A Free Dreamer Young Adult Release Day Review: Running with the Pack by A.M. Burns and Caitlin Ricci


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

running-with-the-packFinn is about to start his senior year of high school when he and his family move from Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park, Colorado. Everything is different—even the elevation—and Finn’s having a hard time getting used to his new home. Life takes a turn for the better when he meets Ivan Dubovasky at a farmers’ market. Finn finds not only a close new friend but a fulfilling volunteer position at the High Mountain Wolf and Wild Dog Center, which Ivan’s family runs. Before long Finn develops an affinity for the wolves under the center’s protection.

Things only get better for Finn when he starts a relationship with Ivan; and Ivan’s best friend, Adrian, who’s asexual, completes their small pack. But it all comes crashing down when the bully plaguing Adrian crosses the line and Adrian goes missing. Finn and Ivan are determined to bring their boyfriend home safe, but they might not be able to do it alone. Luckily there’s a special wolf ready to lend a paw.

For some reason, I fully expected this book to have werewolves. It took me a while to realize that the wolves were perfectly normal wolves and nobody was secretly a werewolf. That definitely didn’t stop me from fully enjoying “Running with the Pack”, though.

Reading this story was truly delightful. The MCs were adorable and were a perfect match. The angst level was pretty low and there wasn’t a whole lot of drama either, but I was never bored. I didn’t even realize I was essentially inhaling this book until I was almost done, just over 24 hours after I’d started it.

There are a lot of m/m books out there with a poly relationship. There also a few m/m books with an asexual character. But I’ve never seen both in one book, and neither in a YA story.

I loved how natural it was for Adrian, Finn and Ivan to become a trio. Adrian’s asexuality and the poly aspect of their relationship were portrayed in a very positive light and felt absolutely natural. There simply was no other way for either of them. They just fit. And I also loved that they started their relationship as a trio, rather than as a couple adding a third party.

It probably wouldn’t have hurt if they’d talked more about their relationship. But they are teenagers and relationship talk is hard for anybody, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did, however, feel like we were missing something from Finn’s past. The authors kept making implications about his old school and the reasons why his family decided to move so far away, but we never really got a good explanation. It just felt like there was more to the story than was being said.

Overall, “Running with the Pack” is a truly lovely YA story and definitely also suitable for younger readers. There is only one scene with sexual action and that happens completely off-page.

I would love to have a sequel where the three of them figure out how to be together in the long run. I’d especially love to find out how involved Adrian will get in the sexual part of their relationship. I don’t know if the authors are planning on writing a follow-up or leave this as a standalone, but I’m all for another visit with these three wonderful boys.

If you like YA, asexual MCs and/or poly relationships, then you should give this book a try. Chances are, you’ll be as charmed as me.

Cover: The cover by Bree Archer isn’t really to my tastes. It’s a bit cheesy, tbh.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press



Book details:

ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2016 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634770641 (ISBN13: 9781634770644)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Like a Lover by Jay Northcote – audiobook narrated by Mark Steadman


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 like-a-lover-audiobookJosh has a plan: get through uni with a good degree and no debts. Focused on his goals, he’s working as an escort to pay his way. He enjoys the no-strings sex and doesn’t have the time or inclination for a relationship. Falling in love definitely isn’t part of the deal—especially not with a client.

When Rupert meets Josh in a bar, he’s smitten on sight. He’s never paid for sex before, but when Josh propositions him, he can’t resist. He should have known one night would never be enough. Luckily for him, he has an inheritance to support his addiction to Josh, because his job in IT wouldn’t cover the cost.

With each appointment the lines get increasingly blurred. Something is developing between them that feels more like a relationship than a business transaction, but they come from different worlds and to go from client-and-escort to lovers seems impossible. If they want a future together, Josh and Rupert have a lot to overcome.

This book is a complete story and can be read as a standalone.

Josh happens to be a flatmate of Jez and Mac, the young men we met in Helping Hand. Josh always seemed to have his act together, out and proud, with plenty of dates, staying out late at night a few times a week, and no one suspected that his real job as a rentboy.  He decided to pursue a professional interest in what he’s good at so he’d not only have rent and food, he’d also have tuition fees so that he could finish uni on his own since his deadbeat father refused to help him.

When his favorite client stands him up, he settles for hooking up with a good-looking guy who caught his attention at the bar where he was waiting, and the two pursue an evening of sexy times in the hotel room the first client had prepaid.  From here, Rupert, the new client, continues to pursue Josh, paying him every time, even though he’s starting to fall for his rentboy.  The issue is that Josh is also falling for Rupert and is afraid that they can’t have a future based on their rocky foundation.

I enjoyed this audiobook immensely.  Not only was the story very good, the narration was outstanding. Mark Steadman brought the characters to life.  All characters, including Rupert’s high society mother, had different voices, and that’s a treat I enjoy but don’t always find.  Both MCs were well-developed and I found myself coaching each on how to win the other over.  Thankfully, I live alone because I found myself literally talking to them when they were too obtuse to move forward. 

