Out Today! TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP…

Hi there! Today I’m spreading the word on a newly revised and expanded M/M contemporary romance from Jay Northcote. TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP sounds like spring break gone severely wild, but it’s a sweet story about a man falling for a morris dancer.

About the book:
Will Rowan’s festival fling with sexy dancer Seth lead to something more permanent?
Rowan is stuck at a folk festival helping out a mate, and it really isn’t his scene. The yoga and singing workshops are bad enough, but morris dancing is the final straw. Bearded men with beer guts prancing around wearing bells—who wants to watch that?

All Rowan’s preconceptions are shattered when he meets Seth—a morris dancer, and the stuff Rowan’s fantasies are made of. Seth persuades Rowan to come to a dancing workshop, and Rowan’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to know Seth better. The attraction is mutual, and a lesson filled with innuendo and flirting leads to an incredible night together.

When Rowan arrives home, he’s gutted to find that Seth has given him the wrong phone number. Assuming Seth did it on purpose, Rowan resolves to forget about him. But fate—and friends—conspire to get them back together. Will they manage to stay in step this time around?

A much shorter version of this story was originally published in the Not Quite Shakespeare Anthology by Dreamspinner Press. This version has been revised and extended. Almost half of it is new content.

Look for my review in the coming weeks, but don’t let the delay stop you from picking up this yummy read right now. I’ve adored all Jay’s books to-date including SUMMER HEAT, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, and THE LAW OF ATTRACTION, and TOPS is another stellar story about getting over prejudices and accepting love at the right time.

Interested? You can find TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Not Easy BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER–Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new near-historical M/M romance from Jere’ M. Fishback. BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER is a coming-of-age story for a college student who’s inadvertently outed in 70s and hopes to find his true love without being shunned by his family. It’s a charming, and often bittersweet, story, and I really liked it.

Drop down to catch an interview, and excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, too!

About the book:
It’s 1976, and Anita Bryant’s homophobic “Save Our Children” crusade rages through Florida. When Andy Hunsinger, a closeted gay college student, joins in a demonstration protesting Bryant’s appearance in Tallahassee, his straight boy image is shattered when he is “outed” by a TV news reporter.

In the months following, Andy discovers just what it means to be openly gay in a society that condemns love between two men and wonders if his friendship with Travis, a devout Christian who’s fighting his own sexual urges, can develop into something deeper.

How about a little taste…

Chapter One
On my seventh birthday, my parents gave me a Dr. Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat.

I still have the book; it rests on the shelf above my desk, along with other Seuss works I’ve collected. Inside The Cat in the Hat’s cover, my mother wrote an inscription, using her precise penmanship.

“Happy Birthday, Andy. As you grow older, you’ll realize many truths dwell within these pages. Much love, Mom and Dad.”

Mom was right, of course. She most always was. My favorite line is this one:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

***

Loretta McPhail was a notorious Tallahassee slumlord. On a steamy afternoon, in August 1976, she spoke to me in her North Florida drawl: part magnolia, part crosscut saw.

“The rent’s one twenty-five. I’ll need first, last, and a security deposit, no exceptions.”

McPhail wore a short-sleeved shirtwaist dress, spectator pumps, and a straw hat with a green plastic windowpane sewn into the brim. Her skin was as pale as cake flour. A gray moustache grew on her wrinkled upper lip, and age spots peppered the backs of her hands. Her eyeglasses had lenses so thick her gaze looked buggy.

I’d heard McPhail held title to more than fifty properties in town, all of them cited multiple times for violation of local building codes. She owned rooming houses, single-family homes, and small apartment buildings, mostly in neighborhoods surrounding Florida State University’s campus. Like me, her tenants sought cheap rent; they didn’t care if the roof leaked or the furnace didn’t work.

The Franklin Street apartment I viewed with McPhail wasn’t much: a living room and kitchen, divided by a three-quarter wall; a bedroom with windows looking into the rear and side yards; and a bathroom with a wall-mounted sink, a shower stall, and a toilet with a broken seat. In each room, the plaster ceilings bore water marks. The carpet was a leopard skin of suspicious-looking stains, and the whole place stank of mildew and cat pee.

McPhail’s building was a two-storied, red-brick four-plex with casement windows that opened like book covers, a Panhandle style of architecture popular in the 1950s. Shingles on the pitched roof curled at their edges. Live oaks and longleaf pines shaded the crabgrass lawn, and skeletal azaleas clung to the building’s exterior.

In the kitchen, I peeked inside a rust-pitted Frigidaire. The previous tenant had left gifts: a half-empty ketchup bottle, another of pickle relish. A carton of orange juice with an expiration date three months past sat beside a tub of margarine.

Out in the stairwell, piano music tinkled—a jazzy number I didn’t recognize.

McPhail clucked her tongue and shook her head. “I’ve told Fergal—and I mean several times—to close his door when he plays, but he never does. I’m not sure why I put up with that boy.”

McPhail pulled a pack of Marlboros from a pocket in the skirt of her dress. After tapping out two cigarettes, she jammed them between her lips. She lit both with a brushed-chrome Zippo, then gave me one.

I puffed and tapped a toe, letting my gaze travel about the kitchen. I studied the chipped porcelain sink, scratched Formica countertops, and drippy faucet. Blackened food caked the range’s burner pans. The linoleum floor’s confetti motif had long ago disappeared in high-traffic areas. Okay, the place was a dump. But the rent was cheap, and campus was less than a mile away. I could ride my bike to classes and to my part-time job as caddy at the Capital City Country Club.

