Review: Devil's Food at Dusk by M.J. O'Shea & Anna Martin (audiobook)

Joe Fitzgerald hates New Orleans, but he's stuck there until he convinces one stubborn local family to sell Lumière, the crumbling French Quarter restaurant they've owned for generations. The place is a wreck, and it's hemorrhaging money. Joe figures he's their best chance for survival.

Remy Babineaux despises Pineapple Joe's and everything the chain stands for. He refuses to let Lumière become some tacky corporate tourist trap. Theme drinks and plastic beads in his restaurant? Yeah, right. Over his dead, rotting corpse. The last thing Remy wants is a meeting with the restaurant chain's representative, but his father agreed to at least listen to the proposal. There's nothing Remy can do about it.

Remy figures an anonymous hookup is exactly what he needs to decompress. When he ends up across the table from his fling the next morning, real sparks fly. Joe refuses to give up his prime location; Remy refuses to give up his legacy. It's war, and they're both determined to win at any cost. Neither of them counted on falling in love.

Listening Length: 8 hours and 1 minute
Narrator: John-Paul Barrel






This book was my first audiobook experience and I have to admit I was hoping for more. I've read several reviews of audiobooks and was stumped by the notion that the narrator could ruin a book. It's the same book, isn't it? The words didn't change, right? 

Oh ho ho! WRONG.

So wrong, in fact, that I apologize for ever even thinking those words because right from the get go this narrator began the ruination. When I read the words Remy + Cajun this guy popped into my brain...


Proper Cajun!


AND there isn't a lick of Cajun accent to be heard anywhere in this book! As a matter of fact, he turned the younger brother, Andre, who's STILL CAJUN into a California surfer dude! Look, I know it's a common misconception that Southern people talk reeeaaaaaaaallllll slow and while that may be true in some cases by and large we don't! That's why all those Gs get dropped and words get condensed into "gonna", "hafta" and "finnta". There is no way on God's Green Earth that any self-respecting Southerner would ever EVER enunciate bougainvillea into 27 syllables! It ain't happening. We got no time for that. We have iced tea to drink while driving a dooley and car karaoking sad country songs with our cousins on our way to the KFC to pick up the Family Sized bucket o'chicken for dinner all while barefoot, of course. #multitasking

So not even a hint of a Cajun accent and grating enunciation not even speeding up the narration could mitigate left me unenthused. Also, I was thinking there would be more "acting" in the narration. If the character is crying or sighing or whatever then shouldn't the narrator reflect that? Like I said, this is my first rodeo so I'm not sure if that's commonplace or not, but it was all kinds of disappointing.

So, yes, the narration was a HUGE obstacle to my enjoyment not to mention distracting.





When I wasn't cringing the story of Remy and Joe going from enemies to lovers was mostly fluffy with a fair amount of mouthwatering chefing going on. I now need to finagle a trip to The Big Easy so there is that.

Remy is head chef of the family restaurant with his brother Andre serving as his sous chef. Remy is hot tempered, loyal to his family and fighting to keep Lumière afloat. He one night stands with Joe only to discover Joe's the hot shot trying to buy the restaurant the next day. Awkward. He then hatches a plan to win Joe over by demonstrating how much New Orleans and Lumière mean to him. Along the way they fall for each other.

It's cute and fairly predictable with them being at cross purposes, though I felt the secret got stretched to the limit and it wore me down. The sex is nothing to write home about which was disappointing considering I was hoping for some eargasms. It seemed to bog down in the daily minutiae of running a restaurant more often than not. There's only so many trips to the farmers market I can take.

I'm sure reading it would've resulted in a different response and I'm bummed my first audiobook experience was a dud but life's a game of chance.  






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


Find out more on Goodreads or Dreamspinner Press.

Guest Review: Any Closer (audiobook) by Mary Calmes

Charlie Ryder has a colorful past, painful memories, and an embarrassing secret. After three years working for Leo Foster's construction company, Charlie's worst fears are realized, and Leo finds out what Charlie has worked so hard to hide. When Leo meets the revelation with absolute love and acceptance, Leo has to trust that Charlie's love isn't just gratitude, and Charlie has to learn to trust again, period. It's going to take a lot of work for these two men to get any closer.

Listening Length: 1 hour and 51 minutes
Narrator: Greg Tremblay







Guest Reviewer: Fantasy Living

Leo gave Charlie a chance with a job at his construction company, when Charlie was recovering from a major trauma. His faith and support has gone a long way in helping Charlie heal and move on. Leo never questions Charlie about why he looked so broken when they met, and as long as Charlie continues to be an asset to the company, he has no intentions of ever asking.

When the truth finally comes out about why Charlie needed the hand up, Leo lends even more support and acceptance, being the steady rock that Charlie has come to rely on. Now Charlie is looking at Leo a little longer, and holding him a little tighter, and trying to get across that it is not just gratitude he feels for Leo. Is Leo able to accept this new affection that Charlie is offering, or is his conviction about maintaining the friendship box he has placed Charlie in, the wall that will prevent something more from developing?

This story was a tease. I wanted it to be a full length novel. These two characters were people I wanted to get to know more. I liked the characters and their relationship development. Charlie was a sweetheart, and I’m glad he was working through his damage. I’m even more pleased that he had damage to work through (I’m a sucker for hurt/comfort).

Leo seemed to be a solid main lead. He had a good head on his shoulders and worked hard. Being dependable is exactly what Charlie needed, and Leo was definitely that type of man. He could be a little tense and surly, but he came across as someone you would want in your corner.

The tension worked well, once it appeared. This is more friendship and comfort, with some introspection, and building towards something unnamed. Leo was definitely a little bit blind to what was going on, which was charming. Being clueless without being stupid about it is sexy.

Greg Tremblay has not let me down with narration. His voice is extremely versatile, and I now get excited when I see his name listed on an audiobook. I know he will work the story, and give it a little bit more than I will get if I read the print version. If I had the opportunity to rate his skill and delivery separate to the story, he would get a 5+ star rating, hands down. He gave the characters an amazing voice and depth, with all the feeling that pulls the listener into the moment.

