Making That Connection BETTER THAN PEOPLE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Roan Parrish. BETTER THAN PEOPLE features a temporary invalid with a pack of rescue animals and the deeply introverted man whose assistance with cat feeding and dog walking melts his icy heart. Previous books I’ve enjoyed from this author include RIVEN and REND and RAZE, all rock romances, so they were very different to this sweet and tender story.

About the book:
It’s not long before their pet-centric arrangement sparks a person-centric desire…

Simon Burke has always preferred animals to people. When the countdown to adopting his own dog is unexpectedly put on hold, Simon turns to the PetShare app to find the fluffy TLC he’s been missing. Meeting a grumpy children’s book illustrator who needs a dog walker isn’t easy for the man whose persistent anxiety has colored his whole life, but Jack Matheson’s menagerie is just what Simon needs.

Four dogs, three cats and counting. Jack’s pack of rescue pets is the only company he needs. But when a bad fall leaves him with a broken leg, Jack is forced to admit he needs help. That the help comes in the form of the most beautiful man he’s ever seen is a complicated, glorious surprise.

Being with Jack—talking, walking, making out—is a game changer for Simon. And Simon’s company certainly eases the pain of recovery for Jack. But making a real relationship work once Jack’s cast comes off will mean compromise, understanding, and lots of love.

My Review:
Jack Matheson is an introverted illustrator of children’s books. He lives alone with his pack of rescued animals–dogs and cats alike, near his older brother Charlie in rural Wyoming. Jack met a man in college, a Davis, who became a friend. Knowing Jack was a good artist, Davis asked him to illustrate a school project, then a story to celebrate his sister’s baby. And, that developed into a partnership after college. Unfortunately, Davis took Jack’s idea for a story and shopped it as his own, and Jack’s been in a depression- and rage-fueled block that has robbed him of his lifelong passion of art for almost the past year.

One night Jack’s out walking his dog pack when skittish shenanigans leave Jack in the bottom of a ditch with a badly broken leg. He can’t manage his animals’ care while in a cast on crutches, so Jack seeks help via an app called PetShare, and that’s when Jack’s life starts to turn around.

Simon Burke is beautiful. Like an angel almost in Jack’s opinion. But Simon has troubles with his intense shyness. A single man, he lives as a companion to his recently widowed grandma, and owns his own graphic design business. When he agrees to assist Jack in the care of his cats and dogs, Simon is almost unable to even knock at Jack’s door he’s so scared. But the animals love Simon. And Simon finds that he is able to talk to them as surrogates for people. Simon finds Jack to be utterly sexy, not that he’s able to say so. Yet, the needs of the animals put Jack and Simon into close proximity twice daily, and with exposure comes bravery, on Simon’s part—and Jack seems to find him a muse worth sketching. Their conversation is a battle, almost, to see if they can find common ground enough to confess their attraction, and Jack makes a key choice to have Simon text him when he’s too overwhelmed to speak, even if they are sitting side by side on Jack’s couch.

The close they become, the more intense Simon’s shyness—because Jack’s healing and he soon won’t need Simon around. And why would such a sexy man want a shy, recluse of a partner anyway?

This really is a special story with two men who’ve been emotionally wounded by some of the people who should have most cared for them. Jack’s relationship with Charlie is so key, He really loves his elder brother who became his guardian when their parents died. And as close as they are, it takes this big setback for Jack to challenge himself to get to know Charlie, who has become a rather solitary man. Was that because of his duties to his brother? And how can Jack show Simon how much he loves him, if Simon wants to shut him out to protect his fragile heart.

They are some very yummy sexy times, as Jack teaches Simon all he can about pleasing a partner. I really loved both Jack and Simon, and all their crazy fur-babies. They had such cute personalities, especially Pirate the cat who thinks she’s the leader of the dogs. I think she may have inspired sweet Simon to stretch himself into social situations he was barely able to manage. I loved how both Simon and Jack grew in this story. Jack learned to trust both himself and others again, and he also stretched himself both personally and professionally in very new ways. And, Simon gets way more than his first kiss from Jack, who truly loves him properly. It’s delightful and endearing. Highly recommend!

Interested? You can find BETTER THAN PEOPLE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

You can find Roan online on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

New Beginnings in TRADE DEADLINE–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary hockey romance from the writing team of Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. TRADE DEADLINE featuers a veteran hockey player whose tranfer to a failing team doesn’t bring the professional results he was looking for, but does reconnect him to his childhood love. I really enjoyed PERMANENT INK and OFF THE ICE by this team and I wasn’t let down with this new story.

About the book:
It’s a reunion to remember…

Daniel “Bellzie” Bellamy should be on top of the world—a Stanley Cup is the perfect topper to his fourteen-year NHL career. But despite the post-win high, something’s missing. When the chance to play for his hometown team, the Miami Thunder, comes along, he’s open to it. And when he runs into an old friend from his past soon after he makes the move, he wonders if it might be kismet.

Micah Kelly never thought he’d see his childhood crush—and first kiss—again. Danny Bellamy moved on to bigger and better things when they were teenagers, and the idea that Micah’s relationship with the professional hockey player could be anything more than one-sided Instagram thirst seems too good to be true.

Maybe too good to be true is the new reality, though. As the season goes on, Micah teaches Daniel to surf, and Daniel introduces Micah to his lovable pack of rescue dogs and the world of being a hockey boyfriend. Life is good. But when things on the ice don’t go as planned, they’ll have to decide if their rediscovered romance is built to last.

My Review:
Daniel Bellamy is the captain of the Stanley Cup winning Atlanta Venom, and he’s evaluating his life and career goals. Though he’s satisfied, he’s not sure that he’s truly happy. He’s in his mid 30s, recently amicably divorced, and feeling a bit unsettled–especially as he’s really beginning to embrace his bisexual side. He has two young kids, and his ex-wife is beautiful and lovely, but really she’s his best friend after all these years together.

