A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Mud & Lace (Rainbow Place #4) by Jay Northcote


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A delightful romance, Wicksy, whom we met in previous Rainbow Café stories, learns that love comes in all sizes, shapes, and sexes when he falls for Lady Gogo, the drag queen who first caught his attention during a talent show held at the café.

Wicksy is one of the rugby team members who showed up in book one to help Seb clear the vandalism from Rainbow Place just before it opened. He’s always been straight, but ever since he learned more about the LGBTQ inclusive café, he tags along with his friends and enjoys the ambiance.  When Lady Gogo is offered a chance to perform at the café, after her successful premier during a talent contest, Wicksy is intrigued. For some reason, that beautiful feminine face and figure pique his interest. He knows the drag queen is a man, but doesn’t care. He wants to get to know him better.

Lady Gogo is Charlie, a sweet fem young man who lives with his mom and loves dressing in women’s clothing—from lingerie to outerwear.  His mom is accepting and loving and fully onboard with Charlie’s journey of self-discovery.  Charlie thinks it’s too good to be true when Wicksy seems interested in him and then goes further and gets to know him better.  Wicksy appreciates Charlie’s gender fluidity and eventually comes to realize he must be bisexual to be so into Charlie and accepting of him as he is. 

The author did an outstanding job in building not only a slow burn romance but also a slow burn awakening of sexuality in Wicksy and a slow burn awareness of sexual identity in Charlie. The secondary characters were just perfect, some of whom we met in previous books, others we met in this one. My favorite was Charlie’s mom, who was really wonderful, showing care and concern and total acceptance of who he is and who he wants to be.

I’m impressed by the writing, the creativity of the story, the attention to detail, the sensitivity to the subject and the characters themselves. To me, this is the best of the series, and though some characters have been seen previously, this book can be read as a standalone.  I very highly recommend this satisfying romance.

The bright, colorful cover by Garrett Leigh features a handsome, shirtless, smiling man. The rainbow-colored bar across the bottom of the cover ties the story to the others in the series. This one is so colorful it “feels” happy and made we want to pick it up to read. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 226 pages
Published April 25th 2019 by Jaybird Press (first published April 22nd 2019)
SeriesRainbow Place #4

Rainbow Place Series

Book #1 – Rainbow Place – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Safe Place – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Better Place – Amazon US | Amazon UK

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Hexhunter (Hexworld #4) by Jordan L. Hawk


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Detective Bill Quigley first met Isaac, the mastiff familiar, the night Isaac was rescued from the witch who kidnapped and tormented him to force his magic for illegal uses.  He’s head over heels for the quiet young man who works for MWP (Metropolitan Witch Police) but Isaac doesn’t seem to return his regard. In fact, Isaac seems quiet and withdrawn most of the time; definitely not someone who’d appreciate Bill’s advances. So when Sionn, the owl familiar who works with Isaac, asks Bill out, he accepts and it seems to be with Isaac’s blessing.

But Isaac does indeed like Bill—he just feels inadequate and worries that his magic is tarnished after what happened. Plus, the witch Isaac’s familiar is attracted to doesn’t want him, and Isaac knows Bill only has a little magic and likely wouldn’t be interested in someone with damaged magic like his.

There’s plenty of time for a slow-burn attraction in this story, and that’s what happens. Just when it seems Bill might settle for Sionn in an effort to forget Isaac, an attempt is made on their lives and Isaac and Bill are thrown together in painful circumstances.  They can’t deny their attraction after that and that day begins a slow return of Isaac’s confidence and starts their journey to a lasting relationship.  Along the way there’s plenty of adventure and a dastardly scheme involving kidnapping children and experimenting with hexes to tailor the form the adult familiar takes so that the wealthy witches can have what they want.  Add to that, a surprise in the form of Bill’s half brother and the story has so much to offer that readers, like me, will get lost in the pleasure of this author’s highly creative and imaginative mysteries.

I am looking forward to much more in this wonderful hex world and most definitely I’m hoping Sionn gets his own book.  That little owl has a lot to offer!  I highly recommend this story and this series to readers of paranormal and mystery MM romance.

The cover by Jordan L. Hawk is done in a style similar to others in the series: above the title a profile of a man matching the description of MC Bill Quigley and below the title is the shadow of a mastiff, which represents MC familiar, Isaac, and it’s set against the background of an old street map of New York City.  Very creative and attractive.

Sales Links:  Buy from Amazon

Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple Books
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Smashwords


Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Expected publication: February 8th 2019
Edition Language English
Series Hexworld #4

Freebie Blitz for Shane and Trey (Enemies to Lovers #1) by Anyta Sunday


Shane and Trey

Series: Enemies to Lovers (Book 1)

Publisher: self-published

Free for a limited time only: January 20th – 24th

Length (Print & Ebook): 66000 words / 230 pages (print)

Subgenre: Light hearted, sweet, new adult gay romance

Tropes: enemies-to-lovers, sister’s boyfriend, college, roommates, forced proximity, inconvenient attraction, first time, slow burn romance

All buy links or pre-order links:


About the book:

Light hearted, sweet, new adult gay romance and coming out story of two college boys turning from enemies to lovers.

