Tag Archives: published: 2016-03

Out of Bounds by A.R. Barley

Out of Bounds

Out of Bounds by A.R. Barley

Series: Boundaries, Book 1
Published by: Carina Press on March 14, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When Kelly finds Jesse Cole beaten and bloodied on the quad after his roommate attacked him, he brings him back to his dorm and puts him in a room with his friend and ex-boyfriend, Nick Moretti. Jesse is glad to be away from Ryan, but he is wary of his new stranger roommate who is much larger than him and apparently a total slob. And then there’s the fact that Nick isn’t exactly excited to find that he now needs to share his room. But Kelly lets Nick know that Jesse has been through a rough patch, and Nick is willing to give him a chance. And while Jesse is distant at first, the two quickly find a comfort with each other that takes them down a path that makes them clearly more than roommates. But Jesse is not the only one who has experienced some trauma in his past, and Nick finds himself struggling to be the man he thinks Jesse wants and needs him to be. And the pressure may just be what breaks them both…

Give and take is an important part of any relationship. And sometimes we give what we are asked to give and we take what we explicitly request. And then other times we guess what we think should be given or we take more than we probably should. Communication can help us to navigate and mitigate these issues, but it’s one thing to say we will be open and honest and another to truly let go of our fears and do so. Nick and Jesse each carry their own laundry list of things they think they other wants or needs, but they don’t really ever sit down and reconcile those lists. And even though we all know that can be a recipe for disaster, the two end up going through those motions anyway. And when you add a dash of stubbornness into the mix, well, I guess you’ll have to read to find out…

Trial by Fire by B.A. Tortuga

Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire by B.A. Tortuga

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 15, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

Lachlan McCoughey has been searching for his sister since she ran away a few years ago. When his private investigator finds her, he’s not too surprised that she ran away to the States. But he’s shocked to learn that she’s just died in a plane crash with her husband. And she’s left a three-month-old daughter behind. Lachlan is on the next plan from his Australia cattle station to bring his niece home.

Holden Sheffield is a bit rattled. His twin brother and his brother’s wife–Holden’s best friend–died suddenly in a plane crash. They left their daughter, Chloe, to him. And he’s determined to always do right by his new ward. Even if he’s still trying to figure out how to balance sudden fatherhood with running his family’s ranch and rodeo business. But when Chloe’s other uncle, a man Holden knows nothing about, shows up with his sights on taking Chloe back to Australia, he knows one thing: no one is taking his daughter away from him. He’s determined to respect her parents’ wishes.

The two men start on nothing resembling friendly footing. But as they get to know each other better, they learn that first impressions aren’t everything. And when they find themselves in the middle of a life-or-death situation, they both begin to wonder if what they have could become more than friendship.

Stubborn cowboys from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds. Family loyalties. And a baby girl with no shortage of people willing to be there for her. Certainly an interesting premise to open up a novel.

This is the first book I’ve read from B.A. Tortuga, and I expect I’ll probably be reading more. The complexity of the characters and development of the story kept me glued to the pages. While billed as a romance–and there’s definitely that here–it also has elements of a crime/caper novel built into it. And it does so without ever losing its overall character.

The Lines of Beauty by Jake Stark

The Lines of Beauty

The Lines of Beauty by Jake Stark

Published by: Jake Stark on March 11, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Danny Spark lives an ultimate playboy lifestyle: sex, drugs, and only the smallest amount of responsibility. And even when things start to catch up with him, he tries to shrug it all off. Everything will always work out in the end, right?

But then he meets Hugo, a young man he’s hired to manage the bar at the new club he’s running. There’s something about Hugo that intrigues Danny, and it hearkens him back to an evening he spent with an old friend years ago. Used to simply pursuing whatever pleasures he desires, Danny thinks he might throw caution to the wind and pursue Hugo. But everything around him is spinning fast, and it’s not going to stop just because Danny wants to have some fun.

Hugo is also far more complicated than he seems. He’s not a pleasure-seeking playboy like Danny, and he wants more out of life. He looks before he leaps, and the two may not have as much in common as Danny hopes. And he’s less than interested in becoming tangled up in the mess Danny has created for himself.

But Danny’s never quite felt like this before. He can’t shake Hugo. And will that be enough for him to leave his past behind and become a new–and more responsible–man?

