The Perfect Mistake by Vicktor Alexander

19231934Title: The Perfect Mistake

Series:   Mistakes

Author: Vicktor Alexander

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novella (49 pages)

Publisher: Totally Bound (January 3rd, 2014)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Stumbling into Xavier’s cabin in the middle of a snowstorm is the perfect mistake Russell’s life needs. 

Russell Heter takes his best friend Keith up on his offer to take a much-needed vacation up in the mountains of Wyoming. Having just obtained his degree in Child Psychology, Russell is due some rest and a big graduation present. After buying an SUV much too big for his small frame, Russell heads off to the mountains, only to have his new vehicle break down in the blinding snow. Trekking through the snow to the cabin, Russell collapses inside and finds himself staring down the barrel of a shotgun, held by Xavier Edmond. 

Xavier is the former mayor of Atlanta, released amid controversy when pictures were released of him having an affair…with another man. Xavier escaped to Wyoming in shame. He’s become bitter and closed off, spending his days missing his children and his nights wishing for someone to love. So when the snow prevents Russell from leaving his cabin, Xavier finds himself wondering if Russell might just be the man, he’s been waiting for.

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Review: There are a chock load of mistakes in this book.  Russell makes a mistake by buying too much car.  Xavier makes a series of mistakes in denying his sexuality, getting involved with the wrong man and then cheating on his wife.  Those are all basic mistakes.  But the perfect mistake is actually how Russell ends up in the wrong cabin with Xavier and these two men who have no way to logically make a future together realize that what they share trapped in the snow might be a route to happiness.

Xavier is a man tortured by his past and the mistakes he’s made so he’s retreated to the wilderness to lick his wounds and hide from the world. He is ashamed of who he is and what he’s done. Russell is a man just starting out in life and while he can see Xavier’s mistakes, he doesn’t judge the man for it. Instead, whenever he can help he does and that makes him a valuable part of what might begin Xavier’s healing process.

The reader cannot quite see the path that Xavier and Russell will travel, but that does not seem to be the author’s aim. The story ends with a plethora of possibilities that the men could explore which would mimic real life; and, as such, the ending makes the story even that more intriguing as the reader wonders… “Well, what now?” Even with its cliffhanger ending, the story does not disappoint. Good read.

Chantilly Lace by E.M. Woods

81o7UKUQwBL._SL1500_Title: Chantilly Lace

Series:   N/A

Author: EM Woods

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Short (46 pages)

Publisher: Totally Bound (January 2nd, 2014)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  When appearances aren’t everything… 

Shea Laporte is a twenty-four year-old professional twink. He gets his way with a bat of his eyelashes and a swish of his hips. Coffee bars, nightclubs, and late, lazy mornings in bed are routine for him. He’s never regretted being who he is—after all, his lovers know what they’re signing up for—but he’s keeping a secret. One he’s more than happy to keep to himself until he meets Murdock ‘Murk’ Rouse, the new tenant in his apartment building. 

Murk has been watching Shea flounce in and out of their shared complex for months. At first glance, he thought Shea was nothing better than the whores down on Eight Mile, but after one brief run-in with the spunky blond, he knows all Shea needs is a firm hand and a man who sees him for everything he is—smart, kinky and sexy as hell.

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Review: Murk has been watching Shea for some time and decides to make his move. Just like the operative he is, he picks the time to strike and always makes sure that his opponent will not get the upper hand.  Shea, however despite appearing to take on the trappings of a high-class long-term rent boy is a very deep and complex character with much to offer a partner who’s willing to take the time to get to really know him.

Murk has the time and Shea develops the inclination to want to be only Murk’s. As they explore what they both feel, Shea is able to be more himself with Murk that anyone else and can finally find his forever someone instead of his ‘let’s get together for six months’ someone. 

Murk and Shea are both very complex and intense characters and that shows well even in the short story. The weaving of their tale is done well and does not feel rushed despite the brevity of the book. The reader does feel that they both know and understand what motivates both Murk and Shea – the odd pairing makes perfect sense.  Often short stories that focus on such intense characters fall flat, but this one holds its own very well even without the epilogue which simply serves to tie a neat bow on the characters and ensure a happy ending for the readers.

Murk and Shea are interesting and colourful and their coming together is hot and consuming. Well worth the short read.

Rush Around the Clock by Silvia Violet

19307919Title: Rush Around the Clock

Series:   N/A

Author: Silvia Violet

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Short (46 pages)

Publisher: Totally Bound (January 3rd, 2014)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb: Finn McMurphy convinces himself his spoiled dogs are all the company he needs. Then he meets Crawford, his sexy new neighbor, and everything changes. 

Patient soul Finn McMurphy teaches music and drama to middle schoolers. By the time he’s finished with after-school rehearsals and the private lessons he teaches to make ends meet, he’s too exhausted to think about dating or even hanging out with friends. He’s resigned to life with his music, his students, and his ludicrously spoiled Yorkies. 

Then he meets Crawford Bixby. Crawford may be the most perfect man Finn has ever met—kind, good with kids, gorgeous, and completely unconcerned with Finn’s lack of ability to be coherent around him. Finn falls hard for him, but he’s terrified of what he feels. Will he be able to step out of the controlled world he’s created for himself and take a chance on love, or will he keep making excuses—rehearsals, papers to grade, dogs to walk—and push Crawford away?

