Review: Turn the World Upside Down by Nyrae Dawn

They’d have to turn the whole world upside down to understand us…

Hunter Donovan’s temper never used to be a problem. He lived the perfect life with the perfect family before the dark truth came spilling out. Now his dad’s in prison, and after Hunter explodes at school, accidentally hitting a teacher, his mom has him committed.

Hunter doesn’t belong at Better Days. He needs to be stronger, not sent to a well-dressed loony bin. If he’d been better, less selfish, he would have realized something was going on under his own roof. No amount of psychoanalyzing and group therapy can change the past.

But among the bullies, fights, and bad cafeteria food, Hunter meets a group of friends: anxiety-ridden Casey, wild and exciting Rosie, recovering bulimic Bethany, and Stray, a self-harmer who doesn’t think he belongs anywhere. Around this group of misfits, Hunter doesn’t feel so alone and angry anymore.

Still, as he’s making friends and falling in love with Stray, the guilt is always there. If Hunter can’t open up and find a way to deal with what happened, he might fall victim to his mental illness—and he won’t be the only casualty.

Turn the World Upside Down is a great book reflecting the helplessness family members can feel at events beyond their control. Guilt is one of the most uniquely human emotions, and possibly the most useless one of all. Guilt does not and cannot change events that have happened. Guilt can't deal with pain or regret or sorrow. It serves very little purpose - especially as often the person feeling guilty has no reason to feel that way.

Hunter had no control over the events that cause him guilt, it is entirely misplaced. There is one person and pone person alone that was in the wrong and it wasn't him. He is a teenager and was being a teenager, it was not his responsibility to second guess everything his sister said and did. The helplessness he feels at a situation he couldn't stop, when his trust was abused, lead to him feeling a misplaced guilt, and this leads to outbreaks of violence. We see Hunter as he is in a facility receiving therapy to come to terms with what happened.

Nyrae Dawn doesn't sugar-coat Hunter or his feelings or his stay at Better Days. In fact all the residents and friendships that we see within this story are very real. Mental health is as important as physical health, and illnesses are just as critical. The added battle is that mental health is still often misunderstood and treated differently to physical illnesses. Nyrae Dawn catches the fragility of these illnesses.There is not a one cure for all approach, therapy is not a magic wand instantly healing the emotional pains the teens are dealing with. I think this is very valuable in this genre, life can be bloody hard at times and nobody should feel they have to have all the answers, that they have to be perfect at any, or every, given point in time. Especially teens who are dealing with the emotional upheaval of adolescence and puberty as it is.

I truly enjoyed this story, and the thoughtful and realistic way in which it was written. I know I'll be watching for more from this author and I really recommend this book.

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

Review: Bonfire (Hours of the Night, #1.5) by Irene Preston & Liv Rancourt

Silent night, holy hell. 

Thaddeus and Sarasija are spending the holidays on the bayou, and while the vampire’s idea of Christmas cheer doesn't quite match his assistant’s, they’re working on a compromise. Before they can get the tree trimmed, they’re interrupted by the appearance of the feu follet. The ghostly lights appear in the swamp at random and lead even the locals astray.

When the townsfolk link the phenomenon to the return of their most reclusive neighbor, suspicion falls on Thaddeus. These lights aren't bringing glad tidings, and if Thad and Sara can't find their source, the feu follet might herald a holiday tragedy for the whole town.

Christmas on the Bayou, cher, with gators and some weird lights!

This little novella is set during the holidays but it's not too Christmasy for those averse like myself. It's the continuation of Sara and Thad's story and how they're growing closer. They are still a work in progress but they're getting there and this story only endeared the two of them further to me. 

"I think, Sara, you could ask me to hang the Christmas star in the heavens, and I would find a way to accomplish the task."

There is an old legend on the bayou about the feu follet but when some strange things begin to happen with regularity the problem lands right on Thad's doorstep. Literally. Sara being Sara he insists that they get involved and figure out what's behind these freaky lights once and for all.

