A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: On the Ice (Stick Side #1) by Amy Aislin

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

These two characters came to life within the first few chapters and swept me away with their story. I honestly did not want to put this book down to go to bed, but my subconscious took over when I did, and I dreamed about Mitch and Alex. Without a doubt, these men are my favorite couple nominee for any and all 2018 MM romance awards.

Slowburn? Yes. Too much sex on page? No. Friendship? Yes. Characters who mature over time? Why yes. Yes indeed. And that’s not all there is to like about this story.

When college sophomore, hockey player, and kinesiology major Mitch Greyson shows up at an extra credit lecture at his small Vermont college with the express intent of interviewing the Tampa Bay hockey team’s sports doctor, he’s at first disappointed that the man is a no-show. But then he gets to speak to and flirt with the man who came in his place: Alex Dean, a Tampa Bay defenseman who happens to be in Vermont visiting family while his broken arm heals. But Alex wants nothing to do with flirty Mitch. Alex isn’t interested in sex or flirtation. He’s just not made that way. He’s demisexual, and in fact, isn’t even sure if he’ll ever find someone to love, and if he does, he’s not sure if it will be a man or a woman. He’s a 25-year-old virgin and perfectly happy to remain that way. Or so he thinks—until he gets to know Mitch.

Here’s my main sticking point in this story, and yes, it is addressed by the author at the end of the book. But it’s an in-your-face sticking point right from the beginning and may turn some readers off. How many people in 2008 and 2009 knew the term demisexual or knew what was meant by it? I don’t believe many recognized their own demisexuality, never mind in others during the years in which the story is set. Yes, I know the term was invented already, but in general, sexuality was thought to be heterosexual or homosexual at that point. The fine lines—shades of sexuality, so to speak—weren’t discussed and for people who felt they didn’t quite fit in one category or the other, there wasn’t a lot of info available to them to clarify where they fell on the spectrum. The author addresses this issue in her second author’s note (that in my opinion should come before the story, not after) and acknowledges that she took liberties with using the terms. However, I think it would have been easier to accept during the story if the characters acknowledged that they had just recently learned the term. Since it distracted me throughout the book, until I finally got to the author’s note at the end, I’ve dropped my rating a half star.

Fortunately, I was able to move past that and enjoy the balance of the story. And it was a love story, no mistake about that. This was the slowest of slow-burn romances, and so much better because of that. My interest level remained high throughout the book as both characters struggled with issues beyond their control—Alex with his grandfather’s dementia and Mitch with working for the funds he needs to be able to complete the degree he has his heart set on while still practicing and planning to be the best so he can be drafted by the NHL.

