Monday, October 31, 2016

All Treats and No Tricks - October's Best Reads

Hi, everyone, and welcome to our October Book of the Month picks from The Novel Approach! We had an unprecedented month, in that so many of us couldn’t narrow our choice down to just one book, and not only that, but we have a record number of debut novels on this month’s list. How much do we love finding fresh new voices in the LGBT genre? So much.

So, without further delay, here are our choices for Best October Reads and, as always, be sure to check out the Rafflecopter giveaway below!


CassiePsyCop Briefs by Jordan Castillo Price – “So, once more, all together, I’m here for the—”CHARACTERS!” (nice lungs in the back). We should all know this about me by now. So what could possibly be better than 200+ pages of short stories about some of my favorite characters from one of my favorite series, all focused on these people just doing what they do and developing their character arcs? There’s nothing better; that’s a trick question. That’s what this book is! I loved it, of course.

The stories themselves are great. This volume was like a box of chocolates. There was a candy set in the past. Some pieces were love scenes. That piece was from Jacob’s perspective (squee!); this one from Lisa’s. I’d experienced a couple of them before, and they were as tasty as always; a couple bits were new to me. Some were bigger than others. One was even a piece from the future! There was not a coconut or freaky toothpaste flavored candy in the bunch (yup, I’m riding this metaphor all the way to the finish line, folks).”

Changing Worlds by Cari Z. – “ I LOVE aliens and space opera stories. I dig sci-fi, I love how creative and strange an author can get with a new culture, and I really enjoy watching how cultures colliding can play out when humans get thrown into the mix. I even like when a romance comes into it; the confusion and minor miscommunication mishaps as the two different species sort themselves out can be amusing and a lot of fun. But there are also days that I HATE sci-fi as a romance sub-genre, both M/M and F/M, because there are some deeply ingrained thematic clichés involved in the romance end of the sci-fi pool. Some of them I just find annoying and lazy, but others I seriously, seriously loathe. So, I usually end up kind of cringing my way through sci-fi/romance books because I’m afraid these awful tropes are going to pop up and ruin something I want to love, kind of like a razor blade in a trick-or-treat candy bar.

While it may seem strange to put a list of things that a book is NOT in a review about that book, I’m about to do it with a list of these clichés because Cari Z. managed to avoid EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. in Changing Worlds, and I am so impressed and happy about it.

KimObjects in the Rearview Mirror by F.E. Feeley Jr. – “Objects in the Rearview Mirror, when it wasn’t giving me the willies, stirred up a few other emotions, like a bit of anger towards abusive people, compassion for those that suffer from alcoholism, and a bit of sadness for the one who tried to turn his life around, only to have it screw with him. And, when I finished the last page I had questions: Who was that strange woman, and will there be more of Jonathan and Eddie? Soon? Also, why isn’t this in audiobook format yet? I mean, this is something I would love to listen to!

F.E. Feeley Jr. has a new fan, and he’s become an auto-buy for me. Now, I’m off to read Still Waters. Thanks, Sammy, for the wonderful review of this one—it made me curious to try this author. Ooooh, I do so love a good ghost story!

This a 5 Star read and highly recommended!”

AngelTHIRDS: Beyond the Books Volume Two by Charlie Cochet – “If you’ve not read the main series books, I strongly suggest you bring up Dreamspinner’s site and grab the series before starting this book. The story prompts are from each book out so far, so there are spoilers for the entire series in these companion books.

The second volume contains more of the core group, mostly Dex and Sloane, but the others also make an appearance. The author also expands to include Lou and Bradley, and more of Hudson and Seb. I still have a preference for Ash and Cael, collectively called Cash by the fans, but I really enjoyed seeing all the side pieces bring the storylines in tighter. I hadn’t realized just how many clues there were to tying all the novels in together, but after a recent re-read of all the main books and these two extras, much of what I thought I had missed was right in front of me. I am ready and waiting for the next book and series involving this wonderfully detailed and exciting -verse by Charlie Cochet.

