A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Cultivating Love by Addison Albright

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

This was a nice story about two “regular” guys in their mid-twenties, though too be honest, for quite a while I thought for sure they were older—at least in their forties. Joe is a farmhand who was disowned by his family when he came out seven or eight years before, and Ed is a mechanic who’s been on his own for years, ever since his mother died. Suddenly, Ed inherits a farm from the father he never knew, having been told by his mother that his dad died when Ed was born.

I thought the story was rather boring, although a homophobic guy in the town where the ranch was located gave them some trouble and caused turmoil and excitement in the latter half of the book. Ed and Joe are an established couple as the story opens, having been together a little over two years. But apparently they had just been floating along as friends-with-benefits and not bothering to tell each other they were developing feelings. The sudden inheritance changed that for them and they declared their commitment.

At the 7% mark in the story, the two had sex—not hot, amazing, tear-the-sheets sex that readers would anticipate was a natural progression in the story—just sex between two guys who liked each other. To be honest, I don’t like sex scenes early in a book because at that point I generally really don’t care about the characters and their story. I need more time for the plot to develop. And the sex here was bland, likely what led to me think the characters were older before I got to the point of the book that explained their ages. It certainly wasn’t necessary to the plot or story development at that point, so it didn’t add anything.

This was a nice story, overall, but nothing struck me as outstanding or unique, so though I might recommend it to someone new to the genre or to someone who likes established couples, I don’t think everyone will really enjoy it. I found it interesting that there’s a large print note at the beginning of the blurb that states that there’s a new chapter and new ending. To be honest, without the ending tying things up, I can’t imagine how I would have rated this higher than 2 or 2.5, so it’s good the author decided to make the revision.

~~~

Cover art by Written Ink Designs depicts a picture of a young man leaning against a wood fence and surrounding shrubbery. Wearing jeans, an open green-plaid shirt and a cowboy hat, the guy fits the story but blends into the background. The overall effect of so much green tone is bland and would not grab a potential reader’s attention.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2nd Edition – Expanded
Published June 24th 2017 by JMS Books, LLC (first published June 9th 2009)
Original TitleCultivating Love
ASINB071S9DLT6
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://authoraddisonalbright.com/my-publications/stand-alone-stories/cultivating-love-2nd-edition/
CharactersEd Jamison, Joe Durham settingNebraska (United States)
Mayfield, Nebraska (United States)
Omaha, Nebraska (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review:A Kind of Home (A Kind of Stories #4) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Isaac is the only member of the band Spiral who doesn’t have a life partner, but Lane Hayes remedies that with this story. Isaac left home as a teen when his parents broke up and his (adoptive) father kicked him out for being gay. He was so done with Springville, his small PA hometown, and the only thing good he could say about it was the fun he had with his friend Ned McBride, Ned’s family, and Ned’s brother Adam. Though Adam was straight, Isaac always had a crush on the brawny football player with a sense of humor and a gorgeous smile.

When he returns home to his Manhattan penthouse after the latest worldwide tour of his phenomenally successful band, he’s surprised to find Adam McBride is there. Through Ned, he had given permission for Adam to crash at his place while Adam was recovering from his divorce and deciding what direction his life should take. Unfortunately, he worked for his ex-wife’s father so he lost the job along with the marriage and is currently working part-time at a bar and part-time as a dog walker. And he has no plans to leave soon.

Isaac has loved his sterile white apartment, its peace and quiet and solitude, but he grows accustomed to the happy-go-lucky Adam being there, leaving his big red Converse sneakers laying around, cooking meals for Isaac, and practicing his baking—something Adam took up as a relaxing hobby and now wants to pursue as a career. Much of the chaos keeps Isaac from worrying about the nutcase who seems to be stalking him—someone who refers to himself as his “biggest fan.” But the companionship turns to more after one night when the guys get a little tipsy and the inhibitions come down. Isaac learns that Adam is not as straight as he thought, and he learns exactly why Adam came to New York—and it wasn’t just to chill out after his divorce.

The men slowly, very slowly (something I love!) develop a relationship that goes beyond friends-with-benefits and becomes so much more. And when danger strikes, and Isaac’s emotions come to a head, it looks like the one-time loner may just be left alone after all.

I enjoyed Lane Hayes’s writing in this one, her character development, and the clever mystery about the psycho fan. I also loved the love story and the evolution of the friends to lovers theme.

I hope readers will enjoy this slow-burn romance as much as I did. The author’s reveal of the carefully hidden psycho and the oh-so-sweet ending of the book is sure to please lovers of MM romance as much as it did me. I recommend not only this book, but the whole series as well.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is similar in style to others in the series, but in this one, a bare-torso male is leaning against the wall of what appears to be a penthouse apartment, as it features a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the city spread out below. This fits the story perfectly since it could be Isaac looking out over NYC from his Manhattan penthouse.

Sales Links:Amazon Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Published June 23rd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleA Kind of Home
ISBN139781635336832
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesA Kind of Stories #4

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Surrender the Dark (The Dark #1) by Tibby Armstrong

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

This story appears to be the beginning of a new series, and as such, the author spends much of the time world-building. Unfortunately, I found this incredibly boring and after a while it became difficult to focus on the pages. From the blurb, I thought this would be a paranormal romance with the protagonists, Benjamin, the hunter, and Tzadkiel, the vampire king, immediately attracted to one another and eventually becoming lovers and going against the bad guy. In this case, the bad guy is The Morgan, the head of the witch coven and father of Benjamin’s BFF, Nix.

But the blurb doesn’t begin to describe the scope of this story. The book starts out with gruesome details of torture and then segues into deep animosity between the two chief protagonists and then—lo and behold—zombies enter the picture! To be honest, if I wasn’t reading this for review, I would have DNFed it at 33%. But I decided to persevere to the halfway mark before making a decision. And then I kept going since there was a hint of sexual attraction and it looked like there might be some deep emotional attraction between Benjamin and Tzadkiel in the future. Maybe there’d be a romance after all. And there was—though it was one of those push-and-pull romances where the characters continued to disappoint each other nearly to the end of the story.

The biggest issue for me was that I didn’t feel connected to either of the MCs, and quite frankly, I really didn’t care if they got together, or even if they won the battle and lived to see another day (or a sequel in this case.) I just didn’t feel the love between the two, and what’s more important to me—I didn’t get hooked by either character, so this one fell flat.

I did admire the writer’s craft and imagination in building this world, and the complexity of the hierarchy of paranormal beings and their powers. For that reason, I gave this two stars. It was okay. But overall, from the perspective that I would have enjoyed some bonding, especially after there was some blood exchanged, and I surely would have enjoyed caring about one or both characters—no. This story just didn’t do it for me.

