Saturday, December 31, 2016

ARC Review: Six Degrees of Lust (By Degrees, #1) by Taylor V. Donovan


Blurb:
By Degrees is an ensemble character series with multiple points of view.
2nd Edition

New York City FBI team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his immediate family and his job. After a marriage gone wrong, he has stuck to a firm rule when it comes to relationships: he doesn't have them. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable keeps him satisfied, especially now that he is in hot pursuit of a serial killer targeting gay men.

Former firefighter Machlan O'Bannon now manages a successful sports bar in Houston, and after years of waiting, he’s ready to stand up and be the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama-free. His politically-aligned family wants to keep him locked in the closet, but Mac just wants to meet the man of his dreams.

One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. A chance meeting brings them together, and one night of passion ignites a fire neither can fight. Their lives are not only miles apart, but as different as day and night. They don't want to get involved, but they might not be able to keep apart.

First Edition published by MLR Press, December 2011.


Jewel's rating:



I've had (the first edition of) Six Degrees of Lust on my Kindle for about a year and a half, and I always intended to read it, but I just never seemed to get to it. Well, it's being republished by Dreamspinner, so when the second edition came up on the ARC list, I decided that now is the time to finally give it a shot! I'm so glad I did. I really loved it.

Before I get into the meat of my review, do be aware that Six Degrees of Lust is the beginning of a serial and it ends on a cliffhanger. Book 2 (Six Degrees of Separation) is available, now, but we are still waiting on book 3 (and I do not know if that will be the last book or not). Hopefully we won't have to wait much longer for Six Degrees of Agony (please!!!!!).

There's a suspense plot, that I'm finding to be pretty obvious (well, I assume, because it isn't anywhere near done, yet, so no reveals have been made) but it doesn't take over the romance. It's definitely a major happening and a catalyst, for the story, but I didn't find it too overpowering. And the characters' lives intersect not only socially, but through the suspense part of the plot. I found the way that was done was interesting without seeming too contrived. And I did have to take some notes, though, I do admit. There are a lot of characters to keep up with and how their lives intersect with each other and also with the path of the killer.

The suspense plot revolves around a serial killer who is killing young gay men, who fit a particular description. They're all slightly built and blond and maybe a bit femme. The killings are brutal and have a religious theme. *shudder*

The romance plot revolves around Mac and Sam and their chemistry is scorching. So hot! And I loved how the number 515 was significant, not only to each of them, individually, but how that number became significant to them as a couple (oh, stop it, Sam, you're definitely a couple!).

Book Review: Switched by N.R. Walker



Blurb:
Israel Ingham’s life has never been easy. He grew up in a house devoid of love and warmth. Nothing he ever did was good enough. The fact Israel is gay just added to the long list of his father’s disappointments.

Then a letter from Eastport Children’s Hospital changes everything.

A discovery is made, one of gross human error. Twenty-six years ago two baby boys were switched at birth and sent home with the wrong families.

Sam, Israel’s best friend, has been his only source of love and support. With Sam beside him every step of the way, Israel decides to meet his birth mother and her son, the man who lived the life Israel should have.

Israel and Sam become closer than ever, amidst the tumultuous emotions of meeting his birth family, and Sam finds himself questioning his feelings toward his best friend. As Israel embraces new possibilities, he needs to dissect his painful relationship with his parents in order to salvage what’s left.

Because sometimes it takes proof you’re not actually family to become one.


Dani's rating:




What sorcery is this? Nic Walker waves her author wand, and POOF!

Switched is magic:

- BFFs-to-lovers (Israel and Sam have been friends for more than a decade. Sam is the first person Iz turns to, always.)

- friendship (Israel and Sam's friends are supportive and hilarious. They call Israel "Captain" and sing the SpongeBob theme song; it's a bit of an inside joke. Incidentally, I googled the theme song. That was painful.)

- family (but not family DRAMA)

- love & sex (YES! This is one of Walker's steamier reads; I LOVED the slow burn and the scorching chemistry the MCs had together. That slow grind & dance was everything. HOT!)

- enough angst for some real hurt/comfort, but balanced with humor and banter (I absolutely adored the interactions between Sam and Iz. Is there anything sweeter than falling in love with your best friend?)

- bestest epilogue (GAH! I read it three times.)


ARC Review: The Virgin Manny by Amy Lane

Blurb:

Growing up and falling in love...

Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver premade dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it's the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what's best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his newly forged family behind in order live his promising tomorrow?



Sandra's review:






Cute, fluffy, sweet. A real feel-good book, no angst between the MCs, virgin butt-secksing, a ridiculous over the top villain - yeah, I dug it. Most books in this series aren't meant to be taken seriously, and neither is this one.

Tino, 22, a last year college student about to take his finals, is out delivering pre-made dinners for his younger sister's business, when he ends up at the doorstep of Channing, who's raising his 7 year old nephew, Sammy, after his sister recently passed away.

Since Tino is almost done with finals and doesn't have any immediate job prospects, and since Channing begs so nicely, Tino somewhat reluctantly ends up as the newly hired manny for said boy. Of course, his insta-lust for the hunky Channing plus the money Channing offers help convince him that he can do that job.

There are some serious undertones here too - Sammy is struggling with his loss, acting out as part of his grieving process, Channing is at his wit's end and grieving himself, the housekeeper is a bitch, and while Channing is a great guy, he can't cook and he needs to work, and he needs help.