This one is set entirely at the bayou house which I liked. A lot. Lots of skiffs and pirogues and that accent. There's something about that setting that makes ordinarily bizarre and outlandish events seem possible, sinister even, or at least in my head it is. Mostly because of gators and swamps.

Not to worry. It isn't scary and Bonfire had a whole lot less religious overtones than what I would've imagined in comparison to Vespers. The message is a simple but powerful one and I really liked it. The authors struck a perfect balance between the mystery, some sexy times that were more romantic than kindle melting and the spirit of Christmas. The only thing that I'm still confused about is why the feu follet had no effect on Sara. Weird.

I wouldn't recommend Bonfire to anyone who hasn't already read Vespers. If you've not read Vespers, what are you waiting for? A gator to deliver it?

Actually a croc but I bet a gator could do it too!

A review copy was provided by the authors.

Find out more on Goodreads.

Review: Where We Belong (States of Love) by Tia Fielding

It all starts at a concert at the Red Rock Amphitheater in 2004. Blake just finished high school, Dusty is a college sophomore, and as soon as they meet, they know—they belong together. With Blake living in Nebraska and Dusty in Colorado, distance does its best to keep them apart.

For two years, it succeeds.

Then Blake flees his bigoted—and even dangerous—hometown.

Two years later, Blake and Dusty are getting their lives off the ground, with Blake trying to grow his computer repair business and Dusty working with kindergarteners. Dusty thinks there’s room in their hearts and their lives for their family to grow… he just has to figure out how to express that to Blake.

States of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the United States.

This was an adorable low angst read about a long term romance of two boys who learn how to become each other’s family.

Told in the dual POV of Dusty and Blake in two year increments, we meet the boys as they accompany the important women in their lives to an Incubus concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in 2004. Let me get this out right here and right now – I am a HUGE Incubus fan with a perpetual crush on Brandon Boyd. The fact that the author chose the band to represent not only the boys meeting but other important milestones in their lives was like a hug to me. I connected with the story immediately because of it and couldn’t wait to get to know Dusty and Blake better.

So, as I said, the boys meet as Dusty is there with his BFF Holly and Blake has come with his mom. Blake has just graduated high school and Dusty is a sophomore in college. When they boys have an adorable meet cute where they literally cause a scene, they bond immediately and leave the girls to their fangirling of all things Incubus while they get acquainted. I really liked how Dusty caught on to Blake’s issues with crowds, I mean, If you’ve never seen Red Rocks it can be overwhelming to just stand there with it empty but filled with people? It’s intense but oh so gorgeous.

(Actual shot from Alive at Red Rocks, Incubus, 2004)

The boys decide that they are invested enough in one another to try a long distance relationship but keep in contact while Dusty stays in school in Colorado and Blake goes back to Nebraska with his mom. Blake has plans to be at Dusty’s graduation so over the next two years, they see each other three times and always in Colorado. Blake’s small town in Nebraska isn’t tolerant at all and though he’s come out to his mom, she has asked him to live in Narnia for the time being. It broke my heart to know the lengths Blake has to go through to keep his sexuality hidden to the point of deleting all texts from Dusty that he could re-read when he needs comfort but he and his mom are terrified of anyone finding out. When Blake’s mom comes home one night and tells him of the “good old boys” who are “taking care” of the minorities in town, she begs him to leave a few days early for Dusty’s graduation and never come back. It was heartbreaking to witness that scene and know how scared Julia was for her son. Now, it may seem odd that Blake would leave his home the way he did and that his mother would be so frightened that she would beg him to leave but honestly, in the current times, I could see a group of good old boys with ties to law enforcement deciding who was welcome in their town and how they would handle it. It was chilling to read what they had done and I get the decision both Julia and Blake made.