Thank you, thank you, Ms. Cochet for sharing your time and talent, and for indulging the whims of your fans. It’s been an awesome experience.”

MaryannTorch by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott – “When the plan is to take their enemy down, Noah is very much a valuable part of this dynamic team. He’s there to protect Rowe by any means possible, and the camaraderie of this group of men becomes even stronger. For me, besides the intriguing storyline, Drake and Elliott bring a deeper look into Rowe, Noah, Ian, Lucas and Andrei’s characters that are really eye opening. The changes that come about make vulnerable men strong, and strong men vulnerable. The plot itself is power-packed with high emotion, action, destruction, and with shocking and heartbreaking moments that you won’t see coming. But, there’s also just the right amount of teasing, humor and those aww moments with dogs and a cute baby kitten.

If you haven’t already read and want to get to know the men of the Unbreakable Bonds series, I highly recommend Shiver and Shatter before you tackle Torch. There’s also a book of short stories, Lucas, that’s sexy, naughty, sweet and fun. Hopefully that will hold all the Unbreakable Bonds fans until 2017 when book four, Devour, is published.”

LindseyDog Days by TA Moore – “From the beginning, the reader is thrown into the middle of something that is clearly big, but it is up to the reader to follow the storyline through the dark paths it takes, and piece together the greater picture. The writing is evocative and the prose almost poetic in its darker descriptions. The world building is done well, yet does not feed the reader every detail. Instead, the author gives just enough information for the reader to paint their own picture, in many ways. This doesn’t mean the story is difficult to follow; it’s more that the reader has to use their own imagination in certain aspects.

The characterization in this story is what really blew me away, Danny and his position in the shifter hierarchy. His weredog side is subservient, but his human personality is far from it, refusing to be a pushover and give into his more basic instincts. His independent personality is always in a constant struggle with this more primal dog self when he is near Jack. And Jack…. The sheer raw nature of his personality—wow.”

CarrieDinner at Jack’s by Rick R. Reed – “Rick R. Reed weaves a story showcasing all forms of love: parental love, romantic love, familial love, lost love, new love, the love we feel for our pets, and love reborn. There is a real big dose of fate here and some things you have to take things on faith, but overall, it’s a believable journey. The romance for Beau and Jack really takes a backseat to Jack’s healing, to his restoration of who he is as a person as he moves beyond his trauma. The secondary characters, while few, play a huge role in this story, and Ruth adds a much-needed point of humor as only an adorable pug can. I loved the recipes contained in the storyline (reference the first paragraph), and while I haven’t made them all, I can say the Dark Beer and Beef Stew is delicious.

Dinner at Jack’s satisfies, body and soul.”

A Kind of Honesty by Lane Hayes – “Lane Hayes has done it once again; she has written a first-class character driven novel that is literally unputdownable and told from only one character’s POV, which helps to create a seamless story that is all encompassing—you never miss the dual point-of-view. This author has a way of focusing in on the characters in her books; there isn’t the need for situational drama or unnecessary plot twists because her characters tell their own tales. A Kind of Honesty is written through Tim’s eyes, but you always know what is going on with Carter, and this is the genius of good character driven plots. Believe me, Tim has enough issues for the both of them! This book follows a favorite storyline for Hayes in that the main characters have to come to a major realization about their individual selves to be able to move forward together. Honestly, it made this a slow burn in that things didn’t pick up until after the half way point. Don’t get me wrong, the first half is super sexy hot, with some scenes that will leave you panting, but it is only when Tim begins to believe in himself and the fact that he can have love that things kick in.”

SammyUnsafe Exposure by Kaje Harper – “Those familiar with this series will get a glimpse of familiar faces, and I know I, for one, enjoyed seeing how they fared. True to form, this author doesn’t allow her characters to take the easy road. Theirs is a realistic journey, and even though you may enjoy visiting those old friends during this novel, don’t be surprised to learn that life still balances very much on the edge of a knife for many of them. But, as always, there is woven throughout this incredible story much hope for a better tomorrow. It may be a bumpy ride, but home is still there and friendships have only deepened over time.

