Hello world!

This blog is all about Romance!  We review books about romance (mostly m/m – but there might be an occasional m/f, f/f, m/m/f, space-alien-babies, what have you).

In addition we are inviting fan fiction, slash fiction, fan-art – anything that moves you to create.

We hope you find something that entertains you or inspires you – Enjoy!

Feel free to email us at openskyebookreviews@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.

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Choice and Changes by TM Smith Book Blitz with Giveaway!


Love – Loss – Friendship – Family
The All Cocks stories
There comes a time in every man’s life where he has to make a choice between what is right and what is easy. 

Born and raised in Fort Worth Texas by open-minded parents, Dean Anderson realized early in life he was attracted to both sexes. Equal opportunity, he picked his lovers based on personality and common interests. He met Maggie in college, fell in love, got married and started a family. And they were happy…until they weren’t. 

Adam Chase’s mother is South African, his father American military working at the US Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa. His parents’ positions in the South African and American governments awarded Adam dual citizenship, and he attended University in America, at Berkley. In America, Adam is lives openly as a gay man, something that could get him killed in his mother’s home country. He met his husband, Patrick Carter, at college and they too were happy…until Patrick died. 

Two lives converge, and it would seem fate is giving them each a second chance at happiness, together. Dean stays in New York and moves into the apartment his son, Dusty, shares with his boyfriend David. He and Adam are quickly welcomed into All Cocks’ vastly growing family. And then one phone call changes everything. 

The men of All Cocks learn that death is just another part of life, a road everyone travels eventually. Choices are made, decisions that change their lives irrevocably. They rally together, drawing strength from each other as their close-knit family experiences the best and worst life has to offer. But that’s what families do, right? 

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon DE | Amazon AU

Series reading order 
Gay for Pay book 1 
Fame and Fortune book 2 
How to Deal book 3 

Dare to Hope book 4 

Live for Love book 5 


Hide and Seek book 6 


Choices and Changes book 7
What others are saying about Choices and Changes…
The chemistry between them was immediate and often entertaining. Dialogue and interaction was strong and suitable for the given situations. The plot was dynamic and had several secondary things happening in the background. There is a tragic twist, so be prepared if you are a more sensitive reader and/or crier. Some new characters were added on top of the entire All Cocks cast. There were a few conflicts that were managed maturely and in a timely manner. Predictability was low. The conclusion was solid and satisfying. Adam and Dean are given their HEA and many others also find additional happiness. 
Tina from Happily Ever Chapter
This series continues and we get to see everyone from the past as don’t forget they are a Family. I love this family!
Jen Reilley

a Rafflecopter giveaway





A military brat born and raised at Ft. Benning Georgia;
TM Smith is an avid reader, reviewer and writer. A Texas transplant, she now
calls DFW her home. Most days she can be found curled up with a good book, or
ticking away on her next novel.
Smith is a single mom of three disturbingly outspoken and
decidedly different kids, one of which is Autistic. Besides her writing, she is
passionate about Autism advocacy and LGBT rights. Because, seriously people,
Love is Love!
Author links: Amazon || Smashwords || Website || Facebook || Twitter 
Catch up on the series…


Gay for Pay
An All Cocks story, book 1 
Fame and Fortune
An All Cocks story, book 2
How to Deal 
An All Cocks story, book 3
Dare to Hope
An All Cocks story, book 4 
Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon DE 
Smashwords | B&N | iTunesLive for Love
An All Cocks story, book 5
Pre-order now! 
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon DE
Smashwords | B&N | iTunes

Hide and Seek
An All Cocks story, book 6
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Smashwords | B&N



Facebook All Cocks stories page

Join the All Cocks INC Groupies page on facebook for exclusive excerpts, content, early peek at covers and giveaways that are just for members of the group. 



Posted in Giveaway, Tour/Guest Post/Blitz | Leave a comment

Poppy’s Secret Audiobook by Andrew Grey Narrated by John Solo


Dreamspinner Presents



A second chance born of love.

Pat Corrigan and Edgerton “Edge” Winters were ready to start a family – or so Pat thought. At the last minute, Edge got cold feet and fled. Pat didn’t bother telling him the conception had already gone through and little Emma was on her way. He didn’t want a relationship based on obligation. He’d rather raise his daughter on his own.
Nine years later, Emma and her Poppy are doing fine. Edge isn’t. He realizes what he threw away by leaving, and he’s back to turn his life around and reclaim his family. It’ll take a lot to prove to Pat that he’s a new man, and even if Edge succeeds, the secret Pat has hidden for years might shatter their dreams all over again.


I think I may be in the minority here – but I wasn’t a big fan of this story.

First, I didn’t think Pat’s devotion to Poppy (total abstinence!) and lack of a social life felt healthy and I wondered at his inability to even date in all that time.

Second, I really didn’t like Edge and his reasons for leaving nor his making Pat feel bad for his “secret”. I just never warmed to Edge very well.  

Third, John Solo, though he did a fine job didn’t do much to make me fall in love with this story. He is a capable narrator and the sound quality was good but I didn’t find anything “swoon-worthy” in his performance.

Though it was as predictably sweet as I’d have ever wanted (or expected given the Dreamspun line) I didn’t love this. It was good and entertaining and fans of the trope and the author will probably be well pleased.

