Now Available: NICE CATCHING YOU–Review and Giveaway!

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

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

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

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

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

How about a little taste?

JACOB
Sunday, December 4

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

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

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

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

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

“You all right?”

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

“Everything okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Cover Reveal for NICE CATCHING YOU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

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

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

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

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

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

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 ebook copies of THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

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

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

Finding a Love That’s WORTH IT–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary New Adult romance from Chloe B. Young. WORTH IT relates an unconventional romance between a college sex worker and the nephew of his previous john.

About the book:
The price of love could be too high to pay.

Elliott Meyer is a dedicated student . . . and a part-time sex worker. College is expensive, and after his mother’s death left his family struggling, he’s desperate to avoid drowning in debt. Problem is, he just lost his only client. Time to hit the clubs and find a new benefactor before bills start piling up.

Enter Aiden Kent: rich, handsome . . . and the nephew of Elliott’s former client. Rather than letting this drive a wedge between them, Aiden offers Elliott an opportunity. Aiden’s stressed out and has no time for a relationship. He’s eager to hire Elliott to provide all the benefits of a boyfriend with none of the responsibility. And they both swear it’s only a little weird.

But when their business arrangement starts to become a full-on relationship, things get complicated. Elliott won’t accept money from a romantic partner, and Aiden won’t continue their relationship if Elliott’s sleeping with other clients. With his future on the line, Elliott’s left with a terrible decision: risk his bright academic future, or lose Aiden forever.

My Review:
Elliott Meyer is a 21 year old sophomore in college. He goes to school in LA and is determined not to borrow a penny to do it. His father, a police officer, has been in dept up to his eyeballs ever since Elliott’s mother died, following a prolonged illness. and the house up-keep is too much for his small-town cop salary to afford. So, Elliott has decided he’s going to earn his tuition money as a part-time escort. He had a sugar daddy a few months ago, and older, wealthy lawyer who enjoyed parading his blatant boy toy every place he could. And, he paid Elliott handsomely. IN fact, sometimes his money got int he way–because he became manipulative with his funding. Elliott walked away, but he didn’t get too far.

While out prowling for a new john, Elliott encounters Aiden Kent, the nephew of his previous “employer”. Elliott had met the man before, because Aiden is a lawyer at the same firm as his ex-john, which happens to have numerous Kents as staff and partners. So, Elliott figures he’s gotta scram from that scene, lest Aiden mess up his search for a steady john. It’s a little unsettling when Aiden, who is only 28, and both wealthy and sexy to boot, makes an offer for Elliott to consider. Aiden would like a companion, and regular lover, but the demands of his job at the firm tend to interfere with real relationships. Plus, he sometimes feel like prospective boyfriends are more into his name and wealth than who he is a s a person–a general homebody after working 60_ hours a week. For a monthly sum Elliott could spend three nights a week keeping Aiden company and having some spine-melting sexytimes, too. Despite the initial awkwardness, Elliott agrees.

This fake boyfriend love story follows a mostly predictable path of increasing familiarity giving rise to feelings on both sides. Elliott has some good prospects in the offing, including a possible scholarship and growing tutoring opportunities. But, he wants to help his dad too much to rely on piecemeal options. Within a couple months of their bargain, Elliott’s internal conflict is getting way out of proportion. He loves Aidan, so he can’t keep charging him for sex. Not if they are TRUE boyfriends. Aiden wants Elliott to lean on him, and let the money worries drift away, but it’s not something that Elliott can consider; he has no illusions about the monetary struggles of indebted college graduates, and with plans for a Master’s and doctorate, Elliott isn’t willing to gamble on Aiden’s charity or his own solvency.

I loved Aiden in this one and I liked Elliott a lot, too. It’s clear that he is still immature, at times, and that’s fine because most young people really don’t get grown until they are in the mid-20s. Elliott’s thoughts of returning to prostitution become more and more untenable as he deals with the temporary loss of Aiden from his life. It’s a nice wake-up call and allows us to see the vulnerable side of Elliott, who can be a bit prickly and snooty as a character, and meet his dearest friend and his father to straighten out his priorities. The end fell into place exactly as I suspected it would, and I’m glad to say it was entirely happy. There are lots of steamy, sexy moments from nearly the beginning, and they become more tender and passionate as the love story builds.

