Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay: Release Day Review and Giveaway

From the frying pan into the fire.

After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.

At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.

Title: Breaking Bonds
Series: The Walker Boys: Book Two
Author: Ari McKay
Release Date: June 1, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires
Pages: 190

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Every time I read one of the Dreamspun Desires books, I just end up happy. They just bring me back to a happy place where I began reading for what I wanted to read, and now continue to do.

I really enjoyed this one in the series. Carter was a sweetheart that had awful parents, and yet stuck to his guns, and his priorities. He wanted to make his resort a success, and he wasn’t willing to sacrifice his goals for a simple fling, despite how much he wanted Liam.

Liam, meanwhile, had his own goals, and knew he needed to pay back the mentor who had been there for him, when he was nothing. What Liam needed to realize is that sometimes goals change, as our life, and our “Outlook” changes. As he became more involved in the resort, in Carter’s life, and even becoming a mentor to his own junior chef, he found that he had competing goals, and it pulled at him. For his part, he never pushed Carter farther than he wanted. He was respectful, even as they fell in love.

The ending was satisfying, especially as the reader finds out how much Liam’s goals change based on his return to New York. The perpetual HEA that is inevitable in this series will make the reader smile. And I loved catching up with the men later, as their lives were on track, moving forward, and making their own goal’s successes happen.

4 pieces of eye candy


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Return of the Chauffeur’s Son by Tara Lain: Release Day Review, Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Luca McGrath may be returning to Napa Valley, California as a promising chef with dreams of starting his own restaurant and winery, but his heart still lives with bad-boy billionaire’s son, James Armstrong. Luca spent his childhood playing games with the golden boy of California society, so blinded by James he barely noticed the dark, quiet lure of his conservative older brother, Dylan Armstrong.

But now, Luca’s home and his own powers of attraction are enough to make James question his dedicated heterosexuality and his promised marriage to a wealthy and powerful businesswoman. The obvious attraction between Luca and James spurs Dylan into action—but he’s fighting a huge secret. While Luca dreamed of James, Dylan dreamed of Luca. When Luca gets caught in the struggle between the brothers and gets accused of culinary espionage he’s ready to chuck the fairy tale—unable to even imagine Dylan’s power to make his dreams come true.

Title: Return of the Chauffeur’s Son
Author: Tara Lain
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 200

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There’s Nothing Like Napa

Hi. I’m Tara Lain. Settle down, have a glass of champagne and join me in celebrating my new novel, Return of the Chauffeur’s Son. While this book pays homage to the wonderful romantic movie, Sabrina, it doesn’t take place on the east coast. In fact, it’s set in Napa Valley, CA. I hope when people read the book, they end up wanting to visit this magical place. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Napa a few times so here are a few impressions.

Unlike the other great California wine area, Sonoma, where wineries are tucked along winding roads and hidden cul de sacs, Napa is truly a valley with wineries and restaurants organized around two long parallel roads connected by smaller lanes. All a visitor has to do is start at the end of one long road and hop from winery to winery. You’ll never make it to all of them in one day. In fact, your head will be delightfully muzzy in only a few stops of wine tasting, so be sure to appoint a designated driver, or better yet, hire a car or limo to take you on the tour.

Each winery has its own tasting room. Some are very informal affairs, but most are large rooms offering the traveler snacks and souvenirs to go with their wine.  Usually, you pay a fee to taste a flight of wines – starting with the lightest white and progressing through the heaviest reds. Names like viongnier, pinot grigio, cabernet franc and meritage trip off the tongue – literally. Some of the wineries look like old castles and others are as modern as can be imagined. A few will take you on a tour of their wine making process – a treat for any wine fancier.

In Return of the Chauffeur’s Son, I manage to get my hero on a wine tour bus (they ran out of rental cars) and so the reader goes on a little drive through Napa Valley. I hope you enjoy my new book and that you get to visit Napa sometime soon.

James grabbed her, picked her up, and swung her in a circle before setting her down and starting a very accomplished foxtrot.

Luca watched them dance off, his gut twisting. He liked Nila so much. Why the hell did she have to love James?

A big warm hand clamped his shoulder. His breath sucked in. Slowly, Dylan turned him, and when they were face-to-face, Dylan wrapped Luca in his arms and began to dance.

If Sasquatch had just asked him to waltz, he wouldn’t have been more amazed. “Uh, will your guests be okay with same-sex dancing?”

Dylan whispered close to his ear, rumbly and low, “Ask me if I care.”

Luca smiled. “Dylan, do you care?”

“Not one tiny fuck.”

Every hair on Luca’s body stood on end. The hairs made a matched set with his cock, which leaped to attention and saluted. Whoa. Keep your distance or he’ll know. The old song said something about needing someone all the way, and his penis nodded in agreement. I could run! Get in my new car and drive. Uh, that would be the new car Dylan practically bought for me. He swallowed. “Thank you for helping with my car. I could never have bought it without your, uh, family discount.” He laughed tightly.

“You and Francis have always been a part of the family.” The deep vibration of Dylan’s voice tickled through Luca’s chest and dove lower. “I remember when you and James used to play like brothers.”

Not a subtle reminder of fraternity. “Yeah, how many times did we turn the great room into a gigantic fort?”

“I seem to recall being turned into the enemy and attacked once or twice.”

“We did love to follow you around.”

His voice got closer and breath warmed Luca’s ear. “I should have realized you were a little too interested in the fact that all my dates were guys.”

Two could play this game. He slipped his lips closer to Dylan’s ear. “You were my role model. I used to peek out the window and watch you kiss boys under the big tree by the pool.”

