Ice Around the Edges by Mary Calmes

ice edgesBlurb

This title is part of the 2010 Advent Calendar: 2010 Advent Calendar: Naughty or Nice

Evan Kano’s life is on an even keel until the night he’s shot at the homeless shelter where he works. The resulting turmoil is not caused by a bullet but by a blast from the past: Evan’s first lover has returned to visit him in the hospital and deliver some big news.

Ten years ago, Dixon Bain walked out of Evan’s life because he thought his family didn’t approve of him having a male lover. But Dixon has discovered that what he thought he knew could not be further from the truth, and now he’s returned to claim the only man he’s ever loved… if he can melt the ice around the edges of Evan’s still-wounded heart.

Review

This is a short story from the Advent Calendar series in 2010.

Evan is in the hospital recovering from a bullet wound when his ex, Dixon shows up. Dixon left Evan 10 years ago because he thought he’d be disowned for being gay.

Neither guy has gotten over the other and after a much needed discussion occurs between Dixon and his family, the time looks like it might be right for reconciliation.

**

I love Mary so much. Her lovers are always so well matched. Dixon is so cock-sure but flawed and Evan is so “perfect” but clueless. She excels at giving us wonderful family members as secondary characters that are almost as fascinating as the MCs themselves, in this case Dixon’s mother and grandfather.

At first I thought there’s no way Dixon can be exonerated for how he left Evan, but Mary got me there. With Evan showing us how both parties played a role in their break up, I really felt good about them re-connecting.

Even bullet-ridden, the smexy times between these guys was hot!

If you love second chance stories – you’ll love this one!

4.5 of 5 stars

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Copy Purchased For Review

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2085

Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas Book 3) by Heidi Cullinan

Winter WonderlandBlurb

Finding Mr. Right can be a snow lot of fun.

Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he’s the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex.
No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch.

Kyle is tired of being the town’s resident Peter Pan. He’s twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he’s nothing but the boss in bed. He’s loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they’re both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance.

But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan’s rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul’s love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight foreveryone’s happily ever after, including their own.

Warning: Contains erotic snow art, toppy twinks, and super-sweet holiday moments. Best savored with a mug of hot chocolate with a dash of spice.

Review

This is the third in the series, and Paul is our last of the “Three Bears” to find love. Ever since he first decided to leave Arthur and commit to finding his own, true love, he’s been dating a bunch of mis-fits. Just guys who, for whatever reason, don’t fit with Paul.

Kyle has grown up worshiping/crushing on Paul. He’s 25 to Paul’s 36, and everyone but him believes he’s too young for Paul. The town sees him as sort of this sexless but gay Peter Pan, full of light, goodness and gaiety, but he’s tired of that. He wants to be seen for more than his family, his good works, or his looks. And he wants Paul. Full stop.

When Paul realizes that his secret admirer is Kyle, his initial reaction is the same as the town’s. No. Way. Too young. Not his type. Forget it. But after one brief and intense moment where Paul is forced to see the real Kyle he realizes that Kyle just might be the perfect man for him. And he is.

There are, of course, obstacles in the way beyond the age thing. Fundamentally, Paul is still fighting who he is. In a way, both men are. They are both “out” but without serious boyfriends it’s like that’s just a “thing” not who they are. When they begin to really date it changes things, especially for Paul’s (evil) family.

Secondarily there is another library fundraiser to be managed, this year a “Winter Wonderland” that has a scope far beyond one simple event.

Kyle has to decide if Paul is “the one” or just “convenient” and Paul has to decide who gets to choose his life partner, him or everyone else.

**

This is my second favorite in the series and though second, it’s a close second. It’s wonderful! Kyle, Paul and Kyle’s family are truly special characters and it was so much fun to see them interact. “Valley High!”

My heart bled for Paul at the hands of his family. I wanted to punch them in the face, as Kyle says, for how callously they disregarded him. My only complaint was that we never did get an actual confrontation between Paul and his family.

The smexy times in this book, similar to the others, were numerically few on page, but very intense and special. It was so great to have a slight character be all toppy for once and to break that stereotype.

It was wonderful seeing Gabriel, Frankie and the other two bears again. Corinna is hysterical again and so amazing to help settle her “other son” Paul.

