Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell: New Release Review

The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel.

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

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I wasn’t sure what to expect with Illegal Contact. Generally, Santino Hassell‘s books are gritty, dark and quite unlike any other author in this genre (in my estimation). So, having him write a football series seemed-well-out of character from what I would expect of his books. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised with it.

Gavin needed Noah in ways that he couldn’t even comprehend. Meanwhile, Noah did not put up with any of Gavin’s cr@p. He would push back, and Gavin, although he didn’t like it, could appreciate that Noah didn’t care who he was, he wasn’t going to be dismissed lightly.

Gavin had a true journey here to discovering himself, not simply as a bisexual man, but as a human being capable of caring. He’d really only connected with his two best friends, having not had any real childhood to speak of, and so he only showed loyalty for those two. Yet, through his time at home, and his time with Noah, he began a journey to finding what being a part of a productive and caring society, and a part of a caring (and let’s be honest-HOT!) relationship really meant. It was interesting to see that he learned this, all while not being allowed to leave the grounds of his home.

I liked the fact that these two men didn’t just fall into bed two days after meeting. The author could have easily threw them together into the same house from day one, and taken the quick road to love. But he didn’t, he held these two apart, making Noah commute every day to Gavin’s house. It not only grew the tension, it allowed Noah a bit of the upper hand, something Gavin wasn’t used to. It also gave Noah some challenges during the weekends away when he knew Gavin was having a difficult time dealing with his house arrest.

The implosion of their relationship had me crying, simply because I could see it happening easily, especially in the situation they were in.

Very satisfying ending, and it has me dying for book 2, Down by Contact, Simon’s story. January is a long way away!

4.5 pieces of eye candy

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Remember When by SJD Peterson: Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

Life is simple and hopeful in youth. Luke and Nelson are best friends exploring their budding sexuality. They have big plans for the future, and nothing can stand in their way or tear them apart—except a family move that puts a continent between them.

Ten years later Luke and Nelson meet again, but nothing is simple anymore. As strong as the attraction remains, obligations and expectations come between them as Luke is forced to honor family responsibilities over the desires of his heart.

Impossibly fate sees fit to offer them a last opportunity to see what might have been. Will the third time be the charm, or is trust so badly broken it is impossible to repair? Can they recapture the innocent love they once knew and make up for all the wasted years? In a love story that spans half a lifetime, two friends destined for each other will have to fight hard for their happily ever after.

Title: Remember When
Author: SJD Peterson
Release Date: August 28, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 210

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Exclusive Excerpt:

Had he lost his goddamn mind? Luke was a friend he hadn’t seen in ten years, not a potential date. He shook his head at his stupidity. Just two old friends having dinner to catch up on old times. It didn’t matter that Luke was still the hottest guy Nelson had ever laid eyes on. Maybe Luke had become a jerk. Perhaps they no longer had anything in common. Hell, just because they rubbed off on each other a couple times, shared a few blowjobs, it didn’t make Luke gay. A lot of adolescents experimented. It didn’t mean anything. Besides, Luke talked about a steady girlfriend. “So put your dick and your hope away,” Nelson warned himself.

The jeans weren’t the easiest to get into with wet skin, but he managed. Somehow he was able to dress, fix his brown mousy curls—sort of—spray on a little cologne, and was downstairs in the allotted time. He was presentable, but sure, he looked frazzled. Of course, when he spotted Luke leaning against a pillar, Luke appeared calm and relaxed and, man, oh man, did he look presentable. He was wearing tight jeans and a baby-blue dress shirt the same color as his eyes that accentuated his deep tan. He wore his hair styled back, the longish strands tucked behind his ears, and from this distance, it looked dry, unlike Nelson’s wet mop.

“Just dinner with an old friend,” he mumbled. He ran his fingers through his hair one more time and took a deep breath.

His hands were shaking so badly he shoved them into the pockets of his jeans to hide his nervousness. With as much confidence as he could muster, he strolled over to Luke.

Luke smiled when he spotted Nelson. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Oh, that was original.

“The receptionist said they have excellent food in the Torch Light, but if you’d rather get bar food, we can hang out in the lounge.”

“Might be hard to talk in the bar,” Nelson pointed out.

“True. Torch Light it is. We can always head to the bar later.”

Nelson walked along with Luke, doing a little mental math. He had to meet his client at seven in the morning and still had to go over the notes his boss had sent him. He was young. As long as he got back to his room by, say… two… three at the latest, he’d be good.

The restaurant was high-end. White linen tablecloths, fine china, cut-crystal wineglasses. The whole nine yards of way too fancy for me to be here. The other patrons wore slacks, dinner coats, and dresses. Nelson was way underdressed, as was apparent from the disapproving looks he was getting. However, since Luke was dressed casually as well, it did make Nelson feel marginally better. He pointed out the dress code as soon as they were sitting and the host had walked away.

