Love In Service NO FLAG–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M military romance from Liz Borino. NO FLAG has been re-released and is the first book in the After Everything series. This story follows a gay military couple that weather Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Domestic Discipline, and major trauma after being injured in the act of service.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

How about a yummy taste?

Chapter One: The News

July 7, 2012

Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”

“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.

Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.

“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.

“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.

“Are you ready?”

“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”

“When?”

The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.

“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”

“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”

“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”

Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”

Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”

Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.

“Will…” Seth began.

“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”

“Will…”

“Please, Seth.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.

But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.

Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.

My Review:

This book was originally published in 2013, and the second edition seems unchanged.

Captain Mike Kelley is a military intelligence officer and West Point grad who’s spent a lot of time in counterintelligence and translating threats. He’s near the end of his commission and has no plans to re-up. It’s 2010 and President Obama has instituted “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a policy that is meant to somewhat protect gay servicemembers from dishonorable discharge.

Mike is an orphan, and he made his way through life carefully, using ideals like respect, honor, and sacrifice as cornerstones of his life. He’s looking for a submissive partner who would be interested in Domestic Discipline, which–in my woefully uninformed opinion–means that one partner has authority, and the other follows the rules of the home, which they could form together. Mike has very specific ideas about domestic tasks, in that he has a “right” way and all other ways are not acceptable. Mike meets Will while out at a gay bay in Philly. Will is a bartender, but he’d like to own his own place, more of a coffeehouse for LGBTQ folk to feel safe.

Will is intrigued by the Domestic Discipline, and attracted to Mike. He’s not so sure about Mike’s OCD habits, or punishments for not meeting Mike’s exacting standards. And, he’s REALLY not into the military, especially since Mike’s work is highly classified. Their relationship grows close pretty quickly, within months Mike asks Will to move in and, in early 2011 when marriage equality is still being debated, there are two months until the end of Mike’s commission he asks Will to marry him. Though their marriage isn’t recognized by the military, Will agrees on one condition: Mike does not re-up. Mike doesn’t, but with mere weeks before his commission expires a surly commander tells Mike he’s being deployed to Afghanistan.

An arcane bit of military regulations allows commanding officers to extend commissions for up to one year following the expiry of service. This Stop-Loss program makes a big rift for Mike and Will, who were just about to open a business together. They do their best to navigate a fledgling marriage, new business, and transglobal interaction via Skype. The discipline part of their marriage is tricky to navigate remotely, but it’s helpful for both men to keep this piece of normalcy. Will’s friends are highly skeptical, with his female best friend making all sorts of trouble, to interfere with Will and Mike’s marriage–with some unexpected chicanery and definite violation of personal boundaries.

During deployment Mike and Will have a mantra: No Flag, which means Mike commits to make every effort to come home alive. They say this to one another every sign-off from every call. Mike’s stress levels are high, and Will’s being as accepting as he can of all the secrecy, but once Mike’s base is bombed and he can’t tell if his husband is alive or dead it marks a new level in Will’s commitment to Mike.

I liked this one a bunch, and I was glad for the reminder of the rapid changes our society has undergone in the past 10-15 years. Repeal of the prohibition of gay service members, national marriage equality, and enhanced efforts to make veterans whole, be they amputees, or suffering depression/PTSD. Mike is the only member of his unit to survive the blast and subsequent raid, and he has vital information that could save thousands on American soil, if only he can remember/relive those horrific memories. It’s interesting that so much of the story (the first half) is told in flashback, and when we finally reach the “present” we experience flashback through Mike’s fractured memories. Both Mike and Will are compelling characters, though I will admit to loving Will more than Mike, whose OCD is a little nerve-wracking. I will admit to not quite understanding the nuances of Domestic Discipline versus a 24/7 D/s power exchange, but I think it was made adequately clear that both Mike and Will benefited from this experience. They seemed to have a deep connection that was only strengthened by their adversity.

Mike is a different man when he’s returned to Will, mostly due to his lack of confidence following amputation. He is not sure he can be the man that Will needs, that Will will find him less attractive, and that his disability will render him unable to exert his discipline. This seems to be mainly resolved by the end of the book, but it’s still early days of his recovery. Also, this is the first book in a series, so I’m left with the feeling that there will be further conflict and PTSD moments for Will and Mike to weather. I would definitely read on.

Interested? You can find NO FLAG on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.

When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.

Cephalopod Coffeehouse April 2018–SHELTER THE SEA

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

Hi there! This week I’ve tried to focus on reviews for books that had been released several months, maybe a year back, and I knew I wanted to feature this release from April 2017 from Heidi Cullinan. SHELTER THE SEA is a sequel to CARRY THE OCEAN, my favorite book of 2015.

