Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Review: The Hard Way Home by Z.A. Maxfield

From The Blurb:
Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide. 
Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer. 
In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.

Karen's rating:

I think I'd forgotten how much I enjoy reading Z.A. Maxfield. It's been a long time since I've read a book by this author. So when I stumbled across this one sitting on my e-reader I couldn't resist the temptation.

'Home the Hard Way' is a mystery with a definite romance thrown in and I love this combination. The story is set in a small town called Palladian. Small towns are another weakness of mine. I grew up in the country and lived about 5 miles outside of a small town and have spent much of my life living in small towns and anyone who's ever spent any amount of time in one knows that the expression 'if you can't remember what you did yesterday, just ask your neighbour' had to of been created by someone who lived in a small town. Truer words were never spoken. Palladian personifies that phrase. Everyone is in everyone else's business. There are secrets and lies, deceptions, affairs all the stuff that small town life is made of.

Dare Buckley left Palladian as a teenager shortly after his father committed suicide, but now he's back. For Dare, Palladian has become his last chance at redemption. He messed up big time in Seattle and it seems that in order to fix things he needs to go back to the beginning.

Being back in Palladian means a chance not only to fix his professional life but it's also his opportunity to try and find out what drove his father to commit suicide and it means a seeing Finn Fowler again. Finn was just a young kid with a serious case of hero worship when Dare last saw him. Finn's all grown up now and he doesn't need a knight in shining armor to ride to his rescue...Finn has taken control of his own life...total control.

So where do I begin explaining how much I loved this book...let's start with Dare. Dare was the golden child, Finn worshiped him, he was Finn's friend, his confidant, his protector, in a way his everything but that was then and now Dare and Finn have both grown up. Dare's a bit of a mess, he spends a lot of time seeking comfort and answers in a bottle where they can't be found and he's slowly beginning to realize that the Finn he left behind doesn't exist anymore and he just doesn't know the Finn that he's come back to. Which brings us to Finn. Yep, Finn grew up and it wasn't an easy thing but he learned the hard way that the person who was going to take care of Finn...was Finn and no one else. He's got secrets that he guards tenaciously but most of them aren't his, they just seem to revolve around him.

There was host of secondary characters who added to this small town's character. Each one of them somehow connected to the MCs and each other as is often the case in small towns. People such as Finn's Aunt Lyddie, Bill Fraser who is a story unto himself, Denise, Tony, Trent and so many others.

Blogtour: Test Drive by Riley Hart

Test Drive RDB Banner<





Test Drive Cover

A double shot of devastating news turns Justin Evanson’s life upside down. When he learns his father has cancer, and he has siblings he never knew existed, he leaves everything behind and moves to Virginia to support his dad as he tries to make amends with his family—a family Justin’s not sure he has a place in. Things go from bad to worse when he discovers his recent hookup is his newfound sister’s brother-in-law.
Drew Sinclair never expected to see Justin after their night at the club or to discover their family connection. If anyone found out, it would give Drew’s brother another reason to hate him. But there’s something about Justin that draws him in, and it’s not only because they burn up the sheets together.
One meeting leads to another, and before Justin realizes it, Drew has become the only thing in his world he feels is his. And for the first time in his life, Drew knows what it means to be needed. Being there for Justin and supporting him when things spiral out of control feels right. But with so much happening so quickly, it’s hard to trust their feelings. Is this thing between them real? Or just a test drive before life forces them down two separate roads?

COVER DESIGN: X-Potion Designs


RELEASE DATE: 05.30.16

Test Drive Full Cover



test drive teaser two

Test Drive Promo 03

Justin made his way toward his… brother and Landon gave him a quick nod.
“Is this as weird for you as it is for me?” Landon asked.

Justin exhaled. “Yes. Christ. I didn’t expect it to be.” Which didn’t make sense. Of course it would be strange. They were a mismatched family, celebrating his father’s birthday when the man looked like he would pass out at any second.

“What? How could you not expect this to be uncomfortable? Hell, I’m just Landon’s boyfriend and it’s even awkward for me,” Rod said, and Justin glanced up to see Landon lovingly roll his eyes, before he wrapped an arm around Rod’s shoulders and pulled him close. Rod was smaller than Landon. He wore black eyeliner that made his eyes stand out.

“Please, don’t hold back for us,” Landon replied.

“I wouldn’t think of it,” was Rod’s response, but Justin thought he knew what Rod was doing. He wanted to make Landon laugh, wanted to take the edge off, and he found himself grateful that Landon hadn’t let the fact that Rod found out about Justin and his dad before Landon did come between them. They were a strong couple. You could see the love between them.

The three of them chatted for a few minutes before Rod excused himself for the restroom.

“I should probably go talk to him.” Landon crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. There was no doubt in Justin’s mind whom he was speaking about.

“I know he’d like that. I get that it’s hard, though.”

Landon turned his way. “What do I say? Jesus, it’s really shitty that I don’t know how to talk to my own dad.”

