Lydia Reviews: Symbols by Mario Kai Lipinski

TITLE: Symbols
Author: Mario Kai Lipinski
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 350
Characters: Shane and Matt
POV: 3rd
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, New Adult
Kisses: 4.5


Violence is hard to escape because of the scars it leaves—on the body, the mind, and the heart.
Small, skinny, and timid, Matt is the school’s punching bag. He suffers in silence and holds no hope anyone will come to his aid. The last thing on his mind is finding someone special. He’s sure it’s impossible, so why bother trying?
Shane is no stranger to pain. At his old school, he broke a football player’s arms for tormenting his friend, and with his size and multiple tattoos, he looks every bit the thug everyone—Matt included—assumes he is.
Building trust isn’t easy, but a sweet yet passionate romance slowly unfolds. Their road isn’t without bumps, but Matt and Shane navigate them together, finding happiness and security in each other—until another act of violence and its aftermath threatens to tear their lives—and their love—apart once and for all. But like the symbols etched into Shane’s skin, some things are made to last.


For those who love the young adult sub-genre, Symbols is an excellent story to pick up. From the first page, I found myself drawn into the world created by the, new to me, author. I loved the characters, yes, they could be cookie cutter in the way that Matt is small and picked on, while Shane is the big tough scary one. However, while we may have seen characters with similar descriptions before, these two have their own personalities that help make them stand out.

Matt has learned to live with the bullying he faces in school, going on alone without even letting on to his parents. He is worried when he hears the rumors floating around about the new kid, and scarred shitless when he finally sees him. Matt has every reason to be afraid as Shane is bigger than any other student at the school. His size and tattooed covered body screams thug, and the rumors saying he killed someone at his last school do not help. But, Shane is a bit of a teddy bear who will protect anyone he cares about, even at a cost to himself. While they notice each other earlier in the day, they really do not meet until Shane comes to Matt’s rescue. Matt is unsure how to react to Shane and cannot help worrying what the cost will be for the other student’s aide.

It is easy to see that Matt suffers from PTSD due to all the bullying he has gone through. I like that Shane realizes this and, in his own way, tries to help Matt. But Matt is not the only one suffering. Shane has many issues to overcome as well. There are the scars that are the result of a car accident when he was younger, he has covered them with tattoos which unfortunately helps flesh out his thug status. Then there are the events of last school year and the reason he is starting over in a new place.

Both of their issues cause a lot of misunderstandings between them. More than once I felt myself close to tears and wanting to hug one, if not both, of them. I want to say that after a rocky start their relationship flows smoothly and everything changes for them, however, that is not the case as this is a story that is full of angst. It is also one that I will be reading again.

For me Symbols is one story that I will re-read many times. the characters and the story line not only grabbed my attention from the beginning but stayed with me even after the story ended. I will also be keeping my eye out for more books by this author.

Reviewed By: Lydia

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

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

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press homepage

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

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

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

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

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

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

Read away the Monday Blues with a NEW release from JMS Books!

TITLE: His Secret Admirer
AUTHOR: Edward Kendrick
ISBN: 9781634864497
GENRE: Gay Thriller Romance
LENGTH: 44,579 words
PRICE: $4.99


When the first note shows up at the restaurant where he works — when he isn’t designing costumes for a local theater — Jim Foster laughs it off. When the notes keep coming, he doesn’t find the fact that he might have a secret admirer quite so amusing.

Alan North, a lonely, bookish customer at the restaurant, is too shy to even think of talking to Jim — as much as he wants to.

Then the killings begin. Two of Jim’s friends are murdered in what appear to be muggings. However, the detective in charge of the cases believes they’re more than that, and that Jim is either the killer … or being stalked by one.

When Jim and Alan finally connect, can they help find and stop the stalker, or will Alan end up dead before their budding relationship can become more than friendship?

TITLE: The Birches
AUTHOR: Xavier Axelson
ISBN: 9781634864343
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 23,062 words
PRICE: $3.99


Perfection isn’t everything, although it’s everything Leo wants. His desire to become the perfect chef may keep him at the top of his class, but it drives his friends and family crazy while keeping love and passion on the back burner.

Then Leo meets Dock, owner and chef of the new and popular restaurant, The Birches.

Although Dock isn’t a trained chef, Leo finds the food he cooks delectable and the man behind the food irresistible. The lessons taught at the hands of an untrained cook may be just what this uptight chef needs to let go.

TITLE: The Promise of Hope Shelter
AUTHOR: Sarah Hadley Brook
ISBN: 9781634864190
GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance
LENGTH: 50,076 words
PRICE: $4.99


Jacob Baumgardner is struggling to get his nonprofit shelter for gay teens off the ground because the building needs a lot of help before it can pass inspection. Raised by his grandparents for part of his life, Jacob feels that the shelter is his chance to honor them, but someone is making things difficult. An anonymous extortionist seems determined to ruin Jacob’s late grandfather’s good name and keep the shelter from opening.

Luka Smith is struggling to find his place in the world after a traumatic event in his teen years pushed him to run. When Jacob hires him to help with repairs at the shelter, Luka falls for his new boss hard. Luka wants nothing more than to help Jacob realize his dream.

As they work together to ensure The Promise of Hope Shelter gets off the ground, their feelings for each other only grow. But will a calculating blackmailer close the shelter before it even has a chance?

Reviewers Wanted :)

We Need You!

We are looking for some special people to join our review team. We have plenty of books to review and are looking for new reviewers to join our little family. If you are interested please contact me at

Thank you so much!