Audiobook Review: Something Like Winter (Something Like #2) by Jay Bell

There are two sides to every story. When you’re Tim Wyman, sometimes there are three.

Tim hoped moving to Texas would mean a new beginning but soon finds himself falling into the same tired patterns. Until he meets recklessly brave Benjamin Bentley, who introduces Tim to a world of love, sex, and warmth. Certain that society won’t understand what he and Ben have together, Tim struggles to protect their relationship, even if it means twisting the truth. Buried beneath his own deceptions, Tim must claw his way to the surface in the hopes of learning to fly.

Narrator: Kevin R. Free
Listening Length: 13 hours and 39 minutes

***Warning: this book review may contain spoilers of Something Like Summer, book 1 in the series. If you've already read Summer, then you're good to carry on reading. If you've not... what the heck are you doing reading this review when you could be diving into the Something Like universe? I warn you, take tissues!***

I'm going with the assumption that if you're reading this review you've already been introduced into the Something Like world created by Jay Bell. The content of this story won't be  a huge surprise to you as it reflects many (though not all) of the events written about in Something Like Summer, though this time from the perspective of Tim Wyman.

Tim; the protagonist we love to hate. 
Kinda. Right?
Let's put it out there straight away; he's a selfish arsehole. An utter prick.
Or is he? 
Well, yes, at times he is - but I kind of suspect at times, on reflection, we all are/can be/have been. That's the benefit of growing up and hindsight and all that guff.

I liked having the story from Tim's perspective, it helped me see beyond the selfish and understand why; and that can be a great life lesson. In fact, I think Jay Bell manages to fill his books with life lesson's; though whether this is intentional or not, I'm unsure. There is nothing preachy or patronising about his writing though, it just speaks of experience and whether it is that of the character or the author is not important. 

Tim effectively has it all, well to an outsider looking in. His parents have money and are not shy of giving him some, materially his world is a-OK, he is good looking and knows how to fit in with the in-crowd. His parents are not physically abusive, though he certainly does suffer neglect at times. Emotionally he is abused, perhaps not intentionally, but he doesn't fit into his parents' plans, and that is even before any mention of him being gay. His mother loves him, but he is an inconvenience to the life her and his father want. 

This little information, from his POV, changed me from seeing him as being merely stuck up and selfish to someone who is hiding a whole world of pain. Does this mean that I agreed with all his choices? No, of course not - but it helped me understand them better. Fear is a very strong emotion, it can make people selfish, it can aid bad decisions... sometimes in very necessary circumstances. 

Did Tim do this? YES. A million times yes - but he learns from his choices, he doesn't let his fear
rule him forever. I thought the first part of this was when he met Eric. I loved Eric deeply. I loved that the love between them was friendship based, it wasn't sexual, but it was true. I think Eric was the first person to give to Tim in the way Tim needed. He gave him time and friendship and the courtesy of recognising him as a person. 

Sure, Ben did those things, but it was different, too intense, they were too young their relationship was all-consuming and fairly self-destructive, unable to survive in the environment in which they were trying to nurture it. Eric was older, more understanding and mature - he had the wisdom to let the friendship be what it needed to be. As much as Tim loved/loves Ben, Eric is the person I feel who perhaps did Tim the most good in his life. Of course, when Eric dies it leaves Tim with a whole world of hurt and only a little more maturity to deal with it.

Life is messy. It just is and the Something Like stories show this to perfection. They show the humanity of characters that it is impossible not to love. Tim is far from my favourite of Jay Bell's characters, but I loved this story from his POV because it helped me understand him a little more, and by understanding him a little more I understood Ben more. I understood their world and the other characters more. 

It's like... bear with me here. Have you ever watched an artist paint? I used to watch Bob Ross at times, and he'd start and it would just look a mess, then suddenly the picture he was creating would become clear and I would think, wow, amazing. I could see the scene he had created, the snowy cabin on a mountain side. Amazing. Beautiful. Then though, then he would carry on adding paint and the picture wouldn't change per se, but it would become clearer. It would become more beautiful, more intense - and that is what Jay Bell does with this series. You think you've seen the whole picture, because you've seen the whole timeline - but one book alone does not give the true, beautiful picture that the artist wants to create.

If you hadn't guessed it, I'm a fan of this series and I really recommend everyone to give it a go.
A copy of this audiobook was given in exchange for an honest review.
For more information see Goodreads.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Guns n' Boys: Bloodbath by K.A. Merikan

Celebrate the Guns n' Boys: Bloodbath release with the Merikans and IndiGo Marketing! Check out today's info and enter in the giveaway for a chance to win an ebook copy of Guns n' Boys: Bloodbath!

Title:  Guns n' Boys: Bloodbath
Series: Guns n' Boys 6
Author: K.A. Merikan
Publisher: Acerbi & Villani ltd.
Release Date: 4th March 2017
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 115 000 words
Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, mafia, organized crime, cartel, adopted, undercover, homophobia, assassin

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“I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
“All you need to know is that you’re mine.”

