LEANING INTO FOREVER–Audiobook review

Hi there! Going back into my WAY BACK mode, I missed this M/M romance from Lane Hayes, which came out several months back…but it recently dropped as an audiobook! LEANING INTO FOREVER is the seventh book in her Leaning In series, and follows the love story of Geordie, a grieving widower and partner to Wes at Conrad Winery. He’s vowed to never find another man to fill his heart, but retired baseball player, Levi, unexpectedly slides past his defenses. I really liked LEANING INTO THE FALL, LEANING INTO ALWAYS, LEANING INTO A WISH, LEANING INTO THE LOOK, and LEANING INTO TOUCH, so I was eager to round out my experiences with these Bay-area romances.

About the book:
Geordie de la Rosa is a legend among wine lovers in Napa Valley. His ultra-fabulous style paired with a penchant for leading impromptu sing-a-longs has made him a star attraction at Conrad Winery. Co-owning a well-respected winery was never Geordie’s aspiration but he likes the niche he’s made for himself. He won’t deny that his job and his friends have helped ease his heartache and grief after the death of his longtime partner.

Levi Yeager excels at the art of reinventing himself. He’s been a minor league baseball player, a college coach and now a restaurant owner. The problem is he doesn’t know a thing about the food business. And when his chef quits unexpectedly, he’s afraid his new venture is doomed. But Levi isn’t a quitter. It may be the only thing he has in common with the beautiful, sassy man from the neighboring winery who agrees to help get his new business up and running. Neither man counts on their fast friendship or the wild attraction they feel for each other. However, they know they won’t stand a chance until they let go of the past and lean into forever.

How about a little taste?

“My game is coming back. If I keep talking and you keep listening, you’ll eventually warm up to me. Where was I?”

“The psychology of alliterations,” I deadpanned.

“Right. Your tone is imperial, you use alliterations like a poet and you dress like a diva. You’re pleasant to strangers but you hold them at bay. You’re kind but controlled. Most likely you were an elite member of a royal family in a former life.”

“You’re probably right,” I said, amused in spite of myself. “Since you have me figured me, let me see if I can do the same.”

“Be my guest.” Levi made a sweeping motion with his left arm before resting it on his steering wheel. The casual gesture was ripe with potent masculinity. And I hated that I noticed.

I tore my gaze from his stubble jaw and cleared my throat. “You’re a newly out sports enthusiast at a crossroad.”

“Sports enthusiast at a crossroads,” he repeated with a laugh. “I guess that’s better than has-been athlete looking for a new gig.”

“As you said, I do have a way with words and I’m a firm believer it’s crucial to accentuate the positives.” I set my hand over his without thinking then pulled back when a familiar spark of awareness skittered along my spine.

Levi smirked. “You’re weird. I like you.”

“Thanks. I like you too. Platonically of course,” I added.

“Of course. What exactly is my crossroad?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps you quit your job to try a new venture with this lover who dumped you and now you’re heading to LA to woo him back—”

“Not a chance,” he snapped.

I raised a brow at his vehemence. “Or…you’re going on a fact-finding mission to salvage what you can of your original idea and determine what comes next.”

Levi nodded. “Closer.”

“Have you thought about selling the diner?”

“Yes. But I’m not going to.”

“Why not?”

“I have nothing to lose. And you know what? It’s kinda liberating. No net required ’cause I’m already free falling. Have you ever felt that way before, Geord?”

Every fucking day.

Silence fell like a blanket between us. Soft and warm and safe.  I didn’t want to break the quiet but I couldn’t allow myself to be pulled under either.

I licked my lips and whispered, “Yes.”

Suddenly, I couldn’t move and I couldn’t look away. Maybe I was a sucker for ruggedly handsome men who weren’t ashamed to reveal their vulnerable sides. I admired that he made free-falling sound like an adventure. I’d been doing it for nearly four years and my outlook was nothing like Levi’s. I worked my ass off to make sure no one knew how tired and raw and afraid I felt every damn day. I clung to the best parts of my past like a lifeline, hoping my ghosts would ease the inevitable ‘splat on the concrete’ nosedive I had coming my way.

Levi’s story was certainly different, but I recognized something in him I knew too well. A desperate spirit that wasn’t quite ready to give up. I’d like to think that sense of acknowledgment was why I leaned across the console, closed my eyes and pressed my lips against his.

