A New Beginning UP IN SMOKE? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M hotshot fireman romance from Annabeth Albert. UP IN SMOKE  is the fourth book in her Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE, HIGH HEAT, and FEEL THE FIRE,  so I was excited to read on in this series.

About the book:

Three Men and a Baby meets Backdraft with explosive chemistry and heartfelt feels.

Freewheeling smoke jumper Brandt Wilder thrives on adrenaline. He’s never met a parachute he can’t repair or a dangerous situation he couldn’t wrangle his way out of. He’s popular and fun-loving and not at all looking to settle down or form lasting relationships. It’s a lifestyle that’s served him well…right up until the day he finds a baby on his doorstep.

Shane Travis is used to putting his country music career—and his own happiness—on hold after his sister rolls through his life. Like last spring when she convinced him to try skydiving for his birthday—and she walked away with the hot parachute instructor.

Now he gets to deliver the piece of news that will upend Brandt’s carefree life: he very well might be a dad.

Shane’s niece is safe in Brandt’s strong, capable hands, but too many questions remain unanswered. Co-parenting while they sort it out leads to late-night talks, and soul-bearing confessions lead to a most inconvenient attraction. Still, Shane can’t leave this makeshift family behind—even if it means playing house with the one man he can’t resist.

My Review:

Shane Travis is an up-and-coming country singer, if only he wasn’t always derailed by his impulsive sister. This time he’s up and left him with his baby niece, Jewel, disappearing into Canada to work some music festival and with no intention of returning to motherhood anytime soon. Shane has commitments of he own, and he hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in days, so he does the only thing he can do: hunt down the unwitting baby daddy and see if he can’t get Jewel a family she deserves.

Brandt Wilder is all his name suggests, a free-wheeling, free-loving adrenaline junkie that smoke jumps in season and does parachute jumps out of it. He’d met Shane and his sister, Shelby, when they did a parachute jump for Shane’s 30th birthday–round about 10 months back. Well, it was a fun night for sure, but he never imagined a child would come of it. He’s mighty suspicious when Shane turns up on his temporary doorstep, but agrees to take them in for a spell–at least until they can work out a paternity test. Because Brandt is not a deadbeat dad–at least he won’t be if little Jewel truly is his daughter.

While these unlikely babysitters await the testing and results, they also get acquainted. Shane is waiting for a callback to a reality singing show and Brandt’s between shifts in the field. They spend time co-parenting, and connecting in ways Shane had wished for the first time he’d met Brandt. Of course, he’s got prospects in the music industry, but he’s also got some down time, and he’s spending it mooning over both Brandt and Jewel, writing new lyrics for songs that he’d never imagined before. Brandt’s life hasn’t gotten less dangerous, but he’s got commitments he can’t escape, no matter how itchy his feet get. And, well, Shane is the kind of guy that worth being stable for, isn’t he?

Of course there are lots of complications, but there are also late night bonding sessions, first times, shopping sprees at the thrift store, and errant mothers turning up and making drama. I loved how Shane and Brandt built a connection between themselves, as well as with baby Jewel. They’re so sweet, and so sure that they are messing everything up, while trying their hardest to be good caregivers. Their attraction is hot as a wildfire, even if Shane’s afraid to make any moves–Brandt’s a big dude and he already knows the man likes women. Turns out, though, that Brandt is…open…to having sex with men, and though he doesn’t specify his sexuality in actual terms, it’s clear that Shane yanks his chain in just the right way.          

Their attraction simmers and then rages, but it’s still hard going for these guys and their little miss. Brandt and Shane are going to do the right things to make sure that girl lacks for nothing in life–not even a mama. It’s a totally sweet story with a great HEA.  

Interested? You can find UP IN SMOKE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, 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!

Transforming into an Unlikely ROLE MODEL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand-new M/M contemporary hockey romance from Rachel Reid. ROLE MODEL is the fifth book in her Game Changers series, which features two rival hockey players finding love with each other. All the books in the Game Changers series are standalone romances. Check out my reviews for GAME CHANGER, HEATED RIVALRY, TOUGH GUY, and COMMON GOAL to catch up with other yummy stories.

Role Model coverAbout the book:

Troy Barrett has been freshly traded to Ottawa after calling out Dallas Kent during a team practice. He wants to be a better person, and the weird, scrappy energy of the struggling Ottawa team seems like the place to…well. It seems like the only place that will have Troy right now.

Fortunately the Ottawa team includes Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, and also includes an adorable social media manager, Harris Drover. Harris is the opposite of Troy in every way: friendly, cheerful, chatty, and goofy with a booming voice, a startlingly loud laugh, and Pride pins all over his denim jacket. Definitely not the sort of person Troy would normally associate with, and yet…

My Review:

Troy Barrett has been a bully and a follower, as well as a skilled hockey player, but he’s done cowering from the bigger bullies in his life: his father and his best-friend and teammate Dallas Kent. It seemed the best way to keep the spotlight off his personal life–not that he has much of one, because it’s really hard to be a closeted pro athlete. He’d been on the hot shot Toronto team for years, but after calling out league golden boy Kent as a rapist, well, now he’s persona non grata, and his team promptly traded him to the cellar-dwelling Ottawa Centaurs. He’s teaming up with all-stars like Ilya Rozanov and Wyatt Hayes, but he’s honestly hoping to get moved someplace else–except that’s even less likely than Kent being non-guilty of the (multiple) accusations against him.

Troy has a bad reputation in the league, behaving badly will do that, but he knows he must build relationships to survive. Thing is, Troy is pretty ashamed of himself, and it makes it hard for him to reach out or ask for help. Also, he’s bruised emotionally because his one-and-only boyfriend–someone Troy had considered coming out for–has just come out to be with another man. Thankfully, the Ottawa players are decent to him–they just want him to play his best hockey. They might not be amped for winning all the time, but they are also not a toxic bunch. In fact, they are super friendly, and–more importantly–they believe he’s telling the truth about Kent, even if Troy’s only going on his intimate knowledge of situations and experiences with Kent–without directly having witnessed an assault. It’s almost too good to be true to be accepted instead of a pariah, and it also comes with an unlikely friendship with the social media manager for the Centaurs, Harris Drover. A native of the Ottawa area, Harris’ family owns a local apple orchard and cider brewery. Harris is the sunniest flower in the garden with flair and flamboyant panache. He’s a consummate smiler and unapologetic cheerleader for all things Ottawa, and Troy lets Harris help him get acquainted to the city, team, and fanbase. And Troy just absorbs Harris’ positive energy for the balm it is.

