Contemporary Romance

Review: Wrong for Me by Jackie Ashenden

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Title: Wrong for Me (Motor City Royals #2)
Author: Jackie Ashenden
Date of publication: 29 Nov 2016
Genre / Themes: Contemporary romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 3 Stars




Blurb

After eight years in prison, Levi Rush is finally out and back on the gritty streets of Detroit to claim the future he was owed. A future that includes the one woman he’s wanted for years—his former best friend Rachel. She’s the reason he went inside and if getting her to do what he wants means buying the building that houses her tattoo studio and using it as leverage, then that’s what he’ll do. Because if there’s one thing he’s learned inside it’s that if you want to win, you have to play dirty.

Rachel Hamilton is a tattoo artist and one hell of a tough girl. Detroit is her home, and she’s determined to make it a better place. But her plans are threatened when her old friend Levi reappears and gives her an ultimatum: she gives herself to him body and soul, or else she and her business are out on the street. Levi’s got no room in his heart for anything but anger and the lust he’s been carrying around for so long. But the only thing stronger than the secrets of their shared past is their fiery attraction to each other . . .


Review



I really enjoyed the first book (Dirty for Me) in this series and was excited about this one. Sadly, it was not as good as expected it to be. I liked some aspects of the story and the writing felt solid most of the time, but there were a couple of issues which didn't sit well with me.

I found the premise of the story intriguing - Levy is an ex-con trying to rebuild his life and figuring out what exactly happened with Rachel and why she did the things she did. I liked the tension between them and while I understood his anger and his need for revenge, I felt he went overboard with both of them.

His blackmail, forcing Rachel into a relationship, if you can call it that, bordered on non-consent for me and even if being together was what they wanted, they way this happened (for most part of the story), it still made me uncomfortable. It was a weird kind of revenge, hurting them both. On the one hand, I can't accept the deal he made with her and seemed very similar to a previous arrangement she had with another man. On the other hand, he loved her (always had), wanted to have a real relationship with her, yet he mostly hurt and humiliated her before turning all his emotions around and making it all about love and a common future.

I must say that the non-romance aspects of the story worked better for me. Levy's relations with his friends, his ambition to make something of himself, to rebuild his life felt real and I had no trouble relating to it. The gentrification of Detroit was also explored in a sympathetic way.

In short, I have mixed feelings about the romance in this story - some of it felt real, some of it was forced, and there were elements in it that made m,e downright uncomfortable. I don't regret reading this book, but I'm not sure I can recommend it.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

Author Interview

New and Debut: Sasha Clinton

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It's time for me to present to you yet another new author of romance. Please welcome Sasha Clinton, author of the NYC Singles series. The third book in the series, Love Me Like You Do, comes out on Nov 26. Read on to learn more about Sasha and the stories she likes to tell.

Currently the first two books, You're Still the One and In My Arms Tonight are on sale for 0.99 and the third book, Love Me Like You Do can be pre-ordered for 0.99 too!



Meet Sasha


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

Hi, I am Sasha. I’ve always loved reading romance novels, and planned to write one someday. In 2015, I started writing what would become the first book in the NYC Singles Series. I really enjoy reading, eating, listening to music, and 

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

Judith McNaught and Lisa Kleypas were the authors who pulled me into the romance genre, along with Nora Roberts. Other romance writers I love are: Courtney Milan, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Julie James. Some of my favorite books/series are Lockwood & Co by Jonathan Stroud, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie, Perry Mason books by Erle Stanley Gardner, translated works of Keigo Higashino, and the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. As you can see, I love reading all kinds of books. 

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

I feel like I have been influenced by many writers, which has led to a writing style that is a mix of many styles. 

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

Until now, all my books have been contemporary adult romances, but I am planning to branch out into fantasy-romance at some point in the future. However, I will continue writing contemporary romances also. 

5. Please, introduce your upcoming/latest release. 


Love Me Like You Do is the third book in the NYC Singles series and can be read as a standalone. The main story is based around Dr. Bella Hopkins, a philosophy professor who runs into a TV producer at Trader Joe’s. The TV producer is the guy she eventually falls in love with—Jamie. Jamie is producing a show and an actress playing an important character injured herself. Since Bella looks very similar to the injured actress, Jamie wants her to substitute. 

The book also features a secondary romance between Jamie’s father, who is an Oscar-winning actor, and one of his co-workers. 

