Saturday, May 31, 2014

Review by Cam: Ryan by Jeff Erno

Title: Ryan (Spin-off of Puppy Love Series) 
Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Jeff Erno

Rating: 4/5


You might remember Ryan Connors, Petey's nemesis in the 

Puppy Love series. Now he's back, and this is his story. At 

Matt and Petey's wedding, Ryan danced with Petey, and it 

appeared Ryan had at last reformed himself. He'd become a 

new person and was beginning a new life with a Master who 

truly loved him. Now, three years later, tragedy strikes, and 

Ryan again finds himself alone. Will he revert to his old ways 

in order to survive. And how will he handle himself under 

the strict control of a new, sadistic and selfish Master? 

Everything you loved in Puppy Love and much more again 

comes to life in the pages of this all-new tale of romance, 

heartache, revenge, and forgiveness. Oh...and hot BDSM sex.


Bad guy makes good? Well this is a BDSM Title, set in the same world as Jeff Erno’s Puppy Love series, and follows the "bad" guy, Ryan, who caused Petey and Matt so much grief.  Jeff had me sobbing a couple of pages in. Traumatic death is awful, and Ryan's situation is not good. 

I completely and totally wanted to hug the crap out of Ryan. I did. I felt awful for him. He has a pretty awesome network of friends (Petey & Matt in particular) to support him, but then in comes his husband's nephew, Leland. I hated him. Hated Him. I wanted to crawl through the pages and beat the ever living crap out of him. He was an arrogant, self-serving asshole.

There is all sorts of drama concerning the will and ownership and who thinks they have ownership. Then there are events from the past that come into play as well. 

Jeff tripped me up for a minute when he introduced another Dom that I thought, maybe Ryan would hook up with and they would fight against the nephew and all would be well. Tricky Tricky writer!

I don’t want to tell too much more, because I don’t want to give away the plot points that made me angry and surprised me, and ultimately (a little bit) redeemed some characters.

It seemed a little fast paced.. the falling in love… BUT love happens quickly for some. I’m more the ‘proceed with caution’ type myself.

All in all I liked this story. I loved Ryan in particular, who had made mistakes in the past, and had been granted a second chance. Maybe that is why he gave Leland the benefit of the doubt. 

I will say as a warning, this title will PISS you off. It contains some non-consent/dubious consent situations. There is definitely triggers. Read through them. It’s worth it. 

Buy Links: 

(You can purchase signed copies of some of his titles there as well) 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Author Post: Jodi Interviews Josh Lanyon

We are very happy to welcome Josh Lanyon to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today to talk about the newly published novel Stranger on the Shore (Carina Press) and the self-published novella Everything I Know.


A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USA Book News awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.


Learn more about Josh at



Jodi:    Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Your books are the first I began reading in the m/m romance genre. For readers who have never read your stories, where would you recommend they begin?


Josh:   Thank you very much for inviting me to the blog!


I think the standalones are a good place to start. I know fans usually rec the Adrien English books, but I think a series is a big investment for an unconvinced reader. So I always rec Fair Game to people who love mysteries or maybe one of the holiday stories like The Dickens With Love for readers who don’t care for mystery.


Jodi:    For the record, I would recommend all of those books J. Many of your books are mysteries with a touch of romance thrown in. What inspires you to write in this genre?


Josh:   Well, my first love remains mystery. That’s where I cut my writing teeth, so to speak. Romance generally doesn’t have enough plot for me, which is why my non-mystery work is usually short format -- stories or novellas. Without murder there just isn’t enough to hold my interest! As far as what I like about mystery… I like everything from the clean structure to the inevitable ethical and moral questions that will arise for the protagonists. I like the emotional high stakes. Plus action and danger scenes are always fun to write.


Jodi:    Stranger on the Shore is wonderful story. What was the inspiration for this book? Is it based on an actual news event?


Josh:   It’s not based on any one single news event, but it was heavily influenced by my researching a number of real life news stories. Everything from the tragic Lindbergh kidnapping to the actual story that the documentary Imposter is based on. The actual inspiration probably goes back to my love of classic mystery. There are some wonderful classic mystery stories revolving around the Missing Heir trope, and I sort of wanted to offer my own spin.




