Out Now! LOVE SPELL Review and Giveaway

Hi all! Well, it’s been a long break. I seriously fell into a blog-time-out for health and sanity reasons…mostly I couldn’t keep up the blogging with the pressure of THREE part-time jobs, finishing my third degree, and job-hunting for a stable position. But, all that’s just a blip in my history, and I hope to be blogging more regularly going forward.

Today I’m sharing my review for LOVE SPELL by Mia Kerick. This is a contemporary YA M/M romance which is wholly clean and really compelling. Chance is a gender-fluid teen–that means he’s as likely to dress male or female. He’s confident that he’s gay, and 58% (or so) sure that he’s not transgender, but he really doesn’t want to think about it. Or talk about it. He just wants to find the right guy, and he’s pretty sure (probably 95%) that this right guy is Jasper.

About the book:
Chance César is fabulously gay, but his gender identity—or, as he phrases it, “being stuck in the gray area between girl and boy”—remains confusing. Nonetheless, he struts his stuff on the catwalk in black patent leather pumps and a snug-in-all-the-right (wrong)-places orange tuxedo as the winner of this year’s Miss (ter) Harvest Moon Festival. He rules supreme at the local Beans and Greens Farm’s annual fall celebration, serenaded by the enthusiastic catcalls of his BFF, Emily Benson.

Although he refuses to visually fade into the background of his rural New Hampshire town, Chance is socially invisible—except when being tormented by familiar bullies. But sparks fly when Chance, Pumpkin Pageant Queen, meets Jasper (Jazz) Donahue, winner of the Pumpkin Carving King contest. Chance wants to be noticed and admired and romantically embraced by Jazz, in all of his neon-orange-haired glory.

And so at a sleepover, Chance and Emily conduct intense, late-night research, and find an online article: “Ten Scientifically Proven Ways to Make a Man Fall in Love With You.” Along with a bonus love spell thrown in for good measure, it becomes the basis of their strategy to capture Jazz’s heart.

But will this “no-fail” plan work? Can Chance and Jazz fall under the fickle spell of love?

This is a second edition of the novel–originally published in 2015.

A yummy taste…

Chapter One: Shine On, Harvest Moon

Just call me brazen.

It occurs to me that brazen—unabashedly bold and without an inkling of shame—is the perfectly appropriate word to describe moi right about now. It is, however, the only perfectly appropriate part of this evening. Which is perfectly appropriate, in my humble opinion. So get over it.

I lift my chin just enough to stop the stiff orange spikes of glitter-gelled hair from flopping forward onto my forehead. Who can blame me? These spikes are razor sharp—best they stay upright on my head where they belong. And gravity can only do so much to that end.

Okaaaayyyy…sidetracked much? Forces rebellious thoughts on business at hand.

Chance César is a brazen B.

I stare ’em down, but only after I pop the collar of the blinding “Orange Crush” tuxedo I’m rockin’ and shrug my shoulders in a sort of what-the-fuck fashion. Rule of thumb in this queen’s life—first things must always come first.

Pop, shrug, and only then is it kosher to stare. I clear my throat.

“Eat your ginger-haired heart out, Ed Sheeran.”

Based on the buzz of scandalized chatter blowing about in the crisp evening breeze, I’m reasonably certain that nobody in the crowd heard me speak. And although several of the girls currently gawking at me may do double backflips over my red-haired counterpart across the pond, they don’t give a rat’s ass about Chance César. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that they view my atomic tangerine locks as more reminiscent of Bozo the Clown than of the smexy singer-songwriter.

They are, however, completely unaware that this carrot top is going to make Harvest Moon Festival history tonight.

Refusing to succumb to the impulse to duck my head, I take a single shaky step forward onto the stage that’s been set up on the dusty ground beside a vast—by New England standards—cornfield. The stage doesn’t wobble, but my knees sure as shit do. Okay, I’m an honest diva and I tell it like it is. And I’m what you might call a freaking wreck.

Nonetheless, this brazen B takes a deep breath, blows it out in a single gush, and starts to strut. This boy’s werkin’ it.

Smi-zeee!! Yeah, my smile is painted on, just like my trousers.

Chance, you are by far the edgiest Miss Harvest Moon this ramshackle town has ever had the good fortune to gaze upon. I am a major fan of positive self-talk.

Using the feigned British accent I’ve perfected—thanks to long hours of tedious practice in my bathroom—I dish out my next thought aloud. “I wish I’d put in a tad more practice walking in these bloody heels before going public in ’em.” And despite one slight stumble—a close call to be sure—the clicking sound my pumps make is crisp and confident. I saunter out onto the catwalk.

