A MelanieM Review: Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Hockey superstar Joey Luciano has always been good at being whatever people needed him to be. The fans want a good-looking fast-living party boy? Enter ‘the Looch,’ Joey’s carefully created public persona. But the cracks in his mask are starting to show, and he’s begun to lose touch with who he really is. It’s going to take someone who’s been there from the very beginning, to help him find his way home.

Coach Liam O’Reilly always had a very clear picture of what his life should look like. Falling in love with the infuriating, passionate, stubborn, and endlessly fascinating boy next door was not part of the plan. But when Liam’s carefully constructed life fell apart one Christmas Eve, Joey Luciano was there to pick up the pieces. Now Liam can’t stop wanting him.

The passion blazing between them on the ice and behind closed doors could leave both of them badly burned. But through the smoke, Liam can see glimpses of a future brighter than any he’d imagined, a future worth risking his career and reputation for, if only he is brave enough to reach for it.

But Joey’s got a secret he’s keeping from everyone. If it gets out, it could be the end of everything.

I really enjoyed the Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp.  It has so many elements I love in a contemporary romance, starting off with hockey players and hockey coaches in love combinations.  Or just a hockey element.  That always draws me in.  Wasp also has another aspect to this series and story I adore.  Large families that support the main characters!

Families easily identifiable by location (Boston), ethnicities (Irish and Italian), long association (neighbors), and even intertwined relationships.  This extended main cast is a huge factor in connecting the reader to the character of Joey Luciano (the Italian family) and Liam O’Reilly (the Irish one),  In a totally current and hilarious format, we often see the family members communicating with each other via group text.  It’s never overdone, totally funny, and very realistic.  It’s has the feel of family and truth.  And it brought these people and their lives right into my heart.

Joey, “the Looch” Luciano, is a 25 year old  with a lot of issues. On the outside, he’s let this “Looch” character he’s created take over his life (brash, outgoing to the  extreme that it seems like he’s hogging the media and outshining his teammates.  No one is happy with him, including himself.  On the inside it’s worse.  Wasp has created Joey as a insecure person, low self esteem to the point that he seeks approval from every source and everyone without asking himself why he needs it so.  This is an enormous issue, obviously.  Not his only one. On top of this Joey is dealing with the fact that he has loved Liam since he can remember, a love that he has never looked at what that meant.  Why?  Because he shrinks from being called gay or even bisexual.  Which imo is totally misused here with regards to Joey.

Joey is someone who has lacked self examination for most of his life and it’s not until he gets involved with Liam that he smacks into some hard realities for himself.  At about 51 percent, we get these musing from Joey…

“What did people see when they looked at him? Could they tell he was having sex with a guy? Probably not. He looked as normal as Paul and Robbie. And he wasn’t gay gay. If anything he was bisexual like Liam.”

There are so many flags in those sentences that show exactly how messed up Joey is over not only his sexuality but homosexuality in general.  Being gay isn’t “normal”?  He also has issues with femme versus masc. And as is worked out down the story, Joey really doesn’t enjoy sex with women, so no, not bisexual.  Yes, some of this flags get addressed, not as many as I wished but a lot.

There are so many broken layers to Joey, it’s just one right after enough. Panic attacks, health issues, and more that need to be seriously addressed. Are all given the depth of attention I would wish or deserve? Perhaps not but they aren’t blown off either. Believable, authentic cracks in this man.  Kudos to A.E. Wasp for creating such a character.

Liam is a strong character, older by 10 years than Joey.  I liked him and their relationship but honestly wondered if the author was going to use their hot, and admittedly kinky sex life as a bandaid for all of Joey’s deep problems.  Thankfully, the  answer is no.  Wasp let me wonder about that, while I enjoyed Joey and LIam working out their relationship and then gave me everything I hoped for in the ending of this story. That included my Washington Caps winning the Stanley Cup this year!  And therapy for Joey.  Win win.

The humor here had me cackling!  Whether it’s Knock Knock jokes or Liam’s younger brother Patrick trying to get Liam to switch out his posh furniture for a huge leather sectional that all the young hockey players can come over and watch TV on saying”

“It’s the traditional furnishings of our people!”

Well, this book and dialogue crackles with fun, the knowledge of what it is like to be young, in love, or a hockey player, or to just do dumb things.  And all of the above.

Yes, plenty of angst too.

If I also have a complaint, its the actual lack of hockey.

We get headlines, sports feeds,  but  little actual ice time.  These men are passionate about ice and hockey.  So where is the time on the ice?  Where is the sense of team?

We get little of that except towards the very end in the important game.  I wish so badly we had had lots more of that action throughout the story.  Then we could understand why Joey and Liam’s actions carried the weight of the love of ice behind them that they did.  I felt that was missing because we never really saw Joey on ice for the majority of the book.  We were told about it but never actually “felt” it through the character. And I felt that was a mistake.

But did I love this story?  Yes I did.  I thought the author did a tremendous job with the characters, actualizing a man on the brink of a life change for himself and letting us travel some of the journey with him.  Scary, messy, not totally complete, a work in progress as they say.  I think Joey would agree with that and be happy.  So would Liam and the rest of the two families.

