Review: “Hearts and Flour” by Tara Lain

TITLE: Hearts and Flour
AUTHOR: Tara Lain
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
LENGTH: 87 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2018
PRICE: $3.99 – e-book


Can a raw food enthusiast find love with a guy who bakes cupcakes?
When Micah Truveen’s devoted health-food customers start showing up with white flour, Micah wants to chew nails! To make his misery worse, he finds his yoga teacher boyfriend in bed with another guy the day before Valentine’s Day. Micah decides to drown his misery at a friend’s anti-Valentine’s Day orgiastic hookup party—and meets the beautiful Queen, a gorgeous cross-dresser who’s got Southern sugah in his mouth and the right equipment under the dress. But when the hookup turns serious, Micah has to compromise to protect Queen’s secrets from his beloved grandmother. With everything against them, can two hearts rise above the flour?

Second Edition
First Edition published by Etopia Press, January 2013.

Hearts and Flour by Tara Lain is a fabulous Valentine’s Day story. This story hit a bunch of my personal favorite genres. It’s got instant-love, cross-dressing, a southern accent and southern charm, even if it is around Valentine’s Day. Although the anti-Valentine’s Day orgy that Micah’s friend Yancy throws every year went a long way to making me forget about the holiday that is only for couples. Sorry, single by choice so aside from all of the yummy chocolate, Valentine’s Day isn’t my favorite holiday. But I do love to read books by Tara Lain, and I just couldn’t pass up on reading this one, especially when I read the blurb and saw that one of the main characters is a cross-dresser. There’s just something about a hot gay guy dressing up in women’s clothing and lacy undergarments that just does it for me. If it does it for you also then I recommend reading this book. Oh, and did I mention that the cross-dresser, Queen, is also a southern lady with an accent that bakes sinful cupcakes during the day?

As we find out in the blurb, Micah Truveen is the owner of The Place a raw foods restaurant. He’s a raw food enthusiast, and he’s devoted to educating his health-food customers and teaches classes using raw foods, so he’s devastated when some of his most devoted customers start showing up with these huge cupcakes made out of what he considers poison aka white flour and refined sugar. From his customers and employees, he knows that the owner of Charismatic Cupcakes is Quentin. He keeps meaning to go to the bakery and meet him, but so far he hasn’t found the time. Won’t he be in for a real surprise when he finally meets him?

The story starts out with Micah coming home the night before Valentine’s Day to find his yoga teacher boyfriend in bed with another guy. All of his friends are happy that he’s kicked him to the side since they all think he’s a lowlife user, which he is. His friend Yancy invites him to his annual anti-Valentine’s Day party aka orgy to help him drown his misery. At the party, he meets the beautiful Queen, and it’s love at first sight. Micah isn’t sure what it is about Queen that intrigues him so much, he’s never been attracted to a cross-dresser before, but he has a powerful connection to Queen, and their chemistry is off the charts. But Queen isn’t out to his grandmother as either gay or a cross-dresser. As their relationship progresses, he finds out a secret that Queen has been keeping from him, and they part ways, and then Micah ends up getting blackmailed by his ex-boyfriend. His ex-boyfriend is threatening to expose who and what Queen is to his grandmother, who is one of his yoga students, unless he takes his ex back.

Will he take him back so that his ex doesn’t out Queen to his grandmother or will he allow Queen to be outed and possibly disowned by his grandmother?

A truly delightful story that I’m sure that I will be reading again.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Smoldering Flame” by Andrew Grey

TITLE: Smoldering Flame
AUTHOR: Andrew Grey
SERIES: Rekindled Flame
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
LENGTH: 200 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 13, 2018
PRICE: $6.99 – e-book/ $14.99 – paperback


Sometimes the strongest flames take the longest to ignite.
Firefighter Dean’s life revolves around his very ill son, Sammy. Caring for Sammy and working to make ends meet leave Dean time for little else, and romance isn’t something he can even consider—no matter how much he longs for someone special to join their family. Because money is tight, Dean couldn’t be more grateful to the photographer who does Sammy’s session free of charge.
After growing up in the foster care system, Marco knows how to rely on himself, and his hard work is about to pay off—he’s poised on the cusp of fame and success he could only have imagined as a lonely child. When Dean brings Sammy into Marco’s studio, Marco can see they’re struggling, and both the boy and his father stir Marco’s heart. The slow burn between the two men isn’t something either expected, but neither wants to lose the possibility of a loving future. With Dean’s dangerous and possibly life-threatening career and Marco’s demanding one, can romance and forever find a place to fit?