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Review: What happens when a man living with guilt and afraid to break free of the chains holding him to the past meets his future?  Finn and Crawford make a great couple, if Finn would allow himself to let go of his guilt and go after what he really wants without fear that the entire world he’s constructed for himself will suddenly implode.  Instead, what he does is lives in his cocoon even when life hands him everything he wants on a platter.  It will take a good patient man to wait for Finn and Crawford is that man.  So Crawford waits and Finn finally gets a clue and amidst singing demonic lap dogs and children performing show tunes – one man finds his way out of the unnecessary maze he lives in, and into the sunlight.

Finn is delightfully uptight and Crawford is steadfast and solid.  The reader will love both men even when Finn is acting like an ass and creating issues where none should be.  The two men find each other and the reader is happy.  A heart-warming short read.

Kai for Christmas by E.T. Malinowski

19541884Title: Kai for Christmas

Series:   N/A

Author: E. T. Malinowski

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novella (56 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (January 15th, 2014)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Kai O’Donnell hates Christmas. It’s not the blaring commercialism or the too-perky people. Being an interior designer, Kai can handle most people. But during Christmas, he has to deal with a man who gets under his skin like no other: Cade. Handsome—hand-me-a-towel-because-I’m-drooling-sexy—sarcastic Cade. 

Cade Randall has been in love with Kai O’Donnell since setting eyes on the auburn-haired Native American. Falling back on his teenage habits, Cade picks on Kai every time they’re together. He wants Kai under his Christmas tree in nothing but a big red bow, his to keep forever, but Cade’s shenanigans may ruin something beautiful in the making.

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Review: Kai is a man with secrets from his family.  Afraid to disappoint, he has lived a lie for years.  Cade is a man who is running from a family who has disappointed him and runs into Kai whose secrets will probably keep them apart.  Fearing more rejection, Cade resorts to middle school antics to keep his feelings for Kai at bay.  Being in close quarters does not help the natural animosity between Kai and Cade. Instead, it will take a night of explosive sex to bring Cade and Kai’s relationship to an emotional head (so to speak)!

Once Kai is forced to confront his feelings for both Cade and his family, he will find that being true to himself will free him from his own fear and allow him to find his happiness with the one person he never thought would be in his corner or there for him.

This is a standard coming out tale with a twist of middle school antics thrown in.  Watching Kai and Cade interact as the story climaxes is well worth their angst.  Their characters are both sympathetic and the secondary characters within Kai’s family add a great foil to these two men as they find each other.

Readers will thoroughly enjoy.

Isherwood by Missy Welsh

18746558Title: Isherwood

Series:   N/A

Author: Missy Welsh

Genre: Paranormal

Length:  Novel (212 pages)

Publisher: Amber Allure (November 3rd, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Two years ago, the small Southern Ohio town of Isherwood seemed to change overnight. Businesses were abandoned or sold and townsfolk just up and moved away. Now, those who were left behind are trying to keep their lives afloat on the hope that things will improve someday.

Finn Webb is one of those people. His construction and remodeling company he runs with his sister is one of the largest employers left in town. He’s felt his world teetering on the edge of failure for so long, that saving an injured dog is a bright spark of life he’s happy to hold onto.

Cas Maine has come to Isherwood because that’s where the road led. He’s tired, hungry, and desperate for the acceptance and safety he once had in his birth pack. But crossing into town sees him shifting into his wolf form and unable to shift back. Then he’s hit by a car only to be rescued by his one true mate.

What follows is a series of events where a job outside of town lets Cas and Finn grow closer while also leading to the uncovering of numerous secrets held by several inhabitants of Isherwood. Everyone has a stake in this. And the stakes are high…

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Review: Many m/m paranormal stories focus so heavily on the “mate/insta-love/attraction” that they often forget the meat of a good story to go along with the heat.  This story effectively blends several themes including a good love story with heat, while also employing good storytelling.  The author does a superb job of weaving the various mysteries together while not forgoing the heat of a paranormal romance. There are several plotlines interwoven that the reader can suss out, involving the politics of weres and some non-traditional were elements are added that make the story stand out among the multitude of paranormal romances out there.  The suspense element of the mystery in the book is paced steadily throughout the story allowing the reader to go on the ride to see if what they ‘think’ will happen is actually what happens.  The reader will not be surprised or shocked by the turn of events, since the author gives enough hints and cues along the way.  But the reader does enjoy the ride that the author takes them on until the inevitable unfolding story’s climax.

The characters of Cas and Finn are three-dimensional and clearly defined. The addition of seeing Cas as a fully developed character in both forms (human and were) was a nice addition to the story.  Additionally, the secondary characters create an ensemble cast who do the work of moving the story forward thus keeping the reader engaged as all the various stories begin to intertwine and then eventually unravel until the reader is satisfied with the outcome as the Cas and Finn’s find their HEA.

For anyone who enjoys a good paranormal romance, this will definitely be a good addition to the reading roster.



On God's Honor by D.C. Juris

71sQblr8wlL._SL1425_Title:   On God’s Honor

Series: N/A

Author: DC Juris

Genre: Contemporary/Fantasy

Length: Novella (35 pages)

Publisher: MLR Press (December 23rd, 2013)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  What’s an angel to do when having the one person he’s ever wanted means giving up his wings for eternity? 

Ekenezer has been sent down to Earth for one last mission — to guard hapless klutz Nathan Bradley. He doesn’t know why Nathan is important, only that God has ordained he be watched over. As his “cover”, Ekenezer takes a position as Nathan’s boss, but soon discovers that he harbors more than simply protective feelings for Nathan. Ekenezer has never been attracted to anyone before, never felt lust, and certainly not for another man! But Nathan is a force that Ekenezer simply can’t resist. What’s an angel to do, though, when having the one person he’s ever wanted means giving up his wings for eternity?

