Review: Alpha Delta by R.J. Scott

Officer Finn Hallan has never run from a fight. With Niall’s life and love at stake, he’s not about to start now.

N.B. Originally published with All Romance, this edition features the same story with new cover art

Finn Hallan is a member of the elite Norwegian Emergency Response Unit, code name Delta. When the team is sent to respond to a hostage situation on an Oil Platform, he has to face demons he thought he had buried a long time ago.

Scottish engineer Niall Faulkner’s skills in oil platform decommissioning takes him to the Forseti platform at the worst possible time. When he’s captured by terrorists, his only thought is that he will never get to tell his lover how he really feels.

Can Finn keep Niall alive? Or will they both die at the hands of hijackers in the frigid waters of the Norwegian sea?

This pains me more than anyone could know, and is my first one heart review since I started writing reviews with the unicorns. I like to think I can find at least one good thing about a story and run with it, but this was just a hot mess.

I hope with all my heart that this story has gone through another edit with a decent editor by the time it was released, because there are significant problems with this story that cannot be overlooked as anything but sloppy.

”All Finn did was chuckle, the bastard, then guide Finn back for more kissing while twisting his fingers and tugging on Niall”

Copying Finn’s movements he loosened the tight buttons on Finn’s jeans and finally managed to get his hands inside Niall’s pants.”

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m confused……..

I had to read the above out loud to my partner to make sure I wasn’t crazy, but the look I was given, provided me with my answer. This is not right.

I don’t like to be picky about grammar or spelling, because I know mistakes can and do happen, even with a million edits. But this is a waste of my time. I know writing is hard, but I think the basics of it should be that you get the characters right. This isn’t an accidental misspelling of a name. To me this is a draft copy, not something to be put on the market as finished work. I would be pissed if I paid money for this.

Feeling bitter about that wasn’t going to get me through the story so I laughed it off and continued…...

But it just got worse. After their first night together we are suddenly months into their relationship and this laziness continued. There was no relationship building, or plot building. I was supposed to swallow this conspiracy without any context, background, or build up. That doesn’t work for me. If a story is light on one thing, it better be descriptive and layered in other areas, and this was light on everything. I was not convinced that these two characters were a solid couple, or even a couple at all, and I certainly wasn’t convinced after the drama was over, and they were making their confessions. I didn’t care about either of them, and what would have made this story better, is if they all died.

Like I said above, this read like a first draft. All the ideas were jotted on the pages, but nothing was refined. I felt like my time was wasted, and the one shining point in all of the words was that it was over quickly. There is no way I would have finished this if it was longer.

I cannot recommend this story in it’s current form, and I’d urge readers to read other reviews before taking a chance, unless this goes through significant rewrites, edits and polishing.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion

Blog Tour + Giveaway: See My Words (Spectrum Nights #2) by Melanie Hansen

Join Melanie Hansen and IndiGo Marketing on the See My Words (Spectrum Nights #2) blog tour! See our review HERE

Today's stop includes an excerpt, mini author interview and a winner's choice NineStar Press eBook giveaway!

Title:  See My Words
Series: Spectrum Nights, book 2
Author: Melanie Hansen
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: April 24
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 101300
Genre: Romance, angst, family drama, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, model (ish), Photographer/photojournalist, reunited, step brothers

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Successful underwear model Scott Ashworth is lucky—his attack at the hands of an unknown assailant will leave no visible scars. His professional goals are still within reach, and best of all, his stepbrother Rylan Mahoney is back in his life, their teenage infatuation at last getting the chance to deepen into something more.

Thrown together by the circumstances of Scott's injury, Rylan's long-dormant feelings for him are quickly rekindled, though he's haunted by the memory of Scott's disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan pushes Scott for the truth, a firm believer in the maxim that secrets lose their power once they're shared—but resurrecting old demons almost always comes with a price.

Before Scott knows it, his life is spiraling out of control, his toxic insecurities welling up to threaten the fragile relationship he's building with Rylan. Learning to let go of the past and believe in himself will be Scott's greatest challenge, or else he risks losing Rylan forever this time.


See My Words
Melanie Hansen © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Scott stared at the image. All three of his half-brothers were sitting at one of the bar’s high tables, Donna standing behind them with her arms around their shoulders. They were clustered close together, leaning on each other, beaming.

