Happy Book Birthday to RAPID RESPONSE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from DJ Jamison. RAPID RESPONSE is the eighth book in the Hearts and Health series, but fully enjoyable as a standalone. Other books I’ve enjoyed by this author include LOVE BY NUMBER and FULL DISCLOSURE, so I’m looking forward to reading this one!

Scroll down for the excerpt and to enter the $10 Amzzon GC giveaway!
About the book:
A confused straight guy and a gay hookup artist walk into a bar…
Firefighter Sean Connolly is straight — until one impulsive night changes everything. He tries to dismiss it as a fluke, but when a fire rescue leads him back to the guy who blew his mind, he’s thrown into a chaos of confusion and want. He gives in to curiosity, exploring a new side to himself — not just his attraction to a man, but his desperate need to please.

Paramedic Jace Gillespie is a hookup pro, never letting anyone get too close. When he meets Sean, though, he feels a connection right away. An ill-advised threesome seems to kill a friendship in the making, but when they’re thrown together by work, it doesn’t take long for passion to reignite. Sean calls to something in Jace he never knew was there, and together, they explore a dynamic that fulfills them both.

But as feelings deepen, doubts surface. Sean is in the closet, and Jace struggles to trust his promise that it won’t last forever. With family conflict and his career in the balance, Sean finds it difficult to picture his life without secrecy, but if he doesn’t find a way, he may lose the one person he most wants to please.

Rapid Response is the longest novel of the Hearts and Health series at approximately 92,000 words! It can be read as a standalone.

How about a little taste?

Sean glanced into the mirror, and though he looked like the same guy on the outside — dark hair, dark eyes, unremarkable face — he didn’t recognize the one on the inside. And that was scary.

“I’m sorry,” he scraped out.

“For what? Staring at my mouth, or for hiding from yourself?” Jace asked caustically.

Sean swallowed hard. His traitorous eyes found Jace in the mirror, locking on the mouth in question. Pink, full lips. Jace had been a good kisser. A good … sucker.

“Yeah, just like that,” Jace said.

Sean jerked his gaze to Jace’s eyes, which bored into him, their power not diluted in the slightest by the mirror acting as their go-between. Could Jace see what was inside? If he could…

“Sorry,” Sean whispered. “I didn’t realize I…”

“What, Sean? What didn’t you realize?”

“That I, um. That I…” He couldn’t get the words out.

“That you like my mouth? That you want it on you again? That you—”

Sean spun around. “Shut up.”

“Make me.”

His breath caught. “What?”

“You heard me,” Jace said. “Make me shut up. You know exactly how to do it.”

Sean hesitated, and Jace smirked. “Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

Frustrated and frazzled, Sean acted on instinct, doing exactly what Jace had asked. He grabbed the front of Jace’s shirt, spun him around, and shoved him against the counter containing the row of sinks.

Then he kissed him.

Hard.

To make him shut up.

It was the only way to get him to stop talking. Gloating. Jace had practically ordered him to do it, the bastard. And Sean needed to shut up the doubts in his head, too.

He closed his eyes, blocking out all thought, and sank into the feeling of Jace’s perfect, hot mouth on his again.

My Review:
Firefighter Sean Gillespie thinks he’s supporting his newly out bisexual brother when he attends a drag night at a gay club. Only, his brother doesn’t show up. Still interested in the show, he’s cajoled into hanging out with Jace and his female bestie. They share beers and chat, Sean admitting to his confusing attraction to the performers. Jace thinks Sean is hot, but gets that he’s not gay, still, he lets his gal pal talk Sean into more drinks at Jace’s apartment. And once there she puts the moves on Sean–convincing him to let Jace pleasure him. It seems to go great, but Sean panics in the end, leaving Jace frustrated.

A couple months rolls by and Jace and Sean reconnect at the scene of an apartment fire. Sean carries a missing girl to safety, but is injured at the scene. Jace is the paramedic who treats him. The girl’s mother is overjoyed by the rescue, and her letter to the paper sparks a PR outreach that catalogues Jace and Sean on outings with the girl and her mother. The more time Jace and Sean spend together the more the attraction grows between them. Jace is just a little bit dominant and that stokes an unknown service kink for Sean.

Sean is struggling with his sexual identity–because he has homophobic crew mates in the firehouse, and his eldest brother has seemingly disowned their middle brother for coming out as bisexual. Still, he’s falling hard for Jace, and takes to spending more and more time with Jace, if only to escape the trouble he’s facing after he takes his eldest brother in off the street–his wife kicked him out for being an insufferable pig and a drunk.

Jace hasn’t had any relationships in a long time, and what’s happening with Sean is feeling like it could be a relationship, if only Sean would come out. Because he won’t well, they fight. And it’s a short bit of heartbreak. I liked the cast of characters here. Both Sean and Jace are decent guys, and they fall hard for one another. Jace knows how much crap Sean will get for coming out publicly, as he’s experienced it firsthand. He won’t push Sean to action, but he also can’t live a shadow-life of happy times behind his apartment door. It felt really realistic, and understandable. The climax, however has some definite heartbreak. Sean figures out what he needs to do, but the timing is complicated. And there’s some family drama and tragedy that he needs to work out. The grand gesture at the end is sweet, and leaves the door open for the next romance in the series. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for that one.