3 of 5 stars

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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

Posted in 3 star, adult - 18+, Angst Level, Audiobook, Book, Contemporary, Dreamspinner, Gay, Heat Index, Little to no angst, m/m, Mild, Morgan, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Part of a Series, second chance at love, Single Parent | Leave a comment

Dating Ryan Alback by J.E. Birk

Riptide Presents



Ryan Alback has almost everything he’s ever wanted: a successful acting career, a dog who adores him, great family and friends, and a life outside the closet. The only thing missing is a boyfriend — but Ryan’s been burned by Hollywood relationships before, and he’s not eager to try one again.

Jason Santos has almost everything he’s ever wanted: a fulfilling career teaching middle school, a house in a city he loves, and parents who support him in every way. Too bad he can’t seem to forget the ex-boyfriend who rejected his marriage proposal.

When a talk show host launches a dating contest to find Ryan a boyfriend and Jason accidentally wins, neither of them expect anything to come from it. Yet somewhere between a disastrous massage and a mud sinkhole, they both start to wonder if this date could be more than just a public relations stunt. But before they can move into the future, they’ll both have to learn to let go of the past.


This premise and the cover of this story pulled me in, so cute and fun. And to be fair, the story was cute. But that was all it was, unfortunately.
Ryan Alback is a TV-star, who is insanely paranoid about his private life remaining private, yet he is coerced into being set up for a blind date by by his manager. Jason Santos is a middle school teacher, still pining after his ex and annoyed at his friends meddling in his love life. The two end up on a blind date together, but both are loaded down with the issues of their pasts.
This felt so much like an after school special. Just a little too preachy and awkward to get me invested in the story and the characters. The characters had no chemistry, so I never really felt that they were right for one another. The plot was cute, but the conflicts felt contrived and a bit out there, to be honest.
All in all I was left a bit dissatisfied. The premise was great, but the story itself lacked a bit and the ending wasn’t really that satisfying either. It was cute and fluffy and easily read, but completely forgettable the second you close the book.

2 of 5 stars


Copy Generously Provided by NetGalley For Honest Review
* (originally posted here: https://goannago.wordpress.com)

Posted in 2 star, Actor/Theatre, adult - 18+, Angst Level, Anna, Book, Contemporary, Gay, m/m, Mid, NetGalley, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Opposites attract | Leave a comment

Add Love and Mix Audiobook by Sean Michael Narrated by Steve Balderson


Dreamspinner Presents



Firefighter Jason “Jase” Weller and EMT Scott Bronson are living the perfect life. They work together in jobs they love, they live together, and in their downtime, they still can’t get enough of each other. It’s been six amazing years. Then on Christmas Eve, Jase’s former lover Elsa shows up with a six-year-old girl in tow. The strung-out junkie claims Kerry is Jase’s daughter and it’s his turn to care for her, and then she walks out.
Shocked at both the fact that Elsa is now a junkie and that he has a daughter he never knew about, Jase nonetheless steps up to the plate as her father and Scott offers his full support. Having an instant family comes with plenty of challenges, and the two men work to deal with sweeping changes in their lives and to make things right for Kerry.
It’s not going to be easy, and their new circumstances test them and their relationship like nothing ever has. They’ll need all the love they have for each other—and the love they discover for their daughter—to keep from breaking apart.

Boy. I’m not sure how to really even review this.

First, the couple is already together – as you can tell by the blurb – so their “romance” is pretty well … established. It almost reads like a sequel wherein we’d met the MCs in an earlier book and this was “what happens next”. They definitely have stuff to overcome in their relationship, but it’s not that they don’t love one another so it’s kind of a strange book to categorize from that sense.

It’s Sean Michael, so we do get some sex and that is pretty steamy – but this is the “family book” Sean Michael versus the “BDSM” Sean Michael so sex isn’t the main focus.

The main focus is, instead, the trials and tribulations of two youngish men, who hadn’t ever really “wanted” kids (at least not yet) suddenly becoming parents. Which is… kinda interesting but more … exhausting and sometimes whiny.

On the one hand, I think the author did a good job of setting up realistic hurdles and having the couple work through them in ways that felt authentic. Maybe a little too realistic. It just felt like work and I wasn’t ever very invested in anything because you knew they were going to stick together so it was just a matter of time and… it was just a bit – blah.

What didn’t help was the fact that I was listening to this and the narrator, Steve Balderson, isn’t very interesting either. His narration felt very “story book telling time at the library” to me and didn’t inspire a lot of passion. It was fairly monotone with no variations for the MCs and the girl’s voice was just pitched higher.

He’s a new narrator to me, and I’d be cautious about picking another story narrated by him in the future. It might have been his subject matter or it might have just been how he chose to portray it.

In any case, I can’t really say I recommend this. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good.

All in all I’d give it 2.5 of 5 stars for both the story and the narration.


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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

Posted in 2.5 stars, adult - 18+, Angst Level, Audiobook, Book, Christmas, Contemporary, Dreamspinner, Established Couple, Firefighters, Gay, Heat Index, Holiday, Hurt/comfort, Little to no angst, m/m, Mild, Morgan, New Year's Eve, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Single Parent | Leave a comment

Review for Drawn Together Audiobook by Z.A. Maxfield Narrated by Greg Boudreaux


Audible Link


Re-release of best-selling 2009 novel – What happens when Rory travels halfway across the country to meet the girl of his dreams? Certainly not what he expected.
Rory’s just a simple southern boy from St. Antoine’s Parish, Louisiana, but he knows what he wants – the girl of his dreams, reclusive and mysterious artist Ran Yamane. He’s loved her since junior high school, and now he has the chance to meet her. He chucks everything and travels 1,500 miles to Anime Expo in Long Beach just so he can tell her. He’s determined that nothing and nobody are going to stand in his way.
Turns out, Ran Yamane isn’t a girl, but he gets that a lot. People come to him with teddy bears and chocolates and disappointment by the truckload. He’s trusted fans in the past and paid the price. So when he meets Rory he is understandably wary, but resigned. He isn’t prepared for his magnetic attraction to the young man, Rory’s apparent willingness to overlook his gender, and the chaos that ensues when his number one fan (and psycho stalker) shows up to get revenge.