Interested? You can find WORTH IT on Goodreads, Riptide Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Misanthropic Love CAT’S GOT YOUR HEART–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M contemporary New Adult romance from Jem Zero. CATS GOT YOUR HEART is a sweet and snarky, enemies-to-lovers romance between a man who wants to replace his sister’s missing cat and the pet store employee who refuses to adopt a cat to him.

Scroll down for an excerpt, and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
A fluffy feline isn’t the only thing they’re fighting for…

Adopting a cat doesn’t sound hard. Then Jericho Adams meets Harinder Mangal, the surly pet store employee who loves animals and hates customers. Their first encounter inspires more than simple loathing—it puts the ball in motion for an absurd game of deceit that boasts a fluffy cat named Dumpling as the prize.

Harinder hates Jericho’s attitude, especially when it comes to owning a pet. He attempts to chase the other man from his store and is shocked when Jericho overcomes every obstacle, no matter how bizarre. Not only that, but he generates some of his own wild inconveniences that leave Harinder seething in his ugly sweater and mom jeans.

Before either man can get the other to crack, Harinder finds himself unexpectedly homeless. Despite their mutual antagonism, Jericho invites Harinder to crash at his place. The increased proximity makes it difficult for Harinder and Jericho to maintain their respective ruses, not to mention stopping themselves from actually caring about their pet-parenting rival.

How about a little taste?

Jericho Is Not Prepared

There’s a Petco another half hour down the bus line, but it’s snowing and Jericho doesn’t have that kind of time. Well, he does. But his phone is only at thirty-seven percent battery, and he’s not patient enough to go that long without entertainment. Fortunately, there’s a small hole-in-the-wall ten minutes from his apartment.

Aquariums & More doesn’t have a website, but according to Yelp, the “more” includes live pets. Half the Yelp reviews complain about hostile and unwelcoming employees, but that’s none of his business.

The pet store looks even shittier in person than it did in the picture. Multiple neon signs have been added since the pixelated, overexposed image was captured—probably somewhere in the early 1800s. Combined, they shine so brightly they distract from the puke-green awning, torn from years of weather, with faded navy font that looks like it’s trying to be Comic Sans but isn’t quite.

The visual assault is such that Jericho briefly overlooks the grime on the windows and how there seems to be something alive inside the trash can.

Any animal bought from this place is guaranteed to have three kinds of rabies and possibly congestive heart failure in addition to being intellectually dishonest and a kleptomaniac. It’s perfect for his sister, Shiloh, so Jericho spits a wad of tasteless gum into the cigarette disposal (he isn’t going near that trash can) and steps inside.

The bell on the door jingles merrily, but upon passing the threshold, there’s no one in sight: no customers, no pimply teenage employees, not even a grizzled old man to regale him with stories of putting live mice in freezers.

Alrighty then.

Along the entire front wall is what must be a six-foot-long, gargantuan tank full of…sand and wood? Jericho looks closer, blinking when he sees some small things skittering through the thick foliage. Oh, hermit crabs.

“They’re not for sale,” a rough voice says behind him.

He startles, but not enough to make a fool out of himself. Instead of swinging around to face whoever came up behind him, Jericho casually rolls his back. See? He isn’t bothered in the least.

“There’s a sign right there.” He points down at the far corner of the tank where Hermit Crabs $5 per ea. is written in Sharpie on an off-white piece of cardstock. It’s placed away from the reach of the fluorescent tank lighting as if someone doesn’t want it to be noticed.

A dark hand reaches into his line of sight and unceremoniously rips the sign off the tank. “That was a prank,” the other person says. “Feel free to ignore it.”

“Okay,” Jericho says—because sure, whatever—and turns toward the speaker. The voice made him expect someone at least moderately intimidating, but the fluffy hair, round cheeks, and full lips are suspiciously cherubic despite the rather genuine scowl. Also, this guy is, like, five feet tall, give or take a few inches. “Do you work here?” He’s dubious about whether or not this is customer service or an attempt at stealing his lunch money.

The guy rolls his eyes—which makes Jericho think the answer is no, and he’s about to be held at gunpoint in a pet store—and then he grabs the front of his mustard-yellow sweater and tugs the wrinkles straight to reveal a worn laminated tag that reads: Hello, my name is Harinder. The first thing Jericho notices is that his nails are painted black, although heavily chipped. The second thing he notices is the bottom of the nametag where the phrase How may I assist you? has been cut off at the bottom and heavily frayed.