I definitely look for more in this series.  I recommend this one for all lovers of contemporary romance and hockey and even a little love of spanking!


Cover art: Ana Phoenix.  Nice cover but doesn’t quite get the age difference.

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 462 pages
Published September 21st 2018
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHot Off the Ice #5


A MelanieM Review: He Dreams Magic by Emme C. Taylor


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Ren has always wanted to leave, to escape his quiet village life. He wakes up from gold-tinged dreams with his heart pounding and a yearning for something he can’t name, can’t hold. He longs to experience something magical just once in his life.

Nico’s monsters don’t lurk under the bed. They walk in daylight. They haunt him every day of his life. He’s possibly the strongest magician of his time, yet he’s trapped. All he wants is an out.

At a magical carnival in the middle of a forest, Ren and Nico collide. They’ve been on this collision course their entire lives, always hurtling toward each other. For both men, escape is now. They have no choice but to flee together. Monsters and betrayal hunt them across strange lands. They find themselves on a journey to save each other—and possibly the world. All they have is one another, Nico’s magic, and a lifetime of half-remembered dreams. But finding each other, finally having someone to rely on, might be the strongest magic of all.

He Dreams Magic by Emme C. Taylor is a magician’s bags of surprises and narrative marvels.  Everytime you think you might have figured where the author is taking the story and character development, Taylor springs a shocker on the reader or does a storythread revelation that takes the tale and people in an entirely different direction.  And does it again and again, each taking on a darker more ominous tone.

And it all starts out so brightly, with a carnival and fires that light up the night sky and our introduction to the characters  of Ren from a nearby village and Nico from the mystical carnival.  Neither of the main characters is given much of a background, that gets slowly filled in over the course of the story.  I wasn’t sure how  I felt about that as It leaves Ren coming across as someone less layered than Nico.  This will be rectified as the power of the story builds.  Nico is all the bright magic and Ren the mundane.  That’s the beginning.

The journey, with all the many twists and turns, doesn’t end until the very last incredible sentence.  There, the author pulls together the entire story, for both boys, all the magic, all their perils.  everything into one drop dead “worth everything” conclusion.  I didn’t expect that.  I read it four times.  I would rec this story on that ending alone.

He Dreams Magic by Emme C. Taylor is extremely well written, excellently plotted with so many twists and turns to keep the reader connected to both the story and characters.  There is amazing character growth and development, along with revelations along those lines that will continue right up until the very last sentence of this amazing story.  I highly recommend it.

Cover Art: Natasha Snow is dark, the figures nebulous.  Exactly what this story is! Perfect.

Sales Links:   NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Details:

Published October 28th 2019 by Nine Star Press
ISBN13 9781951057671
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review:Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) by Avon Gale


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Drafted to play for the Jacksonville Sea Storm, an NHL affiliate, twenty-year-old Lane Courtnall’s future looks bright, apart from the awkwardness he feels as a gay man playing on a minor league hockey team. He’s put his foot in his mouth a few times and alienated his teammates. Then, during a rivalry game, Lane throws off his gloves against Jared Shore, enforcer for the Savannah Renegades. It’s a strange way to begin a relationship.

Jared’s been playing minor league hockey for most of his career. He’s bisexual and doesn’t care if anyone knows. But he’s determined to avoid another love affair after the last one left him devastated. Out of nowhere a one-nighter with rookie Lane Courtnall gives him second thoughts. Lane reminds Jared why he loves the game and why love might be worth the risk. In turn, Jared hopes to show Lane how to be comfortable with himself on and off the ice. But they’re at different points in their careers, and both men will have to decide what they value most.

June was Pride Month and the NHL and all of its teams celebrated too with a month long event “Hockey is for Everyone”.  Rainbow events and merchandise appeared at NHL arena and hockey players showed up at Pride parades.  It was outstanding!  And they were the only sport to do it.

Hockey players and LGBT romance is also a great combination and this blog made a list of recommendation, to be found here.  As part of my summer reading I’m working my way through those novels I hadn’t gotten to yet.  Including this one.

Don’t know how I missed it because I love Avon Gale and Breakaway (Scoring Chances #1) is both a great hockey novel which demonstrates a love and knowledge of the sport but a terrific romance, often laugh out loud, sexy and fun.

In the author’s notes, Gale mentions several autobiographies read in preparation for writing this (and other) stories.  I’m on the hunt for them now.  Because I truly believe hockey players are a unique sort of human, especially goalies.  Here Avon Gale brings in her love of the game, her depth of understanding of what it takes to play the sport, not just at the top but coming up from the ranks, if you ever do,  The lifestyle, the long hours and low pay, small attendance, and years of never being called up.  Of settling.  Here in Breakaway, it feels so authentic and human, and believable.