Harris is way attracted to Troy Barnett, not that he’d ever imaging he was gay–or interested. But, hey, he needs an image makeover, and Harris knows how to do that. Photo ops with sick kids, and puppies, and funny interviews for the fans help Troy see that there are folks in the world who are willing to accept him. Troy starts using his own social media to raise awareness for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence victims. He takes it a step further and begins actively donating to those charities. And, he’s finally playing up to his full potential, helping to lead Ottawa closer to a playoff berth. It’s also awesome that Troy and Harris connect on a more personal level.

I loved Troy learning to love himself, and being an awesome human–and finding real love for himself. His relationships with his mom and dad are multilayered and divergent–which was important to see. His mom is amazing, while his dad is NOT, and Harris’ family are entire delight. But, specifically, I think this is the first book that really shows a player coming out and then continuing to play during the aftermath. I know Game Changer had a coming out, but it was late in the book. Troy’s situation was more fraught, especially with the vitriol he’d already been facing over the Kent issue. This made his HEA all the more sweet, I felt. Plus, life-threatening situations always add interesting conflict, and that was 100% true for Troy and Harris, who clung to one another rather than walk away.

This was a great catch up book for the series, with lots of close-ups on Ilya, who is a perennial fave of fans. Also, as more and more players come out publicly, it seems like we have another Ilya-centered book in the offing. I cannot WAIT!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Coming Soon! MY ONLY DEFENSE

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt for a contemporary M/M romance from new-to-me author Leigh Lennon. MY ONLY DEFENSE is the third book in her Love is Love series, and features a guilty sportswriter and the Navy SEAL he fell for but inadvertently wronged. It comes out August 19th.

About the book:

Garrison

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

Lawson

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

How about a little taste?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What the fuck?” These are his words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interested? You can find MY ONLY DEFENSE on Goodreads and preorder it in advance of it’s release on 8/19 on Amazon.

About Leigh Lennon:

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Casual Hero OUT OF CHARACTER–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M New Adult romance from Annabeth Albert. OUT OF CHARACTER is a sequel to the bestselling CONVENTIONALLY YOURS.  Here we have a gamer teaming up with a former friend to recover both lost cards and their broken friendship–and more. 

About the book:

Jasper Quigley is tired of being everyone’s favorite sidekick. He wants to become the hero of his own life, but that’s not going to happen if he agrees to help out his former best friend turned king of the jocks, Milo Lionetti. High school was miserable enough, thanks, and Jasper has no interest in dredging up painful memories of his old secret crush.

But Milo’s got nowhere else to go. His life is spiraling out of control and he’s looking to turn things back around. Step one? Replace the rare Odyssey cards he lost in an idiotic bet. Step two? Tell his ex-best-friend exactly how he feels—how he’s always felt.

Jasper may be reluctant to reopen old wounds, but he never could resist Milo. There’s a catch, though: if Milo wants his help, he’s going to have to pitch in to make the upcoming children’s hospital charity ball the best ever. But as the two don cosplay for the kids and hunt for rare cards, nostalgia for their lost friendship may turn into something even more lasting…

My Review:

Jasper Quigley is a gamer and cosplayer and all around humanitarian. He’s an out-gay college senior about to finish his degree and might be taking his first job working for Odyssey–his fave card game–as a game designer. He has an in with a gaming friend who currently works there. But it would mean moving away from his hometown in New Jersey, and his family. This wouldn’t normally seem an issue, but he’s devoted to his younger sister, April, who has a congenital immune deficiency that continues to send her into the hospital. It’s why Jasper and his cosplay pals, including April when she’s well enough, dress as Odyssey characters and visit the children’s ward at April’s hospital each week to cheer the kids and play the game with them. Right now, April is bummed that one of Jasper’s pals is on a study abroad mission, because the popular character of Prince Neptune is MIA for several months.

Milo Lionetti is a man in search of redemption, and rare Odyssey cards. He was Jasper’s best friend for years, until high school and the GSA-club made Milo shun him. Jasper had a loving and supportive family. Milo had an alcoholic, homophobic and abusive dad, a browbeaten mom and an older brother who escaped to the military. He may have felt the same as Jasper did about boys, but he certainly couldn’t own it. But, not only did he hide his feelings, he didn’t intervene when his colossal-idiot friends bullied Jasper for his brains and his sexuality. Well, it’s all water under a bridge someplace, right? At least, it’s been years since Milo saw Jasper–but now he needs his help. Because the game shop where Jasper works could sell him a set of rare Odyssey royalty cards to replace the ones he just lost to a scumbag cheater. The cards that were his brother’s, who’ll be returning home from his tour in a matter of weeks. The cards, Jasper has just informed him, that are worth thousands of dollars…and are also not “for sale”. One needs to win them, or find them in decks.

Milo is crushed, and Jasper isn’t one iota sorry. Well, okay, maybe a single iota. Because he did like Milo’s brother, and he does hate the dude that torched Milo and fleeced him of the valuable cards. But, well, Milo can just take a hike, right? Except he’s still so attractive, and being around him is rekindling a confusing mix of sadness and attraction, as Milo was Jasper’s first crush, the boy he’d loved in secret until Milo’s betrayals cut too deep. So, yeah! See ya later, Milo! And, by later, Jasper means in a week, because he agrees to help Milo with the impossible–score FOUR ultra rare Odyssey Royalty replacement cards–if he will join the hospital cosplay nights.

And this bargain between “enemies” leads to romance.

