A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Rainbow Place (Rainbow Place #1) by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Seb Radcliffe relocates to a small seaside town in Cornwall, hoping to open a restaurant/café and just enjoy life in this peaceful place.  With encouragement from a young lesbian couple, he decides to make his café LGBT-friendly.  He hires Jason Dunn, a highly recommended builder, to do the renovations, and at first sight it’s evident that he and Jason have a lot in common. But Jason is deeply closeted and it takes a while for his desire for Seb to overcome his fears. 

The two finally act on their attraction but do so out of the public eye so Jason can maintain his closet space. He gets so deeply involved with Seb, though, that he decides to make plans to slowly come out—just not quite yet. But when they are a week from opening the café, homophobes ransack the restaurant, painting homophobic graffiti outside and in, and Jason abandons Seb, letting his fears rule his heart.

I was very disappointed in Jason at that point in the story and couldn’t see how Seb could ever forgive him for turning his back on him when he needed Jason most.  But lo and behold, Jay Northcote had an acceptable solution up his sleeve—one that totally surprised me and appeased me enough that I could forgive Jason and root for the couple after all.  So kudos for that.

This is a lovely MM romance set in the UK, so it’s full of Brit words and phrases.  I love that as it adds to the authenticity of the work.  The men are in their thirties, another plus in my opinion, and the romance takes time to develop to a full-blown HEA.  The author also laid the groundwork for the sense of community and the support Seb received was outstanding.  It would be a lovely place to visit some day.

Highly recommended, this is a standalone, though apparently first in a series, so I’m looking forward to more romance set in this quaintly beautiful world.

The cover by Garrett Leigh features a photo of a brawny young man: naked torso, hand roughing up his hair, with a rainbow border across the bottom of the cover—a great representation of Jason at work at Rainbow Place.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published June 15th 2018 by Jaybird Press
ASINB07DMPDMTH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRainbow Place #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Tied up by the Boss (Office Kink #2 ) by Hunter Frost

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Parker Greenhill speaks out against one of the execs to whom his marketing firm is pitching a project, he thinks he’s doing his ex a favor, but in reality, he’s hurting himself because his company loses the chance to work with that exec and Parker loses the respect of his bosses, teammates, and subordinates. Worse, he’s assigned to work with his curmudgeon of a boss, Morgan Brant, an older Brit who takes his role as VP seriously.

Somehow, though, working with Morgan flips a switch in Parker and he ends up on his knees submitting to his Sir after work every night. There may be ropes and bondage involved. And there may be a better use for Parker’s sassy mouth.

I enjoyed this story so much I couldn’t put it down. I simply had to read straight through to see what these men were up to and to learn how their awkward work situation would be resolved.

The author put plenty of kink into the story and built two characters who were at extremes of personality and yet gelled nicely together. And did I mention age gap? Well yes, there’s quite an age difference, so added to the bondage, the silver fox with the cute young exec just pushed all my buttons. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say that Morgan’s mum was a surprise to Parker and he was a pleasant surprise to her. There’s lots to love here and I’m most definitely looking forward to more in this series.

Highly recommend to lovers of light kink and bondage, age-gap, and slow burn.

~~~

Cover by James of GoOnWrite.com is a photo of a man’s tie set against a deep mauve background. It’s both attractive and pertinent to the story and is the same photo used in book one, but in a different shade.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 124 pages
Published April 23rd 2018
Original TitleTied Up by the Boss
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOffice Kink #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Full Plate by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Bradford Tolliver, Tully to friends, has everything and nothing—he’s wealthy, a highly sought attorney, has a beautiful condo but has no friends, no family to speak of, and is clueless as to how empty his life is.  That is, until Sage Filling enters his life.  Yes, Sage’s father had a sense of humor when he named him and when he named his dog Tooth (Filling).  I love Kim Fielding!

Sage knew from an early age that he’d be a chef someday.  Growing up, he worked for his family’s business, a restaurant named The Filling Station, and his greatest wish for birthday and Christmas gifts was always food-related: a subscription to Gourmet Magazine, a new kitchen utensil, etc.  But as the story opens, he’s moved to Portland to earn extra money to support his family and needs a place to stay.  His cousin Carrie, one of Tully’s coworkers, asks Tully to allow Sage to be Tully’s roommate for the one year he’ll be in town. 

Not wanting to refuse, and willing to give it a try, Tully agrees.  Little does he know his life has taken a turn for the better.  It takes a while – I love a slow burn! – but eventually Tully and Sage find their way into each other’s arms…and beds.  But they know their time is limited.  Tully can’t work from Sage’s little hometown and Sage can’t stay in Portland because of family issues. 

I love the way Kim Fielding crafted these characters.  We have time to get to know them individually before we get to the coupledom.  And when we do, we don’t just have sex, sex, sex.  We have sex, yes indeed, but we also have romance and the caring, concern, and support one would hope to see between two people who love each other.  Sage finds it hard to believe that this gorgeous, smart, wealthy man can possibly love him beyond the time they spend together.  And Tully finds it hard to believe that Sage sees himself as anything other than the perfect man he is through Tully’s eyes. 

I just loved it and I hope others will too.  These Dreamspun Desires stories are just the ticket to brighten a day and warm a cold heart.  I highly recommend this to all who enjoy contemporary MM romance. 

