Contemporary Romance

Review: Beginner's Luck by Kate Clayborn

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Title: Beginner's Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #1)
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date of publication: 31 Oct 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 5 stars


Blurb

When three friends impulsively buy a lottery ticket, they never suspect the many ways their lives will change—or that for each of them, love will be the biggest win of all. 

Kit Averin is anything but a gambler. A scientist with a quiet, steady job at a university, Kit’s focus has always been maintaining the acceptable status quo. A sudden windfall doesn’t change that, with one exception: the fixer-upper she plans to buy, her first and only real home. It’s more than enough to keep her busy, until an unsettlingly handsome, charming, and determined corporate recruiter shows up in her lab—and manages to work his way into her heart . . .

Ben Tucker is surprised to find that the scientist he wants for Beaumont Materials is a young woman—and a beautiful, sharp-witted one at that. Talking her into a big-money position with his firm is harder than he expects, but he’s willing to put in the time, especially when sticking around for the summer gives him a chance to reconnect with his dad. But the longer he stays, the more questions he has about his own future—and who might be in it. 

What begins as a chilly rebuff soon heats up into an attraction neither Kit nor Ben can deny—and finding themselves lucky in love might just be priceless . . .

Review

What a fantastic debut! It had everything I love in contemporary romance - an engaging plot with lots of real-life details and interesting complex characters finding their HEA.

There is so much I liked about this book, I feel I can talk about it for weeks. The story covered so many aspects of life without ever being superficial about them, while still not drowning the reader in details. There is a richness to the characters (both main and side ones), to the background and the plot itself has a few twists that kept me invested in the story the whole time. I was both in a hurry to find out what happened next and at the same time I wanted to read slower in order to savour all the beauty of the writing and to fully appreciate all the tiny details the text offered.

Both Kit and Ben are wonderful characters, I really can't say whom I liked more. They are complex and realistic, dealing with different heavy issues in a mature way.

Kit is a scientist, a professional, a close friend and the daughter of a father with alcohol and gambling addiction. She is pretty much self-made and works hard to make a home for herself and to feel settled and secure. I loved the dynamics of her found family with her best friends Zoe and Greer and I appreciate so much the emphasis on female friendship and the support they gave each other.

Ben, oh Ben, he was a troubled soul. On the surface he is successful, even happy with his professional and personal life, seemingly in control, but he is thrown in for a loop when his father suffers a nasty fall and he has to come back to his home town temporary to care for him. I read him as neuroatypical (ADHD?), and he had some anger management issues in his adolescence that still troubled him. I liked how we see so much of him dealing with his family, with his colleague and friend Jasper, with River, a troubled teen that they get to help them in the salvage yard, with his conflicting feelings for Kit. There are no easy solutions to his problems and fought hard to make things work for everyone.  

There is a strong caregiver aspect in the story which I found important. Both Kit and Ben do their best for their family, despite the strained family dynamics. I like the depth of with which they were explored. We see their pasts really shaping much of their present and the people we see today. 

It's a slow burn romance, tender and intense, emotionally charged, happening under unusual circumstances. I liked how their professional entanglement was handled, and really respect Ben for giving up on recruiting her when he developed personal connection with her. 

It's essentially a story of two grown-up people meeting and falling for each other despite the circumstances. We follow them as they find a way to work through the obstacles in their way, and these were some real obstacles, practical ones. There was no magical solution, but a compromise, a personal growth in both of them which allowed them to be together. In a way both came to a decision on their own and I liked that, unlike in most romances, it was her who did the grand gesture in the end. And rightly so.

We get to meet two leads falling in love and turning their lives around to start a new one together. There are unforgettable side characters, a well developed background - places and jobs, lovely details on the work in the salvage yard and Kit's job and house restoration (as a fan of all such TV shows I loved that so much). They all gave richness to the story which I greatly enjoyed. 

Powerful debut which I greatly recommend to fans of contemporary romance! Can't wait to read the next one in the series, coming in March 2018.

Purchase links: Amazon • B&N • iTunes • Books-A-Million • Google Play • Kobo

Author Interview

New and Debut: Nora Phoenix

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My guest today is debut author Nora Phoenix. Her first m/m romance, No Filter was just released and it's the first book in a series of three. Read a short interview introducing the author and her book. 


Meet Nora

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
I grew up around books, since both my parents were voracious readers. There were books everywhere in our house, and that’s where my love for stories started. Plus, my mom was an amazing storyteller. I started writing stories as a teen. If I look back now on those stories, they’re adorable and filled with teen angst, but they brought me so much joy. After that, I never really stopped. It did take a long time for me to take my writing seriously, though. Last year, I decided that I wanted noting more than to pursue my dream to become a romance author, and I fully dedicated myself to writing. I’ve been many things in my life, and have had various jobs, but there’s nothing I love doing more than writing, especially romances. They make me so happy.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
I write MM romances, and I got into that genre through the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R Ward. I loved that series, but one of the books (Lover at Last) was an MM )male-male romance, as opposed to MF, male-female), and I loved it so much, that I started looking for more MM romances. That’s when I discovered that whole genre, and something clicked. My favorite MM books have somewhat broken characters, a lot of emotion, steamy sex, and I do appreciate a little kink, haha. I read tons of MM romances, so it’s hard to pick one book or author, but some of my favorites are the Red Dirt Heart series by N.R. Walker and anything by Devon McCormack and Riley Hart. Some recent releases I really loved were Damage Control by Lynn van Dorn and The Rules by Jamie Fessenden.

