Lydia Reviews: Love Wanted by John Inman

TITLE: Love Wanted
Author: John Inman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 270
Characters: Larry Walls, Bo Lansing, and Jimmy Blackstone
POV: 3rd POV
Sub-Genre: Ghost
Kisses: 4.5


When it rains, it pours. Not only has Larry Walls been evicted from his apartment, but his hours have also been cut at the department store where he works, leaving him facing homelessness.
Meanwhile, Bo Lansing, a total stranger to Larry, toils at a dead-end job as a fry cook while attending night classes to become a certified chef. When the school closes its doors without warning, leaving Bo in the lurch for thousands of dollars in tuition, his dream of becoming a chef is shattered and his financial troubles spiral.
Desperate for a new beginning, each man answers an ad for live-in help posted by a wealthy recluse, and wonder of wonders, they are both hired! Just as their lives begin to improve, a young Kumeyaay Indian named Jimmy Blackstone joins the workforce at the Stanhope mansion.
When Mr. Stanhope’s true reason for hiring the young men is discovered by one of the three, a fourth entity makes its presence known.


With all these players vying for position in a game of intrigue orchestrated by one lonely old man and a mischievous ghost, can a simple thing like love ever hope to survive the fray?


This newest book by Mr. Inman is not at all what I was expecting. Let me say upfront that I am a huge fan of this author and Love Wanted has not changed that. However, I was expecting another fun filled romp like many of his earlier books and while Love Wanted is funny, and will no doubt have the readers laughing at times, for me it had a different feel to it.

The book starts out with a prologue to set up the background of the book. Old wealthy Mr. Stanhope knows he does not have a whole lot of time left and with no family he has no one to leave all his money to. With that in mind Stanhope sets out to find two men who will find the kind of love he had with his husband. To do that he turns his house into a form of Big Brother, the only difference is that there will only be two young men ‘hired’ and neither of them know what is really going on.

When the story starts out it appears as if this will be a fun romantic story between Bo Lansing and Larry Walls, each having to start over, and hoping that their new jobs with Mr. Stanhope is just what they needed. Of course, you expect things to be a little crazy with Stanhope playing the two to see how they will react, and Jeremy, the ghost of Stanhope’s husband causing a little mischief. Slowing things begin to change and I started to wonder what was going to happen next, especially after Stanhope hires Jimmy Blackstone.

This is one of those books that would be easy to spoil so I will not go into too much detail. I will say that fans of this author really should think of picking up Love Wanted. While it, in some ways, was not what I expected, it was very well done. I found myself staying up late into the night to see how everything would play out. I loved the way the author wraps up the story and found myself wanting to cry at the end. I was glad to be given a chance to read this and will be putting it in my keeper file.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: Darkest Hour Before Dawn by Charlie Cochet

TITLE OF BOOK: Darkest Hour Before Dawn
Author: Charlie Cochet
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 224
Characters: Sebastian Hobbs and Hudson Colbourn
POV: 3rd POV
Sub-Genre: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
Kisses: 4.5


THIRDS Team Leader Sebastian Hobbs and Chief Medical Examiner Hudson Colbourn are as much in love now as they were nearly seven years ago when a tragic event on the job destroyed their relationship. The two drift together only to be pulled apart time and time again. When Hudson draws the interest of dangerous enemies, both within and outside the organization, Seb wants nothing more than to protect the man who still means everything to him.
As life-and-death events, an uncertain future, and startling truths draw Hudson and Seb to each other yet again, they must make a choice: trust their love and take strength from what they share, or lose what matters most… for good this time.


Darkest Hour Before Dawn is the latest book in Ms. Cochet’s THIRDS series. I must tell you I am a die-hard Dex and Sloan fan, and worry when each new book comes out that I will not like the new story or couple because it does not center around them. This never happens as the author does an excellent job bringing each book and couple alive in a way that pulls the reader right in. Darkest Hour Before Dawn is no exception.

This story centers on Seb and Hudson. Fans of this series know that these two have some serious history. While it is easy to understand the reason these two are not together, even if you do not agree with it, as soon as they share their first scene together, you can see the chemistry that still exists between them. It was fun getting to know these Seb and Hudson as more than just secondary characters, however, more than once I wanted to smack one, if not both, of them. Their stubbornness causes them both more pain than they needed to go through. That they finally find their way back together is not a shock, but what they go through will keep the readers turning the page. I must say that the scenes with Hudson and the Hobbs family really had me close to tears. I wanted to grab Hudson and tell him “This could be yours. Stop running”.

