End of the Road? NEW HAND Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing another SMOKING HOT review for a newly-published M/M romance from L.A. Witt. NEW HAND is part of the Bluewater Bay series, but totally enjoyable as a standalone. This book–which may be the last in the series–is a romance between a shell-shocked widower and a young HIV-positive man. I really enjoyed GET A GRIP and recommend RAIN SHADOW and OUTSIDE THE LINES, as several characters from those stories recur in this one.

About the book:
Months after his husband’s death, Garrett Blaine desperately needs a fresh start. He sells his house in Seattle, leaves his accounting job, and starts bartending in Bluewater Bay. There he meets a man who wakes up his nearly forgotten libido.

Jesse Connelly’s newest friend with benefits bolted after Jesse disclosed his HIV status. Stood up and stinging, Jesse tries to drown his sorrows . . . and finds an unexpected connection with a lonely bartender.

Jesse and Garrett quickly bond over a shared love of comics and card games, and they can’t get enough of each other between the sheets. Not even a bumpy start and a fifteen-year age gap can derail them as they go from strangers to lovers, then friends, then much more.

But as Garrett’s feelings for Jesse deepen, so does his grief for the man he lost—especially as he sees hints of his late husband in his new boyfriend. Now Garrett has to figure out if Jesse is his second chance at true love, or if Jesse’s just filling in for the man he’s never fully grieved. And he needs to figure it out soon, because Jesse’s starting to wonder the same thing.

My Review:
Jesse Connelly is a twenty-seven year old flamboyant gay man who manages End o’Earth Comics. He was infected with HIV by his first sexual partner back in high school and has been managing the disease for the past decade. He’s always upfront with his status with new partners, but his most recent love interest was a friend, first, and just when they started getting physical Jesse confided his (undetectable) status. And that dude has just stood Jesse up at the local alehouse. Feeling down, Jesse is charmed by the sexy silver fox bartender who’s new to the area.

Garrett’s younger husband died of cancer eight months ago. Though he’d been counseled not to make big changes for the first year of grief, Garrett sold his home, quit his job and moved form Seattle to Bluewater Bay to be near his good friend, Scott, a marriage and grief counselor. They each had lost partners young, and Garrett’s encouraged that Scott has now found love again. Garrett’s not looking for love, but he wants to know that he won’t always be so overwhelmed with grief that he’ll spend the rest of his life alone. Then, he meets Jesse.

The attraction is unexpected, and immediate. Garrett’s been celibate since before his husband died, but they both agreed he should find a new love. Jesse feels horrible and unattractive because of his status, but Garrett’s interest is a big ego boost. They have some issues regarding Jesse’s health, but it’s not because of HIV; Garrett has PTSD from caring for, and losing, his husband. Once they get past the misunderstanding, it’s hot times in Bluewater Bay for these two. Scott counsels Garrett to enjoy the comfort Jesse offers, and Jesse’s ever-mindful about Garrestt’s loss. In fact, he’s a great confidante, willing to listen to Garrett’s memories of his husband. They enjoy each other physically, but also emotionally and on a friendship-level, too. It’s cathartic and tender, and their bond seems unshakable, until Garrett’s in-laws find out about Jesse. And, their unsolicited disapproval provides a hiccup that makes them both pause and reassess. Is Garrett using Jesse as a replacement? Or, are these feelings both Jesse and Garrett are experiencing the beginning of a new life together.

This is a hurt-comfort story that has many facets. Garrett and Scott do a lot of soul-searching about guilt and loss. Jesse pushes all sorts of buttons for Garrett, but they aren’t all in common with those of his late husband. They share different and fun interests, including gaming and comics. Garrett sees Jesse as his own man, one Garrett feels honored to spend times with, but his friends and family are worried he’s moving on “too soon” which brings conflict and guilt. It’s natural that Jesse would wonder if he’s being set up for huge disappointment. If he’s just a rebound fling, well, it’s going to crush him, now that he’s gone and fallen for Garrett. I loved how Garrett and Jesse examined their relationship, and accepted good advice from friends. It’s not easy to admit one is wrong, and they both had their share of apologies to make at different points. They have a fantastic physical connection, and they are able to reassure each other that their feelings for each other is genuine in the end.

