Coming Soon: FOUND

Hi there! I’m sharing a teaser for a new contemporary romance coming out Feb 1st from Claudia Burgoa. FOUND sounds like a second (or third) chance for a down-on-her-love gal starting over in Frisco.

About the book:
All I’ve ever wanted was for someone to choose me. My mother didn’t. My father didn’t. The beautiful boy next door, who grew up to marry me, didn’t. Neither did the next man with whom I thought my heart was safe.

Back in the Bay area, three thousand miles from New York City, I can start fresh. Become one with the sea again, rise or fall on the tide of my own choices. But on the first day of my bright new life, the darkest shadows of my past follow me through my office door. The two men whose names are definitely not on my five-year plan.

If I let it consume me—my need for one man, my love for the other—the darkness will swallow me whole. I can’t let that happen. Not again. This time, the waves of emotion crashing against my heart won’t drown me. This time, I get to choose my happy ending.

Interested? You can find FOUND on Goodreads, and pre-order for only $.99 on iBooks and Kobo!

About the Author:
Claudia is an award-winning, international bestselling author. She lives in Colorado working for a small IT company, managing her household filled with three confused dogs, two daughters wrought with fandoms and a son who thinks he’s the boss of the house. And a wonderful husband who shares her love for all things geek. To survive she works continually to find purpose for the voices flitting through her head, plus she consumes high quantities of chocolate to keep the last threads of sanity intact.

Catch up with Claudia on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or sign up for her newsletter for updates!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Coming Out Soon DOWN BY CONTACT-A Review

Hi there! Continuing my Sports Week theme I’m sharing a pre-release review of a steamy new contemporary M/M romance from Santino Hassell. DOWN BY CONTACT is the second book in his The Barons series and features a quarterback making contact with a former teammate-turned-hater. It’s a standalone, though it features return characters from ILLEGAL CONTACT, the first book in the series. I’ve loved the gritty romances I’ve read by Mr. Hassell, including SUNSET PARK, INTERBOROUGH and CITYWIDE. DOWN BY CONTACT releases Jan 16th, and preorder links are below.

About the book:
Two rival football players begin a game with higher stakes than the Super Bowl in this steamy romance from the author of Illegal Contact.
Simeon Boudreaux, the New York Barons’ golden-armed quarterback, is blessed with irresistible New Orleans charm and a face to melt your mama’s heart. He’s universally adored by fans and the media. Coming out as gay in solidarity with his teammate hasn’t harmed his reputation in the least—except for some social media taunting from rival linebacker Adrián Bravo.

Though they were once teammates, Adrián views Simeon as a traitor and the number-one name on the New Jersey Predators’ shit list. When animosity between the two NFL players reaches a boiling point on the field, culminating in a dirty fist fight, they’re both benched for six games and sentenced to joint community service teaching sullen, Brooklyn teens how to play ball.

At first, they can barely stand to be in the same room, but running the camp forces them to shape up. With no choice but to work together, Simeon realizes Adrián is more than his alpha-jerk persona, and Adrián begins to question why he’s always had such strong feelings for the gorgeous QB…

My Review:
Simeon Boudreaux and Adrián Bravo were teammates and friends on the Predators for a short stretch a few years back, but Simeon got cut, and picked up by the Barons. Adrián blames the Baron’s success against his Predators on Simeon knowing their playbook, but deep inside he’s really angry that he lost his friend. And, he’s using that anger to fuel some anti-gay slurs he makes once Simeon comes out. Adrián’s Predators are all about toxic machismo, and homophobia; Simeon’s glad he left that behind and found a team where he could be himself–and support a fellow out player. He lives his truth and loves his life.

Of course, he’s not happy with Adrián’s trash talk, or with Adrián’s late hit that lands him on the disabled list for eight weeks. Adrián’s suspended, and their PR teams work out a deal to get both players some positive press: have them use their time off to volunteer at a LGBTQ kids outreach center running the sports recreation. Neither Simeon nor Adrián is wild about this arrangement, and the tension is rough. They have outbursts and power trips, and cause more fuss than help. And, somewhere in the hurt they generate, a kernel of desire is born. As neither man is dating anyone, the taunts they let fly turns the tension up to eleven. Adrián is especially struggling with the recognition that Simeon is such a great guy, and soon he’s also seeing his former adversary as a desirable man.

Not that Adrián can act on his impulses. His old school folks would never accept him coming out as bisexual, nor would he find the Predators to be welcoming. But, Simeon is patient even with all the hate sex Adrián is offering. He definitely likes turning Adrián inside-out; his main mission is to turn Adrián into an ally, even if he’s undercover. The press gets wind of their developing relationship, when one of the kids leaks an incriminating photo, and Simeon tries to shield Adrián from the fall-out, but Adrián wants to write his own story. Especially if it includes Simeon.

