Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton (2nd Edition)

Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton - Family Man Cover n39mvTitle: Family Man

Author: Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton

Genre: Contemporary

Length: Novel (206pgs)

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (11th September 2017)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖 4 Hearts

Blurb:  Sometimes family chooses you.

At forty, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro is still afraid to admit he might be gay—even to himself. It’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, it’s getting harder to ignore what he really wants.

Vinnie attempts some self-exploration in Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek, Trey agrees to let Vinnie court him and see if he truly belongs on this side of the fence—though Trey intends to keep his virginity intact.

It seems like a solid plan, but nothing is simple when family is involved. When Vinnie’s family finds out about their relationship, the situation is sticky enough, but when Trey’s mother goes critical, Vinnie and Trey must decide whose happiness is most important—their families’ or their own.

ISBN: 978-1-64080-053-3

Product Link: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Any

Review: A comforting read.

There’s just something really warm about this story that makes reading this fun and easy. I read this over a couple of cold, wintry evenings, and it was like having hot chocolate and marshmallows. Yum.

The pace is superb for a light read. There is no major angst or any dramatic unexpected turns, the story is simply about two sweet guys, Vinnie and Trey, who let themselves show their attraction to one another and it simmers and grows into love.

The two perspectives worked for me as well. Trey’s perspective is in the first person and Vinnie’s is in the third—both are skillfully written and pleasant to read. Though, I felt a touch more connected with Trey most of the story.

This was a smooth, fast read with a simple plot. If you’re looking for a break in-between more angst driven stories, this is a great option.

Ethan in Gold by Amy Lane

EthaninGoldLGTitle: Ethan in Gold
Series: Johnnies Series #3
Author: Amy Lane
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Novel (350 pages)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 4th 2013)
Heat Level: Explicit
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥4 hearts
Blurb: Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.

Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.

Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.
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Reviewer: Any
Review: Amy Lane has a knack of creating really beautiful characters that jump off the page and make you think they’re real. That they could be one of the guys living next door. Ethan is no exception to the rule, he is a well-developed character that has suffered and been tested in life. He is also gentle, humorous, and warm, and for the most part, I really enjoyed reading about him and Jonah.

I have to confess something here, though, this was one of the harder Amy Lane books I’ve read. I wasn’t expecting the traumatic beginning and it took me a long time to be able to work past that and read on. What I needed was a trigger warning that this book holds themes of sexual abuse of a minor. But get over that, and I eventually did, this is a lovely story.

Jonah was a solid character too, although I didn’t quite get as much connection with him as I did with Ethan (Or as I did in the previous book with Dex!) I actually read Ethan in Gold first, and then, because I was so curious about the other characters, immediately went and got my hands on the previous book as well, which I enjoyed even more.
Nevertheless, Ethan in Gold is well written, full of emotion and tenderness, and even sparks of humor. Oh, and sexy smexiness, of course! I enjoyed it.

Amy Lane, rocks again!

No Tea, No Shade by Clancy Nacht

cn_noteanoshade_1Title:  No Tea, No Shade

Author:  Clancy Nacht

Genre: Contemporary

Length:  Novel (121 pages)

Publisher:  Loose Id LLC (September 23rd, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2 – 2.5

Blurb:   When Hank’s father catches him in a not-so-innocent childhood embrace with the neighbor Hank’s older brothers refer to as “Ladyboy Lindsey,” he forbids Hank ever to see his best friend again and sends Lindsey home in tears. Later, despite landing on opposite ends of the social and sexual spectrum in high school, neither can forget the boy who gave him his first kiss. While Hank becomes a sports star and bully, Lindsey throws himself into an elaborate sexual game played from afar for Hank’s benefit. When Hank’s football scholarship takes him away to college, their tenuous bond seems severed for good.

After Lindsey finds his calling as drag diva Miss Anne Thrope, embracing both his male identity and the natural androgyny of his intersex body, he’s finally in control of his world…until the night his first love disrupts Miss Anne’s show after a decade of silence. Hank’s dysfunctional behavior, crazy father, and their bittersweet history together threaten to destroy their fragile new romance before it’s truly begun. Should they let go of the past, or is this unique love one worth saving?

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Could have been really cool with more expansion.

All the elements and backstory are there to make a terrific novel, unfortunately in places it reads more like a synopsis for a really cool story. I don’t feel absorbed ‘in’ the scenes, because the story rushes along without taking the time to deepen the conflicts, and things are resolved too easily to be satisfying. Hank barely had to apologize and then he and Lindsey were giving their relationship a go. The ‘father’ the villain, is hateful one moment, and then inviting them both to Christmas the next.

Despite the uneven feel of the story, I could sense something really intriguing in here. Hank and Lindsey’s backstory, whoa! If that had really been shown on page as if it were happening in the here and now, that would have been quite powerful.

This is a quick read . . . oh, and quite hot in places. 😉 

Aiden's Luck by Con Riley

AidensLuckLGTitle:  Aiden’s Luck

Series:  Seattle Stories, # 3

Author:  Con Riley

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novel (326 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (December 20th, 2012)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2 ½ Hearts

Blurb: House-sitting for a friend is supposed to be a lucky break for Aiden Daly. Discovering his new housemate is the image of his first crush turns it into a nightmare. Marco de Luca is obviously interested in being more than housemates, but his resemblance to Aiden’s ideal man seems only skin-deep. Besides, Aiden doesn’t date. 

