A Julia Review: Certainly, Possibly, You (Sucre Coeur #2) by Lissa Reed

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sarita Sengupta is in her last semester of grad school and has finally realized she doesn’t have a career plan, a girlfriend, or a clear outlook on life. She works as a pastry shop’s head decorator, but is otherwise drifting without direction until a friend’s birthday party ends with her waking up in surprise next to Maritza Quiñones, a pretty ballroom dancer whose cheerful charm and laser focus sets Sarita on a path to making all of the choices she’s been avoiding.

Certainly, Possibly, You is Lissa Reed’s second entry in her Sucre Coeur series. Characters from the first book, “Definitely, Maybe, Yours”, do feature in this one but it’s still a perfectly self-contained story. Despite not having read the previous entry myself, I had no problems at all getting into the characters and setting.

What drew me in straight away was the author’s fast-paced and witty writing style that made it easy to connect with the characters and their thought processes right from the start. The author also painted a rich world for the characters to interact with. Places like the Sucre Coeur Bakery where Sarita works or Maritza’s dance studio were described in loving details that allowed me to picture them clearly in my head (and made me wish I could get some of those tasty sweet treats for myself). The story is told mostly from the alternating points of view of Sarita and Maritza but every now and then one of the other characters gets to chime in as well.

Sarita Sengupta is a character who is at a point in her life where a lot of us have been or are right now: wondering what she wants to do in the future while also questioning her career choices so far. Part of her troubles comes from being torn between what she herself enjoys doing and what is deemed “prudent” as far as education and job prospects are concerned. Maritza Quiñones on the other hand knows exactly what she wants to achieve in her life career-wise and is working towards it with an impressive amount of determination and willpower. Despite being so different in that aspect, the two women are also quite similar in some ways: they are smart, funny, care for their loved ones and feel comfortable with their sexual orientations. I found them both to be likeable from the start and their mutual attraction feels rather natural. Indeed, if you are looking for a lot of drama or confrontations (at least as far as the relationship between the two main characters is concerned), then you might not be satisfied quite as much. That said, it was very endearing to see how the two of them grew to care for each other and how they worked hard to keep their budding relationship going amidst the struggles and chaos of their everyday lives.

The two main protagonists are supported by a vast cast of colourful and loveable (well, some more than others) characters. Both Sarita’s and Maritza’s families, friends and co-workers play integral parts and several different types of relationships are shown from revengeful ex-boyfriends to supportive (and destructive) siblings, headstrong mothers and caring best friends. Rather than focusing on just the romance aspect of the story, the novel deals with numerous facets of people’s joys, troubles and challenges. As a side note, it features not only F/F but M/M couples as well. 

Last but not least, a quick word on the spiciness-factor of the book: nothing too crazy or unusual but there are a couple of very nice intimate scenes in there that are just as hot and sweet as the pastries at Sucre Coeur.

Overall, I found this novel to be quite an enjoyable read that focused on characters and their relationships in an entertaining and colourful manner. I am certainly looking forward to future works of this author.

I quite liked the cover design by CB Messer. The photo of this young woman with her natural and confident posture suits the story really well while not trying to be blatant or showy.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 302 pages

Published October 6, 2016

by Interlude Press

ISBN: 978-1-945053-06-1

Edition Language: English

A Lila Review: Hopeless Romantic by Francis Gideon

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Nick Fraser is a true romantic. He wants the guy instead of the girl, but other than that, he wants everything his favorite rom-coms depict: the courtship, the passionate first kiss, the fairy-tale wedding. But after breaking up with the love of his life, Nick wonders if anything fairy-tale will ever happen for him.

Then he meets Katie, who’s just like a rom-com heroine. She’s sharp, funny, sweet, and as into music and punk culture as Nick is. What’s more, he’s incredibly attracted to her—even though she’s a woman. Nick has never considered that he might be bisexual, but his feelings for Katie are definitely real.