Still, I hesitated.

The past two years, I’d lived in my fraternity house with forty brothers. I took my meals there, too. If I rented McPhail’s apartment, I’d have to cook for myself. What would I eat? Where would I shop for food?

Other questions flooded my brain. Where would I wash my clothes? And how did a guy open a utilities account? The apartment wasn’t furnished. Where would I purchase a bed? What about a dinette and living room furniture?

And how much did such things cost? It all seemed so complicated.

Still…

Lack of privacy at the fraternity house would pose a problem for me this year. Over summer break—back home in Pensacola—I’d experienced my first sexual encounter with another male, a lanky serviceman named Jeff Dellinger, age twenty-four. Jeff was a second lieutenant from Eglin Air Force Base. I met him at a sand volleyball game behind a Pensacola Beach hotel, and he seemed friendly. I liked his dark hair, slim physique, and ready smile, but wasn’t expecting anything personal to happen between us.

After all, I was a “straight boy,” right?

We bought each other beers at the tiki bar, and then Jeff invited me up to his hotel room. Once we reached the room, Jeff prepared two vodka tonics. My drink struck like snake venom, and then my brain fuzzed. Jeff opened a bureau drawer; he produced a lethal-looking pistol fashioned from black metal. The pistol had a matte finish and a checked grip.

“Ever seen one of these?” Jeff asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s an M1911—official air-force issue. I’ve fired it dozens of times.

Jeff raised the gun to shoulder height. He closed one eye, focused his other on the pistol’s barrel sight. “Shooting’s almost…sensual.” Then he looked at me. “It’s like sex, if you know what I mean.”

I shrugged, not knowing what to say.

Jeff handed the pistol to me. It weighed more than I’d expected, between two and three pounds. I turned it this way and that, admiring its sleek contours. The grip felt cold against my palm and a shiver ran through me. I’d never fired a handgun, never thought to.

“Is it loaded?” I asked.

Jeff bobbed his chin. “One bullet’s in the firing chamber, seven more in the magazine; it’s a semiautomatic.”

After I handed Jeff the gun, he returned it to his bureau’s drawer while I sipped my drink, feeling woozier by the minute. Jeff sat next to me, on the room’s double bed. His knee nudged mine, our shoulders touched, and I smelled his coconut-scented sunscreen.

Jeff laid a hand on my thigh. Then he squeezed. “You don’t mind, do you?”

I looked down at his hand while my heart thumped. Go on, chickenshit. He wants you.

I gazed into Jeff’s dark eyes. “It’s fine.”

And that’s were I cut the offered excerpt, folks, because I keep it PG-13 here, and the next few lines are a sex scene. Plus, there’s lots of Andy reminiscing about sex with Jeff, too. Let’s just say that Andy opts to rent this crummy apartment so he can have the privacy he needs to be a sexually-active gay man in 1976.

And some thoughts on the story from author Jere’ M. Fishback:

Was there any particular part of this book that was difficult to write? If so, what made it so difficult?
There’s a scene where Andy decides to explore the world of BDSM, and winds up getting beaten and sexually assaulted by a man he shouldn’t have trusted. The scene was very disturbing to write, especially because Andy’s such a lovable guy who doesn’t deserve what happens to him.

How about the part of the story you had the most fun writing?
I especially enjoyed writing about Andy’s family’s acceptance of his sexual orientation, despite their conservative views on life. Andy’s extremely close to this parents and his younger brother, and it was fun to write about the day (Easter Sunday) when Andy comes out to his family at the dinner table. There are some pretty tense moments, especially when Andy talks alone with his younger brother, Jake, about homosexuality.

How did you come up with the title?
I went to school with a friend who has the last name Hunsinger, and I always thought it was a cool name, so I used it for my main character. I titled the book Becoming Andy Hunsinger because the book’s about Andy emotional and sexual evolution.

My Review:
Andy Hunsinger unequivocally recognizes that he’s gay the summer before his senior year at Florida State University. His hidden escapades with a closeted airman confirm this, and when he returns to school in August of 1976, he seeks a small apartment for himself knowing he can’t bring a man back to his room in the frathouse.

It’s not as difficult a transition as Andy first imagined. He likes decorating his space and teaching himself to cook. Now, however, he’s lonely. It’s not like there’s a lot of options for entertainment at this time. He finds a gay-friendly bar which he cruises and he sometimes has luck finding a one-night guy, but he truly desires a steady partner. He thinks he does, but when Andy joins a rally against bigoted Anita Bryant’s “Save The Children” crusade Andy gets “outed” on local television. He soon finds himself single again. But, he’s not entirely alone. He’s met lots of gay men who’ve come out in this time, and made allies who assist him in his life as he copes with the fall out of his public status. His job as a caddie at a prominent Tallahassee golf club is at risk, which would be a big financial blow for Andy. Meanwhile, he’s making new friends, and new allies by the day. Still, he worries about how his family will take the news. And, he wonders about a closeted friend, Travis, who’s struggling with his family’s decree that he remain celibate.

This is a really interesting book. It’s told in an almost memoir fashion which generally bothers me, but didn’t in this case. The cast of time is clear and the historic details are amazing. I grew up in the 70s/80s and could easily envision this story unfolding through the lens of my memories. There are times, because this felt memoir-y, when I was a little overwhelmed by asides and description, but then the author looped all that fab detail into a point I hadn’t expected, and it made great sense. I really liked how open, honest and caring Andy was, for all the isolation and personal despair he suffered. He was never too busy to help a friend, or too hurt to mend a relationship.