Since his adoptive father’s suicide, Aiden’s first priority has been supporting his remaining family—and shielding them from the truth of their financial situation. Deeply concerned for his mother’s mental health, Aiden remains closeted and lonely, convinced that bad luck is the only luck he’ll ever have. 

As if the pressure of keeping his father’s financial secrets weren’t enough to handle, Aiden’s birth father makes contact, sending Aiden’s anxieties spiraling out of control. But it’s a crisis at work that finally brings Aiden to his breaking point. Accepting support from Marco is a gamble, but it could be just what Aiden needs to turn his luck around.

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Reviewer:  Any

Review: This is the third book in the Seattle Stories series. Like with After Ben and Saving Sean, there are many things to like about this book.

These are the things I thought worked well:

1) The author delivers clever, well-written sentences, that make the imagery and emotion shine off the page.

2) The characters are mostly very likeable and three-dimensional – not always perfect in their decisions – in this book, you see a clear arc in how Aiden approaches his life.  

3) Marco has a wonderful liveliness about him and is an adorable character.

4) The story has some sweet moments. For example, how Aiden chose Evan to be his adoptive brother – this little story is touching.

However, there were a few things that didn’t quite work, and unfortunately made this a much harder read for me. Consequently, I found myself often bored and irritated. 

·         There was too much internalization – Aiden’s thoughts and reflection went on for pages at a time in places, and it often felt like he was repeating himself. I think there needed to be more action and showing of relationship developments rather than reflecting on it after the matter.

·         There was also too much looking back on something that recently happened and talking about it in the past. Important scenes were cut and then talked about in a flashback. There would have been more impact if these scenes had been in the here and now and shown to give more immediacy and reader connection.

In the end, I felt disappointed with this read. Aiden’s Luck had interesting story elements and good descriptions, but it would have been that much more powerful if more scenes were written at the time they were happening and more page time given to the really important ones. 



Jasper's Mountain by John Inman

JaspersMountainLGTitle:  Jasper’s Mountain

Author:  John Inman

Genre:   Romantic Suspense

Length:  Novel (204 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (August 16th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  ♥♥2 hearts

Blurb:   When small-time thief Timmy Harwell recklessly “borrows” a Cadillac for a joyride, he doesn’t expect to find a cool $100,000 in the trunk. His elation turns to terror when he realizes the SUV and the dough belong to Miguel Garcia, aka El Poco, a Tijuana drug dealer with a nasty reputation. Timmy sees only one way out: leave the stolen car behind and run as fast as he can.

His getaway is cut short when a storm strands him outside Jasper Stone’s secluded mountain cabin. Jasper finds Timmy in his shed, unconscious and burning up with fever, and takes care of the younger man, nursing him back to health. The two begin to grow close, but Jasper, a writer who seeks only solitude, is everything Timmy isn’t. Straightforward, honest, and kind.

Timmy needs Jasper’s help—and wants his respect—so he hides his dishonest habits. But when El Poco comes after him, Timmy realizes he’s not the only one at risk. His actions have also put Jasper in harm’s way. Honesty now could mean Timmy loses the man he’s come to love, but not being honest could mean far worse.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A story that captures the setting well, but fails to capture this reader’s heart.

The things I liked were the animals and the sense of place. Lola in particular stuck out as being such a sweet, loyal dog and I thought she made a nice character. There’s also a lot of good description that used more than just the visual sense, but taste, touch and sound as well. 

Unfortunately, it hit too many of my triggers. Too much exposition, telling, flashbacks, and a strange perspective, which might have been omniscient? Some of Jasper’s thoughts felt inappropriate to the moment, and the sex scenes were uncomfortable to read—especially as poor choices for similes were used.

All this made it difficult for me to get into the story. I think the writing and ideas were all there, but could have been put to better effect if written in a more active tense.

Taking Chances by John Goode

TakingChancesLGTitle:  Taking Chances

Series:  Tales of Foster High, #4

Author:  John Goode

Genre:   Young Adult

Length:  Novel (200 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (August 7th, 2013)

Heat Level:  No Sex

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥3.5-4 Hearts

Blurb:   Fearing the backlash of living as a gay man in Foster, Texas, Matt Wallace runs away to California, only to find it isn’t the Promised Land he’d hoped for. Christmas sees Matt returning to Foster, where he bumps into his old flame, high school jock Tyler Parker. 

Now that they’re older, it doesn’t take Matt too long to figure out that love at first sight is a very real thing. The only problem is neither Matt nor Tyler seems to know what to do after that. They’re both running from the past—and each other—requiring some reverse engineering to actually spur the relationship past the false start.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A sweet story about two lonely guys that are searching for happiness.

I started this story in the morning before work and then was frustrated I had to wait the whole working day before I could get my mitts on it again and read, read, read. I haven’t read any of the other books (save one short story) in the Tales from Foster High series, so I’m reviewing this as a stand-alone—, and it is enjoyable without having prior knowledge of the ‘Foster’ world.