The housekeeper subplot was a wee bit far-fetched, but whatever, these stories are meant to be OTT so that fit right in.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Kindle Weekly Deals~ Week of 12/24/16- 12/30/16

"In Distress" by Caethes Faron- M/M, sci-fi romance~ Price drop to FREE
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"Served Hot" by Annabeth Albert- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23450159-served-hot?from_search=true

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"The Backup Boyfriend" by River Jaymes- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!
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ARC Review: The Virgin Manny (The Mannies 1) by Amy Lane



Blurb:
Sometimes family is a blessing and a curse. When Tino Robbins is roped into helping his sister deliver premade dinners when he should be studying for finals, he’s pretty sure it's the latter! But one delivery might change everything.

Channing Lowell’s charmed life changes when his sister dies and leaves him her seven-year-old son. He’s committed to doing what's best for Sammy… but he’s going to need a lot of help. When Tino lands on his porch, Channing is determined to recruit him to Team Sammy.

Tino plans to make his education count—even if that means avoiding a relationship—but as he falls harder and harder for his boss, he starts to wonder: Does he have to leave his newly forged family behind in order live his promising tomorrow?




Dani's rating:




One word: ADORABLE. This amount of cuteness should be illegal. When Amy Lane writes feel good stories, she doesn't spare the sweetness.

The premise here is actually kind of sad: Channing's sister passed away recently, leaving him with custody of his 7-year-old nephew Sammy. Channing is a good guy, the BEST guy, but he has a demanding job and needs help yesterday.

Enter Tino, who's most definitely not Box Dinner Girl. That would be his sister. But Tino shows up in time for dinner and basically invites himself over. He wants to hug Sammy and his uncle too.

Channing makes Tino an offer he can't refuse, and Tino, new college graduate, becomes Tino the Manny. This is a temporary arrangement for the summer only, except, as Tino's mom tells him, life is what happens when you're making plans.


Blogtour: Whiskey Business by Avon Gale




Please welcome Avon Gale with 

Whiskey Business 

States Of Love





Blurb:

Ryder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder aims ultimately to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he's worth the investment.

Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his taste.


States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.



Exclusive Excerpt:


“So, Gallows Grove used to be called something else, which I’m sure isn’t a surprise.” Ryder honked the horn at the driver of a Chevy C10 pickup, a classic, turquoise-blue model that look vaguely 70s-ish that was turning into the lot.
“My uncle,” said Ryder as he pulled onto the main road from the distillery’s gravel lot. “Anyway, the town used to be called Coleman, and they were going to flood it when they dammed up the Little Sandy, so they relocated everyone. Except that was in 1913, and then there was a world war and priorities changed. They didn’t end up damming the Little Sandy until the 1960s, when they made Grayson Lake.”
Adam nodded. That sounded vaguely familiar, and he knew Grayson was fairly close to Gallows Grove.
“So Coleman was basically this abandoned town, and it stayed that way, because it wasn’t even much of a town to begin with. Just a few businesses and houses. The funeral house was the nicest and one of the few still around. And even the people who lived there before didn’t care enough to come back, so it was sort of forgotten. Anyway, when Prohibition hit, some enterprising bootleggers came across it and decided it was the perfect front for running booze. They could pretend it was just another town and the businesses—the drugstore, the post office, whatever—were exactly what they said on the signs.
“Only, in reality, they weren’t anything of the sort. The distillery is out here, kind of hidden from sight, as you noticed, so they’d drive these backroads in the middle of the night and load the booze in the ‘businesses,’ and they’d conduct illicit alcohol sales sometimes in the middle of the day. Because the town didn’t technically exist, no one bothered to check on it. And if any of the revenue men happened by, all they saw was a small, Podunk little Kentucky town with a real popular post office.”
Adam couldn’t help his rueful laugh. “Clever.”
Ryder looked pleased. “Right? Anyway, those are my ancestors. People trying to pull one over on the law while running booze. Well, they say three can keep a secret if two are dead, and that’s morbid but probably true. At some point someone got jealous, and someone else got tipped off, and the revenue men started sniffing around, looking for proof that this town was nothing more than a front for bootleggers. So the only thing to do to throw off suspicion….”
“Was make it an actual town,” Adam answered. And yeah. Okay. He couldn’t help it. That was a pretty charming story, even if he didn’t believe a word of it.
“Right. So the people knew that if they got caught, they’d all swing. There’s this big grove of trees by the park—I’ll show you—and that’s where they figured they’d end up if they didn’t do something, fast. So they got together, wrote up a town charter, and had it signed and everything. Rumor has it one of the bootleggers had an in with the county commissioner or something. Probably he was providing him with booze, but I like to think it was blowjobs.” Ryder gave him a sly smile, and Adam shifted imperceptibly in his seat. “Anyway, they drew up a town charter, had the commissioner sign it, and had it ready for the sting they knew was coming. When the law showed up, they proudly presented the town charter… for Gallows Grove, Kentucky. Legend has it they were all standin’ there, right in the middle of that grove of trees, when the law showed up.”
Adam shook his head. This all sounded completely made up, like something in a television show. “Is any of it true?”

Blogtour: Add Love And Mix by Sean Michael




Please say hello to Sean Michael and 

Add Love And Mix 




Blurb:

Firefighter Jason Weller and EMT Scott Bronson are living the perfect life. They work together in jobs they love, they live together, and in their downtime, they still can’t get enough of each other. It’s been six amazing years. Then on Christmas Eve, Jase’s former lover Elsa shows up with a six-year-old girl in tow. The strung-out junkie claims Kerry is Jase’s daughter and it’s his turn to care for her, and then she walks out.

