Author Interview

Friday Favourites with Kris Ripper

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My guest in this week's Friday Favourites post is Kris Ripper, author of queer romances. Zir latest book, Hold Fast, was just released this Tuesday and I can't wait to read it. Check out the favourite things Kris has shared in zir interview and read on for an excerpt of Hold Fast at the end of this post. 


Meet Chris

I will be terrible at this, fair warning. I’m impossible with favorites.

1. Favourite place
I once lived in the attic of a semi-detached house in Tralee, County Kerry (that’s in Ireland, for anyone for whom “County Kerry” doesn’t conjure mental images of rolling green hills). I had this window in the roof which hinged in the middle so it could be open in all weather—you know, ish—and I’m short, so I could stand there with my head clearing the edge and look out at the street below, and the fields that led eventually to the town green. I’ll never stand there again, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a more favored place.

2. Favourite food and drink
Tacos and ginger beer, though technically I love water more than any other drink. It just serves as a boring answer to the question. And I do adore ginger beer.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
Good god. I have no idea. How do people answer these questions? When I was writing Queers of La Vista I was completely obsessed with the song “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne. Because the story of the song doesn’t resolve, it’s all just the potential of a relationship, the possibility of something magnificent between two people if they dare try. I get off on possibilities. And daring.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
I love television. West Wing is my comfort food. I’ve seriously watched the available series of Broadchurch like three times. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is possibly the best show ever made. And back when Drag Race was on Hulu, that was the thing I turned to on the most poisonous of days; RuPaul always brightens my world.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Oh, writing’s never been a hobby. I don’t hobby well. I just finished a knitting project for the first time. Bear in mind, I have no memory of learning how to knit; my mom owned a yarn shop when I was young. I’ve always known how to knit. I just never finished anything I tried to make—until last week. I’m very proud.

6. Favourite books (feel free to list as many as you want; all-time favourites or newly released ones; grouped by sub/genre or other criteria)
Oh my god, no. Just no. This is not a reasonable question. For years as a kid my two favorites were Stephen King’s It (which I read annually at the end of the school year) and Colleen McCullough’s The Thorn Birds (which I read as some people read holy books, diving in to bits here and there to find the answers to my world). I could crawl inside James Baldwin’s prose and live there indefinitely. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga has never failed to consume and delight me. And if I had to take a single book to a desert island, it would be Alexis Hall’s Prosperity.

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release (what inspired you to write, what can the readers expect from it, etc.)
My latest release came out! It’s called Hold Fast, and it’s the story of a guy called Zack, who has everything in his life organized down to the color-coded task list…until he falls in love with Isaiah, who’s the kind of dude who dances in the rain just for fun. I love watching rigidly principled people struggle with falling in love and eventually surrender to it—falling in love being impossible to control, no matter how many lists you have or plans you’ve made. Also, I adored writing a book that takes place largely in a climbing gym staffed by people who consider each other family. Chosen family is one of the themes that runs through all my work, and it was a lot of fun getting to know all the folks in Hold Fast. Hopefully it’ll be fun for readers, too!

Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to stop by!

Blurb

Zack Scherzo likes his notebooks. And his pens. And, okay, he really loves to organize stuff. He’s organized his whole life into the ideal trajectory for his ten year plan, at which point his career will be solid and he’ll be ready for a husband and family. Everything makes perfect sense.

Until he meets Isaiah.

Driven entrepreneur Isaiah Carlin generally doesn’t get involved with lost causes, like the climbing gym Zack’s trying to keep afloat. But there’s something about the gym—and there’s definitely something about Zack—that intrigues him. He wants to help. He also wants to see what happens when Zack shakes loose some of his rules and allows himself to feel.

When passion collides with Zack’s regimented life path, something’s gotta give. And it looks like that thing is going to be Isaiah, unless he can convince Zack that sometimes real life is even better than the best laid plans.


Author bio and links

Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and zir pronouns are ze/zir. Kris shares a converted garage with a kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Excerpt

Zack nodded. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

“Sweet.” Isaiah stepped closer. “So should we go figure out what we’re offering each other?”

Zack stepped back. “Yes. In my office.”

