Review: Something Like Spring (Seasons #4) by Jay Bell

Nothing in this world is permanent. Friends, lovers, even family, can all disappear in the blink of an eye. Without these anchors, it’s all too easy to find oneself drifting.

Jason Grant doesn’t have much, aside from a beat-up old guitar and knack for getting kicked out of foster homes. His latest placement is set to be just another in a long line of failures. Then he meets Caesar Hubbard, a handsome guy who lives down the hall. For the first time in his life, Jason wants to stay, which means learning to be part of a family, and not letting his feelings—or his actions—ruin his first real chance of falling in love.

Something Like Spring introduces a new character to the Seasons story, one with a troubled past and an equally turbulent future. Jason must traverse a winding road fraught with emotional conflicts and tough decisions… a road that might just lead to a certain couple in Austin.

We all have our favorites. Our favorite authors, our favorite genres, our favorite themes. Wanna know mine? The Seasons series has them all.

I'm really starting to fall in love with YA. I love the innocence and the excitement young characters have for each other. Now, I wouldn't really consider Jason innocent because of things he's seen and gone though, but when it comes to love, he's pretty innocent. And it was adorable! He fell head over feet in love with Caesar. Quick. I loved their excitement with each other and all the newness of their relationship. Everything Jason did with and for Caesar was 100%. He was without a doubt committed to his boyfriend, his high school boyfriend who, he believed, he would be with forever and ever. It was so bittersweet, as we all know where this will be heading. Can a character find, stay and be with a boyfriend at such a young age? Not in this series, they can't. *rubs hands together* Bring it, Jay Bell! Hit me with your best, angsty shot.

I love to fall in love with characters, as we all do. This series in particular has a set of characters that I can't get enough of and Jason fits right in with the rest of them. He is such a realist but so hopeful at the same time. He hopes so hard to find people to love and to love him back. He wants a home and a family, he wishes for these things and he never really stops wishing for his own romance story.
"I would love to be out walking my dog and run into some cute guy walking his dog. Naturally that would lead to us talking. Then we'd start meeting in that same place every day, like little ten-minute dates. After weeks of this, maybe even months, we'd agree to meet without the dogs. Unchaperoned, so to speak. That would me romantic. Way more so than a party or a bar."
*sigh* He's such a sweet romantic. But, again, he's a realist. He knows what to expect of people and what not to expect.
"I don't want some guy I have to impress or one who feels like he needs to show off. I just want someone who loves me that I can love back. Simple as that. That's all it takes. I don't really care about honesty or being totally understood or any of the other stuff because being human is all about messing up and breaking trust and telling lies. I wouldn't want to be with someone perfect. Just some humble, totally normal guy will do."
I really liked this about him. No unrealistic expectations, just love me and let me love you back. That's all he ever wanted. And after mending his broken heart, he found this in William. It took some work (and by work I mean scheming that had me laughing out loud), but Jason eventually got what he wanted.  William was great and he was worth the wait. He was everything Jason deserved and more. They were sweet and loving together, but don't think this lands us in HEA-ville. Not yet, my dearies, not yet.

I can't bring up characters without mentioning Ben and Tim. Oh, how I love their love. I love how I could feel how much they mean to each other and how they are just meant to be. But at the same time, Ben and Jace's relationship was never made to feel less. Ben belongs to Jace just as much as he does Tim.

Not only do I love the characters I should love, but also the ones I shouldn't. Darn you for being so likeable Caesar! I should hate him, but he's so charming and cute, so instead of hating I just want to muss up his hair and say, "Oh, you. Get outta here ya big goofball."

I love books that span a long period of time. I enjoy meeting and staying with a character and then watching their journey unfold. At the end of Spring, I was able to look at where we started with Jason. He was a lonely, teenage boy, in and out of foster homes, purposely getting kicked out, having a hard time finding someplace he fit in and wanting love in his life. Then at the end, I sat back and marveled at how far he came from that lonely boy to the happy and loved man he is now. So much happened in his life, so many heartbreaking and wonderful things that turned him to a character that will have a special place in my heart. I just feel so honored that I had the chance to experience his story.

