Cephalopod Coffeehouse February 2018–Bringing the HEAT

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m sharing a review for a newly published dragon-shifter romance from Donna Grant. HEAT is the 12th book in her Dark Kings series, and really best enjoyed when read in order. I’ve liked SMOKE AND FIRE, FIRESTORM, BLAZE, and DRAGON BURN, and–being a series junkie–I’m eager to see how this all turns out.

About the book:
Nikolai is a dragon shapeshifter who knows well the meaning of loss. Orphaned and raised to be a Dragon King, he never accepts defeat. Now, Nikolai prefers his solitude . . .until a beautiful, irresistible woman calls upon him for help—and Nikolai’s whole world goes up in flames.

Ever since MI5 agent Esther woke to discover her mind taken over with magic, she feels like stranger to herself. She looks to a notorious dragon, one who has the power to help her find her memory. But as she and Nikolai come closer to discovering what really happened to her, a dangerous passion ignites between them. Can this lone Dragon King help the woman he’s grown to love to uncover the truth about her past—or will a deep and fiery danger tear them both apart?

My Review:
This is the 12th book in a series and best enjoyed when you’ve read several of the more recent releases, I think.

To sum up, Dragon Kings are fighting a battle for survival in modern times. They have the ability to shift from human to dragon form, and once ruled the earth, but went into hiding to prevent annihilation from the primitive humans who populated the lands. This decision created a huge rift in the community, and a war ensued. Constantine, the kink of all kings banished Ulrik, another dragon king, for inciting the war.

Nikolai was raised by Ulrik, and he’s always felt it was a deep betrayal to fight against Ulrik to protect humanity. He’s long had issues with his decision, and he wants to make peace with Ulrik. It’s a dangerous time, however, with Light and Dark Fae having devious plots, and a rogue dragon trying to destroy Ulrik, Constantine and the rest of the dragons to assume supreme power over earth and humanity.

Esther is a former MI5 agent whose brother has worked to keep the dragon’s identities secret from society. Esther got tangled up in the midst, having her mind controlled by a powerful Druid. She’s desperate to learn what happened in the three weeks that are missing from her memories. Nicolai has a special gift of sight–he can pluck images from people’s consciousness, even if they can’t remember. He and Esther head to Dublin to trace her paths and see if any patterns develop. In the thick of this they admit they have a ton of chemistry, and are likely to be fated mates.

I’ve really enjoyed the series, and this book in particular is really good. There is convergence between several plotlines at this point so that we can see the impending conflict. Many of the characters have found love, but Con and Ulrik are still single. So I’m expecting some page time to them finding love, as well as defeating the threats from Fae and others. The love story was slower to unfold than I had expected considering Esther and Nikolai have had some close encounters before they set out on their mission. I did love how some of the mystery surrounding the Druid has been cleared up, and it’s clear that most of our “bad guys” aren’t what they seemed to be, at first. Happy endings abound, and the end is clearly near. Looking forward to the next book!

Interested? You can find HEAT on Goodreads and Amazon.

donna_grant_newAbout the Author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Donna Grant has been praised for her “totally addictive” and “unique and sensual” stories. Her latest acclaimed series, Dark Kings, features a thrilling combination of dragons, Fae, and immortal Highlanders who are dark, dangerous, and irresistible. She lives with her two children and an assortment of animals in Texas.

Catch up with Donna on her website, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Tumblr, Audible, and Tantor.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends! Be sure to check out my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers and their fave books of the month below…


Enemies to Lovers: SCORPIO HATES VIRGO-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m kicking off Enemies to Lovers Week with a review for a sweet New Adult M/M contemporary romance from Anyta Sunday. SCORPIO HATES VIRGO is the sequel to LEO LOVES ARIES, but can be enjoyed on it’s own. A grieving young man endeavors to sell his late-aunt’s home and start over fresh where the memories of her love won’t haunt him. Especially important is leaving behind his childhood nemesis/crush but the well-meaning neighbors, and their paired horoscopes, seem to get in the way. It’s a sweet slow burn, and I really enjoyed it.

About the book:
This year is all about healing the heart, Scorpio. It’s time to leave negative attitudes and stoic facades at the door and let others see the real, more vulnerable you.

Percy Freedman is not grieving. Absolutely not, take that back at once. No, he’s entirely sure that selling his dead aunt’s home and leaving the neighbors he’s known for years is the sane thing to do. Who in their right mind would keep the house that smells like all the hugs he’ll never have again?

Nobody, that’s who.

Well, except his cul-de-sac neighbors. They all seem to think some paint and new furniture will clean the emotional slate. They all want him to stay.

Even his nemesis, Callaghan Glover.

Especially his nemesis, Callaghan Glover.

Lured into a game of Sherlock Gnomes, Percy finds himself hanging out with his neighbors more than might be considered healthy. Along with juggling new and surprising verbal grenades from Cal, and his burgeoning friendship with Gnomber9, Percy is starting to wonder if selling might have been the grief talking after all . . .

