Review: The Decisions We Make by R.J. Scott

Daniel Keyes is an orphan, fostered by the Walkers. The product of a lonely childhood, he is thrown into the chaos of the Walker family and into the life of his new foster brother Jamie.

This story is the journey of Daniel and Jamie finding their place in the world. Through Jamie being a victim of hate crime to coming out to family and friends, there are many decisions the boys have to make before they become men.

A heartwarming story about a grieving orphan and the foster family that helps him heal, and a sweet story about two boys who fall in love.  The characterizations were well done, especially Jamie's.   I could see him so clearly and I just loved him.  I also loved Daniel, so quiet and shy.  The author did a good job showing their feelings for each other, making it easy to see the attachment.  Although the transitions were a little abrupt, I also liked the flashbacks and how they let us see the strong bond between the boys.

After such a sweet set up, I was a little thrown by the craziness of Lucy's storyline. Although it did give us some touching scenes that showed more of the boys' feelings for each other, it was a little over the top for me. I also wish the aftermath had been shown more than told. The reactions and consequences that followed were mostly glossed over, with a quick summary of what happened.

Another storyline later on had the potential for more drama, but was also glossed over a bit. Although I understood Daniel's need for answers, his plan seemed to come out of nowhere. We weren't give any of that background until he put the plan into motion. It didn't help that the new character was particularly weak and I didn't buy her explanations. That whole scenario could have been a much bigger and better part of the story. 

Overall, though, I enjoyed this sentimental story. Full of tender emotions and warm fuzzies, it was an enjoyable read. For fans of feel good YA stories, it should be especially appealing.

Side note:
The boys were high school seniors, planning for college, but they both seemed so young, or at least more innocent than the boys I know and have known at that age.

Details like the foster care system could have done with more research, but I was more focused on the relationships, so I didn't think about it too much.

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Sunday Funday with the BMBR's M/M Memories!!

We all started reading m/m romance at different points in our lives, so some of us unicorns are taking this Sunday Funday to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce on how it all began...

Ann: Ahhhhh, the sweet memory of discovering the world of M/M. I’m with Breann. I read Lorilei James Long Hard Ride and was more interested in the secondary characters of Trevor and Edgard. I KNEW something was going on there and damn if they didn’t get their own book that was one of my favorites in the series. I was hooked on Sophie Oak’s books but the boys weren’t touching and I felt cock blocked and quickly learned to search for M/M/F instead of M/F/M. That search led me to Cameron Dane’s Hawkins Ranch series and Katie Allen stories. From there I went on a historical bender and discovered Samantha Kane’s Brothers in Arms series and one really now hard to find regency romance, Three to Waltz by Chloe Hanson, I was a goner in the best way.

Plus, let’s face it, too often heroines are mousy doormats or shrieky she-beasts . I’m TOTALLY generalizing there I know it, there are some amazing heroines out there too, but those books have a distinct lack of multiple dicks that I have come to require in my reading. I soon discovered there are A TON of books out there in the M/M realm just begging me to read them and I dove right in and haven’t looked back. I was so lucky to find and read some seriously amazing authors right from the start. I fired up my original keyboard Kindle to jog my memory as to which authors I stumbled on first and damn, it’s an impressive list and it’s no wonder I was addicted from the start: Kaje Harper, Heidi Cullinan, JL Merrow, Sue Brown, KA Mitchell , Harper Fox and AM Arthur are the oldest ones there. It took me forever to join GoodReads and become part of what I like to call my very own online Deliciously Filthy Book Club but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I consider myself a very lucky Unicorn to be part of this corner of the interwebz full of all these awesome peeps.

Audrey: My first M/M read came into my hands completely randomly. One of my Goodreads friends raved about a tiny little M/M story that was absolutely hilarious, and because it was (a) short and (b) free, I figured I didn't have anything to lose by giving it a try. I read Caged by Tam Ames, loved it, and sought out more M/M stories. The M/M Romance Group on Goodreads is a wonderful resource for free stories, and their Don't Read in the Closet event was releasing anthologies at that time. I happened to pick up Kaje Harper's Like the Taste of Summer and was completely blown away by the emotions and heart in the story and the characters. I loved it, I kept reading m/m, and the rest, so they say, was history.

Breann: My first M/M experience was when I read Long Hard Ride by Lorelei James. I wasn't much into contemporary at the time but it was a freebie so I picked it up. This is a M/F book with a few M/F/M scenes between the MC, so I wasn't expecting anything ...erhm ...extra. Not only was this my first M/M scene, but my first really erotic romance. If anyone knows how to write sex, it's Lorelei James. Anyway, I'm already tackling my husband every 5 minutes or so because of all the hotness. But then. THEN! Trevor and Edgard are alone. And they start doing stuff. With their dicks and butts and I'm like 'WHOA! O.O THIS HAPPENS IN BOOKS!?!? I can, like, read about boy sex? All the time?' *searches for more M/M* Which then led to Marie Sexton, Tere Michaels, and JL Langley and I was hooked.

Jenni Lea:  My first foray into the M/M genre came about as a bit of a surprise.  I started reading a series by Carrie Ann Ryan and when I got to the third book, Trinity Bound I at first thought it was going to be m/f/m of which I had read plenty.  Imagine my shock when the two male characters start kissing.  And then... and then they do more.  I found that I liked it - a LOT.  After that I scoured B&N for more.  I started off with the freebies and that is where I found Lies & Consequences by some person with a weird name (Kaje Harper?  Who the heck is Kaje Harper?) and I fell in love.  I mean, here were two men - MEN! - and they were strong and tough and not helpless damsels in distress.  It was refreshing.  And smoking hot!  So, Carrie Ann Ryan baited me but Kaje was the one who reeled me in.  I have been hooked since.

Lorix: Hmm, my first experience reading M/M was a couple of books by the author Anne Brooke - Pink Champagne and Apple Juice & The Bones of Summer. Then a while later I was browsing aRE for something a little, er, steamier, and in amongst the books I downloaded was GA Hauser's The Boy Next Door. I read the crap outta that book! But it wasn't until I was looking for slash fiction about Scott Lynch 's Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen that I really got into the genre. The Don't Read in the Closet Anthology where I loved Piper Vaughn's story, Amy Lane books followed, then Tj Klune, Kaje Harper and Eric Arvin and - cue meeting the rest of the unicorns. The rest, as they say, is history. I love a good old-fashioned romance, well written characters and a storyline that gets me in all the right places!