Smoldering Flame by Andrew Grey is the third book in the Rekindled Flame series. I haven’t read the other two books in the series, but this book is very much a standalone read. I have read quite a few books by Andrew Grey, and he has this way of writing that just engages all of my emotions. I can’t help but become invested in his characters and what they have to go through to get to their happily ever after. I just knew this was going to be a special book when Marco meets Dean and Sammy for the first time at his studio and he does a photo shoot with Sammy and Sparky, a giant stuffed Dalmatian dog. The scene brought tears to my eyes, and I was glued to the book until the very end. The book was everything that I wanted and more.

Smoldering Flame starts out, and we meet Marco and get a look into his hopes and dreams for his photography career. He’s on the cusp of making it big and getting all of his hard work and dreams realized. Marco hasn’t had an easy life growing up. He lost his mother to cancer and entered the foster system. He also had leukemia as a child and was able to beat it. However, he didn’t have any family, and so he had to battle all of the treatments by himself with just the nurses and doctors to keep him company while he was in the hospital. There was a very nice firefighter that would come in and visit with the children, but he was later killed on the job. After beating leukemia, he was fortunate enough to have wonderful foster parents that were very supportive of his photography passion.

Dean’s a firefighter, and his life revolves around his very ill son, Sammy. Dean’s a single father, and his parents help out with babysitting while Dean’s at work. His mother’s very supportive of Dean being gay. However, his father is retired military and believes that Dean just needs to find the right woman again. He doesn’t support his son being gay and has very bigoted views. However he does love his grandson, in his mind he just wants his son to find the perfect woman to be Sammy’s new mother. He feels that Sammy needs to have a mother in order to have a well-balanced life.

During his treatments, Sammy sees a picture in the children’s ward with a little girl and a giant stuffed Dalmatian dog. He’s taken with the dog, and so his father finds out who shot the photo, and they visit the studio in the hopes that Sammy can see and interact with the stuffed dog in person. When Marco sees Sammy, he’s moved to offer an impromptu photo session with the dog. Marco can empathize with Sammy, and he loves how Dean cares for Sammy. Marco finds the way Dean cares for Sammy to be very attractive. And it’s Sammy and his love of Marco’s stuffed dog, Sparky, that keeps bringing Dean and Marco back together until they start dating. But Marco has trust and loss issues, and Dean has a very dangerous job. Can Marco handle the stress of Dean’s job? Can their new relationship handle how busy Marco’s job is and how much traveling comes with it? I know that I enjoyed getting the answers to those questions. I fell in love with Sammy, Dean, and Marco and of course, Sparky and Spotty, the hand puppet. I can’t wait to read the first book in the series about Marco and Richard, who are friends of Dean and Marco’s.

So for me, it’s 5 OptimuMMs for Fire Daddy, Fire Papa, Sammy, Sparky, and Spotty for stealing my heart.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***

Review edited by : Laura McNellis

Review: “Kidnapped by the Pirate” by Keira Andrews

TITLE: Kidnapped by the Pirate
AUTHOR: Keira Andrews
PUBLISHER: KA Books (Self)
GENRE: Historical
LENGTH: 298 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2017
PRICE: $4.99 – e-book/ $12.99 – paperback


Will a virgin captive surrender to this pirate’s sinful touch?
Nathaniel Bainbridge is used to hiding, whether it’s concealing his struggles with reading or his forbidden desire for men. Under the thumb of his controlling father, the governor of Primrose Isle, he’s sailing to the fledging colony, where he’ll surrender to a respectable marriage for his family’s financial gain. Then pirates strike and he’s kidnapped for ransom by the Sea Hawk, a legendary villain of the New World.
Bitter and jaded, Hawk harbors futile dreams of leaving the sea for a quiet life, but men like him don’t deserve peace. He has a score to settle with Nathaniel’s father—the very man whose treachery forced him into piracy—and he’s sure Nathaniel is just as contemptible.
Yet as days pass in close quarters, Nathaniel’s feisty spirit and alluring innocence beguile and bewitch. Although Hawk knows he must keep his distance, the desire to teach Nathaniel the pleasure men can share grows uncontrollable. It’s not as though Hawk would ever feel anything for him besides lust…
Nathaniel realizes the fearsome Sea Hawk’s reputation is largely invented, and he sees the lonely man beneath the myth, willingly surrendering to his captor body and soul. As a pirate’s prisoner, he is finally free to be his true self. The crew has been promised the ransom Nathaniel will bring, yet as danger mounts and the time nears to give him up, Hawk’s biggest battle could be with his own heart.
This May-December gay romance from Keira Andrews features classic tropes including: a tough alpha pirate too afraid to love, a plucky virgin captive half his age, enemies to lovers, first-time sexual discovery, and of course a happy ending. 85,000 words.

I loved Kidnapped by the Pirate by Keira Andrews. I grew up reading m/f historical romances in the 90’s, and this book reminded me a lot of them. Which is a good thing. I loved reading those privateer and pirate stories by Valerie Sherwood, Johanna Lindsey, and Fabio (don’t judge, his book Pirate is a great book). The stories were usually over the top and pure entertainment and they always had the virgin captive taken by the swashbuckling handsome, experienced pirate. This book reminded me of those books with a dash of The Princess Bride tossed in at the end when the Sea Hawke asked one of his crew if they had ever thought of being the next Sea Hawke when he retired.

Sure the story has some facts that you could nick pick about. Like the big age gap between Nathaniel and Hawke and the average life expectancy back in the 1700’s, or that a heavily pregnant woman on a month-long voyage would have been miserable and not likely to happen. Although, on the flip side of that coin, the woman wouldn’t have taken a voyage with a newborn also. So I think the pregnant woman is more believable. Also, they wouldn’t have had a prior warning when the hurricane hit Primrose Isle, and they wouldn’t have had cut lumber to put over the windows. Those are modern details. And yeah I could mark the book down because of those facts, but they didn’t pull me out of how entertained I was by all of the action and adventure and the chemistry between the Sea Hawke and Nathaniel.
The book was fast-paced, and I read it in one sitting. I absolutely hated Nathaniel’s father and the current governor of Primrose Isle. He was a right arrogant bastard, completely delusional, and very self-centered and big on revenge. I did love Nathaniel’s sister Susanna. She was very maternal and level-headed, and you could feel the love she had for her brother. I also loved how she helped Nathaniel with his reading problem. Nathaniel was severely dyslexic, not that they had any idea what that was back then, and was termed stupid. He could retain the information that he needed to learn if somebody read it to him and that’s what Susanna did for him. But Nathaniel would never be a scholar. His passion lies in the great outdoors, climbing trees, swimming, horseback riding, stuff like that. He hates being idle and is filled with nervous energy which makes the month-long voyage on the Merchant ship intolerable for him as they won’t let him do more than stand by the railing. When the pirate Sea Hawke captures their ship, he’s taken captive to be ransomed to his father.

Nathaniel’s hopeful that he will finally get to do something fun like help the crew with the ship, climb the rigging, or even wash the deck. However, he’s confined to the captain’s quarters with nothing to occupy his time but the captain’s collection of books. But Nathaniel’s fascinated by Hawke and his penchant for sleeping in the nude. Nathaniel’s supposed to marry a girl picked out by his father when he gets to the isle. Although Nathaniel has never been attracted to women, he’s expected to marry one. When he learns that Hawke also shares his predilection for men, he’s excited and wants Hawke to take his virginity. Nathaniel worms his way into Hawke’s heart. Will Hawke be able to ransom Nathaniel when the time comes and let him go or will he risk mutiny from his crew if he keeps him? Nathaniel may have started out sheltered and a virgin but he isn’t afraid to go after what he wants, and he wants Hawke, and he will do anything to keep him.

I loved the chemistry between Hawke and Nathaniel and all of the adventures that they get into. I also loved the epilogue. I know that I will be reading this book again and that is why I have given it 5 OptimuMMs.

***I would like to thank the author for the privilege and opportunity of reading this ARC. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***


Review: “Chasing Thunderbird” by J. Leigh Bailey

TITLE: Chasing Thunderbird
AUTHOR: J. Leigh Bailey
SERIES: Shifter U,
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
COVER ARTIST: Aaron Anderson
GENRE: Shapeshifters; Paranormal
LENGTH: 228 pages
RELEASE DATE: February 6, 2018
PRICE: $4.99 – e-book/ $6.99 – paperback


A Shifter U Tale

A legendary love.

Ornithology professor Simon Coleman’s reputation is at risk, and the only way to save his name is to prove thunderbirds are more than creatures of Native American myth. Grad student and part-time barista Ford Whitney has a lot on his plate, but it’s also his duty to make sure the resident bird nerd doesn’t discover shape-shifters—like himself—live on campus.
When a series of incidents related to Simon’s search put him in harm’s way, Ford’s instincts kick in, and they become closer than is strictly proper for student and teacher. Ford is forced to reveal his secrets to Simon, and their relationship is put to the test—Simon must choose between salvaging his reputation and protecting the man who protected him…

Chasing Thunderbird by J. Leigh Bailey is the second book in the Shifter U series and book thirteen in Dreamspun Beyond series. I didn’t realize this was the second book in the series when I read it. And after reading a couple of the other reviews on Goodreads, I have a feeling that I missed out on a lot of inside comedy and knowing what kind of shifter Ford was since it was revealed in the first book Stalking Buffalo Bill. However, I did enjoy reading Chasing Thunderbird.
The story’s told through Simon’s first person POV, so we don’t get to know what Ford’s thinking or feeling except for how he reacts to what’s going on. I did like Cody College and all of the strange happenings that go on like when Simon attends a bird watching club meeting and how secretly it’s a bird shifter club. I also liked how bold all of the wildlife is at the college and how they aren’t afraid of humans which is strange to Simon but makes sense to everybody else that goes there since the college has one of the largest population of shifter students.

Simon is an Ornithology professor. He’s an academic genius and received his Ph.D. by the age of twenty and comes from a long line of academics. However, his family has a reputation in academia for their zealous and over publicized search for the Thunderbird cryptid. They have gotten proof of the Thunderbird, but every time the evidence is stolen, lost or goes missing just when the person goes public with it leading to embarrassment, shame, and besmirching of the family name.

When a position in the biology department becomes available at Cody College, it seems like fate to Simon. This will put him close to a recent sighting of the Thunderbird, and he wants to finally get proof and clear his family’s name in secret, of course. However, when a meet and greet article turns into an article about his family’s search for the Thunderbird, the head of the biology department assigns Simon a TA to make sure that he stays in line and doesn’t cause the college any embarrassment. His new TA is Ford Whitney. Grad student and part-time barista, Ford has a lot on his plate, and it’s his job to make sure that Simon doesn’t find out that shifters are real and that the college has the largest population in residence.

As Simon investigates the location of the supposed sighting of the Thunderbird, he runs into a group of people that want all of his research on the Thunderbirds, and they aren’t above trying to force him to give it to them. Ford will be forced to step in and save Simon and the secret about the shifters will be revealed. Simon will have to decide on what is more important to him, clearing his family’s name or saving the Thunderbirds by keeping their existence a secret.

***The ARC was provided by Dreamspinner Press. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***


Review: “Sweet Thing” by Isobel Starling

TITLE: Sweet Thing
AUTHOR: Isobel Starling
SERIES: Pretty Boy
PUBLISHER: Decent Fellow Press
COVER ARTIST: Isobel Starling
GENRE: Contemporary Romance; BDSM,
LENGTH: 237 pages
RELEASE DATE: September 8, 2017
PRICE: $4.99 – e-book


M/M Romance sequel to ‘Fall Together’
**This can be read as a standalone novel**
French male model Simeon Duchamp has a lot of explaining to do
Two years after a breakdown fueled by unrequited love, drugs, and booze, Simeon is clean and wants to stay that way. On his road to reclaiming his life and modeling career, Sim first needs to apologize to the man he hurt the most -his ex-best friend Pieter Bayer.
Pieter now has a long-term partner, artist Emily Raven with whom he shares a baby son, and so Simeon is amazed when Pieter accepts his apology and invites him into his life again.
Closeness to the object of his obsession sees’s Simeon’s longing for his friend rekindled, but then Simeon meets a troubled older man who turns his world upside down. Simeon has to decide whether to allow himself to fall for the man who wants him or pine for the man he can never have.

Sweet Thing is the second book in the Pretty Boy series by Isobel Starling. I enjoyed reading this book, and I liked the main characters, Simeon and Bastian, and the secondary characters, Pieter, Emily, and baby Lukas.

The story starts out with Simeon getting out of rehab for his drug and alcohol problem and being treated for Addictive Personality Disorder and moving back to Berlin where his ex-best friend Pieter lives with his artist girlfriend, Emily, and their young son, Lukas. Simeon has come to apologize for what he had done to Pieter three years ago and to get closure as his therapist has advised him to do. Simeon is forgiven and invited to a gallery showing that night by Pieter’s girlfriend. It’s at this exhibition opening that Simeon meets Bastian for the first time.

Bastian and Simeon are both drawn to the pain, sadness, and heartache that they see in each other’s eyes and want to help each other. But both men have strong issues that they are trying to work through and what was supposed to be a simple hookup turns into abuse and ends up hurting Simeon physically and emotionally.

For Bastian, he also can’t believe what he did to Simeon, and he will do anything to make it up to Simeon if he can only get Simeon to talk to him. I wasn’t sure if I could like Bastian after what he did, but he managed to redeem himself and then he messed it up again with a misunderstanding, but everything got worked out.

I did enjoy the bromance between Pieter and Simeon, and I won’t lie, I was kind of hoping they would hook up, but they never did. I also loved Emily and baby Lukas. The book also has the characters speaking in French and German, but there are English translations, so I was able to know what they were saying. Something that I would have liked developed further was how they handled the Dom-sub aspect of their relationship, especially after what Bastian did. They had one small scene of spanking with only four smacks after the incident, but it didn’t really address the issue for me. From what I’ve read about the BDSM lifestyle, it isn’t something you can just turn off. It’s a part of your personality and how you are wired. So I would have figured they would have worked it out after being together for three years. Otherwise, the book had lots of sexy scenes and was enjoyable to read.

***I would like to thank the author for the privilege and opportunity of reading this ARC. My review is an honest opinion of the book ***