Review: Sacrificed (Little Boy Lost #6) by J.P. Barnaby

Reunited with his father but missing the one man he loves more than any other, Jamie Mayfield attempts to put his life back together amid rehab, seizures, and the gutting loneliness of Brian's rejection. As he tries to cope, Jamie finds that relying on his friends isn't nearly as difficult as he'd imagined, and soon he can once again stand on his own two feet.

While recovering from his addiction, Jamie starts a new phase of his life at college, working to become the man Brian needs him to be. Only one question remains: Can Jamie earn Brian's forgiveness and win back his trust, or will their love be sacrificed at the altar of Jamie's demons?

Brian and Jamie's epic journey comes to a close in this thrilling conclusion to the "Little Boy Lost" series.

**Possible series spoilers**

Little Boy Lost.

Is there a more apt name for this series? No, there really isn't.

Brian and Jamie, both of these boys are just so... well, they're lost. They're lost without each other, lost without their families... just lost. Yes, they finally, FINALLY get their beloved HEA in Sacrificed. But what this series is really about is the journey they were willing to take to finally find each other and just be happy. Their terrible, gut wrenching, loving journey. They went through so much that the fact that they actually made it to the end is amazing and I was finally able to take a huge sigh of relief.

Oh, the angst. The delicious, wonderful angst. What these boys went through... I can't even imagine. This is probably my favorite book in the series (or the first book is - I haven't decided yet) because Jamie showed so much growth. Amazing, incredible growth. And he did it not knowing if he'd even get the guy in the end, he did it because he needed to. The choices he made in this last book were so brave that, even after his horrible behavior in the fifth book, I just couldn't help but love, love, love him for it.

Brian on the other hand... he needed to be bopped in the head. I get where he's coming from. Jamie did some unforgivable things in order to get a fix, he lied and, basically, cheated. I get it. But, still. The guy is suffering. And after all that Brian went though, he just stopped trying for Jamie. Just like that. I wanted to smack him.

At the same time (watch, I'm going to contradict myself here), I'm glad he wasn't there. Jamie needed to get help by himself and for himself. Without Brian to lean on and without the excuse that he's doing it all for Brian. So, I was mad at Brian, but glad that he was being a douchenugget. Conflicted. Me. Really.

This was yet another book in the series where our heroes were not together for a good chunk of the story, but I think that's what needed to happen in order for both of them to get their heads on straight and for the right reasons. I just loved how it all played out between them and I think they were really in the right place in their lives to begin their life together, for reals this time.

As far as the series goes, it's so worth the read. The middle books were a little weaker and I'm not sure this story needed to be told in six books, I think four would have sufficed. But being able to witness Brian and Jamie's heartbreaking journey makes it all worth it.

Author Visit & Giveaway: Tali Spencer Takes Over with an Exclusive Excerpt & a HUGE Giveaway!

Tali Spencer, author of the Happy Hour Chat book Thick as Thieves, has come to the clubhouse and taken over the unicorn reins. Take it away, Tali!

Princes and Thieves

Thanks so much to the Unicorns for inviting me to be your guest! I love what you’re doing because reading books is some of the best fun there is. In celebration of my first ever invitation to be a guest author, and because we’re also celebrating a great new year, I’m holding a giveaway in conjunction with this post. The winner will receive a bundle of items: a signed paperback of Thick as Thieves, a lovely basilisk eye necklace (it’s really pretty), a unicorn zipper coin purse, Thick as Thieves notebook, and other fun swag.

There were many reasons why I wrote Thick as Thieves, but one I haven’t talked about much is that I wanted to give readers a different kind of fantasy. So many high fantasy stories deal with the upper echelons: kings and princes, wizards or generals, and have kingdoms or entire worlds at stake. Don’t get me wrong, either: I love those stories! I write them. But this time I wanted to do something else.

Neither of the main characters in Thick as Thieves is a prince or wizard or possesses any social status. Sure, Vorgell proclaims that his father was chief of his barbarian tribe, but the fact is Vorgell has lost his family and had to flee for his life. He doesn’t even have a country anymore. He joined up with a band of thugs, got beaten in battle and was even briefly enslaved. Now he’s just homeless and, because he ignorantly killed a unicorn, he’s also enchanted and permanently horny.
He’s just a down on his luck man with a hard on.

Madd has no family either, but even when he did no one respected him. He’s despised among his own kind, the witchkin, whose matriarchal leaders have no use for a man-loving male. Resentful and rebellious, he spent his adolescent years on the streets of Gurgh, where he picked up a few unsavory skills and became a penny ante thief. He doesn’t have much magic and what he does have, he barely knows how to use. Except for being good-looking enough to have snagged an evil nobleman’s eye, he’s not even close to being exceptional.

The biggest challenge these guys face is survival—and soon after meeting each other they realize they’ll have more success together than apart.

And that’s what the story is about. It’s about two men who have to worry about things like where they’ll sleep for the night, whether the tavern keeper who took their coin is watering down their beer, who might be trying to kill them, or how the next person they meet is going to try to screw them over. They’re not concerned with princes because they don’t know any princes. They’re not concerned with wars because they have no intention of fighting for either side. They’re figuring out the rules as they go along, just like most people.