A solid short story, which isn’t overly emotional, just enough to get the hurt/comfort element across without dropping you into the pit of despair and leaving you hanging. I didn’t feel breathless when I finished, but I did feel the emotion in the story, and what could be in the off-page conclusion. This is a story of hope, recovery, and the bonds of friendship, with a side of lust. I would recommend this for most readers, with a trigger warning for descriptions of off-page rape.



For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!
Dreamspinner Press buy link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7430&cPath=201

Review: Taking the Long Way by Max MacGowan

Male escort Rye Bellamy is looking for a way out. Any way out. He’s getting older, and clients are getting more dangerous. If he doesn’t find something better, he knows he won’t survive.

He sees his chance in Marcus Townsend, a functionally blind Army veteran. Marcus, who refuses to accept his condition as immutable, has a shot at seeing a specialist who might be able to help him—but that doctor’s based on the other side of the country.

When Rye and Marcus meet, they realize they can help each other. Marcus can’t drive, but Rye can. Marcus knows what Rye is, but he likes him anyway. In fact, he more than likes him. Driving cross-country with a near stranger is a daunting task, but Rye’s biggest risk is falling for the gentle, stubborn-hearted soldier—and it might already be too late to stop that.

They plan to part ways when they reach their destination, but plans change as the affection between them grows. Now neither wants their journey to end, but continuing means finding a way to bridge the distance between who they were and who they'd like to become.



Rentboy...legally blind former solider...three guesses why I jumped at the chance to read this.


SRAL: on the prowl for rentboy romances. I wonder if I could add this to my business card?

Debut author Max MacGowan's "Taking the Long Way" does literally that. Apt title is apt. Old in the tooth hooker at the age of twenty-five, Rye gets an unexpected break from his rough life and forced 'retirement' by way of legally blind, sexually straight former soldier, Marcus. Marcus encounters Rye on the street and is drawn to him. But he's straight, so it's got to be that he's worried about the life the hooker leads, right? Marcus just falls into an easy friendship and invites the stranger he barely knows to escort him to Atlanta...as friends.

A different type of premise. And readers who don't like rentboy stories to be too gritty, might enjoy this. The tone is easy to follow, the characters are light and likeable. The men leave California and embark on a road trip through Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia. Some states were more interesting than others for the men. Overall, they drive their way into love.

This is tagged as erotic romance...hmm...romantica? *tilts head* Maybe. This is low/no angst. Nothing rocks the plot into anything crazy. Just a road trip from California to Atlanta, and somehow these men fall in love. They say the right words, at decent points in the novel...but I'm still on the fence with the couple. It could be they didn't make a hard enough sell in buying their relationship in the beginning.

There isn't as much sex (less penetrative) in the story as I'd have thought in an erotic romance. But the men's connection was nice. I like the progression into gay sex for gay sex virgin Marcus. Plus, taking his disability and struggle with his diagnosis into account, it was handled well enough. But there were some stronger and weaker parts.

Interesting parts:

- Demisexualism - this story is probably going to be tagged as 'gay for you'. A man who was heterosexual all of his life is now sexually attracted to a man. Not every man, just the one, Rye. But the author makes sure to introduce the term demisexual (being attracted to a person when a strong emotional connection is formed) Marcus hadn't been sexually attracted to anyone in some time. The author also made a point that it didn't matter of about the person's gender who Marcus was attracted to without making it too technical (pansexualism - term's not introduced though or properly used). I liked that they used Jessie the kid to introduce the demisexual term and get Marcus to understand. (Though the emotional connection was a little too soon for Jessie to call it nor would Jessie be able to tell really, would she?)

- Jessie - she wasn't too annoying for an eleven year old. She was my favorite of the secondary characters. Prim and Celia, the lesbian couple from Louisiana are a close second. They helped when the story dragged.

Things that weren't as strong:

- In the beginning and other spots (but mostly the beginning): the main characters weren't distinct enough in their own voice. They shared the same thoughts. An example, 10% - both main characters are strangers and yet they see the same man and refer to him by the same nickname? It tapered off somewhere before New Mexico, which leads me into my next issue.

- The story could have been shaved some: I get it. It's a road trip and the trip is supposed to intensify the bonding especially into shorter time frames. But some of it was unnecessary to the plot. New Mexico - that entire section? Not needed. Added nothing and read like filler. I would say the same about Shadow. But...I guess it worked for the Louisiana subplot. But...something about the entire thing felt wonky to me. *shrugs* I am happy with the outcome. I am a dog lover and go crazy for the pups, so what do I know?

- The story is very low angst: but it reads too easy in some aspects. It could be the lack of depth of the main characters. But the story is serviceable, more than memorable. (Could be because my last story was bombastic.) But I just finished the story and I struggled to remember character names and parts.

For a first time novel, it's good. It brings two men together who weren't looking for love much less a relationship together. I think the last chapter was necessary. But I'm iffy on the way the story ended. Don't worry, no cliffhangers involved. Everything is wrapped up...maybe a little too neatly for my tastes.

But it got the job done.

Recommended for readers who like low angst, damaged men with baggage getting together and don't want to end up being wrecked at the end of the story.


For more information on Dreamspinner Press,  Goodreads or Booklikes!

Exclusive Excerpt: Taking the Long Way by Max MacGowan


Today is Taking the Long Way's release day! Debut author Max MacGowan dropped by Boy Meets Boy to celebrate the momentous occasion with an exclusive excerpt from their novel. We thank Max for stopping by and leaving this exclusive giftie!


Male escort Rye Bellamy is looking for a way out. Any way out. He’s getting older, and clients are getting more dangerous. If he doesn’t find something better, he knows he won’t survive.

He sees his chance in Marcus Townsend, a functionally blind Army veteran. Marcus, who refuses to accept his condition as immutable, has a shot at seeing a specialist who might be able to help him—but that doctor’s based on the other side of the country.

When Rye and Marcus meet, they realize they can help each other. Marcus can’t drive, but Rye can. Marcus knows what Rye is, but he likes him anyway. In fact, he more than likes him. Driving cross-country with a near stranger is a daunting task, but Rye’s biggest risk is falling for the gentle, stubborn-hearted soldier—and it might already be too late to stop that.

