New-To-Loving the DISTANT SWIMMER–A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up with Jacob on his website, twitter, and Facebook.
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Out Today! DISTANT SWIMMER Book Blast!

ds-releaseblitzbannerHi there! Today I’m spreading the word on a new contemporary M/M sports romance from Jacob Cheyenne. DISTANT SWIMMER is a New Adult coming out romance and I look forward to sharing my review in the coming weeks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catch up with Jacob on his website, twitter, and Facebook.
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Coming Out On Top–VOLLEY BALLS Review & Giveaway!

banner-blogtour-volley-ball-by-tara-lainHi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M/M sports menage romance out today from Tara Lain. VOLLEY BALLS is the first book in her new series, and absolutely steams–but also has some real heart, too.

Catch the excerpt below and be sure to enter the giveaway too!

volleyballs400x600About the Book:
A double dose of alpha male might be better than one. Tara Lain’s popular novella, Volley Balls, is now expanded and revised.
Despite just getting out of an abusive relationship with an asshole alpha, David Underwood’s wandering glance lands on two hot members of the Australian volleyball team on Laguna Beach and gets him harassed again. Still, when the delicious Gareth Marshall proves his interest by coming out to his team, David succumbs to his attraction. But Gareth’s volleyball partner, Edge, who’s equally hot, makes the lovers’ lives miserable.

For Gareth, a lifetime of hiding his orientation—and his attraction—from his best friend, Edge, as well as everyone else around him, adds up to hurt and frustration. David’s the first man to ever compete with Edge for Gareth’s passion. But Edge has secrets of his own, and David’s ex-lover will never be happy without David under his fist. With everything stacked against him, can a gay Laguna man find happiness with an alpha male–or two?

How about a little taste?

David buried his head in Gareth’s broad chest and, much to his disgust, started to cry. The feelings didn’t even make sense. Anger, jealousy, lust, and—yes, fear. At the heart of it all. He started to shake. Gareth pulled him tighter, but it wouldn’t stop. Phil’s angry face stared at him. Screamed at him. His fist descended—again and again. Pain and anger and shame. “Oh God!”

“What, love?” Gareth kissed his hair.

“I was so afraid.”

“Nothing to fear, love.”

“Phil. Oh God. He said he wanted to kill me. I think he would have if Edge hadn’t come.” He burrowed into Gareth’s arms.

“We’re here now, love. Nothing more to fear. You took care of that bastard. He won’t bother you again.”

Edge’s deep voice came from behind him. “If he comes near you, I’ll kill the asshole.”

David sucked in breath and turned in Gareth’s arms. He saw Gareth shake his head, warning Edge. “David took care of him, Edge. He got the police and had him thrown in jail.”

David wiped at his eyes. “Thank you, Gareth. I know I said I could take care of myself, but I lied. I’ve been alone so long. I only got involved with Phil because I was lonely and wanted someone to care about me. Instead, he hit me and abused me. I’m so grateful to Edge for saving me today. I’m so grateful to both of you for not being the kind of man that Phil is. So grateful.” The tears ran down his cheeks again and dripped off his chin.

Edge stepped closer and tipped up David’s chin with his finger. He did something David hardly ever saw him do. He smiled. “I know I’m a big Neanderthal with no fucking manners, but sometimes that’s a handy kind of guy to have around.” Funny how David hadn’t noticed those dimples in Edge’s cheeks before. Like you could sharpen pencils in them.

David stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Edge in a huge hug. “Thank you. I’m so glad you were there. I’m so grateful.”

Edge chuckled, and the vibration zipped straight to David’s cock. Down, boy.

Another pair of strong arms wrapped around him from behind and made it a group hug.

David giggled. “I’m the filling in an Aussie sandwich. If I’d known, it would have been my lifetime aspiration.”

My Review:
David Underwood just got out of an abusive relationship with a closeted gay man. He’s always fancied big athletic men, and he’s captivated by the sexy Australian volleyball players practicing on Laguna Beach. Of course, when he gets called out by one of the players with decidedly homophobic slurs, he skedaddles. Quick. David’s all about non-confrontation.

