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Friday, September 24, 2010

Scandalous by Karen Erickson



Scandalous by Karen Erickson
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (109 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, M/F/M, M/M, F/M/M, Ménage, Voyeurism
Rating: 3.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Fern

She always got anything she wanted…

Playing with Fire 3

A teenage crush on her big brother’s boyfriend. It was one of the few times in her spoiled-little-sister life that Alexa had to swallow the word “no”. She got over it, or she thought she had—until her brother’s wedding brings Eric back into her life, as flirty and fun as ever. It never mattered to her that he’s gay. Attraction is attraction.

One illicit kiss, and their reconnection blows her mind and rekindles girlish hopes. Then he sets her away from him and runs like hell.

Eric can’t believe that a woman’s touch arouses him. Not just any woman, but sweet Alexa, and he can’t help but want more. Desperate to come clean, he confesses all to his steady boyfriend, Brandon, expecting anger. But Brandon’s intrigued. He wants to meet the woman who’s tied Eric up in knots. With luck, maybe she’ll relight the spark between them.

Alexa may have lost her chance with Eric, but the consolation prize—a fling with him and Brandon, is too tempting to resist. She never expected to love both men, or to secretly yearn to belong to the one who commands her body like no other…

After reading the first two books in Karen Erickson’s Playing with Fire series, I couldn’t wait to read the third installment, Scandalous. I already knew the story would be hot, and I couldn’t wait to see what surprises were in store. Unfortunately, while the sex sizzled (as I knew it would), I found myself rather disappointed in this offering.

When you meet Alexa and Eric (familiar names if you’ve read the previous books), you can sense their attraction. The only problem is Eric is gay and in a relationship. After they share a steamy kiss, Eric returns home to his boyfriend Brandon and reveals he was not only turned on, but for the first time he would consider having sex with a woman. Brandon, a bi-sexual man, is intrigued by the idea of witnessing his lover with a woman. The men decide to invite Alexa into their bed to spice things up. What they don’t expect is the way she turns their lives upside down as a consequence.

At first, the story worked. I got the chemistry, the tension, and the heat between the three. Then the book took a turn that was unexpected and, in my opinion, unbelievable. It’s so difficult in reviews to refrain from telling too much and giving the story away. Without going into details I’m only able to provide this: the end of the story just didn’t work for me. Had things played out differently or more time had been devoted to developing the characters, maybe it would have. As it was I left the story feeling as if the sex was great but the plot, motivations of the characters, and overall outcome was a way to provide a HEA and wrap the story up.

On the plus side, the writing, as with any Karen Erickson work, sizzles. There is nothing negative to say about the steamy dialogue or racy ménage scenes. She’s excellent at working the room, putting her players together, and making it work. If you’re in the mood for a blistering ménage involving multiple combinations, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re searching for with Scandalous. Although perhaps disappointed with the direction of this story in particular, I did enjoy many of the scenes, and I’m eagerly waiting for what I hope will be another installment in the series.

Her Dream Lover by Kate Hofman



Her Dream Lover by Kate Hofman
Publisher: Romance at Heart Publications
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (396 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Fuschia

Angela Thorne is torn apart by conflict, and that is never good for a writer. In order to escape, she has recently moved to Ocean Breeze, Florida. She is hoping for respite from a viper-tongued mother who has no concept of what it means to mind her own business. At forty years of age, Angela feels she has a right to her own life, a right her mother refuses to allow her. Finally, moving to a new condo in Ocean Breeze seems like it might actually work until her ex-husband, Brandon Burke, shows up in town. The source of his information is clear. Her mother’s insistent calls prove he was prodded and encouraged by her, and that is something Angela won’t put up with anymore.

When Luke MacLean meets Angela Thorne, all bets are off. According to his best friend, Alex Tremayne, Angela has and is currently being stalked and harassed by her ex-husband. That sets Luke’s teeth on edge, and it is something he won’t stand for, because to him, Angela is a precious commodity as a friend, and he hopes as something much more. Luke finds her sexy, funny, shy, very attractive, and as much as he is loathe admitting, someone with whom he would very much like to start a real relationship. After the fiasco with a fiancé who cheated on him and broke his heart, he has been skittish and uncertain where women are concerned, however, Angela is different. Somehow Luke senses she is special.

