Growing Up Wondering WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA–Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA coming of age story from Andy V. Roamer. WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? is the first book in the Pizza Chronicles and features a high school freshman questioning his ethnic heritage, his friendships and his sexuality.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
RV is a good kid, starting his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School. Though his genes didn’t give him a lot of good things, they did give him a decent brain. So he’s doing his best to keep up in high school, despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots and insist on other rules. Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His puny muscles. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all—that he might be gay.

Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher, who is gay and always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole. But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.

How about a taste?

Why can’t life be like pizza?

I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately. I love pizza. Pizza makes me feel good. Especially since I discovered Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza is quiet and out of the way and allows me to think. And Joe’s combinations are the best. Pepperoni and onions. Garlic and mushroom. Cheese and chicken. And if you really want that little kick in the old butt: the super jalapeno. Mmmm, good. Gets you going again. And lets you forget all your troubles.

What troubles can a fourteen-year-old guy have? Ha! First of all, I’m not a regular guy, as anyone can guess from my taste in pizza. My parents are immigrants who are trying to make a better life for themselves here in the United States. Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global warming, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I’m-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world.

Grateful? Ha! As far as I’m concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building.

I don’t know why I worry about everything, but I do. It’s probably in my genes. Other guys have genes that gave them big muscles or hairy chests. I got nerves.

And then there’s my name. RV. Yeah, RV. No, I’m not a camper or anything. RV is short for Arvydas. That’s right. “Are-vee-duh-s.” Mom and Dad say it’s a common name in Lithuania, which is the country in Eastern Europe where my parents were born. A name like that might be fine for Lithuania, but what about the United States? Couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Joe, or Mike, or even Darryl? My brother, Ray, has a normal name. Why couldn’t they have given me one?

I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I’ve been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I’m pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it? At least the glasses are not too thick. Mom and Dad don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they did fork up the money to get me thin lenses, so I don’t look like a complete zomboid.

What can I do? I try my best, despite it all. I’m lucky because I’ve done well in school, so at least my genes gave me a half-decent brain. Hey, I’m not bragging. It’s just nice to feel good about something when most days I feel pretty much a loser at so many things. When I was in grammar school, there were enough days when I came home from school and cried because some big oaf threatened me, or I got hit in the stomach during my pathetic attempts to play ball during recess.

Mom always tried to comfort me. “Nesirūpink,” she would say. “Esi gabus. Kai užaugsi, visiems nušluostysi nuosis.” We talk Lithuanian at home. Translated, that sentence means, “Don’t worry. You’re smart. When you grow up, you’ll show them.” Actually, not “you’ll show them,” but “you’ll wipe all their noses.” Lithuanians have a funny way of expressing themselves. Not sure I aspire to wiping anyone’s nose when I get older, but that’s what they say.

Whatever. I’m determined to put all that behind me. I’m starting a new life. My new life. Today was the first day of high school. I’m going to Boston Latin School. You have to take an exam to go there, so it’s full of smart kids. Besides smart kids, it has heavy-duty history too. It was founded in 1635, a year before Harvard. They already gave us a speech about that.

And about pressure. The pressure to succeed with all this history breathing down our necks. Pressure, ha! Doesn’t scare me. I know all about pressure. I’ve gotten pressure from cretinous bullies at school. I get it from cretinous Lith a-holes, who Mom and Dad keep pushing me to hang around with because they say it’s important to be part of the immigrant community. And I even get pressure from cretinous jerks in the neighborhood.

Cretinous. A good word. That’s something else about me. I like words. Real words and made-up ones. There’s something cool about them. Yeah, yeah, I know what people would say. You think words are cool? Kid, you’ve got more problems than you thought.

Well, I’m sorry. I do think words are cool. There’s something fun about making them up or learning a new one. Kind of unlocks something in the world. And I like the world despite all my worrying. It can be an okay place sometimes.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off track. I want to write about my first day of school. Mom and Dad gave me this new—well, refurbished, but new to me anyway—computer for getting into Latin school, and they keep after me to make good use of it. So, I’ve decided I’m going to write about my new life. My life away from cretins—Lith, American, or any other kind.

The first person I met at school today was Carole. Carole Higginbottom. She’s in my homeroom. She was sitting in the first row, first seat, and I was sitting right behind her. We started talking. She’s from West Roxbury, too, which is where we live.

West Roxbury is part of Boston. You have to live somewhere in Boston in order to go to Latin school. West Roxbury is a nice neighborhood, for the most part, with houses, trees, grass, and people going to work and coming home. Kind of an all-American place, I guess. We used to live in a different, tougher part of Boston, but Mom and Dad moved away from there because they said the neighborhood was getting too rough. They promised I wouldn’t get beat up so much in West Roxbury. I don’t know. West Roxbury is better, but I still have gotten a few black-and-blue marks with “made in West Roxbury” on them, so as far as I’m concerned it isn’t any perfect place either.

Carole lives in another part of West Roxbury, near Centre Street, which is the main street in the area. People like to hang out there. Mom says that part of West Roxbury is a little dicey. (Mom thinks a lot of neighborhoods are too dicey. Maybe that’s where I get my worrying from.) Anyway, Carole sure doesn’t seem dicey. As a matter of fact, she’s a little goofy. Tall and skinny with red hair, red cheeks, and a million freckles. And she has a really sharp nose that curves up like those special ski slopes you see in the Olympics. But I get the feeling she’s smart. She says she likes science. That’s good because I might need help with science. I’m better with other subjects like history and English.

Our homeroom teacher is Mr. Bologna, Carmine Bologna. He’s a little scary with slicked-back dark hair and even darker eyes that stare at you forever. He looks like he’s part of the organization we’re not supposed to talk about—you know, the scary one from Italy that’s into murder, racketeering, and drugs. Two guys were horsing around in the back of the class and Mr. Bologna came right up to them, said a few words under his breath, and just stared at them. Boy, did they settle down fast. I’m no troublemaker, but I’ll really have to watch myself. Don’t want to deal with the Bologna stare if I can help it.

Today was mostly about walking around, learning about our subjects, and meeting teachers. Besides all the regular subjects, I have to take Latin. I don’t have anything against it per se, but is it really necessary to learn a dead language? And then there’s the teacher, Mr. Aniso. He’s kind of light in his loafers. That’s another new phrase I learned recently. It refers to gay guys, and Mr. Aniso is so gay it hurts. I just hope he can’t tell anything about me. I don’t wave my wrist around the way he does, do I?

Yeah, that’s something else I have to come to terms with. I might be heading in that direction. Yeah, me. I can hardly believe it. Me! Why? It can’t be true, can it? I’ve been praying to God, asking Him not to make me gay, but I don’t think He’s listening. If He exists, that is. Maybe He’s not answering because He doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. People on TV and in books say being gay is okay. Movie stars and rock stars are gay. There are gay mayors and other gay political types. That’s fine for them, but they don’t live with my family. Mom’s a heavy-duty Catholic. Dad’s a macho, “what-me-cry?” kind of guy. And my younger brother, Ray, well, Ray probably doesn’t care one way or another, but he doesn’t count anyway since he hates everybody. And then there are all those Lith immigrants, the community that’s so important to Mom and Dad. Most of them are so Old World and conservative. I don’t think being gay would go down well with them.

Not that I am gay for certain. I’m just saying it’s crossed my mind because…well, because I think about guys sometimes. And I notice them. Notice how they look when they’re coming down the street. Notice their eyes or their hair or the way they move. Just notice them.

