Growing Into THE HALF WOLF–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand-new M/M contemporary paranormal romance from Jay Northcote. THE HALF WOLF is a new adult shifter romance, and I really enjoyed it. Not that I’m surprised. I’ve adored all Jay’s books to-date including SUMMER HEAT, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, and THE LAW OF ATTRACTION, and TOPS DOWN BOTTOMS UP. THE HALF-WOLF is another stellar story about getting over prejudices and accepting love at the right time, and had really fantastic anti-racism messages that warmed me up as much as the sexytimes.

About the book:
Mate, family, pack, home… can Quinn and Kellan have it all?
Quinn grew up feeling out of place in the small town he calls home. Yearning for something he can’t name, he’s always felt different but never known why.

Kellan is part of a nomadic shifter pack. When they set up camp in the woods near Quinn’s town, the humans are unwelcoming and suspicious of the newcomers. The moment Kellan catches sight—and scent—of Quinn, he knows Quinn is special. But for the first time in his life, Kellan can’t trust his instincts. Quinn is human, and Kellan is a wolf shifter, so how can they ever be mates?

Their bond is instant and exhilarating. It breaks Quinn’s heart to know their relationship can only be temporary. Love isn’t enough when pack law forbids shifters to mate with humans. Tension explodes between pack and humans, and when Quinn discovers a shocking truth about himself that changes everything, he fears he’ll have to choose between the only life he’s ever known and the man he loves.

My Review:
This book is set in an alternate reality where shifters are known to exist but are unwelcome members of society in general. They are often transient enclaves that travel from area to area subsisting off the land and whatever work they can find before being chased off by the locals.

Quinn grew up in a small town in Wales. His coming out back in school was a big scandal and he feels like an outsider, having been raised by his aunt since birth, essentially. It’s mid-summer ans super hot, and a shifter group has come to camp outside of town near the quarry where locals tend to like to swim. Quinn’s aunt has been very pro-shifter all his life, and he’s been fascinated by their experience, too, having read and watched all the roods/movies he could about shifters while growing up. And, he decides it’s important to see the shifters in their native state once he hears there are some close enough to observe. So, he spies on them. Once. And, it’s enough to recognize that one of them is supremely attractive.

Kellan, the blond god he’d seen swimming nude in the quarry, appears at Quinn’s workplace the next day. It’s a news and magazine shop owned by his aunt, and Quinn is baffled more by Kellan’s beauty up close. The confusion is mutual, because Kellan’s keen sense of smell tells him that Quinn is human, but something else. Something very intriguing. And, he’s grateful that Quinn gives him good advice about seeking a job. The two keep connecting, and the sexual chemistry is astronomical–but neither wants to give in, because shifters aren’t supposed to mate humans, and they could build a bond that’s only going to ache once Kellan’s pack moves on.

The townsfolk aren’t happy about the shifter camp, but they’re downright enraged when it becomes clear a shifter is killing farmers’ livestock for sport. The shifters claim it must be a rogue, but the humans don’t believe. And, it’s all getting muddled for Quinn who’s fallen deep for Kellan–which sparks a whole new series of changes that Quinn never anticipated.

I’m not going to chat much more about the book except that it’s a fabulously-told book of self exploration and coming to terms with who you are. Quinn isn’t who he’d grown up believing he was, and his love for Kellan, a mate match, reveals all his hidden secrets. The prejudice of the townspeople is frightening–is a mob action that’s only barely leashed. Finding the rogue shifter added a ticking clock on Quinn and Kellan’s relationship, but also turned the anti-shifter tide in many ways. The resolution is awesome, and the ending is happy. Also, some yummy sexytimes. Expect Kellan to make Quinn’s first time something to remember.

Interested? You can find THE HALF WOLF on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

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.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Out Today! MR. BIG–Review and Excerpt

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and excerpt for a New Adult romance form Delancey Stewart. I rather liked her book MEN AND MARTINIS, so I thought I’d try another book. MR. BIG features two disconnected people finding peace, and problems, with one another. Not least of which because one is the CEO of the company the other works for….

About the book:
Once upon a time, I had everything: money, power, a multimillion-dollar company, a loving family. Well, at least I thought I had everything. Then my parents died, and I found out my whole life was based on a lie. That’s pretty much the moment when I went numb. Told the world to f*** off and went on a bender of epic proportion, just to see how far I could fall before I hit rock-bottom.

Now I’m back and all I want in this world is my morning—okay, afternoon—coffee. Then one of my employees has the nerve to call me out for cutting the line at the coffeehouse at the company I own. Sure, I’m a little scruffier than usual, but come on, bitching out the CEO? Not a smart career move. Just who does this smart-mouthed ball-buster think she is? And more important, what do I have to do to get her number?

Holland O’Dell may be uptight, but I wouldn’t mind taking her back to my place and ripping off that business-casual blouse/skirt combo and burying myself in her curves. She pushes my buttons, but at least I’m feeling something. And whatever it is, I won’t stop until I get more.

Advance praise for Mr. Big

“Mr. Big is the kind of smart, sexy delight that every woman deserves to read! [Delancey] Stewart will make you believe in true love in this steamy, heart-wrenching tale.”—USA Today bestselling author Sierra Simone

“With a smart, feisty heroine and hot, tortured hero, Mr. Big has everything I look for in a contemporary romance. Witty, sexy, and full of heart!”—Melanie Harlow, USA Today bestselling author

How about a little taste?

“Where did you come from, Holland?”

“That’s a good question.” I wasn’t trying to dodge, but I didn’t have an answer. Plus, I wasn’t sure he was speaking geographically.

“Were you born and raised in Los Angeles?”

So he was speaking geographically. “Maybe,” I said. “I was raised here. I don’t know where I was born, actually.”

He raised an eyebrow in question.

I took a deep breath. “I was abandoned. They found me in a cardboard box at a hospital in Long Beach when I was a couple weeks old.”

I watched his eyes, waiting for the predictable sorrow, the sympathy most people offered when they heard about my inauspicious beginnings. Hale’s eyes reflected something else, though—they flashed with anger.

“I grew up in foster homes.” I shrugged.

“You were adopted?” He whispered the words, as if he couldn’t believe what he was saying.

I shook my head, a little confused at his reaction. For a moment I wondered if the revelation made him think less of me. It had certainly made me think less of myself for a lot of years. “Nope. Never adopted. Just fostered.” My salad came and I was thankful for the distraction.

Hale watched me intently, a crease between his dark eyes. He seemed about to say something, but then turned his head and stared out at the ocean instead. The sun was flashing on its surface, glittering like cellophane ribbons. I waited for him to ask more questions, but he seemed lost in thought.

We ate in relative silence, me enjoying the sunlight and warmth, and the entire avocado I’d convinced the waitress to bring me. Hale appeared to be focused on something inside his mind, something he didn’t seem apt to share. I decided to push. “What about you?”

His eyes snapped back to mine and then he shook his head, saying nothing.

“Seriously? I share but you don’t?” After spending most of the morning being thoughtful and kind, Mr. Big Dick was back. His face was closed and anger bubbled in his eyes as he turned his focus to his burger. “I see how it is,” I pressed.

He paused, a fry partway to his mouth, and then his hand lowered again, his shoulder slumping. “It’s not that I don’t want to tell you.”

“Okay . . .”

He dropped the fry and leaned back in his chair, a deep sigh escaping his lips. “It’s more that I don’t really know.” He stared down at his plate as he said, “I was adopted, actually. But I’ve only found that out recently.” His voice was cold, almost clinical, like this was a distant fact to be examined, not something integral to who he was.

“And you’re upset?” It was a stupid question. A dark frown had crept over his face and he looked much more like the broody asshole I’d met at Cody Tech than like the almost sweet man who’d been helping me since then. He was clearly upset.

A smile flickered over those incredible lips, but it did nothing to tamp down the sadness in his eyes. “I don’t know. Yes. It’s complicated.”

