A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Lickety Split by Damon Suede

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This is one of the strangest love stories I ever read. On the one hand, it felt as if two guys were just getting together for some rough sex mixed in with a lot of down-home talkin’ and good earthy slogans, but under the surface level, when we scratch deep enough, it was really a love story between a 40+ old cowboy/farmer/rodeo rider and a 20+ NYC deejay who comes home to good ol’ Hixville,Texas, after his parents are killed in an accident.

Even blindfolded, I’d know Damon Suede wrote this due to his inimitable way of spitting out rough, tough, rapid-fire dialogue. Add to that the deep Texas accent of the older MC, and the often back-to-his-roots twang of the younger MC, and at times I found the dialogue and narrative difficult to follow.

The story in a nutshell: Patrick “Patch” Hastle, New York City-based international “circuit” deejay, is notified that his estranged parents left their farm to him when they were killed as his dad tried to beat a train through a crossing. Heading back to Hixsville, Texas, is the last thing he wants, but he needs the money from the sale of the farm to invest in a new club that he and his BF are planning to open.

Once there, he runs into good ol’ Tucker Biggs, his father’s BF and his one-time crush. In fact, that crush is still happening and may explain why his one-night stands in the city are always based on his fantasies about Tucker. Long story short, after being caught eavesdropping on a masturbating Tucker, the two fall into a fuck-buddies relationship that takes a turn for the better—or worse, depending on your viewpoint—when Patch realizes he loves the old guy and then later realizes the feeling might be mutual. But too many years of denying any feelings and too many years spent running (for Patch) and going too slow (for Tucker) make for a major communication gap.

Can the two find their way to much-needed communication? Can Patch possibly make a living down in Texas when his deejay work takes him all over the world? And can Tucker finally acknowledge his own needs, fears, and feelings? That’s what makes this story tick and what left this reader feeling very close to two very unlikely lovers. So despite sometimes being lost and not being a fan of the good ol’ boy twang in the dialogue, I still felt connected with the characters and I can’t seem to ferget ’em as the day goes on—a sure sign that this one needs to be at least a 4 star book.

~~~

The cover by Reese Dante is quite attractive, featuring a close-up of an older cowpoke on a brightly colored background.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, 286 pages
Expected publication: March 13th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635335736
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Starting New by S.C. Wynne

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

StartingNew_600x900Francis Murphy has been working the streets to survive on his own for years. By doing everything from scrounging through dumpsters to pickpocketing to hooking, he’s managed to survive. Good-looking but overly thin, he’d do almost anything for food, including entering a church reception looking for the goodies from the meeting being held there. It’s been worse for him since the homeless shelter was vandalized and closed down their operation, but Francis has always attempted to maintain cleanliness so he doesn’t stand out as much in a crowd as some others he knows.

When he’s just about to reach for a plump muffin, he’s hailed by Randy Wright, the pastor’s son. Immediately drawn to Francis, Randy engages him in conversation. But Francis knows just how long he can afford to linger, and as soon as he’s done scoffing down the muffin, he’s out of there.

Unfortunately, his good luck takes a turn for the worse when he barely escapes with his life a few days later after a John goes crazy on him with a knife. Subconsciously, Francis seeks comfort at the Grace and Light Church where he met Randy, and Randy happens to spot him lurking in the shadows. Shocked at Francis’s condition, Randy gets his mother, and then his father involved, and before he knows it, Francis awakens in a bed in their home. There, despite his best efforts to shun their help, he finds support and friendship and finally agrees to work for them by helping to repair the shelter in exchange for room and board.

Over time, he and Randy are attracted to each other, shocking Francis because he never gets involved with anyone and shocking Randy because he thought he was straight. But good things don’t seem to last for Francis and he bolts.

Will he ever find peace? And what about Randy? Will he want Francis in his life as more than a friend? Will the pastor and his wife be as accepting as they verbalize they are? And what about the crazed John with the knife? Is he gone for good? 

This was a very interesting story. Dark in some ways, light-hearted and hopeful in others. It’s the first I’ve read from this author, and I was impressed by the character development. And it’s not “preachy” about religion, though it does explore Randy’s beliefs, which are somewhat influenced by his religious family, though in a church that is more liberal than many. I also enjoyed the slow awakening of feelings by and between both Francis and Randy. This is a good slow burn/UST story for those who prefer that theme. It’s also a good story for those who like their stories to feature MCs who seem to have no hope for the future.

Cover by: G.D. Leigh

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Book Details:

ebook, 192 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleStarting New
ISBN 1626494304 (ISBN13: 9781626494305)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

GaysOfOurLives_600x900 (1)Emerson Robinette has MS.  He also has a huge case of chip-on-shoulder and another of social anxiety. Ever since his diagnosis, he’s limited himself to being only in safe situations, or situations he perceives as safe and follows his rules—only pick up guys on days his legs don’t tingle; don’t let his dominant side out for fear of failure; don’t make friends so they won’t be disappointed in him; and so on. 

He teaches ESL and GED prep classes at a community center and loves his job. Though he never intended to be a teacher, he pretty much just fell into it. He happens to meet a hipster named Obie on a bus ride home one day.  Obie is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, dresses the way he feels, and seems to be attracted to Emerson.  The only problem?  When Emerson gets off the bus, he has to use his cane and he notices that Obie notices so he figures that’s the end of that hope. 

One thing about Emerson that we come to see as we read the story is that he just can’t muster up the courage to be positive about anything.  He so afraid of losing hope that he refuses to have it in the first place.  He’s isolated himself without even realizing it, and he refuses to let in the people who genuinely care about him: his GED class members, his boss, and most definitely, Obie.  But Obie doesn’t allow Emerson to wallow in his own depression.  Little by little, he chips away at that façade until he exposes the real Emerson, the young man who has hopes and dreams and the one Obie is falling for. 

Obie also introduces Emerson to Dred, his best friend. Dred is biracial, very pregnant, and a single parent, having been deserted by the baby’s father as soon as he found out she was pregnant. Dred is another person who slowly chips away at Emerson’s isolation.  If any character ever needed to change, it’s Emerson.  At first, I found him to be so abrasive that I wasn’t sure I could enjoy the story.  However, by about the 25% mark, I was intrigued. 

I enjoyed the author’s writing style and liked the parenthetical, often self-deprecating or snarky, comments that punctuated much of Emerson’s thoughts. The parallels drawn between Dred’s pregnancy and Emerson’s MS were spot-on, and Obie was not just the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—he was the rainbow. 

I recommend this story to those who love an MM romance with and anti-hero—someone you may hate at the beginning and love by the end—and those who love stories of overcoming disabilities, friends as family, and those who simply want to read something different and interesting.

