The Layover by Gale Stanley


The Layover by Gale Stanley
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Inside the cockpit, Captain Paul Miller is always in control. But on the ground, he constantly feels adrift. His marriage is crumbling, and life has become much too complicated.

Jamey Conley has worked hard to make his café in the Frisco airport a successful venture. He loves his work – and especially the airport scenery. He goes gaga over guys in uniform, but when he meets Paul, sparks really fly. Too bad his ideal man is married — and straight.

A bit of taboo, a dash of romance and a layover…this will be hot.

When there’s a story with a pilot involved, I’m there. I love a good flight romance. Now, this one takes place mostly on the ground, but hey, it’s still hot. I love the work of Gale Stanley and I knew I needed to read this book from the moment I picked it up. I’m glad I did.

This story is hot, but’s it’s also sweet. Paul isn’t sure he’s happy in his life. Sure, he’s a hotshot pilot, but he’s in a rocky marriage and knows things aren’t right. I’m not usually one for cheating stories, but the way Paul and James get together is cute. I liked James, in particular, because he’s patient with Paul, even when they’re heating the sheets.

Paul goes on a journey in this story and it has nothing to do with the plane. I liked the way he evolved and hope to see more of him. I want to see him with James, too. Can I have another story with these two? Please? I’m ready! The chemistry was off the charts.

If you’re looking for a hot story that’s got a little bit of taboo in the cheating aspect, then this might be the one for you.

Love by Design by Ava Olsen


Love by Design by Ava Olsen
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Escape to a warm Caribbean Island with two very hot men…

Gabriel Lafleur is a hotelier on the idyllic island of Saint Martin. After a hurricane devastates his business, he reluctantly hires Jackson Yates, an American designer, to complete the renovations. Gabriel is overwhelmed by the gorgeous and charming American who quickly becomes a part of his world.

Jackson loves his job but after years of non-stop work, he desperately needs a break. He agrees to take on the revamp of a boutique hotel in an effort to combine work and much needed pleasure. Soon Jackson is entranced by both the warm Caribbean lifestyle and the very sexy Gabriel.

But Gabriel is leery of travellers who love and leave and Jackson has never felt the need to settle his heart in one place.

Will their love survive the storm that lies ahead?

A hot island getaway and two men hot for each other? Sign me up to read this!

I knew this would be a sultry story when I picked it up. Not only does the story take place on an island, but the flavor of the island shines right through. I felt like I was right there with the characters.

There were times it felt a little too descriptive. Now that’s not a bad thing, but it bogged the story down at times. I wanted to get on with the romance! Honestly, I would’ve liked this story to be longer.

The connection between Gabriel and Jackson happens rather quickly and gets heated even faster. I like a good quick romance with heat and this one delivers. At times it seemed a bit too fast, but that’s not a horrible thing. Gabriel and Jackson can’t keep their hands off each other and it was great to see that blossoming.

If you’re looking for a hot, but short read to sizzle for an afternoon, then this might be the one for you.

The Stolen Sex Bot by James Cox


The Stolen Sex Bot by James Cox
Big Balls and Brass Knuckles Book 3
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Death by plastic pussy…

When a prominent businessman is found murdered, it’s up to Detective Brett Knucks and his inventor partner, Genius, to find the killer. Things get complicated when evidence of a sex bot is found on scene. As theories dissolve, they are left scrambling for suspects. Meanwhile, Genius and Brett are trying to keep their new relationship hidden. If only they can keep their hands off each other.

Genius and Knucks are on the case!

I love this series. It’s quirky, funny and hot. James Cox writes a great little story with plenty of twists and turns, but also heart. I couldn’t put this one down. I’m also eagerly hunting for the rest in this series.

Genius is not only a hunky guy, but he’s a dad. I liked reading about a nerdy single father and his troubles with accepting he wants a romantic partner. I loved his connection to Brett. They’re so cute while trying not to paw each other. They kept me interested in the mystery aspect, for sure.

I love the connection between the characters and the mystery kept my attention, too. Great series and I can’t wait for more.

If you’re looking for a story with mystery, a building relationship and heat, then this one is for you.

Amethyst by Rebecca Henry


Amethyst by Rebecca Henry
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

She was sent away because of her feelings for another girl. But what she discovered at her aunts’ lake house was a birthright of magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zinnia is about to turn fourteen when her life is flipped upside down. With her parents on the brink of a divorce, Zinnia is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric great-aunts at their lake house away from her home in Manhattan. Zinnia arrives at her aunts’ massive Victorian house with a heavy heart after a recent falling out with her best friend Charlotte, who betrayed her trust by showing the meanest and most popular girl in school a letter Zinnia wrote confessing her feelings for Charlotte. The aunts rely on practical magic, acceptance and old family friends to help heal their great-niece in more ways than one.

