A Stella Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow


Rating 5 stars out of 5

Played coverTristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.


“Hello. I perused your advertisement in our local emporium. All—”

“You what?”

“I read your card in Tesco,” Tristan clarified with a sigh. Some people had no appreciation for the beauties of the English language. “All household job’s—I assume the apostrophe was ironic?—done, reasonable rates.”

“Er, yeah.” The man on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat nonplussed, possibly due to the way Tristan had stressed the “ibble” at the end of reasonable. “What’s the problem?”



“I have a plague of frogs.”[…] “A frog,” the handyman was saying. There was another pause. “So technically, yeah, that’s a plague of frog. One of ’em.”

“Semantics. The plural, in this case, may be taken to include the singular.”

“Right… Look, I think you want pest control, anyhow.”

“Finally we reach agreement. So how soon can you be here?”

This is where I fell in love with Tristan. He was amazing, hilarious. I loved how Tristan talked.

Let’s start my review saying I read Played!, which is the second book in the Shamwell Tales series by JL Merrow, without having read Caught!, the first one, and I can assure you I didn’t miss anything, it just increased my curiosity about Caught!  Having different main characters, it isn’t exactly a sequel. So if you are interested just in Tristan and Con’s story, you can totally buy it. You won’t regret it.

Tristan has just moved to Shamwell where he is going to spend the the “last summer of freedom”. He is trading is biggest passion for acting with a boring (and hated) career at a desk job, working for his father’s firm in NY, a father who has never supported him in his dream of acting. No one ever supported him in his dreams, apart from his dear grandmother (Nana Geary). She’s just passed away and left him her house. So he’s planning to spend the summer in Shamwell to dispose Nana’s things before starting his new and boring life.

He meets Con when he called for help after a plague of frogs (it was really just one frog!).

Con works as an handyman with Sean (MC in Caught!). He moved to Shamwell where he met Geary the time he went to do some home repairs to her. She took him in and treated him like the mother Con’s has never been.

The first meeting with Tristan doesn’t go well. Tristan is funny but a prick, he’s used to having what he wants, he speaks perfectly and can’t stop himself in correcting the people who don’t. Con can’t stand Tristan. But nobody has ever turned Tristan down, Con is the first one, because he is not looking for just some fun, he needs something real and not casual.

When a new actor is needed for the role of Bottom in the Midsummer Night’s Dream production by the local theater, it  will take Tristan to convince Con to join the play and to help him with his dyslexia.  Con starts to overcome his fears and most of all to see who is the real Tristan hiding behind the snobby one.

There is a great cast of second characters, starting from Heather, Con’s friend. Some seem snobby as Tristan, others simple and sweet and caring as Con. They have some kickass friends.

Shortly JL Merrow did it again. She gave me another favorite book which is going to join the beautiful Muscling Through. The amazing Tristan will stay in my heart as Al did. I found this book fascinated. As I think I already said I love how the author puts words together in this so British way she has. She delivered a funny and light story, with a plot and great characters, a Tristan full of doubts and fears on his future. Sometime sure convinced that working for his dad will help him mature and become more responsible, other times that theater was just for fun. The relationship with Con will help him grow up so much at the end of the book, I (and Con) couldn’t love him more.

Moreover I can add I’m not a huge fan of slow burn and with almost no sex stories, I like my men to start loving each other pretty quickly in the book I’m reading and rather only a few times, otherwise I bore easily. Well in Played! I had no time to be bored. There was no dead moment, every sentence was full of humor, I laughed so much at Tristan.

Played! was an absolute winner, really really good. I don’t even know what to say to recommend you to buy it. I loved it so much.

Cover art by Kanaxa. You know, I can’t explain why, cause honestly there is nothing special about it, but I really like it.

Sales Links:  Samhain PublishingAll Romance (ARe)Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published January 30th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Kindle Edition
Edition language English
The Shamwell Tales series
Caught! #1
Played! #2

A MelanieM Review: Keep the Stars Running Anthology by Cassandra Pierce, Lexi Ander , Andrea Speed , Talya Andor , Leona Carver


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Keeping the Stars Running AnthologySpace is not always filled with adventures and glory. Not everybody goes racing off to battle evil and save the galaxy. Between the rebels, pirates, royals, and spies are the everyday people who work hard just to get by and ensure everyone gets home safe. Less Than Three Press presents a collection of tales about the ordinary folks who keep the stars running.

