Will Love Help Them STAY LUCKY? A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a contemporary M/M romance from Leta Blake. STAY LUCKY is a standalone single dad and second-chance romance set in a small town. This was originally published in Ms. Blake’s pen name (Halsey Harlow), but is now being re-released in her own name.

About the book
A second chance to build the family of their dreams…

Grant long ago gave up on a relationship with Leo Garner. After all Leo left him for a movie star, and who can compete with that? But now, Leo’s back with his adorable, genius daughter in tow, leaving Grant consumed by three important questions:

1) Did Leo come home looking for a fresh start without the movie star?
2) Does he want a do-over with Grant too?
3) Why else would Leo be hanging around Grant’s hospital so much anyway?

The attraction between Grant and Leo is undeniable, and soon their affection reignites as well. But will their luck hold out through health scares and family drama so they can find their happy ending at last?

My Review:
Dr. Grant Anderson has a bad bedside manner and even worse personal temperament. He’s moody, mean and delights in making nurses and underlings cry–because he’s a surgeon, and plainly put, an asshole. He’s never really had any lasting relationships, and he’s not about to start up with the last man who touched his heart, Leo Garner. Six years ago, Grant and Leo were really starting to get serious, but then Leo’s high school sweetheart Curtis Banks swooped in from Hollywood and convinced Leo to give him another chance. Grant won’t admit it to anyone, let alone himself, but he was heart-broken.

It wasn’t hard to keep up with Leo’s escapades with Curtis–they were all over the tabloids. Including Leo’s heart transplant a couple of years ago, and what looks to be a permanent separation. Finding that Leo and his daughter-niece Lucky have relocated back to tiny Blountville, North Carolina is frustrating to Grant. But, learning that Leo’s on dialysis for transplant-related kidney failure gets Grant all charged up again. Leo’s tentative about reconnecting; he’s not sure how long he has left even though he’s barely thirty. He adopted Lucky from his younger sister Hannah–who happens to be both a flighty drug addict, and a perfect match as a kidney donor. If only she could be coaxed into donation.

This story is told in a series of flashbacks over the course of several months, from the night prior to the surgery to the point of Grant and Leo’s reconnection: ten months before surgery. Grant’s caustic personality causes precocious 6 year-old Lucky to take him to task for making nurses cry. Grant’s intrigued by the fearless girl, even before he finds out she’s Leo’s. Lucky’s got a well-tuned BS meter, and she can tell that blunt and brash Dr. Anderson will be brutally honest, no matter what. Their rapport grows from this understanding, and Grant takes to spending time teaching Lucky to play chess while waits for Leo’s dialysis appointments. While Curtis doesn’t want to let Leo and Lucky go, he’s never been the emotional support Leo needed–and their sex life was mutually unsatisfying.

With Grant, Leo’s able to find not only peace but satisfaction. Yet, as Leo’s health continues to fail, Grant’s need to fix his lover becomes consuming. Leo’s extended family is on the case, too, tracking down Hannah and helping her get clean and sober so she can help her dear brother. There are plenty of setbacks and moments of extreme pain. And, I’m not talking about the kink Grant and Leo get up to!

I liked this one, though it’s not my fave book from this author. Grant’s obnoxious bedside manner reminds me a lot of Dr. Patrick McCloud of the Will and Patrick series, and there are some other parallels to that set of stories. Lucky is more cute than I expected, given the author’s notes. The romance is cautious on Leo’s side, given his history and health issues. Grant’s far less tentative than I expected him to be, and he’s got all the right answers for Leo’s sexytimes needs, which surprised me. His history seems more than a bit murky, and I could see this character being a precursor to Patrick, for that reason. Patrick had a lot more page time to reveal his secrets to the reader–and was a lot more complex, as a result. Grant comes off as a jerk for so much of this story, it’s hard to remember that he’s been wounded by Leo before.

Without question, however, I was charmed by the reconnection romance, and I was glad to find the happy ending is solid and strong. Grant was definitely all-in from the moment he relaxed and let Lucky sneak into his heart–to join Leo–and his tenacity and passion are given without reserve. It’s sweet, a bit spicy and has tons of feels for Leo, Grant and Lucky.

