Review: First Omega (River Wolf Pack, #1) by Rebecca James

Nothing can prepare Josiah Kimbrel for what he finds when he enters the compound of the River Wolf Pack. As an ambassador of the human-werewolf congress, Josiah is keen to build bridges between the two species. Josiah is surprised to see how ‘normal’ things look in the compound; the wolves, all of whom are gay, live in family units, complete with children, in houses built from local materials.

Then there’s River, the pack alpha. Josiah can't deny his attraction to the handsome, dominant wolf man. Josiah’s world is further turned upside down when he unexpectedly goes into heat. He doesn’t understand -- how can he be half-werewolf and an omega? River wants Josiah for his mate, but is Josiah prepared to leave everything he knows in the city and become first omega of a werewolf pack?

I have a thing for omegas (or maybe it's just sluts?). Not to insult my lovely omegas, but when I read about that desperate horniness and all that rough fucking…. *shivers*, it does good things to me. Josiah is one desperate omega. It was hot. Like insanely hot!

The story was very intriguing. Josiah goes into the River Wolf Pack werewolf compound as a human ambassador. However, while he's there something strange happens, and he finds himself going into heat and being mated by River, the pack alpha. Josiah had no idea he was half-human half-werewolf so he has a lot to come to terms with, not just his identity but his newly found position as the pack alpha’s omega or ‘First Omega’.

This is all told from Josiah’s POV, and I really liked him and River. River is a fairly stereotypical alpha, all strong and stoic with a possessive and protective nature, but I liked it. I liked Josiah’s hesitations towards River after he found himself essentially mated without his consent (as he was dazed with his first heat). However not long after there seemed to be a switch that was flipped, and suddenly he was fully devoted to River and the pack. That development was a bit rushed, but not enough to deter from my enjoyment of the story.

The world created was quite interesting, definitely different to anything I’ve read in other shifter novels. The werewolves are a purely male homosexual society, and have a ongoing fear/hatred of humans due to the ongoing killings of so many of their species. Humans and werewolves know very little of each other as they tend to like to keep to themselves. However this just means the individuals they do come across are usually there to kill members of the opposing species.

I only have a couple of complaints about the story. Things tied up way too quickly and neatly with Josiah’s acceptance of the pack and a side story of an attempted murder. Also, there were just sooo many characters. Like SO many, which did get a bit overwhelming at times, especially when remembering who was mating with who. Unfortunately, I think this problem will only get worse as the series continues.

So the story was a little bit silly, but mostly a lot hot and a lot sweet and pretty damn entertaining.

Find more info on Goodreads!

Review: Love Unmasked (At the Candy Apple #1) by Elodie Parkes

Handsome Tom Wells sets lonely Scott Palmer’s heart racing as he watches Tom come and go from his apartment across the street. Scott longs to meet Tom, and when he scores a new job delivering goods for a local distributer, fate hands him the opportunity. 
Tom works in a nightclub—the Candy Apple, and in the sultry environs, a masked stranger seduces Tom. The seeds of passion are sown, but just who has ignited Tom’s passion? 
Scott’s longing to know Tom leads him to join the elite nightclub. On his first visit, the club holds a masquerade event. 
Who is kissing who? Who’s under the black velvet mask? 
An erotic MM romance, with a twist and HEA. 

This is going to get ugly and apologize in advance for the cursing. I know it's verboten of me as a reviewer, but I'll say my piece and fuck the chips and where they fall.

I consider myself a reasonable person. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt, always remember there are two sides to every story and shy away from making snap decisions. So when I came across this quote:

He couldn’t be the Bi guy could he, just jerking me around? Nah they’re different. What am I thinking? They are so different.
Different? Fairly innocuous word. Not necessarily negative. What's “different” mean? So I keep reading because that’s my only hope of gaining some sort of insight. And the “Bi guy” proceeds to get demonized and compared to “a wolf”.

This man had the air of a predator.
He’s also described as insincere, unwilling to respect boundaries and won’t deign to give either of the MCs his name because he's not that kind of guy, but is more than willing to fuck them both to teach them “what love is”. There's a strong implication that the women folk are just as disposable to him. 

Mkay… different's starting to look like "different" is a bit hostile or maybe someone has an ax to grind? So me being me, I poked around and discovered this author is new to mm which makes all of the above look a lot like pandering to the gay community in a transparent attempt to curry favor by trampling on the bisexuals which I cannot abide.

The flag is a rainbow for a reason so either embrace the whole goddamn thing or if that's too much to muster up then omit the divisive and prejudicial verbiage and characterizations of the rest of the queer community or fuck clean off with that bigotry. I have little patience for those who stir contention with an ulterior motive.

As if that weren’t enough to earn the 1 Heart I’m giving it, the story itself didn’t even come close to compensating for the hatemongering which by the way, served no real purpose plot wise. Nothing like shoehorning in some biphobia for shits and giggles.

Anywhat, it started off cute and reminded me a little of Worth Waiting For by Kim Dare which I loved. Scott has been harboring a secret crush for his sexy neighbor and has pretty much decided he's THE ONE from having watched him. For months. A tiny bit creepy. He’s unemployed, living off what I’ve no idea and refuses to move because then he won’t be able to have any sort of “contact” with Tom if he does. Annnnddd we've just moved into Creepersville.


The more I read the more cockamamie this whole premise became. Scott is crazy hot. He works out all the time and has a “huge cock” so why not just “accidentally” run into Tom when they’re both out running? With your huge cock? Or whatever? There are no indications of mental health issues so why be a creepy stalker? Instead he follows Tom to work and decides to join the super secret club that’s not listed anywhere and, evidently, requires you to shell out the coin before they inform you that you’ve just joined an exclusive sex club.

