A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Playing in the Dark (Glasgow Lads #4) by Avery Cockburn


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

If you’ve read Playing with Fire, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to your e-book retailer and purchase this story immediately! It’s a fantastic continuation of the love story between Robert and Liam which started in that book. But it’s also so much more. Filled with humor, love, friendship, romance, and sexy times, reading this story is like looking through a one-way mirror into the heart of Glasgow, Scotland, and coming away with a picture of everyday life.

As the blurb states: “Play Hard is the feel-good, staying-in-love story the world needs right now!” So very true! Liam and Robert were friends from the time Liam got into trouble with a teacher in grade school and Rabbie decided Liam was the kind of kid he wanted to hang with. Fifteen years later, they are still besties but, now, also deeply in love.

Liam still hasn’t decided what he wants to do career-wise while Robert is deeply enmeshed in his startup tech company developing an app to improve the health of Glaswegians who die at an earlier age than others in their country. Liam has the potential to be a massage therapist but is concerned it will be boring and not half as demanding and fun as his role as a bartender. We learn the real reason for his hesitance later in the story when he shares his fears with his lover.

Robert is a workaholic. He knew it before he took the online test to confirm it and their relationship is feeling the effects of their different shifts and Robert’s work ethic. To help them overcome the strain, Robert invents a game that takes them to new heights of pleasure in each other’s company. No, not a sex game. It’s more of a push-our-boundaries-in-new-ways game, and it’s not only enjoyable for them, it’s also delightful for readers as we get to know the characters much more in-depth than in the original story. In short, this book endeared these characters to me, and I won’t likely forget them for quite some time. The author’s wonderful sense of humor is woven throughout the story, as is their appreciation for their homeland.

As I said before, if you’ve read any of these books, don’t miss this one. And if you haven’t, read this anyway. It can stand alone and it can spark your interest in reading the series. I not only want to meet these men and watch a game of footy with them, I purely want to revisit this beautiful city in my grandda’s homeland.

The cover by Damonza features two young men, smiling adoringly at each other, obviously in love. Having read their original story in which their body types were described as big and bulky, I would not recognize them as the young men on this cover.

Sales Links: AmazonAmazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 472 pages
Published November 20th 2018
Original Title Playing in the Dark
Edition Language English
Series Glasgow Lads #4

Play On

Playing for Keeps

Playing to Win

Play It Safe2.5

Playing with Fire3

Auld Lang Syne3.25

Play Dead3.5

Playing in the Dark4

Play Hard4.5

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Out of the Shadows by K.C. Wells


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

This story was exactly what I look for in a romance novel.  Exactly. And, oh, how rare it is to find such a story!  Two men who get to know one another, do little things to make each other happy, date, build a friendship, avoid sex as a lubricant to romance, a little wining and dining, spending time with others, and finally a declaration of love—all before getting to the bedroom.  It’s so very rare.  And this story was so very good, I can’t express how much I appreciated the opportunity to spend time with Josh and Christian. 

Josh is a gardener and handyman in a housing complex where a mystery man resides in the first floor corner apartment.  Well, he’s a mystery because no one ever sees him, and they’ve noticed he gets everything delivered—from food to other necessities.  When Josh is promoted to the role of remodeling the apartments, his first assignment is that one, and when he arrives to the quiet of an empty apartment, he’s a little disappointed not to have met the mystery man.  It doesn’t take him long, however, to figure out that the man is there—he’s just hiding behind the locked bedroom door.

Over time, the two converse through the crack of the door, but when Josh arrives early one day and hears a crash in the bathroom, he rushes in to find Christian on the floor with the shower curtain covering his groin and blood flowing from his forehead. But it’s the scars covering half his face, his right arm, and hand that immediately grabs his attention and he instinctively knows he needs to maintain a neutral expression and look at Christian, not his scars.  It’s this instinctive reaction that sets the pace for a friendship to grow between the two.

Ultimately, trust grows as well, and then affection. And then Josh goes out of his way to find a restaurant where he can take Christian to help him make baby steps back into the world.  Christian finds the courage to accept this first date, and then the courage to meet Josh’s best buddies, and to go bowling, and finally, to tell Josh he loves him. 