So, Blake leaves that night and drives the four hours to Dusty and surprises him bright and early with not only his presence but a car full of his stuff. When Dusty gets the wrong idea of why Blake is there, Dusty and Holly who is now his housemate, decide Blake is staying. This begins the tale of the now established couple and how they will navigate the next ten years together.
He’d never, ever thought that he would meet his soulmate that way. To him, finding that person wasn’t about the fireworks, but the deep feeling of belonging.
I adored the way the story was told. We really get to see both Blake and Dusty go from boys to men, two years at a time, while creating this life with one another. The men were so in love that though things moved a bit fast, I never doubted that it was what they wanted or that they could handle it. Not only do they grow in their professional lives but the men create a family, a rainbow family that includes Holly in a kick ass way and become a support for other rainbow families in their community. The end was swoony and just perfect for them as a couple and the whole “fudge” for “fuck” made me laugh because even at times like that, you don’t always stop being a parent.

Where We Belong was the first story I’ve read in the States of Love series and I loved it. It again, was low angst and just really adorable even though it had some tough issues in it. The tough issues for me were handled well and never took away from the story.

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Audiobook Review: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland by Joe Cosentino

Cinder, a poor and beautiful young man who designs clothing, makeup, and hair for his stepmother and stepsisters, offers his clothing and slippers to a naked stranger in the woods, who turns out to be none other than Prince Charming. Follow Cinder and Prince Charming in this twist on the classic Cinderella tale as they discover their inner strengths and find their very own happily ever after.

Enjoy The Naked Prince and three other reimagined tales from Fairyland, each with a unique spin on stories we all know and love, including The Golden Rule, where eighteen-year-old Gideon Golden, after being thrown out of his home in Fairyland by his homophobic parents, breaks into the cottage of three burly men on Bear Mountain.

In Whatever Happened To…?, friction ensues between a celebrity with a growing appendage and a reporter who has a thing for giants.

And in Ice Cold, young Gaelen must save his love, Kieran, after a handsome but evil prince freezes Kieran’s heart and bewitches him into being the prince’s slave.

Listening Length: 3 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Joel Leslie

This was my first MM fairytale story or stories and I don't know why I waited so long. These were so much fun!

The Naked Prince consists of four short stories all based on traditional fairy tales or fairy tale characters: Cinderella, Goldilocks and the three bears (snickers), Pinocchio/Jack and the Beanstalk and the Snow Queen.

These stories are written like traditional fairy tales, with far-off worlds, handsome princes and that instant love spark. The authenticity of the writing had me feeling like I was listening to the original fairy tales. The only difference is Cinder and the Prince get it on the night of ball! The sex isn't explicit, but the fact that it's there in every story, just had my pervy hands rubbing together in glee at all the debauchery occurring. There were definitely more than a few chuckle moments, my favourite was when it was revealed that it's not Pinocchio’s nose that grows…and Jack (from the beanstalk) just happens to be a size queen!!!

What really stole the show though was the narration! My GOD Joel Leslie is the most talented voice actor I’ve heard in audiobooks. I think it's largely that his voice just fits the role of fairy tale teller to perfection. He has such a proper accent (don't ask me what it is) that I was immediately transported into these stories. His variety in accents and voices (he can even do a variety of women!) is outstanding, so much so that when the second story started I had to look up and check if it was the same narrator for both stories. He made every story unique and gave each character their own individual voice. It was such a fun experience listening to this!

These were such fun stories and very cleverly written, but Leslie’s narration is what makes this such a high rating! It was perfection and I highly recommend this if you like fairy tales with some MM lovin!!

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Review: September (Pride and Joy #1) by Robert Winter

David James is smart, successful, handsome… and alone. After the death of his lover, Kyle, from cancer, he buried himself in his law practice and the gym. At forty-eight, he is haunted by his memories and walled off from the world. When David injures himself working out, he’s assigned to Brandon Smith for physical therapy. The vibrant young therapist is attracted to David and realizes he needs a hand to get back into dating. What begins as a practice coffee date escalates to friendship, passion, and maybe something more, as they navigate a new relationship in Washington, DC, and the gay mecca of Provincetown.