Luke waved a dismissive hand. “Like I care. My money spends just as easily as theirs.”

Nelson shook out his napkin and laid it in his lap. “I’d have thought, you being from Malibu and all, you’d adhere to etiquette. You know, wear nothing but the finest everywhere you went.”

“This is my finest. Best pair of blue jeans, that is,” he chuckled. Luke then tilted his head. “Does it really bother you? We can go somewhere else if you prefer.”

“Nah, I’m good. Hell, I don’t even own the finest pair of anything.”

“My kind of guy,” Luke said. He flashed that stunning dimpled smile before hiding it behind his menu.

SJD Peterson, better known as Jo, hails from Michigan. Not the best place to live for someone who hates the cold and snow. When not reading or writing, Jo can be found close to the heater checking out NHL stats and watching the Red Wings kick a little butt. Can’t cook, misses the clothes hamper nine out of ten tries, but is handy with power tools.

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Suspicious Behavior by LA Witt and Cari Z: Blog Tour, Exclusive Guest Post, Review and Giveaway

Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/L. A. Witt/Cari Z blog tour for Suspicious Behavior, the second Bad Behavior book!

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of an eBooks off each of our backlists (excluding Suspicious Behavior) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 26th.  Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

 

Five things I (L.A.) learned while researching for this series (about the subject matter or each other!)

When you’re writing a thriller, research happens. It’s just part of the game. Fortunately for me, I live with a cop, so a lot of the research is really just: “(turns head) Hey, what would happen if…?”

So what did I learn while writing the Bad Behavior books?

  1. About serial killers… They’re not all geniuses. In fact, they’re largely average or even below average intelligence.
  2. About cops… All that stuff where the cops are turning on Darren and Andreas? Backstabbing? Pettiness? It happens. For real. Okay, so I knew that, but researching and writing this book meant diving deeper into it, and… yeah. It can get ugly when cops turn on other cops.
  3. About early onset Alzheimers… Man, that stuff is heartbreaking. Cari knows much more about it than I do, so I followed her lead, and… wow. The ferocity of the disease and the speed at which someone deteriorates is so much worse than I ever knew.
  4. About HIV… I honestly had no idea just how many advances had been made in treating and managing the disease. Between this series and my upcoming Bluewater Bay book, New Hand, I’ve spent a lot of time this year researching HIV, and it’s been amazing to see how many strides have been made since the 1980s.
  5. About my co-author… Y’all, she seems nice and sweet and all, but don’t be fooled. When it comes to characters, Cari is as sadistic as I am. Maybe more so. Evil. Evil, I tell you! AND SHE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

 

Detective Darren Corliss is hanging by a thread. In between recovering from a near-fatal wound and returning to work at a hostile precinct, he’s struggling to help care for his ailing brother. His partner and boyfriend, Detective Andreas Ruffner, wants to help, but doesn’t know how. And with his own family crises brewing, Andreas is spread almost as thin as Darren.

For cops, though, life takes a backseat to the job. When a stack of unsolved homicides drops into their laps, Andreas and Darren think they’re unrelated cold cases. But when a connection surfaces, they find themselves on the tail of a prolific serial killer who’s about to strike again.

Except they’ve got nothing. No leads. No suspects. Just a pile of circumstantial evidence and a whole lot of hunches. Time is running out to stop the next murder—and to pull themselves back from their breaking points.

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Suspicious Behavior is the second in the Bad Behavior series by LA Witt and Cari Z, and I have to say I am glad to see that there will be a book 3, Reckless Behavior in 2018. I’m enjoying this series on multiple levels.

I really love the relationship between Andreas and Darren. They are great offsets for each other. In book 1, so much was about how Andreas was dealing with the issues in his life, leading up to the culmination of the book where…well, I don’t want to give that part away in case you haven’t read this series, but if you have, you know what happens. 🙂

In book 2, we see more of their relationship blooming from a support level. Darren is crumbling inside, as more and more stressors build for him. Throughout the story, they are working to catch a serial killer, yet real life doesn’t give them even a moments break. Seeing how heart-wrenching it is for Darren to deal with Asher’s debilitating disease, knowing he can only be supportive is tough for Andreas, but he works hard to be whatever Darren needs him to be. We see that these two men are not merely F-buddies (and in fact there really is only one sex scene in book 2), but a growing relationship that they are building to last.

Andreas, of course, has his own issues…mostly of his own making…to deal with, but manages to muddle through with only a minimum amount of pain to himself and his children. And seeing how he reacts to his children, allows the reader to see that he isn’t just a hardened detective, who scowls and growls, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He is a man who loves his children, despite not seeing them often, and having tried to shut them out of his personal life on many levels. His daughter Erin doesn’t allow it, and he learns that maybe opening up isn’t going to carve him to pieces.