“Whoa, they’re so big. And they look really happy.”

“They are.”

“When was this taken?”

“Right before I moved out here. In fact, I stopped in Pace on the way just to see them.”

Scott tore his eyes away from the picture to stare at Rylan. “So you’re still in touch with them? With the boys?”

Rylan nodded. “I am, yeah. We’re friends on Facebook, and we text sometimes. They’re great kids.”

Scott was silent for a moment. “What about the baby? Cara? Is she—”

“Still with Heather? Yes.” Rylan’s voice was soft. “The picture you saw that first day in my apartment? That was the last time I saw them, when I went up to visit Cara before finals.”

“So you talk to—her? Heather, I mean.”

“Sometimes. Not often.” Rylan touched the scar on his cheek almost absently, and his eyes took on a haunted look. “When she and my dad split up, Scott, it was…ugly.”

Scott’s stomach roiled, and the puree he’d just drunk surged back into his throat. He grasped Rylan’s wrist, drawing his startled glance.

“Did Heather give you that scar?” he demanded. “That fucking bitch—”

Rylan gasped. “No!” he exclaimed. “She’s never, ever touched me.”

Scott released him, studying the scar before tracing it lightly with his thumb. It was high on Rylan’s cheekbone, small, but white and jagged.

“You can’t tell me that’s always been there, Ry. I would have noticed it before.” Would have noticed it back when he used to map every inch of Rylan’s face with his lips as they lay entangled together in his narrow bed. “Who did this?”

A pause. “My dad.”

The answer was so unexpected that Scott reared back in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he croaked. “Bob—hit you? Bob?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Gentle Bob, who adored his son beyond reason, hit Rylan so hard he’d left a fucking scar? “What the hell happened?”

Rylan wrapped his arms around himself, hunching over. “While my dad was gone on one of his over-the-road jobs, Heather went out with her friends one night, got drunk, and brought home a man. But this time the dude didn’t fuck and run; he stayed for the weekend.”

“Holy shit. And your dad caught them.” Scott’s voice was hushed.

Rylan gave a jerky nod. “He walked in on them, in bed. I could hear them through the wall, and I’ll never forget the anguish in his voice as he demanded to know what exactly it was he was seeing. Heather was pleading with him, and the other guy was trying to tough it out. Lots of yelling, lots of crying—”

Rylan surged to his feet and started to pace. “The other dude finally left, and my dad and Heather kept fighting. I could hear them in the living room. I was gonna stay the fuck out of it until I heard Cara crying. So I went out there.”

Rylan’s chin trembled, but he pressed his lips together, breathing hard through his nose until he regained some control. “Heather was on the couch bawling, and Cara was wrapped around her leg. My dad was losing it, and when he saw me, he got up in my face. ‘Has this happened before, Rylan?’ I had no fucking clue what to say, and I guess my hesitation was his answer, because the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my cheek on fire.”

He touched the scar, his eyes awash with the tears he was refusing to let fall. Scott ached to take him in his arms, but instead he jammed his hands in the loose pockets of his sweatpants, his fists clenched.

“My dad stood over me and screamed, ‘How many times? Why didn’t you tell me?’ He just kept saying that,” Rylan went on hollowly. “I had a cut on my cheek from a ring he was wearing. Blood was everywhere, dripping from my chin, getting in my mouth—” He licked his lips as if remembering the rusty taste on them. “—and all I could do was say, ‘I’m sorry, Dad.’”

“Jesus.” Scott’s curse was heartfelt.

“He was hurting, Scott, looking for someone to blame, and I was there. I was right there.”

“Why the fuck didn’t he blame the one who deserved to be blamed?” Scott snarled, taking his hands out of his pockets and slamming them down onto the couch cushions.

“He told me later that blaming her was too much like blaming himself, that he didn’t want to think about it being his fault. He wanted it to be someone else’s fault, even mine. After he hit me, he left and drove away. Heather helped me up, washed the blood off my face, and glued the gash shut with this liquid skin stuff she had. She wasn’t crying anymore, and she seemed really calm. It helped me calm down.”

His shoulders were so bunched and tense Scott couldn’t help but get up to put his hand on Rylan’s back, gratified when he seemed to take comfort in the soothing touch.

