A MelanieM Review: Under Review by Meg Harding

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Nathan Barres has always loved hockey more than anything else, and as captain of his team the pressure is on to perform well. When a hook up with Felix Moore stirs feelings he’s not comfortable with, he flees the scene. He’s not expecting to see Felix ever again. So when an injury knocks him out at the start of a new season, he’s less than pleased to see the Winnipeg Wolves newest physical therapist is none other than his one night fling.

Time hasn’t dulled their chemistry, and Nathan’s feelings are back like they’d never left. When Felix proposes a way to burn through the energy between them, how is Nathan supposed to say no. It might be all fun and games to Felix, but Nathan needs to get whatever this is out of his system. Unrequited love? No, thank you.

I am always thrilled to find new hockey romance stories and the authors that write them and Under Review by Meg Harding fits the bill in both categories. With a new NHL season about the start, this is the perfect time to pick up and dive into the world of team captain Nathan Barres of the Winnipeg Wolves and his shaky, stumbling path to love and HEA with PT Felix Moore.

A must for me when reading any hockey romance is that the author gets hockey.  They need to understand the game, team dynamics, that goalies are generally a unique sort of human being, and, hopefully, when (not if , when) they include action on the ice, they make the game as exciting as it is in RL.   Why?  Because men who play hockey, no matter the level, well, they love this game with a passion.   Some have been on skates as soon as they could walk.  And the bests of  our hockey romance writers get that and it shows in their stories.  Thankfully, so does Meg Harding.

When Nathan is injured and can’t play?  It’s not that he’s pouting back in his house because he’s off the ice, not its because part of him is missing without the game and his team.  Harding is able to deliver that man, a full on intact layered personality and definitely someone we care about.  Nathan is full of jumbled emotions and thoughts, all of which we are privy to because he is our point of view for the story.  His is a strong if sometimes confused voice and it’s easy to identify with him.

Felix Moore, as seen through the eyes of Nathan, is a little bit more of a enigma.  We don’t always understand the thoughts processes behind his actions nor do we get a real feeling for his background.  We do get a fleeting recitation of a history but it’s not a substitute for a missing emotional foundation. However, I did like Felix with all his mixed signals.  Communication was not the strong point here for either man.  And I almost, ok, did want that second point of view here.  I would have loved to have seen Nathan at different times in this story through Felix’s eyes.

There are multiple strong secondary characters here, although I dislike calling them that, mostly Nathan’s teammates and their SO’s.  From Thor and his gf Lucy (what an amazing couple they  made, Renner, Sasha, and more.  They made a supporting family for both Nathan and Felix to start, work out issues, and finally have a relationship within their secure circle of friendship.

I have a list of hockey romances we recommend and now I have one more to add to our list.  I love it when that happens. Under Review by Meg Harding is well written, has great characters, exciting action on the ice and a wonderful ending.  Everything you would hope for in a contemporary hockey romance.  Pick it up and start reading today.

Cover art is disappointing as it lacks any discerning hockey features that would indicate that this is a hockey oriented storyline with hockey players. Just too generic.Meh.

Sales Links:  Amazon Kindle

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 155 pages
Published September 20th 2019 by Oceanside Press
ASINB07X82T3LF

A MelanieM Audio Review: Spencer Cohen (Spencer Cohen #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Spencer Cohen is the guy who gets answers to relationship questions. Playing the role of the new lover, his job is to make his client’s ex realise one of two things: he doesn’t want to break up or he really does. Either way, his client gets answers.

The ex would either apologize and beg, or turn and walk. But in the end, Spencer’s client won. If he wanted his ex back and got him, it was great. If the guy walked away, then as hard it was for the client, he knew it was over. Regardless of the outcome, Spencer’s work was done.

Andrew Landon’s ex left him without so much as an explanation. But his sister can’t stand to see him miserable, so, much to Andrew’s dismay, they hire Spencer to be Andrew’s new boyfriend to get the ex back.

