A Stella Review: Under a Sky of Ash by Brandon Witt

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RATING  5 out of 5 stars

Under A Sky Of AshMore than a decade after leaving Colorado to attend college and escape his past, Isaiah Greene moves back and builds a life in Denver as a special education teacher. When he meets Ben Woods, the mentor of one of his students, the attraction is immediate. The revelations that they’ve both suffered traumatic childhoods form a bond between them.

Raised by an abusive grandmother, Ben is a recovering addict who has made a family with his construction worker boss, Hershel, and Hershel’s husband, Daniel—drag queen ManDonna. Adding Isaiah to his life gives Ben a glimpse of a future he’d never dreamed possible for himself.

Both Isaiah and Ben are survivors, but when guilt drives a wedge between them, the past threatens to end their relationship.

Ben and Isaiah embark on journeys of self-discovery. Though their path will be difficult at times, humor and love find a way to bring light to the darkness.

Under a Sky of Ash was my first book by Brandon Witt, although I already knew him and heard good things about him, I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading one of his stories. Yes, this novel was a huge pleasure to read. Since the first chapters, I understood the talent of the author’s style.

The story touched my heart deeply, of course the prologue broke my heart, I met Isaiah, only twelve years old, having his first kiss with the sweet RJ, both so young and enthusiastic of the life, until RJ’s dad almost killed them. And then my heart broke again each time Isaiah and RJ met later in the years. Each time Isaiah couldn’t forgive himself and forget that night. Each time I saw Aaron and that time when he finally found a family. The book was a continuos of “times” to me, some made my soul cry, others lift it.

This is not an easy read, it is pretty heavy, a punch in the gut, the characters very complex, but Under a Sky of Ash was so worth all of my tears, it packs so many feelings hard to ignore. And all of them delivered. Probably this was what I most appreciated, the author’s ability to deliver everything he wrote, making me part of the characters’ lives and their emotions. He delivered their strength and courage and I felt the comfort when  they finally found a little happiness.

If you’re looking for a light story to escape your reality, look away, but if you’re a fan of angst, this novel is a winner, you can’t miss it. I’ve discovered a new author and I’m soon going to read more of his works.

The cover art by Anne Cain is good but I would have preferred something different, it didn’t convince me.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published March 21st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634770484
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: Until September by Chris Scully

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Rating:  5 out of 5 stars          ★★★★★

UntilSeptember_600x900As a teenager, Archie Noblesse clawed his way out of the poverty, heartache, and abuse of the reservation and left his family behind. Desperate to shake the shadow of his past, he reinvents himself as Archer Noble, an outspoken blogger and controversial author who lives only for himself. But when his beloved sister dies, Archer is saddled with guardianship of his niece and nephew.

Elementary school teacher Ryan Eriksson is devastated when his best friend Marguerite is killed, leaving her two young children orphaned. Helping Archer with his new responsibilities eases his grief, but when Archer offers him custody of the children, Ryan’s left with an impossible choice: get the family he’s always wanted, or respect Margie’s wishes and convince Archer to give parenting—and his heritage—a chance.

To buy time, Ryan promises to stay for the summer, hoping that Archer will change his mind and fall for the kids. But Archer’s reluctant, and the growing attraction between him and Ryan complicates matters. Legal decisions must be made, and soon, before Ryan returns to school. But with hearts involved, more than just the children’s future is on the line.

I read the Inseparable series by Chris Scully two of years ago and when I saw Until September with the great cover and the interesting blurb, with promises of a lot of emotional moments and a couple of kids, I was soon conquered. I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed and I was right. I found it an amazing read, it simply took my heart.

The first chapter was hard to read. Abused by his uncle since he was a child, at sixteen Archie is tricking behind school to earn some money and move from the hell Manitoba Reservation has become. His only light is Margie, his baby sister, thirteen years old, the only person he truly loves. He was the one to protect and feed her when their mother left them alone. Leaving the place is his only chance at survival and staying away from all the drugs and child abusers the Cree population suffers. Now that the uncle is dead Archie needs to be strong, abandon Margie and save himself.

