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.

Tense Attraction OFF THE ICE–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m starting something I’d like to go back to from time to time, feature weeks! This week, I’ll be sharing reviews/alerts that highlight athletes and I’m kicking this “Sports Week” off with a review for a new M/M contemporary hockey romance from the writing team of Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. OFF THE ICE is a new collaboration that came out a couple months ago. It’s also a coming out story, which is always fun to read. I really loved PERMANENT INK by this team and I wasn’t let down with this new story. If you like M/M hockey romances I’d highly recommend BREAKAWAY by Avon Gale or THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR by Sarina Bowen, too.

About the book:
Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.

But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules

My Review:
Tristan Holt is a pro hockey player in Atlanta on his summer hiatus and taking college courses to finish his degree in business management. He’s interested in his sociology class, and his sexy professor, Sebastian Cruz, an out and proud gay Puerto Rican man who never quails at speaking truth to power. Prof Cruz can’t help noticing fit and burly Tristan, either. Unfortunately, Sebastian makes some wrong assumptions, and levels an accusation that reveals all of his own prejudices.

Tristan not only calls Sebastian out on it, he accepts Sebastian’s apology, and that allows Tristan to feels safe enough to not only reveal his hidden sexuality, but also his deep attraction. Not that they can do anything about it. But…summer school is over soon, and Tristan wouldn’t mind his austere professor taking him well in hand. If Sebastian is willing to take that next step.

The chemistry between them is intense, and their mutual love of classic rock and muscle cars helps draw them closer. Tristan is a 23 year old pro athlete, and Sebastian is a mid-30s professor, but they share a love of learning, too, and Sebastian’s prejudices are settled once he gets to know Tristan up close and very personally. The biggest hurdle they face is Tristan’s unwillingness to come out. There are gay players in the NHL, but none of them are out and on an active roster; Tristan doesn’t want to be the vanguard player. Tristan hasn’t even come out to his parents or teammates, and he’s rather confident they won’t mind. Sebastian isn’t pushing Tristan to come out…at first, but, the longer they date, the more Sebastian realizes that he can’t just be Tristan’s public “friend.”

This conflict felt real, as did the anguish. They have to take a step back, and think about their lives, careers and goals. Sebastian takes the advice of his good friend to really examine his motives, and his decisions. Sebastian is a prickly guy, who is sometimes self-righteous, but he’s also humbled by Tristan’s quiet dignity, and his kindness. Sebastian wishes his relationship with his own parents was as loving and accepting as Tristan’s is with his family. Tristan’s personal life and his professional face are two very separate spheres, but he recognizes the need to be honest with his closest friends and family. I liked how this shook out, with Tristan being happier in his relationships. There’s a lot of hot moments, and some good discussion of prejudice, in the context of wealth, power and professional sports. I’m looking forward to reading more in this new series. Expect some interesting power plays in the bedroom and on the ice, and teammate shenanigans. There’s heart with the heat, and even a “hot for teacher” reference that brought me back to sixth grade.

Interested? You can find OFF THE ICE on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Authors:
Avon Gale was once the mayor on Foursquare of Jazzercise and Lollicup, which should tell you all you need to know about her as a person. She likes road trips, rock concerts, drinking Kentucky bourbon and yelling at hockey. She’s a displaced southerner living in a liberal midwestern college town, and when she’s not writing you can find her at the salon, making her clients look and feel fabulous. She never gets tired of people and their stories — either real or the ones she makes up in her head.

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

Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, she loves them all (and has a two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She grew up in Chicago, in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, and loves to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life…even if it’s only in a book.

You can find Piper online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book by Bonnie Dee.

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

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.

End of the Road? NEW HAND Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing another SMOKING HOT review for a newly-published M/M romance from L.A. Witt. NEW HAND is part of the Bluewater Bay series, but totally enjoyable as a standalone. This book–which may be the last in the series–is a romance between a shell-shocked widower and a young HIV-positive man. I really enjoyed GET A GRIP and recommend RAIN SHADOW and OUTSIDE THE LINES, as several characters from those stories recur in this one.