For Spencer, it is never personal. Merely a business transaction. No emotions, no strings, no complications.

Yeah right.

Even a blind man could see how this would end.

Ever since I read her Red Dirt Heart series, N.R. Walker is a must read for me.  So I really don’t understand how it is that I missed her Spencer Cohen series but it turned out to be an utter blessing that I did because that meant that I got to listen to this series in audio version for the first time and fall completely, totally under its spell due to the combination of N.R. Walker’s wonderful story and characters giving voice by the incomparable Joel Leslie.  Now and forever, it’s Joel’s voice and Australian accent as Spencer Cohen that I hear when these stories come back to me.   And they do.  Phrases.  Scenes.  Laughter and tears.

How else to explain to the tv installer (who I wasn’t happy with on his 2nd visit to my house) that I was bawling my eyes out over his incompetence but that Spencer was in the floor of his best friends tattoo shop heartbroken and so was I?  I was shattered and then,(as only N.R. Walker and it turns out Joel can to) put back together so perfectly, so precisely that I had to listen to that part over and over again.

Spencer and Andrew Landon become so much more than characters, they become real people, with voices and lives you believe in, problems you care about, and a relationship that neither wants to acknowledge.  But oh how we want them too.

How this story and these people got to me.  From the very first line I was pulled in and stayed there long after Joel was telling me the story had ended…until Spencer Cohen Book Two which picks up almost immediately after this one.

Spencer Cohen (Spencer Cohen #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator) is a audio I want to hand out on street corners and gift to strangers and friends.  It’s hours of realness, friendship, romance, and love told through incredible writing of NR Walker and voiced by one of the best narrators out there, Joel Leslie.  I can’t think of a better recommendation.  And yes, more reviews to come for the remainder of the series….audio versions of course!

Cover art is perfect for Spencer and unusual enough to draw your eye to the cover. Love it.

Audio Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | Audiobooks

Audio Details:

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 5 hours and 26 minutes
Published March 6th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published February 18th 2016)
Original Title Spencer Cohen, Book One
ASINB079YYXKGH
Edition Language English
Series Spencer Cohen #1
setting Los Angeles, California (United States)
California (United States)

A Lucy Review : Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Luke Schumaker designs computer games, working from his home. Every day he walks his dog in the woods nearby, never suspecting that someone who is completely smitten is watching. 

The watcher is Alex Shaw, and he too works from home, designing logic and crossword puzzles. Alex’s options are limited: he’s too shy to approach Luke and his wheelchair won’t let him follow into the woods. His solution? Secret messages for Luke in the crosswords he writes for the local paper. 

When Luke decodes them, romance begins, but then they face greater puzzles, like Alex’s interfering sister and what commitment to a man in a wheelchair really takes. And, most puzzling of all, how do you know if love is real?

First off, you have to suspend belief just a little with this in that Luke gets the first coded message straightaway and so is then tracking down how he got the paper and looking for new messages in the crosswords.  You also have to believe that Alex is allowed to turn in Monday’s crossword puzzle on Saturday or Sunday and it still gets published on Monday. In a national newspaper.  As a former newspaper nerd, the deadlines happen way before a day or two for stuff like that.

Alex really wants to meet Luke, who he sees through his window as Luke is taking his dog for a walk every morning.  He makes the crossword messages but really has no idea if they are working until he received a letter from Luke, asking for a meet up, through the editor of the paper.  Commence anxiety.  Now it was real. A real chance for joy. And a real chance for heartache.”  Sometimes you have to take a chance.

When they first meet, Luke thinks, “With his thick dark hair and hunky physique he was, in completely objective terms, hot. Or adorable. Maybe h’orable. He was worthy of coining a new word.”  Except when you say that, it is horrible.  So Luke better stick with video games and not word smithing.  But I loved that after they meet and Luke feels the connection between them, he takes some time to really think about what it would be like to have a relationship with someone in a wheelchair.  Someone who is a little unsure of his own attractiveness. “Did Alex think his company was so forgettable that it wasn’t worth accommodating something as simple as a wheelchair? Well, he’d soon learn what it meant to hang out with a game designer. When it came to logistics? Luke was a fucking god.”