Interested? You can find STAY LUCKY on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Leta Blake is the author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

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

BITTER HEAT–Release Blast and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new dystopian-Omegaverse M/M romance from Leta Blake. BITTER HEAT is the third book in the Heat of Love series. It’s set in a post-female world where males of three genders have a highly-ordered society. If this intrigues you, I’d advise checking out my review for ALPHA HEAT, which introduces us to Janus Heelies–an alpha in need of redemption. I also loved SLOW HEAT, the first book in the series and plan to share a review for that soon.

In the meantime, drop down to read the blurb and enter the book giveaway!
About the book
A pregnant omega trapped in a desperate situation, an unattached alpha with a lot to prove, and an unexpected fall into love that could save them both.

Kerry Monkburn is contracted to a violent alpha in prison for brutal crimes. Now pregnant with the alpha’s child, he lives high in the mountains, far above the city that once lured him in with promises of a better life. Enduring bitterness and fear, Kerry flirts with putting an end to his life of darkness, but fate intervenes.

Janus Heelies has made mistakes in the past. In an effort to redeem himself, integrity has become the watchword for his future. Training as a nurse under the only doctor willing to take him on, Janus is resolute in his intentions: he will live cleanly in the mountains and avoid all inappropriate affairs. But he doesn’t anticipate the pull that Kerry exercises on his heart and mind.

As the question of Kerry’s future health and safety comes to an explosive head, only the intervention of fate will see these desperate men through to a happy ending.

This gay romance novel by Leta Blake is the third in the Heat of Love universe which began with Slow Heat. It’s 111,000 words, with a strong happy ending and a critically-acclaimed, non-shifter Omegaverse. It features alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, mpreg, heat, and knotting. Content warning for a violent and oppressive society regarding reproductive rights.

Interested? You can find BITTER HEAT on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Leta Blake!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Leta Blake is the author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

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

Triple the Love: ALPHA HEAT–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new dystopian-Omegaverse M/M romance from Leta Blake. I’m doing a mini-theme week for the next few days all about trios of love. Yep, menage-y fun. ALPHA HEAT is the second book in the Slow Heat series. It’s set in a post-female world where males of three genders have a highly-ordered society. I loved SLOW HEAT, the first book in the series and plan to share a review for that soon.

In the meantime, drop down to catch my review and enter the book giveaway!
About the book
A desperate young alpha. An older alpha with a hero complex. A forbidden love that can’t be denied.
Young Xan Heelies knows he can never have what he truly wants: a passionate romance and happy-ever-after with another alpha. It’s not only forbidden by the prevailing faith of the land, but such acts are illegal.

Urho Chase is a middle-aged alpha with a heartbreaking past. Careful, controlled, and steadfast, his friends dub him old-fashioned and staid. When Urho discovers a dangerous side to Xan’s life that he never imagined, his world is rocked and he’s consumed by desire. The carefully sewn seams that held him together after the loss of his omega and son come apart—and so does he.

But to love each other and make a life together, Xan and Urho risk utter ruin. With the acceptance and support of Caleb, Xan’s asexual and aromantic omega and dear friend, they must find the strength to embrace danger and build the family they deserve.

This gay romance novel by Leta Blake is the second in the Slow Heat universe. It’s 130,000 words, with a strong happy ending and a well-crafted, non-shifter Omegaverse. It features alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, heat, and knotting. No cheating. Content warning for brief sexual violence.

My Review:
This book, set in a post-female “omegaverse” world is filled with males of three genders: alpha, beta and omega. Alphas are the most dominant, and have the most rights and privileges in society. They are the only gender allowed to officially mate omegas, who are genetically-altered males that have a uterus. Thus, alphas breed with omegas, and the omegas give birth to alphas, betas or omegas. Betas are relegated to service jobs in society. Omegas become the property/responsibility of their alpha husbands–and they go through heat every several months or so. Heat is a painful experience for an omega, and the clawing need to reproduce is only assuaged by knotting coitus with an alpha. And, while betas and omegas can receive an alpha, it’s forbidden by law and religion for an alpha to be “unmanned,” or mated, like an omega.

