Fresh Starts in WORKING IT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary romance form Christine d’Abo. WORKING IT is the first book in her Ringside Romance series published this year, and I liked the odd-couple sweetness of it.

About the book:
Nolan Carmichael is getting a fresh start—new career, new company, new life. The only problem is, he liked his old life just fine . . . until an accident robbed him of his health, his job, his self-confidence, and his ability to go out in public without having anxiety attacks.

Zack Anderson has scared away his last four administrative assistants. So when he hires Nolan on a whim, he’s not too worried, since Nolan will be gone within the week anyway. Two weeks later, Nolan has made himself indispensable, completely reforming Zack’s schedule, life . . . and libido.

But in a company already torn by internal politics, one wrong step could ruin both their careers. And not only are they working to reopen Ringside Gym, Zack’s retreat when he was a troubled teen, but they also can’t help themselves falling for each other. If only the rest of their lives could go as smoothly as things do when they’re alone together.

My Review:
Nolan Carmichael suffered a devastating injury in a terrible car wreck two years ago. A couple of his co-workers didn’t and he lives with the pain of the injuries as well as their loss. It’s time, however, for him to work through his equally-crippling anxiety, and find a new job because his savings is dwindling and his younger sister’s job prospects might cause her to move soon. He goes to an interview as an admin assistant, where he meets a sexy man in the toilets just before he’s brought in for the interview. And, it turns out the sexy man he’d met is the office tornado, Chief Technical Officer and all-around admin terror, Zach Anderson.

Zach’s never had a male assistant before, and he’s chased off more than a few assistants already. His workload is becoming more than he can bear, however, especially if he wants to devote any thine to rehabbing Ringside Gym, the haven where he met his best pals in his youth. The owner had died and the place is a musty albatross that’s only going to become a bigger money pit the longer it sits vacant. But Nolan, despite his quirks, is a hard worker and unwilling to let Zach’s irrational mood shifts tear him down. Plus, they develop a rapport that only heightens their mutual attraction. Nolan’s also unwilling to let Zach’s dream die–and he works overtime to help him find a pathway to his true passion: building an LGBTQ-friendly gym and after-school shelter for kids in the city.

There’s a mess of office politics going on, as their company prepares for layoffs in order to mean a partnership agreement, and Zach is thoroughly upset that one of the jobs on the chopping block could very-well be Nolan’s. The thing is, Nolan is a different man to the one who barely made it to his interview. He still suffers the depression and anxiety, but he’s tested his resilience, and developed a stronger set of coping strategies. Zach’s friends recognize Nolan for the gem he is, and counsel Zach not to screw it up. But will having to fire the man he’s coming to care deeply for spell the end of the romance?

Spoiler: Nope. It’s a sweet and surprisingly tender read, though I was expecting far more boxing in this tale. Instead, there’s the clean-out of a musty gym, and the building of new dreams together. Also, some rather nice sexytimes, including an office scene that steamed up my screen. I look forward to reading on in this series and watching Zach’s pal Max find love.

Interested? You can find WORKING IT on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

About the Author:
A romance novelist and short story writer, Christine has over forty publications to her name. She loves to exercise and stops writing just long enough to keep her body in motion too. When she’s not pretending to be a ninja in her basement, she’s most likely spending time with her family and two dogs.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Smoothing the Kinks in THREE PLAYER GAME-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released contemporary M/M menage romance from Jaime Samms. THREE PLAYER GAME features some of the characters featured in HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES, also by Samms. Both books are set in the Bluewater Bay universe, like ALL WHEEL DRIVE and GET A GRIP. 3PG features a couple who practice a bit of light BDSM looking for a third, and convincing him they need him as much as he needs them.

About the book:
Vince’s life has improved immeasurably since he moved to Bluewater Bay two years ago. He’s gone from working for a man he hated, to helping found a company he believes in. And he and boyfriend, Pete, have built a delicate balance of power between them that keeps them both grounded and thriving.

Almost, anyway.

Pete’s job on the set of Wolf’s Landing is demanding. He needs lots of downtime off set, and that’s where Vince’s firm but gentle control isn’t always enough. And for Vince, Pete’s constant high-energy needs are turning out to be more than he can handle alone.

It’s no surprise to either of them, then, that sparks fly when Vince’s coworker Lee enters the picture. Outwardly, Lee is tough and confident, but when a bad back confines him to Pete and Vince’s spare room, the cracks start to show and his desire for connection begins to peek through.

Pete and Vince both like what they see under Lee’s prickly outside, but now the three men must learn that love isn’t about beating the game—it’s about balance, trust, and letting each other in.

My Review:
Vince and Lee are co-workers for a newly-formed company that’s planning to make a videogame about Wolf’s Landing. The two of them came to work for Blaire Caruthers. Blaire’s father was an overbearing prick, and they are all glad to be rid of him. Plus, Vince is dating a director’s assistant on the set of Wolf’s Landing, Pete, who is willing to direct some scenes they can use in the rendering of the video game. It seems they have an inside track on this plan, and life is finally going well for Vince–and mostly Lee. Well, Lee suffers from a chronic back injury. He’s laid up in a Vancouver hotel with a flare-up, and being cared for by Vince when the book opens.

