More Than a Cup of TEA–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a sweet M/M trans romance from Matthew Metzger. TEA is the first book in his Cup of John series and features a big, burly, self-conscious laborer falling hard for a beautiful blind man…at first sight. There’s struggles and hurt/comfort, and a story that had me turning the pages.

About the book:
John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

How about a yummy taste?

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

My Review:
John is a big, burly, electrician whose last lover turned out to be a two-timing arse. Daniel had never planned to be a true partner to John, and turned on John is a terrible betrayal that’s left John concerned that he’s maybe more forceful with his lovers than he intended to be. Mired in low self-esteem and self-doubt, he’s stopped dating for the past 9 months.

He stumbles into a crowded tea shop one rainy afternoon and meets the most beautiful younger man. Chris invites John to share his table for tea. John accepts, entranced by Chris’s charm–and it’s a comfortable chat. John’s confused why someone so lovely would flirt with an ugly mug like him so openly, but soon realizes that Chris is blind. And, he’s sure it would be bad for him to accept Chris’ invitation for a date. Yet, lonely and buzzing with excitement, John agrees.

Over the course of several dates, spanning weeks, Chris and John spend more and more time together. Chris reveals the source of his blindness, and his daily battle with severe epilepsy. It’s also a bit of a surprise that Chris is transgender. John’s so caught up in love, that he’s willing to pursue a relationship–even though he’s sure outsiders will have a bad impression of such a thug “caring” for a blind man. As Chris notes, he’s always seen as an invalid, and anyone with him as a carer, not a partner.

John’s troubles with his past lover leads him to keep Chris a bit of a secret. He’s afraid to make any mistakes–and it ends up isolating Chris, for a bit. In order for John to develop a healthy relationship, it’s clear he needs to seek outside help–and it’s a good moment for him to reflect on the emotional damage he’s been hiding. I felt as though this all read very strongly true. Chris and John each have challenges they need to face–sometimes together and sometimes alone. They do support each other well, and John comes to terms with his self-hatred through careful introspection. It’s a tender experience, and I think I adored both John and Chris in equal measure. I’m glad it’s the first book in a series because I’d like to spend more time with these guys in the future.

Interested? You can find TEA on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Smashwords.

About the Author:
Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

Catch up with Matthew on his website or Twitter.

Out Today! SECOND CHANCE


Hi there! Today I’m getting the word out for a new contemporary transgender M/M romance out now from Jay Northcote. SECOND CHANCE is a mature romance for two old mates who’ve reconnected under strained circumstances. Nate fell hard for Jack when they were schoolmates, but a lot has changed in twenty years…. Can their rekindled friendship ever be more?

About the book:
Everyone deserves a second chance.
Nate and his teenage daughter need a fresh start, so they move back to the village where he grew up. Nate’s transgender, and not used to disclosing his history, so it’s hard living where people knew him before. When Nate reconnects with Jack–his best friend from school and unrequited crush–his feelings return as strong as ever.

Jack’s returned home to get his life in order after an addiction to alcohol caused him to lose everything: his job, his driver’s licence, and nearly his life. He’s living with his parents, which is less than ideal, but rekindling his friendship with Nate–or Nat as Jack once knew him–is an unexpected benefit of being back home. Jack is amazed by Nate’s transformation, and can’t deny his attraction. Trying for more than friendship might ruin what they already have, but the chemistry between them is undeniable.

Doubting his feelings are reciprocated, Nate fears he’s risking heartbreak. Jack’s reluctance to tell his parents about their relationship only reinforces Nate’s misgivings. With both their hearts on the line and their happiness at stake, Jack needs to make things right, and Nate has to be prepared to give him a second chance.

How about a little taste?

A hint of cigarette smoke carried on the wind caught Nate’s attention, and he realised he wasn’t alone. A hunched figure sat on a bench by the church. Wearing a heavy coat with the hood up, their head hung low staring at the grass between their feet rather than at the landscape stretched out before them. A cigarette hung from bony fingers that protruded from black fingerless gloves. As Nate watched, the man—because Nate could see his face now—raised his head to take a long drag before stubbing the cigarette out on the bench.

