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. 


YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*runs into room with flailing Kermit arms*

YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


It's here . . . .

The ever amazing Garrett Leigh has blessed us - the Unicorn Mafia with the exclusive cover reveal and preorder information for Rare, coming to Dreamspinner Press on January 17th and Freed, a missing moment from Rare, also dropping on the 17th.

Rare is the sequel to Slide, the story of Ash & Pete that grabbed me by the literary balls and wouldn't let go. You can check out my original review here. So, needless to say, I'm a smidge excited and can't wait to read more of these two characters.

Thank you so much to Garrett Leigh for letting us be a part of the pre-release excitement.

Now, get over to DSP and preorder, you can thank me later.

Review: Whistle Blowing by Ada Maria Soto

Former Navy medic Sebastian Thompson has classic good looks and a true blue heart. But that doesn’t mean he has the confidence to make a move on the gorgeous young blond who just breezed in to the Blue Dragon Bar. Fate will play its hand, anyway. Finding the same young blond beaten to the edge of death, terrified of a hospital, Sebastian has to choose - walk away, or try to save a life.
This one chance encounter will lead Sebastian into a web of danger. Who is the enemy and who is a friend? Who will he trust when everyone has a reason to lie? How far will he go, and what will it cost, to do the right thing?
Whistle Blowing is 20 dollars in an old jacket when you’re broke, it’s like finding out that chocolate can lower blood pressure and help you lose weight (Oh My God - Yes, Yes it’s true Google it). It’s like that hot, sweet guy you’ve been crushing on smiling and waving at you… it is all of that and more… It’s a fantastic full length story that is F’ING FREE. (Cue Alanis Morissette music)

True confession - I started reading Whistle Blowing when I couldn’t get back to sleep at 4 in the morning. I usually don’t like stories with darker elements. Oh My God right thing to do at the worst time. … I was exhausted when I went to work. Why isn’t calling in sick due to reading all night an acceptable thing????  Ms. Soto develops the story at a nice and slow pace… this in no way means dull. I was riveted throughout the whole tale. The reader along with Daren learns to trust Sebastian. 

Because as we find out Daren has so many good reasons to not trust anyone. Sebastian literally finds him broken in a bar’s restroom and the only thing Daren is able to do is plead for no police or hospital lucky for him Sebastian is a trained military medic. Yes with a lesser writer this could be read as too contrived, but this intense start to the story left me captivated and buying every beautifully crafted word. One of the most interesting aspects for me is the medical reality of this book. Ada Soto does a phenomenal job of writing the details of not only what it takes to heal Daren but showing that it is long slow recovery. This is not your “I almost died on Tuesday but am now making passionate love to you after chasing down the criminals all with broken ribs” story. We are there during every blood soaked cleaning and every whimper of pain and horror and embarrassment of Daren’s. Sebastian though holds our hand through the journey and as he gently treats Daren we fall just as much in love as possible.  I was giddy at the romantic feelings that develop between Daren and Sebastian. We are not short changed though on the action/suspense because remember Daren was left for dead and is scared of anyone of authority. We also get great supporting characters, like Rachel, a military friend of Sebastian who reminds me of Aliens Ripley in all of her glory and FBI Agent Kim. 

On a side note, I do want to commend Ms. Soto for a cool sequence near the end with a bit of classic French Connection meets Inside Man. You don’t know exactly what’s coming and how the dots are supposed to connect, but you know it’s going to be good.

Without giving away too much the only flaw in my view is that I have so many questions yet to be answered. Ms. Soto has promised to write a sequel, however. It cannot come soon enough, I would even be willing to pay for this one.

As an aside you can visit her blog and she outlines where the story is going and then read some of her other posts while there the lady is freakin' hilarious.

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group's 'Love is Always Write' event

Review: The Gallows Tree by RJ Scott

Cody Garret is only just finding his way after an abusive relationship ended with his ex in prison. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is his way of running so he has time to heal. His goal is simple-hire a company to help make the mill cottage saleable then go back to the States.

What he doesn't count on is meeting Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the brother of his contractor and the man who may be able to show him he can stop running.