Seth would follow Domenico to the depths of hell. He promised to always be at Domenico’s side. But hell becomes all too real when they infiltrate the world of Toro - a notoriously security-obsessed arms dealer, who has eyes and ears everywhere.

Seth becomes unable to steal even a moment of intimacy with Domenico, and the tension grinds them down each day. Beyond the deceptive paradise of Toro’s villa, violence is an everyday occurrence, and the swimming pool could just as well be filled with blood. To survive, Seth has to become the man Domenico needs him to be, but in the process, he might lose who he truly is.

With Seth trained up, and Mark as backup, victory is so close Domenico can taste it. They just need to prove themselves to Toro as valuable assets. With each day though, Seth seems to be drifting away from Domenico, hidden behind a mask of cruelty and indifference. It is exactly what Domenico asked of him, so why is it so difficult to see Seth become his mirror image?


Themes: mafia, cartel, assassin, organized crime, homophobia, human trafficking, undercover, family ties

Genre: Dark, twisted romance / crime thriller

Erotic content: Explicit scenes

Length: ~115,000 words

WARNING: Adult content. If you are easily offended, this book is not for you.
‘Guns n’ Boys’ is a gritty story of extreme violence, offensive language, abuse, and morally ambiguous protagonists. Behind the morbid facade, there is a splash of inappropriate dark humor, and a love story that will crawl under your skin.


“He doesn’t know us yet, but he will once I’m done with him,” Domenico said in a voice so chilling Seth felt odd about having wanted his hands all over in the morning, just hours before. Then again, even now, Domenico’s cool demeanor wasn’t a deterrent. If this side of Dom were something Seth truly despised, he’d have taken any opportunity to leave Dom many times over. Which of course he didn’t because he was a dumb, fat moth to Domenico’s flame, and he’d stick around no matter how many times he got burned.

The prisoner spat out some bloodied saliva and grinned, shaking his head. “Who are you even working for?”

Domenico let out a cloud of smoke, which swirled in the dim space. “We’re working for ourselves, and we’ve had an excellent track record so far.”

The man laughed, shaking his head wildly. “You’re in way above your head! What do you think is in that box, huh? A golden machine gun? Diamonds? You will regret ever stepping foot on our boat.”

Anger boiled over in Seth, and he planted his foot in the man’s stomach. Bile rose in his throat when he thought that the bloodshed and the risk they’d taken to hijack the vessel could have been for nothing.

Dom shifted on top of the trunk. “What is in the trunk?” he asked, almost softly, and nodded at Seth. A signal to keep going. To torture. First beat up, and then what? Cut off the guy’s fingers?

The man curled up as much as he could with his hands tied to the chair, and Seth hesitated, only to get a nasty surprise kick to the shin when their prisoner decided attack was the best way of protecting himself.

“You motherfucker!” This time, Seth had no mercy. He kicked the bastard’s stomach so hard the chair twisted, and he fell over, trapping one of his wrists between the chair and the floor. The choked scream did not soften Seth’s resolve that he was doing the right thing now. This was a man working for a cartel, caught on his way to deliver some goods to Raul Moreno. Why would he be worthy of Seth’s pity anyway?

Domenico leaned forward, watching the man’s face twist in discomfort. “What’s in the trunk?”

The mercenary gave a breathless laugh. “Something as common as mosquitoes,” he uttered, and it must have piqued Dom’s interest, because he stood up and approached.

“What then? Cocaine?”

The man grinned at them with his reddish teeth. “More than that.”

Seth stood back at the other side of the tiny cabin and crossed his arms on his chest. This was one guessing game he wasn’t about to play with the bastard.

Domenico sighed and slowly lowered himself. The burning end of the cigarette in his hand was bright red when it pressed against the mercenary’s cheek. The fucker gave a choked noise, clenching his teeth so hard Seth could practically hear them crack.

“You sure you don’t want to tell me? You’re dead anyway, so what is it to you?” asked Domenico.

“Well, it’s not explosives, so why don’t you just check yourself?” the man hissed after taking a few raspy breaths. Watching it made Seth so tense his muscles felt like made out of concrete.

Domenico sighed and looked back at the trunk.

“It’s sealed,” Miguel said from his spot at the door.

“I know,” Dom muttered, still gazing at the piece of luggage that might as well hold a medium-sized fridge.

The prisoner laughed. “Go on. Or are you scared of Raul Moreno?”

Seth rolled his eyes. “Pathetic attempt at reverse psychology there.”

The guy looked back at him with a frown, and Seth could bet he had no idea what that meant.

Domenico stayed silent, then pulled out a knife and presented it to Seth, handle first. “Open the trunk.”

