A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Familiar Angel by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This was certainly a departure from what I normally read and most definitely a departure from stories I’ve read from Amy Lane, one of my favorite authors.  The main reason it’s a departure is that it’s fantasy-based and that’s not my favorite genre; there’s also a historical element, a lot of world-building, and a huge family dynamic with relationships out of the norm—it’s a family of the heart rather than a family of origin—so even understanding all those intertwining relationships took some time and concentration to get me into the rhythm of the story.  Was it a romance?  Well, there’s an MM romance within the book but I would hesitate to recommend this one to someone looking strictly for an MM romance because it’s only about 20% of the story, and actually, once the angel is in corporeal form, it’s only about 10%. 

But I digress.  Here’s the background:  A sorceress and a demon—Emma and Leonard—are ill-fated lovers and while being pursued/hunted, they take the time for the sorceress to prepare a spell to humanize the demon and to get them away from their pursuers. During the incantation, she looks across the clearing and sees three young boys who are running for their lives from Big Cass, a whoremaster, rapist, brothel-keeper.  She includes the boys—Harry, Edward, and Francis—in the spell and when the dust settles, the demon is now human, and she’s still alive but has given some of her power away to change the three boys to her familiars who are now able to assume cat form.  All have become immortal, though they will age very slowly over time. To the boys, the important thing is that they will be together and they’ve escaped Big Cass.  Then they discover both the safety they feel and the fun they can have in their cat forms and remain in those forms more often than not over the first year or so after they’ve been changed.

The family establishes itself in California and when the boys later hear of a group of young people being sold into slavery, they determine they are going to rescue them. Thus starts a hundred year plus journey during which the family specializes in finding, rescuing, and redirecting young women and men being trafficked.  Over time, Harry and the angel, Suriel, who is Heaven’s angel doomed to suffer for those bound against their will, become very close. In fact, almost from the beginning, Harry loves Suriel and Suriel loves Harry, so much so that he comes down from Heaven a few times over the years to save Harry’s life.  Each time, he suffers more when he returns to Heaven.  It’s a price he pays for helping Harry—a price he gladly pays. 

I’m not sure I’m doing justice to the world the author built here as it was complex so somewhat confusing to me, but I liked the fact that in the latter parts of the story, the characters recounted some of their adventures so it helped to put their view of the world and the events that brought them together into perspective. 

I wish there had been more time for Harry and Suriel on page. Though the depth of their love for one another was clear at the end, their earlier years together were told as flashbacks, and in some cases, assumptions, so the strength of their bond was not as apparent as it was in the last chapters.  And maybe Harry wasn’t quite as lovable a human as I would like.  I’m not sure. He spent a lot of time in his head and looking out for his brothers—a typical oldest child.  There is a nice setup for both brothers to have their stories: Edward, the middle brother, is apparently in love with a demon who has helped them off and on through the years; and Francis, the youngest brother is in love with the child born to Emma and Leonard who is now at college age and about to be sent off to Oxford.  I found it odd that though none of the rest of them are aging, the child of the sorceress and former demon grew and aged at a human pace up to this point.  Will that continue or will his progress slow so that he can keep pace with his lover, Francis, the youngest of the familiars who at this point is immortal?   Hmm, inquiring minds want to know. 

Overall, though, I did enjoy this story from the fertile imagination of Amy Lane. I do recommend it to those who enjoy angels and demons and the world they live in and to those who want to get in on the ground floor of what could turn out to be a long-term, engaging, and intriguing MM romance series.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  It works for the character and storyline.

Sales Links;  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: October 20th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781635339468
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Maybe This Time by Annabelle Jacobs

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

This was a delightful story!  As thirty-year-old Ryan is moving into his new apartment building on his birthday, he’s very pleased to see the tall, gorgeous silver-haired man who comes jogging up the road and heads into his building.  Though he at first thought he was an older guy in great shape, when he gets a closer look, it’s easy to see the man is not much older than he is, even though prematurely gray. 