Things that worked for me:

  • The Forward & Postscript – I liked the discussion of hope and love and thought it added a nice touch to the story. It gave the whole story a more . . . polished, professional feel to it.
  • The ‘About the Author’ page at the end was creative and clever, and I had a very good chuckle while reading it.
  • The writing itself is good and the author really gets into the characters heads, so we get their thoughts, responses and emotions. This was particularly well done in the first chapters with Matt.
  • The flashbacks of the boy behind the red door really drew me in to the story and set up the romantic tension.
  •  I really enjoyed how stylistic the author was with the narrative. Some chapters are told from the perspective of other characters in the book, and it fit, because it emphasized the need Matt and Tyler had for space. At that point, they were both so upset, they just couldn’t go on. Very clever writing device.

Thing that didn’t work for me:

The biggest issue for me was that the pacing of the story felt off.

It has a great initial lead in, but as soon as Matt and Tyler meet at Christmas, the splendid pacing hits a snag as the two guys fall for each other immediately without much conflict. The insta-love at this point just didn’t flow well for me. I can understand that both the men are lonely, and maybe that would make them quick to jump into something, but as a reader, I love to have the emotional/and or physical connection drawn out a bit more.

As well as the two getting together too quickly, they suddenly fall apart after a week, and the reasons didn’t feel very mature (especially for characters that are in their thirties). The guys seemed super sensitive, and I never really got what Tyler did that was so wrong that he had to put up with so much crap from Matt and his awful fag-hag toward the end of the book. So he freaked out? Good, I say. It shows some human emotion—this needed to be worked through and not run away from.

I guess from the moment the main characters kiss, the books speeds toward an end with so much happening too quickly. But, to be fair, the blurb does tell the reader what to expect.

It feels like maybe I’m placing a lot of emphasis on what didn’t work for me in this story, but I guess I feel passionate about it because the writing was awesome, and I was/am greedy and just wanted more.

I enjoyed the read and am certainly interested in the other stories set in Foster. Definitely an author to try again!!!

Pitch by Will Parkinson

PitchLGTitle:  Pitch

Author:  Will Parkinson

Genre:   YA, Contemporary

Length:  Novel (180 pages)

Publisher:  Harmony Ink Press (August 8th, 2013)

Heat Level:  No Sex

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥4-4.5 Hearts

Blurb:   The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.

Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend. 

Product Link:

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Let me start by saying I read this in one sitting. I was hooked, and I couldn’t put the story down. Way past midnight I finished, and I think that speaks a lot for my enjoyment of this story. This was a sweet, gentle read and who cares if I was a grumpy poobum today, it was worth it.

The things I liked:

How well this story portrays the hopes, yearnings, and starry-eyed moments of youth.

That the book explored not only romance—in fact, that was almost a side story in this book—but emotions of jealousy, self-doubt, and above all FRIENDSHIP. And that last one was a real treasure to read.

The thing I LOVED most:

Benny. Can I just swoon now? Please? He totally captured my heart. He’s the warmest, truest Best Friend ever! I wanted to be sucked into the pages, into their world, just so I could hug him and say thank you personally.

The ‘not quite my thing’:

The last twist in the book.

I’m a sensitive wee soul, and I hate to see anyone get hurt. Don’t let that put you off reading—there’s a very sweet HEA, but I was ready for Taylor and Jackson to walk off into the sunset after the first villain of the story is exposed, and the two of them come together.

I also wished there was more baseball games. I thought Jax could have been tested on the pitch in some way. I kept expecting he’d lose a game and then really figure out who his friends were.

Summing up:

This is a fun YA story that certainly brought me back to my own days at high school and my own unrequited crushes! In some ways, it was almost embarrassing thinking I had mooned and moped about just like Taylor, but that’s what I like about this story—it feels real to me. Though I was never as rational and clear-headed as Taylor and Benny. Sometimes they were just a little too good.

I’m really anticipating Benny’s story now . . . there was one chapter in this book that was almost a set up for the next book, and I really want to read it from Benny’s point of view!

Can’t wait!


One True Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O'Shea

16036485Title:  One True Thing

Series:  One Thing, Book #2

Author:  Piper Vaughn & M.J O’Shea

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novel (260 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (October 25th, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2 ½ Hearts

Blurb:   Dustin Davis spent years wishing for a prince but kissing frog after slimy frog. When he sees Archer Kyriakides for the first time, Dusty thinks his luck has finally changed. Archer could be it. The One. But their hot and cold romance leaves Dusty confused: why does it feel right one moment and wrong the next? It doesn’t make sense—until the day Dusty meets Archer’s identical twin, Asher, and realizes he’s been seeing them both.

Asher Kyriakides dreams of being a fashion photographer, but he’s stuck with a job he hates and an irresponsible playboy brother whose habits drive him absolutely insane, especially when he finds out Archer is dating the cute little blond Asher can’t seem to forget. Torn between loyalty and desire, Asher does nothing but try to warn Dusty away.

But when Archer finally goes too far, Dusty turns to Asher for comfort, and Asher knows he can’t refuse. It isn’t long before they realize they’re falling fast, but more than one thing stands in their way, not the least of which is Archer, who isn’t quite ready to stop being a thorn in his brother’s side.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Yikes, this was a big jump from the first book in the series, One Small Thing, which I really enjoyed. The story started out with promise, and I was interested in how the conflicts between Dustin and Asher would evolve, but unfortunately I never got invested enough to care.