This book may mark the end of the Bluewater Bay series, and I’ve enjoyed so many of the stories. I think I’ve read 21 of the 23 books and probably rated most of the 4 stars or higher. It was great to see the wrap up of some of the previous couples, including Scott and Jeremy from RAIN SHADOW get married. I chuckled to see the age-gap couples (Levi and Carter, and Hunter and Kevin) pal around with Jesse and Garrett. I loved how the young whippersnappers ganged up on their mature partners, but relished their experience and patient loving. O.O A sweet and tender story.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this link to comment on the giveaway post for my pals over at Joyfully Jay. One commenter on the tour will win a $10 GC from Riptide Publishing and two of Ms. Witt’s backlist books (not NEW HAND).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Lauren Gallagher is an abnormal romance writer who has recently been exiled from the glittering utopia of Omaha, Nebraska, to an undisclosed location in South America. Along with her husband, a harem of concubines, and a phosphorescent porcupine, she remains, as always, in hiding from the Polynesian Mafia. For the moment, she seems to have eluded her nemesis, M/M romance author L.A. Witt, but figures L.A. will eventually become bored with the wilds of Spain and come looking for her. And when that time comes, Lauren will be ready. Assuming L.A. doesn’t have her hands full keeping track of Lori A. Witt and Ann Gallagher, which she probably will.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Rediscovering the FIRE IN YOU–Review and Giveaway!

fiy-review-excerpt-tour-bannerHi there! I’m so excited to share an excerpt and review for a new contemporary romance from best-selling author Jennifer Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn. FIRE IN YOU is long-time friends-to-lovers romance featuring a gal who fell for a lost boy way back when, and the man finally making good on his promise.

Check out the excerpt, and review, and get in on the giveaway below!
fire-in-you-coverAbout the book:
From the # 1 New York Times and International bestselling author comes a richly moving story about heartbreak and guilt, second chances and hope. Full of familiar, fan-favorite characters and no two people more deserving of a happy ending, Fire In You will burn bright beyond the last page…

Jillian Lima’s whole world was destroyed in a span of a few hours. The same night her childhood love, Brock ‘the Beast’ Mitchell, broke her heart, her life was irrevocably altered by the hand of a stranger with a gun. It takes six years to slowly glue together the shattered pieces of her life, but Jillian is finally ready to stop existing in a past full of pain and regret. She takes a job at her father’s martial arts Academy and she’s going out on her first date since a failed relationship that was more yuck than yum. Jillian is determined to start living.

She just never expected Brock to be a part of her life again. But he’s firmly back in her life before she knows it, and not only is he older, he’s impossibly more handsome, more teasing and more everything. And when he sees Jillian, he’s no longer capable of thinking of her as the little girl who was his shadow growing up or the daughter of the man who gave him a second chance at life. He sees the woman who’d always been there for him, the one person who believed in him no matter what.

Brock knows she’s the one he should’ve made his, and what begins as a tentative friendship quickly turns to red-hot chemistry that sparks a flame that burns brighter than lust. Falling for Brock again risks more than her heart, because when the sorrow-filled and guilt-ridden past resurfaces, and a web of lies threatens to rip them apart, the fallout could lay waste to everything they’ve fought to build together, and destroy the dreams of those they care most about.

How about a little taste?

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I gasped.

Brock’s eyes widened and then he threw back his head, laughing loudly and freely. “Ms. Lima, language.”

My face turned blood red. Did he seriously just say that to me?

Andre’s smile was a bit sly as he eyed the both of us, and I knew—I just knew—he was fully aware of the fact I had no idea Brock was going to be here. Just like my mother had to have known and just like my father had failed to mention.

My family was a bunch of assholes.

“Okay, I’m going to go—uh, pretend to do something,” Andre said.

Brock’s brown eyes were trained on me as he stepped aside and clapped the shorter man on the shoulder.

“Good luck,” Andre said to him, and my hands balled into fists.

The half-grin appeared on Brock’s mouth and he waited until Andre had disappeared. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you use the word ‘fuck’ before.” His gaze flipped to the ceiling. “Well, there was the one time you tripped over your own feet and banged your knees off the pool deck. Pretty sure you yelled ‘fuck’ then.”

“This is not happening,” I murmured, heart thumping heavily in my chest.

“Actually, I think you yelled ‘fuck’ when your uncle Julio caught you trying to sneak out of the house. You remember that, right? You were trying to follow me—”

“You can stop,” I snapped, “with the walk down Fuck Lane.”

That grin increased, spreading into a full smile that caused my stomach to dip. I placed steadying hands on my desk. “Please tell me I’m dreaming right now.”

“If you were dreaming, I’d hope we’d both have less clothes on.”

“What?” My jaw hit the top of the table. Was he flirting with me? Not entirely surprising. If you looked up “flirt” on the internet, I was sure it had a picture of him grinning the panties right off of some chick, so I guessed a fiancée wasn’t going to change that.

Chuckling, Brock leaned against the door and folded his arms across his broad chest, stretching the material of his white button-down. My gaze dropped. Yep. He was wearing the damn Chucks. “You’re not dreaming, Jillian. I’m the new General Manager and you’re my assistant manager.”

“There is no way,” I said dumbly.

He glanced around, arching a brow. “Is it really that surprising?”

I wanted to scream yes, but I should’ve guessed it the moment I saw Brock Friday night. Anger swept through me. Not only did I feel incredibly stupid for not figuring out Brock was my new boss, I was extremely pissed everyone in my family had basically set me up.

Taking a deep breath, I asked, “Can you give me a second? Please?”

Brock didn’t move for a moment and then he unfolded his arms. “Your wish is my command.”