SheReadsALot:  Reflecting back, I've been reading M/M for just about half of my life! :-O I've been reading M/F romances (contemporary, historical) since junior high school. And I remember finding an anthology that featured two guys together having erotic PWP sex. Was it smutty? Hell yes! Do I remember the title? Nope. But I remember liking it a LOT. And I kept going back to the library to find that anthology to read there because I would never have checked it out back then. Cut to me in high school, being an avid fan fiction reader (NSYNC, in case you're wondering), also of the M/F variety but being bored. And OMG one day the heavens shined upon me with an author who wrote both M/F and slash fiction (M/M). Babes, I dropped that MF fan fic super quick. There were hundreds of authors to read and I devoured them all! The slash community was a great net of writers and readers. Of course, I got recs for published authors and newly published fan fic authors. It was very hard for to part with fan fic. One of the very first M/M purchases I made (I was in a M/F historical fiction love fest at the time as well) was "Discreet Young Gentlemen" by M.J. Pearson because M/M and historical romance together was everything to me back then.
Look at this cover, don't you just want to mount something? LOL cute story too.

Sunny:  I remember reading a M/F/M series and wanting the two guys to get busy with each other but they were very careful not to cross those lines :(
Then, in early 2005, I read Suzanne Brockmann's "Hot Target" where one of my favorite characters, Jules, actually got a side storyline with another man. It was pretty mild, but I loved it. I had to wait over 2 1/2 years for Jules' HEA in Force of Nature, but I was hooked. I started looking for other M/M books, but it wasn't until I got my kindle that I learned about authors like Jordan Castillo Price and Josh Lanyon. It was like winning the book lottery, all those back lists :)

And now we unicorns want to know....what brought all of you to the m/m romance reading world? :)

Pre-Release Review: Love Rising (Isla Sagrario) by Piper Vaughn

An Isla Sagrario Story In the 1700s on the island of Sagrario, men who love other men find safe haven. For Francis Holland, an escaped indentured servant, Sagrario offers nothing but loneliness. His life begins to change when he finds Wick, a merman, washed ashore. When Wick awakens under Francis’s care, Francis returns him to the sea at his request. Soon after, they begin to meet in secret, and gradually, Francis blossoms under this new companionship. However, a merman is a difficult creature to entrust one’s heart to. With one trapped on land and the other at sea, the differences in their species threaten to keep them apart forever. It may not be long before Wick is gone, taking Francis’s reason to smile with him.

Fairy Talenoun: Narrative centered on magical tests, quests and transformations A type of short story that typically features European folkloric fantasy characters and usually magic or enchantments.

Love Rising was not at all what I expected and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised to read a true fairytale about loneliness, love and a little magic.

Love Rising is the story of Francis, an escaped indentured slave who toils away on Isla Sagrario. He doesn’t really live, he just gets by, surviving, but terribly alone. The island is a safe place, at least a reasonably safe place, for men who prefer the company of other men. It is isolated and relatively self-sustaining so the inhabitants live quiet lives and some are lucky to have found love. Francis is not one of those lucky ones. He has spent his life feeling invisible, except of course to the worst possible men before he arrived on Isla Sagrario. So he expects very little for himself and has learned to accept random connections with passing sailors when he can, but those moments are few and far between.

One evening he is sent to the shore to salvage a mass of debris that has washed ashore to look for anything of value. After sorting through the flotsam some bright colors catch his eye and after clearing away more of the mess he finds a merman has been caught and he is stunned and intrigued by the beautiful creature he has discovered. I loved how he immediately felt protective of the merman and his first instinct is to hide him away to recover and then return him to the ocean. Francis is a good man who has lived a hard life with no breaks and this bit of unexpected beauty and excitement is well written and I could feel his excitement and trepidation in turn.

We learn the merman’s name is Wick (or at least that’s as close as the language barrier allows Francis to figure out) and Francis spends the night and following day nursing Wick back to health to be able to return him back to the sea under the cover of night. They can’t communicate in any real way, but their time together is still sweet and meaningful and when Francis releases Wick I couldn’t help but be heartbroken for the loss of the brief moment of light in Francis’ otherwise bleak life. Francis is devastated in the fairytale way that is all consuming, dramatic, but totally believable given the setting of the story. Reading about his torment is awful but he never comes across as pathetic or over the top in his misery.

One night he feels an inexplicable calling to the sea where he had released Wick and HAS to return there immediately. It is very dark, the waves are crashing and Francis walks straight out into the ocean, he doesn’t really know why, he just does because there is something there he must follow. The moody feel of the moment is well written and adds to the trepidation I felt for Francis and what was to come. Francis is whisked away to an underwater cave and discovers it is Wick who has come for him.

Wick and Francis end up spending every night together in their underwater sanctuary and while they can’t carry on a conversation, they fall in love, again in that fairytale way that makes the implausible possible. Francis is the ultimate gentlemen with Wick and while they get physical, the depth of the respect and love they feel for each other is obvious.

One night their meeting feels different to Francis and the sense of foreboding is overwhelming and after their night together Wick tells Francis, in the halting English he is slowly learning, something that Francis doesn’t completely understand, but he gets the gist enough to know that the happiness he has known the last couple of weeks are coming to an end and the sorrow and heartbreak I could see coming were just too sad and my heart broke for Francis.

I can’t tell you what Wick said, or say any additional specifics about the story because this is a fairytale you have to read. It had all the elements I want to read in a grownup fairytale, there was a true gentleman hero, an enchanted love and a setting that I could feel as if I were there. The emotions were big, big love, big heartbreak and there was a magical happily ever after in the truest sense of the words. I highly recommend this short story to bring a little fantasy interlude into your reading.

A copy of this story was provided by the author for an honest review.