Blurb 

A single, overweight college professor. 
A TV producer looking for a replacement actress. 
A chance meeting that changes both their lives. 

Dr. Bella Hopkins is looking for love. The forever kind. But instead, she gets a role in a new sitcom, when she runs into Hollywood-screenwriter-turned-producer Jamie Star at the supermarket. 

Jamie wants his first show to succeed. He didn’t count on the lead actress injuring herself and pulling out last minute. When he meets Bella, who looks exactly like the actress he just lost, Jamie is convinced that the solution to his problem is simple—convince the college professor to act in his show. 

But a misplaced sext, almost kiss, and crazy co-actress later, what started out as a simple solution turns into a problem of its own.



Author Bio and Links

Sasha Clinton discovered romance novels at the age of thirteen and has been addicted to the genre ever since. After getting a degree in Chemical Engineering and realizing that there was no way she could ever be an engineer, she decided to follow her passion and write romance novels. Sasha has lived in New Delhi, Melbourne, Manchester and Boston and continues to move frequently. But wherever she is, she's hard at work on her next book.



You can read the first chapter of Love Me Like You Do HERE 



College

Review: Hold Me by Courtney Milan

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Title: Hold Me (Cyclone #2)
Author: Courtney Milan
Genre/Themes: New Adult, academics
Release Date: 25 Oct 2016

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars



Blurb 


Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.

Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.

But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love.

Review


I have been waiting for this for what feels forever, ever since I read the first installment in the series last year. We meet Maria in book 1 and I was excite to for her to get her romance. And what a treat her (and Jay's) story was!

It is really difficult for me to review without giving out a major spoiler though but I will try. This is an entertaining read, often funny but heart-breaking at the same time. This is an interesting take on the enemies(friends)-to-lovers trope and I found it fascinating the way the author explored how people presented and interacted online and how different they can be offline. 

I loved how full-fledged and real the characters felt. They both have personal and professional (academics) struggles going on. They are complex people, smart and focused on their work/studies, yet they are both vulnerable, shy even, in their own ways. I loved the contrast between their texting and their interactions in real life. It's so easy to make the wrong assumption, to hurt someone, even if you don't mean too and there is no taking it back. Just working through it, accepting it as part of your common history.

The personal traumas Jay and Maria had as their baggage is no minor thing but it was never exploited by the author for superficial drama and angst. It was real and painful and was dealt with in the proper way - with the help of professionals. In a sense Maria was more stable, her own person, though she nearly broke because of all the hurt she suffered. Yet it was Jay who had more work to do to deal with his past/present. His growth was painful and slow and I really appreciate the author presenting it as an everyday struggle. You don't become a different, better person overnight.There were setbacks and mistakes and by the end he was by no means perfect, but he was aware of his mistakes and weaknesses and was actively trying to do better by himself, his family, his friends and most importantly, by Maria.

The second half of the story, after the big reveal, was very emotional. overcoming hurt and gaining someone's trust is one of the most difficult things in life. Forgiveness is not easy to ask/give. 

There were lots of science bits and humor in the story which I loved despite being terrible at science myself. I found the presentation of the academic world very realistic based on my my experience - I could easily relate to all the pressure, the expectations, the struggles to stay on top, to insecurity what you will do next. 

We see more of the Cyclone family which I really liked. The next book will revisit Blake and Tina and I am not sure how necessary that is but I am curious how the author will develop their story further.

If you a looking for well written, smart contemporary NA romance with diverse characters living real lives (with a bit of science/computer geniuses, billionaire entrepreneurs on the side), I strongly recommend this series!

Purchase links: Amazon / iBooks / B&N / All romance / Kobo / Smashwords

Comedy

Review: Beard Science by Penny Reid

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Title: Beard Science (Winston Brothers #3)
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: 11 Oct 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Humor, Romance

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebookGoodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars




Blurb

Make a deal with the devil and you might get what you want, but will it be what you need? 

Jennifer Sylvester wants one thing, and that one thing is NOT to be Tennessee’s reigning Banana Cake Queen. Ever the perpetual good girl and obedient daughter, Jennifer is buckling under the weight of her social media celebrity, her mother’s ambitions, and her father’s puritanical mandates. Jennifer is officially desperate. 

And desperate times call for Cletus Winston.

