A MelanieM Review: Open Road by M.J. O’Shea


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

open-road-by-m-j-osheaAngus has been with the same guy for ten years. When his boyfriend breaks up with him the night of his thirtieth birthday party and announces his engagement to a twenty-two-year-old less than ten hours later, Angus is… a mess. To put it lightly. He spends days in bed, drinks himself into a stupor every night, and ends up losing his job and his apartment. His best and oldest friend, Reece, decides it’s time for an intervention. And a change of scenery.

Reece and Angus take off on a buddy trip across the US. They don’t have much of a plan; they just start driving. It takes Angus a couple of days to do much more than grunt when Reece talks to him, but slowly he opens up. They drive, talk, heal, shout, drink a bit too much sometimes, dance, meet new friends… and somewhere between Portland, Oregon, and Portland, Maine, they fall in love.

Which was the last thing in the world Angus expected.

Open Road by M.J. O’Shea just hit all my buttons in a contemporary romance.  It had the right amount of realistic angst, terrific changes in location, a deep friendship that felt as real as an old school picture you keep on your wall, and a romance that slowly unfolds over the course of a journey.  One both geographical and emotional.

Of course it starts off with a romance that ends horribly with one half of the couple shattered and humiliated.  Our MC had already been feeling inadequate in almost every way in his relationship but Angus becomes depressed and unable to cope when his long term boyfriend leaves him for a younger version of himself. I felt myself falling completely into understanding and love with Angus here.  He is so believable as he reels from the humiliation he feels, the shame that he didn’t realize he had been cheated on, all the thoughts going through his head that leave him unable to function.  O’Shea puts us aside him, whether its laying next to him on the bed or crumpled on the floor, and makes us believe in this shattered man.

Our hopes (and his) will lie in his best friend.  That would be Reese, someone his old boyfriend despised and tried to cut out of his life to no avail.  These two have loved each other for most of their lives, have known each others families, they fit together  like puzzle pieces, except that Reese is straight of course.  Reese is another wonderful character here.  Layered, warm.  I could see Reese clearly in my  mind just within a few pages of O’Shea’s descriptions.  I knew exactly who Reese was. and what he meant to Angus.

But the real adventure for them and us starts on the road.  Circumstances which I won’t reveal compel Angus and Reese to head out on the road.  From city to city, where slowly Angus recovers and they discover that the love they have always felt for each other is something not just deep friendship but something more.  Its tenderhearted, authentic and moving.  And Angus’ recovery is not a smooth or easy one.  It can’t be with all he has emotionally gone through.  I appreciated that especially and it made where this couple ended up all  the more meaningful.

Highlights of the road trip?  It has to be New Orleans.  I almost wanted them to stay there.  It was magical, sexy and hot.  The ambiance that is New Orleans oozed off the page as did the love the author clearly has for the city and its people.  It left its spell on the couple and on me with this story.  I remember other locations, true, but none like I do their time in New Orleans.

The only thing that kept me from giving this a 5 star review was the last couple of pages. I don’t know…something about the ending felt a little too abrupt for a book and romance that took its time realistically getting to its final destination.  Perhaps I felt I didn’t need it, I was so happy with the story that came before.  Even now I’m not sure why the epilogue doesn’t sit quite right with me.  I know others won’t feel that way, just my opinion.  But all the rest of the story?  Glorious.  From rock bottom to recovery to love, this is a couple and novel I absolutely recommend.  Open Road by M.J. O’Shea is a terrific contemporary romance.  Grab it up and get started today.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is nice and has elements from the story.

Sales Links


Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published July 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Open Road
ISBN 1634773160 (ISBN13: 9781634773164)
Edition Language English

An Alisa Audiobook Review: The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz with Dorian Bane (Narrator) andTobias Silversmith (Narrator)


Rating:  4 stars out of 5


the-burnt-toast-b-b-audiobookAfter breaking his arm on set, Wolf’s Landing stuntman Ginsberg Sloan finds himself temporarily out of work. Luckily, Bluewater Bay’s worst B&B has cheap long-term rates, and Ginsberg’s not too proud to take advantage of them.


Derrick Richards, a grizzled laid-off logger, inherited the B&B after his parents’ untimely deaths. Making beds and cooking sunny-side-up eggs is hardly Derrick’s idea of a man’s way to make a living, but just as he’s decided to shut the place down, Ginsberg shows up on his doorstep, pitiful and soaking wet, and Derrick can hardly send him packing.