So, he’s rather upset when one of the volleyballers follows him to a bar. Sure, David’s blind date was going nowhere, but boring is better than beaten, right? Except Gareth isn’t like his outspoken mate, Edge. No, Gareth, though big and burly and sexy, is a closeted man himself. And, David’s not going down that path either. Well, not without Gareth considering coming out, anyway. Actually, Gareth is fed up with Edge and his father’s aggressive homophobia. He’s even made plans to transfer colleges to the LA area–his mother lives in San Diego and she’s a PFLAG-gal. She only wants Gareth happy. Meeting her reassures David that Gareth has a path to being true to himself.

And, meeting Edge after their game? Volcanic. Edge is panicked and freaks out when Gareth shuts down his slurs and comes out.

Thing is, Edge can’t comprehend how Gareth is gay. It’s a mystery to him, one he wants to untangle. And he does so by following Gareth and David around. Yeah, he’s a creeper. Good thing for David, actually. Because David’s ex is a real piece of work, and none-too-pleased to have been served with a restraining order. Connecting as protectors of David, Gareth and Edge soon realize that they have more than friendship between them–and somehow David’s able to link their desires into more than a brief tryst.

The menage was a little quick, but I did enjoy it. The book’s written from all three characters’ point-of-view, so we get a little deeper insight into Gareth and Edge, and their deeply homophobic upbringing. David’s acceptance of both of them is a balm for each. And, he’s a sweet guy. I guess I would have liked a little more development of the romance, because it seemed to wrap up really quickly. That said, it’s a mostly-fun read that has some dark moments.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $15 GC to Amazon.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

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

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

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Written In The Stars: LEO LOVES ARIES–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly released M/M contemporary romance from new-to-me author Anyta Sunday. LEO LOVES ARIES is a New Adult romance between college students who might have a little help from their horoscopes. It’s a sweet slow burn, and I really enjoyed it.

leo-loves-ariesAbout the book:
A new person will enter your life in the early year, Leo. Look past any moments of frustration they might bring and laugh—this could be the start of a thriving friendship.

Theo Wallace usually laughs at the horoscopes his mom sends. Still hung up on his ex-girlfriend and practically friendless, this one begs him to reconsider. Because a friendship that stuck, that thrived…

Well, that would be a reason to leave past pains behind and look to the Bright Future.

When his sister Leone challenges him to find her the perfect date for a spring wedding, Theo uses it as a chance to make new friends. Theo’s ex economics tutor and newest roommate Mr Jamie Cooper seems to be a possible and convenient match. Real convenient. Like written in the stars, convenient.

All he has to do is make sure this Jamie is good enough. Could really be the one for her, and the friend for him.

But watch out, Leo, the stars have a surprise in store…

My Review:
Theo and Leone are fraternal twins who are attending college in Pittsburgh, PA. They share their old family home now that their parents have relocated to Minnesota. This makes it easy for Leone to live virtually unassisted–she’s been legally blind since her late teens. They also share a mutual heartbreak. Leone had dated Derek and Theo had dated Sam(antha) for each about two years. But, a year ago, Sam and Derek broke up with each of them, and began dating each other. And, the wedding announcements are out.

Vowing to not be sad sacks, Leone and Theo decide to find each other a hot date with whom to attend the June nuptials. In the meantime, they need to find a new roomie, to offset their costs. And, Theo’s former econ tutor–Jamie–seems to be a perfect match. Jamie is a little older, a master’s student in economics, Theo’s chosen filed of study. Theo had been a bit of a jerk at the beginning of their mutual coursework, but they settled into a rapport before term’s end. Now, Theo’s jazzed that Jamie might help him ace his applied economics class. He’d actually sought out Jamie for tutoring, and the roommate thing just happened.

Jamie gets along so well with Leone–and their mother, a horoscope and divination fanatic, has advised her Leo children that their perfect love match would come with an Aries–which is Jamie’s sign. As they all build camaraderie, Theo’s sure that Jamie and Leone would have a great chance with each other. And, Theo–who’s felt isolated because he believes his mutual friends with Sam have deserted him–is grateful for the deep bond he and Jamie are building. They discuss economics, and Jamie insists on getting both Leone and Theo to eat healthy meals he cooks for them, and they just fit. Which is why it irks Theo that he’s a wee bit jealous of his sister getting the best of his best friend, ever. Not that any of that has been happening. Theo just imagines it’s a foregone conclusion.

