Might or Right? JUNIOR HERO BLUES–Review and Giveaway!

Junior Hero Blues BannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary YA superhero romance from J.K. Pendragon. JUNIOR HERO BLUES is a standalone story following the exploits and struggles of an out-gay teen who’s biggest secret is he’s a junior hero learning how to control his new-found powers working for the Legion of Liberty. And, well, it seems like he’s fallen for his biggest nemesis at just the wrong time.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $50 GC.
Junior Hero Blues-f500About the book:
Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he’s…well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.

But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It’s hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of school work and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who’s way out of Javier’s league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.

Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.

How about a little taste?

When I woke up, my mask was lying beside me on the ground, and I felt like my entire head had been squeezed like a pimple.

It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, and by the time I realized the Raven was there with me, she was putting my mask back over my eyes and checking my vitals. Masks have a way of obscuring expressions, but I could see her jaw was tight and her lips were even thinner than usual.

“What happened?” I groaned, my voice raspy. I was starting to get memories back, of the smoke and explosions of the battle, and of him. That bastard smashing my head into a mirror—I raised a hand to my forehead and felt crusted blood through my glove—and then of us fighting, and of a rather unheroic rage that had come over me as we did so. The last thing I remembered was my hands on either side of his head, shooting sonic waves into his ears so hard his eyes were rolling back, and his big meaty hands around my neck, squeezing me into darkness.

“Don’t know.” The Raven’s ambiguously Slavic accent was harsher than normal. “I found you here, with your mask off. Who did it, do you know?”

“Yeah.” I coughed. “Who do you think? Jimmy Black.”

*

I guess I should back up a bit. Jimmy Black was my sworn enemy, if you go for dramatics like that (I totally do), and I’d met him before all this crap with the Organization started. I’d been on a date with Rick Rykov. My first date. Ever, that is, and I was pretty convinced the whole thing was a setup to make fun of me, because that would be typical. But then Rick actually showed up at the café, and we sat there for twenty minutes drinking coffee and discussing our lives like regular people, and there was absolutely no sign of the whole thing being a prank or some plan concocted by him and his friends to humiliate me.

I mean, aside from being gay, Rick was, like, standard bully material. He was a football player, even—six feet of lean teenage muscle and popularity. And I have a theory that being gay in high school just pushes your social standing to an extreme either way. Like, if you’re already popular, and then you come out as gay, you become this amazing, brave individual who inspires change (exhibit A: Rick Rykov). But if you come out as gay, and you’re that weird little Spanish dude who came to America in first grade and couldn’t speak any English, who decided to compensate for that fact by eating a bug in front of his entire class, which was never forgotten, ever, by anyone…

Well, see exhibit B: Javier Medina (that’s me, by the way). Skinny, brown, nerdy. I’m sure you can picture it. That, combined with my family not exactly being wealthy, meant I got picked on a lot in school, even before the bug thing, so I’m a little skittish. Or possibly a lot skittish. You decide.

So anyway, naturally, considering my rather extensive history with bullies, when a superhot, superpopular football player came striding down the hall toward me after class one day, my first instinct was to run away. Unfortunately, Kendall (who apparently has superhearing that I don’t know about) had overheard that Rick was planning on asking me out and grabbed my arm to keep me from escaping. She’s pretty heavyset, and I guess she was using her weight to her advantage, because I was basically rooted to the spot despite having, you know, moderate superstrength.

So then Rick strolled up, cool as you please, and introduced himself. Like, he full-on shook my hand. As if it were a job interview. And then he asked me out, and I was thinking I might be stupid enough to eat a bug, but I sure as hell wasn’t stupid enough to think that Rick Rykov was actually asking me out on a date. So I told him to eff off.

Yeah right. I actually said something along the lines of, “Uhh…you want to go…on a date? With me? Wh… Why?”

And he said, “Because I like you. I think you’re cute, so I thought we could get to know each other a bit better over coffee.”

At this point, I was basically giving myself whiplash looking around trying to see if I was in the process of being ambushed with the eventual intent to stick my head in the toilet. And then I got kind of angry because, like, here I was, busting my butt every single day to save people’s lives and keep the public safe. Screw putting up with this high school bullying crap.

So I decided I would go out with Rick, and if he or any of his buff football friends decided to try to pull one over me, I was just going to spontaneously snap and beat the crap out of them (or at least use my powers to pull some fun tricks with them) and plead temporary insanity to Captain Liberty after the fact.

Rick seemed pleased, and a little surprised I’d agreed. We set a date, and I went fully expecting to be doused with whipped cream, or laughed and jeered at, or at the very least stood up.

But Rick was there, leaning back in one of the little spindly café chairs that looked like it might break under his weight and sipping some frothy drink. When I sat, he shook my hand again, and then we just sort of…started talking.

Which I know isn’t a big deal, because, like, people talk all the time. But not me. I mean, I talk to Kendall, because she’s my best friend and has been forever, and we tell each other everything. I talk to my parents, in Spanish mostly, which is still a bit easier for me, funnily enough (although I’m sure you can tell I have an absolutely superb grasp of the English language). But with everyone else? It’s kind of like the fewer syllables I can use, the better. I mumble my way through life. I just can’t make myself say what I’m thinking most of the time.

So yeah, it was pleasantly surprising to be able to talk to Rick. He asked me questions and waited patiently while I answered them, and then offered information about himself. He lived with his parents in a really nice part of town, although pretty close to me, and had a sister and a cat. And I told him, a bit defensively, that I lived with my parents in a crappy little apartment that didn’t allow pets, and that my dad worked on computers and my mom worked at a gas station so we could have a little extra income. I was all set for Rick to be all judgey or awkward (or worse, feel bad for me) about my poorness, but he didn’t seem to care about that at all. He actually seemed to genuinely want to get to know me.

And then, just when I was starting to relax and believe that this was actually a thing that was happening and I wasn’t going to, you know, die, Rick’s phone rang. He had a sort of awkward conversation and said, looking really let down, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to work. Last-minute thing.” Then his face brightened up a bit. “But we should do this again sometime.”

I agreed, and he went off, and I was left sitting there for about ten minutes finishing my coffee and thinking. And then my phone rang too.

I should have figured it out right then and there.

It was the Legion dispatch, about as polite as ever, which is to say one step up from a robot. Actually, scratch that, the Legion AI was way friendlier.

So she was all, “There’s an incident downtown, not far from your location. Can you respond?”

And I figured why not, since I was pretty pumped at that moment, and anyway, it was my job. Like, I got paid for it and everything. So I told her I’d be there in two minutes, and grabbed my bag and headed out.

Now, listen up, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret about switching from your civilian clothes into your superhero getup.

The telephone booth thing?

Utter bullcrap.

I mean, maybe except for old pros like Captain Liberty. I’ve seen him change into his costume so fast it was as if he must have been wearing a tear-away outfit, complete with, like, origami cape and boots in his back pocket. But for the rest of us, it’s three-plus minutes of awkwardly hunching on top of a building—try even finding a telephone booth these days—ripping off your clothes and pulling on the parts of your costume that don’t fit under them, and then you have to try to fit everything, including your shoes, into your backpack. And then you have to look for a place to stash your backpack where it won’t be stolen or crapped on by pigeons or something.

And the Legion really does expect you to respond to a call within only five minutes. I don’t know why they haven’t invented some sort of quick-change technology. Maybe they have, and they just don’t make it available to Junior Heroes.

It’s a complete rip-off being a Junior Hero, by the way. You’re supposed to be only assigned to low-risk stuff, but half the time it’s just as dangerous as anything else anyway, and the rest of the time it’s freaking boring.

My Review:
Javier is a high schooler who is out as gay, and loved by his parents who are immigrants from Spain and work hard for their very modest life in Liberty City. About six months back Javier had a freak accident and his body grafted with the energy of an alien life form that had been a Legion hero but was slain in the moments before. Now Javier is more than the weird kid who couldn’t speak English in primary school. He’s now a Junior Hero working for the Legion of Liberty. And, that’s an actual paying gig with a costume and everything. Javi hides his body from nearly enveryone because he’s covered in blue streaks, but in his alter-ego he’s the Blue Spark, with powers like almost-flying, and making shock waves, and sparks. He’s also really strong, but you know, not invincible or anything.

While out on patrol, Blue Spark discovers some Organization baddies robbing places. The head of this posse seems to be Johnny Black, who is a wise-cracking nefarious dude. He seems to be able to walk up vertical walls, and is super strong. This encounter reveals a secret plot by the Organization to gain access to the Legion database, digitally unmasking all the superheroes and their whereabouts in Liberty City. Battles between Organization and Legion operatives had been legendary, but there’s been a tentative peace for the last seven years or so–since the Legion had mostly eradicated the Organization’s forces. Now it seems as if they have been building up their team again, using a brainwashing agent known as a Hound to turn Legion members and new heroes to their malicious cause.

On the life front, Javier meets Rick, an attractive and popular boy at school, who seems like he wants to date him. And they hit it off. It’s so sweet and a bit overwhelming, which is why Javi doesn’t immediately notice the physical similarities between Rick and this Johnny Black guy.

I seriously adored this story. Javier is such a good and honest kid. He’s way out of his depth, but he’s striving to be the best person he can, while also keeping his big secrets. He learns pretty early that he’s fallen for Rick, and Rick is unfortunately under the sway of the Organization’s Hound. The ramifications mean they are always on opposite sides, even as Javier fights to win his mind and heart back. They have lots of discussions about right and wrong, and how to manage the divide across which they find themselves.