I recommend this to all who enjoy a lighthearted MM UK-based romance.  Kudos to both the author and the narrator.  By all means, pick this one up in audio.

The cover features a black-and-white close-up photo of the side profile of a handsome, young, bare-chested man, who fits the description of Josh perfectly.

Buy links:

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, Listening Length: 4 hours and 47 minutes
Published August 15th 2016 by Jaybird Press (first published August 14th 2015)
Original TitleLike a Lover
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHousemates #2 settingPlymouth, England (United Kingdom)

An Alisa Review: Put Five Rings on It by David Connor and E.F. Mulder


Rating:  3 stars out of 5


Put Five Rings On ItNumbers mean everything to an Olympic marathoner, but for Gordon O’Dooley, his obsession with one number in particular might get a little out of hand.


Gordon literally comes running into Marty Walsh’s family diner one day, and their mutual attraction is instant. He comes on too strong, though, and Marty quickly slams on the brakes. When Marty suggests they take things slow, Gordon races off, and any hope of a relationship goes right along with him.

Four years pass, and Marty does his best to move on. But fate brings them back together as Gordon is preparing for another Olympic bid. They agree to start over, slowly this time.


As they get to know each other, Marty comes to realize how strong Gordon’s obsession with the number five is. Will Marty be able to handle Gordon’s OCD? And what will Gordon do when he realizes the reason behind Marty’s reluctance at intimacy?


This was a nice story.  Gordon and Marty meet when Gordon comes into Marty’s family diner and continues to everyday.  Both are attracted to the other, but are afraid to act on it.  They spend a good chunk of the book dancing around each other or apart.


This story is told from Marty’s point of view, so it’s hard to see what makes Gordon afraid to be together until they finally take the time to sit and talk when they see each other 4 years later.  Marty is a sweet man and just wants to be happy with that one person meant for him, he just never thought about how it would happen.  Both of the characters have their own quirks and flaws and once they can see that they don’t matter to the other can they fully grow their relationship.


The cover art is nice and catches your eye.


Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | ARe


Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages

Published: August 6, 2016 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634861021

Edition Language: English

Jump Into the Past with Gryffon Hall by Alexis Duran (author guest post, excerpt and giveaway)


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Title: Gryffon Hall

Author: Alexis Duran

Release Date: August 30th 2016

Genre: MM Romance, Fantasy



Why Fantasy? by Alexis Duran

I’ve always loved fantasy; reading it, writing it, and breathing it.  I grew up immersed in traditional fairy tales, from Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christen Anderson, and The Thousand and One Arabian Nights to a really scary collection of traditional German tales in a big book from my grandmother.  I can still picture the illustrations from that book as if I’d just seen them yesterday. These were the stuff my dreams (and a few nightmares) were made of.  Those dark forests and remote castles were also my refuge when my parents’ marriage disintegrated and—much like a character in one those tales—I was thrust into a suddenly unfamiliar new world where all the rules had changed. While other books I read quickly faded from memory, those tales of magic and myth remained most vivid in my imagination. 

When I became a serious, adult-type writer, under the pressure of serious, adult-type professors, I tried my hand at non-magical, adult-type storytelling, intent on writing about “real life”. What I didn’t realize was that I’d abandoned my authentic self by trying to follow the rules put down by people who didn’t “get” fantasy and belittled it because the stories weren’t “real” (kind of forgetting that all fiction is fantasy to a certain degree).  It was only when I allowed myself to indulge in my literary passion for fantastical worlds and characters that I rediscovered my true voice and an artistic perspective that happens to like viewing all the twists and turns of reality through a magical lens.

Why am I so drawn to Magic? What can I say? With magic there’s no limit on the imagination, nothing is impossible, the stakes are enormous and the rewards, well, fantastic. It’s fun and frightening at the same time.  Yes, it’s an escape, but it’s also a way of magnifying and exposing the deepest of human depths. What reveals our humanity more than facing the inhuman and being challenged by powers that seem so much greater than ourselves?

In the case of Gryffon Hall I revisited those old fairy tales for inspiration. Frolicking in that world was a definite delight.  The plot is loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, and I had a wild time recasting the story as a gay romance, dragging in creatures from all over the realm of fairy, and generally wreaking havoc with a beloved classic.  I hope to do it again soon with an m/m version of Snow White. Stay tuned!


Born the useless fourth son of the Lord of Glimmerveen, Wryler dreams of getting married and escaping the rustic confines of his father’s castle. A wealthy merchant’s son seems to hold the key to Wryler’s safe if somewhat dreary future. However, the arrival of a mysterious stranger on the eve of Wryler’s betrothal sends his plans into disarray and Wryler finds himself traded off in marriage to one of the most notorious rogues in the land.

Is Lord Aeric Rouchet the scoundrel he appears to be, or is he something much worse? Separated from his family and thrust into a strange and dangerous new life at the foreboding Gryffon Hall, Wryler must unravel the secret of his husband’s shadowed life and defeat the curse which threatens not only his growing affection for the barbarian in his bed, but the lives of everyone the Lord of Gryffon Hall is sworn to protect.

