The Charlatan’s Conquest by Vivien Dean: Exclusive Guest Post, Review and Giveaway

With love and ghosts, the challenge is figuring out what’s real.

Software engineer Cruz Guthrie needs money for his sister’s cancer treatments. He needs it so badly he’s willing to stand in for a ghost hunter friend and investigate a millionaire’s supposed specters. It should be an easy gig—after all, nobody thinks the haunting is real.

Neurological researcher Brody Weber is furious that Cruz would take advantage of Brody’s father. But his mind changes when spirits manifest—and he realizes Cruz genuinely wants to help. When they learn the paranormal activity centers on Brody, Cruz is willing to fight to free Brody from the entities determined to make his life miserable. With a little help from friends and family—both living and dead—they must figure out why Brody is attracting spirits and how to banish them. Only then can they pursue a future together.

Title: The Charlatan’s Conquest
Series: Phantom Fixers
Author: Vivien Dean
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Category: Paranormal: Ghosts/Spirits, Dreamspun Beyond
Pages: 216

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

By Vivien Dean

Thank you so much for letting me stop by today! My name is Vivien Dean, and I’m excited to have a release in the debut month of Dreamspinner’s new line, Dreamspun Beyond. It’s nerve-wracking, I’ll admit. I’ve wanted to have a solo title with Dreamspinner for over three years now. The reports from my author friends who published with DSP were nothing but glowing, and I itched to be a part of it. Plus, the covers were gorgeous, and who doesn’t love getting graced with pretty art? So when Dreamspun Beyond was announced, I jumped at the chance. I had been lucky enough to collaborate with Rick Reed on the Dreamspun Desires line, but this would be all on my own, without any filters, without Rick to help me along. Now, I’m not exactly a newbie. I’ve been writing and publishing romance for over a decade. But first impressions only happen once, and I always strive to present the best I can, especially in my work.

First impressions also play vital roles in our stories. It doesn’t matter if characters haven’t met before the story starts or if they’ve known each other for years. Those initial thoughts on the other person, as well as the interactions, can shape how the relationship progresses. Two strangers bumping into each other in a coffee shop have a specific dynamic. Two men who’ve been best friends since kindergarten will bring a completely different perspective to a budding romance. Those first moments matter, whether we see them on the page or not.

In “The Charlatan’s Conquest,” my two heroes, Cruz and Brody, don’t even know the other exists when the story starts. Cruz first meets Brody when Brody storms into a meeting Cruz has with Brody’s father about getting rid of the ghosts haunting the family house. Cruz is already on edge because he feels like a bit of a faker since he’s not a real ghost hunter, so his first instinct is to keep everybody calm so he can stay in control of the situation.

But crashing the meeting and finding this gorgeous guy sitting on the couch with his dad isn’t Brody’s first impression of Cruz. Actually, he’s already formed an opinion before he steps foot in the house. He’s convinced Cruz is a scam artist, which is why he raced to intervene, but when he arrived, this was what greeted him:

Another car was in the circular drive in front of the three-story brick house. Brody pulled up behind it with a frown, his gaze fixed on the vehicle as he got out of his own. It was a dark blue Volvo station wagon, at least twenty years old, with a dozen stickers on its rear bumper. A yellow ribbon for children’s cancer with words of support surrounding it. A rainbow-colored peace symbol. A variety of slogans like I’m not speeding. I’m qualifying and My other car is the Batmobile and Sometimes I wrestle with my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle.

Brody snorted at the last one. He could tell this gay-rights supporter/speed freak/comics-loving ghost hunter a thing or two about demons.

I wanted Brody’s first impression to be very distinct. It’s also fairly accurate in a purely superficial way. Cruz decorated his bumper in stickers that meant something to him, and the chaos of all the messages and colors is perfectly on point with the vibrancy and diversity in Cruz’s life. Brody learned a lot in a single glance, even though he didn’t understand the importance of all of it. It subverted his expectations, which ultimately made it easier for Cruz to gain his trust.

If I had bumper stickers on my car—and the fact that I don’t says something about me, too, whether I like it or not, haha—mine would probably be as diverse as Cruz’s. One for my kids being honors students. Some type of pride emblem. One that says, “Hostile 17 owes me kittens.” The list would likely be huge. My Flex would look like a Nascar car covered in ads. Except not, because, well, it’s a Flex.

What first impression would people get from your (real or imaginary) bumper stickers?

Paranormal stories are not usually my books of choice. With just a few exceptions, I have always been more of a contemporary romance, life in the current plane of reality kind of reader. But The Charlatan’s Conquest intrigued me from the second I read the blurb. Not just because it was part of a new line by Dreamspinner Press, but also because the ghost part, that has always been a bit of a fascination for me, and within the gay romance genre, those books are few and far between.

I immediately liked Cruz. He was a responsible guy, with a family that was strange, but helped to create him into the person he was. His connection to his family made him even more likable, especially his younger sister, who even while she was sick couldn’t help but try to find Cruz the right boyfriend.

Brody, well, he took a little getting used to. The reader could see that his concern was that his father was being swindled, and having spent so much of his life on the other side of things with his father, he wanted to make sure there was not one more thing that would go bad. Brody for years didn’t realize that all the hauntings that he refused to acknowledge were actually brought through him.