Seth took the knife and approached the leather-bound box, but he licked his lips and watched the seal, giving himself a few more seconds. He wasn’t exactly afraid of it being explosives, since he doubted their prisoner would encourage them this way, but on the other hand, maybe that was exactly what it was, since the man had to understand by now that he would die soon anyway.

But Domenico knew his job like no other man, and he must have thought of that possibility. If he insisted Seth open the trunk, it had to be fine, even if the contents turned out to be disappointing, like a batch of Raul Moreno’s favorite popcorn.

Seth still decided to ask. “Are you sure? What if it’s a caiman?

“Just be careful. Nice and slow,” said Dom, moving his hand to their prisoner’s neck when Seth kneeled in front of the trunk.

The paper seal marked by some symbols and letters beckoned Seth’s attention, and it almost felt like he was about to slice into flesh. How would they explain the open seal upon arrival? Would they even need to? Maybe it was just a formality no one paid attention to anymore? His stomach clenched as he cut through the paper. The cracked and dusty leather suggested it wasn’t the first time the trunk had been used, and its size held no answers as to what secret it could hold.

Slowly, he opened several metal latches, and then three leather straps that further secured the lid in place. The silence inside the cabin was absolute, and he even heard the rubbing of leather against leather. His last thought before he raised the top of the trunk, which felt oddly heavy and sturdy, as if there was metal under the thick layer of leather, was that it had to be a very specialized container if it had been so clearly used for a long time.


Acerbi & Villani ltd.

Meet the Author

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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Review: Whispering Pines Ranch Series (Whispering Pines Ranch #1-5.5) by S.J.D. Peterson

Lorcan James ran long and far in search of adventure, in Lorcan’s Desire, but instead he’s discovered a new side of himself with rancher Quinn Taylor. But if Quinn isn’t willing to give Lorcan what he needs most—love—Lorcan will find someone else who will. In Quinn’s Need, Lorcan is back at Whispering Pines with his new lover in tow and Quinn has a man who is willing to beg for anything, but Quinn may just be ready to give Lorcan what he’s always desired.

In Ty’s Obsession, Ty Callahan believes that Quinn is the perfect man, if only there weren’t the obstacle of Lorcan James. When Blake Henderson strolls into Ty’s life, can he convince him to look past his obsession?

Thirty-seven years ago, John Price and Connor Burnett fell in love. In Connor’s Courage, a cancer diagnosis threatens to tear apart what they’ve fought so hard for.

Lorcan broke Jess Jenkins’s heart and an car accident broke his body and spirit. In Jess’s Journey, his friends are eager to bring him back to the sweet man he once was, despite his bitterness.

Finally, in Riveted, Blake and Ty are living together in New York and have decided it’s time to take the next step.

Average Rating: 3.91 Hearts

I’m going to make this as spoiler free as possible, but because this is a series, each subsequent story review may have some plot spoilers from the previous books. I will do my best to review without giving away anything major. Be warned, there are major spoilers for Lorcan’s Desire in Quinn’s Need, and spoilers for Quinn’s Need in Jess’ Journey, so if you’re not one to read spoilers before reading a story, plan your reading accordingly.

Lorcan’s Desire - 4 Hearts

Lorcan is twenty-one and on an adventure to find his place, and get some worldly experience. His independence is riding on working away from home, and out from under his older brothers’ shadows. While on his journey, he comes across a ranch called Whispering Pines, where Quinn, the owner, gives him a chance to work as a stable hand, and provides lodging for him.

Unfortunately Lorcan has a crush on the older man, and doesn’t understand it, because he didn’t think he was interested in men. Quinn seems to just scowl at him all the time, anyway, so he fights the pull and tries to be Quinn’s friend. It comes to a head, when fed up with all the dirty looks, Lorcan confronts Quinn during a drunken pity party for one, and discovers that Quinn’s scowling isn’t what he thought.

Quinn has never officially been in the closet, but he never advertises. Until his secret desire for Lorcan becomes open, and he realises he was in the closet after-all, and has no intentions of coming out.

This is part one of two part story arc for this couple. Their chemistry is hot, but Quinn is a difficult and stubborn man, who wants to hide his relationship with Lorcan from his town, and his employees. Lorcan is only new to admitting his preference for men, and isn’t ready for the reality of hiding his feelings for Quinn. Their tumultuous relationship is pretty dramatic really. While I was reading it, I was fully invested in their drama. It was like crack to my pretty drama free life. Their misunderstandings, lack of communication, and stubborn personalities made this pretty chaotic.

It was frustrating and angsty, but I couldn’t put it down. I’m not usually a fan of this trope, but something about the characters kept me engaged. Whether it was the side characters, or the main characters themselves, outside of their drama, or the erotic content, I can’t tell you. All I know is that it was addicting, and I had no intention of putting the book down until I had read the entire thing.