Buy Links: Amazon | Loose ID | ARe

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31722038-gryffon-hall?ac=1&from_search=true


Wryler squinted up at a velvet sky recently cleared of clouds. It would be a good night for peering through his telescope, if only the stars would stop swarming about so.

“Lovely night after so much rain.”

Wryler lowered his chin and stood up straight. The voice came from the shadows toward the stables, followed by the sloshing of boots through puddles. With a few more strides Aeric Rouchet emerged from the gloom, that damnable grin on his face.

“Yes. Quite,” Wryler said, “The dining hall got so hot.”

“It did, didn’t it?” Rouchet kept walking, and Wryler feared the man might plow straight into him. He braced himself for impact, but Rouchet stopped a few inches shy of contact. “The fresh air is bracing, but it hasn’t done much to cool the flush in your cheeks.”

“It’s a curse. The blushing,” Wryler said, and damn if his blood didn’t flame even hotter.

“I find it quite becoming.” Rouchet rested his palm against the wall next to Wryler’s head and leaned in. “Is it only the quest for fresh air that keeps you from your comfy bed, Sir Wryler?”

“Yes. What else would it…would I…?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I noticed the young Mr. Arsburry giving you the eye all night.”

“Him?” Wryler snorted. “There’s nothing going on between us, I assure you.”

“Glad to hear it. I thought perhaps you were looking for company.”

“I weren’t. I wasn’t.” Accursed wine!

“But now?” Rouchet placed a finger under Wryler’s chin and lifted it slightly. His looming presence enveloped Wryler in warmth and the smell of leather. Rouchet blocked out the sky, the stars replaced by his gleaming eyes. Wryler shrank back against the wall. He wasn’t being held in place, but he might as well have been. He couldn’t move and didn’t much want to.

Rouchet swooped in for a kiss, his wine-moistened lips covering and consuming Wryler’s. He was surprisingly gentle, this barbarian, his tongue easing into Wryler’s mouth slowly but firmly.

What’s happening? What’s going on here, exactly? Men other than Lennox had kissed Wryler. Large, rough men. Stable hands. Traveling knights. Many had attempted to steal more than a kiss, and while pleasant, Wryler wasn’t often tempted for more. But now, now he sensed Rouchet hesitating, waiting for a sign from Wryler, for permission to unleash the lust he obviously held back.

This really isn’t acceptable behavior. But Rouchet would soon be gone, and they’d never see each other again. What harm could come of a little kiss?

Wryler responded, pushing back with his tongue, his body arching against Rouchet’s.

Rouchet growled and plunged in harder, driving Wryler against the wall. A cascade of tiny explosions fired beneath Wryler’s skin, and he was instantly and embarrassingly hard. It had never been like this with Lennox. Wryler always required coaxing and coercing. Now he felt as if he could be the one in charge, tearing at Rouchet’s clothing and demanding to taste every inch of the lord’s enormous body.

Wryler kept his hands by his sides and balled into fists, not trusting himself to touch Rouchet with more than lips.

Rouchet had no such restraint and ran one large hand down Wryler’s back all the way to his buttocks, which he squeezed hard. Wryler gasped, and Rouchet seized him with both hands and pulled him in tight, crushing Wryler’s poor swollen cock against his unyielding thigh. The pressure felt too good. Wryler wanted to climb Rouchet, to mount this monster of a man and ride him like….like… Words fled him as he cried out for this unexpected delight.

Rouchet broke out of the kiss but kept his mouth close to Wryler’s ear.

“My dear Wryler, thank you for your answer, but I fear if I keep at it I won’t be able to stop.”

“Wait. Why?”

“You’re drunk, and although appearances may suggest otherwise, I am nothing if not a gentleman.”

“I am not!” Wryler insisted, weaving as Rouchet released him.

“Sweetly, deliciously drunk.” Rouchet ran a finger along Wryler’s jaw, then stepped back and bowed. “A good night to you, Sir Wryler, and may you arrive safely at your rooms. I’d escort you, but I’m afraid I’m more the monster in the shadows this night than the knight by your side.” He sighed deeply. “No, I’m afraid I’m more likely to sling you over my shoulder and carry you to my bed than see you safely tucked away in your own.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Wryler said. “Not much anyway.”

“You’re too kind.” Rouchet bowed again. “Sleep well.” He turned and stalked off into the night, vanishing as suddenly as he’d appeared.

For a moment, Wryler wondered if he’d dreamed the entire thing. His body certainly didn’t think so.


Giveaway: Win a ebook copy of To Catch a Threeve by Alexis Duran and a $10 Loose ID gift card

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About the Author

Alexis author pic

Alexis Duran bio

Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing.  She’s worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion.  She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances.  Her fiction has won several awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference and First Runner Up from Love Romances Cafe. She lives with one dog and four and a half cats.  She is always working on the next novel and has several new ideas brewing at all times.

You can connect with Alexis at www.alexisduranblog.com, http://twitter.com/AlexisSDuran. http://www.facebook.com/alexis.duran.18294 and https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8332457.Alexis_Duran

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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