A Deeper Connection THIS IS NOT THE END: A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary MMF menage romance from Sidney Bell. THIS IS NOT THE END features two bandmates who have more in common than they thought–especially when they begin sharing one’s wife.

About the book:
Zacary Trevor is the love of Anya Alexander’s life. Their sometimes tumultuous marriage has survived ups, downs, and all the in-betweens. With successful careers, a lovely home, and a beautiful child, domestic bliss is a hard-earned reality for two people whose hedonistic days are in the not-so-distant past. They’re happy. Enter Zac’s best friend, the deeply reserved Cal Keller.

Zac’s friendship with Cal is the foundation of his career and—until Anya and their son came along—the most important relationship of his life. Cal’s a cipher, someone Anya can’t help but gravitate to, even if they don’t always get along. Even more, she’s drawn to the Zac she sees when he’s with Cal—a careful, cautious version of her husband, someone with hidden thoughts and desires kept secret even from her. Inviting Cal into their home, deeper into their life, is a risk.

Zac should say no. He knows he should. But he doesn’t. From the first, the hint at the life the three of them could have together is exhilarating. And finding a new definition for family just might be worth the risk to every bond that exists between them.

My Review:
Zac Trevor and Cal Keller are bandmates, and the longest relationship/friendship either man has had in his adult life. Zac is an avowed hedonist and has indulged in much and frequent sex with many many partners over the years. Cal is his opposite, keeping himself in check and sober is a huge part of his life–ever since he lost control and nearly injured a family member about 8 years back.

Zac is married to Anya Alexander, a former model turned photographer. Anya is a keen observer of humanity, and also a sexually-liberated woman. Zac is in favor, enjoying sharing Anya with sexy men they each find attractive. It’s interesting that Zac is completely mum on the attractiveness of Cal, because he’s a very sexy man, in her opinion. Even if he’s standoffish, and she thinks Cal resents her. It becomes a mission to learn more about Cal, now that she’s home more and can explore building a friendship–or more–with Cal.

Zac and Anya have a young son, PJ, and Cal thought being married and a father would settle Zac. But he’s absolutely stunned to learn about the kinky hijinks Zac and Anya entertain. Once Anya makes it clear that she would be more than willing to engage in some sexytimes with Cal, while Zac watches. Because Zac very much likes to watch. And Cal’s even more stunned to learn that Zac has had fantasies of this very act–and more–with Cal in the bed with them. It’s so unsettling that Cal’s sobriety is threatened, and this becomes a turning point in the relationship between Cal and Zac, that Zac can finally confess he’s seen the rigid manner of Cal and knows his sobriety is an issue.

This book is told in three parts, no chapters. Anya tells the beginning, how she initiates this journey and guides Zac and Cal to confess their secrets and needs. Then Cal picks up the story, giving us the inside look into his fiercely private struggles. He has loved Zac for more than a decade, but he kinda loves Anya, too. And, he’s a little jealous of their idyllic life, with a sweet son and a house that seems to be filled with love. And it is, but a different take on love than Cal had imagined. He’s not sure if he is welcome to be a full member of the family, or a temporary lover like all the others before him. Because that’s his secret-est desire of all–to truly belong in a family, and one that includes Zac is the biggest bonus. Zac wraps up the story, which brings in the largest of vulnerabilities: Zac and Cal being intimate with one another. And, the full acceptance of their blended family by each of them. I liked how this turned out, with firm reassurances that they are committed to each other and to their poly-family.

I loved the straight-talk. I loved the sexytimes. I loved that Cal was well-hung and well-heeled. I loved that Anya and Zac were so open with each other, and how they got Cal to open up, too. For a manage, this one was centered on personalities and relationships, and not sex. Definitely recommend for people who like menage, or MMF stories.

Interested? You can find THIS IS NOT THE END on Goodreads, Carina Press and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Sidney Bell lives in the drizzly Pacific Northwest with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. Eventually more realistic grown-ups convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, which is how we ended up here.

When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.

Catch up with Sidney on her website or twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

More and Merrier–WE 3: A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary FMF menage romance from Lara Zielinsky. WE 3 features a swinging couple who find a “unicorn”: a bisexual woman who’s willing to share their carnal adventures. It’s a sexy fun time for many in this one.

About the book:
Eric and Elena Tanner have been enjoying their lifestyle membership at the Club Caliente for years. Swinging fulfills their desire to meet new people and engage in group sex.

When the new bartender, Jess, flirts with them and agrees to play in a threesome, Eric and Elena make plans for a single night of pleasure. All three are satisfied, so Jess is invited to come again. And again.

For months Elena, Jess, and Eric meet up for lots of sex, and dinners. There are casual nights in Netflix and chilling. It’s heady, addictive and no one wants it to end.

However, they all know that’s the deal in the lifestyle. Swingers move out of each other’s lives all the time. Complication is the enemy. So what happens when they start to fall in love?

My Review:
Elena and Eric Tanner are a married couple who are practiced swingers. They very much enjoy group sex and swapping partners at private parties, or their regular nights at Club Caliente in Miami, Florida. Eric is a pilot and Elena was a stewardess, until the politics of the company caused her to quit her job. She had a close relationship with another woman, once, and still sort of misses that connection.

Eric meets Club Caliente’s newest bartender, Jess, while she’s examining Eric’s erotic photos in a club art show. The main subject is Elena in varying degrees of clothing and arousal. Jess thinks Elena is gorgeous and is eager to meet her, once Eric says he’d be happy to introduce them. Jess is a loner, by choice. She’d grown up and aged out the foster system and been roughly rootless her entire life. She’s concerned why Eric might be interested in connecting her and his wife, at least at first. They all do have a chemistry, once they meet in a more quiet and personal way. Elena is attracted to Jess, as is Eric, and Jess is surprised that this attraction is matched by their personalities connecting. Elena is a little selfish, fearing that Jess isn’t very into her, but Eric’s encouragement allows her to see she needs to give Jess the time to acclimate to a completely new dynamic, that of a triad. All the characters in this story are interesting and passionate. They care deeply for their partners, while also enjoying sharing their partners. Jealousy wasn’t a thing, until Elena started falling for Jess, for whom she became slightly possessive. This was an intriguing situation, as she’s not that possessive of her own husband.

This was a very sexy read, with lots of three-way interactions, some that included more partners, and others that are exclusively between Elena and Jess. What began as a bit of fun develops into a stronger connection and relationship than any of these folks had anticipated. That said, it seemed like some of the subplots didn’t develop–like the supposed jealousies of the Club Caliente owners, who may or may not be very sketchy employers. Or Elena’s new business venture selling and guiding sex-tourism trips for swinger couples. The end came rather abruptly, and I wasn’t sure if Jess made a cohabitating move, or just quit her job. Or, what. I had hoped it would become a more intimate and permanent arrangement, but there was enough uncertainly I wasn’t exactly sure if Elena and Jess were starting a real partnership of their own. For the times that Eric is away. Otherwise, they’d all three be sharing a bed. It seemed, at least.

If you are into lesbian scenes, orgies, or swingers I think you’d really enjoy this one. I liked the development of this menage relationship, though I felt there were holes in other parts of the plot.

Interested? You can find WE 3 on Goodreads and Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Lara Zielinsky writes lesbian and bisexual women’s romance fiction. Her first novel Turning Point (2007) was a finalist for a Debut Author Goldie from the Golden Crown Literary Society. In 2019, she releases her 3rd novel, We Three: One and One and One Makes Three.

She loves the process of writing (yes, even editing), publishing and enjoys interacting with readers.

Catch up with Lara on her website or twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Daddy Drama STARTING FROM THE TOP– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM THE TOP is the fifth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, STARTING FROM HERE, and STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…
Johnny
A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean
Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Starting From the Top is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll, an age gap, and a little family fun! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The cheery sound of family fun drifted through the house…the dog barking, cupboards closing, and a girlish squeal of delight. And more dog barking.

I chuckled at the chaotic homey cacophony. I would never have envisioned this was Sean’s life. He’d always seemed like a badass boss to me—not a man who’d wear an apron to bake cupcakes with his daughter while his son had a guitar lesson. His chocolate mussed hair and concerned parental frown made him look goofy and yet very…endearing. In a hot dad way.