“What happened then?” he whispered, stroking the nape of Rylan’s neck with his thumb.

A quiver ran through Rylan’s body. “She put Cara to bed, and then we sat out on the porch together the rest of the night. Sometimes quiet, sometimes talking a little.” He heaved a sigh. “I think she really loved my dad, Scott, but for some reason couldn’t keep herself from sabotaging everything. She was devastated, but at the same time seemed almost relieved it was over, as weird as that sounds.”

When you don’t feel you deserve anything nice in your life, it scares you to death when you actually get it. It was a feeling Scott was all too familiar with, and he winced as an unwilling sympathy for Heather churned in his gut. He didn’t want to feel sorry for her, didn’t want to—understand her.

He shoved the thought away, concentrating instead on what Rylan was saying.

“We didn’t see my dad for about a week. Heather seemed okay on the outside, but I could tell she was slowly falling apart on the inside. I recognized the signs.” A shadow flitted over his face, and he clenched his hands into fists. “My own mom, you know? I couldn’t go through that again, and I felt so fucking helpless, so I went to Donna.”

Scott gave a quiet snort. “That woman is a force of nature.”

Rylan quirked his lips. “That she is. She drove over to the trailer, packed up the kids’ stuff, and took all four of them to her house. Told Heather they’d be safe until she got her shit together. She didn’t protest it, didn’t fight. When my dad came for me after a few more days, I left with him. Left her alone.”

“You’d done all you could, Ry. You know that, right?”

“I left without a backward glance,” Rylan said bluntly. “I was so fucking drained. By you, by her…”

Scott flinched, but Rylan went on, “My dad needed me. I walked away so I could save what was left of my strength for him.” His face was expressionless. “And for myself. I’d gotten a full scholarship to the University of Miami, but there was still a third of my senior year to go. I needed to concentrate on my grades and my own future. You were gone, the kids were safe with Donna, and there was nothing else I could do for Heather.”

The sun shimmered off the nearby buildings and bounced in through the windows, hurting Scott’s eyes and making him feel light-headed.

You should have been there, you stupid fuck.

As if reading his mind, Rylan murmured, “You being there wouldn’t have changed a thing, Scott. Heather would have still done what she did. You know that. It was only a matter of time.”

“But if I’d been there, maybe I could have deflected Bob’s anger onto me. Could have taken that blow for you, saved you that heartache at least.”

So much fucking heartache.

Rylan’s face softened. “It is what it is, Scott. Your mantra, remember?”

“Fuck mantras. I should have been there.” He slid his hand down to Rylan’s shoulder. “Were you and your dad okay, after what happened?”

“Yeah. He got us a tiny apartment not far from the school. It took a while, but we got everything sorted out. By the time he—died, we were more than okay.”

Scott relaxed a fraction. “Good,” he whispered hoarsely. “That’s good.”

Rylan patted Scott’s hand once before releasing him. “Ugh, I guess I’d better go take a shower, get ready for the club. There’s a big bachelorette party tonight, and Corey wants lots of pictures.”

“Yeah, okay.” Scott wiped a stray tear away with rough impatience. “If you need to go—”

“Can I take your car, or do you need it? I don’t mind taking the bus.”

Scott started to tell him to take the car, but the thought of the long, lonely night stretching before him made him say impulsively, “If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll drive you. Maybe stay for a drink.”

Rylan lifted an eyebrow. “Really? That’d be great. I know everyone would love to see you. People are always asking me how you’re doing.”

Scott didn’t know how true that was, given how silent his phone had been for the past three weeks, but he didn’t say anything, just headed for the shower. Afterward he pulled on a pair of jeans and an aqua-green silk T-shirt, standing in front of his full-length mirror and looking himself over, suddenly unsure.

“You’re beautiful as ever, Scott.” Rylan’s quiet voice came from the doorway.

“No. I don’t feel like myself at all.” Scott tugged at the loose material of his shirt, a shirt that used to mold itself to his ripped torso like it was painted on. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. People don’t need to see—”

Rylan came behind him and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “You’ll be the most gorgeous man in the room. Trust me.”

Their eyes met in the mirror, and Scott gave him a shaky smile. “I think you’re biased.”

Rylan chuckled. “I’m a photographer. I can’t be biased.” His voice was gently teasing. “Don’t believe me?”

