These stories can be any genre, but they all have main characters who are LGBTQ+ . I separate them out so they are easier for you to find. 🙂
Be sure to check out the “HOLIDAY” page for short LGBTQ+ romances recently reviewed.
THE SEER by Rowan McAllister
Fiction, LGBTQ, Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Blurb: For the past ten years, smuggling magic users safely out of Brotherhood-controlled Rassa has been the only thing keeping Dakso Kavalyan going. But with his funding cut and rumors of impending civil war, his orders from the Mage’s High Council are clear: his final mission is information gathering only. No rescuing even one more hunted soul. Daks has never been great at following orders. When he stumbles upon a Seer spouting prophecy in front of one of the hated brothers, he can’t just walk away. Ravi never asked to be rescued, nor did he ask for the Visions plaguing his life and endangering everyone he’s ever cared about. The last thing he needs is a reckless brute crashing into his carefully laid plans. Seems the gods have other ideas. As Daks and Ravi flee the city together, their reluctant alliance blooms into something more, but trials, bad luck, and Daks’s infuriating penchant for finding trouble dog their every move. Will trusting this reckless rogue with his heart and his life be the worst decision Ravi’s ever made… or the best?
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. Though it is part three of a series, you don’t need to have read any of the previous books to know exactly what’s going on and why. The author does an amazing job with world-building and the characters are well-done too. I’m not in love with the cover, but I didn’t select it for the cover art. The story intrigued me enough to choose it. This is a story full of magic, wizards, supernatural beings, and more. It’s a really good high fantasy story with strong romance in it. Or maybe a decent romance centered around a fantasy. Daks and Ravi start out fighting each other and end up in love while trying to get Ravi to safety. There’s also a side romance between Daks’ partner Shura and her love interest Fara. So lots of romance going on. My favorite character, though, was Horse. Yep, they named the horse, Horse. He is definitely interesting. Okay, I wasn’t all that into the sex (three heavy scenes), but the rest of the story was very well done and definitely held my interest. I can’t wait to read more in this series. I hope there’s more!
Recommendation: M/M and F/F romance with a strong high fantasy and a horse who’s more than he seems. Great world building too. All this makes for a fascinating read. Pick this one up for a good story.
Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
BAD TO BE WORTHY by Andrew Grey
Fiction, M/M (Gay), Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Sometimes Gerome Meadows longs for the excitement of the life he left behind for Witness Protection. But when he stands up to a bully in a bar to protect a homeless man, his past comes very close to home—and it’s no longer what he wants. Tucker Wells has been living in a tent, surviving with the aid of his friend Cheryl and helping her watch over her son. When he winds up on the wrong side of an argument with some dangerous people, his already difficult life is thrown into turmoil. Gerome steps in to find them a temporary apartment, and Tucker is grateful and relieved. Gerome never meant to open the door to trouble. His life and Tucker’s depend on keeping his past a mystery. But as his desire to protect develops into something deeper, he and Tucker will have to evaluate what family means—and hope that their growing feelings pass unimaginable tests.
Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. It’s full of action, suspense, bad guys who aren’t so bad, and more. Gerome is a perfect bad guy turned good. Once a leader in the Detroit mob, he’s now in the witness protection program along with his best friends. But he misses his former life and the fact that they have to watch over their shoulders all the time. Now, instead of running the hottest gay nightclubs in Detroit, he’s working at a giftshop on Longboat Key, Florida.
Tucker lost his job when the restaurant he worked at closed down. Then he lost his home. And now, he lives in a tent on the beach with other homeless people. He’s befriended a woman—Cheryl—and her five-year-old son Joshie and formed a “family.” Given the chance at earning three hundred dollars just to pick up a package on the beach, he jumps at the chance in order to get them all some real food. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the package and the “owner” comes after him. Gerome knows what’s going on and steps in to help the cute guy and ends up falling for him.
Gerome is the best example of a bad guy turned good. Yes, he has a past, and might still “bend” the rules when needed, but he has heart and really wants to do what’s right, especially for his love. Andrew Grey really knows how to write romance and this one doesn’t disappoint. So why not five stars? For me, the ending seemed rushed. I wanted more details on how things worked out. How they managed to stay out of the police investigations even after the attack on Tucker. Just…more. But, that’s an Andrew Grey story for you. Satisfying ending, but you want more.
Recommendation: If you like your heroes a little on the rough side, this series is a definite buy for you. Great reads and satisfying endings that make you believe in HEA.
Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
THE PLAYER’S ENCORE by Joe Cosentino
Fiction, LGBTQ, Mystery, Romance
Blurb: Can a man and a ghost be soulmates? When young music teacher Andre Beaufort unleashed the ghost of dapper Roaring Twenties playboy Freddy Birtwistle from his antique player piano, he never imagined they would fall in love and solve two murder mysteries. Now Freddy yearns to visit his family’s beach house in Florida. So, Andre and Freddy embark on a vacation to the stunning home which has become a bed and breakfast. Before Freddy can say “zotched,” a young, mysterious houseboy is murdered, the second hunky houseboy to meet the same fate. Will Andre and Freddy find the murderer to save the inn—and themselves? A year later, Andre and Freddy venture off on a vacation with Andre’s uncle, an ex-priest, to Tuscany, staying at an inn which happens to have once been Freddy’s old family villa. Before the sun sets golden on the hills, a handsome young guest is murdered. Will Andre and Freddy uncover the secrets of Freddy’s ancestral home, solve the mystery, and find eternal love? The Player’s Encore, the second installment in the popular Player Piano Mysteries series by Joe Cosentino, includes two cozy mysteries: The Beach House and The Villa.
Thoughts: Once again, we meet up with Andre and Freddy as they travel and solve crimes while having a wonderful love affair – if you consider that Freddy is a ghost. He can manifest himself physically when he is in his own rooms from when he was alive—though there has to be a player piano there for Andre to summon him. The twist comes in that Freddy’s family was very rich and has homes all over the world, most of which have been turned into B-and-B’s that Andre goes to visit (and conveniently gets the room Freddy occupied when alive). Andre is totally in love with Freddy, but unfortunately, no one can see Freddy except Andre (and a little girl now). Thus Andre claims he has a boyfriend—which he does—but no one can see him or talk to him and Andre can’t go anywhere with him. But together, the two of them do seem to solve a lot of murders, all the while Freddy spouts off more-and-more unbelievable stories about his life in the 20s and 30s. (He was killed in 1935) Andre is the ears and eyes of the sleuthing groups while Freddy uses his experiences to figure out who the villain is.
Like the author’s other books in this series, this one contains two novellas: “The Beach House” –which takes place in Key West, Florida, and “The Villa” – which takes place in Tuscany, Italy. Both places have a murder occur and Freddy and Andre help solve both. The stories are quick reads, quirky, fun, and with satisfying endings. There are always lots of suspects and you’re never quite sure whodunnit until Andre wraps it up at the end.
Recommendation: If you’re looking for a quick read, fun, cozy mystery with quirky characters (like a ghost), a loving gay couple (one of whom is the ghost), then this series is for you. You don’t need to have read the first ones to get into the stories, but it might help set up how Andre and Freddy met.
Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”
HOME AND FAMILY by Andrew Grey
Fiction, Gay Romance, Contemporary
Blurb: Mark has worked on Clay and Dell’s farm for a year, and he’s now in charge of the care and feeding of their growing herd of goats. He’s worked hard to provide for himself and build a life of his own. But with the operation continuing to expand, additional help is needed. Isaac lives in a self-sustaining, simple-life community a few miles up the road. He’s spent his life working and wondering what the outside world might be like. When his father requires him to earn outside money, he asks for a job at Clay and Dell’s farm. What neither Mark nor Isaac expects is a friendship that quickly grows into something more. But their feelings for each other go against everything that Isaac has been taught, and acting on those feelings will mean leaving the only way of life he’s ever known. Together, Isaac and Mark are going to need a great deal of strength to weather the storm that’s sure to head their way.