From then on it was a slow descent into instalove hell. Both of these guys read like chicks with dicks. They talk about their feelings in their incessant internal monologues. On and on about how lonely they are and how much they long for LUUUUUUUBBBBBBB and a committed relationship. The character development is abysmal with even less plot development. They’re both shallow and superficial and their conversations are stilted. They are plastic people with no soul. 

The sex is adolescent, and by adolescent I mean, over in a flash. Their cocks are constantly dripping precum and soaking things or jerking or tingling and there was even a melted ass at one point. I’m pretty sure that’s going to require some medical attention. They are incapable of keeping their hands off each other even at Tom’s work! I realize that he works at a sex club but I’m pretty sure staff fucking randoms in the storeroom is frowned upon at minimum and grounds for termination regardless of where you work. Of course they only last about 90 seconds so I’m assuming no one noticed? Lookit. I appreciate a cock hungry slut as much as the next person but there’s such a thing as hitting your target and then there's annihilating your target. 

It’s hard to imagine that they aren’t 16 yr olds for a multitude of reasons, but both have graduated from college and held jobs for a reasonable length of time so they’ve got to be at least late 20s. Hands down, they are the most puerile twenty somethings I've ever read.

The writing style is muddled and doesn’t flow well. It’s riddled with repetition and lacks creativity. The conflict resolution had no meat on its bones and the ending was feeble and saccharine.

So, I can’t recommend this to anyone, but I can recommend some sensitivity training and some increased awareness of the entire LGBTQ community.

A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest opinion.

Find out more on Goodreads.

Author Visit: Coin of the Realm by Michael Murphy

We're happy to welcome Michael Murphy to the clubhouse today to talk about his newest, Coin of the Realm!

Guest Post:

Timothy moved to Washington, DC to go to graduate school, and he does quite well. The end is in sight, but unfortunately so is his money. Even though he works several minimum wage campus jobs, Timothy is unable to keep up with expenses. When he gets a lead on a modeling gig, he follows up and is immediately hired, which is great until he learns he has to pose nude. But desperate times call for desperate measures and Timothy sucks it up and shucks his clothes. He’s making some good money until an instructor in one art class gets a little more familiar with him than he likes.  And just like that, his lucrative posing career crashes and burns.

Still needing money, and now with even less time to earn that money before his rent is next due, Timothy tries working as a male stripper.  But if he’d been uncomfortable posing for art students, taking off his clothes on a stage in front of horny strangers is even less appealing. But he tries it and is totally underwhelmed with the tips he earns.  Since tips are his entire income as a dancer, his stripper career starts and ends the same night.  

With only one idea remaining, Timothy creates an online ad and starts working as a male escort. Much to his surprise, this is easier than he had anticipated and he finds he is quite popular and booked every evening. One of his first callers is a man with strange requirements – Timothy cannot see him or know who he is. To drive the point home, Timothy is asked to sign a non-disclosure form in which he swears to never speak of anything he sees or hears while there. 

But Timothy is apparently smarter than some of the other escorts his mystery client had seen before because he has no problem figuring out who he is with. And wow! He had no clue – none – that the man he was with was even gay. But Timothy now had fairly definitive firsthand evidence that the man was gay. On subsequent calls, when it becomes clear Timothy has figured out the game, the two men develop a bond that neither anticipated. But they find their connection growing stronger with every time they get together.

But not everyone shares their happiness. Timothy’s feelings of hopefulness and happiness are smashed when out of the blue he is abducted off the street on his walk home from school one night. Thrown roughly into a car with a hood over his head, Timothy is terrified.  Is this the night he is going to die?  He didn’t want to die.  He finally had too much going his way and was looking forward to the years ahead.  


Timothy Mitchell worked his way from humble beginnings to graduate school in Washington, DC.  The end is in sight — but so are his funds.  Determined not to let his dream slip through his fingers, Timothy goes from part-time jobs, to modeling for art classes, to stripping, and finally to working as an escort to pay his tuition.

The nation’s capital is full of powerful men and secrets, which Timothy learns firsthand when he takes on a client who demands absolute anonymity.  Even though Timothy realizes he’s sleeping with one of the most influential men in the world, he must keep up the fa├žade.  Despite that, their association moves from sex to love.

But power and secrets also mean danger.  When Timothy is violently abducted off the street, all because of what — and who — he knows, his lover must make a decision: risk his power and position or lose the man he loves.