~~~

Cover art by Bree Archer features a good-looking, well-dressed man—no doubt Attorney Bradford Tolliver—set against the Portland city skyline.  The cover is no more or less attractive than others in the series but is done in a similar theme so readers will certainly know this is one of the Dreamspun Desires books.   

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Expected publication: April 17th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640801028
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: The Little Library by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I loved this story about Elliott, a young college professor who was badly deceived and used by his lover and mentor and now struggles to fight his way back to the career path of his choice.  And Simon, who was injured on the job and is now fighting his way back to his career path as well—and if it can’t be as a cop, as he was before, at least he hopes to find something that fits.  He most definitely doesn’t want to work with his parents in their restaurant, not only because that’s not his chosen vocation, but also because he can’t meet their high personal expectations for him—that he’ll find a nice, preferably Assyrian, young woman, settle down, and raise babies for them. 

What I liked most is that these two guys seemed to be pretty normal—the kind of guys you might meet in your neighborhood, or on the job, or even have as a family member.  They are gay, but they’re not atypical—neither are porn stars, or con men, or werewolves—they’re a college professor and a cop.  Granted, the college professor spends a lot of time immersed in his books when he’s not teaching one of the online community college courses he’s now reduced to overseeing.  He lost his highly regarded, research-oriented position with a university when his lover and mentor was discovered to be embezzling and he was inadvertently caught up in the backlash.  Now, he’s searching to get back into a tenure-track position and idling away his free time by shopping for more books to feed his book-buying (and reading) addiction.  He tries to “behave” and exercise willpower, as many addicts would do, but it’s not until he decides to try something he’s seen elsewhere that his life takes on new purpose, and as a side benefit, he meets a pretty sexy guy with a bum knee. 

The solution?  He builds a “little library” a small set of enclosed book shelves on a post in his yard.  Rearranging the furniture in his home so he can spy on the people stopping by gives him pause, but he does it anyway, and he’s rewarded with making new friends. Among them a little girl and her mom and that sexy guy with the bum knee that he’s seen as he’s been out running.  That guy is Simon, and the two form an immediate friendship that leads to a very slow-burn relationship. I appreciated the way the author set this relationship up—no hurry to the bedroom, no over-the-moon heartthrobs—just a slow, gentle exploration of each other, starting with kisses and leading slowly to more. 

And as they grow closer, it’s evident that Simon’s closet is not where Elliott wants to be.  He was very hurt by his former lover and he won’t be hidden again.  But Simon’s family feelings on homosexuality and strong cultural and religious beliefs don’t allow for room to negotiate and he desperately fears losing his parents if he comes out.  In the meantime, Elliott is still searching for a university where he can settle in to research and get his career back on track, and it’s starting to look like that might happen in Nebraska. 

