Honestly Connected THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Fearne Hill. THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS is a standalone romance featuring a closeted Greek man falling for his beloved best friend, an out gay, half-Greek DJ. It’s complicated by family and tragedy in the long past that’s still wreaking havoc in the hear and now.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $10 GC.
About the book:
Max Bergmann is Europe’s hottest drum and bass DJ. From the outside, his life is a whirl of glamorous vodka-fueled parties and casual hook-ups, whilst inside he craves the one thing he can’t have – his Greek childhood friend, Georgios Manolas.

Following a disastrous PR stunt and one drunken hook-up too many, Max realises the time has come to reassess his life choices. Returning to his childhood home on the Greek island of Aegina, if he wants any chance of having Georgios permanently in his life, he has to delve into the mystery of the longstanding hatred of the Bergmann’s by Georgios’s family.

Georgios is a chef and has spent his whole life on the tiny Greek island of Aegina. He has held the family restaurant together since he left school, with very little reward, and dreams of one day running a restaurant of his own on the island. Yet if he acknowledges his feelings for Max, he runs the risk of losing not just his traditional Greek family but also his livelihood.

As Max slowly uncovers the secrets of the past, he is left wondering whether a little Greek girl’s heart-breaking wartime diary could not only hold the key to his family’s history, but could it also unlock his and Georgios’s future together?

The Last of the Moussakas is a light-hearted, warm romance about two men’s quest for the truth about the past and unlocking a path to a future together.

How about a yummy taste?

GEORGIOS, AEGINA TOWN, GREECE. SIX WEEKS LATER

“I’d heard you were back,” I say neutrally, eyeing the lean, blond man slouched at one of the outside tables. His pale-blue shirt is rumpled and half undone, although he has clearly tried to rebutton it at some point and failed to align the buttons correctly. In one hand, he nurses a bottle of Fix lager and in the other a thin roll-up from which he takes a long drag before attempting to focus his blue gaze on me. I fold my arms across my apron.

“And if Papa Marcos sees you, he’ll tell you to get on your way; you’re not welcome here after what happened last time.”

Papa Marcos is actually my uncle, not my father, but that’s what everyone has called him for as long as I can remember. And this is his restaurant.

“Christ, that was ages ago, Georgios,” slurs the young man, shaking his head in mild protest. A wave of that thick yellow hair falls over his face with the movement, and he lazily pushes it aside before taking another swig from the bottle. He misjudges the precise location of his mouth and some of the amber liquid dribbles down his chin unnoticed. Ash from his cigarette falls unimpeded onto his jeans.

“Well, Papa Marcos has the memory of an elephant, and frankly, I don’t blame him if he tells you to bugger off. You’re lucky you’re even allowed back on the island, to be honest.”

The blond man regards me for a long second, his heavy-lidded gaze momentarily focussed. I feel a familiar lurch in my stomach, somewhere between pleasure and pain, and deliberately push it aside. Not tonight and not like this. Not ever again, in fact, I tell myself. I can’t continue tormenting myself like this, I just can’t. Picking up a tray, I gather empties from the table next to the man, aware of those blue eyes blearily following my every move as I cross to and fro around the outside restaurant area, clearing up the debris from departed diners.

We’ve reached midsummer, and the night has been as busy as any so far this season. I’ve cooked for eight hours non-stop, catering for well over a hundred covers. Day trippers and weekenders from the mainland pack into Aegina, joined by a smattering of rich yachting types and locals enjoying a hot Saturday night. It’s after one in the morning; the last table of guests has finally paid up and left. The town still buzzes with families and groups of friends at the neighbouring bars. Having wiped down the last of the outside tables, I disappear back inside.

After another half hour I’m done in the kitchen. Papa Marcos has long gone, as have the rest of the kitchen staff, leaving me to cash up and lock up. I’m the only person he trusts to do this reliably, not that he gives me any credit for it. I get paid just as little as everyone else, despite doing the bulk of the prep work, cooking, and having to manage a disparate bunch of occasional chefs, porters, pot washers and waiters. I can be sure as hell my lazy cousin and my brother won’t go the extra mile. I try to spend the time thinking happy thoughts about Agnes, my girlfriend of a couple of months. She’s nice, really nice, and pretty too. Shame I hardly have time to see her.

I extinguish the outside lights and, in the gloom, almost miss the body now sprawled across the table in the far corner, the empty green beer bottle dangling loosely from one elegant tanned hand. I detect gentle snoring as I approach and watch for a few moments as the man sleeps on, head cradled on his arm, his fair lashes resting on his cheeks, shoulder-length golden curls fanning around his face. A snail trail of saliva dribbles across his sleeve. And yet, despite his dishevelled and drunken state, I know without a shadow of doubt that Maximillian Bergmann is the most beautiful man I have ever seen.

“Max,” I begin, nudging him gently. Too gently, it would seem, as the snoring rhythm remains unaltered. “Maxi!” I shout a little louder, gripping his upper arm and shaking him with more force. “It’s home time, Maxi!”

Max gradually stirs and looks around hazily until his bloodshot eyes alight on my familiar face. He smiles tipsily. “Always here to save me, my Georgie boy.”

I ignore him; I’m tired and hot, my feet are aching, and I’m desperate for my bed. I can’t recall the last time I was allowed a day off. “Right, come on Max, just stand up. I’m not messing about. You need to go home.”

The harsher tone of voice and the tug on his arm bring Max to a more alert state, and he lurches to his feet, wiping his mouth on his sleeve.

“And I’m not a boy!” I add, pulling Max along with me. “I’m twenty-five, Max. Almost a year older than you!”

Max pushes me away. “I need a piss.”

He steps back from the table and turns towards the beach. “Has anyone ever told you how cute you are when you’re cross, Georgios Manolas?” he mumbles over his shoulder.

He weaves his way through the tables and steps down off the restaurant decking, onto the narrow strip of pebbly sand which makes up the town beach. After only a couple of paces, Max reaches the water’s edge, swaying slightly as his fountain of pee arcs into the shallow foam at his feet.

“And you wonder why the good folk around here don’t like you very much,” I mutter under my breath and glance around to check we are still alone.

Max buttons himself up then totters back to where I’m waiting for him. He smiles his perfect easy white smile at me as if he hasn’t a care in the world. He probably doesn’t, I think uncharitably and check my watch. Possibly too late for taxis, and one look at Max makes it unlikely any drivers will agree to have him so inebriated in the back of their cabs anyway, particularly if they recognise him from previous trips. And even though the sensible half of my brain tells me to let Max find his own way home, the other half warns me that I won’t sleep easily knowing he’ll end up crashing somewhere on the beach for the night.

“Come on then, Max,” I sigh wearily. “I’ll give you a lift. The scooter’s parked over here.”

My Vespa has seen better days, having belonged not only to Dion, my older brother, but also to my older cousin Nico before him. Neither of them treated it with the care it deserves. Yet, although it may resemble a rust bucket, the 150cc engine is solidly reliable, even with the extra weight of a second adult. As Max clambers behind me, I warn him to hold on tight. “And don’t fall asleep! Stay awake! I haven’t got a helmet for you!”

Max’s arms obediently snake around my waist, and my oldest friend nestles the warmth of his body into me, resting his head comfortably against my back. We have shared scooter rides many, many times over the years, and as I head up away from the main street and along the coast road, it seems that Max snuggles in even closer. There had been a time when I lived for moments like this, alone with Max’s lean torso warm along the length of my back, but not now. I’m not going to let futile dreams of what could be with Max fill my head again, even if my heart demands that I push my foot to the pedal and just keep on going. I fail miserably to conjure up a mental image of my new girlfriend Agnes’s pretty face.

Aegina is not a big island, only about fifteen kilometres across and ten kilometres north to south, so it doesn’t take very long on the empty roads to get to Max’s parents’ place, cloistered in the hills above Kypseli village. Once we leave the coast road and wind our way up the narrow lanes, we encounter not a single soul.

His parents’ house is a newish villa but built in traditional old Greek style. With lush bougainvillea creeping up the walls, the two-storey elegant limestone sprawl contrasts sharply with the plainer, shabbier village dwellings on either side. Situated in an enviable spot; the views from the terraces stretch all the way to mainland Piraeus, with olive and lemon groves dropping away from the main house and providing acres of much-needed shade in the heat of the day. His parents had demolished the previous villa several years earlier and built this even grander place in its stead. At the time, my mum and I couldn’t see why they had bothered, it’s not as if they frequently visit the place. In fact, Max and his shifting collection of hangers-on are the only regular visitors these days. We negotiate the security gates, and as we head up the long private drive, I can see all the lights in all the rooms blazing, the empty swimming pool lit up like an airstrip for small aircraft. I shake my head; my dad would have said they’ve got more money than sense.

I kill the engine, and with my foot resting on the ground for balance, I wait for Max to move. He doesn’t budge an inch, his arms remain firmly wrapped around me, his front pressed cosily into my back. I wonder if he’s fallen asleep after all.

“Hey, Maxi, time to let go.”

“What if I don’t want to let go?”