I highly recommend this love story to anyone who appreciates a variation from the same-old, same-old tropes and themes. Hockey seems to be a popular sport this year among authors; however, this story is more about the romance than the sport. Other than my issue with the demisexual terminology, this book made me feel the love and raised my spirits—the reason I read in the first place.

~~~

Cover art by Lee Hyat Designs displays the bare torso of a young muscular skater against the background of a hockey rink. The male could represent either young man as one is an NHL player and the other a college student on his school’s hockey team. It’s bright and attractive and a good representation for this story.

Sales Links:   Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition
Published May 8th 2018
Original TitleOn The Ice
ASINB07C3M67XS
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStick Side #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Survivor (Survivor #1) by T.M. Smith

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Taylor Langford is thirteen, his world is turned upside down by the murder of his parents. The only reason he wasn’t killed was because his mother shoved him into a crawlspace in the attic and told him not to come out unless she came for him. But the man who ultimately found him, rookie cop Frank Moore, becomes the most important person in Taylor’s life from that day forward.

This is an absolutely wonderful May to December, very slow burn MM romance, with engaging characters, an exciting plot, and a terrific narration. That’s win-win in my book! Frank and Taylor have a bit over ten years age difference, or at least that was my impression from the audiobook, and Frank never puts the move on Taylor, even when he slowly realizes what he feels for the young man is more than friendship. In fact, neither man alerts the other about their feelings that develop long after Taylor has passed puberty and high school and is finishing college. Taylor knew from a young age that Frank was his ideal man in every way, and as he aged those feelings only became stronger.

But it’s not until it’s so evident to their friends and extended family members—Taylor’s foster parents and Frank’s partner and his wife—that Frank finally decides to tell Taylor how he feels. That occurs at Taylor’s graduate degree graduation party, and by the time it happens, readers like me are rooting for this couple. Both characters are really well-developed and three dimensional—people I’d love to know in real life.  The fact that the murderer is back after a ten-year absence and wants Taylor dead only adds to the excitement of this story.

Nick J. Russo did a wonderful job with the narration, providing a variety of voices, both male and female—each distinct and easy to recognize. That definitely made the audio experience worthwhile.

I definitely recommend this story to lovers of age gap MM romance and most definitely recommend it in audio format.

The cover depicts a handsome young dark-haired man sitting against a colorful background done as an abstract painting with the Seattle Space Needle in the background, representing the locale of the story. Very colorful and attention-getting.

Sales Links:

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 28th 2017 (first published 2017)
Original TitleSurvivor
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSurvivor #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Second Chance by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A beautiful and unique love story, Jay Northcote seems to have put so much of himself into this book that it brought the characters, especially Nate, to life and gave me a deep appreciation of the struggles many transgender persons face in daily situations that some of us simply take for granted.

Nate and his teen daughter, Cass, return to his hometown to live with his mother until Cass finishes high school. She had some problems related to drugs and boyfriends and depression at her former school but she and her dad on are on good terms now and he believes she’ll benefit from being in his small hometown. He and his mother are also on good terms in their relationship—nothing like the struggles they went through when Nate was Nat and wrestling with his need to be the same on the outside as he was on the inside.

When Nate runs into Jack, his former bestie, he doesn’t reveal who he is. Now in his midforties, Nate’s changed enough that he’s not recognizable at first glance and he’s not willing to face the twenty questions most people ask. For his part, Jack thinks the guy looks familiar—he’s definitely hot and attractive—but Jack is suffering from depression and is kicking an addiction and simply isn’t in a good space after life as he knew it fell apart and he had to return home to live with his parents.

The two men do eventually gravitate back together, first as friends, and over time their feelings grow stronger, though neither admits that to the other. When they have sex, Nate is impressed that Jack is respectful of the terminology Nate prefers to use, and he’s even happier that Jack seems to have no issues with experimenting in various ways and genuinely seems to enjoy sex with Nate—as much as Nate enjoys it with him. To Jack, the biggest issue in being with Nate is his parents’ attitude. They are not gender respectful to Nate and can’t seem to get past the fact that today’s Nate is the past Natalie.

I looked forward to every page in this book. The writing was polished and mature; the story was exactly right for the times; the family drama was believable; and the characters were three-dimensional and engaging.

The plot was interesting, educational, and because I’ve followed along on social media as the author transitioned over the past few years, it felt very personal. I cheered for these two men as they navigated through their new relationship while living life with family who knew them as teens and now must learn to accept them as the very different men they are today.

Kudos to Jay Northcote for bringing this story to life. Everyone deserves a “Second Chance” and I’m so happy these men got theirs.

~~~

Cover art by Garrett Leigh is a black-and-white close-up of a good-looking older man, with dark hair and beard. He’s the perfect depiction of Nate.

Sales Links:Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 240 pages
Published April 20th 2018 by Jaybird Press
Original TitleSecond Chance
ASINB07C67ZCPW
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Point of Contact by Melanie Hansen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

How do I put what this book meant to me into words? I can’t find terms to describe this outstanding work. Phenomenal, Heartbreaking, Touching, Realistic, Emotional, Hopeful? All of these, yet none can do the job on its own.

