Bringing the Heat–CITYWIDE A Review

Hi there! This week I’m going to feature some SMOKING HOT books mostly featuring menage stories…because I live outside Chicago and I like some heat (and sexy distractions!) in my holidays.  Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released novella collection from Santino Hassell. CITYWIDE is a new book in the Five Boroughs series and features a bunch of folks from Ray’s Queens squad finding love…and super hot sex. There’s a little bit for everyone, including M/M/M, F/F and M/F lovin’. I’ve loved Hassell’s contemporary romances, SUNSET PARK, FIRST AND FIRST, INTERBOROUGH, and CONCOURSE, so I couldn’t wait to jump into this new book.

About the book:
A record-breaking heatwave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

My Review:
The stories link many of the single, and not-so-single, characters that have appeared in several of the previous books. CITYWIDE opens with a citywide heatwave that’s causing periodic black outs across the five boroughs of New York City. This is particularly troublesome because the servers for QFindr, a LGBTQ dating app created in FIRST AND FIRST, don’t like being without power or AC for long periods of time. Chris Mendez, is one of Ray Rodrigues’ Queens crew–and he’s had a lot of contact with the sexy QFindr folks, because their crews mingle through Ray. He recruited them to be models for QFindr’s launch, and they all went on a queer-friendly mixer cruise. Through this connection, and Caleb, Ray’s boyfriend’s ex, calls Chris to help with tech support during the heatwave–the company’s tech officer is on vacation.

Chris is not excited about turning up. He’s been avoiding Caleb’s business partner and half-brother, Aiden, and his husband Jace, for a couple of months now. Because Chris’s really attracted to them. And they want him to be a third in their sexytimes. And he wants that super bad, but he’s not down for an open relationship. He’d be their third in a hot second (and even hotter third!) but he’s not willing to share them outside of their triad. And, they’ve been poly for…ever. Trapped in the QFindr offices during a city-wide blackout that lasts three days. Three hot and sweaty, mainly naked, and hawt days. Also, Chris comes to terms t=with his self-esteem issues, and Aiden and Jace consider his needs seriously. They also uncover some big dirt that leads to the firing of an employee who looks for retribution in Gridlocked. Expect heart-to-heart-to-hearts and some seriously filthy frolicking. These guys fill each others’ holes…metaphorically and physically. Happy endings abound.

In the GRIDLOCKED Tonya Maldonado, another pal of Ray’s, reconnects with Meredith, Caleb’s sister. They’d had some fun times before, but Tonya’s not down with being some sort of conquest and that’s how she felt after their tryst. Not that they don’t have mad chemistry. Meredith is a rich heiress, and Tonya’s working as private security now that she’s out of the Marines. While at an event, Tonya helps Mere escape some homophobic stalkers. Tonya keeps her safe, and that prompts Mere’s estranged father to step in with an offer Tonya really doesn’t want to refuse. Mere’s livid that she’d even consider it, though. I’ll be honest, I’ve long loved Hassell’s M/M interludes, but wow! He blew my mind with these F/F scenes. O.O I loved how tough Tonya is, and how she stands her ground. She knows she’s got a great opportunity, but she’s also sympathetic to Mere’s domestic issues. Tonya’s a professional, and she pulls comrades along with her. There’s happiness to spare in this one, and I liked seeing Mere, Caleb and Aiden’s father become more human than his previous introductions.

In DERAILED, the final two members of Ray’s squad, Angel and Steph, acknowledge a deep connection to each other. Steph is pansexual, and though Angel is totally gone for her, he’s not really down for an open relationship. Steph has worked as a paralegal for a law firm for a good while, and wants a raise, but can’t seem to get one, despite her hard work and evident qualifications. She thinks this may be because she’s not settled with a partner, and maybe because she’s female. To keep people out of her business she “invents” a fiance, Angel, her long-time friend and on-and-off sexual partner. Angel, well, he’s interested in playing that game, because it’ll put him and Steph together for a whole weekend on a staff retreat, and won’t a change of scenery be nice? Maybe Steph will see how good they could be together, and want to make it permanent. All their pals are in committed relationships, and Angel wants one so bad he’s stepping outside of his comfort zone for Steph.

It actually works pretty nicely, for a while. That said, it’s not all smoking hot sex. Okay, besides the sex there’s some barbecue, and some Angel being a fab partner, and some Steph standing up for herself and being plain about her needs as a professional and a woman. And some realization that Angel’s been the love of her life for more than a decade. Having grown up with bad parents and unfair responsibilities, it’s tough for Steph to recalibrate her personal goals, but loving Angel isn’t difficult, and she’s finally willing to take the chance. Expect really hot nights and love under the stars.