Without stopping myself this time, I reached for his hand, my own fingers covering the long square tips of his where they rested on the table. He started slightly, as if I’d shocked him, and then relaxed, his thumb reaching around to rub a line across the top of my fingertips. I suppressed the shiver that ran through me. The pain in his eyes had ebbed, and he looked up at me with something that felt a bit like wonder.

My Review:
Holland O’Dell is an algorithms expert who’s hired in the only suitable position (for a woman) at her dream company Cody Tech: in sales. It’s disheartening, but Holland’s a fighter. She survived three foster homes after being abandoned shortly after birth and has cobbled together a small nucleus of friends that she considers family. She’s also got a great idea for restructuring one of Cody Tech’s earliest device designs, and an in with a contact at Major League Baseball. Id she can refine and sell the product, she might garner enough support to get hired into her dream position in project development.

Oliver “Hale” Cody is a young man adrift. He’d struggled with his posh life for just over a year, and went on an adventure to “find himself” when he thought the need for him at his own company was overblown. Cody Tech was started by his father, and everyone assumed he’d just take the reins once he finished schooling, but Oliver didn’t feel like he’d earned his position as CEO. While on his journey towards himself, Oliver’s parents were killed in a car wreck, and Oliver’s idyll was at an end. The truth of his adoption was revealed by the attorneys of the estate, and Oliver’s reeling from a sense of complete loss. Who was his true family? Not only didn’t he know this big secret about himself, how could he trust his parents’ decisions? His shenanigans and drunken rages have destabilized the company, and caused a major shake-up. While Oliver is mostly too distraught to care, he notices a woman, Holland, working late at the company, and admires how she doesn’t take his crap. Seeing that she’s working on a product he’d developed with his dad, he’s intrigued, and wants to help her fine-tune it.

Through his repeated attempts at connecting with Holland, Oliver learns a lot about himself and his company. He learns about her childhood and feels a kinship for lost familial connections. He learns his company has a long way to go to overcome the ingrained misogyny and sexism. His attraction to Holland is a welcome advent into his broken emotional state, and Holland returns his interest–until she learns he’s the CEO. By then, however, they’ve already gotten physical, and hooked MLB for the project Holland developed and Oliver tweaked.

Then, there’s drama. It’s all really rational and reasonable: Holland not wanting people to believe she climbed the corporate ladder using sex with Oliver, not her creativity and hard work. Oh, and there’s a couple break ups/make ups that cause each of them to really consider the meaning of family, and merit-based rewards, and feminism, and equality. I don’t want to give too much away, but the plot has a few turns I wasn’t expecting. That said, I think I mostly didn’t expect them because they were 99.9% unlikely to happen anywhere in real life, and I’m not an unrealistic person when reading realistic fiction. So, yeah, I kind of rolled my eyes on those things, and kept reading on anyway. The relationship-building between Oliver and Holland is hard work, they are young people for all their career accomplishments: both 26. Yeah, that was unrealistic, too. And, Oliver came off as sullen and spoiled for a good part of the book. Granted, I liked when he was happy, but a lot of the time he felt whiny to me. I liked Holland a lot, and wanted to assure her–like her good friends did–that she didn’t have to be so very independent. It’s really not how the corporate world works, but I could appreciate that level of naivete because of her age.

There’s a happy ending for all, and some steamy bits, too. It’s not a terribly long book, and will likely appeal to people who enjoy romances featuring smart-pants gals and a CEO that’s not too pushy.

Interested? You can find MR. BIG on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

About the Author:
Delancey Stewart has lived on both coasts, in big cities and small towns. She’s been a pharmaceutical rep, a personal trainer and a wine seller. Despite lots of other interests, she has always been a writer.
A military spouse and the mother of two small boys, her current job titles include pirate captain, monster hunter, Lego assembler, story reader, and tech writer. She tackles all these efforts from her current home outside Washington DC.

Catch up with Delancey on her website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Tough Love if BOYS DON’T CRY–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recently released contemporary M/M romance from JK Hogan. BOYS DON’T CRY is a odd couple romance between a newly-graduating teacher and the wealthy, reclusive software designer who takes him in when his apartment building is condemned.

About the book:
Mackenzie Pratt is having the worst luck of his life. His apartment building is being torn down, and since he’s jobless and just weeks away from graduating college, he can’t find anywhere else he can afford to live that isn’t a critter-infested dump. As he’s lamenting the very real possibility of job hunting while couch-surfing, he gets an offer from the coworker of his best friend.

An in-demand mobile app developer and heir to his parents’ fortune, Laurent Beaudry is literally an eccentric billionaire. Even though Mackenzie realizes he’s basically living the plot of a cheesy romance novel, he takes the proffered room in Laurent’s Baltimore mansion. He finds his new housemate to be grumpy, brooding, and, at times, incredibly kind and endearing.

Raised by his brother after their father’s death, Mackenzie spent his formative years plowing headlong through school, focusing on little else beyond earning his teaching certification. He’s never taken the time to explore love and relationships, much less sexuality, so when he finds himself being courted by another man, he has no idea what to do. And when he realizes he might actually return those feelings, his life takes a whole new direction.

How about a little taste?

The house was dark so I couldn’t see much, but what I could see was immaculate, contrary to what Taylor had said. The hardwood floors gleamed in the moonlight, the furniture looked expensive and perfect, and there wasn’t a dirty dish or dust bunny in sight. “I thought you said it was a sty,” I whispered.

“Oh, this? Not this. He only uses a fraction of the house, the suite with his bedroom, living room, library, and office. All of this is just for show,” he said with a sweeping gesture toward the big empty parlor we were facing. “And why are you whispering? He knows I’m coming.”

“I don’t know. It seems so quiet and…undisturbed.”

Taylor’s chuckle had an evil ring to it. “You want disturbed? Follow me.” He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled. “Mr. Beaudry! It’s me, Taylor. Morrison. From Mindstream. The place you work.”

He made his way down a dark corridor with me dogging his heels. “He doesn’t remember who you are? Where he works?”

“Oh, he knows. But when he’s been staring at code for hours on end and not sleeping, sometimes basic stuff slips his mind. Details like that can be hard for geniuses like him.”

Genius? I didn’t think I’d ever heard that term used to sincerely describe someone. “What does he do again?”

“He’s a mobile app developer. Highly sought after, but right now he works exclusively for us. That was a huge coup for the company.” He stopped in front of a heavy, ornately carved door made of some kind of dark hardwood. He rapped his knuckles on it three times before barging on in, while I hovered in the doorway.

So this was the suite. Taylor had been right. What a mess. We stood in what I assumed was the living room, but it was hard to tell because every available surface was covered in wrinkled clothing, pizza boxes, and empty dishes. A huge fireplace was installed in the far wall, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. More books than I’d ever seen in one place outside a library. The fire blazed in the hearth, and I was honestly surprised there wasn’t any garbage close enough to it to catch fire. As beautiful as the house was, the mess made my skin crawl. I usually lived in shitty apartments, so I was a bit of a neat freak to balance the universe.

“Beaudry? You in here?” Taylor called. There was no answer. “He must be in the bedroom suite.” He headed to a door on the left, like it was no big deal.

Wait! You’re just going to barge into the guy’s bedroom?”

Pausing in his tracks, Taylor looked over his shoulder. “This is no ordinary bedroom. Just because there’s a bed in the corner doesn’<t mean it’s some intimate setting. It’s just a giant workspace.” With that parting shot, he burst through the door, once again calling the man’s name.

Trembling from too much alcohol and not enough nerve, I stepped inside the room. I was stunned speechless by the scene before me. Taylor had one thing right—it was no ordinary bedroom. It was the size of three average rooms lined up in a row and probably had double the square footage of the apartment I was getting booted out of. There was indeed a bed, a California king canopy bed off in one corner of the room. A fire was blazing in this suite as well, only I realized that it was the same fire in the same fireplace, which apparently connected the two rooms.

Taylor stood next to what had to be the man’s workspace. There was a giant U-shaped desk adorned with four widescreen computer monitors and various other gadgets typical of an office. However, on one leg of the U, there was a collection of what looked to be every tablet, PDA, smartphone, and any other mobile device known to man. I supposed he had to test his software on each gizmo that was likely to employ it.