Guest Review: Texas Christmas by RJ Scott

Today we have a lovely guest review from Barb. *unicorn hooves stomp happily in welcome* :D

Six men with lives linked to the Double D... Danger comes to the Double D from Liam's past and threatens everything Jack and Riley hold dear.

Centering on Jack and Riley, parents, lovers and friends.

Eli and Robbie have their home on Double D land. Their love is rooted in the Texas soil and they weather as many storms as can be thrown at them.

And Liam, a young men with a head full of dreams and sleep full of nightmares, finds that all things are possible when Marcus decides to interrupt his solitary existence.

(Warning: This book is part of a series, and the below review may contain spoilers!)

RJ Scott has taken the Campbell-Hayes saga and wrapped it in a glorious red Christmas ribbon which, when it unfolds, gifts us with a wonderful finale for the many memorable characters whose lives have intertwined with Jack and Riley in this series. 

Three couple’s stories intertwine throughout this book – the story of Jack and Riley and their quest to become a family of six – from adopting Max, to parenting their new twins, hiring a nanny, and finishing the addition on their home.  Eli and Robbie have more of a supporting cast role in this story but we have a chance to watch them move into their new home and reinforce their love and commitment to one another.   The main storyline is about Liam and Marcus and Liam’s personal growth from his previous trauma.  Over time, with slow and patient love and support, Marcus wins Liam’s affections and ultimately the two become fully committed, both physically and emotionally. 

As the story opens, Jack and Riley are putting the finishing touches on their house renovations and still working on Max’s adoption, while the series of delays and setbacks caused by minor issues was maddening for them.  They persist because Max, a sweet little autistic five year old who always carries around his Thomas the Tank Engine, has their hearts completely engaged.    One sentence, while shopping for their perfect Christmas tree, really struck me as so sweet and perfect for the Christmas memory bank:  Riley noticed Max was singing a Christmas tune under his breath and Riley noted that, “Max had a cute little voice to go along with his cute little heart.” 

Liam’s story is the main focus in this book as he is pursued with a single-minded focus by Marcus who continually presses him for a dinner date.  But Liam is still suffering from the trauma he suffered at the Bar Five, where he was raped by the owner’s oldest son when he was only sixteen years old, and he keeps refusing the dinner invitation. When Jack receives a call from the owner telling him that he’s hired a thief, he confronts Liam about why he left that ranch so suddenly. The emotional overload of being a disappointment to a man he respects and of losing the only place he feels safe, has Liam breaking down and telling both Jack and Robbie what really happened.  This emotional dump opens the door to his healing process.  He finally gives in to Marcus’ persistence and decides to go out to dinner with Marcus.  At the end of that date, after allowing a few minutes for kisses that he fears will never be his on a long term basis, he tells Marcus the truth about his past.  He figures that if Marcus doesn’t want him, it’s best to find out now, but Marcus doesn’t react the way Liam fears he will. Instead, Marcus is supportive and loving and committed to starting a relationship with him.   I love Liam’s bravery and the strength of character he shows by struggling through this very difficult confession.  I’m happy that the author later shows us Liam’s decision to seek psychological counseling and to consider contacting the police about the incidents on the Bar Five.

There’s more drama for both Jack and Riley and for Liam himself later in the story but both incidents serve to stress the importance of love and commitment and family support.  Ms. Scott has left me feeling very emotionally fulfilled and very positive about the future for each of these couples and their extended family.  Thank you and Merry Christmas to you too, RJ Scott. 

I highly recommend this book to all who have read the Texas series and if you haven’t started it yet, don’t delay.  Make it your #1 New Year’s Resolution!

~ A Guest Review by Barb ~rede-2-read~ ~

Review: A Prairie Dog's Love Song by Eli Easton

Ben Rivers always was a showman. He won awards in 4-H and rodeo competitions from the time he could walk, and he’s happiest in the spotlight. So when he got the chance to be a star—in porn—he took it. He still loves Montana and everything about being a cowboy, but when news of his alternate identity leaks out, he figures he’s lost the town’s goodwill forever. Clyde’s Corner would never accept an openly gay cowboy, even a hometown boy born and bred.

Joshua Braintree always had the notion that he and his best friend’s kid brother, Ben, would end up together. Ben’s always been a diehard cowboy, just like him: they need the land and its freedom as much as they need air. So when Joshua learns Ben moved away from their small Montana town to be a porn star in Vegas, he can hardly believe it. He’s determined to finally declare himself and bring Ben home.

Despite his longtime crush on Joshua, Ben won’t be as easy to tame as Joshua’s “lost cause” horses. It will take a lot of heart and holiday spirit for Joshua to convince Ben that even old prairie dogs can learn new tricks in the name of love. 

This little story sure does pack a punch!  I wanted to read a heartwarming story to clear out all the angst from prior reads so, after hearing about how sweet this one was supposed to be I decided to give it a try.  I’ve never read a book by Eli Easton before.  I have no idea why I waited so long.

Joshua and Ben grew up together in Clyde’s Corner, a small town in Montana.  Well, more accurately, Joshua grew up with Ben’s big brother Chet and watched Ben grow up behind him.  Both have carried a secret love for each other around for many, many years.  Ben thought his love was unrequited and Joshua was waiting for Ben to grow up.  They almost missed their chance at love.  Almost.

Ben, in a bid to “find himself”, decides to try out gay porn.  He has been in the industry for two years now and no one was the wiser.  Until now.  After an altercation at the diner wherein he was outed to the entire town he flees to the safety of his porn persona in Vegas. 

Joshua finally realizes that Ben is all grown up now and decides to hunt Ben down and make him come home.  He reveals his attraction for Ben to him which culminates into one afternoon of joyous lovemaking.  But is it enough?  Will Ben come home?  Will Joshua have the love he’s always wanted at last?

This book was one I enjoyed very much.  I loved the MC’s as well as the secondary characters.  I especially loved the “hick” talk.  There were quite a few one liners and descriptive sentences that were laugh-out-loud funny.  And the story kept me entertained throughout. 

And even though parts of this story broke my heart it did end up being quite heartwarming.  I would recommend this book and I will certainly be reading more of Eli Easton in the near future. 

