An Ali Review: Starting from Zero (Starting From #1) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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.

This was one of the best books I’ve read in awhile. I always enjoy this author’s work but this one really stood out to me. The writing here was gorgeous. In addition to being a very good book, it was also very romantic. One of those that makes you do a happy sigh when you’re done reading it.
The story revolves around two men who on the surface seem very different. They meet at a club after Justin performs and they are immediately attracted to each other. They agree to go somewhere to talk but they neither thinks it will go anywhere and neither is looking for a relationship anyways. Their chemistry jumps off the pages and they find they are so attracted to each other they can’t stop at just talking. After a scorching scene public bathroom sex, they go their separate ways. Fate has different ideas and brings them back together a short time later when they end up working together.
I liked both of the MC’s very much and I especially liked them together. I’m not generally a big fan of age gaps but I thought it was really well done here. I found their relationship believable despite the differences in their life experiences. I rarely comment on sex scenes in my reviews because I can take or leave them depending on the overall plot. Here though they really stood out. These two were smoking hot together. I think this author did a great job of not only showing their chemistry but also used the scenes to show their overall relationship development.
If you’ve read this author’s Out In College series you will recognize Justin. He is the older brother of Rory from book three. Both Rory and Christian makes some appearances in this. If you have not read that book though it will not matter. This book is totally a standalone.
There was nothing about this book that I disliked. I thought it was really well done and I highly recommend this. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
Cover:  I like the cover. It’s is eye catching and visually appealing. I also feel the model on the cover fits the main character.

Sales LInks:  Amazon |

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 215 pages
Published April 19th 2019 by Lane Hayes (first published April 16th 2019)
Edition Language English
Series Starting From #1

Need Something New To Read? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Starting From Zero((Starting From #1) by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Starting From Zero

Series: Starting From Series, Book 1

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: April 15

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 68000

Genre: Romance, Rock star, May/December romance, Bisexual, LA, Humor, New beginning

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Justin turned to me with a fiery expression and gestured toward the glittering lights below. “Everyone here wants more than what they have. And I guess I’m the same. I don’t need recognition and I sure as fuck don’t want love, but I wouldn’t say no to a few bucks,” he commented with a laugh. “What about you?”

I did a double take. I was two steps behind, struggling to keep up, and if possible, memorize every word he’d said. I hadn’t been around anyone so raw or so honest in a long time. He made rules and broke them with at whim, letting me in and then shutting me out. He had a way of revealing himself that made me feel as though he was holding a mirror to me, daring me to acknowledge my broken pieces too. He was either slightly insane or incredibly gifted. I suspected it was the latter. The cadence of his speech lured me in…and made me want more. I’d tell him anything he wanted to know, just to be near him and this intense spark of…newness, creativity, and wonder.

“What about me?” I asked in a low raspy voice.

“What do you want to accomplish before you leave the planet?”

“I want to write the perfect song,” I replied unthinking.

“There’s no such thing.”

“Maybe, maybe not. But it would be nice to leave something that felt special.”

Justin held my gaze then inclined his head in agreement. “Yeah. I want that too.”

We stared at each other. Whispers of conversation floated from the far corners of the rooftop deck. We weren’t alone, but we might as well be. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so intimately connected to someone I’d never really touched. It was puzzling and enchanting at the same time.

He shivered when the breeze kicked up. I took it as a sign from above and pulled him against me. I had to feel him. I studied the sexy indentation in his bottom lip before giving into impulse and resting my hands on his hip. Justin gave me a funny look but he didn’t push me away.

“You shouldn’t be anonymous. You have too much to share. Too much to say,” I said.

“What are you doing?”

“I…I’m not sure. Is this okay?”

“Yeah. It’s good.” Justin nodded and snaked his arms around my waist.