Okay. Definitely time to go. I reached for the knob just as Sean did.

“I’ll walk you out,” he insisted, holding the door open.

I stepped onto the porch and blinked against the bright afternoon sun at the hilltop view of the city. “Wow. This is nice.”

“Yeah,” he agreed absently. “How was he?”

“Amazing. The next Chuck Berry.”

Sean sighed grumpily. “Less sarcasm, please.”

“Sorry, Dad.” I snickered. “He was great. I mean, he sucked, but I think he had fun. I told him to keep the guitar and practice on his own. If you want me to come back, I will.”

“Really? That’s good.” He stared at the horizon for a moment before glancing my way. “I wanted to—why are you smiling at me?”

“You’re fuckin’ covered in chocolate. It’s in your ear.” I made a face and tugged at my own ear.

He gestured at the apron. “Baking isn’t my thing.”

I flashed a megawatt grin at him. “Sure, it is. Are you decorating those cupcakes with anything besides frosting?”

“Sprinkles. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to crash your family time.”

Sean inclined his head. “So…did he talk to you?”

“It took a little coaxing. Full disclosure…we played video games before we picked up the guitars. You’re not paying me, so I don’t really feel guilty. I just don’t want you to think it was a jam session from the start.”

“I know.”

“You know?” I repeated.

“I snuck in to see how you were doing. Hulk let you down. You might want to go with Iron Man or Captain America next time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I snort-laughed, then sobered. “As for Parker…he’s a good kid. He’s shy, reserved, and likes organization. He seems like the kind of person who excels at things he can control. I bet he builds killer Lego sets. He might learn a few songs, but I doubt he’s a savant. You never know, though. Kids are sponges. They pick up stuff you and I would never catch.”

“That’s true. I’m impressed. And you’re right…about everything. He keeps a lot inside. He’s always been that way. Very thoughtful and methodical. He sets a high bar for himself. He likes to get things right the first time. He does well in school, but he’s struggling with the transition to junior high. His old friends tried out for sports and he opted not to. It’s left him feeling ostracized and alone. Hormones don’t help. I thought it might be good for him to spend time with someone cool who—”

“Cooler than you?”

“Well, let’s not get crazy.” Sean flipped the corner of his apron and let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I just…thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Hey, if he really is interested, we can do this regularly. My schedule is light for the next couple of months, but it’ll get crazy again in late spring.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Text me. I hate phone calls.” I held out my right hand and snatched it away a second later, narrowing my gaze. “You have frosting on your nose.”

“My nose?” He wiped his hand over the apron, then across the tip of his nose. “Did I get it?”

“No. Come here. Let me help you.” I stepped into his space and brushed the sugary goodness away.

“Did you get it?” he asked in a huskier than normal tone.

“Yeah, but it’s on your ear and your chin and…”

“Where else?”

“Here.”

I ran the pad of my thumb under this bottom lip. “Got it.”

I didn’t move. I should have, but something held me in place. I studied his features, noting the flecks in his eyes. I wondered what color they were…gold, green, brown? I traced a line at the corner of his mouth, rubbing the scruff of his neatly-trimmed beard. I stared at his full lips for a long moment before meeting his gaze. Then I inched closer and…kissed him.

My Review:
Johnny is the lead guitarist of the up-and-coming band Zero, and we’ve met him in previous stories but he takes center stage finding love and a family in this book. It can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

Johnny is an out gay 30 year-old man who is finally getting recognized as the lead guitarist of Zero, a band known for their LGBTQ members and currently trending in the charts. While the band works on its third album Johnny is taking some time to pause and set up house. He grew up with a single drug-addicted mother and was always being shuffled off from one bad living situation to another. This is the first home of his own, one he isn’t sharing with ANYONE, and he’s reveling in it a bit. He has a designer and the whole thing is coming together nicely. Attempting to do a small favor for his designer leads Johnny to a neighbor’s home, and he’s surprised when the door is answered in a very strange and sexy way–but not by the homeowner! It’s even more shocking that he does know the owner, Seth Gruen, owner of a popular WeHo gay nightclub called Vibes and also former boyfriend of his bandmate, Tegan.

Seth is 45, and out as bisexual. He’s also the divorced father of two kids whom he co-parents. Seth is super protective of his kids, and tries to keep his personal life very separate from his work life and his dad life. Tegan only met his kids twice, briefly, though they dated for a couple of years off and on. Johnny is definitely attracted to Seth, but he’s pretty much attracted to lots of gay/bi men. Johnny is a truly sex-positive person, and he’s a bit glam, both of which are not necessarily traits Seth looks for in a partner, not that he’s looking for a partner. That doesn’t mean he isn’t intrigued. It’s just that he really wants Johnny’s guitar skills a bit more…sort of. See, Seth is struggling to connect with his introverted 13 y/o son, and he thinks maybe connecting young Parker with a rocker for lessons might open him up for conversation. It’s only a partial ruse to keep in contact with Johnny. But, that connection leads to further business ideas, and they get a little tangled in the details. Oh, and they have sex. Often. And Seth’s kids adore Johnny.

Johnny has never really wanted a family–he didn’t have one growing up and his home life was atrocious. He is mostly sober, following a period of heavy drinking, though he never does drugs. There’s a lot of competing interests in Johnny’s life but things with Seth and his kids are simple: he and Seth have mind-blowing sex and he gives Parker some lessons just for kicks. The more time stretches on, though, the more Johnny and Seth connect in friendship, and eventually love. If only either of them was ready to admit it–or change their plans to expand into a true partnership.

This one was really fun and a bit sweet. Johnny is irreverent and honest, qualities Seth truly values. He helps Seth see that he keeps punishing himself for coming out so late in life, taking the blame for his failed marriage. Johnny’s struggling with some fame growing pains, too, and Seth (and the kiddos) help to keep him grounded. The kids really are a nice part of this story. There is a parenting dynamic that was well-explored and allowed Johnny and Seth to grow in their understandings of how to communicate when it’s awkward and build bridges instead of burning them. Expect some intense steam that mellows into a smoldering love story. There is a bit of struggle near the end, as they outgrow their original no-strings arrangement. It leads to a happy ending, with plenty of family for Johnny to revel in, now that he and Seth can build theirs together.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM THE TOP 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.

Maturing Together OUT IN WINTER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new New Adult M/M romance from Lane Hayes. OUT IN WINTER is the eighth book in her Out in College series, and features a gorgeous waterpolo player falling hard for the manager a coffee shop owned by his former teammates. Catch my reviews for OUT IN THE DEEP END, OUT IN THE END ZONE, OUT IN THE OFFENSE, OUT ON THE ICE and OUT IN SPRING for more on this sweet and sexy series. This book features Drew, who we briefly met in OUT ON THE SERVE, finding a real love with an athlete he’d written off as “too young”.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
About the book:
The grad student, the jock, and some winter fun…
Drew
My new job at the bistro is fun. The owners are good guys, and the staff is made up primarily of boisterous water polo players. I know nothing about the sport except there’s a Speedo involved, and Liam likes to wear his everywhere. Yes…Liam—the chatty, handsome, utterly charming waiter I can’t seem to stop thinking about. Ugh. Note to self—do not fall for another younger man.

Liam
Getting Drew to notice me hasn’t been easy. He’s a little intense, and he knows how to keep his distance. Something tells me he’s not immune—he’s just stubborn. Maybe a weekend of bonding on the ski slopes will win him over. And if I can get him to come out in winter, I might be able to convince him that we have a chance at something special.

Out in Winter is a low-angst MM, bisexual romance starring an oh so serious grad student, a goofball water polo player, and a little winter magic. This story is part of the Out in College series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The stunning winter wonderland panorama was dotted with impossibly tall evergreens flocked with snow and the pristine hills glistening in the morning sun. It was so quiet, I could almost imagine we were alone in the world. That was precisely the kind of thought that freaked me out sometimes. But not today. Today the idea seemed…promising. Maybe even cleansing, like a new start.

“It’s beautiful,” I said reverently.