My Review:
Geordie is a mature man who’s suffered the loss of his long-time partner, Mike. Geordie remains a partner in the Conrad Winery, that Mike and his best friend (and former lover) Wes Conrad founded together. Wes and Geordie didn’t get along at first, but Geordie’s brash, in-your-face diva role from his years as a drag queen mellowed during his ten years with Mike, and now the four years since his death. He still entertains at the winery, belting out show tunes while expertly pairing food and wine, though, and Wes volunteers Geordie to assist a new cafe owner in setting up a pairing menu–now that the cafe will feature only Conrad wines exclusively.

Levi Yeager is a retired baseball player in his late thirties, but he’s only newly out in the gay scene. His dream to return to the family cafe he grew up in is in jeopardy, now that his head chef–and former lover–has decided not to relocate to Napa from L.A. Levi’s pretty-much immediately taken with Geordie, who feels he’s a decade past his prime, but can’t help feeling flattered by the admiration of such a strong, sexy younger man. Levi proposes a partnership–Geordie helping him with translating his grandmother’s cookbook–written in Spanish–and he’ll show Geordie there’s more life to be lived.

As much as Geordie struggles to let go of his grief, he’s also aware that he is still alive, and that Levi doesn’t treat him like the broken man he’s felt like since Mike passed. It’s bittersweet how Geordie feels compelled to maintain his celibacy, and constantly talk to Mike as if he’s listening. Levi takes it all in stride, getting Geordie to open up and experience some new and old things–like riding a motorcycle for the first time, and riding a Vespa again after two decades. Geordie’s friends see the changes for the better, and this gives Geordie the confidence to let Levi in when he would not normally do so. Levi is tender, and patient. He cherishes the struggle Geordie fights to take a chance on love again. It’s kinda funny how they struggle with jealousy issues to a small degree.

I liked the audiobook, and valued the narrator’s gravitas when rendering Geordie’s voice. Both men seem to have problems with starting over, but Levi’s are centered in falling for the wrong man again, while Geordie’s stem from guilt over “forgetting” Mike. Thing is, Levi’s okay with Geordie’s love for Mike, and thinks it’s perfectly fine for him to grieve and find new love. It was so wholly accepting, and gave Geordie the courage to start again. They have a bit of sexytimes, and it’s both sad and celebratory. I really enjoyed the depth of emotions in the book, and I felt it came through is a big way because the narrator’s voice carried the pain of loss, and the hollowness of the shell he’d become to mask his grief. It was endearing to watch him open up and accept Levi’s love. I really enjoyed.

Interested? You can find LEANING INTO FOREVER on Goodreads, Amazon ebook, and Audible (audiobook).

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Catch up with Lane on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

About the Narrator:
Nick Russo is an award winning narrator with a fan following for his work in fiction, specifically in the romance genre. His performances in two of Amy Lane’s books, Beneath the Stain and Christmas Kitsch, made him the recipient of Sinfully M/M Book Review’s Narrator of the Year – 2015. When he’s not in the booth, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife, Jessica, and kids, (aka their beagle Frank and cat Stella), drumming in his cover band, exploring rural back roads with his wife on his motorcycle, or being enthralled in a tabletop role playing game with his friends.

Catch up with Nick on Facebook and Twitter.

Falling for PROFESSOR ADORKABLE Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release week review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Edie Danford. I’ve reviewed a few of Edie’s books for Joyfully Jay, and I’ve liked all of them. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest release, PROFESSOR ADORKABLE, because it features a nerdy Czech physics professor and the adorbs housekeeper who helps him feel brave and desirable. It’s such a sweet odd-couple, friends to lovers story.

Catch an excerpt and enter to win in the $10 Amazon GC giveaway down below.
About the book:
What happens when a star-gazing professor falls for his hot young housekeeper? One heck of an earthy explosion…

Professor Marek Janos’s genius at analyzing stellar explosions doesn’t apply to his own disordered world. Forgetting to eat, sleep, and leave his lab has triggered some epic personal disasters. When his family insists he hire live-in help, he discovers home life has awesome benefits. His new housekeeper’s smile sparks more energy than a supernova. And the way he moves? It rocks Marek’s galaxy.