Anger burned through Justin’s insides. He was angry at their dad for putting them all in this situation. How hard would it have been to tell Justin and his mom about Shanen and Landon? To be a father to them, too? He bit back the anger and said, “Hi. Happy Birthday. Anything will do.”

Blogtour: North To Zombieville by Meg Bawden

Please welcome Meg Bawden with 

North To Zombieville 


The year is 2028, and Dallas and Raleigh Jenson are torn apart when a worldwide zombie apocalypse ravages their home of Townsville, Australia. After a year of searching, Dallas, a former Australian army rifleman, finally reunites with Raleigh, but it’s not like old times. Not only do they have zombies to contend with, but also other humans, changed by desperation and willing to do anything to survive.

Dallas and Raleigh have changed too. So much so, that Dallas struggles with the idea that Raleigh no longer needs or wants his protection. But they will need to rely on each other and find strength in their love as they are forced to evade zombies and watch their friends die. As they fight for their lives in a brutal landscape where every supply and every step toward a potential cure is a battle to the death, only their trust in each other can keep them from perishing.


A loud crash and screams from downstairs made them pull away. The diners on the top floor were glancing around worriedly, some of the men showing caution as they stood, but making no move to head downstairs and see what was happening.
Raleigh frowned toward the stairs. “What was that?”
Dallas narrowed his eyes and stood, taking Raleigh with him. The screams were filled with pure fear. It wasn’t just downstairs, though. Distant shrieks echoed through the street as well, but when Dallas glanced over the balcony railing, he couldn’t see anything odd. A crowd had formed on the sidewalk and they were peering around the street in confusion. Glass shattered, and then a rush of people scrambled out of the Strand Delight. One lady fell on top of the glass, her legs dragging over the shards, but whatever scared her was more important than the pain she obviously felt from the glass, because she kicked off her high heels and got to her feet to run again.
Car horns and crunching noises similar to pieces of metal colliding with each other filled the air. A car accident, maybe? But there was more than the sound of one accident. It put Dallas on high alert.
“Raleigh, stay here.” Dallas moved toward the stairs.
“Dallas, I’m coming with you.” Raleigh started to follow him.
“No! I said stay here, and I mean it.” It came out as an angry growl. He hadn’t meant to snap, but if something was going on downstairs, he didn’t want Raleigh in the middle of danger. He had defense training; his husband didn’t. “Please, baby, stay here,” he said, softer than before.
Raleigh hesitated and then nodded. He took a step back toward his seat. Dallas felt eyes on his back as he descended the stairs.
The sight he found nearly made him retreat. Tables were upturned, the glassware and utensils scattered over the floor. Bodies lay on top of each other, blood oozing from holes and torn skin. An older lady’s body was askew in the middle of the room, covering a young boy who couldn’t have been older than ten. His body was twitching, but his neck was in pieces, chunks of meat torn from his jugular. The people left standing were screaming or running toward the exit.
The people who had fallen didn’t look right. Their faces had deep gashes, with blood gushing from their cheeks and down their chins. With some, their mouths drooped on one side, their gums dark and bloody. Their eyes were lifeless, as though they were dead on the inside.
People on the streets ran into the restaurant, pausing as they saw the bodies on the floor start to move and shift as though they were puppets on a string, only missing their master. Upon taking in the scene, they’d run out again.
It all seemed absurd, like a B grade movie that didn’t even make it to the cinemas. Dallas frowned, taking a step up on one of the stairs, farther away from the scene. He stared at one of the women, who rose, her face scratched up badly.
“Ma’am, are you all right?”
She didn’t respond, only groaned in an animalistic way. She started to stumble toward Dallas, her left leg dragging behind her. Her foot was bent backward and she was putting all her weight on her very twisted and broken ankle.
“Ma’am, are you all right?” Dallas repeated, but she ignored him, continuing her walk toward him.
Diners from upstairs came rushing past him, shoving him roughly out of the way.
“No! Don’t go out there!” But it was too late. They weren’t listening to him—fear controlled their every movement.
This had to be a nightmare. It was the night before their anniversary and he was still in bed, he had to be.
He wasn’t watching the lady, and she managed to catch him off guard and shove him to the ground. She slammed herself on top of him, her teeth bared as she dived toward his neck. He raised his elbow, slamming it into her face. She let out a pained squeal and her head jerked back, making her neck crack loudly. But that still didn’t deter her. This time, she went for his arm.
Over the lady’s shoulder, Dallas saw a man clambering out of a door. The man paused, glancing around the room, obviously searching for something. Survivors. Dallas opened his mouth to ask for help at the same time the woman grabbed a piece of wood from a broken table and slammed it against his forehead. Dallas’s head smashed hard against the floor, and his vision flickered for a moment.
By the time he looked again, the man was gone. Dallas would have to deal with the woman on his own. Using all his strength, he shoved at her twitching body, and she went flying backward into a broken chair. She shrieked as Dallas struggled to stand. His legs felt like jelly beneath him.
He stared at her in confusion. How did she keep getting up? It was impossible. But this entire thing was impossible.
Raleigh’s voice. He had to get back to his husband. He spun on his heel, but before he could get anywhere, a hand grabbed his ankle and he fell forward.
“Dallas, where are you?” Raleigh’s voice was on the verge of desperation. “Dal!”
“Raleigh!” Dallas called back, but the sound of a car horn close by drowned it out.
As he opened his mouth to call out again, whatever had grabbed him clawed up his trousers. He twisted and stopped in shock. A man this time, but he looked worse than the lady. He was older, with a receding hairline, but his forehead was peeling and blood was cascading down the side of his head. Only part of his teeth remained in his mouth, and even those were halfway out of his gums. To top it off, he only had half a body. From the waist down, there was nothing but his insides dragging behind him.
“No, no, no. I don’t want to go!” Raleigh’s voice sounded distant among the screams from outside. “He’s alive! No. He’s alive!”
“Raleigh!” Dallas shouted again, but as before, his voice was lost in all the other noise.
Anger and anxiousness welled in his chest, and he let the emotions take over. He kicked at the man holding him, slamming his boot into his face. The man squealed as his skull shattered under the force of Dallas’s kick. His body went limp and he released Dallas.
Rising, Dallas quickly retreated back upstairs to Raleigh and made his way toward the balcony. He paused when he found it empty.
Fear curled in his belly, his skin tingling. “Raleigh?”
He was met with silence.
But still he got no answer. He spun around, surveying the dining room.
“Leigh, where are you?” He looked out toward the street. More and more people ran out of the restaurants along the Strand, and very quickly the streets filled with running, screaming people. He had no fucking idea what was happening.
Dallas ran to the railing, looking over the balcony. It was then that he realized there was a ladder leaning toward the railing. Raleigh must have climbed down it.
Dallas took two steps at a time. His feet hit the ground and he desperately scanned his surroundings. He pulled out his phone and rang Raleigh. It went straight to message bank. He angrily pressed the End Call button.
The scared crowd ignored him for the most part, though a couple shoved him hard as they ran past. Some tried to get into their cars, but with too many people in the streets, they couldn’t go far. A couple of drivers tried to nudge people with their vehicles, but it only had negative effects. Some of the people in the streets were just like the woman in the Strand Delight. Their eyes were dead, their faces and any other exposed skin bloody and scratched.