The tone and language of the story is perfectly aligned with a YA story framework. Javi and Rick have real-life teen drama angst, on top of the superhero/villain issues they both face. It’s a creative story with heart and interesting experiences and plotting. I loved Javi’s heart and his questioning of the situation and his plans. He loves his parents, and he’s trying to protect them, Rick, Rick’s family, his friends and all the people of Liberty City. He’s a good kid, and he does save the day, over and over, while also following his heart.

Interested? You can find JUNIOR HERO BLUES on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

You can catch up with J.K. on Instagram, and twitter.

Pride or Prejudice? FIRST IMPRESSIONS–Review and Giveaway!

First Impressions BannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. FIRST IMPRESSIONS is a standalone romance that gave me a sense of Pride and Prejudice–as a gay romance. I fell into this author’s CalPac Crew romances and recommend those if you like crew and mature romances! I’ve enjoyed ROCKING THE BOAT, TIPPING THE BALANCE, and BURNING IT DOWN and SETTLING THE SCORE wrapped up that series.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
First Impressions-f500About the book:

When Henry Hughes and Cameron Jameson meet for the first time at a Coming Out Day party, it’s anything but love at first sight. In fact, it’s an unmitigated disaster, despite a scorching physical attraction.

Henry, whose social anxiety gets the better of him, humiliates Cameron, and when Cameron finds out about Henry’s past in adult films, he assumes he dodged a disease-covered bullet. Yet as Henry runs into Cameron again and again, he realizes he might have misjudged the younger man. He also realizes that Cameron won’t let go of his own initial view and thinks Henry is an unmitigated ass. First impressions are lasting impressions, and Cameron seems to misinterpret all of Henry’s words and deeds.

It’s not until Henry confronts Cameron that Cameron realizes just how wrong he’s been, but he thinks he’s lost his chance. Yet when disaster strikes Cameron and his friends, Henry rides to the rescue. Will Cameron be able to put aside his pride and shame to accept Henry’s help and his heart?

How about a little taste?

Henry Hughes nudged his Tesla Roadster into the second of his assigned parking spots beneath the Capitol Towers, the one in which he’d had a charger installed, praying he didn’t dent or scratch the pricey plaything.

He struggled to leverage his muscular frame out of the door, and finally just climbed out the top. There was no way this would work long-term. He was way over six feet tall and built like a linebacker. Maybe the other space was larger? He’d already noticed his assistant’s more serviceable SUV parked there. He made a note to talk to her about it, but then he realized if he did, she’d relinquish the larger space without a peep, or worse, buy a smaller car. Then he thought about the hassle of moving the charger. It’d be easier to keep climbing out of the top of the car.

The parking was a pain in the ass—and not the good kind—but to keep a place in Sacramento. Since it wasn’t his primary residence, a house with a yard simply wasn’t practical, not even one of the adorable bungalows in the neighborhoods east of downtown. So, there he was with a condo and the adventures in parking.

Even with the occasional headache, Sacramento still beat San Francisco, and it was the only city of any size close to Alpenglow, his spread near Lake Tahoe. What was his alternative, some village of less than fifty people on US-50? Now entering, now leaving!

The door opened at his touch, and he sighed. There could be only one explanation.

Lillian.

She had arrived early to freshen the place up for him.

It was thoughtful and so like her, and so unnecessary. He wasn’t helpless, just an emotional wreck. He lied to himself and pretended the joke was funny.

“Hello?” he called, shutting the door behind him. He walked into the foyer and through the French doors that led to the formal living space beyond. “Lillian?”

“In here, Henry.”

Lillian Desmond rose to shake his hand when Henry entered the room because she was respectful like that. She was tall, a bit shorter than him, at least, and while her face was lined by sun and a storied career in law enforcement and paramilitary groups—the details of which he still found improbable despite vetting them thoroughly—she wore her fifty-odd years lightly. He suspected she could put him on the ground in seconds if she wanted to but was nice enough not to demonstrate it. She kept her graying-blonde hair out of the way in a no-nonsense bun, and that plus the reading glasses perched on her nose made her look like a schoolmarm.

“Welcome home.” Her reading glasses slid down her nose as she looked him in the eye. It made him wonder what he’d done and what the consequences would be.

Henry looked around. “It doesn’t really feel like home. It’s more like a hotel suite I own, which is weird, because Alpenglow doesn’t look this impersonal and it’s actually a hotel. Sort of.”

“And whose fault is that? Maybe you should spend more time down here this fall. You work awfully hard.” Lillian gave him a stern look. “Take some time off.”

“I don’t work any harder than you, and you’ll take time off when you die.” He hated talking about his work habits because they inevitably led to discussions about his personal life. Or the lack thereof. “Who knows. A bit of a break might be nice.”

“There you go.” Lillian herded him away from her paperwork. “Let’s go into the living room. We’ve got some things to go over.”

“The winter schedule and programming?” Henry noted the leather portfolio with the Alpenglow logo on its cover.

Lillian laughed, sweet and musical. “You’re funny. No, we went over that months ago, as you evidently don’t recall. This”—she pulled out the portfolio—“is the material for next spring.”

“I guess there’s no putting it off.” Henry pretended to be reluctant, but he loved Alpenglow like nothing else, built from the ground up out of a moribund ski resort with his own money and tricky financing. It had started just with skiing, but he had added a variety of offerings to make it a desirable year-round destination.

Lillian had been an early part of Henry’s operation and had quickly become integral to it. He’d initially hired her to head his security team, but after her first diffident suggestion that perhaps opening the cross-country trails to local horse-riding camps might improve their nonexistent summer cash flow, he and she had put their heads together to make Alpenglow what it was, even if she wouldn’t accept part ownership. “Alpenglow’s all yours,” she said when he’d tried to sign over an admittedly minority share to her. “You pay me a prince’s ransom, and that’s more than enough.”

So now he sat next to her now on one of the leather sofas while they finalized their spring plans.

Lillian pushed her readers back into position. “I’ve got quite an agenda for us while we’re here, Henry.”

“I can see that.”

“First, routine maintenance issues. As you know, the outdoor swimming pools are showing their age.”

“That they are. Frankly, we’re lucky we got through the summer with them in the shape we did. In retrospect, they should’ve been done last winter.”

“Hindsight’s always twenty-twenty,” Lillian agreed. “Now, in the past, you’ve insisted on keeping one outdoor pool open and heated, but this year…”

Henry leaned back, paying attention with only part of his mind as they ran through basic upkeep issues. They’d done this many times before; only the specific details changed.

“Have you had a chance to look into the décor of the rooms in the south wing, like I asked?”

“Yes, of course, Henry.” Lillian flipped through her notes. “You were right. Those rooms have never been updated, and honestly? They’re not looking that good.”

Henry nodded. “That’s what I thought. I haven’t been able to get into every room, but the ones I checked need help, and soon.”

They should, he thought. They were the first rooms to accommodate guests, back when the south wing was the only wing and he worked the front desk.

“I’ll oversee it myself,” Lillian said. “Now, about—”

He shook his head. “No, I will. We can probably find designers and decorators whose work’ll do in Sacramento, but if we need to go to San Francisco I’m halfway there. Have the schematics for those rooms sent down here via courier, and I’ll start making calls.” Henry thought for a moment. “One other thing…don’t fill my dance card too full. There are people down here I want to see, people I hope will invest in the next phase of Alpenglow.”

Lillian nodded. “I’ve heard a rumor that Darren Jessup from Band of Brothers might be in town for a while. I’ll see what I can find out. Now, the last thing on the list, at least for today, is Camp Snowflake. Will you be taking your usual role?”

Henry frowned. “Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

She looked up from her portfolio. “Just checking. I wasn’t sure how long this hankering of yours for city life would last this time.”

“We’ll see, won’t we? It looks like I’m ready for company again, and despite the smaller size of Sacramento’s gay community, it feels like fewer people here know about my past.”

Lillian put down the portfolio with its list and removed her glasses. “People don’t care about your imagined ex-porn star notoriety as much as you think they do.”

“You’d be surprised what people care about, and thanks to the Internet, it’s still as fresh as yesterday.” Henry laughed without humor. “It’s only been five years or so. Hell, Badass still has most of the films on the website.”

“I know how much it bothers you.” Lillian touched his arm gently.

He appreciated the gesture even if it didn’t make him feel better. Early in their association, she’d taken on the role of mother surrogate. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out that he’d never convince her he could take care of himself, and it was nice to have someone looking out for him.

None of that meant he didn’t want, didn’t long for, didn’t need that someone special to look after him. And for him to look after in return, a real husband and not the string of trophy men his Uncle Benton supported, tagging along behind him like Mary’s little lambs, always bleating for more cash. He sighed and made a mental note to let Uncle Benton know he was in town.

Lillian snapped her portfolio closed, and then hesitated. She gave him a measuring look. “There is one other thing…”

Henry knew that tone. It always led somewhere, usually right into his private life. “Yes?”

“You need to get out more, Henry.” Amazing. She hadn’t even bothered to butter him up first. She held up a hand to hold him off. “I know what you just said about the imagined sins of your past, but you’re never going to meet Mr. Right—hell, Mr. Right Now—if you’re holed up in your pretty prison up by the lake.”

“Alpenglow’s not a prison,” Henry mumbled. He crossed his arms defensively, trying to ward off the truth of her words. On some level he knew he looked like a petulant child, but right then he didn’t care.

Lillian leaned forward and touched the side of his head. It was gentle, almost a caress. “I mean up here, in your mind.”