I loved this story from the start. We met Jasper in CONVENTIONALLY YOURS, as one of the players on the Gamer Grandpa vlog who had to drop out of the cross-country quest when April got hospitalized and he feared she might not make it. He seemed a sweet guy, willing to bend over backwards to help anyone–which is how Milo knows that asking for his help will actually yield results. Milo is restarting his life after a bad car wreck, and dashed college dreams. The dark shadow his dad loomed over him is now gone–having died a couple years back. He’s living with his old high school friends, who are just as vile as before, with the poetic justice of them being lowly custodians, while Milo is scrambling for steady work, and maybe art school? He’s been an avid doodler for years, though his dad discouraged it.

But now, seeing the vibrant lives of Jasper and his friends, well, Milo is more than willing to try some new things, including being honest with Jasper about his true feelings for him. I loved the “quest” these guys embark upon, and how they are easily able to fall back into camaraderie, building a mature friendship that includes forgiveness, and even kindles love. Both Milo and Jasper have some demons to lay to rest, if they are going to move forward into adulthood. Milo needs to love himself, and it’s Jasper’s support that gives him to courage to do so–and come out. In the meantime, Milo also needs to take responsibility for his actions, or INactions, something he didn’t do well as a kid. As a man, however, he’s making far better decisions, and that includes an HEA for himself, and for Jasper.

If you enjoyed Conventionally Yours you’ll probably love this one, too. 

Interested? You can find OUT OF CHARACTER on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

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!

The Right Choices SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY–A TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Emma Scott. SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY is a book I read a WHILE back, but never had the time to blog about. It features two men with terrible family situations surviving rough experiences and finding love just when they need it.

About the book:

How long would you wait for love?

Max Kaufman was kicked out of his home as a teen and his life has been an uphill battle ever since. From addiction and living on the streets, to recovery and putting himself through nursing school, he’s spent the last ten years rebuilding his shattered sense of self. Now he’s taken a job as a private caretaker to Edward Marsh III, the president and CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Max soon learns Marsh’s multi-billion-dollar empire is a gold and diamond-encrusted web of secrets and lies.

The longer Max works and lives with the Marsh family, the tighter the secrets tangle around him. And his heart—that he’s worked so hard to protect—falls straight into the hands of the distant, cold, and beautiful son of a dynasty…

Silas Marsh is set to inherit the family fortune, but his father is determined his heir be the “perfect” son. Before Silas can take over the company and end its shady business practices, he must prove himself worthy…and deny his true nature.

Silas must choose: stand up to his father by being true to himself and his undeniable feelings for Max. Or pretend to be someone he is not in order to inherit everything. Even if it means sacrificing his first chance at love.

Content warning: contains scenes of conversion therapy, homophobia, and parental verbal abuse of a neurodivergent character. Readers are advised to proceed with caution.

My Review:

Max Kaufman ran away from home as a teen, once his family made it clear that his sexuality would not be welcome or tolerated in their home. He spent years on the streets as a hooker and drug user, but met a man who helped him clean up and get enough education to be a nurse. He’s returned to his hometown of Seattle, Washington to reconnect with his roots. He’d worked in the ER before being recommended to a lucrative position as a private, live-in, caregiver to Edward March III, a billionaire pharmaceuticals CEO. It’s a tetchy assignment because he’s gay and Marsh is a vocal homophobe. Well, he’s a vocal a-hole, he’s got plenty of slurs to spread around his whole family, including his beautiful, dutiful son Silas who is running the company, and his eldest son, Eddie, who has Down’s Syndrome. Marsh is dying of MS and spiteful as all hell. But, he’s been that way a long, long time.

Silas March hates his father, but he hates himself, too. He was only ten when his loving and devoted mother died of a stroke, and whatever humanity his father had disappeared. With his heir, Eddie “compromised,” he took exceptional interest in Silas becoming his perfect replacement at the company. So, when he got the idea that Silas was gay he shipped the teen boy off to an abusive gay-conversion camp in Alaska. The damage was immediate and long-lasting; Silas has a deep aversion to touch, and has never had any intimacy–or even arousal since. He’s hired a woman, Faith< to act as his girlfriend and maintain the pretense that he’s a virile and functional heterosexual man to his father, even though he’s neither. Faith is a stalwart confidante, happy to accept the money and gifts Silas gives her–at least for now. But, Max is so deeply giving and so willing to help him, as well as Marsh and Eddie, well, the emotional bonds form nonetheless.

Silas knows that his company’s cash cow drug is an opioid painkiller that hooks people into dependency–he knows because he got hooked himself, when he was trying to find something to take away his pain and nightmares over Alaska. Knowing that Max is clean, and an NA sponsor, helps Silas confess to his past addiction, but also to develop a plan to remediate the opioid dependency his company has fostered. He’s going to be the CEO someday, and he doesn’t want his legacy to be one of profiteering from pain pill addictions and heroin overdoses. Of course, his manipulative father is holding the company hostage, insisting that Silas marry Faith before he signs over control. And then, he wants Silas to become a father, and then…and then…

So, yeah, it’s a big mess, especially once Silas begins to recognize that he and Max are more than friends, they are soulmates. And, well, Daddy Dearest has some more nasty surprises to hamstring Silas. Both Silas and Max are good men. They have deep family trauma, and they each work through it in methodical steps. Silas needs to outsmart not only his father, but also insiders in the company who’d love to capitalize on Marsh’s failing health and avarice. Max has to forgive his family to find closure that helps on his recovery journey. It’s hard, because they do not really see themselves as at fault for Max’s trauma–he could have chosen differently, right?

Silas and Max make choices that are the right ones for them in the moment, knowing it can hurt the other in that moment. Marsh likes Max, and trusts him implicitly, but his abuse escalates to the point that Max can’t take it any longer. And that means a forced separation is in order. Adding all the machinations going on at the company, Max has no guarantee that Silas will ever be able to be out, or love him completely. It could even lead to a relapse for either of them. It’s still tough to get through, especially while trusting that their life paths will converge eventually.

