Getting Wicked in FASCINATED-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M historical romance by Jess Michaels. Set in her Wicked Woodleys series, FASCINATED brings two solitary gentlemen together, under the guise of a country house party planned by a scheming sister.

fascinatedAbout the book:
A sexy M/M historical romance in the Wicked Woodleys universe from USA Today bestselling author Jess Michaels

It’s been over a decade since Aaron Condit’s lover, Viscount Noah Seagate died. While he has had temporary diversions, he hasn’t had a real relationship since. But now he’s been invited to the home of his best friend, Leticia Blackwood and he’ll be faced with deep temptation in the form of her brother, Griffin Merrick.

Griffin has seen Aaron at certain clubs for a long time and he cannot deny that he wants the handsome solicitor. But secrets from far in the past and a desire not to hurt someone they both love stand between them. Time spent alone leads to a passionate affair, but only time will tell if they can overcome all that keeps them apart. And if they’re willing to risk losing everything in order to find love.

My Review:
I haven’t read any of the five preceding M/F novels in this series, and that was just fine because this M/M novella can handle being a standalone. Many of the characters are in the fifth book, so it might be enjoyable to start there, but it wasn’t necessary.

It’s the 1820s in western England and Letty Blackwood’s house party is about to get hot. Letty’s fond of her younger brother Griffin Merrick. She’s also great friends with, wait for it, her late husband’s former lover, Aaron Condit. That’s why she invites both of them to the country estate at Woodley for a large houseparty that’s set to span two weeks. Griffin and Letty’s mother can’t wait to see Griffin settled, and continues to push him to meet the women who come to the house for balls and tea, but Griffin’s desired Aaron for several years now–ever since he’d seen Aaron at risque clubs for men of their ilk–those who find other men attractive.

Aaron’s more than attracted to Griffin, but he’d hurt Letty once–her willingness to forgive both her late husband Noah and himself for their covert love affair is one thing. Falling for her only brother? Unthinkable. He won’t hurt her again. Still Griffin’s determined to spend as much time together as possible, and Aaron hasn’t had a stead lover since Noah died. Griffin’s sure that Aaron’s the man for him, and he’s got a plan to keep him close in a way that gentlemen of their station can–if only Aaron will give over his apprehensions about Letty’s sensibilities. Learning of Aaron and Noah’s love, and hearing how open his sister was to their relationship gives Griffin pause…and ideas.

This is a short and sweet love story that has a good bit of tension and a satisfying ending. I honestly could have spent a whole novel with these two! Letty is great, and her little machinations to put Aaron and Griffin together were heartfelt and charming. I’m used to reading English historical fiction written by British English speakers, so I kind of missed the more staid and quaint grammar and syntax, but that’s a small quibble.

Interested? You can find FASCINATED on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
USA Today Bestselling author Jess Michaels likes geeky stuff, Vanilla Coke Zero, anything coconut, cheese, fluffy cats, smooth cats, any cats, many dogs and people who care about the welfare of their fellow humans. She watches too much daytime court shows, but just enough Once Upon a Time (Captain Swan FOR LIFE). She is lucky enough to be married to her favorite person in the world and live in a beautiful home on a golf course lake in Northern Arizona.

When she’s not obsessively checking her steps on Fitbit or trying out new flavors of Greek yogurt, she writes erotic historical romances with smoking hot alpha males and sassy ladies who do anything but wait to get what they want. She has written for numerous publishers and is now fully indie and loving every moment of it (well, almost every moment).

Jess always loves to hear from readers! You can find her on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

A Whole New World: IMAGO–Review & Giveaway!

imago-bannerHi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a brand-new contemporary M/M romance from N.R. Walker. You know how much I adored Ms. Walker’s Aussie cowboy Red Dirt Heart series, so there was no chance I was missing IMAGO. Set in Tasmania, IMAGO pairs an awkward lepidopterist with a gung-ho forestry ranger.

Catch my review below, and be sure to enter the giveaway for a $20 Amazon GC.
imago-400x600About the book:
Nerdy, introverted genius lepidopterist, Lawson Gale, is an expert on butterflies. He finds himself in a small town in Tasmania on a quest from an old professor to find an elusive species that may or may not even exist.

Local Parks and Wildlife officer, Jack Brighton, is an ordinary guy who loves his life in the sleepy town of Scottsdale. Along with his Border collie dog, Rosemary, his job, and good friends, he has enough to keep from being lonely.

But then he meets Lawson, and he knows he’s met someone special. There’s more to catching butterflies, Jack realises. Sometimes the most elusive creatures wear bowties, and sometimes they can’t be caught at all.

