Compulsion by Clare London

CompulsionRating:  4.25 stars

Published: October 29, 2012

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Available at: Dreamspinner, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: The past always catches up with you. Max Newman should know—he’s been running from his ever since he dropped out of Uni and made a disastrous move to the seedier side of London. Now he’s returned to Brighton to lick his wounds. Though Max believes the club scene is better left behind him, one night he lets his friends drag him out dancing. And suddenly the simple life he’s tried to lead gets complicated.

At Compulsion, the Medina Group’s newest hotspot, Max meets Seve Nunez, a member of the Medina management and a man used to taking what he wants. The sexual chemistry between Max and Seve immediately leads to an intimate encounter in the backyard of the club—just the kind of dangerous behavior Max tried to leave behind. Despite that, he can’t help but crave more, and Seve seems just as eager.

But Max soon suspects that Seve may not be the scrupulous businessman he claims. Max has seen the Medina Group at work before, and what he saw got a good friend killed. He’s not sure what future he has with Seve, but he’ll have to decide whether to trust in Seve’s innocence or keep running. The wrong choice could land them both in mortal danger.

Review: Max is a mess. He’s been running from his past, feeling guilty about his friend’s death and keeps alienating himself from his friends. He works, he sleeps, he goes through the motions. His only feelings are guilt and disgust at himself. He doesn’t want to give into his impulses and needs as he did in the past, so he vows to leave this kind of life behind.

His friends don’t know the extent of Max’s suffering.  Jack and Louis have been Max’s friends since school and only want to make him feel better. They have had enough of him moping around and take him out to Compulsion to see Louis dance. There he opens himself a little to Jack, but finds that he can’t tell him the whole story. Saved by the start of Louis show, Max runs away to the bar to clear his mind before joining his friend and his whole world is turned on it’s axis.

Seve is the manager at Compulsion. Strikingly handsome and with an aura of authority, Seve knows what he wants and how to go about getting it. He is direct to a fault, sexy as sin and exudes lust in every breath or step he takes. He is everything Max desires and the very thing that Max has vowed to stay away from. He is raw and hard in all the right places, but not where it counts the most – in his heart.

What comes next is a set of sexy encounters where the lust runs rampant and where Max’s impulses are let loose dragging him deeper into the very world he has been running from.

The author, Clare London, brings to the page a story filled with lust, need and overwhelming turmoil, where Max questions his every move. Throughout the story the range of emotions jump from hesitation to determination, from lust to disgust, from despair to hope and back again to lust. Seve and Max’s chemistry in undeniable and their connection only grows deeper with every encounter. Yes, the sex was off-the-charts hot, but necessary. That’s how they connect, how they express themselves. Words are useless, but every moan, grunt and touch mean more to them, for if the truth were spoken this whole bubble of lust could be shattered and that in of itself would be unbearable. After a while, Max questions, prods and surrenders when Seve opens himself to him and together they make sense of the world they have been dragged in.

The writing was excellent, even if to me the beginning of the story dragged a bit. I enjoyed the interactions of the characters and the uncertainty of their situation. I especially liked that there were no immediate declarations of love. They lusted after each other and fed their desires throughout the story and in the end their love came naturally and it was everything I expected. The secondary characters all added to the story in their own right and every event brought to the page added nicely to my enjoyment of the story. I wanted to keep on reading and when it ended I still wanted to know more.

I truly did enjoy this book. From the characters to the plot, everything came together seamlessly to make an interesting, gratifying read. I will be looking for more from this author from now on. My only hope would be to get to read more about these characters.

I received this book from Manic Readers and would like to thank them and Dreamspinner Press for granting me the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Rent by Rick R. Reed

RentRating:  3 stars

Published: September 28th 2012

Publisher: MLR Press

Available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks

Synopsis: On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher loses his wallet, his job, and his security. Can a stranger met in a bar deliver on his promises of wealth and meeting Mr. Right?

Sex can be a dangerous business. So can love….

On the worst day of his life, Wren Gallagher wants oblivion when he steps into Tricks for a drink. He’s lost not only his job, but his wallet as well. When a mysterious stranger steps up to pay his tab, he also offers Wren the key to fulfilling his dreams of prosperity and true love. But appearances are not always what they seem….

His savior is the owner of the escort agency, A Louer—and he wants the young and handsome Wren to work for him. So down on his luck, Wren figures—why not? He can use the money. When he joins, though, he hadn’t counted on meeting Rufus, another escort with whom he quickly falls hopelessly in love.

But their love story will have to overcome the obstacles of not only trading love for money, but A Louer’s dark—and deadly—secrets.

Review: Wren is having a hell of a week and suddenly finds himself unemployed, homeless and with facing a decision to become an escort in order to survive. After making his decision he finds himself immediately thrust in a world of dark secrets where his only refuge is meeting another fellow escort. Rufus is a handsome man who has had success as an escort and his job is to show Wren the ropes of the business he has joined. Wren is immediately attracted to Rufus and his candid ways and he can’t help from wanting to get to know him better and having a relationship with him. But can these two wounded souls find happiness within the dark world of A Louer or will they connection be severed by something much more serious?