Daniel is presented with an opportunity to move from the Venom to his childhood hometown of Miami, to play for the Thunder, a perennial cellar-dwelling team. For Daniel, it would bring him close to his retired parents, and allow him to share his experience on a top team with guys who are struggling to make it to the playoffs. His ex is willing to relocate her home, too, so they can continue to co-parent their kids. She likes the idea of having the grandparents nearby, and they all dote on Daniel’s rescued dogs–of which there are many.

So, they all make the move. And…Daniel’s new team is a challenge. There are interpersonal issues with his new captain–who thinks Daniel is there to take over the team. The stands are either empty or filled with fans of the opposing team, and the coaching staff seems to be on autopilot. In short, Daniel is having the worst season of hockey ever–even if his personal stats aren’t horrible. One bright spot, however, is the reconnection he makes with his childhood best friend, Micah Kelly. Daniel had a fierce crush on Micah as a teen, but he moved to Chicago to play juniors hockey, and he’s not been back too often since. They lost touch, and Micah blamed himself for taking a chance and kissing Daniel just before he left.

Micah is gay, and was disowned by his parents in high school when he was outed. He worked hard to complete high school while couch surfing, and paid his way through both college and grad school to become a marine biologist. He currently manages a refuge and rescue aquarium where sea animals injured in the wild get brought for treatment and rehabilitation, or permanent care if they can’t be safely returned to the wild. Micah has struggled to find a steady relationship, because he works long hours and his partners weren’t always respectful of that. And, he’s kinda always had a residual crush on Daniel, who he’s been able to keep tabs on via social media. Their reconnection was a bit of kismet–Daniel seeing him in the nearly empty stands of a game–and their friendship picks up easily. Almost too easily.

Micah has abandonment issues–because of his family abandoning him. He doesn’t want to get too close to Daniel, only to have him get traded, or worse: return to his family. It takes a bit of convincing, actually for Micah to take Daniel’s interest and attraction seriously. Daniel is not a player, in the sexual sense. He craves stability and a long-standing love. He will always love his ex-wife, they both agree it will only be platonic. And, the career move may be a reality–with the Thunder still having chemistry and play issues, they might trade Daniel to another team for financial or player considerations. So, while Daniel’s personal life seems to be soaring, his professional life is a hard slog. The one saving grace there is an entry into pee-wee hockey, which his 5 y/o daughter seems to love. And, the juniors team is really hoping to meet Daniel and gain insight into getting into hockey as a career.

This is a really sweet reconnection romance for Daniel and Micah. They have insecurities and vulnerabilities, and they do the hard work of discussing them, once their fling shapes up to be something quite more permanent. I loved watching this blended family share experiences and holidays together. Micah really fits Daniel’s life and friend spheres, as well. Daniel’s decision-making, as the trade deadline approaches, is the main focus of the conflict, but Micah has a big decision t make, too. Will he be happy having Daniel in his life even part-time, if a trade takes him far from their home in Miami? There’s a lot of good people in this story, and some yummy sexytimes, as Micah shares his own expertise in the art of loving a man. I enjoyed this story, and couldn’t stop turning the pages, thoroughly charmed by the low angst and total sweetness of these men falling in love. The epilogue is as delicious an HEA as I’ve recently read.

If you like hockey romance, this might be a good pick for you.

Interested? You can find TRADE DEADLINE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Authors:
Avon Gale lives in a liberal Midwestern college town, where she spends her days getting heavily invested in everything from craft projects to video games. She likes road trips by car, rock concerts, thunderstorms, IPAs, Kentucky bourbon and tattoos. As a queer author, Avon is committed to providing happy endings for all and loves to tell stories that focus on found families, strong and open communication, and friendship. She loves writing about quirky people who might not be perfect, but always find a place where they belong. In her former life, Avon wrote fanfiction at her desk while ostensibly doing work in non-profit fundraising for public radio and women’s liberal arts education, and worked on her books in between haircuts and highlights as a stylist. Now she’s a full-time writer, delighted to be able to tell stories for a living.

Avon is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

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

Piper Vaughn is a queer Latinx author and longtime romance reader. Since writing their first love story at age eleven, they’ve known writing in some form was exactly what they wanted to do. A reader to the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book.

Piper grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Chicago and loves putting faces and characters of every ethnicity in their stories, making their fictional worlds as colorful as the real one. Above all, Piper believes there’s no one way to have an HEA, and every person deserves to see themselves reflected on the page.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Necessary Upheaval for THE ASSISTANT–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from John Tristan. THE ASSISTANT features a down-on-his-luck veteran of Hawaiian descent making life simultaneously more comfortable and more difficult for his new boss, a wealthy trans-man with fibromyalgia.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Burned out ex-soldier Nick Kurosawa has drifted from job to job since he lost his family in a car crash. Lately, he’s been working on and off as a bouncer, barely managing to cover his bills; an opportunity for steady, well-paying work is just what he needs to get his life back in order.

Jacob Umber, a secretive philanthropist, gives him that opportunity. Umber has fibromyalgia and needs a personal assistant to help him with the tasks of daily living—someone strong, adaptable, and, most of all, willing to let Umber take the lead.

It seems a perfect opportunity for Nick. More than anything, he craves guidance and a purpose, and Umber gives him that in spades. When Nick starts craving more, it seems an impossible complication, but even the reserved Umber can’t deny Nick’s talent—and need—for following his orders. But Umber’s shadowy past holds secrets that could undo their fragile new relationship and any hope Nick has of a normal life.

How about a little taste?

It was a clear autumn night, with the moon low and yellow above the city. Between its fullness and the lights, only a few stars could be made out, pinpoints in the raw black silk of the night. Nick stood with his fists balled above the man breathing hard in the gutter. A trickle of spilled beer ran into his hair, foaming like shampoo. He smelled sour, of sweat and fear.

“Jesus, man!” The man’s companion—a skinny young guy with a circular Band-Aid over one eye, like a discount pirate—crouched beside him. “Somebody call an ambulance! Call the cops!”

“By all means,” Nick said. He forced himself to take a step back, unclench his fists. “Let’s call the cops and tell them the whole story.”

Discount Pirate slit his eye at him and helped his companion to his feet. The man was dazed but seemed unhurt. Still—he could easily have a concussion.

