The Thrills Continue FIVE DARES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. FIVE DARES is not a sports romance, per se, but the two main characters are athletes and daredevils, and their predicament makes them nearly acrobatic in the bedroom. I have loved all the Eli Easton books I’ve read, including MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES, her HOWL AT MOON books and most recently DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA. FIVE DARES is another new adult romance, this time between two best friends who secretly love each other, but have to go through hell to connect physically.

About the book:
Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

My Review:
Andy and Jake have been best friends for a decade or more. They grew up together in the Boston area, went to school together and have been roommates for four years now at NYU, from which they’ve just graduated. As kids and adults, Jake has had a secret crush on Andy, the wild and charismatic son of an esteemed lawyer and a financial planner. Andy has a penchant for planning outrageous dares that Jake has been a part of as well, either as the front man egging him on and ginning up the crowd (at Andy’s behest) or as a co-participant. Jake gets a thrill out of being Andy’s closest confidant, but he’s wanted more for a long time now. Jake’s anxious to move to the west coast, knowing that he’ll leave Andy behind, so that he can maybe get the space he needs to find a boyfriend who can love him, unlike Andy who he believes is happily heterosexual.

Andy plans a spectacular dare for a big graduation party–and for once it goes horribly wrong. Andy and Jake end up with second degree burns on their palms, and Jake’s unable to leave for his new job; they both need eight weeks of rest to allow their skin to heal. Andy’s father is frustrated that Andy pulled another stunt, one that sabotaged his summer internship before he starts Harvard Law school in the fall, but Andy’s somewhat thrilled. He gets his father to let him and Jake their family cabin on Cape Cod in which to recuperate. They have daily nurse visits, and the cabin caretaker’s willing to make some meals for them while they both remain bandaged and a bit surly through recovery. Andy didn’t want to see his best friend leave, and this affords them a chance to have some uninterrupted time together before the next phase of their lives begins. Andy’s known that Jake is bisexual, at the very least, for more than a year, and he doesn’t understand why Jake never told him. Doesn’t Jake trust him? Doesn’t Jake want him? Should Andy want Jake to want him? It’s a hornet’s nest of jealousy, in Andy’s mind.

As the days and weeks pass and the boredom sets in, Andy comes up with a new dare, one that will scratch his itch for Jake’s undivided attention: that they combine forces to get each other off. They have no other sexual outlet, and can’t use their own hands to do the deed, not with all the bandages in the way, but some careful positioning might just allow for physical release. Jake’s not down with it, though, because he’s already too in love with Andy, and doesn’t want his heart smashed just for some experimental fling. The thing is, Jake’s been well-trained to go along with Andy’s dares, and this time he’s going to get more than a rush out of it. They only have a handful of weeks left together. And they make the most of it…until the next dare: falling head over heels in love.

This is such a sweet friends-to-lovers story. They history is carefully added in a series of vignette flashbacks that really demonstrate the bond between Andy and Jake, a bond Andy didn’t recognize was love until he’d almost lost Jake, and himself, in his new and lonely future. Andy’s father is a stern taskmaster and Andy can’t see veering of the path they outlined years ago, when Andy was still just a teen. But he’s not happy, and he misses Jake terribly. Their summer of love ended too soon, and his heart can’t take the thought that Jake will move on without him. Andy hadn’t considered himself bisexual, at all, until their summer together, but he’s miserable when Jake moves on to his new job. Jake isn’t doing much better, even though he likes his job and reconnecting with his sister, with whom he now lives. That said, he’s moping over the separation, and had to cut all contact with Jake in order to heal his busted heart. Naturally another dare brings them back together–not a good one, actually, but the more they chat the more Andy recognizes the reason for all his dares, stemming for the very first one, was gaining Jake’s attention and admiration. From then it’s just some career-plan gymnastics to reunite this couple for real.

There’s so much tenderness on the page, and some really steamy bits, too. We get both Andy and Jake’s point of view, so we can see all the internal anguish they manage as their relationship morphs. It was cool how Andy reached out to his mom for help, and advice, and how their conversation allowed Andy to re-evaluate his life goals and tailor them to his current dreams. He’s always been super athletic, and the branch of law he’d initially chosen wasn’t suitable to his outgoing and active personality. Plus, what’s the point of playing it safe all the time? For a dare-master like Andy it’s go big, or go home. And he’s never just gone home. It’s probably why he and Jake fit so well; their mutual love of the thrills in life. It’s a happy ending all around.

Interested? You can find FIVE DARES on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled 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, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. 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.

THanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Young Love DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for a new Christmas M/M romance from Eli Easton. I totally loved MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES last year, and I dove right into DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA, a sweet New Adult romance between an investigative journalism student and the not-so-out heavyweight wrestler at his university.

Also, don’t miss the MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES book giveaway below!
About the book: Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.

Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.

As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?

My Review:
Gabe Martin is a journalism student at Univ of Wisconsin-Madison and working on his senior project: an investigative piece. He’s also an intern for the local paper where he writes weather and stock updates. Boring! His first actual article is a story on the Elks Club Christmas dinner, which is a fundraiser for a small orphanage in town. Gabe digs in with his usual zest, praying he can find some shady side of this so-called “feel good” piece that can become part of his project. He thinks he might have an angle when he learns that the identity of the beloved Santa who brings gifts to the orphans is a mystery.

In the meantime, Gabe attends a wrestling meet with his best pal Jordan–who is there to sheer on his boyfriend, an openly bisexual team member. Gabe’s not into wrestling, but he does dig the sexy, strong men grappling on the mat. And, he’s especially intrigued by Mack McDonall, dubbed “The Mountain” because he’s nearly 7 feet tall and has to manage his diet in order to stay under his 285 pound weight limit. Yes, Mack is mountain Gabe would love to scale. And, when Jordan sets Mack and Gabe up on a blind date–dinner at his apartment with his boyfriend–where they seem to hit it off. Gabe is initially upset because he didn’t suspect Mack might be into guys. Still, they seem to build a rapport, and Gabe likes the way Mack looks at him…until Gabe discusses his Elks dinner article. Then, Mack gets frustrated and leaves.