Having read all six books in this series, I can tell you right now, I’d read six more. Matter of fact, Steph’s brother’s looking a little lonely… Write more, Mr. Hassell. I’ll be waiting.

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

About the Author:
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

You can find Santino online on his website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

TBR Thursday! AS LA VISTA TURNS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a F/F romance from Kris Ripper. It felt good to finally get back to this series, and what an awesome resolution. AS LA VISTA TURNS is the final book in the Queers of La Vista series, and brings closure to the loose-knit community who’d been terrorized by a serial killer in the first four books, GAYS OF OUR LIVES, THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL, THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS and ONE LIFE TO LOSE. It features a spunky lesbian lead who’s desperate to get pregnant, and help her friends heal and grieve those who had been killed.

About the book:
Zane Jaffe has almost lost track of what conception cycle she’s in. (That’s a lie: this is cycle thirteen.) She’s fake-dating her pal Mildred to get her best friend off her back, but judging by how hot it was when they accidentally kissed, her feelings might be somewhat less platonic than she’d thought.

And she’s decided that healing the fractured local queer community can only be accomplished through a party. Or maybe it’s actually a wake. Whatever it is, it’ll take place at Club Fred’s, and there will be alcohol.

Trying to conceive is an unholy rollercoaster of emotions, and Mildred won’t let them kiss again until Zane figures out how she feels. Between the wake (exhausting as hell, and that’s just the fun stuff), the constant up-down cycle of trying to get pregnant, and saving the world in the meantime, Zane has no idea. Fall in love with Mildred isn’t on her list, but maybe it’s time to let go of that rigid future she’s been working toward, and instead embrace the accidents that can lead to something better.

My Review:
Zane Jaffe is a realtor who’s got a list for her life. Right now, the top priority is to get pregnant, though she’s a single lesbian woman. She’s been “fake dating” her friend “Dred” (short for Mildred) a cantankerous black pan-sexual woman who is raising an infant son with the help of her cousin Obie and his boyfriend Everett–who live in a big farmhouse on the edge of La Vista. (Obie and Everett are the couple from Gays of our Lives). Thing is, Zane’s sorta/kinda wanting more than a fake relationship with Dred. Maybe. It’s not on her list though…

After twelve failed cycles of inseminations, Zane’s really down on the prospect of pregnancy. She wants it so badly she’s willing to try some unconventional work–like accepting the donation of a dear friend’s…specimen. And, while all this is coming, literally, to a head, Zane’s determined to create a venue for all her friends to gather and mourn the loss of so many in their community. She’s working hand-in-hand with Keith, Josh and Cam, our menage from ONE LIFE TO LOSE, to be sure this “wake” is tasteful and positive. Add to all this the drama building between Zane and Dred, and well, it’s definitely a soap opera.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story. I knew there would a romance, but I didn’t expect to be so viscerally engaged in the pregnancy battle. It was such a whirlwind being inside Zane’s head, and connecting with her deep sense of loss when she hadn’t conceived. Hand to God, I think I got sympathetic menstrual cramps as a result. I did get frustrated with Zane’s inability to think about life beyond her lists. It was clear that Dred was reaching out, and Zane’s so keyed into her own headspace that she messed that right up. But, she did make it right, let her iron focus slip, and saw the good of it. Saw the beauty of living unscripted, and finding unexpected love.

This book was a fantastic resolution to the stories in the series. We see all the players as they assist Zane’s efforts with the “wake” and her pregnancy woes. They aren’t features, but their vignettes cap off the stories we’ve experienced with them, and the sense of wholeness is further developed when the wake happens. All these people were touched by tragedy and love, and their lives are all the richer than when we began. I’ve really enjoyed the spectrum of persons in the books, and recommend them to any reader who likes sexually diverse fiction. I hadn’t realized I’d needed catharsis from the first four books, but I’m all the better for it, too. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find AS LA VISTA TURNS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Through the STORM SEASON–Review and Giveaway!

storm-season_fbHi there! I’m so excited to welcome Pene Henson over to chat about her new book, a lesbian romance, set in Australia’s wild mountains and bustling Sydney. STORM SEASON features a trendy culture blogger finding a soul connection with a ranger with a colorful past. I really liked INTO THE BLUE, so I thought I’d give this one a try.