But David remains trapped behind the barrier of fear and guilt. Will he remain loyal to Kyle’s memory if he moves on? Can he and Brandon manage a twenty-two-year age gap? Brandon thinks he understands David’s concerns, and for him, the answer to those questions is yes. He wants to be with David, and he believes he can overcome David’s barriers. But Brandon fails to account for the world’s reaction to a handsome young man attached to an older, wealthy lover. David’s memories, Brandon’s pride, and an unexpected tragedy might cost them something very special.

Auspicious Debut

It took me a long time to understand the title of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice because I thought both Darcy and Elizabeth were prideful. It wasn't until later that I understood the prejudices are societal. I'm not sure if the author intended September as a modern day reimagining of that classic but I couldn't help noticing the similarities.

David and Brandon each struggle with their pride when faced with those same societal prejudices Austen used. David is significantly older and established in his career as an attorney. He is well off and a generous soul. Money largely means he can help out his loved ones, but the thought of others believing him to be Brandon's sugar daddy is more than he can bear so he keeps telling himself that their relationship has an expiration date. Because Brandon couldn't possibly be interested in and/or attracted to a man 22 yrs his senior.

Brandon is effervescent, an audacious flirt, gregarious and struggling to make ends meet as a physical therapist. He'd rather gargle broken glass than take a hand out though. He may be broke but he's got enough to have a life that he's satisfied with at the moment. He has dreams of owning his own clinic some day, but he wants to earn it for himself. 

There may be a significant age difference between them and echoes of a deceased beloved lover and a truckload of pride between the two of them, but their chemistry is off the charts. Every time they're together I could almost hear the crackling between them. I'm surprised my poor kindle didn't combust on me while reading the sex scenes. I honestly think it might even be illegal for a reader to be as wound up as I got. When I say they are hot like burning... something was burning alright. Mostly me.

When they get out of their own heads, let their guards down and let go of their insecurities they have fun together; they talk and have meaningful conversations. They have differences and commonalities but more than anything else they connect. I don't think I've ever connected as quickly with two MCs as I did David and Brandon. They're just so... real. Everything about their story and characterizations were relatable and I invested almost immediately.

I have a feeling people will cite the tedium of daily life contained in this narrative and they may have a point. I felt like I really and truly got to know both of them through all those conversations and banalities. Being inside both of their heads and seeing the other person through their eyes added depth and emotionality. Some may say that Brandon seems much older and wiser than his 26 yrs but he's been through a lot. The tread is worn on those tires. Plus, he's from Texas (and read authentically Texan) so... maybe I'm biased. Others might say that the back and forth between them was excessive and dramatic and they may have a point too, but in my experience the fundamentals that make up a person are not easily altered and definitely not over the course of a few weeks. Obviously, I noticed these things too otherwise I wouldn't be mentioning them, but the simple truth is this book consumed me for two days. Every free moment I had was spent glued to my kindle, so I can only deduct a half heart because I loved this story from start to finish in spite or maybe because of these "flaws".

Winter's writing style is straightforward. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles, but three things stood out-it's clear he gets romance, character development and dialogue. Both of these characters are fully realized. They communicate their feelings in realistic ways and each of their nuances were captured superbly. Neither are reluctant to tell the other know how attracted they are to the other and as their relationship evolves neither have any qualms about letting the other know how strong their feelings are. It was a delight to read two men who are so honest with not only each other but themselves.

The secondary characters all played their roles well. Some of their so called friends are vile. With friends like that who needs enemies? Others are gold. Pure gold. I'll admit I was a bit disappointed when I read the preview of the next book and discovered it wasn't going to be about Colin, but I will send good thoughts that he will find someone worthy of him.

Lastly, I fully expected my face to leak while reading September and there were a couple of lump in the throat moments, but it's not a weep reaping book, or it wasn't to me. Sure David and Brandon have their ups and downs, their joys and miseries but that's life. Life's messy and ugly sometimes but it's also wonderful and fun and uplifting and all of that was captured. Each of these men have to find the courage to reach out and hold on to what makes life beautiful and meaningful for them and that's each other. When it comes right down to it, after boiling off all the detritus that's what September is about-two men finding the courage to overcome their pride, finding and holding onto love despite other people's prejudices. I think that's something everyone can at least partially identify with and what makes this trope quintessentially classic.