His drowsy words are muffled against my neck. His fingertips find their way into the gap between the buttons on my shirt, and I can’t help an involuntary hitch in my breath nor ignore Max’s murmur of contentment as his smooth palm caresses the skin of my flat belly. “You like that, don’t you, Georgie boy?” he croons throatily into my ear.

That sweet accent, mostly Greek, but betraying a hint of foreignness at intense moments like this. I let my head drop back, losing myself in the sensation of the leisurely circular massaging of my belly and the feel of that hot breath and soft lips grazing my ear. God, it would be so easy to say yes, to climb off the scooter and allow Max to lead me by the hand into the house.

Pushing his hand away, I force myself to stay firm. “Stop it, Max,” I plead, closing my eyes. “Come on; please get off the bike. I’ve got work again in the morning, and I’m knackered. Just get off now. Please.”

The warm press of body against mine vanishes. The seat rises slightly as Max’s weight lifts, and I look up, sensing him standing next to me. “I do love you, Georgie boy, you know that, don’t you?”

I turn away from him, fiddling with the wing mirror. “Whatever. Go to bed and sleep it off.”

I head back to our little house hidden amongst the backstreets of Aegina town. A dwelling ideally suited to a family of four, ours accommodates an extended family of eight. Privacy and solitude are rare commodities, and the gulf between my modest home and the one I’ve just ridden away from feels as vast as the Saronic sea, the stretch of water separating Aegina from the mainland.

The whine of my scooter engine sets off a cacophony of local dogs, ours included. I give him a cursory pat as I pass him chained up in his usual spot under the eaves at the side of the house. God knows what all these territorial dogs, so beloved of us islanders, are actually guarding; none of us has anything of value worth stealing, but perhaps we just like to know who might be dropping in on us anyway.

The house is quiet, and I efficiently remove the sweat and grime of my working day under a dribble of a lukewarm shower before creeping into my room. I share the tiny space with Dion, and in the half-light, I can make out his lumpy body under the covers, flat on his back, dead to the world. His ugly snores are such a familiar soundtrack to my nights that they hardly register. I undress silently and slip into the narrow bed, separated from his by only a foot, and close my eyes.

Sleep eludes me as I knew it would; it is always the same whenever Max Bergmann strolls back into my life without warning. In between his visits, I can sometimes manage to forget about him for days at a time, and then just when I’m back on track, he turns up out of the blue, shaking me to the core, flipping my ordered existence upside down. I have a bloody girlfriend now, for God’s sake!

Giving up on sleep, I flick on my phone and indulge in a guilty pleasure: tracking his movements online via his company’s Instagram page. His last gig was headlining a drum and bass festival in Berlin, and before that, he’d done a stint at a big club in Manchester. Globetrotting—well, Europe-trotting as usual. And what had I done while Max had been lapping up the adoration of thousands of fans? Cooking approximately a gazillion moussakas and preparing my entire family’s body weight in tzatziki.

Truthfully, I had been expecting Max to appear again sooner or later. He rarely leaves it longer than a couple of months between visits to the island. He’s half Greek, after all, and spent much of his childhood here. His roots are on this island, and that drags him back, but his presence always unsettles me now. So different from when we were kids, when I counted down the days on the calendar until his boarding school holidays with growing excitement, knowing he would be back with me, and I’d have weeks and weeks with him all to myself. But lately, his presence feels like an open sore I can’t resist picking.

There is a familiar pull as my mind helplessly replays the feel of him riding pillion on the bike, pressed up against me, his soft palm flat against my belly, those maddening stroking circles, his breath and his low seductive voice warm against my throat. What if I don’t want to let go? My hand has strayed to my dick, achingly aroused against the well-worn duvet, and I’m working myself, imagining those circles moving lower and lower until it is Max’s hand on me, Max who is stroking me, Max who is loving me. My own fist is a poor substitute, but my balls tighten nonetheless, and I roll over onto my stomach as I start to come, rubbing myself hard against the friction of the sweaty sheet, stifling my frustrated groans against the pillow.

My Review:
Georgios Manolas and Max Bergmann have been friends their whole lives. Honestly, they are slightly related, with their mother’s being cousins, but pretty much everyone on the tiny Grecian island of Aegina is slightly related. Despite being mainly raised on Aegina, Max is not considered a welcome person. There is a lot of tension that he does not understand, which stems all the way back to World War II and the German occupation of Aegina. His great-grandfather was stationed on the island and was party to a lot of bad stuff involving Georgios’ great-grandmother’s family. Memories are long-lived for such atrocities, and Max’s own parentage brought scorn he inherited, without knowing.

See, though Max grew up on Aegina, he was educated in England, per his kind and wealthy step-father, and his mother hardly ever visits Aegina anymore, having lived a traumatic life of her own. Max’s blonde and fair, with bright blue eyes like he German father he never knew, as he’d died two months before Max was born. His mom was a teen girl who’d gotten pregnant by his teen father while on holiday in Aegina. Her folks disowned their pregnant daughter, and the Bergmanns likely paid her a ton of money to just go back home. The Greek kids of Aegina, including Georgios, all know the horrible history of Max’s great-grandfather because it was part of the required reading in grade school. Max is now an adult, jet-setting around to DJ the hottest clubs around Europe. He’s used to amazing, swanky hotels, and keeps a posh flat in London. When he is on Aegina, Max lives in his mother’s expansive, gated villa, while three generations of Manolas’s crowd into a dilapidated stone home–everyone sharing a room. Max has never really considered his privilege, but he’s reminded of it when he comes back from a bender that was scary enough to send him a rehab. Max wants to pursue a relationship with Georgios, but he’s held back by the mystery of the historical rift between their families.

Georgios may love Max, but he can’t build a life with him. He’s been running his uncle’s restaurant for ten years now, and is sure the old man will leave him the property, soon. Papa Marcos hates Max, however, and wouldn’t be pleased to have a gay nephew either. That said, Max is pretty sure Papa Marcos has not real plans to give Georgios anything more than a hard time. Aegina’s economy is flailing, and they don’t get the tourists year-round like Santorini or Crete. Georgios points out the disparity between their lives, and Max sees an opportunity. If his great-grandfather’s family could wreak 80 years of unintended havoc, surely he can use his power and connections to right some of those wrongs.

This is such a powerful story, with an intimate and chilling backstory of greed, lust and destruction sowed in the winds of WWII, and repeated over and over by generations of unwitting “takers” as Georgios and his family see them. People who come to the islands and take and take without understanding the repercussions of their actions. The casual brutality was revealed through the lens of a young girl’s diary, a counterpoint to the present day situation that Max and Georgios experience, with Max’s excesses and Georgios’ poverty. At the heart of the story is love: love denied, love stolen, love abused and love redeemed. Both Max and Georgios are good men, but Max had a lot of perspective to gain, for such an otherwise educated and worldly man. He’s stunned, shocked and appalled by his forebears. But, more importantly, he’s determined to leave a lasting mark on Aegina that will wash away the stains of the past. I loved his ideas, and his creativity in seeking not only redemption with Georgios and the Manolas family, but the larger Aegina community. It’s sweet and compassionate, and all that hard-working and stubborn Georgios deserves. The happily ever after is so beautiful, with so much happiness that it’s hard to imagine such dark fortunes had ever been a part of their experiences. I loved the setting. I loved the friends-to-lover progression. I loved the culture-clash and the backstory that really set up the conflict in stark and unflinching terms. Creative and thoughtful, with a bit of steam as Max and Georgios embark on a life together.

Interested? You can find THE LAST OF THE MOUSSAKAS on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Fearne Hill lives deep in the southern British countryside with three untamed sons, varying numbers of hens, a few tortoises, and a beautiful cocker spaniel.

When she is not overseeing her small menagerie, she enjoys writing contemporary romantic fiction. And when she is not doing either of those things, she works as an anaesthesiologist.

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

Daddy Drama STARTING FROM THE TOP– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM THE TOP is the fifth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH, STARTING FROM HERE, and STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…
Johnny
A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean
Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Starting From the Top is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll, an age gap, and a little family fun! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The cheery sound of family fun drifted through the house…the dog barking, cupboards closing, and a girlish squeal of delight. And more dog barking.

I chuckled at the chaotic homey cacophony. I would never have envisioned this was Sean’s life. He’d always seemed like a badass boss to me—not a man who’d wear an apron to bake cupcakes with his daughter while his son had a guitar lesson. His chocolate mussed hair and concerned parental frown made him look goofy and yet very…endearing. In a hot dad way.

Okay. Definitely time to go. I reached for the knob just as Sean did.

“I’ll walk you out,” he insisted, holding the door open.

I stepped onto the porch and blinked against the bright afternoon sun at the hilltop view of the city. “Wow. This is nice.”

“Yeah,” he agreed absently. “How was he?”

“Amazing. The next Chuck Berry.”

Sean sighed grumpily. “Less sarcasm, please.”

“Sorry, Dad.” I snickered. “He was great. I mean, he sucked, but I think he had fun. I told him to keep the guitar and practice on his own. If you want me to come back, I will.”

“Really? That’s good.” He stared at the horizon for a moment before glancing my way. “I wanted to—why are you smiling at me?”

“You’re fuckin’ covered in chocolate. It’s in your ear.” I made a face and tugged at my own ear.

He gestured at the apron. “Baking isn’t my thing.”