Shocked at both the fact that Elsa is now a junkie, and that he has a daughter he never knew about, Jase nonetheless steps up to the plate as her father, and Scott offers his full support. Having an instant family comes with plenty of challenges, and the two men work to deal with sweeping changes in their lives and to make things right for Kerry.

It’s not going to be easy, and their new circumstances test them and their relationship like nothing ever has. They’ll need all the love they have for each other, and the love they discover for their daughter, to keep from breaking apart.



Get the book:


    




New Year’s Meal


I never really followed any new year’s traditions food-wise until I met my best friend from Texas, and now I enjoy a little tradition with my New Year’s day meal. Black eyed peas, which I do in the crockpot and something green for prosperity – I like a little salad.


Here’s how I usually make my black eyed peas.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas, #4) by Heidi Cullinan


Blurb:
Trimming the tree is more fun with three.
Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…

Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.

But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts.

Jewel's rating:



Santa Baby starts pretty much immediately after Winter Wonderland left off, with no preamble or break, so it feels like a straight continuation of that story. Except, of course, the focus is on Arthur, Gabriel and Dale.

Many of my friends dnf'd this book, because polyamory is not for them, or because this story takes a couple that got their happy in a previous book and alters it. Fair enough, I totally get that. I, however, quite enjoyed it.

Was this story necessary? Well, no, not in the sense that it is such an integral part of the overall story that if you don't read it, you'll lose out. Truly, if Sleigh Ride was perfect for you as the story of Arthur and Gabriel, that's awesome. I was good with that one, too, but I wanted to see what Ms. Cullinan got up to with this one. I love ménage stories, if they're done well, and I knew that Heidi Cullinan could pull it off. Even still, Santa Baby was different than my expectations and not in a bad way, at all.

I recall in Sleigh Ride, Arthur saying he didn't want to share Gabriel. I thought that was sweet, but a bit out of character for Arthur, considering how much he really enjoyed having a third to play with. I figured at the time that the basis for his assurances, in that regard, was because he felt that was what Gabriel needed, and maybe he even wanted to try monogamy, as well. So when Santa Baby starts and Arthur observes the intense attraction that Gabriel feels toward Dale, well, he saw an opportunity to explore something new with his lover and he took it.

ARC Review: Acting Up by John Inman

Acting UpBlurb:

It’s not easy breaking into show biz. Especially when you aren’t exactly loaded with talent. But Malcolm Fox won’t let a little thing like that hold him back.

Actually, it isn’t the show-business part of his life that bothers him as much as the romantic part—or the lack thereof. At twenty-six, Malcolm has never been in love. He lives in San Diego with his roommate, Beth, another struggling actor, and each of them is just as unsuccessful as the other. While Malcolm toddles off to this audition and that, he ponders the lack of excitement in his life. The lack of purpose. The lack of a man.

Then Beth’s brother moves in.

Freshly imported from Missouri of all places, Cory Williams is a towering hunk of muscles and innocence, and Malcolm is gobsmacked by the sexiness of his new roomie from the start. When infatuation enters the picture, Malcolm knows he’s really in trouble. After all, Cory is straight!

At least, that’s the general consensus.




My rating:





This is the kind of book I expect from John Inman - sweet, funny, with sexy times sprinkled in, about two men falling in love.

Malcolm Fox lives in San Diego with his best friend and roommate, Beth. Both of them are struggling actors who don't have much success in that field, so both have to hold down other jobs to make ends meet. Malcolm has also never been in love, in all of his 26 years, and probably wouldn't know love if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.

Malcolm initially comes across as snarky, shallow, and full of himself, which is even more evident when he addresses the reader directly. I usually don't like that in a book but it worked here for some reason to establish Malcolm's personality as a somewhat neurotic wanna-be actor.

Then Beth drops a bombshell - her brother, Cory, is moving to San Diego, and oh, by the way, here's the landlord with the foldaway bed that will be in Malcolm's room, and oh, by the way, he has a dog and a snake coming with him, and oh, by the way, he'll be here in 5 minutes. Surprise!!

Some friend, huh? Malcolm is freaking out, while Beth isn't very apologetic at all about springing this on him, but then Cory is there, and OMG, he's HAWT, and Malcolm's freak-out starts anew for a different reason.

Cory is super nice and kind, not to mention a really tall glass of water in a barren desert, but, as Beth reminds them, also straight. According to Beth. Poor Malcolm. The object of his arousal, that hot piece of man-meat, isn't gay. But he's nice, oh so nice, and kind, and just the sweetest guy, apologizing for possibly being an imposition, but Malcolm waves it away, and is all, of course you're welcome here, and I'm not scared of your massive dog, and only a little bit of that snake you brought with you, though I'd like the one in your pants, OMG, no, you're straight.

Blog Tour: "Accused" by Leona Windwalker




Please welcome Leona Windwalker with 

Accused 





Blurb:

Matthias Reynolds loves his life. He's starting to make it as a graphic artist at last and has a job he really likes at a local café that pays the bills. When a night out clubbing leads to an awkward morning after, he's embarrassed and more than ready to forget all about it. When Talani Enforcers show up at the café, he doesn't know what to make of it all as he's led away in restraints.

Standing accused of crimes he struggles to understand, he finds he has an unexpected champion: the Talani warrior and war hero J'nah Quislin. J'nah knows that Matty is his. All J'nah has to do is keep Matty safe from those who engineered Matty's charges and sentencing. That, and get Matty to accept that universe always intended them to be together as one. All it requires is for Matty to return J'nah's devotion and offer his willing submission. Can Matty do it, with all that it will mean for his future?