Darkest Hour Before Dawn is not just about Seb and Hudson’s relationship. Like each previous book this one furthers the underlining plot of the series. More characters are finding themselves tied to Dex and Sloan as they get ready to move to TIN. While I cannot wait to see what Ms. Cochet’s new series, TIN, will bring, I will hate to see the end of THIRDS. There are also a couple of surprises in this book that readers will like, one of which makes a lot of sense once it starts to unfold.

Fans of this series are really going to like this book. I know that some skip around in this series and only read certain books. I would suggest that readers really follow the series in order as each book brings another new aspect to the series.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: A Day Makes by Mary Calmes

BOOK: A Day Makes
Author: Mary Calmes
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 200
Characters: Ceaton Mercer and Brinley Todd
POV: 1st Person
Sub-Genre: Mystery
Kisses: 4.5


Mob enforcer Ceaton Mercer has killed a lot of people in a lot of different ways—he stashed the last two bodies in a toolshed belonging to a sweetheart marine researcher in an idyllic island community—but he’s really not such a bad guy. Over time he’s found a home of sorts, and he even learns he’s found a place in the hearts of the people he works with… at least enough so that they won’t put a bullet in his head because he’s outlived his usefulness to the boss.
But he never thought he’d find one day could change his life, and he’s about to discover how wrong he is.
Because in a single day, he meets the man who looks to be the one, the love of his life. It’s an improbable idea—a man who deals in death finding love—but it’s like it’s meant to be. That single day gets weirder and troubles pile up, forcing Ceaton to take a hard look at his dreary life and accept that one day can change everything, especially himself. His future might be brighter than he expects—if he can stay alive long enough to find out.


You would not expect a mob enforcer to be the hero in romance novel, or for him to be so likable and complex. Yet, that is just what you find in Ceaton, one of the main characters in Ms. Calmes newest release, A Day Makes. Becoming a mob enforcer is not what Ceaton expected to do after leaving the military but when he finds himself infornt of a local Vegas mob boss he takes the job, it’s either that or becoming homeless or worse.

Ceaton’s time in the military has instilled in him a code of ethics that rules his life to this day, even if his current job is beyond the norm. He quickly moves up the ladder of Grigor’s organization and becomes the one people turn to while Grigor tries to look legit. The men he surrounds himself with have become the family he lost when leaving the Marines. While Ceaton thought he would stay with the organization for some time, that is not what happens. After Ceaton has been with the Serbian organization for several years, Grigor fears that he is planning a takeover, and sets out to fix the problem.

Ceaton realizes that things have changed and is beginning to worry that his time as Grigor’s enforcer is coming to an end. Doing one last job for his boss finds him looking after the son of a local judge. The connection between Brin and Ceaton is fast and intense. Ceaton knows the younger man is his from the first moment he sees him and will go out of his way to protect him.

I really liked A Day Makes and plan to re-read it again soon, I will admit that I was wondering when the romance part of the story would kick in. When it did I was not disappointed. Brin is like a ray of sunshine which is just what Ceaton needs in his life. I was surprised by the past connection the two men had, as it was not what I was expecting. The men don’t have the time to take things at a leisurely pace as there are many out to get them. Besides those hunting Brin, because of his father’s dealings, Ceaton is also worried about his “brothers in arms” as he has no idea which side of the fence they are on, his or Grigor’s.

I really loved the way the author wrapped this story up. I knew Ceaton’s military history would be important at some point so was not too surprised by one aspect of the ending, however, everything else floored me. I realize that the author has many books on her plate, but I strongly hope there will be a follow up to this as it will be a great beginning to a new series.

Reviewed By: lydia

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Susan Reviews: The Shadow Mark by Mason Thomas

Title: The Shadow Mark
Author: Mason Thomas
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 281
POV: 3rd
Genres: Fantasy, Gay
Kisses: 5+


Auraq Greystone, once a military officer with a promising future, exists on the fringe of society. Accused of murder, Auraq is on the run from the ax—until two fugitives crash into his solitary life. One is a young man named Kane. The glowing marks on his arm pulse with an otherworldly power, and they have made him the target of a sinister organization called the Order of the Jackal. When the old man protecting Kane dies in an ambush, Auraq swears an oath to take his place.