Though I’m never a fan of Christmas ooey gooey-ness, I am a total fan of this Christmas series. Though the holiday is central, it’s absolute truest message – LOVE – is honored and therefore didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I highly recommend this book, series and author.

4.5 of 5 stars

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Copy Provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Available November 10th

Samhain Publishing Presents

http://www.heidicullinan.com/WinterWonderland

Force Play by Elle Brownlee

force playBlurb

Professional baseball player Harmon “Hawk” Kiel was a rookie sensation with dazzling talent and an arrogant attitude to match. But he’s hit his sophomore slump, and his natural talent seems to have deserted him, along with the confidence of his team and the media’s approval. During the All Star Break he hits rock bottom, gets careless, and sensational pictures of him at gay clubs go viral. All at once he’s outed, and out of a job.

When he’s dealt to the Loggerheads, a worse-than-terrible expansion team in Charleston, South Carolina, he can’t imagine he’ll get a warm reception—nor does he particularly want one. But it’s the only chance at redemption he has.

There he meets Caleb Jackson, a former player who’s part of the Loggerheads organization, someone who tries to be the friend Harmon so desperately needs. But Caleb has a secret too, one more gut-wrenching than anything Harmon can imagine. Together they try to put the past behind them, rediscover their love of the game—and maybe even find the love of their lives.

Review

Harmon, aka Hawk is a pro-baseball player who ends up violating his contract and outing himself in one fell swoop. He gets traded to anon-name expansion team where he’s to lick his wounds and try to recover his career. In addition to combatting the “gay” thing, he also has to rejuvenate his image as a star player as all his averages have been dropping since his miraculous first year.

Caleb is the catcher for the team, but not really. He can’t play professionally anymore but he can do his best to make his team members the best they possibly can play. He helps Hawk to re-invent himself both as a player and a gay man.

Their relationship is a slow burn but very sexy. When they do come together it’s hot! In the end we are given a pretty strong HFN/HEA though these men are few in the words department.

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If you are a fan of baseball you will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! Elle Brownlee is a very meticulous writer who obviously knows her subject matter. (I didn’t always understand the baseball but I felt absolutely immersed in the sport!) I really liked how authentic these two MCs felt. Hawk especially seemed very real. His angst sprang honestly from his upbringing by the over-achiever sports-dad who tried to live through his son’s experience. His reluctance to leave the closet and be out and proud felt real and progressed at a believable pace.

The entire expansion team gave me the feel of Major League or Bull Durham in that they all had stories and hopes and dreams and just needed the right combination to “make it big!”

I was less impressed by Caleb – though I liked him quite a bit more than Hawk! – in that I’m not sure anyone can be that open, friendly and sweet given the life he had. But – he was a great foil for Hawk’s crankiness.

I also wish we’d gotten a more “firm” HEA for these guys. I’m not sure if this is in preparation for a sequel or if the author just kept these guys “in character” and not willing to talk about their feelings much.

I recommend this to fans of baseball and coming out stories.

4.25 of 5 stars

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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for an Honest Review

Dreamspinner Presents
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7052

Win! Win! Win! THIRDS fans win prizes!

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IMG_2897Hey THIRDS fans!  I got these way cool cards and bags from the amazing Charlie Cochet at GRL.

I have about 40 prizes to give away and all you have to do is tell me your favorite THIRDS character and why!  Then I can mail you either a bag or a set of character cards (you can email me at openskyebookreviews@gmail.com to win or enter the rafflecopter.  I need a place to mail them to, as well.)

The first 40 or the most creative answer wins (depending on the number of entries).

 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rebound Remedy by Christine D’Abo

rebound remedyBlurb

 

The last thing Cole expects to get for the holidays is dumped. But there he is, in the airport on his way to Banff for a romantic getaway, helplessly watching as his boyfriend’s ex declares undying love, proposes—and is accepted. With a few weeks to go until Christmas, Cole’s mood dives from jolly to jaded. But instead of sitting at home alone and feeling sorry for himself, he goes to his favorite bar, McGregor’s, for a pint and some company.