Excerpt:



Matty recoiled. Leave Earth and work an assigned job on some alien space station or planet until I'm too old to be any use?  Maybe I can beat the rap. No, wait, he said 'admit to being careless'. That means that drunk me being careless where I stuck my dick probably makes me guilty under their rules. Shit, shit, shit. Can't be that bad, right? People volunteer to go and the vids of them show them all enjoying the jobs they were matched to while living in exotic locations.


Licking his lips, he blurted out, “I'll accept the plea bargain.”


R'nar inclined his head, tapped something out on his screen, and then gestured for Matty to come forward and climb the dais He extended his data pad to Matty. “Please press your thumb and forefinger on the screen here and here,” he said, quickly flicking between screens. “The first one accepts the terms of the plea bargain. The second one signs the penal service agreement.” One of Matty's captor's came forward to unlock his hands and Matty did as he was told. Once completed, he was cuffed again and led back out to the hallway where they walked to another elevator.


“Where are we going?” Matty asked.


“Transport level,” the Talani to his left answered. “You'll be transported right away and sent on to processing. They'll match you there with your new job. Be useful and responsible and you'll do fine.”


Yeah, sure, okay. Damn, they move fast.


Just how fast became readily apparent. Upon entering the transport level, Matty was surprised to see just how many people there were. People who had accepted work contracts under the “Volunteer” program were busy processing their transit and lining up to enter various chambers at the end of the room. Matty's jaw dropped as he caught a glimpse through the chambers' glass walls of what was happening.


They have beam technology? Holy shit! I'm going to get Scotty'd up through space?


He was pulled firmly towards a desk. His escort and the Talani seated behind the desk conversed in their language. He desperately wished he understood a word they were saying. The Talani behind the desk tapped a built-in screen on the desk and seemed to find whatever he was looking for. He nodded and then turned his attention to Matty. “You are Matthias F. Reynolds, aged twenty-six?”


“Yes,” Matty replied.


“Residence of record is 28 Evergreen Avenue, Apartment B3?”


“Yes.”


“Please read through this screen carefully and verify the information is correct by placing your thumb and forefinger against the glass and pressing so that it reads your prints.”


Geeze, how many times do I have to verify it's me and that I accepted this deal? Still, at least he was able to turn it right way around for me with one tap on that screen, he thought as his escort unbound his hands to allow him to follow the instructions, then re-cuffing him.


“Thank you. Your escort will now take you to where you will be transported to the Clearing House.”


“Clearing House?”

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

ARC Review: Whiskey Business by Avon Gale



Blurb:
Ryder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder’s ultimate goal is to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he's worth the investment.

Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home, in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his tastes.


Dani's rating:




"I'm not trying to seduce you because of dumpster regulations, Adam. I just think you're hot, and I want to bone."

"You don't have to sell me on the idea," said Adam. "I want to . . . But I just . . . hell . . . I'm not fucking in the Ever After Funeral Home. Hard Limit."

Avon Gale is one of the few author who routinely makes me laugh out loud when I'm reading her books. Scoring Chances is one of my favorite M/M series EVER. If you haven't read it, how are we even friends?

Whiskey Business is set in a small Kentucky town called Gallows Grove, founded by bootleggers on hope, lies, and whiskey. The magic's in the water. You can take the whiskey out of Gallows Grove, but then you take Gallows Grove out of the whiskey. Stay with me.

Ryder Waites (named after a deck of Tarot cards because his mother dabbled in readings) doesn't want to sell his recipe for Hanged Man Bourbon, which has been in his family for generations. But he has no choice.

His town desperately needs an infusion of tourists and cash. And Ryder wants to get his town on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (which is a big thing apparently).

What Ryder doesn't need is the uptight Adam Keller, sent by the company who bought Ryder's bourbon business, snooping around.

Adam does things by the book. He's serious and proper. And SEXY, so very, very sexy. Ryder has no qualms about fucking Adam. It's a bit of slutty fun, and Adam is totally wanton when he lets go.

But can their fling last?


Blogtour: Winter Duet by Anne Barwell



Please say hello to Anne Barwell and 

Winter Duet 

Echoes Rising #2




Thanks for hosting me today.


At the beginning of Winter Duet, book 2 of my WWII Echoes Rising series, Kristopher and Michel leave the safety of the convent in Alexanderdorf to head for Switzerland. They are supposed to meet up with the Allied team—Matt, Ken and Liang—who were sent into Germany to retrieve the plans Kristopher now carries.  However, if their journey were straightforward, it would make for a far less interesting story. I had debated having them go around the areas where the Allies were bombing, but then decided it would be more exciting if they were caught at ground zero.


Meantime Matt and his team leave Berlin and take an alternate route to Switzerland.  Neither group can ignore a downed RAF aircraft in the Black Forest, and so decide to look for the pilot.  Naturally they each run into problems of their own, and become separated.  When they regroup it’s not with the person they started with, and there is a new addition to the team—an injured New Zealand pilot, Leo Dawson.


One of the early decisions I made when I was planning the story for Winter Duet was to have characters working together who hadn’t before.  Also, as two of the men I was throwing together had never met, it would add an extra element of suspicion and uncertainty.


With writing an ensemble cast of characters, I try to have more than one storyline although they come together toward the end of the book.  Having all of the characters in the same scene tends to marginalise some of them, and I wanted them to each have a decent amount of ‘book time’.