Then the story switched to twenty years later but that only first chapter broke my heart. Just a few pages helped me understand a lot about Archie, his deep connection with his sister and the mask he used to hide his scars from indelible things from her.

Twenty years later Archie is Archer Noble, new name, new place, new money, but the fear of losing everything still clings to him. He is now on tour, promoting his new book, when a call comes that will change his whole life.

Ryan Eriksson is a 25 years old teacher, with little social life, who has found in Marguerite, the mum of one of his student, a sister he never had, they shares secrets and hopes. He supports her after the loss of her husband and she knew about his desire to build a family and the disaster with his ex boyfriend.

When tragedy happens, Archer and Ryan need to be together and try to give a family to Dillon and Emma, Marguerite’s children. But Archer can’t take care of them, he still has a lot of work to do on himself. He can’t be a parent, he’s not ready. But he’s willing to give this family thing a try for a bit. Then he will be on his own and the children with Ryan. Ryan has until September to convince Archer that he belongs with his niece and nephew.

I have to be honest and say Until September is one of the best stories I read this new year. It has all the themes I love to read about, moreover it was delivered to my heart with an easiness and straightforwardness, I hardly had found somewhere else. I fell in love with the children and the MCs. Archer and Ryan both changed so much during the book and the development of their relationship, even if slow, it never bored me, on the contrary, it was right for a book like this.

If you want a book emotional that will put a smile on your face till the end, a tear on your cheek a couple of times, full of sweetness and the cuteness only children can give, you can’t miss Until September. I adored it. Plus, it was beautifully written, I felt every single word. 5 full stars!

The cover art by Lou Harper is perfect. It fits the story, cute and great in the colors. I love it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 298 pages
Published February 8th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626493553 (ISBN13: 9781626493551)
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: Farm Fresh (Naked Organics #1) by Posy Roberts

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RATING  4 out of 5 stars

Farm FreshJude Garrity visits the farmers market every Saturday. As an environmental engineering student, he’s curious about living off the grid and sustainable agriculture.

And one particular farmer.

Hudson Oliva has worked hard to support his commune, where queer people live without fear of harm or retribution. When Jude asks pointed questions about living there, Hudson realizes he needs to be honest about his home. Few people know what the farm is actually about, but Jude is insistent.

Jude moves to Kaleidoscope Gardens, however his sexual hang-ups make it hard to adjust. He’s an uptight virgin living among people who have sex freely and with multiple partners. When Jude finally loosens up, Hudson is flooded with emotions. Falling for Jude wasn’t part of Hudson’s life plan. But when vindictive rumors about the commune begin to spread, love might be all he has left.

I have to say I am usually not very comfortable with sex outside the relationship of my MCs and I was a little dubious when I read the blurb of Fresh Farm, but I lately discovered Posy Roberts and fell in love with her writing. So I wanted to give her new release a try.

I knew I couldn’t be so strict with this story, since the first pages where I met Hudson, one of MCs, enjoying a threesome. He lives in a commune and share his home (and his bed) with Leo and Charlie, he deeply loves both of them, but he is still looking for that one man who Hudson will fall in love with. The commune is also a farm and while selling its products at the local market, Hudson meets Jude, a (too) young engineering student.

Jude grew up with the idea of sex to be shared only between married couples as a way to procreate, he is still hunted by memories of his past and it’s really hard to let go and just live his new life. Years of verbal abuse left him shameful of sexual experiences. His moving to the commune will help Jude to finally overcome his limits and maybe fall in love.

The writing was really good, each sentence flew easily to me and I could feel every emotion the characters felt. I have to admit Farm Fresh left me craving for more. I’m not sure how the author will develop the series, if the next book will have still Jude and Hudson as MCs, or if there will be a new couple. I’m curious, because I really enjoyed the second characters too and I hope they will have their HEA too. There so much to explore!

Farm Fresh was a light  and peaceful story to me, maybe purposely made like that, but each character is beautifully layered with so many details and feelings. There is a lot going in the commune and the people that live it. Kaleidoscope Gardens is yes, a commune and. a place of love, so expect a lot of sex, in the open too, but always between people who love each other, and that was probably why the book conquered me.It’s different and it could possibly have gone in another way but I think the author did an awesome job.