I flashed a megawatt grin at him. “Sure, it is. Are you decorating those cupcakes with anything besides frosting?”

“Sprinkles. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to crash your family time.”

Sean inclined his head. “So…did he talk to you?”

“It took a little coaxing. Full disclosure…we played video games before we picked up the guitars. You’re not paying me, so I don’t really feel guilty. I just don’t want you to think it was a jam session from the start.”

“I know.”

“You know?” I repeated.

“I snuck in to see how you were doing. Hulk let you down. You might want to go with Iron Man or Captain America next time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I snort-laughed, then sobered. “As for Parker…he’s a good kid. He’s shy, reserved, and likes organization. He seems like the kind of person who excels at things he can control. I bet he builds killer Lego sets. He might learn a few songs, but I doubt he’s a savant. You never know, though. Kids are sponges. They pick up stuff you and I would never catch.”

“That’s true. I’m impressed. And you’re right…about everything. He keeps a lot inside. He’s always been that way. Very thoughtful and methodical. He sets a high bar for himself. He likes to get things right the first time. He does well in school, but he’s struggling with the transition to junior high. His old friends tried out for sports and he opted not to. It’s left him feeling ostracized and alone. Hormones don’t help. I thought it might be good for him to spend time with someone cool who—”

“Cooler than you?”

“Well, let’s not get crazy.” Sean flipped the corner of his apron and let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I just…thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Hey, if he really is interested, we can do this regularly. My schedule is light for the next couple of months, but it’ll get crazy again in late spring.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Text me. I hate phone calls.” I held out my right hand and snatched it away a second later, narrowing my gaze. “You have frosting on your nose.”

“My nose?” He wiped his hand over the apron, then across the tip of his nose. “Did I get it?”

“No. Come here. Let me help you.” I stepped into his space and brushed the sugary goodness away.

“Did you get it?” he asked in a huskier than normal tone.

“Yeah, but it’s on your ear and your chin and…”

“Where else?”

“Here.”

I ran the pad of my thumb under this bottom lip. “Got it.”

I didn’t move. I should have, but something held me in place. I studied his features, noting the flecks in his eyes. I wondered what color they were…gold, green, brown? I traced a line at the corner of his mouth, rubbing the scruff of his neatly-trimmed beard. I stared at his full lips for a long moment before meeting his gaze. Then I inched closer and…kissed him.

My Review:
Johnny is the lead guitarist of the up-and-coming band Zero, and we’ve met him in previous stories but he takes center stage finding love and a family in this book. It can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

Johnny is an out gay 30 year-old man who is finally getting recognized as the lead guitarist of Zero, a band known for their LGBTQ members and currently trending in the charts. While the band works on its third album Johnny is taking some time to pause and set up house. He grew up with a single drug-addicted mother and was always being shuffled off from one bad living situation to another. This is the first home of his own, one he isn’t sharing with ANYONE, and he’s reveling in it a bit. He has a designer and the whole thing is coming together nicely. Attempting to do a small favor for his designer leads Johnny to a neighbor’s home, and he’s surprised when the door is answered in a very strange and sexy way–but not by the homeowner! It’s even more shocking that he does know the owner, Seth Gruen, owner of a popular WeHo gay nightclub called Vibes and also former boyfriend of his bandmate, Tegan.

Seth is 45, and out as bisexual. He’s also the divorced father of two kids whom he co-parents. Seth is super protective of his kids, and tries to keep his personal life very separate from his work life and his dad life. Tegan only met his kids twice, briefly, though they dated for a couple of years off and on. Johnny is definitely attracted to Seth, but he’s pretty much attracted to lots of gay/bi men. Johnny is a truly sex-positive person, and he’s a bit glam, both of which are not necessarily traits Seth looks for in a partner, not that he’s looking for a partner. That doesn’t mean he isn’t intrigued. It’s just that he really wants Johnny’s guitar skills a bit more…sort of. See, Seth is struggling to connect with his introverted 13 y/o son, and he thinks maybe connecting young Parker with a rocker for lessons might open him up for conversation. It’s only a partial ruse to keep in contact with Johnny. But, that connection leads to further business ideas, and they get a little tangled in the details. Oh, and they have sex. Often. And Seth’s kids adore Johnny.

Johnny has never really wanted a family–he didn’t have one growing up and his home life was atrocious. He is mostly sober, following a period of heavy drinking, though he never does drugs. There’s a lot of competing interests in Johnny’s life but things with Seth and his kids are simple: he and Seth have mind-blowing sex and he gives Parker some lessons just for kicks. The more time stretches on, though, the more Johnny and Seth connect in friendship, and eventually love. If only either of them was ready to admit it–or change their plans to expand into a true partnership.

This one was really fun and a bit sweet. Johnny is irreverent and honest, qualities Seth truly values. He helps Seth see that he keeps punishing himself for coming out so late in life, taking the blame for his failed marriage. Johnny’s struggling with some fame growing pains, too, and Seth (and the kiddos) help to keep him grounded. The kids really are a nice part of this story. There is a parenting dynamic that was well-explored and allowed Johnny and Seth to grow in their understandings of how to communicate when it’s awkward and build bridges instead of burning them. Expect some intense steam that mellows into a smoldering love story. There is a bit of struggle near the end, as they outgrow their original no-strings arrangement. It leads to a happy ending, with plenty of family for Johnny to revel in, now that he and Seth can build theirs together.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM THE TOP on Goodreads, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards.

She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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

Opposites Connect BUSINESS AND THE BEAT–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a M/M contemporary rock romance from Kellum Jeffries. BUSINESS AND THE BEAT features a prankster rock god falling hard for the strait-laced financial planner tasked with helping him diversify his holdings. It’s a fun and sweet romance.

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the giveaway for a $10 GC.
About the book:
Rutherford Fitzhugh, shy, repressed financial advisor, is happy to stay in his professional and personal rut. But his world gets shaken up when his new boss insists the firm take on more exciting clients and assigns Rutherford to Mak, the brilliant bassist and chief songwriter for the mega-popular rock band, Memo to Myself.

Mak Makana, extroverted prankster goofball, hasn’t had a serious or lengthy relationship in years. He learned early on in his band’s meteoric rise to fame that a lover he’d fallen hard for was more interested in his fame than him.

The sparks between the two men are immediate and intense, despite their disastrous first meeting when Rutherford walks into a gooey prank Mak meant for a bandmate. Rutherford discovers that Mak isn’t the spoiled, shallow rock star he expected, and Mak finds that Rutherford has a hidden artistic and quirky side. They can’t keep their hands off each other—even as they work to convince themselves it’s just a fling.

Rutherford’s never been able to please his conservative, traditional Virginian parents—or get them to accept his sexuality—and the sudden paparazzi attention brings their disapproval on full force. Mak’s got a supportive family back home in Hawaii and another one in his bandmates, neither batting an eye at his pansexuality. But that early experience with a fame-collector makes him wary of opening up to anyone who’s not birth family or band family.

Mak and Rutherford’s very different lives threaten to pull them apart, but could it be they’re different enough to be perfect together?

How about a little taste?

Rutherford’s morning started off with a reassuring sameness—same boiled eggs for breakfast, same dogwalk around his neighborhood, same quick skim of the Financial Times during his morning Lyft ride—and there was absolutely no warning that by noon he’d be flustered, turned on, and temporarily dyed blue.

He arrived at work his usual half hour early. It was calm and quiet then, and he had a few peaceful moments to sit with his first cup of tea of the day and start looking through his portfolio of clients, making sure he’d checked in with each of them recently enough to keep them well informed and happy. (This was a tricky balance; some clients were annoyed by frequent contact, some enraged by any lengthy absence of contact, and, of course, there were a few who would find something to be peeved about regardless.)

Rutherford wrote up a schedule of check-in calls to make and started looking through the first client’s current investments, checking on the returns and pondering the fact that said client had a child reaching college age soon. Would tweaking her portfolio in light of that be advantageous? And just when he was settling into deep thought, doodling flowers on his legal pad as his brain ticked over possibilities, Hurricane Jen blew into the office.

He winced—he liked Jen, somewhat reluctantly, but she was loud.

“Heeeeeeeeeey you!” she bellowed, and he sighed as his mental train of morning productivity not only derailed but fell spectacularly off a cliff, hit bottom, and caught fire.

“Hello, Jen.”

He’d wondered, the first few times she greeted him with a “Hey you,” if she was being intentionally rude to him since she seemed to remember everyone else’s name. But when he’d reintroduced himself after several weeks of this, she’d wrinkled her nose and said, “I swear I know your name, I’m sorry, I just— It just doesn’t seem like you! It’s so stuffy! Sorry, I don’t mean to insult your name, you probably love your name, and it’s certainly elegant and everything, and argh, I’m a dick.”

He’d blinked at her, astonished she thought his name too stuffy for him—he was well aware most people thought of him as, well, stuffy. (He was also astonished she felt comfortable blurting “I’m a dick” by way of apology, but the boss’s daughter had certain prerogatives.)

“I, uh, I don’t love my name,” he’d said. “‘Hey you’ is…rather nice.” And since then, he’d been oddly fond of her.