Not outright, at least.


The plan? Carry on the B&B’s tradition of terrible customer service and even worse food until the pampered city boy leaves voluntarily. What Derrick doesn’t count on, though, is that the lousier he gets at hosting, the more he convinces bored, busybody Ginsberg to try to get the B&B back on track. And he definitely doesn’t count on the growing attraction between them, or how much more he learns from Ginsberg than how to put out kitchen fires.


Derrick is miserable, he never wanted to take over his parents’ B&B, but falls into it after he was laid off and his parents’ passed away.  He has never been very comfortable in his skin, even if he won’t admit it to others.  Ginsberg is perfectly comfortable with himself and has worked hard to be the man he is today and isn’t going to change that for anyone.


This story was told from both characters’ points of view, which made understanding their thoughts a bit easier.  It’s easy to see Derrick struggling with keeping up and being what he thinks a man should be even if sometimes you just want to give him a slap across the back of the head for being an idiot.  Ginsberg looks at the world as the glass is half full and is slowly able to show Derrick that everything isn’t as bad as he thinks.  Derrick takes awhile to get with the program, but once he does he is all in.


Dorian Bane and Tobias Silversmith did a nice job narrating this story.  I could connect with the characters through the voices and emotions they portrayed.  This is the first time I have listened to a story with separate narrators for the two main characters, I can’t say that it either helped or hurt the story, it was just different and I still enjoyed listening to them.


Cover art by LC Chase is nice and follows the pattern for the series.

Audiobook Sales Links

Riptide Publishing



Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 7 pages, Listening Length: 6 hours and 22 minutes
Published August 2nd 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 3rd 2015)
Original TitleThe Burnt Toast B&B
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBluewater Bay #5


Winner: Best Transgender Book in the 2015 Rainbow Awards!

Winner: Best Transgender Romance in the 2015 Rainbow Awards

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Kyle (Legacy Ranch #1) by R.J. Scott


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

kyle-by-rj-scottTwo men destroyed by the past learn to live—and love—again.

Kyle Braden has nowhere else to go. With no money and no prospects, he turns to the only man who promises him help. Jack Campbell-Hayes wants to show Kyle that he can be more than he ever thought.

Kyle begins to see how far he’s come from being the scarred man who shut everyone out, when the first person through the doors of Legacy Ranch is Jason; a young man with nightmares that follow him when he’s awake.

Lost in the system and with three years on the streets marking every inch of his body, Jason Smith is scared. His life is an evil mess of hate and despair, and even the offer of a fresh start and a clean bed isn’t enough for him feel safe. Until Kyle comes into his life and shows him that it’s okay not to be in control.

For these broken men, Legacy Ranch offers more than a place to live and work.

It offers hope.

A new story set in the world of Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D Ranch, Texas.

Kyle is so broken from the time he spent in a sexually and physically abusive situation with rancher Hank Castille that he finds it hard to accept that all Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes want is to see him get a fresh start. They don’t want to have sex with him or abuse him in any way, and yet Kyle’s behavior is somewhat like the dog that bites its master when it’s cornered. And it takes Kyle quite a lengthy time in this story to finally realize that he might be able to help himself and accept that these men, along with their brother-in-law, Steve Murray, only want to see him succeed.

But the story isn’t all about Kyle. It’s also about Jason, a young man caught in a downward spiral when his depression gets out of control at the same time as he’s lost all other control in his life. Fortunately, Steve, who runs a teen shelter, sees something positive in Jason and recommends him to Jack as the first resident for their new venture: Legacy Farm. 

Legacy Farm is where they’ve assigned Kyle as manager of the small ranch that will provide a home for eligible troubled young men and women. They learn to be responsible for their own horse—one rescued from an abusive situation. It’s actually ideal for Kyle, who has found that touching or talking to his horse is equally as satisfying as riding out on the range with it, so he is one of the most capable persons for passing on that passion to others. When Jason joins him to work on the construction of the new building, Kyle makes it his mission to introduce him to the joys of working with horses as well.

At first, Jason isn’t so sure about that. After all, he has a huge fear of the beasts with the large teeth, but I totally enjoyed all the interactions between Jason, Kyle, and Jason’s assigned horse, Mistry. There was humor and hope in equal measures, and when Jason finally tapped into the pleasure of working with the great beasts, he understood the joy of horse therapy and the peace and solitude he could achieve through riding—with or without Kyle at his side. 

