Out Today! FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING–Release Day Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover for a new contemporary romance from Laura Kaye. FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING is the first book in her Warrior Fight Club series. It features a PTSD-plagued wounded vet, and the best friend of his life that he’s fallen hard for. I’ve loved RIDE HARD, and her veteran-centered HARD INK books too.

About the book:
Loving her is the biggest fight of his life…
Home from the Marines, Noah Cortez has a secret he doesn’t want his oldest friend, Kristina Moore, to know. It kills him to push her away, especially when he’s noticing just how sexy and confident she’s become in his absence. But, angry and full of fight, he’s not the same man anymore either. Which is why Warrior Fight Club sounds so good.

Kristina loves teaching, but she wants more out of life. She wants Noah—the boy she’s crushed on and waited for. Except Noah is all man now—in ways both oh so good and troubling, too. Still, she wants who he’s become—every war-hardened inch. And when they finally stop fighting their attraction, it’s everything Kristina never dared hope for.

But Noah is secretly spiraling, and when he lashes out, it threatens what he and Kristina have found. The brotherhood of the fight club helps him confront his demons, but only Noah can convince the woman he loves that he’s finally ready to fight for everything.

How about a little taste?

“Noah, are you down here?” Kristina called from the top of the basement steps.

Despite the lack of response, she continued down and crossed the room to the mostly closed door in the back corner–Noah’s bedroom since he’d returned just before last Christmas. God, Kristina had thought she’d received the best Christmas present ever–Noah, home from Iraq, safe and sound.

Well, mostly sound, anyway. An IED blast had taken the hearing and most of his vision on his left side, and he’d struggled with bad migraines and equilibrium problems when he’d first returned. But he was home and he was alive, and having him back again had made it feel like she could finally breathe after years of knowing he was in danger every second of every day.

She knocked softly. “Hey Noah, it’s me.”

All she heard was a long exhale of breath, but it was enough.

Why hadn’t he answered her? Her stomach clenched as she pushed open the door far enough to see Noah standing in the dark doorway to his bathroom, his back against the door jamb, his arms crossed, and his head hanging on his big shoulders.

She didn’t need to ask if he was okay, because he was radiating not okay loud and clear. Kristina walked right up to him. “What’s going on?” she asked. Dim light from the rec room filtered over him, allowing her to just make out the tight clench of his square jaw, the narrowed cast of his dark brown eyes, the harsh set of his beautiful mouth.

Wait. What? Where had that little observation come from?

Noah shook his head, forcing Kristina to drop the ridiculous line of thought.

She stepped closer so that she could look more directly into his eyes. “Come on, Noah. It’s me.” She ached for him to open up, but what she noticed even more was the low buzz rushing through her body. From how close she stood to all his taut hardness. It wasn’t like she was just noticing that Noah was hot, like, dayum hot, but nearly five years in the Marines had matured him and built hard muscle that hadn’t been there before. And clearly her body was just noticing, probably because they hadn’t had the chance to spend much time together since he’d gotten back.

“Kristina,” he said, his voice so low it was nearly a whisper, or a plea. He leaned his forehead against hers. It was such a sweet, needful gesture that Kristina’s chest seized.

“First, I’m hugging you. Then we’re talking, buddy,” she said, wrapping her arms around his big shoulders and planting her cheek against his chest. The embrace wasn’t unusual-they’d always been affectionate with each other. She’d lay against him while they watched a movie or he’d sling an arm over her shoulders while they were out together. When things were bad with her dad, he’d hold her when she finally gave into her grief about it and cried. That’s how they’d always been.

He embraced her right back and leaned his face against her hair.

After a long moment, Kristina pulled away–

Noah wouldn’t let her go. His grip on her tightened, and he held her fast against him. Was he breathing faster? Was he trembling?

Against her belly, he hardened.

Kristina’s breath caught in her throat. Noah was aroused…by her? Or just, like, in her general vicinity? Or…? She swallowed hard as her thoughts flew.

As they stood there, suspended in the dark, stolen moment, the air around them flashed hot and closed in, narrowing the world to all the places their bodies touched. His erection grew, pressing against her with more insistence. Heat bloomed over her skin everywhere and she held herself perfectly still. Because this was different. This was not friendly. This was more.