Scott shrugged, and Rylan reached out and threaded their fingers together. “The camera doesn’t lie, Scott. Let me show you.” He turned to walk out of the room, tugging Scott after him and making a quick stop to snag his camera from the couch before leading him to the balcony.

The sun was low in the sky now, bathing everything around them in a soft, golden glow.

The camera whirred, and Rylan glanced at the screen, making a few quick adjustments before starting to shoot in earnest. Scott lost himself in Rylan’s quiet directions, first leaning back against the railing and then turning to prop his elbows on it while he gazed into the distance.

“Here, come see.” Rylan beckoned to him, and Scott walked over to gaze down at the digital screen in awe. The waning light kissed his face, throwing his cheekbones into sharp relief, the light scruff on his chin emphasizing his full lips. The soft green of his T-shirt reflected the fading radiance of the sun and made his eyes stand out like jewels.

“No filter, Scott. Just you. And you’re fucking gorgeous.”

Scott quirked his lips in a rueful smile. “You probably think I’m the vainest son of a bitch you’ve ever met, don’t you?”

“Never. There’s nothing wrong with needing some reassurance, especially after the trauma you’ve been through.” Rylan held up the camera. “I can tell you you’re beautiful, but sometimes you just have to see the words. See what I see.”

The lump in Scott’s throat threatened to choke him. “Sweet Ry,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

They smiled at each other, and Scott leaned in. Rylan lifted his face for the kiss, his lips parted, but Scott turned his head so his mouth grazed Rylan’s temple instead.

“Let’s go to the club.”

Author Interview

What made you decide to sit down and actually start writing with the intent to publish?

I enjoyed writing fanfic a lot, and I had an idea for a novel, so when November and NaNo rolled around, I decided to see if I could actually write 50K. It surprisingly flowed very well, and I finished NaNo two weeks early! I took about six more months to polish the story, and then I submitted it, just to see what would happen.

Do you have a special time/place to write, or do you write whenever/wherever you can?

My favorite time to write is in the very early morning, usually around 4 a.m. I find that because the house is so quiet, and I’m more or less refreshed from a good night’s sleep, the words flow much better than any other time of day. The rest of the day is pretty chaotic with work, and kids, and life. Any other time is just not as conducive as those early mornings. I live for them, and actually look forward to getting up to write.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I don’t read reviews if I can help it. If I’m tagged in one on social media, I usually have a trusted friend vet it before I decide if I’m going to read it or not. Reviews aren’t for me, they’re for readers. My job is to put the story out there, my absolute best effort, and it is what it is. Some people are going to love it, other people won’t, because reading is so subjective. I feel like I’d drive myself crazy if I worried about every reader reaction, both good and bad. Writing is hard enough without that.


NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.

She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.

Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Website | Twitter | eMail

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4/26 - Joyfully Jay


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Giveaway + Blog Tour: Just Add Argyle (Fabric Hearts, #3) by KC Burn

KC Burn is here today to give us a little insight into her new release.

Also, check out the amazing giveaway below!

Hello! I’m KC Burn and I’m thrilled to be here, chatting about my new release, Just Add Argyle, the third in my Fabric Hearts series. In Just Add Argyle, one of the locations Tate and Jaime spend time at is Area 52, a mini golf course inspired by Area 51 and Rothwell alien invasions, and located along one of the main touristy strips in Kissimmee (a city which abuts Orlando and its many theme parks). Area 52 is a figment of my own imagination, but it’s based on a number of mini golf courses in that area.

When I lived in Florida, my commute took me past a bunch of tourist shlock. At the giant wizard or enormous mermaid, I could get all the 99 cent mugs and cheap beach towels I could want! Ignoring, of course, that Orlando is a good hour’s drive from a beach, but hey. One of the mini golf courses was pirate themed, another jungle themed, and yet another seemed based on Gold Rush era mining. That one in particular was interesting to drive past. There was a giant waterfall that you could see from the road, and I could never quite figure out how they got that water such a lurid shade of toilet bowl cleaner blue. Definitely didn’t look like any sort of natural water I’d ever seen!

However schlocky, though, I adore those mini golf courses. I’m terrible at them, and any hole-in-one I’ve ever gotten has been a complete fluke, but they’re fun. I love trying to direct balls around obstacles such as windmills or sending down a hungry hippo’s throat. It’s low stress and there are times when it can be hysterically funny.

