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

Blurb:

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.

Review:

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.

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

“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: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/sunset-at-pencarrow-by-lou-sylvre-and-anne-barwell-8532-b (Discount code PENCARROW from 5/31-6/30, 30% off, DSP store only.)
Google Books: https://books.google.com/books/about/Sunset_at_Pencarrow.html?id=267DDgAAQBAJ
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sunset-at-pencarrow/id1231980517?mt=11
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sunset-at-Pencarrow
Amazon:

Barnes and Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1126415082?ean=2940157195564#

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.

Contact links:
Anne:
Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1
Twitter: https://twitter.com/annebarwell
Email: darthanne@gmail.com

Lou:
Website: http://www.sylvre.rainbow-gate.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouSylvre/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/sylvre
Email: lou.sylvre@gmail.com

Lou and Anne’s shared Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/

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Share link:
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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.

Lydia Reviews: Best New Artist by BA Tortuga


TITLE: Best New Artist
Author: B. A. Tortuga
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 204
Characters: Kasey Tuffman and Jonah Littlejohn
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 4.5

Blurb:

Kasey “Tuff” Tuffman just told Nashville to kiss his you know what. After winning Best New Artist at an award show, he knows it’s time to head back home to Texas. So after a very public meltdown, Tuff makes his way to Austin, where the Red Dirt music lives large.

Jonah Littlejohn once loved KT more than anything in the world. When KT loses it on national TV, Jonah knows he has to reach out and offer his home studio as a place to heal and make music. A bad relation-ship has left Jonah broken and wary of romance, but he wants to help his old lover out.

Seeing Jonah again proves to Tuff that he’s made the right decision. Now all he has to do is convince Jonah that they’re the most perfect duet there’s ever been.

Review:

B.A. Tortuga’s newest book is Best New Artist, and it will be one you’ll want to re-read again in the future. This story brings ex’s back together for a second chance at love, and while this is not one of my favorite themes, I really loved this story.

Kasey Tuffman has been working to make it big in the country music industry for some time. When he finally gets his wish, it is not what he was expecting. Winning Best New Artist, most likely because his label made him change his looks, just proves that it is time to head home and regroup, however he could have gone about it in a totally different way. I must say, I loved the way the author starts this story and wished we could have “heard” the whole thank you speech. I also liked the way those who cared about Kasey stood by him. One of those people is Jonah Littlejohn.

Jonah is Kasey’s ex. The men started out on their music dreams together, and while he knows it is in Kasey’s best interest to appear straight, he refuses to be anyone’s dirty little secret. When Kasey’s star begins to rise, Jonah knows it’s time for him to leave, returning to Texas to follow his own dream. Things haven’t been easy for Jonah and while professionally he is at the top, personally he has hit rock bottom and struggles, even after all this time, to start anew. He doesn’t know if allowing Kasey to stay with him is smart, but he can’t seem to stop himself.

Seeing Kasey and Jonah together, it is easy to believe that they are still in love with each other. However, both men have problems and hurts to overcome and are leery about getting involved with each other again. While Kasey knows he back in Texas to stay, Jonah needs a little more convincing and Kasey is up to the job.

Jonah isn’t the only one worried about Kasey sticking around. Jonah’s friends had to pick up the pieces after his last relationship, and while they don’t think Kasey would treat Jonah the same way, they don’t want their friend hurt. As Jonah’s and Kasey’s relationship moves to that of lovers, the relationship with all the friends have to change as well, something that is hard on them. While I felt bad for Ben, I had to laugh when he went to “rescue” Jonah at the wrong moment.

Best New Artist is a great read and I am sure it will end up on many reader keeper shelves.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Pippa Reviews: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch by LA Merrill


Title: Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch
Author: L.A. Merrill
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 74
Characters: David Marks, Michael Sharp
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Mystery/Suspense, States of Love
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

David Marks is looking for the perfect place to film his new web series and recover from his latest failed relationship. When reclusive writer Michael Sharp opens his Montana ranch to paying guests, David knows he’s found the right place—but he doesn’t expect to find Mr. Right too.

Forty years ago Michael Sharp’s father was murdered in front of him. No one believed a six-year-old boy’s testimony against the powerful Carver brothers. For years Michael has lived in self-imposed exile, the only living witness who can bring down the Carver criminal empire. But now the money is running out, and he’s forced to play host to a troupe of temperamental web actors and their energetically attractive director in order to stay alive.

The Carvers aren’t about to stand for rebellion. Michael has outlived his usefulness. Now Michael and David have to find a way to end this fight once and for all, finding justice for Michael’s father and meeting David’s funding deadline—all before one or both of them ends up dead.

Review:

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch scored a first for me. I burst out laughing at a wonderful section of dialogue and nearly choked on a biscuit. I have learned a valuable lesson. Swallow, then read. However, L.A. Merrill’s tale made me laugh more than once so all is forgiven.

I really enjoyed the way the plot weaves the romance between David and mysterious Michael, the almost-disaster movie-making, and the actual mystery. The rural setting with its internet woes made me chuckle and I loved the secondary characters, including the dog. They all had back story which is something I really enjoy. The author has my thanks for making the women fully-fleshed out characters and not just props for the men.

I didn’t really have any niggles. I just enjoyed the book. I didn’t realise it was only 74 pages. It felt like a much bigger book. I could quite happily see another book from this world. Highly recommended.

Reviewed By: Pippa Wood

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Lydia Reviews: A Day Makes by Mary Calmes


TITLE: 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

Blurb:

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 be-cause 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.

