Surviving a MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT is the first book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I jumped in with both feet, even if it’s not a romance… I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT by Lanyon, which is a M/M paranormal romance, and will be posting about the sequel soon.

About the book:
Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, Scrabble champion and guy-with-worst-luck-in-the-world-when-it-comes-to-dating, is ready to make a change. So when he learns he’s inherited both a failing bookstore and a falling-down mansion in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove on Buck Island, Rhode Island, it’s full steam ahead!

Sure enough, the village is charming, its residents amusingly eccentric, and widowed police chief Jack Carson is decidedly yummy (though probably as straight as he is stern). However, the bookstore is failing, the mansion is falling down, and there’s that little drawback of finding rival bookseller–and head of the unwelcoming-committee–Trevor Maples dead during the annual Buccaneer Days celebration.

Still, it could be worse. And once Police Chief Carson learns Trevor was killed with the cutlass hanging over the door of Ellery’s bookstore, it is.

My Review:
Screenwriter Ellery Page has inherited his great-greataunt’s mystery bookshop, the Crow’s Nest, and crumbling estate in idyllic Pirate’s Cove–where everything is a pun on the historical founders of the town. It’s a big change from NYC, where he was floundering after his boyfriend left–taking their mutual friends with him. What seems to be a great chance at a fresh start is really just a step away from misfortune, as the bookshop had hardly any customers, and his home, Captain’s Seat, which was maybe built form the timbers of an old pirate vessel, is very aptly called a death trap.

Ellery is making the best of it, and he’s frustrated by the persistence of a motivated buyer for the bookshop, Trevor Maples. Trevor has been land-grabbing all he could in Pirate’s Cove, hoping increased tourism might help him turn a profit. He’s also up for mayor, and his bullish ways haven’t made Trevor many friends in town. Ellery isn’t willing to kowtow to a bully, but he’s suspect number one when Trevor Maples ends up dead on the floor of the Crow’s Nest the very evening after Ellery was overheard to vehemently promise to never sell. And it looks like the murder weapon was the now-missing antique cutlass that hung over the shop’s door.

An outsider in the town, Ellery’s sure Police Chief Carson will make 1 + 1 = Ellery’s arrest, adn the local paper is surely hounding both Ellery and Carson over the fact that Ellery isn’t immediately taken into custody. Fact is, the chief has seen Ellery having a meal in a pub minutes before the body was found…by Ellery. And as the evidence keeps getting found…by Ellery…it seems ever more likely that Ellery is being set up as a patsy. Ellery’s unwilling to get railroaded, however, and starts investigating a bit on his own. Which only brings him more confrontation. Especially when the second murder happens.

This is a really intriguing cozy mystery, with just a HINT of a budding romance. Ellery and Chief Carson are developing quite a nice rapport, even if Ellery’s not sure the lawman bats for his team. Well, until more than halfway in. Carson is a good investigator, and he’s frustrated that Ellery keeps taking daring chances to help prove his own innocence, choices that put Ellery in harm’s way more than once. The town and townspeople are as fun and quirky as one might hope, staging their Pirate Days festival that brings few visitors, but lots of gags for the locals.

The end is satisfying, with the red herrings and dead ends all knotted up tightly. It’s the beginning of a series, which makes me nervous for more death in this quaint hamlet! But, it also seems to promise a little bit of romance for Ellery, who’s finally got his life on track. I adored Ellery and his deadpan narration, with his constant predicaments and hope for just keeping it all together. I’m all in for more of this, hoping we get some Scrabble to go with our secrets.

Interested? You can find MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Josh Lanyon is the author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance.

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan’s annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place). The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the 20,000+ Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (twice for Gay Mystery), an Edgar nominee and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and lives in Southern California. Catch up with Josh’s new on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Falling For His PRETTY MAN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M erotic romance from Ryan Field. PRETTY MAN is a gay erotic love story LOOSELY based on Pretty Woman.

About the book:
Roland Marcus—rich, handsome and pushing 40—is still not over the fact that his 20-year relationship has ended, and desperately needs someone to distract him while he attends a bevvy of charity events in New York. With all eyes upon him, including his ex’s (who left him for a younger man), Roland accidentally bumps into a hot young guy in a used book store…a strapping male hustler whom he decides to hire for one week to accompany him to his social events. He offers him $5,000, with no strings attached, to just stand by his side and look pretty.