The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce
The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander
About a Bot by Andrea Speed
Flight Risk by Talya Andor
Survival by Leona Carver

Take romance, throw it out into space and then gather together some wonderful authors to write their take on this fabulous trope and what do you have?  Keeping The Stars Running Anthology!  And each story couldn’t be more different from each other.  Here they are with my comments and rating in the order they appear in the anthology:

The Prince and the Programmer by Cassandra Pierce.  3.5 stars

Probably the closest story here to a familiar romance plot.  Food service mech/chef? is abducted but soon finds his new situation and “Prince” much more to his liking than his old one.  I thought the characters were charming and the situation sort of funny.  It was a sweet if not totally memorable way to open the anthology.

About a Bot by Andrea Speed. 4 stars out of 5

I loved/was frustrated by this terrific story by Andrea Speed.  Speed creates this complex universe, complete with on going intergalactic war, one in which the humans aren’t doing terribly well.  The main character, Tahir, is the Nebula space station’s mechanic who keeps all their robots in working order.  He also rescues and repairs older bots, giving them names and making them his “pets” with personalities.  In fact, Tahir is far more comfortable with his bots then with the rest of the crew on his station.  I loved this character.  He’s believable, fascinating, and when it comes to his interactions with his bots then Tahir becomes irresistible.  As are  his bots, including Spider and the adorable Bagel bot and Tank.

I loved this story so much that the ending, or perhaps lack of one frustrated me with its tantalizing possibilities.  How I would love to see this made into a full length novel.  Anyone listening?

The Aurora Conspiracy by Lexi Ander.   4 stars out of 5

In the Aurora Conspiracy, Lexi Ander’s takes ecological concerns and mining into space with no less than 2 completely different species and a conspiracy to boot.  Regin Valenta, crane operator for the Aurora Minerals and Rare Metals concern is being interrogated by constables from The Fraternity, a galactic law enforcement agency.  One of them, a Nythlithian, Constable Markari Gan’Sey, shares a painful past with Regin, although only one remembers.  The story becomes a dance between the main characters, as their past returns with its angst-filled memories and their attraction to each other flares back to life amidst an investigation into illegal mining practices on the planet below.   It’s suspenseful, layered, and marvelous.

Flight Risk by Tayla Andor  5 stars out of 5

One of my favorite stories in the anthology.  Again, we have an interplanetary war in progress and an embattled   Kiel Navarro’s work as a mechanic in the Gear hangar, keeping the Gryphon wings in perfect operating order for their pilots.  Andor’s world building is amazing and the author’s attention to detail bring this story and crews to life. Even the smallest touches, such as Kiel being half deaf where as most of the other pilots are deaf because of the noise of the engines and conditions they work in, give the readers a authentic feel for the environment and safety factors of the job Kiel does and the hangers in which he and his coworkers make their living.  And it’s not a very nice one.

The mechanics are being harassed, treated as lowly servants, who hide in their quarters for fear of retaliation.  And its by whom that is so startling.  A new Gryphon pilot, Marco Lafaele, a replacement for a recent death in the squad Wing Bravo, shakes up the status quo by showing an interest in Kiel, something that is just not done). His actions and determination not to follow along with his fellow pilots starts to put  cracks in the SOP in the Hangers. And ripples from the fallout spread throughout Cadlow Station.  I loved that Andors created the mechanic equipment down to the MagLens Kiel is using to augment his failing vision to the derogatory nicknames they earn him.

There is mystery, romance, gritty war time battles, and finally a white knuckle ride to the rescue.  Just an outstanding story on every level.

and finally….

Survival by Leona Carver.  3.5 t0 4.5 rating, really this story confounds me.

Not a romance.  I love Leona Carver so many aspects of this story didn’t surprise me while others absolutely did.   Just when I thought I knew where the author was taking this story, it took off in an unexpected direction.  And ending.  We start off on the Velikaya Knyazhna, a giant colonist ship on its new to a new planet.  Most of its crew is “sleeping” in order to make it to their destination without aging too much.  But an emergency sees the “ship” and its caretakers waking up some of the scientists to examine the cause of the emergency and fix it…before its too late.

Valentin Mashire, was trained to work on the planet, frozen on Earth and then shipped up to the “orbiting giant” in a crates, along with many others.   He’s a botanical scientist, a park technician trained to work in the terrestial parkland on board  that’s necessary to terraform the new planet they will land on.    The length of the voyage?  100 years.  Plenty of time for things to go wrong and they do.  And that’s where ship’s Security officer, Fyodor Bendlin comes in.

I can’t go any further.  To do so, takes away the best of the surprises found within this story.  I loved the descriptions of the park inside the ship and the ship itself.  But the romance I wanted to happen was never going to be part of this story.  No, this is all about Survival.  But it’s the “who” that is trying to survive that will shock you as will the ending.  Did I like this story?  Not really.  But did it fascinate me with its mythology and universe building?  Yes.  And it floored me with the surprising revelations and erotica.

What a great anthology.  I don’t know that I would have ended it with Survival.  I think that Flight Risk would have grounded this anthology better with its more substantial ending.  However, there is such variety, a true smorgasbord of stories, that everyone will find something to love.

I recommend this series to all lovers of science fiction, romance and the possibilities of tomorrow.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju.  Love this cover artist and this cover is another splendid example of their work. Great job.

Sales Links:   Less Than Three Press     All Romance (ARe)   Amazon      Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, also available in print
Published May 13th 2015 by Less Than Three Press (first published 2014)
original titleKeep the Stars Running
edition languageEnglish





A BJ Review: Straight Boy (Straight Guys 0.5) by Alessandra Hazard


Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Straight Boy coverYoung, blond and handsome, Sage attracts unwanted attention in prison. When his cellmate offers him protection, Sage accepts the offer, even though he doesn’t trust the guy. Little does he know how much it will change his life.

When he’s released from prison, Sage finds himself needing and wanting things he shouldn’t want. Sage is straight. He really is. He has a girlfriend. What happened in prison stayed in prison–or so Sage tells himself.

Until he meets his former cellmate again. Xavier. The guy he hates and craves.

This short novelette contains explicit language and very steamy M/M sex. For mature audiences only. ~12,500 words

Handsome young Sage finds himself in prison for a DUI and attracting a lot of attention from the other inmates. Fearing whether he’ll survive his one-year sentence alive, he accepts an offer of protection from his cellmate, Xavier. The price for that protection is his body. Although Sage tells himself he’s straight and just doing it to get by, but he finds out things about himself he didn’t know. When he’s released from prison, he finds himself unable to control his body from wanting what he had in prison, or his mind from thinking of Xavier.

But Sage tried to pick his life up again, to focus on his girlfriend, firmly telling himself he’s straight, that nothing’s changed. Until he meets Xavier, the man he hates and craves, again on the outside.

I have a bit of a thing for prison stories, so I enjoyed the hell out of this short. It’s well-written, excellent pacing, and all kinds of hot. The sexual tension buildup is off the charts and smoking. This is one on my re-read shelf for times that I want something short and scorching.

I’d love an expansion of this story that tells more background on Xavier, I really would, because I loved him. A little of it comes out a sequel, but it wasn’t nearly enough. My one tiny niggle with this book is the name Sage. It sounds so feminine to me no matter how I keep telling myself it’s unisex. But that’s minor. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

The cover is erotic and fitting for the book.

Sales Links:      Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

48 pages
Published October 10th 2014 by Alessandra Hazard

A BJ Review: Just a Bit Obsessed (Straight Guys #2) by Alessandra Hazard

  • Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Just a Bit Obsessed CoverAlexander Sheldon is a control freak who believes in monogamy. When his girlfriend invites another guy for a threesome, a guy who pushes all his buttons in a negative way, he’s none too pleased. But something unexpected starts to happen when Alex begins to touch Christian. He begins to want Christian more than his girlfriend.

Mila was excellent as the pushy girlfriend who opened a Pandora’s box that she found it impossible to close. Loved the fun, flirty, confident Christian in the first book and again here. Enjoyed watching Alexander, normally a cool customer, faced with such sexual and emotional frustration because he was so determined that he was straight.

I’m normally not a big fan of threesomes, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy the m/f/m (which quickly becomes m/m/f) in one of my m/m romances. However, I was pleased to see that the author toned down the m/f action enough that it worked okay for me. I actually found the believability in this scenario was higher than in the previous book of the series. Really brought to fore the inherent dangers that a threesome can bring.

The sexual tension, which seems to be this author’s forte and which is probably what draws me to this series so much, was absolutely delicious. I enjoyed the ending well enough I guess except that I would have liked a complete sex scene with only the two guys. That’s my main quibble.

Cover model is handsome but having it tilted like that is a bit unsettling to my eyes so I’m not a huge fan of the cover.

Sales Link:  Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:
162 pages
Published December 5th 2014 by Alessandra Hazard

Straight Guys series:

  • Straight Boy (Straight Guys #0.5)
  • Just a Bit Twisted (Straight Guys, #1)
  • Just a Bit Obsessed (Straight Guys #2)
  • Just a Bit Unhealthy (Straight Guys, #3)
  • Just a Bit Wrong (Straight Guys #4) – not yet released.

In the Book Spotlight: Love Complicated by Teegan Loy (interview and giveaway)



 Love Complicated by  Teegan Loy

Release Date: May 11, 2015

STRW In The Spotlight Header

Goodreads Link 
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Christy Caughie

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press

STRW Author BookSynopsis

Life is all about making choices. Some are complicated. Some are simple. But for eighteen-year-old Jalen Marten, none are easy. Jalen has managed to stay invisible for his entire high school career. He has a small group of friends, and it’s enough for him. He doesn’t want or crave attention from his peers. All Jalen wants is to survive high school.

Austin Suter is the hot, talented tennis player who has the entire school bowing at his feet. Girls routinely throw themselves at him, and boys like Jalen stay the hell out of his way. Austin is destined for greatness on the world stage of professional tennis.

The kiss between them wasn’t supposed to happen. Falling in love definitely hadn’t been part of Jalen’s plan.
And when Austin turns pro, Jalen begins to realize that the choices he makes will affect Austin’s life. One wrong choice and Austin’s career could be over before it really begins. Jalen is not sure where he fits, or even if he fits at all in Austin’s life. But the more complicated things become, the less the idea of being apart appeals. Love should simplify things, not complicate them.

Pages or Words: 280 pages

Categories: Contemporary Romance, New Adult


STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

The locker room reeked of socks that hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine since the beginning of the semester. This place was the second worst part of my day in high school. The first was walking through the front door.

But gym class was its own private hell. I didn’t dislike sports; I just wasn’t any good at them. The kids loved to humiliate me on the court, in the water, on the field, or wherever the teacher had us. I’d been smashed in the face with a basketball, volleyball, soccer ball, and every other ball invented by humans.

Today my class was playing tennis, which was worse, because not only was there a ball, but also a racket. It increased my chances of getting hurt by tenfold. And I really wanted to survive my final year of high school and not die from embarrassment in gym class. I’d made it through the first sport of the year, soccer, by sticking to the sidelines and pretending to participate by running away from the ball.

This morning my mom came home from work as I was leaving for school, and I begged her to write me some sort of note to excuse me from tennis. She declined and told me to get more involved at school. What good was having a surgical nurse for a mother if she wouldn’t help her only kid out of a jam? And what did participating in gym class have to do with getting involved at school? I couldn’t get involved if I was in a coma or dead.

I started to argue with her, but the dark circles under her eyes and the heavy sigh that fell from her lips made me ease off. I kissed her on the cheek and told her to get some rest.

So now my only hope of not playing tennis was a freak rainstorm, and from the way the sun was shining, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had no choice but to change, hide among my classmates, and hope Mr. Tames, my sadistic gym teacher, didn’t pick me to play.

Most of the kids were excited to be outside and acted like monkeys just released from their cages. They jumped on one another and hollered all the way out to the courts.

I hoped my quiet demeanor would help me blend into the background. Unfortunately my stellar plan didn’t work. Mr. Tames handed me a tennis racket and paired me with a hockey player named Kasey. Our first opponents were another music nerd and a regular kid. I stayed out of Kasey’s way as he raced around the court, destroying them. We won the match, and Kasey high-fived me by smacking me on the forehead. I scowled at him, because if we had lost, I could have sat down and celebrated getting out of gym class unscathed.

Our next match was against a soccer player and Austin Suter, who had been pegged as the next Wimbledon champion. At least that’s what he told everyone.

He was a pretty boy with full lips and light brown wavy hair that brushed his shoulders. Girls routinely threw themselves at him, and boys like me stayed the hell out of his way. One smoldering look from him and I’d have to walk around school with a book in front of my crotch. Admiring him from afar was the best I could manage.

“Hey, Austin,” my partner shouted across the net. “I’m going to shove this ball down your throat.”

“You’re going to be eating yours,” Austin shot back. His partner gave him a fist bump. Kasey and Austin exchanged a few more verbal warnings. I fiddled with the strings on my racket, and pretended to listen to Kasey’s game plan. Austin’s partner dutifully held his racket while Austin pulled his hair into a ponytail.

“Gentlemen,” Mr. Tames warned. “Enough trash talk. Start the game.”

I groaned and resisted raising my hand to ask to be dismissed. They spun a racket to see who served first. Austin sneered and Kasey growled.

It was supposed to be a friendly game, but the testosterone roared, and the game quickly turned cutthroat. I managed to stay out of Kasey’s way and every ball hit in my direction. I even accidentally returned one. The shot startled Austin and he missed. Mr. Tames whooped and pumped his fist. I should have taken the moment to demand an A.

“Lucky shot, blondie,” Austin shouted at me.

Kasey flipped him off and got yelled at by Mr. Tames again. The students surrounding the court yelled for someone’s head on a platter. I was pretty sure it was me they wanted served up for lunch.

The intensity of the game increased with each returned ball and I started to fear for my life when one zinged by my ear.

“Take it easy, Austin,” Mr. Tames shouted when Austin tried to nail Kasey in the balls. “Jalen, you don’t move this well when you’re playing dodgeball. The point of this game is to actually make contact with the ball. At least attempt to use your racket.”

I rolled my eyes and readied for the next point. Austin served to Kasey, who somehow got his racket on the ball and it popped over the net. The ball seemed to hover in the air, giving me time to figure out I had a bull’s-eye painted on my forehead. Austin raised his racket and connected with the ball, which connected with my face. Who knew a tennis ball felt like a giant rock when smashed into your eye socket. My racket clattered to the ground, and I covered my face to make sure my eyeball didn’t actually fall out.

Austin must have hurdled the net, because he was suddenly kneeling next to me and breathing down my neck. I tried to crawl away from him and his stupid apologies, but he caught me and helped me to my feet. Tames barked orders to set me on the bench while he went for medical supplies. Austin put his arm around my waist and I limped to the bench. The other guys hooted and hollered at me until Austin shot a scowl at them and quieted the entire gym class.

“Is your ankle okay?” Austin asked.

“My ankle is fine,” I snarled and sat down. “Limping makes my eye feel better.”

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

About the author: Teegan Loy began writing a long time ago. Notebooks filled with ideas were stacked around the house. One day, she sat down with renewed ambition and something fantastic happened; she completed a story. (unbelievable, but true) Now most of her time is spent writing, but she takes an occasional break to go to the movies, where she imagines her stories on the big screen. She also enjoy watching hockey (love, love hockey) filling her iPod with music, and driving her daughter around town (amended…around the country) to various activites.
Where to find the author:


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Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: A book from Teegan’s backlist. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Link and prizes provided by the author and Pride Promotions.

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