Chapter 1

“EVERYBODY WANTS to know somebody,” Professor Myerson said enthusiastically as he stood before the graduate students in his political science theory class. “And I don’t mean just anybody. I mean somebody. Everyone wants to know someone who can make things happen.”
One of the things Timothy loved about this class was how into it Professor Myerson got, how passionate about the subject he was. The man’s enthusiasm was infectious as he practically leaped with joy over the topic of the day. He was like an evangelist, only rather than selling religion, he sold knowledge of how things worked behind the scenes.
“Think how great it would be to pick up the phone when there is some problem and say, ‘Hey, Joe. You need to know about what’s going on over here. We need your help to fix it.’ Wouldn’t that be awesome if you could do that and have your problems go away?
“And I don’t care what level of society we’re talking about. It could be something like being buddies with the factory foreman who is in charge of scheduling and can get you preferential treatment when you need time off. It could be a store manager who can extend a sale by a day just for you because you couldn’t make it in before the sale ended. It could be the mayor of a town or village or city who can cut through red tape and do something as simple as getting a pothole fixed.
“It doesn’t matter what part of society you occupy; everyone wants to know somebody with power who can get things done. And people who know somebody have power by association. The higher up the food chain you go, the greater that power by association becomes. And here in Washington, DC, we get to see this play out every day. For those of us geeks who watch such things, we can see people who use their connections to get in to see a member of Congress about some pet issue. We study the visitor logs to the White House and see who comes and goes. The simple truth is that if you’ve got connections to someone powerful, you have a potential leg up on everyone else. Proximity to those in power has always been the coin of the realm.”
Timothy quickly typed notes as his professor talked.
“The odds are that someone here in this room right now has what I’m talking about. Someone in here probably knows someone with some power to get something done.” When he paused, everyone, Timothy included, looked up and glanced around the room, checking the faces of their classmates, people they knew somewhat.
“Don’t look at me,” Timothy said. “I don’t know anybody.”
His self-deprecating remark earned some laughter and allowed Professor Myerson to move the lecture along.
“Those who can flip through their smartphones to the number of someone in the President’s administration have others who want to be close to them—power by association. The depth and breadth of one’s contact list can sometimes guarantee jobs, since those people are presumed to have enhanced value.”

AS A student of political science and of human nature—coupled with his year and a half in Washington—Timothy had some insight into how things worked in the nation’s capital. As a political junkie, he could not have been happier living in DC, because every day in the city seemed to feature some element of political intrigue, sometimes small but sometimes quite large. His position gave him a front-row seat to it all.
But Timothy did not appreciate another aspect of life in Washington. The city was an expensive place to live.
While he’d known the inevitable was coming, when it happened, it hit him hard. He had ignored the obvious for as long as he could, but DC was expensive, and Timothy hadn’t saved enough money. He had exhausted what he had and was faced with a dilemma.
“Tim, I need your rent check,” Jeremy, his roommate, called to him that evening from their apartment kitchen.
“Um, is it that time again already?” he asked, even though he knew the time precisely. He also knew Jeremy had given him an extra day because he understood Timothy was flat broke.
“Yes. I need to drop off the rent checks in the morning. So, fair warning. I need yours when I leave.”
“Um, okay.” Timothy scurried into his room. He rifled through every drawer, book, pants pocket, jacket pocket, and every part of the room for any money he could find. He was forever tossing change onto his desk or leaving it in his pockets. He just prayed that now, when he needed it, he would find enough.
His small pile of cash started to grow over the hour it took him to thoroughly sweep his room. His final hiding place was his backpack that never left his side. He had to go through every single compartment—and there were a lot of them. Using the blanket on his bed as a sack, he carried the money into the dining room and started to count it. It took another twenty minutes, but he was so fucking proud when he had exactly what he needed.
“Will they take cash for the rent?” Timothy asked, which earned him a look from Jeremy. Usually he could read Jeremy, but at that moment, not so much. It only took a moment for Jeremy’s look to morph into one he could read—disbelief.
“Dude, are you that poor? Do I need to start looking for a new roommate?”
“Please! No! I’ll earn more money this month and be ready for the next payment,” he promised, even though he didn’t have a freaking clue how to make that happen.
“Tim, there are pennies here! Were you digging through every pocket to come up with the rent money? Huh?”
When Timothy didn’t answer, Jeremy said, “Oh. My. God! That’s what you’ve been doing. Dude! I didn’t know things were this bad for you. Does this leave you—”
“Broke,” Timothy supplied. “Flat broke.”
“What about food?” Jeremy asked.
“Eating is overrated,” Timothy said, wishing desperately that was true.
The simple fact was that his campus job and his other job didn’t pay him enough to survive. He could either pay his rent or eat, but he couldn’t do both. And God forbid anything unexpected should come up. If it did, he was just plain screwed.
That night as he lay in bed, his mind refusing to shut down so he could sleep, Timothy flashed back on something his mother had said to him before he’d left home.
“I don’t got no money to give you, baby. But I done give you good looks, a strong back, and a sharp mind. You got to use them and take it from there.”
At the time, he hadn’t known what to make of that remark, but now, lying in the dark of his bedroom, he had a thought. Was there something he could do with his good looks, which people were always complimenting him on, and his strong, tight body?
Whatever he did for work had to fit around his classes and his research. School was his first priority. He would not sacrifice his studies to make money, no matter how much he needed it. And that seriously limited the options open to him, not that there were that many to begin with.
That evening, Timothy remembered a friend’s comment from a month earlier. She’d said, “Honey, with your hot face and body, you’d be a natural to model for my art professor and his classes. They’re always looking for guys.” At the time, he’d laughed at the idea and changed the subject.
A few hours later, when the sun was up and it was a reasonable hour to contact her, he pulled out his phone and hesitantly got the name and contact information for her professor. Another call had him scheduled to meet the man in twenty minutes. It looked as though his friend was right—they were desperate for models.

