Taking a Chance on THE CUPID CRAWL–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a M/M romance from Hank Edwards. THE CUPID CRAWL is a book set in the Williamsville Inn universe, so if you’ve read previous stories, it’s be a nice addition. It’s fine to read as a standalone, however, and totally fits with my odd-couple theme this week. I’ve read and reviewed some of the Critter Catchers M/M paranormal romance/horror books in the past. You can check out my thoughts on HORROR AT HIDEAWAY COVE and DREAD OF NIGHT if those titles get your engine running.

Scroll down to catch an excerpt and enter to win an ebook of SNOWFLAKES AND SONG LYRICS.
About the book:
What happens when a confirmed hook-up app user falls for a man who is his polar opposite?

Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook ups.

But after learning about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, gay and straight—he changes his plans.

During the crawl, he runs into:
An ex-co-worker nemesis who resurrects—loudly—an unfortunate nickname she bestowed upon him years before.
Several hot men eager for a quick hook up.
And one man absolutely not Carter’s type, but who manages to pique his interest and, possibly, steal his heart.

The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories Snowflakes and Song Lyrics by Hank Edwards and Snowstorms and Second Chances by Brigham Vaughn.

How about a yummy taste?

The organizer, Vic, led the way, squeezing past the men and women standing in the doorway and forging a path for Carter to follow. At first, Carter thought he was way overdressed. The men he slid past were shirtless, some wearing just white loin cloths or even cloth diapers along with feathered wings strapped around their broad chests. These men gave him a brief glance, maybe a quick smile, but were busy talking to each other or women who were also baring a lot of skin. Didn’t these people realize it was February in Boston?

When he reached the bar, Carter was relieved to see people wearing shirts and pants instead of just diapers and short shorts. Vic leaned in over the bar and said to the bartender, “Don, this is my good friend, Carter. Put his first two drinks on my tab.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” Carter insisted. “I have money.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Carter,” Vic said. “The first two drinks are on me to help you relax. I’m going to make a round of the bar, but when I return, I hope to find you talking with someone, and not just leaning on the bar all alone.”

“I know how to socialize,” Carter said.

“Oh, I’m sure you do.”

Vic winked again before threading his way through the crowd, greeting people as he slid past them. Carter ordered a beer from Don, and then fished a couple of singles out of his wallet for a tip. He lifted his bottle to salute Don and had just taken a swig when a piercingly high voice shrieked from just behind him. The sound startled him so much he choked on his beer and started to cough. He turned, coughing and sputtering, and squinted through his tears at the woman standing behind him.

Auburn hair done up tall, bright green eyes that could be nothing other than colored contact lenses, a pert, upturned nose, and a broad mouth filled with teeth laser-whitened to solar flare level.

Carter’s heart stuttered with surprise and dread as he struggled to clear his airway.

“I saw you walk in and had to come over and see if it was really you!” she exclaimed.

With a final clearing of his throat, Carter managed a smile and said, “Lizzie. Hello! What a treat to see you.”

Lizzie’s smile widened even further and she crossed her arms. It was then Carter noticed she wore what looked like a sports bra with a pair of white wings strapped to her shoulders, and a sheer white shift around her waist that showed off a pair of black panties trimmed with lace.

“As I live and breathe,” Lizzie said with a shake of her head. “Carter the Farter.”

My Review:
Carter is an out-gay man who’s pining just a bit for a steady guy. Approaching thirty, he’s had plenty of fun with hook-up apps but his bestie Will has recently gotten married to a sexy out singer, Rex, and their goo-goo eyes are causing Carter to lament his no-strings life.

He’s expecting to spend his first Valentine’s alone in a long time. Carter and Will usually went out together to get some drinks and keep one another company, but Will is out of town with Rex this year. So, instead of going out alone, Carter plans to make a 3-day weekend of Grindr hookups. He’s all set until his very married and harried co-worker talks up an event she used to attend as a single: The Cupid Crawl. It’s a bar crawl of some Boston spots–straight and gay-friendly–with giveaways and the opportunity to meet like-minded singles. Carter isn’t really feeling it, but when he awakens on Valentine’s Day he learns that most of his go-to Grindr pals are otherwise occupied. Out of sheer loneliness Carter opts to join the Cupid Crawl.