They plan to part ways when they reach their destination, but plans change as the affection between them grows. Now neither wants their journey to end, but continuing means finding a way to bridge the distance between who they were and who they'd like to become.

Book Page: Dreamspinner Press & Goodreads


Exclusive Excerpt:

Marcus held his winning cards up, face out so Rye could see them too. “Twenty-one.”

“Damn.” Rye whistled. “I thought you were kidding me.”

“I never joke about cards. I told you, I can see shapes and colors. Not enough to drive, but enough to know which cards I’m holding when they’re in front of my face.” Marcus tossed his cards down and stood, needing to stretch his legs. “Want some water?”

Rye made a noise of agreement, but other than that, no fuss, no muss. Restful. He took the bottle of water Marcus tossed him without comment, cracking it open peacefully.
Marcus opened his own next to the window. The cool glass felt good on his cheek. He pattered his fingertips against the pane, mimicking the sound of the falling rain.

“You’re really not good at sitting still, are you?” Rye asked.

Marcus looked over his shoulder at Rye, who’d chosen the bed to sit on. His back against the headboard, legs stretched out but ankles neatly crossed. Lounging. Then he took stock of himself, by the window, listening to the rain, one foot tapping quietly, and laughed. “It shows?”

“Little bit,” Rye said, casual as could be. And why not? He’d probably done stranger.
Thinking about that made Marcus more restless. Not because he didn’t like it, or didn’t approve. Everyone had to make a living. Rye wasn’t ashamed. Why should Marcus be?

No, it was something else. He just hadn’t figured it out yet. But he would.

He could feel Rye watching him. “You must have traveled a lot. Army boys all have the same look, like they’ve been places and seen things.”

Marcus let go of the tatty curtain’s edge, intrigued. The way Rye said that—he had the sound of someone who’d always wanted to wander too. “Not that much unless you count West Point as well as the tours I did.”

“West Point?” Rye whistled. “Fancy. What rank were you, a colonel or something?”

“I wish. No, I was a first lieutenant. I thought I’d make a career out of it and maybe go as high as colonel one day, but….”

“I hear you.” Rye let the awkwardness mellow, then asked, “Where were you stationed?”

“Afghanistan. I wish I had seen more of it. It’s a beautiful country, you know? The skies at night are so wide-open.” Marcus could get lost in the memory. “Like if you knew how, you could let go of the earth and go flying up into the stars. So many of them. I loved that.”

“Can you see stars now?” Rye asked. Marcus could feel the kindness and the curiosity in his gaze.

“Not in the city.”

“No one can see them in the city,” Rye said. “What about the country?”

“Haven’t been since then.”

Rye made another of those small, soothing noises. Marcus liked that habit of his. In thanks, he didn’t ask Rye why Rye had never traveled, and hoped Rye liked that about him.

“I went on a road trip once,” Marcus said. The memory had come on him unaware and almost made him laugh. “Me and a couple of high school buddies.”

“Oh yeah?” Rye sat up straighter, crossing his legs Indian style with his elbows propped on his knees. “How old were you?”

“Eighteen—barely, but we figured we were all grown up.” Marcus had forgotten that. He let himself sink into the mental images, marveling at how clear they were. “I still don’t know how we even made it past the city limits. We had a single grocery bag of clean clothes each, and we filled the trunk of my old ’81 Skylark with beer we’d lifted off the back of a truck.”

Rye’s shoulders shook with laughter.

“How we didn’t get arrested, I don’t know that either.” Marcus had warmed to telling the story now and took one of the rickety motel chairs to swing it around and straddle the seat. “But we had such plans. The Grand Canyon. Las Vegas, where we were going to make our fortunes playing blackjack. Maybe see that giant ball of twine everyone talks about. Then keep on going. Drive until we reached the other side of the country, and dive headfirst into the Atlantic.”

He fell quiet. Yeah. He remembered that. How he’d slipped behind the wheel of that old Skylark with his fingertips and his toes almost buzzing with excitement. Like anything—and everything—was possible over the horizon.

“It didn’t matter if we made it,” Marcus said into the silence. “The journey was the point.”

Rye tilted his head, and it wasn’t hard to imagine his quiet smile. “How far did you get?”

“Not very. But that didn’t seem to matter at the time.”

“Because you still had the dream.”

He did understand. “That we did.” That was what had mattered most to Marcus, then and now. The idea that they could keep going. That it was all up to them, and their choices were the only things that defined them.

It’d been a thing of beauty, those few days. And he’d almost forgotten about them.

Rye cleared his throat. When Marcus looked up, the shapes and colors told him Rye had lifted his bottle of water in a toast that would be only a little ironic. “It’s not champagne, but what the hell. To the good times.”

Marcus’s cheeks were already sore from so much unaccustomed smiling, but it was worth it. “Damn right. Past, present, and future.”

“L’chaim.” Rye drank his water, capped the bottle, and set it aside. He moved as he always did, fluidly and with an economy of grace that anyone would call striking.

The long, lean stretch of his body, even indistinct, drew Marcus’s eye too.

That kiss. Marcus touched his lips. He hadn’t expected it, hadn’t asked for it, and for a second, he hadn’t known what was happening. He’d never kissed a man before, and the surprise of it stalled his brain. Only when he closed his eyes had it become real, and then—just as quickly—it’d been over.

Gone, but not forgotten. Marcus could still taste Rye’s mouth. Could feel the light scrape of a day’s worth of stubble, smell the faint hints of coffee and soap. Deep behind his ribs, in the heart of himself, Marcus could feel a sort of warmth that hadn’t yet died down, that’d been born when Rye kissed him.

He’d never even messed around with guys. Maybe he should have. He’d let it drop because Rye clearly wanted him to, but he couldn’t help how it made him think.

What if. What if. What if.

Marcus reluctantly let it go. It’d be a hell of a thing, wouldn’t it? Repaying a new friend for his kindness by treating him like kindness could be bought and paid for. Like he thought Rye owed him, when it was the other way around. He hadn’t enjoyed himself so much in months.

Even given the circumstances. Which reminded him…. “You never did give me a real answer, before.”

“About?”

“How much trouble you’ll be in for us taking that guy down. I’m guessing it’s a lot. Just a hunch.”