#TrueConfessions: Faking foreign accents is a hobby of mine. I can yammer it up in improvised French, German, Mexican, Russian, and plenty more accents, but I don’t mimic Asian languages, as it seems too close to ridicule. My plan for the rest of the night is to continue vocalizing my abundant thoughts in Standard British, with a hint of Cockney thrown in for charm. After all, New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state, and I’ll do what I laaaa-like. Yaaasss!

“Introducing this year’s lovely…or, um, handsome Miss…ter…Harvest Moon. Let’s hear an enthusiastic round of applause for Chance César!” Mrs. Higgins always speaks using a lolling Southern twang, although I’m sure she’s lived her entire life right here in less-than-gentile, way-too-many-dirt-roads, Fiske, New Hampshire. (Like, can you say backwoods Fiske without it sounding too much like backward Fiske?) TBH, I’m thrilled: it seems I’m not the only one with an affinity for a colorful accent. But the applause is disappointingly, but not surprisingly, scattered.

“Woot!” A solitary hoot splits the night—it’s quite impossible to miss— and I recognize an undeniably shrill and nasal quality in the sound. I know without a doubt that the hooter is my best (only) friend, Emily Benson. In my not so humble opinion, Emily’s hooting for my benefit is as liberating a sound as Lady Gaga bellowing “Born This Way” live on the Grammy Awards after emerging from a large egg.

My Emily is everything! Not to be dramatic, but whatevs.

In any case, the single, supportive hoot is followed by mucho expected heckling. “Chances are, Chance César is gonna moon the crowd!” It’s a girl’s voice, for sure. I do not have a lot of female fans here in Fiske.

“Come on, Miss Harvest Moon, bend over and flash us your full moon!” A dude mocks me next. I’m proud to say I’m an equal opportunity victim of harassment.

I don’t blink once in the face of the jeering. This type of inconvenience is par for the course in my life, and thus, I consider it a challenge of stoic endurance. I simply place one fine pointy-toed pump in front of the other, my eyes focused on the mountain in the distance. I’m especially proud that, amidst the chaos, I remember to offer the crowd my best beauty queen wave.

Yeah, this is some beauty pageant realness.

“Thank you, lovelies, for coming here today.” I speak in my most Princess Diaries-esque tone.

“Werk it, girlfriend—werk hard!” Yes, it’s Emily again. And like always, she’s got my spectacular back.

“Aw, shit, we must be havin’ a lunar eclipse or somethin’.” It’s another pubescent male voice, and a deep one at that. “There ain’t no moon to be seen ’round these parts!” The heckler is a douche I know too well from school named Edwin Darling—whom I less than fondly, and very privately, refer to as “Eddie the Appalling.” I watch as he looks away from me to take in the full moon in the dark night sky and shrugs.

The lunar eclipse one-liner is actually fairly humorous. I toss out ten points for creativity in Edwin’s general direction by allowing a restrained smile, but I never remove my eyes from the single treeless spot on Mount Vernier.

Time for a mental detour. Why is this one spot bare-assed of all trees?

That’s when the music starts, and I’m more than glad for the downbeat. It helps me focus, plus it’s much easier to sashay to the sound of a jazzy snare drum than to the unpleasant clamor of heckling. Not that my backside won’t wiggle righteously to any sound at all. Because, rest assured, it will.

“Shine On, Harvest Moon.” Whoever is in charge of the sound system plays the Liza Minnelli version, which may be the silver lining to this farce. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the more traditional, not to mention folksy, Four Aces version for Miss Harvest Moon’s victorious stroll up and down the creaky runway. I will say that tonight is a first for the Liza rendition, and I’m curious as to whether it is coincidental.

But who really cares? Ring them sparkly silver bells for Liza M!

On a side note, I wonder: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Liza Minnelli’s voice brings out the dramatic streak in me? Okay, okaaaayyyy…so maybe it doesn’t take more than a gentle nudge to get me going in a theatrical direction. But, hey, drama ain’t a crime. My mind is pulled to the back of my bedroom closet (how ironic), where my flapper get-up hangs. Panic sets in… Should I have worn that instead? But it’s a muted peach—not a vivid orange—as seems fitting for a pumpkin festival. And then there’s the whole not-a-single-soul-except-Mom-Dad-and-Emily-has-yet-seen-Chance César-in-full-female-garb thing that held me back from rockin’ the vintage coral dress with its spectacular tiers of flesh-colored fringe.

Tonight is Beans and Green Farm’s Annual Harvest Moon Festival, and for northern New Hampshire, this is a big freaking deal—the whole town shows up for cheesy shit like this. In light of this recognition, I confirm that pumpkin orange attire is mandatorbs. I mean, I went so far as to dye my hair for tonight’s festivities; the least I can do is choose garments that enhance my Halloween-chic style.