Harinder drops the sweater and reaches up to brush his overgrown bangs out of his eyes, then folds his arms over his chest. It turns him into a puffball of rumpled wool and flyaway hair, which Jericho fails to find either professional or impressive. A hissing alley cat, at best.

Speaking of. “Do you have any kittens?”

If Harinder’s face looked offended before, now it looks straight-up murderous. “If you want a kitten, I invite you to look into one of the mills of inbred, abused, unloved, soon-to-be-abandoned, backyard-bred animals. Might I suggest Craigslist, or some cushy chain pet shop balanced on the rusty, beloved seesaw of quality photography and appalling ethics? There’re at least three of them downtown.

“If you want to pay five hundred dollars for an animal you’ll only care about until it stops being small and inoffensive, be my guest, but I’m afraid I can’t fff— I can’t help you.”

Jericho blinks very, very slowly. He didn’t miss that aborted f-bomb, but as with the Yelp reviews, that isn’t Jericho’s problem. He tries again. “Do you have any…cats?”

Hunching his shoulders around his ears, Harinder jabs a thumb at the wall behind him. “Cat kennels are through that door.”

“Thanks.”

There are, in fact, no kittens. However, the eight kennels filling in one side of the room give him enough to choose from. The moment he catches the attention of the room’s inhabitants, there’s a chorus of noise as all the cats come to the doors of their steel prisons to bat fluffy paws through the bars in a sordid appeal for pets.

Jericho obliges the nearest one, threading his fingers through a gap and allowing the animal to smash its head into them, purring enticingly. He wiggles his hand as best he can to facilitate a more effective petting motion. This one is a skinny tabby, and the note on the front of its—his—cage says he’s two years old and calls him Princeton.

It’s such an obnoxious yuppy name that Jericho can’t help but snort. What a terrible name for a cat. He shakes his head and moves to inspect the next prisoner.

In total, there are nine cats. Two green-eyed, gray longhairs inhabit one of the lower cages. They remain curled around each other, staring dispassionately at Jericho from the back of the kennel.

“Fuck y’all too,” Jericho comments, leaving both “Lacey” and “Casey” to their own shitty devices.

A ten-year-old Abyssinian boy going by the name of Sir Charles immediately becomes his favorite. Jericho loses about five minutes trying to cram his whole hand through the tight bars so he can stroke his sleek honey-colored fur.

He doesn’t think giving Shiloh a pet that might die soon is the best idea, and he isn’t prepared to take on his own cat, so he moves on.

He ends up two cages to the left, shoulder pressed against the wall, studying a creamy Siamese point. She has a shaggy medium-length coat, faint textured stripes, and piercing blue eyes, with which she regards him coolly before padding over to give his extended fingers an inquisitive sniff.

Her body is long and lanky. Regal, Jericho thinks for all of thirty seconds before he looks at her infocard and discovers that her name is Dumpling.

A short, surprised laugh bursts from his chest; Dumpling’s ears flick backward in disapproval. She’s perfect. At a solid four years, she’s old enough to know how to use a litter box and, hopefully, a scratching post, but isn’t quite aged enough that he has to worry about being strong-armed into frequent vet-related errands.

The adoption fee is sixty-five dollars. A little steep, but manageable. Before he can do anything about it, the door to the kennel room bursts open and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony Performed Entirely by Cats nearly deafens him.

Harinder snarls. “What the f—” His teeth settle for a moment on his bottom lip. “—are you doing?”

“Just looking,” Jericho says, pulling his hand away from the cages and shoving it in his pocket as if he was doing something wrong, although he’s pretty damn sure petting cats in a pet shop is not actually illegal.

“I’ve heard people use their eyes to do that,” is the surly reply. Of course this jackass would go there.

“Gonna call the cops?” he asks, rolling his eyes. Jericho is used to threats of police intervention in his simple existence. No innocence when you’re Black. Even being albino doesn’t change that.

Harinder’s face clouds. “I wouldn’t.” Then he wraps his whole fist around a cable lying against the room’s back wall and gives it an unnecessarily forceful yank. A thick brown curtain rolls up to the ceiling, exposing a greasy window. Harinder doesn’t say anything more, but the message of “I can see you and will rain unholy hellfire down on anything that displeases me about your conduct” is clear.

