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Apr
1

Blog Tour + Review: Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux

Blog Tour + Review: Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux From the Author: Hello and thank you for joining me as I bid a fond farewell to Ty and Zane on the Crash & Burn virtual tour! For the next five days, join me on my virtual stops to help me say goodbye to the Cut & Run series with cut scenes, playlists, behind the scenes looks at the process of writing this last book, and a peek at the original plan for the series and the twists and turns it took on its journey to the end. Did I mention the prizes? I have incredible prizes for two winners; a go-bag put together by one B. Tyler Grady. Each bag has over $370 worth of goodies in it. For more detail on the contents, you can click the link at the end of this post! Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing to win one of these bags. Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 1, and winners will be announced on April 3rd. Contest is valid worldwide. B.’s Review: Every so often, I’ve been lucky enough to find a book, author, or series that gets so far under my skin and into my heart that I can’t imagine how I ever existed without it/them. These stories are the ones I purchase in paperback or hard cover (if available) as well as digital. They’re the ones that are given places of prominence and permanence on the bookshelves around my desk, so that they’ll be handy when I need to feel closer to the characters for some reason or relive a particular scene. The ones it’s completely okay, and sometimes necessary, to lose sleep over. The Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux has been among the foremost of that group of books since it was first suggested to me several years ago. The final book in the series, Crash & Burn, reinforces each one of the reasons for that opinion all over again and then some. In the interest of trying not to ruin the story, this review will be as spoiler-free as possible. Crash & Burn covers a tremendous amount of ground, tying up loose ends and answering questions that have been building throughout the series. While there was a great deal of clarity provided during the course of the narrative, I was utterly blindsided by other revelations (a fact that already has me twitchy to reread the entire series from the...
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Mar
17

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Tempest by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Tempest Authors: Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Picking up right where Merchant of Death left off, Tempest begins at a sprint and doesn’t slow down for the duration of the story. Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, not quite formerly of the FBI, and Henry Page (aka too many aliases to list), along with Henry’s twin sister, Viola, are running for their lives and heading to the only safe place Mac can think of: his parents’ farm in Altona. Again. But, with few allies and even fewer clues as to who is setting them up, getting their happy ending will take more than even the most fitting Shakespeare references can do. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in the Playing the Fool series, I definitely liked Tempest best. It has just the right amount of everything I appreciate about the quirkier tales I’ve had the opportunity to read. Suspenseful and exciting, Tempest makes good use of simultaneous, yet disparate, scenes that put relatively pleasant happenings on a collision course with those filled with tension or danger, resulting in a fast-paced chain of events that kept me turning pages as quickly as I could. Each main character has evolved a great deal since the first story, and, while not as obvious as Henry’s, I think that Mac’s transformation has been just as pronounced. Having admitted his feelings for the other man, at least to himself, he seems warmer and more balanced, even though his life has erupted in utter chaos with the addition of Henry. Now that Mac’s a fugitive, too, he’s become more empathetic about Henry’s circumstances, which, in turn, lends him more credibility with the very reluctant con man. Extra kudos also go to Mac for wanting to truly understand Henry, a development that provides more frustration for Henry, but, in general, is a better situation for them both. Henry continues to be an ever more winsome and fascinating character, even more so than in the first two stories. Caring about Mac is a mixed bag for Henry, but the relationship really is exactly what he needs, no matter how much he wants to run from it sometimes. Tempest is precisely that for Henry, with threats and losses hitting him from all sides; the life he’d fought to build for himself crumbling down around him. I found it impossible not to ache for him. Even though this is an understandably more somber...
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Mar
2