Behind the office area was a ginormous TV screen—at least seventy inches—that looked like it would be more at home in a movie theater. Several fluffy couches were set up in a semicircle facing it. It would be amazing to have a movie marathon in this place. And of course, there was every gaming console imaginable to go along with the screen yardage. But…despite all the cool stuff, there was some very weird stuff about the place as well. Besides the office setup and the movie area, all the furniture in the suite looked like it had been bought from a garage sale at Versailles. It was expensive-looking, obviously, but very gilded and frilly. There were also several racks flanking the giant TV that displayed the man’s sword collection.

And then, the murals. The murals were creepy. On at least a couple of the walls above the wainscoting, there were huge, garish wall paintings of nudes in various scenes. Men and women, sometimes in sexual situations, sometimes just hanging out or whatever. But they weren’t like Renaissance or fine art nudes or anything; they seemed to be done by just some random modern artist. I had no idea how the guy could manage to look at them all day every day. Though if it weren’t for those, I’d never leave a place like this either. Speaking of the guy, though, there was no sign of him.

“Where is he?” I was whispering again. It just seemed like the thing to do when you snuck into someone’s bedroom at night. Not that we were really sneaking, but still.

As if in answer to my question, we heard a toilet flush, and a door to my right that I hadn’t even noticed swung open, startling me. The person who came through was pretty much just as unbelievable as the house he lived in. He was tall—very tall—and lanky, but with wide shoulders and well-defined musculature. His hair was just a little too long, like maybe he’d forgotten his last couple of haircuts, and very dark, shot through with a tiny bit of gray. It had to be premature because I doubted he was much more than ten years older than me. His facial features—though thrown in deep shadow because of the low light in the room—were chiseled and angular, too handsome to be fair to the rest of the world. Wire-rimmed glasses perched on the tip of his straight nose, slightly askew. Despite the handsomeness, he had dark circles under his eyes and frown lines around his mouth, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. And he was wearing Angry Birds pajamas.

When he saw me, his deep-set blue eyes widened and he flinched like I’d snuck up on him. “Who the hell are you?”

I let out a squeaky gasp and backed away toward Taylor because the guy looked fucking scary when he turned on the full force of that scowl.

“Jesus Christ, Beaudry, relax,” Taylor said. He picked up his briefcase and pulled out a legal-size envelope. “This is my friend Mackenzie. I was driving him home, and I just popped in to drop off these contracts from Harrelson.”

Beaudry grunted and crossed the room to sit at his desk. He waved a hand in the vague direction of a stack of shelves. “Just put them in the inbox. I’ll deal with them later.”

“If you look them over now, I can take back any questions or return them…”

He glared at Taylor over his shoulder, and Taylor wisely shut his mouth. Then the man’s gaze settled on me. It wasn’t the scowl he’d given me earlier, but it wasn’t exactly a…nice expression either. It was more of an assessing glare than anything. “Welcome to Chatham House, Mackenzie. What do you think?” he asked.

I had no idea what he meant. What did I think of the house? The room? Him? “It’s…impressive. The artwork is…unusual.”

He let out a belting laugh that I hadn’t been expecting, so I jumped, but then the rich baritone of it made my toes curl. It was an odd reaction, as I wasn’t usually affected by such things.

“Unusual is a kind way of putting it. The artwork came with the house, along with much of the furniture. I just haven’t gotten around to redecorating.”

“Oh, that’s…” A relief. “How long have you lived here, then?”

Beaudry turned back to his computer and began typing furiously. “About five years,” he answered without turning back around.

I choked on air, and Taylor snorted. “I think by ‘haven’t gotten around to it,’ you mean ‘just don’t give a shit,’” he muttered.

“Touché, Mr. Morrison. Is there anything else you need?”

Taylor sighed, probably realizing that the man was not going to look at whatever was in the envelope while we were still there to relay any messages back to Mindstream. He clamped a hand around my wrist and started dragging me toward the door. “All right, we’re going. Remember, drinks at the King’s Shield next Friday.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be—”

Taylor spoke right over Beaudry’s muttering. “You already said you would. No backsies. I can pick you up.”

“I think I’d enjoy driving my shiny Lotus instead, but thank you very much for the offer,” Beaudry growled. “Nice meeting you, Mack,” I heard him call through the open door.

“Nickname basis already?” I laughed to Taylor.

“That has nothing to do with nicknames and everything to do with your name being too long for him to remember.”

“I heard that, Morrison!”

My Review:
Mackenzie Pratt is closing in on his college graduation and he’s weeks from homelessness. His cut-rate slum of an apartment building is being razed, and he doesn’t have a job, or enough money, to find something else. Plus, he needs to have a stable living situation in order to find a teaching position for the fall term. While hanging out with his childhood best friend, Taylor, Mackenzie meets Laurent Baudry, a reclusive, but brilliant and wealthy, mobile app developer.

Laurent is a personal mess, and his home is a sprawling mansion with virtually no one sharing the space. Hearing about Mackenzie’s predicament, he offers to let Mackenzie stay with him, in return for some light housekeeping and meal prep.

These odd-couple men are comfortable with each other from the start. Mackenzie has been alone much of his life; his dad died years ago and his brother, River, is a freelance photographer constantly on assignment. He’s a natural caretaker for Laurent, who was orphaned young and has a tumultuous relationship with his uncle, his former guardian.

I liked the sweet way the love story developed. Mackenzie is so innocent, and so compassionate. He likes doting on Laurent, and he likes the perks of staying with Laurent–clean home, no pests, and a designer kitchen that was all but unused. He gets a thrill out of tempting Laurent from his marathon programming sessions using freshly prepared healthy meals. It’s not long before their fledgling friendship becomes physical, but that moves at Mackenzie’s pace. He’s never been with anyone before, and hardly acknowledged sexual attraction before meeting Laurent. There’s some confusion, but not too much hand-wringing. Laurent tries to make everything so special for Mackenzie, even being his guest for graduation. I loved that!

Expect River to turn up and put some drama on the table, but I think Mackenzie handled himself well. These two really fashion a love for one another, and that didn’t bring tears no matter what the title says.

Interested? You can find BOYS DON’T CRY on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?

J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading!

Catch up with J.K. on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Pining for Him–ONE PLUS ONE Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new M/M new adult romance from P.A. Friday. ONE PLUS ONE is the second book in her Maths series, but is easily read as a standalone.

Chapter one is excerpted below, and there’s a book giveaway too!

About the book:
James Cape has been in love with his mother’s best friend Laurie since James was sixteen and Laurie an inaccessible twenty-six. When he’s turned down flat by the older man just after his nineteenth birthday, James’s best friend Al encourages him to forget Laurie and find someone else. And James tries, he really does.

But can he cope with his feelings for Laurie, his best friend’s home-life problems, and the deteriorating health of his father, all at the same time? And will Laurie ever notice the young man who’s right in front of him?

Catch the first chapter below!

James Cape was fourteen years old when he realised he was gay, fifteen when he came out to his best friend, and sixteen when he realised how he’d recognised he was gay in the first place. He’d thought he’d ‘just known’ until his mother’s friend Laurie came over one day with his new boyfriend, Kieran—the first boyfriend he’d ever bothered bringing round—and James had felt his heart explode with jealousy and rage. Kieran couldn’t have Laurie. Laurie belonged with him.

The longed-for relationship wasn’t—quite—as inappropriate as it might have sounded. Laurie was his mother’s friend, yes, but he wasn’t his mother’s age. Gillie, James’s mum, was thirty-nine; Laurie, twenty-six. They’d met online when James was about nine and had made friends over the next year, despite the age gap. When Gillie had discovered that Laurie was a student at the university she herself taught at, she’d invited him over, and he’d become a regular visitor. To start with, James hadn’t been much interested—the gap between ten years old and twenty was a big one, and James had been more interested in playing with Al, his best friend both then and now. Between them, the pair had teased and hassled and joked around with Laurie, treating him as something between a friend and an older brother; but as the years had passed, James’s feelings towards Laurie had changed. He just hadn’t realised quite how much they had changed until Laurie turned up with Kieran by his side.

It wasn’t as if Laurie had never had boyfriends in the past. He had. But he’d never brought them over to James’s house before, and that made all the difference. When Laurie had been at James’s house, he hadn’t belonged to anyone else. He’d been theirs. With Kieran there, the dynamic was different—spoilt. Al, also over for the weekend—as usual—cocked a knowing eyebrow at James’s moodiness and dragged him out for a long walk.

“You don’t like the boyfriend,” Al said when they were in the woods and miles from anywhere. Trust Al to get straight to the point.

James shrugged. “Bit of a wanker, that’s all. Laurie could do better.”

“Mm.” Al didn’t sound convinced. “D’you remember telling me that you weren’t interested in Laura Fielding because Mary MacDonald had bigger tits?”

“What?” James looked at his best mate in bewilderment. “That was nearly two years ago. Why are you bringing that up again?”

“You weren’t interested in Laura Fielding because she was a girl, and you weren’t interested in girls,” Al said bluntly. “By the way, I’m still pissed off it took you nearly a year to tell me you were gay. You can’t have thought I’d give a toss.”

“You’re still the only person who knows,” James pointed out.

James and Al’s school was not the sort of place where it was safe to be ‘out’. James had no intention of telling anyone else about his sexuality until he’d left. Telling Al was different—Al was Al. And he was quite right; James knew he could tell Al anything and Al wouldn’t care. You could say what you liked about Al—and most people did—but he was intensely loyal. To James, at any rate. When it came to relationships, it was a different matter. Unlike James, Al liked girls and had a steady stream of girlfriends, but none of them lasted longer than a month before he got itchy. Usually it was considerably shorter.

“They get so clingy,” Al had complained. “They want stuff.”

“That’s called dating,” James had told him unsympathetically.

He was amazed anyone still agreed to go out with Al, but there was something about his best friend. He had a strange sort of manic charm, and his very unpredictability seemed to draw people in. However, that was a different matter. Why Al had gone back to harping about old news, James couldn’t imagine.

“Thing is,” Al said, scuffing the last of the autumn leaves with his shoe—the woods didn’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that it was March, “it didn’t have anything to do with Mary MacDonald.”

“Al, you’ve lost me.”

Al—so very like James to look at in some ways: dark-haired, regular features, similar body shape, albeit several inches shorter—looked seriously at his friend.

“It’s not Kieran you don’t like,” he said. “It’s Laurie having a boyfriend.”

“He’s had boyfriends before,” James said defensively.

“Ah. Hasn’t brought them home, though, has he? Different thing altogether.”

James shrugged petulantly. “I just think Kieran’s an idiot, that’s all.”

Al knew when to stop—usually. “Whatever you say, mate. Just…don’t piss Laurie off by being too rude to his guy, you know? Probably a bad plan.”

Which, as James admitted and worked by, was a sensible idea. But when Laurie turned up a fortnight later alone, James couldn’t help his heart lifting.

“No Kieran?” he asked, hoping Laurie would say that they’d broken up.

Laurie gave him a lazy smile. “No, not this time. I wanted you lot to myself. Any objections?”

“Nope.”

The weather was nice, and they were all sitting out in the garden, drinking beer. James and Al—who spent considerably more weekends at James’s house than at his own, to the point that Gillie and Terry, James’s dad, had assigned the spare bedroom as belonging to him—had been told that one was their limit, to Al’s laughing protest. James had his guitar out and was strumming it from time to time. He had a passion for music and already knew that he wanted to study it at university; it was just a case of getting through GCSEs (now only a few months away) and A levels first. Al was more interested in drama and films, which gave him something in common with Laurie, who was currently working on a PhD in Film Studies, focusing on bringing books to life as films, with particular emphasis on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trilogy was special in another way—Gillie and Laurie had met via an online discussion board about the films and had found they got on well, moving from there to talking about everything under the sun. “And some things not under it,” Gillie usually added at this point, as science fiction and astrophysics had also been discussed. James joked that his mum was a science geek on the quiet.

“Just surprised you could bear to be parted from him,” Al added cheekily.

Laurie took a gulp of beer and shook his head sadly at Al. “We’re twenty-six, not sixteen, Al. We can manage to be parted for an entire afternoon without dying of angst. You might be like that, but we’re not.”

James snorted. “Al? Seriously? God knows why he has girlfriends because he seems to spend all his time hiding from them once he’s dating them.”

“An interesting approach.”

“I like snogging them and suchlike,” Al said cheerfully. “It’s just the rest of it which is a bother. Is it like that with you, Laurie, then? You’ve only got your bloke for the snogging? And the suchlike,” he added thoughtfully.

James tried not to blush at the thought of Laurie doing ‘the suchlike’ with Kieran. It seemed Laurie was having a similar problem as he choked back a laugh.

“I can’t say I object to that side of things, but no, there’s a little more to it than that, thanks.”

“Al, are you teasing Laurie again?” Gillie called from where she was chatting animatedly with James’s dad. Terry was having a good day today; the wheelchair was at the side of the garden, and he was managing to potter round to check on his vegetables with just the aid of a stick. James was pleased—his dad had had too few good days recently. Multiple Sclerosis was a bugger. “I’ll have to get you a muzzle.”

“Just showing a friendly interest,” Al said, blinking would-be innocent green eyes at his friend’s mother, who unfortunately for him knew quite how much to trust that particular look.

“That’s what they’re calling it nowadays, is it?” Laurie riposted, and James and Gillie both laughed. Laurie smiled at James. “So, what are you up to, James? Apart from studying for GCSEs, that is.”

James rolled his eyes dramatically, though he was secretly pleased that Laurie cared enough to ask. “Nothing, really. Study, study, study.”

“Liar,” Al said mildly. “You spend all your time with that guitar. I reckon I’m losing my place as your best mate to that thing.” He looked across at Laurie. “I think he goes to bed with it, you know. A love affair like no other.”

“Oh, shut it, you,” James said, taking one hand off the precious guitar to give his friend a shove. “Anyway, I’m working on my composition, so it’s not like it’s not work.”

“The best sort of work is work you actually enjoy,” Laurie commented. “Al’s clearly just jealous. But you’re still loving the guitar as much as ever then.”

“God, yeah,” James said fervently. “It’s like… I dunno. It feels right, somehow—do you know what I mean? When I’m playing, it’s like my fingers know what they should be doing. Bit like Dad and the garden, I guess. He just seems to know what to plant where and what to do to make things grow, and I’m hopeless. But my teacher shows me things on the guitar, and it makes sense.” He flushed, embarrassed. Trying to explain how he felt about his instrument made him self-conscious. Al hadn’t laughed at him, as he’d feared, when he’d said a bit about it to him—but then Al was his best mate. Laurie was…well, something different. And if Laurie laughed or teased, James didn’t think he’d cope.

“That’s brilliant,” Laurie said, though, his expression genuinely delighted. “It sounds like you’ve found what’s right for you, and there’s nothing like that feeling. Trust me, I know.”

Al ruffled James’s hair. “See, it turns out you’re not a weirdo. You’re talented. Bastard,” he added, laughing.

James was grateful for Al’s interjection. It stopped the conversation getting too heavy. Talking with Laurie like this, after realising just how he felt about him…it was almost too much, in some ways.

“I wish,” he said instead. “Just obsessed.”

“Obsession got me a long way,” Laurie assured him, looking around the garden with an expression of affection on his face. “My obsession with Lord of the Rings, for example, found me my best friend—and her family,” he added, smiling at James, “and now my PhD. Don’t knock obsession.”

“I’ll bear it in mind,” James said, smiling back. “Speaking of which, how’s the thesis going?”

Laurie sighed. “Well, it’s going. I just had my last chapter ripped to shreds by my supervisor, but that’s pretty much always the way. Apparently, this time, I’ve put in too many examples. Last chapter, it wasn’t enough.”

“Still searching for the pleased psychic?” James teased.

It was a long-time joke between them: at twelve, hearing the phrase “happy medium” for the first time, James had been merely bewildered, his mind quite seriously running on the idea of the paranormal. Laurie had patiently explained and had the courtesy not even to crack a smile as he did so, though they’d all laughed about it since—and the alternative term had become a standing gag.

Laurie laughed. “Apparently so. The annoying thing is my supervisor is always right. I went away and looked back through what I’d written, and every third line was an example. But still. On the plus side, I’ve had an article accepted by a journal this week.”

“Really?” Gillie, who had wandered back to the table whilst James and Laurie chatted, settled herself comfortably in a chair and leaned across. “Which one? That’s fabulous!”

Gillie was an academic herself, lecturing in English Literature, with a special interest in fantasy and science fiction, hence the shared love of the Lord of the Rings in both book and film version. The conversation got a bit technical for a while; James tuned out as phrases such as ‘peer reviewed’ and ‘on the e-library catalogue’ got thrown about. He concentrated instead on his guitar. He was writing a piece for his GCSE composition, and there were a few bars he wasn’t happy about.

Once he settled down to music, he was lost to the world and barely noticed as Al wandered off, only registering when Al shouted, “Oh, hey, there’s a bird stuck in the netting here.”

“What?” demanded Terry, fired to interest as James put down his guitar to look over towards where Al was standing. “Are they after my brassicas again? I knew I was right to put those nets up.”

“Its wing’s all caught up, poor thing,” Al said, trying to get closer to it and making the bird flap more wildly.

“Serve it right,” said Terry firmly. Easy-going about most things, James’s dad was undeniably overprotective when it came to his vegetables.

Laurie got to his feet and cast a laughing glance at Terry. “Probably so, but we can’t just leave it there. Here, Al, move back a bit. I’ll have a go.”

“You?” Al looked at him doubtfully. “Aren’t you a bit…big?”

Laurie stood a couple of inches over six feet and was broad-shouldered with it. Compared to Al, who was a skinny five foot six and impatiently hoping for a growth spurt which showed no sign of coming, he was definitely sizeable. And, James thought wistfully, bloody gorgeous, with his muscular physique and lazy, lopsided smile.

“Oh ye of little faith,” Laurie said genially.

James watched as Laurie went carefully and quietly over to the bird, murmuring to it in an undertone. It still flapped and tried to escape, but not as manically as it had done for Al. Laurie caught it up in big gentle hands, stilling its movements with ease with one hand as he untangled the netting with the other one. It was less than a minute until he had freed the bird, which looked dazed and scurried into the undergrowth, leaving a couple of fawn-coloured feathers behind it.

“Collared dove,” Terry said. “They’re the worst. Still, I suppose you’re right. Couldn’t have left the little bugger there. Thanks, Laurie.”

Gillie went over and gave Laurie a kiss. “My hero,” she said. “Well done.”

Laurie turned to Al. “Too big?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Al threw his arms up in a dramatic display of defeat. “I admit it. I was wrong. Apparently not too big at all. Having enormous hands is a great thing for rescuing small fragile creatures. Who’d have thought?”

Only James said nothing. He hated the way it had made him feel, watching Laurie concentrate so carefully on the bird. All fluttery inside, like a girl or something. Wondering what it might feel like if Laurie put those hands against him. He blinked and looked away, back at his guitar, back at anything else, and the moment passed. It didn’t help him get over his crush on Laurie, though—anything but.

Still, in retrospect, that had been the best afternoon of the entire year when it came to Laurie. Most of the other occasions on which he visited, he did indeed bring Kieran. James reluctantly had to admit to himself that there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the other man except the sin that he was Laurie’s boyfriend, and James was insanely jealous.

My Review:
James realized that he was infatuated with his mother’s younger, gay, friend Laurie when he was just 16. It’s a one-sided affair as Laurie is ten years older than James. James pines for Laurie, confessing his deep attraction to his stoic bestie, Al, a schoolmate who came out as bi early in life. Al is not perturbed, yet encourages James to find a better outlet for his affection–especially as Laurie has a serious boyfriend at the time.

We fast forward a couple of years, and James still swoons for Laurie. The boyfriend is long-gone, and James is about to leave for uni when he makes an ill-advised attempt to capture Laurie for his very own. It’s a disaster, and James leaves for school heartbroken and determined to find a replacement for Laurie.

This pattern continues for the next few years. James does find partners, but he’s not emotionally able to casually hook-up with people the way Al can. James and Al are each other’s rock however, as James deals with his unrequited love, his father’s worsening MS and Al’s absentee parents. There’s a lot of great emotion here, and I half-hoped that James and Al would turn their friendship-love into a true one–because they share nearly everything already, except their hearts.

As James’ father’s health deteriorates, James sees Laurie in their home more and more frequently–he’s moved in temporarily to assist James’ parents with his care. It’s a critical time and James is really suffering. I’m not going to chat more about the plot, but the happy ending came at the very tail end of the book.

For me, this wasn’t much of a romance. James is a good kid with a bad crush, and he makes decisions that didn’t bring me into his love for Laurie. He’s biding his time, mostly, and the sex that happens isn’t romantic. It honestly messed with me because I nearly thought the story would end quite differently to the expectations, because of the intimacy he was sharing with another person. It left me feeling a little confused, though I still liked all the characters. I think there could have been a little more foreshadowing of the big revelation, which seemed to appear out of sheer hope and wet dreams. I still liked James and got interested in his life–and Al was a great foil to James–so I enjoyed the book. In all, this was an interesting read, but, because the romance factor was really low, I didn’t really love it the way I had expected to.

Interested? You can find ONE PLUS ONE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

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Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win your choice of an ebook from NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author
P.A. Friday fails dismally to write one sort of thing and, when not writing erotica and erotic romance of all sexualities, may be found writing articles on the Regency period, pagan poetry, or science fiction. She loves wine and red peppers, and loathes coffee and mushrooms.

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

Now Playing: PEEP SHOW! Release Blitz and Giveaway

Hi there! I’m sharing a book blitz and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance from Clare London. PEEP SHOW is a sweet, and a little sexy tidbit about a security tech and the sexy waiter who plays dirty for the CCTV. I”ll be reviewing this book for Joy Jay, but I can tell you it’s a fun novella, perfect to fill a slow lunch break.

Catch an extended excerpt and get in on the GC giveaway below!
About the book:
Ever wanted to spy secretly on other people’s lives?
Ken doesn’t have a choice: his student summer job is manning the CCTV screens for the new central London shopping mall. But instead of spotting criminals or vandals, he becomes fascinated by a cute waiter from the local bistro who sneaks out to the backyard for his break—and plays sexy to the camera.

Is he an old friend, or just an anonymous exhibitionist? Should Ken be excited by this naughty peepshow, or will people think he’s a voyeuristic pervert? Poor Ken’s confused and thrilled in turn. It’s like living in one of the movies he’s studying at university. He knows the man can’t see him, yet Ken feels a connection of some kind. It all encourages Ken to continue with his guilt-ridden Waiter Watch.

Ken bears the suspense as long as he can, until a chance meeting and an abortive blind date provide the explanation to the secret assignations. But will this guide Ken to a real-life chance of romance?

First Edition published by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2013.

And a tasty morsel to whet your appetite….

Ken had to admit he hated his job. With a passion. Or rather, with a slow-burning boredom and distaste. Passion implied some kind of energy—the agony and the ecstasy!—and Ken had none of that left after another night sitting in the small, stuffy room and gazing at a wall of screens.

He leaned back in his hard-backed chair, stretched, and yawned. A glance at the clock confirmed it was a good hour until his official break time, when the steroid-enhanced Tomas would reluctantly pause in strutting his security patrol around the shopping centre, and arrive to cover Ken’s post while he went for coffee and a sandwich. Then another two hours until the end of the shift at 2:00 a.m., when old Charlie would shuffle in for duty, complete with his tatty Aran cardigan, his Maeve Binchy paperback, and an oversized thermos of homemade vegetable soup, to take over from Ken until the offices opened.