Review: Christmas In The Sun - Sapphire Cay #4 by R.J. Scott & Meredith Russell

Return to Sapphire Cay for Christmas. Lucas and Dylan invite their friends to share in their Christmas celebrations on the island along with Lucas’s sister, Tasha, and her husband. Christmas is a time for family, forgiveness, and to look to the future, and this year Dylan has to face up to all three. Unearthing the memories of two men in love, frozen in time and buried among the history of the island, Lucas and Dylan realize that sometimes loving someone is not always enough. It’s about being brave and taking the next step. To learn from the past to move forward. Family has always been important to Lucas since his own was struck by tragedy. Though Dylan disapproves of his methods, Lucas has nothing but good intentions about wanting Dylan to reconcile with his father. The two Grey men haven’t spoken properly in years, their relationship strained by heartache and mistakes reaching back into Dylan’s childhood. Forgiveness is a hard thing to give and sometimes even harder to receive.

Merry Day After Christmas All
Time for A Tropical Vacation!

I’m a big fan of this series. Reading the Sapphire Cay stories are like going on a sexy vacation.  I would recommend reading the first three stories to get the characters, but you want to read them anyway, trust me. There are three established couples working and/or living on Sapphire Cay. A private resort in the Bahamas, Sapphire Cay is a popular spot for destination weddings which is how our two main MC’s, Lucas and Dylan met in book 1.

The bulk of this Christmas story revolves around Lucas and Dylan and I loved revisiting them and getting a glimpse into their lives as an established couple. Lucas is still tightly wound and keeps the Cay running with the ultimate efficiency. Dylan is his perfect balance and does as much as he can to keep Lucas happy. Christmas is coming to the Cay and the boys are looking forward to some downtime to reconnect and spend time with Lucas’ sister and her husband who are on their way to the resort. Family is a very important theme to all the characters in this series and especially so in this book.

It’s always made Lucas sad that Dylan doesn’t have a connection to the father who gave him so much monetarily but nothing of himself as a father. So, Lucas creates some drama by contacting Dylan’s father and man is Dylan pissed. I was with Dylan on this one, I wouldn’t have been happy either, even though Lucas has the best of intentions. It is nice to see an established couple moving forward and working though issues to make a stronger bond and take the next step in their relationship. Those steps can sometimes be painful and we get to watch Lucas and Dylan argue, make up and then really make up.

We also get to spend time with Edward and Jamie who may well be my favorite couple. They are so unexpected, yet perfect together. Edward is such an OCD riddled control freak and Jamie is his dreamy ex Marine and son of the former owners. It’s fun being in Edward’s head and seeing him trying to keep his controlling ways in check for Jamie.

Book 3’s couple is there as well. They don’t make as much of an appearance, but it’s great to see Adam settling in to his new job as head chef at Sapphire Cay and building his confidence. Scott is as charming and sweet as always.

There is one new addition to the family. A homeless mutt, named Mutt that Dylan can’t help but bring back to the island, much to Edward’s dismay. He quickly becomes part of the extended family though and settles in easily. I lied, there is another addition, but that needs to be read about and all I can say is, that is going to be one lucky new family member.

Along with visiting the couples of Sapphire Cay, there was a mystery that put things in perspective for Lucas and Dylan. They find some buried letters outside their shack and as they try to solve the mystery of the men in the photos and the letters, they learn to take the opportunity for life and love while they can and because they can. It was a really sweet and poignant addition to the story.

Review: A Brush of Wings Anthology by Various Authors

Guardian spirits walk among us. They are heavenly beings who grant courage, unknown benefactors who offer help, best friends who lend their strength, and celestial beings who embody inspiration. You might not recognize these everyday angels or messengers of mercy, but the men in this anthology are touched by their purity and light and sometimes blessed by love.

Individual story blurbs can be found on Dreamspinner Press's website here.

4 hearts overall

Happy holidays and merry Christmas to all! In the spirit of the holiday, I reviewed this angel-themed anthology, A Brush of Wings, edited by Anne Regan.

Overall, this was a very strong anthology with quite a number of winning stories. There were a few that I didn't like quite as much, but otherwise, the variety in this collection really appealed to me. While I normally don't read "inspirational" romances, the spiritual elements in these stories are well done and provide enough diversity so as not to be repetitive. All in all, there were more winners than not in this collection.


Morning Glow by Taylor Lochland: 4.5 s. Sweet and heartwarming story about Benjamin, who is coming out of a bad relationship, and Alan, the high school friend who has always been there for him when he's gone through tough times. I liked how this story unfolded and the feelings that the guys weren't afraid to show each other. Despite the fantastical subject of angels, this story felt pretty believable, and I really liked the emotions in this one.

A Trail of Feathers by Sarah Ann Watts: 3.5 s. Poignant, touching short story about a man who is still grieving his dead partner and the angel - a seeming wanderer of sorts - who helps him take the first step on the path to healing. This story's ending was left open-ended, but I thought that was perfect for the short and healing nature of it. The angel's appearance wasn't necessarily a solution; rather, it was a guiding step in the right direction.

Heart's Salvation by Réve Garrison: 2 s. Well written (if rather purple prose-y), but I just didn't jive with this story of an angel falling for a man who just lost his wife and child in a car accident. The time jumps, shifting POVs, heavy religious influence, and GFY type approach (with a throwaway line about having had previous experiences with men prior to marriage) just didn't work for me.

In the Hands of the Gods by Jana Denarde: 4 s. This one was a little different, but it was different in a good way. Set in ancient times, it's rich in details and vocabulary that really set the mood for the concept of ancient Roman gods - or, in this case, a guardian of the family - watching over those who pay tribute to them. I enjoyed being taken away to this much different setting, and I liked the unique vibe of the writing.

A Voice in the Darkness by Patric Michael: 4.5 s. Emotionally fulfilling story about an established couple caught in a terrible accident and the voice that guides the MC through the ordeal. Loved how the story gave us their background through effective uses of flashbacks. Dramatic and ultimately sweet, the ending left me a little teary eyed.

Some Comfort by S. Blaise: 2 s. Not much to say on this one. A slice of life vignette for Mal and Dale. Not a lot happens action-wise, and the tone is a little melancholy, ending on a bittersweet note. Just wasn't feeling this one.