Lawson soon learns there are butterflies he can’t learn about it in books. They exist only in a touch, in a kiss, in a smile. He just has to let go first, so these butterflies can fly.

Imago is the story of finding love, bowties, and butterflies.

My Review:
Jack Brighton is a forestry officer in remote Tasmania. He loves his quiet life, but would love to find a man to share it with. He certainly didn’t expect the shy, awkward, bow-tie-clad Lawson Gale to fall right into his path. Butterfly expert Lawson is out on Tasmania to help a colleague find a figment. An aging lepidopterist clams to have found a small copper-colored butterfly decades ago, and has tasked Lawson with his fruitless hunt.

Lawson’s upset that his car reservation has been lost, but he’s desperate to meet with his colleague, and accepts an offer of a ride from the burly forest agent he’d noticed on his flight. They hit it off, especially when Jack learns Lawson will be staying near his home–a small community known as Scottsdale–and searching for this elusive butterfly in the forest area Jack manages.

Over the course of the next several days, these two find ways to be together, on the hunt for the copper butterfly, and in more personal settings. It’s absolutely sweet how Jack woos Lawson with charming date nights that lead to more and more steam. I really enjoyed the science-y bits, too, as I’m a nerd. It seems that Jack’s more than a burly tote-hauler; his research, coupled with decades of stored data, provide real clues to where Lawson’s butterfly might possible exist.

The end is more climactic than the quiet romance intimated, and it’s a daring race and rescue that Lawson manages to both instigate and require. This book is a delicious romance with great characters and just enough complications to keep it interesting. I always love to feel transported to a new location, and Tasmania seems an interesting place–at least in THIS book!

Interested? You can find IMAGO on Goodreads and Amazon (US, UK, AUS, and DE)

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the author:
N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things; a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things…but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal. She’s been writing ever since…

Find Ms. Walker online on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
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Living Past Being AFRAID TO FLY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-published M/M romance from L.A. Witt. AFRAID TO FLY is the second book in her Anchor Point Navy-romance series, and features two mature men who’ve had their fair share of hard knocks finding love. I really liked JUST DRIVE, so I couldn’t wait to read this one.

afraid-to-flyAbout the book:
Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.

Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.

Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.

It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.

My Review:
Commander Travis Wilson pilots a desk instead of fighter jets, ever since the crash and ejection that rattled his spine and left his radio-operator confined to a wheelchair. It was excellent skill that kept them both alive, but Travis’ back and nerve damage takes a constant toll–one he doesn’t want to medicate, or he’ll be relieved of duty. Let’s not forget that Trav’s a proud man, too, and unwilling to relent his position or admit he should be on disability. He’s bisexual, but more attracted to men, than women–and the only person he ever loved was a fellow pilot who couldn’t out himself before he was tragically killed.

Lt. Commander Clint Fraser is rebuilding his life after suffering PTSD over a drone mission gone wrong. Unable to speak about the super-classified mission, he treated his nightmares with liquor until his wife left, and too the kids with her. Clint hasn’t had a drink in two years, but his “coming out” at the Navy Ball is all kinds of messed up when Clint’s date shows up roaring drunk. The up-side? Travis Wilson noticed that Clint’s bisexual.

Travis and Clint work in the same building, but aren’t in the same chain of command. When they recognize that spark building between them, they keep it mostly quiet, so they can see if it builds or fizzles. Trav’s sure it’ll fizzle, as he’s not fit for the kind of sexual activity most gay men enjoy. Clint’s not put-off though, because he likes the rapport they build, and he’s not picky regarding his sexual activity; if everyone is satisfied, it’s fine to keep it a little less physically-challenging.

I liked how Travis’ adult daughter plays a role in the book. She’s got PTSD from being a family member of an actively deployed airman, and I thought that was a unique perspective to experience. Clint’s family situation is a messed up, with Skype visits and supervised visitation, and that seemed excessive. I was glad that Clint started to stand up for himself by the end of the book. Travis and Clint claim to want to keep things light, but they keep reaching out for one another, emotionally and physically. I liked the way their relationship built. The sexytimes are nice and sensual, even if they aren’t filthy-raw, and the accommodations they make to keep Travis from experiencing heightened pain were clearly defined. It felt very realistic, and sweet. The deeper their bond grows, the more Travis begins to freak out. It was good he got some sense smacked into him by his daughter, friends and Clint–who isn’t willing to take a brush-off. The end is an HEA.