About the book:
Months after his husband’s death, Garrett Blaine desperately needs a fresh start. He sells his house in Seattle, leaves his accounting job, and starts bartending in Bluewater Bay. There he meets a man who wakes up his nearly forgotten libido.

Jesse Connelly’s newest friend with benefits bolted after Jesse disclosed his HIV status. Stood up and stinging, Jesse tries to drown his sorrows . . . and finds an unexpected connection with a lonely bartender.

Jesse and Garrett quickly bond over a shared love of comics and card games, and they can’t get enough of each other between the sheets. Not even a bumpy start and a fifteen-year age gap can derail them as they go from strangers to lovers, then friends, then much more.

But as Garrett’s feelings for Jesse deepen, so does his grief for the man he lost—especially as he sees hints of his late husband in his new boyfriend. Now Garrett has to figure out if Jesse is his second chance at true love, or if Jesse’s just filling in for the man he’s never fully grieved. And he needs to figure it out soon, because Jesse’s starting to wonder the same thing.

My Review:
Jesse Connelly is a twenty-seven year old flamboyant gay man who manages End o’Earth Comics. He was infected with HIV by his first sexual partner back in high school and has been managing the disease for the past decade. He’s always upfront with his status with new partners, but his most recent love interest was a friend, first, and just when they started getting physical Jesse confided his (undetectable) status. And that dude has just stood Jesse up at the local alehouse. Feeling down, Jesse is charmed by the sexy silver fox bartender who’s new to the area.

Garrett’s younger husband died of cancer eight months ago. Though he’d been counseled not to make big changes for the first year of grief, Garrett sold his home, quit his job and moved form Seattle to Bluewater Bay to be near his good friend, Scott, a marriage and grief counselor. They each had lost partners young, and Garrett’s encouraged that Scott has now found love again. Garrett’s not looking for love, but he wants to know that he won’t always be so overwhelmed with grief that he’ll spend the rest of his life alone. Then, he meets Jesse.

The attraction is unexpected, and immediate. Garrett’s been celibate since before his husband died, but they both agreed he should find a new love. Jesse feels horrible and unattractive because of his status, but Garrett’s interest is a big ego boost. They have some issues regarding Jesse’s health, but it’s not because of HIV; Garrett has PTSD from caring for, and losing, his husband. Once they get past the misunderstanding, it’s hot times in Bluewater Bay for these two. Scott counsels Garrett to enjoy the comfort Jesse offers, and Jesse’s ever-mindful about Garrestt’s loss. In fact, he’s a great confidante, willing to listen to Garrett’s memories of his husband. They enjoy each other physically, but also emotionally and on a friendship-level, too. It’s cathartic and tender, and their bond seems unshakable, until Garrett’s in-laws find out about Jesse. And, their unsolicited disapproval provides a hiccup that makes them both pause and reassess. Is Garrett using Jesse as a replacement? Or, are these feelings both Jesse and Garrett are experiencing the beginning of a new life together.

This is a hurt-comfort story that has many facets. Garrett and Scott do a lot of soul-searching about guilt and loss. Jesse pushes all sorts of buttons for Garrett, but they aren’t all in common with those of his late husband. They share different and fun interests, including gaming and comics. Garrett sees Jesse as his own man, one Garrett feels honored to spend times with, but his friends and family are worried he’s moving on “too soon” which brings conflict and guilt. It’s natural that Jesse would wonder if he’s being set up for huge disappointment. If he’s just a rebound fling, well, it’s going to crush him, now that he’s gone and fallen for Garrett. I loved how Garrett and Jesse examined their relationship, and accepted good advice from friends. It’s not easy to admit one is wrong, and they both had their share of apologies to make at different points. They have a fantastic physical connection, and they are able to reassure each other that their feelings for each other is genuine in the end.

