Review: A Shooting Star by Joe Cosentino

An In My Heart Novella

On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star.

Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart.

A Dreamspinner Press Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

So, let's set the scene. I don't have many talents, reading pretty quickly is one of them (although the amount of books I read is more likely to be attributed my willingness to forgo the housework in my never ending search for book related happiness, than any actual speed reading skills) but I digress, my one other talent is catching the bouquet at weddings.

No, seriously, it is. I mean, being an old married bird meself these days, I don't actually get to show off this talent any more (determination is essential to this talent)*, but I do possess it. It's quite a thing really, seeing as about the only other thing I can catch is a cold... until it came to claiming the book reviews in the clubhouse. 

Now, I try and be polite and wait (I'm British, it's in my DNA) before claiming books I want to review, but every now and then that old bridal-bouquet catching skill comes to the fore and I claim the heck out of a review before the other Unis get a look in. When a request from Joe Cosentino came in, polite Lori took a hike and I jumped in feet first, metaphorically pushing the other Unis out of the way until that bouquet review book was in my hands. Bingo Stingo!

Then I read the blurb.

I know, I know. I should read the blurb first. I remember to occasionally, but too often an author or a cover will often catch my eye, and I forget about finding out what the book is about and just go I want, I want, I want. No probs here though, Bob, because the blurb sounded good...

...all the way up to the phrase;
A Dreamspinner Press Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
No traditional HEA. Eeeeeeeeeeek. Did I need to buy Superdrug out of tissues? Ensure my mascara was waterproof? I mean, I do read angsty, sad books - and I usually love them - but most of the time I don't know going in that they are angsty because of my failure to read blurbs. So, knowing this was bittersweet from the start may have set off a mini panic.

Ha! Foolish me. I really should not have worried, because this author tickled my funny bone again. 

Jonathan, on receiving his academy award, thinks back to the days when he was at college. He remembers his roommate - his first great love - and we take the journey with him through those heady days of young, infatuate love. And what a journey it is.

Joe Cosentino writes in a remarkably observant manner. Characters, who may seem OTT or excessive at first glance, are actually astutely observed incarnations. The spirit of characters undiluted but that always represent a person you know. (Another writer who has this skill is Victoria Wood, a British comedienne, whose observational comedy Dinner Ladies is one of my all time favourites). It doesn't matter who the character is, however over the top they are, there is always that inkling of knowing them. Of knowing someone just like them - who does that thing, just like them, or shares that trait. Jonathan, David and Barry are just like that. I know all of them - I can't quite put my finger on exactly how, but I do.

Jonathan sometimes seems a little (*cough*a lot*cough*) gullible. He is enraptured by David, by everything the other man does. David is the light in the room, the shining star, the hero. Not just to Jonathan, but to (almost) everyone. Jonathan longs to be him, to be with him, to be the creation David wants. He is blinkered in his adoration. Sometimes, he frustrated the hell outta me. I wanted to yell at him to wake up and smell the coffee; nobody is that good.

Except, sometimes David was. Sometimes I believed in him just like Jonathan did. Other times I wanted to strangle the egocentric chap, but never for long. He was a character that caused extreme emotions, and truly I didn't really understand him fully until the end. I knew him/didn't know him all in the same breath. I did';t see the way in which the story was leading. Maybe that is just me. Maybe I embraced my inner Jonathan and went glibly along where the words on the page took me. Will you?

I need to mention Barry. Though not an MC, from the first time we meet him I fell in love! He is the character that just is. Sensible, sweet, funny. A friend - a good friend. Dependable. I just...loved him. I loved him because of, and despite of, the way he is with Jonathan and David. He really is wonderful.

A Shooting Star is a story I would recommend, mainly because Joe Cosentino is an author I would recommend. For those readers looking for something a little bit different - dare I say unique? For those readers who like to laugh. For those readers who appreciate the nuances of people and the way each character is different. For those readers who want to read a damn good story - check out this author. I'm glad I did.

*How to catch the bouquet:
1) Stand behind the bride, not to the side. Brides tend to throw two handed so the chances are the bouquet will go straight back.
2) Stand to the front of the crowd trying to catch the flowers. Not exactly at the front, but try and ensure no one taller is in front of you. (I'm only 5'4, so you don't have to be of modelesque height).
3) Reach for the bouquet as it comes over, grab one handed but with a firm grip. DO NOT BE POLITE.
4) Most important. Do not let go. Let everyone else give up first. Keep your grip. Those flowers are yours. D'ya hear me? They are yours. Let nearly every flower get pulled from the bouquet, if you are the last one standing without giving up hold you  have claimed the prize. It's yours, to be chucked away on your own bin at home for sure, but you will forever and always be known as the one who caught the bouquet. Savour that honour.