We were still for a while. He was so close I could feel his breath on my lips. The lingering quiet was deceptive. A casual observer might have mistaken us for old lovers engaged in a tender moment. Or maybe they’d guess we were tentative strangers anxious to make the right moves. Not too fast, not too slow. Neither was correct. There was no quiet here. An electric current sizzled and hissed between us. Intense sexual awareness and something more. Something fiery and passionate. He was wild and rough with jagged edges and a sharp mind. Instinctively, I knew I should proceed with caution because walking away wasn’t an option.

“I want to kiss you,” I whispered, inching closer so our noses brushed.

Justin gave me a crooked smile and tugged at my belt loop. “Then do it.”

I tilted my chin slightly and pressed my lips to his. He was deceptively tender at first. He closed his eyes and hummed into the connection. When I licked at the corner of his mouth, he let me in without hesitation. I couldn’t get enough. He tasted like gin and nicotine with a hint of peppermint. All the things I apparently couldn’t do without.

I pulled him closer, cupping the back of his neck to kiss him harder and deeper. Our tongues twisted in a growing frenzy until everything and everyone around us dissolved into white noise. Justin lulled me into complacency and let me think I was in control. I pushed him back slightly and wrapped my fingers around his neck to keep him in place when he leaned forward to nip my bottom lip. He grinned like a madman and then lowered his eyelashes in a show of faux subservience. I didn’t trust him to stay still or obey for a second. Justin was wild and headstrong. He wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t either his idea or a bad idea.

I should have known then that I’d met my match.

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is finally doing what she loves best. Writing! An avid reader from an early age, Lane has always been drawn to romance novels. She truly believes there is nothing more inspiring than a well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Lane discovered the M/M genre a fews ago and was instantly hooked. She is the bestselling author of the Better Than, Right and Wrong, A Kind of Stories and Leaning Into Series and the Out in College series. Lane’s novels placed first in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves travel, chocolate, and wine (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an empty nest.

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Release Tour for The One Thing I Know (B-Sides #1) by Keelan Ellis (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The One Thing I Know

Series: B-Sides, Book One

Author: Keelan Ellis

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: Aug 14, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66600

Genre: Historical, romance, gay, bisexual, historical-1970’s, California, musicians, rock star, drugs/alcohol use, enemies to lovers, road trip

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Synopsis

Talented studio musician, Henry Cole, is offered the dream job of touring with popular rock band, the Vulgar Details. Things aren’t all rosy, though, as he is hired to replace Dell Miller, creative force behind the band, who recently flamed-out in a car accident.

Henry is all too aware that he’s no replacement for someone like Dell. He’s not the only one who feels that way, either. Terry Blackwood, band front man, has been giving him a hard time even before the tour start. He seems to resent Henry’s presence beyond all reason. What Henry doesn’t know is that Terry and Dell’s relationship was both intensely close and fraught with conflict.

Terry’s grief over Dell’s death is overwhelming and threatens to destroy not only the band but his life. It doesn’t help that the new member of the band makes him feel things he doesn’t want to. Worse, when he sings, Henry sounds just like the man Terry cared so deeply for.

With so much at stake, everything could come crashing down around them and mean the end for the Vulgar Details. Or, just maybe, Henry and Terry will find the one thing they need most.

Sometimes redemption comes from the last place you expect to find it.

Excerpt

The One Thing I Know
Keelan Ellis © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

January 1972

Henry woke up to the sound of the shower turning on in the bathroom down the hall. He got up and sorted through the clothes strewn around on the floor, separating his from his guest’s. The two pairs of white briefs were, unfortunately, the same brand and size, so he took his best guess and tossed one of them on top of the pile he was holding. He set the whole thing down outside the bathroom door and went to the kitchen to make coffee. He lit a cigarette and opened the window above the sink. The shower shut off just as the coffee finished brewing, and a few minutes later, his previous evening’s date appeared in the doorway. His name was Danny, and they’d been introduced by a mutual acquaintance. He was as cute as he was dumb, but Henry was fairly certain one night had been enough to satisfy his curiosity.