Thing is, neither Leone nor Jamie got this memo. And Jamie goes a mite colder when Theo talks about going out on the blind date Leone has set up. It’s a sweet and slow burn with just enough bread crumbs for readers to recognize that Jamie and Theo aren’t on different pages–their reading different books. Jamie makes it clear that not only is he gay, but that he quite fancies Theo. And Theo’s…not averse. Well, Jamie is an attractive, fit, well-put-together man. And, he cares quite a lot for Theo. As a friend. Maybe experimenting wouldn’t be a bad idea? Oh, Theo! I wanted to shake him half a dozen times. He’s really a great, clueless guy, but their developing relationship is really tender and sweet, and he makes it all great with some gestures that aren’t exactly grand, but do mean an awful lot to smitten Jamie.

The book reads very cleanly, but I certainly heard the undertones of British-English author. It caught me off guard more than three times. That said, I really liked the story. Expect a horny adventurer, a sparkling HEA and two guys to find their soulmates were written in the stars.

Interested? You can find LEO LOVES ARIES on Goodreads and Amazon. You can also find a freebie short story LEO TOPS ARIES on Amazon. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About Anyta Sunday: (in her own words…)
A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, GFY/OFY, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

If you’d like to check out more of my stories, check out my website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Getting Real: COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT–Review & Giveaway!

banner-cowboys-dont-come-outHi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a contemporary interracial romance from Tara Lain. COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT is a standalone cowboy romance set in Maui, of all places!

Catch the excerpt and get in on the $20 GC giveaway below!

cowboysdontcomeout400x600About the book:
Rand McIntyre settles for good enough. He loves his small California ranch, raising horses, and teaching riding to the kids he adores—but having kids of his own and someone to love means coming out, and that would jeopardize everything he’s built. Then, despite his terror of flying, he goes on a holiday to Hana, Hawaii with his parents and meets the dark and mysterious Kai Kealoha, a genuine Hawaiian cowboy. Rand takes to Kai’s kid brother and sister as much as he drools over Kai, but the guy sports more prickles than a horned toad, and more secrets than the exotic land he comes from.

Kai’s earned his privacy and lives to protect his “kids.” He ought to stay away from the big, handsome cowboy for everyone’s sake—but since the guy’s just a haole on a short vacation, how much damage can he do? When all of Kai’s worst fears and Rand’s darkest nightmares come true at once, there’s not much chance for two cowboys who can’t—or won’t—come out.

How about a little taste?

He stopped and tried to hear over the rushing of the surf out beyond the reef if anyone else hid in the dark. No sounds. Fortunately, no big water hit this beach, so he didn’t have to worry about getting swamped. Actually, between the lapping waves and the brilliant moonlight, the scene resembled some fairy-tale romance. Fuck that.

Right where the dry sand verged on the wet, he flopped on his butt. What she’d said—that he settled for a good-enough life. That he wasn’t happy. Don’t I get to decide that?

He leaned back on his elbows. Yeah, but she’s right. I created a whole life—as if I was somebody else. Most people find “the one” and build a future so it suits them both. I imagined a cowboy and slid into his boots—Rand McIntyre. Say that with a drawl, son. Just one problem. I’m gay—always have been—and cowboys don’t come out. Where does that leave me? A-fucking-lone, pardner. Always will be.

You’re not the only gay cowboy.

Have you seen Brokeback Mountain? Shit.

Phosphorescence sparkled on the tops of the waves farther out. Pretty. Guess there could be all kinds of weird man-eating shit in that water.

Do you think more sharks and barracudas swim at night than during the day?

Yeah, right.

He sprang up, stripped his Hawaiian shirt off and tossed it on the sand, then pulled off the shorts his mom had given him. Commando. What would it feel like to have fishes nibbling at his balls? Not like anybody else was doing any nibbling. He strode into the water. Whoa! Not cold, just startling.

