Tense Attraction OFF THE ICE–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m starting something I’d like to go back to from time to time, feature weeks! This week, I’ll be sharing reviews/alerts that highlight athletes and I’m kicking this “Sports Week” off with a review for a new M/M contemporary hockey romance from the writing team of Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. OFF THE ICE is a new collaboration that came out a couple months ago. It’s also a coming out story, which is always fun to read. I really loved PERMANENT INK by this team and I wasn’t let down with this new story. If you like M/M hockey romances I’d highly recommend BREAKAWAY by Avon Gale or THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR by Sarina Bowen, too.

About the book:
Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.

But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules

My Review:
Tristan Holt is a pro hockey player in Atlanta on his summer hiatus and taking college courses to finish his degree in business management. He’s interested in his sociology class, and his sexy professor, Sebastian Cruz, an out and proud gay Puerto Rican man who never quails at speaking truth to power. Prof Cruz can’t help noticing fit and burly Tristan, either. Unfortunately, Sebastian makes some wrong assumptions, and levels an accusation that reveals all of his own prejudices.

Tristan not only calls Sebastian out on it, he accepts Sebastian’s apology, and that allows Tristan to feels safe enough to not only reveal his hidden sexuality, but also his deep attraction. Not that they can do anything about it. But…summer school is over soon, and Tristan wouldn’t mind his austere professor taking him well in hand. If Sebastian is willing to take that next step.

The chemistry between them is intense, and their mutual love of classic rock and muscle cars helps draw them closer. Tristan is a 23 year old pro athlete, and Sebastian is a mid-30s professor, but they share a love of learning, too, and Sebastian’s prejudices are settled once he gets to know Tristan up close and very personally. The biggest hurdle they face is Tristan’s unwillingness to come out. There are gay players in the NHL, but none of them are out and on an active roster; Tristan doesn’t want to be the vanguard player. Tristan hasn’t even come out to his parents or teammates, and he’s rather confident they won’t mind. Sebastian isn’t pushing Tristan to come out…at first, but, the longer they date, the more Sebastian realizes that he can’t just be Tristan’s public “friend.”

This conflict felt real, as did the anguish. They have to take a step back, and think about their lives, careers and goals. Sebastian takes the advice of his good friend to really examine his motives, and his decisions. Sebastian is a prickly guy, who is sometimes self-righteous, but he’s also humbled by Tristan’s quiet dignity, and his kindness. Sebastian wishes his relationship with his own parents was as loving and accepting as Tristan’s is with his family. Tristan’s personal life and his professional face are two very separate spheres, but he recognizes the need to be honest with his closest friends and family. I liked how this shook out, with Tristan being happier in his relationships. There’s a lot of hot moments, and some good discussion of prejudice, in the context of wealth, power and professional sports. I’m looking forward to reading more in this new series. Expect some interesting power plays in the bedroom and on the ice, and teammate shenanigans. There’s heart with the heat, and even a “hot for teacher” reference that brought me back to sixth grade.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out Now! Loving One’s Self Amid SNOW BALLS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Tara Lain. SNOW BALLS is the sixth book in her Balls to the Walls series which I have devoured. While they are all standalones, you can check out my reviews for VOLLEY BALLS, FIRE BALLS, BEACH BALLS, FAST BALLS, and HIGH BALLS, to see if any of these mancandy books tickle your fancy. SNOW BALLS features an out-femme falling for a butch detective…who needs to be more observant!

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 Amazon GC giveaway!
About the book:
JJ LaRousse looks like a quarterback but acts like a queen. He’s trying to be proud of who he is—until a robbery at the famous Laguna Winter Fantasy brings JJ face-to-face with tough cop Ryan Star. JJ hears Ryan likes manly men, so he drops his voice an octave, colors his pink hair, and tries to pass as a football fan.

Ryan Star may be tough, but he keeps his sexuality to himself at work. He learned in New York that being a gay cop can be deadly. His attraction to JJ threatens his secret, but he’s finding it hard to back away from a guy who’s so totally his type. Then, during a ski trip and a confrontation with JJ’s biggest nemesis, all the façades come crashing down. In the aftermath, can Ryan love JJ for who he really is? More importantly, can JJ?

How about a little taste?

The announcer’s voice sounded, and they both faced front. The teams were going to come in now, JJ was pretty sure.

The guys in blue-and-white started to run onto the field. Oh my, the way those narrow butts looked in the tight pants was positively appetizing.

Ryan leaned over. “Who do you like? Any favorites?”

Okay, JJ was prepared. He took a deep breath. “Rivers, of course. He’s a great leader. Bound to make it to 5000 yards this year.” Oh sweet god of boys who like to sew, what did any of that mean?

Ryan nodded. “Amen. What about Gates?”

JJ sipped his beer to sort through his memory banks. “Best tight end to ever play the game.” He held his breath.

“You said it.”

Whew. JJ stared at the field. “Of course, quite a few of those guys look like tight ends.”