Why did I feature a tacky tourist trap of a mini golf course? Tate Buchanan, one of the romantic leads, is a young man who lives with his mother in abject poverty. He doesn’t drive and is a high school drop out. For the purposes of the story, I needed him to be able to easily access multiple places that might employ someone with little education and also put him in the thick of tourists where he can easily get into trouble. There are, unfortunately, areas around Kissimmee that are economically depressed, and the almost garish nature of the tourist strip acts like pancake makeup hiding wrinkles and blemishes.

The other reason I included a mini golf course is simply that I have some great memories of playing those courses, and there’s something about ‘em that makes me think of Florida, and Orlando specifically. I’d be willing to bet that Kissimmee/Orlando has the greatest concentration of mini golf courses in the entire country. It’s a small anchor point that I think anyone who has been to the area will immediately recognize. And no matter how ridiculous the theming, they are a lot of fun.

I do, however, despise grown up golf – both playing and watching. If the game involved blue or purple or pink golf balls, and an occasional dancing elephant instead of a sand trap, I might be interested. Maybe. For now, I’ll stick with the hokey mini-golf that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Sadly, I don’t always get a chance to play when I’m in Florida, but whenever I drive past ‘em, they make me smile.

What about you? Got any touristy stuff that brings back good memories?


Tate Buchanan is a troublemaker who can’t keep a job, no matter how many times his lucky argyle sweater gets him hired. Add to that a learning disability and an impetuous nature that sends him into altercations to protect the defenseless, and he hardly manages to make friends, let alone find a man who’s interested in him for more than one night.

Most people think EMT Jaime Escobar is a player, but the truth is he wants a serious partner—he just can’t justify wasting time on guys he knows aren’t a match. But when he treats a gorgeous redhead after a fight, he finds the spark he’s spent so many years looking for.

Jaime wants to take the next step with Tate, but it’s clear Tate’s not going to curb his impulsive behavior—his next fight sends him to the hospital. Jaime’s relationship with a near criminal isn’t something his family is ready to accept, not any more than Tate is willing to be kept a secret. Jaime will need a lot of understanding—and some luck of his own—to keep them both. But this is one fight he’s going to see through to the end.

Available at: Dreamspinner Press and Amazon


KC Burn has been writing for as long as she can remember and is a sucker for happy endings (of all kinds).  After moving from Toronto to Florida for her husband to take a dream job, she discovered a love of gay romance and fulfilled a dream of her own -- getting published.  After a few years of editing web content by day, and neglecting her supportive, understanding hubby and needy cat at night to write stories about men loving men, she was uprooted yet again and now resides in California. Writing is always fun and rewarding, but writing about her guys is the most fun she’s had in a long time, and she hopes you’ll enjoy them as much as she does. 

Visit KC at her website, on Twitter, on Facebook, or find out about new releases by signing up for her newsletter.

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Audiobook Review: On Wings of Thunder by M.D. Grimm

Trystan is an unchosen angel—shunned by society, bullied, and without a future. In a hidden well, Trystan discovers a carving of a dragon, who were once the commanders of demons and now believed extinct. But Trystan learns the carving doesn’t depict an ordinary dragon. Stories tell that millennia ago, the great dragon Asagoroth and his demon army nearly conquered the three realms but was killed by the five elders. The powerful angels combined their life forces to cast a spell, sacrificing their lives.

But history is full of falsehoods. The five elders only managed to imprison the dragon, and Asagoroth had cast his own spell—one of releasement. It only needs the blood of an angel to liberate him from his cage….

Asagoroth, enemy of angels, conqueror of realms, is free. But even as the angels prepare for war, the great dragon surprises them with an ultimatum: hand over the angel who awakened him or face annihilation.

Listening Length: 5 hours and 26 minutes
Narrator: Pavi Proczko

If you’ve got a hankering for a fantastic tale of angels, demons and dragons, then this story is definitely for you. While the idea of an abused character who’s lived without love and then another character comes along and goes all alpha on his angel bunz and shows him his worth is not unheard of, I really liked the way the author weaved the world building into the relationship between Trystan and Asagoroth. The balance between the fantasy and the connection between the two MC’s was a great balance for those of us who come for the fantasy and stay for the romance.