The book is in two segments: before and after.  Before Trevor’s son, Riley, is killed in action in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and After as Trevor starts the painful process of trying to survive without his reason to live. I’m still reeling as I write this. That section was so emotional for me that tears are still leaking, and those who know me know that I don’t let those suckers loose easily. 

My son was in a similar situation, IRL, the year before Riley shipped out.  My parent trigger was pulled over and over again throughout this realistically told story.  The rare calls that only came during the night, which was their daytime.  Going off grid on patrol somewhere top secret.  The IEDs and constant danger from snipers and suicide bombers.  All that and more.  It was a very painfully emotional year for me and as I read Riley’s story and Trevor’s reactions, I was right there with them as my heart beat too fast, or I felt lightheaded, frightened, and finally, sobbing.  Honestly, I don’t know how a parent can survive the loss of a child, but if there are words to describe the hell that is having your child in a situation like Riley was in, Ms. Hansen surely found them.  Kudos for such an outstanding and sensitive portrayal of that time period. 

And the after?  Trevor was so broken it didn’t seem likely he could put one foot in front of the other.  The stages of grief are clearly portrayed. The breakup with Carl, the slowly developing friendship with Jesse, Riley’s BFF and battle buddy, and their long and very slow burn that develops into so much more—all inevitable as readers could tell by the time it happened. The beauty is in the journey we take with Trevor and Jesse along the way as they revisit their memories of Riley: the child, the friend, the soldier.  And, as with the main characters, the secondary characters are well-developed and have their own issues and impact from their time in Afghanistan, most notably PTSD. The author doesn’t gloss over any of it.  Each issue is addressed, some more in-depth than others, all of it making for an emotional read. 

Riley isn’t a fleeting character either. Though he dies in this story, his memory is kept alive throughout the book, in part during Trevor’s stages of grief, but in part through his annual visits to Arlington National Cemetery, where Riley is buried alongside other soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.  There is a romance in here.  Honest there is, but the couple’s story is wrapped up in so much other emotion that needs to be addressed, the romance is almost secondary.  Jesse and Trevor together were beautiful, though they didn’t come together as a couple until the latter part of the book.  And when they did, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  There is so much emotional depth to this story that I’m back to saying what I did at the beginning of this review: there are no words that can do it justice. 