Monday, May 30, 2016

ARC Review: 24/7 by J.A. Rock

24/7 (The Subs Club, #4)
From the blurb:

We started the Subs Club to make the kink community safer for subs. Except now the others are so busy chasing their happy endings, it’s like they’ve forgotten what Bill did to Hal and the fact that he got away with it. They used to think I was betraying Hal’s memory by hooking up with the owners of the club where he died. Now they don’t seem to care about any of it anymore.

Maybe I am sometimes angry with GK and Kel for giving Bill a second chance, but they’ve been mentoring me for a year now, and whatever else they’ve done, they make me feel incredibly safe. So I want to try something: I want to offer them my complete submission, 24/7. To serve the people who forgave Bill. That’s the way I want to hurt.

Except I’m starting to care about them in a way I never meant to—and I think they feel the same way. But after Hal, I don’t know if I want to be in love again. Because what I really need, more than anything, is to see Bill brought to justice. Even if I have to do it myself. Even if it means losing GK and Kel.


Heather's rating:

24/7 is the fourth book in the Subs Club series, and it is by far my least favorite. This book was very different from the ones before it. It is extremely angsty and serious, without the humor from the previous books. While it fit Gould's character and where his story arc would take him, it was a difficult book for me to read and get through.

A few warnings before I start. This book is a M/F/M story, with the "F" in the middle as the operative word. If you are expecting a relationship where all three partners are equal in their feelings for one another, you would be wrong (more on that later). It also focuses a lot of the grief that Gould is still feeling from Hal's death, including thoughts of self-harm, obsessive thoughts and actions, and many unhealthy behaviors. There is also some pretty heavy humiliation kink, as well as a master-slave relationship.

I could probably talk about this book for a week and not get all my feelings about it on page. I'm a huge fan of J.A. Rock, and this book was another example of how well written and thoughtful her book are. She is a very smart writer, and I could tell that she really examined how she thought Gould's relationship would go with Greg and Kel. There are also tons of interesting themes in this story, including interracial relationships, religion, overweight MCs, and the definitions of sexuality. I admire J.A. Rock greatly for all of that.

I'll start with the discussion of the relationship between Gould and Kel and Greg. Gould is bisexual, a Kinsey five (as he describes himself). However, his primary interest in his relationship with Kel and Greg is with Kel. He wants to worship Kel and be with her, and Greg is more like a friend with benefits that just happens to be long for the ride. Similarly, Greg's interest is in pleasing Kel, and Gould is something like a deep friendship for him.