“This is one of the reasons I like coming out here early. The light is so brilliant. It looks like a postcard or the photo in the dictionary next to the word ‘hope.’ ”

“That’s a nice thought.”

We shared a smile; then he adjusted his goggles and inclined his head meaningfully. “Ready?”

“Yeah, but…you go first.”

“C’mere.” Liam crooked his finger.

I shuffled forward until I stood beside him with our skis pointing in the opposite direction, expecting him to impart some advice about the terrain or maybe remind me how to stop. Both might have been helpful, actually.

“What is it?”

“Hold on to my sleeve. Stay still. That’s perfect.” He stroked my chin before leaning in to press his lips to mine. “You taste like cherry ChapStick. I like.”

I grinned. “Thanks. So do you.”

He kissed me again, twisting his tongue with mine and leaving me breathless. “Mmm. I’m making it my personal quest to make sure you get down this mountain safely and that you have fun doing it.”

“Good luck with that,” I sighed, aware that my voice had taken on a dreamy quality.

“I don’t need luck. I’m an expert,” he bragged playfully. “I’m going to give you a couple of tips. Listen up.”

“I’m listening.”

“Bend your knees and stay loose.”

“Like this?” I bent my knees and wiggled my arms like a rubber band.

Liam chuckled. “Something like that. We’re gonna take it slow, moving from side to side, making wide turns. I’ll go first. Follow me and remember to keep your gaze forward.”

“As opposed to?”

“Looking at your skis. You don’t look at your feet when you’re walking, so don’t look at your skis when you’re skiing. It’ll fuck with your balance. Ready?”

“Yeah.” I licked my lips and nodded.

Liam glided smoothly down the incline, veering sharply to the right. He stopped with a flourish, sending a plume of powdery snow skyward before raising his poles triumphantly. I snickered at the silly display. He made it seem fun and relatively easy. All right, then. I could do this.

I grasped my poles in a vise grip and dug into the snow, propelling myself forward. I aimed my skis in Liam’s general direction and honestly, it felt pretty damn good. I was in control, a cool breeze on my face, and a light wind at my back. Best of all, I appeared to be closing in on my correct destination. A hot guy was waiting for me in front of a huge pine tree with—

Oh, fuck.

I couldn’t stop. I picked up speed and barreled forward, trying to remember his advice. Knees bent. Check. Don’t look at your skis. Check. Stay loose…

Nope. Not possible.

I was wound so tight my head felt like it might pop off. Every muscle in my body was rigid as I zoomed closer to Liam…and the tree. It occurred to me as my life began to flash in front of my eyes that if I turned downhill, I could avoid the tree and move in the right direction. I might not have control of my skis, but Liam seemed to know what he was doing. No doubt he’d catch up easily and offer tips on how not to kill myself along the way. A comical vision of him doing circles around me while I tumbled into a giant snowball flashed in my head.

And that might have been when things went sideways.

My Review:
We met Drew in OUT ON THE SERVE because he is Elliot’s ex-boyfriend who was hoping for a reunion. It didn’t work out, and Drew swore off dating younger men, especially athletes. Especially closeted athletes. Since then he’s been working two jobs, and going to grad school. He’s managing a newly-opened cafe and bistro run by two former Long Beach State waterpolo players (we met them in Book 1, OUT IN THE DEEP) and he’s pretty close to quitting the bartending gig–if the bistro takes off he will be able to make ends meet. Most of the waitstaff at the bistro are current waterpolo players and that includes Liam, who is big and burly and everything Drew wants to avoid in a man. He’s flashy and free spirited and hopefully quitting the bistro soon.

Liam has definitely noticed Drew and desired him for a bit of time. Liam is closing in on the end of his senior year and trying to make decisions that will carry him into the future. He’s got some immediate job prospects, but thinks he’d be better off career-wise looking into a master’s degree in engineering. While Drew is attracted to Liam, he doesn’t want to mess around with a coworker, and Liam takes this as a challenge to push Drew out of his comfort zone.

When it turns out the Drew and Liam have booked time on the ski slopes in the same mountain town, Liam makes sure to use his athletic skills to thaw Liam’s uptight heart. Liam is a natural skier and snowboarder and Drew is…a danger to himself and others. But Liam has patience and his unique humor and flirty ways get Drew down the runs faster and faster than ever before. Their connection on this weekend idyll kindles a fire from that flame of attraction, and neither Drew nor Liam want to call it quits.

I liked this one. I didn’t have a great feeling about Drew from the previous stories, and I was glad to see he was redeemable. He liked Liam a lot, but he was also afraid to hold him back, keeping him in Long Beach when he really should be moving on to a career path. It was thoughtful, if a little self-serving. Because Liam would have loved to know that Drew had fallen so hard for him, reciprocating his own feelings. They didn’t have a lot of angst, mostly keeping their relationship on the down low because Drew didn’t want to make things weird at work. The pace is quick and the sexytimes are hot, with a few silly sexcapades that had Drew really thinking over his life choices. I liked how they made it work, and figured out their futures were moe in line than they had previously anticipated. Very sweet.

Interested? You can find OUT IN WINTER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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

Redemption for LUKA–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M fantasy romance from Dianne Hartsock. LUKA features a powerful witch who has unwittingly captured the Hope in his world and the vindictive and malicious sorcerer who wants to capture it for his own gain.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the GC giveaway!
About the book:
Luka makes a desperate wish and the earth shifts to his will. Regretting it immediately, he tries to undue the sorcery, but it is too late. He asked for hope, and to his horror, all the hope in the world is given into his keeping. He desires nothing more than to return this gift to the world.

Aethan wants to get his hands on the Well of Hope in Luka’s keeping. If he can ransom out hope to others at his whim, the world will be at his feet. Where it belongs.

With the aid of his lover, Rhys, Luka stays one step ahead of Aethan. But Rhys has his own enemy in Aethan, his estranged father.

Rescued by Luka, his sweet, gentle witch, Rhys now stands with him against Aethan. They have vowed to return the Well of Hope to the earth despite all odds, or die trying. For what is life worth, for anyone, without hope?

How about a little taste?

Luka settled cross-legged on the hearth with a murmured word of gratitude to the fire as its warmth surrounded him. Keeping a veiled eye on the woodpile, he crumbled a crust of bread and honey onto the stones. The animals had grown skittish of late, and he missed their company on his long tramps through the forest. The cabin had grown lonely without Rhys’s vibrant presence.

The thoughts of his lover sent his gaze to the small stack of books he kept close at hand to leaf through during the long empty nights. He’d rescued the young man from a brutish existence at the hands of a madman, and the stories were all that would ease his frantic, tortured mind. Rhys would sit close to Luka while Luka read the heroic tales until his head would nod, and he’d slump into Luka’s arms, a warm, living presence in his solitary life.

Luka raised his head, attentive. Winter gathered outside the latched door, wind howling through the trees, sending their limbs scratching along the roof. A shiver traveled up his spine. Something darker than the storm was coming.

The fire snapped in a shower of sparks, recalling his attention. He drew a small bundle of twigs from a pocket, cupped it in his worn, nut-brown hands, and breathed in the scent of juniper and sage. Chanting the words his mother had taught him long ago, he tossed the clump into the flames. A tendril of smoke rose, twirled in lazy circles in the air and brushed against his face.

He breathed deeply, holding in his lungs the heady smoke of the sage and grasses he’d gathered by the stream last autumn. His thoughts cleared. He saw everything! Snow whipped through the darkness between the trees, carried on the fierce wind. His beloved animals huddled in the scrub brush for safety and warmth. The village beyond the forest barred its doors, fires lit, safe inside while the storm raged.

His thoughts soared, bursting into the moonlit landscape above the clouds. Laughing aloud, his spirit flew in wonder, heart aching at the beauty of the night. But something tugged at his heart, his name shouted on the wind. He blinked at tears, bringing the fire back into focus, the cabin solid around him. Night pressed on the shuttered windows. Something was in the night…

Luka’s heart leaped. He comes! A soft cry of joy escaped him, and he rose in one fluid motion to his feet. He’d sent Rhys away to find love elsewhere than in the arms of a lonely witch, and yet he came, daring the storm.