Jodi:    Are these characters completely fictional or are they based on real people?


Josh:   The characters are completely fictional. That said, I do borrow heavily from real life, including history. Everyone I’ve ever met, observed, or even read about, ultimately goes head first into that creative well to be drawn upon as required. 


Jodi:    Griffin Hadley and Pierce Mather butt heads from even before they meet. Despite being so different, they actually have a lot in common. Was that something you planned, or did the characters unfold for you as you began writing?


Josh:   I usually know what the central conflict(s) will be for my main characters before I ever start writing. A lot of the conflict will be based on personality types. Not entirely, but a lot of why we clash with people simply has to do with who we are. And that’s also true of why we become friends -- or fall in love -- with the people we do.


I always make sure that my character pairings have both believable conflicts and common ground. That makes it easy for the reader to understand the emotional dynamics because it’s completely realistic. That IS how relationships work, both good and bad ones. 


Jodi:    Why did you choose The Great Gatsby as Griffin’s inspiration?


Josh:   There’s always a certain amount of synchronicity in the creative process. Usually whatever I’m reading or thinking about at the time works its way into whatever the current story is. But then a lot of what I’m reading and thinking about at any given moment has to do with the research I’m undertaking for the current project. So in this case, I had set a story on Long Island because I find the history of the Gold Coast fascinating, and the film, The Great Gatsby had just come out, which seemed serendipitous. I started reading up again on Hemingway and the Lost Generation and Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s conflicted feelings about the rich seemed to mirror Griff’s mixed feelings, so it really just took off from there.


It’s actually difficult trying to track it step-by-step because it all just sort of falls into place while you’re writing. 


Jodi:    Like many of your characters, Con Myers and Wes Callahan bump heads in rather dramatic fashion at the beginning of Everything I Know. It seems that Callahan has no idea what he has actually said or done that causes the chaos that ensues in Con’s life. What is Callahan’s motivation for seeking out Myers after their initial run in at the store?


Josh:   What I think is interesting about this story is that Wes does have certain biases. We see it from the start. He is emotionally off-balance, and he certainly doesn’t intend his words to be taken out of context, but there is a bias against male preschool and kindergarten teachers, and Wes’s unthinking words do reflect that cultural leaning. As do Bea and Andy’s interpretation of what he means.


And we continue to see Wes’s biases throughout the story. But in Wes’s favor, he recognizes his own mistakes and tries to fix them. 


Granted, it’s complicated because Wes is also very attracted to Connor. Initially he doesn’t think of Connor as being his type. In fact, it is probably being to blame for Connor’s predicament that really drives Wes to pursue a relationship with him.


Jodi    :      What was your inspiration for this novella?


Josh:   I taught for a number of years, so it was inevitable I would eventually begin to tap into some of those story possibilities.


Jodi:    These books are written in third person point of view. Does writing in third person point of view provide more opportunities to explore each character’s personality than it would if the books were written in first person?


Josh:   Probably not. I always write from a deep POV, whether it’s first or third person. And I usually don’t switch back and forth between the main characters. I’ll generally make the decision on first versus third POV based on how much info I want to share with the reader, how crucial the main character’s “voice” is, and whether narration duty will be shared by a second character.


I know a percentage of readers don’t enjoy first person, so I typically opt for first POV when I know it will make a better -- usually funnier -- story.


Jodi:    Do you prefer writing short stories, novellas or novels? Which format allows you the most creativity with the characters?

Josh:   They all have their pleasures and pains. It’s unlikely that I would ever write a novel-length contemporary romance because I find those boring to read. I need more plot. So when I’m in the mood to write romance, it’s always going to be a story about a few days or a few hours in someone’s life -- which requires short form.


Jodi:    You have penned quite a few series: A Shot in the Dark, I Spy, Adrien English, Homes & Moriarity and, one of my favorites, Dangerous Ground. Do you prefer writing standalone books or series books?


Josh:   More and more I prefer standalone. That said, I’m very fond of the existing series I have -- those books were created with series in mind, so the intention was to explore the characters and their lives a little at a time over a long period.


Jodi:    Do you have more series stories planned?


Josh:   No. I do intend to wind up the series story arcs I’ve started, but I don’t plan on beginning any new ones. At least not in the immediate future. There might be a few sequels though.


Jodi:    When can we expect the next Homes & Moriarity and Dangerous Ground books?


Josh:   The next H&M, The Boy With the Painful Tattoo will be out late summer/early fall. The next Dangerous Ground book, Blind Spot, isn’t planned until sometime in 2015. That one will probably be a full-length novel and more of a traditional mystery.



Jodi:    Homophobia makes its presence known in many of the books. Why have you chosen to make this issue a constant in the series?


Josh:   With the exception of the AE books, I don’t know that it’s really much of a focus in my work. My characters are gay, so it’s realistic that they are going to encounter some prejudice from other characters in certain situations. Just as writing about women would require female characters bumping into sexism and stereotypes. Or disabled characters confronting their share of fear and bias. Or older characters having to deal with ageism and disrespect in a world that doesn’t value getting older. Basically I try to write realistically about humans in a recognizable setting, and gay humans are going to face a certain amount of discrimination and even hatred.


Stranger on the Shore, published by Carina Press, is available at the following locations:

The Blurb
Twenty years ago, little Brian Arlington was kidnapped from his family's Long Island estate and was never seen again. The trail went cold, but investigative journalist Griff Hadley has always thought there was more to the story--much more. When the Arlingtons' patriarch invites him to stay at their estate to research his true crime book, Griff can't say no. It's the story of a lifetime.
But not everyone is happy about Griff's presence. Relatives and staff alike regard him coldly, including Pierce Mather, the Arlingtons' attractive lawyer, who is more than a little wary of Griff's motives.
When a stranger shows up claiming to be the long-lost Brian, Griff and Pierce are united in their suspicions. Startled to have found an ally in the buttoned-up lawyer, Griff soon realizes it's hard to keep a professional distance. Even in the midst of a groundbreaking investigation, even in the face of a shocking family secret.

Everything I Know, published by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.

The Blurb:
Connor loves teaching. He loves working with kids, he loves feeling like he ís making a difference. And the kids -- and parents -- seem to love him. Until the afternoon he makes a small error in judgment, and an angry father is thoughtless comments start the kind of rumor that destroys careers and lives.

Now everything Connor thought he knew about himself and his world is in doubt. But sometimes help comes from the most unexpected direction.

Buy Links:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review by Jodi: Let it Ride by L.C. Chase

Title: Let It Ride
Author: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 4.5/5 Smooches


This title is #2 of the Pickup Men series.
Pickup man Bridge Sullivan is the kind of cowboy everyone wants—as a brother, a friend, a lover. People think he’s straight, but Bridge isn’t one for labels, and when a sexy male paramedic jumpstarts his heart, he charges in with all guns blazing.

New York City transplant Eric Palmer grew up in foster care. While he always had a roof over his head, he never felt love or a sense of belonging . . . until he joined the California rodeo circuit as a paramedic and found a band of brothers who took him in as one of their own. Now, one in particular is making Eric’s pulse race.

When things heat up between Bridge and Eric, Bridge has to prove to Eric he’s not just experimenting with the rougher sex, while Eric must overcome his fears of being unwanted and cast aside. He knows that trusting Bridge may be the key to his happy ever after, but getting in the saddle is much, much easier than learning to let it ride.


“Whatever happened in the past is the past. You can’t let it dictate your future.”
-        Bridge Sullivan

Hot cowboys. Hot sex. Angst. Humor. Who could ask for anything more? Let it Ride is the second book in the Pickup series, and L.C. Chase has done a great job developing this story and further developing the characters. Bridge Sullivan is a pickup man for a California rodeo circuit. Eric Palmer is a paramedic who takes care of injured cowboys. The two men became friends in the first book in the series.

Eric Palmer is not a cowboy, but he feels as though he finally fits in somewhere with this group of men who have welcomed him into their family. A New York transient, Eric is not used to fitting in or being part of a family. He is friendly, shy and more than a little wary of becoming too close to these men.

Bridge Sullivan has been best friends with his fellow pickup men Kent and Marty for years. These men travel, work and live together. They don not keep secrets from each other, most of the time.

Bridge, who appears to be a ride hard, play hard cowboy, has a bit of a reputation bedding women on the circuit. Almost 30 years old, he has never mentioned to his friends that he once fooled around with a guy in college, and he definitely is not sharing the erotic dreams he has been having for the past few months.

Bridge’s eyes snapped open, and he stared hard at the ceiling while the faint, bittersweet odor of cum tickled his nostrils and his chest rose and fell in double time. His heart continued to pound as the fading remnants of the best wet dream of his entire life left him feeling more than a little unbalanced. A dream featuring a man—and not just any man, but one man in particular. Eric Palmer, the paramedic he’d met on the rodeo circuit the previous season who’d become fast friends with Bridge and his two best friends since childhood and fellow rodeo men, Marty Fairgrave and Kent Murphy. Eric had been on his mind too often over the past months . . . and as far more than just a friend.

He sucked a ragged gulp of air. “Oh my God. I’m gay.”

It has taken Bridge a year to understand his feelings for Eric and come to terms with what those feelings mean. Not only is he ready and willing, albeit nervous, to jump into a romantic and sexual relationship with Eric, but like with everything else he does, Bridge jumps in guns blazing. With blinding clarity, Bridge realizes “Shit. I’m Eric-sexual.”

Eric has no doubts about his sexuality. He knows he is gay. When he turned 13, he told his parents he was gay, and they promptly threw him out of the house. Eric’s life has been a constant turmoil of disposable households and relationships.  He is not embarrassed to be gay, but he has been burned multiple times in relationships – both familial and romantic. Not only is guns blazing not his style, but he is terrified of getting involved with Bridge romantically and jeopardizing their friendship and the relationship with his new close circle of friends.

He knew better than to believe someone like Bridge would want him—at least not for more than just sex. Jeremy had made that painfully clear when he’d chosen another over him, even after professing his undying love. Like Ron before him, who Eric had also foolishly believed had loved him. Nope, he couldn’t go there again. As long as he kept his heart locked down, no one would ever be able to hurt him again, and if it were Bridge . . . the heartbreak would be devastating.

With this cast of characters, Chase has established a close family dynamic. Eric is honored to be part of this group, but with his experience in foster homes and bad relationships, Eric doesn’t see himself as a real part of the family. He knows, in his heart, that he is disposable.

He may have felt like he’d known the affable cowboys forever, that maybe he finally belonged somewhere, but in the back of his mind, he was still Disposable Eric. The kid whose parents said they loved him but kicked him to the curb; the new kid in the foster home who would always be the first one turned out if there was a rift between him and the established friends. If he let his original attraction to Bridge resurface any more than it had already, let something happen between them, he’d lose more than Bridge when it took its usual route south. He’d lose all of them because there was no way Marty and Kent would choose him over Bridge. No way anyone would choose him first.

Fuck, how did he let himself get in so deep with these guys? He knew better than to let his guard down and believe in fairy tales

Bridge is a strong character who appears to be tough and in control. He is described as being “The man was solid. A rock in the eye of the storm. No matter what happened, he stood by his friends.”  

It is Bridge’s vulnerability and humor that draws in the reader. His nervousness and shyness around Eric makes him an endearing character. This group of rugged cowboys warn Bridge not to toy with Eric’s feelings, but they do not seem to see how truly vested in Eric Bridge has become.

When Bridge first decides to make his move, he is nervous and tentative. He hides behind a somewhat innocent façade of openly flirting.

Eric jumped down from his barstool and met Bridge in front of the pool table. Bridge held the cue stick out for him but didn’t let go when Eric grabbed it. Their gazes locked for an extended beat, and then Eric stepped into Bridge’s space. That spicy-citrus fragrance drifted into his nostrils, teasing his senses and triggering a rush of endorphins in his brain.

“If I didn’t know any better—” Eric’s voice was low, his accent thicker. His hand slid down the shaft of the stick until it rested above Bridge’s, and the contact sent a burning spike of arousal careening into Bridge’s cock. “—I’d think you were flirting with me.”

“Maybe you don’t know better,” Bridge said, quietly enough for only Eric to hear, and then grinned when his eyes widened ever so slightly. Bridge let go of the cue stick, dropping his hand to brush Eric’s thigh as he walked past him without looking back.

Eric has been hurt too many times not to be wary. The ugliness of Eric’s past is too overwhelming for him to accept Bridge’s words and actions at face value.

He knew better than to believe someone like Bridge would want him—at least not for more than just sex. Jeremy had made that painfully clear when he’d chosen another over him, even after professing his undying love. Like Ron before him, who Eric had also foolishly believed had loved him. Nope, he couldn’t go there again. As long as he kept his heart locked down, no one would ever be able to hurt him again, and if it were Bridge . . . the heartbreak would be devastating.

For a little while, Eric tries to keep his walls up, but the more Eric learns about Bridge, the more intense the attraction becomes, but Eric’s fears about getting involved are too rooted in his heart and brain for him to overcome them. As a reader, it is easy to see both Eric’s dilemma and his rash and heartbreaking reaction to Bridge’s enthusiasm.

Either way, sooner or later Bridge would see what everyone else had seen: that there was something inherently wrong with Eric. Why else would everyone he had ever loved, or had thought had loved him, kick him to the curb? He wanted what Bridge and his friends had—that unconditional camaraderie, that belonging, that confidence that he was wanted and loved. But the more he wished and prayed for love, the more elusive it seemed to become. All he knew of that mysterious emotion was pain. Every time he’d let himself believe that maybe this time would be different was when it’d all come crashing down again.

The climax of the story is dramatic and heart wrenching.

Eric and Bridge are likeable, sympathetic, well rounded characters. Chase does a great job pulling roping readers into this story.  The narration is descriptive, intense and well written. The dialogue in the story is free-flowing and humorous and helps bring a sense of realism to this story. Chase does a great job offsetting the tension with humor.

Chase constructs a wonderful story with Let it Ride. Although the conflict in this story is not as dramatic as it is in Pickup Men, the climax is devastating. These characters are lighthearted in some respects, but thanks to Chase’s writing ability, their emotions run deep.  This simplistic, angst-filled plot is enhanced by Chase’s wonderful character development and smooth dialogue.

Thank you to Net Galley and Riptide Publishing for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Buy Links:

Review by Cam: Zeek's Loving Thorn by Dicey Grenor

Title: Zeek's Loving Thorn (Narcoleptic Vampire Series 3.1)
Author: Dicey Grenor
Publisher: Self-published
Rating: 4/5 Smooches


She's an intersexed, newly turned vampire.
He's a human who was left behind.
Together, they learn how to love each other...
and survive in the final days.


I like this post-apocalyptic world. This book is part of a series, and even though the rest of the series is M/F, it makes me want to go back and read it. I loved the characters, specifically Zeek, who is intersex with both male and female genitalia. 

Zeek seemed to prefer being referred to as a woman so I'm going to use SHE for the purpose of this review. Zeek is a pretty badass character who can kick ass and take names, but has a lot of compassion. 

Thorn is a dick. Seriously, he really is. He wasn't a great guy in his life before, and he's admittedly selfish but trying desperately to be a better person. To say he is thrown for a loop by his attraction to Zeek and the subsequent discovery of Zeek's differences are putting it mildly. 

I think this book is a relatively good stand-alone, but would probably make more sense in terms of certain character interactions if read within the series. I love the portrayal of an intersex vampire character though. This little book is definitely a gem, and if you are interested in a little diverse reading, I think you will too. 

Currently only available through Amazon: Here

or in Paperback through Create Space: Here

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review by Jodi: It's Complicated by L.A.Witt

Author: L.A. Witt
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating:  4/5 Smooches


It's Complicated (Tucker Springs #7)

After their umpteenth breakup, Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden are living apart and starting over from scratch. The morning after a promising first date, they’re more optimistic than ever that they can make it work this time . . . until Jeff’s ex-wife and business partner calls to announce she’s pregnant with Jeff’s baby. Brad’s already competing with a demanding business for Jeff’s time. Now there’s a baby on the way, and worse, he’s afraid Jeff is still carrying a torch for the woman who’s carrying his child.

Jeff is desperately trying to keep his life together, but before he can even get his head around the news that he’s going to be a father, his ex announces that she wants to leave Tucker Springs. Now he either has to take over her role at the shop while ferrying the baby back and forth from Denver, or move the business — and himself — with her.

Brad and Jeff knew reconciliation wouldn’t be easy, but they’re rapidly running out of room for compromise. And sooner or later, something has to give.


L.A. Witt has a knack for weaving a great plot and developing complex, realistic characters, and she does not disappoint in the latest installment of the Tucker Springs world, It’s Complicated. In the case of Brad Sweeney and Jeff Hayden, the term “it’s complicated” is a mild understatement. Every aspect of these men and their relationship is complicated.  No matter how much love they have for one another, life keeps getting in their way.

Wanting each other had never been an issue. Sex was the one thing we’d gotten right from the start, and it was the last thing we’d finally given up when things had really soured. I’d promised myself when we started dating again that we’d take it slow, get our feet back under us as a couple before we went back to bed together, but damn it, that was easier said than done. Right now, I felt closer to him than I had in months, and I couldn’t see tonight ending any other way than getting as close as humanly possible.

Heart beating faster by the second, I turned into the driveway. My hard-on hadn’t lasted the entire drive, but it was sure as hell coming back now. I took my usual spot in front of the garage, and Brad parked next to it in the place that had been his before he’d moved out. Seeing his car in that space that had been empty for so long was weirdly familiar and alien all at the same time, but that thought vacated my brain when our eyes met over the roof of his car. If my cock hadn’t already been fully hard by then, it would’ve been in very short order.

 At the beginning of the book, Brad and Jeff seem to be perfect for each other. The way they seem to want each other and connect both emotionally and sexually is tangible. But under the haze of that love and connection, there is a concrete layer of tension and frustration. The tension between the two men is palpable.

Brad is in love with Jeff, but he seems distrustful of the man. Although he seems to understand that Jeff has other responsibilities, Brad’s frustrations stems from the fact that he is not the number one priority in Jeff’s life. Jeff owns his own business with his ex-wife, and that business seems to take a lot of his time away from his relationship with Jeff.

Although Jeff’s bisexuality did not seem to be an issue when the couple discusses the issues that caused them to split up, Jeff’s ex-wife and business partner, Christine, plays a very prominent role in the turmoil. Now that she is pregnant with Jeff’s baby, Brad’s insecurities about the closeness of the two come screaming to the forefront. That, and the fact, that Jeff obviously had unprotected sex with his ex-wife after he and Brad were already in an established relationship.

I stopped at a coffee shop in the Light District. I wasn’t all that hungry, not with my stomach doing all these somersaults, but caffeine sounded like a winner. As I waited for my order, I sent Nathan a text. You busy?

It was ten thirty on a Saturday morning. There was a good chance he and Ryan were still in bed. Couldn’t blame them — if I had a smoking-hot guy like that in my bed, I wouldn’t be up this side of noon either. Especially since a Saturday off was a rarity for me. And yet, here I was, wide awake and grasping for coffee while my hot guy went to see his ex-wife. About a baby. His baby. Their baby.

What the fuck?

Of course, understandably so, Jeff is freaking out, too. He loves Brad. He does not want to get back together with Christine. But, he does want to be a father.

This was utterly insane. It had to be a prank. A joke. Something. A baby? Now? With my ex-wife? Really? For fuck’s sake. Every time I thought I had a handle on things, something else threw a monkey wrench into it. And the monkey wrenches seemed to be getting bigger and bigger.

No. I wasn’t going to freak out. Wiping my palms on my jeans, I took a few slow, deep breaths. I could handle this. It was overwhelming, and it wasn’t exactly a minor thing, but I would deal with it and not lose my mind in the process. I was thirty-five years old, not some fucking teenager who’d knocked up his girlfriend on prom night.

But how could I not be panicked over this? My ex-wife and business partner was pregnant with my baby. My boyfriend—ex-boyfriend?—and I were on ground that was way too fragile for any kind of upheaval. Cursing under my breath, I thumped the wheel with my fist. This was insane.

Neither man seems mature enough to make their relationship work.

This is not a typical man meets man romance. It also is not a typical romance between two men in an established relationship. Witt has tackled a complex topic, and the idea of happily ever after seems way out of reach for these two men, yet, Witt drags in the reader who hoping for that HEA. It is Witt’s writing style, prose and dialogue that catapult the reader into this story hook, line and sinker.

Witt does a wonderful job of showing how messy and complicated real-life can be, even when two people seem to love each other and want things to work out. By alternating point of views with each chapter, Witt is able to show the perspective of each man as he struggles through trying to figure out what he wants and whether or not the four of them (Christine, Brad, Jeff and the new baby) can have a life together. The back-and-forth perspective is what makes this story so engaging.

As with other Witt books, the characters in this book have very real flaws, which contribute to the elements of realism and perpetuate the angst. There is not a lot of action in this book, but the plot, though simple in construct, is intense. Witt does a great job pulling the reader into the emotional turmoil of the characters and their lives, which seem to be spiraling out of control at points in the story.

The fictional town of Tucker Springs is located on the western slope of Colorado, in between Grand Junction and Silverton. One of the themes of Tucker Springs is that what you see is not what you get. The collaborative world of Tucker Springs, with a population of approximately 75,000, has been created by L.A. Witt, Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton. The books in this series can be read as standalone novels, but the characters do interact from book to book. 

Thank you to Net Galley and Riptide Publishing for providing a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review By Jodi_ Because of Jade by Lou Sylvre

Author: Lou Sylvre

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Rating: 4.5


Because of Jade (Vasquez & James #5)
A Vasquez and James Novel

Luki Vasquez receives the news he’s still cancer free after five years, and he wants to celebrate with his whole family. He and his husband, Sonny James, take a road trip south, intending to gather at the home of his nephew Josh, Josh’s wife Ruthie, and Jade—a little girl who was still in the womb when she and her mother helped Luki beat lung cancer.

Halfway to their destination, Luki learns Josh and Ruthie have met a tragic death. The horrible news lays Luki low, but he pulls himself together in time to be the family’s rock and see to the dreaded business of tying up loose ends. The most important business is Jade, and when Luki and Sonny head home, they take Jade with them.

Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s spurious claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril


“You, Sonny Bly James, are the most beautiful thing that ever happened to the world.”
As many hundreds of times that Luki had said those very words, Sonny never got tired of hearing them and never got the feeling Luki meant them any less than with his whole heart. But there was more to the refrain, and Sonny wanted to hear the rest. He smiled back, and then said, “And?”

“And I love you.”

Sonny laughed. “I love you too, husband.”

       Sonny James and Luki Vasquez are back. These two men have been through hell and high water in this beautifully written, engaging series by Lou Sylvre. Now it is time for some happiness and peace in the final book of the series. In typical Sylvre fashion though, the road to happiness has a few potholes along the way.

“Sonny knew the instant the phone rang that something had happened, something dreadful. By thirty seconds into the call, Luki’s face was turning to pale stone, his eyes—Sonny could see in the mirrors—had gone wide and unblinking as if they’d been propped open with toothpicks. Luki’s part in the conversation consisted of whispered, “Yeah… okay… right,” and then he ended with, “On our way now.”

Luki fumbled with the phone, apparently managed to end the call, and sat back in his seat so straight-spined, so still, Sonny wasn’t sure he was breathing. He started to feel panicky. What could it be that affected Luki this profoundly? What could he, Sonny, ever do to take care of Luki—who appeared to need caring for at the moment? He was just deciding whether he should pull off at the next coffee shop or rest area, when Luki started pointing frantically toward the side of the road.

“Pull off…. Sonny, pull off!” His voice barely had any air behind.

In the previous books in this series, Sonny and Luki have been shot at, threatened, kidnapped and lost loved ones close to their hearts. Luki, the badass, has put his life and heart on the line for Sonny at every turn. The gentle and lovable Sonny became the strong caretaker as Luki battled cancer and depression. There is an intense bond between Luki and Sonny, and the reader becomes a voyeur to this passionate connection thanks to Sylvre’s talents.

Because of Jade reunites readers with this couple who has now been married for 10 years. At the beginning of the book, Sylvre lulls the reader into a sense of peace. Luki and Sonny are a loving couple who seem as affectionate with each other now as they did at the beginning of their relationship. The heat is still present with some sweetness and romance thrown in for good measure.

Luki floundered. Unsure why the news should have hit him that hard — he cared, of course he cared, but he was used to dealing with bad news and unwanted developments. But whatever the reason, when Kaholo broke the news to him, it felt like a razor split him in two. His mind floated while his body panicked: heart racing, breath fled, limbs numb, and gut roiling. He didn’t feel the ground when he hit it, but after he vomited, he became aware of where he was and how he got there.

Thank all the saints for Sonny. For his care, his touch, his voice. His fucking persistence.

If Sonny had not held him and pushed and pulled until he came back to reality, Luki wasn’t sure he would have come back. He might have been content to stay there on the ground, on all fours like an infant or an animal, for hours. Days. Forever. But Sonny touched him, held him, and insisted with his questions, until Luki regurgitated what he knew. And it was that moment, when his own voice made it real, that he came back to himself. Like an old man, he let Sonny—sweet, young, Sonny—help him up and dust him down and get him back into the car.

Just as the married men are ready to slide into their comfortable lifestyle, tragedy strikes, again. In a bittersweet irony, the sadness brings something wonderful into their lives in the form of a little girl: Luki’s niece Jade.

Luki and Kaholo had gathered the fixings for a meal from Ruthie’s supplies—surely she had shopped for them the previous day, looking forward to their visit. They’d prepared a variety of dishes, and everyone had gathered around the table to fill their bellies. As food does, it brought them together and made their situation somehow tolerable. But not easy. Brian was on his way from London after all, but hadn’t arrived yet, and Jackie seemed to be hanging on by a thread. He shook all the time, he hadn’t slept. He was the first to mention how wrong it felt to be there in Ruthie and Josh’s home—just an apartment, more or less low rent with Southern California’s ubiquitous palm trees, hibiscus, jasmine, and oleander on view from the windows. But the young couple had made it a home in the truest sense of the word. And now they were gone. Leaving their home intact, untouched by disaster. Leaving their child, sweet, precocious, precious Jade alone with a gaggle of men who had never been parents trying to determine how to save her future.

Sonny and Luki welcome Jade into their homes and lives with some angst and a lot of love, but, as usual, outside forces try to break up their happy family. The drama that follows is heart wrenching.

They were all quiet for a moment. It seemed an odd puzzle, and clearly Mavis harbored ill will, but why? Luki dismissed it with some effort, telling himself she was simply one of those people that never had and probably never would get rid of their homophobia. At fifty-one years old, he’d certainly endured hate before. Her vitriol felt strong, but he honestly didn’t think she had any power to hurt him or his family.

So, when Lula said, “Just don’t pay her any mind—she’s just a bitter woman. The world is full of them,” Luki nodded and smiled, winked at Sonny, and got out his reading glasses. Sonny snorted, hiding but not hiding a chuckle, which Luki knew was a deliberate tease about the pince-nez. Which were silly, but no matter, they helped him see.

Of course, just as in real life, hate causes tears, anxiety and chaos. Hate, intolerance and violence, once again, cause havoc to the James-Vasquez household, but Sonny and Luki are fighters and refuse to allow others to take what they love. Just like Sonny does with colors, Sylvre weaves an intricate and wonderful story with her words that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and, at some points, reaching for the tissues.

That night Luki lay awake next to his husband, the most beautiful person the world had ever seen, and cried. Silent. No racking sobs. Simple tears falling one after the other to wet his pillow. He couldn’t have explained exactly why, what, or who the tears were for, and for once he didn’t have enough fight to try to stop them. They became oddly comforting to him, like friends, so that after each one melted away he had to mourn its passing with another, and another. An endless
chain. He wasn’t sure if this condition, crying for something indefinable, might be permanent.

He had hoped Sonny wouldn’t wake, wouldn’t know. That was either too much or too little to hope. Of course Sonny knew, and as Sonny sometimes did, he limited his response to that which was wise. He turned toward Luki and lifted a hand to cradle his head, letting his long, beautiful, expressive thumb gently wipe back and forth where the tears rolled down. And he said, “Husband, I’m sorry it’s all dark and you hurt. I’m here. I love you.”

Because of Jade is a beautifully written story, and Sylvre’s writing talents shine on every page of this novel. From the descriptive prose and engaging dialogue to the words of endearment and hot sex scenes, this is a wonderful ending for an engaging series.

Thank you to Lou Sylvre for providing an Advanced Review Copy of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

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