~ ~ ~

Shane is a little bit screwed, he’s just started college and stuck rooming with that bastard Trey. His sister’s boyfriend. His sister’s damn fine boyfriend. Uh-oh. This so wasn’t going to happen. But try as he might, there’s just a little too much to ignore between the two of them…

~ ~ ~

Each of the four fun & sexy gay romance novels in the “Enemies to Lovers” series can be read as a stand-alone and in any order.

Read what Anyta Sunday has to say about SHANE AND TREY:

Enemies to Lovers – who doesn’t love this trope?!?

I really enjoy romances that pair guys that can’t stand the sight of each other… but then, slowly, realize there’s more to the other… 

My “Enemies to Lovers” series is full of these stories, and right now you can grab the first book, “Shane and Trey”, for FREE!

This classic Anyta Sunday new adult gay romance has over 70 Amazon reviews and over 2000 ratings on Goodreads.

Freebie Blitz excerpt 1:

I took the letter and worked my pinkie under the flap. Who would my roomie be? I’d given a pretty detailed profile of myself in the application. The guy was surely going to have some of the same interests as me, right? I mean, they had a computer system for this stuff.

In a sudden burst of excitement and confidence I winked at June. “Jeez I hope he’s hot.”

She glanced around my room and gave a small laugh. “Well whoever he is, he’s lucky. You’d be a good roomie. So tidy.” She gazed at her letter again. “They should come with a profile picture. Or at least a last name to Google them. Shoot. I hope Sara will be nice.”

“Don’t worry, she will be. And you can always come hang with me if you don’t like her.”

“Or she doesn’t like me.”

I snorted, scanning over the letter. “Not gonna—”happen, June, I was going to finish. Until I read my soon-to-be-roomie’s name.


I frowned, my insides sinking toward my toes. Surely there were like, loads of Trey’s, right? I mean what fucked up coincidence would it be to end up rooming with my sis’s boyfriend? Oh, please don’t let the world be that cruel.

“Well, who is it?”

I swallowed and managed a fake grin. “Funny. His name’s Trey.”

Freebie Blitz excerpt 2:

Near the end of the movie, Trey took another handful of chips. Actually, it might have been the rest. But he balanced them poorly and one fell onto the bed between my legs. In a movement so fast it may as well have blurred, Trey stuffed the chips in his mouth and shoved his hand down the tiny triangle of space in my lap.

I sucked in a hard breath, holding it as Trey moved about trying to find his chip. I should have found it for him, or moved or something, but I’d frozen. There was only one muscle able to move now, and I was doing my best to avoid that happening. Trey was still glued to the screen, like he had no real idea what he was doing. Just a voice in his head whispering for him to find the chip. That delicious crunchy chip. Fucking chip!

Finally he found it and came out, managing to brush his hand over my inner-thigh as he did. Bastard. I scowled as he brought the chip to his mouth and began nibbling it. Nibbling it. Like, what was this guy doing to me?

Was it possible to wish for scary Trey back? The Trey that made me want to be best buddies with my dictionary. Because, in all honesty, I think that might have been easier to handle.

As the credits rolled up, Trey rested a hand on my shoulder. I jumped a bit, and he met my gaze directly.

Trey spoke, dropping his hand suddenly, like before. “Guess it’s about time to get ready for that date of yours.”

Syd. Shoot! I sprung off his bed and checked the time. I had ten minutes before I was meant to meet him. I shrugged out of my T-shirt, quickly folded it, and slipped on a causal black shirt. Patting myself, I calculated what else I needed. I turned around, and Trey held my wallet out to me.

I shoved it in my pocket and found my keys, slipping those in behind my phone. “Right. I gotta run.”

Trey opened the door wide, but as I passed him, he stopped me, one hand curled around my wrist. His warm breath tickled my neck, and, in the lightest of whispers, he said, “Don’t sleep with him.”

Freebie Blitz excerpt 3:

We got inside no problem. Though it crossed my mind it was strange I was following him. I’d sort of just assumed we’d hang out. But what if he was wondering what the hell I was doing shadowing him through the door?

“Looks like it’s just us,” Trey said frowning.

Was that frown to say he also thought it was weird I was standing here when my house was five minutes away?

Trey hesitated, and then started up the stairs. “I thought maybe Mom would be up.”