To buy links:
For more information check out Goodreads.
A copy of this story was given in exchange for an honest review.

Author Visit and Interview: Joe Cosentino - talking about A Shooting Star

On the eve of the best night of his life, winning an Academy Award, Jonathan Bello thinks back to his one great love, David Star. Flipping back the pages of time, Jonathan recalls his handsome, muscular, and charismatic college roommate. Since Jonathan was a freshman and David a senior in the Theatre Department, David took Jonathan under his wing and molded him, not only as an actor but as a lover. With every wonderful new adventure, David left his joyful mark on anyone with whom they came in contact, but Jonathan soon uncovered David’s dark past, leading to a shocking event. Undaunted, Jonathan celebrates the captivating man who will always hold a special place in his heart. 
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It's an unfortunate truth: love doesn't always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.

Hi Joe, welcome to the stable! Pull up a stool and grab a glass of whisky…

 I had the honour of reading Drama Queen for the blog so when a request came in to review A Shooting Star I jumped at the chance. To say my expectations were high – it’s unfair but true, though I do also admit to being slightly nervous. I’m an HEA gal through and through, and as this is a Dreamspinner Press Bittersweet Dreams title I was worried about buying the village shop out of tissues before I’d finished reading.

Ha!! What did I know? This dream is bittersweet, and kudos, because I did not see the bitter coming. Well I anticipated the bitter – from an entirely different direction. Sleight of hand from the theatre indeed. But it also contains what I’m calling your trademark humour. Very observational, very witty and a wonderful mix of subtle and blatant. Considering I was expecting to cry, I spent a lot of time chuckling. My review is up later today, check back later to see what I thought.

So, what questions do I have? Let’s see…

BMBR: Let’s talk about the humour straight away as it really is a signature of your writing. Authors are often told to ‘find their voice’, and yours is so distinct with, as I said, the humour – or wit is possibly a better term – the wit running all the way through it. Is this something that comes naturally to you? Or are you forever testing lines on your nearest and dearest to see which gets the best reaction?
JC: First, let me say that I also love YOUR sense of humour, Lori. Your reviews are so clever and fun. After reading them, I feel as if I’ve visited with a witty friend over tea to dish about the neighbours. As for me, I come from a very funny Italian American family. Humour is and always has been a natural part of my life. I remember as a kid watching my mother mop the kitchen floor while she lowered her dressing gown and sang, “Let Me Entertain You” from the musical GYPSY. My father, wearing her sweater around his waist and smoking cigar, gave his rendition of “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair” from SOUTH PACIFIC. As you mentioned, my sense of humour bleeds into my books. In my upcoming release, a holiday short story from Dreamspinner Press, a HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, a young American meets his extended family in Capri, Italy, and he falls for his third cousin, Paolo. Paolo’s family is quite humorous and inspired by my family. I can’t wait for you to read it! I think you will also like my February release from Dreamspinner Press, a novella of gay fairy tales I wrote entitled, THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND. I let my imagination run wild!

BMBR: Though not the MC, let’s talk about the star of the story, David Star. Wow. What a character! I detested David as much as I adored him and I suspect this is exactly how you wrote him to come across. Unbearably patronising at times, cruel (I thought) in his affections toward Jonathan, utterly self-obsessed…yet somehow he manages to be the complete opposite of ALL these traits at the same time. What?? How do you go about writing a character like David?
JC: Similar to Mario in AN INFATUATION, David in SHOOTING STAR is a combination of a number of young men I met as a theatre major in college and as a young actor living in New York City. Each was handsome, muscular, charismatic, sensuous, and almost other-worldly like Greek gods. Though they appeared to hold the world in the palm of their strong hands, each had a secret weakness. David is magical, an enigma, and incredibly sexy. I drove the poor cover artist, LC Chase, crazy in selecting a model’s photo for David on the cover. The fourth try was magic!