Nick hesitated. “Maybe we should call an ambulance—”

“Forget it,” the man said thickly and spat into the gutter. In the neon and moonlight, the blood in his mouth looked black. His eyes met Nick’s, and this was the worst part: they understood each other perfectly. He’d wanted to start a fight, and Nick had taken the bait. Another night, it would have fallen out differently.

“Let’s get out of here,” Discount Pirate said, putting a proprietary arm around his companion’s waist and dragging him off into the darkness.

Nick let out a shaky breath. The street was empty, now; if he was lucky, this wouldn’t get back to Merritt, who owned the Hellhole. He hadn’t hired Nick to start fights but to stop them as gently as possible—de-escalation, not macho bullshit. The Hellhole was the only gay bar in Westerley, which meant it drew both the occasional snickering asshole and its share of ex-boyfriend drama. Merrick wouldn’t thank him for bad publicity.

“Jesus, Nick.”

Fuck. This was the last thing he needed. He turned toward the familiar voice. “Hey, Alex.”

Alexander Finn—his friend, once-upon-a-time fuck-buddy, and self-appointed social worker—had come up out of the Hellhole at just the wrong time. Sweat was still beaded on his pale forehead, cooling rapidly in the night air. “What happened?”

“Didn’t know you were down here tonight,” Nick said, affecting a breezy tone. “Must have been here before my shift started.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “I know you’re not jealous, so you’re trying to deflect. What happened?” He took out his cigarette case—silver, engraved—and popped one into his bow-lipped mouth, then offered one to Nick.

He reached for it, then hesitated. “Haven’t smoked in months.”

Alex gave him a skeptical look. “Come on.”

“Vaping doesn’t count.”

He laughed softly. “I’ll give you that one.” He snapped the case closed and tucked it away. “Talk.”

“I don’t know.” Nick ran his hands through his hair. “The guy just. Got under my skin. It’s like he knew how to push my buttons.”

“You’re not supposed to have buttons while you’re on the door.”

“Fuck you. Give me a cigarette.”

He did; they smoked together in the neon-lit dark.

“This job…” Alex chewed on his thoughts for a moment. “It’s not good for you. This isn’t the first time you’ve let someone…push your buttons.”

Alex was right—he’d never let himself take it this far before, but there were more than a few times over the last few weeks when a sneer or a snicker or a muttered insult had gotten under his skin and launched him right in someone’s face, teeth bared, eyes glittering. His fuse frayed shorter every week he was out here. He took a long, slow draw from the cigarette and laughed bitterly. “Well. I still need the rent paid.”

“How long until your shift is over?”

Nick grinned sideways at Alex. “Why, you want to take me home?”

He sighed and shook his head, but it had raised a smile. “Just think you could do with a good night’s sleep. After that…” Alex hesitated a moment. “Can you take the next few days off?”

“I’m not back on shift until Monday evening.”

Alex nodded and took a card out of his pocket—his business card, Nick recognized—and then fished out a pen. “Turn around,” he said.

Nick did. Alex leaned on him, using his back as a desk to write on. He could feel the scratch of the pen through his shirt.

When Alex was done, he handed him the card. Nick frowned at it. There was an address on it, a place in the financial district, and a name: Jacob Umber. “What’s this?”

“Someone—someone I know is looking to hire. I thought…well, you already have a job, and I had someone else lined up, but—”

“You always have someone lined up for something, don’t you?” There was a slight edge of bitterness to Nick’s words. Alex networked—he always had a side hustle lined up for someone, for the washouts and burnouts, the ex-cops and ex-military, the bikers and drifters he seemed to draw into his orbit. His type: like Nick. “Is this meant to be charity? Because you can pass it on to one of your other tricks. I don’t need it.”

“Call it what you will. And you’re not a trick, Nicholas.” Alex leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, chastely. “You’re my friend.”

Nick swallowed a sudden lump in his throat and stuffed the card in the back pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, all right, fine. There’s no number on the card—am I meant to just show up?”

“I wrote hours on there,” Alex said. “Nine to three. Weekdays.”

“Right.”

“Nick…” He seemed to be struggling with his words. “This isn’t a guaranteed job. I can get you a way in, but you’ll have to impress.”

“Come on, Alex.” Nick flashed a smile. “Don’t you think I can pull out the stops when I need to?”

He laughed and shook his head. “I know you can. Good luck, Nick.”

“Thanks. No, really…thank you.”

He nodded and left him on the empty street. Nick took his vape out of his pocket and sucked down a nicotine cloud; he noticed his hands were shaking. There was a subtle ache in his knuckles, where they’d collided with the man’s cheekbone. He felt a tiredness deeper than exhaustion, something like lead in his bones, and on top of that, a thin hot skin of queasy arousal. He didn’t know if he wanted to sleep for a year or get fucked up against the wall of the nearest alley. Well, he told himself, right now it’s going to be neither. He smoked until his hands stopped shaking and then waited for the sky to lighten—for his shift to be over—so he could go home.

My Review:
Nick Kurosawa is a former army man, trying to maintain his cool despite his inner trauma. He still suffers the loss of his family, even though it’s been several years. He is working as a bouncer at a gay bar, and is bored to tears–and also struggling to make sure he doesn’t get too physical with the troublemakers he encounters.

Nick’s friend and some-time sexual partner Alex recommends making contact with Mr. Jacob Umber, a wealthy curiosity shop owner who needs a personal assistant. Mr. Umber is older, but not elderly. Fastidious and formal, it’s the fibromyalgia that’s slowing this feisty transman down. Nick, who hasn’t had any real spark with a sexual partner in a while, is slowly finding an inordinate attraction to Mr. Umber’s commanding nature and uncanny sense of knowing. It’s clear early on that Mr. Umber has secrets buried in his past, and astute Nick isn’t even surprised when an FBI agent comes a-knocking.

The mystery of Mr. Umber is tantalizing, and his commanding presence moves easily from the workspace to the bedroom–once these lonely men find their way through some difficult but frank discussions. Nick is reticent to ask for his needs to be met, and Jacob needs to pry these stipulations from Nick before he will engage. Their affair might be short-lived, however, if the FBI won’t back down.