This is a beautiful love story, as these two very emotionally damaged young men recover from both the physical and psychological abuse they’ve suffered. Their recovery is not always at the same pace, but it happens. And the fact that the author allowed them to start to heal before they jumped into bed with each other added to my reading pleasure. I love a slow burn buildup in a romance novel!

And, I absolutely loved the way RJ Scott wove the whole Campbell-Hayes clan into this starter story, engaging me with the full cast of characters and where they are in their lives today. Going to a cookout and taking me for a walk down memory lane so I could see people I haven’t seen in years was an unexpected surprise. The love between Jack and Riley, so clearly in evidence by the way they look at each other, speak to each other, and touch tenderly even while doing everyday tasks is still alive and strong. This book and its cast of characters was a fantastic bridge from the Texas series to this new one! 

I can’t wait to read more, and I highly recommend it to all who’ve loved the Texas series as well as to those who simply love a hurt-comfort romance. Make no mistake—this is not a sex-filled romp on the range—it’s a beautiful, emotionally compelling love story.  Kudos, Ms. Scott! 

Cover art by Meredith Russell is as wonderful as the story.

Sales Links

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | All Romance | Kobo | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Book Details:

ebook, 193 pages
Published August 31st 2016 by Love Lane Books Limited
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL http://rjscottauthor.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-legacy-series.html
SeriesLegacy Ranch #1

If Only Love..: “Is This Desire?” by R. Paone (Excerpt and Giveaway)







Is This Desire cover

COVER DESIGN: Jay Aheer/Simply Defined Art


RELEASE DATE: 08.29.16

Amazon Global

Is This Desire Full Cover


“Please don’t try to hold me in your arms.”

“Is This Desire?” documents the continuing story of a flourishing love as it grows at an increasing speed. As Robert faces Mitch’s demons, Mitch himself must reclaim his independence and sanity if they are ever to be together.

The moment had passed, the passion burned out, and the high of a first love was left lingering.

How quickly can one fall in love?

How quickly can one fall out of love?

Devastated by the realization of Mitch’s misgivings, Robert has cast himself aside unable to process his current reality. Exposed to a love that was debilitating but also rewarding, he must now face the consequences of secrets, addiction, and desire if he is to continue forward with his heart while disregarding his doubts.

Now, it was happening again.

Sooner or later, Mitch reappears in Robert’s life unable to break away from what he feels deep within as he questions the connection between them both. It is a consuming bond that could break at any moment by the forces meaning to keep them apart no matter what.

What else was Mitch hiding from him and was an attempt at reintroducing those feelings again the safest bet against Robert’s sanity?

He said, “Never stop.”

I said, “Never will.”




“You have cornered me. Is that what you were going for?”

“No,” he implored.

“I don’t know what to make of this, dude. You are throwing me off, Mitch,” I explained with haste.

“I’m not trying to.”

“Then what, Mitch? This is getting a little exhausting between all of you. I’m not one to be playing games after the last go around. What do you want?” Part of me was beating the horse dead. Still, there was no reason I should be putting up with this. I knew the whole time I was standing here. There was an irrational part of me that wanted him to scoop me up in his arms. I wanted that for brief moments, and it sickened me. That was not the case this time.

“I have missed you.”

“Please, don’t.”

“I love—“ The words slipped from him, and it was painful to hear once more. The first two words seared into the recesses of my heart.

“Go fuck yourself, Mitch. How dare you? You are self-righteous. Do you realize how far this has gotten and how fucked up all of this has become? When will this end, huh? Will it ever? I don’t think it actually will.” There were no boundaries at this time, so it went farther than I expected it to when I first got here just thinking I was coming here to settle things with Deb. Now I was a hound of hell, and I didn’t think being taken advantage by anyone, whether it be Deb or Mitch himself was worth it.

For a moment I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Was it Deb trying to escape the confinements of her room? Was it her trying to leave the apartment? Leaving me alone here with Mitch was something I wouldn’t put past her right now. I glanced over quickly and still saw light trickling out from all sides of the door to her room. Shadows moved around that light assuring me that she didn’t successfully escape her self-imprisonment.