~~~~

The cover art by L.C. Chase shows a close-up of a bearded, good-looking young man against a bright purple background.  The use of color makes this an attractive cover.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published July 11th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 10th 2016)
Original TitleGays of Our Lives
ISBN 1626494258 (ISBN13: 9781626494251)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesQueers of La Vista #1

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Winter Oranges coverJason Walker, former child star and now B-movie regular is sick and tired of Hollywood and the paparazzi cameras that seem to be present wherever he goes, so he buys a ranch in Idaho in the hopes of finding peace and serenity. That may have worked, except for the ghost haunting his guest house who can’t be seen by anyone but Jason.

He nearly passes out when he discovers that the young man, dressed in 19th century clothing, is actually trapped in a snow globe. It seems that the only person who has seen him in over 150 years is Jason, and they eventually discover that it’s likely that Jason is a descendent, and decide that’s the only possible reason for it. Benjamin Ward would have been nearly twenty-one when his sister put a spell on him and trapped him in the globe. She was trying to keep him from enlisting in the Confederate Army when the Civil War began, but before she could let him out, the globe was stolen, and he’s been trapped ever since.

He’s sweet and funny and loves discussing just about everything. He’s been manifesting outside the globe for years, usually in an empty room because he’s confined to the room where the globe is located, but occasionally he’s in a room where someone is watching TV, so he’s hooked on sitcoms, especially those from the eighties when he spent a lot of time living with an elderly woman who loved to watch TV. When Jason accidentally winds the globe in Ben’s presence, they discover that he can also be heard by Jason. He keeps Jason company, helping him work through the issues of feeling lonely and abandoned by his family and the best friend he loves but can’t have. Dylan has been Jason’s best friend and on-again-off-again lover for years, but he’s not interested in commitment, and it breaks Jason’s heart to see him with other men and women when he longs to be the man’s only companion. But he slowly discovers that by spending all his time with Ben, he’s formed a stronger bond with him, and it soon occurs to him that he’s falling in love with the young man.