Review: Lights, Camera, Cupid! Anthology

Review: Lights, Camera, Cupid! Anthology Lights, Camera, Cupid! Anthology Authors: SE Jakes, Amy Lane, Z.A. Maxfield, Anne Tenino, L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Revisiting Carter Samuels and Levi Pritchard, the couple whose story kicked off the Bluewater Bay series, was a great way to begin this anthology. In Just Another Day, Carter and Levi discover that, even though they’ve been together for a while now, they still have a lot to learn about one another, including how to celebrate Valentine’s Day. While he’s not a fan of the commercialization of the holiday, Carter maintains a romantic optimism about the occasion—which, naturally, clashes horribly with Levi’s stubborn cynicism. While the resulting impasse threatens to ruin everything, it also forces both men to be more honest with themselves and each other. Of course, the best thing about fighting is making up, and Levi comes up with a gesture that is guaranteed to win Carter’s heart all over again. Nascha, by Amy Lane, was the most unique of the stories included, and probably my favorite, as well. I’ve read a few stories by Ms. Lane, and Nascha was certainly one of the most memorable. As a community elder with Alzheimer’s, Nascha spends most of his time in this story drifting between the past and present, and, through these memories, we see the events that have shaped his life to this point. Ms. Lane’s addition to the anthology is no light-hearted affair, but is, instead, one of intolerance, loss, duty, longing, and love. Nascha gave me a lot to think about, and I feel that it is the deepest, richest story in the collection. I was excited to see that SE Jakes had written No Easy Way for this anthology since I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time now. Six years ago, Cary Teijan’s world fell apart when his boyfriend ran off to enlist in the Army. Now, Dylan James is back in Bluewater Bay, and he’s determined to reconnect with the man he never stopped loving. While both of the main characters have bad memories that must be dealt with before they can begin again, this is still one of the more light-hearted tales in the collection. No Easy Way is a sweet, sexy read and fits in with the other stories extremely well. In Helping Hand, by Anne Tenino, we meet Lucas Wilder, high school senior and local misfit. Bluewater Bay might be the home of a popular television...
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Feb
23

Review: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Review: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall Waiting for the Flood Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Once again, Mr. Hall has written something I absolutely love. Recounting the story of Edwin Tulley, collector and conservator of rare books and ephemera, Waiting for the Flood is a stand alone story and the second in the Spires universe, and, unsurprisingly at this point, I was just as taken with it as I have been Mr. Hall’s other books. It is a tale of final goodbyes and new beginnings, and remembering that it’s okay to want someone, and then be loved right back. Edwin is remarkable, at least in part, because he is so certain that he isn’t. He is lonely and brilliant, and works endlessly to marshal his consonants into their proper order, only to have them rebel against him traitorously just when he has something important to say. Yet, he persistently braves the linguistic obstacle course of conversation, dodging many of the sounds that are to be avoided at all costs, while marching resolutely straight through others. Edwin loathes pity, but is kind-hearted, and really only wants to care about someone enough to remember their dates of importance and how they take their tea. I couldn’t help but love him. Adam Dacre, civil engineer and flood warrior, is equally likable and is a hero, too. He has scars, inside and out, both from mistakes of the heart, as well as those borne of his passion for helping others. While he’s fighting to save Oxford from the flood, he also manages to fall for Edwin, regardless of the latter’s initial self-determined position as something someone else left behind. He is probably the only person (except for Edwin’s wonderful neighbor, Mrs. P) to see Edwin as he truly is. He knows the difference between sharing sorrow and offering pity, and isn’t one to let what he wants slip by without trying for it. He is rough and warm and just the thing for Edwin’s cold feet. Unique in both its imagining and delivery, every chapter except the last of Waiting for the Flood is prefaced with Edwin’s memories of specific locations within his house, each one richly painted with color and movement, before launching into the first-person narration itself. As he typically does, Mr. Hall imparts a familiar openness to this story, the details precise enough to give them definition, while making it easy for the reader’s imagination to become entangled with the...
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Feb
11

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock The Merchant of Death Author: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Rating: A- Reviewer: B. What I’m Talking About: Picking up immediately where Two Gentlemen of Altona ended, The Merchant of Death takes us even deeper into Henry’s world, even though Mac still has plenty to worry about, too. After nearly arriving at a temporary, but seemingly acceptable, understanding about their growing attraction to one another at the end of the previous story, both men were left shaken when Henry was abruptly called away again. By the time they are reunited, along with mutually vehement expressions of “I wish I hated you” borne on a wave of fury and kisses, Mac knows he’s in serious trouble—on several fronts. We’re also introduced to Viola, Henry’s twin sister, and through her, we see the existence that he has made for himself since living on his own after their mother died. It’s not a pleasant picture, as Mac has begun to discover. Though she is now in need of full-time care, Viola is exceptional in her own right, and has a unique way of looking at her life, which is full of complexities she’s not often given credit for navigating as well as she does. Another of my favorite things about The Merchant of Death is that the fire that exists between Mac and Henry is still building, a fact that I was very relieved to see, especially after having caught up on the first book. They’re a particularly riveting couple when Henry is flirting with Mac while wearing a wig and a thin, summery dress. Or, a floral babydoll. Or, black chiffon, come to that. Mac is hilariously dumbfounded quite a bit of the time as a result, but the denial and accompanying inability to help themselves is lovely. Despite both Henry and Mac’s determination for much of the series that they are polar opposites, by the end of The Merchant of Death, they are forced to accept the fact that things aren’t that tidy anymore. As their worlds appear to merge, it seems as if it’s really just the two of them being pushed away from everything they know, and trying to gain some middle ground as they’re caught by one another’s pull. With no safe haven left, traitors all around them, and killers on their trail I’m not sure how they’ll manage to make it through. But, I can’t wait to find out. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the...
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Feb
11

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock

Review: Two Gentlemen of Altona by Lisa Henry & J.A. Rock Two Gentlemen of Altona Authors: Lisa Henry + J.A. Rock Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I actually read the second story in this series, The Merchant of Death, before going back and reading Two Gentlemen of Altona because I found Henry and Mac’s situation so intriguing that I needed to know more. Taking place during the course of the investigation of a mob boss by the FBI in Indianapolis, Indiana, this is a fast-paced, exciting tale of confusion and attraction, which tend to occur simultaneously, in this case. Additionally, several mysteries emerge during the narrative, including the identity of a mole within the FBI, an ongoing collection of threats against one of the main characters, and the biggest question, who on earth is Henry Page? Henry Page is a con man, but, for him, it’s a matter of survival, and not just his own. With at least three aliases in this story alone, he is keenly observant, lies without really lying, and yet truly seems to enjoy it when he helps others feel better—even though it also makes them easier to manipulate if they like him. While he never means to harm most people, he does what he has to in order to remain free, flawlessly becoming whomever he needs to be to get by. Henry’s self-loathing permeates virtually every scene he’s in, however, and his fear of being trapped by his own truths is an ever-present entity. Ryan “Mac” McGuinness, on the other hand, is awkward and growly, and doesn’t fit in, which he keeps telling himself is just fine. He’s a professional, after all. That he also seems troubled, if not outright resentful, about the fact is a notion that he savagely beats back with an “I don’t care” attitude that fools nobody. Especially Henry. Where Henry is elusive, mysterious, and frustrating, Mac appears to be completely transparent, and Henry’s ability to expose him so quickly and thoroughly makes him feel comically homicidal. Except that he finds Henry so vivid, mesmerizing, and alive that he can’t seem to resist the man. It’s an unaccountably charming situation, at least from my perspective as a reader, and I found Mac’s squirming and conversation-halting outbursts very entertaining. There’s so much going on in Two Gentlemen of Altona that the entire narrative could easily unravel if not for the authors’ adept handling of all the various threads being woven together. Not only is the story suspenseful and romantic, but...
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Jan
28

Review: According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux

Review: According to Hoyle by Abigail Roux According to Hoyle Author: Abigail Roux Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: As soon as I heard talk about some of Ms. Roux’s stories being revised for Riptide Publishing, I decided to hold off on getting the ones I hadn’t already purchased, including According to Hoyle, until available from Riptide. And, while I’m positive I’d have loved it anyway, I’m very glad I did. This book is simply good, all-around fun. It’s got a little bit of everything—suspense, secret government agencies, gunslinging, mayhem, humor, romance, and more—set against the backdrop of the post-Civil War American West. The main characters of According to Hoyle are divided into two pairs: the outlaws and the lawmen. The former, made up of Gabriel “Dusty” Rose and another prisoner initially referred to only as “Cage,” are being escorted to a trial, hanging, or both by US Marshals. The Marshals, Eli Flynn and William Henry Washington, have seen more than a few battles together and know one another better than anyone else ever could. Beyond that, it would ruin too much of the enjoyment of learning about them to elaborate more on the different personalities in play, except to say that Flynn’s repeated bouts of irritation were some of my favorite moments in the story. Of course, everybody seems to like it when Flynn gets flustered, so I felt that I was in good company. In addition to creating a unique and often endearing assemblage of main characters, Ms. Roux has fashioned an inventive and suspenseful narrative, as well. At least two key machinations (one overtly referred to, one only hinted at) are in play from the beginning of According to Hoyle, and letting them unfold as they do makes this a truly clever piece of storytelling. Little nuggets of information perpetually emerge from scene to scene, constantly sifting their way through other layers to either address existing questions or create new ones. The answers are always just out of reach, and, even with a few moments of additional insight, the plot wasn’t at all obvious, especially during the first reading (I read it twice). Another thing According to Hoyle has in its favor is the subtle (and not-so-subtle) romantic elements that are present throughout the story, softening the roughest edges in all the right places. There is a quick familiarity between some of the characters that works extremely well in this case, given that the nature of the environment and situation these...
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Jan
16

Blog Tour + Review: The Burnt Toast B&B

Blog Tour + Review: The Burnt Toast B&B The Burnt Toast B&B Author: Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: All Derrick Richards really wants is to get away from the B&B his parents left him (with all the cleaning, washing, and cooking that goes with it) and back to his logging job like a real man should. And since the place has earned the top spot on the “worst of” lists under his management, he can’t see any reason to keep trying. But, when he asks for a sign to show him what he should do, he gets more than he bargained for in the form of a waterlogged stuntman in a cast who turns up at his front door looking for somewhere to stay. Ginsberg Sloan knows all about doing whatever it takes to get by. Working as a stuntman may be his calling, but it isn’t what you’d term steady work, even under the best of circumstances. After a broken arm threatens to deplete what’s left of his finances, he’s got to come up with a cheap solution and fast. Having gotten used to “couch surfing” during lean times in the past, staying at the B&B that everyone has warned him about seems like a pretty good idea. But, there’s bad, and then there’s bad, and even the handsome, enticingly growly owner might not be temptation enough to stick around. Luckily, Ginsberg’s never been a quitter, and a new project (or two) could be exactly what he needs. In The Burnt Toast B&B, the fifth story in the series, the repercussions of the Hollywood invasion on the inhabitants of the sleepy town of Bluewater Bay continue. This time, we’re introduced to Derrick Richards, owner of a local B&B, and Ginsberg Sloan, stunt performer for the hit TV show, Wolf’s Landing. These two men are the poster boys for “opposites attract.” Though this inevitably leads to some anxious, and even heartbreaking, moments, there’s plenty of laughter and romance, too. While he has a very sweet, undeniably vulnerable side, Derrick also has a wagon-load of issues: he’s closeted, despairs of failing his father’s memory, has a debilitating case of image panic as a result of childhood bullying, and is obsessed with stereotypes and his own “manliness.” During his better moments, though, he is a lovably awkward, earnest man with more potential than sense. Ginsberg calls him a “disaster,” and he’s not remotely wrong. Derrick is a great, big mess just...
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Jan
6

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Do Me Tonight by Jamie Lake

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Do Me Tonight by Jamie Lake From the Author: We’ve all fantasized about the older man next door, or the passing stranger who gave us just enough of a wink that made our imagination go into over-drive.  In Jamie Lake’s short novel, Do Me Tonight, he introduces us to the world of Spencer, a farm boy whose life is turned upside down when he meets a sexy farm hand named, Zack.  Comment below and the author will select a random winner who will win the audiobook. DO ME, TONIGHT by: Jamie Lake JUST A QUICKIE – 30 MINUTE GAY ROMANCE MM READ CHAPTER 1 Who he was or where he came from I didn’t know, but what I did know was that ever since he sauntered onto my parent’s farm, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him.  He was built broad and strong, corded with lean muscle.  He had shoulder-length, chestnut hair and sported a 5 o’clock shadow all day. He had intense dark, deep eyes and eyebrows that framed them with a look that told you he was watching you and everything around you with a sly gaze.  My mom and dad had hired him to be our farm hand one day when he showed up on our modest farm, of all places, looking for work.  Not that there was any shortage of work to be done, I had to admit I was glad someone would be taking some of the workload off me. He said his name was Zack and that he was good at fixing things, plumbing, taking care of the animals and especially good at working with his hands, as I would later find out myself. His hands were broad and strong with long, lightly calloused fingers. I was only 18, and while I’d never been outside our small, rural, Oregon town, I was far from the inexperienced virgin my parents thought I was. I’d been known to go down on my knees for the neighborhood farm boys who couldn’t get enough of living out their wildest, dirtiest, most secret fantasies.   My parents had no idea I was into men. They’d kill me if they did.  My parents were good people, but they were religious people and my ‘lifestyle’ would likely hurt and scandalize them.  It made me feel awful to lie to them, to lie to myself, to hide, but I didn’t know what else to do. My hormones were raging and being stuck in our small town there...
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Jan
5

Review + Giveaway: Liberty and Other Stories by Alexis Hall

Review + Giveaway: Liberty and Other Stories by Alexis Hall Liberty and Other Stories Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Liberty and Other Stories is a remarkable telling of the various backgrounds and evolutions of the crew of the Shadowless (Byron Kae’s aethership), who were introduced to us in Prosperity. Through Piccadilly, Mr. Hall gave us expertly delivered teases and glimpses into their respective pasts, which were just enough to make me insanely curious about how they all came to be in the skytown in the first place. This assortment of hearsay, correspondence, and recollections provides some of those answers. As usual, Mr. Hall has proven himself to be an exceptional writer, bedecking the journey with subtle moments of insight almost carelessly, their influence often lingering in the aftermath. Each story can be read independently of the other, but I recommend reading them all, as the rest of the narratives and content, with the exception of Shackles, all add tremendously to the reading of both Prosperity and the final story, Liberty. Shackles explains how Ruben Crowe met, and fell for, the recently fallen “crime prince of Gaslight,” Milord. While it wasn’t my favorite of the four, it is still interesting for both everything we learn about Milord and the effect that information, as well as the man himself, has on Ruben. We also find out why Ruben broke with the Church and see more of the workings of Milord’s world as a whole. Shackles contains one explicit sexual interaction (for those in need of warning) and seems to be primarily designed to answer questions raised in Prosperity, as neither Ruben nor Milord play a direct role in the happenings of Liberty. Squamous with a Chance of Rain describes how Miss Jane Grey, navigatress of Shadowless and friend of Captain Byron Kae, began her journey towards insanity, addiction, and unapologetic depravity. I like Jane tremendously, and was very glad to finally have more of her history, which was only glanced over before. Told in a succession of one-sided correspondence between Jane and a recently married former companion from Miss Gither’s Finishing School (which must have been quite an institution!), Squamous illustrates the rapid progression of Jane’s curse from its inception. I thought this was the funniest of the offerings, and cackled repeatedly over Jane’s sharp wit and ready use of proper speech for the discussion of some very improper notions. Next, we are treated to bonus content in the form of journal entries from Mrs....
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