I loved this one. It’s definitely challenging and triggering, so please know there will be scenes of verbal abuse, and recollections of prostitution, domestic violence, conversion therapy situations and drug use.

Interested? You can find SOMEDAY, SOMEDAY on Goodreads and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Emma Scott is a USA Today and Wall St. Journal bestselling author whose books have been translated in five languages and featured in Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, New York Daily News and USA Today’s Happy Ever After. Her first MM romance, Someday, Someday won the Utopia Con Award for LGBTQ Book of the Year. Emma writes emotional, character-driven romances in which art and love intertwine to heal, and in which love always wins. If you enjoy emotionally-charged stories that rip your heart out and put it back together again, with diverse characters and heroes who treat their heroines like gold, you will enjoy her novels.

Catch up with Emma on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Besting the Bad Guys: BRICK–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from M. Tasia. BRICK is the first book in her new Fire Lake series set in good ol’ Texas. This odd couple romance features a retired Navy SEAL inadvertently setting up a whole new business operation when he’d only planned to recover and renovate the property he inherited from his great aunt.

About the book:

ALWAYS EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED

Ahhh, the good life. Goodbye Navy SEALs, hello rehabbing a rundown lake house he inherited. Being a former Lieutenant Commander will come in handy for Brick Matthews. He gets to boss himself around while tearing down a dilapidated shed and re-roofing his new home, among a hundred other things.

First he has to get rid of the smarmy real estate agent who’s been trying to buy the property for years. Sounds easy, until Brick uncovers layers of secrets, including attempted murder.

In the middle of the intrigue is a buttoned-down CEO with amazing blue eyes. Roman Furrow is so far from the type of man who hits Brick’s radar, he doesn’t see what’s coming until it’s almost too late.

Having never given away his heart before, Brick is damn sure not going to let anyone or anything hurt the man he’s fallen for. He’s been trained for this – he’ll protect him with his life.

My Review:

Brick Matthews has returned to Fire Lake, Texas to retire and pay homage to his Great Aunt Sophia–by rehabbing the house she bequeathed him when she died two years before. As a Navy SEAL out on missions, he hadn’t been able to return that often, but he loved Sophia deeply, as she was one of the few people who’d cared about, or for, him as a child.

He’s not pleased when a young woman enters his crumbling home, posing as a realtor, and ready to service any of his “needs” in order to get him to sell. First, he’s gay, and second, he’s not going to sell–not even if a woman’s trying to (poorly) seduce him into it. Turns out, she’s a broke single mom working for the realtor as a secretary, and he’d threatened to fire her and blacklist her through town if she didn’t get Brick to agree to the sale–one the scumbag was trying to arrange for years now. Brick’s lakefront property is highly coveted by his neighbor on the other side of the lake, a deplorable human by the name of Stephan Furrow, former CEO of Furrow and Son Investments.

It seems that Stephan is all about strippers, coke and riding around in his cabin cruiser on Fire Lake. His son, Roman, has him on an allowance, ever since he’d gotten the shares needed to wrest control of their company from his father’s mismanaging hands. Roman is a decent man, and has worked tirelessly, and thanklessly, for the past few years to restore the portfolios of their investment holdings after his lust-hungry father nearly bankrupted them. Some of daddy-dearest’s minions still work for the company, though, and they make trouble happen to see if they can destabilize Roman’s operations. When Brick comes after Furrow and Son for their shady tactics to take over his property, well, Roman is ashamed. He had no knowledge of Stephan’s involvement in coercing the secretary–who Brick has hired to help manage his construction projects.

Meanwhile, a few members of Brick’s old unit need some place to stay and something to do, so he puts them on renovation duty. Soon his house is a bustling place. Well, maybe not exactly bustling, but the bedrooms are filling up. Even has some room for Roman when his car breaks down near the property during a storm. The forced proximity of hiding in a storm shelter breaks open some raw feelings for both Roman and Brick–because they each see the deeply good core of the other during mutual rescue attempts. Beyond that, well, Roman and Brick get to talking. Seems Roman has had an inordinate number of “accidents” that coulda-shoulda incapacitated him. Were these just coincidences? Or, is there a plot to take out Roman, returning power and money into Stephan’s greedy paws.

This was a new-to-me author experience. I’ve read a lot of SEAL romance, and veteran romance, so I thought I’d really enjoy it. I kinda felt as though there was a lot of coincidence that overwhelmed me, giving me the sense that I already knew–or could reasonably anticipate–exactly what was coming next. All the bad guys were too sinister, and all the good guys were too heroic, making them all feel a little one dimensional, and the plot gimmicky. The pace of the romance felt too quick, as well, without sufficient time for Brick and Roman to really develop a lot of chemistry. It seemed like Roman was outstandingly naive, and his father cartoonishly malevolent. This book is a clear set up for the cadre of former SEALs that come to Brick’s aid to later find their own romances. I’m usually okay with that, but I think it was a little heavy-handed in this story. I might try another book in this series, just to see if I got a bad vibe on this one.

Interested? You can find BRICK on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

M. Tasia is an mm romance author who lives in Ontario, Canada. Michelle is a dedicated people watcher, lover of romance novels, 80’s rock, and happily ever afters (once the MCs are put through their paces), who grew up with a love of reading. She’s a firm believer that everyone deserves to have love, excitement, and crazy hot romance in their lives. Love should be celebrated and shared.

Catch up with Ms. Tasia on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Stacked Deck or FIGHTING CHANCE? Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Anni Lee. FIGHTING CHANCE is the first book in a series following a fame-hungry singer-songwriter and the jaded lyricist that falls hard for him.

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

About the book:

How can you write a love song before you’ve felt one?

Roland Finley is convinced he has what it takes to win the Battle of the Bands, a reality TV show where up and coming musicians compete for a record deal. But between college, work, and band practice, he hasn’t had time to experience any of the romance he sings about, and his amateur writing needs a lot of work. This is never more apparent than when a stranger in the park stumbles upon his notebook and tells it exactly like it is.