I can hardly begin to describe how well the author built these characters, infusing them with life and warmth, sweet personalities, and an obvious need for each other.  Christian’s injury and resulting scars was gently handled and clearly portrayed.  Josh’s personality, his humor, his circle of friends, and his slowly developing love for Christian were all so very well done.  This just hit all my buttons and I devoured it like a starving woman.  I’m left with a case of “feel goods” that I hope will last me a while because stories like this don’t come along every day.  Don’t miss out on this one!

The cover by Bree Archer shows a very good-looking man with a hoodie pulled half over his face.  This perfectly represents the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Expected publication: August 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleOut of the Shadows
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1) by K.J. Charles


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

After the war (WWI) archeologist Saul Lazenby returned home in disgrace when his affair with another man led to charges of treason when some of the innocent remarks he made to his lover were pieced together to cause a disaster for Saul’s fellow soldiers.  After serving his time, he’s lucky anyone is willing to hire him.  His parents have disowned him and he’s found a job with a nice, but clueless and bumbling major who is convinced he can find the location where the body of Geoffrey de Mandeville has been buried. 

Legend says that deMandeville lived as an outlaw, was excommunicated, and was buried alive by the Knights Templar, and his ghost now watches over London and Camlet Moat, where his house was located, in the heart of the city. There is a well in Camelet Moat to which all kinds of legends are attached, including of course, buried treasure, or possibly deMandeville himself. 

All of the arcane activity that has recently increased in the area seems to point to a tear in the veil with deMandeville somehow involved.  The Green Men, principally Randolph Glyde are the only arcanists still remaining who have any chance at all of defeating those from beyond. Glyde is the last of twenty-three generations of arcanists, the most powerful of the families, and may be the only hope of saving mankind.

When both Saul and Randolph keep showing up at the same time in the same place, it’s pretty obvious that one of them is involved in some way with the bizarre, unexplainable things that have been happening recently—things like a tree suddenly combusting before their eyes.  But it’s not until they end up trapped on a spiritual plane together, and Randolph needs to use his arcane abilities to get them out of the trap, that the two realize there’s more than magic between them. 

I can’t begin to do justice to this highly complex and imaginative otherworldly mystery created by the inimitable KJ Charles in early 20th century England.  Her stories are such a fine mix of reality and imagination, they always astound me, and most definitely, always entertain me.  This is the beginning of a new series and it packs a powerful punch! 

Saul is the kind of guy you want to take home and wrap up in arms of love.  Emotionally damaged by circumstances beyond his control, living in poverty, and barely able to earn enough to keep food on the table, his once highly promising career in archeology is lost. He’s now reduced to being front man for a bumbling major on a quest to prove his crazy ideas are based in reality. 

Randolph is from an old, proud family, rich in the heritage of arcane abilities, and responsibility was literally driven into him from childhood.  He takes everything seriously, including his promise to keep Saul safe.  When his cousin Theresa comes back from the dead to impart her knowledge to Saul in Camlet Moat, and Saul agrees to become the Walker of the Moat, the future of the two men is sealed in fate.  That Saul readily accepts everything about Randolph and his abilities, and that they are developing strong feelings of love for one another is a bonus.

If you enjoy tales of the spirit realm, witchcraft, or other inexplicable mysterious happenings, you will likely enjoy this tale. Add in a romance between two men who can’t believe their good fortune to find a possible life partner during a time in history when it seemed virtually impossible, and you’ve got a great story to look forward to.


Cover by Lexiconic Design features a lone man in 1920’s attire, smoking a cigar while leaning against a temple or church wall. It’s probably Randolph and fits the story, but the subdued tones aren’t very attention-getting.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, 271 pages
Expected publication: August 3rd 2017 by KJC Books
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesGreen Men #1

A Barb Advent Calendar Review – Day 3: Anyplace Else (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Kim Fielding


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

anyplace-else-by-kim-fieldingGrant Beaudoin is a mid-thirties, middle manager in a middle class area of Minneapolis. No love interest now or in the recent past, he’s sort of floating along in life. When his twin brother meets and falls head over heels in love with a guy from Croatia, Grant is envious but not really interested in pursuing a man of his own.  Everything in his life is simple until he arrives in Hawaii for his brother’s wedding, and his life takes a turn into the bizarre.