“I’ll follow you.”

Which wasn’t, inherently, a flirtatious thing to say. So why did Zack feel like Isaiah meant I’ll be watching your ass? And god, now he was hyper-conscious of how he was walking.

Everything was calmer and more logical in his office. Like always. Even with Isaiah sitting across the desk, watching him.

Probably not watching him. It just felt like it because every time he glanced up, Isaiah was looking right at him, always with his eyebrows just a little high, like he was waiting for Zack to say something.

He had to focus. On something that wasn’t Isaiah.

He started a new section in his WoJo and began free form note taking, with sketched exclamation point icons for everything he knew needed to be in the contract, and boxes for all the information he wanted unofficially recorded.

“I’ve never seen anyone write that way. And your notebook’s a trip.”

“It’s a world journal. By which I mean it’s just a regular notebook with specific planning pages, as well as a flexible, open-ended system for additional sections as needed.”

“And color coding,” Isaiah added.

Zack froze in the process of picking up his red pen (for something he needed to double check and come back to). He glanced up, braced for derision. “It helps me keep things organized.”

“I’m not making fun. It’s kind of magnificent. And it looks cool, too.”

It looks cool? Zack pressed the pages flat and continued writing. “I always loved planners and calendars, but I never wanted to be locked in to just having the space for appointments or classes when I really needed to be able to reference so much more stuff. World journals were started by this woman who basically wanted to have a place for everything in one notebook, so she invented a system to make that work.”

“I’ve never been able to keep a calendar updated. I used to buy one every year, and by February it’d be taking up space, but I’d never use it.”

“I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to planners.” Zack smirked down at his paper.

“Many are the planners you have loved and lost?”

“That’s about it, yeah.” He scanned over the exclamation point icons. “I think I have everything. Give me your email address and I’ll send you a draft in an hour.”

Isaiah shook his head. “You work a late shift. Isn’t Crux closing soon?”

“Oh. We close at ten on Fridays.” Not that it mattered. He was off tomorrow and he really needed to study, but he’d stay until everything was done.

“I’ll keep an eye out for your email, then.”

This time Zack was the one raising his eyebrows. “I thought being self-employed meant you were allowed to stop working at some point.”

“Common misconception. Being self-employed means you never stop working, but if you’re doing it right, then you have a really good boss.”

And oh, god, Isaiah had the best smile Zack had seen in months. Or maybe this just happened to be the first time in months he’d paid attention to a smile.

He cleared his throat. He always cleared his throat too much when he was nervous. “Look, I would completely understand if you decided not to do this. Even after we’ve talked about it and agreed. I know you’re worth a lot more than a gym membership, Isaiah. There would be no hard feelings if you decided to bag out.”

“That’s what you think. You’ve clearly never pissed off Milo.”

“No way. And I’m sure he’d understand, too. I just don’t want you to feel obligated. Or to think I’m…unaware. That you’re doing us a huge favor.”

“Hey, I’m having a good time. And I can’t resist a new project. I’ve been feeling a little bored lately anyway.”

“Is this where you tell me that I’m really doing you a favor?”

“Hell no. The lighting’s going to be a clusterfuck, let me tell you. But I’m betting it’ll be worth it, one way or the other.”

That was an intriguing phrase. How many ways were there to make helping Crux worth it to Isaiah? And did any of them involve kissing?

Sheesh. Zack invented something really important he had to suddenly write down, hoping Isaiah couldn’t tell he was blushing. “I hope you don’t regret this, anyway.”

“Oh, I don’t believe in regret.”

“No?” He looked up. “So then you never fail at anything?”

“Ha. I fail all the time. I’m fantastic at failing. Show me an entrepreneur who doesn’t fail, and I’ll show you someone who’s not working hard enough.” Isaiah shrugged, shoulders rolling and settling back into place again, making Zack want to know what they’d feel like under his palms.

Randomly fantasizing about giving a guy he just met a neck rub was a real good sign he needed to get laid.

“Failure’s a way better teacher than success. I figure that’s why I’m so good when I’m good. And so spectacularly bad when I fuck things up.” Isaiah stood. “Great to meet you, Zack. I’ll be looking forward to your email.”

Zack stood. They shook hands. Again. For the third time, if you counted the one in the middle, which was less of a shake and more of a long hold. “Good to meet you, too. Let me walk you out.”

“Nah, I can find my way.”

“I insist.”

He was almost certain Isaiah whispered, “How gentlemanly” behind him.


Anthology

Friday Favourites with Xan West

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My guest today is the author of queer stories Xan West. Read on if you are curious to get to know Xan better and to learn more about their short story Tenderness included in the Queerly Loving Anthology vol. 2 which was just released. Xan also shared a short excerpt from the story which you can read the end of this post. 

PS: Don't miss Xan's recommendations for favourite contemporary romances with bi MCs. They have never stirred me wrong re good books. Make sure also to check their book review site - Corey's Book Corner


Meet Xan 

1. Favourite place: I love libraries and bookstores. One of the ways I treat myself is to include a trip to the library in with my errands. My favorite library these days is the central branch of the Berkeley Public library.

2. Favourite food and drink: These days I’m all about licorice tea as far as hot beverages go. For cold, I am favoring Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi. Foodwise, I have been over the moon recently for full sour garlicky pickles, everything bagel with lox and cream cheese, and smoked almonds.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song: I love showtunes with all my heart, and when I sing, that’s usually what I’m singing. I have a soft spot in my heart for soul, particularly Otis Redding, and for jazz standards (I love Ella Fitzgerald). I also have a deep love for particular artists and bands that cross musical influences and genres, like Leonard Cohen, Candye Kane, Nina Simone, and The Shondes.

4. Favourite movie/TV series: Picking a favorite movie is impossible. Top 12 movie musicals:
·         Victor/Victoria
·         Fiddler on the Roof
·         Guys and Dolls
·         Funny Girl
·         My Fair Lady
·         Singin in the Rain
·         Dreamgirls
·         Hello Dolly
·         Cabaret
·         A Chorus Line
·         Yentl
·         Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby: I don’t think of writing as a hobby, more like a vocation. Reading is close to that as well, but is a bit more like a hobby. I like puzzles, that would be more like a true hobby. And I like playing solitaire.

6. Favourite books (feel free to list as many as you want; all-time favourites or newly released ones; grouped by sub/genre or other criteria)

Okay this is simply not a fair question. Top 15 fave contemporary romances with bi MCs (as the MC of the story I discuss in the next question is bi).
·         The King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle
·         Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
·         So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon
·         Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
·         Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
·         A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde
·         Tactical Submission by Ada Maria Soto
·         The Boss by Abigail Barnette
·         The Submission Gift by Solace Ames
·         Team Phison by Chace Verity
·         Sated by Rebekah Weatherspoon
·         The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale
·         To Seek and To Find by Tamryn Eradani
·         F*THS by GL Thomas
·         Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release (what inspired you to write, what can the readers expect from it, etc.)

My story “Tenderness” just came out 2/15 in the anthology Queerly Loving Vol 2, edited by G Benson and Astrid Ohletz. It has a special place in my heart as an autistic writer, as it’s also the first published piece I’ve written that centers an autistic character. (I have a novel and a novella WIP with autistic MCs, but they aren’t finished yet!)

I wrote Tenderness at a time in my life when I was struggling, and had reached out for help, and gotten a tremendous amount of support. I wanted to capture that feeling of, it’s okay to fall apart, we’ve got you, you aren’t alone, and put it in story form, focused on showing what queer chosen family love can be like. The spark of the story came from a conversation with a close friend, about bi representation and the things that are rarely shown.

I put those two things together and wrote a story centering a Jewish fat bisexual autistic femme with chronic pain (Judith has chronic migraines), who has just been dumped by her lesbian girlfriend right as the story begins. Judith falls apart, has a migraine flare, and a meltdown, and struggles to deal with what this breakup means, both the ways it devastates her and the ways it frees her. She does not do this alone; instead you see her getting supported by her genderqueer BFF Shiloh, and then later on by her queer chosen family. You get to see her surrounded by love and support, from people who let her be where she is at, hold space for her as she falls apart, and help her figure out her next steps. It’s a story intended to be full of comfort and hope, the kind of coziness that comes from being surrounded by a loving queer chosen family that sees you and honors who you are.