Especially when you are contrasting a young “talent”, drafted by an NHL team, whose time spent in the minor leagues will be brief…if he remains injury and screwup free, with a older veteran of the ice who is looking at retirement and a career played in the ECHL.    The differences are stark, and not just because they play on opposing teams.  That divide happens mostly on the ice for these players.  No, its experience, attitude, outlook, and even something called hope.

Jared Shore and Lane Courtnall couldn’t be more different but the life that this author enfuses into them through their scenes and their conversations made me connect so throughly to them both.  Lane, who is soooo different, that he defies description, often had me laughing out loud, especially in Jared’s reaction to him or whatever Lane was saying or doing.  The two of them together was comedic spice and sex and rowdy delight.  From chuckling to guffawing and sighing over their relationship, these two beautifully created characters have my heart.

It ends on a great upswing note, as both men are starting out on another path for them both.  I’m hoping to see them again somewhere in this series and get caught up in the next stage in their lives.

If you love hockey, the men who play it, and romance, here is a story not to be missed.  I highly recommend it.

Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson, this is a great cover containing an important element of the storyline.  I just love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published November 27th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Breakaway
Edition Language English
Series Scoring Chances #1
setting Florida (United States)

Literary Awards Bisexual Book Award Nominee for Romance (2015)

A MelanieM Review: A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5


It’s 9172, YE (Year of the Empire), and the future has forgotten its past.

Soaring miles over the Earth, Autumn, the sole surviving flying city, is filled to the brim with the manifold forms of humankind: from Human Plus “floor models” to the oppressed and disfranchised underclasses doing their dirty work and every imaginable variation between.

Valerius Bakhoum is a washed-up private eye and street hustler scraping by in Autumn. Late on his rent, fetishized and reviled for his imperfect genetics, stuck in the quicksand of his own heritage, Valerius is trying desperately to wrap up his too-short life when a mythical relic of humanity’s fog-shrouded past walks in and hires him to do one last job. What starts out as Valerius just taking a stranger’s money quickly turns into the biggest and most dangerous mystery he’s ever tried to crack – and Valerius is running out of time to solve it.

Now Autumn’s abandoned history – and the monsters and heroes that adorn it – are emerging from the shadows to threaten the few remaining things Valerius holds dear. Can the burned-out detective navigate the labyrinth of lies and maze of blind faith around him to save the City of Autumn from its greatest myth and deadliest threat?

A Fall in Autumn by Michael G. Williams! What a novel!  I spent hours swearing about writing this review before I even sat down to the computer.  Back and forth over  my conflicted feelings about the main character and an ending that I can’t decide is or isn’t in keeping with the personality of Valerius Bakhoum, one of the most complex, least likable, most stumbling and genuine characters in the recent science fiction that I’ve read.    Most of the time, I kept thinking while reading, “what a complete and utter bumbling dickwad”.  Yep, not usually the thoughts I entertain about my main characters, especially when they are the narrator of their own stories.  Even now, I don’t know if I like him or not.  I understand him, but like him?  Not that he would have cared.  Still I don’t know.

But from an almost too loose start, lacking a framework or even remotely a narrative foundation upon which the reader can stand on, this amazing story builds, twists, turns, convulses, and keeps spitting out enough wild details and world building that you gather all the information you need and suddenly Boom!  You know this place, the religions, well, as much as you can, because even the residents of the last Great Floating City, they don’t know much about their own history.  They know, and some believe it and some don’t, what various churches and religions, governments tell them.  Those facts, such as they are, are given to the reader as appropriate places in the narrative too.

I think the plot is brilliant.  Right up until the end i was thinking the author had left holes in the exposition and threads dangling.  Nope, in a stunning twist, all was tied up and I never saw it coming.  More swearing.  Damn, not so fumbling after all.  Never saw that either.

There is absolutely nothing I can say here that won’t give things away so I won’t.  The characterizations are fierce, and complete and in many ways brave on the part of the author.  You could make everyone likable, make them beings or people that the readers can easily connect with.  Or instead make them so damn fascinating, irritating, or if it pertains human, and flawed, along with a storyline that’s brilliant and gripping that this reader was up until 3am reading until it was over. And then cussing and waking the dogs.

It really deserves a 5 but like Valerius Bakhoum Im just too ornery to go back and change it.  It’s something he would appreciate and probably expect.  It’s that ending. ….damn it.

If you love science fiction, this is a story you won’t want to miss.  No romance, yes, there’s some sex, lots of mystery and suspense.  Enough twists and turns for a series.  Now I need to see what else this author wrote.  Are they all going to be like this?  I guess I need to find out ….

I highly recommend you read this and see for yourself what all my cussing is all about!

Cover art:  Im as ambivalent about that cove as i am about the character.  Because the floating city is loud, noisy, densely populated, and colorful.  It’s everything that cover is not.  So is the main character.  Still it draws you in.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 246 pages
Published January 1st 2019 by Falstaff Books
Edition Language

A MelanieM Review: Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A tale set in Stuart England, where the king’s life depends on his most loyal of subjects.