My fingers curled around the edge of the desk to stop myself from throwing something at him. The moment he stepped out of my office, I hurried to the door and closed it behind him. Storming back to the desk, I pulled my cellphone out of the little slip inside my purse and jabbed my finger on my father’s contact.

He answered on the third ring, his accented voice way too cheery for this time of the morning. “Jillian, my baby girl, are you—”

“Brock is the new General Manager?” I whispered-yelled into the phone.

“You’re at the office already? It’s not even eight-fifteen— Wait, Brock is already there too?” He laughed. “That is surprising.”

“That’s not really important right now.” I took a deep, calming breath. “Brock really is…he’s the GM?”

“I don’t think you really need to ask that question,” he responded. “Especially when you know the answer to it.”

Closing my eyes, I held the phone so tightly I was surprised it didn’t shatter into a million pieces. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Would it have a made a difference?” he asked.

Yes. A thousand times yes, but I didn’t say that. I refused to admit that. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You’re going to have to ask him that.” There was a pause. “I didn’t offer you this job because I thought you couldn’t handle working with him or that you would be calling me on your first day, thirty minutes before you should even be there.”

Ouch.

“And I’m not saying that to hurt you, hon. You know that. Hurting you is the last thing I’d ever want to do.” There was another gap of silence while I contemplated knocking the computer off my desk with a ninja kick, and then Dad said, “You can do this.”

Then he hung up on me.

What in the hell?

My Review:
4.5 stars for this slow-burning contemporary romance.

I wanted to say this was a second-chance romance, but it didn’t quite fit that mold–the lovers hadn’t had a break-up, per se.

Jillian Lima and Brock Mitchell have known each other for twenty years. That’s when Jillian’s father took Brock, as cast-away kid, off the mean streets of Philly, and raised him as his own. Brock was 14, Jillian was 8, and she idolized her burly new housemate all her life since. When she got into high school, she was more than gone for him, and she spent hours, days and weeks caring for Brock when he was injured in mixed martial arts competitions.

See, Jillian’s father has run the Lima Academy in Philly her whole life. He trained Brock to become a world-champ MMA fighter, and Jillian always imagined a life working at the Academy, and building a life with Brock. But, Brock always saw her as a little sister, and discounted her youthful love to infatuation. Plus, he didn’t want to upset her father by dating Jillybean, who was too young to be acceptable.

Six years ago, when Jillian was nearly 21, she went out with Brock, thinking they were going on a real date. For this naive gal, putting on make-up was practically a novelty. Still, the night wore on and more and more of his friends, and sexier women, showed up, and he bailed, sending her on her way without even taking her for the dinner he’d promised. It broke her heart, and the criminal who attacked her on her way home broke her spirit. It took over a year to finish off the reconstructive surgery she’d needed, but her world had long since imploded.

Now, she’s ready to start her life over again–at 28. Jillian has accepted a position working as an assistant GM at the Martinsburg, WV, Lima Academy. It’s a huge pay raise and will help her finance the trips she’d always planned to make but never did. Only, she learns on her first day that the GM for the facility is Brock. Dealing with him on a day-to-day basis is frustrating. She’s hardly put all her mixed feelings behind her, and learning that Brock’s no longer engaged does funny things to her emotional state. There’s no doubt the attraction still exists, but she’s not capable of moving things forward in any way.

No matter. Brock’s flirtatious and fun, with a significant amount of complimenting his Jillybean. He’s determined to win her heart, and his dear friend, back.

It’s a bit of a slow burn–lots of Jillian agonizing over her fears and incapacitated by her mortification over her longstanding love for Brock. She knows he knew, and she’s trying to be professional. Still, he chips away at her defenses relentlessly, making everyday forays into her personal sphere–even interrupting a date, cordially, as if he’d “happened” to be in the area. It looks like their lives take the same course, but there’s a wee bit of conflict near the end. Both Jillian and Brock have to learn to let go of the past, in order to grow into a future together. I thought is was a low-conflict read, with a nice development of the romance. Brock and Jillian have a good, solid history, with a loving family that supports their budding relationship. There’s a bit of sexytimes after the halfway point, but much of it revolves around Jillian learning to love herself, changed as she is after the attack.

External conflicts finally hit within the 90% mark, and it seemed a bit late, especially as Jillian mostly had to settle those on her own. She does develop a bit of strength way at the end, though I’d wished to see her fierceness a lot sooner. That said, Jillian and Brock do develop the love of their lifetime by the end of the book.

Interested? You can find FIRE IN YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win a signed set of Wait For You books (US only).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
# 1 New York Times and #1 International Bestselling author Jennifer Armentrout lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. She spends her time reading, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories…which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV. Jennifer has won numerous awards, including the 2013 Reviewers Choice Award for Wait for You, the 2015 Editor’s Pick for Fall With Me, and the 2014/2015 Moerser-Jugendbuch- Jury award for Obsidian. Her young adult romantic suspense novel DON’T LOOK BACK was a 2014 nominated Best in Young Adult Fiction by YALSA.

She also writes Adult and New Adult contemporary and paranormal romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.
Catch up with Jennifer on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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Christmas Got Them WRAPPED TOGETHER–Review and Giveaway

wrapped-blitz-bannerHi there! I’m super excited to share a review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Annabeth Albert. WRAPPED TOGETHER is a Christmas story in the Portland Heat series of novellas that features an odd couple friends-to-lovers love story. Expect some cameos from the boys of KNIT TIGHT, too!

Catch the excerpt, my review and get in on the $20 GC giveaway, below.

wrapped-together-coverAbout the book:
In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected . . .

How about a little taste?

This excerpt comes from chapter one of WRAPPED TOGETHER, when Hollis and his long-time frenemy Sawyer engage in a friendly bet sure to put their holiday cheer to the test!

****

I took a sip of my now tepid, almost-gone tea. Ugh. The good barista was on duty, the one who went with Ev from the knitting store and who always happily made my tea with the same care he did the fancy coffee drinks. I left the group, happy to have the excuse of needing a refill, but as I stood in line, Mary Anne joined me.

“Hollis Alcott, we almost never see you at these things!” Her voice seemed to ring out above the din. “Will you be participating in the contest this year?”

“I doubt it. My fall display is already set.” I tried not to sound too dour—she always had the best houseplants and had custom-ordered the rare fern I’d wanted.

“Ah, well, that’s too bad. You let me know if you change your mind. I’d be happy to lend you some poinsettias or other decor. I know you could do a splendid, tasteful window.”

It was my turn to order, so I gave her a smile as a reply before handing Brady my stainless-steel tumbler for tea and ordering a scone to go. I had to wait down at the other end of the bar for my order, and as I was waiting, Sawyer came loping over, a smile on his boyish face. His wide shoulders stretched the hoodie in distracting ways.

“Hollis! Did I hear you say you’re not decorating?”

“You did.”

He frowned. “I know how much you hate the holidays, but I bet you’d get an uptick in sales if you decorated. I heard Mary Anne offer to help. I could, too. I’ve got gobs of lights.”

“Thank you but no.” Truth be told, I could use the increase in sales, but it wasn’t enough of a motivator to get me ready for the onslaught of red and green.

Sawyer’s head tilted, considering. Oh no. I knew that look too well. A Sawyer who was scheming was downright dangerous. “We should bet, you and I.”

“No,” I said firmly. I stepped away from the coffee bar to let Mary Anne and others wait for their orders, but Sawyer kept step with me, effectively pinning me in between two tables on my path to the door. I sighed and repeated my objection. “No. The last time we bet, I believe you cracked a wrist.”

Sawyer waved a hand, dismissing my concern. “We were fifteen. We’ve had other bets since then.”

We had, but there was one in particular I was determined not to remember right at that moment. This was the peril of having known someone for almost two decades. “How precisely would one even bet on this?”

I let my inner musings escape before I could rein them in, and Sawyer smiled. He knew he had me. Whatever nervousness and shyness captured my tongue around large groups did not, unfortunately, extend to Sawyer. “Well, I was thinking whichever of us makes it into the top three is the winner of our bet, and then the loser has to do whatever the winner wants for an evening.”

Oh, I did not like this. “Anything?”

“That wasn’t a no.” Sawyer’s grin showed the sort of charm that made him so darn popular. “And I wasn’t thinking of something kinky. Trust me here, Hols.”

“Don’t call me that.” And I most certainly did not trust him. I was pretty sure the always-affable Sawyer didn’t have a kinky bone in his body, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t up to something. “But I could get you to do any task of my choosing?”

See, the thing about me that Sawyer knew was that I have a very hard time resisting a bet. Always have, hence the aforementioned bet freshman year of high school about jumping over auditorium seats during drama class. I’m also notoriously cheap. And as it turned out, I did have a job for him.

He nodded. “Anything.”

“I have a bathroom I want painted at my store. Including the trim.”

Sawyer, to his credit, didn’t look remotely pained. “That’s fine. I’m good at painting.”

“And you? What would you want?” I had no idea why I was asking. I certainly wasn’t planning on agreeing to this ridiculous plan.

“A surprise.” He winked at me.

“I don’t like those.”

“I know. Which is why you need one. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll specify no sex or nudity involved.” Sawyer had mercifully dropped his deep, clear voice to softer tones. I still bristled at the thought of anyone overhearing this.

“Or humiliation, public or otherwise.”

“Oh, Hollis, you know me better than that.” He held up his hands. They were big, capable hands, and I had to blink to get my eyes to look away. “Now, come on. I dare you. Bet me.”

My Review:
4.5 stars for this sweet and spicy M/M Christmas friends-to-lovers, odd-couple romance. It’s a part of the Portland Heat series, and easily enjoyed on it’s own.

