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

Tag Archives: Tucker Springs

**Note: this review contains spoiler tags, which are shown only on the bottom of the review and are not included in the book info at the top. If you don’t want to be spoiled, avoid the bottom of the post please!**

neveraheroTitle: Never a Hero (Tucker Springs #5)
Author: Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 45k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Series, Tucker Springs series, Neighbors, First Times, Veterinarians, Animals, Physical Injuries/Disabilities, Music (Piano), Behavioral Disorders (Social Anxiety), Horrendous Mothers!, Stutters, Awesome Female Characters!, Halloween
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Everyone deserves a hero.

Owen Meade is desperately in need of a hero. Raised by a mother who made him ashamed of his stutter, his sexual orientation, and his congenitally amputated arm, Owen lives like a hermit in his Tucker Springs apartment. But then hunky veterinarian Nick Reynolds moves in downstairs.

Nick is sexy and confident, and makes Owen comfortable with himself in a way nobody ever has. He also introduces Owen to his firecracker of a little sister, who was born with a similar congenital amputation but never let it stand in her way. When she signs the two of them up for piano lessons—and insists that they play together in a recital—Owen can’t find a way to say no. Especially since it gives him a good excuse to spend more time with Nick.

Owen knows he’s falling hard for his neighbor, but every time he gets close, Nick inexplicably pulls away. Battling his mother’s scorn and Nick’s secrets, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself and for Nick.

REVIEW

To be honest, I was a bit daunted when I started thinking of writing this review. Not because of the book itself, but because I read this book about two months ago and then didn’t write the review promptly (not a surprise, honestly!). But, in a twist I didn’t expect, but should have, I find that this book comes back to me in detail that books I read two months previously usually never do. And that just shows how much of this book stuck with me. I remember thinking about it for a couple of weeks afterward, and when I consider that I usually hold books that stay with me for a few days in high esteem, then this was a really special read for me. And without doubt, the best book in the Tucker Springs series by far. Admittedly, my feelings about the books in this series so far have been so so; while I liked them all, none of them really stuck with me (a statement I’ve made in past reviews of those books). Enter Never a Hero to make me eat my words…

We first meet Owen sequestered in his dark apartment, the main floor of a split level home in Tucker Springs. He rarely leaves, working at home on his computer and getting his groceries delivered. His life is a pretty depressing one. Raised to be ashamed of his missing arm, the result of a congenital amputation (that’s where the blood supply to a limb is cut off by the amniotic cord in the womb and the fetus is born without a limb or with a partial limb), Owen was further humiliated by his mother’s negativity and verbal abuse as a child to the point where he has extreme social anxiety that goes even beyond his embarrassment over his missing arm and his stutter. Even worse, his mother’s campaign of abuse frequently centered on his obvious homosexuality and her relative displeasure at such a prospect of a gay son. Naturally, as an adult Owen’s life is rather tormented and lonely, and even though his courage stretched far enough to move away from her influence, his mother’s work was done. Owen takes hardly any pleasures in life, and the one he cherishes is soon to end. Owen has fallen in love with his downstair neighbor’s daily piano playing and by proxy, Owen fancies himself in love with the woman himself.

Even worse than the prospect of the absence of his unrequited hetero love, Owen’s new neighbor is a beautiful gay man. Owen could easily resent Nick’s presence — he’s confident, sexy and doesn’t deal with the same sort of social anxieties as Owen (proved by the loads of gay male friends who come to help him move in) — but Nick’s charm and easy going nature seem to deflate Owen’s bubble of derision and longing. As the two get to know each other, Owen starts to find it difficult to pretend that he still wants his old neighbor, the woman, especially when Nick cooks for him (nasty healthy food) and little by little starts to draw Owen out of his shell and out of his apartment. But the best thing about Nick is his reaction to Owen’s missing arm. He doesn’t stare, but he doesn’t ignore it either. He’s comfortable talking about it.

Of course, Nick isn’t perfect. As his self-confidence grows with Nick’s patient encouragement, Owen finds that as much as he needs a hero (and found one), Nick needs one too. He’s full of secrets that he’s extremely persistent to keep and each subsequent intimate step forward in their relationship leads to Nick taking two steps away.