Matt Thomas doesn’t stop to acknowledge his hot new neighbor but he gets a good look, nonetheless.  At thirty-eight, he keeps in top physical condition so it’s easy to pull new guys into his bed whenever he’s horny.  Never one to spend more than one night with a guy, his best friend and hair stylist, Sam, will testify that Matt is firmly committed to two things: leaving his hair silver and never having a relationship. Never more than one night—that’s Matt’s motto. 

So when he finds himself lusting after Ryan one night, he justifies his thoughts about having a one-nighter with a neighbor by thinking that maybe they can be friends.  Ryan agrees and then next thing he knows, Matt wants to be friends with benefits because one night is not enough, after all.   Okay, Ryan can do that, although as his best friend, Josh, reminds him he hasn’t been successful at this in the past. 

The two go along as friends with benefits, while jogging together, eating meals afterward, and becoming friends, until one day when Matt’s dad is hurt and Ryan goes with him to the hospital. He realizes afterward that Ryan means more to him than simple friendship but now he’s afraid to admit it and is afraid that maybe this time he’s willing but Ryan might not be. 

There’s more to the story than this surface summary of the romance, but on the whole, it’s a basically a sweet and simple love story, filled with some very heated moments as well as some tender times between the two engaging MCs. 

If you’re looking for a light read that will make you feel good, by all means, consider this one. 

~~~

The cover by Natasha Snow features a photo of a very handsome and smiling thirtysomething man wearing jeans and a T-shirt and running his fingers through his hair.  It’s very attractive but I would have liked it much better if the man had lighter, more silver-toned hair, as it was one of Matt’s strongest features and frequently mentioned in the story. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 246 pages
Published August 30th 2017
ASINB0755P7B55

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Summer Heat by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I generally enjoy a good friends-to-lovers story and this was no exception. Except that it was better than many and took place between two BFFs on a well-deserved holiday vacation at a gay resort in Spain—a beautiful setting for a story with plenty of buildup and a sweet conclusion.

Adam had been living with his older lover, Drew, for five years, but when he’s suddenly too mature to suit his twink-loving man, he’s unceremoniously dumped for someone else and finds himself out in the cold with no place to go except to his BFF’s place. Finn, of course, accepts him with open arms, having loved Adam as more than a friend for many years. Finn is definitely not attached to anyone else so it’s a win-win situation for both of them.

When Adam recalls that he’d booked a week’s vacation at a gay resort for himself and Drew, he asks Finn to go with him instead, thus setting the scene for the evolution of the friends-to-lovers theme.

Though each has the hots for the other, it’s not until a cute guy named Niall invites Finn for a threesome with Adam that Finn reluctantly accepts. And it’s not that he doesn’t want sex with Adam—it’s just that he’s worried their friendship will fall apart. What follows is super-hot—readers had better get out their personal fans for this one—and it’s something both men decide to continue for their week away. Little do they realize they won’t be able to stop and won’t want to either.

I loved this story. The romance was just perfect. The sexy times weren’t too shabby either. I always enjoy Jay Northcote’s work and it just keeps getting better. This would be a great book to take on vacation and let your imagination run wild with the guys as they share their own vacation adventure with readers. Highly recommended!

The gorgeous color photo cover of a very hot guy was designed by Garrett Leigh and is perfect for this story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 205 pages
Published June 9th 2017 by Jaybird Press
Original TitleSummer Heat
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Road To The Sun by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I couldn’t catch my breath when I read the blurb and learned this was available for review! Keira Andrews is one of my favorite authors and May-December MM romance pushes all my buttons. And, oh my gosh, to get into it and find out the younger MC is a father and has never acknowledged his attraction to men so—virgin!—what’s not to love here?