When they discover a way for Jason to enter the globe and be with Ben sexually, it’s not a simple solution because on his return to the real world, Jason suffers traumatic headaches and severe nausea and vomiting, which when witnessed by the local police chief, lands him in the hospital. Ben is frantic, not knowing where Jason has been taken and even if he’s alive, so when he returns, they decide to stop trying to find a way to be together in the globe. In the meantime, Dylan has also discovered that Jason seems to be talking to himself a lot and that he’s extremely possessive of the snow globe. Fearing his friend is losing his mind, he takes steps to separate Jason from the globe.

There’s so much drama in this story that I wanted to read it with one eye closed. As it was, I had to put it down and walk away a few times because my nerves were shot. I was very afraid for both Jason and Ben, both individually and as a couple. Jason appeared to be losing his grip on sanity, and I thought he was going to be taken from Ben, but the culminating action of the story was even more dramatic and traumatic than I envisioned, and I thought I was going to scream before the finale. I can’t begin to describe the tension I felt and the fear I had for both men, and I honestly could not figure out how the author could possibly resolve this drama. But resolve it she did, and in a most spectacular and satisfying way.

I actually had to wait a few days before writing this review because I was concerned that the stress I felt while reading was going to negatively influence my rating of the story. Now that I’ve had time to breathe and relax, I can only sit back and admire the mind of an author who can be so ingeniously creative. This was a wonderful love story and a unique one at that. If you like paranormal or even just a creative twist to your MM romances, you should love this one. Don’t hesitate to buy it.

~~~~~

Cover Art by LC Chase depicts a winter scene with a young man inside a snow globe. It’s beautifully done and very attention-getting, though it doesn’t quite represent the snow globe described in the story that contained only a log cabin in the woods.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 325 pages
Published November 28th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
original titleWinter Oranges
ISBN 162649357X (ISBN13: 9781626493575)
edition languageEnglish

Twenty percent of the proceeds from this title will be donated to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center.

Founded in 1996, the GLBT National Help Center is a non-profit organization that provides vital peer-support, community connections and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Utilizing a diverse group of GLBT volunteers, they operate two national hotlines, the GLBT National Hotline and the GLBT National Youth Talkline, as well as private, volunteer one-to-one online chat, that help both youth and adults with coming-out issues, safer-sex information, school bullying, family concerns, relationship problems and a lot more.

To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: http://www.glbthotline.org/

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Easy Evenings (Mangrove Stories #4) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

easy evenings coverContinuing in the Mangrove series, Mary Calmes brings us the story of Lazlo Maguire, part time rent boy, part time Mangrove Florida business owner, and his lost love, Attorney Britton Lassiter.

Readers of the series may recall that Laz’s best friend, Mia, had decided to expand her law practice by bringing on a new attorney—an attorney whose name happens to be the same as the man Laz once loved but refused to give up his escort career for. Well, Laz’s worst fears are realized when it turns out that Britton is one and the same, and he no longer wants Laz. In fact, he’s put out a restraining order against him.

Lazlo Maguire works as an escort in NYC for six months of every year then heads to Mangrove, Florida for the rest of the year where he hones his metalworking craft and sells his unique sculptures to townsfolk, and collectors. He’d love to do this work full time, but he’s supporting his mother and sister, ungrateful though they may be, and he can’t afford to do that without the money he makes as a rent boy.

The only time he’d ever let his guard down was with Britton Lassiter, a gorgeous work-driven attorney who found that Laz was the only person who could meet his needs and get him to relax. Laz never acted as his escort; they met on an even playing field and fell in love. Unfortunately, Laz felt he couldn’t put himself first due to his need to support his family, and he broke Britton’s heart when he left town. No wonder Britton is hurt when he sees Laz again—he thinks Laz followed him to Florida but is going to run off again.

Enter one sweet three-year-old girl and the attorney escorting her who informs Laz that he is not only a father, but he now has custody of his child since her mother passed away. After the initial chaotic feelings run rampant through his system, he wholeheartedly embraces being a father. First stop is to his friend Mia’s law office so that he can get an ironclad agreement that once Kitty is his, she can’t be taken away. And who happens to be working that day instead of Mia? Britton, of course. Despite his antipathy toward Laz, Britton helps him with Kitty, and that action proves to be the first step toward getting back together with his lover.

The two men find themselves revealing their hurts, their past misunderstandings, and their innermost feelings, and they very quickly realize that the only way forward for either of them is together.

This is a fairly short story, no more than a novella length, but it’s typical Mary Calmes in that there’s hot, hot sex scenes, heartwarming love declarations, and a touch of alpha action in the bedroom—this time from the physically smaller man. There were some instances and experiences in the story that I felt required a stretch of my imagination, and I would have loved to have had the time to explore more about their past and to have allowed more time for Britton and Laz to get back together, but that wouldn’t have been possible with the length of this book.

Overall, I found this MM romance very satisfying and sweet. It would be an excellent beach read or the book you’d want to curl up with on a cold winter day.