I loved the slow unfolding of his love story with Travis. These guys have had traumatic outings, and Andy embraced himself, with the help of his friends and family, while Travis had a much different experience. Andy’s no stranger to violence, and refuses to let another suffer if he has a means to help. We experience about 18 months of Andy’s life in the book, and it’s time well spent. He’s a character worth knowing, and his story is remarkable in its commonness; it’s approachable and interesting, with curves that come just when the reader thinks Andy’s finally got everything going in the right direction. The resolution is what I’d call a HFN, or Happy For Now ending, though it was upbeat enough that I felt confident Andy and Travis would be alright on the other side of the page. It’s not a strict romance, though. More a coming out/coming-of-age story that has romantic elements, and a quiet love story that only builds in the last quarter of the book. That said, I really enjoyed the story as a whole, and admired Andy as a man and a character throughout. I enjoyed his journey and recommend the book.

Interested? You can find BECOMING ANDY HUNSINGER on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial lawyer who now writes fiction full time. He lives with his partner Greg on a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. When he’s not writing, Jere’ enjoys reading, playing his guitar, jogging, swimming laps, fishing, and watching sunsets from his deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

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

Tough Love if BOYS DON’T CRY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released contemporary M/M romance from JK Hogan. BOYS DON’T CRY is a odd couple romance between a newly-graduating teacher and the wealthy, reclusive software designer who takes him in when his apartment building is condemned.

About the book:
Mackenzie Pratt is having the worst luck of his life. His apartment building is being torn down, and since he’s jobless and just weeks away from graduating college, he can’t find anywhere else he can afford to live that isn’t a critter-infested dump. As he’s lamenting the very real possibility of job hunting while couch-surfing, he gets an offer from the coworker of his best friend.

An in-demand mobile app developer and heir to his parents’ fortune, Laurent Beaudry is literally an eccentric billionaire. Even though Mackenzie realizes he’s basically living the plot of a cheesy romance novel, he takes the proffered room in Laurent’s Baltimore mansion. He finds his new housemate to be grumpy, brooding, and, at times, incredibly kind and endearing.

Raised by his brother after their father’s death, Mackenzie spent his formative years plowing headlong through school, focusing on little else beyond earning his teaching certification. He’s never taken the time to explore love and relationships, much less sexuality, so when he finds himself being courted by another man, he has no idea what to do. And when he realizes he might actually return those feelings, his life takes a whole new direction.

How about a little taste?

The house was dark so I couldn’t see much, but what I could see was immaculate, contrary to what Taylor had said. The hardwood floors gleamed in the moonlight, the furniture looked expensive and perfect, and there wasn’t a dirty dish or dust bunny in sight. “I thought you said it was a sty,” I whispered.

“Oh, this? Not this. He only uses a fraction of the house, the suite with his bedroom, living room, library, and office. All of this is just for show,” he said with a sweeping gesture toward the big empty parlor we were facing. “And why are you whispering? He knows I’m coming.”

“I don’t know. It seems so quiet and…undisturbed.”

Taylor’s chuckle had an evil ring to it. “You want disturbed? Follow me.” He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled. “Mr. Beaudry! It’s me, Taylor. Morrison. From Mindstream. The place you work.”

He made his way down a dark corridor with me dogging his heels. “He doesn’t remember who you are? Where he works?”

“Oh, he knows. But when he’s been staring at code for hours on end and not sleeping, sometimes basic stuff slips his mind. Details like that can be hard for geniuses like him.”

Genius? I didn’t think I’d ever heard that term used to sincerely describe someone. “What does he do again?”

“He’s a mobile app developer. Highly sought after, but right now he works exclusively for us. That was a huge coup for the company.” He stopped in front of a heavy, ornately carved door made of some kind of dark hardwood. He rapped his knuckles on it three times before barging on in, while I hovered in the doorway.

So this was the suite. Taylor had been right. What a mess. We stood in what I assumed was the living room, but it was hard to tell because every available surface was covered in wrinkled clothing, pizza boxes, and empty dishes. A huge fireplace was installed in the far wall, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. More books than I’d ever seen in one place outside a library. The fire blazed in the hearth, and I was honestly surprised there wasn’t any garbage close enough to it to catch fire. As beautiful as the house was, the mess made my skin crawl. I usually lived in shitty apartments, so I was a bit of a neat freak to balance the universe.

“Beaudry? You in here?” Taylor called. There was no answer. “He must be in the bedroom suite.” He headed to a door on the left, like it was no big deal.

Wait! You’re just going to barge into the guy’s bedroom?”

Pausing in his tracks, Taylor looked over his shoulder. “This is no ordinary bedroom. Just because there’s a bed in the corner doesn’<t mean it’s some intimate setting. It’s just a giant workspace.” With that parting shot, he burst through the door, once again calling the man’s name.

Trembling from too much alcohol and not enough nerve, I stepped inside the room. I was stunned speechless by the scene before me. Taylor had one thing right—it was no ordinary bedroom. It was the size of three average rooms lined up in a row and probably had double the square footage of the apartment I was getting booted out of. There was indeed a bed, a California king canopy bed off in one corner of the room. A fire was blazing in this suite as well, only I realized that it was the same fire in the same fireplace, which apparently connected the two rooms.