Jason Kellerman loves his daughter, Maggie, above all else, and from the time of her birth when he was only a young teen, she’s been the driving force in his life. Maggie, 8 years old and very enjoyably precocious, was the result of one night when he and his BFF decided to experiment. Unfortunately, Maggie’s mom died in an auto accident with her parents when Maggie was only six months old. Though Jason’s wealthy parents tried to obtain custody, thinking they could do a better job of providing for her needs, the judge awarded custody to Jason who had just turned eighteen. He left everything he knew behind in his bid for independence and his struggle to show everyone that he could raise her on his own and so far he’s done an amazing job.

Maggie is quite the character throughout this story and though I often don’t care for kids who seem too far beyond their years, in this case, Maggie is perfect. Jason has brought her to a national park in Montana where she can pursue her love of animals, birds, geological formations and the great outdoors. She’s smart and sweet and he’s worked his tail off to give her the vacation she’s asked for—even if it means her daddy has to work twice as hard to pay the bills when they return, and in the meantime, might get eaten by a bear!

When they meet forty-one-year-old park ranger, Ben Hettler, Jason is struck by how much he likes the man, going so far as to think he’s attractive as well. Though uncomfortable about this, he realizes he can just enjoy his time in Montana and not worry about finding another guy attractive.

Ben is equally attracted to Jason, and though concerned about the age gap, Ben sees how Jason looks at him so is hoping for a chance at a vacation romance. But when he realizes Jason has never been attracted to men and is actually sexually inexperienced with men or women, he’s shocked, yet still intrigued.

It’s not until disaster strikes, however, that things heat up between the two and their reliance on one another and their closeness steps up the attraction. But first, they need to work together in a race against time to save Jason’s daughter. And then, maybe, there will be time for them. Or maybe not.

This is a wonderful story, very fast-paced, nail-biting, and scary, and yet the author manages to incorporate a beautiful May-December romance with engaging characters, both of whom I want to meet and befriend forever.

Jason may be young, but he’s not immature. The author takes the time to build his character and to show the beautiful interactions he has with his daughter, and Maggie is blessed to have such a strong, yet loving man as her role model. Ben is everything I would hope for in an older man who’s looking to have a loving relationship with someone he can eventually partner with for life. He’s always wanted children but his former partner put it off until it was too late for them, but with Jason, he sees a possible future. He’s a bit self-sacrificing, however, and allows Jason to leave without telling him his true feelings. Will he eventually get up the nerve to act in their best interests? One needs to read the book to find out. 

Honestly, this book is worth every penny and worth every minute of your time. It’s not just a romance—it’s an adventure. Highly recommended.

Cover is sweet and eye catching and was unavailable at review time.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 314 pages
Published May 22nd 2017 by KA Books (first published May 19th 2017)
ASINB0711YJ1BT
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Lace by KC Wells

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Oh, nice one! This short story was a hot romp between two men who’ve been friends for a long time, but never lovers—until now. Dave has never come out as bisexual until he finally gives in to his attraction to his best friend, Shawn, and breaks up with his girlfriend.

Unfortunately, though he gets the courage to tell Shawn he broke up with the woman because he’s bisexual, he chickens out before he can tell Shawn that he desires only Shawn.

Shawn has loved Dave for years—the principal reason he hasn’t had a long-term boyfriend—but when he hears Dave’s announcement, he’s shocked speechless and then upset when Dave runs out. How can he let Dave know he’s attracted if Dave runs away?

