The Shape of You by Felice Stevens: Blog Tour, Excerpt and Review

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The Shape of You, a sexy, heart-warming MM romance by Felice Stevens is available now!

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The Shape of You
by Felice Stevens
Publication Date: June 29th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary MM Romance

Too big. Too fat.

All his life Eric Sontag has judged himself on his size, believing love and friendship aren’t in the cards for someone like him. Tired of being alone and scared of his doctor’s warnings, he enrolls in a nutrition support group, determined to change his life. When a beautiful thin man sits next to him, he can’t believe they have anything in common, but conversation between the two soon proves first impressions aren’t always what they seem.

Drifter. Loner.

Corey DeSantis has always been the scrawny waif; he’s tired of struggling with his art and with life. Scarred by the disappearance and death of his drug-addicted mother, he doesn’t wish for love, believing it will bring him nothing but pain in the end. Now his only hunger in life is his desire to paint…until a health scare and his mentor force him to attend a nutrition class where he meets a man who piques his interest. One drunken kiss later, Eric is all Corey can think about.

The same, yet different.

An unlikely friendship is born with both men wanting more but afraid to listen to their well-guarded hearts. When Corey receives shocking news leaving him angry and helpless, it’s Eric he leans on, to help see him through, while a surprising career opportunity finds Eric leaning on Corey for advice. One night of explosive passion leads to a second and soon neither man can imagine a life without the other. Life is shaped by the challenges accepted and roads not taken but as Corey and Eric walk the path together, they’ll discover the most beautiful destination of all. Love.

(Free in Kindle Unlimited)

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2t2kiLU

Amazon UK: https://goo.gl/Bav4jo

Add to GoodReads: https://goo.gl/tcQzkR

 

“I know you’re awake.”

Feeling Corey’s lips smile against his back, Eric rolled over to face him. Damn, he was so beautiful. Eric had no idea how he’d gotten so lucky to have Corey want him, but as long as he did, Eric would make the most of it, even though he knew how much it would hurt to say good-bye. Because Eric didn’t expect a future or even a tomorrow, he’d take these moments and tuck them away for later.

“How’d you sleep?”

Yawning and scratching his head, Corey shook the hair from his eyes. “Like the dead. Man, you wore me out.”

They gazed at each other, Eric feeling the heat rise to his face. He’d never been intimate with someone he wasn’t emotionally invested in, but something about Corey mesmerized him. Eric was the helpless moth, and Corey possessed that incandescent glow that drew him so close, he could feel the singe of fire.

“Um, well, after we shower, I think I should make breakfast for us. We never had a chance to write down our dinner last night or anything, and I think that’s important.”

Corey unwound himself from Eric and sat up cross-legged on the bed. Fully dressed, the man was a distraction. Naked and disheveled from sleep? Impossible to resist. Eric wanted to pull Corey close and do all the dirty things he’d only seen in porno movies. But showing restraint, Eric rose from the bed to go to the bathroom.

“We kinda got busy with other stuff.”

His heart jumped at Corey’s infectious grin, and he knew from the sensuous glow in Corey’s eyes, he too wanted a repeat of the night before. But pushing aside thoughts of kissing Corey and sucking his cock, Eric focused on the practical.

“Uh, yeah. What do you want for breakfast? I have eggs or oatmeal and fruit. Think about it.”

He closed the bathroom door behind him and rested against it for a moment, overwhelmed by the previous night, then waking up to find Corey hadn’t changed his mind and remained attracted to him. He wondered what would happen if he did lose all his weight. Would Corey want him then?

TSOY-AN

 

Check out Jennifer’s Release Day Review here!

 

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FeliceStevensLogo

I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending around the corner, My characters have to work for it, however. Like life in NYC, nothing comes easy and that includes love, but getting there is oh so fun and oh so sexy.

I live in New York City with my husband and two children. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass (or two of red wine). I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there are bound to be a few bumps along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

Connect with Felice:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FeliceStevens1

Blog: http://caferisque.blogspot.com/?zx=e071df0101ec6c96

Stay up to date with Felice by signing up for her newsletter here:

http://www.felicestevens.com/en/about

Join her Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1449289332021166/

http://www.felicestevens.com/en

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

Love and Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft: Blog Tour, Exclusive Guest Post and Giveaway

After a rough breakup, Todd Addison wants time alone to grieve. While still dreaming of winning back his ex’s love, he moves across the country and finds work with a construction company. The last thing he needs is the cute office boy developing a crush on him, especially since he’s back in the closet.

Sebastián Nye can’t help feeling sorry for the obviously brokenhearted Todd. Though rebuffed repeatedly, Sebby chisels away at Todd’s resistance, determined to help him forget—a task potentially beyond anyone’s capabilities. He never meant to fall for the poor guy, but he does. Hard.

Desperate to hold on to Todd, Sebby hatches a sneaky plot guaranteed to end Todd’s heartbreak—if Todd doesn’t bail and ruin everything. Just when things can’t get more complicated, Todd’s ex wants him back. And Sebby’s abusive ex is just waiting to catch Sebby alone. Todd and Sebby must decide what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth sacrifice, and what’s worth compromise, or their relationship will begin and end with a broken heart.

Amazon

Riptide Books

I’m Laurie Loft, author of Love and Other Hot Beverages. Welcome to my blog tour, and thanks for being here! I’m excited to give out super cool prizes to two people who make thoughtful comments to any of my blog posts: one French press (an item which features prominently in my novel), and a $15.00 Starbucks gift card. Either way, you’ll enjoy plenty of hot beverages!

There’ll be seven posts in which I’ll discuss my book as well as unrelated items. Comment, and we can get to know each other a little better.

