A MelanieM Review: Beta Test (#gaymers #2) by Annabeth Albert

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Beta TestPlayer vs. Player. Fight!

Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he’s just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn’t really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.

Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi’s shocked to see Tristan’s sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He’s less shocked to learn his handsome colleague’s prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn’t struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they’ve even begun?

A rock solid fan of Annabeth Albert, the first story in this series, Status Update. also made me one of the series.  It couldn’t be helped really.  The series theme was a hook.  Gaymers?  You bet.  Plus Albert then went on to delight/frustrate me by creating a game that was both real enough that I could believe in it yet couldn’t download it and play the heck out of it.  That would be the popular videogame, Space Villager.  So I couldn’t wait to see where the author was going to take this series, and potentially, the game next.  My answer was Beta Test, a story I loved almost as much as the 5 star story that preceded it.  It was only a tiny smidge less, barely noticeable.

Geoarchaeologist Noah Walters and video game designer Adrian Gottlieb of Status Update are a hard act to follow-they had dogs (and we run into them again here) but once again Albert creates two layered, flawed and absolutely interesting men to connect with.   We meet both of them on their first day in the employee conference room at Space Villager.  And two more difference men upon appearance you couldn’t ask for.  Ravi is gorgeous, outgoing, graphic designer…so vibrant he leaps from the page.  Tristan is all tightness, awkwardness personified, and walled in.  The buttons on his shirt should probably go over his head he’s so buttoned up.  Yet, he’s also so appealing in his need to be there and his fears are understandable even if they don’t show to his colleagues.  The fact that we know these two will find each other starts the anticipation building.  Which brings up a plus for me.

I’m a huge fan of the slow ride to romance and love which Annabeth Albert does so well.  No slam bam thank you sir…which is fine too btw.  But I love the long path to relationships, the figuring things out, the slip-ups, the two steps (or more) back for every one going forward.  And yes, there’s plenty of that here, with both mens backgrounds and families. In the first book, and again here, its a road trip that serves to cement the men together.  Albert has either been to these places (most likely), done her research or both and its shows.  Wait ’til you visit Weed with Ravi and Tristan!  But its so much more. Its the game, its the pulling together for the show, and other employees…who also feel as real as everything else in this outstanding story.

My only complaint?  Annabeth Albert is making me wait for the next story in the series!  I want more.  More of these couples.  More of Space Villager.  More most certainly of this terrific writer whose stories flow so effortlessly from page 1 to the end, keeping me captivated, hooked on the couple and game right up until the last period.

Love contemporary romance?  Annabeth Albert?  Any combination of those?  Pick this and the story that starts the series up.  I love them and highly recommend them both.

Cover is terrific and perfect for the story.

Sales Links:   | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 178 pages
Published May 30th 2016 by Carina Press
Original TitleBeta Test
ASINB014PG5A0Y
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series #gaymers 

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Endings and Beginnings (Collars and Cuffs #8) by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Endings and BeginningsI’m struggling with writing this review because I was so emotional by the end I had to wait a few days to allow my heart to calm enough to let my brain take over. I really loved this series. Each of the stories, from the beginning through this last, has featured amazing characters. Sometimes heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking, each of the books featuring the many couples who populate Collars & Cuffs, an exclusive BDSM club for gay men, have felt realistic and genuine.

In this one, an ending of sorts for a few of the couples, I appreciated the way the authors focused on a new couple while weaving vignettes throughout the book, featuring the other Doms and subs we have come to love. Principally, this story is about Darren, the salon owner we met when Thomas was helping Peter overcome the emotional ravages of the time of his enslavement (Trusting Thomas). He never forgot how affected he was while observing that intimate moment with them. This story is also about JJ, the new bartender who came to the job in the hopes he’d be able to expose the lies Peter told about Curtis Rogers, the Dom who had abused him. Instead, JJ found that Curtis, the man who JJ recently found out was his father, was worse than the press painted him to be, and when he glimpses Peter’s back for the first time, he breaks down and admits his parentage and his reasons for being there.

Darren had been attracted to JJ from the time Darren first walked in the door to see what the club was like so he could decide if he dared to cultivate his dominant side. And though they had already started to date when the revelation occurred, Darren feels an overwhelming protectiveness toward the young man and vows to take care of him. Poor JJ is so emotionally broken and adrift, feeling he’s been lied to and abandoned by those who should have cared for him that he finds it difficult to trust in Darren, and trust is the foundation most needed for couples to survive together.