At the end of the catwalk, I indulge the audience by providing them with their deepest desire. I stand there, still as a scarecrow—for ten seconds, give or take—so they can drink in the sight of me, from spiky glittering head to pointy patent leather toes. I allow them this rare opportunity for freeze-frame viewing pleasure. Whether they admire me for having the balls to strut around ultraconservative Fiske wearing a scandalously snug-in-all-the-wrong-(right)-places orange tuxedo and four-inch black pumps—which I will admit is a public first for me—or they wish the shining harvest moon would fall on my house and crush me while I sleep, what they all really want most is a good long moment to study me.

To twerk or not to twerk, that is the question.

When the spectators finally start to squirm, I throw out a few of my best vogue fem moves to the tune of some subtle arm, wrist, and hand action, followed by several full-body poses, avoiding the death drop move as I haven’t yet mastered it in pumps. And when it’s time to once again get this glam show on the road, I pivot on my toes and strut briskly—America’s Next Top Model style—back to the stage where my boss, the owner of Beans and Greens Farm, stands nervously clutching my crown.

Mrs. Higgins is a tall glass of water, in the manner of a large-boned Iowa farm girl, but she’s accustomed to crowning petite high school junior girls, not nearly grown senior boys in four-inch heels. I crouch beside her politely and, I dare say, delicately, and she carefully nestles the crystal-studded crown in my spiky mop of neon-orange hair.

“Be careful, Mrs. H,” I warn beneath my breath. “Those spikes might look harmless, but they’re sharp enough to slice off your little finger.”

She offers me half of a crooked smile, for which I give her credit. I, Mrs. Higgins’ very own “boy with the bad attitude on cash register three,” have broken about every rule Beans and Greens has established for its hordes of Fiske High School summer workers, right down to the “no jewelry at work” clause. But a couple of points go to the lady because she manages to force out a grimace that could be mistaken for a smile…if your standard for smiles is on the low side. Besides, I’m not about to remove my nose ring. It in no way impedes my ability to count, ring up, and bag cucumbers.

This is when I spin on a single heel to face the crowd.

“You don’t happen to have any…very brief…words of wisdom for our audience, do you, Chance?” Mrs. Higgins asks, speaking into an oversized microphone. But despite the laid-back accent, I can tell she’s wary. Like a rat in a corner.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.” My clipped British accent momentarily stuns the woman, and I take the opportunity to snatch the microphone from her less-than-dainty hand. Realizing it’s now in my possession, Mrs. Higgins shudders. “I just want to thank you all, my beloved coworkers at Beans and Greens Farm, for voting me in as this year’s Miss Harvest Moon.” I wipe imaginary tears from my eyes with my wrist, sniff for added effect, and, of course, I employ a most gracious, high-pitched tone of voice. “I am so honored to represent you all here tonight.” I sound like Eliza Doolittle in the stage play, My Fair Lady.

The crowd is silent. Maybe it’s a stunned silence. I sincerely hope so.

I follow dainty sniffling with my best duck-faced lip pout. Mrs. Higgins makes a sudden grab for the microphone, but I’m more agile. I only have to twist my shoulders ever so slightly to the left to block her move. She eyes me with a new respect.

And then I lower my voice so it’s all man—momentarily losing the delightful British inflection—and pose my question to the crowd.

“So you thought voting for me as Miss Harvest Moon would humiliate me—dull my shine or rain on my parade, perhaps?” I wag one well-manicured finger at the crowd while swishing my ass back and forth in matched rhythm. “Well, in your face, my sorry backwoods homies, cuz I’m here and I’m queer and I’m shining on—just like that big ol’ harvest moon!”

Without hesitation, I bend, just enough to grab Mrs. Higgins around the waist, and lift her off her size eleven feet (by my best visual estimate) and swing the lady around, probs ’til she’s seeing more stars than the ones in the dark Harvest Moon sky.

I’d bet my ahhh-mazing ass that no other Miss Harvest Moon has ever given Mrs. Higgins a joyride like that!

My Review:
Chance Cesar is an out gay teen, a senior in his rural New Hampshire high school and the new Miss Harvest Moon. That’s right, he was voted to be the pageant queen, as a cruel joke, but he werks it, strutting down the aisle in an orange tux and black pumps. That’s how we meet Chance, and henceforth his fabulousness cannot be denied.

Chance has always known he’s attracted to boys/men, but he’s still not clear on his gender identity. He struggles with his daily wardrobe–dress or pants–and he wants a boyfriend. A nice boyfriend. He kinda has his heart set on a boy from the vocational school, Jasper Donahue. “Jazz,” as Chance dubs him, is a burly boy with lots of responsibilities. He works to help support his mother and sister, and when he isn’t working, he’s babysitting his sister so his mom can work. Still, Chance is smitten, and he’s not even sure if Jazz swings his direction. Jazz seems to invite Chance’s attention, but there is no clear movement into Boyfriendland. All the discussions and intimate moments could be construed as simple friendliness.

