Bewitched by the Barista by Jason Wrench

Bewitched by the Barista by Jason Wrench
Up on the Farm, Book 2
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Finding love and coffee in the unlikeliest of places.

After finding him in bed with another man, Roger Havemeyer needs to escape his life and his ex. Dale Devereux, an old friend of his now lives up near Woodstock with his boyfriend Talgat. After visiting Dale and Talgat one weekend, Roger decides a change of scenery may be just what he needs. Roger’s job as a marketing executive allows him to work remotely now, so he puts in an offer on a house. One evening, while deleting a slew of emails, he accidentally clicks on a link to a website called CammBate. Not familiar with the website, he finds himself really drawn to one of the young models, which surprises him, since he rarely likes younger guys.

Wesley Phelps is a twenty-year-old college student paying his way through college. He has a small apartment that he shares with his best friend. A friend of his told him that with his good looks, he could make a lot of money on CammBate, so he started performing. Even as the money starts rolling in from his online sex work, he keeps his job as a part-time barista at the local coffee shop, Java Junkie Café & Roastery.

After closing the deal on his house, Roger walks into Java Junkie Café & Roastery and almost has a heart attack when he recognizes Wes. Of course, Roger is used to their ‘relationship’ being completely one-sided. Wes finds himself drawn to the attractive forty-year-old but isn’t even sure if the older man knows he’s alive.

Roger and Wes have to work to get past their twenty-year age gap, and Roger also must learn how to cope with Wes’ jobs…both of them.

Two men who probably shouldn’t work really do.

This story is an example of two people who shouldn’t work on paper being exactly what each other needs. I’ve read other books by Jason Wrench and enjoyed them. This one was no different. I enjoyed the story and loved the characters. I like the idea of opposites attracting, too. In this case, there’s an age-gap, too.

Wes wants to get through college and live his life. He’s relatable. He’s also having a hard time accepting there are more than one side of him. It’s a lot to handle. Then he meets Roger and he’s smitten. I loved how he had to work through their issues to make things happen. Roger is very buttoned up and work-oriented. I felt for him when he found his fiance being bad. Again, it was very relatable. I loved the way these two found their way to each other and I rooted for them.

This is a bit of a fluffy story, but it’s exactly what I needed. If you want a feel-good story that will leave you with a smile, then give this one a shot. It’s worth it.

Obsidian by Rebecca Henry

Obsidian by Rebecca Henry
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Sometimes the truth has to be revealed in order to recieve love.

Ninth grade is everything Zinnia didn’ t want it to be at St. Hopes. Her life back in the city feels empty and Liv’ s groupies of popular girls are suffocating Zinnia with their daily taunts. As Halloween approaches, Zinnia craves the comfort and security of Ambrosia Hill and desperately wishes to be back with her aunts but especially Billie, the girl with the green eyes, who Zinnia can’t get out of her mind. Right when Zinnia thinks she won’ t be able to wait until the summer to see Billie, her mom shocks her with a spontaneous announcement. They are leaving for Ambrosia Hill to visit the aunts. But can Zinnia surrender her truth to accept love?

Everyone needs a place that makes them feel like they belong there.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that explored the many different options that were available to a witch. Not only did young witches decide whether they wanted to be on the side of good or of evil, the powers they had could vary quite a bit from one individual to the next. This meant that it wasn’t easy to predict in advance what someone in this group was like even in small ways like whether it would be safe to walk through their garden. I was fascinated by the diversity here and gobbled up every last description. It made me think of all of the Halloween stories I’ve read and watched about witches and wonder what a film based on this world might be like!

My review of Amethyst mentioned wanting to see more character development for Zinnia and the people closest to her. While it still happened much more slowly than I would have preferred to see, I was pleased to take note of the subtle but important ways in which all of the main characters had evolved since I’d first met them. I hope that any possible sequels in the works will speed up this progress as this was the only thing holding me back from giving a full five-star rating.