Recommend to all MM romance fans.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Find out more on Goodreads & Dreamspinner Press.

Giveaway + Blog Tour: Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins

The Glass Tidings Tour is here today and there's a $20 Riptide credit at stake! Good luck!

About Glass Tidings

Eddie Rodrigues doesn’t stay in one place long enough to get attached. The only time he broke that rule, things went south fast. Now he’s on the road again, with barely enough cash in his pocket to hop a bus to Texas after his (sort-of-stolen) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Midwest, USA.
He’s fine. He’ll manage. Until he watches that girl get hit by a car and left to die.

Local shop owner Grayson Croft isn’t in the habit of doing people any favors. But even a recluse can’t avoid everyone in a town as small as Clear Lake. And when the cop who played Juliet to your Romeo in the high school play asks you to put up her key witness for the night, you say yes.

Now Gray’s got a grouchy glass artist stomping around his big, empty house, and it turns out that he . . . maybe . . . kind of . . . likes the company.

But Eddie Rodrigues never sticks around.

Unless a Christmas shop owner who hates the season can show an orphan what it means to have family for the holidays.

Available from Riptide Publishing.

About Amy Jo Cousins

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.

Connect with Amy Jo:

To celebrate the release of Glass Tidings, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 10, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Review: His Fairy Godfather by Cate Ashwood and Nico Jaye

Since the death of his father, Trick Grigsby has fought to keep his head above water. Following in his father’s footsteps as a talented architect, he hopes to work his way up at the firm. Unfortunately, the company’s new owner barely resembles the man who was once Trick’s father’s best friend. Trick’s days are filled with drudgery and cruel remarks from the man who was supposed to be his mentor—along with his two sons, whose only jobs seem to be making Trick’s life miserable.

But all that is about to change.

Edwin Goodmaker struggled through his fairy godparent curriculum, but his mother—the reigning Fairy Queen—has a simple solution: Edwin will go to New York City and get some practical experience. When he meets Trick, Edwin knows he’s found a worthy charge, and he’s sure he can help Trick achieve all of his heart’s desires. Edwin falls for Trick, but with everything standing in their way, a fairy-tale ending might remain nothing more than a dream.

Adorably flufftastic! I wanted something light and fun and that's exactly what was delivered. A cute Cinderfella story, complete with an evil step-dad type figure and a fairy godfather.

Edwin was a fairy godfather in training and is sent to New York to get some hands-on experience. As soon as he ran into Trick, Edwin knew he found his charge.

When he ran into Trick, his new charge was working at a job he hated for a terrible boss and his two sons. I can't believe how badly he was treated at his job. He was barely getting by and was underappreciated. Actually, he wasn't appreciated at all. He was constantly insulted. Trick had his reasons for staying at the firm, but even after his explanation, I still didn't understand why he would stay in such a bad environment. It was a tad far-fetched. But, hey, this is a Cinderella story, after all!

Edwin was pretty much clueless about life in New York. He was adorably naive and so damn endearing. Always smiling and always willing to help. I just wanna squeeze him! Apparently, so did Trick. I loved that their relationship had exactly zero angst. From strangers, to friends, to boyfriends, there wasn't any unnecessary drama. Just adorable dates, a magical Thanksgiving, and Christmas cuteness.

This modern-day Cinderfella story is full of fairy godfather magic with the sweetest HEA. Grab your hot cocoa, a blanket and prepare to snuggle up.

A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Find out more info on Goodreads and Dreamspinner Press.

Review: The Whole Trying Thing by L.M. Langley

Lucas has always let things happen to him. Even meeting Issam, the gorgeous young man who just happens to be wealthy and totally into him, just kind of happens. But Lucas’s long-term crush on his best-friend, Nick, keeps him from fully committing to Issam.

Believing he’ll never have a chance with Nick, Lucas tells himself everything is fine. Except Nick starts dating Issam’s sister, and Lucas can’t quite hide his jealousy.

When a personal crisis causes Nick and Lucas to seek solace with each other, everything finally falls apart, and it’s up to Nick to pick up the pieces.

This is a work of literary/genre fiction.

Literary/genre fiction is perhaps one of the hardest categories to read and review for me. I think of all genres it is, in many ways, the one that is most widely open therefore the one that is most likely to be unpredictable with regards to how much I enjoy it. I also think it is maybe the most dividing genre, any given story is most likely to have a love or hate reaction rather than a more middling meh or enjoyable easy-read vibe. None of which explains why I gave it a 3 heart rating.

I think I wanted to enjoy this more than I actually did. The writing structure worked for me, we flipped between past and present and I liked this; I love drip fed info, learning the characters as we go and why they are the way they are. What I didn't like so much was the characters - particularly the MC, Lucas. Whilst literary fiction is perhaps a closer reflection of real life decisions and mirrors how actions and consequences are related (particularly that indecisive, selfish part of human nature that is not shown so much in other genres), I still need to understand, and be able to empathise with, even the most horrible characters. I didn't really manage this with Lucas. No understanding nor liking meant I really didn't give a damn what he did. I didn't care about him, negatively or positively - and if I can't have some sort of relationship with the MC then the book is kind of a bust for me.

Saying that, I did respect the fact that L.M. Langley was confident enough to write a character who was so real, with no particular likeable characteristics or enough traits to hate passionately. So disliking and respecting the same thing from the same book - well it makes rating it hard. I think, with all literary fiction, liking or not is more personal than any other genre, therefore reviews are perhaps of less help. Give it a go, it might be just the alternative take on romance you were looking for.
A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.
For more information see Goodreads.

Review: Rain and Whiskey (Stormy Weather #1) by B.A. Tortuga

Stormy Weather: Book One

Galen Frost buys a house and a bait shop in a small Florida town to get away from his life as a semipro football player. When he meets good-time bartender Shane Barton, the heat between them is instant and intense—like the burn of good whiskey.

Galen and Shane don’t have much in common beyond their healthy libidos and their love of a good time, but the intoxicating heat brings them together like rain on the ocean, whipping up a frenzy of weather… good and bad. When trouble blows ashore, they will have to ride out the storm that breaks between them as Galen’s past rears its ugly head.

I’m a big B.A. Tortuga fan. She writes a lot of cowboy and country boy MC’s and I love them like no other. The MC’s in Rain and Whiskey fall into that category in a way and I was curious to get that MC in a different setting. That part of the story worked for me. Galen has a country boy background that translates well to the slower pace of small the town in Florida they live in. Shane is a good time cruiser who lives day to day, tending bar and being happy. The minute the see each other the eye fucking begins and once their dicks get together the full on fucking begins.

Which is great, good on you two, but unfortunately there isn’t much to the story beyond that. They pretty much boned non-stop for 260+ pages. I’m a huge fan of the boning, don’t get me wrong, but I did want more. I didn’t get any of these two that wasn’t fuck centric. And, since I am such a Tortuga fan, I know that’s a thing the author can deliver and I missed it.

There was the “misunderstanding” and quite frankly, Galen was a dick about it all. I didn’t feel like he gave the correct amount of groveling to put their relationship back in balance. I do know there are more books in the series though, so I gotta hope he makes that happen. Shane may be an extremely easy going guy, but I don’t want to see him be a pushover. I got the vibe that he was genuinely a nice person and I wanted more from him from Galen at that point.

Rain and Whiskey could have easily been significantly shorter and given me more fulfillment at the end of it. A little boning time turned into conversation instead would have been great and then ditching the phrases like “Oh, now, that was fine.” And “Oh, yeah. I want.” And “Oh, that was hot” And Oh, hot damn, he loved a challenge.” And, well, you get the idea. “Oh” was used 348 times in a 264 page book. That’s 1.3 Oh’s per page. That’s too many Oh’s. About 345 too many. It got distracting after too long for me.

So, while the execution of this one didn’t really work for me, it’s still a deliciously decadent escape and if you are down for a country boy fuckfest and some sweet tea, then by all means, do it, you won’t be disappointed.

Head over to Dreamspinner Press for more information on Rain and Whiskey.

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

Giveaway + Blog Tour: Clickbait by E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell is here today talking Clickbait and there's a $25 Riptide credit up for grabs!

Hi everyone, this is E.J. Russell! Thank you so much for joining me as I celebrate the release of Clickbait, my first contemporary novel with Riptide Publishing! 

About Clickbait

After the disastrous ending of his first serious relationship, Gideon Wallace cultivated a protective—but fabulously shiny—outer shell to shield himself from Heartbreak 2.0. Besides, romance is so not a priority for him right now. All his web design prospects have inexplicably evaporated, and to save his fledgling business, he’s been compelled to take a hands-on hardware project—as in, his hands on screwdrivers, soldering irons, and needle-nosed pliers. God. Failure could actually be an option.

Journeyman electrician Alex Henning is ready to leave Gideon twisting in the wind after their run-ins both on and off the construction site. Except, like a fool, he takes pity on the guy and offers to help. Never mind that between coping with his dad’s dementia and clocking all the overtime he can finagle, he has zero room in his life for more complications.

Apparently, an office build-out can lay the foundation for a new relationship. Who knew? But before Alex can trust Gideon with the truth about his fragile family, he has to believe that Gideon’s capable of caring about more than appearances. And Gideon must learn that when it comes to the heart, it’s content—not presentation—that matters.

Now available from Riptide Publishing.

About E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:

To celebrate the release of Clickbait, one lucky winner will receive $25 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 10, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Review: Freckles by Amy Lane

Carter Embree has always hoped to be rescued from his productive, tragically boring, and (slightly) ethically compromised life. But when an urchin at a grocery store shoves a bundle of fluff into his hands, Carter goes from rescuee to rescuer—and he needs a little help.

Sandy Corrigan, the vet tech who helps ease Carter into the world of dog ownership, first assumes that Carter is a crazy-pants client who just needs to relax. But as Sandy gets a glimpse into the funny, kind, sexy man under Carter’s mild-mannered exterior, he sees that with a little care and feeding, Carter might be Super-Pet Owner—and decent boyfriend material to boot.

But Carter needs to see himself as a hero first. As he says good-bye to his pristine house and hello to carpet treatments and dog walkers, he finds that there really is more to himself than a researching drudge without a backbone. A Carter Embree can rate a Sandy Corrigan. He can be supportive, he can be a hero, he can be a man who stands up for his principles!

He can be the owner of a small dog.

Carter Embree’s career as a workaholic and somewhat unethical lawyer has made relationships difficult. Carter doesn’t even like what he does, but he can’t seem to find a way out. When he accidentally becomes the owner of a small puppy, Carter decides to give dog ownership a shot, partly as atonement, but mostly because he’s so lonely. It’s not easy, but he falls in love with the little guy.

Carter turns to Sandy Corrigan, a vet tech, for help. Sandy is amused at first as Carter bumbles his way through owning a dog, and slowly the two become friends. It doesn’t take long for Sandy to want more, which Carter reciprocates. But Carter doesn’t think he’s worthy of a dog, let alone a loving relationship. Sandy sets out to prove Carter wrong and show him how good they can be together.

This is a book written by a dog lover for dog lovers. ‘Freckles’ is the name of Carter’s new dog, a tiny bundle of joy that excels at leaving poop bombs around the house. I’m not a dog owner myself, but I do go gaga whenever I get the chance to pet a pup.

So while I zoned out during the puppy training 101, which takes up a good chunk of the book, I could still appreciate the cute antics of Freckles.