Kaje Harper’s Hidden Wolves series just keeps getting better and better. She is continually recreating this paranormal genre and breathing new life into it with each installment. Her characters are living, breathing men who meet the challenges thrown at them and move on, battered and bruised, but determined to live the life they deserve. I predict that fans will rave about Unsafe Exposure, and I encourage those who are new to this author’s books to start with the first one of these gems and save the latest for last. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.”

JulesHexmaker by Jordan L. Hawk – “As with any of Hawk’s stories, though, I have to say that the mystery, suspense, and breathtaking action sequences are still the main attractions. The hunt for the killer, as well as both Malachi’s and Owen’s pasts, bring an intriguing cast of characters into the fold, a couple of whom I wanted to yell, “You’re suspect!” at. In fact, there is one twist, just before the book’s climax, that I was completely blindsided by. Fantastic awesome craziness.
It’s easy to get immersed in Hawk’s language, all her subtle nuances and hidden cleverness. That is to say, some of her cleverness is downright tricky and hidden—though, some of it is more out there in the open. I marvel at all of it. From more easily detectable gems like “Mal let out a bark of laughter,” and “A sly grin slid onto Mal’s face,” to the much more covert naming of a certain hexman. There is so much to love in this story. Every Jordan L. Hawk book I pick up brings about a singularly amazing and memorable reading experience. But, I have to say that the Hexworld books are quickly becoming some of my favorites.”

Enjoy the Dance by Heidi Cullinan – “I’m suuuch a believer in chosen family, as I’ve said before in reviews, and that theme was huge in this book. I loved this quote—“The family we make is as valid as the family we’re born to. Sometimes it’s a thousand times better.” Spenser’s foster mother, Clara, says this to him, and it’s a lesson that he’s trying to learn and trust in throughout the book.

There are so many other things I loved that I could share about this one, but I’m going to stop here. I want you all to go and read it and experience all of the emotion for yourselves. The last chapter and a half had me with tears in my eyes almost constantly, and the ending is, of course, gorgeous. I have so much love and respect for this story. Kudos to Heidi Cullinan for another amazing book.”


In the Debut Category

SammyBlood Divine by Greg Howard – “This story…this immensely satisfying, gripping, terrifying story was just so very good. There was a lot to unpack in this novel—ancestry abounded and relatives that Cooper didn’t know existed literally come crawling out of the woodwork, and not all of them are quite what you would expect. Greg Howard creates new races of paranormal creatures that will make your skin crawl, yet still allows for a few good guys, albeit undead ones, to help save the day—for now. But it is Cooper and Randy who steal this show, Randy with his penchant for gallantry and his very carefully hidden love for Coop, and Cooper’s heart wrenching hope that Randy could possibly, finally, really be his makes for a romance that never fully takes the stage but dominates certain portions of this story in all the right ways.

Greg Howard cracks open the vampire trope with such force that you will never look at another vamp story in the same way. His monsters are bigger, badder and so intrinsically evil that you can feel your skin begin to crawl when they appear on the page.”

BenIn From the Cold by J.T. Rogers – “The noir pieces of this work were perfect in the little details of the world. The guns. The cars. The Cold War. I really did feel as if I were reading one of my cherished Robert Ludlum novels, but with a desperately needed gay twist. I wish I had had books like this when I was growing up.

The story had a delightful mix of great characters and a good-paced plot, but even though our protagonist risked life and limb on nearly every page, I experienced the most tension during the quieter moments between Flynn and Grant, and eventually Flynn and Pike. It seemed to me that with battle-hardened soldiers such as themselves, their relationships to each other were really all they had left to lose. They were family. I’m honestly a bit hazy–after reading–how Rogers actually wrapped up the main plot of the novel, but I can tell you exactly how the romantic plotline ended (I won’t), and it was deeply satisfying. Again, if you are familiar with Stucky, you are going to love this and it will certainly scratch an itch.”