These men are on the run from the SS during war time and behind enemy lines, so they cannot afford to confirm their true identities to someone they’ve just met.  Then there is the language barrier.  While most of their group speak fluent German, Ken doesn’t. He knows enough to get by but as their original mission was supposed to be a simple in and out retrieval of the plans, he realises his shortcomings could be a problem.


“I know my limitations,” Ken said, “and I’m following most of what you’re saying but not all of it. As long as you don’t speak too quickly I’ll be fine.” He was quiet for a few minutes before continuing. “This was supposed to be a simple mission. We were to go in, get the plans, and get out. I wasn’t expecting to be in Germany for this amount of time. Matt would have handled most of the conversation with the locals. He sounds like one. I know I don’t.”


I’d wanted to play around a bit with those issues in this story, although the men do pick up more of the language they’re lacking the longer they are together. While operatives who were sent into enemy territory as undercover agents were chosen because of their language skills, others—such as Ken who is the radio operator for this team—had different skills. For example a pilot for the RAF didn’t need to speak fluent German, just know enough basic phrases so he could surrender in case he was captured.  And that’s only if his aircraft went down. So...if he meets Michel, who speaks fluent German, but not English, it’s going to be a problem.




About the book:


Winter Duet
Echoes Rising book 2 - Sequel to Shadowboxing


Germany 1944

Hunted for treason and the information Kristopher carries, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house to journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.

While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.

Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.


Excerpt:


After ten minutes he stopped to catch his breath. His intention to walk slowly hadn’t lasted long, and he’d picked up his pace as soon as he’d gotten past the soldier he’d saluted. It had begun snowing again, and he shivered despite feeling warm from the exercise. At this rate he was never going to make it back to the truck in time. If Liang had any sense, he would be there and getting ready to drive back to the safe house while the Germans were preoccupied searching the forest. Finding one RAF crewman would only serve to make them all the more determined to find the other.


The search seemed to be focused back the way he’d come. He’d heard several voices and sounds of movement, but they’d grown quieter the farther north he’d gone. He took a moment to get his bearings. If he stayed on his planned course, there should be another road about half an hour ahead. His stomach rumbled, a reminder that it had been several hours since breakfast. A check of his watch confirmed it was now early afternoon. Getting back to the safe house from here on foot was still an option, although it would take a while. Once he found the road, he’d follow that but keep to the outskirts of the forest.


He caught movement from the corner of his eye, something up ahead in the distance. Matt stopped and focused, then saw it again, a patch of color that didn’t quite fit the mix of brown and white of the forest. He moved quickly but silently, closing the distance between himself and whatever or whoever it was. As much as he was tempted to give it a wide berth, it might be the pilot he was searching for.


Yes, he’d definitely found the pilot. The man was sitting on the ground, his back against a tree. A quick scan sized up the situation. The pilot appeared to be injured; his leg was wrapped in the remains of his flak jacket. He still wore his goggles and flight helmet, and when he moved, he hissed in pain.

Cover Reveal: Hipster Brothel by K.A. Merikan




Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Release Date:  Jan 24, 2017
Heat Level: 3
Pairing: M/M
Length: 50,000 words
Genre/Tags: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, M/M Romance, Hipsters, sex work, friends to lovers, bisexuality, post-break up issues, coming out, first time, alternative lifestyles, lumbersexual bear, commitment


Add to Goodreads



Synopsis





--- The lumberjack of his dreams is now available for rent. ---

Mr. B has always been a safe guy for Jo to crush on. He’s the cutest bearded lumber-god to salivate over. Add to that his friendly, outgoing personality, and Mr. B might just be the first guy Jo would be willing to kiss. Fortunately, Mr. B has been in a relationship for years, and Jo is no home-wrecker.
But when Mr. B breaks up with his partner and all of a sudden is single, available, and talks about his plans to be sexually adventurous, Jo isn’t so sure anymore if he has the guts to come out as bisexual.

After a sour breakup, Mr. B wants to show his ex that he’s independent, exciting, and can do very well without him. His best friend Jo is there to the rescue, and they come up with a great new business venture. One thing they lack to start their own line of artisanal boozy jams - money for the investment.

After a drunken brainstorming session, Mr. B finds a way to both gather the cash and show the middle finger to his ex. He will create a one of a kind Hipster Brothel - The Lumbersexual Experience - offering wood chopping lessons, pipe smoking, and a reclaimed wood bed where the magic would happen. It’s bound to be a success… if only Mr. B can go through with it, because the mixed signals from Jo are making him wonder if his best friend is as straight as he always seemed.


WARNING: Explicit content, strong language. A shameless amount of buzzwords. May cause second-hand embarrassment.







Meet the Author

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Audiobook ARC Review: Patchwork Paradise by Indra Vaughn

Patchwork Paradise
From the blurb:

Oliver and Samuel’s relationship is fairy-tale perfect. They share a gorgeous house in Antwerp, go out with their friends every weekend, and count down the days to their dream wedding. But their happy ending is shattered one late night, and just like that, Ollie is left bereft and alone.

The months that follow are long and dark, but slowly Ollie emerges from his grief. He even braves the waters of online dating, though deep down he doesn’t believe he can find that connection again. He doesn’t think to look for love right in front of him: his bisexual friend Thomas, the gentle giant with a kind heart and sad eyes who’s wanted him all along.

When Thomas suddenly discovers he has a son who needs him, he’s ill prepared. Ollie opens up his house—Sam’s house—and lets them in. Ollie doesn’t know what scares him more: the responsibility of caring for a baby, or the way Thomas is steadily winning his heart. It will take all the courage he has to discover whether or not fairy tales can happen for real.


