Review: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins

Five DatesTitle & Author: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Pages: 74

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Helping his sister Lucy raise her kid has put Devin’s love life on hold. When he loses a bet to her and the penalty is to go out on five dates with men she’s chosen from Guys4Guys.com, he thinks that’s bad enough. Finding out she used a thirteen-year-old picture of him to score a date with a young guy who looks like a rock star? Epically bad.

Jay thought he wanted to fall for an older man. But his last boyfriend left him feeling humiliated and determined to stick to guys his own age. When he realizes he’s been conned into a date with exactly the kind of man he’s sworn to avoid, he’s ready to walk away on the spot. Only Devin’s swift apologies convince Jay to accept dinner to make up for the deception.

“The date doesn’t count for the bet unless you get a goodnight kiss.” After one not-a-date dinner with Jay, Devin isn’t worried about his sister’s rules. He just wishes he could convince Jay to go out with him for real. Jay wants no part of Devin, but Devin wants every part of Jay . . . so he asks Jay to help update his look for the rest of his dates. But once Jay’s made Devin over into the perfect date, will he be able to let him go?

My Thoughts:

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you: there wasn’t much in this story that I haven’t already seen in a thousand Hollywood rom coms. Seriously. There was a meddling sibling, an implausible scenario used to bring two unlikely people together, some snark, some laughs, lust at first sight, pining, someone getting drunk, denial of feelings due to past baggage, the Big Realization, and an even bigger Declaration of Feelings (which naturally leads to scorching hot sex and a sweet as can be happily ever after).

And yet.

And yet I don’t give a flying $%& that Five Dates isn’t uber original because I fell for Devin and Jay hard and fast. I swear, it only took about 5 pages to have me wrapped around Devin’s little finger and grinning like a fool. Both characters were incredibly sweet, average, and relatable. They were just good guys and, unlike a large portion of the female population, I LOVE the good guys. The whole thing was just pure cute, fluffy escapism that made me genuinely happy as I was reading it. In fact, I had to create an all new shelf on Goodreads – “Too Cute For Words” – just to contain this one. I can’t recommend it highly enough for someone looking for a total mood-booster.

Oh, and if you needed any added incentive to read this short story? It’s entirely FREE as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Loves Landscapes event. Grab your free copy of Five Dates here.

My Rating:

3 Smooch1 Smooch Half

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Spotlight & Giveaway: A Time for Loving by Nico Jaye

A Time for Loving by Nico Jaye - CoverTitle & Author: A Time for Loving by Nico Jaye
Release Date: October 23, 2014
Publisher: Self-Published
Length: 6,565 words

Lately, I’ve really been digging historical M/M romances – there’s just something so touching about a story in which two men meet and fall in love despite facing societal norms that make their love taboo (if not outright illegal). It’s the ultimate “love conquers all” and I adore them! So, when I heard that one of my favourite authors of contemporary smuff (that’s smutty fluff to you laymen) was trying her hand at a historical short, I couldn’t WAIT to get my hot little hands on it.

Check out the book blurb and excerpt below and then make sure to enter the amazing giveaway at the bottom of the post for  a chance to win 1 ebook copy of A Time for Loving and a pretty ring with the word “love” on it!

C’mon now, you know you wanna… 😉

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Jack and Christopher have made it through years of campaigning and the horrors of Waterloo together—side by side by day and, by night, in each other’s arms. After the war is over, however, will the love shared between this batman and his officer survive when Christopher returns to the life of a gentleman?

Want a Taste? Check out this excerpt:

When Christopher returned to the bedchamber at the time the clock ticked its way past midnight, Jack was waiting for him. As was their routine, they locked the doors to bar any unwanted nightly visitors, such a practice explained to the household as a way to deter Christopher’s childhood habit of sleepwalking.

Little did they know he’d outgrown such an inclination years ago.

