100 Stories 100 Days

Quick Review: Second Helpings by Brandon Witt

Second Helpings by Brandon Witt

Isaac returns to his small Missouri hometown for his 20th High School reunion. He’s about to ditch the pot-luck get together (yup, it’s that downhome) when in walks the reason he came, Grant.

Isaac and Grant were inseparable growing up, but the day after graduation, Isaac left for New York. Grant stayed behind. They drive around town together, getting a cherry limeade at the drive-in. All the years away seem to slip away and they head back to Grant’s place.

The next morning, Grant treats Isaac to breakfast in bed and convinces him to stay just one more day. They hang out, eating at the diner Grant runs with his sister. Their time together is nice, but Isaac can’t help but be haunted by the reasons he left town decades earlier.

Grant tries to cheer him up by cooking for him and it does the trick, but Isaac can’t resist teasing Grant just a little about his homestyle way of cooking (cream of mushroom soup and mayo et al). There’s a lot of food in this story (more on that later).

It comes out that Grant was married to a woman for many years (he’s now divorced), which causes a minor rift between our heroes since it was Grant’s insistence that they both come out as teenagers that partially pushed Isaac away. They spend one last night in each other’s arms before Isaac drives away the next day.

In flashback that we learn the heartbreaking full story of his difficult family history and why he left Grant behind then, and why he can’t stay now. It’s a real emotional gut punch.

Back in New York a few months later, Isaac is hanging with his bestie trying to recreate the food he experienced in his brief time with Grant. His bestie serves up a reality check. Why is he spending so much time trying to re-create something, when the real thing (the food and the man) is just a phone call away?

Isaac invites him to come for a visit, taking Grant on an admittedly sappy carriage ride through Central Park, where they work out the issues of the past while dreaming up a new future together. Grant has already sold all his stuff in Missouri and is looking to take a culinary leap in the big city.

They’re happy. They’re together. Just like it should have been all along.

I can’t even begin to go into how much I just love everything about this novella. Second Helpings packs an entire novels worth of emotion into just a few pages. The heroes are both interesting, remarkable, and kind.

The second chance romance trope is one of my all-time favorites, and the way Brandon Witt expertly addresses issues of the past, while showing us that Isaac and Grant are both capable adults able to work through the difficult stuff to get to their HEA, made me all warm and fuzzy.

When it comes to the food, the author also has you covered. All of Grants simple, but tasty, recipes are featured in the back of the book. Yum.

If you happen to be a fan of audiobooks, check out the narration provided by Drew Bacca. Brandon Witt provides the narrative and emotional foundation of the story, but the way Drew handles the alternating narrative viewpoint is really special. He takes the emotion to the next level.

Quick Review: Temporary Husband by Dev Bentham

Temporary Husband by Dev Bentham

Matt is up for a big promotion at his job. The only problem is that in order to ‘fit in’ at this conservative firm, he’s had to create a fake husband, a guy named Ben. The reason he’s gone to all this trouble is because he’s still a very young guy and he wants to give the impression that he is, you know, stable and hardworking.

And what better way to do that then come up with a fake husband? The only problem is, the promotion is going to hinge on introducing everyone to said husband at a corporate retreat.

He needs to find himself a husband, quick.

That husband is going to end up being male model Tony who’s been in the modeling game for quite a while now. He’s thinking about the next steps he wants to take in his life. Primarily, he’s studying to become an EMT, so he agrees to this tropical vacation and pretend to be a fake husband because during his downtime, he’ll be able to study for his exam.

But of course, with all fake relationship stories, things do not go according to plan. When Matt and Tony arrive in paradise, they realize this isn’t a corporate retreat, it’s just Tony, Matt, his boss, and his wife and the other guy who is up for the promotion.

The next few days are essentially going to be a one-on-one test to see who’s going to get the job.

Forcing Matt to play nice and play golf, which he doesn’t know how to do, and forcing Tony to spend time with the gals, shopping with the wives and spa appointments. It’s during these trials and tribulations that they get to know one another and realize that their fake relationship may not be so fake after all.

Tony wants to know if this promotion is actually worth it, because the people that they’re spending time with are genuinely awful. Matt assures him that it is, but Tony isn’t so sure.

Tony’s cover is eventually blown, but he saves the day using his EMT training when the boss has an unexpected health emergency, but even then, it’s obvious to Tony that all of the pain and suffering that they’ve been going through isn’t worth the eventual prize, which splits our happy couple up.

Eventually Matt comes to his senses and realizes Tony is the one worth fighting for.

Temporary Husband by Dev Bentham is a classic fake relationship story. I love this trope so much. These kinds of stories are my happy place.

