Beginning Again at THE ACADEMY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a New Adult M/M contemporary romance from Quinn Anderson. THE ACADEMY is a new adult romance for two young men who meet at college, and unexpectedly connect. I read and enjoyed FOURTEEN SUMMERS, so I decided to check this one out.

About the book:
True love stabs you in the front.

Nick Steele just wants a normal life, cliché or not. He had one once, back in Chicago. Before his father died and he took a year off from college to grieve. Now, he’s starting fresh at a prestigious—but tiny—Catholic university. Adjusting to small-town life will be a challenge, along with making friends and keeping his scholarship. All he wants to do is blend in, get his diploma, and go back home.

But Sebastian Prinsen—campus heartthrob and a notorious player—has other plans. He notices Nick right away and makes a bet with his two best friends: Who can kiss the new kid first? Nick seems immune to Sebastian’s charms, and yet genuine chemistry sparks between them. Even worse, real feelings do too. Sebastian falls more and more every time Nick blows him off, but if he comes clean about the bet, Nick will hate him forever.

The last thing Nick wants is to fall in love while he’s still grieving, but Sebastian feels like home to him. Nick wants that so badly he may ignore the warning signs and risk his fragile heart once more.

My Review:
Nick Steele had taken a hiatus from college to care for, and then grieve, his dying father. Fulfilling his promise to return for his degree, Nick enrolls at The Academy, a tiny catholic college in Evanston, Illinois–a near-north suburb of Chicago. There he meets Seb Prinsen–wealthy party boy–and his cadre of hangers-on. There’s an immediate attraction, but Nick isn’t ready to break out of his grief and Seb’s aggressive wooing is off-putting.

Seb is an only child of wealthy parents who are divorcing. He’s a dedicated student, and a dedicated partier–with a well-worn fake ID. He and his childhood best pals, Theo and Dante, who are also Academy students have a long-standing competition for the fate of Barbzilla–a mangled Barbie trophy. Seb’s dissolving family has made him yearn for simpler times and the challenge of beating his pals at something seemingly innocent. He’s intrigued by Nick–from their first meeting–and wagers that he can beat Theo and Dante at getting Nick to kiss him.

Classes go on, and Nick’s nerdy roomie is happy to accept Seb’s invitations for parties on Nick’s behalf. Nick is attracted, but he’s not happy. He doesn’t like Seb’s pushiness. It’s actually through conversation with Dante that Nick gets some insight beyond Seb’s smarmy veneer. And, he see what Seb’s been oblivious to: that Dante is in love with Theo. And, it seems the more that Seb begins to understand about Nick, the more he really wants a true relationship for the first time in his life.

So, the love story here is a little more on juvenile side, for New Adult. The way Seb pursues Nick was on the border of stalkery. The Barbzilla bet was totally middle-school, but it gave a good sense of Seb’s emotional development. He’s been a neglected child and always acted out for attention. Nick claims to see those vulnerabilities within a slew of drunken texts Seb leaves him by way of pouting that Nick skipped his fab party. Nick’s gravitas seems to mellow those tendencies, and foster more grown responses. It’s a bit of a slow burn–page count wise–to get the physical on, in accordance with Nick’s hesitance for jumping into a relationship. It isn’t a lot of actual time however. The coupling of Seb and Nick is complemented by Dante and Theo making their commitment, too. That was kind of fun.

In all, it’s a breezy read with a silly bet sparking an attraction that grows between two lonely souls who truly need connection. The epilogue leaves no doubt of the HEA.

Interested? You can find THE ACADEMY on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Quinn Anderson is an alumna of the University of Dublin in Ireland and has a master’s degree in psychology. She wrote her dissertation on sexuality in popular literature and continues to explore evolving themes in erotica in her professional life.

A nerd extraordinaire, she was raised on an unhealthy diet of video games, anime, pop culture, and comics from infancy. Her girlfriend swears her sense of humor is just one big Buffy reference. She stays true to her nerd roots in writing and in life, and frequently draws inspiration from her many fandoms, which include Yuri on Ice, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Buffy, and more. Growing up, while most of her friends were fighting evil by moonlight, Anderson was kamehameha-ing her way through all the shounen anime she could get her hands on. You will often find her interacting with fellow fans online and offline via conventions and Tumblr, and she is happy to talk about anything from nerd life to writing tips. She has attended conventions on three separate continents and now considers herself a career geek. She advises anyone who attends pop culture events in the UK to watch out for Weeping Angels, as they are everywhere. If you’re at an event, and you see a 6’2” redhead wandering around with a vague look on her face, that’s probably her.

Catch up with Quinn online on Facebook, twitter and Tumblr.

Saving One’s Heart–THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M interracial romance from Lisa Henry. THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED is a standalone romance featuring a Samoan detective who’s relationship to a youth he once saved has matured into a deep love over the years.

About the book:
The past never stays buried forever.