I always love the gritty, filthy talking, hot-and-dirty sexytimes Mr. Hassell writes. There’s no shortage of those moments here, and the sweet way Adrián comes around to accepting his sexuality is a bonus. I love the urbanity of the writing, and the ethnic dialect and experiences. Both Simeon and Adrián are men of color and they feel culturally authentic and interesting. I liked the football setting, though there are lots of off-the-field scenes, as both players are sidelined temporarily. The banter between Simeon and Adrián is amusing, and filled with athletic trash talk, amidst the flirtatious challenges. Their physical relationship begins with little more than a dare, but it grows more tender the longer they go at each other. Adrián’s fledgling steps into sex with Simeon are a revelation he didn’t expect to find, but the companionship they share fills a void neither man anticipated. It’s unexpectedly sweet. And, the end leaves the reader wondering if the league’s biggest homophobe, Adrián’s friend and teammate, Rocky Swoops, might be protesting just a bit too much. Looking forward to the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find DOWN BY CONTACT on Goodreads, and pre-order it before it’s Jan 16th release on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

You can find Santino online on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

The Thrills Continue FIVE DARES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. FIVE DARES is not a sports romance, per se, but the two main characters are athletes and daredevils, and their predicament makes them nearly acrobatic in the bedroom. I have loved all the Eli Easton books I’ve read, including MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES, her HOWL AT MOON books and most recently DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA. FIVE DARES is another new adult romance, this time between two best friends who secretly love each other, but have to go through hell to connect physically.

About the book:
Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

My Review:
Andy and Jake have been best friends for a decade or more. They grew up together in the Boston area, went to school together and have been roommates for four years now at NYU, from which they’ve just graduated. As kids and adults, Jake has had a secret crush on Andy, the wild and charismatic son of an esteemed lawyer and a financial planner. Andy has a penchant for planning outrageous dares that Jake has been a part of as well, either as the front man egging him on and ginning up the crowd (at Andy’s behest) or as a co-participant. Jake gets a thrill out of being Andy’s closest confidant, but he’s wanted more for a long time now. Jake’s anxious to move to the west coast, knowing that he’ll leave Andy behind, so that he can maybe get the space he needs to find a boyfriend who can love him, unlike Andy who he believes is happily heterosexual.

Andy plans a spectacular dare for a big graduation party–and for once it goes horribly wrong. Andy and Jake end up with second degree burns on their palms, and Jake’s unable to leave for his new job; they both need eight weeks of rest to allow their skin to heal. Andy’s father is frustrated that Andy pulled another stunt, one that sabotaged his summer internship before he starts Harvard Law school in the fall, but Andy’s somewhat thrilled. He gets his father to let him and Jake their family cabin on Cape Cod in which to recuperate. They have daily nurse visits, and the cabin caretaker’s willing to make some meals for them while they both remain bandaged and a bit surly through recovery. Andy didn’t want to see his best friend leave, and this affords them a chance to have some uninterrupted time together before the next phase of their lives begins. Andy’s known that Jake is bisexual, at the very least, for more than a year, and he doesn’t understand why Jake never told him. Doesn’t Jake trust him? Doesn’t Jake want him? Should Andy want Jake to want him? It’s a hornet’s nest of jealousy, in Andy’s mind.

As the days and weeks pass and the boredom sets in, Andy comes up with a new dare, one that will scratch his itch for Jake’s undivided attention: that they combine forces to get each other off. They have no other sexual outlet, and can’t use their own hands to do the deed, not with all the bandages in the way, but some careful positioning might just allow for physical release. Jake’s not down with it, though, because he’s already too in love with Andy, and doesn’t want his heart smashed just for some experimental fling. The thing is, Jake’s been well-trained to go along with Andy’s dares, and this time he’s going to get more than a rush out of it. They only have a handful of weeks left together. And they make the most of it…until the next dare: falling head over heels in love.

This is such a sweet friends-to-lovers story. They history is carefully added in a series of vignette flashbacks that really demonstrate the bond between Andy and Jake, a bond Andy didn’t recognize was love until he’d almost lost Jake, and himself, in his new and lonely future. Andy’s father is a stern taskmaster and Andy can’t see veering of the path they outlined years ago, when Andy was still just a teen. But he’s not happy, and he misses Jake terribly. Their summer of love ended too soon, and his heart can’t take the thought that Jake will move on without him. Andy hadn’t considered himself bisexual, at all, until their summer together, but he’s miserable when Jake moves on to his new job. Jake isn’t doing much better, even though he likes his job and reconnecting with his sister, with whom he now lives. That said, he’s moping over the separation, and had to cut all contact with Jake in order to heal his busted heart. Naturally another dare brings them back together–not a good one, actually, but the more they chat the more Andy recognizes the reason for all his dares, stemming for the very first one, was gaining Jake’s attention and admiration. From then it’s just some career-plan gymnastics to reunite this couple for real.

There’s so much tenderness on the page, and some really steamy bits, too. We get both Andy and Jake’s point of view, so we can see all the internal anguish they manage as their relationship morphs. It was cool how Andy reached out to his mom for help, and advice, and how their conversation allowed Andy to re-evaluate his life goals and tailor them to his current dreams. He’s always been super athletic, and the branch of law he’d initially chosen wasn’t suitable to his outgoing and active personality. Plus, what’s the point of playing it safe all the time? For a dare-master like Andy it’s go big, or go home. And he’s never just gone home. It’s probably why he and Jake fit so well; their mutual love of the thrills in life. It’s a happy ending all around.

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

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

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

THanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Double Trouble and BLEU BALLS–Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

How about a little taste?

“Hey, gorgeous, want to dance?”

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

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

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

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

“Bobby.”

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

“Yes, how did you know?”

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

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

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

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

“We?”

“Me and my brother. We paint together.”

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

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

Robin waved back.

Aaron said, “But you two are identical.”

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

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

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

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

Bobby frowned. “Was I supposed to?”

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

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

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

Gotta Make the RELAY–Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Tense Attraction OFF THE ICE–A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

End of the Road? NEW HAND Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.