Taylor stood next to what had to be the man’s workspace. There was a giant U-shaped desk adorned with four widescreen computer monitors and various other gadgets typical of an office. However, on one leg of the U, there was a collection of what looked to be every tablet, PDA, smartphone, and any other mobile device known to man. I supposed he had to test his software on each gizmo that was likely to employ it.

Behind the office area was a ginormous TV screen—at least seventy inches—that looked like it would be more at home in a movie theater. Several fluffy couches were set up in a semicircle facing it. It would be amazing to have a movie marathon in this place. And of course, there was every gaming console imaginable to go along with the screen yardage. But…despite all the cool stuff, there was some very weird stuff about the place as well. Besides the office setup and the movie area, all the furniture in the suite looked like it had been bought from a garage sale at Versailles. It was expensive-looking, obviously, but very gilded and frilly. There were also several racks flanking the giant TV that displayed the man’s sword collection.

And then, the murals. The murals were creepy. On at least a couple of the walls above the wainscoting, there were huge, garish wall paintings of nudes in various scenes. Men and women, sometimes in sexual situations, sometimes just hanging out or whatever. But they weren’t like Renaissance or fine art nudes or anything; they seemed to be done by just some random modern artist. I had no idea how the guy could manage to look at them all day every day. Though if it weren’t for those, I’d never leave a place like this either. Speaking of the guy, though, there was no sign of him.

“Where is he?” I was whispering again. It just seemed like the thing to do when you snuck into someone’s bedroom at night. Not that we were really sneaking, but still.

As if in answer to my question, we heard a toilet flush, and a door to my right that I hadn’t even noticed swung open, startling me. The person who came through was pretty much just as unbelievable as the house he lived in. He was tall—very tall—and lanky, but with wide shoulders and well-defined musculature. His hair was just a little too long, like maybe he’d forgotten his last couple of haircuts, and very dark, shot through with a tiny bit of gray. It had to be premature because I doubted he was much more than ten years older than me. His facial features—though thrown in deep shadow because of the low light in the room—were chiseled and angular, too handsome to be fair to the rest of the world. Wire-rimmed glasses perched on the tip of his straight nose, slightly askew. Despite the handsomeness, he had dark circles under his eyes and frown lines around his mouth, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. And he was wearing Angry Birds pajamas.

When he saw me, his deep-set blue eyes widened and he flinched like I’d snuck up on him. “Who the hell are you?”

I let out a squeaky gasp and backed away toward Taylor because the guy looked fucking scary when he turned on the full force of that scowl.

“Jesus Christ, Beaudry, relax,” Taylor said. He picked up his briefcase and pulled out a legal-size envelope. “This is my friend Mackenzie. I was driving him home, and I just popped in to drop off these contracts from Harrelson.”

Beaudry grunted and crossed the room to sit at his desk. He waved a hand in the vague direction of a stack of shelves. “Just put them in the inbox. I’ll deal with them later.”

“If you look them over now, I can take back any questions or return them…”

He glared at Taylor over his shoulder, and Taylor wisely shut his mouth. Then the man’s gaze settled on me. It wasn’t the scowl he’d given me earlier, but it wasn’t exactly a…nice expression either. It was more of an assessing glare than anything. “Welcome to Chatham House, Mackenzie. What do you think?” he asked.

I had no idea what he meant. What did I think of the house? The room? Him? “It’s…impressive. The artwork is…unusual.”

He let out a belting laugh that I hadn’t been expecting, so I jumped, but then the rich baritone of it made my toes curl. It was an odd reaction, as I wasn’t usually affected by such things.

“Unusual is a kind way of putting it. The artwork came with the house, along with much of the furniture. I just haven’t gotten around to redecorating.”

“Oh, that’s…” A relief. “How long have you lived here, then?”

Beaudry turned back to his computer and began typing furiously. “About five years,” he answered without turning back around.

I choked on air, and Taylor snorted. “I think by ‘haven’t gotten around to it,’ you mean ‘just don’t give a shit,’” he muttered.

“Touché, Mr. Morrison. Is there anything else you need?”

Taylor sighed, probably realizing that the man was not going to look at whatever was in the envelope while we were still there to relay any messages back to Mindstream. He clamped a hand around my wrist and started dragging me toward the door. “All right, we’re going. Remember, drinks at the King’s Shield next Friday.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be—”

Taylor spoke right over Beaudry’s muttering. “You already said you would. No backsies. I can pick you up.”

“I think I’d enjoy driving my shiny Lotus instead, but thank you very much for the offer,” Beaudry growled. “Nice meeting you, Mack,” I heard him call through the open door.

“Nickname basis already?” I laughed to Taylor.

“That has nothing to do with nicknames and everything to do with your name being too long for him to remember.”

“I heard that, Morrison!”

My Review:
Mackenzie Pratt is closing in on his college graduation and he’s weeks from homelessness. His cut-rate slum of an apartment building is being razed, and he doesn’t have a job, or enough money, to find something else. Plus, he needs to have a stable living situation in order to find a teaching position for the fall term. While hanging out with his childhood best friend, Taylor, Mackenzie meets Laurent Baudry, a reclusive, but brilliant and wealthy, mobile app developer.

Laurent is a personal mess, and his home is a sprawling mansion with virtually no one sharing the space. Hearing about Mackenzie’s predicament, he offers to let Mackenzie stay with him, in return for some light housekeeping and meal prep.

