Saturday, 29 April 2017

When Light is Like Water by Molly McCloskey

Bookclub Read
216 pages


Alice, a young American on her travels, arrives in the West of Ireland with no plans and no strong attachments - except to her beloved mother, who raised her on her own. She falls in love with an Irishman, marries him, and settles down in a place whose codes she struggles to crack. And then, in the course of a single hot summer, she embarks on an affair that breaks her marriage and sets her life on a new course.

After years working in war zones around the world, and in the immediate aftermath of her mother's death, Alice finds herself back in Ireland and contemplating the forces that led her to put down roots and then tear them up again. What drew her to her husband, and what pulled her away? Was her husband strangely complicit in the affair? Was she always under surveillance by friends and neighbours who knew more than they let on? 

When Light is Like Water is at once a gripping story of passion and ambivalence and a profound meditation on the things that matter most: the definition of love, the value of family and the meaning of home.

My thoughts

“I didn’t know who I was, or what I really valued, and I began to think that I should take myself away for a spell to find out.”

Sometimes my reading makes me smile. Here I am, writing in a genre where cheating is (one of) the biggest no-no(es), totally lost in a book about cheating. J

Well, to be fair, the book isn’t a romance, in fact, I wouldn’t even call it a love story. And personally don’t have a huge issue with cheating in books, if it fits the story. I just know better than to write it. But, while there is a marriage and a subsequent affair in this book, I want to say that is not what this story is about. This is a tale of self-discovery, of growing up and finding your place in the world while making ‘mistakes’ along the way.

In many ways reading this book was a weird — confusing even — experience. I didn’t really like Alice, couldn’t connect with her, and yet there were so many emotions, thoughts and experiences that I recognised, or that touched me.

“I felt disoriented, beset by a suspicion that would from time to time revisit me: that there was more to why things happened here than I was capable of comprehending.”

And yet, as much as there were quite a few ideas, emotions, and thoughts I could find myself in, I never lost myself in the story and didn’t feel the irresistible push to keep on reading. There never really was a question as to how the book would end. There wasn’t the tension of whether or not the affair would be uncovered or even whether her marriage, or the relationship with Cauley would survive. All those facts are diverged early on in the book.

The story, and the way in which it was told had an autobiographical feel to it and I found myself constantly wondering how much, if anything, had been derived from the author’s life.

I want to say this is a self-indulgent book, but somehow sounds like a bad thing, and this story couldn’t have been anything else since it’s the story of a woman reflecting on how she arrived at the point in her life where she now finds herself. I also couldn’t escape the feeling that I wouldn’t have liked Alice very much if I had ever met her, that she would have been too selfish for me. But, I’m not sure that would be fair. As Alice says at some point in the book, she’s trying to be as honest as she can be, and since she is telling us the story of how she betrayed her perfectly good husband by having an affair, she probably wouldn’t expect us to like her anyway. In fact, I’m not convinced Alice likes herself very much. Just as I feel that for the longest time she had absolutely no idea who she was and what she wanted; from life, from herself and from those around her. I’m not entirely convinced she had it worked out by the time the book ended either.

“(…)all that arch-backed bucking and the throaty sighs, the theatrics of sex that you sometimes wonder if  you learned from the movies (…)”

This (partial) sentence made me stop and think. Initially because it is something I’ve wondered about too. How much of our reactions (during sex and during the rest of our lives) are truly our own — original? And then, when I read the sentence again, and again, I smiled, because I can’t help feeling my editor would have had at least two corrections she’d want me to make if I’d written it.

Sometimes I finish a book and know exactly how I feel about what I’ve just read. At other times I need to write my review in order to put the story and my thoughts and feelings about it into some sort of perspective. This is one of those rare occasions when even now, hours after I finished reading and having written over six hundred words about the book, I’m still not entirely sure what my opinion is. I do know that I wouldn’t have been able to not finish the book. I also know that some of the descriptions in this book took my breath away. I recognised quite a few of Alice’s thoughts; especially those about being a ‘blow-in’ — a foreigner in Ireland. I admire Molly McCloskey for having written a book with a main character who is so totally human it is at times hard to like her, never mind sympathise with her. And I do find myself wondering whether or not I missed something—the peer blurbs on the back of the book, some by authors I love and admire,are unanimously glowing.