THE BUILDING where Timothy was to meet the professor was one he passed every day on his way to class. While he knew the outside, he’d never actually set foot inside. Finding the room he needed, though, was not difficult. The door was open, revealing a large space with lots of windows, all with the blinds mostly drawn shut. A small, raised platform stood as the centerpiece, surrounded by a dozen easels with canvases.
He knocked hesitantly.
“Timothy?” someone said from his left, and with his nerves on edge, Timothy jumped.
“Yes,” he said, his voice slightly higher than usual. He cleared his throat and tried to get better control of his nerves. “Yes, I’m Timothy.” He confidently stepped forward and extended his hand to the man who’d spoken.
“Thank you for calling, and thank you for coming in so quickly. I’m Professor Isaacs, and I’m delighted that Rebecca mentioned posing as an option for you.” He walked all around Timothy, checking him out from all angles. “From what I can see, I have to agree. You’ve got precisely what my students want with that jet-black hair, your chiseled jaw, and your runway-model good looks. They are going to positively drool over you.”
“Um, okay,” Timothy said. “Can you tell me what’s involved? And what does this pay?”
“Pay is simple. We pay you fifty dollars an hour, cash at the end of each class. The fees for the model are paid by the students separate from their tuition for the class. So if you pose for two hours, you leave with one hundred dollars.”
Finally, something to put a smile on his face.
“Oh, and dimples too,” Isaacs cooed. “They are going to adore you.”
“So, two hours you said?”
“Yes. Provided it works out well, we’d need you for two hours twice a week.”
“So that’s two hundred dollars?” Timothy asked to make sure he understood.
“That’s correct.”
“And all I do is stand up there?” he said, gesturing toward the platform.
“Yes, that’s it. You come in, take off your clothes, and we position you in a series of poses.”
“Wait,” Timothy said sharply. “Take off my clothes?”
“Yes, this is a drawing class. The students draw nude models to learn the human anatomy.”
Timothy’s face burned with embarrassment.
“Is something wrong?” Isaacs asked. “You did know this was a nude modeling gig, didn’t you?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Well, it is. And assuming you work out well, which I’m sure you will, I can spread the word to my colleagues in the department, and you will easily be picking up some other modeling gigs for other classes. We have a very large program with a record number of classes this semester, so we desperately need models.”
Timothy stood silently, stoically, for a moment, thinking. One hundred dollars for standing around for two hours sounded great. No other job he’d heard of paid anything remotely close to that. And he was desperate. But the thought of standing nude in front of a room full of people freaked him out.
“Um, I need to think about it,” he said.
“You do that.” Isaacs handed him a business card. “But I hope you will do it. We need you, and I’m guessing you need the money.”
“Um, yeah, I do.”
“How much do you need?” Isaacs asked.
When Timothy told him the amount of his rent, Isaacs didn’t bat an eye.
“If you have what it takes and you work out, I think we could guarantee you earning that much each month.”
“All in cash,” Timothy said, salivating at the thought. “Okay.”
“You’ll do it?”
“Um, uh, yeah, I guess, when you put it like that.”
“Excellent.” The little man beamed at him. “Come,” he ordered, walking toward his desk. He pulled a single sheet from a file in his desk drawer, handed it to Timothy, and gestured to a chair. “This is our standard model release form that outlines what you are agreeing to do and how much you will be paid. I’ve found it useful to put everything in writing so neither of us are surprised by anything.”
“Good,” Timothy said, quickly reading through the solid page of small print, text clearly written by a lawyer.
After reading the document, Timothy picked up the click pen Isaacs had laid out for him. But rather than sign, he chewed on his lip, furrowed his brow, and clicked the pen, nearly incessantly for a full minute. He wasn’t aware of doing it until Isaacs put his hand on Timothy’s and said, “Please, stop. That is… grating.”
“What?” Timothy asked, completely oblivious. Automatically he apologized and put down the pen.
His hand was suddenly wet with sweat, as was his brow, and just about everywhere on his body. Remembering the previous night and the desperation of going through every nook and cranny of his room for money, Timothy wiped his wet hand on his pants, grabbed the pen, and signed his name. He added the rest of the requested information and provided his ID for age verification.
“Excellent.” Isaacs grabbed a blank piece of paper and started writing out dates and times. “These are when we will need you.”
The times did not conflict with any of his classes; most of them appeared to be afternoon sessions. The first one listed was that afternoon at two o’clock.
Pointing at the paper, Timothy said, “Today?”
“Yes. I recommend you dive in and get your first experience under your belt.”
“Except I won’t be wearing a belt, will I?”
“No, it’s just a figure of speech. Nonetheless, the sentiment is the same. Get your first experience out of the way quickly and see how easy the work is.”
“All right. I’ll be back here at two,” Timothy said.
“Actually, come fifteen minutes early at one forty-five so you can get changed and get ready to pose. The class begins at two, and I like to have everything set to go when the students are ready.”
“All right, I’ll be here.” As he walked out, Timothy muttered to himself, “I must be freaking insane.”
It didn’t matter that he had no money for food that day. His stomach was so twisted into such knots that he couldn’t have handled food even if that had been an option.
At one forty-five precisely, Timothy knocked on the classroom door. Professor Isaacs directed Timothy to a small adjacent room, more of an office than anything else, and instructed him to undress and slip on a small, cheap, cotton robe that barely covered anything.
Timothy forced himself to quickly pull on the robe and cinch it tightly about his waist.
“I can do this,” he said softly to himself as he paced the small space. “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Mama gave me a great body, and it’s time to use it to make some money. I can do this.”
By the time two o’clock rolled around, Timothy almost believed it. But it only took one step into the room for him to nearly freak out. There were so many faces, so many people, so many women! God, he didn’t know if he could get naked in front of women. Guys, sure, no problem. But women? Why hadn’t he thought about that?
Sweating profusely, he stopped in his tracks.
“Timothy,” Isaacs said softly, “it’s time.” He gestured to the platform.
Timothy forced his feet to move again and ascended the steps to stand on the raised platform in front of the assembled students. He barely focused on the reactions of the students around the room as two or three mouths dropped open and a couple of students smiled appreciatively at his handsome appearance—at least as much of it as they had seen.
Isaacs was explaining something about what the students were supposed to do or focus on, but Timothy was too freaked to hear anything but noise until the professor stood beside him. “Timothy, it’s time.”
“Lose the robe. I’ll get you posed for the first segment.”
And much to his surprise, Timothy did it. He put his freak-out aside, and with his back to the students, he shed the robe and then reclined on the posing couch Isaacs had set up for him. They started with him looking at something on the wall, not at the students. One of his hands was resting above his head and one of his legs was raised, effectively blocking anyone from seeing his tender bits.
“I can do this,” Timothy said softly to himself.
It shocked him, but he did it. Even when Isaacs had him turn onto his side, facing the students, his flaccid penis flopping into view and his loose balls not far behind, he was directed to close his eyes and act as though he was asleep. He did it. He did not look at the students, and very nearly fell asleep.
At the end of the session, Timothy quickly slipped the robe back on and wanted to make a fast exit to get dressed again. He was surprised, though, when a number of students wanted to talk with him. Both men and women complimented him on his face and his physique, and one of the guys even asked about his exercise routine.
Timothy was surprised by the gushing praise. He could do this.
And for the remainder of that month Timothy did it, and he earned the money he needed to pay his rent on time. He even had enough to eat occasionally.