Oh, I notice girls, too, but something about guys is different. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think about them as much or maybe more than girls. And I want to be with them. Is that normal? What’s normal anyway? To be honest, I’m so inexperienced. Never dated. Never even kissed anyone. Not like that anyway. No, I’ve spent my time worrying about communism, terrorism, and global warming. Like I said, I’ve always felt a little out of step with the rest of humanity.

Dealing with all this is just too much. To be nervous about things the way I am. To be speaking a language most people haven’t heard of. To have a strange name. To wear glasses and look nerdy. And now I might be gay? It’s all too confusing. I might as well start on antidepressants, or something stronger, right now.

But no. I try to look on the bright side of things. Take Carole for instance. She seems nice and fun, and maybe we’ll be friends. And if she likes me, I can’t be too weird, can I? I guess I’ll find out. I better not think about it. There’s enough to worry about as it is. I just have to take a breath and focus on my homework. Yeah, we got homework already. At least that’s one thing I’m good at. And when I go to Joe’s, well, life’s not so bad, at least while I’m eating my chicken and cheese or super jalapeno slice.

My Review:
Arvydas–called RV for short is the eldest son of Lithuanian immigrant parents. His parents emigrated when they were barely teens to escape the Soviet occupation and the hard life of the Old Country, but they haven’t forgotten their Lith roots. RV and his younger brother Ray have been taught to speak Lithuanian in their home–though Ray rarely does. RV is a bit embarrassed of his parents, to be honest, because their broken English makes them sound illiterate, and RV is really a literate kid. He’s been accepted into the Boston Latin School–a high honor–and he loves English probably the most of his classes.

RV has some deep secrets, though, most especially that he likes boys that way he thinks, even though he prays to God about it all the time. He’s pretty sure God doesn’t hear his prayers, much. RV goes to Lith church and has to hang with Lith kids, including the wealthy sort-of cousins that are some far relation to his mother’s family. RV’s parents fight a lot, mostly about money, but sometimes about RV and his “odd” ways. RV tries to be as quiet as possible so he won’t attract attention. He’s close friends with Carole, and army brat who’s moved a lot. Carole puts the moves on RV, and he’s kinda glad that she is willing to kiss him, but he’s not sure about how he feels when they make out. Is it weird that he’s sometimes thinking about his biology lab partner, Bobby, who is an attractive, black, super-athlete, when Carole kisses him?

Bobby is new to school and he’s friendly with RV, which is so confusing! They hang out at the same pizzeria sometimes, and Bobby is always asking for RV to look over his writing homework–which RV is so happy to do. It gives him more time to hang with Bobby after all. But, as the year wears on RV’s feelings about boys are really solidifying. He and Carole aren’t really working out. Bobby’s dating a really popular girl and RV’s dealing with jealousy, struggles at home, and the news that his effeminate Latin teacher has been hospitalized for was seems a gay bashing. Mr. Aniso was “swishy” in a way that RV feared appearing, and his students often made fun of him–RV included. But, RV does see Mr. Aniso’s extraordinary bravery, and he’s compelled to visit Mr. Aniso in the hospital where he learns about the man, not the teacher. Their visits help RV learn more about himself, too, and Mr. Aniso’s ready acceptance of RV’s questioning situation provides the support and context that RV really needs.

This coming of age/coming out story is tender and poignant, with a character who had many challenges to discover and overcome. RV’s family life is unstable, and his culturally bigoted parents will likely not accept his sexuality. RV’s large father, whose temper is often volatile, makes him feel unsafe to live his truth, but he is able to find allies in his life, including Mr. Aniso, Bobby, and Carole. The narrative is told through RV’s journal, so readers can be sure they are getting RV’s truest thoughts, and accurate representations of his emotional state, even when he’s confused and pondering. I honestly adored RV, who is so earnest and so nervous. He’s in an almost-constant state of panic, afraid to say the wrong thing to everyone. As his relationships grow, however, he learns who he can trust, and how to navigate the difficult conversations. He gains confidence, and with that comes some sparks of happiness.

I liked how Bobby and RV are able to carefully reveal that they both might like boys to one another, and how they might also like each other in that way. RV’s courage, and frustration, help this happen and it works out so well for him. There’s a TOUCH of romance here, in the most YA-friendly manner. I would gladly follow RV into more adventures.

Interested? You can find WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

Catch up with Andy on his website and Facebook.

Giving him WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M contemporary romance from life- and wiritng partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS features two old school friends reconnecting–and finding unexpected love amid a contentious lawsuit.

About the book:
Cayo Suárez, who is gay, and Ben Roth, an admitted Oblivious Straight Guy, were roommates in law school, but two years after graduating, they have lost touch. After an accidental meeting, Cayo invites Ben to stay with him while Ben looks for his own apartment. There’s only one complication, but it’s a big one—Cayo has been in love with Ben since they met.

What begins as a heartwarming reunion of old friends heats up quickly, and Ben starts to wonder if he’s as straight as he always thought he was. Cayo and Ben reconnect in a most unexpected way, but their jobs complicate things. Cayo works for low-income people at Legal Assistance, and Ben works for the man.

When Ben and Cayo become involved in a controversial case, powerful people with a lot to lose seize control of the situation. They want to bend the case’s outcome to their own nefarious ends, and they’ll destroy anyone who tries to stand up to them. Will Cayo and Ben find a way to save Ben’s career, and their budding relationship, before it’s too late?

What He Really Needs is an action-packed book full of warmth and humor, a first-time bisexual awakening, a healthy dose of suspense, steamy sexy times, and an extraordinary happy ending.

How about a taste?

The sticky air was thick with the ripe smell of horny men. Johnny’s was the big gay sports bar in town, and on Saturday nights there was always a kickass drag show. At two in the morning, the drag queens had come and gone, and I lost myself in music loud enough to rattle my teeth. It was that time of night when everybody was dancing together, and all eyes were on the lookout for an interested man.

I turned around, and just as I noticed a cute blond twink giving me the once-over, I saw him. A dozen yards in front of me was the man I’d moved to DC to get away from. I’d know him anywhere. Dripping with sweat and obviously a couple of sheets to the wind, Ben Roth was dancing his ass off.

You’re out of your mind. That last vodka tonic was one too many.

The flashing lights made it hard to see, so I started moving in his direction. Since Johnny’s was packed, crossing the busy dance floor wasn’t the easiest thing in the world. I sneaked under and around gyrating bodies, and slid between a few couples who were eye fucking each other for all they were worth. Soon, I was next to him, and there was no doubt. None other than Ben Roth was in one of the most popular gay nightspots in the District.

Eyes closed, head thrown back, he seemed oblivious to the madness around him. He still looked like a cross between a teen heartthrob and Prince Charming, with his wavy brown hair and boyishly handsome face. Broad shoulders, muscular pecs, and a trim waist were tantalizing under the damp T-shirt that clung to his torso.

He must have sensed someone watching him. Opening his eyes, he scanned the room and slowly turned his head to the side, toward me. His gaze, loosened by too much alcohol, immediately sharpened as he shook his head and blinked his brilliant amber eyes. He curled his lips into the smile that had launched a thousand ships—as well as countless jack-off fantasies—and he jumped at me.

“Cayo?” He engulfed me in a bear hug. Lime and honey tickled my nostrils, immediately followed by the unmistakable scent of Ben’s spicy musk. For the three years we had lived together, that peppery, mossy smell gave me a semi every time he came home from a run.

I wrapped my arms around him and reveled in the way his toned muscles resisted my squeeze. He pulled me closer, and I felt safe for the first time in who knew how long. I’d honestly thought I would never see him again. Just as his spicy-sweaty essence began to make me feel giddy, I—

Started getting hard! Shit! After the way things ended, the last thing I needed was for him to get the idea that he was giving me an erection. Which he wasn’t, of course. It was the excitement of seeing him again, the air in the club being so laden with testosterone, the feel of another man’s arms around me when I’d come here knowing I needed a good fuck. It certainly had nothing to do with—

Alarm! Get loose before he notices your cock poking into his leg! I braced my hands against his chest and pushed, successfully extricating myself from his grip. “Ben! What the hell are you doing here?”

Confusion and something else—panic?—flashed across his face as he swiped at the moisture on his forehead. He moved his hand to his throat and tugged at the collar of his T-shirt while his eyes darted around. “Let’s go outside. It’s hard to talk in here.”

Without waiting for me to respond, he took my hand and led us off the dance floor. It was slow going, but I was so distracted that I hardly noticed. Ben is in DC? In a gay club? As I tried to process that, it occurred to me that he had my hand and was leading me toward the exit of said gay club. His own hand was warm, and the calluses from his workouts were frighteningly sensual against my skin. I used to hope I might get to suck those long, supple fingers one day. Actually, his fingers weren’t the only thing I’d wanted to suck. I remembered—

“There, that’s better!” Ben turned, glancing to the side as he took a deep breath.

It was ridiculously hot and humid outside for two o’clock in the morning, but the fresh air was a definite improvement over the sweltering heat inside the club. Better still was that the insanely loud music had receded into a dull thud. Ben trained his amber eyes on me but didn’t let go. I shouldn’t have glanced down, because as soon as I did, he dropped my hand like it was on fire.

“I’m surprised to see you here,” I managed to say, a little breathlessly, barely resisting the urge to touch my hand to my face. “You’re in town?” Kill me now.

He snickered. “Your astute powers of observation haven’t failed you, I see.” Ben had this low voice that had always gotten me going, and it did nothing to deflate the hard-on that had started when he hugged me, and which hadn’t flagged in the least.

I had difficulty forming words. My lips moved but nothing came out, and an eternity passed before I was able to say anything. “Why are you here, Ben?”

He shrugged, as if what he was about to say was of no importance at all. “I live here now.”

The implications of that were too much to consider right then, so I decided to start with the question that buzzed around my brain like a plane caught in a thunderstorm, the question I had to have an answer to right this minute. “At Johnny’s? You live at Johnny’s?”

It wasn’t exactly the sentence I’d wanted to put together, but it seemed to telegraph my concern to Ben. He shuffled back and forth on his feet for a moment before he met my eyes. “Let’s go get coffee. We need to talk.”

Still struggling to come to terms with the reality that Ben Roth was standing next to me, I was slow to respond.

“Or maybe not? Are you with someone?”

With someone? Did he mean at Johnny’s with someone, or in a relationship with someone? Stop overthinking things—the answer’s the same either way. “No, I’m not with anyone.” I nodded toward Vermont Avenue. “There’s a late-night diner down the street. We can walk there.”

Over Easy was crowded, not unusual for a weekend night. A lot of the men who hadn’t found love at Johnny’s had moved the party down here, and the debriefing was in full swing. The pink plastic booths were all occupied, most of the tables were taken, and people were milling around everywhere, a few of them still in drag.

Despite the rowdy throng, we were seated at a table right away. Ordinarily, I’d have resented the claustrophobic location—in a corner in the back, between a supply closet and a wall—but the privacy would be good tonight. Ben and I were apparently going to have a conversation I’d avoided for two years.

After we ordered coffee, he passed some time drumming his fingertips against the tabletop. I stayed quiet. Acting like a bastard wasn’t my style, but I wasn’t going to make things too easy for him. After all, the last time we’d been together, he sure hadn’t made things easy for me.

The waitress brought our drinks, and Ben finally looked at me when she left. “So, Cayo…?”

Really? That’s all you’ve got? “Still my name.” I took a sip of coffee. “So, Ben…?”

“It’s not what you’re thinking.” He glanced between me and the tabletop, and kept reaching up to scratch his cheek.

I forced my lips into a smile. “You’re going to dig a hole in your face, if you don’t stop that.”

“What?” He jumped, almost like he’d forgotten I was there, before he met my eyes. “Oh, sorry.” His little snicker sounded as sweet as ever. “You always used to tell me that.”

“It’s good to see you, Ben. What’s going on? You said you live here now?”

He put both hands on the table, palms down. “I’m sorry, Cayo. Like really, really sorry.”

The din from Over Easy’s drunk and disappointed customers closed in on us while I decided what to say. I kept my gaze on Ben but had to focus on his forehead because his eyes were too dangerous. “You are?” Memories washed over me—it had been raining in Durham, the day after we graduated from law school—and I couldn’t breathe for a few seconds. “Sorry for what, exactly?”

He made a humming noise while he shook his head. His eyes got shiny, and since I knew that, I was obviously looking at them now.

“For everything.” His voice was lower than usual, and it had a quake I’d never heard before. “For being an absolute bastard to my best buddy. For being a total jerk, somebody you know isn’t me and never was.”

The emotion on his face surprised me. “Tu campo? Is that what I was? Your best buddy?”

It was perhaps the tiniest scoff in the history of the world, but I heard it. “Well, yeah. How can you even ask that?”

Because even now, I want what we had to have been more. Maybe I still believe it was more.

“Why did you act like that, Ben? Treat me like that? It fucking hurt, worse than you’ll ever know.”

“I was….” He cleared his throat and took a sip of coffee. “I don’t know. You shocked me. It had only been a year since Amy left, and I…. You and I were….”

My stomach clenched into a painful knot, and I decided that perhaps I wasn’t ready for this conversation, after all. “You said you live here now? You mean in DC?”

He opened his mouth and tried to say something. When that failed, he took a deep breath. “I tried to call you so many times. Sent you dozens of emails and texts, kept it up for a year.”

“You did?”

He flattened his lips into a small frown. “Come on, man. You never blocked me. The phone would ring and ring before it went to voicemail.”

At least I knew you were thinking about me. I stared at his forehead again. “I wasn’t ready to talk to you, Ben.”

He gave a small nod. “Fair enough. I left you alone for a while, but last Christmas something woke me up, and I’ve wanted to talk to you so much since then.” He set his coffee down and leaned over the table. “I’ve almost called you so many times. I decided last week to get in touch as soon as I got to DC, which was only this morning, actually. I was going to find you, Cayo.”

“Well, you found me, so talk.”

He sat back in his chair and put out his hands. “I panicked. I don’t really understand why. You know I don’t have any issues with gay people. My brother’s gay, for God’s sake.”

“I know, but you still—”

In a flash, he reached across the table and grabbed my hand, words rushing out of him in a torrent of emotion. “I love you, Cayo.” He opened his eyes wide but didn’t slow down. “I mean, not like that, but you were my best friend. We always had so much fun together, were there for each other in so many ways. When Amy left, I was so broken and needy, and you got me through it. I started depending on you, way more than I had any right to. I—” He caught himself and lowered his head, though he kept my hand.

It must have been about sixty degrees in the overcooled restaurant, but a bead of sweat rolled down the back of my neck. “You what?” He remained quiet, and I squeezed his hand. He still didn’t move. “Look at me, Ben.”

Slowly, he raised his head.

“You were saying…?” I prompted.

He exhaled, puffing out his cheeks and lips. “I’m not going to deny it. I felt things, about you. I got confused, and it weirded me out.”

I cocked my head, needing to be sure I understood him correctly. “You felt what about me?”

“I wanted you!” His voice was loud, and he brought it back down. “I wanted you in bed, but it wouldn’t have been right. I would’ve just been projecting feelings onto you because I didn’t have a girlfriend. You deserved more.”

I squeezed his hand again. “Go on. Please.”

His eyes, already bright, grew wet. “You were family to me for three years, all through law school. We shared so much, Cay. Remember how we used to talk all night long? I never pulled an all-nighter studying, but who knows how many all-nighters we pulled hanging out, talking about anything and everything?” He smiled. “We had such great times. All those road trips—going to ride roller coasters around the country, visit places neither of us had ever been. If we thought a game might be good, we’d just jump in the car and go see it. Didn’t matter where it was.” He chuckled. “I wore out a car in law school having the time of my life with you.”

His voice choked, and he struggled for control before he went on. “You were the best friend I could ever imagine. When I started having all those crazy thoughts, I was barely able to manage them. Then, when you told me you’d been in love with me all along, when you kissed me, I panicked. You needed somebody who could offer you a future, and since I’m not gay, that wasn’t me. It was either get uber pissed off, or say to hell with it and use you, but that would have left both of us feeling like shit.”

I glared at him until I could get words out. “Well, what you chose to do certainly left both of us feeling like shit.”

He still held my hand and squeezed it hard. “I’d give anything to change what happened.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me that night?” I had to clear my throat. “It took me so long to work up the courage to tell you how I felt, to ask if there was a chance you might feel the same way.” Sadness rushed into my heart and I did my best to push it away. “I had to ask, Ben.”

His voice was very soft. “I knew even then how much you trusted me, to be able to tell me, but I acted like a crazy fool and treated my best friend like a piece of shit.” He shuddered. “When I realized what I’d done, how I’d—”

Tears spilled down his cheeks, and my heart skipped a beat. I leaned across the table toward him. “Hey.” He squeezed his eyes shut and the cascade of tears continued. When he sobbed, I let go of a breath I’d been holding onto for two years. “Oh, Ben.” I sat quietly until he calmed down.

“Please forgive me, Cay. I was a damned coward, and I should’ve told you what I was feeling.” He shook his head. “I’ve been a damned coward ever since. I could have come to see you, gotten right in your face until you listened to me.”

My own eyes overflowed at that point, and there we sat—two guys, holding hands, crying in public. Anywhere else in town, we’d have probably attracted some attention, but sitting in Over Easy at two forty-five on a Sunday morning, no one even turned a head.

My Review:
Cayo Suarez and Ben Roth were roommates at Duke Law School. They were the best of friends, but Cayo–out and proud–had an intense crush on Ben. Ben, having a broken heart and needing the attention of a dear friend, cultivated a close, physical relationship, that was purely platonic–though Ben had other desires too. He wasn’t gay–isn’t gay–though his brother is. He just loved how Cayo loved him–like a brother, that he sometimes fantasized about.

They had a huge falling out right before graduation–when Cayo confessed his deep love, and Ben freaked the F out. Ben behaved VERY badly, using a no-no slur and hurting Cayo emotional and physically in the moment. Cayo hasn’t responded to any of Ben’s attempts to make amend in the two years since, but he’s mystified to find Ben dancing in a gay club in DC when he knows for a fact Ben took a soulless lawyer job for a corporate firm in NYC, while Cayo took the Legal Assistance position in DC Ben had claimed to want when they were students.

Cayo is so shook by Ben’s advent in his life again, that he takes charge to find out Ben’s story–what he’s doing in DC. Ben’s shook too, but he’s wanted to make amends to Cayo for two long years. Cayo was his bestest of best friends, but Ben isn’t gay–he’s always dated women, except for a few hand jobs with a fellow teammate on the swim team way back in high school…

Okay, to be clear, Ben isn’t straight. He spends a LOT of the book trying to figure out if he has a label, actually, but the long and short of this is Ben is sure he loves Cayo, as more than a friend or roomie. He needs Cayo’s care, and wants his whole heart, too. Cayo immediately makes forgiveness happen–he’s been holding his anger close for too long and desperately missed is best friend. He’s not eager to rush into a relationship, however. He does invite Ben to take his spare room while Ben does an apartment hunt; he’s recently been transferred to the DC branch of his conglomerate law firm.

Their close contact ignites all the need Ben can manage. He’s so needy, and it’s not long before he initiates non-platonic contact. Still, he’s convinced he’s not gay–and Ben’s brother and brother-in-law (his brother’s husband) are quick to take him to task. Whatever, he’s not “gay”, he’s definitely into Cayo, which means he’s willing to love a man–and whatever his sexuality, Ben needs to be honest and caring to Cayo. Cayo is upset that Ben may be playing him–and he’s nervous to fall for a man who’s only ever been with women. Cayo is afraid if Ben is bisexual he may want to go back to women, and he’ll lose his best friend as well as the man he’s loved his whole adult life.

I’ll cut to the chase, Ben and Cayo are a solid couple–once Ben owns up to his love for Cayo. The next complication is a court case. Cayo is representing the plaintiff in a sex-discrimination suit, and Ben is–through a series of coincidences–representing the defendant, who happens to be a sexist scumbag. A wealthy sexist scumbag. That’s where the suspense comes in.Cayo’s amazing in the courtroom, and Ben…falls flat. But, a few days later, Cayo receives priviliged information and implication is that Ben sent it to him. It’s super shady, and both Ben and Cayo are worried about Ben’s job. He’s at risk for firing and a board complaint.

In the meantime, Ben and Cayo are deepening their relationship. This book brings the smut, and I loved every moment of Ben’s initiation into the gayest of gay sex. It’s super fun, and enjoyably dirty, which I was delightfully surprised to experience. Ben spends his days figuring out how to make Cayo’s life easier, and gets some extenuating circumstances to reveal his caretaking nature. Like I mentioned, there’s shady business happening, and it leads to destruction of property, relocation, kidnapping and threats to life and profession.

This story comes complete with some cameos from characters in previous books. It’s billed as a standalone, and works that way, but I’m sure there were novels that featured Ben’s brother Aaron, and also his close friend and legal confidant Liam. Both of these men are settled, married gay men, who are also lawyers. Their support and counsel shepherd Ben in his journey to self-acceptance. I was curious about their back stories, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of Ben and Cayo’s story. There’s a bit of intrigue and some definite suspense, but those moments end quickly and we have lots of time to focus on the deep love and dirty sexytimes that bind Ben and Cayo together.

I really like this story, and how Ben and Cayo overcome their differences in old hurts, and present disparities in wealthy and experience to find the common ground that will support their nascent relationship. I liked this story, and was intrigued about the previous books, as well. You can tell the authors are lawyers, because they are meticulous about finding the loopholes and knotting them up. It was a good story with cool elements of reconnection and accepting one’s life, even if it’s not going according to plan. I liked the supporting characters and would be interested to read on if we see Ben and Cayo in a new circumstance.

Interested? You can find WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the 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!

Now Available! GE-MI: Part One Review and Giveaway!


Hi there! Today I’m spreading the word for a M/M paranormal romance from Mell Eight. GE-MI features a young Ge-Mi, animal-human hybrid, trying to pass his way without getting torn to bits for being an “outlaw”. It’s an alternate-reality future with a suspenseful plot–but just the beginning of a romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
A hundred years ago, evil scientists spliced human genes with those of animals, creating a genetic mutation passed on through the generations. Hated because of their differences, these Ge-Mis live on the fringes of society where they scrounge and scrape to get by.

