Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer


Complicating Roy by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Complication doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.

Duke Charles needs a break. He’s tired of life on the road and never having a place to settle down. He decides to head to Norville for a rest in his childhood home. Once there, he realizes his life isn’t quite so relaxed—he’s not only inherited the house, but a cat to go with it. When his friend from high school sends him on a date, he finds out how complicated life can be…in a good way.

Roy Mars likes his life as an artist. He paints, sells work and takes his cat, Raphael, for walks through Norville. He channels his emotions into his art…until he goes on a date and meets Duke. His uncomplicated life gets thrown into chaos, not least because Duke has rabid fans who insist on knowing every detail of his life.

Can Roy handle a little complication in the form of Duke, or will he quit before he finds his forever?

When social media runs your life, you sometimes have choices to make.

Duke is the drummer in a famous band who has been on tour constantly for the past 15 years. He needs some time away to get his head back on straight. Roy is famous in his own way as an artist. They get set up by the fairy godmother of Norville, James, and fall victim to insta-lust followed by insta-miscommunication.

I much preferred Duke in this story to Roy. Duke is relatable, he has his issues and has worked/is working on them. Roy seems more along the lines of ‘this is me, deal with it.’ As with book one, there were storylines that didn’t seem to go anywhere – with Ted and with the Mayor. It will be interesting to see if these are picked up in future books.

This is a low-angst book that moves at a fast pace, continuing along the lines of book one. It was a good read, but I would prefer it to be a bit more in-depth with the characters as they felt sort of wooden in places. An enjoyable read that I enjoyed and have no hesitation in recommending.

Falling for Vince by Megan Slayer


Falling for Vince by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Are second chances possible when the first chance never really happened?

Vince Rhodes has loved Cody Burrows for years, but he’s never been bold enough to ask him out. This wallflower is ready to make a move, so he enlists the help of James, the resident stylist at Dye Hard Style and unofficial matchmaker, to hook him up with his crush. Vince is betting it all on Cody giving him a chance, but will he?

Cody Burrows has admired Vince since they were both in high school. While he was the solid athlete unable to come out, Vince showed his rainbow proudly. Now they’re both older and wiser…and matched up by James. Will Cody allow himself to be free with Vince and find his heart’s delight or will he keep the barriers around his heart forever?

Maybe falling for Vince is just what Cody needs…

Who doesn’t love a second-chance romance?

Cody and Vince went to school together. Vince had a crush on Cody but didn’t act on it. Cody was attracted to Vince but was in the closet at school so just watched from afar. When fairy godmother James gets involved, they meet up and move forward.

These books have been a little formulaic with the beginning. They meet James, who gives them a time and date at Club Jester. They go, they meet, they dance, they misunderstand a situation, they leave, only to try again and succeed. Saying that, this one is my favourite of the bunch. The relationship between Cody and Vince seemed more ‘real’ somehow, as though their relationship from school could be expanded and adjusted to fit them as they are now. I loved how Cody and Vince encourage each other along, giving each other boosts, not knocking them down.

As with the others, it is low-angst with a HEA. A sweet read, perfect for a coffee or lunch break. Recommended by me.

Real Sugar is Hard to Find by Sim Kern


Real Sugar is Hard to Find by Sim Kern
Publisher: Android Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A collection of short stories by Sim Kern, Real Sugar is Hard to Find explores intersections of climate change, reproductive justice, queer identities, and family trauma. Whether fantasy, science fiction, or terrifyingly close-to-home, the worlds of these stories are inhabited by flawed characters whose lives are profoundly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation.

Arranged in a progression from dystopian to utopian worlds, the stories chart a path from climate despair towards resilience and revolutionary optimism. Even in the bleakest of futures, however, Kern offers reasons to hope, connect, and keep fighting for a better world.

Like Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners or Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Kern’s stories are unflinching, intimate explorations of trauma and our deepest fears, rendered irresistible through the infusion of fantastic speculative elements and a dark sense of humor.

What the world looks like generations from now depends on what we do today.

Jane developed the ability to hear the thoughts of trees in one of the first scenes of “The Listener,” and she was tormented by their suffering. The plot twists were clever and kept me guessing. At one point I literally had to suppress the urge to argue with Jane because of how shocked I was by one of her decisions. She had excellent reasons for her choices, though, and I enjoyed being surprised by them just as much as I did imagining what might happen to her and her family next.

While I deeply enjoyed this collection in general, there were some stories that I wished had been given more opportunities for development. “The End of the Nuclear Era” was one such example. It showed what happened when children were given the legal right to leave their biological families and live with other people if they so desired. I was intrigued by how such a system would work and yearned to learn more about the practicalities of it all. For example, how old would a kid need to be before they could make this choice? What made some of them stay home and others venture forth? How did they learn that such options existed in the first place? I would have happily gone with a full five-star rating if every tale was equally fleshed out.

In “What Can’t Be Undone,” a witch named Stitcher Lorra tried to fix herself and those around her who requested help with a crude form of magic that didn’t always work the way it was intended to. The world building was fascinating and made me yearn for more information about how magic worked in this universe and why so many people had unrealistic expectations of it. I also appreciated figuring out how Lorra’s deepest faults were related to her work and how far she was willing to go to correct her character. Those scenes were as thoughtful as they were realistic for her personality.

Real Sugar is Hard to Find gave me hope for the future.

Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer


Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

A match made in heaven? More like a match made in Norville and made to last.

Arthur Burton wants a lover and partner, but no man seems to want to be with the local insurance agent. He’s not the bland two-dimensional man on the billboards, but he hasn’t been given the chance to show his colors.

Summer Rain Davis embodies the bohemian lifestyle. He loves his arts and crafts. He’s always had a thing for the buttoned-up professional types and when he’s set up with Arthur, sparks fly.

Love is possible in a small town if Arthur and Summer Rain are willing to give their romance a try.

Can these two men, seemingly total opposites, find common ground and love to last a lifetime? Or will their differences keep them apart?

Very fast-paced with lots of smoochy bits.

On paper, Summer Rain and Arthur are not a match. However, the resident fairy godmother/hairdresser/dog rescuer James, thinks they are perfect for each other. They agree to be set up on a date and there you go. They click instantly and their relationship moves at supersonic speed.

It is low angst for the most part. Some of the relationships and occurrences didn’t make sense to me. Billy – I got. I understand where he was coming from. But Cash? Don’t get him at all. Or Benji for that matter. The whole scene with him felt off, including Summer Rain’s reaction to him.

This is the first book in the series (Love Me Do) so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next in the town of Norville. Recommended by me for a light read.

Winning Over Harmon by Megan Slayer


Winning Over Harmon by Megan Slayer
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ, Romance
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Moonflower

Second chances are possible if you’re willing to give love a chance.

Harmon Keyes wasn’t looking for romance when he visited Roy Mars’ gallery show, but the moment he sees Winston Saint, he’s smitten. He has no idea who Winston is, but the attraction is off the charts. He also isn’t sure if he’ll ever see the man again. Can a trip to Dye Hard Style help get him together with Winston?

Michael Winston Saint knew the second he spotted Harmon that he’d fallen head over heels. He’d never forget the geeky guy who talked too much or that kiss full of electricity and passion. Unfortunately, he has to leave the gallery show before he can give Harmon his number. He returns to Norville for a rest and the chance to connect with his dream man. Winston’s determined to win over Harmon at all costs.

Will the teacher and the rock star be able to make a go of their relationship? Or will the gossip and complication of small-town life be more than they can handle?

Things are never easy when you fall in love with a rock star.

Harmon is a schoolteacher in Norville. As such, he believes he should be above redemption, allowing nothing to mar his reputation. However, when he meets Michael (Winston) he realizes just how lofty that ideal is and, together, they work out just what is realistic whilst still allowing them to have a life together.

As with most of Megan Slayer’s books that I have read, this is very low-angst. Harmon doesn’t even blink at some of the shenanigans that people get up to, to get close to Winston, including some of his old students.

A gentle, easy read with some steamy moments that I can happily recommend.

Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello


Little Pig Saves the Ship by David Hyde Costello
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Little Pig is back in Little Pig Saves the Ship! When the sea-faring pigs go a-sailing! Intrepid Little Pig — still the littlest pig in the family — is too little to go to summer camp with his older brothers and sisters. He is left behind with Grandpa and Poppy. Little Pig and Poppy make and sail a toy ship all week, but on Saturday a gusty wind takes the ship into the current, and Little Pig has to use his newfound knot-tying skills to save the day.

A sweetly told intergenerational story about how even the littlest can make a big difference.