Gabe continues on his journalistic endeavors, inadvertently learning that Mack was a resident of the orphanage, and that feels weird. He knows that Mack’s a really private person, and it seems like an invasion of his privacy. Gabe gets that Mack wouldn’t want this information getting around, yet his discomfort is too great to contain. He seeks out Mack, and tells him what he’s learned. He gets a whole lot deeper story than he imagined then, and decides to interview some of the current residents. The glowing praise the kids have for their home–because that is how they feel about where they live–really shines in Gabe’s article which becomes two pieces. The first one that whets the appetites of readers who are now intrigued by the mystery Santa. And, the orphanage garners tons of interest and donations. Good right? Not so much when Gabe learns that Mack’s past is wrapped into the mystery Santa angle. They have been building a connection on the super down-low because Mack is afraid coming out will jeopardize his scholarship status. They have common interests and a definite attraction.

Gabe knows that revealing Mack’s past in the paper will be the end of whatever it is that’s growing between them. They aren’t really dating, but Gabe doesn’t want to lose the connection; he’s been mostly adrift since his parents divorced and he came out. Mack has a small family, and he’s afraid to trust Gabe, knowing that Gabe has the power to hurt him. They have a slow burning romance, that culminates on the night of the Elks dinner, when Gabe orchestrates an even bigger story than the identity of Mystery Santa. It’s a compromise they can both live with, and their future, while uncertain at first, comes into close focus after that.

This is a tender book, with a sweet holiday theme. Gabe and Mack are a fun couple to watch fall in love. I enjoyed how they built a friendship, and then a romance. Mack’s traditional ideas were endearing, and really showed Gabe that hard work and deep investment yields a treasured result. And, also, that sharing information that isn’t essential isn’t a conflict of interest; it’s life. Shakespeare wrote: ‘The better part of valour, is Discretion.’ Even if Mack wasn’t an English scholar, he truly thought Gabe a hero for keeping his secrets safe.

Interested? You can find DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an ebook of MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES from Eli Easton. Wow! I loved that one.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

And, don’t forget to check out the previous books in this dog-gone fun series….

HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR.

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled 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, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. 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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Rescuing One’s Self: HOW TO SAVE A LIFE–Review, Exclusive Excerpt, and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and exclusive excerpt for the newest book in the Mad Creek universe from Eli Easton. HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is the fourth M/M canine shifter romance in this series and I absolutely adore them all. Check out my reviews for HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR because these are books to not miss…

Also, don’t miss the exclusive excerpt or the backlist book giveaway below!
About the book: Rav Miller looked into the terrified, intelligent eyes of the chocolate Labrador on death row, and knew he’d do anything to save him. When the dog, Sammy, escapes and heads to Mad Creek, Rav follows. Mad Creek. The town had become legendary in Rav’s mind after he’d met that bizarre group last year. Rav dismissed his crazy suspicions back then, but when he arrives in Mad Creek, he knows it’s true. Dog shifters exist, and apparently they all live in the California mountains. It’s enough to blow a bad boy’s mind.

Sammy has something in common with Rav—neither one of them trusts people. After Sammy’s abuse as a dog, he particularly dislikes tough-looking men like Rav. But when Sammy gets a chance to work with rescued dogs at the new Mad Creek shelter, his deep compulsion to help others overcomes his fear. Rav and Sammy bond over saving strays. If they can each find the courage to let someone else in, they might find their way to love.

Sheriff Lance Beaufort doesn’t like humans moving into Mad Creek, especially not the tattooed and defiant Rav. When Rav starts a rescue shelter, the town thinks he’s wonderful! But Lance isn’t fooled. He doesn’t buy Rav’s innocent act for one second. How much does Rav know about the quickened? What is his game? And why did he have to show up now, when Lance and the other town leaders are overwhelmed by all the new quickened pouring in?

Rav knows how to save a life. But can he save an entire town? Can he rescue Mad Creek?

An awesome, exclusive excerpt!

Sammy looked back at Rav and waved. “Come on! Come swim!”

“Not yet. You go ahead.”

Sammy tossed his head, like Rav was being silly, and went deeper. He started paddling around. Dog paddling, his hands working the water in front of his chest, a huge grin on his face. Fuck it, that was cute. Rav smiled to himself as he unloaded the bike’s saddlebags. He’d brought an old blanket, a couple of collapsible chairs, a case of beer, a bag of chips, salsa, and guacamole he’d made himself. Damn, he hardly knew himself, acting all neighborly and shit, like he was actually a part of this community. But he’d lived in Arizona long enough to treasure his damn guacamole.

He set up the blanket and chairs and took the food and beer over to the food table. Lily and Tim were there, setting out plates and utensils.

“Hey,” Rav said.

“Hello, Rav.” Lily’s gaze was assessing, like he was a bug and she was trying to figure out the species. “How’s the shelter doing? I hear about it endlessly from everyone in town.”

“Not surprised. I think everyone in town has volunteered at least once.”

“Oh? How’s that working out for you? Are they helping?”

“They’re very enthusiastic.” Rav kept his voice carefully neutral.

“Is it hot today, or what?” Tim gushed. “Looks like Sammy has the right idea, getting in the lake.”

“He knows what he wants all right,” Rav agreed.

Lily looked at Sammy in the water, dog paddling around, then at Rav. Her head tilted curiously, and her eyes were narrowed and searching.

Sweat broke out on the back of Rav’s neck. It was like that scene in Children of the Damned when the alien kids were trying to read the guy’s mind and he pictured a brick wall to block them.

“Cold beer?” he asked abruptly, holding up the heavy case with one hand. “Is there ice somewhere?”

“There’re a bunch of coolers.” Tim nodded over his shoulder at a whole row of variously hued insulated boxes. “Feel free to use them if you can find space.”