Leaving the bar one afternoon, he strolls into the rain forest and becomes fascinated with a huge oak tree and the man who appears before him, practically out of thin air! The man tells a tale of ancient gods who live, die, and are reborn around the solstice every year.  He’s so intrigued, in fact, that he goes back the next night and actually witnesses the event of which the man told him. Profoundly impacted by the tale and by what he witnesses, he decides to make a change in his life—a change that will lead him on a new and unexpected path into a very different future than he ever dreamed of. 

I have to say this first: Kim Fielding is, without a doubt, an impressive author with an imagination as big as the great outdoors. Every time I pick up one of her books, I’m amazed at the variety and scope of her work, the emotions she evokes, and the characters she creates.  This is a short Advent Calendar story, and yet it felt as if it were a full-length novel encompassing all the plot complexities a lengthy novel can contain.

Be sure to add this one to your holiday shopping list for yourself and those you know might enjoy a short story that packs a huge punch. 

Cover art by Paul Richmond is hilarious and perfect for the holiday cover.

Sales Links




Book Details:

ebook, 33 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Rented Heart by Garrett LeighLonely and grief-stricken, Liam Mallaney finally agrees to go out with his friends to make an attempt to get back into being social and sociable a year after he lost the man he considered his husband. As he seeks respite outside the bar and tries to decide whether or not to go home, he’s approached by a young man who propositions him. It isn’t until he decides to go with the guy that he finds out it’s going to cost him a wad of money.

Zac Payne has been surviving on the slim pickings in this small town ever since he moved from London to Holkham to start anew after he recovered from a drug addiction that nearly killed him six months before. Because his services aren’t as often in demand here, he has to work long days and nights to earn enough to support himself and his still drug addicted best friend, Jamie. He feels that he owes Jamie since he’s the one who got Zac to the help he needed on time.

When he takes Liam home he gets more than he bargained for however. Liam is a hot, sexy Alpha male who treats Zac differently from any of his other Johns. In fact, it’s the most memorable night Zac has ever spent with a man, and the first time he ever brought one to his own bed. Unable to forget Liam, Zac daydreams of what might be if he wasn’t a hooker, so when Liam contacts him after a few weeks, he gladly accepts his offer of spending the day with him.

In the meantime, Jamie is falling further into his addiction and though Zac knows he’s powerless to help him, when Jamie shows up at the apartment with a cache of drugs, Zac flips out and kicks him out. Distressed, he does something he’ll later regret while spending the balance of the day with Liam, who is rapidly becoming so much more than just a John.

The author takes us through Liam’s healing from the grief and despair that has plagued him for so long, introduces us to the life he shared with his lover, and gives us a glimpse into the real Liam behind the corporate façade he wears to keep the company they founded together running. Concurrently, we explore Zac’s personality, his hopes and dreams, and his deep desire to do whatever it takes to stay sober. We also get to know Jamie and while watching him rapidly deteriorate, not only in body but also in spirit, we learn the depth of Zac’s devotion to him.

There were many layers to this emotional drama, and with each page turn the author kept my interest at a peak with yet another new development or another perspective. Alternating scenes between Liam and Zac, because so much of the story took place when they weren’t together, added depth to the drama. I appreciated the strength of their inner resolve and the commitment each exhibited as they fought through the difficult circumstances that plagued them.

My respect for Garrett Leigh grows exponentially with each book I read from this author. I honestly wish I could give this story more than 5 stars, and I very highly recommend it to those who are looking for a story of redemption and the engaging characters who fight their way through their very divergent circumstances to finally be together.

Cover art by Garrett Leigh is perfect for the story.

Sales Links

Riptide Publishing

more links to follow – not yet available



Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Expected publication: September 10th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleRented Heart
ISBN 162649391X (ISBN13: 9781626493919)
Edition LanguageEnglish