Monday, June 26, 2017

Release Day Review: Slim Chance by Jeff Erno #Review #Giveaway

Author: Jeff Erno
Book: Slim Chance
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication Date: June 26, 2017
Length: 200 Pages

Reviewed by Morningstar


Can a man improve his appearance without losing everything good inside him?

Oliver has always been obese and suffered from a negative body image. He’s tried diets before, failing time after time, but he vows this time will be different. As he begins an exercise program, his confidence increases—and so does his interest in his friend and coworker Benjy. Though they bonded long ago over a love of online gaming, it takes a lot of courage for Oliver to share his new body and be intimate with another man.

A passionate romance blooms, but as Oliver nears his goal, it seems he doesn’t need Benjy—with his chronic anxiety and troubled past—now that he’s made attractive new friends at the gym. But not all relationships are equal, and Oliver realizes that Benjy, who loved and supported him when no one else did, is more than a reminder of his old life.

A pleasing appearance means nothing when it hides a lonely, empty heart, and if Oliver cannot decide what’s truly important, he’ll lose what he cherishes most.

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This was one of the most real stories I’ve read with an overweight character. It was not easy to watch Ollie go through this. Watching someone struggle and hate themselves so much is never easy, but he is human and flawed. The way Jeff Erno writes Ollie is one of the many reasons why I can label him one of my favorite authors.

Ollie made me feel for Benji throughout this story with how he treats him sometimes. Snapping at him, thinking about how Benji wouldn’t understand, and then, later on, there were other things that I won’t go into but needless to say loving Benji was easy, not so much Ollie. But his struggle and inner thoughts were real and hurt to read; but each one was true to what it’s like to be someone who struggles so much with their weight. Ollie was so hard on himself throughout the whole story that at times it was aggravating, but just on the flip side, if I was in his place I probably be just as unhappy with myself.

Also, I’ve seen others mention cheating and I’m not sure where they got that idea when they read this story because I read no cheating at all in this book.

The romance between these two was cute and just right, which suited them perfectly. The ending was perfect in its triumphant moment for both Benji and Ollie. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was real and true, and I wouldn’t change it.


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Blog Tour: Stoker & Bash by Selina Kray ~ Guest Post #Giveaway

Hi, romance lovers! I'm Selina Kray, and this is the latest stop on the Stoker & Bash blog tour. A huge thank you to the lovely people at Diverse Reader for hosting me today. I thought I'd talk a little bit about some of the historical details in Stoker & Bash: The Fangs of Scavo, namely my lead character, a not-so-dedicated follower of fashion.

What do you think of when you think of Victorian London? Shadows? Fog? Gas lamps? Horse-drawn carriages? Eerie old houses with iron gates? While its reputation for all things dark, dreary, repressed, and mysterious is not undeserved, anyone who's read a novel set in this time knows there was much more to it than that. Except when it came to men's fashion.

As the decades of Queen V's life wore on, the vibrant colors and opulent patterns of the Regency period (think Jane Austen) were snuffed out by somber hues: brown, grey, and black, black, black. Collars got higher and trousers got longer. Men's formal wear became something of a uniform: black trousers, white shirt, black waistcoat, black jacket with tails, black hat, and a black tie. Sensing a theme?

Season to season, the style varied only in choice of tie, cut of suit, or texture of fabric. Men had more choice when it came to facial hair than their clothes. So what is the writer of a flamboyant character to do with such a monochrome palette? Simple: paint outside the lines.

In our dedication to getting every detail exactly right, we historical fiction authors (or maybe it's just me) sometimes forget that just because fashion trended a certain way in a certain time period doesn't mean everyone was a dedicated follower of fashion. While it's vital that anyone writing historical fiction research those trends, it's equally important to consider how each of your characters interprets them.

Which isn't to say your protagonist should be dressing in togas in the Wild West. But filtering all your research through the character's class, age, profession, and personality—the writer's version of an episode of What Not to Wear—will help you decide whether your lead should be in a sack or a frock coat.

When it came to dressing Hieronymus Bash, a character synonymous with panache, those somber late-Victorian colors simply wouldn't do. While the cut of his suit or the style of his tie remains on trend, when it comes to color, Hiero, as in everything else, goes five steps beyond too far. A meticulously tailored crimson suit with a gold brocade waistcoat. A smoking jacket in teal with silver embroidery. A tangerine silk handkerchief. And always, always, a cape.

If you're thinking to yourself that these sartorial choices draw undue attention, are maybe a little over the top, that's precisely the point. Hiero puts on the greatest fashion show those drab Victorians have ever seen... to keep them from looking too closely at what he has to hide.

Length: 100,000 words


At Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.

When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker's forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?

And just who is Hieronymus Bash?

Author Bio

Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd). A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.

Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.

If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website:
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Release Day Review: Coaches Challenge by Avon Gale #Review #Giveaway

Author: Avon Gale
Book: Coaches Challenge
Series: Scoring Chances #5
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson
Publication date: June 26, 2017
Length: 200 pages

Reviewed by Erin


It’s been decades since blackmail forced Troy Callahan to retire from playing professional hockey, and he’s built a successful career behind the bench. When he’s offered the opportunity to coach the Asheville Ravens—the most hated team in the ECHL—he’s convinced that his no-nonsense attitude is just what the team needs to put their focus back on hockey. But Troy is disheartened when he finds out the Ravens have signed Shane North, a player known for his aggression—especially when Shane’s rough good looks have Troy thinking inappropriate thoughts about a player, even if he’s set to retire at the end of the season.