Ken sighed. What a way to spend a Saturday night—or any night, for that matter.

Over three hours to go.

Over three hours….

He yawned again. The screens flickered and settled into a range of views from another angle. There was a bank of them, covering critical points around the shopping centre, and they were manned 24/7. Ken was one of those “manning” people. He was meant to watch the screens closely at all times. The centre was a small one, in Surbiton on the outskirts of London, and couldn’t compete with the massive retail complexes built off the M25 in Essex or central London’s Oxford Street. It was really just a dozen shops hanging out together under the same roof. But these were high-fashion, prestigious-designer stores, full of valuable goods and constantly at threat from thieves, vandals, and general abusers. Or so Ken’s summer-job employers, Safeguard Assured, would have people believe.

Ken thought it wouldn’t be so bad if he actually saw something. Look out, it’s beHIND you! He knew it was ludicrous to wish for theft, destruction, or general abuse—whatever that covered—but he’d been working here for over a month now, and he’d seen nothing untoward. Nothing at all. No fights, no malicious damage to the shops or the building, no tanks ramming through the night-time shutters, no intercontinental ballistic missiles shrieking in from the dark night skies above—only twenty-four hours left to protect historic London!—to destroy everything the population held dear….

Okay, so his mind was rambling again. His mum always said he had a vivid imagination. He’d chosen well when he took a media and film studies course at Kingston University, because he’d always spent far too much time imagining book and movie quotes around real-life events. Of course, Mum’s respect wasn’t always matched by the rest of the family—Dad said Ken lived in a fantasy world, and his teenage brother, Joe, said he was just a sad bloke. Ken sighed again. He knew he was pretty safe here in the control room—except, of course, from the intercontinental ballistic missile scenario—because he wasn’t expected to leap into personal action if he saw any crime taking place. There’d never been any training session for that, just a brief run-through of the screens and the logging in and out procedures, and a schedule of the night-time shifts. He’d been given a list of contact numbers if he needed help. From the way his boss had wrinkled his nose at that, Ken knew it wouldn’t be welcome if he called up his boss at a quarter to midnight to ask where the milk was for his tea. I’m sorry, caller, there’s no record of that number…. No, the contact numbers were for the duty security guards like Tomas, and also an emergency number to the local police station. That was if something went seriously wrong.

Which it never did.

No, of course he wasn’t inviting that missile again. But Ken hadn’t seen any action so far except people coming and going at the takeaways and late-night restaurants, which stayed open until the early hours of the morning. He swung aimlessly back and forth on his chair and opened another packet of cheesy snacks. He could feel the coating sticking to his teeth, but at least chewing it off helped to keep him awake. The Lord of the Rings paperback—three books in one, special offer!—had been last week’s additional incentive, but the boxed set of assorted crime thrillers he’d borrowed from Mum this week—murder, intrigue, and suspense from some of Britain’s finest!—hadn’t worked as effectively. Screen-watchers weren’t meant to spend their time with their head in a book—how would they see the incoming missile?—but it was about the only way to keep the boredom at bay.

“You should knit,” his mate Simon had suggested. Simon knitted, but not lumpy long scarves or hideously misshapen Christmas gloves like Ken’s gran. Si created cool beanie hats and cotton gilets and wonderful album cover designs on sweaters. He was studying textile design at the same university, with fellow students far more arty than Ken’s peers, judging by their clothing and the bold interior design of their rooms. Ken had tried knitting a hat once—you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it, right?—and Mum was still using it as a tea cosy. She said the gaps down the side gave the steam somewhere to go. Ken hadn’t battled with knitting needles again—he was happier with a storyboard. Yet where had his first year of film studies taken him? Watching rain fall on the concrete pavement outside a shopping centre for hours at a time. There was irony there, somewhere.

He’d tried plenty of things to help pass the time. He played solitaire until he found himself almost homicidal when a three of clubs refused to reveal itself. The book of crosswords had been abandoned at page nine, after he’d expressed his frustration by inserting every obscene word he could think of, whether they fit the grid or not. And his songwriting attempts had never got any further than I woke up this morning before he started salivating for bacon sandwiches and brown sauce. He’d tried sketching out a storyboard for a film project of his own but, unfortunately, Charlie had caught sight of it one night, and now he kept suggesting Ken should remake a couple of Maeve Binchy’s classic stories. Charlie even suggested casting and the songs for the soundtrack. Much as he liked the old codger, Ken now found it less teeth-grinding to keep that work for the privacy of his own room. So he was back to nothing but the screens for distraction.

There was a small yard at the back of one of the restaurants where the waiters came out to smoke. It was plumb in the middle of Ken’s central screen. This one was a French bistro, which meant the prices were too high for his student pocket. Spare a coin for a sandwich, sir? He didn’t have sound as well as a view, but he watched the way the waiting staff nodded to each other, laughed, shared matches for the ciggies. There wasn’t much space to move around in the yard, because the wall between the restaurant and the next-door dry cleaners was covered almost entirely with huge, shoulder-high recycling and waste bins. The waiters leaned against the bins or scuffed their shoes on them. Sometimes the chef opened the door from the restaurant and yelled at them to get their arses back to work. Well, Ken couldn’t actually hear the words, but the chef’s face looked flushed and impatient—even in grainy black-and-white—and Ken’s imagination supplied the language. Although the waiters rolled their eyes and mimicked his gestures as soon as he turned his back, they usually stubbed out the cigarettes quickly and shuffled back indoors.

Sometimes Ken saw them leaving at the end of their shift from a gate at the farthest point of the yard. It was a shortcut back to the housing estate across the ring road. He had to imagine the gate, because it was out of view of the camera, but the waiters would tumble out of the back door with their coats on and backpacks slung over their shoulders, waving and joking with the new shift who were taking over. The place did breakfasts too. Didn’t it ever close?

He’d noticed a group of friends who seemed to work and travel everywhere together—a cluster of students like him, presumably, all dressed in similar hoodies and jeans; two men who were obviously a romantic couple; a mother and daughter who still had a smile for each other after a long night in the kitchen.

Ken grimaced. So it had come to this—he was getting familiar with the monochrome faces of people he’d never meet in real life, probably didn’t want to meet, and who probably wouldn’t want to meet him. He didn’t think of them as friends, did he? That’s what his other good mate Robbie said when Ken shared some of his stories at the pub. “You’re not mates with these people, Kenny. That’d be bloody weird.” Everyone around the table agreed with Robbie. In fact, Ken laughed and agreed too.

Because that’s not how it was. He preferred to consider the people caught on CCTV as his own private soap opera. Previously, on the Surbiton Spectrum Shopping Centre Security Channel…. The waiters at the restaurant. The foxes that came sniffing around the bins, arrogantly careless of anyone else. The police cars that periodically cruised the front of the centre. The fat man who ran the all-night grocer/newsagents, who took a break every now and then, drained a bottle of cola, and had a thorough scratch of his crotch through trousers shiny with wear. The young couple who stocked up the Moroccan café at weekends and who loitered in the service road behind the shop for a snogging session. The boy would have taken it further; Ken could see his eagerness—and bloody quick hands—but the girl was always looking over her shoulder in case someone caught them.

Yes, even outside shopping hours, there was a lot of activity in and around the centre. It wasn’t really what Ken was employed to watch out for, but he reckoned he could weave it into his film projects; he could let it inspire him. Everyone enjoyed people-watching, didn’t they? And his personal soap opera was benign. It wasn’t full of cliché gun battles or car chases. Only sometimes did he feel like a voyeur, but without the sexiness.