“Morning,” Henry said. “There’s coffee if you want it.”

“Thanks,” Danny said. He poured some into a cup and leaned against the counter. “Hey, I’m going to the beach later. You want me to stop by and pick you up?”

“Nah. I have work.”

“Oh, right. On the Details’ new record, wasn’t it?”

Henry nodded. He was slated to play pedal steel and Dobro on six tracks for the Vulgar Details’ upcoming album. It wasn’t the first time he’d played with those guys. The band counted on Henry to fill in the gaps whenever their songwriter and pedal steel player, Dell Miller, was off taking peyote in the desert or barricading himself in a hotel room shooting up with whoever he’d brought home that night. Henry had never met Dell and still thought of him as more myth than man. “I should get in the shower pretty soon,” he hinted.

Danny either didn’t pick up on it or didn’t care, and he poured more coffee into his cup. “You think it’s going to be a good one?”

“I think it’s the best one yet.” He rinsed his cup out and put it in the drainer. “I need to get ready. Thanks for coming over. It was fun.”

Danny raised his eyebrows at him, and his lips turned up with wry amusement. Maybe he wasn’t as dumb as Henry had thought. “Sure thing. You got my number. Call if you want.” He set his cup down and gave a little salute before he left. Definitely cute, Henry couldn’t deny that.

Henry got to the studio early and ran through his parts before the band arrived. The songs that Henry had learned for that day’s session were, hands down, the best work the band had done. The new songs were dark and personal, explorations of loss and hopelessness, set to some of the loveliest melodies he’d ever heard. The Vulgar Details had come so far from their beginnings as a brash blues rock band that they were almost unrecognizable. Henry had never thought of them as anything special until their third album, Heart’s Desire, was released back in ’69.

Henry had been lying by the pool at his friend Richard’s house, passing a joint back and forth with him, when he first heard that record. Henry was twenty-four then, and Richard was ten years older, with family money and a beautiful house he’d had built in Laurel Canyon. He threw amazing parties attended by young musicians and hippie hangers-on who were there for the free food, booze, and drugs. Richard didn’t care why they were there. He loved the beautiful boys and girls, the music, and the easily available sex. When he wasn’t partying, he liked having Henry around. Sometimes they fooled around, but Richard never made it seem like a requirement. That day, when he put on the new Vulgar Details record, Henry scoffed.

“I thought you had more interesting taste than that,” he said.

“You’re getting too old to be such a snob.”

Henry stretched and grinned up at him. “Probably getting too old for you, then, huh?”

Richard smiled, shook his head, and sat back down. “Give it a chance. You might be surprised.”

It started out sounding much like all of their previous stuff, but somehow better. Previously, their songs tended toward aimless, slightly silly rip-offs of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” or juvenile rock and roll songs about pretty girls. These were something else altogether. They dealt with love, anger, and desire—the subjects of most rock lyrics—but with a depth almost never heard in popular music.

“Jesus, this is great,” Henry said. “Where the hell did it come from? Did Terry Blackwood get a brain transplant or something?”

Richard laughed. “Not quite. They got a new member. Don’t you follow this stuff, working in the industry?”

“Must have missed that one.”

“His name’s Dell Miller. Actually, he was at that party you came to last month. Skinny, pretty, long-haired country boy? Walked around with his shirt open the whole time?”

“Oh yeah. I think I remember him. The girls were all over him. He wrote all of these?”

“All the good ones,” Richard said.

The last song on the album, “Traveling Abroad,” was the best one, and Henry insisted playing it three times in a row. It had an entirely different sound from the rest of them. It was almost a traditional country song, but the arrangement was complex and the lyrics made him want to cry. There was so much yearning in it that it was almost hard to listen to. When he left Richard’s house that afternoon, he went straight to the nearest record store to buy his own copy.