Today, though, in addition to completely ruining his concentration, she was making him nervous. She didn’t come into the office all that often; she was in charge of schmoozing prospective clients, which kept her on the road a good deal. When she did come in, it tended to be for all-hands-on-deck things: staff trainings and the like. Rutherford snuck a look at his online calendar, but he knew before he checked there was nothing like that today. So why was she here?

“What brings you here today?” he asked, but she added to his worry by grinning and making a lock-turning gesture in front of her lips, then striding off to her dad’s office.

“Oh god,” Rutherford murmured to his computer screen. There’d been rumors flying around lately about the old man’s retirement. Rutherford had tried to discount them, but…he wasn’t so sure now.

MacKenzie from the next office stuck her head in his doorway, pointed the way Jen had gone, and did some frantic gestures he assumed were mime for “what is happening?” He shrugged, and she frowned and popped back out again.

He slid down in his chair, put his hands over his face, and whispered, “I hate change” into the dark of his palms.

And sure enough, a few seconds later, an “Everyone to the meeting room” alert popped up on the office IM.

Rutherford grabbed a pad and pen and headed for the hallway; bad news was always a bit more palatable when he had some paper to cling to. He met MacKenzie on the way, leaned down, and murmured, “Two pencils,” in her ear.

“Crap, thanks,” she said and grabbed the pencils out of her short Afro. Sometimes by the end of the day, she had five or six.

They reached the meeting room and grabbed seats. And once everyone had filed in, Jen patted her dad’s shoulder and said, “Don’t leave ’em hanging,” and Rutherford barely managed not to groan aloud.

Mr. Wozniak stood up, said, “Yep, I’m retiring. Nope, we’re not letting anybody go. Yep, I am going to do a shitload of fly-fishing,” and sat down.

As bosses went, he’d always been admirably succinct.

The room was silent for a moment, awkwardly so—what did one say in response to that? And then Jen stood up and talked about how her father had founded the firm on the principles of emphasizing ethics, hiring the best people, and treating them very well. How their employee retention rate (“and our long tradition of not getting caught up in hideous scandals!”) proved these principles worked, and how she planned to continue on the same path.

Oh, good, it was going to be Jen. Rutherford had worried the firm would be sold. Jen, while noisy, was at least familiar and liked.

He’d begun to relax a little when Jen’s speech took a turn.

“While most of you will keep your same client load, I do plan to shake things up a bit. I’m planning to start pitching clients in the entertainment industry—we’ve got a longstanding industry halo for ethical business, let’s add a little buzz as well.”

That certainly got a buzz going in the room at least, but she held up a hand. “I’ll share details with those of y’all who are gonna be involved. Meanwhile, let’s start planning a massive retirement party.”

Rutherford tuned out for the rest of the talk, sketching tiny birds in the margins of his legal pad while he mulled over what this might mean for him. He had every intention of staying. Surely, his job wouldn’t change significantly since there was zero reason for Jen to drag him, of all people, into the new “entertainment industry” focus. However, someone his own age taking over the company would certainly send his parents into another “We can’t believe you’re happy with this career…plateau” rant.

He sighed and then startled, realizing only when Jen’s hand landed lightly on his shoulder that people were starting to clear out of the room.

“Hey, you,” she said, grinned, and patted his shoulder. “Let’s talk.”

Oh no.

My Review:
Rutherford Fitzhugh is a proper and staid financial advisor who’s a bit afraid of life thanks to his overbearing and meddling parents. He works for a respectable company and is trying hard to roll with the new high-profile client his new, sassy and young boss, Jen, has lined up for him. Jen is the company founder’s daughter, and her contacts range the eclectic. So, Rutherford is suitably unnerved when Jen proposes to connect him to Mak Makana, lead singer of Memo to Myself, a hot band. He can’t imagine that Mak really knows one end of a portfolio from another, and his reception upon arrival is nothing less than mortifying.

Mak and his bandmates are notorious pranskters, and since they all live together in neighboring houses on a gated compound it’s not usual to have unexpected visitors. So, it’s a huge surprise when Rutherford steps into Mak’s epic booby trap. And, it’s an intriguing mess. “Ford” as Mak starts calling him, is an amazing good sport, thinking that losing Mak as a client, no matter how humiliated he is, is a surefire way out of his ordinarily comfortable job. Mak is an equal-opportunity lover, finding attraction in people, but never really connecting. So, he’s genuinely impressed with Ford’s unflappable demeanor and professional insights.

Mak isn’t willing to be tied down, but he’s really into Ford, and Ford is more than a little attracted, himself. With a few weeks before Memo to Myself is due to begin touring, both men think this could be a lighthearted fling, something Rutherford has never done while it’s Mak’s standard operating procedure. The business part really gets cut off rather quick; as Rutherford’s ethics are unimpeachable he steps aside on the portfolio management so that he can begin this fling. The sweet and fun vibe grows as Mak and Ford spend more and more personal time together–gaming, hanging out for pool parties with the band. Ford likes who he is with Mak, but he’s also a little afraid that he’s losing himself, and setting himself up for a big heartbreak, because he knows he won’t tie Mak down. Meanwhile, Mak is really scared that he’s going to lose a piece of himself with he leaves on tour and Ford is left behind. Without recognizing it, both of these men have forged a deep bond, and despite their initial promises, they are not prepared to forgo it, even if it’s difficult.

I loved the intimate moments as much as the group chill sessions with the band, and the concerts that are a little bittersweet as Ford and Mak expect these to be endings–though they do not get that far. The end is so sweet, and funny as Ford gets a little of his own back as he pranks Mak–and their romance comes full circle. Expect a bit of sexytimes and a lot of sweetness.

Interested? You can find BUSINESS AND THE BEAT on Goodreads, NineStar Press and Books2Read.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Authors:
Kellum Jeffries is a bisexual Southern librarian, lucky enough to have a supportive fellow-writer partner and a fabulous dog. She knits socks, gives excellent shoulder rubs, and can touch her nose with her tongue. She loves to write about all kinds of people finding themselves, finding love, and finding the nearest Waffle House.

You can catch up with Kellum on her website, Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Unexpected NerdLove STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE– Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE is the fourth book in the Starting From series. I really enjoyed STARTING FROM ZERO, STARTING FROM SCRATCH and STARTING FROM HERE, so I couldn’t wait to read on in this rock romance series.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
The guitarist and the geek…
Bobby J-
What can I say? I’m a man of many tastes. I know what I like, and I’m not afraid to go for it. And I like the adorable geek from the bar. A lot. He’s smart and sassy…and he doesn’t seem to know or care that I’m in a hot up-and-coming band. However, I just found out he’s the new intern at Scratch Records. Uh-oh, this could get tricky.

Cody-
Confession…I’ve flubbed my mission. My quest is to research cool things and interesting people before I start my job as aerospace analyst—not fall for a rock star. My internship won’t last long if I can’t control this infatuation. Bobby J might look like a bear, but he’s fun and sweet and…oh boy, I think I’m in over my head. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. After all, you’ve got to start somewhere.

Starting From Somewhere is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll and a little nerdiness! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

Cody nodded as he pulled out his cell and typed a few notes. “Got it. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Give me one shot before I go.” I motioned for him to start talking.
“A flirting shot. Okay.” He licked his lips nervously, then shook his head. “I can’t. Everything I’m thinking is…rude.”
I barked a quick laugh. “You have my complete and undivided attention. Bring it on.”
“Um…your jeans look tight. I can’t wait for you to stand up so I can see your ass. But I’d love to see your ass out of them too.”
I bit back a grin. “Okay. That was direct and kinda hot, but do not under any circumstances try that with anyone else on planet Earth.”
“Too much?”
“A tad.” I squeezed his shoulder as I stood. “Keep practicing. It was nice to meet you, Cody.”
“You too. I’ll walk out with you. I’ve done enough research tonight.”
I nodded, then led the way to the exit, holding the door open for him. I stepped outside and gazed up at the fast-moving clouds drifting over the half-moon before turning toward my new acquaintance. Cody pulled his keys from his pocket and smiled.
“Where’d you park?” I asked.
“Over there.” He gestured at the black Mini Cooper at the far end of the lot mostly hidden in shadows.
My chivalrous side kicked in out of the blue. “I’ll walk you to your car. I’m heading that way.”
Cody beamed at me. “Thank you. Are you working early tomorrow?”
“No, why you do ask?”
“I’m making polite conversation. No flirtation whatsoever. Although I was mulling over our earlier discussion and realized you’re guilty of double standards.”
“How so?”
“Earlier you said…and I quote, ‘I’d do you.’ You added something about doing ‘it’ over a bar, a table, et cetera. Ring any bells?” He pointed his key fob at his car and gave a satisfied nod when it beeped on cue.
I squinted warily. “Yeah, but—”
“When I told you I wanted to see your posterior in your Levi’s, I was somehow out of line. The logic confuses me. Why should you be able to say what you’re thinking, and I can’t?” He came to a stop at the driver’s side of his car and crossed his arms, silently issuing a challenge of some kind.
“Now that you mention it, I suppose that does seem unfair.” I scratched my beard thoughtfully, then turned around to show off my denim-clad ass. “Ta-da! I present my posterior.”
Cody snickered. “Very nice.”
“Glad you approve.” I pivoted to face him and fumbled with my belt. “I guess I could show you the whole kit and caboodle…or caboose.”
“No, no. Let’s not ask for trouble.”
I raised my hands in surrender. “If you say so.”
“I do. Kiss me instead.”
“Excuse me?”
He pursed his lips, looking uncomfortable as hell. To his credit, he didn’t back down. “You heard me.”
The husky note in his voice zipped through my veins like a secret elixir. The sudden onslaught of need and desire was a powerful combo. I stepped closer, wedging myself between him and the Prius parked next to his car. I was at least four inches taller than Cody and much bigger. I could squish him like a bug. I wouldn’t. I wasn’t that kind of guy, but he didn’t know that. He should be careful around men like me.
“Why?”
“Because I might never meet anyone like you again. If I do, I might not be confident, brave, or sincere enough to tell him what I want. I feel like this might be a chance I should take. I understand if you say no. I’m not your type. I get it. I’m not sure why you talked to me at all tonight. Or why—”
I curled my fingers around the back of his neck and sealed my lips to his.
So what happened to my gentlemanly resolve to not corrupt a nerdy, adorable dude barking up the wrong tree for some sexy action? I had no fucking clue.