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

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

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

EMBERS Heating–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M release from Kate Sherwood. I really liked MARK OF CAIN and SACRATI, so I was eager to check out her newest Common Law series books. Last month I reviewed LONG SHADOWS, and was captivated by the complicated social politics of a rural Montana border town, which has become a smuggling epicenter for drugs and guns across the US-Canadian border. The situation brought veteran police detective Jericho Crewe home after a 15 year absence and put him in the crossfire between his childhood best friends, the FBI and the DEA. EMBERS, the second book in the series, came out last week and this really focuses on the emotional dilemmas Jericho faces as new Under Sheriff of Mosely.

embersAbout the book:
Small town—big problems. Jericho Crewe is back in Mosely, Montana, trying to deal with police corruption, interfering feds, his newly discovered family members, and, of course, Wade Granger.

He doesn’t really need a biker war on top of it all, but as the bodies start to pile up, it becomes pretty clear that’s what he’s got. Not only that, but Wade’s involved somehow, and as soon as Wade is a part of something, things that seemed clear become cloudy.

With the feds breathing down his neck, Jericho has to find his way through Wade’s maze of half truths and manipulations. It would all be so much easier if Jericho could think straight in the other man’s presence. So much easier if their passionate past could be forgotten, and if he could be sure he’s strong enough to resist the temptation of a passionate present.

My Review:
Det. Jericho Crewe’s had his life turned on its ear in the past few weeks. He learned his no-good criminal father was murdered when he was summoned back to Mosley, Montana after a 15 year absence. His previously unknown step-mother, Nikki, and two half-siblings are in danger–probably of their own making–due to the high likelihood that Nikki (and Jericho’s father) were running drugs over the border for Wade Granger. Wade is Jericho’s high school boyfriend, though that was all kept undercover way back when.

Doesn’t mean that Jericho’s forgotten the pull toward Wade in the intervening years. Wade’s a slick guy, though, and while he’s surely a criminal, no one can get anything to stick. In the last book Wade helped Jericho save his half-siblings from people who’d been sworn to serve and protect. The sheriff, Jericho’s other childhood bestie Kayla, asked Jericho to stick around, work for her to help root out the corruption and he agreed.

Since then, it’s been one fire after the next–and I mean that literally. Wade’s bar and the local biker gang’s hangout have both been hit by arsonists, and three Chicago-native drug runners have been found killed execution-style. The DEA is nervous to deal with Jericho, after learning about his familial and emotional ties to Wade Granger–but their also nervous to deal with Kayla because her father might be leaking information to the biker gang. Meanwhile, someone keeps moving drugs over the border, and Jericho’s being used by Wade to establish an alibi–not just for Wade by for Nikki. And the Bikers are ready to demonstrate their might in a show that could kill innocents. Jericho’s at the center, even if he doesn’t want to be. His decisions to forge links between the factions puts him in a precarious place, and leads to his ultimate discipline when one too many of his cowboy antics can’t be tolerated.

And Wade keeps coming around with all his sexy eyes and sexy moves and Jericho’s really a sucker for Wade. Expect some low level sexytimes for these two. But is Wade’s interest just another manipulation? The book’s really fast-paced, and the intrigue level is high. Being part of a series, I think you need to read it in order, and let the story build all it’s layers. I’m really anxious to read the third book, now, seeing that Jericho’s got a fight on his hands to clear his name, and establish whatever relationship he can with his family…and Wade.

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

The first book in the series, LONG SHADOWS, is currently on sale for $2.99. Catch my review and all the purchase links here.

About the Author:
Kate Sherwood started writing about the same time she got back on a horse after almost twenty years away from riding. She’d like to think she was too young for it to be a midlife crisis, but apparently she was ready for some changes!

Kate grew up near Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and went to school in Montreal, then Vancouver. But for the last decade or so she’s been a country girl. Sure, she misses some of the conveniences of the city, but living close to nature makes up for those lacks. She’s living in Ontario’s “cottage country”–other people save up their time and come to spend their vacations in her neighborhood, but she gets to live there all year round!

Since her first book was published in 2010, she’s kept herself busy with novels, novellas, and short stories in almost all the sub-genres of m/m romance. Contemporary, suspense, scifi or fantasy–the settings are just the backdrop for her characters to answer the important questions. How much can they share, and what do they need to keep? Can they bring themselves to trust someone, after being disappointed so many times? Are they brave enough to take a chance on love?

Kate’s books balance drama with humor, angst with optimism. They feature strong, damaged men who fight themselves harder than they fight anyone else. And, wherever possible, there are animals: horses, dogs, cats ferrets, squirrels… sometimes it’s easier to bond with a non-human, and most of Kate’s men need all the help they can get.

After five years of writing, Kate is still learning, still stretching herself, and still enjoying what she does. She’s looking forward to sharing a lot more stories in the future.