Interested? You can find RAPID RESPONSE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.

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

OUT IN THE OFFENSE–Now Available in Audiobook! Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new audiobook of a New Adult M/M romance from Lane Hayes. Y’all know I totally loved OUT IN THE DEEP END and OUT IN THE OFFENSE, but the audiobook was spectacular!

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway.
About the book:
Christian Rafferty is a talented quarterback with a big secret. He’s determined to make the most of his final season on the football field, and if possible, avoid any confrontations with his conservative parents about his future. It shouldn’t be difficult; he’s become adept at keeping his public and private lives separate. However, when a math class threatens to derail his plans to graduate on time, he realizes he may need outside help.

Rory Kirkland has a reputation for being a tough guy. He’s a former wrestler and recent college graduate who needs a real job. Until he finds one, tutoring is a decent temporary gig. Luckily, his brain is his biggest asset. Rory is a genius. He credits his sport for helping him deal with angst and rumors about his sexuality when he was younger, but he doesn’t care what others think anymore. He likes his new status as an out and proud bi man; and he recognizes something of himself in Christian. But Rory didn’t count on falling for him. When an unlikely friendship collides with intense attraction, both men begin to realize that coming out on offense just might be the surest path to love.

How about a yummy taste?

“Can I do anything to help?” I asked, setting my backpack on one of the two barstools at the narrow counter space.
“Nope. As soon as the veggies are sautéed, we’ll be ready to eat. Want something to drink?”
“Yes, please. Water is fine. Where’s Buttons?”
Rory pulled a water bottle from the small fridge behind him and handed it over, then pointed at a basket next to the sofa.
“She’s hiding behind that basket. She’ll make an appearance if she decides you’re worthy. In the meantime, there’s bread in that basket on the counter next to your bag. Help yourself. I’ll bring dinner out.”
I thanked him, then twisted the cap from the water bottle and took a generous sip before rounding the corner in search of the bread. I was ravenous. I bit into the baguette with gusto before turning to check out my surroundings.
Rory’s apartment was tiny. Probably half the size of mine and much older. But unlike the rough exterior, it was…pleasant. Surprisingly so. A short wall delineated the narrow kitchen from the main living area. There was just enough room for a sofa, an ottoman, a TV console, and a smallish television. Two barstools were tucked under the small peninsula by the cut-out in the kitchen wall. The palette was basic “dude”…dark leather against stark white walls, though a large red throw rug anchored the room and provided a nice splash of color. It was simple—but tidy and very clean.
“Your place is cool,” I commented when he entered the room, carrying two plates and a large bowl.
“Thanks. Let’s sit on the sofa. We have more room to eat there,” he said decisively as he set his burden on the coffee table. “Help yourself. I’ll get some forks, napkins, and extra veggies.”
I obeyed and quickly got to work, scooping chicken fettucine Alfredo onto both plates. Rory joined me a minute later, handing over the silverware before taking a seat next to me. I shot a bashful sideways glance at him as I reached for a napkin.
“Do you eat like this every night?”
“It’s really nothing special. I make sauces in bulk and freeze them. Then it’s just a matter of adding protein and veggies. By the way, this Alfredo is a healthy version. If you want to drown it in parmesan, feel free. I won’t be offended. Cheers.” He tapped his water bottle against mine and winked.
“Cheers. And thanks again. This is incredible and very unexpected.” I smiled as I twisted the pasta around my fork.
“You’re welcome. You sounded anxious, but you said we’re cool. Are we?”
“Of course.”
Rory tilted his head and shot me a challenging look. “Then kiss me.”
“Um…now?”
“Yeah, now. The other night could have been a fluke. Instead of wondering, let’s get it over with. One kiss should be enough to tell. C’mere,” he commanded, leaning sideways.
I set my fork down and met him halfway until our noses brushed. Then I waited for him to make the next move. He stayed stubbornly still. When I couldn’t stand the growing tension, I pressed my lips to his. And wow…amazing.
Rory was a great kisser. He had the simple art of give-and-take down to a science. He molded his mouth to mine and gently pushed his tongue inside. The connection was sweet but bold. It was more about discovery than possession. I hummed as I snaked my arm around his neck, pulling him closer. He sucked my tongue, then bit my bottom lip playfully before pulling back.
“Definitely not a fluke,” he said with a devilish grin.

My Review:
I just reviewed the actual book last week, so I’m going to sum it up and discuss why I liked the audiobook.

Christian Rafferty is a college football player in need of a tutor for statistics. His coach recommends Rory, a math whiz and recent college grad who fills his time doing odd tutoring and personal training. Rory is an out and proud bisexual after his closeted status lost him the love of a good man. e gets a vibe off Christian that he’s not too shy to pursue. Christian won’t resist Rory–that former wrestler is too sexy–but he’s not sure if he should come out. His teammate Evan did the season before, and Christian’s conservative parents weren’t best pleased.