Although much of the focus of this book was working through all the circumstantial evidence to find the killer, and seeing how cops can easily turn their backs on other cops, it still manages to make these two men, who realize how much they need each other, a priority to each other. Finding stolen moments together may be all they have, but they know that time is precious and will take whatever they can.

Looking forward to book 3!

4 pieces of eye candy

It’s “hell no” at first sight for newly partnered detectives Andreas Ruffner and Darren Corliss. Darren is too chipper, Andreas is too gruff, and that whole “IA wants me to prove you’re a dirty cop” thing really doesn’t get them off on the right foot.

It doesn’t matter if they like each other. They’re partners and that’s final. Though Andreas is easy on the eyes. And Darren is kind of cute. And . . . okay, maybe they can make this work.

They’d better, because as their cases get more horrifying—and more personal—they’ll have to trust each other with their lives, and with their hearts.

Check out Bad Behavior!

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About Cari Z.

Cari Z was a bookworm as a child and remains one to this day. In an effort to combat her antisocial reading behavior, 

she did all sorts of crazy things, from competitive gymnastics to alligator wresting (who even knew that was legal!) to finally joining the Peace Corps, which promptly sent her and her husband to the wilds of West Africa, stuck them in a hut, and said, “See ya!” She also started writing, because some things she just thought she could do better. She’s still climbing that ladder, but can’t stop herself from writing, or from sharing what she creates.

Cari enjoys a wide range of literary genres, from the classics (get ‘im, Ahab) to science fiction and fantasy of all types, to historical fiction and reference materials (no, seriously, there are so many great encyclopedias out there). She writes in a wide range of genres as well, but somehow 90% of what she produces ends up falling into the broad and exciting category of m/m erotica. There’s a sprinkling of f/m and f/f and even m/f/m in her repertoire, but her true love is man love. And there’s a lot of love to go around.

Cari has published short stories, novellas, and novels with numerous print and e-presses, and she also offers up a tremendous amount of free content on Literotica.com, under the name Carizabeth.

Connect with Cari at http://cari-z.net/  or via her blog, http://carizerotica.blogspot.com/

About L.A. Witt

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut . . .

L.A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

To celebrate the release of Suspicious Behavior, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide credit and their choice in an ebook from each of Cari and L.A.’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 26, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

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Pins and Needles by A.J. Thomas: Release Day Review with Giveaway

The truth is rarely seen on the surface, and getting to it might mean digging deep….

After a devastating accident and a long stay in the hospital, the last thing petroleum engineer Sean Wilkinson wants to deal with is the settlement the oil company tries to force on him. He’ll never be able to work in his field again, his education is all but useless, and his surgeons are pessimistic about whether he’ll ever walk again. He needs someone in his corner, but most lawyers take one look at his tattoo-covered foster father and turn their backs. It’s just Sean’s luck that the one attorney willing to give him a chance is also the hottest guy he’s ever seen.

As a trial lawyer, Nate Delany has a lot to prove—to his father, the world, and himself. Sean intrigues Nate, and he struggles to reconcile the gifted tattoo artist he can’t stop fantasizing about with the quiet, brilliant engineer. His investigation reveals facts left out of the accident report—including an illicit affair, greedy coworkers, and a vicious corporation that will do anything to protect its bottom line. When Sean’s life is threatened, winning Sean’s case, and his heart, becomes a lot more dangerous.

Title: Pins and Needles
Author: A.J. Thomas
Release Date: August 25, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 300

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This was a good story. A bit different in that most books I have read with a main character who loses a limb or has an accident is usually in the military. Not so with this. Instead, a seemingly freak accident. So points for originality.

Nate is the typical gay son of a powerful lawyer who can’t live up to his father’s expectations at all. So he walks out. His first client is one his father’s firm wouldn’t represent- Sean.

Now, I normally like reading about law in books as I feel that it educates me. But I definitely had some eye rolling that Nate, newly minted lawyer knew far more than seasoned lawyers. And there was a lot of law talk in the book.

There was also a lot of technical talk about what Sean did on the ship. My eyes glazed over a bit honestly.

Ultimately, the story is one of hope. If you live your life for you and no one else, you can be happy. Sean enjoyed what he did on the ship- but his real passion was tattooing. Quite a polar opposite. Sean did a lot of poor pitiful me pouting, but that is to be expected when the guys life is pretty much torn apart and everything he has worked for is gone.

Together Sean and Nate had a very slow burn. Which they needed as they were lawyer and client. And they had a sneaky little way of getting around that at the end.

Hawk- the man who raised Sean after he was kicked out- was great. I loved just about every scene he was in. Gruff on the outside, teddy bear on the inside.

So while this was slightly predictable, there was a bit that wasn’t. Well, I mostly figured it out but I always try to do that when there is a mystery involved.