THE COVER FOR LOVE AND OTHER HOT BEVERAGES

Have you ever bought a book with a stupid cover? I have! So, yeah, we judge books by their covers, but sometimes we look past them.

Have you ever bought a book based solely on the cover? I have! And been disappointed? Mainly if the cover is misleading.

My cover is spot-on. Sweet, romantic, unsure. Notice the hands aren’t grasping each other. The fingers aren’t knitted together. It’s as if one hand has just reached to touch the other, and the other hasn’t yet responded. Or isn’t going to!

Coffee is a recurring motif in my book, and my cover shows a barista-crafted heart. But the heart is subtly…broken. Hm. What could that mean?

My characters’ path is not only rocky, it’s ankle-twisting. Two very different people with different philosophies of life—how do they mesh? What do they compromise? Whatever they do, at least there’s lots of coffee!

Here are five things that surprised me about my cover:

​1. They asked for my ideas.

​I was always told that authors have no say regarding their covers–that publishers create covers based on their greater experience with the market, and the author is presented with the cover as a ​fait accomplit.

But Riptide Publishing not only asked what I had in mind, they sent me a ​4-page questionnaire​ asking for details regarding the mood and tone, preferred color scheme, characters’ physical descriptions and personality traits, and more.

2. I was given a choice of cover artists.

Riptide gave me the chance to review the work of six artists and to list them in the order of my preference. They could not ​promise ​that my first choice would end up doing the work, but, in my case, my wish came true.

​3. The artist used my ideas.

When I was presented with drafts for my book cover, I was stunned to see how close they came to what I had imagined! I mean, wow, they not only asked, they ​listened. ​The talented artist took my suggestions and ran with them.

​4. They presented me with three beautiful cover drafts.

The artist, L.C. Chase, actually asked me which one I liked! Not only that, the artist asked if there were any changes I’d like to see, or if I wanted something totally different. I certainly was not expecting that level of involvement in my cover treatment.

Two of the drafts had the same picture but different fonts. ​They even asked which font treatment I liked better.

​I replied with my preferences and some suggestions for tweaks, and, would you believe, my suggestions were promptly put into play? Sheesh, me with NO publishing experience kind of directing a ​highly ​experienced and talented artist? Whoah.

5. There is a thing called a “cover reveal.”

Mine occurred on the ​Heroes and Heartbreakers ​website. I was asked not to share my cover, other than with family and a few close friends, until this reveal went live. Was that hard to keep a lid on!

Would I change anything about my cover? The skin tones. Both the hands are too light. Todd works all day in the sun, so he’s got a pretty good tan. And Sebby is half Hispanic, so there’s that.

So that’s LAOHB’s cover. It doesn’t feature a hot, bare-chested, hip-bone-baring stud. I wonder if that will lose me a few sales. But I love my cover. ​It’s what was in my heart.

And it ​pops.

What’s your opinion? Does it catch your eye? Make you curious? Turn you on, or put you off?

Laurie Loft lives in Iowa, endeavoring to write stories to give you that rush. Her husband, cat, and dogs kindly tolerate this odd activity. Her first M/M novel came about because of a minor character in a straight romance who just took over and demanded his own book. Laurie enjoys NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and other forms of writerly torture. She finds inspiration in her NaNo friends and her fellow Riptide authors. When not writing or working at her mysterious day job, she can often be found screaming at tangled cross stitch threads.

Connect with Laurie:

To celebrate the release of Love and Other Hot Beverages, one lucky winner will receive a $15 Starbucks gift card and a French press from Laurie! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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

Losing My Religion by A.S. Tucker: Cover Reveal, Excerpt and Giveaway


Author: A.S. Tucker
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 27, 2017

Jaden Barker is a good boy.

For as long as he can remember, he’s been preparing for the day he’ll be called as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He’s ready. He’s more than willing. And he can’t wait to spend the next two years serving the Lord and his church. But when a new proclamation from the church is announced, it leaves him questioning everything.

Quinn Owens is trouble with a capital T.

An aspiring actor living in the bowels of Los Angeles, he’s fought long and hard to get where he is, and he’s not willing to give it up for anything. Working for a homophobic boss presents quite a challenge when you’re a gay man, but Quinn knows losing this job means losing his dream. 

Jaden is lost and confused.

Quinn won’t let anything stand in his way.

But when Jaden finds himself living downstairs from the enticing Quinn, neither are prepared for what happens next.

Will Jaden be able to resist Quinn’s charms and remain a devoted Mormon missionary? Or will he fall, finding himself face to face with losing his religion?
 
Prologue
Our living room smells like a high school locker room. You know the smell I’m talking about. That oniony stink teen boys get when it’s been too long since they’ve showered, and they still haven’t quite discovered the magic of deodorant. 

It’s a smell I’m all-too familiar with, my high school career having only come to an end this past year. It’s going to take a lot longer than ten months to wipe the horrors I saw and smelled in the boys’ locker room out of my brain. 

Even as I sit on the barstool in the center of the room, visions of Roosevelt High come flashing to my mind, and I half-expect to see Jeff come strolling through the door, twisted wet towel in hand, just waiting for the perfect moment to snap it against an unsuspecting victim’s bare ass.

Butt. I mean, butt. 

Cussing was never allowed when I was growing up. But, now that this has arrived, I need to be more diligent about watching my language. 

Because cussing will not be tolerated where I’m going. 

I look down at the white envelope in my hands, my fingers trembling ever-so slightly, as I read over my name and address printed on the front.

Elder Jaden Barker.

Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Perfect missionary name. Exactly like my parents envisioned.