That was three years and two albums earlier. The Vulgar Details had only gotten better, despite Miller’s increasingly unreliable presence. The band’s sound drifted more and more toward the mellow country- and bluegrass-influenced style Miller had brought with him from Tennessee. A few of the blues rock numbers that were Terence Blackwood’s bread and butter still remained, but these no longer represented the bulk of their output. This new album took that even further, and Henry had to wonder how the rest of the band—Blackwood in particular—felt about that. In most bands, a shift like that would have led to at least one angry departure. Somehow, the Details had managed to keep it together without any public drama, unless you counted Miller’s multiple rehab stays and a short stint in jail for public intoxication and possession.

They weren’t planning to record any vocals that day, so Blackwood wasn’t around. The lead guitarist, Steve Smith, and drummer, Kenny Sailes, had entered the studio in the middle of a contentious but good-natured disagreement over which one of them would be harder to replace if they went into rehab. Alex Benton, the bass player, shook Henry’s hand and gave him a one-armed hug.

“Maybe you can settle that argument, Cole,” he said, grinning.

“They can both go, as far as I’m concerned,” Henry said. “You’ll have to tough it out, though, Benton. I don’t like playing bass.”

“You heard him, you assholes. Cole here is gunning for you, and he’s a man of many skills. Watch your backs.”

“Not me. I don’t want to be a rock-and-roll star. I prefer to work for a living.” They all laughed, and Henry said, “So, uh…how is Dell doing, anyway? Rehab working out, I hope?”

The mood turned slightly somber, and they all glanced down at the floor. Finally, Smith shrugged and said, “Terry said the place looked pretty nice, and Dell told him he was actually going to try this time. Who the fuck knows.”

Benton sighed and nodded. Sailes snorted skeptically and muttered, “I think we all pretty much know, Steve.”

“Sorry,” Henry said. “I didn’t mean to—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Benton said. “It’s not your fault. You gotta understand, we’ve been on this ride a few times, man. Dell is…Dell.”

Henry cleared his throat. “Well, anyway—the new songs sound great.”

“The fucked-up hillbilly bastard sure knows how to write a goddamn song. Can’t take that away from him,” Smith said, smiling again. “It’s going to be the best thing we’ve ever done.”

The session went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped for, and Henry left the studio on a serious high. He wanted to get laid, but the thought of calling Richard to see if he wanted company left him restless. As soon as the idea of going to a bar occurred to him, he knew it was exactly what he was looking for. He rarely went out to bars alone, and rarely with the express purpose of finding sex. That night, he felt like a different person.

Henry’s usual haunt, the Westside Clubhouse, was a relatively laid-back place. Guys went there for the same reason they went to any other gay bar, but mainly because it was a place they could relax and be themselves. The drinks were generous, the bartenders were cute but not intimidating, and they all knew Henry. But that wasn’t the kind of place he was in the mood for. Instead, he went to the Hammer and Nail, which he’d heard about but hadn’t yet ventured into.

He stood in line outside the club while the bouncers checked everyone out at the door. While he waited, a couple of guys got turned away for not being fit enough, young enough, handsome enough, or for not fitting who-knew-what other criteria. Henry had been confident when he first queued up, but by the time he got to the front of the line, he was nervous. The tall, blond, muscular bouncer eyed him up and down and motioned him inside without a word, smacking him on the ass as he walked past. The whole process was fairly disgusting, and while Henry was opposed to the attitude in theory, he couldn’t deny that it felt good to know he passed muster.

Inside, the bar was dark and loud. At least half the guys were shirtless, and all of them were beautiful. He bought a gin and tonic and walked through the throngs of sweaty men. He’d need at least two more drinks before he’d be able to get on the dance floor, so he didn’t wander too far from the bar.

“Henry?”

Henry turned around to see a sound technician at one of the studios where he regularly worked. “Hey, man,” he said, searching frantically for the man’s name.

“Pete.”

“Pete, right, of course. I’m sorry. From Blue Door Studios, right?”

Pete nodded. “I didn’t know you were…” He motioned vaguely around the room.