Check out the author interview, and be sure to scroll down and get in on the $25 GC + books giveaway.

storm-season-900px-front-tumblrAbout the book:
The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars belie a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Storm Season.
Hi Pene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

I’m Australian, extroverted and hard to ruffle. Also I’m pretty tall, mostly lacking in sporting prowess, and way less funny than I’d like to be. I live with my wife and our two divinely awesome kids in Sydney, along with a ferociously loving cat.

I grew up dreaming of being an astronaut or an experimental physicist. I love sciences and mechanics but I’d do a dreadful job of either of those things so fortunately I surprised myself by developing a career in law and writing.

I’ve always written poetry and short fiction. I never really dreamed of a novel until I was writing one. It was delightful to build a whole world, the first in Hawaii and on the ocean, and fall in love with my own characters.

Storm Season is my second novel. It’s set on the Australian East Coast, in land and in cities that I know well. Like my previous novel, it’s essentially a happy queer story. It’s a romance between a bubbly and adorable fashion blogger and a capable park ranger living alone in a remote cabin. As you’d imagine, these women have vastly different experiences. They think they have vastly different priorities. Trapped together by a storm, however, they uncover not just a deep attraction to one another but also all the ways they fit together. And then, of course, the storm breaks and they have to work out what will happen when they return to their ordinary lives.

Is there a character in your books that you can’t stand? (Antagonist for example) And what makes them someone you don’t like?

My books don’t tend to have antagonists. Because I’m writing pretty low-angst romance, the characters just don’t come out that way the same way my life might have irritations but not antagonists.

In this book, Claudie’s ex girlfriend Dani is pretty hard to like. She hurt Claudie; she is self-centred and thoughtless and controlling and still doesn’t recognize the wrong she did. But she is also charismatic and generous in her way. She believes she’s helping queer women reach for something; she thinks fame matters and she wants to see people achieve their best. She’s not someone I’d want to be in a relationship with but she is parts of people I have known and those people have their redeeming qualities.

Are there misconceptions people have about your genre?

I don’t think it’s a misconception to believe that romance can be formulaic, that the power balance between women and men can be wrong, that sometimes you can anticipate plot points and misunderstandings and that characterization can be weak.

But the same can be said for action books, mysteries, high fantasy, literary fiction. I have two answers to that.

  1. Sometimes formulae are enjoyable. Sometimes you want to read something where you know the ending the first time you see the characters names on the page. Whether it’s a mystery or a spy novel or a romance.
  2. The best of any kind of book brings you something new. Perhaps it reaches deeper into characterization, is careful with how it handles humanity. Perhaps it surprises you. Perhaps you see something in its ethics or its leads or the way they describe the scenery. Romance has plenty of talented authors and plenty of strong books. Find the ones that work for you.

Is there message in your novel that you hope readers grasp?

There are a couple of messages *blush*. Both of them are things I’ve come back to in both novels, and will come back to again.

  1. Love is wonderful. It’s life changing. It can be many things. But it’s not everything.

In both of my books it was critical to me that the protagonists had something else going on. I wanted them to have big goals and friends and family. I wanted them to be strong without a partner, but delighted by love.

In Storm Season, Lien has an extraordinary life with a queer family she loves. She has influence in her fashion and music blogging. She has excellent taste. She spends time in the novel developing some deeper opinion pieces, learning to take risks with her writing. With or without Claudie, and some of it is inspired by Claudie, she comes through as someone learning to be the best they can be.

Similarly, while Lien makes it easier for Claudie to use her talents and rebuild her indie rock career, Claudie would be okay by herself. She’s still who she is, she’s happy with her life. Lien’s a bit of a catalyst for change, but she’s not the change herself.

No one can be everything to everyone.

  1. Being in a new place that’s out of your comfort zone can change you in ways you did not anticipate. Whether that’s lost in the bush without Internet access or connecting with a stranger in the cabin you wanted to live in alone, big changes force you to recognize what’s really important to you. And also sometimes give you an openness to falling in love.
  1. Don’t be afraid of Australia. We might have spiders, snakes and bats but we also have striking wilderness rangers who know their way around.

Here’s a little nibble of the book…

“Come out here,” calls Claudie from the deck.

Claudie’s leaning on the railing looking over the vast expanse of nothing. “Come and stand at the edge here,” she says. “It’s like the edge of the universe.”

It’s dark; there’s nothing out there. The world smells rich and wet. Lien holds herself still and looks out with the cabin lights behind her.

“Wait a sec,” says Claudie.

She steps back toward the house and reaches inside the cabin door. Everything goes dark.