This book had some of the best characters I’ve read in awhile. I left the
book more than a little in love with hunky Cajun leading man Rory. The
characters and their relationship just felt very real. It’s a rare book
where I really understand why the characters fall in love. These guys just
clicked and you can feel the connection. The action and adventure is
exciting and captivating. I now want to read all of Maxfield’s books and
Greg Boudreaux’s narration brought the characters to vibrant life. Highly


Copy Purchased For Review

Posted in 5 star, Audiobook, Book, Brian Cherry, Contemporary, m/m, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Purchased | Leave a comment

An Evidence of Magic (Everlight Book 1) by Kris Michaels and Patrica A Knight

Amazon Link



Forty-year-old, hard bitten, foul-mouthed, homicide detective, Hiro Santos, suspects the owner of the art studio committed the gory killing. Too bad. There are other things he’d like to do to the gorgeous young man than book him for murder. Worse, his sexy suspect is certifiable. The nutcase claims he’s some kind of high wizard from an alternate reality and needs Hiro’s help to save their worlds.
While the striking Sable Campion appears a youthful twenty-five, he’s endured over two-hundred lonely years as guardian of the portal between Everlight and Elysium. None of those centuries offered him any experience finding a vicious killer. That’s where Hiro Santos comes in; but convincing the virile detective to trust Sable will take all his persuasive skills…and perhaps a bit of magic.
I’m so glad I took a chance got this! All my fave tropes- surly, but lovable MC, witty banter, action, romance, but not sappy, fun. I could go on…
Get this book, and the best part, it’s going to be a series. The excerpt of the next book sounds just as awesome as this was.
Updated review:
After re-reading this to gear up for book 2 (Incidence of Magic), I was struck by how original this story line is (I don’t read a lot of fantasy, so I could be wrong). The world building was effortless; I could easily see both realities –paranormal and ‘normal’ and the mystery was engaging.The MC’s were very well written- I loved Hiro, and Sable, he was the perfect foil for Hiro, sweet with a hint of snark and steel. Both had experienced loss in the past, but didn’t let that govern their lives or the developing relationship. The intimate scenes are hot and sensual, really well done. All through the story, there is a thread of humour- whether it’s Hiro calling members of a council ‘Snowcones’, or Sable trying to get Hiro to believe what he’s seeing- this alone made the book for me. The romance between Hiro and Sable is a HEA, but the mystery is not completely solved (hence book 2 with 2 new MC’s ☺ )

5 of 5 stars


Copy Purchased For Review

Posted in 5 star, adult - 18+, Alternate World, Book, Dee, Fantasy, Gay, Little to no angst, m/m, Magic, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Opposites attract, Paranormal, Part of a Series, Purchased, Scorching | Leave a comment

Gabriel By RK Staunton

release day review
Dreamspinner Presents



Order of the Black Knights
Gabriel Ingram is running from his past. It’s common knowledge at the college where he teaches that he’s a former CIA technical analyst, but no one knows the things he really did—or about the rage and bloodlust that are his constant companions. He’s holding on to his normal life with both hands, but he knows someday he’ll lose his grip.
Lucas Craig is a social worker studying to become a family therapist. For reasons Lucas can’t understand, the normally reclusive Professor Ingram takes an interest in him, and Lucas secretly hopes their friendship might become more.
Then Eric, Lucas’s roommate, disappears. Lucas is frantic. The police are no help. With nowhere else to turn, Lucas begs Gabriel for his expertise.
What starts as a simple errand to help a friend becomes a journey into a violent world of gangs and human trafficking—one that will bring Gabriel face-to-face with the forces intent on stealing his soul. But Lucas might be the one who can save him—if Gabriel can get them out alive.

I really loved this!

If you can imagine a CSI episode with a hot ex CIA agent and one of his students tracking down evil human traffickers and falling in love while doing it – that’s kind of how this book felt to me. And they’re both men so – BONUS!

Gabriel has this “evil” inside him – the curse that haunts all our MCs in this series – and it makes him turn into a killing machine at times. Because of this he deems himself “unlovable”. When Lucas asks for his help, the “goody goody social worker” is just too sweet for Gabriel to ever consider as someone he could be with.

But of course – nothing is as it seems – and our MCs find their way into each other’s arms – all the while finding clues that lead them to the bad guy.

The paranormal aspect of this series was played down more than in the last book I read – Jaeger – but it was still there and still satisfying.

The ending was a bit more abrupt than I’d hoped – I wanted to see these guys down the road a ways – but it was still sweet.

If I have any complaints it’s the POV shifts that landed me in the heads of too many people when I wanted their “stories” to be more of a mystery.

In any case, I really enjoyed this and think fans of the series will as well, but it’s also a great standalone for anyone interested in a crime solving story with a bit of a May/December romance to go along with it.