I found Greg's view of his sexuality to be endlessly interesting. Greg identifies as straight but hetero-flexible. Though he has sex with Gould and kisses him, he still views himself as straight because he isn't attracted to men, as a rule. There is a LARGE discussion on bisexuality and bi-erasure here, before you all jump in, so don't worry on that account. I just happened to find it interesting that Greg says that his self-identifying as straight is simply what he feels most comfortable with. On a personal level, I could really identify with Greg. I consider myself straight, but I could also see becoming intimate with a woman and enjoying it, especially in a charged, erotic BDSM setting. I got Greg's POV, on this topic, totally.

There were also some really interesting discussions on religion and race, as Greg is both Indian and Native American. I really liked when Greg and Gould started discussing all of these issues about BDSM that I've been curious about but never asked.

What I really struggled with in terms of Greg/Kel/Gould's relationship was the fact that all three characters weren't in love with each other, at least not in the romantic way. I have a difficult time with menage books because I find it so hard to believe that three people can make it work between them, even with the issues of inequality and jealousy. Here, it isn't even trying to be a typical menage relationship. It is a really different type of arrangement, one that I've never seen before in romance. Honestly, I didn't find Gould/Kel/Greg's relationship to be very... romantic. It was hard for me to see that these people were anything beyond fondness for one another. It was one of my biggest stumbling blocks with this story.

Although this series has been all M/M up until this point, I personally didn't mind the introduction of a woman. I'm also a M/F reader, so having lady parts be explicitly described didn't bother me in the slightest. Plus, I'll take a book with pegging any day of the week (another of my personal favorite kinks!!).

What I didn't mind, but other people might, is the kink aspect. Humiliation kink and degradation is honestly one of my favorite kinks in BDSM. A good, consensual, verbal humiliation scene is exactly the type of kink I seek out in erotica and romance. I just love it. There is almost nothing in humiliation that is too kinky for me, so I didn't think anything here was very extreme. However, I was worried about Gould because we have an insight to his mind and he is so thoroughly messed up about Hal's death that really none of those scenes should have happened.

ARC Review: Dirty Angel by Barbara Elsborg

Dirty Angel
Dying Sucks

Particularly when you discover there really is a hell. Aden thinks there’s no way he can avoid going down, but when an angel and demon can’t agree over his fate, Aden is given one more month to gain redemption. He doubts he can find a way to become a better man in so short a time. But it’s worth a try, right?

Living sucks

Particularly when you can’t shake free of an obsessive ex. Brody might be managing to hold down his job as a vet, but his personal life is a mess. If he doesn’t pull himself together soon, he’s going to be sliding downhill too fast to stop.

One wet night, on a dark country lane, two worlds collide and destinies change forever.

Jewel's rating:

​When I started Dirty Angel, I wasn't sure I was going to like it. Even though I love this type of story, neither MC was particularly likable​.​ Aden came off as selfish and uncaring of anyone else, and Brody seemed rather ​whiny and ​pathetic - so I was concerned. I needn't have worried, though, I liked them both, soon enough.

The story was such a neat concept -- a young man has died​, unexpectedly,​ and when it comes time for Judgement...things aren't so clear. Should he be Heaven bound? Hell bound? Hmmm...Seems our Aden is a bit of a bad boy...with a dash or two of good thrown in there for good measure. But what you see can sometimes be deceiving. Aden has spent his life - his entire life - just trying to survive. No one else cared about him, so he he did what he had to​ in order to survive​. Coming into adulthood, those learned responses were all he had, so he continued using them​, all the while, not letting himself get too attached to anyone or really even care about anyone​.

Brody is a successful young veterinarian in hiding from an ex (Matt) who does not seem to know the meaning of "no" or "stop". Matt is not a good guy, at all. He began a relationship with Brody when Brody was only 14 -- Matt was one of Brody's teachers. Yeah... ​But Brody has the classic victim mentality where he blames himself for Matt's actions and also believes that ​Matt loves him. And because of Matt's grooming, Brody believes that violent sex is what he deserves, no matter if he wants it or not, so he is on a self destructive path that is bound to put him in hospital​ - or worse -​ if he keeps on.

So, Dirty Angel is not just about Aden realizing he can be better ​and then becoming a better man, but also Brody realizing he deserves better than what he has been given and striving for that better.​ Through the machinations of Raphael and Dante, the Angel and Demon in charge of Aden's fate, Aden​ collides with Brody...or the other way around. And from there, their fates are intertwined.

Blogtour: No Remedy by Christine D'Abo

Please welcome Christine D'Abo and 

No Remedy 


For months, Mace Simms has been seeking an antidote for the poison killing her mentor. Her only hope is Alec Roiten, a brilliant scientist hiding on a backwater planet. Posing as a research assistant, Mace offers the elusive genius all the help she can, ignoring the explosive chemistry between them. Soon they’re close to a cure.

But then Alec’s former love Byron shows up, attempting to claim a bounty on Alec’s head, and all that careful research gets left behind when they’re forced to flee. And when Byron realizes the tip-off about Alec was a ruse by his rivals to lure him out into the open to kill him, the bounty hunt turns into a three-person scramble for survival.

