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

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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).
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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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!

The Heights Of Deception: ROMANCING THE WRONG TWIN–Review and Giveaway

wrong-twin-release-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Clare London. ROMANCING THE WRONG TWIN sounds like a steamy comedy-of-errors.

Be sure to scroll down to read the excerpt and get in on the gift card and book giveaway!

perf4.250x7.000.inddAbout the book:
How tangled can a romantic web get?
When gruff mountaineer Dominic Hartington-George seeks sponsorship for his latest expedition, his London PA insists on a more media-friendly profile—like dating celebrity supermodel Zeb Z.

Zeb can’t make the date, so he asks his identical twin, Aidan, to stand in for just one evening. Aidan, a struggling playwright, shuns the limelight to the extent people don’t even know Zeb has a sibling, but he reluctantly agrees.

When the deception has to continue beyond the first date, Aidan fights to keep up the pretense. Dominic likes his sassy, intelligent companion, and Aidan starts falling for the forthright explorer. But how long can Aidan’s conscience cope as confusion abounds? Will coming clean as “the other twin” destroy the trust they’ve built?

How about a yummy taste?

The pretty young woman who met Aidan at the door smiled warmly. “I’m Tanya, Mr. Hartington-George’s personal assistant. I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Z. I’m quite a fan.”
“Zeb,” Aidan said, hoping he hadn’t hesitated for too long. “Please just call me Zeb. And… yes. Thanks.”
“Come on through.” She gestured him into the hallway. “You’re on time.”
Aidan wondered why she sounded surprised at that. He repitched his natural voice a little higher to Zeb’s teasing tone and smiled brightly in return. “Of course.”
A sneaked look in the hallway mirror had him rolling his eyes. Mission accomplished, Zeb! He barely recognized himself. Usually he was most comfortable in a sweatshirt and jeans, but now he was dressed in what Zeb Z would wear on a daily basis: a pair of skintight, distressed-denim jeans with inexplicable splits across the knees; high-top boots in soft purple leather that screamed expensive yet were surprisingly comfortable; and two lightweight T-shirts under an off-the-shoulder, electric blue sweater. Admittedly the blue brought out the color of his eyes—no one ever said Zeb didn’t have a well-developed sense of personal style—but the rest of it made him look like an overaged member of a boy band.
A younger man darted out from what must have been the living room, clutching a leather jacket to his chest as if in protection. He saw Aidan, glanced at Tanya with widening eyes, then back at Aidan. Then he thrust out his hand and said perfectly cheerily, “I’m Eric. He threatens to kill me on a daily basis.”
Aidan just shook hands and nodded. He had no idea what to say to that, or even what it meant.
Tanya frowned at Eric. “Whatever. We’re just going. The car will come for you at seven. In the meantime, if you’d like a drink?”
But Eric took her arm and guided her toward the front door. “They can cope with that themselves, Tanya. Come on.”
And Aidan was left on his own in the hallway.
He took a deep breath to center himself. The house wasn’t huge, but it was in a very fashionable area of Ladbroke Grove and far more luxurious than his own small flat. That said, there wasn’t much furniture and the decoration wasn’t modern. The hallway walls were painted in plain, cool colors. No pictures hung on the walls, and there was only a single bureau and hat stand, albeit in quality wood. Eric had left the living room door ajar behind him, and Aidan took a quick peek inside before announcing himself. From what he could see, again the walls were plain and the furniture sparse. It was as if the owner was in the process of moving out—or had never really settled in.
A male figure paused in front of the half-open door. He was distracted by something on the other side of the room, so Aidan got a first secret glimpse of the man he’d been told so much about.
H-G.
He was much more handsome in real life than on TV, though in most of the documentaries, H-G was wrapped up in furry parkas or oilskins with his face more than half-hidden with a scarf and balaclava. Today he was wearing a very smart pair of dark trousers, a startlingly white dress shirt—which had to be brand-new to still have that sheen—and a well-cut suit jacket that settled comfortably across an impressive set of shoulders. H-G’s hair was a fabulous thatch of dark curls, and he had a dark beard and mustache to match. Guiltily Aidan recalled Zeb’s mischievous nickname: Hairy Guy. But that conjured up a Wild Man of Borneo kind of image, and H-G was far from that. The hair was naturally unruly but had been styled to a level just off his shoulders, and the beard was well trimmed.
Aidan had never been attracted to hairy bears, not that he’d ever had much of a choice. As Zeb had gleefully pointed out more than once, Aidan seemed to attract needy and spiteful wankers who got off on bleeding him dry of any compassion and care. Oh, and his money too.
Okay. Self-pity over, right now. I’m not Loser Aidan now. I’m the charismatic and disgustingly fascinating Zeb Z.
For the first time in this bizarre performance, Aidan felt the tickle of mischief. This just might be fun after all. He pushed the door fully open, walked into the room, and cleared his throat.
H-G turned slowly around to face Aidan fully. His gaze ranged over Aidan’s body, and his eyes widened. “Well. They didn’t lie.”
“Who didn’t? What about?”
H-G raised his eyebrows. “Well, firstly, they said you were a bit feisty.”
Feisty? Aidan hadn’t heard that word outside of romance-novel blurbs.
“And you wouldn’t be fazed by… you know.”
“No, I don’t know. By what?” Aidan bit his lip to stop a laugh escaping.
“My celebrity.”
Jesus. Zeb was right. The man was one big blob of arrogance. “No,” Aidan said coolly. “I’m not.”
“That’s from working in the business, I suppose.”
“Business?” Oh, right, he was meant to be Zeb. “Yes, of course. When you’ve seen so many guys without the spray tan and makeup,” he gabbled without thinking first, “you soon realize they’ve got the same equipment under it all.”
H-G blinked twice, hard. And then he laughed—a loud, bold sound, echoing warmly in the bleak room.
Aidan wanted to laugh with him, but maintained his cool stare. “What’s so funny?” Had he blown it already? He hadn’t even left the house with the man yet.
“They didn’t tell me you were witty, Zeb. I may call you Zeb?”
Why? “Oh yes, right. Of course.”
Dom’s language was quaintly old-fashioned, but Aidan found it rather charming, especially after the theatrical bickering of the Dreamweavers and his brother’s exuberant and affected chatter.
“And secondly?” Aidan prompted.
“I’m sorry?” H-G frowned at him.
God, what a scowl he has. “You said they didn’t lie, and then you gave the first reason.”
H-G raised his eyebrows. “You have a good memory.”
Yes, he does have lovely eyes. “Yes, I do. Especially when I’m listening.”
H-G’s mouth twisted as if he were trying not to smirk. “Secondly, they didn’t lie about your looks, and that you were even better-looking in real life. I concur. You’re bloody gorgeous.”