~~~
Cover Art by Resse Dante is very bright and colorful, depicting a young man smoking a cigarette while leaning on his deck which overlooks dense Florida greenery. Though attractive, I don’t feel the cover represents the character as portrayed in the story. It looks more like what Laz may have been before the story started, but nothing like the Laz depicted as a young father in this book.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press  | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 77 pages
Expected publication: November 18th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634765915 (ISBN13: 9781634765916)
edition languageEnglish

Series Mangrove Stories with links to our reviews:

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Boyfriend For The Weekend (Boyfriend #1) by Diana DeRicci

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Boyfriend for the Weekend coverJayden Sindler’s sister is getting married, and she’s extremely adamant that he be sure to bring a date to Florida where the wedding party will be spending the five days before the wedding getting acquainted and having a mini-vacation before the big day. Stressing the names of her friends who don’t care that Jayden is gay and will “man hunt” him all week, she finally makes her point. So when he’s out with his best friend Tim and meets not only Tim’s new boyfriend Bill but also Bill’s cousin, Nash, he decides to ask if Nash would be interested.

It doesn’t hurt that Nash is gorgeous, tall and lean with long dark hair, eyeliner-highlighted eyes and a smile that captures Jayden’s interest immediately. But Bill has reservations about letting Nash go, since Nash is newly out and actually moved in with Bill to escape his homophobic father. Nash has never had a boyfriend, nor any opportunity to explore his sexuality, but it’s a chance for Nash to relax and be away from his father in a safe environment, so when Jayden swears he will keep his hands off Nash, Bill relents and nineteen-year-old Nash is allowed to accompany the twenty-six-year-old playboy to Florida.

On the plane, the two decide to act the part of boyfriends, deciding that their act will be more convincing, and after all, they wouldn’t want anyone to think that Nash is a paid escort, would they? But what happens when the pretending becomes real? Not only does Nash lose his heart to Jayden, who treats him with the utmost respect, but Jayden loses his heart to Nash, perceiving the younger man as the sweetest gift he’s ever been given.

Is there any chance their caring and concern for each other could ever be more? And is there any chance Bill won’t kill Jayden if he breaks his promise about remaining hands-off? And last, but not least, is there any chance for them when they re-enter the real world and school and job responsibilities demand their attention?

This is a really sweet story—the kind that put a smile on my face and kept it there throughout the book. There are sexy times and sweet, tender moments, and there are also family conflict and hurt feelings when Jayden realizes how others perceive him. But overall, it’s just plain fun to read this romance. On a negative note, though it ends on a HFN, it does end somewhat abruptly with a “to be continued” at the end of the Epilogue. No cliffhanger, thankfully, but nevertheless, no HEA. I do believe I will be picking up the next story in the series because I enjoyed these guys so much I want to see where their careers and commitment to each other take them. I recommend it to all who enjoy a sweet M/M romance with age gap, virgins, and very little angst. Can’t go wrong with this one.

Cover art by Melody Pond depicts the torsos of two suited men, arms linked, in the top panel of the cover, with a script-style title across the center and a fancy wedding-style place setting across the lower panel. Very bright and cheerful, and it definitely indicates the content of the story.