Michael Pauley does the audio and he really made me feel like I was in the mix. Whoo boys! His gritty voice really suited both Rory and Christian’s masculine characters. I was not disappointed with all the yummy sexytimes in stereo. The audiobook runs about 5.5 hours, and I felt the pacing was spot on, with great accent in all the right places. Hearing Christian’s uncertainty and frustration with his meddling father was just as easy as hearing his vulnerability meeting and falling for Rory. Rory felt a little flat in the book, but he really came to life in the audio, which I liked. He seems like a better guy than the impression we had in the previous story. He’s grown up and found himself, and that was fun to experience.

If you like audiobooks, I’d recommend any of the ones in this series. They aren’t too long, and they have some great characters finding sexy lovers to satisfy them.

Interested? You can find OUT IN THE OFFENSE on Goodreads and Amazon and Audible.

You can also pick up the first two books in this series, too!
OUT IN THE DEEP is available on Goodreads, Amazon ebook, and Audible (audiobook).

OUT IN THE END ZONE is available on Goodreads, Amazon and Audible.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

About the Narrator:
Michael has well over 50 audio book titles currently available for purchase on Audible.com. He is versed in multiple styles and genres including fiction (novels and short stories) ranging from romance to science fiction to crime dramas to thrillers; business strategy books; health and wellness books; and even an occasional children’s book.
Fans of Michael’s narration are welcome to follow him on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

If you are interested in working with Michael to produce your next audio book, you can contact him directly at voice@michaelpauley.info

Catch up with Michael on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and SoundCloud.

Finding the Path to a BETTER PLACE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance newly released from Jay Northcote. BETTER PLACE is the third book in his Rainbow Place series set in Porthladock, Cornwall. It’s a fun series, though this book features a man in an emotionally abusive relationship finding the courage to seek a new and better love.

About the book:
Joe deserves better. Meeting Dylan helps him see that.
After a recent redundancy, Joe takes a few months off to try and make it as a writer. His partner, Harry, is less than supportive but Joe is used to that after ten years together, just like he’s used to Harry’s controlling nature and his drinking habit.

Dylan, a server at Rainbow Place, is fascinated by Joe as he sits in the café and works on his laptop. His attempts to flirt are met with awkwardness at first, but gradually Joe opens up. Dylan is disappointed when he learns Joe isn’t single. As their friendship develops he begins to worry about the nature of Joe’s relationship, especially when he witnesses Harry’s behaviour in person. Abuse isn’t always physical, and Dylan knows that from experience. His concern helps Joe see his relationship for what it is, and gives him the courage to end things with Harry.

Free to act on their mutual attraction, Joe and Dylan dive headlong into something that becomes serious fast. Joe revels in the passion and intimacy he’s been missing out on for so long, but Dylan is worried that Joe is on the rebound. He puts on the brakes, knowing that they need to slow down to make this last. For this new relationship to work, Joe needs to show Dylan that he’s ready to move on from the past.

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

My Review:
Joe and Harry have been monogamous partners for the past ten years. Recently, Joe was laid off from his position at the university, and he’s taking several months before looking for a job to write a novel. This decision was agreed upon by Harry, but Harry’s not totally happy about it. He feels Joe is wasting his time on a lark, and he’s not shy about letting his feelings known–even in public.

The time off has allowed Joe the opportunity to see how skewed the roles have become in their relationship, and he’s not happy about Harry treating him like an errand boy and housekeeper–these are two men in their forties. While in the Rainbow Place cafe writing, Joe meets Dylan, a server. Dylan’s totally attracted to Joe, and he makes some attempts to let Joe know this–which makes things awkward.

Dylan, a survivor of an abusive partner, sees the dangerous situation Joe is in, before Joe does. Joe had thought himself simply dissatisfied, but Harry’s drinking, coupled with his controlling behavior and spiteful outbursts, are steps along the abuse continuum. Dylan speaks up as a friend, and Joe takes a critical look at his life. He’s not married to Harry, but they split the bills and their living arrangement. For Joe, it’s become little more than a roommates situation, as the emotional connection between he and Harry has withered–and is being ripped apart with each new fight. Joe makes the decision to separate…but he can’t really leave. This only feeds Harry’s growing rage, and leaves both Dylan and Joe vulnerable. Especially once Joe and Dylan begin dating.

There was a lot of great emotional connection points for readers in this one. Joe’s predicament, falling into a lackluster rut with a longtime partner, felt very real. As many times as he tried to address his feelings and needs with Harry was as many times as he was shut down and belittled. He was truly sympathetic, and I didn’t even mind how he was connecting so strongly with Dylan at this point. It felt very realistic for Joe to be introspective about his relationship with Harry when he’s being admired by a younger, sexier, man. He tried hard to mend things with Harry, but it wasn’t meant to be–and that’s just life. Dylan’s history of abuse was poignant, and allowed the reader to imagine how difficult it would be to fall for another person after the one you thought loved you became physically abusive. Personal judgment is really high on Dylan’s priorities, and he can’t rely on the excitement of new love to support him in the long run. Using his skills gained in years counseling, Dylan’s able to set reasonable boundaries that protect both him and Joe from careening into emotional disaster. Dylan’s boss and friends at Rainbow Place play a role in making life easier for Joe, especially. I expect to see more of all these guys in future stories.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

signal boost

A Hard Time UNLOCKING THE DOCTOR’S HEART–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M romance from Liam Livings. UNLOCKING THE DOCTOR’S HEART is a sweet and spicy romance between a new nurse and a heartbroken doctor.