When he waded out past his thighs, his penis and balls started to float. He chuckled. Kind of like being a kid in the bathtub. Endless hours of fun playing with your own built-in toys. A few more steps, and he submerged to his shoulders. He gave a tiny shiver. Weird being sunk in inky blackness. Still, the water felt good. He kicked off and swam a few yards out, turned, and stroked back towards shore. He wasn’t a good enough swimmer to push his luck alone at night.

After treading water a couple of minutes, he pulled himself back into the shallows and sat on the hard wet beach. He glanced down. Some shrinkage, but his balls still lay on the sand. Remember to rinse them off or you’ll itch. Slowly he released his breath. What was he going to do? Answer? Same as always. Nothing. He couldn’t risk all the great shit he’d made to try to make it better.

My Review:
Rand McIntyre is a closeted cowboy running his own small ranch and B & B near Chico, California. He’s 26 and wishing he could build a family, but he won’t come out, fearing it would harm his business. He’s pulled along on a trip with is parents to Maui for Christmas, where he’s hounded by his well-meaning mother for not getting a girlfriend/wife and settling down.

It’s a problem when he meets a girl his parents love, and a sexy Hawaiian cowboy he wants to get to know better, Kai, on the very first day. Rand’s firm with his mother that Julie will ever only be a friend, no matter how much matchmaking she tries. I liked that. Obviously, closeted characters face a lot of internal conflict, and Rand is no exception. He really wants more, and he berates himself for not reaching out. Not taking a stand. We don’t learn until much later how a childhood incident has fed this desire to stay quiet, and to isolate himself from further injury. I wished I had seen a bit more of the foreshadowing on that, because–while I suspected there was a trauma–at times the clues seemed non sequitur and jarring.

Kai is taking care of his younger half-siblings, lying to all and sundry about his age, his abilities, and his home life in order to protect Aliki and Lani. They are sweet kids who’ve all had it rough. Kai works hard, but he can’t keep everyone out, and especially not Rand, who’s a great guy and eager to help. Besides, he’s so sexy, and Kai’s never had a boyfriend before. I loved the kids, and how cool they were. They have very distinct personalities, and Lani’s no joke a “little mother,” at twelve. She’s had to grow up too fast, but she’s got great instincts and she wants Rand to be a part of Kai’s life however they can work it out.

There’s a sweet bit of interracial loving, which I wished was explored a little more, but the sense of Hawaiian culture was always there. I loved how Rand put himself into really uncomfortable places to be the rock Kai needed. There were some great elements of family being the people who love you–not just your blood relations, which were sweet. The connection Kai and Rand felt from the beginning turned from attraction in to companionship pretty quickly, but there’s that moment of conflict that pushes them apart, too. There are lots of differences between Kai and Rand, and no matter what Kai won’t sacrifice the kids. The end is a huge grand gesture, with more than Rand riding to the rescue. As much as it seemed too much too soon, I still found it endearing, and lovely.

Interested? You can find COWBOYS DON’T COME OUT on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

You can find Tara at:

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Love and Loss for THE NEXT COMPETITOR–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary New Adult sports M/M romance from Keira Andrews. THE NEXT COMPETITOR isn’t a Christmas book, but it features fantastic male figure skaters, and that’s wintry to me! Plus, I’ve recently gotten hooked on YURI!!! ON ICE, a lovely new anime with respectfully-portrayed gay characters, so I was jazzed to read this one.

And that cover! #Swoon…

tncAbout the book:
If he risks his heart, can he keep his head in the game?
To win gold, figure skater Alex Grady must train harder than the competition morning, noon, and night. He’s obsessed with mastering another quadruple jump, and due to the lack of filter between his mouth and brain, doesn’t have a lot of friends. As for a boyfriend, forget it. So what if he’s still a virgin at twenty? The Olympics are only every four years—everything else can wait. Relationships are messy and complicated anyway, and he has zero room in his life for romance.