BMBR: Okay, so that’s David. Now let’s turn our attention to the actual MC, Jonathan. Jonathan is very sheltered, at least that’s how he seems to me. A product of his upbringing, where he’s basically s-mothered in a close knit, loving family. A close knit, loving family who expected him to become an accountant and when he declared he was going to be a theatre major…
“…It was such a traumatic time for everyone in my life that finding out I was gay elicited this response, “That’s nice, Johnny.
(I loved this line!) So, he’s thrown into the all too bewildering world of college – not just as a normal student but as a theatre major. Naïve, cosseted, protected. Then he meets his roommate, David Star, and we see an almost coming of age like quality to the story arc. Where did you start with developing Jonathan?
JC: Thanks. Jonathan is ingenuous, warm, gullible, and has an open heart. He also wears his heart on his sleeve. I love that we see the story through his eyes since he’s new to the college—and to love. He reminds me of some of my students.

BMBR: Barry. Little old Barry. He was my favourite character, I truly loved him. Tell me about him.
JC: As is the case with Stuart in AN INFATAUTION, Barry, Jonathan’s loyal scene partner in A SHOOTING STAR, is loosely based on my spouse. Barry is hysterical and has such a great sense of self. He is also a devoted friend. I think Barry is the spine of the novella, just like my spouse is the spine of my existence.

BMBR: So the theatre, wily temptress that she is, is undoubtedly as big a star of your novels as any character. Theatre and acting have (and do) feature prominently in your life and your love for it is apparent in your writing. I honestly feel as though I am in backstage as I read. What is it about this world of theatrics and drama that is so consuming and why use it so heavily in your writing? Is it simply a case of write what you know, or something more?
JC: As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto with full scale musicals in the garage starring my sister and me. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me (rather than committed me-hah). When I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she stopped cutting vegetables in the kitchen and said, “Do me a favour. Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” Hah. It was no surprise to anyone when I went to college as a theatre major. Like most college theatre departments, mine was full of comedy, romance, mystery, and of course drama. The flames of love were kindled and hearts were broken while we put up play after play for delighted audiences who never knew the personal secrets behind the stage curtains. There was the star student who got the leading role in every show. Everyone, male and female, was in love with him, and he was in love with himself. There was also the class clown, the manipulator, everybody’s best friend, and (as they say on Gilligan’s Island) the rest. As we learned our acting craft, we learned solid lessons about life. A SHOOTING STAR is my homage to those amazing times. As you know, DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah comedy mystery from Lethe Press, is also set in a college theatre department (in this case a fictitious white stone Edwardian campus in New England). As a theatre college professor/department head, I was able to take little tidbits from my life and use them in this novel, where college theatre professors Nicky and Noah use their theatre skills (including playing other people) to find out why their colleagues are dropping like stage curtains, as Nicky directs the college play production—and falls for Noah. In DRAMA MUSCLE (written and releasing in a few months from Lethe Press), Nicky directs the bodybuilding competition on campus. He and Noah need to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights on campus. In DRAMA CRUISE (written and releasing next year), Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show on a cruise to Alaska. He and Noah need to uncover why cast members are falling overboard.
Since I was a professional actor in film, television, and theatre, working opposite stars like Bruce Willis, Nathan Lane, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards; I was able to use that knowledge for my Jana Lane mysteries series. In PAPER DOLL, the first Jana Lane mystery from Whiskey Creek Press, ex-child star Jana Lane has to figure out who attacked her on the studio lot at eighteen and who is attacking her now at thirty-eight. In PORCELAIN DOLL (written and releasing from The Wild Rose Press in a few months), Jana makes a comeback film and has to find out who is murdering members of her cast and crew and why. In SATIN DOLL (written and coming out next year), Jana goes to Washington, DC and is involved in a political scandal resulting in murder. In CHINA DOLL (written and coming out next year) Jana does a Broadway play and uncovers who is killing members of the company and why. Though they are romantic mysteries, my sense of humour came out in Jana’s funny agent, Simon Huckby. I want to play him in the movie. I also want to play Principal Ringwood in AN INFATUATION, Department Head Martin Anderson in DRAMA QUEEN, and Professor Katzer in A SHOOTING STAR!

BMBR: Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you a planner or a panster? Are you fuelled by coffee, forcing the lines out painful word by painful word and cursing the muse by the end of the process or typing like a fiend, grinning madly, knowing exactly where the story is going? Or, you know, something in between?
JC: I write at night after my spouse has gone to bed. I have a beautiful cherry wood study with a fireplace, huge desk, bookcases, and window seat. My mother asked me, “Don’t you have anything better to do than write at night?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother asked him that? Hah. Since I was an actor, when I get an idea for a book (usually waking from sleep at 3am), I write a plot summary and biography for each character. Then I write an outline, which always changes when I write the first draft. I show the second draft to my spouse for his notes. The third draft goes to the publisher.