Byron wants his old lover back, Alec is consumed by a haunting secret about the poison he’s desperate to defeat, and Mace is caught between them. But she’s beginning to think that’s exactly where she belongs as the three are drawn together in their race against death.

Publisher's note: This title is an edited second edition, previously published in 2011.

Get the book:

Hello, my name is Christine d’Abo! Thank you so much for having me here on the blog today.
There’s something really enticing about a ménage story. Am I right?? Lots of hot, sweaty bodies all crammed together doing all sorts of things to one another. In the case of No Remedy, that crammed space is both in the cockpit and under the bedsheets.

Mace is on a mission to save her friend and captain, Faolan Wolf. She’s been working closely with Alec, a brilliant scientist who seems to be on the verge of a cure for the disease that’s killing Faolan. But when his ex-lover Byron shows up, Mace realizes that there’s more to Alec than meets the eye.

Byron is dominant in the bedroom and just as pushy outside. While she might put up with it for a few rounds of great sex, there’s no way she’ll let him put Faolan’s life in jeopardy. Too bad the lines get blurred and she starts to fall for both Alec and Byron. But she’s not sure if there’s room enough in their relationship for three.

If you would like to learn more about me, please pay a visit to my website www.christinedabo.com. I’m also very active on Twitter as @Christine_dAbo and have a monthly newsletter. If you’d like to sign up, simply click here to fill out the form.

More about the author:

Blogtour: Shadowboxing by Anne Barwell

Please say hello to Anne Barwell and 


Location Location

Thanks for hosting me today.

Shadowboxing, the first book in my WWII series Echoes Rising, is set in Berlin, Germany, in 1943.  That meant that I not only had to research what was happening at the time, but also be as accurate as I could in portraying the setting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to travel to Berlin and explore it that way, although it would have been lovely if I could have! So, I did the next best thing and researched the area using the resources available to me. However, that did come with another complication as the story is not set in present day but in 1943.  For example one part of the story is set in a park, so I had to find one in the area where the characters are. Voila, a Google search supplied the perfect place. But further reading revealed that it wasn’t there in 1943 and in fact there had been a railway station on the site then. So it was back to the drawing board to find somewhere suitable...

Many of the other locations used in the story are also real places, and I used them to anchor the setting. The Michaelskirche—St Michael’s Church—in Berlin where Michel meets the Allied team was still intact in 1943, although it was damaged later in the war.  The Klosterkirche, a nunnery on the site of another church, where Michel and Kristopher take refuge, is also a real place, as is St Gertrud’s convent in Alexanderdorf.  I was able to draw on photos for those places to describe them as well, which was very helpful.  Other landmarks included the Brandenburg Tor and the Spree River.

Some of the other settings were not real but I studied maps in order to place them in actual locations, so I could work out what route the characters had to take to reach them. I also used Google map directions to figure out long it would take to get between two locations, although I had to make some adjustments, given the time period. Cars didn’t travel as fast seventy years ago and this story is set during a war. Google street view was also useful too although I had to again keep in mind the time difference.

I also based my fictional locations on real places so they would sound authentic. It’s the details that throw a reader out of a story, although it’s impossible to get everything right, and sometimes a writer has to take some liberties for the sake of a good story.

Working in a library is great when doing research. I found books of street maps of the area—because sometimes you want something in hardcopy and not flipping back and forth on browser tabs—and firsthand accounts of people who had been in Berlin at that time. Data bases were very helpful, especially the Times Digital Archive, as they gave more of an insight into what it was like living there at the time. Travel books like The Lonely Planet Guides were useful too, but again had to be adjusted because they focused on what Berlin is like now, rather than describing the city in 1943.

I’d especially like to thank one of my beta readers, and her husband, for all their help. Being from Germany they had insights that I didn’t as someone who had never been there.  It was the simple things that were difficult to find the details about. For example I needed to know about telephone jacks in Germany at the time. How exactly were they attached to the wall etc? There is a lot of information about the US online and in books, but trying to find something about Germany? Frustrating. Luckily they were able to ask family and we found the answers we were looking for. The devil is in the details, as the saying goes.


Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.

For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.


“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’m just not used to all this exercise.” Kristopher smiled sheepishly. “I’ve spent the last few years sitting behind a desk. I’ll be all right in a moment once I’ve caught my breath.” He rubbed absently at his left shoulder, not quite hiding the sharp intake of breath, and bit his upper lip. “The ground is harder than it looks.”

“Do you want me to look at that shoulder for you?”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

ARC Review: Beta Test by Annabeth Albert

Beta Test (#gaymers, #2)
From the blurb:

Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he's just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn't really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.

Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi's shocked to see Tristan's sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He's less shocked to learn his handsome colleague's prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn't struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they've even begun?

Heather's rating:

I really, really love Annabeth Albert, and I'm SO pleased with her newest story in the fab #gaymers series. This is another great story for those of us who LOVE geeks, opposites attract, and slow-burn romance.

Where Tristan is quiet, obsessively organized, and introverted, Ravi craves people and energy. Ravi is a big explosion of life and brightness, and Tristan is a harder nut to crack. I was curious as to how Annabeth Albert was going to bring these two guys together, but she did in a glorious, sexy, intimate way.