“Got it.” Rav went to it, happy to leave Lily’s company.

He’d met her a few times. She was supportive of the shelter and the idea of rescuing dogs, but Rav got the feeling she could read him like a book. And Rav wasn’t all that keen to be read, thank you.

After stuffing half the case of beer in the coolers, he sat in a chair on the blanket and drank from a freshly opened bottle. He wasn’t being very social, but with all the volunteers he had at the shelter, it was nice to have time alone, to just be still for ten damn minutes and watch Sammy swim. Daisy pulled Sammy toward shore until they were both waist-deep. She wore a pink bikini, and Rav couldn’t help but notice that she had a great figure. Strong and lean. Damn, she looked so human.

Dog shifters were fucking amazing.

She rotated her arms in the air, demonstrating a long forward stroke. Sammy copied her, his wet arms flashing in the sun. She was chatting away with him, though Rav couldn’t hear what she was saying. After a bit, they moved deeper into the water, and Sammy tried to repeat the overhead stroke. But his elbows kept wanting to fold up and his hands to paddle at chest-level. The two of them were soon giggling like mad. Fuck. Where was Rav’s phone? He should seriously be videoing this because it was the cutest… in the world, the thing with the….

He’d just raised the phone and started filming when someone plopped down in the other chair on the blanket. In Sammy’s chair. Rav inwardly groaned when he saw it was Sheriff Lance Beaufort. He stopped filming guiltily and dropped the phone onto the blanket.

“What?” he asked bluntly. This is my fucking holiday, man. Leave off busting my balls.

For a moment, Lance was silent, like a bomb waiting to go off. Then: “I hear Sammy moved in with you, Mr. Miller.”

Rav felt a flicker of shame, though he had nothing on God’s earth to be ashamed about. He forced his body to relax.

“Yeah, well, Lance, Sammy said the town needed that teeny tiny tool shed he was living in. Apparently, you guys don’t have enough beds for people? Or something like that. And since he was mostly staying overnight at the shelter anyway, he gave his space up to someone else. So yes, he’s commandeered my couch. You’re welcome. Happy to contribute.”

Lance went tense all over and got a constipated expression. Rav pictured his head as a cartoon volcano with smoke rolling out. He had to bite back a laugh. Yes, dear old daddy was right. The best defense was offense, preferably with a nice smooth knife twist at the end. Rav had a feeling Lance would be sensitive about any perceived criticism of Mad Creek.

“The town doesn’t need your contribution,” Lance said in a voice of pure wounded pride.

Rav shrugged again, poking the bull. “That’s not the impression I got. But no worries, bruh.”

Lance took a few deep breaths and went back on the attack. “So he’s sleeping on the couch, out of the kindness of your heart? That’s your story? I hope you’re not taking advantage of that kid. Sammy’s always given me the impression that he’s… innocent. I think he was, uh, sheltered growing up.”

Rav kept his benign expression, but the barb hit home. “Yes, he’s on the couch. Ask him yourself. Or maybe not, since he’s not a minor, and it’s really none of your business.”

Lance huffed.

Rav settled back in his chair, tilting his face up to the sky. He wasn’t keeping score, but he thought he was ahead.

“So. Have you, um, noticed anything… unusual about Sammy? Now that he’s living with you?” Lance fished.

“Like what?”

Like…” Lance growled, impatient. “He’s… different. From other guys.”

“The world would be boring as fuck if we were all alike.”

“No, I mean really. Really, very different.”

Out of Rav’s peripheral vision, he could see Lance’s intense blue eyes staring at him.

“He’s different,” Rav agreed slowly. “Most guys are assholes. I can say that with some authority because I am one.”

“Truer words.”

“Sammy, on the other hand, is not an asshole.”

“No. He’s not,” Lance agreed. “He’s also not particularly well-educated. He’s, um, taking classes with my mom. Basic stuff. Very, very basic.”

Rav casually slapped at a fly on his arm. “We all have our challenges. I don’t hold that against him.”

Lance growled low in his chest, evidently getting frustrated. “You haven’t noticed anything else odd about him?”

As amusing as this was on some level, Rav was starting to lose patience. “What are you getting at? Are you implying that Sammy is simple-minded? Because he’s not. He’s fully capable of making his own decisions.”

“I never said that. Lily says Sammy is very bright, one of her brightest qui—er, students. But he still can barely read and write. Did you hire him because he’s attractive? Because you wanted to get him into your bed?”

Rav had a serious urge to punch the guy. But his upbringing taught him that power came from feeling no emotion, or at least acting like he didn’t. The calmest man in the room won over the ranting lunatic. He forced himself to release the tension. He even yawned to show how much he wasn’t bothered.

“I hired him because he’s great with the dogs. Period.”

Lance’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why do you think that is, Mr. Miller?”

Man. This guy was like a bloodhound on a scent. But if he thought he could get Rav Miller to crack, he was barking up the wrong tree. “How do you explain any talent? Maybe he’s got a sensitive soul.”

Lance was quiet for a long moment.

“I know you’re not a stupid man,” Lance said finally, in a low and serious tone. “And definitely not as stupid as you want me to think you are.”

“I don’t care what you think.”

“Tell me you don’t know there’s something different about this town. About these people. What are you hiding?”

Rav looked Lance in the eye. “Do you want to know what I think about Mad Creek? I think you’ve got a hell of an unemployment problem, and I can’t see that you’re doing jack all about it. Did you see how many people showed up to apply for that job I opened? And every day I get ten, twenty people coming around wanting to do something, anything. So maybe instead of spending your time worrying about law-abiding business owners who are trying to do some good in the world, you should focus on helping your own community. Just a suggestion. Lance.”

Lance flushed firecracker red. Even his ears lit up and his eyes snapped. Oh yeah, there went the volcano. Ka-blam. So that was Lance’s sore spot. Good to know.

“This community and its needs are not your problem, Mr. Miller.” Lance’s voice shook.