Things are not going well for Angela as her ex-husband stalks her, and mother harasses her because she won’t give her ex the time of day. Her sister Lisa and her lover Alex plan to be married, yet as things escalate in Ocean Breeze, Angela is backed into corner by Brandon. When Luke proposes marriage, Angela is worried she is trapping Luke, unable to believe he can really love and care for someone eleven years his senior. This, along with a brand new stalker, turns out to be a core problem with Angela. It is one she has a hard time shaking, even as she accepts his offer of marriage. Angela really has fallen in love with Luke, her stalwart protector.

Now the question is will Angela and Luke be able to survive the rest of the trials their new life together will pose? Both of them being writers can pose a whole new set of problems, but that is not where the danger lies. With friends like Lisa and Alex, Adam and Mimi Stewart, and others, Angela and Luke won’t have much of a chance to fall or be torn apart, or will they?

Manners that belong back in the time of knights, and men that cherish the special ladies in their lives abound in this book.

Kate Hofman managed to take everyday occurrences and make them lead to an extraordinary relationship. It almost had a fairytale quality if you don't count that it's a contemporary with only one minor hint of royalty. The other elements were all there. We start with Angela, whose life had not been a picnic, but who was strong enough to set herself toward a new beginning. Add new neighbors who turn out to be wonderful friends, a sister who brings her true love into the picture, two separate bad guys to add some drama and a hero with an almost unquenchable appetite for his woman. What you get out of all these fairytale elements is a story with plenty of ups and downs and an ending to satisfy the most romantic reader.

There were however a few drawbacks for me. The story seemed not to flow very easily and there was quite a bit of the dialogue that seemed stilted. This being said, I was still pulled back to the story because I was invested in the skillfully drawn characters and the desire to make sure they were going to be okay.

Her Dream Lover was a good story and I would recommend it to a reader looking for a very in depth romance.

Driftwood by Harper Fox



Driftwood by Harper Fox
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (133 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Rosemary

What the tide washes in, the past can sweep away.

All Dr. Tom Penrose wants is his old life back. He’s home in Cornwall after a hellish tour of duty in Afghanistan, but while the village is the same, he isn’t. His grip on his control is fragile, and it slips dangerously when Flynn Summers explodes into his life. The vision in tight neoprene nearly wipes them both out in a surfing mishap—and shatters Tom’s lonely peace.

Flynn is a crash-and-burn in progress, one of only two survivors of a devastating rescue helicopter crash that killed his crew. His carefree charm is merely a cover for the messed-up soul within. The sparks between him and Tom are the first light he’s seen in a long, dark tunnel of self-recrimination, which includes living in sexual thrall to fellow crash survivor and former co-pilot, Robert.

As their attraction burns through spring and into summer, Tom must confront not only his own shadows, but Flynn’s—before the past rises up to swallow his lover whole.

Amidst the wildly dramatic and beautiful cliffs of Cornwall, Tom and Flynn desperately try to put their anguished pasts behind them. Driftwood is a stunning second novel by up-and-coming author Harper Fox.

At their first meeting, Tom Penrose quickly recognizes a kindred spirit in Flynn Summers. Following three tours of duty in Afghanistan, Tom is fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Flynn is suffering tremendous guilt from the helicopter crash that killed his crew, and he is involved in an abusive relationship with fellow survivor, Robert Tremaine. As Tom slowly begins to reconnect with his life in Cornwall, he reaches out to help Flynn get free of Robert once and for all.

Driftwood is an engrossing character driven novel. It is perfectly balanced with enough action to keep it moving at a vigorous pace. The plot is sound with the exception of a few scenes that are a little over the top and slightly unbelievable. Ms. Fox is, without a doubt, absolutely masterful at character development. The emotional pain and suffering that Tom and Flynn are experiencing leap off the pages and drag the reader into their world. The sex scenes between Tom and Flynn are raw, passionate, and filled with deep emotion. Ms. Fox’s descriptions of Cornwall are so in depth that, in addition to being the location of the novel, it becomes a secondary character. Tom’s connection with his wolfhound, Belle, transcends the typical owner/pet bond, and it is easily the most endearing relationship in Driftwood.