When Katie reveals that she’s transgender, Nick starts to see how much he doesn’t understand about the world, queer identity, and himself. He is hopelessly in love with Katie, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and Nick’s friends and family may not accept his new relationship. If he wants it all, he has to have the courage to make his fantasy a reality.

Hopeless Romantic has the feeling of a coming of age story, but the characters are older than average. Which created the illusion of reading to parallel stories. Nick’s re-discovery of his sexuality and how he acted around his friends being one and his conversations with Katie about philosophy and music showing their maturity, the other.

I’m not a music person, but I’m part of the same generation the characters used to connect with each other. I might not know all the references, but the author provided enough context to understand how their conversations were part of their self-expression. And since I am a perpetual student too, I love the over-the-top exchanges.

Both main characters had a strong arc. Not only we get to know them personally but in relationship to their friendships and families. They didn’t live in a vacuum. The world around them was as important as their intimate moments. Even when some of those aspects were too juvenile for their characterization.

I’m glad Katie felt comfortable enough to be open to a relationship with someone that didn’t know everything about what her transition meant to her and to others. She was patient and perhaps too ready to forgive him, but in the end, it worked for their particular situation.

Nick’s characterization started blatantly transphobic, biphobic, and uninformed in relation to asexuality and other areas of the spectrum, but I think he represents many people in and out of the LGBTQ community.  He reads as an insensitive prick, but I think that was the author’s intent. To show how misconceptions are hurtful and plain damaging. We get to experience Nick’s growth and how Katie and Tucker were there for him, even when it wasn’t their responsibility to educate him.

The secondary characters are lovely and the settings descriptions detailed enough to bring the reader into the different locations. There’s a lot happening in the story, many references to music and philosophical topics, but those never take over the story. Everything is interconnected to create a fictional atmosphere with enough consequence to be realistic.

There are some points the author is trying to show that seem a bit clinical. I think the book is more about Nick’s journey than anything else. As a couple, the main characters are sweet and their growing love ever present. Plus, they aren’t shy with each other. It’s one of the points they discovered/worked together.

The cover by Vivian Ng was the first thing that called my attention, together with the title. I like how it goes with the story and the scenes between Katie and Nick.

Sale Links: RiptideAmazon | Kobo

ebook, 289 pages
Published: April 10, 2017, by Riptide Publishing
ISBN: 9781626495562
Edition Language: English

 

A BJ Review: Chasing Death Metal Dreams by Kaje Harper

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5      ★★★★★

Chasing Death Metal Dreams coverThis story was written as a part of the M/M Romance Group’s “Love is an Open Road” event. Group members were asked to write a story prompt inspired by a photo of their choice. Authors of the group selected a photo and prompt that spoke to them and wrote a short story.

Dear Author,
I was sent to the US at the age of 10 by my father who could not accept me. You see I was misgendered at birth and I started fighting against my body at a young age. My father sent me to live with my cousin’s family along with enough money to pay my way for a few years. Little does he know he helped to fund the many surgeries and hormones to fulfill my dream of having my outside gender match the gender my brain has always known myself to be.

What do you think Author? Not many know of his secret. He is a gay man. Is he in a gang? Is he in a band? How will he find love? How will he be accepted?

Photo Description: A young bare-chested man stands staring boldly outward from below his raised arms, hands pressed together in his black hair, elbows winged out, colorful dagger tattoos on his forearms. Another tattoo near his neck forms swirl of dark curves with “Boy” over his left collarbone. His biceps are strong, his stomach and pecs flat, his nipples small, above a thin treasure trail leading downward. Below each nipple is the unmistakable, long-healed scar of top surgery.

Carlos Medina has spent years of sweat, pain, effort, and money becoming the man he is. He writes original songs, plays lead guitar, and wears his death metal front-man persona like armor. With an excellent drummer and a talented bassist, his band, KnifeSwitch, has what it takes to succeed, if they can just catch a break. But it’s been a long road already, and there’s still a mountain left to climb. Carlos isn’t looking for anything more in his personal life than an occasional hook-up with a hot guy, preferably outside the less-than-gay-friendly metal scene.