Cletus Winston is a puzzle wrapped in a mystery covered in conundrum sauce, and now he’s in a pickle. Despite being convinced of his own omniscience, extortion by the exalted Banana Cake Queen of Green Valley has taken him completely by surprise. So... what’s a maniacal mastermind to do? 

Likely, the last thing you expect. 

Review



This book is yet another winner for Penny Reid. I've enjoyed the previous two Winston brothers books but this one is my favourite. And to be honest, I didn't expect it to be. Based on what I had seen of Cletus prior this book, I found him too weird, over-the-top scheming and controlling. And he is all that but they way his character changed and evolved in Beard Science, it just blew my mind away.

Seeing this super smart, conniving, self-assured man who appeared unassuming and people generally underestimated, losing all control and coming completely undone by the unlikeliest woman, wow, just wow, it was such a pleasure to read.

I really like all all the Winston brothers (and Drew and Ashley) and their appearances here made for fun and entertaining story. We get the typical nerdy and super smart humour that we have come to expect fro Ms Reid's characters. And Cletus does take the top place of evil genius. He often appears crazy and weird to the eye of the outsider, even to his own siblings but what we see from him here is a caring, loyal brother and friend and the best, most dedicated and romantic boyfriend.

I have to admit that Jenn is not my favourite heroine of Ms Reid's that I have read. People see her as the Banana Cake Queen but under her costume and staged behaviour, she was so much more. She turns out to be an equal to Cletus in ingenuity and smarts. And just like him she was pretty good at hiding them from everybody. It took me a while to warm up to her (she appeared too weak and spineless at the beginning) but she did grow and change a lot in the course of the story and while she did not become an entire new person, she revealed her true colours and they were beautiful.

Overall this is a fun, crazy beautiful love story with some over-the-top quirky characters that you can't help but fall in love with. I feel safe to say that Ms Reid has become the queen of quirky, yet adorable characters, both men and women who stand out from the rest and are not afraid to be themselves.

I strongly believe that everybody deserve love and finding happiness and personal fulfillment is why I love reading romance. Reading a well written clever story of weird and awkward people finding their soulmates is such fun and satisfying experience for me. Now, I really, really need Billy's story but it's Beau that we get next and I can't wait to see how his romance with a certain someone whom we have already met develops. Recommended read!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / Ibooks


Author Interview

New and Debut: Rain Merton

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It's Sunday and it's time once again to meet a new author. I'm very happy to have over Rain Merton whose first book, the m/m romance novella Summer Research, was released earlier this year. Read on for a short interview with Rain and a NSFW-ish excerpt from their story.

Meet Rain



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

Thank you so much, Ellie, for the opportunity to visit your wonderful blog <3, and for asking such generous questions. 

My grandmother was a voracious reader, and she read a lot of romance, so part of my decision is a tribute to her, because she was and still is one of the people I admire most. 

At the same time, I wanted to be part of this amazing community of romance readers and writers, because I think there’s something really important and valuable that romance facilitates in a unique way. Romance is one of the very few spaces nowadays where “being emotional” is neither pejorative nor reductive, so it allows participants to bring their whole selves, and that is a beautiful thing. 

Finally, I enjoy the vigorous debates that take place both within the books and around the community, which is one of the most progressive places around (or I might have just been lucky in finding my little corner of it).


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

Ooh, how many can I list? I hope you have all day ☺, because this is luckily an ever-growing list, so here are some, listed alphabetically: Tess Bowery, KJ Charles, Elliot Cooper, AJ Cousins, Megan Erickson, Kim Fielding, Megan Frampton, Avon Gale, Alexis Hall, Santino Hassell, Beverly Jenkins, Molly O’Keefe, Ruby Lang, Sara MacLean, Cara McKenna, Courtney Milan, Vanessa North, EE Ottoman, Tiffany Reisz, Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper, Sandra Schwab, Sherry Thomas, Holley Trent, Piper Vaughn, Mia West. 


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

Ha! All of the above? I learned so much from all of their books, which was crucial because I come from non-fiction writing, and not even the narrative kind. So reading their well-crafted prose, their smart plotting, their rich characters has been germane in teaching me how to tell a story. 


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

I write queer romance, I am drawn to the contemporary in general, so the series I’m working on is a loosely connected set of novels set in Toronto, Canada, featuring first- or second-generation immigrants who had met in the Rainbow Club at Cooking School. 