Rye waved that off, as Marcus had figured he would. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I can’t help that.” Impulse moved Marcus to sit on the edge of the bed, below where Rye’s feet landed. “Tell me the truth.”

He felt Rye study him, then heard Rye’s quiet sigh. “Marcus…. Okay. Short version is I got fired. As close to fired as someone like me can be.”

Marcus didn’t understand, not completely, but he figured he got the gist.

“They want to teach me a lesson.” Rye tapped his fingertips against his knee in a restless staccato rhythm. “They’d like to make me need their protection enough to come crawling back and beg.”

“And you won’t do that,” Marcus said softly.

Rye bared his teeth. “I’ll crawl to hell and back first.”

Rain beat steadily against the motel room window. Wasn’t as soothing a sound as it had been.

Rye cleared his throat. “Anyway. I’ll figure something out. Man, listen to it come down, would you? Hasn’t lightened up at all.”

“Not as far as I can tell.”

“Into every life, some must fall.” Rye stretched one arm and then the other, working out pops in his elbows. “An optimistic kind of guy like you would probably say the trick is finding an umbrella.”

With anyone else, Marcus knew that would have been the start of their making excuses to go. He steeled himself, ready to argue against it, but—

He was wrong. Though Rye hesitated, he gave himself a light shake and then asked, “Want to try the cards again? We could make it best two out of three, and… well.” He laughed once. “I’m in no hurry if you’re not.”

It wasn’t much of a thing to say, really. It was the way he said it. The way Marcus could feel Rye looking at him. It tipped the balance, and Marcus understood him then. Rye didn’t want this escape from their real worlds to end. No more than Marcus did.

He wanted to break away too.

Now I see.

Now he understood the way Rye made him feel. Like that once-upon-a-time road trip he’d remembered so clearly tonight. Like they were both standing on the very edge of something he couldn’t yet see.

Whether Rye was aware of it or not, he wasn’t the only one.

“We should do it. Pick up and go,” Marcus said. “You and me.”

Rye gave a startled laugh. “What?”

Marcus could see it now, unfolding behind his eyes. “I have a truck. It hasn’t been driven in years, but my cousin’s an auto mechanic, and he’s kept it maintained. If you have a license, it’s all we’d need.”

“Marcus, wait. I can’t keep up. What are you saying?” Rye unfolded his legs and hitched himself closer to the foot of the bed, nearer to Marcus. “Start over.”

“That’s what I’m saying.” Marcus gestured with both hands. “We both want to get away, don’t we?”

“Yeah, but—”

“There’s a doctor in Atlanta I’ve been offered a referral to. Someone who might be able to help me. I had thought there was no way I could make it, but this could work.”

“Why don’t you fly?”

“I can’t take the pressure changes you get on planes at cruising altitude. I get headaches, bad ones.” Marcus waved that impatiently aside. “It could work, Rye. You’ve never traveled, but I’ve got enough experience with that to get us started. We get in the truck, you and me, and hit the road. When we get where we’re going, it’s a blank page for both of us. We can start over.”

He wished he could see Rye’s face clearly. All he could do was guess at the baffled frustration he felt coming off the guy in waves.

Marcus put out one hand and rested it on Rye’s biceps. “You wouldn’t bitch about your problems if I put a gun to your head, and neither would I. But I can read between the lines. You need a fresh start as much as I do. So why not?”

*****

Author Bio:

Max MacGowan is a work in progress. They’ve just turned forty, and are determined not to go gently into that good night. They identify as nonbinary genderqueer, and prefer they/them pronouns. While Max lives in North Carolina, they daydream constantly of Seattle and Portland and all other colorful points West. In the meantime, they’ll satisfy themselves with coffee and trying every recipe that piques their interest on the Food Network. While they can be quiet, friends will tell you all that still water can’t quite hide Max’s quirky personality, Or maybe it’s the ever-present puckish twinkle in the eyes that’s really to blame.

Max has a fantastic time writing male/male romance, and is especially fond of polyamory, found families, love in unexpected places, friends who become lovers, and romantic comedies. They’re owned by two rowdy tomcats who take pains to make sure their owner doesn’t ever get the status confused.

You can find Max online via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and their website.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/people/Max-MacGowan/100009993105655
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maxmacgowan
Tumblr: http://maxmacgowan.tumblr.com/
Website: http://www.maxmacgowan.wordpress.com

You can also send Max an e-mail at max.macgowan.author@gmail.com. They’d love to hear from you!

Review: When Was the Last Time by Kelly Jensen

Paul Summerfield is stunned by the gentle reminder it has been over a year since he and his partner, Evan Akkerman, have made love. He vows to take Evan out for Valentine’s Day. Dinner and sex. Lots of sex. There’s only one catch—he’s supposed to be in San Francisco that week cataloging the art collection of an important new client. No problem, he’ll just change his schedule and cut his trip short by a day.

In San Francisco, Paul struggles with regrets and the fear his love is slipping away from him. Every call to Evan seems only to prove the distance between them is increasing. All this, and a key piece of his client’s catalog is caught up in customs. To keep their Valentine’s date, Paul will have to choose between the career he’s built over fifteen years and the man he’s loved for just as long.






I'm a sucker for established couples. I love reading about post-HEA bliss, or the lack-thereof. 

For Paul and Evan it was neither. They were very obviously in love with each other after being together for years. But they're stuck in a routine that doesn't lend much time to spend with each other. They lost sight of each other and Paul is determined to get it back. The romance, the dates, the sex, all of it. He sets up a romantic date for them on Valentine's Day.

Unfortunately, things don't go quite as planned. Paul's entire romantic gesture falls apart at the seams and he's a little panicked. Not just that he's messed up their date, but that he's messed up everything with Evan. But they've been in love for fifteen years now and he should have known Evan better than that.

I really liked that Paul was so hellbent on making everything perfect for Evan. It was super sweet and endearing. They were totally in love, so in reality he didn't have anything to worry about, but he desperately wanted everything perfect for Evan and to make up for lost time. 

Evan's reactions were equally as cute. He wasn't demanding or pouty with Paul, but instead loving and understanding. It wasn't like Paul was just blowing him off for whatever, it was his job and Evan knew this. So, he decided to make an equally grand gesture to show his love.