Henry jumped. That one slipped past his defenses. He tried to laugh it off, but it came out as a strangled gurgle. He coughed to clear his throat. “So…um, what do you have in mind?”

“Well, seeing how it’s early October…”

Henry looked at her expectantly, waiting for the rest.

“Early October, Henry. Ring any bells?”

“Not seeing any connections, Lillian.”

“National Coming Out Day, Henry,” Lillian sighed. Then, quicker than lightning, her hand flashed out and smacked him on the forehead.

“Ouch!” Henry yelped. “What the hell was that for?”

“You’re gay, you big fool. Hell, you made gay porn for years, and you don’t know when National Coming Out Day is?” Lillian shook her head.

“I came out—was outed, thank you very much—years ago.” Henry rubbed where she’d hit him. It still stung.

“My point,” Lillian said, “is that you could show a little gay pride once in a while, considering how much money the gay community’s made you over the years.”

“Technically, they made the money for Badass Productions. I was a contract worker at first,”

“Trivia, Henry. Once you bought into the company all those horny men put cash in your pocket. You’re coming with me so I can introduce you to Sacramento society. There are people you need to meet.”

Wasn’t Sacramento society an oxymoron? “All right.”

Lillian looked at him with suspicion. “That’s it? No argument? No mulish and obstinate resistance?”

“Would it do any good?”

“No.”

“Then…wait a minute.” Henry glared at her through slitted eyes. “If I need to meet these people, why haven’t I met them sooner? We’ve both spent plenty of time here.”

“The time just didn’t seem right.” Lillian wouldn’t meet his eyes.

Interest, but Henry decided not to pursue it. “Why not? I can’t spend all my time on the redesign, and who knows? Maybe I can drum up some business. I do own a high-end resort, after all.”

He made all the right noises, but when it came down to it, Henry didn’t know who people would see when they met him, Henry Hughes or Hugh Jerection, a man and persona he’d long ago come to hate.

My Review:
Henry Hughes is a wealthy ex-porn star turned boutique hotelier. Because of his history in adult films, Henry is a reticent man believing that people are mostly interested in one thing. One BIG thing. And, though he’d love to settle down with a good man he just can’t seem to find one that he can trust. He is introduced to Cameron Jameson at a Coming Out Day party, but he’s in the wrong mood for it, and lashes out in a huge, embarrassing way.

Cameron Jameson is a wunderkind who took a big step off the spinning wheel of life following early admission at Stanford. He never finished college, and is working retail at age 29, avoiding the pressure of his wealthy family, and all their expectations. He so wants a loving partner, and is a bit hung up on his close friend Simon, but Simon seems to disrespect his love. He’s been mortified by Henry Hughes, who is big and wealthy and beautiful, which made it all the more disappointing. Especially since they keep running into one another.

If only Cameron didn’t find Henry so attractive–because it’s hard feeling so attracted to a man who made him feel so bad about himself. His friends and Henry’s friends keep trying to intercede, explaining that their initial impressions were skewed in horrible ways, but it’s hard to overcome those disastrous first moments. And it’s only when Cameron finds himself in dire need of assistance that Henry is able to demonstrate the truly kind and compassionate man he is inside, in a way that Cameron will actually accept.

In the larger context, this story seemed to follow a Pride and Prejudice archetype, with a wealthy, reclusive hero whose ill manners lead him to making unpardonable social missteps with a younger and unexpectedly witty novice. It’s obviously been updated for a current setting and a male-male romance, but the underlying social situations of balls and brief encounters “in the wild” of Sacramento, California’s retail environs was a modern approximation. I even liked the metaphor of Henry’s “endowment,” er, male member, being so enormous and a making him a bit of a hard catch as a result. It’s not a perfect approximation of the story, obviously, but there were glimmers in that both Henry and Cameron were so well-matched in truth, but mismatched in temperament, and their respective prejudices and inflated pride kept them separated far longer than either man wanted.

I really enjoyed the side characters and their melodrama, which sucks Cameron into schemes against his will and better judgment, schemes that at first push him and Henry apart, but later unite them in common cause. Pretty much a disastrous Thanksgiving weekend seals them together. The side characters are largely larger than life, and add a silliness that amused me, for it being so monstrously outrageous. Poor Cameron, who’s mother is nothing short of a boulder loosed by an earthquake, flattening his every chance at escaping the family embroilments. And, the zany roomies, who are flaky and yet determined to fill in for the missing family that Cameron has kept at arm’s length for a decade. Henry’s bodyguard/assistant and his new business partner both bring grounding and ribbing, by turns, shoving Hugh from his staid rut and into a more receptive mood for love.

I think readers need to be prepared for descriptive and introspective characters, who aren’t in the least afraid to flaunt their vocabulary. All of the books I’ve read from this author have operated at a high intellectual quotient, with challenging syntax and diction. For this book particularly, that naturally elicited the comparison to Austen’s great prose.

Interested? You can find FIRST IMPRESSIONS on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

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

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

Call to Order SOMETHING BORROWED-Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance novella from Yolande Kleinn. SOMETHING BORROWED features a public defender who needs a date to his ex’s wedding, and ends up bringing the judge, a longtime mentor for whom he’s has a deep crush on, as a date. This is the second book from the author I have read. If you are into taboo menage, you might want to check out COVET.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.

Something Borrowed-f500About the book:

When public defender Trevor Ortega finds himself dateless for his ex’s wedding, faking a relationship seems like the perfect solution. Less perfect is his thoughtless impulse to invite Sebastian Greer—friend, federal judge, and former boss—as his plus one. It would be a solid plan if not for one problem: Trevor’s been in love with Sebastian for years, and each fraudulent touch will remind him of everything he can’t have.

Trevor doesn’t know why Sebastian agreed to his scheme, but there’s no backing out now. It’s only one night after all, and what’s a little heartbreak between friends?

How about a little taste?

As the voice droned steadily in his ear, the only thought in Trevor Ortega’s head was, Too bad a stunning location can’t salvage an interminable evening.

He scanned the rooftop garden, taking in the way starlight and a crescent moon glowed across cement pathways and eerily symmetrical greenery. A high stone wall ran the perimeter of the roof, and past it stretched a downtown cityscape reaching all the way to the river and beyond.

Whoever had coaxed their way into using this rooftop bower as a charity venue had seriously outdone themselves. Understated strings of lights illuminated chairs, white-draped tables, and a long banquet spread, plus a narrow counter where waitstaff served drinks.

The glass of champagne in Trevor’s hand was untouched and likely to stay that way. These events wound him too tight to drink. He’d never understood how his fellow attorneys didn’t share his reluctance. Tonight’s entire tableau felt so starched and formal, so full of people he desperately wanted to impress. After five years settled in as a public defender, he still couldn’t imagine relaxing at a gala like this.

The air had cooled considerably now that the sun had set. Even with the extra weight of his nicest suit jacket, Trevor shivered a little. If he could simply appreciate the atmosphere in silence, he could trick himself into enjoying the party.

Of course, silence was more than he could reasonably hope for tonight.

He smiled blandly at the man still talking to him. Trevor had only fleetingly caught the name offered in greeting. He probably should have tried harder to retain the information, if only to avoid crossing paths in the future. Sharp skinny angles gave his relentless conversational partner an intimidating air, the impression not at all helped by aggressive eyebrows and a sweep of receding white hair. The man’s expressionless mouth had not stopped moving for ten solid minutes. Trevor hadn’t been able to sneak in a single word to excuse himself. Somehow, the other cornered parties had all managed to escape, leaving him the sole recipient of a furious diatribe about the tax code.

Trevor didn’t mind conversations about tax codes, as a general rule. They could be fascinating in the right company. But here in this moment, words flowing over him without clarity or inflection, the topic bored him to tears. He couldn’t decide if having already eaten made the situation worse or better. On the one hand, he’d be cranky as hell if he were putting up with all this on an empty stomach, waiting in vain for a chance to escape to the banquet line. On the other hand, his full stomach meant the steady lull of his colleague’s voice was making him legitimately sleepy.

Ridiculous.

Trevor didn’t want to be here in the first place. Now that he’d fulfilled his obligation to make an appearance and could discreetly depart in good conscience, he had no graceful way to extricate himself from a one-sided conversation so dull he would prefer a concussion. It would be a different matter if this were a total stranger—Trevor might be willing to risk interrupting him midword—but he vaguely knew the man as a spouse of someone-or-other whom he couldn’t risk offending.

A shadow fell past Trevor’s elbow as someone approached him from behind. Even without knowing who the shadow belonged to, an instantaneous rush of relief cut beneath his skin. Any interruption at all could be enough of an opening to enable escape if he played his hand right.

Then he turned—had to tilt his head back to meet the new arrival’s eyes—and grinned in recognition.

Sebastian Greer stood at his elbow, tall and broad and so handsome it wasn’t fair.

“Trevor.” Sebastian greeted him with a nod, then turned an apologetic smile toward the argumentative tax attorney, who had finally stumbled midsentence. “Mr. Callum, I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion. I’ve got a professional question for Mr. Ortega. Can I borrow him for a moment?”

With difficulty, Trevor contained his grin. If he let it spread too wide, it would broadcast his relief plainly, never mind that he was so grateful for the intervention he could kiss Sebastian here and now.

Thoughts of kissing Sebastian Greer could only lead to incurable distraction and embarrassment if he were caught staring, so Trevor set the notion aside with the efficiency of long practice. He raised his glass in a parting gesture toward Mr. Callum, trying not to appear overly pleased, then let his former boss lead him away.

