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!

Living Through Tragedy THE SECRETS WE KEEP- Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. THE SECRETS WE KEEP features two grieving men connecting at the funeral of a woman they both loved and lost. It’s an odd-couple romance, and the age and wealth gap pose interesting conflicts. If you liked LEGALLY WED, or THE PERILS OF INTIMACY you’ll like this one, too.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Jasper Warren is a happy-go-lucky young man in spite of the tragedy that’s marred his life. He’s on a road to nowhere with his roommate, Lacy, whom he adores, and a dead-end retail job in Chicago.

And then everything changes in a single night. Though Jasper doesn’t know it, his road is going somewhere after all. This time when tragedy strikes, it brings with it Lacy’s older, wealthy, sexy uncle Rob. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, an immediate connection forms between the two men.

But the secrets between them test their attraction. Will their revelations destroy the bloom of new love… or encourage it to grow?

How about a little taste?

Prologue
“Hey! I don’t think you should go through that,” Rob said, barely audible because he didn’t want his fear to show. He sucked in a breath and clutched his suitcase close to him, as though it were a child—or a flotation device. Or a boy he loved and didn’t want to lose…

The water spread out on the road under the overpass like a black mirror. It could have been a few inches deep or a few feet. From just a visual, there was no way to gauge how deep it was. No person with any sense would drive into it.

His Uber driver, a sallow-complexioned man in his forties wearing a black baseball cap, gave out a low whistle. “We’ll be okay,” he said cheerfully, with a confidence Rob simply didn’t have. “Just sit back and let me worry. We’ll be fine.”

Rob wished he had the nerve to speak up, to command, “No! Don’t! Just turn around.” After all, this driver was putting them both in danger. But he felt like protesting would make him seem insane or, at the very least, silly. So what’s worse, he wondered, seeming crazy or drowning? He cursed himself for the ridiculous lengths he went to so as to avoid confrontation.

A thunderclap as loud as an explosion sounded then, and Rob swore the black Lincoln Continental shuddered under its vibration. Lightning turned the dark, cloud-choked dawn skies bright white for an instant, as though day had peeked in, seen the weather, and then ducked back out.

“This baby can get through it,” the driver said, giving the car a little more gas.

Rob tightened his lips to a single line and furrowed his brows as his driver set off into the small lake stretching out before them. As the driver moved completely under the overpass, the drumming sound of the rain on the roof suddenly ceased, and the silence was like the intake of a breath.

“C’mon, c’mon,” the driver urged almost under his breath as he sallied farther into the water, giving the car more gas.

Even before the engine started to whine in protest, Rob knew they were in trouble by the way the water parted to admit the Lincoln. Waves sloshed by on either side.

Rob thought again he should speak up—like maybe to suggest that the driver could attempt to back up—but held his tongue. The guy was a professional, right? He knew what he was doing.

They’d be okay.

And the driver continued, deeper and deeper into the water standing so treacherously beneath the overpass.

The engine made a lowing sound, like a cow’s moo, as the flood rose up the sides of the vehicle.

Rob gasped as brackish, foul-smelling water covered his loafered feet, pouring in through the small spaces around the doors.

The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror. There was a defeat in his voice as he said, “You better open your door and get out while you can.”

Rob wondered, for only a moment, why he would want to. Then it struck him with the adrenaline-fueled clarity born of panic that if he didn’t open his door now, he might never get another chance. The rising water and its pressure would make it impossible to open the door.

If it wasn’t already too late…

Rob leaned over and pressed against the door. The engine stalled at that moment, and his driver reached for his own door handle up front.

For a brief moment that caused his heart to drum fast, Rob feared his door wouldn’t open. He slid over and leaned against it with his shoulder pressed against the black leather, grunting.

The door held and then suddenly gave way.

Granted access, water rushed into the vehicle. The icy current rose up, covering his ankles and his calves. It was almost over his knees when he managed to slide from the Lincoln.

Outside the car, he stood. The water rose up almost to his neck. He felt nothing, only a kind of numbness and wonder. His driver was already sloshing forward toward the pearly light at the other side of the overpass. He didn’t give Rob so much as a backward glance.

Rob started moving against the water, wondering what might be swimming in it.

Thunder grumbled and then cracked again. The lightning flared, brilliant white, once more. And the rain poured down even harder.

He looked back for a moment at the Lincoln Continental, thinking about his TUMI bag on the seat. There was no hope for that now!