I can’t say more without spoilers so I’ll leave it there. If you enjoy a little bit of drama, and fully developed characters, this will be a fun time.

Quinn’s Need - 3.5 Hearts

**Reader beware: Spoilers for Book One**

Quinn is having a difficult time letting go of Lorcan. He has become harder, angrier, and spends most of his time drinking himself to sleep. He decides he needs to grab back some control, and starts visiting the closest leather bar, where BDSM is an appealing way of getting his frustration out.

Meanwhile, Lorcan has accepted that Quinn will always be the love of his life, but has decided to make it work with Jess. Moving to Jess’ ranch is a decision they make together, and happiness appears to be within their grasp.

I have mixed feelings about this story. There is a lot going on, and the introduction of another complication makes this story both more and less angsty. While the relationship between Jess and Lorcan appears to be pretty easy going, there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction. This couple still had chemistry. Their relationship was still passionate. I could tell Lorcan was giving it everything he could, and Jess was content for the time being. They just lacked that breath stealing intensity that was apparent between Lorcan and Quinn.

This story will probably piss people off, but also lure them back in. Again, a lot of drama, and some angst with Quinn. He is just a knobhead to me, and I’m not sure he deserves to be happy. I’m not sure I approve of the direction of this story, but I understand the story arc and the necessity for the drama.

I was still fully invested in this story, and my personal feelings about Quinn aside, I enjoyed the plot. This is a complex read, and something that creates more than it resolves.

Ty’s Obsession - 3.5 Hearts

**Minor Spoilers**

While I enjoyed this story about Ty and Blake, I wasn’t really convinced that Ty’s issues could be resolved in this manner. In my humble opinion, this man needs serious therapy, and I would have enjoyed it more if there was at least some mention of seeing someone about his psychological problems.

I liked Blake in this story, and I found his character strong and endearing. His own issues run deep, and he is willing to put it aside to help Ty through some really rough battles.

I liked the kink in this. It was sexy and satisfying. I thought the storyline worked pretty well. I think if Ty wasn’t so messed up, I could appreciate this more for what it was. It turned someone angry and psychotic into a relatable character and I really appreciated that. But I felt it was a little too simplistic and that is why it doesn’t get a high rating. I don’t always need believability in my fiction, but it can’t be this far from reality in a contemporary novel.

The plot was consistent, and the writing was tight. The chemistry between Ty and Blake was great, and I enjoyed the character development overall. Throw in a therapy session to start with and I would have adored this story.

Connor’s Courage - 4 Hearts

I was a bit reluctant to read this story, because usually flashback stories make me feel morose and on edge. This story, however was beautiful and fun. Conner and John mirror Lorcan and Quinn 37 years earlier. I loved the way Connor came to Whispering Pines, and how fearless he was in his attitude.

This is a story about the beginning of their relationship, and the hurdles they had to get through to finally become a couple. Set in a time where being gay was unacceptable, and in a small town that would make it even more dangerous to come out, these two managed to create something wonderful, even through the bumps. I really appreciated this glimpse into their lives.

Conner is one of my favourite characters throughout the entire series. I like people who are outrageous, and he fits the bill perfectly. Add that to a quiet, closeted introvert, and you’ve got some pretty awesome sex scenes, and some great drama-filled relationship building.

Jess’s Journey - 4.5 Hearts

***Reader beware: Spoilers for Book Two**

Jess’s story was really necessary, and I am pleased with how the story was written. There was no quick miracle. This was a hard won battle for Jess. A battle of acceptance, and the possibility that he would always be limited in his ability. A strong prideful man, who finds it impossible to take offers of help, Jess really has to learn to swallow his pride and accept that his life is different now.

Jake has really fallen for Jess, even with his surly temperament. He’s seen the way all Jess’s friends rallied around him, and has faith that the man the town loves, is still buried somewhere beyond the anger and pain. He intends to meet that man for himself.

This was one of my favourites in this series. I loved the friendship between Jess and Jake, and really appreciated the way the recovery was presented. Both men worked hard to get to a place where they could be together. That hard won battle stole my heart for these two men.

Most of the character development was around Jake, as we met Jess in books one and continued with his story in book two. I appreciated how the author created a more complex layer to Jess, given his new situation, but I really enjoyed learning about Jake more.

This story is a slow burn romance, which is a little different to the tone of the previous stories in this series, but it is worth the attention and care the author took in navigating the relationship between these two men.

Riveted - 4 Hearts

Ty and Blake’s story continues in this novella. Trying to gain Ty’s trust is near impossible with his abandonment issues, but Blake is determined to do something that is at least a start to building the forever they both crave.

This story is a great conclusion to the Whispering Pines Ranch series, and the start of the Guards of Folsom series. If you’re like me, and read The Guards of Folsom series first, you’ll get a kick out of this, going back to where it all began. Not recommended as a standalone, this should be read in order, or at the very least, after Ty’s Obsession.