About the book:
Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.
Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

My Review:
Emmett and Jeremey are two young adults who have disabilities, as we would term them. Emmett is a brilliant man “on the spectrum” while Jeremey has crippling depression. They are making a life for themselves, with the help of assisted living, in The Roosevelt an assisted living facility. Emmett works at an outside company, coding and doing analysis, while Jeremey works in The Roosevelt, helping in the care of a paraplegic resident. The Roosevelt is a good place to live, with adequate staff and compassionate care, but it’s in trouble financially and may close if a bill circulating the Iowa legislature grants more funding to corporate-owned care facilities. Despite their personal struggles, these guys embark on a mission to save it.

SHELTER THE SEA is an intimate look into the world of politics, health care, and marginalized persons. The disabled residents of The Roosevelt are humanized in ways that most people don’t see. Some of these folks are non-verbal, but they have devices and strategies to reveal their inner thoughts and fears. Emmett is the appointed leader, and he’s striving so hard to save The Roosevelt because he knows if it folds Jeremey will suffer, and Jeremey is Emmett’s heart; he’ll do anything to spare Jeremey more pain. The campaign to save their home takes on a larger-than-life momentum, and highlights the uphill battle “the people” have against corporate money and interest when it comes to legislation. It’s an indictment of the American political system in many ways, focusing on pay-for-play and healthcare that is more about money than care.

There is a quiet romance here, with Emmett making big steps to solidify his relationship with Jeremey, whose struggles with depression are overwhelming, at times. Still, there is so much light here. The Blues Brothers, yes that old movie, plays a role in that it’s a comfort to Emmett and Jeremey and becomes a part of their platform to raise awareness for kids and adults who need full-time care. And that mission is valiant. It got to me on so many levels. Seriously, lots of ugly tears shed while reading this one. Because it’s written like real life, not like a romance. There is struggle, and disappointment, and dusting one’s self off and starting over when it seems there’s no chance of success. It’s an amazing read, that also has happy moments and tender moments, and transcendent moments. Emmett and Jeremey feel so real as characters that I was tempted to scan YouTube to see their viral videos. Another book is planned in this series, and I’ll be reading that one as soon as it comes out. This book sat on my TBR–payed for and downloaded for nearly a year. I was too afraid I’d be let down by the sequel, and whoa. I was just blown away again. I think readers will love Emmett and Jeremey and all the residents of The Roosevelt, especially if they know any persons with disabilities.

Interested? You can find SHELTER THE SEA on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

Heidi CullinanAbout the Author:
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and teenaged daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in. Be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers.

Starting Over With ALL WHEEL DRIVE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently published M/M romance from Z. A. Maxwell. ALL WHEEL DRIVE is the 18th book in the long-running Bluewater Bay series, but is fine to be read as a standalone. Readers who’ve enjoyed HELL ON WHEELS will likely enjoy it most, as it features some side characters in this new love story.

About the book:
Healey Holly is battered, depressed, and looking to go to ground in his childhood home. He wants to rent the garage apartment, but it’s Diego Luz’s place now, and the last thing Diego wants is to share it.

Diego is recovering too—from the accident that put him in a wheelchair and the death of his mother shortly after. The garage apartment is where he’s keeping his mother’s things, and as long as they’re up those stairs and he’s down on the ground, there’s no way he can deal with his loss. And that’s just how he likes it.

Healey believes in science. Diego believes in luck. It will take a blend of both, and some prayer thrown in besides, for these two to learn that it’s the journey and the destination that matters.

My Review:
Healey Holly is a man adrift. His long-time, bipolar, boyfriend, Ford, just spun off the rails of sanity and nearly took them both to a very young grave. They’d been growing apart, and were on a last goodbye weekend when things went really, really, bad. Busted up and needing some connection to his roots, Healey limps into Bluewater Bay and offers a load of cash to the disabled man, Diego Luz who’s recently purchased Healey’s family home, so that he can crash in the apartment above the garage. It’s a dump, filled with storage boxes of Diego’s late-mother’s art and Diego doesn’t want to have anyone up there, but he recognizes the desperation rolling off Healey and reluctantly agrees.

Diego is wallowing, and has been for some time. He’d suffered an accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down a few years back, and he’s bitter over the way his life has changed. Once a sought-after photojournalist and bed partner, Diego is a virtual recluse, now, doing some low level editing work for the Wolf’s Landing TV show that is filmed in Bluewater Bay. His step-father has been after him for a year to make the documentary about his late mother’s art, and her influence on Chicana politics, but Diego can’t find the will to even look at her work. He’s so despondent, and he’s not sure what to make of the interested stares he witnesses from Healey.

So, this book is long on healing. Physical, emotional, sexual. Healey is a brilliant man, and doesn’t trust his instincts since life with Ford went so awry. How could he be so complacent, and was he responsible for Ford going manic? Diego’s much more pragmatic, but still vulnerable. He wants a stable partner, but doesn’t think anyone would want him for anything but a fetish, if that. As he and Healey begin to confide in one another, they see each other in a different light, one where Healey can forgive himself and Diego can endure the pain of his mother’s loss. There are some sexy moments, but they aren’t porn-worthy. Unless some of it’s a bloopers reel. And that’s okay, because all of this felt really genuine. Life is freaking messy, and Diego is quick to judge himself for making messes, while Healey basks in the strength and resilience Diego casually demonstrates. I liked how they saw the good in one another, and brought that to the surface.

