A MelanieM Review: A Step too Far (Too Far #2) by H.L. Day

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Two men. Three identities. An unstoppable attraction.

Desperate for his luck to change, Jake Spencer manages to land a dance contract with Dmitry Gruzdev. The job has plenty of perks, including a simmering lust between him and Dmitry’s hulking brute of a bodyguard, Mikhail. Life is finally looking up. Except as the shine wears off, it becomes clear that Jake’s stepped into a world of darkness and depravity where Bratva answers to no one and allies are not what they seem.

Mikhail’s hiding a secret: there is no Mikhail. He’s simply a front for undercover operative, Ryan Harris. A means to gain access to Dmitry. Ryan’s not stupid. There’s no way he’s going to get distracted by a pretty face, no matter how attractive Jake might be. That would be far too dangerous for all concerned. Only it’s not that simple and before Ryan knows it, the line between personal and professional begins to blur spectacularly.

Lust develops into more. Secrets start to unravel. Ryan’s got an impossible choice to make: keep Jake safe or maintain his cover. But how much does Dmitry know? The hunted may be about to become the hunter, blowing both men’s worlds to pieces and leaving them with nothing.

Can a relationship built on lies ever lead to love?

Warning: This book contains a seductive dancer prone to getting into trouble, a gruff man who’s anything but, and a villain who just won’t go away.

A Step too Far (Too Far #2) by H.L. Day picks up after the events of A Dance Too Far where Dmitry’s loses his star dancer (and much more), Valentin.  Valentin’s escape has left a hole in Dmitry’s organization as a cover, the lack of a dancer a continuing blow to the mobster’s pride and other self interests and something needs to be done about it.  Immediately.

Questions that Valentin asked himself in the last story were what had happened to Mikhail, the stoic Russian bodyguard who had finally risked everything to help Valentin.  And why?  A Step too Far gives us those answers and so much more. Including the startling information that Mikhail is actually undercover agent Ryan Harris trying to gather intel and take down a Russian gang. The toll of being Mikhail is becoming too much, he’s seen and been a part of to too much. And now Dimitry has tasked him with finding Valentin’s replacement.

Day actually splits this character into Mikail/Ryan, that’s how it reads for most of the story because he’s two completely different personalities.  One cold, ruthless, and trying to being sexless.  The other warm,torn, intelligent, with a conscious that’s telling him he can’t keep doing this no matter the end result.   We see them both.  First it’s mostly Mikhail staying in character, then a mixture, and then finally mostly Ryan as that personality becomes dominant, dangerous while undercover.

The reason why?  A young dancer name Jake who to his peril falls naively into the space vacated by Valentin because he wants to dance and needs an apartment to live, while having little outside ties.  The perfect victim.  Unlike Valentin who had been with Dimitry for a decade when we met him (and endured the abuse and control), Jake is fresh, happy, bouncy even, full of optimism and, trust me, the reader just starts to cringe from the moment Dimitry ushers him into his office and shuts the door.

Because this is a darker story than the first.  Valentin had figured things out in a decades time, had methods to deal with Dimitry’s twisted love and abuse.  But here Dimitry feels no love for Jake, he’s just a commodity.  And what happens between Jake and Mikhail/Ryan is one that develops more than once because its with different men, a neat trick, narratively speaking.

Mixed in with all this is a deep espionage storyline, a high suspense thread that will have you on your seat,  and a long, drawn out climax and resolution  that includes timely and perfect appearances by Max and Valentin to give Ryan and Jake the ending their deserve.

The one thing that did bother me, the lack of therapy for Jake, was finally given a brief mention, a rationale as to why it didn’t work, and what was helping.  I’m not sure I ever bought it , and yes, that was one of my issues in the first story as well.  But at least it was mentioned here.  That was a step up.

I tried to think about how I compared the two stories and decided I couldn’t.  That was like comparing the two men as dancers.  Totally different in so many ways.  I liked some things about this story better but really not the characters.  The characters in both stories are amazing.  And this one leaves me wondering if there is anywhere to go from here.  Just not sure.

But if you love your contemporary romance with raw sex, open emotion, some darkness and wild suspense.  This story and the one prior to it, which you much read before this one, are just the thing!  Pick up Valentin’s story and then head straight for Jake’s. Be prepared to  be totally connected and unable to put them down.  I highly recommend them both.