About the book:
Headstrong nurse Davie Penrose has moved to London from a small village in Cornwall to start work in the children’s transplant ward. He left to progress his career, but also to escape the painful memories of his ex-boyfriend, a workaholic doctor.

Ambitious Doctor Leo Westbury is in charge of a ward for now, but he has plans to be a medical director soon. Making use of his charm and avoiding commitment due to a painful past, he enjoys temporary relationships with male student nurses.

Clashing over a request to look around the ward before he starts work, Davie thinks Leo pompous, while Leo finds Davie bossy. Becoming friends over a shared passion for helping children on their transplant wards, they get closer through the inevitable ups and downs of caring for sick children. Physical attraction pulls them together; their pasts push them apart.

Both damaged and hurt in different ways, they might just find their happy ever after together.

How about a little taste?

Chapter One
“Davie Penrose, senior staff nurse on Twinkle Ward, starting on Monday,” he said into the phone speaker at the ward’s entrance.

“Sorry, can’t let you in. No ID, no entry.”

“I’ve got this letter.” Davie held the letter to the camera.

“Not the same as a photo ID. They’ll get that sorted for you on Monday.”

“I only wanted to have a look around, see the lay of the land. Where the staff room is, how many beds, that sort of thing.” Davie bit his lip, starting to wish he’d not listened to his friend persuading him to apply for the job in the first place.

“Go on, stretch your wings. You don’t want to be stuck in Cornwall forever do you?” Davie’s friend had said.

Now, that sounded like quite a nice place to be stuck. “Couldn’t you make an exception, ask another member of staff to walk around with me?” Davie held his room key up to the camera. “I’m in the nurses’ accommodation. Room 1004, see?”

After a long sigh, the voice at the end of the speaker went quiet, he was obviously discussing something with another colleague.

A deep, posh, man’s voice came onto the speaker. “Now, let’s see if I can sort this little mess out.” He coughed. “Davie, is it?” Without waiting for a response, he continued, “It’s doctor Westbury here. I’m the senior consultant on call this weekend. I do have other pressing matters to deal with rather than policing the ward entrance.”

Charming! “It won’t take long. If you just look at my paperwork.” Davie held the letter to the camera hopefully.

“One thing at a time, please. Let me finish, will you?”

Disappointed, and frustrated enough to be screaming in his head and wondering who’d died and left this doctor in charge, Davie knew it would be pointless to ask him, because technically as the senior consultant on call, he would be in charge. Instead, Davie said, “I have my passport in my pocket too. Proves who I am. Can’t you check a list somewhere, or something, or other?”

“As I said, one thing at a time. So, I hear you’ve got yourself in something of a situation and you’d like us to bend the rules to let you in.”

“I don’t think it’s bending the rules. Not if I can show you who I am and that I have a job offer here even if I’ve not yet technically started.” Puffing himself up a bit, feeling he was on a bit of a roll now, Davie said, “And besides, I only want a quick look around, see the lay of the—”

“Land, yes, I know. Thing is, see that’s what some old random would say wanting to get inside and make mischief. Or worse. In fact, last week—” Doctor Westbury paused. “—I’m coming out to meet you. Wait there.”

A short while later, after a buzz of the door, Doctor Westbury arrived in a white coat, stethoscope hanging around his neck, brown hair giving the impression he’d just woken. And such deep blue eyes. “Sorry about this, but I can’t bend the rules and let you in.” He folded his arms across his broad chest and shook his head. “I believe you’re starting on Monday, but I can’t take a chance. I don’t know if you noticed, but this isn’t exactly the nicest part of London. Notting Hill it ain’t.” He laughed and raked his hands through his hair. He coughed and looked Davie up and down.

“If I was a random person wanting to get in, why would I have this letter.” Davie waved it theatrically in the air. “And a key to the nurses’ accommodation block.” Jangling it loudly he stared deep into the doctor’s blue eyes. “It’s not bending the rules then, is it? Besides.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his passport. “Look, same name on the letter and passport.”

“I hear your concerns, but as the consultant in charge it would be on my head were anything to happen as a result of this… infraction shall we say.” Carefully checking the passport, letter, and keys he shook his head and tutted loudly. “Seems a bit odd to me, someone wanting to have a look around before starting. Plenty of time for that after you’re properly inducted into the trust.”

“Can’t you use your judgement? I’m sure it must be pretty sound as a consultant.” It was do or die, and Davie needed something to bring this bloody doctor out of his fixation on the damned rules.

Holding his head high, the doctor said, “Of course. My clinical judgement is second to none. I have a fantastic record here and received the highest clinical excellence award possible for the last two years.”

“Very impressive. Well then.” Was it working? Had he taken the bait?

He adjusted his stethoscope around his neck and flattened the collar on his white coat. “I’m thinking. Considering the facts. You.” He looked Davie up and down with a smile.