Pete Schulz took a tough fall from his high-flying life in Hollywood. But how does a guy whose best skill is getting dirty clean up his act? His new gig with Domesticated Inc seems like a great first step. Keeping house for a nerdy young astrophysics professor is exactly the low-key, no-chance-for-trouble job he needs, right?

Living together is surprisingly easy for both men. And fun. And more than a little hot. It’s when they’re faced with the idea of living apart that the truly messy work begins…

How about a little taste?

“I made the mess,” I tell my housekeeper. “So I will clean it up.”

“Yeah, I know you can clean it up if given several hours,” Pete responds, his smile crooked. There are no signs of exasperation on his face or in his tone. No signs that he’s upset I’ve woken him up with the sound of breaking glass, and that his once-pristine kitchen floor is now covered with a mess I could have easily avoided if I’d been paying attention. “But it’s my job. Tomorrow morning your job is to go teach a class. You’ll sleep until eight, eat a good breakfast, and then be off.”

I raise my eyebrows. “That is exactly how it will happen?”

“I’ll make sure of it.”

“What if I want to negotiate?”

“Negotiate?”

“Yes. Things can be negotiated in a democratic household, yes?”

“Democratic?”

I smile. “We have no dictators here. Or kings or queens.”

“Well.” He snorts. “There is that matter of your uncle signing my paycheck. But I get what you’re saying, I guess. What were you interested in negotiating?”

“Tonight I feel…antsy? Unable to relax.” I move my shoulders up and down to show him all this tension I’m experiencing. “I’ll go upstairs and sleep, but first I would like company. To hang out with you. For a while.”

His mouth droops as he folds his arms across his bare chest and stares at me. “So you’re saying you’ll let me do my job. But only if I give up my free time for you?”

“Um.” It’s cool in the kitchen, but my face suddenly becomes steam-burn hot.

Damn. I’m incredibly bad at talking to him—or any guy—I find attractive. Doesn’t matter where I am—Prague, Pasadena, Chicago. My language barrier isn’t about Czech versus English. It’s about my head versus my tongue.

What I want with Pete is complicated, not simple. But, as usual, I’ve said words that could be construed as—

God, I don’t even know what.

“You suck at negotiating, Marek.” He says it with a kind note in his voice.

“Yes.” I clear my throat. “I do.”

He sighs and runs his hand over his short hair—hair I want so fucking badly to touch. Is it bristly, soft? Would it sift through my fingers easily, or would it be like my hair and cling to my skin?

“I suppose we could listen to one Harry Potter chapter,” he says, lacking his usual enthusiasm for the idea. “But just one. And if you fall asleep or if I fall asleep or if we both fall asleep, it will be your job to wake up and go back to bed. No sleepovers. That’s a rule that’s not allowed to change.”

I swallow. Ordinarily I would give him shit about the unreasonableness of his request—if we’re asleep, how will we know we’re asleep and thus breaking his rules?

But I keep quiet tonight. I know I’m pushing him. I know he’s beginning to figure out I want more than just his company. So much more.

If this were a work-related matter, I would get my way with a few basic words. Logic applies in my lab. When it comes to my personal life, however, logic rarely applies. Basic words never seem to work.

If I tell Pete what I really want—to take him into his room, to put him on his comfortable bed, to kiss his clever mouth over and over and over, to blow him until his sweet hotness spills down my throat, to hold him tightly and use friction to excellent effect (inside or outside our bodies, I don’t care) until we both come—then he would say “no” quickly and firmly, and quietly shut that detestable door in my face. And I’ll be lucky if he’s still around in the morning.

The situation between us is confusing. I hope this is more than just his workplace. We are friends. He’s my best friend, actually. And he’s the one who makes this place a home.

Occasionally, I have a hard time understanding…what had my language tutor called it? Nuance. Nuanced meanings. Pete and I have a lot of nuances happening between us.

“One chapter would be good,” I tell him. “Chapter Twelve. ‘The Tri-wizard Tournament.’ I need to know all about it.”

He nods and tips his head toward the open door to his suite. “I’ll meet you in there.”

My heart bounces around in my chest—more zaps from that ionizer—but my head doesn’t like the take-care-of-business look on Pete’s face. No smile, no teasing, no dancing notes to the way his boots clap against the tile floor. He checks the locks and the deadbolts on the back door and walks toward his room.