ARC Review: Beta Test (#gaymers #2) by Annabeth Albert

Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game. He’s a top video game developer and he just got asked to present a top-secret project at a huge gaming conference in Seattle. All systems are a go…until he learns his office nemesis is coming along for the ride. Player vs. Player. Fight!

Newly minted MBA Tristan Jones doesn’t seem like the gaming type but he knows the business inside-out. Together, they’ll give an awesome presentation – they just have to survive the cross-country trip. Ravi’s opinion of Tristan is rebooted when he discovers a softer side to the conservative charmer and a new tension builds between them.

Despite their best efforts to keep it casual, things heat up quickly. Tristan is hiding his true self for fear of what his parents might think. Ravi knows that feeling all too well, but he didn’t disconnect from his family years ago only to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan has to push past his fear and ultimately decide, does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over?

Dani's rating:

Ravi is color and charm. He has a million friends and can draw anything. Even his doodles are art.

So what if his traditional Hindu mom and grandma pretend he's not gay a decade after he came out? He lives life on his own terms. And if Ravi can't bear to be alone, well, no one has to know.

Years after his older brother's death, Tristan still lives his life to please his conservative parents. (His one rebellion is taking his Stanford MBA and "wasting" it working on video games.) He prefers folders to people and eats lunch at his desk alone. It's easier that way.

Tristan sure loves his color-coded spreadsheets, but his life is grey.

When Ravi and Tristan are forced into a work-related road trip, neither is thrilled. Tristan is prepared for every catastrophe. Ravi just wants to drink coffee and listen to music. Thankfully, they both like 80s pop.

Ravi, feeling guilty for accidentally outing Tristan, vows to tone down the snark. He isn't prepared to see a softer side of Tristan. And when Tristan stands up for him in a town called Weed and takes charge at the gaymers' convention, Ravi knows he's screwed.

Beta Test is about two very different men, seemingly all wrong for each other, finding something real and right.

For all of Tristan's perfectly structured life, he wants all the dirty with Ravi. Tristan doesn't think he's good at sex (his ex did quite a number on his self-esteem), but Ravi sets out to prove him wrong. Ravi has no problem issuing commands, and Tristan is so eager to please.

The sexy scenes in this book are tender, sensual, and so very, very hot. Ravi and Tristan have an intense emotional and sexual connection, and there's a sense of wonder and exploration in every kiss, every touch.

This story is low on the angst. There is some family drama, but it's fairly low key and the men navigate it together. Communication, people. It's all about the communication. And these two are pretty damn good at it.

Book Review: A Dangerous Game by Rick R. Reed

From The Blurb:
Sex can be a dangerous business. So can love.  
On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love.  
But appearances are not always what they seem.  
His savior owns the escort agency À Louer, and he wants the young and handsome Wren as part of his stable of men-for-hire. Down on his luck, Wren figures, why not? He needs the money. When he joins, though, he doesn’t count on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he falls hopelessly in love. 
But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but À Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets. 
1st Edition published as Rent by ManLove Romance Press, 2012.

Karen's rating:

I don't remember the last time that I read a book with an MC that I just didn't warm up to at all. I tried but nope, at the end of the day Wren was just not my cuppa'. Which made for one big, unfixable disconnect when it came to this story.

I liked the premise of the story a lot! it held a strong appeal for me. It was the reason that I wanted to read this one, well that and I've read 3 other books by this author and enjoyed them all. I read his book Orientation years ago and while I gave it 3 stars the same as this one, I'd honestly have to say that I liked it better and the other 2 books that I've read were definitely 4 star reads for me. Sadly my feelings about this story became very jaded by my feelings about Wren so while the story should have been at least a 4 star read for me. Wren at best got 2.5 stars and because of how central he is to this book the best I could bring myself to do was bump it up to 3 stars.

No matter how much I love a story in order for me to really enjoy it, I need to love at least one or two of the characters, and that just wasn't happening this time around. Not only did I not like Wren but at best Rufus, our other MC, was only ever okay for me. I have to give Wren's mother credit. While she may not have been the perfect mother, she seemed to try really hard to do the best she could for Wren, and she definitely loved him. However, her actions at times also told me where Wren probably got his occasionally poor judgement skills.

Sadly I knew as early as 23% - when I posted a status update that indicated that I really needed Wren to stop whining - that this wasn't going to go as well for me as I had anticipated. I'm not sure that other readers of this book would agree with me that Wren was whiny, but that's okay, my review is my opinion, and to me Wren was whiny and a little bit self involved.

Spotlight: Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace! by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Today we shine the spotlight on Claire Davis and Al Stewart and their new book 

Shut Your Face, Anthony Pace! 


When Charlie was eight years old, his mum bought him a microscope for his birthday. Since then, he's known how he wants to spend his life. There have been trials, and challenges, but now - finally - the day is here for him to start college with his lifelong friend Anthony Pace.