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Review: This is a quick, short read, which is quite enjoyable because of the fun it pokes at the religious extremists.  The notion of one of God’s heavenly chosen falling in love with a mere mortal -and a man at that should be enough to have all the fundamentalists up in arms.  The theme of the book, however, is quite simply that God knows and loves all of humanity, his creations, regardless of whom they love; and, that he considers each of them worthy of special attention, even the gay man who’s yet to discover the ‘important’ thing he has to do in his life.  The entire story is about learning self-acceptance, how to love, and ultimately that love is the most important thing.  The book references religion without getting preachy and allows the reader, regardless of their faith, to embrace the notion of a higher power and ‘its’ power over humanity.

This is Ekenezer’s story and about his struggle with his feelings and his realization that he’s going to choose to love Nathan regardless of the consequences.  That notion of self-sacrificing love is the key element in the story.  It’s a short, sweet read that will leave you with a smile.

To sum this up – God is love!

Sex & Sourdough by A.J. Thomas

18841858Title: Sex and Sourdough

Series:   NA

Author: A J Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (266 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 13th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Anders Blankenship never intended to hike the Appalachian Trail alone, but when his boyfriend cancels, Anders steels his courage, leaving the abusive relationship to tackle the long-distance hike. Though a hiking virgin, he’s glad he made the decision when he receives threatening messages from his ex. Luckily, Kevin, an experienced backpacker, takes him under his wing. 

Kevin Winters isn’t looking for a hiking partner, let alone a fling with a cute man on the rebound. After learning he has the autoimmune disorder that killed his father, Kevin left his family to wander remote trails. Convinced his future holds only pain and death, Kevin refuses to get close to anyone. The family sourdough recipes he recreates over a campfire are his only solace. 

In the wilderness, Anders and Kevin discover a lot of common ground. While the future holds uncertainties they may not be ready to deal with, it might also hold the chance for happiness.

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Review: So let’s start the story with two broken men from totally different backgrounds who begin a journey and after four months find themselves both totally changed.  The story is a case study in the m/m romance genre of broken men who must dig within themselves to find their own strength if they are going to be able to even embark upon a relationship.  Anders must exit an abusive relationship, rebuild his confidence and determine what to do with his life. Kevin must deal with the tragic loss of his father, his youth and the onset of a life-threatening disease.  There is absolutely no reason for either of these men to bond and find anything in common with each other.

What instead happens is these men become each other’s ying and yang playing off their individual strengths and weaknesses and thus forming a rather firm bond.  They will be separated and events will become tragic and melodramatic, but they will find each other and both learn to grow from their pain and experiences into a strong partnership.  Anders will find a man who really understands and values all that he is; and Kevin will find a man who is not afraid of his illness and who does not see him as any less than a strong man.

The book explores a multitude of themes:  Living life to the fullest and family and it is done while exploring the word of hiking.  The reader will learn much about hiking along the Appalachian Trail and nothing about the story seems forced or pretentious. The men take on the trail as a metaphor for how they will need to take on their own individual struggles. For Anders, he’s finally taking control of his life and happiness while Kevin is learning to enjoy having someone to share that journey with despite his fear of relationships and his seeming self-reliance.

This is a great read that blends great visual scenery, social studies, ecological conservationism, heat, passion and a touching love story.

Learning to Breathe by Diana DeRicci

81OIly5yY0L._SL1425_Title: Learning to Breathe

Series: Arbor Heights, #2

Author: Diana DeRicci

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novella (141 pages)

Publisher: MLR Press (January 3rd, 2014)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  To Remy, size is a state of mind, a fact few really learn to appreciate. When it wasn’t clear he’d live past being an infant, he grew up fighting. Fighting to live. Fighting to be treated with respect. The last thing he thought he’d have to do is fight his own heart. Getting clocked across the face wasn’t one of Ben’s better moments. Grudgingly accepting help from a pint-sized, argumentative Remy, he’s among those who learn the hard way small doesn’t necessarily mean weak.

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Review: Since the blurb is scanty, let this review add a bit more colour.  Bank teller Remy is short and feisty.  He’s overcome a lot in his life and takes flak from no one, least of all the ex of his best friend’s current partner. Ben is a construction foreman who still has not managed to find that special man to call his own.  After a rough night, he seeks Remy’s help and the men will begin a roller coaster of a relationship.

Community is always a theme in m/m romance books because men who love men must often find a new community for themselves and also find people who are like them in order for them to be able to fully express themselves.  The theme of the Arbor Heights series is all about community. In this second instalment of the series, the reader meets gets to know Remy and Ben who they met in Learning to Live. Again, the reader is presented with polar opposites who prove to be the perfect foil for each other. Outward appearances are deceiving, yet what Remy and Ben have together does not need to be shared with the world, instead they can share that with each other and find their happiness this way.

Readers will love Remy and Ben as a couple and they will especially love the heat that these two men generate between the sheets.  Often in stories, sex is gratuitous, but in this story, the sex helps to break down barriers for Remy and Ben and have them establish an intimacy that is essential to their owning their lives both separately and together.

In Ben, Remy finds everything that he thought he couldn’t have; and, in Remy, Ben finds all the things he never knew he wanted.  Both men grow and mature in their relationship and learn to love, trust and rely on each other.  As the story ends, the reader is aware that there is much more to their story and hopefully the third instalment in this series will see the men not just happy but also settled.