Ascension by RJ Scott: 4 s. Sabrael the angel meets his destiny on a visit to the mortal realm, where he watches over Adam, the last member of the family he was tasked with overseeing. I loved the honesty and emotions in this story. There was extreme head hopping - sometimes in the same paragraph - that was quite distracting, though. Nevertheless, a passionate and enjoyable tale overall.

Sariel by Mary Calmes:  I'm torn on this one. At times a 5 star read, at others a 3, and at others an eye roll, this story was imaginative and well-told, but also insanely melodramatic, too. In a twist, the narrator Jake saves his angel. I really liked that development and how the action of the story unfolded. However, the way their "romance" proceeded was really whirlwind and ridiculous. One big criticism of the story is that Jake's narration sounded like a Harlequin heroine. 3.5 s overall for being a good and uniquely conceived tale that in an odd way fell short in the romance department.

The Platypus Learns Astrophysics by Matthew Vandrew: 4.5 s. Almost like a reimagining of A Christmas Carol with Ebeneezer Scrooge, in this story Micah was sent into Jonas's world to touch the cantankerous and loveless CEO's life.  The story was both ridiculous and sweet, and I kinda loved it. The interactions between Micah and Jonas were injected with a great dose of humor, too.

The Angel Blues by Cornelia Grey: 4 s. Morgan's guardian angel Spencer has his hands full keeping the city cop safe. I really enjoyed this interracial story and its premise. Morgan doesn't know if he's going crazy when he begins to see the same man time and time again in the strangest places. For a short story, the emotional connection Morgan and Spencer built was believable and heartwarming.

Redemption by Clare London: 5 s. Gorgeous story about redemption. I can't say more without giving away the tale, but suffice to say that I loved it. Wonderful world building within this fantasy world and plenty of fulfilling emotions. The beginning was rather dark, but it all came together beautifully.

Herbal Tea by H.J. Brues: 3 s. Interesting premise with good characterization.  I loved Justin and Jamie, and I warmed up to Douglas easily enough. I wasn't too keen on the way the insta-love and the sexytimes unfolded in this one, though, so 3 hearts overall.

The Tenth Avatar by Roland Graeme: 3.5 ♥s. Unusual story about an Indian emigrant and his unlikely love match. The spiritual elements in this story were very interesting and well done. They veered towards a little didactic at times, but overall contributed to a pleasing and uplifting story.

Santangelo by Zahra Owens: 4 ♥s. Heartwarming story about how a stroke of bad luck turns out to be the best thing that happened to the MC Michael. This story felt full and complete with the MCs creating a lasting relationship that was built in these short story pages. Well done, and featuring older (40+) MCs.

The Archangel of Castro by Diana Copland: 5 ♥s. Lovely and sweet tale of a hardworking everyman who doesn't think he's good enough for the (much younger) object of his affections.  I adored this story and its saucy angel, sympathetic MCs, and honest emotions. A fantastic read, it brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful way to end this anthology.

Happy unipornian holidays to you and yours from the Unicorn Mafia!

Review: New York Christmas by RJ Scott & Happy Holidays.

Christmas, and the man of his fantasies is back in Chris's life.

It's been far too long since Christian Matthews has seen Daniel Bailey. In fact the last time they met Chris was a senior in college and he was the TA tasked with helping Daniel who was a way too confident freshman.

Some years down the road, Chris is licking his wounds after being asked to leave the private school where he was teaching. He has no job, no money, and has to rely on his friend Amelia for the job and a room to live in. He needs a freaking Christmas miracle to make this Season anything other than a total loss.

Then Daniel comes back into his life and suddenly everything seems possible. Not only is Daniel still the man Christian wants more than anything, but this time Chris may well actually tell Daniel how he feels.

Another cute novella from RJ Scott. In the run up to Christmas I thoroughly enjoy some seasonal romance and RJ Scott totally delivers this. The couple is sweet, the story-line lite and the romance is cute. Some 'melts me' moments, a fab best friend and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. A sprinkling of snow and there you have it -  the perfect holiday romance recipe! At this time of year I devour Christmas love stories and I know that RJ Scott is going to be one of my top authors next year once December the first rolls round.

Wherever you are and however you celebrate the holidays, from myself and the other unicorns thank you for your support and have a fantastic, porn-tastic, uni-tastic time.

Audiobook Review: His for the Holidays Anthology by Various Authors

Spicing Up the Season

Hope brightens a bleak Edinburgh December. A man gets a second chance with his high-school crush. A decade-long game of cat and mouse comes to a passionate conclusion. And Santa Claus drives a red muscle car. Heat up your holidays with this collection of four festive tales from some of the top talent in the male/male genre.

The anthology includes: "Mistletoe at Midnight" by L. B. Gregg, "Nine Lights over Edinburgh" by Harper Fox, "I Heard Him Exclaim" by Z. A. Maxfield, and "Icecapade" by Josh Lanyon.

Narrators: Alec McKellen, Max Tatch, Jack LeFleur, Max Bellmore
Listening Length: 13 hours and 17 minutes

Mistletoe at Midnight by LB Gregg  4♥s

This was cute, sexy and just fun. All of the things that LB Gregg does best made this quite an entertaining little holiday read. 

Owen and Caleb get a second chance after being apart since high school. They end up reuniting when Owen is spending the holiday with his family. Because of the whole fam being there, crazy shenanigans ensue. 

The side-characters were memorable and fun, the dialogue was funny and the romance was sweet. It really was just a nice, feel-good, holiday read.

Nine Lights Over Edinburgh by Harper Fox  3♥s

Sometimes I just don't get Harper Fox. This is one of those times. 

Her way of writing can be confusing for me, so I didn't really grasp what was happening until at least 25%. And then once I was in, I didn't really buy the romance. I'm sorry, but the rescue mission to save your abducted daughter is not the time to fall in love. It just isn't. I don't care if he realizes that it's weird, I don't care if love happens at unexpected times, it was weird to me.

I did enjoy the characters and the plot, but just not with a love story at the same time.