When Dave finally musters the courage to return and tell Shawn, he discovers lacy underwear in Shawn’s drawer while helping to put his laundry away, and from there on, the inhibitions evaporate. The two discover each other’s bodies and eventually realize their mutual romantic attraction. It’s too bad Shawn thinks it’s only because of the kink, and when he tries to explain it to Dave, MISUNDERSTANDING occurs. Caps intentional. Readers will enjoy just how they finally get back together for their HFN.

K.C. Wells delivers yet again. Be her stories long or short, I’ve discovered that I am a fan, and I count this shorter story among my favorites from her to date. I definitely recommend this one. Of course, I have a place in my heart for manties, so it was fairly easy to interest me in starting this, but these great characters kept me riveted to their story to the end.

The cover by Meredith Russell is a fantastic and drool-worthy view of a male torso clad in lingerie—from lacy undies to a lacy garter belt leading to, I can only guess, perhaps lace-topped stockings. Yummy.

Sales Links:   Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 100 pages
Published May 17th 2017 by Island Tales Press
ASINB071S8XQCG
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Open Road by M.J. O’Shea and Robbie D (Narrator)

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Rating: 1 star for the audiobook and 4.5 stars for the e-book—overall 4 stars

open-road-audiobookI was asked to review the audiobook edition of this story, but I have to say up front that I had to DNF it within the first hour. I couldn’t stand the voices the narrator was using. They were so over-the-top flamboyant and campy that I felt they were insulting to my friends who are gay. They fed a stereotype that I oppose using. So, the narration didn’t deserve more than one star.

That being said, I’ve enjoyed MJ O’Shea’s work in the past, and the premise of this story was intriguing so I went to the e-book copy I had previously purchased and was unread in my “TBR library,” and I’m so glad I did because this story was a wonderful love story between two men who’ve been friends all their lives, and slowly but surely, become lovers over the course of their “road trip” together.

On his thirtieth birthday, Angus is dumped by his lover of ten years, and it sets him off on a bender that becomes so bad he loses both his job and his apartment. It isn’t until he finally checks on him that his BFF, Reece, takes matters into his own hands. Feeling guilty because he should have realized silence from Angus signaled something was very wrong, Reece not only makes plans to move Angus in with him, he also makes the arrangements to take Angus away for a few days.

The thin, wan ghostly appearance of his BFF is shocking enough, but add to that the fact that the usually bright and bubbly Angus isn’t even speaking, and Reece knows he’ll need all the patience in the world to help the man he secretly loves back to his former state. Reece would do anything for Angus, and this story shows just how much he does. It also reveals the journey Angus has to make to come back from the depths of despair. Deciding to extend their initial trip from Oregon to California by a few more days, the two men head to Vegas. Another extension takes them to New Orleans, and so it goes as they make their way across country.

Angus is living on his savings from his former job, but Reece is a book editor and is financing most of the trip as well as working remotely on his laptop once in a while. And this is the only quirk I had with the story. I’m an editor, and to be honest, in my experience, editors don’t earn enough to make it across the state—never mind the country! LOL

Regardless, the story is so wonderful that I can be kind and overlook that little issue. These men are so endearing—Reece so strong and supportive and Angus so sweet and adorable. It’s a match made in heaven—or by a romance author. If you are interested in friends-to-lovers romances, or simply enjoy a sweet MM romance, by all means, pick this up. Just make sure you do it in e-book, not audio.
~~~~~
The cover art by L.C. Chase depicts a road fading into the distance with a muscular man in sleeveless T-shirt staring off toward the end. Very appropriate for this story.