Okay, so Xan Heelies was a secondary character in the first book. He’s an alpha, though small, and the only alpha son of a wealthy bonded pair. He’s known his whole life he’s wanted to be an omega–and he’d convinced his childhood best friend, Jason, another alpha, to breed him as an omega when they were in university together. This was before Jason found his Erosgape (pronounced Er-os-gah-pay) or heartmate. It’s a visceral connection that occurs between some lucky alpha and omega pairs. Xan knows he won’t find and Erosgape for himself–not as he’s “unmanned.” Xan is practically shunned by his controlling Father–who keeps Xan from his compassionate pater, the omega who birthed him. Xan still has deep feelings for Jason, and resents Jason’s Erosgape partner, Vale. However, when Jason and Vale have important news to relate, Xan is there, and again runs into Urho, a widowed alpha and one of Vale’s closest friends.

Urho is older, a veteran of the Great Wars, and still mourns the loss of his Erosgape love, Riki, after nearly twenty years. Riki died in childbirth, a fate many omegas experience. Since then, Urho has worked as a medic to all, but omegas in particular, helping wed and unwed omegas with challenging heats and deliveries. Xan finds Urho to be very appealing, but he knows the stoic alpha would never service him like an omega.

In fact, Xan has a contracted omega, one he is bound to, but doesn’t have amorous love for–and Caleb his partner prefers this. Caleb is another societal anomaly; though physically stunning, Caleb is aromantic and asexual; he only wants an alpha to help him through his heats, and prefers only good company and compassion all the rest of the time. Caleb wants Xan to have a discreet lover who can fulfill his needs, but Xan only finds a brute alpha who physically abuses Xan (while mating him) for being unmanned.

Xan, unfortunately, meets Urho one night after being abused by his tormentor/lover, and Urho’s confused by the situation, and his reaction to Xan. Urho had always found Xan intriguing, but he’s unsettled by the unexpected arousal. There’s a lot of complication surrounding Xan’s situation: if he’s reported to be unmanned, he’ll be jailed, or worse. He’d lose his money and his family standing would suffer. Due to the whisperings around their town, Xan’s Father has decided Xan and Caleb should move to another town near the coast to oversee the opening of a new branch of their company. Xan knows it’s further banishment, but he can’t refuse. Caleb;s not happy to move, but getting away from their town means less of a chance that Xan’s risky behavior will be discovered. The hell of it is, well, Urho was just beginning to come around on the idea of servicing Xan, a deal that Caleb was brokering to help Xan escape his abuser…and Xan was sure he could find happiness with Urho, and Caleb, at his side.

This is lush world, with intricate boundaries and deeply connected characters. The constraints of society are real, and the consequences are potentially dire. But Xan can’t help who he is, any more than Caleb can. They have a strong love, even if it’s not romantic. Urho isn’t sure how he’ll fit in, but Caleb’s blessing is sure, and Xan is such a willing lover. They have other complications too, like Jason and Vale needing Urho’s medical assistance, and a deadly flu epidemic wreaking havoc. Xan and Caleb’s new home in a remote village soon becomes a refuge for their friends, even as it harbors an interloper with designs on Caleb. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers, but the climax is intense. There are urgent medical issues occurring at a time when it seems no help is available. Xan, who has long thought himself useless, becomes a hero to many and recognizes his true worth, and his true loves: Caleb and Urho. It’s not a typical menage, as Caleb has very little sexual intimacy with either Xan or Urho, but he’s important in ways none of them had predicted.

This story, with all it’s rules and complications, has an ending that is unequivocally happy. There are babies and commitments and the bad guys get their just desserts. And, I think we have hope of more books to look forward to in this series. Xan’s elder beta brother needs love, as does his cad of a cousin. I love how all the characters in this book felt like real people, and how palpable their love, or their grief, felt. I’ve read omegaverse and mpreg stories before, but this is the first series where I’ve really craved the next book. For a post-female world, this felt strangely accessible. It was beautiful watching Xan outgrow his self-loathing, and embody the strong alpha his lovers knew him to be.

Interested? You can find ALPHA HEAT on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a copy of SLOW HEAT!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Leta Blake is the author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Out Now! ALPHA HEAT–Release Deets and Book Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release week giveaway for a new dystopian-Omegaverse M/M romance from Leta Blake. ALPHA HEAT is the second book in her Slow Heat series that’s set in a post-female world where only males of three genders exist. I just finished both of these books, and will post reviews in the coming weeks, but let me say: wow! I loved them.