I Heard Him Exclaim by ZA Maxfield  3.5♥s

Well, this was just darn cute. I admit, the beginning was weird. C'mon, they meet at a gas station, then when Chandler's car breaks down he just goes with Steve. Just gets in the car. WITH HIS NIECE! So he's a nice guy and has Santa eyes... who the fuck cares? STRANGER DANGER! 

Anyway, once I was past the weirdness of their meeting I really enjoyed Steve and Chandler's romance. I love the way Steve took care of Chandler and gave him confidence. They were loving and sweet and had off-the-charts chemistry.  

Icecapade by Josh Lanyon   4♥s

This is my favorite story of the bunch. I love the premise, with a diamond thief and FBI agent there's bound to be some fun banter. And there was.

I'm pretty sure I say this after every Lanyon book, but I wish there was a little bit more post-HEA bliss time. Just a little bit would have sufficed, I would have felt like they really were going to be together. They way it ended felt more HFN-ish to me and, of course, I would prefer something a little more solid.

This was a great anthology, filled with great stories and read by great narrators. Definitely recommended for holiday reading, and if you're an audiobook listener, grab the audio version.

Find on Goodreads!

Sunday Funday!

Collaboration Nation!

I'm always amazed when I see books that are co-authored by two (or more) authors. Writing is such a personal thing that I have a hard time imagining how authors collaborate to create wonderful story-babies together. When they have the story come out coherently, let alone beautifully, I just sit there in awe. How do co-authors do it? Do they jump into each other's brains and swim around a little before heading back to their own pools?

One of my favorites is One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O'Shea. It's just so sweet, lovely, and emotional.

The collaboration I came across recently for a college-level English class assignment isn't anything like that, but boy was it entertaining. =)


Source: Quickmeme

I'm so glad the m/m authors out there collaborate in a much more effective way. =D

And while I have your attention, please consider popping by Ann and Lorix's Eric Arvin post from earlier this week, in which you'll learn how Eric Arvin brought two unicorns together.

Happy Sunday, and may the holiday season bring everything you wish for!

Review: Mending Noel by Charlie Cochet

North Pole City Tales: Book One

All is not sparkly snowflakes and sweet candy canes in North Pole City. Office workers Tim and Noel do nothing all day but antagonize each other—petty fighting that might be based on hatred… or a heated mutual attraction. It’s up to Jack Frost and his elf-friend Rudy to broach the hostilities and introduce some Christmas kisses, but is the Frost Prince up to the challenge of launching a new romance when someone’s trying to break his holiday spirit?

I adored this book.

Grumpy elves. The North Pole. Rudy the Rein Dear. This story basically exploded in Santa jizz all over my Kindle, and I adored every moment of it.

The worldbuilding in this story is so fun with cute turns of phrases and clever little plays on words for the various persons and magical beings who inhabit the North Pole and make the magic of Christmas possible. I just loved stepping into the fantasy world of the North Pole that Mending Noel creates so effortlessly.

The MC elves were initially a little hard to warm up to for me. We're first introduced to Tim, the beleaguered and down-on-himself office elf who doesn't do anything remotely cool like the cookie bakers or the toy makers. No, he's an office elf, and to make things worse, his boss Noel treats Tim like Noel has received a coal in his stocking every damn year. Poor Tim.

The beauty of this story is that, even though I wasn't warming up too much to Tim OR Noel, the way they resolve their differences -- and the reasons for said differences -- was totally believable in a magical fairy tale kind of way. I even got a little choked up and teary eyed when I found out why poor Noel was behaving the way he was. It was so sweet, and the way Tim handled everything was even sweeter. Hey, it's a Christmas story, and I can like 'em sticky-sweet if I want to!

Mending Noel is a clean romance. That is to say, there are kisses and some light petting, but nothing happens below the belt. I was a little bummed because (call me a perv!) I wanted to see some hot elf-on-elf action. Alas, I had to make do with my imagination.  Even so, this story was perfect for the holidays and a wonderful addition to my Santa jizz arsenal. Highly recommended for those who like their stories sweet and fantastical!

Review: Frat Boy and Toppy by Anne Tenino

Brad is great at meeting other people’s expectations. But his own? Not so much. Take the gay thing. Okay, so yeah. It took a morning meeting with a frat brother’s hairy, naked ass for him to admit it, but he knows the truth about himself now. Let the gay life commence.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. He hasn’t quite determined how to come out to anyone, even Sebastian, the geeky-hot TA in his history class. Sebastian is everything Brad is not. Intellectual, suave, hairy. Out. And he doesn’t seem interested in Brad, even when Brad makes a fool of himself trying to catch his notice.

Score one for foolery: Sebastian does more than notice Brad; he takes him to bed. Brad’s been with plenty of girls, but with Sebastian, the sex is something else entirely—hot, mind-blowing, affirming, and a little domineering in a way that drives him wild. But when great sex turns into something more—dare he admit the “L” word?—Brad must face the crushing realization that Sebastian doesn’t feel the same. Unless, of course, he does. After all, even grad students can be idiots about matters of the heart.

Can you believe I've never read anything from this author? Where in the hell have I been? (Smothered by my huge TBR mountain that's what!) Such a popular book this is. I can see why. I really liked it. I'd rate it 4.75 but I'm rounding up so 5 Hearts!

"Frat Boy and Toppy" - the title is not the sexiest but when you read the story to get the meaning, it's really adorable and funny. I actually laughed out loud with this story. I don't know if you know this but I love to laugh and usually I might giggle here and there. There were some scenes (especially the final frat house meeting scene) where I literally laughed so hard.

Brad is twenty-one, majoring in physical education, buff, hot, a jock, part of a popular frat on campus, a renowned ladies man and just realized he is gay. *tilts head* Actually, he's always kind of knew but he never admitted it to himself. Luckily, a certain history TA who's also top-happy by the name of Sebastian makes Brad want to see the advantages of great sex. Poor Brad was looking to all the wrong places for substitutes. *shakes head*

Two guesses on how this was used by Brad (hint: not for his hair)

Brad's not the sharpest tool in the shed and I loved him the more for it. He didn't come across as a joke. His coming out was just the tip of his gay iceberg. What's a gay jock supposed to do when he wants to catch a hunky, geeky TA who's totally out of the closet? See the picture below for a hint. A unique way to catch a guy's eye I must say. 