Sales Links

eBook & Audiobook Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published July 25th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleOpen Road
ISBN 1634773160 (ISBN13: 9781634773164)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Audiobook
Published January 11th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 25th 2016)
Original TitleOpen Road
ASINB01N9PWGM

URL

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Jesse’s Christmas by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

jesses-christmas-by-rj-scottJesse Connor lost everything at Christmas two years ago: his home, his career, and his future husband. But it wasn’t to death—it was to deceit. The man he had planned to propose to on Christmas Eve, the financial guru who managed all their savings and was a Wall Street whiz, was arrested for embezzling millions of dollars. Before he left, though, he stole all of Jesse’s money as well as all his award winning photographs. It’s taken Jesse two years to even try to agree to attempt a comeback, and if it wasn’t for the persistence of his agent, he’d never have taken a photo gig in the wilds of Vermont in December.

There he meets Gabriel McLury, a young man who loves his life, including his mom, his town, his arts & crafts, his job as a teacher, and the kids who make his life complete every single day. At first, Jesse is physically attracted to Gabriel, but still reluctant to try to find enough Christmas spirit to fulfill his photo contract with the small town of Eden Vale. But Gabriel shows him a new perspective, and over the course of the month of Jesse’s photo journal of the town’s Christmas preparations, Jesse’s frozen heart starts to thaw, and an inkling of the Christmas spirit, he once thought lost for good, returns tenfold.

This is a heartwarming story—romantic, sweet, and comforting with endearing characters and the perfect Christmas story setting. Being witness to Jesse’s evolving Christmas spirit will put a smile on the face of everyone, including Ebenezer himself. A standalone, this book can be read any time of the year, but anyone with a holiday wish list should be sure to add it at the top.

Cover art by Meredith Russell depicts two young men against a brown-tinted background. To be honest, they may look like the characters, but the story itself is all about color, especially the cerulean blue of Gabriel’s eyes, so it’s not a cover that truly reflects the goodness within the pages.

Sales Links

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

Book Details:

ebook, Second edition, rewritten, new cover art
Published December 22nd 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published December 23rd 2011)
ISBN139781311020017
URLhttp://rjscottauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/jesses-christmas.html

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Heart & Soul by Shae Connor

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

heart-soul-by-shae-oconnorUnder a hundred pages, this story seems much longer due to the author’s crafty way of weaving us into this tale of a very slow burn romance.  There’s so much character development in an interesting story arc that I simply couldn’t believe it was so short.  And though I would love to read more of this couple, the story ended on a perfect note (pun intended).

Kellen is a pianist in a local bar a few nights a week and weekends as needed. In addition, he teaches piano lessons and has a degree in music education with a concentration in jazz piano, so he’s in the perfect position to help out the new owners who want to mix in some R&B and jazz with the current music selections.  Not one for casual sex, or for relationships for that matter, Kellen is attracted to men but rarely acts on that attraction. So it comes as a surprise to him when his friendship for one of the new owners gives him little tingles in more than just his heart.

Terrence Harvey, former pro football player, finally has a chance to use his business degree when he and his attorney brother purchase the bar together. Though out to his family, the bisexual man has remained closeted to the public due to his career choice, but he finds Kellen fascinating and is more than willing to act on that attraction. Regardless, it isn’t until after the 60% mark in the story that they finally have more than a simple kiss, and oh my, what a scorchin’ hot, complex kiss it is when these two finally set off rockets together.

I enjoy the author’s writing style and appreciate the sense of family, warmth, and connection she brings to her books, not to mention the light touch of humor and a load of romance.  I highly recommend this one to lovers of romance, slow burn, and/or stories featuring musicians.

The very attractive cover by AngstyG features Kellen playing the piano in the bar—a perfect representation of his character.

Sales Link

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 87 pages
Expected publication: November 14th 2016 by Shae Connor
ASINB01LX2XSXW
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Dad’s Nerdy New Boyfriend by J.M. Snyder

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

dads-nerdy-new-boyfriendWhen website designer Rick Pruitt takes his eight-year-old son Micah to see the latest Pokémon movie, he expects to be bored out of his mind. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love with the guy ahead of them in line.

Self-confessed nerd and Harry Potter look-a-like, Marty Owens runs a comic shop downtown. Marty needs a new website to help grow his business and Rick needs a guy he can eat cozy meals with, snuggle up to, and … But no matter how many of Rick’s boxes Marty checks, there’s still Micah to consider. Fortunately Micah and Marty hit it off, connecting over a love of video games and all things Pokémon.

Rick starts coming by the comic shop after hours to work on Marty’s website. Can they build something long-lasting and meaningful offline, too?

First of all—great title! That attracted my attention to the story more than anything else. And I’m glad it did. This was a delightful story, very much in line with what is stated in the blurb, but even more lighthearted and fun.  Both MCs were well-developed and engaging and the good news is: the author struck the right balance in making Micah, the eight-year-old, just annoying enough, but not over-much, so that he added to the reading enjoyment, rather than detract from it as some children in MM stories do. 