With every step toward relative seclusion, Trevor tried not to notice how effortlessly gorgeous Sebastian looked in his tuxedo. Wide shoulders filled the dark jacket without straining the fabric. A bow tie sat perfectly knotted under the round line of his jaw, and the crisp white of his collar stood out dramatically against warm umber skin. Sebastian’s eyes glittered in the moonlight, and Trevor clenched his teeth.

It wasn’t fucking fair. An overworked federal circuit judge had no business looking like he just strode out of a fashion shoot. Even the silvering hair at his temples could have been a touch-up for the cover of a magazine.

How was Trevor supposed to keep his composure in front of a knight in shining armor this devastatingly handsome?

Somehow, whether through willpower or desperation, he managed to tamp down the cascade of uninvited feelings as he and Sebastian reached an empty corner of the roof. Trevor hoped his smile was visible through the shadows and that it conveyed a reasonable level of gratitude.

“Thanks for the rescue.”

“Thanks aren’t necessary.” Sebastian wore a distinctly smug expression as he sipped from the drink in his own hand. It could have been a gin and tonic, but it was probably just club soda with lime. Trevor wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t risk being inebriated among a crowd of his peers. “I thought I recognized the flicker of glazed displeasure in your eyes. If I misgauged, I offer my most sincere apologies.”

Trevor snorted at the familiar veneer of decorum in Sebastian’s teasing, then sipped his drink to keep from admitting he would forgive nearly anything for the sake of Sebastian’s company.

When he trusted himself to manage something more measured than longing, he said, “‘Glazed displeasure’ might be an understatement. I’d legitimately started to wonder if I should fake a fainting spell to make him go away. I was scouting for an escape hatch when he cornered me.”

Trevor nearly choked on another half-hearted sip of champagne when Sebastian asked, “Can I join your escape attempt? There’s an excellent bar half a block away.”

Maybe it was silly to be surprised by the suggestion. Sebastian had invited him out for drinks and meals any number of times since their professional paths had parted ways—and in any case, the invitation was never for anything more intimate than a casual evening between colleagues, no matter how fervently Trevor might wish otherwise. They’d never socialized off the clock while he was Sebastian’s law clerk, but the five years since had been different. Trevor didn’t think he’d imagined the way they had slipped gradually across the line from professional acquaintances to friends.

“God, yes, please let’s do that.” He prayed his helpless infatuation didn’t echo too obviously through the words.

My Review:
Trevor Ortega is a bisexual man who is also a public defender. After law school, he clerked for Judge Sebastian Greer, a man he admired both professionally and personally while they worked together for five or so years. During law school and for a few years after, Trevor dated Emma, a wealthy and astute woman. His emotional and physical distance due to school and work duties eventually tore their relationship apart, but they have maintained a strong friendship. Which has even withstood Emma now being engaged to his former law school rival, Sloane.

He’s kind of pouring out his struggle, about having to go to Emma and Sloane’s wedding stag, to Sebastian, and he’s stunned when Sebastian offers to attend as his date. It’s like nearly Trevor’s fantasy come true, to spend an evening with Sebastian affectionate, attentive, and close-at-hand. Sebastian deftly manages the toxic currents of conversation that Trevor struggles with in Emma’s social sphere, but it’s not real. It can’t be, can it? The big complication arises as they imbibe and the lines between fake boyfriend and wanna-be lover become blurred. Sebastian’s brother happens to be a surprise guest, having been a mentor to Sloane over the years. He knows Sebastian’s secret desires, and calls him out for never being honest with Trevor–now that they have not been in a mentor-mentee relationship for several years.

It’s a sweet and captivating novella that really warms the heart. All the folks here are decent and compassionate. Trevor really does wish both Emma and Sloane well, he just doesn’t want to be seen as inadequate, and Sebastian makes it clear he never once considered Trevor as anything but first-class. I hesitate to call it a “slow burn” since it’s so short, but there is definitely a cadence that allows Trevor and Sebastian to find their footing as lovers quickly, due to their longstanding friendship and mutual respect and admiration.

Interested? You can find SOMETHING BORROWED on Goodreads, NineStar Press, or Books2 Reads.

****GIVEAWAY***

Click on this Rafflecopter link to enter the giveaway for a $10 NineStar Press GC.

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Yolande Kleinn is a shameless dreamer, a stubborn optimist, and a purveyor of erotic romance. Excitable, fastidious and just a little eclectic, she spends every spare moment writing the stories she wants to read. If she can drag other people into the pool along with her, then so much the better.

Catch Yolande on her website, Facebook and twitter.

A Fated Match: HIS VAMPIRE HAREM–A Review

Hi there! Today, I’m featuring a review of a contemporary M/M menage paranormal romance from Lily Harlem. HIS VAMPIRE HAREM features a model who has no idea about his paternity, or that he might be the savior four vampires have been searching for.

About the book: He’s special. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Darius Linnet has it all. He’s a top male model, he’s traveled the world, and everyone wants to either be him or be with him.

But would they really want to walk in his shoes? Because when emotions consume him, heated sparks fly. When he sleeps, his dreams take on an other-worldly twist. And his perfect body–sometimes it doesn’t even feel like his own.

Until, that is, he meets a group of sexy, mysterious men who claim they’ve been searching for him for centuries. He’s their savior, apparently, the key to their release from eternal damnation. They love him and they want to show him the pleasure he’s been denying himself. There’s only one problem: Darius’s demon father has other ideas.

My Review:

Darius Linnet is a mid-20s male model with otherworldly looks that really captivate. It makes sense since his father was an incubus. Darius never knew his dad, since he is a demon, but he’s dedicated to his mother, who is a kind and gentle woman. He’s a virgin, only recognizing that he’s gay in theory. Some fellow models have hit on him, but he’s always declined, thinking that he needs a real emotional connection before he engages in intimacy with a partner.

While on location in Paris, Darius meets Lloyd in a deserted courtyard. He has no idea that Lloyd is a vampire, or that Lloyd felt compelled to stay there in wait of someone who could be the prophesied savior of himself and three other vampires. As it stands, vampires who are unsaved will have an eternity of hell to look forward to, no matter how upstanding they are in their un-life. So, Lloyd strikes up a conversation, finds out a bit about Darius and then his team, consisting of Oscar, George, and Rhys, are on the case to determining if Darius could be the man of their dreams.  

Oscar hangs out in his hotel, ensuring nothing untoward happens to Darius, who finds the tall biker so sexy. The share a flight home to London, but then Rhys peeks in to make sure his mum’s washer machine is fixed properly, and George turns up on the set of a sexy ad shoot. Meanwhile, all of them are working to seduce Darius and get him amenable not only to helping them save their souls, but also to fall in love with them….all.

Darius is plagued by dreams he doesn’t understand, but meeting the four vamps, once he knows who and what they are, starts to clear up the mystery. It seems that Darius’ father has been keeping tabs on him, with the plan to sacrifice his son’s life to wreak havoc on humanity. This story is a sweet and interesting with some nice sexytimes. We have a good bit of the backstory explained, as well as an agreement on how to move forward. Just when it seems they will all be saved Daddy Dearest Demon turns up with a giant spanner into the works.

I read the sequel which does wrap the whole story up nicely, but it’s a fun entre into the reverse-harem experience. Darius is an innocent, hearing of these supernatural beings for the first time. He doesn’t quite believe things are so extraordinary, but his new experiences are rapidly changing his mind. The menage/reverse harem is handled well, with the vampires really only physically interested in sexytimes with Darius, to whom they are completely committed, both emotionally and sexually. It’s fun to watch the different personality dynamics develop, and see Darius blossom in his new and exceptional life. 

Interested? You can find HIS VAMPIRE HAREM on Goodreads, and Amazon.

About the Author:
Lily Harlem lives in the UK and is an award-winning author of contemporary erotic romance. She writes for publishers on both sides of the Atlantic including Ellora’s Cave, HarperCollins, Totally Bound, Xcite and Sweetmeats Press. Her HOT ICE series regularly receives high praise and industry nominations.

Before turning her hand to writing Lily Harlem worked as a trauma nurse and her latest HarperCollins release, Confessions of a Naughty Night Nurse, draws on her many experiences while nursing in London. Lily also self-publishes and The Glass Knot, The Silk Tie, Breathe You In (USA Today Reviewer’s Recommended Read of 2013) and Scored have been blessed with many 5* reviews since their release.

Lily also co-authors with Natalie Dae and publishes under the name Harlem Dae – check out the Sexy as Hell Box Set Trilogy available exclusively on Amazon – The Novice, The Player and The Vixen – and That Filthy Book which has been hailed as a novel ‘every woman should read’.

One thing you can be sure of, whatever book you pick up by Ms Harlem, is it will be wildly romantic and down-and-dirty sexy. Enjoy!

You can catch Lily on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Author Page, Pinterest. She’s also got a newsletter, Goodreads and Google +.

Check out her blogs on Raw Talent, BritBabes, and Hockey Romance!

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!
 

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

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

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

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

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

How about a taste?

Beep beeep beeeeeep

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck.

The chapel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Catch up with Anni on twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Reconnected and UNFORGOTTEN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. UNFORGOTTEN is a romance between long-time neighbors separated by time and circumstance now unexpectedly reunited.

About the book:
Billy Daley hasn’t been home in years, and he likes it that way. He’s just fine on his own—he has a cash-in-hand job at a scrapyard, a half-feral cat to keep him company, and many miles between him, his hometown and all the baggage that comes with it.