These odd-couple men are comfortable with each other from the start. Mackenzie has been alone much of his life; his dad died years ago and his brother, River, is a freelance photographer constantly on assignment. He’s a natural caretaker for Laurent, who was orphaned young and has a tumultuous relationship with his uncle, his former guardian.

I liked the sweet way the love story developed. Mackenzie is so innocent, and so compassionate. He likes doting on Laurent, and he likes the perks of staying with Laurent–clean home, no pests, and a designer kitchen that was all but unused. He gets a thrill out of tempting Laurent from his marathon programming sessions using freshly prepared healthy meals. It’s not long before their fledgling friendship becomes physical, but that moves at Mackenzie’s pace. He’s never been with anyone before, and hardly acknowledged sexual attraction before meeting Laurent. There’s some confusion, but not too much hand-wringing. Laurent tries to make everything so special for Mackenzie, even being his guest for graduation. I loved that!

Expect River to turn up and put some drama on the table, but I think Mackenzie handled himself well. These two really fashion a love for one another, and that didn’t bring tears no matter what the title says.

Interested? You can find BOYS DON’T CRY on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?

J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading!

Catch up with J.K. on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Love, Seeds and DIRTY DEEDS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M romantic suspense from HelenKay Dimon. DIRTY DEEDS is the first book in her Dirty series. It’s also a spinoff from her Tough Love series, which featured MR. AND MR. SMITH, THE TALENTED MR. RIVERS, and GUARDING MR. FINE, and you know I liked bunches. In fact, one of the leads had cameos in Guarding Mr. Fine, and he’s a smart sexy devil.

About the book:
No dirty deed goes unnoticed in a seductive game of cat and mouse. But for Alec and Gaige, the wrong move could get them killed.
Alec Drummond didn’t make his billions by playing nice—or by playing much at all. When it comes to pleasure, Alec only has time for whatever’s quick and easy, which is exactly what he gets from his company’s hot new computer genius. But Gaige Owens isn’t some pushover. He pushes back, and it’s giving Alec a rush. The question is, could Gaige be the one who’s leaking trade secrets? Just to be safe, Alec keeps him close at hand . . . night and day.

Gaige never thought he’d roll over for a man like Alec again, but who could resist sex this mind-blowing? Then there’s the draw of Alec’s mysterious side: his cutthroat ambition, his covert CIA connections, and the murder in his past. For Gaige, a deeper look proves an irresistible temptation. But when Gaige and Alec are stripped of their defenses by an unseen danger, everything they don’t know could bring them closer together—or tear them apart. Only one thing is certain: Before it’s all over, someone’s going down.

My Review:
Alec Drummond is a billionaire agri-business mogul living in Munich–and he’s got a reputation for shooting first when his financial interests are in jeopardy. He’s not happy that a CIA operative, Gaige Owens, makes it into the nerve center of his cybersecurity offices. Naturally, Gaige isn’t really CIA, he’s actually a guy in limbo, left to twist in the wind by his former partner and compelled into action by the CIA Special Acitivites Division officer Seth Lang. Gaige’s ex did a bad job of hacking some high-level places and framed Gaige for the dirty deeds, and Seth’s holding Gaige’s feet to the fire for his own purposes.

Gaige is sure Alec will kill him, but Seth set up this meeting to demonstrate Gaige’s abilities to Alec, as a way to get Alec to take Gaige on as an operative. See, Alec’s company makes quarterly deposits to the Doomsday Bank for seeds to ensure food security. Unfortunately, there’s been some shady deposits there in the last six months. Extra deposits that no one seems to know about, but were seemingly arranged by Alec himself.

As little as Alec wants him, he grudgingly accepts Gaige into his company–and his private residence–so he can keep a very close eye on him. It’s clear that Gaige is a gifted hacker, and a sexy young man, but Alec doesn’t want any part of that…at first. As they end up the subject of a couple of fatal attempts on their lives, Alec and Gaige get closer out of necessity. And, that’s some more dirty deeds right there, folks. As the danger intensifies, Gaige and Alec recognize the answers they need are buried in the seed vaults in Svalbard. Not that it comes together easy. Nope, it’s a rough situation and results in double-crosses by members of Alec’s most intimate circle.

In this romantic suspense, we’ve got spies, CIA, powerful men, assassins, and a plot that could endanger the food security of nations. It’s interesting and intriguing with a pace that keeps the pages turning. Both Gaige and Alec despise Seth and his machinations, but they work out their personal differences without too much difficulty in order to discover the plot to sabotage Alec’s business and reputation.

This series seems to revolve around the Drummond brothers–all three of them–and Alec is the stalwart one who’s not willing to even look for love. His family has some dark secrets, and it really colored his outlook. That said, Alec’s curiosity about Gaige leads to more than partnership, even if it’s “no strings”. They get tied up quick enough, nonetheless, and Alec got over his ingrained aversion to relationships because Gaige was worth the effort. Gaige is a little bit of a wisecracker, and I so wanted him to get into a good relationship after all the hub-bub of his horrible ex.

I’m expecting the next book to feature Alec’s brother, Finn, and I’m looking forward to it!