Flipping the envelope over, I gently finger the flap, watching the pristine paper slide against my skin. How ironic would it be if the one thing that’s supposed to be the biggest blessing in my life thus far sliced through my flesh, red drops of blood seeping through my pores and marring the lily-white paper beneath?

Wouldn’t be the first time the church cut you, a familiar voice in the back of my mind utters.

Yes, but they’ve always been there to stitch you back up. You just need to have faith, his ever-present counterpart retorts. 

I know what you’re thinking. This dude is crazy. I’m not. I don’t actually hear voices. They’re only little versions of my subconscious—punks who like to rear up and cause problems in my life at the most inopportune times. Ever since I turned in my mission papers, they seem to have taken permanent residence in my head—like those old cartoons I used to watch, the ones with an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. The church would refer to them as the Holy Ghost and Satan.

Or, as I like to call them, Jiminy and Jafar. Growing up, I had a thing for Disney.

Shrugging off their unwelcome intrusion, I turn my attention back to the task at hand, the all-too-familiar pang of nervousness welling deep within my gut. My stomach has been in knots all afternoon. 

My family has been expecting this any day now. As soon as I pulled it out of the mailbox and saw the distinct logo in the top-left corner, I was tempted to rip into it right there, near the gutter, needing the torment of where I’d be spending the next two years of my life to end. 

My mother, of course, had different plans. The moment she realized I’d received it, she plucked it from my fingers, whisking it away into the kitchen and telling me we had to wait for my father to get home from work. Then, like the good little housewife she is, she set about making a scrumptious chicken noodle soup. My grandmother’s recipe and her mother’s before that. Also, my favorite meal on the planet. 

That brings us to the reason I’m now sitting on a kitchen stool in the middle of the living room with three smiling faces shining back at me from the sofa, the normally delicious smell of the soup now making me nauseous and forcing me to think of sweaty teenagers. 

I’ve been preparing for this day for as long as I can remember. Since I was just a kid, I knew my life was leading to this very moment. And, after years of singing songs in primary and learning lesson after lesson in priesthood meetings, it’s finally here. 

I’m going to be a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I’m ready for this. 

I’ve been groomed for this. 

I’m going to share the truth with the people of wherever this letter sends me. 

My fingers tremble as I tear into the envelope, my family sitting across from me on the edge of the couch. My mother’s hand flies to her mouth as she watches the stark white paper slide from its temporary shelter. I know, within a week, it will be framed and hanging proudly in the hallway, right next to my brother, Taylor’s, mission call. 

“Dear Brother Barker,” I read aloud, my voice shaky as my heart hammers against my chest. 

My dad leans forward, wringing his hands in anticipation, while my mother leans her face into his shoulder as she stifles a sob. To an outsider, it might appear my parents are nervous, as if the thought of sending their nineteen-year-old son out into the world with minimal contact for two years were a terrifying idea they weren’t entirely on board with. 

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case at all. My parents are waiting with bated breath, their anticipation for me to leave eclipsed only by the joy they feel about me going in the first place. Not because they don’t love me, but because doing the Lord’s work is far more important. 

“You are hereby called to serve as a missionary at…” My words trail off, my eyes scanning the page until the bold words leap out at me. “California Los Angeles Mission.”

I must have said the words aloud because, within seconds I’m enveloped in my mother’s arms. My dad moves to join her, his broad arms circling the two of us as he whispers how happy he is for me. My little sister, Jenny, clears her throat behind me, and my mother swings her arm wide to pull her into the hug with us. 

“I’m so, so proud of you, Jaden. You’re going to receive so many blessings because of this. And you’ll bless so many people in return,” my mother says as she squeezes me tight. 

Her arms drop suddenly, and she pulls away from me, her eyes shining, as she says, “I need to go call Taylor. He was so sad he couldn’t be here today. Poor little Maddy has another ear infection, and they didn’t want to ruin your special day with a crying infant. But he made me promise to call as soon as we knew where you were going. So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few phone calls to make.”

She practically dances out of the room, my dad close on her heels as he reminds her of a few other people who need to hear the good news. 

Left alone with only my little sister, I glance down at Jenny, her ten-year-old face beaming up at me. 

“I can’t wait until I’m old enough to go on a mission! Are you excited?” Her squeaky voice breaks on the last word. 

I smile at her, nodding my head in the most self-assured way I can manage. 

This should be the most exciting day of my life. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, and every detail of this day has gone exactly according to plan. My mom’s happy tears, my dad’s joyous words. Heck, I don’t even have to learn another language at the training center. It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

So, why does it feel like I’m living a lie?
A military brat growing up, A.S. Tucker now resides in Utah with her loving husband. When not writing, you’ll find her reading, binge watching Netflix, or drinking wine. Her three favorite things are animals, coffee, and Harry Potter, not necessarily in that order. She is the author of three other novels, published under a different pen name. She loves hearing from her readers, so please drop her a line! 

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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.

Santa’s Naughty Helper by Ari McKay: Release Day Review with Giveaway

Shy lawyer Kevin Anderson is presented with an unexpected opportunity when he draws hunky litigator Erik Wilson’s name for their office’s secret holiday gift exchange. Kevin has pined for his friend for a long time, but he fears ruining their working relationship if Erik doesn’t return his feelings. The anonymity of the exchange gives him the chance to let Erik know someone is interested, so Kevin turns the gift into a game: twelve days of presents, each more suggestive, culminating with a Christmas Eve meeting—if Kevin finds the courage to see it through!