A strange tension wrapped around them, and it scared and attracted Kristina in equal measure. She shuddered out a breath as her body came to life against his. Her breathing quickened, her nipples peaked, her core clenched.

Noah made a noise in the back of his throat like a moan, and his arms tightened around her, pulling their bodies totally flush.

Kristina’s breath caught at the hard press of his body and at the shocking arousal it unleashed in her.

This is Noah. This is Noah. This is Noah.

But it didn’t seem to matter to her body. The soft cotton of her dress became heavy and irritating against her skin, and all she wanted was for it to be off. So he could be all over her. This sudden, intoxicating need was brand new to her-in general and certainly with Noah. She wasn’t a virgin, but she’d never felt with another man the kind of desire rocketing through her just then. And all they’d done was touch.

Why was this happening?

Her hips shifted without her meaning to do it, and it made her belly grind against all that hardness.

Noah hissed in her ear. His fingertips dug into her back…and then wandered, one hand pressing low against her hip, one skimming up her neck into her hair. Holding her tight. Bringing her closer.

She was half sure she was imagining that they were locked inside this raging bubble of attraction, except that his heart thundered beneath where her head rested, his breathing had gone rough, and his skin felt every bit as feverish as hers.

She had to stop this…whatever this was.

Tilting her head back, the words were on the tip of her tongue. Her eyes locked with his, and even in the dimness she could see that they were blazing hot and almost predatory in their directness. It stole her capacity to speak, because she was unequivocally sure he’d never looked at her like that. Need roared off of him and through her, making her heart beat like a bass drum.

Kristina swallowed hard. What would she do if he kissed her? One kissing experiment aside, she’d never had to ask that in regard to him. Another question followed close behind: what would she do if he didn’t?

My Review:

Noah Cortez is seven months stateside after a disability discharge from the Marines. He’d been in the service five years, but a landmine stole his comrades, hearing and vision on the left side of his head. Besides the visible scars, Noah’s battling some pretty intense emotional shrapnel–which is why he’s tried to stay away form his childhood best-friend Kristina Moore.

Kristina knows something is seriously wrong with Noah; his lackluster attitude, hollowed eyes and fading body are big clues, but being present at one of his flashbacks is a wake-up call. FOr both of them. Noah’s depression and PTSD have been eating him alive, and he doesn’t want it to ruin his relationships, so he pulls away from everyone, especially when they tell him he’s not the nothing, damaged man he sees in his mirror, and feels in his mind.

Kristina, having lived with a parent with mental illness, wants to be Noah’s rock, but a new complication arises: their mutual attraction. They’d never been anything but platonic before, and now? They get steamy–for the moment. Noah’s sure that Kristina deserves better than a broken down, disabled vet, but she knows he’s her everything, and desperately wants to build a life together. Unfortunately, she learns he can’t return her love, not when he doesn’t love himself.

This is a great first book in a new series. The friends-to-lovers aspect was handled really well, with all the confusion that it can entail. Noah finds help in unexpected places–art therapy which leads him to fight therapy designed only for military enlisted and veterans. This Warrior Fight Club provides a safe space for Noah to work out his aggression and regain his balance, both emotionally and physically. He knows he probably doesn’t deserve another chance at loving Kristina, but he’s determined to be a better friend than he’d been when he returned home.  I loved Kristina, and respected her struggles, and frustration, with Noah’s hot-and-cold attitude. It was great seeing Noah turn his life around, though I wished for a little more insight into his challenges once he started seeking treatment. That said, it’s got an upbeat ending and sets up new characters to carry the series forward.

Interested? You can find FIGHTING FOR EVERYTHING on Goodreads, Amazon (US, UK, CA, AU) Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 3 $10 Amazon or B & N gift cards.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

LauraKayeAbout the Author:
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty books in contemporary and erotic romance and romantic suspense, including the Blasphemy, Hard Ink, and Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. Laura also writes historical fiction as the NYT bestselling author, Laura Kamoie. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

Catch up with Laura on her website, Facebook, twitter, or sign-up for her newsletter.
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Big Choices, Big Love in FALLING DOWN–Release Day Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a New Adult contemporary M/M romance form Eli Easton. FALLING DOWN is a heart-wrenching tale of an aimless war vet and the homeless teen he brings back from the brink.

fallingdownelieastonAbout the book:
Josh finds himself homeless at eighteen, but he has a plan. He’ll head north on the bus to New England and spend October there for his mother’s sake. She always talked about going to see the fall leaves someday. And when the leaves were done and the harsh winter came, Josh would find a place to curl up and let go. It would be a relief to finally stop fighting.

