Rescuing Himself While RESTRICTED–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a new M/M space opera adventure romance from A.C. Thomas. RESTRICTED is the first book in The Verge adventure series and I loved it LOTS!

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a desperate man. His twin brother has been abducted, and Ari will do anything to find him. Forced out of the comfortable solitude of his laboratory, Ari must leave their home world of Britannia and search the farthest reaches of space for his other half. He hastily equips himself with a flawlessly tied cravat, a handful of clues, and his small science vessel. Now, all he needs is a pilot to get him across the Verge, a barrier separating the civilized world from ungoverned space.

Pilot Orin Stone is a desperate man. No ship, no pay, no prospects. He spends his days barely scraping by in the rough colonies lining the Verge interior. When he gets an offer from a frantic, upper-crust professor in need of a pilot, he has no choice but to take the job. He just can’t believe it when the professor turns out to be the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen and that his offer includes a ship of Orin’s own. If Orin can keep his heart (and other portions of his anatomy) from leaping every time sweet, innocent Dr. Campbell looks at him, this should be his easiest job yet.

Rugged Orin and aristocratic Ari work together to navigate the lawless areas of space beyond the Verge, soon discovering that they work well together in all areas. Their immediate and intense attraction to one another is an obstacle to their plans that neither saw coming. More than sparks will fly when they break through the force field and enter restricted space, all alone together for the perilous journey, leaving barriers to their growing attachment far behind.

In their search across the stars, can two desperate men find their home in one another?

How about a little taste?

Chapter One
“You want me to do what?”

Ari straightened his shoulders, hands folded together on the table between them, suppressing a wince as his skin stuck unpleasantly to a thick smear of residue best left uninvestigated.

Somewhere behind him the sound of glass breaking was followed by a bowel-shaking roar, a meaty impact, scuffling sounds, and hearty guffaws.

Definitively best left uninvestigated.

He sniffed quietly, regretting the action as the odor of stale beer and unwashed bodies assaulted his senses. Forcing himself to meet his companion’s bored regard, he cleared his throat before speaking in as firm a tone as he could manage.

“In the interest of saving both of our time, I’ll cut to the chase. I require a pilot capable of navigating uncharted areas with immediate availability and a willingness to negotiate a flexible pay schedule.”

Mr. “Call me Orin, honey” Stone slumped back in his seat with careless, sprawling grace, the edge of one enormous scuffed leather boot sliding across the floor to rest a millimeter away from the polished black toes of Ari’s spats.

“So, just so we’re clear— You’re asking me to find you a pilot ready to jump right across the Verge into the deepest, slimiest dark, for—and this is the bit that really sticks in my throat, pumpkin— You want me to find you some sap willing to do all that for, apparently, no pay.”

Keen bourbon eyes swept Ari from head to toe, that restless boot finally edging just close enough to touch.

“You’re cute, sugar. But you’re off your rocker.”

Ari’s chair scraped against the floor as he jolted forward in his seat, one hand closing around the fraying cuff of Orin’s greatcoat.

“This is a matter of utmost urgency. My brother is—” He paused to clear his throat after an embarrassing crack in his voice. “My brother is missing; he has been abducted by an Outlier fiend, and I am utilizing every resource at my disposal to ensure his safe return. My inquiries led me to you, with the assurance you could facilitate a jump with immediate effect. Now I demand that you either provide said assistance, or you cease wasting my time.”

Orin fixated on the white-knuckled grip holding his sleeve. The coiled strength of his thick forearm underscored Ari’s awareness that he could break free at a moment’s notice with very little energy expended.

“What kind of resources are we talking, here?” Orin’s eyes narrowed under a heavy brow, the sweep of space-black lashes unexpectedly elegant against his brutish visage.

Ari drew a long breath, attempting to steady his resolve.

“I possess a three-year-old Xalanthe Explorer model 953V. It is in exemplary condition, and I am prepared to offer it as payment upon my brother’s safe return to our home on Britannia.”

Before he finished speaking, Orin sat up in his chair, the full extent of his imposing size suddenly evident even while seated. He turned his hand in Ari’s grip, long fingers wrapping easily around his thin wrist.

“You’re trading your ship. A brand-new ship. To any asshole willing to fly it? Just to finish a little game of hide-and-seek with your brother who—no offense, Red—sounds like he ran off with a bit of strange?”

Aristotle bristled, slim shoulders rising to his ears as the heat of an angry flush spread from the unfortunate ginger of his precisely parted hairline down to the white of his starched collar points.

“He did not ‘run off’! He was abducted. I have no more time to waste with your nonsense, sir. Are you able to assist in my endeavor, or shall I continue pursuing a pilot on my own?”

A lopsided grin spread across his companion’s face, revealing a hint of prominent canine and a surprisingly charming set of dimples. Orin gave another insolent sweep of his gaze, ticking to the length of Ari’s throat rising above his cravat. The rumble of his voice dropped low enough that Ari had to strain to hear him above the surrounding chaos.

“Hmm, that depends, Red. That blush go all the way down?”

The clatter of the cheap aluminum chair against the cracking concrete floor was lost in the cacophony of raucous laughter, clinking glasses, and blaring synth music that characterized drinking establishments on the rough ring of colonies lining the Verge. Ari wrenched his arm away as he stood, breaking free.

He turned his back, adjusting his waistcoat with trembling fingers as he wracked his brain for alternative solutions. He had only taken a half step away from the table when a firm grip on his coattails wrenched him backward. He swung around, fists in a pugilist’s stance, raised to the smiling face of Mr. Stone.

“Whoa now, slow up there, professor. If you’re wanting to trade a whole damn ship for the temporary services of some sleazy sack of shit with a pilot’s license, I got just the guy you need.”

Knees weak with relief, Ari nearly attempted to sit before remembering he had overturned his chair, which was now likely glued to the filthy floor of the saloon.

“Excellent. Where can I find this person?”

That lopsided grin opened up into a full-blown smile, revealing rows of white, uneven teeth. “You’re looking at him, sweetheart.”

Ari twitched at the endearment, unaccustomed to the way they seemed to drip from the pilot’s every phrase like butter melting off the plate.

He turned fully to face him, coattails twining around his narrow hips as Orin maintained his grip, tugging once with a waggle of thick brows at Ari’s resulting unintentional pelvic thrust before releasing him with a flourish.

Orin pushed off from the table, broad shoulders rising up and up to just above Ari’s line of sight. Ari swallowed an obvious comment on the pilot’s intimidating height, realizing how much he’d underestimated the man’s size.

Ari stared straight ahead at the hollow of Mr. Stone’s throat, bronze skin left exposed by the open vee of his collarless shirt. A few dark, curling hairs peeked out of the opening, inches from Aristotle’s nose. A strange fluttering sensation swept through his abdomen at the sight.

Recognizing the sensation as inappropriate at best and disastrous at worst, Ari turned on stiff legs and led the way out of the saloon, doing his utmost to avoid brushing up against the rough clientele. Heads swiveled to follow Ari even as they ignored the much larger figure of Mr. Stone following close behind his every step.

Ari ducked his head as they emerged into the daylight, squinting against the intrusive brightness before heading off toward the nearest dry dock, zeroing in on his ship after a few minutes’ walk. Mr. Stone was a silent shadow at his back, footsteps shockingly light for a man of his size.

The small exploratory vessel stood out among the busted-up freighters and speeders cluttering the dock. Clean panels of riveted steel shaped the subtle curves framing the centerpiece—a large frontal view screen. The only unnecessary ornament was that of the exaggerated dorsal fin, the sight of which had caused Aristotle’s brother to laugh out loud when they first purchased the ship.

Ari’s back stiffened at a low whistle, two familiar notes usually directed with prurient interest.

Mr. Orin Stone was circling his ship, one hand, large and square as a shovel head, trailing long fingers over the surface with surprising reverence.

“What’s your name, beautiful?”

He directed his inquiry to the ship but turned to Aristotle as though expecting an answer.

Ari cleared his throat. “As I have previously mentioned, it is a Xalanthe—”

Orin cut him off with a rude sound pushed between full lips. “She.”

Ari opened his mouth to reply, mistaking a brief pause for the conclusion of the pilot’s statements.

“Ship’s a she. And she’s a pretty little thing, deserves a name. If you don’t have one for her yet, I can think of something fancy to call her. Something with a bit of glitter to it. Little lady like this one deserves to shine.”

His eyes in turn glittered at Ari, sparkling with amusement and apparent satisfaction upon viewing the small science vessel.

Without looking away, he spat into one rough palm before holding it out to Aristotle as if to shake.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, Red.”

Ari recoiled from the offered hand, curling his own into protective fists at the notion of sealing a verbal contract with an exchange of bodily fluids.

“That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.”

Orin’s throaty laughter rang out against the polished metal panels of the ship exterior, echoing across the shipyard.

“Is it now? Well, stick with me, sugar; I could really expand your horizons.”

My Review:
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a resident of Brittania, one of the Core planets stuck within the Verge, a force field that prevents marauders from attacking the main planets. He’s an introverted geological scientist, who is dedicated to his outgoing twin brother Dr. Theo Campbell, which is why Ari is now frantic. Theo has been kidnapped by a ruffian from the Restricted Section beyond the Verge. Ari screws up all his gumption and pledges his own spaceship to a Verge pilot, Orin Stone, who promises he can get Ari out to the Restricted sector.

Orin Stone is a “Verge trash” man who happens to be a huge and imposing person, compared to lithe and delicate Ari. He’s so uninhibited and coarse, and shocking in his open desire for Ari, whom Orin finds to be completely appealing–even more so because Ari is a complete innocent.

This is a unique and engaging world that’s a bit of a mix with Victorian sensibilities and the space exploration tech. Ari and Orin develop a sweet friendship, that Orin is quick to offer more. Ari is so tentative, and concerned about his lack of experience, and his fears surrounding Theo. Ari thinks he’s a fraidy cat, especially since he’s always allowed outgoing Theo to lead the way. Orin believes Ari to be so brave, though, and his constant reassurances give Ari the confidence to take what he wants, for himself.

