Prodigal Love: HAPPY FOR YOU-A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a sweet M/M contemporary romance from Anyta Sunday. HAPPY FOR YOU is the third book in her Love and Family series. This book features two friends reconnecting, and maybe finding the love they always harbored, but never confessed. Check out my review for TABOO FOR YOU and MADE FOR YOU if you like these Kiwi love stories.

HAppy for you coverAbout the book:

Mort wants his de facto family back. . . .
He knows he doesn’t deserve them. Not yet, anyway. Not without making up for leaving them in their time of need.
But it’s not easy to make amends. Mort must show how much he wants the Rochester family back in his life. When his best friend’s younger brother, Felix, has his license suspended, Mort jumps at the chance to play chauffeur and to win back the family he desperately wants to call his own.
Repairing his broken relationships—with all five Rochester siblings—becomes Mort’s personal mission. Especially with Felix. Felix, who used to follow him everywhere. Felix, who idolized him. Felix, whom Mort has not stopped thinking about . . .

Felix is just trying to keep it together. . . .
With a perma-smile as his armor, he’s determined to make his family happy. Determined to be a positive role model to his three younger sisters, while their mum struggles with depression after her kidney transplant.
Unfortunately, no amount of smiling can save his license when he gets pulled over for the umpteenth time, and he still needs to get his sisters to school, soccer, and dance classes.
The solution to his problem emerges in the return of their prodigal neighbor, Mort. Mort, who left their lives without a word. Mort, who was in love with Felix’s older brother.
Mort, who is the last guy Felix wants charging back into their lives. . . .

Mort and Felix. Two guys bound by a rocky past—
—a past they must come to terms with to find true happiness in the here and now.

My Review:

Mort grew up in a house devoid of love. His father despised him from birth, after his mother died in childbirth. With such an austere childhood, it was a miracle Mort found a family to embrace him–that would be the Rochesters, the ordinarily boisterous and loving family of five kids and a mom who treated him as their own. Mort was best friends with Michael (Roch) the eldest, and harbored a very long tendresse for his best mate, but knew it would always be unrequited. Life got kooky when Roch’s mom took very ill, needing a kidney transplant to save her life, and unexpectedly asking Mort to go away and leave their family behind before she had surgery.

Mort respected her wishes and left, teaching outside of Wellington and away from his beloved Rochesters for a year. A year of pining for the only family he’d truly loved. Even while his own bitter father died, and missing with his whole heart both Roch and his younger brother, Felix. But a year was the most he could stay away and now he’s home and wanting to mend fences. At first the Rochester clan is standoffish, and Felix himself is very hurt–he’d harbored the world’s biggest crush on Mort for years, and that was unfortunately why their mom asked Mort to leave; she was afraid that Felix and Mort might develop a relationship, and this would go against her conservative ideas–and her vow to stay close the God if he would save her with a transplant.

It’s a lot of bittersweet, honestly, but at 28 years old Mort is a man grown, as is Felix who’s 25, and neither of them are willing to let the other walk away again. Is friendship all they can have? Would going farther upset the tenuous rapprochement that they have currently? Felix fears his mum will ostracize him if he follows his heart’s desire for Mort, but some firm talk does sort out the biggest of the messes, here. Plus, Felix has a reasonable fear that Mort will always love Roch more than him, and that continually has him pushing the brakes on both friendship and more. I loved the goofy family, and the outlandish characters they are. Mort is so loving to all his Rochesters, but he’s especially sweet to Felix, who feels he’ll always be second-best to his dashing elder brother. Also, he’s a little afraid to come out in general, as he’s never had a date with a man, and Mort is the only one he’d ever dreamed of in those darkest of fantasies.

Mort wants his family back, but he also wants more with Felix. It takes both of them a while to recognize the need and vulnerabilities of the other, but they are both committed to fixing their mistakes and building a family–together and on their own. There are some sweet firsts, as Felix is a very inexperienced man, on top of never being with another man before. He dated girls a little, but not much. His love for Mort is a poorly kept secret in the family, but its such an exuberant and joyous connection when he finally screws his courage up to be a partner to Mort, accepting the love Mort has been dangling out for him to grasp for several months.

We get a couple mentions of our beloved characters from the previous books–Mort now works at Kresley Intermediate with Jack and Luke from the two previous books, but apart from some coincidental contact (Felix was one of Ben’s blind dates gone bad) this is truly a standalone story. I highly recommend these feel-good romances, and enjoyed reading this one more than once.

Interested? You can find HAPPY FOR YOU on Goodreads and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About Anyta Sunday: (in her own words…)
A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

If you’d like to check out more of my stories, check out my website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Building a Life MADE FOR YOU-A TBR Pile Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a TBR Pile and Challenge Month post for a sweet M/M contemporary romance from Anyta Sunday.  MADE FOR YOU is the second book in her Love and Family series and features a young man adrift as the guardian to his younger pre-teen brother after their parents had died, and the teacher who helps him sort out his life–and love. Check out my TABOO FOR YOU review if you are intrigued by New Zealander lives and loves.

Made for you coverAbout the book:

Ben wants to find a new home.

Twenty-four-year-old Ben McCormick is the primary caregiver for his brother Milo after their parents’ death. A year into the job, he’s totally got the hang of it. Mostly. Sort of. Not at all?

Defeated and thoroughly chastised for his lack in parenting skills at teacher-parent night, Ben slumps away with the resolve to finally get his life sorted: be a better role model, and sell their parents’ house for a fresh start.

But first, he needs to spruce up his house to hit the market. He’s no DIY king, but Milo’s hot-as-hell woodwork teacher is…

Jack wants an old home to fix.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jack Pecker is waiting for the home of his dreams to come on the market in the summer. What better way to wait the interim months than working on a small renovation gig?

Only trouble is, the gig is for the McCormick brothers. And working in close quarters to red-haired Ben McCormick won’t be easy. Not with the attraction that simmers between them. Attraction Ben makes no effort to hide.

But Jack’s professional. Dating a parent is highly discouraged at Kresley Intermediate, and he’d never cross the lines…

Ben and Jack. Two guys searching for a home –
– a home that might just be where their hearts lead them.

My review for MADE FOR YOU posted today over at Joyfully Jay today and if you take a field trip over there and make a comment on the post you will be entered to win the weekly prize of one of two 6-title audiobook bundles from Tantor, as well as getting entered in the month-long Kindle Paperwhite giveaway preloaded with 50 e-books sponsored by NineStar Press. Remember to comment on the Joyfully Jay post to be entered to win.