This book may mark the end of the Bluewater Bay series, and I’ve enjoyed so many of the stories. I think I’ve read 21 of the 23 books and probably rated most of the 4 stars or higher. It was great to see the wrap up of some of the previous couples, including Scott and Jeremy from RAIN SHADOW get married. I chuckled to see the age-gap couples (Levi and Carter, and Hunter and Kevin) pal around with Jesse and Garrett. I loved how the young whippersnappers ganged up on their mature partners, but relished their experience and patient loving. O.O A sweet and tender story.

Interested? You can find NEW HAND on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to comment on the giveaway post for my pals over at Joyfully Jay. One commenter on the tour will win a $10 GC from Riptide Publishing and two of Ms. Witt’s backlist books (not NEW HAND).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Sibling Rivalry? COVET-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m continuing the SMOKING HOT book reviews with a M/M/M menage from Yolande Kleinn. COVET is a bit of a forbidden romance in that it features a love triangle that includes identical twins. O.O

About the book:
Jack Mason—graphic designer and unrepentant player—has never been interested in monogamy. He certainly isn’t looking for romance when he meets Professor Colin Sloan.

Newly single and not looking for anything serious, Colin is intrigued by Jack’s offer of a physical affair with no strings attached. Becoming friends wasn’t part of the plan, but as accidents go, this one’s pretty great.

Peter Mason is Jack’s identical twin. In a long-term relationship himself, Peter tells no one that he’s falling for his brother’s newest favorite, even as the secret creates tension with his girlfriend.

When Peter’s relationship falls apart, he seduces Colin, fully expecting Jack to forgive his transgression. But Jack is keeping secrets too—he hasn’t told even Colin that he’s fallen in love. Suddenly the twins are feuding, and Colin is caught in the middle, blindsided by the revelation that he doesn’t want to choose between them.

Now all three must find a way to share, or they’ll tear each other apart.

My Review:
Jack and Peter Mason are identical twins that share all their secrets…most of the time. Jack is unabashedly out and gay, always looking for his next trick. Peter’s bisexual and engaged to Maureen, his bestie from college. They are both lawyers and work insane hours. Jack develops an interest in the newly-single Colin Sloan, a young professor at the university where they both work, and Peter counsels Jack not to make him a one-and-done…perhaps. Thing is, Colin’s not up for an involved relationship, not after five years with Kyle weer suddenly water under a bridge someplace. Jack’s offer of no-strings open sexytimes, well, it sounded refreshing. And satisfying.

As Jack and Colin continue, however, it becomes clear to Jack that–despite his usual intentions–he’s no longer seeking out other bedmates. And well, he really likes Colin. Jack keeps his feelings secret from Colin, and Jack. Also, now that he’s made it clear there are no strings it’s hard to tie Colin down. Not that Colin’s on the hunt, but, well, it’s a funny thing that he and Peter become good friends. And, it’s a disturbing thing that Peter’s beginning to have sex dreams that star…Colin. These dreams become problematic, when it disturbs Peter’s relationship with Maureen. He feels guilty for having these desires for his brother’s hook-up pal, and can’t confess it to her. Peter’s shame causes him to not speak to Jack, either, and he doesn’t know just how serious Jack has become over Colin. Meantime, Peter’s making more efforts to build his friendship with Colin, and this fuels his lust-filled dreams and fantasies. H

As the months pass, Maureen’s dejected this leads to a reckoning that upsets Peter completely. It’s the catalyst that causes Peter to reach out for Colin, and not in a friendly way. The sexytimes are…brutal, and cathartic. The ripple effect is catastrophic. Jack won’t have any part of Peter poaching his man, no matter how apologetic Peter is. THis detente leaves Colin’s caught in the middle of their cold war, and that makes him recognize, well, that he’s not opposed to being in the middle between these sexy twins if they’re feeling amorous.