I really loved the story, and the originality of the plot twists. It was such a fun and engaging adventure, watching Ari develop his inner strength, and fall head over heels for Orin, who doesn’t believe himself worthy. This is a dual-narrated story, so we do get into Orin’s head a bit, and that was so sweet, because we can easily see how captivated he is by Ari, and the admiration he has for the ship–that he names Delilah. His bawdy humor cracks through Ari’s refined persona and really settles Ari’s nerves by his sheer confidence and competency as a pilot. It’s a fun love story for these mismatched lovers, but they are both dreading crossing into the Restricted Space–because Ari’s plan is to leave Orin and the ship, to save Theo himself. The resolution is so joyful, when Ari and Theo reunite and Orin finds that he’s not surplus to the situation. I cannot WAIT for Theo’s love story…

Interested? You can find RESTRICTED on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
A.C. Thomas left the glamorous world of teaching preschool for the even more glamorous world of staying home with her toddler. Between the diaper changes and tea parties, she escapes into fantastical worlds, reading every romance available and even writing a few herself.

She devours books of every flavor—science fiction, historical, fantasy—but always with a touch of romance because she believes there is nothing more fantastical than the transformative power of love.

You can catch up with A.C. online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Haunted By His Past HIS DARK REFLECTION–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt, review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance suspense novel newly re-released from Heloise West. HIS DARK REFLECTION features a cop with domestic problems and a former FBI agent, now disgraced and rotting away in WITSEC witness protection. This is the third book in the Heart and Haven series and probably best enjoyed if you’ve at least read the first story, HITTING BLACK ICE where we meet Nick as a bad guy in sheep’s clothing. Nick was also in SEND LAWYERS, GUNS, AND ROSES, just a bit, where we begin to see his turnaround as a character.

Catch the review, excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC below.
About the book:
Disgraced FBI agent Nick Truman failed to save his sister, who was held hostage by a drug cartel until he could give them Alex Crow, who eluded him. His epic downfall lands him in witness protection, where he plays by the rules and keeps to himself. But the murder of his neighbor brings danger to his door. He unexpectedly finds himself the champion of innocents and helplessly attracted to the homicide detective in charge of the case. Nick knows it won’t end well.

Homicide Detective Hank Axelrod is good at digging out secrets, maybe because he hides a big one of his own. He also suspects his husband has one foot out of the door of their marriage and the specter of single life looms unpleasantly on the horizon.

A murder resembling a previous one brings Nick into his world, a man who claims to be a mystery writer looking for a real-life resource. Hank’s instincts say he’s more than that, and he’s rarely wrong.

Torn between the errant soon-to-be-ex husband and the distracting, sexy stranger, Hank needs to focus all his attention on his murder case before he becomes the next victim

How about a little taste?

Hank rattled the keys in a one-handed grip to shake loose the house key from the rest. No lights on in the house and beyond late for dinner—starving and sleep deprived too. In his other hand, he held a thick file of case notes because the night wasn’t over for him yet. At least Len had left the porch light on.

After letting himself into the house, he placed the file on the end table, keys on top, and toed off his shoes. The windbreaker he shrugged out of hadn’t done much to keep the spring cold off.

The rocking chair in the living room creaked. Hank spun around, hand going to his holster.

“Easy, cowboy.” Len yawned. He snapped on the table lamp beside him. “I fell asleep. What time is it?”

“Jesus, Len. It’s two in the damn morning. Let me put this away.” At the bottom of the closet, the gun safe sat on a shelf. He knelt, spun the dial, and tucked the gun away. When he turned, Len stood, arms across his chest, brown hair tousled. Another yawn stretched his mouth wide. Hank, tired to the marrow, pulled Len into a bone-crunching hug, and Len laughed against his shoulder.

Relief tickled through him. On the drive home from the station, he’d feared the house would be empty. He inhaled the scent of Len’s pricey shampoo—vanilla and sweet tobacco with a hint of whiskey. His heart twisted with anxiety.

“I’m sorry. I—”

“You got caught up, I know. ’Sokay.” Len yawned again. “But I’m beat. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wants me in bright and early tomorrow, so…” He stepped away from Hank’s embrace. Hank let him go with reluctance. “There’s lasagna and meatballs in the fridge. Or maybe you’re ready for bacon and eggs?”

“Neither. Both. I’ll figure dinner out while I read the case notes again. I need to make sure this guy doesn’t walk.”

Len turned around. “Hon? I know. You’ll be great. You always are. Night.”

“Night,” Hank responded as he picked up the paperwork. He sat in the rocker Len had vacated with the file in his lap and fell asleep with the first page between his fingers.

He awoke with a snort, thinking he’d heard Len’s muffled laughter and smiled. When he glanced at his watch, twenty minutes had passed since he’d first sat down. He’d sleep in tomorrow, but he still wouldn’t have caught up on all the sleep he’d lost over this one. Hank stood and stretched his aching muscles, contemplating a shower, but his deepening desire for bed and maybe sex to relax him led him into the bedroom and not the kitchen. Len’s nightstand lamp glowed, and his side of the bed rumpled but empty. Len’s soft giggle came from the other side of the bathroom door.

Hank rapped his knuckles against the oak. “Hey, babe?”

The toilet flushed. “I’m washing up! Be right there.”

A cold weight settled into Hank’s belly at his husband’s rushed, edge of guilty tone, slithery and with pointed scales brushing against his tender insides—a too-familiar feeling tilting the world on its axis. The bathroom door opened, and Len came out wreathed in the scent of mouthwash and minty toothpaste. “All yours.” He smiled but wouldn’t meet Hank’s eyes, making it all the harder for Hank to dislodge the sick feeling in his stomach.

“Who were you talking to?”

Len turned away from Hank. “One of the new interns drunk-dialed me. She’s a hoot, so we talked. Come to bed, Hank. You must be wiped out.” He slid between the sheets and pulled on the covers on Hank’s side.

Liar, the serpent in his belly whispered.

“I fell asleep in the rocker, so yeah, I guess I am.” Too tired to fight, he gathered up pajama bottoms and a T-shirt and headed into the bathroom. When he came out, Len lay facing away from Hank, his breathing even. Maybe asleep. Hank doubted it as he climbed into bed turned away from Len, his eyes wide in the darkness.

*

Hank slept later than usual, exhaustion stealing any memory of dreams he might have had. When he awoke, Len had already gone to work. What had Hank been so afraid of last night?

He went into the kitchen and started up the coffee. Not the first time one of Len’s friends had called drunk or upset. Len had a lot of friends. They helped him through Hank’s late nights. Although their marriage went to hell last spring, in the end, love forced them to work things out. Hank believed in Len, still believed the tearful, heartfelt promises of renewed fidelity.

He shoved a bagel into the toaster oven. But—he plopped down on a kitchen chair as if his bones had untied themselves—why did he have such a weird feeling last night? A couple of weird feelings, actually.

He’d believed Len when he returned to him and promised fidelity. Yet, he spent too much time with liars, thieves, cheats, and murderers, so maybe the distrust had rubbed off on him?

Or should he stick with his gut feeling Len had more to hide? It wouldn’t be the first time…but he’d hoped they’d done with the past. Ugh, second-guessing himself again. He couldn’t afford the drain on his confidence today.

The toaster oven tinged. With a fork, he dragged out the bagel. He loaded it with butter and the homemade strawberry jam his mother had made.

He didn’t trust much of humanity, long before he’d become a cop. Hank didn’t want the scum bleeding into their relationship. Distrust bred more distrust. He often found it tough to leave the hard-guy persona behind at the office, to let his softer side out around Len. It’d been difficult when they first met, but Len had been patient. Well, Hank would be patient too. What if a family issue had set off Hank’s alarms, a secret Len didn’t want to share yet?

He’d demolished the bagel as the wheels turned in his head. Sucking on his sticky-sweet fingers of one hand, he opened the fridge with the other for a second bagel. Last night’s dinner sat wrapped in cellophane on the shelf.

He had to talk to Len. But first, where did he leave the damn file?

My Review:
This is the third book in a series and is best enjoyed when read in order.

Hank Axelrod is a homocide detective in a small New England town. He’s struggling to keep his marriage together to his husband, Len, who had walked out to be with at least one other man in the past year. Len promises that he’s not messing around, but Hank is rightfully suspicious. And, he’s gone a lot. Now occupied with a John Doe case of extreme beating which seems to match a new homocide, a young father down on his luck at work who may have been part of an illegal fight club.

Nick St. Cloud is the alias Nick Truman uses to guard his identity. He’s in WITSEC, grudgingly guarded by the FBI of which he had been an agent. But that was years ago when Nick had worked intel on a motorcycle gang. Before Nick was coerced to murder his own partner to try and snuff out a witness–in order to protect his sister who’d been kidnapped by the gang’s leader. Nick can’t forgive himself for Jordan’s death, or for killing a good agent–and he doesn’t want to. He wants to forget life happens, and go on day by day with as much sex and booze as possible. His neighbor being beaten to death causes Nick’s path to cross with Hank’s who’s seeking info about the motive of death. Hank has a fire in his eye and problems to solve, and Nick is reluctantly captivated.

The key witness in the case seems to be the comatose boyfriend of a stripper, Johnny Lee, who Nick has taken under his wing. The murder of his neighbor’s wife–orphaning their year old daughter–spurs Nick back into investigator mode, trying to protect Johnny Lee from his own murder. And, that keeps Nick in close contact with Hank. Hank, who is crumbling from his own personal problems. Nick doesn’t want to be attracted to Hank, and he knows Hank is too good for a loser/murderer, like himself, but that spark of living has already been kindled, and Nick isn’t able to stay away when Hank needs him–sexually, emotionally, and eventually mortally.

This story is Nick’s redemption tale, and he plays the part of guilty penitent well. Hank has his own secrets about his personal life, and he’s sure that there is a connection between he and Nick, even as he’s not sure what is going on behind Nick’s haunted look. Their romance is a struggle and a hurricane, overpowering their better senses, but it’s growth enables the connection Hank needs when he’s in mortal danger. For me I think this one ends with a Happy For Now ending, and both Nick and Hank are satisfied with that. I fully expect we will see these two in further stories, and that Nick’s past will stop defining his future. There are some spicy sexytimes and lots of bittersweet moments, as Hank and Len quarrel, and Nick makes all the right moves to protect Johnny Lee and his own heart, but takes on the mantle of hero that he’s not quite lost even as his previous choices had dubious motives.

