Tag Archives: friends-to-lovers

For Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix

For Never and AlwaysFor Never and Always by Ana J. Phoenix

Published March 10, 2016

Page count: 170 pages

Amazon

Blurb:

Seth finds himself alone at an abandoned train station, with no idea what happened, or how he got there. He boards a train, only to discover it’s a special express transporting the recently deceased to their final destination. The conductor tells him he’s having a near-death experience. Seth wonders if it has something to do with his violent boyfriend, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is getting the hell off the train before he actually dies. But when he spots his best friend and secret crush among the traveling dead, the urge to leave fades…

Our thoughts:

A very unique and creatively different mm romance book! I’m not even sure I personally would call For Never and Always romance as I prefer to reference it as literary fiction with LGBT and romantic elements.

Seth finds himself boarding a train only to discover it hauls those who’ve died to their final locations. Whether that’s back into the fray as a ghost that wasn’t able to clear their conscience and accept their death. Or, taking them to their afterlife (whatever that is) waiting for them once they’ve achieved clarity in death.

When Seth boards the train he’s told he’s not dead yet and he can leave as long as the doors remain translucent. When he finds his best friend Carter on the train, Seth is relieved. This is until he remembers that those on board are dead. Carter has passed away from cancer. He’s was young and feels bitter over his fate. He feels cheated out of more time to live a full life. He worries he won’t be remembered so he struggling to find his clarity and his time is running out.

During their voyage together, Carter and Seth learn a lot more about each other. They discover secrets that could have changed their lives. Feelings that could have made things better for Seth. Things that could have brought Carter down a different path as well. All that hindsight being so much clearer. So much that could have been if they’d only reached out a utter a few words to say how they felt.

Seth is trying to decided if he even wants to leave the train. Maybe death would be better than returning to his abusive boyfriend. All these intense moments and feelings cloud Seth and Carter’s choices. They want to be together but Carter knows Seth has a whole lot more ahead of him, if he can find the strength to carry on.

I expected this novel to bring on the tears, but it didn’t. I felt it was more serene. There wasn’t any urgency, even with the time pressure on Carter to clear his baggage by the last stop. The pace was slower, more for reflection and discovery. To be introspective and make the hard decision to let go or hang on. I expected to be gutted! I was pleasantly surprised that the author was able to achieve this world and dynamic for Carter and Seth that wasn’t melancholy but filled with the potential for more.

Please be aware of the triggers for this story. There are mentions of rape and suicide.

Blog Tour and Review: Patchwork Paradise by Indra Vaughn

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Patchwork Paradise by Indra Vaughn
Releases: March 28, 2016
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Word count: 73,300
Page count: 262
Type: Standalone
Cover by: Lou Harper

About Patchwork Paradise

Oliver and Samuel’s relationship is fairy-tale perfect. They share a gorgeous house in Antwerp, go out with their friends every weekend, and count down the days to their dream wedding. But their happy ending is shattered one late night, and just like that, Ollie is left bereft and alone.

The months that follow are long and dark, but slowly Ollie emerges from his grief. He even braves the waters of online dating, though deep down he doesn’t believe he can find that connection again. He doesn’t think to look for love right in front of him: his bisexual friend Thomas, the gentle giant with a kind heart and sad eyes who’s wanted him all along.

When Thomas suddenly discovers he has a son who needs him, he’s ill prepared. Ollie opens up his house—Sam’s house—and lets them in. Ollie doesn’t know what scares him more: the responsibility of caring for a baby, or the way Thomas is steadily winning his heart. It will take all the courage he has to discover whether or not fairy tales can happen for real.

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Our thoughts:

Indra Vaughn knows how to deliver grief. She ripped my soul in two as Ollie grieved over losing Samuel. Torn. To. Shreds. The intense guilt and grief were raw emotions that pulled tissue after tissue from the box next to me as I read. Intense. Real. Vulnerable. This is how Patchwork Paradise begins but it’s not all sadness and loss.

We endure Ollie’s grief over losing Samuel for a large part of the novel, but it’s important to Ollie’s story. During his time of sorrow and loss he has to relearn life as he knows it. He’s been with Samuel since they were kids. Friends, then lovers at age sixteen. They were to be married and would live happily ever after. That was cut short and now Ollie has to find a new normal.  Now, life is no more touches and enveloping hugs. Being alone becomes something he gets used to but the loneliness is suffocating.

During this time of struggle,  it’s pure torture to read Patchwork Paradise!  Almost every memory, whether good or bad, would provoke tears. Ollie’s emotions are so profound that they impacted me with every word. Boxes of tissues. Seriously, boxes.

Over time, Ollie realizes that missing Samuel doesn’t hurt as much and that his coping and moving on isn’t the end of the world. What he never expected was to discover that Thomas, his dear friend, had always desired him. Knowing that fact propels Ollie to really think of Thomas in a new light. To consider a potential relationship with the man he’s called a friend for so long. Just when Ollie thinks it’s possible and within reach, Thomas pulls away.

Thomas pulling away becomes a common theme from then on. He’s so badly in love with Ollie that he can’t stand the thought of losing him in any way. Nothing just might be preferable to living and losing. This is infuriating to Ollie. He’s been there. Loved deeply and lost tragically. How could Thomas be so callous?!

There’s so much that goes on in this novel. From Oliver losing Samuel to the whole friendship dynamic between Oliver, Cleo, Imran and Thomas. Samuel’s parents applying unnecessary pressures on Oliver. Lastly, a baby is added to the mix. I honestly don’t know how Oliver kept it together so well. Once he grieved, he picked himself up and started taking small steps forward. WhenThomas entered the scene as a potential love interest, things became so complicated. It was worth it though because Oliver’s life would take a turn that it never would have with Samuel. He was lucky to fall in love and be loved twice in a lifetime and each one of those loves was unique and fulfilling.

Patchwork Paradise is definitely not a lighthearted story. It’s deeply emotional. Your heart will ache from Ollie’s pain. Your eyes will swell with tears, but it all worth it in the end!

RATING: STILETTOS!!

About Indra Vaughn

After living in Michigan, USA for seven wonderful years, Indra Vaughn returned back to her Belgian roots. There she will continue to consume herbal tea, do yoga wherever the mat fits, and devour books while single parenting a little boy and working as a nurse.

The stories of boys and their unrequited love will no doubt keep finding their way onto the page—and hopefully into readers hands—even if it takes a little more time.

And if she gleefully posts pictures of snow-free streets in winter, you’ll have to forgive her. Those Michigan blizzards won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

Connect with Indra:

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/indra.vaughn.7

Twitter https://twitter.com/VaughnIndra

Giveaway

To celebrate, Indra is giving away an ebook from her backlist at EVERY BLOG STOP! She’ll also be giving out a grand prize of $25 in Riptide credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 2, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Helping Hand by Jay Northcote

Release Date: June 26, 2015Helping Hand Cover
Published by Jaybird Press
Review Copy from Author

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Wanking with a mate isn’t gay—as long as you keep your hands to yourself.

Jez Fielding and James MacKenzie—Big Mac to his mates—are in their second year at uni. After partying too hard last year, they make a pact to rein themselves in. While their housemates are out drinking every weekend, Jez and Mac stay in to save cash and focus on their studies.

When Jez suggests watching some porn together, he isn’t expecting Mac to agree to it. One thing leads to another, and soon their arrangement becomes hands-on rather than hands-off. But falling for your straight friend can only end badly, unless there’s a chance he might feel the same.

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Published by: Jaybird Press
Book Length:  Approximately 33,000 words
Categories: Contemporary, Romance

OUR THOUGHTS:

In Helping Hand Jay Northcote reminds us of all there is to love about a story set at uni – unpredictability, uncertainty and – perhaps most importantly – experimentation. I love everything about this story from the easy going friendship between Mac and Jez to the awkward moments they share to the complicated emotional entanglements. These guys give a whole new meaning to lending a helping hand, and where Northcote takes it from there is quite moving.

The connection between Jez and Mac underscores just how much sexuality can evolve during this phase of life. Guys in their early 20s are still exploring and experimenting, and I guess I love the potential that leaves for taking things in an unexpected direction. You never quite know if it’s just a curiosity that’ll be satisfied once the experience is over or feelings that reveal someone’s previously undiscovered desires.  Given their past involvement and attraction to girls, I was kind of afraid Mac would break Jez’s heart by rejecting him in the end. The way Northcote weaves the story leaves a lot of room for things to go either way.

Jez and Mac run pretty much the full emotional spectrum as they try to figure out exactly what they’re doing. I wasn’t sure I’d survive the roller coaster, never mind how they’d fare. Readers experience all the tension and anxiety right along with them, and at times it’s almost suffocating. The vulnerability and honesty in these characters is almost brutal, and they’re discovering things about themselves that are unsettling and life changing. Until they can own up to their feelings, it creates a lot of angst and heartache.  Thankfully Northcote breaks it all up with plenty of hot, sweaty intimacy to get you through. ;)

RATING: ONE BAD ASS BOOT, ONE STILETTO

Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

Trust the Focus CoverRelease Date: March 17, 2015
Published by Intermix
Purchased Copy

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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.

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OUR THOUGHTS:

I have my friend Jen to thank for introducing me to this book. While at RT2015 in Dallas, I was gushing over how Megan Erickson had been our table host at one of the sessions hosted by Avon. I’m familiar with her work having read a couple of her contemporary romances, but until that moment I had NO IDEA she had written m/m romances. NONE. Thanks, Jen, for doing what all good book friends do and leading me to yet another fantastic read.

Seriously though, I can’t even begin to say how glad I am to find this book. It’s exactly what I need right now – great characters in a terrific story full of romance, adventure and heartache. I’m a big fan of friends-to-lovers stories because I love how writers take an already established relationship and manipulate it into something more. It’s especially entertaining the way Erickson makes these guys really work for it. Nothing can ever just be as simple as finding out your best friend’s into you. I mean, where would be the fun in that?

From the very beginning Erickson tells this tale with perfect voice and delivery. Justin’s point of view is essential to giving just the right feel. After all he’s the one struggling to come to terms with everything he’s facing – closure in terms of grief over his dad, taking his place in his mother’s political campaign and his feelings for Landry. Especially that last one. ;)

There’s a lot of complex emotional content to Justin and Landry’s story. Justin is really working hard to hold it together and keep things under wraps. I’m not sure if I feel for him most when he’s trying to hide his true self from Landry or in those quiet moments when he’s slowly saying goodbye to his dad. I can tell you this – the combination of the two is almost more than I can take at times. The first time they put the urn in the tree…I wasn’t sure I would make it. (Tissues. You will need them.) The depth of love and respect and just how much he misses him,  it’s all there plain as day in the way Megan Erickson relays it. Every heart-wrenching moment. I’m glad Landry’s by his side to help him make the journey, even if his presence does create another set of complications Justin must address.

If you love your romance a little on the sweeter side, this one’s definitely for you. That’s not to say these guys don’t have chemistry though – they manage to heat things up quite a bit.  Erickson achieves a perfect balance of tension, romance and intimacy, all topped off with a healthy dose of angst. It’s a combination that often reels me into a story, turning page after page, with almost a childlike exuberance over what will happen next. All I can say is I’m definitely in for In Focus Book 2. :)

RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!