A Deeper Connection THIS IS NOT THE END: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up with Sidney on her website or twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

More and Merrier–WE 3: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up with Lara on her website or twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

It Started in Vegas I DO (NOT)–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Anni Lee. I DO (NOT) features a marriage-averse hotel clerk waking up in Vegas with a hangover and a beautiful ring on his finger. And, a stranger in his bed. Let the chaos ensue as he unravels the mystery of his unexpected marriage.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
Jacob Conner is never getting married.

Not now, not “someday,” and certainly not when he’s black-out drunk at his sister’s wedding in Las Vegas. The whole “waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room with a ring on his finger” thing was probably just a coincidence. Definitely.

He doesn’t have much time to dwell on it anyway, as Aaron Craig, his boss, assigns him to be the glorified baby sitter for his older brother for the week. Trevor Craig is as obnoxious as he is handsome, immediately pushing all of Jacob’s buttons and all of his boundaries. With one brother trying his patience, and the other acting unusually friendly, Jacob’s starting to wonder if he’s going to survive his work life long enough to find who put that ring on his finger.

How about a taste?

Beep beeep beeeeeep

“Shut up,” I groaned through the throbbing pain permeating my skull. My eyes were still crusted shut, dried out from not nearly enough sleep, leaving me to locate the offending alarm clock through blind flailing.

Wait. When did I set an alarm? Better yet—when did I buy a clock? I forced my eyes open, barely managing more than a squint as my body protested this early rise. My hand instinctively blocked sunlight poking through the blinds, my only chance to continue this act of defiance.

The room didn’t look familiar. Cream-colored walls, a chocolate-colored bed. I was more of a black and white kind of guy myself. The silhouette of tall buildings teased through thin window shades, and the unmistakable scent of champagne stuck to my clothes.

I lifted my hand to rub my eyes, trying to defeat the last of my lingering exhaustion, when the sensation of metal unexpectedly touched my eyelid. I looked at my hand, startled and confused. It was as it always was. That scar I had gotten as a kid still crossed my palm, traces of glitter, undoubtedly from some stripper’s backside, sparkled from my fingertips. But there was one glaring problem. On my finger sat a ring. Silver and smooth and impossible to miss.

It was all coming back now. The shots. The chiming of slot machines. The shots. The bars filled with eye candy. The shots. The strippers filling my mouth with whipped cream. The shots. The battle with gravity as I stumbled down the strip. The shots. The…chapel?

Fuck.

The chapel.

At that moment, I finally found the courage to turn my head, just enough for my peripheral vision to catch the lump in the blanket next to me. It wasn’t just any lump. It was breathing. Steadily and comfortably, surely in the middle of a wonderful dream. This lump was long and slender—and a mess of midlength brown hair scattered over the pillow, just poking out from under the covers.

I climbed out of bed, careful not to disturb whoever was lying next to me. My slacks and my boxers were both conspicuously absent although I still had my half-buttoned shirt clinging to my chest. I guess there hadn’t been time to completely remove everything. Priorities and all.

The pants had been haphazardly thrown onto the couch, my underwear somehow made it on the television. I looked best I could but I didn’t see where I had tossed my dignity. I must have left it in one of those shot glasses.

There was no time to shower. I didn’t want to risk the noise. I slipped into my clothes, crept out of the room, and closed the door as silently as possible. A maid was already walking the halls with her cleaning cart, making sure there was someone to bear witness to my walk of shame. She gave me a knowing look as I walked by. Although the scent of sex and alcohol was so strong, I couldn’t have fooled her even if I had been walking out of a church.

I took a cab to the airport and slogged through a fast food breakfast, hoping the greasy eggs might counteract the pounding that was still going on in my head. I was five hours early for my plane, but I felt the airport waiting room was a fitting punishment for my life choices. Hopefully, what happens in Vegas really does stay in Vegas.

My Review:
Jacob Conner is a 26 y/o out gay desk clerk for the Craig Hotel in San Francisco. He begins the morning after his sister’s wedding at the Craig Las Vegas waking with a sterling hangover and a platinum band on his left ring finger. And a person asleep in the bed beside him. Regretting the many, many tequila shots he’d taken the night before he silently dresses, departs the room and heads for the airport to (hopefully) return to his normal life without the interruption of a possible spouse. He can’t remember much after a strip club, and he’s absolutely opposed to marriage–having learned the hard way from his dad who is going on his 9th (or 10th) marriage.

At work on his next shift, Jake is surprised that his normally terse boss, Aaron Craig, is inquiring about his weekend, and his history in San Francisco. It seems out of place, until Mr. Craig drops the bomb that his older half-brother, Trevor, will be arriving the next day and he wants Jake to be his guide and chaperone, so Trevor will not make a scandal of himself, or miss the many shareholder meetings for Craig Hotels Inc. that are happening at the San Francisco branch all week. This means Jake needs to keep outspoken and party-happy Trevor sober and on-point as his adult babysitter. He does not have time to worry about his own personal life now, and Trevor’s outrageous come-ons make it hard to focus on anything but being professional. At first.

See, Jake’s still got his ring, and it’s a very specific brand, one carried by a jeweler with exclusive ties to the Craig Hotel–which Trevor recognizes because he runs the Las Vegas Craig hotel–the very one that hosted Jake’s sister’s wedding the previous weekend. Trevor thinks that Aaron’s been keeping sexy and accommodating Jake as lover on the down-low, and is stunned to realize that Jake is not his boy toy. No, Aaron is too staid and to dedicated to their emotionally-abusive and manipulative father to indulge in diddling the help–not that it ever stopped their father. Oh, did I mention Daddy Dearest is a total scumbag? And that he married Trevor’s mother as a business deal, but despoiled her younger sister to beget Aaron? Classy. Still, he wants the Craig hotel empire to be a family affair, so he’s now pushing both Trevor and Aaron to make aaproved marriages with daughters of shareholders or other business partners.

Trevor isn’t down for that. And, he isn’t sure that Aaron is either. The brothers have a long standing feud though, due to a previous lover’s quarrel, and Trevor isn’t willing to step between Jake and Aaron, if they are in love with one another. Though, honestly, he hopes they are not. And, he’s really hoping the Aaron will choose his own happiness over their dad’s Machiavellian schemes, for a change. During the tumultuous week of meetings, meet-ups and make outs, Jake is fully flustered, to the point of exhaustive illness. And it’s up to these scarred billionaire brothers to set things right, and plot courses that will lead them to their ture dreams.

I liked this one, with the alternating points of view from Jake, Trevor and Aaron. There are a bit of repeats, but not so much as it truly bogged the story, as they each brought insight and backstory that was unique, and filled in Jake’s murky memories. He’s stunned to learn that Aaron had feelings for him, for a very long time, but his fear of Dad’s retribution, and Trevor’s supposed conniving, kept him from treating Jake with anything less than professional indifference. Their encounter in Vegas was kismet and coincidence, but ultimately a moment in time to not necessarily be repeated. Or not. Trevor has a past and history as a bad-boy and unreliable, but his actions speak far louder than Aaron’s words, and Trevor’s willing to make sure Jake is never second-best. The choice remains for Jake to make, the brother he knows, or the one he doesn’t? Which man could be the one to help him build a life of his dreams, even if marriage is not going to be a part of the plans? It was a whirlwind of a ride, and I was turning pages near the end to find out which of these very different, but interesting and capable, men would be his. NOt to give anything away….he does choose a Craig. A wee bit of steam at the VERY end. I recommend to folks who like family intrigue dramas, and slow burn romances.

Interested? You can find I DO (NOT) on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Books2Read. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

Catch up with Anni on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Growing up thinking WHY CAN’T RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE PIZZA–Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary LGBTQ YA coming of age story from Andy V. Roamer. WHY CAN’T RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE PIZZA? is the third book in the Pizza Chronicles and features a high school sophomore questioning his if he’s ready to live his truth, and how to do that in a way that won’t make him a target. I adored WHY CAN’T LIFE BE LIKE PIZZA? and WHY CAN’T FRESHMAN SUMMER BE LIKE PIZZA? I highly recommend reading this series in order.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to get in on the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
As RV enters sophomore year, his friendships and relationships create more questions than answers. RV still cares for Bobby, but Bobby seems a different, more distant person. RV’s best friend Carole is distracted by the ups and downs in her relationships with her French boyfriends, while RV’s new friend Mark is more focused on his family’s troubles. School is a mixed bag. RV enjoys the Spanish club he has joined, which is run by his beautiful Spanish teacher, Señorita Sanchez. But he struggles with other subjects and annoying teachers and always has to watch out for the school bullies who seem to know how to stay under the detention radar.