Interested? You can find MADE FOR YOU on Goodreads and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About Anyta Sunday: (in her own words…)
A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

If you’d like to check out more of my stories, check out my website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Rearranging Lives BOOKENDS–Review and Giveaway

Bookends BannerHi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. BOOKENDS is the third book in her University Square series and features a widow with an autistic child fighting against her attraction to a sweet and submissive plumber. I really enjoyed ON THE SQUARE and LOCKSET and we get a glimpse at some of those characters in this story, too.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
Bookends-f500About the book:

The life of university librarian, Amari Foster, life is neatly cataloged. Work, home, and securing a future for her daughter are her focus. Hard-edged and handsome, she manages her private life with ruthless precision, cutting ties, and maintaining distance to protect her battered heart.

Plumber Thalia Makris has given up her dream of long-term love after a series of bad relationships. Desperate to have her own business, Thalia fills her days working overtime and her nights with fantasy novels.

After a chance encounter leaves both women wanting more than a one-night stand, they find themselves on the precipice of love. Will they take the plunge?

How about a little taste?

“Mama, why do you wear this?” Brianna perched on the end of the bed and turned the scratched dull gold wedding band in her hands.

Amari adjusted her tie, tugging the knot in her bow tie into shape in the mirror. “Because it reminds me of your mommy.” She watched her daughter’s expression in the glass.

“It makes you sad.” Brianna held the ring up between her fingers and looked through it.

Amari turned to her daughter and held out her hand. “Sometimes.”

Brianna deposited the ring in her mother’s palm. “You should flush it.”

“What?” Amari pushed the ring over her knuckle before she slid her vest on.

“That’s what we did in my class when the fish died. I wasn’t as sad when I couldn’t see it anymore.” Her gaze settled on Amari. “If you didn’t see it, maybe you wouldn’t be so sad.”

Amari buttoned her vest from the bottom and held her daughter’s gaze. “I’m not sad.”

Brianna frowned. “You said to always tell the truth.”

“I am. And yes, sometimes it makes me sad. But other times it reminds me that your mommy and I were very much in love.” Amari lifted her suit coat from its hanger and folded it over her arm. She tilted her head at her daughter.

“I don’t remember her.” Brianna drew her hand over the comforter, tracing the pattern of the design with her fingers.

Amari swallowed on the dry ache in her throat and shifted her gaze to her shoes. “We need to go soon. We don’t want to come in after the bride.”

Brianna slid off the bed and spun in a slow circle. “Does my dress sparkle? Like Poppy in Trolls World Tour?”

Amari held the door open and nodded toward the hall. “It does.”

Brianna walked ahead of Amari. “Do you think they’ll have the spring rolls Ms. Mai makes?”

“I don’t know. I’m sure there’ll be something you want to eat at the reception.” Amari followed her daughter down the stairs to the living room.

“Don’t you look sharp. And, Brianna, you look so pretty in your new dress. Come here, let me fix your hair.” Cora Foster’s voice, filled with love, washed over Amari and pushed back her melancholy.

Brianna took a half step toward her grandmother and stopped. “I like it this way.” She squatted and rubbed her hand over their dog’s back. Lucy, their ever-patient Newfoundland, lifted her head and snuffled Brianna’s hand.

Amari lifted her chin at her mother. “Mom, please, let her be. She’s settled and we don’t have time for a meltdown.”

Cora pressed her mouth together in a thin line. “Fine.”

Amari plucked her keys from the hook by the door. “We won’t be late.”

Cora patted her lap. Lucy ambled over and rested her head on Cora’s knee. “We’ll be here.” She picked up the remote. “I’ve got a date with a Witcher.” She waggled her eyebrows.

Amari snort-laughed. “All right, Mom.”

Brianna crossed the floor, stopped short of her grandmother. She bent from the waist and leaned forward. “Hug?”

Cora scooted forward and pressed her forehead to Brianna’s brow. “Have fun. Bring Grandma a spring roll if they have them.”

“Okay.” Brianna straightened and walked to the door.

Cora’s gaze settled on Amari’s face. “You going to be okay?”

Amari looked away from her mother’s eyes. Her gaze settled on the faded photo of her wedding day on the wall behind the television. “Aren’t I always?”

Cora pursed her lips. “If you say so.”

Brianna shifted from one foot to the other by the door as she pulled her sweater on. “Mama, come on. The spring rolls will be gone.”

My Review:
Amari Foster is a librarian at Langston University in Ohio. She’s an out lesbian Black woman who’s raising her daughter alone since her wife died eight years ago. Brianna, her daughter, is on the autism spectrum, and that’s caused grief at school and at home. One of Amari’s ex-girlfriends took out her frustration with Brianna’s quirks physically, causing a lasting scar. So, Amari doesn’t date anymore–just hooks up for anonymous trysts. That’s how she meets Thalia for the first time.

Thalia Makris is a plumber with plans. She’s longed to open a used bookshop, and has tons of books ready to go, but the money is a little tight. If only she hadn’t given so much to her last girlfriend. And, well, it’s hard to leaver the family business, too, especially so because her dad is pretty self-righteous and doesn’t want to accept that Thalia is a lesbian. Thalia is also a sub, and her one afternoon with Amari dominating her was ah-MAZE-ing. If only they could reconnect. Until they do at the wedding of mutual friends. And, it’s not quite amazing. Amari is flustered, and she’s got a mini-crisis going with Brianna, and dammit! That’s why she goes to Cleveland for hook-ups, so she won’t run into them back near home.

Thalia is peeved, but forgiving, until their next encounter when Amari shows her whole ass–saved by her mother who didn’t raise her daughter to behave so rudely. Thalia’s about the write Amari off for good, but her sympathy and empathy are both engaged, knowing about Amari’s bad track record in love, and well, they both have a book fetish to match their Dom/sub kink. Still, stepping into a ready-made family is a challenge, even if the kids are neurotypical, and Thalia’s got some struggles to overcome there. And Amari has some forgiving to do–of herself. Plus, being way less judgmental regarding Thalia and her motives.

I liked this one, especially because Thalia is determined not to let anyone run her down, not even her dad. And not a new lover, no matter how fantastic the sex is. Amari’s love for her deceased wife, and her daughter, are so palpable on the page. It was definitely bittersweet, especially as she struggled with the idea of replacing her deceased wife. It was so tough for her to trust again, and Thalia weathered the storm as best she could. I loved Amari’s mom, and their relationship was super special.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

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

Finding Home TO CATCH A FALLEN LEAF–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Fearne Hill. TO CATCH A FALLEN LEAF is the second book in her new Rossingley series. This story features a young wealthy aristocratic model whose boozing ways have him sheltering with the only member of his family who truly cares for him–and finding unexpected love with an ex-con gardener. It’s closely linked with TO HOLD A HIDDEN PEARL, as the MC of these books are cousins, and have a very close relationship. If you are interested in family drama romances, I’d also recommend THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS by this same author.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

Take one shy French gardener, mix in a naughty aristocrat, add a splash of water, a dash of sunshine, and wait for love to grow.