This story is quiet, yet enthralling. It had the hallmarks of a good suspense thriller, without all the gore. I really enjoyed how things unfolded, with Nick being the faithful attendant and Jacob his one true connection to fading humanity, for a bit. There is some conflict, naturally, but it is the kind that really pushes the MC–Nick–to grow in new and exciting ways. It was good to see Nick’s life change for the better when he learns to live without the hangups of depression by seeking proper treatment for perhaps the first time in his life. Though he’s unsettled by the situation with Jacob, he’s one hundred percent invested in sticking by his man. The end has a nice little twist, and it’s a definite HEA situation, but again in a quiet way. There are some sexytimes in the story but they are mild and mostly more about the domination that Nick craves than hot and heavy moments.

Interested? You can find THE ASSISTANT on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
John Tristan is a multinational gay nerd, currently living in Manchester, UK. When he’s not writing, he works in the voluntary sector; when he’s not doing either, he’s probably playing video games or tabletop RPGs. After his mother banned books at the table during mealtimes, he read the backs of sauce bottles. His stories are sometimes romantic, sometimes erotic, often speculative, and always queer.

You can catch up with John on his website and twitter.

Rebuilding Lives ON THE SQUARE–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a F/F contemporary romance from Brenda Murphy. ON THE SQUARE features single mom who’s been burned by lovers in the past trying hard to not fall for her newest contracting client…the single, superstar chef sleeping in her basement.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

How about a little taste?

Dale filled her coffee thermos. The scent of the dark brew had her wanting to linger over another cup. She tightened the lid. “You riding the bus today?”

“Nah, Chip’s coming to pick me up. We have a cross-country team meeting.” Noah slid the omelet he was cooking onto the plate. “You sure you don’t have time? You can have this one, Mom. I’ll cook another for me.” His round face and solemn dark-brown eyes were fixed on her face. He lifted the plate and waved it in her direction.

Delicately browned, perfectly cooked. The aroma of melted cheddar cheese and butter filled the small kitchen. The omelet tempted Dale even more than the coffee had. She sighed and cursed herself for agreeing to an early morning appointment for an estimate. Dale grimaced. Cowed by the insistence of the woman who called for the estimate, her oldest, Seth, had made the appointment outside of business hours. Afraid to turn down work. Knows we need the money. If it works out.

Dale tucked two peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches into her cooler, wrapped an apple in a napkin, and placed three battered and scruffy water bottles around the sides, spacing them evenly. She shut the lid and bungeed the ancient metal relic of a cooler shut. Please let it work out.

“What, Mom?”

The concern in Noah’s voice drew Dale from her thoughts. “Nothing. I wish your brother would’ve talked to me before he scheduled this. I hate to talk to people before I’ve had my coffee. And who the hell needs to meet at six in the morning for an estimate?” She peered out of the window at the sky, barely pink.

“Someone in a hurry? Like maybe you should be. Or you’re gonna be late.” Noah smirked as he shoved aside stacks of paper and clutter before he placed his plate on the table. He pulled a chair out, sat down, and flipped his napkin out with a flourish.

“Damn.” Dale took two steps over to Noah and mashed a quick kiss to his forehead. “Don’t forget to tell Thomas to pick up Grandad’s prescription and have a good day at school.”

Noah scrubbed his hand over his mouth. “I will.”

Dale snatched her thermos and her lunch cooler off the counter as she bolted for the door.

*

The large black pickup truck roared into the parking lot, kicking up a fine spray of dust and small gravel. Mai ended the call she had been ready to make to cancel the estimate appointment and shoved her phone back into her pocket. She frowned as a layer of gray dust settled over her polished black wingtips. Tinted windows prevented her from seeing inside the truck. With a snap of her wrist she straightened her collar, leaned back against her car, and crossed her arms over her chest. She tapped her foot and pursed her lips as she contemplated how much she was going to enjoy telling the yahoo in the truck what she thought of their driving skills. A warm-up for what she was preparing to tell the contractor who didn’t think her time was valuable. She didn’t do business with people who were not punctual. This town has not changed a bit. Still on country time. She snorted thinking about the ridiculous lengths she had to go to get the idiot on the phone to agree to a timely appointment.

The scuff of boots on gravel on the opposite side of the truck made her look up.

“Sorry I’m late.” A tall woman in faded jeans and work boots rounded the front of the truck. A thick tan work belt with a multitool pouch clipped to it held her jeans up over her curvy hips. She tucked a metal clipboard under her arm and stuck her hand out to shake.

“Who are you?” Mai didn’t take the woman’s hand. “I had an appointment with a general contractor for an estimate. Dale Miller?”

“That’s me.” A flash of irritation flew across Dale’s face as she withdrew her hand and stuck it into her rear pocket.

“You’re late.” Mai studied the unapologetic woman in front of her. Thick honey-blonde hair streaked with gray brushed her shoulders. A head taller than Mai, she had broad shoulders and a trim waist. Her pale-blue undershirt set off her golden-brown eyes. The sleeves of her flannel overshirt were rolled back and displayed well-muscled forearms.

Dale rocked back on her heels and glanced skyward before bringing her gaze back to Mai’s face. “I am. And I apologized. This is outside of our normal hours for estimates.”

“And I wasn’t…”

Dale cut her off. “And you weren’t expecting a woman.” She swept her hand through her hair. “You know what. I’m not certain I’m the best person for this job.” She turned on her heel and walked away from Mai, head high and shoulders rigid.

“Wait.”

Dale turned and rested her hand on the hood of the truck. “Why? You’ve made your mind up. I’m not going to waste my time. Or yours. Good luck with your project.”

Mai looked down at her shoes before returning her gaze to Dale’s face. “That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Right.” Dale arched an eyebrow. “I’ve been in this business too long to be scolded for being late. I don’t schedule appointments this early because I don’t like talking to anyone at this unholy hour.”

Mai laughed. “How have you stayed in business?”

Dale walked back over and stepped close to Mai, invading her space. “Because most people in this town recognize business hours are business hours and don’t expect special favors.”