The writing was good, even if it dragged in places. I liked that it kept me guessing and intrigued about what the big secret was behind what was happening. I enjoyed the characters that the author, Rick R. Redd, brought to the page. They were real and complex, each with a rough past that has shaped them into who they are. They have fears and needs and the common desire to connect to that someone special they can depend on.  I enjoyed the characters interactions and especially enjoyed the glimpse I got into Rufus past. In a way, I felt more connected to him that Wren, especially after learning about his past because then I could easily see where he was coming from. And although it is Wren’s voice that tells the story, I did not connect to him as easily. To me he came across as immature, not only because he made his decision without thinking it through, but also because he became so easily infatuated with Rufus. All this made me question his judgment every step of the way.

All that aside, I can say with certainty that I enjoyed this story even if I it wasn’t what I was originally expecting. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I received this book through Manic Readers and would like to thank them and MLR Press for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Whipster (Michael’s House) by Dusk Peterson

Whipster (Michael's House)Rating:  4 stars

Publisher: Love in Dark Settings Press

Available at: Smashwords, Amazon

Synopsis: “He could not recognize most of the items before him, which he instinctively knew was a bad sign.”

Michael is an ex-prostitute, which means that nobody in polite society wants anything to do with him. He believes that the only way to help other male prostitutes is to make their working conditions bearable. His friend Janus is an upper-class gentleman who believes that his duty to the gods requires him to fight against sexual immorality. Now Michael wants Janus to help him run a house of prostitution.

This novel is the first volume in Michael’s House, a historical fantasy series set in a Progressive Era slum. Male friendship and gay love intertwine in this multicultural series based on life in America during the Edwardian Era, a time when society seemed as stable as ever, though it was about to be turned topsy-turvy.

Review: The synopsis does a great job of telling you what the story is about, so I won’t attempt a summary but merely focus on the elements I enjoyed the most.

The Setting

The author, Dusk Peterson, does a wonderful job in creating a unique world set during Edwardian times. From the buildings to the wardrobe and the attitude of the people, every detail is described in a way that drew me into the story and made the story come to life.

The Characters

 “The best I can do is see that the boys who are bedded are treated with as much care and respect as is possible under the circumstances.”

Michael was a great character to read. An ex-prostitute who manages to survive to be granted his freedom, he accepts his fate and tries to makes the most of it at the time. He understands the hardships these boys have to endure on the street and other whorehouses and he is determined to help keep them safe, so he turns to his friend Janus for support.

 “You are the other part of me. You are my guide, my conscience.”

Janus has known Michael since they were children. They develop a unique relationship of acceptance and loyalty at a time when a friendship between a prostitute and an upper-class citizen is not the norm. Janus understands his friend’s situation and his desire to help with the boys, but he does not agree that establishing a whorehouse to shelter the prostitutes on the street is the way to go about it.

 “Maybe so,” said the practical whoremaster, “but until you can show me a world where jaded ex-whores live happily in orphanages and boy-drawn men avoid their beds, I’ll stick with my ground-level plan.”

The boys played an intricate part in the story and each one was intriguing in their own right.

Wyll –the first boy to be hired at Michael’s House, he carried himself with confidence but was inexperienced. His first ‘training’ session caused Janus to question his support in this endeavor.

Lann – on his own since he was eleven, he has been living on the streets and working the trade for food. He came to Michael’s House after listening to two prostitutes talk about the new whoremaster in town.

Hasan – in love with Michael since his days at Outram’s whorehouse where they were prostitutes together, he decides to spend his last years as a prostitute at Michael’s House. It is his relationship with Michael and his feelings for him, that help Michael see how closed off he has become.

“We’ll be hiring the finest craftsfolk in the city, giving them hours of training to perfect their much-demanded skills and allow them to perform their tasks to the peak of their mastery – and the peak of the satisfaction of those who buy our goods.”

The Story

Brimming with character interactions, emotion and introspective character narrations, the concept behind the story was brought to the page in an engaging and understanding way. The topic of child prostitution is not an easy one to bring to the page especially one about an ex-child prostitute who opens a male whorehouse, but the way that the author presented Michael’s past and his intentions made it easier for me to understand and accept the content.

Although classified as an M/M Romance, for me this is more of a Historical Fantasy read than a Romance. Yes, there is the love between the characters and the BDSM services provided by the boys of the whorehouse, but since this is all done ‘off-screen’ for me the story revolved more on world setting and character relations.

The emotions that were brought to the page were varied and intense. I could see how conflicted Janus was between his loyalty to his friend and his morals. He cared deeply about Michael, but he also wanted Michael and the boys to leave the world of prostitution behind. And although Michael was so closed off emotionally, I could clearly see where he was coming from. I felt for him deeply, especially after learning what he went through as a child under his whoremaster’s hand.

 “I want to go back to what I really am. I want to find the light at the heart of the darkness.”

I loved to see how these characters developed throughout the story, especially Michael. He discovered that he was missing something within himself and that it affected his ability to express and feel emotions. But instead of just brushing it away as another loss, he was determined to learn how to do it again. He took the steps necessary and asked for help and for Michael to find the strength within him to start getting over that after so many years is something that I have to admire him for.

By no means is this a happily ever after story, but it still did not distract from my enjoyment of this story. These characters still have a heavy road to travel, but I believe that they have changed their attitude accordingly and will make it through this and more.