When each man needs to hunt down his demons–Healey needs to speak with Ford face-to-face to resolve the legal issues that have developed from their accident, and Diego has to visit his stepfather and the extended family–they are a solid support for each other. A bulwark against the potentially crushing emotional toll these experiences are sure to bring. They work as partners, for many reasons, but not least of which is sheer stubbornness, and the ability to see past the present limitations and into future possibilities.

Interested? You can find ALL WHEEL DRIVE on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Z.A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back. Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four manages to find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Her published books include Crossing Borders, Drawn Together, and the St. Nacho’s and Brothers Grime series from Loose Id, ePistols at Dawn and The Pharaoh’s Concubine from Samhain Publishing, and Notturno, Vigil, Stirring Up Trouble, and All Stirred Up from MLR Press.

Catch up with Ms. Maxfield online on her website, twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.

Out Today! AGAINST ALL ODDS–Excerpt and Giveaway

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Hi there! Today I”m wishing a very Happy Book Birthday to AGAINST ALL ODDS, a contemporary M/M romance from Chris T. Kat. This is the second book in the Odds Are series, and needs to be read in order.

Check out the excerpt below, and be sure to enter to win a $15 Amazon gift card.

AgainstAllOddsFSAbout the book:
And then they lived happily ever after…
Sometimes Joshua Stone thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. How else can he explain Michael’s love for him? And now they’re living together… in a real relationship. This is the stuff of fairy tales, a love like other people take for granted.

Sure, they have their moments, what couple doesn’t? But a small doubt lingers in Joshua’s heart. Can this really be true? Can a gorgeous man like Michael really love someone like Joshua—the guy with cerebral palsy, who’s helpless without his walker or his tricycle to get him around?

Michael senses Joshua’s worries, but there’s nothing he can do to dispel them because that would mean revealing his secret—and he’s not ready for that. Their mutual secrets hang between them like time bombs waiting to explode. They might not survive the inevitable blast.

How about a little taste?

“I’m awake! I’m awake, really!” Joshua panted.

“Really? I don’t want to take advantage of you, you know.”

“Michael! Excuse me for being tired. I keep going to bed later than I should because someone… namely you”—Joshua poked a finger into Michael’s chest—“works overtime all freaking week, and when said someone comes home, he still expects me to spend time with him.”

A guilty feeling settled in the pit of Michael’s gut. He inspected Joshua’s face more thoroughly, difficult as it was with only a small sliver of moonlight illuminating their bedroom, and noticed blue smudges under his eyes that hadn’t been there weeks ago. Furrowing his brows, Michael slid his gaze over Joshua’s face. Joshua had always been slim—too slim in Michael’s opinion, but that was a sore topic with Joshua—but now his cheeks were hollowed, accentuating his sharp cheekbones even more.

“Michael, do not freak out on me now, okay? It’s all fine.”

“You can go to bed if you’re tired; you don’t need to wait for me.” Michael tried not to wince when he mentally added, especially not on Tuesdays and Thursdays because on those days, I’ll always be late.

“Then we’d most likely only see each other on the weekends.” Joshua pressed a kiss to Michael’s lips, licking along the seam and demanding entrance. Joshua’s boldness had only developed recently, but wow, what a total turn-on it was for Michael.

Michael opened his mouth for Joshua’s exploration, quashing the urge to apologize to Joshua—again. It wasn’t his fault he currently had to drive up to Philadelphia each day for work, and he certainly couldn’t afford to say no to this job.

He’d finally managed to score a real job with some benefits. A couple more months and they could look for a new car… one Joshua could climb into on his own.

Joshua unlocked their lips, sighing. “I… I don’t think I can… I mean….”

Michael tilted his head, still reeling from the intense sensations Joshua’s tongue had evoked. Joshua’s left hand flopped next to his side and his right hand moved restlessly. Smiling, he said, “Bad muscle control?”

Joshua seemed to force his gaze up before he nodded. Michael captured his lips in a searing kiss. “Can I ride you?”

Hmm… definitely sounds like these guys have some challenges ahead.

interested? You can find AGAINST ALL ODDS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck adn keep reading my friends!

About the author:
Chris T. Kat lives in the middle of Europe, where she shares a house with her husband of many years and their two children. She stumbled upon the M/M genre by luck and was swiftly drawn into it. She divides her time between work, her family—which includes chasing after escaping horses and lugging around huge instruments such as a harp—and writing. She enjoys a variety of genres, such as mystery/suspense, paranormal, and romance. If there’s any spare time, she happily reads for hours, listens to audiobooks or does cross stitch.

Catch up to Chris online on her blog, twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

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