Mai held her ground. “Special favors? I asked for an early appointment. It’s not my fault whoever answered the phone doesn’t know your hours.”

Dale clenched her fists. “My son knows the hours perfectly well. He was trying to be nice. He said yes to accommodate your schedule. Which, apparently, is way more important than mine. Good day.” She spun on her heel and stomped back to the truck.

Mai chewed her lip as she desperately tried to ignore how much she liked the way Dale’s ass looked in her jeans and failed. “Hey, wait.”

Dale yanked the truck door open and tossed her clipboard inside.

Mai sprinted around the truck and her shoes skidded on the gravel lot. She caught herself on the truck hood and narrowly avoided bumping into Dale. “Hey, please stay. I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I’ve had too many folks be rude to me because I wasn’t what they expected. Please. I’d like you to at least look at the project.”

Dale turned to her and the delicate scent of lemon verbena wafted from her, undermining Mai’s determination to keep to the business at hand.

A rueful grin crossed Dale’s face. “No. I’m sorry. You’d think I didn’t want the work. I’d like to see what you want done.” She tilted her head and met Mai’s gaze. “Do you mind if we have coffee first?”

Mai held out her hand and Dale shook it. “Bring your thermos.” She tilted her head toward the silver flask. “Come on. We don’t have to talk until you’ve had another cup.”

My Review:
Dale Miller is a single woman in her 40s raising her three nearly grown sons. She runs a contracting business which is only the 4th thing that was worthwhile from her deadbeat husband who walked out nearly ten years before. And, she’s still got a hard time thinking about dating again after her last girlfriend who abused her boys and left with thousands of dollars that nearly bankrupted Dale.

She’s been working 12 and 14-hour days since that gal took off, trying to built up the business, so she didn’t lose her own home. So, when sexy, butch celebrity chef Mai Li wants to hire Dale to rebuild the ruin of her parents’ restaurant in their small Ohio town, Dale knows she can’t mess this up. It’s the kind of job that would put her squarely in the black. But, Mai is an unknown quantity, and she could stiff Dale just like everyone else seems to–even if she’s cute. And sexy, and living in Dale’s basement? Yes, to save funds for the rehab, Mai was sleeping in the shell of her derelict building–until the roof caved in. So, Dale offered her spare room which morphed into her living room couch when one of her kids has to move back due to a bad breakup. And Mai and Dale are way past attracted to one another. Mai’s ex also spent her money like water, while not recognizing the issues she faces with daily racism. In short, neither of them wants to get burned.

It’s a bit of a slow burn, and the interplay between Mai and Dale’s protective sons and father is nice. Mai isn’t built for casual and Dale is afraid to commit, but they find a way to make a life plan together.

Interested? You can find ON THE SQUARE on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Amazon.

****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 New Love in the ARCTIC WILD–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. ARCTIC WILD is the second book in her Frozen Hearts series that feature men in the Alaskan wilderness finding their soulmates.

About the book:
When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

My Review:
Reuben Graham is approaching his 48th birthday–in 2 days!!–and prepping for an Alaskan adventure trip with his friends Craig and Letitia when he gets the news he’s going solo. It’s not ideal, but this bisexual attorney is well-traveled and unwilling to let down Craig, who’s urging him to go despite this unexpected drama.

He meets his guide, Tobias Kooly, in Anchorage, and it’s not a meet-cute, per se. Reuben is recently out of a relationship, and not generally panting after younger men–while Toby isn’t usually drawn toward silver “bears” but he can’t help noticing that Reuben is a big ol’ sexy dude.

Their trip together starts inauspiciously, with Toby and Reuben feeling the tension of being opposites in personality. Reuben is quiet and staid, while Toby is dramatic and personable–which suits him as a tour guide. Reuben’s also a little annoyed with his kinda interest in a younger man who seems to be interested in women, but Toby is bi, too, and they work that business out eventually. In the meantime, just as Reuben is getting used to flying in Toby’s tincan of a seaplane, they run into really treacherous weather and crash. The only reason they aren’t both dead is Toby’s heroic flying, and he’s significantly injured in the landing. Reuben, a total city-slicker, is tasked with keeping Toby alive until help can arrive, and the storm is complicating matters.

They’re rescued, but Reuben feels responsible to continue caring for Toby, who is the main support for his family. And, Reuben’s NYC life is kind of crumbling so he allows himself a time out, renting a house that suits both himself and Toby’s care. And, has enough space to bring his teen daughter, Amelia, out for a summer of unexpected reconnection.

The more Reuben lingers in Alaska, the more he realizes his life was passing him by. His situation with Toby is a huge reset, and it’s more welcome than he could have imagined. The age gap is a bit of a stumbling block, as Toby and Reuben realize this interlude is really developing into something more than a summer fling. There’s steamy sexy moments as well as realistic connection between the MCs, and it’s really endearing how Amelia takes to Toby, and counsels her dad to live his best life, for a change.

I really enjoyed the book, and it’s got me hankering for a vacation to Alaska.

Interested? You can find ARCTIC WILD on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Growing Up and Becoming AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sexy contemporary romance from Adriana Herrera. AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS is the fourth book in her Dreamers series, and I have read and enjoyed a couple of the others that I hope to review those in the coming weeks.

About the book:
Juan Pablo Campos doesn’t do regrets. He’s living the dream as a physical therapist with his beloved New York Yankees. He has the best friends and family in the world and simply no time to dwell on what could’ve been.

Except when it comes to Priscilla, the childhood friend he’s loved for what seems like forever.

New York City police detective Priscilla Gutierrez has never been afraid to go after what she wants. Second guessing herself isn’t a thing she does. But lately, the once-clear vision she had for herself—her career, her relationships, her life—is no longer what she wants.

What she especially doesn’t want is to be stuck on a private jet to the Dominican Republic with JuanPa, the one person who knows her better than anyone else.

By the end of a single week in paradise, the love/hate thing JuanPa and Pris have been doing for sixteen years has risen to epic proportions. No one can argue their connection is still there. And they can both finally admit—if only to themselves—they’ve always been a perfect match. The future they dreamed of together is still within reach…if they can just accept each other as they are.