“Well then, how about we make a deal? You stay out of my business, and I’ll stay out of yours?” Rav stared Lance down. Yeah, that’s a threat, buddy. How do you like it?

Lance got up and walked away.

Rav needed to cool down, in more ways than one, so after Lance left, he stripped off his tank and waded into the lake.

Daisy and Sammy were swimming back and forth between the shore and a wooden dock that was out several hundred yards in the water. The next time they got close, Rav joined the race. He wasn’t the most graceful swimmer in the world, or the fastest, but he had a lot of anger to burn off and he attacked the water like a demented mermaid. Even so, he reached the dock seconds after Sammy. Sammy bobbed in the water, his face split wide with a smile.

“You can swim!” he exclaimed, as if Rav had been holding out on him.

“‘Course I can swim. What do you think? I know everything.”

Daisy laughed. “Don’t believe him, Sammy. All men think that.”

“Oh I know he doesn’t know everything,” Sammy said coyly.

Sammy and Daisy exchanged a knowing glance. Rav decided to change the subject.

“I see you’re getting the hang of it.” Rav mimicked the overhead stroke.

“Yes, it’s much faster.” Sammy held out one long arm and turned it back and forth, looking at it critically.

“Rav, you can play with Sammy for a while. I’m gonna go eat now!” Daisy chirped.

“Don’t eat all the burgers. Save some for us,” Rav said sternly.

“He’s joking,” Sammy told her. “He’s so funny!” Humor was Sammy’s new thing, and he couldn’t get enough of old TCM comedies right now. Daisy just laughed and headed back to shore.

“Don’t mow all the grass!” Sammy called out after her. “And don’t spill all the Coke! Ha-ha!”

“You’re a goof,” Rav told him.

“What’s that mean?”

“That means you’re silly. It’s a compliment.”

Rav leveraged himself out of the water onto the wooden dock, his triceps bulging, and was slightly annoyed when Sammy swung up beside him so easily he might have weighed nothing at all. Rav wiped the water off his face and beard and smoothed back his hair. As usual, concepts of personal boundaries held no sway with Sammy, and he didn’t leave enough room between them for a whisper. His slick arm and side rubbed against Rav’s.

“You like the water, I see.” Rav said.

“Yes. I forgot how much! I used to swim when I was… young.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. Swimming is very—” Sammy thought about it. “Refreshing.”

Rav smiled at Sammy fondly. The shimmering water and sun, and his slicked back hair, brought the lines of his face into sharp focus. God, he was changing so rapidly. It was a little, Rav imagined, like having a child. Parents were always saying things like “He’s growing so fast!” Only in Sammy’s case, it wasn’t his body, but his mind and behavior that were changing, and it at lightning speed. He liked using bigger words, picking them up from Rav or the TV or God-knows-where, all as though his brain were a dictionary database. He was getting more talkative, joking and laughing more. He was moving with more swagger too, acting like a tough guy, possibly, Rav realized, imitating Rav himself. It was almost sad to see the shy, awkward Sammy ebb away. Or it would have been, if the new, more confident Sammy were not so damned appealing. Rav loved seeing Sammy happy.

“Why do you look at me like that?” Sammy asked, his golden eyes staring back into Rav’s.

Rav blinked and looked away. “Sorry. Guess I was thinking about something else.”

“What? You must like it a whole lot. Your eyes were all melty.”

“Hmmm. Were they?”

Sammy didn’t push for an answer. He put his head on Rav’s shoulder. His wet hair was damp and cold where the sun had already warmed Rav’s skin.

My Review:
Rav Miller is a big, brawny biker with a heart of absolute gold, when it applies to dogs. People, not so much. He grew up in a family that thrived on making tons of cash in real estate and business, but he didn’t like the cut-throat, often not even legal, tactics they took to make more and more money. So, he stepped away and began rescuing dogs.

Over the years, he decided that opening a no-kill shelter was the best manner to his goal: more dog rescues. He even went to shelters in his area and rescued dogs tagged for destruction. A year ago, he met some strange men from Mad Creek, California; these guys helped him return all his animals from sheltering int he desert after vandals had turned the whole facility loose. Rav never forgot the experience, and he was struck by the intelligence in the eyes of some random dogs they’d brought along, including Milo. And, he sees that same spark of intelligence in Sammy, a shy chocolate lab.

Sammy’s first life was as a chocolate lab, and it began with a great start. He loved his owner, and she loved him, but she fell down the stairs one day and he was too scared to bark for help. Her sister took Sammy in when his first owner died. But, this woman’s husband was abusive and particularly hated Sammy. He hated when Sammy interfered while he was beating his wife, and he beat Sammy, too. He threatened to leave Sammy out in the snow during the winter, so she took him to a shelter. There he meets a dog who can turn into a man, one who insists Sammy will be able to do so if only he tries hard enough. Sammy isn’t sure if he can, but he also recognizes that he needs to get away from this shelter before his kill date comes up. He takes careful note of his dog-man-friend’s instruction on how to make it to Mad Creek and be safe. All Sammy needs to do is get adopted, however, he is terrified of large men and few families are willing to adopt him. His kill date draws lethally close. Until Rav comes along.

Rav tries to win Sammy’s trust, but it’s hard to do. Within a week, Sammy the dog goes missing. Rav’s speechless when he watches surveillance footage showing Sammy open his cage, and several doors, in order to release himself from captivity. Upon activating Sammy’s tracker, he follows his meandering labrador to Mad Creek, several hundred miles away. Two connections to Mad Creek in one year is too much coincidence, and Rav decides a road trip is necessary. Arriving, he cannot believe what he finds: lots and lots of doggy-acting humans. Is it magic, or science? If there’s any people Rav could love, it would be these remarkable dog-people.