Tread Marks and Trademarks by S.A. McAuley

Title:19096770 Tread Marks and Trademarks

Series:   Team Maker Jock, #1

Author: S. A. McAuley

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (200 pages)

Publisher: Wilde City Press (December 11th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥3.5 Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Alex Maddox may be a genius. Or not. In thirty-four days, he’ll know for sure. The robot he’s been perfecting for the last four years is finally ready. Alex won’t accept anything less than perfection—if he can keep a broken air conditioner, a flaky twin brother, a thirtieth birthday, and falling for the Norse god of advertising from derailing him.

Christian Lawson is an advertising god. A blond hottie with the beautiful brains to match. He’s worked hard to move past the accident that nearly took his legs, but it’s been years since he let any man get close enough to see just how deep his scars really go.

Christian isn’t the advertising executive Alex expected, and Alex isn’t the coolly confident inventor Christian’s had his eye on for years. But what they discover in each other may just be better than what either of them could have hoped for

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Review: Two very imperfect men who create a very perfect union. The notion of opposites attract abounds in this story; yet, it didn’t take very long for both men to know that despite their differences, their attraction was more than just physical. Alex is the quintessential science nerd who’s been blessed with more than his fair share of smarts.  He has dedicated his life to a task and now he’s realized it.  Christian is surprising for the reader because who one would expect him to be is not who he is.  And while both men are so different and have not been successful at their relationships, they approach their relationship with a maturity that is refreshing.  Arguments are quickly resolved and they lay their feelings on the table so that they can resolve issues and build a lasting relationship.

The themes of family, trust and loyalty are the ties that bind this book together with the secondary stories of the relationship between Alex and his brother and his partner as well as with Christian and his former lover. These sidebars add layers to the story, which allow Alex and Christian to grow as a couple.  The author uses the strategy of telling the story from the perspective of both men.  He starts first with Alex because their relationship is forged based on a need that Alex has.  The second half of the story is told from Christian’s perspective since it is the obstacles in his life that must be resolved if they are to have a lasting relationship.

The characters are warm and quirky yet serious and lovable at the same time. The story is well paced and very believable. The reader will love Alex and Christian as well as the other couple that provides texture in the story. All in all – a good read.

The Guy from Glamour by Skylar M. Cates

71n247wf0IL._SL1350_Title: The Guy from Glamour

Series:   The Guy Series

Author: Skylar M. Cates

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (236 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (January 9th, 2014)

Heat Level: Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥ 4Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Anthony Carrino loves his big, gregarious Italian-American family, even if his sisters are interfering, and his dad, the local sheriff, knows everything going on in town. He’s happy as a middle school guidance counselor. Despite helping kids and their parents fix their problems, Anthony can’t manage to get his own love life right. If only everyone would stop calling him the “nice” guy. 

Dean Pierce doesn’t do relationships. A tough-minded military man, he is dedicated to his job as a Night Stalker, flying Chinook helicopters and not speaking much to anybody. He certainly doesn’t want to deal with a mess of emotions. But when tragedy strikes, Dean finds his hands full with his troubled niece, her irresistible guidance counselor, and a meddlesome family, which includes a rather large puppy.

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Review: Dean Pierce is safe and secure life he has built from himself in the military.  Tragedy has flung him into being a parent and into the path of exactly the type of man. He needs to find to be with in order to be true to himself. The story takes its time to show how damaged both men are from their respective life experiences; and, how they can each help each other to become happy and whole. Both men must trust each other and learn how to build a life together.  And while the men appear vastly different when they are first presented, they are perfect matching puzzle pieces.

Nestled within this story is how we are impacted by our families or the lack of them.  Family is who has made Anthony the man who can teach Dean how to become his niece’s family.  Dean’s poor family life is what makes him know that he must be there for his niece even if it means giving up everything that he knew in his life before. The true impact of this is seen as Dean builds a relationship with his niece and she becomes herself a happy and whole person and he learns to become a parent.  It is Anthony who shows Dean how to allow himself the ability to not only feel to but also show the deeper emotions that will be necessary to bring about the transformations for both his niece and himself.

Anthony and Dean will become friends and then lovers. Their romance is warm and touching and the reader roots for both men to be able to always be together. Anthony because he so deserves to find a good man who wants him just for himself and Dean because he’s been so cut off that being loved is a gift he will cherish. Often in romances, the reader is rushed through the life scenes that will serve to ensure that the reader roots for the HEA of the two men.  This book took the reader on the journey that both men had to go on in order for them to be happy and healthy together. Great characters, both in Dean and Anthony, as well as the ensemble cast of family and friends.  Lots of heart.  There might be a few tears.  A very endearing read.

Dime Novel by Dale Chase

DimeNovel_100dpi_cvrTitle: Dime Novel

Series:   N/A … but it appears it might be

Author: Dale Chase

Genre: Erotic Historical

Length:  Short (50 pages)

Publisher: Wilde City Press (December 4th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Dime novelist Benedict Bright has brought fame to Arizona Marshal Evan Teague but when he ventures west to meet the man he’s written about, he finds he’s done his subject wrong and further, that Teague is determined to set things right. As the marshal introduces the writer to western reality, through law enforcement as well as manly intimacies, Bright gains new resolve in his work while swept up in a passion like no other he’s ever known. But will it last forever… or break his heart?

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Review: This is a story set in the 19th century.  It’s often interesting to read historical m/m romance because they are usually stories about men who are in the closet. This story, however, while no different, was somewhat intriguing.  Why?  Because it’s a good, old-fashioned western. Benedict goes out west to get corroborative evidence re the hero in his dime store novels.  He’s been getting his information from newspapers, then elaborating, and embellishing those stories.  So he meets his hero and finds out that there is much more to the man than he first thought.  One big thing being that his hero likes men and that the man who died in the true to life story he wrote was his hero’s lover.