Anthony Redbourn, Earl of Crofton, delights in his reputation as a charming rogue. Life is never quiet at the court of King James I, especially with his good friend and secret lover, Sebastian Hewel, by his side. As an actor with the celebrated King’s Men, Sebastian has his own admirers, but neither man has eyes for anyone else.

When a plot against His Majesty is uncovered it threatens Anthony and Sebastian’s charmed lives, and they are dragged into the political intrigue and the race to save the king from danger. Fear that a traitor is linked to the King’s Men leaves Sebastian and Anthony with no choice but to stage a very public dissolution of their friendship, so Anthony can be free to be the patron of a new rising actor, and Sebastian can be the prodigy of another noble.

It is a dangerous game they are playing to expose the plotters and still find a way to meet in secret, as Anthony is adamant that they will not sacrifice the love they have fought so hard to win. They will do whatever it takes to protect the king’s life, and their commitment to each other.

I have loved this couple from the start of their relationship.  That was  Rebecca Cohen’s The Actor and the Earl, the first story in the The Crofton Chronicles. That series was told from Sebastian’s pov and actually stretched through their lineage into the modern day Crofton Hall.  It is a terrific series, one I rec to anyone who adores M/M historical romance.

I had thought that Rebecca Cohen was finished with the Croftons, the series over.  But with the release of this new story, the author has also started a new series as well.  This time told from Anthony’s perspective and what a joy and entertaining ride it is.

Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen picks up after the events of Forever Hold His Peace (The Crofton Chronicles #3).  You don’t have to have read that story as the author fills in all the details nicely here.  But if you have, this feels like coming home again and your fingers will itch to go back and pick up the other series as a foundation.  Sebastian is treading the boards as a popular and extremely successful actor of the day, with his ex brother in law Anthony as his patron.  It’s again trying times to disguise their true relationship as lovers behind this masquerade but they are taking precautions and Anthony’s new engagement to Lady Sarah (which also shields her love for her maid Beth) will also help hide them.

Then a plan to kill King James by a Scottish insurgency intent on returning Catholicism and a far different reign to England comes to light and Anthony and Sebastian’s assistance is needed.

What makes this novel so enjoyable is that not only are the characters so well drawn but that the author has done her research for the time period and it all flows together so beautifully.  The plays, the cloths, the court, the politics and intrigue.  It all comes together in high romance, suspense, and no little amount of anxiety at times over the safety of our main couple.  And their happiness!

If you have read the other three books that make up their wild beginning story and path towards love and a real relationship, you can more readily appreciate the stage Anthony and Sebastian are at here in their lives.  If you haven’t, I have listed them for you below.  They are well worth reading before you get to this one, trust me because they are the foundation story for this couple.

Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen ended just as I hoped after such a thrilling adventure for them both.  I can’t wait to see what the next installment brings.    It will sure be one of great romance, high adventure, more than a little suspense and a love that lasted through more turmoils and troubles than anyone could expect.

The story is fast paced, sexy, fun, and so well written that it just flies by.    You will definitely want more once it’s finished.  I highly recommend reading all the Crofton stories as I love them all, including this one.

Cover art:  Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Designs.  Well, I would have thought Anthony would be one with a little less swagger but then again maybe not.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 240 pages
Published April 25th 2019
Edition Language English

The Crofton Chronicles Series – Anthony and Sebastian from Sebastian’s pov:

The Actor and the Earl

Duty to the Crown

Forever Hold His Peace (this is where Anthony, Earl of Crofton picks up)

A MelanieM Review: Game Changer (Game Changers #1) by Rachel Reid


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

New York Admirals captain Scott Hunter takes his pregame rituals very seriously. In this case, it’s not just a lucky smoothie he’s craving—it’s the man who made it.

Pro hockey star Scott Hunter knows a good thing when he sees it. So, when a smoothie made by juice bar barista Kip Grady precedes Scott breaking his on-ice slump, he’s desperate to recreate the magic…and to get to know the sexy, funny guy behind the counter.

Kip knew there was more to Scott’s frequent visits than blended fruit, but he never let himself imagine being invited back to Scott’s penthouse. Or kissed with reckless abandon, never mind touched everywhere all at once. When it happens it’s red-hot, incredible and frequent, but also only on Scott’s terms and always behind his closed apartment doors.

Scott needs Kip in his life, but with playoff season approaching, the spotlight on him is suddenly brighter than ever. He can’t afford to do anything that might derail his career…like introducing the world to his boyfriend. Kip is ready to go all-in with Scott—but how much longer will he have to remain a secret?

Once again, I backed into a series, this time starting with book 2 in the Game Changers series by Rachel Reid, called Heated Rivalry.  It’s a hockey player/game oriented series with each story supposedly a standalone, and yes, after starting with book two , I can say that’s true.  But now after reading the first story Game Changer, I can also say that together, now having read Game Changer?  It adds a richness and appreciation to scenes of great importance in Heated Rivalry that I missed my first reading. Yes, I had to go and read book 2 again after finishing this one.  It made so much more sense having this as a foundation for that story and characters.  So again, I wish I had read one and then immediately the second story as their timelines are happening almost simultaneously.