~~~~

Cover design by Lynn Andreozzi and photo by Ingram Publising/Agefotostock depicts a naked male torso—back view—with his arms out and head tipped back—against a dark background. I didn’t find it attention-getting, but it can be applied to any vampire or dark story, though not necessarily specific to this one.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 251 pages
Expected publication: May 23rd 2017 by Loveswept
ASINB01D7CJ3Z0
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Dark #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Plaid versus Paisley (Fabric Hearts #2) by K.C. Burn

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Will Dawson is working himself to death. Totally paranoid and freaked out that his boss at Idyll Fling will hire help for him—workers who might be better than he is or who could possibly usurp his position as IT Manager—he refuses help, and instead, works both on the job and at home to keep his company’s technology running. He lost his last management job to a beautiful, but apparently devious, young man and if not for being offered this one, he might never have kept his self-respect. Working for a porn studio might seem down and dirty to some people, but Will knows better and has the utmost respect for his boss, Stefan. He also helps his best friend, Raven, with the IT for his new company, Tartan Candy (see book one in this series). So there’s not much time left in his day for any kind of social life.

Enter Dallas Greene, hired by Stefan to assist Will—without Will’s knowledge or agreement! It shocks Will when he spies the same gorgeous young man who was responsible for Will losing his last job. The dirty usurper of his position has followed him to Florida! At least that’s what Will thinks. The reality is that Dallas is Stefan’s brother and is here because his company folded after Dallas, who was at that point their only IT staff person, was hospitalized for migraine headaches and a perforated ulcer.

Not knowing Dallas is Stefan’s brother, Will tries everything he can think of to get Dallas fired, including withholding important work—for which Dallas is eminently qualified—that Will wants to keep to himself. Dallas is surprised to be met by such a hostile work environment since he’s totally unaware of Will’s resentments, and as it happens, those resentments are unfounded.

A true enemies-to-lovers story, I thoroughly enjoyed the battles played out both intellectually, and eventually, between the sheets. A slow-burn romance that once lit becomes an out-of-control fire.

Readers who enjoyed Tartan Candy will also appreciate the revisits with both Raven and Caleb and will get to know Raven’s cousin Jamie who will apparently be the featured MC in Just Add Argyle, the next book in the series.

I have to admit I was beginning to get ready to find a way to sneak in between the pages to smack Will in the head for being so stubborn and obtuse about his attraction to Dallas and for continuing his resentment, even after he admitted his attraction to the sweet young man. Fortunately, the author redeemed him, but he remains one of those characters I loved to hate. Dallas, on the other hand, is really a sweetie. Charming, open, honest, and gorgeous, he sees the best in people, and I’m so glad he got his heart’s desire by the end of the story. It was a long haul to get there, but so worth it. This book is definitely one I will recommend to all my friends.

~~~~~

The cover by L.C. Chase features a handsome man in a conservative, well-fitted dark suit wearing a paisley tie—Dallas—against a plaid background—representing Will. Very attractive and totally fits the story.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, 216 pages
Published December 12th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitlePlaid versus Paisley
ISBN 1634778960 (ISBN13: 9781634778961)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesFabric Hearts #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into the Fall (Leaning Into #2) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lane Hayes is one of my favorite authors, and this story proves why. Faced with a secondary character in a short story who was really the anti-hero—a bisexual guy who jilted his (female) fiancé and disappointed his best friend and business partner—Ms. Hayes decided to give him his own story, in which he demonstrates why he was such a letdown in book one, and then falls into deep and everlasting love with a handsome and sweet older man.

I was skeptical when we first saw Nick in this story—buried nose-deep in code in his and Eric’s IT security business—and seemingly clueless to what’s going on in the rest of the world. He keeps bugging his BFF friend Eric, who’s on a well-deserved honeymoon vacation in Bora Bora, so faced with penalty of death from Eric’s new husband, Zane, (Leaning Into Love) Nick decides to take a break from work and return the wine he purchased as a wedding favor for his own cancelled wedding months ago.

There he runs headlong into Wes Conrad, winery owner, who refuses to allow Nick to return the wine that was labelled with the personal information for Nick’s wedding. It’s company policy not to take it back, and Wes digs in his heels and outright refuses. And so begins the crappiest day of Nick’s life, but also one that turns out to be the day he went head-on with the man who would ultimately become the most important person in his life.

I love the way the author took the time to explain and explore Nick’s issues—issues with antisocial behavior, a constant side focus on the numbers in his head—mathematical equations—that needed to be addressed. She also gave Nick an older, more mature man—one who has lived through multiple life experiences, including the tragic loss of his business, his former lover, and a good friend. Wes has the maturity and the patience to handle Nick, and though wildly attracted to one another from early in the story, there’s no rush into deep and everlasting love. It evolves over time, and every moment and every step of the way is absolutely necessary for this couple. Business deals, takeover possibilities, poor decisions, partnership problems—this story has it all. But most of all? It has a young man who seemed to be irredeemable learn to face his issues and take responsibility for his own actions and then take the leap into falling head over heels with the man he most needs in this world.

That might sound a bit mushy and romantic, but that’s how I saw it. And I have a particular soft spot in my heart for older men who find romance in the MM genre. This one is terrific, and I highly recommend it. Why not a full 5 stars? I couldn’t shake all of the prejudice I had against Nick from the first book. Let’s just say he’s darn lucky he had such a great author to tell his story. And I can’t wait to see if Ms. Hayes has more in store for us in this series. I suspect maybe Nick and Eric’s friend Josh will be next. Can’t wait!

~~~~
Cover by Reese Dante is similar to the first cover in that it features a faceless male torso, with opened shirt, against a background of the San Francisco skyline and bay.

Sales Links

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Published March 15th 2017 by Self Pub
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLeaning Into #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Fallen Angel (The Angel of 13th Street #2) by Eden Winters

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Who can save the rescuer of lost souls?

For ten years ex-rent boy Noah Everett has fought the good fight, offering second chances to those still in the life. Now he’s cracking under the stress. What began as a two-man mission is now going corporate, meaning rules, regulations and inexperienced volunteers needing guidance in a field Noah makes up as he goes along. Who can he turn to when his mentor’s strength is all but gone and his lover is leaving for college—possibly for good?

Four years at State with a full ride scholarship will launch Jeremy Kincaid’s future, but his present includes Noah, Doc, and the closest he’s ever had to a family. And a meth addict who’s become Jeremy’s own personal mission.

An attack sends Noah spinning out of control. Jeremy has to find the way to reach Noah before the man he knows and loves disappears forever.

This story was tough for me to rate. I was excitedly looking forward to the sequel to one of the first books I read in the M/M genre: The Angel of Thirteenth Street. I love the author and clearly recalled enjoying that story. But this one fell short for me, mostly because it took me a long time to engage with the characters. I’m a voracious reader, so a few thousand characters have come and gone in my life since I read Angel, and I didn’t recall specifics about that story or about the main characters, Noah and Jeremy. I realize now that I should have gone back and reread the first one because this one may have captured my attention and engaged me sooner if I was able to freshly recall that story.

And because I didn’t recall the characters—either individually, or as a couple—I didn’t connect with them in the early sex scenes and actually skimmed over the scenes because “ho-hum two guys having sex” before I became invested in them as a couple was just that—ho-hum. It wasn’t until about 60% of the way in that I started to really care about what was happening to Noah and Jeremy and Doc and definitely about Lark and Sam, two of the secondary characters. In fact, I just read online that they are going to have their story told someday, but honestly, I wouldn’t have minded just having their full story woven into this one. They engaged me. Noah and Jeremy did not.

The story is definitely a continuation of the first one, and because I didn’t clearly recall the first, I would not recommend this as a standalone. The author relies heavily on a fan base from the past. Noah comes across as an older man (though I think he’s only early thirties) and since he’s undergoing an emotional crisis and can’t shake his past throughout most of the book, and heemotionally detaches from his “almost” nineteen-year-old partner, I really didn’t like him much.

Jeremy, on the other hand, was a sweetheart—smart, sharp, understanding, caring, concerned, generous, and more. But him with Noah? Most of their scenes together were sex scenes in the first half and walk-on-glass-around-the-grumpy-guy scenes in the second half. The ending was satisfying, though, and I really liked the Christmas Carol theme of the intervention spearheaded by Jeremy.

So, overall, yes I liked it, hence 3 stars. But I would offer a warning that should be posted with the book—read or reread book one immediately before starting this one because together they make a whole—and I think anyone would enjoy this one much more if book one was fresh in the memory banks.

~~~

Cover by P.D. Singer is a simple side profile of a young man leaning against a brick wall. Not colorful and not attention-getting IMHO.

Sales Links

Book Details:

ebook, Second
Published February 27th 2017 by Rocky Ridge Books (first published May 1st 2012)
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Unzipping 7D (Unzipped Shorts #2) by J.C. Long

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

unzipping-7d-by-j-c-longThis is a delightful short story full of sexy situations, two hot guys, and an app that fulfills its promise.

Frequent traveler Jordan Price uses the time in the airport lounge to search his Unzipped app—just in case. After all, meeting a hot guy here might help pass the time. As it happens there is a guy nearby, and in fact, Heath is not only nearby, he’s on the same flight. Grabbing a few minutes to chat is pretty unsatisfying since Jordan wants to get to know Heath in more of a physical way, but the flight is called and it seems all they can do is board.

However, the very enterprising Jordan stops at 7D and convinces the passenger next to Heath to switch seats with him so he can be with his “buddy.” And from there until the end of the flight, the men get to know one another quite well. In fact, they are members of the Mile High Club by flight’s end.

I was very impressed and actually pretty surprised that the author managed so much character development within forty pages. I was also connected to both characters quickly and was cheering for them to get some alone time. And then what I got, by the end of the story, was a very pleasant surprise and the possibility of at least a HFN. Loved these guys!

I highly recommend this one. What a great way to spend an afternoon!

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The cover by Natasha Snow is very cleverly done with a thumbnail of a man with a bare torso on the face of a cell phone being held in another man’s hand—the perfect representation of a pickup app.

Sales Links

NineStar Press

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

ebook, 40 pages
Published February 20th 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781945952609
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesUnzipped Shorts #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: The New Wolf (Building the Pack #1) by RJ Scott

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

the-new-wolfThis was an interesting twist on wolf shifter stories and the beginning of a trilogy that will be completed by two other authors, so it’s definitely not a standalone.

Veterinarian Josh Nolan and his partner, Connor Vincent, move to Black Creek, Vermont, after a shooting incident in their former location severely injured Connor, who was a cop in that city. Hired by the Sheriff’s Department in Black Creek, Connor finds life here a lot quieter than in the city so starts to look through cold-case files. What he discovers is a series of injuries, deaths, and disappearances in the late sixties to early seventies that were never solved, though they did abruptly end. But he’s cautioned by the sheriff to leave the mysteries alone.

One night, however, Josh is severely injured when he stops to help a large dog who was hit by a car. The driver disappeared, and as Josh was struggling to help the large animal that looked remarkably like a wolf, someone attacked him. Fortunately, Connor arrives on scene quickly to care for him, Josh having called him when he stopped to help the animal. Shortly afterward, the sheriff and a few deputies arrive, and by the time Josh gets treatment at the local hospital, he’s been convinced that he imagined some of what he saw and that the attack couldn’t have happened that way at all.

This sets the scene for most of the story, in which much of what occurs to Josh, and later to Connor, is covered up and secretive. Ultimately, we discover that there are indeed wolf shifters in the area, and that some of the principal “human” characters are wolves who are members of a fairly new pack.