I love unpredictable stories, ones that take me away from the typical M/M romance tropes. I really had no clue which way Jason's book was going to go until about 95% or so when I had to pick my jaw off the floor. Then, I had no doubt. But up until that point I was on pins and needles in anticipation. Who will Jason be with? Who should he be with? I had no idea. Who do I want him to be with? He had two great loves of his life, two guys that I loved, so I didn't know what I wanted for him either. I was just as confused and conflicted as Jason. It made everything about his story so real to me, like I was right there with him. I couldn't believe the array of emotions I felt in such a short period of time. And then! Then when it all did come together. *dreamy sigh*
"You weren't my second choice. You were the right choice."
Then it was all clear, as it should have been from the beginning. I should have seen it coming, but the brilliance of the writing had me right in the moment. I wasn't thinking about before or after, just right now. Brilliant, I tell you, brilliant.

Which brings me to the last thing I love: emotional books. This series has emotion in spades. My good god! Just seeing Jace, Ben or Tim's name on the page for the first time in Spring got me all weepy. Why? I guess because I have such a strong, emotional connection to these characters that their mere presence brought me to tears.

There weren't too many any huge, dramatic issues in Jason's life but still, the littlest thing or gesture would make me cry. Again! Stuff I would never usually cry over. It was getting ridiculous by the end and I was getting annoyed with myself, but I couldn't help it. I just wanted so much for Jason that any bit of happiness he could grab onto hit me right in the chest.

Oh! One more thing. I live for epilogues. And this one? It's to die for.

The Seasons series pushes all the right buttons for me. Every. Single. One. I can't get enough of this world and the characters that live in it. It really is my ideal type of story. Now if only we could fit a slave boy somewhere in there... *taps chin thoughtfully*

Like I said, we all have our favorites. Favorites that we love to shout to the rooftops about and recommend to everyone we know. If they don't enjoy it... ah well, better luck next time. Right? Yeah, that's my usual reaction, too. With this series? I get a little put out if someone doesn't like it. Is that ridiculous? Yup. Do I know how silly it is? Absolutely! Will I stop getting offended when a friend doesn't enjoy this series? Probably not. I just love it too much for that.

Review: Upstaged; Opening Act by S.L. Danielson & Nephylim.

Wannabe singer and band front man Erik Von Nordgren hates snarky brit Asher Berkley with a passion. From the moment he turns up at practice with his twin sister Daisy, who is one of the band the two have hated each other.

Through a series of 'tit for tat' incidents they annoy, frustrate and exasperated each other. The die hard goth with purple eyes and the hard core rocker with dreams of the big time have nothing in common and no need to cross paths. Except to wind each other up.

Until the day that Erik throws Asher in the school pool, when everything begins to change. Erik is so far in closet he's in Narnia and Asher has a dark past and trust issues that stand in the way of any relationship, let alone one with the brash American who hurts him every time they try to get together.

A relationship doomed from the start, or so you'd think.

So a YA angst fest of a hate to love relationship is what I anticipated when I started this book, and to be fair it is what I got - yet somehow it just didn't rock my world, not even a little bit. While the premise held promise the writing just didn't follow through. I've given this a lot of thought, how do I want to review it,I'm not keen on negative reviews, either writing them or reading them, yet I owe to it blog readers to be as honest as I can about my opinion of the book.

Firstly, one major thing this book had in it's favour is the differentiation of the characters, I didn't feel I was reading one character in duplicate - and this isn't just because (of the two MC's) one was a Brit and one was an American. They had their own personalities, their own styles and this did come through, maybe it is a result of two different authors writing the book, I'm not sure but it worked.

As I said I liked the idea of the story-line, though friends to lovers is my bag I also enjoy the spark and kindle of a romance between two sworn enemies. The angst was there, the mutual dislike, I could see the fire that would eventually turn the relationship around just didn't quite work.

"The die hard goth with purple eyes and the hard core rocker with dreams of the big time have nothing in common and no need to cross paths. Except to wind each other up."

It was a story that made me dizzy, it kinda felt like the authors had decided on the storyline and tried to cram as much into 259 pages as possible. All good right? Well no, not when it means the main characters don't just go from hate to love but instead went hate/love/hate/love/hate/love.....I lost track of how many times. Teens are fickle, I know I was one (too long ago to think about but still I was one), but these two made Vicky Pollard look as though she has deep and meaningful relationships.

I don't want this to turn into a bitchy review so I'll just say the relationship is more than on again/off again, it skirts round the same issues without ever resolving them. Erik hurts Ash by refusing to let the relationship become known beyond his band-mates. Fine, I think coming out is (unfortunately) a very hard thing for a lot of teenagers to deal with. But I felt that the authors weren't actually addressing this issue, they weren't tackling Erik's anxieties of letting people know he was gay, it seemed it was purely there to add a convenient conflict. And Ash - ever heard the phrase fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me? Once Erik had broken the same promise several times don't go back for more, not unless you're willing to change your expectations, cos it just ain't going to work.

