick offering Colin some physical attention, for all his troubles. They do survive the typhoid epidemic, and disembark to learn they’ve been selected for a work program that will take them deep into the heart of the continent–as work men for a woman who is setting up her cattle ranch. Her husband didn’t survive the journey, but the plans were laid, and she can’t turn back. Patrick and Colin were chosen because the guards knew they’d not trouble the widow for sex…

Along the two month cattle run, Colin and Patrick turn to each other for comfort, but Patrick won’t let himself fall in love again, even as Colin’s head over heels for his first and only love. The widow, and their guide, are meant to be jailers, but they aren’t and they aren’t upset by Colin and Patrick’s private affairs; they expected to be at first, but knowing them as men, and seeing they aren’t depraved goes a long way to building relationships.

I really enjoyed the adventure of this novel. It felt so authentic to the emotion and situation of the time. Colin is a boy of pure heart, who only wants to be loved honestly.Patrick is a jaded man who’s been hurt before, and doens’t expect to have more than a passing acquaintance and mutual satisfaction. He puts Colin off time and again, but really does love him. The secondary characters are interesting, and the different settings: provincial England, the wide Atlantic, the barren outback of Australia, are unique and engaging. Colin is a reliable narrator and his desire for love is right out on the page. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough by the end, as cattle rustlers move in to make new trouble. I’d read on if a sequel comes out, for sure.

Interested? You can find THE STATION on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

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

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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

Double Trouble and BLEU BALLS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Tara Lain. BLEU BALLS is the seventh book in her Balls to the Walls series which I have devoured. While they are all standalones, you can check out my reviews for VOLLEY BALLS, FIRE BALLS, BEACH BALLS, FAST BALLS, HIGH BALLS, and SNOW BALLS to see if any of these mancandy books tickle your fancy. BLEU BALLS features identical twins looking for love and finding it…despite their shenanigans.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $15 Amazon GC giveaway!
About the book:
Double trouble. The McMillan twins, Robin and Bobby, are renowned for their talents—both as fine artists and for thrilling the various men who catch their eyes. As different in style and personality as their DNA is identical, they’re nonetheless best friends who divide and conquer, with Robin doing the serious painting and Bobby adding the sunny salesmanship.

But when their most important client decides Bobby must wield the paintbrush, the brothers revert to childhood tactics and switch places. Then along comes Micah, a handsome doctor who’s attracted to Bobby but invites Robin out to try to please his homophobic brother, and Paolo, the pain-in-the-butt client who thinks he’s wooing Bobby when he’s actually after Robin. Paolo harbors his own hidden pain that weirdly intersects with Robin’s, but pride and privacy conspire to produce what will either be a masterpiece—or end up as Dogs Playing Poker?

How about a little taste?

“Hey, gorgeous, want to dance?”

Bobby looked up at the attractive guy who’d been eyeing him for the last hour. “Oh, I don’t know—”

“Come on, Bobby, go. Go!” Rodney pushed Bobby out of the chair.

He smiled, but it took some effort. “Okay, so I guess yes.” He followed the man’s trim ass in nice summer-wool slacks toward the tiny dance floor in the lounge at the Rose. Jerry and his honey, Mick, were already dancing. The two big firefighters took up more than their share of the available boogie space, but they looked so happy it made Bobby tear up.

The guy turned and pulled Bobby into his arms. Clearly he intended to lead. Okay with me. “I’m Aaron, by the way.” The guy had nice hazel eyes and carefully brushed brown hair.

“Bobby.”

He started a not-very-complex box step. “You’re an artist, aren’t you?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“I saw you at the Sawdust. I really like your stuff. Very unique.”

“Thank you.” Come on, be charming. “What do you do?”

“Stockbroker. Let me know if you need any investment tips.”

Bobby laughed. “Believe me, artists need tips on keeping their rent paid, although I’ll admit, we’re having a good summer.”

“We?”

“Me and my brother. We paint together.”

“Oh. Interesting. Keeping it in the—holy shit!”

Bobby looked up at Aaron and followed his line of sight to the door—where, sure enough, Robin had just walked in. Bobby waggled his fingers and called over the piped-in music. “Hi, dear.”

Robin waved back.

Aaron said, “But you two are identical.”

“Yes, of course. We’re the McMillan twins.”

Bobby felt Aaron react—somewhere between a jerk and a laugh.

“What?” Bobby looked up into a face that had been pleasant and now leered.

“Fuck, why didn’t you tell me you were Double Trouble?”

Bobby frowned. “Was I supposed to?”

“Shit, yes. I mean, what does it take to get some backroom action from you two? Hell, I can pay.”

“Pay?” Bobby pressed his hands against Aaron’s chest and shoved. “Get your hands off me, you pervert.”

“What?”

Bobby turned his tail and flipped it back to the table—but his insides rolled with anger and nausea.

Robin saw his face and sprang up. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Nothing I don’t deserve. He saw you and realized we were Double Trouble. He said he’d like to pay us.” Robin clenched his fists, but Bobby put a hand on his arm. “You can’t blame him for getting the wrong idea.”

“Oh? Watch me.” Robin stared pugnaciously across the dance floor.

My Review:
This is the seventh book in the Balls to the Wall series, but easily enjoyed on its own.

Robin and Bobby McMillan have come from modest beginnings to be moderately-known artists on the Laguna art scene. They recently bid on a large mural project that would pay large dividends, if they get the gig. However, on the day of the big proposal, bubbly and pleasant Bobby is too ill to make the meeting, and Robin tells off one of the main buyers once his short-temper is lit. Robin’s been downhearted a long time, but most recently he’s sad that he and JJ, from SNOW BALLS, didn’t make it work. Bobby’s been looking for a steady guy, too, even though this sexy duo is known for their freaky bedroom (or bar bathroom) skills as a tag team sex dream.

Robin’s shocked that they get the commission, but just as quickly dismayed that the buyer wants Bobby to be the lead artist. While they often work together, Robin does the bulk of the painting, while Bobby handles the customer relations. And, with them also selling at the local arts festival, it’s impossible for Bobby to be in both places at once…until they dye tier hair to match, and Robin masquerades as his more affable twin.

Meanwhile, “Bobby” catches the eye of their disgruntled patron, and Bobby falls for their new doctor, a man who’s struggling to gain his family’s acceptance. Some mismatches occur, but love is on the horizon for Bobby and “Bobby”–I mean Robin. This was mostly fun, but also tender, as Robin learns to love himself more, and stand up for his own needs. Bobby dims his light just a bit, but he shines all the brighter when facing off against prejudice, and working to keep Robin positive. I like how Robin’s love interest had a dark past, and a troubled family that colors his interactions. While he and Robin are initially at loggerheads, it’s mostly because they are more alike than different. And, when they come together, it’s soon apparent that Robin has many folks in his corner.

This was another fun read, with both heat and heart. We get to see a lot of our pals from the previous books, but it’s a double love story front-and-center. Bobby, Robin and their love interests take turns narrating, and the reader gets an inside view of their motivations. Which aren’t necessarily honest, but felt very real. I definitely enjoyed this one, and wonder what’s in store for the sexy Laguna boys.

Interested? You can find BLEU BALLS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading friends!

About the Author:
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.

She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

You can find Tara on her website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Gotta Make the RELAY–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! I’m continuing my Sports Romance theme this week with a brand new M/M contemporary romance from a new-to-me author, Layla Reyne. RELAY features the big strapping lads of the US Olympic swim team, and all the drama they suffer to win the gold. It’s the first book in the Changing Lanes series, and looks like we’ll be getting a new couple with each installment. If you like books about competitive swimmers, you might also enjoy WATER MUSIC or DISTANT SWIMMER.

You can drop down and catch my review and find the giveaway link for a chance to win a signed copy of RELAY and a $25 GC.
About the book:
Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.

My Review:
Dane Ellis and Alex Cantu were teammates, roommates, and lovers one summer ten years ago, but being gay isn’t something that Dane’s controlling parents will accept, or understand. His father, a powerful televangelist, and his mother, a Home Shopping diva, have ensured that the money Dane earns from sponsors goes into a trust fund he can’t access until he’s thirty, four years from now. Though he’s now 26, they control his life, and he’s not that happy with the results. Dane may be the fastest freestyle swimmer in the country, but he’s socially isolated and a pariah on his team, mainly due to his grandstanding parents. But, also, Alex still harbors the hurt over their teen love lost. And, the other guys on the team really look up to Alex, who is their captain.

Alex has had to fight and work for all he’s earned his whole life. His parents own a small farm, and he spent years pitching in, and caring for his younger siblings. To him, Dane had a charmed life with plenty of money and no qualms about leaving him behind. As captain, he has some say in which swimmers make the relay teams. And, he doesn’t want Dane on the medley with him. This is a four-man team where each one swims a different stroke: backstroke, fly, breaststroke and freestyle. Alex is the reigning gold medalist in backstroke, and he selects another swimmer, Dane’s teammate and mentor, to swim the freestyle part of the relay. It breaks Dane’s heart, and enrages his parents. It also leads to strife on the team.

The more time they spend together training, however, the more Alex sees that Dane isn’t the arrogant jerk he’d built up in his mind since their forbidden summer. Dane is vulnerable, and tired of his parents stomping all over his life. Seeing the out and proud members of his team being real, Dane decides he’s had enough of the facade, and it leads to a truce with Alex–and a lot more, including acceptance from his teammates for the first time in…ever. But his parents aren’t above blackmailing Dane to get him to fall into their line yet again. When Alex is accused of doping, Dane is sure his folks are the guilty parties. It’s up to his newly-gelling team, and Dane’s particular expertise, to clear Alex’s name.

I really liked this one. There’s a good mix of athleticism, anger and acceptance, including love. Dane’s life isn’t pleasant, and seeing him take the necessary steps to find his own happiness is engaging. Alex is a bit of a jerk, and I understood why–watching him get over his busted heart was nice. I liked his family, and how loving they were. And I liked how his mom, who is struggling with breast cancer treatment, made sure Alex knew that he didn’t need to break his back for everyone besides himself. Expect a lot of drama; these guys are really high stakes competitors, and have tempers to match. It seems as if the next book will take us to the Olympics, and feature a new couple on the team…which is interesting. I’m looking forward to it!

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

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to comment on my pal Joyfully Jay’s giveaway post. One tour commenter will win a singed copy of RELAY and a $25 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bicoastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart-pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs.

Catch up with Layla Reyne on her website, Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Goodreads, or sign up for her newsletter.

Now Available! THE FORTUNE HUNTER-Review and Giveaway!

Hi there, and welcome to 2018! I’ve been enjoying a “human holiday” and digital disconnect for much of the holidays with my kids. But, now I’m back, and eager to share some more books with all of you. Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new historical M/M romance from Bonnie Dee. THE FORTUNE HUNTER features a Great War veteran trying to make his fortune by marriage, and finding true love by mistake…with his fiance’s cousin. I really liked THE SHEPHERD AND THE SOLICITOR, so I couldn’t wait to step back in time once again.

Drop down and catch an excerpt and be sure to enter the book giveaway too!
About the book:
A man with nothing finds everything.
Abandoned at birth, WWI veteran Hal Stanton faces bleak employment prospects in post-war London. Desperation spurs him to reinvent himself to hook a wealthy wife, one he will be devoted to even if he feels no real passion. But when he meets his fiance’s cousin, Julian Needham, it’s all he can do to keep his heart in check and his eye on the prize.

From the moment he’s introduced to the charming stranger Margaret plans to marry, Julian suspects the man’s motives yet fights a relentless attraction. He’s determined to reveal Hal as a fraud but must handle the matter delicately to protect his sweet cousin’s feelings. A weekend at the family estate should allow time and opportunity for him to expose Halstead Wiley.

Even as the men match wits in a battle of attempted unmasking, powerful sexual attraction threatens to overcome them both and win the day. Can a true love connection possibly grow between these adversaries without destroying lives and loved ones?

How about a healthy tidbit?

Drawing up in front of the Needham house on the curved driveway, Hal felt as if he ought to be arriving in a carriage and four rather than Margaret’s Daimler motorcar. The sprawling limestone house was a convoluted collection of roof peaks, turrets, and wings added on over the years. It looked like a castle, proclaiming nobility dwelt within and an outsider like him would never belong.

Hal didn’t resent the upper class their wealth, power, and prestige. He merely wanted to become one of them. Was that so awful? A friend had once come to Hal’s flat begging a sanctuary to spend a night or two. The stay had turned into something more like two months. But Hal certainly understood that desire to lay down the burden of constant struggle to survive and find a quiet, comfortable resting spot.

Margaret would be his safe place, and he would be hers, making certain she never wanted for companionship. In return, he’d have a nice house, good food, and a fine wardrobe. He would guard her fortune as if it were his own, spending wisely and increasing it shrewdly. He wouldn’t be a burden but a life companion in an easygoing, if chaste, arrangement.

He got out of the passenger side of the car, and Margaret came around to join him. “What do you think? The house may appear grand, but don’t let the battlements fool you. Inside, it’s quite shabby. Despite a respectable family name, my aunt and uncle aren’t wealthy by any means.”

Hal tucked her hand through the loop of his arm. “I’m not nervous. I’m quite ready to meet them and explain why I’ve fallen in love with their one-of-a-kind niece. This must have been a wonderful place to grow up with all those nooks and crannies to explore.”

“It truly was. Mother and I could have afforded to stay in our own home after Father died. But I’m so glad we came to live with Aunt Agnes and Uncle Harold; otherwise, I never would’ve had brothers like Julian and James.” She frowned. “After nearly two years, I still have trouble thinking of James in the past tense.”

Hal recalled James had survived France but died in the influenza epidemic almost immediately upon his return home. He put an arm around Margaret and hugged her. “You must miss him terribly.”

“His passing has been difficult for me but nearly killed my aunt and uncle. They’re still mourning. And Julian…” She shook her head.

“Misses his brother and perhaps blames himself for being alive,” Hal guessed. “I understand that feeling, having lost many comrades at the front.”

Margaret stopped at the doorstep and turned to him, eyes shining. “You survived because God had more for you to do in this life. He brought you to me, for which I am ever grateful.”

Hal hated himself just a little more at her declaration. When he’d begun this plan, he’d imagined landing a wealthy older widow who knew the score and didn’t mind so long as she had a handsome young husband to show off to her friends like a trophy. But then he’d met Margaret. He’d been so taken with her blend of sweetness and assertiveness that it had seemed possible to make a sham marriage work. Now he was stuck with the plan he’d devised.

The door opened before they knocked. A stooped older man with a paunch swelling his waistcoat greeted them. “Welcome home, Miss Margaret.”

“Hello, Grover. You’re looking very dapper today. I’m so glad to be back. I’ve missed home these past months. May I present my fiancé, Mr. Halstead Wiley.”

The butler bowed. “Good day, sir. Welcome to Barton Park.”

Hal almost returned the bow, then recalled his proper standing and nodded politely instead. “I’m happy to be here.”

Grover escorted them to the drawing room, where Mr. and Mrs. Needham and Julian were already gathered. Hal assessed the room before following Margaret inside. Pale blue walls and rug offered a sense of tranquility and the room was not overly cluttered. The dark, heavy pieces of furniture from an older century didn’t fit the pale color palette that suggested a more chic, modern décor.

Margaret’s aunt and uncle rose to greet him. The outdated style of Mrs. Needham’s gown didn’t detract from her aura of grace and refinement as she offered her hand. “Mr. Wiley, we’re pleased you could come. Darling Margaret is the daughter we never had, and we were eager to meet the man she’s chosen.”

“Quite so,” Mr. Needham said.

Hal wasn’t certain if he was meant to shake Mrs. Needham’s hand or kiss it. The customs of the gentry weren’t familiar to him. He gave a polite press before letting go, then turned to offer a hearty shake to Mr. Needham. “The pleasure is mine. Your niece is a prize.”

“Yes, she is.” Mr. Needham gave Hal an assessing look with gray eyes very much like his son’s.

Hal scanned the rest of the room to find Julian standing near the window. Sunlight burnished his brown hair with golden highlights. His well-cut profile with its straight nose and strong jawline was haloed in light. When he turned his stern gaze toward Hal, a little hum of anticipation awoke within him.

Hal squelched this reaction to a man he considered an adversary. Needham had invited him here to poke holes in his story, so he must be on guard every moment not to give himself away. If this wedding were to be called off, he’d be jobless and desperate again. One would expect work to be plentiful in the aftermath of the Great War with so few veterans returning, but the economy was in shambles. Odd jobs were all Hal had been able to find, spurring him to his mad scheme to land a wealthy woman.

He offered a bright smile. “Good to see you again, Mr. Needham.”

As much as it wasn’t, it actually was. Needham intrigued Hal, not only his physical demeanor but his affectionate manner with Margaret and his magnetic presence. Had they met under other circumstances, he and Julian might have been friends—or probably something more than friends, for Hal guessed “confirmed bachelor” Julian shared his attraction to men.

Hal dragged his thoughts away from the sorts of activities they might have gotten up to in another time and place, as he sat beside his betrothed on a sofa. “You have a lovely home,” he complimented his hosts. “Its history must be fascinating.”

“Thank you,” Mrs. Needham said. “Barton Park was built in 1640 and belonged to several families before the Needhams took possession.”

