on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Category Archives: Contemporary

Venetian Masks by Kim Fielding eBookTitle: Venetian Masks
Author: Kim Fielding
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 216 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Betrayal, HEA, Italy, Mobsters, Vacation
Rating: Really Liked It

Guest Review by Heather C

BLURB

Jeff Dawkins’s last partner left him with a mortgage he can’t afford and nonrefundable tickets for a month’s vacation in Europe. Despite a reluctance to travel, Jeff decides to go on the trip anyway. After all, he’s already paid for it. He packs a Kindle loaded with gay romance novels and arrives in Venice full of trepidation. There he meets the handsome and charming expat Cleve Prieto, who offers to serve as his tour guide. Jeff has serious misgivings—he wasn’t born yesterday, and something about Cleve doesn’t sit right—but anything is better than wandering the canals alone. With Cleve’s help, Jeff falls in love with Venice and begins to reconcile with his past. For the first time, Jeff finds himself developing strong feelings for someone else. But he can’t be sure who that person is because Cleve’s background remains a mystery embroidered with lies.

Then a dark figure from Cleve’s past appears, and Jeff must choose whether to let Cleve flee alone or to join him on a desperate run through central Europe. Maybe Jeff will finally be able to see behind Cleve’s masks—if he survives the journey.

REVIEW

Nikyta totally tricked me into reading this!

I went into this book completely blind and had no idea what it was about, although I did gather from the title that it might be set in Venice…

Poor plain ol’, boring Jeff. He’s been cheated on and dumped by his boyfriend, forced to sell his house, and now he’s on a plane traveling to Venice to begin his 4 week European vacation…alone. Shortly after arriving in Venice, he catches the eye of “Cleve”, a gorgeous, tattooed, American drifter who offers to play Jeff’s tour guide…for payment. Hmm, that doesn’t sound like a trusty, safe plan to me!

I immediately connected with Jeff. He is pretty much me (if I were a gay man), as we share many of the same neuroses. Plus, we both:
Work in IT
Live an unexciting existence
Have to plan for everything
Have never traveled anywhere alone
Carry our Kindles everywhere we go, although I haven’t maimed anyone with mine…yet

Then Jeff throws his brain out the window and agrees to give Cleve’s offer a try, while I’m screaming “NOOOOOOOOO, he can’t be trusted!!!!!” But Jeff sees Cleve’s sad eyes and decides to overlook all of his lies and half-truths, and squeezes Cleve into his travel budget…there’s just something about the gorgeous man… It truly was about the companionship, although it wasn’t long before it led to some sexy time…Cleve was never paid for sex!

Cleve…no way did I trust him in the beginning! And I don’t think I even liked him at first because of how much I didn’t trust him. Ooooh, but it wasn’t long before he stole my heart…I think I loved him before Jeff even loved him. And even though it was a bit insta-love-ish, I still loved Jeff and Cleve together and was cheering for them the entire time.

Sooooooo, I’m not going to tell anymore about Cleve or give away any spoilers about what happens next, but the lazy vacation romance suddenly turns into a twisted thriller. Huh? Didn’t see that coming. It did get a little outrageous…but who cares? It was fun and sweet and I couldn’t put it down…and that’s all that matters.


An Unconventional Courtship by Scotty Cade eBookTitle: An Unconventional Courtship
Author: Scotty Cade
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 230 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Adorable!, Affair with the Boss, Businessmen, Co-Workers,  Lots of Tension,  On Vacation, Series,  Sweet, Unrequited Love
Rating: Really Liked It

Guest Review by Heather C

BLURB

Tristan Moreau loves his job as chief administrative officer and personal assistant to Webber Kincaid, President, Chairman, and CEO of Kincaid International. It would be the perfect job… if only he hadn’t fallen in love with his boss as well as the work. After two years, he’s still doing everything in his power to keep his feelings hidden—mostly because he wants to protect the reputation of his famous boss but also because he wants to keep his job.

Webber Kincaid has stayed in the closet, using his best friend and confidante as his beard. Everything in his life was working out just fine until he met Tristan Moreau. Within months, Tristan stole his heart and became his lifeline. But Webber knows the rules of the workplace better than anyone, so he’s kept his distance.

But two years is too long to wonder “what if?”—especially when business takes them to a private Caribbean island. When Tristan and Webber succumb to the tropical heat, their professionalism starts to backslide. It’s a seemingly impossible relationship, making a go at it under the paparazzi’s microscope. It may be the best—or the worst—business decision they ever made.

REVIEW

The good, the bad…and the adorable.

It’s a story that’s been told many times over again: employee-slash-personal-assistant falls for uber rich boss. Tristan Moreau has been deeply betrayed by a past lover who chose to be with a woman instead of a him. Now, seven years later, Tristan finds himself secretly in love with his boss, Webber Kincaid, and has been hiding it for the last two years. Then when Webber comes to Tristan and invites him to spend three weeks on his private island with him for work and relaxation, Tristan doesn’t know how he can keep his feelings from showing any longer. The conflict: Webber is supposedly straight and doesn’t even know Tristan is gay! Plus, there is the matter of Webber’s company and reputation to think about…

The Good: There was soooooo much sexual tension!! Seriously, all of the accidental touches and heated looks had me giddy. The guys didn’t even kiss until 37%!!! Plus, there was only like 5 minutes of angst that gets cleared up quite quickly. Honestly, I expected it to drag on for ages, but nope, it all gets fixed and sweetness ensues.

The bad: Speaking of the the sweetness, at times it was a bit much. Once these guys realize they are both in love with each other, its kinda insta-I-plan-to-spend-the-rest-of my-life-with-you-love. So it made me roll my eyes a few times, but Tristan and Webber were so cute I just accepted it and kept on reading. It did get a bit wordy at times, but I like this kind of wordiness, so it didn’t really bother me.

The Adorable: I adored Tristan and Webber! How could anyone not love them. They are both sweet and kind and Webber has to be one of the most romantic heroes I’ve ever read. He knows how to steal a girl’s man’s heart! And all the romantic plans he made while courting Tristan…*sigh*…so romantic.

Moving on to the sequel: An Unconventional Union. I’m hoping for a beautifully, romantic wedding!

Disclaimer: This is not something I would normally like to read, but today, it was perfect for my mood. I recommend saving it for one of those days when you need something sweet and easy.


Man OnTitle: Man On (Black Jack Gentlemen #1)
Author: Liz Crowe
Publisher: Tri Destiny Publishing
Length: 131 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: As the tags are very spoilerish, I don’t want to put them here but if you really want to see them, check them out at the bottom of this post but beware! They contain spoilers!
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

Reviewed by Nikyta

*****This review contains major spoilers to the contents of this book*****

BLURB

Bad boy of European football, Nicolas Garza is about to hit American shores with a vengeance. Signed by the Detroit Black Jack Gentlemen as lynch pin for their expansion club, Nicco only half believes he’s making the right move. But with a past full of ghosts and rotten behavior chasing him from his homeland, he has no real choice.

Parker Rollings is a college soccer superstar, but his parents’ plans for their only son do not include professional athletics. When the Black Jacks approach him to finalize their roster, Parker leaps at the chance to keep playing, leaving behind medical school, stability and his first and only college sweetheart.

Nicco and Parker face off as bitter rivals for a coveted starting spot at midfield and are forced to channel their negative energy into something positive for the sake of the group—and themselves.

All eyes are on the fledgling team in its debut season. It’s crucial that the Black Jacks prove all the doubters wrong. They must make a good showing in the league and with new fans. But player drama, club dynamics, and misplaced priorities may tear it apart before it even begins.

REVIEW

The first thing I want to say is if you’re coming into this book thinking it would be a real sports story, you won’t get what you expect in this one because it follows Nicco through his journey to finding love in Parker but doesn’t contain many scenes regarding the actual sport.

I liked Parker because he was so innocent, naive and vulnerable. He comes from money but he’s not an obnoxious spoiled brat. He’s very sweet, dedicated to soccer and just wants a simple life where he can be himself. I adored the fact that he blushed so much at the littlest provocative comment. I found it so cute. Nicco is a different story. I won’t lie, I didn’t like him at all. He’s arrogant, stubborn and doesn’t give a crap about anyone else but himself. He does what he wants to and won’t care if someone objects to it. His reaction to Parker is instantaneous and intense. The lust he feels for Parker consumes him to the point he can’t stop thinking about Parker. However, Nicco is a sex addict and he’ll take that lust out on anyone.

The biggest issue I had with this story is that the blurb is very misleading. Coming into this book, I was expecting some intense sexual tension of enemies with a lot of sports related scenes, showing the rivalry between Nicco and Parker, the aggression and face offs for the same spot and ultimately the soccer season that they play together in. Unfortunately, that is not what this book is about and you don’t actually see any of those scenes but are told about them in just a few short paragraphs throughout the story.

To be honest, I didn’t like a majority of it because it is so focused on showing Nicco’s sex addiction (which is not mentioned in the blurb and considering it is SUCH a huge part of the book, I have to wonder why). I struggled to get through at least the first half of the story because Nicco would do anything that had two legs, even indulging in threesomes and orgies with women and men. I will say that while Nicco does have a lot of sex, thankfully most of it (especially with the women) were either glossed over or fade to black. Even with that, however, the constant talking about his conquests and how many he did last night, the orgies he partook in, the soft flesh of so and so grew extremely aggravating and annoying. I kept asking myself, “Why is this in here? Shouldn’t we be focusing on more of Parker and Nicco?”

A lot of the book revolves around that aspect of Nicco and I can’t say that it endeared me to him. It made my opinion that he was selfish and couldn’t understand the concept of monogamy nor be able to uphold it even more intense. It also made me think that even if he did get into a relationship with Parker, that he wouldn’t be able to keep it in his pants long enough to not break Parker’s heart. Regardless, the physical showing of Nicco’s clubbing and conquests took away from the actual Parker/Nicco story, IMO. By the end of the story, we are told and somewhat see the love and supposed devotion (as I said, it’s hard for me to believe Nicco won’t cheat eventually) but we didn’t see the lead up to this love and devotion. Out of the whole story, Parker and Nicco only spend maybe a third of it actually together that we see. The rest is either told to us (such as the time they spend on the field, their teamwork together and this long vacation they took) or of Nicco and Parker getting some action from other individuals.

Personally, that is not something I’m fond of. I like to SEE the development between characters but this book didn’t have any of that until the very end and I found that disappointing. I wanted to like this book but it started off really bad for me because I don’t appreciate seeing to this extent how much of a whore a character is. I want to see the connection between the main characters not between ONE main character and other people. We aren’t shown the connection between Nicco and Parker until very far into the book and at that point, many months have already past between them, none of them where we see them together and this happens more than once where weeks or months pass without us seeing any of what I believe were crucial moments to these characters relationship. More than anything, I really wished we had seen them play together on the field, during practice, at a game, anything to show that not all these boys have is lust because the emotions of love they share, I didn’t see and couldn’t FEEL.

In the end, I will freely admit this isn’t the type of story I like. I prefer to have stories that focus on the emotions that characters share and seeing them NOT on the physical releases of the flesh. Readers that enjoy books that have layers of sex and decadence will enjoy this but if you’re looking for a story about sports and love, this won’t exactly fit the bill. I will say that while I didn’t enjoy the story as a whole, there were pieces that I adored but those happened at the very end and by then, not enough was focused on that to lift my overall opinion. Still, I encourage readers to make up your own mind about this one because I know others will enjoy it much more than I did.

One last thing I want to say is that this book seems to be somewhat of a spin-off of another m/f series by this author. I say this because a few times it was hinted that we should already know a side character’s background and having looked up the author after reading this book, I can say that some of the secondary characters have books of their own in other works by this author.


The Ranch ForemanTitle: The Ranch Foreman
Author: Rob Colton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 28k words, 120 pages
Genre: m/m Contemporary Erotica
Heat: 4 – Spicy & Smutty
Sex Frequency: 4 – Very Often
Keywords/Tags: Closeted, Cowboys, OFY, Grief, Grovel you Bastard!, Healing, Hostile Work Environment, Hurt/Comfort, May/December, Sexual Abuse/Assault
Rating: So So

Reviewed by Nikyta

BLURB

When Madison “Matty” Ward finds himself out of work and without a place to live, his cousin comes through with a job on the Gates cattle ranch. Despite not knowing anything about herding cattle or taking care of horses, Matty does his best to impress the older hunky foreman, Baxter Hollingsworth. Baxter is drawn to the new young hand, but he’s deeply closeted, and after an openly gay veterinarian shows he’s interested in Matty, Baxter’s repressed feelings lead to an explosive encounter. Baxter then withdraws—leaving Matty feeling angry and used—until an accident forces him to confront his fears.

REVIEW

This is a difficult review to write. I won’t deny that the writing drew me in even though this is essentially just an erotica novella, I still had that desire to continue reading even when I was being overwhelmed by sex.

When Matty puts his aunt in a nursing home, it leaves him homeless until his cousin gets him a job at a ranch. Once there, he’s immediately attracted to Baxter, the older ranch foreman who’s very deep in the closet. Everyone on the ranch pretty much knows that Matty is gay but over the course of the book, Matty and Baxter strike up a purely sexual relationship that has a tinge of bitterness and resentment to it. Matty wants a relationship but Baxter is stuck in his old ways. Now Matty has to decide whether he wants to keep his self-respect or take what little scraps Baxter is willing to give him.

Matty, at first, comes off as a slightly battered character. He’s feeling guilty about his aunt but grateful he’s no longer homeless and without a job. He’s a sweet guy that has a thing for older gentleman like Baxter. Baxter, in my opinion, was a complete douche bag. I sincerely disliked him for most of the book because he would either snap or growl at Matty, completely ignore Matty or push Matty to his knees for some head. He didn’t have a personality beyond that of a bastard and even with all these people saying he’s a good man, I never saw any of that. All I ever saw was Baxter silently demanding Matty to suck him when he was drunk, getting mad at Matty for no reason, ignoring Matty for days after they get together and then getting jealous when Matty decides he wants to move on to other guys. By the end of the book, however, he does lighten up a bit and I did like the way he helped Matty and Brian when things take a turn for the aunt but it was in no way enough to redeem himself for how he acted the whole time.

Aside from my hatred of Baxter, this was a promising read and definitely had a lot of potential but I found I had a lot of issues with the story. Mainly, I severely disliked the way the author handled not only Baxter but his encounters with Matty. I didn’t feel any connection between Matty and Baxter because all their time together consisted mainly of Matty giving Baxter blowjobs and then Baxter ignoring Matty until the next blowjob. I could have gotten past that but then it seemed the only way Baxter would do anything with Matty was when he was drunk. It was frustrating and disappointing to say the least because Baxter had no problems molesting Matty when he was wasted but wouldn’t even LOOK at Matty when he was sober let alone have a friendly conversation. Beyond that, this story had a lot of sex to it and what parts didn’t have sex had Matty pining over Baxter. It was hard for me to understand Matty’s obsession when we never saw any of the qualities in Baxter that Matty was pining over. Then again, he was very obsessed with Baxter’s package so granted that was shown quite often. To be honest, I don’t think Matty and Baxter had a meaningful conversation until the last few pages of the book and even then it wasn’t more than a few paragraphs, if that. One last issue I had was Clyde. I felt like the whole issue with him was pointless and the resolution to it didn’t bring Baxter or Matty closer, if anything it pushed them farther apart. I will say one thing, I’m very grateful that what Clyde does was not shown.

In the end, while this book had a lot of potential, it was overcrowded by sex and Baxter’s bad personality mixed with Matty’s willingness to be walked over by him. If this story had more dialogue between Matty and Baxter that didn’t occur while they were having sex, it would have been better. If the sex had been cut down, that would have been even better, IMO, but as it is, this felt more like an erotica story than a romance considering that there was no lead up to the love these boys apparently have together.

Those looking for something smutty and easy to read will like this story IF you like May/December, as well.


Werecat: The Rearing (Werecat #1) - Andrew J PetersTitle: Werecat: The Rearing (Werecat #1)
Author: Andrew J Peters
Publisher: Vagabondage
Length: 21k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Paranormal
Heat: 2 – Tame (mostly not explicit)
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Short Story, Shifters (Big Cats), Mythology, Homeless, NYC, Montreal, Disappeared/Runaway, Psychological Control, Secrets & Lies, College, Flashbacks, Shifted Sex
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

For Jacks Dowd, a college senior who feels ungrounded from his family and life in general, an alcohol and sex-infused weekend in Montréal sounds like a pretty good escape. His Spring Break binge takes a detour when he meets Benoit, an admiring drifter with startling green eyes. A hook-up turns into a day, two days, and then a full week in Benoit’s hostel, making love and scarfing down take-out food. But at the end of the week, Benoit demands that Jacks make an impossible choice: stay with him forever, or go back to college and never see him again.

There’s something dangerous about Benoit, but Jacks has fallen for him brutally. The night before Jacks is supposed to return to college, he  finds Benoit in Mont Royal Park, where they first met, to try to work things out. Benoit springs on Jacks an unfathomable secret: he’s a mythical creature, half man and half jungle panther. He traps Jacks in an abandoned cabin and performs an occult rite so they will be mated forever.

REVIEW

I’ve been sitting on this one a month or two, waiting to read it. I’m glad that I read it, but also more intrigued than satisfied in a good story, though I’ll certainly read the second one, whenever it’s out.

We first meet Jacks on a supply run in the middle of the night in NYC. He stops at a familiar bodega to pick up some protein, saying hello to the familiar (and cute) clerk, then returns to his hiding place with Benoit, an old turned out warehouse. In flashbacks we see how Jack has come to this point, by meeting scruffy and serious Benoit while on spring break in Montreal after a bad night out and their weeklong tryst that never really ends. As we go through each subsequent flashback, introducing us to their relationship, Benoit’s many quirks, and how he came to be in NYC with him, now his boyfriend.

The blurb makes one half of this story quite obvious — Jacks’ time in Montreal with Benoit — but doesn’t go much beyond that point. I’m no real fan of flashbacks and I’m not sure that I could say that they brought anything particularly important to this story, but they’re a stylistic choice that slowly introduces us to the beginning of the relationship between Jacks and Benoit at the same time as everything starts to go wrong with them in NYC. Benoit, because of his age, is much more like a cat in nature than a human, which is definitely part of his growth as a character in the story. He’s possessive to a manic degree, but also seductive and beguiling to Jacks. Jacks is someone, at least to me, who seems to put on a good front of a simple college student but really likes to flirt with the edge. The allure of Benoit in Montreal, of a man in trouble that he can’t help but fall in love with is really about sex and danger than anything else. It didn’t quite endear me to Jacks, to say the least. In fact, I had trouble through a lot of this story about whether I could really feel their relationship. That is because it was moving in a direction that I wasn’t prepared for.

That change in direction is what galvanized my interest, however, and it doesn’t come until quite late the story. It makes reviewing this harder, no matter how much more enjoyment it gave me in the overall story. It makes this somewhat difficult to talk about while still withholding all the information. But it also means I can tell you that I’m even more excited to see what this author has in store for these characters next, and that I have to implore you to keep reading if you find yourself, at first, reading something that you weren’t quite sure you thought you were.

All of this, including the misdirection, makes for an interesting last minute move, but without the next story I’m still not quite sure if I can think of this as a prequel written first or not. Does this story show the direction for the rest? Or, is Andrew Peters waiting to throw us more curveballs?

I know this is a somewhat enigmatic review, so if you’re the type of reader who doesn’t like to be kept waiting, then I think you should probably wait for the next installment in this series to be published before you start reading. What I can tell you is that though I suffered through flashbacks 😉 I liked the writing style and I like that this author is keeping me on my toes. So, for now, this first story gets a Pretty Good, with a curious but tempered excitement about what is next to come.


Pura Vida - Sara AlvaTitle: Pura Vida
Author: Sara Alva
Publisher: Self Published (m/m Goodreads Romance Group)
Length: 25,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Sex to Story
Keywords/Tags: 2013 Love Has No Boundaries story, Free, Short Stories, New Adult, On Vacation, Diverse Pairing, Costa Rica, Second Chances, at the Beach, College, Summer Break
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Simon has found himself in an open relationship for the summer—though not by choice. Instead of wallowing, he’s decided to make the most of a family vacation to Costa Rica by hooking up with the first hot guy available. Trouble is, he has no clue how to go about doing that.

Luckily, he runs into someone with a little more experience. But when the moments of lust turn into something more, Simon isn’t so sure he’ll be able to return to his old relationship. And there’s no way to hold onto this new one, either, as thousands of miles will separate them in only a few short weeks. Either way, he’ll have to learn to let go.

REVIEW

I’m really happy that Sara Alva asked me to specifically review this short story of hers. Many of you will have read it, I know, because it’s a free short from the m/m Goodreads Romance Group’s LHNB event. I usually keep up a little better with the stories than I have this year and I also try to do a couple mass reviews of some of my favorites. But, I’ve really missed most of them, just because there have been too many new releases this summer! And way too many of them that I’ve wanted to review 🙂 Thankfully, Sara did ask me to review this one and I’m really glad she did because it was so cute and a real joy to read.

Simon is with his father, mother and sister on vacation in Costa Rica where his father is in development of vacation homes. It’s the few weeks after finals just at the start of the summer and Simon is in a bit of a quandary. His boyfriend back at college, Leo, has pretty much parted his company without much fanfare, giving Simon a “let’s see what happens over the summer” goodbye that pretty much means he just wants to fuck whomever he likes until Simon is back to be his bedwarmer throughout the year. Leo is a little bit cruel, but even if he isn’t what Simon really wants, he’s what he’s got and Simon figures that he shouldn’t give up on a solid thing himself.

What better for him to do than try to find a summer fling himself? At least so that he doesn’t go back to Leo having pined for him all summer. But Simon doesn’t really know how to go about catching someone’s eye. There are a lot of cute guys at the beach of their resort and it seems so easy for his sister Alyssa to catch a cute guy. It isn’t until he stumbles up on the local migration of sea turtles hatching on the beach at night that he meets Juan.

Juan is a local that doesn’t show much faith in another American tourist at first, especially when the two get off to such an inauspicious start. But Simon rallies and when he actually shows interest in the turtles, Juan invites him to help with his nightly duties. It doesn’t take them long to find a chemistry between them, but even if Simon did start to have feelings for Juan, there’s no chance of anything happening when he lives thousands of miles away.

This is such a perfect and sweet vacation fling story and this author does it in a way that sets it apart. There’s no easy out that things could continue in the future, that one could stay or the other could follow at the end of their fling. There are real differences between them. But we get to that point by getting to know the two of them in all of their awkwardness and by doing so their relationship has heart where other stories with a similar premise might not. And that’s because there are such differences between them. Juan is a local who has had only too many opportunities to get to know different kinds of people, but so many of them through the facade of the resort, bringing him into contact with a type of person that he can’t understand might not be rich or spoiled. He’s someone who has to work hard for what he has, battle his own family against his sexuality, and then battle the people he comes in contact with every summer to be seen as more than a stupid village boy. Though they come from different worlds, Simon is different. He can’t seem to make himself believe that their fling could be no-strings attached. He just doesn’t know how. And part of that is because he’s the type of person who would find interest in the beauty of the turtles and understand the beauty in what Juan sees everyday.

I don’t know Sara Alva well. And this is the first work of hers that I’ve read — no matter how many times I’ve remembered how much I want to read Social Skills. But, I can see from reading this story that she’s someone who really cares about what she writes and that she writes because she loves it. I’m not an author, but I can understand that. I want to read Social Skills now more than ever, because I feel into her prose and it was so easy and comforting to get lost in. I’m excited to see what to make of a longer story. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had so many people tell me to read it by now 😉

If you missed this one in all the crush of the free stories this summer, then definitely go get it. It’s sweet and heartfelt and you’ll probably find a new author that you like.