Jay McClintock wanted nothing to do with this silly reality show, but as the head writer for ALIVE Records, his boss had other plans. After being tasked with writing and coaching one of Roland’s biggest rivals behind the scenes, the only thing keeping him sane is teasing the strange (and low-key talented) young writer he encountered in the park.

Writing for the enemy should have been no big deal, but the more Jay accidentally (and not-so-accidentally) runs into Roland, the harder it is for him to come clean about his involvement with the show. Fortunately, there’s one medium through which they both know how to communicate: Song.

How about a little taste?

My heart was beating in perfect time with the crowd’s applause. Quick, loud, chaotic, completely out of control. A bead of sweat slid down my cheek, caught on my jawline, and dripped off my chin. I didn’t know if it was from my nerves or the heat of the blaring neon lights overhead. I can barely believe we’ve come this far. Would I be here if not for him?

No. Don’t think about him right now. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve a place on this stage with me. He never did. This is my one chance, and I’m not going to screw it up because of him.

I gripped the mic firmly and swallowed hard.

“I hope you’re ready to rock, Los Angeles!”

*

Three Months Ago

“Habanero Marmalade? What kind of a name is that?” Logan shoved another bite of garlic bread in his mouth, mumbling words between chewing.

“It’s the kind of name that people will remember. A little ridiculous, but also…deep. Poignant. Clever.” I leaned forward over the table, and I mentally deconstructed all the signs in the food court to spell our name. Using the Habanero from Habanero Juan’s and the Ma from Mama’s Pizza made for a fairly respectable logo.

“And fucking stupid.”

My guitarist had no class at all, clearly.

“Well, what do you want to call us then? If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”

“How about Death Ringer or Dragon’s Fury or something badass like that?”

“What? No. We’re not a metal band. We’re supposed to sound edgy, not like we eat children.” I stole a piece of garlic bread out of his tray and crushed it between my teeth as a symbolic display of my disappointment. Also, as a less symbolic display of the fact that I couldn’t afford lunch that day. “Look, as the writer and lead singer, I think I know more about what sounds good to people than you do.”

“Whatever, Roland.” Logan waved a hand in the air as if to knock away my self-importance. “You can have all the say you want as soon as you come up with something better than Hot Orange Jelly.”

“Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “But we need to have this settled by Friday if we’re really going to audition for the Battle of the Bands.”

“That’s four whole days away. Plenty of time.” Logan crammed an impressively large spindle of spaghetti into his mouth before he stood to toss out his tray. “All right, back to work.” He ran a hand through his hair and retied his bun to make sure it was neat and kempt enough for the jewelry shop. He was so tall, lean, and good-looking. I could only imagine how many diamonds he sold with his smile alone. Or how many relationships he broke up with a well-placed wink.

He gave me one last grin before he headed back. “The girls’ volleyball team has a game today. Go walk on over and find something more inspiring than your grandma’s pantry.”

Right. Because a bunch of jocks knocking a ball around is so inspiring. But despite my protests, we were going to have to agree on something if we were going to enter this competition. The Battle of the Bands was more than just a silly reality show. It was a chance at a dream in a world convoluted with fellow dreamers. If we could stand out there, we could stand out anywhere. But I needed Logan to take it seriously first. And I needed to figure out a name.

We had been through a couple of names already: Cheese and Cracker (my idea), Log Rol (his idea), Raining Soup (my idea), Dos Vikings (his idea), PIE-tastophic (my idea. In hindsight, I should probably stop coming up with band names while I’m starving). Having had no success with building a fan base doing local gigs, we both agreed that it would be good to get a fresh start for our TV debut. But I swear to God, coming up with names was the hardest part of being an artist.

I shook my head and grabbed my notebook. He was right about one thing, anyway. A walk would do me some good.

I left the mall and strolled back toward campus, cutting through the park on the way. I always liked this park. Birds chirped and whistled in the trees, creating the perfect ambience for deep thinking. Birds were what inspired me to sing in the first place. All those days sitting in my mother’s garden, listening to their high-pitched calls, watching them fly wherever they wanted to go. Their voices were the battle cry of freedom. Singing was freedom.

I glanced at the trees and whistled my best mockingbird call. Almost on cue, a mockingbird took to the sky. It flapped its wings to the music. Beautiful. I whistled again, and it came toward me. Closer. Closer.

Wait a second—too close! The bird swooped down and knocked into me with its wings. My notebook flew from my hands as I instinctively swatted it away. I always forgot that mockingbirds were assholes.

Once the bird flew off, I collected myself and looked for my notebook. A man stood before me, tall, poised, and sophisticated. He had frameless rectangular glasses that sat on a perfect nose, framed with light-brown hair that fell stylishly unkempt around his face. One of his black leather dress shoes sat pointedly atop my open notebook.

He reached down and picked it up. I watched on, dumbfounded, as his sharp blue eyes moved back and forth over the pages.

“Don’t read that—that’s private!” I heard my voice ringing entirely too loudly in the air, causing the remaining nearby birds to scatter. Something about the sky full of fleeing sparrows, surrounding this dark figure, felt like an image out of horror movie. Like he was an evil sorcerer learning all my secrets before promptly taking over the world.

“I can see why.” His voice was deep and smooth. “I wouldn’t want to share this drivel with anyone either.”

“It’s not…” I was too shocked to figure out how to respond. There was months of work in that notebook. My prized lyrics. My potential band names. Hand-scrawled sheet music. Everything that made up my hopes and dreams.

“I’ll shoot right past the goalie of your love. My puck in your net. Points on the headboard… Are you fucking serious?” He shut my notebook and tossed it over his shoulder, shaking his head in disgust all the while. Hearing my lyrics recited out loud was triggering all my fears and insecurities. Who the hell does this guy think he is?

“It’s supposed to be provocative…” I mumbled under my breath, averting my gaze so he couldn’t read the hurt in my eyes. “Th-that’s just the first draft. It was going to get way better before the competition.” I didn’t know why he was being so harsh anyway. Any words would sound like garbage if you said them like that. Any words… Right?