Josh Holden, a young guy who is helping to support his son and saving money to buy a business with his best friend and ex-wife, is only too happy to escort Roland anywhere he wants to go that week. And he’s not doing it just for the money…

Roland learns in less than a week’s time that his future can still hold both earth-shattering sex and a love of real substance.

My Review:
This gay erotic romance is LOOSELY based on the movie Pretty Woman. The author has re-written many het romances with a sexy gay slant, and this is no exception.

Roland is a wealthy businessman whose lover of the past 20 years, Kenneth, had recently left him for a younger man. Despite being trim and eligible, Roland feels unsexy and unlovable as a result. He’s due to show up at Kenneth’s at the end of the week for some charity functions, and he wants some sexy eye candy on his arm to help bolster his emotions.

Josh is in his mid-20s. He’s divorced but still sharing custody of his young son with his ex-wife, who’s a sweet gal and Josh’s best friend. They both work as a bookstore, and want to buy it to save it from closing down, but neither has enough capital. Roland learns of their predicament, and he’s totally attracted to sexy and virile Josh, so he offers him $5000 to spend the week as his escort–especially to Kenneth’s society parties. Josh is down–and he’s willing to expand Roland’s sexual horizons is myriad ways.

If you are looking for a dewy-eyed monogamous love story…keep looking. Josh gets up to some very dirty business with Roland, sexying him six ways from Sunday. This includes barebacking, and sharing him with some hardbodied pals, and public sex in an East Village sex shop. Roland’s libido is on fire, and he knows that Josh’s commanding presence is the reason. Plus, Kenneth is all jealous, wanting a piece of Josh the moment they meet.

It’s raw and raunchy and down and dirty fun, but there’s a sweet ending that resolves Josh’s money woes and brings he and Roland together in a new venture. I honestly laughed at some of the meaty descriptions and the aromatic experiences–oniony armpits and musty jockstraps–that turn Roland on. He’s so deliriously happy being Josh’s play-partner it was easy to accept some of their “shocking” sexcapades. I highly recommend if you are looking for an erotic gay romance and don’t mind multi-partner playtimes.

Interested? You can find PRETTY MAN on Goodreads, Riverdale Avenue Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

About the Author:
Ryan Field is a hybrid author of over 100 published modern romance novels and stories, including AN OFFICER AND HIS GENTLEMAN, FANGSTERS, THE RAINBOW DETECTIVE AGENCY and best selling VIRGIN BILLIONAIRE SERIES. RfieldJ@aol.com

You can find Ryan on his website, Twitter, or Facebook Author Page.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Navigating Life’s Pitfalls: KISS ME AGAIN–An Audiobook Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an audiobook review for a contemporary M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. KISS ME AGAIN is a sweet story of connection for a self-isolating man and the manic-depressive friend he makes while they’re in hospital together. I’ve really liked MISFITS, WHAT REMAINS, HOUSE OF CARDS, JUNKYARD HEART and FINDING HOME, so I was eager to experience this one.

About the book:
Tree surgeon Aidan Drummond is content with his own company. He works alone, and lives alone, and it doesn’t occur to him to want anything else until a life-changing accident lands him in hospital. Then a glimpse of the beautiful boy in the opposite bed changes everything.

Ludo Giordano is trapped on the ward with a bunch of old men. His mind plays tricks on him, keeping him awake. Then late one night, a new face brings a welcome distraction. Their unlikely friendship is addictive. And, like most things in Ludo’s life, temporary.

Back in the real world, Aidan’s monochrome existence is no longer enough. He craves the colour Ludo brought him, and when a chance meeting brings them back together, before long, they’re inseparable again.

But bliss comes with complications. Aidan is on the road to recovery, but Ludo has been unwell his entire life, and that’s not going to change. Aidan can kiss him as much as he likes, but if he can’t help Ludo when he needs him most, they don’t stand a chance.

My Review:
Aidan is a gruff and surly tree surgeon who prefers his own company, along with a whiskey. He’s working on a tree when a drunk driver crashes into it, knocking Aiden into a 20+ foot fall that breaks his leg, some ribs and concusses him greatly. He’s confused on the hospital ward, muddled with pain, when another patient, Ludo, attempts to help him find his morphine drip, and a bucket to vomit into.