The book is H.O.T. with sexytimes that go on. And on. I enjoyed the interplay between Jack and Peter, and how Colin wound both of them around his fingers without even trying. Colin’s has some deep trauma with Kyle walking away–and he loves feeling desired. It’s nearly an addiction for him. That Jack and Peter both want him? It fills that self-esteem void he’s living through. As far as the romance, this one doesn’t follow the formula. There’s so many secrets, and heartbreak, but they seem to work it out. Colin loves to be shared, and jack and Peter’s mix of tender and touch loving seem to fit all of them in a “just right” way. Once the boundaries are secured, they each make the steps that bring all of them closer. The end is a satisfying connection that allow Peter and Jack to have their man, and maintain their brotherly relationship. No taboo parts, and no twincest. Just a bit of Colin being shared and enjoying the heck out of it.

Interested? You can find COVET on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
Yolande Kleinn is a shameless dreamer, a stubborn optimist, and a purveyor of erotic romance. Excitable, fastidious and just a little eclectic, she spends every spare moment writing the stories she wants to read. If she can drag other people into the pool along with her, then so much the better.

Catch Yolande on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Art and Love OUTSIDE THE LINES–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! I’m sharing another SMOKING HOT December review with a M/M+F romance from Anna Zabo. OUTSIDE THE LINES is one of the latest books in the Bluewater Bay series. It’s actually book 20, but totally enjoyable on it’s own. I’ve not read anything from Anna Zabo before, but I’ll be on the lookout for more. This story features a gay man who falls for the husband in a open, poly couple, and isn’t sure if he’s prepared for more.

Scroll down for my review and to catch the $25 GC giveaway link!
About the book:
Miniature artist Ian Meyers has one week to rebuild his damaged set. Needing help, he goes to End o’ Earth, the local comic and gaming shop. Owner Simon Derry pushes all of Ian’s buttons, and he also has steady hands and the skills Ian needs.

Before they can even grab a beer, Ian meets Lydia Derry, Simon’s wife. If Ian had any interest in women, he’d suggest a threesome, but then Simon explains that he and Lydia are polyamorous, and if Ian wants Simon, neither of them will complain. If anything, Lydia encourages the relationship.

Ian’s all in, and it’s fantastic working with Simon to piece together his set and then take each other apart at night. His friendship with Lydia grows too. The only problem is, the more time he spends with Simon, the more he wants everything Simon already has with Lydia: A house. A cat. A commitment. So Ian runs, and shatters the trust he has with them both—right when they need him the most. Piecing their relationships back together might prove harder than a smashed set.

My Review:
Ian Meyers builds sets, props and miniatures for Wolf’s Landing, and one of the key pieces–a model-miniature Sacred Grove was ready for the pyrotechnics…until a clumsy stuntman crashed into it. Now, Ian has a week to rebuild the model, and he’s low on supplies. So, he (reluctantly) heads into Bluewater Bay and End o’ Earth comics, which holds models and supplies for gamers in stock. Ian has kept a wide berth from the comics shop because it’s hard to keep his distance from townies and tourists, and there’s been some issues in the past. Also, the local Wolf’s Landing licensed shop Howling Moon is right next door, and that’s a place all the cast and crew avoids.

That said, he’s desperate, and once he steps foot inside End o’Earth Ian’s desperation takes a more personal turn. He’s deeply attracted to the owner and model painter, Simon Derry. Ian charms Simon, who’s willing to provide the space and supplies Ian needs, but they both feel the heat building between them. And, it’s a stunning disaster when Ian meets Simon’s beautiful and talented wife, Lydia. He’s frustrated that Simon was flirting with him, and thinking they both were on the same page, but Ian’s charmed by Lydia, and guilty that he wishes Simon was single. Simon’s a sweet man, and loves Lydia with his whole heart, but…they’re poly, and he’s always missed having a man pleasure him. They’ve been together ten years, and Lydia knows this is an issue. She encourages Ian to share her husband, and Ian doesn’t need a second invitation.