Cover art: H.L. Day.  That’s post Dimitry Jake alright.  I like the cover but truthfully nothing can match that impact of the first one.

Sales Links: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 275 pages
Published June 3rd 2019 by Amazon Digital Services
ASIN B07SNCMDNW
Edition Language English

New Release Spotlight: Arctic Wild by Annabeth Albert (excerpt and giveaway)

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New Release Spotlight:

Arctic Wild by Annabeth Albert

Series: Frozen Hearts, #2

Publisher: Carina Press (Harlequin)

Release Date (Print & Ebook): eBook June 3, 2019 / Print MMP June 25, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): approx. 105,000 words / 400 pages

Subgenre: Contemporary Romance

Warnings: None

Order now:

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/arctic-wild-2

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/arctic-wild/id1449963570

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Annabeth_Albert_Arctic_Wild?id=Gfp_DwAAQBAJ

Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781335006905_arctic-wild.html

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arctic-wild-annabeth-albert/1129779447

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Frozen-Hearts-Annabeth-Albert/dp/1335006907

Book synopsis:

When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Read an excerpt from ARCTIC WILD:

“Doing better?” Toby’s voice was kind, and Reuben couldn’t help but enjoy the way he really did seem to care about whether Reuben was miserable or not.

“Yeah. I am. Thank you.” And he could admit that he’d used his phone at the restaurant in part to avoid staring at the handsome guide—a trick he’d used before to keep from revealing more than he wanted to. Because Toby truly was that attractive with those soul-deep dark eyes and chiseled face and lean body, and the more time he spent around him, the more Reuben found himself caught up in his charms. He had to keep reminding himself that arousal was every bit as unwanted as airsickness.

“We’re turning into Harris Bay now. You should have a good view of the glacier field.”

Field turned out to be something of a misnomer, as it was more like undulating rivers of snow and glaciers. The whole region reminded Reuben of a giant bowl, only the walls were granite and lined with hanging glaciers and impossibly tall. It was like something out of a movie, and for the first time, he understood why Craig had been so keen on coming. The scenery was unlike anything he’d seen before, and he’d seldom felt so small and insignificant as he did when confronted with the vastness of the landscape. He was more used to feeling like the gear in the center of a machine, everything else rotating around him. These sensations of having shrunk and being a speck in time compared to eons of ice were more than a little disconcerting, but also riveting at the same time.

About Annabeth Albert:

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Website: http://annabethalbert.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6477494.Annabeth_Albert

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Annabeth-Albert/e/B00LYFFAZK

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnabethAlbert

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabethalbert

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/annabeth_albert/

Giveaway:

Win one paperback set of Arctic Sun, Arctic Wild, and a swag prize pack!

18 to enter, open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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A MelanieM Review: Chicken Soup by Mel Bossa

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Though Jimmy’s ill and isn’t getting any better, he hopes to have a bit of fun during Pride weekend. When he meets Nolan, a young dancer in the parade, Jimmy takes a chance on making himself vulnerable for the first time in years.

What Jimmy doesn’t expect is how strong Nolan will make him feel with a simple gesture of support.

Note: This short story was originally published in the charity collection, Love Is Proud.

Chicken Soup by Mel Bossa demonstrates exactly how precisely a writer can build a tiny portrait of a man who has lost all hope of a future in every respect, despair and depression slowly weighing him down by his daily new illness and as the story eventually lets on, his  varying viral count.

While we don’t know specifics, we are lefts enough clues to put together a vague past history of a man soon to see his 40’s birthday, alone, even among his friends during Pride weekend.

Mel Bossa does a beautiful job with Jimmy and we feel his desolation of the spirit that suddenly lifts when he meets a 27 year old bank teller from Nova Scotia pursuing his dream of becoming a ballet dancer.  What follows is a sweet, tear inducing tale of recognition, connection, and of hope.

This is such a gem of a short story, certainly a HFN.   But its message is clear and life affirming, the characters well defined for such a brief story and the ending left me sniffling.  Yes, I certainly recommend this lovely story to everyone in need of an uplifting tale to read.

Cover art by Written Ink Designs:  I get that its branding a series of short stories but this shows its short failures.  It’s in no way appropriate for this story which is due something far better.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 14 pages
Published March 2nd 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ASINB07PWTZ9B

A MelanieM Review:Arctic Wild (Frozen Hearts #2) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

When a plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, the best place to land is in the arms of a younger man…

Hotshot attorney Reuben Graham has finally agreed to take a vacation, when his plane suddenly plunges into the Alaskan wilderness.

Just his luck.

But his frustrations have only begun as he finds himself stranded with the injured, and superhot, pilot, a man who’s endearingly sociable—and much too young for Reuben to be wanting him this badly.

As the sole provider for his sisters and ailing father, Tobias Kooly is devastated to learn his injuries will prevent him from working or even making it back home. So when Reuben insists on giving him a place to recover, not even Toby’s pride can make him refuse. He’s never been tempted by a silver fox before, but something about Reuben is impossible to resist.

Recuperating in Reuben’s care is the last thing Toby expected, yet the closer they become, the more incredibly right it feels, prompting workaholic Reuben to question the life he’s been living. But when the pressure Toby’s under starts closing in, both men will have to decide if there’s room in their hearts for a love they never saw coming.

Arctic Wild is the second book in Annabeth Albert’s Frozen Hearts series that takes place in Alaska, and much like the first novel it has so much to recommend it.  It has that breath-taking setting that’s described in gorgeous vivid detail.  The research into the National Park’s, the locations, even the climate changes give this story an authenticity that can take your breath away, especially as seen from the cockpit of a small seaplane of the type(s) regularly used in Alaska.

The author’s realism extends into the everyday livelihoods, local populace, and cultural heritage, even schools and town life.   Both novels, including Arctic Wild more so with the local native inclusion into the series, ground the series not just with the incredible beauty  of Alaska but with the people living out their lives there year round. I understood the love for a place and land, listening to the dialog and conversations of various individuals within this novel.  Great job!

The transition of Reuben Graham from uptight reluctant vacationeer to someone who feels the call of Alaska itself is also well done.  I believed in it and him, the change in the man, the work and reversal in his relationship with his daughter.  All heartwarming and gems of this story.  Maybe my favorite parts, honestly.  Watching the daughter grow and become who she really was? Perfection.  That includes the characters of Tobias Kooly’s family, mostly his sister who helped her get there along with her father.

And then there’s Toby and his relationship with Reuben.  Sigh.  You see. That didn’t quite work for me.  As much as I liked Reuben?  Toby’s character seemed a little unformed in comparison.  Perhaps because he was much younger, or continued to cave in with regard to his father’s wishes. Or something.  But whatever it was.  It just felt like such an unequal matchup in characters, and not just because of the age difference.  I have loved a age gap romance so that’s not the issue here.   It just felt as though his sister came across as a much stronger person or character than he did on the page and she was secondary to the story.  However, she remains a much brighter presence in my mind even now.  In fact, quite  a few of the people within the story jump to mind and I can see them clearly, just not Toby.  So what does that say?

Albert mentions several of the local tribal customs(the families getting together to fish their quota of salmon etc)  within the story and I wish they had been enlarged on.  They enriched the tale and made it a more layered, authentic novel with their inclusion here as they would be in real life.  Loved that aspect of this book.

So while I found the relationship between Toby and Reuben to be not exactly to my liking, I loved so much else about this story that I’m definitely recommending it along with the first in the series Arctic Sun.  Loved seeing a glimpse of that couple here again as well.  I can’t wait to see what the next story brings.  I will be here for that too.

Cover art by Carina Press is lovely, especially the Alaska background.

Sales Links: Kobo | Barnes & NobleAmazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 3rd 2019 by Carina Press
ISBN 1488051275 (ISBN13: 9781488051272)
Edition Language English
Series Frozen Hearts :

Arctic Sun

Arctic Wild

Arctic Heat coming soon

 

 

. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

A Lila Review: Starting from Zero by (Starting From #1) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Justin Cuevas is going through a rough patch. A broken relationship, a scandal, and the demise of his band have shaken the aspiring rock star’s confidence. Working two jobs and sleeping on his friend’s sofa isn’t ideal, but Justin isn’t ready to give up yet. With a little luck, he’s hoping to re-launch his music career in LA with his new band, Zero. The key is to stay focused, and not get distracted by his past…or the sexy songwriter he can’t get out of his head.

Gray Robertson has written dozens of hits and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. But he’s never met anyone like Justin. The younger man is fiery, passionate, and smart. A powerful voice for a new generation. Other than an unforgettable one-night stand and a passion for music, the two men have nothing in common. Or do they? Justin knows the out-of-the-blue challenge to write a quintessential love song is a huge opportunity. And it’s the ultimate test for someone who’s doesn’t believe in happily ever after. When sparks fly, Justin and Gray realize they have a shot something special if they start from zero together. Maybe even love.

Starting From Zero is a May-December story with a musical twist. It has a handful of characters that played an important role but the majority of the story is between Gray &  Justin and how they merged their worlds.

I’m not a music person so the more technical explanations were boring for me, as well as the songwriting. The performances were crucial to understanding the characters but still not interesting enough.

There’s a lot of romance, hot scenes, and little drama. The story is well-written and having both POVs gave the reader the opportunity to get closer and cheer for them. I did enjoy how comfortable Gray and Justin were about their sexuality and how it was not a real issue for them.

The cover by Reese Dante is a bit generic but fitting for the story. It catches the eye when it’s among other covers due to his with and gray background and simple font.

Sale Links: Kindle Unlimited

Book Details:

ebook, 241 pages
Published: April 16, 2019, by Lane Hayes
ASIN: B07QTCV69G
Edition Language: English

Series: Starting From
Book #1: Starting From Zero

Check Out the New Book Release Blitz for Made For You (Love & Family #2) by Anyta Sunday

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Made For You by Anyta Sunday

Series: Love & Family #2

Publisher:  Anyta Sunday (self-published)

Release Date (Print & Ebook):

May 1st 2019

Subgenre: Contemporary gay romance, friends-to-lovers, age gap (May-December)

Links: https://www.anytasunday.com/projects/made-for-you/

https://amzn.to/2XIAB0a

Book synopsis:

Ben wants to find a new home.

Twenty-four-year-old Ben McCormick is the primary caregiver for his brother Milo after their parent’s death. A year into the job, he’s totally got the hang of it. Mostly. Sort of. Not at all?

Defeated and thoroughly chastised for his lack in parenting skills at teacher-parent night, Ben slumps away with the resolve to finally get his life sorted: be a better role model, and sell their parents’ house for a fresh start.

But first, he needs to spruce up his house to hit the market. He’s no DIY king, but Milo’s hot-as-hell woodwork teacher is…

Jack wants an old home to fix.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jack Pecker is waiting for the home of his dreams to come on the market in the summer. What better way to wait the interim months than working on a small renovation gig?

Only trouble is, the gig is for the McCormick brothers. And working in close quarters to red-haired Ben McCormick won’t be easy. Not with the attraction that simmers between them. Attraction Ben makes no effort to hide.

But Jack’s professional. Dating a parent is highly discouraged at Kresley Intermediate, and he’d never cross the lines…

Ben and Jack. Two guys searching for a home – a home that might just be where their hearts lead them.

~ – ~ – ~

Set in New Zealand, Made For You (Love & Family #2) is an MM gay romance featuring two guys at very different places in their lives – but both finding out they are looking for the same thing.

Can be read as a standalone.

Tropes: friends-to-lovers, slow burn, age gap, found family

Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

Teasers for Release Blitz:

Teaser 1 – Ben:

Where the hell is Block C?

I stall in the middle of a quiet quad, my stomach knotting, and unknotting, and knotting again. I’m already five minutes late, and I have no clue where I’m going. Like, I recognize half the buildings from when I went to Kresley Intermediate. The layout’s the same, but Block C? I didn’t even know there was a Block C.

Jesus, and it’s quiet. Have I got the wrong evening? Or have all the other parents arrived on time like responsible adults?

I breathe in a salty sea breeze and wish I were one of the seagulls circling overhead, that I could better find the block I’m meant to be in.

Mrs. Devon’s going to kick my ass. Unless she’s softened with age?

Maybe she’ll cut me some slack when I explain my car stalled up the hill and I had to drive in neutral—and terror—all the way here.

I can only hope.

What was my best bet? The longer block of brightly painted buildings? Or the shorter, taller block?

Looked like more lights were on in the taller block.

A path winds around a semi-cordoned off grassy-stretch, but I dash over the boggy grass. I’ll take every saved minute I can—

My foot skids through a slick patch, and I’m whipped onto my ass with a wet, heavy slap. I brace my hands against the cold ground, weeds and sludge slurping between my fingers.

With a shaky laugh, I push myself to my feet.

Some days sure are tests of fortitude.

“Shortcuts never end well.”

I whirl around. A dozen yards away, a male figure is casually leaning over a ramp leading to the craft rooms. The setting sun behind the building makes it difficult to see much.

I wipe the globs of mud from my good jeans. “You don’t say.”

Teaser 2 – Jack:

I study Ben McCormick. He must be a decade older than Milo, at least, and I’d guess a dozen years younger than myself. He’s tall, almost my height, but carries the leanness of a guy in his twenties. His muddy clothes stick to him, showing off an enviable frame. His hair is possibly the brightest ginger I’ve seen in my life, but the shock of color is tempered by dark eyes. Eyes that fasten to my jaw, weighted with emotion.

He shivers in the chilling night. The cold bites through my dry clothes. Can only imagine he must be freezing in his damp ones.

“Milo is a good kid.” There’s more to bring up, but first things first. “I’m out a set of jumper cables. I’ll taxi you home if you like?”

Ben sighs. “Thank fuck I didn’t have to beg.” He throws me a look as he snaps down the bonnet. “You had me on my toes a minute there.” He sidles past me, and I get a lungful of his clean scent.

I take a quick step back.

He retrieves a six-pack of Fanta from the back seat of his car and I lead him to the truck. “Where to?”

“Wainuiomata.”

Wainui?” That was a good hour from here.

A small—very small—spark hits his eyes. “I’m shitting with you. I’m in Berhampore, five minutes over the hill.”

He jumps into the truck. His fingers are trembling as he plants the soda between us and belts up—and I’m not convinced it’s all to do with the cold.

Teaser 3:

When I return, Milo has turned around, finally facing Ben. “I don’t want you to sell the house.”

“Look, it won’t happen immediately. But it will happen.”

“It’s not fair.”

“Not got the memo yet, bucko? Life isn’t fair.”

They stare at each other. I don’t want to break their moment, but a twig snaps underfoot.

Milo spots me and his body jerks with surprise. “Mr. Woodpecker?”

I cut Ben a look, and he pauses to smirk before turning his chin toward Milo. I think he might tell him to cut that shit out.

“Mr. Woodpecker holds your Fanta ransom.”

Or not.

I’m close to putting an end to this stand-off and barking orders. If Milo were my kid, I’d have his ass in bed by now, no media for a fortnight.

Not my kid. Not my kid.

Ben reads my face and his expression shutters. “Fuck. We’re pissing off your teacher. How much will it take to get you down?”

He pulls a wallet from his back pocket.

“Fifty,” Milo hollers.

“Five.”

“Forty.”

This is not actually happening. Ben’s parenting is unorthodox at best.

“Ten.”

“Thirty-five, and not a dollar less.”

“Fifteen, and you shower before bed.”

Milo leans over the edge and reins in his shout. “Do I have to do my hair?”

Ben looks like he’s about to give into a frustrated laugh. The poor guy is damp and muddy and miserable, and Milo needs to quit it.

I catch Milo’s gaze and hold it. It might not be my place, but I have to do something for Ben. My voice is steady and commanding. “Get your butt down here, boy. Or I’ll have you cleaning the class bins all week.”

“Fine. Fifteen bucks. I’ll do my hair.” He lowers a ladder and I brace the shitty thing as he climbs down.

Ben crowds close behind me, a block of warmth at my back. He lets out a breathy ‘thank fuck’ at my nape that feels a lot like brushing up against an electric line that definitely shouldn’t be crossed.

About Anyta Sunday:

A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.

Connect with Anyta:

Author website: http://www.anytasunday.com/

Author newsletter signup: http://www.anytasunday.com/newsletter-free-e-book/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anytasundaybooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anytasunday

Instagram: https://instagram.com/anytasunday