Sales Links: MLR Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 164 pages
Published August 20th 2015 by MLR Press
original title Boyfriend for the Weekend
ASIN B0148RTW1S
edition language English
series Boyfriend #1

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review : Model Citizen by Lissa Kasey

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

Model Citizen coverOliver Petroskovic is an international supermodel who works part time for his brother at his detective agency. A former Marine, Nathan left the corps when their parents died and has raised Ollie since he was twelve years old. Ollie is beautiful, feminine, and highly sought after as a model. He’s selective in the modeling jobs he takes, and turns down anything sexually degrading. He prefers wearing feminine clothing, much of which he’s created himself, and designing for others who are “gender fluid” would fulfill his career goals. Though gay, he’s not had a partner or lover since he caught his boyfriend cheating. As the story opens, he’s just closed on a home for him and Nathan financed by his modeling jobs. He’s excited to get back to the office to share the good news about the closing with his brother.

Accompanied by Nathan’s best friend Will, when he gets there he finds Nathan has committed suicide by shooting his brains out. Months later, still traumatized, but feeling responsible for keeping the business open, Ollie carries on as best as he can while trying to put in enough hours to get his PI license. But he’s constantly caught on the wrong side of the law on his PI jobs, and Will, a police officer, is getting pretty fed up with bailing him out of jail.

Will is married to Ollie’s best friend Britney, so even if Ollie tried to dodge Will, he couldn’t get far because B is always onto what he’s doing. Just when Ollie is ready to admit he needs help, Will shows up with former Marine Kade Alme, another friend of Nathan’s, who’s recently left the service after recovering from injuries from a roadside bomb. Kade has a PI license so he may be able to help Ollie, even if Ollie doesn’t want the help. There’s one more thing that Kade has that Ollie’s not sure he wants and that is the hots for Ollie. According to Kade, he’s wanted Ollie for years, but Nathan kept him away from his younger brother. Kade aims to change all that as he declares that he has no intention of being one of the many people in Ollie’s life who have abandoned him. He’s there for the duration.

When one of Ollie’s friends is injured during filming of a reality TV show, and Ollie goes to check on him, he uncovers a possible disastrous situation on the set of the show, and the danger in his life is suddenly more than anything he’s ever faced before. Kade goes along to help him as they investigate the frequent and “coincidental” accidents occurring on the set. But when Ollie becomes a victim, it’s time to get the case resolved and to find out whether Kade really is in there for the long haul as he claimed or is he going to bolt when things get tough?

I really enjoyed this story. The action and drama were suspenseful and the mystery not easily solved. The MCs were amazing together, and I totally love a story where there is MANTIES! There’s also a hot, alpha man who loves his feminine partner in all his crossdressing glory. And just when I thought we were easing into a peaceful happy ending, the author threw out a curve ball, a cliffhanger ending which, of course, will lead most of us to keep reading this series. Don’t get me wrong, there is indeed a HEA/HFN for the MCs but there’s also a darn good reason for them to keep their PI agency open.

I recommend this to a) those who love manties (!) and b) those who love an M/M romance with characters who need to heal, both physically and emotionally from past trauma, and c) those who just plain love a good mystery with plenty of drama mixed in with the romance.

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Cover Art by Garrett Leigh depicts a black-and-white photo cover with a camera in the lower section below the title and a set of dog tags with the chain in a heart-shaped pattern in the upper section of the page. The camera and dog tags are symbolic of the MCs.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages, also in paperback
Published June 22nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN1634761316 (ISBN13: 9781634761314)

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review :Three’s Company by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

This is the kind of story where the characters burrow into your heart and stay long after you finish the last page.

Three's Company coverWilson Curtis arrives at the small hotel in Key West to begin his long-awaited two-week vacation for two—but without Mr. Two. His boyfriend Rod has joined with others in his Alabama hometown to ostracize him when it’s learned that he’s gay. Rod is a police officer who saw Wilson covertly for nearly two years but left him without a second thought the minute Wilson was outed while having drinks with Rod and a few other friends one night. And just like that, his life was turned upside down, because not only did he lose Rod, the townsfolk boycotted his restaurant business, and though his friend Callie is keeping it open for now, business is declining as the rumors of his homosexuality spread.

When he arrives at the beachfront hotel, he’s greeted by the handsome, dark-haired, blue-eyed manager, Simon Stanford. Simon excitedly tells his live-in lover—carefree, blond, gorgeous Adam—about the new guy who’s arrived, and together they make plans to seduce him into their bed for a night of ménage fun.