So, Chance comes up with The Plan–well it’s more like The List for The Plan–of ten things to do to capture the heart of a boy. He spends weeks getting to know Jazz, hooking him in–if he can–and having hilarious misadventures. At the heart of this is a serious connection that Chance needs to make with himself, coming to terms with his gender and how that might affect a potential partner. Chance is a reliable narrator, and his narration is funny. He’s a diva, and his brilliance is often overwhelming to his objective: getting Jazz to love him. Thing is, he is super insecure, and that softens his manic edges. It’s a lot Notting Hill, with a boy standing in front of a boy, asking him to love him. This is a completely innocent book, sexually. The romance appears to be completely one-sided but it develops into a very tender friendship as Chance learns to love, and to give love, for no other reason than to help Jazz find happiness. Also, I enjoyed how Chance saw Jazz’s life, and how his privilege of money didn’t make for near as happy a home as Jazz’s criminally broke but bursting with love family.

I think the Love Spell part of it was rather short, and not the main focus, at all. It was great to walk through Chance’s gender-fluid shoes and get a better sense of the insecurity and frustration of not really KNOWING if he was a he-girl or a she-boy or somewhere in the middle, and I’m certain it will resonate with questioning teens. This was the second LGBTQ YA novel I’ve read from Ms. Kerick and the characters are always intense and sincere with real life plights that are honestly told. It took me a little time to settle into Chance’s voice because he’s got a flamboyant speech pattern, which is part of his quirky charm.

Interested? You can find LOVE SPELL on Goodreads, NineStar Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.

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

About the Author:
Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty-two years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled young people and their relationships, and she believes that physical intimacy has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press, Harmony Ink Press, and CreateSpace for providing her with alternate places to stash her stories.

Mia is a social liberal and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of human rights, especially marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Where to find Mia online: Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

New Life and INTERTWINED HEARTS–A Review

Hi there! Continuing on my SMOKING HOT reads, I’m sharing a review for a recently released menage M/M/F romance from Christi Snow. INTERTWINED HEARTS is the third title in her Snowcroft Men series and features three lost souls finding their way together. I read and enjoyed SNOWCROFT SAFEHOUSE, the second book in the series, which introduced us to some of the characters featured here. It’s a love story from beginning to end, when a traumatized gay man falls for the new poly sheriff and they both swoon for a local gal who’s about to have her brother’s baby… (Ha! She tells that joke in the book.) I also liked FOUND AT THE LIBRARY, and I’m looking forward to more books by this author.

About the book:
Three people who’ve given up on love…

After a brutal, late-night attack in his restaurant left Chef Hudson Richmond too traumatized to even enter his restaurant again, he escaped to Snowcroft. Now he’s trying to find a new normal when the reality of his world is a man’s touch makes him sick and his dream has become his nightmare.

Leigh Vaughn lives in a man’s world running Vaughn Construction with her brother, Jamie. She’s tried to be feminine and failed over and over again. Growing up with only her brother, father, and construction crews to guide her, Leigh has no idea what a feminine wile is, much less how to deploy them. But when Jamie and Trevor begin to research finding a surrogate to carry their baby, she knows this is something she can do. Hell, it’s not like those parts are getting used for anything else.

When this small town came looking for a new police chief, David Warner jumped at the chance. After a traumatic betrayal by his partner on the police force, he’s burnt out and jaded. And his love life has been even more depressing than his work life. He’s made one true connection in the last five years, but she disappeared without a trace the next morning.

Three people who have given up on love, may just find a new beginning where they least expect it…in Snowcroft. But love is only supposed to happen in twos. How can they make it work with three intertwined hearts?

Trigger warning: This book features story-lines that involve past assaults and betrayals, but has a guaranteed HEA for three people who couldn’t deserve it more.

My Review:
Leigh Vaughn is a thirty-something woman acting as a surrogate for her brother Jamie and his husband, Trevor. It’s the most she can do to help them build a family, and it’s not like she’s got any romantic prospects. Her last tryst was an anonymous hook up six month ago. And, it’s not like her new roommate, Hudson Richmond, is going to put the moves on her. He’s a gay man who’d been her brother’s on/off hook up pal. They still keep in touch, though Jamie’s now happily married. And, when Hudson needs a helping hand, well, Jamie’s a man with a plan. Leigh is hopeless in the kitchen, and Hudson is a renown chef who needs time until he’s able to work professionally again; they can help each other.

