A Stella Review: Stained by Chris T. Kat

Standard

RATING  4,5 out of 5 stars

StainedBlair Clark has reached his breaking point. Forced to leave one job because of sexual harassment, he’s having difficulty finding another. Since no one believes what happened, Blair’s left with a stain on his employment record that he can’t get rid of. He’s had to move back home with his mother. As if that’s not bad enough, he realizes his crush, Travis, is simply using him. His romantic life looks as hopeless as his job search.

Jack Ross is sure he’ll never find anyone who’ll love him for who he is. All anyone sees is the port-wine stain on his left cheek—not the man behind it. Even his mother thinks he should get rid of it. But the procedure is difficult and painful.

When Blair applies for a secretarial position with Jack’s firm, both men learn that beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder. It’ll take a lot of trust to chase away their insecurities, but if they take a chance on one another, love will find a way.

I read Stained at the right time, it was exactly what I needed. I’m a huge fun of Chris T Kat, I can always count on her talent when I’m looking for something sweet. This new and unfortunately last novel was no exception. I devoured it.

Blair’s life sucks. He is 25 years old and back to live with his mum after he lost his job. A wonderful mum, loving and funny but most of all always encouraging. Blair is on job hunt as a secretary after a bad work experience where he was sexually harassed. He met Travis in his old job and he fell for him. But the guy is mean, he had no respect for Blair’s ideas and opinions, on the contrary he hurt Blair more than once. During one of these times he literally crashed with a man with a stained face. And the day after, during a job interview the man with the stained face reveals to be the new boss. Jack is an architect, he inherited the firm of his father. He’s tired of people staring at him and calling him bad names. When he met Blair, he is soon attracted to him and being caring is easy.

Stained is a super sweet story, although to me it was never too much. It was well done and easy to read. My only problem? I wanted a little more, especially in the development of the relationship between the MCs. It missed some spice and it would have be perfect. Nonetheless I think the author did great with Blair and Jack, both stained in different way, one physically, the other in the soul. Yes the title was very fitting in this case. I have to say at the beginning it was hard to me to like Blair, seeing him with Travis made me so angry with Blair himself. I wanted him to open his eyes soon and beat the guy. Luckly he fulfilled my wish. And then when he meets Jack and I read about them together I start to love them, because at the end they were perfect for each other.

I feel to recommend this story if you’re looking for something easy, quick and sweet. I was conqueered and satisfied.

The cover art by Bree Archer is a winner, I love it, it’s cute and the models are exactly how I picture Jack and Blair.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 112 pages
Expected publication: June 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 163477051X (ISBN13: 9781634770514)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: THE KITCHEN BOY by August Li

Standard

RATING   4 out of 5 stars

The Kitchen BoyKitchen servant Yoli is one of only three men who know a carefully guarded secret about High Commander Koehen, the brilliant general who united their lands against a common invader. The enemy wants that secret, and they are willing to use either kindness or cruelty to obtain it.

Yoli must decide if his loyalties lie with the commander, who has shown him more affection than anyone in Yoli’s life, or with his own best interests. High Commander Koehen’s attention is capricious at best—he summons Yoli only when it is convenient for him, and Yoli knows there’s little hope of a future together. Is a glimmer of a hope for love worth sacrificing a chance for prosperity beyond his wildest dreams?

 

I read The Union of Sun and Moon by August Li last year and I was pleasurably surprised by the style of the author. As soon as I saw The Kitchen Boy I wanted to read it. This is a second edition but I missed it earlier. And now that I read it I’m surely going to  devour whatever else they wrote in the past. I like their style so much, it’s hard to explain but I get a sense of peace and sweetness.

The Kitchen Boy is the story of Yoli, who after having been sold by his own father when he was only six years old, works now as a servant in the kitchen of the High Commander Koehen, the man who was able to fight for the union of a great kingdom. The same man suffers of very hurtful migraines that only Yoli seems able to relieve, although their meeting is not just the medical kind. Until the enemies will capture Yoli and torture him to discover the weakness of Koehen.

This was a great story, I was caught from the start and couldn’t put it down till the end. It greatly engaged me with the amazing characters and world building. We get to know quite enough of the world the story is set in, I honestly wasn’t expecting so much in  not so many pages.