He walked past me with his hands in his pockets, his eyes hidden by the glare of the sun on his lenses.

“Find another hobby. You’re wasting your time.” He gave me one last kick in the heart before he stepped out of earshot. I watched as he walked away.

My Review:

Roland Finley and his best friend-slash-stepbrother Logan have been building their band for years. Both in college and working part-time jobs, Roland is sure that getting a spot on the Battle of the Bands reality show will be their breakout experience. Roland is the vocalist, who also plays keyboards, and Logan plays guitar. They don’t have a big following and their few gigs have all been for family or friends, but Roland has big dreams. He’s working on new songs for the show audition, and is startled to encounter a salty-tongued songwriter in the park near his dorm. Jay McClintock is a legend, the writer behind numerous top-grossing acts, notably Brad Garza, who Roland rather emulates. Jay’s sneering critique of the lyrics in Roland’s notebook is a lightning rod to help Roland write more heartfelt and cohesive lyrics. He and Logan, performing as Fighting Chance, grab one of the four LA-based band spots in the TV show. Along with longtime rivals Dread Theory, fronted by Lance Gold, son of an oil company billionaire and somehow former schoolmates with both Roland and Logan.

Jay McClintock is a man of secrets. He’s been raised under an alias after his family was murdered, but he’s become a notable songwriter, rising among the ranks at ALIVE Records. He’s made few friends over the years, though he and Brad are close–once lovers but better as friends. He’s not sure why Roland is so appealing, but he’s sure it’s only a whim. After all, his juvenile lyrics won’t get him into the competition. And, even if they do, well, Jay has been contracted by his company to write the songs Dread Theory will sing for the competition. Yeah, reality TV is a sham, when his own record company is just using it as a springboard for a rich man’s son to build an audience before the record launch. Yet, Jay’s intrigued further and further when Roland’s songs become more and more deep, and garner his professional as well as personal respect. He’d planned to toy with the kid a bit, but now, well, Roland’s fresh sound and virginal naivete call to Jay on a primal level.

This is a mostly fun and breezy rock romance, with some deeper currents relating to Jay’s backstory of violence. BRad makes some cameos, urging Jay to take his feelings seriously, even as Jay fears Roland’s response if he learns that Jay’s been providing the fuel for his biggest rival to steal his dream. And, well, the sex is both risky and amazing. Roland is an unqualified novice in nearly everything, and definitely relishes Jay’s attention and his expertise. They connect in ways Roland hardly dared to imagine, giving away all his firsts without a second thought. I liked Roland a lot, he’s peppy and sweet, the opposite of Jay, giving Jay the opportunity to display his softer underbelly–if infrequently. Logan and Brad can see the connection, however, once they’re all out in the open together, before Jay or Roland reveal their relationship.

The competition is fierce, but Fighting Chance is not going down without giving it their all–even after Jay’s behind-the-scenes activity becomes apparent to Roland. What he didn’t expect was the depth of his own feelings for Jay, nor the depth of Jay’s losses, and what fuels his own creative streak. The story ends with a Happy For Now, and a tease that Jay’s dark past with take center stage in the next book. I liked the rock romance part of the story, but felt the witness protection storyline was weak, by comparison. And, honestly, when did Roland and Logan attend class? These “college students” did nothing college-related but sleep in a dorm. For me that was an oversight which could have ramped up some tension, or fed into the growing fan base to prop these guys up.

Interested? You can find FIGHTING CHANCE on Goodreads and NineStar Press.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:

Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

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


Jock + Nerd = Romance! RULES OF PLAY– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. RULES OF PLAY is the second book in her new The Script Club series, and features a literal rocket scientist falling hard for his childhood crush–a jock friend of his older brother. You can catch my review for the first book in the series, FOLLOWING THE RULES, but this one is fine read as a standalone, too.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.

About the book:

The genius, the mechanic, and a new playbook…

George-

My brother’s friend is hot. If you’re into flannel-wearing lumbersexual former jocks who eat donuts for dinner and still scribble to-do lists on their palms. I’m not. I’m a serious scientist in my final of grad school. Okay, I admit I have few quirks of my own. I also have a broken truck and a boss who thinks I can help him find love. I’m in over my head. Help!

Aiden-

A few quirks? Really? George the weirdest dude I know. He wears capes in public, brings a book everywhere he goes, and loves all thing spooky. He’s also the smartest person on the planet—who somehow thinks I can help him write a How-To-Get-A-Date playbook for his boss. Yeah, that sounds suspicious. I know baseball; I don’t know anything about love. But I can’t say no. I’ve always had a soft spot for George. I just didn’t count on falling for my best friend’s nerdy brother. This is against the rules, isn’t it?

Rules of Play is an MM bisexual awakening story where opposites attract and shenanigans ensue!

How about a little taste?

“The Script Club?”

I grimaced. “Well, yeah. That name came later.”

“You really are a little weirdo, aren’t you?”

The twinkle in Aiden’s eyes and his affectionate tone paired with an unlikely term of endearment were exactly what I needed to pull me from my infatuation-induced awkwardness.

I smacked his biceps playfully, then leaned against his side, staring up at the crescent moon in the twilight sky. “I am weird and I am proud.”

Aiden chuckled. “I like that about you. I like your idea too. It’s a good one. I should get in on that and collect a few new experiences before I quit the garage and move on to my next venture.”

“What would you do? I mean, what would you want to try?”

“I don’t know. Maybe something will come to me.” He set the half-eaten container of meatballs down and reached for his beer. “As for your boss…he needs a rule book.”

I shifted to face him. “What kind of rule book?”

“A dating rule book. It would be the equivalent of a sports playbook…a list of strategies and a backup plan if things go awry.”

“Okay, that makes sense. Step one, ask for a date.”

Aiden shook his head. “No. Don’t go in hot. Gotta practice a little finesse. It’s better to get to know someone—ask about their interests, share yours, and see if there’s anything there. Theoretically, that’s how I think it should work.”