Anthony is a red-haired force of nature. He writes poetry about their enemies and eagerly participates in all Charlie's science experiments without understanding a word. Every morning, he waits at the end of their street so they can get the bus together.

But things are changing.

Families are important, and complex. Charlie's mum hasn't been well, and his relationship with Anthony begins to shine like a different star in the sky.

Can everything come together in this explosion of physics and chemicals that Charlie calls life? Will Anthony Pace ever share his poems with the world, and can the Chihuahua, Princess Arabella, ever learn to stop licking?

WARNING: includes moderately explicit scenes of intimacy between consenting young adult males.

Get the book:

Meet the authors:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Audiobook ARC Review: As You Are by Ethan Day

As You Are
From the blurb:

Operation Danny...

That's all bartender and recent college graduate, Julian Hallowell has had on his mind for the past year. Julian may have no idea what he wants to do with his life, but he definitely knows he's in love with the boy next door: the one in the next room to be exact, his roommate, Danny Wallace.

Danny owns a used textbook store just off campus, and while Julian has done his level best to make Danny fall for him, all his hard work appears to have been in vain. Danny doesn't seem to view Julian as anything other than that--a roommate and friend. So when new guy in town Andy Baker asks him out on a date, Julian can't think of a good reason to say no.

Julian has already instituted a Reverse Operation Danny plan, which he's positive will purge all thoughts of love and lust for his roomie out of his head. He's ready to move on and start looking for his next Mr. Right, and Andy just might fit the bill.

Heather's rating:

I always dislike re-reading a book in audio format because if I loved a book the first time, a bad narration can kill the memory of a good story for me. However, with As You Are, I didn't adore the book the first time around (in 2014), and I've been waiting for a chance to try Jason Frazier's narrations, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

First of all, let me say that Jason Frazier did NOT let me down. He was seriously awesome as a narrator, doing a huge range of voices and really showing off his acting chops. He made the story bearable for me because I had a lot more issues with the actual story this time around. My favorite thing about Jason's voice was how SEXY it was! Seriously sexy. Audiobooks in general seem to lack voices that actually sound as hot as the plot, but Jason just saying "Julie" in that deep, sultry tone of his was divine. That man has some serious skills or maybe he was just blessed with that voice. Either way, I'll be listening to more from Jason Frazier in the future, guaranteed.

It is interesting, however, what you are drawn to when listening to a book versus reading it. I couldn't believe how often these characters smoked in this book. It was like every single scene! This is going to be a HIGHLY subjective statement, but I found all of those chain smoking scenes to be total turn-offs. I'm a dentist, and I have grown to really dislike smoking, so much so that I can barely hide it from my face when I'm around someone who smokes. The constant smoking from Julian was something that made my face cringe up every single time.

I also had a problem with how dated this book felt. Like very, very dated. I'm 31 years old, and a lot of of the references in this book went right over my head. The MC is supposed to be younger than me, but some of the stuff he mentions is just way too dated, even considering that this book was originally published 7 years ago. I'm talking pop culture references, not the love of old movies, which stands the test of time.

Aside from those issues and the fact that this book is ALL about miscommunications, I was also charmed by this story. I liked how Julian was a sort of judgemental, neurotic, self-centered bitch (in an adorable way), and both mentally slutty and hopelessly romantic. I also liked Danny, and I wondered why I was so hard on him the first time around. I got Danny more on re-read, that's for sure. I looooved Julian's mom and Gabby. Those two were some of the best female characters in M/M that I've read in some time.

ARC Review: WANT by Kade Boehme

D is over the games.

Dante "D" Vargas is home in Miami, to stay. He has a job he likes as the new head of bonds and bounty for Mack's Security and after six years of making a mess with Trevor Mackentire, he's ready—he thinks they're both ready—for them to stop playing around and figure out if what they have is real. But Trevor is his boss's son and his best friend's younger brother so it's not as easy as taking what he wants.

Especially when he also has to convince Trevor he's over being afraid of his feelings and not everything is what it seems.

Trevor wants the D(ante).

Finally healthy and whole again after the effects of a major car accident, Trevor's tired of being treated like a child by everyone he loves. He's been handling his own for a long time. But he's lonely. Trevor knows he shouldn't keep setting himself up to be hurt by D's hot-and-cold routine, but he's care for the man for what feels like forever, and lusted for him even longer.

Yeah, they set each other on fire, but old fears, old wounds, and being stuck in a game of push and pull makes it feel impossible to get it together. Maybe they should just leave well enough alone.

It'd be easier if every meeting, every taste didn't leave them wanting more.

Todd's rating:

If you're looking for a sexy, dirty read, with a decent number of feels, then Kade's latest novella, "WANT," might just be right up your alley, as it was mine.

At 25, Trevor may be tall and built like a brick shithouse, but he's still the baby of the family, which his brother and father don't ever let him forget. Plus, he never wanted to join the military and their family security business, so he's seen as a bit of a disappointment and not taken seriously.