What Zinnia discovers on Ambrosia Hill is more than just her birthright to magic—she meets Billie, a girl who conjures feelings inside Zinnia that she can no longer deny.

What’s better than a summer in the countryside?

It can be hard for kids to understand topics like divorce and marital conflict. Zinnia was a smart teenager, but even she struggled with the idea that her parents were fighting and might not stay together. Some of the most memorable scenes in this novella were the ones that explored her feelings on this topic and tried to explain her parents’ anger with each other in ways that were appropriate for a fourteen-year-old to hear. These aren’t easy things to discuss by any means, but they are quite important. The author did a great job of giving Zinnia a chance to understand her parents a little better than she had before and to learn about how adult relationships sometimes work.

I would have loved to see more character development in this piece. As intrigued as I was by the setting and plot, it was disappointing to meet characters whose personalities weren’t well defined and who didn’t seem to grow very much as a result of their experiences even when they were the main focus of the storyline. There seemed to be plenty of opportunities for them to do so. I simply needed more examples of them reacting to those moments, sharing their personalities in more complex ways, and showing the audience how they’d changed.

The world building was delightful. I loved the way magic was woven into every facet of the characters’ daily lives, from the messages that were left in the arrangements of soggy tea leaves in the bottom of a teacup to the spells the aunts cast to help their visitors reach any number of personal goals. It wasn’t always clear to me where the magic ended and ordinary explanations for certain events began. I reveled in how beautifully ordinary the author made certain scenes feel even if they included moments that can’t be explained with modern science or physics. There is something special about visiting a world that accepts these shades of grey and invites the reader to come up with their own explanations for them.

Amethyst was a playful read.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – A Modern Graphic Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero


Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – A Modern Graphic Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Little Women with a twist: four sisters from a blended family experience the challenges and triumphs of life in NYC in this beautiful full-color graphic novel perfect for fans of Roller Girl and Smile.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are having a really tough year: with their father serving in the military overseas, they must work overtime to make ends meet…and each girl is struggling in her own way. Whether it’s school woes, health issues, boy troubles, or simply feeling lost, the March sisters all need the same thing: support from each other. Only by coming together–and sharing lots of laughs and tears–will these four young women find the courage to discover who they truly are as individuals…and as a family.

Meg is the eldest March, and she has a taste for the finer things in life. She dreams of marrying rich, enjoying fabulous clothes and parties, and leaving her five-floor walk-up apartment behind.

Jo pushes her siblings to be true to themselves, yet feels like no one will accept her for who she truly is. Her passion for writing gives her an outlet to feel worthy in the eyes of her friends and family.

Beth is the shy sister with a voice begging to be heard. But with a guitar in hand, she finds a courage that inspires her siblings to seize the day and not take life for granted.

Amy may be the baby of the family, but she has the biggest personality. Though she loves to fight with her sisters, her tough exterior protects a vulnerable heart that worries about her family’s future.

There is nothing this family can’t handle if they stick together.

Mr. Terciero did an excellent job of updating this classic tale for the twenty-first century. He struck the perfect balance between satisfying the expectations of readers like me who are lifelong fans of the original while also keeping the storyline accessible to people who may know nothing at all about these characters yet. I was especially impressed with how he handled issues like Robert March being away at war and the serious health problem that one of the characters was diagnosed with. He made these plot twists feel modern and fresh while still remaining loyal to L.M. Montgomery’s storytelling.

I wish this graphic novel had spent more time on character development. In the first Little Women, all four sisters had clear character arcs that gave them ample opportunities to show how they slowly changed for the better. While there were signs of similar personal growth in this retelling, it was sometimes hard to follow those plotlines because of how much less space they had to work with. For example, Meg made a major revision to her life goals that was announced so suddenly to the audience I briefly wondered if I’d missed something earlier. These sorts of things happened often enough that they did negatively affect the rating even though I wanted to choose a higher one.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the relationships between Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The story eventually explained the origins of their multiracial family for anyone who might be curious about that, but the opening scene was all I needed to know that these four sisters were as loving, playful, accepting, and occasionally irritated with each other as ever. It was delightful to see how they handled the ordinary disagreements that all siblings have as well as to get a peek at how they made up after an argument. This was exactly the sort of wholesome content I was hoping for.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – A Modern Graphic Retelling of Little Women made me smile.

Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir


Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Middle Grade (8 – 12 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Anne of Green Gables with a twist: in this follow-up to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy and The Secret Garden on 81st Street, this full-color graphic novel moves Anne Shirley to modern-day West Philadelphia, where she finds new friends, new rivals, and a new family.

When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to foster a teenage girl for the first time, their lives are changed forever. Their redheaded foster daughter, Anne Shirley, is in search of an exciting life and has decided that West Philly is where she’s going to find it. Armed with a big personality and unstoppable creativity, Anne takes her new home by storm as she joins the robotics club, makes new friends in Diana and Gilbert, experiences first love, and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary. But as Anne starts to get comfortable, she discovers one thing she wasn’t looking for: a family.

No, you do not need to be familiar with the original Anne of Green Gables series to enjoy this retelling of it. Anyone who has read it before will receive some marvelous surprises here, though.

One of my favorite parts of reading this graphic novel was seeing how the same story can change in meaningful and exciting ways when it’s set in a different century. For example, Marilla and Matthew weren’t surprised to receive a girl instead of a boy this time around because their social worker talked to them about Anne in advance and worked hard to ensure the placement would be a successful one for all involved. Little moments like these popped up everywhere and provided the characters with faster resolutions to problems in some cases and brand new conflicts in others. As I said earlier, this is equally accessible for brand new and longtime fans of these characters, but I did have a wonderful time taking note of everything Ms. Weir changed in the plot order to better suit twenty-first century culture and technology. Some of her tweaks were quite clever, and nearly all of them suited the storyline beautifully.

On a related note, I was quite puzzled to see this tale set in West Philly as the original Anne Shirley never so much as visited the United States. I wish the author had gone into more detail about why she made this choice and how she thought it would affect the characters. If she simply wanted to choose a more diverse setting, why not pick one of Canada’s big cities instead? If L.M. Montgomery had some special connection to Philadelphia that most readers are unaware of, why wouldn’t that be made known in a preface? I so desperately wanted to give this five stars and would have if this hadn’t been a point of confusion for me.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. I love seeing how the characters reacted to Anne’s new placement and what she thought when she learned that her foster parents were siblings instead of a married couple. This acceptance of others and appreciation of diversity was repeated as Anne got to know other people in their neighborhood and settled into her new life. It was especially cool to see the nods to some long-standing fan theories about the sexual orientation of a certain character that was finally discussed openly here.

Anne of West Philly was a heartwarming read.

A Date with Violence by James Cox


A Date with Violence by James Cox
Big Balls and Brass Knuckles, Book 2
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

They have the killer on video and yet no one can see his face…

Brett and Genius are on another case. This one involves a series of robberies where elderly victims are murdered. They have no idea how the victims are chosen or when the next one will be targeted. Their only clue is a video of the killer and his face is blurred. What invention could do that? Even Genius is stumped. As they look for suspects, the heat between them intensifies. Neither man has forgotten the kiss they shared and Genius wants a lot more than Brett’s lips.

Oh baby, the chemistry leaps right off the page.

I’ve not read anything by James Cox before this book, but I’m glad I remedied that and I will be looking for book one in this series. I loved the writing and the characters. This was a hot, but quick read and I couldn’t put it down.

Genius and Brett have great chemistry. I rooted for them immediately. I loved the interplay between them and the way they so wanted each other. So good. I didn’t want this book to end…which is why I’m going back to find book one.

If you’re looking for a quick mystery, hot story and great characters, then this is the one for you.

Unsalvageable by J Hali Steele


Unsalvageable by J Hali Steele
Sanguine Blood Seekers Book 1
Publisher: Changeling Press/Razor’s Edge
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Vampires are real! Sten Majkovic has lived longer than he ever dreamed possible. Among his kind it isn’t easy having a slim, lithe build, but it does have advantages in the human world. He welcomes attention of men who appreciate his appearance. Their mistake is expecting to hold the upper hand. None ever do. And not a single one of them realizes his rabid need for blood — until it’s too late…

Drew Riles’ life is shitty. Mid-fifties, passed over for promotion, he struggles to stay afloat until, nearly beaten to death, he’s rescued by a monster. Unsure how to survive, he flounders in unfamiliar territory. Anger soon replaces what little fear the beast allows as Drew comprehends the fiend has no intention of releasing him. Both emotions quickly evaporate as he watches the bloodthirsty creature use men in a way… God, I want to be those men!