But first Cody and Sebastian must deal with the ghosts of lost loves and the destinies that are woven into the story of the mill and the sycamore trees that stand on its land, one of which might be the gallows tree.

Slooooooooow burn, second chances and a bit of a ghost story.

I love a slow burn romance. It makes the eventual first kiss and first love scene that much more intense because I've been patiently (okay, not to patiently) waiting for them to finally DO IT! Just kiss already! And when they do? *sigh*

The Gallows Tree was exactly that. I especially loved it in this story, it made perfect sense with the past abuse that Cody is trying to deal with.  Oh Seb, the way he dealt with Cody and his past was just perfect. He backed off and was patient, but at the same time made it known that he liked Cody. That he had every intention of being with him once Cody was ready.  So once they were finally able to be with each other, I could really feel how great they were together. They're complete support of each other was wonderful.

Seb was really able to help Cody get a second chance at love and, really, just having a life.  He'd been running from his ex for too long and Seb gave him a reason to stop and just be. To just be happy somewhere and with someone. His past abuse was very believable and I liked how it was shown through past events without anything too graphic. I really felt his terror and panic even though there wasn't any on-page abuse.

The ghost story. *sigh* I just didn't care or like that part. I guess I prefer my contemps to really be contemp and my paranormals to be purely paranormal. This bit of mixing the two genres just didn't work for me. Because the story was introduced as a contemporary, when the ghosts started popping up, I just didn't find it believable.

I liked it, really liked it. I enjoy RJ Scott's writing and if not for the ghosts, this would have been a solid 4 stars.

Author Visit: The Boy Who Belonged by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock - Release Day Giveaway!

Today we have the dynamic writing duo Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock visiting the clubhouse to tell us about their new release, The Boy Who Belonged. Check out the foul-mouthed feathery friend they brought along and look out for the details below on how to enter the giveaway to win a copy of their new book!

Lisa and J.A., take it away!

Writers aren’t supposed to have favourite characters, apparently. But of course we do. In The Boy Who Belonged, the sequel to The Good Boy, if there was any secondary character that deserved their own subplot, it was this guy:

Mr. Zimmerman.

In The Boy Who Belonged, Lane and Derek get to babysit Mr. Zimmerman over Christmas. Chaos ensues. Then hilarity. But mostly chaos. And obscene language.

And it got us to thinking: what’s Mr. Zimmerman’s story? We know he’s a foul-mouthed macaw. We know he’s named after his previous owner. And we know that no right-thinking person in the world would ever adopt this bird. Which is why it makes sense that Christy, Derek’s sister, would have taken him in almost immediately when he arrived at her animal shelter. We came up with this backstory:


 And that’s the story of how Mr. Zimmerman came to live with Christy!

Twenty-one-year-old Lane Moredock finally has a normal life. Six months after he was wrongly made a suspect in his parents' ponzi scheme, he's settled down with his older boyfriend, Derek, and is working and attending school. But his happiness is threatened when his mother launches a Christmastime PR campaign to help appeal her prison sentence, and asks introverted Lane to be part of it.

Derek Fields has his hands full taking Santa photos, bird-sitting his sister's foul-mouthed macaw, and helping Lane prepare for a television interview neither of them wants him to do. As he eases Lane through his anxiety, he worries that Lane sees him as a caretaker rather than a boyfriend, and that their age difference really does matter. He and Lane compensate for the stress in their lives by taking their D/s relationship to new levels--a relationship that Lane's mother insists he should be ashamed of.

As Christmas draws nearer, the pressure builds. Pushy elves. Snarky subs. A bad fight. A parrot in peril. How the hell is Derek going to give Lane a perfect Christmas when the Moredock legacy threatens to pull them apart before the new year?

The Boy Who Belonged is available from Loose Id today!

Awesomely enough, Lisa and J.A. have brought along a copy of The Boy Who Belonged to give away to one lucky commenter. Yay!

If you would like to win an ebook copy of The Boy Who Belonged, leave a comment on this BMBR post with some means of contacting you (e.g., email, Twitter handle, Goodreads link, etc.). The contest will close at 11PM (Pacific time) on December 27th, and a winner will be announced on the blog shortly thereafter.