Mitch was rigid and unwavering; his hands shoved deep into his pockets. I could see the veins in this arm throb and pulse in quick succession. Although I had a pretty good idea at the time of this arranged meeting, I knew what I would say. Now I wasn’t too sure what else I could say to him to make him realize that there was nothing to gain out of this.

I looked up and stared straight at him. Not just into his soul, but his vitality. I needed to see what he was feeling right now for me to understand his words and explanations of not letting this go. I was searching for some unspoken confession from him. To truly look into someone’s eyes that you once loved and not see the hope and happiness from before is frightening. It was the complete opposite, and that was daunting. I saw pain and the possibility of regret. The concept that regret was something that he created between us forced me even farther away from his embrace in the past. It was particular moments like these that, yes, my mind me to places.


Places of “only if’s” and the “might have been’s.”

What road should I have taken? What path was the right?

What was down that particular road and was there anything worthwhile of a cause at the end of it?

I felt no resolution or firmness. Only the inconclusiveness of the present.

Each word from each our lips paved the way for a troubled path, something that had the possibility of being unfixed. The problem here was not only did I not know what to say once again but more forces were working against the cause in fixing it all. Certain individuals that were intimate friendships I had developed over the last several months. Friends that I thought I could trust. With each passing moment, there was more evidence contributing to this theory. It was proving hard for Deb to keep things separate like business and pleasure. I was afraid. Eventually, there would be no one else to turn to when I was in need.

Who was I kidding, excluding Phil almost all the friends I had made since coming to Buffalo for graduate school were my coworkers at Cafe Virginia. The ones I was keeping compared to the ones I was losing was soon to be outweighed by the other. Maybe it was my actions that were slowly contributing to the slow death of my small group of acquaintances. I just might have cleared things up with Janet after speaking to her about the meaning behind the kiss between her and Mitch that evening. Lucy was on the sidelines and not involved and I was thankful for at least that. Now I was becoming unaware of what Deb was thinking and what she was capable of. Even though one would think her actions weren’t malicious, believing she thought it was smart to get involved in one’s personal matters without consulting was alarming.

There was Mitch, untouched, stubborn, the statue in front of me. He was the incendiary of my thoughts that were seeking a straight path going forward.

His lips parted.

“I know that my actions have hurt a lot of people. People that I love dearly.”

I said nothing.

“I know you think I should probably just leave you alone for good.”

I closed my eyes tightly and still said nothing.

“I keep trying to deny what I have been feeling since day one. I have these feelings for you. I know that I am one stupid motherfucker and that I must be driving you crazy, kiddo. I cannot distinguish what exactly I am feeling now or what the difference is between right and wrong. Ignoring them isn’t helping me, either way, to come up with a solution to this mess.”

I finally had to say something.

“Is there anything to solve, though? Is there some huge decision that needs to be made? At this point, Mitch, I don’t think so.”

His eyebrows both raised up at the same time. He really shouldn’t be surprised at my answers and how I am reacting towards his responses.

“I think so,” he said. “I believe there is a lot that we both need to discuss. We haven’t spoken to each other since Deb’s party.”

I continued. “That was the point, wasn’t it? You being in my presence wasn’t something I was looking forward to, Mitch. You kind of threw the wrench in that not thinking before you act.”

“I understand your frustration, Robbie.”

There it was again. Robbie, he was using that nickname of mine that made my heart hurt because all it kept doing was pushing me back again into a corner. There it was, deep inside wrapped up in empathy, my inability to feel contempt and hatred one hundred percent for this man. It was his words of my name falling from his lips which lead me to believe there was something more to be said. I had to remember it was those lips that lied and sent me running after being pulled in hypnotically.

“Please, Mitch. My name is Robert. You don’t get to call me Robbie anymore,” I protested trying to make my way past him in the hallway.

As I walked past him, there was only just a brief moment of contact between us. So subtle that I don’t think I would have noticed on any other day but today I was hyper aware of my surroundings especially his ubiquity. It was all too stimulating and being sensitive to his touch only more of that touch. His knuckles ended up grazing my hip bone as I attempted to move past him swiftly as possible. Again, there it was deep inside some part of me. The sudden gush forth of the past desire that was once there between us. Why was my subliminal self not letting go of things that once were? The masochistic tendencies of love would continue tormenting me like this. This love was tremendous, and sentiments were running high.