Interested? You can find DIRTY DEEDS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
HelenKay Dimon spent the years before becoming a romance author as a divorce attorney—not the usual career transition. Now she writes full-time and she’s much happier. The author of more than thirty novels, novellas, and short stories that have twice been named “Red-Hot Reads” and excerpted in Cosmopolitan, she’s on the board of directors of the Romance Writers of America and teaches fiction writing at UC San Diego and Mira Costa College.
You can find HelenKay online on her website, Facebook, twitter Tumblr and Pinterest.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

CAUGHT! in the Truth–A TBR Thursday Review

Hi there! Today I’m working off my TBR Thursday list and pulling out a contemporary M/M British romance from JL Merrow. I really enjoyed OUT! and PLAYED!, the second and third books in the Shamwell Tales series, but I’d always wanted to read the first–CAUGHT! Now that it’s been re-released I jumped at the chance to check it off my TBR.

About the book:
Bow ties are cool . . . but secrets, not so much.
Behind Robert Emeny’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But then he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.

Sean Grant works in pest control, lives on a council estate, and rides a motorbike. Robert is an ex–public schoolboy from a posh family who drives a classic car. On the face of it, they shouldn’t have anything in common. Yet Robert can’t resist Sean’s roguish grin, and passion sparks between them even after an excruciatingly embarrassing first date.

Too bad the past Robert’s hiding from is about to come looking for him. His increasingly ludicrous efforts to keep his secrets are pushing Sean away—but telling the truth could make Sean leave him for good.

My Review:
Mr. Robert Emeny is a certified teacher whose life has taken a bad turn. He doesn’t want anyone to know what drove him from the posh boys’ public school (like a private high school in the States…) into a small-town nursery school as a primary school teacher. He’s struggling to make it through the days, class management of 20 six year-olds isn’t the easiest, but he’s especially taken by the doting until of his troublemaker twins: Sean Grant.

Sean’s twin sister’s been suffering from cancer for years, and he’s lived with her and assisted in the care of his rough-and-tumble nephews since their dad skipped off before their birth. It’s made a crimp in his love-life, but not too much of one. Eyeing up his nephews’ cute teacher–who the kids all call ‘Mr. Enemy’–isn’t a hardship either. Of course, Sean thinks Rob’s likely looking at him as the ‘bit of rough’ he is: being a poor ‘ratcatcher’ (exterminator) and all, but darned if he doesn’t like the way Rob wears his sexy bow-ties and cuddles close on the back of his motorbike.

These two are an odd couple, but they hit it off rather quickly. It’s too quick, though, because Rob’s still reeling from the accusations he faced back at his old school, where he tendered his resignation and lost his boyfriend in one fell swoop. If only he hadn’t been so conscientious…

The secret eats at the relationship, and Rob wants to unburden himself, but what if Sean doesn’t believe him? What if he does what his last partner, the man Rob hoped to marry, did? There’s a lot of fear there, and some deep, deep shame, too. Sean’s hurt feelings need smoothing over, and Rob does the smoothing in the sweatiest way possible…after a jog, people! Sheesh! Perverts, the lot of you. 😉 Just kidding, there’s some yummy sexytimes here.

I was so happy to find this one back on the market, and I’m eager to read the fourth Shamwell Tale, SPUN!, released last month. Expect a review soon.

Interested? You can find CAUGHT! on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, and English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards Finalists.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online on her website, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Sibling Rivalry is ABSOLUTELY, ALMOST, PERFECT–Review, Interview and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I have a whole lot to share about a newly released M/M contemporary romance from Lissa Reed. ABSOLUTELY, ALMOST, PERFECT is the third book in her Sucre Coeur series, and I gobbled it right up. AAP features a strapping Scots/English baker and his anxiety-riddled partner who fly to England to attend the wedding of the baker’s estranged brother. It’s a perfect quagmire of familial problems and an almost disaster of absolutely everything they’d built together.

Catch an excerpt, author interview, my review and enter the $25 GC and books giveaway below!
About the book:
Craig Oliver and Alex Scheff lead a charmed life. Craig is part owner of Sucre Coeur, the bakery he’s loved and managed for years. Alex is an up-and-coming Seattle photographer. Their relationship has been going strong for a year, and everything is absolutely perfect—right up until Craig receives a wedding invitation from his long-estranged brother.

As Craig grows tense over seeing his brother for the first time in years, Alex can’t control his anxiety over meeting Craig’s family. At the wedding in an English hamlet, boisterous Scottish mothers, smirking teenage sisters, and awkward ex-boyfriends complicate the sweet life they lead.

Some thoughts from Author Lissa Reed…

Hello, and thanks for hosting this tour stop! I’m a writer living in Texas with a couple of cats and what some folks might call too much yarn and too many books. These people would be terribly wrong.

My current book, Absolutely, Almost, Perfect, is an homage to one of my favorite genres of film – the British rom-com. Only with a gay couple in the lead, rather than relegated to being sidekicks or best friends. Craig and Alex, my protagonists from my first book, are back to face their first major obstacle as a couple: Officially Meeting The Parents.

Why do you write?
Honestly, I have written for so long, that I don’t quite know how to answer this question! The shortest, simplest answer is that I do it because I must. But then also, because no one else is going to write the stories that skulk around in my brain, and I want to see them written! I need them out on paper so the next idea can come in and capture my imagination, my time, and my ink pen.