Book Description

In part two of Queerly Loving, our authors bring you short stories with characters across the fantastic queer spectrum, with endings that will leave you warm and smiling. Trans love interests, demisexual characters trying to find their way in the world, bisexual characters dealing with a heartbreak in the best way, and lesbians on escapades.

Dragons roar into life, dystopian futures unfold, mermaids enjoy space voyages, and modern-day adventures will curl your toes and make you cheer. There are first kisses, friends that are like kin, and aromantic characters discovering their place among a queer-normative family.

Get ready for your queer adventure.

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Purchase links: Publisher / Kindle / Paperback


Author Bio and Links 

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities (including chronic migraines, like Judith in Tenderness). Xan adores vulnerable tops; strong, supportive bottoms; red meat; long winding conversations about power, privilege, and community; showtunes; and cool, dark, quiet rooms with comfortable beds. Their recent collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself To Me, is out from Go Deeper Press, and has been described by M. Christian as “a book that changes what erotica can and should be.” Xan is currently working on Meet Cutes, a lighthearted polyamorous butch/femme/genderqueer butch kinky romance novella centering autistic and disabled Jewish queers, a couple of whom have cameos in Tenderness. Xan also has a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel in the works, Shocking Violet, which centers disabled characters, many of whom are trans and non-binary, and includes a cameo from Shiloh, who appears in Tenderness.


Excerpt from Tenderness

Shiloh had been giving Judith massages to help her migraines since they’d met. In fact, it was how they met.

Gideon had brought Shiloh to where Judith was hiding out in his bedroom and said, “This is Shiloh and ze is really good at massages. How about you let zir try to ease your migraine, so maybe you can rejoin the seder?” Before that moment, Judith had never tried massage for her migraines. Maybe Shiloh’s big hands knew what to do, because it actually had helped. The migraine hadn’t disappeared, but had faded enough that she was able to return to the table.

Touch was intense today. Judith’s body had retreated into a shell and Shiloh was making the shell walls thinner with the massage. It was almost too much to have zir hands on her, but when ze started to work the tightness in her neck, it hurt in a way that was easier to manage than the rest of zir touch. Like her body welcomed the sharpness. It made her more clear-headed, this pain. She was trembling, though. That was a new thing to manage. Shiloh ran zir palms down her hair and everything felt so huge all of a sudden, she had to wrap her arms around herself she was shaking so much. Then the tears started.

Shiloh led her to the couch, and wrapped her in zir arms. Judith was mid-sized, rarely the smaller one, but Shiloh was much broader, fatter, and taller than her, and she felt wonderfully engulfed. She could not stop shaking, or sobbing, safe in the circle of zir arms. She rode the wave of it all the way through, her head on Shiloh’s chest as ze murmured softly. Afterwards, Judith was exhausted. She scooted down to lie on the couch with her head against Shiloh’s furry thigh, zir hand stroking her back. Ze began to sing, softly, and she let herself drift to the sound of “Try a Little Tenderness” in Shiloh’s raspy sweet voice.


Billionaires

Review: Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

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Title: Brooklynaire (Brooklyn Bruisers #4)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: Sports romance, hockey, boss-assistant, tech billionaire
Release Date: 12 Feb 2018

Author's links:
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

You’d think a billion dollars, a professional hockey team and a six-bedroom mansion on the Promenade would satisfy a guy. You’d be wrong.

For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.

When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together.

Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?

Review

I loved this friends-to-lovers romance so much. I have been waiting for Becca and Nate's story since we met them in the first book  and the long wait was totally worth it. It was such a fun, sexy story, with very little angst and a lot of good humour and intense emotions. I'm generally wary of boss-assistant romance but I think the imbalance of power was handled well here. It certainly was a main obstacle before the couple getting together but it was discussed in details and the solution they came up with was a good one, working for them both.

The story is told in alternating chapters of first-person POV of Nate and Rebecca and this is not my favourtie writing style but I got used to it pretty fast. We get flashbacks to their times together through the years written in a third-person POV which I found weird and not fitting very smoothly in the overall narration despite them being important and contributing a lot to the story.

I liked Nate, the geeky tech billionaire, hockey team owner, who has had feelings for his assistant for years and has kept them under lock and key because he valued their friendship and didn't want to risk ruining it and driving Becca away. Becca was fun and all kinds of amazing too, aware of her precarious situation if/when she starts a relationship with her boss. I loved how she came off as smart (despite never finishing college), how good she was at her job.

There is an easy flow to the story, a natural progression of the romance with a few setbacks, btu nothing outrageously improbable (probably except for the Alex plotline which went in a weird and unnecessary direction towards the ed). It's a true friends-to-lovers romance and we see so much of the friendship between the Nate and Becca before they became lovers and it also continued after that. The way the interacted with their friends and families presented their world as full and vibrant. Nate's AI project was hilarious and brought so much comic relief into some tense moments.

We see a lot of hockey action but the story takes a look also a look into the darker side of the sport (concussions and head injuries which were explored indirectly through Becca's fall on the ice and its consequences).

I have a minor quibble with the way Becca was presented as financially struggling which I found odd with her being the personal assistant to the CEO of a multi-million company. While I understand her difficult financial situation with her having to help support her family but it felt overdone and threw me out of the story.

The book ends with the sappiest of epilogues which made me so very happy. We get the perfect completion of the series though I wouldn't mind reading more stories about the Brooklyn bruisers.

Purchase links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Author Interview

Friday Favoruites with Talia Hibbert

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I'm excited to have my guest today the lovely Talia Hibbert, author of contemporary interracial romances. She just released her latest one, The Princess Trap, and look at the cover! and the blurb! Who could resist it! 
Read on for a fun interview with Talia and make sure to scroll to the end of the post for an exclusive excerpt from The Princess Trap!


Meet Talia

1. Favourite place
My favourite place in the whole world is actually very boring. I love my bedroom. My bed lies under a large window, and through that window I can see the sunset, and it paints wonderful colours across the sky. At night, I can see all of the stars, because in front of my house there’s only fields for miles. No light pollution. Sometimes I open the windows and lie on my bed and watch the sky until I get cold.

2. Favourite food and drink
My favourite food is sweet potato; specifically baked sweet potato with lots of salt and chilli. I love the fact that it’s orange inside. It makes me happy. My favourite drink is water, because it feels like drinking life, or cleanliness or something. I probably sound really healthy now, but I’m not. I have a sugar addiction. It’s quite bad. 

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
I absolutely adore music in general, so this is hard. My favourite artist is, of course, Beyoncé. One time I touched her and we made eye contact and she smiled at me. That was four years ago and I have been blessed ever since. My favourite genre would have to be RnB; it’s a gift. Indie rock comes a close second. My favourite song changes every few years, but right now it’s Bad to the Bone by Little Sims, because every time I hear it I feel it in my chest.

4. Favourite movie/TV series
Again, this is hard! All I do is stay in my room and read/watch/listen to cool stuff, so you’re killing me with these questions. I’m gonna choose a TV series and say... My Wife and Kids. The nostalgia factor is real, and Michael reminds me of my dad. Take from that what you will.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Makeup! I love doing my makeup. I don’t often wear it outside the house; I just like playing with my face.

6. Favourite books
Oh, God. This is extra hard because once I read a book, I tend to forget all about it. Even if it was the best book in the world and it broke my heart or whatever. I’ve been trying to do better and keep track via Goodreads, but I’m struggling. So, please enjoy this disorganised and incomplete list, which comes to you in no particular order: 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms x N.K. Jemisin

A Promise of Fire x Amanda Bouchet 

Down by Contact x Santino Hassell

Hold Me x Courtney Milan

Signal Boost x Alyssa Cole

Glutton for Pleasure x Alisha Rai

Tamed x Rebekah Weatherspoon

Romancing the Inventor x Gail Carriger

7. Please introduce your latest release.

My latest release juuust came out, on the 8th of February. It’s called The Princess Trap and it’s a royal romance featuring a fake engagement, which is something I’ve never written about before. 