It all rang very true to me.  A couple of very real guys, in a real relationship, trying to balance love and real life problems. It's what I imagine all relationships go through from time to time and Paul and Evan decided to do something about it.

I really enjoyed this short glimpse into their life. Their story made for a short, but all around satisfying read.

 A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more info on Goodreads and Dreamspinner Press.


Guest Review: Where He Ends and I Begin (Home, #3) by Cardeno C.

Jake Owens, aggressive, physical, blunt and brave, is a football hero turned city cop. Nate Richardson, his best friend since before forever, is thoughtful, quiet, and kind, a brilliant doctor who has always known who he is and that Jake is the love of his life—and loyal, courageous, straight Jake has never had a clue.

But Jake has been nursing his own case of the unrequiteds, and he’s never been as straight as Nate assumes. Nate may think their passionate explosion is a fluke, a result of too much closeness for too long, but Jake is bound and determined to prove to him otherwise. For Jake, the question isn’t how they ended up in bed together... it’s how can he convince Nate that he wants and needs to stay there.
Listening Length: 7 hours and 55 minutes
Narrator: Alexander Collins



Guest Reviewer: Chelsea


Story:

Sometimes these types of books work for me and other times they just don’t. You know the type, that too sweet, too easy, too unrealistic type of relationship book. That is Jake and Nate's story.

Nate and Jake have been inseparable since birth and are as close as two people can be. They start a romantic/sexual relationship when they’re twenty eight, which is where the novel begins.

Really not much happens in this story; these two are in love and stay in love. At the beginning they both had huge amounts of insecurities that I found unrealistic for two men who have been best friends for twenty-eight years. This did get better as their relationship progressed, but then they had nothing that added conflict in their relationship, it was all fluffy rainbows and butterflies and this was only at about 45%.

There was a lot of reminiscing about their childhood and growing up together, so this gave a bit more story to their current cushy lives, but it did get a bit much when almost every chapter had a large portion of the past in it.

The way the dual point of view (POV) was written was an odd and quite frankly annoying choice. Quite often we’d hear a chapter from Jake's POV and then the next chapter would be repeating the previous chapter just in Nate's POV. There was hardly any new information given and the repetition became well...repetitive and left me wanting to skim to get to a chapter that progressed the story.

Narration:

The narration by Alexander Collins had a few issues that I couldn’t quite overcome to fully engage in the story .

His choice of voices for Jake and Nate left me giggling, rolling my eyes and looking behind my shoulder for the stalker following me. Jake had a very baritone voice, it made it hard to emote at all and words that were accentuated, such as ‘cock’ and ‘touching’, left me feeling a little dirty while listening to them. Nate’s voice was definitely not creepy and was much more suited to him, however it was constantly whiny. I felt like he’d burst into tears every time he spoke.

After a while I became more used to his voice and the choice of characters voices, however the accentuated words still felt a bit off. He’d accentuate some words constantly like ‘touching’ that I couldn’t help roll my eyes every time it was said (and it's said frequently!). He also seemed to lack enthusiasm in certain parts of the story that I felt required it, like he was getting bored, or maybe that was just me.



In the end this was a very sweet story about true love lasting forever and the sex was hot in true Cardeno style, but overall I got bored quite quickly and felt the narration lacked enthusiasm. This would definitely work for a large amount of readers, but I was not one of them.

For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!


Review: Conversation Hearts by Avon Gale

It’s Valentine’s Day, and grad student—and male escort—Levi Barron expects to spend his evening with a client who’s paying him for his services in bed… not an assassin who needs to borrow the view from his hotel room in the morning.

With nothing to do but endure the company of his unwanted guest, Levi and the assassin, Sinjin, spend some time bonding over HGTV, minibar beverages, Flannery O’Connor short stories, terrible Valentine’s candy, and the necessity of lying about their jobs.

Their evening takes an unexpected turn when they decide to indulge in their mutual attraction, and in the morning Levi doesn’t know if he’s spent the night with a hired killer or a hydraulic engineer with a very specific fantasy. Either way, the two have enough chemistry—in and out of bed—that Levi isn’t sure one night with Sinjin will be enough.

And a message left in candy suggests the feeling is mutual.







Know what's better than a Fresca? Oh wait, everything.  



A web of LIES!

I took the wind out of my own opening. Damn.

The blurb says it all but what the blurb does not include is the hotness of a bossy top and assassin who takes the lemon of finding an unexpected rent boy in his designated hotel room to pound the hell out of it into lemonade. 


He gripped the edges of the blankets in his fingers and held on while Sinjin rode him hard, as hard as Levi wanted, hard like he could never quite manage to convince anyone to give it to him.




PRAISE JEEZUS!

The minifridge picnic and associated banter are just part of what I've come to expect from this author and what makes this short such an enjoyable little diversion.

For the most part...  

The whole "hating the Red Sox" bit was, I feel, a bit heavy handed not to mention harsh, thus I've mobilized all of RSN to come to your house, Avon, for an intervention. We briefly discussed other options but ruled them out since "educating" fictional characters proved to be a problematic sell. However, in the sequel I expect Levi to have seen the error of his ways. 

In all seriousness, this story is fun and hot and I loved the ambiguity we're left with regarding Sinjin. I got a kick out of the whole "Ironic" Alanis Morissette schtick and the other pop culture and literature references.

For only thirty some pages it packs a punch and is definitely worth a read.







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

Find out more on Goodreads or Dreamspinner Press.

Release Day Review - Dormant Heart by Lane Swift

Amateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor. 

Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.

 Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.


So many feels.

And the feels in this one were just the way I like them. Enough to thaw my cold, dead heart, but not so much that I wanted to kick stuff because it was just too damn much. The balance was just right for me. I appreciated the author gave me drama and reasonable angst without overdoing it, making this story and the relationship between Callum and Josh believable.

I need to talk about Josh now. OMFG, I love him. He’s a charming and fabulous eternal optimist. He did not have it easy growing up. His asshole of a father never accepted him and his mother did not do her job to protect her boy. That pissed me off to no end. Josh didn’t wallow in miserable detail though, he accepted the hurt and what he could not change, and he went on with his life. He’s not one to stay down for long and his snarky and self-deprecating inner voice had me smitten in absolutely no time at all. Even when his whole morning goes to shit, he can say, “slowly but surely, I cheered up.” That’s just him and I want to be his friend in RL.