My Review:
JuanPa Campos has been in love with Pris for…ever. They’ve been lovers before in their teens and twenties, but they were too young and too stubborn to make it work, despite a deep love for one another. Now, JuanPa has settled into a good life as a trainer to the NY Yankees, and he’s invested in himself, growing from the playa into a man grown and wanting to love a good woman.

Priscilla Gutierrez joined the NYPD because her immigrant father always wanted to join, but was unable. Twelve years into the job, her satisfaction is low. Being a woman of color and watching the disparities in justice for men of color, like the men she grew up with in their deeply-connected immigrant community in the Bronx, has gotten to be too much for her to take on the daily. She has a side hustle selling personal pleasure products for women of color, and it’s become the only good thing in her life–besides JuanPa. JuanPa has been her first love, her only true connection, but he’s always been too immature to support her the way she’s needed.

But now, he’s right there with the help. And the love. And the support. He’s everything Pris could want, but her biggest fear is falling so hard for this man, and messing up their friendship and the extended “family” dynamic of their friend groups. But, man is JuanPa turning her head sideways.

This is the last book in a series of POC finding love super hard. It’s really a great series with lots of Afro-Latinx influences of Puerto Rican and Dominican folk thriving in NYC. The culture clash of urban youth growing up in immigrant families with immigrant sensibilities is really wonderfully portrayed, in a way that’s accessible to readers who have little to not experience with people of color. The empathy I felt toward all of these characters helped me see the struggle of their situation, in life and in art. The previous three stories feature M/M relationships, so this book was a big departure, but one I really enjoyed. I probably don’t recommend starting with this story, only because there are so many character interactions at the beginning that tie up previous stories. I really loved the resolutions of those love stories, and it was a delight to see those folks help Pris and JuanPa get past their fears and embrace the love. Read the series in order, y’all!

Interested? You can find AMERICAN SWEETHEARTS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

Her debut Dreamers, has been featured on Entertainment Weekly, NPR, the TODAY Show on NBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Oprah Magazine.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Catch up with Adriana on her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Grieving and Starting Over–A WALK ALONG THE BEACH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a clean contemporary romance from Debbie Macomber. A WALK ALONG THE BEACH features a woman who’s suffered a lot of loss in her life, surviving more trauma while finding love, too. I’ve enjoyed several books from this author, including THE GIRL’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, IF NOT FOR YOU, and ANY DREAM WILL DO and MERRY AND BRIGHT, so I’m always interested in a new romance.

About the book:
Two sisters must learn from each other’s strengths and trust in the redeeming power of love in a touching new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

My Review:
Willa Lakey became little momma in her family in her teens when her mother died suddenly and her father devolved into alcoholism. Her elder brother Lucas soon left for the Marines and Willa tried to keep their family together, sacrificing herself to do this. A few years back Willa’s younger sister Harper was diagnosed with leukemia, and Willa was her chief caretaker. Harper’s disease was severe, but she survived the chemo and is now the picture of health, teaching aerobics and yoga at a studio in their small, coastal town of Oceanside, Washington. Willa’s worked harder to keep them together, as they are roommates in a little apartment not far from Willa’s coffee shop. Harper often helps out there, but it’s Willa’s pride and joy.

Willa, because she’s sacrificed so much, doesn’t value herself too highly–and she’s always anxious for the next shoe to drop. She gets strung out waiting for Harper’s yearly follow-up visits to assure everyone that she’s still cancer-free. And, she lives in awe of Harper, who is fit and beautiful, while Willa is a wallflower. But, the new man in town has his sights set on Willa–handsome and successful photographer, Sean O’Malley.

Sean retired from his pro baseball career when an injury permanently sidelined him. That’s when he re-evaluated his life choices, including the women he dated and the life he’d been living. He started pursuing photojournalism and has made a decent second career of it. He traveled to Oceanside on one of his trips and lived the small, quaint community enough to buy a modestly-priced home. And even though he detests coffee, he’s made a new habit of popping into Willa’s coffeeshop and ordering, just so he can get a minute of her conversation at the busy counter.

Willa can’t believe that such a handsome man as Sean could find her more appealing than Harper, and she’s a bit unsettled about the interest he’s showing her–even with Harper’s press to embrace the possibility of romance. With a little time they seem to have a good connection, but Sean’s due to make a trip to a remote area of South America, and it’s a bit of a setback personally–with less time to spend together. Meanwhile, Harper’s health is taking a serious turn for the worse, and Willa’s being tested to her limits.

This is more women’s fiction with romantic elements, than a true romance. There is a lot of heartache, and heartbreak, in this story. Willa has put others before herself for so long, she’s nearly unable to ask for her own needs to be met. And, unfortunately, when she truly needs help it’s in short supply due to circumstance. She is resilient, however, and her grief and despair do get some resolution–and there is some joy to temper the pain. I think readers need to know that this is not a lighthearted breezy read; keep the tissues handy. But, it’s a good one, and I did enjoy the happy ending.

Interested? You can find A WALK ALONG THE BEACH on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other discount book outlets like Target, Walmart and your library, undoubtedly. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers with more than 200 million copies of her books in print worldwide. In her novels, Macomber brings to life compelling relationships that embrace family and enduring friendships, uplifting her readers with stories of connection and hope. Macomber’s novels have spent over 990 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Sixteen of these novels hit the number one spot.

There’s so much more to know about her, but I’d suggest heading to her website, Facebook, or twitter for all that!

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Showing Prudence When TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME is a legal eagles romance between a battered man and the loving new partner his finds. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS, so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
Can he ever learn to trust again?
Brandon Weber’s old boyfriend almost beat him to death. Brandon survived, but still bears the emotional scars. Eighteen months later, he has withdrawn into himself, convinced he’ll never be able to trust another man.

Devin Macadam, fresh out of law school, has an exciting new job. He is also on the lookout for just the right guy, someone to take care of and love.