It’s never easy to be left behind.

Little Pig was such a sweet main character. I empathized with his dismay at not being old enough to join his siblings on their exciting trip. He wanted so badly to be included and would have done anything to go with them. Seeing how he chose to spend his time once they left made me smile. The adults in his life had clearly put some work into finding fun activities that he was currently big enough to do. These scenes made me wonder how he’d describe this part of his childhood when he grew up. He was having a wonderful time, but he was also in such a hurry to become big and independent like his sisters and brothers!

There are a lot of picture books out there about LGBTQ+ parents these days, but I haven’t seen as many about LGBTQ+ grandparents or other relatives. The subtle inclusion of Grandpa and Poppy made me smile. They clearly loved their grandchildren and had spent a lot of time developing a close relationship with them. I enjoyed watching them cheer Little Pig up with games and other diversions as he counted down the days until his older siblings would return home from summer camp.

As much as I enjoyed the beginning and middle of this tale, the ending was what convinced me that this was a five-star reading. It was exciting in some scenes and sentimental in others. I also appreciated the references it made to the first scene that described Little Pig’s disappointment. While I can’t say much else without giving away spoilers, seeing everything tied together so perfectly made this a must-read in my opinion.

Little Pig Saves the Ship was a heartwarming snapshot of family life in the summertime.

The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper


The Night Bartender by Alexa Piper
Fairview Chronicles, book 9
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday, Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, LGBTQ
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Aaron has come to Fairview to find his ex’s teenage sister, who went missing in the city. As a witch both rich and powerful, Aaron follows a trail that leads him to a bar frequented by supernaturals and to a bartender who attracts Aaron’s attention — and not just because the bartender is keeping something from Aaron. When Aaron runs out of leads, he follows the mysterious and pretty bartender, and the next thing Aaron knows, he’s foiling an attempted abduction.

Ilya has built a quiet life in Fairview mixing drinks and flying under the radar. He is a banshee, and the psychic ability and mild telepathy that comes with that makes Ilya a sought-after commodity. That carefully constructed life Ilya built for himself breaks into a thousand pieces when a handsome witch starts asking questions and becomes Ilya’s rescuer mere hours after they meet.

The witch, Aaron, vows to protect Ilya and to keep his secret. Now Ilya has to decide whether he will give Aaron his trust and risk a lonely but safe life as a night bartender in a wintry city in which people disappear only to then turn up murdered.

Two men who probably shouldn’t mix are just what the doctor ordered.

I love a good Alexa Piper story and this one delivered. The characters are quirky, the story hot and the chemistry off the charts. I devoured this story in one sitting and couldn’t wait to get to the rest in this series. The pacing was great and though this is book 9, I didn’t feel lost by not reading the others.

I liked the way the tension and action carried the story. Yes, there is heat between Aaron and Ilya, but they have a job to do, too. It was fun to read about them getting together and their exploits.

If you want a good story for a lazy afternoon or one guaranteed to heat up the night, then this is the one you’re looking for. Recommended.

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech


Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze by Benjamin Roech
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Genre: Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.), Romance, LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Fifteen-year-old Rainey Cobb never thought meeting someone could actually change her life. But, then again, she’s never met anyone like Juliet.

It’s 1995 and The Cobb Family Band, led by Rainey’s rock star parents, has arrived for a week-long gig at the Midwestern resort owned by Juliet’s family. Dazzled by Juliet’s carpe diem attitude, DIY tattoos, and passion for grunge, Rainey falls hard. And when Juliet gives Rainey a mixtape that unlocks her heart’s secret yearnings, Rainey starts seeing herself-and her vagabond, show-biz life-through new eyes.

If Rainey quits the band, her parents’ fading career might never recover. But if she doesn’t leap now, she might be stuck forever in a life she didn’t choose…and always wonder who she could have been.

One summer really can change everything.

Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that addressed Rainey’s summer romance. She and her love interest were both so young and still unsure of where they might land on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. It was interesting to see how they addressed their feelings as they both explored their identities and tried to figure out what they wanted out of life. I don’t want to give away any spoilers here, but this was nicely written and felt very realistic for their ages and for the era they lived in.