So twists, some turns, lots of technical talk, slow burn romance, hot sex and tattooing. Not bad.

3.5 pieces of eye candy


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The Shore Thing by A. R. Barley: Release Day Review with Giveaway

Sunburned Delaware native Dale Seward spends his summers wrangling lifeguards and cracking crabs. His winters are a whole lot colder.

Nico Travelli’s never even seen the ocean, but when his family’s plans for him get derailed, he realizes his future in their upscale Italian restaurants might be over, and it’s time for something new. He’s hypnotized by his first look at the Atlantic—until a wave takes him out. Luckily, Dale’s there to pull him to safety.

Dale knows better than to fall for a summer person, but that doesn’t mean he can’t show Nico a good time. Between the ice cream cones and the put-put golf, these two lonely hearts soon find themselves in over their heads.

But when Nico is tempted by a second chance at the life he always thought he wanted, will he be brave enough to give it up for the possibility of true love with Dale? And what does the sexy lifeguard do during the winter? In a state as small as Delaware, secrets are bound to come out.

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

Title: The Shore Thing
Author: A. R. Barley
Release Date: August 23, 2017
Category: Contemporary, States of Love
Pages: 104

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This short novella from an author that I had not read before, was a quick but enjoyable read. Nico was a little naive, while Dale had spent his life in the area, and consequently knew everyone in town, and they knew him. I really enjoyed Dale showing Nico (and me) around his great state of Delaware. That was one of the best aspects of this story. Seeing all the different areas of a small state, and all the fun things that someone visiting could do. It also allowed the reader to get to know Dale, who kept himself a bit at a distance, since he knew better than to fall for someone who was just there for the beautiful summers, but would be gone as soon as the cold winters came.

I loved seeing how the conclusion came about, with Nico’s family and how he would address finding the life he wanted to lead. It was a cute short story with lots of side characters dropping in and out, and seeing how two people decide what they really want to do with their lives, as separate people, and as a couple.

3.5 pieces of eye candy


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Rule Breaker by Lily Morton: New Release Review with Giveaway

Is it really wrong to want to murder your boss?

Dylan has worked for Gabe for two years. Two long years of sarcastic comments. Two long years of insults, and having to redo the coffee pot four times in the mornings to meet his exacting standards. Not surprisingly he has devoted a lot of time to increasingly inventive ways to murder Gabe. From stabbing him with a cake fork, to garrotting him with his expensive tie, Dylan has thought of everything.

However, a chance encounter opens his eyes to the attraction that has always lain between them, concealed by the layers of antipathy. There are only two problems – Gabe is still a bastard, and he makes wedding planners look like hardened pessimists.

But what happens when Dylan starts to see the real Gabe? What happens when he starts to fall in love with the warm, wary man that he sees glimpses of as the days pass?

Because Gabe is still the same commitment shy, cold man that he’s always been, or is he? Has Dylan had the same effect on Gabe, and has his solid gold rule of no commitment finally been broken? With his heart taken Dylan desperately needs to know, but will he get hurt trying to find the answers?

From the author of ‘The Summer of Us’ comes another scorchingly hot romantic comedy, showing what happens between two men when rules get broken.

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Okay, you know a book really hit you when you are still talking about it, still posting on social media about it, and still posting quotes from it days after you read it. And that is how I feel about

Rule Breaker by Lily Morton. I haven’t read anything by her, and received a review request on it. I thought, “looks kind of funny, and I need that right now…sure.”

 

Wow! Was I wrong. It made me giggle out loud (on an airplane no less!). I highlighted multiple passages (if I highlight, and I don’t often, it might be one or two passages). And I savored it, by taking a couple days to read it, because I didn’t want it to end.

These two men bring the snark. The emails at the beginning of each chapter are hilarious. Here’s one example:

To: Gabe Foster

From: Dylan Mitchell

Due to your temper tantrum over my spilling coffee on your laptop, I am taking an early lunch. Would you like me to bring you something back? Maybe the blood of a virgin, or eye of newt?

Dylan and Gabe are hilarious throughout the book, and that just made it so much better for me as a reader.

However, there were also a lot of feels. I cried at more than one part. (Lily, I do not like crying when I am reading, just saying…it’s okay, I will forgive you this time.) Dylan had such a soft heart, and it was so obvious how much he loved Gabe, while Gabe was so stand-offish, with good reason, and just would not allow anyone close to him. Pushing Dylan away more than once with his hurtful actions and words. It was hard to see these two butt up against each other, and both walk away practically bleeding, yet you knew they were perfect for each other, once they got their heads out of their arses (it is set in London, so have to use ‘arse’).