A shock of recognition made Nate’s heart jump, thudding erratically. Jack.

Torn between conflicting urges to approach and flee, Nate stared at him, powerless to move.

How many years had it been since Nate had seen him? At forty-five Nate found each year passed faster than the one before. It must have been twenty years at least since he’d seen Jack, maybe more, and longer still since they’d spoken properly. Their last meeting had been nothing more than an awkward exchange of greetings when they ran into each other in the village pub one Christmas. The distance between them had cut Nate like a knife, so different to their teenage years when they’d been best friends, and almost inseparable.

Jack slumped forward again, letting the cigarette butt fall from his fingers. He put his hands over his face and Nate recognised despair and hopelessness, because they’d been his companions in the past. Acting on instinct, he approached.

“Sorry to intrude,” he said, pausing in front of Jack. “But are you okay? Is there anything I can do?”

Jack jerked his head up in surprise. His pale cheeks flushed as he shook his head. “Not really. Just having a bad day. You know how it is… or maybe you don’t.”

“I do.”

Nate studied him. The years had changed Jack, of course, but the essence of him was still the same. Sharp features, the strong nose Jack had always hated, even more defined with age, but more balanced now with dark stubble and the lines that the years were beginning to carve around his eyes and mouth.

As Jack stared back, Nate realised there was no recognition dawning on Jack’s face. To Jack, Nate was a stranger. Five years on testosterone had changed Nate to a point where Jack couldn’t see the person Nate had been before. Normally this was something Nate was glad about, but now he felt a pang of regret.

I’ve already finished reading this one, and loved it. I’ll share my review next week.

Interested? You can find SECOND CHANCE on Goodreads and Amazon.

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Young and Questioning HAVING HER BACK–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review and giveaway for a YA transgender romance from Ann Gallagher (aka: L.A. Witt). HAVING HER BACK is a tender and age-appropriate novel about acceptance, friendship and love–and contains the right amount of teen misunderstandings and angst. I liked LEAD ME NOT, another low-steam “Ann Gallagher” book, and I love YA romance, so this was an auto-pick for me.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway for a backlist book from LA Witt.
About the book:
Trevor Larson is a Navy brat. He’s used to moving every few years, and thanks to social media, he can stay in touch with the friends he leaves behind. But shortly after he leaves Okinawa, his best friend, Brad Gray, cuts off contact and disappears.

Four years and two bases later, Brad resurfaces—and announces his family is coming to Trevor’s base in Spain. But a lot’s changed in four years, and Trevor is stunned to find out Brad is now Shannon. Their reunion isn’t quite what either of them had hoped for, but they quickly find their footing, both relieved to have each other back.

Except nothing is ever all sunshine and roses. The military is a small world, and there’s no keeping Shannon’s transition a secret. Parents warn their kids away from her. She can’t attend school on-base for fear of harassment or worse. And although her parents try to hide it, being ostracized by their only social circle while they’re thousands of miles from home is taking a toll on them too.

More and more, Shannon leans on Trevor. But she’s also drawn to him, and he’s drawn right back to her, feeling things he’s never felt for anyone before.

Trevor’s scared, though. Not of dating a trans girl. Not of damaging his chaplain father’s career or reputation. After finally getting his friend back, does he dare take things further and risk losing her a second time?

My Review:
Trevor is a 16 y/o Navy brat on a base in Rota, Spain. He’s grown up moving every few years when his dad, Pastor Larson, a Protestant chaplain, gets reassigned. Sometimes he meets up with friends he’d made in DOD schools at other bases, and that’s the case in Rota. He’s lived there a few years now, and a few of his better pals from the Okinawa base are now in Rota, but not his very best friend Brad. Brad shipped out form Okinawa and dropped off the face of the earth, it seemed, because he wouldn’t respond to any of Trevor’s emails, IMs or texts. It’s been four years, and Trevor’s stunned to get an email from Brad saying he’s coming to Rota in a month, and he’s changed. A lot. Trevor wonders if that’s because Brad’s gay and bad things happened when he moved form Okinawa. Trevor’s determined to be good friend to Brad, no matter what.

