New Love STARTING FROM SCRATCH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released contemporary M/M romance from Jay Northcote. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is the fifth book in the Housemates series of New Adult romances set in Bristol, England. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of them, and am always ecstatic when a new one comes out. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is more poignant to me, as a reader, because it features a transgender male character–very well informed by the author’s life experiences. In a time when TG issues are being wholesale discarded by legislators in the US, it’s fantastic to get authentic stories about everyday characters who are trans.

About the book:
Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

My Review:
Ben is a twenty-five year old transman returning to uni following three years off to undergo trans treatment and surgery. He shares a house with five other guys–out-gay and bisexual men from earlier book in the series–but hides his trans identity, living as a man. It’s fascinating being inside Ben’s head–his fear that he’s not being honest, but also fearing that revealing his history will cause more trouble than he can manage.

Sid is a man wishing for a steady boyfriend. He’s not had any lasting relationships and wonders if he ever will. Meeting Ben while out with mutual friends seems like a perfect opportunity, but Ben rebuffs his overtures. Ben’s not down for a quickie, and doesn’t think he measures up to the standards Sid surely has. Thing is, Jude, their mutual friend, vouches for Sid–and that prompts Ben to reach out and build a friendship. That’s one of Ben’s big goals for the year, be more social and get over his insecurities. So they chat and text and get together for coffee. The more time they spend, the more invested they become. Ben’s nervous about revealing his chest scars–from top surgery–and his manbits are quite different from that of a cismale, but Sid’s not only compassionate, he’s intrigued with Ben for who he is–and their relationship grows openly and honestly.

I was floored by the detail and delicacy of the book. I’ve read a few trans novels and am always happy to learn more about this experience and the triumphs and challenges. The Housemates books are have lots of sexytimes–and there’s no exception here. The author does a great job of bringing Ben to life, and writing a love story that feels sensitive and sexy at the same time. It was easy to feel Ben’s insecurities–and those of Sid as well. He’s a wonderful character, who really investigates his own prejudices and if they pose a risk to Ben’s emotional well-being. I loved the vulnerability of both men, and how Sid doesn’t allow Ben to push him away when he makes a mistake or three. These guys are really interesting on their own, and their interactions with their housemates is as fun as always. Oh, Ben! He wasn’t a trusting sort, but Sid did win him over completely by the end.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SCRATCH on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)
Watching and Wanting (Book 4) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Together the MISFITS are Love–Retro Review & Giveaway!

misfits-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a “retro” review and giveaway for a menage M/M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. I’ve really loved WHAT REMAINS and RENTED HEART, but the first book I ever read by Ms. Leigh was MISFITS. I honestly hadn’t read many M/M/M menage love stories, to that point, and I found it sweet and charming. A recent re-read confirmed my initial impression.

Catch my review and enter a book giveaway below.

misfitsAbout the book:
LAMBDA FINALIST 2015

Restaurant owner Tom Fearnes has loved his partner Cass for as long as he can remember, but their work often keeps them apart. When he meets a striking young man named Jake on the vibrant streets of Camden Town, their heady first encounter takes an unexpected turn.

Jake Thompson can hardly believe his luck when he wakes up in Tom’s bed. Tom is gorgeous, kind, and . . . taken. Tom’s explanation of his open relationship leaves Jake cold, but Tom is too tempting, and when hard times force Jake to accept Tom’s helping hand, he finds himself between two men who’ve lost their way.

Cass Pearson is a troubled soul. He loves Tom with all he has, but some days it feels like he hasn’t much to give. Jake seems like the perfect solution. Cass risks everything to push Jake and Tom together, but Jake resists, wary, until the darkness of Cass’s past comes to call. Then Jake finds himself the last man standing, and it’s time to dig deep and shine a light for the men he’s grown to love.

Because MISFITS was published a few years back, it’s had time to receive a couple of notable awards, including being a Lambda Literary finalist.
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My Review:
This is a contemporary M/M/M romance set in/around London. Everybody knows I’m an Anglophile, and a book about three sexy Brits building a relationship was too intriguing to resist.