Mark spent his life trying to live up to the tough swagger of his older brothers until he pushed himself so far against his nature that he cracked. Now an ex-Marine, he rents a little cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he can lick his wounds and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One thing was clear: Mark was nobody’s hero.

Fate intervenes when Josh sets up camp under a covered bridge near Mark’s cabin. Mark recognizes the dead look in the young stranger’s eyes, and he feels compelled to do something about it. When Mark offers Josh a job, he never expected that he’d be the one to fall.

The snow is coming soon. Can Mark convince Josh that the two of them can build a life together before the flurries fall?

My Review:
Homeless and grieving his dead mother, eighteen year old Josh Rivers decides to use his last bit of cash to travel from Alabama to New Hampshire to experience autumn. It was an unrealized dream of his mom’s, to watch the fall color erupt in all it’s glory, and Josh believes finding a beautiful vista where he can release his mother’s ashes, will put her to rest. Sticking around for the bitter winter snows in which to bury himself and his heartache under their peaceful white flakes sounds like a second great plan.

At 24, Mark Sullivan is the youngest of five sons, and a newly discharged Marine. Scarred by seeing friends die while on his active duty tours, he’s heartsick and drifting, performing odd jobs and living in a rented cabin two hours from his close-knit family so he can keep his homosexuality private. He’s sure his family will reject him, so he maintains the distance. Seeing Josh in his quiet area of New Hampshire, he recognizes that dead-eye stare, and it sparks Mark’s protective side. Needing some help on a big painting job he’s landed, Mark reaches out to withdrawn and skittish Josh.

As it’s only early October, Josh knows he needs some time to put his plan into action. The snow isn’t coming for at least a month and he’s not keen on starving to death under a bridge, so he accepts Mark’s offer of a safe space to sleep, a job, and food. As these guys work and live in close quarters, they develop a friendship. While Mark is definitely attracted to Josh, he won’t make a move, believing Josh to be too young and vulnerable for anything more than friendship. Josh’s depression had killed his libido, but his budding friendship with Mark has quelled his emotional tailspin enough to recognize his growing attraction and affection. It doesn’t hurt that Mark is generous and kind; they forge a tight bond in a short time.

Still, Josh is stifled by Mark’s seeming lack of interest, and when he challenges Mark’s resolve both men find a deeper connection than either’s had before. There’s so much emotion in these pages. Josh’s depression is palpable, and I was terrified regarding his end-of-life plans. It’s always hard for me to read a depressed character, because I identify with them so closely. The joy of watching Josh connect to Mark, and his climb out from that mortal abyss, was worth the anguish at the outset. Further, Mark’s a great guy, despite wishing to stay closeted. When it comes to maintaining his charade, and being the man Josh needs, however, Mark makes the absolute right choice. He’s rewarded by understanding, and love greater than he ever dreamed.

There are some extremely tense moments, and I freely admit I started to cry in the climax. That’s a good sign for me, it shows how deeply I connected with the story–which I felt was fantastic. For readers like me who are sensitive to stories with depression/suicide story lines, just know that there is a brilliant dawn waiting on the far side of the darkest night. The happy ending was realistic, and filled with joy. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find FALLING DOWN on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
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Big Problems For GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE–A Review

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a newly published contemporary YA romance from Paula Stokes. GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE s a bittersweet contemporary YA adventure/romance that deals with PTSD, OCD, and general anxiety in a teen girl who’s survived some pretty tragic moments.

Girl Against the UniverseAbout the book:
Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.

My Review:
Maguire was eleven when the car she rode in went off a mountainside and her father, uncle and brother were all killed. She was twelve when she rode a rollercoaster that went off the track, seriously injuring all 19 other passengers beside herself. She was thirteen when she went to a slumber party where every other guest ended up with gut-clenching illness. And six weeks ago, her abandoned candle burned down the neighbors’ house. Maguire believes that she’s Really Bad Luck, and she has a notebook filled with instances and coincidences that back up this claim.