Thoughts: This story has a lot of emotions going on in it. And it’s a perfect addition to the “Heart, Home, and Family” series. Isaac has lived a very secluded life in a “commune-like” environment with a controlling/abusive father. Though he has been tasked with finding work in order to bring in money for the community, his father does not approve of where he is working. But Isaac likes being on Clay and Dell’s farm and working with the goats…and Mark. Plus, by seeing them, he comes to understand his own differences from others in the community. Though he does eventually break free, it is not without a lot of angst on his part.
Recommendations: if you’ve read the others in the series, this is a perfect addition and has a HEA that satisfies. If you haven’t read the others, you can read this one and still know what’s going on. But do yourself a favor (and Andrew) and purchase them all. You won’t be disappointed.
HALF A COWBOY by Andrew Grey
Fiction, LGBTQ Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Ever since his discharge from the military, injured veteran Ashton Covert has been running his family ranch—and running himself into the ground to prove he still can. Ben Malton knows about running too. When he takes refuge in Ashton’s barn after an accident in a Wyoming blizzard, he’s thinking only of survival and escaping his abusive criminal ex, Dallas. Ashton has never met a responsibility he wouldn’t try to shoulder. When he finds Ben half-frozen, he takes it upon himself to help. But deadly trouble follows Ben wherever he goes. He needs to continue on, except it may already be too late. Something about Ben makes Ashton feel whole again. But before they can ride into the sunset together, they need to put an end to Dallas’s threats. Ben can make a stand, with Ashton’s help—only it turns out the real danger could be much closer to home.
Thoughts: This story takes place in the winter in Wyoming. Ben is on the run from an abusive ex who is a powerful crime boss. It starts off with Ben crashing his car in a blizzard and trying to find someplace warm to survive. Half-frozen, he makes it to Ashton’s barn where he is found the next morning by Ashton. What follows is a story full of intrigue, danger, betrayal, and romance as the two men discover love in the cold wilds. There is an interesting twist at the end and a HEA that leaves you satisfied.
Recommendations: If you’re a fan of Andrew Grey’s books – and who isn’t? – definitely add this one to your wish list.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the author and RBTL Book Promotions for providing this ARC in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and not influenced by anyone.
HEART AND HOME by Andrew Grey
Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
4 1/2 sparklers
Blurb: Blurb: Professional marketer Alan Wright needs time to recover, both physically and mentally. After getting out of the hospital, his best friend Clay takes him to his farm, where it’s quiet to recuperate. Healing is going to take a lot more time and effort than Alan ever imagined and require professional help, which comes in the form of a strong man with a gentle touch. Haley Martin, a nurse-therapist, has never fit in with his family, the town, or himself. When he’s hired to assist Alan with his recovery, he discovers a place with people like him who live their lives without shame or fear. As Alan begins his recovery, Haley starts to come into his own as well. He just has to have the courage to take it to heart. As Alan and Haley both learn to overcome their challenges, Haley needs to figure out how to deal with his overbearing father and stand on his own two feet. Together, holding on to each other, they learn to be stronger together and start to build a possible future. But their old lives still have pull, and they both must decide what’s truly important.
Thoughts: This is a sweet romance about two broken men who have been finding their way and finding each other. Alan was seriously injured in a brutal hate-attack. His friends Clay and Dell take him to their farm to help him recuperate. The therapist they hire—Hayley—is the man of Alan’s dreams but Hayley has his own demons to deal with—namely his homophobic abusive father. Both men must face their own demons before they can move forward. Note: I had trouble getting into this at first but put it down a few days and then picked it up again. Once I got past the first couple of pages (the darkest part of the story), I couldn’t put it down. It’s a good story and very much in the style of Andrew’s other works.
What I liked: I loved Archie’s enthusiasm and his willingness to give up T.T. (His stuffed turtle) to help anyone who needed it. The characters in this story are very well done and believable, as is the small town.
What I didn’t like: There were a few very minor typos/editing issues that kept this from being a 5 sparkler, but the author has been notified and has said he will be making corrections. I will note that for some readers, the PTSD from violence and abuse issues might be a trigger so just be forewarned.
Recommendation: If you’re a fan of Andrew’s, definitely pick this up as it is a decent story with a HEA that satisfies.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in hopes of giving a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.
A HEART BACK HOME by Andrew Grey
Fiction, Romance, LGBTQ+
Blurb: Clay Kartwell loses his job and gets a call from his estranged father asking for his help back on the family farm, all on the same day. Clay knows he has to return home, even though it’s the last thing he wants to do. Some things back home are best left unremembered. Dell Warrington was Clay’s unrequited high school crush and the man he least wants to see. He’s everything Clay remembered and more, including the father of four-year-old Archie. But Dell hasn’t had it easy either, and not everything is as it seems. Clay sets out to save the farm and bring in the crops with Dell’s help. Old assumptions fall to the side as the two men reconnect, and the second chance that Clay never knew he wanted seems within his grasp. But Clay left the farm for a reason, and reconciliation with his stoic father won’t be easy. When his city life offers a new opportunity, he must decide whether to accept what he knows, or follow his heart.
Thoughts: This is a romantic novella (short, quick read) about two men who loved, lost, and found love again. The characters are realistic, especially Clay. He had issues with his father, left the farm for the big city and barely spoke to the old man for five years. But when his dad calls for help, he’s there. Okay, so it helped that he lost his job and had nothing else to do, but he did go back home. And Dell is a sweet love interest for him. Because it’s a novella, there isn’t a lot of room to develop a long story line, but there’s enough for Clay to grow and change. As does his father. Dell, not as much, but it is there. I loved Alan as sort of Clay’s conscience. I wish we could have seen more of him, but as a minor character, he was great.
What I liked: Alan. He was a hoot. And the conflict between Clay and his father, and Clay and Dell, and Clay and… you get the picture. Clay was a very conflicted character who grows a lot and changes into a better person by the end. I loved that he did come home to help and worked hard to “save the farm”. And I loved how he reacted with Archie, Dell’s son.
What I didn’t like: very little. It was a nicely written story with a satisfying ending. A standard Andrew Grey story of love. Definitely pick this one up.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS by B.G. Thomas
Fiction, Paranormal Romance, LGBTQ
Blurb: Mike Ellsworth was alive and well one minute, and dead the next. Only he’s not really dead—he’s a ghost. One with lots of unfinished business. He’s never told his wife that he has come to accept that he’s gay. He’s never told her that he has a secret lover. He’s never been able to tell his lover that he is in love with him. Now there’s nothing Mike can do about it. And that’s only the beginning! He soon finds out he can help other ghosts leave the spirit world and step into the light. So what’s keeping him stuck on earth? If only there were a way he could make up for all he’s done wrong, and finally do what’s truly right. And maybe, just maybe, there is.
Thoughts: Wow. Just…wow. It’s been a while since a story pulled me in this quickly and this deeply. The story is told completely from Mike’s point of view, and it’s a quick read—just 79 pages. But you won’t want to put it down. And the ending is perfect.
What I liked: Everything. Mike is a good character with flaws and issues and he grows as a character up until the very end. The other characters don’t do as much, but that’s okay. It’s Mike’s story. And I loved the end. It was absolutely perfect for this story.
What I didn’t like: Nothing.
Recommendation: I can’t recommend this highly enough. It’s sweet. It’s sad. It’s happy. It’s weird. It’s romantic. It’s real. It’s everything rolled into one in a short package. Gay, ghosts, romance—all of it leading to an ending that definitely satisfies. Pick this one up.