Which of your books was the most difficult to write?
I would say Certainly, Possibly, You, my second book. It was a story about queer females, and being one of those myself, it was a little more of a personal story in a lot of ways, and I had to battle myself a bit to really let go and write it freely. I had to get out of my own way and stop worrying about whether I was going to represent queer women well, were people going to wonder about how I knew this or that, did anyone even want to read about queer women? It was a fight.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
In Absolutely, Almost, Perfect, we come back around to Craig and Alex from Definitely, Maybe, Yours. When the book opens, they’re not struggling with their feelings for each other anymore – they’re a solid relationship already in progress, about to meet a huge sort of milestone-slash-obstacle. What makes them special to me is the way they face things together, as a unit. They went through so much just to acknowledge that they loved each other, that now to see them hand-in-hand, dealing with things together, just delights me no end.

How much research do you do for your books?
Depends on the topic of the book, honestly. I am always going to want to get the things I don’t know as right as I can get them. Absolutely went through two English readers, one of whom had a roommate from the Essex area to help out and make sure my book was correctly British when it needed to be. I also had to do some research on wedding cakes – full size cakes are not my specialty – and how to get pet dogs to England (because I was not having them leave Fitz behind). But I have a project in the pipeline set in my home state of Louisiana, so I can get away with a little bit less in the research department.

Who designs your covers?
The initial cover was designed by RJ Shepherd, for my first book. Then CB Messer kept the concept going through the next books so we had a coordinated trilogy. I love these book covers, but I’m excited to see if I can write something else for Interlude that’s outside the Sucre Coeur universe, so I can see what CB can really do for the stuff my brain produces!

How about a little taste?

Smelling of soap, a blue bath towel slung around his hips, Craig drops a kiss on Alex’s forehead before he takes his own seat. He slides the Ivory Square of Doom to his side of the table. “Right, we have to work this out.”

“Do we?” Alex cuts a finger of toast and dips it into his egg. He concentrates on the simple task so he doesn’t have to look Craig in the eye. “I mean, really. Neither of us actually wants to go. Why can’t we just RSVP with a sad but firm no and send them the nicest thing on their registry?”

Silence stretches long enough that he does look up. Open-mouthed, Craig stares at him. A forgotten toast finger drips egg yolk onto the tabletop. “You…” Craig shakes his head and puts down the toast. “You spoke to my mother. Many times you faced this woman on Skype or Facetime and had actual conversations with her, and you still somehow think that is a reasonable course of action.” His eyebrows lift, and he lets out a low whistle. “You know, I’ve held your balls in my hand. Were they brass all this time, and I just missed it?”

“Oh, come on, Craig.” Alex runs a hand through his hair. “Yes, I spoke to your mother. She’s nowhere near as scary as mine.”

“See, now, there’s an excellent reason for both of us to go to this damn wedding, so I can show you in person exactly how wrong you are.” Craig lifts his mug of tea and coughs out a laugh. “Your mother is frightening, I grant you: half my size and twice as intimidating as I can manage on my best day. In fact, our mothers would get on like houses afire, which should give you an idea as to why I, at least, cannot get out of going to this wedding.” He takes a sip of tea, sets the mug aside, and reaches over the table to catch Alex’s hand in both of his. “Alex, even apart from my mother’s insistence… Chloe is one of my oldest friends. I have to do this for her. But I can’t do it without you. I know it won’t be easy, but I need you there with me.”

At the sight of their joined hands, a lump grows in Alex’s throat to match the one in his stomach. “It’s just… your family…”

Silence falls again, interrupted only by Fitz tap-tap-tapping across the checkerboard linoleum of the kitchen floor and whining to be picked up. Craig scoops him up and scratches Fitz’s fuzzy little ears. “They won’t bite, Alex. They’re just…”

“Just people, just your family, I know.” Alex’s chest tightens. “Just your mother, your father, your sisters, your brother who you don’t even like, and I guess there’s an Aunt Lorraine now, and this Chloe chick and God knows who else gathering for the Wedding of the Century, where they’ll get to meet Craig’s neurotic train wreck of a boyfriend and judge us. They’ll judge me for being an uptight, deadbeat American and you for clearly having some kind of episode, to decide that I was an appropriate choice for a boyfriend.”

The lump in his throat swells and cuts him off.

Family.

My Review:

Craig and Alex have been together for nearly two years and they are very much in love. Alex is a bit of an emotional mess, thanks to an abusive ex, but he and Craig are solid. Stable. And…freaking out about returning to England for Craig’s brother’s wedding to his dearest childhood friend, Chloe. Craig and his brother, Duncan, are estranged because Duncan was a horse’s ass of a sibling, who mercilessly bullied young Craig and never apologized for years of emotional and physical torment.

Alex doesn’t want to go at all, but he’s not going to let Craig go alone. They head off to Merry Olde for the festivities and it’s…uh, I believe the correct British term is: tit’s up. O.o.  Chloe is a bridezilla, hell-bent on getting Craig and Duncan to make up in time for the wedding. She’s adamant that Duncan has changed his personality completely from when they were all kids, and Craig should give him the chance to make amends. Still, it’s easy to see that she’s a decent person, despite her many tantrums. Craig and Alex are reliant upon Craig’s childhood boyfriend, David, a sweet man attractive to both of them, to navigate the parent-infested waters.  And Duncan, well, if this would have been playing out in front of me, that man would have gotten a swift boot to his manparts.