Once these two connected and worked through how the hauntings were happening, and what was the root cause, it was easy to see how these two men could work together to try to find the right way to get rid of them, and allow Brody to find a happy place for the first time in his life. Seeing a man who spent his years from the time his mother died until he was able to rid himself of these demons in a terribly unhappy place was tragic, and explained so much about his life, and even his skepticism.

Brody and Cruz fit well together, but even more, they were able to be strengths for each other, as both had their own demons (literally and figuratively) to work through, but needed each other to balance everything out. They were definitely ying to yang for one another. Giving and taking as needed to deal with the enormous and frightening tasks that they had to deal with.

What a satisfying ending, not just to the story, but to how it was dealt with. With ghost and paranormal stories, whatever the author dreams up could be somewhat realistic, or it could be so off the charts out there that the reader has a hard time believing that it “could” happen in a parallel universe. In this case, it felt like something that really could happen in that alternate world.

I really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend! 4.5 pieces of eye candy

 

VIVIEN DEAN is a firm believer that love doesn’t care about gender. That’s why her titles encompass both GLBT and het, erotic and sweet, as well as a wide variety of genres. After growing up in the snowy and isolated Midwest, she went off in search of her creative muse. She performed on stage, wrote and directed indie films in Orlando, then met her British soulmate online. One wedding, two children, and ten addresses later, she resides in the Bay Area where it’s easy to indulge in her favorite pastimes—good theater, great movies, and amazing food.

Vivien is a four-time EPIC eBook Award winner and collaborated with Pepper Espinoza to write as Jamie Craig for five years.

CONTACT VIVIEN

Website: www.viviendean.com

E-mail: vivien_dean@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/vivien.dean.3

Twitter: @VivienDean

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Runner by Parker Williams: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Matt Bowers’s life ended at sixteen, when a vicious betrayal by someone who he should have been able to trust left him a shell of himself, fighting OCD and PTSD, living in constant fear and always running. When he buys a remote tract of land, he thinks he’s found the perfect place to hide from the world and attempt to establish some peace. For ten years he believes he’s found a measure of comfort, until the day a stranger begins to run on Matt’s road.

He returns every day, an unwelcome intrusion into Matt’s carefully structured life. Matt appeals to the local sheriff, who cannot help him since the jogger is doing nothing wrong. Gradually, after tentatively breaking the ice, Matt begins to accept the man’s presence—

But when the runner doesn’t show up one day, it throws Matt’s world into chaos and he must make the hardest decision of his life.

Title: Runner
Author: Parker Williams
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 200

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This new book from Parker was such a creative premise to write from. To write from the perspective of Matt, with all his trauma, and his extreme OCD really draws in the reader. I honestly was hooked from the very first page.

Matt, having been through such a trauma literally turned everyone and everything away, including his family. What a tragic start to young adulthood. And to not have any human contact, and not search any out, what a sad existence. On top of it, he didn’t even venture outside his own set of books, almost as if time literally stopped for him from that moment on.

I loved how Charlie came into his life. Not with any forcefulness, merely a presence who ran by his home…for months, allowing Matt to see him not as a threat, but almost as a part of the landscape outside his window. Happening at the same time every day, in the same direction, until one day he doesn’t, and Matt’s world turns upside down even more.

Their relationship took time, and I loved the fact that finally Matt was able to face his demons, fighting through every step of the way, because he wanted to be there, not merely because Charlie wanted him to be there.

At the end of the book, I found myself confused, not quite understanding the timing of how things happened, and in fact, I thought things happened in a different order. It left me wondering if I had missed a piece or if a chapter was moved.

In the end, though, I really enjoyed this book, and I loved the way Matt kept fighting to find himself back in the world, with his family, with his love, and mostly with the person he wanted to become. Well done.

4.5 pieces of eye candy


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You Never Know by Mary Calmes: Release Day Reviews with Giveaway

Hagen Wylie has it all figured out. He’s going to live in his hometown, be everybody’s friend, explore new relationships, and rebuild his life after the horrors of war. No muss, no fuss is the plan. He’s well on his way—until he finds out his first love has come home too. Hagen says it’s no big deal, but a chance encounter with Mitch Thayer’s two cute sons puts him directly in the path of the only guy he’s never gotten out of his head.

Mitch returned for three reasons: to raise his sons where he grew up, to move his furniture business and encourage it to thrive, and to win Hagen back. Years away made it perfectly clear the young man he loved in high school is the only one for him. The problem? He left town and they have not talked since.

If Hagen’s going to trust him again, Mitch needs to show him how he’s grown up and isn’t going to let go. They could have a new chance at love… but Hagen is insistent he’s not reviving a relationship with Mitch. Then again, you never know.

Title: You Never Know
Author: Mary Calmes
Release Date: July 21, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 200

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Hagen Wiley… knew he had the love of his life when he was sixteen years old.

Unfortunately, life happens, especially when you’re young and stupid and I hate so badly that he got hurt like he did. The phone call between the two guys, just about gutted me. But here it is, 17 years later, and the love of his life is back, with his adorable two kids and they’ve come to claim Hagen.