He glances at his doorway and then me, his eyebrows rising. He looks as though he’s holding his breath, maybe holding back a sigh.

Maybe it would be better to give him space tonight. Better for me to be apart from what I want so much, but can’t have. I should walk away, go back to my room without bothering Pete.

My damp toes stick to the cold floor. I want to be more than a job for him. I want to be more than some guy he feels sorry for, some guy who can’t even say what he wants.

I walk over to the sink and retrieve a glass from the nearby cabinet. I fill the glass half full at the tap and then drink. I set it down carefully. The water is cold, but my skin feels hot. I can feel Pete watching me, waiting.

My eyes shift to the hallway. But my feet carry me toward Pete.

My Review:

Marek Janos is a certified astrophysics genius. He’s 26, with two PhDs and a professorship at University of Chicago–yet he struggles with the day-to-day business of life. Sure, part of this is due to him being a Czech transplant to the States but mostly it’s him being out-of-step with real life. He’s an adult, but a bit naive, with a history of being taken advantage of–mostly recently by his ex-boyfriend who quite literally took him for all he was worth. Homeless, living in his lab, and ill weren’t what his family wished to see, so his uncle took it upon himself to find Marek a house, and housekeeper, when he moved from California to Chicago.

Pete is a 23 y/o out gay man trying to live without being fabulous for a change. He’s recently returned from a life and scene in LA where his assistant job for a TV studio exec had an “anything goes” policy–and apparently anything went… Ashamed of his callow life, and burning off the fumes of Insta-fame gone stale, Pete is happy to be a domestic assistant, and Marek’s home is an ideal place to work. Doesn’t matter that Marek is “adorkable;” Pete is remaining celibate, and steering clear of blurring any lines in his professional capacity. He’s got a bunch of rules to keep him free of sexy entanglements, and he doesn’t want to risk being fired due to the clause in his one-year contract that will keep him from contacting Marek, who has become his friend.

Pete likes Marek. A lot. He’s also suspicious why Marek’s uncle insisted on hiring him–specifically he was looking for a “worldly gay man” to manage Marek’s household–because reasons. Did he expect Pete to be more than a housekeeper? Or was he simply concerned that Marek would need someone to help him out of his shell. It’s confusing, and Pete needs clarity. Of course, Marek and Pete have been getting closer and closer as the months have passed. They spend time talking, and listening to audiobooks of Harry Potter cozied up in Pete’s room. Pete takes the time to make special treats for Marek, and this makes Marek feel special. Comfortable. Interested.

Marek’s not so good with nuance, but he’s definitely able to be direct. He makes no mistake about how he wants Pete to be more than his housekeeper. His friend, his lover. These are the roles Marek wants to see Pete in. There are some complications regarding family, and Pete’s desire to be with Marek without messing up his life again. They make an agreement that Pete will be a test subject in Marek’s exploration of the Chicago gay scene. Pete only agrees to some level of intimacy–well more intimacy–if Marek will date other, suitable men. See, Pete, due to his history of being a boy toy, doesn’t feel worthy of being loved by Marek. Meanwhile, Marek decides to up his game, calling Pete’s old friends for make-overs that turn Pete’s head nearly off his body. The urge for each man to take care of the other is both tender and strong. Marek never doubts that Pete is good enough; he only fears he won’t be brave enough to do what is necessary to prove he’s capable of surviving on his own so Pete doesn’t feel as if Marek’s “love” is just misplaced need. Not that Pete thinks Marek will take advantage of him.  Pete has the resources to walk away from Marek, as it turns out. But, should he?

I really loved how these guys interact. They are so careful, and thoughtful, with one another. Pete’s tentative nature about slipping into bad patterns is interesting, and admirable. Marek’s naivete is charming, as is his calculating mind. He approaches problems head-on now, which shows a lot of growth over his previous experiences in Cali. His absolute steadfast belief that he will win Pete’s heart and mind is endearing. Pete, despite his youthful foibles, is really being a bit too hard on himself, and Marek helps him recognize this. Marek’s Czech-accented English felt more charming than stereotypical, and the boys all seem to swoon for Marek, but he’s only got eyes for his Pete. The Chicago realities–including the crap weather in January and the crap traffic any dang time of year–were spot on, for me. As a Chicago native, I loved those details and look forward to seeing more of it in books in this new series. I liked the secondary characters, especially Marek’s gal-pal Zoe, who’s an outspoken teen girl who works in his lab. She’s got gumption, and is willing to help Marek tailor his experiments to get the desired results: Pete loving Marek…forever.