Take one look at the tags for this book, even without knowing what the book is about or having read the blurb, and you’ll be able to tell that the characters in this story deal with a shitload of adversity. It’s enough to pound on the angst button and send me clamoring for the hills! But, once again, Marie Sexton won me over by the charm of her writing. Some writers just have a way of connecting to the reader through their words. Sometimes I like to think of it as if I’m reading the book out loud. Would it sound and feel like I’m telling a story? It doesn’t necessarily require a strong or unique character voice, but the narration immediately takes a spark in you and you’re hooked. I shouldn’t have been surprised… Marie’s words have done this to me before in other books of hers. Nevertheless, I felt as if the charm and honesty in the writing cut through whatever natural angst exists from dealing with characters who have such enormous difficulties.

While the growing relationship between Owen and Nick is central to the story, the real star of the story is Owen and the ongoing catalyst to keep the story moving is really Owen’s personal growth. Like the blurb says, Owen soon realizes that instead of waiting for a hero, it’s time to be one—for himself…. It is important that Owen take the steps to take control of his life himself. I think it’s also important that Owen has a goal other than his own self-worth. I think that having both characters dealing with really heavy issues isn’t only to show that the two much rely on one another in any kind of relationship, but it’s important to motivate Owen, to show that he can help not only himself but Nick as well.

There’s something I found unique to this book in the series that I was really happy to see. You can see in the book that Marie made a decision to incorporate all of the past characters from the books into the story, and not just the ones that are affiliated with her books. I really appreciated this, because the opposite has been true for some of the other books and showing the other characters really helped build a feeling of community in the story. It refreshed all of the connections between the men in a way that wasn’t as apparent before. When I first heard that there was going to be a multi-author series based on interconnected stories set in the same town, I think I got a (perhaps) misconstrued notion of a series that was going to be much more interconnected that it has been thus far, which has been somewhat disappointing to me. This book went quite a way appease that disappointment and I hope that in the future the characters from other books start to pop up here and there, or even better that characters would have a more important part to play in books that aren’t their own. Maybe authors have an unspoken rule not to fuck up other authors pet characters 😉 Maybe not. Maybe this isn’t even in the cards for this series, but I would love to see these authors having a more hands on approach to the other authors’ characters, perhaps even working together to plan character trajectories over each other’s books so that the stories are more integrated. Just my own wish 🙂

The fact that the stories are by and large separate means that though this is a series, you can feel free to enter at any stage and read whichever books take your particular fancy. If that’s the case with you and you haven’t read any of the Tucker Springs books, or even if you’ve read the others, this remains my favorite and as good of a place as any to start reading. You can always go back and read the others if you find yourself interested in the secondary characters in Never a Hero. Definitely Recommended!


covetthyneighborTitle: Covet thy Neighbor (Tucker Springs #4)
Author: LA Witt
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 46,100 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Religion, Priests, Tattoos!
Rating: Pretty Good

BLURB

Opposites attract, but heaven help these two.

Tattoo artist Seth Wheeler thinks he’s struck gold when Darren Romero rents the apartment across the hall. The new guy is gorgeous, witty, and single, plus he’s just the right blend of bold and flirtatious. Perfect.

Except then Darren reveals that he moved to Tucker Springs to take a job as the youth pastor at the New Light Church. Seth is not only an atheist, but was thrown out by his ultra-religious family when he came out. He tends to avoid believers, not out of judgment but out of self-preservation.

But Darren doesn’t give up easily, and he steadily chips away at Seth’s defenses. Darren is everything Seth wants in a man . . . except for that one massive detail he just can’t overlook. Is Darren’s religion the real problem, or is it just a convenient smoke screen to keep him from facing deeper fears? It’s either see the light, or risk pushing Darren away forever.

REVIEW

I was quasi-curious about this one because the books in the series before this have been luke-warm, in my opinion. They weren’t bad, not at all, but none of them really affected me either. And I’m naturally curious, yet likewise nervous about reading a book where a character is a priest, or if religion is a heavy topic. I know that a lot of you are as well. But even though it came into play pretty heavily in this book, it wasn’t dogmatic in any way. In fact, religion wasn’t the issue really. Put anything in place of religion in this case and it would have served the same purpose. Religion in this book is simply a placeholder for any issue that affects Seth in a way to impede his romantic life and serve as a road-block in developing relationships. The fact that Darren is a youth pastor just forces him to face his demons head-first. Though he tries pretty hard not to 😉

A shitty childhood in a right-wing fundamentalist family leaves Seth with a lot of emotional damage as an adult. He’s made his own life, but only by running away and putting the past behind him. And the past firmly consists of anything associated with religion. When Darren moves to Tucker Springs and into the apartment across from him, it’s like he’s been smacked in the face with the world’s best attempt at hotness. Darren is gorgeous, and even more he’s … nice. Not exactly what Seth was expecting.

The two don’t waste time jumping into bed, and though they catalogue their relationship as friends, their chemistry keeps pulling them together for hot one-offs that leave them awkwardly shuffling across the hall in the morning. When Seth finds out that Darren is a youth pastor, it turns everything on it’s head. Only, he’s already somewhat attached. And the rest of him can’t say no when confronted with the perfect male specimen.

I wouldn’t call this book angsty, really. But that’s really only because it didn’t bother me. And I’m entirely angst-phobic — so you can trust me, I swear. But this story does have a fair amount of it. It’s more of a character journey with a side of romance, because the person that is really changing and growing (that we see front and center) is Seth, who has to face his issues in order to have a relationship with Darren. In that sense, we get to know Seth quite a bit better than Darren, though that didn’t bother me so much. It is natural when we get the point of view of only one character.

I think the most important thing that you, as a reader needs to know in making your decision about whether to buy/read this book, is how the religion aspect comes across, and I think I explained that pretty well. There’s really no reason to discount this book because of such a sticky subject. Otherwise, I found this novella to be well in line with the other stories in this series, and if you’ve enjoyed them, then you should definitely go for this one. For me, like the others, it was good, but not great.


DirtyLaundry_600x900Title: Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs #3)
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 71,400 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary BDSM Romance
Heat: 5 – Off the Charts!
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Series, Nerds/Geeks, Mental Health Issues (OCD/Crippling Anxiety), Super Muscles!, Past Abuse, Nasty Exes, Sexy to the 999s, Public Sex, Exhibitionism
Rating: Really Like It!

**Note: When the title of the book is framed in quotations, it denotes the short story that was the genesis of this book.

BLURB

The course of true love doesn’t always run clean. But sometimes getting dirty is half the fun.

Entomology grad student Adam Ellery meets Denver Rogers, a muscle-bound hunk of sexy, when Denver effortlessly dispatches the drunken frat boys harassing Adam at the Tucker Springs laundromat. Thanking him turns into flirting, and then, much to Adam’s delight, hot sex over the laundry table.

Though Denver’s job as a bouncer at a gay bar means he gets his pick of geek-sexy college twinks, he can’t get Adam out of his head. Adam seems to need the same rough play Denver does, and it’s damn hard to say no to such a perfect fit.

Trouble is, Adam isn’t just shy: he has obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical anxiety, conditions which have ruined past relationships. And while Denver might be able to bench-press a pile of grad students, he comes from a history of abuse and is terrified of getting his GED. Neither Denver nor Adam want to face their dirty laundry, but to stay together, they’re going to have to come clean.

REVIEW

Take a cue authors! I have been super excited about this book for months now. Why? All because of that teaser story a year ago. The originally titled story “Dirty Laundry” was a free story about a rather nerdy and frightened young man who is rescued by a giant musclebound cowboy of a man when he’s being bullied by a group of frat guys in a laundromat. The kid’s gratefulness and awe of the cowboy drive him to thank the man, and that encounter leads to a very steamy public sex scene over the table and pile of unfolded laundry right in the middle of the laundromat. That’s all the story was about. It was free and posted on the author’s co-blog, Cup of Porn, for their first birthday bash.

I didn’t know at that point, that this was part of the Tucker Springs universe. Actually, at that point I think that the first book, Where Nerves End was just being promoted by LA Witt. I’d really like the know the timeline and how that cowboy, Denver, came to be included in the story. That’s why I’ll be eagerly reading all the tour stops for Heidi Cullinan this week, to see if she details how that came to fruition. A bit of the story is on my blog today, so be sure to check out Heidi’s guest post “For the Love of Series”.

It must be because of those readers like me, who raved about the short “Dirty Laundry” that this became an expanded novel, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first learned what the author was doing to this story. I so wanted to know what happened after that laundromat rendezvous. What I can tell you is this: The novel starts with the short story and carries forward with what happens afterward. Denver, who we got to know in the first two novels as a secondary character, is a bouncer at the local gay club run by Jase, from the first book. Adam is an entomology graduate student at the local college and currently getting over a breakup from his one and only boyfriend Brad. The scene at the laundromat affects both men and how they view their own lives and their own neuroses, and while it seems like Adam takes the award for the one with the most problems, Denver carries a secret weight filled with his own shortcomings, and it takes both of them working together to forge a better version of themselves.

I consider this to be the best book in the series so far. In her guest post today, Heidi Cullinan describes the Tucker Springs series as “a set of stories between several authors where each “episode” is unique, but the setting is familiar.” That rather simple theme connecting the stories is really reflective of the books individually and as a series. It’s true that each subsequent book, so far, seems to get a little better in my opinion, but they are all quite relaxed in theme. What I mean to say is that I found this book like the prior ones, focused solely on the relationship and less on outside connections. All that connects them is geography and limited personal connections. That means, however, that the relationship much carry each novel on it’s own, and while I wasn’t quite sure the first two books accomplished that, Dirty Laundry definitely did.

What really makes this story work is the consideration given to mental illness. I know very little about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or severe anxiety issues, so I can’t weigh in on the accuracy of the details. But what I did love is how the issues that Adam has (and to a small extent Denver’s issues as well) are firmly entrenched in the relationship. Adam tries to hide them at first, but they’re so much a part of who he is, it is almost impossible to keep the information from Denver. And I really felt for Adam. It’s a tribute to the author’s skill that his self-doubt didn’t come across to me as annoying, but instead I felt like I had a good grasp on just how difficult his life is on a day to day basis. He has trouble with many things, but most of all is one of his major tics — that people have their own space. He can’t allow anyone inside his house without severe anxiety and he has a really hard time visiting other people’s houses, or spaces of any kind. And besides the fact that this allowed Denver and Adam to show their creativity in getting to know one another in public places, I can’t deny that the fact that most of the extremely hot sex in this book is in public places completely ramps up the heat factor. That laundromat scene was just the tip of the iceberg.

The BDSM element is more present here that I was expecting. It slowly becomes more central to the story and the relationship as the book moves forward, but it has little to do with sex and everything to do with creating a power structure helpful to Adam’s OCD. Denver’s commanding will was what drew the two together in that first encounter and is ultimately what Adam needs to cling to to categorize and then compartmentalize his brain to function at it’s highest levels.

There is so much to recommend about this book and I could go on and on with more things that I loved — both characters, the dichotomy between the two that makes them perfect for one another (their looks, their issues, their education, but not intelligence). Heidi Cullinan is a popular and well known author because of her talent and Dirty Laundry is just another example of her success.


DirtyLaundry_468x60banner
Hello everyone, and give a big welcome to Heidi Cullinan, who is here today to talk about writing in a series and to promote her latest release, Dirty Laundry, the third book in the Tucker Springs series!


Welcome and thanks for joining us along the virtual book tour for Dirty Laundry, the latest release in the Tucker Springs series! Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a $10 gift card to Riptide Publishing!

For the Love of Series

I love series. I love reading them, I love writing them, I love watching them. One of the things I love most about television shows is knowing that I can turn them on and slip back into a comfortable, familiar world.

Our family’s absolute go-to shows right now are Once Upon a Time and Warehouse 13. My husband and I watch Scandal, Revenge, Doctor Who, Grimm and The New Normal. The first few seasons of Glee were another family staple. I am in absolute love with Downton Abbey and Merlin. Past family loves have been Roseanne, Friends, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, House, and Angel. Even when a series flags a bit, there’s still nothing quite like the thrill of those familiar credits announcing the start of something brand new and oh-so-familiar at the same time.

Dirty Laundry is book three in the Tucker Springs series, a set of stories between several authors where each “episode” is unique, but the setting is familiar. Characters will walk on from other books and sometimes even play a significant role, but each story will be a new pairing, a new romance, a new change to fall in love with characters. The fun of this particular book for me was that I knew I’d be writing it when I lent Denver to Second Hand, book two in the series that I co-wrote with Marie Sexton. I probably sometimes had a bit too much fun setting things up for Denver when we wrote El and Paul’s story, and I did it again for characters yet to potentially be while writing Dirty Laundry. Everywhere the boys went the seeds were sown for another romance, another series in the world.

I have as much fun writing series as I do consuming them as a reader or a viewer. There’s something so delicious and comforting in knowing the world is still there, still rich and vibrant, like playing a familiar piece on a piano. Absolutely there are challenges to series too, but overall, especially as I look at my roster of writing projects, for this author, series are here to stay.


DirtyLaundry_600x900The course of true love doesn’t always run clean. But sometimes getting dirty is half the fun.

Entomology grad student Adam Ellery meets Denver Rogers, a muscle-bound hunk of sexy, when Denver effortlessly dispatches the drunken frat boys harassing Adam at the Tucker Springs laundromat. Thanking him turns into flirting, and then, much to Adam’s delight, hot sex over the laundry table.

Though Denver’s job as a bouncer at a gay bar means he gets his pick of geek-sexy college twinks, he can’t get Adam out of his head. Adam seems to need the same rough play Denver does, and it’s damn hard to say no to such a perfect fit.

Trouble is, Adam isn’t just shy: he has obsessive compulsive disorder and clinical anxiety, conditions which have ruined past relationships. And while Denver might be able to bench-press a pile of grad students, he comes from a history of abuse and is terrified of getting his GED. Neither Denver nor Adam want to face their dirty laundry, but to stay together, they’re going to have to come clean.

Dirty Laundry is part of the Tucker Springs universe.


DirtyLaundry_150x300badgeHeidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi also volunteers for her state’s LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Find out more at www.heidicullinan.com.


I am so glad to see that this is the next book in the Tucker Springs series! I really, absolutely adored this free short she wrote for Cup of Porn and I can’t wait to see it expanded! You know how sometimes you read a little short or something and forget about it, but then you hear about it again and realize that you’re so happy because at the time you wanted to read more and more of it? No? Well, that’s how I feel with this one. The guys were so delightfully smutty. Too bad we have to wait until January 😦

And… I don’t know about you all but those guys on the cover do nothing for me.


Title: Second Hand
Author: Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton
Publisher: Riptide
Length: 50k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex Ration (all towards the end)
Keywords/Tags: HEA, Animals, GFY (technically OFY), Coming Out, Diverse Pairing, Latino, Nasty Exes, Adorable!
Rating: Really Liked It

BLURB

Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.

El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.

Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.

REVIEW

This is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, all set in the same town but with different, barely related, characters and written with different authors. The first book, Where Nerves End by LA Witt, was only okay for me. This one really excels and a lot of you will really love it, I know that without a doubt.

Paul is a mess. His girlfriend of seven years and fiancee has left him for another man and he’ll do anything to get her back. He’s looking for a gift for her in the only place he can afford one (a pawnshop) when he meets El, the owner and all around cool guy with his feet propped up and smoking a cigarette. When Paul is forced to return Stacey’s gift the next day, El takes him out for drinks.

Their connection is immediate. While El is certain to deny the possibility of happiness, both in the world and his own life, Paul is finding old feelings for men returning. What was the real reason he was with Stacey? Because it was right, or easy?

Paul and El are the absolute winners with this story. It wouldn’t be a story at all without them — there isn’t really anything more here than their friendship and later relationship. Their personalities are so different, yet harmonious right from their first meeting. They each have a lot of issues to work through and though some of them are quiet heavy I never felt as if they were overwhelming. Paul, of course, has never really had to face his own fundamental character head on. He’s clueless about everything in his life, and he’s clueless that he’s clueless. Meeting Stacey so young and breezing through life comfortably meant that he never had to consider whether he was truly happy or only content. Never having to make choices combined with a deep seated self esteem issue (because no one could really want him) makes it safer to leave his curiosity smothered. When Stacey takes away the comfort, Paul flounders, unable to see any other way of living if it isn’t to constantly curry Stacey’s favor.

El is a different puzzle. He’s convinced that there’s no such thing as real happiness for anyone, so why try to look for it himself. He isn’t maudlin about it, he simply accepts it as a fact of life, telling himself that he’s a realist and is happier for never searching for an elusive prize that only ends in heartbreak. This is highlighted very well by his family troubles. He’s portrayed as having a typical loud and obnoxious Latin family, but the focus is shifted to his mother’s hoarding problem. This allowed his family to be real instead of stereotypical, and by showing the role that El plays (stern mediator) that while he loves his family he’s constantly seeking to separate himself from them. After all, his sister is constantly dating a new man who screws her over and his mother seems to care for her possessions as living things. They are attachments to disappointment and superficiality, and even while El rants against them, his lonely life and his later actions to court Paul’s favor (a straight man), betray those feelings as falsehoods — a smokescreen for fear of disappointment. I wondered where this came from. We never hear of a failed relationship in his past that might have made El so jaded, so I could only assume that his feelings have grown in response to his family.

There is so much to recommend about this story and like I said earlier, this short novel is going to be a hit with most readers. I sometimes have a hard time getting into contemporary unless I’m not in the mood for any other genre. I didn’t have that problem here because the writing was so superb and kept me interested from the beginning. I can only hope that Heidi and Marie continue to write together. Both of these authors are wonderful, to which their numerous fans will attest, but together their strengths compensated for the other’s weaknesses.

I’m still not entirely sure what draws this series together. Obviously, the town of Tucker Springs which is the name of the series. Aside from that, I haven’t noticed any overall thematic connections — though perhaps I will have to wait for further installments. Definitely Recommended!