Also, because so much of life—mine, yours, everyone’s—is crazy, unexpected, and frequently absurd, I decided to give my guys problems only a fantasy could encompass. Vorgell is enchanted to be a walking erection in need of release, and he’s more than happy to jump into a fight given the slightest opportunity. Madd wears an enchanted collar that means every time he gets close, he desires the man who put it on him, even though he hates the guy. Is it any wonder he’s angry at the world? They live in a world where witches are in hiding, thugs and thieves rule the streets, and wizards command deadly fiends. Yes, the result is slightly askew, but I wrote it to be fun, a little different, and yet a fully realized book of high fantasy and adventure.

At the end of the day, I hope readers will find my characters and their world worth spending time with. Vorgell and Madd may not be princes, and only occasionally noble, but they’re earnest.

Up for an excerpt? I told the Unicorns they would get the very first sneak peak at the next book, Thick as Ice. This is the opening scene. It’s not edited yet, so the published version may be slightly different—but I bet not much.

Excerpt from Tali Spencer's Thick as Ice:

The ice harpy looked unhappy. Her flat little eyes fixed on Vorgell and she fluffed her ice-rimmed leg feathers in warning. The temperature in the room plummeted so his next breath emerged as frost.

Vorgell had never seen a happy ice harpy. Even when not imprisoned like this one was in an enchanted cage at the center of a magical room, ice harpies were miserable creatures. To start with, their magic froze everything around them. The cold air of this room would have reduced him to violent shivers had he not had the forethought to clothe his body with furs in the middle of summer. Even the moonlight pouring through the glazed windows was cold. He glanced toward the other side of the room, where Madd crouched on the floor behind the ice harpy’s back. His partner was also bundled in furs as he worked on the room’s magical perimeter.

Vorgell’s job was to occupy the harpy.

He shrugged out of his heavy fur cloak. The leather jerkin he still wore showcased his broad chest and manly arms. The harpy craned her neck and spread her wings the better to display two very human-looking breasts atop her narrow, bird-like body. As was usual with ice harpies, her breasts were enticing. billowy soft, with pink perky nipples. Vorgell knew better than to fall for such charms. He’d seen ice harpies in action. The moment the lustful harpy succeeded in mounting him—an act he was determined to thwart—her pretty tits would deflate into unsightly bags. Not only were ice harpies miserable, they were devious. His cock, however, responded to the sight of two large firm globes and glorious cleavage by plumping with interest, pushing out his trouser front.

He damned the unicorn magic that made him susceptible to sexual lures of every persuasion. That he had fucked a unicorn horn in a moment of weakness left him vulnerable now… and very appealing to the ice harpy. One of the most unsavory of magical beasts, ice harpies needed to mate with human males if they were to breed. This was difficult on two counts: not only were the sexual habits of ice harpies disgusting, but any man who succumbed to their questionable charms ended up freezing to death.

Willing males were hard to come by.

No wonder this harpy now eyed Vorgell with anticipation. From across the room, Madd looked up with a scowl and gesticulated that he needed a little more time. Apparently the wizards who had set the wards had been as skilled as was rumored. Madd was now gloveless and working frantically, but at least he still wore several layers of furs. Vorgell was beginning to shiver.

Forcing a grin of nonchalance, Vorgell opened the flap of his trousers, releasing his erect cock into view. Breasts bobbing, the ice harpy danced on her perch. The feathered mound between her plump avian legs opened to reveal a rosy slit already wreathed by mist in the frigid air. It was… terrifying, actually. Vorgell swallowed hard. He waggled his cock and, when he saw the harpy was transfixed by the sight, shot a desperate look at Madd.

Two slender cones of bluish light rose from the floor to each side of the softly chanting, dark haired male witch. Madd extended his deft hands and touched each blue magical object with a gleaming dragon’s fang. The wards flared and vanished. Madd raised his head, lifted his thumb, and delivered a wide grin of triumph that nearly melted Vorgell on the spot… which was good considering how frozen he was beginning to feel. The little guy’s smile also went straight to Vorgell’s cock, inspiring dreams of how he planned to celebrate.

Emboldened by thoughts of Madd wrapping those bewitching lips around his cock, Vorgell stepped forward across the now disarmed floor. His approach caused the harpy to lift her wings and squawk with excitement. She pressed herself against the bars, licked her thin little lips and craned toward him. Kneeling below the cage, he removed the water pouch tucked between his belt and belly and trickled a stream into a depression in the floor. It took only a moment for the magical fluid in the mold to freeze into a key. He retrieved it and stood to unlock the door. Unnoticed by the amorous harpy, Madd crept up with all the stealth of a seasoned cutpurse and thief.

The door swung open. With a shriek of lust, the harpy leaped upon Vorgell. Her thighs gripped his hips and her nauseating breath iced his lips right before Madd tossed a net of blood-hued string and gold-edged red feathers over the creature and the contraption snapped tight around her, binding the harpy into an feathered ball. The room noticeably warmed.

“Quick!” Madd wrapped his fur cloak over the harpy and scooped her up into his arms as he hurried toward the window through which they’d entered.

Vorgell dashed to get his own fur cloak—wolf pelts were costly and he had paid much for the work—and fastened it around his shoulders. He caught up with Madd in a bare few leaps, his long legs eating the distance. Making a stirrup of his hands, he catapulted Madd and their prize up onto the window ledge, then climbed to join him.

They left nothing behind but a puddle from the melted key.

Tali has an amazing giveaway prepared in connection with this post. Check out the awesome stuffs you can win!!
Unipornian swag pack!

  • signed Thick as Thieves paperback
  • a unicorn themed canvas lunch bag
  • Thick as Thieves notebook
  • unicorn coin purse
  • unicorn horn hand soap
  • Petal the basilisk mug
  • a basilisk eye necklace
Basilisk eye pendant!