Benedict and Evan spend some time together both in and out of bed and they learn much about each other.  But, what’s a western without a bank robbery or a shootout at the OK Corral?  Well the story delivers one of these and it becomes a watershed moment for Benedict and Evan.  The story ends fairly abruptly with the relationship between the men being unresolved; however, it leaves the door open for a sequel, which would prove to be another interesting read.

Button Down by Dawn Kimberly Johnson

18885712Title: Button Down

Series:   N/A

Author: Dawn Kimberly Johnson

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (222 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 23rd, 2013)

Heat:  Moderate

Heart: ♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  When he finds himself captivated by a movie-star handsome stranger he meets in a bar, lawyer Ford Reilly watches a simple one-night stand develop into a taste of what living honestly might bring him. 

Out and proud Gus Hansen has built a small architectural firm from nothing, but could lose it all as he tries to break a contract he signed before knowing about the project’s antigay ties. 

After Ford discovers he spent a passionate night with the man on the other side of the dispute he’s handling, he finds himself in more than one quandary. He can either maintain the status quo, enforcing the contract to the letter, or he can defy his overbearing father and break free of the closeted life he’s built for himself in order to be with Gus. 

Gus has his own choices to make. He knows the sting of loving a man who hides himself, but the longer he lingers in Ford’s presence, the more difficult it becomes to deny their attraction.

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Review: Being a black man means living in a prejudiced sub culture.  This is Ford’s reality.  His antithesis is Gus Hansen, a man who has just emerged from heartbreak.  Button Down is the story of how a closeted black gay man and an out and proud white man can come together. Often a story tells a tale from one either the point of the protagonist or the antagonist. This story is told from both sides.  When the reader experiences the story from Ford’s perspective, they see Gus as the man who will allow Ford to come into his own and become comfortable as a gay man. When the story is told from Gus’ perspective, the reader sees a man who is comfortable in his skin, but who needs the additional love and loyalty of the family, which Ford can provide for him.

The men find their HEA in a spectacular manner and Ford is able to come out and be true to himself and his family.  In doing so, Gus will gain more family, a home and a man to call his own.  The secondary characters in this book are as critical to the HEA of Ford and Gus as a duck is to water.  This story could not have been told without Gus’ best friend or Ford’s family.  They provide the backdrop and provide color and depth for the story.  The underlying political commentary in the story is also timely and well placed.  Homophobia is rampant in the African-American community and this story takes the prejudice head on and cuts a wide swath by discussing not only homophobia, but also the other white elephant with the interracial pairing of both Gus and Ford.

The story is well written, well paced with multi-faceted characters who we can identify with and whom we learn to love.  We root for Gus and Ford to be happy.  Well worth the read.

Slow Burn by Sam B. Morgan

19462578Title: Slow Burn

Series:   N/A

Author: Sam B. Morgan

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (197 pages)

Publisher: Loose Id (January 7th, 2014)

Heat:  Explicit

Heart: ♥♥♥♥3.75Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Detective Douglas Brody has only ever known the life of a cop. Raised strict but fair by his police chief father, he joined the academy right out of school, climbed the ranks hard and fast, and now works homicide for the City of Charleston. The job is his entire life. For years it’s kept him happy enough to minimize the side of him that craves what he believes is wrong. An accident on the job puts him on medical leave and everything in Brody’s world changes. He has to prove himself once more to be best cop in the department, all while dealing with Zack – his persistent, sexy, and out of the closet physical therapist. 

Zack is tan skin, big grins, floppy hair and tackles his job with the same full-blown enthusiasm he does everything else. When the “patient from hell” is thrown his way by another PT who can’t handle him, Zack is committed to achieving the impossible. His new patient is a headstrong and hot as hell homicide detective, who oozes as much resentment as he does sex appeal. Any involvement with a patient, especially a man who is so deep in the closet he can’t see light, is something Zack swore he’d never do. But Brody slowly proves too much to resist…

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Review: This title is very apropos because this is exactly how the reader feels as they discover Brody and Zack.  Brody is just about the biggest asshole that could ever be found because he’s fighting so hard to not be a gay man.  But he meets Zack and everything about Zack makes him want to forget about the walls he’s created and instead simply allow himself to bask in the goodness that is Zack.  Both men are fighting their own personal demons:  Zack to not be attracted to a man in the closet and Brody to not be attracted to this man at all.

The chemistry proves to be more than either man can resist and they will indulge in a no-holds barred relationship that will involve not only their bodies but also eventually their hearts.  Everybody should have a Zack in their life. He’s the person who is always the bigger man, who’s willing to see the good in everyone and who is patient and long-suffering simply because he cares and wants the best for everyone.  He will be there for Brody in ways that Brody doesn’t understand until he comes face to face with a crisis and realizes just how much Brody means to him.

The relationship between these two men is very real.  They must manage their personal demons and learn how to be together. Their deeper relationship grows out of them learning to love, trust and respect each other.  If you want to read about how two men can connect in a very real and meaningful way, so that one can feel cherished and the other can feel valued and claim his sexuality, then this is the book for you.

The Dragon and the Wolf by Mandy Rosko

18744886Title: The Dragon and the Wolf

Series:   Things in the Night, #1.5

Author: Mandy Rosko

Genre: Fantasy

Length:  Novella (68 pages)

Publisher: Amanda Rosko (October 29th, 2013

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3 Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Just go for it…

Westley Stone didn’t expect to survive being kidnapped and tortured by hunters, but he did, and only because a dragon literally dropped out of the sky to save him, and after waking up in the man’s house, he can’t help but feel grateful and very attracted to his rescuer.

Chris Knucker has a thing against werewolves ever since his family was killed, but he’s willing to put old fears aside for the handsome man he’s just saved. The problem is that Westley seems a little shy to his advances, which makes sense when Chris discovers that Westley has to get married and produce a litter of wolf pups for his pack.

That’s fine. Chris knows the other man won’t go through with it, so it’s just a matter of waiting him out, and since Chris is the pack hero for saving Westley’s life, he has all the access he needs to slowly wear down Westley’s defenses. When Westley does finally come to him, he reveals another reason why he held back, something that could make them both very happy if only Westley can put his trust in Chris.

Author’s Note: This is the story of how Chris and Westley from The Legend of the Werewolf, meet and fall in love. While there is a resolution to their immediate problem of will he/won’t he? or should I/shouldn’t I? The remainder is still concluded in another book which is M/F dominant. I’ve included the word Prequel in the title to avoid confusion.

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Review: The book blurb essentially tells the story and there really isn’t much left to explore with the plot.  It’s always nice to see diversity in books even when it involves shifters.  The basic theme behind m/m romance is always about overcoming adversity and the general prejudice that can be found within mainstream society towards minorities and sub groups.  So paranormal books often take that theme to another level by mirroring the world using paranormals to illustrate how disruptive and harmful prejudice is in any form.

As such, the pairing of a dragon and a were is an interesting extension of this theme. The concept of a soul mate, life partner, or one’s forever person is rife in paranormal stories.  It takes romance to a whole new level.  In this story, because they are of differing species they must handle not only species difference but also Westley’s fundamental belief that this inter-species mating cannot lead to a lasting love. This is where the story ends because this is the prequel to explain how these two men got together in a later book.

The cliffhanger left of if Chris and Westley will become soul mates and how the events, which led to the men meeting, will play out and if the men will get their HEA should compel the reader to continue reading the book that follows.

Siempre by Tessa Cárdenas

SiempreLGTitle: Siempre

Series:   N/A

Author:Tessa Cárdenas

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (189 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 23rd, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  As a principal dancer for a contemporary New York ballet company, Sean has the privilege of working with student interns. The company’s newest intern, Lupe, is a talented dancer from Purchase College—but the man who picks her up from class really piques Sean’s interest. 

Jaime is Lupe’s cousin, a photography and graphic design student at Purchase. Not long after Sean and Jaime start dating, their casual hookups evolve into something special, something neither wants to lose—no matter how a commitment will complicate their lives. 

Lupe figures out the nature of their relationship and outs Jaime to his extremely religious Arizona family. Sean decides to support Jaime all the way, even though Jaime might choose pleasing his family over a life of love and freedom with Sean.

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Review: The story is set in the world of dance. At the beginning of the story, the character of Sean, who’s a principal dancer in a dance company, openly discusses the lack of minorities in the world of dance. This opens the door for the story to discuss how some cultures view homosexuality and how members of those sub-communities deal with this as part of their daily lives.  This sub-text runs through the entire book and serves to inform the actions of the other half of the couple, Jaime, who is from a Spanish/Catholic background.

Sean and Jaime’s story is not atypical of any relationship where one person is hiding the relationship from their family. At first blush, Jaime is out and happy with this life, but simply accepts that his family will not accept him as a gay man and so chooses to keep the two parts of his life separate.  As the story unfolds, the eventual crisis happens, and the two parts of Jaime’s life collides, it becomes unclear whether Jaime is really as secure with his gayness as he first appears.  His indoctrination as a Catholic weighs heavily on him and it becomes a very interesting plot twist; that being, the balance that gay men of faith have with the church and their families who fail to see them as anything but wrong and needing to be fixed. More importantly, it explores the notion of having to lose one’s family if they are to embrace their life as a gay man and how that affects them.

Sean is nothing short of a martyr in this story, but that is what Jaime needs most if he is to survive his crisis of self.  Sean must stop thinking about himself and his own needs and fears and instead simply be there for Jaime in any way he needs.  The reader will get frustrated with Jaime who as a 24-year-old man seems incapable of standing up for himself and allowing others to make him feel less than simply because of his sexual orientation.

The story is very well written and the reader thoroughly understands the key characters of Sean and Jaime and all the factors that drive their actions. There are several secondary characters who excellently move the story along and they are also superbly crafted and add depth, dimension and colour to the story.  The reader might have enjoyed reading more of the personal struggle that Jaime endured by seeing his viewpoint in the story. But this is essentially Sean’s story and so instead, the reader feels Sean’s angst instead.  The story also ends with some unanswered questions such as the status of Jaime’s relationship with this family and how he plans to move forward, not just in his relationship with Sean, but also in the larger picture as a gay man.  Some of those pieces were left untied, but this is fitting since, as with life, nothing is ever really complete.

Good read!

Track Limits by M.A. Ford

TrackLimitsLGTitle: Track Limits

Series:   N/A

Author: M A Ford

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (229 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 27th, 2013)

Heat: Low

Heart: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Is motorsport ready for a gay driver? 

As the opening race in the Global GT Challenge approaches, lead driver Mark Hunter struggles to regain his confidence after Randolph Racing’s last disastrous season. Mark hesitates when owner Randy says he’s found the perfect replacement for their arrogant previous teammate, Brad Wilkins. Former single-seater star Jordan Matthews is excited to join the crew and ready to put past troubles behind him. 

Trust builds as Mark and Jordan become a fine-tuned team for the number 17 Saleen, earning a podium in Abu Dhabi at the season opener. Their friendship develops into more as they continue to earn prestige for Randolph Racing. But their success sparks jealousy, and people from their pasts threaten vengeance. Jordan is reluctant to ruin his fresh start in racing by exposing the secrets that almost cost him his career ten years ago. If he can’t take the risk, he’ll never realize his dream of kissing Mark on the winner’s podium.

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Review: So unlike many romance books set within a specific industry, this is not a love story set within the motorsports world, this is motorsports story that happens to feature two men who fall in love with each other. So in essence, it’s a sports story. This is the kind of book that I’d give a straight guy to introduce him to m/m romance.  The feelings between the men start out as more friendly and then morph into something else. The romance sneaks up on the reader with good cues of course, but it’s buried within the masculinity of the motorsports world

The good thing?  I learned more about racing that I could ever possibly want to know. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t boring in the least. Reading about the trials these men endure and the friendships and rivalries that are formed in this sport was a good read. Mark and Jordan’s relationship develop and like all men in sports, they must determine if they plan to be in or out the closet. As with all dramas, their hand is forced and they are outed.  The men must now handle the fallout in the machismo world of motorsports. 

The book does not boast any heat at all, as there are no love scenes, although there’s lots of affection between the men; and, the discussions between Mark and Jordan as their relationship develops gives the reader insight into their relationship and why the two men work so well as a couple.

If you are a motorsports enthusiast, you will love this book because the story is really about the men who work in the sport.  Tangential to the Randolph Racing team and their trials are the two members who fall in love and bring some glory to the racing team they work for.

Nobody's Home by Dev Bentham

8197EPm1-sL._SL1500_Title: Nobody’s Home

Series:   N/A

Author: Dev Bentham

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (160 pages)

Publisher: Amber Quill Press (December 10th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 5 (Tender, Loving, Wonderful) Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  You can’t go home again—that was Nick’s motto for the past twenty years. He was a teenager when he and his mom left his mentally ill and abusive father back in Lacland, a small town in the north woods of Wisconsin. Since those horrible days, Nick’s made a life for himself as an artist in New York, and has a new show scheduled in nine months. He should be in a painting frenzy, but so far, he’s hanging empty canvas. Then comes the call—his estranged father has killed himself. Nick flies to Lacland, to a house crumbling from years of neglect and one very fat bulldog.

Jonas doesn’t love his job as a research lab veterinarian, although he enjoys volunteering on his boyfriend’s canine behavioral studies. But when he discovers his so-called life partner is messing around, Jonas leaps at a job offer in a small town miles away.

Despite the grief swirling around Nick and Jonas, their first meeting is electric. But Nick’s in town for only a short time, while Jonas is still stinging from the recent betrayal. The men try to keep their distance, but that’s easier said than done, especially in a small town where misery and hope share the same address…

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Review: The m/m genre is littered with many books about hot men and fluff, and I love those as much as anyone else does.  BUT, every now and again, there is a book that simply stands out from the rest. Nobody’s Home is one of those books.  It’s not just a story, it’s a novel.  Everything that is right about a story is achieved in this book.  The author spends the first quarter of the book simply exploring the lives and characters of Nick and Jonas.  We get to know these men before they ever meet. By the time they meet, the reader is now thoroughly invested in these two men finding each other, because we know, like and understand these men.

The relationship between the two men is so much more than simply hot sex, which let’s be honest, they do have.  For Nick who’s lost his father and is feeling professionally adrift, the friendship he develops with Jonas provides him with an anchor and the realization that his life is rife with possibilities, if he’s willing to be open to them.  There is a subtle strength to Nick that is not first apparent because he’s struggling with his grief and personal angst.  For Jonas who’s questioning his worth as a man and a life partner, Nick provides him with much-needed honesty, validation of his worth and proof that he is a valuable person who is worthy of both love and friendship.

The story is beautifully written and elegantly told. What starts out as a character sketch of two imperfect men then becomes a dance of friendship and then the slow trek towards love. There is a slow build, which is sexy and seductive in its own way. The reader is moved seamlessly along the journey and because they are so intimately knowledgeable about these men, the reader shares in their joy, sadness, disappointment and even their fear. The reader has a bird’s eye view of the very real struggle both men must go through with their own personal demons if they are to create a life together. 

Readers will fall in love with Nick.  Like a good artist, he is willing to lay his feelings bare and it is this vulnerability that will win him the love of Jonas, a man who fears any further pain and rejection in his life.

The end of the book is sublime and I’m sure many readers may find themselves wiping away a tear. It was sweet and very tender.  Every page of this story is a revelation and it’s one of those stories that the reader will revisit time and time again.


A Family of His Own by Sean Michael

81S6Z248ezL._SL1500_Title: A Family of His Own

Series:   Mannies Incorporated

Author: Sean Michael

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (202 pages)

Publisher: Torquere Press (December18th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Will’s a widower with three little girls, including six-month-old twins, to look after. Most days it’s all Will can do just to get home from his advertising job in time for goodnight kisses, but now his mother-in-law is leaving the country with her new boyfriend and Will needs the help of a professional nanny. 

Benji loves being a nanny; looking after other people’s kids is the next best thing to having his own, and as a gay man, he figures it’s as close as he’s going to get. He’s between jobs and is thrilled when he gets the call from Mannies Incorporated to interview with Will’s family. 

He falls in love with the girls right away, but also finds himself attracted to their father. Benji knows he shouldn’t moon over his boss, especially when Will desperately really needs his services as a nanny, but he can’t help but wonder what it would be like to have a family of his own.