The author made me like the characters a lot, even the supposed bad one Brunarious. Of course Yoli was my favorite, a pleasure to see. So strong and brave and generous in his simpleness. He went through so many abuses and hurt in his life. I get to feel his deep emotions, the fear to hope for more, the sense of inadequacy, his loyalty to a man who showed him a glimmer of a future he never hoped to dream for himself. I enjoyed not just his hot time with Koehen, our hero, but his learning scenes with the wizard Vlaad (which maybe needed to be explored a little because there was more to know about the magician and his relationship with the MCs and maybe I was hoping in some menage moments).

I liked this story a lot, well written and developed, great characters, good tempo. All of these made The Kitchen Boy one of my favorite books in the mm fantasy genre.

The COVER ART by Anne Cain is well done and fitting, I can easily see Yoli in it, learning to read. Still I have a note to make, I would have been happier to see a cover made by the author, I like August style, in the writing and in the design I saw around.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 2nd Edition, 126 pages
Published April 6th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press (first published February 2nd 2013)
ISBN 1634771273 (ISBN13: 9781634771276)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: Happy by Chris Scully

Standard

RATING  4,5 out of 5 stars

HappyGrowing up Greek-Canadian, Peter Georgiou always knew his duty was to his family, for whom twenty-first century rules don’t apply. In his early thirties, Peter still lives at home, dates who his parents tell him to, and works at the family restaurant. But watching his two best friends find happiness in each other’s arms has made him worry over his destiny.

When Louie Papadakis returns home to nurse his broken heart and start a new life, he can’t believe his sister is dating his high school crush, Peter. There’s a sadness behind Peter’s eyes that draws him in, and a chemistry he wishes he could ignore. After his closeted ex broke his heart, Louie is afraid to fall in love again, especially with a man who’s keeping secrets.

As Peter finds himself drawn to Louie in unexpected ways, old and new worlds collide. Then a family crisis forces Peter’s hand, and he must decide if he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for family duty.

Are you happy?”

It was a simple question. Should have been a simple answer. So why was it still rattling around in Peter’s head an hour after Adam had asked it? And why did his insides squirm uncomfortably every time he thought about it? Of course he was happy. Wasn’t he?

He rinsed his hands under the bathroom faucet and chanced a final glance in the mirror. The man staring back at him certainly didn’t look happy.

I remember when the author first posted (maybe a couple of years ago, I’m not sure) the idea for this story. I was soon curious about it and my enthusiasm when I saw it finally published was huge. I read the Inseparable series some time ago and Until September last month. I can say Chris Scully is one of my favorite authors. I like her style a lot and her books are always a pleasure to read.

Happy is the story of Peter, a thirty-something guy in the closet, oppressed by his Greek parents who expect him to marry a nice Greek girl and make his own family. Two years ago he quit his job after his dad had an heart attack and started helping his parents’ restaurant. Now in a relationship with Demetra, of course recommended by his mum, he can’t take this life anymore, especially now that his two best friends, Adam and Joe,  had finally found happiness in each others arms.

Moving to Vancouver after college was the only way to not embarrass his family with his sexuality but now Louie has come back home, Toronto, and he is recovering from a bad relationship with a deep in the closet guy. He needs to mend his broken heart but it’s hard to be home again after so many years away. He’s feeling lonely and with no friends to hang with. Then he meets Peter, his sister’s new boyfriend. Peter and Louie basically grew up together same greek neighborhood, same school. Peter was the hottest boy and of course Louie has a huge crush on him. Fifteen years later a lot of things have changed but some are still the same.

Peter seems to not be ready to come out of his closet and Louie can’t settle for anything less than a full disclosure. Can they be happy together?

I loved this book a lot, it was light and deep at the same time, easy to read and all the characters were enjoyable and real. I liked watching Peter and Louie become first friends then start to feel more, even if the attraction is clear since their first meeting. Although nothing really happens between the MCs till over the 70% of the story, I appreciated the slow burn, because Peter is still in the closet and Louie is not ready for a new relationship yet.