My Review:
Dom is a burly, strapping, quietly gay mountaineer following his father’s expeditionary exploits. Unfortunately, despite his blue-blood pedigree, he’s rather out of funds for the final leg of his newest climbing plan. His publicist suggests a celebrity date with out-gay model Zeb Z.

Aidan and Zeb are identical twins. Aidan stays so out of the limelight that few people even know he has a sibling. Zeb’s got an engagement that he can’t miss, however, not even for the fees he’s make to go out on the town with Dom. So, he begs Aidan to cover for him. And, Aidan has a great time with Dom, as he pretends to be Zeb.

Dom is super attracted to sexy “Zeb” but not just because he’s gorgeous. No, “Zeb” is intriguing and articulate, even knowing about the climbs Dom’s made and sharing his own experience on some smaller mountains. The first date has a rough ending, but Dom really wants to meet with “Zeb” again, and Aidan only agrees to stand-in after Zeb reveals that he’s out of the country caring for an ill, beloved friend, a man Zeb’s loved a while on the down-low.

The more Dom and Aidan interact, the more they really connect. Aidan’s so mystified to find such a compatible man, he’s loathe to reveal his subterfuge. Plus, using Zeb’s persona gives Aidan the freedom to be bold in a way he never indulged in before.

This is a sweet romance with the right amount of angst, for Aidan. Dom’s a blustery, gruff man who’s rough edges are softened by his good behavior around “Zeb.” The hard truth of Aidan’s identity becomes an issue at the very end–but not for the reasons I expected, which was fun. Dom and Aidan are really sweet guys. I wanted to spend even longer with them, to just roll around in the glow of their budding romance. They have a nice bit of sexytimes, and they are two stalwart British blokes, which, yeah. #Swoon

Expect a sweet and sexy romance and a happy ending to rival the highest peaks.

Interested? You can find ROMANCING THE WRONG TWIN on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon (US and UK) Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Clink on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $15 GC and a backlist book from Clare London.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

copy-of-clarelondonheadshotAbout the Author:
Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.

She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind… she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

Catch up to Clare on her website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, and Google+.

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Growing Up PANSIES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly released contemporary M/M romance from Alexis Hall. PANSIES is also an enemies-to-lovers romance that is lush and beautiful. I’ve also loved FOR REAL, LOOKING FOR GROUP, and WAITING FOR THE FLOOD from this author, so I couldn’t pass the chance to pick up PANSIES.

pansiesAbout the book:
Alfie Bell is…fine. He’s got a six-figure salary, a penthouse in Canary Wharf, the car he swore he’d buy when he was eighteen, and a bunch of fancy London friends.

It’s rough, though, going back to South Shields now that they all know he’s a fully paid-up pansy. It’s the last place he’s expecting to pull. But Fen’s gorgeous, with his pink-tipped hair and hipster glasses, full of the sort of courage Alfie’s never had. It should be a one-night thing, but Alfie’s never met anyone like Fen before.

Except he has. At school, when Alfie was everything he was supposed to be, and Fen was the stubborn little gay boy who wouldn’t keep his head down. And now it’s a proper mess: Fen might have slept with Alfie, but he’ll probably never forgive him, and Fen’s got all this other stuff going on anyway, with his mam and her flower shop and the life he left down south.

Alfie just wants to make it right. But how can he, when all they’ve got in common is the nowhere town they both ran away from.