I’ve always loved princess stories, but black princesses are severely underrepresented. (Side note: shoutout to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for keeping my tiny dreams alive.) A certain royal engagement reminded me that monarchy is a real thing that actually exists (wild, I know), so I decided to take advantage of that and write something about it. Something with lots of kissing and black girl magic, of course. 

Here is a list of things you can expect from The Princess Trap: 

- a Scandinavian prince 

- a fake relationship

- a globetrotting cat

- frequent lipstick applications 

- secrets whispered in the dark 

- adorable families 

- plus one not-so-adorable family 

- fairy cakes 

It’s gonna be a wild ride. 

Title: The Princess Trap
Author: Talia Hibbert
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Interracial romance, Royals

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Purchase links: Amazon US / Amazon UK 

Blurb

He’s reckless, dominant, and deliciously dirty. This prince is no fairytale. 

Prince Ruben of Helgmøre knows exactly what he wants—and his current obsession is Cherry Neita. Everything from her rollercoaster curves to her fearsome attitude commands his attention. 

And best of all? She has no idea who Ruben is.

Until the paparazzi catch them in a dark alley, her scarlet lipstick smudged, and his hands somewhere naughty…

All Cherry wanted was a night or two with the hottest man she’d ever seen. Turns out, that man is actually a prince, and now he needs her to play princess. 

Well, princess-to-be. One year as his fake fiancée, and he’ll make all her problems disappear. Easy. Right? 

Wrong. 

The closer Cherry gets to Ruben, the brighter their passion burns. But the royal family hides dark secrets, and their palace is a diamond-studded trap.

Can true love bloom from false beginnings? Or will this fairytale end in a happy-never-after?


Author Bio and Links

Talia Hibbert is a writer and educator from England, U.K., by way of both the West Indies and West Africa. She writes contemporary, interracial romance novels featuring steamy love scenes and bad jokes. In her free time, she eats lots of ice cream despite being lactose intolerant. 


Excerpt

The room was veiled with inky darkness. As he shut the door behind him, his vision blanked out completely. But he waited, knowing his eyes would find the faintest scrap of light somewhere, if he gave them a chance. He’d spent a lot of time locked in dark rooms as a kid. 

Sure enough, the outlines of furniture came into view, so faint and shadowed he wasn’t sure if he really saw them, or somehow sensed them. But those were the kinds of fanciful thoughts he’d taken comfort in as a child—maybe I’m special, maybe I have powers, and one day I’ll use them to make everyone pay. 

Now he was an adult, and he knew that his supposed night vision was thanks to cracks in the curtains and underneath the doors, and pupils wide enough to drink in those drops of light and put them to use. 

He moved gingerly through the room, still managing to catch a side table with his hip, but not falling over anything or otherwise disgracing himself. When he reached the foot of Cherry’s bed, he felt a little presumptuous sitting down—but the darkness was too disorientating for him to stand on ceremony.

“Oh, by all means,” she said acidly as he sank onto the mattress. “Make yourself at home.”

“There’s at least four feet of space between us, so don’t have a fit.”

“Why the hell did I tell you to come in?”

Ruben sighed. “I don’t know. I’m insufferable. I apologise.”

He received nothing but silence in reply. He couldn’t quite grasp the quality of that silence. Was she agreeing, or simply surprised by his words, or too tired to bother with conversation? He supposed it didn’t matter. 

“Believe it or not,” he said, “I didn’t come here to irritate you.” The words reminded him of conversations with his siblings. He was beginning to think he had issues. He felt the sting of rejection too keenly, and yet, he chased it down.

“So why did you come?” She demanded. Even though she’d been lying in the dark, she didn’t sound tired. But then, as far as he could tell, she spent all day in the library reading books and playing with her cat.

So he just said, “Our meetings aren’t going well.”

“Meetings,’ she murmured. “Is that what we’re calling them?”

“I don’t see what else we could call them,” he said reasonably. “Preparation for the Grand Deception?”

She snorted. Which was close to a laugh, right? He’d made her laugh once. Before she’d learned to be wary of him. 