And I loved this description of Alex’s reaction: “Alex was so happy he couldn’t sit still. He put on some music and danced his chair in the open spot in his living room, jerking the wheels back and forth like a DJ scrubbing a record, doing tight spins, and banging his head to the music. He was so freaking happy he felt ready to burst out of his skin.” Right there, you really start pulling for things to be easy and smooth for these guys. “It had been too long since he’d pushed his chair so far and at such a clip, but he’d wanted to impress Luke. It was foolish, but he wanted to show Luke he was fit and strong.”  And he is fit and strong.

Things are really going well, they become friends.  Luke hears the story of Alex’s scumbag former boyfriend and I was a little sad that Alex would have had an affair with a married man with kids.  He seems better than that. “I promised myself that I will never again be anyone’s pathetic little secret. The thing is, I knew better, even then. I knew it was wrong and bad and stupid. But at the time, I….”

Oh and let’s mention, the way Alex gets good at blowjobs?  Epic!

Of course, things just can’t continue on a perfect path. In this case the obstacle comes in the form of a party with Alex’s Wheels and Meals friends, where, “It made Luke feel more conscious of the whole handicapped thing than he’d ever felt with Alex before. Everyone else seemed to think it was a big deal that he and Alex were together. Maybe he was the clueless one; maybe it was.” The final push was Alex’s sister, Amy, who puts doubts in Luke’s head that start to eat away at his confidence in the relationship.  She does it with her brother’s heart in mind, but the result is the same.  Luke questions it all now.  When Alex says, I love you, Luke doesn’t say it back. “He loved Alex too. He did. But he thought about Amy’s warning and was afraid to say it, because she was right.” And so the downward shift begins.  This, combined with a push at work, really puts a knife into the relationship.  My heart was breaking for Alex. And Luke At one point I wanted to smack him, or maybe run him over with Alex’s chair. Oblivious to the point of nearly losing everything. Alex is something definitely worth keeping. How much courage did it take to do the puzzles in the first place? That man doesn’t give himself enough credit.

This is a lovely story that made me sorry when it was over.  I admit to being VERY angry at Luke for his selfishness.  Yes, I will call it selfishness because he acts as he does not out of concern for Alex or Alex’s feelings but because of how things affect him.  But he does pull his head out of his butt with a little help, so he was forgiven.  Overall, sweet and hopeful.

The cover art by Reese Dante is a little misleading – it shows two men and another in a wheelchair following someone.  This is not a foursome, it is just showing them twice, which didn’t work for me. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Book Details:
Buy for $2.99 or try Kindle Unlimited to read over a million titles
Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 120 pages
Published September 6th 2019 (first published October 1st 2013)
ASINB07XCWMZNN
Edition Language English
CharactersAlex Shaw, Luke Schumaker
settingState College, Pennsylvania (United States)
Pennsylvania (United States)

Review Tour and Giveaway for Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Cover Design: Reese Dante
 
Blurb
 

Luke Schumaker designs computer games, working from his home. Every day he walks his dog in the woods nearby, never suspecting that someone who is completely smitten is watching.


The watcher is Alex Shaw, and he too works from home, designing logic and crossword puzzles. Alex’s options are limited: he’s too shy to approach Luke and his wheelchair won’t let him follow into the woods. His solution? Secret messages for Luke in the crosswords he writes for the local paper.


When Luke decodes them, romance begins, but then they face greater puzzles, like Alex’s interfering sister and what commitment to a man in a wheelchair really takes. And, most puzzling of all, how do you know if love is real?

 

 

About Eli


Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.


Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.


In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.