An original way to catch the guy you want!
The story switches POV (which I also loved) so we get into Sebastian's head as well. But I gotta admit it was more fun from Brad's POV especially the D/s tones from both main characters. Imagine your favorite drink being in a goblet. Your drink gets to be D/s - either you can immerse yourself fully...or circle the rim, maybe getting a little taste here and there. That's how the D/s was in this book - light, not too heavy circling the rim but not fully becoming a D/s book. But I see Brad's submissive tendencies and Mama likes...a LOT. Sebastian was in it for the kink and boy did they have some kinky fun. And no more hairbrushes were involved. *smirks*

This is how you know it's true love folks. Hamburger!
And before you think this story is a one trick pony with a tall musclebound meat head with a preference for bottoming (I do enjoy reading about the bigger guys bottoming) and a shorter, older authoritative figure topping, this story is much more than that. The internal angst was well played out in between the fun dialogue, great secondary characters (a "gay fag hag" - fucking loved him) and both MCs. Brad learns different aspects of himself he never got a chance to explore and Sebastian finally learns he can have more than a one night stand. It's angst-light, the boys, of course, make a mini-bungle of things with not communicating to one another properly.  But it ends with a very strong HFN/possible HEA finish. I loved the analogy to feeling like being in love is "like hamburger inside".

*holds out hand* Hello Anne Tenino, glad to finally make your acquaintance. I really like the light, sweet, funny, world you created. Takes a good hand to not turn it into sugary, flat, walking stereotype, mush.

Guess what? I'm definitely checking out more from this author!

So Many Thanks and Love to Eric Arvin

A Few Words From a Couple of Unicorns About a True Gentleman

Eric Arvin

Lorix and I met on GR because of Eric's work and we both had reviews we wanted to post here. We decided that in light of recent events we would also post what Eric has meant to each of us and how he brought two Unicorns together in the most global of ways.  Thank you Eric, get well soon.

And, because helpful help is helpful - The Eric Arvin Support Fund

Ann's Thoughts:
Reading is fun. Meeting new people and talking to them about books is fun. Once in a while I’ll read a really special book, one that just hits me “right there”. I’ll go on GR, gush about it and hope someone else is inspired to read and love it too. I’ve done that with Eric Arvin’s stories. I swear, I know he and I are using the same alphabet, but when I read his words I can’t help but think he is using some kind of magical alphabet or something. I have always been in awe of how he can combine these same 26 letters to come up with what he does.

Then, shit went down and life got real. I’m sure everybody knows about the heartache and immeasurable wrongness that Eric Arvin is going through right now and it makes me think and it breaks my heart and it makes me want to hang on to everyone I love and not let go. One of those very dear people, is Lorix, my fellow unicorn. She and I met because of our shared love of Eric’s work. I can thank him directly for hooking me up with that sassy little bird from across the pond and for that I will be forever grateful. We fan-girled, we posted on reviews, we were the biggest dorks on the planet and when he responded to our ridiculousness he was the ultimate gentleman and it was so much fun.

The reality of what he is fighting right now and the outpouring of love and support for he and Tj made me really see how much bigger he is than just his words and watching the love story that he and Tj have let the rest of us be witness too is like seeing my favorite romance come to life. Eric’s stories are amazing, no question, but it’s everything else he offers to us, his fans, that make our community such a fun playground to be a part of. It’s the laughs, the great blog, the daily song shuffle and most importantly the love that makes this corner of the web the best place to be on the internet. Thank you Eric for letting me be a part of your world and connecting me to amazing people. I’m looking forward to reading more of your words for a long time to come.

And now, Ms. Lorix:
Like many fans of M/M fiction I have been saddened to hear of Eric Arvin’s recent hospitalisation. I am a huge fan of Eric’s work and it was, in fact, through comments on a review of the stunning Woke Up in a Strange Place that I first met one of my best on-line buddies, Ann, and then the rest of the unicorns. I know my world has been a better place since we all found each other. This is also the fabled book that led to his romance with Tj (though I didn’t know this at the time) so maybe it has super powers?

Eric’s writing is, quite simply, just beautiful. Each line and sentence is crafted thoughtfully, no words are wasted. I have found his work is often layered and very thought provoking, they are often the kind of books that stay with you for days afterwards tugging at the corner of your brain when you least expect them too.

Not only is Eric a fabulous writer he is more than generous with his time and interaction with his fans – at least this is the case I have found. Ann & I have fan-girled over many of his Goodreads statuses – even mocking up an Arvinette t-shirt – and he responds like the charming gentleman he is, not shunning us to the deepest, darkest reaches of the interweb.

I have followed his romance with the wonderful TJ Klune (another wonderful and generous M/M author with a wicked sense of humour), a real life love affair of the type I love to read about so much. They are special people and this should be the start of their happy ever after, the one every single one of us wants for them. My heart aches that they are having to deal with this when they should be in their new home arguing over how many strings of lights is too many.

I, like many, many, many fans wish them both all the best of luck as they face this hurdle. I’m glad they have each other and I know I wish I could help more, so I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for Eric, TJ and their families. Know you’re all in our thoughts, and Eric, get well soon.

A couple of Ann & Lorix's Fan Girl Moments:

Another Enchanted April - Originally Reviewed on GR in June 2013 by Ann

Another Enchanted April
Can the idyllic simplicity of a garden change a life forever?

It's a question three men on a vacation to the small seaside town of Beechwood will find the answer to when they stay at a B&B with an expansive and breathtakingly beautiful garden. A garden with an air of the supernatural. Jerry's there for love, Doug's there for sex, and Tony? Well, Tony is practically dragged along against his will.

A comedy of errors ensues as the three men cling stubbornly to their self-destructive ways; can a cook named Anna Magnani, a roller-skating drag queen, and the magic of the garden tame the tempest and prevent love's labors from being lost?

This book should be made into a movie. I know that has kind of been done, but I know I would like this version even better. The only problem is, you would miss out on the words. The way the author can put a few words together to convey so much is truly beautiful.