Hollis Alcott and Sawyer Murphy have known each other since middle school. They are both halves of a twin, and Hollis’ sister Char was besties with Sawyer through high school–and she married Sawyer’s twin, Tucker, several years ago.

Hollis is a serious introvert, very uptight about his public and private life–even if he has none. Sawyer is out and proud, a braggart back in high school when he would casually relate all his exploits to Char, and Hollis, by default. He was too fearless, and too fanciful, for Hollis, even if Hollis couldn’t help being swept away by Sawyer’s gregarious nature. Still, too risky to even come out before he was on the other side of the US, gong to school on the east coast while his family lived in Portland, Oregon.

Three years ago Hollis and Char’s parents died in a skiing accident, and they have dealt with it in their own way. Char’s family lives in her childhood home, growing more offspring and engaging with life while Hollis runs his own carefully-curated craft paper, ink and pen shop. He’s a fussy man, wanting to project the perfect image of perfection, while inside he’s a neurotic wreck. He’s still very much attracted to Sawyer, who runs a card and gift shop in the same Main Street business area as Hollis and pals from KNIT TIGHT, Ev and Brady’s yarn and coffee shops. Hollis is a big fan of Ev’s knitted scarves, and those come in really handy when Sawyer gets his lips on Hollis’ very sensitive neck… #Hickeys!!

But first, the premise: Hollis is always down around the holidays, and their business association is running a window decorating contest to boost sales. Sawyer bets Hollis that his shop will come in top three, and if Hollis’ store wins, he’ll do some manual labor around the shop–but when Sawyer wins, it’s a date night.

Hollis can’t understand why Sawyer wants to play with him, but he’s much too fragile to hand his heart over to a man who’s been notorious for quitting everything. Sure, they’re rolling up on thirty now, but Sawyer’s still too brilliant a light for Hollis to look into often. He’s scared, having little-to-no experience in relationships, yet Sawyer is a patient, and persistent force. Plus, their familial and business connections continue to wrap them together, even when Hollis would rather run for the hills.

That said, Sawyer’s thrilled by the little bit of kink he susses out of Hollis’ reactions. It seems Hollis really likes a bit of dominance, and rope bondage. Oh, and some orgasm denial. Yes, our buttoned-up fusspot Hollis is dirty dirty boy, when he feels safe enough to let himself play with a partner. Their deep connection and the rekindling of their friendship allows Hollis to let go with Sawyer. Sawyer’s so grateful for this kinky peek into a man he’s wanted for years. They get it on for a bit–until Hollis’ complete paranoia regarding Sawyer’s motives finally kicks in.

This is a really sweet book. Lots of hurt/comfort for Hollis, and a heart-to-heart moment with his ghosts, to remember that he’s a good guy who deserves far better than the grief-shrouded, showplace home of a life he’s built for himself. Only when he opens his door to Sawyer’s big love and hearty plans does Hollis recognize that his memories don’t all have to be blanketed in sorrow, and that new experiences can be as lush as the life he once had.

It’s a quick read, with great guys–and nice cameos from Ev, mostly, of KNIT TIGHT. Expect a heartwarming read, with a solid HEA. Also, a nosy cat, and a couple moments that might require a tissue. (Pretty much universal for me and Christmas reads…)

Interested? You can find WRAPPED TOGETHER on Goodreads, Kensington Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Kobo, iTunes and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $20 GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Annabeth Albert avatarAbout the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children. Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.
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Big Choices, Big Love in FALLING DOWN–Release Day Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a New Adult contemporary M/M romance form Eli Easton. FALLING DOWN is a heart-wrenching tale of an aimless war vet and the homeless teen he brings back from the brink.

fallingdownelieastonAbout the book:
Josh finds himself homeless at eighteen, but he has a plan. He’ll head north on the bus to New England and spend October there for his mother’s sake. She always talked about going to see the fall leaves someday. And when the leaves were done and the harsh winter came, Josh would find a place to curl up and let go. It would be a relief to finally stop fighting.

Mark spent his life trying to live up to the tough swagger of his older brothers until he pushed himself so far against his nature that he cracked. Now an ex-Marine, he rents a little cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he can lick his wounds and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One thing was clear: Mark was nobody’s hero.

Fate intervenes when Josh sets up camp under a covered bridge near Mark’s cabin. Mark recognizes the dead look in the young stranger’s eyes, and he feels compelled to do something about it. When Mark offers Josh a job, he never expected that he’d be the one to fall.

The snow is coming soon. Can Mark convince Josh that the two of them can build a life together before the flurries fall?

My Review:
Homeless and grieving his dead mother, eighteen year old Josh Rivers decides to use his last bit of cash to travel from Alabama to New Hampshire to experience autumn. It was an unrealized dream of his mom’s, to watch the fall color erupt in all it’s glory, and Josh believes finding a beautiful vista where he can release his mother’s ashes, will put her to rest. Sticking around for the bitter winter snows in which to bury himself and his heartache under their peaceful white flakes sounds like a second great plan.