Driftwood by Harper Fox is a must read. Ms. Fox has a fresh and unique writing style, and I cannot wait to read her next novel.

Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt



Shattered Glass by A.C. Katt
Publisher: Placida Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (360 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

Can love survive and be rekindled when a heart is broken like Shattered Glass?

Milo grew up in fear, hiding the fact that he was gay. Becoming a rock star with his band Shattered Glass was a dream come true. Finally lovers with Liam, the friend he’d desired since childhood, Milo worries about his image and keeping their relationship a secret.

Liam knew he loved Milo, even as a kid. But their fame and fortune can’t buy him the happiness of talking Milo out of the closet, able to freely express their love. Unfortunately, a fellow band-mate with vengeance on his mind conspires to break the lovers up in the most vicious way possible, destroying the couple’s relationship and shredding Liam’s peace of mind.

Six years later, Liam is older, wiser, and has rebuilt his life after the devastating loss of Milo and the band. Forced into a tenuous working reunion, Liam knows his heart still belongs to Milo. Working together to uncover the web of lies that pulled them apart, now all they have to do is survive the psychopath intent on silencing Liam and his music forever.

Contains hot rock star manlove, mysterious motives, and a brotherhood of friends strong enough to forgive.

Greed, jealousy, drugs, money, and revenge all test the path of true love. Rock stars Liam and Milo have been in love since they were kids, yet with their band taking off and becoming stars their path to a happy ending is rockier than ever. Close friends are working to keep them apart and their own insecurities and issues threaten to tear the two men apart permanently. They must overcome not only outside influences but also their own hurt if they want to be together.

Shattered Glass is a heavy read. It left me emotionally exhausted from the angst and toll of the story, yet ultimately glad I read it. The story takes on many classic themes in books so the plot doesn’t offer anything particularly new or innovative, yet the time-honored ideas of excess and stalking within rock stars still play well. The plot revolves around a stalker that is determined to ruin Liam’s life and eventually kill him. The stalker is identified early on so the reader watches as this person insinuates himself into their lives and the lives of close friends. Thus Liam’s torment starts and doesn’t end for years.

This is what’s hard to read about the book since Liam is tormented, abused, raped, and beaten -- physically, emotionally, and mentally for years. Since Liam is the real star of the book it’s hard to watch all of this happening. I kept waiting for the time when the story would build him back up and I almost quit reading before it got there. So be warned, the story gets pretty dark before the tide turns and good things happen again. Part of this is frustrating since all of the characters contribute to this in various ways. They are all self absorbed and selfish to an extent and mired in their own drama so it’s difficult to really like these men. They do redeem themselves towards the end and there is a definite happy ending.

Shattered Glass is a tough story to read with a big emotional investment. You get attached to Liam and care about what happens, so watching him go through such tough times is really hard. Whether the happy ending has enough of a payoff to make reading the story worthwhile is questionable. I’m glad I read the story but it’s not one I want to read again -- and ultimately the characters never really gained my forgiveness for all they did, though Liam forgave them. It’s a good angst filled, emotional read for those that want something darker but with a happy ending. If that's you, then definitely consider this. I’d cautiously recommend it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My Avenging Angel by Madelyn Ford



My Avenging Angel by Madelyn Ford
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (69 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4 cherries
Review by Sweet Pea

To save her life, he must break a covenant—and lose his heart.

An Angels and Demons story.

It’s Victoria Bloom’s twenty-fifth birthday. But is she out celebrating? Oh, no. She’s in a stuffy old attic with the Three Stooges—a.k.a. her so-called spirit guides. There’s a demon who wants her dead, the same one that killed her mother two decades ago. No worries, say the Stooges. All she has to do is summon an angel. What could go wrong?