My Review:
Highly recommend! This is a fantastically lyrical, deeply emotional story of two unlikely lovers and their complicated history.

Alfie Bell is a big beast of a man, nearly thirty and only recognized his gayness two years ago. He’s from the north Atlantic coast of England, a rundown beach village called South Shields. Having been smart he did his schooling, got a masters and took a job in investment banking. He’s fabulously wealthy, living his openly gay life in London, and quietly caring for his family up north. He’s had a falling out with them, over his sexuality, and he really wants everything to be normal in his life. He wants a committed relationship, and a family some day. His ambitions are much simpler than his profession might indicate. And, ultimately, Alfie’s been feeling rather empty of late, wishing he had stronger connections and feeling disenchanted with London’s shiny veneer.

While on a rare trip home, Alfie inadvertently outs himself to his best friend–while at his wedding. It’s a mortifying event, and Alfie takes a drive to clear his discomfort. Popping in to a nearby bar, Alfie spots a slight, slim man with silver-blonde pink tipped hair and the most gorgeous body…ever. He offers to buy the man a drink, and the reaction he gets is not welcome. Fen, as he calls himself, doesn’t believe that a strapping man would ever find him sexually attractive, but they do get on with an interesting evening adventure–which turns out really good, as far as Alfie is concerned. Until Fen reveals his full identity the next morning–that Fen was the shy gay boy that Alfie and his mates all tormented throughout grade school. Alfie’s world shifts. He’s not the same uncouth boy who did those horrible things, and those memories are terrifying related through Fen’s point-of-view.

When he returns to London, Alfie simmers on this new development. He’s filled with shame, and wants to make amends however he can. He books some time off to make the long trip north again, and turns up at Fen’s business–a flower shop called Pansies that used to belong to his late grandmother and mother. Life hasn’t gone to Fen’s plan much; he’s only running the shop (into the ground) out of grief for his mother’s early death. It’s a way of connecting to her, even as it meant giving up his own career, breaking it off from his boyfriend, and losing his half of their mortgaged flat. Alfie knows none of this, he only wants to be near Fen. The encounter isn’t much better than their recent meeting, ending with a comic spectacle in Fen’s run-down bath that requires repairs. Alfie, always the fixer, attempts to make that right, too. And ends up needing his own rescue. From his estranged family.

Fen, honestly, has a very conflicted experience with his former tormentor. He was bizarrely attracted to Alfie as a teen. He was so strong, and sure, and manly, yet still had a softer side, like rescuing trapped butterflies. Seeing Alfie so committed to helping him in his suffering now is turning all the right switches, awakening long-buried attraction. Alfie is tender and compliant in a way Fen had imagined in his deepest adolescent fantasies–you know the type: getting one over on your nemesis, only with sexytimes.

As they spend time together, Alfie recognizes that he’s really falling for Fen. He also loves the idea of being back home. There’s so much familiarity, and he envisions being a partner to Fen in more than just Fen’s broke-down futon. He convinces Fen to let him look over his finances and help with the flower shop. It’s not easy for Fen to let go–and Alfie’s continually blundering when it comes to the homophobic incidents that they keep getting involved in. See, Fen’s not even gay, exactly, (probably pansexual though Fen calls himself queer) and yet he endured a lifetime of teasing and abuse for his queerness. And, Alfie’s only been out in London, where there’s less of an in-your-face homophobia. He can’t bear to have himself and Fen called out for just existing. It’s all very chilling, for Fen. He wants a lover, not a felon–and he knows how dangerous it can be to engage with homophobes in groups. Plus, part of Alfie’s issue is his own internalized homophobia. Fen helps him to tease apart all the “masc” constructs that have really been lead weight surrounding his neck for thirty years. Alfie is so utterly vulnerable, and deeply in love with Fen after a couple of weeks–and that’s when it’s got to end.

Fen’s not meant to stay in South Shields, nursing his memories for a dead mother–even his father thinks so. And, while Alfie would be happy to give up his posh London life and build a new one with Fen, Alfie’s pretty-well decided he wants to do it in his hometown. It’s not fair!! There’s a kerfuffle, and a break, and more grand gestures to win Fen back–and I can’t actually do any justice at all to this without giving away too much. The book is so lush, and the writing so lyrical. I’ve never been to England, and yet I feel like I moved into Fen’s shop, and got insulted by Gothshelley, and ate finger-burning chips on the beach and curried paneer at Raj’s Indian restaurant. I could see the spun silk of Fen’s silver-pink-blonde hair, and hear the creak of pain in Alfie’s voice when he tried, once again, to connect with his baffled father. There’s an all-encompassing accessibility to Alfie’s point-of-view that absolutely dropped me into his brain, and his experience. His youthful regrets are intense, and his determination to quietly fix all and sundry is unquestionably endearing. The book has a sweet HEA that is sure to please any romance fan.

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

About the Author:
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He did the Oxbridge thing sometime in the 2000s and failed to learn anything of substance. He has had many jobs, including ice cream maker, fortune teller, lab technician, and professional gambler. He was fired from most of them.

He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a 17th century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.

Catch up with him on his website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!