Now sixteen and living in her third house in the past four years, preparing to enter her second high school, Maguire wishes she could just be home-schooled. She doesn’t want to make any friends, and potentially be responsible for any of them getting hurt, or worse.  Worried about Maguire, her mother insists that she attend therapy, and this is where the book opens, in a therapy session between Maguire and Dr. Leed. When the hour is up, Maguire notices the tall, attractive boy who enters the office in her stead. This boy, Jordy, reaches out to prickly, unapproachable Maguire as part of his own “homework” for therapy. And, they sort of hit it off. Maguire learns that Jory is semi-famous, but none of that seems to matter and Jordy appreciates that.

Inspired by Jordy, and knowing that she needs to get over her many phobias if she’s going to fly to Ireland with her mother for a five year memorial for her father, uncle and brother, Maguire actually begins to engage in her therapy. She’s terrified of riding in cars with people, using public transit, being out in public, going to parties, and has terrors imagining a bus ride, let alone a trans-Atlantic flight. So, with Dr. Leed’s help, Maguire sets her own list of “homework” so that she can reclaim her life and defeat the sinister powers of the Universe that have ripped so much from her.

Along the way, Maguire joins her high school tennis team, where she makes real friends for the first time in years. She also connects with Jordy, who is happy to help Maguire in any way he can–even if it means crossing his parents. See, Jordy IS a big deal; he’s a tennis wunderkind all set to go pro, if he can finish high school and stand up against his parent’s plans for college. And, maybe, he and Maguire may become more than friends…

This is a bittersweet read, because Maguire is a kid trapped by tragedy. She has a loving mother, step-father and new step siblings, but she dwells in the past. She’s terrified of her own mystique:  believing that she’s cursed. By really engaging with her therapy, and investigating the truth of her situation, Maguire learns to overcome her anxiety, by reasonable measured steps and slowly escalating “risk.” It was an affirming story, that realistically demonstrated how a kid struggling with several mental issues could overcome her fears by challenging herself in safe ways. I really liked that there weren’t a ton of catty gals, or hecklers. I liked that Jordy was a stand-up guy, and that he never gave up on Maguire, even when she did hurt him, succumbing to her fears when he needed her most. Maguire’s self-discovery wasn’t all forward motion, which was also reasonable. She had backward steps and tough choices. She cried, and she healed, and she fretted, but she made it all happen. It takes courage to go on, and survivor’s guilt was also likely a big factor in Maguire’s self-isolation.

I really dug the whole arcane “luck” charms that Maguire built into a ritual, not for herself, but because she wanted to ensure the safety of those around her. It’s rather ironic that she never wanted herself to be safe; she expected her bad luck really only affected those around her. Jordy was a great guy, and I liked how down-to-Earth he was. He’s got a bright and shiny future all laid out, but agonizes about his people-pleasing tendencies, and the high likelihood of failing to set proper boundaries. These were reasonable issues for an athlete of his caliber, and his pathway through therapy was also interesting.

For a teen romance, this was really tame with only a few kisses, some dithering regarding embarking on an official relationship v. secretly dating. Those issues held real relevance for Jordy, as approached legal adulthood and struggled to assert his autonomy over that of his parents’ wishes. In total, the book was a clean read with plenty of morbid reminiscences and a healthy portrayal of mild mental illness, teen relationships, and healing.

I’d wish Maguire luck, but I think she’s learned that she makes her own.

Interested? You can find GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Book Depository, and IndieBound.

About the Author:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres.

When she’s not working (rare), she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She’s petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant’s trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with Great White sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

You can catch up with Paula on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Stuck in the Middle–HIATUS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M/M menage contemporary romance from LA Witt. HIATUS is a bittersweet, but realistic, read featuring a married couple who is divorcing and their third–who tries to keep them together.

HiatusAbout the book:
Three’s a disaster when things come unraveled.
Rock star Nate Keller is on top of the world, but his headlining tour has one drawback. It keeps him away from his boyfriends, Theo and Cameron, for weeks at a time. Yet after four-and-a-half years—and a lot of hard work—the trio is still going strong.

But then Cam comes to visit with devastating news. After seventeen years together, he and Theo have agreed to a trial separation. Nate tries desperately to fix his lovers’ broken relationship, but there’s only so much he can do from the road.