As their story unfolds, we see glimpses of most of the Doms and subs from the past, and there’s a focus on Scott and Ben (Someone to Keep Me) as their long postponed wedding day finally arrives. There’s also a secondary story about Eli and Jarod (Dom of Ages), now back from their Hawaiian vacation. Eli finds himself restless and without a purpose since he quit his job with the trucking company. Thomas offers a solution, one that Jarod can well afford, but if he and Eli take the offer, it will take Jarod from the family he has come to love. The other subs are such a part of his life now, he’s not sure if he can abandon them. There’s also a story about Pietro and Miles, back from their vacation as well, but still not living together, and Pietro is pretty upset about that. How can Miles love him and yet go home to his own place at night? And… there’s a glimpse into the future for Alex and Leo as Alex takes an opportunity he once thought was out of his reach.

As I started the book, I was very worried the authors were going to give someone a major illness or other life threatening issue, but I’m happy to say that’s not a concern here. Yes there are endings, but there are also beginnings, and I hope and pray that one of those beginnings is the beginning of a new series because I can’t get enough of these guys. I find it difficult to decide which couple in this series is my favorite but it’s definitely either Thomas and Peter or Eli and Jarod, and if my hopes are realistic, we may all get to see more of them in the future.

My gosh, I hate to see this series end! Most of the books don’t contain “hard core” BSDM. Some, including this one, are quite mild so that shouldn’t be of concern to readers who haven’t read any with a BDSM theme previously. And, for those who have, if you haven’t read this series, don’t hesitate to start.

Cover art by Paul Richmond features a beautiful black-and-white photo of a naked man bound with rope, kneeling in submission. Perfect!

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Expected publication: July 18th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634774086 (ISBN13: 9781634774086)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesCollars and Cuffs #8

An Alisa Audiobook Review: A Forced Silence (Zero Hour #1) by Cate Ashwood and Scott R. Smith (Narrator)

Standard

Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

a-forced-silenceFor paramedic Adam Carson, his world is lights and sirens and saving lives. Pressures at work keep him firmly in the closet, and life is too busy to contend with the complications that come with dating and relationships. When a familiar face from his past turns up where he least expects it, Adam starts to question whether or not there is room in his life for those complications.

 

The last person forensic pathologist Sam McKenna expects to see at pub night is Adam, the guy who made his life hell in high school. The attraction is instant, but Adam isn’t gay and Sam has no interest in pursuing him. Still, the leftover animosity from their teenage years isn’t enough to extinguish the lust growing between them. After both are called to the scene of a horrific murder, Adam admits he’s not as straight as he led Sam to believe and they seek comfort and distraction in each other’s arms. One night becomes many as the murder investigation intensifies, but when Adam is faced with losing Sam, he is forced to make a choice: to break his silence, or to give up everything for the job he loves.

 

I enjoyed listening to this story.  Sam has been living openly since he left home for college and doesn’t want to hide himself while Adam has been hiding himself from everyone afraid to lose his job or family.  Sam and Adam used to be best friends with the same person in school, however were never friends themselves in fact Adam used to go out of his way to make his life horrible.

 

When this story starts Sam has grown a lot from the awkward and shy teenager he was when they were in school, but Adam has moved farther from his attitude he had in school.  I could feel both of their emotions, Sam absolutely loves the Adam he knows in private, but it tears him up to not show it in public.  Adam is constantly feeling down about not being there for Sam out in the open.  The story was left open and I hope I can see more of these characters in the future.

 

Scott R. Smith did a wonderful job narrating this story.  I was able to keep track of the stories and characters which is always nice.  He was able to portray the characters emotions in his reading.

 

Cover art by Melody Pond is nice and I wouldn’t change it.

 

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Audible | Amazon |  iTunes

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 5hrs 47min
Published June 3, 2016 (ebook first published December 11, 2015)
Edition Language: English

A BJ Review: Staged (Belonging #3) by Kim Fielding

Standard

Rating:    5 stars out of 5

Staged_600x900Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

First off, I’ve not read any of the previous books in this series, but I was told it was merely in the same universe and cold be read as a standalone. After reading it, I can assure anyone considering doing the same that I never felt like I didn’t understand anything during reading this story.

I’ve been interested in the series and had already purchased but not yet read the first book, but when I was offered the ARC of this one, I couldn’t turn it down since I’ve enjoyed every single book I’ve read by this author. And a few of them I’ve even loved. Might as well say right off the bat that Staged falls firmly into the loved category. This story sucked me in from page one and was one of those rare books that I hated to put down and was almost sorry to see end.