Poor Trystan broke my heart from the get go. He’s an unchosen angel and is basically shunned by his society and most of his family. He gets picked on mercilessly and spends his days attending pointless lessons, avoiding bullies and drifting along lonely and sad. And, while he’s sad and lonely, he’s got a strong personality and so much to give if anyone would give him a chance.

Enter Asagoroth . . .

He’s a dragon that’s been caught in a caging spell for many, many years and an accidental encounter with Trystan in the garden frees him to make Trystan his again. Wait, what? Again? Yes, there are supernatural shenanigans afoot and Trystan and Asagoroth are meant to be together on more than just a horny level, this is spiritual forever and always stuff here and the story woven around them is unique and fun to listen to.

When I first heard the narrator’s voice (and this is the first story I’ve listened to by him) I thought he sounded a bit . . . stilted. No, that’s not it, just slightly clipped in his words. But, the more I listened the more his tone worked for the story. The fantasy element leads to some very proper speech in contrast to a contemporary tale and his voice was spot on for both MC’s as well as the supporting characters.

The angle with Asagoroth, his lost love and now his relationship with Trystan was handled realistically (I mean, as realistically as a relationship between an angel and a shapeshifting dragon can be) but the feelings that Trystan had about being a replacement and wanting to be loved for himself were legit and weren’t glossed over or solved with magical peen. I had a lot of respect for how the author explained things to Trystan and to the reader/listener. Bits like that gave the story more depth and gave focus to the romance on a more personal level than just saying it was meant to be and everyone being happy with it. That drives me nuts when I’m reading and props to the author for giving this story and the characters more substance.

For a pretty all-world-encompassing story line, the book is easy to listen to and follow. There’s a lot going on but it was never overwhelming because the author keeps the focus on the characters and their relationship to their world and the narrator gave each player a distinct voice. I liked the story and while I’ve read M.D. Grimm before, this story reminded me that I need to read more.

**a copy of this audiobook was provided for an honest review**

Review: Kissing Lessons (Before... and After #2) by Susan Laine

A kiss is just a kiss. It doesn’t have to mean anything. Does it?

At seventeen, Merry’s never been kissed. Since he doesn’t want to disappoint his prom date, he asks his more experienced best friend, Boone, for some pointers. Surprisingly, Boone agrees to give him a hands-on lesson.

But they have no idea what they’re getting into.

They explore hundreds of ways to make out, but somehow it isn’t enough. A week later, they’re back together for another session. This time things go further than either of them planned, and their relationship becomes awkward and uncomfortable.

Have they learned enough to salvage their friendship and help it evolve? Their lessons have come to an end. They can either part ways forever… or share a true love’s kiss.

This story goes to show you don’t need full on penetrative sex to make a story romantic nor sexy. This was so ridiculously sexy and it was just kissing… everywhere.

Good lord. I have to say that the blurb made me want this because I am a huge sucker for friends to lover’s stories and asking your BFF to teach you how to kiss and then both of you absolutely getting into it? Sign me up. You see, one of my favorite friends to lovers’ stories comes from the God of Teen Angst Drama, John Hughes and his film, Some Kind of Wonderful.  Watts and Keith are best friends and Watts has had an unrequited crush on Keith for like FOREVER. When Keith finally gets a date with his dream girl Amanda Jones, Watts tells him she’ll let him practice on her so he can deliver a kiss that kills and that first kiss, how they start of tentative and then that grip of Keith’s on Watt’s hip… so freaking sexy. So yeah, this story was right up my lane of favorites and it did not disappoint.

One might think at the beginning of the story it’s odd to have Merry ask Boone to show him how to kiss and that Boone agrees without much hesitation. But, I will let you in a little secret so that you don’t think it’s so way out of left field...Boone has done this before. I’ll leave it at that and not go into more of a spoiler but this isn’t so “OMG! Why would two straight boys do this?” whereas it’s more of two friends feeling safe and secure enough to trust the other with something so vulnerable and intimate.

After saying all that I am going to say this is one hell of a hot story and yeah, I will stand by that even knowing Boone and Merry are only 17. Research will get you everywhere and it’s clear that Boone has researched all there is about kissing and the numerous ways to kiss. Most of the kisses I knew by name and most were adorable to start off with because how cute was the Eskimo and Butterfly kiss? I am one who liked Boone detailed instructions and naming of each kiss, it gave the reader and the boys a second to pause for station identification and move on to the next breathless lesson.

Getting both boys POV’s was so nice as with stories like this, it’s beneficial for me to know everyone's headspace. I loved being in both Boone and Merry’s head while they kissed and while they questioned this new attraction and love for their best friend.

This was deliciously sweet and sexy. I probably shouldn’t have read it at my desk as my blush is obvious on my fair skin but I couldn’t have stopped reading if I tried and I didn't try.  Boone and Merry have had their whole lives as best friends and now a simple question has led them down to road to more and I really hope they plant roots in a town called forever because yeah, they are that sticky sweet together.

Laine’s Before and After series is becoming one that I am looking forward to and can’t wait to see if the author offers up more stories and where she takes the next hopefully pair of best friends to lovers.

Review: Olive Juice by T.J. Klune

It begins with a message that David cannot ignore:

I want to see you.

He agrees, and on a cold winter’s night, David and Phillip will come together to sift through the wreckage of the memory of a life no longer lived.

David is burdened, carrying with him the heavy guilt of the past six years upon his shoulders.

Phillip offers redemption.

This book simply cannot be spoiled and I don’t spoil books. What I will do is talk about is how this book made me feel and what it made me think about.

The story isn’t one that’s new, sadly enough the basics of it is something we have seen numerous times over our lives and either been affected by it, pushed it aside or tried our hardest to forget it happened, grateful that it wasn’t us or someone we knew. It doesn’t need to directly happen to us to feel the damage, the heartbreak, hopelessness and utter lack of answers it brings. 

This story for me is about the need for closure or to use a psychological term, the Need for Cognitive Closure. *** Closure or need for closure (NFC) (used interchangeably with need for cognitive closure (NFCC)) are psychological terms that describe an individual's desire for a firm answer to a question and an aversion toward ambiguity. The term "need" denotes a motivated tendency to seek out information. ***

Told from the singular perspective of David, we meet him as he is sitting outside a fancy hotel going to meet Philip. From his detailed internal dialogue, we know Philip is someone of great importance to David and someone he loves deeply though they have been separated for years. There is an infusion of a third party that isn’t completely solid as who they are to both men until later. Many times, I thought I knew and while my first guess was right, it didn’t lessen the impact of getting it from David himself.

When something tragic happens to us, no matter what it might be, not knowing is the beast of burden. It’s terrible to have so many questions that cannot be answered by anyone and not getting them can cause people to act irrational. I am not in the field of psychology nor do I have any experience other than my own therapy sessions dealing with the Need for Cognitive Closure but I recognize it in David. I see it the way he decides to live his life after the tragedy, how he treats Philip when he doesn’t act the same as David and in his regrets of what he lost. David feels as if his weekly calls and all that he does is being productive when it’s really a distraction of dealing with… it.

Goodness. I have so much I want to say about this book. So much I identified with about meeting, the food and the people that attend. Though again, my experience isn’t the same, it’s one that can almost be felt on a level of empathy with a side of tangible understanding.

While some say this isn’t a romance, I beg to differ. Just because a book doesn’t have on page sex or doesn’t begin with the meet cute to the over the top HEA, doesn’t make it not a romance. What David and Philip have will forever be a romance. Their love story is one for the books with how amazing it all has been. What they have been dealing with is beyond their control but with a chance and a want for change, there can be a new romance between them.

I have to admit, I thought I was made of tougher stuff while reading this but I got to a certain part and lost it. Full on tears and snot but it was such a beautiful moment that I couldn’t help it and honestly didn’t care.

Klune is a master with words and his story telling with Olive Juice is stunning. He has taken what should be recognized nationally at the minimum, but is all too often only covered by the few that acknowledge it’s actually happening, and provided readers with a glimpse into the lives it tears apart. Klune provides readers with facts without shoving it down your throat but making you pause and think… what have you seen? It’s a way of opening your eyes to what you don’t want to see in a place you’d least expect it. Well done, sir.

Olive Juice is simply an achingly bittersweet and heartbreaking story that truly makes you feel and makes you think beyond the lines of what you think you should. It’s just… yeah.