At 24, Mark Sullivan is the youngest of five sons, and a newly discharged Marine. Scarred by seeing friends die while on his active duty tours, he’s heartsick and drifting, performing odd jobs and living in a rented cabin two hours from his close-knit family so he can keep his homosexuality private. He’s sure his family will reject him, so he maintains the distance. Seeing Josh in his quiet area of New Hampshire, he recognizes that dead-eye stare, and it sparks Mark’s protective side. Needing some help on a big painting job he’s landed, Mark reaches out to withdrawn and skittish Josh.

As it’s only early October, Josh knows he needs some time to put his plan into action. The snow isn’t coming for at least a month and he’s not keen on starving to death under a bridge, so he accepts Mark’s offer of a safe space to sleep, a job, and food. As these guys work and live in close quarters, they develop a friendship. While Mark is definitely attracted to Josh, he won’t make a move, believing Josh to be too young and vulnerable for anything more than friendship. Josh’s depression had killed his libido, but his budding friendship with Mark has quelled his emotional tailspin enough to recognize his growing attraction and affection. It doesn’t hurt that Mark is generous and kind; they forge a tight bond in a short time.

Still, Josh is stifled by Mark’s seeming lack of interest, and when he challenges Mark’s resolve both men find a deeper connection than either’s had before. There’s so much emotion in these pages. Josh’s depression is palpable, and I was terrified regarding his end-of-life plans. It’s always hard for me to read a depressed character, because I identify with them so closely. The joy of watching Josh connect to Mark, and his climb out from that mortal abyss, was worth the anguish at the outset. Further, Mark’s a great guy, despite wishing to stay closeted. When it comes to maintaining his charade, and being the man Josh needs, however, Mark makes the absolute right choice. He’s rewarded by understanding, and love greater than he ever dreamed.

There are some extremely tense moments, and I freely admit I started to cry in the climax. That’s a good sign for me, it shows how deeply I connected with the story–which I felt was fantastic. For readers like me who are sensitive to stories with depression/suicide story lines, just know that there is a brilliant dawn waiting on the far side of the darkest night. The happy ending was realistic, and filled with joy. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find FALLING DOWN on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
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Fighting Their Demons: HIS BEST MISTAKE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary romance from Diane Alberts. HIS BEST MISTAKE is the sixth book in the Shillings Agency series, and pairs a grieving cop with a grieving Marine vet. I really enjoyed TEMPORARILY YOURS, which kicked off the series, and STEALING HIS HEART so I had to check this one out, too.

his-best-mistakeAbout the book:
One night with a stranger…
Security expert Mark Matthews has loved, and lost, and has no intention of ever loving again—especially not a woman who thrives on her life being in danger. Now, hot, meaningless sex with strangers he had no intention of ever seeing again? That’s a whole other story. And it’s all life as a single father allows him to enjoy. But when he meets a woman who refuses to tell him her real name, the game is on, because she’s everything he swore to stay away from.

Daisy O’Rourke has bad idea written all over her, but he’s in too deep to walk away now…

How about a little taste?

They walked down the hallway side by side, their arms brushing. Every time they touched, something inside her tensed up even more, building up pressure until she was sure she was going to explode if he didn’t either stop, or do something more than accidentally brush against her.

When she halted at her door, he stopped directly behind her, towering over her. “God, how tall are you? Six-four?” she blurted out.

“Exactly.” He cocked his head. “How’d you know?”

“I guessed.”

“You’re good at that.” He stepped closer, his nostrils flaring slightly when she swayed closer. He looked way too sexy standing there with his first few shirt buttons undone, and his jacket open. She wasn’t even sure when he’d done that, but it was hot as hell. “At guessing.”

It would be so easy to grab the lapels of that jacket and pull his closer. And she’s get to find out what he tasted like – whisky, more than likely, but still, she needed to know. The old her, the one before she lost everything…she would have gone for it. Would have taken what she wanted and not hesitated. But it had been so long since she touched a man, let alone kissed one, and he wasn’t William. He’d never be William.

But tonight…He could be hers.

Resting an arm over her her head on the wall, he offered her a small smile, and tugged oh her hair playfully. “What are you thinking about that’s got you blushing, Scarlett?”

“Nothing.” she said, her cheeks going even hotter. She spun and pressed her key against the reader until it blinked green. The heat of his body was directly behind her, burning her.

Hands trembling, she turned the knob and pushed the door open. She should go inside. Leave him in the hallway, along with any bad choices she might have made with him. But…

Was it bad? Was it so wrong to want one night where she didn’t miss the love of her life? One night where she didn’t have to be alone?

“Would you like some water? I have a few bottles in my mini fridge.”

He shoved his hands in his pocket and rocked back on his heels, letting out a soft laugh. “If I come in there, we both know it’s not going to be for water.”

“Like I said.” Heart pounding, palms sweating, she lifted her chin. “Want to come in?”