The couple is surprised, however, to discover that one night is just not enough, and they find themselves extending the invitation for the length of his stay. Suddenly, their feelings are involved, and when that happens, more than the positive feelings emerge—there’s a miscommunication, and Simon storms off and won’t speak to the others; outsiders are trying to buy the hotel; and life as they knew it goes rapidly downhill.

This was the best M/M/M romance I’ve read to date. These guys had diverse and interesting personalities as well as careers that jelled, life circumstances that fit together like puzzle pieces, and hot, steamy sex in places and positions that stoked the imagination. And they kissed—in two’s and three’s—sweetly, and oh, so sinfully, not-so-sweetly. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve read a ménage that I can actually picture working—from the sex to the personalities and vice versa. I very highly recommend this to all M/M romance lovers who want to dip a toe into the pool of ménage, and if you’re already into threesomes, why wait? Pick up your copy right now!

Cover Art by Posh Gosh features a bright and beautiful Florida sky and blue waters. Superimposed on that is a photo of three men sitting on the beach with the center man’s arms around the others. There are also other photos depicting tropical paradise themes. Very nice, attractive, colorful cover!

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon (not supported at Amazon)

Book Details:

ebook, 176 pages
Published August 25th 2015 by Pride Publishing (first published 2012)
ISBN139781784307424
edition language English

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review — Foolish Encounters: A Rainbow Gold Anthology by Angel Martinez, Tinnean, Tali Spencer, Amy Lane, J.C. Wallace, Elin Gregory, and Freddy MacKay

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Foolish Encounters coverThis is a collection of stories in which one or both of the MCs have something happen which disrupts their routine before they have that first chance encounter. As the blurb states, “An accident, a chance encounter, a thought blurted out, a boat blown off course, a change in direction that suddenly runs into the line of fire – the smallest misstep can change everything. These foolish encounters are the moments around which lives pivot and sometimes spin out of control.”

A Message from the Home Office by Angel Martinez
Sissal, a cobra shifter, is sent an assistant to his outpost on planet Earth. The young guy named Rcrred, and nicknamed Richard, is cute, blond, very high strung, and uses his eidetic memory to spout regulations at Sissal every chance he gets. Richard is a dik-dik shifter and is the last thing Sissal wanted in his life. But Sissal adapts to the situation until he discovers that Richard has hacked into his computer and is apparently trying to find something on him to report back to headquarters. Actually, he’s reporting back to a specific officer who has had it in for Sissal for years. This is a very nice story with great world-building, interesting characters, and a plausible, complex storyline. Great for those who like sci-fi/futuristic adventures. 4 stars

Shredding the Heart by JC Wallace
Nicholas is a skateboarder who is hoping to win a national title, and in the meantime is working, going to college part time, and practicing on his skateboard every chance he gets. He’s not only obsessed with skateboarding, though. He’s obsessed with the guy he sees out running every morning, and in an attempt to get closer one morning, he accidently overcompensates on his board, sending it slamming into the man’s head. Quinn is a workaholic, driven to achieve in his high pressure finance job, and hadn’t noticed the gorgeous skateboarder until they both ended up in the hospital together. Eventually, Quinn gives in to Nicholas’s attempts to befriend him, and the two find they have a lot in common. But Quinn’s been burned before and doesn’t give his trust lightly. When he perceives that Nicholas has used him to get sponsorship to attend his next skateboarding event, he cruelly breaks Nicholas’s heart and storms off in a huff.

This is the longest of the stories and was very well done. The author took the time to build a relationship with the men and gave them plenty of time to work out their own issues and for Quinn to realize his own stupidity. Shredding is defined as performing an athletic sport well, and it’s not until Quinn learns how to master his heart that the two can finally find their HEA. Great for those who love a little angst and self-flagellation mixed with their romance. 5 stars

The Lunar Imperative by Elin Gregory
Futuristic sci-fi about Haken, a Vargan sergeant who leads a covert mission to another planet to exterminate the man who escaped their planet with their treasury. One of his soldiers, Raimi, is attracted to Haken but is not of the same rank so Haken hesitates to pursue anything. The Vargans are huge, and shift-shape to beasts during the full moon, often losing their humanity during that time and feasting on each other. However, at this full moon, both Raimi and Haken have been captured. The heart of the story revolves around whether or not they will kill each other, exterminate their captor, or be killed. This is an interesting tale with a lot of world-building for such a short story. If you like non-human species and sci-fi space adventures, you will likely enjoy this one. 3 stars

Blue and Green Persuasion by Tinnean
Stranded aboard The Midnight Ride, a starship which has been floating without power through the galaxies for centuries, Hart accepts that his fate may be to die aboard the ship that was to have transported them to a new world before it lost power. But as they enter a new galaxy, his father, the captain, asks him to power up his pod—a small spaceship that he uses for scouting. As Chief Scout, he will not only drop into a possibly hostile atmosphere, but he may never return to the ship since there’s not enough power to get back. But the reports look good. The planet seems to have both water and land mass, and when he lands he finds an oxygen-rich atmosphere, small animals to use as food, and beautiful, bird-like sentient beings. Kes is such a being and right from the start, they are attracted to each other. But Hart has to direct his father and the other survivors onboard The Midnight Ride as they use shuttle tenders to land in this new world so the men are separated until Hart completes his mission. This was a great story with amazing world-building within so few words. The primary romance, and another between Hart’s brother and one of the soldiers were sweetly done, and we see enough of the promise of a future together to make it a satisfying romance story. 5 stars

Well Hello, Eight Eyes by Tali Spencer
Tanner is out on Lake Michigan when a horrible storm blows up, and he can’t make it back to shore. Shooting for an island, his boat capsizes, and he ends up on Spider Island where the residents don’t seem very happy about saving his life. He’s assigned to Cory as his housemate and “sitter”, and told to stay in the cabin no matter what happens while Cory is gone during the day. He steps onto the porch and is greeted with a scary sight—huge, furry, eight-legged creatures resembling spiders seem to be playing with each other in a nearby field. Needless to say, he gets indoors and doesn’t plan to go out at all the next day. That night, he and Cory get closer and more romantically involved, and he’s starting to wonder if he even wants to leave the island the next day when the supply boat is due to arrive. But before he has to make the choice, he gets a greater shock when he spots a spider indoors with him. What happens next changes the course of his future, and he finds a chance to be happy with Cory in a warm and fuzzy way (pun intended!). 3.5 stars

The Fenestra Penetration by Amy Lane
A fenestra is an opening or a window. Steve is a UPS driver who enjoys imagining what goes on behind the windows he views as he makes his deliveries every day. Usually he can see something inside each window that fires his imagination, but one house on his route has all the shades pulled, and when he sees where the package he’s about to deliver is from, he’s hoping that the guy who lives there is as hot as his imagination makes him out to be. That particular company only produces certain items—the kind of items Steve himself prefers, and when he gets a look at the cute guy who receives the box, he wants more. Eventually, he not only gets it he gets much more than his imagination could have possibly hoped for. A really cute, sweet, hot, well done story packed with humor and romance. 5 stars

The Nut Job by Freddy Mackay
This one is somewhat of an offshoot of “A Message from the Home Office” by Angel Martinez. Spencer is the pilot who dropped off Rcrred and got out of there quickly before Sissal could make him return for the irritating little rik-rik. Spence is a squirrel, or a squirrel-like being, who is on a mission to gather nuts, not only for the people on his planet, but there’s also a little side trip to set himself up with his own private stash. When his assistants, some of whom are large and furry, are spotted and shot at by a human, Spence has to abort his mission, drop his nuts, and try to get his friends to safety. It’s during this escape that he meets Raijin, a human male who is stoned on pot and ’shrooms and doesn’t really believe his own eyes. Over time, and a great deal of bickering, he and Spence start to form an attraction, and when Raijin is injured by that same gun-toting human, Spence does whatever he can to keep him safe, including making Raijin his pet. This is a nutty story (pun intended) in which the author shows a definite sense of humor with the nut jokes. A great way to end the anthology, and though not strictly a romance, there’s hope for one as the story closes. 4 stars

Overall, this is a nice anthology, definitely just perfect for those who enjoy sci-fi since many of the stories were space adventures. I enjoyed some stories more than others, and I’m sure other readers will have their own choices, but overall I enjoyed this very much.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  Cute cover that works for the anthology.

Sales Links:     Wilde City Press        All Romance (ARe)      Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, First, 353 pages
Published April 1st 2015 by Wilde City Press, LLC (first published March 31st 2015)
original titleFoolish Encounters: A Rainbow Gold Anthology
ISBN 1925313069 (ISBN13: 9781925313062)
edition languageEnglish

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review – Food for Thought ( Tales of the Curious Cookbook #2) by Amy Lane

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5:

Food for Thought coverEmmett Gant was planning to tell his father something really important one Sunday morning—but his father passed away first. Now, nearly three years later, Emmett can’t seem to clear up who he should be with—the girl with the apple cheeks and the awesome family, or his snarky neighbor, Keegan, who never sees his family but who makes Emmett really happy just by coming over to chat.

Emmett needs clarity.

Fortunately for Emmett, his best friend’s mom has a cookbook that promises to give Emmett insight and good food, and Emmett is intrigued. After the cookbook follows him home, Emmett and Keegan decide to make the recipe “For Clarity,” and what ensues is both very clear—and a little surprising, especially to Emmett’s girlfriend. Emmett is going to have to think hard about his past and the really important thing he forgot to tell his father if he wants to get the recipe for love just right.

The second story in the new series, Tales of the Curious Cookbook, features tall, socially awkward, shy Emmett Gant who has not been able to act on his desire for another man since he broke up with Jordyn, his college roommate and first love, three years ago. On the day he had been planning to come out to his father, he discovered his dad had passed away alone at his home. Devastated, and unable to vocalize the fact that he is gay to anyone else because, after all, he tried to tell his father but he died first so now he can’t tell anyone, and he turns to the solution of dating a woman.

He’s a pretty emotionally damaged young man in want, in need, of a big family of his own. When he was a kid he was “adopted” by his best friend Vinnie’s large and boisterous family and that’s what he wants for his life now. Thinking that being married to a female is the key to that happiness, he’s been dating Christine, but he’s been unable to go further than to kiss her. Even his new best friend, Keegan, the cute guy who befriended him when he bought his home in a neighborhood not far from his workplace, discourages him from pursuing Christine.

Emmett needs to have clarity, to be able to see the truth about himself as others see him and Flora, Vinne’s mom, has just the solution. She presents him with a copy of an old handwritten cookbook, Recipes for the Heart: Mystical Meals and Dangerous Desserts, by Granny B. He can’t believe she’d entrust him with something that should be a family heirloom and tries to leave it behind, but he finds it in his car when he gets back home.

The key to Emmett’s issues is found in that cookbook with a recipe for beet porridge—the recipe for clarity. He and Keegan decide to make that recipe, and though the recipe itself is a disaster, the outcome is not. Both men find the truth and each other <spoiler> and unfortunately, Christine finds both of them in bed!</spoiler> But clarity indeed does ensue because Emmett pulls up his big boy panties and sets out to make things right—first with Christine, and then with his dad, and finally with Keegan.

This was a short, but very sweet and emotionally charged story. Hey, it’s Amy Lane—of course, there’s emotion! It amazes me that she can wrap characters around my heart as quickly as she does, and she fills in family relationships with a few quick strokes of her keyboard, yet they are rich in detail and serve as a strong support for the MCs.

I recommend this story to all lovers of M/M romance, but especially to those who love an emotionally damaged hero who finds the strength to accept love and move forward toward his HEA.

~~~

Cover Art by Reese Dante depicts a cat in front of an open cookbook. Emmett’s cat, George, is featured prominently in this cookbook story, making the cover perfect for this book.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press     All Romance (ARe)       Amazon         Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published April 8th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
original title Food for Thought
ISBN13 9781632168597
edition language English
series Tales of the Curious Cookbook

Tales of the Curious Cookbook series:

6 works, 5 primary works.
Five fun and fanciful stories about a rather curious cookbook!

Authors and Their Stories:

RJ Scott – For a Rainy Afternoon (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by R.J. Scott
Amy Lane – Food for Thought (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by Amy Lane
Marie Sexton – Lost Along the Way (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by Marie Sexton
Amber Kell – Cookies for Courting (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by Amber Kell
Mary Calmes – Just Desserts (Tales of the Curious Cookbook) by Mary Calmes
RJ Scott – Tales of the Curious Cookbook by R.J. Scott