A Sammy Review: Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

corkscrewed coverIsaac lived a life on the streets. With little memory of his childhood, he wandered for ages without knowing who he truly was. Being found by Roman was a gift, and soon the lifestyle of a grifter became all he knew. But Roman’s leaving, and he’s left him with one last big con… to pretend to be Isaac Shelley, missing heir to a huge trust fund and loving grandson of Marigold Shelley.

When he meets Cary, the “insurance man” there to check on Marigold’s beloved wine collection, there’s instant chemistry. What he doesn’t know is that Cary is a grifter as well, and he’s after very rare and very pricey wines, the Nine Sisters.

They each had their own elaborate con, but can do con artists work the same target without losing it all? Maybe, but when a wrench gets thrown in their plans, and items begin to disappear, there just may be another con going on, bigger than both of them.

Yeah, seduction was part of his act a lot of the time, and he’d always been very good at it with men and women, but he was breaking the first fucking rule he’d ever learned, the first rule he’d teach any student. Just the first damn rule, period. Never ever fall for your own con. Never.

I have some mixed emotions regarding this story. I loved the premise. Two con artists crossing paths, trying to out-con the other without even knowing the other is conning. Yes, lots of conning going on. It sounds great, and it had so much potential, but somehow, it fell a little flat.

It’s hard for me to explain, but there are some stories where when you stop you feel like you can’t wait to go back and read more. This wasn’t one of those stories. There were actually parts where I had to force myself to keep reading, and I wasn’t at all excited to come back and read it. Yes, I wanted to know what was going on, but it wasn’t really that built up need that I wish I had gotten.

As for the mystery, well, it had a lot of potential. I feel like the author thought a lot about different aspects, especially in the beginning regarding Cary and his plan to get the Nine Sisters. After that, it unraveled quite a bit. I had thoughts for who the Black Mamba was very early on, and I literally headdesked at some of the paths it took and conclusions characters came to. It seemed so obvious to me, and in the end, it was.

To top it all off, the ending was lackluster. There was no oomph to it. It just sort of happened and oh, okay, that’s it. Alrighty then.

This story wasn’t necessarily bad, but if you want a serious mystery with twists and turns, I’d suggest something else. If you want a more cozy, hokey kind of mystery, then this just might be for you.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is pretty much divine. It’s perfectly subtle and so fitting to the story from the very start. After all, it does take place on a vineyard.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback         All Romance (ARe)            amazon                   buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published December 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632165268
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3) by L.C. Chase

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 The toughest ride of his life is all in his head.

PullingLeather_500x750Bull rider Scott Gillard has been fighting all his life, only to have it culminate in a horrific act of hate committed upon someone who used to be one of his closest friends.  While Scott didn’t himself commit the crime, Scott was both the impetus and accelerant for his friends actions and it has cost him everything.

After the brutal beating that cost Tripp Colby his career and almost his life, Scott has left the professional  bull rider circuit  behind.  His past actions and anger have cost him his sponsorships and his career as a bull rider is all but over.  But the past two years have been Scott try to become a better man who is responsible for his actions and more accepting of the sexuality he has always denied.   Scott is trying to change and make amends but will the other rodeo riders and professionals forgive him and let him come back?

Pickup man Cory Ackerson has never backed away from who he is, even if it meant constant harassment and bigoted attacks.  He’s confident in his skills, whether it is acting to save a bull rider on the circuit or putting on his eye liner.  A constant on the gay rodeo circuit, Cory is intrigued when Scott Gillard shows up at one of their rodeos looking to make amends and searching to see if there is a place for Scott somewhere in the rodeo scene.

Cory reaches out to Scott when Scott’s entrance is met with anger and Scott’s only action of one of quiet defense and pain.   Slowly the two form an unlikely friendship between one who is so flamboyantly gay and one who is still struggling to come out of the closet and find acceptance.  When friendship turns to love, Scott must finally decide which path he will take, the one that leads out of the closet or the one that lets fear lead the way away from the one man he loves.

I think that Pulling Leather is absolutely the best so far of the Pick Up Men series by L.C. Chase.  Scott Gillard was a creature of fear and hate in the previous stories.  And while we may have guessed at the secrets he was hiding, he never completely rose above a shallow portrait of a bigot.  Now L. C. Chase gives Scott Gillard his story of redemption and love and pulls the readers along each step of the way.

The prologue offers a glimpse into the action two years prior that caused all the anguish and shattered lives in the process.  When Pulling Leather finally begins Scott is coming off two years of intensive therapy and self reflection.  Now his friend and therapist thinks it is time for Scott to confront his feelings, make amends for his past actions and abuse, and take those first shaky steps out of the closet.  Thankfully, this is a realistic portrait of a man still in need of support, and work.  Scott Gillard is uncertain, apprehensive, and emotionally fragile.  That all that is hidden behind a large, gruff exterior makes his acceptance and turnabout harder for others to accept.  I think L.C. Chase has made Scott such a believable, “rough around the edges” sort of cowboy.  His background is especially painful and it is revealed slowly over the length of the story as Scott gains enough confidence in Cory to reveal parts of himself and his upbringing known only to his therapist.

Cory Ackerson is such an appealing character.  It will be easy for the reader to connect with such a strong character who is unapologetically, flamboyantly gay!  He’s open, non-judgmental yet not without flaws.  I appreciated the fact that Chase didn’t make Cory Scott’s salvation as only Scott could do that for himself.  But Cory and the manner in which he lives his life works to be a lovely example of life lived outside the closet and not only for Scott.

Some readers may find Scott’s progress too slow but I thought that was one of the most authentic touches here.  Scott has a ton of anger and denial to overcome and that is never a swift journey.  Other aspects of this story draw on Chase’s strengths as an author.  Her rodeo universes, both straight and gay, are realistically portrayed as are the people who participate in them.  I believed in this story and her characters because you can almost smell the sawdust from the arena as well as the smell of sweat covered leather from all the rodeo professionals here, male or female, straight or gay. Chase does a terrific job in making all her bull riders and pick up men credible and down to earth.  Loved that.

I am not sure how many stories she has planned for this series but I do know it keeps getting better and better with each installment.  I hope she continues it because its obvious there are so many more stories in this universe that need telling.  Consider this highly recommended but don’t start the series here.  Check out the list below and start at the beginning with Pick Up Men!  If you love cowboys and the rodeo circuit, this is a series for you!

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  That cover is so perfect for the character and story.Love that cover! One of the best of the month.

Sales Links:    Riptide Press      All Romance eBooks (ARe)   Amazon Pulling Leather

Book Details:

ebook, 177 pages
Published September 1st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titlePulling Leather
ISBN139781626491618
edition languageEnglish
seriesPickup Men #3

The books in the Pick Up Men series in the order they were written and should be read are:

Pick Up Men by L.C. Chase
Let it Ride (Pickup Men, #2)
Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3)

Review: Running Wild (Havoc #1) by S.E. Jakes

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

RunningWild_400x600Sean Rush is a mess and he knows it.  Born from a union between a sociopathic killer and a mother hooked on drugs and sex, Sean escaped his violent home life with his two best friends and their mutual love of cars.  Too bad that included stealing cars and street racing them.  Hauled before a judge atfter being caught, Sean and his friends chose the Army over jail and went to war.  But that just piled more bad issues on top of a heap of bone deep problems Sean carries within him.

Now out of the Army, Sean’s energies are looking for an outlet and finds it at Bertha’s, a Havoc MC hangout.  Trouble finds Sean in the form of Ryker, a Havoc Motorcycle Club lieutenant, a bad boy among bad boys.  A gorgeous hot man, Ryker represents everything Sean wants and should stay away from.  And not only does Sean want Ryker but Ryker wants him as well.  Bad enough to break into Sean’s apartment night after night for 8 months for the best sex of Sean’s life.  The problem is that Sean is starting to want more from Ryker and Sean doesn’t do relationships even if Ryker does.  This leaves Sean feeling scared, edgy and more stressed out than ever.

Then his best friend Noah calls. Noah’s in bad trouble and needs Sean’s help to steal an expensive car to save Noah’s hide.  Things go from bad to disastrous almost immediately.  It’s Ryker who saves Sean but that act puts the Havoc MC and Ryker in danger.  Cracks and crevices are appearing everywhere on the road ahead for Sean and happiness, including a relationship and love with Ryker.  But first Sean has to save Noah, outrun the thugs after them, steal a few cars and maybe, just maybe save himself along the way.

Just the name S.E. Jakes is enough for me to buy a book.  Jake’s stable of bruised, and damaged men always make for a memorable read and absorbing tale as her characters fight for love and a future for themselves and their lovers.  You can count on their journey being a hard one, full of illegalities, covert operations and bloody fights.  Running Wild, the first in Jakes new Havoc series,  falls definitely along those standards for an S.E. Jakes action romance, starting with her main character and story narrator, Sean Rush.

What a perfect name for a character on the run from his past, his pain, and his desires.  Sean is in a rush to get somewhere if only he knew where he was going.  Sean’s is a voice of a man in constant pain and confusion.  He fights against his impulses to steal and the adrenaline rush it provides. He fights against a need for love and stability, falling back on his old friends whose decision making processes are no better than his.  Really, Sean is just one pretty mess of a man in need of help and more. The choice of making Sean Rush the “voice” of her story is a risky one.  If you love Sean or can at least commiserate with  a man haunted by his abusive background and how it impacted his teenage/adult years, then you are going to love this story.  On the flip side, if you find that unapologetic thieves that keep making the same mistake over and over unappealing, then Running Wild will make you want to run the other way.

Much like Sean, I think it will be a love him or leave him attitude here for all readers.  For me, I remain a little ambivalent about the character of Sean.  Every part of Sean’s life is a sinkhole of problems.  A father in jail for murder,  guilt and PTSD over his Army experiences, a compulsion to steal that lies close to the surface, and a loyalty to a few who keep pulling him back into the world of thugs and car thefts.  Sean is a realistically crafted character that you will want to shake  some sense into at least every five minutes or  so. He is that person you care about but are not sure you want to let him into your home.  A little of him goes a long way and when he is the narrator of the story that becomes an impossibility.  What saves Sean and the reader is the arrival of Ryker, a Havoc Motorcycle Club lieutenant who falls hard for Sean perhaps to the club’s detriment and his own.

Ryker is tender, brutal, and unwaveringly loyal to a club that took him in and raised him.  Ryker made the story for me and he made Sean palatable.  I have to admit that I would have loved viewing this story through Ryker’s eyes instead of Sean’s.  Both came from turbulent, abusive backgrounds.  Ryker was saved and Sean was not.  That fact dictated the manner in which each boy developed, again another  realistic plot choice from Jakes.  But Sean’s voice is so out of control, so wild that he needs Ryker to rein him in narratively speaking and we don’t get enough of that control here.  But what we get of Ryker, the Havoc MC family and his tenuous relationship with Sean smoothes out the clatter enough to make this a really enjoyable story.

Noah is a terrific side character as is Sweet, Casey, Jethro and others.  Many, many others as there are two motorcycle clubs in town to deal with here. The love and rush of stealing and racing cars comes across perfectly.  I totally got the appreciation of a finely crafted machine and the need to take it to its limits on the road (I am a fan of Top Gear British Edition after all). That element is telegraphed in scenes and descriptions that pulls in the reader and makes them understand the nature of Sean and Noah’s obsession with cars.  Loved that about Running Wild!

Aside from Noah, I think my other real issue with Running Wild is that S.E. Jakes had a huge list of elements she wanted to include in this story in order to set the stage for her series.  By trying to tie in numerous plot points, multiple complications from the characters pasts, side storylines that vied for top billing with the main plot…after a while it just felt a tad too ambitious and a little overwhelming for this story and characters.  They have a lot thrown at them while already dealing with a plethora of pain and problems that would drown a superhero.  At one point, I wanted to wave a flag to slow the action down and sort out the who, what and where.  No matter, S.E. Jakes pulls it all together at the end for a resounding ending with a touch of the supernatural thrown in.  I did say there were a ton of elements here didn’t I?  That includes a supernatural or haunted hill  with a mind of its own.

So. Running Wild and the Havoc MC series.  Do I recommend it?  Yes.  It’s exciting, fast paced, and gripping.  It may drive you a little nuts at times as will Sean.  But stick with the story, finish the race with them and enjoy the outcome and the winner’s lap.  See what I did there?  Blame Top Gear!

Aside from Ryker and Sean,  there are a number of characters I want to see get their HEA or at least HFN.  So I will be waiting for the next Havoc story to arrive, along with new installments from the other S.E. Jakes series I am hooked on.  If bad boys on bikes and sexy, angsty tales of love are your thing, grab up a copy of Running Wild and start reading.  Let me know what you think of Sean and Ryker.   Happy Trails!

Cover art by L.C. Chase.  Love the cover and the motorcycle.  Feel the need for a little Steppenwolf coming on…”like smoke and lightnin’,Heavy metal thunder,Racing in the wind, And the feeling that I’m under…”*

*Read more: Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Buy Links:          Riptide Publishing                 All Romance (ARe)              Amazon               Running Wild

 

Book Details:

ebook, 280 pages
Published June 28th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491533
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/running-wild
seriesHavoc #1

Who’s “Running Wild”? S.E. Jakes on Tour with Her Newest Story and Series! (contest)

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RunningWild_TourBanner(1)

 

A favorite author  here at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, S.E. Jakes,  is stopping by today with a snippet from the first book in her  Havoc series, Running Wild. What’s the series about?  The Havoc Motorcycle Club!  Sexy bikers….I can’t wait.

Contest: To help celebrate, Riptide and SE Jakes is offering the chance to win an $100 Riptide Gift Certificate to one lucky winner.  To enter to win visit here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.  Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on July 20, and winners will be announced on July 21st. Contest is valid worldwide.

Here’s S.E. Jakes with some more teasers on the new story…

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RunningWild_150x300(1)Thanks so much to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting me on the tour for Running Wild: Havoc Book 1. This is the start of a brand new series, with different heroes for each book and HEAs at the end of each book. Sean Rush and Ryker stole my heart a long time ago, and I’m excited for you guys to meet all of them.

***
Here’s a snippet from a scene toward the middle of the book. Ryker has just proved to Sean that he doesn’t mind his MC knowing they’re together — by kissing the hell out of him in front of everyone. And then he tells Sean to get on the back of his bike, so he can take Sean home. Sean has objections…

 

***

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Still, I kept my voice down so no one could hear when I told him, “I’m not riding in the bitch seat.”

He was trying not to grin, but failing. “Why not?”

“I know exactly what it means when you ride on the back of a guy’s bike.”

“Really?”

“It means you fucking own me, Ryker.”

“Don’t I?”

His words were a low rumble that shot straight to my dick and holy fuck . . . I had no answer. Well, obviously I did, but I refused to put voice to it.
I was out—that wasn’t the issue. And obviously being out wasn’t an issue for him either. But the MC shit, we’d never talked about it, what it meant for us. All these men knew about our relationship, knew he was looking out for me. Knew he considered me his

I swear I had to remind myself to breathe.

“Get on the bike, Sean.”

This time, Ryker’s tone left no room for argument. If anything, it made me harder. I stopped thinking—par for the course when I was around Ryker—and I got on the bike behind him.

 

***

RunningWild_400x600RUNNING WILD: Havoc Book 1

Embrace the danger…

Sean Rush is an adrenaline junkie. That’s why he was in the Army, why he steals and races classic muscle cars . . . and why he can’t stay away from bad boy Ryker, a Havoc Motorcycle Club lieutenant. Fortunately, Ryker can’t seem to stay away from Sean—he’s spent the last eight months breaking into Sean’s apartment and stealing into his bed, leaving Sean physically satisfied but increasingly restless.

Sean has always avoided relationships. He likes to come and go without being controlled. And Ryker is possibly the most controlling man he’s ever known. Still, he finds that he wants more from Ryker than their silent nighttime encounters.

Then one of Sean’s thefts goes bad, and Ryker’s protective instincts kick into overdrive. He takes Sean to the Havoc compound, determined to keep him safe. But Sean’s past threatens the safety of Havoc—and everything Ryker holds dear. Worse, Ryker’s hiding secrets of his own. Soon it’s obvious that the adrenaline rush can’t keep them together anymore. But maybe love can.

*Read an excerpt
*Order Running Wild

***
FYI, I’m also writing a m/f MC series under the Steph Tyler name—the first book of that series, Vipers Run is out now as well. And there’s a very light crossover in that you’ll see names of MCs that are main characters in my Vipers series—namely Vipers MC, along with the Heathens. Havoc’s friendly with Vipers, not so much with Heathens (they seem to be everyone’s enemy at the moment).
***
SE Jakes writes m/m romance. She believes in happy endings and fighting for what you want in both fiction and real life. She lives in New York with her family and most days, she can be found happily writing (in bed). No really…

You can contact her the following ways:

  • Website
  • You can email her at authorsejakes@gmail.com
  • Facebook Page  Facebook.com/SEJakes
  • Twitter  Twitter.com/authorsejakes
  • Goodreads Group  Ask SE Jakes
  • Tumblr   sejakes.tumblr.com
  • Instagram  instagram.com/authorsejakes
  • Truth be told, the best way to contact her is by email or in blog comments.

She spends most of her time writing but she loves to hear from readers!

SE Jakes is the pen-name of New York Times Bestselling author Stephanie Tyler (and half of Sydney Croft) — please go to my media kit to learn more!

RunningWild_150x300(1)

Contest:   Enter to win an $100 Riptide Gift Card. Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on July 20, and winners will be announced on July 21st. Contest is valid worldwide.  Visit the link below to enter to win and for further contest details. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Let it Ride (Pickup Men #2) by L.C. Chase

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Let It Ride coverPickup man Bridge Sullivan knew from the moment he met sexy California rodeo paramedic Eric Palmer that his life was going to change.  Bridge got to know Eric when the transplanted New Yorker helped his friends Marty Fairgrave and his lover, ex-bull rider Tripp Colby in the traumatic events of the past year.  After the season ended, Bridge’s nights were consumed by sexy dreams of Eric that had him questioning his sexuality.  Bridge couldn’t wait for the season to begin so he could be reunited with Eric and see if anything past a friendship is possible.

Eric Palmer’s life has been one of rejection and pain.  Abandoned by his family because of his sexuality and betrayed by a former lover, Eric’s trust issues extend deep into his heart.  Only at the rodeo has Eric been able to find a closeknit group of men that have become family to him in a way he hasn’t had in a long time.  Soon the rodeo circuit and the cowboys become a home where Eric feels safe and wanted.

When Bridge Sullivan starts to flirt with Eric when the new season begins, Eric is puzzled.  Eric always found Bridge attractive but he thought his friend was straight.  As the attraction between them flairs up, so does Eric’s fear that Bridge is only experimenting with his sexuality and that this could cost Eric the friends he needs so badly.  Bridge is sure that Eric is the only man for him.  But can Bridge convince Eric that he is serious?  When Bridge puts it all on the line, will Eric be able to put his fears aside for a possible HEA for them both?

There is nothing like a cowboy in love. With Let It Ride, L.C. Chase continues her Pickup Men series that revolves around a small group of rodeo riders on the California Rodeo circuit. We have met Bridge and all the other characters in the first novel, Pickup Men, and now L.C. Chase is focusing the story on another one of Marty’s team members, Bridge Sullivan.  Bridge and his brothers were these lively, wonderful characters that almost demanded more page time in the last story.  Now Chase gives it to them and us in Let It Ride and the result is a totally satisfying romance.

This time Bridge Sullivan, pickup man extraordinaire, has found his “one” in Eric Palmer, the paramedic hired by the rodeo association to work the circuit with them.  Both of the men were involved in the traumatic events of the last season which saw Tripp Colby attacked and injured badly enough that he retired from the circuit.  L.C.Chase has constructed some wonderful characters here and her pickup men, Marty, Bridge, and Kent, are authentic and believable not only as professional rodeo riders but as people too.  Falling back into their stories is like getting reacquainted with friends…its easy, its heartwarming, and its like you never left.

The point of view starts out from Bridge’s perspective with hot dreams of the sexy paramedic in question, Eric Palmer.  Bridge has been unable to think of little else and he is questioning his sexuality because of his intense attraction to Eric.  As Bridge tries to work through the process of what his feelings mean, we can see that this is not really a “gay for you” story but a man who has repressed his bisexuality until now.  It was “easier” for Bridge to date women.  He likes them so his feelings towards men was something he pushed aside as college experimentation.  But with Eric, those old feelings are back and can no longer be denied.  I like this aspect of the story.  It’s not an instantaneous switchover in sexuality.  Instead, Bridge spends the entire summer questioning himself, his motives, and his feelings before he decides to act on them.  This feels like a more realistic approach than an immediate “hey, I’m gay for you” storyline.   Plus there is the factor that Bridge Sullivan is just an accessible and immensely likable character.  You want to see it his way so he can get “his guy” and his HEA.

Standing in the way of his happiness is the man himself…Eric Palmer.  Eric is a complicated, fearful man made so because of his continual rejections and abandonment issues from both his family and the people who told him they loved him.  Now, Eric is consumed by the fact that he is not worthy of love and that no one will ever stay with him permanently enough for a real relationship and a future together.  That fear has emotionally paralyzed Eric to the point that no relationship outside of friendship is possible.  Eric’s the second point of view here and it’s a necessary one for us to hear in order to throughly understand where Eric is coming from and to make his poor self esteem seem real.   In another character where the author hasn’t laid the necessary foundation for that character’s relationship issues and poor sense of self-worth, then someone like Eric would come across as overly dramatic and self involved.  Not here.  When Eric reacts badly and in haste, we get it even though we may not like it.  Eric is that skittish horse that’s been abused.   He shies away because that is what experience has taught him to do.  Again, this whole scenario feels believable and painful.

Honestly, I enjoyed this story more than its predecessor.  I loved this couple and rooted for them immediately.  The angst here is in the normal range of relationship problems as the men involved struggle with their feelings and adjust to the idea of a permanent, loving relationship.  Marty and Tripp are back in minor roles here and that works as well.  L.C. Chase loves her cowboys and knows her rodeo.  That’s apparent in the well-rounded characters and the authenticity which with the rodeo is depicted.  Both the author and her cowboys have earned a place in my heart and on my shelf with their stories.

There is a third story planned for this series, Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3).  The main character here is an astonishing choice.  Bull rider Scott Gillard is back and looking for redemption.  I can’t wait to see how Chase handles making this “villain” into a romantic leading man.  It should be quite a ride.  The expected publication date is September 1, 2014 by Riptide Publishing.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

The author is also the amazing cover artist behind these wonderful covers.  I have them all for you at the bottom of this review.   Check out that stunner for Pulling Leather.  That cover alone will pull you in and make you want to know that man’s story.

Until then you will have to start back with Pickup Men and meet all the complex cowboys that make up the Pickup Men series.  Then join me in September for the next cowboy on the path to his HEA.

Cover artist for all the Pickup Men covers is the author herself, L.C. Chase.  Love them, love her cowboys and their stories too.

Buy Links:           Riptide Publishing               ARe                     Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published May 26th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published May 25th 2014)
original titleLet it Ride
ISBN139781626491472
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/let-it-ride
seriesPickup Men #2

Books in the Pickup Men series are:

Pickup Men (Pickup Men #1)
Let It Ride (Pickup Men #2)
Pulling Leather (Pickup Men #3) expected publication date Sept. 1, 2014

Covers in this series include:

Pulling Leather coverLet It Ride coverPickup Men cover