“Come to me,” he urged the solitary figure in his mind’s eye, struggling up the path to reach him. A tremor seized him. Long years of bartering his herbs and potions to the villagers had passed while he waited with hope and dread for Rhys’s return, darkness at his heels.

He crossed the wooden floor of the cabin, logs he’d hewn and planed himself, lighting the candles with a word as he passed, filling the room with light. Luka paused at the door, hand hesitant on the latch. He had enemies beyond this safe threshold. What if Rhys had gone to them in his bitterness and returned now for revenge? Luka closed his eyes, seeing again the pain on Rhys’s youthful face, the confusion in his eyes when Luka told him to go, and closed the door on his anguished pleas.

A rap on the door sent his pulse racing. Love and doubt warred inside him, but he had to know, see the truth of it. He opened the door a crack; icy wind whistled in. A figure stood on his step, the heavy cloak clutched against the cold obscuring his features. Who was this? He swung the door wider. The energy was all wrong. But Luka would welcome him in whatever guise he wore.

He opened his hungry arms, but Rhys shook his head and looked up, candlelight spilling on his pale face, grown older. “You sent me away—brokenhearted.” Rhys’s voice was deeper than he remembered. “If I cross this threshold, I won’t leave again. Be very sure.”

Luka trembled, searching the beloved features, and mourned the sweet innocence that was missing. Snow sifted through the trees adding to the weight on Rhys’s shoulders, and Luka swallowed his doubts. “Come inside.” He tugged on Rhys’s sleeve, unable to mask his eagerness. His heart stumbled, then leaped, seeing a flash of elation in Rhys’s eyes.

Rhys stepped into the cottage in a flurry of cold air and snow, and Luka hastily closed and latched the door behind him. He turned, and his lips parted in a startled gasp. Rhys had removed his cloak, snow already melting on the warm floor. His golden hair fell loosely to his shoulders, and his body filled out the tunic and trousers he wore in a way it hadn’t five years ago. He had grown into a handsome man, the fine wool of his clothing attesting he’d done well in the village.

Suddenly conscious of his frayed sleeves and ink-stained fingers, the silver now threading his dark braid of hair, Luka glanced away. His gaze fell on the books and parchment littering every surface, candle wax spilled on the tabletops. A thick layer of dust covered the bookshelves, except for the volumes he used for reference. He chewed a lip, troubled.

“Come to the fire,” he offered, taking Rhys’s cloak to hang on a peg. “There’s a stew simmering on the hearth.”

Rhys touched his shoulder, halting him. “A moment. I’ve come to warn you. Your old enemy—”

“Is coming. This I know. We’ll talk of it later. Please, come to the fire. You must be cold.”

“Luka.”

Luka swiveled sharply at the command in Rhys’s voice, a thrill rushing through him. So much courage from his once timid lover. Was this the same man he’d rescued? The young lad of seventeen years, chained and beaten in a dank cellar? Rhys wouldn’t speak of his parents back then, saying only he’d lived on the charity of others—until he’d been snared, captive to a cruel man’s dark appetites.

Rhys’s soul had cried out in anguish from his prison, finding Luka’s heart, drawing him deep into the forest to the monster’s isolated hut. Luka had eluded the dark sorcerer, freeing the lad and taking him into his home. And later, into his bed, a moth to Rhys’s bright flame, his heart opened for the first time in uncounted years to love and promise.

My Review:
Luka is a powerful witch in his realm. He appears to be a youngish man, but is far older and more powerful than many suspect. Luka may have been the orgeny of semi-gods in that realm, for his parents are now spirits of the realm, and he has abilites far beyond even the most depraved of sorcerers–like Aethan. Luka once rescued one of Aethan’s son’s, Rhys, from his captivity. Aethan, and Rhys’ half-brother Lorin, made innumerable and frequent attacks on Rhys once he left Luka’s care, both physical and sexual, so be prepared for incest and rape references in the story.

Aethan wants the Well of Hope and he knows that Luka is the key to finding it. It’s not clear if Aethan knows that Luka is himself the Well, of if he suspects Luka knows the way to get to this Well but Aethan is determined to get Luka to give him the information he desires. Aethan wants to control Hope so that those who will not succumb to his own evil power will barter for the wishes and hope he possesses. One of the bargaining chips that Aethan desires to use against Luka is Rhys, but Luka gambles all to save his captured and tortured lover. He didn’t know that Rhys was in such dire straits until Aethan make an assault of Luka directly, battering through his wards with a changeling, of sorts.

This is an interesting and compelling read with plenty of magic and intrigue to keep the pace high and the pages turning. I loved Luka, and his gentle yet immutable nature. His love for Rhys is one thing, but protecting the world from Aethan’s wrath is yet another. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect both, and he’s such an admirable character. In his world, Luka is shunned by many of society, as magic is dangerous and non-magic folk abhor it, as much as they can, at least. He is a man of color, with dark skin and immense power, which is also interesting. Rhys, who is a white man many year’s Luka’s junior, is imbued with magic, through Aethan’s line which only came about through the rape of his mother. Rhys has learned some skill, mainly by studying with Luka’s daughter Ravan, and the three of them are united against Aethan and Lorin’s attacks, the best they can. In the midst of this is the love story of Luka and Rhys, which should have been continuous but had a bittersweet tinge on account of Luka first healing and training Rhys, but later sending him on to protect him from Aethan’s searching magic. It was comically tragic that Rhys’ mdesire not to be a “burden” on Ravan led him to re-capture by Aethan… Talk about toxic masculinity.

I really enjoyed this story and the many layers to the mystery and the drama that surrounded the good and bad actors in the magic realm. It’s a beautifully told story with excellent world-building and interesting characters. Luka and Rhys are lovers to mark the ages in their world, and their connection was both tender and exquisite. Definitely recommend for fans of fantasy M/M romance and witchcraft stories.

Interested? You can find LUKA on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

You can catch up with Dianne on her website, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Big Changes Somehow LIGHTER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M YA contemporary romance from A. Aduma. LIGHTER features a high school senior, an immigrant from Kenya, coming to terms with his family issues and finding a boyfriend from a long-lost friend.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the GC giveaway!
About the book:
After a bad breakup, Rasheed is determined to spend his last year of high school focused on his course work and to finish it with as little drama as possible. But when disaster strikes and his grandma ends up in the hospital, the threads holding his life together start to slowly unravel. Now, Rasheed has to deal with the return of his absent mother and sharing a home with her despite their strained relationship.

With old hurts surfacing and family dynamics shifting, Rasheed finds comfort and humor from his best friends, the Herman twins he’s tutoring, and his crush, Adam Herman, who’s not as unavailable as Rasheed had once thought. With more time spent together, Rasheed finds his feelings for Adam may never have gone away. And the feelings may not be as one-sided. Except, Rasheed has to confront old mistakes and come to terms with his own issues first, and a relationship may just complicate everything.

How about a little taste?

Chapter One:
“Please tell me it’s mahamri,” I said enthusiastically when I saw Granma kneading dough that would hopefully be rolled, cut into little squares, dipped into deep frying oil, and covered in whipped cream to create a slice of heaven. Paired with hot chai, it opened the door to another dimension.

Granma pounded the dough, one-two, and flipped it over. “It is.”

“Should I start on the tea?”

“You should start by taking the trash out.” She straightened, wiped the thin film of sweat from her forehead, and pointed to the overflowing trashcan. I could have emptied it last night, but I had an assignment due and each second counted; the four minutes it would have taken had seemed like a lifetime.

“Okay.” I stepped farther into the kitchen and pinched some of the dough. Granma smacked my hand with her flour-covered one. I should have seen it coming; it was a dance we’d been doing since I was five­­—I’d pinch the dough, she’d slap my hand, and warn me about worms making my stomach swell.

Sure enough she said, “Tumbo lako litafura.”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. The way she used to tell it, when I was a kid my stomach would get as large as a balloon before it burst, spraying worms everywhere.