“Rules are rules for a reason. I’m sure they are. I do know. I have worked on children’s wards myself. Where everyone has to be police checked and all that. But really, honestly, do I look like a random. Can’t you just use some of this amazing judgement and let me in. Please?” Davie smiled.

“You’re not going to take no for an answer, are you?”

Davie shook his head. He usually never did, so why start now with this high-handed doctor? Why did doctors always think they ran the whole hospital if not the whole world? Thinking better than to voice that out loud, he simply held his letter and keys for the doctor to see. Bringing his judgement into the equation may have just worked…. Davie held his breath.

He sighed, raked his hands through his tousled hair and said, “Tell you what. I’ve looked at the evidence you’ve presented to me and I’m satisfied you are who you say you are. But you’re to stay with me the whole time. No wondering off, all right?”

Davie nodded excitedly. He’d done it! He’d won! One nil to Davie!

Entering the code into the keypad, the door opened, and the doctor opened the door. “After you.”

Now, that’s a surprise, Davie thought, expecting the doctor to be something of a me-first-damn-everyone-else man.

Following Davie through the door, the doctor said, “Now, let’s see if we can’t give you a quick tour. I’ll take the flack if I don’t see you back here Monday morning.” He flashed Davie a smile, and butterflies began to stir in Davie’s stomach.

My Review:
Davie Penrose is a new nurse on a pediatric cancer ward in London, which is a far cry from his home in Wales. It’s a culture and care shock, and he’s made a fast friend in one of the younger physicians, Dr. Leo Westbury. Leo and Davie are both out gay men, but Davie’s been burned falling for a doctor before, and Leo doesn’t want anything serious. Leo’s last real partner was a med student who died when they were both in school. He doesn’t want to make any close attachments since then, and it doesn’t matter if Davie is super attractive.

Davie tries to maintain his distance–being only friendly without physical–and they manage it for a couple months. Leo is a cool friend, willing and able to help Davie get moved into a decent flat, and learn how to build flat-pack furnishings. THey also go out for tours of London–so that Davie gets to see cool parts of the big city. Without Leo’s steady friendship Davie might have pulled up stakes and moved back to Wales.

Still, their attraction simmers. And, then it boils over. But, no strings! Until they’re all knotted up. Both men struggle to make sense of what’s developing between them. Leo has a crisis of conscious knowing he’s fallen for Davie, but unwilling to embrace that sensation–it makes him feel super guilty about truly living his life when his lost-love didn’t get that chance. Davie’s a saint, really, holding off his ire when he could have blasted Leo.

For me, this was an okay read. I thought the POV jumping was abrupt, and sometimes repetitive. That said, Davie is fun to get to know, and Leo tries hard to be a decent man–even when he’s messing everything up. I thought eh medicine stuff was a little weak, but I’ve been around healthcare in the US for twenty-plus years. So, that was a little bit of a miss, but I think other readers won’t be troubled by it. There’s a lot more sex than I anticipated, which I definitely enjoyed. On the whole, it’s a decent read without too much melodrama or conflict.

Interested? You can find UNLOCKING THE DOCTOR’S HEART on Goodreads,NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords and Kobo.

About the Author:
Liam Livings lives where east London ends and becomes Essex. He shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He has a sweet tooth for food and entertainment: loving to escape from real life with a romantic book; enjoying a good cry at a sad, funny and camp film; and listening to musical cheesy pop from the eighties to now. He tirelessly watches an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’. Published since 2013 by a variety of British and American presses, his gay romance and gay fiction focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle. He’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. With a masters in creative writing from Kingston University, he teaches writing workshops with his partner in sarcasm and humour, Virginia Heath as http://www.realpeoplewritebooks.com and has also ghost written a client’s 5 Star reviewed autobiography.

You can catch up to Liam on Facebook or Twitter.

Learning How to Be OUT IN THE OFFENSE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new New Adult M/M romance from Lane Hayes. I totally loved OUT IN THE DEEP END, so I was looking forward to OUT IN THE OFFENSE. This is the third book in the Out in College series, but easy to pick up and read on its own.

About the book:
Christian Rafferty is a talented quarterback with a big secret. He’s determined to make the most of his final season on the football field, and if possible, avoid any confrontations with his conservative parents about his future. It shouldn’t be difficult; he’s become adept at keeping his public and private lives separate. However, when a math class threatens to derail his plans to graduate on time, he realizes he may need outside help.

Rory Kirkland has a reputation for being a tough guy. He’s a former wrestler and recent college graduate who needs a real job. Until he finds one, tutoring is a decent temporary gig. Luckily, his brain is his biggest asset. Rory is a genius. He credits his sport for helping him deal with angst and rumors about his sexuality when he was younger, but he doesn’t care what others think anymore. He likes his new status as an out and proud bi man; and he recognizes something of himself in Christian. But Rory didn’t count on falling for him. When an unlikely friendship collides with intense attraction, both men begin to realize that coming out on offense just might be the surest path to love.

How about a yummy taste?