I have just finished editing the first, and I’m now trying to navigate the ambivalence of elation over being done with nostalgia for the characters I have to leave behind.


5. Please, introduce your latest release.

“Summer Research” is my first romance short story and it features two very different graduate students who meet at an academic conference. 

Here’s the blurb and an excerpt:


BLURB

Presenting his research at the annual academic mega-conference is supposed to provide the answer to Jonah's dilemma.

Instead, Congress brings him Xavier. Loud-mouthed, flamboyant, and whip-smart, Xavier wields humor as both a weapon and a shield. Soon Jonah can't discern sincerity from banter; all he knows is the overwhelming, mystifying lust he feels for Xavier.

Is desire enough to build a decision around? Can Xavier offer the solution to Jonah's dilemma?


EXCERPT

Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.

It was not a long trek from the campus where the Congress was churning out its intellectual production to the pub where the Literature Association was holding its annual bash. Still, Jonah and Xavier let the others figure out the way, as they hung back.

"You never did tell me what department you're in," Jonah said, because grad student speak was the safest conversational path.

"Because you guessed right the first time. I'm doing my PhD in a joint program: political science and the South-Asian Studies Institute."

Xavier's voice had mellowed, strident edges blunted away from his voice, molten by his upward gaze, fixed on Jonah's jaw? Eyes? Jonah didn't think it would be wise to examine the exact location where Xavier's eyes landed, because intercepting them might undo him on the spot.

So they kept walking instead.

"So, your research area is political prisoners in Philippines?"

"Yeah. I look at contemporary media representation of political imprisonment during Marcos's regime. Fun stuff, but, honey, that is the absolute last thing I want to chat about right now. I've been talking nothing but shop for the past week, and I would love a distraction. And you, sugar buns, totally qualify as a distraction of the first order."

Jonah swallowed dry air, no longer feigning inability to flirt. He might be discreet, but made of stone he was not, even though Xavier's appreciative gaze was turning his cock that way fast. Again. As he looked down at Xavier, he saw the man's parted lips, then his front teeth catching on his full lower lip, the gap indenting a tiny ridge. Jonah's breath got caught on that ridge.

On instinct, Jonah pulled Xavier by the hand, and together they ducked into a side alley that opened onto a parking lot. There had been no resistance, but as he lined Xavier's back to the wall, Jonah asked him "Okay?"

Xavier's eyes were still fixed on Jonah's, but his voice had disappeared. He huffed a loud exhale, and gave a slow tiny nod instead, and then there was no more air between them.

Jonah draped his whole body along Xavier's, his feet widened to encompass Xavier's, his hips rasping a slow up-and-down, seeking to align their cocks. Jonah's hands came to sheathe Xavier's face, palms skimming his jaw, fingers caressing his hairline, sending a shiver down Xavier's body.

Tentative at first, their kiss stayed a sip for only a moment, before Xavier's tongue darted into Jonah's mouth as if to compensate for his voicelessness. Neither of them required speech any longer, as their tongues swirled to taste and to ignite their bodies in frantic sparks of sensation that traveled down and between them, binding them together with gossamer threads of desire.

Jonah's hands rejoiced in the texture of Xavier's stubble, then the velvet of that soft triangle of skin trapped between his jaw, his hairline, and his ear, to finally revel in the silk of his shoulder-length hair. Xavier's palms were patting down Jonah's back over his shirt, turning Jonah's hip glides frantic before pausing for suspense in the waistband of Jonah's jeans, then going back up on the inside of his shirt at a snail's pace, leaving a trail of fire on Jonah's skin.

It was hot, and Jonah felt like he could never again get enough air, but also like he never wanted to inhale anything other than the scent of Xavier's skin -- part citrus, part cinnamon, all warm sweetness. As much as it felt new and open and spacious, this serendipitous encounter also felt like coming home, to a place of dreams he had forgotten ever chasing.

Xavier felt like home, with his hot mouth trailing down Jonah's throat, with his gapped teeth catching on Jonah's stubble, which whispered a flick-flick-flick that sent vibrations down to Jonah's wildly beating heart, down to his lungs, down to his stomach, and down to his trapped erection.

The sound of his cell wrenched them apart.