I tossed the dough in my mouth, grabbed a pot, filled it with water, and put it to boil for tea. One thing Granma and I liked was tea—tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed—and coming to America hadn’t changed that. As soon as she was done with the mahamri, she’d set herself up on her favorite floral armchair in front of the TV with her cup of steaming hot tea and catch up on some daytime soaps. Sometimes I joined her—TV dramas had some really cute guys.

“They finally gave up the dog,” Granma announced.

“Huh?”

“Mrs. Kyle and that dog. The pepo chafu will not be terrorizing us again.”

Mrs. Kyle lived on the other side of the street, one house down from us. Her bulldog, Teddy—a name that maybe shouldn’t be handed out so easily to slobbering dogs—had the bad habit of chasing and attacking people, and she refused to put it on a leash. Granma did not like her. The whole neighborhood didn’t like her.

“Paul was right,” she continued, “Soon as someone threw in the word ‘sue,’ she became more accommodating.”

There’d been a lot of that lately—Paul this and Paul that. It would have slipped my mind if I hadn’t noticed her FaceTiming him two weeks before, and then a day ago. Paul only lived a fifteen-minute drive away, so why not text? Anyway, what was so important that she needed to video call?

“I’m guessing some are for Paul?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice.”

She pulled a drawer open and retrieved a rolling pin. “Why are you saying it like that?”

“How am I saying it?”

“Like you mean to say something else.”

“It’s nothing— Okay, you and Paul are…friendly,” I teased.

“I don’t have many friends; another one never hurts.”

“True, but I don’t know many people who go around fixing other people’s houses out of the kindness of their heart.”

Granma fixed her eyes on the dough and started to roll it. “It’s called kindness. Looks like you’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.”

“I remember,” I said quickly before it turned into a speech about undugu. Yes, yes, love thy neighbor, unless it was Mrs. Kyle, of course. Lines had to be drawn somewhere.

I added a cinnamon stick and some ginger into the pot and turned to head back to my room. Granma pointed to the trashcan. “Usitume nikwambie mara ya pili.”

Right, the trash. I sighed.

Her eyes bored into me as I bent to pick it up, which usually made me more self-aware. Like, had I brushed my teeth or cleaned my room? “I don’t know where your mind is nowadays.”

I paused. “Just tired.” Second week of school, Granma!

I was still trying to shake off summer vibes and find my back-to-school rhythm. It wasn’t going great. On top of the mound of piling homework and the early waking hours that turned me into a zombie—sometimes even with growling, and on really bad days, I could bite someone’s head off—I was trying to dodge Scott, my ex-boyfriend. Whenever he weaved his way into my thoughts, my chest would burn with shame, and my body would turn into a bundle of nerves. That chai and mahamri better come quick. I needed a pick-me-up.

“You put your shirt on backward on Tuesday and didn’t notice.”

“My mind was elsewhere.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And you’re not on drugs?”

I refrained from sighing. “No, I am not on drugs.”

“What is it, then?”

“Not enough sleep.”

“Why? What do you have to stress about?”

I slumped. Things were off, and I couldn’t shake the oddness. Before I could get that out, Granma shuddered, exhaled loudly, and reached for the counter, clutching it tightly.

I moved toward her. “You okay?” But she waved me off.

Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, but nothing came out. I frowned in confusion. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “Trash.”

“Okay, okay.”

“And check for your keys.”

“Ha ha.” Again, I was tired that day.

I shifted my eyes to her hands, still gripping the counter and repeated, “You okay?”

“I…haven’t pounded dough in forever.”

Her words were labored and breathy. She had been pounding away like an MFA fighter. Maybe that was it. Now I knew what I’d get her for Christmas—a stand mixer. Maybe that would encourage her to make mahamri more often and not break a sweat while doing it. I could do it, but I’d never gotten them right—soft and sweet but with a tinge of lemon and overwhelming taste of coconut. Mine usually came out too hard.

I lifted the bag and headed outside.

“And water my herbs for me.”

I huffed. I ought to have known going to the kitchen when Granma was there meant a one hundred percent chance I’d come out with a chore.

“Am I hearing you grumble?”

“No.”

“Good because that would be disrespectful to your elders.”

I held back the eye roll and made my way to the garbage bins. I dumped the trash and went to water her plants.

Granma had raised-bed planters for her herbs that Paul had made for her. The day he did it, Granma had prioritized keeping him company to watching her TV dramas even though she was religious about not missing episodes. Then there was that time Natalie had been over for their book club—they were the only two in the club, and they read one book a year, spent five minutes talking about how they didn’t get a chance to read it, and gossiped the rest of the time—and I overhead Granma describe Paul as a fine, fine man. Sure, there had been some wine involved, but still.

I winced when the scent of mint made me think of Scott. He loved mint-flavored ice cream and chewing mint-flavored bubblegum. I’d made it another week successfully avoiding him—thank you crowded hallways and different schedules. It was exhausting. I was constantly in flight mode. There had to be another way.

Apologize, a voice echoed in my mind. Apologize? As in, like, say sorry and stuff? Hmm.

Not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but how did people do that? The idea sounded foreign. Save for when I stepped on someone’s foot or bumped into them by accident; that was easy because they were accidents. Honest mistakes. What I had done had not been an honest mistake. So how did someone apologize for dumbness?

It was easier to stay clear of him, avoid any more drama, and focus on school.

If I ignored it maybe it would have no option but to magically—

“Eedy!” I paused, spooked by how she sounded—like a rusted engine trying and failing to come to life. As I put the watering can down, there was the sound of a body hitting the floor with a soft thud.

My heart leaped into my throat, and my stomach twisted with dread.

I rushed back to the house and found Granma lying on the floor—flat on her stomach and still as a rock. The world tilted and blurred together.

“Granma?” I said in a shaky whisper. I fell to my knees and with weak arms managed to turn her over. My breath caught at the sight of her. Her dark eyes were wide open, unfocused, and unblinking. A chill snaked down my back. I leaned down and felt her warm breath on my face. Oh, thank fuck.

I grabbed her hand and recoiled at its limpness. “Granma, are you okay?” Of course, she wasn’t okay.

She groaned.

“Tafadhali amka!” Please get up. I tried to pull her up and failed. Granma wasn’t small, and despite my size, I couldn’t get her to move. My pulse started to race and a heavy weight pressed down on my chest; breathing became difficult. I gasped for breath.

No. No. It would be alright.

“Musa?” she whispered roughly.

The hope I’d been holding on to sank somewhere to my toes. “No, Rasheed. Eedy.”

Musa was my babu’s name—my grandfather—a man we’d silently agreed to never speak of, ever. To Granma, saying his name was equal to calling on the devil, which wasn’t that far off from the truth.

I needed to call for help. She lay on the floor, immobile, her empty stare on me. I did not want to leave her. My eyes blurred. I stood on shaky feet and rushed to get my phone still buried under books from last night’s homework rush. My palms were sweaty enough it took a few swipes before I hit dial on the emergency contact. The person on the other end promised the ambulance would be coming soon.

I returned to crouch next to Granma and took her hand. She slurred something unintelligible that I failed to understand. “They’re coming.” I squeezed her hand.

She grumbled. It sounded like a mangled animal. I blinked to keep the tears from falling, but that only made them fall harder.

“It’s fine,” she slurred. Her hand twitched in mine.

It didn’t seem fine.

Last time she had ended up in hospital, it hadn’t been fine. Three weeks after I turned eight, and the world had turned upside down. I fought off the gnawing helplessness and tried to cling to positive thoughts. It would be alright.

Granma would be alright.

She didn’t really have a choice. She had her dramas waiting for her, Christmas was a few months away—Granma loved Christmas, all those sales and store decorations hyped her up—and I was going to graduate from high school.

My Review:
Rasheed is a Kenyan teenager living in the Dallas-area with his grandma, who has raised him. His mother is a filmmaker, and she’s been largely absent in his life, even before she got them out of Kenya. Grandma had been abused by her husband, and they had been in flight from his wrath before they were brought to the US. He’s always felt less than, because his mom never seemed to take an interest in him.

Rasheed is out to his grandma and friends, and has been for several years. It was the reason he pulled away from his close friendship with Adam Herman, a boy his own age and at his high school, for whom Rasheed had his first love. Adam is the fourth of six kids in a tight-knit family, with younger twin sisters and three older brothers. Adam’s mom and Rasheed’s grandma are good friends, and that is how he and Rasheed developed a friendship as children. When Rasheed’s grandma has a stroke the Herman’s take Rasheed in for a couple of nights, so he doesn’t have to be alone.

And, that was when his mom returned.

Rasheed’s world is in a tailspin, it seems, as he struggles with his fears over his grandma’s health, her deepening relationship with a local man called Paul, when his mom will take off again, and what’s up with his reconnection with Adam. The whole family seems to embrace Rasheed, and he’s grateful for the space and connection–what he’s been lacking at home. It’s a sweet story, with Rasheed being so awkward about most things, dodging an ex that he did wrong, and fearing the growing attraction that he feels for Adam–at least until Adam confesses his own secrets.

This is a YA romance and the physical affection between Rasheed and Adam is commensurate with the genre. It’s really a lot about figuring out the struggles and giving Rasheed the ability to mend relationships that should have been more strong to begin with. I love Rasheed, his cultural roots, and how he gains the strength to hold himself and others accountable for their actions. The Herman’s are an awesome family, and a great support, as is grandma and Rasheed’s other close friends: Mo and Peep. It’s a fun story and I loved it from start to finish.

Interested? You can find LIGHTER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Aduma is an economics major at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the type of person who feels incomplete without a book in hand. When not reading or writing, Aduma can be found lost in spreadsheets and graphs with music for company.

You can catch up with them on twitter.

Reconnected Crush HOLIDAYS IN BLUE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M holiday romance from Eve Morton. HOLIDAYS IN BLUE features a mature man coming to terms with his shattered origins and finding solace and love with the younger neighbor who’d long crushed on him.

About the book:
Sometimes it takes a little ice to discover a whole lot of heat.
Cosmin Tessler is going home for Christmas. Eric Campbell is too.
Neither expected a homecoming quite like this.

When Cosmin Tessler’s radio show is canceled and Eric Campbell’s acting jobs dry up, they find themselves unexpectedly back in their old Toronto neighborhood…and back in each other’s lives years after they’d gone their separate ways. With a series of failed relationships and one ill-advised marriage behind them, both believe their chance for love has come and gone.

Luck, in the form of a massive ice storm, throws the former neighbors together again and they find themselves stranded, alone, for Christmas. Despite their difference in age, long-ago crushes and undeniable attraction prove too much to resist. But when the ice melts, only time will tell if their burgeoning romance will become just another missed chance—or a love story whose time has finally come.

A Forced Proximity Christmas Romance

My Review:
Cosmin Tessler was a Romanian orphan adopted by a Canadian couple in the 1980s. His parents were lovely people, but his mother and younger adoptive sister were killed in a car wreck when he was in college. His father, who had been sometimes difficult to speak to. generally closed down and closed off, leaving Cosmin very much alone in the world. Cosmin thought it was because he came out as gay, and he stayed away as a result. For nearly two decades he and his father were estranged, and he’s now mourning the loss of his childhood relationship as his father has recently passed away. Cosmin’s an intellectual, with a doctorate in literature, and also hosts a radio show in Toronto called “Sleep Alone”. It’s two weeks before the end of the year and he’s just learned–at the station Christmas party–that his show has been losing market share and it’s not being renewed. While nursing his sorrows at the bar Cosmin notes the younger, attractive bartender, but passes on with the mission to make one final show happen–and do it as an homage to his and his sister’s humble adoptive roots.

Eric Campbell is an attractive bisexual man in his thirties. He can’t believe his luck at seeing his high school-age crush, Cosmin, at a gig bartending job in the city. He’d been floundering, living with a pal in the suburbs outside of Toronto, hoping to get voice acting jobs for audiobooks to make ends meet. He’d been an actor, but hasn’t been employed regularly in a long time. He makes some serendipitous connections in the coming days, including getting to his parents’ home just hours before an enormous ice storm covers the Toronto area, shutting down electricity and travel for several days leading up to Christmas. Eric notices that “Old Man Tessler’s” place is covered in ice, and ventures out to ask his elderly neighbor if he needs assistance, not knowing that his neighbor had died several weeks ago and the light he sees is Cosmin looking through his father’s effects, searching for answers about his, and his sister’s, adoptions.

These two men are the only people trapped in the cul de sac, and with the electric and heating issues that are being challenged by the storm, Eric elects to stay at Cosmin’s–and help him search out his history. The closeness and the inability to get anywhere else allows these two to comfort one another, and work together to achieve Cosmin’s goals, while connecting in a way they had never before. Eric does indeed reveal his crush, and they build an intimacy that is not just built on sexual need. Cosmin examines his life, and his father’s actions, through a new lens revealed in the collections of journals his father left behind. It’s a beautiful awakening, and prompts Cosmin to reach farther out for connection than he ever has before. Eric is there, willing to take his hand, and their few idyllic days seem to be a foundation for the future.

Once the ice melts, however, will these two find that their nights of passion were fleeting, or the beginning of something quite bigger.

This is a quiet love story with a lyrical and winding prose that very much caters to Cosmin’s intellectual personality. I enjoyed it, though the pace was slow, to my preferences. I adored both Eric and Cosmin, who are unique and complicated characters. The family dynamics are interesting as these men deal with the sea change in attitudes toward sexuality with even just less than a decade of years between them. Also, Cosmin’s assumptions about his father are a huge counterpoint to the reality he encounters reading his father’s personal journals. They create a new narrative through which he must see and judge himself, as well, learning of his true history for the first time and wishing he could have gone back and mended fences so many years ago. In his late 40’s, Cosmin is unwilling to let time pass him by, now that he’s connected with Eric. Their reunion is so sweet–and the rom-com flavor of it brought a lightness the book really needed. It’s a good one if you have patience to really dig deep into the lives and psyche of characters who need more than just the surface view.

Interested? You can find HOLIDAYS IN BLUE on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Eve Morton is a writer living in Waterloo, Ontario. She grew up a forty-minute drive from Toronto, where she often spent her summers wandering down Queen Street West, going to concerts, or exploring the landscape of Rouge Hill, Toronto Island, and Exhibition Place. After graduating with a degree in English Literature and Women’s Studies, she floated from retail job to retail job before deciding that the classroom was the right place for her. While obtaining her advanced degrees in English Literature (with an emphasis on non-traditional representation and film), she met her husband. The two had both grown up a mere fifteen minutes from one another, yet had never met before, and soon found themselves easily falling in love as they explored the same place where they were both from with new eyes.

When she is not teaching online classes or working on yet another project, Eve is often reading a lot of books or listening to music from some of her favourite artists. She also loves to explore New Age shops in each city she visits whenever she travels, and continues to read tarot and astrology because it is so much fun. Eve also loves true crime, especially the forensic side of it, and is often swayed by a good podcast (especially if it’s funny). She continues to do academic research on LGBTQ communities, pulp and genre fiction, and film studies, along with other academic issues involving addiction, mental illness, and student representation.

Catch up with Eve on her website.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Unexpected Attractions GIVE WAY–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M contemporary romance from Valentine Wheeler. GIVE WAY is a holiday-light romance that features two mature men finding unexpected companionship and love. I was happy to catch a new story from this author, after I re-read CHECKED BAGGAGE over Thanksgiving.

About the book:
Kevin McNamara’s life after retirement is…fine. He has friends, a few consulting gigs, and an ex-wife he’s finally on good terms with. But when he meets an intriguing stranger–a rarity in close-knit Swanley, Massachusetts–in his apartment lobby, he can’t stop thinking about him or about the unexpected attraction that knocked him flat.

Awais Siddiqui never thought he’d want to come back to his childhood hometown, but when his grandmother falls ill, he’s the only one who can move back to help. Awais figures he’ll be back in a big city soon enough–but then a silver fox on his route catches his eye.

It’s never too late to accept a second chance at love.

How about a little taste?

Kevin McNamara was not having a good day.

As he trudged up the street toward his block, his building loomed ahead, five stories of forbidding concrete. His kids kept telling him he had to find a nicer apartment–he’d only meant for this one to be a stopping place after the divorce, but here he was fifteen years later, solidly into his retirement, still crammed into his tiny two-bedroom. It was fine. He didn’t have to mow a lawn, and most of the other residents were older people or divorced dads, so he fit right in. A few kids visited their fathers on weekends and livened things up, and it was close enough to downtown that he could walk to get whatever he needed. On less soggy, snowy days, a stroll home was appealing, but not after a four hour transit meeting in Boston and with gray slush soaking into his loafers.

As he pulled his keys from his pocket in the vestibule, ready to open the door to the lobby, tires crunched on the asphalt outside and he turned to see a mail truck pulling up. He pushed open the vestibule door and got ready to greet Doris–she’d been his mail lady for ten years, so she deserved a smile even if Kevin’s toes were numb. But instead of his compact, South Asian mail lady, he was surprised to see a man in a postal uniform standing on the sidewalk, tall, dark, and–well, attractive. He was staring at the front of the building, glancing down at the mail in his hands and back up again.

“Hi,” said the man. “This is 210 Washakum Avenue, right?”

Kevin nodded. “Yes, the two fell off the sign last week and nobody’s been by to fix it.” He wasn’t sure why he’d felt the need to explain and wished he hadn’t.

The man grinned, showing very white, very even teeth. They looked even brighter against his short beard and light brown skin, which even in December was a few shades warmer than Kevin’s ever got. “Great. I’ve got a couple packages here, and I really didn’t want to leave them out in all this wet.”

“Yeah,” said Kevin. “Um.” He glanced behind him at the door to his building’s lobby, feeling unaccountably flustered. “Doris usually leaves them inside. Is she not in today?”

The man nodded. “She took the day off, so I’m helping out. I can’t believe they approved the time. December’s usually a no-go for leave, you know? Busiest season for Santas like me and Doris.”

“I bet.” Kevin pushed the door open. “Here, I won’t let the door lock you out.”

“Oh, I’m sure Doris left me a key somewhere,” said the man. “Don’t want to hold you up. I’m helping deliver packages for my overtime, and I’m still learning the town.” He paused. “I’m Awais, by the way.”

“Kevin,” said Kevin. “And it’s fine. I’m happy to hold the door. I’m in no rush.”

“McNamara? Kevin McNamara, is that right?” asked Awais.

“How did you guess?”

Awais grinned again, this time showing a dimple in one cheek, barely visible under his close-trimmed beard. “You’ve got a package, man.”

Kevin swallowed as Awais gathered a tub of packages in his arms and brushed past him into the lobby. The door wasn’t wide and neither was the lobby. He set the tub on the floor and knelt beside it. His slacks hugged his thighs: they seemed tighter than the usual postal cut as he bent over. And was the foyer suddenly warm?

“Let’s see.” Awais dug in the tub, setting a few packages aside. Kevin stood awkwardly, still holding the door. Dropping it would be rude, and it would trap them together in the small space, but he’d been holding it open for what felt like a long time. “Okay. Here we go!” He pulled out a large manila envelope, stacked the rest of the packages back in the tub, and rose to his feet gracefully. He was slender, Kevin noticed, but his shoulders were broad enough that the small space was awkward with both of their nearly six foot frames crowding it. “Here,” said Awais, holding it out.

Kevin took it. His fingers brushed Awais’s, shockingly warm against his own chilled ones. “Thanks,” he said, putting a bit of his usual charm in his smile. He knew the effect it had on people, and maybe it would counteract the incredibly weird impression this guy was getting of him.

Awais smiled back. “No problem. Gift for the wife?”

Kevin blinked. “Um, no,” he said, flummoxed. “I’m single.” Divorced, he’d meant to say. But it was too late to correct himself without drawing attention to it.

Awais’s eyes widened for the briefest moment, then his smile stretched even further. He winked. “Well, the ladies are missing out then.” He slung his satchel back over his shoulder, brushing past Kevin again where he was standing, still holding the door like a chump. He smelled like snow and woods and a little bit of sweat. Kevin decided to pretend he hadn’t just smelled the guy. He couldn’t help it in the hot, steamy foyer.

Through the glass, Awais climbed back in his truck, slid the door closed, waved, and pulled away.

Kevin looked down at the envelope. He didn’t even remember what he’d ordered. He took a step backward and winced at the squelch. He’d completely forgotten about his soaked shoes.

My Review:
Kevin McNamara is a 60 year old divorced man. He’s a retired lawyer and sometime politician in small but liberal Swanley, Massachusetts. Kevin’s ex-wife is an avowed bisexual, but Kevin has only ever dated women–many women–since his divorce nearly 15 years ago. So, it’s a little unsettling when Kevin meets a substitute package deliveryperson, Awais Siddiqui, and feels more than a little attraction.

Awais is a nearly 50 year old, out and proud, Middle Eastern man. He grew up in Swanley as a child, but moved with his family to South Carolina in his youth. He’s now back in Swanley to spend time with his aging grandmother, and he’s not averse to finding a good man with whom to settle down. Not that he thinks he’ll truly find one in this small town, no matter how gay-friendly it is. Still, he sure feels a little spark of interest from Kevin, and when they meet again at a bar it seems like a great match. Except that Kevin indicates this will be his first experience with a man since some youthful experimentation.

The night is glorious, but Kevin is shook in the light of day. Though he is still interested in Awais, he’s really not sure that he’s bisexual. He needs to look deep within himself and reconcile his history of attraction with his actual feelings currently. Awais is disappointed with Kevin’s luke-warm position, opting to be friends instead of lovers, but he doesn’t have a lot of time to mope. It’s the height of the Christmas mail season and overtime is abundant and necessary. That said, these men have a future, but it takes a little time to develop.

I really liked both Kevin and Awais. This setting of Swanley is really sweet as a small town. The secondary characters are really interesting, with Kevin’s ex-wife and adult daughter encouraging him to be open-minded. Meanwhile, Awais’ aunt is supportive and loving, and helps him not to be too sad for too long. There are some yummy and fun sexytimes, as Kevin experiences a sexual awakening he never anticipated. The resolution is tidy and speaks to a future of hope and love for two men who found themselves connected despite differences in culture, race, and experience. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

Interested? You can find GIVE WAY on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Valentine is a latecomer to writing, though she’s always been a passionate reader. Through fanfiction she found her way to an incredible community of writers who’ve taught her to love making stories.

When she isn’t writing, she’s making bad puns, yelling about television, or playing with her small child.

Her life’s ambition is to eat the cuisine of every single country.

You can catch up with Lis on her website and twitter.

New Connections CHECKED BAGGAGE–a TBT Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a M/M contemporary romance from Valentine Wheeler. CHECKED BAGGAGE is a Thanksgiving-based novella that features two men on separate personal missions unexpectedly meeting someone they can connect with.

About the book:
When Faris has to take a trip back to his family’s home in Lebanon to handle his grandmother’s estate, he finds himself caught between the world he left as a child and the world he’s built himself in the United States. After an exhausting stay with his boisterous extended family, all he wants is a quiet trip home before Thanksgiving with his parents in Massachusetts. But the weather has different plans for him.

Charlie’s father left when he was a toddler, and he’s never gotten the chance to connect with his paternal roots. A trip to the village his family left in the 1930s gave him the facts, but left him yearning for a history he still didn’t feel.

When both men are stuck in Beirut for the night unexpectedly, can they find the connection they’re missing and make it home by Thanksgiving?

My Review:
Faris is a Lebonese man doing his family duty to travel back to the homeland in the wake of his grandmother’s death. She had passed away a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving and Faris’ parents are unable to travel back to manage her estate. He’s just finished all of these tasks and is at the Beirut airport to fly back to Boston, for Thanksgiving with his family, when his flights are cancelled. He’s stranded and unwilling to contact his relations for another night’s stay–they’re crowded into their homes and he’s all peopled out. While waiting to re-book for the next day, he meets Charlie, a sexy American whose flight is also cancelled.

They think they get reservations for rooms at a nearby hotel, and share a cab there, but it turns out the rooms were all booked up, and only one remains. So, Faris, with his better Arabic, makes a deal to book it–and offers Charlie the room to share. There’s only one queen bed, but as the night wears on these men share a lot of truth, developing camaraderie. Faris is bisexual, having had relationships with men, women and non-binary people back in Boston. He’s certainly attracted to Charlie, but believes he’s straight. Charlie offers to sleep on the floor, and while Faris starts out with this idea he eventually caves to offer Charlie half the queen bed.

Their intimacy deepens as the night wears on. And it leads to some sexytimes. The next morning is awkward–made worse when Faris calls for a clean break. Faris kicks himself over and over for his shortsightedness, and wishes he could have kept contact with Charlie, but a lucky break reuinites them, just in time for turkey dinner. It’s short and bittersweet, with a fun and charming ending. I liked how Faris was a bit of curmudgeon, and he had several changes of heart in the course of about two days. In the end, it’s super sweet and happy with Charlie bringing much needed lightness into Faris’ sheltered world.

Interested? You can find CHECKED BAGGAGE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Valentine (she/her) lives in Boston, where she goes by Lis and spends her time citing obscure postal regulations and arguing with a preschooler. She writes queer joy, often with a speculative twist, and always full of bisexuals.

She serves as Logistics and Fiction Editor for Wizards in Space Literary Magazine, and her work can be found at The Future Fire and Ninestar Press

You can catch up with Lis on her website and twitter.

Unexpected NerdLove STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE is the fourth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH and STARTING FROM HERE, so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist and the geek…
Bobby J-
What can I say? I’m a man of many tastes. I know what I like, and I’m not afraid to go for it. And I like the adorable geek from the bar. A lot. He’s smart and sassy…and he doesn’t seem to know or care that I’m in a hot up-and-coming band. However, I just found out he’s the new intern at Scratch Records. Uh-oh, this could get tricky.

Cody-
Confession…I’ve flubbed my mission. My quest is to research cool things and interesting people before I start my job as aerospace analyst—not fall for a rock star. My internship won’t last long if I can’t control this infatuation. Bobby J might look like a bear, but he’s fun and sweet and…oh boy, I think I’m in over my head. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Starting From Somewhere is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll and a little nerdiness! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

Cody nodded as he pulled out his cell and typed a few notes. “Got it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Give me one shot before I go.” I motioned for him to start talking.
“A flirting shot. Okay.” He licked his lips nervously, then shook his head. “I can’t. Everything I’m thinking is…rude.”
I barked a quick laugh. “You have my complete and undivided attention. Bring it on.”
“Um…your jeans look tight. I can’t wait for you to stand up so I can see your ass. But I’d love to see your ass out of them too.”
I bit back a grin. “Okay. That was direct and kinda hot, but do not under any circumstances try that with anyone else on planet Earth.”
“Too much?”
“A tad.” I squeezed his shoulder as I stood. “Keep practicing. It was nice to meet you, Cody.”
“You too. I’ll walk out with you. I’ve done enough research tonight.”
I nodded, then led the way to the exit, holding the door open for him. I stepped outside and gazed up at the fast-moving clouds drifting over the half-moon before turning toward my new acquaintance. Cody pulled his keys from his pocket and smiled.
“Where’d you park?” I asked.
“Over there.” He gestured at the black Mini Cooper at the far end of the lot mostly hidden in shadows.
My chivalrous side kicked in out of the blue. “I’ll walk you to your car. I’m heading that way.”
Cody beamed at me. “Thank you. Are you working early tomorrow?”
“No, why you do ask?”
“I’m making polite conversation. No flirtation whatsoever. Although I was mulling over our earlier discussion and realized you’re guilty of double standards.”
“How so?”
“Earlier you said…and I quote, ‘I’d do you.’ You added something about doing ‘it’ over a bar, a table, et cetera. Ring any bells?” He pointed his key fob at his car and gave a satisfied nod when it beeped on cue.
I squinted warily. “Yeah, but—”
“When I told you I wanted to see your posterior in your Levi’s, I was somehow out of line. The logic confuses me. Why should you be able to say what you’re thinking, and I can’t?” He came to a stop at the driver’s side of his car and crossed his arms, silently issuing a challenge of some kind.
“Now that you mention it, I suppose that does seem unfair.” I scratched my beard thoughtfully, then turned around to show off my denim-clad ass. “Ta-da! I present my posterior.”
Cody snickered. “Very nice.”
“Glad you approve.” I pivoted to face him and fumbled with my belt. “I guess I could show you the whole kit and caboodle…or caboose.”
“No, no. Let’s not ask for trouble.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “If you say so.”
“I do. Kiss me instead.”
“Excuse me?”
He pursed his lips, looking uncomfortable as hell. To his credit, he didn’t back down. “You heard me.”
The husky note in his voice zipped through my veins like a secret elixir. The sudden onslaught of need and desire was a powerful combo. I stepped closer, wedging myself between him and the Prius parked next to his car. I was at least four inches taller than Cody and much bigger. I could squish him like a bug. I wouldn’t. I wasn’t that kind of guy, but he didn’t know that. He should be careful around men like me.
“Why?”
“Because I might never meet anyone like you again. If I do, I might not be confident, brave, or sincere enough to tell him what I want. I feel like this might be a chance I should take. I understand if you say no. I’m not your type. I get it. I’m not sure why you talked to me at all tonight. Or why—”
I curled my fingers around the back of his neck and sealed my lips to his.
So what happened to my gentlemanly resolve to not corrupt a nerdy, adorable dude barking up the wrong tree for some sexy action? I had no fucking clue.

My Review:
Bobby J is the lead guitarist for an up-and-coming L.A.-based band, Jealousy. We have met him before in STARTING FROM HERE, the third book in this series. Bobby J is out and loud about his bisexuality, and he’s not one to mince words about his interest or desires. He’s caught in a little bit of discomfort with Johnny, who plays in ZERO, another band in the indie Scratch Records label, due to an aborted tryst with a fan, and members of both bands are urging Bobby to smooth things over. He would like to, he’s just not good at communicating his needs or his feelings.

While out at a seedy bar near the recording studio, Bobby J meets Cody, a beautiful, tall and slender nerdy man who admits to be there for “research” purposes. Cody is a newly graduated aerospace engineer who really works on data mining, looking for trends and patterns. He has three months off before he’s supposed to begin working in the corporate world, and he wants to cut loose a little, find out what “real life” might be like if he wasn’t so tied to his schoolwork. Cody took a summer intern position managing the social media data for ZERO and JEALOUSY, before he ever met any of the band. He just wants to study their “cool” orbit, in addition to gathering data on all sorts of human interactions, like days at the beach, and baking certain cakes. He’s got some sexytimes and dating experience, but that’s with engineers–and his non-sciencey people-ing skills are soft. Cody find Bobby J crazy sezy, and wants to pursue something, if he can, but he also doesn’t want to bias his research. Bobby J, himself a closet geek, offers to open himself up for all sorts of study, so Cody can knock items off his list.

These two, despite seeming to be complete opposites, are a more aligned than one might surmise at first glance. Bobby J was raised by his father, a workaholic scientist, and he studied to be a doctor before dropping out and following his musical dreams. They have similar taste in geeky shows, and they harmonize more than Cody’s data might have predicted. It;s a sweet and sexy fling as summer passes. Bobby J finds reasons to pop into Cody’s cube and they each enjoy the other’s company so much, even when they aren’t sexing each other up, down and every which way. Cody doesn’t think he can truly fit into Bobby J’s musical sphere, and nearly heads for the hills, but Bobby J’s long since swooned for his sexy nerd and they end up lasting longer than the internship–by far.

Being part of the STARTING FROM series, it was fun to see other band members and how their own relationships have grown. The awkwardness between Bobby J and Johnny gets smoothed over, following some real talk that Cody hands out. From their closeness in previous stories, I had wondered if Bobby J and Johnny would become a unit, but they are too good at being friends, and their attractions lay elsewhere. So, I imagine we’ll see Johnny finding his partner in an upcoming book. In the meantime, I loved this nerdy bear-twink match kindle and scorch it’s way across the pages.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE 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 is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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