I was thinking of running again. I had to get out of this apartment. I moved past Mitch quicker than I figured. Passing Deb’s closed bedroom, I expected that maybe she would have peeked out once she heard me moving around. Maybe she would have said goodbye to me now that she knew I was threatening to leave without resolution between her and I. Unfortunately I was wrong, the door remained closed, and there was nothing to make out beside the dead reticence behind the door. No common decency. The light still flickered, and I still couldn’t make out any of her movements. This occurrence was the potentiality in seeing the end of my friendship with Deb before my eyes. I had no idea even though all I knew was that I was going to have to see her at work eventually. There was no way I was going to quit working at Cafe Virginia. I needed the money.

My hands made a direct line for the door knob as I made the effort to escape. Mitch’s presence only got closer. I could feel him inching closer up behind me. Just then I froze on the spot not being able to move, it was like the will to move was pulled out from underneath me. It was not until I felt his touch that everything went black. His hand slid up the back of my neck making every single hair on my body stood on its’ end. These emotions created the same sensation I would feel on a first date, the same butterflies filling my stomach. For a moment I wasn’t feeling the fear of collapsing but felt ready to let go completely in his presence.

His hands moved over the arches of both of my shoulders back and forth in a massaging motion while squeezing them gently. I knew where this would end up going if I let this go on anymore. I spun around tearing his hands from me and faced him. This was the closest I had been to him since we last kissed at the party and I went back to that night mentally. I wasn’t thinking straight. I could just end up throwing myself willingly into his arms and lose myself.

No, that was not possible and could end up being a very foolish thing I could do to myself. Not only would I end up hating the things I’ve done and feeling a sense of remorse but I would end up dealing with more consequences than before. That would have to be something I was willing to sacrifice. There was a lot of things at risk especially my free will when it came to listening to my heart versus my mind.

He kept glaring over at me. I had to liberate from this point in time. I couldn’t think straight with him drilling blind into me. His breath and musk were intoxicating and stronger than ever after being deprived of it for some time. These were more than powerful suggestions as the raw attraction I had for him began to rise again.

“I have to go,” I declared. This deep-seated hold Mitch had over me was washing over me, and it was hard to fight against it. I wanted to give up and just kiss this man as much as I was kicking and screaming against its’ dynamic hold.

“You don’t have to.” His voice was pleading to me.

“No, that is where you are wrong. I do have to go. I am sorry, Mitch.”

I didn’t want to say goodbye because that would imply continuation, a future and that was something I wasn’t ready for. I needed some time to think away from Mitch’s intoxicating presence.

All I heard behind me was an exaggerated sigh as I shut the door behind me. Everything that just happened confirmed that this wasn’t over yet, and that frightened me.

I had to be brave.



R. Paone is the author of LGBT fiction, coming of age, and contemporary romance including the ongoing “ONLY IF…” Series. Writing is his passion as his stories stem from real life experiences and real moments of love. A writer for the last fifteen years, he started working on his first full length novel in June, 2014. That novel slowly transformed into “Love is Found,” Part One in the “ONLY IF…” Series. He currently resides in New York City. When he isn’t writing, you can find him getting lost in bookstores, a movie theater, or jamming out to music of the 90’s.










Series Spotlight: Crooked Tree Ranch Recap by RJ Scott (excerpt and giveaway)


Series Recap Tour 

Crooked Tree Ranch (Montana #1)

 RJ Scott

Author: RJ Scott
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Length: 67,000 words
When a cowboy, meets the guy from the city, he can’t know how much things will change.

On the spur of the moment, with his life collapsing around him, Jay Sullivan answers an ad for a business manager with an expertise in marketing, on a dude ranch in Montana.

With his sister, Ashley, niece, Kirsten and nephew, Josh, in tow, he moves lock stock and barrel from New York to Montana to start a new life on Crooked Tree Ranch.

Foreman and part owner of the ranch, ex rodeo star Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Todd has been running the dude ranch, for five years ever since his mentor Marcus Allen became ill.

His brothers convince him that he needs to get an expert in to help the business grow. He knows things have to change and but when the new guy turns up, with a troubled family in tow – he just isn’t prepared for how much.

NB: This is a previously released title. It includes a new chapter and is re-edited with new cover art.

Author Bio:

RJ Scott is the bestselling gay romance author of over ninety MM romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing. 

RJ also writes MF romance under the name Rozenn Scott.
The last time she had a weekís break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldnít defeat.


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