I enjoyed this story from beginning to end and I was left needing to read more about this journey Michael, Janus and the boys have embarked on.

I would like to thank Dusk Peterson for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this book in exchange of my honest opinion.

__________________________________________________________

Enjoy the following excerpt from Whipster.

Michael was kneeling now on the portion of the floor that had been 
cleaned, examining the contents of his package in such a way that Janus 
could not see the objects. Janus forced himself to ask, "What is that?"

Michael said, without looking up, "Necessary expenditures. Expensive 
ones, alas, but I can't afford to acquire shoddy equipment."

"Let me see." Janus knelt down beside him and pulled the cloth back.

He could not recognize most of the items before him, which he 
instinctively knew was a bad sign. He finally let his hand fall on an 
item he recognized – a hunting crop – and held it up toward the light. 
It was stiff, in the manner of whips used by carriage-drivers; the 
leather upon it was soft.

Michael took the crop from his hand, rose to his feet, and swished the 
whip through the air for a moment before bringing it down, hard and 
accurate, upon a cockroach crawling up the wall. The crushed victim fell 
lifeless from the wall. Satisfied, Michael sat down cross-legged and 
began to clean the remains of the insect off the crop with the cloth.

Looking over at him, Janus said, "You almost make me believe the story 
about you."

"Which story?"

"The famous one."

"Oh, that one. Yes, it's true." There was no change in Michael's 
expression. He continued to wipe the crop clean, like a craftsman 
polishing his work.

Janus felt his stomach tighten. Once, early in their acquaintance, he 
had asked Michael tentatively what his work was like. Michael had 
responded in a flat voice, "I'm the one who controls what happens," and 
had left the matter at that, much to Janus's relief.

It was better not to know; Janus had instinctively realized that. Why 
was he committing such folly as to question Michael now? Yet even as he 
thought this, he heard himself say, "I don't understand how you could do 
that. To tie someone up . . . to hurt him . . ."

"They liked it."

Janus heard the change to plural and winced. "How can you be sure of 
that? Just because their bodies reacted . . ."

Michael sighed, placing the crop back with the other equipment. "Janus, 
a whore has a very great advantage over any other person in the world. 
Let us say you're a married man and you ask your wife whether she 
enjoyed her time in bed with you. If she says yes, you have no way of 
knowing whether she is telling the truth."

"So how does a prostitute know what the truth is?" Janus asked in a 
tight voice.

"By a simple test. He waits to see whether the man he has just beaten 
comes back and pays money to be beaten again." Michael rose to his feet 
and gestured to Janus, saying, "The furniture was delivered while you 
were in the servants' wing, clearing the kitchen. Come see what it looks 
like."

Janus could not help but notice that Michael had picked up the crop 
again, seemingly without conscious thought.

__________________________________________________________

About Dusk Peterson

Honored thrice in the Rainbow Awards, Dusk Peterson writes fantasy, 
historical fantasy, and science fiction. Suspense plays an important 
role in many of the tales; the conflict in those tales is both external 
and internal. Peterson's stories are often placed in dark settings, such 
as prisons or wartime locations. The mood of the stories, however, is 
not one of unrelieved gloominess: friendship, heterosexual romance, gay 
love, and faithful service are recurring themes.

Website: http://duskpeterson.com

For more buying options visit: http://duskpeterson.com/michaelshouse/#whipster

Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma #2) by Anne Tenino

Love, HypotheticallyRating: 3.5 stars

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Available at: Riptide, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Paul’s been called many things-graduate student, humanities tutor, jock-hater, even broke-but “forgiving” isn’t one of them. When the new women’s softball coach at Calapooya College specifically requests Paul to tutor his athletes, Paul’s forced to put aside his strict “no athletes” policy for the sake of his paycheck.

Enter Trevor Gardiner, former Major League Baseball player and Paul’s high school boyfriend. Yeah, that one-the guy who sacrificed Paul for the safety of his closet and his future career. But Trevor’s come out and retired from baseball, and now he’s looking for forgiveness and a second chance. There’s no earthly reason Paul should give him one, but he keeps letting the man state his case. And touch him. And take him sailing.

The waters are far from smooth, though, and Paul says awful things to Trevor he isn’t sure he means. Now Paul has to decide: apologize and forgive Trevor for everything, or chalk it up as revenge and move on.

This title is part of the Theta Alpha Gamma universe.

Review: Paul was Sebastian’s not-so-nice roommate in Frat Boy and Toppy. He has been hurt in love and to say that he doesn’t do relationships or doesn’t like jocks in an understatement. His experience with both has left much to be desired, so he avoids them like the plague. Then in comes Trevor, the new softball coach. Trevor happens to be Paul’s high school boyfriend and the guy who broke his heart. He has come back to try a relationship with Paul again, but his apologies and amends are useless. Or are they?

I liked Trevor, I really did. It takes a great man to admit that he was wrong and to do it repeatedly and in an honest way is something to be admired. On the one hand, I was cheering him on and on the other I wanted him to grovel a little more. By the time they went sailing I was a goner. I understood where each man was coming from, but I could have smacked Paul for his stubbornness regardless.