Drop down to enter the giveaway!
About the book
A desperate young alpha. An older alpha with a hero complex. A forbidden love that can’t be denied.
Young Xan Heelies knows he can never have what he truly wants: a passionate romance and happy-ever-after with another alpha. It’s not only forbidden by the prevailing faith of the land, but such acts are illegal.

Urho Chase is a middle-aged alpha with a heartbreaking past. Careful, controlled, and steadfast, his friends dub him old-fashioned and staid. When Urho discovers a dangerous side to Xan’s life that he never imagined, his world is rocked and he’s consumed by desire. The carefully sewn seams that held him together after the loss of his omega and son come apart—and so does he.

But to love each other and make a life together, Xan and Urho risk utter ruin. With the acceptance and support of Caleb, Xan’s asexual and aromantic omega and dear friend, they must find the strength to embrace danger and build the family they deserve.

This gay romance novel by Leta Blake is the second in the Slow Heat universe. It’s 130,000 words, with a strong happy ending and a well-crafted, non-shifter Omegaverse. It features alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, heat, and knotting. No cheating. Content warning for brief sexual violence.

I seriously love this new series, and highly recommend both books. Watch for my reviews in the coming weeks.

Interested? You can find ALPHA HEAT on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a copy of SLOW HEAT!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Leta Blake is the author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Review and Giveaway for WILL & PATRICK’S ENDLESS HONEYMOON!

Hi there! I’m so excited to share a review for a new book in the Will and Patrick series by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths. Leta Blake knew her readers wanted more of this quirky pair, Will and Patrick, two strangers who married while drunk in Vegas and have built a life together–but never had and private time to themselves. So, Ms. Blake wrote them an ENDLESS HONEYMOON, and it’s as fun as the previous six episodes in the Wake Up Married series. Speaking of, you’ll need to read the previous episodes, (WAKE UP MARRIED, MEET THE FAMILY, DO THE HOLIDAYS, FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS, MEET THE MOB and HAPPY ENDING) first, for this one to be fully understood. However, it’s certainly worth your time; I’ve enjoyed them all!

Scroll down to catch my review and enter to win a boxed set of episodes 1-6 in the Wake Up Married series.
About the book:
Genius brain surgeon Patrick McCloud never thought he’d fall in love, let alone get married. He and Will Patterson are two years overdue for their honeymoon, and although romance doesn’t come naturally to Patrick, he’s determined to make it perfect.

Will works himself to the bone helping others and dealing with his family, who bring the drama nonstop. A tropical getaway without the usual shenanigans is just what the doctor ordered. But can Will’s family leave them in peace? Knowing the Patterson-Molinaro clan, it’s not likely…

Will and Patrick’s Endless Honeymoon by Leta Blake continues the soapy, sexy fun of the original six part Wake Up Married serial. In Healing, South Dakota, marriage is never boring!

My Review:
This is the “final” episode in the Will and Patrick serial, and is best enjoyed when read in order.

A quick recap of the storyline: Will Patterson is the heir to the Molinaro crime family fortune, and he uses it to fund Good Works, an organization that builds shelters and hospitals for the indigent. He’s from Healing, South Dakota and was at a Vegas medical conference to recruit surgeons to work in his state-of-the art hospital in Healing when he had a relapse of alcoholism, and met Dr. Patrick McCloud. Patrick, a fussy man on the Autism spectrum, didn’t know the sexy stranger at the bar was either an alcoholic or a diabetic–a deadly combination–but he knew that man was one he might not let get away. In fact, while totally enjoying each other’s company and few more drinks, they got married.

This was a big, inconvenient problem because the Molinaro money came with one stipulation: the trust owner could never divorce once married. Patrick wasn’t especially moved by Will’s predicament, but his sudden joblessness, and Will’s ability to install him as the head of neurosurgery went a long way to bringing Patrick to Healing, where he was soon more than captivated by his unexpected husband. This, despite Will’s zany family and jealous and abusive ex-lover.

Two years have passed since Will and Patrick got married, and these men have been busy. That said, they have never had a honeymoon–they jetted back to Healing straightaway following their nuptials to see if there might have been some legal redress to annul their marriage. Then they got caught up in life. This is an oversight Patrick is dedicated to correcting; he’s planned a tech-free, worry-free, Will’s-family-free ten-day getaway. If only they can keep it that way… And, if you’ve read any of the W+P stories, you know that drama is always around the next corner.