Finally I want to thank the author for giving me  a little more about Adam and Joe from the Inseparable series, I liked this couple so much years ago and to meet and follow them to a truly HEA was perfect.

I’m conflicted about the cover art by Bree Archer. I like it but it’s not really a winner and forgettable. I would have preferred something different.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages
Expected publication: March 30th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634771397 (ISBN13: 9781634771399)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: Betting on Forever (The Breakfast Club #2) by Felice Stevens

Standard

Rating 5 stars out of 5       ★★★★★

Betting on Forever coverA weekend fling in Atlantic City couldn’t be more out of socially shy Zach Cohen’s comfort zone, but a bet with his best friends forces him to put aside the humiliation he’s hidden for years, stepping away from his computer screens and on-line world. When he meets Sam Stein, despite their spark, Zach expects nothing more than a night of passion and a kiss goodbye. Yet weeks later, he can’t keep the man out of his head. 

After a split second decision with tragic results ends his twenty year police career at the same time his relationship falls apart, Sam Stein is drifting through life. At his best friend’s urging he agrees to a trip to Atlantic City to clear his head. What Sam doesn’t plan on is meeting Zach Cohen, whose sweet nature and honesty has him thinking maybe he could move forward, until Zach leaves him without explanation, reinforcing Sam’s belief that people can’t be trusted.

Well-meaning friends refuse to let Zach and Sam hide from each other, forcing them to realize their weekend is much more than a one night stand. Before that can happen, Zach must come to terms with his past and stand up for his own independence, while Sam has to learn to take a chance and believe in himself and people again. All bets are off when dreams become reality and forever doesn’t seem to be long enough.

Betting on Forever is the second book in The Breakfast Club series by the amazing Felice Stevens. The first installment, Beyond the Surface, was a “second chance at love” story really well done, so you can imagine my joy when I get this new one. I can already tell you she didn’t disappoint me. To me it was another winner.

I was waiting for Zach’s story since the first time I met him. I was so curious to know what was behind his shyness and who was going to be the one to disclose the sweet boy he is as Zach has spent all his life feeling invisible. He has true friends in Marcus, Julian and Nick, but he keeps things from them too. It’s hard for Zach to trust people with his heart, he’s been hurt and humiliated by someone  who convinced him that he’s worthless. He prefers to hide behind his pc screen but now he’s going to Atlantic City for an important work-related convention,  and cheered up by a bet with his friends, he promises himself to be a different person during this weekend.

Sam is a private investigator, ex cop with a bad past behind him. He knows nothing about computers but he is forced to join his friend Henry at the convention, as a way to distract himself. When he meets Zach, it is soon lust at first sight, but Zach leaves the convention in a hurry and the date they had scheduled is postponed to… never. Or not?

I think one of the reason why I loved this story so much is that I was able to connect with Zach on so many levels. I knew his fears and the past/present duties he feels to the people he loves. It was hard to follow him in his struggles with his mother and his life in general but it was never sad. Felice did a great work with this story, because it’s full of  positivity and happiness. It’s sweet, just as I like it. She surrounded Zach and Sam with some amazing friends and parents. Supportive, caring but ready to kick their asses.

I loved the writing, the dialogues were all so easy and real. It was a pleasure to read Betting on Forever, see these boys get their finally deserved HEA and get some of their issues solved. I was soon drawn in their relationship, they completed each other so beautifully, it really seemed they were the missing pieces in the other’s life. It was easy but at times it was really emotional, especially in a couple of touching scenes. And I was happy I was able to see more about Julian and Nick together, Felice fulfilled my wish.

I want to highly recommend Betting on Forever to everyone who’s looking for a feel good story, sweet and with characters with an age gap between them (not too much), this book is for you. If you read anything else by the author you already know how talented she is. If she is a new author to you, here is a perfect story to give her a chance. This book could be simply read as a standalone but don’t miss the first one too.

I can’t wait for Marcus story!

Cover art by Reese Dante. This artist is became a guarantee. Her covers are always well done and fitting. In this case too, the scene on the beach depicted on the cover is one of my favorite in the book.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe)Amazon US |Amazon UK|  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Expected publication: November 17th 2015
Edition Language English

The Breakfast Club series

Beyond the Surface #1 (my review here )
Betting on Forever #2

A Stella Review: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North

Standard

Rating: 4. 5 stars out of 5

Blueberry Boys coverConnor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

“You confuse the hell out of me.”