Once again, I was thrilled with the world building in this series. The first instalment did an excellent job of showing how magic worked in this universe and what it meant to be a witch. It was wonderful to see all of that hard work not only acknowledged in the sequel but used as a foundation to explore these topics in even greater detail here. I highly recommend beginning with book one in order to fully appreciate just how much effort the author put into this. She couldn’t have done a better job at it.

Obsidian was a satisfying read.

Finding a Farmer by Jason Wrench

Finding a Farmer by Jason Wrench
Up on the Farm, Book 1
Publisher: Pride Publishing, Totally Entwined
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Sometimes you need a new job to put the important things in life into perspective. And sometimes love finds you when you least expect it…maybe even while picking apples.

Dale Devereux is an unemployed, spoiled rich kid on the cusp of turning thirty. His grandfather, Jameson, decides it’s time for Dale to learn the family business, so he sends him to work on one of the corporate farms in Woodstock, New York.

Talgat Kudaibergen is the twenty-seven-year-old who is currently running things at Deveraux Farms Upstate. He took over operations after his mother’s and father’s deaths. Along with his younger sister and brother, Ayala and Rasul, the three siblings have kept the farm running.

Dale finds out quickly that he has a lot to learn about living life outside the big city. Talgat and his siblings grow to appreciate Dale and what he’s able to bring to the farm.

Slowly, Dale and Talgat realize that they may have more in common than either imagined. The two start to have feelings for one another, but their romance is threatened when money goes missing from the farm’s coffers.

Opposites attract and it’s so good.

I love a good “opposites attract” story and this one doesn’t disappoint. Jason Wrench is a new to me author and I’ll be reading more from this author. The characters are interesting, and the story flew along. I got right into it and couldn’t put it down.

Dale is a jerk, I won’t lie. He’s entitled and needs a bit of a knock down. He gets it when he’s got to work on the farm. He’s got no idea how to be a farmer, so it was amusing and interesting to see how he figures it all out. Tal is great at farming and doesn’t really have time to coddle Dale, but he spends time with him, and they find out they’re not totally dissimilar. The relatability of them is what really got me. The ending was a little fast, but that happens. It only made me want to read more about these characters.

If you want a book that’s cute and hot, then give this one a try. I know I’ll be looking for more from this author. Give it a try.

The Poison Bottle by LM Somerton

The Poison Bottle by LM Somerton
Treasure Trove Antiques, Book 3
Publisher: Totally Entwined, Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

There’s no antidote to the malignant craving for power and wealth.

Landry Carran should know better than to get involved in yet another murder mystery, but it was hardly his fault that someone dumped a dead body on the doorstep of Treasure Trove Antiques. He can’t resist recruiting his friends to help him play detective.

Meanwhile, Landry’s partner and Dom, Gage Roskam, is doing real detective work that proves hazardous to his health and brings with it the assistance of an annoying Englishman who Gage believes should be behind bars.

The case twists and turns across Seattle’s antique trade, and the bodies multiply. As clues are solved, it becomes apparent that those closest to Gage are in grave danger. He’ll need to control his errant sub, deal with the most irritating Brit ever born and solve the case if he wants to prevent more death.

Bodies are piling up, but Landy can’t keep himself out of trouble.

I love the works of LM Somerton and when I saw this one, I had to read it. I’m glad I did. You don’t have to read the others in the series to know what’s going on, but I recommend it anyway because this is a great series. The book read smoothly, and I was right there with the characters wanting to know whodunit. I couldn’t put this one down. Good for the story, but not great for bedtime. I read way past mine, but it was worth it.

Gage is a great Dom and detective. He knows what he’s doing and his interplay with Landry was hot. I liked him a lot. I also liked the human quality of his frustration with Landry. It’s normal and it read like people I know. Landry means well, but he can’t seem to keep out of mischief and that was relatable, too. That’s what I liked about this. It’s relatable.

If you’re looking for a hot, kinky, mysterious book, then this might be the one for you. Check it out! I recommend it and the other books in this series.

Kinked Up by MC Roth

Kinked Up by MC Roth
It’s a Kink Thing
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Can Trick choose between the love of his life and the sub of his dreams?