But the runes are far more significant than they realize. They are a message from the shadow realm, a dark memory of the past—one holding evidence of a bloody massacre and its savage architect; one that will shake the kingdom to its foundation. Risking arrest and execution, Auraq fights to get Kane to the capital city where the cryptic marking can be unlocked. And with assassins close on their trail, Auraq might never get the chance to show Kane what’s in his heart—or the way their journey together has changed him.

The Shadow Mark is an epic tale of magic, murder, conspiracy, betrayal, and—for the two men tasked with unraveling the mystery—love and redemption.


This one starts out with a bang. There’s so many fascinating things happening here that the romance becomes secondary to the superbly written plot. Thomas is an excellent writer who paints vivid, visceral landscapes, characters, and events. Thomas’s handling of battles, especially, shines as the reader can feel each and every punch, slash, and cut as if they themselves were on the receiving end. Top marks.

Another top mark comes from world-building. Though this is the second book in the Lords of Davenia series, it’s a standalone. Details and background of the world around the characters is given in tiny increments and shown with subtle but short descriptions or through dialogue. Everything else is left to the imagination, and it’s a wonderful choice of writing styles. It’s captivating, luring and drawing the reader in without fail. Once begun, the story must be completed practically in one sitting.

Fair warning: It’s worthy of note that this is far more a fantasy adventure than a romance. There’s only a kiss or two, no more. No hanky-panky of any kind. I admit, I was hoping for some intimacy. But the pace of the plot is tense and unyielding. Once the events are set in motion, there is virtually no reprieve, no chance to pause and take a breath. The pace moves swiftly and efficiently, without any annoying lulls or boring dialogue. In fact, I could not leave a single word unread. Not a single one. This book is masterfully written.

The only POV given is Auriq’s. It’s intriguing because it keeps Kane’s mystery, well, a mystery. Both men are still well described individuals, with their own ways of doing things. Auriq is the strong silent type while Kane is a pretty regular guy thrust into the thick of things because of strange magecraft by accident. Kane could have been a bit more fleshed out, I suppose, but his character as a steadfast young man was shown adequately.

In the beginning, the interaction between the two men was wonderful to follow, the dialogue snappy and witty, the chemistry hot and heavy. Toward the end, though, as Kane grows weaker and events spiral out of control, they had less chances to interact, and that was a real shame. Personally I would have preferred more scenes with these two alone, even just talking and getting to know each other. Nonetheless, this wasn’t enough for me to lower my rating. Why? Because of the story and the plot which, like a storm, races toward the end at a breathless pace, urging the reader to continue until the very last word.

From forest and hamlets to palaces and cities, we get to see a lot. Thomas’s writing brings us there, to travel alongside the (anti)heroes as they make their way through the kingdom in a desperate escape from monsters and assassins. Never was there a dull moment. There’s plenty of action, sword-fighting and battles, narrow escapes and tense chases, magic and palace intrigue. We learn about the world through the people, through merchants, soldiers, mages, palace noblemen, and so on. I was drawn in, and I loved it.

The rest of the review would undoubtedly merely repeat what I’ve already stated, with a whole host of more glorifying adjectives. If you’re not too hung up on expectations of sensuality with your gay romances and you appreciate the fantasy genre, I wholeheartedly recommend this book, and likely this series. I know I’ll be checking out the first book, Lord Mouse, and whatever comes later.

Reviewed by: Susan

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Pippa Reviews: Romancing the Ugly Duckling by Clare London

Title: Romancing the Ugly Duckling
Author: Clare London
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 260
Characters: Perry and Greg
POV: Third person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 5+


Is this the makeover of a lifetime?

Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.

Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.
Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.


This book hits all my romance feels in a huge way. I do love MM takes on fairy tales, and Romancing the Ugly Duckling is no exception.

Like all good fairy tales this one has heroes and villains, Prince Charming(s) and a hero dog. All good fairy tales have a hero dog. I wanted to hug Greg for his horrid childhood and hug Perry, well, I just wanted to hug Perry. I loathe reality TV with a passion so I really felt for Greg resisting the attempt to be molded into the antithesis of himself.