Tom and his long-time partner, Cass, own five restaurants together. Cass is the head chef and creative force, while Tom minds the business end and helps scout new locations/concepts for their uniquely developed eateries. They have been together 9 years and are in a stable, committed relationship…that is open. See, Tom and Cass work long, long hours and–with schedules like ships passing–don’t spent many nights together so they are cool with each finding a bit of companionship when necessary. They have also sometimes shared a lover, but this has been rare.

Tom meets Jake one night while scouting a potential new location. Jake is his especially candid waiter whose tics are curious. The meal is a disaster, but Tom and Jake make an impression on each other. Tom isn’t even put off by Jake’s many tics and outbursts, finding his Tourette’s syndrome oddly endearing. Tom takes Jake to his nearby flat for a good time, and Jake wakes the next morning to find Cass offering him a cup of tea. Eep!

Okay, so the thing is, Tom is a wealthy guy–has been his whole life. He’s what Cass calls a ‘fixer’–and Cass should know; Tom loved Cass back from a history of poverty, drugs, theft and incarceration. Cass figures Jake caught Tom’s eye not only because he’s attractive, but because he could sense Jake’s need for a bit of TLC. Cass encourages Tom to find Jake again, and help him if warranted.

It’s not a conscious search–Tom and Jake encounter each other randomly a few weeks later. Jake is angry, and embarrassed that Tom never mentioned Cass. He doesn’t understand Tom and Cass’s open relationship, and his attraction to Tom is frustrating. It brings out all the tics. Tom offers Jake a job, but Jake is too proud to accept it. He does offer to do some work for Tom–without pay. So, Tom takes Jake under his wing on his latest restaurant venture. They work well together, though the touchy-feely bits are not happening because Jake doesn’t want to get between Tom and Cass.

Over the course of a few months Tom, Jake and Cass interact regularly and become very close. There is a lot of relationship building here–not a short seduction moving into a whole lotta three-way sex. Nope. This book is really about relationships and I loved that. Jake is initially attracted to Tom, and feels so guilty about his feelings when he sees the deep love between Tom and Cass, but Cass makes heroic efforts to develop a friendship with Jake. Cass knows he’s distant with Tom–he has always felt inadequate to Tom’s love–and wants Tom to have a partner who really loves him and who can be around more than Cass. Not that Cass wants to leave-he doesn’t–he just wants to know that Tom has a stable lover that can see him more than one or two nights a week.

The POV shifts between Tom and Jake for the bulk of the book, though the end is all Cass. It was interesting to get Jake’s POV, because he is, quite literally, the man in the middle. Enfolding him in Tom and Cass’s relationship is platonic for a good bit of the story, and there are only a few key sex scenes that hit the page. Jake is a very compelling character due to his emotional issues, and how hard he works to have a normal life. He is unsettled by Cass–how can Cass accept him knowing how he feels for Tom?–but comes to depend upon Cass’s efforts at friendship. Cass isn’t delicate about Jake’s TS, he is blunt and Jake appreciates the freedom in talking about this condition that has been a stigma for so long. The love that Tom and Cass lavish on Jake sparks his growth into a more confidant person–and an equal partner in their developing relationship.

I really enjoyed how these men worked cooperatively for the benefit of all. A menage story is always susceptible to issues of inadequacy and dominance, but this book felt tender and compassionate. I would have read the whole book in one sitting, but I (foolishly) began it 11:30pm and had to get SOME sleep in that night.

Interested? You can find MISFITS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon (US, or UKBarnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an ebook of MISFITS.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.
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Flailing Through MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary romance from . MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE is a fun and engaging look into the difference between our true lives and the lives we project via social media. I adored Kat’s journey from pretense into, well, perfection. This book came out a week ago, and is already a best-seller…

not-so-perfect-lifeAbout the book:
Katie Brenner has the perfect life: a flat in London, a glamorous job, and a super-cool Instagram feed.

Ok, so the real truth is that she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn’t really hers.

But one day her dreams are bound to come true, aren’t they?

Until her not-so perfect life comes crashing down when her mega-successful boss Demeter gives her the sack. All Katie’s hopes are shattered. She has to move home to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business.