Her website is www.elieaston.com
You can email her at eli@elieaston.com

 

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Blog Post and Giveaway for Bitter Heat (Heat of Love #3) by Leta Blake

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Thank you so much to Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words for having me here to today to talk about the third book in my Heat of Love series, Bitter Heat. This book features a damaged omega (Kerry) and an alpha who’s trying to prove himself (Janus). It has a lot of tenderness, hurt/comfort, and high stakes, but the happy ending is guaranteed.

When I started working on the Heat of Love series, various unconscious themes made themselves known almost from the start. The themes of gender, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights have played through all three books thus far.

Recently, the first book in the series, Slow Heat, appeared on the Learning the Tropes podcast series (https://learningthetropes.podbean.com/e/slow-heat-by-leta-blake-episode-38/) which features Erin, a woman who is a romance-reading “veteran”, and Clayton, a man who’s a romance-reading “virgin”. I was deeply gratified to hear from them both that the intended themes of Slow Heat came through loud and clear. Especially for Clayton, who pronounced the important and visceral experience of imagining these reproductive conundrums on the male body as so profound that he thought the book should be taught in schools. (!!! Surely he was using hyperbole in that opinion, but perhaps not.) By the way, this podcast was hilarious and I highly recommend listening to it and subscribing to their future episodes!

Bitter Heat, the third in the Heat of Love series, continues the exploration of gender, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights, but this time it takes the story out of the upper classes and into the poverty-stricken areas of the mountains. While the book, like the others, focuses on the effects of the fictional society on a small group of characters and doesn’t lack for steamy sex, it is also akin to the social novels of the of the nineteenth century in the way it calls out social problems of our current times by demonstrating the effect of those problems on a character’s individual life. And by posing questions in a fictional world that have real world applications.

In other words, yes, we have pregnant men in this book, and that might seem over-the-top, titillating, or disturbing depending on your point of view, but the effect of posing specific social questions on the male body can’t be underestimated.

What to expect from this book:

  • Pregnancy – this is the first of the main novels in this series to deal with a pregnant main character
  • Hurt/comfort – the main character of this book is in dire need of comfort
  • Angst – there is plenty of angst for those who love some good pain
  • Revisiting some older characters – namely we’ll see Caleb and Yosef, along with Janus as a main character
  • Reproductive anxiety – if you’re sensitive to issues regarding reproduction, please be aware going in that the fictional world set up in this book is oppressive in that regard

Should a reader have read the first two books in the series before diving into Bitter Heat? I’d say that Bitter Heat might be read as a stand-alone but would be best enjoyed if the first two books, Slow Heat and Alpha Heat, were read first.

 
Length: 110,000 words approx.



Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Strange Designs

Heat Of Love Series
 

Book #1 – Slow Heat – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book #2 – Alpha Heat – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
 
Blurb
 

A pregnant omega trapped in a desperate situation, an unattached alpha with a lot to prove, and an unexpected fall into love that could save them both.


Kerry Monkburn is contracted to a violent alpha in prison for brutal crimes. Now pregnant with the alpha’s child, he lives high in the mountains, far above the city that once lured him in with promises of a better life. Enduring bitterness and fear, Kerry flirts with putting an end to his life of darkness, but fate intervenes.


Janus Heelies has made mistakes in the past. In an effort to redeem himself, integrity has become the watchword for his future. Training as a nurse under the only doctor willing to take him on, Janus is resolute in his intentions: he will live cleanly in the mountains and avoid all inappropriate affairs. But he doesn’t anticipate the pull that Kerry exercises on his heart and mind.


As the question of Kerry’s future health and safety comes to an explosive head, only the intervention of fate will see these desperate men through to a happy ending.


This gay romance novel by Leta Blake is the third in the Heat of Love universe which began with Slow Heat. It’s 111,000 words, with a strong happy ending and a critically-acclaimed, non-shifter Omegaverse. It features alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, mpreg, heat, and knotting. Content warning for a violent and oppressive society regarding reproductive rights.

 

Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

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