“It’s late,” I said. “Maybe it’s best we don’t see her until morning.” Only a moment after the words came out, I froze on the stairs, as did Trey. Had I just suggested I’d be staying over? We’d barely hugged and now I jumped to sleeping over? Jesus. I wanted to knock my head against something hard. “I mean,” I said, knowing I should just shut up. But I couldn’t stop myself. You’re making this worse! “I’ll be seeing her on my way to pick you up tomorrow. Or not. Or—”

Trey twisted suddenly, and then I was pinned against the wall. Hot lips on mine. Hard body pressed against me, tight, solid.

I hiccupped on a breath. Like, what just happened? I stared into Trey’s gaze still so close.

“What . . . what was that?” I stammered.

Freebie Blitz excerpt 4:

I clapped the phone shut, Dad’s first words still ringing in my ears. How’s my son? Living up Saturday night, drunk and partying? And then his laugh. Raucous. Like a freaking bad omen. I shivered—couldn’t help it, and sat on the end of my bed where I’d wandered during the two minutes and twenty-nine seconds we’d spoken.

Trey stared at me, brows furrowed together, his mouth a straight line. Was he waiting for me to say something? And what? Yeah, that was my dad, we don’t get on, but you probably heard that in my tone, anyway, let’s not talk about it. I reached over and slammed the phone on my bedside table. Stupid phone. Stupid me for not having looked at the caller ID. Damn, what a way to ruin the mood.

Trey sighed and propped himself on one elbow, on his side. “You can’t choose ’em. Right?”

I mirrored his sigh, but just the way he’d said that—that touch of humor to lighten things up—it was like he knew exactly how to calm me down. The corner of my lips twitched. “If only.”

His eyes softened before his lips corresponded in a smile. “But you know who you can choose.” He beckoned me over, which was hardly necessary. As soon as the words had slipped from his tongue, I was on my way.

Like I’d wanted to do for ages, I pounced onto the mass of pillows next to Trey. He looked startled a moment before cracking up. “Fuck, for a second I thought you were doing some type of wrestling move.”

I grinned. “I was, but to the pillows. Be pretty stupid of me to do it to you. I may not be great at math, but I know my chances at survival would be slim.”

That had him laughing louder. How wonderful it was to hear: boisterous, unrestrained, hearty. Quite fulfilling—quite? No, more than that, incredibly. And just like that Dad drowned from my mind. Everything, except for Trey, simply vanished. Didn’t matter.

Lightly, I touched his chest and felt his laugh as it bubbled underneath my hand. It spread through me, highly infectious, until I was laughing too. We didn’t stop, even when we’d forgotten what was funny and stomach muscles hurt and limbs convulsed. It just felt so good. Every bout seemed to reflect our excitement and nervousness, and cracked through any awkwardness we had being together.

So. Fucking. Fine.



About Anyta Sunday:

A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, and Thai.

Connect with Anyta Sunday:

Author website: http://www.anytasunday.com/

Author newsletter signup: http://www.anytasunday.com/newsletter-free-e-book/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anytasundaybooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anytasunday

Instagram: https://instagram.com/anytasunday

BookBub: https://bookbub.com/authors/anyta-sunday

Join our giveaway: Prize: 2 e-box sets of the “Enemies to Lovers” books!

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A MelanieM Review: Center Of Gravity (Nook Island #1) by Neve Wilder


Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

When life comes apart at the seams, love is the only thread that can mend it…

Accountant Rob Macomb has a stable job that he’s good at and… that’s about it. A year of nothing but heartache leaves him seeking refuge from loneliness and grief behind spreadsheets, punishing daily runs, and the occasional anonymous tryst. He wants only to bury the past and focus on his career, but he has one last task to complete: pack up his parent’s quaint beachside house and put it on the marketCenter Of Gravity (Nook Island #1) by Neve Wilder

Alex Andrews is a budding artist with a penchant for Converse, Cracker Jack, and piercings. Family turmoil sidelines his dreams of finishing art school and building a career in three-dimensional design, and now he’s doing whatever he can to keep everyone afloat.

When Alex shows up as a part of the moving crew hired to help Rob clean out the house, what should be a simple move becomes far more complex. Because it’s not the first time they’ve met, and their last encounter was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The attraction between them is undeniable and intense, but Rob’s hell-bent on pushing everyone away, and Alex is on the verge of spinning out of control. Can a grumpy accountant and a bootstrapping artist find their center of gravity together, or are they on a collision course to heartbreak?

Center Of Gravity (Nook Island #1) by Neve Wilder is just what I hope for and rarely find when reading a new author and new contemporary romance.  It’s that marvelous, heartwarming story full of just about every  element that grabs at you and compels you to read it!  That once started makes you want to keep going, find out what happens to these men, and dog, and even a house,  and a family on a place called Nook Island.

You get hooked in ever so slowly too.  It’s bit by bit because, trust me, this is a sloooow burn romance.  Not slow as in the slow to jump into bed slow. Nope not that.  But slow to admit the connections that are forming, or have formed between the mixed use artist  and the CPA.  Each has such a heavy emotional set of baggage that is revealed to the other haltingly in steps, some the reader already is aware of as the story is told in alternating points of view.  Such confused and endearing men, totally different and yet, so alike in other fundamental ways.  Of course, it’s a lack of communication and a truly awful beginning that builds a barrier that both need to build a bridge over.  A Jack Russell terror (not a misspelling) paves the way as does emptying and working on Rob’s parents house.

Of course, there’s so much more there.  I could actually write pages about this book.  Wilder’s amazing creation and  use of Alex’s family and father, Rob’s sister Summer, the memories of Rob’s own parents, and, yes, the developing detail that I suspect will become the next story in the series Alex’s  friend in the moving business.

The relationships here are rich, layered, and believable.  People hurt, grow in depth, cry tears that will flow over into your own heart, and when it happen, their happiness becomes yours as well.

Yes, there was one part where the author almost lost me. Whew! Didn’t happen.  Nice save.

I adored this story.  I will be waiting impatiently for the next in the series.  And yes I’m so happy to have found a new author to read.  Win, win, and win.

Totally recommended this one.


Cover art: Jay Aheer.  Nice beach scene.  But I wish for a little more elements from the novel.  Just a little too generic.

Sales Links:

Book Details:

Published October 4th 2018 (first published October 2nd 2018)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Saddle Up (Clean Slate Ranch #3) by A.M. Arthur


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I’m enjoying this Clean Slate Ranch series that so far has featured love matches for three young men who were friends in San Francisco—two in law enforcement, one a fireman. A series of accidents and heartbreaking injuries and the death of a friend sent them north to work on Mack’s grandfather’s ranch. In book three, it’s Reyes Caldero’s turn to finally find love and happiness and he finds it with Miles Arlington, Mack’s lover Wes’s bestie. Complicated? Not really, but it does show that the book is best read after reading the first two since the characters are intertwined.

Miles takes a job as chef for the newly created ghost-town attraction that Mack is starting on a plot of land surrounded by the main ranch. Wes has talked him into it but Miles is really going because his former abusive lover, Dallas, is back and threatening to ruin the peace of mind Miles has nurtured over the past year away from him.

Reyes is tall, dark, handsome and a former firefighter. He’s stepped into Mack’s role of foreman of the ranch now that Mack is devoting all his time to making the ghost town a success. He and Miles are assigned to bunk together and though they’ve previously met, they finally get a chance to really know one another. And though a romantic attraction develops over the course of time, neither is ready to jump into anything—especially Miles who never told anyone about being sexually abused last year.

The story is fairly long, and it’s the perfect kind of slow burn romance I enjoy. Each man has ghosts to deal with and each needs to learn to trust the other before they can act on their attraction—maybe Miles more so than Reyes, but the author allows time for both the main storyline and several subplots to develop.

Dallas, meanwhile, has set out to find and then harass Miles from a distance, and he refuses to back off. I was pretty happy with the action in this adventure romance and very surprised at what occurs near the end of the story.

I had never read this author before this series, but I’m definitely coming back for more. There’s a sense of family, friendship, trust, and support throughout this story and the secondary characters were as well-rounded as the two MCs. Thoroughly enjoyable, I definitely recommend this to lovers of MM romance, especially if you’d like a little Western flavor to your romance.


The cover features a cowboy dressed all in black facing a man wearing jeans and no shirt. Though not very unique, I can see that it does represent the MCs closely.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2018 by Carina Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesClean Slate Ranch #3

A Lucy Release Day Review: Q*pid by Xavier Mayne


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I had a difficult time trying to decide how to review this because I loved some of it and I didn’t love some of it.  Let’s see if I can come up with a coherent explanation. Veera, a very intelligent woman, has come up with a new way of artificial intelligence.  She has designed a system, dubbed Archer, that will look past the typical “get to know you questions” of online dating and really look at you to find your perfect match.  This means allowing Archer access to everything you do online (a security nightmare no matter what they say and it made my skin crawl) to see what you actually are interested in, not what you say you are.  I did have to laugh when we see the chosen people clicking like on puppies and babies and kittens just to make a “cute” presence online known.  Tut, tut, boys, Archer is smarter than that.

So we have Fox, the only one of his friends still unattached, who has a standard email rejection letter for women he dates who don’t make the number criteria in the spreadsheet he has, which is the most bizarre thing.  “Numbers of attempts to pay the dinner check, and height of heels in inches, and number of visible piercings, and done.” He’s rejected women he likes this way and so is still alone.  So the novelty of the Q*Pid trial appeals to him.

Then we have Drew, a quiet, shy, adorable grad student who has an unlikely bestie in Mrs. Schwartzmann but seems to attract the strangest of women.  On seeing his coffee table, his last date “As soon as she stepped into my apartment and saw it, she kind of freaked out.  She said something about how cheap coffee tables are a product of third-world sweat shops and she leapt on top of it and started stomping on it.”  This did not stop him from sleeping with her but relationship wise, it’s a no.  Drew also signs up for the Q*Pid trial, hoping to meet someone a little less chaotic. 

When the app goes live, it begins pairing people up.  Both Fox and Drew are astonished to find out Archer has matched them.  Has to be a mistake, neither one has ever been attracted to men before.  Veera is nervous but she’s also sort of ticked because Ross, one of the team members, is a total naysayer.  He questions why anyone would voluntarily give them access to everything online (I also questioned the same thing) and he is 100% positive this will not only fail but bring lawsuits as well.  The day it goes live, he studies his phone, “Just checking to see whether the first violation of privacy suits has been filed yet.”

Secondary characters, Fox’s friend Chad and particularly Mrs Schwartzmann are likeable and loyal.  Mrs. Schwartzmann, with her saving food and water for doomsday, made me smile.  She is supportive of Drew and he of her, it was a sweet relationship. “Entirely without warning, Drew heard her voice in his head, “I cannot be anything other than what I am.”   This is when Drew decides to be completely honest about his profile (and the fact that he watches porn). This actually took a lot of courage because as soon as he decides to watch porn, the laptop camera comes on.  Seems kinky. He is matched with someone who seems perfect and it is to Mrs Schwartzmann he admits, “She was exactly what I thought I wanted, and yet she turned out to be not at all what I wanted.”  And here we go.  I’ll just say, Mrs. Schwartzmann’s response made me want to hug her.

Chad is Fox’s best friend and he’s there for him, trying to make Fox see what is in front of him.  I felt bad for Fox at one point, as he is talking about the group that used to go to the diner together and slowly dwindled down to just him as people paired off.  “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we didn’t stop hanging out every night.  We stopped hanging out.” Chad, though, is supportive, funny, ridiculous and ridiculously in love with his wife.  Both Chad and Mrs Schwartzmann were winners for me.

Back to Fox and Drew. Despite the shock of being paired with a man, they end up meeting and hit it off so well they decide being friends is exactly what they need.   They are both lonely, Fox with all his money and Drew with all his academics.  They are also both caught being real in front of their laptop cameras, meaning Archer sees.  “Why can’t I find the right person and fall in love?” made me want to hug Drew.  They are worlds apart financially.  Fox lives in a penthouse and drives a BMW, Drew is a grad student.  “My people eat ramen twenty-nine times out of thirty.”

We get to see the building of a true friendship with Drew and Fox, as they get to know each other, swim in the river of denial and yet keep coming back to each other for hanging out, cause obviously these are not dates.

I wanted to know what happened with Miyoko, as this was a big thing for Fox and it really wasn’t addressed.  I wanted to hug Drew for really putting himself out there more than once, even when Fox was being an idiot.  When Fox is so in denial and just keeps looking for that “perfect woman”, Drew is a little broken hearted but he’s open to the fact that what he thought about himself may not be complete. When Fox is matched with his “perfect woman”, a score in the high 90s, (Drew and Fox have a 99.5 compatibility rating), he is appalled to realize that it wasn’t at all what he wanted.  He was bored, he was twitchy and he felt like he was sitting with his sister.  Luckily, she agreed.  Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need.

I liked this book immensely.  The writing was strong, although there were a few times I had to look up an unfamiliar word.  I appreciated that finding out you are not as clear on your sexuality as you always thought you were wasn’t a simple thing to deal with.  Did I want to slap Fox with his response to Drew at one point?  You bet, I was SO pissed at him.  Naked wrestling took care of Fox’s idea that Drew was female.  I loved that scene. 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a slow burn, sort of “what are we doing” type of story with likeable secondary characters and MC that, especially in the case of Drew, you are really pulling for.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  Its ok.  Obviously a hard concept to get across and this is a cute cover, bright and eye catching.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Day and Knight (Day and Knight #1) by Dirk Greyson and Andrew McFerrin (Narrator)


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5


As former NSA, Dayton “Day” Ingram has national security chops and now works as a technical analyst for Scorpion. He longs for fieldwork and scuttling an attack gives him his chance. He’s smart, multilingual, and a technological wizard. But his opportunity comes with a hitch. His partner, Knighton, “Knight”, is a real mystery. Despite countless hours of research, Day can find nothing on the agent including his first name.

A former Marine, Knight crawled into a bottle after losing his family. After drying out, he’s offered one last chance: along with Day, to stop a terrorist threat from the Yucatan. To get there without drawing suspicion, Day and Knight board a gay cruise, where the deeply closeted Day and equally closeted Knight must pose as a couple. Tensions run high as Knight communicates very little, and Day bristles at Knight’s heavy-handed need for control.