Interested? You can find HIS DARK REFLECTION on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of 10 years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

You can find Heloise on her blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and Goodreads.

Now Available: NICE CATCHING YOU–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a holiday M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. NICE CATCHING YOU features a closeted top college hockey player falling hard for a law student he meets by chance. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS and TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME and was excited to see some old characters help out in this book.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway for a $25 GC.
About the book:
What happens when the No. 1 college hockey star in the country falls in love—with a man?
Nick Johnson, a top prospect for a pro hockey team, has a secret: he’s gay. Tired of living in the
closet for the sport he loves, he sees no way out.
Jacob Meyer’s string of bad boyfriends left him cynical about love. Instead, he focuses on his
studies as a third-year law student. With a new job waiting for him, he’s eager to graduate and
move on.

On a school-sponsored trip, Nick and Jacob meet in a most unexpected way. When Nick tells
Jacob his secret, they decide to hang out, just as friends. But their attraction is too strong to
ignore, and they soon begin dating.

Since Nick is a big man on campus, it doesn’t take long for people to notice his attachment to
Jacob. All hell breaks loose when the relationship gets out. As the national media descends,
university officials try to figure out how to solve their “problem.” Their efforts divide Nick’s
team, inflame fans, and put Nick and Jacob’s futures in jeopardy. Will the men be able to
survive a plot to destroy them without derailing both their careers?

Nice Catching You is an out-for-you romance featuring a lot of love, exciting hockey, and a
beautiful holiday. There’s also plenty of steam and a very happy ending.

How about a little taste?

JACOB
Sunday, December 4

I haven’t been on many buses, but I was starting to think I might die on this one. The snow began falling before we left Whiteface Mountain early in the afternoon, not unusual for one of the top ski resorts in the Northeast. We were due in Syracuse before six, and I hoped the weather didn’t delay us much. The last week of classes would start the next day, and I had work to do.

The snow was coming down hard, and by the time we reached I-87, I could see very little out the window. Many of the cars had pulled over to the side, and others were creeping along with their hazards flashing. Our bus joined the traffic and immediately began slipping all over the road.

With fifty-odd college students on the trip, there had been a lot of noise when we left the resort, but nerves had soon taken over, and people were mostly quiet now. I sat alone, three rows from the back of the bus, trying to read a case for Federal Courts. With only one more semester of law school to go, I needed to do well. A big firm in Boston offered me a job right before Thanksgiving, contingent on my maintaining a 3.8 GPA. Pulling a C in Fed Courts would bring me slightly under the requirement. Although I had high hopes for a job in DC, I couldn’t risk losing the Boston offer.

Between the bus sliding in the snow and the constant chatter from the guys in the seat behind me, I couldn’t concentrate at all. They were hockey players, and they kept up a conversation about the game, other players, cars, and whatever else dumb undergrad jocks talk about. They were the only people behind me except for their friend, who was passed out on a seat in the back.

Whoa! The rear end of the bus lurched violently into the left lane. I tried to grab something to hold onto, but I was already airborne by the time I dropped the heavy casebook. Hands grabbed my shoulders but didn’t slow my momentum. Dreading the impact with the seat across the aisle, I screwed my eyes shut and held my breath. All at once, something stopped me. Rather, someone stopped me, and that someone had brawny arms and a hard body. He’d caught me in midair.

“You all right?”

“What?” On my back in the man’s arms, facing the top of the bus, I couldn’t see much. I turned my head, trying to find out who had hold of me.

“Everything okay?”

I craned my neck in the other direction just as he leaned over, and it was—shit!—one of the hockey guys who’d been sitting behind me. I’d seen him over the weekend with his buddies, at least one of whom had laughed at me the whole time. Now they’d laugh even harder, and I’d be known as the skinny little runt who couldn’t even stay in his seat—the twit who had to be rescued by a real man.

My Review:
This book is loosely connected to previous books by these authors, but fully enjoyable as a standalone.

Nick Johnson is a college senior and captain of the men’s hockey team and Univ of New York in Syracuse. He’s a closeted player, unwilling to risk his scholarship and the potential homophobia of his teammates, but he’s in a rather grim place right now. He spent Thanksgiving alone, pondering if remaining closeted was worth the deep isolation and guilt he felt over lying about his sexuality and never allowing himself to really pursue a relationship. He’s on a road trip

Jacob Meyer is a smallish out-gay third year law student at UNY. He’s fastidious and tenacious, having had to be fierce in the face of extreme bullying as a teen. He’s planned a trip with his ex for a ski weekend, before they were exes, and refused to give up his ticket thinking a weekend away might help him clear the funk of another bad breakup.

While on the way back from a ski weekend, the blizzard conditions cause the bus to pull into a hotel for an additional night. Jacob is seated in front of Nick and two of his less-courteous teammates, who are also on the trip. Jacob is tossed from his seat when the bus fishtails, and Nick is there to grab him before he falls and does himself damage. As the only two un-partnered attendees Jacob and Nick end up being put into a room together–with only a single bed. One of Nick’s homophobic teammates razzes him, but Nick shuts it down. And, he’s secretly thrilled to have some forced time in seclusion with Jacob, whom he finds to be stunning. Jacob is leery of the night, but Nick wins him over talking about how he’s accepted to law school at Georgetown. They develop a bit of camaraderie and Nick confesses his big gay secret, hoping that he and Jacob can be friends, or maybe more…

I liked how these guys take a bit of a slow turn into a relationship. Nick swears to Jacob that he wants to come out, but Jacob wants him to wait, thinking that the potential backlash would sour any relationship they begin to build, before they can even get anywhere. Thing is, they develop feelings rather quickly, and people are noticing superstar Nick’s new acquaintance. It’s not long before some of the more homophobic elements in Nick’s circle begin to make trouble, and Nick’s spot on the team–as well as his enrollment–is in jeopardy. There are some serious machinations here on the part of the university, and Jacob has the wherewithal and legal knowledge to recognize when they have suddenly slipped beyond the the shallow end of consequences. He thankfully has some contacts with Devin Macadam–cousin to Liam Macadam, both of whom are civil rights lawyers at a firm Jacob has made the hiring short-list for post graduation. Liam and Devin have been MCs in previous books from these authors, so it was fun to see them back in action helping Jacob and Nick weather their personal hurricane.

It’s a sweet story with a bit of sexytimes and a lot of both law and hockey, which made a nice change from the previous legal-romantic suspense stories. The allies in this story are truly fierce and provide a lot of great characters to look for in future stories. This book didn’t quite fit the bill of a holiday romance, for me, because the holidays were so secondary to the main plot themes of coming out, gay athletes, and fighting the good fight against prejudiced bigots. There aren’t any of those “desperate to find the most amazing gift” thoughts or moments. The story was set in December, and there was a closing scene with them opening Christmas presents, but it was not really a main focus of the story, at all. That said, it’s clear that this book will spin a hockey series while also linking with the legal romances this writing team have already produced. I’m looking forward to more books in both genres.

Interested? You can find NICE CATCHING YOU on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Reconnected So They FEEL THE FIRE –A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M hotshot fireman romance from Annabeth Albert. FEEL THE FIRE is the third book in her brand-new Hot Shots series that feature rural firefighters who live on the edge of danger. I really enjoyed BURN ZONE and HIGH HEAT, so I was excited to read on in this series.

About the book:
Annabeth Albert’s Hotshots series continues—the emotions and intensity of Chicago Fire with the raw, natural elements of Man vs. Wild. Danger lurks everywhere for Central Oregon’s fire crews, but the biggest risk of all might be losing their hearts…

When their career paths bring two high school sweethearts together again, the forest isn’t the only thing ablaze…

Fire behavior specialist Luis Riviera goes where his job takes him. But when he’s assigned to an arson investigation in Central Oregon—the place he left his broken heart twenty years ago—he’s afraid of being burned all over again.

Tucker Ryland had planned to join his first love, Luis, in LA after high school graduation, but life got in the way. Now a fire management expert and a divorced father of teen twins, Tucker’s thrown for a loop when he finds himself working side by side with his Luis, now all grown up and more intriguing than ever.

Though consumed by a grueling fire season and family responsibilities, the two men discover their bond has never truly broken. Tentative kisses turn to passionate nights. But smoking sheets aside, old hurts and new truths stand in the way of this time being the start of forever.

My Review:
Luis Rivera came to Painter’s Ridge Oregon when he was in elementary school. The youngest son in his family he felt a bit stifled in the remote location, but he made a really great friend, Tucker, who eventually became the love of his youth. Luis was a bit shattered when his dad was transferred back to LA, even though it brought him near to his extended family. Because Luis did not want to leave Tucker behind. They were juniors in high school and promises were made for Tucker to leave Oregon and join Luis in California for college and a life together. Unfortunately, Tucker’s dad had a heart attack in his senior year and Tucker was pressed to help run his family ranch–and he had to give up the dream of building an out and loving life with Luis–who didn’t want to wait any longer for his life to get started. Both Luis and Tucker had aspirations to be hotshot firefighters in the forestry service, and they did follow those dreams–in separate states.

Luis is an arson specialist working for the Forest Service and he’s unhappily single, now that his closeted partner was killed fighting a wildfire. As an unattached person, however, Luis’ superiors lean on him to make trips to other localities that need his expertise. So, he’s frustrated to again uproot himself for a temporary assignment. He’s incensed, however, when he learns that this assignment is centered in the Bend area, a short drive to Painter’s Ridge–and that his main contact will be Tucker, the boy who abandoned him twenty years before.

Tucker Ryland is a fire management expert working with the hotshot crews in central Oregon to maintain forest and minimize fire damage. He’s lived in Painter’s Ridge Oregon his whole life, but the small town isn’t feeling as homey as it had when he was married raising in his twin sons. He still co-parents living a few blocks from his ex-wife and her new husband, sharing meals with them and the teen boys, Walker and Wade a couple of nights a week. Tucker long ago came to terms with his demisexuality, and he and Heidi split amicable, but he’s getting lonely knowing that his sons will graduate from high school in a matter of months and their plans will likely take them far from their subdivision.