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

New-To-Loving the DISTANT SWIMMER–A Review

distant-swimmer-reviewtourbannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M sports romance from Jacob Cheyenne. DISTANT SWIMMER is a New Adult coming out romance featuring a member of a small college swimming team and his improbable search for love. I enjoyed HANUKKAH GIFTS, so I thought I’d check out this book, too.

distant_swimmer_400x600About the book:
Shy and scholarly, long-distance swimmer Ryan Zwick thinks he’s the only gay member of the college swim team. He keeps his head down in the showers, and his head in the books the rest of the time.

But when a sporty new transfer student joins the team, Ryan feels a surge of hope. Sexually inexperienced and looking for love, fellow swimmer Blake Gossens is everything Ryan wants in a boyfriend. But what is Blake’s game, exactly? And just how straight is he?

Blake seems to be more interested in Ryan’s best friend, Marissa, leaving Ryan to go back to secretly checking out his teammates in the pool. But Ryan keeps getting mysterious messages in his dating app from a stranger who seems to know a lot about him. Could this messenger be Blake? Or someone else?

When bad weather hits unexpectedly, Ryan is forced to confront his real feelings toward Blake, while opening up to the stranger by his side, eventually giving in to his wildest fantasies — and his heart.

My Review:
Ryan Zwick is a college sophomore on the prestigious Chippewa College swim team along with thirteen other toned, fit men. Ryan’s gay, and out, but quiet about it. He’s sure some of his teammates guess his sexuality, but he’s not confirmed it for them. His bestie from childhood, Marissa, has known for years, though, ever since she tried to seduce him and he finally explained why he couldn’t love her that way. He’s only ever had one boyfriend–back in high school–and he dearly wants to find a serious lover.

New to the team is Blake Gossens–a transfer from Univ of Wisconsin. He’s paired with Ryan for new and difficult interval training that’s supposed to help these swimmers up their game. Marissa and Ryan are both attracted to Blake, and–though Blake claims to be ‘totally hetero’–Ryan is suddenly getting anonymous hook-up messages from someone on his campus who, it seems, is also on the swim team. Marissa has made it (painfully) clear to Blake that Ryan is gay, and she is available. Meanwhile, Erik, cute the foreign teammate from some Scandinavian country Ryan can’t remember, is a super helpful new friend, and Ryan’s interest and libido are piqued.

This book really embraced the drama of those confusing and manic college years. Ryan’s afraid to ogle his teammates too much, and Blake taunts him more than a little. At times, the dialogue and situations seemed juvenile, and I had to remind myself these characters are aged 18-22 and are a bit juvenile. I admit to not liking half of the people on the page. Marissa was selfish and rude for 75% of the book, and a terrible friend to Ryan. Blake made statements and moves that, in a different situation, could have easily been characterized as harassment–or assault. I was really glad for Erik being a decent guy, because sometimes even Ryan got on my nerves, particularly when he was reflecting (poorly) on his high school boyfriend.

It the end, we learn who Ryan’s admirer is, and they do strike a flame together. There are some conflicts between Marissa and Ryan and Blake that need ironing out–and it seems to happen in a satisfactory way for all involved. As a sports fan, and fanatic, some of the collegiate athletics logistics didn’t ring true, for me. But I have a different insight to the inner workings of college teams and dynamics, having married a, and now being mother to a, Division I athlete. The average reader wouldn’t likely notice issues that I immediately peg as not quite plausible. This is a pretty quick read, with a definite happy ending for Ryan, and some interesting sexytimes. I mostly enjoyed it.

Interested? You can find DISTANT SWIMMER on Goodreads, JMS Books and Amazon (US or UK).

About the Author:
Jacob Cheyenne is an author of M/M Romantic Fiction. His characters and stories are often inspired by real historical events, figures and scenes from classical art, or from old black and white portraits he collects in antique stores. His debut novella “Hanukkah Gifts” focuses on the turmoil between two young Jewish men with very different ideas about how to reconcile their faith and sexuality.

When not writing, the author loves swimming, hearing live music, reading fat books on empty beaches, and drinking anything coconut-flavored. When not traveling, he lives and works in the bustling heart of New York City.

Catch up with Jacob on his website, twitter, and Facebook.
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Appearances Deceive: FIRE BALLS–Review and Giveaway

banner-blogtour-fire-balls-by-tara-lainHi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review and giveaway for a new M/M romance coming soon from Tara Lain. FIRE BALLS is the second book in her Balls to the Wall series and features a subdued fireman fighting the heat he feels for a flamboyant artist. I really enjoyed VOLLEY BALLS, the first book in this series, though FIRE BALLS can be enjoyed on its own.