Maybe there’s only one thing I do know for sure. On Thursday I’ll have the opportunity to hear this author talk about her book, and I can’t wait to see if that will clarify things for me.

Laurent And The Beast (Kings of Hell MC #1) - Release Blitz

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Length: 135,000 words 


Nothing can stop true love. Not time. Not even the devil himself. 

1805. Laurent. Indentured servant. Desperate to escape a life that is falling apart.

2017. Beast. Kings of Hell Motorcycle Club vice president. His fists do the talking.

Beast has been disfigured in a fire, but he’s covered his skin with tattoos to make sure no one mistakes his scars for weakness. The accident not only hurt his body, but damaged his soul and self-esteem, so he’s wrapped himself in a tight cocoon of violence and mayhem where no one can reach him.

Until one night, when he finds a young man covered in blood in their clubhouse. Sweet, innocent, and as beautiful as an angel fallen from heaven, Laurent pulls on all of Beast’s heartstrings. Laurent is so lost in the world around him, and is such a tangled mystery, that Beast can’t help but let the man claw his way into the stone that is Beast’s heart.

In 1805, Laurent has no family, no means, and his eyesight is failing. To escape a life of poverty, he uses his beauty, but that only backfires and leads him to a catastrophe that changes his life forever. He takes one step into the abyss and is transported to the future, ready to fight for a life worth living.

What he doesn’t expect in his way is a brutal, gruff wall of tattooed muscle with a tender side that only Laurent is allowed to touch. And yet, if Laurent ever wants to earn his freedom, he might have to tear out the heart of the very man who took care of him when it mattered most.


Hound’s alarmed growling was coming his way, along with whines, when he reached the right door and opened it, only to have the massive Rottweiler’s body rush past him and into the corridor. Beast expected his pet to rush toward the room where the accident happened just minutes ago but Hound looked back at Beast, as if signalling he wanted to be followed, and rushed the other way, stirring the worst of feelings in Beast.

Was there an intruder somewhere in the house? With the sheer size of the former asylum that has served as the Kings of Hell Clubhouse for the last fifteen years, it was easy to overlook things happening in the disused parts of the property. They once had a bunch of teenagers who came over wanting to spy on the orgy. That thankfully didn’t end in blood, and out of the whole mess they got Jake to join their ranks.

Beast wondered whether he shouldn’t go back to the armory and get himself a gun but ultimately decided against it. There would be police and emergency services coming for Davy, and he didn’t want to run around with a firearm, no matter how good their relationship with the local police was.

Hound moved as if he were following a clear trail, but Beast couldn’t smell anything apart from dust and dampness. They were leaving behind the shouting and even the sound of the ambulance approaching, and eventually entered a corridor so disused it had a thick layer of dust on the floor. Now even Beast could see faint footprints in the dust, and next to them, dark droplets that could be blood.

Hound smelled the traces, looked back and broke into a run, which had Beast following him with the worst of expectations as to what he would eventually find. His heart beat faster as they ran down the dark hallway.

The building was a labyrinth, and this far away from where they all lived and worked, it wasn’t even wired anymore, so he breathed in the smell of mildew and followed Hound through the darkness in hope he would not stumble.

Windows in the doorless rooms on both sides of the corridor were the only source of light, now delivering a faint red and blue glow of the approaching ambulance. For all Beast knew, this could have been a gothic castle, something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with bloodthirsty monsters waiting for their next victim in one of the endless hallways, and yet he only ran faster, listening to the steady tap of Hound’s paws.

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Hound rushed inside one of the rooms and gave a growl so vicious something inside Beast mourned his decision not to take a gun with him. But no one shot at him when Hound let out a single bark. Beast pushed past the empty doorway, jumping over a fallen chair, only to see someone hiding in the shadows.