THE PLAYER by Joe Cosentino
Fiction, LGBTQ romance, cozy mystery
Blurb: When young music teacher Andre Beaufort discovers an antique player piano in the basement of his apartment building, he is visited by the ghost of the original owner: a dapper and charismatic playboy from the Roaring Twenties, Freddy Birtwistle. Andre has never seen a ghost and Freddy has never been one, so they get off to a rocky start. But when Andre finds his neighbor murdered on his doorstep, he and Freddy join forces to narrow the pool of suspects.
Soon Andre and Freddy discover that opposites attract, even if one’s alive and the other dead. Together these amateur detectives make an enticing team, and it’s a good thing too, because the first murder they solve together won’t be their last. But the real mystery isn’t just whodunit—it’s how a romance between a man and a ghost can have a happily ever after ending. The Player contains two stand-alone cozy murder mysteries, The City House and The Country House.
Thoughts: This book contains two short novellas. One takes place at a mansion converted to apartments in Hoboken, NJ. The other in a mansion converted to a B & B in Cold Springs, NY. Both stories are about young music teacher Andre and the ghost—Freddy—he discovers living in his player piano. Both buildings used to belong to Freddy’s family. As did the player pianos in both places, which allows Freddy’s ghost to appear when played. Freddy is a stereotypical 1920s playboy. But, as unlikely as it seems, the two fall in love with each other. Freddy can manifest himself enough to have a physical relationship with Andre and move things around, but nobody else can see or here him, which makes for some interesting conversations. The mysteries are well done with good clues and both stories have satisfying endings.
What I liked: Though the 1920s vernacular was a tad confusing at times, the author did a really good job of explaining it without overpowering the reader with definitions. It was done through conversations between Andre and Freddy, which led to some funny times in the story. I liked Freddy – he was so very over-the-top. Maybe a little too over-the-top as some of his boasting seemed too…boastful. I liked the way the author made it possible for Freddy to be at both homes through the multiple player pianos. And the murder mysteries just added to the stories. The secondary characters were…characters. So out there.
What I didn’t like: sometimes the descriptions were a little too much, but not bad. And I was a little confused as to why Freddy couldn’t leave the rooms where the pianos were. It was said that he was there because those were the rooms where he lived, but…being the family homes wouldn’t he have lived throughout the house. If he could have moved around, he could have helped more with the investigations. But it all worked out in the end.
Recommendation: Cute stories with paranormal twists that have satisfying endings. If you want quick reads, gay characters, and an unapologetic ghost, pick up this two-for-one fun read.
RECLAIMING QUINN by Parker Williams
Fiction, Shapeshifter Romance, LGBTQ
Publisher Blurb: Shifter Quinn Adler knew he would live and die as a slave. Quinn’s life was filled with pain until he was rescued from an abusive pack. But in Lydon, Quinn can’t be sure of anything, so he’s terrified of everything. With no one to give him direction, he is lost—until Deke takes control of him. Deke Timmons hates that he has to play the role of master to his mate. Unfortunately, Quinn won’t accept his love until Deke can show him what being mates means. Vowing to help Quinn, Deke takes him into the world he’s never seen. Though sometimes their relationship is tense, his methods seem to be working. Then a power-mad Alpha swoops in to kidnap Quinn and ends up getting Deke by mistake. Now Deke must play submissive to a wolf complicit in Quinn’s abuse. He’ll do whatever it takes to get back to his mate—but with Deke in peril, Quinn must find his courage and reclaim the person he was meant to be.
Thoughts: This is the second in a paranormal series. Quinn was taken as a boy from his family by an abusive alpha. He was raped, beaten, starved, and treated as a slave until he was rescued by another family. Unfortunately, he has trouble reintegrating to a regular life and especially with his new “master”—who turns out to actually be his true mate. Deke knows he has to take things slow with Quinn and tries to. Then Deke is kidnapped and Quinn realizes what Deke means to him and he will do anything to get Deke back.
What I liked: the characters are strong and well-drawn with quirks, flaws, and strengths. The world building is excellent, especially with the vampyres being created to protect the Omegas. There’s a happily ever after that satisfies, but it’s also obviously part of a series because a few threads are left dangling even though this is a stand-alone. And you don’t need to have read the first one to know what’s going on in this one.
What I didn’t like: The book was slow to start for me. Okay, not really, but I had to skip over the first few pages because of the violence there. There are a lot of “triggers” in this book for some people. I didn’t get the whole “Omega” (and other Greek letters indicating who was what in society). Maybe that was explained in the first book. I also didn’t understand the whole “guy” got pregnant thing that obviously had to do with being an Omega.
Recommendation: It was a good book with strong characters and excellent world building. There are some triggers (rape, violence, abuse) that may take away from some readers’ enjoyment but overall, it’s a good read.
PAINT BY NUMBER by Andrew Grey
Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ
Blurb: When New York painter Devon Starr gives up his vices, his muses depart along with them. Devon needs a change, but when his father’s stroke brings him home to Alaska, the small town where he grew up isn’t what he remembers. Enrique Salazar remembers Devon well, and he makes it his personal mission to open Devon’s eyes to the rugged beauty and possibilities all around them. The two men grow closer, and just as Devon begins to see what’s always been there for him, they’re called to stand against a mining company that threatens the very pristine nature that’s helping them fall in love. The fight only strengthens their bond, but as the desire to pick up a paintbrush returns, Devon also feels the pull of the city. A man trapped between two worlds, Devon can only follow where his heart leads him.
Thoughts: This is a nice romance set against an amazing backdrop of rural Alaska. There are family issues to deal with, past loves, present heartthrobs, environmental issues, and crooks. So there’s a lot going on in this story – but it all comes together in a nice read.
What I liked: I loved that Devon agreed to teach art classes and how he’s so gentle with the students, especially the kids. I loved the imagery of the story. I felt like I was there with them, standing in the pass, looking down at the valley or up at the mountain. I also loved the imagery of the painting Devon does. It’s a very strong point. Enrique is so artistic as well as practical. He’s a recovering alcoholic, yet runs the local bar. I loved that he has room set aside for non-drinkers – and doesn’t allow anyone to break that rule. And the locals back him up. The people of the small town help each other out – like suggesting a recent widow to make meals for Devon’s father (who had a stroke) giving her something to do and taking the pressure off Devon.
What I didn’t like: Devon is great at helping with the art classes and exposing the crooked miners, but clueless when it comes to helping his dad. It’s up to Enrique to fix the leaking roof, the dead stove, and more. Devon grew up there – but he doesn’t know any of this stuff? Didn’t work well for me.
Recommendation: If you’re an Andrew Grey fan, definitely pick this one up. If you’re not familiar with his stuff, pick it up. It’s a good story with a HEA that satisfies.
DEAD MAN’S HAND by Cindy Dees
Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ
Blurb: Temptation, peril, and dirty poker. Love is a high-stakes game. When Collin Callahan, British secret agent, goes up against math genius turned surfer bum Oliver Elliot, the battle is epic—and so is the attraction. They’re pitted against each other in an exclusive, ultra-secret—and ultra-illegal—poker match in Gibraltar, but when players start dying and they could be next, they find a common goal: catch the killer before it’s too late. Evenly matched at poker and romance, they each wrestle personal demons that threaten to consume them as the stakes climb. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble with both life and love on the line as they fight to be the last seven-card studs standing.
