Review: Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews

To live through the zombie apocalypse they have to survive each other first.

College freshman Parker Osborne is having the worst day ever. He humiliated himself trying to pick up a cute guy, he hasn’t made any friends at school, and his stupidly hot jerk of a TA gave him a crappy grade on his paper. He’s going to drop Adam Hawkins’ film class and start fresh tomorrow after he’s had a good sulk.

But Parker’s about to find out what a bad day really looks like—if he can survive the night.

A virus is unleashed, transforming infected people into zombie-like killers. After these quick and deadly creepers swarm campus, Parker only escapes thanks to Adam swooping him onto the back of his trusty motorcycle. Now they're on the run—and stuck with each other.

When they’re not bickering, they’re fighting off the infected in a bloody battle for survival. Their only hope is to head east to Parker's family, but orphaned Adam has a secret he’s not sure Parker will accept: he’s a werewolf. Can they trust each other enough to find some light in these dark days?

Wow. Oh, wow. There is so much I loved about Kick at the Darkness.

I was so hesitant to read this. I don't know why, it's Keira Andrews FFS. Don't worry, I won't have her just sitting there on my kindle, unread, for that long ever again.

It all starts out like any contemp romance. Parker has started college and is having a generally crappy time. It's not like high school and his grades are feeling it. Well, one grade in particular. The TA in his film class gave him a 'C' *gasp* and Parker has a bit of a fit.

He's having a bad day and just trying to get through it all. So he's ignoring all the news stories he's hearing and ignoring phone calls. Until the news stories were brought to his campus in a hungry group of flesh eating zombies. 

While freaking out and trying to escape he runs into the jerkface TA, Adam. He and Adam stick together to get out of the danger zone. The hole up together and watch each other's backs.

The story isn't so much about the virus or the cure. It's more about Adam and Parker. The headed East, towards Parker's family. So much about their journey and expectations rang true to me, well as much as a zombie apocalypse can ring true, I guess. Parker had to check on his family, no matter how unlikely it seemed that they would find them. And he knew this, knew how unlikely it was to find them at all, let alone alive. They used their journey to help them cope. They had a plan, no matter how crazy it was to travel the country at a time like this, at least they had a plan and a purpose. I think this kept them sane.

Neither Parker or Adam came out to each other, so they weren't sure if their attraction was reciprocated. Which led to nervous touches and sly glances and tension. Not only did they have good sexual chemistry, but they formed a strong friendship. Parker really matured from the entitled college student he started out as. Adam and Parker slowly moved forward, realizing that maybe they were both feeling this. Holy shifters, they were sexy. There was dirrrrrrrty talk, mmmm yeeeesssss. Dirty talk and sex in (partially) shifted form and just hotness all around. Damn, they were sexy.

During their survival there were hints that Adam wasn't quite human. Parker noticed these things, but didn't really think on it too much. Well, until Adam went wolf in front of Parker. There was some development of this plot line, but there were a lot of things left open. For me that only solidified that this story was about Parker and Adam. Not the virus, not a cure. But these two guys and their story.

Then the ending. Oh my. The end. The image I was left with on that last page was just beautiful. After a book about flesh eating zombies, I was left with something beautiful that I can still clearly picture in my mind. There's so much hope for Parker and Adam and I couldn't be happier with where they left off. That's not to say I wouldn't love more of them.

Ms. Andrews has shown her talent in two vastly different genres and stories; after loving her Amish series, she has a solid spot on my auto-buy list. 

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Heartstrings by Nova Arisól LaMason

They were perfect soul mates… and then, HE showed up. 

Vladimir Andante and Guy Largo are not only esteemed students at the world’s most prestigious university for musical prodigies, but perhaps the most watched couple on campus. Vladimir is regally beautiful, bearing the most adored male singing voice, while Guy is handsome and friendly, besting all with the piano. Their love for each other is candid and true, and steamy behind closed doors. 

While observing the entrance examinees’ performances, they notice that one man, the mysterious and good-looking Sergio Grave, stands out on stage. His passion with the violin, like tendrils of magic, captivates them and the entire audience. But when Sergio is assigned as their new roommate, his attitude, unlike his talent, turns out to be far less than stellar. What drives his harsh, repellent behavior, and why does he intend to endure the trials of the world’s toughest music school alone? While Guy always tries to see the good in others, Vladimir hardly cares to find out. When they unwittingly do, it starts a whole new roller coaster of emotions that shakes the lovers’ relationship. 

3.5 seems to be my favorite number lately. I'm liking  everything I'm reading, but nothing is surprising me or taking my breath away. Heartstrings was the same.

Vladimir and Guy are both music students at a prestigious college.  Vladimir is there to sing and Guy is a pianist. They sat in on the auditions for the new class coming in and one of the new violinists, Sergio, caught their attention.

Come to find out, Sergio has been assigned to their two bedroom dorm. Which was somewhat okay with them, except that Sergio is about as cuddly as a cactus.

It was obvious that Sergio's grumpiness was a barrier he's put up to protect himself. While trying to get Sergio's room assignment changed, Vladimir and Guy find out what he's protecting himself from.

Sergio's past is heartbreaking and now that the guys know what the problem is, they are kind towards him and encourage Sergio to open up. I liked that they wanted to help him, instead of taking the easy way out and continue with trying to get him moved.

I thought Vladimir and Guy broke down Sergio's walls kind of quickly. The guy has some obstacles to overcome and he's totally justified in his previous demeanor. From what I understood, he's always pushing people away and it's a habit he's had for years. And then, just like that, he's open and thoughtful towards Vladimir and Guy? Hmm. I don't know. Didn't feel genuine to me.

Although I did like the menage aspect of the story and how Vladimir and Guy brought Sergio into their relationship. It certainly wasn't planned, but they went along with what felt right. I think the blurb is misleading here. With this line, "They were perfect soul mates… and then, HE showed up." it makes it seem as if there's jealousy and that Sergio causes problems between Vladimir and Guy, and that's not the situation at all. Vladimir and Guy are really open with each other. They're solid in their relationship and take things on together. 

Heartstrings was very sweet and sometimes sexy. Add in a ginger with an amazing accent and you've got a fun weekend read.

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Mirror of Obsession by Harper Jewel

When fifteen-year-old Devin Hughes created his phantom lover to help him keep his sexual identity a secret, he never imagined that Brice would materialize in the flesh ten years later. Convinced that the mind-blowing encounters he had with his hunky specter were nothing more than fevered hallucinations, Dev attempts to push Brice to the back of his mind and concentrate on his rising career as an advertising executive. 

With the help of his newest client, Englishman Matthew Lyons, CEO of Lyons Security, Devin is able to forget Brice once and for all. Sparks fly between Dev and Matt, and they speed full-throttle into a relationship. During a month-long separation, Devin struggles with uncertainty and reverts to his “hurt them before they hurt you” attitude, forcing him to get a grip and make things right or lose Matt altogether.

When an obsessed Brice finds out about Devin’s new relationship, his rage reaches an all-time high. The two men have ruined all his plans, and he will stop at nothing to reach his goal: harvesting Devin’s soul. 

Will Devin, with Matthew’s help, find a way to banish Brice forever, or will they both succumb to the satanic powers of a maniacal demon?

The story sounded pretty cool. Dev has an "imaginary friend" in his mirror who ends up being real. Not only real, but a demon. He becomes obsessed with Dev and becomes jealous of his new boyfriend, to the point of attacking. Sounds good to me! I'm in.

Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

1.) I can't stand blurbs that tell the entire story. With spoilers! What's the points of reading the book? I already know what happens.

2.) It felt like two separate books. One paranormal story and then a contemp romance. The demon storyline was completely separate from Dev and Matt's relationship, except for a little in the beginning and a little in the end. The demon was gone for most of the story, or when he did show up he was with someone else. I guess I was expecting more of a haunting type situation. A melding of the two story lines throughout the entire novella, with more anticipation for the big climax ending, would have really helped.

3.) The big climax ending.  The demon said stuff like, "Too fucking bad, losers." while they were having their fight to the death. Oh boy. It came off as really cheesy to me, like a corny supervillian or something.

4.) The dialogue and pet names. They called each other 'boo' and 'ducky'. I've never heard anyone call someone 'boo' in seriousness. And I've never heard anyone use 'ducky', ever. It was weird and off-putting. I'm sorry, but screaming, "You really know how to push my buttons, ducky!" during an orgasm is just not sexy. Not at all. 

One more thing...

5.) Matt and Dev were sooooooooooo sappy and fake. "Devin... there's a wildfire raging inside of me that only you can extinguish." *gags* I don't think people actually talk like that. Or if they do, I never hear it. Thank jebeezus for small favors. There was so much insta-love I was drowning in it. I don't mind a fast-paced relationship when I can feel it. I felt nothing between them. Just lots of filler-type banter and sex. 

The story was choppy, the relationship was contrived, the dialogue was just... off. 

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Demon You Know by Barbara Elsborg

A good demon?

Ezra is a timekeeper in Hell, responsible for building and maintaining the clocks that tick away eternal torment. He’s never believed he deserves to be in Hell, and when the reason he’s there is revealed, he’s horrified...yet filled with hope. But is this just another form of torture? When Ezra’s given a chance to go to the surface, he’s determined to uncover the truth, but his fellow demons seem just as determined he won’t survive the journey.

A bad angel?

Roman doesn’t understand why an angel who failed his training the first time round has been given the job of policing paranormals in the UK’s capital city. He’s consumed by unhappiness. He might not be in Hell, but sometimes it damn well feels like it.

When Roman meets Ezra his failings come back to haunt him. Ezra makes him want to break the rules, but an angel protecting a demon? Discovery would bring an eternity of suffering, and with a boss none other than the archangel Michael, it'll take more than a miracle for the lovers to stand together.

This was one of the most anticipated books of the year for me.  

I was blown away with Bloodline (#2 of this unnamed London PNR series) Loved the characters and a certain stalwart, sort of dark angel Roman, Micah's boss. You don't need to read the series in order but I'd suggest starting with Bloodline first.

I had expectations for Roman. I wondered who would be the man to open him up (mind out the gutter) because he kept secrets and you could tell he had a few inner demons. 

Ezra couldn't have been a finer partner for Roman. 

Poor Ezra. The Hell timekeeper has had a horrible life. Not only does he live in hell, but he is tormented, beaten, bullied and raped nearly every day. He's so used to the abuse, I could help feeling wishing it could change. Because he was such a good person. He's a demon...or is he? How can he be if he willingly wants to be a good demon? Something isn't right, he can feel it in his bones but no one in Hell can be trusted. When he gets an opportunity to visit modern London on a demon quest, he does everything in his power not to miss it. 

When he gets topside, he faces obstacles and learns somethings about himself. Angels were meant to send demons back to Hell. But he's not an ordinary demon. This burning question drives a majority of the story. And when Roman is also intrigued and can't seem to hurt Ezra, this also adds to the mystery. 

Roman is in charge of London, he heads & polices the paranormal society with his squad to form a task force unit.  Angels are supposed to be superior beings...but Roman has a masochistic side. Roman wasn't what I considered an "bad" or fallen angel. He was more human. He admitted his sins, hard a hard time coming to terms which his acceptance of a few of them. (Not lust - because he embraced insta-lust for Ezra) Roman lies to his superior, keeps Ezra a secret as he gets to learn more about him. Watching them fall for one another was hot and fun!

"I like things to be hard."
"Good." Because Roman had something hard for him to deal with.
There are scorching sex scenes, it is Elsborg we're talking about here. And the mystery and action (hiding Ezra from the bad guy angels) added to the pace. I had a theory about Ezra and I as only half right, I love when that happens.  There were a few unanswered questions for me. A few things were a little unresolved so I can't fully give all the Hearts like who was the homeless guy Ezra helped? He seemed other. Also that taste of Roman's kinky side is introduced and falls to the wayside. He's cured now because he has a HEA?

The world, agency, paranormal being groups are still as interesting as I've read last year. I like that it's not only based in London but in Hell too. I love reading about demons and enjoy different author's take on Hell, angel vs. demon, etc. I think this book was interesting enough. It could have went deeper but it mainly focused on Ezra, who was the star of this book so I was a happy camper.

I've been spoiled by evil angels in "Clipped" by D. McCormack so anytime I read about "bad" angels it seems like child's play. The antagonist of the story? I wished there was on page punishment for me. He was an ass and he deserved to get flayed.  I like the villain and jerks to get what's coming *pounds fists* And that jerk has been long overdue. I can't believe Roman's boss just turned the other cheek like that.

I do hope there will be more of this series. And my hope it stars one of the brothers we see together in Hell. Won't name them because it'll spoil the surprise.

Enjoyable urban fantasy with erotic moments and some action. Recommended.
For more information on Goodreads or Booklikes!

Author Visit & Giveaway: Ingela Bohm

The oh so lovely Ingela Bohm is here visiting today to talk about her latest, Rival Poet. She's sharing some background on the story, an excerpt and she has an ebook copy to give away!

Blame it on Marlowe

In the beginning, Rival Poet wasn’t supposed to be a M/M romance at all. It was supposed to be an epic biography that spanned four decades and focused on Will’s relationship with his family, using the Mount Everest of research I’d done for it. We might not know much about the man himself, but we know quite a lot about daily life and the rocket burst of theatre in sixteenth century England. Based on that, I planned a 200K feast for the Shakespeare nerds out there.

But in the end, that’s not what happened – because sometimes writers get hijacked.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I was the one who introduced my young protagonist to Kit Marlowe. There’s no historical proof that the two poets ever met, but London was a town of only 200 000 people, so it’s not a stretch to imagine it. Besides, the idea of forcing Will to confront a playwright superstar on his first visit to the capital was too attractive to resist. So I stupidly led Will into Kit’s path, and Will made an awkward mess of their first meeting.

I thought it would end there. I thought Will was just nervous because he was meeting his hero.


No sooner had I opened the door than Kit completely took over. And just like Will, I fell head over heels in love with him. From that point on, I didn’t have any control over my story. It was a hostile takeover, but one which I will never, ever regret. The only thing I regret is that the book is finished – because I miss him! I wish I could call him on the phone and ask for advice. I wish I could introduce him to my friends and family. My husband even made a t-shirt for me that says ‘What would Marlowe do?’ – because for a while there, I was quite obsessed.

So what was it that made Kit so irresistible? Personally, I think it’s that he says what he thinks. He doesn’t bother with social niceties. He’s not impressed by educated wit. He calls a spade a spade, and he has no patience for empty ritual – except when he has something to gain from it. Then he can pretend for a few hours.

For a newbie like Will, meeting Kit makes all the difference. Will might be talented, but he’s a country boy and knows nothing about the cutthroat world of London theatre. Kit introduces him to the right people, gets him his first job, and helps him navigate the confusing city.

He also influences the way Will writes, and this is what got me really hooked. Even a genius needs a sounding board, and when I started researching Marlowe, I was stunned by how many formulations crop up in both poets’ work: how they apparently stole from each other and tweaked each other’s lines to fit their own text. My mind was really blown when I watched Marlowe’s Edward the Second and realized that it echoed whole passages from Romeo and Juliet. I think Will fell in love not only with Kit, but also with his words, just like I’m in love with Will’s.

That said, I didn’t want to write the kind of historical where the dialogue is peppered with phrases like what ho, my liege or thou liest in thy throat. They have their place in other books, but I wanted this one to feel contemporary. I wanted the reader to feel as if it was all happening now – as if, when they finished the story and went out into the world, they might run into one of these people on the bus. That’s why my characters sound quite modern. I avoided some phrases that referred to things that hadn’t been invented yet – ‘blowing a fuse’ being one – but for the rest, I tried to imagine how their conversations would have sounded to them.

At the same time, if you know a little Shakespeare, I hope you won’t be disappointed. There are many oblique references and modified quotations in there, both well-known and more obscure. Of course, you can simply read Rival Poet as a M/M romance that just happens to be set in Elizabethan times, but if you want to, you can also look deeper. If you do, you might even discover how some events in it are reflected in Will’s plays.

Because, after all, I am a fan girl – and what’s a story about Shakespeare without a lot of Shakespeare thrown in?

Blurb & Cover:

1587. A young Will Shaksper arrives in London, hoping to publish his poems. But rejection hits him hard, and he wants to give up – until he meets Kit. Dazzled and drawn in, Will is shocked to find their friendship escalate into something else – something dark and dangerous in a country where sodomy is a capital offence. When Kit finally tries to seduce him, will he be able to resist?


“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” His eyes searched Will’s face curiously, and for a moment Will was hit by the ridiculous thought that his poems had somehow preceded him, that rumour of his rejected writings had reached this man, this shooting star, this paragon of writers. But almost at once he realised that the question wasn’t to be taken literally. It was a pick-up line – a parody of a pick-up line, and therefore impossible to respond to without making an ass of himself.

He stared at the smirking man. “I-I know you,” he stammered stupidly, snippets of Amores and Dido clouding his brain.

Beside him Richard shifted, embarrassed. “Burbage.” He clasped Master Marlowe’s hand, or rather the two fingers not currently employed in elegantly balancing the pipe.

Marlowe smiled briefly. “I know.”

Richard looked stricken for a moment. “Oh, er… I’m, well I’m honoured, Sir – I mean…” His customary cool seemed to have been completely sucked out of him. “Ah… please meet my very good friend William Shakespeare.” He gestured towards Will, apparently eager to deflect the attention.

“Charmed, I’m sure.” Their new acquaintance laid his pipe on the table and enveloped Will’s hand with both of his. They were seething hot and Will almost yanked his hand back. “And please, call me Kit. All my little friends do.” He glanced at the confused trio still waiting for him in the corner.

“I’m such a fan,” Will blurted.

Obviously delighted at the praise, Kit pulled up a chair and sat down. Only when his hand dragged Will down with him did Will realise that he was still holding it. “So… you’re an aspiring dramatist, then?”

“Oh, I… no… well, that is…”

“Never mind.” Kit finally let go of Will’s hand and grabbed Richard’s mug. Realising that it was empty, he set it down again in vague disappointment. “Where are you from? You’re obviously not a Londoner.”




“Never heard of it. Hah! So much for a university degree.” Kit lit his pipe again, seemingly in need of something to do with his hands. “Well, nothing of value was ever taught in such a ridiculous place. Come to think of it, maybe they did mention domestic geography at some point, but education and alcohol really is a detrimental combination! You can’t have one without the other, and yet one innocent drink takes away the whole performance. So, Stratford… a shit-hole, no doubt?”

“On the contrary,” Will protested. “It’s a beautiful place. I was reluctant to leave.”

Kit grinned broadly and slapped Will’s back. “Spoken like a true gentleman! Never let on how much in love you are with the big city, you might come across as a simpleton. Wax lyrical about the unpolluted countryside instead, and you’re automatically in, eh Robert?” He winked at one of his abandoned friends. The one presumably named Robert, a thin man with a straggly red beard, muttered something inaudible in reply. Kit immediately lost interest and turned to Will again. “You should work on that accent, though.”

“Wh… what’s wrong with it?”

“It’s bloody incomprehensible, that’s what’s wrong with it! You don’t think I got to where I am by speaking like a Canterbury ale taster, do you?”

Despite himself, Will chuckled. It was difficult not to be contaminated by Kit’s exuberant manner.

“Hey, you written anything I might know?”

Will hesitated. Was he being ironic again? “Well… not really… I’ve put together some poems, but…”

Kit snorted. “Poems! Stop right there, darling. Your shoes are growing too small for your feet by the minute, and you know it. Poetry and la-di-dah is all very well, but the theatre, now that is the future.”

Will smiled tentatively. “I can see why you’d say that.”

“Setting aside my own glorious self for a minute, think about it: not everyone can read. But even the most down and out hooker has ears, and they flock to the play-houses like simpering lords to Rhenish wine. As a playwright, you have the ear of the entire city – fuck it, you have the ear of the Queen herself! And a soliloquy is poetry in its own right. Only, getting your poetry read aloud by an artiste like Edward Alleyne… not to demean you, sir,” he looked briefly in the direction of Richard, “… that just makes it so much… grander! It’s almost better than sex.”

Will nodded slowly, his mind awash with images of said Alleyne tearing the stage apart in his bloodied shirt. But he didn’t dare compliment Master Marlowe – Kit – on his intimidating talents, for fear of being taunted. Instead he mumbled, “I don’t have the imagination.”

Kit shook his head impatiently. “Don’t be stupid. Stories are ten a penny. It’s what you do with them that counts. It’s all the same crap anyway, life and love and death, blah blah blah. Use whatever’s around, that’s what we all do.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Look, when people just buy and read your stuff, you never get to see how your words seduce them. Wouldn’t you like to hear the sea-surge of applause?”

Will felt the dangerous tug of Kit’s imagery and protected himself with feigned annoyance. “I’m sure it’s all very exhilarating, but I’m quite serious when I say that I can only write poetry.”

Kit hesitated, and then shrugged. “So what? We’re the makers of manners, puppy. And verse makes for excellent crutches. That’s why you begin by writing speeches.”

What’s it to you? Will wanted to ask. Instead he said, “I just don’t know how to translate the stories that I love into dialogue. I read something and I’m inspired, you know, but when I try to write, it comes out poetry. I can’t bridge the gap. I can make poetry out of stories, but I can’t make stories out of poetry.”

Kit smiled. “That’s just the kind of phrase that makes me wish you could. You have the art of rhetoric down pat – God knows how you’ve managed to pick that up from your provincial education! All you have to do is push the boat out, and I’m here to help you with that.”

Will frowned at his assailant. Just a few minutes ago, he had been wilting like a dead man in his lonely corner, for all the world like someone who had just lost his whole fortune, and now he was a veritable river of words. “Why do you care anyway?”

Kit looked stricken, but just for a moment. “Well… why did you want to meet me, if not to further your career?”

“I didn’t! I was leaving, it was you who… Ask Richard!”

Kit glanced without interest at Will’s silenced companion. Then he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put it in his belt and blew the last cloud of smoke into Will’s face. “Tell you what. Why don’t you write a speech about…” He turned to his morose-looking friends who must have given up hope of his company by now. “Robert! You said you needed some kind of soliloquy, didn’t you?”

“What?” The red-bearded man flung up defensive hands. “No, I don’t need any help.”

“Yes you do, shut up. It was Constance, wasn’t it?”


“Yes, it was, don’t lie to me.” Kit turned to Will again. “He needs this pompous speech, you know, anguished ramblings of the tragic heroine and all that… and he has trouble connecting with his feminine side. His women come off as wooden statues. Don’t they, Robert? Now you, on the other hand,” Kit grabbed a lock of Will’s hair and twisted it between his fingers. “You are surely very good at identifying with girls, am I right?”

Will stared at Kit’s face, suddenly so close to his. This man had no personal space. “Oh, I don’t know… I mean, of course I took on roles at school, but…”

Kit laughed. “And I would have loved to see them! So you’ll submit something?”

“I…” Will looked over Kit’s shoulder at the fuming writer in the corner. “I don’t know, he doesn’t seem to…”

Kit scoffed. “Don’t pay any attention to Robert! He expects me to help him out – he doesn’t see the difference, poor sod, doesn’t realise how glaringly obvious the shift is, from his language to mine, I mean, honestly! But maybe if you wrote it instead, as a fellow amateur your text wouldn’t jar so much against his.”

“We don’t know him,” Robert complained. “He could be worthless.”

“Don’t be so inconsiderate, Robert! We won’t know his worth until we let him try. Besides, we need some new blood. If his text is good enough, you two could even collaborate on something. Or at least he gets to show that no-good printer of his what he missed, and that’s as noble a mission as anything, right?”

Will made a face. So he had been listening in.

“Hey Will, wouldn’t that be great?” Kit implored. “When you’re a famous playwright he’ll come crawling back, begging you to grace his worthless printing house with your immortal poetry!”

Will looked down at the table, striving to hide his smile. “Okay…”

Kit cocked his head. “Okay?”
“Yes, okay. Just to shut you up, mind you.”

Kit grinned broadly. “You’re in good company, my friend. Many a thing has been done just to shut me up.”

Find Rival Poet at:
Barnes & Noble
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Enter to win an ebook copy of Rival Poet! Comment below with your name and a way of contacting you (email, goodreads profile, twitter, etc) for a chance to win! The giveaway closes on August 11 at 9PM PST when a winner will be randomly drawn. 

Unicorn Favorites: Love is an Open Road: Week Eight

The M/M Romance Group on Goodreads hosts a Don't Read in the Closet event each year where they invite members to submit a photo with a story prompt. Interested authors then volunteer to write the requested stories, which are published for free for everyone to read. It's a fun/exciting/stressful process, and a great opportunity to read stories from favourite authors. And chances are, you'll also discover some new authors, who hopefully have a back-list of goodies to check out :)

This year's event was named Love is an Open Road and they started releasing the completed stories on June first. Here at BMBR, we've been following along on comment threads, anticipating the stories from our favourite prompts, and now greedily reading the stories as they become available.

SheReadsALot: Almost But Not Quite by Amy Spector:

Swimming in the 3.5-4 stars pool -- The billionaire prompt!!!!!

I was pressed so hard against this prompt, it should’ve popped wood. Major wood.

One of my favorite things in romances (it might look like I like a lot of things but trust me, I don’t) are billionaires. 

Yeah, I’m that girl.

I don’t care about the probability of anyone actually finding an attractive, single and eligible rich bachelor who is hung like Triton and can fuck like a god in bed. 

I don’t care. 

Give them a personality and I’m sold…for the most part.

My favorite fictional billionaire is Mr. Gideon Cross. And guess who he was based on? Mr. David Gandy.

Don’t know who he is? Here let me help you.

And this prompt pic was one of Mr. Gandy’s as well, wouldn’t you know?

(Not the prompt pic but I just thought I’d give another angle of his face)

Right, so I might have quelted once or twice when this prompt popped up. 

Now in my head, I imagined this story going a certain way because billionaire and Gandy means hot fucking and sultry orders was on the menu, right? 

But “Almost But Not Quite” wasn’t like the popular billionaire clichés. In fact, the author humanized Maximilian, the billionaire main character. 

He was relatable and sweet and such a soft heart. Don’t get me wrong, when the bedroom action happens (and it does happen), he had a couple of hot lines. There was a growly moment that I particularly enjoyed. (of course)

This was cinderfella-esque, so in terms of relationship building between the main characters, I knew to suspend reality for a bit because who would bring a drunk homeless person who offered to fuck them for cash to their house? Their actual living space and close their eyes and go to sleep...with the hot for cash hobo in their house? With all their valuables just laying about looking all pricy?

The main thing was for me to buy Daniel the part-time rent-boy/fired hairdresser/full-time drunk/ex-drug addict and Max, the Gandy-twin billionaire's relationship and then sexual tension. You can pull that off I don't care if their plan trips to moon to search for polar bears, make me believe.

And overall, their relationship was good. There were parts where I questioned their motives but they were meant for each other. So it's all good. 

I had niggles though, minor ones. 

One being, it was short for pulling off the HEA. Add another 50 pages or so to show Daniel's progression of detox and his substance abuse struggles, let him stand on his two feet. Let Max slowly start to trust Daniel and let him into his world, I would have thrown all the stars at this thing. I had to reread certain parts to make sure they were actually ready for the ILY moment because I kinda thought it was premature. (A little bit)

Max gave in too quickly before realizing how he felt. In fact, the beginning Max was slightly arrogant, sort of standoffish business man then he turned to mush toward the middle and stayed like that. He was very trusting, very quickly and if he had got burned by the stepbrother (my biggest niggle - I'll get to that) would he really be as open and trusting as he was with Daniel. 

Daniel, I preferred slightly more than Max just because I sort of got to know him more. I think he was a good kid who came from a bad situation. I would have liked a little more clarification on his background, then again maybe some more exploration of Max's and his stepbrother as well. What we get is good and can carry the story. I might just be nitpicky and know nothing of what I speak of. ;P

Sometimes there were minor scenes that I didn't think added to the overall story.

Oh and my biggest niggle, the stepbrother plot twist. 

Okay, this story was a solid 4 stars until the last chapter. It was sweet and about redemption and being sober and cute and sweet kisses and finally getting to express yourself in the bedroom kinda hot but...the twist felt like it came out of nowhere.

And then I'm thinking to myself as I'm reading: (it's a little spoiler-ish)

So the billionaire lives on a street with other houses and no security?
Like wouldn't Max be prime pickings for any thief with a weapon? He's doing publicity, everyone except for Daniel pretty much knew the man was a billionaire.
And this stepbrother just happens to pop up after all these years and never gave Max a hint of anything?
And the stepbrother didn't try to attack or take his "man" when Max was alone for those six weeks?
Plus, the way Max sorta explained what happened in the past...what exactly happened?


If only the last chapter didn't happen. But it did. 

But I can respect the author for trying to shake it up. I enjoyed the ideas brought to the story. The execution showed promise, it got a little shaky a few times but I was entertained. (I'll be reading more Amy Spector, for sure)

And most importantly, the author proved not all billionaires need to be anti-social fuck machines who can make body parts leak at just a glance.

So major thanks to the author and the team behind the story. 
And David Gandy.

Optimist King's Wench:Almost but Not Quite by Amy Spector and love Like the Medici by Edmund Manning:

Everything about it gave me squishy good feels except that crazy train brother.

Pardon me but I simply must get this off my chest.

GANDY CANDY¡!!!!!!¡!!!!!!!!!¡

I gotta tell you reading these words with that image in my head did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of this Cinderfella story. Nothing at all.

Gandy, I mean Max, is a philanthropist and head of his family's foundation. He's sort of isolated and lonely, so he occupies himself with work. One night he gets an indecent proposal from a 22 yr old kid down on his luck and desperate. Rather than call the cops he takes him to dinner at a taco truck because Daniel felt uncomfortable at the bistro Max had originally chosen. I knew it was going to be good from this point. I pushed in all my chips and boy did this story pay off.

Max has an incident in his background that haunts him and played a role in his decision to go the extra mile and take Daniel home rather than let him go to a shelter. Daniel needs a break in the worst way. His life has been a grind, some of his own doing but a lot just shitty life being shitty. What I loved about him was his ability to take responsibility for his actions and his acceptance of help when offered. He's not looking for a hand out, but he needs help. Plus he's just a sweet person, tenderhearted, wants to be useful. Adorable. 

They're attracted to each other immediately. HELLLLOOOOO GANDY!! If you've got a pulse you're attracted to Gandy. Sorry, I digressed. 

They both make excuses-too young, addiction, independence. Still they become increasingly attached. I'll admit I didn't really buy them as a couple until late in the game, though I do think it was a good call to have them pine for one another and work for it.

The brother thing did catch me off guard and maybe was a little OTT, but fuck it. I don't caaaaaaarrrreee. GANDY!

There's not a lot of sex but Gandy...DAMMIT! I mean Max is all Toppy McTopperstein. 

Max had already lost his jacket and tie in the hall and was nearly out of his button-down when he entered the room, slamming the door behind him.

“They’re all going to know,” Daniel said, stopping to watch the man finish slipping out of his dress shirt and yanking his undershirt over his head.

“They’re going to figure it out when I have you yelling my name in about three minutes,” Max said, pulling off his shoes and socks.

Werd. Look at that pic and say those words.


Thanks to the author and her team for contributing to the LOR event.

What does it mean to love like a Medici?

Intrigued by the title and the prompt I dove into my first Edmond Manning. All you people who have been poking me to read his King series, I get it now. 

This prompt spoke to me even though it's chaste which normally is an antidote for my interest. Yes, no on page sex and I read it. There wasn't even a dragon! Astonishing, I know. It was probably Italy that did it. DRiTC 2015 seems to be my year of reminiscing about prior vacations.

"Firenze is very proud of Il Duomo." 

 photo Il2BDuomo252C2BFlorence_zpsughhbmwj.jpg

Beautiful, right? I remember it. I remember it like it was yesterday. 

I insisted we go to the top. Insisted! We were there. It's a "must see", right? There was wariness and repeated attempts to change my mind. I distinctly recall the pointing out of the number of steps followed by raised eyebrows and an "are you sure?". YAAAASSSS!!!! Let's do this!!

Worst call ever.

I thought half way up I was going to die. I'm certain I heard the specter of death clanking his scythe. Tourists from all over the world were concerned for my wellbeing. They stopped, asked in various languages and broken English if I was alright. I tried to bail on the whole thing somewhere in there. p.s. you can't bail. It's a one-way ticket straight up to hell. 200 bajillion steps up to hell. Some of which are teeny, tiny and harrowingly steep. Once I reached the top I realized hell had glorious views, though they were difficult to enjoy through gasping from the gauntlet I narrowly survived to get there. I will say this experience has made for many a laugh over the years and extreme caution with any historical landmarks involving steps.

It was beautiful that vista up there, but never again. Been there. Done that. I couldn't tell you if there was a t-shirt involved because I was having an out of body experience.

However, I would love to go back to Firenze and look at the Duomo (from the ground) and this story reminded me how much I missed when I was there.

Chris has 2 months to explore Florence, but on day 2 his entire world gets stolen when he's robbed of his laptop and iPhone. Chris is a gamer (all the gaming stuff went over my head) and is heavily into WoW. His guild is his online family and without any form of communication he seriously contemplates returning home to Iowa. He meets a handsome street artist who offers him kindness in a vulnerable moment.

Enzo is quintessentially Italian. Manning captured the Italian ethos brilliantly. They can be so passionate, playful, charming, vibrant, offer brilliant insights and most are vocal and yet... va bene or as Eddie Izzard put it, "Ciao". A very odd and yet somehow comforting dichotomy.

Enzo is planning to attend art school in the fall, but in the meantime must make as much money sketching Firenze landmarks for the tourists. Most of his days are filled with repeatedly painting the Duomo for Americans but the evenings are filled with Chris, pronounced Ca-riss (rolled R). *eyebrow waggle*

There relationship blooms and grows but the possibility of an intercontinental relationship looming puts them on opposing ends of how to handle it.
"We do not know our future selves. We do not know who we become. We only know who we are now. We must love with these bodies, with these thoughts, and with this heart we share, right now. The future will come."

It's a daunting prospect to risk your heart for a 2 month fling that seemingly has no future, but Chris and Enzo forge ahead despite Chris' reservations. They have hiccups along the way. They don't see eye to eye. Their differences seem to be too great at times, but 90% of the time they fit. That other 10% just adds interest. It gives their relationship that touch of realism rather than glossing over their differences in pursuit of an unbelievable HEA.

The prose is lovely as is the dialogue. I loved how they tease each other and have the "date" running joke. Manning has a writing style that's very descriptive and emotive that drew me in almost immediately. My only niggle is both of them sounded alike which I found strange given their dissimilar heritages. All the Florentine aspects just enriched the experience-the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the trattorias, the steak, the light as it changes from day to night were all captured splendidly.

That epilogue sent it over the top. I think my allergies attacked. >____> Briefly.

 photo tumblr_mkfsif7vjr1s5b175o1_500_large_zpscxwjjx6e.jpg

So, what does it mean to love like a Medici?


“To risk building a future,” Enzo said softly. “Knowing you might break your heart in the process.”

Maybe not.

I'm sure the Florentines discuss it over a good meal with wine aplenty and each and every one will have a different and entirely justifiable answer.

Who knows? But I loved it as a theme.

Maybe risotto for dinner.

Thanks to Mr. Manning and his team for this enchanting addition to the LOR event

Lorix: Love Like the Medici by Edmond Manning:
The conflicting feelings overwhelmed him, throwing him into chaos, as life-changing emotions ripped through him. He felt he finally understood how small he was, how nothing, a self-aware blade of grass standing in this tic of time. He felt unnerved and undone.
This is possibly my favourite DRitC read this year. It is just stunningly beautiful and honest, and I could not put it down. I adored both Chris (Ca-riiis) and Enzo. They were so different in personality yet worked so wonderfully together.

Chris, highly attached to the virtual world, took a step into reality and booked himself a two month holiday in Italy. This man was so unbelievably out of his comfort zone. As much as he adored the Italian culture, art and architecture, there was a big - no huge - part of him that felt he could experience them almost as well online. I mean, the internet is a wonderful place, the world is there available on screen for you in the safety and comfort of your own home - in your comfort zone - and Chris loved his comfort zone. I totally understand this. TOTALLY.

He did it though. He stepped out of his comfort zone and went to Italy... and was rewarded for his bravery by having his most prized possession stolen from him. At this point in the story I just fell in love with Edward Manning's words. He portrayed Chris' anxiety, anger and despair so bloody brilliantly, I was feeling it as well. He put into words exactly how I would have felt in the same situation. He didn't tell me, he made me experience it. The desire to just leave. To cry. To not cry and smash something. To yell at all the people sympathetically standing around who were doing nothing to get his stuff back. As much as we say 'oh it is only a computer, it is only stuff' it really wasn't to Chris. That machine and phone were his whole world. **And here I send a virtual hug to all my online friends, because, you know what, I may not 'see' you in everyday life, but in many ways I have a lot more in common with you all than the people I do see. It's a modern phenomenon, but it's real.** 

Enzo though, the Italian street artist, he doesn't do technology. For him life is there for the taking. Right there. The tangible reality in front of him. He doesn't understand Chris' virtual world - but he doesn't dismiss it out of hand. He takes the time to show Chris there is more than the online world and he shows Chris that there is more to him (Chris) than Chris realises. As they explore the beautiful Florence together they learn that life is too big to be put into neat little boxes. 

Florence is as much part of this story as the two MCs. I've never been, but I feel as though I have. I want to see and experience it for myself after reading this story. God it's so beautiful - and all the pictures I saw of it were painted by Edward Manning's words.

This story is poetic and insightful and, above all, a proper love story. I know for sure I will read it again. I want to read it again now, just writing this review. I'm sure I'll find more with each re-read. My words cannot do it justice, it is plainly, just beautiful.

Thank you so much for this amazing contribution to the DRitC event.