I enjoyed the story, though it felt introductory and incomplete, since the “big, bad wolf” was not taken down in this installment in the series. The established couple, Josh and Connor, were good characters, but I didn’t feel the closeness that I anticipated. They certainly had their quiet times and their sexy times, but maybe it was because of what happens to Connor, and the distance that injury created, they didn’t feel as strong a couple as I would have liked.

Nevertheless, those who enjoy paranormal/shifter stories will likely enjoy this introductory look at what promises to be an interesting and exciting series.

Cover art by Meredith Russell depicts one of the characters front and center with the full moon in the background. A nice cover but not outstanding among all others which feature a cover model as opposed to artwork or other interesting symbolism.

Sales Links

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2jseies

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2jUYgGJ

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 78 pages
Published January 16th 2017 by Love Lane Books Ltd (first published August 1st 2013)
ASINB01MUBNP7M
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBuilding The Pack #1
CharactersJosh Nolan, Connor Vincent settingBlack Creek, Vermont (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Watching and Wanting (Housemates 4) by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

watching-and-wantingIn the continuation of the Housemates series, Jay Northcote introduces Shawn, an apparently straight guy—as evidenced by his girlfriend—and sometimes smartass—as evidenced by his comments on his roommates’ snogging sessions in the lounge.

Those roomies are Jez and Mac and Ewan and Dev from previous stories, all of whom I enjoyed seeing again. Not long after Shawn breaks up with his girlfriend, he accidentally walks in on Jude as Jude is wanking off in front of his laptop in his own room. Just before he awkwardly gets back out the door, he sees the name of the site Jude has up on the screen, and against his better judgment, signs onto the site on his own laptop. Shocked to see that Jude is live on the site, wanking off in front of the masses, Shawn nevertheless stays around not only long enough to watch Jude get off, but to get himself off as well.

Doubts and questions abound as he starts to realize that watching that show and appreciating the sexiness of the men around him is not as strange as he thought it would be. When he takes up Jude’s offer to sit in on a session with him, Jude is shocked and pleased, but it’s what happens to Shawn that makes the big difference.

This is the start of a friends-with-benefits relationship that later evolves into real caring between the men, and the author made sure we had a good, basic story before launching into feelings territory. By the time the men were ready to move forward, I was engaged by both characters, rooting for them to make their way out of the rut they fell into, and hoping Shawn would be brave enough to move forward with Jude and come out of his straight-boy persona.

The story is an all-around “feel good” tale with an OFY theme—one of my favorites. Set in the world of the other housemates, this book can certainly be read as a standalone, though it would be a shame to miss out on enjoying the others. This series has become one of my favorites, and I’m looking forward to story of Ben, the quiet new roommate. Please, Jay, give us Ben’s story. He seems like a sweetheart, and I definitely want to see him find his forever love.

The cover is a simple black-and-white photo of a bare-chested man, similar to others in the series, and just right for this story. 

Sales Links

65a2f-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published January 20th 2017 by Jaybird Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHousemates #4 settingPlymouth, England (United Kingdom)
England (United Kingdom)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Lagniappe (Iron Lace #2) by Mercy Celeste

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

lagniappe-by-mercy-celesteThis story is an exemplary sequel to what was a wonderful story, Behind Iron Lace. In this one, Caleb and Darcy are now in Oregon, building the restaurant Caleb dreamed of. The taste of New Orleans meets Oregon here, and the bad boy is settling down.

One of the little glitches that turns out to be a major issue is that the chef is Caleb’s cousin, Bubba, imported from Louisana, and he still has the hots for Caleb as he did when they were eighteen year olds caught in the act. It doesn’t matter that he has a wife—he’s out to get Caleb away from Darcy. And in the meantime, Darcy has his own problem—his former best friend and life partner, Bailey, has come for a visit, and Darcy doesn’t want to see her. She cheated on him and then ran his magazine into the ground when he left it to her as he escaped to Oregon. Plus she’s eight months pregnant with the cheater’s child. What’s to like?

Jealousy, anger, and surprises abound when all of this comes to a crisis just before Christmas, and the surprise Darcy receives is nothing he could ever have expected and neither could the readers! I loved it. If you like Mercy Celeste, by all means read Behind Iron Lace and then read this one. It’s terrific! BIL should be read first though, as this one isn’t really a standalone.

Cover art by Jay Aheer of Simply Defined Art features a stunning, apparently nude male torso in a black-and-white photo.

Sales Link

7104e-waxcreative-amazon-kindle

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 83 pages
Published December 6th 2016
ASINB01N9ET2JC
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesIron Lace #2