Unfortunately, again, Hagen’s had a lifetime of heartbreak and getting hurt that he doesn’t just not trust Mitch, but he doesn’t trust any guy.. Which is a good thing, because we see him with a FWB, who all the sudden wants more…. Even though he’s a liar and kinda douche, I did kind of feel sorry for him before I knew all that. I’ve known what it’s like to lose the love of your life and then I’ve been on Ash’s side where I wanted someone to want me but they couldn’t, because of the love they had for someone else. I wouldn’t want to be in either of those positions, ever!

I loved Hagen, he’s so forgiving, much more so than I would be, ever….especially with how badly Mitch hurt him and how many times Ash lied to him… he just forgave… they said sorry, he said, okay. With Mitch, it was a little harder for him to win back his trust… not as hard as it should’ve been, because I think he needed to have to prove himself…. But, there was no denying that he loved Hagen… no doubt at all. It was in everything he did. I loved that for Hagen.

So, overall, this is just another amazing story from Mrs. Calmes; one that I couldn’t wait to read and now I’m sad that I’m finished with it. I get so sucked in to each of her stories to a point where, I want to wish them so hard to be real so I can see such amazing love between two people. I feel that way about all the guys in her stories, every single one.

So, I’ll end this with 5, well, well, well deserved stars and I’ll go ahead and declare my impatience for literally anything else she writes, ever!

Don’t skip it, you’ll love it.

I love the idea of high school sweethearts reuniting after they have experienced life a little. They’re not as naive and they know who they are and what they want from life. So, with that story line and the added bonus of Mary Calmes being the author, I knew going in this was going to be a great story.

Hagen and Mitch dated in high school. They had plans to go to the same college and see where Mitch’s promised NFL career took them. Life got in the way, Mitch went to college and Hagen joined the Army. Hagen has returned home needing to heal both his body and mind from the war. His leg needs mending and he needs to get a grip on his PTSD. Mitch has lived his whole adult life in the closet due to his football career. He married a woman and had two children, but after a hip replacement and a trip to rehab he can’t continue to lie to himself. Armed with a divorce and two small children, Mitch heads back to his hometown to raise his boys and to win back the love of his life.

Hagen has long since forgiven Mitch for changing their plans. What he has no intention of doing is picking up where they left off all those years ago. Hagen is just getting his life back to normal and he doesn’t want to disrupt that with bringing Mitch back into his life. It seems that fate has something to say about that and throws Mitch and his adorable boys right into Hagen’s path. Hagen stands no chance again Mitch’s boys and before you know it Hagen is spending time with Mitch and his family. Hagen needs to decide whether he can trust Mitch with his heart a second time or if he needs to tuck tail and run before he gets too attached to all three of them.

Love, love, love! I love stories with kids, especially when the kids are as cute as Brandon and Ryder Thayer. The kids play an important part in the story, making Hagen realize that he wants to be a father. The kids are well adjusted and make Hagen realize that by trusting his heart to Mitch he gets a chance at fatherhood that may not have been a possibility before.

The town of Benson is a great setting for this story and I am hoping that there are a few more stories in this setting. I would love for Ash to get his happily ever after and remain friends with Hagen.

The characters are well developed, their backstories are perfect; no too vague and definitely not too over the top. Hagen was cautious without being whiny and Mitch pursued him with confidence that didn’t come off as cocky or entitled.

There isn’t anything I didn’t like about this book. It was everything I have come to love and expect from Mary Calmes.

5 pieces of eye candy

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Found at the Bookstore by Christi Snow: Release Day Review, EXCLUSIVE Excerpt (NSFW) and Giveaway

After suffering a traumatic brain injury the final football game his senior year in high school, Ryder Garrett’s life was never normal again. Most days he’s happy when he can remember the way home. There’s no room in his life for romance or love, which means he’s destined to die a virgin.

Stig Minton doesn’t remember what virginity felt like. Twelve years older than Ryder, he’s been around the block too many times to count and has the scars to prove it…both physically and mentally.

But as these two men come together to help with a wedding, they forge a friendship, a friendship they both desperately need. As their relationship evolves, feelings go deeper. But is it stupid to risk this new—and, yes necessary—bond in pursuit of something that’s doomed to fail?

They both think they’re too broken to make this work. But what if they’re wrong?

Two broken souls may just be able to find reparation in one another…

Book #2 in the Found Series.

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Ryder

Ryder’s dick throbbed with need. Just a tiny bit of friction and he’d be right there. He thrust his hips, enjoying the delicious sense of doing so against a warm body. So fucking good.

Arousal zinged through his balls as they tightened with impending climax. He wanted to draw it out a little bit longer. He never got this. Even in his dreams, he was usually doing this by himself.

To have a phantom, faceless person with him was the ultimate fantasy, but he was too far-gone. His hips stuttered as his rhythm was interrupted by a spasm of white-hot pleasure.

He groaned and awoke on a gasp as his cock continued to pulse with jizz erupting and coating the insides of his boxers. The pure ecstasy of the moment kept his eyes closed in pleasure. Fuck, how long had it been since he’d had a wet dream? So embarrassing that this was his life at twenty-six years old.

He opened his eyes and yelped, almost throwing himself out of bed in his surprise. “St… Stig?”

Stig’s dark eyes looked almost black with intensity and focus. His hand, reaching across the bed and steadying him, kept him from tumbling onto the hardwood floor.

“What are you doing here? In my bed?” His voice rose several octaves. Humiliation mixed with shock flooded him. He’d just humped himself into orgasm against the guy.

I loved Found at the Library, I thought it was so creative, and it really became a bit of a comfort read for me (in fact, I “had” to re-read it before beginning Found at the Bookstore…just to catch up of course 😉 ). I honestly wasn’t sure that Christi could re-create that magic for me with book 2. However, I forgot that her writing is always magic for me. She has the ability to bring characters to life that aren’t one dimensional, that have issues that are not simplistic, or easily solvable. And she definitely does this with Ryder and Stig.

Christi does a fantastic job with making these characters grow as people. What began as a questionable acquaintanceship, grew and moved forward. Ryder did not have an easy life after his TBI happened in high school. He worked at becoming as independent as he could, but still had to rely on others, and at times it was so painful all he could do was sink into it, and hope to come back out the other side. Yet, throughout the story, even as his relationship with Stig began to grow, Ryder began to flourish more as his own person, growing stronger and more confident in himself.

Stig, meanwhile, grew in a different way. Someone who presented himself as bitter over the loss of his ex, and somewhat of a selfish playboy, he began to grow as someone who could care for someone else, not just physically, but emotionally. Previously, he had been seen as one-dimensional, but we began quickly to see that when he cared, he cared deeply. However, he definitely had a darker side that needed to be tended to.

These two had a very rocky road to get to their HEA, including a darkness that almost cost them both everything. Yet it also allowed Ryder to stand up in a way he never had before, and as a reader you couldn’t help but cheer for him in that moment. It was that moment that you sometimes see in movies where the hero you don’t expect overcomes and you stand up and cheer and clap. That moment is worth all the tough ones that come before.

Don’t ask me to choose between these two books as my favorite. I won’t. Just know, I will be reading them both again, sooner rather than later. 🙂

4.5 pieces of eye candy

Christi has generously offered up a signed copy of book #1 (US Only), Found at the Library, to one lucky reader. So, tell us what books mean to you, whether a physical book (such as what Tommy does in Book 1) or ebook/audio book.

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Smitty’s Sheriff by Cardeno C. : Release Day Reviews

Todd is too flakey. Richard is too stubborn. Together, they’re perfect. A May-December couple get a second chance at love.

Retired soldier Richard Davis wants a stable life in a quiet town with a forever man. Becoming the sheriff of Hope, Arizona, accomplishes two of his three goals, but instead of finding a serious partner, he falls for too-young-to-be-committed and too-flakey-to-be-serious Todd Smitty. Richard won’t find the right man if he’s obsessed with the wrong one, so he walks away from Todd.

It’s lust at first sight when Todd meets his sister’s army friend. He sets his sights on the worldly, strong, stable older man, and the more time he spends with Richard, the harder he falls. But after three years together, Richard cuts off all contact with no explanation.

When a mutual obligation requires Todd to move into Richard’s house, he’s thrilled at the opportunity to earn a second chance. Ignoring Todd from across town was hard enough. Can Richard resist temptation under his own roof?

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Book 3 in the Hope series, I have to say, it is hands down my favorite, and I really enjoyed Jesse’s Diner. This one though, we have the hot sheriff that I feel like I’ve been waiting on forever, I knew it was going to be good. I was not prepared for how good it actually was! I should’ve been, shame on me!

In this one, we have Richard, once soldier, now Sheriff in the small town of Hope, he’s still smarting from a breakup with assumed playboy, Todd. Todd was also the little brother of Richards army buddy, Leanne, who was a single mom with a military career and needed to call in her friend and little brother to help care for her baby while she was on a 3-month deployment. What would that mean for Richard, who was still in love with the younger man that he was in love with but couldn’t have?

Todd, broke my heart. Simply put, he was not at all the kind of person I thought he was going to be. He loved Richard and couldn’t understand why Richard broke things off. These two, had a horrible problem with communication while they had their several-year tryst, and while Richard wanted someone he could come to; Todd was under the impression that Richard didn’t really care about him one way or another. He thought he was content with the way things were and he had Todd when he wanted him but otherwise didn’t say anything about a commitment or what he wanted.

I wanted to smack him for Todd, because he was hurting him too! Todd is the type that needs to be taken care of and he loved that Richard done that. He felt cared about. There was a D/s aspect to this story, though it wasn’t sexual, it was just the way things were with them. Todd didn’t like decisions and he was flighty and forgetful. Like I said, he needed Richard to sort him out, keep him on track. I loved that about them. They meshed so well because they gave each other what the other one needed.

If only they would’ve stopped and had the conversation months or even years ago, they could’ve avoided all the hurt. I hated how down on himself Todd was and how hard he thought he had to try. I hated seeing him try. I shed many tears for Todd Smitty, but it made the ending so much more worth it.

Finally getting their heads out, and true to any CC read, they worked it out and had the sweetest of sweet endings. I’m really looking forward to more from this series and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for DJ and Seamus!

Very well written, very sweet story with a very deserved 5 stars from me on this one.

Truly a great addition to an already great series.

I just loved Jesse’s Diner, there was such a sweet, strong love between those two that I couldn’t resist. It is still a read I come back to every so often, because it warms my heart every single time.

So, I was excited that CC continued the series bringing Richard, the sheriff, to his HEA. This was a second chance romance, and what was interesting was that nothing specific separated them, other than they just didn’t communicate to each other their own wants and needs. Richard wanted a monogamous relationship, stable, and he never thought he could have that with Todd, who was sleeping with other people, and didn’t seem to have a lot of focus in his life.

Meanwhile, Todd wanted Richard more than anything, but being bored was his vice, and if he was, and he had time on his hands, and there was never any mention of wanting monogamy, then he slept with someone. However, no one he cared about, and if the two men had spoken, they would have realized they wanted the same thing. Instead, Richard just stopped talking to Todd, because he couldn’t do that to his heart any longer.

What a dynamic! So often with men, communication is forgotten, and the assumption is that the other person should know what is in someone’s head. There is a definite Dominant/submissive piece here, with Todd wanting and needing to be directed, but also I think because it helps with his focus. At the same time though, Richard feels it is wrong to be that type of person, so they must learn to communicate what is best for each other.

They do a good job of finding that happy place in order to be what the other person needs, and I really enjoyed their journey towards an HEA.

4.5 pieces of eye candy

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Unbreakable Stories: Rowe by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott: Quick Reviews with Giveaway

Unbreakable Stories: Rowe is a collection of short stories following the romantic adventures and misadventures of former Army Rangers turned security experts Rowe Ward and Noah Keegan following the events of Torch, book 3 of the Unbreakable Bonds series.

This collection is more than 30,000 words long and contain stories such as:
Piece of Pie
Mistletoe
Haunted
Gotcha
And many more…

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Drake & Elliott have mastered another hit! Unbreakable Stories: Rowe is the compilation of shorts of Noah & Rowe and they are absolutely hilarious, sweet & s. There is not much more to say that I haven’t said in previous reviews. I adore this series and it will forever be in my top 5 of all time. Drake & Elliott are a dynamic duo that I hope continue writing together for years to come.

Noah & Rowe had everything…

Impressive writing – check
Good flow of each story – check
Witty – check
Sweet – check
Sexy – check

The stories that Drake & Elliot create are full of family and love. Every time I read a new story (short or long) with the Unbreakable Men I get ALL. THE. FEELS. My favorite short was Mistletoe. The warmth and love you feel Noah has for Rowe is gut clenching. Noah will do anything to make Rowe feel loved during the holidays and the reindeer games they play definitely did the trick. I love getting a glimpse into their lives and seeing a little bit more of how they are so well matched as partners.

I hope Drake & Elliott continue to do little shorts (or a full length) of the Unbreakable characters. I don’t want to ever let them go. Well done Ladies – Keep the stories coming!

4.5 pieces of eye candy

Why can I not get enough of these men? I just love all the men in this series, and they are written so well by Drake & Elliott, I have to wonder how anyone will be able to get enough. I almost NEVER beg for additional stories on characters, mostly because often it seems when they have achieved their happy ending, then there isn’t much to tell about them.

However, these two authors have written such an incredible series, with characters who are so true to life, so diverse in personalities, that I cannot imagine how any of them could be boring. Adding these stories after their happy endings are such a joy to read. You learn more about their lives, their pasts, their wants, all the hot sex they have, and mostly about how the relationships between all these men continue to strengthen bonds built over many years.

Rowe’s stories are no exception. We see the fun side of Rowe and Noah, as they mess with their oh so serious friends. And we see the tender side, as we learn more about Rowe’s deceased wife, and his sister in law. The tears were flowing…in a short story. THAT is hard to do. For an author to bring a connection to a reader based on a short story is an incredible gift, yet these ladies do it so well.

I can’t help but hope that we get more scenes, maybe even more books, even as I know that these two will be working on a spin off series that I have no doubt will rock my world. Their writing draws me in, creates some serious magic, and then spits me out the other side, wrung out from the feels, but still happy as can be that I get to have a little of that in my life.

Well done, ladies…well done.

4.5 pieces of eye candy

For a chance to win an ebook copy of any of the Unbreakable Bonds books (including the stories), tell us, have you read any of the books in this series? If not why (okay, run now!), and if so, which one is your favorite?

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Mai Tais and Murder by J.C. Long: Quick Review and Excerpt

Gabe Maxfield never wanted to be a detective or a policeman or anything of the sort. The closest he wanted to come to the law was writing legal briefs and doing research for a big-shot law firm. Nice and safe, and without all the stress. No unanswered questions, just well-defined legal precedents.

When he moves to Hawaii in the wake of a disastrous breakup and betrayal by an ex, a murder investigation is the last thing he expects to get wrapped up in, but he can’t help himself when a dead body, a hunky cop, and his best friend get involved.

So much for sipping Mai Tais on the beach and admiring the well-tanned bodies around him.

Author: J.C. Long

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries

Release Date: June 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-947139-19-0

Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Category: Romance

Genre: Contemporary

Word Count: 53000

Sex Content: Explicit

Pairing: MM

Orientation: Gay

Identity: Cisgender

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The sound of banging drew me from the nap I’d fallen into on the uncomfortable, lumpy couch I’d inherited in my new condo. I looked around, confused until I realized someone was knocking at my front door rather impatiently.

I hurried across the room, threw open the door, and was greeted with the sight of a burly Islander pulling a dolly loaded up with boxes. The movers were there, finally. I glanced at the watch I wore on my wrist. It was nearly noon, so only, oh, two hours late.

“Aloha, we’re with the movers,” the man said unnecessarily.

“I thought you were going to be here by ten,” I said, stepping out of the door and allowing the man to wheel the dolly inside.

“Yo, you got choke boxes, braddah.” It sounded like it was meant to be an explanation, but if it was, I didn’t understand it. I’d been in Hawaii for two weeks, and I had not come close to catching on to the local pidgin. I understood what was being said around me about seventy percent of the time, and then suddenly I had no idea. Perhaps he saw the confusion on my face, because he added, not unkindly, “You got a lot of boxes.”

I nodded my understanding, deciding not to press the issue of the lateness; I’d learned in my brief time living on the island of Oahu that things in Hawaii ran differently, as if time followed different rules there. Things that would be done at a quick pace back in Seattle just happened slower here—the whole aloha, relaxed island attitude to blame, I supposed. It definitely wasn’t a bad thing—in fact, I found the lifestyle here to be worlds better than what I experienced on the mainland. It was just an adjustment. Grace assured me I’d get there eventually, and I was mildly successful already, becoming way more relaxed than I had been in Seattle, but when it came to things like this, I couldn’t help but get a little irate.

Didn’t people in Hawaii want their packages on time, too? At least pizza delivery still ran on time.

I stood back and allowed the man and his companion to wheel in more boxes. They were about halfway through unloading when the second man stopped and pulled the door down on the back of the truck, leaving the rest of my boxes inside.

“Hey, what are you doing? Those are my boxes!”

“Nevah mine, braddah. Try wait, yeah? We come back bumbye. We gone go grind.” The bigger guy came out of the condo behind me, patting my shoulder with a beefy hand.

I ran a hand through my hair. “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand…”

“He said they’ll come back in a bit. They’re going to get lunch.”

I looked over and saw a tall, dark-skinned Islander, bulging muscles all but ripping out of the tight maroon V-neck T-shirt he was wearing. He was about an inch over six feet, with dazzling white teeth and short-cut, dark hair. His eyes were a surprisingly light shade of hazel that contrasted his skin.

“Oh, uh, yeah, okay. Thanks.” God, I sounded like a stammering idiot.

If the hunk of an Islander noticed, he didn’t say anything. “You’ve been here a few weeks, right? Why are you just getting boxes? Not that I’m stalking you or anything,” he added quickly, eyes widening a bit as he probably processed what he said. Saying you weren’t stalking someone made it sound like you were stalking someone. I hadn’t taken it that way, but when I thought about it, I could see how it could sound stalker-like. “I live in the condo next to yours.” He pointed over my shoulder at the door to his place.

I had my suspicions that he was blushing, but with his face as tan as it was, it was hard to tell. It did look like the skin on the exposed, smooth expanse of his chest and neck had reddened a bit, but was likely just wishful thinking.

That’s when I realized I was staring at his chest. Goddamn it, here I was, a twenty-nine-year-old man acting like a fifteen-year-old. “I’m Gabe Maxfield.” I introduced myself to establish that I was not,  in fact a bumbling idiot. “Nice to meet you.”

The guy took my hand and shook it firmly. His touch was surprisingly soft despite the few calluses I could feel, and a warmth spread through me that had nothing to do with the blazing sun. “I’m Maka Kekoa. Hauʻoli kēia hui ʻana o kāua. That’s nice to meet you in Ōlelo Hawaiʻi, the Hawaiian language.”

I tried to repeat it, and he smiled at the way I stumbled over the words. “To answer your question,” I said quickly, trying to move past the embarrassment of butchering the language, “I wasn’t in a rush to get everything since this place came mostly furnished. I shipped them from Seattle at the cheapest—and slowest—rate.”

“Oh, you need these guys back here at a certain time?” he asked, gesturing toward the movers, who still hadn’t driven off, much to my surprise. They were standing close together, watching our interaction with quite a bit of interest.

“I’m supposed to meet a friend today at three, so they need to be here and finished before then.”

Maka nodded and walked to the passenger door of the truck, rapping on it with his knuckles. The door opened and some words were exchanged that I didn’t hear—not that I was paying attention. My eyes were too busy traveling over the nice muscles of Maka’s arms and the very pleasing shape of his ass.

Okay, I will admit it. I had such fun with this book! I seriously cannot wait for the next book (there is a next book, right? When?) to come out.

Gabe, probably one of the most apathetic MC’s to start a book, becomes quite involved in the world around him (c’mon he is in HAWAII!!!!) when his best friend is arrested for the murder of her private detective business partner. He, somewhat unwittingly, falls into clues along the way, while being chased by the people trying to make sure nothing comes of his investigation.

He also falls in love with a hot Hawaiian police detective (who also happens to be a hula dancer. Whew!), and they work through the investigation together, in a fashion–still have to keep everything on the up and up, of course.

Of course, the mystery is solved, not without some serious injury coming to Gabe Maxfield first. And not without leaving some of the mystery open for future books…

This was a fun, flirty, and sexy book, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Grab this one for when you need a night in, and want to venture away to the islands. You won’t regret it!

4.5 pieces of eye candy

J. C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his lifelong involvement in theatre. After living in several countries aside from the United States, J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and he is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that. J. C. Long’s favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing, and Korean food (not in that order…okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time when not writing by thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts, and wishing he was writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjclong

Twitter: @j_c_long_author

Website: http://www.jclong.org/

Email:jclongauthor@gmail.com

 

 

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Empathy for a Killer by Sarah Masters: Pre-Release Day Review

Finding a killer isn’t easy, but someone’s got to do it…

Detective Burgess Varley is called out to view a dead body. It isn’t one of the best things about his job—but putting killers away for the rest of their lives? Now that’s one of the best. Problem is, the victim has something in her mouth that has always scared Burgess—something that links him to the killer without him even knowing it. And that link is more than Burgess might be able to handle.

Detective Shaw Carter, Burgess’ partner for several years, loves Burgess in ways he perhaps shouldn’t. Or ways that Burgess won’t accept, anyway. But Shaw isn’t one to back down from a challenge, and as well as being by Burgess’ side on the hunt for a killer, he has his own mission to accomplish—getting Burgess to admit they’re meant for each other. It won’t be easy, but by God, he’s going to give it a try.

With Burgess and the killer learning things about themselves, their lives, and each other that they previously hadn’t known, life—and death—is about to become serious. Murder plagues both of their pasts, committed during their childhoods when they’d been innocent little boys who’d had no idea they would feature so heavily in each other’s later years. When they hadn’t known that their very existence is because of one man—the man they both mourn.

Amazon

Pride Publishing

Kobo Books

 

First, I have to say that I think the publisher mislabeled this book. In addition to “crime and mystery”, “thrillers and suspense” and “gay”, they also have it marked erotic romance, and loaded into Amazon’s Gay Romance category. There is only one sex scene in it (and not really graphic at all) so erotic romance seems out, and although there are romantic elements, and confessions of love in this book, that is not the main theme of this book. However, all that being said, that has nothing to do with the writing of this book.

I don’t normally read books like this, crime, suspense, thrillers, all of those are on my do not read list, but something about this called to me when I saw the blurb, and the cover that made me pause. I wasn’t sure where this book was going to take me, but I know that as usual I was hoping for a happy romance. Well Ms. Masters threw me for a loop!

Burgess and Shaw definitely find love. They honestly have been in love for a long time, it just took a little impetus to get Burgess to admit that he needed Shaw as much as Shaw needed him. You could see their relationship, as detective partners, romantic partners and friends through the small interactions throughout the book. They loved, supported and trusted each other without fail, without question.

The title of the book, Empathy for a Killer, made you believe that you might want to have empathy for this killer, but as a good upstanding citizen, there was no chance that would happen, right? Wrong! You do feel empathy for this killer, as you see his pain and tortured life through his eyes. From his childhood of abuse to how he deals with the voices that begin talking in his head after 16 long years. This reader cried a little for him, and really wanted, almost would have begged, for the ending that I got. It was a perfect way to bring it full circle, and find some peace for a tortured man.

Burgess had such a difficult path to face through this investigation (I will not spoiler this!). He faced choices, hard decisions, and even more challenging was finding that someone you loved was not the person you thought they were. That pedestal can be pretty high, and when someone falls from it, hearts break, pain ensues, and nothing will ever be the same.

Although this type of book would not normally be my first choice of what to read, I really (enjoyed may not be the right word here 🙂 ) was enthralled in the story, and as it became more complex I had a hard time putting it down so I could attempt to do real life things. Well done, Ms. Masters.

4.5 pieces of eye candy

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

Mature Content by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell: Blog Tour, Exclusive Guest Post, Excerpt and Review

 

My life plan is to be brutally honest all the way to the bank. Don’t believe me? I run a popular YouTube channel called TrashyZane, and my claim to fame is oversharing about every aspect of my personal life. Sometimes while tipsy. Not everyone loves my style, but I have a long history of icing out people who can’t handle me. I have no time for judgmental foolishness.

Except, apparently, when it comes to Beau Starr. His channel is the polar opposite of mine, and so is he. Wholesome, inspirational, and clean-cut. Everything about him should turn me off, but when we hook up following a confrontation at a convention, my world flips upside down. Not only does Beau Starr turn me on, he uses the exact combination of dirty talk and roughness needed to turn me out.

But we still hate each other. I think.

Mature Content

By Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Cyberlove Series

Book 4

Amazon  | BN | kobo | iBooks | Indigo | Angus & Robertson Book World | Mandadori Store

“You want to talk now that Ian is gone?” Jesse asked knowingly.

I flicked the seam of my pillow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re being weird, and I’m not sure if it’s because of Zane or something else.”

“It’s not because of Zane. Well, some of it is, I guess.”

“Ah.” He grinned. “Does that mean there is a thing with Zane?”

I stood up and ran my hands through my hair, which had a life of its own due to the amount of grease in it. “Fine, yes. Okay? We fucked at NerdCon. It was amazing, but we still hate each other, so it’s not happening again.”

Jesse’s eyes were huge. “I’m…not sure what to say right now?”

I wasn’t either. All our lives, I’d been the bossy one, the leader, and Jesse had been the follower. I was the ambitious one, the person with answers and advice. And now the shoe was on the other foot. Jesse had a career and a happy life, and I was a goddamn mess. But maybe I’d always been a mess. I was just excellent at covering it up with a smile.

A lot of people ask us about our co-writing process in terms of big picture stuff–plotting, who writes which characters, how do we decide who writes which scene. So, when Two Chicks Obsessed asked us to write about our process, we decided to take it down to the nitty gritty. A day in the life of Megtino. As well as a glimpse at the future of the series.

Megan: I usually wake up every day to a message on gchat from Santino that says “Blah.”

Santino: No, sometimes I say “I hate today” or “Why do I have to have a job?”

Megan: Okay, you’re right you mix it up sometimes, haha. But that’s how our co-writing day starts! That’s our morning greeting. Gchat is our main method of communication because it’s easy and the app works. Usually Santino writes at night, and I write during the day. So every morning is a little bit like Christmas, because I get to wake up and see what magic he did while I was sleeping. I then send him messages like, “THAT WAS SO GOOD. HOW DARE YOU.”

Santino: And then I secretly read her scenes at work and send more messages like “Why do I have to work?”. LOL

Megan: We do plot ahead of time, but we talk through every scene just to make sure we’re both on track with the emotions of our characters. We have changed the plot of…all four books I think. As in, the plot we started out with changed as we drafted because our characters weren’t following that path. So we check in with each other before just about every scene. So before I dig in that day, we’ll take each other’s pulse. I’m usually feeling inspired and excited based on his last scene, so I’m ready to go. 🙂

Santino: I think my favorite part of our process is after it all comes together and I can reread it in its entirety, because day-to-day I get excited for every scene, but then by the middle or end it’s all fragmented in my brain so I’m like “is this coherent and fun for anyone else?? Because clearly we think it’s great!”. We both have those moments, and it’s nice to be able to kind of vent our worries and angst to each other. And then reassure each other.

Megan: It’s definitely hard when I have to write a book on my own. Like, where’s my partner? I need to brainstorm with someone! What’s kind of funny about this series is that it’s rather meta. It’s all about MCs who meet online, and we write the whole series in Google Docs while conversing on Gchat.

Santino: Exactly. I think that’s why the books resonate with so many people, though. Most people in romancelandia have met like-minded online via various different forms of social media, and those relationships have transitioned to long-lasting friendships, partnerships, and more. It’s also why we decided to keep the series going. We almost stopped at book 3, and then we had several conversations about whether we should wrap it up with book 4 since this kind of closes out the story arc that began with Kai and Garrett.

Megan: Right, and then because we can’t help ourselves, we brainstormed an idea for book five, so we guess there’ll be more Cyberlove along the way. 😀

TCO: OH YEAH!!!! Now that is awesome news!!! Thanks for stopping by Megtino.

Holy smokin hot! Like oh mah gawd. Anyway…

I kind of love opposites attract when they have something big in common. Here it was youtube. Other than that, and that they were both openly gay- Zane and Beau could not be more different. And it was awesome. While it was a bone of contention to begin with- squeeky clean Beau versus TrashyZane, they started to realize that maybe they had more in common than they thought. See first sentence of review.

I have to say, this series made me really glad I have a teen at home so I knew all of the lingo already. Otherwise, you could easily spend some time looking things up. Big plus for me and it all fit with the story, but I honestly don’t know if that would be a turn off for others.

Above and beyond the steamy hotness, there was a good story. That is essential to me. Keeping careers alive and moving forward, branding, cattiness in the business, etc. It was really interesting to read all that goes on behind the scenes of having a successful youtube channel.

Both Zane and Beau were likeable even though you want to smack each of them at different points in the story.

There were several different conflicts in the story, and honestly I couldn’t really figure out how he was going to get through it. So they way it did wrap up was done really well.

Being that this was a co-written book, one of the biggest markers for me is if you can tell that one author wrote one character and the other author wrote the second. But honestly, I could not tell at all. The story telling was seamless.

There are quite a few appearances by characters of previous books, and although it can be read as a stand alone, I really would start at the beginning. They are all worth a read.

4.5 pieces of eye candy

ABOUT SANTINO HASSELL:

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

www.santinohassell.com

Santino@santinohassell.com

Twitter: @santinohassell

https://www.facebook.com/santinohassellbooks

https://www.goodreads.com/santino_hassell

Amazon Author Page

 

ABOUT MEGAN ERICKSON

Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she likes writing her own endings better.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.
For more, visit meganerickson.org

Website: www.meganerickson.org

Amazon Author Page

Twitter @MeganErickson_

IG: https://www.instagram.com/meggiejoknows/
FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1440306062901719/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/authormeganerickson/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/mrsmeggiejo/

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

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 

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