Catch the excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC and book giveaway below!
bk-cover-fire-ballAbout the book:
Renowned artist Rodney Mansfield stands five foot six, has pink hair, six earrings, a black belt in karate—and a desperate yearning for firefighter Hunter Fallon. But Rod, the Runtback of Notre Dame, knows he’ll never land the beautiful “straight gay” guy, so Rod musters his altruism and helps his more masculine friend Jerry attract Hunter.

As if a broken heart wasn’t enough, Rod saves Hunter from a firehouse homophobe—humiliating Hunter in front of his dad!

Hunter lives a dream life—his father’s dream. While he’d like to teach literature in college, read poetry in the sun, and find a strong guy to top him, he fights fires for his dad. Hunter hates flamboyant guys like Rodney. So why can’t he resist him? Maybe it’s time to admit this is one flame he has no desire to put out.

How about a little taste?

Jerry leaned back on the couch. “Anyway, he’s dreamy, straight-up divine. Sweet and nice and smart. Shit, man, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?”

Too much. Rod got up and went back to the easel. At least he didn’t have to stare into Jerry’s smitten face. Crap, he wanted to be happy for the guy. He really did. “He’s beautiful, all right.”

“And guess what? He asked about you.”

No breath. “He, uh, did?”

“Yeah. Said you were so talented. See, I told you not to leave.”

“Didn’t want to be a third wheel.”

“Hey, my man, you’re my brother from another mother. What I got, you got. So I’m going on another date with him, and he loves to read and shit. Could you tell me some stuff to talk about?”

Oh dear God. “So what have you read, Jerry?”

He looked at his hands. “I, uh, read a few romance novels.”

“I think it’s okay to talk about those, but you have to know some other writers too. So think. What did you read in high school?”

“Comic books.”

“Graphic novels?”

“Yeah. Man, I love Watchmen and X-Men and Batman.”

“Comic books.” He walked over to a bookshelf he kept tucked away in the corner of the studio. When he rested on the couch, he loved to read himself to sleep. “Have you ever heard of Lord Byron?”

Jerry shook his head. “Sounds like a rock star.”

“He kind of was for his time. He was a poet.” He took out a slim volume and began to read from Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. “Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean—roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; man marks the earth with ruin—his control stops with the shore.” When he got to “unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown” he looked up.

Jerry’s big blue eyes shone with tears. “Hey, man, that’s awesome. Probably not a surfer, I guess. All the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ sound kind of old. But that dude knew what a surfer feels, man. We ride on top of the—what did he call it?—deep and dark blue ocean. And we know we can sink and never be heard from again, man. Axed. It’s how we want to go if we gotta.”

He had to stop underestimating this man. Rod walked over to the couch and handed the book to Jerry. “Just be yourself. He’s got to love you.”

“Wow, thanks. But I’ll read this, man. Every word, or at least the words I understand, okay?”

He smiled. “Okay.”

“I sure do like the way you read it, though.”

Rod laughed, took back the book, and began to read.

My Review:Rodney Mansfield is a flamboyant and fierce artist living in Laguna Beach, California. His stunning nudes of sexy men are selling like crazy in the summer arts fair the city holds, and draws the object of Rodney’s affection to his gallery’s booth: Hunter, a big and burly fireman. Rodney’s hopelessly tongue-tied around Hunter though his good friend, Jerry, is equally smitten and has the gumption to actually ask Hunter out.

Rod doesn’t get the vibe that Hunter would enjoy being around him–he’s too alpha and Rod’s too flashy, and that’s mostly the truth. Hunter has built his life to please his disabled father, toning down his sexuality and even behaving in the bedroom in a way that he imagines his fellow firefighters might not find objectionable–essentially topping, when he isn’t as personally satisfied by that role. Still, Jerry–Rod’s friend–fits the image that Hunter wants to project, that of a pretty-much big, straight dude, who also happens to be gay.

That said, personality-wise, Jerry and Hunter aren’t a solid match, while Hunter and Rod are kindred spirits. Not only that, Rod knows how to speak to Hunter’s heart, and get through to his head, as well. This is a non-traditional romance, because Rob and Hunter get together only because Jerry pushes Hunter into sitting for Rod. Rod’s hating that he can’t be more than an acquaintance to Hunter, but that changes, rather abruptly, in their second sitting. This reminded me, a bit, of an updated Cyrano de Bergerac, with Rod giving the beautiful, but dim, Jerry all the right words to catch Hunter’s attention.