My Review:
Bobby J is the lead guitarist for an up-and-coming L.A.-based band, Jealousy. We have met him before in STARTING FROM HERE, the third book in this series. Bobby J is out and loud about his bisexuality, and he’s not one to mince words about his interest or desires. He’s caught in a little bit of discomfort with Johnny, who plays in ZERO, another band in the indie Scratch Records label, due to an aborted tryst with a fan, and members of both bands are urging Bobby to smooth things over. He would like to, he’s just not good at communicating his needs or his feelings.

While out at a seedy bar near the recording studio, Bobby J meets Cody, a beautiful, tall and slender nerdy man who admits to be there for “research” purposes. Cody is a newly graduated aerospace engineer who really works on data mining, looking for trends and patterns. He has three months off before he’s supposed to begin working in the corporate world, and he wants to cut loose a little, find out what “real life” might be like if he wasn’t so tied to his schoolwork. Cody took a summer intern position managing the social media data for ZERO and JEALOUSY, before he ever met any of the band. He just wants to study their “cool” orbit, in addition to gathering data on all sorts of human interactions, like days at the beach, and baking certain cakes. He’s got some sexytimes and dating experience, but that’s with engineers–and his non-sciencey people-ing skills are soft. Cody find Bobby J crazy sezy, and wants to pursue something, if he can, but he also doesn’t want to bias his research. Bobby J, himself a closet geek, offers to open himself up for all sorts of study, so Cody can knock items off his list.

These two, despite seeming to be complete opposites, are a more aligned than one might surmise at first glance. Bobby J was raised by his father, a workaholic scientist, and he studied to be a doctor before dropping out and following his musical dreams. They have similar taste in geeky shows, and they harmonize more than Cody’s data might have predicted. It;s a sweet and sexy fling as summer passes. Bobby J finds reasons to pop into Cody’s cube and they each enjoy the other’s company so much, even when they aren’t sexing each other up, down and every which way. Cody doesn’t think he can truly fit into Bobby J’s musical sphere, and nearly heads for the hills, but Bobby J’s long since swooned for his sexy nerd and they end up lasting longer than the internship–by far.

Being part of the STARTING FROM series, it was fun to see other band members and how their own relationships have grown. The awkwardness between Bobby J and Johnny gets smoothed over, following some real talk that Cody hands out. From their closeness in previous stories, I had wondered if Bobby J and Johnny would become a unit, but they are too good at being friends, and their attractions lay elsewhere. So, I imagine we’ll see Johnny finding his partner in an upcoming book. In the meantime, I loved this nerdy bear-twink match kindle and scorch it’s way across the pages.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SOMEWHERE on Goodreads, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

STARTING FROM HERE–Audiobook Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM HERE is the third book in the Starting From series. STARTING FROM ZEROkicked off this rock romance series with each member of the band Zero finding a solid lover. This book features former childhood friends turned rivals in an enemies-to-lovers story.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
Two bands, one goal, and a second chance…

Declan-
Everything is finally going well. I have a new band, a new label, and a debut album coming out. And then my drummer breaks his wrists. Just my luck. I need a quick replacement to record one more song, but my options are limited, and of course, the obvious candidate hates my guts. Okay, so I may have given him a few reasons over the years, but isn’t there an expiration date on holding a grudge?

Tegan-
I don’t trust Declan McNamara. Sure, he’s talented, smart, and has more sex appeal than any one person should be allowed. And yeah, he may be a rock star in the making, but beware—he’s trouble. However, our new record label’s survival may depend on a truce and extreme measures…of the fake boyfriend variety. If it’s our best shot at the big time, I’m willing to set the past aside and start over…here and now.

Starting From Here is a MM, bisexual romance rock and roll style…rival bands, fake boyfriends, and a second chance at a new love story. Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The sound of cheerful squealing rang in the background before she hung up. I stared into space for a minute or two, feeling very…alone. I didn’t want to slip into teenage levels of self-pity. There was really nothing lamer than a privileged grown-ass adult whining about mommy issues. I flipped through television channels, pausing on a special about great white sharks. Then I tossed the controller aside and picked up my cell again.
Would you ever swim with sharks?
My phone buzzed immediately. I smiled when Tegan’s name lit the screen. Are you high?
I wish. Swimming with sharks is a thing. People get in cages and film themselves being surrounded by predators…for fun.
People are fucking crazy.
True.
What are you watching?
National Geographic. I was hoping for a sex in the wild segment, but I got sharks instead.
Shark sex?
I grinned. Nope. I don’t think I’m ready for that.
It’s not exciting. Fish sex is seriously unhot.
True.
My chuckled morphed into a belly laugh as I sank deeper into the cushion. I shared a quick story about the saucy squirrels who were getting it on outside my window last spring. Tegan teased me for being a rodent voyeur, then recommended a few human porn sites I might appreciate instead.
Btw, it’s officially midnight. Congrats.
I stared at the screen for a moment. I typed and erased two or three thank-yous that seemed a little too effusive. I didn’t want to come across as too excited or too grateful and somehow clingy, so I gave up and pressed Call.
“Hey.”
“Are you really fucking calling me?”
I chuckled. “Yeah. I am. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. But it’s midnight, and I hate talking on the phone, so good ni—”
“Don’t hang up.”
“What’s wrong?”
I stared at the TV unseeing. “Nothing. I just…I’m keyed up and I need someone to talk to. What was your first release like? I know Zero’s record is still doing well. But…what was like in the beginning? How’d you feel?”
Silence.
“You want the truth?”
“Yeah.”
“It was anticlimactic.”
“Oh. That’s kind of depressing.”
“No, it’s just life. Nothing ever happens as fast as you want it to. You’ve got to be patient and keep doing your thing,” he advised. “We came home from our summer tour thinking we made it. What didn’t turn into superstars, but we made progress. And every day it gets better. But who knows what will happen? Maybe you’ll wake up at number one. Just stay positive and…stop torturing yourself.”
I smiled when Tegan’s uplifting advice gave way to exasperation. It was cute.
“It’s what I do. I excel at the art of self-sabotage. Ask my mom. If I bomb, you can be sure she’ll be the first one to say ‘I told you so.’ She’ll choose her words carefully, though. She’ll be kind-ish before she gently suggests that it’s time to throw in the towel and join the family firm. Fuck my life.”
“But it’s your life. The honor of making mistakes or kicking ass is all yours. You wrote those songs to be heard. Not everyone will love what you do, but plenty of people will. You just gotta be right in your own head. Ask yourself if you gave your best. Did you?”
“Of course.”
“You’ll do just fine, then. If you sell a million copies, great. If not, you’ll still learn something.”
Silence.
“Thanks. I needed that,” I said softly.
“You’re welcome. Now go to sleep.”
“I’m an almost rock star, and it’s midnight. My night is just beginning,” I lied, stifling a yawn.
“Have fun, rock god,” he snorted.
“I’m kidding. I’m channel surfing.”
“You mean porn surfing?”
I barked a quick laugh. “No, I get my porn on the internet like everyone else. I was watching that show about hoarders. It made me feel better somehow.”
“You’re a freak. Get your computer and jack off. You’ll feel better, and you’ll sleep better,” he advised sagely.
“Thanks, Dr. Monroe. I’ll report back in the morning.”
“Not necessary. Especially if there’re boobs involved.”
“I watch more dick porn than chick porn. I watched a great locker room scene last night. The coach and the quarterback. Sexy as fuck.”
“Are you really sharing a spank-bank story?”
“Yeah, you want the link?”

My Review:
Tegan Monroe is a drummer for the newly-formed band Zero. He’s out gay and in his late 20s he’s been feuding with a childhood friend Declan McNamara for the last few years. Declan, Tegan, and their friend Justin were all part of a band called Gypsy Coma, which imploded when a love triangle was revealed. Tegan and Declan has been on and off lovers before that, but Justin and the band’s lead singer, Xena, had a spectacularly bad breakup which ended Gypsy Coma.