When Devin shows up for the first day of work at his new office, he meets Brandon, a legal assistant there. Sparks fly, but Brandon is paralyzed by fear and isn’t about to give another man the power to hurt him again. Devin, never one to give up easily, doesn’t want to take no for an answer. Both men feel the magic, but can their relationship ever get past the friend zone?

Too Close to the Flame is a dark-to-light, sweet romance featuring out and proud gay men, lots of feels, steamy love scenes, and a wonderful happy ending.

Trigger Warning: Too Close to the Flame contains specific memories of physical abuse.

My Review:
Twenty-four year old Devin Macadam has just split from his cheating boyfriend, and taken his first position out of law school. He’s joined the firm partnered by his cousin, Liam Macadam, and historical crush, Aaron Roth. He’s feeling pretty awesome and his first day on the job is made better when he meets the most beautiful man he’s ever seen: Brandon Weber.

Brandon was abided by his last boyfriend, Jeb, who almost killed him. A month in the hospital, plus therapy, helped Brandon recover physically, though he’s still celibate more than 18 months later. His attraction to Devin is an unwelcome complication, and Devin’s sweetness and compassion are stirring feelings Brandon wishes he could ignore.

Liam, and his husband John, counsel both Devin and Brandon as their attraction to each other becomes plain to the folks in the office. Devin knows that Brandon has some secret pain, but Liam confidentially divulges Brandon’s history, hoping Devin will be sensitive to Brandon’s needs. John reminds Brandon that his life didn’t end with the abuse he suffered, and he should be open to the love that Devin is clearly offering.

The central focus of this story is recovery, and the major plot arc is really the developing relationship between Devin and Brandon. We learn a LITTLE about Devin’s job at the firm, and there’s a brief mention about the possibility of Brandon’s attacker causing trouble, but it’s largely ignored until very late.

The rest of the story is…sexy times. Lots and lots of tender and dirty sexy times. The biggest hurdles here are Brandon’s emotional issues surrounding his recovery and being a worthy and willing partner. There is a LOT of sex, and the plot was otherwise a little thin.

But, as a romance, the good guys find deep and abiding love, and they live happily ever after. So, I enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME on Goodreads and 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!

Reforged Future in HIGH HEAT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M smokejumper romance from Annabeth Albert. HIGH HEAT is the second book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE, so I was excited to read more about Garrick who was a secondary character in that book.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild.

Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

Smoke jumping is Garrick Nelson’s life. Nothing, not severe injuries nor the brutal physical therapy that follows, is going to stop him from getting back with his crew. But when a lost dog shows up on his front porch, he can’t turn her away, and he can’t take care of her on his own. Thankfully, help comes in the form of his new sexy, dog-loving neighbor. As they work together, trying to re-home their little princess, Garrick can’t resist his growing attraction for the other man, even though he knows this guy isn’t the staying type.

Rain Fisher doesn’t take anything too seriously. He dances through life, one adventure at a time, never settling in one place for too long. When his hot, conveniently buff, neighbor shows up on his doorstep, dog in tow, Rain’s determined to not just save the adorable puppy, but her reluctant owner as well. He never expects their flirtation might tempt him into stay put once and for all…

My Review:
Garrick Nelson is a smokejumper, which is all her ever wanted to be. Except, a bad accident on a jump has sidelined him with severe injuries. He’s worked amazingly hard to get back on his feet, but, while he can walk, he tires easily and relies on crutches or a wheelchair for long periods of the day. That’s why he’s frustrated when he finds an injured stray dog on his porch. She’s skittish, and his lack of mobility hampers rescuing her as she darts away. He wheels himself to his neighbor’s house and enlists the help of her sexy grandson, Rain, to catch and clean up the dog.

Rain thinks Garrick, who is pan, is a delicious treat for his lonely days of keeping an eye on his crafty grams. I mean crafty in that she makes handicrafts–tye-dying cloth for clothes. It’s heavy work, and Rain’s mom has convinced Rain he should be there in case gram needs help–though she rarely does–yet she’s happy to take in her wandering grandson, anyway. He’s drifting since he didn’t get into the city fire training academy, but seeing how buff Garrick is–and knowing he’s a smokejumper–Rain makes a leap to ask him for advice in his physical training regimen. Garrick isn’t sure he wants to commit, but they bond over the care of the stray, who Rain names Princess, and it’s not long before the attraction sparks a brushfire of desire.

This story really handles the emotional toll of surviving a catastrophic, career-ending injury, and the attendant physical issues that arise. Garrick has trouble with sexual arousal, and his nerves aren’t all that sensitive since his spinal injury, but his interest in Rain is more than just companionship–though they do a lot of hanging out as they get to know one another. It’s Rain’s gentle guidance that helps Garrick re-center his life and world accepting his new normal from a viewpoint of ability, not disability. The change is important, because it brings emotional harmony to Garrick, whose depression was getting clinical.

Rain, for his part, does a lot of growing up while he’s in Garrick’s world. His training and focus helps him land a job on a fire crew, and he works hard cutting fire lines and running the comm for his team. He’s insightful and intuitive which helps him on the job, and with Garrick. He’s also body aware and a bit shameless from being raised by freeloving hippies. I loved his sense of compassion, and how he didn’t let the characterization of his youth color the decisions he made now. While he may have been a freewheeler, himself, meeting Garrick gives him a touchstone, a person to whom his life can be bound–for the good of both.

It’s sweet and tender, the way they care for one another. From adjusting erogenous zones, to researching vegan diets, these guys are shaping themselves into ideal partners for one another before they even realize how serious they are becoming. I really enjoyed this one, and expect we’ll get some mature heat for a lonely commander in the next installment. I can’t wait!

Interested? You can find HIGH HEAT on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Finding Home THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance from Jillian Liota. THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING pairs two strangers who meet on a plane and find the emotional “home” they’ve been missing for years.


About the book:
Ruby Roberts is heading to Cedar Point to connect with the father who left her behind. Easy conversation with the handsome man sitting next to her isn’t what she’s expecting from her cross-country flight, but it’s not something she’s complaining about, that’s for sure.
Boyd Mitchell is flying home for some end-of-summer relaxation and time with his favorite people – his family. A talkative seat-mate that pulls him out of his shell is the last thing he wants, but he can’t seem to resist her charm.