Vince has long thought Lee was attractive, but he’s with Pete, and that’s totally cool. In fact, it’s a great partnership. Pete has a stress-filled job on the TV show set, and he struggles to relax in his off hours. Vince’s firm hand and creative loving calm Pete’s manic beast. That said, it’s a lot of stress on Vince, and he’s getting a bit worn from caring for Pete’s emotional and sexual needs. They are fully aware of this, and have been considering asking another man to join them; both Pete and Vince are attracted to Lee, but nervous about approaching him. Lee’s need for care as he recovers from his back troubles seems a perfect fit for their cozy cottage–and lifestyle. One huge snag, Lee’s back was originally injured by a careless Dom, and he wants no more kink in his life.

However, the longer Lee spends with Pete and Vince, the more he comes to realize how very lonely he is in Bluewater Bay. And how bonding with VInce and Pete, only to have them someday move on and leave him behind, could be too crushing to manage.

I liked this one. I’m a fan of poly relationships in fiction, and this one had an interesting spin, for me. The purported triad wasn’t necessarily all about attraction. Vince and Pete had deep needs in their relationship that weren’t being completely met. They are really invested in one another, and want to satisfy the other, too, but there are strains. Pete is a health-mind-body type of guy, and needs a place for balance. When his schedule is thrown off, it can take Vince hours and hours to calm him, and get him to re-center. He knows this is a challenge most men wouldn’t take on, and he loves Vince for all his care, which is by turns tender and kinky. Expect some bondage and light BDSM.

Lee is afraid to engage in kink, to be that vulnerable again, but Pete and Vince are excellent at caring for him. It’s unsettling how cherished they make him feel. Yet, he struggles with Vince, who was the previous office lackey, being dominant at home. Lee’s conflicts in the work place become petty, and illustrate how immature Lee has acted in relationships during adulthood. It’s only once he walks out that he recognizes all he’s given up–and wants back. The sexytimes aren’t burn the sheets up steamy, but they are engaging nonetheless. The power plays and dynamics of navigating a kink-laced, three-way love fest are always tricky. That said, these scenes add a lot of tender moments to a story line already brimming with compassion and self-sacrifice.

Interested? You can find THREE PLAYER GAME on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble iBooks and Kobo. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author: in Jaime Samms’ words…
With most of the hours in the day taken up by a part time job and the full time occupation of raising and schooling two kids, writing is somewhat of an indulgence, but it’s the indulgences that keep us sane, right? When not otherwise occupied, like most writers, reading is my relaxation method of choice, and you can find my reviews at Kuriousity.com and Dark Diva Reviews to let you know what I liked (and occasionally, what I didn’t). And just in case there are an extra few minutes in the day, I also help out the admin team abelong to a writer’s critique group: Dreaming in Ink. After all, idle hands and all that.

Catch up with Jaime online here: website | blog | Facebook | twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Happy Book Birthday to LOVE BY NUMBER! Excerpt and Giveaway…

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from DJ Jamison. LOVE BY NUMBER is a standalone odd-couple romance that features a baseball statistician falling for an artist. I really enjoyed FULL DISCLOSURE, so I’m looking forward to reading this one!

Scroll down for the excerpt and to enter the $10 Amzzon GC giveaway!
About the book:
Aidan doesn’t have the best record with relationships, but he’s had a lifelong love affair with baseball. Player stats and computer simulations make sense. People don’t. But when he needs a ride to the World Series, he must rely on another person: a sexy artist who is as spontaneous as Aidan is predictable.

Jesse doesn’t care about baseball. As an artist, he’d rather paint a player than watch him at bat. But his grandpa loves the Kansas City Royals, so he takes him to every home game. He has no idea a fender bender in the parking lot is about to deliver new inspiration in the shape of a man with a whole bag of quirks.

Despite their differences, Jesse and Aidan hit it off, and their sexual chemistry is fantastic. But when Aidan’s numbers betray him, Jesse isn’t prepared for the fall-out. If Aidan continues to put his passion for baseball stats above everything else, he could miss out on the most important numbers in life: the number of smiles, kisses and laughs they could share in a lifelong journey together.

How about a little taste?

Aidan clutched at his hair, heart hammering in his chest. The front driver’s side of his black Saab was crumpled. The wheel well took a direct hit, the force of the collision pressing it into the tire. He could tell from just looking that the axle must be bent, if not broken, by the way the tire tilted at the wrong angle.

It’s not drivable, he thought, and his heart hammered harder. He felt his hands trembling, and not as an aftershock of the accident. Well, not from experiencing the accident, at least. He was shaking because his plans had just been thrown in the blender.

“Hey, you okay?”

He looked up, gazing blankly at the figure approaching him. A man, but his features were lost in the shadows. Not that Aidan could focus on something like facial features right now. That wasn’t easy on a good day, much less in a moment like this.

“It’s not that big a deal,” he muttered to himself, as he’d learned from his therapist years ago. “It’s not. It’s not. But …” He groaned and clutched at his hair some more. “How am I going to get to the World Series now? I have to get there!”

He’d wrapped up so many hopes in getting to that series, in watching the Royals perform in high-stakes games. It was the perfect time to prove out his math. It might not be rocket science, but Aidan still wanted to watch his math come to life on the baseball field, in the most important series of the season. In person.

A hand touched his shoulder, and he flinched away.

“I’m sorry. Are you hurt?” a voice asked. A nice, mellow voice. He liked the raspy quality of it and the cadence of the man’s words. His tone calmed Aidan.

He managed to drag his gaze from the damage to the man’s face. “I’m …”

Sexy Artist Guy.

He faltered when he recognized the dark hair tinted with maroon highlights, dark eyes and sculpted lips — all coming together in a perfect symmetry. A perfect representation of geometry in nature, really. And the freckles splashed over his nose, highlighted now by the security lights overhead? They somehow added to his sex appeal instead of detracting from it.

Aidan had seen an open sketchbook on this man’s lap more than once when passing by on a bathroom break. He mostly drew portraits, from the look of it, but Aidan had only caught a glimpse. It made sense he was an artist since his entire appearance was like a work of art to Aidan’s eyes. He couldn’t imagine being so creative with his hair or his wardrobe or his skin, where Sexy Artist Guy had embraced both tattooing (his right bicep) and piercing (both ears and right eyebrow).

“I’m so sorry,” Sexy Artist Guy said again. “I saw an opening and went for it. I didn’t see you coming, but my grandfather was distracting me—”

“Blame it on the old man, why don’t ya?” a hoarse voice boomed loudly enough to make Aidan jump.

“Gramps, not now, huh? The guy is freaking out.”

“I’m not freaking out,” Aidan said sharply. The fascination with the stranger’s face faded as he remembered why he was in this situation. He gestured to the damage. “There’s no way I can drive that.”

“We can give you a lift,” the old man said, at the same time the handsome stranger said, “We’ll call you a tow truck.”

“But look at my car!” he said, not sure they understood the direness of the situation.

Artist Guy frowned, then glanced behind Aidan. Following his look, he realized they were blocking traffic. A line of cars snaked through the parking lot, headlights shining on Aidan’s personal disaster.

“I should move my car.” He glanced back at the bent wheel well, frowning. He hoped he could move the car.

“Jesse,” the old man spoke, “you help him push. I’ll get in and put it in neutral.”

They all took their positions, and with some work managed to push the car into an empty space next to the Lincoln Towncar that had so cruelly crunched the Saab. Aidan cringed at the scraping metal sound as his car rolled out of the lane of traffic.

Once off to the side, Jesse pulled out his wallet. He handed his license to Aidan, who stared at it. He took in all the details: 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, brown hair, brown eyes, born one year after Aidan, making him twenty-six.

Jesse cleared his throat, and Aidan glanced up.

“Aren’t you going to take a picture?”

Damn. He’d been staring. The old saying popped into his mind: Take a picture, it’ll last longer.

He flushed. “Sorry.”

He started to hand the license back, but Jesse looked at him as if he had a screw loose. Then it clicked. Take a picture. For insurance. Right.

He dug out his phone and clicked the pic of the license, and then of the insurance card that Jesse handed over. He was still rattled by the accident, thrumming with bottled-up anxiety.

“You okay? You’re pretty twitchy,” Jesse said. “I’m sure the insurance will cover the damage.”

“Yeah, but it’s my car.”

“Yeah?”

Aidan waved to his car, unsure how to make Jesse understand.

“It was reliable.”

“Um, won’t it still be reliable when it’s fixed?”

“The World Series is in two days.”

“So …”

“Jesse, stop being thick,” the old man interrupted. “Obviously, he was going to drive up to St. Louis, and a Saab is a foreign car. He won’t be able to get the parts locally. Maybe not even the mechanic. They don’t make those cars anymore. He can’t get it fixed in time.”

“Oh.”

“I have to go to that game. I go to all the away games within driving distance. I always do. And this is the World Series. I’m going to have to take a bus, and, oh God, I can’t stand to ride the bus—”

“Jesse will drive you.”

Aidan looked at the older man. He had a bushy head of white hair and enough wrinkles to give a Shar-Pei a run for its money, but his tone was confident, the kind of confident that brooked no nonsense. He’d heard that tone from his own mother too many times to count.

“He will?”

“I will?” Jesse echoed. “Gramps, I’m sure Aidan doesn’t want—”

“That would be great!”

Normally, Aidan wouldn’t want to ride long distance with a stranger, but when contrasted with a bus full of strangers, he jumped at the opportunity. Besides, Jesse and his grandfather had been at every home game. If Jesse were some kind of predator or bully, he’d have shown it by now. Right?

He’d only had one other interaction with Jesse. He’d walked up to Aidan once, when he was trying to quickly record the stats from the latest play and compare them against what he’d predicted for that player’s performance. Aidan had been too distracted to make conversation, especially small talk with a stranger. But he couldn’t help noticing his great smile. Jesse was one of those people who smiled with his whole being, not just his mouth. His eyes brightened, his cheeks dimpled and his body even seemed to vibrate with happy energy.

Aidan liked that because it was easy to see Jesse’s happiness. It wasn’t subtle, which would be lost on him, or confusing — like when people’s mouths smiled but their eyes stayed cold. He didn’t understand that. Was he supposed to respond to their mouth or their eyes? And then there were some people who just smiled all the time, even when they said mean things. What did that mean? Smiles could be confusing, but Jesse’s wasn’t.

“I have tickets to the games,” Gramps was saying now. “I was going to ask you to go, as a favor to me.”

“What? But you said in the car—”

“Hush,” Gramps said, a gleam in his eye. “I’m not up for that kind of travel. I want you to go in my place, so you can tell me all about it. You take this nice young man. It’s the least we can do. Watch the games for me, and tell me all about it when you come home.”

Aidan pulled out his phone to call the tow truck, watching the two men in a staring stand-off. He made arrangements for the tow and disconnected in time to see Jesse sigh and nod.

“Okay, Gramps. For you.”

“Good boy,” Gramps said, clapping him on the shoulder.

Interested? You can find LOVE BY NUMBER on Goodreads and Amazon. Currently selling for $.99.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
DJ Jamison grew up in the Midwest and worked in newsrooms for more than 10 years before trying her hand at romance writing. Her first m/m romance stories focused on a series of love connections between small-town Kansas newspaper staffers, their sources and their readers before she expanded into novels venturing into emergency rooms and other settings. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons and three glow-in-the-dark fish who are miraculously still alive. The same can’t be said for the hamster she got in college. RIP Bogie.

Catch up with DJ on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

Mixed Messages WORTH WAITING FOR-A Review

Hi there! Toady I’m sharing a review for a recently released contemporary M/M romance from new-to-me author Wendy Qualls. WORTH WAITING FOR is a reconnection romance for college more-than-friends who connect professionally at the conservative Georgia college where one of them teaches.

About the book:
A small-town in the Deep South isn’t where most gay men would choose to go looking for love. But open hearts will find a way…

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Paul Dunham learned from a young age to hide his sexuality. Now he’s teaching psychology at a conservative college in Georgia—and still hiding who he really is. If Paul hopes to get tenure, he needs to keep his desires on the down-low. But when an old college crush shows up on campus—looking more gorgeous than ever—Paul’s long-suppressed urges are just too big for one little closet to hold . . .

Brandon Mercer has come a long way since his freshman year fumbling’s with Paul. Now he’s confident, accomplished, proudly out—and the sexiest IT consultant Paul’s ever seen. When Brandon asks Paul to grab some coffee and catch up, it leads to a steamy reunion that puts their first night of passion to shame. But when Paul’s longtime crush turns into a full-time romance, he receives an anonymous email threatening to expose their secret to the world. If Paul stays with Brandon, his teaching career is over. Yet if he caves under pressure, he risks losing the one true love he’s been waiting for…

My Review:
Paul and Brandon connected in their freshman year of college. It was a conservative school, and Paul was scared into the closet, lest his secret attraction for another man cause him to be expelled for indecency and out him to his family–who he expected would disown him. He’s had one pseudo-relationship sicne, with a self-loathing man who was deeper int he closet than himself. Brandon moved on to a different college–one that was more open to diversity, and he’s been an out-gay man since.

Fast forward several years. Paul’s seeking tenure at the same university, and Brandon has been dispatched there by his IT company to manage some data security issues. Brandon thinks it’s an inside job, and recognizes that some important people at the university were terribly lax in their security protocols. Paul is assigned the task of helping him investigate the audit for the Psych department, and their camaraderie persists. Paul has long wondered what happened to Brandon, and how out gay men live in society. He’s not really ready to come out, but he has plans to do so when he gets tenure…if he finds another position.

But, the temptation to stay away from Brandon proves too great. Plus, Brandon is more that willing to keep it casual–or so he says at first. It seems as if he’s willing to extend their getting to know you times into, well, a lot more. There’s some plot shenanigans regarding the data breaches, peeping toms and nasty exes, which all lead to existential threats to Paul’s career. For his part, Paul begins to recognize that if he’s going to lose his chance for tenure, he might as well enjoy it. So he does. A lot. With Brandon.

For me, the book was okay. I didn’t hate it, and I wasn’t too challenged by the reading. I expected to be more engaged–I usually am enthralled with reconnection romances, and coming out stories, but this one fell a little flat. I did enjoy Paul’s wonder at “being out” in Atlanta, where his anonymity gave him cover, and wondered why he never really tried this before. Lots of folks do… His vulnerability with Brandon was also sweet. Though, it was a bit of a seesaw with the hiding and the being sure no one could possibly connect them romantically. Steam-wise there’s lots of sexploration going down, and I mean the puns, folks. The political machinations of the story, and the questions regarding who’s doing the spying, and who’s wrecking Pual’s professional chances, seemed a little out there. At least, considering Paul’s early perspectives. It wasn’t completely illogical, just complicated in ways that didn’t suit me. That said, I liked the story, and think it’s fine if you’re interested in a quick, and sexy, read. Expect an HEA.

Interested? You can find WORTH WAITING FOR on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Wendy Qualls was a small ­town librarian until she finished reading everything her library had to offer. At that point she put her expensive and totally unrelated college degree to use by writing smutty romance novels and wasting time on the internet. She lives in Northern Alabama with her husband, two girls, two dogs, and a seasonally fluctuating swarm of unwanted ladybugs. Wendy can be found on Twitter as @wendyqualls. She is represented by Moe Ferrara of BookEnds Literary Agency.

You can connect with Wendy on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Picture-Perfect Family in HIGH BALLS–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance from Tara Lain. HIGH BALLS is the fifth book in her Balls the Wall series and features a sweet romance between a young, single father and a tattooed man of many talents. While this is a standalone read, there is a lot of investment from Rod and Hanson, the boys of FIRE BALLS. Expect cameos from pals we met in FAST BALLS, VOLLEY BALLS and BEACH BALLS, too.

Catch an excerpt and enter the $15  GC giveaway below.
About the book:
Though only twenty-six, single father Theodore Walters lives with his head in the clouds and his feet firmly planted in reality. At the center of his life is Andy, his seven-year-old son, with whom he shares no DNA, though nobody—including his religious-fanatic in-laws—knows that, and Theodore will do anything to keep them from finding out. Theodore works hard to get his PhD and the tenure and salary that might follow to make a better life for Andy—but the head of his department thinks his dissertation on Jane Austen and romance novels is frivolous.

Theodore’s carefully planned life goes off the rails when he walks into a popular Laguna Beach bar and meets the bartender, “Snake” Erasmo, a pierced and tattooed biker who sends Theodore’s imagination—and libido—soaring. Snake has even more secrets than Theodore and couldn’t be a less “appropriate” match, but he might be the only guy with the skills to show Theodore that happily-ever-after is for real.

How about a sweet taste?

“Mr. Walters, please explain the methodology of your research.”

And so it began. The words flowed across his tongue—the thousands of questionnaires and over a hundred personal interviews showing the education, expertise, and experience of romance writers, their use and extension of techniques pioneered by Austen and other major literary figures. He discussed tropes and their application in so called “fine” literature as well as genre fiction. Quoting verbatim from scholars he’d interviewed, he showed how many academics dismissed romance fiction purely because of its association with female readers.

Dr. Willamette said, “How large is the romance market, Mr. Walters?” She actually seemed interested.

“It’s a moving target and difficult to pin down due to the vastness and fluidity of the ebook market, but well over a billion dollars, for sure. It’s the largest book market in the world by double over the next genre.”

“Oh my. Wouldn’t it be nice to bring those people more actively into the field of literature? More teachers and more students?” She smiled.

“My point exactly.”

Ashworth sputtered, “You want to bring these illiterate, uncultured old maids and housewives into the literary tent? You must be joking.”

Dr. Willamette’s face fell, and Theodore worked to ungrit his teeth.

Dr. T. tried to keep the tone upbeat, but every time Mr. Karl or Dr. Willamette asked a good question or seemed to show interest in his research, Ashworth would find a way to belittle their opinions. They practically shrank in their seats. The chances they’d stand up to the chairman? Zilch.

Theodore kept fighting, but he felt like a salmon on a dammed-up stream.

Dr. T. said, “Why did you undertake this research, Mr. Walters? What do you feel it contributes to the future of literature?”

Theodore gazed at the carpet for a minute. “When my wife was dying, I would read to her. Classics and current literary fiction felt so cold and helpless in the face of death. Only love prevailed. So I bought a romance novel, just for diversion. I was amazed at the true literary value the book possessed. I tried another and another. Yes, I found bad ones, but then that can be said of any type of literature. Gradually I came to realize that what I’d been taught about romance fiction was bull. Here were truly gifted writers, more of them than in any other type of fiction, toiling away with not only no recognition, but also actual denigration, and still producing exceptional work. I decided to find out why.”

He looked up at each member of the panel, even the sneering Ashworth. “I think if I can encourage or inspire even one of these excellent authors to persevere and have some of their work recognized, my research will have succeeded.”

Dr. T. said, “Thank you, Theodore. I wish to add that the dissertation reader agrees with Mr. Walters. She states that the paper has done more to legitimize one of the most popular forms of world fiction than anything she’s seen. She highly recommends the paper for publication.” He looked down the panel. “If there are no more questions, Mr. Walters can go and we can determine the time for our deliberation.”

Ashworth said, “I have one more. Walters, do you really expect us to take this dissertation seriously?”

Theodore stood. “Yes, sir, I do.” He looked down the table. “Thank you all for your consideration.” He turned and walked from the room with a straight spine.

My Review:
This is the fifth book in the Balls to the Wall series and reads fine as a standalone.

Theodore Walters is a widower and caregiver to his 7 year old “son” Andy. Few people in this world know he isn’t Andy’s biological father, but Theo married his BF when she got pregnant at the end of high school, and was a rock as she wilted and passed of cancer two years ago. Her loony parents, however, are wealthy religious bigots and can’t push Theo to finish his PhD dissertation defense fast enough so their grandson won’t have to live in the relative squalor of their two bedroom apartment. If they knew Andy wasn’t Theo’s son, they’d angle to adopt him outright, and Theo can’t bear the thought of losing his son.

While out on one of his rare child-free nights, Theo meets Snake Erasmo. Pierced, tattooed and glorious, Snake somehow finds nubile Theo attractive. Snake is not the type of person his in-laws, or the stodgy academics at his private religiously-affiliated college, will welcome as a partner to Theo–but the attraction is there. Snake assures Theo he cleans up well, and sleeves hide lots of tattoos, don’t they? Bowing to Theo’s need to keep things on the way-down-low, they take to eating in, and Snake and Andy hit it off immediately. Mostly, because Snake is a fantastic guy. But, he’s a guy who has unexplainable talents, for being a somewhat-drifter-turned-bartender. And Theo’s friends love Snake, but can’t figure out what he truly does for a living.