BMBR: Are you an avid reader yourself? What books would you sell your soul for?
JC: I’ve read all nine TALES OF THE CITY books by Armistead Maupin and every Agatha Christie novel, short story, and play. I love their quaint, likeable characters, plot twists and turns, humour, romance, and surprises.

BMBR: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or actors?
JC: Write stories with engaging characters who you want to spend time with. Just as I did improvisation as an actor, I recommend letting your characters talk to one another and seeing what happens! An outline is simply an outline. Don’t be afraid to deviate from it. When a reader finishes a book, he/she should be satisfied that the various parts equalled the whole, rather than the author pulling an ending out of the hat. Finally, while a sad ending is fine, don’t forget the humour!

BMBR: Is there a character in this novella with whom you more closely identify?
JC: Like Harold in AN INFATUATION, Jonathan in A SHOOTING STAR is loosely based on me when I was in college, though I haven’t won an Academy Award—yet.

BMBR: I’ve tried to keep the questions so the answers would be spoiler free, but is there anything else you want to add or wish I had asked?
JC: After my Bittersweet Dreams novella, AN INFATUATION, was released by Dreamspinner Press, I received many comments from readers thanking me for making them laugh, cry, and have what they called, a life-changing read. They requested a second novella in the In My Heart series. Since AN INFATUATION was loosely based on my high school days through adulthood, I thought back to my days as a theatre major in college, and A SHOOTING STAR was born. So far readers seem to be enjoying it as well. I love hearing from readers. They can contact me at

Thank you for stopping by Joe, it’s been fun! You’re an author firmly on my auto-read list now and think people need to read your work ASAP. With a voice that is distinct and refreshingly different, and a wit that is deceptively old-skool but unerringly accurate readers are in for a treat!

Thank you, Lori. You’re the best!

Further information and to buy links:

Contemporary Romance
ASIN:              B014LNRXU6
Cover Artist:
L.C. Chase

What's everyone else saying?
Reviews for A SHOOTING STAR:

“Of all the books I’ve reviewed, or attempted to review over the past year, this is only the second book that was well written.” Multitasking Mommas

“A very gripping, heart wrenching novella. A great read!!” Pam Kay Reviews

Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation and A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella), The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press short stories novella), Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery (Wild Rose Press), and Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press).

Blog Tour: K.A. Merikan - Guns n' Boys: Swamp Blood

CALLING ALL KA MERIKAN FANS! *stands in line* They're here to talk about their newest release in their Gun n' Boys series and a peek at the amazing cover.

It's time for Guns n' Boys book 3, and to celebrate the release, I want to discuss difficulties of writing a single-couple series. In most romance books, it’s all about the development of a new relationship, but while slow burn technically makes it possible to stretch this kind of romantic plotline across more than one book, this only works for series where non-romantic storylines are equally or more important. Still, many readers can find this frustrating, and so usually the relationship is established in some way by the end of book 1.

But there are some books where the MCs have a strong HEA ending in the first book. This can happen intentionally, or when the book becomes popular and the author decides to develop a whole series around the couple. I think that the most effective way of doing this is creating separate arcs for each subsequent volume. It could be a monster-of-the-week type of scenario, especially if the MCs are involved in an organization such as a detective agency. The reader can then follow the couple through different stages of the relationship (hardship, being outed, marriage, etc.).

But that’s a bit too fluffy for me :) I enjoy reading about relationships that struggle with internal conflict, and so I don’t want this element to be gone following book 1. People can be deeply in love, but feelings don’t automatically resolve the troubles the characters might have, and in case of Guns n’ Boys, this is very true. Domenico and Seth are very temperamental, and sometimes, their personalities clash violently, especially that they are mafia men, both macho in one way or another. They don’t find it easy to open up and just talk, and so many of the issues they have stem from miscommunication, or shame to admit to vulnerability. Yet at the same time, they have deep feelings for one another, and those show through their actions.

Because we want to keep the conflict going along with the overarching mafia storyline, as well as the plots of the single episodes, there is a lot to juggle, and planning can take ages. A few years back, when we were much less experienced, all our stories were based on chapters with cliffhanger endings. Plots started and began, so there was no real pacing, no structure. I now believe that this kind of writing drags on and is ultimately tiring for the reader, so each book is carefully planned for the tension to rise and fall in the right moments.