Highly Recommended
4.5 of 5 stars


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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review


Posted in 4.5 stars, adult - 18+, Angst Level, Book, College/University, Contemporary, Cop/Crime, Dreamspinner, Enemies to Lovers, Fated Mates, Gay, Heat Index, High but not hopeless, m/m, Mid-grade, Morgan, Mystery, New Adult, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Older MCs, Paranormal, Part of a Series, second chance at love, Secret Identity, Witches/Warlocks/Wizards | Leave a comment

Just Add Argyle (Fabric Hearts #3) by K.C. Burn

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents



Tate Buchanan is a troublemaker who can’t keep a job, no matter how many times his lucky argyle sweater gets him hired. Add to that a learning disability and an impetuous nature that sends him into altercations to protect the defenseless, and he hardly manages to make friends, let alone find a man who’s interested in him for more than one night.

Most people think EMT Jaime Escobar is a player, but the truth is he wants a serious partner—he just can’t justify wasting time on guys he knows aren’t a match. But when he treats a gorgeous redhead after a fight, he finds the spark he’s spent so many years looking for.

Jaime wants to take the next step with Tate, but it’s clear Tate’s not going to curb his impulsive behavior—his next fight sends him to the hospital. Jaime’s relationship with a near criminal isn’t something his family is ready to accept, not any more than Tate is willing to be kept a secret. Jaime will need a lot of understanding—and some luck of his own—to keep them both. But this is one fight he’s going to see through to the end.


(Previous books in the series reviewed here:  http://openskyebookreviews.com/tartan-candy-audiobook-by-kc-burn-narrated-by-david-ross/ )

I absolutely ADORED this book. It reached me at EVERY level and I couldn’t read it fast enough!

I think it’s clear that a romance is best when the readers are invested in the characters – first and foremost. Tate – as a character – had me by the heart right from page one. He’s scrappy, got a short fuse, a low self-esteem – but the absolute biggest heart you’ll find.

Jaime is another amazing character who is so filled with love and also gratitude that he can literally do no wrong – but – this is important – he doesn’t come across as a goody two shoes or “too perfect”. He’s just a great guy.

I was surpised by the relative lack of smexy times – but what we do get is very HOT and very, very sweet, too. There was enough in here that I was satisfied – but I’m used to more from this author and this series.

I loved the “slow reveal” of all of Tate’s secrets. It wasn’t obvious – nor was it hidden in a fake way. It felt very natural and I learned something, too!

If I have any complaint at all – it’s the ending. Tate and Jaime felt so good together and the ending we get is amazingly sweet and wonderful – but I did want to see them a little further down the road- specifically so I could see where Tate ends up!

Seriously, Tate is my current favorite MC – and I highly recommend this book to fans of the author, fans of gingers, fans of scrappy MCs and anyone who needs a good book to warm your heart.

5 of 5 stars


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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for Honest Review

Posted in 5 star, adult - 18+, Angst Level, Audiobook, Book, class difference, coming of age, Contemporary, DA, Dreamspinner, Gay, Heat Index, Homophobia, Hurt/Abuse, Hurt/comfort, Length, m/m, Medical, Mid-grade, Mild, Morgan, Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words), Opposites attract, Part of a Series, PTSD, Rating, Review Copies, Reviewer, Virgin | Leave a comment

Laura Lascarso author of The Bravest Thing: Guest Post and Giveaway!


OS: Welcome to Laura Lascaro author of “The Bravest Thing”! Thanks for stopping by and talking to us about reviews and spoilers!


Spoiler Alert

I’m very excited to introduce to you my newest novel, THE BRAVEST THING, which launches with Dreamspinner Press on April 17.

In thinking about what to share with readers, I started thinking about reviews. The first few reviews for THE BRAVEST THING have come in, and I’ve read them more times than I’d care to admit. I’m someone who is addicted to feedback—good or bad—and I take any written review as a sincere compliment because that person took the time to not only read my work, but also formulate an opinion and comment on it.

That said, it doesn’t make the first few days after a book release any less nerve-wracking, because, of course, you want your work to be well-regarded.

But aside from the praise (or not), the thing I really like about reviews is that it feels a little like a conversation with the reader about the story itself. Other than my critique partners and editors, I don’t get to talk a lot about the story or what it means to me, so it’s actually very rewarding to have readers give their impressions of, and reactions to, story, character, and execution.

Sometimes it’s exactly as I designed, but more often, there’s a little special something readers realize about the story or the characters that I hadn’t considered before. Readers sometimes pick up on things I did instinctively, but that I hadn’t actually intended. This cuts both ways in terms of good and bad. Writers are mere mortals and as such, sometimes we just plain make mistakes, and that’s helpful to know as well.

I’ve also found that reviewers are very careful and considerate about not mentioning any spoilers. It’s an unwritten rule, I think, among readers not to spoil the book for others, or if you’re going to, to warn readers ahead of time. That kind of consideration is kind of rare on the Internet, and it’s refreshing to see those codes of conduct adhered to.

Because I’m a writer, it also made me think of the ultimate troll, going around reviewing books and spoiling the plot twists for future readers. Perhaps they do it to garner a sense of superiority over others. Sounds like a pretty good villain, huh?