Nav can’t count the number of times he has wished he could close his eyes, hand over the reins and let someone take care of him. It’s a dream that none of his exes have been able to fulfill—not that he really understands what he needs.

At least, he doesn’t until he stumbles into a dark alley to get away from the bustling noise on the dance floor where he doesn’t belong. He’s not alone in the alley, and the stranger who gives him everything he’s longing for isn’t a stranger at all but Trick, his gorgeous neighbor who has a body that models would kill for and the softest blue eyes that Nav has ever seen.

Trick has everything he could ever wish for, including his kinky fiancé, Theo, who has been by his side for ten years. So when Trick sets up an intense scene in an alleyway that pushes their boundaries beyond anything he could have imagined, his life seems perfect. But when the alley lights flicker on, he discovers the man against him isn’t his fiancé at all.

One perfect mistake will change their lives forever.

Hot, hot, hot!

I picked up this book because I was in the mood for something kinky, no pun intended. And I got it! This book is guaranteed to melt the ereader screen. MC Roth has written a deliciously hot story with lots of kink and it’s not going to be for everyone, but it’s certainly a ride.

Nav knows he wants something, but he’s not sure what exactly. Trick knows what he’s ready to give, but he’s not intending on giving it to Nav…then a mistake happens. I liked the journey these two take. It’s not the average kink story. This one has pain play in it, so it’s not going to be for everyone, as I mentioned. But if that’s your thing or you’re interested in a dark, gritty story, this might be it.

I read this one in one sitting and didn’t want it to end. The story flowed well and kept me engaged throughout. If you’re looking for something hot and a little different, then this might be for you.

The Real Thing by Elizabeth Hollows

The Real Thing by Elizabeth Hollows
Publisher: Totally Entwined
Genre: LGBTQ, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

One soldier home from training. Two best friends secretly in love. A plan to fake a romantic Valentine’s weekend. Will it be happiness or heartbreak?

Chad Anderson is a proud soldier with a promising career. He has almost got the perfect life, but for one small snag. Chad has been holding a candle for his best friend since he was seventeen.

Gareth Jenkins lives with him, along with his rescue dog. It’s the perfect arrangement and almost as good as the real thing—but it isn’t the real thing.

To make matters worse, it’s Valentine’s Day, and Chad will be returning from training for the holiday. It would be the ideal time to confess—but it has been nearly ten years. It’s long past the time to say something.

But he isn’t the only one with a candle.

Gareth might be a confident hairdresser with a flirtatious manner and easy-to-love personality, but it doesn’t help him where it counts. Because Gareth’s first love is his sexy soldier best friend, and one of these days, Gareth is sure he’s going to ruin everything with an unwanted kiss.

And if things aren’t bad enough for both of them, Chad comes up with an idea that might spell the end for their secrets. Because, instead of spending Valentine’s alone, he suggests they spend it having the weekend they’ve always wanted.

To do it, they’ll fake being a romantic couple.

When what they want is playing out right in front of them, can both men keep their feelings contained?

Two best friends, a yearning so deep it’s never going away and a love to last forever.

I love the work of Elizabeth Hollows, so I knew I had to read this book. I wasn’t disappointed. This was a quickly paced book, with endearing characters and a lot of humor.

Gareth loves Chad and Chad loves him, but like life, sometimes it takes a while to work out. I loved that the author gave these characters time to figure out what they wanted, while showing they had it all along. I like the idea of a fake it ’til they make it situation and this one delivers. Plus, it’s hot!

If you’re looking for a sweet, hot story with some great friends to lovers, then this might be the one for you. Try it!

The Life We Dream Of by Jennifer Leigh Pezzano

The Life We Dream Of by Jennifer Leigh Pezzano
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“Numb. That’s what I had been. That’s what I had always been. Impassively navigating through my life like a habit I could not define. A deep dreamless sleep I stumbled through. And I suddenly wanted to wake up.”

Diagnosed with an incurable cancer, Julia is forced to come to terms with a life largely unlived. Haunted by past trauma and regrets she cannot amend, she has built a wall around herself, insulating her from the world.