Tucker is melancholy over the loss of his relationship with Luis. He has only truly connected with Luis in his life; his marriage wasn’t planned and he and Heidi, his then-good friend, made the best of a tough situation. It was through her assistance that Tucker began to understand his sexuality, and both he and Heidi have been positive and open about it with their sons.

Luis has longstanding feelings of resentment, thinking that Tucker hid his sexuality and married Heidi as a beard and a way to remain hidden in his homophobic family. His misconceptions had caused him to hate Tucker, but being around him now reveals the truth, that Tucker is a good and honest man, and that Luis’ juvenile fears and hurt clouded a situation that could have been less fraught way back when. They are meeting again as grown men who’ve had some time, perspective, and unexpected patience to temper their feelings–and allow for a rekindling of their original friendship. For each man, the attraction is intense, and Tucker is ecstatic to have a more than platonic relationship to grow. There are the usual hiccups with the kids interfering. The boys aren’t necessarily trying to cockblock their dad. Actually, free-spirited Wade is digging the idea of Dad getting a boyfriend, while Walker, always the ruminator, is sure that his dad finding a partner will upset his own plans to stay behind in Painter’s Ridge with his girlfriend. I liked how both Luis and Tucker had great conversations with these kids, which clarified and solidified their growing bond.

The arson investigations that brought Luis to Oregon are nearly enough to keep him at Tucker’s side, but he’s not sure he wants to give up his city life for the country–again. And that gets Tucker thinking about what he wants for himself, a luxury he hasn’t had since before his dad’s heart attack in his high school days. This is a mature romance with some delicious sexytimes and a reunion of high school sweethearts that burns up the sheets. I really enjoyed it, and am hopeful we’ll see more of this setting in future stories.

Interested? You can find FEEL THE FIRE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I read a review copy provided via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Find Annabeth online on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Realty, Renovation and Romance TIPPING THE BALANCE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary romance from C Koehler. <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55217708-rocking-the-boat” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>TIPPING THE BALANCE is the second book in his CalPac Crew series, which features a determined businessman chasing and catching the burly college graduate who could be his ideal partner…if only he wasn’t straight. This is a sequel to ROCKING THE BOAT with those MC characters weighing in on the love lives of a dear friend, and a former crew team member.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
The boys from ROCKING THE BOAT are back in TIPPING THE BALANCE. Nick Bedford’s best friend Drew St. Charles is a man with a dream. He wants to move from selling real estate and flipping houses on the side into renovating houses. Ideally, he’d find the houses and his boyfriend would flip them. Not that he has a boyfriend.

Brad Sundstrom, fresh out of college and working for his father in the family construction business, never believed he could dream of more…until he met Drew. When Drew wins a contract to restore the historic Bayard Mansion, they become the solution to each other’s problems. Drew needs someone to oversee the renovation and offers Brad, who wants out from under his father’s thumb, the job of project foreman.

Working in close contact makes the sparks between the two men burst into flame, and Brad takes his first hesitant steps out of the closet. Before long, spending the day together at work leads to nights spent together. It looks as if Drew’s dream is coming true, but then he is savagely attacked in a hate crime, and Brad panics.

Brad faces a crucial test. Will he overcome his fears and take his place at Drew’s side? Or will he retreat to the stifling familiarity of the closet?

How about a little taste?

“Are you sure you can’t get a general contractor’s license?” Drew wiped the sweat out of his eyes.

“Did you just whine?” Nick grunted as he muscled a cherrywood cabinet into place. “Besides, what about the one you already work with?”

“Shut up. Bob’s great, but I’m getting tired of hiring an outside contractor so this work passes inspection, and anyway, you’d be cheaper.” Drew set a level on the cabinet Nick had just installed and squinted at it as the bubbles moved sluggishly in the yellow fluid. “It’s not…quite…plumb.”

“How come you don’t have a contractor’s license?” Nick squatted down to tap a shim into place under the cabinet. Sweat soaked his shirt, as portable fans cooled the kitchen in theory only, but with the HVAC unit out, fans were all they could get in the summer heat.

Drew looked up from the level, struck once again by just how attractive his best friend was. Coaching the men’s crew at California Pacific College certainly encouraged Nick to keep himself fit—that, and his smokin’ hot boyfriend, Morgan. Some coaches let themselves go, but not Nick. Not for the first time, Drew found himself wishing they could’ve worked out, but they’d given that a whirl as undergraduates and both agreed they made better friends than lovers.

And what friends they were, pulling each other through hard times and celebrating the good. Drew had helped Nick win and keep Morgan. Nick worked like a dog all summer for Drew’s home renovation business. He was one of the few people Drew trusted besides himself to supervise each project from start to finish, the only other person whose eye for detail and quality touches matched his own. Nick treated the jobs done by St. Charles Renovations like it was his own name on the line, not Drew’s.

“Because getting my real estate license took all my time and money when I was younger, and now selling houses takes all my time.” Drew sighed. “The flipping was just a sideline, and now reno work for other people? It’s killing me, I tell you.”

“A sideline.” Nick snorted. “The best home flip in the area. Isn’t that what Sacramento Magazine named you this year? Spend the time on this it deserves, and the St. Charles property empire could grow by leaps and bounds.”

“It still will. I like a challenge.” Drew grinned wolfishly. “Besides, sleep is for sissies.”

“You would know from sissies.” Nick watched Drew carefully to gauge the reaction, faintly disappointed when Drew barely even rolled his eyes. “Is it level?”

“Yes.” Drew straightened.

“Good, now you can use those over-gymmed muscles for something besides filling a polo shirt and help me hang the next cabinet. That’ll be the last of the uppers on this side of the kitchen. The guys can help me hang the rest later.”

“I can’t get too sweaty. I have to show houses this afternoon,” Drew said.

“Don’t worry, princess, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in the room.” Nick laughed. “I just need someone to steady it and hold it while I get it bolted to the cleats. The pilot holes have already been drilled.”

“Seriously, Nick, how am I going to replace you?” Drew asked. “You’ll go back to coaching and your grad work all too soon, and I’ll lose my best crew leader.”

“I’m your only crew leader,” Nick pointed out.

Drew made a face. “Don’t remind me.”

“You and Renochuck have me for another two months, so make the most of it,” Nick said, “because after that I go back to just being your friend.”

“Renochuck?”

“That’s what Octavio and the guys call it.”

“Some of them barely speak English, and they still came up with Renochuck.” Drew shook his head. He wiped a speck of dirt off the rich red wood.

Nick eyed Drew askance as he bent over. “Bend from the hips, not your lower back.”

“Yes, Coach,” Drew sighed.

“Did you enjoy throwing your back out last fall?”

Drew smirked. “Oh hell yes, I had a fabulous time. It was the event of the season.”

Nick didn’t reply. He just glared at Drew, warm brown eyes to merry blue ones. “Did you enjoy the aftermath? No? Then do it my way. I do know something about bodies in motion, thank you very much.”

“Yeah, that’s what Morgan tells me.”

“Hands on.” Nick loftily ignored his friend. He squatted down and put one hand under the cabinet and used the other on top to steady it. “In three. One, two, and up!”

“Now I know,” Drew grunted out, “where that coxswain of yours gets his abrasive tone from.”

“No, that’s totally Stuart’s,” Nick said. “Besides, we’re crew. We’re not real bright, but we can lift heavy objects. Now, put those muscles to some use, Muscle Mary, and hold this steady while I drill it.”

“I’m sure you’re very good at drilling, seeing how much practice you’ve been getting.” The muscles of Drew’s arms and back strained to hold the cabinet in place as Nick hurried to secure it to the wall. Then he noticed something. “Why is the taller of the two of us the one who’s not holding this up?”

Nick grinned at him. “Because I’m the drilling expert, remember? There,” he said as he put the last bolt in. “That’ll hold it while I finish up. You can let go.”

Drew lowered his arms. “Seriously, how’s it going with you and Morgan?”

He pretended to listen as Nick rattled off a list of his boyfriend’s virtues, but Nick’s syrupy smile answered the question well enough. “I’m sorry, what’d you just say?”

“I asked if you were going to be around this weekend,” Nick said. “I’m meeting his parents for the first time, and I’m scared shitless. I’m hoping you’ll be around so I can send panicked text messages from the bathroom.”

“Meeting the parents? It must be serious.” Drew smiled.

“You know it. He’s it, the only one I’ll ever want.”

“Some of us might like the chance to find that for ourselves, you know.” Drew pretended to be very interested in a small pile of loose screws.

“Aww, jeez, not Brad Sundstrom again. I keep telling you he’s straight.”

“Just his phone—”

Nick put the drill down. “Look, Drew. You know I can’t give out his information without his permission. It’s a confidentiality issue, among other things. I was his coach, technically a college official. I can’t just hand out phone numbers like that.”

Drew knew all about Nick’s scruples, having listened to him endlessly gnaw his guts out about his interest in Morgan. He supposed he ought to be grateful to Morgan for taking matters into his own hands, if not because Morgan made Nick happy, then because it shut Nick up. “Then will you at least give him my number if he asks for it?”

“Drew—”

“C’mon, Nick. It’s a fair question. Don’t I at least deserve the chance to get shot down?”

“I just don’t want to see you hurt,” Nick said quietly.

“I’m a big boy, babydoll. I can take care of myself.”

“I know, and yeah, if he asks, I’ll pass your number on.”

Drew looked at his watch. “Shit, it can’t be that late, can it?”

“It can be, yes. Late for the showings?” Nick asked.

“Just about. Everything looks great so far, but keep in touch, and let me know if you hear from the counter fabricators, will you?” Drew said, already heading for his car.

“Of course.” Nick picked up his drill.

Drew tried to mop the sweat off his brow as he rushed for his car but only succeeded in pushing it up into his brown locks. He had just enough time to run home and shower before he showed the first of the homes to his clients. Yeah, rummaging around in the dirt and sawdust probably wasn’t the best idea, but he couldn’t give up fixing up homes, he just couldn’t. What he hadn’t told Nick was that some days, he felt like he’d made a huge mistake in getting a real estate license instead of going directly into repair and improvement. Working his way through the building trades might’ve seemed strange after getting his bachelor’s degree in business, but it would’ve been handy when he got a contractor’s license. While he’d never wanted to be a designer, there was something almost magical about watching a dump of a home rise from the depths to become a showplace, limited only by budget and imagination. The cabinets with their reeded glass inserts, the soapstone counters that were supposed to have arrived last week, the reclaimed Indonesian teak floors covered with marine varnish to repel water, the lighting, all of the pieces fitted together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle only he could solve—that was why he couldn’t keep out of it.