This isn’t the first book in which this author has ventured to the dark side, but readers should be aware that there is non-con, violence, and some pretty horrific  torture scenes. Which for me, made the sweet and tender scenes amidst it stand out all the more. Sky and Morgan/Mac are two of the most enthralling main characters I’ve read in a while. Sky is a slave in a world where folks say that slaves aren’t like others, don’t feel emotions the same, aren’t fit to care for themselves. And yet Sky is, as Morgan/Mac says, just the most amazing person. He enthralled me from the beginning. The entire story is written from Sky’s POV. Very often in single POV stories, at some point I find myself wanting to get into the head of the other character for more depth and insight, but that was never at all the case here. It was perfect the way it was written.

There were so many feels wound into this. It touched my heart and made me say “Awww”, then turned around and horrified me. It also at parts alternately had me tears-eyed, irate, on the edge of my seat, and stupidly proud. Sky’s personality really starts to unfold and bloom as he’s allowed for the first time to experience all of the many bits and parts of life that were withheld from him which exhilarates and confuses him. He experiences TLC for the first time, but is understandably too confused and fearful to be able to trust in it. Watching him find pleasure and joy in small things and living in the moment even when he knows that more bad is coming because he has been warned to expect it. So poignant to see him learn in tiny sips what it feels like to be in control for short periods of time, to make decisions on his own, to read and search the net and learn things about the world. But it wasn’t all feeling, as there are also many bits that made me think.

Morgan/Mac, a man who’d never owned a slave but had an awful childhood of his own driving him, also grows a lot in this book as he discovers that all he’s accepted about slavery is wrong. And as he begins to lose his heart to a slave. Right from the start, he seems in awe of him. Throughout a lot of story, Morgan is left a bit of an enigma, and yet through Sky’s narrations, we see his heart come out, see what kind of man he seems to be.

I’m going to stop as I don’t want to go into the story much beyond the blurb. This his story has motivated me to make time in my busy line up of TBRs to fit in book one which I already own sooner rather than later. I definitely want to revisit this world again soon. I just wish I could also revisit these characters—I didn’t want to let them go.

The cover by Tami Santarossa was not a favorite because it wouldn’t have drawn me to look at the story if I’d seen just that, but the layout and style does fits with the series.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon – more links to come

Book Details:

ebook, 255 pages
Expected publication: July 18th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626494664
Edition LanguageEnglish


Dive Back Into the Belonging Verse with Staged by Kim Fielding – Blog Tour and Giveaway

Standard

Staged_600x900

Staged (Belonging #3) by Kim Fielding
R
iptide Publishing
Cover Art by Tami Santarossa

Read an Excerpt/Buy It Here at Riptide Publishing

**********

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words welcomes Kim Fielding here today along with the release of her latest novel, Staged, a story in the Belonging Universe.

*********

Hi, I’m Kim Fielding and I’m thrilled to introduce you to Sky Blue, the hero of my newest novel, Staged. In this book, I got the chance to write in an alternate universe very similar to our own–but where slavery is legal.

About Staged

Once the second-prize winner on My Slave’s Got Talent, Sky Blue has spent the past few years singing at a failing New York nightclub. While Sky has never had control over his fate, his life seems to take a turn for the worse when he’s torn from the familiar comfort of performing and sold to a rich and enigmatic man.

Morgan Wallace takes his newly purchased slave to San Francisco, his intentions unclear. On the one hand, he treats Sky with more kindness than Sky has ever known—treats him like a real person. On the other hand, he shares Sky at parties hosted by his sadistic new friends.

A confused slave is an endangered slave, and Sky isn’t even sure of his master’s real name. Is he Morgan Wallace, wealthy and cruel, or Mackenzie Webster, caring and compassionate? Caught between hope, fear, and an undeniably growing attachment, Sky struggles to untangle which parts are real and which are merely a performance. His future, his heart, and even his life may depend on it.

About Kim Fielding

Kim Fielding picked up a pencil when she was three years old and never put it down. She always dreamed of becoming an author, but took a roundabout way of getting there, first spending an inordinate amount of time as a student and ending up with a law degree and a PhD in psychology. She wrote plenty of academic articles and even a few books, but fiction continued to call to her. One day, she finally put that pencil to its intended use again and began to write novels.

Today, Kim is the best-selling, award-winning author of numerous gay romance and fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning multiple -genres. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in fifteenth-century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, slaves, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.

Kim writes authentic voices and unexpected heroes.

After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there among the cows and almond trees with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.

Contact Kim:

Staged_TourBanner

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Staged, one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide gift certificate and a copy of Treasure by Kim Fielding in audiobook. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 23, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

This title is part of the Belonging ‘Verse universe.