As always, RV’s former teacher and mentor, Mr. Aniso, is there for advice, especially when near-tragedy strikes and RV needs Mr. Aniso’s counsel to stay strong and provide help where it’s needed most.

How about a taste?

What’s Up with My Relationships?

I thought sophomore year would be easier. I got through freshman year okay, even got an award for good grades and good behavior. Yeah, I’m such an angel. It’ll take a long time to live that down. Whalen is in my homeroom again. Hope he’s over drawing pictures of his classmates, especially me. If he only knew the real me, maybe he wouldn’t have drawn that halo over my head.

Anyway, sophomore year sure isn’t starting out any easier. I can already tell my Chemistry class is going to be no picnic. I’m a right-brain guy, creative and nerdy, ha ha, not analytical and nerdy. And too bad I don’t have Mr. Aniso for Latin class this year. It would be great reading Julius Caesar with him, wouldn’t it? Better than having Latin with Miss Wagstaff. Reminds me of a librarian crossed with some of our nuns in grammar school. She’s tall and skinny with tight curly hair and these round granny glasses that make her eyes look huge. She never smiles, and when she gets mad, her eyes get bigger behind those glasses, her arms fly around, and she starts to screech like one of those scary prehistoric birds. Oh, for the days of Mr. Aniso.

And this year’s Math teacher, Mr. Felucci, never smiles either. He’s strict too. Reminds me of a mean, fat army sergeant who likes to put you on the spot in class. Not fun for my right-sided brain.

At least there’s Señorita Sánchez, our Spanish teacher. She’s from Spain and so gorgeous, even I might start to have fantasies about her. She’s tough, too, but nice about it. Doesn’t make us feel bad if we get something wrong.

So, school’s not all bad, right? I guess not. But it’s my life that’s—what?—kind of somewhere out there in some crazy zone, not exactly where I want it to be. Especially where my friends are concerned. Most importantly, Bobby. I still think we’re close, aren’t we? We did have that nice talk in our favorite place in the woods, where he apologized and said he still cared about me. I’m so happy for him. He was so excited about making the varsity football team.

But guess what? I haven’t seen him since then. Not alone anyway. He’s not in any of my classes. Oh, I see him in the corridors at school, where he’s nice to me, like he’s nice to everybody. That’s what makes him so great. Mr. Nice Guy, despite being a jock and making the varsity football team. He could be so full of himself, though he’s not. He’s just busy with school and practice. Always practice. So, friends have to take second place. Is that how it works?

And then Carole, my wonderful Carole. I thought when she got back from Paris, we’d be getting together a lot. But I’ve only seen her once. All she talked about was François. A gorgeous French guy she met over there. François this, François that. She barely asked me about my summer.

Well, okay. She’s got a huge crush. People who get crushes are a little off the wall, especially if that crush is on someone from a foreign country. The foreign person seems so exotic and all that. So, you have to give them some space, right? At least through the end of the year. Carole told me François and his family were coming to Boston to visit relatives for the holidays.

Then there’s my wonderful family. I haven’t known whether they’re coming or going for a long time, so it’s no use complaining about them. At least Mom and Dad got their citizenship, so that should settle things down for a bit. Mom can concentrate on her jewelry business, and Dad still has his job. Even if he loses his job, which he says can happen anytime, now that he’s a citizen it should be easier for him to find another job, right? Though to hear Dad talk about it, there are enough undocumented immigrants in the construction business, it’s just not out in the open. So why did we spend so much time studying that booklet with all those questions? He should be happy he passed the test. But he’s still complaining, now about all those undocumented guys. I wish he could be happy for a change.

Like Ray. What? My little brother happy? Yeah, there’s been a change in him in the last few weeks. He sits at the dinner table, smiling sometimes. Offers to pass the potatoes. If Dad tells him to put away his phone, he does it without arguing. Doesn’t even say anything smart-alecky back in English. Almost acts like the good obedient son of immigrants his parents want him to be. Really? Ray talking Lith-speak? “Taip.” “Ačiū.” “Ar galiu daugiau bulvių?” “Yes.” “Thank you.” “May I have more potatoes?” How long is that going to last?

Like I said, with my family, I never know if they’re coming or going or running around in crazy circles.

Well, at least there’s Joe’s Pizza. Always Joe’s. One thing I can count on. Even though it looks like Bobby’s football teammates have discovered it, Joe’s Pizza is still a good place to come and chill out. Maybe I don’t need to find another place. How could I ever leave Joe’s? And one good thing about football practice. It’s not just Bobby who’s so busy. All those guys are busy after school practicing. So, they haven’t been coming here much. It looks like I’ll still be able to come and have my slice in peace, at least until football season ends.

So, RV, just settle down and start your homework. You can always write more in your diary after your three or four hours of hitting the books. Who am I kidding? I’ll be so tired then, I’ll be sick of looking at the computer screen. I’ll just want to go to bed. That’s what I get for being smart and going to Boston Latin School.

Am I smart? There are a lot of smart kids here, so I don’t feel so smart. It takes a lot of work just to keep up. But I wouldn’t be happier being dumb, would I? No. How about just kind of average? Not that either.

So here I come, sophomore year! You’re not going to get me down, even if I have no idea where I fit in or what you have in store for me!

My Review:
This is the third book in a series and I’m going to sum up a bit of stuff that many be spoiler-y if you haven’t read the first two books.

Arvydas “RV” …… (sorry I don’t have the tenacity to write his last name) is the eldest son of Lithuanian ex-pats newly naturalized and living a middle class life in Boston. RV’s parents have worked hard for their modest American existence; it’s not exactly the American Dream they had envisioned upon emigration. RV has a younger brother Ray who is more outgoing and popular. They have struggles because Ray is willing to stand up for himself and his ideas, while RV is very non-confrontational, and hides pretty much all of his feelings, all of the time. This is especially true about his sexuality, which RV is pretty sure that he’s gay, but maybe he could be bisexual.

It’s sophomore year and RV has new challenges. His boyfriend Bobby is a fellow student at the prestigious Boston Latin School, but they don’t see each other much because Bobby just made the varsity football team, and is spending all his time at practice or hanging with teammates. RV and Bobby had issues before, because RV didn’t understand why Bobby, who is an only child and a studious young black boy, is so driven to succeed. And to keep his sexuality a secret. RV isn’t sure he wants to come out, but Bobby is over-the-top terrified of anyone knowing. RV’s also a bit irritated that Carole, his previous girlfriend and still good friend, is preoccupied, hoping her summer boyfriend from France will visit at Christmas. With Bobby and Carole so busy, RV continues to cultivate friendships.

Mark is a boy in his Spanish class who seems friendly. It turns out he’s a Pentacostal Christian, and his devout family is in crisis now that his older brother came out as gay. Mark has so many questions about sexuality, and attraction; both boys are attracted to their Spanish teacher, but again, so much fear over potential gay-ness. It’s upsetting for RV who doesn’t even have the answers about his own feelings. The story, like the previous one, is mostly told through RV’s personal journal where he explores the conflicts of his life with scrutiny and vocabulary. He’s not sure how to approach his parents about his sexuality questions, but he’s developing a stronger relationship with Ray, which he’s happy about. We get a clear-eyed view of RV’s internal and external struggles as a 15 year old boy, with identities in the LGBTQ spectrum as well as the immigrant experience. He’s a polyglot, speaking Lithuanian and English fluently while also studying Latin and Spanish; words are his absolutely his jam.

This book is centered on relationships, those of friends, family and confidants. As some wax others wane, in the typical teen fashion. Bobby has a big injury that strains their already fraying relationship, so RV needs to lean heavier on his other supports. The story hits a great balance between voice and action, with RV both narrating and living his experiences. I’m glad I’ve read this series through, and would be happy to keep riding along on RV’s emotional and evocative journey. Highly recommend for readers who enjoy YA and tween LGBTQ stories.

Interested? You can find WHY CAN’T RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE PIZZA? on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Books2Read. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

Catch up with Andy on his website and Facebook.

Now Available: THE SOCIAL CLIMBER–Excerpt & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for a new YA LGBTQ romance from Jere’ M. Fishback. is a coming-of-age story for a couple of high school kids whose aspirations to popularity lead to heartbreak and infamy. This is the second book I’m going to read from this author, both with near-historical settings in Florida. If you like New Adult coming out stories, you might try BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER, which I really enjoyed.

Drop down to catch an excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, too!
About the book:
High school classmates, Josh Livingstone who’s gay, and his straight friend Simon LePage, hatch a plot to improve their status at school by creating new images for themselves. But their efforts ultimately blow up in their faces, leading to both comical and heartbreaking results, as they learn lessons in life and love the hard way.

How about a little taste…

Life’s never easy, is it?

I was born working class, so you might say I didn’t experience the finer things this world had to offer, not as a boy anyway. I grew up in Pinellas Park, Florida, a place mostly populated by working stiffs and their families, coupon-clipping retirees, and trailer park dwellers.

We had our own high school, but every year our football team sucked, due to lousy coaches, indolent linemen who wouldn’t hit too hard, and lack of a decent place kicker, since we didn’t have a youth soccer league in Pinellas Park. Some folks tried to start one once, but only three kids signed up. That’s right—three.

Are you surprised I actually know the meaning of a word like “indolent”? Well, I’m not stupid, as you will soon see.

Back to my early life…

Here’s an example of our pitiful Pinellas Park subculture:

When I was in fourth grade, our school principal, Lyman Reddick, got himself suspended for arriving at school with a loaded deer rifle hanging from the rack in his truck cab, the dumb shit. Even at age nine, I’d have known better. I mean, bringing a gun to a school full of kids—how stupid is that? He’s lucky the school board didn’t order his nuts cut off.

My daddy was a plumber. For a time, he worked for Sonny Saunders, snaking clogged sinks and sewer lines, fixing leaky faucets, and installing new toilets for folks who couldn’t or wouldn’t do that sort of work themselves. But Daddy was an independent cuss; he didn’t like the crap Sonny dished out to everyone who worked for him; plus, Sonny didn’t pay worth shit.

So, Daddy quit and started his own plumbing business. He had little cards printed up, calling himself “Rodney the Sunshine Plumber,” and he sent me and my older sister, Sarah, from door to door, handing out the cards offering new customers a 15 percent discount on their first service call. And it was kind of scary knocking on doors and ringing doorbells, especially at houses with Beware of Dog signs in their yards. I could hear the barking inside when I approached.

Sometimes, grouchy men or women would answer their doors; they’d tell me to get lost and leave them alone. But most folks were nice enough. They’d take a card and turn it over in their fingers while diddling their lips, and more than a few would say something pleasant like “It’s sweet you’re helping your daddy with his business.”

I believe there are many good people in this world, I truly do. It’s just the asshole minority who ruin everything for the rest of us.

About my parents…

Daddy’s from a village called Poverty Hill, South Carolina, right across the Savannah River from Augusta. His parents still live there in a double-wide trailer, off in the woods, with a deep well, a septic tank, four dogs, and a leaky roof. The nearest Walmart’s in Belvedere.

We only stayed in Poverty Hill once, when I was ten. What I remember best about that visit was Daddy and Grandpa getting into an argument after drinking too much George Dickel on Christmas Eve. Around midnight, Momma and Daddy rousted me and Sarah from our beds. They threw all our shit into the trunk of Momma’s car—suitcases, wrapped Christmas gifts, and even a turkey we’d brought from Florida. Then we drove all night, with Momma behind the wheel while Daddy snored in the passenger seat. We arrived in Pinellas Park just when the sun came up.

I’ll tell you, that was one crazy Christmas at our house. When we got home from Poverty Hill, everyone went to bed and slept till noon, and I don’t know who was in a worse mood when we all got up, Daddy or Momma.

Momma’s one-quarter Cherokee, and when she gets angry, you’d best look out since her blood takes to boiling and then all hell breaks loose. You know Momma’s mad when she starts throwing things: dishes, saucepans, ashtrays, you name it. And that Christmas afternoon, her target was Daddy. She kept pelting him with household items; I think she even threw a vacuum cleaner at him.

Daddy didn’t try to stop her. He just lay on the living room sofa, nursing his hangover and sheltering his head with a throw pillow while Momma hurled insults and tangible objects.

“Rodney, you sonofabitch,” she hollered after heaving a coffee can at Daddy. “That’s the last time you’ll drag me and our kids up to godforsaken Poverty Hill. And if I never see your folks again, it’ll be too soon.”

Momma didn’t get the turkey into the oven till three that day, so we had to eat dinner at eight. At least by then, Momma had settled down. She made Daddy get off the sofa and head for the bathroom to shower and shave.

“You’re not going to look like a bum at the table tonight,” she told him. “Set an example for your children, why don’t you?”

Momma was a fine cook, and dinner was very good, despite everybody’s soured holiday spirit. The turkey meat was moist, and the bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans were all tasty, especially when I drowned them in gravy. Halfway through the meal, we all started smiling a little, and Daddy even laughed a few times when describing his quarrel with Grandpa.

“The dumbass squandered most of his November social security check on lottery tickets, so he didn’t have any money to buy Christmas gifts for my momma, nor for Josh and Sarah.”

My name’s Joshua by the way, but everyone has always called me Josh, even my schoolteachers.

Like always, Momma and Daddy went overboard on presents for me and my sister. Sarah, who was eleven and getting to the age where her appearance mattered to her, received mostly clothing items and face makeup, while I got a Nintendo with several games, and also a BB gun, something I’d requested the past two Christmases but didn’t receive.

“You’re old enough to own one now,” Daddy said. “Shoot at cans and bottles in the backyard, by the garage, but leave the birds and squirrels alone. If I catch you taking shots at living things, I’ll take the gun away. Understand?”

Anyway, Daddy’s plumbing business did okay. He had a way with people; he could talk to a perfect stranger like he’d known the guy all his life. At first, he got business mostly by word of mouth, and then a general contractor started using him on jobsites to run sewer lines, hook up sinks, and install toilets. The money rolled in, and Daddy bought a new Silverado king cab. It looked so pretty and shiny, sitting in our driveway, but then the contractor went belly-up.

Without the contractor’s flow of business, Daddy fell behind on his truck payments, and eventually the bank repossessed the Silverado. It was a sad day, I’ll tell you, when they towed that truck away. Daddy had to borrow money from his brother, Vernon, who lived in Cocoa Beach, so he could buy a used truck, a beat-up F-150 with oxidized paint and missing its front bumper. The poor thing looked so forlorn, and I’m sure my folks felt embarrassed when the neighbors saw it, but a plumber has to have transportation. He has to carry his tools and all to wherever he’s working.

Momma was a dynamite seamstress; she did work for others in our part of town, making drapes, altering dresses, and letting the waists out on men’s trousers. Again, most of her work came via word of mouth, and it was all cash business. IRS never knew about income Momma generated from her sewing.

Looking back, I realize our circumstances were modest by most folks’ standards. Okay, our house had three bedrooms and two baths, but the floors were bare linoleum and the furniture looked like it came from a thrift store. Thank god we at least had central air-conditioning, a blessing in central Florida’s sweltering climate.

Sarah and I were both good students, although Sarah was smarter and more popular than me. She always got straight A’s, while I earned a mix of A’s and B’s.

And god forbid if I got assigned to the same teacher Sarah had been taught by the previous year. It happened fairly often, and when it did, on the first day of school when the teacher called roll, things always went something like this:

“Joshua Livingstone?”

I’d raise my hand.

“Are you related to Sarah Livingstone?”

“She’s my sister.”

The teacher would cluck her tongue while shaking her head. “You’ve got some big shoes to fill in my classroom, mister. I hope you’re up to it.”

Great. Just great…

When I reached seventh grade, I attended Pinellas Park Junior High, a one-story brick structure with exterior corridors and a basketball gymnasium. PE was required for all students, and on my first day at school, I met with my instructor, Coach McCullough, and my male classmates in the gym, where the students sat on bleachers and listened to McCullough acquaint us with his expectations. A gruff, barrel-chested man with a mullet haircut, he wore football shorts, leather sneakers, and a T-shirt damp in the armpits. A whistle hung from his neck by a braided cord.

“Unless you’re sick, I expect each of you to dress out every time class meets, no exceptions.”

Momma had already taken me shopping at J. C. Penney for my PE uniform: a T-shirt with the school’s name on it, cotton shorts, a jock strap, athletic socks, and tennis shoes. We had to buy a combination lock for my gym locker too.

McCullough led us into the locker room, where odors of mildew and human sweat hung in the steamy air. Rows of lockers lined the walls, except on one end of the room, where the tiled gang showers were located.

“You’ll change in here each class period and lock your belongings in your assigned locker. At the end of class, you’ll have fifteen minutes to shower and get dressed before dismissal bell. Showers are mandatory for all students. Again, no exceptions.”

My heart raced and I swallowed hard.

I have to get naked in front of all these guys?

I glanced here and there. Some boys blushed and several more chewed hangnails or wagged their knees. So, I wasn’t the only one in the room who felt nervous about bathing with others. But it seemed we had no choice, and I figured if the older guys at our school had managed to survive gang showering, I could too.

Grow some balls, Livingstone. You can do it.

I’m excited to read this one and share my review on Joyfully Jay in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if this one sounds interesting, be sure to check out the purchase links below.

Interested? You can find THE SOCIAL CLIMBER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 gift card from NineStar Press.

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial attorney. He lives on a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf coast, where he enjoys watching sunsets with a glass of wine in his hand and a grin on his face.

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

Building a Love With BEST LAID PLANS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Roan Parrish. BEST LAID PLANS is a sequel to BETTER THAN PEOPLE, and features an introverted adult virgin finding solace with a loner man teetering on homelessness. I loved the fun call backs to RIVEN the first book I’d read from this author.

About the book:
A man who’s been moving his whole life finally finds a reason to stay put.
Charlie Matheson has spent his life taking care of things. When his parents died two days before his eighteenth birthday, he took care of his younger brother, even though that meant putting his own dreams on hold. He took care of his father’s hardware store, building it into something known several towns over. He took care of the cat he found in the woods…so now he has a cat.

When a stranger with epic tattoos and a glare to match starts coming into Matheson’s Hardware, buying things seemingly at random and lugging them off in a car so beat-up Charlie feels bad for it, his instinct is to help. When the man comes in for the fifth time in a week, Charlie can’t resist intervening.

Rye Janssen has spent his life breaking things. Promises. His parents’ hearts. Leases. He isn’t used to people wanting to put things back together—not the crumbling house he just inherited, not his future and certainly not him. But the longer he stays in Garnet Run, the more he can see himself belonging there. And the more time he spends with Charlie, the more he can see himself falling asleep in Charlie’s arms…and waking up in them.

Is this what it feels like to have a home—and someone to share it with?

My Review:
Charlie Matheson has never had a life of his own. He may be deep into his 30s but he went from 18 year old on the verge of leaving his hometown for college football glory to raising his sullen little brother, Jack, in an instant when their parents were killed in a wreck. Charlie gave up his dreams that day, though he’s not sad about it. Now that Jack is grown, college-educated and living his best life with a loving, if shy, partner, Charlie wonders if he’s just going to die alone, in the rut his life has become. See, Charlie is a fixer. He knows how to pick up the pieces of a shattered home or life and keep on enduring until things work out. That’s why his legacy hardware store is the best one in several counties. And that’s how he notices the new man in town, and all the messes he’s making buying repair materials for a job he’s not nearly qualified to attempt.

Rye Janssen never knew his grandfather–barely knows his own parents truth be told–and has been on his own since his late teens. Life in Seattle is expensive and he’s about to lose his current sub-let shelter when he gets an unexpected call: his grandfather in rural Garnet Run, Wyoming, has left him a house. It seems too good to be true, and it is. The house is a shambles, not fit for habitation, but like the stray cat Rye adopts, it’s all he currently has. And, once he establishes that the overly helpful hardware store guy, Charlie, isn’t out to humiliate him he’s not too proud to accept the freely given and incredibly necessary help–and living quarters AND job–that Charlie is able to provide.

It’s amazing what some well-meant advice can do for both men, and as they share Charlie’s neat and homey abode, it’s clear that Rye has experience he’s more than willing to share–once they are able to confront Charlie’s huge shame, that he’s a virgin, unsure of his own desires, or attractiveness. Oh wow! I was so blown away with the tender and loving situation that develops between these two. Charlie’s struggle to articulate his desire is endearing to Rye. For the first time his life someone finds him worthwhile, and it’s heady, being the focus of Charlie’s earnest attention. Their romance has some hitches as both men struggle to discover what it means to be a boyfriend, or to be intimate. Their cats are more at ease then they are with one another, which is fun to see. I also loved the deeper connections that Charlie makes with his brother Jack, who has by default treated him like a parent, more than a brother. Both grown, they are able to make healthier choices in their relationship, once Rye shines a light on some of their unacknowledged dysfunction.

I honestly loved his book from beginning to end, connecting with both Rye and Charlie and experiencing their struggles like I was along for the ride. Each time Charlie coaxed Rye into making a good choice, or Rye’s care took a burden from Charlie’s shoulders was a moment to cherish. Rye is so fun in his young curmudgeon-y attitude that life is always going to be terrible, especially as he sees it’s no match for Charlie’s can-do, make-do, patient spirit and gumption. There are moments of sexytimes, but they are fraught with the tension that Charlie exists in, not wanting to ever mess things up, because he’s used to dire stakes and its hard for him to let that anxiety go. Rye does great work getting Charlie out of his head, and helping him see that mistakes are okay, too, because we learn from them and grow. The house that he and Rye rebuild is a perfect metaphor for their own relationship, that it’s harder than they ever dreamed, and probably going to cost them everything, but in the end it’s a beacon of hope and light and love that even the townsfolk can all support. I’d move to Garnet Run just to see these guys find the happiness they so deserve.

Interested? You can find BEST LAID PLANS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Want to start off with the first book? You can find BETTER THAN PEOPLE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo.

About the Author:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

A Whole New Life SETTLING THE SCORE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Long time no post, I know. I’ve been without a working computer for a couple weeks–plus I needed to make a huge push to get teaching and grading done for my students in the fall semester, so I needed time to recuperate. Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. <a href="SETTLING THE SCORE is the fourth book in his CalPac Crew series. This installment tracks the former CalPac coxswain and the elder brother of a former crew member. I’ve enjoyed ROCKING THE BOAT, TIPPING THE BALANCE, and BURNING IT DOWN and enjoyed seeing the characters from those books return to advise our new couple.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Stuart Cochrane and Philip Sundstrom are very busy men. Stuart, freshly graduated from California Pacific, works as much as he can to save money for medical school. Philip, now in charge of the family home-construction company, works long hours to save the company from his father’s blunders and back-stabbing cronies. A chance encounter brings them together and the attraction is fierce and instant. While neither has time for a relationship, they can’t keep away from each other.

When the National Team recruits Stuart to cox, only Philip understands that Stuart’s sick of rowing and wants nothing more than to start medical school. When Philip’s board of directors plots to remove him from his own company, Stuart helps him scheme and strategize. Despite their emotional and sexual chemistry, Stuart’s hang-ups about money and rich people doom their fledgling relationship. But after a personal tragedy, Stuart must overcome his prejudices and accept Philip’s help. Can Philip set aside his broken heart to help Stuart in his hour of greatest need and, dare he hope, a family?

How about a little taste?

The waiter held Philip’s eye a moment too long. Philip knew what that meant and flushed from the starched collar of his shirt all the way up to the gelled magnificence of his golden bangs. Left to its own devices, his hair flopped down to cover his eyes, and right then, Philip kind of wished it could. Instead, he’d styled his hair like he always did, parting it on the left and then the bulk of the bangs were up up and away! in a truly stupendous flight of fancy that was probably on the wrong side of metrosexual for a corporate CEO. When he was by himself, he played the game, but c’mon, dude. He was here with his girlfriend. What kind of trash did he think Philip was? It meant he had to cut the waiter. The cut direct wasn’t his style, but Philip felt like he didn’t have a choice. Angie was his priority.

“The waiter’s certainly attentive this evening,” Angie commented.

Philip cocked one eyebrow. “Sweetheart, did you get a good look at yourself? You’re stunning.”

“You think so?” she said, smiling sweetly. “Thank you, Philip. It’s always nice to be noticed.”

“I always notice you,” he said, smiling back. He raised his wine glass in a salute. “Notice and appreciate.”

Angie touched her glass to his in an almost-silent toast. “Charmer. Half the time I feel upstaged by you. Is that a new suit? You look amazing.” Then she glanced at the waiter. “I get the feeling I’m not the only one who thinks your tailor is a god among men.”

“Boy, you buy one new sport suit—”

“A week,” Angie interrupted, her eyes merry. She was enjoying herself.

“—one new suit, and people accuse you of being a dandy.” Philip sighed theatrically. “Memo to self: return the ascot and waistcoat ASAP,” he said in a stage whisper.

They shared a quiet laugh. Philip reached across the table to caress her cheek, and Angie leaned into his touch. Her beauty struck him once again, and that evening, she’d gone all out, every bit his match in an ivory satin gown with the back down to here and her auburn hair done with seed pearls as it cascaded down her back. She even wore a simple cameo around her neck, an antique Wedgwood piece he’d given her for Valentine’s Day the year before. Then he noticed she’d mounted it on a mauve ribbon that clashed horribly with her auburn hair. What on earth had she been thinking? He’d given it to her on a cream ribbon for a reason—

Dinner arrived and Philip dropped his hand.

He tried to ignore the argument going in his mind about the colors, but it was hard. He’d always had an overdeveloped sense of aesthetics, and at times growing up with Brad and Randall had been nothing but torment. Builders’ houses were always one of two types: ramshackle and about to fall over, or palatial monuments to every architectural innovation and new concept to show up in the design rags. The Sundstrom home was one of the latter type, if poorly decorated, and no sooner had he shoved Randall off stage and into the hands of the police than he called in the cavalry to remove the worst of his father’s excesses and atrocities. Gone were the putti pissing into fountains and faux-antique tapestries and superfluous televisions, and there were no more—Philip jerked his thoughts back to the here and now. He sat across the table from a beautiful woman at a posh restaurant. His aesthetic hang-ups could wait.

Philip genuinely enjoyed Angie’s company. They might not live together—yet—but they certainly spent a lot of time in each other’s company, mostly at her condo. She found his house “creepy, like a funeral home,” even with Randall out of there and every room but his mother’s old sitting room and her library redone. Not that he blamed her—it was large and foreboding, and maybe it was time to sell it. When he’d called to invite her out to dinner earlier in the week, she’d been overjoyed, even more so than usual. It made him wonder if he weren’t missing something, but a thorough search of his day planner by both himself and Suresh revealed nothing.

After gnawing his guts out for a while, he’d finally given up, and when it came time to pick her up, he gave in and let himself enjoy the evening. “Are you ready to go home?”

“Yes, I think so,” Angie said. Was that a tightening around her eyes?

Philip signaled the waiter, who promptly brought him the check. When Philip put a black Amex card down, the man’s eyes widened. It would have been comical, but Philip found it hard to believe no one at this restaurant had ever seen American Express’s Centurion Card before.

“Here you are, Mr. Sundstrom,” the waiter said when he returned, placing the receipt before Philip and then departing. Philip signed it, including a generous tip.

Philip held Angie’s chair for her and then waited patiently while she wrapped her shawl around her shoulders. As they walked out of the restaurant, Philip smiled at their waiter. “Thank you. We had a lovely evening.”

But it was only as they waited for his car to be brought around that he noticed the waiter had written a number—presumably his—on the back of the credit card slip, but lightly and in pencil so it didn’t show from the front. Classy. Philip crumpled it up and threw it in the trash.

“They’re staring at you out here too,” Angie whispered.

Philip blushed. “I think you mean they’re looking at you.”

“Some of them, maybe.” She laughed. “A few, the straight ones.”

But they weren’t all straight, he could tell that right off the bat. Sorry, boys. He played, but never when he was in a committed relationship.

“Remind me not to come back here. This is very embarrassing.”

She hooked her arm on his. “I think it’s hilarious, and you blush very prettily.”

“Great.” He rolled his eyes.

It made him uncomfortable, that regard, even if he understood it. Thanks to the last year at SunHo, he knew how to project an air of authority, and a lot of people found that attractive. It wasn’t quite a matter of “do the opposite of Randall.” After all, his father had run SunHo with an air of power, but in Philip’s estimation, that power was based on fear. Employees in SunHo’s corporate offices had feared for their jobs, at least when Randall stomped and blustered. But authority? That was something different. Philip knew when he spoke, he would be listened to. He might be young for a CEO, but by and large, he was respected. He wasn’t sure Randall could’ve said that, or even appreciated the difference.

In his early thirties, Philip was young, fit, and, based on the evidence at dinner, handsome; he was very well situated financially, and the waiter and valets could tell that from the credit card and his car. He loved his Merc, a sleek sports car, the six-figure kind with the spoiler to prevent it from taking flight. At least he assumed that’s why they stared. Or maybe he had spinach stuck between his teeth, he thought ruefully, the perils of being a vegetarian there to keep him humble.

They drove back to Angie’s condo in silence, insulated from the sounds of the city by the Merc, but what, Philip wondered, isolated them from each other? He bore responsibility for that, the lion’s share, at least. He felt bad for neglecting Angie in favor of SunHo. It wasn’t that he preferred SunHo per se, but it seemed so much more immediate to him. More…real, he realized guiltily, but that’s not how he wanted his life to be. Angie always understood—or acted as if she did. She got that he’d taken over the family business, even if she didn’t know the particulars of how that had come about. As far as he was concerned, she didn’t need to either.

But simply because Philip had chosen this life, it didn’t stand to reason that Angie was happy with it. He knew she’d prefer to be living the high life, preferably in San Francisco. Angie cared for him, so no gold digger, she, but he didn’t fool himself on that score either. She enjoyed the life his money afforded them. Buying Brad out a few years ago might’ve set him back, but SunHo grew and expanded, despite the recession and building slowdown. Philip was loaded, and Angie knew it.

He glanced over at Angie as he drove, her face turned away from him, inscrutable in the passing lights. He knew what he wanted from the next step in life, but was it what Angie wanted?

Unable to decipher his uncharacteristically enigmatic girlfriend, Philip retreated into his thoughts, pretending he was in the cockpit of a spaceship instead of a luxury car, because damn, the onboard computer was almost that complicated. He liked Mercedes for the same reason he liked Macs. They both embodied high performance and elegant design and didn’t bother him with a lot of irritating details. Sure, BMW made amazing cars, but they always seemed to want his input on some matter or other, and he got enough of that at work. As for PCs, Philip was sure there was an elegant and highly functional one somewhere, he’d just never heard of it. But really, they’d gone from a charming dinner together full of conversation and laughter to him retreating into his imagination. Again. He’d been doing that more and more lately.

If he were to be honest with himself, it couldn’t be a good sign, but they looked good together, and she was someone to hold on cold, dark nights. Angie was someone to cling to when he’d spent too much time reading the Existentialists and felt too alone in an uncaring universe. But was that really a reason to stay in a relationship with someone? On the whole, Philip reasoned, there were worse ones, but it would only be fair if she felt the same way, and he knew for a fact she had no patience for what she called his “navel-gazing.” This raised the question of why on Earth he was with someone who so easily dismissed his interests and the things he valued. On the other hand, he didn’t remember his parents sharing that many interests. So many puzzles.

The keypad at the entrance to the parking lot under Angie’s condo tower saved Philip from further omphaloskepsis. After he parked in her designated guest space and opened the door for her, Angie again laughed and flirted in the elevator.

“Dinner was great, but tomorrow night I want to go clubbing in the city,” she said, moving in close, breathing in his ear, hand roaming south of his belt.

“What’re you doing?” Philip gasped at the sudden assault.

“What does it feel like I’m doing?”

He looked down at her, amazed at her audacity. “Groping me. What if someone comes in?”

“Then I stop.”

My Review:
This is the fourth book in a series, but it can be enjoyed as a standalone. We have met both of these characters in previous books, but this is their story.

Philip Sundstrom is the eldest of the Sundstrom brothers, with Brad being the younger. Brad was the MC of the second book in this series, and we have seen him in the other stories as well. Philip was the enigmatic brother who seemed kowtowed to their domineering and homophobic father, but we are now seeing the truth behind that facade.

Philip was the beleaguered son, “learning” the business of Sundstrom while really being shut out of any and every real decision, but Philip played a long game, acquiring knowledge and allies as he awaited his shady father’s downfall. It happened to come at the cost of Brad’s boyfriend, Drew, who was bashed by Daddy’s cronies. Philip found out and had his abusive, snaky father incarcerated–and he also got full ownership of the company, in the process. Philip wants to root out the board members who were loyal to his dad–and might be actively sabotaging his CEO position–and he’s also mature enough he wants a secure relationship instead of rattling around his big, empty childhood home. Unfortunately, his long-term girlfriend hadn’t got the memo that they were exclusive, and that was the end of that. Philip is bisexual, not that he’s made any overtures to a man in a long time. That’s why it’s a bit shocking that he’s so turned on by the ginger bagger at the specialty grocer, Stuart.

Stuart Cochrane has just graduated college from CalPac University and is due to matriculate into medical school at UC-Davis in August. He shares an apartment with his boyfriend and a fellow crew member, Jeremy, whose highborn English mother has been an unpleasant advent in his life. Stuart grew up in rural Pennsylvania, with parents who take “Jesus Freak” as a badge of honor. He literally ran away to Sacramento to attend college on the scholarship for crew, where he was a champion coxswain. Stuart is diminutive in size, but not opinion or voice, and he’s quite tired of Jeremy’s callous and wasteful immaturity. Being nearly destitute has trained Stuart to be incredibly frugal, and shun charity. So, when Jeremy makes an ultimatum that would cost him thousands, Stuart is happy to see him head off for England on a summer break that ends their relationship. And, that’s when he meets Philip.

Philip is a fixer, but while he has money he is sensible about it–for the most part. And he’s sensitive enough to Stuart’s pride that he doesn’t try to press his financial advantage, at least at first. They end up dating, which causes a little conflagration as Philip comes out, but much less than one might expect. The book is set in the time period around 2013 when marriage equality was still a fight in the courts, and not the rule of the country at large. Stuart has never really considered being married, because it hasn’t been accessible to him as such, and he’s still young with big plans for his career. Meanwhile, Philip is going all in on Stuart, and on the people he suspects of conniving against his leadership at work. There are several issues at risk, including a development that seems to have been built in an area rife with toxic waste. The legal ramifications are high, and as all of this is percolating to a head Stuart’s phobia of wealth and privilege get stuck with. He’s prideful to a dangerous and self-destructive degree, but once Philip arrives–thanks to mutual friends who reach out–Stuart is more than sorry for his earlier scorn. These guys are so used to being on their own it’s hard to lean on one another, but Stuart has need to lean more frequently, and this bring shim shame. He’d already had a pretty low self-esteem thanks to his parents, but his money struggles only reveal the deep-seated class prejudices Stuart has. And, what he has to get over if he’s going to salvage what is left of his battered family.

I really enjoyed this story, though I felt it kind of took a long time to get to the larger action moments. What I mean is, Philip was investigating his board in June, and doesn’t resolve anything there until January–despite constant machinations and discovery of damning evidence. Over the nearly 6 months of their acquaintance Stuart’s growing loathing of financial security seems excessive and childish. He has no capacity to manage his exponential debts, and hates that Philip is not only able, but willing, to wipe it all away just to ensure Stuart isn’t burdened. Every one of Stuart’s friends tell him he’s being unreasonable and childish–and he’s also considering this himself–but he cannot stop turning into a giant ridiculous brat when Philip pays for these rare and extenuating extravagances. It was almost pathological, honestly, and I was overjoyed that he FINALLY got down from his high horse in time to save his family and his relationship.

This is the fourth story in the series, but there is plenty of detail to fill-in any gaps for readers picking it up out of sequence. It will be a bit of a spoiler though, if one wants to go back in time, as the previous love stories have some level of exposure in this book. I’m always a little thrown by the deep references I encounter in this series, considering how well-read that I am, but it’s always fun to learn a new 78-point Scrabble word, or two. The younger characters read as way older, and sometimes Philip and Stuart read as way younger–but it was fun that they acknowledged this as demonstration of their infatuation. There are some dark moments, and the death of several secondary characters leading up to the final crisis. In all, I’d read on if another book comes out.

Interested? You can find SETTLING THE SCORE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

You can catch up with Christopher on Facebook, and twitter.

Now Available OPERATION FAKE RELATIONSHIP–A Holiday Book Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Jay Northcote. OPERATION FAKE RELATIONSHIP features best friends doing one another a favor…and falling hard in love.

About the book:
Can a fake relationship between best friends turn into the real thing?

After years of estrangement from his parents, Nick is finally going home for Christmas, but not without backup. He wants moral support, so his best friend and flatmate, Jackson, agrees to pretend to be his partner so he can go with him.

It’s easy for Jackson to be convincing when his feelings for Nick are as genuine as ever. He put his crush on the back burner long ago, but acting out a role he’d love to play for real is harder than he imagined. Holding hands, kissing under the mistletoe, even sharing a bed for the sake of the charade… He can’t help wondering what he’s let himself in for, and whether his heart can take it.

Emotions run high as Nick grapples with family issues, and the sexual tension between him and his best friend becomes difficult to ignore. But if he and Jackson give into the temptation to be fake boyfriends with benefits over the holiday, what will it mean for their future as friends once Christmas is over?

Contains: best friends to lovers, pretend boyfriends, daddy issues, mistletoe, and a happy ending—of course.

Interested? You can find OPERATION FAKE BOYFRIEND 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 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!

signal boost

Scorched By Love BURNING IT DOWN–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. <a href="BURNING IT DOWN is the third book in his CalPac Crew series. This book features a mature, but injured, fire battalion chief winning the broken heart of a man on the run from his abusive partner. I’ve enjoyed ROCKING THE BOATand TIPPING THE BALANCE, and enjoyed seeing the characters from those books return to advise our new couple.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Owen Douglas, Sacramento’s first out battalion chief, is grievously injured in the line of duty. When Brad Sundstrom finds out that Owen’s been noncompliant with his physical therapy due to depression, he pushes Owen into the Capital City Rowing Club’s adaptive rowing program.

Adam Lennox, a former collegiate rower, escapes an abusive relationship and makes his way to CCRC and quickly finds himself dragooned into helping out with adaptive rowing.

Owen, much to his surprise, finds both rowing and Adam much to his liking. When he realizes that Adam returns his interest, the sparks fly and they start a relationship. But even Eden has its snake, and Adam’s ex, Jordan, comes looking for him, willing to do anything to make Adam and Owen pay.

How about a little taste?

Late summer, approximately a year and a half after the start of Rocking the Boat.

Four months into his new job as battalion chief for Sacramento City Fire’s second battalion and Owen Douglas still couldn’t sit still. Sure, he knew the job from a theoretical standpoint, and every day he learned more from a practical standpoint, but he couldn’t ignore the niggling discomfort he felt when he saw those bugles on his collar. Like his new uniform didn’t fit quite right, and perhaps from a certain point of view, it didn’t. No matter how he squinted or how many times he turned it this way or that, he couldn’t see all that much light between his investigation into the arson at the Bayard House at the beginning of the year and his promotion to battalion chief. More to the point, neither could the men and women under his command.

Not to mention every time he opened his mouth, unicorns crapping glitter and rainbows popped out. At least, that was what people seemed to be waiting for. He liked to think he was discreet, that nothing at work proclaimed him Big Gay Owen, no snapshots of boyfriends, no photos of him shaking his ass on a Mardi Gras float, no matter how much fun he’d had in Sydney, just a subtle rainbow on his battered 4Runner, a bar no bigger than the head of a toothbrush. He tried not to play the gay card, but he was the first out battalion chief in the fire department’s history, and well he knew it. More to the point, the people under his command knew it. Maybe he was just making too big a deal out of it or felt guilty for being promoted over the heads of more senior firefighters.

His intercom buzzed with his secretary on the other end. “Yes?” Owen said.

“Prissy Morrain to see you.”

“Oh! Send her in, please.” He dashed to his office door. He didn’t expect her until tomorrow.

Owen routinely left his office door open, but he quickly got out from behind his desk to greet his visitor, and not just because she outranked him.

“Chief Morrain! I’m so sorry! I must’ve made a mistake in my calendar. I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow—”

Prissy Morrain waved a manicured hand. “Retired Chief, and I’m a day early. We both have better things to do than make small talk over hors d’oeuvres over at some white-tablecloth restaurant. Did you bring your lunch today?”

Owen nodded. Since he was a “first” for the department, he’d sought out the advice of another “first,” the first woman battalion chief, now retired from active firefighting and promoted off to one side to do something less dangerous involving paperwork. “I’ll grab it out of the fridge. There’s a nice park a block away. We can eat there.”

“That’ll do fine.”

Prissy Morrain was a handsome woman, Owen thought; really, she could’ve been one of those older models, the ones with silver hair and flawless skin who pitched vitamins to women of a certain age. Her wrinkles weren’t so much age lines scoring her face with years but delicate lines of character radiating out from her eyes and around her mouth to accentuate a ready smile. How she’d managed that with a career spent fighting fires and sexism, he’d never know.

He spent the short walk to the park rehearsing what he wanted to say, but when Prissy asked, “So what’s the problem?” Owen could only blurt, “I’m just not clicking with the people under me. This station, sure. My office is here, but the other stations in this battalion not so much, and there’s one station that when I walk in everything stops for a few minutes while I walk back to talk to the captain on duty, and that’s just creepy.”

“Have you talked to human resources?”

“Don’t be absurd” slipped out before he could stop it.

Prissy laughed. “Smart man. You don’t want this on your record.”

And that was why he’d contacted her. “Team-building exercises aren’t my thing at this point and are just a waste of time. I’m not in a burning building with these guys. They simply need to function with each other and work in coordinated groups, and they do. But I don’t like getting the stink eye either.”

“Look, hearts of gold, most of these guys, but it’s a conservative profession. The younger ones are yours,” Prissy said, arching one eyebrow, “maybe even literally. There’s more than one gay man among the recruits, and you’re a fine-looking specimen yourself.” She peered over the rims of her mirrored sunglasses, holding up one hand when Owen opened his mouth to interrupt. “Of course, you know better than that, but you know what I mean. It’s the ones who’ve been around a few years, the ones who’re your age and older, you may have to prove yourself to, the ones who might’ve even been up for your job. They’re the ones thinking ‘fag’ behind their smiles.”

“Or not, some of them,” Owen grumbled. “A few of them don’t even bother to smile.”

Prissy chuckled. “They’ll soon learn the stupidity of that. They may be comfortable for A or B shift, but if they’re dumb enough to piss in the battalion chief’s Wheaties, then they’ll have plenty of time to learn the errors of their ways on C shift, or better yet, transfer to someone else’s command. Too bad for them you’ve got just about the best battalion in town.”

It was true. Since he’d captained one of the downtown stations, when he’d been promoted, the fire department put him into an entirely different battalion so he wouldn’t be in immediate charge of his old buddies. The open battalion encompassed Midtown, East Sac, and part of the Pocket, named for the land inscribed within a bend in the Sacramento River. Sometimes he wondered if it was a coincidence that the city’s first out battalion chief also oversaw the gayborhood. He shrugged mentally. Oh well, easier relations during fire inspections, right? “That just seems so petty.”

“And the frat boy antics aren’t?”

Owen sighed. “True enough.”

“It’s not something you want to do often, because you will hear from their union reps about that, and about anything else if they develop an axe to grind,” Prissy said, “but used strategically, it can make your point quite nicely, and the best part is, it’s hard to prove.”

Owen nodded his head slowly. “One hundred and sixty-eight hours in a week, and five stations to staff twenty-four seven in three shifts.”

“Exactly. If you need to, you can always find something miserable for someone to do for a shift or two.” She ate some of her sandwich while she thought. “One more thing, and I hesitate even to mention it, but it was something a few—a very few—of my own firefighters used against me.” At his quizzical look, she said, “Sexual harassment.”

Owen sat back, tossing his own sandwich down. “Oh, that’s just what I need.”

Prissy patted his hand. “Don’t go borrowing trouble. It hasn’t happened yet, but you need to be aware of the possibility. You’re an out gay man, and you supervise a lot of men, some of whom are, by your own admission, not very happy right now. If they can’t pin anything else on you, they may try that.”

“Did that happen to you?” Owen asked, no longer hungry.

“Oh yes. I was a by-the-book chief, and when they couldn’t come up with anything else, some union rep had the bright idea of sexual harassment. Male firefighters, female chief. It was a situation rife with possibilities. Too bad for them and their credibility none of it was true, which quickly emerged when it came to a hearing. The judge laughed them out of court. It may be the same with you. You’ll be a by-the-book battalion chief, but some of them won’t like you just because you’re you, and the only thing they’ll come up with is that you ‘looked at ’em funny’.” She snorted. “Like you’d go for their stringy asses.” She stood up. “You know how to reach me, so do it if you need to. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sculling. One of the advantages of seniority and a desk job is that you can take off more or less at will and no one will miss you. Of course, that’s one of the disadvantages too.”

Rowing. Brad. “Does everyone in this town row?”

“Only the best people. You should come check it out. The Capital City Rowing Club’s adult learn-to-row camps are about done for the summer, but there are still learn-to-scull lessons available.”

“Thanks for the talk. I really appreciate you taking the time,” Owen said, remembering a time he had been anything but by-the-book. The Bayard House. The second floor. Brad. He shivered at the thought of what they’d done. Unprofessional as it had been, it had also been damn hot.

And just the kind of thing people looking to take him down would eat up with a spoon. Fortunately, Brad didn’t seem like the kind to tell tales out of school. He was just too nice a guy. Brad had spent their one encounter thinking of someone else, someone who’d dumped him, and still the big sweetheart had pined for that other guy, even with Owen’s lips wrapped around his cock, and hadn’t that ever done wonders for his ego.

Owen wanted that, wanted that kind of devotion, he thought, sitting there in the leafy green silence of the park. Instead, like that time in the still-smoldering Bayard House, he was just the hookup. He got Brad off and sent him home and then followed up to make sure Brad called whatshisname. He liked to think he was more honorable than most, always the nice guy, always finishing last.

Then he heard the sirens and that was it, no more lunch. That was fine. He’d parted company with his appetite around the time Prissy had mentioned sexual harassment. The park was barely two blocks from the station, but he jogged back. “What’s going on?” Owen asked the dispatcher when he got back.

“A small grass fire at Cal Expo, sir. It doesn’t sound like anything to get excited over.”

Yet. In Owen’s experience, all fires were worth getting excited over, at least until proven otherwise. But maybe that was why he was a firefighter. He liked suiting up in his turnouts and racing to a fire in an engine running hot. He shook his head to clear the rising tide of adrenaline. He’d given some of that up to become battalion chief.

Then the radio went off. He picked it up. “Douglas.”

“I need four more alarms. This thing’s bigger than we were told. Much bigger, and it’s heading for structures.”

“On our way.” He put the radio down. “You heard Captain Chin. Get those trucks moving and notify Arden-Arcade,” he told the dispatcher.

“Beaufort!” he yelled for his driver as he ran for his office and his turnouts. A huge grass fire at Cal Expo that’s heading for the pavilions, and the state fair in less than a month. Why do I always end up involved in political fires?

He wore his turnout pants over his uniform. Sure, he’d sweat like a thoroughbred in moments in the heat once they arrived at the fire. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. The rest he chucked in the backseat of the command SUV with the communications equipment. Then he checked his watch as he climbed into the passenger seat. Less than five minutes. Not ideal, but at least he beat his driver.

Beaufort came running up seconds later. “Damn, sir. How do you do that?”

“Because I’m a firefighter.”

“Ha ha,” Beaufort replied, climbing behind the wheel and flicking the sirens and lights on. But it was true. After earning his bachelor’s in biological sciences at UC Davis, Owen had gone to the Fire Academy at Sierra College. Beaufort studied communications and joined the department in that capacity, along with driving Owen’s now important executive-level ass to big fires.

Owen glanced out of Beaufort’s side of the SUV. “Look—!”

All he could tell was that it wasn’t one of his, and then the enormous fire truck smashed into them, tossing the SUV aside like a rag doll. He lost consciousness as the airbags deployed with a thunderclap.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, but it can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Owen Douglas is the first out fire battalion chief in the Sacramento Fire Department. He’s in his early 40s and a little sad that he’s always the hook-up never the boyfriend. He’s responding to a fire when he’s involved in a fatal crash with an engine truck. He survives, though badly injured, and is upset that his young driver is killed. He’s despondent about his recovery, shying away from the necessary PT he needs to learn to walk again. His physical therapist is adamant that activity is necessary and pushes Owen toward adaptive rowing. Owen’s once hook-up Brad Sundstrom is a former collegiate rower, and he’s a coach on the open men’s rowing club that supports the adaptive rowers. Brad makes it a mission to get Owen to the water’s edge.

Adam Lennox is a veterinarian, and a man hiding in plain sight. After enduring more than a decade of an abusive relationship, Adam has changed his name and licensure and moved to Davis to restart his life. He’s learning to reintegrate with people outside of the watchful eye of his abuser, his college sweetheart named Jordan. Adam had been a collegiate rower and he joins the open men’s rowing club headed by Brad and his former college coach, Nick Bedford. (Both Brad and Nick were MCs in the previous stories.) Nick taps Adam to be a pair rower with Owen, when he turns up for adaptive rowing, and the chemistry is instant.