Sheriff Lance Beaufort isn’t happy that Rav’s deciding to stay, but the whole town is overjoyed when Rav announces he’s planning to open a dog rescue in Mad Creek, and he’s willing to hire members from the community as staff: firstly, Sammy. He immediately notices how many unemployed people live in Mad Creek, and how thin the financial resources are stretched. Yet, working with Sammy shows Rav how easy it is to train the “quickened” dogs (who appear as people because they are dog shifters) in new, but repetitive, tasks. It’s first nature to them to do the same thing over and over, and it gets Rav’s brain working on potential industries he might be able to bring to Mad Creek, to provide jobs for the thousands of quickened who’d never adapt sufficiently to standard jobs in an unsheltered life.

While Sammy is falling head over tails for Rav, Rav’s doing the same with Sammy. Their relationship grows slowly, because Sammy is newly quickened and his physical body is more mature than his emotional or mental age. Plus, Sammy is still shy of large men, even in his human body. Still, being close with Rav is exciting and Sammy’s pals, like Milo, help him figure out how to become a physical lover. Rav’s patience and quiet love for the man-dog he’d rescued back in Arizona pays off, and Rav’s experience in business brings new life to Mad Creek. I don’t really want to discuss those details, because the intricate plotting is very sweet. The book is a bit of a slow burn, and has some dark moments, too. Like, Sammy’s experiences of abuse, and the way the Mad Creek folks try to run Rav out of town. Expect true love to win the day, Sheriff Lance to get a new partner in caring for Mad Creek, and the quickened to find new hope and industry. It’s tender adn sweet and gooey and I loved every second of it. While there’s no guarantee we’ll see another book in this series, I’m wishing on stars and howling at the moon for one.

Interested? You can find HOW TO SAVE A LIFE on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Eli Easton.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

And, don’t forget to  check out the previous books in this dog-gone fun series….

HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR.

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled 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, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. 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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So Many Great Books!!! 2016 Bests

Hi there! Well, it’s been a YEAR! Ugh! I’m not going to bemoan it too much, because this blog is a way for me to escape the everyday drama. So, let’s do that, shall we!

First, it’s been a book-filled year! 279 books, and 58,968 pages logged through Goodreads, though I’ve forgotten some and ran out of time to add others. So, you’ll see those reviews in the coming year.

I usually make a whole long list, and this year is no exception. It isn’t a Top Ten countdown, or anything. I’d recommend any of these books equally. Hit the links for a full review.

FLIP-THE-BIRD-2Awesome YA books:
Flip the Bird by Kym Brunner. A high school freshman and training falconer falls for a girl whose parents are animal rights fanatics. Big trouble, great messages.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Slice of life book about questioning young gay persons. Really got my heart engaged. Also fell into the Most Challenged (Banned) category that I was interested in exploring.

Girl Against The Universe by Paula Stokes. A girl struggles to get past her guilt, and rebuild her life after tragedies take away half her family.

Simon V. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Coming out shouldn’t be this way. Simon’s awesome, and lovely.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I felt transported to 1987 Texas. It’s not a place I’d want to be–but I’d go there just to be with Ari and Dante. Thick book devoured in a day.

Great anybody reads:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, James Thorne, and JK Rowling.  Harry’s all grown up, and saving the world, yet again. This time his son is the biggest problem.

illusory-prophetCrossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro. Brave and bawdy ladies of the air try to be the first to cross the Atlantic.

Illusory Prophet by Susan Kaye Quinn.  A futuristic saga with an enhanced human trying to save the rest of humanity. This is the third book in a series. Get them all.

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema. Lou is a champion swimmer whose been cast out of the pool. It’s pants-wettingly funny.

Great Gay romance:
My goodness. I read SOOO many of these. (more than 100! in 2016) Here’s a few hightlights:
Fave Hurt/Comfort: WHAT REMAINS by Garrett Leigh. Man. This one broke my heart into a million pieces by the end. A man struggles to support his lover after a traumatic brain injury destroys his partner’s memories of their love affair.

A Bear Walks Into A BarFave Dirty Pleasure read: A BEAR WALKS INTO A BAR is a straight up gay erotica from Eden Winters. There’s no man the big bad bear won’t have. Once, or twice. Multi-partner, orgy and various shifters dead ahead.

Fave Paranormal: WOLFSONG by TJ Klune. Pick this one up to curl up with over a cold weekend. It’s really long, yet the unconventional prose had me riveted. It’s a fated mates, shifter story that blew me away.

Fave Virgin Lover: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT by Jay Northcote. This is so fun, with a nerdy college student trading love lessons for stats tutoring with his sporty neighbor. I enjoyed every moment of them crossing sexytimes off the list.

Fave Steampunk/Alt History:
CLOCKWORK HEART by Heidi Cullinan. A French tinker saves a dying Hungarian with the long-sought clockwork heart technology his master has been hiding for years. Let the pursuit begin.

walk-like-a-manFave Shifter romance: HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN by Eli Easton. This is the second book in a series, and I think readers will enjoy all of them, but this one is my favorite, so far. The story revolves around a man who used to be a dog, and how he copes with being human, and finding love with a fellow police officer.

Fave Ugly Cry: SELFIE by Amy Lane. Features a Hollywood star living through the death of his closeted partner—and his complete and utter heartbreak. Suicide ideation, depression, coping, and new love. It was a rollercoaster of feels—all of them intense.

Fave Series: CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pacat. I read all three of these books in a week back in March, because I lost my mind with the first book and dove headlong into the series. Sleepless for at least one night so I could get to the end. Amazing if you like fantasy/political intrigue. PRINCE’S GAMBIT KINGS RISING, are the other two books. Must read.

Fave Sequel: FIGHT THE TIDE by Keira Andrews. This is the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS and it kicked ass. Surviving in a post-apocalyptic world is rough, but it’s easier when your boyfriend is a werewolf. So many zombies…

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverFave Het Romances:
TOO HOT TO HANDLE by Tessa Bailey. A chef burns sown her mother’s former restaurant, and cobbles her busted family to go on a vision quest trip from San Diego to NYC. Sweet and raunchy by turns.