“Hey—” Lien can’t see a thing. They haven’t had lights in days, and now Claudie’s turning them off. The blackness seems complete.

“You’re okay,” says Claudie. “It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust. I figured—It’s been raining so much. You haven’t had a clear night up here. I wanted to show you.” She moves beside Lien against the railing.

And as Lien’s eyes accustom themselves to the dark, the sky opens up above them. The Milky Way sweeps a path of light across the great black bowl. Around that the night extends from one clear horizon to the other, lit by a thousand layers of stars on stars, dazzling bright in the dark.

The universe goes on forever. It’s huge, and Lien’s tiny and breathless in front of it.

In that moment nothing is worth thinking about beyond that sky, nothing but the huge universe and Claudie’s hand, steady and close beside Lien’s on the railing, Claudie’s warm body so near. Lien twines her pinkie around Claudie’s. They stand under the stars, still and silent.

When Lien turns, Claudie’s cheekbones are traced in blue-white and her eyes reflect a thousand pinprick lights. She’s beautiful. She’s from a whole other world.

My Review:
Lien is a fashion and entertainment blogger in Sydney off on a camping adventure with her collection of friends before they his a week-long music festival. She’s not a camping gal, actually–this trip was the idea of her best friend and housemate, Beau, a transman who fancies Lien’s other great friend, Annie. Lien’s been casually dating Nic, but it’s not serious on Lien’s side. She’s just not sure about settling down.

Camping is meant to be rough, but Lien and her friends have no idea what’s about to hit them. The forecast is for rain, but it’s nearly a monsoon. Lien is out hiking and takes a fall, just before the rain starts. It’s dark, and the only person who finds her is the park ranger, Claudie, who lives in the park in a cozy shack. Lien’s knee is too injured to allow her to hike back to camp, so Claudie brings Lien to her own cabin–and it’s a situation of stranded together. THe rain is so fierce over the next several days that Lien’s friends are forced to leave the park and take refuge in a nearby town, meanwhile Lien’s still to hobbled to make herself useful. Plus, Claudie’s grown accustomed to the solitary life, now that she’d given up on her soured rock-n-roll dreams. The more time Lien and Claudie spend, the closer they grow–sharing secrets, stories and eventually Claudie’s double bed. It’s all platonic at first, but, yeah, they start to fall for one another.

Thing is, Claudie’s been burned by a woman before, Dani–her first love–and that’s a lot of why she’s pulled herself out of society and taken a ranger position. Connecting with Lien isn’t her plan–and it’s hard for her when that happens because Lien’s only supposed to be there for a week. Whiling away the hours with no exit and no power, Claudie plays guitar to entertain Lien. The rapport they build is hard for Lien to leave behind, too. So much so that when she must go, she seeks out a way to bring Claudie with her–hunting out her early recordings and sending it to Claudie with encouraging notes about her music and how she might fashion herself a new career.

This is a sweet and quiet romance, and I liked the slow build. The isolation was an interesting part of the book–with it being a shelter, at first for both Claudie and Lien, but then becoming less so–as they find themselves feeling the pain of separation. And, the love of a good woman will drive many to make life-changing decisions. Including Claudie. Including Lien.

Interested? You can find STORM SEASON on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Book Depository, and IndieBound.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Interlude Press Gift Card or one of FIVE first prizes of an e-copy of ‘Storm Season’ by Pene Henson.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Storm Season is her second novel.

You can find Pene on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Surviving and Hoping with THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a transgender mystery romance from Kris Ripper. THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS is the third book in the author’s Queers of La Vista series, and brings the murder mystery discussed in GAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL onto the main stage. The featured couple is a trans-man, Ed, who falls for an adventurous lesbian woman.

qatrAbout the book:
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.

Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.

As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and probably best enjoyed when read in sequence, but it’s not mandatory.

Ed Masiello is a trans-man who lives in La Vista, CA, and works for the local newspaper as a low-level reporter. He really wants to write bigger pieces, but he’s young and new, and he’s stuck with fluff. It’s super frustrating because there seems to be a killer stalking the queer community in La Vista, and Ed thinks no one’s really making enough fuss. The best info is from an anonymous blogger named Togg, and that person’s really making the Queers of La Vista nervous.

While out blowing off steam at Club Fred’s, a known queer establishment, Ed bumps into a long-time acquaintance, Alisha. Alisha is fun and flirty and Ed doesn’t know how to take it. He’s always dated women, but he’s been transitioning for a year now, and his parts are changing due to the hormonal supplementation. Is he a novelty to Alisha, who he knows is lesbian? Or, is Alisha attracted to Ed as a man?