Topping my Best of 2018 list, this book deserves to be read.  Grab the tissue box, find a quiet place where your sobbing will not bother others, and just read.  Read until your heart breaks and heals itself, because it will heal, and by the end of the story, joy is in store for all those who finish.  Joy and a sense of peace and accomplishment and the knowledge that you’ve just read something very special.  Needless to say, I very highly recommend this story to all lovers of MM romance, angst, age gap, hurt-comfort, and deep feels on all stages of life’s spectrum. 

~~~

The somewhat bland-colored cover features a rear view of two men gazing into one another’s eyes.  Neither appears to be younger than the other so it doesn’t quite represent the characters and isn’t appealing. 

Sales Links: Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 451 pages
Expected publication: March 26th 2018 by Carina Press
ISBN139781488097058
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Ever After by Riley Hart & Christina Lee

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is a sweet fairy tale so well done that I was left feeling warm and fuzzy and somewhat in love with the characters in the same way I did when I was a child and first heard the story of Sleeping Beauty and her prince.  The authors created a timeless world in which a man loving a man was not unheard of but was considered unacceptable.  But it was not punishable by death, and by the end of the story, readers could hold out hope that in this particular magical kingdom same sex love might become so much the norm that it wouldn’t even be remarked upon.  If Prince Merrick gets his wish, that may well happen. 

Merrick is under a lot of pressure from his family to choose a bride so that he can ensure the future of the kingdom.  The only one who seems to support him in his hesitation to choose just anyone without being in love with them is his sister.  In fact, throughout the story, she’s his champion, even arranging for several intriguing plot points that throw him in the path of his one true love. 

Cassius is a simple man, devoted to his family and excited by the prospect of being chosen as valet to Prince Merrick.  Promoted through the ranks rather quickly, he doesn’t have a lot of friends and he’s never told his family of his preference for men.  When he gets to know the real Prince Merrick, he discovers a young man who truly cares about others and who has an artist’s soul.  Merrick enjoys the little things in life and appreciates the beauty of nature more than the beauty of his family’s pompous surroundings.  He’s like no other and certainly not like Cas had imagined the future king would be.

Merrick and Cas fall in love over the course of weeks together.  It’s all the little everyday things Merrick does for Cas—like taking him riding, or encouraging him in his story and poetry writing, and eventually making a stop to meet Cas’s family.  Merrick loves Cas’s beautiful nature and the heart of a poet.  He admires his humility and, of course, the two eventually become romantically involved, though they know their days together are numbered.  Cas has already made up his mind that he’ll leave Merrick’s service once the prince chooses a bride at the Winter Solstice Ball. 

The fairy tale plot thickens as the prince sees his love from across the room.   But as should happen in any good fairy tale, his love runs, leaving both heartbroken.  Of course, the authors wouldn’t leave us there and we do eventually get a happily ever after, but it’s the sweetness of reading their adventure that makes this story most memorable.  And make no mistake—there’s no major drama or heartache in this one.  It’s purely sweet—as in a magical fairy tale. 

Kudos to both authors for bringing us this story and, on a personal note, for giving me one more memorable fairy tale to add to my favorites list.  I highly recommend this to those who want to simply go away to a sweet place, daydream to their heart’s content, and end the day on a happy note.    

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Cover art is a caricature depiction of Prince Merrick offering his hand to Cassius at the Winter Solstice Ball.  The outfits exactly match the descriptions in the book. It’s colorful, sweet, and exactly right for this story. 

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Detail:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 262 pages
Published February 26th 2018 by Christina Lee and Riley Hart
Original TitleEver After
ASINB07B413R98
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Color Me In (Last Chance #2) by Riley Hart

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a beautiful love story—a slow burn, awakening of sexuality for Ryan, who has only ever loved one person previously, his former wife Danielle.  Now, in the midst of an unexpected attraction to Caleb White, a man who returned to the small town of Last Chance after having been both in prison and a porn star, he’s shocked when he learns that he’s demisexual.  No wonder he’s never really felt a sexual urge with any of the other women who have come on to him in the past.  And no wonder his feelings for Caleb include a sexual attraction.  After he avidly devours every definition of demisexual from the Internet, he feels changed—like it’s okay to inhabit his body and mind.  He’s not an oddity after all. 

Ryan works as a mechanic for Shane, from Depth of Field (Last Chance #1), and meets Caleb at an all-night diner one sleepless night. Caleb has returned to the town he left when he was sixteen and his family packed up and moved him away quickly after he and Shane were discovered kissing. Later, in his late teens and early twenties he got into trouble and ended up serving a prison term.  By the time he got out, he felt Shane wouldn’t understand, so he never contacted him.  And then while spending years working in the porn industry, he wasn’t willing to simply call Shane to renew what might have only been a passing teenage crush for the man.