I also enjoyed the subplots about Rainey’s complex relationships with her parents. She was beginning to grow up, and her mother, Tracy, wasn’t always ready for all of the changes that was going to bring to their band and to their lives in general. While there were a few times when I shook my head at how much effort Tracy was putting into preserving traditions that were not necessarily working so well as her children asserted their independence, even these moments were genuine and necessary for what was to come. Adjusting to change isn’t easy, especially for parents who have given their children such unconventional upbringings so far.

The character development was handled beautifully. Every member of the Cobb family was three dimensional and well written, and this was especially true for Rainey. I found myself wishing that she were a real person so we could talk about poetry and make mixtapes for each other all summer long. It was delightful to see how she, her brother, and their parents all grew as individuals over the year that this novel covered. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d love to find out what happened to these characters next!

Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze was utterly perfect.

Neither by Airlie Anderson


Neither by Airlie Anderson
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), LGBTQ, Contemporary
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this colorful and touching story that celebrates what makes each of us unique, a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny–it’s “neither”–searches for a place to fit in.

In the Land of This and That, there are only two kinds: blue bunnies and yellow birds. But one day a funny green egg hatches, and a little creature that’s not quite a bird and not quite a bunny pops out. It’s neither!

Neither tries hard to fit in, but its bird legs aren’t good for jumping like the other bunnies, and its fluffy tail isn’t good for flapping like the other birds. It sets out to find a new home and discovers a very different place, one with endless colors and shapes and creatures of all kinds. But when a blue bunny and a yellow bird with some hidden differences of their own arrive, it’s up to Neither to decide if they are welcome in the Land of All.

This colorful, simple, and touching story promotes diversity and offers a valuable lesson to the youngest of audiences: it is our differences that unite us.

Some things in life need a little bit more explanation.

One of the biggest strengths of this picture book in my opinion was how open-ended the storyline was. While it was originally written to help explain people who are gender non-conforming to kids, the message in it could easily be used to talk about race, disability, or any other number of differences that little ones might notice in others. To paraphrase certain key elements in the plot, not everyone can be easily categorized into this box or that one.

From a storytelling perspective, I found my wishing that the narrator had spent more time explaining why the rabbits and birds had never thought to explore places beyond their homeland or even to wonder what they were like. There didn’t seem to be any barriers between their land and what lay beyond it, so I was a little surprised to learn that they knew nothing about the geography of the world they lived in other than the little piece of it they were born on. It would have been nice to be given some logical reason for them to be unaware of such things.

I loved the positive and hopeful ending. It fit the age group this tale was written for perfectly while still leaving space for more exploration for kids who had additional questions or who wanted to keep talking. It’s reassuring for little readers to know that there is a place in this world for everyone even if they feel out of place at the moment, so I was also pleased to see that idea included as well.

Neither was a good conversation starter.

Abhorrence by Marco May


Abhorrence by Marco May
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Erotic Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Art is a spineless Christian who’s been bullied at school for being a dork and treated poorly by his devout parents for being gay. He can’t seem to defend himself no matter how hard he tries, especially because he believes God wouldn’t like it. He’s relieved to graduate high school, and he plans to move out of his parents’ house to a toxic-free environment. It’s the one escape route he clings to.

In what first seems like a stroke of good luck for once, Art meets Cole at a restaurant while Cole waits his table, and they hit it off rather quickly. They swap numbers and plan to meet up later on, only for it to be the last that they see each other.

Soon after, Art encounters someone he knows very well who changes his life for the worst, and Art tries to end his life after the incident. His parents don’t believe him when he tells them what happened, nor do they support his mental health. Therefore, he feels he has no choice but to leave as soon as possible. Little does he know, Cole—the one guy he thought he’d never see again—could end up becoming more important than he ever imagined.

But will Art open up and give Cole a chance?

Two lost souls who need each other more than they ever thought possible.

This is an interesting premise for a story. One is very religious, but he’s turning away from religion because of how he’s been treated. The other has dealt with the slings and arrows of teen life. Can they forge a bond together or are they destined to end up alone?

I liked this story. The characters are relatable, and the story is unique. Art is a softie and he’s sweet. Cole is a handsome guy, too. They should get together. I rooted for them.

One thing that stuck with me and sort of annoyed me was how Art could be extremely down on himself. It got a tad cumbersome because I wanted to see him grow a little faster than he did. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he sure saw himself that way. The thing is, that’s how a lot of people see themselves, so it made sense and is relatable.

If you’re looking for a story that will stick with you after the last page, then this might be the one you’re looking for. Try it.