Ludo is no stranger to hospital. He’s manic-depressive, and his manic trips often end in injury. At the moment, he’s in to have some pins in his wrist replaced–from an earlier “flying” attempt gone wrong. Ludo’s also having his meds updated to keep him more on and even keel, but he’s not taking well to them. He’s intrigued by Aidan, who is big and sexy and struggling to make sense of his injuries. Ludo is a bit of a mother hen, and Aiden seems to allow it, which pleases Ludo. This is in contrast to Aiden’s rough treatment of his cousin Michael, his only family–and only visitor. Not that Ludo has any visitors; his family gave up on him long ago.

Over the course of about 10 days, Aiden and Ludo learn a bit about one another, and strike up the closest thing to a friendship either has experienced in their adult life. Both in their early twenties, they have only the sense to take care of themselves–not anyone else. And, when Ludo is transferred off the ward, Aiden misses him–a feeling that plagues him upon his own release.

Aiden’s cooped up in his squalid bedsit (like a studio flat but smaller) drinking away his days and nights. He struggles to walk with his cane, even as his leg is healing. He might never be able to climb trees again, one of his his only pleasures in life. He’s a bit drunk, and hankering for some outdoors time, so he takes a walk into the nearby woods and there he runs into a man who resembles Ludo greatly–because Ludo is out walking the therapy dog he’s only just gotten. Turns out, they don’t live that far from one another, and Aiden’s inexplicably unwilling to let Ludo escape him again without a word.

Ludo was almost sure that his memories of Aiden were all imaginary. It wouldn’t be the first time his brain tricked him into grave misunderstandings, after all. His meds got switched around a bunch during his stay in hospital, and Ludo’s pretty sure Aiden was a really lucid fever dream, or something. Right? But seeing him in flesh-and-blood re-boots something in Ludo’s mind. Their first reconnection is tenuous, but they continue to see one another, cautiously exploring the other’s real world. Ludo makes Aiden home-cooked meals, eager to lavish him with care, while Aiden begins planting an herb garden for Ludo–so he’ll have fresh herbs to cook with. THey take walks and cuddle close, spending time with Ludo’s dog and the cat that ‘s adopts Aiden. Their closeness solidifies their attraction, and tiny steps toward physicality begin with a bit of kissing. Over time, Aiden heals enough for light duty work, and Ludo’s meds have his mood stabilized. This brings more issues, though, because Ludo’s so happy he’s not sure if he’s becoming dependent upon Aiden–and the more he feels regularly “happy” and “normal” the more he struggles to remember to take his meds.

Aiden wonders and worries when Ludo’s behavior becomes erratic. Is he doing something wrong that pushes Ludo away, or is Ludo struggling within his mind again? Could Ludo do himself harm? It’s happened before, Aiden thinks. Their connection is strong, now that they’ve been seeing one another for a couple of months, but can Aiden help Ludo find himself again, once the mania seems to set in?

This is a really sweet and tender story, with so many moments of just awesome human connection. I loved how Aiden came out from his shell–his life had been hard: his mom died when he was 6 and his dad was a drunk Aiden took care of more than the other way around. His dad kicked it a couple of years back from liver disease, and he’s been mainly on his own since a young age. To open up and embrace Ludo–who is sweet and charming and kind–is a big step for guarded Aiden, but it seems he’s fallen head over heels for Ludo. And, that’s important because Ludo needs someone who will love him steadily, especially when Ludo can’t remember to slow down and love himself.

The audiobook was really captivating. At just over 5.5 hours, the pace seemed right. The narrator, Dan Calley, was able to capture Aiden’s gruff tones and Ludo’s more melodic voice admirably. I could sense the pain and urgency in Aiden’s thoughts as well as the subtle confusion and blank expanse of Ludo’s musings in the recording. I’ve listened to it at least twice now, and I know I’ll listen again. This story is heavy on connection and light on sexytimes, but the romance is strong, and the moves both Aiden and Ludo make to be better men for their partner is all I could have hoped to find. Definitely recommend!

Interested? You can find KISS ME AGAIN on Goodreads, Amazon, Audible audiobook or iTunes audiobook.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.