The second half of the book was more painful than humorous, but still had plenty of spots of humor. In the end though, this book worked so well for me, on so many levels. I don’t often mark things as a re-read, and I haven’t given a 5 pieces of eye candy rating in months. Both of these are happening with Rule Breaker, and I am glad for it. Now, I will have to sneak back and read Lily’s other romantic comedy, The Summer of Us.

Lily Morton has offered up a $5.00 Amazon Gift Card to a commenter on this blog post. So, tell us, do you enjoy reading romantic comedy books?

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King of the Fire Dancers by S.T. Sterlings: New Release Review and Excerpt


When he’s propositioned by a wealthy stranger, it seems Coy Conlin’s impoverished life is about to be upgraded. But before he can share the news with his family, he comes home to find his grandmother murdered and his little brother missing. To make matters worse, he’s thrown in prison along with every other shifter under the Sovereign’s orders.
August Seaton left his laboratory job at the Asuda Registry to become a Registry officer. But after a mission with his partner goes horribly wrong, August ends up with Coy’s dead grandmother on his hands, and Coy thinks he’s the murderer. Worst of all, his partner discovers his secret.
August is a shifter. And now he’s Coy’s cellmate. Coy and August must survive each other, abusive guards, and a scientist hell-bent on forcing Coy into a breeding program.
Teamed up, the pair escape prison and journey across the country. With the Registry hot on their trail, they have enough things to worry about. Falling for each other wasn’t supposed to be one of them.

King of the Fire Dancers
Author: S.T. Sterlings
Series: Shift Happens
Release Date: August 14, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-947139-59-6
Format: ePub, Mobi, PDF
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Category: Romance
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Word Count: 89700
Sex Content: Explicit
Pairing: MM
Orientation: Bisexual, Gay
Identity: Cisgender


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Chapter One Excerpt

King of the Fire Dancers
S.T. Sterlings © 2017
All Rights Reserved

There were two things that Coy Conlin was exceptionally skilled at. The first was dancing. The second, and more unconventional, was turning into a dragon. Both were in his blood and took years of trial and error to perfect, but the former wasn’t a danger to those around him. It wasn’t easy maneuvering a dragon body, especially not one as big as his. Dragons had claws, scales, and fangs. He even had the misfortune of retaining his proneness to seasonal allergies, which sure as hell took explosive sneezing to a whole new level. Still, thanks to his grandmother—a dragon shifter like him—he’d mastered shifting and everything that it entailed from a young age.
Like hunting.
His prey was a slender boy with white skin and blue eyes. The boy raced past, auburn hair catching the wind and blowing about his head. He scurried through the dried grass, his pale, gangly legs kicking up dirt as he rushed to hide behind a large tree. Laughter disguised as a growl escaped Coy’s mouth. As if a mere tree would provide the boy sanctuary.
Coy hated flying. Dragon or not, he preferred to keep his feet—and claws—securely grounded. But, humans were often smarter than they looked, and he knew that if he continued to creep along the ground, the boy would feel the vibrations caused by his heavy footsteps. And so, he pushed off, sharp talons grazing earth as he hovered above the coarse ground. His wings, as wide as sails on a cutter, pierced the air and sent forward a powerful gust of windblown, dusty dirt. He flapped them again, creating a mini dirt storm between himself and the tree and, most importantly, his prey.
A shower of prickly leaves and thin, brittle branches fell to the ground. Seconds later, the boy emerged from behind the tree, arms up and over his head, shielding himself from the downpour. Amidst the cascading debris, Coy caught the look of determination on the boy’s face. Wedged tightly in the boy’s grip was a rock, jagged and angled, the tip pointing toward the sky. A rock? Really? A puny, misshapen hunk of slate? What good would that do against a ninety-foot-long dragon with scales as black as onyx and five times as hard?
A rock.
The little idiot.
The boy let out a wail of a battle cry and charged forward, gripping the rock in his hand like a warrior wielding a sword. There were hundreds of ways Coy could have reacted, and most would have ended with the boy dead on his feet. Instead, he stood there, a beacon of massive power and pride, and allowed the boy to attack. He didn’t feel the impact of the rock smashing against his leg, though he did see the resulting blood. It wasn’t his. It would have taken much more than a rock to puncture his scales.
It was the boy’s.
The force behind the thrust of his hand had caused the rock to ricochet off a section of scales and created a shallow cut in the center of his reddened palm.
Coy had been specific with the rules—no blacking out, no crying, and no bloodletting. If any of those happened, the game ended immediately. And, although the human tried to hide it, he was definitely bleeding.
“No, wait. I’m okay. I swear it. I’m fine. Look. It barely—”
The protest fell on deaf ears—literally. Coy couldn’t hear—or see—anything during the transformation. It was as if he were alone in a black, soundproof room, nothing but darkness and depth and the feeling of endless falling. His heart rate quickened, slamming against his chest like a musician’s calloused hands pounding against a hand drum. He inhaled through his nose, focusing on the rhythm and physically and mentally controlling the pace of his heartbeat. He calmed his mind, grasping at emotions pulsing like lightning, smoothing them out until his vision began to return. First, blurs of colors: reds and browns and a single blob of white standing directly in front of him.
Then, all at once, everything returned.
“It’s barely a scratch,” the boy muttered, folding his pale arms over his chest.
“Too bad,” Coy replied, rubbing at his jaw. It felt good to use his vocal cords again. He was incapable of speech as a dragon, just limited to snarls and hisses…and fire breathing. That last one came in handy. “Rules are rules, Ari.”
Ari—Coy’s adopted brother—frowned. “You didn’t even give me a chance.”
“A chance to what?” Coy rolled his shoulders in an attempt to relax some of the tension in his muscles that came from shifting. “Find another rock? What was that supposed to do?”
He trudged away from his younger brother, crushing dead grass beneath his bare soles. He spotted his discarded sarong lying by a fragment of slate, the latter’s golden-brown surface highlighted with speckles of fiery red. The color was reminiscent of his own skin, warm brown with red undertones—the exact opposite of Ari’s. Even if Ari had somehow managed to slightly injure him with his dumb rock, the bruise would have been difficult to see. One of the many perks of having brown skin was that it didn’t display bruises well. Growing up, that played to his advantage with the number of fights he got into.
Ari pouted. “It was the only thing I could think of.”
“Yeah, well.” Nude, Coy bent down to retrieve his sarong. “That type of thinking is going to get you killed. Or worse, you’ll get your ass kicked.”
Ari rubbed his bloody hand against his sweat-soaked tunic. “How can getting beat up be worse than dying?”
Coy watched as the blood stained the faded fabric. Ari had already outgrown most of his clothes. What he had left was either tainted or torn. Coy would have to take up private performances at this rate just to make sure he could afford to buy Ari clothes.
“If you’re dead, you won’t have me around to rub it in.” He grinned at Ari and then motioned toward the open wound on his hand. “Better not let Dinina see that. You know how she gets.”
He wrapped the thin, cobalt-colored sarong around his waist, securing the two ends into a knot. They’d spent half the morning outside, which meant he’d spent just as long in his dragon form. He’d be exhausted later, but it was worth it. He always had fun hanging out with his little brother. Still, he felt like he was forgetting something.
And then he remembered.
“Shit!” he shouted, the sound so loud and sudden that it startled an unkindness of ravens perched in a nearby tree.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Ari asked, blue eyes wide with concern.
There were several things wrong, and all of them could be summed up with two words.
“The Registry.”