The first half of the book is told from Josh’s POV. When he was sent to the Manor on a photo assignment for his employer he “meets” Callum. He’s completely enchanted by Callum as soon as he sees him. Actually he’s enchanted by the whole experience, Callum, the woods, the manor and the rest of the residents there, including the daughter of the owner, Heather. I liked Heather a lot. It’s always refreshing to read a female character in an MM romance that you can get behind and truly like.

The two of them hit it off right away and he’s comfortable enough to ask about Callum and it was refreshing for Josh to engage with someone who spoke with him, not at him.

“Where I came from, no one took the time to ask why anyone did anything – they only bothered about right or wrong. Praise or punishment. Acceptance or rejection.” 

Josh learns that Callum has been mute since an accident when he was about 8 or so. Callum has no memory about what happened that day, and that’s the crux of the mystery of the Manor. The two of them develop a tentative friendship and these two are a perfect match for one another. Josh loves to talk and Callum loves to listen to him. Josh can read Callum well and I totally bought into their connection even though only one character was using any verbal communication. Callum does have his notepad and pencil, but he didn’t really need it all that often with Josh. Josh is very open about his sexuality, as he does love to talk. Callum is a mystery though. It’s obvious he has no issues with Josh being gay, but Josh assumes that Callum is straight, mostly to protect his heart. I loved the time they spent together at Callum’s little cottage and the surrounding woods. Josh takes more photos, and the whole time they were together had a real fairytale feeling to it. I loved it.

 The second half of the book is told from Callum’s POV. I’m not going to lie, I was initially a little bummed. Nothing against Callum, I just missed Josh’s voice. After getting to know Callum through Josh and by Callum’s physical cues alone it was good to get into his head though. It was really the only way to fully flesh out his character and give him his own “voice”. The story did get a little darker as it progressed, it had to given that it’s Callum’s story at this point. But, I got to read what he thought about Josh and that just killed me to death with the wonderfulness of it all. Josh needed this and reading about Callum “telling” Josh how he feels and their exchanges from here on out got even better. Reading about Josh being a smitten kitten made me happy.

Like I said though, the story did get darker but it was not overdone. Callum finally remembers what happened and it was awful, but it was reasonable. That sounds shitty, but let me try to explain. You know how some books will give you a damaged character that has been gang raped by rabid bikers, lived eleventeen years in a damp basement, made to crawl through broken glass naked and then gets kicked in the head? At that point the alpha male swoops in with his magic penis and everything is all better and everyone’s heart is healed. You know those books? This is not that.

Callum remembers, miracles do not happen, but now it’s time for him to really live. His revelations put a serious strain on the budding relationship he has with Josh. But, even though only one of them can speak, these two have better communication skills than a lot of other MC’s I’ve read.

The majority of the story is relatively quiet, and that’s not an attempt at poor humor to Callum. It’s a story told in moments and it eases the relationship of Josh and Callum into the story. Even though the two of them only knew one another for a week when shit started to get real, it felt like much longer because the author did a good job of building their characters and their connection. I bought it, took it home and ate it up.

Once the lid was blown off the mystery the story sped up considerably. It wasn’t unreasonable, it was just a different pace from the rest and I felt it while reading. But, that was the point I suppose too. Once the box was blown open, it was time for Callum to live and to love. The final chapter was perfect. It felt right even though everything didn’t end up wrapped in a pretty, perfect bow. I’m glad it wasn’t because the ending felt like a real beginning for Josh and Callum and that’s what I wanted for them at the end of it all.

For more information and to purchase Dormant Heart, visit Dreamspinner Press.



**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

Review: Sunset Park (Five Boroughs, #2) by Santino Hassell

Raymond Rodriguez's days of shoving responsibility to the wayside are over. His older brother wants to live with his boyfriend so Raymond has to get his act together and find a place of his own. But when out-and-proud David Butler offers to be his roommate, Raymond agrees for reasons other than needing a place to crash.

David is Raymond’s opposite in almost every way—he’s Connecticut prim and proper while Raymond is a sarcastic longshoreman from Queens—but their friendship is solid. Their closeness surprises everyone as does their not-so-playful flirtation since Raymond has always kept his bicurious side a secret.


Once they’re under the same roof, flirting turns physical, and soon their easy camaraderie is in danger of being lost to frustrating sexual tension and the stark cultural differences that set them apart. Now Raymond not only has to commit to his new independence—he has to commit to his feelings for David or risk losing him for good.






Have you ever had one of those reading experiences where you HATE putting the book down but get excited when you realize you're about to get back to it? Those reads are few and far between for me and Sunset Park was one of them. I stayed up too late reading it. I procrastinated work related activities until there was no more room for procrastinating. I half-assed some daily activities because I wanted to get back to Rayvid. Rayvid are yet another dysfunctional couple who start out as friends until Ray reveals his bicuriousity. I probably should refrain from making this global statement but I'm me so... *shrug* I feel like The Hassell has made Dysfunctional his bitch, like, he has Dysfunctional tied up in the basement to "muse" on periodically. I'm sure they have their "honeymoon" phases and by "honeymoon phase" I mean...


COZY!LOVEBIRDS!

But The Hassell's got Dysfunctional by the short hairs.

Anyhoo... what I'm trying to say is if you enjoy healthy couples and conflicts involving first world problems... back away. Back away slowly. Rayvid's story is more character driven and doesn't tackle as many weighty subjects as its predecessor, but still. The Hassell brings a realism and grittiness to his couples that fascinates me. His characters are well developed and complicated. Frequently I found myself trying to puzzle out why both of them were doing certain things making it an exhilarating read as well. Figuring people out is in my wheelhouse and I do love a character I can sink my teeth into and in this case I got two!

Raymond is Michael's younger "slacker" brother. He's a professional at getting baked, gaming and general time suckage until Michael decides to rent the house they grew up in which means Ray's got to try to adult. He struck me as almost debilitatingly insecure with a propensity to admit defeat before the race has even begun. I don't think I've ever been so charmed by a character, though. He must've gone through the charisma line, like, twelve times. I hated a lot of things he did but I loved being in his head, his voice, his bluntness, his sarcastic and witty jibes and even his mean mug. There's a frankness about him I found refreshing. He leads with his heart and lets his actions speak for him but he kinda sucks at empathy.