:::How to Enter:::

Leave a comment on this post, including a method of contacting you (e.g., email address, Twitter handle, Goodreads profile if you accept messages, etc.), for your chance to win this amazing prize package! The giveaway is open until 10PM (Pacific time) on January 27th, 2014, and a winner will be selected at random shortly thereafter. The winner must respond to our message within 48 hours or else we will select another winner.

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor! ;)

Thanks for stopping by and bringing this amazing swag package, Tali!

Review: Probation by Tom Mendicino

All it took to destroy Andy Nocera's seemingly perfect life was an anonymous tryst at an Interstate rest area. Sentenced to probation and thrown out by his wife, he spends his week as a traveling salesman, and his weekends at his mother's house where no questions are asked--and no explanations are offered. To clear his record, the State of North Carolina requires Andy to complete one year of therapy without another arrest. He attends his sessions reluctantly at first, struggling to comprehend why he would risk everything. Answers don't come easily, especially in the face of his mother's sudden illness and his repeated failure to live as an openly gay man. But as Andy searches his past, he gets an opportunity to rescue another lost soul--and a chance at a future that is different in every way from the one he had envisioned.

With profound honesty, sharp wit, and genuine heart, this debut novel portrays one man's search--for love and passion, acceptance and redemption--and for the courage to really live.
How do I write about a book with such amazing story telling that it’s going to take me almost as long to go through all my highlighted quotes as it did to read the book in the first place?

 My words aren’t going to do justice to this book, they just aren’t. I’m not even going to tell you about the story much. It’s Andy’s story to tell and you need to hear it from him and reading it for the first time without knowing much about what’s coming is too good to be messed with in a review. His voice is so painfully honest, his words broke my heart but I couldn’t put this down. He’s a character that will stay with me.

Probation is the story of one man’s fall from grace and his journey to the truth for himself. On paper, Andy isn’t someone I should have any sympathy for. But what was so compelling about this story is the author’s portrayal of Andy. He’s not a hero, he’s not a bad guy, he’s just a man and he has a story. His whole life is dissected in the one year he is placed on probation and forced into court appointed therapy. Andy Nacero has been living a lie. Trouble is, he's also a natural born salesman and he's had himself believing his own sales pitch. But, as Andy says:

Life is a series of 'what ifs'

What if just one thing were different, if that one thing changed? Could he go on living that comfortable lonely lie?

Andy's lie is very real and can’t be summed up with one or two tragic events from his past. As Dorothy Parker said, “It’s not the tragedies that kill us; it’s the messes.” And Andy is a mess. Throughout the story I loved his honest voice, it was incredibly heartbreaking and real without being pathetic and once his story really started to unfold I couldn’t put this book down. All the messes he’s had have made him who he is. Taken individually, many could possibly be explained away, we all have childhood moments we would rather not recall. He has a few though that are terribly damaging but because he isn’t even honest with himself, he has no one to share his burdens with. A lifetime of hiding has taken its toll and the saddest thing is he doesn’t even realize that there are other options for him. That love, romance and the connection to another human being is possibly available to him. He hates himself and everything he represents so much he can’t see past stereotypes to give anyone, much less himself a chance.

Andy has become a sponge for all the shame and blame of his loved ones. His therapist, Matt, tells him, “Shame seems to be a recurring theme in your life”. It’s completely self-prescribed too, from his sister’s relationship with his mother and her family to Alice and her father. Those relationships were messed up all on their own and would have been with or without Andy. Selfishness isn’t just for personal gain and Andy sees himself as the catalyst for the damaged bonds between these people. He uses that blame as fuel for his self-loathing, it’s easier to stay there than to make painful changes and possibly hurt people he loves. He antagonizes just to fuel the fire. Talking about Alice’s father, also his boss:

My efforts to capture his attention never failed to provoke paternal eruptions that fueled my courage and pushed me a little closer to the edge of outrageousness . . . .

Secondary characters in this story were amazing. You would think, with all of Andy’s issues, his family and friends would be awful people, but they are just like him, they’re human. They have their own problems and it took tragedy and illness for Andy to get some perspective.

Andy’s mom is his rock and where he goes when there is no place else for him. She’s very old school and on the surface it seems she’s mostly concerned with proper appearances, but she’s a mama bear at heart and her methods work as well as she’s able to make them. They don’t “talk” about what happened with Andy, that’s just not how she operates:

We’re very comfortable here in the zone between questions left unasked and answers never offered.


My mother will be there, ready to catch me if I fall and lead the charge when I’m challenged.

He has no doubt though that she loves him unconditionally and it took coming back home to figure that out.

Matt, the therapist is a perfect fit for Andy. He makes him comfortably uncomfortable and gets Andy to see things in a fresh light. I think one of the most memorable parts of this book was when Matt asked Andy to write his own report of his progress at the end of their year together. Andy was brutally honest and incredibly insightful. I read his report a couple of times because he nailed it so well.

There are so many others, Alice, Gina, his father, his nephew (probably most importantly his nephew) – gah, I could go on all day about them all, but I have to say his relationship with every random hookup broke my heart but showed the most hope for a real future than any other relationship he had. When a potential hookup flirts with him and asks:

Do you want to be wooed?
More than he can ever know, for as long as he’s been on this earth.

Andy's reaction killed me.

While Andy may not have been in a place where he could verbalize it yet, he did have hope and I could see it even when he was at his lowest. That’s what was so amazing about the writing here, how the author kept me hooked on Andy through all the awful things that happened but with underlying glimpses of optimism that I had to see play out.