While you don’t have to be a fan of the NHL and hockey or follow the sport, it helps to understand the hockey mentality and the pressures the players are under while playing this sport (and practically any sport these days).  How many of you can count out athletes still playing?  Right….you can use one hand for most sports.  The pressure to remain closeted is enormous and Rachel Reid captures that well in the character of Scott Hunter, hockey star and deep in the closet gay.  Who intends to stay there until he meets Kip in a smoothie bar and has his world and feelings turned upside down.  As does the decidedly out Kip.  Because being closeted effects not only the person hiding but everyone he’s involved with.  How that affects Kip, his life, mentally, emotionally…is very effectively laid out for the reader, Kip, and eventually for Scott in a revelatory scene.

I fell in love with these characters through the development of their relationship which felt very realistic, highs, lows, career concerns and pressures, and personal hurdles and journeys to take.  It made the story finale all the more heartwarming and a true highlight.  For both books!

Now I can’t wait to see who or what is the inspiration for the next installment in the series.  I have loved both couples and novels.  I am dying to see what happens next.  Of course I highly recommend Game Changer and it’s followup Heated Rivalry.    Read them both together for a tremendous heartwarming hockey romance experience!

Cover art by Carina Press.  I wish there was more color and something to help catch the eye.  Simply a gorgeous torso isn’t really enough to help tell the story these days.

Sales Links:  AmazonCarina Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 334 pages
Published October 22nd 2018 by Carina Press
Original Title Game Changer
Edition Language English
Series Game Changers #1

Game Changer

Heated Rivalry

A MelanieM Review: This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.

Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.

This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)

There’s a lot that can be said about This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet.  It’s a hurt/comfort story without a lot of comfort going on.  Reading the majority of this novel feels like poking at an open wound.  It’s that’s raw and incredibly painful. Not a story I could read without taking needed emotional “timeout” breaks.  Honestly, parts of this are so agonizing, I wondered if I wanted to continue.

So why the 5 stars?  Why read it at all?

Because it’s extraordinarily well written, with an eye towards making the reader feel almost at a cellular level what Suki Fleet’s  homeless teenagers are going through on a daily basis as anonymous, non people of the streets.  The humiliation, the deprivation, the starvation, and pain.  The exploitation and danger that exists for them and just the edge of survival each one walks is brought vividly and horrifically to life in the persons of Romeo and Julian, and others we meet.

Hope?  That doesn’t occur until late in the story.  Until then it’s sheer determination and love for each other that carries each young man through the darkest of times, and yes, they get plenty dark and gritty.

Told through the mind and heart of Romeo, an artistic mute who’s never without his drawing pad or Julian, his protector and the person he loves, we see the cost of that protection on Julian, on them both.  The way being homeless is eating away at them, the despair, their ragged physical state and the things they are willing to do to survive.  Each character is someone so vulnerable, so achingly young and discarded that the more you read, the more gut wrenching  the impact.

Not surprisingly the story contains elements of thoughts of suicide, drug use, rape, self harm, and abduction.  If any of these are triggers of yours, please take note.

After all that, the novel ends on a note of hope and happiness.  It’s truly needed after the darkness the characters and the readers have endured for most of the story.  It wasn’t quite enough to lift the heaviness of heart I felt after reading the book but held so much positivity for the future that I could leave it at that, hoping that the worse was finally behind them

I’m not sure this story is for everyone but for those that love a great contemporary novel with amazing characters and unforgettable plot ….and a journey that’s dark, gritty and full of pain.  This is a story for you.

Cover art with the dim backdrop of London and not so bright characters grimly hints at the tone of the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 453 pages
Published March 27th 2019 (first published March 22nd 2014)
Original Title This Is Not a Love Story
SeriesLove Story Universe
CharactersRomeo Danilov, Julian Lavelle

A MelanieM Review: Arctic Sun (Frozen Hearts #1) by Annabeth Albert


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


Everything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.

He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

Arctic Sun is another successful contemporary romance from Annabeth Albert, one of my go to authors. This wonderful story manages to combine the breathtaking scenery and isolated landscape of Alaska with the romance between two  complicated, wounded men, highly different on the surface and yet so alike deep underneath.

With the state of Alaska as a third main character as well as a location, Albert also deals with some serious subject matter, also through her two main men.  While it’s obvious from the start that each man is struggling with some demon or demons, what they are exactly is a slower reveal.  The exact nature of what each man is battling is hinted at and given away in the synopsis so I don’t mind spelling it out here.  For Griffin Barrett, it’s sobriety and gambling.  For River, a eating disorder and a toxic way of life.  And neither one has exactly finished dealing with their addictions in a way that’s helping them move forward.  One is hiding and one is running.

Both away from themselves until they find each other in Alaska.  And Annabeth Albert brings us intimately into their journey and the larger than life wonder that is Alaska.

I loved the use of the photography group as a format for bringing Griffin out of his typical hermit like state and the other participants were great characters.  It let the model River slowly ease away to the real person underneath and I enjoyed that journey as much as Griffin.  And all the sights they took in. The locations and the beauty of Alaska is described in depth as is the joys of travels by aircraft of all sizes and type.  What I did think was underplayed was the long arctic nights and extreme cold as well as the distance between people and small towns. But that’s perhaps for another story as this is but the first in a series.

The complications, angst, and rediscovery here is saved for River and Griffin.  It’s one tough journey and a very rewarding one.  I loved the men and the HFN they received at the end.  It was realistic and heartwarming.  And I’m ready for more.

An Annabeth Albert story is a cause for joy.  The people are so real, the books so well written, that you just fall into them fully, connecting with the romance and their lives.    I highly recommend all her series and this story.  Pick them and this up and get started today.

Cover art is gorgeous with the seaplane and the mountains in the backdrop.

Buy now:
Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488051258_arctic-sun.html
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Frozen-Hearts-Annabeth-Albert/dp/1335006885/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arctic-sun-annabeth-albert/1129705419
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/arctic-sun/id1438313132
kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/arctic-sun-1
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Annabeth_Albert_Arctic_Sun?id=G55zDwAAQBAJ
Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Arctic-Sun-Audiobook/1488206201


Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by Carina Press
Edition Language English
Series Frozen Hearts #1

Publisher’s Note: Arctic Sun deals with topics some readers may find difficult, including sobriety and eating disorders

Frozen Hearts Series

Arctic Sun

Arctic Wild  cpming June 3rd

Andy Gallo on Lambda Rising, old gayborhoods, and his new release Better Be Sure (guest post)


Better Be Sure

Andy Gallo has a new contemporary MM romance out: Better Be Sure.

The Edge of Extinction?

Thank you, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for letting me come visit today.

For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when the gay ‘areas’ of major cities were predominately gay; Castro in San Francisco, Oaklawn in Dallas, West Hollywood in L.A. Hillcrest in San Diego, Boystown in Chicago—I could go on, but you get the point. They had gay bars, restaurants, books stores, coffee houses, places had rainbow triangles to let you know they were gay friendly or gay owned.

In D.C. the area was ‘Dupont’—the area around Dupont Circle.  Lambda Rising (the gay book store) was there, ‘toy’ stores, a few gay bars, restaurants etc. But once that area became gentrified (meaning a lot of LGBT people moved into a dicey area and fixed it up), the ‘gayborhood moved. First to ‘P’ Street (which still has a strong presence) then further east to ‘Logan’ and now ‘Shaw.’ With each move, new ‘gay’ businesses sprung up, but not as many. Some remained enshrined in their old locations, others moved with the clientele and some—like Lambda Rising—closed up shop. 

The last—the demise of Lambda Rising— is something of a phenomenon (or perhaps better said, a tragedy to people of my generation.)

Greater acceptance of LGBT people brought with it a willingness to carry things we wanted. Soon Barnes and Noble carried our books and people could go to the closest book store instead of making a special drive into the heart of DC. Then Amazon sprang up and we could have it delivered to our homes.

In response to declining sales, Lambda Rising first closed its satellite stores in Baltimore MD. and Rehoboth Delaware. Then it closed its main location in DC. Oscar Wilde’s in NYC is gone. A Different Light in San Fran and L.A. is closed. Giovanni’s Room in Philly closed, but recently reopened in a slightly different configuration. But by and large, the stores are gone or going.  Part of it is obviously due to eBooks and Amazon’s ability to mail things to your home, but that only happened because Amazon carries our books in the first place.

Acceptance is great, and it is what we want, but the unexpected side effect is the loss of ‘our’ neighborhoods. For me, going Giovanni’s Room in Philly was a pilgrimage of sorts after I came out. I wanted to read books with positive gay characters. Mainstream bookstores had some, but only the newest or best sellers. Giovanni’s Room had hundreds. It also had ‘those’ magazines and books that you needed to keep in the bag until you were home – hey, they sold and helped pay the store’s rent.

Being a destination of sort meant people lingered once in the area. I know I did. I didn’t go that often, so I took advantage of the special trip. I went to the friendly coffee shop, maybe if it was later in the day, I’d meet friends for dinner at a LGBT owned restaurant and by that point, we’d go out to the bars/clubs. All because I was there.

Now, I order my books online for the most part, from LGBTQ publishers when able. There are no issues going to local restaurants as a couple. No one really cares – at least not in my area of the country. And because going to a gay bar is a trip all its own now, visits are much, much less frequent. (Having a child is also a huge reason not to go, but we cut back well before ‘lil q was born.)

It’s something of a double-edged sword. We want to be accepted and treated equal, but that equality means the ‘us’ only businesses we created to fill a need lost the ‘need’ they filled. Instead of being the only outlet, they became quant, quirky, something to do that was different. Sadly, that hasn’t proven to be a sustainable business model.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. One the one hand, how great would it be for our children’s children to read about ‘the good old days’ when gay book stores and businesses were common and ask, ‘why did you need those?’ If that happens, it means they didn’t know a world where marriage equality doesn’t exist. But for those of us who remember these places, they were our refugee from the less than accepting world we lived in.

This is somewhat reflected in Better Be Sure. The conflict isn’t Jack wants to take his boyfriend to the fraternity formal but is afraid his fraternity won’t accept him. They already know and don’t care. In fact, his brothers are pressing him to do it. Even his rival isn’t his enemy because Jack is gay. The problem is his date isn’t out of the closet and Jack can’t really understand why.

Homophobia absolutely still exists, and I don’t mean to suggest it’s been eradicated. There will always be some who don’t approve. But a lot of the trails have been blazed. There are fewer and fewer ‘firsts’ to be achieved. And much like the ‘mainstreaming’ of LGBTQ fiction, the conflicts in our books are inching toward the same ones found in general fiction.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about this new world. For now, I’m content to recognize it and see where it goes.

[Optional For The Tour Host]

In addition to the tour wide contest, at each stop on the blog tour, Anyta and I are giving away eBook copies of (Un)Masked) – which we co-wrote – and Leo Love Aries – the first book in Anyta’s Signs of Love series. To be eligible, leave a comment below and tell us something unique about your region that might be different from other places. We’ll pick one winner for each book*



*Readers are eligible to win one eBook during the tour and one of the three grand prizes.



When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.

Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.

Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.

Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.

Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.

With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?

Dreamspinner | Amazon | Amazon NZ | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes


Andy is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift certificate, two audio codes, and 3 $5 Amazon gift cards with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4756/?

We’re also giving away an eBook copy of (Un)Masked and one copy of Leo Loves Aries, by Anyta Sunday. Comment on the post below or a chance to win.


Jack’s phone buzzed, and he swatted the sound away. Too early in the damn morning. Another buzz. He drowsily pulled himself from sleep. Across the room, Marcus mumbled in his sleep.

Jack checked his phone, body surging to life at Ed’s name on the screen.

Ed: Morning!

Ed: Oh, crap, it’s probably still too early for you.

Jack couldn’t type back quick enough. Ed writing to him this early in the morning, that had to mean something, surely.

Jack: Nah, I’m totally awake. Why?

Ed: Just finished a job. Am close to Harrison….

Jack was already scrambling out of bed, messaging one-handed while he emptied his drawers for a clean shirt.

Jack: Send me your location. I’m in desperate need of caffeine. Bet you could use some too.

Ed sent a grinning dog and his location. Eighteen minutes later, Jack walked into the local Starbucks. He scanned the almost empty store and caught Ed’s broad shoulders at the counter.

Jack strode over and clapped the guy on the shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze. “I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.”

Ed’s warm shoulder shook as he chuckled. “I haven’t mowed you down yet.”

“No, no, that you haven’t.” Their gazes snagged, and Ed definitely swallowed. Probably too early—in the day and their friendship—to tease.

Jack rocked back on his heels, dug his wallet out of his pocket, and ordered.

When they both had their drinks, they sank into armchairs in the corner of the room.

Ed’s gaze kept dipping to his chest, and Jack’s lips tipped up behind his mocha. “How was your morning job?”

“I was extremely motivated to get the job done quickly.”

Jack’s grin widened, and an ill-timed sip ended up rolling down his chin. He swiped it off. “Do you often have jobs close to Harrison?”

“Not as much as I’d like.” Ed rubbed his palm over the arm of the chair.

“I mean, a lot of the time I have to drive out farther.”

“Well, any time you’re nearby….” He raised his cup.

Ed glanced at his chest again. “I like the look.”

Jack followed the sweep of Ed’s hand and—fuck. His shirt was inside out. “Right. Of course.”

Ed leaned forward in his seat, amusement lighting his eyes as he took in the rest of him. Shivers skittered through Jack, and he held his breath. “I totally woke you, didn’t I?”


The deep laugh Ed gave made it all worth it. “So you’re a high-ranking anchor in your fraternity?”

Jack snorted at the muff. From the way Ed stared at him, it was hard to tell if he’d done it on purpose or really had the term mixed up.

“We prefer to pronounce it ‘archon,’ but either way, I’m one of the fraternity leaders, yes.”

“Do you like it?”

“Which? Being in the fraternity or being an officer?”


Of course he’d want Jack to answer both. “Yeah, for the most part. I mean, there are a couple guys I wish weren’t my brothers, but that’s how it is.”

“How’d you pick that fraternity?”

“There wasn’t really any other option.”

Ed’s brow furrowed. “I thought Harrison had a lot of fraternities.”

“No, not like that.” Jack waved his hand and shook his head. “My dad, both of them were in Pi Kappa Phi. Marcus and I grew up hearing all the stories about their days in the house.”

“Wow, that’s cool.”

“Yeah, they met when they were freshmen and were friends until… well… until my parents died.” He thought he’d been ready to deal with the issue, but confronted with it, he froze.

Ed scooted up on his chair, leaning forward. “You okay, Jack?”

Jack rubbed the ring at the chain around his neck and drew in a calming breath. “Yeah. Yeah.”

