A Stella Review: ​Cruising by Cate Ashwood


RATING 4 out of 5 stars

Best friends Dylan and Jake have been inseparable since college, but Dylan has one secret he can’t bring himself to share with Jake—he’s completely, utterly in love with him.

Jake’s friendship is the most important thing in the world to Dylan, so as much as it hurts to see him with other people, Dylan keeps his mouth shut about his true feelings. When Jake wins a cruise to Alaska, he asks Dylan to go along, but what Dylan doesn’t know, is that there’s more on offer than a dream vacation.

Can Dylan and Jake sail off to their happily ever after, or are they cruising toward disaster?

Cruising is a lovely short story, I finished it quickly and was fully satisfied from what I learned about the MCs and how the plot went. I was able to connect with Dylan and Jake from the start, I felt the deep link they have for each other, an important friendship both of them scared to destroy with a possible love relationship. Problem is both of them are too deep into their feelings to ignore them and just continue to be besties. And so finally Jake decides to be brave and risk it all.

Cate Ashwood is one of my favorite authors since the first time I read Keeping Sweet at the beginning of my obsession with the MM books. From that moment I wait anxiously for each new release. Cruising is well written and engaging short story, just 13K words, plus I adore the friends to lovers trope, especially when they are well done as in this case. Moreover this is FREE, so if you haven’t read this author works, give this title a chance, it won’t cost you nothing but I’m sure you will looking for more from her.

The cover art by Cate Ashwood is well done, I like it and it reminds me of a specific scene in the story so it’s fitting too.

Sales Links: FREE here https://www.instafreebie.com/public/FC7UD

Book Details:

ebook, 45 pages

Published December 8th 2017 by Self Published

Word Count: 13,000 words

Genre: Contemporary m/m romance

Edition Language English

A BJ Review: Rorschach Blots by RoughDraftHero aka R. D. Hero


Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Rorschat Blasts coverSev won’t go back to the swim team. Sev won’t accept his best friend’s girlfriend. He will sit behind the art classroom and smoke his joint.

He definitely won’t analyze why he wants to spank his teacher.

Sev is a rather lackadaisical eighteen year-old high school senior. He’s hiding out in the art room smoking on campus when he happens to see his art teacher, Mr. Duarte (Caleb), spanking himself after hours. The sight really gets to him, sparks an inner dominance inside him, and he becomes fascinated and a bit obsessed with Caleb. Caleb is ten years older than Sev, but Sev doesn’t let that stop him from aggressively pursuing the man, finding out more about him, and trying to meet his needs.

This story of has flaws when it comes to things like typos and grammar mistakes, but I think that sort of adds to its charm in a way. Make it feel as if it really is written by that lazy high school senior, you know! It all felt so real and true to life. And when you look beyond that, the plot is well developed, the pacing just right, and the story deep and complex.

It had me totally engaged, and I found it nearly impossible to put down. I found it only because I was specifically searching for books about an older sub and younger Dom. If it hadn’t been recommended to me, I’d never had picked it up based on the cover and the much less than descriptive blurb. But I was very glad that I did.

Sev had plenty of awkward moments in this, because he’s totally inexperienced and discovering his dominant tendencies at the same time as he is also coming to accept his sexual preference. Even still, he has this certainty about what he wants that I loved. And he totally goes after it.

The way the characters and their relationship developed seemed just right, not rushed or too easy or overly dramatic. The emotions were believable and heartfelt, and the author did a nice job of painting for me the need to submit and/or dominate. The sexual tension was very much there and kept me reading into the night.

Both of these characters had issues, they both made mistakes, said the wrong thing A LOT, and danced around all over the place as they discovered themselves and each other. Sev’s youth caused a nervous awkwardness some of the time, but it was juxtaposed to periods of strength and insight that charmed me. Caleb’s had his neediness, brattiness and his co-dependence with John to worth through. But him and Sev’s back and forth dance around each other was perfect.

When I saw that -fin- after the last chapter, I wanted to scream NO!! It can’t end there. Then came an epilogue that was thoroughly satisfying and had me wanting to do a happy dance. I won’t spoil it, but I thought the ending was just exactly right.

I’ve never read anything quite like this and I’m so glad it was recommended to me. Its available on Smashwords, Kobo, and ARe, but not Amazon. Its free or name you own price, so you have nothing to lose. Give it a try.

The cover is a bit on the plain side, like the blurb. But look past that and read this story. I highly recommend it.

Sales Links:  *Free on Smashwords

Book Details:
Words: 54,380 complete
ebook, 163 pages
Published February 13th 2013 by Smashwords (first published January 1st 2012)
edition languageEnglish

A BJ Review: Where Willows Won’t Grow by Lia Black


Rating:   5 stars out of 5

Where The Willows Won't Grow coverAfter months of investigation aimed at bringing down a powerful cartel ends with undercover agent Alex Kley up on the auction block, he finds himself sold into sexual slavery at Willow House, an elite brothel on Omanai Station catering to humans and aliens alike. It doesn’t take long for Alex to realize that Illythe, the beautiful alien manager of Willow House, is actually little more than a slave himself. As Alex gets closer to Illythe in order to get the information he needs, he’s unable to keep himself from falling for the dark-skinned alien. Soon Alex may have to choose between his mission and his love for a man deeply involved in the hateful organization that Alex has worked so hard to take down.

Where Willows Won’t Grow is a freebie written for the 2014 M/M Romance Group’s DRitC event. Don’t make the mistake of letting this excellent read slip through the cracks because of a misguided thought that freebies are of lesser quality than books we pay for. Because I’m here to tell you, this story is an amazing read from start to finish and far more enjoyable than a large percentage of books I’ve spent good money on.

Set on a sensuously dark space station full of intrigue, sex and aliens, this story hooked me in from page one. The main characters are complex, well-drawn, damaged guys—one a human and one an alien. It’s hard to express how much I adore Illythe. I found him to be a uniquely memorable character that stayed with me long after I finished reading the story. And on the other side of the coin we have the ultra creepy Scion who made my skin crawl. Want a bad guy you love to hate? Yeah, well, I absolutely detested this dude about two minutes after he came on page. Ok, maybe less.

Reading Willows was by turns dark, exhausting, frustrating, horrifying, amazing, fascinating, and touching. It took me through the wringer with these characters, but kept me rapt the whole darn time. I simply couldn’t put it down.
I read it twice, a few months apart, because one reading wasn’t enough–the characters called me back. So if you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for? Didn’t I mention that it’s free?

Cover Artist: Author
There was a cover change from my first reading to now but since both represent the author’s interpretation of Illythe, my favorite character from the book, I enjoy them both.  Both covers can be seen here.

Free Book:  Find It Here at Goodreads M/M Romance Group

Where Willow's Wont Grow cover 1
Book Details:

ebook, 132 pages
Published July 9th 2014 by M/M Romance Group @ Goodreads
original titleWhere Willows Won’t Grow
edition languageEnglish
seriesLove’s Landscapes
charactersAlex Key, Illythe settingOmanai Station


Review: Noah by Ben Ryder


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Noah coverCallum Walker, rising software designer, is called upon by his boss to supervise the installation of the communication software program he designed for the new Toronto Maple Arena, a new contract won by his firm in London.  It meant that Callum was spending the next 16 weeks in Toronto, supervising the work and trouble shooting the installation.  It also put him directly into the path of Noah Lukas, the highly popular star player of the Toronto Bobcats professional hockey team.  For Callum, his attraction for Noah is instantaneous from the moment they meet in the Arena gym but he is sure the hockey player is straight and settles for Noah’s friendship no matter what Callum’s heart is saying.

Noah Lukas is at a crossroads in his career.  Noah’s contract is up shortly, and he is not sure if it will be renewed, if he will be traded or even if he will retire.  Noah is gay but deep in the closet as he is sure that would wreck his career on the ice, a profession he loves.  But since meeting Callum, he is finding it hard to remain in the closet, especially as his feelings of friendship start to turn into love.  When it comes down to a choice between love and career, which will come out the winner?

Again, Ben Ryder is a new author for me and  I throughly enjoyed my first story from him.   I have to admit I am a sucker for a gay hockey player so this got to me right from the start.  Noah Lukas is a star player on the cusp of momentous change, both personal and professional.   Noah is playing at the top of his profession but as a star player, his contract is also up for renewal.  The chances that he will be traded are as great as his chances to renew his contract or even retire if no one elects him to play for their team.  He is also lonely and tired of hiding his true nature.  Ryder makes us feel the stress of the situation and the emotions pressing down on Noah time and again.  It is a wonderful, compassionate characterization and it certainly helps to connect the reader with Noah.

Callum Walker is Noah’s opposite.  He is out and comfortable in his skin.  And while he doesn’t quite feel he is in Noah’s league, he feels secure in who he  is.  I liked the slow build in their relationship, including the fact that they became friends first.  It is a realistic touch and nicely done. The only other character that really figures into the story is a grating female one, Amy.  She is believable in her ambition and the tactics she uses to get ahead, not merely a witch for witches sake.

Ryder uses a very effective format in which to tell his story.  It opens in present time in London with Callum checking his smartphone, clearly waiting for a call.  And with each succeeding chapter, the time progresses through the day with Callum getting increasingly nervous as he waits. That is followed by a scene in Toronto and another flashback to their relationship.  The author smoothly flows from one time period to the other, progressing both stories neatly while pulling the reader into Callum’s ever deepening anxiety over the phone call that hasn’t come in.  So well done, this narrative hooked me in immediately.

My one quibble is a large one however, and that would be the ending.  In my opinion, it felt as though we never got one.  It just ends and the emotional satisfaction we were expecting from a well deserved resolution never comes, and we are left hanging.  I kept thinking that we were missing at least one chapter or just possibly an epilogue.  Nope, not there.  I don’t know if we can expect a sequel to tidy up all the loose ends that frayed the ending, but I certainly hope so.  Both the readers and the characters deserve it.  Still, I enjoyed the story enough to recommend Noah and look out for more from this author.

Run over now to Dreamspinner Press where it is being offered up free for the taking.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover Photograph by Scott Henrichsen Cover Design by Paul Richmond.  Hard to argue with a cover this sexy so I won’t.

ebook, 122 pages

Published April 10th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Buy Link at Dreamspinner Press.  Noah is a free book at this moment. Go here to pick it up at Dreamspinner Press.