Highly recommended!

If you subscribe to Posy Roberts newsletter (here http://posyroberts.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=2e20821fdd21e275853ae86c3&id=f3028766bc) you get Naked Origins-Hudson for free.

Hudson Oliva didn’t expect the world to end with the new millennium, but his life did change forever on that New Year’s Eve. After his religious parents walk in on him with Zac in his bed, Hudson is sent to conversion therapy. The parents he returns home to after being cured aren’t the same people he’s known his entire life. They’re cold and withdrawn.

In order to survive, Hudson becomes an expert at lying while working hard to be the perfect son, yet his parents remain emotionally distant. He’s sure the pray-away-the-gay camp broke something inside him along with tearing his family apart. When his parents discover Hudson has continued seeing Zac for years, they demand he go back to the camp. Hudson has no choice but to run. Somehow he has to find a safe place, but he has to get out of Florida first.

GR LINK https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28759395-naked-origins-hudson?ac=1&from_search=1

I read Hudson short after Farm Fresh and it was really great to know more about him and his young years spent lying to his parents, the bad things he went through and his first meeting with Leo when, exhausted, he stumbled into Kaleidoscope Gardens, his salvation.

COVER ART by Natasha Snow. She is one of the most famous cover artist in the genre (and not only) and I like her style a lot. To me this cover reflects the story because it’s luminous and peaceful just as I pictured the commune.

Sales Links:  Amazon |

BOOK DETAILS

Published January 28th 2016 by Labyrinth Bound Press
Kindle Edition, 204 pages
ASIN B01A2PHDPW
Edition Language English

Naked Organics series #1

  

A Stella Review: Prickly By Nature (Portland Pack Chronicles #2) by Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Cade

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RATING 4 stars out of 5

Prickly by Nature 2In the four months since hedgehog shifter Avery Babineaux started investigating the disappearance of a young female werewolf from the Portland Pack, he’s discovered his life’s passion. Now he’s apprenticing under established PI Corbin Reid. Avery hopes his training with Reid will help him finally bring Lacey home, but detective work isn’t without its perils, and the potential dangers strain his relationship with his new mate, Dylan.

Dylan Green would be perfectly content with his mating and his motorcycle shop if it wasn’t for his constant worry about Avery’s safety and the fact that Avery’s never home. Proud as he might be of Avery’s determination to prove his worth and fulfill his promise to Lacey’s father, Dylan can’t stand the thought of Avery being hurt. Yet what right does he have to demand Avery give up his job when it’s clear Avery’s found his true purpose? Still, Dylan wishes he could, and the appearance of a new police detective who sets his sights on Avery only adds to the tension.

Something has to give, but stubbornness runs in both their veins, and it might take a catastrophe for them to find a compromise they can live with.

Pickly by Nature is the second book in the Portland Pack Chronicles series by Piper Vaughn and Kenzie Cade. As I already mentioned in the review of the first book, Prickly Business,  I love that this series is not the typical Piper’s work.  I’m not very familiar with Kenzie writing yet, but I don’t miss a story by Piper and the mystery is a new theme and so welcomed.

We meet Dylan and Avery again months after the ending of Prickly Business, that left a lot unexplored. Avery is more frustrated than ever in his researches about the human trafficing people who took away the young Lacey. He has joined a PI, Reid, to learn the job and get his investigator’s license. His relationship with Dylan is solid because they are mates but these struggles are hard to take to both for them and it’s pulling down their life together.

I couldn’t have enough of the MCs, I laugh a lot at Dylan protectiveness, almost scary but considering the mating bond it can be overcome. Avery is the same adorable guy, loyal and strong in his researches, he is frustrated because he’s pretty much going nowhere.

What I particularly like in this series is the great cast of characters, the books are not focused only on our MC’s couple but there are a lot of friends and family around them,  interesting and with great personalities, for what I saw so far. I like the choice of the kind of shifters with Sven being a reindeer, Reid a hawk and of course Avery himself a hedgehog.

There is a lot of potential for the next coming books. A lot of characters need to have their own stories. The next book will be about Jayden and his mate (I can’t tell you who he is but I can’t wait to read their story).