Jericho doesn’t respond. He only finds his voice when Harinder turns toward the exit. “Hey, wait. I want to buy a cat.”

Harinder stops dead, spine stiffening. Again, Jericho imagines some kind of small, furry creature raising its hackles in a misinformed attempt to look threatening.

“We don’t sell cats,” Harinder says, voice gravelly.

“Uh, what?”

He turns around, jaw clearly set. “I. Said. We don’t sell cats, you—” He clamps his mouth shut.

“What are these here for, then?”

Harinder’s eyes flick to the kennels, then back to Jericho. “They’re up for adoption.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Jericho rolls his eyes again. “Fine. How do I ‘adopt’ a cat?”

My Review:
Jericho is an albino Black male approaching his 21st birthday and he’s upset his only living relative in the world, his twin sister, Shiloh, by allowing her demon of a cat (Mephistopheles) to escape into a dark night in their nondescript East Coast suburban town. He thinks that buying a replacement will heal the rift that’s cropped up. He lives alone in a one-bedroom and supports himself since he was 17 and escaped the “loving” supervision of their abusive uncle. Jericho owns his introverted nature and is 100% socially maladroit, but he is a successful cartoonist for his own webzine and Patreon supporters. So, it can’t be that hard to buy a cat, right?

He stops at the nearest pet store to home, Aquariums & More, because shop local, right? And that’s where he meets Harinder, a small, pudgy young man who is absolutely not going to allow Jericho to adopt one of the cats in the back. No, Harinder has hoops for days that he makes prospective adopters jump through, knowing that few will bother to continue with the process through a 10-page compatibility survey, bogus community service hours requirement, and anything else he can dream up to deter folks. See, Harinder’s pretty much primal when it comes to animals and he’ll piss off eighteen dozen humans if it means not letting one unsuitable pet owner take an animal from his care.

And, care Harinder imparts. He is fastidious in his treatment and cleaning of animal cages working well beyond his clockable hours as the sole customer-facing employee in Aquariums & More. Harinder’s boss, an aging Indian man, only keeps the store as a venue to showcase his custom tank builds, and he’s rarely on-site. Essentially, Harinder has license to torment uneducated customers and is unbothered by the terrible Yelp reviews. Jericho sees through his game pretty quick and being a contrary sort regards his mission to adopt a replacement cat for Shiloh as a challenge. And Jericho aims to win.

Being self-employed gives Jericho the flexibility to enter the store on the regular and meet or exceed all of Harinder’s ridiculous stipulations. His presence and keen observational skills puts Jericho in a position to recognize that Harinder’s actually very principled and dedicated to the animals at the store, engendering a grudging respect. . He also witnesses harassment of Harinder by friends of his housemate, and is likewise present when Harinder’s tenuous living situation implodes.

The snark and walls each man has built to protect themselves from the meanness of their existence begin to crack as Jericho solicitously brings Harinder and what remain of his belongings into his own apartment. It’s sweet and entertaining, and the attraction that Harinder has tried to not acknowledge definitely blooms in this hot house. None of this is too overt. These guys are generally not impetuous, and they don’t need more than companionship, at first. Of course, having Harinder in his place means that the ruse to adopt the cat is far more complicated, especially as Harinder has a deep desire to adopt the one cat that Jericho wants–if he could house a pet, that is. The more that these two men connect, the more the deception tears at Jericho, until it becomes too much to bear–and Harinder is not happy. Things had been going so well, though, that Jericho’s quick thinking and growing affection are soon enough overcome their conflict.

This is a fun book to read, with great pacing and a delicious slow burn. There are definitely race issues at play, and Harinder’s view of Jericho’s struggles is interesting, and supportive. I rather felt as if the author was writing a book from a British English perspective, as the American details seemed a bit vague and generic. That said, the characters were engaging, the plot creative and the enemies-to-lovers trope well-executed. Expect a happy ending and a well-housed cat, or two.

Interested? You can find CAT’S GOT YOUR HEART on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Jem Zero is a disabled lesbian who lives in a house built by zir great-grandfather with zir family and two rescue greyhounds. Zir work is unapologetically queer and strives to communicate the frustration of being limited by one’s meatsack & brainjuice.