So Ash, hurt by Erik goes and sleeps with a fellow fan of the band Vince, and by the next day they are boyfriends, devoted to each other. Until (a couple of hours later) Vince tells Ash he loves him and Ash has some kind of break-down. His terrible past is hinted at throughout the story, yet it's never fully resolved exactly what happened. We know some of it but I never could quite work out who James was, what he did and why the words I love you were so difficult for Ash to hear.

To complicate matters even more Erik's best friend Billy is also in love with Erik - something happened once upon a time and he's carried an unrequited love for him ever since. But then Billy takes on comforting Vince after Ash so cruelly dumps him and, wow, yep they manage to fall in love and get their shit together before Ash and Erik. Every two minutes someone was falling in or out of love. I don't want insta-love, insta-angst - I want good, solid reasons for it. I want to feel the change happen, understand why enemies are starting to like each other. Or not. I don't want it there just because it's convenient. And I certainly don't want to get tennis-spectator neck from the changes that happen so damn fast. All this and I've not even touched on the head hopping that happened at times.

In my opinion (don't ya just hate that phrase, but it's true) this story could have done with being put in a drawer for a few months and then attacked with an editors eye and fat red felt-tipped pen. Erik and Ash were potentially great characters, with a great romance and story to tell, I just felt let down by the execution of it all.

This book was given to us in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Rare (Roads #2) by Garrett Leigh

Paramedic Pete Adams lived through the year from hell watching his lover, Ash, fall apart, and the precarious balance between work and home is becoming more strained. His heart is always home, with Ash, but the dark side to his job is weighing him down.

Tattoo artist Ash Fagin is recovering from a nervous breakdown triggered by revelations about his traumatic childhood. His battle with mental illness is far from over, but with Pete by his side, he's feeling good again, so good he doesn’t notice something missing until it walks right into his living room.

Ash believes he’s had enough coincidence in his life, but when a voice from the past comes looking for him, it takes the devastating injuries of the one he loves most to convince him to let a ghost become the family he never knew he wanted.
OK – I’m going in.

Goddammitalltohell Garrett Leigh! That was intense. This is the most brutally beautiful series I have ever read.

Rare, the continuation of the story of Pete and Ash from Slide, is heartbreaking, heartwarming and the best possible end to a series that I don’t want to ever end. Ever. If you haven’t read any of this series, please do yourself a favor and read it stat. It starts with Slide, continues with the free short, Marked and now we are onto Rare and the final installment, the 2nd free short, Freed.

Pete is an overworked EMT and Ash is a tattoo artist with an incredibly heartbreaking and damaging past. Rare is easily just as strong as Slide. Their characters remain the same, but I can already see the growth that Pete and Ash have gone through and continue on with. They went through hell and back in Slide. Ash’s breakdown literally did just that, it broke him down and with help that he so desperately needed yet refused to accept previously, he is being built back up. It’s raw and it’s painful, but after completely falling in love with Ash in Slide I can’t help but be happy for and proud of all that he’s accomplished.

As much as things have changed, too much has stayed the same. Pete is still overworked and the job is really weighing heavily on him. They have a balance they have struck at home, but it is far from rock solid, neither of them are whole right now and they do their best, but they have such a long way to go to be happy and healthy together.

I have read a few reviews have mentioned the big coincidence with Ash and the girl from Philadelphia. I get that. For me though, I’d rather have a coincidence than filler. The meetings and resolutions had to happen and I am totally fine with how they did, it let me focus on Ash and Pete more than a mystery and that’s what I wanted.

What is so wonderfully frustrating about this series is all the reasons for the trouble Pete and Ash have. Remembering that these are two very young men still, they don’t have problems because of stupid and/or immature decisions either have made. The world has handed them a pile of shit and they are supposed to be able to make lemonade. Yeah, a mixed and wrong metaphor, but it fits because that’s how messed up their whole situation is.

I’m not going to go into spoilery details about what happened to these guys in Rare, you have to read it and appreciate the unknown going in. I do want to tell you how impressive and how incredibly well written these characters are. I don’t think I’ve ever read about two people more meant to be together as Pete and Ash. I’m not told this by the author, I can see and feel it in every action and conversation between them.