So it’s ridiculous when Alex finds himself checking out his boring new training mate Matt Savelli. Calm, collected “Captain Cardboard” is a nice guy, but even if Alex had time to date, Matt’s so not his type. Yet beneath Matt’s wholesome surface, there’s a dirty, sexy man who awakens a desire Alex has never experienced and can’t deny…

Note: This gay romance from Keira Andrews features opposites attracting, new adult angst, sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending.

This new version has been extensively rewritten, updated, and expanded into a new adult romance with explict on-page sex.

My Review:
This is a strongly-written New Adult M/M sports romance which features elite amateur skaters.

Alex Grady is a taciturn skater determined to win gold at the Olympics. He came to skating late, but has worked really, really hard to make it to the top, winning US Nationals in the previous season. He has a new coach, Mrs. C, who is a former Russian champion, and gives Alex the tough instruction he needs. It’s an Olympic year and he’s training in Toronto, isolated from his family in New Jersey, making few friends of his training mates.

Matt Savelli, one-half of a partners team, is an attractive man, one that Alex can’t help but notice. Looking is all Alex really wants. He’s known he was gay for most of his life, but he’s never had a boyfriend. Alex’s out to his family, but he keeps his sexuality private, fearing some judges may lower his scores out of prejudice, especially with hypermasculine skaters tearing up the ice with all their huge jumps. Plus, dating someone would just take time away from training, and Alex can’t afford it. His family’s financial situation is very much dependent upon Alex’s performance.

Still, as Alex interacts with Matt, he recognizes that Matt’s not the model of perfection he projects. Their friendship grows, a bit. And, when a tragedy occurs on the ice and Matt’s partner is injured, Alex is there to pick Matt up from his depression, encouraging him to skate singles for the first time in years. Not only that, they connect in a way Alex never has with a man before. The competitive atmosphere is exciting as Alex and Matt both strive for their personal Olympic dreams. At the end of the day, however, Alex is focused on winning gold, and he messes up with Matt, big time.

I really enjoyed all the skating bits. I’m (at best) a casual figure skating fan–I appreciate its beauty, but it’s not really my thing–yet I didn’t feel lost, or overwhelmed with the sport bits. The story is one of setting goals, and reaching for them over all other parts of life, and that self-sacrifice is something I do really connect with. Alex’s life has a combustive energy, with his no-filter mouth and his solitary habits. He’s socially-awkward and abrasive, as a result. Matt stayed away at first because of that, thinking the Alex was a big jerk. He isn’t, really, but his shell is tough to crack, and he’s petulant at times with a horrid habit of lashing out when frustrated. That said, he does make amends, and his tender heart is revealed in lovely ways over the second half of the story.

There’s also a sweet bit of sexual exploration here, because Alex begins the book as a virgin, and Matt takes care of that bit of business. Both sweet and tender, and hot and dirty, loving are on the menu, folks. There’s also some heartbreak, and a lot of personal growth in store for Alex. I loved that he began the book as a prickly young man, and ended as a freaking teddy bear.

Interested? You can find THE NEXT COMPETITOR on Goodreads and Amazon.

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author:
After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

You can catch up with Keira on her website, Facebook, twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Tough Love Learning YOU ARE NOT ME–Review & Giveaway!

you-are-not-me-bannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a New Adult coming-of-age story from Leta Blake. YOU ARE NOT ME, the sequel to PICTURES OF YOU, is set in Knoxville, Tennessee, and follows a newly graduated, newly out teen looking to find his tribe. There’s a dash of romance, but it’s bittersweet.

Catch the excerpt below, and be sure to enter the giveaway to win one of two copies of PICTURES OF YOU.
you-are-not-me-coverAbout the book:
Follow Peter into the summer following his senior year to face new beginnings, new friends, and old baggage.

After a tumultuous final year of high school, Peter Mandel needs a break. It’s the summer of 1991, and his secret relationship with his ‘best friend’ Adam Algedi is put on hold as Adam goes away to Italy for the summer. On the cusp of adulthood, Peter has a couple of months to explore who he is without Adam at his side.