But when a chance meeting breaks down her barriers, Julia begins the process of letting life back in, taking her on a journey toward love, self-discovery, and a daughter she never knew. Will she be able to fully make peace with her tangled past and confront all the pain buried beneath the rubble?

The Life We Dream Of is a love story about second chances, overcoming fear, and the boldness one must summon to find healing within.

Healing comes in many forms.

I must admit that it took me a little while to warm up to Julia because of how closed off she was to the world around her and how much she resisted anything that might reveal the deepest parts of her personality. One of the wonderful things about character development is how it can affect the reader’s opinion of a character as that character grows and changes throughout the course of the plot. My first impression of Julia was wildly different from what I thought of her after I finished the final scene, and I tip my cap to the author for digging into the protagonist’s life so deeply that it could produce such a change in my opinions.

The romantic storyline was handled perfectly. Julia and her love interest were both people who had excellent reasons to believe that romance was no longer something meant for them, the least of which were the serious health diagnoses that were threatening their lives. I appreciated how much effort Ms. Pezzano put into exploring why these characters had shut the door on falling in love again as well as why they both decided that it might be worth exploring after all.

Some books have writing styles that are as smooth as butter, and this was one of them. There wasn’t a single thing I’d recommend changing about the way this was written. I laughed, cried, and felt swells of many other emotions cresting over me, too, as I read it. This was even more true as the ending loomed and I knew I had to say goodbye to these characters soon.

The Life We Dream Of was a beautifully satisfying read.

Three’s Company by Kristian Parker

Three’s Company by Kristian Parker
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

They’re the perfect throuple…if only the rest of the world agreed.

Will Johnstone’s father is desperately ill, and he races home from London to the Yorkshire village of Napthwaite to be with him. Almost immediately he meets cute postman, Hardeep and mysterious newcomer, Andrew. There weren’t handsome men like this in Napthwaite when he lived here…

Heat flares between the three very different men, passion they have no intention of resisting, or denying. But having their roots deep and their lives entwined in a small village is not like living in a bustling metropolis. And with domineering mothers, problem teenagers, sick fathers and someone’s past knocking at the door, the path of true love is anything but smooth.

Can Will, Hardeep and Andrew, three very different people, steer their relationship past the rocks and find a way into uncharted territory…together?

When Will got the call that his father was ill and needed his help, he put on the role of dutiful son and came home. However, when he arrived in the sleepy little village of his childhood, he stumbles into something he’d never anticipated. Something that could change his life – for the better – forever. But is he strong enough to embrace it?

Will’s situation was a tough one. He and his father had a strained relationship that kept them apart for various reasons, reasons that were understandable, but not insurmountable. It was stressful at first, watching their interactions, but as the story moves forward and they spend more time together, they begin to get reacquainted. Seeing their relationship mend was one of the highlights of the story, in my opinion.

Andrew is stuck in a time loop it seems. He wants desperately to move on from his previous, unsatisfying relationship, but doesn’t seem able to move on. It makes sense when you finally find out more about his past, but his entire attitude towards Will and Hardeep almost ruined it all for me. Luckily for him (and me, I suppose), his two potential boyfriends aren’t willing to give up on him.

My favorite of the three by far was Hardeep. I could relate to him being a single father and the clashes he had with his daughter felt very real. He’s also very closeted and, while I’ve never gone through that myself, I could empathize with the fear and anxiety over being discovered. He also had a very sweet relationship with both his mother and his daughter.

Three’s Company is a sweet, spicy, and sometimes difficult story of finding your way through the trauma and hatred to the happiness you know you deserve. The author’s writing style is easy and flowing, and kept me engaged, despite switching between three different points of view. I was thrilled to see them find their happy ending after all they went through. Although part of a series, it works well as a stand-alone, and pertinent events from the previous novel are explained enough so that you don’t feel lost when they’re brought up. I’m looking forward to going back and reading the previous book as well, the inhabitants of Napthwaite are too much fun to leave behind.