Hudson suffers from crippling anxiety and depression in the wake of surviving an attack and gang rape in his Austin restaurant. He never wants to touch, or be touched by, another man again. Staying in Leigh’s home in Snowcroft, New Mexico, is a time of healing, and a time to get his emotions in check. She needs someone to prepare her meals–because she’s hopeless in the kitchen–and Jamie’s hopeful they will provide the company each other needs. And, it works. Hudson’s night terrors keep them both awake, until Leigh crawls into bed with him one night to comfort him and they sleep peacefully together. Her quiet and calming presence helps to halt his anxiety attacks, too.

Hudson owns property in Snowcroft, but it’s been rented to the new sheriff, David Warner, for an extended period. At least, David should be staying in the cabin, but the heat’s out until the spring thaw, and with the tourists booking up all the rooms in town, David’s lucky to land Leigh’s empty guest room. And, as a confirmed bisexual, he’s luckier to recognize that he’s attracted to both Hudson and Leigh. The time they spend together only confirms to David that these are the people he’s meant to spend his life with. Not that they expect to fall for one another. Hudson’s particularly hard to convince, but David lays the foundation for the plan within weeks of meeting them. And, as Hudson’s therapy help him to manage his anxiety, he recognizes that watching Leigh blossom in motherhood is surely more sexy than he’d ever imagined. His deep feelings for her warm into attraction, and David’s patient and flexible attitude help Hudson find his way back to physical intimacy, with both Leigh and David.

This was a love built on hurt-comfort. David couldn’t find lovers who satisfied him, mainly because he needed a poly relationship. Leigh is uncomfortable in her femininity, thanks to her hypercritical mother, but David and Hudson’s admiration is too much to cast aside as fleeting. Hudson’s growing affection for two people who continue to care for him, despite his struggles, is unexpected but deeply enjoyed. Just when it deems like they’ve jumped all the hurdles and should be coasting into the finish line, well, life gets in the way. Leigh’s medical difficulties aren’t easy to overcome, but this triad is stronger than they expected, and an extended happy ending gives the reader solid assurance that Leigh, Hudson and David will have a happy life together.

I really liked the slow development of all the relationships here. There were many obstacles to overcome, and it took time, effort and patience on the part of the characters to find peace and happiness. They have real-world problems, and fears, including the worry about scandalizing their small town. Plus, there are family matters to consider, at least for Leigh. David’s parents, who live in a commune, are ecstatic that he’s found treasured lovers, while Jamie and Leigh’s mother are, well, uh. It’s awkward. And that’s to be expected. There are some deep issues the characters need to work through–both on their own, and together. The way it unfolds was good, but I wanted to get to the HEA faster. And, they seemed to fall into one problem after another. It made fore more drama than I was ready to handle, and I got impatient. That said, the grief and loss, and strength and love that were present really resonated. I’m looking forward to the next book, though, which will likely bring back at least two characters from this book, and SNOWCROFT SAFEHOUSE.

Interested? You can find INTERTWINED HEARTS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

Christi SnowAbout Author Christi Snow: in her own words…
As an avid reader my entire life, I’ve always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy I feel when I read. But…I never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.

When I turned 41, I decided it was time to go after my dream and started writing. Within four months, I’d written over 150,000 words and haven’t stopped since. I’ve found my passion by writing about sexy, alpha heroes and smart, tough heroines falling in love and finding their passion. I’m truly living the dream and loving every minute of it.

My tagline is…

Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. I have to admit, I am loving this adventure!

You can find Christi on line on her website, Goodreads and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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!

Revenge and Blood for MASK OF SHADOWS-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a not so warm and fuzzy read. Linsey Miller released a gritty YA fantasy earlier this fall, and I really liked it! MASK OF SHADOWS is a fast-paced kill ride of challenges for a gender-fluid hero bent on having their revenge at long last. This is the first book with a sequel in the works.

About the book:
I Needed to Win.
They Needed to Die.

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class—and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand—the Queen’s personal assassins, named after the rings she wears—Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge.

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

My Review:
Sal Leon is a gender fluid thief who’s also the last of their people. When Sal was a child, Magic ruled their land, but some wealthy mages created the soulless shadows that gobbled up the humans in their path. It took the might of Queen to halt all magic in their realm brought an end to the shadows.

That was a decade ago, and Sal only survived because they had been playing in a tree in the instant the shadows swept the land. Sal’s sister at the base of the tree was a casualty Sal hasn’t forgotten. They made their way through semi-slavery into another land where Sal was trained in theft to survive. Sal’s handler is a well-known criminal, and when Sal learns of auditions to join the Queen’s Left Hand, a band of masked assassins, Sal makes their first killing–turning their handler’s head in as proof of Sal’s deadly might. As a Queen’s assassin, Sal would be able to cozy up to the nobles who have profited from the death of Sal’s homeland… and kill them.