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
Phew, that’s a tough one. My style is commercial, I’d say. I’m not a fan of a writing style that’s highly literary, though I can certainly appreciate the beauty of that writing. It’s just not my thing. I prefer simple, straight-forward writing that gets across what you want to say. My influences are whatever I read, which ranges from tons of MM romances to a lot of popular science/psychology, history, biographies, and more. Anything I read can inspire me for a plot, a character, or even a setting. My No Shame series is set near Albany, NY, where I live, but also in Boston, a city I’ve come to love from visiting a few times.


4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
My stories are steamy MM, as I call it, but with a strong emotional plot and characters. I absolutely love this genre, and I don’t see myself moving out of it anytime soon. Other than that, I like to flirt with different tropes, and turn them a bit upside down. I guess my stories are unconventional, different. That may not be to everyone’s liking, but I can live with that. It’s what the boys in my head come up with!

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
My first MM romance was released on October 26th. It’s called No Filter, and it’s the story of Indy, a man on the run from his mobster ex. He’s determined to stay under the radar to prevent his ex from finding him, but then he meets Noah and his best-friend-with-benefits Josh, and then it’s not so easy for Indy to run anymore. It’s the first book in the No Shame series, which will consist of four books, all released a month apart, and it’s not a stand-alone novel. There’s a happy-for-now at the end, but Indy’s troubles are far from over, and won’t be fully solved until the last book. Every book in the series will feature a new couple, as well as continue Indy’s story. As I said, No Filter is a little different because it’s not a ménage, yet flirts with that trope, but everything will work towards a big happy ever after, I promise!

Book Title: No Filter (No Shame Series Book 1)

Author: Nora Phoenix

Release date: October 26, 2017

Cover Design: Sloan Johnson (Sloan J Design)



Blurb

Indy will do anything to prevent his mobster ex from finding him. Their last encounter left Indy recovering for months in the hospital, and ever since he’s become an expert at hiding in plain sight. Determined to stay under the radar, he takes on a new identity and moves from place to place. His life has no room for friendships, let alone love, so he keeps his heart firmly closed. After all, he has nothing to offer but a damaged body and a broken soul. Plus, he’s so done with men. Until he meets the man who breaks through all his defenses.

Former Army Medic Noah came back damaged from his last tourin more than one way. Between supporting his best friend-with-benefits Josh who’s struggling with PTSD, dealing with his own issues, and the stress of his job as a physician assistant, rebuilding his life seems impossible. There's little time for what Noah needs, let alone for what he wants. When he meets Indy, Noah discovers what he wants more than anything: for Indy to stay. But how will a relationship with Indy work when Noah needs Josh as well?

Indy never expected the strong, confident Noah to be as damaged and broken as himself. But what will happen if he starts letting Noah in? Indy knows he should run to protect Noah and Josh. 

Noah needs Indy to stay more than anything. But will what little he has to offer be enough to make Indy trust him and stay? 


No Filter is a steamy M/M romance featuring an open relationship (no cheating!) that ends with a HFN, but with the promise of a HEA. It’s the first book in the No Shame Series, and is not a stand-alone novel. It contains hot sex, a hint of a ménage, lots of talk about hot sex, flashbacks of said hot sex, and…Oh well, you get the idea. Also: trigger warning for mentions of sexual abuse.


Author Bio and Links

When she was a little tot, Nora’s mom got a library subscription for her. That, as they say, was that, and a lifelong love for books was born. Nora never stopped reading and doesn’t exaggerate when she says she devours books, rather than plain reads them. She started writing stories as soon as she could hold a pen, and wrote her first full book as a teen (on a typewriter!). It took her waaaay too long to follow her dream to become a romance author. 

Nora writes M/M romance, because hello, sexy boys, and likes her men flawed, strong, and a tad broken. She appreciates a little kink, but insists on a happy ever after.

Come hang out with Nora in her Facebook group Nora’s Nook where she shares previews, sneak peeks, freebies, and much more: 

To stay up-to-date with new releases from Nora sign up for Nora’s newsletter here: http://www.noraphoenix.com/newsletter/

You can also stalk her on Twitter: @NoraFromBHR

You can contact Nora through nora@noraphoenix.com


Book recs

What to Read: Foodie Romances

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Welcome to another post of the series "What to read" where I present lists with my favourites on a given topic/subgenre/theme and then add the recommendations I got for it on Twitter. Here are links to the previous posts in the series: 


This time I'll be talking about romances with characters working in the food industry where making food and consuming it are central/important elements in the overall story. 

Disclaimer: I use Amazon affiliates links on my blog to support my reading/book blogging. I have also included links to my reviews of the books I have read.



1. Amour et Chocolat series by Laura Florand. It is this mf romance series that prompted me to seek more recs for foodie romances and to write this post. The heroes in these are top French chefs, making the most delicious deserts and food plays a really central role in their stories. So much focus is placed on preparing the food, and them consuming it and the joy it brings people, the primal expression of caring for someone by feeding them and making them sigh in pleasure/sensory overload. I love all the books but Dom and Patrick are definitely my favourite heroes.