There isn’t a drawn-out charade, because Hunter respects Rod’s artistic skill and vision from the outset. He fears anything that might make him seem effeminate, or emasculated, in front of his fellow fireman–particularly one who’s become a stalker-y bully. It’s a big shift for Hunter to stand up for himself against the heavy weight of expectation that he’s adopted for himself. Rod and Hunter have this pseudo-adversarial, pseudo-teacher dynamic going on. Rod steps out-of-line a couple times, taking Hunter well in-hand when it didn’t seem as if the timing was right. That cut the romance-factor, for me. I was frustrated for the scenes with Hunter’s bully, because that level of unprofessionalism seemed unconscionable, especially as it was witnessed by others. The time frame also seemed a bit odd, if only because oil painting is a process that usually takes days to weeks, and the arts festival supposedly extended over that period, if we’re to believe the plot. For me, a summer-long art fest seemed unlikely, and I wondered how Rod’s painting of Hunter could have been a highlight of the show.

There’s a near-tragic incident that really brings Hunter and Rod together, and it’s all amiable with Jerry. There’s a lot of good here, even if I didn’t love every single bit. I loved how Hunter found his confidence, and his own happiness, and I loved that Rod set aside his crush to put his friend’s feelings first.

Interested? You can find FIRE BALLS on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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Happy Book Birthday to THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE ROTTEN APPLE–Review & Giveaway!

tbs-facebook-persHi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new historical M/M romance from the writing team of KA Merikan. THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE ROTTEN APPLE is a complex love story between a ne’er do well child and man of honor who wants to save his ancestral home and tenants from ruin. I’ve enjoyed HIPSTER BROTHEL and from this writing team, so I jumped at the chance to read this one.

Scroll down for a HUGE excerpt and get in on the swag and books giveaway.
blacksheep-coverAbout the book:
“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785
Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.
Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.
No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.
When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

How about a big look at this book…

The sun was high up in the sky by the time the desynchronized orchestra left Julian’s skull. There wasn’t enough space to properly lie down anywhere in the carriage, but he managed to obtain a comfortable position by resting his legs up the wooden wall while his upper body occupied one of the benches. He still felt like the filling of an enormous rattle as the carriage bent in all possible directions on the uneven road leading away from the coast.

Horace didn’t even make an attempt to hold back his disapproval, but after delivering several biting comments and a lengthy speech about duty, he at last leaned against the side of the carriage in the seat across from Julian and closed his eyes. It was difficult to say whether he was truly in need of a nap or if it was Julian’s face that he didn’t wish to look at.

With his headache out of the way yet not quite well enough to read, Julian opened the curtains in hope of amusing himself with the views, but so far, he merely got to see the side of a narrow gully—all dirt and grass.

He couldn’t understand why Father was being so implacable about having his youngest son marry a title. Couldn’t it wait a fortnight so that Julian could finish that new novel he came up with last night? This one could truly be the breakthrough Julian had been waiting for, the one that would make the Reece family known for more than fabric trade.

Inspiration was a moment in time when Julian’s friend Martin emerged from the darkness of an alley behind the tavern. In that very second he had not resembled himself but a man made of bronze, dreamlike and yet of substance, with strong hands that could crush Julian if they wanted. The novel would start with a similar encounter somewhere in the narrow back alleys, just off the Colosseum. Haunted by the ghost of an ancient gladiator, the protagonist would be believed to be slowly descending into madness, when in reality his awareness of the supernatural would become a vehicle for truth.

Julian was not yet certain of the exact message he wished to convey, but the events would be presented from several points of view, through letters written by the protagonist, his friends, and an official of some sort who’d represent the stale world order.

He’d already had several beautifully evocative ideas for metaphors describing the gladiator himself, but they became somewhat blurry after a night of cards and drink.

Oh, if only he could travel to Rome to let the atmosphere of the city soak him all the way to the bone—without a wife fighting for his attention and pulling him away from work because of feminine fancies.

He looked out of the window with growing disdain. Who in their right mind traveled on Sunday, and so early at that? Julian would have much preferred listening to a sermon at church to spending the day in what was effectively a hearse carrying one of the brightest literary talents just waiting to be discovered.

Now that Julian was feeling better, he was upset with himself about not asking for a day’s delay on religious grounds. He’d never been as devout about prayer as he was about his art, but if the Christian faith could postpone his commitment to a woman he never met, he would gladly kneel and pray. And Miss White wasn’t even a woman but a girl of fifteen, quite pretty in the portrait Julian had been shown, and a viscount’s only daughter at that, but surely as hungry for her intended’s attention as the bawdy house wench who’d become sweet on Julian some years ago.

Back then, he still visited Madame Canard’s establishment to do what everyone else did when they visited a school of Venus. These days, Julian had neither the overwhelming desire nor patience to handle a cunt, no matter how lovely the lady it was attached to. He still enjoyed having a drink with the harlots, and no card table within twenty miles was as lively as the one at Madame Canard’s, but at twenty-five he’d much rather handle needs of the flesh in solitude.