"You always want to figure things out and ask yourself what they mean instead of letting things be the way they are."

He meets David and they have serious chemistry, they banter, they snipe. Honestly, they are one of those couples that you see canoodling and think, 'now how dafuq did that happen?'. Ray's brash NYC with a temperament and the chaotic upbringing to match to David's hyper-motivated, Connecticut white breadedness with the supportive parents and steady job. Ray is touch starved and needs the demonstrative affection David readily provides. David needs to be needed and desired the way Ray does after spending the better part of his adult life denying how important his sexuality is to him. He stayed in a "good on paper" relationship with Caleb for 2 yrs, minimizing his need for intensity and passion in lieu of stability. At first I thought David was a shallow twink on a mission to secure a semi-permanent side piece of Latin D, but as the story unfolded more layers were revealed. The crux of his problem is how does he choose between what he "should" do vs. what he wants? With Ray sending mixed signals he has a truckload of angst about making "the right choice". But Ray is a force. A hot Puerto Rican force. A hot Puerto Rican force with a 12 pack. And a man bun. And tattoos.


          I feel David. I feel his feels SO MUCH!


They dance around each other and game play all while truckloads of UST and UNF build. They both have a temper and are crazy jealous. They have that fire. They can't stay away from each other. They ping pong between fucking and fighting so much I feared I'd get whiplash. I kept thinking, 'COULD ONE OF YOU USE YOUR WORDS'?

Rayvid's Answer:  'Shut it, Cupcake. You know you like it.'

Tis true. I have some reservations about their longevity mostly because they're so volatile but they should burn bright pounding, ruining and wrecking the bejeeeezus out of each other while it lasts. Yes, again, with the crazy stupid hot sex. The sex force is strong with The Hassell. Still ain't mad at it either. And multiple choices made my eyes glassy. I read the last one a couple times. For science. But the edging scene... *grunts* Have I told you how much I love it when they beg?



 photo UAV3KA1454805179_zps3wpsfuxz.jpg


The only reason I'm dropping a half heart is the ending. Can't you give a girl an epilogue? What's the rush? Let's enjoy the halcyon days for a minute. I got smacked me around and wrung out for 16.5 chapters and then took an upper cut with 'The End' after half a chapter in Pleasantville? 

C'mon Maaaan! Uncool!

Aside from that I continue to be enamoured with The Hassell's writes and am looking forward to what's sure to be another trip to Dysfunction Junction only with caviar and likely some pretension in one of the "fancy" boroughs in the next installment.

I'll be there to sop that crazy up with a biscuit.








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

Find out more on Goodreads and Dreamspinner Press.

Guest Review: The Assassin's Pet by Nana G.

Gay erotic fantasy.

Camille is a vampire who cannot kill, no matter how desperate his situation becomes. Faced with starvation and shunned by his natural family, he finds a solution to his problems in Damien, a professional assassin who belongs to the legendary Sulis Brotherhood. Camille offers Damien his services, his loyalty and his submission in exchange for regular meals and protection that the assassin will surely have no trouble providing for. Damien accepts the proposal, not realising how the vampire will change his life forever.


Warnings: mild BDSM content, explicit sex




Guest Reviewer: Kristan

It's gay Skyrim!

Or for those not gaming inclined; it's a fantasy novel filed with assassins, magic, bandits, and vampires!

Camille has never been able to bring himself to kill a living creature. Becoming a freshly made vampire hasn't changed that. Unless he learns how to take a life, and soon, starvation seems almost certain in his future.

Then Damien appears. A chance encounter with an assassin from the legendary assassin's guild, could just be the solution to Camille's problems. Protection and a regular source of meals in exchange for the only thing he has it value - his body and his loyalty.

Damien is intrigued by the blushing vampire, and while he had no desire to take care of a pet, he can't help marvel at Camille's submissive nature, and the contradiction between his power and gentleness.

Along the adventure, a mystery that follows Camille will be solved, sexy times ensue, and an assassin's heart will thaw due to his vampire's devotion.

This all sounds fantastic, and you're probably wondering why the low rating?

Well, that's because while the plot was a good one, the writing style held this book back. By a lot. And here's what it comes down to:

It was all too verbose.
"At the same time, those eyes, so deep and inviting, bestowed an innocence and an uncertainty that was interpreted almost as resistance but for Damien it was also and indeed essentially intoxicating. Ironically, the uncertainty actually triggered a primal instinct, an irrepressible desire to hunt, to track down, to devour his prey."
...
"He knew that voice, and suddenly he was more aware of his surroundings, suddenly he found himself being brought back to the situation before him. Once again the excruciating pain rapidly spread through his body. It seemed like his presence and power were physically contracting, his energies dissipating – returning to their more human-like state and with it, his clarity of thought, his judgment and feeling of self."

Sentences often splinter off into three thoughts, and it happens so often that information gets repeated unnecessarily. The repetition took me out of the story almost as much as the run on sentences did.

Feelings were told to the reader rather than shown, so I had a difficult time seeing the character's motivations and connection to each other.

And the pacing also felt off. Camille settled into his role in a blink of an eye, despite the fact that his personality was radically different before becoming a vampire. Feelings of love and loyalty emerged overnight, but read like they evolved overtime.

It all ended up with me feeling disconnected to the character's and their circumstance.

Essentially, this book needs a good edit.

Those who like plot over writing style, and really like the fantasy genre, will probably still enjoy this read. It has a good core. It just wasn't the one for me.



For more information on Goodreads!

Review: Foxes by Suki Fleet

When Dashiel’s body is found dumped on an East London wasteland, his best friend Danny sets out to find the killer. But Danny finds interaction difficult and must keep his world small in order to survive. By day he lives in an abandoned swimming pool and fixes electrical devices to trade for supplies, but by night, alone, he hunts sharks—a reckless search for dangerous men who prey on the vulnerable.