Ian and Simon work together on rebuilding the set, and they spend nights together burning up the sheets. Lydia’s happy to be a bystander who watches their love grow, but Ian’s sure he’s just a side piece…a fling for this swinging couple. Meantime, Simon’s fallen hard, and wants to bring Ian into their relationship permanently. Lack of communication causes some problems, and they have to be fully honest in order to keep their fledgling love growing. There’s lots of cameos from the cast and crew of the show, and I liked how they brought everyone into this book. Simon and Lydia are starry-eyed, seeing the actors and all, and Ian’s reminded about how he was so affected on his first meetings. I liked all the sweet and tender moments.

For people who like menage, this doesn’t really feel like that, because Ian and Lydia aren’t sexually intimate, but they do develop an emotional connection. This is reinforced when Lydia has a professional crisis and needs a solid shoulder to cry on. Ian has the connections to make it right, but he follows Lydia’s advice to not rock the boat. Simon’s not so docile about it, however, and it leads to deeper connections for all of them, both personally and professionally. For Simon and Ian expect hawt sexytimes that include some light elements of bondage, dominance and submission. The resolution is totally sweet and yummy.

Interested? You can find OUTSIDE THE LINES on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to comment on the giveaway tour over at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for a chance to win a $25 Riptide GC.
Good luck, and keep reading my friends.

About the Author:
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. As a child they were heartily disappointed to discover that they couldn’t grow up to be what they wanted (a boy, a cat, a dragon), so they settled on being themself whenever possible, which may be a combination of a boy, a cat, and a dragon. Or perhaps a girl, a knight, and a writer. Depends on whom you ask. They do have a penchant for colorful ties and may be hording a small collection of cufflinks.They can be easily plied with coffee.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Catch up with Ann on twitter.

New Life and INTERTWINED HEARTS–A Review

Hi there! Continuing on my SMOKING HOT reads, I’m sharing a review for a recently released menage M/M/F romance from Christi Snow. INTERTWINED HEARTS is the third title in her Snowcroft Men series and features three lost souls finding their way together. I read and enjoyed SNOWCROFT SAFEHOUSE, the second book in the series, which introduced us to some of the characters featured here. It’s a love story from beginning to end, when a traumatized gay man falls for the new poly sheriff and they both swoon for a local gal who’s about to have her brother’s baby… (Ha! She tells that joke in the book.) I also liked FOUND AT THE LIBRARY, and I’m looking forward to more books by this author.

About the book:
Three people who’ve given up on love…

After a brutal, late-night attack in his restaurant left Chef Hudson Richmond too traumatized to even enter his restaurant again, he escaped to Snowcroft. Now he’s trying to find a new normal when the reality of his world is a man’s touch makes him sick and his dream has become his nightmare.

Leigh Vaughn lives in a man’s world running Vaughn Construction with her brother, Jamie. She’s tried to be feminine and failed over and over again. Growing up with only her brother, father, and construction crews to guide her, Leigh has no idea what a feminine wile is, much less how to deploy them. But when Jamie and Trevor begin to research finding a surrogate to carry their baby, she knows this is something she can do. Hell, it’s not like those parts are getting used for anything else.

When this small town came looking for a new police chief, David Warner jumped at the chance. After a traumatic betrayal by his partner on the police force, he’s burnt out and jaded. And his love life has been even more depressing than his work life. He’s made one true connection in the last five years, but she disappeared without a trace the next morning.

Three people who have given up on love, may just find a new beginning where they least expect it…in Snowcroft. But love is only supposed to happen in twos. How can they make it work with three intertwined hearts?

Trigger warning: This book features story-lines that involve past assaults and betrayals, but has a guaranteed HEA for three people who couldn’t deserve it more.