My Review:
This is the sixth book in a series, but easily enjoyed on its own.

Daisy is a gal not looking for love. Her fiance died two years ago, a week before their wedding, and she’s been in a funk ever since. She meets a man at a hotel bar, and the man is big, and charming and comfortable to sit and chat with. He doesn’t pressure her for more, but lets her know he’d be more than happy to keep her company all night long. They don’t exchange real names, but they do exchange orgasms and sexual positions…all night long.

Unfortunately for Daisy, Mystery Man ends up being Mark Matthews, the very same guy her bestie Lauren has been trying to set her up with for months. See, Mark’s a Marine vet, and Daisy won’t date any military men–not after growing up with her alcoholic war vet of a father. Mark had declined to be set up with Daisy–a cop–because he’s a widower with a toddler daughter, and he doesn’t want to fall for another woman who might be killed in the line of duty, like his wife.

So, their fantastic sex fest is supposed to be a one-off, but Mark can’t stay away, and Daisy can’t lock the door against him. They begin a down-low no-strings affair that, naturally, knots them both up tight. It’s still hard for Mark to accept the danger inherent in Daisy’s job, and that leads to problems, just when we thought they might go public.

I liked both of these characters, though I thought they may have swooned a bit early. Also, Mark’s wishy-washy-ness regarding “danger” in his own job was rather frustrating. The sexytimes are off-the chart, off the wall, off the bed and off the counter-tops. They get it on, and on, and on…except when they go off. Because bullets, and heart break.

I liked the book, and I liked the story. It’s not a fun romp, due to all the skeletons, but it is a sexy-sweet tale, and it ends in the happiest place on Earth. So, bonus points.

Interested? You can find HIS BEST MISTAKE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

Diane 1 smallDiane Alberts is a USA TODAY bestselling Contemporary Romance author with Entangled Publishing. Under the name Jen McLaughlin, she also writes New York Times, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling books with Penguin Random House. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. Diane is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Diane has always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she put her pen where her brain was, and became a published author. Since receiving her first contract offer, she has yet to stop writing. Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and four cats. Her goal is to write so many fantastic stories that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

Check out Diane/Jen online on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

True Hearts OVEREXPOSED–A Review

Hi there. Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic contemporary M/M romance from Megan Erickson. OVEREXPOSED is the fourth book in a series, but I swear you’ll love it even if you haven’t read any of the previous books. I did. It was fantastic.

overexposedAbout the book:
Love runs wild on the Appalachian Trail in the latest from the author of Out of Frame and Focus on Me
Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he’d planned to do with his sister.

His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs…

My Review:
So…I haven’t read any book in this series before, and though it’s book FOUR I didn’t feel the lack. It was amazing, and I can’t imagine liking it any more than I do.

Levi Grainger is a recent reality TV star hiking the Appalachian Trail in memory of his sister, Layla, an army gal who died on deployment. Levi idolized his elder sister, and it was her dream for them to hike the two thousand miles together. She’d planned and strategized and had tons of research on where to go and where to camp, and Levi’s so adrift after her death that he hopes to connect with her spirit on the trail.

Who he connects with, however, is Thad, a strong, capable hiker who’s as surly as a July day is long. Thad rarely speaks, but what he says to Levi is earth-shattering. That this behemoth of capability is gay is further stunning to Levi. That Thad desires Levi is surprising to both men–Thad’s demisexual. (On the spectrum, simply put, it means he only finds attraction to people with whom he emotionally connects. It’s probably an oversimplification, but I’m accepting his words.)

While they traverse the tough terrain, Levi’s overcome with grief over Layla, and he’s not sure if he’ll ever get over her loss. Plus, he’s confused over Thad’s interest, and Thad’s tightly guarded words and past. Thad could go entire days without speaking, it seems, which is antithetical to cordial and chatty Levi. Their budding relationship explodes, however, because Thad’s secrets can’t be held back–and that breaks Levi’s heart.

Unfortunately, it’s also a moment of craptacular family problems, and Thad’s Levi’s rock through out the entire ordeal. Levi’s forced to see Thad for more than his job, and that’s a good thing. Thad has a real problem trusting people; his one and only boyfriend was a cheater. He doesn’t think Levi would do that, per se, but there’s a big separation coming due to Thad’s job, and it’s the worst kind of scenario for Levi. Should they cut their losses before they get more attached? Thad thinks so, but Levi’s a scrapper, and he’s willing to fight for the love he deserves, even if Thad doesn’t think he’s capable of giving it.

The tension and love her is so high! I fell into lock-step with these guys and loved every moment of their loving, and agonized every moment of their turmoil. Both Levi and Thad are great guys in a rough patch. There are bits of humor woven in, especially when Levi is recognized by fans at perhaps epicly bad moments, but that’s so AWESOME. Because the book is intense.

I really enjoyed Levi and Thad’s story, which felt raw and real and fantastic. There are other couples present in the end, and I’m sure they are from previous books which made the HEA more sweet for the series readers. For my part, I was captivated by this story, and would highly recommend.