A chance meeting with an American boy selling himself on the streets throws this lonely existence into disarray. Micky is troubled, fragile, and Danny feels a desperate need to protect him—from what, he doesn't know. As Danny discovers more about Micky, he realizes that what Micky needs saving from is the one thing Danny can't help him fight against.

To save Micky, Danny must risk expanding his world and face something that scares him more than any shark ever could: trusting he will be accepted for who he is. If a freezing winter on the streets, a sadistic doctor, and three thousand miles don’t tear them apart first, that is.




My first published Suki Fleet. I've been Fleeted.



I needed time to recover...regroup...gather the thoughts swirling inside because there are plenty. I'll probably gush out my feels because I have been torn asunder, then dragged through glass, left bleeding, cringing with each breath by words. Words that were pieced together by a wordsmith, a craftsman. Knew this from the first chapter, from the first few paragraphs.

This book is art.

You see that rating? Suki Fleet earned every heart. (Even if mine ended up bruised in the long run)

If this review does nothing else, just know:

  1. Suki Fleet is super talented. (I mean she caught my eye with a flash fic and left me hooked.) I knew that if I got my hands on a novel, I was going to be proved right. And I was. Run to her books. This is quality. Remember her name.
  2. This is one of the best stories of 2016 (Yes, already.) I have a third of this book highlighted.
 
Sometimes you read a book and you know it's good for entertainment purposes, but it's not going to leave an impression.

This book...did.

I'm still thinking about Danny. I know a Danny, actually more than one. Maybe you do too. It was good to see that this author gave a character with a disability the dignity they deserve. The same can be said for Micky. Two damaged souls with baggage some backs can't carry yet they keep going, they continue living. It's a struggle and the reader gets to experience that struggle rather eloquently in Foxes.

I think some readers might not like some of the outcomes. (Yes, there is a HEA) I think Danny might test some of the boundaries for a few readers as a consenting main character while having mental health disorders. (He is well aware at all times)

The angst is thick. I heard the author's writing style about prior to going in, but I didn't know how deep Suki Fleet can cut.


Look at Fleet consume me with her angst for days. And she'll keep going too. *gulps*
If I had to summarize Foxes's plot: think beauty and the beast (sort of) in modern day destitute side of London. Impoverished teens are selling themselves for survive, while a killer is on the loose and a scarred homeless teen with a number of disorders tries to saves lives including the most beautiful American rent boy he has ever clapped his eyes on. All while he battles his inner demons.

Danny would be a psychologist's dream (or nightmare). But he is one of the best frigging characters I've read in a while. Told entirely in his 1st POV, we see the world through his eyes. How people treat him due to his disability, his face. We learn through bits and pieces how Danny came to be. The author gives it out slowly, love that. He's so mysterious, our champion. He keeps his world small and at the moment, it is filled with finding his best friend Dashiel's murderer. He can't keep the words inside, his head gets too full. So he writes them down. People mistake his silence for stupidity but he's so far from it. Danny also knows how to fix things, especially mechanical things. Through this skill, he meets Micky, the skinny cross dressing blonde prostitute American who makes his heart beat really fast.
How am I supposed to relax? It's an impossible situation. If this is falling in love, it's impossibly beautiful, and when that person is so sweet and kind it hurts in the best way, but because you know they can never return those feelings you have to try and hide the intensity of it. And this is intense.
Micky doesn't make fun of Danny like some of the other street kids do. He takes time to learn his quirks and habits. Danny goes hunting for bad guys aka "sharks" at night, trying to protecting a world everyone seemed to turn their back on and ignore. And with his anxieties and hardships, pain and grief...he ignores the love, the hope that springs from his friendship with Micky.
"--having smooth, unscarred skin does not make you beautiful. Shining the brightest light in the dark does, though."
Reading their friendship blossom was beautiful. It was tentative in the beginning because Danny doesn't get a lot of people who seem him for who he is. Who better to understand a damaged man other than a fellow damaged man? Micky's was the Louisville slugger on the angst barrel. The romance when it got full steam was powerful. So much so, I didn't even want to read a kiss between them at first. I thought it would mess up the pureness of it all. Inexperienced versus experienced themes can vary. But Fleet handled it well and did not cheapen the romance in the least. Their love was like...the bathtub.


Given freely, full of good intention and signifying their strong bond. This is definitely new adult, though the main characters were in their late teens. Don't let their age stop you. they have had a rough life and more adult experiences than a lot of people. So the intensity of their bond was 100% believable.

Danny, the fox, his coming of age was slow going. And at times, he reads like a martyr, the scarred hero that seems to have a lot of bad happen & he does a lot of good in return. It's just his character, his nature. He reminded me of the unlikely hero from "Brute" sometimes.

Foxes are so integral to who Danny is. And reading him coming into his own and realizing some things about himself even when it hurt, especially when it hurt...oh how I love him more.


The suspense in Foxes was all about the sharks and shark hunting. There are so many bad people in the world. And the culmination of the suspense arc was a little surprising. But it made me think and actually agree...with the villain. Hm...



There were two parts that felt unfinished to me. It was answered and I know if it were tied up in a pretty bow I'd have probably called it out for being wrapped up too neatly: Milo and Dollman. Being as the story is totally from Danny's point of view, those questions would be unanswered and should be (keeping to character)....but I still wish I knew. Call it reader being greedy. And it wouldn't have hurt to see the interim moments before the last two chapters. But again, it's Danny's story so, it's not necessary but it wouldn't have hurt. Because...greedy.

I don't want to give away this plot, but the story hurts so good. The characterizations are really done well. The angst is super heavy, some parts made me stop so I could get a break but I had to go back in to see how it would play out. I came to care for the characters Micky and Danny and just about all of the secondary characters. Ms. Fleet shines a flashlight on the gritty underbelly of a world a lot of people tend to ignore - teens selling their bodies and souls.

Suki Fleet brought a realistic hope without getting into the Disney lane. I'll end this review with this quote:

Because we're not our pasts--because we're more than that. We have to be. Don't we?
The story isn't perfect, but neither is life. What this story is, is amazing. Can't rate it any less than five.

If you think you can handle the subject matter, please try this book.
Don't be like me, who is just now reading this underrated talent that is Suki Fleet.


For more information on:

Dreamspinner Press
Goodreads 
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