Thoughts: Take two hot guys, add in a high-stakes poker game and life-and-death situations and you have the basis for a really good book. And this one delivers. Collin is a prim-and-proper British agent/analyst. He’s sent to the exclusive resort in Gibraltar to play in a high-stakes poker game—something he’s never played before. He’s not normally a field agent. He’s just there to gather information. Unfortunately, no one told the people putting on the game that. The first thing that happens when he gets there is to see an ocean swimmer nearly run down by a jet ski. He jumps in to save the swimmer and ends up needing saved himself. Oliver—the swimmer—gets his “hero” back to the resort where they strike up a friendship. Oliver is a math genius and master poker player. He teaches Collin things about the game that can’t be learned from books and videos. Their friendship turns to romance, but it’s heavily tinged with danger as some of the top players end up dead. The two have to figure out who’s killing off their opponents and who’s running the show before they become victims.
What I liked: I loved the characters of Collin and Oliver. They are well-done with issues and problems. I liked the ending—though it did seem to kind of drop off a bit. Maybe there are sequels in the future? I also liked all the twists and turns the story took to get to the ending. And the ending…had me gasping.
What I didn’t like: I didn’t like that I don’t know if the killer got caught (unless this person is going to show up in future books?). I’d like to see the killer caught and punished. And that’s the whole issue with this not being a 5 Sparkler book. I think it’s a really good book, but there were a few too many threads left dangling for me. It’s definitely stand alone…and yet not. I guess that since it’s part of a series, we’ll see the threads develop more in the future? That’s unknown.
Recommendation: For a good spy/action-adventure story with a touch of romance, definitely pick this one up. I enjoyed it very much.
PREY FOR LOVE by Dirk Greyson
Fiction, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ
Blurb: When successful businessman Phillip Barone attends a lover’s funeral and discovers he was just the latest of Phillip’s partners to die, Phillip knows he’s in trouble. He also knows just the man he needs. Former Marine Barry Malone would love a second chance with Phillip—he just wishes the romance could be rekindled under better circumstances. But Phillip’s stalker is escalating, and if Barry cannot solve the mystery of who wants Phillip dead and why, he might lose him for good. Barry’s determined, but the investigation struggles against the wit of a crafty killer—one who is closer to Phillip than they could have realized. Luckily Barry is even closer, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect the man he’s falling in love with all over again.
Thoughts: This is the standard romance I’ve come to expect from Dirk Greyson. And it didn’t fail to entertain. Barry and Phillip are great characters and believable. Their quick relationship is even more acceptable since they knew each other before this book takes place. I think the only downside for me was that I figured out who the bad guy was pretty much at the beginning. Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book – because I did. It was entertaining, hot, suspenseful, and with a few funny quips that had me laughing as well as a satisfying ending.
What I liked: I loved some of the old TV/movie references – like them getting “frisky” (referring to a term used often in Happy Days) and “twitterpated” (used in Bambi) – those two references just made me laugh.
What I didn’t like: very little. It was a decent read.
Recommendation: For a suspenseful, hot, but occasionally funny read, pick this one up. What can be better than a smoking hot marine and friends and the people who love them?
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine alone and are not influenced by anyone or anything.
CATCH OF A LIFETIME by Andrew Grey
LGBTQ Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Some moments happen once in a lifetime, and you have to catch them and hold on tight. Arty Reynolds chased his dream to Broadway, but after his father is injured, he must return to the small fishing community where he grew up, at least until his dad is back on his feet. Jamie Wilson fled his family farm but failed to achieve real independence. Arty is hiring for a trip on the gulf, and it’ll get Jamie one step closer to his goal. Neither man plans to stay in Florida long-term, neither is looking for love, and they’re both blown away by the passion that sparks between them. But on a fishing boat, there’s little privacy to see where their feelings might lead. Passion builds like a storm until they reach land, where they also learn they share a common dream. The lives they both long for could line up perfectly, as long as they can weather the strain on their new romance when only one of them may get a chance at their dream.
Review: Andrew has done it again – pulled at the heartstrings with a nice romance. The characters are realistic as are the situations. Which makes for a good story, but there are sad moments too. Not only are there the two main characters – Arty and Jamie — but their fathers play a big part as well. Actually, there is a huge lack of communication between the fathers and sons which leads to problems. But when Arty’s father is hurt, the first thing Arty does is go home to help his father. Which is where he meets Jamie. Jamie, on the other hand, wants nothing to do but get away from his dad. Both men dream of New York and acting careers. Arty had one—not a good one, but he had been there until his father in Florida got hurt. Now he’s back in the fishing community where he grew up and trying to pay the bills until his father can get back out on the boat and he can go back to New York. Jamie ended up in Florida where his aunt lives, but he can’t stay there. His father wants him back in Iowa on the farm, but Jamie has Broadway in his sights. Unfortunately, things come to a head when Jamie’s father threatens to come to Florida to haul him back home. Arty can’t leave yet so sends Jamie on ahead to meet up with Arty’s roommate.
What I liked: The characters of Arty and Jamie are very well done. I loved how Arty makes things better for the whole town by challenging the crook who’s been cheating the fishermen. I love how his father takes care of him in the end and “fires” him.And I love how Jamie finds a backbone and figures things out on his own. And I love the ending. It’s perfect.
What I didn’t like: I really didn’t like the father’s at first. They either communicate by grunting or yelling with no in between. But their lack of communication skills makes their transformation even more telling.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended. This is a nice romance with a happy ending that makes you smile.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
DARLINGS OF NEW MIDNIGHT by Andrea Speed
Publisher’s Blurb: The Son of Satan, a demon hunter, a mummy, a witch, a harpy, and the messenger of an elder god walk into a bar… and try to prevent the apocalypse? The devil isn’t thrilled, and frankly the angels aren’t either. But from the bowels of Hell to the chilly Halls of Heaven, from Thailand to Tacoma to the bottom of the ocean, this ragtag group of supernaturals plans to fight the prophecy and save the world or die trying. With enemies among the most powerful beings ever to exist and allies they can’t trust as far as they can throw, they’d better get their act together fast.
Review: This was an intriguing book with vague touches similar to “Good Omens” in that the main characters are trying to stop the apocalypse from happening. Although Logan (a human with mad fighting skills) and Ceri (son of Satan) are the main characters, it really is a book based on a team. In addition to these two, there are Esme (an all-powerful witch) and her partner Lyn (a harpie), Ahmed (an immortal who can turn to sand), and Alex (messenger of Cthylor, daughter of Cthulhu). They are up against all the demons of Hell and all the angels of Heaven. The book is in omniscient point of view as it switches between the various characters. Not a bad thing because it gives you multiple points of view. The love interest between Ceri and Logan is nicely done, as is the relationship between Lyn and Esme. And the fact that we’re all still here… J
What I liked: The emotions are strong, especially Logan’s internal conflict about his sister Gill who died and became an angel. And I loved the Scourge who Ceri tied to Logan to help protect him. The group runs around a lot gathering talismans for their fight against both places. I did find it interesting that they fought Satan, but not God. And I loved how they dealt with Gill at the end. Nicely done. The story is fast-paced but with down times that break it up.
What I didn’t like: Honestly? Very little. It’s funny, I can’t say I loved this book…and yet, I couldn’t put it down. As noted above, it’s an intriguing book.
Recommendation: for an interesting read with lots of fight scenes, spell-casting, demons, angels, and more, and with an ending that satisfies, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this book.
MURDER MOST DESERVING by Hank Edwards & Deanna Wadsworth
LGBTQ+ cozy murder mystery
Publisher blurb: An acoustic music festival comes to Lacetown, and with it, another dead body—this one found at Fleishman’s Funeral Home. Michael recuses himself from the autopsy, handing the job over to his arch-nemesis from a neighboring county. Luckily Michael and local hairstylist Jazz are closer than ever. Between a trio of funerals, a blowout BBQ, and a couple of trips on Beulah, Jazz’s beloved scooter, Michael and Jazz do some sleuthing of their own. With the first gruesome murder still fresh in their memories, they can’t help but wonder if notorious murderer and famous author Russell Withingham might be targeting them from jail, where he’s awaiting trial. The festival, however, brings in a veritable lineup of potential killers, including a familiar—and most unwelcome—figure from their past. As the murderer circles ever closer to Jazz and Michael, Sheriff Musgrave is quick to remind them that everyone’s a suspect until Sheriff Musgrave says they’re not!