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Review: Will is a perfectly nice, overworked, undervalued, sexy, grieving widower who is rescued by an equally sexy male nanny who will step into his life, take care of him, his home, and his children.  Benji, sexy male nanny will magically bring Will back to life and the two men will walk off happily into the sunset.

There is nothing new or original about this story.  In fact, this story has been written many many times before.  Often when reading a plotline that you’ve read before, the reader is hoping for a subtle twist, a character quirk or something that will make THIS story stand out.  Truth be told, none of that is here.  There is a rather quirky trait in the book in which one of the daughters’ features very heavily as a main character.  It appears that the idea was to see the growth of Will as a father through the eyes of his eldest daughter who is turning three. The problem with this, however, is that the story degenerates into way too many graphic descriptions of both Will’s and Benji’s interactions with a precocious three-year old.  It’s a clever idea and it works well the first few times it was done, however, after that it became very distracting to the story of the two men.

Summary:  Perfectly ordinary story with nothing remarkable about either of the men or the plot. But, somewhat sweet. 🙂

Indefinite Stay by Heidi Champa

71B3M3MgD6L._SL1500_Title: Indefinite Stay

Series:   N/A

Author: Heidi Champa

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novella (123 pages)

Publisher: Amber Allure (December 10th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Rory Driskell had never seen the inside of a prison until his boyfriend Joel started serving a seven-year sentence for dealing drugs. Now, Rory spends his weekends visiting Joel at the state prison nearly four hours away from home. To make matters worse, Rory and Joel can’t even touch during their visits for fear of what might happen if the other inmates learn Joel is gay. While Joel maintains his innocence, that doesn’t stop Rory from preparing himself for the worst and for a long stretch of time alone.

During the weekends, Rory resides at the Broken Feather Motel, the only cheap place within thirty miles of the prison, wondering how he got into this mess. Then one weekend, the motel owner’s son, Stuart, is behind the counter when Rory checks in. Stuart, with his gorgeous smile and piercing blue eyes, offers Rory something he hasn’t had in a long time: a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold. But Stuart is in town only for a short time and isn’t looking for a real relationship.

Will Rory stick with the life he’s chosen, no matter how troubled, or will his feelings for Stuart push him to take a chance and finally unlock his heart?

Purchase Link:

Review: The premise of this story is very intriguing.  It’s not one I’ve seen explored before and that made it all the more interesting to read. The whole idea of being on the “DL” or having to remain closeted is always a compelling theme in a novel, but when coupled with the idea of prison (already an environment rife with homosexual activity), it makes for a very worthwhile read. The story did not disappoint as it explored the relationship between the closeted, since he’s in prison, Joel and his long-suffering boyfriend, Rory.

Rory is a man torn between duty and his true feelings.  He’s a man willing to forgo his own happiness for what he feels to be the bigger picture and the principled action to take, even if it means he will be the financial and emotional loser in the end.  Enter Stuart – Rory’s solution to his current not going anywhere, emotionally exhausting and financially draining relationship. His relationship with Stuart allows him to experience a small measure of happiness, yet for some reason he doesn’t think that he’s worthy of the happiness that Stuart could offer him. So Rory does what all long-suffering people do, he walks away until life tells him unequivocally that there are other options he can take.

This is the story of Rory’s journey to the realization that sometimes it’s important to take a chance and to put yourself first because when you do, you might just win in the long and short run.  Nice characters, interesting plot – all in all a very good read.  Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Christmas Wish by B.G. Thomas

ChristmasWishLGTitle: Christmas Wish

Series:   Pair to Christmas Cole

Author: B.G. Thomas

Genre: Christmas themed Contemporary fantasy

Length:  Novella (78 pages)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 1st, 2010)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥ 3Hearts

Reviewer: Eli/Mandingo

Blurb:  Harry is desperately unhappy with his life. He hates his job, his apartment, and most especially, he hates the way he looks. Despite this, once Harry hears that his fantasy man, Javier Torres, is playing Santa at the local gay bar, he can’t wait to get his picture taken sitting on Javier’s lap in hopes of finally catching the sexy man’s attention. But it all goes wrong, and Harry ends up telling a different “Santa” exactly how his life could be made better… but he doesn’t expect his Christmas wish to come true!

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Review: So this book begins right after a specific scene in Christmas Cole.  The pairing of the two stories is great and maybe because written in 2010, there is no connection of the linkage between both stories except that they probably appeared together in an anthology.  In this story, Harry learns that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and sometimes what you’ve wanted you’ve always had with you.  Oh Lord, doesn’t that sound almost like a line from The Wizard of Oz. Kind of fitting wouldn’t you say?

Through the power of some Christmas magic, Harry is transformed from an Ugly Ducking into a beautiful swan and then realizes that all people see of him is his gorgeous outside but nobody is interested in getting to know his insides. The thing he craves – human connection – is the one thing he cannot seem to get. So he then goes back to the one person who always loved and accepted him and he realizes that just maybe he can really have it all. The reader will love Cody, Harry’s best friend.  All of us wish we had a friend this nice, considerate and special. Thankfully, for Harry there’s more elfin magic afoot and someone else has also made a Christmas wish, which means Harry, will be able to get his happy ending after all.

This is a wonderful cup of Christmas complete with the knowledge that no matter what you might think of yourself, there’s probably somebody who thinks you are perfect and if you give yourself half a chance, you’ll find out that you are perfect just as you are and better yet, you are perfect for each other.

Snuggle up with the eggnog and get ready to smile.  This is a cute little story to revisit.  Read Christmas Cole first and then Christmas Wish, they’ll both put your in a warm holiday spirit.