So, Sal must survive a literal bloodfest, where twenty-two other applicants are also vying to be the last person standing, and take the single spot as the Queen’s Opal–all the assassins are named for gems. Under the guidance of Ruby, Emerald and Amethyst, the auditioners are gaining skill and picking off their competition. Sal is no match for the might and skill of the others, but they are wily, and used to living hard. As it stands, Sal makes it through two rounds of death, and gets the chance at a formal education; the Left Hand are part of the QUeen’s court and need to be literate. Sal’s tutor, Elise, is the daughter of one of the nobles Sal hopes to slaughter. Not easy thinking on these things, but Sal’s bloodthirst for revenge helps uncover a plot to overthrow the Queen. Expect intrigue and constant motion, as Sal works hard to stay alive and keep their eye on the rifts within the court.

I really enjoyed this one! It’s gore, but in the good way. I totally identified with Sal, and their need to avenge their family and homeland. It got a little confusing, at times, with all the names–because everyone has an alter ego it seems, and the formal names are long and twisty. There is a tiny bit of romance with Elise, and don’t expect any revelations on the gender front. Sal is equally comfortable in trousers or dress, and it’s common for men to wear tunics/skirts in this world. The end is not pleasant, another bloodbath of folks we’d all probably grown to love. But Sal has a new mission, and it involves saving both Elise and the Queen from destruction. I’m really looking forward to it!

Interested? You can find MASK OF SHADOWS on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, and Book Depository.

About the Author:
A wayward biology student from Arkansas, Linsey has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. Her debut novel MASK OF SHADOWS is the first in a fantasy duology coming in September 2017 from Sourcebooks Fire. She can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

Catch up with Linsey on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Learning THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is Awesome!–A Review

Hi there! Halloween is approaching, and I’ll be sharing some reviews for books that fall into the weird/paranormal variety in celebration. Today I’m sharing a review for a paranormal-type YA gay romance from F.T. Lukens. THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC is about a high school senior who takes a part-time job so he can save money for college. But, his new job comes with all sorts of weird, and he’s soon caught up in disaster after disaster.

Having loved THE STAR HOST and GHOSTS & ASHES, I knew I wanted to read this book.

About the book:
Desperate to pay for college, Bridger Whitt is willing to overlook the peculiarities of his new job—entering via the roof, the weird stacks of old books and even older scrolls, the seemingly incorporeal voices he hears from time to time—but it’s pretty hard to ignore being pulled under Lake Michigan by… mermaids? Worse yet, this happens in front of his new crush, Leo, the dreamy football star who just moved to town.

Fantastic.

When he discovers his eccentric employer Pavel Chudinov is an intermediary between the human world and its myths, Bridger is plunged into a world of pixies, werewolves, and Sasquatch. The realm of myths and magic is growing increasingly unstable, and it is up to Bridger to ascertain the cause of the chaos, eliminate the problem, and help his boss keep the real world from finding the world of myths.

My Review:
Bridger is a high school senior who knows his life is going to take a turn…hopefully for the better. He’s recently come to understand that he’s likely bisexual–prompted to his attraction to his gorgeous new neighbor, Leo, who has a habit of moving the lawn in only his shorts… Bridger is scared of what this means for him, as he lives in what he considers to be a small, conservative, hometown: Midden, Michigan. In order to explore this facet of his being, Bridger believes he must go away to college so he can experiment far away where his mother, a nurse who’s working as many double shifts as possible to support them, won’t hear about it and be upset with him.

So, he tries to get an assistant job for a local nutty professor, or so he thinks. The first test is entering the house where the professor works–and it’s high stakes. Bridger bests the suit-clad fellow applicants by sheer grit and ingenuity, and that’s the beginning of his new weird life. Pavel Chudinov, his new boss, has a house filled with intrigues, from the stunning Elena who nearly bewitches Bridger, to the caustic gunk that pretty much dissolved Bridger’s new tennis shoes, Bridger knows lots of strange is happening all around him. He brushes it aside, though, because his mission of away-college-funding is all the more important as Leo begins to shine his popular glow all over Bridger and Astrid, his best friend. This leads to a beach party invite that ends with mermaids trying to kill Bridger.

And, later, a unicorn attack. Oh, and learning that Elena is a werewolf. Bridger takes all this info in with aplomb, and minor freak outs. The pay is good, and Pavel is kind, as are his house pixies who assist with the work of mediating between the human and myth worlds. People, Bridger comes to realize, will find any implausible reason they can to explain the unexplainable. But Bridger’s hours on the job mean secrecy between him and Astrid, and the time he spends with Leo also strains their relationship. Especially as Bridger isn’t sure if Leo is being friendly out of sheer friendliness, or mutual attraction. What if Bridger’s misunderstood, and makes a mistake that could get him bashed?