Dylan laughed deep and throaty. “I finally figured out you were watching.”

“Once I saw a guy go down on you. Your head was back against the tree trunk, and I could hear you moaning.” He whispered softly, “It was the first time I ever came that wasn’t a nocturnal emission.”

The sound from Dylan’s throat sounded half snort and half moan. “I didn’t know about that time, or I might have come inside and paddled your butt.”

“I might have liked it.” He laughed. “Right after that I realized I never felt that way when I saw girls.”

I do enjoy Tara Lain’s books, quite a bit. There are always characters with rich personalities, and quirks that change from book to book. This book is no exception. The side characters have their own personalities and little differences, as well.

Dylan kept his demeanor cool and aloof for most of the book. In many instances, it was difficult to tell what he felt (or didn’t feel) for Luca. Meanwhile, Luca had a difficult time coming around to Dylan, almost too much trouble. It did feel a little forced to have him go straight from one love to another, with a little bit of dating in between.

The espionage story was a great side story. It provided some additional depth to Luca, finding out how much he really wanted to be home, and what he was willing to put up with from the locals. In the end, he won, with the help of Dylan, and was cleared of all wrongdoing. I did like that no one that really “knew” Luca believed he was willing to go to such lengths to win a contest.

As with all of Tara’s books, it had the ever present HEA, and with some great stuff to look forward to with the happy couple(s). I loved that we got to experience a little of that HEA, as well.

3.5 pieces of eye candy

Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 37. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Paranormal Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.  She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog near the sea in California where she sets a lot of her books.  Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

Website:              http://www.taralain.com

Blog:                      http://www.taralain.com/blog

Goodreads:        http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4541791.Tara_Lain

Twitter:               http://twitter.com/taralain

FB Page:               http://www.facebook.com/taralain

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Sex Ed by Z.B. Heller: Pre-Release Review

Jaxson Dane is harboring a secret.

Not the fact that he’s a geeky comic book lover, or that he secretly draws his own comic, Bunny Fu Ninja Warrior. It’s not even classified information that he’s out and proud!

His secret is the shame that he’s a twenty-three-year-old virgin.

Jaxson isn’t waiting for marriage or even afraid of taking that step, he just hasn’t found the one guy who will accept all of his adorkable qualities. Due to an unfortunate mishap with a self-pleasuring apparatus and his favorite appendage, Jaxson meets Tyler Mason. The emerald-green-eyed nurse is a witness to the mortifying incident, leaving Jaxon both grateful and disappointed in their one-time meeting.

And then Tyler somehow shows up at Jaxon’s family dinner.

The very dinner at which Jaxson’s hidden virginity is revealed to everyone, including the captivating nurse.

Even though he secretly found the ER situation hilarious, Tyler is also able to look past it to see Jaxson’s genuine nature and is drawn to the charming and hapless comic book artist. He’s tempted to pursue the inexperienced Jaxson, but a recent and life-altering decision puts a damper on his wants and desires. However, the more time they spent together, the more willing he is to take the risk of juggling his new commitments and winning Jaxon’s affections.

A large, insane, and meddlesome family, two prying co-workers, and a sexy nurse are all trying to give Jaxson a crash course in Sex Ed. Will he pass?

Title: Sex Ed
Author: Z.B. Heller
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publishing Date: May 31st

Amazon

 

Okay, so first…We meet Jaxson. He’s ridiculously awkward and given the first impression we have of his family…I wasn’t surprised. Jaxson gets himself in a predicament while trying to take himself to pound town. Seems the toy he was using needed lube, because if you’re gonna stick it anywhere, why wouldn’t you? So, what does he do? He calls his best friend Ethan to come help him out…Which would be funny I guess but I was weirded out by the twin sister…. Now, I have a twin brother, love him to death… I would never…not ever pull the blanket off him if I saw he was doing something with his “area”… I don’t care what it is or what it looked like… I’d have just gone on to the bathroom and took my dump like she needed to…Why were they both so comfortable with her seeing his…predicament? And then she touched it! Weird. They also get into some other weird situations, like learning how to do things that require the lesson of sucking bananas…. Seriously? With your sister? Is that a thing?

I’m also pretty sure their mom should be medicated… I think they were trying to be funny, but  it was more cringy to me. Anyway… they head to the ER, and that’s where they meet Tyler.

Tyler’s a nurse at the ER where Jaxson went with his problem. I liked his story, it was sad, but he really stepped up in taking care of his nephew after the death of his brother…and we all know how I feel about hot guys with kids. I thought he was adorable and I liked that he liked Jaxson so much. He was patient with him and goodness knows he had to be. He was clumsy and clueless and bordered on obnoxious the majority of the time. Anything that could go wrong with him, did go wrong. I can’t say I was a fan of him…or the dialogue between anyone in his family….It was just like they were trying too hard to be “out there” and in “in your face, hilarious” and it really missed the mark for me. What made the story, for me, was Tyler. I just loved him. And we get a really cute, HFN.

Overall, good story. 3.5 pieces of eye candy from me.

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Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by L.A. Merrill: Release Day Review, Exclusive Guest Post and Giveaway

David Marks is looking for the perfect place to film his new web series and recover from his latest failed relationship. When reclusive writer Michael Sharp opens his Montana ranch to paying guests, David knows he’s found the right place—but he doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right too.

Forty years ago Michael Sharp’s father was murdered in front of him. No one believed a six-year-old boy’s testimony against the powerful Carver brothers. For years Michael has lived in self-imposed exile, the only living witness who can bring down the Carver criminal empire. But now the money is running out, and he’s forced to play host to a troupe of temperamental web actors and their energetically attractive director in order to stay alive.