Justin and Tegan then formed Zero, while Xena went in one direction and Declan formed a band called Jealousy—which was signed by the same indie recording label that signed Zero, Scratch Studios. Despite their recent issues, the history behind Tegan and Declan is a powerful force, and Tegan’s personal struggles cause him to seek out Declan as a favor to his ailing mother. Declan’s trying to avoid getting trapped by his manipulative mother into some kind of scheme that would either reintroduce Xena drama, or cause Declan to drop out of his band, just on the cusp of breaking out in the LA music scene.

To get ahead of the stories and cut off a return to scandal, Declan and Tegan agree to pose as fake boyfriends to build buzz before their upcoming tours. No one knows that they’ve already begun some low-key reconciliations of the hate-sex kind.

This is an interesting twist on the enemies-to-lovers trope by having Declan and Tegan share a long-standing friendship that had already been sexual, before the introduction of all the drama. Pushing the fake boyfriends subterfuge onto them was a good foil to allow them to fully explore what they were already doing—just without the angst of trying to continue with the down-low tactics. These guys have always been attracted to one another, but they were never in the right headspace to build something long lasting. And jealousy, the emotion not Declan’s band, has definitely been an issue.

The audiobook version of this story flows effortlessly with solid emotion and clear voice definition from the narrator, Michael Dean. He’s been narrating this series all along, yet I always find the books to sound fresh and engaging. His pacing is excellent and I seriously fell into the story all over again in this format. It’s always awesome when I can enjoy the audiobook just as much, if not more, than the print version.

I like how Declan is so over all the sniping that he’s finally honest about everything. It helps when the spin-doctors start their voodoo to build the buzz. Tegan is definitely suffering, especially because of his mom’s illness, and Declan is strong enough to be the support he needs. The match between them has always been fraught with drama, but this time they decide to let the past stay there and just pick up from where they are. And that made all the difference. Expect some angry-sex morphing into friendship and happier moments before the drama creeps In. It’s a happy ending, and I think it may not be the last connection between Zero and Jealousy, going forward.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM HERE on Goodreads, Amazon and Audible.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Overcoming Daddy Issues STARTING FROM SCRATCH–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is the second book in the Starting From series. STARTING FROM ZERO and STARTING FROM HERE recount the falling in love stories of two members of an LA-based indie band called Zero.

Drop down to catch my review and enter the giveaway for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
Charlie Rourke is an ultra fabulous human whirlwind on a mission to launch the next biggest band in the world. However, he might have taken on more than he could handle when he signed on to manage Zero. Promoting a rock band and finding gigs shouldn’t be hard. They’re a talented group with a ton of star power. If Charlie can find the right record label, he’s sure he can help them get to the next level. The only problem is the skater boy slash bassist with a quirky sense of humor. He’s annoying and silly, and he’s exactly Charlie’s type. Except he’s straight.

Ky Baldwin isn’t afraid to switch things up. He loves a challenge as much as anyone, but Charlie doesn’t make things easy. Zero’s manager is a force of nature with a razor sharp tongue, a quick wit, and a no-nonsense attitude. Ky can’t stop thinking about him. Winning over Charlie becomes Ky’s pet project. But when the ice between them thaws, neither is prepared for the intensity of going from enemies to lovers. They’ll have to decide if they’re willing to start from scratch and take a chance on the unexpected.

My Review:
Charlie Rourke is a 25 y/o out gay internet influencer who has signed on to manage the indie band Zero. He met the lead singer, Justin, through his godfather, Grey, and Charlie wants to use his platform to promote their band as his true career path. He’s a business man, raised in Tinsel Town by Grey who was his father’s secret lover and more of a dad than Sebastian Rourke ever was. With Zero’s promotions to work on, Charlie has a direction, one that fills his time with purpose–besides caring for his 9 year old half-brother, Oliver. Ollie is a lonely kid, and he struggles to make friends. Charlie has a bit of a trouble with obsessing over small details, and right now he’s mostly stressing over the devotion of the bass player for Zero, and some rather nasty reviews of the band that are starting to gain traction.

Ky is the bass player in Zero and Charlie is more than a challenge to him. Ky is bisexual, not that he advertises. He’s a bit of a skater-man, could have maybe been pro, and he’s more into the band than Charlie suspects. Also, Ky’s way into Charlie–who returns his interest. Ky is amazing with Ollie, which pretty much demolishes all of Charlie’s reservations for falling hard for Ky. Ky has some secrets, mainly what a craphead his old man is, but he’s more that willing to schedule regular visits to teach Charlie to skateboard. And, to still Charlie’s whirlwind brain with a simple kiss, or a silly prank.

These mismatched men connect in ways they hadn’t predicted. It’s a fun counterpoint to the family drama each one faces. Charlie’s always felt a bit ignored by his father, while Ky’s dad is a manipulator extraordinaire. This means that they are both fiercely-independent in their own affairs, but they also long for a steady partner who will provide the missing emotional support in their lives. The subplot pulls in Declan McNamara, an ally-turned-rival who seems to be the focus of the nasty reviewer hounding Zero’s shows. The negative reviews are gaining traction and threaten to upset the recording contracts that Charlie is negotiating for Zero. Declan was involved in a band-destroying love triangle that caused Justin, and his drummer-pal Tegan, to break off from Gypsy Coma, the band they were a part of before forming Zero. And, as Charlie is well aware, bad publicity in the social media space can sink a band faster than a terrible song.

I listened to the audiobook version, and I really enjoyed the pacing and narrator’s range, which was able to manage female and child voices as well as the lower register of Ky and Charlie’s manic-mania dialogue. I was glad to keep going with this series, and looked forward to Tegan’s love story, which was the next book to come out.

In this story the issues each character has with his father affects the path of their life. Charlie doesn’t want to lean on his dad for much, because he’s been so unreliable. He does trust his dad’s keen insights and promotional advice, however, which do make a big impact on the resolution of the story. For Ky, he long-since realized that his father is only interested in his own happiness, and he is so mean-spirited and toxic that Ky is better off without contact–and that’s how he likes it. It was a nasty turn, his dad’s way of ingratiating himself into the Zero sphere, but Ky effectively closes the door, and solidifies his place in the band. Their love story is engaging, and well-told in the audiobook.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SCRATCH on Goodreads, Amazon, and Audible.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Enemies to Lovers STARTING FROM HERE–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M romance from Lane Hayes. STARTING FROM HERE is the third book in the Starting From series. STARTING FROM ZEROkicked off this rock romance series with each member of the band Zero finding a solid lover. This book features former childhood friends turned rivals in an enemies-to-lovers story.

Drop down to catch an excerpt, my review and enter for a chance to win a $25 GC.
About the book:
Two bands, one goal, and a second chance…

Declan-
Everything is finally going well. I have a new band, a new label, and a debut album coming out. And then my drummer breaks his wrists. Just my luck. I need a quick replacement to record one more song, but my options are limited, and of course, the obvious candidate hates my guts. Okay, so I may have given him a few reasons over the years, but isn’t there an expiration date on holding a grudge?

Tegan-
I don’t trust Declan McNamara. Sure, he’s talented, smart, and has more sex appeal than any one person should be allowed. And yeah, he may be a rock star in the making, but beware—he’s trouble. However, our new record label’s survival may depend on a truce and extreme measures…of the fake boyfriend variety. If it’s our best shot at the big time, I’m willing to set the past aside and start over…here and now.

Starting From Here is a MM, bisexual romance rock and roll style…rival bands, fake boyfriends, and a second chance at a new love story. Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

How about a yummy taste?