JACKSON’S TRUST by Violet Duke. Love for two sports reporters/analysts with an unhealthy dose of crappy family drama.

COCKY BASTARD by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. Very fun story about a lawyer running from her disastrous past, and the sexy soccer player who scoops her up in the middle of nowhere.

bright-blazeFave ending to a series:
BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC by Jennifer Estep. This is the third book in an urban fantasy YA series that rocks. I recommend all the books highly, but this finale did NOT disappoint. Magic, magical creatures, fighting for your family until the death, a wee bit of love and romance? Bam! It’s all there.

MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger. I’ve completely fallen for this steampunk world of intrigue and assassins.

Fave transgender YA read:
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson. Heartbreakingly freaking awesome. Some part of me will always remember this one. For kids/parents who are questioning gender dysphoria, I highly recommend.

Okay, so lots of different stuff to pick from because I have eclectic tastes. Hopefully something piques your interest, too. Share your fave reads in the comments so I can find something new, or just commiserate.

Going forward into 2017, I have a plan to pick up TBR reads on Thursdays, because, wow, to I have a lot of books in my queue. And, I probably won’t be posting quite as many reviews…because I’m back to teaching in February, that shaping young minds takes up a LOT of reading time, yo.

As always, thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES–Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m celebrating the release of a sweet and tender contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Eli Easton. I’ve been charmed by her books filled with small-town love for a while and wholly recommend FALLING DOWN and A SECOND HARVEST. MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES is a different kind of romance, where a young librarian comes to realize his slightly older boss is actually a kick-ass hero ninja librarian, in the figurative sense.

Catch my review below and be sure to enter the $25 or book giveaway, too!

merry-christmasmrmiggles-600x900About the book:
Toby Kincaid loves being the junior librarian in his hometown of Sandy Lake, Ohio. He spends his days surrounded by books and chatting with the library patrons. He especially adores the head librarian, Mr. Miggles, who is kind, witty, knowlegable about everything, and hopelessly addicted to Christmas. Sean Miggles is also pretty cute—especially for an older guy who wears ties and suit pants every day.

But Sean keeps himself at a distance, and there’s a sadness about him that Toby can’t figure out. When Sean is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he gives up without a fight. Toby realizes that he alone can save the library—and their head librarian.

Toby will need to uncover the darkness in Sean’s past and prove to him that he deserves a second chance at life and at love too. And while Christmas miracles are being handed out, maybe Toby will get his own dearest wish—to love and be loved by Mr. Miggles.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this quiet, M/M Christmas romance.

Toby is the junior librarian in his home town of Sandy Lake, Ohio. He’s also one of two employees of this small-town library. His boss, Mr. Miggles, is the other.

He was the buttoned-up, tie wearing, head librarian and my boss. He acted older than he actually was. He was probably in his thirties but he dressed up everyday in a suit and tie…He was always serious, often sad, and he had an ageless, professorial thing going on. I thought of him as the Socratic ninja of the Sandy Lake Library. He moved around stealthily, getting invisible shit done. And when he did speak, he sounded like he was reading from one of the high-brow books he loved.
It was kind of awesome.
My role, on the other hand, was to be the smart, hip, and mildly jaded young employee. I played it to perfection, if I do say so myself.

Mr. Miggles is an enigma to Toby. And that’s cool. I mean, Toby has a hot boyfriend, Justin, who, you know, borrows money without paying it back, and never pays his share, and hardly goes out to do anything with Toby that could possibly be a “date” but. Yeah.

We learn early that Christmas is fast approaching, and Mr. Miggles is a man who loves Christmas, despite having no discernible family or friends. Still, he relishes dressing up the library with decorations, and putting out the Christmas Surprise Box, a prize that–Toby notices–gets lots of raffle entries, despite the modest $50 contents.

Right about this time little Tanya Lemmens begins getting dumped at the library. She’s maybe five years old, and her single mother, Anita, may actually be looking for a job, but it’s still irresponsible of her to simply drop the child off and run. Mr. Miggles makes it his mission to entertain withdrawn and likely malnourished Tanya. Despite Toby’s requests to call Child Protective Services, Mr. Miggles acts as a surrogate parent for days–until he spots the bruises.

What seems to be an open-and-shut case of neglect and abuse gets turned around, with Mr. Miggles under investigation. Why would a single man take charge of such a young girl? Was he ever alone with her? Some of his tragic past gets twisted and leaked to the local paper to paint this compassionate, conscientious man as possibly predatory.

Toby’s beside himself. In his role as sole librarian, while Mr. Miggles is held for questioning and later released but banned from work, Toby learns all about Mr. Miggles’ side work for the library. How there are several down-on-their luck regular library patrons who “win” the single Surprise box every year. How that crafty, ninja librarian, Mr. Miggles, also got special books for his patrons, including expensive large-types for the elderly, and over-budget cancer books for the newly-diagnosed, and made weekly visits on his off-time to shut-in nursing home patients as part of yet-another unfunded “outreach program” that only he knows about. Toby fairly swoons learning he’d invested his salary over and over again, to the benefit of the Sandy Lake community. The more Toby learns, the more he knows he has to do something to save Mr. Miggles’ job. Because Sandy Lake won’t be the same without him. (Oh, and because Toby’s half madly in love with his erudite, tweedy boss…)

This is a book about small-town politics and small-town compassion, which are, unfortunately, at odds. Mr. Miggles is a good man caught in a crossfire of prejudice and politics. It’s also unfortunate that Mr. Miggles has been so private; because he’s kept so many secrets it’s hard to mount a defense, at first. Still, he has many fans in the community, and Toby’s determination knows no boundaries. All this esteem tips over into the attraction category–long before Toby even knows Mr. Miggles is a gay man, mourning a tragedy he left behind in LA.