Short answer: she likes Ed.

They begin dating and it’s cool. Ed feels like this is great. A beautiful woman likes him, and they have satisfying sexytimes. Thing is, Alisha wants her life to be a grand adventure. Ed’s afraid to request time off from his job to travel. Plus, he’s getting super caught up in the investigation surrounding the La Vista killer–Ed’s the one who connects a seemingly-unrelated murder to the string–and verifies that all the victims were guests at Club Fred’s theme night parties. The whole queer community is in an uproar, and Ed’s obsession is having a toll on his budding romance.

I really like this series. It shifts the focus to different members of the queer community that may not have lots of fictional representation. I’ve read a few transitioning characters before, and Ed’s a good one. He’s struggling for acceptance on many fronts. His family is hostile to his transition, meanwhile he’s “passing” as male to people at work and his roommates–even if they pretty-much think he’s gay. Which is a conundrum for Ed. I had a few chuckles with the dude-bro roomies scenes, and their “advice” about dating women. There were some interesting sexytimes and I can only trust they are rather realistic, as I’ve not given a lot of scrutiny to TG persons and their bodies in transition. The author identifies as a trans-man, so that’s good enough cred for me.

This book brings the murder-mystery storyline of the series into the forefront. Previous to this we’d only heard of one murder, but the timeline fits as all these stories are not entirely sequential. There are many characters from the previous books brought back into the mix here, as a lot of the story occurs within Ed’s social sphere. He’s friendly with Jaq and Hannah from Book Two and also Dred from Book One. As killings continue, there’s an arrest, but that divides people even more. The accused is a fixture, and someone seemingly trusted by all. I will say, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to find the true culprit. Good thing that Ed figures out the way to happiness is not through chasing smoke trails in the sky, but finding a partner who’s there for you, and loves you not only as you are, but also as you will be.

Interested? You can find THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Learning to Love (Again) THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary F/F romance from Kris Ripper. THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL is the second book in Kris’ Queers of La Vista series and centers on a butch lesbian high school teacher whose fear of abandonment has stunted her ability to find a long-term gal. I really liked GAYS OF OUR LIVES, so I decided to read on in the series.

butch-beautyAbout the book:
Jaq Cummings is a high school teacher who really wants a committed relationship—as long as it doesn’t keep her out late on school nights or interrupt Sunday mass with her dad. She is absolutely not about to fall for the hot-mess divorcée she hooks up with even if said hot mess pushes all her buttons. Jaq’s white knight days are over.

But one hookup with Hannah becomes two, then coffee, then more incredibly hot sex. And unlike most of Jaq’s exes, Hannah’s not looking for someone to come on strong. In fact, Hannah comes on plenty strong enough for both of them. But she’s just out of a disastrous marriage, she’s in the process of moving across the state, and Jaq can’t take a chance on yet another relationship where she defaults to being a caregiver instead of a partner.

Just when Jaq decides her relationship with Hannah is far too precarious, a crisis with a student reminds her of her priorities and makes it clear that sometimes, you have to take big risks to get what you really want.

My Review:
Jaq is a butch lesbian in search of Ms. Right, perhaps. She’s never had a long-term relationship, and her loving father and close friends all believe it’s because Jaq is afraid to really love someone, with the possibility of losing them–like her mother who died of cancer when Jaq was a child.

This is the second book in a series, and I think it reads fine as a standalone, but two threads carry over from the previous book: the unsolved murder of a transvestite entertainer, and the (nearly incestuous) interconnectedness of the queer community in La Vista, a small Frisco-Bay-area suburban town. Prime example? Jaq and Hannah meet because they are both exes of brides at a wedding. Hannah’s a sexy attorney going through a bitter divorce, and not averse to a hot time with Jaq. Their one night stand becomes more when Hannah reveals she’s moving to La Vista, to escape the LA scene, where her ex is a clebrity chef, and shacking up with one of her employees.

Jaq likes Hannah, but their mutual friends, and Hannah herself, warn Jaq that Hannah’s a bit crazy. Thing is, Jaq soon recognizes that she likes Hannah’s crazy, because it’s a wild and aggressive sexy streak. Jaq swoons for her, but questions if this is the right thing to do: build hopes and dreams on Hannah. Hannah’s still battling with her ex over the sale of their house; she can’t possibly want anything serious.