Until the job goes sideways. Suddenly he’s back in Rushmere, working for none other than his brother’s best friend—a man whose kiss Billy can’t seem to forget.

Gus Amour’s memories of Billy Daley are all spiky edges, lips crushed against lips and a reckless streak that always ended in trouble. But when Billy needs a place to stay, Gus steps in. He’d do anything for the Daley family, including living, and working, side by side with a man who makes his heart beat too fast and his blood run too hot—two things he’s been running from for years.

It doesn’t take long before their easy banter, lingering touches and heated glances become a temptation too hard to resist. But falling into bed and falling in love are two different things, and love has never come easy to either Billy or Gus. Only when fate threatens to steal away their opportunity for a second chance will they realize they don’t need easy.

They just need each other.

My Review:
Billy Daley is a bit of a mess. He’s a drinker and he’s had a lot of life struggles, including with the law. He tries to stay away from his home town of Rushmere, because he’s always been considered a “bad seed” by…everyone, including the cops. He did serve a piece of time for battery, but he’s out and on his own these days. Unfortunately, he’s just lost his job and he has no home, cash, or really anyplace to go. His older brother Luke has offered him work in the roofing business that Billy should share in, if he were that kind of bloke–to do regular partnerships and business that is. Anyway, Billy knows the difference between charity and homelessness, so he’s willing to accept the former to prevent the latter. He crates up his misbegotten (literal) junkyard cat and a broke down pedal bike and hoofs his way to Rushmere, where he’s going to bunk up in his childhood neighbor’s home, with Gus, his once-crush and now-grown childhood neighbor.

Gus Amour is the younger brother to Mia, Luke’s fiance. He’s been working as a roofer in the Daley family roofing business for years. And, he loves Luke, especially now that he and Mia have gotten their messy life straightened out. That means he’s willing to put up Billy in his home, even if it brings up bad memories of a kiss gone wrong, and Billy being difficult. Gus is barely able to pretend his not attracted to Billy, once he cleans up, that is. But nothing can, or should, happen between them now, right?

This is the second book in a duology, the first being the reconnection romance of Luke and Mia. These two are kindling and a match, with all the sparks and conflagration they set off. Billy is more subtle than his brother, stubborn but stalwart. Mia, Billy and Luke left Rushmere while Gus held down the homesteads, so to speak, so Gus is afraid to upset anything, thinking he might trigger another exodus that will leave himself isolated yet again. But Billy is more than the brawling behemoth he seems, with a heart for animals that would do St. Francis proud.

There is a slow burn here as Billy reveals his own attraction to Gus, which is stronger now as they cohabitate, from when they were kids and neighbors. But, there’s also conflict. Is it okay for them to get serious, knowing that Luke and Mia’s relationship is tumultuous, though currently solid? How will Billy adjust to living under the legal and social microscopes of the cops and residents of Rushmere? I loved how this all came together, with Billy living such a clean and sober life, facing his many challenges head on, in his usual brusque, bull-in-a-china shop manner. And Gus is a remarkable guy, in general. So loving, dependable and forgiving. He just wants to have a stable family situation, and he’s willing to fight for the respect Billy deserves, even if Billy won’t. Luke is a decent guy, whose personal problems often overshadowed his brotherly love, but he’s determined to make things right with Billy after their long estrangement. He’s not sure how to do that, but he’s willing to listen to Gus about Billy’s needs.

It’s an interesting and immersive read that encompasses family drama and budding romance in a way I hadn’t predicted. I only read this book from the duology, but I felt that it was fully enjoyable as a standalone. Expect a huge situation in the climax, where Billy is a hero, unexpected by the side-eye society of Rushmere but not to his nearest and dearest. He and Gus have a love that builds deeper and stronger than either anticipated. I so enjoyed it. Definitely recommend.

Interested? You can find UNFORGOTTEN on Goodreads, Carina Press and Amazon. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer, cover artist, and book designer. Her debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards, and was again a finalist in 2017 with Rented Heart.

In 2017, she won the EPIC award in contemporary romance with her military novel, Between Ghosts, and the contemporary romance category in the Bisexual Book Awards with her novel What Remains.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with photographer Dan Burgess. Bonus Material available for all books on Garrett’s Patreon account. Includes short stories from Misfits, Slide, Strays, What Remains, Dream, and much more.

You can find Garrett on her website, twitter, Facebook and Patreon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

More Than Friends? LEARNED REACTIONS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Jayce Ellis. LEARNED REACTIONS is the second book in her Higher Education series that feature professional men of color finding both success and love. We get a friends-to-lovers story here that really burned up the pages. Check out my review of LEARNED BEHAVIORS for another great read, with connected characters.

About the book:
Carlton Monroe is finally getting his groove back. After a year playing dad to his nephew and sending him safely off to college, it’s back to his bachelor ways. But when his teenaged niece shows up on his doorstep looking for a permanent home, his plan comes to a screeching halt. Family is everything, and in the eyes of social services, a couple makes a better adoptive family than an overworked bachelor father. A fake relationship with his closest friend is the best way to keep his family together.

If things between him and Deion are complicated, well, it only needs to last until the end of the semester.

Living with Carlton is a heartbreak waiting to happen, and once the adoption goes through, Deion’s out. He’s waited two decades for Carlton to realize they’re meant for each other, and he’s done. It’s time to make a clean break. But it’s hard to think of moving away when keeping up the act includes some very real perks like kissing, cuddling and sharing a bed.

Even the best charades must come to an end, though. As the holidays and Deion’s departure date loom, the two men must decide whether playing house is enough for them—or if there’s any chance they could be a family for real.

My Review:
Carlton Monroe is a financial aid officer at Howard University in DC. He’s been there a long time, and he works hard. He’s an out gay black man whose “traditional” (read: bigoted and austere) parents are not really talking with him–mostly on account of him being gay. He’d always had a conflicted relationship with his parents, though, even before he came out. Once he did though, they mostly disowned him. He had a good relationship with his sister, whom his parents idealized as the golden child of their family, but she and her husband died a few years ago leaving their children, Trey and Olivia, orphaned. Carlton’s parents took custody of the kids, but Trey, who may be genderqueer, soon turned up on his doorstep–after too many fights with his stifling grandparents. Carlton took him in with no qualms, and helped him graduate high school and enter college.

So, now Carlton is a free man! No responsibilities and looking forward to spending some time with his longtime best friend, and former college roomie, Deion Jones. Professor Jones is taking a sabbatical, and has agreed to visit Carlton for a bit.

Thing is, Deion has literally been in love with Carlton for…ever. Since freshman year of college, for sure. Deion is a beautiful, virile Black gay man, and he’s always wanted a loving partner and family. He’s a little jealous that Carlton, who always professed to never wanting kids himself, has become an uncle-dad to his nephew. While Deion’s visiting Carlton Olivia turns up on the doorstep, crying and wanting to be free of her domineering grandparents. Olivia wants to wrestle on her high school team, against the boys–and Grams was having none of it. But it was also how her grandparents cut her off from communicating with Trey and Uncle Carlton that messed things up with Olivia. Deion is happy to help co-parent, for the time he’s meant to be in DC, but Carlton–with the help and advice of his friend Lawrence–is moving to formally adopt Olivia. To protect her from the toxic homelife he’d narrowly escaped with his folks. And, the social worker helping to facilitate the adoption mistakes Carlton and Deion as cohabitating partners.

It’s then that Carlton suggests that Deion extend his stay, stop sleeping on his couch, and move himself into Carlton’s plush bed. And, if they can add benefits to their friendship, all the better. Because Carlton’s been low key in love with Deion all along. He’s just been too afraid to chance anything more, because Deion’s the only constant and healthy relationship Carlton has maintained in his adult life. He might make himself out to be a Grindr fan and freewheeling bachelor, but he isn’t really that guy. He’s a homebody who thrives on late-night check-ins with Deion, whose relationships haven’t really panned out either on account of his pining for Carlton.

Their extended cohabitation and more-than-friends sexytimes are blurring the lines, however, and with Deion’s sabbatical coming to an end there are realities that need to be faced and discussed. Shame Carlton’s so tongue-tied with his affections. At first. It’s a bittersweet break, because Trey and Olivia LOVE Uncle Deion as much as he does them. His dream of being a dad is nearly complete, if only Carlton truly loved him as a partner, as a potential husband, not a pseudo-temporary-boyfriend just to finalize the adoption. Can he live without Carlton, even as a friend? Because it might kill their friendship if he does what he needs to do to protect his heart. Once Carlton gets a handle on his life without Deion in it on the day-to-day he realizes his family dysfunctions have set him up for a lifetime of happiness. It’s difficult for each of these men to change their habits, but a happy ending is on the horizon, if only they can break the patterns that have bound them in misery the past 16 years (or so).

Loved this one!! Carlton’s hot mess of a life is so chaotic, but his love for Deion is clear, even if he can’t speak to it. Their sexytimes are amazing, so steamy, and yet playful. They have been friends too long for much awkwardness, even in the bedroom. I loved the grand gesture that Carlton plans, and it was awesome to see their happy ending on the page. Deion’s future had looked so bleak, but he’s more than happy to be a dad, even to a teen girl wrestler. There are fun interactions with Jaq and Lawrence who we met in the first book of this series. Lawrence, especially, got good page time as very successful Black lawyer who happens to be a father many times over and a divorced pansexual man. I’m sure we’ll see this “daddy” find himself a partner in the next book. I absolutely look forward to it.