And, boy is he regretting it. He runs into an old co-worker, Lizzie, who dubbed him “Carter the Farter” years ago, and she’s pretty much drunk and obnoxiously shouting this all around the bar. Humiliated from the start, Carter isn’t in a mood to make nice with Lizzie’s “keeper,” an unstylish, platonic friend called Harry. Turns out Harry (and his waxed porn-mustache) is pansexual, and a decent guy. Carter’s not a fan, at first, even as friendly and engaging as Harry is. Carter has an acerbic humor and Harry gives him a lot of challenging chat, when Carter isn’t hopping on Grindr and hooking up with dudes on the crawl.

This book didn’t read as romantic, at first. Carter’s really a bit self-centered, and he’s so used to getting his sex-fix without it meaning much more than mutual release. Harry is SO not his usual guy, what with his middle-part hair and barely-trying t-shirt, but the more that Carter finds vapid men, or selfish hook-ups, the more he begins to appreciate the real-talk he gets from Harry. And, it’s clear that others are seeing how Harry is into Carter–more so than Carter does, in any case.

Carter wants to ditch this whole nightmare, especially once he’s humiliated and left hanging by a couple of hook-ups. Will chats to him via FaceTime, trying to keep his spirits up, and Vic, the crawl organizer, is promising awesome raffle prizes the longer Carter stays. Carter keeps believing his hype, that he and Harry can’t be suited for one another, and he even tells another guy to go for Harry. Much to his regret. Lonely of his own making, Carter FINALLY gets the idea that he’s letting a good man walk off for superficial reasons, perhaps because he’s a bit commitment-challenged from a bad relationship some years before. It’s a Cupid miracle that Carter makes the right moves before the end of the crawl. Still, there’s conflict. Much like the time-honored story, this Cinderfella doesn’t know how to contact his possible prince once the night comes to an abrupt end.

It’s a fun ending, with Grindr “coming” to the rescue. And, plenty of cameos from other Williamsville heroes. Again, totally fine to read this as a standalone. Carter begins being judgey and not super-likable, even as we can empathize with his loneliness. His antics on the Crawl are funny and cringey, and he gains some sympathy points just for his erotic misfortunes. It’s clear that Carter has self-esteem issues, and it was good to see him grow past that a bit on that crawl. The juxtaposition of meaningless hookups with passionate kissing (and later lovemaking) really drove the romance arc forward in the second half of the book. I was definitely rooting for Carter to get his head screwed on correctly and accept the interest and affection of a good man–even if he didn’t tick off all the attraction markers on the first meeting. His attraction for Harry wasn’t instant, but it grew and grew with each connection. I liked Carter a LOT more in the end, when he finally let down his guard and started honestly examining his life choices. There is totally a happy ending waiting, as well as awesome reconnections with other characters from the series for readers who’ve been following along with the previous books.

Interested? You can find THE CUPID CRAWL on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win an ebook of SNOWFLAKES AND SONG LYRICS–the previous book in this series.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Hank Edwards (he/him) has been writing gay fiction for more than twenty years. He has published over thirty novels and dozens of short stories. His books fall into many sub-genres, including romance, rom-com, contemporary, paranormal, suspense, mystery, and wacky comedy. He has written a number of series such as the suspenseful Up to Trouble, funny and spooky paranormal out for you gay romance Critter Catchers, Old West historical horror of Venom Valley, the erotic and funny Fluffers, Inc. series, and the funny and thrilling Lacetown Murder Mysteries series co-written with Deanna Wadsworth. No matter what genre he writes, Hank likes to keep things sweet, steamy, and fun. He was born and still lives in a northwest suburb of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, where he shares a home with his partner of over 20 years and their two cats.

You can reach out to Hank on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.