There needs to be an overarching plot that will be resolved in the final volume but is built-up throughout the whole series, as well as plots for particular volumes, but since I’m talking about romance, this element is crucial for a great reader experience. The relationship needs to feel fresh each time, even if it’s already well established. If the relationship is between good people who are excellent communicators, it makes sense for the tension to be external, but what I’m most interested in is at least a bit of internal conflict, which can organically appear in the presence of external events.

For Domenico and Seth, life is constantly changing. They are on the run from the mafia, recovering from torture, and inevitably there will be high tension.There are feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, and yet they have this kind of desperate need for each other that will never let them grow apart. Let me just say that there will be a lot for them to rediscover in Swamp Blood ;)

If you want to see our inspiration photos for this book, check out the Guns n’ Boys Pinterest board:

--- Faking their own death was the easy part. ---

After months of recovering from his injuries, Seth struggles with who he has become. Afloat in a reality he never planned, he tries to find the lost pieces of himself again. Find the purpose, motivation, and strength to get back into shape. He is sick and tired of being a burden for Domenico, who seems to have it all together. When Domenico’s jealousy pushes them into the spotlight of a biker gang with connections to their former mafia family, Seth decides to step up, and make his own decisions, no matter what risks they might entail.

Domenico Acerbi can’t trust anyone. Nightmares of Seth’s torture are still haunting his dreams, and if he and Seth are to leave the country quietly and disappear off the mafia’s radar, he needs to stay in charge and keep everyone under control. What he doesn’t need is Seth giving him attitude, keeping secrets, and distancing himself for no reason. And as if Domenico didn’t have enough on his plate already, Seth forces him to help some hooker. Being stuck in the swamp with a kid hunted by a bunch of bikers is not Domenico’s idea of laying low.


Themes: mafia, homophobia, assassin, organized crime, outlaw bikers, human trafficking, runaway, trust issues

Genre: Dark, twisted erotic romance / crime thriller

Erotic content: Explicit gay sex

Length: ~117,000 words

WARNING: Adult content. If you are easily offended, this book is not for you.
‘Guns n’ Boys’ is a gritty story of extreme violence, offensive language, abuse, and morally ambiguous protagonists. Behind the morbid facade, there is a splash of inappropriate dark humor, and a love story that will crawl under your skin.


About the author

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of - it will be full of surprises.

For more information about ongoing projects, works in progress and publishing at:
K.A. Merikan’s author page:
Sounds awesome! And that cover *drools*. As always, thanks KA Merikan for stopping by!

Review: Lovers Entwined by Lillian Francis

Ewan Matthews is one of Boston’s leading genealogy experts. When a would-be bridegroom comes looking for confirmation that there are no skeletons in his ancestral closet, Ewan considers turning the job down. Trey Capell is a jerk of the highest order and yet Ewan experiences an infuriating attraction that’s easy to justify. Trey’s exactly his type—a carbon copy of the man Ewan’s been looking for his entire life.

Harder to explain is the sense of recognition that leaves Ewan speechless the moment Trey steps into his office. Or the stomach-churning sensation at the thought of casting the job aside.

Trey gets more appealing by the day, leaving Ewan struggling with forbidden desire for his client. Desire not helped by strange voyeuristic dreams that have started to haunt his sleep. Dreams that appear to be an echo of the past.

I wanted to like this book. I even read the blurb and me + destiny trope/historical =

Unfortunately, the blurb leaves out a rather critical piece of information. Trey is engaged when he meets Ewan. I'm not diametrically opposed to cheating, but this just makes Trey look like a capricious douchewaffle. This isn't an arranged marriage or a shotgun wedding. He asked her to marry him. LIKE A WEEK AGO! AFTER 4 YRS!

I cannot abide that sort of fickleness. Every time he slighted her or avoided her in favor of being with Ewan made me hate him just a little bit more. If you're going down this road and trying to sell me the 'they belong together despite any and all obstacles' bridge you have to build it out of something sturdier than willow wood and zip ties for me to consider buying it. 

Don't make her the bad guy and try to sell me that she's made all these drastic changes OVER THE COURSE OF A MONTH. Also, don't try to sell me that he never noticed what a cunt she was until he met his true love. NOPE. Not buying that bridge either because capricious douchewaffle AND unobservant. Neither of which can be blamed on her.