I haven’t read any of the earlier book in this series, but I had no trouble dropping into this rom-com. Alex’s medications for anxiety make him loopy and he gets a hysterical fit in response to Duncan’s shenanigans. Craig doesn’t let the slights go, and Duncan–if Chloe doesn’t ditch him–might turn up to his own wedding with a (well-deserved) shiner. Throughout, stalwart Craig is the hot mess and shaky Alex the voice of reason, which is quite the juxtaposition. I loved the folks, and the fun. Duncan and Craig’s family is large and boisterous, and they love with abandon. There’s just a little bit of steam to go along with all the zaniness.

Fans of the series will love the twists, and the sweet resolution, which brings along a super-sized HEA. I had a lot of fun with the Brit English bits, and watching Alex grow as a partner to Craig.

Interested? You can find ABSOLUTELY, ALMOST, PERFECT on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Book Depository and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC to Interlude Press or one of five ebooks of Absolutely, Almost, Perfect.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lissa Reed is a writer of fiction, blogs, and bawdy Renaissance song parodies. She traces her early interest in writing back to elementary school, when a teacher gifted her with her first composition book and told her to fill it with words. After experimenting with print journalism, Reed shifted her writing focus to romance and literary fiction and never looked back. She lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Absolutely, Almost, Perfect is the third book in her Sucre Coeur Series.

Get to know Lissa on her website on Twitter and on Instagram .

Reality Shattered: CUTIE AND THE BEAST-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently published M/M paranormal romance from EJ RUSSELL. I’ve reviewed CLICKBAIT, a contemporary romance, from this author before, but I first read and reviewed her ghosthunting romances on Joyfully Jay, so I was eager to check out her new Fae out of Water series, beginning with CUTIE AND THE BEAST. It’s a snarky Beauty and the Beast meets Fae legends, and I really enjoyed it.

About the book:
Temp worker David Evans has been dreaming of Dr. Alun Kendrick ever since that one transcription job for him, because holy cats, that voice. Swoon. So when his agency offers him a position as Dr. Kendrick’s temporary office manager, David neglects to mention that he’s been permanently banished from offices. Because, forgiveness? Way easier than permission.

Alun Kendrick, former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court, takes his job as a psychologist for Portland’s supernatural population extremely seriously. Secrecy is paramount: no non-supe can know of their existence. So when a gods-bedamned human shows up to replace his office manager, he intends to send the man packing. It shouldn’t be difficult—in the two hundred years since he was cursed, no human has ever failed to run screaming from his hideous face.

But cheeky David isn’t intimidated, and despite himself, Alun is drawn to David in a way that can only spell disaster: when fae consort with humans, it never ends well. And if the human has secrets of his own? The disaster might be greater than either of them could ever imagine.

My Review:
David Evans is a nothing-special kind of guy who loves his dear aunt–the woman who raised him–and works as hard as he can to support her, especially as she is ill. Trouble is, though he’s a fantastic assistant and office keeper, he can’t seem to keep a position. He’s been doing off-site transcription, but it doesn’t pay all the bills, so he takes advantage of the one opportunity he’s given: temp work for Dr. Alun Kendrick. David heard Dr. Kendrick’s voice once, for a transcription, but it did seriously naughty things for David. He can’t wait to meet the man in person!

Alun Kendrick is a cursed Fae. Years ago his lover, a type of rare healing Fae, was murdered and he’s never forgiven himself. His punishment for not being there to save his beloved is a horrifying facial disfigurement that startles nearly everyone. Still, he works a a counselor to supernatural beings who find his grotesque appearance to be disarming enough to allow themselves to be vulnerable and accepting of treatment.

Alun isn’t prepared for his temp assistant to be human, and he’s outraged that the placement agency sent David, despite him being a sunny, beautiful, thoughtful young man and conscientious employee. Alun tries to find fault in David’s colorful adjustments to his office and solicitous treatment of his clients, but David’s seeming missteps actually result in inadvertent breakthroughs for several of the supers that come in for counseling. And, Alun’s not been tempted to find sexual pleasure since his last lover was killed, nearly two hundred years before. That David turns his crank to eleven? It cripples Alun.

Unfortunately, there’s unrest in the Fae realm and David’s help is needed to assist Alun to return and set things to rights–and that brings on a whole new series of problems. David, unknown even to himself, is harboring a secret of his true self and this results in worsening of the conflict. Not to mention David becoming a target for the worst elements of the Fae.

There’s really a lot going on here, and I’m only scratching the surface plot lines. It’s a sweet and engaging story with a tender romance that is born from David’s ability to see Alun’s true heart beneath the layers of emotional armor and his gruff and misshapen exterior. There’s the tiniest bit of heat, and a slow burn to reach it, but that was fine. I really enjoyed the mismatch of characters, and how David makes himself indispensable to Alun, and his clients. David’s got such a lovely and cheerful way about him, and yet he’s not a pushover. He stands up for so many people, and rolls with the waves of supernatural lore that he finds himself swimming within. There’s lots of comedic elements, and the pace was fantastic. I never felt like I was getting bored, because I constantly wondered: what’s coming next? From helping vampires survive their blood aversion, to teaching young dragons to hoard, David’s patient and caring attitude wins over everyone, including Alun, in time. Fun fact: Alun’s one of three brothers, and it looks like the other two will have their own love-story books in this new series. I’m looking forward to reading on!

Interested? You can find CUTIE AND THE BEAST on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
E.J. Russell writes romance in a rainbow of flavors — from M/F stories grounded in absurd contemporary reality to M/M tales splashed with the supernatural — but you can be sure that while the couple makes their way to HEA, they’ll never stray too far into the dark.

You can catch up with Ms. Russell on her website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!