I was so happy to fall back into Will and Patrick’s world. The drama of Will’s selfish mother and manipulative father. The Hurting Times online gossip rag that Patrick regularly stokes. The beauty of their passion. Even their everyday fusses, dealing with Will’s diabetes. Patrick is such a lovable curmudgeon, and he loves Will with his entire being, even managing difficult situations on Will’s behalf–like his abusive ex, who does crop up again here. Their time on the honeymoon wasn’t even close to drama–free, but it was a time for these two to reconnect, and concentrate on all the parts of their lovestory they may have set aside in the day-to-day busy-ness. I prefaced this review with “final” because it does end in a way that could be the end…but I wonder if there will be a “BECOME PARENTS” book in the works… (Or, maybe that’s just my own wishful thinking!!) Either way, I do recommend these yummy books. The first three are rather tame on the sexytimes, but the next four are scorchers. All are chock full of feels, and brought me to tears at more than one occasion.

Interested? You can find Will and Patrick’s ENDLESS HONEYMOON on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK)  You can check out the entire series here.

Will & Patrick Collage****GIVEAWAY****

Clink on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win the boxed set (books 1-6) of Will and Patrick’s adventures!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Leta Blake is the author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Heard Great Things! SMOKY MOUNTAIN DREAMS Audiobook review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for an audiobook written by Leta Blake and performed by John Solo. SMOKY MOUNTAIN DREAMS is a bittersweet heartbreak of a book, with a solid love story and intriguing plot. I enjoyed every minute of Mr. Solo’s rendering of this complicated love story. I’ve always loved Leta’s stories, because they feature hardships and big choices. Check out THE RIVER LEITH, WILL & PATRICK GET MARRIED, and PICTURES OF YOU for more hard-won love stories by Leta Blake.

Scroll down to catch my review and enter to win a backlist book from Leta Blake in the giveaway!
About the book:
After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he’s center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children’s mother, he doesn’t want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn’t want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

The audiobook is 14 hours and 47 minutes long. You can catch a snippet of it here:  SMD Sample from Leta Blake on Vimeo.

My Review:
Christopher Ryder is an out-gay country singer working at Smoky Mountain Dreams, a family-friendly resort in the Tennessee mountains. He’s happy there, but wishing he could find a forever man to share his life with, even though he knows this will cause strife with his family–dysfunctional as they are. Wanting to create a special Christmas gift for his beloved gran, he reaches out to Jesse Birch, a local jeweler who does custom work. Jesse is a sexy man, and Christopher is stunned to learn he’s an actual fan of Jesse’s performances. Christopher’s mostly the understudy to a regular at SMD, who also happens to be a solid drunk and often needs Christopher to stand in for him. Growing up making himself invisible to stay out of his zealot step-father’s ire, Christopher feels seen by Jesse and basks in his admiration.

Jesse is a hard-working father of two who is raising his kids with the help of his in-laws. His wife had a tragic car wreck several years ago and is in a chronic vegetative state. He’s wanted to pull the medical care for years, to let her go naturally, but her sister holds an old Power of Attorney papers and refuses to let her sister go. The legal battle was decided years ago, and mediation is going nowhere, so Jesse visits each week, dutifully, though their children haven’t seen her since the last brain scan showed no signs of activity.

Jesse’s more than attracted to Christopher; and that feeling is mutual. Learning that Jesse is bisexual turns Christopher on, and they begin a tentative courtship–not that it’s easy. Kids, in laws, and Jesse’s wife all make it complicated. But mostly it’s the kids. Jesse’s daughter, who’s 12 and awkward, is struggling with the idea that her dad could love anyone besides her mama, and has a creative plan to bring their family back together. Still, Christopher is patient, and Jesse is learning that loving someone is more than just caring for their physical needs. He recognizes the tremendous guilt he harbors for the way his marriage soured, and allows Christopher to be the bright spot in his rather bland life to this point.

