Now Available! HAPPY PLACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance newly released from Jay Northcote. HAPPY PLACE is the fifth book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. I really enjoyed BETTER PLACE, and MUD & LACE, so I’m always eager for a new installment in this engaging series.

About the book:
A first kiss from a younger man leads to a sexual awakening…

George’s strict upbringing has left him ashamed of his sexuality. In his forties now, he’s yet to come out or even kiss a man – until he meets Quentin.

Quentin has had enough of bad relationships with men who won’t commit. Still raw from the last one, he’s not ready to try again. But George is sweet, and helping the older man get some experience might be a fun diversion.

Swept rapidly into a deeper connection than they bargained for, they face a dilemma. George isn’t ready to come out, and Quentin wants a boyfriend who isn’t afraid to be seen with him in public. Can they find a way to navigate the unpredictable waters of their new relationship and find happiness together?

Contains: Age gap, gay first times, sexual exploration, out for you.

My Review:
Quentin is a young out-gay reporter, who’s a little melancholy that he can’t find a steady bloke. He’d had a mini-crush on Seb, owner of Rainbow Place, the lone local gay-friendly hangout near his home in Porthladock, Cornwall. Alas, Seb–who is a bit older as Quentin likes older men–is happily coupled with another man. They has all met when Quentin did a peice of Rainbow Place, how it got trashed by homophobes prior to it’s opening, and how the community in Porthladock came together to help rebuild it before the business went under.

Quentin meets George, a local shipbuilder, while working on a piece about other local businesses. George is in his early 40s and fit as all get out, thanks to his spartan life and physical labor–absolute catnip for Quentin ordinarily. George is also closeted, and terribly awkward about his sexuality; he’d been raised in a strictly religious house, and married and fathered a daughter before his lack of attraction to his wife made his marriage fell apart. His wife could never entice him into romance, and gave up on reconciling–George, too ashamed to reveal his true sexuality kept it all a secret, and it’s eating him alive. Meeting young and sexy Quentin is a watershed moment for George, especially when Quentin mistakes George’s inability to meet his gaze as latent homophobia. Quentin himself had been frustrated to be attracted to a homophobe–and pleasantly surprised when George confesses that he’s not only gay, but that he’s never been with another man.

Their attraction is mutual, after this little blip, and Quentin even offers to help George explore his sexuality on the down-low and casual. It’s a bit of a problem, actually, the casual part because George has never really had a casual partner, he’s only ever had two sexual partners in his life, and Quentin is so young and shiny and hopeful. George is sure this is a bad idea. But, he needs physical affection badly, and he and Quentin have ignitable chemistry. They start out rather slow, but George’s desire for dominance–another shameful secret–soon asserts itself, and Quentin is happy to have such a butch older man give him what-for. At least, until their feelings become engaged. Because, yeah, Quentin still wants a true partner, and closeted George is not planning to come out.

Naturally, George senses the tension. He thinks it’s just that Quentin might get itchy feet–after all, George doesn’t see himself as much of a catch. Why should he come out and upset his whole life? Quentin will likely find a young, educated partner for himself before long and then George can go back to his solitary, celibate life, right? It takes George recognizing that his solitary, celibate life isn’t much of one–and that Quentin thinks he’s the bee’s knees and would happily give up all men forever if he could only spend every night in George’s bunk–to spur on the climax and resolution.

I loved how we got to see some characters from previous books in this one. Seb is a big confidant, helping both Quentin and George through their rough patches. There’s some really dirty sexytimes, and really sweet moments of tenderness so we get a full balance of hotness. The secondary characters in this story are mainly women, and they do a great deal to support both Quentin and George–most especially George as he comes out. I really enjoyed his reconciliation with his ex-wife, who is a dear lady and George has love for her, even if it isn’t sexual. I just really enjoy these “every man” stories, and each time I pick up one of these books I’m transported to southwest England in a way that makes me hunt down digital maps of the region and consider travel ideas.

Interested? You can find HAPPY PLACE on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

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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Finding the Will To Go On–ON CHOCORUA–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M coming-out and coming-of-age story from Robin Reardon. ON CHOCORUA is the first book in her Trailblazers series, which features a college freshman doing things…that cause him great pain.

About the book:
A mountain. A blizzard. A young man new to hiking and to love, making mistakes in both.
First year of college. A great time to re-invent yourself. Nathan Bartlett takes the opportunity very seriously—maybe a little too seriously. And he makes mistakes.

His mistakes? Falling for a straight guy who reminds him of his beloved older brother. Getting too invested in the substance abuse disorders of two other students. And climbing a mountain in a snowstorm for all the wrong reasons.

But he also develops friendships that will be his for life. He faces his inner demons and comes up with a plan. And he realizes that answers to important questions are seldom waiting on the surface but must be worked for, or struggled for, or suffered for—and sometimes all three.

Nathan is a trailblazer on his own journey. His success will be measured not by how well he follows someone else’s path, but by whether he can forge his own. This first book in a series of three novels gets Nathan started on a journey that will teach him about himself, about life, and about love.

Walk with him.

My Review:
Nathan Bartlett was orphaned at the age of one, and raised by his maternal grandmother with his sister Nina (a year older) and his eldest brother Neil who is six years older. Nathan has always looked up to Neil as more of a father-figure than a brother, and loves him dearly. Neil’s favorite activity of all time is hiking, and there’s plenty of it to do in their native New Hampshire. Nathan never hiked with his brother as the opening of the story is Nathan preparing to climb Chocorua peak alone, in memory of Neil. So, we start at the resolution, and then Nathan leads us backwards on his tale of woe.

Nathan has known he’s gay for years, but he never acted on it, and never dated anyone in his small community high school. He has told Neil his secret, and prepares to find a way toward meeting a man while away at college. As a freshman, it’s a big, bold new world, and Nathan comes out to his roommate to begin the year. El Speed is cool with it, and even attempts to negotiate a connection for Nathan with a gay student he knows. It doesn’t pan out, but Nathan hits it off with a boy in his acting class, Alden, and develops an unrequited crush on Daniel, the manager in the cafeteria dishroom where Nathan takes a job.

The story is essentially all about Nathan finding his people, and making headway into adulthood. It comes across as genuine, if not inspired. Alder becomes very important, as a guide for Nathan into physical sex and emotional love, but the relationship struggles when Alder’s personal demons come to call. Daniel serves as a mixture of the carnal male affection Nathan desires, inexplicably mixed with the paternal love Nathan’s always craved and sought from Neil. Daniel is a couple of years older than Nathan–so he’s got some experience and maturity–and he’s an avid hiker. Nathan thinks learning to hike with Daniel will enable him to be even closer to Neil–demonstrating his “un-tutored” prowess in something at which Neil excels. Unfortunately, Daniel’s a terrible guide and he’s not interested in being anything more than a friend. Daniel’s inexperience and arrogance nearly kills both himself and Nathan the first time they go hiking.

Over the course of the first year, Nathan learns how to stand up for himself, to come out to those whose support he needs, and to support those people who are being wronged/harmed by the callousness of others. He wishes he didn’t have to learn these lessons in so difficult a manner–especially in losing Neil. Nathan deals with his natural anxieties far better than most, and he’s rather well-adjusted considering his many tragedies in life. His friendship with El Speed, and his relationship with Nina both grow and help him keep a steady course. It’s a pretty quiet book, and I think knowing about Neil upfront took a lot of tension away for me. I was patiently waiting for the time Nathan would get the notice, and I didn’t feel as much connection to the situation as it unfolded because I then knew ‘Oh, this is where he bites it.’ And it was sad, no doubt, but the gut punch of grief didn’t manifest for me, since I was inured by the knowledge it was coming. That said, there are more books coming in this series, and I’m eager to watch Nathan’s world grow and (hopefully) get happier.

Interested? You can find ON CHOCORUA on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Robin Reardon: “I am an inveterate observer of human nature, and my primary writing goal is to create stories about all kinds of people, some of whom happen to be gay or transgender—people whose destinies are not determined solely by their sexual orientation or identity. My secondary writing goal is to introduce readers to concepts or information they might not know very much about. On my website, robinreardon.com, see individual book pages for “Digging Deeper” sections that link to background information and research done for the novel.

My motto is this: The only thing wrong with being gay is how some people treat you when they find out.

Interests outside of writing include singing, nature photography, and the study of comparative religions. I write in a butter yellow study with a view of the Boston, Massachusetts skyline.”

You can catch up with Robin on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Becoming ALL BOY–A Review

Hi there!Today I’m sharing my review for a recently published transgender New Adult romance from Mia Kerick. ALL BOY is a coming of age and coming out story for a transgender teen living life on his terms. I have enjoyed many books by this author, including LOVE SPELL, THE WEEKEND BUCKET LIST, and THE ART OF HERO WORSHIP.

About the book:
Seventeen-year-old Callie Canter knows all about screwing up—and being screwed over. After her so-called boyfriend publicly humiliated her senior year, taking a fifth year of high school at Beaufort Hills Academy is her second chance to leave behind a painful past. But her need for social acceptance follows, and going along with the in-crowd is the difference between survival and becoming a target. Staying off the radar is top priority. So, falling for an outsider is the last thing on Callie’s “to-do” list. Too bad her heart didn’t get the memo.

With his strict, religious upbringing and former identity far away in Florida, Jayden Morrissey can finally be true to himself at Beaufort Hills Academy. But life as a trans man means keeping secrets, and keeping secrets means not getting too close to anyone. If he can just get through his fifth year unnoticed, maybe a future living as the person he was born to be is possible. Yet love is love, and when you fall hard enough, intentions crumble, plans detour, and secrets are revealed.

From multi-award-winning author Mia Kerick, comes a powerful, timely, and life-changing novel, which follows two teenagers nursing broken hearts and seeking acceptance, and who together realize running away isn’t always the answer.

My Review:
Callie Canter is at an exclusive prep school trying to finish her his school diploma now that she’s in a healthy place. In her hometown she’d been a victim of partner abuse, with a controlling, demeaning boyfriend whose constant criticism led to body issues, and whose release of a nude video completely humiliated Callie. She’s not sure about this new school, but she’s determined to use her therapy-gained emotional management skills to get past the crap she otherwise would have folded under. She’s got a great new roomie, and her soccer skills have garnered the attention of the kind of guys she’d usually dated: built jocks with more quips than thoughts. Except, those are the types of guys she’d been abused by in the past.

Instead, she’s really drawn to Jayden Morrisey. He’s thin and lithe, and funny and so smart! Why does Jayden live off campus and work, though? It’s peculiar, and intriguing. Jayden’s always standing up for Callie, and she likes that he’s not aggressively sexual, that they have a connection that is intellectual and emotional rather than only physical. Naturally, this makes Jayden a target for the suitors Callie’s attracted. He’s not big enough to stand up against the bullies, and the more he antagonizes them the more the threats ramp up.

Jayden has a big secret, it’s his first time living on his own, in his own skin–transitioning in dress and manner into the man he’s always been on the inside. He’s attracted to Callie, but he has a lot going on, not least of which is his hyper-conservative family who can’t understand why he didn’t accept the full-ride softball scholarship at a Christian college. This first taste as living authentically is an amazing experience, and Jayden considers coming out to Callie. But the guys chasing Callie aren’t willing to let her go–and make moves to “unmask” Jayden before he can discuss it with Callie.

I liked how authentic the relationship between Callie and Jayden felt, as well as the fast friendship she has with her roomie. Jayden’s got a hot mess to unravel, and he thinks it’s best if he does it off campus. While not ideal, Jayden heads home, and it’s up to Callie to make amends. That raises other issues that Callie must manage for herself, namely her dependence on others to define her self-image. Throughout the story, Callie’s insecurities in herself dictate her actions and inactions. That’s right, Callie’s lack of action cause Jayden great harm, and she has to mount a road-trip to help Jayden get justice. I liked how it turned out, even if I was disappointed by Callie for a large chunk of the book. The resolution is a heart-warming experience, with Jayden and Callie finding the refuge they needed to make their way into the world in healthy and positive ways.

Interested? You can find ALL BOY on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Finding Happiness With A BOYFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary Christmas M/M romance from Jay Northcote. A BOYFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS is a sweet story featuring a wealthy closeted virgin falling for a motorcycle-riding tattoo artist.

About the book:
Archie’s posh parents want him to meet a nice girl–how can he tell them he’s fallen for a bad boy instead?

Closeted, innocent and lonely, Archie Arandale longs for someone special in his life. A Christmas party organised by his wealth management company is the last place he expects to meet the man of his dreams.

With his leather jacket, tattoos, and piercings, Cal Turner turns heads the moment he walks through the door. He definitely isn’t looking for a boyfriend, but Archie’s hesitant charm captures his attention, and sneaking off during the party to have a little fun can only make a dull evening more interesting.

After their reckless and thrilling encounter, Archie is keen for more experience and Cal is happy to oblige. The need for secrecy means this can only be a casual fling, yet as they spend time together in the run up to Christmas, their feelings become more intense than either of them had bargained for. How can Archie find the courage to tell his family about Cal, when Cal’s the exact opposite of the ‘nice girl’ they’ve been hoping for?

Contains: A closeted virgin, a tattooed biker, class differences, a dramatic coming out, a very inappropriate Christmas gift, and a happy ending (of course).

My Review:
Archie Arandale is the youngest son of very wealthy parents. He’s lived a very sheltered life, and only just moved out on his own now that he’s completed uni. He does work for his father’s investment firm, but he truly wants to open a non-profit to help LGBT youth. Archie envisions someday coming out, but first he should probably have some physical experience with a man.

Cal Turner is a tattoo artist who won a lottery a few years back. He’s big, burly and brash, but a compassionate and sexy man. He paid off his mum’s home and bought himself a place, then donated a bunch to charity and invested the rest. He’s been out since school, but he’s never had a real relationship even though he’s nearly thirty. His best mate convinces him to attend one of the seminar dinners hosted by his investment firm–and there he meets Archie. Archie is thin, blonde and adorably shy. It’s good fun to tease him a little, if only to watch him blush crimson, but when Archie truly responds to Cal’s teasing they make a connection neither anticipated.

One rushed encounter leads to and exchange of numbers, and a continued acquaintance. Cal’s stunned that Archie has so little experience, as wealthy and attractive as he is, but he realizes that Archie’s been so scared to ask for what he wants, leaving him isolated and lonely. Cal can empathize with loneliness, and he makes the effort to be a good partner to Archie, helping him explore his sexual needs safely, and build a rapport as well. They are so well suited, despite the class differences, because Archie’s a down-to-earth guy, not a posh git like Cal had anticipated. The only real problem is Archie being closeted–and he’s warming to the idea of sharing his truth after the Christmas holidays. Can Cal trust him to make that choice? Will Archie’s posh family accept the common man he’s falling for?

This is a sweet and sexy romance. I really loved the intimate moments and Archie’s exuberance to find an attentive partner. Their growing friendship is fun and flirty, with such potential. I loved how adventurous they were with one another, and I totally fell for both Archie and Cal, as they fell for one another. Archie’s family are more accepting than he would have guess–once he revealed all his secrets, including a mismatch in their politics. I really enjoyed the coming out scene, and Archie’s unexpected advocate was a breath of fresh air. This is a holiday story, but fully enjoyable at any time of year.

Interested? You can find A BOYFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

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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Captivated by the MUD & LACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance newly released from Jay Northcote. MUD & LACE is the fourth book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. I really enjoyed BETTER PLACE, and was eager to continue reading this engaging series. MUD & LACE features a not-so-straight man who falls for a drag queen with a monthly gig at the Rainbow Place cafe–and they both have some issues to confront.

About the book:
When Wicksy falls for drag queen Charlie, they discover that both sexuality and gender can be fluid.

Simon Wicks—Wicksy to his rugby teammates—has only ever been interested in women. But when he sets eyes on Lady Gogo, a drag queen who performs at Rainbow Place, he can’t stop thinking about her. He knows there’s a guy behind the fishnets and make-up, but he’s ready to explore his fantasies, and Lady Gogo is game for making them come true.

Charlie adores performing in drag. It allows him to indulge in his love of cross-dressing while earning some extra cash. Fooling around with a mostly straight guy in secret seems like a fun diversion, and gives him the chance to explore his feminine side. He feels safe wearing the mask of his confident alter ego, because the real Charlie is hidden from view.

When Wicksy sees more of the guy behind the make-up and glitter, his attraction to Charlie persists, and he realises he’s bisexual. In turn, Charlie begins to understand and accept his gender fluidity. As their mutual journey of self-discovery brings them closer, the secrecy becomes increasingly hard to deal with. If they’re going to have a future together, they both need to find the courage to show people who they really are.

Although this book is part of a linked series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

My Review:
Simon, called Wicksy by his rugby mates, is a regular at the Rainbow Place cafe. His teammate is dating a server there, and the team helped to get the place up and running after vandals smashed it up before the grand opening. Wicksy’s not shy about his interest in the stunning Lady Gogo, a new performer, but he’s not quite sure what to do about it.

Charlie is just 20 and trying to make sense of his life. He’s been out as gay for several years but his best mate, also gay, is rude about effeminate men. Charlie fears telling his pal about the drag shows he does to blow off steam and earn some cash would hamper their friendship. And, Charlie’s not sure he wants his mum to know about how he feels when in his Lady Gogo persona. Because Charlie feels empowered and sexy, glamourous and desirable–a far cry from his normal appearance. Wicksy, being a strapping lad, is catnip for Lady Gogo, and lights a fire within Charlie, too. But, is this handsome man really desiring a woman, because Charlie’s “lady parts” are all costume.

Wicksy’s keen on Lady Gogo, and they start canoodling, with Charlie in drag. It’s fun for both men, and these clandestine trysts help each man re-center their interests. Wicksy is recognizing that he’s not so much worried about Charlie’s sexual plumbing, while Charlie is owning his body and sex appeal in ways he hadn’t considered before. I really liked how this relationship grew–first from an acknowledged place of deliberate contradiction, Wicksy “pretending” Lady Gogo was female while Charlie indulged his inner femininity, to a more realistic recognition that sexuality is how we respond to attraction. Wicksy is a bit late in coming to terms with his desires, but he doesn’t make Charlie feel ugly in his male presentation, either. If anything, the reverence Wicksy always grants Charlie gives Charlie the emotional strength to challenge his own inner questions. It was nice that Charlie got to meet some new people who really supported him, and who offered counsel on his concerns about potentially being trans.

There’s a little separation when Charlie and Wicksy struggle to keep their budding relationship on the down-low, bu tit doesn’t take too long to get things back on the right path. They make the necessary arrangements to live their truth, which enables them to come out as boyfriends, in the end. This one had some very steamy sexytimes, and moments of sweet emotional connection. Even when Wicksy and CHarlie weren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye, their disagreements were always respectful, and insightful. They pushed each other to be better men, and the story shown for all their effort.

Interested? You can find MUD & LACE on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

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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Finding Love at FAMILY CAMP–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a new M/M romance from Eli Easton. FAMILY CAMP is a contemporary romance that features a closeted pro baseball player and a single gay man raising two foster kids. These guys turn out to be soulmates, and their growing love is sweet and sexy to witness. I have loved all the Eli Easton books I’ve read, including MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES, her HOWL AT MOON books, SECOND HARVEST, FIVE DARES and ROBBY RIVERTON: MAIL ORDER BRIDE.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter the $25 GC giveaway!
About the book:
When Geo signs up for Family Camp, he envisions nature hikes, s’mores, and a chance to win over his recalcitrant new foster kids, Jayden and Lucy. He’s tried to become a dad for so long, and he hopes the three of them can be the family he’s always wanted. What he doesn’t anticipate is the prickly and gorgeous camp counselor who constantly comes to his rescue.

Travis spends a week every year at Camp Evermore, the camp his adoptive parents own. As a pro baseball player, his presence guarantees a full campground and excited campers. He has one rule: never, ever mess around with anyone at camp. His profession demands he stay in the closet. But one sweet and funny new dad is about to test all his resolve.

Sparks fly for Geo and Travis, and not because of the nightly campfire. Having been a foster kid himself, Travis is drawn to Geo’s sincerity and big heart and to his kids. The four of them just fit. But will this be a summer romance? Or can they find a way to be a family long after Family Camp is over?

How about a little taste?

Sixth inning. Geo was ready for the game to be over. It was fucking hot on the ball field, all open and exposed, the sun baking down. And he was also not sure how much more Travis-watching he could take—him with his silky burgundy gym shorts and a sweaty Camp Evermore green shirt stretched over those muscles. His long legs were tanned and well-defined from hours at the gym.

Those thighs could fucking crack walnuts. Dude.

Damn, but that was one fine-looking man. Geo knew he should lay off, though. Travis had made himself clear.

Only he hadn’t. At all. One minute, Travis seemed into him him. He sought out Geo’s company, like the way he kept coming by the cabin at night. And the next minute, he’d put distance between them, ignoring Geo or closing himself off behind a granite-like expression and those eye-hiding shades. And Travis had laid a clear line in the sand. Not at camp. Not gonna happen.

Yup. That was fine. Sure, Geo hadn’t been mutually attracted to a guy that hot in ages. Or ever, really. But Geo hadn’t come to camp to fool around. He had other priorities.

It did make him wonder though. Bridget had said Travis wasn’t out. A quick Google search last night had confirmed that. In fact, Geo had been shocked to discover there’d never been an out baseball player in the major leagues. Like, in the history of American baseball. Which was tragic. No wonder Travis was in the closet. It had to suck monkey balls living like that. Especially with all the women who threw themselves at him constantly. There were a dozen women on the sidelines right now that looked ready to have his babies. That had to be weird for a gay guy. Didn’t it?

Geo himself was always super uncomfortable when women came on to him. He felt compelled to blurt out “I’m gay!” in the first five minutes. It was just too weird otherwise.

Then again, Travis’s love life was none of Geo’s business. Maybe the guy was bisexual. Maybe he liked dating women just fine.

Jayden came up to bat. Geo focused on his son, clapping hard. “Come on, Jayden! You’ve got this!”

Jayden took a wide stance beside the plate, both hands gripping the bat, choked up a little. Travis had spent a few minutes with Jayden at the start of the game, showing him how to stand, and Jayden copied him exactly. The kid was a great mimic. He’d been nervous at first, tense and defensive. But by now he just looked focused. He stared, narrow-eyed, at Frank as Frank pitched an easy ball.

Geo loved that about this game, that everyone tried to give the kids easy wins, and no one took the competition seriously.

Jayden hit the ball hard. It flew through the air a short ways then plonked to the ground and skipped along fast. It was heading right down the center line, though a bit more towards third base and Travis’s side of the field.

“Go Jayden! Go!” Geo shouted. He went after the ball. In his peripheral vision, he saw Jayden round first base and keep running.

Travis was going after the ball too, dodging low. He scooped it up. He was going to throw it to third base, keep Jayden back on second. Geo couldn’t let that happen.

He dove in front of Travis, crowding him, holding an arm out to block Travis from throwing the ball.

Travis snorted, bemused. “What are you doing? You’re on my team.” He backed up, trying to get away from Geo.

“Blood before bros, man,” Geo said with fake seriousness. He kept up with Travis, step for step, grabbing Travis’s right arm in a firm grip so he couldn’t raise the ball.

“Stop it!” Travis laughed. “Dork. That’s not legal.

“Don’t care.”

They took three steps back, like they were dancing. Geo held Travis’s right arm, staring him down. Travis met his gaze, a goofy smile on his lips. Back and back they stumbled. Suddenly, Travis got a sparkle in his eyes. He wrapped his left arm around Geo’s waist and picked him up, swinging him around so he ended up behind Travis.

Geo was still finding his feet as Travis drew back his arm and sent the ball sailing.

Right to home plate. But Jayden got there first. Umpire Cindy made the motion with her hands, safe.

Geo laughed and raised his arms in triumph. “Yeah, baby! Great job, Jayden! Home run, whoo!”

Then he realized everyone was staring at them. On the sidelines, there were a dozen cameras raised, filming.

Oh. Er. Hmm. Geo wiped his face, feeling sheepish.

That’s when a piercing scream rent the air.

My Review:
Geo is determined to be a good father–with or without a partner. He’s out, and he has a good job as a middle-school history teacher. After years of applications, interviews and preparation, he’s finally building a family, with Jayden, a pre-teen boy, and Lucy, a 5 year old girl. Both of these kids have emotional scars and Geo is trying his hardest to get them to open up. He’s had foster custody for about 6 weeks, but his plan is to adopt them, if he can wrangle the legal hoops.

Travis is a pro baseball pitcher who knows his years in the big leagues are coming to an end. He’s gay, but closeted, even to his family. Travis was adopted as a teenager, and has a complex about losing the love of his large adoptive family if he comes out–plus there are no openly gay players in the pros, so he doens’t want to be a standard bearer. He works the family camp week at his family’s camp–as it falls during the all-star break and he likes to lend a hand.

Travis and Geo meet en route to the campsite, when Travis rescues Geo who’s car had run out of gas. He gets that Geo’s a new foster dad, and he’s irrationally angry with his misapprehension of the situation. Still, while Travis might think Geo’s just his type, believing that he’s not in parenthood for the long haul tweaks all Travis’ childhood apprehensions. Travis goes out of his way to be cool to Jayden and Lucy, but give Geo the coldest of shoulders.

On the campground, however, they strike up a tentative truce, which crackles with mutual attraction. Travis’ older sister notices and she confronts him–setting this man “straight” on some home truths he’d long forgotten. I really loved the women in this story who each have texture and personality, beyond the “confidante” sketch. Jayden, who is often belligerent, warms to kids at the camp, and listens to Travis’ counsel about how much Geo cares about him. Having a role model who understands the foster system allows Jayden to build a strong relationship with not only Geo (who is over the moon!) but also kids his own age, and Travis. Little Lucy, who is emotionally delayed, makes big strides toward connecting with Geo and others–thanks to Travis’ sweet dog. THe kids, like the female characters, are well written and feel like whole people–who’ve survived trauma and are afraid to be hurt yet again. Travis and Geo both connect well with these two, and their entire dynamic during the week appears more than friendly–which makes space for the night time interludes Geo and Travis are soon angling to pursue.

Naturally, there’s conflict due to Travis’ career and fear of coming out. Geo doesn’t know how to manage it–and they live about 250 miles apart–but when the major situation gets resolved it leaves the MCs searching for a deeper connection, and a family of their own. It’s sweet, with a slow burn. I liked it bunches and highly recommend.

Interested? You can find FAMILY CAMP on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****
Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC.
Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Out Now! LOVE SPELL Review and Giveaway

Hi all! Well, it’s been a long break. I seriously fell into a blog-time-out for health and sanity reasons…mostly I couldn’t keep up the blogging with the pressure of THREE part-time jobs, finishing my third degree, and job-hunting for a stable position. But, all that’s just a blip in my history, and I hope to be blogging more regularly going forward.

Today I’m sharing my review for LOVE SPELL by Mia Kerick. This is a contemporary YA M/M romance which is wholly clean and really compelling. Chance is a gender-fluid teen–that means he’s as likely to dress male or female. He’s confident that he’s gay, and 58% (or so) sure that he’s not transgender, but he really doesn’t want to think about it. Or talk about it. He just wants to find the right guy, and he’s pretty sure (probably 95%) that this right guy is Jasper.

About the book:
Chance César is fabulously gay, but his gender identity—or, as he phrases it, “being stuck in the gray area between girl and boy”—remains confusing. Nonetheless, he struts his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug-in-all-the-right (wrong)-places orange tuxedo as the winner of this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon Festival. He rules supreme at the local Beans and Greens Farm’s annual fall celebration, serenaded by the enthusiastic catcalls of his BFF, Emily Benson.

Although he refuses to visually fade into the background of his rural New Hampshire town, Chance is socially invisible—except when being tormented by familiar bullies. But sparks fly when Chance, Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper (Jazz) Donahue, winner of the Pumpkin Carving King contest. Chance wants to be noticed and admired and romantically embraced by Jazz, in all of his neon-orange-haired glory.

And so at a sleepover, Chance and Emily conduct intense, late-night research, and find an online article: “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love With You.” Along with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure, it becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

But will this “no-fail” plan work? Can Chance and Jazz fall under the fickle spell of love?

This is a second edition of the novel–originally published in 2015.

A yummy taste…

Chapter One: Shine On, Harvest Moon

Just call me brazen.

It occurs to me that brazen—unabashedly bold and without an inkling of shame—is the perfectly appropriate word to describe moi right about now. It is, however, the only perfectly appropriate part of this evening. Which is perfectly appropriate, in my humble opinion. So get over it.

I lift my chin just enough to stop the stiff orange spikes of glitter-gelled hair from flopping forward onto my forehead. Who can blame me? These spikes are razor sharp—best they stay upright on my head where they belong. And gravity can only do so much to that end.

Okaaaayyyy…sidetracked much? Forces rebellious thoughts on business at hand.

Chance César is a brazen B.

I stare ’em down, but only after I pop the collar of the blinding “Orange Crush” tuxedo I’m rockin’ and shrug my shoulders in a sort of what-the-fuck fashion. Rule of thumb in this queen’s life—first things must always come first.

Pop, shrug, and only then is it kosher to stare. I clear my throat.

“Eat your ginger-haired heart out, Ed Sheeran.”

Based on the buzz of scandalized chatter blowing about in the crisp evening breeze, I’m reasonably certain that nobody in the crowd heard me speak. And although several of the girls currently gawking at me may do double backflips over my red-haired counterpart across the pond, they don’t give a rat’s ass about Chance César. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that they view my atomic tangerine locks as more reminiscent of Bozo the Clown than of the smexy singer-songwriter.

They are, however, completely unaware that this carrot top is going to make Harvest Moon Festival history tonight.

Refusing to succumb to the impulse to duck my head, I take a single shaky step forward onto the stage that’s been set up on the dusty ground beside a vast—by New England standards—cornfield. The stage doesn’t wobble, but my knees sure as shit do. Okay, I’m an honest diva and I tell it like it is. And I’m what you might call a freaking wreck.

Nonetheless, this brazen B takes a deep breath, blows it out in a single gush, and starts to strut. This boy’s werkin’ it.

Smi-zeee!! Yeah, my smile is painted on, just like my trousers.

Chance, you are by far the edgiest Miss Harvest Moon this ramshackle town has ever had the good fortune to gaze upon. I am a major fan of positive self-talk.

Using the feigned British accent I’ve perfected—thanks to long hours of tedious practice in my bathroom—I dish out my next thought aloud. “I wish I’d put in a tad more practice walking in these bloody heels before going public in ’em.” And despite one slight stumble—a close call to be sure—the clicking sound my pumps make is crisp and confident. I saunter out onto the catwalk.

#TrueConfessions: Faking foreign accents is a hobby of mine. I can yammer it up in improvised French, German, Mexican, Russian, and plenty more accents, but I don’t mimic Asian languages, as it seems too close to ridicule. My plan for the rest of the night is to continue vocalizing my abundant thoughts in Standard British, with a hint of Cockney thrown in for charm. After all, New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state, and I’ll do what I laaaa-like. Yaaasss!

“Introducing this year’s lovely…or, um, handsome Miss…ter…Harvest Moon. Let’s hear an enthusiastic round of applause for Chance César!” Mrs. Higgins always speaks using a lolling Southern twang, although I’m sure she’s lived her entire life right here in less-than-gentile, way-too-many-dirt-roads, Fiske, New Hampshire. (Like, can you say backwoods Fiske without it sounding too much like backward Fiske?) TBH, I’m thrilled: it seems I’m not the only one with an affinity for a colorful accent. But the applause is disappointingly, but not surprisingly, scattered.

“Woot!” A solitary hoot splits the night—it’s quite impossible to miss— and I recognize an undeniably shrill and nasal quality in the sound. I know without a doubt that the hooter is my best (only) friend, Emily Benson. In my not so humble opinion, Emily’s hooting for my benefit is as liberating a sound as Lady Gaga bellowing “Born This Way” live on the Grammy Awards after emerging from a large egg.

My Emily is everything! Not to be dramatic, but whatevs.

In any case, the single, supportive hoot is followed by mucho expected heckling. “Chances are, Chance César is gonna moon the crowd!” It’s a girl’s voice, for sure. I do not have a lot of female fans here in Fiske.

“Come on, Miss Harvest Moon, bend over and flash us your full moon!” A dude mocks me next. I’m proud to say I’m an equal opportunity victim of harassment.

I don’t blink once in the face of the jeering. This type of inconvenience is par for the course in my life, and thus, I consider it a challenge of stoic endurance. I simply place one fine pointy-toed pump in front of the other, my eyes focused on the mountain in the distance. I’m especially proud that, amidst the chaos, I remember to offer the crowd my best beauty queen wave.

Yeah, this is some beauty pageant realness.

“Thank you, lovelies, for coming here today.” I speak in my most Princess Diaries-esque tone.

“Werk it, girlfriend—werk hard!” Yes, it’s Emily again. And like always, she’s got my spectacular back.

“Aw, shit, we must be havin’ a lunar eclipse or somethin’.” It’s another pubescent male voice, and a deep one at that. “There ain’t no moon to be seen ’round these parts!” The heckler is a douche I know too well from school named Edwin Darling—whom I less than fondly, and very privately, refer to as “Eddie the Appalling.” I watch as he looks away from me to take in the full moon in the dark night sky and shrugs.

The lunar eclipse one-liner is actually fairly humorous. I toss out ten points for creativity in Edwin’s general direction by allowing a restrained smile, but I never remove my eyes from the single treeless spot on Mount Vernier.

Time for a mental detour. Why is this one spot bare-assed of all trees?

That’s when the music starts, and I’m more than glad for the downbeat. It helps me focus, plus it’s much easier to sashay to the sound of a jazzy snare drum than to the unpleasant clamor of heckling. Not that my backside won’t wiggle righteously to any sound at all. Because, rest assured, it will.

“Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Whoever is in charge of the sound system plays the Liza Minnelli version, which may be the silver lining to this farce. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the more traditional, not to mention folksy, Four Aces version for Miss Harvest Moon’s victorious stroll up and down the creaky runway. I will say that tonight is a first for the Liza rendition, and I’m curious as to whether it is coincidental.

But who really cares? Ring them sparkly silver bells for Liza M!

On a side note, I wonder: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Liza Minnelli’s voice brings out the dramatic streak in me? Okay, okaaaayyyy…so maybe it doesn’t take more than a gentle nudge to get me going in a theatrical direction. But, hey, drama ain’t a crime. My mind is pulled to the back of my bedroom closet (how ironic), where my flapper get-up hangs. Panic sets in… Should I have worn that instead? But it’s a muted peach—not a vivid orange—as seems fitting for a pumpkin festival. And then there’s the whole not-a-single-soul-except-Mom-Dad-and-Emily-has-yet-seen-Chance César-in-full-female-garb thing that held me back from rockin’ the vintage coral dress with its spectacular tiers of flesh-colored fringe.

Tonight is Beans and Green Farm’s Annual Harvest Moon Festival, and for northern New Hampshire, this is a big freaking deal—the whole town shows up for cheesy shit like this. In light of this recognition, I confirm that pumpkin orange attire is mandatorbs. I mean, I went so far as to dye my hair for tonight’s festivities; the least I can do is choose garments that enhance my Halloween-chic style.

At the end of the catwalk, I indulge the audience by providing them with their deepest desire. I stand there, still as a scarecrow—for ten seconds, give or take—so they can drink in the sight of me, from spiky glittering head to pointy patent leather toes. I allow them this rare opportunity for freeze-frame viewing pleasure. Whether they admire me for having the balls to strut around ultraconservative Fiske wearing a scandalously snug-in-all-the-wrong-(right)-places orange tuxedo and four-inch black pumps—which I will admit is a public first for me—or they wish the shining harvest moon would fall on my house and crush me while I sleep, what they all really want most is a good long moment to study me.

To twerk or not to twerk, that is the question.

When the spectators finally start to squirm, I throw out a few of my best vogue fem moves to the tune of some subtle arm, wrist, and hand action, followed by several full-body poses, avoiding the death drop move as I haven’t yet mastered it in pumps. And when it’s time to once again get this glam show on the road, I pivot on my toes and strut briskly—America’s Next Top Model style—back to the stage where my boss, the owner of Beans and Greens Farm, stands nervously clutching my crown.

Mrs. Higgins is a tall glass of water, in the manner of a large-boned Iowa farm girl, but she’s accustomed to crowning petite high school junior girls, not nearly grown senior boys in four-inch heels. I crouch beside her politely and, I dare say, delicately, and she carefully nestles the crystal-studded crown in my spiky mop of neon-orange hair.

“Be careful, Mrs. H,” I warn beneath my breath. “Those spikes might look harmless, but they’re sharp enough to slice off your little finger.”

She offers me half of a crooked smile, for which I give her credit. I, Mrs. Higgins’ very own “boy with the bad attitude on cash register three,” have broken about every rule Beans and Greens has established for its hordes of Fiske High School summer workers, right down to the “no jewelry at work” clause. But a couple of points go to the lady because she manages to force out a grimace that could be mistaken for a smile…if your standard for smiles is on the low side. Besides, I’m not about to remove my nose ring. It in no way impedes my ability to count, ring up, and bag cucumbers.

This is when I spin on a single heel to face the crowd.

“You don’t happen to have any…very brief…words of wisdom for our audience, do you, Chance?” Mrs. Higgins asks, speaking into an oversized microphone. But despite the laid-back accent, I can tell she’s wary. Like a rat in a corner.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” My clipped British accent momentarily stuns the woman, and I take the opportunity to snatch the microphone from her less-than-dainty hand. Realizing it’s now in my possession, Mrs. Higgins shudders. “I just want to thank you all, my beloved coworkers at Beans and Greens Farm, for voting me in as this year’s Miss Harvest Moon.” I wipe imaginary tears from my eyes with my wrist, sniff for added effect, and, of course, I employ a most gracious, high-pitched tone of voice. “I am so honored to represent you all here tonight.” I sound like Eliza Doolittle in the stage play, My Fair Lady.

The crowd is silent. Maybe it’s a stunned silence. I sincerely hope so.

I follow dainty sniffling with my best duck-faced lip pout. Mrs. Higgins makes a sudden grab for the microphone, but I’m more agile. I only have to twist my shoulders ever so slightly to the left to block her move. She eyes me with a new respect.

And then I lower my voice so it’s all man—momentarily losing the delightful British inflection—and pose my question to the crowd.

“So you thought voting for me as Miss Harvest Moon would humiliate me—dull my shine or rain on my parade, perhaps?” I wag one well-manicured finger at the crowd while swishing my ass back and forth in matched rhythm. “Well, in your face, my sorry backwoods homies, cuz I’m here and I’m queer and I’m shining on—just like that big ol’ harvest moon!”

Without hesitation, I bend, just enough to grab Mrs. Higgins around the waist, and lift her off her size eleven feet (by my best visual estimate) and swing the lady around, probs ’til she’s seeing more stars than the ones in the dark Harvest Moon sky.

I’d bet my ahhh-mazing ass that no other Miss Harvest Moon has ever given Mrs. Higgins a joyride like that!

My Review:
Chance Cesar is an out gay teen, a senior in his rural New Hampshire high school and the new Miss Harvest Moon. That’s right, he was voted to be the pageant queen, as a cruel joke, but he werks it, strutting down the aisle in an orange tux and black pumps. That’s how we meet Chance, and henceforth his fabulousness cannot be denied.

Chance has always known he’s attracted to boys/men, but he’s still not clear on his gender identity. He struggles with his daily wardrobe–dress or pants–and he wants a boyfriend. A nice boyfriend. He kinda has his heart set on a boy from the vocational school, Jasper Donahue. “Jazz,” as Chance dubs him, is a burly boy with lots of responsibilities. He works to help support his mother and sister, and when he isn’t working, he’s babysitting his sister so his mom can work. Still, Chance is smitten, and he’s not even sure if Jazz swings his direction. Jazz seems to invite Chance’s attention, but there is no clear movement into Boyfriendland. All the discussions and intimate moments could be construed as simple friendliness.

So, Chance comes up with The Plan–well it’s more like The List for The Plan–of ten things to do to capture the heart of a boy. He spends weeks getting to know Jazz, hooking him in–if he can–and having hilarious misadventures. At the heart of this is a serious connection that Chance needs to make with himself, coming to terms with his gender and how that might affect a potential partner. Chance is a reliable narrator, and his narration is funny. He’s a diva, and his brilliance is often overwhelming to his objective: getting Jazz to love him. Thing is, he is super insecure, and that softens his manic edges. It’s a lot Notting Hill, with a boy standing in front of a boy, asking him to love him. This is a completely innocent book, sexually. The romance appears to be completely one-sided but it develops into a very tender friendship as Chance learns to love, and to give love, for no other reason than to help Jazz find happiness. Also, I enjoyed how Chance saw Jazz’s life, and how his privilege of money didn’t make for near as happy a home as Jazz’s criminally broke but bursting with love family.

I think the Love Spell part of it was rather short, and not the main focus, at all. It was great to walk through Chance’s gender-fluid shoes and get a better sense of the insecurity and frustration of not really KNOWING if he was a he-girl or a she-boy or somewhere in the middle, and I’m certain it will resonate with questioning teens. This was the second LGBTQ YA novel I’ve read from Ms. Kerick and the characters are always intense and sincere with real life plights that are honestly told. It took me a little time to settle into Chance’s voice because he’s got a flamboyant speech pattern, which is part of his quirky charm.

Interested? You can find LOVE SPELL on Goodreads, NineStar Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.