To share a personal experience, my son spoiled HARRY POTTER for my daughter by revealing the death of a particularly snarky and beloved character. My daughter then turned around and spoiled HUNGER GAMES for him by revealing every death in MOCKINGJAY. (They’re not monsters, I swear.) They both learned a valuable lesson about being considerate readers, and we bring it up as an example whenever someone gets to talking about a book or movie, and the temptation to spoil arises.

All of this is to say that I don’t expect every reader will like my work. Art is highly subjective after all.

THE BRAVEST THING deals with some very difficult issues: abuse, homophobia and addiction to name a few. There’s also a very sweet and touching love story to be had, but I respect the reader who wants only to escape the cruelties of our world and I, myself, love a good escapist novel every now and again, for just that reason.

But for those who do choose to read it, I’d like to personally invite you to write up your review, good, bad or in-between, because your feedback helps artists like myself get better. Even if it’s to say, this book wasn’t for me, it’d be great to know why, so that I can make sure I’m not turning away readers, unintentionally.

How about you? Do you like writing reviews? Do you have any experiences where a story was spoiled for you? Share in the comments below!



High school junior Berlin Webber is about to reap the fruits of his hard work and land a football scholarship—if he can keep his sexuality a secret from his best friend, Trent, and their homophobic coach. Then Hiroku Hayashi swerves into the high school parking lot on his tricked-out motorcycle like some sexy comic book villain, and Berlin knows he doesn’t stand a chance.

Hiroku is fleeing his sophisticated urban scene to recover from drug addiction and an abusive relationship when he arrives in Berlin’s small Texas ranch town. Initially sarcastic and aloof, Hiroku finds in Berlin a steady, supportive friend who soon becomes more. As Hiroku and Berlin’s romance blossoms, they take greater risks to be together. But when a horrific act of violence tears them apart, they both must look bigotry in the face. While Berlin has always turned to his faith for strength, Hiroku dives into increasingly dangerous ways of coping, pushing them in opposite directions just when they need each other most.

Two very different young men search for the bravery to be true to themselves, the courage to heal, and the strength to go on when things seem darkest. But is it enough to bring them back together?