The book is a low-conflict read, with Jaq being a bit of a jerk when Hannah flakes, once, on their plans. She’s always looking for a reason to dump a gal, which is pointed out with brutal honesty, and then Jaq needs to make amends. There also some nice subplots regarding Jaq’s position as a high school teacher, and how she supports the school GSA, and the kids who she knows are falling through the cracks. Her relationship with her father is so lovely, and her baby-wanting bestie is a tough love champ. The characters all read like I’m watching them in real life, and that’s the sign of a good book, for me. There’s lots and lots of sexy moments, and it’s all very steamy. And sticky, because vegan whipping cream is apparently just as fantastic as a sexytimes aid as the bovine-made stuff. Yum.

I liked that Jaq made things right between her and Hannah, and that Hannah was willing to listen. She’s a very human character, willing to share her sordid past, and work to build something special. Their compatibility was palpable, and I liked that the whole “crazy” notion was really more “eccentric and excitable” than serious-meds-are-required. Not that I’m opposed to characters who are disturbed, just that Jaq didn’t seem able to begin a relationship with a partner who had a mental illness. We got some more insights into the La Vista queers, and I’m sure interested to find out more about this world.

Interested? You can find THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I read a review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Challenging Authority ROMANCING THE INVENTOR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new steampunk-style lesbian romance from Gail Carriager. ROMANCING THE INVENTOR features the lovestory of a woman I’d read about in her Finishing School books: Genevieve LeFoux. Genevieve’s all grown up, and the object of a parlourmaid’s curious eye.

romancing-the-inventorAbout the book:

Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?

This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Delicate Sensibilities? This story contains women pleasing women and ladies who know what they want and pursue it, sometimes in exquisite detail.

Supernatural Society novellas can be read in any order.

My Review:

This is a book set in the 1870s London in a fictional past that includes vampires and werewolves. Much of this world has been described in previous middle-grade/YA book series (Parasol Protectorate or Finishing School) though this is an adult book featuring adult characters–who’d been youths/younger in the previous books. I kinda think you’d enjoy this book better if you’ve read some of those, because the world is already built, and the paranormal elements not as thoroughly explained in this book, as a result.

Imogene Hale is a 28 year old beautiful woman in a village. She’s had many a suitor, but never accepted any man…because she’s attracted to women. When a vampire hive takes up residence at Woolsey Castle, Imogene seeks a job. She’s heard vampires are perverted, and she may be able to find satisfaction with the Countess, if she’s very lucky and doesn’t get drained first.

Unfortunately, the vampires are selective. They sense she’s an innocent, and want to “save” her for a special occasion. In the meantime, Imogene is a parlourmaid and begins to attend the needs of the Inventor, Madame LeFoux–otherwise known as Vieve, or Genevieve, from earlier books. Genevieve is a cross-dressing “tom,” a woman who likes women…and she very much likes Imogene. But Genevieve is still grieving her wife, and that’s damping Imogene’s prospects with the inventor.

There’s a lot of posturing, and scheming on the part of the vampire countess and the werewolves, who are close friends with Genevieve. It looks as if Imogene will become just another snack for the hive, but Genevieve is able to halt this pettiness, and make some small claim to regaining her heart and finding love.

This is a sweet, slow-burning romance. Imogene makes a good partner to Genevieve, having an affinity for mathematics that complements Genevieve’s ingenuity. There are many obstacles to overcome, but Imogene is a steadfast companion, and finally wins Genevieve to her side. There’s not a lot of steam, but the language is fun, and the situations engaging. The real focus here is on Imogene, and how this country lass makes a good life with Genevieve. There are many characters here that are part of the larger fictional world, and fans will be excited to see Genevieve get her happy ever after.

Interested? You can find ROMANCING THE INVENTOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:

Gail Carriger writes comedic steampunk mixed with urbane fantasy. Her books include the Parasol Protectorate and Custard Protocol series for adults, and the Finishing School series for young adults. She is published in 18 different languages and has 13 NYT bestsellers via 7 different lists (including #1 in Manga). She was once an archaeologist and is overly fond of shoes, octopuses, and tea.

You can find Gail online on her website, Facebook and twitter. Gail has a fun newsletter: the Monthly Chirrup, sign up here.

Map of Love: HERE’S THE THING–Review and Giveaway!

heres-the-thing-tour-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a sweet contemporary YA F/F romance from Emily O’Bierne. HERE’S THE THING is a straight-talking story of a sixteen year old girl who’s trying to make sense of her love life. And semi-failing at it.

It comes out October 19th, but you can get all the info now, and pre-order it below. Check out the excerpt and e-book giveaway below.

heresthething-coverAbout the book:
It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.