While arguing zir way through an Accounting Certificate, Jem makes a living as a portrait artist and, similar to most tortured creators, is attempting to establish zirself in creative writing.

You can catch up with Jem on zir website, Facebook, and twitter.

Now Available! THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER–Excerpt and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance just released from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER features royals, superheroes and intrigue.

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

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

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

How about a little taste?

Not so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just got my review copy of this one, and look forward to sharing details in the coming week.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of 10 ebook copies of THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

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

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

Cover Reveal for THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a cover reveal for a contemporary M/M romance coming soon from Kenzie Blades. THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER which features royals, superheroes and intrigue.

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

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

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

Interested? You can find THE PRINCE AND THE PENCIL PUSHER on Goodreads and pre-order it on Amazon ahead of it’s 9/28 release.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Connecting Through THE B-SIDE–Promo and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a promo for a contemporary LGBTQ story for new-to-me author B. Harmony. THE B-SIDE features two unlikely roommates falling for one another–but trying to keep it friendly….for a while at least.

About the book:
Chance
When I read the roommate wanted ad, I thought my sister was encouraging me to live with an insane person. As it turns out, he isn’t insane, he’s sexy and one hundred percent my type. Living with him will be the ultimate test of my self control.
When the combination of our love of music and my overwhelming need to take care of him meets jealousy, sparks fly. His heart may be damaged, but nothing is beyond repair.
Now all I have to do is convince him that I’m in this for the long haul, not just this moment.

Tyler
I may look like the happy-go-lucky gay guy with a big smile and more punny tees than one person should probably own. But it’s just a shield to protect my heart, the one that has been torn apart by the people who were meant to love me most. The last thing I’m willing to do is risk the tattered shreds on my new – straight- roommate. Sure, he’s sexy as sin and has a love of music that rivals my own, but all that is just grounds for a new friendship. Nothing more. Right?
Yet, every moment we spend together tests a little bit more of my self control. When it turns out my roommate is not as straight as I once thought, I have to decide if this is one playlist I should listen to.
Will we have our own love song, or will this just be another broken-hearted ballad?

The B-Side is a low-angst, roommmates-to-lovers, MM Romance novel. Featuring punny t-shirts for every occasion, killer playlists, meddling family and friends, and a happily-ever-after.

I wrote a full review on Joyfully Jay for THE B-SIDE, and if you go read my review and make a comment you will be entered in the weekly drawing for Author swag, and the month-wide drawing for a Kindle Paperwhite filled with 50 ebooks from NineStar Press!

About the Author:
B. Harmony is a Texas girl with SoCal roots with a penchant for rock music and happily ever afters. She began her journey as a romance author after spending a year as a book blogger and bookstgrammer in the romance community.

She has been writing on and off for years, but The B-Side is the first novel that has reached completion.

B. Harmony lives in Texas with her husband, two children, and two fur babies. She spends her free time drinking too much coffee, swearing, and reading & writing while simultaneously watching baseball.

Catch up to Ms. Harmony on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Summer Heat and SPLASH!–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt, review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M New Adult romance from J.R. Hart. SPLASH is an enemies-to-lovers romance that features a lifeguard unwillingly falling for an obnoxious pool patron, and unexpectedly finding the love of his life.

Catch the review, excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC below.
About the book:
Connor Molina’s summer can’t get any worse. He’s stuck in his college town taking summer classes, and he’s got a dead-end lifeguard job he’s too old for and a baby gay who’s thirsty for all the wrong guys.

Even worse? Tristan, a wild patron, won’t leave his section of the pool, splashing him and pulling stupid stunts to get his attention. When Tristan fakes a drowning to get closer to him, Connor’s furious, but he quickly realizes that Tristan’s reckless nature isn’t always infuriating…it’s also intriguing.

Can he let his guard down and let Tristan in, or will he be bound by his own rules and drown in the self-doubt this summer could free him from?

How about a little taste?

I overslept. One week into summer, and I’d already overslept. Showering? Not really an option. Nothing about the summer after my sophomore year of college had gone the way I planned for it to go, so oversleeping? Yeah, not super unsurprising. That was me, Connor Molina, epic fuck-up. I knew why I was stuck in that godforsaken town the entire fucking summer, and almost all of it had everything to do with going to parties more often than going to my 8:00 a.m. classes. Can anyone blame that on me, though? No. The blame goes to anyone who thought morning classes would ever be an acceptable thing for anyone to experience. Whoever came up with that idea should be locked away, key thrown away, all of it.