At some point, just about every avid reader has thought, "Hey, I have great ideas, I bet I could write too." Then you read something like this and you realize, "Um, yeah, no I can't, I'll stick to reading." The blurb describes it all, so I will just add how incredibly romantic and peaceful this book is. Not just a romance between characters, but a romance with a place and a point in time. The whole feel is very peaceful and it does feel like a vacation. Intermingled with that are incredibly amusing situations, great secondary characters and enough snark and honesty to keep it from being too sweet.

Highly recommended and a definite re-read for me.

Woke Up in a Strange Place - Originally Reviewed on GR in August 2013 by Lorix

Woke Up in a Strange Place
Joe wakes up in a barley field with no clothes, no memories, and no idea how he got there. Before he knows it, he's off on the last great journey of his life. With his soul guide Baker and a charge to have courage from a mysterious, alluring, and somehow familiar Stranger, Joe sets off through a fantastical changing landscape to confront his past. The quest is not without challenges. Joe's past is not always an easy thing to relive, but if he wants to find peace—and reunite with the Stranger he is so strongly drawn to—he must continue on until the end, no matter how tempted he is to stop along the way.

** spoiler alert ** This is possibly the most beautiful book I've ever read.

When I chose it I had no idea what it was about. I knew I wanted to read one of Eric Arvin's books (I hear of an author new to me and I want to check out their work) so I looked up what he'd written and was just drawn to the title - I love it. I didn't read past the first sentence of the blurb - sort of book roulette, I definitely dodged the bullet - so for some reason I had it in my head it was going to be similar to the film Memento. It wasn't.

Though this is an M/M romance story it is far from typical. It is about Joe's search through the next life for his soul mate, before he can find him though he has to confront the many memories and people who shaped his earth life.

Firstly I would say the prose is beautiful, the imagery Eric Arvin creates is amazing. He is a master at writing sentences that make the ever changing, ever shifting landscape of Joe's story feel real and tangible. The afterlife Eric Arvin composes is purely made up of each human's beliefs and experiences. 'Hell', when Joe comes across it, only exists because the people there believe it is where they should be, it is truly a product of their own beliefs, all it takes to escape is the realisation that they can, they don't have to be there.

Pg 80 "Well, human beings have always done one thing very well, and that is create their own hells and bask in their own misery. They complain about what they create for themselves; they relish the pain. What they don't do so well most of the time is find a way out of it."

How true is this?

Imagery continues in this vein, for moments of happiness, regret, the mists of those trapped between worlds while machines support their lives on earth but their souls want to be freed. It is perhaps more than a novel, a message we should understand. We are here, we are now, don't have regrets. Life isn't always going to be a bed of roses, sometimes things seem out of control; but we are the only ones who can make our lives what we want them to be. It may sound trite but life is for living and reading this novel makes you want to make the most of every second in the way that is right for you. Loudly, quietly, alone, with friends, a partner, family or a party.

So we follow Joe through his journey into the after life, are with him as he experiences all the earthly memories he has forgotten,both those that seemed significant to him and those that didn't. It brings forward the realisation that our actions and words can affect others, even when they seem insignificant to us. We are with Joe as he is eventually reunited with his soul mate. It truly is a love story.

I usually try not to contain spoilers when I write reviews - the blurb (if you read it) usually gives you enough of the story to tantalise - but with this book I found it almost impossible to write without spoilers. I am sure many others will and have reviewed this story far more succinctly than I, I know I'm gushing - I'm embarrassed even as I type - but honestly it is the most beautiful story. Beautiful. I will most definitely be re-reading it.

Review: Haffling by Caleb James

 When Alex's mother goes missing, everything falls apart. Frantic, he tracks her to a remote corner of Manhattan and is transported to another dimension—the land of the Unsee, the realm of the Fey. There he finds his mother held captive by the power-mad Queen May and learns he is half-human and half-fey—a Haffling.

As Alex’s human world is being destroyed, the Unsee is being devoured by a ravenous mist. Fey is vanishing, and May needs to cross into the human world. She needs something only Alex can provide, and she will stop at nothing to possess it… to possess him

All sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus wants is to be two years older and become his sister Alice’s legal guardian. That, and he’d like his first kiss, preferably with Jerod Haynes, the straight boy with the beautiful girlfriend and the perfect life. Sadly, wanting something and getting it are very different. Strapped with a mentally ill mother, Alex fears for his own sanity. Having a fairy on his shoulder only he can see doesn't help, and his mom's schizophrenia places him and Alice in constant jeopardy of being carted back into foster care.

Do you remember when you first started reading Harry Potter and you realized how bleak those first chapters were and you couldn't help but think "wait this is a children's story?" That's the same inkling I had when I began reading Haffling by Caleb James. The tale fits right in with the original Grimm Fairytales where almost everyone gets screwed and not in the fun way. And even though you know there is a good chance there won't be a happy ending (even when your dreams come you know it comes at a steep price)- dang doesn't this draw you into the story even more?

Alex and his younger sister Alice are doing everything they can just to make it through the day. They fend off bullies and hunger all the while trying to keep social services from realizing how messed up their mother has become. Alex is trying desperately to protect Alice.  One of the best and most heart wrenching quotes is between Alex and Lorraine a social worker who is trying to help him when she mentions how unfair his life is Alex responds,
"There is no fair" I said "It's just a made-up thing" She looked at me. There were tear in the corners of her eyes. "I know that, but someone your age shouldn't."

 This quote guts me because that is the difference between the innocence of childhood and the reality of being an adult.

Thank goodness for Alex's crush Jarod who shows up in all his shiny armor glory to bring sunshine to Alex and me cause we kind of needed it by this point... a little bit of happy for all of us... The romance is really low key though and for any who care, pretty clean.

Haffling is high fantasy at its purest. The story is all about adventure and quests and all of those mystical beings from classic fairytales. Mr. James does an excellent job of creating both a believable real world and the land of the Fey. As seems to be the trend in most modern fairytales Haffling is a good mashup of real world setting and problems meeting old world fears that had people huddling together over candlelight at night.

Even though Haffling is listed as a Young Adult Fantasy it really is geared for fantasy lovers of all ages. I highly recommend.

A copy provided by the author for an honest review.