**SPOILER ALERT** I really liked this.

Coy Conlin is a dragon shifter who enjoys a career as a popular fire dancer at a circus, and recently acquired a wealthy, ah, patron. He makes enough money from their dalliance to quit dancing (if he chooses) and live quietly with his grandmother (also a dragon shifter) and his adopted brother Ari, a human. They live in the kingdom of Asuda, where shifters are the minority and are monitored by the Registry, who perform regular and kind of demoralizing interrogations and bodily inspections of all the shifters in the kingdom. Shifting is tightly regulated, and shifters are chipped.

Registry officer August Seaton is a new recruit and while Coy is appreciative of the guy’s looks, you might guess that these two will embark first upon an adversarial relationship before anything else fun and sexy can happen. That’s okay, I can wait! Coy is justifiably resentful towards the Registry, but his instincts lean towards a teasing and sarcastic nature. Despite Coy being a part-time dragon, and a large human to begin with, he’s more likely to verbally spar and bait his opponents than resort to violence or physical resistance. Coy has some family-related trauma from his youth that still haunt his dreams and while we know August’s childhood caused him to grow into a friendless near-recluse, we don’t find out why right away. August, like many humans, believe that shifters are sub-humans, but he also feels compassion for them.

The king experiences a tragedy that results in all shifters being imprisoned indefinitely. During the sweep Coy’s grandmother is killed and August allows Coy to believe that August killed her (he didn’t because that? Would be unforgivable). Until roughly the midway point of the book, we see Coy in prison, how he and the other shifters are mistreated and further dehumanized, and his hatred for the Registry — and August in particular — fester and grow. The two are then thrown together and the remainder of the book involves an escape attempt and the two men learning to trust each other as they grow closer.