The author has done a great job of presenting Danny to readers here. It’s very clear that he is a pleasure-seeker, more interested in fun than consequences. The narration style itself adds to this sentiment, complete with throwing in brand names and an almost stream-of-consciousness feel at times. Danny certainly doesn’t evoke any sympathy, and I’m not sure he’s supposed to. While he may think his life is glamorous, he soon learns it’s not everything he thought it was cracked up to be.

But the book isn’t preachy. It doesn’t have those overtones. But it tells an interesting and unique sort of story I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

Published by: Crown on March 22, 2016 (2nd edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Ben Jones lives a quiet life, content as the delivery driver on Route 117, a remote highway in the middle of the Utah desert. There’s not much to see or do on the route. Though there is an old diner, a place that used to be bustling with activity but now sits empty. Owned by Walt, a resident recluse, it provides the main landmark and only real character on Ben’s route.

But everything changes when Ben stumbles across Claire, a beautiful woman who is squatting in a nearby home. She’s different and she’s intriguing. And it doesn’t take long for Ben to start falling for the mysterious Claire, even when he knows he shouldn’t.

A number of other strange things start happening not long after Claire’s arrival. Ben is followed by a woman he’s never seen before. He’s asked to take part in a reality television show. And he’s warned that the police might be looking into him. So much for Ben’s uneventful life…

As Ben learns more about Claire and her history, things slowly start to fall into place. But there just might be more to the story than he could ever piece together on his own.

Every once in a while, I feel the need to change up what I read. And that’s where this literary mystery comes in. It’s not quite crime fiction–which is where the mysteries I read tend to live–but there is a crime involved. There’s a strong narrative here, and a good arc for Ben and some of the other characters. It’s not one where you’ll feel compelled to keep guessing, but there are some twists and surprises that creep up along the way.

If you’re a fan of literary fiction with a dash of mystery, then this one is probably right up your alley.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.]

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

Worst Bad Thing

The Worst Bad Thing by J.E. Birk

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 23, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

When Tate O’Reilly meets Gabriel Carillo on a stopover in Iceland, he’s thrown for a loop. Tate is on a European vacation right out of many people’s dreams: he’s continuing on to see London and Paris–and all the major sites therein. But this vacation is anything but a dream for Tate. This vacation isn’t for him. In fact, it’s not a vacation at all.

But Gabriel keeps popping up. It turns out he’s headed to London too. And he’s definitely interested in spending more time with Tate. While being with Gabriel gives Tate some flashes of hope, of what could be, Tate knows better. When Gabriel finds out who he is and what he’s done, there’s no chance at a future. Right? Tate is convinced there is no chance for redemption. But if there is, Gabriel will need to help him see it before it’s too late.

I honestly had no real idea what to expect when I picked up this book. J.E. Birk is a new author to me. And the blurb raised more questions than it answered (sorry if my cryptic summary above does the same thing). And much like climbing into the hot springs that Tate and Gabriel visit early on in the books, I felt like I was just kind of dipping my toes in first as I started reading. But it didn’t take long before I was deep in the thick of this gripping story.

Not only are the characters great and their interactions written very well, there are the questions that nag at you. What exactly did Tate do? Who is this mysterious Gabriel fellow? Why is Gabriel in London? What is the real motivation for Tate’s European trip? All is answered in good time, and the answers might just surprise you in more ways than one.

I definitely recommend this book. And I can also say I will be seeking out more from this author when I get a chance to do so.

Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

Taylor Maid

Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 1, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Taylor Fitzgerald is almost ready to cut his father out of his life completely. Taylor turns twenty-five tomorrow and will inherit the $50 million his grandfather left him in his will. And then he’ll never have to speak to his father ever again. But when he overhears his father reference a condition of the inheritance, Taylor can’t believe it. He needs to marry a woman or the money revers to his father.

There are a few problems with Taylor’s situation. One major one? He’s gay. But he’s already made plans for the money–not for himself, but to help children–so he can’t lose that inheritance. With what he knows is a crazy plan, he sets off to Las Vegas to convince an escort to marry him.

Of course that crazy plan isn’t going to work. But when Taylor meets a hotel maid named Ally May, he makes one last play. They’re strangers, but he’s in a bind. And when Ally agrees, he’s not sure if he should be more grateful or suspicious. As it turns out, Ally needs to get out of Vegas. She’s running from someone, and Taylor’s offer might be just what she needs. But there is more to Ally than meets the eye. And she has more in common with Taylor than he could ever imagine…

The must-get-married-to-inherit trope is not an unfamiliar one. I feel like this is maybe the third or fourth book I’ve read in the past year that used it. But there are some twists here that do make this particular approach stand out. And it’s difficult not to empathize with Taylor’s predicament.

While I enjoyed this book, I did find a few things that just didn’t hit the mark for me. The way the relationship develops just didn’t ring true. Especially after Taylor learns the truth about Ally. And the quick resolution of major issues at the end just seemed to be a bit fast and simplistic to me.

But this is an entertaining read, and I’d recommend picking it up if the story looks appealing.

Fight to Forgive by j. leigh bailey

Fight to Forgive

Fight to Forgive by j. leigh bailey

Series: Letting Go, Book 3
Published by: Carina Press on March 28, 2016
Rating: 4 stars (★★★★☆)

After suffering a combat injury, James “Freddie” Fredrick has returned to a place he doesn’t want to spend much time: home. There were many reasons he joined the Navy and left four years before. It’s not something he wants to talk about with anyone and he never has. But when his sister picks him up from the airport and tells him she’s buying Elliott House, it seems he just can’t get away. Aaron Elliott is right back at the front and center of his life. Aaron who selfishly left him without a word four years ago. And things get even more complicated when he learns Aaron is back in town.

Aaron Elliott has avoided conflict all his life. If he can get through something without making waves, he will. But when he learned his mother and stepfather were planning to sell his father’s house, he knew he had to speak up. Aaron’s father left that house to him, and though a legal technicality has put his ownership in question, Aaron believes his father’s wishes should be carried out. So he halts the sale and decides to spend a summer at Elliott House. He just doesn’t expect to run into Freddie. The feelings come rushing back, but Aaron tells himself he has to let them go. After all, Freddie destroyed anything the two of them could have had four years ago.

As the two live in proximity again, their past eventually becomes a big enough elephant in the room that it can’t be avoided. Though both are committed to never going back down that road, can their collective willpower hold out? And what exactly is the truth of their breakup? Is it possible all could be forgiven?

I’ve been a fan of this series of stories by j. leigh bailey since the first one. The stories they tell are so rich and dynamic, I always have a hard time putting the books down. And the story of these two is certainly no exception. The value of communication and trust is clear in how this story plays out. And it reminds us that it’s also so important to meet another person where they are. You can’t hold someone to expectations that are outside of their nature–especially if you never communicate those expectations to them.

Strong recommendation on this one!

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

The Lusty Adventures of Theseus by Arthur Griffin

The Lusty Adventures of Theseus

The Lusty Adventures of Theseus by Arthur Griffin

Published by: Dreamspinner Press on March 9, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

When Theseus comes of age, he sets out for Athens to claim his birthright. His father is the king, which makes him a prince. Along the way, he happens upon Pirithous and experiences passion for the first time. He also learns that his father may not be a great king like he hoped. And he confirms these suspicions when he reaches the city. The king sends other people’s children to Crete as a sacrifice to the Minotaur. While his motivation is to keep Athens safe, Theseus won’t stand for it. And that’s why he decides to stand in as one of the sacrifices. And if everything goes as planned, there will be no more Athenian sacrifices sent to Crete. But as Theseus has learned, nothing is ever quite what it seems on the surface. There’s more to every store than what meets the eye…

This is an interesting take on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur if I’ve ever read one. It’s beyond steamy (indeed), but it doesn’t feel particularly gratuitous. I also appreciated the unexpected way the plot played out. There are some twists and turns that provide some colorful explanations for the status quo in both Athens and Crete. And they lead to an even more interesting ending.

This is the first book I’ve read by Arthur Griffin. I would not be at all opposed to reading some more.

Boy Meets Boy Meets Boy by J.L. Merrow & Josephine Myles

Boy Meets Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy Meets Boy by J.L. Merrow & Josephine Myles

Series: Mad About the Brit Boys, Book 4
Published by: Self-Published on March 15, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

A trio of trios! (Or should I say a threesome of threesomes?) In this three-story anthology from J.L. Merrow and Josephine Myles, they assemble previously published stories with an M/M/M flair. And there’s definitely a lot of flair in this book. Featuring a shy guy working in a gym, a birthday celebration, and a trip to the dentist, there’s quite the range here. And not a single one of the stories disappoints.


  • Kit Bag by J.L. Merrow
  • Unwrapped: The Birthday Gift by Josephine Myles
  • Getting a Filling by J.L. Merrow

These two authors are ones who always put together unique and fun stories. These shorts are prime examples of their ability to do just that. Even though they’re all previously published, I hadn’t read any of them before. And I’m glad I finally got the chance to do so. This is part of the Mad About the Brit Boys collection, and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of those books after reading this…

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Blog Tour: Never Too Late by Sloan Johnson

Title: Never Too Late
Series: Home in the Heartland #1
Author: Sloan Johnson
Genre: Adult, M/M Romance
Published: March 7, 2016
Dax: My life ended six years ago. No, really. I was dead on the side of the road following a gruesome motorcycle accident. From what I’ve been told, it’s only because of one stubborn man that I have another chance to make something of my life. I no longer hate him for screwing up what I thought I wanted. I want to thank him. NEED to tell him what his actions mean to me.

Now, I’m headed back to the town I’ve never set foot in even though it’s a huge part of my life. I’m not thrilled about that, but the job offers haven’t exactly been flowing in. They’ll probably think I’m crazy, because there’s no way I won’t be able to look at every guy I walk past, wondering if he’s the one who saved me.

Michael: My entire life, I wanted to save lives. I’d earned a full-ride scholarship and had been accepted to med schools across the country. I was so close to making those dreams a reality until the night held a dying man in my arms. I’ve never been able to get the images of his lifeless body caked in mud out of my head. Even when the paramedics tried to take over trying to save him, I couldn’t let go. I never let go. Eventually, my guilt over not doing more cost me everything but my son. And now, I worry I’ll lose him if I don’t get it together.

I’ve often thought that if I could find him, maybe I could get some closure and finally get my life back on track. Now he’s here and I’m more of a mess than ever. Once the truth comes out, will he keep trying to save me or will he realize that it’s too late?


Dax’s life changed in an instant after a motorcycle accident six years ago. But the truth is that it wasn’t an accident. He’d set out that night to end everything. And while he first wanted to curse the EMT who saved him, he couldn’t be more grateful. He found the strength and courage to fight. He found a sense of purpose for his life. And he’s glad he wasn’t successful that night. Now, he has a degree in education and is starting a job as a kindergarten teacher. And it’s in the town the EMT was from. But that’s all he knows of his mystery savior.

Before Dax even gets settled on his first day in down, he encounters a young boy looking for his father. Dax offers to help the child, Jagger, and shortly thereafter meets his father, Michael. Dax learns that Michael is a struggling single father, but he never doubts that Michael as doing the best he can. Not knowing anyone else in town, Dax quickly becomes friends with Michael and Jagger, more than willing to help out his new friend in any way he can. It doesn’t hurt things that Michael is one of the most attractive men Dax has ever met. But he knows better than to even hope for anything–he’s been down that road with a straight guy before.

As Michael and Dax become closer, they learn that they can’t keep their secrets from each other. And there is a lot more to both of them than the other might have expected…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this title, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. The way in which the author presents this world and the characters is nothing short of masterful. We learn about the characters and their past in an organic way that not only makes sense for the story but also builds the tension and suspense of the plot. And the cast of characters in the background are vibrant and vital to the story without ever overshadowing the main couple. This gets a strong recommendation from me. I see it’s billed as the first book in a series, and I’m definitely looking forward to future installments.

Sloan Johnson is a big city girl trapped in a country girl’s life. While she longs for the hustle and bustle of New York City or Las Vegas, she hasn’t yet figured out how to sit on the deck with her morning coffee, watching the deer and wild turkeys in the fields while surrounded by concrete and glass.

When she was three, her parents received their first call from the principal asking them to pick her up from school. Apparently, if you aren’t enrolled, you can’t attend classes, even in Kindergarten. The next week, she was in preschool and started plotting her first story soon after.

Later in life, her parents needed to do something to help their socially awkward, uncoordinated child come out of her shell and figured there was no better place than a bar on Wednesday nights. It’s a good thing they did because this is where she found her love of reading and writing. Who needs socialization when you can sit alone in your bedroom with a good book?

Now, Sloan is a tattooed mom with a mohawk and two kids. She’s been kicked out of the PTA in two school districts and is no longer asked to help with fundraisers because she’s been known to lose herself with a good book and forget she has somewhere to be.

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