But Caleb never forgot him, and he returned to Last Chance where he was welcomed with open arms by Shane and his new boyfriend, Van, another young man they went to school with. Caleb bought a house but hasn’t secured a job yet. Over coffee at the diner late one night, Ryan discloses that he needs to find a new apartment, so Caleb offers him a roommate situation.  Though reluctant to take it, Ryan eventually agrees. 

So the setting is there for two men to become friends, and then become attracted, and then act on that attraction, but this story is, as I said, a slow burn and it was beautifully done.  Ryan had always wondered why he never felt the sexual appeal of anyone other than his former wife.  And then he felt awkward when he found himself drawn to Caleb, but after he learned what it meant to be demisexual, he began to accept himself, and with Caleb’s help, the two started the slow exploration of their mutual attraction.   

The love story is, of course, primarily between these two men. But it’s also the story of a young man who lost his wife after their baby died and she pushed him away.  There’s grieving and healing and the love of two people who were friends as well as spouses.  Now, Danielle is back in his life when Ryan has to rush to his father’s hospital bedside and it’s evident that they still love each other—though as friends now.  And Ryan’s father?  A man who loves his child but has never expressed it properly.  The two have a chance to make amends and verbalize the love they have for one another.  So, as I said, there’s love in this story—multiple facets of love in the same way we humans have so many facets to our personalities. 

I really enjoyed the way the author allowed Ryan to fall in love with Caleb slowly.  And Caleb was a dream man—one who had matured through the School of Hard Knocks and was both kind and understanding.  He was also sexy as hell and totally devoted to Ryan, and Caleb knew he had all the time in the world to wait for this man.  It’s very difficult to put the emotions of this story into words.  Suffice it to say that it’s much more than a GFY or a bi-curious story, and yet it hits on some of the notes from those sorts of stories, which I happen to enjoy. 

Those who enjoyed Crossroads should definitely enjoy this one and if that one was a bit too far out of the realm of believability with two formerly straight men being attracted to one another, this one should hit the spot as an out-and-proud gay man helps a previously thought-to-be-straight man navigate the waters of man-on-man loving.  That love and the love Ryan holds for his family make this a must read for 2018.  Highly recommended. 

~~

COVER DESIGN: X-Potion Designs
COVER IMAGE: Stone Creek City

Cover art is a photo depicting two apparently naked men, one embracing the other from behind.  It’s the perfect depiction of the MCs in this story, with Caleb simply holding Ryan close. 

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published January 28th 2018 by Riley Hart
Original TitleColor Me In
ASINB079DK8B64
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLast Chance #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: A Way with You (Memories with The Breakfast Club) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Reeve Nelson arrives in New York, ready to set the real estate world on fire.  He’s got the experience from having co-owned his own business with his ex-girlfriend, though it was in a small town and nowhere near the complexity or the pricing of life in the City.   Hired by Leo Rodriguez to be his assistant as Leo prepares a new home real estate show for a major network, he eventually finds out that he was primarily hired because of his connections to his brother’s fiance’s family and their business, DeLuca Construction. 

Remy and Tony DeLuca from A Way With Words both make an appearance in this story as Reeve relies on his brother for a shoulder to cry on when his dreams stall out and he experiences a major crush on his arrogant, ruthless boss.   Their tension and sexual chemistry explodes one night when Reeve has had enough and confronts the big man.  Thinking he has nothing to lose since he’s about to quit, Reeve gives him a verbal lashing, but to his surprise, Leo responds by kissing Reeve, and things get hot and heavy from there. 

This story is fairly short—probably novella length—so much of the relationship development takes place off page.  However, the author does keep us informed about what is happening in their lives as they go through the summer as friends.  Reeve now has his own business in Brooklyn, where Tony’s family has more connections and Remy makes sure Reeve gets referrals, but he and Leo are still having sex, still spending hours talking about everything from their past to their likes and dislikes, and still sharing experiences on day-trips, hikes, runs, time at the gym.  In other words, they are becoming very important to one another, and slowly but surely, each man begins to realize how much he is falling in love. 

I always enjoy Lane Hayes’s writing and this story is no exception.  I wish I had known about the first book, however, as I think it would have enhanced my pleasure in reading this one since the characters from that story are featured prominently in this one.  Nevertheless, this can be read as a standalone. 

This book takes two very different men on a journey of discovery and by the time they realize their importance to each other, rather than have their life circumstances turn against them, something very romantic and magical happens and big, gruff, “ruthless” Leo does something Reeve never expects.  It’s definitely a romantic story with a capital R and is the perfect length to pick up when you need that special book to brighten your day.   