Heather's rating:




 



Same rating as my original ebook rating on audio reread. Lovely narrator.

This is one seriously good book. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, and really skillfully written, all fans of hurt/comfort and friends-to-lovers stories should give this one a shot.

I see you looking at that cover and I KNOW what you are thinking. And no, this book isn't cheesy or lame in the least. Despite the fact that these two look like they are in a commercial for foot fungus cream and are wearing matching cable-knit sweaters (*groan*), there is a really touching story within.

My only warning for all of you is that if you like your MCs to hook up ONLY with each other over the course of a story, don't try this one. It takes the main characters a long time to get together, and there are many bumps along the road getting to that point.

I read the book first in ebook form, so this was my second time around with this story. Audiobooks are sometimes funny things, and I book that I LOVED in ebook format sometimes has a crappy narrator or doesn't translate well when read aloud, and vice versa. This story was just as lovely the second time, and I was again impressed with Indra Vaughn's abilities as a writer. The audiobook narrator, Craig Beck, did a great job, and I'd listen to him again any day of the week.

Book Review: Tiger Tricks by Edith Scott

Tiger Tricks
Blurb:
Rhett: I’ve fought a lot of fires but this is one blaze I can’t put out.

I rose from my past and became a damn good fireman. They made me the cover model for the calendar, but I’m still not a fit for polite society.

I don’t do commitment. Or responsibility. But then a crazy fan sent me a puppy — a terrified untrained Dalmatian. I was supposed to throw him away?

The gorgeous guy at the shelter wasn’t impressed either. Oscar took my breath away, all dark eyes, glasses and skinny jeans.

He’s way out of my league. No strings? No problem.

But is our burning chemistry is too hot to handle?

Oscar: You know what they say about playing with fire.

I was a social media star until an ugly public breakup drove me to idyllic Amberly. I needed to get away from it all. Live the analog life. Work in the dog shelter. Stay out of relationships.
Then the fireman hunk on my calendar walked into the shelter cradling a Dalmatian puppy in his arms.


Rhett is sexy. Tattooed. Covered in muscles. He’s the player bad boy I definitely should stay away from. So when he answered my ad to rent my guest house, and my history of bad judgment, of course I said yes.

Can I handle a fling without getting burned?


Todd's rating:




Both of the MC's in this book were great guys, but they each came with their own set of substantial baggage.

Rhett grew up in foster care, then was later adopted by an amazing couple at age 14, but he still can't recognize his own self-worth, regardless of what others say, so how could he ever be good enough to deserve love. Instead, he settles for one-off Grindr 'dates,' but never anything more. Ever. EVER. E-V-E-R.

As a popular Internet personality, Oscar may have a million YouTube followers, but he's hiding from past mistakes and most of the world at large after being taken advantage of in his last relationship. How can he allow himself to trust again so quickly?

So neither guy feels that they're either worthy or ready for anything serious, but a friends with benefits situation with the only person who's ever blown your socks clean off? Sure, that they can handle. Or so they tell themselves.

This was an extremely cute story that worked well for me, for the most part. There were places in the story that felt a bit too cutesy, a bit hokey, almost bordering on Hallmark, but overall I got pretty lost in the adorability of it all.

Then we have Tiger, the Dalmatian puppy who gets dropped into Rhett's lap by an adoring group who are fans of his Sexy Firemen calendar.

The story is fairly well paced, with little dragging, but an occasional lurch ahead in the timeline; however, my interest in what would happen next never waned.

As per usual in these "our relationship has an expiration date" stories, we get the requisite separation, but fortunately it didn't last long, with which I was both pleased and relieved.

Release Blitz: Hanukkah Gifts by Jacob Cheyenne


RELEASE BLITZ

Hanukkah Gifts by Jacob Cheyenne



Publisher: JMS Books

Length: 28,000 words

Buy Links: 






Blurb

Twenty-five year old TV producer Jared Greenfield loves his New York City life—his trendy neighborhood, high-profile job, and window-shopping for high fashion on Fifth Avenue—along with a whole city of available men. But even with all the fun of big city life, he feels a longing for something—or someone—more. Going through the motions takes him uptown on December night, where, on the first night of Hanukkah, he spots a handsome, sweaty, player on the basketball court of the Jewish Community Center.
 
Tall, dark, and Orthodox, the young and athletic Shai Goodhart strikes up an easy friendship with Jared, only to discover that Jared has very little appreciation for his own Jewish heritage and religion. Determined to enlighten this “Bad Jew”, Shai invites him over for a family Hanukkah celebration to remember. But Jared’s easy fascination ends when he discovers that Shai has a house full of tangled secrets that threatens their romance before it even begins. Both young men feel they can help one another, but over the eight days of Hanukkah, deeper emotions propel them closer and closer. Can they ever reach across the divide of their shared culture and fall in love?




Monday, December 26, 2016

ARC Review: Whiskey Business by Avon Gale


Blurb:
Ryder Waites will do anything to keep the tiny town of Gallows Grove, Kentucky, from vanishing off the map—even sell his family’s whiskey recipe to Bluegrass Bourbon in Lexington. Hopeful that the larger company can provide necessary improvements to the distillery, Ryder’s ultimate goal is to get Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail… and bring in much-needed tourism revenue. But to keep producing Hanged Man Bourbon in Gallows Grove, he’ll have to convince company liaison, unbearably stuffy and seriously hot Adam Keller, that he's worth the investment.