“Yeah, well,” Henry said, smiling lamely and shrugging. “I don’t usually come here, though. It’s not exactly my scene, but I was in some kind of mood tonight. I had a good day.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Laid down some tracks with the Vulgar Details,” Henry said, striving for casual, as if it was the kind of thing that happened every day. “Great stuff.”

“Oh, cool. Was Terry Blackwood there? He’s so sexy.”

“Nope. No Blackwood, and no Dell, of course. He’s the reason I got hired.”

“Right, the drug thing,” Pete said. “Too bad you didn’t get to meet Blackwood though. I bet he’d think you’re cute.”

Henry rolled his eyes. “I have met him. He treated me like the hired help, which I was. And I think those rumors are all bullshit anyway. Just because he partied with Lou Reed or got a blow job from some drag queen—supposedly—doesn’t mean he’s into guys. I think he wants people to think he’s interesting, like Bowie, instead of a second-rate Mick Jagger.”

“Meow!”

Henry gave him a sheepish grin. “I was unaware I had any opinion of him whatsoever until just that moment.”

“Well anyway, a boy can dream.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Keelan Ellis is an author of romance and detective fiction, who is always seeking to expand her literary horizons. She is a lover of music and food, and has an intense love/hate relationship with politics. Her stories reflect her passions.

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Tour Schedule

8/14    Drops of Ink 

8/14    Hoards Jumble

8/14    Happily Ever Chapter

8/15    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

8/15    Stories That Make You Smile

8/16    A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog 

8/16    Erotica For All

8/17    Love Bytes Reviews

8/17    MM Good Book Reviews 

8/18    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

8/18    Bayou Book Junkie

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Cover Reveal for A Kind of Honesty (A Kind of Story #3) by Lane Hayes (cover reveal and giveaway)

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A Kind of Honesty Reveal BannerTitle: A Kind of Honesty

Series: A Kind of Story, #3

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: October 7, 2016

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85K

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Rock star, NYC, humor

A_Kind_of_Honesty_FINAL_V4

Synopsis

Music is Tim Chalmers’s great escape and the one thing that’s never let him down. But his band Spiral’s meteoric rise to fame has made it difficult for the drummer to maintain a low profile. Unwanted press pesters him after a public breakup with a volatile ex-girlfriend who loves the limelight as much as he loathes it. Tim’s main goal is to avoid confrontation. However, when he meets a handsome stranger in a dive bar who turns out to be someone he may know, everything changes.

Carter Hamilton-Temple might be a successful financial consultant with more brains, sophistication, and charm than most, but he always falls for the wrong guys: closet cases or men with issues. He can’t fight his attraction to the tattooed rock star, but can he trust his own judgment? When the thrill of danger combined with a fierce physical connection proves too strong for either man to resist, a quiet liaison away from the public eye and curious friends seems like a safe bet. But some secrets are hard to keep. When rumors threaten to rock his world, Tim realizes it’s time to confront his fear with his own kind of honesty.

Excerpt

“What kind of a rock star are you? You’re supposed to love sex, drugs, and alcohol. I haven’t known you long, but you seem to only really like one out of three,” Carter commented idly as he shuffled the cards.

“You’re right. I’m a sucky rock star. I rarely have more than one drink when I go out for dinner or even at a bar. Two at a party. Anything more usually leads to trouble. And I never take drugs. Even cold medicine makes me nervous.” I winked and gave him a lecherous grin that no doubt looked far from provocative in my current condition. “But I love sex.”

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is finally doing what she loves best. Writing! An avid reader from an early age, Lane has always been drawn to romance novels. She truly believes there is nothing more inspiring than a well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Lane discovered the M/M genre a fews ago and was instantly hooked. Her first novel was a finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards. She is the bestselling author of the Better Than Stories series and Right and Wrong Stories and the new A Kind of Stories series. She loves travel, chocolate, and wine (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

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