This book is written in the same style as Slide and Garrett Leigh does is so well. One half of the book is told in Pete’s voice and the other half in Ash’s. While this could easily be disconcerting to a reader it works here so well. I could get into both of their heads and hearts and because both of them are men of few words, getting perspective from both of them makes the story all the better. Like Ash said:

“My relationship with Pete was about us, not words.”

The journey these two go through is all about strength and faith. They are young, but have lived through a lot and are really mature for their ages, mostly because neither of them have had a choice, childhood was never much of an option for either of them and they are smart enough to know that love isn’t enough. I think my absolute favorite thing about their relationship is their love for each other never wavers and they both knew it was the one constant truth in their lives. The question of “does he love me?” never happens, it doesn’t have to and I saw that throughout both Slide and Rare. But, as I said, love isn’t enough in reality and they both know it. The question is, can they get through everything that happens and come through it together on the other side? That is the journey that is so amazing to read. They would never give up on each other, but they may give up on themselves. Can they trust themselves to be strong enough for the other?

“Strength,” Pete said. “And faith. Love isn’t always enough, and we’ve let each other down as far as trust is concerned. When things go wrong, you have to have faith that you’re strong enough to pull through. We have that, even if we don’t always know it, and it’s what keeps us together when life gets tough.”

Both Pete and Ash grow and change a lot in this series, their characters stay true to the ones I fell in love with when I read Slide the first time. That was something that really struck me when I finished reading and had time to cogitate everything. Their characters read like real people, they were different at the end, but all the things that made Pete “Pete” and Ash “Ash” were still there. I remember trying to articulate this point and the words just weren’t happening for me and I was messaging back and forth with Isaac over on GR and, as Isaac so often does, he nailed it. He said to me (and I hope you don’t mind me quoting you Issac):

“The growth in this series was amazing. So often sequels featuring the same couples just plod on and turn into indulgent hogwash.”

Exactly! That’s what I wanted to say. There was no plodding or indulgent hogwash anywhere near this series. The characters grew and it was amazing to read. The epilogue, told in Pete’s words was the perfect ending and incredibly bittersweet for me. I didn’t want it to end, but like I said before, it couldn’t have ended better. Pete has become quite wise by this point,

“My life had taught me that moments like these were the rarest thing, and that each day could be your last. You couldn’t change the past or control your future, but you could make the most of your present.”

I really can’t recommend this series enough. I also highly recommend reading with a friend, you’ll want to have someone there to hold your hand and gush with about all the subtle, quiet moments that make these characters so memorable.

Review: Into This River I Drown by T. J. Klune

At once an exploration of grief and faith, Into This River I Drown is one man's journey into the secrets of his father and discovering the strength to believe in the impossible.

Five years ago, Benji Green lost his beloved father, Big Eddie, who drowned when his truck crashed into a river. All called it an accident, but Benji thought it more. However, even years later, he is buried deep in his grief, throwing himself into taking over Big Eddie's convenience store in the small town of Roseland, Oregon. Surrounded by his mother and three aunts, he lives day by day, struggling to keep his head above water.

But Roseland is no ordinary place.

With ever-increasing dreams of his father's death and waking visions of feathers on the surface of a river, Benji's definition of reality is starting to bend. He thinks himself haunted, but whether by ghosts or memories, he can no longer tell. It's not until the impossible happens and a man falls from the sky and leaves the burning imprint of wings on the ground that he begins to understand that the world around him is more mysterious than he could have possibly imagined. It's also more dangerous, as forces beyond anyone's control are descending on Roseland, revealing long hidden truths about friends, family, and the man named Calliel who Benji is finding he can no longer live without.

Fangirl moment.

As an avid reader I am sometimes asked what my favourite book is and to be honest with you I find this an impossible question to answer. With all the amazing stories out there how do you pick just one?? I even find it hard to pick a favourite author, so many styles, so many different things to offer - oft times it will really depend on my mood of the day, did I want romance (always, always, the answer to that question is yes), did I want mystery, crime, humour, fantasy, a slow paced book, a fast paced book, something gruesome, something gentle....yep my reading mood changes more often than the weather. One author I have found though who covers most of the attributes above with his books is T.J. Klune.

Now T.J. is, without doubt, hands down, one of the funniest writers I have ever read in any genre. He also has an amazing knack of turning laughter to tears within a paragraph. Never have I seen humour and heartache sit so well alongside each other as I have in a T.J. Klune book. My favourite ever bit of funny is that dinner scene in Who We Are (BOATK 2). I would recommend this book for that alone.