Spurred on by that snort—edged in derision though it was—he tried again. “Improving Cherry’s Ruben-Threshold?”

“Something like that,” she admitted. She shifted slightly on the bed, and he felt the motion through the mattress as if they were lying side by side. He’d said there was distance between them, but he had the oddest feeling that if he reached out, his hand would find her ankle, or her calf. He laced his fingers together and put them firmly in his lap.

“I know this is hard,” he said. “And I know you don’t like me, and you don’t trust me. But this will go easier on both of us if we know something about each other once we leave this place. And fuck, I wish we didn’t have to, but we do. I do.”

“And I do too,” she murmured. “I decided to do this. I agreed to it. And I suppose I have been… shirking my obligations. Which isn’t the way I usually behave.”

He chose his words carefully. “I think you could be forgiven for feeling unlike yourself, at the moment.”

“I’m sure you’re right,” she said dryly. “But the world keeps turning, and all that. I think I’ve wallowed long enough. It doesn’t really suit me.”

“If you’ve been wallowing, it was the most graceful and glamorous wallowing I’ve ever seen.”

She did laugh at that; an adorable little giggle that bubbled out like water from a fountain. She tried to hide it; he could tell. He couldn’t see her, but he’d bet money on the fact that she’d put a hand over her mouth. Didn’t matter. In the quiet of the night, and with the way she captured his attention so very thoroughly, he couldn’t miss it. And the sound made him bold.

“I want to know you,” he said, honestly enough. But he clambered up the bed as he said it, finding the headboard with outstretched hands before settling down beside her.

She tutted. “You think you’re so smooth.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

She tugged at the covers. “You’re hogging the blankets.”

“I’m not even under the blankets.”

“I should bloody well hope not. But you’re lying on them and it’s pulling them off me.” He felt her foot knock into his calf through the covers, a glancing blow. He wasn’t sure if she’d kicked him on purpose or if she’d come across him by accident and snatched herself away in the next breath. He wanted her to do it again. 

But that wasn’t why he’d come, he reminded himself sternly.

“I think we should play twenty questions,” he said.

Her reply was doused in sarcasm. “Oh, really? Are you going to ask me if I’ve ever kissed a boy?”

“No. I save that sort of thing for truth or dare.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

“I certainly am. Shall I go first?”


AOW

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

03:23


Title: The Wedding Date
Author: Jasmine Guillory
Genre: Contemporary romance
Release date: 30 Jan 2018

Author links: Goodreads / Twitter / Website
Add to Goodreads

My Rating: 3 stars

Blurb

A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend...

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other... 

They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...

Review

This is a debut romance by an AOC with a Black heroine and while I found it mostly nice and sweet, I aslo had some issues with it.

It started really strong for me, the meet cute in the elevator and the fake date to a wedding both made me laugh and get invested in the characters. I liked the heroine from the start - she is smart, professionally successful, funny, a bit shy and she struggles with some insecurities re her weight and attractiveness, all of which made her feel real to me.

I quite liked the hero too, at least initially. He is nice, smart and equally successful professionally but terrible at personal relationships.

Things between them start as a joke but both develop feelings for each other pretty quickly. This is where the story and romance lost some of it strength for me. They start a long-distance relationship but both avoid talking about what was happening between them and where they wanted this thing between them to go. I found their interactions to be repetitive and the whole conflict was based on a couple of misunderstandings and hasty decisions  which I was not all too happy about. They both  acted like kids and made assumptions which were all wrong.

While I overall enjoyed the story, I had some issues with it. I can enjoy a fade-to-black sex scenes in my romances but here they came after rather explicit descriptions of foreplay and at least to me, they didn't really fit the story. Add to that the fact that the sex scenes were quite a few, all fade-to-black and over time they felt repetitive and at odds the tone of the story.

On the plus side, I liked the glimpses we got into the professional lives of Alexa and Drew, their circle of friends and colleagues, which gave fullness and further sense of realism to the romance.

In short, this is a nice romance, not too bad for a debut book. It has some really strong points -  positive fat representation, POC heroine who is smart and successful, a hero who respects her and is not intimidated by her success but quite the opposite, he values her work and is proud of her success.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo

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