Nevada is half Ge-Mi and hides that fact behind baggy clothes and by keeping distance between himself and everyone around him. One day, his peaceful life is shattered by an explosion and the arrival of a pack of wolves to sniff out the culprit.

Wolves have excellent noses and as Alpha, Taylor can sniff out every one of Nevada’s secrets—and the harder Nevada tries to resist, the more difficult staying away from Taylor becomes.

How about a little taste?

In the waiting room, people milled about restlessly. There weren’t any chairs provided for the supplicants, nor for the onlookers who were only there to enjoy the show. Handing over a bribe wasn’t supposed to be a comfortable experience, after all.

Nevada stood in a corner, the backpack containing the only thing he had that would suit as a bribe clutched carefully in his arms. Rosto stood next to Nevada, one shoulder pressed indolently against the wall. He was older than Nevada by at least twenty years, his hair grayed at the temples, but his back still strong and unbent. Rosto had done this before—brought a supplicant with his bribe—and he had a personal connection with the lord of the city. Rosto wasn’t worried, but Nevada was.

It had only been six months since Mom had died. They hadn’t had the money or the resources to get her proper health care, and her cold had turned deadly far too quickly for Nevada’s three part-time jobs to pay for a doctor’s bill. It wasn’t just that the doctor was expensive, but payoff money for his silence was too much. Nevada would have risked it for Mom’s sake, but Mom had put her shaking and weak foot down and the matter was settled.

After that, Nevada hadn’t been able to stay in that house or city. The hiding was a fact of life, but he hoped the melancholy could be alleviated with a new home and a new start. Nevada had arrived in Kensey three days ago and found an apartment whose owner didn’t mind pets. The down payment had sapped the last of his hastily scraped-together funds, so Nevada had gone job hunting.

Rosto’s café was quaint and in need of a full-time waiter. The pay was decent and the hours reasonable. But in Kensey, things worked differently than Nevada’s old home. The lord in Kensey wanted a direct bribe from every citizen; the previous lord didn’t pay any mind to peons like Nevada. Had Nevada known he had to meet with the lord directly and provide a bribe that, if accepted, was his ticket to having any sort of life in Kensey, he might have chosen to settle in a different city with a different lord.

The room fell silent quickly, almost suddenly, as a side door opened. The man who stepped into the room first was clearly a guard. He was wearing a light layer of armor, the bluish metal vibrant against his dark skin, and a large laser gun at his hip. His hard eyes surveyed the room once before he stepped aside. The second man who walked into the room looked like he was Rosto’s age, somewhere in his late fifties. His blond hair disguised whatever gray may have been present, but the crow’s feet around his blue eyes revealed his true age.

“Where is Taylor?” the lord asked his guard. They both walked to the front of the room where a very large desk built of thick, dark wood was positioned. It was intimidating, but that was probably the point.

“Off with his wolves,” the guard replied stiffly.

“That boy,” the lord grumbled. “All right, let’s get started.”

A third man stepped forward from where he had been standing off to the side of the desk. He was holding a datapad from which he read out the first name.

A woman and her two young children approached the foot of the desk. She needed help finding her layabout husband. He owed her back wages for childcare, and she wanted him to pay up. Her bribe was a gold necklace with a ruby in the center, which would have paid for the childcare handsomely.

“She’s after revenge,” Rosto explained under his breath. “Her husband was a cheat, and she wants what’s rightfully owed to her because she knows he’ll suffer for it. Lord Reyes prefers supplicants ask for something meaningful, instead of straight out asking for something purely selfish. He’s a good man.”

Nevada hoped so because he didn’t have anything nearly as nice as a ruby necklace in his bag.

For the next half hour, he watched as fancy watches, jewelry, and other expensive items were offered to Lord Reyes in return for favors. Some of them Lord Reyes agreed to, like the woman looking for childcare money, but others he denied. He didn’t return the bribes either way.

“Rosto Gregorio,” the steward called.

“That’s us,” Rosto grunted as he pushed off the wall. He strode forward, unconcerned, and Nevada hurried to follow.

They reached the desk and stopped a few feet away. Rosto bowed, and Nevada copied him a beat too late.

“How’s the café?” Lord Reyes asked, a smile on his face. It was the first smile Nevada had seen from him. He apparently was interested in what Rosto had to say.

“We’re expanding the kitchen at the moment,” Rosto immediately began to explain. “Putting in four ovens so we can sell fresh-baked goods as well. We’re also adding outside tables for the summer, which means I need additional waitstaff. I’m looking to hire Nevada here.”

Lord Reyes turned his attention to Nevada, and Nevada fought not to squirm. He needed the job, which meant Lord Reyes had to like him.

“New to the area, too, I believe,” Lord Reyes said. “Has all the appropriate paperwork been filed?”

“As of last night,” Rosto replied. “All it needs is your seal of approval.”

Lord Reyes nodded. “You’ll have to come over for dinner and tell me about your renovations,” he said to Rosto. His attention switched back to Nevada. “What have you brought to entice me to allow you to live and work in my city?”

Nevada gulped and reached into his bag. He knew what he looked like. He had a ragged bandana tied tightly over his head, his long-sleeve shirt was threadbare and unraveling at the cuffs, and his loose jeans had a darned hole in one knee. The clothes were baggy, too, but Nevada had to hide a pair of cat ears and a tail beneath his outfit. He looked poor, but hopefully that meant Lord Reyes wouldn’t look any deeper at what Nevada was hiding. Hopefully, it also meant he wasn’t expecting anything extravagant as Nevada’s bribe.

Nevada pulled the fluffiest, whitest cat he had ever fostered out of the bag and gently placed her on the desk.

“This is Princess Pea. She likes big houses and lots of attention. She’s also very particular about what blankets she sleeps on. I thought you might like to have her company.”

The waiting room had gone silent. It was even quieter than when Lord Reyes had first walked into the room. Yes, it wasn’t a ruby necklace, but surely a beautiful cat wasn’t so bad. Nevada fought to keep from turning to look around the room.

Lord Reyes’s eyes had frozen in a hard glare. “Is this a joke?” he snapped.

Nevada bit his lip, wondering how to answer that. Maybe live animals weren’t acceptable as a bribe? Before he could formulate an answer, Princess Pea took over. She sauntered across the desk toward Lord Reyes and hopped down into his lap where she promptly began to purr furiously. One of Lord Reyes’s hands involuntarily drifted to his lap where he began to pet her soft fur.

“Fine,” Lord Reyes snapped. “Six months’ probation. Rosto will come report to me then, and I’ll decide whether to accept you in my city. I’ll even make sure Princess here isn’t eaten,” he added cryptically.

Rosto bowed, one of his hands pushing on Nevada’s shoulder to force Nevada to bow also. Then that hand pushed Nevada toward the door.

“I can’t believe you got away with that!” Rosto breathed once they were out of the waiting room and headed toward the building exit.

“Got away with what?” Nevada asked, glad to be away from Lord Reyes.

Rosto laughed, but he didn’t sound amused. “You gave Lord Reyes a cat. That’s practically the ultimate insult.”

“Oh,” Nevada mumbled, feeling his shoulders droop. He had six months, at least, which was enough time to save up before he had to move to another new city.

“Where did you find that cat anyway?” Rosto asked as they reached the main doors and headed out into the parking lot.

“I find cats everywhere,” Nevada replied with a shrug. “I have a beautiful tortoiseshell looking for a new home, if you’re interested.”

Rosto unlocked the car without answering. Nevada got in and buckled his seat belt. The engine whirred to life, and the hydraulics bounced them gently into the air. The car flew toward the city down the hill, Rosto guiding them along in silence. They stopped a few minutes later outside Nevada’s apartment building.

“No more cats where Lord Reyes is concerned, okay?” Rosto said. The car idled in the air for a few seconds as the hydraulics engaged and the car drifted to the ground. “You start on Monday, 9:00 a.m. sharp.”

Nevada got out of the car and stepped onto the curb. Rosto waved goodbye before sending the car streaking upward again.

My Review:
Nevada is a Ge-Mi, a human-animal hybrid, living in a post-apocalyptic world. All the major cities crumbled following the Great Wars, and warlords–or just Lords–rule the territories that remain. Ge-Mis were the result of scientific experimentation about 150 years prior. The object of the gene splicing was to eradicate human illness with enhanced animal genes–though some entities took this way too far, trying to create supersoldiers.

Nevada has hidden his snow leopard characteristics–a bushy tail, round, furry white ears, and a stripe of fur running down his back–not to mention the black rosettes that dot his shoulders and his scalp–for his whole life. At the beginning of the story his mother had just died and Nevada ran for a new territory to save his own skin–the doctor caring for his mother surely would have turned them in for being Ge-Mis. He’s applying (aka bribing) to Lord Reyes to live and work in his territory. Nevada has a powerful sponsor, Rosto, who’s willing to hire him to work at his cafe. Despite Nevada offending Lord Reyes with his bribe–a snowy white cat Nevada calls “Princess Pea” Nevada is granted a temporary permit to remain and work.

Years pass, and Nevada is well-settled into his job for Rosto. He also keeps a tiny apartment filled with the stray cats he finds and adopts. It’s a decent life, but there are complications. He still keeps his Ge-Mi status on the down low. There is more unrest in the town right now, with marauding hyena Ge-Mis staging deadly attacks. Lord Reyes’ Ge-Mi grandson, Taylor Reyes, and his band of wolf Ge-Mis are diligent at protecting the town. They pop into Rosto’s cafe when a bomb nearby rattles the foundations. Taylor senses Nevada’s cat-side, but is immediately put off the scent by the stray kitten Nevada had been sheltering in his pocket.

Nevada isn’t sure if he should run for it–in the territory where Nevada was born and raised Ge-Mis were exterminated, but it’s not true here. He doesn’t want to leave his life behind again. Taylor’s interest doesn’t seem to be waning, however. And, inexplicably, Nevada’s cat isn’t innately scared of Taylor’s wolf/dog. This is just the first book of the adventure, but Nevada makes choices here that reveal his true self, and bring him closer to Taylor. There isn’t any steam here, but the rapport is growing, especially as Nevada uses his power to help Taylor out of some situations with the hyenas. Nevada is afraid the humans he’s befriended will turn away from him, and he’s ready to deal with the fall out. It’s a sweet and funny adventure, and I’m eager to read on and find out how Taylor and Nevada build their relationship further.

Interested? You can find GE-MI: Part One on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

****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.

Getting it Past the ICE GLADIATORS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M hockey romance from Genevieve Chamblee. ICE GLADIATORS is the third book in her Locker Room Love series, but able to be enjoyed on its own.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the $10 Amazon GC raffle.
About the book:
Dalek “Taz” Tazandlakova is the epitome of a hockey player—tall, broad, and powerful. As a forward for the Lafayette Ice Water Moccasins, he’s also the physical embodiment of domination and intimidation.

He’s everything Liam Jolivet isn’t.

Liam possesses an inner strength and confidence Taz has never mastered. On the surface, Liam appears to be a perfect match for Taz. The problem is, Liam is dating Taz’s roommate. It’s not the only problem, either. Taz is a “playa” and has commitment issues—along with a pain-in-the-ass coach who’s threatening to ruin his career, and a second roommate who wants to dictate his social life for his own personal gain.

Nevertheless, Taz wants Liam, and Liam appears to want to reciprocate. Do they dare cross the line?

How about a little taste?

“Actually, you’re more likely to get jabbed in the ribs or guts than beat over the head. That’s too obvious a penalty.” Taz reclined on the sofa. “The entire point of sticking is to move someone out of your way or send a message without getting caught. Hockey’s physical and intense, but it isn’t vicious. We respect each other, even if we don’t always like each other. We hit hard, but it’s without malice. At the end of the day, it’s our job. Besides, I thought this kind of thing turned you on. At least, that’s what Jackson said.”

“I said what?”

“You said he liked hockey. Obviously, he doesn’t.”

Spencer’s brows furrowed. “I’m right here. You can talk to me.”

“I said no such thing,” Jackson, Taz’s other roommate, rebutted, picking through the mixed nuts.

Victor set the bowl on a table. “And that’s my cue to leave.”

“What did I miss?” Liam Jolivet questioned, carrying three beers and two soft drinks.

“Nothing,” Victor answered. “Hand them their drinks. You and I are watching the rest of the game in my bedroom.”

Pfft.” Jackson snorted. “You’re leaving to fuck.”

At least someone’s getting lucky tonight, Taz thought. And with a hottie like Liam, why not?

Victor frowned. “And what’s it to you?”

Taz shook his head. “Wow, Jack, that was tacky, even for you.”

“Calling them like I see them.”

“You must have cataracts in both eyes, then,” Taz huffed.

“What did you mean by sticking sending a message?” Liam asked, distributing the drinks.

“Not that kind of sticking,” Jackson interjected before Taz replied. “But if you have to ask, Vic must not be handling business.”

“Fuck you, Jack,” Victor barked.

Jackson smirked. “That’s what I meant.”

“Shut up and drag your mind out of the sewer. Come on, Liam.”

“Okay, just a minute. I want to hear Taz’s answer.”

“Suit yourself,” Victor snapped, storming down the hallway and slamming a bedroom door.

Twisting the cap off his beer, Taz stared after Victor for a moment before turning his attention to Liam. “You’d better go.”

“I will, but I’m interested in what you were saying.” Liam plopped on the couch, his soulful brown eyes genuinely intrigued. He bore a meet-your-parents smile with a hint of danger that stirred Taz’s curiosity. “I know you probably get sick of all my questions every time I come over, but search engines only tell so much—computer-compiled facts. You give not only the human aspect but spill an inside scoop. It’s not like Victor ever tells me this stuff.”

“It’s an intimidation tactic,” Taz answered. “If guys know you hit, they don’t hit you or your teammates.”

Spencer clicked his tongue. “As I said: barbaric.”

Taz waved his hand. “It’s part of the game—not a nice part, but there it is. And it’s a lot tamer these days with league regulations than several years ago. Back in the day—”

“Liam!” Victor yelled from the bedroom.

“You’re being summoned, fuck boy.” Jackson laughed.

A flush swarmed up Liam’s throat to his face as he rose and trekked to the bedroom.

“He’s too easy.” Jackson chuckled.

Taz rolled his head across the back of the couch to face his roommate. “Why do you do that?”

Jackson shrugged and took a swig of beer.

My Review:
Though this book is linked to the Locker Room Love series, we do not have a lot of recurrent characters.

Dalek, who goes by “Taz”, is a Swedish hockey player playing for the Ice Water Mocassins, a farm team for the nearby St. Anne Civets, both in suburbs of New Orleans, Louisiana. Taz is notable for his technical skating and his blue hair color, and regularly mocked by his abusive coach. His ice time is continually threatened, especially since he won’t go in for his coach’s idea of instigating fights to increase visibility and bring in more fans. The bigger problem, Tax thinks, is their proximity to the Civets–and how their arena is a dump no one would want to sit in for a lackluster team, no matter how many fights they start.

Taz had two roommates, Jackson and Victor, who are both gay, like Taz. They share the rent of a low-budget apartment, and Taz feels and especial loyalty to these two guys because they help him from being homeless. Tax’s own parents don’t really want anything to do with him; his mother having dumped him on his father who is wealthy but disinterested. Victor’s boyfriend Liam seems more attracted to Taz than Victor, and this is the main personal conflict for Taz–he likes Liam, who is a go-getter and interesting, but he’s unwilling to upset Victor. Liam claims he and Victor aren’t truly together, and that Victor has another boyfriend but both Victor and Jackson state Taz would be poaching if he hooks up with Liam. In fact, Jackson has a perfect candidate for Taz to date: a smarmy blowhard named Spencer who’s likely to reward Jackson with a promotion if Tax will put out.

For me, the story was convoluted and disjointed. I’ve read the two previous titles in this series, and I would likely rank it a distant second in terms of enjoyment behind the first book, and slightly ahead of book two which I didn’t like much at all. Taz and Liam are a mixed bag, they seem pretty likable, but I didn’t really get the feel of them. Taz seems to have everything going wrong in his life, and he keeps getting swept out to sea by one calamity or another. The idiot coach and his rants was a weird subplot that didn’t get adequately explained or resolved. The sexytimes read more awkward than sexy, and the dialogue alternated between juvenile and inordinately descriptive–in a preachy manner. Taz’s roommates were weird, and the nefarious plots to interfere with Taz’s happiness for their own personal gain seemed Scooby-Doo-ish, as well. Like, I struggled to comprehend how Taz didn’t see through their machinations. This was a breezy-take on the hockey romance that seemed stereotypical, more than sentimental.

Interested? You can find ICE GLADIATORS on Goodreads, Hot Tree Publishing, Amazon (US, CAN, or UK) Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter link to enter the raffle for your chance to win a $10 gift card from Author Genevieve Chamblee.

About the Author:
Genevive Chamblee is a southern darling and resides in the bayou country where sweet tea and SEC football reign supreme. She is known for being witty (or so she thinks), getting lost anywhere beyond her front yard (the back is pushing it as she’s very geographically challenged), falling in love with shelter animals (and she adopts them), asking off-the-beaten-path questions that makes one go “hmm,” and preparing homecooked Creole meals that are as spicy as her writing.

Genevive specializes in spinning steamy, romantic tales with humorous flair, diverse characters, and quirky views of love and human behavior. She also is not afraid to delve into darker romances as well.

Catch up with Genevieve on her website, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/authorgenevive.chamblee.7

Out now! ALPHA KNIGHT

Hi there! I’m spreading the word on a newly-released New Adult paranormal romance from Renee Rose. ALPHA KNIGHT pairs up two high schoolers in trouble–one who’s being pursued by her late-father’s shady partner and the other a wolf shifter whose brother’s on the run for helping the new girl in town.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
SHE’S GETTING A FAKE BOYFRIEND–ME.
WHETHER SHE LIKES IT OR NOT.

The leggy car thief is trouble with a capital T.

My brother went down because of her

I need to find him before the cops do.

Which means I’m not letting her out of my sight.

Anywhere the human goes, I go.

I’ll play her fake boyfriend.

Sleep in her bedroom.

Go to her prep school classes.

Take her to the homecoming dance.

I will learn all her secrets, find out all her games.

By the time I’m done with her, she’ll be sorry.

Sorry she ever set foot in our shop.

Sorry she ever met me.

Sorry she made me fall for her.

I didn’t review this title on my blog because I decided not to complete reading it. It was not the right book for me, but it may appeal to readers who enjoy erotic teen paranormal romance with recurrent episodes of stalking, scenes of sexual/partner violence and threats of human trafficking.

If you want to check out a free excerpt, click here for the first chapter.

Interested? You can find ALPHA KNIGHT on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to enter the Facebook giveaway!
Good luck and keep reading my friends.

About the Author:
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE loves a dominant, dirty-talking alpha hero! She’s sold over a half million copies of steamy romance with varying levels of kink. Her books have been featured in USA Today’s Happily Ever After and Popsugar and she was named Eroticon USA’s Next Top Erotic Author in 2013.

Catch up with Renee on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Get free Renee Rose books by signing up for her mailing list.

Imperfect Existence: THE MATING OF MICHAEL–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. THE MATING OF MICHAEL is the third book in the Sex in Seattle series and is fully enjoyable as a standalone. You will meet Jack from THE TROUBLE WITH TONY as he’s Michael’s boss at the Expanded Horizons sexual health clinic. Michael played a small role in the THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF DANIEL but this book really explores Michael’s role as a sex surrogate, and how his giant heart an fierce empathy help him win the love of his fave sci-fi author.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter to win a $25 Amazon GC.
About the book:
Everyone admires Michael Lamont for being a nurse, but his part-time work as a gay sex surrogate not only raises eyebrows, it’s cost him relationships. Michael is small, beautiful, and dedicated to working with people who need him. But what he really wants is a love of his own. He spends most of his time reading science fiction, especially books written by his favorite author and long-time crush, the mysteriously reclusive J.C. Guise.

James Gallway’s life is slowly but inexorably sliding downhill. He wrote a best-selling science fiction novel at the tender age of eighteen, while bedridden with complications of polio. But by twenty-eight, he’s lost his inspiration and his will to live. His sales from his J.C. Guise books have been in decline for years. Wheelchair bound, James has isolated himself, convinced he is unlovable. When he is forced to do a book signing and meets Michael Lamont, he can’t believe a guy who looks like Michael could be interested in a man like him.

Michael and James are made for each other. But they must let go of stubbornness to see that life finds a way and love has no limitations.

My Review:
Lithe and femme Michael Lamont is a nurse and certified gay sex surrogate. He connects with his home health care patients and assists male clients explore their sexuality through referrals from the Expanded Horizons clinic. He’s been doing this for a few years, and has some regular clients–one, Tommy, is a severe burn victim that enjoys Michael’s company just as much as the sensual massage and “happy ending.” It’s through Tommy’s mother that Michael learns his fave author, J. C. Guise a noted recluse, is having a public book signing in a local book shop. Michael has held a tendresse for the man whose fiction spoke to him so strongly that he took up a career in nursing.

James Gallway is a polio survivor and author, learning that being a successful mid-list author means he needs to get into the public eye. Wheelchair-bound and filled to the ears with self-hatred, James never wants people to see or notice him. Really, if your own mother abandoned him to the Children of God group home for disabled children at age 6, you’d likely feel unlovable, too. The gushing, stammering, beautiful young man at his book signing is a case in point. That sexy Michael would never admire him for real, not if he could see James’ withered, wasted legs.

Embarrassed at the spectacle he made of himself at the signing, Michael is stunned when James’ agent tips him off about where to find James…casually. And that interaction goes stunningly awry when James chooses to paint Michael’s interest as clinical, not sexual. And, that leads Michael to be more forcefully forward than he’s ever been before. Unwilling to entertain ideas of romance, James accepts Michael as a friend–tentatively–and is not sorry for doing so. Michael’s compassion and thoughtfulness over the weeks and months of their acquaintance melts James’ stubborn resistance to opening up, and each man is clearly pining for the other.

Unfortunately, Michael’s “secret” job as a sex surrogate is looming in the background, and it becomes a guilty issue once he and James become intimate. Should Michael stop his caring and clinical therapy, just because it occasionally involves some sexual favors? He’s super conflicted, and unsure if James will even keep him around long enough for it to be a situation. Would it be fair to stop assisting the couple of men he’s developed a rapport with in the event James wants a permanent relationship? Michael knows he’s falling in love with James, but he’s not sure his feelings are reciprocated. IN fact, James actively shuts down romance whenever it could sprout because of his insecurities.

As one expects, James’ reaction when he finds out about the surrogacy is cataclysmic. And, the fall out is nothing short of nuclear winter. Michael is devastated. The thing is, Michael’s friends, colleagues, and clients aren’t going to stand by and allow James to roll off into the sunset without knowing the true facts of his caregiving. As one might, James suspected the worst–a two-timing partner–but the picture in his mind doesn’t match the insight he gains from some unwelcome visitors taking up Michael’s cause. Michael, for his part, is broken in spirit but never imposes himself on James. Surprisingly, the trauma of their failed romance is the inspiration James needs to write a new best-seller. And, his open mind/open heart actions have Michael returning for, well, ever.

It’s a sweet story of finding the right person at the right time. The compassionate depictions of persons at various ability-levels, persons of advanced age, and those with emotional or sexual hangups, really allowed readers to focus on the hard work Michael does to ensure his charges are well cared for. It was so sweet to see the bonds Michael had grown with all the people he worked with on the day-to-day, and how they stood up for him, giving James both latitude and attitude for hurting Michael. I really enjoyed this one, for all its tender and touching moments. James leaves this story much improved from the beginning, with a bevy of friends and new family to bolster his life, and a boyfriend that loves him out past the moon and stars.

Interested? You can find THE MATING OF MICHAEL on Goodreads or Amazon.

You can also find book 1, THE TROUBLE WITH TONY, on Goodreads and Amazon.

Or, check out book 2, THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF DANIEL, on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

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

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

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

Unexpected Choices in THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF DANIEL–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF DANIEL is the second book in the Sex in Seattle series but is fully enjoyable as a standalone. You will meet both Tony and Jack from THE THE TROUBLE WITH TONY, but they are only secondary characters, helping Daniel figure out his life, and his plan to woo the love of his life: his unhappily married business partner, Nick.

Scroll down to catch my review and to enter the giveaway for a $25 Amazon GC.
About the book:
Business tycoon Daniel Derenzo lives for his work until his dying father reminds him life is short. When Daniel starts to reevaluate his world he experiences a startling revelation—he’s attracted to his business partner and best friend, Nick, even though Daniel always believed himself to be straight. In typical type-A fashion, Daniel dissects his newfound desires with the help of the experts at the Expanded Horizons sex clinic. He goes after Nick with the fierce determination that’s won him many a business deal.

Nick Ross was in love with Daniel years ago, when they were roommates in college. But Daniel was straight and Nick patched his broken heart by marrying Marcia. Two kids and fourteen years later, they go through the motions of their marriage like ships passing in the night. But Nick’s kids mean the world to him, and he’s afraid he’ll never get joint custody if they divorced. If he can trust his heart to an awakening Daniel, they all might find their way to a happily ever after.

My Review:
Daniel Derenzo’s father is dying. Not that they have a close–or any–relationship, however his father’s waxing about missed opportunities and taking time to stop working and truly live life has Daniel’s analytical brain in a whirlwind. Like his own parents, Daniel married young and divorced early–no kids, but lots of heartbreak. He’s been a successful businessman since college running DRE, Derenzo Ross Enterprises, with his best friend and former college roommate Nick Ross. Daniel has always been hyper-focused on success, a lesson he learned from his successful and absentee father, who seemingly regrets those calculating choices when diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

On a long business trip to Hong Kong to purchase a company for turnaround, Daniel and Nick are celebrating the new merger. It’s at the bar that Nick confesses his wife of the past 14 years, Marcia, has iced him out; they’ve had a lackluster sex life for more than a decade and no sex for the past three years. Nick’s ashamed to admit he lives in the guest bedroom, and the only reason he stays married is the fear that Marcia will bar a joint custody arrangement for their two children. Daniel is incensed, but not for the reason he expects–his righteous anger stems from a deep wellspring of love he feels for Nick, the kindest man he’s ever known. Daniel has known since college that Nick is bisexual, but in this moment that nearly-familial love he though he felt sharpens into an unexpected arousal, and a desire to care for Nick in a more than platonic manner. It’s shocking to Daniel, because he’s never really thought of men that way. Before he leaves Hong Kong, Daniel books an appointment with a sex therapist back home in Seattle for the next business day; he needs to know if his attraction is real, or just a manifestation of his recent thoughts of mortality.

Daniel wants clarity, to see if his initial arousal was fluke. Meeting with Dr. Jack Halloran, and a sex surrogate Michael, helps Daniel recognize that he’s definitely bisexual, and totally gone for Nick. Now, Daniel’s challenge is to see if he can get some time with Nick, that has nothing to do with their business–and includes his kids for some quality time, too. It’s not that hard, as Marcia has built a lot of “self care” time into her lifestyle, with long yoga classes, spa days and retreats. Daniel’s also making time to spend with his dad, renting a house on Bainbridge Island so his dad can have home hospice in a relaxing spot as his life ebbs away. Nick and his kids are part of this getaway, while Marcia is out of town, for a change.

Nick’s not sure why Daniel’s interested in spending so much time with him and his kids, but he’s grateful for the connection. Though they are long-time friends Nick had harbored an attraction way back when–and it’s coming back to the surface right now. It’s seeing how amazing Daniel is with the kids–talking baseball stats with his son and getting to the heart of his teen daughter’s insecurities–body issues that have been foisted on her by Marcia and her nitpicky mother. Nick had seen the changes in his daughter, but hadn’t really grasped the impact until Daniel forced him to slow down and spend the time reconnecting with his kids. His unhappiness in the marriage had inadvertently driven a wedge between himself and his kids, who he loves dearly.

On Bainbridge, the chemistry between Daniel and Nick becomes unbearable–and Daniel vows to help Nick escape his loveless marriage with a minimum of damage to the kids. If Nick wants to be free, that is. And Nick knows he can’t continue to live the shadow life Marcia has decreed, including resigning from DRE effective immediately. Once Daniel learns that Nick is ready to make a clean break, Daniel’s mission is to make the divorce as bloodless as possible. In this, Daniel is aided by his father–who has tons of contacts–and PI Tony DeMarco, Dr. Halloran’s life partner. Tony finds secrets even Marcia doesn’t know, but will help ensure she accepts the very generous terms Nick is planned to offer.

I really liked this one, even when I wasn’t sure I would. I’m not big on “cheating” plotlines, so the prospect of Daniel interfering in Nick’s marriage was not ideal, however, I thought it was handled really well. It’s clear from insight we get in Marcia’s POV that she’s supremely unhappy, and being goaded to stay married by her aggressively mean mother. The revelations she gains as a result of Tony’s investigations pave the way toward ultimate happiness for all parties, and that was a nice twist. I really enjoyed the kids, who are just the right amount of present and actively interested in Nick’s happiness. They take to Daniel fine, thanks to his consummate attention to detail. It was amusing how sections of this book were written like a business plan, complete with Daniel’s hostile takeover of Nick’s family. Daniel’s dad assisted his enlightenment, and supported his pursuit of happiness–even knowing he’d never see the full resolution. I liked his dad, who was pragmatic to a fault, and gave advice with hubris and panache. While we get glimpses of Jack and Tony from the first series book, and Michael, from the third one, this story stood on its own.

Interested? You can find THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF DANIEL on Goodreads and Amazon.

You can also find book 1, THE TROUBLE WITH TONY, on Goodreads and Amazon.

Or, check out THE MATING OF MICHAEL on Goodreads or Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

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

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

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