As the story unfolds, Bridger pieces together the unlikeliest of circumstances: the recent convergence of myth in Midden, Michigan is due to the presence of a hero myth…and that might cause some cramps in his high school if that hero goes the way most of them do: death in glory. Bridger, allied with Pavel, his pixies, and eventually Astrid, are set on dissipating the magic, but Bridger wants it done with the least amount of bloodshed–and heart ache. He’s a sweet guy with real issues happening beyond the magic. I loved how he and his mom got along, and also his tight friendship with Astrid. There are so many fabulous characters here, including Pavel and Leo, who teach Bridger that coming out isn’t the end of the world, and that he’s loved right where he is. The magic is fun, and poor Bridger is a bit downhearted that the unicorn hates him. I was enchanted by the myth-weaving, and the resolution made my heart race. I so wanted Bridger to solve the problem without losing himself in the process, and I was rewarded with the best possible outcome. Bridger finds both love and acceptance in places he never expected. It’s a sweet and happy ending that felt like a beginning–because the book ends but new adventures may arise that he needs to tackle. That blue door on the third floor was left open to such possibilites, in any event.

Interested? You can find THE RULES AND REGULATIONS for MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC on Goodreads, Interlude Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Target, Smashwords, Kobo, Book Depository, and Indiebound.

About the Author:
F.T. wrote her first short story when she was in third grade and her love of writing continued from there. After placing in the top five out of ten thousand entries in a writing contest, she knew it was time to dive in and try her hand at writing a novel.

A wife and mother of three, F.T. holds degrees in psychology and English literature, and is a long-time member of her college’s science-fiction club. F.T. has a love of cheesy television shows, superhero movies, and science-fiction novels—especially anything by Douglas Adams.

Connect with F.T. on her website, Twitter, Tumblr and on Goodreads.

New Love STARTING FROM SCRATCH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released contemporary M/M romance from Jay Northcote. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is the fifth book in the Housemates series of New Adult romances set in Bristol, England. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of them, and am always ecstatic when a new one comes out. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is more poignant to me, as a reader, because it features a transgender male character–very well informed by the author’s life experiences. In a time when TG issues are being wholesale discarded by legislators in the US, it’s fantastic to get authentic stories about everyday characters who are trans.

About the book:
Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

My Review:
Ben is a twenty-five year old transman returning to uni following three years off to undergo trans treatment and surgery. He shares a house with five other guys–out-gay and bisexual men from earlier book in the series–but hides his trans identity, living as a man. It’s fascinating being inside Ben’s head–his fear that he’s not being honest, but also fearing that revealing his history will cause more trouble than he can manage.

Sid is a man wishing for a steady boyfriend. He’s not had any lasting relationships and wonders if he ever will. Meeting Ben while out with mutual friends seems like a perfect opportunity, but Ben rebuffs his overtures. Ben’s not down for a quickie, and doesn’t think he measures up to the standards Sid surely has. Thing is, Jude, their mutual friend, vouches for Sid–and that prompts Ben to reach out and build a friendship. That’s one of Ben’s big goals for the year, be more social and get over his insecurities. So they chat and text and get together for coffee. The more time they spend, the more invested they become. Ben’s nervous about revealing his chest scars–from top surgery–and his manbits are quite different from that of a cismale, but Sid’s not only compassionate, he’s intrigued with Ben for who he is–and their relationship grows openly and honestly.

I was floored by the detail and delicacy of the book. I’ve read a few trans novels and am always happy to learn more about this experience and the triumphs and challenges. The Housemates books are have lots of sexytimes–and there’s no exception here. The author does a great job of bringing Ben to life, and writing a love story that feels sensitive and sexy at the same time. It was easy to feel Ben’s insecurities–and those of Sid as well. He’s a wonderful character, who really investigates his own prejudices and if they pose a risk to Ben’s emotional well-being. I loved the vulnerability of both men, and how Sid doesn’t allow Ben to push him away when he makes a mistake or three. These guys are really interesting on their own, and their interactions with their housemates is as fun as always. Oh, Ben! He wasn’t a trusting sort, but Sid did win him over completely by the end.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SCRATCH on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)
Watching and Wanting (Book 4) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

You can find Jay on his website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Making Friends With A BOY WORTH KNOWING–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a YA M/M supernatural romance from Jennifer Cosgrove. A BOY WORTH KNOWING features a socially-isolated clairvoyant high school senior, and the new boy in school who befriends him.

Catch the excerpt below and enter to win a free book in the giveaway, too!
About the book:
Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.

Between dead grandmother and living aunt, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.

Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.

How about a little taste?