Shannon is a transgender girl, who used to be Brad. It’s been a hard four years but she’s transitioned well, and feels good in her body for the first time, perhaps, ever. She’s had a lot of backlash in her personal life, though her parents completely support her, even if they all suspect her transition may have caused her dad not to make his promotion that past two years. Still, she’s being homeschooled, and trying to keep a low profile; unlikely in the small circle of families that make up overseas bases.

Trevor is stunned when he meets Shannon, and pretty angry she didn’t trust him enough to divulge her big secret before they met in person–or at any time in the past four years. His reaction isn’t excellent, but Shannon interprets his swift departure as a rejection of her new self, and that’s a stumbling block. Trevor does make it up to Shannon, and Shannon fits into their group of Okinawa friends without too much issue. There are some quakes in the personnel, however, and Shannon’s the center of some anti-trans sentiment that’s sweeping the base, including members of Pastor Larson’s congregation. It’s upsetting for all, but Trevor’s more confused about his changing feelings for Shannon. They shared a deep friendship as kids, and now when he thinks back, he doesn’t see “Brad” in those memories, he sees Shannon, and he’s not sure what to do with his growing attraction to her. What if they break up and become enemies, as some of his buddies have with their exes?

This book is told from Trevor’s and Shannon’s point-of-views and that’s really interesting. I liked how culturally-competent the characters’ inner thoughts, actions and dialogue are. These are kids who are have fought hard to maintain friendships, and they aren’t willing to toss Shannon aside because of her transition. In fact, all of Trev’s pals accept her wholeheartedly into their group, and their girlfriends invite Shannon on shopping trips and makeovers. The kids also stand up for Shannon when she’s accosted in public or put-down in conversations they overhear. Trevor’s mistakes with Shannon come from his own insecurity, and aren’t related to her transition.

The intimacy that develops between Trevor and Shannon is cautious and tender. Trevor just got his best friend back…he doesn’t want to mess things up by being a bad boyfriend. He’s never even dated a girl before; realistically he’s sure he’ll mess up and they’ll stop speaking again. Shannon’s never dated and she is insecure about her body, and how a partner would view her body. It leads to some discord between them, that has a good resolution in the end.

This is a YA read, so expect YA-levels of steam, and nothing more. That said, there are some unique experiences here due to Shannon’s physiology and that provokes some valid and frank discussion. I liked how sensitively that was handled, and the introspection both Trevor and Shannon demonstrate is valuable for people who have concerns about trans-persons and their relationships. Shannon didn’t expect to find a partner who could love her as she is, and has a reasonable fear of fetishization, though she doesn’t think Trevor sees her as a fetish. She’s also nervous that he’ll be unhappy with her physical state, and that’s an anxiety-triggering situation. Trevor’s more afraid of being a bad partner, given his lack of experience. It was really endearing and felt realistic. The military aspect of this story likewise felt well-informed, and I could absolutely see all the sights in Rota and nearby, just as Shannon did. Yet another locale to put on my travel bucket-list. Readers who enjoy teen romance, or trangender stories, will really enjoy this one. I know I did.

Interested? You can find HAVING HER BACK on Goodreads and Amazon US or UK.

****GIVEAWAY****

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

About the Author:
Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

Visit her website, Facebook, and twitter.

New Love STARTING FROM SCRATCH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a newly-released contemporary M/M romance from Jay Northcote. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is the fifth book in the Housemates series of New Adult romances set in Bristol, England. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of them, and am always ecstatic when a new one comes out. STARTING FROM SCRATCH is more poignant to me, as a reader, because it features a transgender male character–very well informed by the author’s life experiences. In a time when TG issues are being wholesale discarded by legislators in the US, it’s fantastic to get authentic stories about everyday characters who are trans.

