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!