Her husband added dryly, “You may learn the entire history on every second Wednesday of the month, when the house is open. I daresay the tour guide is more educated on both the history and the architecture than we are.”

“Tours?” Julian abandoned his spot by the window to stride across the room with long-legged grace. “When did this begin?”

“Surely I mentioned this in one of my letters. A company that arranges tours approached us this past summer,” Mrs. Needham explained. “At first, your father refused to speak with their representative, but when we learned other owners of other estates were allowing tours, we decided to give it a go. It’s a respectable way to share one’s heritage and is little trouble at all. Thus far, the tourists, both domestic and foreign, have been orderly and respectful.”

“Not at all annoying having strangers troop through one’s home,” Mr. Needham continued in his sub-Saharan tone. “And you’d know about this if you paid the least attention to what your mother writes, or if you came for a visit every so often.”

Julian stood before his parents, scowling. “You did not mention this in any of your letters. I’d no idea you’d reached such a…” He glanced at Hal and seemed to reconsider airing his family’s financial business. “That you were considering such a thing.”

“It has become quite common these days for historical houses to be on display,” Mrs. Needham pointed out. “As you’ve said, times are changing.”

“More’s the pity,” the elder Needham growled.

Hal sat very still, wishing he were someplace else and not witnessing this family argument. He’d had no idea the Needhams were in such difficult straits until today. Apparently, their children hadn’t either. Surely Margaret would want to offer financial help, which would cut into the inheritance from her father’s side. He was a horrible person to immediately consider how the Needham family’s misfortune might affect him and his plans.

“Honestly, I think it’s rather brilliant to open the house to tours.” Margaret smoothed the folds of her modish knee-length dress. “Tourists enjoy seeing grand houses from a former century. The building should earn its maintenance at the very least. But if you require more financial assistance, please let me know. I want to do my part for the family.”

Julian Needham quickly added, “I can offer help as well. My investments are doing well enough.”

“We’re not quite destitute, although apparently our home has become a museum artifact to be gawked at by strangers,” Mr. Needham said.

“Thank you, my dears, for your generous thought. But such a discussion is most inappropriate at this celebratory occasion.” Mrs. Needham turned her attention to Hal. “Tell us how you two met.”

“We were both browsing at a bookstore. I shared a recommendation with Hal, and we talked for hours. You can see how that conversation ended.” Margaret turned her beaming smile on Hal. “Or never ended, for we always find something to discuss.”

“I was taken with Margaret from the moment we met. She manages to be both imaginative and levelheaded at the same time. One doesn’t let a quality woman like Margaret slip away.”

“Your family approves the arrangement?” Mr. Needham probed.

Hal seized a quick breath before plunging into his embroidered history. He hadn’t tried to pretend to Margaret that he came from any sort of gentility, instead inventing middle-class parents of modest means.

“My parents have passed, and I have no extended family. But I’m certain both Father and Mother would have welcomed Margaret with open arms.”

“Tell us about your parents,” Needham senior pushed.

“My father owned several shipping concerns. But in one year, a freighter was lost at sea and another seized by pirates. This put a great strain on his fortune and took a toll on his health.” Hal patted his chest, indicating possible heart failure or a broken heart. Let them decide which. “He passed away within a year, and my dear mother followed soon after. I believe she couldn’t face life without him.”

Mrs. Needham gave a soft murmur, and Margaret reached to pat Hal’s hand. He bowed his head, hoping he wasn’t overdoing the drama.

“Were you left penniless then?” Julian’s tone was cool and less than sympathetic.

“Julian!” Mrs. Needham exclaimed at his shocking ill manners.

“It’s all right, Mrs. Needham. It is quite reasonable to wonder about the stranger your niece has brought home. I should have followed custom and asked permission for her hand.” Hal offered an apologetic smile, then continued trying to reassure them he had nothing to hide.

“I invested the small inheritance I received and have increased it over the years, so I live quite comfortably. I won’t pretend to be more than I am. I come from a middle-class background, and I’m in love with a woman who is clearly above me. But I care for Margaret very much.”

The last part at least was true. Hal took her hand, gazed into her eyes, and prayed his selfish intentions could be forgiven.

Margaret smiled. “As I care for you.”

Julian made a small sound that might have signaled either acceptance or disgust.

Hal darted a sharp glance at him.

“It’s a lovely afternoon. I should like to take you on a tour of the land before supper,” Margaret said.