Nate Goldstein has no intention of dating a musician. His twin brother fronts a band, and he knows band guys are all busy, broke, and obsessed with their music. But Carlos catches his artist’s eye. Nate is wary – he has a history of picking the wrong guys. Still, he might be willing to break some personal rules to find out what’s behind Carlos’s dark gaze and imaginative lyrics.

Getting together the first time is easy and fun. The second time is more complicated. And when music, ambition, and personalities clash, the guys will have to decide if they have a future worth fighting for.

This is my favorite of the stories I’ve read from this year’s writing event so far. Let me tell you why. First off, main character Carlos. While there certainly isn’t a plethora of books with a trans man as a lead character, there are a decent amount both inside and outside of the m/m genre, and I’ve read a quite a few. Not many are this well done, and in only a few have I discovered a main character that truly engaged me. Carlos definitely did. He could be stand-offish, prickly, quick to anger and didn’t do relationships. He was very careful to keep his sexuality under wraps since it wasn’t widely accepted within the death metal circle. But Carlos was also so damned strong, and his determination to pursue his dreams, both musical and being his real inner self, spoke to me deeply. Then he met Nate.

Which brings us to the second reason this was a favorite. Nate is an artist with a wonderfully close, supportive and accepting family. Artist characters are a thing for me, so is long hair, which meant Nate was an instant hit with me. But like Carlos, Nate was a thoroughly nuanced character who despite being caring, sensitive, considerate, accepting and supportive, did also have his own issues of trust and insecurity to overcome.

When the sparks fly between these two, it’s far from insta-love. These two men each have baggage and obstacles to overcome. Their story swept me along very easily and naturally. I loved watching Carlos open up to Nate not just physically but also letting him in emotionally, which wasn’t something he’d done before. Watching the two very different men learn to trust each other was a thoroughly enjoyable journey.

The author handled the sexual scenes, even the sensitive ones, very well with just the right amount of details and explanations. The heat level was quite steamy. While I do understand why the sex scenes were mainly from Nate’s point of view, I still longed for one from Carlos’ and I think mainly this has to do with the fact that the other really well-done trans man main character book I’d read was from only the other MC’s point of view. Since this one was a dual-POV, my favorite, I’d held out that hope. I don’t consider that this took away from the story all that much, however, since each scene between the two moved their relationship along perfectly.

I’m not a metal music fan at all. In fact, I normally avoid books that deal with rock stars completely. But this wasn’t about stars, far from it, and I didn’t need to be into death metal to become invested in and enjoy these guys story. The author painted a clear picture of the struggle it takes to make it as they chased their dreams. Loved the sprinkled in song lyrics and the album cover and tattoo drawing descriptions. In fact, all the many facets of the story’s elements were thoroughly researched and expertly handled, making this story read wonderfully smooth and true for me. The pace wasn’t fast, but leisurely like a Sunday drive where in the journey itself is as important as the destination. Something to be savored mile-by-mile, word-by-word.

This story was written within a short timeframe and the limited guidelines of fitting into a given prompt, yet you could never tell that if you picked this up. Not from the stunning cover, and certainly not from the beautiful, well-rounded, well-written journey towards acceptance and love that this story takes us on. If you haven’t read this one yet, pick it up today. It definitely belies the saying “you get what you pay for”. This story rocks, or considering the death metal maybe I should say it growls.

The cover by BookCoverMasterClass.com is stunning and very well suited to the story. Definitely grabbed my attention.

Free story at  Goodreads MM Romance Group.com

Book Details:

ebook, 265 pages
Published August 2nd 2015 by MMRomanceGroup.com (first published August 1st 2015)
edition languageEnglish
charactersCarlos Medina, Nate Goldstein

In the Spotlight: Ari by Cheryl Headford (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Ari
Author: Cheryl Headford
Genre: LGBT, romance, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F
Length: Novel
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Synopsis

After having known each other online for some time, writers, Benji and Ari meet at a convention.

Their attraction is both immediate and mutual.

But all is not straightforward,Ari is intersex and Benji transgender.

Together they embark on a journey.

A journey that unites families, and heals old wounds.

Ari Cheryl Headford

But not everyone is happy with the blossoming love between these two unique and special individuals.

Will an act of aggression crush the flower before it can bloom?

Excerpt:

The journey was interminable, especially when we realized we had no idea where the hospital was, or even which hospital it was. A Google search threw up a few choices and I panicked over making one. Dad got frustrated with me and lost his cool, which lit a touch paper and had me screaming back. Our screaming match lasted almost half an hour until we reached the most likely candidate, both exhausted and frazzled, with sore throats from yelling.
I couldn’t wait for Dad to park the car, so he dropped me at the hospital entrance. As I watched him pull off it occurred to me I might have done better to find the emergency department. However, I needn’t have worried. Skye and Nancy had all bases covered as usual.
“Benji.”
I turned and almost fell into Nancy’s arms. “Where is he? What happened? Please tell me he’s okay.”
“Not here, sweetheart. We have a room. Let me call Skye and tell her I found you.”
“But…. Please. Tell me what’s happening. Just tell me he’s okay.”
“I can’t do that. Wait.”
When Nancy commanded, everyone obeyed, so I had to follow in silence while she talked to Skye on the phone. Nothing in the conversation gave me a clue about what was going on. 
When she finished the call Nancy kept on walking and I trotted obediently at her side. I could barely breathe. The atmosphere of the hospital—one grey, echoing corridor after another—was oppressive, and I was sick with worry, but it was pointless to press because I knew Nancy would be like a rock until she was ready to open. At least I knew that when Skye joined us she would be more forthcoming. Skye was like Ari and couldn’t keep emotions inside if her life depended on it. It frustrated Nancy, but would definitely work in my favour right now.
Finally we came to a set of double doors that led into a busy corridor. About halfway along was a door marked “Staff Only”. Nancy ushered me inside.
“Are we supposed to be in here?”
“We are supposed to be wherever we find ourselves.”
“Spiritually, yes, I get it, but—”
“It’s alright, Benji,” Skye said. “We have permission.”
Now why hadn’t Nancy just said that? Couldn’t she see what a state I was in?
“Sit down, sweetheart,” Skye said drawing me into a chair. “My goodness you’re cold as ice. Tell me you didn’t drive all this way alone.”
“No. Dad drove. He’s parking. Oh, he won’t know where I am.”
“Give me your phone,” Nancy said. “I’ll call him and give directions.”
Numbly, I handed over the phone and Nancy walked away toward a window. I dismissed her, knowing I would get what I needed from Skye.
“What happened?”
“Hasn’t she told you anything?”
I shook my head, and Skye tutted and rolled her eyes in Nancy’s direction. Then she turned serious and took both my hands in hers, which was no mean feat as her hands were tiny, like Ari’s.
“I think this is where I’m supposed to say ‘be strong’, but you don’t have to be. You don’t have to be strong at all because we will look after you, and your Dad’s here.” She took a deep breath and I could practically see her drawing in her strength. “It’s bad, Benji, really bad. We’re going to lose him. We’re going to lose our baby boy.”

Book trailer

Buy Links

Donít miss Wayward Ink Publishingís Tickle Me Pink Sale! 25% off all list prices.

WIP: http://www.waywardinkpublishing.com/?p=1298

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YUT48QE/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YUT48QE/

Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00YUT48QE/

Amazon DE: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B00YUT48QE/

ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ari-1820879-341.html

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ari-cheryl-headford/1122098431?ean=9781925222487

Giveaway

Prizes: 3 UK Swag Packs (Ari mug, notebook, rainbow pen) and 3 International Swag Packs (6.99 WIP gift card, bookmark, key chain)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the author

CHERYL HEADFORD was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but arenít so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, sheíd make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and theyíd explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that itís still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but theyíre still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.

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