The writing was very good even if the story felt rushed to me, which is the only reason why I stopped at 3.5 stars. The story was filled with all kinds of emotions along with a lot of chemistry and Paul’s neurosis. Although I did find Paul to be somewhat funny, at times he came across as just hurtful, which I attributed as a defense mechanism learned from his horrible high school experience. I was glad to see that after all was said and done, he recognized that he did wrong by Trevor and that he tried to better himself in that regard. I enjoyed their chemistry, especially Trevor’s reactions to Paul’s touch. He was such a big guy and he really let go with Paul when they were together and I enjoyed it throughly.

In this installment we don’t get a lot of secondary characters, but the ones that did make an appearance were great and added to the story. Once again, I enjoyed visiting Sebastian and Brad as well as Toby, the other roommate. He really did catch my attention this time and I would love to read his story.

This was a good follow-up and a great addition to the series.

I received this book through NetGalley and would like to thank them and Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma #1) by Anne Tenino

Frat Boy and ToppyRating: 4 stars

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Available at: Riptide, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Synopsis: Brad is great at meeting other people’s expectations. But his own? Not so much. Take the gay thing. Okay, so yeah. It took a morning meeting with a frat brother’s hairy, naked ass for him to admit it, but he knows the truth about himself now. Let the gay life commence.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. He hasn’t quite determined how to come out to anyone, even Sebastian, the geeky-hot TA in his history class. Sebastian is everything Brad is not. Intellectual, suave, hairy. Out. And he doesn’t seem interested in Brad, even when Brad makes a fool of himself trying to catch his notice.

Score one for foolery: Sebastian does more than notice Brad; he takes him to bed. Brad’s been with plenty of girls, but with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely-hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild. But when great sex turns into something more-dare he admit the “L” word?-Brad must face the crushing realization that Sebastian doesn’t feel the same. Unless, of course, he does. After all, even grad students can be idiots about matters of the heart.

Review: Brad is a 22-year old frat boy and college jock. When he brakes up with his girlfriend he is assaulted by erotic dreams – of him with another man. This doesn’t come as a surprise to him since he has always been aware that he had those tendencies. But he struggles all the same. He feels guilty about deceiving his past partners and especially his last girlfriend. However, his struggle is mainly in coming out to his family and his frat brothers. His family is rather accepting of his sexual orientation and with this in hand he is determined to explore this unfaltering attraction towards the man that has been starring in his dreams.

Sebastian is a 20-something TA who is happy playing the field even if he is utterly attracted to Brad. He notices that Brad is not the usual college jock and this captures his attention even more. He does not believe in relationship and even less in love, but he is willing to explore this attraction to see where it leads.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I thought it would be a funny, light read, which it was. However, I was not expecting it to have that many emotions thrown into the mix. I loved it!

I liked how Brad grew throughout the story and how as the time passed he accepted himself a lot more and was more comfortable about everything. He was adorably confused and hesitant, but his passion for Sebastian was undeniable and in the end so was his love for him.

Sebastian was clueless. He had me shaking my head in exasperation because I couldn’t believe the things he came up to to justify his feelings for Brad. Finally when he saw the light, I was laughing at the way when went about it and got even a little misty eyed when it finally hit him that he loved Brad.

The writing was very good. Full of flirtatious banter, humorous one-liners and emotions, this story grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. I enjoyed the interactions between the main characters as well as the secondary ones. Every character added to the story and every interaction revealed a bit more about the main characters. The characters felt real and believable and their struggles with their feelings and thoughts made their getting together more believable to me.  I liked that there were hesitations on both sides, which made their connection more real to me. I loved their chemistry. Phew! When they got together it was AMAZINGLY HOT! There was this one time when…er, nevermind. I enjoyed their tender moments too, especially when they had ‘the talk’. They were honest with themselves and with each other and I appreciated that since it made me believe that they were going to work out.

All in all, a very enjoyable read that left me wanting more from Brad and Sebastian. I am looking forward to reading more from this author too, especially Paul’s story. This is the first book by Anne Tenino that I have read, but it certainly not be my last.

I received this book through NetGalley and I would like to thank them and Riptide Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Candy From Strangers: A Gay Erotic Thriller by Joey Jameson

http://cache.smashwire.com/bookCovers/4a5f853275c928e8f46806e9ff99d9a41d516564Rating:  4 stars

Published: November 4, 2012

Publisher: Chances Press

Available at: Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Rainbow eBooks

Synopsis: In Candy From Strangers, Dylan, a 20-something English lad who’s successful, charming and beautiful, thinks he has everything, until one day his world is turned upside down when hot new neighbour, Darien, moves in across the road. The two begin a steamy affair that leaves Dylan breathless and thinking he may have finally found Mr. Right. But as time passes, cracks start to show in Darien’s story forcing Dylan to question everything he thought he knew about this dark stranger.

Candy from Strangers is a lustful tale of romance, intrigue and mystery that poses the question of how well do we ever know the ones we let into our lives…

Review: An exciting story of lust and the dangers of falling in love.

Dylan is restaurant owner who keeps mostly to himself. He has partied and has had flings, but he longs for something more. In comes Darien, a handsome new neighbor who instantly draws Dylan’s attention and fuels his lust. They start a friendship filled with lovely conversation and flirtatious looks and comments.  What comes next is a story like no other, where love and lust are mistaken with each other and where fear and insecurities are abound.

I loved how Dylan came across. Really, what’s not to love? He is a smart young man who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is funny and kind and undeniably attracted to Darien.  In contrast, Darien is a stranger. I learned very little about him, other than he was very handsome and very charming. Their chemistry was very palpable and their encounters were full of passion and longing. But what I enjoyed most about them was the way they added to the story. Yes, they were hot, but I think they were essential to the story.

The writing was very good. Filled with emotions and suspense, this story pulled me in and didn’t let go until it was finished. I liked the way the author, Joey Jameson, went about telling the story. It went from the present to the past, telling the story of how they met and what happened between them and the final resolution. These transitions were done well, in a way that did not confuse me or took me out of the story.

While in the past, I got glimpses into their relationship – how they related to each other and where things started to go wrong. In the beginning it was all about the lust and the longing to connect. As the story progressed it became more about hesitation and mistrust. While in the present, the range of emotions brought to the page were overwhelming. I felt for this character, because his suffering, his fear and his confusion was very clearly expressed on the page which in turn helped put into perspective the events that took place in the past.

The pace of the story worked very well with the events that were introduced. Each and every one of the scenes were placed perfectly to keep my interest. I enjoyed the resolution to the plot and the way it was presented. I like my mysteries to keep me interested in what’s going to happen next and Candy From Strangers not only did that but it surprised the hell out of me in the end. Well played, Mr. Jameson, well played!

I would like to extend my gratitude to Joey Jameson for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

________________________________________________________

About Joey Jameson…

Joey Jameson is Canadian born and bred, but currently living in Brighton, UK. He can usually be found either on the beach walking his two gorgeous dogs, or sipping swanky cocktails in his local haunt. Ever the fan of all things decadent and naughty, “Candy From Strangers” is his first delve into erotic fiction, but watch out for more titillating and tantalizing stories from Joey in the very near future.

For an insight into his daily life, you can follow him on Twitter or contact him via e-mail at misterjoeyjameson@gmail.com. You can also visit his Facebook page for a sneak-peak of new work to come.

Merry Christmas: M/M style!

christmasmen

In the spirit of Christmas I am posting some reviews of the holiday themed books I have read this month.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!!

The Best Christmas EverThe Best Christmas Ever by Anel Viz ~ 4 stars

A very touching story that centers on a man’s need to know why he loves his partner. Brandon and Donnie have been together almost 13 years. From the beginning Brandon has been questioning the reason why he is with Donnie. He acknowledges that he enjoys Donnie’s company and likes that he is his center of attention. He likes being needed, but he can’t help but feel guilty that he is taking advantage of Donnie or feel like taking care of Donnie is a big responsibility.

Brandon tells the story of how they met and all that went along with it. From the first time they got together through his hesitations and misgivings to finding the answer to the question that has hunted him from the beginning – “What’s in it for me?”

I enjoyed the glimpses into their past and into their current life. Through it I could see how much Brandon had come to care about Donnie through the years. They might have been different and their relationship a little more uncommon than most, but it was real and honest and in the end it didn’t matter what he gained from his relationship with Donnie. What mattered was that he was in a relationship with Donnie because he loved him and he was loved in return.

Fractured HeartFractured Heart by Piper Whitney ~ 2.5 stars

Cole is a single father who lost his wife three years ago and still misses her. Although he still feels sad and lonely he wants his daughter to have a good Christmas, so he decides to head to his parent’s house for the holidays. His friend of 13 years, Syd, has agreed to go too. Suddenly Cole starts seeing Syd differently. He thinks that maybe they could make a life together and he can love again. But is he making this decision just because he is lonely or is he truly ready to love again?

The story was sweet if a little unbelievable and predictable. I could overlooked some of it because it is a feel-good holiday story and goes along with Christmas wishes and the magic of Christmas, but it was still a bit far-fetched to me. The writing was good and I liked the concept behind the story, I just think that it would have gone better if it were developed more. I would have loved to see more interactions between Syd and Cole as well as more hesitation and doubts about where this relationship was going. I think that it would have added to the believability of the story.

The characters were great to get to know, even if I felt that I needed to know more about Syd. I enjoyed Katie. I feel that she added to the story a lot and it is because of her and her Christmas wish that I can overlook some of the events in the story.

All in all, a light, feel-good read.

I received this book from Manic Readers and would like to thank them and Silver Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Secret SantaSecret Santa by Rebecca Leigh ~ 3 stars

I liked this one. Martin is a Marine who each year volunteers for the toy drive. There’s a new Santa this year and Martin is in lust. He imagines how it would feel to sit on Santa’s lap and whisper in his ear like the little kids are doing. Needless to say that his thoughts are of the naughty kind. Santa is well, unlike any Santa I’ve seen. Dark, long hair, perfectly muscled and very well endowed. I also enjoyed the innuendos that were thrown in. They were cheeky, but still had me grinning like the fool I am.

All in all, a nice, short read that made me wish I could wrap Santa’s gift for him and sit on his lap too! Bwahahaha!

A Not-So-Straight ChristmasA Not-So-Straight Christmas by TN Tarrant ~ 3.5 stars

Sam and Morgan are stranded for a week during a snow storm. They are co-workers and friends and are attracted to each other, but each thinks that the other is straight. Will they be able to open up about their past and explore the attraction?

I liked this story very much. The writing was very good, with great dialog and lovable characters. Sam and Morgan had their reasons for keeping their sexual orientation to themselves, but when it was time to be open with each other, they didn’t hesitate. I liked that they had a great friendship first, which added to my enjoyment of the story and made their getting together more believable to me. The author, TN Tarrant, really did a great job of bringing their past to the page along with their desire for one another in just a few pages worth of story. The author even included a prologue that left me grinning like a fool and wanting to read more about these two characters.

This was light and sweet with enough hot and tender moments to make it a great read.

I received this book through Manic Readers and would like to thank them and Silver Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Xavier's XmasXavier’s Xmas by Amber Kell ~ 3 stars

Frankie is a twenty something art student who moves out of Xavier’s house him a chance to meet somebody. He’s been in love with Xavier for three years but thinks that his feelings are not reciprocated. Xavier regrets not telling Frankie how he feels and now finds himself drinking alone at Christmas, until Frankie calls asking to come back home.

This was a sweet holiday story about new beginnings. I enjoyed the characters and their honesty. And I liked the emotions that were brought to the page. From longing to happiness, I could feel them all, which added to my enjoyment of this feel-good story.

I Don't: A Christmas Wish

I Don’t: A Christmas Wish by Kari Gregg ~ 4 stars

Seth wants to get married to his partner Owen. Especially now that Maryland’s Question Six has won. But Owen doesn’t see it’s right to get married when there are so many others GLBT causes that need equal attention.

Wow, to say that this was an interesting story would be an understatement. I could see where both Owen and Seth were coming from and that in of itself was what kept me interested in the story.

I enjoyed getting to know both main characters and see how each struggled with their convictions, especially Seth. Although he felt insecure and unwanted by Owen as a result of his decision, he truly believed in their love and the bond they had built in their two years together.

I loved the secondary characters too. Especially Seth’s mother, she was hilarious in her protectiveness of Seth’s virtue. I enjoyed their interactions and was even laughing out loud at some of the things that happened in the story. But although there were many funny moments, there were also some emotional moments that really touched me and made feel a whole of a lot for both Owen and Seth.

I enjoyed this short story very much and would love to read more about these characters.

I received this book through Manic Readers and would like to thank them and Kari Gregg for the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

A Christmas Eve Wish A Christmas Eve Wish by Nicole Dennis ~ 3.5 stars

Logan is a celebrity TV chef who needs a break from it all. He drives to his isolated cabin only to find it a mess. His new neighbor Joel helps him out and offers shelter for the blizzard that’s coming.

I liked the story and the concept behind it. I could clearly see Logan’s inner battle with himself over his career and his desire to have a life outside of work. Joel was very understanding and open about his life. They both were great characters to get to know. I enjoyed their banter and their chemistry and would love to read more about them.

My only complaint would be their declarations of love, but what the hell, this is fiction after all and the story was very good.

The Match Before ChristmasThe Match Before Christmas by Eden Winters ~ 4 stars

Barry is ready for a more out of life. He especially wants to have someone to spend his Christmas with, so he decides to fill out a profile for an online dating site. The ‘dates’ are not working out and just when he is about to give up Adam contacts him.

From the dating encounters to the yearning Barry felt to connect to that special someone, the story was funny and emotional and I enjoyed it all. I admired Barry’s determination and his willingness to help his friends find their partners. He was open and affectionate, even if a that left him feeling more inadequate as the failures continued.

I liked how Adam and Barry came together, after everything that Barry went through it was nice to see him meet a normal guy. I was cheering them on from the moment they met and I was glad when they finally decided to go for it and give the relationship a try.

I already bought the other installments in the series and I can’t wait to read more about their relationship.

Snow and MistletoeSnow and Mistletoe by T.C. Blue ~ 3 stars

Richard is looking for a job and finds it where he least expects it – in the bar he frequents. He doesn’t see himself as attractive so he settles to a life of work and spending time with his friends. Suddenly he starts receiving gifts at his door. His first thought is that his friends are just trying to make him feel better, for he couldn’t fathom that anyone could be trying to woo him.

I liked Richard. He was insecure and apparently has had a rough past so I understood his reluctance and his reaction when he found out who was sending the gifts.

I enjoyed the way the author went about telling he story. There was enough information to know that Richard’s insecurities came from events of his past, but not enough to weigh down the feel-good vibe of the story. I also liked that at first I was kept guessing about Richard’s admirer, it added to my enjoyment of the story. And then once the truth was out, it made Richard’s reaction and what came next more interesting.

All in all, a good feel story of finding what you’ve always wanted staring you right in the face.

Under the Mistletoe (Lucky Harbor #6.5) by Jill Shalvis

Under the Mistletoe Book Cover Under the Mistletoe
Lucky Harbor, #6.5
Jill Shalvis
Contemporary
Grand Central Publishing
December 4, 2012
e-ARC
Netgalley

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JUST ONE MORE KISS

There’s no place like home for the holidays. And the Lucky Harbor Bed & Breakfast is bursting with festive lights and good cheer. But for Mia, Christmas is turning out to be anything other than merry and bright. Her recent break-up with her boyfriend Nick has made her return bittersweet. But then a surprise arrives, when Nick follows her to town bearing gifts-and asking for forgiveness.

Nick grew up without a family of his own so he’s overwhelmed by the love that Mia receives from all her relatives, gathered together to celebrate the season. Under their watchful eyes, Nick finds earning back her trust the hardest thing he’s ever had to do. If he succeeds, he will receive the greatest gift of all, Mia’s love for a lifetime.

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Review

A sweet holiday story about going after what you want, letting go of your past and moving on.

Mia is a student is New York. She is looking forward to surprising her boyfriend Nick with tickets to spend Christmas at Lucky Harbor and attend her aunt’s wedding there. She knows it’s sudden and that she may be rejected but she loves Nick and would love nothing more than to spend this time with him. Nick is a hard-working young man who is determined to make something of himself. His childhood was rough without a family of his own, so he doesn’t know what being family and how to make one work. He enjoys Mia’s company and even loves her, but he is clueless when it comes to making a deeper connection.

I enjoyed this story very much. I loved how Mia matured from when I last saw her in book 2. She has grown into a very smart, determined young woman who knows what she wants and goes for it regardless of the consequences. I admired that about her. And although I wanted to shake some sense into Nick, I could not help but understand where he was coming from. He never allowed himself to connect with anyone before Mia and when he was put on the spot his first instinct was to run.

I also liked visiting with the family. They were just as great as always and I was glad that I got a chance to see how they are getting along now. They were always a great set of characters and seeing them protecting Mia while still letting her be independent was good to see too. They all rallied around her, but didn’t interfere in her decisions and that just endeared them even more to me.

I appreciated the way Jill Shalvis went about this story. Especially the fact that Mia did not fall at Nick’s knees when he came for her. I was glad that she put him in his place and spoke honestly to him and I loved Nick’s reaction. He was determined to make it up to her and make her understand just how deep his feelings for her were and how much she meant to him. And when he did it was beautiful and it felt real.

The writing was very good. Exactly what I have come to expect from Jill Shalvis. Although this is just a short story it was full of emotions and tender moments between the main characters, which made their getting together more believable. The romance was exceptional and the feelings brought to the page added to the enjoyment of the story.

All in all, a great holiday read to remind you that it is worth fighting for what and who you love and that letting go of past demons is the only way to move forward in life.

I received this title through NetGalley and would like to thank them and Grand Central Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read and review this short story.

Where You Are by J.H. Trumble

Where You AreRating: 5 stars

Published: December 24, 2012

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation

Available at: Kensington, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million

Synopsis: Robert Westfall’s life is falling apart-everywhere but in math class. That’s the one place where problems always have a solution. But in the world beyond high school, his father is terminally ill, his mother is squabbling with his interfering aunts, his boyfriend is unsupportive, and the career path that’s been planned for him feels less appealing by the day.

Robert’s math teacher, Andrew McNelis, watches his best student floundering, concerned but wary of crossing the line between professional and personal. Gradually, Andrew becomes Robert’s friend, then his confidante. As the year progresses, their relationship-in school and out of it-deepens and changes. And as hard as he tries to resist, Andrew knows that he and Robert are edging into territory that holds incalculable risks for both of them.

J.H. Trumble, author of the acclaimed Don’t Let Me Go, explores a controversial subject with extraordinary sensitivity and grace, creating a deeply human and honest story of love, longing, and unexpected connection.

Reading Progress:

11/23 100.0% “*grins* A++ One hell of a controversial topic, engaging dialog and events. From start to finish an amazing book.”
11/23 83.0% “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. I don’t wanna read this part. arrrgh!”
11/23 50.0% “I can’t put it down. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’m loving the hell out of this book. Gotta go back!”
11/23 8.0% “Only just started and my heart already went out to Robert.”

Review: An emotionally charged story of unexpected love and unwavering loyalty.

“I am crazy about him. I can’t help that he came into my life four months too soon; he stole my heart when I wasn’t looking. “

Andrew is a young, math teacher who cares greatly for his students’ well-being. He has had a rough time in the relationship department and has had to make some tough decisions to be able to find his peace of mind. He is ambitious, loyal to a fault and no pushover for bullies. When he notices that Robert is struggling personally, he offers him his help and allows himself to be there if Robert should ever need someone to talk to. He questions his motives and hesitates in his actions. He struggles with feelings of protectiveness towards Robert and constantly tries to fight the connection between them.

“I want to be held. Is that so wrong? I want to be held, and stroked. I want to know that someone loves me. I want to feel it on my skin.”

Robert is a high-school senior with a difficult family situation and no one to turn to for support. He is openly gay, popular and kind. But inside he struggles with his place in his family and the uncertainty of his future. He takes comfort in having extracurricular activities and math class.  In Andrew he sees someone he can trust to share his burdens with and when the opportunity presents itself  to lean on him he does.

What begins is a journey of two men discovering their need to connect and just let go. Their story is not an easy one to read. There are the obvious obstacles they have to get through and their own doubts and hesitations. Add to that a series of events that completely took them and me by surprise and a set of selfish characters determined to screw up their happily ever after and you got yourself a powerful, riveting read.

Once again, I found myself engrossed in a book that constantly made me question my stance on teacher-student relationships. As a mother, could I condone such a relationship? As a hopeless romantic, should I accept that you can’t control who you love? And as a reader, do I accept this story for the fiction it is even if the reality of it all causes so much controversy? Throughout my reading I found myself wondering why I constantly put myself through this kind of turmoil.

The answer lies in the beauty of everything that embodies this book – the range in emotions, the complexity of the characters and their development and the skillful way the controversial subject is brought forward.

The writing was excellent. The author, J.H. Trumble, brought forward every emotion felt by these characters in a way that easily made me relate to them. Robert and Andrew struggled and felt deeply throughout the story – hesitation, fear, desolation, longing, love and heartache. All these emotions were brought to the page beautifully. I faltered along with them, felt the loneliness they tried to hide from others and yearned for them to make it work. It was a joy to see their love develop and their despair over the events that unfolded broke me. I spent the better half of the book falling in love with these characters and cheering them on, only to spend the last quarter of the book a weeping mess. Although expected, the events that unfolded still impacted me. Their presentation was that powerful.

I have to admire an author who manages to make me ecstatic one moment and has me crying the next. It is not every author who keeps me in a constant state of expectation then astonishes me with a whole different set of events or makes me question my beliefs and achieves my compliance. This is the first book I have read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last.

“If I had a chance for a do-over, or an opportunity to make corrections like I give my students when they screw up a test, I’d take a pass. “

I received this book through NetGalley and I would like to extend my appreciation to them and Kensington Publishing Corporation for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

Dojo Boys: The Italian Connection Volume Two by Alex A. Akira

Dojo Boys: The Italian Connection Volume TwoRating: 4.5 stars

Published: November 24, 2012

Available at: Amazon

Synopsis: Volume II of this swiftly paced romantic Yaoi novel finds Tanaka operative Philippe Michael Ponty fleeing his new lover only to run into his old nemesis Jun Watanabe.

Forced to comply with a kidnapping, he finds himself in the hands of the Yakuza, drugged and expected to perform sexual favors as Jun seeks his revenge.

Yoshiro Tanaka and Michael Black (Dojo Boys: Dragon & Crow) arrive from Japan to coordinate a rescue attempt and call upon record executive Julian Romano and musician Tommy Sear for help.

Seedy motels, jealous ex lovers, violent fighting, gunfire, multiple misunderstandings, a Japanese techno club and a memorable trip to Argentina make for another madcap adventure in this pulp Yaoi series of Dojo Boys finding true love.

Review: A great action-filled follow-up story about loyalty, self-acceptance and love.

Dojo Boys: The Italian Connection Volume Two picks up right where the previous volume left off. Phillipe is on the run from Julian after a huge misunderstanding and finds himself doubting his self-worth and vowing to forget Julian and his new found feelings for him. While in the airport departing for his next mission he is kidnapped by Jun Watanabe who has escaped from prison. Phillipe is determined to keep his friends safe and free himself once and for all of Jun, even if he has to do it alone. Little does he know that reinforcements are just around the corner in the form of Tanaka, his boss,  and Michael, his friend and co-worker, among others. The series of events that follow involve a whole new set of characters, both of the good kind and the horrible kind. All these events and the emotions that were brought forward eventually lead Phillipe on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance resulting in what he has longed for since he can remember – a family and the man he loves.

Once again Alex A. Akira has brought forward an amazing story. I found myself tapping the hell out of my tablet trying to keep up with the action and the emotions brought to the page and I enjoyed it throughly. From the kicks and head-butts to the gunshots and arrests, this story was action packed from beginning to end. But it was the emotions that got to me. From desperation and disgust to anguish and despair, I felt them all. Which only made Phillipe more dear to me. I wanted to protect him, console him and tell him that he was loved.

The writing was excellent with the right balance of action scenes and emotional drama to keep me interested throughout. The characters once more were wonderful and added to the story appropriately. Even Jun and his crew I enjoyed. Not in a good way, since I mostly wanted to kill them all, but his presence brought a lot more of Phillipe to the surface and THAT I enjoyed very much. I loved to see how Phillipe and Julian developed throughout the story, which helped me connect to them more. This in turn increased the believability of their getting together in my eyes.

Another fact that made it real were Phillip’s doubts about this new connection he found with Julian. I liked that they had to fight their own demons and other obstacles thrown at them to be able to get together. It also helped that the author expressed so clearly their longing and their need to be with each other. Their pain while apart, especially Phillipe’s, was overwhelming at times. I had to believe in their happily ever after, I just had to. When they got together in the end I cried with them and found myself sighing in relief for them too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this volume and I would love to read more about how Phillipe and Julian are working out. I am also interested in reading more from Tommy. He was an adorable character to get to know and his story would be a joy to read.

I would like to thank the author for giving me the opportunity to read and review this title in exchange of my honest opinion.

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Alex A. Akira spent a number of years traveling internationally as a jack of all trades dabbling in wide array of creative fields, theater, martial arts, metaphysics, yoga, weightlifting, and accessories, jewelry and gift-ware design to name a few, before deciding to put pen to paper and later finger to keyboard, to craft various tales of young males struggling with emotional turmoil and internal conflict as they try to navigate their way through love and life in general. Why, Yaoi, boy’s love and m/m romance tales, you ask? … well you do what you know.

You can find Alex on  Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.