Yet I haven't chosen one of his comedies to share with you, I have chosen Into this River I Drown. Why? Because it is beautiful. From the title and the front cover, to the very last word it is amazing. This is an old review, short and sweet but I hope I manage share with you what an amazing story this is.

Before I post the review though I would like to add that TJ and his partner Eric Arvin are still very much at the forefront of mine and my fellow unicorns minds still as Eric continues to recover from recent brain surgery. I'm sure most of you are aware of the story and I will just post a link to the Eric Arvin Support Fund for those who want to dontae to help pay for treatment and care for this wonderful couple.

Eric, TJ - your strength is amazing. Let's go, let's go, let's go.

The following review has previously been posted in various places.
Oh wow. This story is completely different from the other TJ Klune books I have read. Yet while it lacks his trademark humour it doesn't lack his supreme story-telling abilities. Nor his ability to bring his stories so emotionally to life. You will need tissues when you read this book, I warn you now.

Benji's life changes the day his adored dad dies. For five years he his swimming against a tide of grief. Or not really, he's being taken by the tide, drowning in his grief. Then Cal Blue shows up and Cal is anything but an ordinary man. In fact ordinary and man do not describe him at all. Benji's life turns in ways he could never imagine until he is given the chance to make choices - the kind of choices that are never easy.

I don't want to give away any spoilers so I won't elaborate but I would recommend this book. For those who have loved, for those who have loved and lost. For those who grieve and for those who have faith. And most specially for those who believe in love.

Review: Mail Order Cowboy by Lor Rose

The heart wants what it wants.

Austin and Loren have been together for sixteen years and own a small cattle ranch but something is missing. Their love is playful, youthful, and fun, but they know there’s more for them. What that more is they don’t know. Talk of adding someone else interests the couple but no one has the spark they crave.

Hugh is a friend of Austin’s son and needs a place to go and a job. His own parent’s have disowned him and no one will talk to him after what he’s done. Calling his friend’s dad is a last resort but what other choice does he have?

What Hugh finds he doesn’t expect but maybe, just maybe, he is worth something after all.

Lor Rose's "Mail Order Bride" is a super short story that features an older married gay cowboys set in the future, the year 2316 to be exact. The couple, Loren and Austin, are in their early forties and have been eyeing their ginger ranch hand, the twenty year old Hugh. Oh and Hugh is a friend of their son. And Loren and Austin are not only best friends, they are also brother-in-laws. (They are widowers.) Don't worry everyone is legal and nothing improper happened prior to Hugh being legal.

Loren and Austin act like they are half their age, running around, name calling and playing pranks. The story circled pervy kinks, brother-in-laws screwing and then these older men screw their kid's friend. Wrong to some but still hot. Since this story was basically PWP, I'm rating on the eroticism of the rough sex scene with all three men. The story started off rough but this line definitely made me perk up and pay attention:

"Tell us no now or we're going to fuck all damn night"

More hot dirty talk happens. But the other elements introduced kind of went nowhere. Why mention it was set in the future if the story reads like a contemporary? The idea felt unfinished. So did the story. The elements were sort of hot but had no elaboration to really carry this story farther. The couple made their threesome permanent, son's friendship with Hugh be damned.

This was an okay PWP. Nothing more. *shrugs*

Review: Gathering Storm (Firsts and Forever #4) by Alexa Land

Working as a gay porn star has brought twenty-two year old Hunter Storm fame and fortune, but it’s cost him a lot, too. His body has become little more than a commodity, and he's learned to mask his loneliness by giving himself to whoever will have him. The job has also put him in the crosshairs of a stalker, a man so deeply disturbed that Hunter and everyone around him is in danger.

As the stalker closes in, Hunter is struggling to gather his courage and hold himself together. Fortunately he has allies, including his best friend Christopher Robin, Christopher’s fiancĂ© Kieran, and Nana, a feisty octogenarian who’s decided Hunter is part of her family. And one very unexpected ally just might change Hunter’s life forever.

The fourth book in Alexa Land’s best-selling Firsts and Forever series picks up where In Pieces left off, yet each book in the series is written to stand alone, so jump in anywhere.

WARNING - Kinda spoilery spoilers that aren't really spoilery about who Hunter's partner ends up being - but you've been warned, sort of :D

We all have that special literary place we like to go when we know we need a book hug, the book “happy place” that just works for us. Some people go to their Calmes, some their Lane, I have my Land. The series continues with all my favorite things, smark (smut+snark – *tips hat to JL* for that word that is now a permanent part of my vocabulary), amusing as hell banter, references to all things geeky and characters I really want to hang out with in real life.

I know that when I read an Alexa Land book, I am going to smile, laugh and fall in love with the characters, that’s just what happens. The 4th book in the First and Forever series is no exception. Every time I read one of these books I think,

“Oh, he’s my favorite.”

Then I read another one and I think,

“OK, he’s my favorite.”

Etc., etc., etc.

So, now that I read Gathering Storm, Hunter is my new favorite. I love his refreshing open honesty and his heartbreaking loneliness. He’s a porn star with a heart of gold and he has no illusions that he’s nothing but a commodity in his industry and that his working days are numbered .

Hunter is VERY popular in his genre so he attracts a lot of attention, but unfortunately he has attracted the attention of a stalker who is continuously upping his threats and Hunter can no longer ignore the frightening letters, etc. All of the players in Hunter’s support system are here again and I missed them all so very much; Christopher Robin, Kieran, Nana (especially Nana) and all the boys from the previous installments. Everyone is in agreement that Hunter needs to get himself a bodyguard, this stalker isn’t going away any time soon and his threats are escalating. Hunter doesn’t want a bodyguard though. He doesn’t want to deal with somebody he’s not comfortable with and who may judge him for his lifestyle and career choice.

We know Hunter is going to have a love interest, that’s part of the deal here. What I really loved about this one is I didn’t know who it was going to be for a while. So much fun in the teasing and the guessing!

Here's the not so spoilery spoiler - Hunter's love interest is either:

Unlikely lucky man #1, Brian, Kieran’s REALLY bitter brother we met in In Pieces (“What???”, you say, “Surely you jest!?!?!”)
Unlikely lucky dog #2, Vincent, the Dombruso offspring who is dark, mysterious and very dangerous (“What???, ok well, maybe, hmmmmm”).

I want to tell everybody everything and then gush about the perfect match that these two become, I really, really do. BUT, I loved not knowing, the uncertainty and surprise is too good for me to wreck and you are just going to have to trust me when I say, Hunter and ??? needed and completed each other in the best possible ways.

One of my absolute favorite things about this series is the banter and these two, Hunter and, well, let’s just call him X, have the absolute best conversations. Alexa’s characters have the uncertainty that comes with new love, but they are always honest and don’t drag out the angst for no reason, I love that. I get to see more than just the flirting and the getting-to-know-you phase of their relationships and it makes me more invested in the characters and I can believe in their connection and the real love they have for each other beyond the lust that I love so well.

There was more than just the relationship between Hunter and X going on too. The mystery of Christopher Robin’s attacker continues and Hunter has to deal with his stalker and how that affects his new relationship. Plus Hunter’s contract with his studio is up for renewal and he has some serious decisions to make about his future. Not an easy feat while entering into a new relationship that has a lot of issues that need to be dealt with and he doesn’t feel as if he has any real marketable skills to survive on if he quits the porn. That part of the story line broke my heart. As Hunter detailed his dealings with his smarmy manager I could feel his hopelessness and why he felt like nothing more than a commodity to the studio, and other men in general. Hunter is a tough cookie though. He never gives into a pity party and his innate optimistic nature was a pleasure to read, even throughout the painful parts.

Just a few words about X that are going to be incredibly obtuse because I don’t want to give him away. He is the unexpectedly best person on the planet for Hunter. He needed Hunter just as much as Hunter needed him and his surprising sense of humor was the perfect counterpoint to Hunter’s honesty. He’s got issues, big time issues, but he’s a work in progress and on the right path. Both he and Hunter are and I so hope there is more about them in the next installment of this series. I’m not ready to let them go yet, not even a little bit.

Author Visit & Giveaway: Mark Cooper Versus America by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock - Release Day Giveaway

Guess who's visiting today??? Coming at us through the magic of the interwebz, Aussie Lisa Henry and American J.A. Rock join forces to visit the BMBR clubhouse and tell us about their new release, Mark Cooper versus America.

Check out the post and then enter the giveaway below!

J.A. Rock: It’s no secret that authors steal seek inspiration from their lives. My friends and family all know to tell me if they absolutely don’t want me to use in my books the things they say and do or the stories they tell me. But sometimes as a writer you bear witness to the actions of an individual you don’t know well enough to feel obligated to ask permission to fictionalize. This is when you interpret them in a way they would probably find offensive  you know it’s your responsibility to create a respectful representation being a writer is the most fun thing ever. Because using reality as your foundation, you get to build something new. While secretly snickering about the stuff you stole paid homage to.

Blake in MARK COOPER VERSUS AMERICA is based on a student I used to tutor who would routinely show up to his scheduled session, sign in, and then “realize” he’d forgotten his textbook back in his dorm and ask to go get it. Then he’d never come back. I was e-mailing Lisa one night during work when this was happening. She suggested that the guy had probably gone to the bathroom and gotten locked inside, and that maybe I should make sure he was okay.

So that became a joke whenever the student didn’t show up for tutoring--that he was locked in the bathroom again and that he’d probably been there for days and was slowly starving, all the while wishing he could make it to his tutoring session.

This was in November of 2012. We didn’t know it then, but that was when fictional Blake was born. I have an e-mail exchange from 2012 in which I told Lisa she should put Blake in a book, and she declared, “Not only will I put him in a story, I will dedicate it to him!”

Now it’s 2014, and we have put Blake in a story (and dedicated it to him). Fictional Blake is probably nothing like the real life student who inspired him. And sometimes it’s even hard to remember that Blake’s RL inspiration didn’t actually get stuck in bathrooms--that was just a story we made up to amuse ourselves.

But that’s one of the most rewarding things about writing--blending imagination and reality, watching familiar people and settings take on new characteristics as we combine, alter, or recast them. Somewhere out there, that student I tutored is completely unaware of the story he sparked. Or if he is aware, then I’ve misjudged his interests and am impressed with his choice of reading material.

Blake, this one’s for you.

Lisa Henry: I have so much love for Blake. The fictional one, and also the real one who unknowingly inspired us. Let this be a lesson to you, kids. If you skip class, your tutor will write you into a book as a guy who can’t work a door.

But now I want to tell you all about Mark. Not Mark Cooper. Another Mark. A Mark I work with. A Mark who ages ago started badgering me about naming a character after him.

“Really?” I said to Mark who is technically my boss. “You want me to name one of my characters after you? One of my characters in a gay romance? In an explicit gay romance?”

And Mark just grinned and said yes.

So that’s how Mark Cooper got his name. He and Real Life Mark share a few qualities -- they’re both smart arses, they’re incredibly loyal friends, they both fire up when they get angry, and they’re both sweethearts underneath. And funnily enough, they both hooked up with Americans at university.

I can never remember if life is supposed to imitate art, or art is supposed to imitate life. But as long as long as one is imitating the other, I guess we’re doing okay. 

What an awesome story, Lisa and J.A.! It's so fun to read about where authors get their inspiration, and the story of Blake and Mark definitely appeals to our quirky tastes.

Lisa and J.A. have brought along an awesome giveaway in honor of their release day.

If you would like to win an ebook copy of Mark Cooper versus America by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, leave a comment on this BMBR post with some means of contacting you on the web (e.g., email, Twitter handle, Goodreads link, etc.). The contest will close at 10PM (Pacific time) on February 10th, and a winner will be contacted shortly thereafter.  Please respond within 48 hours or else we will select another winner.

Thanks for visiting the blog, Lisa and J.A., and happy release day!

Mark Cooper versus America is now available at Loose Id and other ebook retailers.

Review: Starring Role (Gin & Jazz #4) by Morticia Knight

This is book four in the Gin & Jazz series.

Alone once again, Jack believes that he will never have lasting love. But a tragedy unexpectedly paves the way to more happiness than he would ever have thought possible.

No longer held prisoner by Roman Pasquale’s obsessive love, Jack struggles with being truly alone for the first time in his life. The only thing he is certain of is his desire to get away from Hollywood as soon as possible. But first, he has to make sure that his loyal driver Juan is provided for, and understands that the two of them can never be together. Then, once he finishes his latest film he will finally be free of the town of broken dreams.

Right as Jack feels that his future is looking brighter, a terrible tragedy occurs. But out of his despair a new hope is born. Jack is given a second chance—one he never would have thought possible. As Jack’s blissful new life unfolds with his lover by his side, an unexpected visitor from the past threatens his new-found peace.

It’s time for Jack to make his final choice.

Well, that was worth it. All the angst, heartache and tears was worth it.

Jack is alone. Again! But this time, I can say I was genuinely happy about it. After leaving that controlling jerk, Roman, he was able to find people he should let into his life and are worth his time. I loved seeing Jack come into his own, on his own. There wasn't anybody there guiding him any certain way, he made his own decisions for himself. It's about time!

It wasn't an easy road for Jack to get himself back on track. He had some bumps along the way. Some very sad and hard to read bumps. I was (surprisingly) emotional over some of the obstacles he had to go through. But, these events did bring back the most important person in his life. Again, it's about time!

Although their coming together was predictable, and I could see how it was going to happen pretty early on in the book, it was still like a huge sigh of relief when The Reunion finally happened. Nick was back, but Jack wasn't going to make it too easy on him. Good! Remember, Jack has been through some shite and doesn't put up with shite any longer. Good! But when they did... oh, when they did. It was so beautiful. I wanted Nick to suffer, but I was glad when his suffering ended. I was just as ready for his bossy tendencies to shine through in the bedroom as Jack was. They are just so effing hot together. Good god.

All throughout this series I've loved how real and believable the characters are and I still felt that way in this final book. The emotions were real, the struggles were real and the HEA was real.

A four book series, and all are four stars from me. Definitely worth a shot.

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

Review: Last First Kiss (Southern Comfort #1) by Diane Adams

Eighteen-year-old Gage Harris is not a part of twenty-five year old Trent Foster’s plans. He likes Gage but the intense attraction between them makes remaining just friends unlikely, and the young farmer with two small children is a complication Trent doesn’t need.

Despite all the reasons to stay away, Trent is pulled into the small family. Gage’s boys are delightful and the young man’s honesty and genuine affection impossible to resist. Trent is intrigued by a life so different from everything he’s known. As he struggles to reconcile his plans with his feelings Trent begins to suspect that his random offer of a ride in the rain might lead straight to his last first kiss.

Is there anyone reading this who had children when they were young?  I mean really young, like while you were still in high school.  I myself had my first child when I was eighteen.  If you said yes then you will understand this book and most likely recognize a lot of what goes on between this little family as having happened to you at some point in time or another.  The disappointment from family members you see when they think you are throwing your life away.  The jealousy you feel when you see others your age with nothing holding them back from following their dreams.  The sheer frustration of dealing with an ornery two year old.  And the abject fear that you are just not doing it right and you are doing more harm to your kids than good.

Gage is 18 years old and a father of two.  His first child was born when he was only fourteen.  Yes, you heard me right.  Fourteen.  He dropped out of school when his second child was born so he could go work on his uncle’s farm and provide for his family.  He was only sixteen at the time.  He has taken on the role of fatherhood with a quiet grace and simple acceptance while he is little more than a child himself.

Trent’s plans for his life did not include an 18 year old and his two little boys.  He wanted more than the simple life.  He was on the fast track to success.  But this little trio had wormed themselves into his life and into his heart so deeply that he was irrevocably hooked.  For life.

This isn’t an over-the-top, epic romance.  No, this is just a simple story about two very young men finding each other and their lives together as they try to overcome obstacles derived from circumstance rather than angst.  This is a slow burn that moves at a nice, easy pace.  There is no “insta-love” here.  It was really quite refreshing.  The story is different than anything I have read before and so damned relatable that I suffered from my own version of “insta-love”.

The book isn’t perfect.  The story is told mainly from Trent’s point of view and I never really connected to him completely.  And the resolution to their problem was predictable. It worked out exactly how I thought it would.  Some things seemed to be swept under the rug or handled a little too neatly.  There were also just a few editing issues and proofreading errors but they didn’t really detract from the story.

But none of this mattered to me when I got to see through Gage’s eyes and hear his thoughts.  Every fear, every doubt he had was like looking at myself in the mirror.  Gage is essentially me as I was when I was that age.  The parallels between his life, his thoughts, his feelings and mine when I was eighteen were startling to the point of being a bit eerie.  It was like the author reached into my memories and pulled out everything that I felt when I was a new mother.  Gage was what made this story for me.  He and a precious little boy named Nash were vital to my enjoyment of this tale.  No one was perfect in this story.  They had issues, made bad choices, made mistakes, became real.  It was beautiful.

This is the first book in the Southern Comfort series and I for one cannot wait for the next story.

Highly recommended.

P.S.  Talk about cover love!  So nice to see two boys with all their clothes on.  Well done!

Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.