Shane’s career in the majors never quite took off. Wanting to quit on his own terms, Shane agrees to a one-year contract with the Ravens and finds himself playing for a coach who thinks he’s an aging goon, and with a team that doesn’t trust him, Troy, or each other. Despite his determination not to get involved, Shane unwillingly becomes part of the team… and is just as unwillingly drawn to the gruff, out-and-proud coach. As the Ravens struggle to build a new identity, Shane and Troy succumb to the passion that might cost them everything.

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I'm not sure how it's possible that Avon Gale's Scoring Chances series just keeps getting better but it does and we readers are the beneficiaries of her brilliant storytelling. Coaches Challenge, the fifth book in the series, was SO MUCH FUN! It has all of the clever, witty banter you expect from an Avon Gale book, humor that will make you laugh out loud, and some sexy times that will make you fan yourself. The dirty talk in Coaches Challenge is on fire hot and was so deliciously naughty in all the best ways. Shane and Troy pretty much had me from word one. I loved these guys, together and apart. 

Coaches Challenge finds us in Asheville, NC and home of the hated, evil Ravens. If you'll remember this is where Dennis St. Savoy was the coach and the team that caused all the turmoil in book four, Empty Net. You definitely need that background in order to understand just how bad the situation is that new coach Troy Callahan walks willingly into. The team is a mess. The players are embarrassed and on edge, their own fans hate them, and all of the other teams in the league look on them with disgust. Troy is just the guy to turn this team around though. He walks into the locker room the first time and his no nonsense and take no bullshit attitude is exactly what the team needs to get back on track. Everyone is ready to get to work, or it would be everyone if Troy's wayward left-winger, Shane North, was at the first practice. A stellar first impression Shane does not make by showing up late to practice and to say these two butt heads from the get go is an understatement. Their instant attraction to one another is unexpected, for them at least, but boy it sure is fun to watch. 

I found Troy Callahan to be wickedly sexy. He's growly and gruff and so straightforward he makes me smile. I love a guy who knows exactly who he is and his place in the world and doesn't take shit from anyone. Not from smarmy assistant coaches, not from his best friend, Gabe, and not from a mouthy hockey player who he finds ridiculously attractive. As for Shane North, he was such a perfect match for Troy. He's so laid back--despite his reputation on the ice—and he has no illusions about his time as a hockey player or who he prefers in his bed. The thing I found I loved the most about these two guys is just how unapologetically they embrace their sexuality. Shane might not be out to his teammates or family, but that doesn't mean he's ashamed of being gay. As for Troy, well, the man did get blackmailed for being gay when he was a player in the NHL so his sexuality isn't a secret to anyone. Their attraction is combustible and yeah at first it was based solely on lust but it doesn't take long for that to change. No, these guys aren't all touchy-feely and you won't find them waxing poetically into one another's eyes, but that doesn't mean there aren't real feelings going on between Troy and Shane, because there are. 

There was a long moment of quiet, and Shane gripped Troy’s hand so hard it hurt. He was also staring down at his lap and breathing strangely. Too quickly, maybe.

“Shane? What the hell’s the matter with you?” Troy bumped him with his shoulder. “That piss you off? You can tell me. Jesus, wait. Why am I even saying that? You can, and you would, so…what is it?”

“Umm,” Shane said, his voice suspiciously choked, “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

Troy leaned in closer and poked at Shane’s shoulder. “Are you being emotional?”

“What the fuck do you think?” Shane still wouldn’t look up at him. “That…thanks, Troy. I’ll blow you later for that.”

“You’d do that anyway.” Troy turned Shane’s face up to his. Shane’s dark eyes were tear bright, and Troy’s own vision was a little watery. “It’s true. And I’m sorry I thought so little of you when you first got here. It wasn’t fair of me, and I was wrong.”

Shane’s eyes went wide. “You just said that so I wouldn’t cry, didn’t you?”

“It’s the truth. Also, if you’re about to cry you won’t try and make fun of me for admitting I was wrong.”

“I’ll make fun of you the next time.” Shane gave one single sniff and then disentangled his hand to wipe surreptitiously at his eyes.

“Oh, like I’m ever going to say that again.”

These. Two. I swear, they just killed me in all the best ways.

As with every Avon Gale book in this series, the hockey is on point. The locker room talk is hilarious, the trash talk on the ice brilliant, and the way Shane takes the players—especially Xavier Matthews—under his wing was so much fun to watch. Troy's friendship with team GM Gabe Bow was as endearing as it was humorous. There is a genuine friendship there that makes Troy that much more likable. Brief appearances by series favorites Misha, Max, and Drake made me smile so big and the scene with Shane and Huxs was just all kinds of fabulous. 

As I said, each book keeps getting and better so it’s hard to have a favorite when every single one is special and unique but trust me when I say, Troy and Shane will make you fall in love with them. Be sure to have some cold water on hand while you read, too. You’re going to need it!


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