~~~~~

Cover art by Reese Dante depicts a photo of a businessman ripping open his suit jacket and shirt to expose his muscular chest.  It’s certainly attention-getting, though I would have liked to see some tattoos on that chest to match the description of Leo’s chest in the story. [fans self]

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 95 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Kindle Worlds
Original TitleA Way with You
ASINB07939KQDJ
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesMemories with The Breakfast Club settingManhattan, New York City, New York (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: In Case Of Emergency by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Daniel Diaz is one of those characters who is so uptight he gives new meaning to the words “undies in a twist.”  Always reliable, steadfast, ambitious, he’s a twenty-eight-year-old HR Director who’s very dependable.  He’s so dependable, in fact, that he checks his work emails twenty-four-seven and can’t let loose.  Until his bestie convinces him to attend CYC—change your cadence—a class intended to shake up his predictable life.  So, contrary to his usual holiday schedule, this year he has booked a condo with a guy from the office who might just be the one to help him let loose.

He’s looking forward to snow, hot tubs, and a week of sex, but unfortunately, just before he leaves he receives a call from the local ER informing him that his “brother” has had an accident and Daniel is listed as next of kin.  Though he doesn’t actually have a brother, after a quick call to his mother, he figures out that this must be Cole, the young kid who was his step-brother for a few months during his mother’s whirlwind marriage to Cole’s father.  When the whirlwind divorce happened, Daniel’s mother kept in touch with Cole and convinced him to list Daniel as emergency contact when he moved to Daniel’s town last year to finish his master’s degree. 

Of course, this interferes with his planned vacation, so Daniel just sends his office lover to the chalet on his own while he takes care of Cole.  Long story short, Cole and his concussion accompany Daniel on his vacation—after all, what choice does a by-the-book guy like Daniel have? But the surprise is on Daniel when he arrives to find that Justin, his office twink—errr potential lover—has invited half the office to share the chalet.  Oops! Bad move on Justin’s part.  And that begins the twenty-four hours of crazy that is Justin and the gang who happen to get snowed in with them until the next day.  Poor Daniel. And poor Cole with his headache. 

I really enjoyed the story—mostly after Justin left, I must admit.   I loved the author’s writing style, the interesting concept of former stepbrothers. Of course, Cole held a long-time torch for Daniel, having had a crush since they met when he was thirteen.  Cole is definitely a more lovable, friendly, outgoing character than Daniel, who remains stiff and reserved for quite a while. And yet I liked Daniel, even though he was pretty misguided.  For Daniel, the more work he did, the better his self-esteem.  I know a lot of people like that.  In fact, I used to be one of them.  I was happy to see, however, that he didn’t remain that way through the whole story and I enjoyed the discovery of their love for each other. 