I won’t say the first half is dull or moves slow. It’s necessary and we learn about the attitudes towards shifters, and how Coy and August interact with the world, themselves and each other. Coy’s not simply an angry guy, he’s a bit of a tease and a flirt and knows how to charm people for what he wants. August keeps to himself and being a lonely shut in, it’s easy to see how he is manipulated by his partner, Fate, and others. Their initial interactions are understandably tense and it’s not until the second half that the action really takes off. Once they spend time together, August loosens up just a bit, and he and Coy have an easy and fun bantering relationship. I laughed a lot and just really enjoyed how they were with each other. It wasn’t until I was 80% in that I realized this is actually part of a series — which is good because it was nowhere near getting wrapped up at that point. As you might suspect, these two really start to care for each other, throwing them into confusion as they each deal with their preconceptions about the other and of course their own personal traumas keeping them from wanting to give themselves to another person. This is a slow burn and we only get a teasing amount of gratification before it ends and we’re left waiting, wondering when the next book will be out. Talk about angst! I can’t wait to see what happens next.

3 pieces of eye candy, with the caveat that I think I might be a bit stingy considering the smile on my face when I finished. I’m wary of committing when I don’t know when I’ll get the next fix, er, book. Basically I’m holding this review hostage until I get the next installment and I can make a more informed decision!


S.T. Sterlings is a university librarian, a part-time instructor, and a full-time fangirl. She is originally from Virginia but currently lives in Southern California with her two sons and her maniac of a dog.

Website: http://www.ststerlings.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ststerlings

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Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood: Quick Review


Evolutionary psychology professor Henry Hathaway is ready to spend his birthday the same way he does every year: a good teeth cleaning followed by lunch with his brother. But when he receives a wrong-number text confirming the details of a date, he does what any considerate person would—he goes to meet them and explain why they’ve been stood up.

Asher Wescott hadn’t expected his blind date to go well, because when do they ever? Henry shows up instead, and things are suddenly looking up. Socially awkward and attached to his routines, Henry is nevertheless one of the most charming and kind men Asher has met in a long time.

Too bad he’s not Henry’s type.

An accidental date, an impulsive kiss, and a few conflicted feelings later, can Asher get Henry to see the world—and him—in a different light?

Release Date: August 10th, 2017

Title: Textual Relations
Author: Cate Ashwood
Publisher: Cate Ashwood
Genre: Contemporary m/m romance (GFY)
Length: Novella – 32,500 words
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35668308-textual-relations

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This is a super sweet, quick read. But it doesn’t skimp on the hotness factor either!

A wrong number, total opposites and someone discovering they weren’t as straight as they thought. This could have been a very formulaic romance. But it was really well written.

Often times a shorter book doesn’t have character development and relies quite heavily on sex scenes to move through the story. And while there are sex scenes- both characters were really great. Henry is completely “adorkable”  and Ash is a bit of a wild child. They complement each other really well. This definitely wasn’t a forced opposites attract story.

Ash teaches Henry to go off script sometimes. To have adventures- big or small. Once Henry realizes that taking a risk brought him to Ash, he understands that letting go of structure sometimes is fine. And Henry does the same for Ash- shows him that sometimes structure is good.

I chuckled with Henry researching his newfound attraction to men (or at least Ash) as completely scientific. It just made perfect sense to him.

It was the perfect palate cleanser after reading a big heavy novel and gearing up for another.

Definitely give this a read. I will absolutely add this author to my list of books to look for.

4 pieces of eye candy

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Changing Tides by Alex Standish: Release Day Review and Giveaway

While most pirates sail in search of riches, Captain Devon Hall, the infamous Phantom of the Caribbean, is driven by vengeance. Devon has sworn to put an end to the corrupt governor of Jamaica and break the ruthless man’s stranglehold in the Caribbean.

When Devon is wounded and stranded on land, an unlikely rescuer comes to his aid. Brett Campbell is nothing like his uncle, the governor, and his goals are not so different from Devon’s. Brett longs for freedom, but his obligations to protect those under his uncle’s control keep him from fleeing. Throwing in with Devon might increase both their chances of success—and survival.

When the governor’s attempts to destroy Devon escalate and place Brett in danger and in the hands of the ruthless and depraved pirate Captain Blackburn, Devon must risk everything to save the man he loves and repay his enemies.

All Devon’s ever wanted is his ship, his freedom, friends who stand by his side through thick and thin, and someone to love. But facing dangers at sea and on land, Devon wonders if they will live to enjoy it all.

Title: Changing Tides
Author: Alex Standish
Release Date: August 16, 2017
Category: Historical: Americas
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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Changing Tides tells the tale of Devon, a notorious pirate known as the Phantom of the Caribbean who’s the captain of The Flying Horse. He and his crew do what pirates do, that is sail around looking for ships to commandeer and plunder. In between pirating, he’s got it in for the governor of Jamaica, Rupert Campbell, who Devon responsible for his father’s death, and is always looking for opportunity to take the guy down. The book opens with Devon wounded but stumbling his way to the Governor’s mansion where he is found by Brett, the Governor’s nephew. Brett nurses Devon back to health and during his recovery, he and Brett grow fond of each other. Naturally these two are going to have a bit of a hard time getting this thing off the ground, and before they can do much, the governor returns and Devon must flee. What follows is a pirating adventure that sort of reminded me of the classic Treasure Island: hidden treasure, an old map, adventure, ship battles, kidnappings, revenge, the high seas.