Review:

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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Lydia Reviews: Fishy Riot by Lindsey Black


TITLE: Fishy Riot
Author: Lindsey Black
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 236
Characters: Taylor Jameson and Sietta Salisbury
POV: 3rd Person
Sub-Genre: Mystery, Contemporary
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Most people think riot squad officer Taylor Jameson is an asshole. Little do they know his apparent indif-ference stems from having a meddlesome family always butting into his business. And little does Taylor know he’s about to stumble into a situation that’ll make indifference impossible.
When everything goes horribly wrong at a political rally on a harbour ferry, Taylor encounters Sietta Salisbury. The son of a wealthy politician, Sietta is a revered—but presumed dead—musician, and an enigma who is so strange, Taylor is compelled to look into his background. What he discovers draws him into a bizarre mess of prisoners, politics, and attempted murder that makes him realize what he’s been missing.
Falling in love isn’t hard. Trying to convince someone else you’re worth loving despite your crazy family and the people trying to kill you? That’s a whole other can of worms.

Review:

I realize that everyone’s reading tastes are different, and that reviews are suggestive, but OMG I loved this book. Fishy Riot is full of wonderful characters, both main and secondary. All of them will have you tied to the story for one reason or the other.

Taylor Jameson is a member of the riot squad. He is big and tough, easily intimidating those who do not know him. He comes from a big nosy family and has a twin brother who he spends time with at home and at work. The one thing missing in his life is a significant other. While performing his duties he comes across the most amazing man and everything for Taylor changes.

Sietta Salisbury is an enigma. He’s an outstanding musician. He’s the son of a powerful politician. He is also supposedly dead, that is until he is seen in public during a family function. Sietta also has a huge secret, one that people will kill to keep quiet. Then he meets Taylor and his life starts to change. Only time will tell if it is for the better or not.

Before going any farther let me point out that there are topics in this story that may be considered triggers. If abuse, in any fashion, is difficult for you, you may want to pass on this story.

From the start, Fishy Riot is full of little twists and turns that hold your interest. A lot of that centers on Sietta and his family. To keep from giving anything away, I won’t go into too much detail but I will say I was shocked by what was revealed, and could not believe that people would behave like some in Sietta’s family did, even in a book. I wanted to hug Sietta and his younger brother while beating the s**t out of the rest of his family.

Taylor is a wonderful counterpoint for Sietta. First of all, he’s big and tough enough to handle anything that comes his way, so Sietta’s problems will not chase Taylor off. Secondly, the instant connection that Taylor feels for Sietta means the younger man has someone willing to protect and love him, wanting nothing in return.

I know some readers don’t like insta-love, and while the feelings Taylor has for Sietta could fall into that category, it is not like what you may normally find. The author knows that the two men will need time to get to know each other, and she gives them that. She also gives them several angsty moments that keep their relationship from being one smooth ride. There is one more thing the author does that makes this story a good read, and that is fill it with excellent secondary characters.

While some of those characters are beyond likeable, Taylor’s family will have you laughing your ass off. His family is over the top, especially with the way they have to be in everyone else’s business. These lighthearted moments are needed however to keep the book from being too heavy.

For me, Fishy Riot was an outstanding read. As much as I wanted to see what would happen next, I also did not want to see the book end. I hope there will be more books to follow this one and I will be looking for more stories by this author.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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Lydia Reviews: Wounded Pride by BL Morticia and Remmy Duchene


TITLE: Wounded Pride
Author: BL Morticia and Remmy Duchene
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 206
Characters: Renford Kline and Brian Daystar
POV: 3rd person
Sub-Genre: Contemporary
Kisses: 4

Blurb:

Renford Kline is straight… right? He got over his experimentation in college and moved on. Then how does he explain his blush-inducing fantasies about Brian Daystar? Fantasies he’s having when he should be focused on his career move from attorney to professor. When Brian comes to New York, Renford knows he’s in trouble. Everything about Brian attracts him—from his tight body to his beautiful, dark hair—but Renford is straight… right?

Brian Daystar needs a break. He’s been working nonstop to turn his Montana ranch into a safe haven for at-risk youth—so much so that he can’t even bring himself to care when he finds out his partner, country star Corey, is cheating on him. Their relationship has been over for a long time, but it might take his feel-ings for Renford to make Brian accept it.

Both men have decisions to make. Renford must come to terms with who he truly is, and Brian is going to have to decide if he will shun his happiness or embrace it.

Review:

Wounded Pride is the second story in the Wounded series. This story centers on Brian and Renford, characters that showed up in the first book. These characters will pull you into their story from the beginning. Both are strong men facing changes in their lives. Brian is working hard to make a haven for LGBT youths while holding onto his boyfriend who is starting to make it big in the music industry. Renford on the other hand is an attorney in the process of becoming a professor.

There is a strong attraction between the two from the moment they first meet, however, Renford thinks Brian is too young for him. Then there is the fact that Brian already has a boyfriend, even if he is an ass. For Brian, he thinks Renford is straight and while things between him and his boyfriend are not going well, Brian feels guilty for the feelings he is having for Renford. When Brian goes to visit Corey, Zane asks Renford to let the younger man stay with him. It is during this time that the two men get to really know each other.

I really enjoyed Wounded Pride. The characters are likeable and I liked that the readers had the chance to see the characters, especially Brian, grow while figuring out their feelings for each other. Of course, every good book needs a little angst, and Wounded Pride is no different. However, while there is enough angst to keep this story from being too sweet, it is not so much that the readers will feel bogged down. I loved the way Renford goes about fixing things between him and Brian when the men have separated.

Wounded Pride is a collaboration between Remmy Duchene and BL Morticia. Fans of both these authors will be glad to know that the writing is so well down that you cannot tell were one writer’s voice starts and the other’s ends. This smoothness is not always found when a book is written by more than one author, the fact that these two have it means I will be buying more of their stories in the future.

Reviewed By: Lydia

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