Amazon buy link: http://amzn.to/2obq7ri

a Rafflecopter giveaway



One hundred and eighty days until the end of junior year and I’m already counting down. Not the best thought to be having on the first day of school.
“Berlin, check out the tits on that one.”
Trent knocks my shoulder and points to a girl walking by where we sit on the tailgate of my pickup truck in the high school parking lot. He eyes up the freshmen, or fresh meat as he calls them, while I pretend to do the same.
I grunt in appreciation, even though breasts don’t do it for me. Neither do girls, for that matter. But my reputation at Lowry High depends on me being a normal red-blooded American male. I don’t know for sure if I’m gay or not, but judging from my browser history this summer, it’s seeming more and more likely.
“I’d hit that in a minute,” Trent says, and I grunt again like a bullfrog. Ribbit, ribbit. Trent and I have been friends since fifth grade when we started playing peewee football together. He knows pretty much everything about me. Except this. I’ve been hiding it from everyone—my team, my friends, my dad, my girlfriend Kayla.
Kayla’s breasts, according to Trent, are prime.
I scan the parking lot for Kayla’s blonde head, and the whine of a motorcycle catches my attention. I point in that direction, noticing the bike first, a new Kawasaki Ninja, black with neon green fairings, then the driver. He’s in all black—jeans, T-shirt, high-tops, even his full-face black helmet. Like a dark, sexy comic book villain.
“Check out the crotch rocket,” Trent sneers. He sounds jealous.
The guy docks his bike and takes off his helmet. I’ve never seen him before—that much I know. I’ve never seen anyone like him before.
His hair’s long on one side, black and shiny. The other side’s buzzed close to his scalp, punk rock. The way his hair falls over his face reminds me of our horses and how their forelocks will sometimes hide one eye.
The new kid hitches up his tightfitting jeans and slings his backpack, also black, over one shoulder, then struts across the parking lot like he already knows where he’s going. He’s slim-hipped but on the tall side, an inch or two shorter than me. I’m full-on checking him out when I catch myself doing it and force my eyes away.
I have to be more careful.
Trent sizes him up like he’s surveying the field, about to throw a pass, or more likely, preparing to pounce. “The fuck….” he mutters.
I glance back at the new kid and see what caught Trent’s attention. It isn’t just the haircut, which I’ve never seen on anyone in real life, or the piercings climbing up his ear like rungs on a ladder. It isn’t even the fact that he’s Asian, which is pretty rare around these parts. It’s his eyes. He’s wearing eyeliner, thick and black, like one of those Egyptian pharaohs. And he’s smoking hot. Big, dark eyes, smooth skin, and a naturally pouty mouth. There’s a pucker just above his upper lip that draws me in. My lower half starts to ache in an awful way. I should stop staring, but I can’t tear my eyes away.
The new kid glances over at us: Trent first and then me. He looks bored, but then his eyes lock with mine, and there’s something there. At least, I feel it, under my skin and racing through my veins like an itchy, full-body fever.
“Aw hell no,” Trent growls. He must be reading my mind. I’m about to soil myself, but it’s not me he’s talking about. His eyes are still on the new kid’s back.
To Trent, a boy wearing eyeliner is an unlit firecracker on the Fourth of July.
A surge of fear races through me. What is this kid thinking, cruising into the Lowry Lions’ den wearing eyeliner like it’s New York City? Lowry might only be a stone’s throw from Austin, but it’s full-on Texas when it comes to its small-town prejudices. He must know that.
Trent jumps up like he’s going to follow him and whoop his ass right then. I grab his muscled arm to steady him, same as I’ve been doing on the football field since peewee league.
“Coach wouldn’t want us starting trouble on the first day of school,” I warn him. I say us, but it’s Trent who starts the trouble. I mostly try to stay out of it.
“Fuck if I’m going to let that faggot wear makeup in my house.”
I shake my head at that. Everyone’s a faggot to Trent—the geeks, the band nerds, the arts department… basically any guy who doesn’t play sports, and even some of the ones who do. Not me, though. I’ve somehow managed to dodge his faggot detector all these years, which is a relief. And also terrifying. I live with a constant dread that Trent will one day find out my secret and turn on me.
“You have the whole school year to sort it out.” I keep my voice even-keeled. If he knew how I really felt, he’d get suspicious. “He’ll figure out soon enough what’s what.”
Trent massages his fist like it has a mind of its own. Maybe it does. As our quarterback, his hands are magic on the field. He has so much talent and potential. If only his dad were a little nicer to him, maybe Trent would lighten up and not be such an asshole all the time.
As for me, my college plans depend on a football scholarship, which means I have to keep my sexuality to myself if I want to stay on the team and in the good graces of Trent and his dad, Coach Cross, the head of our high school’s football program.
It’s a tricky situation.
I lose sight of the new kid as Kayla and Madison, Trent’s girlfriend, come along. Kayla throws her bare arms around my neck and pulls me in for a kiss. She’s a little heavy-handed with the perfume. I always smell like a candy store after hugging her. Despite her love of PDAs, we’ve only ever made it to second base. Her parents are pretty conservative, and she’s saving herself for marriage. I respect her for that. It’s also part of the reason we work as a couple. She praises me for my willingness to wait, which takes some of the pressure off me. And we have a lot in common—same friends, same Christian upbringing, same small-town values and love of football….
“I missed you so much, teddy bear,” Kayla says in between wet, smeary kisses. Her lip gloss tastes like fruit punch, and instead of enjoying our reunion, I’m trying to figure out which kind of fruit that is.
“I missed you too.” I hug her tightly. It isn’t a lie. We’re friends, after all.
Next to us, Trent and Madison grope each other like nobody’s watching. They’re on and off again, but from the looks of it, it’s back on. At least Madison keeps Trent occupied and off my back.
“We’re heading in,” I tell them, picking up my backpack and slinging it over my shoulder. I guide Kayla’s back with my free hand.
“See you in third,” Trent calls. His stare follows me across the parking lot. Sometimes when he looks at me like that, it makes me nervous, like he suspects something. But it’s probably just my guilty conscience. I hate the lying and sneaking around, but I don’t see any other option.
Kayla does most of the talking on our way in to school. I say just enough to let her know I’m listening. It’s safer that way. I don’t want to accidentally let the wrong thing slip out. I scan the hallways for the new kid, but I don’t see him anywhere.
Kayla meets up with her girlfriends at her locker, and I make my way over to the administration building, where I’m an office aide during first period. It’s one of the perks of being a football player. Our fall semesters are pretty light, and we’re allowed to miss the first three periods if we have a late practice the night before. I try not to take advantage of it too much. I know it’s unfair, but I didn’t write the rules.
The head secretary gives me the job of sorting and stapling welcome packets for the freshmen. They’ll be handed out in homeroom, which is at the end of the day.
As I sort I keep thinking about the new kid. It’s only a matter of time before Trent catches up with him, and I can’t go around protecting every so-called faggot at Lowry High School. Maybe the new kid will fall in with the drama department. Not that they can offer him much protection, but Trent tends to leave the herds alone. It’s only when one gets left behind like a wounded wildebeest that he pounces.
The new kid doesn’t seem wounded, though, just out of place. Like his tour van up and left town without him. Even without the makeup, I doubt he’d ever fit in.
I glance up and there he is. My neck burns like I’ve been out in the sun all day, and my face is probably cherry red too. My blood’s always rushing to the places it shouldn’t. It’s probably racist of me to think it, but up close he looks like an anime character, especially with the makeup and crazy hairdo. The boys in anime and manga are pretty hot, one of the reasons I’m a fan.
“May I have a student code of conduct?” he asks, all proper-like. His voice is smooth as river rocks. He sounds bored.
The rulebooks are part of the freshmen packets, so I hand him one. I finally get up the nerve to look him in the eye, but he seems distracted. He sits in one of the hard plastic chairs, elbows on his knees, thumbing through the book. His dark eyebrows draw together in the center, forming a wingspan across his forehead. The muscles in his arms are well-defined, even though he’s a little on the skinny side. When he finds what he’s looking for, he marks the page with a pink referral slip and snaps it shut. He catches me staring at him. My neck gets hot again, and I try to think up something to say.
“Awful early in the school year to be getting a referral,” I tell him. He must have gotten it in the hallway before class even started.
“Are you a hall monitor?” he asks.
The hall monitors at Lowry are teachers, not students. Then I realize he’s probably making fun of me. His lip curls up on one side, drawing my attention to his mouth, and I forget what we were even talking about.
“Mr. Hayashi?” Mrs. Potts calls from her office. She’s the juniors’ guidance counselor, which means we’re the same year. He strolls over to her office, casual and cool. He wears those skinny jeans well, kind of low on his hips. Broad shoulders, cute round butt. He must play sports—soccer or maybe track. Black suits him, I think, but he’d probably look good in whatever he wore.
He doesn’t close the door behind him, so I move in a little closer. I’m not a gossip, but I do pick up some helpful tidbits from working in the front office. It’s not really eavesdropping. I just want to know more about this kid. Where’d he come from? What’s he doing here? Is he going to stay? I hope so. But maybe he’s not even gay. Maybe he just wears eyeliner as part of his getup. Like a rock star or a pirate. Maybe I’m not even gay.
The ache from down below disagrees.
His voice is too low for me to hear. Mrs. Potts is easier to make out. I mess with the copier just outside her office to hear them better. Whatever he did to get a referral must have been small potatoes. Mrs. Potts is using her nice voice.
“I don’t understand… I suppose you didn’t….”
I edge in closer.
“Lowry can be a fresh start for you, Mr. Hayashi. Your parents and I both want you to succeed here. You wouldn’t want to give other students the wrong impression.”
“What impression is that?” he asks in a deadened tone.
Mrs. Potts is quiet for a moment. “All I’m saying is you might want to try a little harder to blend in, for your own sake.”
Yes, Mrs. Potts, I want to say. Good advice.
“With all due respect,” he says, “I don’t want to blend in. I checked the dress code and there’s no rule against eyeliner. If there’s nothing else, I’d like to go to class.”
He got a referral for breaking the dress code? What teacher would make a big deal about eyeliner? Then I know who it was: Trent’s dad, Coach Cross.
I hear the squeak of Mrs. Potts rising from her chair and know she’s making her way to the front of the desk to sit on the edge and get real with him. This is my third semester as an office aide. I know Mrs. Potts’s go-to play.
“Hiroku,” she says, a little softer this time. “I know you’ve had a difficult summer. Your mother told me a bit about all you’ve been through. Your family moved to Lowry so you could start over. I think you owe it to them to give it a try, don’t you?”
Hiroku Hayashi. I try saying his name under my breath; it makes my mouth feel clumsy. It’s strange, just like everything else about him. And kind of hot too. Mrs. Potts made it seem like he got into trouble at his old school. Maybe he started a fire or brought a weapon to school. He seems like a deviant in that way. Maybe he got expelled and had to move to a new county.
I hear shuffling in the room and jump back to my post at the counter just as Hiroku comes strolling out of the office. He glances over like he knows I’ve been listening. But if he wants to survive Lowry High, he needs to try fitting in. I should know. I’m a pro at it.
“Mrs. Potts is right,” I tell him. “Your look won’t work here.”
He stops and turns a little, slides up to the counter so we’re facing each other. He tilts his head and looks at me from under his hair, smirks like I made a joke. Maybe he knifed someone at his old school. He looks kind of insane.
“How about you, cowboy?” he says in a deep, husky voice that goes straight to my balls. “Is that look working for you?” My own throat goes dry as the desert as his eyes rake over me, from my waist to my chest and shoulders, finally my eyes. No guy has ever looked at me like that before. My junk starts throbbing again and I’m glad the counter’s between us, giving me some cover. Something about this kid puts me in a tailspin.
He purses his lips and raises one eyebrow. “Well, maybe it is working. For me, at least.” The smirk is still on his face when he leaves the office. He has a light step, like a cat. I didn’t hear him come in, and I don’t hear him leave. I take a deep breath and tell my body to calm the hell down.
He’s a dude. I shouldn’t want him like that.
But I do.

About me:
Laura Lascarso strives to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of stories to heal and transform a society. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Her debut novel, Counting Backwards (Simon & Schuster 2012) won the Florida Book Award gold medal for young adult literature.

For social critiques, writer puns, and Parks and Rec gifs, follow her on Twitter @lauralascarso

Facebook: /lascarso
Twitter: @lauralascarso


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Gabriel by RK Staunton Guest Post and Excerpt!

OS: Welcome to RK Staunton, author of Gabriel!  Thanks so much for stopping by and talking with us about your new book!


What’s your favorite type of romance hero? I have to admit I’m a sucker for the protective type, particularly if that protective type is secretly hidden inside a dominant personality. It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I have a thing for dominant men. Gabriel Ingram, the title character for my novel Gabriel, is certainly one of those men. Despite a reputation for being cold and aloof, he has a secret protective side too, but his is only for Lucas. He’s a bit different from my normal hero in that he fits more into the category of bad boy with a heart of gold than the typical boy next door types I write in my other pen name as Ruth Staunton.

I’ll be the first to admit that I like the good guys. Gabriel is a good guy underneath it all, but he’s far harder and edgier than what I’m used to. Like all the men in The Order of the Black Knights, he doesn’t mind playing dirty nor wading into the middle of it all – blood, guts, violence and all. After all, he’s a former CIA operative and assassin, and that’s hardly the first time he’s worked as a hired gun. He might be a closet good guy, but he firmly believes that the ends justify the means and has no problem using whatever means necessary to get the job done.

That was a stretch for me. It’s pretty far from my own worldview, but at the same time, it makes a lot of sense for this particular character. He’s had a hard life, or perhaps I could say more accurately, lives, so of course he has hard edges. Trying to blunt them would have been a disservice to both the character and the story. Besides, sometimes we need the people who will just plow through and get the job done. If you like that sort of hero, then Gabriel is definitely a man for you.


Gabriel Ingram is running from his past. It’s common knowledge at the college where he teaches that he’s a former CIA technical analyst, but no one knows the things he really did—or about the rage and bloodlust that are his constant companions. He’s holding on to his normal life with both hands, but he knows someday he’ll lose his grip.

Lucas Craig is a social worker studying to become a family therapist. For reasons Lucas can’t understand, the normally reclusive Professor Ingram takes an interest in him, and Lucas secretly hopes their friendship might become more.

Then Eric, Lucas’s roommate, disappears. Lucas is frantic. The police are no help. With nowhere else to turn, Lucas begs Gabriel for his expertise.

What starts as a simple errand to help a friend becomes a journey into a violent world of gangs and human trafficking—one that will bring Gabriel face-to-face with the forces intent on stealing his soul. But Lucas might be the one who can save him—if Gabriel can get them out alive.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gabriel-Order-Black-Knights-Book-ebook/dp/B06XYTRTFP

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gabriel-rk-staunton/1126080894

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/gabriel-by-rk-staunton-8342-b

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/RK_Staunton_Gabriel?id=vAVlDgAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/gabriel-49



Dammit. As much as Gabriel hated to admit it, most of the evidence was telling him Lucas had been right from the start. Something had gone terribly wrong, and someone needed to find out where Eric was.

Gabriel just wished that someone didn’t have to be him. But the local police weren’t doing the job, and until he had some concrete proof, the state police wouldn’t get involved. And the feds couldn’t intervene unless what was going on fell under federal jurisdiction. It all came back to proving Eric was in danger. There was no way around it.

For a long moment, Gabriel could do nothing more than stare at the picture in his hand and swear vehemently. He was a college professor. He didn’t deal in shadows and secrets anymore.

Gabriel scrubbed his free hand through his hair and took a deep breath. Okay, enough of that. How could he identify the man in the picture? For the briefest of seconds, Gabriel missed his old job, his old life. At the agency he had analysts and technicians he could call on. It was so routine he never gave it a thought. He wasn’t at Langley, but he did still keep in contact with one guy….

Moose could make the identification. Gabriel didn’t have the slightest doubt. Myles Hadley, a.k.a. Moose, was one of the most talented analysts Gabriel had ever known. He had personally seen Moose enlarge and identify images that were hardly bigger than stray pixels. Moose left the CIA a couple years before Gabriel to take work in the private sector. He now owned and operated his own business and did contract work for the government, the military, and a select few private clients, primarily powerful men with big money and even bigger secrets. Gabriel hadn’t spoken to Moose in some time, but he knew that, if he called, Moose would be there.

If he called….

Making that phone call would take him one step back into the life he swore he would never go back to. If he made the call, would he be able to stay away? Or would the pull of that life, dangerous drudgery though it was, be too much? Would the agency get wind he was sniffing around and try to seduce him back in? Could he even afford to take the chance?

On the other hand, how could he even consider not using all the resources at his disposal? Eric was clearly in trouble—though what kind of trouble remained to be seen. It would be unconscionable for Gabriel not to try to get Eric out of it because of his own insecurities. For Lucas the choice would be clear. He wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice himself for the sake of someone else.

But Gabriel was nothing like Lucas, despite whatever delusions Lucas might be laboring under. He had far too healthy a sense of self-preservation to throw himself under the bus like that for someone else. Gabriel learned very early on to rely on himself and only himself. Other people might come through every once in a while, but most of the time they just let you fall on your face in the mud, and there was no one there to pick you up but yourself.

But sometimes you had to use your resources, and he trusted Moose as much as he trusted anybody. If he had to involve someone, Moose would be the best person.



About The Order of the Black Knights:

Every century has seen its knights. But there are those who are never seen. They do what must be done—what has to be done—when nobody wants to get their hands dirty. They are called the Black Knights. First created in the 1100s by the wizard Moriel, these men seem cold and hard, and it is said that some have no soul. But for each knight, there is one who can bring out the man who waits inside. The question is whether or not he will kill the individual before he figures it out.


Through the ages, they’ve conquered and ruled and taken what they wanted. And they have adapted to modern times. Instead of being bullies for hire, they have taken their skills further—the Internet, the CIA, government infiltration, hacking, special ops, assassination, but each one of them has a need they don’t understand—to squash, kill, or destroy.


About the Author:

RK Staunton rebelled against having a Christmas birthday in favor of making an unexpected debut in early fall, and she’s been doing the unexpected ever since. This tendency has resulted in many adventures, including a ten-year stint as a guide in that strange urban jungle called middle school. While entertaining, that expedition ultimately proved too harrowing. After finally making her escape, she turned to a quieter life masquerading as a crazy cat lady living in a small town in the southeastern US.

RK has lived with a menagerie of characters inside her head for as long as she can remember. In a desperate bid to preserve her sanity, she has begun to transcribe the tales they tell her. This endeavor has proven to be fun, occasionally profitable, and cheaper than therapy. It has also fueled raging addictions to caffeine and chocolate on top of her lifelong addiction to books, but everyone is entitled to a vice or three, right?

RK also writes spanking and domestic discipline romances as Ruth Staunton. Right now, these are M/F, but several M/M stories are coming later this year. You can find out more about those books and get a free story here.

Find her Online:

Website – http://www.rkstaunton.com/

Blog – http://www.rkstaunton.com/blog/

Newsletter – http://www.rkstaunton.com/home/newsletter/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rkstaunton/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/rk_staunton



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