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Audiobook Review: When the Dust Settles (Timing #3) by Mary Calmes

Glenn Holloway’s predictable life ended the day he confessed his homosexuality to his family. As if that wasn’t enough, he then poured salt in the wound by walking away from the ranch he’d grown up on, to open the restaurant he’d always dreamed of. Without support from his father and brother, and too proud to accept assistance from anyone else, he had to start from scratch. Over time things worked out: Glenn successfully built a strong business, created a new home, and forged a life he could be proud of.

Despite his success, his estrangement from the Holloways is still a sore spot he can’t quite heal, and a called-in favor becomes Glenn’s worst nightmare. Caught in a promise, Glenn returns to his roots to deal with Rand Holloway and comes face-to-face with Mac Gentry, a man far too appealing for Glenn’s own good. It could all lead to disaster—disaster for his tenuous reconnection with his family and for the desire he didn’t know he held in his heart.

Listening Length: 3 hours and 12 minutes
Narrator: Sean Crisden

Mary Calmes is like a balm to my soul. It doesn’t matter if I am reading or being read to, the words, the men, the characters and romance she creates heals me in ways I so desperately need. I needed to listen to this today. I’ve been having a rough time of it lately and decided that while I sat stressed out at my desk at work, I’d listen to the Holloway I’d like to go on a run with at midnight and did I ever make a good decision.

Reading how Glenn feels as an outsider among his family and The Red Diamond Ranch was one thing but hearing him, hearing all the vulnerability and hurt in his voice as Zach makes fun of him about the rodeo or how much he just wants to belong to someone, was painful. The narrator nailed the attitude and emotion of Glenn and I couldn’t get enough as I listened at work and fell into the voice of Sean Crisden as he breathed life into Glenn Holloway.

But then Mac came into my ears and goodness, I squirmed.  I blushed and good lord things happened to me that I wouldn’t say out loud in polite public. Mac’s voice was so freaking fracking sexy but then when he becomes Maclain to Glenn? Let’s just say had this been a Tom Jones show, panties “could” have been flying. Kidding. So not.

He wanted me so bad that it didn’t matter if he had me or I had him. How fucking hot was that?

Listening to sex on audio for me is part fuckhot and also cringe worthy. I think there is a part of me that turns into my 12 year old self getting caught watching CineMax After Dark when we get to the sex. I really like it but at the same time I am flustered and worried that I shouldn’t be listening to this and well, liking it. Call it left over Catholic guilt or something but it’s a comical calamity.

I loved Glenn’s story when I read it the first time and I love it doubly now. Having Glenn tell me his story through Sean Crisden’s voice was truly amazing. I am not one who visualizes characters as the read nor really thinks about how they would sound and yet when Glenn starting speaking… IT. WAS. GLENN! It was so damn Glenn Holloway that I went all sorts of gooey because, gah! It was Glenn. You know?

The reality was that like it or not, we were family, and the bond of blood was a real one. It would keep us in each other’s lives forever. I needed to get that through my thick skull. I also needed to pull my head out of my ass and realize that just because the ranch wasn’t my life, that didn’t make it bad. I didn’t need to vilify them to make what I did better.

What I adore about this story other than the swoon worthy romance is how family plays into Glenn’s life. Not just his immediate family with Rand, Zach, Stefan and Wyatt but the family he has created with his staff at the Bronc. They trust him to lead them and they’ll follow but of course they need to give Glenn shit about certain things because that’s what you do when you’re family. You tease the hell out of them because you love ‘em.

I am not going to go into more of the story, you can always read my review regarding the plot/romance etc. here, but I do want to say that this audio, the narrator has me so damn happy right now. I went and looked at his backlist and realized he’s done the whole Timing series. With just small bits of Stef and Rand in this, I need to hear certain things from the first two books and maybe I won’t blush at desk sex?

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Audiobook Review: Seven-Card Stud (Wild Cards #2) by Ava Drake

A Wild Cards Novel

Temptation, peril, and dirty poker.

Love is a high-stakes game.

When Collin Callahan, British secret agent, goes up against math genius turned surfer bum Oliver Elliot, the battle is epic—and so is the attraction. They’re pitted against each other in an exclusive, ultra-secret—and ultra-illegal—poker match in Gibraltar, but when players start dying and they could be next, they find a common goal: catch the killer before it’s too late.

Evenly matched at poker and romance, they each wrestle personal demons that threaten to consume them as the stakes climb. It’s an all-or-nothing gamble with both life and love on the line as they fight to be the last seven-card studs standing.

Listening Length: 6 hours and 32 minutes
Narrator: John Solo

Reviewer: Shee Reader

Colin stands on his balcony looking out over the stormy Mediterranean sea and observes a jet ski heading right for a swimmer. Once the jet ski zooms by, the swimmer is nowhere to be seen. So Colin being the upstanding English gent he is, he takes off his loafers and sweater and dives into the ice water to save the swimmer.

Gun, the poker player, is Oliver the surfer. He can’t resist the lure of the waves even when it's cold and grey. On hearing a jet ski coming straight for him, he dives deep to avoid impact. When he surfaces he sees a fully clothed man getting into difficulties in the icy water, and resolves to save him. Then find out what the hell he is up to!

Thus, Colin and Oliver meet, both trying to save the other, but Colin didn’t really have the clothing for it, and their battle for one-upmanship commences. After a little dialogue, it becomes clear that they are both in the exclusive and probably very shady elite poker competition, Oliver to win the mystery prize, and Colin to infiltrate the contest sufficiently to find out the details of the contest and the organisers for his employer.

When top players keep disappearing or winding up dead, Oliver and Colin join forces to work out who is behind the whole thing. Oliver fears it could be his overly controlling father and Colin worries that the fact he isn't a real poker player could put both their lives in jeopardy. Both men give into the sizzling heat between them, hot sex notwithstanding, the love that develops was not expected by either man.

To me this story has pretty much everything! There’s family conflict, job pressures, lots of poker, sexy men falling into bed together, killers, shark attacks, computer wizardry, faked death, corpses in hotel kitchen freezers, and plenty of bad guys! There is intrigue galore and plenty of excitement. The twist at the end is super, and almost believable and the whole story is thoroughly entertaining.

Our main characters are American and English and the narrator did a super job at characterising them both. The world building was terrific and the majority of the supporting cast were superbly evil.

Highly recommended.

Find on Dreamspinner Press or Goodreads!

Giveaway + Blog Tour: Talking in Code by Ariel Tachna

Ariel Tachna is here today and she's talking in code about Talking In Code! Also, be sure to check out the giveaways below!

Talking in Code starts in media res. Eric, Tim, and Richard are already well and truly involved with each other, but the story includes references to moments before the book begins, moments that are not fully explored in the novel itself.
This is the sixth of those moments.

Tim caught Eric as he stumbled into the safe house in Cartagena, his M40 slung over his shoulder. Tim didn’t doubt he could have it against his shoulder and a bullet off to a target in less time than it took Tim to say his name. What was supposed to be an intelligence-gathering mission had turned into a firefight—not an entirely unexpected development, but never a welcome one. The team had scattered, going to ground around the city. Everyone had checked in from their assigned locations except Eric. And now he was here too.
“Newton is safe,” he told the team through their headsets, knowing Richard would hear him too. This was their first big mission since they’d pulled Eric between them and refused to let go. Richard might not say anything, but Tim knew how he worried. “Notify me of any changes. Otherwise rendezvous at the pickup point in twenty-four hours. Radio silence except in case of emergency.”
“Roger that,” Amato replied.
“Are you hurt?” he asked Eric.
Eric shook his head. Tim frowned. Usually he couldn’t get Eric to shut up, so to have him so silent now was a bad sign. “I said radio silence, not total silence,” he teased, but Eric gave no sign of hearing him.
Tim’s frown deepened. He knew Eric had moments of dissociation, but he’d never witnessed one before. Now that he had, he didn’t like it. “Talk to me, Newton.”
The tone of command—one he normally only used in the field—seemed to steady Eric. He straightened and unslung his rifle to set it carefully next to the door.
“Ten targets neutralized. Team extracted to safe positions. Reporting here as ordered in the event of unexpected opposition.”
“Your status?”
“Unhurt, sir.”
“And the rest?”
“Shaky, sir. Having trouble focusing.”
“Sit. Let’s get some food in you before you have an adrenaline crash. Then we’ll see about the rest.”
Eric moved to the table obediently—too obediently for Tim’s peace of mind, but he’d have to take this one step at a time. They’d had missions go belly-up before. They could get through this. He scrounged through the cabinets and found cans of various vegetables that didn’t look too far past their expiration dates. He used his pocketknife to pry them open and dumped them all in a pan on the stove. It would probably taste horrible, but it would be nutrients they both needed, Eric especially. He left the concoction to simmer and went into the bedroom to see what the situation was there. The room looked half-trashed, items scattered around the floor like someone had left in a hurry—or tossed the place for whatever was worth stealing. He grabbed the things that might be useful—a razor, a bottle of mouthwash, a tube of toothpaste, some soap—and kicked everything else under the bed. No reason to make Eric tenser than he already was. As he’d suspected, they didn’t have a tub, but when he turned the water on in the sink, it was warm. Not hot, but not icy either. He could work with that. Getting rid of the dust, sweat, and gunpowder residue would do them both good. And with twenty-four hours to kill, they could take advantage of the bed when they had eaten and were clean. He didn’t have condoms, but that would just change how they made love, not whether they did.
He walked back into the front room to find Eric exactly where he’d left him, staring out into nothing, his hands clenching and unclenching on the table. No, not good. “Come on, Peaches. Let’s get cleaned up while the soup gets hot.”
Eric startled from the table into a defensive crouch, gaze darting around the room for threats and hand clasped around the hilt of the knife he kept strapped to his thigh. If he was less accurate with the knife than with a rifle, Tim still counted him as one of the deadliest men he knew.
“Newton, stand down,” Tim ordered.
Slowly Eric came out of the crouch, blinking a couple of times as he did. “Tim?”
“You’re dissociating. We’ve got to get you back in the here and now.”
“It’s a stress thing,” Eric said. “I’m okay in the field, but when I come out, it takes me a while to let the battle readiness go.”
“I’m familiar with the problem. Do you have tricks that help you let it go?”
Eric just shrugged, a less helpful response than Tim had hoped for, but at the same time, he understood. At Eric’s age, he couldn’t have identified his own coping mechanisms either. He’d just have to improvise. Richard always said it was his most useful skill.
Getting clean still seemed like the best place to start. If they were freshly bathed, they weren’t in the middle of a battlefield, so no reason to be on high alert. At least this time they were just covered in dust and sweat, not blood. “Let’s get cleaned up. We’ll both feel better for it.”
Eric followed him into the other room, but he didn’t relax his wary guard in the slightest. Tim undressed slowly, setting aside each piece of his fatigues neatly, both out of habit and to telegraph his harmlessness to Eric. He could take Eric down if he had to, but Eric still had his knife and would do some damage before Tim could subdue him. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
Eric watched him intently until he was down to his T-shirt and shorts. Then he shook himself like a horse covered in flies and started undressing as well.
“You can put your knife on the chest by the bed. That way you can reach it if you need it, but you can still get cleaned up.”
Eric tensed, making Tim curse silently. He shouldn’t have brought it up. Eric searched the room with his gaze, but finally he’d satisfied whatever fears drove him and set his knife on the table. Tim turned the water on in the sink and splashed his face with it before straightening and rubbing it up his arms. They had the few things he’d scrounged from the floor and the toothbrush he had in his toiletry kit. The Army had given them the location of the safe house and the means of gaining entry, but they clearly hadn’t expected them to actually use it—or else someone had used it since they’d last authorized its use and then left in a hurry. He hoped the others were faring better, but he wouldn’t hold his breath. They could handle it for twenty-four hours. And when they got home—the Caymans weren’t far—he would indulge in a long bath, preferably with Richard and Eric beside him.
“Your turn,” he said to Eric as he stepped away from the sink.
Eric washed his face and hands, then stripped his T-shirt off and swiped at his chest and under his arms.
“I have a clean T-shirt in my pack if you want to use yours as a towel,” Tim offered.
Eric shot him a grateful look before dipping the sleeve of his T-shirt in the water and rubbing the soap over it. He scrubbed his neck and chest compulsively. Tim let him for a few minutes, but when it became clear to him that Eric was rubbing at spots that weren’t there, he took the T-shirt and caught him in a kiss instead. Eric relaxed against him immediately.
That was good to know. Kissing worked. What else would work?
“Shall we go eat something?” Tim suggested, because they needed to eat and he’d already started heating something up.
“What do we have?” Eric asked, sounding like himself for the first time since the mission had gone south.
“Stew,” Tim said. “Nothing fancy, just whatever I could dump in the pot. Hopefully it’ll be edible, but it’ll tide us over even if it’s not.”
“My mom called it dump soup,” Eric said. “Dump everything in the pot and see what came out. Never the same twice, never fancy, but almost always better than I expected. Even if it’s awful, it’ll be better than MREs.”
“Let’s hope it lives up to your experience, then,” Tim said. He thought about pulling his pants back on, but he wanted Eric to stay relaxed, not tense back up because Tim was putting back on his fatigues.
The stew was bubbling when they went back into the kitchen, so Tim turned the heat off and served two bowls. He handed one to Eric and took the other over to the table. Eric followed and sat down across from Tim. He ate mechanically, but he wasn’t as tense as he’d been before.
Clean, check. Fed, check. He wasn’t sure Eric had come down enough to sleep, but Tim had a few ideas for wearing him out. “We should rest if we can. Richard knows where we are. We’ll make the rendezvous point tomorrow. For now there’s nothing to do but wait.”
“I don’t wait well outside a sniper’s nest,” Eric admitted.
“I’m aware. Let’s see if we can find a way to make that easier tonight.”
“Did you have something in mind?” Eric asked, brightening.
“Do you?” Tim replied. “You’re the one who has to settle.”
“I don’t suppose you have condoms in your bag along with an extra T-shirt.”
Tim laughed. “No, they aren’t considered essential gear for a reconnaissance mission.”
“They should be.”
“I’ll remember that next time,” Tim said, still chuckling. “Come on. Let’s clean up in here and go to bed.”
Eric rose and helped Tim wash out the bowls and put the leftover stew in the tiny icebox. They could heat up the rest for another meal, maybe even two, before they left for the rendezvous point. When they started toward the bedroom again, though, Eric’s tension returned. Tim frowned. That wasn’t what he’d expected.
“Eric, what’s wrong?”
Eric scrubbed a hand over his face. “I know we cleaned up, but I still feel grimy. I’d shave, but that razor is probably dull and rusty, and I’d catch who knows what from it.”
“I can fix that,” Tim said. Richard had teased him about the razor in his boot since they were in boot camp, but he hated being scruffy, and it doubled as a knife if necessary. Maybe not in a fight, but functionally he’d used it to cut all kinds of things.
“You have hand sanitizer in your pack?” Eric teased.
“I have a straight razor in my boot.” He pulled it out and handed it to Eric. Eric slid it out of the leather sheath and walked over the cracked and dingy mirror.
“I don’t think I can do it. My hands are shaking too bad.”
“Will being shaved help you relax?” Tim asked.
“I think so.”
“Do you trust me to do it for you?”
Eric froze. Damn it, Tim couldn’t do anything right today where Eric was concerned. Then Eric took a deep breath and shook himself free of the shock or stupor or whatever had held him silent. He offered the razor to Tim. “Just don’t slit my throat. Deal?”
Eric settled on the toilet seat. Tim worked the sliver of soap they had into a lather and spread some on Eric’s cheek. He could barely even feel the hint of stubble, but he’d already accepted this was about Eric’s triggers and how to address them, not about reality. He wiped his hands so his grip wouldn’t slip and steadied Eric’s face with his other hand. Eric relaxed instantly into the touch, the most relaxed Tim had seen him anywhere other than in bed or on the firing range. That reassured him.
Slowly he ran the razor along the curve of Eric’s jaw, careful not to nick him by mistake. He had a basic first aid kit in his pack, of course, but it would be ridiculous to come back from the mission with no injuries except from shaving.
Eric didn’t so much as twitch beneath Tim’s hands as he worked, his body invested with the same preternatural stillness Tim had observed when he was in the sniper’s nest. Tim had never understood how someone so otherwise restless could be so still with a weapon in his hand. He even thrashed in his sleep most nights. It looked like he’d found another way to make Eric be still.
He finished that cheek and used Eric’s wet T-shirt to wipe away what was left of the soap. He ran his hand carefully over the newly shaved skin to make sure he hadn’t missed any spots, but Eric’s skin was as smooth as Tim had ever felt it.
“Other side?”
Eric nodded. Tim almost prompted him for a verbal answer, but when he met Eric’s gaze, it was fully focused and hot with desire. Well, that was unexpected. Not unwelcome, though.
“Let me finish the other side, and we can go to bed,” Tim said, his voice deep with promise.
“Yes, please.”
Tim forced himself not to rush as he shaved the other side. Now that he realized how much this turned Eric on, he read the stillness in the air differently. He lingered over each pass of the razor, drawing it out, letting the blade slide sensuously over Eric’s skin. He grazed his knuckles over Eric’s cheekbone, watching Eric’s gaze darken even more. Oh, yes, he could get used to helping Eric back from a bad mission like this.
He finished with that cheek and bent to nibble at Eric’s lower lip. He could call a halt now and no one would notice that he hadn’t shaved Eric’s upper lip, chin, or neck, but this had passed beyond helping Eric and into foreplay. The only question was how long Eric would let him draw it out.
Not much longer if the way Eric clung to him was any indication, but Tim straightened and rubbed soap over Eric’s chin. “Almost done.”
Eric winked at him. “Nah, we’re just getting started.”

Talking in Code blurb:
Some things crumble under pressure. Others are tempered by it instead. For three former soldiers, a tragedy might be the catalyst that binds them together—stronger than ever.

Richard Horn and Timothy Davenport met in the SEALs twenty years ago and have been lovers ever since. Now running their own paramilitary organization, Strike Force Omega, they work in the shadows to protect their country and its people. When Tim falls for Eric Newton, a deadly sniper and strategist on their team, Richard accepts that Tim’s heart is big enough for two men. He respects, admires, and even desires Eric enough to accept him into their relationship—and their bed—but he’s never been fully a part of what Eric and Tim share.

Then Eric is captured by terrorists and Tim is gravely injured in an op gone wrong, bringing Richard’s world crashing down around his ears. Even if he gets his men out alive, Eric must face the aftermath of months of physical and psychological torture—and without Tim to lean on, Eric’s PTSD is tearing him apart. Richard has to figure out the third leg of their triangle fast, or Tim won’t have a life to come back to.

Author bio: 

When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands). The cat pretends they’re all beneath her, no matter what language they’re speaking.
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