There were so many elements that would make me like this book: Pirates, romance, fights, rescue, bad guys getting their comeuppance…but I did not love this. The writing is a bit stilted and the details are kind of bland. I didn’t really feel anything for the characters or the romance. There’s a lot of tell, not show, here and conversations just don’t feel quite natural. There are a few love scenes, but at one point, Brett is half dead and it feels kind of icky for them to be attempting sexy times. This feels like an early writing attempt as far as dialogue and writing style go, but the plot wasn’t horrible. In fact, thinking back to Treasure Island, the style of writing is similar in that there’s lots of action and plot, and it’s much less character driven — not my favorite thing. Still, the good parts were okay and the less good parts really weren’t the worst I’ve read. I’d give the author another try in the future.

2.75 pieces of eye candy


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The Foxling Soldati by Charlie Cochet: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Foxling Toka has served the Soldati king for centuries, and now he attends to the kingdom’s cherished Soldati prince. It’s a position of honor, and as Toka helps the once-human prince adapt to their magical realm, he finds joy in their friendship. He also grows bolder in his encounters with Rayner, Soldati warrior and the king’s second. But the laws are clear: servants and Soldati are not permitted to mate. It doesn’t matter that Toka lost his heart to the dashing cad long ago.

Rayner never imagined he would fall in love with a servant, but the clever and beautiful foxling has ensnared him, and he resents the regulations keeping them apart. When an arrogant and spiteful king visits from a neighboring realm, Rayner is in danger of losing everything. But Soldati warriors don’t surrender, and he intends to fight all the harder to keep Toka where he belongs—in Rayner’s arms.

Title: The Foxling Soldati
Series: Soldati Hearts: Book Two
Author: Charlie Cochet
Release Date: August 16, 2017
Category: Fantasy: Urban Fantasy; Paranomal: Angels & Demons; Paranormal: Werewolves/Shapeshifters
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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Welp, that didn’t turn out like I thought it would.

Let me explain. I tend to shy away from fantasy books in general and shifter stories specifically. I’m not sure why. But this is an m/m and has a historical feel, so I gave it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?

Toka is a playful shape-shifting foxling who lives in the Soldati realm which is ruled by tiger shifters. It’s a nice place, actually: everyone seems to be happy and gets along, the king, Khalon, is easy going with a sense of humor, humility and since finding his fated mate, Riley, is pretty much in honeymoon mode 24/7. Toka’s lot in life is to be a servant, but the Soldati treat their servants (though let’s be honest, they’re slaves) kindly and respectfully. Rayner is the king’s sexy, tiger-shifting right-hand man whose (mutual) interest in Toka goes from flirtation in Book 1 (The Soldati Prince) to physical almost right away here. Pair up a tiger-shifting warrior with a lean twink-like foxling and you’re going to have some sexy times.

Toka and Rayner’s flirtations grow more heated and draw them closer together, physically and emotionally. Toka is just… so sweet, and I always like to see a big, tough alpha like Rayner show his soft, gooey center trying to please his little fox. There’s a bit of angst about whether this coupling is a fun distraction or true love — but it hardly matters because there’s a stupid ancient rule on the books that forbids Soldati and servants to mate. So, while the two can fool around all they want, they can never legally, officially, or openly pledge themselves to each other. Doesn’t that make you so mad? Me too.

The real trouble starts when the Soldati are visited by the king of a neighboring realm who is, essentially, a bear-shifting bully whose desire for revenge against Rayner fuels an uproar amongst the Soldatis and pits long-time friends — and new lovers — against each other. Toka finds himself in an intolerable situation and Rayner has to decide how far he will go, how much he will give up to keep Toka with him.

This is a short, sweet read and the short format naturally requires a sped-up lust-to-love-to-angst-to-resolution timeline and that may not be for everyone. Cochet’s writing is quick and to the point, and the plot flows smoothly. There are light hearted moments, the characters are drawn well and I’m mad, sad and a bit angsty along with them at times. There’s threat of rape and a couple of beatings that take place. Still, things may be a little too happy-happy for some, but I think it worked here for me because of the short-length format (Do not give me 800 pages of happy-happy). I liked Riley, the king’s husband, a lot and while you don’t need to read his book (The Soldati Prince) first, you do need to read it. DO IT. I knew I would get an HEA (because otherwise I would break things) but a little detail at the end made me even happier. So, while I shy away from shape shifting books in general, I was pleasantly surprised in how much I enjoyed this book and the series. Looking forward to reading more Charlie Cochet.

3.75 pieces of eye candy!


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