Partly the issue was the good twin/evil twin trope, which is hard to pull off without making the story feel two-dimensional. Archer was just a little too ‘bad’ for my taste, rendering the story unbelievable.

It also didn’t help that both the twins had ‘A’ names. And very similar ones at that. Often, I got confused at who was who and had to reread sections.

That being said, I did enjoy the scenes from Asher’s perspective as he worked in his photo studio, and Dusty and Asher are sweet together. I’m also happy that Dusty finally got his HEA.

A sweet read, if a bit flat. 

Deep in the Count by Madison Parker

17854024Title:  Deep in the Count (Love Has No Boundaries)

Author:  Madison Parker

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  65 pages

Publisher:  Published July 5th 2013 by M/M Romance Group @ goodreads

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥4.5 hearts

Blurb:   Brandon plays baseball for Virginia Tech. Although his coach is confident he has a successful career ahead of him, Brandon’s not so sure. What if he doesn’t make it? What will he have to fall back on? He wishes he were smarter. He looks at his friend’s roommate and thinks he’d give anything for that confidence and those brains. Because brains and confidence? That’s sexy! If only he could get Corey to notice him, come up with a plan that would appeal to Corey’s inner geek… 

Corey’s program of study and academic standing are sure to land him a good job in his chosen career field: cryptology. Those popular kids? They think that because he’s a “geek” he’s missing out on life, but they’re wrong. He’s got his eye on the prize and doesn’t need the distractions of a social life. So why is he having such a hard time ignoring his roommate’s flirty friend?

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love Has No Boundaries” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Madison Parker is an autobuy author for me. This short story sealed the deal. What a funny, sweet, well-developed jock/nerd romance.

What I really LOVED about the story was:

The details. This story didn’t feel generic, it felt like Brandon and Corey were real people each with their own likes and dislikes that gave them distinct personalities. Particularly the scenes from Corey’s perspective. These really got into his ‘nerd’ voice, and his inner ramblings on math and deciphering encryptions were a treat to read. It really proved to me that this character was real, instead of just being told he was super brainy, etc. So A+ there, dear author. No 93% for you. (Readers of this lovely story will get that joke).

Also, I really loved the development between Brandon and Corey. It’s only a short story, but thankfully they didn’t get it on in the opening pages. The pacing felt smooth, and except for one scene in the middle, was pitch perfect.

Another thing this book is: interactive. It’s fun with all the encrypted messages that Corey has to decode, and it certainly gets the mind buzzing: Now, what could that mean?

Well, I’ll leave you to discover the fun of this short, free story for yourself.

It’s a QT ∏ of a story.

One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O'Shea

OneSmallThingLGTitle:  One Small Thing

Series:  One Thing #1

Author:  Piper Vaughn & M.J. O’Shea

Genre:   Contemporary Romance

Length:  Novel (214 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (May 4th, 2012)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥4 hearts

Blurb:   “Daddy” is not a title Rue Murray wanted, but he never thought he’d have sex with a woman either. Now he’s the unwitting father of a newborn named Alice. Between bartending and cosmetology school, Rue doesn’t have time for babies, but he can’t give her up. What Rue needs is a babysitter, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of quitting school to watch Alice himself when he remembers his reclusive new neighbor, Erik.

Erik Van Nuys is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. Still, with his royalties dwindling, he could use the extra cash. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of manny—and even more reluctantly, he finds himself falling for Alice and her flamboyant father.

Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but Rue has never been happier than when Alice and Erik are by his side. At least, not until he receives an offer that puts all his dreams within reach and he’s forced to choose: the future he’s always wanted, or the family he thought he never did.

Product Link:

Reviewer:   Any

Review:  There are so many things to love about this story. The writing is engaging, simple and effective. The story is sweet. And the characters all made me smile. Particularly Erik, who tries hard to overcome his social awkwardness to help out a neighbor with his child. What a wonderful guy he is! I loved him and his addiction to Star Wars.

The romance was good in the end, but I must admit, I didn’t really feel the love connection between Erik and Rue as much as I did for Erik and Dusty. For a long while there, I was hoping—even though I knew it couldn’t be the case—for these two characters to see how well they fit together. I think partly the reason I felt this way was due to the way Dusty was written. I “felt” him and was more emotionally attached to his backstory than with Erik. I sympathized with him for his unfortunate luck with past romances, and the times when he and Erik were together, I was shown their connection and care for each other, rather than told it, like I felt was the case for Erik and Rue.

Nevertheless, this is a sweet story with a tender heart to it, and it kept me curious and wanting to read on. . . .  And now I want to know that Dusty gets his Happily Ever After too!

into this river i drown by tj klune

IntoThisRiverIDrownLGTitle:  Into This River I Drown

Author:  TJ Klune

Genre:   Contemporary/Paranormal

Length:  Novel (402 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (March 25th 2013)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥♥5 Wonderful Hearts

Blurb:   At once an exploration of grief and faith, Into This River I Drown is one man’s journey into the secrets of his father and discovering the strength to believe in the impossible.

Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, who drowned when his truck crashed into a river. All called it an accident, but Benji thought it more. However, even years later, he is buried deep in his grief, throwing himself into taking over Big Eddie’s convenience store in the small town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day by day, struggling to keep his head above water.

But Roseland is no ordinary place.

With ever-increasing dreams of his father’s death and waking visions of feathers on the surface of a river, Benji’s definition of reality is starting to bend. He thinks himself haunted, but whether by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. It’s not until the impossible happens and a man falls from the sky and leaves the burning imprint of wings on the ground that he begins to understand that the world around him is more mysterious than he could have possibly imagined. It’s also more dangerous, as forces beyond anyone’s control are descending on Roseland, revealing long hidden truths about friends, family, and the man named Calliel who Benji is finding he can no longer live without.

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Reviewer:   Any


Into this book I drowned—and I wasn’t so keen on being rescued. I quite loved where I was, thank you very much.

But—sigh—it’s over . . . I guess it’s time for me to do some grieving of my own, because boy will I miss these characters.

It’s hard to write a review for this without giving away too much. There are so many amazing twists and turns that it just has to be read. But, to give you a feel of the story, here are my dedications to each main character:

ABE – Such a warm, wonderful friend. I loved the way you stood next to Benji throughout everything, loved the way you talked about how much you loved and missed your wife, loved the fond memories you had of the life you had Before, and loved the way you forged a life After Estelle. You were such a good best friend to Benji, helping him as he goes through the same grief.

NINA (The most important of The Trio)– I thought you were God. I thought it was you both testing and reassuring everyone in this book. Why did I think that? Because you were the light and the foresight when nobody else seemed able to see anymore.

THE BAD GUYS – I rather wanted to kill you myself, for hurting all the people in all the ways you did. You were so bad and it made me root harder for our Benji and Cal.

THE ANGELS – You surprised me. I can’t say I expected the book to get as paranormal as it did in the end. I have mixed feelings about all your involvement. Sometimes I thought you added the story—particularly Michael, in the beginning—but I wasn’t so sure the rest of you belonged in this story. That being said, I am curious about a couple of you and your stories.

ROSELAND – Because you were one of the most interesting. All the individuals of your town were unique and charming, but it was how they worked together as a whole that was really inspiring. Roseland, you are such a richly crafted town, so vividly described, I could hear your heartbeat throughout the novel. Wonderful.

Blue, Cal, Calliel – For a while, all I could see was blue and it was beautiful and sad and magical and so lonely. The way you loved all the townspeople in Roseland was so endearing, and, well, you had my heart from the start. It’s so hard to say everything I want to about you without giving too much away, but this story would be lost without Blue.

BENJI – You broke my heart. I felt what you felt and there was no way for me to make it better for you except by reading to the end. I wanted so much to say sorry.

And finally,

BIG EDDIE – The best Dad in the world.

It’s not that there aren’t enough words to describe you. There aren’t any.

This story is emotional, and heavy, and magical all at once. This is a story of loss and love and trying desperately not to drown in the river that is grief. I know this story won’t be for everyone, but it touched a nerve with me. Part slice-of-live, part mystery, part paranormal, part romance, part blue—every word was worth it.

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

familymanTitle:  Family Man

Author:  Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton

Genre:   Contemporary Romance

Length:  Novel (262 pages)

Publisher:  Samhain Publishing (March 12th, 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥4Hearts

Blurb:  Sometimes family chooses you.

How does a man get to be forty without knowing whether he’s gay? That’s a question Vince Fierro is almost afraid to answer. If he is gay, it’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, he can’t help but wonder if he’s been playing for the wrong team.

There’s only one way to settle it, once and for all—head for Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek to the sultry strains of Coltrane, Trey finds himself wanting to help Vinnie figure things out—no promises, and no sex.

It seems like a simple plan, until their “no-sex” night turns into the best date of their lives and forges a connection that complicates everything.

Warning: This book deals with alcoholism, broken promises, and overbearing little sisters.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A comforting read.

There’s just something really warm about this story that makes reading this fun and easy. I read this over a couple of cold, wintery evenings, and it was like having hot chocolate and marshmallows. Yum.

The pace is superb for a light read. There is no major angst or any dramatic unexpected turns, the story is simply about two sweet guys, Vinnie and Trey, who let themselves show their attraction to one another and it simmers and grows into love.

The two perspectives worked for me as well. Trey’s perspective is in the first person and Vinnie’s is in the third—both are skillfully written and pleasant to read. Though, I felt a touch more connected with Trey most of the story.

This was a smooth, fast read with a simple plot. If you’re looking for a break in-between more angst driven stories, this is a great option.


Unearthing Cole by A.M. Arthur

UnearthingColeLGTitle:  Unearthing Cole

Author:  A.M. Arthur

Genre:   Contemporary Romance

Length:  170 pages

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (March 20th 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  3.5-4 hearts

Blurb:  Cole Alston swore he’d never return to his childhood home in rural North Carolina, but when his mother dies, he inherits her hoarded property. He hopes to sell everything and use the money to start over in Canada, far away from his abusive ex-boyfriend. It’s a daunting task, and Cole has no idea where to start. Luckily for him, the local antique store owner, Jeremy Collins, volunteers his services in sorting the hoard. Their professional relationship soon evolves into a personal one, but Cole must overcome his past and his anxiety before he can accept a new man in his life or the possibility of a happy future.