Well, plenty when you summon the wrong angel. The next thing Tory knows, she’s got one very bad-ass, pissed-off and sexy Archangel on her hands.

Michael, mighty warrior, leader of an elite team of demon killers, is shaking in his heavenly combat boots. Not because he finds all humans distasteful. But because he’d rather face Lucifer himself than the woman his soul has just recognized as his mate. Binding himself to a mortal, one who will eventually die, is the one path he’s sworn never to follow.

It’s too late now; his fate is sealed. With one touch, she becomes as necessary to him as the air he breathes. He will move heaven and earth to protect her—but against a demon as powerful as Asmodeus, heaven and earth may not be enough…

Angels were never so deliciously naughty! On the brink of Victoria Blooms' twenty-fifth birthday she was being hunted by a demon, but her three wise spirit guides gave her the option to live. In order to do so she must summon an angel to act as her protector. What she didn’t expect was getting an angel that was a despised being in the human world and was hell bent on staying in the heavens as much as possible.

Michael is above all things an archangel, staying in the heavens was what he most wanted to do. Then things changed as he is summoned to earth by a mouthy woman, who just happens to be his mate. Mortals die and he was not too thrilled to be bound to one, but he will do anything to keep this creature alive and well. And that includes killing a demon threatening her life.

Michael is one hell of an angel and he clearly loves Tory. Tory is a great heroine in that she doesn’t back down from the angel even in the beginning when he clearly terrifies her. And “The Three Stooges” are hilarious. They made me chuckle how they always get in the last word no matter how hard Tory tries otherwise. And the secondary angels are as drool worthy as the main character himself.

This book has an excellent spin on angels and I love it. Not only are they cocky and foul-mouthed, but they are also lovable and believable. I love how Ms. Ford made the angel far from perfect and more human. Makes them way more easy to believe in. I am all together really happy with this book. I find myself wanting way more. I am hoping at least two! I want Gabriel and Zadkeil stories and maybe more. This is my first book from Madelyn Ford but definitely not my last.

Resistance by L.M. Turner



Resistance by L.M. Turner
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (150 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4.5 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

Ryan's relationship-phobic, preferring to live his life from one anonymous hook-up to the next. He never remembers a name, and he never goes back for more. But then he meets Jayden, the one-off who won't get out of his head, his life -- or, indeed, his bed. Ryan remains in a denial, however; he has no place in his life for emotion or feelings, despite how much difficulty he finds in keeping away from the gorgeous, confident Jayden.

It's not until Jayden gets a boyfriend, bringing their non-relationship to a sudden end, that Ryan thinks he might have been feeling something all along. Feeling a lot, actually, but it's too late. Jayden's happy with his new man, and Ryan shouldn't want to get in the way of that -- but he's selfish, and he's had an epiphany, and maybe the only way to get Jayden back is to reveal more of himself than he knows how to handle. But is it enough for Jayden to take a risk on a man who, by his own admission, has no idea how to love?

When a commitment-phobic Ryan meets Jayden, all of Ryan’s rules are about to be broken. Jayden may be the perfect man. The sex is hot and mind blowing, he’s caring, funny, and Ryan can’t forget him. Yet Ryan isn’t about to break his rules on relationships even for Jayden. Jayden begins a campaign to surprise and delight Ryan, but Ryan’s issues may be too much even for Jayden’s patience.

Resistance is a wonderfully funny and engaging story about a man afraid of commitment but falls in love almost despite himself. The story is about Ryan and his issues as he works through some very real childhood trauma and tries to figure out if he’s really ready for a relationship with Jayden. Ryan is by turns incredibly frustrating and endearing as he struggles with his issues. He’s totally and completely terrified of falling in love and tries to push Jayden away on several occasions. Yet the sex is mind blowing and the best Ryan’s had so he can’t quite just say no to Jayden. When Jayden finally has enough of Ryan’s fears, Ryan realizes he needs to make some changes.