Enter Daniel McPeak, a slightly older, out, responsible college guy with a posse of gay friends and an attraction for Peter. Drawn into the brave new world of the local gay club, Peter embarks on a whirlwind of experiences—good and bad—which culminate in a hotel room where he has to make the ultimate choice.

But Adam will come back eventually, and there are promises that have to be kept. As autumn draws near and college awaits, can Peter break free of the binds of twisted first love? And what exactly is Daniel’s role in his life – a brief temptation, or something more?

Join Peter in the second book of this four-part coming of age series as he struggles to love and be loved, and grow into a gay man worthy of his own respect.

How about a little taste?

The stool next to me wasn’t empty for long. Minty dropped onto it, his purple tutu rubbing against my chinos and his thin, white arms curled up to rest on the bar. He stared at me for a long, curious second. “I’ve met you before, right?”

“Yeah.” I shook off my disappointment and gave him my attention. “Last spring, up on campus.”

“Did we fuck?”

I almost choked on my soda. “No.”

“Right.” Minty frowned. “Did I suck you off?”

I stared at him.

“Well?”

“My car was broken down,” I said slowly. “Daniel helped me.”

Minty grinned. “Oh, right! I remember now. You looked amazing that night. Made of moonbeams. Everyone was made of moonbeams.” He tilted his head. “You look all right now too.”

“Thanks?”

Minty laughed and fluffed his tutu. He turned away from me to hammer his fists on the bar. “Jolly Zima, Barry! Watermelon! Hit me!”

Barry rolled his eyes, but he pulled a Zima out from the fridge and popped the lid, then reached under the counter and came out with a watermelon Jolly Rancher, unwrapped it, and dropped it into the drink. Minty slapped three dollars down and took a dainty sip.

“Ah! Perfection!” He turned to me with his eyelashes lowered flirtatiously. “Anyway, back to what you were saying. We haven’t fucked yet?”

Startled, nervous laughter bubbled out of my mouth.

“Minty,” Barry said. “Drink your Zima and leave Peter alone.”

“Sure thing. You’re the boss.” Minty sighed and leaned toward me conspiratorially. “He won’t fuck me either. What’s a girl gotta do these days? I mean, I look good, don’t I?”

I looked him over—white, though scuffed, ballet slippers, purple tutu, toned, pale, lithe arms, and his made-up face. “Sure. You look really pretty.”

Minty grinned. “Aw, you know how to make a girl feel nice.”

“Didn’t I just see you downstairs with two guys, though?”

“Two? Please. That’s just a warm-up.” He sniffed.

Renée appeared at my side, dropping an arm around my shoulder. “Minty, doll baby, I need you backstage in an hour. You’re my naughty boy tonight.”

“Okay, but I want to wear my tutu.”

“You’ll be gorgeous.” Renée grabbed hold of Minty’s face and looked him over. “We need to put some eyelashes on you too.”

“And red lipstick.”

“Yes! Every man in this room will ache to be in that pert ass of yours.” She glanced at me and then back at Minty. “Except Peter here.”

“He catches?” Minty asked.

“Like Johnny Bench, baby.”

I didn’t like my positional preferences being discussed like it was any of their business, but I was mystified that Renée seemed so certain about it. Was there something about me that screamed loves it up the ass?

“How do you know who Johnny Bench is, woman?” Barry handed Renée a milky-looking drink topped with brown liquor.

“I listen!”

“I’ve never mentioned baseball to you and you know it.”

“Of course not. You’d never do that to me. Earl at Ringo Comics, though, he babbles on and on about it when he’s trying not to come. Earl says I catch like a pro.” She patted her ass.

Daniel was right last spring when he said Robert and Renée were the same but different people. Robert could be sassy and forthright about his sexual shenanigans, but raunchy details rarely left his mouth. My face burned.

“Hear, hear!” Minty cried, throwing back his head to draw a long swig from his Zima.

Barry frowned. It was the first time I’d seen Barry look even moderately unhappy about Renée—or Robert’s—indiscretions.

“What?” Renée asked defensively.

“Earl’s positive.” Barry’s gaze bore into her. “You used a condom?”

“Of course!” Renée licked her lips and shifted nervously to her other foot, her hip cocking out. “I always do. You know that.”