Judging by the long, wavy hair and small stature, Beast at first thought it was a woman, but then the person spoke with a distinctly male voice.

“I… I’m not certain where I am.” The stranger took half a step out of the shadow, and into the flashing light coming from outside. His accent was distinctly foreign. French maybe?

Beast took him in with a scowl. Blood covered the stranger’s face, hair, dripped from his chin, from the tips of his trembling fingers, and stained the outfit that looked as if he’d stolen it from the set of a costume drama. Knee-high boots, fitted pants, a vest worn under a tailcoat.

“What the fuck are you doing on our property, boy?” hissed Beast, watching the soft features of a very young man. “Whose blood is this?” he asked, still cautious. In his experience, a non-threatening presence could hide an adept fighter, so he was not taking any chances as he joined Hound in front of the stranger, who was so short in comparison to Beast’s own six foot five form that his red-stained head only reached Beast’s pecs.

The stranger backed away into the corner, whimpering in fear the moment Hound growled at him again and lowered his head, but Beast wasn’t having any of it and grabbed the boy’s arm. “Is the blood yours then? Someone attacked you? Where?” he asked, not hesitating to pat the intruder down, to make sure there were no weapons hiding under the fancy coat.

The boy tried to weasel out of his grip, but he didn’t seem adept at using force. “N-no. I don’t think it’s mine. I don’t know. Is this hell?”

Beast groaned, staring at the silly-looking young man, whose white shirt was completely drenched in red. Someone must have died to produce this much blood.

“You will explain yourself to King.”

Author Bio

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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Friday, 28 April 2017

Starting From Scratch (Housemates #5) by Jay Northcote

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  

Cover: Garrett Leigh 

Length: 57,000 words

The Housemates Series is a collection of standalone stories set around a student house in Britain. Each book focuses on new characters, with themes of self-discovery and sexual awakening.

Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Watching and Wanting (Book #4) Amazon US | Amazon UK


Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he's committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

April 17 - Hearts on Fire Reviews, Mikku-Chan, Oh My Shelves
April 19 - V's Reads, Dirty Books Obsession, Millsy Loves Books
April 21 - Au Boudior Ecarlate, Lustful Literature, Joyfully Jay, Making It Happen, Urban Smoothie Read, M/M Book Addicts
April 26 - Dog-Eared Daydreams, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Molly Lolly, MM Good Book Reviews
April 28 - Sarandipity, The Way She Reads, Open Skye Book Reviews
May 1 - Wicked Faerie's Tales & Reviews, Kiki's Kinky Picks
May 8 - Bella's Blog, Bayou Book Junkie, PNR Book Lover Reviews, Abbey's 1-Click Book Blog, Wicked Reads, BFD Book Blog


I’m not entirely sure what to say about this book except that I loved it. In many ways it is a perfect fit and a close match to the earlier titles in the Housemates series. As with the previous stories we get to meet and know two endearing young men who give in to their attraction to each other and set the first steps on what promises to be a happy future together.

But this book has probably a bit more depth to it than the previous instalments did. The issue Ben is dealing with is somewhat more complicated and certainly less common than those the young men in the earlier books had to face. That doesn’t mean that those other characters didn’t have the right to feel as they did, or experience the angst they encountered, but Ben’s trans status means he is more ‘other’ than most people in his life.

It was impossible not to feel and fall for Ben. He’s such an endearing combination of angst, perseverance, insecurity, and sheer courage he took my breath away. Being able to see the world through Ben’s eyes meant that for a little while I was almost able to understand what it must be like to feel like yourself for the first time in your life while being anxious about the implications of having reached that stage.

“He wasn’t some blushing virgin. He was twenty-five, for fuck’s sake. But he felt like a virgin in all the way that counted. Everything about this was new.”

His Internalised transphobia broke my heart, and yet it made so much sense. For most of the book I felt like applauding Ben and cheering him on, because all too often, being honest about who we are is often the scariest thing we’ll ever have to do.