Adam comes from an old-money family, but he’s determined to make his own way in the world. When he’s sent to Gallows Grove, he questions the life choices that led him to a rented room in a funeral home, in a town full of macabre-themed businesses. And he doesn’t know what to make of Ryder, the descendant of bootleggers who’s on a mission to save his strange town from extinction. When Adam and Ryder put aside their initial mistrust, the results are as smooth as good whiskey. But after Adam’s assignment ends, he’ll have to decide if small-town life and a future with Ryder is to his tastes.

(Part of Dreamspinner Press's "States of Love" Collection for Kentucky)



Jewel's rating:



What a delightful story! I don't think I have ever really been to Kentucky (driving through when I was a kid doesn't count). I don't drink whiskey (I had a bad experience) and I don't watch basketball or horse racing (don't hate me). I tell you what, though, I love the 'enemies to lovers' trope and this story is full of win.

Ryder Waites was named after the Rider-Waite Tarot Card deck. Yeah, his mom was a bit new-agey, and not at all afraid to show her color. His whole family, including his ancestors, were pretty colorful people. Ryder comes from a line of bootleggers who helped found Gallows Grove during the prohibition. Ryder has his own color as well. He loves the town of Gallows Grove and he wants to do everything in his power to help the town, not just survive, but thrive. He aims to put Gallows Grove on the Bourbon Trail to bring in some tourist dollars and revitalize the town he loves so much.

Adam Keller, or Mr. Lexington as Ryder and some others occasionally call him, is a bit … uptight. It's not really his fault, though, he comes from a whole family of super uptight people. Horse people. Important people. So Adam doesn't really know how to let his hair down and relax. Since Gallows Grove isn't presently a tourist destination, they really don't have lodging for short time guests. For Adam's stay, he was put up in a room for rent in the "Ever After Funeral Home", which isn't used used for funerals all that often, but does have a room full of super creepy dolls and several clocks that tick too loudly.

ARC Review: Popcorn Garlands by Ariel Tachna

Popcorn Garlands (2016 Advent Calendar - Bah Humbug)Blurb:

Carlos Mendez spends all year working hard at his Houston-based landscaping business, and he sends every spare penny he earns back to his family in Mexico. By the time the holidays roll around, he doesn’t have much patience for the unadulterated greed and consumerism paraded past him. But a chance meeting with his neighbor, Ned Williams, and Ned’s cancer-stricken daughter, might help to remind him of the real meaning of the season—something beyond the gaudy lights and extravagant displays—something he wants to be a part of.





My rating:





This short story from the 2016 Dreamspinner Press Advent Calendar serves as a reminder that even when things appear bleak, there are still good people out there, who will lend a helping hand. And really, that's what the Holidays are all about, right?

Carlos Mendez owns a landscaping business and sends every extra penny he earns to his family in Mexico. He has a good crew, and he takes care of them as best as he can, which is evident when he spends a day visiting them all to give them their Christmas bonus. His men all like him a lot, which is also evident when they all step in to... well, you should read this for yourself.

Carlos is fed up with the greed and consumerism he sees all around him, noticing how most people spend and spend but care nothing for their fellow humans.

Ned Williams lives in the same apartment building as Carlos, with his daughter who has cancer. He is at wit's end, and at the end of their means, and he doesn't quite know how he'll manage to give his daughter what may be her last Christmas.

A popcorn garland Ned has made with his daughter for decoration bring Carlos to their door. And then the true meaning of Christmas visits them both.

While we don't really see the two men interact a whole lot, and while there are but romantic undertones instead of an actual romance (which makes this book feel to some extent like a prequel, like the author is planning a whole book for them, and is whetting our appetite with this short novella), the characters feel realistic enough. I would like to know more about them, for sure.

Blogtour: Love And Snowball Fights by J.R. Loveless



Please welcome J.R. Loveless with 

Love And Snowball Fights 




Hi, everybody! Happy Holidays! As I make my next to last stop here on my blog tour for Love and Snowball Fights, it’s the day after Christmas and everyone has opened their gifts, the wrapping paper has been cleaned up, and everyone is playing with their new toys, children and adults alike! It’s almost bittersweet the day after Christmas, in my mind. It’s over again for another year. The tree comes down, the lights are turned off for good, and the almost fantastical feeling of the season goes with it. But sometimes that can also lead to great things because it means a new year is starting and new things can happen which Lane discovers in Love and Snowball Fights when what he thought was the end of his connection to Trey and the family he thought he’d never have turned out to only be the beginning.
By now, my mother and I have handed out almost all, if not all, of the treat baskets we give every year. There’s nothing like the warmth you feel as you hand off the box or container to someone and they smile in anticipation of enjoying one of those home baked goods. It’s definitely the highlight of my holiday season. One of the most well known symbols of the season is the candy cane. Each year we do vary our cookies and treats, but we do try to include some of the same. This recipe is quite a fun one to make, especially if you are doing these with your kids.
Candy Cane Cookies
Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp red food coloring
24 pieces round peppermint candy
¼ cup sugar
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioner’s sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg, almond and vanilla extracts, and salt.
  3. Blend flour into mixture a little bit at a time, beat until just combined.
  4. Remove half the dough from the bowl and set aside. Add the red food coloring into the half remaining in the bowl and blend until the coloring is even.
  5. Use a floured teaspoon to measure 1 tsp of each color dough for each cookie. Roll into 4-inch ropes on a lightly floured surface. Place a red and white rope side by side, press together lightly and twist to form a spiral.
  6. Place the twisted rope on an ungreased cookie sheet and curve the topdown to form the handle of the candy cane. Bake until set about 9 minutes.
  7. While the cookies are baking, put the peppermints into a sandwich or storage baggie and crush into small pieces with a rolling pin or spoon. Mix the candy with the remaining sugar.
  8. Place a cooling rack over a shallow pan and immediately remove cookies from cookie sheet onto cooling rack once baked. Sprinkle with candy and sugar mixture.