Interested? You can find PROFESSOR ADORKABLE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

Meet the Author
Edie lives in Vermont with her husband, two sons, and random creatures that might or might not be pets. She loves libraries (where she’s found play, work, and love since she was a kid), long walks (unless ice is involved), lewd language (in the right context), luscious romance (of any variety), and alliteration.

Catch up with Edie on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Out today! STARTING OVER–Release Day Blitz and Giveaway!

Hi there! I’ back with a release day blast and giveaway for a new book and series by C.J. Baty. STARTING OVER is the first book in her Knights Club series, but is a spin off from the Warfield Hotel Mystery books. I’m looking forward to sharing a review for it next week.

Scroll down for more info and enter to win an ebook in the giveaway.
About the book:
Xavier Knight was starting his life over. A new city. A new club. The past was gone, and he had everything to look forward to… except… love. That ship had sailed, never to return. He was too old to play the games or stack up the one night stands. Until, an old enemy’s son walked into his club and his heart.

Sebastian Brady was through. Through with hiding who he was. Through letting his brother officers dictate his life. And completely through, with his family telling him who he was. He turned his back on his badge and his family’s heritage in the Atlanta police force. But, he never imagined that he’d be serving drinks in a gay bar and working for the hottest silver fox he had ever seen in his life.

Xavier and Seb have a lot to learn from each other. Hopefully, their growing love will survive Xavier’s past, Seb’s family, and a host of characters with secrets of their own, who all work at the Knights Club.

Insights from the Author:

The Knights Club (formerly the Gentleman’s Club) first appeared in the Warfield Hotel Mysteries Series. It was owned by Stony Whitecastle and is located in Atlanta, GA. At the beginning of the Knights Club/Starting Over, Stony is selling the club to Xavier Knight. He renames the club the Knights Club and instead of a private club opens it the public. Some patrons still hold membership though.

This series involves Xavier and his crew of employees and their involvement with a local police family. We meet Sebastian Brady in Starting Over along with his dysfunctional family. Seb’s struggle with his homophobic oldest brother and the shadow of his dead father, Detective Delmonico Brady, haunts Seb as he tries to make a new life for himself.

Occasionally, a character from the Warfield Hotel series will pop up but they are not central to the story line. Everyone who works at the Knights Club has a past and secret they are running from. They are mixed bag of people who have been suffered many things. The Knights Club is their home and the people who work there are their families. But, even families don’t like each other all the time…

The Knights Club Series Release schedule:
Bk. 1 Starting Over September 18, 2018 Today, yo!
Bk. 2 Letting Go October 2018
Bk. 3 Coming Out November 2018
Bk. 4 Learning Trust December 2018
Bk. 5 Deserving Forgiveness January 2019

Interested? You can find STARTING OVER on Goodreads and Amazon US and UK.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win an ebook of STARTING OVER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:
C. J. Baty lives in southwest Ohio. Her heart, however, lives in the mountains of Tennessee where she hopes to retire some day. The mountains have always provided her with inspiration and a soothing balm to the stresses of everyday life.

The dream of writing her own stories started in high school but was left on the back burner of life until her son introduced her to fan fiction and encouraged her to give it a try. She found that her passion for telling a story was still there and writing them down to share with others was much more thrilling than she had ever expected.

She has a loving and supportive family who don’t mind fixing their own meals when she is in the middle of a story, and a network of friends who have encouraged and cheered her on in her quest of being an author.

One thing she has learned from life and she is often heard to say is: “You are never too old to follow your dream!”

Catch up with C.J. on her website, Facebook or twitter.

Out Now! LOVE SPELL Review and Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A yummy taste…

Chapter One: Shine On, Harvest Moon

Just call me brazen.

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

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

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

Chance César is a brazen B.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, this is some beauty pageant realness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

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

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

Rock Starred: RIVEN, a Review

Hi there! Long time no posts… EEP!! I got sucked into overtime in the past two-weeks, and my life went haywire. That said, I’m still reading tons, so today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M rock romance from Roan Parrish. RIVEN features a lead singer at the top of his fame falling for a musician hiding from his addictions.

About the book:
Theo Decker might be the lead singer of Riven, but he hates being a rock star. The paparazzi, the endless tours, being recognized everywhere he goes—it all makes him squirm. The only thing he doesn’t hate is the music. Feeling an audience’s energy as they lose themselves in Riven’s music is a rush unlike anything else . . . until he meets Caleb Blake Whitman. Caleb is rough and damaged, yet his fingers on his guitar are pure poetry. And his hands on Theo? They’re all he can think about. But Caleb’s no groupie—and one night with him won’t be enough.

Just when Caleb is accepting his new life as a loner, Theo Decker slinks into it and turns his world upside-down. Theo’s sexy and brilliant and addictively vulnerable, and all Caleb wants is another hit. And another. That’s how he knows Theo’s trouble. Caleb can’t even handle performing these days. How the hell is he going to survive an affair with a tabloid superstar? But after Caleb sees the man behind the rock star, he begins to wonder if Theo might be his chance at a future he thought he’d lost forever.

My Review:
Theo Decker is the lead singer of Riven, a rock band formed by his three bandmates: Coco, Ven and Ethan. He was brought on board and his vocals and songs have propelled the band into stardom. But, Theo’s always felt like the odd-man-out, in his band and his family. Disconnected and frustrated by the stifling trappings of his unwanted fame, he stumbles into a dark bar called by a haunting tune drifting into the alley.

Caleb Blake Whitman was a top blues guitarist and songwriter, but for trips to rehab has left him a shell of the vibrant man he’d been. Clean from his heroin habit for the past year, he’s just starting to write songs again. Meeting the sexy, yet shy Theo isn’t in his life plan. They have some serious chemistry in the bedroom–so much so that Theo tracks Caleb down when he’s off tour. Caleb isn’t thrilled about the prospect of dating a rock star because fame brings drugs–and he’s unsure if he can be around Theo and avoid the pull of his addictions.

I liked the slow steps these guys took into making their relationship work. Theo only feels truly at home when he’s near Caleb. They build a camaraderie that makes a safe zone for Caleb to write music again–songs for himself, for his former lover and best-friend, and songs for Theo. Theo’s writing is changing, too, and his new music isn’t in sync with Riven’s style or brand. Being loved by Caleb is a big bolster to Theo’s self-esteem. His disenchantment with touring and fame has been taking a huge toll on his emotional health. The few times Caleb’s able to be with Theo when he performs are big steps for both of them, but Caleb’s fear of failing in his sobriety is a huge barrier to their happiness. Caleb holds Theo at arm’s length in fear that the love he’s feeling is too close the the high he got while using. It’s a tough balance actually, and takes some hard truths from his sponsor and his bestie to get past his fear.

Theo’s ready for a big change, and while he’s been building some stronger friendships within the band, he knows that continuing that lifestyle is untenable. Especially if he’s going to build a life with Caleb. Theo’s emotions are so palpable, and overwhelming. He’s a guy who craves love, and Caleb’s attention is the most love he’s had in a long time, maybe ever. I liked this one a lot. Theo and Caleb are both out, and their problems aren’t related to their sexuality. Instead, they struggle with finding healthy love that supports and affirms. Theo’s sterile childhood set him up for a lonely adulthood, which is paradoxically reinforced by his fame. Caleb never had a problem with fame, it’s drugs that ruined his life and career. Each man has to learn to love himself, first, and that helps them to each be better partners for the other. It’s a sweet story with yummy sexytimes.

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

About the Author:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

You can find Roan online on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Being True to LOVE YOU SO MADLY–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Tara Lain. LOVE YOU SO MADLY is the second book in her Love You So series and features a successful business man who unexpectedly falls for the office handy-man. I’ve really loved a bunch of Ms. Lain’s odd-couple romances including VOLLEY BALLS, BEAUTY INC and THE LORD OF A THOUSAND STEPS to name a few.

Scroll down for an excerpt, my review and to enter the $10 Amazon GC giveaway!
About the book:
Ben Shane has it all… and he’d like to give some of it back. While he loves his job heading a foundation that funds worthy causes around the world, his engagement to one of America’s wealthiest men leaves him feeling more like a trophy wife than a valued partner. The first warning that his relationship might not be designed to last is his irresistible lust for Dusty Kincaid, the golden-haired, bright-eyed handyman for his company.

Though Dusty is odd for a twenty-three-year-old—no liquor, no sugar, and he can’t even drive—the more Ben gets to know Dusty, the more he admires him. But is Ben going to give up a guy who drives a Ferrari for one who takes the bus? He must be mad. Dusty knows he and Ben can never work.

After all, Ben’s perfect… and Dusty isn’t. But Ben might surprise everyone with proof that he’s only madly in love.

How about a little taste?

In the car Dusty said, “Can we listen to that nice music again?”

He’d noticed. “Sure.” Ben flipped on the Chopin.

For a few minutes, they rode in music. Ben cleared his throat. “Dusty, do you mind if I ask how old you are?”

“Oh sure. I’m twenty-three. How old are you?”

Ben almost laughed. As an executive in a top firm, nobody ever asked him that. But turnabout was fair. “I’m twenty-nine.”

“Wow. You’ve done a lot in your life.”

“Thank you.” Ben glanced at Dusty.

“I haven’t been able to do so much, but I’m working at it.”

“That’s what counts. Keep moving toward your dreams.”

“I like that idea a lot.” He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

“So your dad doesn’t live at home?”

“No. Never has. My mom’s taken good care of me, though.”

“Has she always been a nurse?”

“No. She had to work so hard. She was only sixteen when she had me, but she never gave me up, no matter what anyone said.” He took a deep breath and let it out in a long exhale. “And no matter how hard it was.”

“She sounds amazing.”

“She is.” He looked out the window. “It’s hard for her to, you know, let me do stuff, but she’s the best mom.”

“So you’re not married?” Ben chuckled.

Dusty mirrored the chuckle. “Not yet.”

“Have a girlfriend?” Oh, very subtle, Shane.

“No.”

“Not yet, huh.”

“Not ever. I’m gay. But I don’t have a boyfriend yet. I’d like to, though.”

Well, okay. Ben swallowed. “You would?”

“Sure, wouldn’t you?”

“I’m, uh, engaged.” Shit. Shit. Shit. When did I decide to become Mr. Purveyor of Truth?

The passenger seat became deeply silent.

Ben glanced over. Dusty’s eyes were closed, and he seemed to be breathing deeply.

“You okay?”

“What?” His eyes fluttered open.

“Sorry. Just asking how you’re doing?”

“Good, thanks. Just drop me on the curb over there.” He pointed to one of the entrances to Orange Coast College.

“How will you get back to my place?”

“Bus.” He smiled, but his glance scampered all over the place as he opened the door. “Have a great day.”

Ben couldn’t stop. He put a hand on Dusty’s arm—his sinewy, muscled, hot-as-fuck arm. “Dusty, what’s wrong? Come on, tell me.”

“Nothing, honest. Just sometimes it’s hard not to wish I was somebody else.”

My Review:
While this is the second book in a series, it’s easily enjoyed on it’s own.

Ben Shane is a 29 year-old manager of a foundation that oversees corporate donations. He matches donors with worthy causes that align with the person’s, or corporation’s, missions-slash-beliefs. Philanthropy is a huge part of Ben’s mindset, and it’s partly why he’s struggling with his new fiance, Alan Ashland–sole heir to the Ashland fortune. See, Alan can’t wait until they get married and spend weeks on end traveling for their honeymoon. While Alan seems to have a deep affection for Ben, he also wants a trophy husband who will make all his society dinners and be able to jet-off…whenever for whatever. There’s a lot of tension there, and also over BEn’s unwillingness to sell his cottage in Laguna that’s currently being re-habbed.

Ben has mixed feelings about his life plans, and it doesn’t help that he’s more than a little intrigued by Dusty, the genial, hard-working IT-fixer and general handyman in Ben’s office. Dusty is 23, yet he lives at home with his overprotective mother, can’t drive or drink alcohol. He’s fastidious about his diet, and he’s eager to help Ben out–in whatever capacity Ben needs. Dusty fair swoons for the man, and is deeply disappointed to learn Ben’s engaged. Still, Dusty accepts the offer of a part-time job managing the construction project at Ben’s home, and that’s where things get messy.

Having Dusty in Ben’s home really crosses their wires. The pressure between Ben and Alan has reached crucial levels, and the simplicity of hanging around with Dusty makes it plain that he’s not happy in his relationship. The chemistry is fantastic, but Dusty’s big medical secret is a barrier–perhaps. I liked how the reveal was made, with Dusty and Ben finding more than common ground in ways neither expected. It was intriguing how Dusty’s welfare dove-tailed with BEn’s business plans, and also helped connect these two when it seemed unlikely they would find happiness together. Dusty is a sweet guy, and Ben is in the middle of a personal crisis. Some readers might not like how Ben isn’t exactly honest about his feelings, but the timeframe seemed to allow the flexibility for Ben to recognize that Dusty was the man for him, even as he needed to carefully disentangle himself from Alan.

The happy ending came in a way that Dusty could hardly believe, but felt right for the story. I liked the plan to work with Dusty’s medical situation, and also how he was much more than his disease. If you didn’t read the dedication, well, you wouldn’t know what was going on with him until Ben was half-way in love. For me, that’s important, and I liked how the character was a person who managed his life, not one who was controlled by his medical issues/history. There are some fun side characters here, including a raucous, wealthy woman whose down-home wisdom helped Ben with his life-changing decisions. Also, cameos from the MCs of the first book in this series will likely please readers. There isn’t a lot of steam, but the feels are right out on the page.

Interested? You can find LOVE YOU SO MADLY on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.
Good luck and keep reading 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 on her website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

POUNDING SKIN–A Military Monday Review!

Hi there! Sorry for the radio silence, I was in Virginia Beach through Monday afternoon and didn’t have a chance to post until we completed an overnight drive home, and I managed to get some sleep! So “Military Monday” is happening on Wednesday… Today I’m sharing a review for another M/M military romance from L.A. Witt. POUNDING SKIN is the second book in her Skin Deep series, that feature sexy Navy men, and tattoo artists! It’s on a different coast than her Anchor Point series, set in Virginia Beach, where I spent many a Memorial Day weekend, y’all! I’ve loved other Navy romances from LA WITT, including  JUST DRIVE and most recently WASH OUT, so I wanted to jump into this new series.

About the book:
Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.

Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?

When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.

As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?

My Review:
Navy fighter pilot Jon Russell loses a bet with his squadron mates that forces him to get a tattoo–despite Jon’s intense fear of needles. The artist that he seeks out, Matt Huffman, is nearly down-and-out with too many bills and too little cash, but he’s compassionate and curious. Bi-curious, that is. It seems that some of Matt’s recent experiences have highlighted how attracted he may subconsciously be to men. But, there’s no escaping the fact that he’s aroused by the terrified Navy pilot under his tattoo gun.

Jon’s always ready for a hook-up, but nothing more. And, he’s not sure why he’s so inexplicably attached to Matt–especially so when Matt admits he wants some sexual experiences with an experienced man. Jon’s all to happy to volunteer his sexpertise, and they build a friendship that includes smoking hot sex whenever they can manage. But, they also communicate in a friendly way, and begin to spend non-sex-related time together sharing meals and outings. Matt’s nervous about coming out as bisexual, and Jon patiently stands by his side. Months go on and they are far more than friends, and really more than lovers, before Jon recognizes he’s actually in a relationship. And, that’s not cool with him. He’d sworn to never settle down with another man again, but is being with Matt all the time really “settling”?

I liked this one. Matt was such a tender heart, despite his bulk. Jon’s compassionate, to a point. His freak out because of the ‘-ship’ business was troubling, but I liked how he came to terms with his fears in the end, and salvaged his relationship. Matt was definitely worth it. I also enjoyed all the sexplorations and how eager Matt was to embrace his bisexuality once her mentally committed. It’s clear he’d been traumatized in his youth by an overbearing, homophobic father, but his existing family is supportive, for the most part.

Also, the setting! Virginia Beach is a place I’ve spent lots of time over the years. In fact, on Monday–the day I was supposed to be logging this post–I was doing a drive-by of NAS Oceana, Jon’s base station. I always love when I can connect with a locale and the descriptions of the settings in and around the coastal area there were spot-on. Looking forward to more books in this series!

Interested? You can find POUNDING SKIN on Goodreads, 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!