Ryan looked at him with his mouth open and then started to laugh. “Yeah. You got that right.”

The coin toss. The kickoff. Wow. That ball went all the way to the end, and a guy caught it. Cool. They all went farther down the field. Yep, just like Jerry had said. The guy in the center—the quarterback, probably—threw the ball. It soared through the air and some lean player caught it and started running like a son of a bitch. Holy shit. Two guys slammed him to the ground. That looked painful. JJ resisted the urge to close his eyes. He’d seen football on TV, of course. His dad had loved it. But JJ’d never paid much attention. In these good seats, the game was in his face.

Somebody came out and measured the field. A lot of people, including Ryan, moaned. He leaned over to JJ. “That was close.”

“Yeah.” Close to getting killed?

The players got back into lines. JJ could hear the cute one, the quarterback, calling out numbers. Some big guy in the front line moved. A yellow cloth flew through the air.

JJ whispered, “Offside.”

Ryan glanced over at him and smiled.

The announcer’s voice rang out, “Flag on the play. Offside.”

Holy shit. He’d gotten it right. Thank God for Jerry.

The whole crew of men moved and then got back in their line. A bunch of stuff happened at once, and JJ couldn’t follow it until everyone on their side leaped up so he did too. The announcer called “first down,” but it sure looked like about a hundred guys went down getting there.

Ryan leaned over. “I didn’t think they could make that one, after the foul.”

“Me too.” What? Good Lord, pretending was hard.

The whole line reassembled. The cutie stepped back and threw the ball a long way. The lean, fast guy ran out and caught the thing, which was clearly a miracle. He headed down the field like a jackrabbit with a pack of bulldogs on his heels. Shit, one bulldog came out of nowhere and tackled the rabbit, and then five other guys piled on. Whistles and yells sounded from their side and cheers from the other.

Then a groan and the crowd got quieter as the bulldogs pulled off and left the rabbit lying there in a heap. He didn’t get up. Oh no. JJ grabbed Ryan’s arm. “He’s hurt.”

“Yeah. Looks like it. Shame. He’s a great wide receiver.”

Receiver, hell. He was a gorgeous, fast-as-lightning black kid who had just got beaten to a pulp in a stupid game. JJ wanted to jump up and scream.

A stretcher was carried onto the field. Some guy put a collar around the player’s neck, and then they picked him up and put him on the stretcher. Hell, they didn’t look nearly careful enough. The crowd murmured and shifted. JJ looked around. They were uncomfortable with his being hurt, but it didn’t seem like they felt sorry for the player, exactly. It was more like they wanted to get on with cheering, and this moment of required sympathy was an imposition.

He looked at Ryan and found those blue eyes gazing at him. JJ’s hand was still locked on Ryan’s forearm. He loosened his fingers. “Sorry.”

“You okay?”

“He just looks hurt bad.”

“Yeah. But they take a lot of precautions, so he may be up and ready to walk and run by the end of the day.”

“And he may not.”

“Yeah.”

The game continued, but JJ couldn’t stop thinking about the player who got hurt. He jumped up when Ryan did and cheered in the right places, but the game had lost its luster. The fun all came from Ryan being next to him. Having the man so close sent JJ’s dick into a constant state of anticipation. Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight. Just like the cheerleaders at halftime—who could have used a costume redesign, by the way.

My Review:
This is the sixth book in the Balls to the Wall series, but easily enjoyed on its own.

JJ LaRousse is a big, out, femme and struggles to find a lasting relationship with a man who will treat him as more than a fancy. He suffered an abusive home as a child, so he’s nervous about dating alpha-masculine men, though he is very much attracted to the new detective on Laguna’s police force. Unfortunately, JJ’s convinced that Detective Ryan Star would only be attracted to him if JJ was more masculine. And, when there’s a spark between them, well, JJ decides to test his hypothesis.

So, JJ hides his sparkly-light under blah hair dye, and a crash course in sports analysis. They seem to really hit it off, but JJ’s nervous that Ryan will see through his facade, and he half wants this to happen. The other half, well, he likes being with Ryan, even if Ryan only takes him on dates that are very far from Laguna. JJ understands that Ryan had bad experiences when he worked for NYPD. As a result, and though his superiors know, Ryan doesn’t want to come out to the whole precinct in case his new comrades are homophobic–like before. It nearly cost Ryan his life, and he’s not recovered emotionally from that betrayal.

There are some sweet bits, here, but a lot of it is bittersweet with JJ being unhappy about his deception, and finding himself generally unlovable. He has great friends, however, who do lift him up and support him just as he is, even if that’s a pink-haired, femme boy who’s nonetheless built like a linebacker. Ryan didn’t catch on to any of this tension, seeing the view that JJ presented as truth. It’s a shame he’s not more observant. And, he’s seems to take a whole lot of risks for a cop–both professionally and personally. That said, he was a compassionate and passionate man, and he did treat JJ well. They are able to patch things up when JJ comes clean, and Ryan realizes that he’s not as fixated on his ideal man, when he has a wonderful partner like JJ whose light is too brilliant to hide. It’s a quick read and a sweet and sexy one, too!

Interested? You can find SNOW BALLS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading friends!

About the Author:
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.

She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Odd Couple Matched: A RUMORED AFFAIR–Review and Excerpt

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently published M/M contemporary romance from Viki Lyn. A RUMORED AFFAIR pairs a closeted capitalist with an out activist, and boy do the rumors fly!

About the book:
Vacationing at a gay resort is risky business for Winter Media’s CEO, Graham Winters. In negotiations for the purchase of an anti-LGBTQ publication, if found out he preferred men, the deal would collapse, along with Winter Media’s bottom line. But take a risk, Graham does. He can’t pass up two weeks where he can be himself.

But when Graham arrives at Secretus, there is no record of his reservation. Never one to take no for an answer, he coerces the owner of Secretus, Chris Katsaros, to let him stay in Chris’s home.

Winter Media owns one of the worst gossip rags in the country, so Chris has no choice but to agree to Graham’s terms. Chris keeps a low profile when it comes to Secretus, securing a safe environment where high profile gays can relax without media hounding their every move. An introvert by nature, Chris has a difficult time letting anyone into his life. As a foster kid, he had never experienced love until adopted by Pete and Bob.

Forced to entertain Graham, Chris finds they have more in common than he ever thought. The attraction between them is real, and Chris’s guarded heart begins to thaw.

How about a little taste?

Chris Katsaros set down his cell phone after the call from Josh and quickly did an Internet search on Graham Winter’s name. Holy shit. The guy’s company owned Gossipy!—the worst of the worst rumor-mill rags in the country.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Maybe he should call Josh to sit in on the meeting. Tact was not one of Chris’s strong points, and he’d need backup in dealing with Winter.

All thirty cabins were rented until five days from now. Thankfully Josh had had the foresight to call the Coastal Pines and reserve a room. In all the years he’d been running Secretus, he’d never had this problem. Now he had to contend with an angry guest who was huffing and puffing toward his office. This major clusterfuck should never have happened. He’d have to call Honda Bergen as soon as he finished with Graham Winter. Good thing Chris’s best friend gave him 24-7 on-call tech service.

Before the bull came storming in, Chris clicked on the images, his brows knitting as pictures of Winter came into view. Good-looking in a GQ sort of way, Graham Winter wore his brown hair slightly longer than the usual short-cropped business style. A few of the photos showed him at society events with his mother?

Other pictures had him coupled with beautiful women. One caption read “America’s most eligible bachelor.” So this eligible bachelor was a closeted fuck?

Chris detested successful gay men who didn’t have the balls to be themselves in public. His dads fought for gay rights and instilled in Chris the need to speak out against injustices. Not hide behind fake girlfriends and one’s mother.

Chris’s head snapped toward the door when Graham Winter strode in, the screen door slamming behind him. Heat spiked in Chris’s chest. Fucking Jesus. Good-looking was not enough of an adjective to describe the man. The chiseled jawline and intense green eyes made Chris’s mouth dry. Not a hair out of place, an expensive-looking watch on his right wrist… The man’s image screamed wealthy, arrogant SOB.

Those shapely lips thinned when he glared at Chris.

Sweet lips. And fuck, stop. This man would eat Chris for breakfast if he weren’t careful.

At least Mr. Winter kept his gaze steady even when he took in Chris’s scarred face down to his scarred hands.

Got to give the guy a gold star for not flinching.

Running his hand along his stubble, Chris felt like one of the homeless who hitched rides along the coast highway. He slipped into his worn sandals. When he brushed back his hair, his fingernail caught in one of his curls, and he winced. Grim amusement glittered in the man’s eyes.

Why did those judgmental eyes have to be such an awesome green?

Chris cleared his throat and motioned toward the only chair in his office not covered by files. “Mr. Winter, please have a seat.”

Mr. Winter took in the room in one glance. When he met Chris’s gaze, his expression soured further. “You’re the owner?”

The disbelief in his grave voice made Chris’s hair rise on his nape. His heartbeat pumped a tad too fast from the anger roiling in his stomach. So what if he dressed in shorts and a T-shirt? His private office was not some corporate boardroom. He forced a smile. Josh had taught him a few tricks in dealing with irritable guests, but Chris never mastered the fake smile.

Mr. Winter sat in a chair, his back mimicking the straight backrest. “Call me Graham. My father was Mr. Winter. Now, do you have room for me or not?”

“Unfortunately our system double booked your cabin. It won’t be available for a few days. My manager called the Coastal Pines, and they can set you up in their penthouse suite. It’s a five-star hotel, and of course, we’ll pay for all the room charges and your meals while you stay there.”

That should satisfy the asshole.

“I’m not going to be shuffled back and forth like a piece of luggage. I like it here. If I wanted to spend time in a pretentious hotel, I’d have stayed in New York.” Graham drummed his fingernails on his thigh. He eyed the doorway leading to the hall. “Do you live here alone?”

Chris’s jaw twitched. “I don’t see how that relates to the situation.”

“This must place must be what, three, four bedrooms?”

“Three, but I—”

“You married? Boyfriend living with you?”

Chris clutched the papers on his desk, crumpling the edges. “That’s none of your business.”

“Just as I thought. You live alone. Then I’ll stay here until a room opens. Perfect solution.”

Chris’s mouth opened, but he was too stunned to speak. Already his head was buzzing. The last thing he wanted was a stranger lodging in his home. Not that he’d ever be interested in this guest. The man had the power of the media to bully people. Most likely Graham abused this kind of power to get what he desired.

Chris cleared his throat. “No resort in Big Sur is stuffy. You’ll be comfortable at Coastal Pines.”

Graham smiled.

Chris’s ire rose at the shark-like expression. Graham reminded him of the boys who used to bully him in school. Taunts of faggot, pretty boy, echoed in his memories. Buffering against the predator smile, Chris repeated, “As I’ve said, we’ll pick up the tab for your stay. It will only be for a few days. We’ll make sure the transition is seamless. You will not be inconvenienced.”

“I already am.”

“If you don’t like the arrangements I’ve made, then I’m sorry, but this is my home. I don’t open it up to guests. We’ll arrange for your airfare back home or a hotel if you decide to stay in the area. That’s my final offer.”

Graham sat forward, his hands casually in his lap. “I won’t be inconvenienced if you let me stay here until a room opens up. You said it’d only be a few days. Keep in mind that bad press is not always better than no press.”

Shit. Just as he’d thought, the guy used his power of media over him. Chris ran his hand through his hair. He licked his lips, tasting the big NO. If Gossipy! got a hold of this fiasco, they’d have a field day at the expense of Secretus’s reputation, not to mention blowing the anonymity that he coveted. The social-media sharks would pick up the story and twist the facts with fake news.

Better to take it on the chin.

“Well, what’s your decision, Mr. Katsaros? Do I stay or go?”

Chris could hide out in his office. They wouldn’t have to see much of each other. His most experienced concierge could serve as Graham’s private valet. Henri was one of the more mature staff and would be able to handle this asshole. Yeah. It’d be cool. Chris could do this without disturbing his routine.

Counting under this breath to ten, he squashed his pride. “You can stay through the weekend, and then you’ll need to either move to another room or a hotel if a cabin doesn’t become available.”

My Review:
Graham Winter is a stressed out owner of a media company, who’s toiled hard to return it to solvency after his father’s poor stewardship. He’s also a closeted gay man, and he’s lonely. When his assistant books him into a discreet gay resort in Big Sur he’s not sure if he should thank her, or fire her. And this isn’t decided when he arrives at the resort to find there is no record of his reservation. Put out, yet oddly attracted to the resort’s owner, Chris Katsaros, Graham levees his weight to secure a room. In Chris’ home. Oh, and Graham wants the full experience, including Graham as his valet.

Chris isn’t best pleased that a stranger’s sharing his private domain. And especially not pleased that it’s Graham. Winter Media is on the hit list of one of his gay advocacy groups because they are buying an historically homophobic newspaper line, and already own an on-line gossip site that’s outed a number of prominent people against their will. If Graham thinks his power outside the walls of Secretus are going to give him an advantage wooing Chris, well…he’s somewhat mistaken.

Still, both Graham and Chris are lonely men, and Chris is still grieving the loss of his dads, the previous owners of Secretus. They recognize that their lives took alternate trajectories when dealing with family legacy, and they are otherwise comfortable with each other one-on-one. Graham wants to turn what’s happening between them into something more, but Chris isn’t interested in a long-distance relationship. When a stalker comes to Secretus looking for dirt? Well, it’s going to set all their plans, including Graham’s business acquisitions, on pause.

This was an interesting and well-told love story. The problems they each face are real and pose true obstacles to their budding romance. That said, there were some details I felt were missing in the story–namely what happened with Graham’s reservation? And why didn’t we see his big showdown with his mom? HE seems to agonize over the possibility, and then poof! on to the next scene. For me it was an easy read. I liked it, and it kept me turning pages; it didn’t get too deep, excepting Chris’ strident belief that Graham should do more for the gay community than he does. Otherwise, it was pretty good.

Interested? You can find A RUMORED AFFAIR on Goodreads, Loose ID Publishing, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Multi-published and award winner, Viki Lyn is a successful writer of gay paranormal and contemporary romance. After reading and collecting whatever she could get her hands on, she wrote her first male/male romance. And that was ‘it’ for her. She never looked back. Viki travels the world in search of inspiration. She considers herself blessed to have traveled to many of the mystical sites she had dreamed about as a child. Her travel experiences have been influential in creating her paranormal worlds. When she needs to relax, she calls a friend to meet at their favorite coffee house. When the chattering in her head goes off the charts, she plays one of her favorite RPGs on her PS4 and immerses herself in the world of dragons and magic.

You can find Viki online on her website, Facebook, twitter and Pinterest.

Not Easy BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER–Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new near-historical M/M romance from Jere’ M. Fishback. BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER is a coming-of-age story for a college student who’s inadvertently outed in 70s and hopes to find his true love without being shunned by his family. It’s a charming, and often bittersweet, story, and I really liked it.

Drop down to catch an interview, and excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, too!

About the book:
It’s 1976, and Anita Bryant’s homophobic “Save Our Children” crusade rages through Florida. When Andy Hunsinger, a closeted gay college student, joins in a demonstration protesting Bryant’s appearance in Tallahassee, his straight boy image is shattered when he is “outed” by a TV news reporter.

In the months following, Andy discovers just what it means to be openly gay in a society that condemns love between two men and wonders if his friendship with Travis, a devout Christian who’s fighting his own sexual urges, can develop into something deeper.

How about a little taste…

Chapter One
On my seventh birthday, my parents gave me a Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat.

I still have the book; it rests on the shelf above my desk, along with other Seuss works I’ve collected. Inside The Cat in the Hat’s cover, my mother wrote an inscription, using her precise penmanship.

“Happy Birthday, Andy. As you grow older, you’ll realize many truths dwell within these pages. Much love, Mom and Dad.”

Mom was right, of course. She most always was. My favorite line is this one:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

***

Loretta McPhail was a notorious Tallahassee slumlord. On a steamy afternoon, in August 1976, she spoke to me in her North Florida drawl: part magnolia, part crosscut saw.

“The rent’s one twenty-five. I’ll need first, last, and a security deposit, no exceptions.”

McPhail wore a short-sleeved shirtwaist dress, spectator pumps, and a straw hat with a green plastic windowpane sewn into the brim. Her skin was as pale as cake flour. A gray moustache grew on her wrinkled upper lip, and age spots peppered the backs of her hands. Her eyeglasses had lenses so thick her gaze looked buggy.

I’d heard McPhail held title to more than fifty properties in town, all of them cited multiple times for violation of local building codes. She owned rooming houses, single-family homes, and small apartment buildings, mostly in neighborhoods surrounding Florida State University’s campus. Like me, her tenants sought cheap rent; they didn’t care if the roof leaked or the furnace didn’t work.

The Franklin Street apartment I viewed with McPhail wasn’t much: a living room and kitchen, divided by a three-quarter wall; a bedroom with windows looking into the rear and side yards; and a bathroom with a wall-mounted sink, a shower stall, and a toilet with a broken seat. In each room, the plaster ceilings bore water marks. The carpet was a leopard skin of suspicious-looking stains, and the whole place stank of mildew and cat pee.

McPhail’s building was a two-storied, red-brick four-plex with casement windows that opened like book covers, a Panhandle style of architecture popular in the 1950s. Shingles on the pitched roof curled at their edges. Live oaks and longleaf pines shaded the crabgrass lawn, and skeletal azaleas clung to the building’s exterior.

In the kitchen, I peeked inside a rust-pitted Frigidaire. The previous tenant had left gifts: a half-empty ketchup bottle, another of pickle relish. A carton of orange juice with an expiration date three months past sat beside a tub of margarine.

Out in the stairwell, piano music tinkled—a jazzy number I didn’t recognize.

McPhail clucked her tongue and shook her head. “I’ve told Fergal—and I mean several times—to close his door when he plays, but he never does. I’m not sure why I put up with that boy.”

McPhail pulled a pack of Marlboros from a pocket in the skirt of her dress. After tapping out two cigarettes, she jammed them between her lips. She lit both with a brushed-chrome Zippo, then gave me one.

I puffed and tapped a toe, letting my gaze travel about the kitchen. I studied the chipped porcelain sink, scratched Formica countertops, and drippy faucet. Blackened food caked the range’s burner pans. The linoleum floor’s confetti motif had long ago disappeared in high-traffic areas. Okay, the place was a dump. But the rent was cheap, and campus was less than a mile away. I could ride my bike to classes and to my part-time job as caddy at the Capital City Country Club.

Still, I hesitated.

The past two years, I’d lived in my fraternity house with forty brothers. I took my meals there, too. If I rented McPhail’s apartment, I’d have to cook for myself. What would I eat? Where would I shop for food?

Other questions flooded my brain. Where would I wash my clothes? And how did a guy open a utilities account? The apartment wasn’t furnished. Where would I purchase a bed? What about a dinette and living room furniture?

And how much did such things cost? It all seemed so complicated.

Still…

Lack of privacy at the fraternity house would pose a problem for me this year. Over summer break—back home in Pensacola—I’d experienced my first sexual encounter with another male, a lanky serviceman named Jeff Dellinger, age twenty-four. Jeff was a second lieutenant from Eglin Air Force Base. I met him at a sand volleyball game behind a Pensacola Beach hotel, and he seemed friendly. I liked his dark hair, slim physique, and ready smile, but wasn’t expecting anything personal to happen between us.

After all, I was a “straight boy,” right?

We bought each other beers at the tiki bar, and then Jeff invited me up to his hotel room. Once we reached the room, Jeff prepared two vodka tonics. My drink struck like snake venom, and then my brain fuzzed. Jeff opened a bureau drawer; he produced a lethal-looking pistol fashioned from black metal. The pistol had a matte finish and a checked grip.

“Ever seen one of these?” Jeff asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s an M1911—official air-force issue. I’ve fired it dozens of times.

Jeff raised the gun to shoulder height. He closed one eye, focused his other on the pistol’s barrel sight. “Shooting’s almost…sensual.” Then he looked at me. “It’s like sex, if you know what I mean.”

I shrugged, not knowing what to say.

Jeff handed the pistol to me. It weighed more than I’d expected, between two and three pounds. I turned it this way and that, admiring its sleek contours. The grip felt cold against my palm and a shiver ran through me. I’d never fired a handgun, never thought to.

“Is it loaded?” I asked.

Jeff bobbed his chin. “One bullet’s in the firing chamber, seven more in the magazine; it’s a semiautomatic.”

After I handed Jeff the gun, he returned it to his bureau’s drawer while I sipped my drink, feeling woozier by the minute. Jeff sat next to me, on the room’s double bed. His knee nudged mine, our shoulders touched, and I smelled his coconut-scented sunscreen.

Jeff laid a hand on my thigh. Then he squeezed. “You don’t mind, do you?”

I looked down at his hand while my heart thumped. Go on, chickenshit. He wants you.

I gazed into Jeff’s dark eyes. “It’s fine.”

And that’s were I cut the offered excerpt, folks, because I keep it PG-13 here, and the next few lines are a sex scene. Plus, there’s lots of Andy reminiscing about sex with Jeff, too. Let’s just say that Andy opts to rent this crummy apartment so he can have the privacy he needs to be a sexually-active gay man in 1976.

And some thoughts on the story from author Jere’ M. Fishback:

Was there any particular part of this book that was difficult to write? If so, what made it so difficult?
There’s a scene where Andy decides to explore the world of BDSM, and winds up getting beaten and sexually assaulted by a man he shouldn’t have trusted. The scene was very disturbing to write, especially because Andy’s such a lovable guy who doesn’t deserve what happens to him.

How about the part of the story you had the most fun writing?
I especially enjoyed writing about Andy’s family’s acceptance of his sexual orientation, despite their conservative views on life. Andy’s extremely close to this parents and his younger brother, and it was fun to write about the day (Easter Sunday) when Andy comes out to his family at the dinner table. There are some pretty tense moments, especially when Andy talks alone with his younger brother, Jake, about homosexuality.

How did you come up with the title?
I went to school with a friend who has the last name Hunsinger, and I always thought it was a cool name, so I used it for my main character. I titled the book Becoming Andy Hunsinger because the book’s about Andy emotional and sexual evolution.

My Review:
Andy Hunsinger unequivocally recognizes that he’s gay the summer before his senior year at Florida State University. His hidden escapades with a closeted airman confirm this, and when he returns to school in August of 1976, he seeks a small apartment for himself knowing he can’t bring a man back to his room in the frathouse.

It’s not as difficult a transition as Andy first imagined. He likes decorating his space and teaching himself to cook. Now, however, he’s lonely. It’s not like there’s a lot of options for entertainment at this time. He finds a gay-friendly bar which he cruises and he sometimes has luck finding a one-night guy, but he truly desires a steady partner. He thinks he does, but when Andy joins a rally against bigoted Anita Bryant’s “Save The Children” crusade Andy gets “outed” on local television. He soon finds himself single again. But, he’s not entirely alone. He’s met lots of gay men who’ve come out in this time, and made allies who assist him in his life as he copes with the fall out of his public status. His job as a caddie at a prominent Tallahassee golf club is at risk, which would be a big financial blow for Andy. Meanwhile, he’s making new friends, and new allies by the day. Still, he worries about how his family will take the news. And, he wonders about a closeted friend, Travis, who’s struggling with his family’s decree that he remain celibate.

This is a really interesting book. It’s told in an almost memoir fashion which generally bothers me, but didn’t in this case. The cast of time is clear and the historic details are amazing. I grew up in the 70s/80s and could easily envision this story unfolding through the lens of my memories. There are times, because this felt memoir-y, when I was a little overwhelmed by asides and description, but then the author looped all that fab detail into a point I hadn’t expected, and it made great sense. I really liked how open, honest and caring Andy was, for all the isolation and personal despair he suffered. He was never too busy to help a friend, or too hurt to mend a relationship.

I loved the slow unfolding of his love story with Travis. These guys have had traumatic outings, and Andy embraced himself, with the help of his friends and family, while Travis had a much different experience. Andy’s no stranger to violence, and refuses to let another suffer if he has a means to help. We experience about 18 months of Andy’s life in the book, and it’s time well spent. He’s a character worth knowing, and his story is remarkable in its commonness; it’s approachable and interesting, with curves that come just when the reader thinks Andy’s finally got everything going in the right direction. The resolution is what I’d call a HFN, or Happy For Now ending, though it was upbeat enough that I felt confident Andy and Travis would be alright on the other side of the page. It’s not a strict romance, though. More a coming out/coming-of-age story that has romantic elements, and a quiet love story that only builds in the last quarter of the book. That said, I really enjoyed the story as a whole, and admired Andy as a man and a character throughout. I enjoyed his journey and recommend the book.

Interested? You can find BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a book of your choice from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial lawyer who now writes fiction full time. He lives with his partner Greg on a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. When he’s not writing, Jere’ enjoys reading, playing his guitar, jogging, swimming laps, fishing, and watching sunsets from his deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

Catch up with Jere’ on his website, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Reaping Love DOWN ON THE FARM–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Silvia Violet. DOWN ON THE FARM is the first in her new Ames Bridge series of country men finding love. This debut features two twenty-somethings trying to get past their past, and build a future together. I’ve loved me a lot of Ms. Violet’s sexy romances, including WELL-TAILORED and all the Thorne & Dash romances.

About the book:
Down on the Farm, a sexy, enemies-to-lovers, small town romance, is the first book in the Ames Bridge series.

After quitting his teaching job on the heels of a scandal, Beck Davis moves to the house his grandmother left him in Ames Bridge. He finds the town stifling, but it’s a quiet place to hide while he regroups. Or so he thought.

His neighbor Cal McMurtry shows up, demanding to buy Beck’s land. Cal is as infuriatingly sexy as he was ten years ago when he and his jock friends spent their summers taunting Beck.

Beck expects to hate Cal as he did back then, but Cal isn’t who Beck thought he was: he’s hardworking, passionate about revamping and diversifying his family’s farm, and—far more shocking—he’s gay, and interested in Beck.

But as much as they want each other, Beck has no intention of staying in Ames Bridge, and while Cal is technically out, he refuses to date openly. A real relationship seems doomed from the beginning, but love can be a powerful motivator for those willing to take a chance.

My Review:
Beck Davis is mired in misery, settling into his late-grandmother’s farmhouse in rural Ames Bridge, North Carolina. He’d just won a settlement from his discriminating Georgia school district, and he just wants to lick his wounds and sort his grandma’s belongings. He surely doesn’t want to reconnect with his neighbor, Cal McMurtry, subject of his teen fantasies and all-over mean boy. Unfortunately, Cal wants to rent or purchase Beck’s grandma’s property so he can expand his farm. And seeing Cal while Beck is still so raw and vulnerable isn’t a great experience.

At first.

Cal McMurtry is isolated and bitter since he came out. He’s heard the talk around his small town, and knows that his best chance at making his organic farm operation successful is to expand, work hard and keep his head down. It’s that much harder to ignore his physical and emotional needs when he sees how Beck has filled out. It’s even harder when Beck brings up what a giant prick he’d been as a confused kid trying to deny his attraction to the skinny boy Beck had been back then.

The chatter from mutual friends in the town turns, Beck’s head however. He’d never guessed Cal was gay, and it’s more than a little intriguing to discover that the searing looks he flashes Beck are filled with lust, not hate. Still, if they are going to make a life together, it has to be in the open–that’s why Beck left Georgia after all. And, it’s also why he never planned to much time in Ames Bridge. Too small town, too narrow-minded, or so Beck expected. But, being there he’s meeting out-gay men and women who are having success. It leads Beck to believe that he and Cal could really build a life together. If only Cal would consider being out in public with him.

I really liked this one! It’s not a spicy as some other books Violet’s written, but it had an authentic feel, with a sweet story. Beck and Cal have a lot of passion, in general, for each other and for their life plans. I got swept away in their romance, and loved the supporting characters who assured them that they could make it, together. It was fun to see the homophobes get shut down, and the grannie brigade to ride into the fray. I look forward spending more time in Ames Bridge.

Interested? You can find DOWN ON THE FARM on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Silvia Violet writes fun, sexy stories that will leave you smiling and satisfied. She has a thing for characters who are in need of comfort and enjoys helping them surrender to love even when they doubt it exists. Silvia’s stories include sizzling contemporaries, paranormals, and historicals. When she needs a break from listening to the voices in her head, she spends time baking, taking long walks, curling up with her favorite books, and spending time with her family.

Catch up with Sylvia on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or sign up for her Newsletter.
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Overcoming the Hate–FIGHTER-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M sports romance from Carol Lynne. FIGHTER is a bit of a sports epic with a huge cast and a lot of heart.

About the book:
For Lucky Gunn, the hardest fight of his life happens outside the cage. On the south side of Chicago sits an old gym called The Brick Yard. Ten years ago, on a bitterly cold day, Lucky Gunn wandered into The Brick Yard dressed in a threadbare jacket, looking for refuge. He hadn’t expected the owner, Tony Brick, to welcome him with a job and a place to sleep when Lucky’s abusive and drug addicted mother made it too dangerous to return home.

Dray was a gay man living in a world of straight fighters. When his secret was exposed to the media, he dropped out, giving Lucky a piece of advice: if you want to make it as a MMA fighter, bury the part of yourself that won’t be accepted. Lucky discovered the cage was the perfect place to keep his demons at bay, but when he learns his trainer and mentor, Brick, is suffering from end-stage cancer, he begins to spiral out of control.

After eight years, Dray returns to help Lucky and Brick deal with the devastating news. With Dray so close, Lucky’s old desires return, and Dray teaches him more than how to fight. Torn between his career and the passion he feels for Dray, Lucky’s past demons resurface in full force, threatening his sanity and his budding relationship with Dray. Despite leaving the cage years earlier, Dray finds himself in the battle of his life with the only man he’s ever loved. Will he stand and fight, or walk away like he did years earlier?

My Review:
This is a bit of a “sports epic” in that the story arc stretches over the MMA fighting careers of two men and ten-ish years. Dray is an up-and-coming MMA fighter, the pride of The Brick Yard training facility on Chicago’s mean streets. He’s all set to get a title bout when his secret–that he’s gay–gets splashed out. Dray runs, unwilling to see how the fans hate him for his sexuality, heaving behind his mentor and pseudo-father Tony Brick, the man who raised him and saved his life in that broken down gym.

Flash-forward eight years: Lucky Gunn, who’d been a wide-eyed teen spending most of his nights in The Brick Yard’s laundry room, and watched Dray’s rise and fall is now out on the MMA circuit, only Tony’s too sick to be a good coach. He’s dying of cancer and it’s a huge mess. He reaches out to Dray to come back to Chicago and coach Lucky to a championship, and Dray resists. First, because he doesn’t want to taint Lucky’s career and later, because he’s really attracted to Lucky, and the feeling is mutual.

The thing is, Lucky’s not willing to hide his love for Dray, and he’s also doesn’t really care if his career suffers. He’s got a good life, now, and he wants a family like he’s built with The Brick Yard people, taking in runaways like Tony did with him. But, he can’t imagine doing it on his own, and he’s struggling watching Tony waste away.

So, for me, the book was less about coming out than it is about finding one’s tribe. Tony is a remarkable man whose history of saving young men from the mean streets dates back decades. The boys he saved number legion, but they all felt he was a father figure to only them. As Dray and Lucky comfort and care for Tony on his journey to peace, they learn how very much he cared for all of them, and their new passion, besides each other, becomes how to preserve Tony Brick’s legacy. They get some help from unlikely sources, but it only makes this whole story sweeter. Lucky’s still collecting kids, just the way Tony had, but now on a larger scale as they keep The Brick Yard open and include the special services help that these runaways need. Dray and Lucky are saving one kid at a time. Also, it’s good that both men are young, fit and fighters, because sometimes a bit of “Convincing” must be done to save kids from abusive parents who just won’t let go.

It’s a tender and compassionate story, and the stage is set for Dray and Lucky to make a real difference for the castaway gay youth on Chicago, it seems. Expect sweaty sexytimes and some grieving, too.

Interested? You can find FIGHTER on Goodreads, Pride Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author: In Carol Lynne’s words…
Well, to be honest, I’m completely boring. I spend my days juggling two young children and my writing career. You’re just as likely to either catch me writing a steamy love scene or scrubbing jelly out of the carpet.

Besides writing, my biggest passion is reading. I have a lot of authors I follow (no not in the stalking sense), but Sean Michaels, B.A. Tortuga, J.M. Snyder and Chris Owen have to be my all-time favorites.

Here are some unusual facts about me:

I drink gallons of coffee every day, but I much prefer instant. I catch all kinds of flack for this from my family and friends. Even though I only drink instant, I am very picky about which brand I buy. It must be Taster’s Choice or nothing.

I love country music, but can’t stand to have music playing in my house. Therefore, I don’t even own a stereo or radio of any kind. I listen to my tunes as I’m driving around town and that’s enough for me.

I like to refer to myself as underheight instead of overweight. I’m just sure that if I could add another six or seven inches to my short 5’2 frame, I’d be much thinner. Therefore, it’s not that I overeat, it’s just that I stopped growing.

I enjoy the Hallmark commercials more than I enjoy the Hallmark movies.

Well, sorry folks, that’s about all I’ve got for you. Maybe someday soon I’ll have something really exciting to put on this page, but for now, this is me in a nutshell.

Catch up with Carol on her website, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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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