The way this community circles it’s wagons for Mr. Miggles is really something special. Toby won’t let Mr. Miggles give up without a fight, and his reaction to Toby’s offensive is nothing less than tear-worthy. The book is a different type of romance. There’s no dating, or wooing. There is simply Toby helping his dear boss, and developing an attraction he’d not expected to have reciprocated–but it was. Expect just a bit of sexytimes mostly near the end, and whoo-boy! To be a fly on the wall of the Mysteries section of the library that evening!! O.O

I loved the way all of this turned out, a quiet, feel-good read that will satisfy.

Interested? You can find MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK) and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon GC or a copy of UNWRAPPING HANK.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, 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 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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Reaping Love in A SECOND HARVEST–Review and Giveaway!

A Second Harvest Blog Tour Banner BannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. I’ve loved her books, including HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR, so I couldn’t wait to read A SECOND HARVEST, a tumultuous, yet delicious, pairing of opposites.

Catch my review, an excerpt and get in on the $25 GC or book giveaway below!

SecondHarvest[A]FSAbout the book:
David Fisher has lived by the rules all his life. Born to a Mennonite family, he obeyed his father and took over the family farm, married, and had two children. Now with his kids both in college and his wife deceased, he runs his farm alone and without joy, counting off the days of a life half lived.

Christie Landon, graphic designer, Manhattanite, and fierce gay party boy, needs a change. Now thirty, he figures it’s time to grow up and think about his future. When his best friend overdoses, Christie resolves to take a break from the city. He heads to a small house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to rest, recoup, and reflect.

But life in the country is boring, despite glimpses of the hunky silver fox next door. When Christie’s creativity latches on to cooking, he decides to approach his widower neighbor with a plan to share meals and grocery expenses. David agrees, and soon the odd couple find they really enjoy spending time together.

Christie challenges the boundaries of David’s closed world and brings out feelings he buried long ago. If he can break free of the past, he might find a second chance at happiness.

How about a little taste?

It was Saturday and the idea of doing more cleaning held little appeal. What else did he have to do with himself? Nothing. The temptation to go into Lancaster or Harrisburg was there, to seek out a gay bar, or even get on Grindr. Gay men had to exist out here. But… that wasn’t why he moved here. He came here to get away from all that for a little while.

His mind made up, he went to the grocery store in town with a long list. It was a big-chain grocery store, and he was pleased to find nearly everything he needed. The October day was bright with crisp leaves and a blue sky. When he got back home with his sacks of goodies, it was still early afternoon. He opened the windows in the kitchen—struggling against the one over the sink that stuck—turned up the music on his iPhone, and started dancing around, organizing his supplies and digging out pots and pans.

He made the curried carrot ginger soup, a lovely dish with fresh peas, green onion, and radishes, some savory cheese-and-herb swirled biscuits, and a basic herb-roasted chicken. He truly did love to cook, though the past few years, it never seemed worth the effort. There were so many great takeout places in the East Village. Plus Kyle was such a picky eater. He basically ate pizza and stripped-down salads, and that was it.

It occurred to Christie while he was prepping this meal that it was going to be a beautiful repast, and it was a shame he didn’t have anyone to share it with. He could freeze some of it, but it wouldn’t be the same. He thought of David next door, living alone, and of his TV dinner. Would that be weird? That would be weird, right?

Pushing it from his mind, Christie spent the rest of the afternoon jamming to tunes in the kitchen and working his way through the recipes, having fun and dancing in his stocking feet.

When everything was ready, Christie decided the meal deserved some pomp and circumstance. His aunt had a drawer of tablecloths, but they were not quite his style. He used a white linen towel for a place mat and put each dish on the table in the best china dishes he could find. He used a red cut glass for his water and lit a candle in an old silver candlestick he found in the cupboard.

He looked at the table and chewed his lip. Everything looked beautiful. It smelled amazing too. He sucked some chicken juice from his thumb—yum. It almost seemed like a waste to eat it. He wished someone were here to share the meal with him. Anyone, really. The idea he’d avoided thinking about while cooking poked its head out again.

Well. He’d never been exactly shy. If he was going to do this, he had to do it quickly. The food was getting cold.

With a nervous shake of his head, Christie decided. He cut the roast chicken in half and put it on a large plate with a little bit of everything else, covered it with aluminum foil, and ran out the back door.

He hadn’t been to the Fisher’s farm before, and it turned out to be a longer trip down the gravel lane than he anticipated, maybe a quarter mile. He kept up a jog, worried about the food getting ruined. Between that and his nerves, he had a fine sheen of sweat when he got there.

David’s farm was beautiful. The white barn Christie had seen from a distance was huge and picturesque. It made Christie’s fingers itch to draw it. The farmhouse was fieldstone with black shutters. Electric candles in the windows gave it a cozy Colonial air and made Christie realize how dark it was getting outside. Why hadn’t he grabbed his coat? It was fucking freezing. He was an idiot—a shivering idiot at the moment.

Determined to drop off his gift without further delay, he marched to the back door and firmly knocked.

Enthusiastic barking commenced. More than one dog—two or three. Christie felt a little nervous. He liked dogs, but these farm dogs might be territorial. And he was holding a plate of chicken. He might as well have bathed in bacon grease.

A deep voice silenced the dogs and the door opened. David’s face looked stern and worn for a moment, but when he recognized Christie, a smile softened it. “Oh, hi.”

“Hi. Sorry to bother you, but I spent the day cooking, and I made all this food. No way can I eat it all, so I thought I’d bring you a plate. You know, to make up for causing you to burn your dinner the other day, fixing my smoke detector and all.” God, he was overdoing it! Shut up, Christie.

“Oh.” David looked surprised. He glanced at the foil-covered plate in Christie’s hand. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I was bored.” Christie’s shrug turned into a shiver. He held out the plate. His mouth was dry. He was starting to wish he hadn’t done this.

There was a reserve about David, a way he kept himself at arm’s length. Christie sensed that when David stopped by his house, but he put it down to the fact they were strangers. The vibe was stronger here, on David’s turf. Christie felt like an intruder standing at the back door. David was looking at the plate with an unreadable expression. Please just take it.