Hot, hot, hot.

I love a good J Hali Steele book and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s hot. It’s right there in the blurb and the book delivers. The writing in this story flowed well and I read it in a matter of an afternoon.

Drew and Sten aren’t men that would normally be put together, but they work together well. Drew is cranky and older, but Sten is much older and not as cranky, but he’s a vampire. I liked that they danced around each other throughout the story and the slow burn quality was good. But this is a hot book and there is plenty of steam, too. I hope to see more of the other vampires in this story. They really captivated me, and I want to see them happy or at least sated.

If you’re looking for something quick, hot and guaranteed to singe the screen, then this might be the one for you.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour


Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A little girl stays home with Mama when Mommy goes off on a work trip in this tender, inviting story that will resonate with every child who has missed a parent.

For one little girl, there’s no place she’d rather be than sitting between Mama and Mommy. So when Mommy goes away on a work trip, it’s tricky to find a good place at the table. As the days go by, Mama brings her to the library, they watch movies, and all of them talk on the phone, but she still misses Mommy as deep as the ocean and as high as an astronaut up in the stars. As they pass by a beautiful garden, the girl gets an idea . . . but when Mommy finally comes home, it takes a minute to shake off the empty feeling she felt all week before leaning in for a kiss. Michael L. Printz Award winner Nina LaCour thoughtfully renders a familiar, touching story of a child who misses a parent, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, whose distinctive style brings charm and playfulness to this delightful family of three.

It’s never fun to be left behind.

One of my favorite scenes happened early on when the main character was in a classroom setting and mentioned missing her Mommy. The details might differ a little from one family to the next, but everyone misses someone they love at one point or another. Seeing how the teacher and her classmates responded to her was heartwarming. I couldn’t have imagined a better response to her admission that she was having a hard time.

The only thing I wish had been written differently in this tale was the ending. There were so many touching scenes earlier on in the plot that I was a bit surprised by how quickly it was all wrapped up. It would have been nice to have an extra scene or two at the end where the girl talked about her week at home with Mama and heard what Mommy had been up to during her business trip as well.

This was a gentle, honest exploration of how a young girl dealt with going through her normal daily routines while her Mommy was away. It’s hard for a little one to be separated from a parent even if it’s temporary and for a good reason. I thought it was lovely that she felt comfortable sharing her feelings with her Mama, her teacher, and the many other supportive people in her life. That is an excellent way to deal with difficult feelings, and it made me eager to recommend this.

Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle was a wonderful read.

Turning On The Light by Chelle De Notte


Turning On The Light by Chelle De Notte
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

When he’s not putting out fires with New York’s bravest, Jake Cross performs as Bree Encroute, a drag queen in a Hell’s Kitchen revue. He keeps his two worlds separate by design, yet is having a hard time separating himself from Brad.

After walking away from the homophobia at his old firehouse, Brad Talbott is finally free to be himself … and in search of a house where he’ll fit in. But no matter how many floater shifts he works, he keeps coming back to Jake.

For months, Jake and Brad’s arrangement has been purely physical. But as spring gives way to summer, the two men start to bare themselves to each other in new ways.

Jake and Brad hit it off almost instantly but as fire fighters they each have very busy professional lives and at first neither are keen to give up much of their busy private time either. But as their hook ups become more meaningful and they each start to share more of more of their private selves things begin to get more complicated. Can they help each other create something amazing together?

I found this to be a really interesting and emotional read. I was a little surprised that the storyline jumped around a bit – particularly at the start. More than a few times I had to stop, go back and reread a few pages because I hadn’t understood something properly. This somewhat choppy style of writing made it hard to be to follow the story in a few places, but I really felt this evened out toward the middle and end of the story so I was quite glad to have grasped it all.

I adored both Jake and Brad’s characters though and really felt their connection and the romance blossoming between them. I empathized strongly with Jake – and recovering from his world turning upside down after having people he loved and trusted turn their backs when he came out. I also greatly enjoyed the patience and love Brad showed Jake as they each tried to build something together. This was a really emotional and strongly written story I liked and feel it would be a lovely, quick and satisfying read for many who enjoy a realistic sort of story.

With two interesting, vibrant and realistic characters really shining through the story Jake and Brad made this a lovely and enjoyable read. There was a dash of colour and fun with Jake’s side hustle as a drag queen and enough tender emotions as the two men grew closer and learned to trust themselves and each other to really make this a delightful story. I’d definitely be willing to try more by this author.