2. Paris Nights is another mf foodie series of Laura Florand, this time it's about women chefs and here the focus is more on their struggles to reach top professional level and how to balance or even find room at all for personal connections (and love, bedsides the one for food making) in their lives. These are more topical, touching on some political issues (terrorism, racial prejudice). My review of Trust Me (book 3)

3. Afternoon Delight by Anne Calhoun, a mf erotic novella where the heroine owns a food truck and hero is paramedic. Rich, sensual, lots of focus on making food and the delight it brings eating it/feeding it to someone. My review

4. A Taste of Honey by Rose Lerner, another mf erotic novella, this one is set in Victorian times. A confectioner and his shop assistant. Shy, virgin hero and slightly less experienced but equally shy heroine overcome their what holds them back and explore carnal pleasure. Beautifully written with  focus on desserts so much that it made me crave all the sweets while reading it. My review

5. Beard Science by Penny Reid, mf romcom, where the heroine is a baker (in fact an undisputed local competition winner, know as the Banana Cake Queen!) and hero is mechanic (and overall smartass weirdo) Not what I expected from Cletus but such a powerful story about the choices we make, the assumptions, the guilt and responsibility and finding oneself. My review

Here are the foodie romance people on Twitter recommended when I asked:

1. Delicious Desires series by Sabrina Sol, mf romance series with MCs who are chefs, bakers, restaurateurs. I saw mixed reviews of the series on GR but it got recommended to me by friends on Twitter

2. Ruby by Jeffe Kennedy, book 3 in erotic BDSM romance series, can be read as standalone

3. Small Change by Parrish, mf (heroine is bi) romance, hero owns a sandwich shop.

4. Chef's Table by Lynn Charles, mm romance where a driven top chef meets local short order cook and they fall in love

5. The Sucre Coeur series by Lissa Reed, queer series (mm and ff romances) with MCs in the food business - bakers, baker owner, pastry shop decorator. Mixed reviews on GR

6. The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal, mf romance/women's fiction

7. Trust with a Chaser (May-December) and Tender with a Twist (kinky, BDSM), mm series by Annabeth Albert, MCs that co-own a tavern, one of them is a chef

8. Team Phison by Chace Verity, May-December mm romance, both MCs in work in the food industry

9. Idlewild by Jude Sierra, mm romance is also set in the food industry, one MC own a restaurant and hire the other MC to work in his kitchen
10. Tied Score by Elia Winters, mf romance, hero owns a bakery

11. Under the Knife by Laurin Kelly, mm romance set at reality TV cookery contest with 2 competitors falling for each other

12. Mourning Jack by S. A. Meade, mm romance, the narrator is a chef

13. If I Should Stumble by Claire Davies and Al Stewart, mm romance where one the MC's is a baker, the other a refugee

14. Hudson Valley series by Alice Clayton, mf romcom

15. Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen, mf romance, hero is a farmer and cider maker, heroine is a chef. it's not my favourite in the True North series but lots of friends love it



Austin Chant

Review: Caroline's Heart by Austin Chant

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Title: Caroline's Heart 
Author: Austin Chant
Genre: Trans romance, Western, Witchcraft
Release date: 25 Oct 2017

Author links: Facebook / Twitter / Website
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars



Blurb

Cecily lost her soulmate years ago, leaving her with nothing but the clockwork heart that once beat in Caroline's chest. They say it's impossible to bring back the dead, yet Cecily's resurrection spell is nearly complete and grows more powerful by the day. 

But when a cowboy she barely knows is fatally injured, the only way to save him is by sacrificing an essential piece of the resurrection spell—and all possibility of seeing her lover again.

Review

Such a wonderful and a little bit spooky story full of magic!

I loved everything about it, the characters, the plot and the setting. I found it very atmospheric, I could feel the oppressing heat of Texas and the fresher air of Oregon, I could picture the house and garden and tiny workshop of Cecily, I lived through all the sorrows and joys of Roy and Cecily. And the magic was all pervasive and so profoundly present in the story, it brought everything and everyone together while also posing the gravest danger to them.

I found this story very much like Peter Darling, very moving, emotionally intense and all consuming. I keep returning and re-reading it for the sheer beauty of Austin Chant's writing and the fascinating world-building. He includes all these little details both about the characters (main and supporting ones) and their world which make them feel tangible and real.

I loved how we get to know the characters gradually as they get to know each other. It's s low burn romance and they are kind of opposites in many ways - he is good-natured and kind and well mannered and full of curiosity and childish wonder of the world, in complete awe of her and her witchcraft. She, on the other hand, is more wordly, more experienced, a bit jaded, really good at her craft and but also a heart-broken and closed off to the world after she lost Caroline.

Their story is all about magic and love and the possibility for happiness, of being loved and giving back love. Despite the creepy elements, I see this as mostly a hopeful story and reading it filled my heart with joy. I see this easily becoming a comfort read for me.

In short, I can't recommend this book enough.

Purchase link: Amazon

Cover Reveal

Exclusive Cover Reveal for Walking on Water by Matthew J. Metzger

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I'm hosting my first ever exclusive cover reveal today. And I'm nervous and excited about it. Here goes nothing!

The upcoming release of the talented author of queer fiction Matthew J. Metzger, Waking On Water (Nine Star Press, Nov 13th), is a contemporary trans retelling of The Little Mermaid and I have honour and privilege to show you its fabulous cover first. In a bit. First off you can learn more about the book and how it got written from the following short but fun (I promise ;) interview with the author. 

Interview

1. So far you have written only contemporaries, YA and adult, but this is your first fantasy book, right? What inspired you to write it?
I've always enjoyed science fiction and fantasy, and I wrote a couple of old Nanowrimo projects in those genres, but this retelling was the first to truly seize hold of me as I wrote it. The others just fizzled out and died, so it's more coincidence than anything else. This one was just different somehow, maybe because it was a retelling of a story I already love, maybe because I'm a much better writer now than I was in my early 'Wrimo days. I still love it now, and usually by the time I get to publishing a book, I'm sick of the sight of it!

2. Why did you choose to do a trans retelling of a classic children’s story (The Little Mermaid)? 
I'm one of the team over at Trans Book Reviews and I read a lot of novels with transgender main characters, as well as write a fair few of my own. Retellings always interest me because I want to see what new things the author can bring to an old story, be that having a transgender Belle or a lesbian Snow White or—anything you want! The Little Mermaid is a favourite of mine, and I had a craving from my work at the review site for a transgender version. But when I asked my twitter librarians to recommend me one, they couldn't. And the overwhelming response was they pushed a pen and paper at me, virtually speaking, and told me to get on with it!

3. Do you have favourite retellings (queer and not) you would recommend everyone to read?
I haven't actually read that many. Unfortunately I only tried to find them when I got the craving for a trans retelling, and immediately found an F/F retelling that turned around and threw trans people under the bus by making the only non-cis character in the book the villain. So I've been very wary of book retellings and stuck to my (*whispers*) preferred film and TV. *ducks rotten fruit*

4. Do you have plans to write more fantasy/retellings? 
I've been planning a fantasy trilogy based on medieval Islamic Spain for a long time, but that probably won't happen for a while yet because of the amount of research I still need to do. As far as retellings go, I have an outline that is basically 'Rapunzel retelling meets geek romance.' I have a feeling if I admit that to my twitter followers, I'm going to get shouted at for not having done it yet!

5. What was the best and the most difficult thing about writing this story?
The same part! So one of my bugbears about the original story is the whole voice aspect. One, there's no way these two people speak the same language anyway so taking her voice so she can't tell him is nonsense, and two, I never liked the aspect about her singing being the most beautiful thing ever either. Like, maybe it is underwater but you ever tried to speak underwater? It's garbled nonsense. A mermaid is going to sound horrific on at least one side of the surface, right?

So I moved around it by putting a language barrier in place. The love interest, Prince Janez, is German. The whole human kingdom is German. So whenever our hero hears the humans talking, it's written in German so both he and most readers won't understand. I had two native German speakers helping me with the German, both culture and language, and it was one of the hardest but most fun undertakings in my career. German is similar enough to really play around with the language and as one of my helpers was a linguist, we had a blast with this! Held (our hero of the story) genuinely thinks Doktor is the name of one of the characters—he doesn't know that's just his title as the royal physician. He mistakes a captain in the guard saying 'my son' as the name of the child and thinks his son is actually called 'Meinsohn.'

As an example of really how to mould the language, there's a scene where Held learns what flowers are. Well, in German, a flower is blume. The plural is blumen. Held translates this as 'one bloom, two bloomings.' And it makes a strange sort of sense in English as well, which wouldn't be possible if the story had been set in, say, the Mediterranean.

It was fiendishly difficult and I think my poor editor was ready to kill me by the time the book was ready to be published, but it was so much fun. (And spoiler alert, I would totally do it again!) 

6. Finally, can you tell us more about the cover? (Who did the design? Did you have input in it? Is it what you had in mind initially?) 
The cover is by the wonderful Natasha Snow, and although I did have input, I am not artistic in the slightest so I'm always more than a little useless when it comes to book covers and never know what I want until I see it. I basically told her the themes and mood of the story, and she went away to come up with something. And I love Natasha's work, so even when the first draft wasn't quite hitting the mark for me, I was in a weirdly nice zone of 'I would totally be okay with it if the publisher decided to go ahead and use it like that anyway.' But we talked about it, we tweaked the things that were making me pause a little, and the result was this gem!

*** *** ***

Now, ready or not, here is the that gorgeous cover Matthew spoke about! It's a thing of beauty isn't it?

Book Info 

Title: Walking on Water
Author: Matthew J. Metzger
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Word Count: 80,000
Identities: bisexual, transgender
Release date: 13 Nov 2017

Blurb

When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.

Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?

Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?

Author Bio and Links

Matthew J. Metzger is an asexual, transgender author dragged up in the wet and windy British Isles. He writes queer characters living all manner of lives, but especially likes to write the stories from the pub, the beautiful game, and the terraces where he lives and works today. Although mainly a contemporary romance writer, Matthew has recently been found straying out of his zone and playing in other genres' sandboxes.

When not writing, Matthew is usually at his day job, working out, or asleep. He is owned by an enormous black cat, so should generally be approached with either extreme caution, or treats.

He can be primarily found on Twitter and Facebook or over at his website, and is always happy to hear from readers.

Friday Favourites

Friday Favourites: Laura Bailo

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After getting some lovely notes from blog readers saying how much they enjoyed the Friday Favourites posts I decided to re-start them. I'm very happy to welcome as my first gust in this new edition of the feature, Laura Bailo, author of queer fiction. You can learn more about her and her debut mm romance, The Sun Also Rises in her New and Debut post  from this spring. Today she shares some of her favourite things in the world and introduces the just released collection of 10 lesbian/bisexual paranormal stories, The Holy Company.


Friday Favourites 

Thank you so much for having me, Ellie! I’m excited to take the seat and answer your questions, though I admit I may curse once or twice along the way. 

1. Favourite place: in the entire world? That’s a difficult one. I love Pamplona, and I think I’m lucky to live here. It’s a beautiful city and I really enjoy walking around and showing it off to people when they visit. Within the city itself I’d say my favourite place is the old town – and there’s a café I really love called Café Iruña, right in the city centre. I love sitting there, drinking coffee and watching people come and go. 

Outside of Pamplona, I visited Edinburgh a few years ago and fell completely in love with the city. I’m dying to visit again. 

2. Favourite food and drink: drink is easy – coffee. I’ve been trying to drink less, and I’ve actually managed to go from 5 cups a day to two most days, although there are still days when I’ll have three or four (don’t tell anyone!) As for food… I don’t think I have a favourite? I love cooking, and I love food. If I had to choose, though, I’d probably be a tie between a Spanish omelette and my mum’s chicken in almond sauce. 

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song: you know? The other day I noticed that I don’t listen to music as much as I did before. I remember my university years I couldn’t live without music; I was always listening to something and singing along. I don’t think I’ve listened to anything new in months. I’ve always been a rock lover, so I’ll go with that. 

4. Favourite movie/TV series: this changes from time to time, and I’ve got a lot of favourites. I’ve been watching Stargate SG-1 lately, and loving it. And I can always rewatch the BBc’s versions of Merlin and Sherlock. And of course there’s Doctor Who! But please don’t make me choose a movie, we’ll be here forever! 

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby: as much as I grumble and stress over writing, it’s more than a hobby to me; it’s something I need to do to keep myself sane, it’s a part of who I am. When it comes to hobbies, I love board games, and doing puzzles. And reading, I couldn’t live without books.

6. Favourite books: this may be the most difficult question yet. I’m going to go with recent reads, or we’ll be here forever. I love Matthew J. Metzger, and I’ve loved most of what I’ve read by him, but I recently read Private and outright adored it, especially the dad – the clueless dad that loved his sons no matter what, even if he didn’t understand things. Jigs and Reels by Leigh M. Lorien was a lovely novella that I enjoyed a lot, with a permanent smile while reading. Right now I’m reading the Chaos Station series by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen, and while it’s killing me and making me cry, it’s a series that will stay with me for a long time. Team Phison by Chace Verity made me happy; I read it in one sitting and I adored the characters and the way their relationship developed. And I’ve also recently read the two books available of the Hong Kong Nights series by JC Long and those kept me glued to the page, waiting to see what would happen next. I made it to five right? I’m going to leave it there or I could be talking books all day.


Into the Mystic, vol. 2, an anthology of 10 lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories, featuring the following authors: Elna Holst, Valentine Wheeler, A. Fae, Sita Bethel, CC Bridges, Laura Bailo, Jacqueline Rohrbach, MK Hardy, Lina Langley, TS Porter

It was released on Oct 16 by Nine Star Press.


Green Love – Have you heard about the aspen clone in the heart of Blackwood forest? Some say it’s enchanted, while others…
Dead Letter – Signed, sealed, delivered…or was it?
Seaside Escape – Just because it's been done for generations doesn't mean it should be.
Dressed in Wolf Skin – She was never particularly fond of werewolves, but she hated skinwalkers.
Unraveled – Summer can hack their magic, but she can't hack her own heart.
The Holy Company – On an ancient holy path, they will come face to face with one of the local legends.
Vampire Hours – One’s a vampire. The other is human. One wants forever. The other wants everything to end.
To the Sea – Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and dive in.
Holy Water – She might be the most dangerous being in the world, but Clara is still in love with her.
Lighthouse Five – Is it possible for a mermaid and a human to build a relationship?

Add to Goodreads / Buy links: Nine Star / Amazon

Laura Bailo’s story: The Holy Company

Sophie curses the day she said yes to Anna’s idea of walking Saint James’s Way in Spain. She’s exhausted, and she doesn’t think she can keep her feelings for her a secret for much longer. But a day of rest soon turns into a nightmare when they come face-to-face with one of the local legends, and Sophie’s secret is no longer safe.

Author Interview

New and Debut: Brianna Kienitz

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My guest today is Brianna Kienitz, debut author with Nine Star Press. Her f/f soccer romance Off Pitch came out last week. Learn more about Brianna in the following short interview and read an excerpt from the book at the end of this post. Enjoy!



Meet Brianna

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Haha! Oh boy! I started writing fiction a little over a year ago. My first project (which I'm still working on) is a young adult apocalyptic sci-fi series. Though I loved reading fluffy woman-loving-woman romances, I never thought I'd have kind of story in me. 

After several months of feverish writing, I was getting worn down and running out of juice. I needed a change, something completely different to cleanse my palette. I was writing on Wattpad at the time, and had prodded fellow authors to write more lesbian soccer stories. When NaNoWriMo came along last November I decided to take matters into my own hands, and Off Pitch was born. 

Turns out I had a romance story in me after all. It has opened the floodgates for a whole slew of sports romances I have planned for the future.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth is my favorite book of all time. It's young adult lesbian fiction coming of age story by a Montanan about a Montanan. Being a Montana native as well, the settings, characters, and story resonate down to my roots. 

Coming in a very close second place is the Starborn series by Maggie Derrick, currently in its beta stage on Wattpad and Maggie’s blog. Her magic realism stories are like living in a work of art, and are nearly impossible to put down. 

I also love the Waking Forever series by Heather McVea. It's hard to beat sexy vampires who happen to be women-loving-women with grew exceptions. It's thrilling, it's steamy, it's fluffy, and it hovers perpetually near the top of my recommendation list. 

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
Before I started writing, I was reading stories featuring women-loving-women voraciously. However, I'm pretty isolated in my little Hobbit hole, and I was starting to run out of things I wanted to read within my limited scope. (Twitter has opened up a whole new world for me, so now the problem is my lack of time, not my lack of reading material.)

I started writing the kinds of stories that I want to read. A lot of my inspiration comes from the characters and stories i love. If I didn't love to read what I was writing, I would never finish the story. 

A lot of my inspiration also comes from dreams, real life, the people around me, experiences I've had, and the things I'm passionate about. I love Ireland and classical music, and I can't seem you keep those two things from working their way into my stories. 

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
Like I said, I started out in young adult sci-fi. Off Pitch is contemporary new adult. I have an unsettling amount of adorable romances planned. There are a couple of fantasy stories waiting in the wings. I can't imagine writing a story without some amount of ladies falling in love, but I like to keep an open mind. I'm a happy leaf floating wherever the wind takes me. 

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
Off Pitch follows Adeline Fahey, an undergraduate student at Northwestern University. She’s a straight-A student, but that's nothing compared to what she can do on the soccer field. Her focus is razor sharp and she’s on course to become a highly sought after professional player. 

Razor sharp that is, until the teaching assistant walks into Addie’s Beginning Spanish class. A graduate student from Spain, she's already a world class cello player poised to become the darling of the symphony. 

Despite the university's fraternization rules and their drive towards their goals and passions, the two women can't help but gravitate towards one another. The road is rough, but sprinkle in a sarcastic best friend, homophobic parents, and a T-rex costume, and they just might have a shot at something more in life than they ever could have planned for. 

It's funny, it's steamy, it's adorable, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Blurb

Soccer star Adeline Fahey has never taken an interest in the world outside of the pitch. The daughter of wealthy Irish immigrants, and a straight-A student, she sees nothing the the goal - finish her last two years of school and join a professional soccer team - no ifs, ands, or buts.

Then Gabriella Soto, a cello prodigy in her own right and the teaching assistant in Adeline’s dreaded Beginning Spanish class, walks onto her playing field.

After a drunken night in a T-rex costume boots their hearts onto a collision course, Adeline and Gabriella must tackle a field of school scandal, homophobic parents, and their own passionate career goals to have a shot at something more. In the face of so many obstacles, Adeline and Gabriella fear that their love may not be strong enough to score them the championship relationship they never knew they wanted.

Buy links: Publisher / Amazon / Add to Goodreads

Author Bio and Links

Brianna Kienitz (pronounced Kee-nits) started out as an avid reader of lesbian fiction. When reading no longer sated her appetite, she turned to writing the stories she craved. Brianna believes a good story should make you feel every moment deeply, whether it be laughing until it hurts, crying yourself dry, or screaming with unbridled rage. Her Wattpad works have been widely read and have received multiple awards from the Wattpad community. Her current project, Off Pitch, was named Wattpad LGBT Book of the Month in March 2017.

Brianna lives in Missoula, Montana, where she works as a slayer of transit demons, and a dance instructor. She spends most of her down time hiding in her Hobbit Hole with her wife and cat, curating T-rex costume GIF’s and pretending not to be socially awkward on the internet. 


Excerpt

It hadn’t even been two weeks, and already I was falling behind in my Spanish class. Much to my chagrin, I needed help if I was going to pass the class. And so it was that I found myself making my way to the place where Marcy had said she would be holding office hours. A few people threw casual greetings my way as I maneuvered through the narrow hallways.

“Heyyyy, Fahey,” a generic-looking bro said as he passed me by. I was too caught up in trying to remember if I knew the guy to respond. I was fairly certain I had never met him before.

Sometimes, being me was weird. A lot of people on campus knew who I was, not because I was a particularly social person, but simply because I was one of the top athletes in the school. I had received a full scholarship to come play soccer for Northwestern, and started every game during my freshman year. From the start, I was a force to be reckoned with. I’d been the school’s leading soccer star ever since. As such, my name had made it into the school newspaper after almost every game, often accompanied by pictures of me tearing it up on the field.

Suffice to say that I had achieved a moderate amount of celebrity on campus in the two years I had been here. It made me more than a little uncomfortable at times, but not enough to deter me from my passions. I played soccer because I loved the game, and nothing could change that.

I reached the office I had been seeking and stopped short outside the open door.

“Oh, hello. Adeline, right?” Gabriella sat at a nondescript desk in the cramped space beaming up at me more brightly than I felt the situation warranted. I hadn’t realized I was still standing in the doorway staring until Gabriella’s smile faded slightly and she cleared her throat. “Would you like to come in?” she asked, sounding concerned and confused by my behavior.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Just Addie is fine.” I snapped out of my stupor and took the seat at the end of the desk reserved for wayward students such as myself.

“What can I do for you, ‘Just Addie’?” she teased with a good-natured chuckle.

“Well, I’m hoping that you might help me pass this class. I’m terrible at Spanish.”

“Everyone is terrible at Spanish at first. That’s why they call it learning,” she replied with thinly veiled sarcasm. Gabriella may have seemed shy in the classroom, but clearly there was more to her than met the eye.

I had yet to be in such close proximity with her. Now that I was, I could see a spark burning behind her jewel-like hazel eyes that spoke of something fiery hidden beneath her reticent exterior. It created a persona of mystique that I was finding terribly distracting. It didn’t help that she was utterly gorgeous. Her chocolate-colored hair perfectly complemented her bronze skin. She was relatively small in stature compared to my five-foot-nine frame. I guessed she was a few inches shorter than me, and her curves were to-die-for.

“So, did you have something specific in mind to work on, or did you want me to teach you the whole of the Spanish language right now?” Gabriella’s snark caught my attention, and I looked down sheepishly to avoid staring at her any longer.

“Umm...I guess I don’t really understand the whole masculine/feminine thing.” Of course you don’t. You’re a lesbian. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at my poor choice of words.

Gabriella was the picture of patience as she explained the difference between the masculine and feminine word endings, and the mechanics that went along with them. I marveled at the complete lack of condescension in her explanations. I had been to office hours with other TA’s and professors that had left me feeling like a fool by the end of the session.

“Where are you from?” I asked several minutes later, once I felt that I was beginning to get a handle on the concepts we were discussing.

“España,” she replied without looking up from the diagram she was drawing to display different vocabulary words with feminine and masculine endings.

“Oh. That explains the accent.” Wow. Smooth, Fahey.

“What about you? You don’t sound wholly American, either.” I was glad Gabriella had chosen to ignore that dumb comment.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said with a cocky half-grin. “I’m from Naperville, but my parents are Irish immigrants. I guess their accents rubbed off on me a bit.”

“Huh. That’s cute.” I didn’t know if she realized what she said, but the comment made me blush furiously. I was glad her attention was still focused on creating the endings table. “So, Naperville. Isn’t that pretty ritzy?”

“I guess so.” I shrugged, not wanting to delve into the details of my family or my upbringing. I was spared that uncomfortable conversation by a knock at the door. A young man I didn’t recognize stood in the doorway.



Austin Chant

Mini Reviews: September Reads

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I'm starting a new feature on the blog - Mini reviews. I'll try to make make a monthly post with short reviews of a couple books I have read in the past month (or even before) but for which I haven't written more elaborate reviews.

This time I will review four novellas I read in September: The Layover by Roe Horvat, A Taster of Honey by Rose Lerner, Peter Darling by Austin Chant and Jigs and Reels by Leigh M. Lorien.


Title: The Layover
Author: Roe Horvat
Genre: MM romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / Goodreads
Purchase links: Amazon / Kobo / Dreamspinner Press

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Review

This is a very powerful debut, very European centered, topical on the issue of LBGT rights (in Slovakia and across EU in general) It is also a tender love story, which packs a punch in a short format.
I basically loved everything about it - solid writing, interesting and realistic plot, complex characters. Ondro is defensive, sort of just passing through life without really living it, Jamie, is in a bit of a similar situation, trying to be more outgoing, reckless if you want. 
They form a deep connection over some some usual circumstances and it didn't feel forced or rushed, it was just right for them. I really appreciate that he author kept it real, there is no glossing over the hard aspects, no miraculous reconciliation with homophobic family, just moving on without them into a future shared with a person who loves them for who they are.


Title: A Taste of Honey
Author: Rose Lerner
Genre: Historical mf romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / TwitterGoodreads
Purchase links: Kindle / kobo / nook /iBooks

My rating: 4 Stars


Review


This is a historical erotic novella, full of deliciousness. It's rich in food detail that will make you crave all the Victorian desserts. We have two characters who want to be together but neither feels truly worthy of the other. I liked how it was the heroine who she took the imitative despite her doubts and fears. Mr. Moon is a lovely beta hero - a virgin who is opens himself to carnal pleasure and love. I feel the sex scenes were a bit too much for such a short read and would have preferred more character development (especially insight into their background and motivations). Still, fans of the series will no doubt enjoy seeing Mr. Moon get his HEA after his disastrous misadventures in courtship in book 1.


Title: Peter Darling
Author: Austin Chant
Genre: Retelling, trans romance

Author links: Facebook / Twitter / Smashwords / Website
Purchase links: Amazon
My rating: 5 Stars


Review

To be completely honest I don't feel fully equipped to review this story. It's both magical and painful to read at times, profound and mesmerizing. It made me feel all the feels without going into  melodrama. Austin Chant is a master story teller in this trans retelling (re-imagining) of Peter Pan. The story is made up beauty and emotion and so much fragility that it makes my heart ache. Peter's (and Captain Hook's) journeys are all about finding yourself, your place in the world, someone to share happiness/hardship with. The story has a lot to say about family (birth and chosen one), friendship, building relationships. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


Title: Jigs and Reeels
Author: Leigh M. Lorien
Genre: Contemporary m/m romance, Musicians

Author links: Twitter / Facebook / Blog / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon / Kobo

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Review

This s sweet mm romance about two musicians in renaissance fairs band falling in lover. It's a quick, fluffy story about finding and keeping the joy in your life. The plot is focused on the choice between what you should feel and do and what you real feel and want to do with your life. It's gives a strong encouragement to go after your dreams without being preachy or going overboard with positive message of "You can do anything". We see the hardships, the difficult choices but also the joy and freedom and it's heart-warming. A bit of a rushed ending and less tension/conflict that I would have liked, but overall it's a nice, solid romance.


Author Interview

New and Debut: Leigh M. Lorien

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My guest today is Leigh M. Lorien, author of mm romance novella Jigs and Reels, released on Sept 16. Travelling Renaissance band meets closed off, introverted man and... if that sounds like your kind of story, read on to learn more about it and the author. Don't miss the excerpt in the end :)


Meet Leigh

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?

Well, I have a lot of pets, a lot of books, and a lot of plants. I like photography and the outdoors, music, rainy days, and cute animals. I never actually “decided” to become a romance writer. I was trying to write epic, serious sci-fi and fantasy, but my characters kept falling in love and doing naughty things instead of pursuing their quests. The first novel-length piece I ever finished was contemporary gay romance, but I didn’t realize I’d written a romance novel until someone pointed it out to me. That’s partly because I never thought about assigning a genre, but also partly because I didn’t think there was such a thing as gay romance except in fanfiction (and even then it’s not called “gay romance”). I have never been happier to find out I was wrong.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?

One book I recommend pretty often is Redshirts by John Scalzi. If you’re a Star Trek fan, or a sci-fi fan in general, read it. You will laugh.  I also love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and I have a penchant for children’s books  such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Chronicles of Narnia, and A Wrinkle in Time.
Favorite not-children’s-books authors, in no particular order, include Jim Butcher, John Scalzi, C.S. Pacat, Josh Lanyon, Aleksandr Voinov, and Matthew J. Metzger.

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?

Absolutely everything inspires me, even something as mundane as cooking a meal. Conversations overheard between strangers. A stray vine climbing up the side of a barn. Movies, books, and music are huge inspirations. Every book I read gives me some new idea. I have a tendency to pick up voices from things I read, no matter the genre or situation—if I just read a snarky character, I’ll want to write a snarky character. If I see a cool cucumber in a movie, I’ll want to write a cool cucumber. Music is a vastly important tool for how I shape characters. Listening to a lot of metal music will make me want to write an aggressive character. Listening to dubstep makes me want to write sci-fi. A passing phrase in the lyrics of a song might inspire the idea for a relationship dynamic, or an emotion worth exploring. There are stories in everything and everyone.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?

I market myself as a queer romance author. The fun thing about romance is that it can happen anywhere! Space ships, castles, skyscrapers, you name it. I’m working on a contemporary novel and a sci-fi short story, and planning on an urban fantasy novel next. No matter the genre, my writing will feature characters from all colors of the rainbow. I have transgender, nonbinary, asexual, and bisexual characters in progress. My stories will almost definitely include dorkiness, pop culture references, music, humor, healthy relationships, and probably some kink.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.

Jigs and Reels is my first release, and it came out September 16. It’s a cute, lighthearted story about musicians in an Irish band, and the important distinction between “being alive” and “living.” The romance is fun and passionate and sweet.

 Blurb


Elijah works in a cubicle, lives with his parents, and never goes on dates. It isn’t an exciting life, but it’s safe and easy and that’s good enough.
Then he meets Peter, a whirlwind of a man who leads a traveling renaissance band. Peter represents everything Eli usually avoids, but his boisterous enthusiasm is infectious… and his band needs a fiddle player.
When Eli agrees to fill in for a weekend, he awakens a part of himself he thought long gone. With Peter’s help, he shakes off the dust that has settled on his soul and remembers how to have fun.
But when the band asks him to join them permanently, is Eli’s newborn sense of adventure -- and insane crush on a man he barely knows -- enough to make him leave the safety of a life he’s clung to for years?

Purchase Links: PublisherAmazon / Kobo

Author Bio and Links

Sometime back in the early 90’s, Leigh M. Lorien started writing and never stopped. Her anime fanfiction is still on the internet, but no amount of torture or bribery will convince her to reveal its location. While acquiring her Creative Writing degree, she tried to write what her professors called “literature,” but her male hero kept ending up in bed with the male villain, so she gave up and joined the queer writing community. She likes it there and has no intentions of ever leaving.
Leigh’s writing is character-driven and mostly contemporary for now, but she plans to write compelling, dorky, wonderfully human queer characters in every genre she can. Leigh supports mental health awareness and general human decency. If she’s not writing, she’s probably reading, gardening, petting cute animals, getting tattoos, or losing a battle against her social media addiction. She lives in a creepy old house in a creepy old town with her husband, four cats, four dogs, and probably some ghosts.


Exceprt

“Wait, what?” My heartrate spiked and I swallowed against a sudden wave of nausea.

No one had mentioned this before. Morrison’s? We hadn’t practiced Morrison’s. I knew the tune, but man, I was not prepared for this. The past few days were really pushing the limits of my spontaneity for the week. Month. Hell, I hadn’t been this spontaneous in years. Seeing my anxiety, Peter caught my shaky hand as I reached for a bottle of water. My eyes widened and I glanced around, but everyone else had better things to do than watch my every move.

“Hey,” he said softly, and brought my hand to his lips for a kiss, like an old-fashioned gentleman. “You’ll be great. You know these songs, you’ve been on stage before, nothing is different.”

“No?” I said in a choked whisper. He wasn’t letting go of my hand. His skin was soft, smooth as silk, warm, and dry. Well, it had been dry before he’d grabbed my sweaty mitt. “I don’t know you guys at all. I’m going to fuck up, I’m going to miss a cue or, or, play a song too fast or too slow or get up there and forget how to play everything I’ve ever learned. I’m going to be too stiff, people are going to look at me and think I’m a zombie or something, some kind of weird fiddle-playing corpse, an animatronic fiddler. I don’t move around much, that was something Toby always told me, too. My ex ... band leader. Toby. He got on my case, said if I was going to be so still I might as well just sit in a chair for all the more entertaining I was on stage. I have no stage presence. I just --”

Soft fingers touched my lips. He didn’t put any pressure on me, but the mere presence of the touch made me shut up. “Shh,” Peter cooed. He met my eyes and smiled, but it wasn’t an impish, teasing smile this time. It was gentle and earnest. “You’re not going to forget those songs.” The fingers brushed back along my cheek until he cupped my jaw in his palm, thumb coming to rest on my lower lip. Why was I just standing there like an idiot? Do something! Those bright eyes had me hypnotized. I couldn’t have pulled away if I’d wanted to.

And I didn’t want to. It had been way too long since I’d had affection. Hell, even if it had just been last week, I figured Peter would have been able to entrance me. He just had that energy about him, that insane, hell bent for leather, bright eyed confidence like he could go out the door one day intending to get the newspaper and end up taking over the world. Katie had a similar sort of energy. I was drawn to it like a stupid moth to a lamp. And, much like a stupid moth, I could not actually obtain that energy for myself. I just bounced around it until it became too much to handle and I dropped.

“We’ve had two fiddlers since we got together, and a couple other temp stand-in members” Peter said, still holding my hand, still caressing my lip with his thumb. “We’re used to adjusting to new members, but I don’t foresee it being an issue. You and I click, musically. You pick up on cues like a pro.”

“Well,” I said, my voice matching his soft timbre, “you’re not exactly subtle.”

Peter laughed. “No time in life for pussy-footing around.” He let go of my hand and brought his other hand up to cup my other cheek, holding my face. He was taller than me, I realized. Not much, but just enough that I noticed when he tipped my face up towards his. He didn’t lean in though, just kept smiling. “What kind of cues are you picking up on right now?”




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