I'd buy something in the vein of The End of the Affair with an I love him more or The Horse Whisperer with an I've loved him longer, but don't make her the villain. That weak plot device only served to taint the rest of my experience with this novel.

The whole long story (and I do mean long; it could easily be cut by a third) of different versions of Trey and Ewan and their affairs over the centuries is told through flashbacks. I'm fine with non-linear stories, and actually the flashbacks were the most enjoyable part for me. What I still am having trouble reconciling is why only Ewan was having the dreams and daydreams and not Trey. Every once in awhile Trey blurts out an old pet name, but cannot put it into context.

So... it's just muscle memory? Of the tongue?

Fair enough.

The last version was clearly done to introduce yet another historical depiction of these forever entwined and oft ill-fated lovers. Because two, evidently, wasn't enough to drive that point home. Also, I'm not sure how they both glossed over the ill-fated part and decided to tempt the fates. Again. The only conclusion I can come up with is a rose colored glasses syndrome which led to a belief that a marriage license will act as a talisman against tragedy.

Then again I couldn't make heads or tails out of either one of these characters half the time so what do I know? Ewan got all bent out of shape when he first meets Trey because Trey sat in the chair "insolently"?

Stuffy much? 

Then proceeded to be a class A prick to him. A client! A paying client!

Trey wasn't much better with the cheating, blaming the fiancée, capricious douchewaffledom and weird misdirected anger at Ewan toward the end which actually makes me think they are perfect for one another.

Lovers entwined indeed.

I couldn't be more disappointed this didn't work for me especially since I actually read the blurb in an effort to avert these sorts of occurrences. Thus far reading the blurb vs. not reading the blurb isn't exactly netting a whole lot of difference in outcomes.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads.

Review: Balls and Chains (Outlaw MC #6) by James Cox

Warning: Paddling, flogging, m/m sex, whip play, spanking, sex toys, caning, suspension bondage, knife play, Temperature play.

What if bad guys ruled the world and the good guys were the outlaws? The war has begun. The MC’s of Mars are fighting against the corrupt government and their archaic rules: Women are used for breeding, dark skinned men are slaves and homosexuals are executed. Whip is the kinky club member who is the best with current technology. He has the task of hiding out at Harley’s Hover Car Parts to monitor the government. He never planned on finding out the sexy ginger Harley had a crush on him. Whip isn’t like most men. He grew up with a harsh father that taught him early how to torture people. Whip turned that horror around and now he can’t live a vanilla life. He has whips and cages and toys that would make any sane man run.

The city on Mars becomes a battle for the future of our species. But the battle between Harley and Whip is just beginning. Will these two men find love with balls and chains?

I read this book. I read this book twice. I’ll read this book again because dammit, a kinky COX has become my favorite flavor. I’ve been dying to read Harley’s story ever since he was introduced. He’s an Irish ginger who supports the MC’s by running guns and ammo for them on the sly. He may not be a full-fledged member of the MC’s but he’s definitely on the inside. I knew he was going to hook up with one of them eventually but I really didn’t expect it to be Whip.

Whip has a bag full of kink he carries that serves to both amuse his libido and comfort his soul. Whip’s got a rough past and could have turned into the very thing the MC fights against, but instead he’s one of those strong characters who learned what not to do from his past instead of perpetuating the evil his father tried to teach him. “It was scary to look in a mirror and see the man you feared staring back.” His childhood did a number on him though. The man is incapable of vanilla so needless to say, between his need to dominate and the war against oppression on Mars, poor Whip doesn’t get to do a lot of hooking up.

Whip needs to get to Harley’s place and set up a tech hot spot so he can get eyes and ears on the Peacekeepers and report back to the MC’s. He sets up shop in Harley’s basement and at first Whip doesn’t think Harley is very happy to have him there, but after checking in with his brothers he gets a bit of intel that Harley may be a little bit, nay, a lot, interested in Whip. What comes next are some seriously hot fucking interactions. Literally. And this is what I loved about this story. These two and their kinks are a perfect match and they both recognize how amazing that is. But, and this is what I love about the COX and his stories, they don’t get ridiculously mushy about it all. The sweetness is tempered with humor and snark. James knows how to drop a little nugget of sugar and walk away. He gets the point across in a realistic way so it actually sounds like a real conversation I can believe in.

“Morning, Luv.”  
“Love, huh?”  
“Aye.” He straightened. “Ya don’t like it?” 
I pulled the blanket away and stood. “I like it a lot.”

It’s not a lot, but considering the pressure they are under and the fact that they are still in the middle of Kinkville and crossing the border slowly into the land of Feelz, it’s pretty damned sweet. Reading about Mr. Kinks-a-lot having a sweet side with Harley, a man who appreciates him and embraces his darker side, made me swoony.

The planned attack on the government building is executed and it was well written and exciting to read. There is added pressure in that the Earth prison is being abandoned and Lover is still there serving his sentence. Poor Outlaw is still a mess and will not rest until Lover is back with him. It squeezes me in the heart when Outlaw (Knox) refers to Lover by his given name, Liam. That was kind of a big deal in book 2, Underneath his Armor, and it’s those little things that make this series more than just sexy, action, sci-fi.

I usually like to share a quote to end a COX review, but this time I want to share a ‘moment’ instead. Why? Because s’hot, that’s all the reason anyone needs.

Harley’s foreskin was scrunched back showing off his rounded head and a pearly drop. I swiped at the pre-cum with my finger and then brought it to his lips. The cloudy liquid smeared on his upper lip and then his lower making them shine. Then I kissed Harley. We shared the taste of him as I pulled our bodies together.

OK, I totally lied to you, here are a couple of my favorites from #6, it's too hard to choose just one.

“The last time he was a clean-shaven ginger with freckles on his cheeks that I wanted to trace with my dick.”

“The guys are waiting to say goodbye.” I rolled my eyes. “You do realize for badass bikers, leaders of the resistance . . . we hug too fucking much.”

You’re welcome.

ETA: WAIT! Holy Fook!
How could I forget the cock cage? Who does that? I’m so disappointed in myself.
Dear James, can we get a scene with the cock cage since that thing happened with those guys and the stuff didn’t happen? (That’s my version of covering a spoiler :D) Please???
OK, spanksyouverymuch.

Check out Balls and Chains over on Goodreads

Review: Like a Lover (Housemates #2) by Jay Northcote

Josh has a plan: get through uni with a good degree and no debt. Focused on his goals, he pays his way by working as an escort. He enjoys the no-strings sex because he doesn’t have time for a relationship. Falling in love definitely isn’t part of the deal—especially not with a client.

When Rupert meets Josh in a bar, he’s smitten on sight. He’s never paid for sex, but when Josh propositions him, he can’t resist. He should’ve known one night would never be enough. Luckily for him he has an inheritance to fund his addiction to Josh, because his job in IT support wouldn’t cover the cost.

With each encounter the lines get blurred, creating something that feels more like a relationship than a business transaction. But they come from different worlds, and to go from client-and-escort to lovers seems impossible. If they want a future together, Josh and Rupert have a lot to overcome.

Have you ever had the Atomic wings at Wing Stop?

I went there once. Talk about on fire. Or as my cousin once delicately put it, "tongue slap your brains out hot". Yep. Not for the faint of heart. More akin to near death experience by face melting.

This novella is in that 'tongue slap your brains out hot' neighborhood. Josh is hot. Rupert is hot. They have hot sex. Even the cover is hot! Look at that thing! 

I mentioned it's hot, right?

The sex is varied and copious. This is erotica at its finest. If you're on the hunt for hot mansex, frotting, oral, rimming or quasi-public handsyness, you've hit the jackpot.

The plot is thin and predictable as is the relationship development.

This trope between a rent boy and his client falling in love I actually buy. Sex is an intimate act with or without money being involved. I imagine the lines are easily blurred between professional and personal, especially within the context of an ongoing relationship. Mix in the circumstances under which Josh and Rupert meet coupled with the fact that they're hot for each other right from the start and it's a seamless progression into personal rather than professional. Northcote did a first-rate job of portraying that progression and the angst that ensues.

I had to suspend reality a bit for Like a Lover, a task which I'm getting vaguely better at, for a couple of reasons.

The first being the dynamic between Rupert and Josh. Rupert is circling the Gideon Cross aka crazy train possessive block and he's trying to date a rent boy? My initial endgame for these two was they'd be splitsville inside a year with Rupert finding a Josh clone, but never getting over him then devolving into a drinking problem and maybe a sex addiction with only Josh doppelgangers that he would pay to call Josh and then wail at the end because they could never be him!

But as the story unfolded Josh's characterization evolved unexpectedly.