Review: This is almost two books in one. The first book is the murder mystery. A cozy that involves a serial killer, a double murder, an attempted murder, and more. The second story is the romance between Michael and Jazz—new to them, and very hot. Note: I would categorize this as an erotic romance. It’s well done, but the frequency and steaminess of the encounters are definitely not for the “sweet” romance types. The mystery part is really good with multiple suspects and red herrings throughout. There’s also a satisfying ending that makes it a good read.
What I liked: The characters, especially Michael and Jazz. And Misty. And Musgrave. And Kitty. And… well, let’s just say the characters were very well done. I also loved the cat! The murderer works out nicely with the clues given. Although it’s obviously the second of a series, there were enough clues for you to know what happened in the first book and how it affected Jazz and Michael. And there’s a HEA ending that satisfies.
What I didn’t like: Okay, there were a few things. This is obviously the second in a series that will continue. There’s nothing wrong with that, but there were more than a few threads left dangling which was frustrating. I’d love to know what the other coroner (Michael’s enemy) was allergic to. Was it the cat? We’re never quite told. The thread with Jazz and Russell hasn’t been tied up so I assume we’ll see more of that in books to follow.
Recommendation: I’d recommend you read the first book in the series first. But…that being said, you don’t *have* to in order to follow this story. But be forewarned that there are a lot of erotic sex scenes. This is a cozy mystery that gets extremely cozy. J
Thanks to the publisher for providing this book.
ABOVE AND BEYOND by Andrew Grey
LGBTQ Romantic Suspense
Publisher blurb: When Salvatore Adruccio finished his time in the military, he moved on to a life of good friends, cold drinks, and hot men. His job as a bouncer at Broncos is fun and drama-free, at least until sexy but secretive server Elliot Hastings catches his eye. On the run and in possession of evidence that could expose his stepfather for the dangerous and powerful criminal he is, Elliot doesn’t want to draw anyone else into his troubles. But when a thug catches up to him and Salvatore fends him off, he decides Elliot needs his help, even if he won’t admit it. Attraction quickly heats into passion, but Elliot is wary of commitment when he might have to drop everything and run at any moment. The only way they can be together in all the ways they want is to take out the threat posed by Elliot’s stepfather and his underworld ties. And Salvatore intends to do just that.
Review: Hot guys, death threats, and more all come together in this sweet gay romance from Andrew Grey. If you’ve read his other books, you know there’s always going to be an issue, and a HEA ending that leaves you with a smile.
What I liked: Both Elliot and Sal are good characters and I loved Sal’s mom. Actually, I liked all the characters. The men from the bar where Elliot works are the kind you want to have at your back.
What I didn’t like: The ending seemed almost rushed and over too quickly. It worked, but it did seem to be over very quickly.
Recommendation: This is a good story with a HEA that satisfies. For a quick read with thugs, passion, and more, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC.
PRODIGAL by T.A. Moore
Contemporary LBGTQ+ romance
Publisher Blurb: Boyd Maccabbee has spent his life second-guessing his actions on that fateful day. What if he’d done something differently? Maybe Sammy would have made it home safe and never become Cutters Gap’s most tragic famous son. Or would it have been Boyd who was never seen again? When the police find new evidence on the disappearance, Boyd hopes to finally get some answers. The last thing Morgan Graves needs is to be dragged into some old case about a missing kid. He doesn’t know why police hit on his DNA, but he’s not Sammy Calloway. He thinks he’d remember being kidnapped. He knows he’d remember firefighter Boyd. Drawn into the complex web of suspicion, grief, and anger that has knit Cutters Gap together in the years since Sammy’s disappearance, Morgan struggles to hang on to himself when everyone already assumes they know him. And somewhere, the truth about Sammy Calloway is waiting.
Review: This was a dark, heavy story with occasional lighter moments. It’s about a boy who disappeared fifteen years ago – and a man whose DNA matches. The man, Morgan, is a thief, petty criminal who’s been in and out of jail since he was fourteen. He has no memory of being kidnapped and no idea who this kid Sammy is supposed to be. Boyd was Sammy’s best friend. The two men quickly fall into lust that turns into love as they work through what has happened.
What I liked: the characters – they are well-developed, realistic, their emotions real and strong. The ending—a “happy for now” one—leaves some questions unanswered, but it works for this story. It’s not an easy story to read, but it is a good one.
What I didn’t like: as noted above, it’s not a traditional romance with a HEA ending. But… that being said, the ending does work well for the story. And it satisfies.
Recommendation: This is a good story, but be prepared for some darkness and characters who aren’t your standard romantic sweet pairs. If you like your romance a little grittier and darker, pick this one up.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC.
BACK IN BLACK by Rhys Ford
Publisher blurb: There are eight million stories in the City of Angels but only one man can stumble upon the body of a former client while being chased by a pair of Dobermans and a deranged psycho dressed as a sheep. That man is Cole McGinnis. Since his last life-threatening case years ago, McGinnis has married the love of his life, Jae-Min Kim, consulted for the LAPD, and investigated cases as a private detective for hire. Yet nothing could have prepared him for the shocking discovery of a dead, grandmotherly woman at his feet and the cascade of murders that follows, even if he should have been used to it by now. Now he’s back in the dark world of murder and intrigue where every bullet appears to have his name on it and every answer he digs up seems to only create more questions. Hired by the dead woman’s husband, McGinnis has to figure out who is behind the crime spree. As if the twisted case of a murdered grandmother isn’t complicated enough, Death is knocking on his door, and each time it opens, Death is wearing a new face, leaving McGinnis to wonder who he can actually trust.
Review: Aw, Rhys, you’ve done it to me again. Grabbed me from the first page and kept me going. There’s a reason why I love Rhys’s books – the characters are believable, the scenes and settings real, and the sarcasm never stops.
What I liked: The beginning is hilarious with a gun-toting, sheep-costume-wearing lothario and two attack dogs (one of which ends up licking Cole to bits). I loved the interplay between Cole and Dell (lady cop). And the angst that Jae and Ichi have for their husbands is very believable.
What I didn’t like: okay, I loved the story, but there was some repetitiveness that could have been cut. Still… it’s a grand story.
Recommendation: Even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, you won’t have trouble getting into this one. Everything is explained so you know who’s who and why. What do I recommend? Get them all, including this one. You won’t be sorry.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this book. All comments are my own opinion.
FALL THROUGH SPRING by Amy Lane
LGBTQ+ contemporary romance
Blurb: As far as Clay Carpenter is concerned, his abusive relationship with food is the best thing he’s got going. When a good friend starts kicking his ass into gear, Clay is forced to reexamine everything he learned about food and love—and that’s right when he meets troubled graduate student, Dane Hayes. Dane Hayes doesn’t do the whole monogamy thing, but the minute he meets Clay Carpenter, he’s doing the friend thing in spades. The snarky, scruffy bastard not only gets Dane’s wacky sense of humor, he also accepts the things Dane can’t control—like the bipolar disorder Dane has been trying to manage for the past six years. Dane is hoping for more than friendship, and Clay is looking at him with longing that isn’t platonic. They’re both positive they’re bad at relationships, but with the help of forbidden desserts and new medication regimens, they prove outstanding at being with each other. But can they turn their friendship into the love neither of them has dared to hope for?