These guys have a penchant for risky sex–mostly in places that are out in the open. That made for some fun and “better you than me” moments. There are also some really intense moments, like Christopher standing up to his bigoted relations and holding Jesse to task over not telling him the whole truth regarding his marriage–and how it’s not legally over… The audio is fantastic, and had me engaged throughout. I almost didn’t mind my commutes, knowing I’d spend more time with that textured voice relating Christopher and Jesse’s mutual heartbreaks and mutual passion. I cried, y’all! They go through a lot in the several months together, but the end is happy, and Christopher finds a loving home, with Jesse and his family, for the first time in his life.

Interested? You can find SMOKY MOUNTAIN DREAMS on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK) or Audible (US or UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Leta Blake.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

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

Tough Love Learning YOU ARE NOT ME–Review & Giveaway!

you-are-not-me-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a New Adult coming-of-age story from Leta Blake. YOU ARE NOT ME, the sequel to PICTURES OF YOU, is set in Knoxville, Tennessee, and follows a newly graduated, newly out teen looking to find his tribe. There’s a dash of romance, but it’s bittersweet.

Catch the excerpt below, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of two copies of PICTURES OF YOU.
you-are-not-me-coverAbout the book:
Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

How about a little taste?

The stool next to me wasn’t empty for long. Minty dropped onto it, his purple tutu rubbing against my chinos and his thin, white arms curled up to rest on the bar. He stared at me for a long, curious second. “I’ve met you before, right?”

“Yeah.” I shook off my disappointment and gave him my attention. “Last spring, up on campus.”

“Did we fuck?”

I almost choked on my soda. “No.”

“Right.” Minty frowned. “Did I suck you off?”

I stared at him.

“Well?”

“My car was broken down,” I said slowly. “Daniel helped me.”

Minty grinned. “Oh, right! I remember now. You looked amazing that night. Made of moonbeams. Everyone was made of moonbeams.” He tilted his head. “You look all right now too.”

“Thanks?”

Minty laughed and fluffed his tutu. He turned away from me to hammer his fists on the bar. “Jolly Zima, Barry! Watermelon! Hit me!”

Barry rolled his eyes, but he pulled a Zima out from the fridge and popped the lid, then reached under the counter and came out with a watermelon Jolly Rancher, unwrapped it, and dropped it into the drink. Minty slapped three dollars down and took a dainty sip.

“Ah! Perfection!” He turned to me with his eyelashes lowered flirtatiously. “Anyway, back to what you were saying. We haven’t fucked yet?”

Startled, nervous laughter bubbled out of my mouth.

“Minty,” Barry said. “Drink your Zima and leave Peter alone.”

“Sure thing. You’re the boss.” Minty sighed and leaned toward me conspiratorially. “He won’t fuck me either. What’s a girl gotta do these days? I mean, I look good, don’t I?”

I looked him over—white, though scuffed, ballet slippers, purple tutu, toned, pale, lithe arms, and his made-up face. “Sure. You look really pretty.”

Minty grinned. “Aw, you know how to make a girl feel nice.”

“Didn’t I just see you downstairs with two guys, though?”

“Two? Please. That’s just a warm-up.” He sniffed.

Renée appeared at my side, dropping an arm around my shoulder. “Minty, doll baby, I need you backstage in an hour. You’re my naughty boy tonight.”

“Okay, but I want to wear my tutu.”

“You’ll be gorgeous.” Renée grabbed hold of Minty’s face and looked him over. “We need to put some eyelashes on you too.”

“And red lipstick.”

“Yes! Every man in this room will ache to be in that pert ass of yours.” She glanced at me and then back at Minty. “Except Peter here.”

“He catches?” Minty asked.

“Like Johnny Bench, baby.”

I didn’t like my positional preferences being discussed like it was any of their business, but I was mystified that Renée seemed so certain about it. Was there something about me that screamed loves it up the ass?

“How do you know who Johnny Bench is, woman?” Barry handed Renée a milky-looking drink topped with brown liquor.

“I listen!”

“I’ve never mentioned baseball to you and you know it.”

“Of course not. You’d never do that to me. Earl at Ringo Comics, though, he babbles on and on about it when he’s trying not to come. Earl says I catch like a pro.” She patted her ass.

Daniel was right last spring when he said Robert and Renée were the same but different people. Robert could be sassy and forthright about his sexual shenanigans, but raunchy details rarely left his mouth. My face burned.

“Hear, hear!” Minty cried, throwing back his head to draw a long swig from his Zima.