“You’re right. They have to build a rapport.” I squinted. “He’s going to need an icebreaker.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. Hit me with your best shot.”

“Uh…what do you mean?” I stammered.

“Pretend you’re into me and you want to get to know me.” Aiden quirked a brow and wiggled his fingers. “Ask me something.”

“What are your interests?”

He made an obnoxious buzzer noise and rolled his eyes. “Wrong. That’s a date question. A lame one, too. Would you really walk up to someone and ask them what they’re into?”

“No, of course not.”

“Redo. You’re trying to get to know me, but you can’t be too forward, and you can’t make assumptions. Got it?” He waited for my nod of agreement and continued. “Pretend we’re standing at the coffee machine at work on a Monday morning. And…action.”

“O-kay…what did you do last weekend?”

Aiden smiled. “Good one. And my answer…not much. I went to that college ball game I told you about last week, watched a lot of basketball, made arrangements to schlep your Bronco here, and played pool with Kenny and a couple of high school buddies. You?”

“I studied and hung out with my friends.”

He stared at me long enough for me to wonder if I had meatball between my teeth.

“If that’s all you have to say, you just killed this conversation,” he deadpanned.

I chuckled. “I did not. It was your turn to ask <em>me</em> something. That’s how it works in real life. I’m not that big of a dork!”

“But what about your boss?”

Good point. “Newton is a big dork. Very big.”

“Right, so this is where rules come into play. You have to pay attention and take hints and clues to heart. Almost everything I mentioned about my weekend had a theme…sports. I told you what I’m interested in without announcing, ‘I like sports.’ If you really wanted to get in my pants, you’d ask me a sports-related question.”

I shot to my feet, whirling my cape like a true badass. “Who said anything about getting in your pants?”

Yes, I was entirely in favor of the idea, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t said it aloud.

“Isn’t that the end game?” Aiden flashed a devilish grin my way.

“No! I mean, maybe for you, but not for Newton. I don’t think he’s hoping for sex.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Love!”

Aiden widened his eyes comically. “What’s that?”

“I don’t know,” I sighed in defeat, reclaiming my spot on the stoop next to him. “That’s why this is complicated.”

My Review:
George is the youngest child in his family. His two older brothers were huge jocks–Simon even played pro football before concussions sidelined him. And, Simon’s best friend Aiden has been the star of many a nighttime–and daytime–fantasy for George since forever. Aiden played football with Simon and baseball with their eldest brother, but George never got into “sportsball,” always sitting on the sidelines while his brothers played, usually wearing a cape, and always reading a book. George didn’t fancy himself a superhero, he was more goth/vampire inspired, and is a bit high on the socially awkward scale, with a low tolerance for peopleing. George is bisexual, but he leans more toward men than women in his sexual attraction.

George really adored how Aiden would stand up for him, like his brothers, whenever idiot jocks would pick on him. He’s a grown man now, working on his graduate degree in aeronautics and trying not to lean on his folks for help, so when his ancient truck breaks down, George is happy to oblige Aiden who suggests a creative way to pay for the repairs.

Aiden’s nearing 30 and wants more than working as a grease monkey for his homophobic uncle. He’s always loved athletics, and has been quietly taking courses that will help him become a scout for baseball teams. He even has some rudimentary algorithms put together to make this more structured, but he wants George’s mathematics brain to look over his calculations in order to confirm he’s on the right track. George is a little overwhelmed, with his internship and school–especially now that his incredibly awkward boss wants tips on how to woo a co-worker who’d made play for George. He isn’t really interested in her–a mutual feeling–but it’s convenient to claim he has a boyfriend to get his boss off his back, except now the boss thinks the “boyfriend” can also help him in his romantic quest.

So, George and Aiden spend a lot of time together, fixing the truck and watching baseball games, to help Aiden’s mission to become a scout. It’s quiet nights sharing the meals George’s mom delivers and moments of absolute discovery as Aiden confesses his own unrequited attraction for the shy but beautiful man George has grown into.

This is a sweet New Adult romance with lots of playfulness, and the expected family struggles, as George attempts to keep his fling with Aiden on the down-low to not upset Simon. I liked how this echoed the tension from FOLLOWING THE RULES, where Simon was keeping his interest in Topher–George’s good friend and housemate–on the super down-low. Aiden’s personal life is definitely changing, but in ways he’s ready to embrace as he finally follows his own path and becomes the man he’s strived to be. There are some dirty firsts, flirty moments, and caped crusades in this one, and I really enjoyed them all. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find RULES OF PLAY on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards.

She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.


Knowing Where the Bodies Lay–SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG is the fourth book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I’m a huge fan! Previous titles include: MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE, SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE, and MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE, and this episode has Ellery Page, bumbling bookseller and outsider in a small town, caught in another mystery when one of his eccentric clients asks him to look into the ghoul that’s been terrorizing her. I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT and I BURIED A WITCH if you’re interested in magical realism M/M odd-couple romance from this author.

Scandal at the Solty Dog coverAbout the book:

Mystery Stalks the Cobbled Streets of Pirate’s Cove

Who or what is haunting elderly recluse Juliet Blackwell, what does it have to do with mysterious goings-on at the Salty Dog Pub–and why is any of it mystery bookshop owner Ellery Page’s problem? According to sometimes boyfriend Police Chief Jack Carson, it’s not Ellery’s problem, and Ellery should stop asking awkward questions before it’s too late.

Ellery couldn’t agree more, but it’s hard to say no when someone is as frightened as old Mrs. Blackwell. Mrs. Blackwell insists the ghost of long dead pirate Rufus Blackwell has come to avenge himself on the last member of his treacherous clan.

Before Ellery can say, “Yikes!” Mrs. Blackwell takes a tumble down the grand staircase of her spooky mansion, and it’s up to Ellery to find who is trying to kill his eccentric customer.

My Review:
Screenwriter and former actor Ellery Page is finally settling into quaint but active Pirate’s Cove. He’s got himself a steady beau in Police Chief Jack Carson, even though Jack is continually challenged by Ellery’s penchant for getting caught up in murder plots in real life. They seem to have a truce on Ellery making unauthorized investigations–especially since the last time netted the criminal plus a cracked skull. Ellery’s just getting over his concussion when another mystery seems to be knocking on his door.

Miss Juliet Blackwell is an elderly woman and life-long resident of Pirate’s Cove. She is a spinster and peculiar, never letting people into her spacious, though now-crumbling, mansion. Ellery was asked to deliver some of her new book purchases, and while there he hears Miss Blackwell screaming in terror. He’s not terribly well, but he is able to climb through an open window and rescue Juliet who had a nasty fall and is terrified the ghost of her pirate ancestor has finally come a-calling to take her home to rest. Thing is, Ellery was sure another person was in Juliet’s home at the time of her “attack” though she later denies seeing anyone.

On a side note, a fellow Scrabbler, Libby, is filling in for her injured father, Tom, running their family tavern and boarding house, the Salty Dog Inn. Libby is a just 18, and she’s had some upsets with her dad taking sick and her last boyfriend getting into big legal trouble, so Ellery is pretty sure Libby’s reports of theft from her bar and kitchen are just borne out of pressure and exhaustion. However, his promise to quietly investigate lead to further mayhem. And, Jack is feeling decidedly salty about Ellery doing anything remotely dangerous, or sleuth-y, since the debacle at the Bloodworth crypt a few weeks back.

This is a fast-paced mystery that really digs deeper into to history of Pirate’s Cove, as well as that of its enigmatic citizens. I loved the scandal, as well as the cave explorations–a tunnel system that dates back to the pirate age and has been in continuous use for sometimes-nefarious dealings. Jack is stellar as a foil to Ellery, who really IS trying to not get murdered, or injured, this book. They made a sweet couple in investigation as well as back home. It was awesome to see a peek behind Jack’s tough exterior, and I’m very much looking forward to watching him and Ellery fall deep into love in future stories.

It’s a little less dramatic than the previous books, in that the death doesn’t come at the beginning of the story. Ellery’s a champ throughout, and his compassion–even for his biggest enemies–is really astounding. I flew through this story, much like the previous books in this series, and I recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries, especially those starring LGBTQ characters.

Interested? You can find SCANDAL AT THE SALTY DOG on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Dangerous Guests MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M cozy mystery from Josh Lanyon. MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE is the third book in the Secrets and Scrabble series, and I just adored it! Like MURDER AT PIRATE’S COVE and SECRET AT SKULL HOUSE, Ellery Page, bumbling bookseller and outsider in a small town is caught in another mystery when there’s a murder during a masquerade party and the prime suspect is a young man who’s fallen hard for Ellery.  I’ve also enjoyed MAINLY BY MOONLIGHT and I BURIED A WITCH if you’re interested in magical realism M/M odd-couple romance from this author.

Mystery at the Masquerade coverAbout the book:

Love is in the Salt Sea Air–and So is Murder!

Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, the Crow’s Nest, is both flattered and bemused when he’s invited to the annual Marauder’s Masquerade, the best and biggest social event of the season in the quaint seaside village of Pirate’s Cove, Rhode Island. The event is hosted by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley—a descendant of the famed pirate Tom Blood. Ellery doesn’t even know Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley—nor, it turns out—does Mrs. Bloodworth-Ainsley know him. But Marguerite’s son, Julian wants to know Ellery. Julian, handsome, rich and engaging, is a huge mystery buff. In fact, he’s bought quite a few books at the Crow’s Nest bookstore, but never quite worked up the nerve to ask Ellery out.

As his relationship with Police Chief Carson seems to be dead in the water, Ellery is grateful for a little flattering attention from the village’s most eligible bachelor, but any hopes of romance hit the shoals when Julian is accused of murdering his mother’s unlikable second husband during the Masquerade’s annual ghost hunt in the family’s spooky cemetery

My Review:
Screenwriter and former actor Ellery Page is finally settling into quaint but active Pirate’s Cove. He’s got himself an unexpected invitation for the party of the season, a masquerade ball at the Bloodworth house–one of the many pirate mansions dotting the cove. It turns out that Julian Bloodsworth-Ainsley is a big fan of Ellery, finding him both mature and attractive, and he wanted a chance to spend some time with Ellery that could be fun and lead to frisky times. Though Ellery is a bit smitten with Police Chief Jack Carson, it doesn’t seem that Jack is ready to make any true advances, due to his long-standing heartbreak and fear of commitment. Besides, Jack’s pretty busy investigating the rash of burglaries that have been plaguing the grand houses and wealthy of Pirate’s Cove for the past few months.

Flattered by Julian’s attention, Ellery mostly enjoys the masquerade, until Julian’s uncouth and mean stepfather turns up dead. While the man’s mistress and wife are both suspects it’s also Julian that Jack has his eye on–after finding the body and messing up the crime scene. Ellery feels terrible for Julian, because he believes the young man is being set up, and Jack seems pretty resolute on developing a case against Julian. And, of course, Ellery is still plagued by the editor of the local paper, who thinks that it’s Ellery’s activity which deserves far more scrutiny.

I loved how Ellery is now becoming a man of the town in his own right. His friends are all in his corner, and his eye for detail is definitely a point in this amateur sleuth’s favor. He’s willing to go the extra mile for his friends, new and old, and it shows in all his actions. I love that he finally takes on the editor of the paper, and stands up to Jack for Julian’s sake when it’s necessary. His bookshop is a hub of fellow sleuthers–though they are more overt than Ellery, who, more often than not, stumbles into scenes and clues as opposed to LOOKING for a mystery to solve.

This case leave a lasting mark on Ellery, one that gives both him and Jack pause. Recognizing (again for Jack) the shortness of life spurs them both on to becoming a bit more serious. Don’t expect steam, it’s a cozy mystery with a dash of a romance.

I flew through this story, much like the previous books in this series, and I recommend it to fans of cozy mysteries, especially those starring LGBTQ characters.

Interested? You can find MYSTERY AT THE MASQUERADE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!