The moment Owen McGregor sets eyes on Cole, he knows there’s something wrong. So he takes it upon himself to ensure that Cole has a happy holiday: twelve outings for the twelve days before Christmas. Even if he can’t quite think up twelve activities that don’t involve getting the forlorn hunk into his bed.

With each outing they take together, Cole realizes that the love he thought he’d shared with his ex was less than perfect. And that Owen might prove to be more than just his rebound remedy.

———————–

Twenty percent of the proceeds from this title will be donated to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) National Help Center.

Founded in 1996, the GLBT National Help Center is a non-profit organization that provides vital peer-support, community connections and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Utilizing a diverse group of GLBT volunteers, they operate two national hotlines, the GLBT National Hotline and the GLBT National Youth Talkline, as well as private, volunteer one-to-one online chat, that help both youth and adults with coming-out issues, safer-sex information, school bullying, family concerns, relationship problems and a lot more.

To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit their website: http://www.glbthotline.org/ 

 

Review

Owen is a bartender who notices how sweet Cole is night after night. When Cole gets dumped right before Christmas, Owen offers to help cheer him up with some outings – one a day – in the 12 days before Christmas.

Over these outings these two guys embark on what could be a lovely romance – if they’d ever talk to each other about it!

There is a lot of sexual tension and tender moments. Cole has to decide if it’s too soon to have a boyfriend and Owen has to decide if he wants to settle down at all, especially with a man (He’s bi, but mostly been with women.)

In the end we are given a lovey HFN/HEA and a hope for their future together.

**

This was a sweet, wintery, Holiday read. Perfect for the season. Low angst, high sexual tension, sweet ending.

There wasn’t anything dramatic or exciting but a nice, mostly believable forward movement of two men falling in love.

I recommend this to fans of the season and low angst reads and cute bartenders!

(Don’t forget the proceeds go to LGBT charity!)

3.75 of 5 stars

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Copy provided by NetGalley for an Honest Review

Riptide Presents

http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/rebound-remedy

 

Stygian by Santino Hassell

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6830

StygianLGBlurb

Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

Review

Jeremy lost his brother to suicide. Since then he hasn’t been the same. The guys in the band, Stygian, are his lifeline. But they hold a thin thread. Watts, his brother’s friend, is mostly an asshole, totally self absorbed and hateful. He’s screwing around with Quinn, a trusting, open soul who knows he’s being used but can’t help himself. Then there’s Kennedy. Kennedy has entranced Jeremy since they first met.

The band takes a hiatus to Louisiana to work on their next album. Watts decides the atmosphere to be found in a haunted ante-bellum mansion in the swamps is just what they need for “inspiration”. Nothing about the house feels “right”, especially not the brother and sister, Hunter and Laurel who live nearby and who are the house’s owners.

When emotions run high, Jeremy flees into the woods. There he meets with Hunter, a stranger who somehow feels more connected than he should. He wants to run to Kennedy, but Kennedy fights their attraction.

A girl dies, Quinn starts acting strangely and Watts continues to spiral downward. Kennedy and Jeremy connect, but is it going to last? Will Hunter drive them apart? What is the deal with the locked rooms in the house?

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This is a dark, dark story. Gritty and dirty. The emotions aren’t sugar coated and there are a lot of deep, dark, angsty moments between all the guys in the band.

At times this felt more like a horror story than a romance, but the emotional connection between Jeremy and Kennedy is real and strong.

I can’t tell you what it is, but there’s a twist having to do with Hunter and Laurel. They aren’t who they seem to be. When the climactic moment hits it’s somewhat shocking in its brutality but countered by the love that gets shown between Kennedy and Jeremy.

We leave on a tenuous HFN and I believe there’s more to this story…

If you are a fan of dark, haunted love stories this will be right up your alley. Angst? New Adult drama? This has it in spades. Emotional musicians and a mystery in the swamp? You betcha!

4 of 5 stars

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Could be a Crowd by CJ Munoz

could be a crowdBlurb

Nicolas has worked with Pierce almost his whole life, and they’ve come far together, currently Co-CEOs of one of the largest companies in the United States. As they keep on heading toward bigger and better dreams, only one fear casts a shadow over Nicolas: Pierce falling in love.