The sound of cheerful squealing rang in the background before she hung up. I stared into space for a minute or two, feeling very…alone. I didn’t want to slip into teenage levels of self-pity. There was really nothing lamer than a privileged grown-ass adult whining about mommy issues. I flipped through television channels, pausing on a special about great white sharks. Then I tossed the controller aside and picked up my cell again.
Would you ever swim with sharks?
My phone buzzed immediately. I smiled when Tegan’s name lit the screen. Are you high?
I wish. Swimming with sharks is a thing. People get in cages and film themselves being surrounded by predators…for fun.
People are fucking crazy.
True.
What are you watching?
National Geographic. I was hoping for a sex in the wild segment, but I got sharks instead.
Shark sex?
I grinned. Nope. I don’t think I’m ready for that.
It’s not exciting. Fish sex is seriously unhot.
True.
My chuckled morphed into a belly laugh as I sank deeper into the cushion. I shared a quick story about the saucy squirrels who were getting it on outside my window last spring. Tegan teased me for being a rodent voyeur, then recommended a few human porn sites I might appreciate instead.
Btw, it’s officially midnight. Congrats.
I stared at the screen for a moment. I typed and erased two or three thank-yous that seemed a little too effusive. I didn’t want to come across as too excited or too grateful and somehow clingy, so I gave up and pressed Call.
“Hey.”
“Are you really fucking calling me?”
I chuckled. “Yeah. I am. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. But it’s midnight, and I hate talking on the phone, so good ni—”
“Don’t hang up.”
“What’s wrong?”
I stared at the TV unseeing. “Nothing. I just…I’m keyed up and I need someone to talk to. What was your first release like? I know Zero’s record is still doing well. But…what was like in the beginning? How’d you feel?”
Silence.
“You want the truth?”
“Yeah.”
“It was anticlimactic.”
“Oh. That’s kind of depressing.”
“No, it’s just life. Nothing ever happens as fast as you want it to. You’ve got to be patient and keep doing your thing,” he advised. “We came home from our summer tour thinking we made it. What didn’t turn into superstars, but we made progress. And every day it gets better. But who knows what will happen? Maybe you’ll wake up at number one. Just stay positive and…stop torturing yourself.”
I smiled when Tegan’s uplifting advice gave way to exasperation. It was cute.
“It’s what I do. I excel at the art of self-sabotage. Ask my mom. If I bomb, you can be sure she’ll be the first one to say ‘I told you so.’ She’ll choose her words carefully, though. She’ll be kind-ish before she gently suggests that it’s time to throw in the towel and join the family firm. Fuck my life.”
“But it’s your life. The honor of making mistakes or kicking ass is all yours. You wrote those songs to be heard. Not everyone will love what you do, but plenty of people will. You just gotta be right in your own head. Ask yourself if you gave your best. Did you?”
“Of course.”
“You’ll do just fine, then. If you sell a million copies, great. If not, you’ll still learn something.”
Silence.
“Thanks. I needed that,” I said softly.
“You’re welcome. Now go to sleep.”
“I’m an almost rock star, and it’s midnight. My night is just beginning,” I lied, stifling a yawn.
“Have fun, rock god,” he snorted.
“I’m kidding. I’m channel surfing.”
“You mean porn surfing?”
I barked a quick laugh. “No, I get my porn on the internet like everyone else. I was watching that show about hoarders. It made me feel better somehow.”
“You’re a freak. Get your computer and jack off. You’ll feel better, and you’ll sleep better,” he advised sagely.
“Thanks, Dr. Monroe. I’ll report back in the morning.”
“Not necessary. Especially if there’re boobs involved.”
“I watch more dick porn than chick porn. I watched a great locker room scene last night. The coach and the quarterback. Sexy as fuck.”
“Are you really sharing a spank-bank story?”
“Yeah, you want the link?”

My Review:
Tegan Monroe is a drummer for the newly-formed band Zero. He’s out gay and in his late 20s he’s been feuding with a childhood friend Declan McNamara for the last few years. Declan, Tegan, and their friend Justin were all part of a band called Gypsy Coma, which imploded when a love triangle was revealed. Tegan and Declan has been on and off lovers before that, but Justin and the band’s lead singer, Xena, had a spectacularly bad breakup which ended Gypsy Coma.

Justin and Tegan then formed Zero, while Xena went in one direction and Declan formed a band called Jealousy—which was signed by the same indie recording label that signed Zero, Scratch Studios. Despite their recent issues, the history behind Tegan and Declan is a powerful force, and Tegan’s personal struggles cause him to seek out Declan as a favor to his ailing mother. Declan’s trying to avoid getting trapped by his manipulative mother into some kind of scheme that would either reintroduce Xena drama, or cause Declan to drop out of his band, just on the cusp of breaking out in the LA music scene.

To get ahead of the stories and cut off a return to scandal, Declan and Tegan agree to pose as fake boyfriends to build buzz before their upcoming tours. No one knows that they’ve already begun some low-key reconciliations of the hate-sex kind.

This is an interesting twist on the enemies-to-lovers trope by having Declan and Tegan share a long-standing friendship that had already been sexual, before the introduction of all the drama. Pushing the fake boyfriends subterfuge onto them was a good foil to allow them to fully explore what they were already doing—just without the angst of trying to continue with the down-low tactics. These guys have always been attracted to one another, but they were never in the right headspace to build something long lasting. And jealousy, the emotion not Declan’s band, has definitely been an issue.

I like how Declan is so over all the sniping that he’s finally honest about everything. It helps when the spin-doctors start their voodoo to build the buzz. Tegan is definitely suffering, especially because of his mom’s illness, and Declan is strong enough to be the support he needs. The match between them has always been fraught with drama, but this time they decide to let the past stay there and just pick up from where they are. And that made all the difference. Expect some angry-sex morphing into friendship and happier moments before the drama creeps In. It’s a happy ending, and I think it may not be the last connection between Zero and Jealousy, going forward.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM HERE on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

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

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

Now Available! DRIFTER by Eden Winters–Excerpt and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m spreading the word for a new M/M contemporary romance from Eden Winters. DRIFTER features a rocker in hiding helping out a castaway musician.

Scroll down for an excerpt and enter the giveaway for a free copy of the book.
About the book:
Some legends never die…
Killian Desmond met his end in the fiery crash that killed his band, or so the newspapers say. Now a nameless drifter, he plays one pick-up gig after another in a haze of pain and regret, moving on the minute someone says, “You sound like that guy from Trickster.”

Getting outed cost Mike Rose his musical family. A bassist without a band, he’ll play any kind of music to earn a paycheck, but Trickster’s music provides light during the darkest moments of his life.

A chance meeting brings together two lost souls who spark enough heat to set their guitars on fire. Their chemistry, both onstage and off, feels like something written in the words of a song and gives them courage to face life again.

But to seize their future, they have to confront their past.

Every damned, ugly inch of it.

How about a little taste?

The throbbing beat blended with screams from the crowd; a crowd hidden by bright lights. Sweat and cologne and beer filled Killian Desmond’s nose. Familiar sounds. Familiar scents.

Home.

Did he love this life or hate it? Who cared, he’d never known another. Back to back with his brother Elliot, he shredded his electric acoustic guitar, improvising for the fans. The strings bent to his callused fingertips, note after note falling from his guitar.

Elliot kept up. Elliot always kept up. Others might get lost in Killy’s musical fantasies, but El gauged Killy’s intentions by the way he moved, held his shoulders, or gestures, like pausing to flip his sweat-dampened hair out of his eyes.

The drummer and keyboardist faded away, letting El set the tone with a deep bass beat.

Killy strutted to the front of the stage. Hot lights illuminated him from behind, shining on sweat-soaked skin. “What you wanna hear?” He didn’t need the words to know they’d be sticking to their prearranged lineup. At their manager’s urging, he’d saved the best for last.

Highway!” roared through the arena.

He grinned and cupped a hand to one ear. “What’s that? I can’t hear you.”

Highway!” roughly six thousand voices cried out in unison, louder this time.

“Aw, c’mon, now,” Killy teased. “We’ll play whatever you want, but you gotta tell us.”

The thunderous chant of “Highway! Highway! Highway!” threatened to blow the roof off the building.

Strolling over a few paces and throwing an arm around his brother, Killy said, “Well, I reckon we better do as they say.”

“Since when have you ever taken orders?” Elliot shot back.

Faster than most could follow, Killy slung his guitar back into place and launched into their best-known riff.

The screaming nearly deafened him. He tried again. On his sixth attempt the crowd settled enough to begin.

He grinned. Adoration and energy flowed from the crowd, straight into his veins, to gather strength and escape through his fingers and his voice.

His deep growl purred through the arena, pouring out the melody he’d written in a single night in a hotel room God knew where. High on life, cheap vodka, and the rush of their first big show, he’d settled onto the bed in the dark, except for the flickering image of a black and white movie on the TV, sound turned down, and began strumming.

The words flowed out of him unbidden, leaving him raw, shaken, and in possession of a number one hit.

He didn’t sing or play Highway—the melody made him its bitch, possessing him, demanding release into the world.

Who was he to refuse?

“Some were born to sand and wind, on the sea they make their home

Some may live a hermit’s life, on a mountain all alone

Or in a glass and metal cage, high up in the sky

Packed in tight with a thousand souls, all trying to get by

Nine to five may work for some, but that don’t work for me

Saddled to day in day out, no, I need to be free

Living a life all on my own, free of family, lover or friend

On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end.”

Alone, just him and the highway, until the chorus.

“On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end.”

Elliot’s sweet tenor wrapped around Killy’s pack-a-day growl, blending together seamlessly.

The audience joined in, chanting, “Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!”

Rob kept pace on the drums, a musician not really worthy of the band they’d become, and Ace, a friend and one hell of a musician, wound his way through the twists and turns on his keyboards.

“The only home I’ll ever know stretches from sea to sea

No start, no end, no in between, just miles of road and me

Living a life all on my own free of family, lover or friend

On the highway I was born, it’s there I’ll meet my end

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!

Highway! Highway! Live and die on the highway!”

The mass of humanity might have started chanting again for all Killy knew. His world boiled down to this moment, the music, his brother, his friend, and the life laid out for him long ago, the first time his mother brought him and Elliot onstage.

They’d stayed. She’d gone.

Here they still stood, though she didn’t.

Never would again.

Nope, no bad thoughts. Just the music.

Note after note poured from him like rain, blocking thought and feeling.

He crashed to his knees, striking a chord and letting his guitar speak for him. Caught in the spotlight, he leaned back in a signature move his manager made him practice, making his shirt ride up to show some skin, while his hair fell back, glittering like gold in a strategically placed spotlight.

The blue streak, his own addition, voiced his defiance at being a commodity.

He should’ve been exhausted after the show they’d put on, but in that moment, he swore he could go all night.

He jumped to his feet, racing across the stage and running through part of the guitar solo for those seated to the left of the stage, then reversed course to the right, repeating the solo.

Arms reached for him, a thousand voices calling his name.

Rejoining Elliot centerstage, he launched into the chorus and let the others join him.

After extending the song by two more choruses, he finally wound down.

An announcer stepped up on stage, to catcalls, whistles and ear-splitting shouts. “Let’s hear it for Trickster!”

Interested? You can find DRIFTER on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter link for your chance to win one of 5 ebook copies of DRIFTER!
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
You will know Eden Winters by her distinctive white plumage and exuberant cry of “Hey, y’all!” in a Southern US drawl so thick it renders even the simplest of words unrecognizable. Watch out, she hugs!

Driven by insatiable curiosity, she possibly holds the world’s record for curriculum changes to the point that she’s never quite earned a degree but is a force to be reckoned with at Trivial Pursuit.

She’s trudged down hallways with police detectives, learned to disarm knife-wielding bad guys, and witnessed the correct way to blow doors off buildings. Her e-mail contains various snippets of forensic wisdom, such as “What would a dead body left in a Mexican drug tunnel look like after six months?” In the process of her adventures she has written twenty gay romance novels, has won Rainbow Awards, was a Lambda Awards Finalist, and lives in terror of authorities showing up at her door to question her Internet searches.

When not putting characters in dangerous situations she’s a mild-mannered business executive, mother, grandmother, vegetarian, and PFLAG activist. Her natural habitats are airports, coffee shops, and on the backs of motorcycles.

Catch up with Eden online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Bookbub.

The Songs of Love: RAZE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary M/M rock romance from Roan Parrish. RAZE features and up-and coming singer who falls hard for the staid bartender that keeps him level. Catch my reviews for RIVEN and REND to find out more about this series. Some of those characters return in this book, but it’s a standalone romance, too.

About the book:
Sometimes the walls we build to save ourselves have to come tumbling down.

For the last ten years, Huey has built his life around his sobriety. If that means he doesn’t give a damn about finding love or companionship for himself, well, it’s probably better that way. After all, the last thing he wants is to hurt anyone else. Until Felix Rainey walks into his bar, fresh-faced, unbearably sweet—and, for some reason Huey can’t fathom, interested in him.

As the eldest of five kids, Felix Rainey spent his childhood cooking dinner, checking homework, and working after-school jobs. Now in his twenties, he’s still scrambling to make ends meet and wondering what the hell he’s doing with his life. When he meets Huey, he’s intimidated . . . and enamored. Huey’s strong and confident, he owns his own business—hell, he’s friends with rock stars. What could he ever see in Felix?

As Huey and Felix get closer, the spark catches and soon they can’t get enough of each other. But Huey’s worked hard to avoid intimacy, and Felix threatens his carefully constructed defenses. Huey realizes he needs to change if he wants to truly put his past behind him—and build a future with Felix.

My Review:
Felix Rainey has assisted in the care and support of his mother and younger siblings since he was 15 years old. Right now, he and his sister Sofia share a tiny apartment in New York. Felix works at a bagel shop but has dreams of making dioramas for the Natural History museum. He and Sofia sing at Huey’s bar one Tuesday night–karaoke is not Huey’s thing but it draws a crowd–and their duet of a Riven song has Huey calling his dear friend Caleb Blake Whitman—and Theo Decker, former lead signer of Riven. The band is looking for a new frontman, and Felix seems to have the chops.

Felix, however, has stage fright and he gets Theo and Coco, Riven’s guitarist, to listen to Sofia sing the heck out of a couple of Riven songs. That lands her a formal audition and Felix is overjoyed. Things move quickly for Felix and Sofia after that–Sofia gets hired and is constantly with the band, leaving Felix alone for pretty much the first time in his life. He resolves to do something for himself, and the first thing he can think to do is go back Huey’s bar and strike up an acquaintance. Maybe ask him for a date. He nearly chicken’s out, but Huey’s commpassionate care helps Felix find his courage. And, they make a date.

Huey–which is a nickname of his last name Hughes–is a recovering pain pill addict. He’s been a sponsor for NA for years now, and he’s been sober going on a decade. He was Caleb’s sponsor a few years back and that’s how they became such good friends. He’s used to locking down his emotions, but he’s really supportive of the needs of people he meets–to the point that his life is more about others than himself. The idea that a beautiful man like Felix could want him is…puzzling. But, the bond between them grows steadily. Felix is irrepressible and his light is a foil for Huey’s deep and brooding facade. The truth is, Huey needs Felix the same way Felix needs him. They are two lonely souls who’ve sacrificed themselves to help others: Felix for his mom and younger siblings and Huey for the people he might be able to help overcome their addictions. It’s hard for them to think of themselves first, and to ask for what they truly need.

They do get some thing right from the start. The sexytimes are yummy and their conversations move quickly form stilted to comfortable. They can spend time with one another and just be–but the abandonment Felix is experiencing as Sofia prepares for her tour is exacerbated when Huey’s also taking care of the people he sponsors. They struggle a bit, but it’s not super intense. Neither Felix nor Huey is happy with being apart, and they each push the other into new and uncomfortable society–with good results. Felix befriends Matt, husband of Rhys from REND, and that helps with his issues of loss now that Sofia’s gone. Huey realizes that he’s overextended himself both with the bar and as a sponsor. It’s interfering with him taking care of himself–and Felix.

These guys have found their One at just the right moment, but it’s still hard for them to take anything for themselves. Huey’s sure his sobriety has been maintained by rigid control, and he’s afraid that his upset schedules to accommodate visits with Felix might cause a relapse. I liked how they worked through it with Felix being brave for himself–taking chances both professionally and personally–and Huey taking the sage advice of people he’d often counseled. The story is a little heavy on description and backstory, which made pacing a bit slow in the front end. These are two regular “famous-adjacent” guys just figuring things out, messing up, and figuring them out again, which was a nice twist for this series. I loved that Huey literally carved space into his apartment to make Felix feel more welcome, and I loved how Felix just fit Theo, and soothed his battered heart and Sharpie-d flesh.

This book brought a good sense of closure to the Riven stories, having three solid couples finding three stellar HEAs. I really enjoyed all of them.

Interested? You can find RAZE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

You can find Roan online on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

The State of Love REND–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a Throwback Thursday review for a contemporary M/M rock romance from Roan Parrish. REND features a married couple battling abandonment issues and depress to build a more stable relationship. I liked the first book in this series, RIVEN, and was glad to see some of those characters play a role here. It’s a perfect pick for my rock romance bender, too!

About the book:
After a whirlwind romance, a man with a painful past learns to trust the musician who makes him believe in happy endings.

Matt Argento knows what it feels like to be alone. After a childhood of abandonment, he never imagined someone might love him—much less someone like Rhys Nyland, who has the voice of an angel, the looks of a god, and the worship of his fans.

Matt and Rhys come from different worlds, but when they meet, their chemistry is incendiary. Their romance is unexpected, intense, and forever—at least, that’s what their vows promise. Suddenly, Matt finds himself living a life he never thought possible: safe and secure in the arms of a man who feels like home. But when Rhys leaves to go on tour for his new album, Matt finds himself haunted by the ghosts of his past.

When Rhys returns, he finds Matt twisted by doubt. But Rhys loves Matt fiercely, and he’ll go to hell and back to triumph over Matt’s fears. After secrets are revealed and desires are confessed, Rhys and Matt must learn to trust each other if they’re going to make it. That means they have to fall in love all over again—and this time, it really will be forever.

My Review:
Matt Argento and Rhys Nyland are a married couple. They met and filled a need the other had–Rhys loved to save a man, and Matt needed saving. Rhys is a musician and singer, and the book starts about 1.5 years into the marriage, so it’s not about how they fall in love. No, it’s about staying in the moment, and trusting that love is real–and that you deserve it. Why? Because Matt is a foster system product who has abandonment issues.

Matt loves Rhys, but Matt struggles with depression. He has a long history of being left behind, and the idea of Rhys going on tour is fanning the flames of his anxiety. Rhys, for his part, is a super lover, and a huge caretaker–but he can’t fix Matt. Only time, patience and Matt’s own willingness to believe that he is worthy of Rhys’s boundless affection can solve this conundrum. Be ready with the tissue, y’all.

I loved the deep and brooding moments as much as I loved the intensity of their lovemaking. Matt can’t be whole until he opens his heart and mind to the possibility that Rhys loves all his brokenness. And, Rhys is just amazing at loving Matt. Like, nobody could do it better. The pacing is a little slow in the beginning where the reader is following Matt through his sometimes exhaustingly mundane narration, but the second half is a big emotional lift, and I felt really connected through the climax. And speaking of climax, there’s a LOT of sexytimes in this book.

We met these characters briefly in RIVEN, the first book in this series, but honestly, we know NOTHING about them other than they are married, and Rhys was once Caleb’s boyfriend. I loved getting to see this couple interact with Theo and Caleb and how their friendships only grew stronger. It’s a way darker book than RIVEN, but it’s also so rewarding to see this established couple work on their relationship, and build a love that is strong and real, well beyond the early love infatuation that first brought them together.

Interested? You can find REND on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

You can find Roan online on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!