If only it were that easy.

Reuben Costaud counts his blessings daily. His run-in with crime is firmly behind him. He has a wonderful job gardening on the Rossingley estate, a tiny cottage all to himself, an orphaned cat named Obélix, and a friendly bunch of workmates. The last thing he needs is a tall, blond aristocrat strolling across the manicured lawns towards him.

Falling in love is not part of his plan.

Viscount Aloysius Frederick Lloyd Duchamps-Avery, Freddie to his friends, is in big trouble with everyone, from his father and his modelling agency, to his controlling older boyfriend. Seeking solace and refuge, he escapes to Rossingley and his adored cousin Lucien, the sixteenth earl. To take his mind off his woes, Lucien finds him a job with the estate gardening team.

Mutual attraction blossoms amongst the gardening tools, and Freddie charms his way through Reuben’s defences. But as spring turns to summer and Freddie’s London life collides with their Rossingley idyll, Reuben’s trust in him is ruptured. Will their love flourish or is it destined for the compost bin?

How about a yummy taste?

“Oh, baby doll, for goodness’ sake! Please, please, please. Could we ensure this be the last time I have to put up with all of your ridiculousness?”

Disappointment is the inevitable result of a mismatch between expectation and reality. Vincent expects me to never get drunk, never embarrass him in public, and never, ever, ever vomit over his shoes outside a smart London restaurant.

The reality, of course, is that I’m a twenty-five-year-old male model. I like booze, I like to occasionally snort coke, I say stupid things in front of people I shouldn’t, and sometimes, all of those combined, lead to unexpected chundering episodes outside smart London restaurants. So, I can’t be blamed if Vincent chooses to put his burgundy Lobb penny loafers in the path of the contents of my stomach.

I am fully cognisant of the reasons Vincent endures these occasional mishaps. Being a minor member of the aristocracy helps. In addition, my father, a well-known and respected politician, is perfectly placed to further Vincent’s own eventual political ambitions. But, most importantly, Vincent is a sucker for eye-catching arm candy. I’m not the first pretty piece of fluff he’s moved into his Belgravia apartment, but I’ve stayed the longest. While I’m definitely pretty, I also have financial independence and a first-class degree from Cambridge. Thus, he finds my company tolerable.

What’s in it for me is more complex. Despite occasional debauched one-night forgettables when I’m working abroad—to which Vincent turns a blind eye—I’m a sucker for a steady relationship. Unless I’m travelling for work, I prefer waking up in the same familiar bed each morning. I enjoy the finer things in life, such as sharing good food in decent restaurants and trips to the theatre with an educated partner.

My adorable cousin, Lucien, believes my predilection for older men comes from a deep-seated desire to be cared for, seeing as Father left that responsibility entirely to my boarding school after Mother died. According to his theory, my monogamous tendencies are an unconscious rebellion against Father’s complete lack of fidelity towards my mother. He’s probably right on both accounts, explaining how I muster a coquettish smile as I watch forty-something Vincent, in his pristine white Y-fronts and sock garters, select a double-breasted Hawes & Curtis suit from his walk-in wardrobe. Even though the zipping of his fly and the clack of one wooden coat hanger against another is enough to make my head reel and my guts threaten a repeat performance.

Rolling over in bed, I clamp a goose down pillow over my head in an attempt to shut out the morning sunlight.

“Sorry about last night, Vincent,” I mumble from underneath the pillow. “I possibly overcooked things a little. The end of a busy week, I guess, and I probably didn’t eat enough dinner with my wine. I’m not sure I ate at all yesterday, now I think about it—it was a long photo shoot.”

There’s a slithery sound as he selects a tie. Time stands still; I wish he’d bloody get on with it and clear off, so I can retch over the loo in peace.

“Yes. Well, whatever, baby doll. I have to dash; I’m chairing a meeting of investors at nine, and I can’t have that derailed by your foolish antics.”

He looms over me, all expensive sandalwood and minty freshness. In a bespoke suit, which hides the paunchy bit around his middle, Vincent is a good-looking guy. He still has a full head of dark hair; any flecks of grey only serve to accentuate his air of suave sophistication. Despite himself, he smiles as he pecks my cheek.

“You are going to be the death of me, young man,” he murmurs. “Try to stay out of trouble. Drink plenty of fluids and take an aspirin. You can make it up to me tonight.”

I recall that it’s Tuesday and manage to stifle my groan at least until the front door slams. Oh joy. Deep, deep joy. To say we have a regimented sex life would be affording the military a degree of precision they can only dream of emulating. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, at the stroke of twenty-two hundred hours, Vincent switches on the BBC News and swallows down 50 mg of Viagra with a small glass of San Pellegrino (one cube of ice). He doesn’t know that I know about the Viagra. The gravitas of the opening theme tune is my cue to go and “freshen up, baby doll,” which is Vincent doublespeak for reacquainting my arse with the nozzle of the shower hose. I am then expected to drape myself seductively across our enormous bed in the master suite, with a fresh towel under me, and await his presence.

I used to like my sex spontaneous and messy. I still do. Because, occasionally, smelly, sweaty, imprecise, surprising, and even disappointing sex can unexpectedly turn into joyous, forgiving, funny, and tender sex. Not loving sex. I haven’t experienced that yet, although I remain optimistic. I’ll take all of the above over predictable any day. And—not to put too fine a point on it—I quite like topping. Turn and turnabout is okay if the mood takes me, but really? Always bottoming? Not so much. Some guys love it; for some of my friends it’s a race to the bottom, but I’m prepared to share the love around. Unfortunately, Vincent’s arse only opens once a day, around 6:45 a.m., as part of his shit, shower, shave routine. After that, it’s locked tight as an oyster shell, whereas I’m expected to roll over and take it, and take it, and bloody take it. I usually manage to reach orgasm (ejaculating carefully onto the towel, naturally), but only because I’m young, horny, and excellent at conjuring up visions of myself ploughing into some raven-haired, faceless beauty, while Vincent happily labours above me.

The thing is, I could put up with being called baby doll. I could put up with the bad sex. I could even put up with being told what to wear and when to wear it. But there is one thing that really sticks in my craw: My boyfriend’s close friendship with my father. Around once a month, they share lunch at my father’s club, when I imagine, along with plotting world domination and very visible, showy acts of philanthropy, they enumerate my varied shortcomings, sighing wistfully at each other: “If only Aloysius could… If only he would…” etcetera, etcetera. (My real name is Aloysius; thank God, my second name is Frederick.) And then, after a manly handshake, they part ways; my father returns to pontificating in the House of Commons, and Vincent returns to whatever he does in that enormous office of his in Mayfair.

My Review:
Viscount Aloysius Frederick Lloyd Duchamps-Avery–known as Freddie to his friends and family–is having a quarter-life crisis. He’s a college educated aristocrat with intense daddy issues, and he’s spent the last several years as a highly paid print and runway model. He’s also been linked with an older, wealthy man, Vincent, who is rather controlling, but also supportive. And, well, because of his daddy issues Freddie has endured a tense relationship with him for about two years. It’s only more galling that Freddie’s father, the Home Secretary of England (that’s a pretty high up government position reporting directly to the Prime Minister) finds Freddie to be an abject disappointment, and Vincent commiserates with him about Freddie’s “issues” on the regular.

When Freddie goes on a coke-and-vodka bender in NYC that threatens to create a huge scandal back home, Freddie runs off to the family country house, Rossingley, where his cousin Lucien resides. Luce has always picked Freddie up and bolstered him–physically and emotionally. Freddie is quite startled to find that Lucien has a live-in beefcake boyfriend, Jay, who is a fellow physician at the hospital where Lucien is a consultant. Lucien’s also the sixteenth earl of Rossingley and he’s happy to accept Freddie to stay with him forever. However, he wants Freddie to take better care of himself, and he “suggests” that Freddie take up a position with the gardening crew of the Estate, to increase his wellness, and keep him from moping.

The garden staff of Rossingley are exclusively convicts, usually born in the area around the estate, but Reuben is different. He’s French. Still an ex-con, but young. At 28, Reuben has lived a life few could have in twice as many years. Still, he’s determined to make something of himself, now that he’s out of prison and established himself at Rossingley. He is studying for the GCSE’s so he can gain admittance to the local college to study horticulture. He’d love to be the head groundskeeper at Rossingley someday–or another country house. He has a tidy little cottage on the grounds, and he’s made friends with the other keepers on staff. He just hopes they won’t find out why he was imprisoned, or he might not keep their esteem

And, well, Reuben has a tiny crush on the earl, who is all kinds of sexy to him–not that an earl would ever dally with a gardener. But, whoa, Freddie joining their crew pretty much blows Reuben’s mind. He’s as sexy as Lucien, but younger, and super playful. His constant chatter fills the void of Reuben’s intense shyness. And over time they build a friendship, too, with Freddie finally putting his history degree to use, tutoring Reuben for the GCSE’s. Reuben’s pretty shy of men, after having a non-consensual encounter back in prison, but Freddie’s so kind and doting, it’s easier for him to let the viscount into his cottage, and arms, and body–and heart–than Reuben had ever expected.

Expect shenanigans from Daddy Dearest and a bitter Vincent to upset the apple cart that Freddie had carefully assembled to draw Reuben out and convince him that he is worthy. I so enjoyed how these two very different men found fun and companionship and love together. I also loved seeing Lucien and Jay again, and watching how they work together to build a close-knit family for the folks at Rossingley. Reuben and Freddie both have self-esteem issues, and their patience and growing love helps to lift each man into a happiness they had not expected. The end is so sweet, and I am happy to learn there will be another book in the series. Rossingley is a place I’d dearly love to be, myself, and I’m excited to know I’ll be back there soon enough.

Interested? You can find TO CATCH A FALLEN LEAF on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Fearne Hill lives deep in the southern British countryside with three untamed sons, varying numbers of hens, a few tortoises, and a beautiful cocker spaniel.

When she is not overseeing her small menagerie, she enjoys writing contemporary romantic fiction. And when she is not doing either of those things, she works as an anaesthesiologist.

You can reach out to Fearne on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Teacher Struggles LIFE, LOVE AND OTHER INEQUALITIES–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a link to a review I wrote for Joyfully Jay that’s linked to the big Challenge Month giveaway. LIFE, LOVE AND OTHER INEQUALITIES newly released from Argentina Ryder was my post for New-to-Me author week.

Life Love and other inequalities coverAbout the book:

Matt Ruiz is a man with a plan for professional advancement; he won’t be a teacher forever.

But when he’s asked to help out a new substitute teacher, his already packed schedule is thrown into overload. Even worse, Sawyer Evans, the new substitute, is cute. Really cute. Matt finds himself questioning whether or not his carefully plotted life will bring him happiness. But Sawyer lives by the seat of his pants, and Matt can’t let go of his unbending attitude. Will a chance at romance give him the courage to chase his dreams of love?

As much as Matt loves his life, he’s alone on this journey. If he can’t learn to let love into his heart, what’s the point of pushing himself to be the best?

Mini-review:  This really is a sweet read, and I liked it a lot. It features a Mexican-American math teacher who is quietly gay, afraid to rock any boats in his tiny Texas town. Yet, he’s attracted to a new long-term substitute in his school. And, well, it might be exactly the right time for him to make a life outside of his lofty plans. There was a lot of fun stuff (for me as a teacher anyway) about the behind-the-scenes business of teaching. And, I liked how the love interest was a gourmet cook, and kind of wooed the math teacher with super cupcakes. It was a lot of yumminess.

Interested? You can check out my full review over at Joyfully Jay. If you read it and make a comment on THAT post before Friday night you’ll be entered to win the Week 1 prize of one of 10 book bundles from over 100 authors and also in the huge month-long prize of a Kindle loaded with with 50 ebooks from NineStar Press. Good luck!!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends.

Coming Out? Or PLAYING IT SAFE? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a M/M sports romance from new-to-me author Amy Andrews. PLAYING IT SAFE is this author’s first foray into writing M/M romance, though it’s the 7th book in her Sydney Smoke rugby romance series and she’s a USA bestseller in straight romance.

Playing it safeAbout the book:

Donovan Bane loves playing rugby for the Sydney Smoke. And if that means he has to keep his sexuality a secret, that’s a sacrifice he’s prepared to make. At least until after he retires, anyway. He doesn’t want to be the first pro rugby player in Australia to officially come out while still playing. The team doesn’t need the media shit storm and he’d rather be known for his footy skills. Which means no dating, no relationships, no sex. Nothing but playing ball.

Until one man suddenly changes everything…

Beckett Stanton is out and proud—and not looking for a guy who isn’t. Been there, done that, complete disaster. Unfortunately, on the first day of his new job working for the Sydney Smoke, he locks eyes with Donovan Bane and he’s a goner. Big, gruff, and athletic isn’t usually Beck’s type, but for some reason this man is ticking all his boxes. And it’s clear the feeling is mutual. It’s also clear that Donovan is not out, and doesn’t plan to be anytime soon. Still, Beck can’t resist being the man to show Donovan everything he’s been missing.

For the first time, Donovan doesn’t play it safe and allows himself to indulge in things with Beck he knows he can’t have. But when their relationship gets serious, he knows he has to choose between the career he loves and the man he loves, because how can he possibly have both?

My Review:

Donovan Bane is a stud of an elite rugby player, a star on the Sydney Smoke pro team. He’s a mountain of a man, half-Maori and bearing the tattoos of his lineage. He’s also a closeted gay man, divorced from his best friend, and father of a 14 year old daughter he loves more than life. Afraid that his career would suffer, he married his high school girlfriend, hiding his sexuality in his relationship. He’d pursued his true attraction only once, and it was a disaster. His ex-wife knows his sexuality–now–and she keeps his secret because she’s a good woman. But, she’d expressed issues with him coming out while their daughter is young, in case kids at school torment her because of it. And, well, being a high profile player means that there will be blow-back. Anyway, Donovan has never met a man he wants to come out for, anyway, until he meets Beckett.

Beckett Stanton is freshly out of a relationship and has just taken a new position in the finance division for the Smoke. He’s on the job a week before he meets Donovan, and boy is he impressed–with his body. And then his play. And, well, his kindness. Donovan, despite the dangerous attraction he feels for Beckett, spends time with the man after helping him with a flat bike tire in a rainstorm. The more time they spend together, the more they want one another, yet, Donovan is reticent to even dip his toe into physical intimacy because he recognizes it’s a slippery slope. There has never been an active out rugby player in Australia, and he doesn’t want to be the first. The problem is Beckett’s out. And, being around Beckett–while amazing and fulfilling–could jeopardize Donovan’s carefully curated straight persona.

This was an interesting book for reasons that didn’t necessarily pertain to the romance. First, I love sports romance in general. And, I’m always interested in interracial romances, and other cultures. We got a little peek into his Moari culture, and I loved learning a little more about Australia, through the eyes of both Donovan and Beckett. Their relationship is the focal point of the book, even as Donovan continues to deny himself. Beckett is willing to indulge himself a little, as a gay tutor for Donovan, but they both catch feelings pretty quickly.

For me, there seemed to be a lot of talk around the potential for Donovan to come out, and how that could never ever happen. It took up a lot of page time, and was the basis of conflict. Despite knowing that Donovan’s ex was his best friend we never actually have her on the page counseling him. And Miri, his beloved daughter, is only present in the epilogue on page. Donovan’s most fraught moments around coming out were all off page, and that was disappointing. I liked how Becket and Donovan interacted, especially as they connect in friendly ways, but I felt the pacing could have been better. Instead of mooning about, reflecting on every instance of intense arousal there could have been more moments of actual frank discussion abut their developing friendship, and the implications of their growing attraction.

I did enjoy Donovan’s sexual awakening, and both Donovan and Beckett seem like good guys. They genuinely seem to care about one another, even in the short time they spend. I wished we had more time seeing them do more than just hang out in their homes. It was also good to see the allies come out in force to stand beside Donovan.

Interested? You can find PLAYING IT SAFE on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I read a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link to enter to win a $15 Amazon GC.

About the Author:

Amy is an award-winning, USA Today best-selling Aussie author who has written seventy plus contemporary romances in both the traditional and digital markets.

Her books bring all the feels from sass, quirk and laughter to emotional grit and panty-melting heat.

She loves good books and great booze although she’ll take mediocre booze if there’s nothing else. For many, many years she was a registered nurse which means she knows things. Anatomical things. And she’s not afraid to use them!

She recently took a sea change and lives by the ocean with her husband of 29 years.

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

Baby Struggles BACK CHECK: Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M hockey romance from the writing team of RJ Scott and VL Locey. BACK CHECK is the second book in their new Boston Rebels series. You can catch my review for TOP SHELF, the first book, though this one is fine read as a a standalone.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $10 GC or some backlist books.

About the book:

Meeting Joachim could save his daughter’s life, but it may well cost Isaac his heart.

It’s been one hell of a year for Joachim Löfgren. After a long summer in rehab, he’s been moved to a new town, one far away from the warm Florida sun he so adores, to bolster a struggling Boston defense since the departure of their beloved team captain. He hadn’t even unpacked his skates properly when fate lands another blow, and he’s told that he is dad to a gravely ill child he never knew existed. It’s an easy decision for the burly defenseman to help and he opens up his new home to his child and her guardian Isaac. He’s instantly enchanted with the preschooler as well as her uncle and decides that his life will only be complete if his daughter is part of it. Filing for custody is the only option he feels he has, but this throws his budding relationship with Isaac into utter chaos. The two men soon find themselves on opposite sides of the courtroom as they both fight for the life they feel is best for Sophia.

Despite grieving for the loss of his sister, Isaac doesn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility for his newborn niece Sophia, creating a brand new family of two built on love and laughter. He has a steady income painting pet portraits during the day, but it’s the subversive and satirical cartoons he draws at night that silence his thoughts in the dark. They don’t have much as a family, but he is Sophia’s dad now, and nothing and no one will ever come between them. When a routine pediatric checkup shows that Sophia is ill, it forces Isaac to confront every one of his fears. Finding a matching donor is her only hope, and Isaac begins the journey to find Sophia’s mysterious father. There are no names or dates in his sister’s battered journal, and all Isaac knows is that he’s looking for a hockey player who was nothing more than a one-night stand. Little does he know that finding Joachim could destroy everything.

How about a yummy taste?

“Hey, guys, did you see this story coming out of Fort Lauderdale?”
Everyone looked at me.
“I didn’t do it,” I quickly said as I lifted my hands up innocently. “I was here in Boston.”
“No, it’s nothing bad like you’re used to,” Austin blurted out. Xander swatted him upside the head. The boy’s eyes bugged out, and his soft cheeks turned scarlet. “Oh! No, I didn’t mean you did bad stuff! Being drunk isn’t bad. Well, it kind of is bad when you run off the road and hit a mailbox. It’s not bad in a bad way. It’s, uhm… well, it’s just an addiction right, and you’re not drinking anymore so it’s all okay. No, well, okay in that you’ve stopped drinking and are now—”
“It’s okay, Rowe, I know what you meant, and it’s fine. I did some pretty fucked up things when I was under the influence of alcohol.”
Austin wilted a bit. “Okay, thanks. I didn’t mean to imply that addictions are bad. I mean they are! No, not bad like bad but—”
“It’s okay, kid. Just move onto the news story.” I chuckled. Moral lobbed a chunk of apple at Austin. He ducked it and the glob smacked Kyle in the cheek.
“Right, yeah, so there’s this guy down in Florida who’s looking for a bone marrow donor for his daughter. He showed up at a preseason hockey game to search for some mysterious fan called ‘Hockey Guy’ which the dead mother named as the possible father.”
“Shit, so the guy is raising his daughter alone?” Moral asked, the sad news slowing his inhalation of muffins for a moment.
“Wait…” He placed his muffin on its plate. “If he’s the father then why is he looking for the father?”
“He’s the baby’s uncle but has been raising her as her father. It’s all super sad and everyone in the league is signing up to see if they’re a match for the little girl with leukemia. Look at her.” He showed us all an image of an adorable little girl of perhaps three and her daddy/uncle who was also cute as hell. “We should sign up.”

My Review:

Isaac is in his middle 20s, living in Tampa and raising his deceased sister’s daughter as his own. He could never get his sis to reveal the name of her baby daddy, though he tried. And when she died in birth, well, Isaac took full custody and did his very best. Problem is his little sweetheart, Sophie, is gravely ill with leukemia, and Isaac is not a donor match. And, he has no remaining family to test and see if they could help with a bone marrow transplant to save poor Sophie. Scouring his sister’s old journals, Isaac gets a hint that Sophie’s dad is potentially a hockey fan, so he gets a babysitter and makes a spectacle of himself outside of the arena, hoping to catch some viral buzz and raise awareness of Sophie’s plight. Record numbers of strangers go and get tested as a result, and though Isaac had tried to keep his hope in check, he’s astounded that a match is found. Unfortunately, it’s also Sophie’s biological dad, and he’s a pro hockey player now playing for the Boston Rebels.

Joachim Löfgren is a disgraced professional hockey player newly traded to Boston from Tampa Bay now that he’s out of his fourth stint in rehab. He’s long since spent his signing and endorsement money, though he still makes a good bit of coin as a defensemen. He isn’t sure if he’ll get along with his teammates, but they seem like genuinely nice guys and he’s got few friends. So, he’s pretty stunned to learn that his blood isn’t just a match to helps save a young girl with leukemia–he’s her daddy. Week’s out of rehab, this kind of shock is nearly enough to send Joachim searching for some alcohol, but this time he’s determined not to mess up his life again–or that of his apparent daughter.

The Boston Rebels want to play this as a heart-wrenching story of amazing triumph, but Joachim and Isaac are both wary. It’s not a good look that a pro player didn’t even know he fathered a baby–too drunk to even remember having relations with the mom. Still, Joachim has a nice house and he wants, begs, Isaac to stay with him, so he can get to know his daughter. Having lost his parents recently, Joachim is desperate for a familial connection, and he’s definitely attracted to Isaac. Though his AA sponsor reminds him it’s best not to jump into a relationship while still managing his recovery.

Isaac is terrified Joachim won’t help, then, he’s afraid of how much help he is giving. And well, he’s also afreaid of how attracted he is to Sophie’s bio father, which is how he thinks of Joachim because Isaac is her daddy–no matter the paternity. It seems like it could be a good situation, if Isaac and Joachim do fall for one another, but neither man is expecting a lasting connection. Isaac is planning a full return to Tampa with Sophie once the treatments are done, with visitation for Joachim if he wants, while Joachim wants full custody with Isaac released to regularly-scheduled-pre-baby life. Their diametrically-opposed goals do not become apparent to one another until pretty late in the story, once they have both grown significantly close, and Sophie has begun to bond with Joachim.

I liked this one. It had good, squirmy tension, with the family issues that both men are dealing with. Their mutual love of Sophie, and budding attraction for each other, keeps the story moving ever forward, and it was fun to see these relationships grow. The loneliness is palpable, as is the drama of Sophie’s worsening health condition. There isn’t a lot of hockey in the book, mostly just how the schedule was impacted for Joachim–and, well, how he goes bananas when the fit hits the shan between him and Isaac. Still, there was a great team dynamic here, and I loved how the Rebels all supported Joachim, Sophie and Isaac. When Isaac and Joachim do make it to sexytown, it felt pretty authentic, as they’d been house-sharing for going on two months and had a strong rapport.

Expect a superbly happy ending, and a slow-burn, pseudo-enemies-to-lovers romance.

Interested? You can find BACK CHECK on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 gift card or 2 backlist books from the authors.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

Catch RJ on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, twitter and LibraryThing.

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, Dr. Who, Torchwood, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, two Jersey steers and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.

When not writing lusty tales, she can be found enjoying her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.

You can find her on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads and tsú.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Tasty Rebirth: DINE WITH ME–A TBT Review

Hi there! I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M contemporary age gap romance from Layla Reyne. DINE WITH ME is a standalone romance between a chef having a swan song, and the young physician who’s determined to save him. I’ve also enjoyed thrillers like VARIABLE ONSET and sports romance like RELAY from this author, among other books.

DIne with Me coverAbout the book:

Life never tasted so good.
Miller Sykes’s meteoric rise to award-winning chef is the stuff of culinary dreams, but it’s all crashing down around him. He’s been given a diagnosis that could cost him something even more precious than his life: his sense of taste. Rather than risk the very thing that defines him, Miller embarks on a last tour of his favorite meals while he still can.

But there’s a catch: he needs a financial backer to make it happen, and he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s sick.

Dr. Clancy Rhodes has two weeks to come to terms with putting aside oncology to work at his father’s thriving plastic surgery practice. When the opportunity to travel with a Michelin-starred chef presents itself, the foodie in him can’t believe it. It doesn’t hurt that Miller’s rugged good looks are exactly Clancy’s cup of joe.

As Clancy and Miller travel from coast to coast and indulge in everything from dive bars to the most decadent of culinary experiences, they’re suddenly sharing a lot more than delicious meals. Sparks fly as they bond over their love of flavors and the pressures of great expectations. But when Miller’s health takes a turn for the worse, Clancy must convince him he’s more—so much more—than just his taste buds. And that together, they can win a battle that once seemed hopeless.

My Review:

Miller Sykes is a renown chef, and a gay man who’d just turned forty. And two weeks ago he learned he had throat cancer. While it’s a treatable cancer, the treatment will likely destroy Miller’s sense of taste–and that would mean the end of his career as a chef. Against medical advice, Miller has declined treatment, divorced his longtime female partner, Sloan, and closed his restaurant. He’s planned a two-week swan song, touring the country with a partner (or a couple) who choose to pay the way through Miller’s culinary “greats” stopping at restaurants and other establishments to have amazing last meals.

Clancy Rhodes is a newly minted, board-certified physician and surgeon. He’s always had a deep desire to work in oncology, but his father is a plastic surgeon and it’s expected that he join the practice, doing reconstructive surgeries, as necessary. It’s not ideal, but it is secure. Clancy has two weeks before joining the practice, and as a huge foodie, he’s excited to spend those days on Miller’s culinary adventure.

The chemistry between these men is strong, and despite their age and experience gap they find lots to chat about, both cooking and life-wise. It isn’t long before Clancy begins to recognize that Miller is ill, though Miller refuses to fully disclose his private medical affairs. Though, their attraction continues to simmer and reach a boiling stage where Miller can’t help but physically connect with the bright and witty young doctor. It seems like they could really make something of this fling, in Clancy’s eyes, until he learns about the cancer, and Miller’s plan to not have any treatment. Naturally, that’s a huge problem for Clancy.

This book is a bittersweet read, but it’s not hopeless. The love story that develops between Clancy and Miller is sweet and fresh and the exact right moment for these headstrong men to meet. While Clancy resigns himself to a career that’s not ideal, his expertise proves invaluable to Miller as his illness progresses. Miller’s treatment decisions, made in despair, prove to be less than rock solid as Miller experiences both his own mortality at hand, and a love worth fighting for. I really enjoyed how each man took charge of their lives, and worked for their futures and their passions, discounting the power of their immediate hurdles. There is so much love and good and happy that develops between them, and the end is truly delicious. I really enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find DINE WITH ME on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy of this book provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
Layla Reyne is the author of the Fog City, Agents Irish and Whiskey, Trouble Brewing, and Changing Lanes series. A Carolina Tar Heel who now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, Layla enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart pounding romance.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Absolutely Galacticly CAPTIVATED–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review for a M/M space opera adventure romance from A.C. Thomas. CAPTIVATED is the second book in The Verge adventure series and I couldn’t put it down. Check out my review for RESTRICTED, the first book in this series. So good!

Captivated coverAbout the book:

Dr. Theophrastus Campbell leads a comfortable life, along with his twin brother, buried in academia. His unique gift for obscure languages goes unnoticed as he teaches University students to conjugate Latin. Everything in his world is just as it should be; restrained, understated, boring. He would give anything to break away. In all his daydreams of adventure, Theo never expected it to arrive in the form of an outrageously attractive Outlier covered in intriguing tattoos. And Theo never thought the price he might pay for adventure would be his own freedom.

Captain Park Jun-Seo leads a dangerous life, running a Crew of misfits through Restricted space as he desperately searches for the key to completing his parents’ work. Work that could mean the difference between life and death for countless others. In all of his frantic searching, Jun never expected to find the key in the form of a beautiful professor with more brilliance than good sense. And he never thought the price he might pay for knowledge would be his own heart.

Stoic Jun and irrepressible Theo must work together to break the code before their time is up. Falling into bed together is effortless, but their growing connection wasn’t in the plan. Theo charms his way beneath Jun’s skin with every nonsensical move he makes. Jun must decide if he can make room in his harsh, goal-driven life for the unpredictable force of love. Theo begins their journey as a lighthearted adventure—until he cracks Jun’s tough facade to reveal the hero within. Theo must decide if he can risk his battered heart when Jun is risking everything.

In the lawless depths of space, can two captive hearts set each other free?

My Review:
Dr. Theophrastus Campbell is a resident of Brittania, one of the Core planets stuck within the Verge, a force field that prevents marauders from attacking the main planets. He’s an extroverted linguist–one of the best in the Core–and that’s my Captain Park Jun-Seo, from the Restricted Section beyond the Verge has come to his office to kidnap him. Theo scribes out a hidden message to his twin brother, Dr. Aristotle Campbell, a pre-eminent geologist, and decides to take Captain Park’s kidnapping as a bit of an adventurous lark, one that could net him some fascinating linguistic opportunities as well as some sexy-time with the delicious, if gruff, man.

Jun is a beast of a man, tatted and augmented to help keep him alive in the desolate and dangerous areas of space he’s grown up in. But, there might be a way to bring a new energy source to the planets beyond the Verge, which would open trade routes and perhaps help those of his family still exist beyond the Verge. If only Dr. Campbell wasn’t so lithe, and clean, and verbose about his sexual desires. Jun needs Theo’s help deciphering the dead language that hides these galactic secrets. If only the young, gorgeous academic could keep his sexy, tempting mouth shut.

Well, all of Theo’s suitors had felt the same, so he’s going to make the most of his forced proximity to the virile and forceful captain.

This is a unique and engaging world that’s a bit of a mix with Victorian sensibilities and the space exploration tech. As with the first book in the series, I really loved the story, and the originality of the plot twists. Theo is cheeky and fun, absorbing his captivity with salty aplomb, and teasing the heck out of Jun. He’s brave and bold and unashamed of his attraction to Jun. They develop a rapport that feeds the sexual tension growing between them. Jun is really a decent man, stressed to all lengths to achieve independence for himself and his followers. Their part of space is continually ravaged by marauders, and he wants to level the playing field, so there can be more than a subsistence existence beyond the Verge–where plenty of beings live. Even his initial resistance to Theo’s overtures is admirable, if frustrating!

Their adventures are risky, putting Jun in position to be captured by his former captain/owner and maybe scuttle the entire mission. For those who’ve read the first book, you know that Ari is doggedly trying to save Theo from his captors–and their reunion is so joyful. Captains Jun and Orin (who helped Ari locate Theo) are outmatched, but never outclassed, by this dynamic duo of intelligence, the Doctors Ari and Theo Campbell. It seems that the stage is now set to liberate the energy needed to power the planets and outposts beyond the Verge, but the story ends pretty much with a plan to go on. I flew through both RESTRICTED and CAPTIVATED, adoring the adventures and the romances, and I SO HOPE we will have a third book to complete the story arc. If so, I look very much forward to reading it.

Interested? You can find CAPTIVATED on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon. I read a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

About the Author:
A.C. Thomas left the glamorous world of teaching preschool for the even more glamorous world of staying home with her toddler. Between the diaper changes and tea parties, she escapes into fantastical worlds, reading every romance available and even writing a few herself.

She devours books of every flavor—science fiction, historical, fantasy—but always with a touch of romance because she believes there is nothing more fantastical than the transformative power of love.

You can catch up with A.C. online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Now Available: MY ONLY DEFENSE

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and review for a contemporary M/M romance from new-to-me author Leigh Lennon. MY ONLY DEFENSE is the third book in her Love is Love series, and features a guilty sportswriter and the Navy SEAL he fell for but inadvertently wronged.

About the book:

Garrison

Love sucks! There I said it. I’ve never looked for it, nor do I want it. All it seems to do is cause open wounds. I already suffer from the guilt of a horrific accident. I won’t let love suck me down the rabbit hole. But Murphy’s Law is a diva out to destroy my life. Someone sees me for more than just a one and done and though I’ve pushed men away for years, he’s refreshing. But remember that diva I told you about, she’s sort of a b**** too. Yeah, love more than sucks but since I can’t use the words I want, I’ll just stick to that because the man I want has a connection with me, no one knows about.

Lawson

I met a man. Sure he’s a little detached and cynical. Though, try telling my heart he’s all wrong for me. I’ve been over it with this particular traitorous part of my body. And, I do the one thing I never do with my hook-ups. I give him a way to reach me. But it’s more—I almost beg him to call me after my next deployment. Oh, yeah, forgot to mention, I’m in the military and am shipping out. I want him to be my welcoming party, when I come home, yet, when I unravel every complicated part of Garrison Fisher, I find more and more I should run from. But I can’t. He’s broken, but after my time in the military, I’m broken too. Can we fix one another and heal the wounds that may very well tear us apart?

How about a little taste?

I haven’t had enough beer or scotch or bourbon or rum to endure the I’m concerned for you speech I get from this crew of people. It should make me feel secure in the friendships of so many who care for me. But it doesn’t.

Making my way through small groups of people mingling together, I see many teammates huddled up, partaking in different conversations. I hear Ryder’s voice carry through the crowd. I’m on my way to him in an attempt to bow out for the night. I’m tired, grumpy, and want to go over some more statistics before I fall asleep with my laptop open.

I have the Uber app pulled up on my phone and blindly walk over to find Ryder.

I’m overcome with this searing feeling I’m being watched. Darting my gaze over to the set of eyes that I can feel are on me, like the sun on a clear day, I’m met with the one person who I’ve been trying to forget for way too long. Charging toward me is the handsome and familiar face of Lawson Solaritez, and he’s anything but happy to see me. Oh, fuck!

I’m paralyzed, unable to move, his eyes piercing me, and the entire group he’s a part of stops, staring at our interaction. With Crush near his husband, I hear him ask, “Did you know, Ryder?”

But nothing fazes the angry Navy SEAL. His entire gaze is ready to set me on fire. With the heat in his eyes, the kind I’m not accustomed to, I turn on my heels, taking my leave. I won’t come clean with him, not in this house, not ever. He’s been hurt enough, and by the flames ready to destroy me, he’s already one step in the right direction. But the memory of his family being lowered into the ground will only hurt him further.

I’m around the corner of this mansion type of home when the strong arms of Law pull me back to him. Six months we fucked, and I’d know his touch anywhere.

We’re just far enough away from everyone, and we have privacy when he backs my body against the farthest wall, his one arm pushing my shoulder against it and the other over my hand.

“What the fuck?” These are his words.

“No hello?” Yeah, I’m an asshole—it’s the only way I know when I’m met head-on with a crisis. “It’s the normal way to greet people.”

“Hello, asshole.” His eyes widen, and his words are just as cold. “Now, with our pleasantries out of the way, want to explain ghosting me?”

I choke on the air, attempting to explain the ridiculousness of his little tantrum. I clear my throat, and I seem to breathe normally again. “Are you serious right now, Law? I believe your words were something along these lines—‘I know this isn’t what we do, but the ball is in your court.’ This is my paraphrase, but I think I’m pretty fucking close. So, don’t act as if you have a reason to be upset.”

He lets go of my shoulder, but his body is still pressed against mine. I’ve dreamed of him every day since saying goodbye to him six months ago. And there’s nothing I’d rather do than allow him to ravage every part of me.

“Give me something, Gary. We had a connection and, by your reaction, I know you wanted more from me. I didn’t give you a chance to answer, but I expected something. Yeah, my words were just words because I felt it, here.” He places his hand on my heart. “Here, Gary—right here. I didn’t imagine anything, and I’m left to wonder why the hell you’ve changed. I have the right to know. Fuck, you know my name. I know nothing about you. Just tell me your name. I know it’s not Gary. Give me something so that when I dream of you, I’ll know it was real, if only for a second.”

“It doesn’t matter what we felt here.” I give myself permission this one time to touch him, and I place my hand over his. “I don’t have any right to care—catching feelings for you.”

My Review:

Lt Colonel Lawson Solaritez is a SEAL and a twin brother to pro-hockey player Edward. A few years back Edward, who’d long had a drug problem, was the subject of a news piece that also called him out for being a serial adulterer. His distraught, young, pregnant wife fled the home and was killed in a car wreck. Law still feels terrible about this, missing his SIL and the niece that was never born, but he blames Edward for all their trauma–a man who’s dropped out of society and been on the run for the past three years. Law’s recent happiness has come from his frequent connections with a submissive man he knows as “Gary” and he’d hoped to return from a deployment and pick up where they’d left off–but Gary is a ghost, now. And Law is heartbroken.

Garrison Fisher is a sports reporter turned colorman for the Nashville football team. He’s regretted writing the tell-all on Edward Solaritez for three years now. His only bright spot was having incredible sex with Law–until Law deployed and Garrison learned his full name–and relationship to Edward. He’d started to fall hard for Law, but how could Law ever want the man responsible for his family’s tragedy? When he finally reveals his troubles to a good friend, well, that guy totally goes behind Garrison’s back and meddles, but only in the effort to reunite the starcrossed lovers.

It’s tricky, obviously, because Garrison’s a guilt bomb waiting to explode and Edward’s out there, a detonator on the run. Law is finally feeling good–capable of building a relationship–if only submissive Garrison will get with his program. It’s a tangled story, with lots of good secondary characters helping both Garrison and Law find the happily ever after that they deserve. For me, I think the writing was a little convoluted, with odd phrasing at times, and really long, explanatory dialogue. It slowed the pacing for me, and hampered my ability to really connect with the characters. Beyond that, I felt like Garrison and Law were good guys, and I was glad to see how caring and understanding Law was toward Garrison, who is really mired in self-loathing due to the article. It showed that Garrison was really affected by the sequelae from his actions, which was also admirable. I was rooting for these guys, just wishing the prose moved a little quicker.

There’s a happy ending for these guys, but they do have to work for it. And, I liked how their cadre of confidantes really stepped in to support them. Clearly, some of these guys were main characters in previous stories of the series.

Interested? You can find MY ONLY DEFENSE on Goodreads and Amazon.

About Leigh Lennon:

I am a woman who loves to share all my imaginary friends with the world. My characters become as real to me as those I call family. I am a girl, who loves pretty nails, spikey hair and large earrings. Coffee and wine call to me daily, depending on the time of the day. I am a mom first and foremost and my kids are the breath of my life. I met my husband while serving in the military and I am proud to say he’s kicked cancer’s ass! I write real life issues that reflect a little of my own little world. My family tolerates the seventh member of our family, my computer, as I lug this vital piece everywhere I go.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!