“Perfect weather for an invigorating walk,” Hal agreed and blessed her for freeing him from the relentless questioning.

“I’ll go with you.” Julian had not taken a seat during the entire conversation, and now he started for the door. “I should like to see how the farms are doing.”

They bid their elders goodbye and entered the hallway. Margaret excused herself to change into proper attire.

Hal had brought no walking shoes and lingered awkwardly with Julian, who scanned him up and down.

“You’ll want a pair of Wellingtons. The fields and woods are muddy. And a drover’s coat to cover this fine wool.” He fingered the lapel of Hal’s jacket, tailored for a gentleman and discovered by Hal in a secondhand store.

Julian stood so near, Hal felt the heat of his body and inhaled the scent of his shaving lotion. Did Julian mean to be intimidating? Probably, because he stared at Hal with the assessing eyes of judge, jury, and executioner.

When Julian at last stepped back, Hal took a deep breath. Unfortunately, the man wasn’t only a barrier to breach, he also unleashed attraction such as Hal hadn’t felt in a long time. Perhaps Julian sensed his desire and was baiting him to make an impulsive move.

But Hal wouldn’t reveal himself so foolishly. Nothing could come between him and the quiet, calm, comfortable life he craved. He must convince this doubting Thomas before he derailed Hal’s matrimonial plan.

My Review:
Hal Stanton was an orphan who ran away from the orphanage, where he and his fellows were essentially workhouse slaves, to join the British forces in the Great War back in 1916. It’s now the early 1920s. The war is passed and Hal survived both that and the great influenza epidemic. He has a good education, gained on his own devices, and served several gentlemen as a personal…attendant? Well, not what polite company would call it. And, he’s not willing to continue in that line, because it’s not very stable. So, he’s decided to pose as a merchant-class man down on his fortune, assuming the name of Halstead Wiley and a fabricated history, in order to land a war widow, or spinster of good standing. He isn’t inclined to women but is willing to be a faithful, if chaste, companion. And that is how he comes to make the acquaintance of Margaret Needham.

Margaret is a suffragette with strong ideas about woman’s autonomy. She was raised by her aunt and uncle, but has her own fortune left from her father. Margaret is also rather plain, and a spinster at 28 years old. Shunned by eligible gentlemen, she’d nearly given up on finding a suitor, but Hal seems to suit. He’s willing to let Margaret have her own life, championing women’s issues, and is even willing to help build her fortune using his skills as an investor. All he must do is convince Margaret’s aunt, uncle and cousin, Julian, that he’s a honest man who loves her dearly.

Julian, suspicious and unwilling to let Margaret be shamed or spoiled, invites Halstead to their family home to meet his parents over a long weekend. Which, naturally, turns into far longer what with Julian and Margaret recognizing that Julian’s parents are having trouble maintaining their estate. Julian welcomes the extra time, because he want’s his solicitor to finish investigating this upstart Wiley. That, and he’s noticing that Hal seems to share his own shameful inclination toward men.

I liked this one. It’s a slow burn with interesting twists. Hal really is a decent guy, despite his subterfuge. He has a deep affection for the idea of family, even if he’s sure he won’t be able to manage much physical love with Margaret. That said, he loves being in the country with Margaret’s extended family, and is excited to make a strong friendship with Julian–except for that pesky attraction. The feelings are returned, on Julian’s side. It’s an uncomfortable visit for Julian, and not only because he recognizes the way he’s closed himself off from his family over the last several years. He almost wants to allow Margaret to marry Hal, just so he can have a friendly companion. But, he can’t betray his family any further. Julian has a lot of guilt over the way he’s neglected his duties–duties that were supposed to be taken by his elder brother, James, who survived the war only to die from influenza. James was Julian and Margaret’s hero, and Julian never felt he could live up to the family’s expectations–especially being queer, er, a “confirmed bachelor”…

The romance isn’t overt at first, and the story plays out over the extended weekend, and longer as their visit extends, and then Margaret makes choices that alter Hal’s fortunes yet again. When Hal and Julian meet again, they have the ability to make a new life together in a way that will keep them both happy for years to come. It’s a happy ending in the best way possible for the time period.

Interested? You can find THE FORTUNE HUNTER on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK). I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

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About the Authors:
Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for her own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in her life didn’t have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that she began writing again.

Bonnie enjoys dabbling in many genres. You can find her online on her website, twitter and Facebook.