But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.

As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.\

How about a taste?

As soon as she hears the words “New York”, the blonde princess perks up.

“You actually lived there?” Her voice is still measured, but I can hear the hint of intrigue. Suddenly I’m worth something. She straightens her blazer, looking curious and a touch self-conscious. Like the mention of that city has chafed at the all-comforting sense of superiority she held a second ago when she sized up my loose-haired, loose-jeaned, couldn’t-give-a-crap eyeliner look. Now her perfectly braided hair, subtle eye make-up, and her prefect’s badge don’t stand a chance against me (well, New York). It’s like she suddenly feels like the boring provincial cliché she is.

Please don’t think I’m a bitch, describing this girl like that. I’m not a bitch. Really, I’m not. It’s just that you weren’t here ten minutes ago. I swear it was surreal. She was nice as pie when Mum was here, making small talk, telling us about the school excursions and clubs and extra university prep courses they offer. Then, the minute Mum went in to chat with the senior school coordinator, she went on this total backspin from perky polite to general disinterest. All before the office door even closed.

Of course, that was before I uttered the four, golden ‘lived in New York’ words. Now she’s all ears.

So excuse me for judging, but you have to admit it’s kind of deeply shallow on her part. Like something out of a bad teen movie. She’s one of those popular girls, all shiny and judge-y and awaiting her comeuppance, the one who underestimates the new girl at the start. This, of course, casts me as the nerdy but likeable girl. The one who’ll either seek revenge on all the high-definition girls like this evenly tanned overachiever next to me or else become wildly popular by getting a makeover from a gay man, making some excellent quips, and then dating from the girl-clique’s private male gene pool property.

Believe me, people, when I say that NONE of this is going to happen. What will happen, if Mum and Dad magically convince me go to this school, is that I will put my head down and stay as invisible as humanly possible. Because if she is a taster of the school social menu, I plan to officially bow out of all interpersonal efforts.

We’ve already taken the full tour of the school and grounds, led by the blonde, in chirruping prefect mode, and the principal’s assistant. Apparently this school’s so exclusive that potential Golden Ones don’t even get to meet the principal until they’re properly signed on, fees paid. Together they schooled Mum in everything this place has to offer. Because she’ll be the one paying the fees for the Olympic swimming pool and the sky-lit art rooms, right? And while I dragged my feet behind them, I didn’t get a chance to find out if all the other students are carbon, depressing copies of this one either. All the girls (yes, only girls, which you would think would make me happy but it actually doesn’t) were tucked away in the classrooms. But my guess is, given the North Shore location and the amount of zeroes I saw on the fees list, that this sample of blonde wayyy-upper-middle-class Sydney sitting right here is probably representative enough for me to turn and run for the hills. Or at least back to the inner west.

“Like, New York, New York? Not the state,” the girl asks, wrinkling her nose slightly as if she can’t imagine that hallowed city allowing rabble like me in. Which, of course, shows how little she knows about the place. If she thinks I’m rabble, she’s got another thing coming when she and her fake designer suitcase finally make it there. If New York knows how to do anything, it’s how to produce prime rabble. It prides itself on it.

“Yes, the city,” I say patiently instead of sighing the sigh of the withering, which is what I really want to do. If I were Prim, I probably would have. I’m the kind of person who can manage to stay on the right side of polite, but Prim’s got zero tolerance for girls like this. But then, Prim’s got zero tolerance for most people. “We lived in Midtown.”

The girl looks blank.

“It’s the middle of Manhattan, near Times Square,” I explain as two girls in uniform, looking just like this one but brunette and sans prefect badge, peer into the office. One says something, and the other cackles as they pass. I shudder. Get me out of here. Now.

Blondie perks up some more. “That’s where they have the New Year’s parade?”

I nod.

“Did you go?”

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. I wouldn’t be caught dead there, fighting for a square inch of space with a gazillion tourists and out-of-towners. The parade is what television is made for. It’s for parents and old people and the rest of America to watch while New York goes out. Prim and I had planned to spend New Year’s Eve planning our New World Order. I don’t have time to fill you in on the details right now, but let me tell you this much—this girl here would have trouble surviving once we run the show.

Before I can respond, Mum is finally ejected from the coordinator’s office. I’m so relieved to see her I have to stop myself from jumping up and hugging her. She gives me a thin smile like she, too, has been to private school hell and back.

The coordinator is right behind her. She’s a shaggy middle-aged woman wearing a pastel sweater dress straight out of the eighties. Now I really feel sorry for Mum. Ten minutes in the presence of that outfit is probably pushing at the edges of human endurance.