John Faimu is an Australian-Samoan police officer who deals with hurt kids every day. He loves what he does, but he’s tired of the grind of shift work, and of trying to find a balance between his job, his family, and the young man who straddles the increasingly blurry line between both.

Caleb Fletcher was the teenager John saved from a cult eight long years ago, and he’s now the young man John wants in ways that neither of them should risk.

Eight years after his rescue, Caleb is still struggling with PTSD and self-harm. John has always been his rock, but now Caleb wants more. Can he convince John to cross a line and love him the way they both crave? And when the monsters from Caleb’s past come back seeking to silence him for good, will John’s love be enough to save him?

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is a M/M gay romance featuring hurt/comfort, first times, found family, and angst with a happy ending.

How about a taste?

Fucking hospitals.

John scrubbed his knuckles over his scalp. He felt more tired now than he had for a long time, and it wasn’t just the shift work. It was Caleb, and this place, and the knowledge that they’d been here before and they would be here again. Different hospitals, different beds, different scratchy blankets and too-cold air conditioning, but all of them stuck in the same old cycle.

Eight years of this.

It wasn’t always this dramatic. Most of the time it didn’t end in a hospital. Most of the time it was increasingly erratic behaviour. It was risk-taking. It was subtle and pervasive, but John knew how to read the signs. He’d talked Caleb down from plenty of metaphorical high places before. Enough to wonder every time if he was only delaying the inevitable. If Darren was, and the psychiatrists and psychologists were, and the pharmacists.

John sighed.

Of course it felt hopeless. It was almost three in the morning and he was sitting in a fucking hospital. Shit always felt dire in the middle of the night.

John reached out and brushed his fingertips against the back of Caleb’s right hand. His skin was cold to the touch, his fingers white and bloodless. Several of his knuckles were grazed. The wounds weren’t fresh.

Darren had said last week that Caleb had punched a wall. Out of nowhere. No warnings signs, no meltdown, just a sudden, furious burst of anger that had broken over him. And afterward, Darren said, when Caleb was sitting on the floor nursing an icepack, he’d refused to talk about it.

Sometimes even Caleb didn’t know what the fuck was happening in his head.

John’s fingertips brushed the wrinkled edge of the tape that held the canula in the back of Caleb’s hand. The plastic tape was dry and rough.

“I bleed and you’re here.”

Fuck.

John straightened and turned his face toward Caleb’s. His face was pale, his lips colourless. Dark circles carved out hollows under his eyes.

“Your dad called me,” John said. “He’s on his way.”

Caleb’s gaze dropped away.

John leaned closer and frowned. “What the fuck are you doing, mate?”

“Bad night.” Caleb pressed his lips into a thin white line.

“Were you clubbing?” John gestured at his clothes: dark jeans, a tight shirt, and—what were the kids calling them these days?—expensive kicks.

Caleb inspected the bandages on his arm. “Yeah.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing.”

“Don’t bullshit me, Caleb.” John was always there to pick up the pieces, but he didn’t coddle Caleb. He never had, not even at the start. “You think I drove all the way here to listen to you lie to me?”

“I was with a guy.” Caleb flinched as he said it.

“Were you safe?”

Caleb’s gaze faltered. “I was with a guy.”

“So you said.” John wondered what reaction Caleb had been expecting. “Were you safe?”

Caleb nodded, turning his face away.

John studied him for a moment, unsure how to react. A part of him was afraid to react at all in case any reaction was an overreaction. Caleb wasn’t coming out as gay—he’d done that at nineteen—but by admitting to a sexual encounter he was coming out in another way: Caleb was coming out as human being who wanted to be touched. A human being with sexual needs. This was a big step. The biggest in a long time. Nobody had expected him to remain celibate forever; nobody thought that was remotely healthy. But fuck, this big step had turned into a hell of a stumble, hadn’t it? Caleb was in freefall.

John reached out and squeezed Caleb’s shoulder. “Did this guy try something? Something you didn’t want to do?”

“No.” Caleb shifted. His worried gaze found John again. “No, it was me, not him.”

John nodded.

“We went to a hotel.” Caleb’s gaze slipped away again. “He said I was a slut.” His voice hitched. “Said I was bad.”

John moved his hand from Caleb’s shoulder to his cheek. Caleb was still so cold. “If you tell me he was being a prick, I’ll track the fucker down.”

“The way he said it, I was supposed to like it. Wasn’t his fault.” Caleb closed his eyes. “I didn’t even mind, not much, not when he was there.”

John sighed. “What happened when he left?”

Caleb shuddered. “When he left, all I could hear in my head was Ethan.”

John tensed, and tried not to let Caleb feel it.

“So loud,” Caleb sighed.

John withdrew his hand. “Look at me.”

Caleb opened his eyes.

“Next time you hear Ethan Gray in your head, you don’t listen to him.” John shook his head. “You call you dad, or your doctor, or you call me, doesn’t matter what time, you call me and I will be there. You understand me?”

Caleb jerked his chin in a nod.

“You don’t cut yourself, Caleb.” John frowned. “You understand me?”

“Okay,” Caleb murmured.

The worst part, John knew, was that Caleb meant it, and would go on meaning it right up until the next time he was holding a blade against his wrists.

You’ll break my heart one day, Caleb Fletcher, I know you will.

John forced a smile. “Okay.”

Caleb sighed and closed his eyes.

John watched him until he fell asleep, then got up and hunted down a blanket.

My Review:
John Faimu is a gay, Australian-Samoan police officer who has kept a long-standing friendship with a man he rescued eight years ago. At fifteen, Caleb Fletcher was beaten half-dead and left to die in a locked shed in a religious commune. The police were there to investigate claims of children going uneducated, and found a hellscape of true believers and their unclaimed children barely surviving the Children of Galilee’s cult leader’s directives. Caleb had been kidnapped by his mother, a cult member, when he was only 4, and he didn’t even remember his true father, let alone his birth name. He did remember watching one of the cult enforcers beat his dear friend Simon to death in the punishment shed. All because Simon and Caleb held hands and kissed where someone could see.

The perpetrators went to jail–including Caleb’s mother–but not for Simon’s murder, because no one could find the body, and there were no missing persons notices outstanding for the boy. Though Caleb and another girl from the cult knew he’d been taken to the punishment shed, they were too unreliable to provide testimony to murder without a body for evidence. Caleb was returned to his father’s care, where he had years of medications, therapy and counseling to treat his PTSD, anxiety and depression. He has a reasonable aversion for christianity, as it triggers his memories of time with the cult. John was asked by Caleb’s father, Darren, to continue coming by and checking in on Caleb. They boy had made a bond with his rescuer, and John was happy to oblige; he was single and compassionate with time on his hands, after all.

Fast forward eight years, and Caleb’s a fully-grown, out-gay man. He’s not able to live alone, and struggles with self-harm when the depression gets too great. His med mix is in constant flux, but he’s trying hard to not be that broken boy John peeled off a shed floor. Caleb has been attracted to John since…ever. And as an adult he feels that John and he are well-suited, if only John wouldn’t make such an issue out of it. They are friends–they could be lovers, right? And, John’s afraid that he’ll hurt Caleb in any way that could trigger his self-harm. It’s entirely possible, but it’s also true that these men have had a lot of love for one another since their fateful meeting.

Bigger problem, the parole board has just released the offenders from Children of Galilee, and they are barred from seeking contact with each other, Caleb, or any of the other cult members that weren’t in jail. And, and the body of an unknown child was just uncovered near a creek bed in an area that had been bushland at the time of Caleb’s rescue, but now is a developed community. It’s a long shot, but if they can tie the DNA from the body to anyone from Children of Galilee those folks are heading back into the clink for murder. That is, if they don’t erase the witnesses before identity can be determined.

Caleb and John are such awesome characters. I loved learning about John’s Samoan heritage through this story. The inclusion of his family–struggling since his father’s recent death–helped round out the story. Glimpses of Samoan culture through foods, sayings, and vignettes were intriguing, and gave me insight I appreciated. Caleb’s story is heart-breaking, and his determination to be as functional as possible in his adult life was commendable and endearing. He’s so gone for John, and his desire to upgrade their relationship from caretaker to lover is poignant. It was super brave of Caleb to state his desires so plainly, and John–who knew years ago that Caleb would break his heart–finally relents believing that he could care for Caleb better than any other stranger. And they are good together, mush to Darren’s chagrin. (Well, he’s struggling with secrets more than sense.) It’s a little tricky at work for John, what with this investigation into the unidentified body and possibly leading back to Caleb, who is still a key witness in Simon’s death.

There ends up being some high-stakes situations in the end, related to the cold case of Simon’s murder. It’s in the moments when John fears losing Caleb forever that he knows he won’t ever let that man slip through his fingers again. I was turning that pages super quick, and fearing it was all going to go really, really bad before the climax. The story is told through John’s POV so there was a lot of fear, adrenaline, anxiety and grief running through those last few chapters–which translated well to me, even knowing it was a romance and we’d all get the HEA. I really liked this interracial, police romance, and the cop-witness dynamic was as intriguing as the older-younger dynamic, virgin hero situation and Aussie setting. Just a great read.

Interested? You can find THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters. Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.
She shares her house with too many cats, a dog, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

Lisa has been published since 2012, and was a LAMBDA finalist for her quirky, awkward coming-of-age romance Adulting 101, and a Rainbow Awards finalist for 2019’s Anhaga.

You can find Lisa on her website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, Goodreads, and Instagram.

Looking for a SAFE PLACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Jay Northcote. SAFE PLACE is the second book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. I really enjoyed BETTER PLACE MUD & LACE and HAPPY PLACE, so I’ve begun digging back in the series for more…

About the book:
Where do you go when your home is no longer a safe place?

Alex is about to turn eighteen and is firmly in the closet. He’s been biding his time, waiting to escape to uni, and finally come out away from the oppressive influence of his homophobic father. When he flunks his exams, he’s stuck in the small town of Porthladock—and what’s worse is that he’s working for his dad. The only thing that makes it bearable is Cam.

Cam’s comfortable with his bisexuality, but he doesn’t broadcast it. Young, free, and single, his social life revolves around playing rugby and hanging out with his mates. He’s attracted to Alex, but with the six-year age gap, Cam’s wary of getting involved. Plus, he thinks Alex needs a friend more than he needs a lover, and as their friendship grows, Cam decides he’s not willing to risk ruining it for casual sex.

When Alex’s dad finds out about his sexuality, Alex is suddenly both jobless and homeless. He finds work at Rainbow Place, the local LGBT-friendly café and Cam lets Alex stay in his flat for a while. But Alex would rather be sleeping in Cam’s bed than on his sofa. With them both living under one roof, their feelings for each other grow stronger, and the sexual tension is hard to ignore. Will giving in to it ruin their friendship and complicate things for Alex even more?

Although this book is part of a linked series, it has a satisfying happy ending, and can be enjoyed as a standalone.

My Review:
Alex and Cam are an odd couple who meet at Rainbow Place, an LGBTQ-friendly cafe due to soon open in Porthladock, Cornwall. Or, not open, as gay bashers have defaced the place and destroyed large parts of the interior to prevent the business from taking root. Cam is a 23 y/o bisexual man playing for the local rugby team, who also works as a landscaper. He recruits his rugby mates to help with the clean up or Rainbow Place.

Alex is 17, and it’s nearly time for his GSCE revisions to be due. He’s gay, but closeted, and his dearest friends are a transgirl and flamboyant gay pal who was once a boyfriend on the super down-low. Alex’s father is a well-to-do businessman and a fan of whomever trashed Rainbow Place, as he’s very much homophobic. Alex fears his dad will kick him out if he comes out, so he’s banking on moving away for college where he can finally live openly. Still, he’s got a major crush on Cam, and is excited that they get a little physical on Alex’s 18th birthday. Yet, he’s deflated when Cam puts the breaks on–Alex is so young, and likely to move away. He doesn’t want to get hung up on the boy, after all. They make a good friends situation and Cam doesn’t want to mess up yet another friendship with sex.

Still, it’s not all easy. Alex’s grades aren’t sufficient to bring him out of his parents’ home, and he ends up working for his dad all summer and then some, while his pals move away. His growing friendship with Cam is fraught with charged moments, and it’s not long before Alex’s desire for companionship blows his world to pieces. His dad finding out in the most embarrassing way possible leads to a physical confrontation that makes Alex flee for his safety. Good thing Cam’s immediately there to help Alex sort out his future. It’s a bit tricky bringing Alex into his rental with Wicksy, a rugby mate. Their close proximity only rallies the attraction between them, as much as Cam tries to apply the brakes.

I liked how this close-knit community rallied around Alex, who makes great strides at independence. Now that he’s on his own, he doesn’t see the point of Cam keeping him at arm’s length. Their attraction isn’t cooling off, in any case, and Cam’s best pals make it clear that he’s doing himself damage by denying what’s right in front of him. The Rainbow Place community is a bosom of support, even as all the folks there are making romantic connections, it seems. Well, it’s the place for meeting like-minded folk and feeling safe, so it lends itself to people who need that support and want to build relationships. Alex is one of those, and he thrives as a server in the cafe. Supporting himself and soon finding permanent lodging is all possible thanks to the support of the Rainbow Place folks.

I also was happy to see Alex find some reconnection to his family, in a way he hadn’t actually predicted. The ending is happy, especially as Alex and Cam find they are great friends and even better lovers. We get some glimmers of stories to come ahead, particularly Wicksy and Alex’s fellow server Dylan finding partners–though not with one another. I was glad to read this new adult romance, and find it so tender and supportive. It’s not as sexy as some of the other stories in this series, but it has enough tenderness and sexytimes for a new adult romance.

Interested? You can find SAFE PLACE on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

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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Unexpected Connection IN OVER OUR HEADS–Review & Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing my review for a newly-released contemporary M/M reconnection romance by CJane Elliot. IN OVER OUR HEADS is the second book in the Stories From the Shore series and I really enjoyed it.

Scroll down to read an excerpt, catch my review and enter the $10 GC giveaway!
About the book:
A second chance for romance on a scuba diving vacation plunges Anthony and Walter into deep waters—will they use love’s lifeline or go under alone?

Party guy Anthony Vallen believes in happy endings—just not for himself. He hits Key West for a vacation with friends, ready for some fun in the sun. To his horror, the owner of the local scuba dive shop is Walter Elkins—former scientist, meticulous control freak, and the guy who broke Anthony’s teenaged heart. Anthony throws up his shields with jokes and banter, but Walter draws him in by admiring him and listening to him like no one else has. Despite their painful past, Anthony’s defenses soften and his reasons for shunning romance no longer hold much water. But whether Walter will come on board remains to be seen. Walter has never gotten over brilliant, fun-loving Anthony, but he’s compelled to keep Anthony safe—not just from the ocean depths but from himself.

Soon Anthony and Walter are in over their heads, their love as unstoppable as the hurricane they find themselves in the middle of. To prevent their fears from pulling them under, Anthony needs to get serious—about his worth and his heart’s true desires, and Walter needs to trust—in himself, in fate, and in Anthony.

2nd book in the series but can be read as a stand-alone. Second Edition, revised and expanded.

How about a little taste?

Miles led us onto the boat and murmured to me as we were getting settled, “You guys are getting the special treatment. Walter doesn’t usually run the cruise excursions anymore. I’m kind of surprised he’s doing it.”
“Miles.” Walter frowned at him, jerking his head in a come here gesture.
“Oops. Duty calls.” Miles gave me a wink and went to help Walter with the jibs or sails or lines or whatever.
I tried to relax and get into vacation mode. What had I told Jonathan mere hours before? I wasn’t going to give Walter Elkins one more thought! It was hard to keep that vow, though, with Walter right there, his hunky body on display, muscles bunching and lengthening as he knelt and reached and got things ready with his usual fierce concentration. Though I knew fuck all about sailing, I was willing to bet that Walter’s preparations were being done rigorously, completely, and perfectly. Even Miles had grown serious and attentive, responding to his terse directions as though it was a military operation.
Meanwhile I became aware of something happening in my body. It was the oddest thing. I’m usually a bundle of nerves and on the manic end of the energy scale. But as I watched Walter, my muscles began to loosen, like they were letting down their guard. A memory darted in of Walter, at the end of high school chemistry class, restoring everything to order in his methodical way, me chattering nonstop as I watched him, and all being right with the world. It had felt safe being around Walter. He’d taken care of everything, slowly and patiently. I could be my fluttery self—a butterfly flitting all over—because I knew he would be there when I needed to land.
Suddenly Walter lifted his eyes and gazed right at me. To my horror, I found myself smiling fondly at him, still in the glow of that long-ago time. I was probably making stupid goo-goo eyes too. He went red and dropped something on the deck with a clang.
“Walter! Watch what you’re doing,” scolded Miles with a mock scowl. He laughed, no doubt pleased that the perfect Walter had been shown to be human.
“Sorry,” Walter muttered, reapplying himself to his task.
I sat still, shaken by how easily I’d slipped into rosy Walter memories. What on earth was wrong with me? Safe? Walter was the guy who’d left me not once but twice, and so callously that I’d been protecting myself from love ever since. Screw him!
I tore my gaze away and caught Sophia watching me with a small smile. She leaned forward and whispered, “Anytime you want to tell me what that’s all about, feel free.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, doll.”
“Okay. If that’s how you want to play it.” She leaned back and lifted her face to the sun. “Ah. It’s so awesome to be back in the sunshine.”
Marco lounged in his seat, looking fucking stupendous, his arm around Jonathan, who rested his head on Marco’s shoulder. I must have been rattled by Walter’s reappearance, because my walls suddenly cracked. Pain lanced through me, and I stopped kidding myself that I wasn’t pea green with envy. I so was.
I froze for a moment, stunned at myself. Could this be true? Could Anthony the Player be merely the facade, while underneath I wanted what Jonny had? Not that I wanted Marco for myself, but was I pining for a man to hold me like that and let me rest my head on his shoulder? All signs pointed to yes. How embarrassing! And how completely unlikely.

My Review:
Anthony Vallen’s is nearing 30 and looking for a lasting love–not that he’ll admit it out loud. He’s super jealous of the deeply committed relationship of his cousin Jonny, who’s marriage to Marco is fairy-tale-esque. Anthony had a love once, back in high school he fell hard for his nerdy, precise science partner, Walter Elkins. They were complete opposites, with out-going, expressive and artful Anthony cracking Walter’s timid shell. Their passion was cosmic, and they were set to be roommates in college, but a freak swimming accident put Anthony in the hospital and sent Walter running to a new school and new life. Anthony never got over this abandonment, and has had one-night stands since.

On vacation to the Florida Keys, Anthony unexpectedly encounters Walter–who owns the premier dive shop on the island. The one Marco has hired for their party’s snorkeling and scuba adventures. Anthony wasn’t planning on going snorkeling, he’s shy of the water since his near-drowning all those years ago. But, Walter stepping in and telling Anthony not to get into the water was just the challenge Anthony needed to break out of his fear. And, getting the attention of Walter’s gorgeous, 22 y/o half-brother Miles is unexpectedly gratifying.

Walter hasn’t had a romantic partner since that fateful day Anthony nearly died swimming back home all those years ago. Anthony was it for him, but Walter has a way of connecting with people who later get dead. It’s a miracle Anthony survived, and Walter would rather be celibate and know Anthony lives than take another chance on his heart at the expense of his love. That’s what he thinks, but the days of Anthony’s visits wear on him–and the taunts of both Anthony and Miles crack the iron shell he’s built around himself. He’s making all sorts of rash decisions, like being the divemaster for Anthony’s trips into the ocean, and following ihm into the water to ensure he’s okay. It’s sweet, and a little creepy, and Walter isn’t happy when Anthony calls him on his crap. So, he has to tell his deep dark history of loss and it’s a bit heartbreaking how isolated he’s made himself.

Thankfully, Anthony’s able to pry the walls apart and crawl deep into Walter’s heart, but as a hurricane sets in on the coast, love might not be enough to keep them together. Also, Anthony has a real life back in Boston, while Walter hasn’t been back there in years; his home and business are in Florida. Also, there are some big decisions to make if they are going to move past the “fling” stage.

I liked this one, it has a bit of danger and a daring rescue, and a separation that only make’s some feelings grow unbearably stronger. Anthony is a fast-talking guy, totally masking his pain and loss from Walter walking away. He’s Mr. Life of the Party, and Walter’s drawn to him just as much now as back in high school. He’s afraid to trust that he can have a good thing–like Anthony’s love–in his life without losing it. And, that fear drives his actions until Miles kicks him in the butt, metaphorically. The end is happy, and satisfying as these guys make plans to keep their lives connected despite the physical distance that would separate them. Anthony’s fun narration really keeps the story rolling, and Walter’s earnest passion is joyful to experience. It was a breezy read for me, and got me hankering for a trip to the coast.

Interested? You can find IN OVER OUR HEADS on Goodreads, Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 Amazon GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, award-winning author CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane writes sexy, passionate LGBTQ romances that explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is bisexual and an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her family supports her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

You can find CJane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and BookBub.

Falling For His PRETTY MAN–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M erotic romance from Ryan Field. PRETTY MAN is a gay erotic love story LOOSELY based on Pretty Woman.

About the book:
Roland Marcus—rich, handsome and pushing 40—is still not over the fact that his 20-year relationship has ended, and desperately needs someone to distract him while he attends a bevvy of charity events in New York. With all eyes upon him, including his ex’s (who left him for a younger man), Roland accidentally bumps into a hot young guy in a used book store…a strapping male hustler whom he decides to hire for one week to accompany him to his social events. He offers him $5,000, with no strings attached, to just stand by his side and look pretty.

Josh Holden, a young guy who is helping to support his son and saving money to buy a business with his best friend and ex-wife, is only too happy to escort Roland anywhere he wants to go that week. And he’s not doing it just for the money…

Roland learns in less than a week’s time that his future can still hold both earth-shattering sex and a love of real substance.

My Review:
This gay erotic romance is LOOSELY based on the movie Pretty Woman. The author has re-written many het romances with a sexy gay slant, and this is no exception.

Roland is a wealthy businessman whose lover of the past 20 years, Kenneth, had recently left him for a younger man. Despite being trim and eligible, Roland feels unsexy and unlovable as a result. He’s due to show up at Kenneth’s at the end of the week for some charity functions, and he wants some sexy eye candy on his arm to help bolster his emotions.

Josh is in his mid-20s. He’s divorced but still sharing custody of his young son with his ex-wife, who’s a sweet gal and Josh’s best friend. They both work as a bookstore, and want to buy it to save it from closing down, but neither has enough capital. Roland learns of their predicament, and he’s totally attracted to sexy and virile Josh, so he offers him $5000 to spend the week as his escort–especially to Kenneth’s society parties. Josh is down–and he’s willing to expand Roland’s sexual horizons is myriad ways.

If you are looking for a dewy-eyed monogamous love story…keep looking. Josh gets up to some very dirty business with Roland, sexying him six ways from Sunday. This includes barebacking, and sharing him with some hardbodied pals, and public sex in an East Village sex shop. Roland’s libido is on fire, and he knows that Josh’s commanding presence is the reason. Plus, Kenneth is all jealous, wanting a piece of Josh the moment they meet.

It’s raw and raunchy and down and dirty fun, but there’s a sweet ending that resolves Josh’s money woes and brings he and Roland together in a new venture. I honestly laughed at some of the meaty descriptions and the aromatic experiences–oniony armpits and musty jockstraps–that turn Roland on. He’s so deliriously happy being Josh’s play-partner it was easy to accept some of their “shocking” sexcapades. I highly recommend if you are looking for an erotic gay romance and don’t mind multi-partner playtimes.

Interested? You can find PRETTY MAN on Goodreads, Riverdale Avenue Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

About the Author:
Ryan Field is a hybrid author of over 100 published modern romance novels and stories, including AN OFFICER AND HIS GENTLEMAN, FANGSTERS, THE RAINBOW DETECTIVE AGENCY and best selling VIRGIN BILLIONAIRE SERIES. RfieldJ@aol.com

You can find Ryan on his website, Twitter, or Facebook Author Page.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Navigating Life’s Pitfalls: KISS ME AGAIN–An Audiobook Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an audiobook review for a contemporary M/M romance from Garrett Leigh. KISS ME AGAIN is a sweet story of connection for a self-isolating man and the manic-depressive friend he makes while they’re in hospital together. I’ve really liked MISFITS, WHAT REMAINS, HOUSE OF CARDS, JUNKYARD HEART and FINDING HOME, so I was eager to experience this one.

About the book:
Tree surgeon Aidan Drummond is content with his own company. He works alone, and lives alone, and it doesn’t occur to him to want anything else until a life-changing accident lands him in hospital. Then a glimpse of the beautiful boy in the opposite bed changes everything.

Ludo Giordano is trapped on the ward with a bunch of old men. His mind plays tricks on him, keeping him awake. Then late one night, a new face brings a welcome distraction. Their unlikely friendship is addictive. And, like most things in Ludo’s life, temporary.

Back in the real world, Aidan’s monochrome existence is no longer enough. He craves the colour Ludo brought him, and when a chance meeting brings them back together, before long, they’re inseparable again.

But bliss comes with complications. Aidan is on the road to recovery, but Ludo has been unwell his entire life, and that’s not going to change. Aidan can kiss him as much as he likes, but if he can’t help Ludo when he needs him most, they don’t stand a chance.

My Review:
Aidan is a gruff and surly tree surgeon who prefers his own company, along with a whiskey. He’s working on a tree when a drunk driver crashes into it, knocking Aiden into a 20+ foot fall that breaks his leg, some ribs and concusses him greatly. He’s confused on the hospital ward, muddled with pain, when another patient, Ludo, attempts to help him find his morphine drip, and a bucket to vomit into.

Ludo is no stranger to hospital. He’s manic-depressive, and his manic trips often end in injury. At the moment, he’s in to have some pins in his wrist replaced–from an earlier “flying” attempt gone wrong. Ludo’s also having his meds updated to keep him more on and even keel, but he’s not taking well to them. He’s intrigued by Aidan, who is big and sexy and struggling to make sense of his injuries. Ludo is a bit of a mother hen, and Aiden seems to allow it, which pleases Ludo. This is in contrast to Aiden’s rough treatment of his cousin Michael, his only family–and only visitor. Not that Ludo has any visitors; his family gave up on him long ago.

Over the course of about 10 days, Aiden and Ludo learn a bit about one another, and strike up the closest thing to a friendship either has experienced in their adult life. Both in their early twenties, they have only the sense to take care of themselves–not anyone else. And, when Ludo is transferred off the ward, Aiden misses him–a feeling that plagues him upon his own release.

Aiden’s cooped up in his squalid bedsit (like a studio flat but smaller) drinking away his days and nights. He struggles to walk with his cane, even as his leg is healing. He might never be able to climb trees again, one of his his only pleasures in life. He’s a bit drunk, and hankering for some outdoors time, so he takes a walk into the nearby woods and there he runs into a man who resembles Ludo greatly–because Ludo is out walking the therapy dog he’s only just gotten. Turns out, they don’t live that far from one another, and Aiden’s inexplicably unwilling to let Ludo escape him again without a word.

Ludo was almost sure that his memories of Aiden were all imaginary. It wouldn’t be the first time his brain tricked him into grave misunderstandings, after all. His meds got switched around a bunch during his stay in hospital, and Ludo’s pretty sure Aiden was a really lucid fever dream, or something. Right? But seeing him in flesh-and-blood re-boots something in Ludo’s mind. Their first reconnection is tenuous, but they continue to see one another, cautiously exploring the other’s real world. Ludo makes Aiden home-cooked meals, eager to lavish him with care, while Aiden begins planting an herb garden for Ludo–so he’ll have fresh herbs to cook with. THey take walks and cuddle close, spending time with Ludo’s dog and the cat that ‘s adopts Aiden. Their closeness solidifies their attraction, and tiny steps toward physicality begin with a bit of kissing. Over time, Aiden heals enough for light duty work, and Ludo’s meds have his mood stabilized. This brings more issues, though, because Ludo’s so happy he’s not sure if he’s becoming dependent upon Aiden–and the more he feels regularly “happy” and “normal” the more he struggles to remember to take his meds.

Aiden wonders and worries when Ludo’s behavior becomes erratic. Is he doing something wrong that pushes Ludo away, or is Ludo struggling within his mind again? Could Ludo do himself harm? It’s happened before, Aiden thinks. Their connection is strong, now that they’ve been seeing one another for a couple of months, but can Aiden help Ludo find himself again, once the mania seems to set in?

This is a really sweet and tender story, with so many moments of just awesome human connection. I loved how Aiden came out from his shell–his life had been hard: his mom died when he was 6 and his dad was a drunk Aiden took care of more than the other way around. His dad kicked it a couple of years back from liver disease, and he’s been mainly on his own since a young age. To open up and embrace Ludo–who is sweet and charming and kind–is a big step for guarded Aiden, but it seems he’s fallen head over heels for Ludo. And, that’s important because Ludo needs someone who will love him steadily, especially when Ludo can’t remember to slow down and love himself.

The audiobook was really captivating. At just over 5.5 hours, the pace seemed right. The narrator, Dan Calley, was able to capture Aiden’s gruff tones and Ludo’s more melodic voice admirably. I could sense the pain and urgency in Aiden’s thoughts as well as the subtle confusion and blank expanse of Ludo’s musings in the recording. I’ve listened to it at least twice now, and I know I’ll listen again. This story is heavy on connection and light on sexytimes, but the romance is strong, and the moves both Aiden and Ludo make to be better men for their partner is all I could have hoped to find. Definitely recommend!

Interested? You can find KISS ME AGAIN on Goodreads, Amazon, Audible audiobook or iTunes audiobook.

About the Author:
Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.

Otherwise you can find her on her website, twitter or Facebook.

Now Available! HAPPY PLACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance newly released from Jay Northcote. HAPPY PLACE is the fifth book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. I really enjoyed BETTER PLACE, and MUD & LACE, so I’m always eager for a new installment in this engaging series.

About the book:
A first kiss from a younger man leads to a sexual awakening…

George’s strict upbringing has left him ashamed of his sexuality. In his forties now, he’s yet to come out or even kiss a man – until he meets Quentin.

Quentin has had enough of bad relationships with men who won’t commit. Still raw from the last one, he’s not ready to try again. But George is sweet, and helping the older man get some experience might be a fun diversion.

Swept rapidly into a deeper connection than they bargained for, they face a dilemma. George isn’t ready to come out, and Quentin wants a boyfriend who isn’t afraid to be seen with him in public. Can they find a way to navigate the unpredictable waters of their new relationship and find happiness together?

Contains: Age gap, gay first times, sexual exploration, out for you.

My Review:
Quentin is a young out-gay reporter, who’s a little melancholy that he can’t find a steady bloke. He’d had a mini-crush on Seb, owner of Rainbow Place, the lone local gay-friendly hangout near his home in Porthladock, Cornwall. Alas, Seb–who is a bit older as Quentin likes older men–is happily coupled with another man. They has all met when Quentin did a peice of Rainbow Place, how it got trashed by homophobes prior to it’s opening, and how the community in Porthladock came together to help rebuild it before the business went under.

Quentin meets George, a local shipbuilder, while working on a piece about other local businesses. George is in his early 40s and fit as all get out, thanks to his spartan life and physical labor–absolute catnip for Quentin ordinarily. George is also closeted, and terribly awkward about his sexuality; he’d been raised in a strictly religious house, and married and fathered a daughter before his lack of attraction to his wife made his marriage fell apart. His wife could never entice him into romance, and gave up on reconciling–George, too ashamed to reveal his true sexuality kept it all a secret, and it’s eating him alive. Meeting young and sexy Quentin is a watershed moment for George, especially when Quentin mistakes George’s inability to meet his gaze as latent homophobia. Quentin himself had been frustrated to be attracted to a homophobe–and pleasantly surprised when George confesses that he’s not only gay, but that he’s never been with another man.

Their attraction is mutual, after this little blip, and Quentin even offers to help George explore his sexuality on the down-low and casual. It’s a bit of a problem, actually, the casual part because George has never really had a casual partner, he’s only ever had two sexual partners in his life, and Quentin is so young and shiny and hopeful. George is sure this is a bad idea. But, he needs physical affection badly, and he and Quentin have ignitable chemistry. They start out rather slow, but George’s desire for dominance–another shameful secret–soon asserts itself, and Quentin is happy to have such a butch older man give him what-for. At least, until their feelings become engaged. Because, yeah, Quentin still wants a true partner, and closeted George is not planning to come out.

Naturally, George senses the tension. He thinks it’s just that Quentin might get itchy feet–after all, George doesn’t see himself as much of a catch. Why should he come out and upset his whole life? Quentin will likely find a young, educated partner for himself before long and then George can go back to his solitary, celibate life, right? It takes George recognizing that his solitary, celibate life isn’t much of one–and that Quentin thinks he’s the bee’s knees and would happily give up all men forever if he could only spend every night in George’s bunk–to spur on the climax and resolution.

I loved how we got to see some characters from previous books in this one. Seb is a big confidant, helping both Quentin and George through their rough patches. There’s some really dirty sexytimes, and really sweet moments of tenderness so we get a full balance of hotness. The secondary characters in this story are mainly women, and they do a great deal to support both Quentin and George–most especially George as he comes out. I really enjoyed his reconciliation with his ex-wife, who is a dear lady and George has love for her, even if it isn’t sexual. I just really enjoy these “every man” stories, and each time I pick up one of these books I’m transported to southwest England in a way that makes me hunt down digital maps of the region and consider travel ideas.

Interested? You can find HAPPY PLACE on Goodreads and Amazon.

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.

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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