Sweet perfume made his nose itch, the act itself made him unpleasantly sticky—with his sweat and hers—and while he would not dare to ask, it was his suspicion that the friends who usually accompanied him to the brothel were only whoring so much because of pride and bravado. It was a sign of status to be able to afford women and decent wine daily, and so fucking and gambling was the thing you did as a social activity.

Julian’s eyes darted to Horace, who slept with his head thrown back and leaning against the side of the carriage. His wide-open mouth was asking for a distasteful prank, but Julian was far too upset to think of amusing himself at Horace’s expense. So far, the day’s joke was on him.

In the years past, he’d been mocked by his father and siblings over not taking on a profession that they deemed worthy of a gentleman, but with the family being very prosperous, Julian saw no reason to divert his focus from his one true calling.

Despite frequent threats, he’d hoped that Father—having four willing sons and three daughters—wouldn’t push Julian into marriage, but it seemed a lost cause. Soon it would be a wife nagging Julian to stop wasting his time following intellectual pursuits and instead turn his attention to practical matters. As the head of his own family, maybe he’d even be pushed to join the family trade, one step farther from traveling abroad to meet the great artists of the continent.

The carriage started a steep climb up a hill, and Julian cursed, pushing the soles of his boots against the wall to keep his body from rolling off the narrow bench. How long would it take for them to reach London at this pace? It was over two hundred miles away, so a week perhaps? The last time Julian had made the journey, he was so intoxicated most days that he couldn’t properly count them.

But out of nowhere, as the slope of the hill became gentler, the ugly dirt and grass that had been Julian’s only source of entertainment for the last half an hour were replaced by lush greenery of tree tops. He grinned and glanced at Horace, but the fat sod was too busy snoring to notice the change in scenery.

A wicked plan was starting to take shape in Julian’s head, and he quietly removed his feet from the side of the carriage and lowered them to the floor. Pulling himself upright was easy enough after that, and he stalled, eyes transfixed on the permanently flushed face of his brother that was an unappetizing contrast with the white wig he wore, and made him look like a man many years his senior. Julian might be less inclined to business, less sedate than his siblings, but at the very least he had good taste and flair most of Julian’s family lacked, buried deep in the stern world of pretense and money.

Horace didn’t even stir. The old pig was fast asleep, and if that wasn’t Julian’s chance to save his life, he didn’t know what was. Careful not to make any sound, Julian gathered his valise and the coat he’d earlier taken off because of the heat, stilling when the carriage came to a halt. His eyes immediately darted to Horace, but his brother only smacked his lips in his sleep. Hunt could have stopped to relieve himself. What an opportunity this was!

Julian could feel his heartbeat in his throat when he softly pressed on the door handle. Still distinctly aware of his brother being close enough for their knees to touch, were Julian not careful enough. He opened the carriage and left it in a soft stride before closing the door with care.

A warm breeze combed through his hair, wiping away the unpleasant wetness of sweat, and his lungs filled with fresh air, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.

The shining muzzle of a pistol was grinning at him from inches away.

Despite the warm weather, Julian’s whole body was shaken by a chill when his gaze met a pair of eyes so dark they might as well have been lacquered coals. The man had a tricorn hat pulled low over his forehead, and a black scarf obscuring the lower half of his face.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t try to scream, or I will blow your brains out.” The man squinted and lowered his gun to Julian’s pupil. “Through the eye.”

Julian opened his mouth as his throat closed, robbing him of breath. He wanted to look back, suddenly wishing Horace weren’t such an easy sleeper, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen either. Heat washed over Julian’s body, making him stiffen as if he were made of clay. Had this man hurt their coachman? If so, where was the body?

“What do you want?” Julian whispered, resting his hand on the door handle when his knees softened.

“These.” A hand in a leather glove gripped Julian’s sweaty fingers and slipped off his rings. “And all your other valuables.” The man didn’t even blink, his voice dark as if dragged through tar.

Julian stared, and his mind finally came up with the answer for what this was. “You’re a highwayman…”

“And you’re cork-brained to travel on a Sunday when the roads are empty.” The man’s gaze drifted away to Horace for a split second, but he must have judged him as no threat, and when Horace snored from inside the carriage, the highwayman chuckled quietly.

Julian’s lungs emptied, and a silly grin emerged on his face, encouraged by the highwayman’s amusement. “Ah, I should have gone to church after all.”

The smile died on his lips when the robber poked Julian’s temple with his gun.

“Your valuables,” he urged.

Julian clenched his teeth when they threatened to clatter. He needed to keep calm. His father believed his friends to be villains, so he could handle one. “I’ve been taken out of the tavern this morning with nothing but the clothes on my back. I lost everything at the tables. You should try my older brother. He’s Father’s heir. He should have a healthy sum on him.”