“I hope to see you next week, Zelda,” the coordinator says to me. “Meaghan will show you back to the gate, won’t you?”

Blondie McPerfect nods enthusiastically and leads us back to the car park full of shiny land cruisers and zippy hatchbacks. She chatters all the way, practically igniting with excitement when she hears Mum’s line of work. I smirk to myself. It must be killing her that two such unimpressive-looking people’s life CVs are impressing her so much.

I tune out and watch the school go by. The playing fields are movie-set green, the sprinklers keeping the summer sun from doing its worst. That’d be right. Last night’s news said parts of the Blue Mountains are ablaze with bushfires, but North Sydney is lush.

As soon as Meaghan leaves us with a wave and a faux-friendly see you next week, I turn to Mum. “I’m not going here. No way.”

My Review:

Zelda is a sixteen year old girl in turmoil. She’s a native Aussie who’s just returned to Australia after 10 months in NYC, where she’s befriended Prim, a beautiful, caustic girl who is the object of Zel’s affection. Their parting was less-that-optimal, and Zel’s afraid that Prim hates her. Plus, she must adjust to life in Sydney, and a new school. Again.

Zel’s a good girl, and she gets along with her parents. She has no friction regarding her lesbian sexuality, but she struggles to find appropriate targets for her crushes. It’s a find line between friendship and more, she comes to realize, and she doesn’t want to make the mistake she did with Prim.

She follows her cousin Antony’s lead and takes Drama, though Zel’s terrified of performing in front of an audience. In the class she meets Michael, Ashani and Stella, and they are all mates for the big performance production they have to script for the class project. Meanwhile, Zel works hard at her photography for Art class, the project there involving developing the many rolls of flim she used to capture subway rides and exploration days with Prim, back in NYC. See, they planned to ride each line to its end, and then see where that took them. There were only three lines left after Zel made her fateful mistake, and Prim didn’t see her again before she moved.

Working with her partners is a challenge, but it becomes something really special, particularly the political action part of the performance. Zel’s captivated by the challenges of refugees living in detention colonies, and how their sense of home is skewed from that of a citizen. Stella and Zel become close as their project winds on, and it’s sweet to see how Zel misses most of the signs that Stella finds her attractive. Still, Zel needs to let go of her fascination with Prim, and that happens eventually, and in a way that was really tender.

I liked this YA romance because it really felt grounded in real life. There are no over-the-top grand gestures. Just ordinary kids muddling through and making emotional messes of themselves, before sweeping up the pieces and making it all work out. All the characters felt solid and present, and I enjoyed the by-plays and ‘drama’ of all the class drama.  Don’t expect any homophobia or tension regarding sexuality; these characters have solid support networks and courteous friends. Zel’s parents adore her, and the feeling is mutual.

I also loved the attention to setting. Zel explores her new Sydney digs, as well as relates her New York explorations via flashback. I was really taken by the sweet vignettes of each locale and Zel’s comparisons between them–and also her more sedate former home in Canberra. I felt transported via plane and subway to many places I’ve never been and others–like Coney Island–which I’ve visited, which is a big plus for me, as a reader. In short, it’s a solid read, with the appropriate level of teen angst, and some sweet tenderness at the very end. It’s an innocent book, with just a bit of kissing on the page.

Interested? You can find HERE’S THE THING on Goodreads, and pre-order it in advance of its 10/19/16 release on Ylva.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 e-books of HERE’S THE THING.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Thirteen-year-old Emily O’Beirne woke up one morning with a sudden itch to write her first novel. All day, she sat through her classes, feverishly scribbling away (her rare silence probably a cherished respite for her teachers). And by the time the last bell rang, she had penned fifteen handwritten pages of angsty drivel, replete with blood-red sunsets, moody saxophone music playing somewhere far off in the night, and abandoned whiskey bottles rolling across tables.

Needless to say, that singular literary accomplishment is buried in a box somewhere, ready for her later amusement. From Melbourne, Australia, Emily was recently granted her PhD. She works part-time in academia, where she hates marking papers but loves working with her students. She also loves where she lives but travels as much as possible and tends to harbour crushes on cities more than on people.

Living in an apartment, Emily sadly does not possess her dream writing room overlooking an idyllic garden of her creation. Instead, she spends a lot of her time staring over the screen of her laptop and out the window at the somewhat less pretty (but highly entertaining) combined kebab stand/carwash across the road.

Catch up with Emily online on her websiteGoodreads, and twitter.
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