Now Available! HAPPY PLACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance newly released from Jay Northcote. HAPPY PLACE is the fifth book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. I really enjoyed BETTER PLACE, and MUD & LACE, so I’m always eager for a new installment in this engaging series.

About the book:
A first kiss from a younger man leads to a sexual awakening…

George’s strict upbringing has left him ashamed of his sexuality. In his forties now, he’s yet to come out or even kiss a man – until he meets Quentin.

Quentin has had enough of bad relationships with men who won’t commit. Still raw from the last one, he’s not ready to try again. But George is sweet, and helping the older man get some experience might be a fun diversion.

Swept rapidly into a deeper connection than they bargained for, they face a dilemma. George isn’t ready to come out, and Quentin wants a boyfriend who isn’t afraid to be seen with him in public. Can they find a way to navigate the unpredictable waters of their new relationship and find happiness together?

Contains: Age gap, gay first times, sexual exploration, out for you.

My Review:
Quentin is a young out-gay reporter, who’s a little melancholy that he can’t find a steady bloke. He’d had a mini-crush on Seb, owner of Rainbow Place, the lone local gay-friendly hangout near his home in Porthladock, Cornwall. Alas, Seb–who is a bit older as Quentin likes older men–is happily coupled with another man. They has all met when Quentin did a peice of Rainbow Place, how it got trashed by homophobes prior to it’s opening, and how the community in Porthladock came together to help rebuild it before the business went under.

Quentin meets George, a local shipbuilder, while working on a piece about other local businesses. George is in his early 40s and fit as all get out, thanks to his spartan life and physical labor–absolute catnip for Quentin ordinarily. George is also closeted, and terribly awkward about his sexuality; he’d been raised in a strictly religious house, and married and fathered a daughter before his lack of attraction to his wife made his marriage fell apart. His wife could never entice him into romance, and gave up on reconciling–George, too ashamed to reveal his true sexuality kept it all a secret, and it’s eating him alive. Meeting young and sexy Quentin is a watershed moment for George, especially when Quentin mistakes George’s inability to meet his gaze as latent homophobia. Quentin himself had been frustrated to be attracted to a homophobe–and pleasantly surprised when George confesses that he’s not only gay, but that he’s never been with another man.

Their attraction is mutual, after this little blip, and Quentin even offers to help George explore his sexuality on the down-low and casual. It’s a bit of a problem, actually, the casual part because George has never really had a casual partner, he’s only ever had two sexual partners in his life, and Quentin is so young and shiny and hopeful. George is sure this is a bad idea. But, he needs physical affection badly, and he and Quentin have ignitable chemistry. They start out rather slow, but George’s desire for dominance–another shameful secret–soon asserts itself, and Quentin is happy to have such a butch older man give him what-for. At least, until their feelings become engaged. Because, yeah, Quentin still wants a true partner, and closeted George is not planning to come out.

Naturally, George senses the tension. He thinks it’s just that Quentin might get itchy feet–after all, George doesn’t see himself as much of a catch. Why should he come out and upset his whole life? Quentin will likely find a young, educated partner for himself before long and then George can go back to his solitary, celibate life, right? It takes George recognizing that his solitary, celibate life isn’t much of one–and that Quentin thinks he’s the bee’s knees and would happily give up all men forever if he could only spend every night in George’s bunk–to spur on the climax and resolution.

I loved how we got to see some characters from previous books in this one. Seb is a big confidant, helping both Quentin and George through their rough patches. There’s some really dirty sexytimes, and really sweet moments of tenderness so we get a full balance of hotness. The secondary characters in this story are mainly women, and they do a great deal to support both Quentin and George–most especially George as he comes out. I really enjoyed his reconciliation with his ex-wife, who is a dear lady and George has love for her, even if it isn’t sexual. I just really enjoy these “every man” stories, and each time I pick up one of these books I’m transported to southwest England in a way that makes me hunt down digital maps of the region and consider travel ideas.

Interested? You can find HAPPY PLACE on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Giving him WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS–Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

How about a taste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Or maybe not? Are you with someone?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You did?”

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

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

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

“Well, you found me, so talk.”

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

“I know, but you still—”

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

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

Slowly, he raised his head.

“You were saying…?” I prompted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal for WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS


Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a M/M contemporary romance from Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS features two old school friends reconnecting–and finding unexpected love amid a contentious lawsuit. The book drops 3/20.

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

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

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

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

Interested? You can pre-order WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS on Amazon.

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Battling a HEATED RIVALRY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M contemporary hockey romance from Rachel Reid. HEATED RIVALRY is the second book in her Game Changers series, which features two rival hockey players finding love with each other. All the books in the Game Changers series are standalone romances. Check out my reviews for book one, GAME CHANGER, or book three, TOUGH GUY, which I highly recommend.

About the book:
Nothing interferes with Shane Hollander’s game—definitely not the sexy rival he loves to hate.

Pro hockey star Shane Hollander isn’t just crazy talented, he’s got a spotless reputation. Hockey is his life. Now that he’s captain of the Montreal Voyageurs, he won’t let anything jeopardize that, especially the sexy Russian whose hard body keeps him awake at night.

Boston Bears captain Ilya Rozanov is everything Shane’s not. The self-proclaimed king of the ice, he’s as cocky as he is talented. No one can beat him—except Shane. They’ve made a career on their legendary rivalry, but when the skates come off, the heat between them is undeniable. When Ilya realizes he wants more than a few secret hookups, he knows he must walk away. The risk is too great.

As their attraction intensifies, they struggle to keep their relationship out of the public eye. If the truth comes out, it could ruin them both. But when their need for each other rivals their ambition on the ice, secrecy is no longer an option…

My Review:
Russian Ilya Rozanov and Canadian Shane Hollander are star hockey players who meet the first time as teenagers at the Junior World Championships. They are both team captains, and Shane’s disappointed his team loses to the cocky Russian. And, he’s not best pleased to go second behind Ilya in the NHL draft a couple of years later. They play for rival teams, but Shane has more endorsements and acclaim due to his boy-next-door looks and charming personality. Ilya thrives on conflict, and he’s got a penchant for low and dirty cutdowns.

Over these years, Ilya and Shane come into closer and closer contact, and there’s a current of attraction that they do not understand, but they do not resist either; Ilya is bisexual and Shane is gay–both are closeted. And, when they come together it’s incendiary. And confusing. Ilya tends to like dominance games, and Shane’s deep need to release tension favors a submissive role in the bedroom.

Their on-ice rivalry leads to explosive sexytimes–but over the years they begin to talk more than simply hook up, and Ilya and Shane develop a secret camaraderie that they cannot reveal–so many of their teams’ promotional activities center on their intense rivalry and competitiveness. Even if Ilya and Shane wanted to come out, they don’t feel they are able to do so and begin a public relationship with one another. Not yet, but they are making plans that will enable them to have a private life and share their growing deep love for one another without making headlines.

This was a really interesting and surprisingly tender love story for two very different men. Ilya suffers the scars of losing his beloved mother to depression/suicide, and growing up without affection from his dysfunctional family. Shane has bee well-loved by his parents, who might understand his sexuality, but he doesn’t want it to define him–or the direction of his career. There are glimmers of the first book, especially the scene where their fellow hockey player comes out to applause, which puts a new perspective on how they could live their own lives. I liked how that dove-tailed and enabled these guys to make choices that would support, versus alienate, them. It’s probably the most fraught of the three books in this series, but ends on a hopeful note.

Interested? You can find HEATED RIVALRY on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Rachel Reid is the pen name of Rachelle Goguen. She chose it because it is much easier to say, spell and remember than Rachelle Goguen!

Rachel writes cute, romantic smut, mostly about hockey players.
Rachelle co-hosts a comic book podcast called Living Between Wednesdays.

Rachel/Rachelle lives in Nova Scotia, Canada. She has always lived there, and it’s looking like she probably always will. She has two boring degrees and two interesting kids.

The first two books in her Game Changers m/m hockey romance series, Game Changer and Heated Rivalry, are both available now from Carina Press. Book three is coming soon!

You can catch up with Ms. Reid on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Are you a hockey fan? I am honestly not, because all my winter sports effort goes into wrestling–which my kids do and my hubs coaches. Still, I’ve been reading hockey romance for years now, and have more book reviews coming in that sub-genre over the next month or so. Feel free to share some of your fave hockey romance titles in the comments.

In the meantime, thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!