Then Demeter and her family book in for a holiday, and Katie sees her chance. But should she get revenge on the woman who ruined her dreams? Or try to get her job back? Does Demeter – the woman with everything – have such an idyllic life herself? Maybe they have more in common than it seems.

And what’s wrong with not-so-perfect, anyway?

My Review:
Katie Brenner is a West Country gal trying to make her London dreams come true. And failing spectacularly. She’s finally got a paying job as a research associate at a branding (Advertising) agency, but she’s the lowest one on the books there. Her salary is so low she shares a flat with two other people, more than an hour’s commute away from work. She admires her friends’ Instagram accounts, and fabricates her own “fab life” with pictures she grabs on the go–because she could never afford that decadent coffee, or that divine dinner spot. Nope. But, she studies hard, making lists of all the places she’s check out just as soon as she launches her way up the ladder to success.

Her boss, Demeter, is a criminally scatterbrained woman with far too many fabulous aspects to be truly human. She’s always out to dinner, or at an award night, and her family is all shiny and perfect. And, if the office rumor mill can be trusted, Demeter’s got a long-standing “arrangement” with Alex, the younger partner in their firm–and the man Katie’d thought had a bit of an interest in herself. Katie, who calls herself “Cat” in her fab life, studies Demeter, aspiring to learn more and impress her one day soon. It’s not meant to be, however. Their branding firm is having some issues with clients and Katie’s let go soon after she designed the branding on her father’s newest get-rich-quick scheme: glamping on their country estate.

Having no other prospects, Katie returns home from London under the premise that she’s got a ‘sabbatical’ to help out her family. Really, she can’t admit she had a horrible life in London, because her father’s totally against her living there, and she doesn’t want to live int he country forever. She’s making applications and chatting to headhunters whenever she isn’t setting up the glamping yurts, or customizing the “totally organic experience” for each of their hoity-toity guests. It’s with immediate dismay that Demeter and fam arrive–because she’ll blow Katie’s cover to her dad.

Then again, when Demeter doesn’t recognize “Cat” in her ‘West Country Katie’ persona, Katie’s able to get some of her own back, torturing Demeter with “one-of-a-kind,” “exclusive,” “holistic” treatments. That is, until Katie grows a conscience, and learns that Demeter isn’t as nearly perfect as her Instagram feed would reflect.

I really dug this one. It’s a more mature, and less-slapstick, type of book than I’ve read from Ms. Kinsella before. The careful plotting and copious breadcrumbs led me right into the conundrum: how do we cope when life isn’t like we spin it? Social media facades, cyberbullying, corporate espionage were not what I expected to find in this one, but, wow! Was this a rich tapestry. Katie’s a great character, not too young, despite her naivete, at points. She’s fully relatable, as the plucky gal clawing her way out of a hard-scrabble life–only to have her dreams dashed. The amazing turns of situation, particularly regarding Demeter and the jobs at their branding firm, was carefully intimated, and led me along in the proper directions. Plus, I got yet another object lesson in the value of empathy, and being a stand-up person even when it’s really freaking hard. Facing down her father, with his absolute love for Katie and desperate want to have her stay home forever? Appropriately heart-crushing.

I loved Katie, and how she grew up and owned her life, and her mistakes. There’s a bit of cloak-and-dagger business as Katie tries to work herself back into the branding firm–on behalf of Demeter. I liked how there was so much uncertainty regarding Demeter’s mental state, and if she really was the horrible/insensitive boss she’d seemed at the beginning, or if this was the product of some illness. Or, worse. Alex’s role was definitely interesting, as he’s not-quite a hero. He’s a regular guy with work problems, too, which was rather enchanting. I love it when the characters are actual humans with everyday problems. The book is a bit long, but the read is easy and the pages turn themselves. I really hoped we’d see a bit of steam on the page, but alas, fade-to-black… *shrugs*  Fans of the author won’t be disappointed.