The small Scottish island setting was perfect and I loved the locals. I appreciate the fact the author didn’t resort to stereotypes. There were business brains among the knitters.

If I had one minor quibble, I would have liked to have seen Perry making friends with the villagers rather than after the fact. But it didn’t matter too much. This was about Perry showing Greg in the most wonderful way that he wasn’t an Ugly Duckling at all.

Clare London has written a story with humour and pathos, there was tension, angst, and tender loving. If you need an antidote to today’s uncertain world Romancing the Ugly Duckling is it.

Reviewed By: Pippa Wood

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Sophie Reviews: A Taste of Honey by Ari McKay

Title: A Taste of Honey
Author: Ari McKay
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 88
Characters: Boone Phillips, Rob Coombs
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 2


2nd Edition

Boone Phillips needs a girlfriend—now! If he shows up to the family reunion alone, his mother will throw every woman in sight at him. But the only “woman” Boone trusts enough to ask is Honey, the drag queen alter ego of his best friend, Rob. It’s a crazy idea, but Boone is desperate.

Boone wins Rob over to the idea after first going on a “date” with him as Honey, but everything feels different once the plan is set in motion. Between nosy relatives, illegal moonshine, and the sight of Rob in white lace panties, Boone starts to wonder if he’s as straight as he thought. When an earth-shattering kiss sends Rob running, however, Boone learns some surprising things about both his family and himself. Now he needs to convince Rob to give him another chance, or his first taste of Honey might also be his last.

First Edition published by Torquere Press, 2016.


The catchy blurb caught my eye. I’m a sucker for best-friends-to-lovers romance so reading A Touch of Honey was kind of a no-brainer for me. If you are in the mood for an uncomplicated, light read with good-natured heroes, then this book might be for you.

I liked Rob and Boone’s friendship. I even enjoyed the easy banter they shared between them. I guess my problem with their relationship is the almost non-issue of Rob being ‘straight’ and suddenly over the course of a few days, can’t resist Boone and wants to be with him. HUH?
Sorry, I just didn’t buy it.

Yes, it’s true that Rob does a little soul searching and discovers he isn’t as straight as he thought…or is it that he just wants Boone because Honey is so irresistible? By the end of the book, I didn’t know. I think the story could have used more depth. I would have really liked for Rob and Boone to truly explore their feelings. Instead, I thought the storyline itself was rushed and because of it, I felt a little cheated by the quickness of it all.

As a southerner I had to roll my eyes at the ‘typical’ southern mother and family. Ugh. It would have been nice for the author to have stepped out of the usual stereotype and write something a little more unique and not so cookie-cutter.

All in all the book is a decent read. If you want a quick and easy read this one is for you.

Reviewed By: Sophie

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We are Thrilled to have the Fabulous Anne Barwell and Lou Sylvre here today! They discuss what it’s like to co-author a book and dish about their latest novel, Sunset at Pencarrow!

Welcome to Top2Bottom reviews! We are thrilled you and Lou are here to talk about your newest release, Sunset at Pencarrow and share a little bit of your lives with us today. We’d love to know how your writing team came together and what it’s like to co-author a book.

Thanks for hosting us. Lou Sylvre and I are delighted to be here today as part of our blog tour for Sunset at Pencarrow.

We have a Rafflecopter running as part of the blog tour so be sure to enter—which you can more than once. Use the discount code PENCARROW for 30% off Sunset at Pencarrow only from the Dreamspinner Press store from 31st May-30th June.

When Lou asked me if I’d like to co-write the New Zealand entry for Dreamspinner Press World of Love series, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d eyed up the range, but didn’t think I’d have the time, so co-authoring solved that issue brilliantly. Lou and I were already working together on another project so I knew she’d be great to work with, which was another plus. One of the big issues with co-authoring is that you and your partner-in-crime both need to be willing to talk through everything, and often compromise, to reach solutions you’re both happy with.

We chatted back and forth—via google chat and email—until we had a synopsis we could use to pitch our idea to the publisher. Once the publisher said yes, and we had a six month deadline in place, it was all go.

We decided—as it was working so well with our other WIP—to take a POV each, and write a detailed scene by scene outline, and then work out which scene would work better from which perspective. I wrote the scenes from Nate’s POV, and Lou wrote the scenes from Rusty’s POV. We then sent the document back and forth until we had a first draft.