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Reviewer:  Any

Review:  Quick read verging on angsty but ultimately sweet.

Cole is immediately likeable as a character and following his story is sweet and sad in equal measure. The things he’s lived through would be enough to make most people shudder, and yet he is strong enough to continue and let Jeremy get close to him.

I quite liked the hoarded house setting filled with amazing antiques that at first you think might just be rubbish. I was glad to see Cole able to make some money off of the mess his parents left behind for him to clean up.

A nicely written story, though I was tenser than I needed to be reading it; I kept anticipating something sinister would happen with Cole’s abusive ex. I had the feeling I had to keep looking over my shoulder just as he did. In the end I was relieved with how it played out, but my stomach had an uneasy knot right until the end.

Palehua by A.J. Llewllyn

palehuaTitle:  Palehua

Series:  Last Warrior #2

Author: A.J. Llewellyn

Genre:   Supernatural Mystery

Length:  Novel (155 pages)

Publisher:  Silver Publishing (January 26, 2013)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥3Hearts

Blurb:  Lio Paikai is adjusting to both his new, extremely passionate relationship with his lover, Kord Ashley, and his status as ‘Ailani, the reincarnated, loyal warrior who fought for the last king of the Hawaiian islands Oahu and Maui. Having severed his ties with his mother, Kalani, Lio grows closer to his father and his new family, but Kalani won’t leave them alone.

Violating a restraining order of protection, Kalani is arrested. Hours later, when Lio accompanies his stepmother to a birthing class, a strange woman falls from the sky landing on the hood of his SUV. Old wounds, old curses and the demand for retribution threatens to destroy his entire family. Lio must uncover the identity of the fallen woman and soon learns her heartbreaking connection to his mother and the damage it has caused Kalani her entire life. Lio must right an ancient wrong and appease the old island gods that demand an immediate Palehua: blood sacrifice.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A mysterious read with an exotic backdrop.

Not having read the first in the series, it took me a while to connect to Lio and Kord, and to understand exactly what it was Lio could do. As I read on, this became clearer—and more interesting. I really liked the imaginative set up in the Last Warrior world.  I was particularly drawn into the “reliving the past” moments that Lio finds himself in, as the mystery of the dead Monday woman is revealed.

The writing is quick-paced, full of banter, and easy to read. That being said, I found there were a few too many harmonious scenes where my concentration waned. This came partly because of the romance. Lio and Kord’s attraction to each other is passionate and sexy, but filled with neither tension nor conflict, and I felt the book would have benefitted to see these two lovers being tested in some way.

Things did become really gripping at the climax of the book where, through Lio, we learn the truth about the terrible murder of the Monday woman. . . .

Latitude Extreme by Stephanie Hecht and Jackie Nacht

latitudeTitle:  Latitude Extreme

Series:  Latitude 02

Authors:  Stephani Hecht & Jackie Nacht

Genre:   Contemporary, Adventure

Length:  Novella (85 pages)

Publisher:  eXtasy Books (January 15, 2013)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥3.5Hearts

Blurb:   Craig and his sister Lana have officially been recruited for season two of Latitude on the famous LGBTQ network. The only problem is that Lana is now going to be teaming up with her new boyfriend, former camera man Angel. So why are they contacting him to come on the show this season with no teammate? And after what happened last season, he feels a trap coming.

Luke Nolan knows that this probably isn’t the way to reunite with Craig. In fact, it’s probably a terrible mistake after the debacle of a fight they had five years ago before graduating from high school. However, after seeing him on the show last season, he knows that he hasn’t gotten over Craig. He will do anything to get him back, even go to the extreme. But will Craig listen long enough to rectify the misunderstanding that has been haunting Luke these past five years?

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  An amazing race around the world.

This book was all go-go-go and I went-went-went with it—and with a smile, too. In this book, teams race against each other for clues that lead them to the million-dollar finish line. The big question pushing me through the novella: who will win?

This was a satisfying action-adventure read with a nice twist of conflict. Craig is teamed up with a guy he hated from his high-school days. They must work together not only to complete each challenge, but to overcome their past issues as well. In the first half of the book, the tension between Luke and Craig is strong and held my interest, however, I did feel it wane in the middle when Craig was very quick to forgive Luke. I would have loved to see that step taking a bit more time and emotion.

Still, the romance was enjoyable and, coupled with the race—and the other awesome team characters—this made for an enjoyable evening read.


Just in Time by E. E. Montgomery

JustinTimeLGTitle:  Just In Time

Series: Just Life #3

Author:  E.E Montgomery

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  108 pages (Novella)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (February 6th)

Heat Level:  Low

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥3Hearts

Blurb:  Sequel to Just Like a Date

Mark Mendelson’s life is close to perfect: he has good friends, a successful business, and a solid reputation in the jewelry industry. He fought hard to get what he has after nearly losing it all fifteen years ago, when his then boyfriend, Cole Porter, stole his designs.

When a handsome man enters Mark’s store to request a commitment ring—a design Mark made specifically for Cole—Mark wants nothing to do with him. All he can think about is his rage at Cole’s betrayal, something he thought he’d dealt with long ago. But Mark’s would-be customer, Dr. Liam Watson, returns to the shop, thinking Mark might provide some answers. For years Liam has tried to convince his cousin Jon to leave Cole, who abuses him. As the relationship between Jon and Cole disintegrates, a fragile new one forms between Liam and Mark—but Mark can’t move on until he confronts Cole once and for all.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A fast read.

Very fast, actually. I ate up the whole book in one enjoyable sitting and, for the most part, I was satisfied.

What really worked for me in this novella were the mystery elements and the very clear story goal that pushes the reader through to the end. It didn’t lag. The writing was sparse on description and to-the-point. For a novella, it worked.

Mark is an interesting character, and I liked learning more about his past relationship bit by bit. The deliberate suspense the author employed to keep us interested and involved in the story worked just nicely.

That being said, I feel there was so much more potential for this story—particularly in the romance department. I found Liam was difficult for me to grow attached to. He wasn’t often in scenes, and when he was, it was hard for me to like him. I just couldn’t get a good feel for him. There were also a couple of points where I wanted to shake him for just leaving after having sex without a word to Mark. Ah, no, you don’t just do that without a reason.

Also, the book ended with no clear HEA, only the hope that there might be one.

Still, I have to say I really liked that there was a lot of action in the story. I’m a fan of unanswered questions that are over-and-above the ‘will they get together or won’t they?’ It felt like there was a solid plot here. Though I would have liked if the ‘love’ had been amped up a bit for an even more satisfying ending.

Taking the Gardener by T. J. Masters

TakingtheGardenerLGTitle:  Taking the Gardener

Author:  T.J. Masters

Genre:   BDSM

Length:  Novel (189 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (January 31, 2013)

Heat Level:  Explicit

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥2½Hearts

Blurb:   Mourning the sudden loss of his parents in a car crash, experienced Dom Eric Broderick escapes London society and his high-pressure law firm and retreats to Glebe House in Pittlesburne, a small village in Buckinghamshire. He tours the nearby woods and the charming village, but it’s really the guesthouse’s garden he’s taken with—or, rather, the gardener.

Tom Bestwick maintains the grounds of Glebe House for his fiancée and does odd jobs around the village. With little experience outside Pittlesburne, Tom finds fulfillment through his true passions, rugby and art. He has just one unrealized desire—one the guesthouse’s new occupant would be happy to help him with.

Late one night, while walking through the garden to clear his mood, Eric spies Tom enjoying a BDSM video starring two men. Having a sub to train might just help Eric forget his troubles, but as their feelings deepen, the real world intrudes. Eric can give Tom everything, but not until Tom decides where he’s meant to be.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  Hot and intriguing sex, but lacking in romance.

Let me start with the hot & intriguing part:

There is a lot of sex in this book, and not too much lead up before it happens. For a moment, I saw a glimmer of an interesting conflict that could really propel this book on a more mental level (Tom is engaged to a woman), but this is treated more as a simple circumstance that, other than the occasional ‘feel-bad’ reflection, doesn’t mean anything.

If you are put off by cheating, this is not the book for you.

However, if you can get past this, and you are reading to have a little carnal pleasure—or are super curious at an insight into the BDSM lifestyle—then this book has a lot to offer. Because, yeah, the sex is hot and a little mind bending too; I often found myself frowning and cocking my head while turning the screen around as I was reading, as if that would clarify the mental images of exactly how some of this sex worked. (On occasion there were more than two good-looking men involved.)

I think this was the most fascinating part of the story for me; especially considering the author has thirty years personal experience in the BDSM lifestyle. That gave the story/sex elements more credibility. So that is a definite plus.

Now on to the lacking in romance part:

It’s not that there’s no romance in here, in a way, there is a touch of care/love that simmers through between Tom and Eric, but I felt this development grew much, much too quickly. Eric is drawn to Tom from first sight and falls in love in the blink of an eye.

I guess it suits the more erotic story line just fine, but there are glimpses of some really nice writing in the story (especially in the first part of the book) and I can see this author could possibly offer a bit more than mostly mind-bending sex in his stories. (For example, there was so much potential for conflict with Megan, her father, maybe even some of Tom’s rugby players.)

So yeah. Hot and intriguing sex, but lacking in romance.


After the End by Alex Kidwell

17160816Title:  After the End

Author:  Alex Kidwell

Genre:   Contemporary

Length:  Novel (198 pages)

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press (January 21st 2013)

Heat Level:  Moderate

Heart Rating:  ♥♥♥♥3½Hearts

Blurb:   After Quinn O’Malley loses his partner of ten years, Aaron, to cancer, he withdraws from everything. In a single tragic moment, he goes from an artist with a loving partner and a future to an uninspired comic book store owner who barely exists. He hides behind a shield of grief, refusing to let Aaron go. He feels guilty for even trying to imagine a life apart from what he’d had.