But how—oh how—was he going to replace Nick?

My Review:
Drew St. Charles is a realtor and home renovator in the Sacramento area. He has been flipping houses for years, but ir only now really focusing of home renovations. He doesn’t have a contractor license, however, and his main contractor is retired–only coming on to the job sites near their final inspection to ensure everything is up to code. Drew’s also routinely enlisted his college bestie, Nick Bedford, to run his construction crews in the summer when Nick doesn’t have classes or coaching responsibilities, but Nick has made it clear this is the last summer he can do it. Nick and his boyfriend/fiance Morgan are planning to move for graduate studies, once Morgan graduates next spring, and Drew is frustrated for a couple of reasons. First, Drew wants a partner in love and business. He’s a little melancholy that he and Nick never worked out, and that Nick is deliriously in love with Morgan. And, he also needs to get a good, solid contractor who will help him in his business plans. Beyond that, Drew has a hankering for a former member of Nick’s crew team, Brad Sunderstrom, who just graduated from CalPac College, and Nick won’t give over Brad’s number.

Brad is a hot mess of a big lug. He’d met Drew St. Charles at a few of the crew meets last season and knew there was something special about him–despite him being gay. Drew was smart, classy and successful in real estate, which is what Brad would hope to be. He had thought he was getting a job building homes in his father’s real estate development company, but instead he’s been saddled with selling an inferiorly-developed suburban tract that is sure to be bankrupt as NO ONE wants a home there. He spends his days in solitary confinement at the housing sales center with nary a visitor or a call. Brad’s been told his whole life that he’s stupid and a waste of space by his father, and he pretty much believes this. If he could “make something” of himself, he’d get the trust his mother had bequeathed him and be able to move out of his abusive dad’s home, which is why Brad initially reaches out to Drew for advice in selling the homes of his development.

Drew is elated to hear from Brad, even if he has to give Brad the terrible news that his development homes are substandard and overpriced–two huge reasons they aren’t selling. Their lunch meeting does yield fruit in that Drew learns Brad’s been building homes for his dad’s company since high school, and has the necessary skills to make a crew foreman. And, with a bit more training could qualify for a contractor’s license. Drew’s attraction hasn’t faded a bit, but Brad’s definitely straight. That’s not a reason for them to stay apart, though, especially when Drew offers Brad the crew foreman job and gets him to sign on to the huge renovation bid he’s planning on Bayard House, a derelict state landmark home that should be the Sacramento mayor’s residence but needs significant restoration to be livable. Brad is jazzed and even cuts his hours on his dad’s development project to accommodate this opportunity, something that really rubs his old man the wrong way. And, it’s not long before Brad has another opportunity: assistant coach for CalPac men’s crew, now that their team has tripled in size since Brad and the crew won the west coast championships the previous spring.

The more time that Drew and Brad spend, the more than Brad begins to admire Drew, and this admiration is accompanied by sexual attraction for a man for the first time in Brad’s experience. It’s stunning, and scary for Brad, who has lived with his father’s casual homophobia his whole life. And, yet, Drew is a man who believes him intelligent and capable and it’s the first time Brad has felt cared for since his beloved mother died. This leads to some small explorations, mainly kissing and cuddling, that prove the arousal for both men–and Drew is at first happy with this. The closer they become, the more Brad is willing to explore his attraction for Drew sexually, but he is loath to even consider himself bisexual, and especially not gay, no matter how far these explorations extend in terms of sex. Brad’s repeated denials of his same-sex attraction are wearing on his own esteem, and Drew’s last nerve. Drew fought hard to break free of the closet, and Brad’s unwillingness to consider coming out, or be seen in public with Drew, is eventually too much to overcome.

Naturally, there are outside challenges to the situation. The renovations were going pretty well until Drew is gay bashed one night. The aftermath results in a long separation, and the surety that both Drew and Brad had love in their futures before this tragedy. The situation is also complicated by bad communication and hurt feelings on both sides, but Brad is not a man to let down his love twice, and he finally picks up the pieces of his shattered self-esteem and does what is required to win back Drew’s love and affection. This, by the way, happens only after Brad acknowledges his gay attraction–aided by a burly fire chief on an arson investigation.

There are issues with this story, regarding realities of life in construction projects that seemed a bit beyond reasonable, and long periods of not a lot happening when ti seemed A LOT should be happening. But it was super fun watching Brad figure his life out. He seemed to be such a horrible guy in the first book in this series, but he recognized his problems then and tried to fix them, and works doubly hard in this story to make amends for past mistakes. Drew has a hard road to recovery, and he’s really about to give up on his dreams by the time Brad reappears in his life–with better news than he could have ever dreamed for. The long separation certainly did make these hearts fonder, and Brad’s hard work during that time bridged the gap that had opened in their lives. He and Drew make a happily ever after, and their realty and renovation business isn’t only the business partnership they build together; their private life is a masterwork of craftsmanship that they aren’t keeping on the down-low any longer.

Interested? You can find ROCKING THE BOAT on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

You can catch up with Christopher on Facebook, and twitter.

Family Ties and Futures Found THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly-released M/M novel with romantic elements from Marie S. Crosswell. THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING features a retired rodeo star who’s struggling with his life choices, and his close cousins who have issues of their own.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Former pro-rodeo champion Smith Rose and his cousins Cooper and Christa Boone live a quiet life together in the town of Cody, Wyoming—until the summer of 2015 shakes them to their foundations.

Stuck in an unhappy rut since his retirement from the rodeo five years prior, Smith is forced to reckon with his past, present, and future when his former friend and lover John Henry Walker shows up at Smith’s bar. Meanwhile, the Boone sisters face a threat they never would’ve predicted when an out-of-town stranger begins to stalk Christa after meeting her at a party. While trying to support her sister and their cousin, Cooper secretly agonizes over her fears of their little family splitting apart and where that would leave her.

When Smith, Cooper, and Christa’s problems converge in a dangerous confrontation, will the three of them survive?

How about a little taste?

Cody, Wyoming
Summer, 2015

The three of them sit sprawled in a booth: Smith, Cooper, and Christa. Their table’s littered with beer bottles and the shucked off metal caps. Smith’s got a cooler on the floor alongside his seat because this is his bar and he can do whatever the hell he wants. He opens each beer with the bottle opener on his key ring. His cousins got a pretty good buzz going on, the two of them pink-faced and smiling, leaning into each other. Smith is mellowed out, not drunk. He doesn’t watch the saloon or Georgeanne filling in for him at the bar, just nurses his drink and considers his cousins.

“There is no way in hell I’m riding fifteen hundred miles on the back of a motorcycle,” says Christa.

“Why not?” Cooper whines. “Labor Day weekend, it’ll be beautiful. We won’t see weather that good in between here and Austin until next spring, which is almost a year from now.”

“I wouldn’t go in the spring either. I’m not traveling that far on a bike. Period.”

“You don’t even have to worry about the bike. I’m the one handling it. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the scenery.”

“I wouldn’t be enjoying anything, Cooper! I’d be terrified the whole way. What’s fun about that?”

“I wouldn’t even go fast!” Cooper says. “I’ll cap it at five above the speed limit; I promise.”

“Eighty miles an hour on a motorcycle is still enough to kill you!”

“Okay, first of all, it would be seventy half the time, and second of all, why don’t you trust me? I’m not some reckless yahoo looking to cheat death taking a corner too fast, and even if I was, I would never gamble with your life.”

Christa gives her sister an indulgent smile. “It’s not about you. It’s about all the things you can’t control. My fear included.”

Cooper sighs in defeat and blinks at Smith sitting across from her. “Will you go with me?”

Smith pauses. “Might follow in the truck.”

Cooper rolls her eyes. “Forget it. I’ll go on my own.”

“You’re not making that trip alone, Cooper,” says Christa, sipping on her beer.

“Well, I wouldn’t have to if you’d come with me.”

Cooper’s been restoring a 1966 Triumph Bonneville T120TT all year, tinkering with it in her spare time at the garage where she’s an auto mechanic. She reckons she’ll be finished with it by the time September rolls around, and she’s been pestering her sister about a long road trip to Texas.

Christa ignores Cooper’s pouting and gives Smith a pointed look. “You coming to the rodeo with us?”

“No, ma’am,” he replies and draws on his beer. He’s sitting in the interior corner on his side of the booth, and he’s got his left arm stretched out along the top of the seatback behind him. He might be hiding a little, from the rest of the room.

“Smith. Come on.”

“Every year, you two go out there, and every year, I don’t. I figure that’ll never change.”

“Why can’t you just suspend your boycott for one night and spend some time with us?”

“I’m spending time with you right now. I’ll follow you anywhere, except the damn rodeo. Why don’t you skip the rodeo and do something else with me? We could take the motorcycle course at the DMV and get licensed.”

Christa makes a face at him. “Very funny.”

“Well, we’re going tomorrow night, with or without you,” Cooper says to Smith. “And I’m betting whoever places first in bronc and bull riding won’t come anywhere near your records, like I always do. Then I’ll be proven right like I always am. At least half a dozen people will recognize me and Chris as your family, ask us how you’re doing, and then recount some memory of your glory days we’ve both heard about a thousand times. We’ll smile and nod and agree you were the best in the West, shake hands, and go home.”

“Clearly, I’m not missing anything,” says Smith, his face shaded under the brim of his cowboy hat.

“If you hate the rodeo so much, why did you decide to live in Cody?” Christa asks. “You could’ve gone back to Rawlins or Cheyenne. Left Wyoming altogether.”

“Cody ain’t a bad place to live.” Smith flicks his eyes past his cousin and gives the saloon a once-over. “You two are here.”

“We’re here because of you,” says Cooper.

Smith glances at her but doesn’t respond, draining his beer bottle instead.

My Review:
Smith Rose retired from the professional rodeo circuit a three-time world champion rider, and settled in Cody, WY where his younger cousins, Copper and Christa Boone, have also decided to live. It’s a small town, and Smith has a honky-tonk style bar and he lives on a spread of acreage in a trailer.

Cooper has long followed Smith through the years, his biggest fan and even now she watches over him, fearing that he’s fallen into a depression. Cooper and Christa are two of the few people in the world that know Smith is bisexual. He’s always kept his activity with men on the down-low and retired in part due to fears over being outed. Smith had one long-ish term relationship with a fellow cowboy on the circuit, a bisexual black man called John Henry Walker. And when John Henry called it quits, it broke a little something inside Smith.

Cooper is an asexual butch mechanic, and her love for Smith and Christa is great. She’s afraid that they will each find a partner and move on leaving her alone. So, she’s poised to observe the change in Smith’s demeanor after John Henry shows up in Smith’s saloon. And, she’s further troubled by an aggressively charming Nite Rodeo rider who seems to be stalking Christa.

John Henry has made it clear he’s riding in the Wyoming-area rodeo circuit this summer, and Smith doesn’t waste time tracking him down. Their sex is still mind-blowing and both men are more touched by the moment than they can let on. John Henry reveals he has a long-time girlfriend whom he plans to marry, but while he’s our on the rodeo he’s not planning to be monogamous. He’s not actually a player, John Henry has long had a love for Smith Rose, and this summer was his attempt to makes sense of his feelings and conflict, before he takes the plunge to either come out and make a life with Smith or marry his girlfriend.

There are many points of view that converge in this story, and there’s a lot of heavy lifting put into the the thoughts and reflections of each character. Cody is small, and people who fall into the quilt bag of the LGBTQIA rainbow are struggling to find family. To feel if they can be safe and out at the same time. John Henry has a double worry, of being out and black, in an area and profession that is undoubtedly white supremicist. The contrasting viewpoints allows readers to really feel the turmoil of these people as they connect and struggle to decide how to live their lives with love and joy. It’s a quiet story, and not exactly a romance. There is happiness, love and peace within, but there isn’t a real romance-y ending. I liked the story a lot, and I loved the characters. For people who love westerns, scenic reads, and deep, emotional introspection, I would recommend this one.

Interested? You can find THE SILENCE OF LIGHTNING on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Marie S. Crosswell writes long fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Her novellas Texas, Hold Your Queens; Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart; Alchemy; and Cold, Cold Water are available online wherever digital books are sold. Her short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Betty Fedora, Plots with Guns, Tough, and other indie crime fiction publications. She’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing. She lives in the American West.

Catch up with Marie on her website.

Reconstructing a Love START TO FINISH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly released M/M mystery romance from Pamela A. Williams. START TO FINISH is the first book in the Ian Start mysteries and I really liked how it developed.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Ian Start is an art professor and poet, living and teaching in Providence, Rhode Island. After suffering an infection in his leg that left him disfigured and traumatized, he’s been struggling to regain his emotional balance and find his voice again in his poetry.

It doesn’t help when one of his students is murdered, and he’s implicated. The chemistry is still there between Ian and Jake, who is his ex and the investigator, but being a suspect presents a barrier to their reunion.

Furthermore, Ian’s injury left a massive scar, both physically and emotionally. He is not convinced anyone else should have to live with his disfigurement and his nightmares.

How about a little taste?

As I hobbled to the door, I could see, through the leaded glass, a stout Black man in a dated tweed blazer. He was staring intently at my approach, which made me wish that I was dressed in more than a robe and flannel pajama bottoms. Opening the door, I saw that there was a second man, a few steps down, looking out toward the street. “Professor Ian Start?” said the man in front of me.

“Yes?” I said, tearing my gaze away from the familiar pale ginger head.

“I’m Detective Henry Ransom from the Providence Police Department. May we have a few minutes of your time?” At that point, the tawny head turned, and it was, as I knew it would be, Jake. Right on cue, Ransom said, “This is Detective Jake Quinn.” Our eyes met and held. In the moment, I was delighted to see him. But in my moment of pleasure, I could see wariness and warning in his eyes, a slight shake of his head that clearly said don’t acknowledge. I immediately assumed there were some gay identity issues at play and kept my trap shut. Everyone knew I was gay, but I was well aware of guilt by association.

“Yes, of course, come in. We were just having coffee. Can I get you a cup?” Ever the perfect host, eh? With no small amount of trepidation, I led them to the kitchen where Rita was sitting at my little table. It looks out over a small terracotta-tiled patio with a wildflower garden beyond, looking bleak and dead in the frigid morning with black stems and flower heads that hadn’t been tended to before the winter frosts.

“Yeah, coffee would be good,” said Detective Ransom. I raised my eyebrows at Jake, who merely nodded. I knew he took it black but inquired of both anyway. Rita introduced herself, and they all shook hands. I didn’t get a handshake. I began to feel very nervous. My knuckles started to prickle.

Rita rents my street-level apartment. Short and trim, with crazy hair from an indeterminate ethnic background, she’s my closest friend even if she is a social worker. I had an overload of social workers during the time I was in the hospital, all telling me how fucked up I was going to be when I got out. After that, I swore off them permanently, but Rita was the exception. Despite our connection, Rita was a little bit of an enigma; quiet as a whisper, I never heard music or a loud voice from her apartment, so it was hard to tell if she was home or not, and I never knew if she had company because she apparently didn’t keep regular hours. But every Sunday morning without fail she’d be at my back door with croissants and hot chocolate and dressed in tight stretchy sportswear, perfectly comfortable with me in pajama bottoms and my faded silk robe. And that’s how a Sunday morning found us, the second of January, a sunny, cold winter day, when we heard the knock at the front door.

“I’m going to head back downstairs, Ian. If you need anything, just call.” And then she was gone. Cops can do that: clear a room instantly.

I poured two cups from the carafe and retrieved a carton of milk from the refrigerator for Ransom, letting him pour. “What’s going on?” I asked.

Ransom spoke. Jake didn’t say a word. “You are acquainted with a Thomas Wilson.” Statement, not a question.

“He was a student of mine, yes.” The answer to the nonquestion.

“Was?” Ransom asked, a hint of a challenge in the tone.

“Yes,” I said warily. “He’s taken his last drawing class. I teach drawing.”

“When was the last time you saw him?” Again Ransom. Christ. This was bad. I was going to hear that Thomas was missing. Missing or hurt, or…no, not going there. My stomach roiled a little.

“What’s going on?” I asked again. And in nearly a whisper. “What kind of detectives are you? Missing persons?” Yeah, like there are missing persons detectives. I was hoping for the best out of the only other option.

“Homicide,” said Ransom. I sat down hard on the nearest chair. Ransom then asked again, “When was the last time you saw Thomas Wilson?”

No, I do not want to hear what’s coming. “The last day of class. Um, the twelfth, I guess. He helped me load portfolios into my car. Are you telling me Thomas is dead?” Jake nodded but said nothing. “Are you sure? Sure it was Thomas? What happened? When?” They were wrong, had the wrong kid, were talking to the wrong instructor. I stared uncomprehendingly at Ransom. I couldn’t meet Jake’s eyes at all. I felt helpless. My knuckles began to itch, and I distractedly scratched at them.

My Review:
Ian Start is an artist and writer working as an adjunct professor at RISD–Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. He’s independently wealthy, no thanks to a huge lawsuit payout he got after an injury at a chain restaurant turned into a flesh-eating disease he barely survived. Prior to the infection he had an on-again off-again relationship with a sexy paralegal in NYC, but that guy disappeared during Ian’s recovery, which was prolonged and agonizing. He has deep tissue loss and scars in his thigh making his former passion of running impossible. Ian has also lost contact with his mother since the injury–she had a hard time handling the aesthetics of it.

One of Ian’s students, a young gay man call Thomas, has been murdered, and Ian has been clumsily implicated as a person of interest. It seems that Thomas, whom Ian knew well as a student, was turning tricks to pay his expenses at school since his family had disowned him in his teens. The news is shocking to Ian, who would have gladly helped out Thomas if he had known. Ian is also unsettled that one of the lead investigators of the murder is Det. Jake Quinn, a man Ian dated heavily in one of his off-times from his NYC beau. The broke up badly, and Ian still has feelings for Jake, but he’s too mired in his own self-disgust over the state of his leg–and how he hobbles on a cane now instead of being the virile man of his pre-infection days.

Ian is determined to do right by Thomas, even in death and pays to bury him, collects his personal drawings before they are trashed by the landlord’s cleaning crew and generally makes it clear to Jake that he won’t rest until Thomas’ murderer is found. Ian is initially a suspect, but the original leads turned out to be planted, and Ian’s sure that the case is growing cold. All his poking is aggravating the situation, however, and Ian finds himself not only threatened, but attacked in his own home. Jake is steadfast in his feelings that Ian should stay out of it–but he’s also warming to reopening their closed love story , if Ian’s up for it. There’s a good deal of soul searching in this slow burn mystery-romance. Ian is an interesting character, and he sees patterns and symmetry where others may not. He’s afraid to hope that Jake might become a partner to him, because he feels so unlovable, and that vulnerability is really poignant. It doesn’t help that Jake has some complications, an old lover who wants to rekindle things might beat Ian to the finish line there. Ian does solve the mystery, but it’s not a triumphant experience with as much tragedy that occurs in the climax.

I loved how Ian rediscovers himself in the course of the few months of this story’s timeline. He’s been depressed for so long, and he has to battle his inner doubts over and over to make things right for Thomas, and between himself and Jake. There is a happy ending, on the romance front. The mystery, as I mentioned, gets solved with a maximum of carnage, and that was more dramatic than I had truly anticipated. The book is quiet, with such lyrical prose I was one hundred percent in the head and experiences of Ian from the beginning. I really liked the story and wonder how Ian will continue to solve mysteries now that he and Jake are coupled up.

Interested? You can find START TO FINISH on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Pamela A. Williams is a Clinical Social Worker living and working on the Southcoast of Massachusetts. She is the daughter John E. Williams, winner of the 1973 National Book Award for Augustus. She has always had writing in her blood but has only lately found the serenity and confidence to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will).

Ms. Williams comes from a widely varied background. She’s worked in manufacturing, retail, graphic arts and the mental health field. She tries to bring these experiences to her writing to create well rounded, believable characters. And she remains forever honored and grateful to her clients who have shared their personal stories and broadened her view of humanity. She is awed by their resilience and trust.

She lives with two cats, of course.

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

Dangerous Love DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a newly re-released M/M paranormal romance from mega-writer Rick R. Reed. DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE has some heat and some horror as a man in his mid 20s falls hard for an older mysterious man, a new immigrant Sicily who may–or may not–be a murderous werewolf. If you liked THE PERILS OF INTIMACY, LEGALLY WED, or THE SECRETS WE KEEP you’ll likely enjoy this one, too.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
A monster moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from Seattle’s gay gathering areas.

In an atmosphere of spine-tingling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love cooking in an Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and…he can cook!

As the pair’s love heats up, so do the questions. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And, more important, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

When the secrets are finally revealed, is Thad and Sam’s love for one another strong enough to weather the horrific revelations revealed by the light of the full moon?

How about a little taste?

Music from his clock radio woke Thad Matthews at 6:00 a.m. The song, “Smokestack Lightning,” yanked him from a heavy, dream-laden sleep. Its energy forced his eyes open wider, caused synapses, eight hours dormant, to tingle, and made him want to move. Nonetheless, he slapped at the snooze button, silencing the bluesy wail, rolled over, and then pulled the comforter over his head. He was glad he had tuned his clock radio to KPLU, Seattle’s only all-blues all-the-time station, but he desperately wanted to recapture just a few more minutes of his dream, in which he’d found himself on the moors of England. All he could recall was that the moors themselves were appropriately fog shrouded and lit with a silvery luminance from above. Someone waited for him in the shadows and fog. And he couldn’t, for the life of him, know for certain if that someone meant to do him harm or meant to just do him.

He’d been having a lot of sexual dreams lately.

As much as he wanted to unravel the mystery of the dream—and to perhaps savor the vague sexual vibrations he was getting from it—sleep eluded him. He found thoughts of the day crowding in, preventing even the most remote possibility of a recurrence of slumber.

Thad sat up in the four-poster, rubbing his eyes like a little boy, and wondered why he bothered setting an alarm. He had no job to go to, no pressing engagements, no muse to answer to—hell, he didn’t even have an appointment for an oil change.

This day, like all his others, stretched out before him completely unmarred with obligations other than the requirements life imposed upon him, such as eating and going to the bathroom, which the erection poking up under his sheets compelled him to take care of. He called this morning wood a pee-on, because once he had put that particular need to rest, it most often subsided.

After stumbling to the adjoining bathroom and letting go with a flow that caused a mighty sigh of relief to issue forth from him, he thought once again that maybe today should be the day he looked harder into getting himself some employment—anything to put him into contact with other people and to fill his waking hours. Lord knew he filled out enough applications and answered enough Help Wanted ads on Craigslist to keep the officials down at unemployment sending him checks. But all his efforts, dishearteningly, were ignored.

It had been nearly four months since he had been laid off at Perk, the national chain of coffee shops headquartered in suburban Shoreline. Thad had been there for six years, in the marketing department, spending his days writing clever sayings for paper coffee cups and point-of-purchase signs for the stores. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. And writing phrases like “Plan on Being Spontaneous” paid the bills, even if it didn’t provide much creative or intellectual challenge. It helped sell coffee, and Thad never kidded himself: that’s why he was employed there.

Except now they didn’t need him anymore. Who would write the signs for their special Iced Coffee blend?

He gazed down at the bubbling golden froth in the toilet and flushed it away, along with his thoughts about his former job. He turned and rinsed his hands under the sink, then splashed cold water on his face. Standing up straight, he stared at his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror.

“You’re too young for a life of leisure,” he said to his reflection, rubbing his hands through his short, coarse red hair, which stuck up in a multitude of directions. People paid good money for products that would make their hair look as fetchingly disheveled as Thad’s did right now. He peered closer at himself, taking inventory of his pale skin, his gray eyes, and the constellation of freckles that spanned his nose and the tops of his cheeks. He flexed, thinking he was looking a little flabby around the middle.

“Workout day. I’ll head over to the gym today. I need it.” He sucked in his gut and let it out again, thinking it was empty and needed refilling. A Pagliacci delivery pizza only went so far. His slumber and active dream life, he supposed, had all but digested the pie.

Thad moved to the bedroom and began tossing pillows on the floor to make up his bed. He wasn’t sure why he bothered with this either, since it was unlikely anyone would see the military-neat bed except for him, when he would approach it once more this evening just to mess it all up again. But it was important to Thad to have a routine. Otherwise his days would blend into one meaningless chunk of time, formless, without definition or purpose.

It was becoming increasingly hard enough to distinguish Tuesday from Thursday—or Sunday, for that matter.

Back when he was putting in forty-plus hours a week, he envied the increasing number of friends and acquaintances who had gotten laid off during the economic downturn. The money they made on unemployment seemed like enough—at least for him and his modest lifestyle in his Green Lake studio apartment—and the freedom they had seemed worth the cut in pay.

But now he wasn’t so sure. The uncertainty of what would happen if he still wasn’t working when the unemployment checks dwindled down to zero hung over him like a vague threat. And the freedom wasn’t really so great, when that same threat prevented him from spending much money, lest he should need it down the road for luxuries like food and a roof over his head.

Worst of all was what the job loss had done to his self-esteem. Thad needed some meaning in his life, a purpose. That much had been instilled in him since he was a little boy, back in Chicago growing up in the working class neighborhood of Bridgeport, where his father was a cop and his mother waited tables at a Lithuanian restaurant.

He pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, padded out to the office area of his apartment, and plopped down in front of his laptop. He planned to check out the classifieds on Craigslist, then Monster, then CareerBuilder. When he was first laid off, he looked only at writing and editing jobs but had lately broadened his search to include, well, just about everything. Thad realized he would work retail, man a customer service phone line, groom dogs, or wait tables, as long as he had a job.

Yet the rest of the world hadn’t gotten wind of his eagerness to accept any kind of employment. Or if they had, they weren’t saying.

Before he went through the often-depressing ritual of cyber pavement pounding, he would check out what had happened in the world since he had stumbled in last night from an evening of self-consolation and vodka on Capitol Hill. He hit the little orange-and-blue Firefox icon on the dock at the bottom of his screen to bring up the day’s online news…

And was jolted right out of whatever sluggishness he was feeling. He stared at the lead article for that day’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A chill coursed through him, and he slowly shook his head as he read the details of that morning’s top story, titled “Brutal Slaying in Capitol Hill.” The article described how an as-yet-unidentified young man had been killed in an alley in the Seattle neighborhood known for its heavy concentration of gay bars and clubs. Thad had to stop reading for a moment to close his eyes because the gruesome details were simply too much to bear. His stomach churned. The man had not just been killed but had been literally ripped apart. Very little blood was found at the scene. And forensics had already determined that there was no trace of metal found on the victim’s flesh, which meant that the deed had to have been done with something other than a knife. The worst detail of all was the fact that the remains bore definite signs that much of the man’s flesh had been eaten. Authorities are keeping details to themselves regarding who—or what—the perpetrator could have been. The story closed with the usual cautions about what to do—don’t travel alone, avoid strangers and unlit places—when something so unsettling and violent occurs.

Thad exited Firefox sooner than he had planned and stared out the window. His heart thumped in his chest. Bile splashed at the back of his throat and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He had been in Capitol Hill the night before, having a dirty martini or three at Neighbours, one of the gay ghetto’s most popular hangouts. He wondered if, as he had made his way back to the bus stop, he had passed the killer or killers. If perhaps the killer or killers had eyed him, wondering if he would suffice for their demented purposes. He could see himself through their eyes, being watched from the shadows of a vestibule or an alley as he made his way back to the bus stop on Broadway. He wondered if he looked appetizing. He had been told on more than one occasion that he was “tasty” and “delicious,” but those doing the describing were not thinking of him as dinner—at least not in the conventional sense. He wondered if perhaps the only thing that had saved him was the coincidental passing of a boisterous group from the University of Washington, coming up alongside him just as the fiend in the dark was ready to pounce. He shivered. For once, rejection was a comforting thought.

Rejection, under these circumstances, was the new “getting lucky.”

Still, some poor soul had not been as lucky as he had, and today forensics was probably busy trying to figure out just who this unfortunate soul was. From what Thad had read, it didn’t sound like they had much to go on. Dental records, maybe? What kind of animal would not only kill a fellow human being but also eat his flesh and drink his blood? Was this a human being at all? Thad had heard of bears occasionally making their misguided ways down from the mountains and into Seattle, but they usually got no farther than suburban parks and backyards. And the “bears” that routinely cruised the Capitol Hill neighborhood were of a much more cuddly variety.

Surely, though, an animal couldn’t have been roaming around busy Capitol Hill on Friday night. The neighborhood, on weekend nights, was a blur of barhoppers and partiers, its hilly streets filled with people and cars jockeying for position. Loud and well lit, it was the kind of neighborhood that would scare the shit out of an animal, at least an animal with normal fears and inclinations. This had to be the work of a person, or people, right? And whoever was behind such a thing had to be majorly warped. Thad had a quick vision of pale-gray eyes and enormous canine teeth until he banished the imagery to the back of his brain, grateful for another kind of canine distraction.

That distraction had just sidled up beside Thad, her arrival signaled by a clicking of toenails on hardwood. Thad glanced down at his gray-and-white Chihuahua, Edith, staring up at him with her dark eyes. Her tongue stuck out one side of her mouth, giving her a both comical and wizened appearance. The dog was about a hundred years old, and Thad thought, for better or worse, she was his very best friend in the world. Edith got up on her hind legs to paw at Thad’s lap, indicating to him that he was not the only creature in the house that had to pee first thing in the morning.

Thad got up and, with Edith following impatiently behind, slid into flip-flops and grabbed her leash. “C’mon, sweetheart, let’s take a little walk down to the lake, and then we’ll see about getting us both some breakfast.”

My Review:
Thad Matthews is a man in his mid 20s who’s recently been laid off ans is enjoying a bit of R & R in his Seattle apartment while he job hunts and lives of unemployment. He tries to stay fit and has recently signed up to volunteer at a local food bank that serves gay shut-ins. He’s a super daddy to his chihuahua Edith, and he would really like a guy to settle down with, but no one has seemed right in the longest time.

He checks out a brand new cafe one night and meets the owner, a secy Sicilian bear named Sam Lupino. Sam and Thad have an instant connection and their night only begins with Sam feeding Thad all the best of his cafe’s kitchen. It unexpected, but delightfully, ends with Sam absolutely blowing Thad’s mind in bed. And, best news of all, Sam wants a repeat and a real relationship.

Meanwhile, Sam’s life is “complicated” and he can’t really commit on account of family issues. Thad thinks Sam must be closeted and playing him like a side-piece, but it’s more that Sam’s adult son, Domenic, is extremely homophobic. Sam is afraid to upset his family dynamic and Thad is heartbroken. Through his volunteer efforts Thad meets Jared, who really wants to date Thad–but his heart is still bruised by Sam. And, there’s some back and forth where Sam and Thad do connect in ways that might lead to more.

However, there is a murderer on the streets of Seattle. Twice in the past two months–always on the full moon–men in the gay community have been brutally slaughtered in areas known to be cruising zones. Jared is nearly attacked, and he leans on Thad heavily as he recovers from the shock. Thad’s dreams are plagued by nightmares of werewolves, and he’s starting to piece together the nights he sought out Sam and couldn’t find him were always on the full moon. Is Sam a brutal killer? Is Thad losing his mind?

This is a really cool take on the werewolf horror trope and harkens back to Silver Bullet, a fave movie from my youth. The werewolf is definitely under control–but Thad and Jared are also in its sights. Sam’s mysterious behavior provides a great counterpoint to the building tension, and while I had picked the killer out in the first part of the story, there were enough turns to keep me 100% engaged and turning those pages. There’s a significant amount of suspense, and while the ending is technically happy, there is certainly a lot of loss and gore until we arrive there. It’s a perfect Halloween read.

Interested? You can find DINNER AT THE BLUE MOON CAFE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

Catch up with Rick on his website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Cover Reveal for NICE CATCHING YOU

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a holiday M/M contemporary romance from life- and writing-partners Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood. NICE CATCHING YOU features a closeted top college hockey player falling hard for a law student he meets by chance. I really liked WHAT HE REALLY NEEDS and TOO CLOSE TO THE FLAME so I’m excited about this new release.

About the book:
What happens when the No. 1 college hockey star in the country falls in love—with a man?
Nick Johnson, a top prospect for a pro hockey team, has a secret: he’s gay. Tired of living in the
closet for the sport he loves, he sees no way out.
Jacob Meyer’s string of bad boyfriends left him cynical about love. Instead, he focuses on his
studies as a third-year law student. With a new job waiting for him, he’s eager to graduate and
move on.

On a school-sponsored trip, Nick and Jacob meet in a most unexpected way. When Nick tells
Jacob his secret, they decide to hang out, just as friends. But their attraction is too strong to
ignore, and they soon begin dating.

Since Nick is a big man on campus, it doesn’t take long for people to notice his attachment to
Jacob. All hell breaks loose when the relationship gets out. As the national media descends,
university officials try to figure out how to solve their “problem.” Their efforts divide Nick’s
team, inflame fans, and put Nick and Jacob’s futures in jeopardy. Will the men be able to
survive a plot to destroy them without derailing both their careers?

Nice Catching You is an out-for-you romance featuring a lot of love, exciting hockey, and a
beautiful holiday. There’s also plenty of steam and a very happy ending.

Interested? You can pre-order NICE CATCHING YOU in advance of it’s October 30th release on Amazon.

About the Authors:
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and enjoy travel, friends, dogs, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Josh and Ryan love writing, and the romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

You can catch up with Ryan and Joshua on their website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Magic and Mayhem in THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M supernatural romance just released from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER features royals, superheroes and intrigue, with a slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the book giveaway.
About the book:
Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.

Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.

But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

My heels clicked in rapid succession as I walked down the centerline of the grand executive hall. It was far afield of the offices on lower floors. It took minutes to get all the way up there, which was why I’d needed to make haste. Left unattended on nights when he would rather have been any place but at his post, the Prince had a tendency to disappear.

The floors were made of marble and their design was quite ornate—a wide white border off to each side, with an elaborate design forming a runway down the middle. It wasn’t a pattern, but a work of art, its geometric pieces reminiscent of stained glass. It gave the sense of walking on a rug made of stone.

Hues from garnet, to ruby, to tawny, to rose made up elements of a palette that swirled and faded to ambers and golds. They complemented magnificent oil paintings of Abarran countryside that lined the grand corridor’s high walls. Spaced-out sitting benches rendered the space worthy of entertaining. Yet, he kept it to himself, and spent most of his time alone.

The downstairs offices were another story. They were filled with six-by-six-foot cubicles configured en masse for the Ministry’s rank and file. Enclosed offices here and there were reserved for mid-level managers: MLMs, as we liked to call them. I inhabited one of the better of these offices—a space in the corner on a higher floor with a not-bad view—though an MLM I was not.

Ostensibly, I was the Head of Internal Affairs, which was exactly her intention—a gross understatement considering my deep involvement with the covert side. Not making that last fact public was by design. My list of responsibilities was too long to name—too long for me to remember most days. Yet, the highest of my duties was to babysit him.

He was Prince Xabier Garrastazu, third in line to the South Abarran throne, son of Prince Frantzisco, nephew to the Queen, and Duke of Brix. He was also the Minister of Powers—the highest-ranking official at this agency and—despite my charge to keep him from making too big a mess out of things, he was—technically—my boss.

“Is he in?” I asked Eusebio, more for his benefit than mine. I knew the Prince’s comings and goings. I had eyes on him at all times. I tried not to roll my eyes as Eusebio made a production of picking up the phone to announce my arrival. The Prince enjoyed forcing me to wait to be let in.

Good.

The more ridiculously childish and infuriatingly vain Prince Xabier, Duke of Brix, chose to be wherever I was concerned, the easier it was to ignore his ridiculous appeal.

“Your Grace.” As usual, I greeted his back, the part of him that always seemed to face me when I walked into his suite. Even from behind, the man was magnificent. Broad shoulders filled out a perfectly tailored button-down made of fine fabric and subtle herringbone design. Today’s shirt—white if you weren’t paying attention—was the faintest of lilac. He was the epitome of a dashing prince.

To be clear, I was paying attention, not only to the way its snug fit showed the definition in his shoulders—to the place where the fabric stopped and his rolled-up sleeves gave way to skin. For all the hard work he didn’t do, there needn’t have been any rolling up of sleeves. In my most outlandish of theories, he did it to torment me.

“Mr. Otxoa,” the Prince greeted blithely, not turning toward me just yet. He stood on a rug in the sitting area with his gaze remained fixed on the fire. His office was a projection of the man himself—pleasantly fragrant, clean to a fault and dripping with style. Tufted wingback chairs with ottomans flanked a matching Chesterfield, all three in a dark teal. Fire glow warmed his features, casting appeal on the planes of his face, flattering the smooth line of his nose and cutting shadows from his diamond jaw.

I stopped at the edge of the rug next to the drink trolley that carried only wine. Its twin at the other end of the Chesterfield was all crystal decanters and spirits. When he turned, I was meant to bow out of deference. This was always the most difficult moment—the one when he first cast his gaze upon me. I faltered at the devastating beauty of his eyes.

“And what have you for me tonight? More documents to sign, no doubt. More supos with powers run rampage?”

He made no secret of the fact that my presence vexed him. Unencumbered by the burden of common birth, the Prince was under no obligation to feign politesse. Logic dictated that his resentment stemmed from me holding him to task. Instinct told me that the sport he made of pushing my buttons was something more.

The Prince finally cast his sapphire gaze upon me and I did bow then, thankful that the deep hue of my skin made it easy to hide my flush. Blood that he could not see rushed to my cheeks and prickled my nose and burned the tops of my ears. If he resented me, I, too, resented him. Training the Prince was not supposed to be so difficult as this.

My Review:
This is a fun and magical enemies-to-lovers supernatural, royal romance.

Prince Xabier has a secret magical power that he is trying to keep from his queen. As third in line for the throne, Xabier wishes he didn’t have so much responsibility as director of the Ministry that oversees the magical powers of the various royals in Abarra. Xabier’s power helps ripen the grapes in his family’s vineyard to bottle-able perfection.

It’s hard for Xabier to escape the tedium of his Ministry position, and especially so because the head of Internal Affairs, Zain Oxtoa, is always on his tail to sign one order, or another.

Zain has a secret mission: to watch Xabier and determine how his superpower is developing. The Queen is sure that Xabier’s growing power could be the one to help unite and manage the powers of all the unruly royal supes. Zain is trying to get Xabier to act as an agent of the law in the way of the official guidelines. And, boy, each of these men had a simmering attraction for the other.

I really loved how Xabier thought he was pulling some shenanigans, but meanwhile he was really falling directly according to a plan the Queen had envisioned. I loved how Zain really cared for Xabier, and was so conscientious to allow him the freedom he needed to really find his own place in their world. We get a great look at how these two cleave together as Xabier enters an in-depth training to hone his skills in magic wielding. The magic aspects were creative and added sparks of humor and whimsy, while the relationship grew and developed. There are bits of sexytimes, while the growing confidence Xabier has in his new skills is countered by the feeling that Zain’s willing to sacrifice his own love to ensure that Xabier has the future one envisions for a prince.

I enjoyed this one, and would have loved to read more of the stories of Abarra. It’s part of a connected series of novels by different authors, but it’s easy to enjoy each as a standalone.

Interested? You can find THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER on Goodreads and Amazon.

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About the Author:
Kenzie Blades is a queer author of romantic LGBTQ+ fiction and is the alter ego of a multi-award winning author who writes other fiction under a different name. Kenzie lives in San Francisco and enjoys lots of things that start with the letter B, like bacon, bourbon and books.

Catch up to Kenzie on their website, Goodreads, and Instagram.