There was definitely a slow buildup to the romance as the men got to know one another both during the movie “date” with Rick’s child and during the subsequent week of working on Marty’s website.  It was natural when they finally fell into bed together and ended with the promise of a possible happy future for the two. I wouldn’t mind seeing them together again in a sequel—one that could explore their attraction further while letting readers follow what their future turns out to be. 

For Pokeman lovers, this is the perfect book, delving into discussions that only those fully vested in the app would understand. Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t find that boring at all—in fact, I found it quite interesting and gave me a new appreciation for why the kids in my neighborhood seem to be obsessed with their cell phones, even while riding their bikes. 😀

If you want a light read that leaves you feeling good, check this one out.  I found it to be the perfect cure for a rainy day Sunday, and I highly recommend it.

The cover by Written Ink Designs attracted my attention, and though I can’t visualize the men on the cover as the MCs in this story, the spirit of the relationship is there. 

Sales Links

JMS Books LLC

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 79 pages
Published August 20th 2016 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB01KRYVMW8
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Counterbalance by Aidan Wayne

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

counterbalance_600x900John loves his job as head rigger for Cirque Brilliance. The heavy scarring over half his face makes it a little hard to meet new people, but John’s got a good crew and a nice found family, and he’s content with his lot in life.

When Cirque hires talent for a new show, John meets Bao, a bright, ever-cheerful acrobat. Bao seems drawn to John and becomes a constant presence at his side—talking to him during downtime, spending time with him at lunch, and generally seeking out his company.

John doesn’t know what to make of this. Sure, he likes Bao—maybe a little too much, honestly—but he’s had enough experience to know that Bao couldn’t possibly like him back. Or so he thinks, anyway. Fortunately, Bao seems determined to prove him wrong.

This was a delightful romance story—one of those that leaves me saying “Aww, I want more.” I’ve heard some people call this kind of story too sweet, but really, it was very satisfying on so many levels; and IMHO, nothing is too sweet. This one was somewhat like a fine piece of dark chocolate that melts in your mouth as you savor the flavor while enjoying it slowly. 

Bao Liu is recruited from China to join a new Cirque show.  On his first day he meets John, the head rigger, a man whose face and body had been severely burned in the past—and a man who carries the scars as much on the inside as on the outside.  John has been rejected and taunted for how he looks and is even called Phantom by many in the show, including some of his crewmates. They apparently don’t know or care how much that hurts him. And they certainly don’t know why he never joins them on their time off and is never seen with a date.  John is simply too fearful to take a risk.  Until Bao breaks down the walls he’s spent years building.

But break them he does—one brick at a time. The cheerful, bouncy, personable acrobat will be featured in a handstand act, and it’s hard for John to imagine Bao staying still long enough to balance. He seems to be in perpetual motion, even when spending most of his free time hanging out with John, trying to befriend the stubborn recluse. It’s fun to watch Bao batter down those walls John has built, and the author does a beautiful job showing us the John who hides behind his mask of indifference. 

When Bao is injured, John not only takes on the blame for not assuring his safety, he ends up volunteering to check in on Bao and ensure he gets the rest he needs for a week.  And that gives the couple more time to get to know one another.

If I had one wish for this story, it would be that I want it to be longer. There is so much to these two men that didn’t have enough time for further exploration, and so many sweet moments I didn’t get to see because the story came to a close before I was ready to let them go. I hope the author considers more stories in this world. It was a unique setting, with unique and interesting characters, and I recommend it to all who love a sweet MM romance between an unlikely couple.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is beautiful and works for the story.

Sales Links

Riptide Publishing

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Book Details:

ebook, 79 pages
Expected publication: September 12th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published September 10th 2016)
ISBN 1626494673 (ISBN13: 9781626494671)