CarrieUnder the Knife by Laurin Kelly – “Do you like food shows on television, specifically Top Chef? Are you a foodie person who also has a more salacious side and wonders what goes on when all those contestants are sequestered away from the world together during the competitions? Do you find yourself watching shows like The People’s Couch because you know they tell it like it “really is”?! Then you will love this book. This book is about two men who meet and fall in love while competing on the television show Under the Knife. I am warning you, though, there are way more explicit descriptions about the food than there are sex scenes, especially since these two guys don’t get together until roughly the 70% mark, but if you cook, you know it’s the mixing, the stirring, the dance in the kitchen that is the most fun, not necessarily the finished product. This book is so full of food porn that you will spend a large amount of time staring at your own pantry like it has let you down.”

LisaA Faithful Son by Michael Scott Garvin – “But being your own man and being a dutiful son can, at times, work at cross purposes, and there comes a point when the relationship between parent and child is as stifling as it is sustaining; though, no matter how old, there is always a part of us that clings to and mourns the loss of the innocence of childhood, when clouds took the shape of fantastic beasts and adventures culminated in the safety and security of home. As this story draws to a close, the two decades spent with Zach is, like life, a series of tragedies and triumphs. A Faithful Son is written as if a memoir, peppered with homespun humor and unspoken truths—secrets held close until the closing pages of this story when Zach is finally able to put words to feelings and openly declare his need for the man he loves.

A Faithful Son is one of the most powerful novels I’ve read in quite some time, emotionally and spiritually resonant, and a stunning work of fiction. I’ll carry the memories of this brilliant debut with me for a long time to come.”

Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean – “The police procedural aspect of Bitter Legacy gives readers an intimate look at the “one step forward, two steps back” of clue gathering and suspect interviewing in the seemingly unrelated murders of two young women. It sets the tone and pace of the novel, in the methodical and sometimes tedious process of investigating a crime with little to nothing to go on. Watching James operate as the lead investigator on the case also does a brilliant job of revealing who he is, not only as a bright young detective on the fast-track to promotion but as a man whose uncompromising instincts on the job run at complete odds with the compromises he is willing to make in his personal life to keep Ben Morgan in his bed—even if it means sharing Ben with a revolving door of hook-ups du jour. Witnessing James flounder out of his depth, grabbing for a lifeline and instead catching hold of an anchor that begins to drag him under, heart and soul, parallels the Sisyphean nature of the murder investigations—each shred of progress undone just as quickly as James thinks he has a handle on things.

Bitter Legacy is one hell of an impressive way to make a debut in this genre.”


And that does it for this month. Until next time, happy reading!



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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stronghold cover reveal
I'm so excited to be hosting Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna today as they reveal the cover for Stronghold, the third book in their All For Love series. It's funny but lately I've been watching Scarlet Heart Ryeo which is a Korean Drama about a woman from the 21st century who gets caught in a solar eclipse and is then transported back in time to the Goryeo Dynasty. And you're probably wondering what this has to do with Stronghold but it's got me thinking about historicals and I realize that as for as romantic heroes go, you really can't go wrong with swordsmen from a bygone era. It's like when I watch Outlander and swoon over Jamie Fraser as much as I did when I was reading the books. Even though living in the past is not appealing from a quality of life standpoint, there is something to be said for the men--at least in romance novels--who lived during those times. Scottish lairds, Samurai warriors, King Arthur, and French musketeers have always been at the top of my list. I knew when I read the first book in this series that I would be hooked for life and as the books have progressed, I just fall further in love with all these guys. I love the title of the third book as it works on more than one level and the cover by Reese Dante is just stunning. The book will be released on November 28th and I for one can't wait!