This paragraph hit me, a hookup told Andy how much he liked him, pretty simple stuff, but – this is absolutely Andy right here:

He couldn’t know the impact of his words; he wouldn’t understand I’d waited my entire life to hear another man speak them but had made conscious, deliberate choices to ensure I never would. And all that careful planning – compartmentalizing, rationalizing, justifying, avoiding, excusing, lying – where had it gotten me in the end? Locked in a fucking jail cell and kicked out on the street. But somehow I’d survived to make it here, at long last, to this tiny apartment, at the brink of an auspicious beginning. But my fear of the risks of intimacy, the possibility of rejection, still held me back. The only thing more terrifying than losing my home, my job, my good name, was the very real possibility of losing my heart.

I really can’t recommend this book enough. I was honestly planning on being depressed while reading Probation, and I’ve said it here repeatedly, my heart broke over and over, but Andy’s story is too compelling not to go through with him. Sure, parts are sad as hell, but I knew there had to be something more waiting for him. The ending was completely realistic in its subtlety and I loved it more than any extravagant, over-the-top HEA. The completion of Andy’s story fit him so well and I couldn’t have been happier for his future.

Review: Dirty Deeds by S.E. Jakes

Two seasoned operatives finally meet their match: each other.

Cillian works for the mysterious Special Branch 20: an organization that runs black ops commissioned by the British government. His specialty is deep undercover assignments with virtually no support. He’s been alone for so long that he no longer knows anything else.

Mal’s also used to being alone. Wanted in several states and even more countries, he’s not allowed in the vicinity of any of his former Navy SEAL teammates. And his current assignment is to track Cillian in order to discover the spook’s endgame. Except he’s no longer sure which one of them is getting played.

Cillian isn’t about to let the mission that’s consumed him for the past several years crumble because an outsider is poking around where he doesn’t belong. But Mal forces his way through Cillian’s defenses—and into his heart—exposing a devastating betrayal that could destroy them both.

My reaction when I first read Mal and Cillian were going to be a couple.

Dirty Deeds, book #1 from the Dirty Deeds series by SE Jakes is a action-packed, erotic-filled, mind-bending suspense novella featuring two secondary characters from the Hell or Highwater & EE Ltd series. For those readers who have been following along with those books, do not fear for Tom and Prophet...Mal and Cillian have the makings to be their own force field. Oh my, my, my!
“Letting me know your email address. Big step. Sure you're ready for that kind of commitment?""I'm pretty sure I want you to shut up and open your ass for me.”
It's a battle of spy vs. spy in Amsterdam.

But instead of this being a one trick pony by carrying on the same mystery from Hell or Highwater, Dirty Deeds flipped it with two spies who don't know when to quit, are rough around the edges and though they might not see it yet are two sides of the same damaged coin. For less than 100 pages, is it worth reading? Hell yes. We are given glimpses of both Mal's and Cillian's background (you are never going to guess, I didn't). I was left wanting more but not unsatisfied with what I learned.

This book delivered:

Smart asses with smart ass dialogue? Check!
Hot dirty talk including dick pics? Super huge CHECK!
Hot rough sex in public? SUPER DUPER CHECK! (I would love to be a fly on the wall in this club in Amsterdam, just saying)

This story has key elements for a bang-tastic little number but don't think this is PWP. No way, folks. This story has a great plot that unfolds at an entertaining pace. Not all of the questions are answered. Do know that John...the bad guy from the other series, hovers heavily throughout the story. Why? I am not spoiling for you.We also get a few scenes of my snarky pal Prophet and Tom being themselves and awesome. And Mal is also trying to win for being the snarkiest spy of the world title, Prophet needs to be on the look out. No wonder they are such good friends.

“How did we go from cocks to this? Because I gotta tell you, cocks are more fun. Especially mine.”

Would I categorize this book as romance? Not necessarily. This is not a fluffy book. No sugar or insta-love-you's here. This is a dirty book with hot rough sex, dirtier talk and sexting through IM. Cillian and Mal have not trusted people for so long that it will be a rough road ahead for these two ever getting it together for a relationship. We get slices of the true men inside their worlds of lies and I love those slices.

Do you need to read Jakes' previous work prior to reading Dirty Deeds? No but I think you should. Why? Yes, we learn some background for both Mal and Cillian in Dirty Deeds but the glimpses we get in Hell or Highwater series of both secondary characters are just as delicious. You will fully get why this pairing is so wonderful.

The ending is a cliffhanger of sorts. It ended at the right moment and I am anxious for the next book in the series (which will be full length, thank goodness) because Mal & Cillian are definitely major contenders for a novel. SE Jakes stepped up with her game. I've been reading her books from the beginning - I'm impressed with Dirty Deeds. This series definitely started on the right note.

Review: Hollywood Bound (Gin & Jazz #1) by Morticia Knight

Jack and Nick seek fortune and adventure in the silent film era of Hollywood. But their newly-expressed love is threatened by the heady allure of fame, gin and easy money.

Sweet and innocent nineteen year-old Jack has loved the older and more street wise Nick from almost the first time he met him. Nick has taken care of him ever since Jack arrived in New York after he was beaten and thrown out of the boy’s orphanage for messing around with one of the guys there. They share a passion for silent films and have dreams of heading west to make their fortunes building sets for the studios. If only Nick felt the same passion for Jack, and wasn’t already engaged to a gal back in Philly.

Nick’s temper sometimes gets the best of him, but that’s only because he worries about Jack – Nick is all the poor kid has. But he’s also terrified about the way he’s been feeling towards Jack lately. They’re the kinds of feelings he should be having for his fiancĂ©—Penelope—and never for a man. His only goal is to get them both to Hollywood, where he’s sure they’ll be rolling in the dough in no time, and where everything will all work out the way it should.

Hollywood isn’t exactly what they’d thought it would be. There are plenty of gin joints, jazz, money, parties and sex—but everything comes with a hefty price. Everyone they meet—from Trixie Fox, the ditzy up and coming starlet, to Bernie, the foreman who gets them their first studio job—seems to have a hidden agenda. Can the newfound love between Jack and Nick survive the tawdry mess that makes up the glitz and glamour of the celluloid kingdom, or will their own secrets tear them apart forever?

What was my favorite part about Hollywood Bound, you ask? Jack. Sweet, young, loveable, trusting, innocent Jack.  He's so cute, I just want to pinch his cute butt. But I won't, since he's fictional. *heavy sigh*

Jack and Nick head out from New York to Hollywood. There gonna make the big time, workin' on those movin' pictures sets. There won't be nothin' to worry 'bout once they get to Hollywood.

Sorry, boys. But, no.

Oh my, what a heartbreaking tale. Jack and Nick just want to have it all. Why they think moving to another city with nothing will solve their problems, I'll never know. But it certainly doesn't help them any.

While on their way to California, they become closer and finally make known to each other that their relationship is more than friends.

Jack *swoon* has been in love with his best friend Nick almost since Nick found him. Really, really in love... infatuated, possessive, all of it, for quite some time. He's very young, naive and innocent, but so darn cute about it all I can't help but love him. And love him, I do.

Now, Nick on the other hand... Nick I want to strangle. You know that feeling you have about Jake Riordan or even Sam Kage? Yeah, that. I have those feelings for Nick. He can go and suck it right now. And not the good stuff. And while we're at it, so can Jack's new little friend, Trixie. She can suck it, too.

Okay, rewind... Nick takes care of Jack, it's just what he does, and he really loves Jack but he can't see past this need to just take care of the kid. He'll do anything to take care of him and when he feels like he's not, well, he's not all that nice. Yes, Jack makes some pretty bad decisions, but Nick's bad attitude isn't helping anything. And, again, he'll do anything to take care of Jack, no matter the cost. No matter how dumb or hurtful, he'll do it for his Jacky boy. It's all in the name of love.

Then there's Jack's friend Trixie, oh Trixie... what a bad influence. She's in movies, she's rich, and knows aaaaaaall the secrets to makin' it big. Innocent, wide-eyed Jack will do just about anything Trixie says. She can just go away, she can go away right now.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are some really great moments between Jack and Nick, some very sweet and tender moments. And then Nick decided to get all toppy and bossy *shivers*. And, oh yes, our Jacky boy liked himself a toppy Nick. Oh, they were hot together. They loved each other and took care of each other, and if not for all the outside stresses of life, they could have made it.

I really, really enjoyed this. I love darker romances, romances that feel real and that make you work for that glorious HEA. I was immediately enamored with Jack and I so want him to have it all. I want him to be able to stay his sweet, innocent self while still getting his dream. I just don't know if that's possible now. Maybe if Trixie were offed in book 2? Yeah, that might work.

There was lots of drama, lots of love and lots of heartache. Everything that I love. Don't look here for a sweet, historical romance set in the 1920s. You will not find that, what you'll find is a heartbreaking, gritty story of two guys trying to make it work all while making their dreams come true. Maybe you really can't have it all? We don't know yet.

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Training Season by Leta Blake

Unquestionably talented figure skater Matty Marcus is willing to sacrifice everything for his Olympic dream, but his lack of discipline cost him the gold once before. Now the pressure’s on. He needs a coach who can keep him in line, but top coaches don't come cheap, and Matty can't afford to stay in the game no matter how badly he wants to win.

When a lucrative house-sitting gig brings him to rural Montana, Matty does his best to maintain his training regimen. Local residents turn out to be surprisingly tolerant of his flamboyant style, especially handsome young rancher Rob Lovely, who proves to be much more than a cowboy stereotype. Just as Matty requires a firm hand to perform his best on the ice, Rob shows him how strong he can be when he relinquishes control in the bedroom. With new-found self-assurance, he drives himself harder to go straight to the top.

But competition has a timetable, and to achieve his Olympic dream, Matty will have to join his new coach in New York City, leaving Rob behind. Now he must face the ultimate test. Has he truly learned how to win—on and off the ice—during his training season?

There was so much hype, hype and more hype surrounding this book that it made me kind of weary about reading it. It can’t possibly live up to all the love surrounding it, right? Well, it did! It so did.

Guh. As soon as Matty and Rob meet… BOOM! instant, crazy hot chemistry. Chemistry that I could just feel right away, burning up the pages with such intensity, and that was before Matty even knew that Rob was gay. They formed a genuine friendship with each other first and I love that. I freaking love that in my books. So, that sold this book for me right there. They just… had so much chemistry. There really isn’t any other way to say it.

Oh, Matty. How I love Matty. His character was so real to me and I loved being inside his head. He’s pissy, bitchy and can be a total brat. At the same time, he’s caring and loving and thoughtful and has this all-consuming need to be the best. Such a need that he’ll do anything to further his career, no matter what it does to his body or to his relationships. He wants what he wants, and he’s going to get it. Determination, this boy's got it.

Then! Then there was Rob. I thought I loved Matty… but Rob? *sigh* He’s just so… dreamy.  And sexy and loving and bossy. And he’s so completely in love with Matty, that parts of their story just gutted me. Completely crushed my heart. And his boyfriend he had at the end there? Good! That’s what Matty gets for doing what he did!

I’m not quite done gushing yet… the side characters! Oh, the side characters. Ben, Matty’s mom, Anja, Bill, and even that weird lady at the grocery store. All of them! They all had a purpose and were so utterly likeable. I want a separate story for each and every one of them.

The characters were there, the chemistry was there… why 4 stars? Well, while I liked the first 70% there seemed to be a lot of the same over and over. Sex, food, training, sex, food, training. And on and on. I was starting to get bored and had a feeling that this was going to be another one of those books that I just don't get. But then the last 30% happened and OMG! I was back. I was so back in this story. I loved how everything about Matty's career and his relationship with Rob was resolved. I loved that he didn’t really get all he wanted cause that’s what happens in life, you gotta make choices and with those choices comes heartache and sacrifices.  It was real and believable and I loved every angsty second.

Okay… the BDSM. I’m all about slutty, kinkiness in my books. 

"Sometimes it was awesome to sit back and let another person take control. So long as they did really good, dirty, hot things to him."
Yup. I totally get it. But they went kind of far, kind of fast. We have Rob being a Mr. Bossy-pants and then that? Ya know, the corn maze? It was a little much for me to find believable. But, for reals, their sex was sssssssmokin’ hot. Just… damn.

Ropes and whips and felching, oh my!

*dreamy sigh*

*still dreaming*

This was some goooooooood stuff. Crazy chemistry, memorable characters, realistic drama, slutty goodness… this has it all.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: An Ode to the Bittersweet - Derek Bishop's "Incendium"

Today we have Derek Bishop visiting the blog to talk about his latest book, Incendium. Let's give him a unipornian whinny of welcome!

I've just published my first work of romantic fiction. It does not have a traditional happily-ever-after ending. For this reason, I don't really have the right to call it a Romance with a capital "R". I'm still new to the genre, both as a reader and as a writer, so when I was first told this, my bewildered expression must have resembled the one Catholics show when Southern Baptists kindly inform them they're not real Christians.

"But―but... it's a love story. It's got sex scenes in it―"

Nope. Not allowed.

I felt like that awkward girl no one wanted to dance with at prom.

I don’t mean to criticize the hallowed HEA; I love HEA endings. I love romances that weather the test of time and endure for decades. I get teary-eyed from reading or watching them. I want to write other romantic stories that do have an HEA ending. A typical happily-ever-after was not the right conclusion for my novella, though. I certainly appreciate the overwhelming appeal of the HEA, but is this the only definition of happiness allowed at the close of a love story? A bittersweet ending can also have satisfying, emotionally-powerful impact. Is there not a place for it in this market, in this community?

A common response to the critique of HEA sacrosanctness seems to be, "Well, if I wanted to be sad, I would open a newspaper." But an ending that is not an HEA does not preclude a happy ending. Among the Romance genre, the meaning of HEA has shifted from its literal one; it does not necessitate that the main characters are believably happy, but that they are, above everything else, together. The mechanisms to deliver the heroine/hero into this situation sometimes come across as contrived and strain the bounds of belief. In some novels, it seems as though it's more important for the h/h to be together than it is for them to find actual happiness. Sometimes a story just needs a bittersweet ending to make it as good as it's meant to be.

Love stories with tragic endings have always resonated within the human psyche. There is something about the catharsis of feeling someone else's heartbreak that leaves us clean and reborn afterwards. Tragedies are extremely sad, though, which is why they are not Romances in the modern definition of the term. However, we no longer live in a time when Janus has only two faces. The human race figured out how to fuse comedy and tragedy long ago; a motley mix of the two is available. Enter the bittersweet ending―an ending in which something terrible happens in order for something wonderful to occur, the best of both worlds.

There are many tremendous love stories that do not end with the lovers being together, and while they may be romantic, they are not Romances. They are literary fiction, or some other classification of fiction. The Romance label or any form of it, guarantees an HEA. I have read and heard it expressed by several Romance authors that they wanted to write a different ending to one of their novels, one they thought was better, one the story deserved, but they had to forgo it in favor of a contrived ending to keep the characters together. How many great endings have we missed out on because of the HEA standard?

Many fans would tell me, "Well, if you don't want an HEA, then just go read another genre." But an HEA ending is not the only convention of Romance. There are the explicit―arguably extraneous―sex scenes, but these are only a shallow trapping, and not all Romance stories contain them. The plot of every Romance, however, is structured around the evolution of a romantic relationship in a way that is unique to the genre. There is the significant meeting of the lovers for the first time, the build up to their first kiss, the first time they say the "L" word to each other, the resolution of the inner conflict between them, and then the strength of their bond overcoming the outer conflict that threatens them.

At its core, a Romance is about two people overcoming an obstacle that keeps them from being happy. It depicts a relationship that is attacked on two fronts―an internal, emotional conflict within one or both lovers’ hearts, and an external one keeping them apart through either a physical or social hindrance. While most non-Romance love stories tend to focus on one or the other of these two types of conflict, within a Romance, they are linked. The inner conflict has to be resolved, and the two principal characters fully realize their love for each other, before this connection can give them the strength to overcome their outward hardships.

Romance stories are about triumph. The RWA definition requires that they have, "an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending" and that "the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love." In a bittersweet ending, the lovers may realize the love they had for each other separately, at different times, or perhaps one after the other has died. Even if they are forced, or decide to be apart, for whatever extenuating circumstances, the reward of their unconditional love can still occur and emotional justice triumph over the outward conflict. There can still be a hopeful and optimistic ending, even if they do not end up together.

What is more romantic than someone sacrificing themselves for their love? Or when a character realizes they cannot be with their lover without hurting them or putting their life in danger? Or when the protagonist learns wisdom from a failed relationship and the experience makes them ready to bond with a more compatible partner?

The HEA will always dominate the genre; that is something none of us need fear will change. So I would recommend that even if you are an adamant proponent (or fanatic perhaps?) of the HEA, you should give the bittersweet ending a chance sometime. Venture out from Romance with a capital "R" and see how it goes. I know some of you have been hurt before; you've been betrayed, thinking you were getting an HEA ending, and then did not. Some standard of categorization should be made to manage readers' expectations of the endings they will get. But what if you went into the experience knowing it was going to be something else? What if you were prepared for the catharsis that waited at the end?

If you're someone who already enjoys bittersweet endings, I urge you to continue to support authors that offer that kind of experience. It will increase acceptance for these types of stories in the Romance(ish) market. For instance, (and I say this completely objectively, with no bias or self-interest whatsoever:) you might stop by the Storm Moon Press website and take a look at my novella, Incendium.


Thanks for joining us on the Incendium blog tour! Be sure to take part in our giveaway! You have several options to be entered through our Rafflecopter, but you get the most entries by leaving a comment on this post! Today's question is...

How do you feel about bittersweet endings in romance?

Enter Derek Bishop's Incendium Rafflecopter Giveaway HERE

About the Author: Derek Bishop grew up in a small Virginia town along the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was raised on Southern Baptism and Star Trek. The Star Trek was the one that stuck. His parents were both teachers and imparted a love of literature and wilderness exploration on him. He went to school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he learned the joys of studying feminist theory, dancing to techno music, and grocery shopping side by side with colonial costumed re-enactors. He left one class short of a Gender Studies major and several classes too far of an English major. His latest work, Incendium, is now available from Storm Moon Press.

Review: Justice For Skylar by Sandrine Gasq-Dion

Skylar Foxx has been on his own for years, ever since he had been kicked out of his home just shy of turning sixteen. He worked the streets for food and warmth, certain that one day his life would take a better path. That day arrived in the form of a flyer smacking him in the face after enduring a particularly rough trick. Walking through the front door of the Pride safe house became the best decision Skylar ever made. He began a new life with help from billionaire businessman Caden Fournier, his husband, Kellan, and their outreach center associates. That life also included a handsome, six-foot-two Italian who looked mighty fine astride a Harley. After a tense introduction, Skylar discovered Justice Salvatore was unlike any man he'd ever met. He’s about to find out just how different Justice is. The two grow closer as Skylar struggles with his own weird… ability. Just when he dares to dream of a happy ending, his past explodes into his present and threatens to destroy everything.

Justice Salvatore has only been in love once, with the beautiful daughter of his werewolf pack’s beta. She was human, however, and Justice stayed away to protect her — only to mourn her death from a rogue attack. Skylar Foxx is stunning, but Justice is swept away by his incredible voice. Smitten on the spot, he sets his sights on getting to know the skittish young man. Bad things are happening to Skylar as they grow close, and Justice will do everything in his power to protect him. A terrifying secret shakes Justice to his core, and he is forced to decide whether someone close to him will live or die. After the hell Skylar has been through, Justice makes the only choice.

There will be justice for Skylar.

OK, let me start by saying...


Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way I can tell you about this book.  This is book 1 in The 12 Olympians series, a spinoff (spinoff, people!) of my beloved Assassin/Shifter series.  In this book we finally get to see Justice Salvatore and Skylar Foxx come together.  Now, if you have been following the A/S series (like you should be!) you will know who I’m talking about and you will say along with me, “Yes!  Finally!”.  If you haven’t read the Assassin/Shifter series, whoo boy, are you missing out!  

When we first met Skylar way back when (I can’t remember which book) he was a snarky, angry little shit who needed a mother’s love.  Or a spanking; take your pick.  Over the course of the series we got glimpses of him as he matured into a responsible young man.  He is still wary but no longer the little brat we were introduced to.  As for Justice, I never really warmed up to him in past books.  I always thought he was being unreasonable and just plain old mean by keeping Jesse and Noah apart.  And I felt he had a big stick up his ass for some reason.

All right, let me be frank here for a minute.  This author is my crack.  Every time I see a new book is coming out I squee and do a little happy dance.  On release day I do a constant refresh of Amazon until it appears.  I. Love. These. Books.  So the fact that these two characters weren’t particularly my favorites did not deter me one single bit from snatching this book up the moment I could.  And I am so glad I did!

Justice and Skylar were perfect together.  I got to see a softer side of Justice and learn the reasons behind his stoicism.  I also got to see a side of Skylar that hasn’t really been shown in previous books.  Skylar is… well, Skylar is special.  Skylar has a secret buried so deep that even he has not been aware of it for the most part.  And Justice has a secret of his own that made me squeal in delight when it was revealed.  

What I love the most about this and the Assassin/Shifter series is that these are all men.  There are no “chicks with dicks” here.  Even the smaller, more effeminate men are strong and resilient when need be.  They all essentially “kick motherfuckin’ ass” when the shit hits the fan.  They may not all do it physically but sometimes words can cut far deeper than a knife.

I love where the author is taking this new story arc.  I haven’t read much about Greek mythology so I’m learning as I go.  I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.  Bring on book two!

I received a copy of this book for free (yay me!) from the author in exchange for an honest review through the "Don't Buy My Love" event hosted by the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads.

Sunday Funday!!!

Psst...hey you! *looks around* Yes, you!

Come here for a sec. I promise it's not jizz covered food (and yes this was a THING where the hell were you a few Fundays ago - I promise I won't tell if you go search for it.)

You like unicorns?

Don't give that's clean, promise. Well don't pout about the smut free Funday! Don't worry you can search for unipornian delights soon. Just answer the question: do you like unicorns? I mean you see the site and know who our author of the month is, right? Tali Spencer, in case you were wondering. See our Thick as Thieves book chat.

You know we're most definitely down with the unicorn swirl.

How would you like to be a unicorn? We have a wizard on standby and he can-- just kidding. Our wizard is too busy playing hide-a-wand to help out right now.

So back to your answer...which we heard over your pondering about hide-a-wand was YES - I love unicorns so much OMG! 

We here at the UM headquarters have hereby granted you the awesome fun that is creating your own unicorn. Just clicky da linky:

That's right, boys and girls, you can dress them up, down, try out that new hairdo you always wanted but weren't too sure about getting all on your very own unicorn. Name it. Shame it. It's all your very own.

Don't balk about being too old for this. You are as old as you feel. Besides the only one who will see your results will be you...unless you want to share. Please feel free in the comments.

See exhibit A:

See exhibit B:

Cool right? We know. ;P

Review: Seven by Adrienne Wilder

A past that won’t let go…

After losing his job, Chase Sarim finds himself living in a shit hole apartment. His new neighbor calls himself Seven, wears aluminum hats and carries around a ceramic rooster. He also seems to know what Chase is going to do or say before it happens, and talks about people named, Nine, Three, and Four.

Chase knows better than to get involved with someone like that.

But some men are just to hot too resist.

A future of fear…

Seven has been running for his life ever since he escaped Sub-Floor. In order to elude those hunting him he can never have a home, never have friends…and love? It’s nothing but a weakness that can be used against him.

Hiding had become a way of life. Until Chase.

Greed, power, and corruption…

Dr. David Stone knows Seven has a secret. Why else would his colleague, Dr. Radcliff, help Seven escape Sub-Floor?

It wasn’t the loss of a defective precog that bothered Stone, it was the fact Radcliff was willing to die to keep Stone from knowing why he did it. Or better yet, how.

Two men, one love, brought together by a series of impossible circumstances and destined by fate for an entangled future.

But maybe fate has nothing to do with it.

This book...


This book!

My mind was taken along for an epic adventure with sci-fi mind bender and thrilling plot! There's action, pain, suspense, you don't know who to trust and conspiracies that kick you in the seat of your pants!

100% Awesome!

Chase Sarim just lost his journalist job for some bogus charges, has to downgrade very quickly to a crappy apartment. When things are starting to look bad, it gets worse in the form of his crazy neighbor who calls himself Seven. But Seven has secrets but for some reason he can't help but share them with Chase. What might seem like chance encounters and crazy ramblings actually have deeper meanings. Adrienne Wilder brings the reader for a fast paced ride into urban fantasy set in modern day (?) Atlanta where Others, psychically enhanced humans experiments have been created. Within all of this, Seven and Chase fall for one another and what a ride that was. Just a minor thing of running for their lives to worry about. No biggie.

The writing is snarky, fresh and original. Each scene could be easily visualized. This was great for me because normally I wouldn't run to read a book with psychics but this book is not your average 'I can solve mysteries' psychic romance. It was action packed, rough, gritty, bloody...with a true evil villain, Dr. Stone.
He was like a modern day Hitler - he named the Others numbers, they did not rate having a name. (Hence, the name Seven) The amount of atrocities he me when I say he's vile and lower than slime off a diseased slug's anus. If I could have eviscerated him, I would. I literally was panicking when the Others were in a bind or hurt. Imagine me yelling out for numbers like Nine or Four or Twenty Three to be saved or rescued.

Just bear with me, okay because for the duration of reading "Seven", the Others aka My Numbers (yes, I called them My Numbers) they were all special. Though sometimes, the number for names thing kind of threw me off and I just want to complete a math equation like Four and Three - I love this couple but sometimes I just wanted to multiply and make twelve an answer.

There is no sugar coating in this book which I enjoyed. Plus the plot was everything but predictable. We know the major evil baddie but you don't know where all the Others are, whose side they are working for and if there will at least be a satisfying outcome. The secrets and past hurts unfold slowly throughout the book. Everything is not given easily. *smirks* "Seven" is definitely a book that can blow your mind. It blew mine.

The romance and sex between Chase and Seven? Hotness. It's the hotness. Plus the secondary romance with Four and Three (I wouldn't mind a side story with those two, they are that good), it was great. I rooted for both couples.

And the ending...even though I knew it was going to It does end with a heavy HFN/HEA ending but I still have questions about some of the other Others. Twenty-Three? Thirteen? Nine? I won't spoil it for you but remember those numbers.

Guys...this book. This is an excellent book that does not pull punches. You like action? It delivers. You want hot sex with some romance added in but not to be bogged down with fluff? This is the one. You want edge of seat reading? Come on over, we have a place set for you at the thriller table.

This book is highly recommended especially for readers who enjoy sci-fi/urban fantasy/ thrillers. What a story!