At home, Cam tries to carry on, but feels like his whole life is spiraling out of control. Theo struggles to cope with the split as his depression worsens. They’re both spinning their wheels, quickly losing hope they can keep it together—and keep the man they both still love.

Desperate, Nate drops everything in a last-ditch attempt to pull their trio back together before they hit rock bottom. Except their love could already be shattered beyond repair.

Warning: Contains two men who must face how broken they are before they can fix their failing marriage, and the man who loves them both—but doesn’t know how to save them.

My Review:
This is a bittersweet menage M/M/M story that explores a disintegrating marriage, and the reasons behind the collapse. It has a happy ending.

3.5 stars.
Cam and Theo are a married couple. They’ve been together 17 years–since college–and just over four years ago met Nate, singer in an up-and-coming band. They were up for some fun, and it worked so well, that Nate joined them, permanently.

Well…the book opens with Nate ecstatic for one of his rendezvous nights on the road with his sexy boyfriends, only to find Cam waiting for him. Because Theo is moving out of their house back in LA. Nate’s blindsided and hurt, and Cam’s a mess. They make love, but it’s bittersweet.

Rinse and repeat that a few times. Sometimes Theo comes, sometimes Cam comes, see–while they can’t live together, neither wants to lose Nate. It’s a bad situation.

What Nate learns, as he strives to get his men back together is that Theo’s been suffering depression for a long time. And, Cam’s been struggling with borderline-OCD and panic attacks for a long time, and neither noticed the other’s problems because they were too wrapped in their own mental illness.

There is a lot of bitter in this book. There are also points of extreme sweetness. As a person who’s suffered depression, I felt it was more bitter than sweet. As a person who’s weathered rough patches in a long marriage, it was raw to experience echoes of similar distance in the characters on the page.

It ends with a very reasonable and relatable and realistic reunion. That was really satisfying, but I still had a LOT of angst–some on the page, some of my own baggage–to heft before I got to the good parts. Those good parts coming at the very end of the book.

Poly romances are often hard to relate to, but it’s not hard to relate to the unraveling of love. Nate was such a dear, really stoking the fires to get Cam and Theo to reconcile, but his efforts were in the wrong place, because only the people breaking up can do the making up–as Theo and Cam realized.

The mental illness issues were carefully described, and felt very real–especially the depression as I have first-hand experience with that. I liked how the solution was never complacent, not: “we’ll get over it.” Once Cam and Theo claimed their issues, they got productive help managing their emotional state. Part of their delay seeking counseling was fear that any marriage counselors would tell them they needed to cut Nate loose. I could relate with that fear, as poly relationships are not given the same weight as marriage, and that prejudice proved a hindrance to their health. Still, there were several lights at the end of the tunnel, and the end proved to be both happy and sexy.

In all, it worked for me. I just wished it had been a little more upbeat.

Interested? You can find HIATUS on Goodreads, Samhain Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Perfecting THE ART OF NOT BREATHING–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA novel from Sarah Alexander. THE ART OF NOT BREATHING is a little bit romance, a lotta bit grief and healing, as the main character Elsie struggles with the disintegration of her family after the death of her twin brother.

The Art of Not BreathingAbout the book:
Since her twin brother, Eddie, drowned five years ago, sixteen-year-old Elsie Main has tried to remember what really happened that fateful day on the beach. One minute Eddie was there, and the next he was gone.

Seventeen-year-old Tay McKenzie is a cute and mysterious boy that Elsie meets in her favorite boathouse hangout. When Tay introduces Elsie to the world of freediving, she vows to find the answers she seeks at the bottom of the sea.

My Review:
This is a well-written novel about a family slowly eroding following tragedy. It is set in the Black Isle of Scotland.

Five years ago Elsie’s twin Eddie was swept out to sea while they played at the beach for their 11th birthday. His body was never recovered, and her family has never recovered.

Eddie was a smaller child, and though chronologically 11 years old, he was far smaller than Elsie and not able to be educated in the school system due to developmental delays that may have stemmed from gestational issues or a birthing accident. He was several developmental years behind his twin, and Elsie defended him ruthlessly. They have an elder brother Dillon who witnessed some of the events on the beach that fateful day, but neither he nor Elsie, nor their parents, speak of it. Ever.

We start out the book on the eve of Elsie’s 16th birthday, with the family preparing for their annual memorial visit to the seashore to pay respects to Eddie’s cross. It’s all very emotional, and bitter, what with Elsie feeling forlorn for the loss of her twin, and the loss of her own celebrations. What she rarely admits to anyone is that she “hears” Eddie within her, and she speaks to him often. She wants to know what happened on the day of his drowning, but no one will ever speak of it.

As Elsie makes her way through she suffers horrible bullying, depression, and the knowledge that what remains of her family is disintegrating. Dillon’s got a girlfriend, but there’s something very off about him lately; he’s growing scarily thin. Her father spends as much time at work, or traveling for work, as possible, and her mother is a functional alcoholic.

During the course of the book we learn that Elsie loves spending time near the water, as it helps her feel close to Eddie. Eddie was a boy who loved the shore, and the dolphins, and Elsie creates a haven for herself at an abandoned boating club–which is now being refurbished by Mick, his son Danny and nephew Tay. They want to run scuba tours and freediving classes. Elsie has been continually warned against going into the water, but her rebellious side allows her to be goaded into it–and there she experiences flashbacks of that fateful day.

Driven to determine the full truth of the horrors of Eddie’s final moments, she begins to train with bad-boy Tay, and eventually the mean and enigmatic Danny, so that she can make deep freedives into the inlet where Eddie drowned.

It’s a really fascinating look at the way loss changes the dynamics of a family. There are so many converging problems: her father’s anger and withdrawal, her mother’s depression, her brother’s eating disorder. Elsie, in pseudo middle child form, feels a deep need to piece everything together. The emotions run high, and it’s a thrilling experience for Elsie to have the interest of a boy–for the first time ever. All her training for freediving alters her appearance, and gives her a different mindset–she aches to achieve a final communion with Eddie, and that was really poignant, if rather troubling.

I really related to Elsie’s determination, and understood her seemingly flighty nature. No one has seemed to care about her in a very long time, so why should she bother? And yet, she finds the strength to do so. She’s not a very admirable character, in many ways, but I felt that her faults were those of circumstance. She feels as if she’s a pariah, and she’s often treated that way. Tay is the one guy who sees her, not the Twin Who Lived, and that’s a refreshing experience for a girl who mostly fades into the shadows.

In all, the book was interesting, and I found myself rapidly turning the pages as the drama became more and more intense. Expect some super dark moments, and a renewed life for a girl whose seemed to end when her twin died. The ending is definitely upbeat.

Interested? You can find THE ART OF NOT BREATHING on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Sarah Alexander grew up in London with dreams of exploring the world and writing stories. After spending several years wandering the globe and getting into all sorts of scrapes, she returned to London to complete a Master’s degree in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College in 2013. Previous jobs include: tomato picker, travel consultant, mental-health support worker and suitcase administrator. Now she works in publishing. Sarah lives in London with her husband and two chickens. THE ART OF NOT BREATHING is her first novel.

You can catch up with Sarah online on her website and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends.

Captivated by SELFIE–A Review

Hi there! Today I want to share a bit of the review I wrote for Joyfully Jay of a new contemporary M/M romance by Amy Lane. SELFIE is one of the Bluewater Bay books and, like THE DEEP OF THE SOUND, it packs an emotional punch that knocked me over.

Selfie (Bluewater Bay, #13)About the book:
One year ago, actor Connor Montgomery lost the love of his life to a drunk driver. But what’s worse for Connor is what he still has: a lifetime of secrets born of hiding his relationship from the glare of Hollywood. Unable to let go of the world he and Vinnie shared, Connor films a drunken YouTube confession on the anniversary of Vinnie’s death.

Thankfully, the video was silent—a familiar state for Connor—so his secret is still safe. He needs a fresh start, and a new role on the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing might be just that.

The move to Bluewater Bay may also mean a second chance in the form of his studio-assigned assistant. Noah Dakers sees through Connor’s facades more quickly than Connor could imagine. Noah’s quiet strength and sarcastic companionship offers Connor a chance at love that Hollywood’s closet has never allowed. But to accept it, Connor must let Vinnie go and learn to live again.

My Review:
Some highlights from my review, which can be read in it’s entirety on Joyfully Jay Reviews….

This is the 13th book set in the Bluewater Bay world, and they are designed to be enjoyed as standalones. I’ve read ten or so, and while some characters come in and out of many books, each one relates a new love story. Selfie is about a popular movie star’s steep drop into the abyss of grief-ravaged depression, and the hard slog into emotional well-being and second love.

This is what I have learned: Amy Lane doesn’t write books, she writes literary heroin. I must plan an early start when I get her books because I cannot close the book and go on about my day/night without knowing how her characters survive their story. My hubs will attest, I’m a bit of a snappish basket-case while I devour the ups and downs and dangerous plummets into overwhelming feels, despite knowing an HEA will arrive, but only after I’ve survived the terror and exhilaration of riding the roller coaster forward, backward, and unbelted.

Without Noah’s presence, Connor would easily drift into the mental wilderness he inhabited in the year of grief, a year of physical and temporal wasting. Connor still speaks to Vinnie in his head, making choices that he thinks will benefit Vinnie. This preoccupation is disastrous, and leads to several crises, but Noah is able to pull Connor back from the brink each time, thankfully. Their courtship isn’t sensual; it’s liberating and affirming. It gives Connor hope, and replaces the emptiness of his previous relationship.

It’s an HEA, but wow! It takes some real serious work to get there, for Noah and Connor. They are great guys who deserve happiness, and I was sur glad they got it.

Interested? You can find SELFIE on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

About the Author:

Amy Lane dodges an EDJ, mothers four children, and writes the occasional book. She, her brood, and her beloved mate, Mack, live in a crumbling mortgage in Citrus Heights, California, which is riddled with spiders, cats, and more than its share of fancy and weirdness.

Feel free to visit her website, blog, or on twitter and Facebook where she will ride the buzz of receiving your e-mail until her head swells and she can no longer leave the house.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Surviving the Darkness: LOVE IN THE LIGHT–Review and Giveaway

LITL available nowHi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a new contemporary romance from bestselling author Laura Kaye. LOVE IN THE LIGHT is the long-awaited sequel to HEARTS IN DARKNESS, a novel of two people finding love in a tight situation: trapped in an elevator during a power outage. I just adored Makenna and Caden and was so glad to have an HEA for them once the rescue was long past. This sequel, however, deals with the darkness that creeps in when we least expect it: depression, and PTSD, and finding a way back to the light of love. It was really touching for me, a depression survivor.

Catch my review below and be sure to enter to win one of three totes filled with book swag.

Love in the Light (Hearts in Darkness, #2)About the book:
Two hearts in the darkness…
Makenna James and Caden Grayson have been inseparable since the day they were trapped in a pitch-black elevator and found acceptance and love in the arms of a stranger. Makenna hopes that night put them on the path to forever—which can’t happen until she introduces her tattooed, pierced, and scarred boyfriend to her father and three over-protective brothers.

Must fight for love in the light…
Haunted by a childhood tragedy and the loss of his family, Caden never thought he’d find the love he shares with Makenna. But the deeper he falls, the more he fears the devastation sure to come if he ever lost her, too. When meeting her family doesn’t go smoothly, Caden questions whether Makenna deserves someone better, stronger, and just more…normal. Maybe they’re too different—and he’s far too damaged—after all…

Praise for LOVE IN THE LIGHT:

“Readers that have been anxiously waiting for more of this story will be thrilled with the passionate and poignant way Kaye dives back in with this complicated and much loved couple. Love in the Light will have readers falling in love with Caden and Makenna all over again!” ~ Jay Crownover, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Marked Men Series

“Sexy, emotional and incredibly heartwarming, fans of Laura Kaye won’t be disappointed!” ~ Monica Murphy, New York Times Bestselling Author of the One Week Girlfriend Quartet

“Laura Kaye has a gift for writing beautifully damaged men and Caden Grayson leads the pack with enough vulnerability to twist your heart in knots.” ~ Tessa Bailey, New York Times Bestselling Author of the Line of Duty Series

“This book delivers – sweet romance, smoking hot sex, an entire tissue box full of angsty drama, and such love shining off the pages that it will blind you.” ~ Christi Barth, Author of the Shore Secrets Series

“This follow up to one of the most beloved couples in romance is delivered in the emotional and touching way that only Laura Kaye can do. Love in the Light is everything I could have wanted for Makenna and Caden–and more!” ~ Jillian Stein, Read-Love-Blog

My Review:
This is the second book in a series, and can be read as a standalone, but best enjoyed after reading HEARTS IN DARKNESS.