But summer started all wrong. My ultimate goal had been to go back home. You know, normal summer stuff. Swim laps in the backyard pool, slack off, maybe hook up a few times. I don’t know. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t be saying shit about that summer if it had. Uneventful stories never make for good reflections, do they? But that summer was eventful in ways I didn’t expect it to be. It’s part of what made my summer so, so fucked.

Instead of being home for the summer, I was there, at the Springdale Aquatic Center and Lap Pool, sitting in ungodly heat and staring at unnaturally blue-looking water. You know the kind of blue of skies and oceans and all that? No, this was hyperchlorinated blue, made more intense by the paint at the bottom until it was an intense cerulean. Instead of swimming in my parents’ greenish lap pool, I was trying to make sure no one drowned in this lap pool. Real upgrade there, Connor. Awesome.

You’d think that shit wouldn’t get old after a day and a half, but it did. The only perk was not getting audited in the first couple of days—if no one was checking to see whether I was watching closely enough, then I couldn’t get screwed over and lose my job if I missed the sign. Of course, it would have been no surprise if the summer went like that. Considering everything else that had happened so far, it would have made sense for it to blow up in my stupid face and leave me jobless too. But that didn’t happen. All I wanted was to make it through the summer without someone dying on my watch. That shouldn’t have been too much to ask.

Nothing about the job was worth the money. If you’re thinking about being a lifeguard, let this be your warning. It isn’t worth it. But I couldn’t back out no matter how badly I wanted to. It was on the schedule before we even had the most terrifying meeting ever, and I had no choice but to press on. Never mind that they made it clear the job was life-or-death during that meeting. Never mind that I hated the concept of ever setting foot in the pool again after the stuff their words stirred up in my mind.

Never mind that I was scared to death someone might drown right in front of me because of my own fuck-up or inability to keep them alive. Never mind the added pressure when I was already at my breaking point going into summer. All of it was horrifying, but I didn’t have the luxury of choice. Everything else was full. Literally every single damn summer job…full.

If I wouldn’t have had to be there in the first place, I could have slacked off and loafed around on my parents’ couch and watched shitty daytime talk shows, checked out The Price Is Right and tried to guess the price of a car I’d never own. But no, I had rent to pay. I still do. I had to have something to do. Every pizza delivery position, every law firm secretary job, every retail cashier option, all of it was full. I couldn’t even get a job sacking groceries, not that I would have taken a position clearly made for a high schooler. Any of those had to be better than lifeguarding though. Every job in town, even that, was for teenagers. I was underqualified for the good shit, but I was way overqualified for being a lifeguard.

One summer. I promised them I’d work there for one summer, but after that, I had told myself there was no way in hell I’d ever be caught on that guard stand again. The whole job is complete and utter bullshit. No amount of SPF in the world could have gotten me through it either. I still don’t know how I didn’t lose my entire mind being there. Well, I do, but I didn’t at the time.

Sure, I probably took it a little bit too seriously, a little bit too personally whenever they mentioned, you know…drowning. None of my other coworkers gave a shit if someone were to die in their section. The thing is, they’re all basically kids, lifeguards are. High school babies at best, with a few going into college in the fall. I was the only jackass actually in college when I got the job, so, of course, none of them took it seriously. It made sense that they didn’t give a shit if something happened. None of us ever think it’ll happen to us. No one ever does, do they? But that stuff does happen. It does. I had seen it happen before, and the thought of letting it happen that summer somehow? I was horrified by the entire prospect. Don’t worry, nobody actually drowned over the summer, though the close calls were enough to make me hate the job regardless.

The summer didn’t start great, either. We were down two guards on the second day of work. One of them never bothered to call in, and I’m pretty sure she never showed up all summer anyway. The other one missed the audit ball and got sent home. Greg, the manager, tossed this little ball in the water in your section. Each ball represents someone drowning, and if you don’t jump in and save the ball in time, you get written up and sent home early. I’m not sure why they think sending you home is the right choice there. It’s not like it gives you more practice. To me, you should be buddy-guarding until you get it right, but that’s not how it goes, and it left us shorthanded. Way too shorthanded.