Buy Links: Publisher / Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.ca / B&N / Kobo  

*****

Author Bio and Links

Rain has moved around quite a bit, whether by choice or accident. Countries, continents, careers continue to shift both what Rain does and who they are. Rain’s love of writing, however, persists, even washed under the fluidity that marks their life. For now and for good, Rain hopes to dwell within queer romance set in and inspired by their adoptive hometown of Toronto, Canada.




Gilded Age

Review: Baron by Joanna Shupe

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Title: Baron (The Knickerbocker Club #2)
Author: Joanna Shupe
Date of publication: 25 Oct 2016
Genre: Historical romance, Gilded Age

Author links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars





Blurb

New York City’s Gilded Age shines as bright as the power-wielding men of the Knickerbocker Club. And one pragmatic industrialist is about to learn that a man may make his own destiny, but love is a matter of fortune . . .



Born into one of New York’s most respected families, William Sloane is a railroad baron who has all the right friends in all the right places. But no matter how much success he achieves, he always wants more. Having secured his place atop the city’s highest echelons of society, he’s now setting his sights on a political run. Nothing can distract him from his next pursuit—except, perhaps, the enchanting con artist he never saw coming . . .

Ava Jones has eked out a living the only way she knows how. As “Madame Zolikoff,” she hoodwinks gullible audiences into believing she can communicate with the spirit world. But her carefully crafted persona is nearly destroyed when Will Sloane walks into her life—and lays bare her latest scheme. The charlatan is certain she can seduce the handsome millionaire into keeping her secret and using her skills for his campaign—unless he’s the one who’s already put a spell on her . . .


Review


This is both my first book by Joanna Shupe and my first Gilded Age romance. It's the second book in the Knickerbocker series set in New York of 1890s. I didn't know what to expect of this book but I ended up loving everything about it - the story, the characters, the romance and the political intrigues, the writing.

What I like about good historical romances is how well they can recreate the atmosphere of the times. And to my delight this was very much the case here. Ms Shupe provided of vivid portrayal of the changing times at the end pf the 19th century - the nouveaux riches vs the aristocracy, the changing roles of men and women in society/business and how this affected the personal relationships between them.

The story of Will and Ava follows the well familiar trope of rich upper-class man falling for the poor working-class woman doing everything possible to provide for her family but there is so much more to it.

I found both Will and Ava to be fascinating characters. He is driven and determined, very much focused on his business empire and budding political career which makes him appear all too rigid and cold on the outside, seemingly caring all too much about propriety and good manners and public opinion, yet he finds her totally irresistible. As the story develops we see that he is human like the rest of us, with his failings and mistakes, strengths and deeply buried hurts he is struggling to overcome.

Ava is all fire and spunk. She is doing everything in her powers (even walking the thin edge of illegal by pretending to be a medium) to take care of her younger siblings, to provide the best possible life for them. Even at the expense of her own happiness. Past hurt has made her cautious and wary of men but then Will enters her life ...

I loved the romance between them so much - it is a kind of an enemies-to-lovers story full of sexual chemistry neither of whom can/wants to deny yet they both guard their hearts (for different reasons) till the end. Will and Ava challenge each other all the time, keep each other on their toes and I absolutely loved this aspect of their relationship - smart, witty banter, constant opposition often resolved with all-consuming love-making.

We get glimpses of the political struggles at the times. of the social divisions and changes and I found this aspect of the story just as fascinating as the romance itself. Overall this is a fast-paced story with engaging characters and intriguing plot. 

There were lots of plot twists and turns which kept me reading on, wanting to see how things will sort out for those two. And they did in an unexpected and absolutely brilliant way.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N/ Kobo / Ibooks

Favoruite books

Review: Interborough by Santino Hassell

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Title: Interborough (Five Boroughs #4)
Author: Santino Hassell
Date of publication: 24 Oct 2016
Genre: MM romance 

Author links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars



Blurb

The Raymond Rodriguez from a few years ago wouldn’t recognize the guy he is today. He’s left his slacker ways far behind him and is now juggling two jobs and school. But the balancing act doesn’t allow much time for the man he loves.

David is doing his best to be supportive, but problems at work and his own insecurity leave him frustrated—in more ways than the obvious—whenever he goes to bed before Raymond gets home. The heat and affection between them is still there, but they barely have the time or energy to enjoy it. And it doesn’t help that Raymond is still hiding David from his colleagues.

The stress mounts so high that a vacation in paradise is filled with turmoil instead of harmony, and culminates on their return to the five boroughs with broken promises and heartache. They have to figure out how to stop allowing their differences to overshadow their love. It’s the only way they’ll make it to forever.

Review


Interborough revisits Ray and David after they got together in Sunset Park. Here we see them dealing with the everyday pressures any couple faces.This story offers an honest portrayal of the life after the I-love-you's, something rarely seen in romance but something that I really love and truly appreciate.

We already know a lot about Ray and David and here we see how deal with pressure both from the outside world and from the demons inside their own heads. And their struggles felt so very real and easy to relate to, despite me being a white 30-something cis het woman living in a small country in Eastern Europe. I have absolutely nothing in common with either David (besides the fact that I worked as a teacher for a while ages ago) or Ray, yet the author made me care about their struggles, made me feel their joys and sorrows and that's what I love about reading fiction - not identifying with the characters so much as being made to feel empathy and understanding.

I could understand how outside pressure can ruin your relationship especially in the early stages. All the problems Ray and David deal with - the social issues, financial troubles, racism, prejudice, coming out/passing as straight - felt real and tangible. This is not some far-fetched romance scenario with artificial drama and angst. This is the reality for many people around the world and Santino Hassell presented in the best and most convincing way.

Ray and David are opposites in many respects and despite having great chemistry and really loving each other, it took them a lot of time and effort to make their relationship work. Falling in love does not magically solve all your problems. It brings people together and helps them overcome difficulties but having a long term relationship takes work and talking things through, building trust and making compromises.

Ray and David are equally to blame for their troubles and also equally responsible for making things right between them again. There is no big drama/transgression on either part followed by epic grovelling as is often the case in romance novels. What we have here a multitude of minor, mundane issues and personal flaws (David's insecurity and clinginess, his fear of messing up again, of losing the Ray's love, and Ray's stubbornness to do everything by himself, his pride making him refuse any help, his still being mostly in the closet), it all added up. And they managed to work, like any two young people - mostly acting as adults, yet with the occasional slip up.

I absolutely enjoyed seeing more of Michael and Nunzio. Their relationship is about love, love, love - and they projected a sense of maturity and contentment, overall happiness which was more than well deserved.

The brief cameo of Oli and Caleb though brilliant was all too short for me and left me wanting more of them since they are my favourite couple in the series (so far).

Ray's Queens crew is everything - a group of diverse characters, fully developed and so intriguing that I want to read about every one of them.

The writing in this book is what we have come to expect from Santino Hassell - direct and on point. I love me a good epilogue and this one was perfect - tender and oh, so romantic.


Purchase links: Amazon | ARe | B&N | Kobo | iBooks | Riptide 

Author Interview

New and Debut: Elyse Springer

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Here is my first post featuring new and debut authors. I'm happy to welcome Elyse Springer on the blog today whose queer romance series, Seasons of Love, will be published by Riptide starting January 2017.

Meet Elyse


1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
I’m generally awful at talking about myself, because I feel like I’m a very boring person. I travel a lot, previously as a military contractor and now for a new job based out of New York City, and I’d definitely say that traveling is one of my passions. I started writing when I was in high school as a way to explore places that I wasn’t able to physically visit… fantasy lands, historical settings, and other planets. But as I started to travel more in college, I realized that I wanted to set books in the places I was living and seeing, and I wanted those books to be about finding yourself and finding love. One day I looked up and realized that I was writing romance, and never looked back! 

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
Oh, such a difficult question… and one that changes as often as the weather does! Right now I’m re-reading a lot of TJ Klune, especially How To Be a Normal Person, which is an asexual romance that really resonates with me (because I’m asexual as well). KJ Charles is another favorite, and her Society of Gentlemen series is sheer perfection! And one of my all-time favorites is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which I think is a stunning, magical romance… I’ve read it probably 20 times now!

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
I get inspired by a LOT of things. Random snippets of dreams that I grasp onto upon waking, or things I hear on the radio or see on TV. Sometimes the strangest thing will inspire a story; for example, I’m currently playing around with a vampire/PNR romance after hearing a particularly hilarious commercial for mattresses on the radio! 

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
Almost everything that I write these days is contemporary (though I have a degree in historical literature, so who knows what might come someday!), and most of it will be adult. I do have an NA sports romance coming out in May 2017, though, which I’m super excited about! 