The charming party planner Quinn’s best friend insists he meet on a blind date isn’t someone he’s ready for. Brady Banner walks into Quinn’s small frozen world and turns everything upside down. For years, Quinn has focused on endings, but as Brady begins to thaw his existence, Quinn realizes that one moment can do more than stop a life—it can also start a new one.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  A sweet and sensitive read.

I really loved the beginning of this book. The moment Brady walked into the bar and spoke to Quinn, I instantly liked him. Why? Because Brady has such endearing self-assurance. Straight up, he tells Quinn how things are between them. This was refreshing to read and it hooked me.

Add to that beautiful little heartbreaking memories that Quinn has about his deceased love, and it is easy to fall into this story and get carried away.

There are many nice moments in this story, and the grief aspect is nicely woven in without becoming too angsty.

However, I feel the characters Brady and Quinn needed more time to get into their relationship, to take things slowly and carefully. I was disappointed when the decision to go slow and be friends first wasn’t followed through, and sadly, I began to feel rushed through the rest of their romance to the ‘I love yous’ and HEA. And with the haste to get there, I lost some vital connection to Brady and Quinn that had so nicely developed in the first half of the story.

Half Moon Chambers by Harper Fox

994969Title:  Half Moon Chambers

Author:  Harper Fox

Genre:   Contemporary Romance

Length:  Novel

Publisher:  FoxTales (November 8th, 2012)

Heat Level: Medium

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥5Hearts

Blurb:   A cop and a recovering addict – no chance for romance there.

Yet Vince, a street-hardened narcotics officer, is having to reassess his life. Six months ago, he hit rock-bottom. A bullet brought him down, and his beloved partner Jack betrayed him. Badly disabled and in constant pain, Vince is flying a desk these days, and it doesn’t suit him at all. His world is looking grim when he meets Rowan Clyde, sole surviving witness to a vicious drugs-related killing.

Rowan doesn’t want to talk. He’s vulnerable, trying to hold his own life together in the wake of a crippling addiction. Vince should have no time for him, and Rowan certainly shouldn’t trust a cop with an agenda to get him onto the witness stand at any cost.

Yet despite their differences, there’s an instant pull of attraction between these two damaged men. Their new bond is put to the ultimate test on the tough streets of Newcastle during a dark northern winter, as each turns out to hold the keys to the other’s survival – and to his destruction.

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  British and Brilliant.

Simply put, I loved this story. Cop Vince narrates the story with a cool, blunt efficiency and a twist of color that makes him a unique character. He’s tough, he’s hardened, yet, after getting shot in a failed drugs bust, he shows us he’s vulnerable too – and somehow, seeing him cope and overcome his pain made him an even tougher character, in my opinion.

Artist and recovering addict Rowan Clyde is deep in the shitter – though this only comes out gradually as the story rises to the climax – yet he manages to be such a beacon of light in this story, and I found his attraction to Vince compelling and, like his works of art, beautiful and erotic.

I love the flawed characters and the mystery elements of this story, and, gah, I was so swept up in the characters that I barely put the book down—and when I did, I did so with reluctance.

Do I really have to wait months for the next Harper Fox release? I’m going to be quite impatient about it, in fact, like Rowan, I seem to have become deeply addicted and I don’t think it’s something I’ll recover from.

I recommend this story to those who like a gritty, well-written story with a crime-suspense flavor to it.

Hurry on up with the writing, Mrs. Fox, I need my next story fix.

Carved in Wood by Sean Michael

Title:  Carved in Wood

Series: Howling at the Moon Series

Author:  Sean Michael

Genre:   Shapeshifter/ Fantasy

Length:  Novella (103 pages)

Publisher:  Amber Allure (October 7th 2012)

Heat Level:  Medium

Heart Rating:  ♥♥2Hearts

Blurb:   Can a rescue turn into love?

In a brutal world where werewolves are hunted and killed, Wood runs a group that smuggles wolves out of the city to safety. But when Wood meets Daniel, nearly dead from the silver bullet in his shoulder and with a story about entire packs being stolen and forced to work in labor camps, Wood begins to question whether or not he’s really helping anyone at all. Is he simply smuggling wolves out of the proverbial frying pan and into the fire?

Meanwhile, as Daniel heals, he and Wood form a bond, coming together in a way neither man ever expected, and bringing up feelings neither man has ever experienced. Will their becoming mates muddy the waters, or make everything perfectly clear?

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Reviewer:   Any

Review:  More porn than plot.

Daniel escapes a camp holding wolf packs prisoners. Along the way, he loses his brother and is shot. He quickly runs into Wood, a shifter who identifies him for what he is immediately, and who immediately takes it upon himself to help Daniel.

The first few chapters moved quickly and were okay—though, perhaps the pacing could have slowed down a touch more for us to really get a feel for the characters—but very early in the story, Daniel and Wood mate and I felt the story fizzled into porn after that. Almost on every page something was sexual was happening at the cost of the story.

I thought one interesting story development was Daniel’s need to revenge his brother and set free the rest of his pack from the camp he’d been imprisoned in, however, when he and Wood go back to do this, the events are summarized in a few sentences. We don’t see any struggle or feel there are any stakes in what should be the climax. With no tension, this made the story a difficult read to engage in on any other level other than the physical.

If you are in the mood for a simple, sex-filled story that focuses more on the animal side of shifters, this might be for you.