It’s a different experience writing someone else’s character and I was initially concerned about doing Rusty justice, although that was soon dispelled by Lou who insisted I was, and vice versa. Rusty was dictating the story to me as much as Nate was! We both wrote with the understanding that the other might tweak our character’s dialogue, although that wasn’t so much a co-authoring thing but the fact that—like our characters—I’m a Kiwi, and Lou’s American, so we might not have each other’s character’s slang quite right. Another thing I hadn’t expected was second guessing Kiwi slang. Lou would ask about something, and I’d suddenly think “hang on, is that the way we say it here?” and having to double check. I grew up in a household with a Kiwi father and an Australian mother so suspect some of my expressions are a mix of both.

Co-authoring is great for bouncing ideas back and forth, and knowing someone else is waiting for your scene so they can write theirs means the story writes a lot faster. I loved having a scene hit my inbox and inspiring my own writing as to what came next. Although we had a very detailed outline—more than what I usually have—the characters still did their own thing and we changed direction in a few places. It’s another reason why it’s important to work with someone who is happy to go with the character flow and do that.

Sunset at Pencarrow is our first published co-authored story, but we’re hoping it won’t be the last. We’re heading back to Scotland in the 1745 after this for more adventures in co-authoring land. I’m looking forward to it.


Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.


“I don’t bloody believe this.” Nathaniel “Nate” Dunn took a deep breath. “So, any idea when my flight might actually leave?”

The woman at the counter gave him what she probably thought was a pleasant smile. Instead it came across as condescending with a touch of oh help me, God, how stupid is this guy?

“I’ve already told you—” She glanced at his ticket. “—Mr. Dunn… Nathaniel… I don’t have that information. The fog will lift when it decides to lift, and we can’t begin to reschedule flights until that time. In the meantime, you’ll have to wait like everyone else.”

“You don’t understand. I have to be in Christchurch this afternoon. I have a job interview tomorrow.”

“Of course you do.” The woman seemed ready to dismiss him but then appeared to reconsider. “If you’re desperate, perhaps you can catch the afternoon ferry sailing to Picton and then a flight from either Blenheim or Nelson.”

“The ferries are full.” Nate read the name on her badge—Heather Rawlins. “Ms. Rawlins, I’ve already thought of that.” He waved his hand to indicate the very full airport. Many of those in line behind him were students. Several of them looked very young, and they had parents hovering around them. Probably their first time away from home, and not a great start to a course of study at either Canterbury or Otago universities. “Uni starts back last week of February. That’s next week. There’s only me and several hundred others trying to make it to the South Island.”

“You’d better settle in and wait, then, hadn’t you? This might take a while.” Heather looked past him. “Next, please.”

“Charming,” Nate muttered. Why the hell had the fog decided to pick today of all days to turn up? Beautiful weather for weeks, and on the only day he needed to fly out of Wellington, the bloody stuff foiled his plans. His flatmate, Amy, had warned him to be prepared for delays when they hadn’t been able to see the airport from across the harbor that morning, but he hadn’t listened. Fog in the morning didn’t mean the stupid stuff would hang around all day. Typical of his luck lately. “Windy Wellington” and today there wasn’t even a breeze to blow the fog out.

It was a conspiracy.

Much like the rest of his life. One could only take so much of pretending everything was hunky-dory and plastering on a false smile. He was sick of it. Bad enough that Glenn—who he’d thought was the “one,” the guy he’d be with forever—had dumped him, but to find out his job of the last ten years was finishing as well? And now this….

“Next, please,” Heather repeated.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man behind him said in an American accent. “There’s a line here, and I’m sure the lady has done all she could to help you.”

Buy Links
Dreamspinner Press: (Discount code PENCARROW from 5/31-6/30, 30% off, DSP store only.)
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Author bios:
Anne bio:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher across genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. Music often plays a part in her stories, and although she denies being a romantic at heart, the men in her books definitely are. Anne has written in several genres—contemporary, fantasy, historical, and SF— and believes in making her characters work for their happy endings.

Lou bio:
Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The romantics on her pages are men who fall hard for each other, end up deeply in love, and often save each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very sexy. Among other things, Lou is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series, which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors.

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We hope you’ll join us for the other stops on the tour. Click here to see the complete schedule and links to the blogs.