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa and J.A.! Mr. Zimmerman sounds like a riot, and we can't wait to check out the new book. :D

Review: Stealing West by Jamie Craig

Stealing West Leon Stroud is wanted for robbery and a murder he didn’t commit. On the run to California with his partner-in-crime, Kenneth, he spots the relentless bounty hunter, Thomas Grady, on the train. The only way to protect Kenneth is to create a distraction, and that’s what Leon does when he flees the train at the top of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He forces Thomas to chase him, but nothing can prepare him for what it means to be caught. Thomas Grady always gets his man, and Leon Stroud is no exception to that rule. But almost from the moment Thomas touches Leon, he wants the outlaw for something besides his bounty. Driven by desire he doesn’t understand, Thomas repeatedly claims Leon’s body on the long journey from Soda Springs to San Francisco—and Leon only begs for more. An even bigger threat, with a larger bounty, could be the very thing they need to drive them together...or tear them apart.


This is exactly how you want your old school westerns to be, just a million times better because of the absolutely off the charts heat between Leon and Thomas, the two MC’s in Stealing West. This book has it all, good guys doing bad things and bad guys doing good things, the morality line is a little more skewed by the need to survive in the old west while being on the run from the law.

This is actually a sequel to Stealing Northe, the story of Leon and his partner Kenneth and how Leon came to be on his own. Stealing West can be read as a standalone. There is enough background given, you won’t be lost for not having read the first installment of the Stealing series. Stealing West starts out with Leon, Kenneth, Kenneth’s new wife Amy and her son Woody on a train bound for Salinas. There is a bounty on Leon and Kenneth and Kenneth’s only goals are to keep Amy and Woody safe and to start on a new life living the straight and narrow. Leon and Kenneth had been partners for years, in many ways and Kenneth looked to Leon for direction and comfort throughout all their adventures. Now that Kenneth has a family of his own, Leon can’t help but feel like an outsider and it’s heartbreaking to see the brave face that Leon puts on in front of his friend.

Leon decides to go for a walk through the train to clear his head and stretch his wounded ankle when he locks eyes with Thomas Grady, a bounty hunter who always gets his man. Leon can only hope Thomas didn’t see him, but knows that is probably wishful thinking. Leon makes his way back to Kenneth to warn him, and it’s time for them to separate, hopefully not for good, but there are no guarantees and the two say goodbye. The plan is for Leon to create a diversion, drawing Thomas off the train at the next stop and off Kenneth’s trail.

Leon creates quite the distraction when the train arrives and it rivals the great escape stunts you see in the best of westerns. Thomas isn’t easy to shake though and Leon is ill prepared for the ride and the weather. He’s also still nursing a broken ankle, so the chips are stacked against him. After a few days chase through the mountains Thomas does finally catch his man and this is where the real fun begins. Leon is absolutely full of snark and I liked him a lot. Thomas is the perfect stoic straight man to Leon and their banter ratchets up the tension between them that is so fun to read. For instance when Leon says to Thomas after Thomas accuses him of being too stubborn:

“Stubborn? Me? I’m the picture of good manners. I didn’t knock your hat off your head when I shot at you now did I?”

And, of course, there is an undeniable something between them that starts to show itself when Thomas ties Leon up for the first time. The banter increases, the tension increases and damn if pants don’t come off. One thing that Leon has never admitted, not even to Kenneth, was that his preference was undoubtedly for men. Leon and Kenneth had always stuck with the “we’re doing this just to relieve some tension” dance, but the encounters always meant way more to Leon and what happens between Leon and Thomas is the ultimate release for Leon.

If you don’t think you are into reading BDSM books don’t let that keep you from reading this one. While the story does have some of the elements, it really isn't. These guys do what works for them and I like that it can't really be labeled. That seems more real to me. The relationship and balance that develops between Leon and Thomas really makes sense and is easy to understand. I think what makes it so believable is that the development is a real revelation for both of them and takes them both by surprise. Neither of them really understands what is happening between them, and it’s a completely fun and filthy journey reading about how they figure it all out. It’s the balance that they strike that is so appealing and you never mistake Leon for being a stereotypical sub. Reading from his point of view gives you the sense of power and release he feels, even when he’s on his knees.

As the two make their way to town so that Thomas can turn Leon in to the authorities and collect his bounty, both find they aren’t really ready to let go. When they reach town they hear word that there is an even bigger bounty to be had for catching Phoenix, the outlaw to end all outlaws. Add the fact that Leon has some information on Phoenix that he may be able to use as a bargaining chip to win his release, we have hope for Leon and quite possibly and even more importantly, for Leon and Thomas.

So, on to San Francisco where more western adventures are to be had by our two MC’s. I’ll leave all those adventures for you to read, because this is where these two really start to get their kink on. Give these boys a hotel room, a hot bath and a little rope and dammit if that isn’t the hottest bath scene I have ever read. The. Hottest. I. Have. Ever. Read. And I may have read it repeatedly. I may go read it again right now.

For all the wonderfully deliciously filthy bits in this book, what may end up surprising you is how incredibly romantic it can be too. How the authors managed to fit that in is really well done and is completely believable for these two characters. This story has everything in it that you don’t normally put together with true romance; BDSM (but not really), fisting, (yes, fisting – don’t be scared, it works), ridiculous amounts of rope and a distinct lack of lube, yet, with all of that said, it is one of the more truly romantic books I have read.

Review: Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

When his Uncle Mortimer died and left him Hoxne Grange, the family’s Gilded Age estate, Tristan Pryce knew he wasn’t going to have an easy time of it. He was to be the second generation of Pryces to serve as a caretaker for the estate, a way station for spirits on their final steps to the afterlife. The ghosts were the simple part. He’d been seeing boo-wigglies since he was a child. No, the difficult part was his own family. Determined to establish Tristan’s insanity, his loving relatives hire Dr. Wolf Kincaid and his paranormal researchers, Hellsinger Investigations, to prove the Grange is not haunted.

Skeptic Wolf Kincaid has made it his life’s work to debunk the supernatural. After years of cons and fakes, he can’t wait to reveal the Grange’s ghostly activity is just badly leveled floorboards and a drafty old house. The Grange has more than a few surprises for him, including its prickly, reclusive owner. Tristan Pryce is much less insane and much more attractive than Wolf wants to admit and when his Hellsinger team unwittingly release a ghostly serial killer on the Grange, Wolf is torn between his skepticism and protecting the man he’d been sent to discredit.

I think Rhys Ford wrote this book just for me.  My thinking is that one day Rhys sat down at her computer and thought, “You know, that Jenni Lea is one cool chick.  I mean, just look at that pink hair!  How can someone not cool sport that awesome hair?  She deserves a book with all her favorite things in it.  I will write her a story.”  Yep, I’m gonna go with that because I can’t explain how else she managed to incorporate ALL of my favorites into one book.  From enemies-to-lovers and hot, scorch-your-eyeballs sex scenes to a shout out to my all time favorite graphic novel series ElfQuest and my love of unicorns; she nailed it to the wall!

Wolf Kinkaid (love that name!) runs a ghost hunting business where he specializes in debunking haunted places.  His skeptic view on ghosts and the paranormal has come in handy many times over in revealing frauds for the attention whores they are.  He is contacted by a woman who wants him to investigate the family home and her nephew, the current owner, to obtain proof that there are no ghosts so her nephew can get the mental help he needs.  Wolf takes the job expecting it to be a simple hoax unveiling.  What he does not expect is the beautiful, fey-faced Tristan Pryce.

Tristan Pryce, proprietor of the Hoxne Grange, sees dead people.  Yes, you read that right.  He sees them, hears them and can speak to them.  He’s not crazy.  Oh no, he’s something wondrous.  And he feels all alone; cut off from an unforgivable world and an even more intolerable family.  A family who wants to see him put away for what they perceive is insanity.  That and the money grubbers want the house.

When these two meet it is an instant clash of personality.  Sniping and snarling at each other they reluctantly come together in the face of greater danger.  But they cannot ignore the fierce attraction they have for one another.  The bickering and banter finally culminates into a night of sizzling passion just as an evil darkness descends upon the manor.  What follows is action, adventure and horror just made for the big screen.  And romance.  You can’t forget about the romance.
 “…You and I… fit.  There’s something between us.  Even in this crazy nuthouse you’ve got going on, I feel like… it fits.  You fit.  Just… think about it, okay?  You and me.  Is that such a bad thing?  Can you see us?”
This book knocked my socks off.  I was blown away.  The writing is so descriptive I could actually SEE and HEAR the scenes in great detail.  From the way the house was shaking and the severity of the thunderstorms crashing down on them to the route of a single raindrop as it traveled down the side of Wolf’s face, I was not just reading about this - I was watching it and experiencing it for myself.  Now that’s talent!

I once said in a review of another of her books, “I shall read all of Rhys Ford’s books”.  This book just enforced that declaration.  The writing is superb.  The storyline flows beautifully and quite simply, I enjoy her stories.  It’s like she gets me.  We are on the same wavelength.  From the witty banter to all the feels, I get lost in her stories and I don’t want to be found.

Brava, Ms. Ford.  Brava.

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.  And I was totally honest.  This book rocked!

Sunday Funday with the Chicago Gay Hockey Association

I am a huge hockey fan, LA Kings specifically. Like in a ridiculous sort of way. The only things I watch on TV are pregames, games and postgame shows. I have an NHL GameCenter Live subscription and watch the draft for fun. I've got one jersey that I've had longer than my husband, plus one to wear for when we need offense and one to wear when we need defense as we hockey loving folk are very superstitious. I can weigh in heavily on the current discussions about what, if any, changes to make to the overtime rules. Just FYI, they should go to a 4 on 4 for the 5 minute OT, keep the shootout and leave the points as they are.

Now, given the large amount of hockey fanfic out there you would think I would be REALLY well versed in it. For the most part I just can’t do it. I think I’m way too invested in the reality to be able to enjoy the fiction. I pick apart every little thing in the most unfair manner so I’ve found it’s best just to leave it be. I think it would be like reading fanfic about a family member. Just kinda, ewwww, you know?

Thankfully, there is some amazing reality in hockey to give me my MM fix while still allowing me to keep the game as is.

For instance, did you know the NHL, along with the NHLPA (the players association) was the first major sports organization to create a formal partnership with the You Can Play Project?

"The NHL sets the standard for professional sports when it comes to LGBT outreach and we are incredibly grateful for their help and support," said Philadelphia Flyers scout Patrick Burke, the founder of the You Can Play Project, an advocacy organization that fights homophobia in sports. "We will work with League and NHLPA officials, teams and players to ensure that we create a more inclusive hockey community at all levels."

You can (and should) read more about it here.

Did you also know the Chicago Gay Hockey Association has made the most amazing video to wish YOU a Merry Christmas. A very sincere thank you to my very dear friend Don over at GR for sending this video to me. As you take a few minutes to watch the fun, please take special note of a few things; the beautiful beards some of these guys are sporting, that some of these cats really can sing, the amazing amount of fun the players are having, but most importantly the message, put aside your differences and take time to laugh and love. ENJOY!!!!

Guest Review: Lord of the White Hell #1 and #2 by Ginn Hale (A review by Xing!)

Today on BMBR we have a guest review from Xing. Please give him a giant unipornian welcome!

Lord of the White Hell, Book One

Kiram Kir-Zaki may be considered a mechanist prodigy among his own people, but when he becomes the first Haldiim ever admitted to the prestigious Sagrada Academy, he is thrown into a world where power, superstition and swordplay outweigh even the most scholarly of achievements.

But when the intimidation from his Cadeleonian classmates turns bloody, Kiram unexpectedly finds himself befriended by Javier Tornesal, the leader of a group of cardsharps, duelists and lotharios who call themselves Hellions.

 However Javier is a dangerous friend to have. Wielder of the White Hell and sole heir of a dukedom, he is surrounded by rumors of forbidden seductions, murder and damnation. His enemies are many and any one of his secrets could not only end his life but Kiram's as well.

Lord of the White Hell, Book Two

Kiram fought his family and Cadeleonian bigots to remain in the Sagrada Academy to prove himself as a mechanist and to dispel the deadly shadow curse that threatens to destroy his upperclassman, Javier Tornesal. But when his efforts provoke retaliation, Kiram’s family and home are endangered.

Both Kiram and Javier risk everything in a desperate gambit to combat the curse. But they never imagined their battle would come so soon, or that it would be led by the one person they trust most of all.

Book One

Book Two

Ginn Hale is like my fantasy M/M crack dealer, and Lord of the White Hell (LOTWH) is the stuff I smoke. Instead of crazy drug induced hallucinations, I get a vividly constructed world painted with history, culture and memorable characters. Interested? Please read on.

Kiram Kir-Zaki is a 17 year old mechanist prodigy. He is the first full-blooded Hadiim – a race of people characterized by dark skin and blond hair –to attend the Sagrada Academy, a Cadeleonian institution. The Cadeleonians are a fair skinned, dark haired race who views all other races as heathens to their theocratic society. The differences between the Hadiim and Cadeleonians are many, with tension that is brought on by years of persecution and murder of the Hadiim people under past ruthless Cadeleonian monarchy.

But it’s not just the Haddim and Cadeleonians, but depiction of the Mirogoths to the north and the exotic kingdom of Yuan across the South Sea. Despite the fact that these later two races are only briefly described, Ginn Hale gives enough detail to create a simple mental map, a testament to her ability to construct a world of imagination (you should understand this if you have read The Rifter series or Wicked Gentlemen).

The characters in LOTWH are well written and fleshed out. Asides from Kiram, there’s Javier – the hell branded Cadeleonian Duke of Rauma. He’s arrogant, cocky, yet a natural leader. He is the last of the Tornesal line, haunted by a curse that is staved off by his ability to wield the powers of the white hell. Then there’s Nestor, the artistic best friend that has an open heart. Elezar, Javier’s best friend and Nestor’s older brother - a meat head of sorts (and he features as the main character in the yet-unpublished third book of the series).  There are a lot more characters, but the above mentioned guys are the ones that stay at the heart of this series.

The setting of Sagrada Academy is reminiscent of a modern day high school. As such, each important character could be assigned a certain role, creating a young-adult-ish feel to this series. For instance:

Kiram = the nerd that transferred in
Nestor = the nerd’s best friend
Javier = the most popular guy/jock
Elezar = the most popular guy’s right hand man
Master Ignacio = the jackass PE teacher

You get the point, right? And that leads to some things to clarify. As a YA-ish book, don’t expect great fantasy sex! There’s unresolved sexual tension for the majority of volume one that ends with some kisses and one sexual encounter between Kiram and Javier. Book two has more intimacy among our young heroes, but Ginn Hale doesn’t go into great detail. Sorry ladies and gents, but the lack of detailed sex didn’t stop me from loving this series.

Book one deals with Kiram’s stay at the Sagrada Academy, which is roughly one year. There isn’t too much going on in this first book. Instead, it seems more like a setup for the world, the characters, and the plot. Ginn Hale has a tendency of dropping small nuggets of details that hint at future events (for instance, Javier’s dislike of the color blue). It’s about Kiram trying to flesh out his role in a culture that is resistant to the push and pull of his own upbringing, also of making friends, and discovering a plot that may destroy the one person he cares most for in the world.

Book two is a direct continuation after the cliffhanger ending of book one. We also get a more personal glimpse of Kiram’s family and the Hadiim culture as opposed to the Cadeleonian way of life in book one. There is more action in terms of violence and magic. There is more intimacy between our young heroes. This is also where the wheels begin the turn – where revelations come to light, decisions are made, and the story of Javier and Kiram come to a close.

LOTWH may not be the most exciting fantasy reads out there – no great bouts of magical violence, nor adventures across vast unknown lands. No orgasmic-inducing sex scenes that leave readers limp after reading. But there is a certain ambiance to this world and its characters that touches the fantasy M/M romantic inside of me; that makes me feel that fluttering sensation every time Javier hugs Kiram in desperation like it would be his last, or Kiram’s realization of when he became an adult. Even though Javier and Kiram only get two books to themselves, I feel their story has been told and will be delighted for a new one to begin (even with different main characters).

~ A Guest Review by Xing ~