My Review:
Leigh Vaughn is a thirty-something woman acting as a surrogate for her brother Jamie and his husband, Trevor. It’s the most she can do to help them build a family, and it’s not like she’s got any romantic prospects. Her last tryst was an anonymous hook up six month ago. And, it’s not like her new roommate, Hudson Richmond, is going to put the moves on her. He’s a gay man who’d been her brother’s on/off hook up pal. They still keep in touch, though Jamie’s now happily married. And, when Hudson needs a helping hand, well, Jamie’s a man with a plan. Leigh is hopeless in the kitchen, and Hudson is a renown chef who needs time until he’s able to work professionally again; they can help each other.

Hudson suffers from crippling anxiety and depression in the wake of surviving an attack and gang rape in his Austin restaurant. He never wants to touch, or be touched by, another man again. Staying in Leigh’s home in Snowcroft, New Mexico, is a time of healing, and a time to get his emotions in check. She needs someone to prepare her meals–because she’s hopeless in the kitchen–and Jamie’s hopeful they will provide the company each other needs. And, it works. Hudson’s night terrors keep them both awake, until Leigh crawls into bed with him one night to comfort him and they sleep peacefully together. Her quiet and calming presence helps to halt his anxiety attacks, too.

Hudson owns property in Snowcroft, but it’s been rented to the new sheriff, David Warner, for an extended period. At least, David should be staying in the cabin, but the heat’s out until the spring thaw, and with the tourists booking up all the rooms in town, David’s lucky to land Leigh’s empty guest room. And, as a confirmed bisexual, he’s luckier to recognize that he’s attracted to both Hudson and Leigh. The time they spend together only confirms to David that these are the people he’s meant to spend his life with. Not that they expect to fall for one another. Hudson’s particularly hard to convince, but David lays the foundation for the plan within weeks of meeting them. And, as Hudson’s therapy help him to manage his anxiety, he recognizes that watching Leigh blossom in motherhood is surely more sexy than he’d ever imagined. His deep feelings for her warm into attraction, and David’s patient and flexible attitude help Hudson find his way back to physical intimacy, with both Leigh and David.

This was a love built on hurt-comfort. David couldn’t find lovers who satisfied him, mainly because he needed a poly relationship. Leigh is uncomfortable in her femininity, thanks to her hypercritical mother, but David and Hudson’s admiration is too much to cast aside as fleeting. Hudson’s growing affection for two people who continue to care for him, despite his struggles, is unexpected but deeply enjoyed. Just when it deems like they’ve jumped all the hurdles and should be coasting into the finish line, well, life gets in the way. Leigh’s medical difficulties aren’t easy to overcome, but this triad is stronger than they expected, and an extended happy ending gives the reader solid assurance that Leigh, Hudson and David will have a happy life together.

I really liked the slow development of all the relationships here. There were many obstacles to overcome, and it took time, effort and patience on the part of the characters to find peace and happiness. They have real-world problems, and fears, including the worry about scandalizing their small town. Plus, there are family matters to consider, at least for Leigh. David’s parents, who live in a commune, are ecstatic that he’s found treasured lovers, while Jamie and Leigh’s mother are, well, uh. It’s awkward. And that’s to be expected. There are some deep issues the characters need to work through–both on their own, and together. The way it unfolds was good, but I wanted to get to the HEA faster. And, they seemed to fall into one problem after another. It made fore more drama than I was ready to handle, and I got impatient. That said, the grief and loss, and strength and love that were present really resonated. I’m looking forward to the next book, though, which will likely bring back at least two characters from this book, and SNOWCROFT SAFEHOUSE.

Interested? You can find INTERTWINED HEARTS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

Christi SnowAbout Author Christi Snow: in her own words…
As an avid reader my entire life, I’ve always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy I feel when I read. But…I never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.

When I turned 41, I decided it was time to go after my dream and started writing. Within four months, I’d written over 150,000 words and haven’t stopped since. I’ve found my passion by writing about sexy, alpha heroes and smart, tough heroines falling in love and finding their passion. I’m truly living the dream and loving every minute of it.

My tagline is…

Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. I have to admit, I am loving this adventure!

You can find Christi on line on her website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!