The highwayman gripped the front of Julian’s waistcoat and pulled him forward so hard Julian stumbled straight into the man’s arms. He was much taller than Julian, with wide shoulders that were so strong their size couldn’t be just padding. His clothes smelled of leather and horse sweat, and Julian found himself staring into the eyes above the black scarf.

Before he could say a word, the man turned him around, and pressed the gun to the side of his head.

“Go on, wake up your brother.”

Julian breathed in and out, stiff with discomfort at the warm body pressed against his back as if the highwayman was seeking warmth. The gun provided some relief against heated skin. Its presence made Julian’s blood speed through his veins. It wouldn’t go off. Murder wasn’t in the robber’s interest, but if that was the case, then where the hell was Hunt?

Then an idea illuminated Julian’s mind. “I have a proposition, Mister—”

The highwayman stilled. He’d be lying. Of course. “Noir,” he said in the end. “What kind of proposition can you have, pretty boy? With no money in your pockets.”

Something about Noir’s tone sent a hot shiver through Julian’s ribcage, but he ignored the condescending words and slowly looked back into the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. “I don’t have much on me, but you must know my father. He’s William Reece, the cloth merchant. You could take me and ask for ransom. We could split it between us like two gentlemen,” he whispered and gave Noir a polite nod. Appealing to the highwayman’s self-importance should do the trick. His kind were known for a love of opulence and status they didn’t deserve.

He must have managed to surprise the thief, because Noir’s grip on him faltered. “How much could I ask for a son who hates his father?”

Julian exhaled in relief when he felt Noir’s aggression turn away from him. “A lot. He needs me. I’m worth more than you can imagine,” he said with a small smile.

Noir stole another glance at Horace sleeping in the back of the carriage, and his gloved hand slid to Julian’s neck, squeezing around his nape in a way that had Julian rising to his toes. “You better be. You scream, or try to run, and I will kill you.”

My Review:
it’s 1865 Cornwall, and Julian is a wastrel who doesn’t want to get married, and especially not to a young, wealthy girl. He fancies himself a writer, but mostly he spends his allowance in gambling parlours and houses of ill-repute, though he’s not a big fan of intimacies with anyone–including women.

When his carriage to London for the wedding he doesn’t want is stopped by a highwayman, Julian convinces his would-be thief to take him as a hostage for ransom. Unfortunately, ransoming Julian to his exasperated father doesn’t go to plan.

Sir Evan Penhart inherited his ancestral home, Tredele, but none of the funds to care for it, or the servants who’d been there their entire lives. He’s really bitter over it, but he’s doing his duty the only way he can–with insufficient tenant fees available, he’s decided to steal from a few wealthy travelers in order to finance the necessary repairs to Tredele and wages. Julian’s offer for ransom seems like his dream-come-true, but it’s not. It’s a nightmare. Evan had one lover in his life, and watched him die for the crime of sodomy. Since then he kept himself isolated in his home–so much so that Julian’s only heard of Evan as the “ghost” of Tredele. Yet, Evan’s unable to hold his attraction to Julian at bay.

I’m just going to say–there’s a scene of dubious consent, though I think it’s handled really, really well. Julian’s never imagined being with a man, and is almost innocent about the opportunities–though he’s not unfamiliar with the risks. Which, to be clear, is death. Evan has a stalkery constable who’s ever eager to catch him in the “act” of sodomy so he can arrest and execute him. While Julian is his hostage, it’s a dicey situation. Though, when Julian’s plot is foiled, they are able to restart their acquaintance, in a whole new way.

There is a deep and strong affection growing between Julian and Evan, but it moves by fits and starts. It felt very realistic, to me, due to the dangerous and tricky times. The plot has intricate turns, and huge changes in store for both Julian and Sir Evan. It’s a really long book, but I loved the wild and crazy ride. Julian and Evan don’t fall for each other right away–it takes time for them to build trust, and friendship, and then sexytimes. By the end, these guys are so freakin’ in love they are willing to sacrifice everything to keep the other safe–and harm is in the offing. There are some very brutal moments, and the homophobia of the time is in line with other historicals (non-fiction and fiction) I’ve read.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so I won’t. It’s not like any other historical romance I’ve read, and that was refreshing. Getting toward the end, I had to read far too late so I would get through the end and out the other side. Expect a whole lot of peril, and a very rough ride for Julian and Evan before they end up surviving and moving on into their HEA.

Interested? You can find THE BLACK SHEEP AND THE ROTTEN APPLE on Goodreads and Amazon.

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About the Authors:
K.A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

Catch up with this duo on their website, Facebook, Twitter (run by Kat), Agnes Merikan’s Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest.

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