The Carvers aren’t about to stand for rebellion. Michael has outlived his usefulness. Now Michael and David have to find a way to end this fight once and for all, finding justice for Michael’s father and meeting David’s funding deadline—all before one or both of them ends up dead.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

Title: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Author: L.A. Merrill
Release Date: May 31, 2017
Category: Mystery/Suspense, States of Love
Pages: 74

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MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RANCH RELEASE DAY GIVEAWAY!

It’s Monday, May 29th, which means it must be… Memorial Day! (In America, at least.) And also… release day for my new novella! Take a time out from your pool-side, burger-flipping, summer kickoff parties (and whatever else y’all are up to on this last Monday in May) to read about unexpected romance in Montana and enter for a chance to win a free e-book!

         

Shakespeare and Bronte and Poe, Oh My: Literary Web Series and New Storytelling

My love affair with literary web series started with one little three-minute episode. After dinner one night, my sister dragged me upstairs to her room, sat me down in front of her laptop and said, “You have to watch this.”

This was Episode One of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Ashely Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, and Hank Green and Bernie Su’s hilarious script hooked me in under a minute. My sister and I devoured the series together every Saturday night in tiny, laughter-filled binges. After we’d seen every episode and spin-off available, we branched out into adaptations of Emma and Jane Eyre, discovering a whole online and IRL culture of web-based filmmakers and production companies, professional actors and groups of college friends staging Shakespeare in their dorm rooms.

Sean and Sinead Persaud spoofing Edgar Allen Poe and Lenore the Lady Ghost. Yulin Kuang’s lyrical I Didn’t Write This series. The campy fun of Carmilla and the blisteringly recognizable humor and despair in Whatever this is. YouTube’s “Watch Next Video” button was my answer to Netflix’s “Are you still watching?” check-in, and I was always ready to press “Yes!”

I always loved watching any “Behind the Scenes” videos, too, eager to see how the stories were made. When I started writing Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, those were the videos I returned to, seeing how tiny teams of actors and crew members banded together on a ridiculously short shooting schedule to create highly detailed serial stories. In my novella, David Marks and his best friend Ronni Oberfeldt run Mark of Cain Productions, a company using its last chance at funding to film a classic Western version of Lorna Doone. When I was younger I was almost ready to drop everything and run away to Vancouver or California to join a web series production company as a writer. I never did end up going, but I channeled my passion for retellings of classic stories into Meanwhile—and if you read closely, you can find more than one allusion to R. D. Blackmore’s story hidden inside mine!

(I did end up writing a sketch script for one episode of The Blank Scene, Maxwell Glick’s acting-exercise-comedy series. It’s called “Have You Seen My Car” if you want to look it up!)

Now for the giveaway! I’m always on the lookout for new things to watch, so leave a comment with your favorite web series and an email you feel comfortable leaving in public, and one person will be randomly selected to receive a FREE copy of my Hanukkah-centric romantic short story Don’t Let the Light Go Out. Leave a comment by June 1st, and we will contact the winner by the end of June! Happy reading, y’all!

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is available now! Follow the link to buy it today—and be sure to check out L.A. Merrill’s other stories and the rest of the States of Love novella series! 

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novella. I hadn’t read anything by L.A. Merrill before, and with it being in the States of Love line, you could find all kinds of options as to what it was. I enjoyed this one a lot! The  synopsis led me to believe it might be serious, with some guys with guns charging after a guy who’d been hiding out for years. That wasn’t what I got at all. 🙂

One thing I wasn’t expecting in it was to laugh out loud. There were lots of moments of just pure laugh out loud funny. Here are just a few that I marked:

“I had to sign a release form via email before I even got to reserve or rooms. I’m pretty sure I signed away our right to sue over wolverine-related incidents.”

“Which one of these is to the gun cabinet?” I asked aiming for nonchalant. (Pro tip: there’s no way you can ask that question nonchalantly.)”

And this conversation is my favorite!

“What about costumes?” Jen asked momentarily distracted.

“That’s me,” Enzo said, raising a hand.

“Makeup?”

“Also me.”

“Running sound–“

“You know what, I’m just going to leave my hand up.”

There were actually more that I highlighted, but you’ll need to buy and read yourself. 😉

David and Michael were cute together. Getting together at night and working on the script that David was terrible at writing, and Michael could write so easily. They worked together, along with the band of misfits that showed up as the first guests at the new hotel.

One of the things I enjoyed about this novella was that the people were not perfect. I won’t give away what I mean like that completely, other than to say that sometimes what we believe to be real turns out to be completely different than reality.

David’s creativity with the dog that hated him at the end was pretty darn good!

For a short novella, it had action, it had romance, lots of humor and a storyline that you wanted to see come to a happy ending. All of that, and still a couple surprises you didn’t see coming.

Completely my idea of a fun time!

4 pieces of eye candy


        L.A. Merrill is a tiny blonde woman who loves a good story. She has worked as a tour guide and an assistant stage director, and spent one memorable summer as a camp counselor. After five years in vocal performance, production work, and arts education, she now writes full-time. Her work has appeared in Kansas City Voices magazine, on the YouTube series The Blank Scene, and online. Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch is L.A.’s fourth story with Dreamspinner Press, and her first published novella. (There’s an unpublished novella, about murderous husbands and Scottish ghosts, written when she was thirteen, that is sitting in a file at home. It will likely never see the light of day.)

An avid knitter, she has yet to follow a pattern and has made some interestingly shaped hats as a result. L.A. makes handknit and crocheted blankets and hats for local charities, as well as leading a LGBT+ writers group in her hometown. She lives with her family in the Midwest, where she can usually be found reading, writing, and making things up as she goes along. Follow her on Twitter for feminism and fangirling at @la_mer92

 

Next Stops On The Blog Tour!

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (May 30)

Tammy’s Two Cents (May 31)

The Novel Approach (June 1)

Love Bytes (June 2)

Divine Magazine (June 5)

On Top Down Under (June 6)

Dreamspinner Press (June 8)

This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.

Road to the Sun by Keira Andrews: New Release Review

A desperate father. A lonely ranger. Unexpected love that can’t be denied.

Jason Kellerman’s life revolves around his eight-year-old daughter. Teenage curiosity with his best friend led to Maggie’s birth, her mother tragically dying soon after. Insistent on raising his daughter himself, he was disowned by his wealthy family and has worked tirelessly to support Maggie—even bringing her west on a dream vacation. Only twenty-five, Jason hasn’t had time to even think about romance. So the last thing he expects is to question his sexuality after meeting an undeniably attractive park ranger.

Ben Hettler’s stuck. He loves working in the wild under Montana’s big sky, but at forty-one, his love life is non-existent, his ex-boyfriend just married and adopted, and Ben’s own dream of fatherhood feels impossibly out of reach. He’s attracted to Jason, but what’s the point? Besides the age difference and skittish Jason’s lack of experience, they live thousands of miles apart. Ben wants more than a meaningless fling.

Then a hunted criminal takes Maggie hostage, throwing Jason and Ben together in a desperate and dangerous search through endless miles of mountain forest. If they rescue Maggie against all odds, can they build a new family together and find a place to call home?

Road to the Sun is a May-December gay romance from Keira Andrews featuring adventure, angst, coming out, sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending.

Amazon

 

Little secret of mine: I am a total sucker for single dads. Like single, single. No mom or partner in the picture at all for whatever reason. Especially if they became fathers young. Like Jason. He was determined to make it work and he is. And now he is on a vacation of a lifetime with his daughter. So I was a little in love with him from the start.

I digress. I really enjoyed this story of a heartbroken man, thinking he was too old to find happily ever after and the single dad who is so busy working and giving his daughter a decent life that he doesn’t even consider a happily ever after.

This story is told in alternating POV’s of the main characters and once or twice from the POV of Jason’s daughter Maggie. I personally really like alternating points of view, and I feel that it was really well done. I never had to flip back to remind myself who was telling the story at any point.

While there was “insta-love” and the plot was a little far fetched, I didn’t mind that so much. The action and suspense that happened was well done and took the story forward for me.

There was a tidy happily ever after, but this book needed that. It didn’t need to be drawn out more for the sake of filling pages. And it had one of my favorite things- an epilogue a few years in the future.

A quick, easy read with some page turning points. Put this in your TBR pile.

 

Pieces of Candy: 4

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And It Came to Pass by Laura Stone: Blog Tour, Exclusive Interview, Excerpt, Review and Giveaway

Adam Young is a devout Mormon whose life is all planned out, by both his strict father and his church. He follows the path they’ve established for him, goes off to his mission in Barcelona, Spain, and realizes that his life may not follow the trajectory already chosen for him.

His mission companion, Brandon Christensen, is a handsome, enthusiastic practitioner on the surface. But as their mission progresses, they both realize they have major questions about their faith… and substantial feelings for one another.

Book title: And It Came to Pass
Author: Laura Stone

Stand Alone

Pages/Words: 222 pages / 67,300 words
Cover: Cover Photography by T.I. Stills Photography

[Read more…]

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Cutting Cords by Morticia Knight: Release Day Review

Liam yearns for Master Neal’s harsh touch, but Neal fears that a part-time Master can’t give a full-time sub everything he needs.

Liam’s world crumbled after the unexpected death of his Master. Prone to panic attacks and other social anxiety, Liam doesn’t believe he’ll ever find another Master who would be willing to take on such a challenged sub fulltime. Too distraught to go back to Club Consequence where he met the man he thought he’d be with forever, he decides to give Kiss of Leather a try.

After doing a piercing gig at Kiss of Leather, Master Neal signs up to become a member. On the night he performs a demo as the final step to being accepted, he meets a sub who brings out his protective urge and makes his heart come alive. Neal isn’t scared off by Liam’s anxiety or social awkwardness. On the contrary, he finds the sub to be refreshingly honest and endearing.

They try out a scene to see if they’ll click, and their connection is everything they’d both hoped it could be. However, the road to love and a Total Power Exchange isn’t an easy one. Neal still hasn’t discovered all there is to know about Liam’s traumatic upbringing, and he’s not sure if he’d ultimately be the right Master for Liam.

Both men are forced to face the truth about love, life and what it means to share it with another person. But before Liam can start over with Neal, he’ll have to cut the cords to his past and trust that Neal will be there to catch him when he does.

Cutting Cords by Morticia Knight

Book six in the Kiss of Leather series

Release Date: 23rd May 2017

Pairing: MM Book Length: Novel
Genre: Gay, Erotic Romance, Contemporary, Bisexual, Bondage & BDSM, Multicultural

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I have really enjoyed this series. Morticia Knight always brings a little different aspect into each of the books in this series. What one couple enjoys for their lifestyle, another does not. The characters are all varied, and do not run in the stereotypical line of what you would expect a Dom or sub to be like.

Master Neal is a perfect example. In most people’s minds, a piercing artist, with piercings in nearly every place known to man to be pierced, doesn’t normally fit the mental mold of a Dom. Just as with Chuck, a private investigator, you wouldn’t expect him to be a sub. This is something I have enjoyed so much about this series. How the characters veer off from what my expectations would normally be.

Although I liked this one in the series, it didn’t delve into their relationship far enough for me. I felt like there was still a bit too much unwritten, and left on the table. I wanted a bit more on how they finally were able to make a relationship work, as it seemed to me that a conversation between Master Neal and his ex was just enough for him to feel comfortable venturing further in a relationship. I needed to feel the connection continuing to grow with Liam. We may see that connection move forward in the next book, as the author sometimes will write in scenes with previous books characters, so who knows?

I will say that each time I read a book from this series, Morticia introduces me to a scene with items or a journey that I never would have thought of. I am waiting for her to incorporate an egg timer or perhaps a running shoe in a way I would never have thought of. I love it. Her research is fairly impeccable.

I definitely want to see this series continue (it has to, there is a storyline left open!), but I hope to see a bit more character depth in the next book.

3.5 pieces of eye candy

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The Struggle Within by Tyler May: Quick Review

Through Ryan’s trials, there are three different perspectives: a best friend watching from the outside, a lover desperate to get in, and his own mind.
His struggles were theirs. He just didn’t know it.
A tragic accident changed Dr. Ryan Jacobs’ life and freed him from a past he thought he’d never escape, but with that freedom came the realization: he could escape the man, but would be bound to the torturous battle within his mind. Fighting for control of his thoughts, he lived recklessly in a life of addiction and the next good time. Wearing a mask of deception, and hiding it beautifully behind his playboy ways, he fooled himself into thinking this was the real him, but he couldn’t fool everyone.
Dr. Michael Jonas considered Ryan more than just a friend, he was his family. With the support of his wife, Michael held Ryan’s hand, listened to him cry, and helped him through the hardest events of his life. He could see through the fake smiles and playboy attitude, seeing his best friend for the man he really was. After Michael’s wife had given birth to their first child, Michael vowed never to let pain affect his family again, Ryan included. But Michael carried his own burdens and watching Ryan struggle was harder than he thought. It tore him apart, silently, until there was only one choice. Save his best friend before it was too late.
As a high-powered attorney, Jayson Alexander thrived on easy thrills both in his professional and personal life, but when his heart broke the rules, he had no choice but to break it and run from the pain. Obsessive about controlling his own life, he set goals and rules and tried to ensure his own happiness, but life had a different plan. So he sought out answers and took on a case that would eventually change everything. He was drawn to Ryan from the moment he laid eyes on him. With a magnetic connection he couldn’t deny, he found Ryan irresistible, but he found out quickly the connection was more than physical. Jayson wanted Ryan, but how could he fight the demons Ryan’s mind was creating and stop them from pushing him away?
Ryan built a force field around his heart, vowing after that tragic day, no man would be allowed close enough to ever hurt him again, but with the support of his best friend and the man he loved, could Ryan beat The Struggle Within once and for all?

Due to strong sexual content and language, The Struggle Within is intended for mature readers 18 years of age or over.
Trigger warning: The Struggle Within may contain a subject matter that is sensitive to some readers as it deals with domestic abuse, self-harm, and addictive behavior. The author asks that the reader please take these warnings seriously and requests discretion be advised.

 

Amazon

 

This could have been a very difficult read based on the subject matter. And honestly, at times it was. But the way the story was told made it so much more “readable”.

We begin when Ryan meets the charismatic Calvin. We get a brief fast forward of their relationship and hints of abuse. That part of the story ends with a declaration from Calvin that they were moving so that he can take a position at a different hospital.

Fast forward. We go from a emotionally and physically beaten down Ryan to a seemingly happy doctor having sex in quiet hallways of a hospital. I was thrown for a minute, but I kept reading and it made sense.

By not only telling the story from three different points of view- Ryan, his best friend Michael, and his new love interest Jayson, but also using flash backs of his time in the relationship with Calvin, make it so that the story doesn’t crush you. Because it really could. Had it been told strictly chronologically, I don’t know how many could have gotten through it. And it really wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting.

If absolutely nothing else, I hope that this book creates awareness of something that I am sure few think about. But yes, there is abuse in non-hetero relationships. It isn’t talked about much for the same reason a husband in a hetero relationship probably wouldn’t admit to abuse by his wife. But it is out there, far more prevalent than we think.

We do, luckily, get a happily ever after. I am not adverse to sad endings at all. But this book needed it. Because we really need to know that Ryan is going to be ok.

Also take the time to read the personal stories and poems at the beginning and end of the book. So powerful.

 

Pieces of Candy: 4 1/2 

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Past the Breakers by Lucie Archer: Release Day Review, Guest Post and Giveaway

Casey North lost everything when his restaurant burned to the ground: his hopes, his dreams, his reason for living. With nothing tying him to LA, he packs up and moves back to his hometown of Land’s End. He takes up residence in a beach house and attempts to shake the depression he’s fallen into after his life collapsed. There’s just one tiny problem: the ghost haunting his kitchen.

Myles Taylor wasn’t always trapped in the Between. One minute, he was about to propose to his boyfriend of five years as they sat out on their surfboards, and the next, he woke up on the beach to find his long-dead uncle walking toward him. After his shock fades,he must learn to navigate his new reality as he searches for a way to move into the Great Beyond. But first he must deal with the man who’s invaded his territory.

With Myles tied to the beach house and Casey unwilling to leave it, the two must learn to cohabitate as the lines separating them begin to blur. They grow closer than either expected, but what will become of them once Myles finally escapes the Between?

Title: Past the Breakers
Author: Lucie Archer
Release Date: May 15, 2017
Category: Paranormal: Ghosts/Spirits
Pages: 220

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Hey guys! Thanks for having me. On a previous tour stop, I did a top 5 list of surf destination from Myles’s POV, and to avoid Casey feeling left out, I thought I’d offer up one for him as well. Since he’s a chef, I asked him for a list of his favorite foods, and here’s what he said. (*Warning: you may not want to read this on an empty stomach.)

Casey North’s top 5 Favorite Foods (in no particular order):

  • Lobster

Casey can’t remember the first time he had lobster, but he imagines it left quite an impression. They didn’t eat it much growing up, but he always requested it for his birthday or special occasions. Most kids probably preferred pizza or hot dogs, but he likes to think he was born with a sophisticated palate. He’s eaten it so many ways from bisques to lobster mac and cheese, but nothing beats cracking into a freshly cooked lobster tail, dipping it in a rich butter sauce, and going to town.

  • Fish

Fish has a special place in Casey’s heart, particularly Pacific halibut. He has fond memories of going down to the pier with his father on Saturday mornings, casting a line, then taking home their catch of the day to prepare and cook. It’s one of the few happy memories he has of his father and something that helped form his love for cooking. And it’s healthy, blah, blah, blah, but the deliciousness helps to mask that.

  • Cheese burgers

This should be self-explanatory. Nothing beats a big, juicy burger piled high with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, fried onions, and a nice dollop of mayo—side of fries optional. He loves making his own at home and likes to experiment with different meats, cheeses, and unique flavor combinations, but the best burger he ever had was in New York at this greasy spoon, hole-in-the-wall, all-night diner whose name he was too drunk to remember.

If he ever found the place again, he doubts it would live up to the legacy it left on his taste buds. Yum!

  • Mango

He doesn’t know when mango cemented itself as one of his favorite foods, but he loves to cook with it. Its sweet and succulent flavors compliment fish really well, so mango salsa heaped on top of grilled halibut makes his mouth water just thinking about it.

  • Ice Cream – Mint chocolate chip

This one needs no explanation, but he does have a fond memory of tiptoeing out of his room one night to sneak himself a bowl only to find his sister Rachel with a spoon of it showed in her mouth and a look on her face that could only be described as deer in the headlights. They made a habit of late-night ice cream socials until their mother walked in on them and grounded them both. But it was worth every delectable spoonful.

I rarely give 5 pieces of eye candy ratings anymore. The book has to leave a strong mark on me, be a book I would re-read, and hit me in the feels right from the get go (at least that’s usually how the 5* books go). The book does not have to be perfect. It can have editing errors. It can have little things that aren’t completely resolved. It can even challenge my basic sense of reality. However, if it doesn’t make that indelible impression, then it isn’t a 5* read for me.

Past the Breakers is the first one in recent memory for me. I have loved “ghost story” type romances since I read Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux back in, *cough cough*, well, a very long time ago. 🙂 Something about a love that transcends space, time, the physical plane, and our normal take on what is real and what isn’t always has been. Finding a book that can do that, and do it well, that’s even more rare. Lucie Archer‘s book did this for me.

First, I love that Casey was going through such a hard time. Overweight, without a job, or even his passion of cooking as a balm, he was so depressed and anxious, it was a wonder that he was able to be open to hearing Myles. Yet he was, and Myles came at a time when Casey needed his companionship, his focus and his love the most. Casey allowed himself to fall in love, despite all the odds against him falling in love with a ghost.

Meanwhile, Myles…talk about heartbreaking! What should have been the best day of his life, proposing to his boyfriend becomes the worst day when he dies and is stuck in the Between. He does get to see the most important man in his life, his uncle, from time to time, and that in itself was heart-wrenching, because you could see the bond they had had when Joe was still alive. And Myles finds himself falling in love with Casey, despite all the odds, as well.

When I read books like this, I try not to anticipate how it will play out, or what the ending will be like (because my rule is it has to be an HEA or I don’t read it!), but I admit I found myself a touch scared that this wouldn’t turn out as I hoped. Not because I didn’t think they would fall in love, but because I didn’t want the ending to be too easy, or weird. It wasn’t. It had my HEA, and even better, it was well thought out. It could happen. You never know what is out there in the world beyond our sight.

I truly loved this book. I loved their relationship. I loved how Casey grew and blossomed with Myles’s love, and how he was able to overcome his depression simply by working through it, finding a loving path to move forward on. I even loved how things ended with Uncle Joe, because I will admit, I had more than a few tears flowing at certain points in the book, but Uncle Joe’s love for his boy? That got me crying again.

This book worked for me on so many levels that even the relatively easy resolution of the bad ex-boyfriend didn’t bother me. I wanted to know more about Casey and Myles, James could go jump in a lake as far as I was concerned. 🙂

Pretty easy 5 pieces of eye candy for me

Lucie Archer is a student of the universe who is obsessed with the stars, in love with beaches, and crazy about dudes falling in love. She tells stories of romance, love, and life, with a little bit of passion thrown in for good measure. Because what’s life without a little pop and sizzle?

When she’s not writing, she can be found tending to her garden, playing with her four-legged children, or procrastinating. Although, she spends a lot of time fending off random plot bunnies that threaten to derail her WIP’s.

Website & blog: www.luciearcher.com

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/writerluciearcher

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Lucie_Archer


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Believe in the Wish by Christi Snow: Blog Tour, Exclusive Guest Post, Review and Giveaway

TitleBelieve in the Wish

Author: Christi Snow

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: May 11, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: ~55,000 words

Genre: New Adult, enemies to lovers, forbidden love, twins, contemporary romance, mourning death

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I buried my twin sister six months after she found out she had cancer. Her funeral was three months ago. Today is our birthday and it started with delivery of letters from her.

It seems she didn’t trust me to move on after her death. She knows me too well. But how can I go on when my other half is just…gone? That’s not something I can recover from with a snap of my fingers. But I also can’t ignore her instructions even though I’d be perfectly content to cuddle up with my buddy, Johnnie Walker, and call it a year.

She has a list of things for me to do and there are rules attached.

There’s one major problem besides the fact it’s been three months since I left the house. I have to do all these things with her jerk of an ex, Hawk Simmons. He abandoned her shortly after she found out she was sick. If that wasn’t enough to make this a really bad idea, the fact that he makes an appearance in all my nighttime fantasies probably does.

I don’t think I can do this, but I owe it to my sister’s memory to try.

This is a stand-alone male/male contemporary romance novel.

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Building suspense without danger

The very nature of the style means that the reader is always wondering what’s going to happen around the next corner.

But when it came to this book I wanted to try my hand at suspense of a different sort.

No, there’s no danger or hidden attacker in this book.

What there is instead…*author cocks an eyebrow*…are some unanswered mysteries about how these two characters ended up in this situation.

Emma loved her twin brother Ethan.

That was never in question, so he just assumed that when she died he would inherit her half of their home and business.

That wasn’t the case.

Why would she require him to jump through all these hoops?

Impossible hoops.

Hoops like having to play nice with her asshole of an ex, Hawk.

Hawk is another mystery in this story.

The book is told from both Hawk and Ethan’s point of view, but it takes a while for the reader to see things from Hawk’s side of things. That was done on purpose.

I want the reader to question what exactly Emma was thinking here.

Emma knew she was dying.

She knew Ethan wouldn’t handle that well.

In the months leading up to her death, she made a plan.

A plan to make sure Ethan lived even when she didn’t.

 

 

And that’s all I’m going to say…

Happy reading.

Beware! The review ahead may just sound like a commercial for Believe in the Wish or for Christi Snow or for both. And I don’t care.

Let’s start with Christi. She is an author that definitely writes from her heart. She is an avid reader (one of the two or three blogs I watch religiously), and writes her characters with heart. AND, she doesn’t write the same character, just in a slightly different situation. She writes complex characters, that you have to invest time, and emotions into figuring out their motivations, their wants and needs, and where they will be going next. I love the depth of her writing, and I soak it up every single time one of her books hits my e-reader. (Example, she sent me this arc…I forced myself to finish what I was reading, then dropped everything to read this next). Read anything and everything from Christi and you will have a happy ending, and enjoy yourself along the way.

Now, the book. I read the blurb, and knew immediately that my heart was going to be ripped out. How could you not? And right from the first paragraph you see what a mess Ethan’s life has become since Emma died. They were everything to each other, and when she died, well Ethan felt he should have died instead. Watching his struggle, even in the first chapter, was difficult. He had taken grief to a level that is difficult to fathom, and the reader couldn’t help but bleed along with him. Then to find out that his sister had “betrayed” him and hadn’t really left him the house and business without stipulations. That’s a pain that can’t be measured.

As we move through the book, we find, of course, that Emma has a plan, and if Ethan and Hawk go along with her plan, Ethan will get what he had expected at the end. However, first Ethan has to walk through the fires with Hawk, and learn that maybe not everything with Emma was as open as Ethan had thought. The bitterness Ethan experiences with Hawk is what one would expect in that situation, and even when they have fun times, Ethan feels guilty because he has always wanted the man than Emma loved.

There was so much guilt tied up in Ethan’s feelings, and the author portrays is so beautifully. Guilt is a complicated emotion, and when Ethan enjoys himself with Hawk, he feels guilty. When he realizes that Emma is dead, and he is alive, he feels guilty. All these emotions that are wrapped up in how he feels about the two people he cared about the most, and getting past that isn’t easy. It takes time and patience, and maybe some smoldering hot kisses from a sexy man. 😉

The rawness of all the emotions Ethan portrays was difficult to read sometimes. You will cry. Grab tissues, and keep them handy. Christi does an amazing job of giving the reader just enough information and emotion to catch you and drag you in, while forcing you to hold on to all that, and wait to see what comes next in Emma’s plan.

I absolutely loved this book. If a book can make me cry, smile, laugh, and give me a happy ending, it is going to be a thumbs up. But when the author can make me believe that all these emotions are coming from a living, breathing human being, that’s a keeper and a re-read. Without question, one of the best reads I’ve had this year. The book hangover was worth every precious second. (And there was a bonus happy little note in there about Found At the Library, another Christi Snow fave of mine, that made me giddy!)

5 pieces of eye candy

Katya ended her call and promptly pushed the ‘away’ button for receiving phone calls. “I’m sorry. No more calls. They may not think so, but they can survive without me for an hour or so while we have our chat.”

Ethan’s stomach rolled over. That brought them to the question of the hour…chat about what? But he was almost afraid to ask at this point. Instead, he redirected. “Do you have your own firm, or do you work for someone else?”

She raised an eyebrow at him, but with a slight tilt of her head she must have seen something in his expression because she answered, “I own my own firm. When I graduated from law school, I went into a partnership that was later dissolved when I bought my partner out. It’s all mine now, which keeps me very busy.”

He grimaced. “And that’s further complicated by hermits like me who refuse to answer phone calls or mail deliveries. Sorry about that.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s time for you to stop apologizing. This is a hard time for you and that’s okay. To a certain extent, that’s the way it should be…”

She hesitated for a moment. “At least for a little while. You’re allowed to grieve. But Emma knew this would be an issue for you, so she made plans.”

“What kind of plans?”

Katya reached into her briefcase and pulled out a file. She reached inside and pulled out an envelope that she handed to him. On the front was his name, written in Emma’s handwriting. Suddenly it was hard to breathe.

“What is this?” he whispered.

“The first of your instructions. You need to open and read it.”

He didn’t want to. He didn’t know why, but he really didn’t want to. “I’d rather wait until I’m at home.” At his house, if he fell apart, he could do it without witnesses.

She shook her head kindly. “No, that won’t work. She was very specific in how she wanted this all to go. I need you to open it now.”

Ethan swallowed against the huge lump in his throat as he tried to find air to breathe. His heart pounded in his chest. Surely, everyone around them could hear that.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I promise.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” He glanced up at her. “It’s never going to be okay again.” His voice cracked.

She lowered her lids, and her lips compressed into a tight line as if his grief was too much for her.

His hands shook as he turned the envelope over, lifting the sealed flap. It had to be his imagination, but he could have sworn that he smelled a faint whiff of the strawberry lotion Emma always liked to wear.

For just a moment, he shut his eyes and tried to calm down his emotions going haywire. He didn’t know whether to be angry that she’d done this to him, sad that she wasn’t here to tell him whatever information this letter held, or scared at whatever Emma had cooked up for him.

Throughout her life, she’d kept him hopping. As the exuberant, outgoing twin, she’d always dragged him into trouble when all he’d wanted to do was stay home. In that regard, this whole scheme of hers was very apropos.

He took a deep breath and pulled out the single sheet of paper and unfolded it. At the very first words on the paper, his eyes filled with tears.

Happy Birthday, baby brother.

He glanced up in disbelief at Katya. “It’s May fifteenth?”

At her silent nod, he gazed down at the paper in his hands, his eyes filling with tears. It was their twenty-fifth birthday. The first birthday he’d ever celebrated without her. She’d only been twenty-four when she’d died. How unfair was that? To her. To him. To the world that missed out on everything she had to offer it.
Emma’s handwriting wavered in front of his eyes, but he continued to read, not knowing what else to do. His other option—sobbing in the middle of the restaurant—would be mortifying.

I’m sorry I’m not there to go out partying with you. Remember when we were little and you didn’t want to share your birthday with me? Now you get your wish.

He’d been a horrible person. The tears overflowed his eyes. He’d made that wish more years than he even wanted to remember. How selfish was that? How could he have wished for a life without her in any way? She’d been his light.

Katya shoved a tissue into his hand.

Right. He was in public. Time to get it together.

My bad. It was probably too soon for a joke like that.

I love you, Ethan.

I know I didn’t say that enough—you know emotional displays and I didn’t mix—but beyond anything else that happens over the next few weeks, KNOW THAT. I love you, and if I could have figured out a way to stay, I would have…for you.

But God obviously had different plans for me, so now I’ll just have to content myself with being your guardian angel for the next seventy-five years. I’ll have your back, bro. I promise.

And in the interest of having your back, that’s why Katya is here.

I know you. You’re stubborn, and right now, I imagine that you’re more than a little sad. I get that, but that doesn’t mean you stop living. My death means you have to live twice as much because you have to do it enough for both of us. I’m counting on you.

But, again, I know you, so I’ve enlisted some help from my friends just to get you going.

Make a Wish, Ethan. Believe in it. It’s time to live.

~Emma

When Ethan finished reading, he took several deep breaths. The sobs had welled in his throat, and it was all he could just to hold them inside.

“You okay?” Katya asked.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded husky, but he’d managed to say the word, so he figured that for a win.

“Then it’s time for step two.”

He looked up just as she held a flaming lighter to the candle on top of a cupcake. She pushed it in front of him. “Make a wish and blow. All you have to do is believe.”

As he sat there, looking at the flickering candle, it occurred to him at just how sad this was. His twin was dead, and he was at some bizarre birthday celebration with someone he’d never even met before. Even from the grave, Emma was working to pull him out of his shell.

So he closed his eyes and blew as he made his wish.

I wish I wasn’t so alone.

But when he opened them, nothing had changed. He was still sitting in a restaurant with a woman he didn’t know, mourning the twin sister who’d died. Not that he expected a miracle, but Emma wanted him to believe.

Believe.

How was that even possible? She’d been the one who believed in the magic of things like wishes and fairy tales. What had that gotten her? She’d died before she’d even had the chance to live. What kind of magic could he possibly believe in with that kind of reality?


As an avid reader her entire life, Christi Snow always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy she felt when she read. But…she never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.

When she turned 41, she decided it was time to go after her dream and started writing. Within four months, she’d written over 150,000 words and hasn’t stopped since.

She’s found her calling by writing about sexy, alpha heroes and smart, tough heroines falling in love and finding their passion. She’s truly living the dream and loving every minute of it.

Her tagline is… Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. She’s loving this adventure!

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Tour Schedule

5/11 ~ Hearts on Fire Reviews

5/11 ~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/12 ~ MM Good Book Reviews

5/13 ~ Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

5/14 ~ Dog-Eared Daydreams

5/15 ~ Happily Ever Chapter

5/16 ~ Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy

5/16 ~ MM Book Escape

5/17 ~ Book Reviews Janisf & Leisha

5/17 ~ BFD Book Blog

5/18 ~ Dirty Books Obsession

5/19 ~ Reviews for Book Lovers

5/19 ~ Love Bytes Reviews

5/20 ~ Bayou Book Junkie

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This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.