About the book:
Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

My Review:
Ben is a twenty-five year old transman returning to uni following three years off to undergo trans treatment and surgery. He shares a house with five other guys–out-gay and bisexual men from earlier book in the series–but hides his trans identity, living as a man. It’s fascinating being inside Ben’s head–his fear that he’s not being honest, but also fearing that revealing his history will cause more trouble than he can manage.

Sid is a man wishing for a steady boyfriend. He’s not had any lasting relationships and wonders if he ever will. Meeting Ben while out with mutual friends seems like a perfect opportunity, but Ben rebuffs his overtures. Ben’s not down for a quickie, and doesn’t think he measures up to the standards Sid surely has. Thing is, Jude, their mutual friend, vouches for Sid–and that prompts Ben to reach out and build a friendship. That’s one of Ben’s big goals for the year, be more social and get over his insecurities. So they chat and text and get together for coffee. The more time they spend, the more invested they become. Ben’s nervous about revealing his chest scars–from top surgery–and his manbits are quite different from that of a cismale, but Sid’s not only compassionate, he’s intrigued with Ben for who he is–and their relationship grows openly and honestly.

I was floored by the detail and delicacy of the book. I’ve read a few trans novels and am always happy to learn more about this experience and the triumphs and challenges. The Housemates books are have lots of sexytimes–and there’s no exception here. The author does a great job of bringing Ben to life, and writing a love story that feels sensitive and sexy at the same time. It was easy to feel Ben’s insecurities–and those of Sid as well. He’s a wonderful character, who really investigates his own prejudices and if they pose a risk to Ben’s emotional well-being. I loved the vulnerability of both men, and how Sid doesn’t allow Ben to push him away when he makes a mistake or three. These guys are really interesting on their own, and their interactions with their housemates is as fun as always. Oh, Ben! He wasn’t a trusting sort, but Sid did win him over completely by the end.

Interested? You can find STARTING FROM SCRATCH on Goodreads and Amazon (US or UK).

The whole housemates series is fantastic–and all can be enjoyed as standalones.
Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon (US or UK)
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon (US or UK)
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon (US or UK)
Watching and Wanting (Book 4) Amazon (US or UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

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

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

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Holiday Shorts!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing reviews for a few holiday-themed stories that will warm your hearts in this wintry season. FROSTBITTEN is a vampire menage, ANGEL VOICES is a New Adult M/M romance, and LOVE AND LATKES is a transgender romance. All of these are novellas, and have sweet themes of acceptance and new love.

frostbittenAbout FROSTBITTEN by Charlotte Stein:
Shy nurse Cora both dreads and lives for the moments she sees Zeke, an orderly at the hospital where she works. Zeke is too handsome, too compelling, too much, and seems totally unaware of Cora. But before she can bring herself to his attention, an explosion rips through the hospital Christmas party.

Zeke has noticed Cora—in fact, he’s so irresistibly drawn to her that he saves her from the explosion by turning her into a vampire, much to the jealousy and resentment of his partner, Merrick. Zeke hates being a vampire, and now that she’ll live, doesn’t want Cora to suffer his fate. If they can both resist the overwhelming instinct to bond, joining their bodies as Cora draws her maker’s blood, she might be able to return to her normal human life.

As Merrick uses every erotic trick to keep Zeke distracted from the blood passion, Cora becomes more and more drawn to both of her reluctant captors. And more and more happy to abandon her old life in exchange for an eternity with two hot immortal lovers. All she has to do is convince Merrick and Zeke that being a vampire isn’t all that bad.

Like FRECKLES and GLASS TIDINGS, FROSTBITTEN is also a part of the 2016 three book Holiday bundle offered every year by Riptide, and 20% of the proceeds are donated to The Trevor Project, which provides a suicide hotline and counseling assistance for LGBTQ teens, in particular, in crisis.

