Guest Review: Straight From the Heart (Exception to the Rule, #3) by Kimberly Gardner

College student Kyle diStefano is having trouble paying his tuition. So when he hears about a job as team mascot with the accompanying full scholarship it seems like the perfect solution. Except he knows nothing about football. But why should that stop him?

Known as the Big Cock on Campus, Dave Masterson never lets his antics with the ladies interfere with his true love, playing NCAA football. But when his coach suggests the team do some off-season conditioning at the ballet barre, most of the guys scoff. Only Dave takes him seriously.

With Dave's knowledge of football and Kyle's knowledge of ballet, it seems each has exactly what the other needs, except they play for different teams. Or do they?

Kyle knows one sure path to heartbreak is falling for the straight jock who’s teaching him the rules of the game. Dave falling for another man is going to mean nothing but trouble. But neither man can seem to help himself.

When a public display of affection casts doubt on Dave’s NFL dream, he is forced to make a choice. Stay with the game plan or call an audible straight from the heart.

Reviewed by Samantha

It's a story we've all heard before. Gay boy falls for seemingly straight jock. In this story, Kyle, the new mascot ends up in a little deal with Dave Masterson, the schools quarterback. It's a simple exchange - if Dave teaches Kyle about football, Kyle will help him with ballet.

Of course nothing is really that simple, and the boys find themselves in somewhat of a friends with a little extra benefits arrangement, one that leaves some hearts broken in its wake.

The story in general was perfectly fine. There were some very cute parts, and the characters were overall endearing. I enjoyed getting to know Joes and Mark and seeing just a bit of their dynamic as well.

Still, this was just medium level okay. There was nothing that stood out about this story or that will stay with me in the days to come. I love sports in stories, and I love GFY, but there are so many that you really have to write something special to make an impact, and this simply wasn't that. If you're looking for something cute to pass the time, then this may be the book for you, but if you want a story with impact, I'd say to continue along elsewhere.

On the bright side, I found Kyle and Dave to be quite sizzling when they were together, but as a whole I felt like the heart of the story was lacking. The content was there, but something was missing.

For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!

Review: Slow Bloom by Anah Crow

Ricky Talbot, fresh from his first year at university, is looking to have a perfect summer. He gets to work for the man he's had a crush on for years and spend the rest of his days in the pool, training for the swim team. Jack Corson, on the other hand, is a suburban hermit with a tangled past. Jack's a lot more experienced than Ricky, cantankerous and more than a little anti-social. When an unexpected one-time encounter between the two of them turns into more, Ricky and Jack must see if they have what it takes for love to bloom despite all of their differences, the distance between them while Ricky's away school, Jack's past and Ricky's parents. Can their slow-blooming love come to fruition?

Hells yeah!


^^^^Me prior to reading this and me after… 

Like, I want to squirrel it away and make out with it and cuddle it and carry it around with me like Linus and his woobie.

I've been in a minor book rut lately, reading a couple pages here, a couple pages there but nothing was grabbing me, so Baby suggested bears and twinks and I perked up then I thought MANTIES! Lo and behold if I didn't get bears, twinks AND MANTIES! Plus, Anah Crow.

This is a slow burn or bloom, however you want to phrase it. It unfolds slowly but surely and these authors show you every bit of their romance. They don't hold back even a little bit. Sure, it probably could have been edited down and I'm so glad it wasn't because I loved even the tedium. 

Ricky is home after his first year of college and his father has arranged for him to work on Jack's lawn in exchange for access to his pool to keep up his training. Something as ordinary as a broken lawnmower is the catalyst for this romance. Jack notices the "golden lawn boy" having a meltdown. Who could resist Ricky?

Lithe swimmer's build.
Blond curls.
Golden tan.
Cut offs.

Who could blame the man? I bet he was kinda sweaty too. *groans*

It begins as just an illicit encounter. Ricky's had a crush on the eccentric, gay, curmudgeon of a neighbor since he was 15. A blow job is a dream come true! Until he gets gay bashed and the only person he can think of to call to pick him up is Jack. A connection is formed that night, but they're both just happy to spend the summer together. My god, do they make good use of that summer. They are so hot for each other, they scorched off the page. Oodles of kissing, biting, rimming, begging, dirty talk, needing with some kink mixed in: spanking, bondage and MANTIES.

"Now I'm going to have to go waste time lying in the hot tub and jerking off while I think about how good it would be to rip those shorts off you and tongue your ass until you come everywhere, then flip you over and suck you hard again so I can fuck my mouth on your dick until my throat is sore for days and you come so hard you can't remember anything but how to worship my cock with your sweet, rosy mouth, looking like you live to get your mouth full of my come, even if you always end up with it dripping down your chin so you look completely debauched and fucked."

My kindle crackled a little bit a few times. I didn't expect anything more than a hot, sex filled summer romance. How could I with a 30 yr age gap between them? Honestly, this can't go anywhere, except it did. Somewhere along the way Jack stopped being such a curmudgeon, at least around Ricky. He got used to Ricky being there, talking to him, being with him, going shopping with him and just spending time together. The last scene between the two of them at the end of that first summer damn near brought me to tears it was so bittersweet.

They moved against each other like they could almost soak into one another's skin and then the desperate need to be close would ease.

Ricky goes back to school and things sort of go back to normal, but Ricky misses him and turns up for Jack's annual Halloween party with a stunning surprise for him and things just progress from there. They call, they email, they buy sentimental things for each other and that evolves into special trips to spend time together which just makes the ache worse when they have to part again. Surprisingly, there's very little angst. They're both very open and honest with one another and the trust grows exponentially with every rendezvous. What I liked best was even though Jack's got his own footpath around the block nothing was the same for him. He opens himself up in ways he never has before and he just… loves Ricky. He wants him to be happy. He wants what's best for him and more than anything else he just wants Ricky to be Ricky. He's old enough and wealthy enough to fit himself into Ricky's life If that's what Ricky wants.

And he does. He has to battle both his friends and his parents to convince them that he loves Jack for Jack and doesn't care about the age difference and those are some tough battles. His friend Jason doesn't pull any punches and his mom says some really hurtful things in the heat of the moment, but love is love and it doesn't do math.


Every one of these characters came alive on the page. Some added to the subtle telling of Jack's backstory. Some added levity. Jason actually reminded me a lot of Blake from ThePrescott College series only smarter. Every conversation felt honest and genuine. All of it added to the magic that is Slow Bloom.

Maybe it just hit me at the right time. Maybe it was the MANTIES. Maybe it was the bear/twink trope I love, but this is going down as one of the best things I've read all year. I really wish this author would write more.

A version of this review was previously posted on Goodreads.

Review: A Slow Process of Understanding by Faith Ashlin

How does a world that accepts slavery affect both master and slave? Can two people build a new life for themselves with a start like theirs?

In an alternate world very similar to this one the all-powerful State controls just about every aspect of life—including the sanctioning of slavery. Jimmy, enjoying the privileged life of a television actor, has never really given the matter much thought, or paid much attention to the fight for freedom going on around him.

So what is Jimmy meant to do when a careless, drunken moment, leads to him being permanently bonded to a slave he doesn’t want? Does it change who he is? What he is?

Trouble is, Jimmy isn't sure who he was to start with. He's never thought about it.

And what about his slave, Nate? Can a slave force Jimmy into learning something about himself? 

This was me for about 30%...

Jimmy is an idiot.
Jimmy is a spoiled idiot brat.
What's wrong with Nate?
Why is there no chemistry?
There is zero spark. No heat. Nada. Zilch.
They have sex, but I don't feel a thing about it.
Why am I reading about this couple?
There has got to be more to this.


BOOM! I get it. Faith Ashlin is a genius.

A Slow Process of Understanding, indeed. It's an apt title if there ever was one.

I feel like I should just stop here to avoid spoilers. I won't go over any plot, it's one readers need to experience on their own. I'll just stick to what worked and what didn't.

What worked: Jimmy. Yeah, he was an idiot for a lot of the book. That was an accurate understanding I had. But there was so much growth and change in him. I couldn't help but admire his bravery. His change wasn't forced, it was slow and thoughtful and natural. He had a few very harsh self-realizations he had to face, but he did. He faced them head on.

The first 30%! I didn't really get what was going on the whole time and I admit, was a bit confused as to what the point was. But once I did, everything clicked and fell into place. I thought it was so well done and artfully crafted.

Oh, Nate. His pain and struggles were so real. Even though the story wasn't from his POV, I got a real sense of what he was feeling.

The way they formed their relationship was wonderful. It was heartbreaking at times, but it was necessary in order for Jimmy to become who he needed to be. They created a solid foundation of trust and openness before moving forward.

What didn't work: The length. It was a little long winded at times. It was in the redundant conversations between Nate and Jimmy. I get they had a lot to work through, but I feel like I read the same conversation about 5 times.

Obviously, my likes seriously outweighed my dislikes. This is my second book by Faith Ashlin that has kept me up until stupid-o'clock, and it certainly won't be my last.

Find out more info on Goodreads!

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

GIVEAWAY TIME with Perie Wolford and the audiobook of Turning 16


Sam never liked his birthdays because not a single one of them was happy...

When he turned 1, he fell face-down into his birthday cake; when he turned 5, he broke his left arm and when he turned 7, he broke his right arm and his left leg; when he turned 12, his house caught fire. Now Sam is about to turn 16 and he is dreading the day.

The only birthday wish he has is for Jake who is the Mr. Popular of Arcadia High to even acknowledge his existence, or better yet give him a happy-birthday kiss.

But Sam knows that it’s not gonna happen. Or is it?

Turning 16 is out on Audible and our very dear friend Perie Wolford is here to give YOU a copy.

Yeah, Merry early Chrismakwaanzaka right? I love this series and you can check out my original review for Turning 16 here and Turning 17 here. Perie does justice to the teen years so well and if you haven't checked out the series yet, you really need to and what better way than to get a gifty from the author himself!

He's got a sackful of coupons to give away so, you know the drill:

Leave us contact information (preferably email) in the comments and the first 25 commenters will receive a coupon for a FREE copy of Turning 16 thru Audible. Get signed up by 12/31/14 to get your copy!

Feel free to share a story about what turning 16 meant for you too. The more embarrassing the better and then you'll know you can relate to Sam!

Thanks to Perie for coming by to visit and for being his awesomely generous self!

Fangirl Moment: Review: Dirty Kiss (Cole McGinnis #1) by Rhys Ford

Cole Kenjiro McGinnis, ex-cop and PI, is trying to get over the shooting death of his lover when a supposedly routine investigation lands in his lap. Investigating the apparent suicide of a prominent Korean businessman's son proves to be anything but ordinary, especially when it introduces Cole to the dead man's handsome cousin, Kim Jae-Min.

Jae-Min's cousin had a dirty little secret, the kind that Cole has been familiar with all his life and that Jae-Min is still hiding from his family. The investigation leads Cole from tasteful mansions to seedy lover s trysts to Dirty Kiss, the place where the rich and discreet go to indulge in desires their traditional-minded families would rather know nothing about.

It also leads Cole McGinnis into Jae-Min's arms, and that could be a problem. The death of Jae-Min's cousin is looking less and less like a suicide, and Jae-Min is looking more and more like a target. Cole has already lost one lover to violence he's not about to lose Jae-Min too.

Jenni Lea and the Ebook:

Rarely does a book have the ability to surprise me. It's the reason why I don't really like reading mysteries. I always, ALWAYS figure out whodunit way before I ever finish the book.

This book though, shocked me. Here I was, thinking I was so smart to have figured out the perpetrator when something happened to bring me to a screeching halt.

I was wrong.

I didn't know whodunit! I was left with my mouth hanging open and grasping at straws to try and figure out who else it could be. And when they were finally revealed it was the last person I would have ever suspected.

I liked other aspects of this book as well. I really connected with Cole and his dry, almost self deprecating humor. I liked Jae-Min as well. He's no Miki but I really warmed up to him.

There were a few cringe-worthy descriptions used during the sex scenes but I knew about them prior to reading (I peeked at a few reviews beforehand) so I was able to brush past them fairly easily.

Ann and the Audio:

I read this one a long time ago and when I started my Audible account, this was at the top of my list of books to listen too. I had already listened to Sinner's Gin and fell in love with Tristan James. I figured at that point I had hit the pinnacle of audiobooks. Then, I listened to Greg Tremblay as Cole McGinnis. Dammit, that man can read the WORDS. You know how the movie is never as good as the book? Audiobooks can be the same way. Then you see/listen to one that does justice to the words you love and you fall in love with the stories and characters all over again. That's how I felt with Dirty Kiss.

I would imagine this would be a tough story to narrate. It's an intricate story, with lots of characters and a bevy of twists and turns. The things that made it a great story to read could make it a tough story to listen to with the wrong set of pipes. Thank grilled cheezus Rhys Ford's words were paired up with Greg Tremblay's narration. The character voices were all unique and he nailed the moods perfectly making the story easy to follow. I lost all kinds of hours listening to this one, I just couldn't turn it off.

Just a warning, well a couple actually. Be aware of your surroundings when you get to the smexy parts. You don't want to get cockblocked by RL in the middle of a Rhys Ford written sex scene as read by Greg Tremblay. Secondly, be ready to queue up the rest of the series because like all wonderful indulgences, you can't stop at just one.

Review: Favorite Son by Will Freshwater

Born into a blue-collar family, John Wells beat the odds and came out a winner. As chief of staff to Patrick Donovan, a US senator and aspiring presidential candidate, he enjoys all the power and privilege of a DC insider. But while riding high on a wave of success, he’s blindsided by a series of betrayals from the people he trusts the most. In the space of a single day, John's perfect life unexpectedly unravels when his career falters and his marriage implodes. Following a final, devastating blow, John assumes a new identity as “Peter” and flees to Provincetown, where a tight-knit community of eclectic characters slowly transforms him.

Peter finds himself drawn to Danny Cavanaugh, an enigmatic carpenter who is struggling to come to terms with his own troubled past. As they work together to renovate a local landmark, the two men forge an unlikely friendship that blossoms into love and becomes the foundation for a new life they hope to build together. But when a reversal of fortune pulls John back to DC, the treacherous world of politics he thought he’d left behind threatens to destroy his chance at true happiness.

Favorite Son is different than the usual M/M romance fare. Especially in that the romance is not the focus. 

John's life is slowly, but surely, falling apart. He loses everything that is constant and important in his life in basically one swoop. So, he runs to a new town where nobody knows him and becomes a 'new' self as Peter. 

Peter meets an interesting, open and accepting group of people. They instantly bring in Peter as one of their own. The characters were fun and quirky and added a bit of humor to Peter's horrible situation. 

One of the residents is Danny. Peter is instantly attracted to him and feels that it's mutual. I do love a slow burn and relationships being built on friendship. This is exactly how Danny and Peter's love story goes. The problem I had was that I didn't really feel anything from Danny. Given that the story is from Peter's POV, I never understood Danny's choices. I couldn't get a feel for him and he was quite unlikeable to me. Luckily, the romance wasn't the focus. 

The story is really about John/Peter finding himself. I found it interesting how he changed who he was depending on where he was at. When he went back to DC he slipped back into being John flawlessly, just like he became Peter when in Provincetown. But, in the end, I feel like he was able to combine the two and really be himself in his new life.

While I can appreciate a story without much romance, I was a little bored throughout Favorite Son. I had to make myself pick it back up each time. There were parts I really liked, like Peter's character and the cast of characters in Provincetown, but the pace was too slow for me.

Favorite Son is something different and features a great group of characters, even if it was a bit slow, still a nice change from the usual M/M romance.

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

Find out more info on Goodreads!

Review: King of Cups by Elinor Gray

Christmas, thanks to massive winter storms that blanket the Europe. He's facing a holiday spent in a hostel eating cold beans out of a can, when Hugh Campbell, his friend from university, surprises him with an invitation to Scotland. If Charlie is going to miss Christmas with his own family, he might as well spend it with someone else's. But nothing is ever that simple, especially when Hugh's mum puts them up in Hugh's old bedroom together. Charlie's been nursing a crush on Hugh since they met, but he can't ruin a perfectly good friendship over that.

Hugh knew his mum and dad would see right through him, but he should have expected that Charlie would get the boyfriend treatment. Rather than dispel any illusions, he and Charlie agree to let the matter lie and to act as normal as possible. But when Hugh's friends get on his case about Charlie, he'll deny his attraction until the sun comes up. Not that anyone believes him.

Without the distractions of school work or flatmates, the tension of being alone together grows. Charlie is headed home after the New Year, and then will be gone for good by the summertime. Can they sort out their feelings before it's too late? Or will this just be another missed opportunity?


If, like me, you can't get enough of romance at this time of year, then this needs to go on your tbr pile, immediately. Christmas jizz, SRAL calls these books, and I can't read them fast enough.

This has all the right ingredients for the perfect Christmas romance recipe...

  • Two good friends
  • One delayed flight
  • A handful of interfering pals and/or family
  • One perfect winter setting
Put the two friends together. Add in a delayed flight and let the ideas simmer gently until the perfect one is formed. This idea should look like the two friends unexpectedly spending Christmas together. Add in a handful of interfering friends and/or family and let their interference start to combine the two friends together. This process is not an exact science, a conclusion will often be reached by or on Christmas day, sometimes it will be new year and occasionally even longer. Some good writing, well developed characters and general all round swooniness will move things in the right direction, at a pace best set by the author. When all the above have combined to work together add in one beautiful winter scene, and the romance is complete. Sit back with a cup of tea and sigh contentedly as the exchange that first, oh so yummy, kiss.

Yep, for me this book is a perfect winter warmer and I'd highly recommend it to all Christmas jizz  winter romance fans.

I'm certainly going to check out more books by Elinor Gray.

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.