Erik is intrigued by his secret Santa, who has given him something to look forward to during the holidays for the first time in years. But as Christmas approaches, he realizes he doesn’t want a mystery man; he wants his best friend, Kevin. When his attempts to instigate something with Kevin fail, Erik accepts the dinner invitation of his secret admirer. Little does he suspect that Santa’s naughty little helper might be just the man to make all his Christmas dreams come true in a holiday friends-to-lovers romance that progresses from sweet to spicy for two sexy lawyers.

First Edition published by Torquere Press, 2012.

Title: Santa’s Naughty Helper
Series: Lawyers in Love
Author: Ari McKay
Release Date: July 5, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Holiday
Pages: TBD (Novella)

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

Kobo Books

 

I enjoy Ari McKay’s books, and really love the holiday theme in July, so I wanted to grab this one right away.

I loved the cute premise. The shy lawyer who gets up the nerve to show his Secret Santa recipient, his best friend, how much he wants to spend all the cold winter nights with him. Kevin was so creative with his gift giving, and as he saw how much Erik enjoying receiving the gifts, he was able to become much more daring than he ever expected he would.

One thing I would have liked to have seen a bit more of was Erik’s point of view. I struggled with believing he made such a quick switch into wanting Kevin when he had shown no previous inclination. I think it would have been easily resolved with a bit more of Erik’s POV to help fill in the blanks as to where his mind was at.

I did find some of the dialogue a bit stilted and cliche, with some of the lines not sound as natural as I would have expected from two men who had been best friends for years.

All in all a cute story, with a fun premise, giving you hope for love during the holiday season.

3 pieces of eye candy


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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.

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

Amazon

Nine Star Press

Kobo Books

Barnes and Noble

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

 

 

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

Spun! by JL Merrow: Blog Tour, Exclusive Guest Post, Review and Giveaway

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

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Riptide Books

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Spun!, the fourth of my contemporary MM romantic comedies in the Shamwell Tales series.

Bringing the Funny

I never set out to write humour. Whether or not I’ve nevertheless achieved it is up to the individual reader’s judgement, but all I wanted to do at the outset was have fun with my writing. It wasn’t until I started to see a common thread in reviews (“Merrow’s trademark humour”; “JL Merrow brings the funny” etc) that I realised that hey, other people were having fun with it too. Which, obviously, leads to fun squared, and a very happy author. 🙂

I grew up reading all sorts of funny books. The late, great, Sir Terry Pratchett is, of course, my idol—there is nothing he didn’t know about comic timing*—and another early influence was Douglas Adams.

“In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” ― Douglas AdamsThe Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I discovered The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the library at an early age and proceeded to annoy my poor mother mightily by reading out choice lines whenever she was trying to get on with something else. Who could forget the classic, “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way as bricks don’t”, a line that on one level, tells you nothing at all, but on another, is a fantastically evocative bit of description?

It’s probably not surprising that both Pratchett and Adams were British, as of course was another great influence of mine, PG Wodehouse. Not that I don’t appreciate the humour of other countries, but there’s just something about the dry, erudite and/or absurd wit of my fellow islanders that speaks to my dyed-in-the-wool British soul.

Wodehouse is best known these days for the Jeeves and Wooster books, which spawned the delightful TV series starring an exquisitely young Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (okay, I may possibly be showing my age here). He also wrote an immense number of other books, many of them romances featuring plucky young ladies, empty-headed sons of the aristocracy, irascible older relatives, and pigs. (Although the latter generally didn’t feature in the romance bit). All of them sparkled with his gentle, literary humour:

“Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.” ― P.G. Wodehouse, The Best of Wodehouse: An Anthology

For me, letting an idea run away with me, or playing with words a bit, is half the fun of writing. Both Wodehouse and Pratchett were masters at taking an idea and running with it all the way to absurdity and back.

“If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he’d be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘All gods are bastards!” Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic

I also loved Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole books, starting with The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾. Adrian is an adorably unreliable narrator. Much of the comedy comes from his confident (and hilariously mistaken) pronouncements about everything from politics to his parents’ tangled love lives.

“I have never seen a dead body or a female nipple. This is what comes from living in a cul de sac.” – Sue Townsend, The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole.

Terry Pratchett has said that writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves. I’d tend to agree, but I’d add that probably the best thing about writing is connecting with readers. Laughter (this is the science bit) is a social mechanism that reinforces bonding within a group, so there’s something very special about sharing a joke with a reader.

I hope you’ll enjoy the humour in Spun!—and if you do, I’d love to hear from you! And if you’ve got an all-time favourite funny book, why not share it/a quote in the comments?

*or, indeed, most other aspects of comedy. Sir Perry, I kiss your rod**.

**This is by no means as rude as it sounds.

Okay, I will say this quickly to get it out of the way…I have never read a JL Merrow book before (I know, right?) and I am feeling like such a (as the author may put it) “silly git” for it. How have I never read anything by this author?

I decided to do this one on a whim. Merely because I was interested in seeing what the fuss was in this series being re-released and additional work added, as well. I still haven’t read Books 1-3, although I will endeavour to correct that as soon as possible. But wow, this was a lot of fun!

The reader, if not from the UK, needs to be willing to enjoy all the local dialect, and just hope you can get it all in context. There is a ton of that dialect, but it isn’t difficult to suss out most of the meanings, and if you have your UK dictionary downloaded into your kindle, you are golden!

There was so many fun aspects of this book. It was lighthearted, not angsty in the least, although I have to say I was anxious for these two men to get themselves together as a couple! A very slow burn this was, but with small children in the picture, and tons of exes hanging around, it was bound to happen.