Barry frowned. It was the first time I’d seen Barry look even moderately unhappy about Renée—or Robert’s—indiscretions.

“What?” Renée asked defensively.

“Earl’s positive.” Barry’s gaze bore into her. “You used a condom?”

“Of course!” Renée licked her lips and shifted nervously to her other foot, her hip cocking out. “I always do. You know that.”

Minty bit his purple-painted thumbnail, eyes going distant. “I’m probably positive. I should get tested. My mom wants me to get tested.”

Barry nailed Minty and Renée with a frustrated glare. He reached under the counter and pulled out two condoms. Then his gaze shifted to me and he pulled out a third. “For fuck’s sake, use these. Every time. Every damn time.”

Renée stuffed the condom in her bra. Minty held it up in front of his face and then gave it a kiss before lifting up his tutu to tuck it into the waistband of his white briefs. Nodding, I pocketed the one Barry handed to me, even though I wasn’t going to need it. Adam was in Italy and the casual sex Minty and Renée played with was something I’d never risk.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order. It’s June 1991, and the AIDS epidemic is at it’s peak, as is tension with Middle Easterners, as we’re in the midst of the Gulf War.

Peter Mandel is nearly nineteen, and just graduated from high school in Knoxville, Tennesee. He’s gay, and out to his parents and a few friends, notably his boyfriend, the BF’s siblings, and his drag queen boss. Peter otherwise keeps a low profile because he’s been attacked for his sexuality, and to spare his mother pain; as a child she’d seen her elder brother brutally killed for being gay.

Peter’s boyfriend Adam thought he had a fool-proof plan to shield them from scrutiny: he got a girlfriend, Leslie, who he maintains a sexual relationship with, as well as with Peter. It killed Peter for their time together in senior year, but now it’s summer and Adam’s gone to Rome to live with his parents until college begins in the fall. His letters and calls to Peter all describe the big changes that will happen when he’s back, but Peter’s not so convinced. He’s not comfortable being a piece on the side any longer, and he cares for Leslie, too–feels like a big jerk for lying to her, in fact.

Peter meets Daniel through Robert/Renee, the lovely black drag queen he works for. See, Peter’s a photographer, and he does Renee’s publicity, as well as helps edit his filmography of famous drag queens. Daniel is a college student at UT, just like Peter, and they develop a good friendship, as well as an attraction. Daniel doesn’t want to make a move, though, knowing Peter is holding out hope the he and Adam will build a stronger relationship when Adam returns–despite the fact that they’ll attend different colleges in different states–and Leslie will be with Adam.

So, yeah. There is a bit of romance, as Daniel and Peter spend more and more time together. Peter gets to know all of Daniel’s close friends, and he sees how important it is to live his truth. Plus, he’s filling out of his gawky-awkward stage, and finding that men are very much attracted to him whenever he gets out to the gay clubs. Should he wait for Adam? Is he only prolonging the heartbreak?

This book is really rich with description of the times and occurrences. I love the throwbacks of corded phones, answering machines and film cameras. Developing!! Argh! There’s also some really poignant moments regarding HIV/AIDS because Daniel is an outreach volunteer, and he gets Peter involved in some home care visits with a man who’s dying of AIDS. Wow! That was so freaking intense, and I only expect it’ll get more so in the next book. The context of HIV/AIDS is such a strong element of the book, with every person advising Peter on his safety, and some serious problems when risks are unnecessarily posed.

Emotionally, Peter struggles with doing what he believes is right, and what is right for him. So many times I wanted to just pull him in for a long hug, and tell him to Get Rid Of Adam!!! Alas, I’m but a reader, and I must follow the path he chooses. The good part is: all of it. It’s gritty, and scary, and captivating living life through Peter’s opened eyes. He finds unlikely allies, and builds true relationships–even repairing a lot of the damage within his own family. His parents’ benign neglect was more damaging than they realized, and they do a lot of soul-searching and reconnection in this book. That was fabulous. Peter does make mistakes, and I think he gets pretty lucky in some parts–particularly dealing with some substance use he wasn’t quite ready for. While the romance is almost incidental to the story, it does exist. Expect it to be bittersweet. The end is upbeat, and I’m eager to see how Peter takes to his first semester in college.

Interested? You can find YOU ARE NOT ME on Goodreads and Amazon.

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About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

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