“Can I do anything to help?” I asked, setting my backpack on one of the two barstools at the narrow counter space.
“Nope. As soon as the veggies are sautéed, we’ll be ready to eat. Want something to drink?”
“Yes, please. Water is fine. Where’s Buttons?”
Rory pulled a water bottle from the small fridge behind him and handed it over, then pointed at a basket next to the sofa.
“She’s hiding behind that basket. She’ll make an appearance if she decides you’re worthy. In the meantime, there’s bread in that basket on the counter next to your bag. Help yourself. I’ll bring dinner out.”
I thanked him, then twisted the cap from the water bottle and took a generous sip before rounding the corner in search of the bread. I was ravenous. I bit into the baguette with gusto before turning to check out my surroundings.
Rory’s apartment was tiny. Probably half the size of mine and much older. But unlike the rough exterior, it was…pleasant. Surprisingly so. A short wall delineated the narrow kitchen from the main living area. There was just enough room for a sofa, an ottoman, a TV console, and a smallish television. Two barstools were tucked under the small peninsula by the cut-out in the kitchen wall. The palette was basic “dude”…dark leather against stark white walls, though a large red throw rug anchored the room and provided a nice splash of color. It was simple—but tidy and very clean.
“Your place is cool,” I commented when he entered the room, carrying two plates and a large bowl.
“Thanks. Let’s sit on the sofa. We have more room to eat there,” he said decisively as he set his burden on the coffee table. “Help yourself. I’ll get some forks, napkins, and extra veggies.”
I obeyed and quickly got to work, scooping chicken fettucine Alfredo onto both plates. Rory joined me a minute later, handing over the silverware before taking a seat next to me. I shot a bashful sideways glance at him as I reached for a napkin.
“Do you eat like this every night?”
“It’s really nothing special. I make sauces in bulk and freeze them. Then it’s just a matter of adding protein and veggies. By the way, this Alfredo is a healthy version. If you want to drown it in parmesan, feel free. I won’t be offended. Cheers.” He tapped his water bottle against mine and winked.
“Cheers. And thanks again. This is incredible and very unexpected.” I smiled as I twisted the pasta around my fork.
“You’re welcome. You sounded anxious, but you said we’re cool. Are we?”
“Of course.”
Rory tilted his head and shot me a challenging look. “Then kiss me.”
“Um…now?”
“Yeah, now. The other night could have been a fluke. Instead of wondering, let’s get it over with. One kiss should be enough to tell. C’mere,” he commanded, leaning sideways.
I set my fork down and met him halfway until our noses brushed. Then I waited for him to make the next move. He stayed stubbornly still. When I couldn’t stand the growing tension, I pressed my lips to his. And wow…amazing.
Rory was a great kisser. He had the simple art of give-and-take down to a science. He molded his mouth to mine and gently pushed his tongue inside. The connection was sweet but bold. It was more about discovery than possession. I hummed as I snaked my arm around his neck, pulling him closer. He sucked my tongue, then bit my bottom lip playfully before pulling back.
“Definitely not a fluke,” he said with a devilish grin.

My Review:
Christian Rafferty is a senior playing quarterback for his small private college. He’s closeted, and terrified that people might guess his sexuality–namely his conservative family. He’d successfully dated his high school sweetheart, Max, who is a current roommate in the house he shares with Max’s new beau, a fellow teammate on the baseball team, Sky. So, things are tense in his crash pad and Max’s also struggling with his statistics class. His coach sets him up with Rory, a recent college grad with a killer bod, tats, and a math degree. The former collegiate wrestler pushes all his buttons.

Christian is a bit startled how much he and Rory get on. Rory’s bold and brash and newly out–lamenting the time he wasted in the closet, and the sweet guy he hurt while in there. So, he’s not angling for Christian to come out. They are having some good times, and Christian’s liking the way he feels around Rory. His playing is going well, and the team’s rallying for a Division 3 playoff berth, but Christian’s getting irritated with the homophobia that’s cropped up in the wake of a fellow teammate who came out the previous season. And, his parents think it’s a bad scene, too.

Tired of living a half-life, Christian is seriously contemplating coming out. But, issues with Max and Sky have him fearing it might not be his choice. Hanging in the balance is a potential fifth-year of school, and a career-path change he won’t have to ask his father to pay for. I liked both Rory and Christian and how they fit together. They have yummy chemistry, and made for some interesting sexytimes. They are also thoughtful and considerate, with real-world issues I could connect with. The climax of the story, however, was a little lacking. Christian’s the subject of a hate-crime, but it sparks him to own his truth and stand up for himself in ways he hadn’t planned. I liked that part, though it took a little while for him to get there.

The resolution is happy with Rory and Christian being stronger than ever, out and proud and living a good life. Expect a new direction for this series to move–batter up??

Interested? You can find OUT IN THE OFFENSE on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

You can reach out to Lane on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.

More Than a Cup of TEA–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet M/M trans romance from Matthew Metzger. TEA is the first book in his Cup of John series and features a big, burly, self-conscious laborer falling hard for a beautiful blind man…at first sight. There’s struggles and hurt/comfort, and a story that had me turning the pages.

About the book:
John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

How about a yummy taste?

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

My Review:
John is a big, burly, electrician whose last lover turned out to be a two-timing arse. Daniel had never planned to be a true partner to John, and turned on John is a terrible betrayal that’s left John concerned that he’s maybe more forceful with his lovers than he intended to be. Mired in low self-esteem and self-doubt, he’s stopped dating for the past 9 months.