Spotlight on Love by Kristian Parker

Spotlight on Love by Kristian Parker
Speak Its Name, book 3
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Historical, LGBTQ, Erotic Romance
Rating; 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

If love conquers all, George Lomax has its biggest challenge yet…

It’s 1923 and George Lomax is on the run. Not from the law but from his boss, the predatory stage company manager Waldo Waddington. George came to London from the States in a Harlem-style musical, but Waldo demands more than just a good performance on the stage from the males in his cast.

Fleeing, George arrives at Safe Haven Boarding House in Brighton and immerses himself in the loving, accepting world of Tanner, Charlie, Frank and Michael. A stroll in the local park brings him to Stanley Butterworth, a war veteran who’s experienced his own horrors, and it’s love at first sight for the two very different men.

But Waldo is hot on George’s heels, using George’s employment contract and visa to drag him back into his clutches. Can George find a way to not only be free but be free to love Stanley…if Stanley can overcome his own demons to love him back?

Two souls who should be together, searching for forever together and it’s so sweet.
I’m a sucker for Kristian Parker’s books and the moment I saw this book. I’ve loved the others in this series and knew I needed to read this one. I love that it’s interracial, I love that it’s the twenties and that these characters are so different. I’m not wild about first person writing, but this book delivers.

I love George and Stanley together. They’re great for each other and it was nice to catch up with the other characters from this series. I’m not wild about what happened to George, but I do like the twists involved. It’s good. Plus, there are moments of heat and sweetness.

If you’re a fan of historicals, want a good one that’s of a time period not often dealt with in romance, plus one that features LGBTQ characters and is well-written, then this is the book and series for you. Try it!

Squishy Crushy Something by Kieran Frank

Squishy Crushy Something by Kieran Frank
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), LGBTQ, Romance, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Jayden never expected he’d be the type to develop a squish on a boy, never mind a full-blown crush.

It started with Kail, a boy with looks and popularity and all-around awesomeness. Developing a squish on Kail might’ve been natural for Jayden, of course, as anyone could fall for that boy. But it’s now three years later, the summer before senior year, and Jayden’s squish on Kail has grown into a crush that he can no longer ignore. And this crush is leading Jayden to make decisions he knows he’ll regret later.

But Kail isn’t the only one Jayden is having squishy crushy troubles with.

He used to be friends with Ollie, but when Ollie got too deep into religion, it drove Jayden away. Now, Ollie is back and he seems much more open-minded—not to mention much more attractive—and Jayden can’t help but develop a squish. But could it turn into a crush?

Jayden is caught between two squishy crushes—the crush on the boy that he knows is toxic, and the potential crush that could make or break a friendship—and he doesn’t know what to do. The right choice could bring him happiness, but if he makes the wrong choice he could lose everything.

This was the first asexual and gay romance novel I’ve read, and it won’t be the last!

Small towns can be lonely and sometimes even dangerous places to grow up for kids who are LGBTQ, non-Caucasian, or a member of other minority groups. I enjoyed seeing how Jayden figured out who was safe to talk to and who would accept him unconditionally as not everyone who lives in a small town will be prejudiced against folks who are different from them by any means. There are wonderful people to be found in every corner of the globe, and I smiled with joy as the main character discovered who could be counted on in his community.

The ending suited the characters nicely, especially Jayden. People change quite a bit when they’re in high school, so it made a lot of sense to leave everything as open to interpretation as the author did. He left plenty of room for his characters to learn and grow as they finished high school and went off to college. That was exactly what this storyline needed, and it made me excited to read the sequel that was hinted to be in the works.

Some of the most memorable scenes were ones that showed members of the LGBTQ community loving and supporting each other. Some shared the same label while others did not, but what really mattered were their friendships and the common ground they found as members of various romantic and sexual minority groups. I never had stories like this when I was in high school, so it was heartwarming to see such a thing written for today’s teens. Solidarity makes for great storytelling and sends a powerful message of hope to readers who are still looking for a place to belong.

Squishy Crushy Something made me sigh with happiness.