Author Bio:

Who am I? I really wish I knew the answer to this question. One of these days I need to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

I am a middle-aged man, born in the far reaches of upstate New York – parts that give the word "rural" meaning. I used to walk the fields, ride in trucks full of hay, ride horses, and drive on dirt roads.  Now I live in Washington, DC where there are no hay trucks and no dirt roads, but I do see the occasional horse.

Recently, when I came upon one of those frightening milestone birthdays (and no, I'm not telling you which one), I realized something that scared the crap out of me: there were more years behind me than there were in front of me. My mortality hit me that day like someone dropping a load of bricks on me.

With my realization, I constructed a bucket list of things I absolutely had to do in the years (hopefully many) that I have left. Writing a book was one of them and was near the top.

My biggest influences when growing up were my two grandmothers. Both were ferociously strong women who were widowed way too young and had to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and try to put them back together again. And they did! They were incredible women and I adored them both.

These women loved to read and to tell stories, so it just always seemed a natural thing for me to want to do the same. One Christmas when I had a break from work for a few days I had an idea – just a simple single flash of an idea. I sat down at my computer and thought for a minute. And then I started writing – and like magic this story started to pour out of me. I hadn't planned to write a story.  I was amazed, in awe, floored.

It was like the characters were coming to life and telling their story and I was just tagging along for the ride. I typed as fast as my fingers would fly across the keys (I used to earn money by typing so I'm a pretty fast typist). I couldn't wait to see what happened next. It was the most amazing experience I think I've ever had. Okay, maybe not THE most amazing, but it ranks right up there near the top.

My husband finally came to me a couple of days into this, sat down, looked so serious, and asked, "Are you mad at me?" I assured him that no, I was not mad; I had just been kidnapped by my two characters who refused to let me go. He sort of believed me. When I handed him a printout of the entire book he really believed me, although he wasn't all that thrilled about the book. What can I say? He is a biomedical scientist who primarily reads non-fiction. The fact that I got him to read any fiction was a huge step.

I sent it in to Dreamspinner. Much to my shock and surprise they accepted it. Out of the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts that they receive every year they only accept a tiny fraction from new, unknown authors – and I was part of that tiny fraction.

When I got the news I was riding on the subway to work one morning. I screamed and hugged the man sitting next to me – I don't have a clue who he was and I'm sure I scared the crap out of him, even though I tried to explain why I was so happy. When I got to work, a co-worker joined me in doing a happy dance (yes, we really danced in a wild and crazy fashion).

Once I started writing, the spirit of my departed grandmothers started taking over and story after story started to come out. Dreamspinner and Harmony Ink Press have published a total of five books so far, with the next one due out in two weeks. Two additional books are under contract and I am working with a fellow writer (a big time famous writer) on a young adult story.

When I'm not writing, I'm editing and proofing, proofing and editing. When not doing that I work for a small organization in downtown DC located a few hundred yards from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My work is primarily IT project management which can be thrilling and at other times drive me to distraction.

All in all, I'd rather be writing full time.  I could spend my days writing about hot guys rather than listening to people tell me that their quarter million dollar software project absolutely had to be rejected because the third button on the fourth screen wasn't blue!  It's always been blue!  It's got to be blue!  Yes, this happens, all too often.

When I can I love to travel. I know others have done far more than me, but I'm proud of the fact that I've visited 46 of the 50 states in the US and 29 countries outside the US.

Review: The Art of Loving (Arts & Hearts, #1) by Cassidy Ryan

Asa has been in love with Theo since their art school days in London, but Theo has only ever had eyes for their straight friend Oliver. Two years ago, unable to take the pain of unrequited love any longer, Asa came home to Glasgow. He hasn’t seen Theo since, nor has he stopped loving him.

When Oliver marries Charlotte, Asa can’t come up with any reasonable excuse not to attend the wedding, so he returns to London. He isn’t exactly shocked when Theo doesn’t show up, but when he learns that the reason for Theo’s no-show is a car accident that has landed him in hospital, Asa immediately rushes to be with him.

Unable to leave Theo to fend for himself while he recovers, Asa takes his friend back to Glasgow with him.