About the writing, I’m always dubious and curious about co authored stories, but these two girls work amazing together, even knowing which character each of them wrote, it was impossible to see a difference (in the writing style) in the POVs. They were really well done.

As I said I loved this book, but there were a couple of things I want to talk a little. First of all I felt too much angst through all the story and it brought me down and didn’t let me fully enjoy it. Then I don’t like more than two (the MCs’ ones) POVs. I would have preferred to not have a third one, maybe it could have been told in a different way, maybe not. My “issue” was that Prickly Business was a great surprise, probably a little too much to be overcome. This time I already know where this second installment would have gone and that the mystery would have been solved exactly how I was hoping. That’s why I wasn’t able to give Prickly by Nature more than 4 stars, cause it was really good, I’m not saying the contrary, but being a series, and most of all both books have the same couple, it was inevitable that I would make a comparison.

I want to highly recommend the whole series.

The cover art by Reese Dante is  clearly well done and fitting. The only remark I want to make is that I would have preferred something not so similar to the cover of Prickly Business.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 260 pages
Published November 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
original titlePrickly By Nature
ISBN 1623801613 (ISBN13: 9781623801618)
edition languageEnglish
series Portland Pack Chronicles #2

settingPortland, Oregon (United States)

A Stella Review Redux: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North

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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:  Riptide Publishing |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

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

A Stella Review: If I Were Fire by Heloise West

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

IIf I Were Fire covern 18th century Siena, Count Salvesto Masello returns home to find the family villa and his father’s estate deeply in debt. In order to save it, he sells valuable heirlooms, but he is running out of silverware. Somewhere in the villa, his deceased father has hidden the art treasures that will pay the debt—but Salvesto can’t find them anywhere.

Amadeo Neruccio has been on the run from the vicious pimp, thief, and pawnbroker Guelfetto, whose toughs finally catch him and bring him to the cellar where Count Masello is selling off his silver. When the count learns what fate Guelfetto has in store for Amadeo, he intervenes, and trades the last of his mother’s dowry for the young man’s freedom.

Salvesto left home over ten years ago to live the life of adventure he craved and leave his broken heart behind. When he rescues Amadeo, he does not expect to find love again—or the start of his next adventure.

I picked this short by Heloise West, a new  author for me,  because as it was set in Italy, I couldn’t say no. It was delightful reading, really well done.

The story between Salvesto and Amedeo takes place in the Siena of the 18th century.

Salvesto Masello has just become Conte, he inherited the last villa among his father’s possessions and all its debts. He is having serious financial problems and while selling his silvers to try and save the failure his father made, he meets a young man who is being beaten almost to death.

Amadeo Neruccio has been betrayed and abandoned by his family and now he is going to be sold at a bathhouse. Can Selvesto save him from his destiny?

I admit I didn’t expect to love this story so much, because at first I found it hard to read, something in the writing style made me sweat a little but later I understood was just my limit with the language. What I particularly enjoyed was the atmosphere Heloise created, she got all the smells, the olives, the grapes, the rosemary and lavender plants and foods in general. I was able to appreciate the characters, the secondary ones too, and for a short like this, I found them to be quite developed. I would have just preferred more scenes between the MCs and their romantic relationship.

If I Were Fire is just fifty-nine pages but there was a great work behind the short length. I’m not great at history but what I recall fits the setting of this story. The rivalry between Florence and Siena, the underworld life made of illicit activities. The strong faith in Santa Caterina. The characters names and surnames, the places. I loved it was specific in every little detail, things were never hinted, always clear in the references that indicate a thorough and careful research, from the first sentence.

And when I realized she titled this story like a Cecco Angiolieri poem, S’i’ fosse foco, she won me over.

COVER ART by L.C. Chase. It fits the historical theme. It is well done and the Sienese elements are very appreciated.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:
ebook, 59 pages
Published September 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634765664
Edition Language English

 

A Stella Review: THE WINTER SPIRIT by Indra Vaughn (a two review novel)

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Rating 5 stars out of 5  ★★★★★

Nathaniel O’Donnelly likes his life quiet, his guests happy, and his ghosts well-behaved.

The Winter Spirit coverAlthough a boyfriend wouldn’t go amiss. Someone to share his beautiful B&B with, even if it is in the middle of nowhere and he’s long past the wrong side of thirty. Problem is, Nathaniel’s living with a ghost who thinks he’s cupid, and whose arrows fly a little too straight.

Gabriel Wickfield had the unfortunate luck of dying before his time, and now he’s stuck trying to make romance happen to earn his right to move along. Not that he’s bored in the meantime–Nathaniel is just too easy to tease. And also a little bit scrumptious…

With the curse reaching its expiration date, Gabriel needs to make this final match this Christmas. Without it, nothing but darkness awaits.


Love can conquer all, but can it beat death?

I already read some Christmas stories this year and so far The Winter Spirit is my favorite. It was unexpectedly beautiful and emotional. I simply loved it! It is the perfect Christmas novel for these cold days, light and cuddly.

Nathaniel owns a bed & breakfast left him by his uncle twelve years ago. He is living his quiet, happy and a bit lonely life in the middle of nowhere with a resident ghost called Gabe, dead one century ago, who appears in all the mirrors in his perfect three piece suit. A matchmaking ghost who likes to close Nathaniel and his friend/coworker Elise in the pantry and switch on “Love is in the Air” on the stereo. But it’s on time, he has hundred years to make someone, Nathaniel now, fall in love. And the curse is ending this Christmas. What if he falls in love with Nathaniel?

I don’t have words to say how much this book warmed my heart, it was magical and sweet. I loved the characters, each one except Owen, I laughed and I admit I cried a little at the ending part. The story went exactly where it was supposed to go, where I wanted it to go, it didn’t disappoint me a bit. It’s what I love to read, so perfect, well written and engaging I had to read it in a one standing because I couldn’t put it down. The novella’s idea was not just great, most of all was beautifully developed in a slow burn, friends to lovers story that left me satisfied through all of it.

This was my first book by Indra Vaughn and I need to check out her previous works soon. The Winter Spirit was a well done surprise! Highly recommended.

Cover art is as perfect as the story.

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

Book Details:

Published November 16th 2015 by Indra Ink
Kindle Edition, 93 pages
ASIN B0184I7U2U
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote

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Rating 4 stars out of 5

What Happens At Christmas coverWhen two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?

Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

What Happens at Christmas is a fabulous friends to lovers story by Jay Northcote. I know the blurb could almost seem too simple and maybe a cliché with the fake boyfriends theme, I admit I was a little worried but don’t let it fool you, the author did great.

Justin has just broken up with his coworker/boyfriend Andy and the office Christmas party is approaching, he doesn’t want to go alone and see the cheating Andy with his new flame. Luckly he has Sean to act as his boyfriend just for a night. Sean is Justin’s best friend since they were seven years old. Now after spending some time traveling, he’s back. Sean is exactly Justin’s type, dark, tall and handsome. They’ve both had a crush on each other since forever but the timing for them to be together always seemed to be wrong. They just need a little push to act on it. Could it be the fake boyfriends thing?  But when the pretending ends what is going to happen?

First of all I want to say that I liked the writing a lot, it was easy to read, engaging and most of all it made the story real. The plot is simple but Jay didn’t base all the story on the fake boyfriends part, because that ended at halfway. The author overcame what could have easily developed into the old cliché  with more than fifty pages focused on the birth of a possible relationship between Justin and Sean. She came up with a so good story, slow in the understanding of the evidence of something real between them, but it wasn’t a slow burn sex, in fact the chemistry and the deep feelings were really strong. I liked the characters a lot and I was happy with their HEA.

Shortly I think the author did a great Christmas story, no drama, no tears, no angst, just good feelings. Adorable. Most of all it was so believable. I enjoyed it a lot and it is already on my “to re-read” shelf. Highly recommended!

The cover art by Garrett Leigh is well done and the snowflakes in the background recall the title and the Christmas setting, I like it.

Sales Link:   Amazon only  | Buy It Here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 113 pages
Published November 19th 2015 by Jaybird Press
original titleWhat Happens At Christmas
ASINB017W1NZ88
edition languageEnglish

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

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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: DEAD RINGER by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

DeadRinger_600x900Brandon Ringer has a dead man’s face. His grandfather, silver-screen heartthrob James Ringer, died tragically at twenty-one, and Brandon looks exactly like him. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Brandon is unknown, unemployed, and up to his ears in bills after inheriting his grandparents’ Hollywood mansion. He refuses to sell it—it’s his last connection to his grandmother—so to raise the cash he needs, he joins a celebrity look-alike escort agency.

Percy Charles is chronically ill, isolated, and lonely. His only company is his meddlesome caregiver and his collection of James Ringer memorabilia. When he finds “Jim Ringer” on Hollywood Doubles’ website, he books an appointment, hoping to meet someone who shares his passion for his idol.

Brandon? Not that person.

But despite their differences, they connect, and Percy’s fanboy love for James shows Brandon a side of his grandfather he never knew. Soon they want time together off the clock, but Percy is losing his battle for independence, and Brandon feels trapped in James’s long shadow. Their struggle to love each other is the stuff of classic Hollywood. Too bad Brandon knows how those stories end.

Don’t let you be misled by the old cliche rentboy plus rich boy equals HEA. There are all of these three elements in Dead Ringer ( and I admit I wanted to read it just for this), but so much more too.

I heard a lot of things about Heidi Belleau but I haven’t read anything by her and Sam Schooler was totally new to me. Since I’m always looking for new authors I was so ready to rush through it. Of course what caught my attention first was the cover, I was pretty much drooling in front of the PC.

What I particularly liked in this book were the characters, Brandon and Percy both took my heart because they are too young to be already so broken.

Brandon is 19 years old, he has just inherited his grandmother Dahlia’s mansion and having no job, he’s swamped with bills to pay. Point is Dahlia was the only person in Brandon life to care for him, she took him into her house when he was thrown out by his parents and living on the streets for some time. He’s ready to do anything to keep her house. He’s not new to the rent boy job so when he finds out about an escort service called Hollywood Double, being the spitting image of his famous grandfather, he soon decides to join them as the James Ringer doppelganger. This will be nothing as what he was used to be on the street and with the help of great people he will try to save himself and his new pricey home. And his job will take him to the lonely life of a sweet young man.

Percy is 21 years old, he is affected by a juvenile type of arthritis that forces him to live as a recluse in his parents’ big house, steadily under control of his caretaker. He has no friends because he believes no one would stick with his struggles with his disease. He feels he’s a burden for his parents who pretty much ignore him and he is totally resigned to be alone with people who treat him as a disabled person, forbidding Percy to do even the easiest daily things. He’s sick of being obedient and in a moment of rebellion, he hires his favorite actor’s double, unaware his choice will give his lonely life an unbelievable turning point.

Brandon and Percy’s is a beautiful story, thoughtful and crowded with emotions. But it’s not just theirs, it’s James Ringer’s story too. It’s a believable journey in the discovery of a undisclosed past, essential to Brandon to start his new life.

I liked Dead Ringer a lot, it kept me glued to my kindle till the end but my rating stops at just 4 stars because at first I found it a little hard to get into the book, even if later I was able to appreciate the initial slower pace as a way to know the MCs better. Moreover I was left with some doubts about Percy’s caretaker and her behaviour.

I want to talk a little about the double point of view Heidi and Sam chose to use. I’m not sure if each author wrote a specific character or if they simply mixed ideas and words but what it came out, what I felt and loved, was a real difference in the writing that amazed me. Maybe it was intentional, maybe it was just my feeling, both Brandon and Percy were very delineated and characterized, each of them with a specific writing style. It’s not easy to find point of views so well done, moreover with a co-authored book, it was a surprise because often it happens that the characters sound the same. Not in this case.

Last thing, I want suggest the authors to please consider the idea of a “spinoff ” about Nolan, he brought peace into the chaos that was Brandon’s life. I’d love to read his story!

Cover art by L.C. Chase and COVER PHOTO by Dion Marc and Marisha Dudek. Really really good!

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing  |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 453 pages
Published October 26th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626493375
Edition Language English