David was such a doll! He had such a sweet temperament, and throwing out all his French endearments, as well as seeing his devotion to Gregory made him a character I wanted to know, in person. I wanted to meet David, and hang out with him, whether it was watching “the telly” or trying to cook dinner with him. His love of spending time with Rory’s children was wonderful to read. He truly adored those kids, before he even realized he was in love with their father.

Meanwhile Rory, what a gentle man. He really just wanted everyone to be happy, himself last. He never wanted to make waves, never to fight too hard. Yet he loved, it was so obvious how much he loved those around him, David included. He loved his time with his children, and cherished that time, and those kids as precious, even if he had to cancel time with someone else for them. He was meant to be a father, and a caregiver.

David and Rory together seemed to hit the perfect team. David, being more “worldly”, could easily have looked down on his new postman landlord, for his time with his bigoted mate, or his manner of speech, yet he never did. He always respected Rory. Rory was no different, always showing tremendous respect for David. They worked together on everything, and it showed their joy in spending time together, and with the kids.

What I enjoyed the most though was the enjoyment they found in each other. Cracking little flirting jokes, spending time learning to cook (and burn things) together, finding their way into a comfortable loving place.

I enjoyed JL Merrow’s writing, the subtle English humor, and venturing into learning what family can look like for two men who didn’t realize they were looking for a family in each other.  Looking at JL Merrow’s backlist, I believe I could be spending a lot of time catching up with everything happening across the aisle. And I’ll enjoy every minute of it.

4 pieces of eye candy

 

About the Shamwell Tales

Welcome to Shamwell! A sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, it’s the perfect place to move to for a little peace and quiet—or at least, you’d think so. But as a succession of newcomers to the village find, there’s more going on in these idyllic surroundings than cricket matches on the common and pints of ale in the local pubs.

As a place where everyone’s connected to everyone else, Shamwell’s rife with mishaps, mayhem, and misunderstandings—and the path of true love is no smoother than the ancient stone walls of the parish church.

Each contemporary romantic comedy in this series stands alone, but all feature a cast of characters drawn from Shamwell and its surroundings.

Check out the Shamwell Tales, available from Riptide Publishing!

 

 

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.

She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Connect with JL:

Goodreads: goodreads.com/.J_L_Merrow

To celebrate the release of Spun!, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

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

Unlikely in Love by Susan Mac Nicol: Release Blitz with Quick Review #UnlikelyInLoveRelease

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Unlikely In Love

by Susan Mac Nicol


Short story trilogy

Genre: contemporary romance

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Unlikely in Love_4

Three delightful short stories about how love begins in the most unexpected ways.

Meet Elliot and Dan in ‘Benchpressed’
City planner Elliot meets personal trainer Dan and between them, they whip the gym into shape…
“I happen to think you have a very nice belly,” Dan murmured. “It makes a change from the usual devotion to keeping a six pack.” His tone went dreamy. “I like a man with a bit of meat on him.”
Oh, fuck me. That sounded a bit awkward, even to me. My body flushed with heat and I cleared my throat.

Meet Davey and Gus in ‘Dear Davey’
Agony Aunt columnist Davey has an unfortunate habit of causing mayhem for fellow worker Gus. He also has no filter. Remind you of someone?
“Oh, and I’m sorry I set fire to your waste bin yesterday,” I muttered.
“Who else would it have been?” he said. “Do I need to take out company hazard pay when I go out with you?”
I huffed, flicking my hair back from my forehead. “Puhleaze. It’d be worth every penny, I promise.”
Behind me, Gus’s cologne invaded my nostrils and I closed my eyes, inhaling his scent.

Meet Cooper and Robbie in ‘Banana Appeal’
An errant gecko brings Graphic artist Cooper meets neighbour Robbie together. There may also be a banana involved.
I took a step forward, brandishing the banana toward him as if entreating him to eat it. Robbie took a step back, a wary look crossing his face. I wondered whether he’d expected me to ask him to fellate it. Because that would have been a complete waste when my dick was willing to be wrapped between those full lips. The banana didn’t stand a fucking chance if I got in there first.

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This short story trilogy is truly short. You just start to get into the meat of the stories and boom, moving to the next one. But what I enjoyed about these was the format that Sue put these in. It wasn’t just a quick story. It was stories about beginnings, and in a way endings. It’s as if she wrote the first chapter, the conflict, and then threw in an epilogue at the end (and this last part she truly did, I loved that creative idea!).

Of course, these couldn’t be angsty, when you are talking a few thousand words a piece. But there was tension, and questioning, some laughs, some sexy times, and of course, the HEA that I always love Sue’s work for. These six men find each other, and find the wherewithal to connect despite having admired from afar, in a short period of time, and it really was a fun ride.

A part of me would love to see these stories fleshed out into a full novel, but I love how perfect they are right where they are. There is a beginning, a middle and an end. And if you mess with what you have there, then you turn the stories completely inside out. This was a fun idea that I enjoyed reading.

4 pieces of eye candy

 

Susan Mac Nicol is a self-confessed bookaholic, an avid watcher of videos of sexy pole dancing men, geek, nerd and in love with her Smartphone. This little treasure is called ‘the boyfriend’ by her long-suffering husband, who says if it vibrated, there’d be no need for him. Susan hasn’t had the heart to tell him there’s an app for that…

In an ideal world, Susan Mac Nicol would be Queen of England and banish all the bad people to the Never Never Lands of Wherever -Who Cares. As that’s never going to happen, she contents herself with writing her HEA stories and pretending, that just for a little while, good things happen to good people.