Ed seemed to realize Jack needed a change in conversation, because he abruptly started telling Jack how his sister had woken him last night screaming murder. She’d gone to the bathroom at night, and when she walked back to her room, someone was in there, rustling the sheets.

Ed had launched into her room with a bat only to be confronted with their cat. The first time the cat decided not to be shy. In the middle of the night, rolling around Becky’s bed. They laughed so hard, they needed to make a cup of hot milk to settle down again.

“Sounds like you’re a good guy to have around… wayward cats.” And panicking… friends.

Ed sipped his coffee. “What about you?”

“I like to think I’m a good guy to have around too.”

“I’m sure you are.” Ed set his coffee down. “Look, about last night….”

Jack clasped his cup, muscles rigid. Here it was. “Yeah?”

Air blew into the café along with a group of rowdy hipster students toting stainless steel cups. Jack shuffled forward on the cushion to hear Ed better, but Ed’s gaze strayed toward group and his mouth flattened.

Jack cursed the interruption, but it was clear the moment had passed.

“What are your plans the rest of the day?” Ed asked instead.

“The rest of the day?”

Ed laughed, and Jack soaked it up.

“Class, bantering with Brittany—she’s awesome—frat meeting about the spring formal, messing around with the guys. Might squeeze some actual study in there.” A lot of study, actually.

“Messing around with the guys?”

That piqued your interest, did it? Jack smirked. “Play a bit of ball if the weather holds. Get out the PlayStation and hit the video games if it doesn’t.”

“What’s the spring formal?”

Jack groaned. “The bane of my life.”

Author Bio

Andy Gallo prefers mountains over the beach, coffee over tea, and regardless if you shake it or stir it, he isn’t drinking a martini. He remembers his “good old days” as filled with mullets, disco music, too-short shorts, and too-high socks. Thanks to good shredders and a lack of social media, there is no proof he ever descended into any of those evils.

Andy does not write about personal experiences and no living or deceased ex-boyfriends appear on the pages of his stories. He might subconsciously infuse his characters with some of their less noble qualities, but that is entirely coincidental even if their names are the same. And while Andy leaves the hard sci-fi/fantasy for his alter ego, Andrew, in his mind a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good relationship.

Married and living his own happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days raising their daughter and rubbing elbows with other parents. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Author Website: https://www.andygallo.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/andygalloauthor/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/92829509-andy-gallo

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ithani (The Oberon Cycle #3) by J. Scott Coatsworth


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Oberon Cycle: Book Three

Time is running out.  After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.  The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.  Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

After finishing the book, I knew writing this review was going to be frustrating.  Why?  Because it’s going to be hard to find the words to describe just how incredible Ithani, the final story in The Oberon Cycle truly isJ. Scott Coatsworth left himself quite the task in pulling together all the plot threads and overall monumental trilogy arc and bring them all to all rousing conclusion that not only is beautifully imaginative, but thoroughly satisfying.

But the author accomplished that task and then went further.  This book is magical in its reach and edifying in the joy and depth of its conclusion.  It stretches out past time and space,  it encompasses the past, present, and future with equal verve, heart-stopping action and suspense. It brings to many a deep abiding love in so many forms, a search for self and what that means and, oh, yes the astonishing winged aliens of several species.  Plus the probable end of not one but two worlds.  There are multiple cultures, languages, sciences to understand and embrace along with all the characters that Coatsworth has created.

It’s an absolute tour de force.

I am certainly not giving out any details.  Even now, thinking back on elements and tiny narrative jewels the author will deliver to the reader, I remain so grateful and stunned at the twists and turns he built into Ithani.  Ones that even now continue to astound and delight.  I’m a fan of Coatsworth’s science fiction series the Liminal Sky and, here we find a major storythread that links this trilogy to that one.  For a reader that is not familiar with the Liminal Sky Series, will they feel lost?  Not at all.  This element is beautifully explained and threaded into the plot line, it’s important and as vital as any element in the narrative.  But that it’s linked to another series altogether?  Only those who know and adore the Liminal Sky  will be dancing in dazed joy over this narrative inclusion.

That’s just the way this whole novel goes…like dancing lights above a lake.  It will entrance you, pull you in, leave you to wonder at it all.  And then make you want to take the journey all over again.

I highly recommend the entire Oberon Cycle trilogy, starting with Skythane, then to Lander, and finally to this magical, incredible conclusion Ithani.  It’s February and I already have an addition to my Best of 2019 list this year.  That would be Ithani and the Oberon Cycle.

Cover Artists: Anna Sikorska.  I love the drama and eyecatching colors of this cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:

Buy Now: Dreamspinner Press Buy Now: Amazon KindleBuy Now: AmazonBuy Now: Barnes and NobleBuy Now: KoboBuy Now: iBooks

Book Details:

Paperback and eBook 290 pages
Expected publication: February 19th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN 1644051125 (ISBN13: 9781644051122)Available on: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genres: Romance, Sci Fi
The Oberon Cycle: