Sunday, November 19, 2017

Random Review: Finder's Keepers by Shira Anthony #Review #Giveaway

Author: Shira Anthony
Book: Finder's Keepers
A Hearts Gate Story
House Line: Dreamspun Beyond #4
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Publication date: September 15, 2017
Length: 236 pages

Reviewed by Morningstar


The truth might ruin his dreams—or make them come true.

When Zane moves into an old gothic brownstone, he discovers the house comes equipped with a caretaker—Kit, who lives in the basement. Zane is immediately drawn to the charming and attractive Kit. But Kit is much more than he seems. He is a two-hundred-year-old half-human, half–red-fox spirit who guards a Gate between the mortal and spirit worlds—a fact Zane should recognize, but doesn’t.

Orphaned at a young age, Zane never learned he comes from a long line of mystical Keepers. Kit needs Zane’s help to protect the Gate, but how can he tell Zane of his legacy when that will crush Zane’s dreams of traveling the world? If he takes up the mantle, Zane will be bound to the Gate, unable to leave it. But when Zane realizes Kit’s true nature, and his own, he’ll have to make a choice—fight to protect Kit and the Gate, or deny his destiny and any chance of a future with Kit.

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I was hooked on this story. It’s uniqueness caught me and it’s characters held me tight.

Although Zane was the guy that wasn’t “different” and sort billed as normal and boring I liked him that way. It showed the contrast between him and Kit so much the better. One not taking the spotlight away from the other but showing even more clear their roles regarding protecting the gate even better. Kit was magical and giving and shy and beautiful. He tried to be more to his Keeper, to be the thing that kept them there but with Zane his feelings changed. He didn’t want to trap him knowing his dreams were bigger than the house Kit was not allowed to leave.

The descriptions of not just the house that Kit lived in but of Kit and the world beyond the gate was a huge part of this story and it was so well written that I felt that world and lived that world with every word in this book. I loved Ren, Zane’s sister, even with the little bit she was visible in the story, she made things interesting but definitely not as much as Lor who was mischief and fun but for a demon his care for Kit shined through.

The chemistry between these two was sweet and slow but perfect for the Dreamspun series since that’s exactly what you should expect going into one. I loved them together, I loved them learning each other and saving each other, Their relationship made this fun to read. Oh and the magic because I love me some magic! 


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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Author Spotlight: Jaclyn Osborn #Interview #Giveaway

It's Saturday and that means it's Saturday Author Spotlight day! YAY! Today the outstandingly talented Jaclyn Osborn is hanging out with us. If you haven't had a chance to read this author you truly are missing out. She writes for all genres. From YA to historical. If you look through her books you will find one that calls to you. We are going to sit and talk with her about books, life, things. Take a look at her books, and wrap it up with a giveaway. So, get comfy!

Noah’s Song

Noah Derwin knows what it’s like to be different. Being a seventeen-year-old kid in high school with blue hair, piercings, a mostly all black wardrobe, and an obsession with zombies and video games, he doesn’t exactly blend in. But he never wanted to. His two dads raised him to always stay true to himself. 

Bastian Hunter prefers structure and predictability. Suffering from a rare disease, every day is a challenge for him, and he prepares for the future by excelling academically and denying who he really is. Everything changes when he meets Noah, the unpredictable variable in the equation he’s built his life around, and feelings he's hid for so long begin to surface. 

Being gay in high school isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies, and Noah has definitely faced his fair share of bullies. Moving to Port Haven, Oregon opens up new possibilities for him, and he starts falling for the quiet, brown-eyed boy from his English class. Too bad the attraction is one-sided… or is it?

Scars We Hide (Cadbury #2)

Trust makes you vulnerable. Weak. Peyton Evans learned that lesson long ago. Being shuffled between foster homes since he was five, and then surviving for so long on his own, he has kept a wall around his heart. The abuse he suffered at the age of fifteen refuses to fade into the past, and the scars it caused impact him every day. He’d thought he’d found love before, but that relationship showed him once again that trust only led to more pain.

Struggling with an addiction he developed as a teenager, Torin Hayes found himself one screw up away from going to prison and decided to get clean. But a sudden incident threatens to send him back down that rocky path, and he fears people will never look past his intimidating appearance and will only see the tattooed delinquent he’s been labeled as for years. Moving to Cadbury, Oklahoma is his only way to start over.

When the two men meet, the attraction between them is far from instant, but Torin’s persistence blurs Peyton’s opinion of him as a tattooed bad boy who will break his heart and shatter him all over again. Peyton’s scars run deep and make it hard for him to let go of his fear and accept a love he doesn’t feel he deserves. But, when it comes to matters of the heart, even the most strategic plans can change.

*Trigger warning: This story contains content that may be sensitive for some readers. The triggers are: drug/alcohol abuse and flashbacks of sexual abuse including rape. This is Book 2 in the Cadbury series, but can be read as a standalone.*

Axios: A Spartan Tale

I am Axios of Sparta, and I was born to kill. At age seven, I left home to train with other boys where we were taught obedience, solidarity, military strategy, and how to withstand pain. My harsh upbringing stripped me of my weaknesses and forced me to become strong. Ruthless.

But, I craved something greater—a life I could never have.

Against all odds, and the toughest training a warrior could endure, I found an unexpected love in the arms of a fellow Spartan. He was the very air I breathed and the water that sustained me. Fighting side by side with him, we were invincible. Where he went, I followed.

However, there was no place for love in Sparta. Feelings were for the weak. The only life for a Spartan was one of battle and brutality with no guarantee of tomorrow. In times of war, all men were put to the test, but the greatest challenge for us was not one of swords and spears, but of the heart.

*M/M Historical Romance set in Ancient Sparta*

Kane’s Awakening (Awakening #3)

“I built a wall around my heart and refuse to let anyone in.”
Rookie cop Kane Matthews doesn’t believe in love and is only interested in random hookups. It’s easier that way. Less complicated. He learned years before that opening up to people would only cause pain when they screwed him over. At twenty-four, he has no desire to settle down.

“I want someone who will stay by my side. Someone to love and grow old with.”
Defense attorney Ryker Carson is a romantic at heart and is looking for his Mr. Right, but after several failed relationships, he doubts he’ll ever find true love. But that doesn’t stop him from trying. At thirty-one, he’s the father of eight-year old twins, and he needs a man who will accept not only him, but his family as well.

Kane and Ryker couldn’t have been more different, and yet, when they randomly meet in a club one night, their attraction is undeniable. Hot sex in the club soon turns into more, and Kane is faced with one of his biggest fears: commitment. Ryker is drawn to the sexy, arrogant, and unfiltered Kane, even though he suspects only heartache can come from it.
When an incident at Kane’s work leaves him emotionally vulnerable, the two men grow closer and sparks fly. However, Kane’s fears and troubled past catch up to him, threatening to push away the one man who’s ever captured his heart.

*This is Book 3 in the Awakening series and can be read as a standalone. There are trigger warnings for this story, and a list of them can be found using the Look Inside feature on the book.*


Thank you, Jaclyn, for being here today and talking with me. There’s been a lot of exciting things happening for you this year and I look forward to talking to you about them.

-Thank you for having me!

First, tell us three interesting things about you that we wouldn’t read about in your bio?

-Hmm, I'm not that interesting honestly haha
       1. I'm a huge history nerd, and I can read about Ancient Greece and Rome and be entertained. That's also why I wrote Axios: A Spartan Tale, I put my love of history and my passion for writing together.
2.      I can't whistle.
3.      I love all kinds of music. Alternate rock like Black Veil Brides and Bullet for my Valentine to movie score soundtracks like Lord of the Rings.

Kane’s Awakening Just released. This follows a series? Can you yell us a bit about the book? Obviously it’s not a standalone.

-Actually, Kane's book can be read as a total standalone :) the main characters are new. Side characters from the other two books make very small appearances, but you don't have to have read them to understand.

This book was a type of therapy for me, honestly. After I finished writing Axios, I was in a total depressive slump. And then Kane came to me. He was absolutely obnoxious and made me laugh, and before I knew it, I was writing like crazy on him. His story is about learning how to heal from the past and having an open mind—and heart—for the future. Kane and Ryker made me fall head over heels in love.

Conversations with Kane is something you started on SM. Will this continue with him or will we maybe see some conversations with other characters?

-Oh! I love this question! I'm so happy that Conversations with Kane caught on so well. It's something I plan to continue for sure. Even though his book is finished, there might still be some posts with him :) but it's something I'm going to do with each new character. My characters have always talked to me, but I never thought people would want to read our weird talks haha so I'm excited people like it.

Let’s talk about Axios. WOW! That was an experience that book. How much research did you have to do for this?

-Thank you! And holy crap, the research for that book was INSANE. Fortunately, I already knew a lot about Sparta from school and college (nerd, remember? Haha) But there was a TON I didn't know. I also chose a time period where there were soo many wars going on. Sparta was the enforcer of the peace treaty, so anytime there was conflict, they were brought into it. I spent MONTHS researching for Axios, and even as I was writing him, I had all of my research materials beside me the whole time. I loved it, though. But I certainly need a mental break before I jump into another historical.

While Axios is a love story (in my opinion) it’s an epic adventure as well. Teetering on the edge of tragic. If a reader asked you what it was about without telling them the end what would you say?
-Hmm. I'd tell them it's the story of a man who doesn't like the hand he's been dealt. He wants more out of life. Sparta was such a war-hungry society. Men were born and raised as soldiers; they had no choice of a different life. It was live and die for Sparta; that's all. But Axios sees the beauty in life and he has such a questioning mind. He wants to travel and experience all that life has to offer—to swim in the bluest waters and run through the greenest of fields. And to love. His greatest friend is also the man he loves and the other half of his soul.

You attended GRL for the first time this year. Tell us about your experience?

-Wow, it was both nerve-wracking and exciting. I met so many amazing readers who made me tear up with their kind words, and I met some incredible authors. It was great to finally put faces with names haha

What was your favorite thing about GRL and would you go again?

-My favorite thing was the people: meeting the readers and also the Cocky Boys. I went with my best friend and I got to meet my other best friend (Nicky James) for the first time. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'd go again. But maybe :)

How can your readers follow your work? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Website?

-I have an author page they can follow on facebook (JaclynOsborn Author) or they can send me a friend request! I also have Twitter and Insta.
Twitter: @jaclyn_osborn

Can you tell us what we all have to look forward from you in 2018?

-First of all, I'm so freaking excited for next year. I have a LOT planned! More Young Adult books, including a sequel to “Noah's Song”. I also plan to write more non-contemporary books. This is the FIRST place I've announced this :) as a reader, I love paranormal, fantasy, etc, and I'm finally going to delve into those topics as a writer too.

There is a pirate chattering in my head. He's wanted his story told for over a year, but I kept putting him off. But he's FINALLY getting a book.
I'm also going to introduce a new book series, involving a group of sexy, immortal warriors. It's a series that I had in my head even before I wrote Michael's Awakening, so it's been a long time coming. It will be more like an urban fantasy. Modern day, contemporary setting, but with magic intertwined and hidden within.


Favorite trope? Friends to lovers
Coffee or tea? coffee
Favorite color? blue
Dogs or cats? cats
Favorite smell? fall
Love story or comedy? Love story <3
Favorite number? 9

Okay, thank you, Jaclyn! It’s been awesome talking with you.

-It was fun! Thank you!


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Friday, November 17, 2017

Release Day Review: Heart Unheard by Andrew Grey #Review #Giveaway

Author: Andrew Grey
Book: Unheard Heart
Series: Hearts Entwined #2
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication Date: November 17, 2017
Length: 200 pages

Reviewed by Meredith


The attraction between Brent Berkheimer and Scott Spearman peels the wallpaper, but Brent is Scott’s boss, and they’re both too professional to go beyond flirting. Their priorities realign after Scott is badly injured in an accident that costs him his hearing, and Brent realizes what is truly important… he wants Scott.
Scott pushes Brent away at first, fearing a new romance will just add to his problems, but perhaps he will find unexpected strength and solace in Brent’s support as he struggles to communicate with the world in a new way.
Just as they decide the chance of a happy future together is worth the risk, Scott and Brent discover darker challenges in their way—including evidence that the “accident” Scott suffered may not have been so accidental.

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Heart Unheard is book two in Andrew Grey's Heart's Entwined series. I adored book one so very much. It was brilliant and I was so excited to see that the series had another book. Andrew is tackling the senses.

In book one we had Trevor, a beautiful man who pretty much got everything and everyone he wanted based on his looks falling for James... A blind guy! It was so well done. In Heart Unheard we have a different situation. Brent manages one of Trevor's garages. Scott works for him as a mechanic. Brent has lusted after Scott for a long time and Scott has done the same. But the boss, employee thing was something neither thought about crossing.

Until a horrific accident takes Scott's hearing away. What was amazing was how the author showed just how difficult it would be for those around Scott to communicate with him. No one knowing ASL, all took advantage that they could shout from another room to grab his attention. Now, they resort to writing on pads and they all have to learn the language. On top of that, Scott's apprentice is blind so he has to tackle how to make that work too. It was a lot and I felt everyone's frustration.

Then as if that wasn't enough, someone is trying to harm Scott and Brent is suffocated from ghosts of Guilt's past. Both of these guys fight so hard to get to their happily ever after and it isn't easy. I'm glad it wasn't because it wouldn't be believable if it was. I love this series so much! A must read.


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Flashback Friday: Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan #Review #Giveaway

Author: Heidi Cullinan
Book: Love Lessons
Series: Love Lessons #1
Self Published
Original Publication Date: October 1, 2013
2nd Edition: March 31, 2017
Length: 314 pages

Reviewed by Erin


Love doesn’t come with a syllabus.

Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus.

Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door.

Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible…except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view.

As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class…and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last.

Warning: This story contains lingering glances, milder than usual sexual content for this author, and a steamy dance-floor kiss. Story has no dairy or egg content, but may contain almonds.

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When I started thinking about which book I wanted to do for my flashback review this month, I couldn’t pick anything else but Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan. Then I jumped on to Goodreads to pull it up and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that it’s over four years old! How is that possible? I suppose it shouldn’t REALLY come as that big of a surprise to me considering I’ve read the book (and listened to the audio) more times than I can count. That’s not really an exaggeration either. Love Lessons speaks to my heart and soul in a way no other book since has quite done.

I’m going to share a very personal story with you all just to let you know what this book means to me. Many of you probably don’t know this, but my husband passed away suddenly a little over three years ago. My friends rallied around me (as friends do) and sent me the most amazing care package full of goodies to let me know I was loved. Among all the gifts of love was tucked an envelope and inside that was a letter. But this was no ordinary letter. Obviously, it was addressed to me, but it was the from that left me speechless because it was from none other than Walter Lucas, one of the main characters of Love Lessons. You see, my very good friend, Jules, contacted Heidi and explained what had happened and how much I loved the book and Walter especially and Heidi didn’t hesitate to offer comfort at a time I needed it most. I won’t tell you guys what the letter said, but suffice it to say the letter is framed and sits on my bedside table where I can look at it every night.

I can’t even really tell you why the first time I read Love Lessons I knew it was a book that would quite honestly change my life. Yes, it’s exceptionally well-written because, duh, it’s written by none other than Heidi Cullinan. Yes, Walter Lucas and Kelly Davidson are two characters that embody everything that a perfect friends to lovers story should be. And yes, it’s sweet and romantic and swoony and sexy. But it’s SO much more than that.

Books that take place in a college setting are among my very favorites. There is just something that is so very appealing to me about characters coming of age and finding themselves. Love Lessons captures all of this with a breathtaking perfection. Kelly Davidson is away from home for the first time and he’s nervous. He’s adorable, awkward, naïve, and utterly loveable. Plagued with more allergies than you can name, he’s pretty much a wreck and worried about everything that could go wrong. When charming, (and omg the level of charm is off the charts!) flirty, campus playboy Walter Lucas winds up as his roommate poor Kelly doesn’t know what hit him.

Let me expound a bit about the epicness that is one Walter Lucas. My love for him (much like my love for my husband) is limitless. Ask anyone who knows me well who is my favorite character in any book, and they’ll tell you Walter Lucas without a second thought. EVERYONE knows how much I love him. I could talk about him endlessly for days (I have been known to gush so long I’m sure my friends wish I’d just shut the hell up). Thus the reason for reaching out to Heidi when my husband passed away. He wasn’t quite as charming and smooth as Walter (close but Walter has him beat by a little), but he had the same sort of goodness that shines through, the kind that people are just instinctively drawn to. Walter isn’t perfect, but he’s good for Kelly and his heart is as pure and amazing as any character I’ve ever read. He pushes every single one of my buttons, some I didn’t even know I had, and my love for him will never die.

Whenever I’m missing my husband, whenever I need a pick me up, whenever I need something that I know will leave my heart full and happy, I pick up Love Lessons. Walter and Kelly will give you joy. They will make you smile so big your face hurts. They will make you appreciate your loved ones. As the holidays approach, I urge you to read Love Lessons, even if you’ve read it before. It will fill you with love and happiness and who doesn’t need more of that? Oh and if you happen to notice the dedication in the new edition, yes that’s me, and yes Heidi made me cry. 


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Random Review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke #Review #GIveaway

Author: Taylor Brooke
Book: Fortitude Smashed
Publisher: Interlude Press
Publication date: September 21, 2017
Length: 312 pages

Reviewed by Morningstar


After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate. 

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

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I struggled with this book. The author who has a very unique, raw writing style created a story that at times was too slow and led to me being bored, then freaking fantastic and beautiful which got me reading every word until I didn’t want to anymore, because of some super spoiler parts that annoyed and aggravated me.

In the beginning, I was reading and trying to get myself acquainted with this authors style of telling a story, her voice made it somewhat difficult to understand in the beginning, but I caught on. But that didn’t help when it came to the world building, the understanding of the Camellia Clock that all people have. Maybe it’s the lover of paranormal and sci-fi stories in me that needed a bit more than I got. If she gave us even a quarter of what she gave us in building the relationship between Aidan and Shannon I would've been happy.

In the end, the parts that threw me from the story and the intermittent boring parts ruined what otherwise could’ve been a terrific and unique story. I loved, loved, loved the build up between our two main characters. The tentative touches, the slow, sweet kisses, the learning and exploration that went along with their romance was what kept me there. I connected with Aidan so much since he had so much to deal with from his disassociated dysthymia.

I may not have enjoyed this story, but I will be looking forward to their next one and how their writing will grow. 


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Blog Tour: Audiobook: Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake ~ Guest Post #Giveaway

Today the narrator of Smoky Mountain Dreams, John Solo, is interviewed by the author of the book, Leta Blake. Come find out everything you want to know about narrating gay romance audiobooks and why you should read/listen to Smoky Mountain Dreams!

There are two options for this interview! You can read the answers below or listen to John’s smooth voice give you his more spontaneous answers in the following audio interview:

How did you get involved in audiobook narration?

If you would have told me 5 years ago that today I’d be a successful audiobook narrator, I would have laughed in your face. I certainly didn’t plan it! But sometimes, if you just follow the path that is laid out before you, life can take you places you never dreamed!

I come from an audio engineering and musical performance background. My wife and I started our own business, Falcon Sound Company, in 2012. The initial business model was to focus on live sound and lighting production for local music and festivals, with a light splattering of recording local bands in our small studio.

We were working our day jobs while getting the business up and running for the better part of a year, then due to a lay-off and life circumstances we decided to go full time in 2013. At a gig one night a friend told us about a relatively new website he’d found called ACX. He said he was producing his 3rd audiobook. I’d been a consumer of audiobooks for years, so this intrigued me. Of course, as a struggling small business owner, I was always looking for new opportunities for revenue. That very next week I, along with my wife and a close friend, recorded about 10 auditions and submitted them. Within a few days we landed our first contract.

Fast forward to today; audiobooks have almost completely taken over our business! We produce close to 100 titles per year, we currently have close to a dozen narrators that record for us, and the live sound and lighting business has turned into more of a side project.

And what brought you to the gay romance genre?

It was completely by accident. In our first round of auditions I was offered a contract on “Ghost of a Chance,” by Jade Falconer. (It’s available on Audible, and my performance is absolutely dreadful…). To be honest, I had no idea it was a gay romance book. It looked like a paranormal title to me. Lo and behold, once I started doing my pre-read I was a bit surprised!

What do you most enjoy about voice acting for romance novels?

This genre gives me an opportunity to delve into some deep emotions. I really enjoy the broken or flawed characters that are often presented. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy some other genres as well. Comedy, sci-fi, fantasy… those are my go-to books for personal reading. I have been slowly adding some of those titles to my narration work under the pseudonym “Jack Wayne” (I’ve done a few as John Solo too!!!). But I get the feeling I will always come back to romance. Love can manifest from so many different angles… It’s like a never ending well of opportunity for an actor.

When it came to Smoky Mountain Dreams in particular, were there any scenes you found challenging? Scenes you especially enjoyed recording?

For challenging, there are two scenes that come to mind. First, there is a scene between Jesse and his sister-in-law Jackie that plays out at the nursing home. Jackie was an intriguing character for me to play… her intentions are good, but she sees the world through rose colored glasses, and the repercussions of her decisions could have life and death consequences. This scene had a lot of character development for Jesse as well, as he starts to really grasp that the world is not black and white. For me there were a lot of undercurrents going on emotionally that I tried desperately to translate into the microphone, and I seem to remember retracking many of the lines over and over again, trying to get the subtlety just right. Listening back to it I still think I could have done a better job… The other challenging scene is very near the end of the book when Chris’s entire family, including one estranged father, makes an appearance. Trying to differentiate voices for multiple members of the same family can be… well, challenging!

Enjoyed? The first one that popped up in my mind when I saw this question was the noodle fight scene at Jesse’s house. I really had fun with that one.

Speaking to readers/listeners, what reasons would you give for them to pick up Smoky Mountain Dreams?

You know that feeling you get when you finish reading a book and you can’t believe that you are done living in that world and with those characters? I and my wife, spent over 100 hours of my life working on this book, and I STILL didn’t want to leave.

If you are looking for a beautifully sculpted, masterfully constructed piece of romance literature that will elicit tears, laughs and the urge to eat chocolate ice cream with orange soda, this one is for you.

Narrated By: John Solo

Length: 14hrs 46mins


After giving up on his career as a country singer in Nashville, Christopher Ryder is happy enough performing at the Smoky Mountain Dreams theme park in Tennessee. But while his beloved Gran loves him the way he is, Christopher feels painfully invisible to everyone else. Even when he's center stage he aches for someone to see the real him.

Bisexual Jesse Birch has no room in his life for dating. Raising two kids and fighting with family after a tragic accident took his children's mother, he doesn't want more than an occasional hook-up. He sure as hell doesn't want to fall hard for his favorite local singer, but when Christopher walks into his jewelry studio, Jesse hears a new song in his heart.

SMD Sample from Leta Blake on Vimeo.

November 13 - Gay Book Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews
November 14 - Alpha Book Club
November 15 - V's Reads
November 16 - Diverse Reader
November 17 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, BFD Blog
November 20 - Gay Book Reviews, Reading In Sarah's Corner, Valerie Ullmer, OMG Reads
November 22 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
November 24 - Bayou Book Junkie, Gay Media Reviews, Making It Happen

Author Bio

Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.


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Blog Tour: Citywide by Santino Hassell #Review #Giveaway

Author: Santino Hassell
Book: Citywide
Series: Five Boroughs
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: November 13, 2017
Length: 367 pages

Reviewed by Erin


A record-breaking heat wave engulfs the Five Boroughs, and emotions run as hot as the temperatures.

In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn't include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.

In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn't Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere's life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.

In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it's a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently "off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.

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There's no doubt that Santino Hassell's beloved and supremely well-written Five Boroughs series is one of the best in all of Romancelandia. Full of well-developed, richly written characters who are not perfect, who are wonderfully diverse in background, ethnicity and sexual identification, and a setting that is as vital to the story as the words themselves, these books are well deserved favorites of so many. What really makes the series stand-out so far above the rest is how perfectly Santino has showcased different types of relationships and how varied people's views of both sex and romance can truly be. Citywide is a collection of novella's that gives us a glimpse of characters we've seen sprinkled throughout the series so far, some like Aiden, Jace, and Chris more than others like Stephanie and Angel. This is a stand-alone novel, but as it has numerous cameo's of favorites like Ray, David, Michael, and Nunzio, I wouldn't recommend reading without having read the series up to this point. 

In the first novella, Rerouted, we find our hopeful throuple? triad? of Aiden, Jace, and Chris together in the middle of a heat wave. I hope you've read Third Rail before starting this one, and if you haven't, stop right now and go fix that and then come back. You NEED that book to really get the impact of what's going on in Rerouted. Things have been a bit rocky between the guys and Chris, especially, is more than a bit conflicted about what he wants (to be a permanent fixture in Aiden and Jace's relationship) and what he thinks he can have. Chris is just utterly fabulous. He's endearing and a bit awkward but he's got this bit of swagger to him that just hits all of my buttons. He's entirely comfortable with the thought of being in a polyamorous relationship, his only issue is the fact that up until now Aiden and Jace have had an open marriage. There is such a tangible connection between the three men, it's electric in its intensity. There is trust and a level of comfort that none of them have found anywhere else. The sex scenes were on fire hot (not that I expected anything less) but there is so much more to these three than just the sex. I'm not going to lie, for all I love and adore Chris and Jace, Aiden is the one that really gets to me. He loves Jace with a fierceness that should be almost scary in its power, but he's also got a vulnerable side that melts my heart. Here's this big linebacker of a guy who's been in love with Jace since they were teenagers. Their relationship might be unconventional to some but it works for them. With Chris, Aiden finds someone who fits with he and Jace so perfectly, it's scary. The chemistry is off the charts for sure, but it's the intimacy and the feeling of rightness that makes these three so awesome. I was a big fan of the open communication between the three guys and how they all addressed the things they want and need from each other and from the relationship itself. Santino leaves us with a pretty solid HFN and I can only hope that we see more of them in the books to come. 

I wasn't so sure what to expect from Gridlocked, the story that focuses on Tonya and Meredith. I'll be honest, I haven't been a huge Meredith fan up until now. From what we've seen of her in prior books I found her selfish, snobby, and spoiled. By the end of Gridlocked though, I am totally on board the team Tonya/Mere train. I absolutely LOVED these two together. Talk about your opposites, with tough and gruff ex-Marine now bodyguard Tonya and rich socialite and party girl Meredith, but they completely worked. Tonya identifies as NB (Nonbinary) and Meredith is bisexual. I only mention this because Hassell does a tremendous job of these two discussing which pronouns Tonya prefers her to use ... it was so effortless and so genuine that it gave me all the feels. There is so much more to these two than what's on the surface and after Tonya saves Meredith from an attempted assault and the two spend the weekend together laying low, things definitely heat up. They had a sexual encounter a little over a year ago and neither has been able to forget it. Once they spend more time together, they realize there's been some miscommunication and assumptions that prove there's more to the other than they first thought. Seriously, the honesty and communication between these two was so awesome and refreshing to see. Tonya could have come off as a cold-hearted bitch, but Santino let us see her vulnerability and depth so that it was impossible not to fall in love with her. No wonder Meredith didn't stand a chance. And speaking of Mere, she surprised me too with her strength and her honesty. The sex scenes between these two was the hottest out of all the novellas and their chemistry is incendiary. What else I loved .... the Sunday dinner scene with the Queens Crew. Nunzio and Michael get all the hearty eyes. I hope there's more to come of Tonya and Meredith ... I need it like air. LOVED THEM! 

Out of all the Queens Crew, Stephanie and Angel are the two we know the least about, but that changes in the last novella, Derailed. I'm glad Hassell included them in this book and that we got to know more about them thanks to the dual POV we're treated to. It was definitely needed here as these two had really different thoughts and feelings they were try to deal with when it came to the other. Having been friends with benefits off and on since high school and as recently as a few months before Citywide takes place, there is a lot of history between Angel and Steph. They're best friends who occasionally sleep together and this push and pull complete with mixed feelings and emotions make their relationship hard to peg. I admit it took me a little bit to warm up to Stephanie, she just couldn't seem to get out of her own way when it comes to admitting how she truly feels about Angel. I loved the set up of being fake boyfriend and girlfriend for a weekend work function, it really worked here. As with the other two novellas, the sex here was super steamy, but it was emotional and swoony, too which is really the best. When these two finally got brave enough to be completely open with one another, I was completely rooting for them. 

Truly guys, Citywide was a total win from beginning to end. It's got everything--romance, steamy sex, tons of emotions, and swoon for days. Do yourselves a favor and do not hesitate to dive into this book. You won't want it to end, I promise.  

About the Five Boroughs Universe

New York City—home of soaring skyscrapers, concrete boulevards, and the hopes and dreams of millions. A city where opposites attract and romance is found in unlikely places. From the glittering penthouses of Manhattan to the blue collar neighborhoods of Queens, values get tested, cultures clash, and connections made. Men of diverse backgrounds examine their lives, test their sexual boundaries, and seek success in an unforgiving urban landscape that moves fast and stops for no one. Despite the odds, there’s love to be found in the five boroughs as long as they’re willing to work for it.

To learn more about the first three books in the Five Boroughs universe, please visit

About Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family but grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a grumpy introvert and unlikely romance author with an affinity for baseball caps. His novels are heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, and his desire to write relationships fueled by intensity and passion.

He’s been a finalist in both the Bisexual Book Awards and the EPIC Awards, and was nominated for a prestigious RITA award in 2017. His work has been featured in BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Washington Post, RT Magazine, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.

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To celebrate the release of Citywide, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 18, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!