With the threat of his thesis being rejected, and the increasingly troubling interactions Theo’s having with Andy’s grandparents, he’s just not ready for what is shaping up to be a serious relationship. It’s a bit charming how Andy reaches out for Snake for help with his grandparents and to keep work-worn Theo happy, and how Snake lifts countless burdens from Theo’s shoulders. And the sex is off the chain. Theo LOVES that not all Snakes piercings are facial…

For me, I loved the tenderness, and interactions between Theo, Andy and Snake. It’s a fun juxtaposition, this strapping biker-ish guy and the curious child, but they make great co-conspirators. Snake loves his “Teddy Bear” and he’s set to prove it any way he can. And, he’s not afraid to go to Theo’s friends and ask for their help, either. All the boys of the Ball to the Walls books assist Theo or Snake as they ensure Theo’s thesis gets fair treatment, and Andy’s paternity is affirmed. It’s a feel-good romance with a sweet HEA to enjoy.

Interested? You can find out more about HIGH BALLS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $15 Amazon GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.

She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Replacing AN UNSUITABLE HEIR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for the final episode in historical M/M mystery/romance series from KJ Charles. AN UNSUITABLE HEIR is the third book in her Victorian Sins in the City series, and should be read after AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION and AN UNNATURAL VICE. Third book, third pair of seemingly mismatched lovers who are on the run from, or hunt for, a murderous scoundrel.

About the book:
A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.

Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.

But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.

My Review:
4.5 Stars for this historical M/M romance set in Victorian-era London. This is the third book in a series and is likely best enjoyed when read in sequence.

The first book, AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION, featured the mystery, mischief and murder that befell Clem Tallyfer, bastard son of his Grace, the (late, late) Earl of Moreton as he managed a lodging house, and fell in love with Rowley Green, one of his lodgers. The second book, AN UNNATURAL VICE continues the investigation of whomever killed one of Clem’s lodgers, Reverend Lugtrout, and also Clem’s half-brother, Edmund, then the earl. Lawyer and journalist Nathanial Roy is working hard for Clem to ensure he doesn’t get put out of his lodging house by his uncle, an mean elderly man who is claiming the title as Edmund had no legal offspring. But spiritualist Justin Lazarus met Edmund’s secret wife, and knows a son was born. They spend most of their book on the run from London’s killer fog, and a real-live killer, while they hunt down the rightful Earl of Moreton.

We already know the identity of the apparent earl by the end of the second book, and he’s not what anyone expected. Pen, and his twin Greta, christened Repentance and Regret after being born in a religious sect where their mother took refuge when her scoundrel of a husband married her, had his merry way, and discarded her at the age of 16, are now performers. And Pen likes it that way. He and Greta have a good life where Pen can allow some room for his…unusual and generally unacceptable behavior.

See, Pen is gender dysmorphic. He’s not happy in men’s clothes all the time, and he’s also not happy in women’s clothes either. He has long, lush hair, and often paints his face to match that of Greta–and not only for their performances. There are days he can’t bear to look as his naked form, and his broad, strong hands–tools of his trade–horrify him in their masculinity. In the musical hall, he can dress in ways that are counter to society’s dictates and pass it off as a lark, or the eccentricity of a performer. And he likes it too much to give up for some stuffy title. There’s no way he could mask his nature for the twenty–or fifty–years he’d need to as an earl. And the idea of marrying a woman to sire an heir? *Pen shudders*

Mark Braglewicz was born to a Polish anarchist, and endured life with only one arm. He’s an enquiry agent, what you might call a private investigator in today’s terms. His dear friends Clem and Nathaniel need his help tracking down the missing twins, and there’s no shortage of death and destruction that follows this search. Already three men are dead, and two properties were either burned or vandalized. It’s actually not hard for Mark to find Pen, nor is it hard to woo him. Pen hasn’t found a man before who had such flexibility in his desires. Mark finds Pen’s gender-bending appeals to him far too much, and he’s in a bad spot. He’s falling for Pen, but the murderer is still on the loose. It’s with no other choice than to save his friends and protect Pen from the murderer that he reveals Pen to be the rightful Earl of Moreton.

Pen is furious at the betrayal. And he’s not happy with the process of investigation. As his great-uncle and cousin dispute the situation, Pen and Greta are sent to pass the time at the family seat in the country. With their new “relations.” It’s uncomfortable, and unnerving, for Pen to be scrutinized so. Clem and his half-cousin Tim, also make the journey and they are good companions. Greta seems so happy on her walks with Tim, and Pen can’t escape his title, though he desperately wants to do so. Once the lawyers finish their investigation, he’ll be sealed into the title forever. And, man, is he mad with Mark for this burden!

Though, it wasn’t Mark’s fault. It was his rotten father’s fault. If Pen is destined to be this earl, then he’s going to make things right within this whole dysfunctional family, by golly! Well, if he lives that long. It’s clear the danger didn’t remain behind in London, and Pen’s fears that he’s being stalked are only assuaged when Mark turns up at the country estate to search for a possible killer among the house staff and visitors. And, Mark’s able to win back his beloved Pen.

The mystery was, as in the previous books, slowly revealed and had a great twist. The open love between Mark and Pen is tender and thoughtful. I could see why both men were so conflicted. If Pen is a earl, Mark has no hope of sharing any sort of love, clandestine or not, with him. But, the story ends happy–and realistically so. Pen is a quick thinker, and when his chance appears to make his life as he sees fit, he grasps that lifeline with both his strong hands and runs like the devil chased him. This is a fantastic mystery-romance series with just the right amount of intrigue and affection and a beautifully-rendered historical setting.

Interested? You can find AN UNNATURAL VICE on GoodreadsLoveswept Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.

KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.

Find her on twitter, Facebook, join her Facebook group, or contact her here. She is represented by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, and published by Loveswept.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

The Rose Road FORTITUDE SMASHED–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new alternate reality M/M romance from Taylor Brooke. FORTITUDE SMASHED is an odd-couple police romance that addresses attraction and pairing, in a fated-mates kinda world.

Drop down to read an author interview and get in on the $25 GC giveaway, too!

About the book:
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

How about a little taste?

Shannon’s first instinct was to call for backup. It’s what he should’ve done.

Instead, he slid his hand around the door and pulled it open; his other hand rested on his holstered gun.

The scent of oil paint and clay wafted strong in the stillness. The room was too open, a wide space with nowhere to hide. Shannon took a step, another, and glanced at the desk, where abstract patterns swirled on the screen of a hibernating computer next to a dimmed, decorative lamp.

Movement. Footsteps, heel to toe, slow and quiet, behind him.

Shannon swung around. Someone—the thief—gasped. He grabbed the fabric of a shirt and shoved whoever was wearing it against the wall.

“You’re under arrest,” he growled. The body, a man, squirmed and cursed. The one time he didn’t play it safe and call for backup was the time he might need it. Shannon forced the thief’s hands against the wall. “Spread your fingers.”

The thief complied. “Of fucking course.” Shannon heard him rolling his eyes.

“Breaking and entering is a crime, you understand that? So is taking things that aren’t yours.”

“I didn’t take anything. I didn’t get the chance to.” Whoever he was, he was unapologetically bored with the situation. Shannon spotted a bold tattoo on his side where his shirt was bunched up from their abrupt collision. The man sighed. “Can I have my hands back now?”

“No, you can’t, because—”

Shannon’s entire being screeched to a stop. His spine straightened; his knees locked. He couldn’t breathe. Beneath his glove, warmth spread from his right thumb into his wrist. The Camellia Clock vibrated, gentle but convincing, a purr that alerted him to the 00:00 that now read in glowing numbers under his thumbnail. Saliva pooled in his mouth. Heat coursed through him. Blood rushed—high speed traffic in his veins. His heartbeat, steady and then not, pounded in his ears.

He stared at the hand spread out on the wall. On the thief’s right thumbnail, the same numbers glowed 00:00. Shannon squeezed the man’s wrist a little tighter.

A shaky breath quivered from the chest in front of him. Apparently, Shannon wasn’t the only one surprised.

He swallowed, and his grip tightened again before he let go and ripped his hands away. Eyeing Shannon carefully, the burglar spun. He had a straight nose and a sharp jaw; he was all angles and edges and pale skin. His skittishness reminded Shannon of a deer—maybe not a deer. The stranger’s lips twitched into a straight-toothed grin under hooded dark eyes. Yeah, maybe not a deer. Maybe a wolf.

A breathless chuckle trickled past a clever smile. The thief gave a slow shake of his head, disbelief and curiosity stitching a genuine expression across his face that Shannon hated. “Aiden Maar,” he said, too confidently to be taken lightly.

Shannon’s jaw was set so tight it ached to open his mouth. “Detective Wurther.”

“Pleasure’s all mine, Detective.” The rasp in his voice made Shannon’s stomach jump.

Before Shannon could yell, or grab, or get another word in, the thief—Aiden—was gone, darting past him and out the door. His head swam. Still reeling, he couldn’t have caught Aiden if his life depended on it. But he was going to have to, because, according to the Camellia Clock, Aiden Maar was his future.

According to Shannon Wurther, the Camellia Clock was wrong.

And, author Taylor Brooke has put together a playlist and rationale to share…

I always listen to certain music when I’m writing. I make playlists, put songs on repeat, take breaks and listen to the lyrics of certain songs that inspired specific scenes to see if I can pinpoint why. Lots of different things come into play when I’m putting a story together, but music tends to be the most important. It helps set the mood and direct the pacing. When I was writing Fortitude Smashed I listened to a lot of The 1975, but this is the official playlist:

Arctic Monkeys – I Wanna Be Yours
The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – Closer
Coasts – Oceans
Taken By Trees – Sweet Child O’ Mine
Armin Van Burren ft. Olaf Blackwood – I Need You
30 Seconds to Mars – Stay
St Lucia – All Eyes On You
The Ready Set x Michael Brun – Good Enough
The 1975 – Settle Down
Axwell ft. Kid Ink – I Love You
Troye Sivan – Wild
Andy Grammer – Fresh Eyes (Grey Remix)
The 1975 – The Sound
A Day to Remember – Have Faith in Me
Blackbear – Girls Like You (Tarro Remix)
Blink 182 – What’s My Age Again?
Anna of the North – Us (Acoustic)
Joshua Radin – Winter
Troye Sivan – Youth (Griffin Remix)
30 Seconds to Mars – Alibi

Sometimes music is about the melody and sometimes it’s about the lyrics. Most of the music I chose for the Fortitude Smashed playlist is a mix of both. But which lyrics would fit best to the main characters?

I like to think Shannon listens to all sorts of different music, but if he were to be attached to any of the songs on the playlist, it would be “Have Faith in Me” by A Day To Remember.

I’m going crazy
‘Cause there are things in the streets I don’t believe
So we’ll pretend it’s alright and stay in for the night
What a world
I’ll keep you safe here with me

I said I’d never let you go, and I never did
I said I’d never let you fall and I always meant it
If you didn’t have this chance then I never did
You’ll always find me right there, again

Shannon is constantly struggling with accepting himself and rationalizing his feelings. Since this song is about acceptance, about not letting go and holding on, it sits true with who he is as a character.

Aiden listens to everything, too. He’ll never admit it, but he does. If there was a song that really described him, one that brought his truth to the surface, it would be “Alibi” by 30 Seconds to Mars.

No warning sign, no alibi

We’re fading faster than the speed of light.

Took our change, crashed and burned.

No we’ll never ever learn.

So here we are, the witching hour,
The quickest time to divide and devour.
Divide and devour.

If I could end the quest for fire,
For truth, for love, and my desire
For my desire

And I fell apart, but got back up again.

Aiden’s struggle is with himself. He deals with mental illness, grief, self-worth and loneliness. These lyrics are about giving in and getting up after, the daily, weekly, monthly cycle that someone goes through when they’re trying to find the light again. The most substantial line being “I fell apart, but got back up again,” could be a perfect descriptor for Fortitude Smashed.

My Review:
This is an alternate reality view of our world, where people are chipped at birth with a count-down clock that times out when you meet your true mate, the so-called Rose Road. People tend to fall, and fall hard, in love with whomever they simultaneously time-out with, male female or group.

Aiden Maar is twenty-two and dealing with the grief of his parents’ death six years before. He was an adopted child, and he’s emotionally unstable but loved dearly by his older adoptive brother, Marcus. Despite the unconditional love he’s experienced, Aiden doesn’t dare hope that he’ll meet his Rose Road, or that it will work out they way he’s seen for others, into a consuming love. Aiden has lashed out for years, most recently as a high-level art and jewelry thief. He moves up and down the West Coast, but the police have been coordinating and his days of freedom might soon come to an end…at the hands of Detective Shannon Wurther. Shame that’s the exact moment his Camellia Clock times out.

Shannon is the youngest person to make detective in California in history. At 25, he’s hard at work, but he’s also curious about the status of his Rose Road. Will he find a business professional? A teacher? How does the Camellia Clock just know they will be suited? What if they aren’t? Worse, what if they are and then his Rose Road goes and dies, like what happened to his partner, and then he’s a shattered mess for the rest of his life. Though he’s been watching his clock tick down for years, he’s not prepared in the slightest when his clock times out just as he’s about to arrest a notorious art thief, Aiden Marr.

The rest of the book is the slow, but steady, recognition of attraction, lust and love that flows between Aiden and Shannon. It’s a seven-month dance between frustration, awareness and whole-hearted acceptance. They wonder if they can just walk away from one another, but they continue to be drawn to each other, and each time the gravity between them becomes heavier until it’s a presence they can’t deny. It’s slow and intimate, though it’s not too steamy. There’s a lot of thought and consideration, and polling of friends and family. There are complications, because a cop and a criminal aren’t supposed to fall in love, and Shannon has to accept Aiden as he is, if he’s going to trust in the Camellia Clock system. And, he doesn’t want to. Doesn’t it feel like a mistake? What sort of cosmic joke is he experiencing? But the more time he spends with Aiden, the more he peels away Aiden’s defenses. And, the mroe he recognizes that fate isn’t a quirk, or a mistake.

It’s the same for Aiden, who feels as if Shannon’s keen insight truly penetrates his grief, and his depressive dysthmia. He may not like Aiden’s past, or illegal actions, but he accepts Aiden is “it” for him, and his brand of attention is both flattering and romantic. Shannon is a man that Aiden can trust, with his heart and life, and a man Aiden is willing to be vulnerable for. I loved how this realization took time and consideration. Their lives blend in unexpected ways, and I kept waiting for a big crisis, but that doesn’t come. It seems that once they’ve fallen, they get to keep building on their love. It was sweet and tender. No cliffhangers or big conflicts to be found, once you get past their initial forays into connecting. I liked that, too.

Interested? You can find FORTITIUDE SMASHED on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win a $25 GC to Interlude Press or one of five copies of FORTITUDE SMASHED.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
After fleshing out a multitude of fantastical creatures as a special effects makeup professional, Taylor turned her imagination back to her true love—books. When she’s not nestled in a blanket typing away on her laptop, she can be found haunting the local bookstore with a cup of tea, planning her next adventure, and fawning over baby animals. Fortitude Smashed was published by Interlude Press on September 21.

Connect with Taylor on her website, Facebook and twitter.