When Boyd and Ruby end up in the same lakeside town, their banter and flirtation quickly become a steamy fling that leaves them both breathless. Neither of them are expecting to find a romance that has them both reconsidering everything they used to believe about love.
As their time in Cedar Point comes to an end, the two will have to decide whether they want their connection to turn into a real-world relationship, or whether wanting more is nothing but trouble.

How about a little taste?

“Sorry for rambling,” I say, giving him another smile. “It’s way too early in the morning to be debating something so highbrow. So, how ’bout them Sox, huh?”
Boyd looks at me with a twinkle in his eyes, a kind of friendly charm I wasn’t expecting from him, regardless of how well we got on with our chat.
What I wouldn’t give to look at that kind of handsome joy every day for the rest of my life.
A stupid thought, sure, but still true.
“I bet you ten dollars you can’t name a single player on the team this year.”
I narrow my eyes, trying to hide my smile as I shake my head. “I’m not a gambling girl.”
“You’d gamble if you knew you were probably going to win.” His response is as quick as lightning. “People only choose not to gamble when they’re afraid they’ll lose.”
“That is so not true.” I giggle. “Some of us poor folk don’t gamble because we can’t take the risk. Not all of us are first class aficionados with money to throw around willy-nilly.”
“Nobody says willy-nilly anymore.”
I snort. “Clearly that’s false, because I just did.”
He bites his lip and shakes his head, and I can’t help the little thing that keeps bouncing around in my chest.
We like him, it tells me. We like him a lot.
Is this flirting? We are definitely flirting, right? I hope so, because it has been far too long since I’ve enjoyed a good flirt sesh with someone as handsome as Boyd.
That’s a lie.
I’ve never flirted with someone as handsome as Boyd. He is in a league of his own.
Before I can say anything else, the plane lurches forward, and it feels like my stomach is going to fall out of my body.
My eyes slam shut and my throat closes up, my hands gripping the armrests for dear life as the plane barrels down the runway, all the good feelings from my talk with Boyd rushing out of me with a surreal quickness.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
It’s going to be okay.
I’m like that for who knows how long before I feel a hand on top of mine, the warmth and roughness surprising me enough that my eyes fly open, taking in the man sitting next to me.
He lifts my hand and twists his fingers in mine, the sensation robbing me of my voice—and maybe my sanity.
For the rest of my life, I’ll remember exactly what he says to me. Not just the words, but the soothing tone of his voice and the earnest caring in his eyes, so surprising from someone I was expecting to ignore me for the entire flight.
“It’s okay to be afraid,” he says. “I can’t take that feeling away from you, but I can hold your hand until it’s over so you know you’re not alone.”

My Review:
Boyd Mitchell grew up in Cedar Point, a small mountain town in northern California and his family still lives there, for the most part. He’s finished with grad school and working for a tech incubator in Boston now, but each year he’s scheduled to return to Cedar Point for a two week “vacation” reunion with his family. He loves his family, but he HATES small town life, and everyone being up in his business is the worst…but the pretty, chatty lady at his side in first class is surprisingly not a bother. Nope, this introvert breaks out of his shell for the first-time flier with a huge problem.

Ruby Roberts is 24, single and a massage therapist. She never met a stranger in her life, because she makes friends nearly instantly. She’s a bit terrified of flying, that’s no lie, but she’s also scared of where she’s headed. Some podunk town that’s the home of the father who abandoned her twenty years ago. Ruby loves her mom, and thinks of her as a hero for raising her alone, but she’s always wondered if her dad missed her any. After reaching out and some conversations, she’s agreed to fly to California and stay for a ten-day visit to become reacquainted with her father and meet his wife and half-brothers. She hasn’t bothered to tell her mom who she’s visiting, though, and the secret is eating her alive. Thankfully, sexy Boyd is a big distraction.

Long and the short of it, Boyd’s family property is right close to Ruby’s dad’s home, and since her dad took a business trip without her knowing–and the step-mom is about a welcoming as a polar bear with a paw injury–Ruby is grateful to have Boyd to cheer her up, and spend time with her, since she’s so isolated. Boyd loves how Ruby fits so well with his siblings, and feels especially bad that her reunion with her dad is not currently happening. But the make the most of it, hanging out, doing yoga, eating Boyd’s mom’s fab cooking. And falling in love.

This is a sweet and breezy romance but it was a bit verbose for me. I found myself skimming a good deal just because I got tired of the elaborate, repetitious, and finely detailed descriptions of…everything. Some folks might dig it, but I thought the word count could have been cut by a third and the story not suffer a bit. There’s small town drama of exes wishing reunions, and Ruby’s dad ends up being super lackluster. But Boyd, who is the most introverted and least likely to have any fun person prior to Ruby’s advent, is suddenly Mr. Social. It was almost too big a transformation. I liked Ruby, though I got tired of her attitudes about sex and orgasms, as she was too decided about all that and it just ruined the intimacy most of the time.

There’s some miscommunication that threatens the growth of the relationship, but Boyd’s able to win Ruby’s heart in the end once they are both back in Bean Town. I can only imagine the next story in this series will feature Boyd’s sister Briar, who’s freshly out of a bad romance by the end of this book.

Interested?You can find THE TROUBLE WITH WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jillian Liota is a new author writing contemporary romance and new adult fiction. She lives in Kailua, Hawaii with her amazing husband, 2 cats, and 3-legged pup.
She is the author of the new adult romance novel The Keeper, which focuses on a female college soccer goalie, as well as the follow up novella, Keep Away. Her newest release, Like You Mean It, is in the contemporary romance genre and has a more mature voice, as it follows a pregnant mother finding love in a new town.

She has a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and she is passionate about all things improvement, development and organization.

She’s also a big fan of taking walks with her husband and dog Maia, reading romance (obviously), watching a handful of horrible reality TV shows, and exploring the island she calls home. Check out her Contact page for more information on how to connect.

Connect with Jillian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.