A MelanieM Review: Reading the Signs by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

reading-the-signs-by-keira-andrewsPitcher Nico Agresta is desperate to live up to his family’s baseball legacy. Since he was a teenager crushing on his big brother’s teammate, he’s known he can’t act on his desires. His father made it clear there should be no queers on the field, but if Nico can win Rookie of the Year like his dad and brother did, maybe he can prove he’s worthy after all.

At 34, veteran catcher Jake Fitzgerald just wants to finish out his contract and retire. His team doesn’t have a prayer of making the playoffs, but who needs the stress? Jake lost his passion for the game—and life—after driving away the man he loved, and he swore he’d never risk his heart again.

Then he’s traded to a team that wants a vet behind the plate to tame their new star pitcher. Jake is shocked to find the gangly kid he once knew has grown into a gorgeous young man. But tightly wound Nico is having trouble controlling his temper in his quest for perfection, and Jake needs to teach him patience and restraint on the mound.

When their push and pull explodes into the bedroom, Nico and Jake will both learn how much they’ll risk for love.

As my Nats head into the playoffs, this was the perfect story to settle into…romance, baseball and a chance to see this game I love yet again through another’s eyes. Keira Andrews did not disappoint me.

Vet catcher Jake Fitzgerald is burned out.  Fitz is ready to leave the game.  Then he’s traded and what was to become the end of his career instead becomes a game changer.  The team’s new star pitcher?  A troubled hothead, Nico Agresta, someone Fitz new before.   I loved how Andrews tumbles the reader not only into the game and the team but the lives of the main characters all at once.

We get a feel for the new team dynamics, the feel of the playhouse, the management, Jake’s history and Nico’s too.

A reader doesn’t have to know, understand or particularly love baseball (although its a huge plus) to adore this story.  Andrews spells it out enough in the story for those new to the sport to understand what’s going on.  If you’ve played any sport, you can understand the pressure these athletes are under to perform.  More so, if they are coming from a tradition bound family like Nico.  The depths of character are  built up within the story, a element I really appreciated as I watched the characters grow.

The bdsm element here is one that makes sense.  Its also very sexy.  At first I have to admit, I was started and had to think about the relationship, and where and between who it was taking place.  Maybe in other  hands I might not have “bought” it, but Andrews made her case for it and I connected with both MCs and their love for each other.

This story is all about passion.   Passion for each other,  passion for America’s sport, the game of baseball, passion for family.  Keira Andrews takes two separate men, one burned out, one in trouble and brings them together in Reading the Signs…a story I can absolutely recommend because of the emotion, the connection I felt towards them both…and the game I love.  Its all there.  I couldn’t ask for more.

Cover art. I love this cover.  Its  tremendous.  One of my best of the year.

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Book Details:

ebook, 293 pages
Published September 22nd 2016 by KA Books
ISBN139781988260082
Edition LanguageEnglish

Cover Reveal for Line Drive (Homeruns #6) by Sloan Johnson

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Line Drive Sloan Johnson

Coming Soon!

PJ Nolan has convinced himself he can get through one last year. That changes when he arrives for the first day of spring training and his teammates think it’s funny to mock the one night that made him feel alive. They don’t realize those pictures are all he has left of Nate Kendricks.

Nate knows nothing about baseball, but agrees to a spring training road trip with his twin brother. He’s not thrilled about the prospect of seeing PJ Nolan, the man who’d haunted his dreams since the night of the charity auction. Nate thought their chemistry was undeniable, but after that night, he never heard from PJ again.

Once they reunite, PJ’s certain of one thing: he’s not going to let Nate slip away again. As he gets closer to joining his dad in the record books, he feels Nate slipping away. What will he choose if forced to pick between new love and a lifelong dream?

Sloan Johnson Sweet Spot


Home Runs series and Line Drive features gay baseball players. Why baseball, a sport that has remained relatively heterosexual when others sports have had players start to come out of the closet? Or is that important? Is it enough to just love the game?

When I started writing the series, I didn’t factor in whether or not there were any active gay players in MLB. While many of my stories have seeds in current events, they rarely dictate what I’m going to write in a fictional book.

That being said, I started Wild Pitch in 2014, which was the same year MLB announced Billy Bean as an ambassador for inclusion. Once I began researching, I read his memoir to see what closeted gay players have faced in the past. It was an absolutely tragic story, which had my muse begging to write a happier ending.

Last year, professional baseball did see their first active player come out to surprisingly little fanfare. When I read the story about David Denson (who, ironically enough, plays for one of the Milwaukee Brewers’ farm teams) I briefly had hope that the future of gay players rested in the farm system, because it seems like younger adults don’t hold the same prejudices as older players. Sadly, news later came out about Tyler Dunnington, who had a much different experience in the minors. He retired after one year because of vile comments he was forced to hear in the locker room.

The latter inspired part of PJ’s story in Line Drive. The change in clubhouses won’t happen overnight, but we have to hope that, in time, everyone will be welcomed wherever they go.

A Jeri Review: Out in the Field by Kate McMurray

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

out-in-the-fieldIt’s no secret that I am a big, big fan of baseball books. Kate McMurray’s previous series “The Rainbow League” was awesome. And this book is right on par. Apparently released in 2012, this is a new edition.

Matt Blanco is a baseball star nearing the end of his career. He is getting old, his batting average isn’t great and he has been hiding that he was gay his entire career.

Iggy Rodriguez is the new rookie who is psyched to not only play on his favorite team, but alongside his favorite player.

The ever popular “chance encounter” in the locker room brings them close- especially when they realize the other is also gay. They begin a secret and hot romance- figuring they have the best of both worlds. Someone else to keep their secret with and someone to have regular sex with.

But real life- namely their jobs in baseball- comes knocking.

One of the many things I really appreciate about Kate McMurray is her knowledge of baseball and the intricacies surrounding it. It isn’t just playing 162 games a year. It is traveling and practices and agents and endorsements and injuries and press. So while another author could write a neat and tidy romance with two players who enjoy each other, this book brings in the nitty gritty. Seeing how they deal with all of the outside influences and their careers and what they are willing- or not willing- to sacrifice.

This was a great story- about romance, sex, the beginning of one career and the end of another. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy this book- but if you are a baseball fan you will love it.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is a perfect baseball cover.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 216 pages
Published May 16th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press (first published April 23rd 2012)
ISBN 1634771761 (ISBN13: 9781634771764)
Edition LanguageEnglish
settingNew York (United States)

Its Back to the Ball Park With Sloan Johnson’s Triple Play! ( contest)

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TriplePlayBlitz

Triple Play
by Sloan Johnson
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Sports

Triple Play

Amazon • Nook • Kobo • iBooks

Drew Jackson seemed to have it all. He has a family who loves and supports him, a tight circle of friends, and is a rising star with the Milwaukee Mavericks. Then, it all begins to unravel. Cam, the only man he’s ever loved, falls head over heels for Drew’s teammate. He makes a critical mistake in the playoffs that he’s not sure he’ll be able to recover from. And then, his world really crashes around him…

Eric Sapp may no longer play for the Mavericks, but he’s still one of the guys. No one could have imagined how much his life would change when he agreed to help his former teammates mourn the end of their run for the pennant. After stopping a brutal attack, Eric is forced to face the feelings that’ve been growing for his roommate, Drew. That’d be much easier if Drew wasn’t hell-bent on pushing everyone away as he recovers.

Neither of them were counting on Bryce Shaw. He and Drew enjoyed the one night they spent together, but knew it was unlikely they’d be anything more since they lived in different parts of the country. After Bryce is relocated to help a failing LGBT homeless outreach, he wants to explore something more with the Mavericks’ short stop.

As much as Eric wishes he could be the one to help his friend, he knows Bryce holds the key to Drew’s recovery. Will pushing the two back together be the biggest mistake of his life or will they all learn there is strength in numbers?

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Also in the Series

Wild Pitch Curve Ball

 About Sloan Johnson

Sloan Johnson

Sloan Johnson is a big city girl trapped in a country girl’s life. While she longs for the hustle and bustle of New York City or Las Vegas, she hasn’t yet figured out how to sit on the deck with her morning coffee, watching the deer and wild turkeys in the fields while surrounded by concrete and glass.

When she was three, her parents received their first call from the principal asking them to pick her up from school. Apparently, if you aren’t enrolled, you can’t attend classes, even in Kindergarten. The next week, she was in preschool and started plotting her first story soon after.

Later in life, her parents needed to do something to help their socially awkward, uncoordinated child come out of her shell and figured there was no better place than a bar on Wednesday nights. It’s a good thing they did because this is where she found her love of reading and writing. Who needs socialization when you can sit alone in your bedroom with a good book?

Now, Sloan is a tattooed mom with a mohawk and two kids. She’s been kicked out of the PTA in two school districts and is no longer asked to help with fundraisers because she’s been known to lose herself with a good book and forget she has somewhere to be.

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Review: Playing Ball Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Playing Ball coverAre you in love with the boys of summer?  Can’t wait for opening day and the cry of “play ball”? Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and the focal point of the love, heartbreak and the dreams of a nation of fans and players alike.  In this anthology four terrific authors share their passion for the game of baseball with four stories of love…the love of the game as well as romance between men who share a passion for baseball and each other.

Here are the stories in the order they are to be found within this anthology:

“One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray
“Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor
“One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman
“Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe

What a treat to pick up a book whose authors and collection of stories share my love for baseball and the boys of summer!  From stories situated in 1927 that bring the Babe back to life to the present day game and romance, these four stories will keep you happy and engaged, especially during those months where the fields of dreams are empty and the stadium seats wait for summer and the fans to arrive once more.

Here are my reviews for each story in the order found within the book:

1.  “One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray:  Rating 5 stars out of 5

It’s 1927, New York City. Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row are on their way to a season that will go down in the annals of baseball as legendary.  Across town, a rookie infielder for the Giants, Skip LIttlefield is racking up as many hits as the Babe but no one is noticing.  No one except a  famed sports reporter named Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret.  Walter has been watching the kid make hit after hit in seeming anonymity as everyones attention is focused on the Babe.  Everything about this rookie puzzles and intrigues Walter so he arranges an interview that will have far ranging repercussions for them both.

Kate McMurray has gifted us with a small historical gem of writing with One Man to Remember.  She has captured both the flair of the era as well as the homophobia and secret society of gay men during those times.  Its clear that McMurray has done her homework not only for the information she imparts about that storied run of Babe’s and the Yankees but the every day life as lived in 1927.  Whether it is snappy slang of the day to notorious places represented by The Penguin Club off Fifty-Sixth Street near Times Square, the author submerges us as throughly as her characters in this time period and brings off a home-run of a story.

The men, their love and knowledge of the game and the manner in which they have to hide their romance is both realistically and beautifully laid out in a story so well done that it cries out for a sequel.  One of my favorite stories in an anthology full of great tales.

2. “Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor.  Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Toby MacMillan lives for baseball and loves his team, the Atlanta Braves.  In fact Toby has grown up with the Braves as Toby is the grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan. Toby owns 30 percent of the team and expects to inherit the rest from his conservative grandfather upon his death.  And that’s primarily the reason Toby has hidden his sexuality from his family and team.

Then a new rookie arrives from the minors, Caleb Browning, ready to make his appearance in the major leagues.  Caleb Browning is talented, naive, attractive and gay.  And he has eyes for Toby.  A dinner engagement highlights their attraction to each others as well as the dangers that any relationship between them will bring to each of their careers.  Despite their good intensions to remain just friends, a romance begins that soon deepens into love.  What will happen when a fastball to the head, threatens not only Caleb’s career but their  love affair as well?

Situated in present times, Shae Connor’s looks at the reality of major league players coming forward about their sexuality and the fragile acceptance they are met with.  Toby’s entire life has revolved about the Atlanta Braves, a team owned by his grandfather.  His is a  character in love with the game while still aware of the realities of being a gay man involved in professional team sports and the sacrifices that requires.  Toby is an endearing characters whose reality is grounded in the truth of the men who love and control the game itself.  Toby realizes that while change is coming, the progress is as slow as acceptance itself.

I had a little more of a stretch to believe in Caleb Browning.  I really don’t see someone who plays ball, whether it is in the minor or major leagues, not being more aware of the consequences of his “gayness” while remaining a ballplayer.  His naivete seems not only extreme but unrealistic, so it took me a while to commit to their relationship.  But once committed, I threw myself into their romance with all the fervor of a fan at the game.  And by the time I got to Toby’s speech towards the end I was cheering them on.  You will be too.

3. “One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After many years in the major leagues, bad knees sees Second Baseman Jake Wilson retiring from San Diego Padres and heading back home to a small town near Atlanta.  He is making one last road trip, pulling along a small trailer of possessions both physical and emotional.  On his way, he visits his ex wife, his grown children, getting reacquainted with his present and bringing up memories of his past.  And always present in his thoughts is Mikko Niemi, the young man he fell in love with in college and has never forgotten.

From his Facebook account, Jake has learned that Mikko’s long term partner has died and Mikko has started to date once  more.  So Jake is heading home to Mikko hoping it’s not too late for them to reconnect and ignite a love that never should have been abandoned.

Kerry Freeman, Kerry Freeman, you hit a home run to the heart with this one.    Not only it is about older ex lovers getting a second chance at love but the main character is a retired MLB player feeling every inch of his years in the game and the injuries that go along with it.  I loved the character of Jake Wilson.  His rueful examination of his past actions along with acknowledging how much he was still grateful for his ex wife and children, well, it is a heartwarming and compassionate portrait of a man at a certain stage in life who has come to grips with who he is and where he hopes to be.   Jake is a large hearted individual aware of his short comings and his strengths.  He is easy to connect with and root for.  In fact all the people in this story are well rounded, layered characters that a reader will love spending time with.

If I have any small quibble at all, it is that I wish we had gotten a little bit more of Jake and Mikko after their reunion.  A little more interplay between them would have sweetened an already emotionally satisfying romance.  But that quibble aside, I loved this story and you will too.

4. “Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe. Rating 5 stars out of 5

Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner have been together as friends for a long time. They met during their early years playing baseball, and their friendship stayed strong through marriages, different teams, and locations, and even through death of a wife and divorce.  Now they are business partners in a batting cage/ sports bar and coach rival Little League teams.  And through it all, Ruben Martell has loved Alan Hartner, not just as a friend, but with a passionate hidden love.

Except for one night where their relationship crossed the lines of friendship, neither man has ever referred to each other as anything other than best friends.  But the pain and stress of hiding his feelings and hopes from Alan is causing Ruben to question their friendship and business partnership.  Ruben isn’t sure how much more he can take of the status quo without even a glimmer of hope for their future. As Ruben pulls away from Alan and his kids, Alan realizes just how much he might lose unless he takes a chance on a wild pitch.

Wild Pitch by Margueritte Labbe brings together all the elements needed for a great romance and then spices it all up by  using baseball to frame this long term relationship between Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner.  This story is so great on so many levels I don’t know where to start.  Both men have been together since their earliest times in baseball.  With a love for that sport as the cement that initially held them together, Labbe lays out for the reader how that relationship has changed and deepened over the years, morphing from friendship to brotherly love to something far more dangerous and passionate, especially on Ruben’s side.

The author delivers this story with an intimacy and warmth that makes the reader a companion and friend to these men right from the start.  I loved feeling included as Alan and Ruben deal with Alan’s kids and the Little League players they coach.  These are  real kids spouting dialog that can be heard on school and park playing fields country wide as well as at home.  I loved them and wanted as much of this aspect of the story as I did the romance.

But it’s the emotional realism of the scenes that Labbe has written as the men break through the stasis of their present relationship into that of a recognized romantic love that will catch at your heart and perhaps even bring out the sniffles.  Watch out especially for that moment where one son’s asks how much love a heart can hold…sniff.  Well, just have the  tissues handy because you will find yourself bawling away like I was.  A remarkable story to end a collection of marvelous tales.

This collection of stories demonstrates just why baseball is so often used as a metaphor for life.  It is full of passion, and history.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking.  It’s about the grand gesture and small intimacies.  And its about love and all the memorable diverse characters drawn to the National Pastime.  Every story here is a home run!   It is already on my must reread list.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is perfect.  It has an almost old time look about it with the design and font that works perfectly for this collection.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press