The back and forth between the main characters is engrossing but what makes the story truly entertaining are the dynamics between the entire cast. There are Ryan’s two best friends that add a wealth of great dialogue and dynamics to the mix. Olivia offers Ryan a sympathetic shoulder but she’s unfailingly honest with him as well. She calls him on his issues and doesn’t let him hide in his fear. She’s not mean and cruel but gradually helps him break out of his rut with Jayden’s help. This makes for a very enjoyable story to read, as I felt for Ryan and his fears, but was glad several of his friends, and Jayden especially, didn’t just excuse the behavior and ignore it. Thus Ryan has a real opportunity to mature and grow beyond his issues into a caring and dedicated half of a partnership.

Not to mention, there are some incredibly steamy and delicious sex scenes included. Jayden and Ryan have explosive and delightful chemistry, which the story is not shy about exposing. Thankfully, the sex scenes help offset the considerable angst Ryan experiences and makes for a smooth, easy story. The only slight issue may be that the story is written in present tense, which not all readers like so be warned if this is something you’d rather avoid. I hope not though, since the story is completely engaging and incredibly romantic (and very hot!). I’d easily recommend this.

Sunday Afternoon with Mac by Madeleine Oh



Sunday Afternoon with Mac by Madeleine Oh
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (78 pgs)
Other: BDSM, M/F, Anal Sex, Toys, Spanking
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Tiger Lily

Single white submissive ISO intelligent, inventive and creative Dominant. Perfection not necessary but common sense, wit and sense of humor are. I’m 27, employed and looking for someone to fulfill my fantasies of velvet manacles and silk scarves.

Ginny Wallace places a personal ad, hoping to find the dominant of her dreams. Who she finds is Mac Brodie—a man who will take her beyond her wildest imaginings to complete sexual fulfillment and love.

One single white female looking for that one special lover who isn’t afraid of her kinky side. Must be willing to explore her submissiveness. Must love her naughty sci-fi erotica writing.

One editor of dirty magazine articles seeking sub, willing to play and obey. And yes, he’s got a thing for the sci-fi erotica.

Interested in meeting these two? Then you need to read Sunday Afternoon with Mac.

This isn’t my first foray into the world of Madeleine Oh. I’ve read previous works and loved them. This one had my attention from page one. I wanted to know more about Ginny and Mac and see what might bring them to the coveted happily ever after.

I have to note right now that this story is sizzling hot. When Ginny and Mac meet to “play”, the screen melts. I liked that Mac was a Dominant, but was in more of a gentlemanly fashion, not the average demand and scream. There were times when, and I realize this is the trust factor in a D/s relationship, but I almost felt she followed along blindly. I wanted to see more of a connection on her part to show how she’d grown fond of him. Yes, I wanted more from Ginny’s point of view, but it didn’t detract from the story. As for Mac, I absolutely loved how he jumped into a deeper relationship with both feet. It was a very human reaction to finding a person he could connect with and easy for the reader to identify with.

If you want a story that’s hot and sexy and a great way to spend an afternoon, then you need to read Sunday Afternoon with Mac. I give it 3.5 cherries.

Sinful Intentions by Amy Redwood



Sinful Intentions by Amy Redwood
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Length: Short Story (117 pgs)
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Other: M/F, spanking
Rate: 5 cherries
Reviewed by Honeysuckle

A jilted bride, a wolfishly sexy stranger, one sinful attraction under New Zealand’s sun.

When Katherine finds out her fiancé cheated on her, her heart is bruised. With a mission to get her life back on track, she takes the first flight to Auckland, New Zealand. And bumps heads with a sexy stranger. Their attraction is instant, powerful and undeniable. Taking a vacation from being a good girl, she succumbs to this sinful stranger who pushes the limits of her sexual needs as he explores every inch of her body. No strings of course.

Trent seduces her…in a bed, at the beach, in a truck, against the wall…until the wolf within him lifts its head and pays attention. Suddenly, after a tiny bite, it’s everything but no-strings.

Who knew a trip back to her childhood home to relax and recoup would have Katherine feeling up a stranger and begging for “welcome sex”. Sounds like fun to me and made for a tension filled and sexually charged opening to Amy Redwood’s Sinful Intentions.

I don’t know any woman who doesn’t love a self confident alpha male and Ms. Redwood created a prime example in the form of Trent McGregor. He’s commanding, determined and knows how to bring a woman to her knees…in more ways than one I might add! Lest I forget, he also just happens to be a werewolf shifter!

A perfect antithesis to a cocky (pun intended) male is a woman scorned. Katherine Miles is no shrinking violet. When she finds out her fiancé has roaming eyes as well as an affinity for strippers, Katherine skips out on both him and the wedding. Nothing takes a girl's mind off of a two-timing creep like a little revenge sex… or a lot.

I had so much fun reading Sinful Intentions. The dialogue is smooth and witty. The characters are well developed and interesting as is the plot and New Zealand setting. There is a lot going on in this short story with a couple twists I didn’t see coming. Both Trent and Katherine are a little commitment shy but their shared angst works well in building the tension, working thru their growth as individuals and a couple and in leading to an ultimately explosive HEA.

This wasn’t Ms. Redwood’s first foray into the world of shifters and after reading Sinful Intentions this reviewer will be adding several new books to her TBR list.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hot Rod by G.A. Hauser



Hot Rod by G.A. Hauser
Publisher: GA Hauser Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (179 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Rosemary

Rod Reynolds lived and breathed his career as an FBI sniper and undercover agent. It was all he ever wanted in his life until... An incident on the job landed him a twenty-year sentence for manslaughter in the San Quentin penitentiary. Rod did ten of his twenty year term and was released from prison to pick up the pieces of his life. While incarcerated Rod earned a reputation as 'Hot Rod', as he traded favors inside. Making allies was something nearly impossible for an ex-agent who worked the streets turning in drug dealers. But he did what he had to do to stay alive.

Dr. Foley Russell did his time in the Iraq War with the troops as a reservist, volunteering to be on the front line with a medic unit. Now, back in the States, Dr. Russell worked at Good Samaritan Hospital. He too, was trying to readjust to life as a civilian. The men meet when Rod's sister, Serena, a nurse for the same hospital, intentionally brings the two men together. Both men with nightmarish personal experiences, attempting to regain what they once had. Sanity and a normal life. Will the conflict behind them be too much for them to overcome? Or will Foley's desire for 'Hot' Rod be the driving force in getting Rod back on his feet. In the end it's about betrayal and trust and whether it's possible to let go of your fear and lay it all on the line. Again.

Rod Reynolds and Foley Russell try to silence the nightmares of their pasts as they attempt to live their dream of happily ever after.

After leaving prison, Rod Reynolds moves in with his sister, Serena, as he begins his life again. When Serena introduces him to Dr. Foley Russell, the attraction between the two men is instantaneous, and they dive headlong into a relationship. Rod is plagued with memories of what he did to survive prison and filled with bitterness at a legal system and co-workers that let him down. Foley is battling post traumatic stress disorder from his two years in Iraq. With Foley’s support and encouragement, Rod begins the process of clearing his name and putting the past to rest.

As is often the case with G.A. Hauser’s novels, characters from past novels make appearances in Hot Rod. I enjoy seeing the familiar faces, and Jack Larsen (from When Adam Met Jack) plays a major role in Rod’s quest to overturn his manslaughter conviction.

Hot Rod is a fast paced novel. While it has a strong beginning, the plot falters about halfway through and never quite recovers. The reader is forced to suspend belief as Jack manages to investigate, appeal Rod’s conviction, and more in less than two weeks. There are a few editing errors, and some confusion surrounding Rod’s age.

Both Rod and Foley are engaging, likable characters. Rod’s character is well-developed, and despite struggling with serious and weighty issues, Ms. Hauser deftly keeps him from descending into angst. Foley is not as well-developed, and his PTSD is left on the backburner as Rod’s story takes center stage. Serena is a rock for Rod, and she never doubts his innocence. The sexual tension between Rod and Foley is high, and their sex scenes are passionate, emotional, and hot.

Hot Rod by G.A. Hauser is an enjoyable novel of redemption and righting past wrongs. Ms. Hauser is one of my favorite authors, and I am looking forward to her next book.



The Boxer by Jan Irving



The Boxer by Jan Irving
Publisher: Loose Id LLC
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (121 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Ambrosia

Former boxer Dane Connelly faces losing it all, everything he fought for in The Janitor. He's hiding problems with his fight-damaged eyesight from his uptown lover, Noel Atherton. How can he be a man for him if he can’t see to fight or to paint? And now the vicious killer Narone, who almost broke him in the ring, is out on parole, looking for payback. Dane is desperate to protect the man he loves.

But Noel has had enough of sleeping alone in their empty bed, aching for Dane, so he devises various exotic scenarios to seduce him, giving his lover the sexual domination he needs. He knows Dane is not being upfront with him, and after being patient for months he’s growing alarmed something is really wrong. Now Noel has to use his body and his heart to fight for his beloved boxer.

Love goes the distance in this male/male romance between a boxer and a professor. When danger lurks and health concerns threaten to take away more than either can afford, the couple take their punishment and strive to beat all the odds.

Dane Connolly is a boxer who comes with plenty of baggage, not the least of which is a struggle to keep his loved ones safe, and mentor a homeless kid he finds in an ally. His mentor, Charlie, though passed over, is always around in Dane’s memories and still offers guidance in his well remembered advice. Dane is a ‘never surrender, never give up’, kind of guy who is in love with a man he met while cleaning at a college. Though the size of a brick house, Dane submits to his lover willingly and goes to great lengths to bridge the gap in their relationship, even though his health prevents him from what he considers is being a real man.

Highly intelligent, Noel finds the striking giant of a man intriguing to say the least and falls for Dane on first sight when invited out for a simple hot dog. Though his leg is deformed from an accident, he thrives on the tender care and love Dane gives him when he’s in pain. However, the thought of Dane entering the ring once again after nearly dying scares him so much that it puts a rift in their relationship. Not one to give up, he searches for a way to bring them back together as a couple. He knows that Dane gives him the gift of submission when his giant could easily dominate him, but loves the man all the more because of it.

Ally is found by Dane and taken under wing, though he has his own issues. His lover, Sean, is beaten and left for dead while waiting for Ally to join him for a tryst in Charlie’s Alley. When Dane and Noel take Ally in, he struggles with his anguish and guilt that caused his lover pain while looking up to Dane as a mentor and boxing trainer. He finds a home and hope with the couple, and soon the elusive happiness he craves.

Also part of the mix-matched family is an adorable elderly couple who live in the same building above the gym. They are a good balance for the feelings and emotions the story brings out. Each person has his own issues, but they all work together to resolve them and love between them blossoms.

It’s wonderful to read about these characters who show true love as friends, and as lovers. This is a feel-good story for anyone who loves the sport of boxing, and the challenge of meeting obstacles in relationships. Even though Dane is an uneducated ‘dummy’ as his mother had called him, Noel balances and accepts him for the heart inside the man and this shows in the yin and yang of relationships. It’s a heartwarming story of misfits united that I enjoyed.

This tale deserves 4 Cherries.

Love Means…Freedom by Andrew Grey



Love Means…Freedom by Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (203 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Phlox

Spurned by his father and driven from his home, Stone Hillyard is struggling to find shelter in the Michigan winter when he lucks upon the horse farm run by Geoff Laughton and his partner Eli. They take him in, warm him up, and give him a job working with their No Boundaries therapy riding program.

A drunk driver left Preston Harding unable to walk, and after months of hard work, his therapist recommends Geoff and Eli’s program. But Preston’s anger and arrogance nearly get him kicked out until Stone intercedes on his behalf, despite Preston’s insults. It’s a small act of kindness that helps open Preston’s eyes.

Stone and Preston will support each other as they face their families’ disapproval and fight old secrets. They’ll learn—sometimes the hard way—just how love can mean freedom for them both.

What would you do if you found a young man freezing on your doorstep? The answer for Geoff and Eli is simple: you take him in. Kindness and warmth envelope Laughton Farms and the owners remain firm in their belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.

This is a sweet romance that, while the tender love scenes are slow-roasted hot, could stand on its own without the sex, as a good romance should. Grey’s Farm series centers on acceptance – acceptance of self, of one’s beloved, and the unconditional acceptance of Geoff and Eli’s little family. Lost souls are drawn to them and they, in turn, provide the shelter necessary for self-discovery to begin.

Stone has experienced the worst possible consequences of coming out. Thrown out by his father, abused and used in his travels, his self-worth has suffered a near fatal blow. Every swift movement might be a potential punch in the face. Every question could be the prelude to him being tossed out on his ear again. Preston, while living a more privileged life financially, is in no better condition to accept himself as worthy of someone’s love. His father may not have thrown him out into the snow, but the elder Mr. Harding is no more accepting than Stone’s abusive, alcoholic father is. Hiding behind a façade of bitter arrogance, Preston keeps the world at bay. If he sneers at the world, no one will see how weak and lonely he feels.

The growth of their relationship, in little fits and starts, proceeds at a believable pace and is handled in such a tender, careful way that there are more than a few lump-in-the-throat moments. The writing could use a bit of tightening here and there, peppered with an abundance of ‘noticed’ and ‘watched’ and other words that could have been replaced with stronger choices. There are a few spots where characters are mislabeled, which pulled me out of the story as I tried to figure out what was happening. (e.g. “Preston lifted them off the bed, wrapping them around Preston’s waist.” – which would be interesting but perhaps not physically possible for most people.) But for the most part, the story flows along at a good clip with dialogue that feels natural and descriptions that are often quite lovely.

Mr. Grey has, once again, brought to life compelling characters with whom readers can identify and about whom we can care deeply. This is one of those books best read snuggled up in a cozy, favorite chair while the wind howls outside. The cold of the outside world will slip away and leave the reader with a warm, pleased glow.

Gone Stumping by Braden Williams



Gone Stumping by Braden Williams
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (80 pgs)
Other: M/M, anal sex
Rating: 3 cherries
Reviewed by Cactus

Self-absorbed Aidan Montgomery knows what he wants: a life of luxury and material wealth. To get it he's stumping on the campaign trail for Senator Philip Brenton and carrying on a rather perfunctory affair with him to boot. The senator is his ticket to better living, and Aidan is content not to look too closely at Brenton's back room business dealings.

When discrepancies over property lines for a new casino development in the senator’s district surface, axe man Rafe McCafferty becomes an unwilling participant in the dispute. A suspicious accident on the logging company owner’s job site draws Aidan and Rafe into murky plans that threaten not only their jobs, but Aidan's shallow lifestyle and his vision for the future. There are no clear-cut answers for either of them, that is, until they have to unite for their own survival.

Sometimes it takes opposite personalities to find the biggest spark. Aiden is a typical political climber in many ways. He’s concerned with the money, the prestige, and the material goods. He doesn’t mind sleeping his way to the top either. Yet when he meets logger Rafe, their ideals and goals butt heads even as their chemistry ignites. Aiden starts to realize the life he always envisioned for himself may not be the road to happiness and perhaps the rough and tumble Rafe is onto something.

Gone Stumping is a quick, easy story to read about two men whose preconceptions change once they meet. The characters are obvious stereotypes but the point is to show that two men can change through their association together. They can step outside the box they’ve created and become different, better people together. Aiden is the classic plastic gay trope, obsessed with perfection and money. He’s also somewhat lazy as he wants to get to the top but he’d rather sleep his way there than work hard. When Aiden meets Rafe, a logger who abhors the stereotype Aiden presents, the sparks and animosity fly.

Beyond the romance between the two men, the story has a political corruption background. This is pretty weak and very transparent. It plays on just about every political story and offers nothing especially new or interesting. By itself, this aspect of the story isn’t really fun to read but the characters save this. Although they are stereotypes, they feel like authentic, real men that grow and change. Both men need to step outside of their comfort zones to take chances and that is the most interesting part of the story.

If you’re looking at this as a political thriller, you’re likely to be highly disappointed. Instead this is more suited for those romance fans that love to see how love can change people. In that way, the story delivers a decent romance with some interesting characters.