About the book:


Lane Freeman supposed there were worse places to be dumped than a place named Christmas Valley. After being ejected from the foster care system, he spent the past five years hitchhiking and moving around. But six months of a steady job at Tal’s Bar and Grill, an apartment, and even a three-legged cat, have him almost ready to risk putting down a few roots when Tal’s brother comes home for the holidays.

Dallas firefighter Trey Jenkins reluctantly accepts that Lane isn’t like the other drifters who’ve come through his brother’s place. A fragile attraction begins to bloom between them, in spite of the many reasons they both have to fight it. Trey wants to give Lane a family, but experience has taught Lane to depend on no one but himself. Will winter love burn hot in a town called Christmas Valley, or will Lane return to his wandering ways?



Excerpt:


The next morning, after a restless night of little to no sleep, Lane woke to find the sun already up and Tal and Trey nowhere to be seen. He could hear Mrs. Jenkins in the kitchen and the fire still burning, but another sound also hit his ears: music. Christmas music?


Wait…. The knowledge that the power had been restored hit him full in the chest, and he bit back a sound of distress, then berated himself for being upset. He needed to go home to lick his wounds in private and be reminded of what he didn’t have. Unwrapping himself from the blanket, Lane grabbed the few pieces of his clothing he wasn’t wearing and made for the bathroom.


It didn’t take long for him to wash off, dress, and return to the living room, where he put on his boots, folded the blankets, and set them, with the pillow, on the ottoman before returning War and Peace to the office shelves, the deck of cards forgotten on the coffee table. He would thank Mrs. Jenkins for her hospitality, put on his jackets, and, after picking up Chloe, leave. When he entered the kitchen, Mrs. Jenkins stood at the stove cooking eggs, and Lane’s mouth watered at the smell of coffee. He’d been craving it but hadn’t wanted to ask for it, figuring it would be rude. He rejected the urge to enjoy at least one cup. Once he was back home, he could indulge.


“Good morning, Lane,” she greeted, bright and cheerful.


“Good morning. I see the power is back on.”


“Yep, about thirty minutes ago. I’m surprised you didn’t hear our cheers.”


“I didn’t.”


“Have a seat, sweetheart. Eggs will be finished in just a few moments. We’re going to try and salvage what’s left of our Christmas today by opening presents, and have our missed dinner.”


“If it’s all the same to you, Ellen, I’d like to get Chloe and go home. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. It was awful nice of you to accept me in even though you don’t know me.”


“What? You need to eat breakfast first,” she chided, sliding an omelet onto a plate. “Here,” she said, trying to hand it to him.


“Thank you, but I’m okay, really. I just need my own clothes and stuff.”


She frowned and set the plate on the counter. “You don’t have to rush off.”


“I know, and I thank you for that, but I really just want to get back to my apartment,” he insisted.


“Tal and Trey should be back in any minute. They can take you.”


“It’s not that far. I can walk.” He moved to her side and impulsively gave her a hug. “Thank you,” he mumbled into her shoulder, squeezing with as much strength as he could muster before stepping back.


“You are welcome here any time you’d like, Lane. I really wish you’d wait for one of the boys to take you home.”


Lane gave her a forced smile and shrugged. “I’m happy for the walk. Been doing nothing except sit around for the last several days. Not used to it.”


She followed him to the hallway and watched him pluck Chloe out of the basket at the base of the tree and place her in his hoodie, zipping it up to protect her from the cold. Once he’d pulled his other jacket on, he opened the door, and Mrs. Jenkins pursued him out onto the porch. Lane stopped, noticing the end of the driveway had been cleared again after the plows came through, and how the endless sea of white was broken up by the dark asphalt of the road. They’d cleared it up quick.


He firmed his resolve and went down the steps. “Thank you again for everything.”


“It wasn’t any imposition, Lane. Please come to the New Year’s Eve party, okay?”


“I’ll try,” Lane lied.


He turned his back on her and started walking. His breath crystallized the instant it hit the air and his fingers were already frozen through. He stuffed them into his pockets, seeking the socks he’d worn over them the other day. God, had it only been three days? Why did it seem like a lifetime, then? Lane smiled without humor and kept up a steady pace, shoulders hunched. Chloe shifted inside his hoodie and Lane soothed her, murmuring nothing in particular.


About halfway home, the sound of tires squealing on the wet concrete caused his heart to leap into his throat and his breathing to double. His eyes widened and he jumped backward, his back hitting a snowbank. Then he heard, “Get in the car, Lane,” in that familiar tenor.


Lane managed to get his heart rate under control. “I can walk,” he protested and resumed walking.


The car shot ahead of him by a dozen yards and then Trey was out of the vehicle, stalking up to him. Trey grabbed hold of Lane’s shoulders and shook him lightly. “You are so damn stubborn!”


Frowning, Lane stared at the road. “I don’t want to cause anyone trouble.”


“It’s more trouble for you to leave without saying anything,” Trey growled. “Ma thinks she did something to make you upset! Why… why did you just leave?”
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