Review: This is a story about two men who struggle with issues like mental illness, weight issues, self-belief, family, and more. It is at times funny, poignant, emotional, sad…and always written so well that you believe the author has intimate knowledge of these issues. The main plot is about Clay and Dane and their problems, but there are a couple subplots concerning their friends (Skipper and Richie) and Dane’s brother Mason. This may not be an easy story to read for some people, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good story. It’s very realistic and very strong.
What I liked: My favorite scene in the story is the “shaving” scene – so emotional and poignant. But the one where Clay talks Dane down in the car is also good. Actually, there are a lot of good scenes. The relationship between all the friends is beautifully done. The manic/depressive scenes with Dane are very realistic, as is Clay and Mason’s handling of him. And Clay’s issues with food and self-image are no less realistic. Kudos to the author for the realism in this story.
What I didn’t like: I was a little put off by Mason’s relationship with his love-interest. It just didn’t come across as well as the other relationships did for me. I didn’t really “get” it for him.
Recommendation: This is a good M/M romance with a lot of deep-seated issues going on that may trigger some things for some people, but, that being said, it’s a good story. It’s very deep, sometimes disturbing, but with a HEA that leaves you satisfied.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
ON THE SAME PAGE by KC Wells and Parker Williams
Blurb: When a Dom invites a shy bookstore owner to live out his fantasies, more than one life will be transformed. Words are Heath Snow’s life. He can’t remember a time when he didn’t have his nose buried in a book. He couldn’t make a living as a writer, so he did the next best thing—he bought a bookstore. But when he’s not selling books, he’s living vicariously through the characters he encounters. Real men can’t hold a candle to the hot men in his favorite genre. The Pride display in the bookstore window may be what captured Xavier James’s attention, but the man enthusing about books interests him more. The BDSM book lying next to the cash register is a pleasant surprise, and when he draws attention to it, Heath’s flushed cheeks and bright eyes pique Xavier’s curiosity even further. Xavier is about to learn that some things are more important than work, and Heath is about to step out of his comfort zone, into a place where fantasy and real life coexist.
Review: Not having read any of the other books in this series, I can’t speak to how it compares to them – which can be a good (or bad) thing. I have to judge this book solely on how it read as a stand alone for me. Note, this is a book that goes into BDSM and gets quite hot at times.
What I liked: It was enjoyable, but also very steamy and, at times, a bit slow. This slower pace allowed me get to know the characters in depth. I could easily relate to Heath and his love of books and reading to the point of losing track of time.
What I didn’t like: While I got to know Heath and Xavier well, coming into a series without knowing the other characters made some of the areas a little confusing.
Recommendation: If you like MM romance with some hot BDSM thrown in, definitely pick this one up.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
DOWNWARD FACING DREAMBOAT by Bru Baker
Blurb: Kincaid is an avid runner until a stress fracture sidelines his training. He’s determined to get back out there, even though that means talking to the dreamboat yoga instructor he’s been surreptitiously lusting over for months. Owen is eager to get the hot business man he sees almost every morning onto the mat, but life throws a wrench in things before they can get started. Will their mutual attraction be strong enough to overcome the complications?
This was a nice short story with a lot of yoga talk and two hunky heroes who fall for each other. And there is a lot of yoga talk in this book. I don’t do yoga, but I know how to now.
Kincaid and Owen spend a lot of time going back and forth before the final chapter when suddenly it’s hot sex, let’s date, and there we are. It’s kind of like an appetizer before the big meal. Or maybe a trailer before the big movie? Either way, it was “okay”.
Recommendation: I usually like Bru Baker’s writing, but this one left me a little unsatisfied. I’d say pick it up if you’re really into yoga and hot guys. Otherwise, find one of her other books.
GREED AND OTHER DANGERS by TJ Nichols
LGBTQ+ paranormal romance
Publisher Blurb: Dragon shifter Edra has always lived to serve and protect—in ages past, as a knight, and in the modern world as a mytho liaison to the San Francisco PD. Behind the scenes he safeguards the mythos community from scandal—and further human hatred. When the eggs of a rare greater dragon are stolen, Edra must find and return them before the mother razes the city. Edra’s partner, Jordan, has just been promoted, and he’s on the trail of several stolen mythos artifacts. Together, they track the eggs to a colony of mermaids living in the bay near Alcatraz Island. But trying to separate a mermaid from her treasure is asking for trouble. As Edra and Jordan grow closer, they test the bounds of human-mythos relationships. But Jordan isn’t ready to mate for life, and Edra won’t pretend to be human for Jordan’s friends. With the hills on fire and a storm brewing in the bay—and in their bed—something’s got to give.
Review: This is the second book in a series. The world building is excellently done with the author giving a viable reason why the two worlds collided. I am normally a huge fan of TJ Nichols work, but this one didn’t draw me in like others have. And maybe it’s because I didn’t read the first one. Although I knew exactly what was going on in the story, I wasn’t invested in the characters enough to really care about them. Also, like many books in series, it didn’t really end. It just kind of left you hanging in the middle. So, yes, there’s going to be more.
What I liked: the world building. It was beyond excellent. Having ogres walking the streets of San Francisco and mermaids swimming around Alcatraz? Nicely done. And the tensions between humans and mythos comes across clearly. As does the problem with politics getting in the way of getting things done.
What I didn’t like: the non-ending. But…it’s a series so that’s kind of to be expected.
Recommendation: Definitely get the first one in the series first, then follow up with this one. The fantasy aspects of this story are well done, the relationship between the main characters believable, and the issues in the story realistic enough to suspend disbelief.
Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
HART OF WINTER by Parker Faye
Gay Paranormal Romance
Review: Oh my word, what a fun book. It takes place in the here and now, but with people who can wield magic—called “craft”. So there are charms and spells everywhere. Unfortunately, there are also curses and Luc (and other members of his family) carry a big one. Without the help of leather wrist bands, at sundown he would turn into a magnificent stag (a painful transition). He can’t use magic and spends most of his life hiding because of what he is. He has to keep it quiet because of “hunters”—people who hunt down beings like him in order to get rid of them. There are also curse breakers, but so far nobody has been able to change his family curse.
To get away from his parents for a bit, Luc joins his sister in a French alps ski area to work at their cousin’s chalets. While there, he meets Rob and the two quickly fall for each other (literally – they meet when Luc runs into Rob on a ski run). Luc and Rob lose their hearts to each other, but as we all know, the way of love is never easy.
What I liked: The characters—the author creates characters who are realistic, even with the shape shifting and the magic and more. There are family issues that affect both men. Another thing the author does extremely well is the world building. I almost believe that magic can exist as presented and the angst Luc has because of his curse. I would have liked to have seen a little more description of the town, but overall it’s not bad. The romance between the men is organic to the story growing out of their friendship. The sex scenes are well-written and hot.
What I didn’t like: Hmm – not much of anything beyond what I said above. I’d have liked a little more description of the chalets and the town, but overall, not bad.
Recommendation: Definitely recommend this to any readers of gay romance. It’s well-written and has a satisfying ending with a HEA that feels right. The paranormal aspects are integral to the story and work well with the subject. I will definitely be looking for more from this author.
Thanks to the publisher, Dreamspinner Press, for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
TWICE BAKED by Andrew Grey
Contemp. LGBTQ Romance
Luke is a food blogger—mostly about food he doesn’t like. He has a large following, so large that he gets asked to be a judge on a television cooking competition, but it means leaving Philadelphia and moving to LA for the filming. When he gets there, he discovers one of the other judges is Meyer, his ex. Meyer is solidly in the closet and kept Luke as his dirty little secret for years. For Meyer, it was a fling—but one that didn’t leave him alone. For Luke, it was real, but Meyer hurt him badly. Still, when the two meet again, things heat up in the kitchen—and bedroom. But there’s someone who’s trying to make things bad for them.
Things I liked: This is a cute romance that builds on the popularity of cooking competitions, but from the perspective of judges not the contestants. It puts the reader behind the scenes with the cameras, the daily stress that goes with this kind of work. The issues between Luke and Meyer are believable as is Meyer’s problems with his parents and with coming out in general. The ending was satisfying with a HEA for them (not giving this away. This is a romance which means it’s all about the relationship and ending with a HEA or at the very least, a HFN (happy for now). The villain caught me by surprise—nicely done.
Things I didn’t like: Really? Not much. It’s fun, light, romantic, with just a little bit of a mystery to ramp up the anxiety.
Recommendation: A good book for anyone who wants a nice, light M/M romance.
Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
LUCIFER’S LITIGATOR by TJ Nichols
LGBTQ+ Paranormal Romance
To get free from his contract with the god Plutus, Will has to fix his one regret in life—Tom. But twenty-five years have passed since he’d left his first love.
Will had grown up poor. He’d thought getting a degree in law would change that, but he didn’t have the name to go with the degree and nobody wanted him. Enter Plutus who offers him everything Will ever wanted—more money than he knows what to do with, prestige, and more. All he has to do is work for the gods, keeping people from breaking their own contracts with the gods. After twenty-five years, Will is tired of it all. Tired of sending people to their doom. But the only way to break the contract is to fix his one regret—except it’s not as easy as it sounds. The gods don’t like to lose the souls they’ve collected.
Things I liked: The story! It’s so unique and different. In this case, the gods are the bad guys and Lucifer is a good guy (kind of). The issues between Tom and Will are believable and well done. The setting of Perth, Australia is also different for me to read. The setting was a little thin, but overall, it worked. We definitely see how far Will has come from his poor start to the penthouse suite, Jaguar car, and fancy clothes/bling. We also see how conflicted he is about what he does, and how conflicted Tom is about coming out. Just a well-done story.
What I didn’t like: Honestly, very little. It was a little slow to start, but so intriguing a premise that I kept reading—thankfully.
Recommendation: A definite recommendation for anyone who likes M/M paranormal romances.
THRALL by Ravon Silvius
This is a story full of magic and vampires. The old empire has fallen into ruin and vampires and thralls are overrunning the land. Kaiden was once the village drunk. Now, he’s a thrall—servant to a vampire master and driven by his thirst for blood. And yet, he’s different from the other thrills. Unlike them, he still has a mind. When his master orders him to kill Johann, a vampire hunter, Kaiden resists the order. Johann sees this and realizes that Kaiden is not a mindless bloodsucker. He takes Kaiden back to his compound, much to the consternation of the other hunters. With Johann’s help, Kaiden breaks free from his master, but he can never be human again. However, he might be able to turn into something more—a vampire master. Kaiden and Johann set out to find out about the old empire and the old magics, and find much more along the way.
Things I liked: This isn’t your normal vampire story. It’s about a young man who was made into a slave, but he fights to retain a bit of his humanity. The characters are well-drawn, believable (yes, they’re vampires and hunters – but it’s a fantasy), and have issues. They’re good and bad, with hopes and dreams. The setting is detailed enough that you feel like you’re there without being overbearing. The author makes good use of all the senses. I liked the plot—the reasons for everything that happened. Yes, I’m being vague—I will not give away an author’s story—but the author set things up and followed those points in an acceptable manner. I liked the ending. It’s not a romance. There’s no HEA. But it’s a good ending—as good as it can be with what the author set up. And from the ending, I can believe there’s a chance for further stories in this universe.
Things I didn’t like: Honestly? I thought it was a little slow. And yet… everything that happened needed to happen.
Recommendation: This is an epic fantasy which means there’s a lot going on so don’t expect a quick read. If you’re up for a book that is long, has vampires, hunters, magic, and just a touch of romance, then this book is for you.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this book for free in exchange for an honest review.
IN SAFE KEEPING by Victoria Sue
Lucas is a firefighter who lost his son and wife in a fire. His wife was running away from him because of his job. While working the fire at the motel, the other firefighters found them…along with Lucas’s brother (who survived but was injured). Lucas blames his brother Mark for everything and hasn’t spoken to him for three years. While clearing an area of wildfire, Lucas comes across Owen and a baby girl hiding out in a cabin. He does manage to save them, but realizes there’s something wrong. Owen and the baby disappear from the hospital before Lucas can ask them what’s wrong. Then he finds out. Owen is on the run from a gangster (Damien) who murdered baby Mia’s mother—Owen’s friend—in front of Owen in order to control him. Owen is supposed to testify at a trial against Damien, but he has to survive first—which isn’t easy since people in the marshal’s office and in the police department are on Damien’s payroll. The only person he can trust is Lucas.
This is the standard person in jeopardy trope, but that’s not a bad thing. There are lot’s of twists and turns along the way and internal and external conflicts galore. The characters are realistic and believable, the situations plausible, and the ending is satisfying. I love that when Lucas is hurt, he turns to the one person he stopped trusting—his brother. That was really good.
Things I liked: The characters. They are realistic and I love the dog and the baby combination, especially when she calls him B-bee (dog’s name is Bailey). Nicely done. I love that the brothers resolved their issues and that the bad guy gets his (okay, not really giving anything away. You know in this kind of story that’s going to happen!). I also like that the author gave me a bit of a surprise as to who was working for Damien. I didn’t expect what happened there (definitely not giving that away!). I loved the baby having the men wrapped around her little finger, and them accepting it. I liked the romance. It was sweet and developed slowly, though they were in constant danger. Both men had issues, but overcame them to build something worth having.
Things I didn’t like: Not much. It’s a sweet, standard romantic suspense story with lots of action, nastiness, happiness, and more.
Recommendation: Definitely recommend to anyone who likes M/M romantic suspense. Am going to find more books from this author as she has a good style and gives a satisfying read.
Thanks to Dreamspinner Press for providing this ARC in return for an honest review.
SUMMER OF HUSH by RL Merrill
This is an amazing story. Easy to read (though, to be honest, I didn’t get all the rock metal references). But even with that, it was still a great story.
Krish—aka The Guru—is a music blogger. He’s been writing his blog anonymously for six years and has millions of followers, including Silas, leader of the band Hush. Krish gets the chance to go on the Warped Tour (this is a real thing, I discovered. A tour for multiple bands that started in 1995) and gets to meet his idol, Silas. There are instant sparks between Silas and Krish, but also too many secrets. When Krish does come out as The Guru, some of the band members don’t take it well. They’ve been burned by journalists and keeping his identity secret doesn’t sit well with them.
There are accidents, fights, making up, making out, and more as the fates try to keep Krish and Silas apart, but also keep throwing them back together. As in most romances, it all works out in the end with a HEA that satisfies.
What I liked: The mixture of reality (the real tour) and imagination (not a real band) kept the story on the believable side. The characters were well drawn, making them feel like you could go meet them. The settings—on the bus with the band and all the things that go with cramming a bunch of young men into a bus for long periods of time. The diversity of the characters.
What I didn’t like: Honestly? Nothing. This is a well-written, believable romance that ends in a HEA that satisfies.
Recommendation: A good read for anyone who likes M/M romances. You don’t even need to understand the music scene to “get” this book. A definite recommend.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this free ARC in return for an honest review.
AFTER THE FALL by L.A. Witt
This is the latest installment in the Tucker Springs series, none of which I’ve read before, but you don’t have to have read any of them to know what’s going on in this story. It is truly stand-alone—for which I am grateful.
The story is told from the point of view of Nathan and is in first person, so it’s all him. He’s a receptionist/clerk/office person for an acupuncturist. He’s also a lover of horses and manages to save enough to purchase a beauty—Tsarina. On their first trail ride, they’re galloping up a steep path when a motorcycle comes roaring out of nowhere and spooks the horse. This causes a fall where Tsarina ends up on top of Nathan. Not good for Nathan. The horse is okay. Nathan, however, ends up with a broken leg and, when he punches Ryan (the cycle rider) in the face, also a broken wrist. Nathan ends up with casts on his leg and arm and has to give up on his dream of riding his horse for several months. Interesting point: The author obviously knows her horses and lingo and uses it well to enhance the story.
Then Ryan offers to take over riding Tsarina for Nathan and the story takes off. The men form a comfortable relationship, get to know each other, and slowly but surely start a little romance.
I liked how the author gave both men relationship hang-ups, but some of Nathan’s just went a little overboard for me. Especially the first sex scene where he freaks out about not being in control but we’re not told why or what happened to make him so…insecure.
Also, there was a lot of repetition of scenes. I got to the point where wanted to read something different and skipped ahead. A lot. After a certain point, there wasn’t much going on that hadn’t happened before: Nathan gets help going up or down the stairs, they go visit Tsarina, they go to a restaurant to eat, they talk too long and leave the restaurant late. Add in some sex scenes about halfway through and go through everything again—including the sex. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It just got repetitive.
There was the usual romance story dust up where it looks like they’ll never be together—though you know they will—and the story has a satisfying ending.
Ms. Witt’s writing is full of humor and snark, as well as emotions. I found myself actually laughing out loud on a few occasions. The sex scenes were well done—even if they did seem to repeat. Explicit but never clinical, and emotional and romantic, despite a couple of casts getting in the way.
Recommendation: This is a solid romance about two guys who are realistic and a gorgeous and there’s a beautiful horse to boot. A definite read for those who like light standard romances.
I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
TAKE DOWN by Jess Anastasi
LGBTQ+ Romantic suspense
Caveats: contains physical violence
Danny Jones left his comfortable job in Houston to return home to the small town of Everness to help his mom who has cancer. In Houston, he was out and comfortable, but when he returns, he has to go back into the closet or risk the wrath of his abusive father. Then he meets Deputy Jake Perez, a new resident who is on the trail of a psychotic killer. They meet when Danny runs his truck into a disabled car (at a blind curve) and Jake saves his life. There is instant attraction, but Danny doesn’t dare do anything about it. Then the bodies start piling up and everything points to Danny.
This was a story that started intensely with the accident and subsequent explosion. And it didn’t let up.
The characters of Danny and Jake are three-dimensional with issues, both internal and external that makes them realistic. The secondary characters, especially the sheriff, are there as strong support rather than just background. There was a strong attraction between the two main characters and grew organically as the story moved forward. I loved Jake’s sensitivity to Danny’s wish to keep his father from finding out about them and Danny’s determination to help his mom even though all he wants to do is get away from his father.
Although it’s pretty obvious who is doing all the killing, it works for the story because this is a romantic suspense and not a solid murder mystery. The author does a good job of building the suspense and keeping you on the edge of your seat when Danny disappears. Jake is the only one who believes Danny is still alive. Danny’s father is truly nasty—but the author introduces a bit of humanity to him when he realizes Danny is gone and everyone thinks he killed him. That was an interesting scene, well thought-out and well-done.
Details: the setting is a small town in Texas near Houston. But we really don’t know any details about it other than that – oh, and that there’s one bar in town. Still, the lack of details isn’t a big problem, but a little more would have been nice.
So… romance, suspense, murder, acceptance, and more combined to make a compelling read that keeps you turning the page. I definitely recommend this book.
FOUR by Tia Fielding
LGBTQ+ romance with triggers
Caveat: There are a lot of triggers in this story… but they are handled in such a way as to make the story readable for most people. There are some who may still react to some of the issues. Be aware that there are subjects of PTSD, abuse, violence, and more – but told as in the past by characters saying what happened to them in the past, not present.
This was a difficult story to read, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good story. It really is. The characters are believable and sympathetic. The world building—a small town—is done well, giving you a brief look into the lives of the people who live there.
The story is basically about two men—Kaos and Padraig (Paddy). Kaos is a young person who is gender fluid with a past (as are all the characters in this story). An ex-con, he was in an abusive relationship. He finally got the nerve to leave and move to Acker to be with his friend (and ex-cellmate) Makai and Makai’s mate, and then he meets Paddy. Paddy is the town vet, 47 years old (a good 20 years older than Kaos) who was married for 23 years to Marcus. Marcus died and Paddy turned in on himself. Then he meets Kaos and his world is turned upside down. (Please note: the author tells the reader from the outset that Kaos is fine with the he/him designation so I am using that here).
This is a simple story about the men, their friends, their pasts, their current life, and possible futures. It’s not your standard romance. Kaos has girly days and boy days and Paddy (and others in town) have to learn to accept him as he is. Kaos has to learn how to accept that no everyone is violent and that gentle love can and does exist. This story has a lot of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and looks into the human spirit.
As noted above, there are a lot triggers in this book which needs to be noted for some readers, but they are not heavily on the page. They are triggers the characters experience due to their pasts and how they deal with them.
Still, it is a good story and has a satisfying end that shows that even the most broken people can be put back together—maybe with a few cracks here and there, but the glue of love eventually heals all.
ANHAGA by Lisa Henry
This was an interesting book. Okay, I know, that’s never a good way to start a review, but it was. I had a little trouble getting into it at first—not because of anything specific, it was just a little hard for me to get into. And that’s on me. But once I did… I didn’t stop.
I loved the character of Min. He’s so…unheroic. And yet, he’s not. He’s a thief, a liar, and more. He cares so much for his friend Harry that he’s willing to go to the last place in the world he wants to go and do something he really doesn’t want to do in order to save Harry’s life. Then he meets Kaz, and his world is turned end over end.
This is a decent fantasy with really good world building and light-hearted wittiness that keeps it from being too dark—mostly thanks to Min. From the outset, you know it’s going to be different because Min is so different from most heroes. It’s just fun—with serious undertones. Or serious with fun undertones? Whichever you decide on, it’s definitely worth the read.
This is not a romance per se, but a fantasy with romantic undertones—both between Harry and his paramour and Min and Kaz.
The author caught my interest and held it with a different kind of story, excellent world building, unique and quirky characters, and a satisfying ending that made me check out to see what else this author has to offer.
I definitely recommend this book.
KNEADING YOU by C.S. Poe
M/M short story
Wow. Just… wow. So, this morning, I thought I’d look at the dozen or so stories I have on my slate to review to see which one I wanted to read next. I do this by reading the first few paragraphs or first page of a story and rating it in my mind as to whether I want to go on.
And then I opened this one. The premise: what do you get when you mix an award-winning, shy, carpenter/baker with a broke librarian? You get a short story with a HEA ending that satisfies the soul.
And didn’t close it. Okay, it’s only a short story so it’s not like it took me forever to read (about an hour), but still… I couldn’t put it down. The characters of Miles and Christopher are so well-crafted and the premise so believable that I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to see what happened. Okay, the bad guy—Sam—really wasn’t necessary, but the rest of the story is really good. And honestly? I’d love to see this developed into a much longer story. I want to see what happens with them. With the library they’re trying to save. With the town. In these few short pages, the author made me care—and that’s what good writing is all about.
Caveat: for those who don’t like their stories hot, there is one steamy scene, but it fits the story well. So…if you like your gay (M/M) stories short, hot, and satisfying, definitely pick this one up.