Yes, it was pretty much insta-love, no matter that Cole had that long-term crush going on. This line in the blurb sums the story up beautifully: “This fluffy gay Christmas romance from Keira Andrews features former stepbrothers reconnecting as adults, sexy hot-tub shenanigans, cuddling by the fire, and of course a happy ending.” So, in the spirit of the holiday season, and of the light, fluffy holiday romance this is intended to be, I’m going for 4.5 stars.  This story made me feel good and provided a few hours of enjoyable reading that hit my warm and fuzzy spot, so I’m recommending it to all who enjoy holiday romances, reunited friends to lovers, love at first (or second) sight, and those who like to see those cold-hearted workaholics turn into mushy romantic fools for the right man. 

~~~~

The cover by Dar Albert of Wicked Smart Designs features two very attractive men one shirtless, one in a T-shirt, in front of a fireplace and Christmas tree.  It captures the spirit of the holiday very nicely.    

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 120 pages
Published November 30th 2017 by KA Books (first published November 2017)
ISBN139781988260266
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Secret Santa by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Jay Northcote’s stories get better and better each year.  This one pokes a bit of fun at dating apps, as Luke, who happens to be working as Santa this year while awaiting the start of a new job, spots a guy on his app who seems to be interested in more than just a quick hookup.  But as Luke’s getting older, he’s getting more interested in finding some permanence—a steady relationship with just one man. 

Theo is thrilled that his first foray into the dating world since his son, Archie, was born four years ago seems to be a potential success.  The only problem is that as they were chatting online, Luke made a comment that indicated he didn’t like kids.  So Theo makes a decision that will drive the plot of this story most of the way to the end—he decides not to tell Luke about Archie.  That can wait until later.  If they hit it off, Theo will then explain that he and his high school girlfriend had a child four years ago and they share custody of the sweet little boy. 

I enjoyed this plot bunny and really liked Archie. He wasn’t overly precocious.  He was just a sweet little fellow.  And when Theo takes his little guy to the mall to visit Santa, Theo is impressed that Santa seems to really like working with the kids.  On the flip side, Luke is shocked when the little boy who comes to see him happens to be accompanied by a gorgeous daddy—Theo!   Luke decides not to tell Theo who he is, thinking he’d wait until their first real date and Theo would share all about his son.  But the more time that goes by, the deeper both men get into the lies and when Archie convinces his daddy to come back to see Santa two more times, Luke starts to get really angry with Theo. 

How this resolves is fun and interesting and just adds to the overall joy of the holiday season.  A very light and uplifting story, with the implied moral of being truthful (even on dating apps!), I found it very difficult to put this down and literally consumed it as fast as a box of chocolates.  It was just as delicious, and I highly recommend it to all lovers of stories of men with children, seasonal romances, and of course, a very happy ending. 

~~~~~

Cover art by Garrett Leigh features a handsome, bearded young man, no doubt representing Luke. Though there is a Santa hat on the page, the cover doesn’t feature a lot of holiday glitter—a good thing in my opinion. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 150 pages
Published November 24th 2017 by Jaybird Press
ASINB077MKNWD1
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into A Wish (Leaning Into Stories #3.5) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a sweet romance, one that can be read as a holiday story or simply a continuation of the Leaning Into series.  It features Ryan Haskell, a secondary character who in the past had a relationship with Wes before Nick came along and who was actively trying to break up Josh and Finn in their story.  Ryan works in the Conrad Winery and is best at his favorite task: conducting tours and selling the wine that is now a part of his life’s work with a group of people he has adopted as his family. 

Each year the winery hires interns and this year, Danny Meyers, a straight jock with a wonderful outgoing personality is driving Ryan crazy. Why? Well on the surface it appears he just rubs Ryan the wrong way when he jokes around or even just brings his bright personality into a room.  Why should one guy be gorgeous, built, athletic, and personable all in one package?  And to top it off, he keeps flirting with Ryan, even though he’s straight.  Way to make a guy crazy! 

Off and on throughout the story, the subject of wishes comes up.  We learn Ryan’s greatest wish is to love and be loved in return.  And we learn the value of believing your wishes can come true.  When Danny realizes his own wishes and dreams are all centered in the Napa Valley and a career as a tennis pro is no longer really an option, he gets the help of Geordie, the co-owner of the winery, to help Ryan weave through the path of his own doubts so that Danny can help Ryan find that wishes can come true.

Though the story is short, the characters are well-developed and the situations are infused with humor and good intentions.  There’s plenty of opportunity for the relationship to develop and there’s a really sweet ending. 

This could technically be read as a standalone, since there are multiple recurring characters from previous books, but it will be a much better reading experience for those who have read one or more of the earlier stories. 

I highly recommend this one to all lovers of contemporary MM romance and if you’ve already read the others in the series, this one is a win-win.  Be sure to ask Santa for this sweet stocking stuffer. 

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Cover art by Reese Dante features a bare-chested man—mostly a torso shot—similar to others in the series, and set against a background of fields of grapes—one vine decorated with a Christmas wreath. By the style of the cover, it’s easy to link this book to the rest of the series, and it’s certainly eye-catching. 

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 126 pages
Published November 20th 2017
ASINB077MYSF1S
Series Leaning Into Stories #3.5