Nicolas tells himself it’s for the company, for their shared goals and dreams. He can’t let Pierce get sidetracked, so he does his best to make sure it never happens—including keeping all the cute interns well away. Then Lynn shows up, attractive, eager, practically perfect.

But it’s not Pierce that Nicolas should be worrying about this time.

Review

Nicholas and Pierce have been friends and work partners for years. Nicholas has yearned for Pierce forever, but Pierce is forever falling for the latest new thing at the office. This time Nicholas vows to thwart the threat by occupying the new intern Lynn’s time for himself.

As it turns out, Lynn is interested in Nicholas too. At first it seems like this is where things are headed but Nicholas still pines for Pierce. Since Lynn is 18 and, really, anything goes, they all agree to try something out as a threesome.

**

This story seemed so cute at times, then would lose its focus. It wanted to be funny and snarky and at times was. (Nicholas is a grumpy brat and he has some funny dialog moments.) I never quite understood the jump from the two men to three and it really never coalesced into a relationship for me. The guys act so juvenile most of the time that it’s really awkward. Nicholas is embarrassed and calls them “perverts” for wanting a threesome. Lynn is shocked and appalled at being thought “gay” by his male partners when he is adamantly “bi” and then throw in the whole “we want to make life easy for you Lynn so work for us and don’t go to school” thing just didn’t fit the rest of the story.

So… though I liked the premise, and found some fun with the MCs and the three-way sex, overall I didn’t really “get” this and found the HFN pretty unsatisfying.

I haven’t read this author before and I will definitely give CJ Munoz another try, but this book just wasn’t for me.

2.5 of 5 stars

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(Goes for sale on November 11)

Copy generously provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Less than Three Press

http://www.lessthanthreepress.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=106_132&products_id=935

Curling Up with his Critter (A Loving Nip book 7) by Charlie Richards

critterBlurb

Just a little love bite: The bigger they are the harder they fall.

Lucius is finally feeling confident with his place in his pack. His new alpha and inner circle are fair and kind, and everything his abusive ex-leaders were not. Learning about the world beyond pack lands, Lucius takes online courses to earn his GED, planning to focus further studies in botany. Everything changes when his pack takes in a dozen Angus shifters rescued from a herd in Texas. One of the rescuers who accompanies the shifters is a vampire that makes Lucius’s blood sing. Gypsum Vereen. While Lucius can’t deny his attraction to the male, he’d given up sex when the new alpha took over. His old inner circle had made the act nothing but degrading and painful, and he never wants to experience that again. When Gypsum speaks of making love, can he dredge up enough faith to take a chance and learn the difference?

Reader Advisory: This novel contains references to past rape.

Review

This is book 7 in Charlie Richards Loving Nip Series. Most of Charlie’s worlds are linked in some way and in this one we see Vampires and Shifters co-mingling. In book 6 we met a herd of Angus shifters who were being bullied by their alpha into mating. They were secluded from the world and only recently have been released from torture. Gypsum is a vampire and part of the coven that rescued these guys. He’s taking a group of them seeking asylum to Kai and Dorian’s pack of dingo shifters who are being healed from their abusive alpha.

Lucius is one of the dingo shifters that was abused, sexually. He has no desire to mate or even have sex as his past experiences were so horrible.

When Gypsum realizes Lucius is his mate and what he’s been through he vows to be patient and do all he can to convince Lucius that mating is wonderful.

Meanwhile the crazy Angus Alpha escapes and heads to Dorian’s pack to take back his members forcibly and Gypsum must defend them.

**

Like most of Charlie’s books this is a short love story that moves them quickly from strangers to mates. Gypsum is a gentle giant and patiently helps Lucius recover his sexuality.

I love seeing the past MCs and the feeling of connectedness we get as each story moves the timeline forward not just for the current MCs but for the entire group of “friends” that we’ve made by reading her stories.

These guys feel like friends of the family and I love checking in with them and meeting new members.

I can see Lucius’ brothers in upcoming books – they seem like a sassy and fun pair!

The Loving Nip series is sweet and fun and I highly recommend it to fans of the author and the genre.

4 of 5 stars

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Copy Purchased for Review

Extasy books

http://www.extasybooks.com/Curling-Up-With-His-Critter/