He slogged through the water and progressed steadily forward, feeling like a refugee in some third-world country, bound for freedom. In his head he heard the swell of inspirational music.

After what seemed like an hour, but was really only about five minutes, Rob reached dry land at the end of the overpass, where the entrance ramp veered upward toward the highway. Cars whizzed by, sending up sprays of water, the motorists oblivious.

His driver eyed him but said nothing. He was out of breath.

Rob stood in the rain and remembered his iPhone in the front pocket of his khakis. He pulled it out, thinking to call for help. But when he pressed the Home button, the screen briefly illuminated and then blinked out, the picture of an ocean wave crashing toward the shore first skewing weirdly, then vanishing.

“Shit,” he whispered and then replaced the phone in his soaking-wet pants pocket.

He needn’t have worried about calling for help, however, because it seemed the universe had done it for him. On the other side of the overpass, a fire truck, lights on but no siren, pulled up to the water’s edge. Then two police cruisers. And finally, surprisingly, a news van with a satellite antenna on top brought up the rear.

The rest was kind of a blur. Through a bullhorn, one of the firemen advised them to come back toward them but to use the median instead of slogging through the flood. The concrete divider was only a few inches above the sloshing water.

Somehow, Rob and his driver managed a tightrope walk across the lake the underpass had become, balancing on the concrete divider.

When they reached the other side, one of the newscasters, a guy in a red rain slicker, stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to tell him what happened. Was he afraid? Stunned, Rob shook his head and moved toward the cop cars. Behind him, he could hear the driver talking to the reporter.

At the first police car, a uniformed officer got out from behind the steering wheel. She shut the door behind her and held a hand above the bill of her cap to further shield her from the rain. She was young, maybe midtwenties, with short black hair and a stout and sturdy build.

“You okay, sir?”

Rob nodded. “Yeah, I guess.” He smiled. “Didn’t expect a swim this early in the morning.”

The officer didn’t laugh. “Where were you headed? We might be able to take you, or at the very least, we can summon a taxi for you.”

And Rob opened his mouth to say, “To the airport” and then shut it again.

One thought stood out in his head. I could have drowned. He looked toward the Lincoln, which was filled now with water up to the middle of the windshield.

“Sir? You need us to get you somewhere?”

Rob debated, thinking of a young man, perhaps out in this same rain, getting almost as drenched as he was. He opened his mouth again to speak, unsure of how he could or should answer her question.

What he said now could very well determine the course of the rest of his life.

My Review:
Jasper and Lacy are the best of friends living in a vintage courtyard one bedroom apartment in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. They both work retail jobs, and they adore one another, but Jasper is openly gay, and Lacy is his subtlely enamored wingwoman. Jasper and Lacy make up each other’s “chosen family” since Jasper’s emotionally-closed father hardly calls to talk; his pregnant mother and younger sister were murdered when Jasper was a young child and his father never crawled past his grief. Lacy says her family are a bunch of liars and she wants nothing to do with them, so they support one another and have done so for the past few years as roomies and friends. Jasper knows Lacy wants a sexual relationship with him, but its beyond his ability, and he’s comfortable being her best friend anyway.

They are out for drinks one night and Jasper hangs out later than usual, hoping to find a sexy man for the night, but he gives up and goes home alone, where Lacy convinces him to cuddle with her following a bad dream. Jasper awakes in his own bed the next morning, unsure how he got there and unsettled by the stillness of the apartment. Lacy should have been up long ago, and his morbid curiosity leads him to find Lacy in her bed, cold and past saving.

Jasper is wrecked. Lacy was his lifeline, and he’s unable to do more than visit the funeral home where her detested parents have the wake arranged. “Lacy” was her chosen name, and he doesn’t recognize the goth girl he knew in the brown-haired pink-dressed Heather who fills Lacy’s coffin. Jasper is intercepted by Lacy/Heather’s uncle, Rob, a 40ish silver fox who seems desperate to know something of Heather’s life over the past five years, since she’d broken off all contact with her family. Lacy’d urged Jasper to move on, and not wonder about the darkness of her family, and how they broke her spirit, but he’s willing to console Rob for a bit.

The secrets of Lacy/Heather’s family begin to unravel in ways that Jasper couldn’t have expected. Turns out Rob is a famous mystery/suspense author that Jasper has been a fan of for years–and Lacy never shared that secret. Rob convinces Jasper to correspond with him via text and email, to keep Lacy alive between the two of them, and Jasper is reticent, but determined to share the truth of his dearest friend. This tentative communication begins to build more of a bond between the two men, and Jasper is kind of shell shocked. He’s never sought out older men, or fancied himself a gold digger, yet he’s difinitely attracted to Rob who is nearly 20 years older, and wealthier than God. This inequality is unsettling and a big barrier for the growing intimacy that Jasper and Rob are developing. It’s not until Jasper finally accepts Rob’s request to come visit his Palm Springs mansion that Jasper learns the true nature of Rob’s place in Lacy’s life–the huge secret that cut Lacy’s ties to her family.

This story had a lot of spooky-ish moments that seemed like sinister foreshadowing, but turned out to be more introspective than at first glance. I didn’t really know what to expect about the tragedies Jasper has faced, and I was sad for his losses. He’s a decent guy, but not nearly as happy-go-lucky as the blurb indicates. Losing Lacy really exposes Jasper’s depression, and he’s not sure he’s worthy of love, in many ways. It obstructs his ability to build strong relationships, but he works through his grief, and his confusion about Rob–who has his own secrets to share and grief to survive.

The end is truly a happy one, however, with Rob and Jasper living honestly, and supporting one another emotionally. I liked how Jasper repaired his relationship with his father, and made the effort to connect with Rob, who really needs a loving partner. The harrowing moments didn’t result in further tragedy, but there were certainly enough breadcrumbs out there to keep me on edge for the next shoe to drop.

I liked the story and enjoyed watching the love that grew through patience, honesty and communication between Jasper and Rob. They each deserved a caring lover, and they helped each other grieve and move on from the pain that first united them.

Interested? You can find THE SECRETS WE KEEP on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Coming to Terms With THE PERILS OF INTIMACY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. THE PERILS OF INTIMACY features two unlikely men making a connection–and realizing their history goes far deeper than a diner meet-cute. It’s an odd-couple romance, for sure, especially viewed through the lens of addiction, recovery and forgiveness. If you liked LEGALLY WED, you’ll like this one, too.

About the book:
Mark believes he’s meeting Jimmy for the first time in the diner where he works, but he’s wrong. Mark has no recollection of their original encounter because the wholesome Jimmy of today couldn’t be more different than he was two years ago. Back then, Jimmy sported multiple piercings and facial hair. He was painfully skinny—and a meth addict. The drug transformed him into a lying, conniving thief.

Mark doesn’t associate the memory of a hookup gone wrong with this fresh-faced twenty-something… but Jimmy knows. Can Mark see Jimmy for the man he is now and not the addict he was? The answers depend on whether true love holds enough light to shine through the darkness of past mistakes.

My Review:
Mark and Jimmy meet for the second time at Becky’s Diner in Seattle. Jimmy is the cute 23 year old waiter, and Mark is the 40-something flirtatious customer. They feel a spark, and set a date for a date. Jimmy has a sense of deja vu regarding this man, which is unsettling. Jimmy is a recovering meth addict and he hurt himself and a lot of other people when he was using. He’s been sober two years now, and is rebuilding his life. His intuition bears out when Jimmy remembers…Mark was a man he robbed during a meth-fueled hook-up shortly before Jimmy hit rock bottom and sought recovery.

Now, Jimmy is a whole different man. He lives with a fellow recovering addict and makes his meetings. He’s really got a spark with Mark, and he doesn’t want to lose out on the possibility of something good just because he was out of control years before. Mark hasn’t forgotten the violation of Jimmy’s theft. What he’d taken wasn’t that expensive, but the sense of violation was far more destructive for Mark. It makes him skittish around new lovers, and particularly when he connects the dots back to that terrible night. Sure, Jimmy has his life together at this moment, but what guarantee could he make to Mark not to hurt him again? What if he goes back to using? Can he really ever trust this Jimmy–knowing what he does about Jimmy’s past?

This story really hit home for me, having close family members who struggle with, and have overcome, addiction. Jimmy can only accept the responsibility for his actions, and continue to demonstrate how much he has changed in his sobriety. This situation with Mark is definitely stressful, and Jimmy reaches out to his supports to keep him from using when he feels triggered. Mark has to decide: can he forgive Jimmy for the man he was, and accept him for the man he is? They have a shot at getting a happy ending, but only if they are both able to be honest and trust one another.

I liked the compressed time frame of this story, that they connect on a Monday and their lives intersect several times in the course of a tumultuous week. This gave a lot of space to a deep dive into the character’s mindsets and struggles. Neither Jimmy nor Mark are simple men–even if they truly want something simple: a steady life and a loving partner. There’s a little bit of mystic running in here, too, especially for Jimmy who seems in tune with his past, present and future in the way of heightened awareness. This comes through in glimpses, with the deja vu, intuition, conversations with trusted “spirits” and the call to assist people–from junkies cleaning up, to Mark in the heat of a bad moment.

I really liked this one, with its messages of forgiveness–of both self and others–of redemption, and finding the right partner at the right time in one’s life. It stuck with me long after I turned the last page. The romance was low-key, but solidly based in connection of spirit and emotion.

Interested? You can find THE PERILS OF INTIMACY on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Surviving a TEST OF VALOR–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary romance from Keira Andrews. TEST OF VALOR is the sequel to VALOR ON THE MOVE the older-younger odd-couple story about a secret service agent who falls for his charge: the president’s son. This new story is all about the growing pains of a new relationship, and dealing with forces outside of your relationship that threaten to pull it apart.

Scroll down for my review and to enter the giveaway!
About the book:
They’re free of the White House, but can their forbidden romance survive in the real world?
With his father no longer president, twenty-two-year-old Rafa Castillo can finally be with ex-Secret Service agent Shane Kendrick. Shane’s given up his career for Rafa, a move his fellow agents question the sanity and morality of. Eager to get away from the questions and judgement, Rafa and Shane are building a new life together in Australia. Though Shane struggles with nightmares and his over-protective instincts while Rafa fights his own insecurity, they love each other more than ever.

Now they just have to get through a visit from the former president and first lady.

Rafa’s parents certainly don’t approve of his romance with forty-year-old Shane, and they’re determined to make him see reason. They don’t see how their son could possibly be happy settling down with an older man, and they question Shane’s motives. Shane and Rafa just want a normal life together—but when they must suddenly battle for survival, they fight to prove their fierce love can withstand any threat.

This gay romance from Keira Andrews is the conclusion of the Valor duology. It features a May-December age difference, sex on the beach, and of course a happy ending.

My Review:
Secret Service Agent Shane Kendrick dedicated his life to the care and protection of his charges. This didn’t change when he quit his job to move to Australia with Rafael “Rafa” Castillo, Codename “Valor”, the youngest son of former President Castillo. Their love is a mystery to Rafa’s parents, who are sure Shane somehow abused his position to attract Rafa.

While Rafa and Shane build their new life together, Rafa’s parents plan an extended visit. They ensure to separate the happy couple–physically and emotionally if possible–to see if they can convince Rafa to return to the States and leave his much older partner behind. Rafa’s young but he’s not naive. He loves Shane with his whole heart, and he’s tired of his parents–and Shane–thinking their relationship is only temporary. While Shane loves Rafa, yet he’s sure Rafa will, one terrible day, see all the young and fun like the men he could be dating, and will eventually leave Shane behind.

Still, Shane soldiers on through the disapproval, keeping Rafa from kicking his meddling parents to the curb. And, well, coming through in a time of intense danger. Shane’s commitment to keeping Rafa, and his family, safe really shines through, but so does Rafa’s desire to be seen as a whole man–not someone to be sheltered and protected. They have some issues to work out, and I think they manage it well. And, wow, the sexytimes are delish. Rafa’s Daddy kink has not abated, and Shane’s happy to indulge Rafa in any way he desires–even being versatile. I loved the setting, as I’m a fan of new locales, and the Australian landscapes made me hunger for more travel.

This book ends with a solid HEA, and while the author has stated it’s a complete duology, I would gladly pick up another book in this series if one ever became available…hint, hint!

Interested? You can find TEST OF VALOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****
Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a back list book from Keira Andrews.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

You can catch up with Keira on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

Way Back: VALOR ON THE MOVE–A Review

Hi there! I’m working my way back into “theme weeks” which are collections of books that (mostly) center on a given theme. This week many of the books I’ll share are ones that were published a year ago, or more, and have been languishing on my TBR pile too long. Today, I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from author Keira Andrews. VALOR ON THE MOVE is an older-younger odd-couple story about the president’s son who falls hard for his new bodyguard. I sequel is releasing soon, and I couldn’t hold out any longer on this one! I have loved other novels by Ms. Andrew’s including KIDNAPPED BY THE PIRATE as well as more contemporary (A FORBIDDEN RUMSPRINGA) and even paranormal (KICK AT THE DARKNESS) titles.

About the book:
He’d give his life to protect the president’s son. But he never expected to risk his heart.
Growing up gay in the White House hasn’t been easy for Rafael Castillo. Codenamed “Valor” by the Secret Service, Rafa feels anything but brave as he hides in the closet and tries to stay below the radar in his last year of college. His father’s presidency is almost over, and he just needs to stick to his carefully crafted plan. Once his family’s out of the spotlight, he can be honest with his conservative parents about his sexuality and his dream of being a chef.

It’s definitely not part of Rafa’s plan to get a new Secret Service agent who’s a walking wet dream, but he’s made it this long keeping his desires to himself. Besides, it’s not like Shane Kendrick would even look at him twice if it wasn’t his job.

Shane’s worked his way up through the Secret Service ranks, and while protecting the president’s shy, boring son isn’t his dream White House assignment, it’s an easy enough task since no one pays Rafa much attention. He discovers there’s a vibrant young man beneath the timid public shell, and while he knows Rafa has a crush on him, he assures himself it’s harmless. Shane’s never had room for romance in his life, and he’d certainly never cross that line with a protectee. Keeping Rafa safe at any cost is Shane’s mission.

But as Rafa gets under his skin, will they both put their hearts on the line?

This gay romance from Keira Andrews is the first part of the Valor duology and features a May-December age difference, Jane Austen levels of pining, forbidden love against the odds, and of course a happy ending.

My Review:
Secret Service Agent Shane Kendrick has dedicated his life to the service. He’s been a model agent, and his hard work has finally paid off when he’s assigned as a primary bodyguard for Rafael “Rafa” Castillo, Codename “Valor”, the youngest son of President Castillo. Shane’s made the big time, alright, and he’s glad Valor is the shy retiring one of the family because his partner on the detail, Alan, is having a family crisis and with the election looming the service is stretched so thin that Shane’s sometime on his own with Rafa.

Rafa is a twenty-one year old closeted gay man. His best friend, Ashleigh, is also closeted and they serve as beards for each other in public. They both plan to come out in January, when they graduate college together and Rafa’s father’s done with his second term in the White House. It’s been uncomfortable growing up in the harsh spectacle that is his family, especially as he’s so much younger than his three older siblings. They moved on years ago, and Rafa has felt disconnected for a long time, especially since his father, a Republican to the core, supported measures to outlaw same-sex marriage. After that debacle, Rafa knew he’d keep his head down and has made some grand plans to move to Australia and study at the Cordon Bleu school in Sydney–where he could also learn to surf and live his life openly without being near his likely unsupportive family.

Naturally, growing up with buff, suited, strong bodyguards for the past 8 years has had an impact on Rafa. He’s definitely attracted to the “type” and not really wild about silly young college men. Meeting Agent Kendrick tilts Rafa’s axis something fierce, and he finds ways to show little glimmers of his personality by cooking unique treats for Shane that allow them some quiet time together. It skips to level 11 when Shane confides that he’s gay. Yep, Rafa knows he’s doing wrong, falling for his security, but he’s never stepped a toe out of line before, and Shane is a compassionate man. Their alone-ish time becomes fraught with mutual attraction that Shane is quick to shut down, despite his own feelings. Shane hasn’t sacrificed so much of his life to let poor judgment end this detail–or worse, take advantage of young, inexperienced Rafa.

Then their whole life goes belly up. Rafa has a severe falling out with his family, and runs. Shane and Alan keep watch over him, but terrorists follow, and it’s a life-and-death struggle to survive once the guns start firing. Finding temporary safety and shelter leads to finding physical solace and satisfaction, but the night isn’t over and they aren’t out of the woods yet. And, how did the terrorists find them on this pop-up adventure, anyway? Shane has some hard truths to face regarding his fellow members of the Secret Service, and he also can’t deny that the lines he and Rafa crossed require immediate action.

This story was rich and filled with fantastic research elements regarding procedures for security details, and White House operations. Without question I thought I was on a private tour of our president’s life–and that was awesome. The attraction between Shane and Rafa was handled tenderly, with a sexy bit of daddy-kink for Rafa that felt genuine. I really struggled, as did they, with the situation, knowing that it was going to go poorly–at least for a bit. The intrigue and scrutiny Shane was under, following the attack, was believable, and honest. Even the “bad guys” had heart, and real struggles that were understandable, if unforgivable. There’s not a lot of sexytimes here, because Shane’s an upstanding agent who won’t break his oaths lightly. Rafa’s a determined young man, however, and he finally gets his way–appropriately–in the end. Their adventure seems to end, but a new book is on the horizon and both are HEAs.

Interested? You can find VALOR ON THE MOVE on Goodreads and Amazon.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

You can catch up with Keira on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

End of the Road? NEW HAND Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Writing a New Life Story in PERMANENT INK–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m featuring a review for a new M/M contemporary romance form the writing team of Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. PERMANENT INK is the first book in a new Art & Soul series and features an older-younger romance that’s hot enough to burn up the pages. I’ve loved solo reads like BREAKAWAY and WOOD, SCREWS AND NAILS from these authors in the past, so I was eager to read this new collaboration.

About the book:
At twenty-three, Poe Montgomery is going nowhere. He still lives in his father’s basement and spends most of his time tagging with his friends. When an arrest lands him in debt, Poe accepts the front desk job at Permanent Ink, the tattoo shop owned by his father’s best friend, Jericho McAslan. Jericho is nearly twice Poe’s age, but with his ink and prematurely graying hair, he quickly takes the starring role in Poe’s hottest fantasies.

Jericho is known for his ability to transform poorly designed tattoos into works of art, but he was once as aimless and misdirected as Poe. Wanting to pay it forward the way someone once did for him, Jericho makes Poe his apprentice and is determined to keep things strictly professional. Easier said than done when Poe makes his interest—and his daddy kink—abundantly clear.

Jericho can’t resist Poe or their intense chemistry for long. But between the age gap, tension with Poe’s father, and Poe’s best friend calling him a sellout, they’ll need to ensure they’re both on the same page before they can rewrite their rocky start into something permanent.

My Review:
Poe Montgomery is wearing his father’s patience very thin. He’s 23, virtually jobless, and just got picked up, again, for making graffiti art–criminal mischief, in this case. His father, Landon, pours out his woes over Poe’s aimless life to his best friend, Jericho McAslan and Jericho feels a kinship to Poe’s situation. Jericho had been a handful, and far more trouble to his caregivers at a younger age than Poe is now, but he’d been given the opportunity to learn the trade of tattooing and it saved his life. Now, twenty years later, Jericho’s in position to pay it forward, and offers to take Poe on as a receptionist at his tattoo parlor, with the bonus that if he is diligent Jericho will offer him an apprenticeship as a tattoo artist.

Poe is a little sulky about the prospect, but he soon is intrigued by the art happening all around him. And, it helps that Jericho is exactly as sexy up-close and personal as Poe had found him when Jericho would pop over for beers with his dad. In fact, Jericho thinks nothing of the age gap between them, and he’s not shy of his interest. Jericho’s undeniably turned on, but he’s also put off by the prospect of damaging his friendship with Landon, and also with the power imbalance in their work relationship. He turns Poe away again and again, but Poe’s attitude only gets worse, and he’s soon in trouble again with his tagging pals–mot notably Blue. Blue wants all of Poe’s attention and he’s not afraid to demand it, which makes their friendship uncomfortable for the first time in years. Blue doesn’t want Poe to learn how to tattoo, or to find a job where he can be supported by his art–because Blue thinks they ought to suffer for it, and it’s all a little off-kilter. Poe hadn’t seen how out-there Blue was until he stepped away and got perspective. He wants a good life, with a good man, and Jericho finally comprehends how good he and Poe could be together. And, it’s super-duper hot, folks. The best of Daddy porn on the page.

I don’t want to give away too much more, but I will say that Blue messes things up for Poe and Jericho big time, and it surely ties into the next book in this series. I’ve read a few tattoo-artist romances this summer and this ones just delightful. The age difference was fun to observe, and the relationships between Poe and his dad, Landon, and Landon and Jericho are really awesome. Landon became a father at a young age and raised Poe without help for nearly all his life. The lack of maternal coddling in their youth is a bonding point for Jericho and Poe, and the way Landon manages to not punch Jericho in the face for “exploiting” his boy is charming. I liked all these characters and felt like they were real enough I’d go have a beer with them anytime. I look forward to the next book where I expect Blue will get a strong lesson in adulting, and love.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!