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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy Review + Interview

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.


How did you two decide to collaborate on a book?

Sarina: We both write series about hockey players already, and I've always loved Elle's books. So it was a really good day when Elle said to me, "I loved Understatement of the Year, and if you ever wanted to co-write an MM hockey novel, let me know." 
And I said HECK YES! What I most admired about Elle's Off Campus series was the warmth and humor, and I knew that if we wrote something together, it would have both of those things. Every minute of working on this book was a pleasure.

Elle: I was half-joking when I made the suggestion to team up, because with my schedule, it's hard to squeeze in new projects. But after I threw it out there, Sarina emailed me and said, "I'm in! Let me know when you have time to plot something!" So we started brainstorming, and I kept thinking, "No! I can't let my brain get distracted by all this m/m yumminess!" 
But it was too late. I was already obsessed with the story, and then we ended up writing the whole book in about 3 weeks. I love Sarina's Ivy Years books, so I had a really good feeling about our styles meshing well. And they did. The whole project came together so perfectly!

Your book deals heavily in hockey.  Did you have to do sports research?  Were you already a huge fan?

Sarina: I'm a college hockey nut, and we go to games all season long. And Elle is Canadian. They're, like, born with an understanding of the sport.

Elle: Football is actually my first love, but hockey is a close second. I don't go to many hockey games (I can't remember the last time I went to one!) but I watch enough of it on TV to know how the game works.

What is the biggest difference between this book and what you usually write?

Sarina: Well, there's skinny-dipping in this one. My other novels have a lot in common with this one -- the coming-of-age themes, the humor. Readers of The Ivy Years will feel at home reading Him.

Elle: I guess the biggest difference is that the main characters are two guys! Other than that, I think Him isn't that different from my other books. Like Sarina said, the themes and humor are kind of the same.

In a shootout, which one of you would win?

Sarina: Well, damn. I guess we need to find out. Confession: I wear white figure skates. But I'm pretty agile on them. This could get interesting.

Elle: I have white figure skates too! But...I don't know how to stop. Seriously, when I'm on skates, the only way I can stop skating is if I steer myself toward the boards and crash to a stop. And if I'm on a rink that doesn't have boards? I'm screwed. So yeah, Sarina would win, hands down.

Sarina: Wait. Did you get a pair without brakes, Elle? *giggles*

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty contemporary romance from Vermont's Green Mountains. (Her ancestors began logging and farming Vermont during the 18th century. These were rugged, outdoor types without benefit of a laptop or a good latte. It boggles the mind.)
Sarina enjoys skiing, skating and good food. She lives in Windsor County, Vermont, with her family, eight chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

New York TimesUSA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.
Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jamie and Ryan are total jocks full of testosterone, pranks and drive. They are both star hockey players who met at a summer camp for the best of the best as kids. They spent each summer together honing their skills and getting into trouble. Eventually, they crossed some lines beyond being just best friends which confused things. After meeting again a few years later, they're both unsure of where they stand with the other.

I had so much fun reading this. The writing is very colorful and original. For someone who reads a lot, it often feel like I read the same phrases over and over so this was definitely welcomed. Also, I really dug all the sports talk. Both Jamie and Ryan are real guy-guys, ya know, horseplay, beer and ESPN types. HIM has mucho laughs and sexiness. It has themes of figuring out who you are and what you want out of life, and some about the nostalgic feeling of being a teen goofing off. Bottom line, it left me fulfilled and happy, and the pleasure was all mine. I hope this writing duo teams up again.

***copy given in exchange for an honest review***


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Focus on Me by Megan Erickson Review