That’s why I scan the water, why I always keep scanning the water. The ball represents a life, someone she would have just let drown because she wasn’t even watching. Getting sent home was the least of her worries. Maybe if it had been a real person, she would have understood. We hadn’t been working together long enough for me to even know her name, and by the third audit she missed in two weeks, she was fired, so I never really got to know her anyway.

I don’t switch off when I’m working. I can’t. You never know who the hell might end up drowning on your watch, and I wasn’t about to have a death on my conscience. I couldn’t fathom the idea of telling someone’s mom, “hey, your kid drowned because I wasn’t paying attention,” or somehow having to deal with the consequences there, the nightmares or whatever else. It’s stuff like that making the job literally the worst in the world. If I looked away, who knows what might have happened? Maybe someone would have died. I don’t know. Maybe I was just fucking paranoid. Maybe I still am.

Or maybe it’s the way my section always attracted the biggest jackasses on the planet. The entire time I was working the first few days, regardless of the section I was in, there was this one guy. One damn kid who had to show off, basically. He and his buddies were there to break every rule, doing flips off the high dive, trying to play chicken. They were old enough to know better and old enough also to set a bad example for anyone younger—if they could do it, the younger kids thought it was safe to do too. It was impossible to watch everyone in my section when he kept pulling my focus, making me watch him and his friends carefully so nobody got killed.

He was there when I was manning the diving boards, attempting cannonballs and flips far beyond his skill level. When I moved on to the wide slide typically reserved for kids to slide down with his parents, he and his friends were shoving each other down and trying to launch themselves off. I’d tell him to sit on his ass (in nicer words) and not on his stomach, but halfway down he’d spin, flipping to skid down headfirst.

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” I can still remember James asking me that question and even now, a huge part of me wants to slap him over it.

“The one with the death wish? No, he’s not.” I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how half of the guards at this pool could think he was hot. I was there trying to watch, trying to keep track of everyone, and it felt like everyone else was simply there to gawk at the patrons. Being the only one actually there to work sucked, even if I got that they were just kids. You know, whatever, but some of us didn’t need the added distraction.

“You have to admit he’s at least a little bit cute,” James said, elbowing me in the ribs. I was half tempted to break his arm over the way he jabbed me.

“I don’t have to. He’s not being cute. He’s trying to crack his head open on the side of the pool. What are you doing over here anyway?” This wasn’t James’s section right then, not where I was, and I couldn’t understand why he was even where I was at, to be honest. Last I saw, he was supposed to be over by the lazy river, not close to me in the deep end.

“I’m on break,” he told me.

“Oh, so you’re over here lurking and trying to stare at him and everything else, getting in my way when I’m trying to do my job? Cool. Thanks.” I was only half joking. I tried to make myself seem as pleasant as possible, but a large part of me was really annoyed. The last thing I needed was James near me, trying to talk while I was taking this seriously. James was the only other openly gay guard there, and not even a small part of me was surprised he was interested in a dumbass like that one. I never tried to hide who I was, and if a girl at the pool flirted with me, she usually figured out she wasn’t my type pretty quickly. But James? He couldn’t hide it. Anyone could’ve clocked him from a mile away. He wasn’t subtle and it was okay, but it also got him in trouble. The town wasn’t the most open-minded place ever.

My Review:
Connor Molina is a college sophomore on a swim team for his university. He’d usually go back home for the summer break, but he messed up a course or two, and needs to take summer classes to maintain his eligibility and keep on track for his nursing degree. So, he’s taken a job as a lifeguard at a town pool not far from the apartment he shares with a teammate and occasional friend-with-benefits.

At the pool, Connor is plagued by the immature attention-seeking behavior of an otherwise attractive pool patron, Tristan. And, he’s a little bit hounded by an out high school aged fellow lifeguard who would happily toss his virginity at Tristan. Or Connor. James is horny, and not picky.

The more Tristan acts out, the more disgusted Connor is, and he makes no secret of his distaste, especially when Tristan fakes a drowning to trick Connor into kissing him. In the aftermath, Connor tears him a new a-hole and the tension between them skyrockets. Tristan is recalcitrant, and his sudden absence concerns Connor. And, that’s when he starts catching feelings.