But after drinking too much, Day and Knight wake up in bed together. As they near their destination, they must infiltrate the terrorist camp and neutralize a plot aimed at America’s technological infrastructure. If they hope to have a life after the mission, one that might include each other, they must learn to trust and rely on each other.

Day and Knight by Dirk Greyson was an enjoyable action adventure story, the first in a new series by this author.  As I write this review, I am well into the third story, so I can happily report that the series and stories gets better with each novel.  I jumped into the series with the audiobook and I’m delighted that I did.  It’s an excellent version because Andrew McFerrin does such an incredible job with the narration that he became an automatic buy based on his superb voicing of the story and characters here.

This is the start of a partnership both on and perhaps off the job for two wounded men,Dayton “Day” Ingram and Knighton “Knight:”.  At some point we will learn his full name but for most of the stories he is referred to as Knighton or Knight.  It’s a cute concept and works well, except that  nobody ever makes a crack about their names.  Which seems exceedingly odd to me.  I think the puns and wise remarks would be flying all over the place but nope, not at all.

Knight has just climbed out of the bottle after losing his wife and child to an assassin, the result of a job he did for the Agency. Day lost his parents when he was young and was raised by his older brother, a fact that left deep marks on him. Both men are marred by loss and grief, neither has moved on completely from their pasts when they are paired together, Day for his first time as a field agent for Scorpion.

Day is here and remains throughout the stories my favorite character.  Knight feels the most “hidebound”, least disciplined, and so bogged down that I found it hard to believe that he was the Marine the author said he was.  It took a while for the whole Day/Knight combination to win me over.  The strength was in the working together on board to piece together the case that helped cement their partnership for me (and them).

The use of a gay cruise both highlighted the strong and weak points of this story.  I thought the idea of traveling undercover using a gay cruise great.  It was done perfectly by Ty and Zane on Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3)
by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban.  Day and Knight don’t quite live up to that here.  For one,  Knight is on a loop of guilt about his wife and son.  And for every step forward he makes, he takes 20 back, which gets extremely tiresome here.  We are supposed to empathize with him but after a while it just gets old.

Day is a delight of enthusiasm, smarts, and sexiness.  He’s loving being in the field and eventually wins over his partner in multiple ways.

While the cruise works for many reasons (constant proximity to each other, launching pad to romance, gay identity), the idea of side trips to the ruins and the rest has a great deal of holes.  I hate to say more because of spoilers but all that action taking  place so close to the ship and within Mexican heritage sites?  Well, I think more of the story went towards fast paced action thriller there towards the end and perhaps less on the well pulled together geographical, researched side.  On the high side again?  Lots of fast paced high action adventure!  And another mystery to solve at the end.

This is going to be one of those slow, slow, slow burn romances.  Sex is not equating with love here because of tons of guilt and lost family.  Remember I said all those steps back, right?  And both men are firmly in the closet with their families and at work and intend to stay that way.  So Knight and Day aren’t so different after all.  It will be a long haul for them both.

Which brings me to….

An element I want to address that bothers me. Not just in this story but appears in the second one as well (yes, I’ve listened to that one too).  That’s the consistent use of outdated phrases that are, for the lack of any other term, sexist and  demeaning to the women/the female gender. I know that they are/were overused stereotyping phrases heard growing up but to hear them here? Its disappointing and a little shocking.  Listening to them  come out of the mouth of an excellent narrator made it all the worse because I haven’t heard them in a while. All those “scream like a teenage girl, run like a girl, act like a….” Today if  actually said in a crowd would get you stares and maybe an actual “asshole” or two.  So what are they doing here in an LGBT series?  Is the writer so out of step culturally or so insensitive that he can’t understand why such phrases should not only be left out but decried?  Maybe I’m being overly sensitive here but I don’t think so.  If you can’t go up to a little girl or teenage girl and say something like this to their face (and I don’t think you can), then it doesn’t belong here.  In this book, spoken by LGBT characters who know what its like to be mocked.  Maybe in a book, I could have glossed over it, but the narration highlighted it.  Here Andrew McFerrin did too great a job.

And yes, that brought my total enjoyment of the story down each time a phrase popped up and I cringed in disbelief.

I don’t remember such  glaring sexism in Dirk Greyson’s/Andrew Grey’s other works so I’m at a loss as to why they appear here.  It turns out that Dirk Greyson is another name that Andrew Grey writes under, something that was recently brought to my attention.  It did surprise me because I know he does research his stories and travels extensively, both of which aren’t really reflected here.

So without those elements, this story would have gotten a much higher rating. I really was into it and then kicked right out again.  I liked it enough to head over to the next in the series and the one after that.  It gets better.  Enough to recommend the first in the series.  I definitely recommend you seek out Andrew McFerrin’s other audio narrations.  What an outstanding job.  I will be doing the same.

Cover art: L.C. Chase. The models work well for the two characters and sets the tone and branding for the story and series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Length: 7 hours and 22 minutes

Audible Audio, 8 pages
Published April 12th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 4th 2015)
Original TitleDay and Knight
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Day and Knight :

Day and Knight

Sun and Shadow

Dawn and Dusk

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into Forever (Leaning Into #7) by Lane Hayes


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The best of one of my favorite series, by far, this one features our favorite queen, the Broadway tunes-singing Geordie, co-owner of Conrad Winery. Geordie appealed to me since we readers first met him, long before this story, but I totally fell head-over-heels in love with him here. And the man the author picked to love him back? Levi Yeager couldn’t be more perfect for him. 

As the blurb states: “Geordie de la Rosa is a legend among wine lovers in Napa Valley. His ultra-fabulous style paired with a penchant for leading impromptu sing-a-longs has made him a star attraction at Conrad Winery.” Four years after the death of his life partner, Mike, the man who originally founded the winery with Wes Conrad, Geordie still spends time in Mike’s secret garden, talking to him and mourning his loss. He can’t contemplate ever moving forward and is content with his life as it is. 

So when Wes asks him to take on a special project—consulting with the new owner of the vacant restaurant not far from the winery—he’s hard-pressed to refuse but isn’t terribly excited, especially when he learns the man is a former pro-baseball player. Ho hum. Even when he meets the gorgeous owner, Levi Yeager, and is surprised by his sudden desire for the man, he hesitates. But over time, Levi shows him a new side of himself and he accepts Geordie exactly as he is—show tunes and all—and it’s been four years since Geordie had that level of acceptance in his life. 

I won’t go into multiple details here but there’s so much about this story to love. There’s humor, much of it centered around Geordie’s OTT excitement about the pink Vespa Levi is driving. Yes, it’s his sister’s vehicle, but the fabulous Geordie grabs the pink helmet and enjoys every moment hanging onto Levi as they get around. There’s also plenty of humor between the men over their taste in music and Geordie’s sense of style, but under it all is Levi’s strong and steady wholehearted acceptance of the importance of Mike in Geordie’s life. 

I appreciated the fact that the author allowed the relationship to develop slowly. Slow burn is one of my favorite themes, as is older men, and Geordie finally admits he’s forty-three to Levi’s thirty-seven. Call me in heaven. I love these two together. Their dynamic was smooth and easy, and even when Levi’s ex came to town and when Geordie struggled with the J word and eventually had to admit he had feelings for Levi, the scenes were beautifully done.  And lest I forget, yes there are sex scenes and they do indeed sizzle, but they are not overdone. I’m coming to a new appreciation for authors who know when to stop and don’t put extra gratuitous sex scenes in a book just to titillate. 

The story is solid and Ms. Hayes had the perfect mix of emotions in this one. Geordie’s final words to Mike were both heartbreaking and heartwarming and had a small touch of humor. Just perfect! There’s definitely a HEA in this story and a chance for another story if Levi’s ex gets an opportunity to settle in the area, but if this is the end of the series, that’s fine. Leaning Into Forever was the best of the best. Very highly recommended. 

The cover by Reese Dante is similar to others in the series in that it features the torso of a man.  In this case, it’s a bare-chested, muscular chest and the background is the Napa Valley.  It’s the perfect depiction of Levi, who opens his restaurant next to Conrad Winery and falls in love with co-owner, Geordie. 

Sales Links:




Book Details:

ebook, 225 pages
Published June 29th 2018 by Lane Hayes (first published June 26th 2018)
Original TitleLeaning Into Forever
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLeaning Into #7

A VVivacious Review: Flowers for the Gardener by Sharon Maria Bidwell


Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Richard finds himself dealing with major life decisions after his father’s death, but he finds dealing with his mother, Ruby Gardener most difficult. If life weren’t difficult enough, there is the added complication of Ethan Fields.

Ethan and his father have been employed by the Gardeners for many years, though Ethan now finds himself dissatisfied with his work though unwilling to leave. He finds himself resenting Ruby and he wants closure from Richard for whatever it was that they shared.

Will Ethan and Richard stop falling into bed together long enough to work through everything that still remains unresolved between them or will they just drift apart at the end of the day?

Hands down, this is unlike any story I have ever read which was completely unexpected and it totally blindsided me. I had no idea people could create a contemporary romance this nuanced. This book was like a revelation and Sharon Maria Bidwell is an artist.

Initially, I thought this book would be a nice romance counting on social differences to provide the most conflict but I had no idea what I was in for and I must credit this book on how complicated a single thread of thought can be made in fiction. I really don’t hold contemporary romance in any of my favourites lists but done the way it was in this book, I could really see myself turning over to the other side, quick.

This book was off to an unsteady start which I was definitely going to take as an omen but the beginning of this book is somewhat like climbing a rickety staircase inelegant but oddly charming. The writing of this book is… unique. There are sentences that rub me the wrong way, feel overly dramatized but then there are other sentences which even being all of the above make me laugh out loud with the images that are conjured up in my head.

There is this really long conversation between Ethan and Richard in the very beginning of the book and the scene changes perspectives a million times which made me feel like a ping pong ball in a match. Like it was hard to keep track of whose turn it was at present and it felt like I was playing a game of match the following, trying to match the emotions to their respective owners. Again this was something I found irritating but oddly charming though this is an idiosyncrasy that is only true for the very beginning of the book.

Ethan and Richard are on opposite sides of society, they are basically employee and employer and wealth will always be an issue, because while Richard can think of money as a constant for Ethan it is a very current and variable issue which does provide conflict in this story but not all of it. There is also a little bit of the rich in wealth, poor in sense thing going on with Rich not understanding how employing Ethan could put their relationship into an ethical dilemma, but I also feel like that particular issue is seen differently by these two characters. For Ethan wonders, if Rich employing him makes him look like a rent buy while Rich is only trying to make sure Ethan is financially stable even outside of their relationship. Then there is the fact that they are both dealing with loss albeit in different ways and while Rich can lean on Ethan for support, Ethan feels denied of the same privilege. Then there is the matter of Ruby Gardener, Rich’s very opinionated mother who wants things to be exactly as she wants them to be and how both characters are in conflict with her though this fact is not recognizable early in the book.

This book has to be the slowest burning romance in the history of slow-burning romances wherein the characters already share a sexual relationship, it was kind of amazing because generally, it is the UST that drives a slow burn romance but here, was one with so much unresolved tension without any of it being sexual. This book is kind of an award-winning type of book because there so much detail in the book and so much going on, though you really don’t realize it. The fact is that the more detailed a work, the more complicated it becomes though that is surprisingly not the case here. This book has challenged a lot of my pre-conceptions on writing and storytelling, it has been an amazing experience.

Now I know you might be wondering why this book only has a four-star rating if it truly is award-winning good. The fact of the matter is that I have analysed this book to the extent that I can see its faults, this book only has three well-developed characters and another character comes of surprisingly underdeveloped atleast that is what I tell myself because I just couldn’t warm up to Sapphire.

Since Ethan and Rich already had a sexual relationship I felt that they needed to realise a relationship between themselves. In most slow burn romances the UST is resolved prior to the very end of the book such that you get to see exactly what I mentioned above the realisation of a relationship. Now since this book also features a lot of unresolved tensions between our MCs I wanted these tensions to be resolved before the ending of the book so that these two could realise their full potential as a couple. Alas, this wasn’t the case and I fear I have lost the opportunity to see these two as a couply couple.

This book has been a challenge for me one that I have really enjoyed and so far it is unparalleled in the amount of nuance that went into creating this romance.

Cover Art by Written Ink Design which I really liked.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 227 pages
Published April 28th 2018 by JMS Books, LLC
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Survivor (Survivor #1) by T.M. Smith


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Taylor Langford is thirteen, his world is turned upside down by the murder of his parents. The only reason he wasn’t killed was because his mother shoved him into a crawlspace in the attic and told him not to come out unless she came for him. But the man who ultimately found him, rookie cop Frank Moore, becomes the most important person in Taylor’s life from that day forward.

This is an absolutely wonderful May to December, very slow burn MM romance, with engaging characters, an exciting plot, and a terrific narration. That’s win-win in my book! Frank and Taylor have a bit over ten years age difference, or at least that was my impression from the audiobook, and Frank never puts the move on Taylor, even when he slowly realizes what he feels for the young man is more than friendship. In fact, neither man alerts the other about their feelings that develop long after Taylor has passed puberty and high school and is finishing college. Taylor knew from a young age that Frank was his ideal man in every way, and as he aged those feelings only became stronger.

But it’s not until it’s so evident to their friends and extended family members—Taylor’s foster parents and Frank’s partner and his wife—that Frank finally decides to tell Taylor how he feels. That occurs at Taylor’s graduate degree graduation party, and by the time it happens, readers like me are rooting for this couple. Both characters are really well-developed and three dimensional—people I’d love to know in real life.  The fact that the murderer is back after a ten-year absence and wants Taylor dead only adds to the excitement of this story.

Nick J. Russo did a wonderful job with the narration, providing a variety of voices, both male and female—each distinct and easy to recognize. That definitely made the audio experience worthwhile.

I definitely recommend this story to lovers of age gap MM romance and most definitely recommend it in audio format.

The cover depicts a handsome young dark-haired man sitting against a colorful background done as an abstract painting with the Seattle Space Needle in the background, representing the locale of the story. Very colorful and attention-getting.

Sales Links:

Book Details:

Published August 28th 2017 (first published 2017)
Original TitleSurvivor
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSurvivor #1