Book Review: Tomorrow’s Hero by Thom Collins

Fernando Inglesias is the typical Premier League League footballer, with a flash lifestyle and a girlfriend who’s famous for starring in a reality TV show. But Fernando has a huge secret – he’s gay, and he knows that coming out would change everything for him. So he keeps his man-on-man encounters swift and anonymous, until he meets Joshua on a trip to a gay club on the island of Ibiza. The two make an instant connection and the sex is unforgettable, but Joshua has reasons for distrusting closeted men, and finding out Fernando’s real identity changes everything…

Tomorrow’s Hero is Book 2 in the Success series, about the complicated lives of men in the celebrity spotlight, and while there’s a loose connection to the first book in the series, Never Too Famous, you really don’t need to have read that book to enjoy this one. You also don’t need to know anything about football as the storyline barely touches on the sport, which would be a disappointment for a huge fan of the game like myself if Tomorrow’s Hero hadn’t been such an engaging read. Thom Collins’ real strength lies in picking apart the celebrity culture that’s sprung up around the stars of reality TV shows, and how someone can have a hugely glamorous life that’s built on little more than Botox and fillers. In this book, he also has a dig at the kind of ultra-buff male action hero who’s stringing out those roles rather longer than he should, in the shape of Joshua’s father, Jason Drake.

There are reasons why there’s currently no openly gay player in English professional football, and Collins explores some of them, giving plausible reasons why Fernando has created an alter ego, Juan Carlos, for his same-sex adventures. It helps to create believable conflict between Fernando and Joshua and leaves you hoping that Joshua can overcome being lied to by Fernando and they get the happy ending they deserve.

By turns funny and tender, and with sex scenes hotter than the Balearic sunshine, Tomorrow’s Hero will have you eagerly looking forward to more books in this deliciously bitchy series.

Tomorrow’s Hero is available from First For Romance, Amazon US and Amazon UK. I was given a copy of the book by Lucy Felthouse at Writer Marketing Services in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Far Away by Bryan T Clark

One unforgettable summer, nerdy student Noah finds his stay at his grandmother’s home in New Hampshire enlivened beyond his wildest dreams by the presence of the handyman’s nephew, Spiro. The handsome young Greek is Noah’s opposite in just about every way, but they make an almost instant connection.

Twelve years later, unable to get his first love out of his head and tired of all his romances failing, Noah makes the impulsive decision to fly out to the tiny Greek island of Lemnos in the hope of finding Spiro. But is he heading on a wild goose chase, and what will happen if he and Spiro finally meet again after all this time.

Far Away is an interesting romance that plays with the always seductive idea of ‘the one who got away’, and the thought that when you do find closure in an unfinished relationship it will end with a Happily Ever After. The Greek island setting is nicely described, making you feel you can almost feel the waves lapping at your feet and taste the stifado, and Spiros is more than just an exotic hunk, with heart and depth. Bryan T Clark ensures that things don’t go too smoothly or predictably for Noah, who’s an unusual character in that he suffers from IBS – not a condition that often rears its uncomfortable head in romance fiction. Noah is also a twin, and the death of his brother when they were both children informs many of Noah’s decisions, as well as those of his parents. There’s a moment or two in the book when the descriptions of Noah’s mother’s behaviour make you think she might become a study in the grief caused by losing a child, which would humanise her as a character. Instead, she’s simply presented as the standard homophobic bitch – a sadly recurring fate for too many female relatives in MM romance. But that quibble aside, Far Away has much to recommend it if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the seductive vibe of a holiday love affair.

Far Away is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK and you can find out more about Bryan T Clark and his books at his website.

I was given a copy of Far Away by Lori at Indigo Marketing and Design in return for an honest review. 

Book Review: Never Too Famous By Thom Collins

Harry Alexander and Grant Hunter have both made their names on reality shows, but while Grant is happy to milk his fame for all it’s worth, Harry is tiring of being famous for nothing more than having been on TV. When they bump into each other at a nightclub where Harry’s making a personal appearance, it’s obvious there’s a connection between them, but Harry really doesn’t like Grant’s co-stars on the show Sexy Northerners, and unfortunately where Grant goes the rest of his crew are never too far behind. Can the two men ever get together for long enough to act on their desires for each other, or are they destined to be celebrity ships that pass in the night?

Never Too Famous is a fun, hot novella that taps into our current obsession for reality TV and the outrageous micro-celebs these shows create. Harry is an ‘old school’ star, in that he became famous for actually doing a job – in this case, an engineer on a cruise ship – while Grant is from a show that, like Geordie Shore, Made In Chelsea and their ilk, simply features a cast of pretty young things fighting, shagging, and agonising about every last detail of their hook-ups. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Thom Collins has spent some time working in TV, because he really captures the vibe of the low-rent TV chat shows where characters like Grant and Harry would wring out the last drops of their fame, and he has plenty to say about the people who are willing to distort their looks with cosmetic surgery, release sex tapes, and generally do whatever desperate things it takes to stay in the public eye.

Harry and Grant are nicely contrasted as characters, with the older Harry initially appearing the more grounded one in relation to the brash, cocky Grant, but as the story progresses and Grant finds himself trying to help a friend who is getting sucked deeper into the seedy side of fame, it becomes obvious they’re really not too different after all. The attraction between them is a slow burn, but when they finally get together, the sex is steamy and the affection between them palpable.

My only quibble with the book is that for something produced by Pride Publishing, who have very high standards in everything from editing to cover design, there’s a noticeable number of mistakes in this copy of the text, though hopefully those have now been fixed.

If you’ve ever thought being a reality TV star might be fun, Never Too Famous might make you think again, and as this is the first book in a series – Success – all about men in the public eye, I can’t wait to see what comes

Never Too Famous is published by Pride Publishing and is available from First For Romance, Amazon US and Amazon UK. I was given a copy of the book by Lucy Felthouse at Writer Marketing Services in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Stay Lucky by Leta Blake

Heart surgeon Dr Grant Anderson and Leo Garner were a couple until handsome movie star Curtis Banks swept Leo off his feet. Six years later, Leo arrives unexpectedly back in Grant’s life, and it seems like fate has given the two of them a second chance at love. The prickly Grant even finds himself bonding with five-year-old Lucky, Leo’s adopted daughter. But Leo’s kidneys have failed, and the process of finding him a donor is proving harder than expected, especially as Leo’s system is already fragile from an earlier heart transplant. Grant can’t bear the prospect of losing Leo – what will he do when Leo’s life is literally in someone else’s hands?

Stay Lucky was originally released by Leta Blake under a pen name, but just like Grant and Leo, it’s getting a second chance. Readers who like stories of couples overcoming the odds to find the true love they were originally denied should enjoy this story, but I didn’t like it half as much as I’d expected to. Blake warns readers upfront that some might find Lucky overly precocious (count me among their number, and I was a precocious brat myself…) but Grant, whose POV the story is told from, is also a very off-putting character. He has all the worst characteristics of a stereotypical surgeon – he’s arrogant, stubborn and seriously believes he’s better than everyone else, particularly the surgeon tasked with Leo’s kidney transplant, and Lucky’s class teacher, who’s on the end of a couple of unpleasant tongue lashings for not finding Lucky as adorably gifted as Grant does. This makes it hard to care about the agonies Grant goes through when Leo is at death’s door. Not to mention that in order for Leo and Grant to achieve their happy family unit, most of the secondary characters have to be terrible people – most notably Leo’s husband, Curtis, and Leo’s drug addict sister, who is Lucky’s biological mother.

Leta Blake writes well, creating an intense connection between Grant and Leo in the sex scenes and those rare moments when Grant’s vulnerability shines through, and the non-linear storyline (the action is told in a series of flashbacks intercut with present-day events) adds interest, but I won’t be rushing back to spend time with this particular set of characters.

Stay Lucky is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. You can find out more about Leta Blake on her website. I was given a copy of the book by Indigo Marketing and Design in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Earthbound By Melora Johnson

Allyson Reynolds is a vet specialising in the area of wild birds, specifically raptor rehabilitation. Since childhood, she’s carried a secret that means she’s ideally suited for her job – she can cure animals by laying on her hands and sending healing energy into them. Her job brings her into contact with handsome Matt Blake, an ornithologist at Cornell University. Matt needs her to look at an injured bird, and when he and Allyson meet, sparks fly. What Allyson doesn’t know is that Matt is completely aware of her special powers – and that he needs her to help him in his role as a demon hunter. And that’s just the beginning of the secrets he has in store for her. Before she knows what’s happening, Allyson is plunged into a nightmare fight for survival against the most evil of demons, not knowing who she can trust, who wishes to harm her, and whether she should act on her growing attraction to the very sexy Matt…

Earthbound may start with the cliched set-up of a feisty, intelligent, high-flying woman who has everything going for her but still can’t find a man. However, it soon transforms into an entertaining and fast-moving paranormal adventure which will appeal to readers who were raised on the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Allyson is faced with a variety of adversaries, some of whom are far more attractive – and familiar – than others, and though she at first struggles to adapt to all the things she learns about herself, as the book progresses she gains an increasing mastery of her powers. She and Matt make a compelling team as they fight all the obstacles that are thrown in their path, and they have a sizzling chemistry in and out of the bedroom, swapping wisecracks and complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Matt is skilled and resourceful without being a boring typical alpha male hero. Meanwhile, Allison may be more than human but she never loses her compassion for her friends, family, and her pet cat, and though Matt is on hand to help out when the forces of evil threaten to overwhelm her, she’s definitely no damsel in distress.

The end of the book, while not a cliffhanger, sets up the possibility of more adventures for Allyson and Matt – here’s looking forward to them kicking more demon ass in future!

Earthbound is published by Tirgearr Publishing. To find out more about the book, read an excerpt, and find a full list of retailer links for the title, visit the Earthbound page at the Tirgearr website.

I was given a copy of Earthbound by Lucy at Writer Marketing Services in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Hard-Pressed by Queenie Black, Club Hard Book 1

Rose works as Lucien’s personal bodyguard, keeping him safe from dangerous situations and taking control of his life, but on her first visit to Club Hard, Lucien is determined to turn the tables. He sees Rose as his perfect submissive, and tonight he intends to show her what it’s like when he’s on top. But how will Rose cope when she’s so far out of her comfort zone?

Hard-Pressed is a quick, hot read, outlining in exquisite detail Rose’s first ever punishment session. Though part of her very much desires everything Lucien does to her, she’s fighting against her preconceived notion that submitting means being weak – something she needs to learn is not the case. Lucien, for his part, is a stern and slightly enigmatic master, but he cares very much for Rose, which becomes obvious as the evening progresses. From having to display herself in public to taking a spanking, Rose explores things that until now have been part of her fantasises, and which excite her more than she could have believed.

An unexpected twist raises the stakes and makes this more than a simple tale of Dom meets sub. This part of the story comes out of nowhere and could have been explored in more detail as it’s barely given room to breathe before it’s over, but overall this introduction to the world of Club Hard will leave readers wanting to know more about happens behind the club’s closed doors.

Hard-Pressed is published by Evernight Publishing and available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. I was given a copy of the book by Writer Marketing Services in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Professor Adorkable by Edie Danford

Pete works for an agency that finds housekeepers for gay men. When he’s hired to work for genius astrophysics professor Marek, it seems like the ideal job, living in Marek’s beautiful home and taking care of a man who’s too busy and disorganised to fend for himself. But Marek’s is cute as well as clumsy, and despite his desire to keep things strictly professional, Pete soon finds himself falling for his boss. A line is about to be crossed, and neither man is sure things will ever be the same…

Professor Adorkable is a light, engaging read that takes two characters who are perfect for each other and then spends most of the book working on ways to keep them apart. It’s one of the oldest tropes in romance, but Edie Danford handles it neatly and with plenty of humour. Both Marek and Pete have troubled pasts, having been taken advantage of in different ways (and in Pete’s case, knowingly letting it happen) and through the course of the story Marek has to learn to stand up for himself and Pete to put his fear of reliving the past aside as they work towards the happy ending certain people wish to deny them.

There’s a lot of hot sex in the book, with the running joke that Marek treats everything in life like one of his science experiments, and this extends to the bedroom too. The love scenes are by turn inventive and tender, and the author has the knack of getting deep into the most intimate thoughts and emotions of the two main characters as they explore their desires for each other. If geeky but self-aware men are your thing, Professor Adorkable should hit the spot for you.

Professor Adorkable is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. I was given a copy of the book by Indigo Marketing and Design in return for an honest review.

 

Book Review – Ghost Wolf by Hurri Cosmo

Trevor has grown up as a wolf without a pack in a small town in the middle of nowhere. What little he knows about shifting and pack lore he’s learned from the elderly man he calls Grandpa, who’s also passed on to him a mysterious ring. When circumstances force Trevor to use the ring, he realises it turns him invisible, something he tries his best to use to his advantage. But other people want the ring, too, and that throws Trevor into some very bad situation. Luckily, Ryan Jarfang, Alpha of the biggest wolf pack in the area and the hottest man Trevor has ever met, is on hand to help out.

Ryan and Trevor are Fated Mates, with an attraction too strong to ignore, something that doesn’t go down too well with Amanda, the woman whose forthcoming mating with Ryan will create a powerful alliance with another local pack. With wolves being found dead and shifters going missing, how will Trevor and Ryan overcome all the dangers and find the happiness their status as Fated Mates should guarantee them?

Having a main character who can not only shift into a wolf but become invisible as well should be too much for one story, but in Ghost Wolf Hurri Cosmo manages to pull it off. There’s a streak of humour in the book that keeps everything from getting too serious and overblown, though when the baddies come after Ryan and Trevor there’s a genuine sense of menace about the set piece as they hunt for the ring in Trevor’s old family home. Having Trevor as an outsider to the pack means we get to learn about wolf lore through his eyes, and he’s an engaging hero, always looking out for others beside himself. Ryan might be the typical Alpha male, always on top in the bedroom, but there are times when he needs Trevor’s help and protection, and that vulnerability adds more depth to his character.

There is, as you’d expect, plenty of hot sex, especially on the night of Ryan and Trevor’s mating, though I could have done without the detour into male pregnancy territory. It may be a necessary part of the happy ending for some readers, but personally, I find it silly. With that caveat (and that part of the book is easy to skip once you realise where the storyline is headed), this is a fun and entertaining shifter story that’ll have you howling for more.

Ghost Wolf is published by Painted Hearts and is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. Find out more about Hurri Cosmo at Hurricosmo.com.

I received a copy of Ghost Wolf from Indigo Marketing and Design in return for an honest review.

Book Review – Vampire Claus by Robert Winter

A vampire without a territory, Taviano arrives in Boston on Christmas Eve. When he was turned, in 19th century Italy, he was studying for the priesthood, and he still finds himself drawn to the familiar ritual of Midnight Mass. While lurking near the church, he manages to prevent a young short order cook, Paul, from being robbed of the presents he’s taking to a shelter for homeless LGBTQ children. Taviano is drawn to Paul, but even though it’s obvious Paul wants him, too, anything that happens between them can only be a one-night thing. Unless, of course, they can experience a Christmas miracle…

Taviano is the kind of vampire romance readers will adore. While the other vampires that feature in this novella are undead monsters, not afraid to use extreme violence to get what they want, Taviano still retains a soul and a moral code. He satiates his need to feed (here personified as a ‘bloodbeast’, a literal demon living inside him) by drinking the blood of muggers, rapists and other lowlife, and he still has strong memories of his life before he was turned. Paul, meanwhile, is poor but good of heart, willing to put others before himself and with a recklessness to his personality that makes him embrace the desires of a vampire rather than run away from them. Both are loners, so naturally they’ll be drawn to each other, and when they have sex it’s hot and sensual and deliciously described.

Robert Winter tends to overdo Paul’s use of slang to emphasise the difference in age and attitude between him and Taviano (does anyone really say “amazeballs”, and if so, please can they stop?), and there’s a rather too contrived revelation about Paul’s family background late in the story, but these are minor quibbles. If you’re looking for a heart-warming slice of paranormal romance to stuff your Christmas stocking, Vampire Claus is the one for you.

Vampire Claus is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. You can find out more about Robert Winter at his author site.

I received a copy of Vampire Claus from Indigo Marketing in return for an honest review.

Book Review: Unearthly Delights – An ERWA Anthology

For more than twenty years, the Erotic Readers and Writers Association has offered budding writers of erotic fiction a place to discuss and hone their craft. It’s expanded from its original concept of a place where women could find the intelligent erotica that was largely absent from the Internet at that time, and now offers regular book and video reviews, new fiction produced by its members, and is one of the best sites for finding details of publishers’ submission calls and other useful author resources.

Given all that, it’s a surprise that it’s taken quite so long for the ERWA to put together a book showcasing its members’ talents. Unearthly Delights, a collection of paranormal stories edited by ERWA owner and prolific author Selena Kitt, is the first in a planned series of anthologies, and it features a variety of writing styles, from romance to full-on erotica.

The writing is of a uniformly high standard, but it’s best to be warned up front that this is not a collection for the faint of heart. If descriptions of blood-letting make you queasy, then you might be advised to avoid Lisabet Sarai’s elegant but disturbing Underground, the tale of a woman whose need for extreme blood play, and a man who is in tune with her taboo desires, leads her to a club frequented by vampires. Also on the horror end of the spectrum is The Velvet Choker, Selena Kitt’s compelling and very adult take on the classic scary campfire story, The Red Ribbon.

By far the most fun story of the bunch is Daddy X’s The Rasputin Collection. The collection of the title is a set of bronze lamps with highly erotic reliefs in their bases. Reputed to have been owned by the legendary “mad monk”, Rasputin, the lamps exert a strange power when lit, compelling whoever they shine on to perform the acts they portray – much to the surprise, and delight, of their new owner.

Elsewhere, Delores Swallows’ Night Visitors features the classic trope of the couple who buy a run-down home for a bargain price, only to discover that it might not be as uninhabited as they think, Jean Roberta’s A Ripple In The Air pits vampires against those who are fated to protect the world from them, and Belinda La Page’s Imagine is a series of darkly funny flash stories about the misadventures of an alien charged with hunting human men for breeding stock.

Like all anthologies, some stories work better – or appeal more to a reader’s personal tastes – than others. The two contributions that failed to grab me here were Ian D. Smith’s The Lesson of History, which tries to pack too much into the story of a woman who’s testing a device designed to measure the body’s responses to stimulation and has a series of ghostly encounters at a country wedding, and Mary Ramsey’s Mystic Force, about a group of deeply unpleasant and unlikable people who have superpowers. Overall, though, this is a great showcase for the talented writers at the ERWA, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Unearthly Delights is available from Amazon US and Amazon UK. You can find out more about the ERWA here.

I was supplied with a copy of Unearthly Delights by Indigo Marketing in return for an honest review.