Interested? You can find MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. It’s surely on sale at local bookstores, big-box retailers and likely already on the shelf at your library. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Madeleine Wickham (born 12 December 1969) is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels. The Shopaholic novels series focuses on the misadventures of Becky Bloomwood, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The books follows her life from when her credit card debt first become overwhelming (“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic”) to the latest book on being married and having a child (“Shopaholic & Baby”). Throughout the entire series, her obsession with shopping and the complications that imparts on her life are central themes.

Find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Getting Past WATCHING AND WANTING–A Review

w-w-reviewtourbanner
Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for the newest contemporary M/M romance in Jay Northcote’s Housemates series. I absolutely loved HELPING HAND, LIKE A LOVER and PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT (which made my 2016 faves list!) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on WATCHING AND WANTING. This book features a love story for a confused and closeted bisexual man whose world expands watching the live cam shows his sexy new housemate makes for his living.

watchingandwantingAbout the book:
Watching Jude’s cam show stirs desires Shawn’s always denied…
Shawn is adrift. Recently graduated, he’s stuck in a dead-end job that barely pays the bills. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends have moved on, and he’s still in Plymouth—going nowhere.

Jude is a student living in the same shared house. Out and proud, he’s everything Shawn’s been running from since he hit puberty. When Shawn discovers Jude works as a cam boy, he can’t resist the urge to watch one of his shows. It makes Shawn want things that scare him, yet his fascination forces him to confront his attraction.

Keen to explore his bicurious side, Shawn suggests they do a show together. Jude agrees, and things get complicated—and kinky—fast. But Jude isn’t looking to get involved with someone so deep in the closet. If Shawn’s going to get what he wants, he needs to find the courage to stop hiding from himself and be honest about who he is.

How about a little taste?

Back in the living room, he threw himself into his armchair again. The TV was on, showing an old episode of Prison Break, but Shawn wasn’t paying attention to it. Sunk in a black hole of despondency, he gazed surreptitiously around the room at his housemates instead.

Jude, one of the new guys who’d moved in last month, sat in a corner of one of the sofas doing something on his phone, his dark curly head bending low and the glow of the screen lighting up his angular features. Shawn wondered what he was doing—probably hooking up on Grindr or something.

That twist of discomfort flared in his gut again. He knew he shouldn’t care. It was none of his business, but the idea that Jude might be planning some hook-up with some random guy lodged in his consciousness like a stone in a shoe. Maybe it was just because Shawn was single again and would have to get back to hooking up if he wanted any action. The idea of being back on Tinder wasn’t as appealing as it should be.

Shawn turned his attention to the other sickeningly happy couple in the room. Ewan wasn’t technically one of Shawn’s housemates. He lived next door, but he might as well have moved in for the amount of time he spent there with Dev. Ewan had his arm around Dev, and as Shawn watched, he turned his ginger head and murmured something in Dev’s ear. Dev turned to look at him and they exchanged a soft smile. Then Dev pressed a kiss to Ewan’s lips, which lingered long enough to make Shawn uncomfortable.

Irrational anger bubbled up, spilling out of his mouth before he could hold the words back. “For fuck’s sake. Can’t you save that for your room?”

Dev pulled away quickly, his cheeks flaming. “Sorry,” he muttered.

Ewan glared at Shawn. “What’s your problem?”

Shawn shrugged and glared back. “I just don’t need to see it, that’s all.”

“Well, the television’s over there, so stop fucking looking at us if you don’t like it. It was just a kiss. It’s not like we’re blowing each other on the sofa or anything. Jesus.”

“Ugh. And thank you for that mental image.” Shawn did a mock shudder.

“Whoa, Shawn. What the hell’s wrong with you tonight?”

Jez’s voice cut through Shawn’s drunken, angry haze, and he realised that all eyes in the room were on him. He caught Jude’s gaze, curious and assessing, and flushed at the unwanted attention.

“You should be used to it by now,” Jez continued. “You’ve lived with me and Mac long enough. And I’ve totally caught you groping Beth on the sofa before. You don’t get a free pass for living room shenanigans just because you’re the only straight couple in the house since Dani moved out.”

That was the spark that ignited Shawn’s anger past the point of no return. “Yeah? Well, maybe I’m just tired of being surrounded by all the gay in here. I never signed up for this when we moved in together.” He stood, sloshing beer out of his nearly full bottle and onto the carpet. “I don’t have to like it.”

“Feel free to find somewhere else to live, then.”

Even Jez, who was rarely moved to anger, sounded pissed now.

“Yeah. Maybe I will.” Shawn stormed to the door, careful not to ruin his exit by walking into the coffee table again. “Oh, and for your information? Me and Beth split up today, so we won’t be the token straight couple any more.”

He slammed the door behind him and stomped up the stairs to his room on the first floor. He slammed that door too, but it didn’t make him feel any better. After throwing himself down on the bed, he clutched his pillow and let harsh sobs of fury burst out of him until the red mist receded and shame and guilt crept in to fill the place where his anger had been.

My Review:
Shawn is a young and adrift. He’s recently graduated from uni, but unable/ unmotivated to find a better job than his part-time work at a pharmacy. His girlfriend has just broken off their long-distance relationship and he’s pretty mad with the world. It makes him lash out at his housemates, who are all happily coupled men with loving partners. Jude is a newcomer on the scene, and doesn’t know what to make of Shawn’s outburst; he’s happy in the house with the two gay couples. Jude’s gay, too, but he’s not dating anyone. Instead, he runs a live cam show two or three nights a week for cash.

It’s not long before Shawn stumbles into Jude’s room during one of his cam shows–and gets a fantastic look at all of Jude’s sexy assets. And, well, that gets Shawn’s wheels turning. He logs on to Jude’s show, and is mortified to find that he’s totally aroused watching Jude winding himself up and down and up again before going off for his fans.

In fact, Shawn reaches out to Jude for some advice. Under the auspices of learning how to be a cam boy for cash, Shawn gets Jude to touch and kiss him–and confirm that yes, he’s more than bi-curious. Jude’s afraid to really fall for Shawn, despite their obvious chemistry. Working the cam with a “straight” partner is so well accepted by his fans that their tips pretty-much triple, but it’s not all cool. Jude feels frustrated that Shawn’s denying their interactions to his housemates–because he’s afraid to come out. And that sidetracks what’s building between them. Still, Shawn knows how to apologize, and they talk it out–especially when Shawn makes the choice to not hide his attraction any longer.

As with all the books in this series, the guys are good and fun and sexy. The love story is rich with excitement, and anxiety and lust, with healthy helpings of voyeurism and scorching sexytimes. Shawn makes an acceptable apology, complete with grand gesture–and Jude’s happy to accept his love. I really felt the bi-curious/bisexual aspect was handled well, and the cam shows…whoa! I’m totally gone for the Housemates series and just hope there’ll be more and more future stories.

Interested? You can find WATCHING AND WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).
housemates_banner
The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Out Today! WATCHING AND WANTING

releaseblitzbannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a release day blitz for the newest contemporary M/M romance in Jay Northcote’s Housemates series. I absolutely loved HELPING HAND, LIKE A LOVER and PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT (which made my 2016 faves list!) so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on WATCHING AND WANTING. This book features a love story for a confused and closeted housemate whose world expands watching the live cam shows his sexy new flatmate makes for his living.

Whoo! It gets hot up in there…

watchingandwantingAbout the book:
Watching Jude’s cam show stirs desires Shawn’s always denied…
Shawn is adrift. Recently graduated, he’s stuck in a dead-end job that barely pays the bills. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends have moved on, and he’s still in Plymouth—going nowhere.

Jude is a student living in the same shared house. Out and proud, he’s everything Shawn’s been running from since he hit puberty. When Shawn discovers Jude works as a cam boy, he can’t resist the urge to watch one of his shows. It makes Shawn want things that scare him, yet his fascination forces him to confront his attraction.

Keen to explore his bicurious side, Shawn suggests they do a show together. Jude agrees, and things get complicated—and kinky—fast. But Jude isn’t looking to get involved with someone so deep in the closet. If Shawn’s going to get what he wants, he needs to find the courage to stop hiding from himself and be honest about who he is.

How about a little taste?

Back in the living room, he threw himself into his armchair again. The TV was on, showing an old episode of Prison Break, but Shawn wasn’t paying attention to it. Sunk in a black hole of despondency, he gazed surreptitiously around the room at his housemates instead.

Jude, one of the new guys who’d moved in last month, sat in a corner of one of the sofas doing something on his phone, his dark curly head bending low and the glow of the screen lighting up his angular features. Shawn wondered what he was doing—probably hooking up on Grindr or something.

That twist of discomfort flared in his gut again. He knew he shouldn’t care. It was none of his business, but the idea that Jude might be planning some hook-up with some random guy lodged in his consciousness like a stone in a shoe. Maybe it was just because Shawn was single again and would have to get back to hooking up if he wanted any action. The idea of being back on Tinder wasn’t as appealing as it should be.

Shawn turned his attention to the other sickeningly happy couple in the room. Ewan wasn’t technically one of Shawn’s housemates. He lived next door, but he might as well have moved in for the amount of time he spent there with Dev. Ewan had his arm around Dev, and as Shawn watched, he turned his ginger head and murmured something in Dev’s ear. Dev turned to look at him and they exchanged a soft smile. Then Dev pressed a kiss to Ewan’s lips, which lingered long enough to make Shawn uncomfortable.

Irrational anger bubbled up, spilling out of his mouth before he could hold the words back. “For fuck’s sake. Can’t you save that for your room?”

Dev pulled away quickly, his cheeks flaming. “Sorry,” he muttered.

Ewan glared at Shawn. “What’s your problem?”

Shawn shrugged and glared back. “I just don’t need to see it, that’s all.”

“Well, the television’s over there, so stop fucking looking at us if you don’t like it. It was just a kiss. It’s not like we’re blowing each other on the sofa or anything. Jesus.”

“Ugh. And thank you for that mental image.” Shawn did a mock shudder.

“Whoa, Shawn. What the hell’s wrong with you tonight?”

Jez’s voice cut through Shawn’s drunken, angry haze, and he realised that all eyes in the room were on him. He caught Jude’s gaze, curious and assessing, and flushed at the unwanted attention.

“You should be used to it by now,” Jez continued. “You’ve lived with me and Mac long enough. And I’ve totally caught you groping Beth on the sofa before. You don’t get a free pass for living room shenanigans just because you’re the only straight couple in the house since Dani moved out.”

That was the spark that ignited Shawn’s anger past the point of no return. “Yeah? Well, maybe I’m just tired of being surrounded by all the gay in here. I never signed up for this when we moved in together.” He stood, sloshing beer out of his nearly full bottle and onto the carpet. “I don’t have to like it.”

“Feel free to find somewhere else to live, then.”

Even Jez, who was rarely moved to anger, sounded pissed now.

“Yeah. Maybe I will.” Shawn stormed to the door, careful not to ruin his exit by walking into the coffee table again. “Oh, and for your information? Me and Beth split up today, so we won’t be the token straight couple any more.”

He slammed the door behind him and stomped up the stairs to his room on the first floor. He slammed that door too, but it didn’t make him feel any better. After throwing himself down on the bed, he clutched his pillow and let harsh sobs of fury burst out of him until the red mist receded and shame and guilt crept in to fill the place where his anger had been.

Poor, poor Shawn! Fear not, he makes it all right, and gets his life squared up really soon…
I’ll share all the sexy deets in my review next week.

Interested? You can find WATCHING AND WANTING on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).
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The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1)  Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Lonely Hearts Longing: WANTED, A GENTLEMAN–Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released historical M/M romance from KJ Charles. You know I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these other historical paranormal M/M romances RAG AND BONE, and THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL, so I couldn’t wait to get into a new series. WANTED, A GENTLEMAN kicks off a whole new non-paranormal storyline, and I really got into it.

Check out the $25 GC giveaway below, too!

wanted-a-gentlemanAbout the book:
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated

the grand romance of

Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love

Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling

Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)

featuring:
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber

***

In the course of which are presented

Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires

the particulars of which are too numerous to impart

My Review:
This story is set in 1805 London, and is a historical M/M romance with no paranormal elements.

Theo Swann is a writer who runs a weekly marriage paper wherein he posts the ads of lonely people seeking affection, companionship, or marriage for better or worse. He also writes what we’d consider Regency romance under the pseudonym of Dorothea Swann. Theo’s barely eeking out a living in his humble printshop-slash-living quarters and is none-too-pleased when Martin St. Vincent, a free black man of some wealth raps upon his door to demand the identity of one of the lonely hearts featured in Theo’s paper.

Theo may find Martin attractive, but what does he care if coded messages from clandestine lovers are part of his paper. THey paid their money, and he ran their ad. Simple.

Martin makes it clear that this is in fact very complicated. He is an agent of a wealthy family–the family which owned him until his 18th birthday as it turns out–and the only daughter of this family seems to be planning an illegal elopement–as the messages indicate. Martin has been pressed, a bit, into helping if he can. And Theo’s not really interested in helping, unless he can profit from it. So, Martin offers him money, and Theo discovers the day of their departure from London. For a grand sum, Theo agrees to join Martin on the chase to Scotland, to save this underage silly chit from her ultimate ruination.

While Martin and Theo share a mutual interest–they both like men–Martin’s not keen on Theo much at first. Still, his intellect surprises him and the long, arduous journey is endearing. For about a day. That’s about how long it takes for Theo to blow this who caper sky-high and send Martin into fits trying to cajole his childhood friend from making the greatest mistake of her young life.

I’ll tell you right now, there’s a huge curveball to this plot. It seems like a romance, but it isn’t a traditional one. Nor is Theo who he portrays himself to be. While that threw me for a loop, I wasn’t averse to the plot shenanigan. It allowed to re-investigate Theo, who–to that point–seemed rather lackluster, in comparison to Martin’s stately and intriguing character. Martin is a thriving merchant, set up with an education and some seed money to begin his business from the very family that held his enslaved for fourteen years. The very people he’s crossing England at breakneck speed to assist in their domestic dilemma. Theo has trouble fathoming why Martin would lift a finger to help, and can’t see the profit in it. Martin is a man of honor, but even honor doesn’t bind him to help–and it’s an interesting situation for Martin to be in.

Theo, for his part, makes a lot of trouble, but also makes a lot of good. He’s a man in the worst sort of binds, and has no qualms trying to help himself out of them by any means necessary. He has neither time nor patience for a willful girl snookered by an obvious con-man; not when he’s being financially enslaved by his own flesh-and-blood. His assistance to Martin was always going to be mercenary, but falling for Martin wasn’t part of the plan. I really found the thematic juxtaposition between Martin’s enslavement, Theo’s financial situation and the girl’s elopement to be fascinating. In the time and place described, a girl’s only worth lay in her marriage prospects and this situation–a wretched elopement–would have damaged all hope for her family to ascend higher socially; so her position as property to be granted by her father’s whim rendered her into a theoretical “kind” of slave. As a fan of historical romance the whole elopement issue has always struck a chord with me, maybe it was because I’ve come from women who did elope–and their families didn’t approve.

There’s a little bit of sexytimes, a lot a bit of empathy, and a heroic ending that would outdo Mrs. Dorothea Swann’s imagination everyday and twice on Sunday. I really did like how this ended, with Martin and Theo finding an accord that is mutually satisfying with neither of them bound by duty, honor or poverty. They can simply be two men who admire each other, and figure out a way to build a future together.

Interested? You can find WANTED, A GENTLEMAN on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes.
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If you want to get in on the $25 GC #Giveaway happening the blog tour, comment on the cool post over at PRISM BOOK ALLIANCE.

About the Author:
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.

KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.

Find her on twitter, Facebook, join her Facebook group, or contact her here. She is represented by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, and published by Samhain and Loveswept.

Recovering With a RENTED HEART–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. I really enjoyed WHAT REMAINS, so I was anxious to read RENTED HEART.

rented-heartAbout the book:
Ex-surfer-turned-businessman Liam Mallaney moved back to Holkham, Norfolk, to mourn the loss of his husband. Grief and loneliness keep him a solitary figure, and he likes it that way. There’s no room in his broken heart for anything else.

Rentboy Zac Payne left London and most of his demons behind, but he still only knows one way to make a living. When he spots Liam in a club one night, it seems he’s found his mark. But Liam proves nicer—and their connection far deeper—than he’d bargained for.

Their arrangement quickly becomes too complicated for Zac, who has other things on his mind: namely his BFF and wayward flatmate, Jamie. Zac owes Jamie the world, and even as Jamie’s drug addiction destroys all they have, Zac won’t leave him behind.

Besides, Liam knows nothing of Zac’s home life, too caught up in his own head to think much beyond the crazy heat he and Zac share. But when trouble comes to Zac’s door, putting his life in danger, Liam must set his grief and anger aside to pick up the pieces of Zac’s shattered heart and his own.

My Review:
Zac Payne is a rentboy in Norwich, England. He’s twenty-three and six months clean of his heroin addiction, after his best pal, Jamie, saved him from an overdose. Jamie’s still using, and hooking, disappearing from their flat for benders that last days on end. One night Zac spots Liam hanging outside a bar and decides to entice him into a trick. Liam’s a bit older, clearly wealthy, and bloody gorgeous, but the reason Zac marks him is the dead look in his eyes; Zac’s familiar with that “checked out” look.

Liam Mallaney hasn’t been with another man since his beloved husband, Cory, died in a wreck. Over those nearly two years, Liam had to assume full control over their company, leaving his art director position behind. Despite living within a mile of his twin sister’s family and also his father’s home, Liam’s a virtual hermit. His constant comfort are two Labradoodles that nudge him out to the beach for their walks. Meeting beautiful and nubile Zac is a chance event, and he’s willing to pay for some no-strings, one-off sex to calm the void of grief in his chest for an hour, or so.

Their chemistry is electric, and Zac’s so shell-shocked he gives Liam a card with his personal number, hoping Liam might become a regular. Thing is, Liam’s not just interested in sex. He needs companionship, too. And he hires Zac to be a companion–as well as a lover. In their few trysts, Liam begins to thaw his frozen heart, wondering about Zac, and if he could convince him to try working as something other than a rentboy. Zac’s gone over Liam by their second meeting, and wishes he was more, someone suitable for kind and compassionate Liam to cherish. But, he isn’t. And, Jamie sees Zac’s pain over it immediately. Things between Zac and Jamie have been complicated since Zac got clean, but Jamie’s addiction is reaching critical mass; he’s clearly getting too far into the scene to get help, but–beyond that–Jamie’s bringing trouble home.

While Zac and Liam figure out what they want from the other, Jamie’s problems land Zac in a dangerous situation–that’s what happens when your vindictive drug dealer shows up looking for his money. Jamie does the right thing, but it’s not the end of the drama, for Liam or Zac. Still, it brings them together, and gets Jamie the help he needs, both legally and medically.

There’s a bit of angst here, with Zac unsettled by his attraction for a john. He’s not the sentimental sort, and struggles maintaining the proper boundaries–which is heart breaking. Liam’s a good man, but he doesn’t know how, or if, he can love again. And, should he really fall for a hooker? It’s kind of shocking to Liam when he decides that answer isn’t NO. There’s other issues at play–notably Liam’s father experiencing dementia, Zac’s struggle to stay clean, and Liam’s crushing depression–but those are a small part of the building romance. As we’ve got a rentboy-romance, expect lots of sexytimes. For all the steam, there’s tons of tenderness, too.

Interested? You can find RENTED HEART on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is a British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Black Jazz Press. Her protagonists will always always be tortured, crippled, broken, and deeply flawed. Throw in a tale of enduring true love, some stubbly facial hair, and a bunch of tattoos, and you’ve got yourself a Garrett special.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible. That, and dreaming up new ways to torture her characters. Garrett believes in happy endings; she just likes to make her boys work for it.

Garrett also works as a freelance cover artist for various publishing houses and independent authors under the pseudonym G.D. Leigh. For cover art info, please visit blackjazzpress.com. Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!