“A pleasant evening,” Christopher said mildly over his shoulder as Jack assisted him out of his well-fitted navy evening jacket.

“Was it?” Jack murmured in response. Setting aside the garment onto the clothes valet, he turned to face Christopher’s back and skimmed his hands over his shoulders. His palms, forever callused from years of campaigning, nevertheless picked up the texture of the silver-embroidered brocade waistcoat. Those shoulders were broad, carrying with them the weight of responsibility—for their regiment, for their secret, for their future—well beyond Christopher’s twenty-three years.

Lost in his thoughts, Jack startled when Christopher turned around to grasp his wrist gently. He looked up into Christopher’s familiar gaze and sighed, his heart settling into place even as his pulse began to race at the sight of the heat in those blue depths.

“It would have been much more pleasant with your company, Jack,” Christopher said, his voice warm and low.

With a hard swallow, Jack smiled up into that precious face. Tilting his head, he listened for a moment and heard the sounds of the house going to sleep around them.

This was their time—the time between days when they could be lost in their world.

“You know ’tis impossible, Christopher,” Jack whispered regretfully, searching his gaze. Jack moved to clasp his hand, drawing Christopher’s palm to his neck and curling it against the skin there. Leaning into the touch, Jack closed his eyes briefly before glancing up again. “But our time is now, and my company is yours. Yours always.”

When Christopher’s gaze dropped to his lips, Jack moved forward, touching their mouths to each other lightly…

About the Author:

NicoNico Jaye is a fan of all things HEA and has dragged her romance collection along for her moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Chicago to New York and back. She thinks reading is awesome and loves that she can hang out night after night with crinoline-wearing debutantes, brawny firemen in suspenders, and werewolf shifters with Scottish brogues. An overall feline enthusiast, Nico secretly (or not so secretly?) adores Hello Kitty, cat GIFs, spontaneous traveling, pretending to be crafty, emoticons, hot menfolk, and parenthetical statements (not necessarily in that order).

Website: http://nicojaye.blogspot.ca/
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5840673.Nico_Jaye  
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/nicojaye
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicolovesbooks
Tumblr: http://nicojaye.tumblr.com/

GIVEAWAY

Three lucky winners will receive an ebook copy of A Time for Loving and a pretty ring with the word “love” inscribed on it. To enter, press the Rafflecopter logo & follow the directions!  The giveaway will run from October 23rd to November 6th.

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Can’t wait another second to read A Time for Loving?
Purchase it NOW at Amazon or Smashwords!

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Spotlight: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight

Loser Takes All Part 1Title & Author: Loser Takes All by Kora Knight
Series: Up-Ending Tad: A Journey of Erotic Discovery #1
Release Date: September 5, 2014

Publisher: Self-published
Length: 63 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Tad’s weekend started out like any other; hitting a college frat party with a handful of buddies. But just as the evening hits its peak, things get up-ended fast. Ditched by his drunken, trolling friends, Tad winds up getting hustled by three jocks playing poker. Now he’s forced to pay his dues in the most outlandish of ways; accepting a couple broken bones or spending an hour with his victors’ favorite flogger, Scott. But the guy’s tantalizing torture quickly proves to be the least of Tad’s worries… and the kickoff to a night of raw, shocking lust.

Experience the graphic, minute-by-minute account of that hour spent at the hands of Tad’s insatiable tormentor. Addicting chemistry lights the stage as Scott ignites Tad’s reluctant desires into a frenzy of forbidden need.

My Thoughts:

“You’re a fucking perv.”

Scott laughed. “You have no idea. But don’t worry. I’m a fun perv. You’ll like what I do to you.”

Boy, did I ever!

Okay, so the novella’s premise is a little ludicrous – I’ll give you that – but I’m going to overlook that fact (and you should too!), because this book was HOT. Like, have your honey or your favourite battery-operated boyfriend on standby levels of hot. 😉

I absolutely can’t wait to get my hands on Volume 2, which is set to be released October 8, 2014.

My Rating:

1 Smooch3 SmoochHalf

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About the Author:

Kora Knight is a woman of mystery. No, really. A new author, Kora is too busy writing sexy morsels of porny perfection to write an “About the Author” blurb for social media or her books, so I’ve got nothin’. But if you want to connect with her (read: gush about all the dirty things her book has you fantasizing about happening to Grey Shirt Guy), check out the links below:

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8529860.Kora_Knight 
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/authorkoraknight/timeline

Review: Man of the Match by Lane Swift

ManTitle & Author: Man of the Match by Lane Swift
Series: N/A
Release Date: June 13, 2014
Publisher: Self-published
Word Count: 20,041

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love’s Landscapes” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story. The prompt is copied below, but please click HERE to see the NSFW photo that helped inspire this story.

Dear Author,

“Since that moment we figured out we were alike in more ways than the other boys in the locker room would ever know, we were inseparable. We even shared most of our ‘firsts’ together. But as it sometimes does, life pushed us in different directions after high school. Grad school will be hectic enough, but his appearance back into my life just might change my plans!”

These two guys look to have just finished playing/watching a ‘rousing’ game of football. They may have had to overcome a few obstacles to get to their current point of intimacy, but of course it was worth it for these two.

My Thoughts:

This story about two English teenagers had a lovely, quiet way about it that I absolutely adored. From Aaron and Laurie’s first slightly awkward encounter, through the growth of their friendship and those early flutters of attraction, to their separation and their inevitable reunion, I thought that Man of the Match hit all the right notes for a coming-of-age, friends-to-lovers story.

Over and over, the characters brought a smile to my face with their earnest emotions and the tender care they took with one another’s hearts. It was clear to me right from the start that Aaron and Laurie cherished each other (and that’s not a word I throw around lightly) in a way that few men seem to allow themselves to. It was lovely. LOVELY, I tell you!

And while there was no Big Misunderstanding that ripped the characters apart (thank heavens!), the author gave us plenty of tiny moments as they drifted apart that left me feeling like someone was jabbing my heart with a toothpick. There was a sense of realism in those moments that I think anyone who has ever drifted from a loved one would be able to relate to (it certainly gave some weight to the emotional journey of the story’s characters).

To be honest, I probably could have done without quite so much rugby jargon (because I didn’t understand a word of it), but that’s entirely a personal preference and not a reflection of the author’s obvious talent.

As always, my thanks to the author for participating in the Love’s Landscapes event and for all of the behind-the-scenes work that editors, beta readers, and the MM Group Mods put into making this FREE event a massive success! Don’t Read in the Closet events are hands down one of the best ways to find new-to-me authors like Lane Swift. I won’t even lie, I’m a little crushed now that I’ve discovered her that this author hasn’t published more work; I would love to see what she could/would do with a full-length novel.

Do you hear that, Lane Swift?! I want more. Pronto. 😉

My Rating:

2 Smooch2 Smooch

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Review: Awakenings by Jayson James

AwakeningsTitle & Author: Awakenings by Jayson James
Series: N/A
Release Date: June 2, 2014
Publisher: Self-published
Word Count: 17, 068

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
This story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s FREE “Love’s Landscapes” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Dear Author,

I’d always considered myself sort of asexual up until now. In high school no one interested me and I was too busy with schoolwork to date anyway. I figured I didn’t have a big sex drive or I just hadn’t met the right girl. However, the more time I spend with my roommate, Ben, the more I’m reconsidering everything.

The more he walks around half dressed the more I keep noticing him. Even if I am attracted to him, which I’m not sure that I am, I don’t think he would be into me. He seems like the type of guy that girls flock to. He couldn’t be interested in me, could he?

Requests: Clearly I’m angling for a gay-for-you here, folks! It can be a double or single GFY, lots of sexual tension (please!), slow build romance, lots of heat. I would rather no BDSM but some light stuff wouldn’t bother me.

My Thoughts:

Firstly, I want to thank the author for taking time out of his busy life to participate in the Love’s Landscapes event. Without people like you willing to give your time and creativity freely, asking for nothing in return but feedback from your readers, the M/M reading community wouldn’t have this wonderful event each year. So THANK YOU!

My appreciation for the author’s efforts aside, however, this story just did not work for me. I love a college-aged GFY as much as the next girl, and I found the idea behind a character who self-identifies as asexual finally experiencing a sexual awakening for that one special person (a sexy man, of course!) intriguing. Unfortunately, all of that was laid out in the prompt and it was the overall execution of the story that I found lacking.

While both likable enough, I didn’t find that either Solo or Ben drew me in and demanded that I become invested in them or their relationship. There just weren’t enough deeply emotional and angsty or sweet and gooey moments between the characters to build that sense of connection between them and me, and I found the constant stripteases awkward and repetitive. So, when the story ended with one lackluster kiss and a HFN, I just kinda *shrugged* and moved on.

I think my biggest difficulty with the story was that the narration and the dialogue seemed overly formal for a story about two college guys in their early twenties. It was also the exact same voice for both characters, so you wouldn’t have been able to distinguish which man was talking at any given moment without the “Ben said” or “Solo said” bits. The lack of contractions and overly concise use of language made the story feel stiff and stilted – like the story had been edited within an inch of its life. Not good.

On the upside, I believe the author’s still relatively new to the publishing world and this is a career with a pretty steep learning curve; he may find a more relaxed, natural rhythm to his writing with time and experience (let’s hope).

My Rating:

1 Smooch

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Grab your free copy of Awakenings by Jayson James here.

Review: To Feel the Sun by Marie Sexton

To Feel The Sun CoverTitle & Author: To Feel the Sun by Marie Sexton
Release Date: February 11, 2013
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 8 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Sometimes love isn’t enough…

My Thoughts:

How is it possible for an 8-page story written about two fictional characters that lived and loved and died nearly 100 years ago to hit too close to home?

You’d think it’d be impossible, but it is not.

I spent last summer interning at a war museum where I was responsible for researching a small group of First World War soldiers. I handled their medals. I helped photograph their uniforms. I sifted through their attestation papers, newspaper clippings, official dispatches describing promotions and acts of valour, and more. For the most part, these men were farmers, accountants, teachers, and the like. A very few were career military. I learned about the boy who lied about his age and enlisted at 16, the ones that transferred to the British Royal Air Force so that they could fly, and the doctor who made it his mission to save as many of the wounded as he could. I came to know the common soldier and the decorated commanders. I breathed a sigh of relief each time I found discharge papers for one of “my” soldiers, and became teary when I came across death notifications instead.

And I couldn’t help but think of the brave man who, at only 19-years-old, became the youngest person in Canada’s history to be awarded the Victoria Cross – our nation’s highest honour for gallantry. Wounded in battle, he returned home to convalesce, but succumbed to the Spanish Influenza and died only a few weeks later. It hardly seems fair.

I know that Teddy and Ben are figments of Marie Sexton’s rich imagination, but I couldn’t help but read To Feel the Sun with the memory of the real-life service and sacrifice that an entire generation of young men made during the First World War. Given that lens, it should come as a surprise to exactly no one when I tell you that my heart clutched when I saw the 1917 date in the story, and that I was outright crying shortly thereafter.

To Feel the Sun is a powerful short story about love, life, timing, and the possibility of connections that last far beyond our last breaths. Sexton’s writing is beautiful, her imagery gorgeous, her characters and their circumstances painfully real, and she absolutely nails the shifting surrealism and logic of our dreams. Every word on the page felt deliberate and the result was utter perfection.

Read this story.

My Rating:
3 Smooch2 Smooch

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Review: The Accidental Cupid by Xavier Mayne

The Accidental Cupid CoverTitle & Author: The Accidental Cupid by Xavier Mayne
Series: A Valentine Rainbow
Release Date: February 6, 2014
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 51 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

While performing as Cupid on Valentine’s Day, Josh has the unpleasant task of delivering a break-up message to Dallas from his girlfriend, Jess. Jess is convinced Dallas is gay, and when Josh tries to comfort him, he finds she may very well be right. When Dallas’s best friend Austin arrives, it’s up to Josh to show both young men the love and acceptance they’ve always had in each other

My Thoughts: 

Every year for the last 10 years, my girlfriends and I have skipped Valentine’s Day celebrations. I mean… Hearts? Flowers? Declarations of undying love?! BLECH! Count me out. Instead, we’ve gotten drunk, eaten discounted chocolate, and made cards for each other on February 15th. (For those of you not in “the know,” February 15th is Flag Day here in Canada. Or, as we like to call it: The Unofficial Holiday of Single People!)

However, as awesome as getting tipsy and putting maple leaf stickers on hand-made cards is, I thought I’d do a little something different this year. Since I’m a romance book blogger now, I thought it’d probably be a good idea to read and review a traditional Valentine’s Day short story. Well… maybe not totally traditional – I still wanted to read about two dudes falling in love, after all.

Which brings me to Xavier Mayne’s adorably quirky short story, The Accidental Cupid.

Just over 50 pages in length, The Accidental Cupid proved to be the perfect way for me to dip my toe in Valentine’s Day’s undoubtedly rose-scented waters. I loved almost everything about this story, from the off-beat opening concept of a poor college kid doing a humiliating job to make a little extra cash for school, to the totally cringe-worthy recitation of the breakup poem (can you imagine receiving a Dear John letter written in iambic pentameter?!), and the fact that penis-shaped gummy candies were the final nail in the coffin of Dallas and Jess’s relationship. I loved that even though Josh seemed like a genuinely nice guy, he was also realistically painted as the horny toad that most eighteen year-old men are. I even loved that Mayne acknowledged my need to *face palm* when he introduced Dallas’ roommate… Austin.

While I’m gushing, I might as well say that I also really enjoyed the story’s narrative style. Overall, I thought that it was bold, quick, and refreshing. Josh’s snarky, innuendo-laden internal monologue was hilarious and at times eerily similar to my own thoughts of what was happening on the page. Unfortunately, I think this success actually hurt the story a little in the end. By the time Austin strolled into the apartment, I was already completely invested in Cupid finally getting a little action of his own and so I resented Austin’s presence in the story and ultimately found his character to be rather two-dimensional.

People are likely to criticize the story for all of its oh-so-convenient elements. Admittedly, it was awfully convenient that the Cupid delivering Jess’s break up message also happened to be gay and not in a committed relationship that could have prevented him from getting handsy with Dallas. It was even more convenient that Dallas’ roommate happened to be both gay and utterly in love with Dallas. And it was beyond convenient that a man who’d been so firmly in self-denial for the first 25 years of his life would not only realize he was gay, but have sex with TWO different men within an hour of this life-altering realization, and then feel so strongly about Austin in return that he is says his “I love yous” before the spooge on his chin even dries.

But honestly, who cares about all of that?!

I say, suspend disbelief and cut the author some slack. This isn’t The Odyssey;  Mayne has 50 pages to give readers sweet, sexy, funny, Valentine’s Day romance, and he delivered all of that and more.

Still, I can’t help but feel bad for Josh; poor guy was just trying to help a brotha’ out with his sexuality and he ends up back in the closet with what has to be the cruelest case of blue balls known to man. I guess it just goes to show that no good deed goes unpunished (not even if you’re Cupid)!

Quotable Quotes:

“Somewhere there’s a kitten trading his ball of yarn for a fifth of vodka because he knows he’ll never be this cute.”

My Rating:
2 Smooch2 Smooch

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