'Nathan Burgoine

Mini Reviews: Two Holiday Novellas


Title: Handmade Holidays
Author: 'Nathan Burgoine
Genre: MM holiday romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher

My rating: 4.5 Stars


At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet. 


Oh, this was so lovely, a bit nostalgic a lot of hopeful, just the perfect holiday read for me.

I loved the concept of following a group of queer friends through their Christmases spent together over 15 years. This is a story about life and love and friendship and the meaning of the holidays - a time to share with those who you love and who love you. Those young queer people created a chosen family for themselves and set new traditions which we see them follow and enrich over 15 years.

It's was not all happiness and holiday cheer though. There was some pretty painful moment to read. There was no glossing over the hardships the characters face as young queer people dealing with life on their own - heartbreak, betrayal, racism, transphobia (even within the queer community itself).

It's a poignant story which packs a punch in novella length. It was emotional, engaging, real and made me reminisce about my own last 10-15 Christmases.

Title: A Special Delivery
Author: Laura Bailo
Genre: MM holiday romance

Author links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher

My rating: 4 Stars


Colin only meant to take a wrongly delivered package to a house a few streets over. But a sudden snowstorm leaves him with no option but to beg shelter from his unknown neighbour James. During the course of a long night, a cozy fire, a little hot chocolate and the snow outside conspire to draw the two men closer. But will their connection outlast the storm?


The was the flufffiest of fluff m/m romance. It's tender and gentle, perfectly heart-warming, like a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter day. Two very real and likable characters meet by chance and fall for each other. Nothing more, nothing less, just the perfection of making a connection with another human being, sharing some of you with them. All this, plus an adorable dog. What more can you want from a Christmas story.

There was an easy flow to the writing and the story, it projected a sense of warmth and intimacy, happiness. Overall, it's low-key story of two ordinary people with ordinary lives finding each other and starting a life together.

Author Interview

New and Debut: Kate Clayborn


I'm so happy to welcome as my guest in New and Debut author spotlight the lovely Kate Clayborn. Her debut Beginner's Luck, mf contemporary romance, was just released on Oct 31. I've already reviewed it and can't praise it high enough. It's such a delightful story, complex and fun and realistic and in short, contemporary romance at its finest. Read on to learn more about the author and her book and don't miss the excerpt from Beginner's Luck at the end of this post.

Meet Kate 

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Probably like a lot of romance authors, I started writing because I really, really loved reading romance. I’ve always loved to write, and do some writing as part of my day job, but I don’t think I had a strong vision of myself as being a writer of novels. But when I started reading romance, I felt like I had found my “thing,” my people, if that makes sense? What I really loved most about romance was that much of it had a very strong sense of community - not just a partnership between the central couple, but friendships, family relationships, work relationships. In my own life, community is really important - it’s what gives my life a lot of its meaning. I’m from a close family and have many lovely, dear friends as well as a husband who is fun and funny and supportive. So as a writer, I wanted to write books that pay tribute to community like that. I love building those communities around a central romance pairing in a way that feels natural and realistic. 

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
How much time do you have? I have so many favorites, and I’m such a compulsive re-reader when I find books/authors I love. Some of my favorite contemporary authors are Sarah Mayberry, Ainslie Paton, Ruby Lang, and Alisha Rai (especially her new series, which I love so far). My favorite contemporary of the last year or so was probably Sally Thorne’s terrific The Hating Game. I love historicals, too, especially Courtney Milan and the new Alyssa Cole Loyal League series, as well as Tessa Dare and Sherry Thomas. 

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
The first romance I ever read was Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me, and her heroines—who are smart and fierce and imperfect and complicated—were certainly an influence in how I went on to read romance. I look for heroines like that as a reader, and I gravitate toward writing heroines like that. But I also try to take inspiration from unexpected places—a beautifully written piece of journalism that makes me think differently about something I already knew, or that teaches me something entirely unexpected, a great movie or a TV show, even a passing interaction with a stranger. I’m inspired by character, always—so learning something interesting about someone’s job or hobby or history or habits will often inspire me to think of stories that supplement those characteristics. 

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
I write contemporaries with a lot of a humor and heart, featuring strong, independent heroines who have to work hard to find a place for love in their complicated lives. I like to match these heroines with heroes who are complicated, too—competent at what they do, and emotionally mature and invested in friendships and family relationships.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
BEGINNER’S LUCK is the first book in the Chance of a Lifetime series, which features three best friends who win the lottery. For each of them, the lottery is a chance to go after a long-desired goal, and for the heroine of BEGINNER’S LUCK, Kit, that’s to buy a house in the city she’s come to think of as home. As a trusted research scientist at the local university, Kit’s feeling pretty stable for the first time in her life, but the arrival of a handsome corporate recruiter named Ben—who’s offering her a new job and some extra help on her newly-purchased home—threatens to upend her carefully constructed plans. But since Ben is as charming and kind as he is handsome, Kit starts to wonder whether it’s possible to have both stability and the man of her dreams.

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

Add to Goodreads

Purchase links: AmazonB&N • iTunesBooks-A-MillionGoogle PlayKobo

My rating: 5 stars


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 . . .

Author Bio and Links

KATE started writing stories on the extra wide-ruled notebook paper her first grade teacher passed out for handwriting practice, dreaming up everything from fairy princesses to secret agents, to fairy princesses who were also secret agents. She got gold stars for her handwriting, and side-eyes for the secret agent stuff.
Those stories were packed away in a memory box while Kate grew up and did lots of things—a master’s degree, a PhD, work, travel, home renovation, life in general—always with a book at her side.
A jolt in the form of a great romance novel reminded her to start writing stories again, but this time on a laptop (though she still has excellent handwriting).
These days Kate’s favorite stories to write are the ones that make people snort-laugh and happy-sigh—stories about smart, strong heroines who face the world alongside true friends, complicated families, and good men who recognize exactly how amazing the women they love are.
Kate is lucky enough to spend her days reading and talking about all kinds of great books. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing them, thinking about writing them, or remembering edits she needs to make in them. There’s also the thing where she takes long walks around her neighborhood and makes her handsome husband and sweet-faced dog listen to her talk about books and writing. They’re never bored and she’s not single-minded at all.


Here’s an excerpt from Kit and Ben’s very first meeting, when he comes to her research lab to make his first attempt at recruiting her: 

“Excuse me,” comes a deep voice from behind me, and it’s so unexpected that I jump a little, hitting my elbow on the creep frame I’ve just finished cleaning. 

“Ow,” I mutter, turning to meet—oh, only the most attractive person I have ever actually seen in real life, unless something is happening to my vision. I raise a hand immediately to my face, noting the lab goggles I am wearing—right, this is ideal—over my actual glasses. I pull them off, the rubbery strap getting a little stuck in my hair, and wince when a few strands come out. Once I’ve got my glasses straightened, I have another look. 

And, yeah. Still the most attractive person I’ve ever seen, tall and broad-shouldered with sandy-blond hair and a square, set jaw, eyes so blue I can see them even from several feet away, where he’s standing in the doorway. I don’t usually go for guys in suits, probably because most of the men in my line of work are more the rumpled-khakis or jeans type, but damn. This guy wears a suit like it’s his job. Which, it probably is his job, since it’s noon on a Friday. 

“I’m looking for E.R. Averin.” Excellent voice too—deep and smooth, and I had not really realized until this moment that I am so hard up if I am noticing this man’s voice so forcefully. Maybe there was something to Zoe’s constant haranguing about my nonexistent dating life. 

“Well, you found her,” I say, glad to hear that my own voice, at least, sounds normal. 

“I—” He paused, looked back over his shoulder. “I have?” 

“You have.” He blinks, unbuttons and then rebuttons his jacket. It is awkward to a high degree, and let me tell you what, you don’t spend your life around a bunch of experimental scientists without getting a real skewed sense of what’s awkward. This guy seems completely thrown. 

“You’re E.R. Averin?” he says, a little edge of doubt in his voice, and it’s at this point that I get almost relieved to know what I’m dealing with. Not for nothing am I the only female—not to mention the youngest—lab technician to ever work in this department, and in fact the only woman working in a lab tech role in the College of Engineering. I’ve dealt with a lot of dudes who have doubted me. 

“I think I’ve made that clear, Mr....?” 

He has the decency to look genuinely chastened. “My apologies, Professor Averin. I’m Ben Tucker.” 

He steps forward, holding out his—well, very nice, very large—hand, but I hold up the bottle of ethanol and my rag, shrugging in half-hearted apology. “Hello, Mr. Tucker. I’m not a professor.” 

“Right, yes. I apologize.” 

“That’s okay,” I say, and I almost feel sorry for him. There’s something about him, some weary feature behind his handsomeness, that gives me the sense I’m getting him on a bad day.

“Please, call me Ben.”

“Okay, Ben. Call me Ms. Averin.”

Austin Chant

Friday Favourites: Austin Chant


Friday Favourites are back in full swing and today my guest is Austin Chant, author of queer fiction. His trans retelling of Peter Darling released earlier this year and I only got to read it last month and it completely blew me away! His latest book is the trans pnr Caroline's Heart which I somehow loved even more. You can learn more about it and read an excerpt from it in the end of this post. First, though you get to learn what some of Austin's favourite things in the world are.

Austin's Friday Favourites

1. Favourite place
Everyone who's ever heard me talk about Austin, Texas, is groaning and covering their ears right now. But seriously: did you know there are swan boats (and also literal swans) sailing around the city every night? Did you know there's a 400-acre park with natural hot springs right across from downtown Austin? Did you know that the margaritas are cheap and delicious? Did you know that a colony of 1.5 million precious little bats lives in the city during the summer and that they eat all the mosquitoes? I once saw a Disney villain-themed drag show there with the world's most beautiful Captain Hook. Last time I visited I had cactus tacos for breakfast. Austin is perfect.

Yes, my name has made this relationship awkward, but I don't care. I'm in love with the city of Austin and nothing will stand between us.

2. Favourite food and drink
I'll take a blended jalapeno margarita or a strong cup of Earl Grey any day of the week, and I'll take either with a good burger or pulled pork sandwich.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
I tend to change up my playlists depending on what I'm writing, so I listen to most genres, but if I'm just keeping myself entertained it's a mix of southern rock/alternative and pop. My favorite band at the moment is The Revivalists and I've been jamming to their song Wish I Knew You all year. 

4. Favourite movie/TV series
Jurassic Park is my all-time favorite movie, and Over the Garden Wall is probably my favorite TV series, although that might just be the Halloween spirit talking.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Video games! I've been a big gamer since I was a kid, and gaming is still my favorite way to relax; it's a total change of pace from writing, but it's still creative and engaging. I love how much storytelling potential the interactive form has. Also, I've put more hours into Overwatch this year than I want to talk about. 

6. Favourite books 
Not that this could ever be a complete list, but my all-time favorites include Howl's Moving Castle (and many others) by Diana Wynne Jones, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, The Book of Salt by Monique Truong, the Captive Prince series by CS Pacat, and The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles. Recently, I've really enjoyed The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Nevada by Imogen Binnie, and Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell.

Austin Chant's latest release is Caroline's Heart, Western trans romance with cowboys and witches and spells and magic and HFN! Buy link: 

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.
Purchase link: Amazon 

Author Bio and Links

Austin Chant is a bitter millennial, a decent chef, and a queer, trans writer of romance and speculative fiction. His fiction includes Peter Darling, Coffee Boy, and Caroline's Heart. He co-hosts The Hopeless Romantic, a podcast dedicated to exploring LGBTQIA+ love stories and the art of writing romance. He currently lives in a household of creative freelancers who all spend too much time playing video games.


Roy puts the horses out to pasture under the watchful gaze of the witch candles, his nose itching every time the wind carries the pale smoke in his direction. He keeps an eye out for the witch, but there's no sign of her; he overhears John talking about how witches only travel under cover of darkness, because the light of day will burn their blighted skin. Roy's curiosity starts to fade to resignation. Maybe he won't see her at all. Maybe Weber will keep her away from the men entirely; maybe he fears that a hex on one of them would be a hex on the whole ranch.

Around midday, he retreats into the stables to repair a stall door that one of the mares kicked down. It's unpleasant work, downwind of the house so the air reeks of smoke as well as manure and straw dust. He sneezes till his eyes are running and his throat is raw. It seems like it's getting hotter every minute, feverish almost. Soon his chest aches with each breath.

He stops to wipe his brow on his sleeve and notices that the straw is stirring around his feet as if picked up by a breeze, but there's no wind, just a strange agitation in the air.

A coil of soft heat, like a cat's tail, brushes the back of his neck.

Roy startles and glances over his shoulder. There's nothing out of the ordinary, just saddles and tack and a bare wall, but the air pushes around him like a hot bath. He takes a thick breath, his head swimming, and moves toward the stable door. Better sit down, he thinks, before you fall down—

But then he sees it: a seam of light cutting its way across the bare wall like a shooting star.

Roy stands stock still, staring at the light. He's filled with a giddy fear like the kind he used to get from his pa's candlelight stories. The heat is dizzying, past intolerable, the air swelling urgently around him. Roy blinks sweat out of his eyes, watching the light's progress as it traces a rectangle the size of a door.

Then the door cracks inward, and the pressure goes all at once. The air left behind is cold and thin and smells of flowers.

Roy sags against the wall, shivering and staring, as the witch steps through.

She moves like a deer, dainty and aloof, turning to press the glowing door closed behind her. She's dressed like Mr. Weber's young wife, in gray and white, with a bow around the high collar of her dress and a straw bonnet trimmed with silk. Roy hadn't expected her to be so pretty. She's the kind of lady who would make him stumble over his tongue if he met her in the street. Her lips are rosy, her cheekbones striking; her hair is dark and tame, pulled back into a shiny braid, loose ringlets curling over her brow and along her cheeks.

He realizes he's exposing his soul for her taking a moment too late when she turns and catches his eye. She looks straight at him, not in the forthright way that some people do, but like a cat watching an insect. Her eyes are black, languid—her eyelashes so thick and dark they seem to pull her eyelids down for each dispassionate blink. Roy, flushed and now freezing, finds himself unable to move.

"Do you need something, cowboy?" she asks, a cool voice with a distinct Texan drawl.


#readRchat: Frequently Asked Questions


Have you seen the #readrchat hashtag on Twitter and wondered what it was about. Or you might have never heard of it but now you are curious? Here is a short FAQ to give you a general idea what it is about.

1. What is #readrchat?
#readRchat is a monthly romance readers chat that takes place on Twitter. It includes 10 questions a topic that we choose and announce beforehand. We ask the questions within one hour but the chat usually goes for 1.5-2 hours.

2.Who runs it?
It was started by Ava Kingswell and me (Ellie Reads) in January 2017. During the summer Ana Coqui joined us. Today we run the chat with the support of a couple of more reader friends - Mary Lynne, Kini and Joy

3. When is it happening?
The chat takes place every first Saturday of the month at 10pm CET /4pm EST.

4. Can I participate on my on time (since the time of the chat is not convenient for me)? 
Yes, you can answer the questions any time that is convenient for you.

5. What topics have been covered so far?

  • Introducing #readRchat: Share Your Passions
  • Romance Tropes and Subgenres
  • Series and Standalones
  • Choices, choices: How do you pick what to read next?
  • Best reads of 2017 so far - special mid-year chat
  • Let's Talk All Things Erotic in Romance
  • Summer Reading
  • Adventures in Romance
  • The Reader/Author Interaction: Dos & Don'ts

6. Where can I see the upcoming topics?
I will be posting them every couple of months here on my blog. The next chat will be on Nov 4th and we will be talking about People of Color and Romance. 

We want to the #readrchat to be a fun and pleasant experience for everyone and we are always open to suggestions how to do that. We are actively seeking new topics that romance readers feel passionate about and want to discuss with each other. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter or you can leave a comment on this post if you prefer.

Contemporary Romance

Review: Beginner's Luck by Kate Clayborn


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


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 . . .


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


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)


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


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


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


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.


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


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. 


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


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


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


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.


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. 


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.

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