Tristan has a precarious home life; raised by a man who isn’t his blood father, a man who’s an alcoholic with a sore temper. They have both had issues since Tristan’s mom died, but the grief plays out in passive-aggressive standoffs and Tristan occasionally couch surfing when his dad kicks him out for a few days or longer. He’s only just completed high school, and he’s planning to go to the local junior college to stay near his dad. He had better offers with schools that had real careers, but his only tie to his mom is through his home and his dad. The more that Connor and Tristan connect, the more that he sees beyond the happy-go-lucky, aggressive demeanor to the isolated young man who isn’t sure what his next move should be.

Connor tells this story, and it’s nice to see his frustration morph through shock, anger and lust into appreciation and love. Tristan’s talent in drawing astounds Connor and he pushes Tristan to look at his prospects in art and design, rather than the lackluster business degree he was pursuing. It’s a bit bittersweet for Connor, because those colleges are on the other side of the country, and he’s losing his heart to Tristan. The summer is coming to an end, and it’s clearly going to be the end of this summer fling turned into a true love story. The pacing was a little slow, for me, as Connor railed about Tristan and what a brat he was for at least the first third of the book. Then, he mooned a lot about the impending move for Tristan, once the arrangements are made for him to seek a new college plan. The love story is nice though, especially once Connor commits to Tristan. There are a lot of sexytimes, and some power games that play out to push Connor and Tristan only further together. The resolution is happier than the lead-up intimated, with Connor’s roomie playing a bit of a trick that rocks Connor’s work in the best way.

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

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
J R Hart is a queer 30-something novelist passionate about telling romantic and erotic stories about LGBT+ characters. When J R isn’t writing, you can find her at the science museum with her son, cheering for her favorite soccer team, or at The Bean Coffee Co plotting her next work.

You can find J. R. on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

What the Heart Needs: THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary Boys Love manga/graphic novel from Edako Mofumofu. THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU features two young Japanese men who’d been lifelong friends, but drift apart because they can’t admit their love for one another.

About the book:
Kasumi and Kyousuke are polar opposites when it comes to personality. Kasumi is reserved, soft-spoken and shy; Kyousuke is energetic and has always been popular among their peers. As the saying goes though, opposites have a tendency to attract, and these two have been fast friends since elementary school.
To Kasumi, Kyousuke has always been a hero to look up to, someone who supports him and saves him from the bullies. But now, school is over; their relationship suddenly becomes a lot less simple to describe. Facing the world — and one another — as adults, both men find there are things they struggle to say out loud, even to each other.

My Review:
This is my first Boys Love manga/graphic novel, and I must say, I really liked it. Kasumi and Kyousuke are two Japanese men who met in grade school. Kasumi comes from a home of loneliness and neglect, and he’s withdrawn as a result. Kyousuke is a popular and active kid whose excellence in drawing and design is denigrated by his father, an accomplished graphic designer. They both have wounds, and each is glad to make the acquaintance of the other in school.

Once they graduate they drift apart, however. Kasumi doesn’t know why, and it leads him into unsatisfactory relationships. Kyousuke was a child when he recognized his unnatural attraction to men, and he’s long since internalized his father’s homophobia. He doesn’t want to ruin Kasumi’s life by latching onto him like a pervert, so he pulls back, thinking it will set Kasumi up for finding the “right” (heterosexual) path. Learning his absence has hurt Kasumi is a big turning point for Kyousuke–and amends are made.

(C) Edako Mofumofu. Panel from THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU published by TokyoPop

The art was evocative and approachable with little touches of body humor. It’s was realistic, not representational, and the sexytimes were not shy. I had no trouble feeling in the moment with these characters, whether the scenes were mundane or intimate. Kasumi is the dark-haired one in glasses, and Kyousuke has light hair. Their opposite looks mirror their opposite temperment, with Kasumi hiding behind his hair and glasses, while Kyousuke is only satisfied when he’s winning attention. He works hard for the right kind of attention, and Kasumi idolizes him, loves him, because Kyousuke was the only person in his life who really cared if he lived or died.

Their struggles as a couple are dramatically rendered, and adequately resolved. At least between them. I didn’t see any public acknowledgement of their love, but that may be normal and excepted both culturally and within this format.

Interested?You can find THERE ARE THINGS I CAN’T TELL YOU on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!