 All for Love: Book Three
“Are you surprised that strength is drawn to strength?”
For the last six years, the gypsy healer Raúl has lived a life he never dreamed possible. Gerrard Hawkins has stood at his side, his love a source of silent strength like nothing Raúl has ever known.
When a letter from Gerrard’s estranged father forces them in separate directions—Gerrard back to England to make peace with his family and Raúl to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for his annual pilgrimage—Raúl expects to suffer for their parting, but he holds on to their plans to meet again in France when Gerrard has satisfied his father’s demands.
Gerrard left England never expecting to return, especially after he pledged his life and love to Raúl. Yet he cannot dismiss his father’s offer of peace without some acknowledgment. When he arrives in England to find tragedy, his sense of duty toward his family’s tenants wars with his promises to Raúl.
As tensions mount and illness spreads in France, Raúl stands as a bastion of hope, but his strength is not limitless. Gerrard is the rock he leans on, and without that strength, Gerrard’s arrival in France may come too late.
Author Bios:

Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.

Visit Nicki:


When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.

She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands).

Visit Ariel:


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Buddy Dynamic and how that shaped Miro & Ian

As I was watching Running Scared last night, the billionth time for me and the first for my son, I got to thinking about all the ways that movie influenced me and the creation of my marshals, Miro Jones and Ian Doyle. Because yes, the story is fun and Danny getting his ex-wife back is mildly romantic, but the best part for me was always the bromance with his partner, Ray. The banter, the hugging, the way they read each others' minds, and most of all that each of their life decisions boil down to what the other one will or will not commit to doing with them. I smiled through the whole movie. Again.

I have always loved buddy movies and buddy TV shows and I think the whole thing started with Starsky & Hutch. I've been watching them again lately and holy crap is it not PC and the disregard for police procedure is insane but what is still great is the interaction between the two men. Again, there's a lot of hugging and touching for nineteen seventy whatever it was and though the women in their lives come and go, they are 100% committed to each other. All these things stick in the psyche and for me, were just waiting to come out on the page.

 The next movie I really loved with the buddy theme was Sahara. One of my favorite scenes is near the end when Dirk says that he'll go find the bomb and Al can get the girl. Al says no, he'll get the bomb and Dirk just agrees. And not for a second does Dirk worry, he knows Al will do it so he can focus 100% of his energy on saving Penelope Cruz. But the most important relationship in the movie is not between Dirk and the gorgeous doctor, but between he and Al. He spends more time with Al and their banter is funny and so very fond. They speak the same language and all through the movie, even though Al doesn't always agree with Dirk, he follows him without question and supports him. That's the buddy way.

I started watching Franklin and Bash from the beginning and of course it was going to decline, that kind of banter and  mental telepathy between characters is hard to keep going but of course the kiss was the high-point and not because I ever shipped them together, because I did not, but because they were comfortable enough with who they were as friends that it was no big deal. The bromance thing made me so happy just to watch.

In Grimm, the best relationship Nick has on the show, and it's going on 6 years now, is with Hank. He has no chemistry at all, nada, with any of the female leads. Watch if you don't believe me, but with Hank, there is fondness and dependence and  trust. It's always, I'll get Hank, I'll call Hank, and that's one of my favorite things to watch.
There's a difference, for me, of the bromance that I'd like to think will lead to true-romance and the kind that I don't see making that leap. Danny & Ray in Running Scared, no, Starsky & Hutch, yes,  Dirk & Al, no, Franklin & Bash, no,  Nick & Hank, no, Steve and Danny...oh yes, HUGE yes.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I love Hawaii Five-O and ship McDanno REALLY hard. My kids keep  telling me, Mom, they're never gonna kiss, but you never know. The thing that makes Steve and Danny special is the whole telling each other that they love each other and meaning it and yes, it should just be that they're friends but it's more. There's a deeper connection that could tip over into love. And seeing them grapple with that, while running around not getting shot, would be epic. That being said, the things that all these shows and movies have in common is the deep fond regard that the characters have for one another. The trust, the banter, the discussions of food, alcohol bonding, the counted on back-up, and the through thick and thin companionship is my favorite thing to watch and my favorite thing to read AND, it turns out, one of my favorite things to write. Friends to lovers, but even more than that, platonic soulmates to true soulmates. I can't think of anything better. That's what I wanted my marshals to be and what I hope comes across and is present on the page. Is there anything better than bromance?