**SPOILER ALERT**(of Hearts in Darkness…because it’s super relevant to the second book!)
So, Makenna and Caden met two months ago when they were trapped in an elevator for hours. Caden is a paramedic; he chose this profession because his family was in a horrific wreck when he was fourteen, and he was trapped for hours upside-down in a drainage ditch with no assistance. His father was unconscious and his mother and younger brother were killed. His family shattered that night, with his father living a half-life that had no love or affection for anyone, not even Caden. Caden still suffers PTSD and claustrophobia as a result of the wreck, but he’s a damn good paramedic, and thrives on his level-head while assisting people in emergencies. While trapped in the elevator Makenna helps Caden with his clautrophobia-induced panic attack. They bonded over them each losing their mothers when young–Makenna’s mom died when she was a toddler.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving. And LOVE IN THE LIGHT. Caden hasn’t had a family holiday since the car wreck. He usually works overtime at the firehouse so guys with families can have the holiday off, but Makenna’s family wants to meet him, so they drive to Philly. There, Caden has to face the gauntlet of Makenna’s three brothers and father. He actually holds his own, despite his anxiety, and is even able to tolerate the appearance of Cameron–bestie of Makenna’s brother Ian and also Makenna’s former serious boyfriend–former fiance, truth be made clear. And Cameron’s sure he wants Makenna in his life.

This book is told from both Caden and Makenna’s POV, so we get to experience the highest of highs and lowest of lows. And boy howdy, does it get dark. Caden’s been asymptomatic for PTSD for a while, but he finally has someone real in his life–Makenna–to lose. And Cameron, successful, attractive doctor, is certainly better-suited to giving his beloved Makenna a far better life than Caden can. Right?

Enter depression and complete freak out and Makenna having her own sincere challenges–that include a pushy Cameron, medical issues, and an unshakable love for Caden. This is a romance that started with an HEA, got mired in the depths of depression, and worked hard to find the light of love. And succeeded. As a depression survivor, the descent into darkness that Caden experiences is eerily reminiscent of my own personal history. The love that Makenna has, and Caden has for that matter, are really intense. Life is not easy, as they both learn, and–what may be more relevant: life doesn’t wait for you to get your act together. So many good parts of the book that touched off memories for me–big family, lots of nosy siblings, ulterior motives, and the helplessness/hopelessness of depression.

The end is a bit of a thrill ride, with Caden facing his worst fears and coming out on the side with joy he never dared to dream. While Makenna tells a lot of this story, I really felt that Caden’s journey was more compelling. Mostly because she’s being excellent and supportive and dealing while Caden is a complete wreck inside and out that must get fixed right this time.

I wonder if we’ll hear more of their love story, but even if we don’t…I’m sure they make it.

Interested? You can find LOVE IN THE LIGHT on Goodreads, Amazon, Amazon UK, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo

****GIVEAWAY****

Click this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of three totes filled with book swag.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

HID 99SaleDon’t forget to pick up HEARTS IN DARKNESS–Currently on sale for $.99!

Two strangers…

Makenna James thinks her day can’t get any worse, until she finds herself stranded in a pitch-black elevator with a complete stranger. Distracted by a phone call, the pin-striped accountant catches only a glimpse of a dragon tattoo on his hand before the lights go out.

Four hours…

Caden Grayson is amused when a harried redhead dashes into his elevator fumbling her bags and cell phone. His amusement turns to panic when the power fails. Despite his piercings, tats, and vicious scar, he’s terrified of the dark and confined spaces. Now, he’s trapped in his own worst nightmare.

One pitch-black elevator…

To fight fear, they must reach out and open up. With no preconceived notions based on looks to hold them back, they discover just how much they have in common. In the warming darkness, attraction grows and sparks fly, but will they feel the same when the lights come back on?

Author PhotoAbout Laura Kaye:
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

You can catch up with Laura online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Newsletter SignUp.

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