Again, the author does not make the solution magical. These guys have to work for all they have both together and individually.  It’s just not simple.  It’s real.  And I loved them.  For me, the hallmark of a well-written book with endearing characters who face and overcome difficult life situations is when I can not only remember the story days later, but I can also recall their names. This one is a winner—proven by the above standards several days after I finished the story.  And it’s going on my list of best of 2018.  Well-written, with a host of amazing secondary characters, two outstanding main characters, and a variety of interesting experiences, added to slow burn, which is one of my favorite themes, I can easily highly recommend this one to lovers of MM romance.  If you like it slow and you like your characters to be people you’d like to get to know, by all means choose this story. 

~~~

The very attractive, colorful cover by LC Chase depicts the torso of a man holding an open book while standing at a “little library.”  It’s one of the reasons—beside the fact that I love this author—that I chose this book. 

Sales Links:

AmazonSmashwords 

Book Details:

self published by the Kindle Edition, 1 edition
Published March 26th 2018 by Kim Fielding
Original TitleThe Little Library
ASINB07BJL6NMB
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review : Seth and Casey by RJ Scott

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This story features an established couple who have been married for five years—Seth, a firefighter, and Casey, a teacher in a small Vermont town. 

Seth was injured six months ago when a building collapsed on him as he was trying to rescue a young mother.  Trapped there for hours, he watched all the victims in the room with him die, one by one, until he lost consciousness.  Now, he’s struggling to come to terms with his injuries—injuries that not only left him scarred with pins in his thigh and groin area, but impotent, full of anger, and possibly with so much physical and emotional damage that he’ll never return to the career he’s wanted all his life.

Casey is done.  He’s been loving and supportive, has tried gentle urging to get Seth to face his fears and see the department-recommended counselor, and has tried tough love. Nothing works, and as Seth lashes out at him and Casey reacts in fear, Casey knows he has to back away for a while so they can each get a better perspective.

Contrary to Casey’s hopes, however, instead of reassessing their situation and drawing them closer together, Seth reverts to his crutch—alcohol.   And as the time approaches for Casey’s class trip, which Seth promised to attend, Casey realizes he’s taking the ten kids alone, making him feel like it’s the last straw.

This story was a study in the emotional havoc that can occur to someone who has undergone trauma, and the resulting collateral damage that can result to those who love them.  I appreciate the author’s gentle and thorough handling of the subject.  I also really liked both characters—even Seth, whose behavior was quite unlikeable.  I also liked the fact that the author didn’t give them an easy fix. Both men had issues to work through and they were given the time and circumstances to do so. Granted, they had a boost from a snowstorm that stranded Casey and those ten kids and a rescue by a crazy firefighter who should not have risked his own life yet again, but did.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable story, quite short, but packs a lot of punch.  If you like emotional turmoil, hurt-comfort, established couples, and stories with a happy ending, I highly recommend this one.

~~~~

Cover by Meredith Russell features a firefighter in gear, set against the background of a cabin being bombarded by falling snow—perfect for the content of this book. 

Sales Links:   Amazon |  books2read.com/SethCaseyRJ-

Book Details:

**This is the re-edited version of Seth and Casey, and includes 9,000 extra words and a new cover**

ebook, Second
Published February 7th 2018 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published February 6th 2015)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://rjscott.co.uk/

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Spanking the Boss (An Office Kink Novella – Book #1) by Hunter Frost

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Charlie Reynolds is the new guy at NetSmash, a marketing research firm, but though he might be fresh out of college, he’s already thirty-five years old.  He went to prison for a foolish loss of temper that led to an assault charge when he was young and he’s determined to become a better man now.   Always conscious of people’s perceptions of ex-cons, Charlie hesitates to reveal that he’s not the janitor when he’s caught using the executive suite restroom during the company Halloween party.  Then again, his janitor costume, sporting the nickname he used when he worked his way through college as a janitor, would lead anyone to believe it true—including the CEO, the incredibly handsome Trent Davis. 

Once caught, the attraction sparks fly, and before he knows it, the CEO is bent over with his pants down and Charlie behind him “spanking the boss.”   This is a fun romance between two unlikely lovers—the new guy, Charlie, not long out of prison, recent college grad, and highly ambitious junior account manager—and Trent, gorgeous, smart, driven young exec who never gives up control to others.  It was pure pleasure to watch the way Charlie, in his guise as Chaz the janitor, takes charge of Trent for a full night of kinky pleasure.  When morning comes, as the two parted, I was rooting for more interaction between them, and though it took awhile to overcome some—many!—obstacles, the author brought us to a very satisfying ending with a happy ever after in their future. 

I was impressed with the character development for such a short story—and not just the main characters—the secondary characters as well.  We have everything from female bestie, to nasty VP boss, and a sexy, envious VP who could potentially make a play for the exec job someday.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, and since the author identified the characters who will get the next romance, I’m hoping for a super-fun enemies-to-lovers story.   

Highly recommend.