5. Please, introduce your upcoming release.
My first novel is Whiteout, and it’s out January 23, 2017. It’s about a man named Noah who wakes up with amnesia in a cabin as a blizzard rages outside. And he’s not alone… a man named Jason is taking care of him, and he explains that they’re partners, but Noah starts to get his memories back slowly and realizes that not everything is as it seems. But I can’t say anything else without spoiling it! Whiteout is the first in a four-book series called “Seasons of Love”, and is followed by Thaw (asexual F/F; April 2017), Heat Wave (bisexual F/F; July 2017), and Changing Colors (M/M; October 2017).

The aforementioned N/A sports romance is Heels Over Head, and it’s an Olympic diving romance out in May! 

Whiteout (Seasons of Love #1)


Noah Landers wakes up one day with a headache and no memory of where—or who—he is. Jason, the man taking care of him, tries to fill in some of the blanks: they’re in a cabin in Colorado on vacation, and Noah slipped on ice and hit his head. But even with amnesia, Noah knows Jason is leaving out something important.

Jason O’Reilly is sexy as hell, treats Noah like he’s precious, and seems determined to make this the romantic getaway they’d apparently dreamed of together. But Noah’s more concerned that he’s trapped alone with Jason in the middle of a blizzard while his slowly-returning memories bring hints of secrets and betrayal. 

Noah’s not sure what’s the truth and what’s a lie. But as he learns who he is—and who Jason is to him—he’s forced to reevaluate everything he believes about himself, about loyalty . . . and about love.



Pre-order links for the series: Whiteout / Thaw / Heat Wave / Changing Colors


Author bio and links


Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQIA+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, Elyse spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.

Contemporary Romance

Review: The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper

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Title: The Queer and the Restless (Queers of La Vista #3)
Author: Kris Ripper
Publication Date: 31 Oct 2016
Genres: Queer Romance, Trans

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebook / FB Group • Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars





Blurb


Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man (so long as you don’t ask his abuela). But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he’s becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha.

Alisha is a free spirit who’s tossed aside ambition for travel and adventure. Her approach to life is a far cry from Ed’s, and while Ed has always assumed that meeting his goals would make him happy, Alisha is much more content than him—despite all the plans she can’t yet fulfill.

As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. Alisha thinks Ed needs a break, but someone’s got to find this killer, and he wants to be there when it all goes down. Besides, taking off into the great unknown with Alisha is crazy. But opting for what’s safe is just another way of living in fear, and Ed vowed to stop living like that a long time ago.

Review


This is my favourite book in the Queers of La Vista series far. It continues the suspense/crime plot line from the previous two books, so you should definitely read them before this one. It will make your appreciation of Ed and Alisha's story even better.

I absolutely loved Ed. And I loved that his character was not only about being trans but also about being a young man in general - professional ups and downs, relationship wins and losses that have nothing to do with his gender/sexual identity. 

We see his struggles with being trans too - lack of acceptance/support from his family, his fear of not always passing, of not being male enough, the doubts and insecurities of being liked/loved for who he was not and just for the sake of being an adventure or a thrilling experience to be cross off someone's bucket list.

We see him dedicated to his work, trying hard to rise and develop professionally to the extend of putting everything else in his life on hold. He became sort of obsessed with his work when it got tangled up in uncovering the murder mystery threatening his community.

Alisha was Ed's are perfect opposites in many ways. I found it a bit more difficult to relate to her even though I did like her a lot too. She was different, craving adventure and fun, seemingly flighty and irresponsible in comparison to Ed who came off as too serious, to the point of boring at times.

I loved them as a couple, though, and think they suited each other well. Still, I felt that her attraction to him was not as well explicitly shown in the text as his to her. Her motifs for liking him and wanting to be with him remained a bit unclear to me. What I really loved though was the way she treated Ed - she loved the man he was and was supporting and understanding of his fears and desires. I felt their relationship created a true sense of intimacy where one can be open about one's feelings free of judgement or ridicule.

There is an easy flow to this story, very much like in the previous two stories in the series. Once again we get the sort of effortless, easy going and simple, yet engaging and real writing of Kris Ripper. Ze manages to create a great sense of community by adding all these details about the characters in each story in the series.

I'm really excited for the next books as this is shaping to be a really unique, all-encompassing, fun and enjoyable series of diverse romance.

Purchase links: Amazon / Publisher


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