Jed cocked his head to the side and stared. “Why?”

“Are you gay?”

Jed wouldn’t meet his eyes. “That’s a c-complicated question.”

Connor sat again, not caring if their legs touched. “There’s nothing complicated about it. You like dick or you don’t.”

“I’m a Christian.”

“The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”

“In th-this town? In my family? Yeah. They are.”

Blueberry Boys is the story between Connor and Jed, two young man living in two very different worlds that will collide under a meteor shower.

Connor is a famous photographer of NY, who has just lost his uncle Bruce and inherited his blueberry farm with his older, bully of a brother Scott. He is gay and out and comes back to what was at one time his home, Blandford, a close-minded town, for his uncle’s funeral.

Jed is the farm boy who is growing organic blueberries on Connor’s new farm soil. He’s shy and cute with his stuttering, he’s incredible attractive with a jaw to die for. He’s gay but in the closet. He is soon attracted to Connor, still they don’t rush into having sex after the first kiss but take their time.

I was surprised the author chose Jed to be a Christian and I loved how she showed me things. The Sundays at the church, the time after spent with his close family, not a perfect one but supportive and caring. Most of all Jed’s strong faith mixed with his need to be accepted.

There were a lot of elements I liked in this book but there was one I freaking loved, so much it brought tears to my eyes and it’s enclosed in Pastor Brenda’s words to Jed.

Jed, this church is your home. Your faith is as welcome here as it has always been.”

I’m writing this review the same day the Vatican is shaken by the coming out of an important priest  closed to the Holy See. Allow me to please quote his words: “I want the church and my community to know who I am — a homosexual priest, happy and proud of his own identity,” and “It’s time the church opened its eyes and realized that offering gay believers total abstinence from a life of love is inhuman”.

When I read Blueberry Boys and I realized Jed was a Christian, I was a little dubious. I’m always wary when authors approach the religious’ themes cause I’m afraid they will focus on the bad side of the Church and I don’t want to read about it (it’s already showing me its worse side every day, I don’t need more). So you can imagine my joy when I found such a beautiful example to follow in Pastor Brenda in this story, the acceptance, the support, the “no need to be forgiven because there’s nothing to forgive”. I cried with Jed and his finally feeling lighter after having the weight of years of fears and “lies” on his shoulders. There was a ton of positiveness in this book that simply fill my heart.

The story felt real, so real I don’t know how to explain but I was lost in it sometimes. So beautiful real like few things I read. And I love when I’m so lost in a story I forgot everything else.

Blueberry Boys, a standalone contemporary out for you romance lovers, is sweet, hot, emotional, full of hope. I read only one more book by Vanessa North, called Rough Road, still she became a guarantee to me. I like her style, simple, clean, normal. Now I just need to rush through The Dark Collector to know Oliver’s story. I think it’s clear the author simply got under my skin.

COVER ART by L.C. Chase is great, it just made me want to read the book cause it made me curious. I especially love the colors’ choice. And all the layout work with blueberries on every chapter was very well done.

Sales Link: preorder  at Riptide Publishing |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon  Other links coming closer to release date

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 186 pages
Expected publication: November 30th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626493414
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: Free Ride by J. L. Merrow

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Free Ride coverThere’s no such thing as a free ride. Aidan may be only twenty, but he’s already learned that the hard way. Hitch-hiking up from London to Glasgow to keep a promise to a man he’ll never see again, Aidan’s fully prepared to offer payment in kind for his lifts. He’s not expecting a good-looking older bloke to pick him up in a Mercedes — nor that he’ll find John such good company. After a few short hours together Aidan’s already starting to care what John thinks of him.

When slow traffic forces them to get a room for the night, Aidan’s not sure what to do. Putting out as a thank you to a stranger is one thing, but can he really go through with it with the first person he’s come to care for since he made that promise?

And what’s going to happen when they reach their destination?

Free Ride is a short (too short) story by JL Merrow, an author whose style and writing I love very much. I was a little dubious about it, because being just 18 pages, I was really afraid it would be impossible to deliver something believable and complete. I have to stop to worrying about things when it comes to JL! These few pages show the start of a possible relationship between Aidan and John, in a sweet way and with the use of a humorous british language so typical of the author. I know, there are just brief moments  between them, but even if the aim was to just let us know how they met, it was so accomplished. I’m always not satisfied by stories like Free Ride, I think it’s pretty normal to have not enough of a couple if you have loved the few (filling) crumbs you read. I can honestly say it felt right just like that. And moreover I could feel the characters and the chemistry between them. Of course then I went on the author’s website and found out there is a micro sequel to this short story, called On The Beach (you can find it here http://jlmerrow.com/free-reads/on-the-beach/) and I was super happy! I devoured it in a flash.

I want to highly recommend Free Ride. If you already have read something by JL Merrow you know how good she is so it’s a guarantee. If you’re looking for a quick story, full of hope in the future, with an emotional undertone,  this one will be perfect for you.

Cover art by Written Ink Designs. I know, this model is been used a lot on covers lately, so it’s not so original. It’s a shame because it fits the story and it’s a good one.

Sales Links:  JMS Books | Smashwords | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published July 19th 2015 by JMS Books LLC
Kindle Edition, 18 pages
ASIN B01091D51K
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: Confessions Of a Wild Heart by Kade Boehme

Standard

Rating: 3. 75 stars out of 5

Confessions of a Wild HeartUS Army PFC Jase Emery, on leave in Germany, sees Ase Ramirez for the first time with a camera to his face. Ase’s wild child ways provide a welcome distraction for Jase. But their weekend of fun ends abruptly when Ase’s conservative family catches them. Through email, Ase and Jase are able to keep the link open. But that too comes to an end.

Jase was never able to live up to his parent’s expectations like his brother was. He didn’t stay and work the family ranch, or marry. He saw the world. His return from serving in the Army changed nothing, he wanted to be free to live his own life. But the death of his father and his mother’s failing health force him to come home, hide his bisexuality, and live a life in the closet as a local Sheriff Deputy so he can take care of his family. This was to be his life… Until Ase returns.

After his family caught Ase and Jase together, Ase worked hard at getting the heat off himself. His occasional thoughts of Jase and their amazing weekend dwindle as life and family take the forefront and fear drives Ase to make huge mistakes.

When Ase and Jase come face to face again, it isn’t easy. Insecurities, and a hurt that have only grown with time make it hard to see the future.Can their friendship blossom into something more? With Ase’s wild side reappearing from the shadows and major trust issues, can he and Jase, with huge obstacles of his own, learn to forgive, move on, and find a peace they both so desperately want… together?

I read Chasing the Rainbow https://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com/2015/06/16/a-stella-review-chasing-the-rainbow-by-kade-boehme/ on May and last week this new one and I realized I’m struggling a little with Kade’s work lately. Confessions of a Wild Heart was a good book, definitely better than the  last one, but I’m used to get something different from the author.

I’m not talking about details in the writing’s style or the plot or the characters, on the contrary. When you are going to read the lovely and hot story between Jace and Ase, you will meet great characters (both main and secondary), well defined, real and “defective” just like us. The development of the love story was real too and it gave a huge strength to the book, putting it on a higher level. The writing was good, done in a way to make the reading flow easily. Everything was right.

What did I miss? I have to admit, at the end of the book, I wasn’t able to rate it and I had to think about it for some days. It was good but it lacked that something I later realized is a mix of the emotional part and the chemistry among MCs. Still Confessions of a Wild Heart is full of feelings, not all of them positive, but they were there with hot and sexy scenes. I read the feelings, but I couldn’t feel them and the chemistry, almost if there was screen between me and the story.

That’s why I’m not giving it the full 4 stars (that to me means I loved the book) to a book that probably would have deserved a little more than that but I expect from more Kade.

Cover art by Natasha Snow caught my attention before I read the blurb. It’s Natasha’s and it’s really amazing. And the model is hard to ignore.

Sales Links:  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Published July 20th 2015 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc
Kindle Edition, 338 pages
ASIN B0127TCGXK
Edition Language English