Sid was adorable, the sort of person the world needs more off. He likes Ben and couldn’t care less what or who he used to be and how his body is put together. All he knows and is interested in, is that he’s attracted to Ben, that Ben feels the same, and that the more time they spend together, the better they seem to fit. I loved the care Sid took with Ben; that he took the time to learn about trans-men, that he paid attention to Ben’s feelings and reactions and immediately got that what he’d always considered innocent jokes in the past could in fact be unintentionally hurtful for someone who happened to be listening.

And I have to say that in a genre where prejudice, discrimination, and rejection are all too often the main plot devices, it was refreshing to read a story in which acceptance was the norm.

In the end I walked away from this book with two thoughts I couldn’t shake. The first one was how little I know, in this case about anything transgender related (although I’m sure there are a whole host of other subjects I’m equally ignorant about). My second thought hit me harder than the first one. This book made me realise that for all of our differences, we are mostly the same. While I will never know what it is like to be trapped in the wrong body, I’m all too familiar with dysmorphia, I too know the fear of not knowing what people might think if only they knew… And this:

“Thinking about it was so much worse than the reality, which was freeing and felt right.”

The combination of these two thoughts brought me to one conclusion; all it takes to be sympathetic and accepting is the willingness to learn and to concentrate on our similarities rather than our differences.

Thank you Jay. This is something I have of course known all my life, but it never hurts to be reminded every now and again.

And now I’m somewhat afraid that I make this story sound angsty and heavy, which would be doing the book a horrible disservice. The brilliance of this book lies in the fact that it could get those messages I describe above across without ever turning heavy. I was learning without ever feeling as if I was being taught. This story is as charming, occasionally funny and ultimately touching—not to mention sexy—as the four books that preceded it. And that’s some achievement on Jay Northcote’s part. He could easily have turned this book into a personal crusade, and I wouldn’t have blamed him. The fact that he instead delivered a captivating and ultimately uplifting read leaves me in awe of the author.

Finally, I can’t help feeling that the scene has been set for Housemates #6. I could be wrong of course, but I for one wouldn’t be surprised, or disappointed, if we get to read Johnny and Ryan’s story in the not too distant future.

Free Book Alert
Like a Lover (Housemates #2) is free to download at Amazon this weekend (April 28-30). 
Although it is part of the Housemates series, this story can be read as a standalone.
Amazon link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Related Reviews: Helping Hand | Like a Lover | Practice Makes Perfect

Author Bio

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

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Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Constant Soldier by William Ryan - A Review

Bookclub read
390 pages


1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut - a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who - against all odds - have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope - for Brandt and the female prisoners - grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My thoughts

Well. Wow. I’m not sure where to begin. This book took my breath away. I expected the faultless, gorgeous writing before I even opened the book. William Ryan hasn’t let me down in that respect yet. The fact that the story gripped me from the start and didn’t let me go, even when I wasn’t reading, didn’t come as a surprise either. But I think the author surpassed himself here. As much as I admired and adored the Captain Alexei Korolev stories (and wouldn’t mind seeing more of them), The Constant Soldier hit me harder and will stay with me for much longer.

This book is almost deceptive. It appears to be a quiet, inwards looking tale about a man coming to terms to what has happened to him: his disfigurement, the loss of love, being forced to fight in a war he didn’t believe in while representing a regime he abhorred. The tension creeps up when he recognises the love he’d thought lost forever near his home, and manages to get a job at the SS rest hut where she’s forced to work. You worry about him and his desire to rescue her and the other women imprisoned there. You worry about the SS-er in command, who doesn’t appear too stable, and you really worry about Peichl who doesn’t think twice before shooting and killing those he sees only as expendable.

And then the story switches to a different perspective. The Russians are coming. And you know that the second half of the book you’re reading is going to be a heartstopping adrenaline rush, a dilemma between wanting to rush ahead to see how it ends—doubting that it could possibly end well for all of those who deserve an escape from the violence—and savouring every word because they’re so very well written.

This story is stunningly nuanced. Sure, we are introduced to more than one true monster and witness humanity at its worst. But we also get to see the other side. Those who were only victims, despite officially belonging to the ‘right’ side of the political status quo. And those who clung to their humanity with all their might, despite the odds being stacked against them, the world falling apart, and the fact that not being as cruel as those around them could easily put their own lives at risk.

A few of the characters in this book are burdened with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Brandt carries a heavy burden of guilt about what has happened, what he has had to do, despite never having been a supporter of either the regime or the war, and more or less having been forced into military service as a result of his acts of resistance. This leads to him taking risks in an attempt to atone for what he perceives to be his gravest sin. For Neumann it means hallucinations and an ever increasing sense of hopelessness. These two men, more than any of the other characters in this book, show us what is so very easy to forget when we think about the second World War; not every soldier was a blood thirsty monster. Many just got caught up in the madness and tried to stay alive while doing as little harm as they possibly could in the process.

This doesn’t mean that the author tried to make this period look less horrid than it was. The cruelty is always present in this book, sometimes in obvious, almost glaring ways, and at other times hidden under a thin veneer of studied civility. Because evil comes in many guises, from outright cruelty to just not caring, and wilful blindness. But the other side of evil is always present, if at times barely perceptible, portrayed by those who did what good they could in the face of odds stacked against them.

While Brandt is the main protagonist in this story, it was the women who truly shone for me. The strength and determination of both the women prisoners and Polya, the Russian tank driver holding her own in a world of men and violence, was as glorious as it was through-provoking. It did make me wonder whether or not I’d be able, whether or not I’d find that strength within me when faced with impossible odds. And I can’t help hoping this is a question I’ll never have to answer.

The writing in this book is excellent, stunning even, causing me to stop reading occasionally, just to appreciate the sentence or paragraph I’d just read.

“The change from one year to the next was a time to take stock and to look forward, but Brandt had the sense that people wanted the calendar to stop still at the end of nineteen forty-four, for the future to remain unknown and for the past to remain hidden.”

As dark as this story was at times—and how could it possibly have been anything else, given the subject matter—this is, ultimately a story about perseverance and hope, leaving the reader optimistic, despite the darkness that dominated so many of the pages.

“He was still soft, that was all. Even after everything. And that was good.”

Long story short: This is a book for my extra-special list and I highly recommend it.

Screwing the System by Josephine Myles - Release Blitz

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  

Length: 228 pages 

Cover Design: Harper By Design 


When Boss meets brat…

Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. But his attempt to shock the sexy, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant has a very different result.

Instead of getting thrown out of the office for flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the most dominant man he’s ever met.

Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the youngster’s bratty attitude that fascinates him.

As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. But while Cosmo might enjoy the kink, he’s not up for becoming Alasdair’s household slave.

When Alasdair goes one demand too far, Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

Warning: This title contains an overbearing Top with a less than glamorous job, a rebellious brat who refuses to call him sir, and a total lack of high-end BDSM clubs or playrooms. Expect floggings over the kitchen table instead. Written in Jo’s usual exceedingly “English” English.

NB. This book is a re-release.


Cosmo crossed his ankle over his knee and began humming. It wasn’t deliberately to annoy the blonde chick behind the reception desk. No, he’d had this tune buzzing around in his head ever since waking, but what with having to come along to this interview for a piece-of-shit job, he hadn’t had a chance to get it down yet. That was why he couldn’t hold down regular employment, see? It wasn’t laziness or stupidity, no matter what his old teachers might have said. Nah, he was just one of those creative types. He’d told that to Irene—she was his advisor at the Jobcentre. He’d told her he was looking for jobs that would utilize his musical skills. She’d said, “In High Wycombe? Dream on, Cosmo,” and told him he had to put down a wider range of acceptable jobs or she’d bloody well do it for him.

In the end, she had started to arrange interviews for him, which explained why he was sitting here, waiting to be interrogated about his suitability as a “sanitary disposal operative”—in other words, the poor sod who had to go around emptying bins in ladies’ toilets.

Fuck that.

The skinny bloke who’d gone in before him loped out of the shuttered office and hightailed it across the lobby to freedom. Cosmo sighed and popped a stick of gum into his mouth. Fresh breath, see? It looked like he was making an effort so he’d get brownie points, but chewing gum during an interview was guaranteed to piss off pretty much every manager out there. As was asking how many cigarette breaks you got per hour.

“Mr. Rawlins?” the blonde chick called. “Mr. Grant will see you now.”

Cosmo stood and smoothed down his black drainpipe trousers. He even had a well-ironed shirt and tie on. Thing was, he’d discovered that on him, the smart clothes and grade-two haircut made him look less like a good little worker and more like a thug. He’d probably get a job as a bouncer if that was what he was going for—not that he had the intimidating build or anything, but he looked well hard, what with the couple of scars on his chin and the one across his eyebrow from fighting off angry closet cases, plus he could do a mean stare if he felt the need.

But he had other tricks up his sleeve too. Quite literally. Cosmo massaged his sore wrists and headed on into the boss man’s office, giving Blondie a huge grin on the way. She smiled back, all coy-like. Barking up the wrong tree there, love.

Mr. Grant, on the other hand… There was a tree he wouldn’t mind barking up. Or climbing up, more like. He was huge and had to be old enough to be his dad, which wasn’t actually all that old, seeing as how his dad was only fifteen when he got his fourteen-year-old excuse for a mother up the duff. But this wasn’t some fat old geezer with white hair bristling out of his nostrils. Mr. Grant wasn’t big like that. He was built like a bricklayer, all broad chest and shoulders bunched with powerful muscles. It was obvious, even with his body covered up by the fancy suit, he spent time down the gym.

“Cosmo Rawlins,” the boss-man said, holding out a huge hand, which swallowed up Cosmo’s in a warm and firm handshake. What a grip. Cosmo had all kinds of naughty thoughts about where else he’d like to feel a hand like that and wondered whether getting a boner in the interview would be something this Mr. Grant would report back to Irene. Best not take the chance. “I’m Alasdair Grant. Please take a seat.”

Usually these things were done across a desk, but Mr. Grant didn’t seem to need the prop to boost his ego and had a load of comfy chairs arranged around a giant coffee table at one end of his office. The man was clearly doing all right for himself. Cosmo could have fit the entire ground floor of his shared house in there and still had room to swing a cat in. Not that he believed in cruelty to animals or anything.

“Nice place you’ve got here,” Cosmo said as he settled into the chair indicated.

“Thanks. It’s taken me a decade to build this company up, but we’re now the largest sanitary services operation in the South East.”

Cosmo tried not to look too impressed, but it was bloody difficult not to when faced with the sight of Alasdair Grant seated across from him, like a stern George Clooney with that handsome face, cropped salt-and-pepper hair and designer stubble so thick it was bordering on beard territory. He had these sharp grey eyes fixed on Cosmo. It was unnerving, sitting there with the bloke looking at him like that.

Was Boss-man checking him out? Yes, definitely, but Cosmo was buggered if he could tell if it was purely a professional assessment or if there was a more salacious interest lurking in his gaze. Alasdair Grant didn’t have a wedding band, but Cosmo wasn’t going to read too much into that.

“So, Cosmo, has your advisor at the Jobcentre let you know exactly what the job entails?”

“Emptying rag bins in the ladies’ lavs, as I understand it.”

Boss-man gave this pained smile and leaned forward a little. Shit, it felt like he was looming over Cosmo, despite him being the other side of the coffee table. “That’s certainly an element of the work, but it’s a more responsible position than that. We provide a full replenishment service for all disposables, like paper towels and hand soap. We also empty and top-up the vending machines, so there’s a cash-handling element. You’d be in charge of one of our vehicles and acting as a frontline representative of Sanco Solutions at all times.”

Cosmo tuned out the words Boss-man was saying and just enjoyed the sound of his voice. There was this deep bass rumble to it that made him think those lungs must be huge, but that was overlaid with a melodic timbre not all that many speakers had, and there was a smooth, easy rhythm to his speech. Shit, he could listen to him for hours. Cosmo found himself tapping his foot and drumming his fingers along with his words. Gave him ideas for inserting a rap in the middle of the new song. Some UK Garage or Grime stylings, maybe. Would that work? The rest of the band would hate it. Rizzo especially, which made it doubly appealing.

“Mr. Rawlins. Am I boring you?”

That made him snap his head up. “What?”

“You looked like you were lost in music.” Boss-man stared pointedly down at his fingers.

“Oh, that. Sorry, it’s just habit. I’m a musician, see, and I can’t help it. I find inspiration everywhere.” Actually, this was good. Playing the flaky-musician card put off most employers, but he didn’t normally get a chance to until the bit at the end when they asked him if he had any questions.

“A musician? What do you play?”

“Guitar, and I sing too. I’m in a band. ScarDue, we’re called.” How much longer he’d be a member, he didn’t know. They were currently experiencing a bout of creative conflict. In other words, the rest of them were content playing cover versions of alt-metal hits in local pubs, whereas he wanted to experiment with crossing genres, come up with a completely original set and go places.

“Should I have heard of you?” he asked.

“I doubt it. Not unless you make a habit of hanging out down the White Horse on open-mic night.”

“Can’t say I do. The White Horse… Is that still a bikers’ pub?”

“Kind of. More emo and goth kids these days, but there’s a few bikers still hanging around. Freddie’s mates.”

“Freddie Henderson? Is he still the landlord?”

“Yeah, you know him?” Cosmo couldn’t imagine the two of them moving in the same social circles. For a start, Freddie had a shaved head, handlebar moustache, and the rest of his body was pretty much covered in tattoos and black leather. Alasdair Grant, on the other hand, was corporate establishment through and through.

Boss-man got this weird expression on his face. Fond? Yeah, it was that, but there was something more. Something kind of hot, like he was remembering sexy good times.

Author Bio

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

Jo’s novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and an incessantly curious toddler.

Twitter: @JosephineMyles

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary’s Boys #2) by Brandon Witt

Mary’s Boys #2
Novella / 112 Pages
Release Date: April 26, 2017
Publisher: Dreamspinner

The blurb

Vahin Arora, Hamburger Mary’s sexy bartender, plays the flirtatious role so well even his closest friends—his chosen family at Mary’s—don’t realize Vahin hasn’t had a hookup in months. Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome steps through the door, and Vahin’s libido races back to life.

Being a black cop on the Denver police force is no easy job—Marlon Barton can’t imagine adding being gay to the equation. And while Marlon loves his work as an officer, his life has taken a turn for the hellish because of his new partner, the nephew of a senator.

Fleeing his partner’s company one night, Marlon stumbles into Mary’s for the first time… and wakes up with a hangover in the bartender’s bed. The one-night stand heats up into a budding romance, but not without stress as Marlon’s partner’s actions threaten Vahin’s livelihood and Marlon’s future on the force. Can Vahin and Marlon face the challenges and hold on to the love, friendship, and family they’ve found?

My thoughts

Vahin and Marlon—give me a moment while I sigh and smile. I fell so very hard for these two men. They are far from perfect which made them all the more human and loveable in my eyes.

In fact, this whole story felt real to me. The issues Marlon and Vahin have to deal with aren’t a figment of the author’s imagination. Brandon Witt didn’t have to exaggerate in order to provide drama in their lives. It breaks my heart that people face this sort of prejudice every day of the week and that, unfortunately, the situation appears to be getting worse these days. Being a black cop isn’t easy. Add being gay to the equation and Marlon pretty much risks becoming an outcast in the job he loves. And it isn’t any easier for Vahin. Having already been rejected by his birth family when he came out as gay, he now suddenly finds himself in a society where his cultural background is viewed with suspicion.

Kudos to Brandon Witt for writing a story dealing with all those issues, without this book ever turning heavy or preachy. But the opposite is true too; he never diminishes the problems Marlon and Vahin encounter and the resolution to a very sticky situation was both realistic and perfect. In fact, it is safe to say that for me the balance between issues, angst, and love-story was just about perfect. Not to mention that Vahin and Marlon and rather hot when they get together and naked.

But, as much as I loved Marlon and Vahin in this book and Darwin and Cody in Nachos & Hash, it is the whole extended community of Hamburger Mary’s that has stolen my heart. The bonds between them and the loyalty that ties them together is what gives these story the ultimate feel-good vibe. I’m well and truly hooked and can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit Mary’s Boys.

Related review: Nachos & Hash

Images purchased through 123 RF

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Good Neighbour - London Lads #3 by Clare London

Buy Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Length: 18,825 

Cover: Tibbs Design


A London Lads Story

A secret affair can’t go on forever.

Dylan Philips admits it himself: he’s a relentlessly single man in a small suburban town, both proud of and resigned to being a good teacher and a devoted nephew to his mischievous great-aunts.

When the aunts take a hand in matchmaking him with Josie Whitman, the girl who lives along the street, Dylan doesn’t tell them what kind of soul mate he’s really looking for—and the fact that he’s already found the man in question. It’s not Josie who’s travelling from London every month to her town property, but her journalist brother Neal. And Dylan meets up with Neal whenever he can.

But decisions must be made for their future. Dylan is risk-averse to everything from overseas travel to coming out, whereas Neal embraces adventure—and now he wants to take Dylan with him.

Horrified that his chance at love will move even further out of his reach, Dylan realises it’s time for him to own up to what kind of man he really is. He needs to find courage and compromise. And who knows whether the great-aunts will be a help or a hindrance with that?

First Edition published as A Good Neighbor by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2009.

April 19 - Urban Smoothie Read, Books Laid Bare Boys, The Way She Reads

April 21 - Molly Lolly
April 24 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
April 26 - Dog-Eared Daydreams
April 28 - Making It Happen
May 1 - M/M Book Addicts, MM Good Book Reviews
May 3 - Diverse Reader, Sarandipity
May 8 - Jim's Blog
May 10 - Book Lovers 4Ever, Bayou Book Junkie, Love To Read Romance Books


A Good Neighbour was a good, sweet, hot, and often funny delight of a story, in which the secondary characters, aka the great-aunts, shone as brightly as Dylan and Neal did. Having said that, as much as the two ladies made me smile and laugh out loud, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Dylan’s patience in the face of them interfering in his life.

Dylan himself triggered a variety of reactions in me too. I went from finding him adoring, to commiserating with him, to wanting to slap him, and back to adoring him again. I loved the care he took of his two aunts, and how he took their eccentricities in his stride. I was however less charmed with his reluctance to be true to who he was, and what’s more, to the man he obviously loves.

While we don’t get to know Neal as well as we do Dylan, I did love what I saw and wanted to give him a standing ovation when he made a surprise announcement towards the end of the story (sorry, that’s all you’re going to get out of me on that front).

These two men are hot together. Given that their circumstances mean that they spend a lot of time apart, the heat they generate when they do get together is off the scale. Witnessing Neal and Dylan taking care of their pent-up desires was a delight and a very special treat.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I can’t deny that I wouldn’t have minded if it had either been longer or had given me a better insight into what exactly was going on in the heads of Neal, and especially Mitzi and Bess.

Just like Chase the Ace and How the Other Half Lives, the first two London Lads novellas, A good neighbour was a well written, thoroughly entertaining and captivating story that kept me flicking through the pages while smiling and left me satisfied when I reached the end. Clare London never fails to make her men come to life for me and I'm delighted we haven't reached the end of the series yet. I can't wait to read the next story.

“’Bloody hell’, he said. He looked over at the aunts. ‘You see why I call him my home?’
‘And you,’ I said, refusing to look away, my voice starting to waver. ‘And you are my adventure.’”

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello! 

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