But Dante, aka "D," Trevor's big brother's best friend, has always taken Trevor seriously. And at 32, he's finally sick of wasting the last decade not truly having what he wants. Needs. Which is Trevor.

As the story begins, D has just moved back to Miami, after a year-long body guarding assignment in Boston, and is dead set on finally telling Trevor that he wants them to be an "us," consequences be damned.

Most of the drama in the story surrounds several facts to which Trevor is not privy, so there's some running away, hiding and unintended hurt feelings -- until he's brought up to speed.

Then once Trevor and D are on the same page, the story proceeds fairly smoothly, even including a nice epilogue, which cements a solid HEA for the guys.

Both Trevor and D are pretty stoic, but extremely likeable MC's and I do feel their on-page connection and their chemistry is blazingly off the charts. And these 2 leave no surface 'unconsummated,' whew.

One of the hottest aspects of the story for me is when Trevor wrenches control from D and has his wicked way with the man, whether he likes it or not. But he loves it. Loves. It. ;- )

I could use a few more pages of details surrounding Trevor's life-threatening crash and subsequent recovery. Plus, specifics on brother Evan's injury in Afghanistan are pretty light, too, but not annoyingly so.

ARC Review: The Bridge by Rachel Lou

From The Blurb:
Everett Hallman might not be the world’s most powerful witch, but he does his part by helping wayward souls find their way to the beyond. Then a feeling Everett can’t explain lures him away from the magical woods near his house, to a local martial arts school. There, he is intrigued when he uncovers remains left by supernatural beings of enormous power, and he cannot resist looking into the mystery.   
 Everett learns he is a Bridge Master: a witch capable of passing into different spirit realms, but his revelation comes with a new set of problems. First, the powerful witch instructing him disappears, and then he notices something strange about his attractive new friend from the martial arts studio. Worst of all, Everett’s reserves of spell-casting energy continue to deplete. Only one thing is certain—Everett cannot turn his back on this puzzle until he gets some answers.

Karen's rating:

If you think being a regular teenager is hard then you should try being Everett Hallman. Everett's a witch and not just any witch he's a Bridge Master, he has the ability to help the dead crossover from the land of the living to their afterlife and in spite of the fact that his powers don't seem very strong they're unique and more than one person is interested in his powers and maybe even just in him. Things are starting to get a little strange in Everett's life. Weird things are happening with his powers and then there's Bryce, the cute guy at the marshal arts studio whom Everett likes and who seems to like him back. Now if he could just figure out what's up with him and the weird things that are going on around town.

'The Bridge' is first time author, Rachel Lou's entry into the world of young adult fiction and to say the least it's a pretty impressive offering for a first novel. While I'm not new to the world of YA. It's admittedly not my usual playground, but this book captured my attention with it's unique twist on the paranormal.

Everett is quiet introverted young man, who's more comfortable with books than people and Bryce is a happy extrovert who seems to have an abundance of self confidence and a definite interest in Everett. I enjoyed both of these characters and was impressed with how much their reactions mirrored those of an average teenager especially when interacting with each other. I liked the slow but steady way that their relationship progressed with both of them exhibiting bits of insecurity and nervousness at different times throughout the story.

Everett's struggle to exert his independence while still maintaining his relationship with his grandfather (whom he lives with and something that we learn about in the first few pages of the story) was a constant challenge for him and something that as teenagers most of us are able to relate to at one time or another. At the same time Bryce has his own very different family challenges to face and both of these young men have things they are keeping from each other. Things that will need to be shared if they are to have the relationship that they both seem to want.

The connection between the personal relationship that Everett and Bryce are trying to develop and the paranormal events of this story are very strongly connected and the balance that the author maintained between them was impressive.

ARC Review: Lord Heliodor's Retirement by Amy Rae Durreson

Lord Heliodor's RetirementFrom the blurb:

Unlikely hero Lord Adem Heliodor saved his queen’s life during the Screaming, a magical attack on his city, but his broken nerves have forced him into an unwanted early retirement to his country estate. Adem thinks his life is over, but retirement holds some surprises. First, there’s his new librarian, who turns out to be not just the first love he thought was dead, but also someone surprisingly knowledgeable about political intrigue. Then there’s the assassin in the orchard and the discovery that the Screaming was just the first attack on the city.

Heather's rating:

First of all, I'm SOOOO happy to finally read a story with MCs in their 50s that isn't an established couple story! You go, Amy Rae Durreson! I really liked that we got to see some more mature guys get their HEA.

I'm not a huge fantasy reader nor am I a fan of romantic suspense, but I was intrigued by the premise of this story. I'm not super brave when it comes to stepping outside my comfort zone, but I'm glad I tried this one. The story was quick, sweet, and steam-free (that last part... not my favorite thing), and I read it easily in one sitting. However, I think that the author tried to do a bit too much in too short a time period.

Even with second chance love stories, I like there to be a lot of build-up and relationship development. While we did get some here, I really needed more to fully get behind the two MCs as a couple. They were good together, but they felt very companion-like, rather then passionate. I think I wanted more romance and sexual tension than what we got.

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