A waiter ambled out of the French bistro, and Ken’s attention darted back to that screen. The young man moved quickly—maybe he only had a few minutes’ break—and made for the far side of the yard. That corner was partially hidden by two of the largest bins and out of reach of the security lights. The only CCTV screen that covered it was one of the oldest and with the poorest picture. Sometimes one of the waiting staff would sneak behind these particular bins, and Ken assumed it was because they didn’t want to be seen, either by CCTV or from inside the restaurant. Was that what this man was doing? He had his back to Ken, hiding what he was up to. Was he smoking? Taking drugs? Ken had seen it on other evenings. Was he meant to report that kind of thing, or just crimes that involved damage to the centre itself? And how hypocritical would he be, when he’d smoked more than a few things in his time?

He peered more closely and wished there was a zoom feature. He didn’t like to touch the controls too much, since the time he’d fiddled with the brightness, messed up screens one to four, and spent three hours looking at static—I’m breaking up! I’m breaking up!—until Charlie arrived. The old man had shrugged at Ken’s apology, turned the control button to its fullest point, thumped somewhere under the desk, and the screens had all popped back into focus. Luckily, of course, the missile hadn’t arrived at that very time, though Ken rather thought there’d be other clues if the building were attacked from space.

The man in the yard turned his head, and Ken caught sight of his shadowed profile. He wasn’t smoking; he was sucking juice from a carton. A new employee? Ken didn’t think he’d noticed him before. Tall, lithe body in tight black trousers and a white shirt that stretched taut over his pecs, short-cropped dark hair, prominent but attractive nose. Ken couldn’t see his eyes because he was looking down at the carton, but the heavy lids were sexy. Even though the picture was blurred, Ken could tell that clearly enough. And the way the man’s lips tightened on the carton straw was…. Be still, my beating heart. Ken laughed at himself a little bitterly. His poor old dick hadn’t hardened that quickly for a long time. He shifted on the seat, trying to get comfortable again. He really needed to get back out in the dating game again. Oh wait, first he had to find the time to date, didn’t he? But if and when he did, this was just the kind of look he’d always liked, ever since school days, however shallow Mum would say it was to judge a book by its cover alone…

And then the guy turned towards the camera so that one side of his face eased out of the shadows—and he winked.

Huh? Ken leaned forwards in his chair, startled, but the moment was gone. The waiter turned on his heel, threw his empty carton into the bin, and sauntered back inside the restaurant.

This is a fun read, and I enjoyed the twists that kept Ken and his camera-man from coming together too soon…

Interested? You can find PEEP SHOW on Dreamspinner Press, Amazon (US and Amazon UK) Barnes & NobleiTunes and KOBO.  

****GIVEAWAY****

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

copy-of-clarelondonheadshotAbout the Author:
Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.

She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind… she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

Catch up to Clare on her website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, and Google+.

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Confrontation Connection: CONNING COLIN-Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Brad Vance and Elsa Winters. CONNING COLIN is a savvy new adult romance between a cash-strapped college grad turned sex worker and the newly-out, newly-divorced voice actor who wants to learn all about the gay sex from a cultured, sexy man–even if he is a high-dollar escort. It was sweet with interesting twists, and I haven’t read a Brad Vance book I didn’t adore. Catch my reviews for WEREWOLVES OF BROOKLYN, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and STRENGTH IN NUMBERS to see why.

Drop down to check out an excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, too!
About the book:
Hamilton Dillon is a high class Manhattan escort, polished, well dressed, and cultured. Colin O’Neill is recently divorced, questioning his sexuality, and disappointed by his first fumbling gay hookups. So he figures, why not hire the best of the best to show him the ropes?

What he doesn’t know is that Hamilton Dillon is really Henry Davis, yet another New Yorker living on the financial edge, cobbling together several jobs to make a living. “Hamilton” has one great suit he can wear on an overnight date, but Henry’s got a good friend at GQ who makes a nice side income renting designer men’s wear for weddings, job interviews, and oh yeah, high end escorts on long weekend assignments. The “top agency” that represents “Hamilton” is really just a smartass lady in India with a Skype account, whose face Henry’s never seen. Oh, and Henry’s also the gruff and very unpolished New York Straight Man “Dillinger,” a solo porn star.

In other words, he’s not at all who Colin thinks he is. Which is just fine, until their relationship gets… complicated.

How about a little taste?

Colin O’Neill hung up the phone, dizzy with excitement and fear. He’d done it. He’d called the number, talked to the agency, and booked a “date” with Hamilton Dillon.

He’d looked at Hamilton’s Rentmen.com ad a hundred times, at least, over the last three months. He’d looked forward to new profile photos the way a kid keeps an ear cocked for the ice cream truck. Even though all the profile pictures had been beheaded for discretion, it didn’t matter. Hamilton Dillon had a way of posing that expressed more personality with his body than most other guys ever did with their faces.

The way he sat on a park bench in nothing but a pair of running shorts and Nikes, shirtless, manspread, his arms thrown over the back of the bench, his strong graceful neck taut, telling you that the face just out of frame was tilted up towards the Central Park sunshine, that the man was reveling in his easy beauty, the unique joy that comes from being young and hot and free in New York City…

Then the way he floated in the air in those same shorts and Nikes, leaping for a football, the camera capturing him from behind in the moment the ball touched his fingers, the imminence of his success apparent, ordained, the muscles in his back bunched, the mass of his shoulders gathered together, sweat flying off his brown hair, in the seconds before you knew he landed on the lawn, arms curled around the ball, surely to rise in triumph and be slapped on the back by all his equally hot and shirtless buddies…

The way he sat at a café table, in a slim fit navy blue polo shirt, one of his sculpted vascular arms holding open a well-worn copy of The Fortress of Solitude and the other just toying with a cup of espresso as if it was the back of another man’s hand…

Colin often did something that very few men did anymore, which was to masturbate furiously and successfully to a series of still photos. And with no penises in sight, to boot. He’d done it so often over the last three months that he’d stopped donating his old t-shirts, because he needed them for cleanup duty, at least until they became hopelessly stained.

He had been divorced for six months now, amicably, from a wife who’d pretty much always known he was gay but had decided to let him figure it out for himself. Elspeth was a career woman whose need for a husband was seasonal, from the company picnic in July to the company Christmas party in December, with various client dinners in between.

He was twenty seven years old, and had engaged in sexual intercourse with one woman and two men. Intercourse was pretty much the word for it, he thought. It sounded less like passion and more like, well, cars merging on the freeway, and all three partners had been just about that exciting. (Actually less so, since on the freeway there was always the thrilling risk of death at the hands of someone who’d rather kill you than let you merge.)

Then one night, half drunk and inhibitions lowered, he’d thought, Fuck it, let’s hire a professional and see how it feels when it’s done right.

He’d paged through the escort ads on Rentmen, hundreds of them in Manhattan alone. It was mind numbing, the diversity, and it was overwhelming, the number of choices. He knew he didn’t want to visit Master Bob in his safe and private play space, and he knew he didn’t want to party with Anaconda Joe. The ones who caught his eye were, well yeah, the ones who looked… classy. The one thing he knew he didn’t want was to get ripped off.

And he didn’t want it to feel… He didn’t want to feel like he’d got a burger in a fast food drive through. He wanted it to be special, if that was really possible with a paid companion and not just something that happened to teenage boys in Hollywood movies.

But even the upscale-looking ones, well, there was something about them that… He knew it was good business, to offer yourself up as “versatile,” and available for “mild to wild,” but… Well, the more he saw what he didn’t want, the more a picture began to form in his mind of what he did want. He didn’t want someone who looked like an investment banker but whose profile also said, “Hey I look classy but I can drop it if you just want a dirty pig fest and you’ve got the money for it.”

No. He wanted someone who was one thing. Who wasn’t whoever you wanted him to be. But who was what he said he was. Classy, for real. Not “up for anything.”

And then he found Harrison Dillon.

Thoughts from Author Brad Vance on his new book and more…

Tell us something about your character’s friends.
Henry Davis has some great friends. He’d never manage his high end escort career without the help of Benjamin, who works at GQ and loans Henry the designer suits he can’t afford on his own. And Cameron, who runs the website Straight Guys of New York, where Henry picks up a little extra cash pretending to be rough-and-tough guy “Dillinger.” I really wanted to highlight how many people are dependent on a side hustle, just to make ends meet in an expensive city.

What is your character’s favorite meal? Favorite dessert? Favorite snack food?
Henry loves to curl up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, especially Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream. He snuggles on the couch and watches White Collar for the seventh time, and doesn’t worry about dripping ice cream on his Mets t-shirt. As “Harrison Dillon,” he’s got to be immaculate, but as Henry, he can be a slob.

What activity does your character absolutely hate?
Well, dressing up! Henry’s not really a suit and tie guy. Only watching Matt Bomer in White Collar taught him how to wear those clothes comfortably, naturally. In normal life, he’s just a dude, in cargo shorts and a T.

What’s your character’s secret fantasy?
Henry’s always wanted to be a screenwriter. Becoming an escort was a way for him to literally “buy time,” to escape the hamster wheel of Cubicle City and write. He’s found that time alone isn’t always enough, but without the time, well, it would be even harder.

What’s your favorite decade and why?
This one. Because I’m still alive, I’m still engaged in what’s going on around me in art, culture, style, humor. I’d hate to be stuck in the past! Once you start rattling on about how much better things were in Decade X… you’re old. I don’t plan on getting old, I mean, what’s in it for me?

My Review:
Henry Davis is a recent college grad with a degree in English and writing, and no desire to work for peanuts in the cube-world. He aspires to be a screen-writer, if only he can find his muse. In the meantime, being an escort paid all his college debts, and he’s supporting himself and a family member in need with his earnings. That is a really awesome part of his story, but I don’t want to spoil it–so trust me! Henry’s pretty much as selfless as they come. And boy, do they come!

Okay, Henry has two personas he adopts for his sex worker roles: Hamilton Dillon is a cultured and stunning man in thousand-dollar suits he rents from a pal who works in the fashion pages of GC magazine. The other, “Dillinger” is a “straight” Queens bro who jacks his junk to make bank in solo porn shoots. It’s quite the interesting juxtaposition. Henry tends to lose himself in his roles, and is baffled when his interactions with his newest client, Colin O’Neill, blur the lines between his professional persona as Hamilton, and Henry’s own need for intimacy and connection.

Colin is a newly divorced voice actor who doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. He gets an allowance from his ex-wife, with whom he had an amiable, mutually-beneficial arrangement. She wanted a husband because it helped her image at work, and he accepted her proposal, mostly because they got along. He’s never had a passionate relationship and they barely shared more than a few sexual encounters over their six years of marriage. He took acting classes and bonded with a classmate, however, and it was the beginning of Colin recognizing that he is likely gay–something his wife had long suspected, and wasn’t the least bit upset over. Thing is, Colin has crippling stage fright, and he’s a timid man by nature. He missed out on telling his pal how he’d felt, but he’s not going to waste too much more time in the “figure out Colin” phase of life.

Buoyed by a big payday for a voice-over spot, Colin FINALLY dials the number for Hamilton Dillon’s escort services. He’s stalked Hamilton’s web advertisement for several months and has definite fantasies that the cultured, attractive man he sees online will be the best tutor for Colin’s fledgling bedroom skills. He’s only tried to date a couple guys since his divorce and both were abject failures. So, Colin’s willing to pony up the fee for expert Hamilton’s tutelage.

And, naturally, Henry is ready to be his very best Hamilton for Colin. It’s a heady experience for both men, even when it isn’t physical. Colin is more than a little gone for Hamilton, and the lines are increasingly blurred the more “dates” they arrange. Henry is captivated by Colin’s vulnerability and the intimacy they continue to develop. It’s really so very sweet, and so very inspiring–Henry has found his muse, in the combination of Hamilton and Colin’s developing relationship. Meanwhile, Colin’s sessions with Hamilton leave him feeling elated and confident enough to try live auditions for the first time in years.

What comes next is something they hadn’t planned for, and it brings moments of heartbreak and rejection, but that’s just reality. The fun part of reality, as opposed to the fantasy they had been experiencing, is that Colin and Henry can find a common ground that actually exists and build something true and real. Which, I was happy to discover, they do. I’m used to the grand, twisting plots of Brad Vance, and I wasn’t disappointed here. Henry is a complex man, with his debts and his desires and his personas. Colin isn’t complicated. He wants a true partner, even if it isn’t convenient. They each grow a lot in the time they spend together, and that was awesome to experience as a reader. They also have some yummy hawt sexytimes, and some incredibly tender moments, times that have both men confused about the roles they are supposed to be playing. That said, the HEA exists, and it felt genuine. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find CONNING COLIN on Goodreads and Amazon.

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Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Brad Vance writes romance stories and novels, including the breakout hits “A Little Too Broken” and “Given the Circumstances.” Keep up with Brad on his website, Facebook, twitter or email him. at BradVanceAuthor AT gmail (dot) com.

Catching up FALLING FOR THE PLAYER-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a recent M/M contemporary romance from Jessica Lee. FALLING FOR THE PLAYER is a new adult romance between a former NFL darling reconnecting with the straight-laced young attorney he’d met in college one fateful night.

About the book:
Bad boy and former NFL running back Patrick Guinness is tired of meaningless sex. Ever since his scorching hot one-night stand three years ago, no one has interested him. So when Max Segreti wanders into his mechanic shop—and his life again—Patrick can’t stop thinking about the totally-out-of-his-league law grad and the possibility of getting him out of his system once and for all…

Max Segreti has spent his entire life doing what his father wants. But when he runs into the hotter-than-hell player he’s never been able to forget, he’s not thinking about studying for the bar. A distraction is the last thing he needs, but after an encounter leaves him wanting more, Max embraces the chaos that Patrick brings…even as he knows it can’t last. They’re too different to ever have a future together.

My Review:
Max Segreti is a nerdy college kid working hard on his studies when he meets Patrick Guinness, star college running back, sure to be picked high in the NFL draft, one night at a bar. They hit it off and the hit the sheets for a hot, hot night. In the morning they go their own ways, Max to law school and Patrick to a pro football career. Neither man forgot the other, however…

Three years later they meet by chance again. Only now, Max is studying to take the bar exam and Patrick is back home, running the family garage and caring for his teen brother, Liam, now that both their parents are deceased. His NFL dreams quashed by a devastating knee injury, Patrick isn’t sure he can measure up to whatever standard Max may have.

Max still find Patrick devastatingly sexy, but he’s been closeted by his overbearing father and isn’t sure he can/should have any sort of relationship in the near future. Max is a good guy, though, and helps Patrick secure excellent counsel from his father’s firm for Liam when Liam gets into a bit of a mess.

For me, this book was heavy on the sexytimes and light on the relationship. All the times I thought, okay we’re going to see these guys build a strong bond, they either didn’t, or the narrative shifted into the future. The tense moments–like Max being pushy about money or Patrick being stubborn about accepting charity–seemed too conveniently resolved. Patrick has a big problem dating someone who has a lot of money–like Max–but I wondered where his multimillion dollar NFL signing bonus went? Because he likely didn’t spend all of it in his short stint in the game…so that was perplexing. I also got aggravated by some of the word choices, like referring “the other man” all the time in close quarters. I like hearing the guys’ names in the books I read, and that sort of linguistic choice always kept me on the outside, hampering my connection to the characters.

That said, there is a sweetish resolution with Max and Patrick finding a common ground that satisfies all of their needs. Also, this feelgood end includes a happy teen and a puppy, so the cute quota is satisfied.

Interested? You can find FALLING FOR THE PLAYER on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. I read a review copy provided by NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jessica Lee is an EPIC eBook Award winner and international bestselling author of paranormal romance. She lives in the southeastern United States with her husband and son. In her former life, Jessica was a science geek and spent over twenty-five years as a nurse. But after the birth of her son, she left her medical career behind. During that transition, she discovered her passion for writing romance and has never looked back. Jessica Lee is currently published by Entangled Publishing and Resplendence Publishing. In addition, she has several self-published titles available.

You can find Jessica on twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!