Both Adam and Owen suffer PTSD from their respective traumas. They are immediately attracted to one another, but neither feels whole. While they begin a tentative connection, Adam is living in fear that Jordan will return–and his hallmarks are appearing again. Owen’s got a pal on the police force, but it seems he might not be able to intervene until Jordan, who is both wealthy and wily as all get-out, is caught confronting or abusing Adam. Owen’s recuperation is put on hold when he’s mysteriously attacked, and Adam is sure that Jordan is involved. It could be someone for the fire department, though, as Owen’s position is pretty tenuous. He’s reinstated for active duty, but grudgingly and with a disability hearing that could bounce him out of the service he’s been a part of for two decades. With both their lives in flux, Owen isn’t willing to let Adam shut him out–not when he’s finally found a man worth loving and fighting to keep. Meanwhile, Adam’s just fighting to stay alive.

This story has some graphic bits of violence, and descriptions of violence against animals. There is a definite sense of the victim’s mentality, of feeling that pain and potential death at the hands of person he loved is simply inevitable. Owen’s strong and fearless love gave Adam hope in his times of complete distress. Owen needed to take charge of his own life in a way he had not, before getting the time his recuperation allowed him to invest in himself. These men finding such a deep love that satisfies on a soul-deep level was so sweet and bittersweet. It rides a fine line between romance and romantic suspense. I really enjoyed the tenderness, and the conflict, and of course the happy ending.

Interested? You can find BURNING IT DOWN on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

You can catch up with Christopher on Facebook, and twitter.

Now Available CHRISTMAS CRACKERS–A Holiday Book Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M Christmas romance collection from Jay Northcote. CHRISTMAS CRACKERS features three sweet and sexy novels that all have super happy endings.

About the book:
When two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?
Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

Zac never had a family of his own, but Rudy has enough to share.
Shy, inexperienced Rudy has a crush on Zac from the moment his new colleague walks through the door. On an office night out before Christmas, Rudy finds the courage to make a move, and they form a tentative bond. When he discovers Zac will be alone at Christmas, he invites Zac to come home with him.

Zac prefers to keep people at arm’s length. Yet when Rudy offers him a family Christmas it’s impossible to resist. With no parents of his own, Zac is pleasantly surprised to be welcomed by Rudy’s. The only drawback is that everyone assumes they’re a couple. Unwilling to disappoint Rudy’s mum and make Christmas awkward, they decide not to deny it.

It’s not a chore for Zac to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend, but the pretence makes him want things that scare him—things like a real relationship with Rudy. Zac’s suffered enough rejection in his life already and is afraid to risk his heart. If he can get over his past rejection and let Rudy inside his armour, he might get more for Christmas than he ever imagined.

Best friends snowed in together. When the heat rises, will they get cold feet?
Getting snowed in at a remote cottage in Wales with someone he’d fancied for ages isn’t exactly how Sam expected to spend Christmas. His feelings for Ryan are pointless. Ryan’s straight—or so he thought.

Until now, Ryan’s kept his feelings for Sam buried. Why ruin a friendship over what might only be gay experimentation? Playing it cool seems safer, until a cold snap makes sharing body heat vital. In their Welsh safe haven, anything seems possible.

As Ryan’s reserve melts away, Sam wants more than stolen kisses under the mistletoe. But a sudden thaw means making decisions. They could face the New Year together—unless one of them gets cold feet.
My Review:
A FAMILY FOR CHRISTMAS:
Rudy is a 24 year old out gay man working at an LGBTQ charity in Bristol. Rudy’s a painfully shy man, yet intrigued by his new co-worker Zac. Zac keeps to himself, and likes it that way. He’s been hurt before, and doesn’t want to build friendships that would only fade. That said, Zac notices how Rudy quietly tracks him through the office.

Out for a work pub night to celebrate Christmas, Rudy and Zac spend a lot of time talking. They get along, especially as they’re both well-lubricated by tequila. After one excellent kiss Rudy’s overcome by the drink, pukes, and Zac kindly offers to walk him home. Too late to get a cab back to his own place, Zac accepts Rudy’s offer to share his bed. Platonically. Their nighttime conversation alerts Rudy that Zac is planning to spend Christmas alone, because he has no family. Rudy can’t help inviting Zac to join him on a visit to his family’s large farmhouse for a cozy holiday.

I really loved the patient unfolding of this romance. Zac has been on his own for years now. He feels unlovable, and is a bit overwhelmed by the sweet and open affection he experiences from Rudy and his family. I really loved how Rudy and Zac took time to make the other comfortable. Rudy’s family is blissfully clueless, and mistakes Zac to be Rudy’s boyfriend. Thing is, Rudy’s never had a boyfriend before, and his sexual experience is severely limited. To save face, and keep the happy going, Zac offers to pose as Rudy’s boyfriend for the duration of their trip.

For Zac, falling for Rudy is immeasurably difficult to prevent. Rudy’s earnest and giving and compassionate and loving, and his family is more of the same. Not having his own family, Zac basks in their generosity. Plus, it’s no secret that Rudy’d be down for more than friendship. In fact, that’s what Zac proposes–a fling to bolster the image of their “relationship.” That’s dangerous terrain, however, because Zac’s afraid that he’ll cling to Rudy out of a misplaced desire to truly be part of his loving family, and not just on his own merit. Zac’s never had a boyfriend either; he’s scared of getting hurt–precisely why he’s never hooked up with a man he’s known before. Anonymous sex is all he’s ever allowed himself, until Rudy.

The vulnerability for both men is really high. It’s really tender and completely fraught with tension of the best kind. I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough. There’s kisses, and big firsts, and kitten rescues, and love. Lots and lots of love. The secondary characters are all really awesome, people I’d love to spend a holiday with, in any case. And, the end is a solid HEA.

COLD FEET:
Sam and Ryan are best friends and housemates at university in Brighton. They head out to Wales for a mini-getaway with another housemate Jon and his girlfriend, but plans go awry when Jon’s car breaks down and a freak snowstorm leaves Sam and Ryan mainly trapped in Jon’s parents’ cold cottage. San is out gay, and single. He’s had a longstanding secret crush on Ryan, whom he believes is straight, but Ryan…isn’t. He’s never been with a man, but he’s realized over the past year that he’s intensely curious about Sam, about maybe being gay, and wondering if he’s a creep for crushing on Sam.

Beyond a fireplace, the house is barely heated, and as Sam and Ryan tuck in for a far longer visit than they had planned they end up all in one another’s business–and beds–to keep warm. Mistletoe and cheap wine break the seal on Ryan’s true feelings, but he’s afraid to come out and ruin things in his life is Sam isn’t really into him. Sam, thinking Ryan only wants him for a bit of experimentation, is reluctant to let his true feelings show, too. They spend an idyllic Christmas together, meeting a neighbor willing to share her Christmas feast, and each man longs for more isolated time to continue their explorations. Unfortunately, life intrudes and they have to head home sooner than either would like, by that point.

It’s so sweet, and I really loved both Sam and Ryan who have some awkwardness when they reunite at their lodgings. It’s New Year’s Eve and both of them acknowledge they need to make some changes. I liked how they got their communication sorted just in time.

WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS:
This is an adorable friends-to-lovers romance.

Justin and Sean have been friends since they were seven years old. Justin came out early–mostly because everyone assumed he was gay anyhow–But Sean only came out a couple of years ago. Justin felt betrayed when he learned Sean was gay, because he’d fancied Sean for ages and felt he would have been a safe harbor, plus he would have loved to experiment with him when they were close together.

Well, it’s Christmas time and Justin is newly single–what with that cheater Andy revealing all two weeks ago. He’s about to call off his plans to attend the company Christmas party when Sean arrives and offers to go as his pretend boyfriend–to make Andy jealous. Sean has just returned from a 9 month trip, and he’s camping on Justin’s sofa until he gets a job and a flat. That said, he’s not unhappy about the close quarters. He’s wanted Justin for years, but Justin was always dating a bloke and the timing was never right.

Their time is close and friendly, with each man surreptitiously checking out the other, and their date is, well, super extra hot. All that closeness, and dancing and snogging…leads to more. But, can Justin and Sean turn the one night of passion into a relationship?

I loved the realistic feel to this one. These guys are so conscious of their friendship, and don’t want to harm it in any way. They are totally gone for each other, and hold back and hold back and hold back–until they just cannot hold back any longer. Each is afraid he loves the other more than he is loved, and each is completely and totally wrong. It’s the perfect twist and the best Christmas for each of them.

Also, HAWT. They coulda lit up the Christmas tree with their passion. This is a fast read, but doesn’t skimp on the feels.

Interested? You can find CHRISTMAS CRACKERS on Amazon US and 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 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!

signal boost