There, secrets are revealed, and Asa learns more about Theo than he ever imagined.

The Art of Loving is sweet, feel-good friends to lovers story. The MC’s are likable and from the beginning, I wanted to see them together. Asa has been in love with Theo for years and Theo has been pining for their straight friend Oliver for just as long. Oliver is getting married and Asa is looking forward to seeing Theo again at the wedding. They haven’t seen one another in a couple of years. It’s too hard for Asa to let Theo go if he sees him all the time, so he had moved back to his native Glasgow and immersed himself in the arts and Theo became a success in advertising in London.

Theo has an accident on the way to the wedding, Asa comes to his rescue and ends up taking Asa back to Glasgow with him. I have to say, I had a problem here. Theo’s injuries were a bit of BS. He crashes his car on the way to the wedding, Asa gets a call from a nurse during the wedding and Asa gets to the hospital 20 minutes later and Theo is ready to go with his broken leg and dislocated shoulder bandaged up. Basically, rescue time and hospital time are seriously accelerated in London. And being that I don’t live in London, maybe this is a thing, so my apologies if I cocked it up, but I do call BS. As well, a dislocated shoulder takes weeks to heal not days and a broken leg needs way more care than Theo got in the hospital. These are those realities that get in the way of a story sometimes and I was so busy picking it apart I wasn’t paying attention to the interaction between Theo and Asa.

Once the guys got to Glasgow, I stopped being fussy about the injuries and enjoyed the closeness the two of them were experiencing. It really was very sweet to read. I was expecting more angst considering the unrequited love angle, but I was pleasantly surprised not to experience it. The story was too short for that and the author handled the exploration and discovery of all the feels really well. The balance as the story moved from friends to lovers was just right. Theo had his reasons to put distance between himself and the chance at lifetime love and there was just enough detail to make sense without being overly dramatic considering the length of the story.

Once the segueway from friends to lovers happened the story moved pretty quickly. I believed the idea of the HEA for them, but the practicality left a little reality to be desired, but whatever, the gushy puddle of love was happening and these two were ridiculously happy. And I was happy for them.

For more information on The Art of Loving, check it out on Goodreads.

**a copy of this story was provided for an honest review**

Group Review: Adulting 101 by Lisa Henry

The struggle is real.

Nick Stahlnecker is eighteen and not ready to grow up yet. He has a summer job, a case of existential panic, and a hopeless crush on the unattainable Jai Hazenbrook. Except how do you know that your coworker’s unattainable unless you ask to blow him in the porta-potty?

That’s probably not what Dad meant when he said Nick should act more like an adult.

Twenty-five-year-old Jai is back in his hometown of Franklin, Ohio, just long enough to earn the money to get the hell out again. His long-term goal of seeing more of the world is worth the short-term pain of living in his mother’s basement, but only barely.

Meeting Nick doesn’t fit in with Jai’s plans at all, but, as Jai soon learns, you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have the adventure of a lifetime.

This is not a summer romance. This is a summer friendship-with-benefits. It’s got pizza with disgusting toppings, Netflix and chill, and accidental exhibitionism. That’s all. There are no feelings here. None. Shut up.

Adam - 4.5 Hearts

Nick Stahlnecker, fresh out of high school, is trying to do the adult thing by working in an office for the summer, before he goes off to college. It’s incredibly boring, with the only bright spot being that he gets to stare at the older and hotter-than-sin Jai Hazenbrook a few times a week. Nick decides to be upfront with Jai about his crush and offer him a blowjob at work, which ends with them both getting fired.

Jai Hazenbrook is a nomad, travelling for most of the year and returning home to work during the summer. He’s usually a one-night-stand type of guy, but he’s drawn to Nick. Even though the two didn’t get off to a great start, Jai is more than happy to be Nick’s fuck-buddy for the rest of the summer. But as Jai gets to know Nick, he sees how lost Nick really is, and how little he wants to go to college.

Lisa Henry doesn’t do light and fluffy often, but when she does, there’s usually some comedy thrown into the mix as well. Nick has absolutely no filter, and tends to blurt out whatever comes to his head. Add in the hilarious secondary characters, particularly Nick’s BFF Devon and Jai’s family, and ‘Adulting 101’ had me snickering from early on.

The author brilliantly captures what it’s like to be eighteen - when you’re legally an adult, but emotionally still an adolescent. Nick is at times selfish and immature, but he’s also incredibly loyal and more aware of what’s going on around him than he lets on. I may have been annoyed by some of his actions, but I could understand where Nick was coming from.


Nick and Jai start off as strangers-with-benefits. Jai’s been around the block a few times, while Nick is still a blushing virgin. Though Nick doesn’t let his blushing get in the way of going at Jai. I admit, I’m a fan of a more experienced lover initiating the virginal one. Jai and Nick had immediate chemistry. But the sex was also real, at times even awkward. I was all on board for it.


The romance grows gradually. For most of the book, the two MCs are set on just having fun, but they eventually realize that they feel more for one another. The slower pace made sense for the characters involved. Jai gives Nick the strength he needed to own his feelings and confront his parents. On the other hand, Nick gives Jai a reason to look beyond the next adventure, at something more long-term.

Nick and Jai may be opposites in many ways, but they made sense together. I loved how easily the two connected, and how they were able to communicate with each other, without any unnecessary drama.

I really liked how Lisa Henry acknowledged that college isn’t for everyone. Jai decided to see the world instead of sitting in a lecture hall, and Nick has serious doubts about whether he’d survive at college. Different strokes for different folks, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

The ending is a strong HFN, which is realistic, and is brilliantly fluffy and adorable. Though as much as I liked the conclusion, I wouldn’t say no to a sequel!

If you’re looking for a sweet and sexy coming-of-age story, I would definitely recommend ‘Adulting 101’!

Optimist King's Wench - 4 Hearts

I seem to be on a fluffy kick lately. This was so fluffy and cute I wanted to hug it. But hugging it out with a kindle is… unsatisfying.

I know the whole “adulting is hard” thing is a pithy, slangy quip, but that doesn’t make it false. Adulting is hard. It’s a PITA sometimes. Never more so than during one of those pivotal phases of life like transitioning from living with your parents to moving into a college dorm and being on your own for the first time, an adult but not quite an adult.

I remember that time and it scared me shitless. I empathized with Nick on so many levels. A four year education isn’t the right path for everyone especially when you don’t have a clue what you want to do which is Nick’s predicament. He also doesn’t want to disappoint his parents and isn’t all that certain of alternate options. All of his uncertainties and angst spoke to me and are what I liked best about him.

Nick reminds me an awful lot of Stiles. Sometimes Stiles’ ADHD can overwhelm me and initially I feared that would be the case but while he retains his verbal vomiting tendencies throughout he does have depth. His randomness is focused if you can follow along and thankfully Jai can. Jai also balances out some of Nick’s Tasmanian devilness.

Jai is 7 yrs older and is a wanderluster. He only comes home for the summers to save up enough money to travel the other nine months of the year, usually doing construction. After he and Nick get canned from the construction company FOR REASONS Nick finagles him a job at Pizza Perfecto. I’m still not sold that he could save up enough working at Pizza Perfecto to travel the rest of the year but… *shrugs* it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of this story in the slightest.

It made me laugh and feel good and that’s what’s most important to me when I read these sorts of stories. Jai and Nick start as fuck buddies that turn into something more, all of which felt like a natural progression. There are some differences between them but I wouldn’t call them opposites. I liked that Jai could meet Nick where he was and see that he’s more than just a spaz. He helps him with the whole adulting thing and slowly becomes attached to him. It seems as though he’s just as surprised by his feelings for Nick as Nick is surprised by Jai's feelings for Nick which is what made the fluffy EXTRA fluffy and delightful.

I do have to say, though, that as much as I liked Jai and Nick, Nick and Devon’s bromance was my favorite part. Their texting and conversations were comedy gold. Jai’s family are pretty comedic in their own rite and their dynamics entertained the bejesus out of me.

There are some sexy times that aren’t really that sexy. Because 18 yr old virgin but I have hopes he’ll continue to improve. With practice. I also really hope their Bidness Time will stop being interrupted by everyone and their father. DAMN! Also, would not be mad if there were to be a sequel. If someone were so inclined.

Anyone who enjoys Henry’s DiscontentedWinter writes or coming of age stories will enjoy this fluffy bit of goodness.

SheReadsALot - 4.25 Hearts

"Are we Netflix and chilling?"
"I don't know what that means."
"Are you twenty-five or are you eighty-five?"

Adulting is hard as fuck, yeah?

I mean I am one and I totally can say it's a struggle. The struggle is real.

Some days all you wanna do is this:

And adulting just comes in to ruin your day wearing a respectable pinstriped suit, waving responsibility and bills and less fun things like it was going out of style. :/

They're probably going to be fifty-eleventy gazillon reviews on this book (including our group review) because it's Lisa Henry. And a light Lisa Henry which makes it more special? I'm still new to the LH bandwagon but I've enjoyed myself with this story...though I struggled with Nick, the 18 year-old protagonist who struggles with adulting.

My relationship with Nick went through stages:

Like & Laughter ~~>

"Does he turn off for just a minute?" ~~>

"Hmm...guess not" ~~>

Ambivalent ~~>

"Hey, this guy me reminds of someone" ~~> couldn't be him ~~>

**Sterek break...[I binged read for an entire day]**

Back to Adulting 101...trickle reading... "I think I like Nick. I'd totally swipe him" ~~>

"Hey he's just misunderstood." ~~>

"OMG I think I like like him. Has it been the entire time?"~~>

Feels, they've been lightly scratched. ~~>

Y'know what? Nick was perfectly normal and adorable."

I overcame my struggle with Nick. He's so eighteen - full of youth, dumb and hormones. What a mix.

I think Henry captured a modern day 18 year old pretty wonderfully. And Jai? At first I was one #teamdoubt when I saw Nick lusting after a 25 year old. Because you know the main thing they'll be talking about it gential gymnastics.

But both men (*snort* I'm calling Nick a man very lightly) were on an even playing field. Adulting 101 is set in Franklin, Ohio. It's the summer before college and Nick is struggling with coming of age. And Jai...he is sort of dealing with his issues. The two start a fuck buddy relationship in one very HEE-LARIOUS scene. I refer to it as the holy sheet 8%.

And while they "Netflix and chill" and try to keep it light, they're drawn to each other. Nothing major heavy, nothing too serious. And it was a pleasure to read. I think that was the magic of Adulting 101. It's relatable, it's funny, it has some honest moments. But the way Nick and Jai realize their fuck-ship is something more without making it too crazy, that was my favorite. New Adult is a fave genre and I think the author captured all the great key elements to make this work. (The texting was an excellent touch)

The side characters, though? Dude, they were excellent. For serious. Everyone one of them from the codependent BFF Devon, to the entire Hazenbrook family (down to the littlest one, Noah) to Chris' dad. he might come off as a pencildick at times but he meant well.

There are hot moments, especially when they were interrupted. Especially the interruptions [Pretends to ignore my exhibitionist kink] And the laughs were a great balance. I'm not a fan of books that try too hard to be funny. This book read closer to effortless than not.

And the ending? I was a little worried the more I got into the novel. I really got into Nick's head, I sympathized and have been there in his shoes. I think we all have...except for those types who know exactly what they're going to do for every damn thing, But it couldn't have ended any more perfect for Nick and Jai. It's a solid HFN.

I think Nick and Jai passed Adulting 101 with an A.

Fun, light, with a sprinkling of realism...couldn't have asked for anything more.

Sheziss - 3.5 Hearts

It’s so hard to make a comedy. There are plenty of comedies, I know. And they are also popular.

I appreciate fun, seriously.

However, most of the times it’s just my mind the one who smiles. Sometimes my lips do.

But that’s all about it.

I’m usually this grumpy girl when everybody is obviously having a great time.

Maybe I just giggle on my own accord because I want to disconnect. But it doesn’t come from within me with full force.

I love to laugh. I really do. But very very very few times a book (or a movie) manages to make me laugh.

Laugh for real.

I often smile but I very rarely burst out laughing.

Well, in this book I laughed so hard I thought the veins in the eye would explode.

Nick is so authentic. His portrayal as this eighteen-year-old Peter Pan with a mind full of crazy ideas and a blatantly absence of mouth filter is very well built and endearing. A combination that gets out of hand more often than not.

Jai has an incredible ass and that’s reason enough for Nick to get to him and offer a BJ just after they exchange names. Best decision ever, because now he has a boyfriend fuck buddy.

Or worst, because they both lose their jobs.

And Jai desperately needs a job. He only stays in town for the summer. The rest of the year, he prepares his backpack and disappears. Sort of Mary Poppins.

And Nick desperately needs to forget college is coming in September. Because everything ends then: his childhood, his co-dependent relationship with his soul mate Devon, and it all comes down to clear a path to uncertainty and… adulthood.

But hey, it’s going to be the best summer ever. September is so far away.

This is the winner quote for me:

Jai shouldn’t keep looking, but he can’t help himself. He also should have known better than to open the notebook Nick accidentaly left behind, but he’s too shocked to castigate himself over that right now. He can’t stop turning the pages.

Holy shit.

Jai’s Ass: A sonnet (abandoned)
Jai’s ass is like the most incredible thing
I want to do things to it with my mouth
I look at it and heaps of angels sing
And (something that rhymes with mouth goes where)

He flips to the next page and discovers a limerick.

There once was a man called Jai
Who was the world’s most hottest guy
And I’m shit out of luck
If we never fuck
I’ll scream “Why Jesus why Jesus why???????

(Have you seen me with the kindle of my face trying to hold my intestines with my hand? Damn, I thought the laughs were going to make serious damage.)

Yes, the book is hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed this hard, maybe that movie about vampires sharing home in New Zealand, What We Do in the Shadows. Although I must admit that Klune also can bring me joy.

Whatever, there was no chance of my attention being drawn by anything else for long. This was too much!

There are many references to fantasy/epic movies and pop culture. Not snob or picky enough to be really challenging, so I’m glad I understood them all: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Matrix, The Avengers, Pokemon… and David Lynch. The only one that was a true miss for me was Attack on Titan.

Adulting is so hard!

Adulting is really hard.

When that girl says she wants to be a Pediatric Surgeon I laughed out loud.

I’ve been like that, too.

Multiple times.

How can people be so sure what they want to do even before they have started?

Oh, I understand jealousy, they are all so sure what they can to do and how they are going to do it and how capable they all are to make it real. Lots of confidence? Or lack of such? Self-overrating? Or just dreams that won’t come true? Or will they after all?

I liked seeing how these doubts chew on Nick’s mind and fly around him like vultures. The clock is making “tick tack” sounds and everybody expects a reaction from him, a decision, a choice. Even not choosing is a choice by itself, and the consequences are unthinkable.

He cannot think.

But Jai is also “stuck” in his own way. He is 25 but still hasn’t settle on something, whatever that is. He began travelling to leave everything behind, but now he does it because he likes it. Despite this, he’s not as sure about his future as his attitude implies.

As someone told me: God has a tendency to laugh at people’s plans.

Or plainly: Life gives many turns.

So, once we have established the sense of humor made it for me, I’d like to say I expected more development of the relationship. There is a step from liking each other to liking-liking each other, and an abrupt one at that. Also, the step from liking-liking to love is missing. The book finishes with the promise of a HEA, but not a HEA per se. They start as friends with benefits and somewhere along the way they become boyfriends, but I couldn’t feel that transition for real. I feel there is chemistry, in and out of the bed, and the comfort and joy they find when they are together, but not much beyond that.

However, I could really feel the need for Nick to be with his BFF Devon at all times. If Devon was gay, that would be an amazing love story.

I couldn’t bring myself to really care about that.

Anyway, I conclude Lisa Henry can write everything. I got to know her with her contemporary BDSM facet, but then I tasted her historical flavor and later I dared with her sci-fi installsments. However, most of them are within the limits of the dark and the heavy. I had to see if she could deal with a lighter mood as well.

Well, after this demonstration, she aces in everything under the sun.

In my opinion, there is little she can’t do, she’s a very complete writer, and she demonstrates this once again in a coming-of-age comedy in which the laughs are guaranteed.

I really recommend this one.

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