Then the wind shifted and a delicious aroma billowed up. David’s face grew curious. “Roast chicken?”

“Yeah. It was from a Thanksgiving magazine. I made some sides too.”

Suddenly David moved. “Heck, you must be freezing. Come inside.”

“Thanks. I can’t stay. I just wanted to drop this off.” But Christie was stepping inside as he spoke, welcoming any relief from the cold air.

“River. Tonga. Sit.” David shut the door. The dogs sat obediently. One was a golden retriever and the other a large furry black mix of some kind.

“Tonga?” Christie asked.

“It’s an island,” David said with an adorably bashful duck of his head. He took the plate from Christie and raised the foil, looked at it, and smelled. “This looks really good. You made this?”

“Sure. I just followed the recipes.” But David’s words made Christie feel infinitely better about bringing it by. “Well. I’ll leave you to eat it before it gets cold. I have mine back at the house.”

“Thanks. It beats the heck out of frozen food.” David sounded sincere. He put the plate on the counter. “Hang on.” He opened up an accordion door in the hall, revealing an overstuffed closet with a collection of coats, hats, and shoes. He selected a black woolen pea coat with large buttons and pulled it out. “You’re going to freeze to death.”

“It was stupid not to wear my coat. I didn’t realize it was so far over here.”

David got an amused smile, but he wasn’t looking directly into Christie’s eyes, so he still seemed uncomfortable. Instead of handing Christie the coat, though, he held it open and moved behind Christie.

Christie blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had helped him into a coat. He held back his arms and let David slip the coat onto him. It fit in the shoulders okay, but it was big around the waist and hips. David turned Christie in a matter-of-fact way and started doing up the buttons.

Christie’s eyes widened, and he swallowed hard. What the hell? Did David think he was a child? But there was something titillating about being taken care of, or maybe it was David’s proximity, his handsome face focused on his task, his rough hands so close to Christie’s body.

Yes, it was definitely the proximity. Wow, David was a good-looking man. Who knew rugged could be so hot? And to think of all the money Christie had spent on grooming!

There were only five buttons, and when David finished the last of them, just below Christie’s chin, he looked up and saw Christie’s face. He suddenly blushed, his nose and cheeks going red. He dropped his hands and took a step back. “Sorry. That was… sorry.”

“I didn’t mind.” Oh God, Christie’s voice had dropped in register and sounded rumbly to his own ears. That was a smexy voice! What the hell was he doing? “Um… thanks for the jacket, David. I’ll bring it back later.”

“No hurry.” David was avoiding his gaze again.

Christie yanked the door open, escaped the house with a silly little wave, and walked fast back to his aunt’s place.

Once inside he found his own food was only tepidly warm, but still flavorful and delicious. The herb glaze on the chicken was to die for, and it went beautifully with the floury-cheesy biscuits and the curried soup. He hoped David liked it too.

He kept the coat on while he ate, snuggling into the fabric and holding the collar close under his chin. It smelled of earth and hay, a slight trace of motor oil, and the smell of a working man—piney, sweaty, and altogether appealing.

He remained in the coat all through dinner. But only because he was cold.

My Review:
David is a Mennonite farmer in rural Pennsylvania. He’s 41, a widower, and lonely. His two children are at college and he works long hours in solitude. His daughter wants him to remarry. His minister wants him to remarry. Women from his church want him to remarry–and David refuses. He’d rather be alone than yoked into another marriage he doesn’t want.

Christie is a svelte out-gay man living and loving in Manhattan. He’s thirty and jaded, unhappy with the same old party scene, but this all changes when his roommate and bestie, Kyle, nearly dies of an overdose. They vow to live life to the fullest, and while Kyle marries a man who’d long chased him, Christie decides to take six months to clear out the house his aunt left to him. There isn’t much to do in Pennsylvania Amish Country, and Christie’s excess energy soon finds an outlet in gourmet cooking. Kinda a pain cooking for one, though, and his silver fox of a neighbor is single. He strikes a bargain–they split the cost of groceries, and David can stop existing on TV dinners.

Soon, David and Christie are sharing more than dinner. They converse, they jog, they work David’s farm, a bit, together. Christie is falling deep into like, and David’s thrilled to be the center of someone’s attention for the first time in his life. He loves how Christie seeks out recipes from far off lands, places David has studied via National Geographic and always longed to visit–but never could. Their camaraderie is not unnoticed, and David’s theology-student son, in particular, is deeply troubled.

David had never suspected Christie was gay, and Christie never mentioned it–mostly because he was afraid to lose David’s friendship. It’s a big kerfuffle when David learns, but it’s not the end. Nope, it’s a new beginning.

I really loved the quiet and slow-burning romance here. It’s really tender, and lovely. Christie isn’t vamping for a man, he’s building a friendship with a man he never intends to have relations with, only to learn that David’s not averse. David has walked paths laid out by others his whole life, and he finds himself very unhappy. Should he continue to suffer in silence to appease people–his elderly mother and children–who are barely part of his life? It’s not a hard choice to make, on the surface, but can David trust that beautiful, talented Christie truly wants a middle-aged farmer hick, like himself? Outing himself would separate him from his entire Mennonite community, and could easily spell financial ruin, but in the end, David’s just not willing to live a life without love, and die early and unhappily like his father.

There are some really harrowing moments, and emergency services are necessary more than once. I was nearly beside myself with concern, and was glad that those scenarios turned out positively. I thought the small cast of supporting characters was all rendered very solidly on the page. I think I might have liked a bit more background on the Mennonite experience. David’s nearly estranged from his faith at the time we meet him, so it’s not so hard for him to pull farther away. I honestly didn’t learn much about Mennonites, and that was a shame, for me.

That said, I love the story, and I adored both David and Christie. That they found love together was kismet.

Interested? You can find A SECOND HARVEST on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press (eBook or Paperback), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and AllRomance.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, 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.

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