The romance plays second fiddle for the first half of the book. Carter and Sandy like each other from the moment they meet, but both have a lot going on in their lives. Sandy is juggling a job and vet school, while Carter is married to his soul-sucking job.

When they do eventually give in to the feelings growing between them, it’s exactly the sweet yet heartfelt romance I’d expect for a holiday story from Amy Lane. There’s no unnecessary drama or contrived angst here. Sandy and Carter like each other, and they’re willing to give it an honest try.

The two go on cute dinner dates that end in sweet kisses, and bond over Freckles. It’s not the steamiest romance, but it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth.

The angst comes in the form of Carter’s serious lack of self-esteem. It’s the result of a childhood burdened with expectations and crappy job. I really liked seeing how being with Sandy convinced Carter to re-evaluate his life and explore solutions that could work.

The ending felt a bit tentative, but I’d still say that it’s a HEA. Sandy and Carter certainly have what it takes to make it work long-term.

Overall, this was a sweet holiday romance with a very cute puppy! Bonus points for the guest appearances by the boys from the Johnnies series, which I was absolutely giddy over.

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Review: Break My Shell by K.A. Merikan

--- He was supposed to never leave prison. And then he was in my bedroom. ---

is always on time to work, always organized, always ready to do overtime. The perfect receptionist-waiter-cleaner. Employee of the month. But Dayton has a secret side to him. A kinky, filthy side full of dark and dangerous fantasies that should never see the light of day.

He explores his taste for submission in one way only. For three years, he’s been writing letters about it to Max. Convicted to life in prison for the murder of three men and unlikely to ever be free, Max is the safest outlet for Dayton’s frustrated fantasies.

Only that he does leave prison. He finds Dayton. And he won’t settle for anything less than what he was promised in the letters. Too bad Dayton is nowhere near ready to indulge Max. Or himself for that matter.


Themes: ex-con, sexual fantasy, role-play, bondage, dirty talk, bullying, hotel setting

Genre: M/M contemporary erotic romance

Length: ~60,000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content that might be considered taboo. Explicit content, strong language. Reader discretion advised.

WHAT?!?! A book all about role-playing!!! and not just any role-playing, but non-con/power imbalance role-playing!!!

And he couldn’t lie to himself about it— he loved force. His dirty fantasies had men coercing him into sexual submission, even if it was ultimately for Dayton’s pleasure. A security officer after catching him shoplifting, a guy getting him drunk and having his way with him at a party, a TSA agent performing a search much more thorough than he should.

And by KA Merikan, so you know it's going to be kinky! I’m in heaven!!!

So we have Max, who was just released from prison after having his charges dropped.

He’s been corresponding with Dayton via letters and a few phone calls since the beginning of his sentence 3 years ago. When he is released he obviously goes straight to Dayton, well because Dayton is the love of his life. However Dayton doesn’t see it that way….

Dayton started writing to Max because he admired his courage and bravery in defending himself against a hate-crime. Over time one thing led to another and Dayton started telling Max about all his dirty fantasies. He never expected to meet Max and doesn’t know what to do when suddenly confronted with the two versions of himself.

The Dayton from the letters was a daring, carefree person, someone the real Dayton didn’t necessarily want to be, but definitely someone happier than him.

Honestly Dayton annoyed me quite a bit with his flip-flopping on whether he wanted to be with Max or not, and Max was such a lovesick sweetheart that I felt frustrated for him as well. But the slut me was sooo ridiculously happy with all the smut that this still got a high rating.

“That’s it, slutboy, arch that ass against me, ‘cause you’ll be riding my cock soon.”

Every side character in this story are absolute dicks and I guarantee they will all push you to your limits of not throwing your reader across the room. Most of them get a good comeuppance but I did want to see what happened to some of them in the long-run, you know, to make sure they all died in a hole or something.

This probably would’ve been a 3.5/4 heart rating because of Dayton’s flip-flopping, but role-playing is my weakness and the ending of this book was sweet, dirty and utter perfection!

Highly recommended!

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