Coming 7/21/15 — FOCUS ON ME the second book in the In Focus series

Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

I polished off the rest of my sub and threw away our trash. Riley was humming along to music from a radio that sat in the corner of the Laundromat. I found a toothpick dispenser and put one in my mouth as the dryer buzzed.
I shoved a wheeled laundry cart under my dryer and began dumping in my dried clothes. Riley did the same, his singing growing louder. He’d thrown in some hip movements too, and I shook my head with a smile at his antics.
A club song came on with a pounding beat and Riley whooped. He latched onto a pole that was in the middle of the Laundromat and began to shimmy along its length like he was a stripper.
We were alone in the Laundromat, which was good, because Riley sure as hell wasn’t holding back. He worked the pole like a pro, and by this time I’d stopped pretending like I was folding. I stood with my hands on my hips and watched him.
He moved like a cat, all fluid and boneless. His expression was dreamy, like he was caught up in the music and happy to be that way. I wasn’t sure anything had ever made me feel that transcendent. And that was exactly how he looked.
His back was to the pole and he dipped down in a squat, separated his knees, and then rose back up. Now his hot eyes were on me, the brown showing a fiery ember beneath.
He beckoned to me with one finger, and I hesitated for a minute when I remembered his rejection. But this was harmless. We were just goofing off, playing around, and dancing to fun music in a Laundromat in the middle of nowhere.
And the best part of all of this was I didn’t see one damn demon in Riley’s eyes. Not one.
So I sauntered over to him, spitting out my toothpick as I went. He rolled his eyes at me, which made me grin.
I grabbed him around the waist, his slender body easily crashing into mine as I curled my bicep. He wrapped his arms around my neck and continued to swivel his hips. I made a scrunched face and strummed a little air guitar on his back, and he arched his neck and laughed.
I loved how carefree he looked, his hair in disarray from dancing. He was only wearing a plain T-shirt now and an older pair of jeans since his good ones were all in the wash.
And we danced. As we swayed, I didn’t even have to guess what he’d do next. Our bodies fit like a puzzle, our rhythms in sync as we moved to the beat.
Everything about this felt right, and I wondered what had happened to me—that I was somehow falling for this man who looked like he’d stepped off of a catwalk, who had demons and sad eyes and kissed like an angel.
Maybe it was the caretaker gene that Jess always talked about, because I wanted to hold Riley like this forever. I wanted to dance with him while doing laundry and joke about delis with mounted animal heads.
It was reckless and a little stupid but I’d spend my last dime to follow this guy around the country. Maybe I could do this—for once in my life, succeed at something. And if that was taking care of Riley while he got rid of his demons, then so be it.
The song ended and a slower one filtered through the speakers. I heard a piano and some kind of stringed instrument like a violin. The singer’s voice was melancholy and Riley’s mood seemed to sober right with it. It was like he felt the music internally as he clung to me and swayed in my arms, all traces of the earlier joy gone.
I rubbed my hand up and down his back, feeling the knobs of his spine through his T-shirt. I was glad I’d bought that pack of cookies at the deli because I might have to force-feed Riley later.
But now I enjoyed the warmth of his body against mine as he rocked back and forth to the music. This was okay, this dancing. It didn’t have to lead to more. It felt good to want him, to enjoy this moment, knowing it wouldn’t progress further. He’d made his feelings clear.
His breath was hot on my neck, and I could feel his erection hard against my thigh. He shook slightly, and his fingernails dug through my thin T-shirt.
He turned his head, and my lips brushed the hair at his temple as his lips brushed my neck, so softly, so slowly, but enough to make me close my eyes. Enough to make me groan. Enough to make my hard cock throb.
I kept my mouth shut as those soft lips coasted over the front of my throat, then up to the lobe of my ear. His hand rose from my shoulder to cup my neck, and he pressed even closer, aligning our bodies. “In another life, Col, I-I think it could be you. I swear.”
That hurt. That hurt a lot, each word like arrows into every sensitive bit of flesh. I stepped back, separating our bodies. Riley’s hands dropped lifelessly to his side. I ran my fingers through my hair and tugged a little, the pain taking the focus off of where Riley had bled me. He stared at me, biting his lip, and his hand clenched his thigh. This felt too soon. I’d only known Riley for less than a week, and I barely knew anything about him. But he made me ache. There was something about him that called to me. So I swallowed my pride and I threw out the only parting shot I had. “I guess our timing is off, then, because I think it could be you, too. In this life.”
I shoved the rest of my clothes in my bag, not giving a shit if they were folded, and headed toward the front door. “Get your clothes and let’s head out,” I called over my shoulder.
I didn’t look back as I pushed the Laundromat door open and heard it slam shut behind me.

TRUST THE FOCUS, a New Adult male/male romance out now from Intermix/Penguin Group…
Trustthe_Focus (1)
With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.

As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.

But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.

Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.

Megan worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she's not tapping away on her laptop, she's probably listening to the characters in her head who won't stop talking.

Focus on Me (In Focus #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a sweet college age romance, but it's also much deeper. Like book 1, it's about a road trip, but instead of dealing with coming out as gay and the death of a parent, it has the hard issues of mental illness.

Colin is headed home on the other side of the country and sees a hitchhiking Riley when he stops to get gas. This begins their cross country trip together. Colin is the athletic good ol' boy type. School didn't come easy to him. Sports and taking care of others did. He's close with his family and happy to live a low key life. Riley is the pretty boy with demons type. He's running from himself, but no matter where he goes, his troubles are always there.

The reader takes the trip and makes the stops with the guys while getting to know them as they get to know each other. There are a few ups and downs and revelations along the way. When they made it to the other side, I was definitely hooked on this relationship.

Megan Erickson does a great job of making realistic characters and addressing real people problems. And I have to add that I love Colin. He is the greatest person. He may not be a billionaire, but he works so hard and cares so much. No one could hope to find a better friend or lover.

In short, I was moved by the story and highly recommend it.

***copy given in exchange for an honest review***