Sue is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association in the UK. She’s also Editorial Manager at http://www.divinemagazine.biz, an online LGBTQ e-zine, and she’s a Charity Board trustee at http://wwwbeingmecampaign.com in London. She’s passionate about research for her books and has stayed in a circus, taken lessons from a blind person on how it feels to be blind, and travelled to a lighthouse with maintenance crew to see first-hand what it’s like inside. She’s also writing a screen play with a Hollywood actor named Nicholas Downs, with a view to taking her latest release, Sight Unseen, to the big screen.

Susan Mac Nicol

Author links

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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.

Shape of you by Felice Stevens: Release Day Review

Too big. Too fat.

All his life Eric Sontag has judged himself on his size, believing love and friendship aren’t in the cards for someone like him. Tired of being alone and scared of his doctor’s warnings, he enrolls in a nutrition support group, determined to change his life. When a beautiful thin man sits next to him, he can’t believe they have anything in common, but conversation between the two soon proves first impressions aren’t always what they seem.

Drifter. Loner.

Corey DeSantis has always been the scrawny waif; he’s tired of struggling with his art and with life. Scarred by the disappearance and death of his drug-addicted mother, he doesn’t wish for love, believing it will bring him nothing but pain in the end. Now his only hunger in life is his desire to paint…until a health scare and his mentor force him to attend a nutrition class where he meets a man who piques his interest. One drunken kiss later, Eric is all Corey can think about.

The same, yet different.

An unlikely friendship is born with both men wanting more but afraid to listen to their well-guarded hearts. When Corey receives shocking news leaving him angry and helpless, it’s Eric he leans on, to help see him through, while a surprising career opportunity finds Eric leaning on Corey for advice. One night of explosive passion leads to a second and soon neither man can imagine a life without the other. Life is shaped by the challenges accepted and roads not taken but as Corey and Eric walk the path together, they’ll discover the most beautiful destination of all. Love.

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Okay, So…first we have Corey; told by his doctor that if he didn’t lose weight, he was facing health problems that could be life threatening if he didn’t get his weight under control. It scared him enough to join a nutrition class to make some changes in his diet and help himself.

That’s where he meets Corey. Corey has the opposite problem, the life he’s lived hasn’t been easy and it’s affected him in a different way. He “forgets” to eat and when he does manage to force himself to eat something, it’s nothing substantial and he’s recently been to the hospital with a legitimate scare about his health as well. Modeling for his artist boss, he tells him he’s going to have to start taking better care of himself, or he can’t let him model anymore. So, these two guys agree to help each other out.

I liked the opposites attract vibe. They both had major things going on in their lives and it was great that they had each other there as a support system. I thought both of them could’ve benefited in talking to a professional, but they seemed to be okay when they weren’t trying to out-hurt each other. Neither of them had a good opinion of themselves and both of them had terrible self-esteem and self worth. It was hard to listen to them go back and forth over who’d been hurt worse and who had the more terrible life. I was glad they had each other though. I really felt like Eric helped Corey find himself a little bit, as well as pushed him to do some things that he’d been dreading for a while. He helped him heal.

Another thing I didn’t like, was…okay, I’m a big girl…always have been, always will be. Never in my life have I been treated so terribly by literally everyone I came in contact with like these two did. 6’3 and 240lbs, is not morbidly obese, yet seems like Eric can’t leave his house without someone calling him fat. That’s ridiculous. I know people are jerks, believe me I get that…this was waaaay too much. Like, we already feel sorry for him, you don’t have to make every single person he makes eye contact with go out of their way to tell him he’s fat. It was overkill and eventually had I thought of it sooner, I wanted to keep a counter of how many ridiculous times someone called him fat or treated him badly because he was minding his own business on a subway, being fat, or taking a class while fat. I wish I had, now.

Other than that though, I did enjoy these two finding someone to stand by you, loving you, even when you thought it was impossible for someone else to…when it was impossible for you to love yourself. I was glad these two found each other.

3 pieces of eye candy for me

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

A New Way to Dance by Sean Michael: Exclusive Guest Post and Excerpt, Blog Tour, Giveaway

Dancer Seth Avery has it all. He’s at the top of his game as a dancer and he’s in love with famous dance director Fayden DelMonaco, the man who is his sub. Seth’s whole world is turned upside down when Fayden dumps him in the nastiest and most public way possible. To compound matters, he’s in near fatal car crash shortly thereafter that leaves him severely injured.

Brook Turner is an ex-lawyer turned micro-brewer, baby-brother of Seth’s best friend Lizzie. The two met briefly before Seth’s accident, but it’s when they meet again six years later that they get a chance to act on the attraction they’d initially felt.

With Brook’s help, Seth begins to heal not only from his residual physical injuries, but also from the emotional ones inflicted by Fayden. Will it be enough to keep the two of them together?

Join Seth and Brooke as they find a new way to dance together.

Title:  A New Way to Dance

Author: Sean Michael

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 65,000 Words | 262 Pages

Genre: Contemporary Gay Romance, M/M Romance, BDSM

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Evil Plot Bunny

 

Thank you to Two Chicks Obsessed for hosting me today.

How do you keep things fresh after so many books?

That’s a good question. I think it helps that my favorite thing in the world is to write. I just love it. So, it’s not very often that I’m feeling blocked or ‘stale’. Still, it does happen.

When it does, it’s often because I’m tired, so a few hours or a day away from everything, and a good night’s sleep make a huge difference. I try and get downtown to walk around, or something like that, once a week – usually on the weekend. Getting out of the house and away from the computer even just for a couple hours is a great way to feel refreshed.

I also work on several stories at the same time, so if I’m not feeling one, I can go to a different one. Or I can start something new that’s not like any of the others I’m working on.

Another strategy is changing up the stories. For instance, if I’m writing BDSM, I might put two Doms together. Or have a character who thinks he’s a Dom, but really isn’t. This is what happens to Seth in A New Way to Dance.

Sean Michael

smut fixes everything

 

 

It was like making out, but without the weirdness, the awkwardness.

He pulled Seth against him, liking the way Seth felt.

“I’m not in the headspace to be naked with someone. You need to know that.”

“You have to be in a headspace to get off?”

Seth shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Why don’t we just do what feels good?”

Seth’s answer was another kiss, sweet and heady.

Groaning, he opened up to Seth and slid his hand along the man’s side, his back. The heavy sweatshirt stymied his need to learn Seth’s shape. He found the bottom of it, pushing under it to search for skin. Then Brook touched that flat, concave belly, Seth sucking in.

Ropy and strong, Seth was skin and bone and sharp muscles.

He’d never touched a man that was so hard, so controlled. It was fascinating.

He let his fingers slide up towards Seth’s nipples as they continued to kiss. Seth’s body was smooth—the man had to wax. Had to. No one was this hairless.

He tugged gently at Seth’s lower lip, his fingertips finding the little nipples. The tiny nips drew up, reacting to his touch. Brook loved the responsiveness, and he kept playing with them.

He could feel the growing hunger in Seth’s kisses in the way Seth’s breath went ragged. He encouraged each kiss, each deepening of the pleasure they shared.

Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and pursuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Sean’s available for interviews, by the way. He can always be talked into, well talking about himself. Just drop him an email.

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Tour Schedule

June 26 – Sue Brown’s Stories |  MillsyLovesBooks | Because Two Men Are Better Than One

June 27 – BFD Book Blog | Stories That Make You Smile

June 28 – The Really Naughty Corner | Happily Ever Chapter | Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

June 29 – MM Good Book Reviews | Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words | Boy Meets Boy Reviews | Divine Magazine

June 30 – SiK Reviews | Dawn’s Reading Nook | Two Chicks Obsessed

 

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Lying Eyes by Robert Winter: Cover Reveal and Excerpt

 

Title:  Lying Eyes

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher:  Robert Winter Books (self-published)

Release Date: July 7, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84300

Genre: Romance, Mystery, BDSM

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This bartender’s art lies in more than mixing drinks …

Randy Vaughan is a six-foot-three mass of mysteries to his customers and his friends. Why does a former Secret Service agent now own Mata Hari, a successful piano bar? Where did a muscle daddy get his passion for collecting fine art? If he’s as much a loner as his friends believe, why does he crave weekly sessions at an exclusive leather club?

Randy’s carefully private life unravels when Jack Fraser, a handsome art historian from England, walks into his bar, anxious to get his hands on a painting Randy owns. The desperation Randy glimpses in whiskey-colored eyes draws him in, as does the desire to submit that he senses beneath Jack’s elegant, driven exterior.

While wrestling with his attraction to Jack, Randy has to deal with a homeless teenager, a break-in at Mata Hari, and Jack’s relentless pursuit of the painting called Sunrise. It becomes clear someone’s lying to Randy. Unless he can figure out who and why, he may miss his chance at the love he’s dreamed about in the hidden places of his heart.

Note: Lying Eyes is a standalone gay romance novel with consensual bondage and a strong happy ending. It contains potential spoilers for Robert Winter’s prior novel, Every Breath You Take.

 

Saturday rolled around, and Randy headed to town early to make sure everything was ready for Mata Hari’s busiest evening of the week. Although the bar officially opened at five-thirty, it was rare for anyone to wander in much before seven o’clock. Randy was surprised when the front door opened at six to admit a good-looking man.

The stranger was probably about five foot nine or ten, and wore a three-piece suit that seemed tailored to accentuate a lean build. His dark hair was cut stylishly short on the sides but thick and swept back on the top, and his mustache and full beard were closely trimmed. A brightly colored necktie contrasted with the somber gray of his suit. Randy had trouble assessing the man’s age, but he would go with thirty. European, though—Randy would stake the bar on that guess.

The newcomer contemplated the walls of Mata Hari, passing almost dismissively over the art on display. He studied each piece for no more than a second before moving to the next, but Randy had a distinct impression the man sought something in particular. As he completed his survey, he kept turning and eventually met Randy’s eyes across the bar.

Immediately desire flared in the man’s face as his hungry gaze drifted over Randy’s tight white shirt and up to his face, lingering on his mouth. Shoulders tightened almost imperceptibly as he drew himself to his full height, yet Randy recognized a softening of hard edges. He lazily ran his own eyes to the stranger’s luxurious beard, and he imagined stroking the softness there. He sensed something accommodating. Something potentially submissive, yet more subtle than the wanton displays of obedience and posing he was used to on Mondays at his private club.

Something he would enjoy channeling and rewarding, in the right circumstance.

The man started toward the bar. As he moved, Randy had the odd sense that the suit he wore was ill-fitting, even though it seemed perfectly tailored. A step away from the bar, his face just—closed. That was the only word for it. One instant he was cruising Randy; the next he was stone.

Randy sighed to himself. The guy was probably a closet case on his first night at a gay bar. That usually meant an unsatisfying encounter, even if the newbie didn’t rabbit. In any case, it wasn’t Randy’s thing. He’d had plenty of virgin ass over the years, and preferred his men experienced.

Fine. Nothing for me here. He waited at the bar, vaguely disappointed.

“Sir, good evening.” The man’s accent was English, his words precise and elegant like his hair and his clothes and his beard. Probably from London. Up close, Randy could see his eyes were a deep shade of brown graced with streaks of gold around the pupils that caught the lights over the bar. “I’m looking for a Mr. Randall Vaughan.”

Despite forswearing his immediate attraction to the stranger, that honeyed voice caused Randy to smile slowly and show his teeth. He registered the slight widening of the eyes behind the stranger’s mask as he focused on Randy’s mouth.

“I’m Randy Vaughan. And you are…?”

The man blinked in surprise. “Oh. The Mr. Vaughan I was seeking is an art collector.”

Shit. Just another jerkwad, making assumptions right away. Randy was a big man so he couldn’t possibly be knowledgeable about art, could he? Well, fuck that noise. One more chance.

“I wouldn’t use the term collector, but…” Randy gestured at the walls.

“Quite so,” the man said distantly, and turned to sweep his gaze over the works on the nearest wall. “Neither would I.”

Randy’s back stiffened immediately. The stranger—no, the asshole—turned his attention back to Randy and held out a hand. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he’d just royally pissed Randy off. “My name is Jack Fraser. I’m from the Kensington Museum in London.” Fraser paused as if waiting for Randy to be impressed. “I sent you a letter recently.”

Randy willed himself not to think further about Fraser’s whiskey-colored eyes or the luxuriousness of his beard, and he didn’t take the offered hand. Instead, he wiped a small spill on the counter before him. “You did,” he agreed in a bored tone.

Fraser dropped his hand. “Ah, yes.” A pause. “My secretary didn’t hear from you to set up an appointment.”

“Which was my answer to your request,” Randy said, letting some snarl appear as he met Fraser’s eyes. They were still guarded and closed off, but Randy could see embers burning deep inside. In the right setting, and with proper motivation, he could imagine making those embers flare and ignite in the slender man before him. For the moment, though, the eyes just narrowed in calculation.

Before Fraser could say anything, Randy turned away. “If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“May I buy a pint?” Fraser asked, desperation shading his smooth accent.

Randy considered calling Malcolm over to deal with it, but stopped in front of the beer taps. He was annoyed at his lingering attraction, and he decided to push back on this prick a bit. “Fine. What’s your pleasure?”

“Guinness. If you have it.”

“Of course you’d drink Guinness.” A little scorn curled Randy’s lip. “Well, the closest beer I have is a stout from Flying Dog.” He let his sneer turn feral. “It’s called Pearl Necklace.” He dropped his eyes to Fraser’s necktie, as if he could picture that very thing replacing the colorful silk.

Fraser blinked nervously. Probably he could picture it too. Maybe he even imagined Randy’s hot jizz splattering his chest and neck as his reward. Well, he shouldn’t have been a condescending shit out of the gate then. Randy waited, one hand on the tap, the other idly scratching his ear to make his bicep flex under his white shirt. Fraser focused on his arm and swallowed audibly.

“That’ll be fine,” he said. “A, uh, Flying Dog then.” Randy drew the pint to set before Fraser on a coaster. He didn’t wait for the man to take a sip or comment, but headed to the other end of the bar to check inventory.

He stayed busy but somehow noticed that Fraser lingered at the bar for several minutes, apparently hoping Randy would come back and let him ask again about the piece Randy had purchased from the Gates Gallery. When Randy deliberately kept his distance, Fraser took his beer (which, Randy was pleased to note, was more than half gone) and wandered around the room to examine more carefully each painting displayed. Sometimes he moved on quickly to the next piece of art. Other times, he gave a slight shake of his head.

Randy’s ears burned, and he considered throwing the guy out. Since he’d opened Mata Hari no one had given him grief about his collection. To be honest, no one had studied it the way Fraser did, but still. Each piece had been acquired because Randy connected to something in it. To have this handsome English stuffed shirt look down his nose offended Randy in a way he couldn’t even articulate. He seethed inside the longer Fraser spent on his dismissive tour of the room.

When Fraser reached a landscape that was hung over a small settee, he gave a distinct snort. He set his empty beer glass on a nearby table and Randy swooped over to pick it up, ostentatiously swiping the wood as if it had left a ring. “Another Pearl Necklace?” he snarled.

“Ah, no. Thank you.” Fraser seemed surprised to find Randy standing so close, though his eyes remained closed off and stony. “But it was a quite nice stout after all. Thank you for the recommendation.”

Randy gestured at the landscape with his chin. “Is that painting offensive to you for some reason? You’re practically laughing at it.”

“What? Oh no, it’s…fine. Competent. It’s the presentation, the arrangement of the art, that I find amusing.”

Randy ran his gaze over the pieces arranged on that wall of the bar. He’d decided where to hang each and every work over a long stretch of time as he’d readied Mata Hari for opening. He revisited the collection frequently and rotated different pieces in and out of prominent positions. Most of his customers were oblivious but Randy took great satisfaction in presenting something unique in the atmosphere of his bar.

“What’s amusing about it?”

“Well, there’s no story, is there?” Fraser answered him.

“What do you mean?”

“Individually each piece is presentable. A few are even intriguing. But see here,” he gestured at the landscape, “this is a nicely executed pastoral, yet it’s positioned between a Japanese scroll and a watercolor of a monarch butterfly. The pieces say nothing about each other, and have no intrinsic relationship.

“But over there,” he indicated the wall opposite, “is a modern landscape. Change the frames to something complementary, place them side by side, and the two landscapes together suggest a conversation in, oh, quite a lot actually. Painting techniques, the subject and tonal changes in works separated by two artistic traditions. You see?”

Randy did see, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it. “Two landscapes here wouldn’t fit,” he said stubbornly.

“Ah. Art as furniture. Of course,” Fraser said with a smirk, and that did it.

“No charge for the Pearl Necklace,” Randy barked. “Since you made the trip for nothing.”

 

Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other.

When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

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