I’ve actually written a full review for FROSTBITTEN for Joyfully Jay, but I can tell you I really loved this MMF menage story. Zeke and Merrick are a couple, but Zeke and Cora seem to share a strong attraction. Zeke saves Cora from certain death when an explosion rocks their holiday party–by infecting her with a vampire virus. Merrick wants Cora to return to her human self, which she will if she doesn’t take blood from either Zeke or Merrick. Unfortunately, they’re all very attracted to each other. This is a really compelling, sensual read. Cora narrates the whole novella, and she’s clearly a vivid thinker. Plus, once she’s infected, her viewpoint becomes distorted and hazy, with a sing-song quality that lulled me along. I dug it. There’s a little bit of sex, in the middle and the end with M/M, M/F and MMF arrangements.

Find FROSTBITTEN on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

angel-voicesAbout ANGEL VOICES by Rowan Speedwell:
One frigid winter night a week before Christmas, college student Will stumbles into a church during choir practice, bruised by his own father’s hands. He’s out of the closet now — there’s no going back since his fundamentalist father learned the truth — but he’s also out of a home, a family, and a future. Will has nowhere to turn. No one to care.

Except . . . Will’s roommate, Quinn, cares. Maybe too much. He’s been attracted to Will since they moved in together, but never dreamed his crush was gay. With Will’s life in pieces, Quinn doesn’t want to push. He also knows he has more experience than Will, who’s never even been kissed.

Then Will’s father makes a reappearance, and Will has to learn to trust his heart more than the voices of his past. But it’s the season of miracles, faith, and hope, and Quinn is determined to teach Will how to love and be loved.

My Review:
Will is an 18 year old freshman attending his local college. When he returns to his home for the winter break his enraged father beats him nearly senseless and chucks him out into the cold, while his horrified mother watched. Will stumbles the eight miles back toward campus, dropping into a church to warm up. There he hears the choir practicing, and finds peace in his tumult.

He also finds his afro-Creole roommate, Quinn, who’s a tenor in the choir. Quinn had always thought his shy and reserved roomie was straight. Learning Will’s father assaulted him for being gay sets Quinn on a “rescue Will” mission. Quinn’s a sweet boy, whose family is large and supportive. He knows’ they’ll pitch in to help Will in whatever manner they can. With Will cut off from his family, they make plans to take him home to New Orleans for Christmas, and to seek out scholarship help if necessary.

Will, stunned that his roomie is gay, helpful, and attracted to him, allows Quinn to do his best–in all things. There’s a bit of steam, as Will experiences his first kiss–and more. He’s still shell-shocked over his father’s reaction, but it seems the rest of his family might just be okay with the gay. This is a Christmas romance novella, so everything happens kinda fast. I did love Quinn’s large and engaging family. They are all sweet, and wished I’d had more time to linger with them. I really enjoyed the interracial aspects here, and how inclusive it all felt.

While I’m a big fan of sexytimes, I kinda felt that happened a little fast, considering how injured Will was, and how little these guys really knew each other–despite being roomies. A little restraint would have gone a long way toward building some tension. That said, it’s a nice read, with some feel-good moments and what seems to be an HEA.

Interested? You can find ANGEL VOICES on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

love-and-latkesAbout LOVE & LATKES by BA Huntley
Allen’s day begins awful and rapidly turns into a living hell, leaving him without a job, without a car, without a phone, and without much hope that life will improve anytime soon. When friends urges him to bail on the city and come spend Hanukah with them, he agrees—and is glad he did when he meets Lucy.

My Review:
This is a short novella, just 32 pages, that has a diverse cast, with two gay men, and two transgender characters, a man and a woman, which I really loved. Allen tells this story of how his life seemingly turned to crap in one day. It was too compressed and too ridiculous to be believed, unfortunately. Still, Allen’s friend David, a pregnant transman, invites Allen to spend Hanukkah with David and his husband in Halifax.

While visiting, Allen meets Lucy, a transwoman, who Allen finds very attractive. They bond a bit over the few days they spend together. It’s a fresh start for Allen, it seems, which is nice, but a bit convenient. I didn’t like the beginning, because it seemed so implausible, but the parts once Allen got on the plane were decent. The Hanukkah bits were a side story, with the focus on Allen getting a new life and new love. I wished this was expanded, to allow for better character and conflict development. I liked the diversity, which was mostly unexpected considering the blurb. This is an okay read, good for a lunchtime diversion.

Interested? You can find LOVE & LATKES on Goodreads, Less Than Three Press and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in!

Be sure to comment on any holiday reads you’ve picked up this season, and how you liked them!

As always, keep reading my friends.

Surviving and Hoping with THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a transgender mystery romance from Kris Ripper. THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS is the third book in the author’s Queers of La Vista series, and brings the murder mystery discussed in GAYS OF OUR LIVES and THE BUTCH AND THE BEAUTIFUL onto the main stage. The featured couple is a trans-man, Ed, who falls for an adventurous lesbian woman.

qatrAbout the book:
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.

Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.

As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and probably best enjoyed when read in sequence, but it’s not mandatory.

Ed Masiello is a trans-man who lives in La Vista, CA, and works for the local newspaper as a low-level reporter. He really wants to write bigger pieces, but he’s young and new, and he’s stuck with fluff. It’s super frustrating because there seems to be a killer stalking the queer community in La Vista, and Ed thinks no one’s really making enough fuss. The best info is from an anonymous blogger named Togg, and that person’s really making the Queers of La Vista nervous.

While out blowing off steam at Club Fred’s, a known queer establishment, Ed bumps into a long-time acquaintance, Alisha. Alisha is fun and flirty and Ed doesn’t know how to take it. He’s always dated women, but he’s been transitioning for a year now, and his parts are changing due to the hormonal supplementation. Is he a novelty to Alisha, who he knows is lesbian? Or, is Alisha attracted to Ed as a man?

Short answer: she likes Ed.

They begin dating and it’s cool. Ed feels like this is great. A beautiful woman likes him, and they have satisfying sexytimes. Thing is, Alisha wants her life to be a grand adventure. Ed’s afraid to request time off from his job to travel. Plus, he’s getting super caught up in the investigation surrounding the La Vista killer–Ed’s the one who connects a seemingly-unrelated murder to the string–and verifies that all the victims were guests at Club Fred’s theme night parties. The whole queer community is in an uproar, and Ed’s obsession is having a toll on his budding romance.

I really like this series. It shifts the focus to different members of the queer community that may not have lots of fictional representation. I’ve read a few transitioning characters before, and Ed’s a good one. He’s struggling for acceptance on many fronts. His family is hostile to his transition, meanwhile he’s “passing” as male to people at work and his roommates–even if they pretty-much think he’s gay. Which is a conundrum for Ed. I had a few chuckles with the dude-bro roomies scenes, and their “advice” about dating women. There were some interesting sexytimes and I can only trust they are rather realistic, as I’ve not given a lot of scrutiny to TG persons and their bodies in transition. The author identifies as a trans-man, so that’s good enough cred for me.

This book brings the murder-mystery storyline of the series into the forefront. Previous to this we’d only heard of one murder, but the timeline fits as all these stories are not entirely sequential. There are many characters from the previous books brought back into the mix here, as a lot of the story occurs within Ed’s social sphere. He’s friendly with Jaq and Hannah from Book Two and also Dred from Book One. As killings continue, there’s an arrest, but that divides people even more. The accused is a fixture, and someone seemingly trusted by all. I will say, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer to find the true culprit. Good thing that Ed figures out the way to happiness is not through chasing smoke trails in the sky, but finding a partner who’s there for you, and loves you not only as you are, but also as you will be.

Interested? You can find THE QUEER AND THE RESTLESS on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance. I received a review copy of this book via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a toddler, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and has no pronoun preference, but the z-based pronouns are freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Catch up with Kris on zir website, Goodreads, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Rough Love ROLLER GIRL–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary F/F romance from Vanessa North. ROLLER GIRL is the third book in her Lake Lovelace series, which includes DOUBLE UP and ROUGH ROAD. The book features a transwoman finding strength, love and community.

Roller Girl (Lake Lovelace, #3)About the book:
Recently divorced Tina Durham is trying to be self-sufficient, but her personal-training career is floundering, her closest friends are swept up in new relationships, and her washing machine has just flooded her kitchen. It’s enough to make a girl cry.

Instead, she calls a plumbing service, and Joanne “Joe Mama” Delario comes to the rescue. Joe is sweet, funny, and good at fixing things. She also sees something special in Tina and invites her to try out for the roller derby team she coaches.

Derby offers Tina an outlet for her frustrations, a chance to excel, and the female friendships she’s never had before. And as Tina starts to thrive at derby, the tension between her and Joe cranks up. Despite their player/coach relationship, they give in to their mutual attraction. Sex in secret is hot, but Tina can’t help but want more.

With work still on the rocks and her relationship in the closet, Tina is forced to reevaluate her life. Can she be content with a secret lover? Or with being dependent on someone else again? It’s time for Tina to tackle her fears, both on and off the track.

My Review:
This is the third book in the Lake Lovelace series and features a trans-female character and a F/F romance. It can be enjoyed on its own.

Tina Durham was a professional wakeboarder who married young, before she could articulate that she was really a woman. This came as a surprise to her wife, and ended their marriage once Tina’s transition became complete. Tina now works as a personal trainer, and struggles with social anxiety, afraid that she’ll be assailed by transphobic people.

Tina meets Joanne “Joe” Delario when she responds to Tina’s frantic call for a plumber. They hit it off, and Tina accepts Joe’s invitation for a drink. Tina’s a bit disappointed when Joe uses the meeting to ask Tina to try out for her roller derby team. Tina’s never played, but the idea of competing again is attractive, and the derby is trans-friendly. She agrees, even if it means not pursuing a relationship with Joe; Joe has a no-dating policy for her team, due to a previous problem with it all going bad. Tina likes the idea of a girl-bonding experience, and she does well at the first try-out.

Despite their intentions, Joe and Tina begin a physical relationship. They’re really too attracted to each other; and Tina hasn’t been with anyone since her divorce. Their interactions are steamy, and affirming. But Tina doesn’t want to be a secret, and doesn’t understand why she should be: other women on the team are dating. It’s Joe’s hang up, and it causes Tina a lot of pain, especially because she’s dealt with secrets most of her life.

I liked the story here. I’ve read a few lesbian romances, and a few trans ones, too. I love the diversity I saw on the page, and Tina’s positive experiences. As a transitioned former pro-athlete, she becomes a bit of a sensation for her team, garnering news coverage. It leads to some great experiences for her with fans in transition. That was really sweet. I also liked her professional persona, and how compassionate she was with her favorite training client, and all her uplifting moments with despairing teammates. That was great. On the flip side, the time frame didn’t match up with the pacing, for me, so the romance felt a bit rushed. Also, the “no dating”/secret dating policy didn’t work for me as a conflict. It felt like a false choice, and brought in unnecessary drama. There were likely other issues that could have kept Joe and Tina separate, that would have had more emotional punch, so that fell a little short, for me.

In all, I expected that Ms. North would write a F/F story that would be filled with heat and heart, and I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not a fan of roller derby, and have about zero interest in it, personally, but those scenes were clear enough that an ignorant reader like myself could follow along, and feel the tension of the team, and Tina’s emotional investment. When I consider adult recreational sports, most are co-ed. Roller derby initially seemed an odd choice, but I understood it, because it was an activity that was exclusively female, and accessible to novice non-athletes. Any other type of sport would have likely been closed-off for Tina, or her less athletic teammates. The friendships, and team dynamics, that Tina explores in the course of the story really helps to pull her loose from her social anxiety, as does her relationship with Joe. For a character who’s growth arc was already enormous before she appeared on the page, Tina still found ways to expand her life and find unexpected happiness.

Interested? You can find ROLLER GIRL on Goodreads, Riptide Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Vanessa NorthAbout the Author:
Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

You can catch up with Vanessa on her website, Goodreads, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!