Josh starts off as this cocky, self-assured, sexy rent boy whose milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.

And POOF! suddenly he's this shy, blushing, insecure, angst ridden and lonely wannabe boyfriend? 

I get being lonely and wanting someone to watch bad tv with and cuddle, but I liked first incantation Josh. 

Initial Josh was a BAMF! and I hearted him. That Josh has been dealt a shit hand by life and told life to go fuck itself. He didn't have time for self-pity. He had a life plan and it didn't involve wallowing or feeling sorry for himself. That Josh was resilient, confident and charming. Frankly, I was sad to see him go and I don't think he had to, but BAMF Josh and boyfriend Josh somehow became mutually exclusive.

So, second incantation Josh and Rupert might make it, but I'm still thinking Rupert will suffocate him over time. You can't cage a free bird even if it is in a gilded cage.

I had a couple other niggles one being the money. Where is Josh's money going? He acts as though he's on the brink of homelessness, but he's popular and he ain't no bargain basement rent boy. He's not a drug user. He's not into extravagant things. He's not a clothes horse. He doesn't party like it's 1999. Hell, the two months that he's charging Rupert alone are a financial windfall, yet he acts like any second now he'll be panhandling on the streets? How much does it cost to be a student? Ramen isn't expensive.

The other niggle is the pacing slows to a crawl in spots. All the talk of roses at the wedding resort springs to mind and during those times I started to think this novella would wend up in the 3 hearts range. But then Hedonistic Cupcake would read another face meltingly hot sex scene and tell Logical Cupcake where to stick it. 

So... Hedonistic Cupcake says...

 photo giphy_zpsojku6ufw.gif

Clearly, she wears the pants around here.

Hedonistic Cupcake:  7,289,234
Logical Cupcake:  2

Hence the 4 Tongue Slap Yo Brains Out Hot Hearts.

An ARC was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more on Goodreads.

Buy links:
Amazon UK

Review: Prickly Business (Portland Pack Chronicles #1) by Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Kade

Some people might call Avery Babineaux a prick. He’s a hedgehog shifter from an old-money Louisiana family with a penchant for expensive shoes and a reputation for being a judgmental snob. His attitude is why he and his fated mate are estranged. Not that Avery cares. He doesn’t want to be mated to some blue-collar werewolf anyway. Or so he keeps telling himself.

No werewolf likes to be looked down upon, least of all Dylan Green. He doesn’t need a mate, especially not some snotty hedgehog who sneers at his custom motorcycle shop and calls him a grease monkey. But when Avery gets into trouble with a shady loan shark, Dylan can’t stand by and let him be hurt—whether he wants the brat or not.

Yet once Dylan steps into Avery’s world, he realizes there’s more to Avery than his prickly exterior, and that unexpected vulnerability calls to Dylan’s protective instincts. The sassy little hedgehog needs a keeper, and despite their horrible first impressions, Dylan starts to believe he might be the wolf for the job.

Prickly Business was not half as cute as I was expecting it to be. A sassy hedgehog paired with an alpha wolf? Perfection! I'm sorry to say, I was a little disappointed.

Avery and Dylan are fated mates. They've both felt the pull and the bond, but they never succumbed to their instinct. Dylan's parents were fated mates and he didn't think fate did so well for them, therefore, fate can suck it. He didn't need Avery in his life, he didn't need fate deciding things for him. And Avery certainly wasn't chasing after someone who clearly didn't want him

And so it goes, folks.

Lack of communication, lots of misunderstandings, and basically two guys being stupid. They were so exhausting! Even after they started dating, they still kept things from each other and created more drama than necessary. When they were together and getting along, Avery and Dylan were a very enjoyable couple. They were sexy with fun banter, I wanted more of that. I wanted a whole book of that!

Then there was the mystery that came out of nowhere (IMO). Avery starting working for the pack doing Meals on Wheels, and one elderly man he delivers meals to has a daughter who'd been missing. After Avery asked some questions he found out that the pack and the police gave up on the case. Avery decided he was going to pick it up and start asking around. Now, I liked that Avery was trying harder to be a part of the pack, since hedgehogs are not pack animals doncha know. But to go from being somewhat apathetic towards everyone to becoming this amateur sleuth for them? Huh. It took away from the fluffy romance that I was already not getting.

To be fair, the writing was good and I liked the characters. I think if I went in expecting more of a mystery, instead of an assumed flufftastic shifter story, I might have enjoyed it more.

 A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.