He stumbles into a crowded tea shop one rainy afternoon and meets the most beautiful younger man. Chris invites John to share his table for tea. John accepts, entranced by Chris’s charm–and it’s a comfortable chat. John’s confused why someone so lovely would flirt with an ugly mug like him so openly, but soon realizes that Chris is blind. And, he’s sure it would be bad for him to accept Chris’ invitation for a date. Yet, lonely and buzzing with excitement, John agrees.

Over the course of several dates, spanning weeks, Chris and John spend more and more time together. Chris reveals the source of his blindness, and his daily battle with severe epilepsy. It’s also a bit of a surprise that Chris is transgender. John’s so caught up in love, that he’s willing to pursue a relationship–even though he’s sure outsiders will have a bad impression of such a thug “caring” for a blind man. As Chris notes, he’s always seen as an invalid, and anyone with him as a carer, not a partner.

John’s troubles with his past lover leads him to keep Chris a bit of a secret. He’s afraid to make any mistakes–and it ends up isolating Chris, for a bit. In order for John to develop a healthy relationship, it’s clear he needs to seek outside help–and it’s a good moment for him to reflect on the emotional damage he’s been hiding. I felt as though this all read very strongly true. Chris and John each have challenges they need to face–sometimes together and sometimes alone. They do support each other well, and John comes to terms with his self-hatred through careful introspection. It’s a tender experience, and I think I adored both John and Chris in equal measure. I’m glad it’s the first book in a series because I’d like to spend more time with these guys in the future.

Interested? You can find TEA on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Catch up with Matthew on his website or Twitter.

Dodging Past a HALF-LIFE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary M/M romance with some paranormal elements from Gregory L. Norris. HALF-LIFE is a fast paced novella that pits cousin against cousin, and true love against dark magic for the fate of some rather nice fellas.

About the book:
Whitney Abbott travels to the seaside Maine town of Window to begin a new life in his uncle’s home. Robert Abbott is well-to-do and owns several high-end restaurants. Whitney will start at the bottom and work his way up at the flagship. But from the moment Whitney exits his car in the drive of the big, brooding house, he senses the sinister atmosphere surrounding his relations.

His cousin November, princess of the estate, feigns joy at having Whitney in town. And November’s handsome athlete boyfriend, Griffin, is an enigma. Soon after his arrival, Griffin warns Whitney to leave. With nowhere to go—and certain that his attraction to Griffin goes both ways—Whitney is drawn into November’s malevolent plans. Plans that will pit Whitney against dark supernatural forces in order to save both his and Griffin’s lives.

How about a little taste?

I hit the switch. The familiar cold, white glare from the overhead lights rained across the kitchen, prep station, and the industrial dishwasher, scenes of so many long shifts and leg cramps. The light did little to remove the greater darkness that hung over the back of my uncle’s restaurant. The gloom swirling outside had followed me into Abbott’s Table, one of your finer dining establishments along this part of Maine’s Rocky Headlands. Rain pelted the oblong window above the prep-station sink, where I’d cleaned and breaded untold thousands of shrimp. The ghostly aroma of garlic, lobster, and grilled meat hung over the place. Cloying, with an edge of lemon cleaner.

“Hello?” I called.

My heart hammered against my ribcage. I imagined my balls shriveling up against the root of my dick. An icy finger stroked my spine.

“Anyone here? It’s me, Whitney.”

Identifying myself made the creeping sensation even worse. The darkness had pursued me, constantly there at the periphery hiding in shadowy corners. Here in my uncle’s flagship restaurant after hours, the unwanted attention from sinister powers was more tangible, more intimate. I choked down a heavy swallow to find my mouth had gone completely dry.

“Griffin, it’s me. I saw your truck in the lot,” I said, aware of how my lips risked a smile at the mention of his name. Griffin. My heart raced for different reasons after that. “Griff?”

I checked the kitchen—empty. Willing my legs forward, I pushed past the rightward pair of swivel doors, hearing the awful voice of the restaurant’s manager, Marc with a c—Always keep to the right, that’s how it’s done at Abbott’s Table. The dining room sat dark and empty, chairs stacked upside down over tabletops, the floors swept, mopped, and shiny under the green glow of the exit lights.

I checked the bar and both of the public heads, finding the same result: no Griffin. My pulse continued its mad speed. Danger juice soured in my bloodstream. His truck in the far corner of the Abbott’s Table parking lot could have meant a hundred different things on any other night—Griffin out having fun with some of his hockey league buddies, late fun, guy stuff. I knew he wasn’t with the Ice Queen. No, after what had happened and the kiss that followed, Griffin wouldn’t have gone back to confront my cousin, November Abbott.

That kiss…

For a wonderful instant, the storm cloud dissolved, and I was in my car again, his big hand cupping my cheek, his mouth crushed over mine, claiming me as his and offering me all he had to give in return. I remembered the warm scent of pinesap, of Griffin’s magnificent body, the swell of his erection pressing against me as we kissed, and the certainty that what we both felt, while undeniably physical, went past simple attraction. Dare I again think it? Love.