Cover by James of GoOnWrite.com is a photo of a man’s tie set against a light purple background. It’s both attractive and pertinent to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 104 pages

Publication: January 31, 2018

Edition Language: English

Series: An Office Kink Novella #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Eight Nights In December by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is a lovely holiday story featuring a family celebrating Hanukkah.  Lucas’s college roommate Sam is heading home for the holidays and Lucas is looking forward to peace and quiet in the dorms while the partying jock is away.  Orphaned after his father passed away in September, Lucas has nowhere to go—until Sam’s mother takes him by the hand and drags him home to New York with her. 

She deposits him in Sam’s little brother’s room, but when Lucas gets a look at his little brother, Nate, is evident that little is the last word he’d used to describe the sexy, glasses-wearing geek.  And Nate’s view of Lucas isn’t that bad either.  It’s not long until the two begin a fling and though Lucas starts off as an inexperienced virgin, by the time the eight days of Hanukkah are over, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, by the end of the eight days there’s more going on than a holiday fling, and neither Nate nor Lucas are looking forward to their separation after New Year’s Day. 

But Nate’s not out and Lucas promised his dad he’d go to his dad’s favorite college to study medicine.  Nate also isn’t happy with the career choice he’s following to please his own dad.  He really wants to be a photographer but he promised his dad he’d be a lawyer.  Can these two young men find their way to their hearts’ desires—including each other—after only eight days together? 

This is, as I said, a lovely story and for those who like sexy romps, this one will make your holiday stocking sizzle.  It’s also a sweet love story and just thing to brighten a gloomy day. 

~~~

Cover art by Dar Albert depicts head shots of two young men gazing fondly at each other in the top pane of the cover, the title and a Star of David in the center, and a night scene of New York City in the lower pane.  Bright and attractive, it suits the story perfectly.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 100 pages
Published December 7th 2017 by KA Books
ISBN139781988260259
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Release Day Review: Dear Ruth by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Dear Ruth,


I’m not in the mood for Christmas. After a romantic relationship went up in flames, I returned to my hometown in rural Kansas. Then my mother passed away. I’m really busy with my job as fire marshal—and now with my mother’s advice column, which I reluctantly took over. There’s a sexy newcomer down the street, a guy with a young daughter and an unfortunate disregard for fire safety. He seems to want to be friends, but that creates problems that may be too hot for me to handle. The last things I need right now are flammable holiday decorations and too much holiday food. How am I supposed to give good advice to others when I can’t seem to get my own life straight?

—Bah Humbug in Bailey Springs

A very enjoyable holiday story, this one is the perfect stocking stuffer—all the goodies of Kim Fielding’s enjoyable imagination into just fifty-two pages. Though short, this one packs a punch. 

Bryce Reynolds is the Deputy Fire Chief in the small town of Bailey Springs. Grieving over the recent loss of his mother, he’s not sure he’s going to celebrate Christmas this year in any way other than covering at the fire station for the guys with families.  When he spots his new neighbor and his daughter hanging purple lights on their porch, he offers his assistance and finally meets Noah Costa and Harper, who wants to be a firefighter when she grows up. 

His mother’s BFF is the owner of the town’s newspaper—still thriving despite the electronic media available.  The paper thrived, in part, due to his mother’s advice column, “Dear Ruth.” Now, somehow, he finds himself agreeing to take over the column.  Channeling his mother’s thoughts and past words of advice, he’s pretty successful at it.  In fact, he’d like to write his own letter—something that would attract Noah to him.  Though sure Noah is straight, he can’t help but want a chance to at least kiss the attractive older man. Something about him just rings true for Bryce. 

It isn’t until he receives a Dear Ruth letter that asks for advice on how to attract an oblivious love interest that things start to perk up for both men.  Do they get a HEA?  Well, as much as one can in a short holiday story.  But at least they get the chance to find their way to a HEA. 

Heartwarming, with the just enough character development to make this a perfect holiday romance, I highly recommend this to lovers of MM warm and fuzzy contemporary romance.

This story does not have the same cover as many of the other Advent Calendar stories from Dreamspinner Press.  Cover art is by Alexandria Corza depicts a gift box and fire truck, with the story title written as a gift tag at the top of the page. The cover is simple, colorful, and perfect for this story. 

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 52 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802889
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2017 Advent Calendar Daily – Stocking Stuffers

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