That’s right, Scorpio. With a little patience, heartbreak might be a thing of the past . . .

* ~* ~* ~*

“Scorpio Hates Virgo” contains sarcasm, sexual content, a slightly sappy HEA, and an unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs.
It can be read as a standalone.

My Review:
Percy’s dear Aunt Abby had died about six months ago, she left him her home–the home where he was raised after his parents made no secret of wanting him gone when he came out in his teens. It’s a bit run-down, but still got great bones and a close-knit cul-de-sac community of neighbors who keep tabs on everyone, plan fun get-togethers, and lend a hand when needed. They were among the chief mourners at Abby’s wake, and though Percy knows they truly care for him too, he wants to sell the house and move away. He’s recently broken up with another boyfriend–who thinks he’s not family material–and he just wants to start over.

But, Callaghan Glover, neighbor and long-time nemesis is becoming a constant presence in his life. Cal should be at school, finishing his masters in paleontology, but he took a break and came home to help care for his pregnant mother and two younger sisters now that his dad had an existential crisis and moved out. Percy has always harbored a secret crush on Cal, but he knows it’s pointless, because Cal’s straight. Still, both of these guys need a solid friend, and their verbal sparring moves from waspish to bantering, confusing Percy more. Add to this, the cul-de-sac community is playing a “Sherlock Gnomes” game where they secretly leave treats or take on chores for their fellow Gnomers–all while trying to determine which neighbor is operating under which Gnome name. And Cal’s mother makes Percy a standing invitation to share their dinners so he doesn’t have to eat alone.

The community that Percy feels, even as he’s sorely missing his aunt, gives him the strength to reach out for what he wants–to build a lasting relationship. It takes a LOOOONG time, but Percy realizes that one of the Gnomes he’s been chatting with (and pouring out his soul a bit to) isn’t the person he expected, and that Cal may have been tipped off about Percy’s attraction. Percy is, meanwhile, building stronger roots of his own, developing a clientele of folks in their community for his massage therapist gig. Including Cal who’s hurting his back entertaining his young sister with dinosaur antics. I liked how Percy and Cal took things slow, it’s a tricky business going from enemies to friends to lovers. Cal’s own need, as a Virgo and a demipansexual, is to build a strong emotional connection before he can get physical, adds to that slow burn. Meanwhile, Percy’s hide-behind-the-sarcasm Scorpio ways makes getting close a challenge. Their love may not have been written in the stars, but it certainly burned bright enough to make Percy recognize his place in life was the one he tried to run from.

Fun and creative, I enjoyed this one.

Interested? You can find SCORPIO HATES VIRGO on Goodreads and 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!

Mazel Tov! EIGHT NIGHTS IN DECEMBER is Here! Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today, I’m sharing a review for a new Hanukkah M/M romance from author Keira Andrews. I just reviewed IN CASE OF EMERGENCY but I couldn’t resist a Hanukkah romance. EIGHT NIGHTS IN DECEMBER pairs a shy virgin with his brash roommate’s “geeky” younger brother. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in my bi-faith family, and I could almost taste the latkes and sufganiyot as I devoured this New Adult romance.

Scroll down to read my review and enter to win a backlist book for Keira Andrews in the giveaway!
About the book:
A geek. A virgin. One sexy holiday.
Orphaned Lucas figures spending the holidays with his obnoxious roommate’s family in New York City is better than staying alone on campus upstate. He ends up sharing a room again, this time with his roommate’s brother, Nate. Geeky photographer Nate isn’t at all what Lucas expects. In fact, he’s incredibly sexy—especially when he invites Lucas into his darkroom…

They hide their attraction during Hanukkah celebrations, but behind closed doors, Lucas and Nate can’t keep their hands (or mouths) off each other. Nate’s only looking for a bit of holiday fun, and amazing sex with a hot virgin definitely fits the bill. Yet as the candles burn, Nate and Lucas begin to realize eight nights will never be enough.

This gay holiday romance from Keira Andrews features secret trysts, new adult angst, spinning the dreidel, and of course a happy ending.

My Review:
Lucas is a 20-year old college freshman after spending his last two years assisting his father through terminal cancer. HE showed up to his college late in the term, and got roomed with a party-hard senior, Sam Kramer. Lucas really wants to make some friends, but he’s shy, and especially lonely now that his father–who he was very close to–has passed. His mother died when he was a child. Hearing that Lucas is planning to spend his holiday season alone in the dorms, Sam’s mother insists that Lucas join their family for the break–which begins with the first night of Hanukkah that evening.

Caught up in the whirlwind Kramer family, Lucas tries to adjust to rooming with Sam’s younger, “geeky” brother. With Sam being a gregarious athletic person, he dramatically outshines Nate–on the surface. But Lucas isn’t attracted to brash Sam the way he is to broody Nate. And, it makes Lucas all the more uncomfortable as he tries to fit in. So, he’s really caught off guard when Nate reveals that he’s down for some sexy fun…if Lucas wants to keep that on the super down-low; Nate isn’t out to his parents.

Lucas has never been with a man, though he knows that’s where his attractions lay. He’d come out to his father before the end, and he’s sad that Nate won’t be honest with his own family, which clearly loves him. That said, Lucas is eager to find some comfort with Nate, who is a passionate man behind his cool facade. And, well, it’s hard for Lucas to be free-and-easy the way Nate seems to be. Nate insists it’s just going to be a holiday fling, but they each need shelter, Lucas from his grief and Nate from his feelings of inadequacy. While Nate has no plans to come out, his family is ready for that eventuality. What begins as a temporary tryst of convenience grows into a sweet and tender romance made to last. I really enjoyed it, and loved being along for the ride with Lucas as he learns all the many, many ways he and Nate can find pleasure with each other. Talk about steamy! A delightful Hanukkah novella.

Interested? You can find EIGHT NIGHTS IN DECEMBER on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Keira Andrews.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

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.

Young Love DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for a new Christmas M/M romance from Eli Easton. I totally loved MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES last year, and I dove right into DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA, a sweet New Adult romance between an investigative journalism student and the not-so-out heavyweight wrestler at his university.

Also, don’t miss the MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES book giveaway below!
About the book: Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.

Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.

As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?

My Review:
Gabe Martin is a journalism student at Univ of Wisconsin-Madison and working on his senior project: an investigative piece. He’s also an intern for the local paper where he writes weather and stock updates. Boring! His first actual article is a story on the Elks Club Christmas dinner, which is a fundraiser for a small orphanage in town. Gabe digs in with his usual zest, praying he can find some shady side of this so-called “feel good” piece that can become part of his project. He thinks he might have an angle when he learns that the identity of the beloved Santa who brings gifts to the orphans is a mystery.

In the meantime, Gabe attends a wrestling meet with his best pal Jordan–who is there to sheer on his boyfriend, an openly bisexual team member. Gabe’s not into wrestling, but he does dig the sexy, strong men grappling on the mat. And, he’s especially intrigued by Mack McDonall, dubbed “The Mountain” because he’s nearly 7 feet tall and has to manage his diet in order to stay under his 285 pound weight limit. Yes, Mack is mountain Gabe would love to scale. And, when Jordan sets Mack and Gabe up on a blind date–dinner at his apartment with his boyfriend–where they seem to hit it off. Gabe is initially upset because he didn’t suspect Mack might be into guys. Still, they seem to build a rapport, and Gabe likes the way Mack looks at him…until Gabe discusses his Elks dinner article. Then, Mack gets frustrated and leaves.

Gabe continues on his journalistic endeavors, inadvertently learning that Mack was a resident of the orphanage, and that feels weird. He knows that Mack’s a really private person, and it seems like an invasion of his privacy. Gabe gets that Mack wouldn’t want this information getting around, yet his discomfort is too great to contain. He seeks out Mack, and tells him what he’s learned. He gets a whole lot deeper story than he imagined then, and decides to interview some of the current residents. The glowing praise the kids have for their home–because that is how they feel about where they live–really shines in Gabe’s article which becomes two pieces. The first one that whets the appetites of readers who are now intrigued by the mystery Santa. And, the orphanage garners tons of interest and donations. Good right? Not so much when Gabe learns that Mack’s past is wrapped into the mystery Santa angle. They have been building a connection on the super down-low because Mack is afraid coming out will jeopardize his scholarship status. They have common interests and a definite attraction.

Gabe knows that revealing Mack’s past in the paper will be the end of whatever it is that’s growing between them. They aren’t really dating, but Gabe doesn’t want to lose the connection; he’s been mostly adrift since his parents divorced and he came out. Mack has a small family, and he’s afraid to trust Gabe, knowing that Gabe has the power to hurt him. They have a slow burning romance, that culminates on the night of the Elks dinner, when Gabe orchestrates an even bigger story than the identity of Mystery Santa. It’s a compromise they can both live with, and their future, while uncertain at first, comes into close focus after that.

This is a tender book, with a sweet holiday theme. Gabe and Mack are a fun couple to watch fall in love. I enjoyed how they built a friendship, and then a romance. Mack’s traditional ideas were endearing, and really showed Gabe that hard work and deep investment yields a treasured result. And, also, that sharing information that isn’t essential isn’t a conflict of interest; it’s life. Shakespeare wrote: ‘The better part of valour, is Discretion.’ Even if Mack wasn’t an English scholar, he truly thought Gabe a hero for keeping his secrets safe.

Interested? You can find DESPERATELY SEEKING SANTA on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an ebook of MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES from Eli Easton. Wow! I loved that one.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

And, don’t forget to check out the previous books in this dog-gone fun series….

HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR.

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
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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!