I loved Griffin, and he loved me.

The rain pounding the world outside the restaurant’s windows unleashed eerie silver dapples across the dining room. I stood pondering, waiting for a sound, a sign. When none came, I turned and hastened back in the direction of the kitchen exit.

“Whitney…”

I dug in my sneaker treads on the rubber mat set between the kitchen and rear door, at first thinking I’d hallucinated Griffin’s voice. But then I faced the direction of the sound and found myself staring at the one corner of the restaurant I hadn’t thought to search: the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

Reaching the big stainless-steel door seemed to take longer than the actual few seconds. I tugged on the latch. The door resisted, as though someone was pulling at the same time from the other side. The inner voice that had told me a week earlier to turn around, to not travel north to the town of Window, Maine, was back, urging me to get out. Just leave. Run!

I drew in a breath, smelling the rain, the kitchen’s funk, and the trace of clean, athletic sweat from the T-shirt I wore—Griffin’s sweat, and Griffin’s shirt, borrowed on an afternoon that now felt part of another decade. I pulled harder. The door released. A gust of cold, foggy air billowed out.

The front part of the walk-in was already lit up from inside, even though the light switch was off. I pushed through the long plastic strips of the freezer curtain and into the wide space that housed expensive cuts of tomahawk steaks, bins of heirloom tomatoes and other fresh produce from the local farmer’s market, and, I discovered, one sacrificial altar.

I froze, my eyes recording details—the waxy candles, three, burning around the body on the folding table, the sprigs of Datura stramonium Devil’s Snare flowers draped around the nude man’s corpse laid out in a funeral pose. I recognized the patch of hairy, athletic lower leg, upon which a winged lion had been inked.

“Griffin,” I gasped.

A breeze that hadn’t been there the previous second whispered through the walk-in, stirring the leaves of bunches of basil, parsley, and other fresh herbs. My paralysis broke. I moved beside the table, my eyes wide, not blinking. Griffin, naked, his hands folded over his midriff. Even as I reached my trembling fingers toward his and the voice in my head screamed for me to run—run from the restaurant, from Window, Maine, and, above all else, from Griffin—my eyes recorded the pallor of his skin. Griffin’s flesh was gray in the flickering candlelight.

My hand covered his. A chill raced up my fingertips. He was icy to the touch. No, impossible—hours before, in that other era, he’d held me, kissed me. And I had seen proof of our tomorrow together even as the storm clouds raced over our heads. Griffin had pledged his love and promised to return.

I glanced at Griffin’s big jock feet—still sexy despite their grayness, up his legs, past his junk, and all the way to his eyes, clamped shut. I gripped his hands, the fingers interlaced in prayer, and squeezed.

“Griffin!”

The dead man’s eyes shot open. Gone was their beyond-blue color—what I’d come to think of as twin sapphire gemstones. What focused upon me now was a pair of predator’s eyes with a wolf’s silver sharpness. The hands beneath my fingers abandoned their illusion of prayer and seized hold of my arm. I shrieked, attempting to pull away. Right before the corpse’s legs swung out and the altar collapsed, toppling candles, I saw Griffin’s mouth open. He licked his lips. His teeth chattered. The dead man salivated hungrily.

And then his weight spilled on top of me, and he was snapping at my throat.

My Review:
Eighteen year old aspiring poet Whitney Abbott knows he isn’t welcome to his Uncle Robert’s estate in Window, Maine. Having no job or skills, he’s accepted the offer to come and work in one of his uncle’s upscale restaurants. Now that his parents have lost their home, Whitney also a place to live. Uncle Robert is a wealthy man, with a single daughter, November, who has always hated Whitney. She made any of his previous visits unbearable, and he’s suspicious of her saccharine demeanor when he arrives.

Whitney immediately meets Griffin, a near-twentyish young man who is affable, and inexplicably dating November–even though his gaze burns hot over Whitney. In a few moments of unguarded candor, Griffin warns Whitney there’s danger here, and to run while he can. Whitney isn’t taken by November’s ploys, and he questions November’s intentional use of Devil’s Snare in and around the home. Is she weaving it into necklaces for her father and Griffin to wear? And, why do they seem occasionally dead-eyed and extra-responsive to any of her demands? He’s just ingenious enough to wonder if there’s some sort of witchcraft going down, which preps him for the big showdown.

I liked the lyrical quality of this one, though I think the beginning was a bit too explicit in terms of plot. I would have rather a more gradual coming to understanding of all the quirks of this locale and Whitney’s relations. I was charmed by how sweet Whitney is, and how his immediate connection with Griffin grows into a life-saving love. As it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of time to develop a giant story arc, but this one was interesting and I had to shake my head in amusement regarding the manner in which Whitney revives Griffin from November’s power. Seriously, that was some amazeballs oral. In the end true, love reigns and November’s shenanighans seem to be halted. Expect the fair Whitney to save the day, and his new lover.

Interested? You can find HALF-LIFE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Raised on a healthy diet of creature double features and classic SF television, Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (Brutal Colors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, Star Trek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under my rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. He judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing.His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker.

Follow his literary adventures on his blog, Facebook, and twitter.