Interested? You can find LEARNED REACTIONS on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jayce Ellis is an author and an attorney. You can connect with her on twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Honestly Connected THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Fearne Hill. THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS is a standalone romance featuring a closeted Greek man falling for his beloved best friend, an out gay, half-Greek DJ. It’s complicated by family and tragedy in the long past that’s still wreaking havoc in the hear and now.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $10 GC.
About the book:
Max Bergmann is Europe’s hottest drum and bass DJ. From the outside, his life is a whirl of glamorous vodka-fueled parties and casual hook-ups, whilst inside he craves the one thing he can’t have – his Greek childhood friend, Georgios Manolas.

Following a disastrous PR stunt and one drunken hook-up too many, Max realises the time has come to reassess his life choices. Returning to his childhood home on the Greek island of Aegina, if he wants any chance of having Georgios permanently in his life, he has to delve into the mystery of the longstanding hatred of the Bergmann’s by Georgios’s family.

Georgios is a chef and has spent his whole life on the tiny Greek island of Aegina. He has held the family restaurant together since he left school, with very little reward, and dreams of one day running a restaurant of his own on the island. Yet if he acknowledges his feelings for Max, he runs the risk of losing not just his traditional Greek family but also his livelihood.

As Max slowly uncovers the secrets of the past, he is left wondering whether a little Greek girl’s heart-breaking wartime diary could not only hold the key to his family’s history, but could it also unlock his and Georgios’s future together?

The Last of the Moussakas is a light-hearted, warm romance about two men’s quest for the truth about the past and unlocking a path to a future together.

How about a yummy taste?

GEORGIOS, AEGINA TOWN, GREECE. SIX WEEKS LATER

“I’d heard you were back,” I say neutrally, eyeing the lean, blond man slouched at one of the outside tables. His pale-blue shirt is rumpled and half undone, although he has clearly tried to rebutton it at some point and failed to align the buttons correctly. In one hand, he nurses a bottle of Fix lager and in the other a thin roll-up from which he takes a long drag before attempting to focus his blue gaze on me. I fold my arms across my apron.

“And if Papa Marcos sees you, he’ll tell you to get on your way; you’re not welcome here after what happened last time.”

Papa Marcos is actually my uncle, not my father, but that’s what everyone has called him for as long as I can remember. And this is his restaurant.

“Christ, that was ages ago, Georgios,” slurs the young man, shaking his head in mild protest. A wave of that thick yellow hair falls over his face with the movement, and he lazily pushes it aside before taking another swig from the bottle. He misjudges the precise location of his mouth and some of the amber liquid dribbles down his chin unnoticed. Ash from his cigarette falls unimpeded onto his jeans.

“Well, Papa Marcos has the memory of an elephant, and frankly, I don’t blame him if he tells you to bugger off. You’re lucky you’re even allowed back on the island, to be honest.”

The blond man regards me for a long second, his heavy-lidded gaze momentarily focussed. I feel a familiar lurch in my stomach, somewhere between pleasure and pain, and deliberately push it aside. Not tonight and not like this. Not ever again, in fact, I tell myself. I can’t continue tormenting myself like this, I just can’t. Picking up a tray, I gather empties from the table next to the man, aware of those blue eyes blearily following my every move as I cross to and fro around the outside restaurant area, clearing up the debris from departed diners.

We’ve reached midsummer, and the night has been as busy as any so far this season. I’ve cooked for eight hours non-stop, catering for well over a hundred covers. Day trippers and weekenders from the mainland pack into Aegina, joined by a smattering of rich yachting types and locals enjoying a hot Saturday night. It’s after one in the morning; the last table of guests has finally paid up and left. The town still buzzes with families and groups of friends at the neighbouring bars. Having wiped down the last of the outside tables, I disappear back inside.

After another half hour I’m done in the kitchen. Papa Marcos has long gone, as have the rest of the kitchen staff, leaving me to cash up and lock up. I’m the only person he trusts to do this reliably, not that he gives me any credit for it. I get paid just as little as everyone else, despite doing the bulk of the prep work, cooking, and having to manage a disparate bunch of occasional chefs, porters, pot washers and waiters. I can be sure as hell my lazy cousin and my brother won’t go the extra mile. I try to spend the time thinking happy thoughts about Agnes, my girlfriend of a couple of months. She’s nice, really nice, and pretty too. Shame I hardly have time to see her.

I extinguish the outside lights and, in the gloom, almost miss the body now sprawled across the table in the far corner, the empty green beer bottle dangling loosely from one elegant tanned hand. I detect gentle snoring as I approach and watch for a few moments as the man sleeps on, head cradled on his arm, his fair lashes resting on his cheeks, shoulder-length golden curls fanning around his face. A snail trail of saliva dribbles across his sleeve. And yet, despite his dishevelled and drunken state, I know without a shadow of doubt that Maximillian Bergmann is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.

“Max,” I begin, nudging him gently. Too gently, it would seem, as the snoring rhythm remains unaltered. “Maxi!” I shout a little louder, gripping his upper arm and shaking him with more force. “It’s home time, Maxi!”

Max gradually stirs and looks around hazily until his bloodshot eyes alight on my familiar face. He smiles tipsily. “Always here to save me, my Georgie boy.”

I ignore him; I’m tired and hot, my feet are aching, and I’m desperate for my bed. I can’t recall the last time I was allowed a day off. “Right, come on Max, just stand up. I’m not messing about. You need to go home.”

The harsher tone of voice and the tug on his arm bring Max to a more alert state, and he lurches to his feet, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

“And I’m not a boy!” I add, pulling Max along with me. “I’m twenty-five, Max. Almost a year older than you!”

Max pushes me away. “I need a piss.”

He steps back from the table and turns towards the beach. “Has anyone ever told you how cute you are when you’re cross, Georgios Manolas?” he mumbles over his shoulder.

He weaves his way through the tables and steps down off the restaurant decking, onto the narrow strip of pebbly sand which makes up the town beach. After only a couple of paces, Max reaches the water’s edge, swaying slightly as his fountain of pee arcs into the shallow foam at his feet.

“And you wonder why the good folk around here don’t like you very much,” I mutter under my breath and glance around to check we are still alone.

Max buttons himself up then totters back to where I’m waiting for him. He smiles his perfect easy white smile at me as if he hasn’t a care in the world. He probably doesn’t, I think uncharitably and check my watch. Possibly too late for taxis, and one look at Max makes it unlikely any drivers will agree to have him so inebriated in the back of their cabs anyway, particularly if they recognise him from previous trips. And even though the sensible half of my brain tells me to let Max find his own way home, the other half warns me that I won’t sleep easily knowing he’ll end up crashing somewhere on the beach for the night.

“Come on then, Max,” I sigh wearily. “I’ll give you a lift. The scooter’s parked over here.”

My Vespa has seen better days, having belonged not only to Dion, my older brother, but also to my older cousin Nico before him. Neither of them treated it with the care it deserves. Yet, although it may resemble a rust bucket, the 150cc engine is solidly reliable, even with the extra weight of a second adult. As Max clambers behind me, I warn him to hold on tight. “And don’t fall asleep! Stay awake! I haven’t got a helmet for you!”

Max’s arms obediently snake around my waist, and my oldest friend nestles the warmth of his body into me, resting his head comfortably against my back. We have shared scooter rides many, many times over the years, and as I head up away from the main street and along the coast road, it seems that Max snuggles in even closer. There had been a time when I lived for moments like this, alone with Max’s lean torso warm along the length of my back, but not now. I’m not going to let futile dreams of what could be with Max fill my head again, even if my heart demands that I push my foot to the pedal and just keep on going. I fail miserably to conjure up a mental image of my new girlfriend Agnes’s pretty face.

Aegina is not a big island, only about fifteen kilometres across and ten kilometres north to south, so it doesn’t take very long on the empty roads to get to Max’s parents’ place, cloistered in the hills above Kypseli village. Once we leave the coast road and wind our way up the narrow lanes, we encounter not a single soul.

His parents’ house is a newish villa but built in traditional old Greek style. With lush bougainvillea creeping up the walls, the two-storey elegant limestone sprawl contrasts sharply with the plainer, shabbier village dwellings on either side. Situated in an enviable spot; the views from the terraces stretch all the way to mainland Piraeus, with olive and lemon groves dropping away from the main house and providing acres of much-needed shade in the heat of the day. His parents had demolished the previous villa several years earlier and built this even grander place in its stead. At the time, my mum and I couldn’t see why they had bothered, it’s not as if they frequently visit the place. In fact, Max and his shifting collection of hangers-on are the only regular visitors these days. We negotiate the security gates, and as we head up the long private drive, I can see all the lights in all the rooms blazing, the empty swimming pool lit up like an airstrip for small aircraft. I shake my head; my dad would have said they’ve got more money than sense.

I kill the engine, and with my foot resting on the ground for balance, I wait for Max to move. He doesn’t budge an inch, his arms remain firmly wrapped around me, his front pressed cosily into my back. I wonder if he’s fallen asleep after all.

“Hey, Maxi, time to let go.”

“What if I don’t want to let go?”

His drowsy words are muffled against my neck. His fingertips find their way into the gap between the buttons on my shirt, and I can’t help an involuntary hitch in my breath nor ignore Max’s murmur of contentment as his smooth palm caresses the skin of my flat belly. “You like that, don’t you, Georgie boy?” he croons throatily into my ear.

That sweet accent, mostly Greek, but betraying a hint of foreignness at intense moments like this. I let my head drop back, losing myself in the sensation of the leisurely circular massaging of my belly and the feel of that hot breath and soft lips grazing my ear. God, it would be so easy to say yes, to climb off the scooter and allow Max to lead me by the hand into the house.

Pushing his hand away, I force myself to stay firm. “Stop it, Max,” I plead, closing my eyes. “Come on; please get off the bike. I’ve got work again in the morning, and I’m knackered. Just get off now. Please.”

The warm press of body against mine vanishes. The seat rises slightly as Max’s weight lifts, and I look up, sensing him standing next to me. “I do love you, Georgie boy, you know that, don’t you?”

I turn away from him, fiddling with the wing mirror. “Whatever. Go to bed and sleep it off.”

I head back to our little house hidden amongst the backstreets of Aegina town. A dwelling ideally suited to a family of four, ours accommodates an extended family of eight. Privacy and solitude are rare commodities, and the gulf between my modest home and the one I’ve just ridden away from feels as vast as the Saronic sea, the stretch of water separating Aegina from the mainland.

The whine of my scooter engine sets off a cacophony of local dogs, ours included. I give him a cursory pat as I pass him chained up in his usual spot under the eaves at the side of the house. God knows what all these territorial dogs, so beloved of us islanders, are actually guarding; none of us has anything of value worth stealing, but perhaps we just like to know who might be dropping in on us anyway.

The house is quiet, and I efficiently remove the sweat and grime of my working day under a dribble of a lukewarm shower before creeping into my room. I share the tiny space with Dion, and in the half-light, I can make out his lumpy body under the covers, flat on his back, dead to the world. His ugly snores are such a familiar soundtrack to my nights that they hardly register. I undress silently and slip into the narrow bed, separated from his by only a foot, and close my eyes.

Sleep eludes me as I knew it would; it is always the same whenever Max Bergmann strolls back into my life without warning. In between his visits, I can sometimes manage to forget about him for days at a time, and then just when I’m back on track, he turns up out of the blue, shaking me to the core, flipping my ordered existence upside down. I have a bloody girlfriend now, for God’s sake!

Giving up on sleep, I flick on my phone and indulge in a guilty pleasure: tracking his movements online via his company’s Instagram page. His last gig was headlining a drum and bass festival in Berlin, and before that, he’d done a stint at a big club in Manchester. Globetrotting—well, Europe-trotting as usual. And what had I done while Max had been lapping up the adoration of thousands of fans? Cooking approximately a gazillion moussakas and preparing my entire family’s body weight in tzatziki.

Truthfully, I had been expecting Max to appear again sooner or later. He rarely leaves it longer than a couple of months between visits to the island. He’s half Greek, after all, and spent much of his childhood here. His roots are on this island, and that drags him back, but his presence always unsettles me now. So different from when we were kids, when I counted down the days on the calendar until his boarding school holidays with growing excitement, knowing he would be back with me, and I’d have weeks and weeks with him all to myself. But lately, his presence feels like an open sore I can’t resist picking.

There is a familiar pull as my mind helplessly replays the feel of him riding pillion on the bike, pressed up against me, his soft palm flat against my belly, those maddening stroking circles, his breath and his low seductive voice warm against my throat. What if I don’t want to let go? My hand has strayed to my dick, achingly aroused against the well-worn duvet, and I’m working myself, imagining those circles moving lower and lower until it is Max’s hand on me, Max who is stroking me, Max who is loving me. My own fist is a poor substitute, but my balls tighten nonetheless, and I roll over onto my stomach as I start to come, rubbing myself hard against the friction of the sweaty sheet, stifling my frustrated groans against the pillow.

My Review:
Georgios Manolas and Max Bergmann have been friends their whole lives. Honestly, they are slightly related, with their mother’s being cousins, but pretty much everyone on the tiny Grecian island of Aegina is slightly related. Despite being mainly raised on Aegina, Max is not considered a welcome person. There is a lot of tension that he does not understand, which stems all the way back to World War II and the German occupation of Aegina. His great-grandfather was stationed on the island and was party to a lot of bad stuff involving Georgios’ great-grandmother’s family. Memories are long-lived for such atrocities, and Max’s own parentage brought scorn he inherited, without knowing.

See, though Max grew up on Aegina, he was educated in England, per his kind and wealthy step-father, and his mother hardly ever visits Aegina anymore, having lived a traumatic life of her own. Max’s blonde and fair, with bright blue eyes like he German father he never knew, as he’d died two months before Max was born. His mom was a teen girl who’d gotten pregnant by his teen father while on holiday in Aegina. Her folks disowned their pregnant daughter, and the Bergmanns likely paid her a ton of money to just go back home. The Greek kids of Aegina, including Georgios, all know the horrible history of Max’s great-grandfather because it was part of the required reading in grade school. Max is now an adult, jet-setting around to DJ the hottest clubs around Europe. He’s used to amazing, swanky hotels, and keeps a posh flat in London. When he is on Aegina, Max lives in his mother’s expansive, gated villa, while three generations of Manolas’s crowd into a dilapidated stone home–everyone sharing a room. Max has never really considered his privilege, but he’s reminded of it when he comes back from a bender that was scary enough to send him a rehab. Max wants to pursue a relationship with Georgios, but he’s held back by the mystery of the historical rift between their families.

Georgios may love Max, but he can’t build a life with him. He’s been running his uncle’s restaurant for ten years now, and is sure the old man will leave him the property, soon. Papa Marcos hates Max, however, and wouldn’t be pleased to have a gay nephew either. That said, Max is pretty sure Papa Marcos has not real plans to give Georgios anything more than a hard time. Aegina’s economy is flailing, and they don’t get the tourists year-round like Santorini or Crete. Georgios points out the disparity between their lives, and Max sees an opportunity. If his great-grandfather’s family could wreak 80 years of unintended havoc, surely he can use his power and connections to right some of those wrongs.

This is such a powerful story, with an intimate and chilling backstory of greed, lust and destruction sowed in the winds of WWII, and repeated over and over by generations of unwitting “takers” as Georgios and his family see them. People who come to the islands and take and take without understanding the repercussions of their actions. The casual brutality was revealed through the lens of a young girl’s diary, a counterpoint to the present day situation that Max and Georgios experience, with Max’s excesses and Georgios’ poverty. At the heart of the story is love: love denied, love stolen, love abused and love redeemed. Both Max and Georgios are good men, but Max had a lot of perspective to gain, for such an otherwise educated and worldly man. He’s stunned, shocked and appalled by his forebears. But, more importantly, he’s determined to leave a lasting mark on Aegina that will wash away the stains of the past. I loved his ideas, and his creativity in seeking not only redemption with Georgios and the Manolas family, but the larger Aegina community. It’s sweet and compassionate, and all that hard-working and stubborn Georgios deserves. The happily ever after is so beautiful, with so much happiness that it’s hard to imagine such dark fortunes had ever been a part of their experiences. I loved the setting. I loved the friends-to-lover progression. I loved the culture-clash and the backstory that really set up the conflict in stark and unflinching terms. Creative and thoughtful, with a bit of steam as Max and Georgios embark on a life together.

Interested? You can find THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Fearne Hill lives deep in the southern British countryside with three untamed sons, varying numbers of hens, a few tortoises, and a beautiful cocker spaniel.

When she is not overseeing her small menagerie, she enjoys writing contemporary romantic fiction. And when she is not doing either of those things, she works as an anaesthesiologist.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Daddy Drama STARTING FROM THE TOP– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM THE TOP is the fifth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, STARTING FROM HERE, and STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…
Johnny
A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean
Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Starting From the Top is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll, an age gap, and a little family fun! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The cheery sound of family fun drifted through the house…the dog barking, cupboards closing, and a girlish squeal of delight. And more dog barking.

I chuckled at the chaotic homey cacophony. I would never have envisioned this was Sean’s life. He’d always seemed like a badass boss to me—not a man who’d wear an apron to bake cupcakes with his daughter while his son had a guitar lesson. His chocolate mussed hair and concerned parental frown made him look goofy and yet very…endearing. In a hot dad way.

Okay. Definitely time to go. I reached for the knob just as Sean did.

“I’ll walk you out,” he insisted, holding the door open.

I stepped onto the porch and blinked against the bright afternoon sun at the hilltop view of the city. “Wow. This is nice.”

“Yeah,” he agreed absently. “How was he?”

“Amazing. The next Chuck Berry.”

Sean sighed grumpily. “Less sarcasm, please.”

“Sorry, Dad.” I snickered. “He was great. I mean, he sucked, but I think he had fun. I told him to keep the guitar and practice on his own. If you want me to come back, I will.”

“Really? That’s good.” He stared at the horizon for a moment before glancing my way. “I wanted to—why are you smiling at me?”

“You’re fuckin’ covered in chocolate. It’s in your ear.” I made a face and tugged at my own ear.

He gestured at the apron. “Baking isn’t my thing.”

I flashed a megawatt grin at him. “Sure, it is. Are you decorating those cupcakes with anything besides frosting?”

“Sprinkles. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to crash your family time.”

Sean inclined his head. “So…did he talk to you?”

“It took a little coaxing. Full disclosure…we played video games before we picked up the guitars. You’re not paying me, so I don’t really feel guilty. I just don’t want you to think it was a jam session from the start.”

“I know.”

“You know?” I repeated.

“I snuck in to see how you were doing. Hulk let you down. You might want to go with Iron Man or Captain America next time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I snort-laughed, then sobered. “As for Parker…he’s a good kid. He’s shy, reserved, and likes organization. He seems like the kind of person who excels at things he can control. I bet he builds killer Lego sets. He might learn a few songs, but I doubt he’s a savant. You never know, though. Kids are sponges. They pick up stuff you and I would never catch.”

“That’s true. I’m impressed. And you’re right…about everything. He keeps a lot inside. He’s always been that way. Very thoughtful and methodical. He sets a high bar for himself. He likes to get things right the first time. He does well in school, but he’s struggling with the transition to junior high. His old friends tried out for sports and he opted not to. It’s left him feeling ostracized and alone. Hormones don’t help. I thought it might be good for him to spend time with someone cool who—”

“Cooler than you?”

“Well, let’s not get crazy.” Sean flipped the corner of his apron and let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I just…thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Hey, if he really is interested, we can do this regularly. My schedule is light for the next couple of months, but it’ll get crazy again in late spring.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Text me. I hate phone calls.” I held out my right hand and snatched it away a second later, narrowing my gaze. “You have frosting on your nose.”

“My nose?” He wiped his hand over the apron, then across the tip of his nose. “Did I get it?”

“No. Come here. Let me help you.” I stepped into his space and brushed the sugary goodness away.

“Did you get it?” he asked in a huskier than normal tone.

“Yeah, but it’s on your ear and your chin and…”

“Where else?”

“Here.”

I ran the pad of my thumb under this bottom lip. “Got it.”

I didn’t move. I should have, but something held me in place. I studied his features, noting the flecks in his eyes. I wondered what color they were…gold, green, brown? I traced a line at the corner of his mouth, rubbing the scruff of his neatly-trimmed beard. I stared at his full lips for a long moment before meeting his gaze. Then I inched closer and…kissed him.

My Review:
Johnny is the lead guitarist of the up-and-coming band Zero, and we’ve met him in previous stories but he takes center stage finding love and a family in this book. It can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

Johnny is an out gay 30 year-old man who is finally getting recognized as the lead guitarist of Zero, a band known for their LGBTQ members and currently trending in the charts. While the band works on its third album Johnny is taking some time to pause and set up house. He grew up with a single drug-addicted mother and was always being shuffled off from one bad living situation to another. This is the first home of his own, one he isn’t sharing with ANYONE, and he’s reveling in it a bit. He has a designer and the whole thing is coming together nicely. Attempting to do a small favor for his designer leads Johnny to a neighbor’s home, and he’s surprised when the door is answered in a very strange and sexy way–but not by the homeowner! It’s even more shocking that he does know the owner, Seth Gruen, owner of a popular WeHo gay nightclub called Vibes and also former boyfriend of his bandmate, Tegan.

Seth is 45, and out as bisexual. He’s also the divorced father of two kids whom he co-parents. Seth is super protective of his kids, and tries to keep his personal life very separate from his work life and his dad life. Tegan only met his kids twice, briefly, though they dated for a couple of years off and on. Johnny is definitely attracted to Seth, but he’s pretty much attracted to lots of gay/bi men. Johnny is a truly sex-positive person, and he’s a bit glam, both of which are not necessarily traits Seth looks for in a partner, not that he’s looking for a partner. That doesn’t mean he isn’t intrigued. It’s just that he really wants Johnny’s guitar skills a bit more…sort of. See, Seth is struggling to connect with his introverted 13 y/o son, and he thinks maybe connecting young Parker with a rocker for lessons might open him up for conversation. It’s only a partial ruse to keep in contact with Johnny. But, that connection leads to further business ideas, and they get a little tangled in the details. Oh, and they have sex. Often. And Seth’s kids adore Johnny.

Johnny has never really wanted a family–he didn’t have one growing up and his home life was atrocious. He is mostly sober, following a period of heavy drinking, though he never does drugs. There’s a lot of competing interests in Johnny’s life but things with Seth and his kids are simple: he and Seth have mind-blowing sex and he gives Parker some lessons just for kicks. The more time stretches on, though, the more Johnny and Seth connect in friendship, and eventually love. If only either of them was ready to admit it–or change their plans to expand into a true partnership.

This one was really fun and a bit sweet. Johnny is irreverent and honest, qualities Seth truly values. He helps Seth see that he keeps punishing himself for coming out so late in life, taking the blame for his failed marriage. Johnny’s struggling with some fame growing pains, too, and Seth (and the kiddos) help to keep him grounded. The kids really are a nice part of this story. There is a parenting dynamic that was well-explored and allowed Johnny and Seth to grow in their understandings of how to communicate when it’s awkward and build bridges instead of burning them. Expect some intense steam that mellows into a smoldering love story. There is a bit of struggle near the end, as they outgrow their original no-strings arrangement. It leads to a happy ending, with plenty of family for Johnny to revel in, now that he and Seth can build theirs together.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM THE TOP on Goodreads, and Amazon.

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About the Author:
Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards.

She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Workplace Confrontations LEARNED BEHAVIORS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Jayce Ellis. LEARNED BEHAVIORS is the first book in her Higher Education series that feature men of color finding professional success and love. Here it’s an office romance that shouldn’t happen. Check out my review of ANDRE and JEREMIAH other great reads by this author.

About the book:
Two single dads meet at the office where it’s hate at first sight in this new series from acclaimed author Jayce Ellis.

Sending his daughter off to college is the proudest day of single dad JaQuan Reynolds’ life. Everything took a back seat to raising her—including his career. He has no idea what comes next, but his newfound freedom is quickly curtailed by a crash deadline at work and the uptight, hovering presence of consultant Matthew Donaldson. He’s surly and insufferably sexy, and Jaq’s ready to check him out and write him off—right up until a work assignment forces them together.

Every day. From now until Thanksgiving.

Work and fatherhood have been Matt’s whole world for years now, ever since his marriage ended. His eldest son is getting hitched over Thanksgiving weekend, and he’s not going to let a work deadline get in the way of celebrating with his family—not this time. The hours aren’t a problem, but the executive assistant on the project might be. Jaq’s sexy voice makes Matt yearn for things he let go of a long time ago.

Lust isn’t on the schedule, and neither is longing. But as the weeks go by, Matt and Jaq are forced to reevaluate their plans…and discover that even the most tight-knit of families can make room for one more.

My Review:
JaQuan “Jaq” Reynolds is a single, Black, gay dad with a college-aged daughter, Tanisha, leaving for her first semester. He’s so into his daughter and loves that she’s finding her wings. While he is helping her move in to the dorms at Howard, he makes the acquaintance of a couple of other out Black men raising college-aged kids, Carlton and Lawrence. He doesn’t have a lot of community, so he’s happy to build some new friendships. Jaq is the right-hand man to eccentric Patricia Kingsley, owner and head designer of Kingsley Enterprises, a home furnishings design company. They had a bid to design a line of products for Bernhardt’s stores. They hadn’t heard back, but suddenly the company wants designs for a Black Friday surge, and it’s all hands on deck for the next few months to meet the ridiculous deadlines. Jaq is not pleased to work closely with Matthew Donaldson as they bring Patricia’s designs to market–mostly because Matthew is pompous and his attitude is beyond the pale. Even if he is one fine man…

Matthew Donaldson is a Bernhardt’s analyst who usually takes nine months to a year with his new accounts to help them acclimate to the Bernhardt’s process, and ensure a successful partnership. This unexpected account with Kingsley designs is breaking all the patterns for his usual project management. He’s worked for the Bernhardt’s for two decades, to the chagrin of his ex-wife and grown children. They all have had their fill of his excuses for ignoring them on behalf of work. Matthew’s female boss has made it clear that she only trust his with this roll out because management is looking for reasons to axe either of them. As a Black bisexual man, he’s definitely outside the white culture of management at Bernhardt’s and failing to meet deadlines on this rushed project could be the end of Matthew’s tenure at Bernhardt’s. Add to that his eldest son is about to get married at Thanskgiving–the day before Black Friday, and his youngest daughter is having struggles at Howard. So, he’s not interested in Jaq’s excuses for Patricia’s seeming flightiness. Even if Jaq is a delicious-looking dude…

Thing is, the more these two work together the more they recognize that their animosity is fueled by frustrated attraction. Maybe if they take a little “professional” break they could get some clarity and also some sexual satisfaction. Interestingly, they only get more taken with one another–because they finally start to appreciate the struggles the other has faced. They are the hardest workers in the office and their commitment to the project is common ground. Also, it turns out Tanisha and Matthew’s daughter are acquainted–although this causes some conflict when Jaq recognizes that Matthew’s daughter kinda broke her heart. That said, they can’t shake the other man, so they decide to go for it. It seems to be developing well, until the wedding, to which Matthew has invited Jaq as his guest. If they bust their humps they should be able to relax at the occasion. Unfortunately, it’s a total mess. Why? Because Matthew can’t turn off work, as per his usual. And, because Tanisha has an emergency that increases the conflict.

This is a fantastic and delicious romance between two determined, driven and strong Black men. Their personalities were so strong on the page, and their dedication and responsibility was honored and celebrated in the most poignant ways. Matthew has a long way to go to make amends to his family, and to Jaq for his recent behavior. Matthew is used to being autonomous, and his struggles to include people and be vulnerable are interesting. Jaq has been a caregiver for his whole adult life. it’s hard for him to be independent, but he grows his wings once Tanisha leaves home, encouraged by his loving mother. This story has a strong theme of family and self-sacrifice, which both men need to overcome. I really loved it, and I loved Carlton and Lawrence and their absolutely stone cold, but loving, advice for Jaq. I’m glad that we will see these characters in future stories. A happy ending and a strong recommendation from me.

Interested? You can find LEARNED BEHAVIOR on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jayce Ellis is an author and an attorney. You can connect with her on twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!