James didn’t bail in the upcoming week. Or the one after. And Horror Movie Sunday seemed to be well on its way to becoming a thing. I’d gotten better at ignoring the ever-present shade of James’s brother, mostly because all of my attention was on James. Yeah, it was bad. Really bad. I was setting myself up for disappointment, but my heart didn’t seem to give a damn what my head said.

That was unbelievably sappy. I had a huge crush on my only friend, and I didn’t know what to do about it except ignore it. Sounded like a plan.

At least at first. I calmed down a bit and kept the awkward at bay as we spent more time together. It became a regular thing to text each other stupid stuff before bedtime, when we’d talk about anything and everything. The regularity of it made the butterflies calm down when I saw him in person during the day.

Then one Saturday, he asked if he could stay over. I didn’t ask why, but I got the impression something had happened at home, and he wasn’t ready to tell me. And I had no idea if I should ask. Was it really my business?

James walked in without knocking—that had gone by the wayside a few weeks before—and plopped down in a kitchen chair. He looked utterly miserable.

“Hey.” God, what had happened? His voice was flat and even his hair looked dejected. Should I say something or let it go? I just wanted to be a good friend.

“Um. Hey.” Very eloquent, Nate. You suck.

James looked up, smiling weakly. The reflection off his glasses made it hard to see his eyes, but they seemed to look okay. Maybe they weren’t as sad as they were a moment before. The smile fell away, but he didn’t look quite as bad as when he’d walked through the door. “Sorry, not having a good day.”

Ask. Don’t ask. Ask. Don’t— Oh, the hell with it. “What’s going on? You want to talk about it?” God, I was terrible at these kinds of situations.

He looked up at me, and for one horrifying moment, I thought he was going to cry. His mouth did a weird crinkly thing that I never wanted to see again. James looked away

and took a few deep breaths, obviously trying to get himself back under control. He took his glasses off and swiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “Sorry.”

I wavered for a few seconds before pulling out the chair across from him and sitting down. Deep breath. “Look, there’s obviously something going on. You don’t have to tell me, but I just want you to know that you can. If you want to.” Where did that come from?

“Nate, I—” He looked down at his hands, picking at the edge of a thumbnail.

A movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention; his brother’s ghost was standing there, looking at me. Expectantly. Like I was supposed to know what to do. I blew out a breath and waited. I wasn’t going to push.

Finally, James gave me a small smile. I breathed a sigh of relief; he wasn’t ready to talk about it, and I wasn’t quite prepared to help him. “No, I’m—I’m good. Thanks again for letting me stay here tonight.”

Relief washed over me. “So, what do you want to do?”

My Review:
Nate Shaw is a high school outcast, ostracized by his schoolmates and his own mother–all because he sees and speaks with ghosts. It’s a lonely life for Nate, living with his aunt and having no friends in his small Ohio town. He’s got a good sense of humor and he’s endearingly sweet, despite his busted heart.

James is a new student and immediately turns to Nate for friendship; the mean girls want a piece of James, but he’s not interested. His family relocated from Cincinnati after James’ brother David was killed in a car wreck. Nate’s intrigued by James, and wary of David’s ghost who clings to James like a glowing shadow. James is a kind boy, who seems to want friendship with Nate, for reasons Nate cannot fathom, but he’s eager to make the most of this opportunity. And it doesn’t hurt that James is good looking, smart and loves old school slasher flicks just like Nate.

Over time, James spends more time at Nate’s home than his own, and he begins to confide in Nate regarding David’s death. Nate feigns surprise, mostly because David had already told him the sordid tale, trying to get Nate to dissuade James from searching for motives and a possible cover-up. He’s a grief-stricken kid, wishing someone besides David was responsible for David’s death. Nate is a great friend to James, and harbors a quiet crush. It’s rather deflating when James starts dating a girl, though. Well, until James learns that Nate is interested.

This is a sweet and mostly innocent YA romance with lots of supernatural elements, because Nate meets several ghosts in the story. I really enjoyed the snappy prose and self-deprecation. Nate’s a survivor of sorts, and totally admirable. James makes some missteps, mostly because he’s oblivious–according to David’s ghost. The characters all come off as decent people, excepting the mean girls and Nate’s ridiculous mother. It was an interesting twist that Nate’s mom kicked him out for speaking with the dead, not his sexuality. That said, it’s a good read with a very happy ending. It’s “mostly” innocent, because James and Nate spend a little bit of time making out, and a very little bit of time exploring each other sexually–like a page or two. It’s all teen appropriate, and the respectful way they treat each other–and the adults treat them–will be appealing for all readers. I really liked this one, and would definitely recommend it for readers who enjoy teen romance, and positive diverse books.

Interested? You can find A BOY WORTH KNOWING on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a book of your choice from Nine Star Press.
Good luck, and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jennifer Cosgrove has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story. When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

Catch up with Jennifer online on her website, twitter, and Goodreads.