Minty bit his purple-painted thumbnail, eyes going distant. “I’m probably positive. I should get tested. My mom wants me to get tested.”

Barry nailed Minty and Renée with a frustrated glare. He reached under the counter and pulled out two condoms. Then his gaze shifted to me and he pulled out a third. “For fuck’s sake, use these. Every time. Every damn time.”

Renée stuffed the condom in her bra. Minty held it up in front of his face and then gave it a kiss before lifting up his tutu to tuck it into the waistband of his white briefs. Nodding, I pocketed the one Barry handed to me, even though I wasn’t going to need it. Adam was in Italy and the casual sex Minty and Renée played with was something I’d never risk.

My Review:
This is the second book in a series and best enjoyed when read in order. It’s June 1991, and the AIDS epidemic is at it’s peak, as is tension with Middle Easterners, as we’re in the midst of the Gulf War.

Peter Mandel is nearly nineteen, and just graduated from high school in Knoxville, Tennesee. He’s gay, and out to his parents and a few friends, notably his boyfriend, the BF’s siblings, and his drag queen boss. Peter otherwise keeps a low profile because he’s been attacked for his sexuality, and to spare his mother pain; as a child she’d seen her elder brother brutally killed for being gay.

Peter’s boyfriend Adam thought he had a fool-proof plan to shield them from scrutiny: he got a girlfriend, Leslie, who he maintains a sexual relationship with, as well as with Peter. It killed Peter for their time together in senior year, but now it’s summer and Adam’s gone to Rome to live with his parents until college begins in the fall. His letters and calls to Peter all describe the big changes that will happen when he’s back, but Peter’s not so convinced. He’s not comfortable being a piece on the side any longer, and he cares for Leslie, too–feels like a big jerk for lying to her, in fact.

Peter meets Daniel through Robert/Renee, the lovely black drag queen he works for. See, Peter’s a photographer, and he does Renee’s publicity, as well as helps edit his filmography of famous drag queens. Daniel is a college student at UT, just like Peter, and they develop a good friendship, as well as an attraction. Daniel doesn’t want to make a move, though, knowing Peter is holding out hope the he and Adam will build a stronger relationship when Adam returns–despite the fact that they’ll attend different colleges in different states–and Leslie will be with Adam.

So, yeah. There is a bit of romance, as Daniel and Peter spend more and more time together. Peter gets to know all of Daniel’s close friends, and he sees how important it is to live his truth. Plus, he’s filling out of his gawky-awkward stage, and finding that men are very much attracted to him whenever he gets out to the gay clubs. Should he wait for Adam? Is he only prolonging the heartbreak?

This book is really rich with description of the times and occurrences. I love the throwbacks of corded phones, answering machines and film cameras. Developing!! Argh! There’s also some really poignant moments regarding HIV/AIDS because Daniel is an outreach volunteer, and he gets Peter involved in some home care visits with a man who’s dying of AIDS. Wow! That was so freaking intense, and I only expect it’ll get more so in the next book. The context of HIV/AIDS is such a strong element of the book, with every person advising Peter on his safety, and some serious problems when risks are unnecessarily posed.

Emotionally, Peter struggles with doing what he believes is right, and what is right for him. So many times I wanted to just pull him in for a long hug, and tell him to Get Rid Of Adam!!! Alas, I’m but a reader, and I must follow the path he chooses. The good part is: all of it. It’s gritty, and scary, and captivating living life through Peter’s opened eyes. He finds unlikely allies, and builds true relationships–even repairing a lot of the damage within his own family. His parents’ benign neglect was more damaging than they realized, and they do a lot of soul-searching and reconnection in this book. That was fabulous. Peter does make mistakes, and I think he gets pretty lucky in some parts–particularly dealing with some substance use he wasn’t quite ready for. While the romance is almost incidental to the story, it does exist. Expect it to be bittersweet. The end is upbeat, and I’m eager to see how Peter takes to his first semester in college.

Interested? You can find YOU ARE NOT ME on Goodreads and Amazon.

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About the Author:
Author of the best-selling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

You can find out more on her website, Facebook and twitter.

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