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!

 

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

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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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.

Amazon – Kindle Unlimited

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?

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon-Kindle Unlimited

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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Out of the Shadows by K.C. Wells: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Can he step out of the shadows and into love’s light?

Eight years ago, Christian Hernandez moved to Jamaica Plain in southern Boston, took refuge in his apartment, and cut himself off from the outside world. And that’s how he’d like it to stay.

Josh Wendell has heard his coworkers gossip about the occupant of apartment #1. No one sees the mystery man, and Josh loves a mystery. So when he is hired to refurbish the apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, Josh is eager to discover the truth behind the rumors.

When he comes face-to-face with Christian, Josh understands why Christian hides from prying eyes. As the two men bond, Josh sees past his exterior to the man within, and he likes what he sees. But can Christian find the courage to emerge from the darkness of his lonely existence for the man who has claimed his heart?

Title: Out of the Shadows
Author: K.C. Wells
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires
Pages: 250

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Josh, residential handy-man and gardener for a set of apartment buildings, has a new job to do. Instead of working in the garden, he’s been asked to do some remodeling in these outdated apartments. New bathrooms and kitchen cabinets, and tiles, it’s going to be hard work. I didn’t understand why he was expected to do it all himself, but he seemed up for it and enjoyed the work. His first day on the job, he thought he was alone, nobody seemed to be home, though after a full day of working, he found the tenant was actually just locked in his room and preferred to talk through doors or texts. He knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. People had been talking about the elusive tenant, giving him idea’s of the kind of person he might be. How wrong they were.

Christian’s life is in his apartment. He never leaves, he never sees people. It’s just him and the insurance job he does from home. An accident from almost a decade ago has left him scarred and disfigured and naturally, he’s pushed everyone away and stayed hidden. Even when he checks out the hot gardener that works in his garden. Little does he know, the man who’s been hired to redo his apartment, IS the hot gardener. Talking through the door seems silly, but he wouldn’t dare let the man see what he looks like.

Until one day, he does. Josh is amazing. He’s patient and kind and everything Christian needs him to be. He doesn’t pretend to not see the scars, but they don’t bother him a bit. I like how he didn’t pretend to not see them, or try to downplay what I’m sure is a serious thing for Christian. He didn’t brush off his anxiety about going out and about, he just worked around it. He nudged him instead of pushed and was so understanding when Christian was uncomfortable. He was really very sweet and of course Christian fell for him, who wouldn’t? Little did he know, the time he spent with Christian, he was falling for him too.

I love hurt/comfort stories. I love the realness of stories like these that have obstacles that aren’t arbitrary or baseless. This one was sweet and slow burning and when these two came together, from friends to lovers, it wasn’t forced or rushed. I loved that.

Although I thought the dialogue was often times cheesy, and I’ve never seen any straight friends act like teenage girls gossiping like Josh’s friends. I liked them as well. I wouldn’t mind reading stories about all of them as well. Overall, it was a very sweet read and I’m glad I didn’t pass it up.

4 pieces of eye candy for me.


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

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

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

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

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

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

By Vivien Dean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

CONTACT VIVIEN

Website: www.viviendean.com

E-mail: vivien_dean@yahoo.com

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

Twitter: @VivienDean

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