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

About the Author:
Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.

For more, visit Megan on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Big Problems For GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE–A Review

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a newly published contemporary YA romance from Paula Stokes. GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE s a bittersweet contemporary YA adventure/romance that deals with PTSD, OCD, and general anxiety in a teen girl who’s survived some pretty tragic moments.

Girl Against the UniverseAbout the book:
Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

From author Paula Stokes comes a funny and poignant novel about accepting the past, embracing the future, and learning to make your own luck.

My Review:
Maguire was eleven when the car she rode in went off a mountainside and her father, uncle and brother were all killed. She was twelve when she rode a rollercoaster that went off the track, seriously injuring all 19 other passengers beside herself. She was thirteen when she went to a slumber party where every other guest ended up with gut-clenching illness. And six weeks ago, her abandoned candle burned down the neighbors’ house. Maguire believes that she’s Really Bad Luck, and she has a notebook filled with instances and coincidences that back up this claim.

Now sixteen and living in her third house in the past four years, preparing to enter her second high school, Maguire wishes she could just be home-schooled. She doesn’t want to make any friends, and potentially be responsible for any of them getting hurt, or worse.  Worried about Maguire, her mother insists that she attend therapy, and this is where the book opens, in a therapy session between Maguire and Dr. Leed. When the hour is up, Maguire notices the tall, attractive boy who enters the office in her stead. This boy, Jordy, reaches out to prickly, unapproachable Maguire as part of his own “homework” for therapy. And, they sort of hit it off. Maguire learns that Jory is semi-famous, but none of that seems to matter and Jordy appreciates that.

Inspired by Jordy, and knowing that she needs to get over her many phobias if she’s going to fly to Ireland with her mother for a five year memorial for her father, uncle and brother, Maguire actually begins to engage in her therapy. She’s terrified of riding in cars with people, using public transit, being out in public, going to parties, and has terrors imagining a bus ride, let alone a trans-Atlantic flight. So, with Dr. Leed’s help, Maguire sets her own list of “homework” so that she can reclaim her life and defeat the sinister powers of the Universe that have ripped so much from her.

Along the way, Maguire joins her high school tennis team, where she makes real friends for the first time in years. She also connects with Jordy, who is happy to help Maguire in any way he can–even if it means crossing his parents. See, Jordy IS a big deal; he’s a tennis wunderkind all set to go pro, if he can finish high school and stand up against his parent’s plans for college. And, maybe, he and Maguire may become more than friends…

This is a bittersweet read, because Maguire is a kid trapped by tragedy. She has a loving mother, step-father and new step siblings, but she dwells in the past. She’s terrified of her own mystique:  believing that she’s cursed. By really engaging with her therapy, and investigating the truth of her situation, Maguire learns to overcome her anxiety, by reasonable measured steps and slowly escalating “risk.” It was an affirming story, that realistically demonstrated how a kid struggling with several mental issues could overcome her fears by challenging herself in safe ways. I really liked that there weren’t a ton of catty gals, or hecklers. I liked that Jordy was a stand-up guy, and that he never gave up on Maguire, even when she did hurt him, succumbing to her fears when he needed her most. Maguire’s self-discovery wasn’t all forward motion, which was also reasonable. She had backward steps and tough choices. She cried, and she healed, and she fretted, but she made it all happen. It takes courage to go on, and survivor’s guilt was also likely a big factor in Maguire’s self-isolation.

I really dug the whole arcane “luck” charms that Maguire built into a ritual, not for herself, but because she wanted to ensure the safety of those around her. It’s rather ironic that she never wanted herself to be safe; she expected her bad luck really only affected those around her. Jordy was a great guy, and I liked how down-to-Earth he was. He’s got a bright and shiny future all laid out, but agonizes about his people-pleasing tendencies, and the high likelihood of failing to set proper boundaries. These were reasonable issues for an athlete of his caliber, and his pathway through therapy was also interesting.

For a teen romance, this was really tame with only a few kisses, some dithering regarding embarking on an official relationship v. secretly dating. Those issues held real relevance for Jordy, as approached legal adulthood and struggled to assert his autonomy over that of his parents’ wishes. In total, the book was a clean read with plenty of morbid reminiscences and a healthy portrayal of mild mental illness, teen relationships, and healing.

I’d wish Maguire luck, but I think she’s learned that she makes her own.

Interested? You can find GIRL AGAINST THE UNIVERSE on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Book Depository, and IndieBound.

About the Author:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She started out writing historical fiction under a pen name and is now branching out into other YA genres.

When she’s not working (rare), she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. She’s petted tigers, snuggled snakes, snorkeled with stingrays, and once enjoyed the suction-cuppy feel of a baby elephant’s trunk as it ate peanuts from her palm. Her future goals include diving with Great White sharks, learning Krav Maga, and writing a whole slew of novels, not necessarily in that order.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!