I think what the author does in this particular novella is she hits the proverbial trope on the head, and gets everything right, plus she’s come up with two genuinely likable and kind heroes – Matt and Tony, which is also something I can never get enough of, nice guys falling in love.

This feel-good story ticked all of the boxes for me.

Quick Review: The Gentleman and the Lamplighter by Summer Devon

The Gentleman and the Lamplighter by Summer Devon

Giles can’t sleep after the loss of someone dear to him, so he walks the streets of London alone in his sorrow. One night, just before dawn, he encounters a lamplighter shutting off the gas lamps on his street. They end up chatting. John has always been curious about Giles, the man he’s seen so often taking solitary walks, that he comes up with fanciful tales to explain Giles’ nocturnal constitutionals.

Giles finds he looks forward to accompanying John as he makes his rounds. Strolling through the quiet and darkened streets, they talk about a number of things, ranging from benign pleasantries to the emotional burden of their own individual losses.

John admits that, before he lost his wife, they had a unique understanding concerning their preferences for companionship. This leads Giles to safely confide, in the most vague and gentlemanly way possible, that he loved the man that he lost.

John’s invitation for tea gives them the opportunity to explore their interest in one another. A gentle kiss, a soft caress, leads to an enthusiastic and emotionally freeing tumble in John’s bed.

His newfound happiness leads Giles to finally face talking to the widow of the man he loved. While he is out of town getting some closure, John interprets Giles’ absence as a rebuke of their night together. It is too painful to walk past Giles’ house every night, so he switches routes with another lamplighter.

When John no longer shows up on his rounds, Giles goes for a walk and comes across a bookstore that John mentioned that he liked. Johns love of books and the theatre were often a topic of their conversations. The shop keep explains to Giles that John is not only fond of literature and the theatre, but he is a playwright as well.

When John walks in, they are joyfully reunited and Giles explains that if his short time with John has proven anything, it’s that he’d much rather choose happiness over sorrow. The gentleman and the lamplighter/playwright definitely have a lot more happiness in their lives together to look forward to.

There’s a wonderful sense of gentle kindness at play in this charming historical novella. When Giles and John take their walks, they’re able to discuss things and support one another in ways that no one else in their lives can. They are both working through feelings of loss and it’s through those discussions they realize that, not only are they in love, but they’re capable of coming to terms with their sadness to find joy on the other side.

The Gentleman and the Lamplighter is available in both ebook and audiobook formats. A quick shout out to Mark James who I thought did a particularly good job of narrating this story.

Quick Review: Cruising by Cate Ashwood

Cruising by Cate Ashwood

When his best friend wins a radio contest, Dylan agrees to go with Jake on an Alaskan cruise. Their stateroom is lovely, but there is only one bed. How are they going to share such cramped quarters when Dylan has secretly been in love with his friend since the day they first met?

There never was a radio contest, it’s all part of Jake’s plan to get Dylan to agree to a romantic cruise so that Jake can finally tell him how he really feels.

On their first night at sea, a few too many drinks, a karaoke love song, and a kiss in an elevator, transforms their relationship from friends to lovers in a single night of glorious sex.

Being with Jake is better than he ever could’ve dreamed, but that doesn’t stop Dylan from worrying that they’ve somehow wrecked their friendship. Dylan manages to avoid him for most of the morning (it’s a big ship), but Jake eventually confronts him. Why the angst? After all, what’s better than being in love with your best friend?

The fact is, there is nothing better, and they celebrate their new relationship status with another tumble in the sheets.

Cruising is a sexy/sweet short that perfectly demonstrates how charming the classic friends-to-lovers trope can be when it features two characters as kind as Dylan and Jake. They may have been too timid to reveal their true feelings at first, but once they were real with one another, the truth of their chemistry/attraction was too strong to deny.

Quick Review: Object of His Desire by Ava March

Object of His Desire by Ava March

A debauched orgy is the culmination of a week-long house party at the Somerville estate, but Henry is bored by the carnality on display because all he is really interested in is their host, Arsen, Lord of Somerville.

His lordship unexpectedly pulls Henry aside and, over drinks, they discuss why Henry is his only guest who did not partake of the pleasures on offer. Arsen admires the steadfastness of his heart, whoever it may belong to.

Their conversation is interrupted when word of an unruly guest is brought to Lord Somerville’s attention. Henry helps take care of the drunkard, but some wine is spilled in the kerfuffle. They go to Arsen’s bedchamber where he changes his shirt and lets his appreciation of Henry’s large frame be known. Their kisses and caresses soon turn desperate as Somerville takes charge of their desire, giving Henry every pleasure he’s ever wanted.

During the night, Arsen ties up Henry for a bit of fun, but it sends the big man into a panic. His last lover had restrained him and was abusive. Arsen has no intention of ever hurting Henry and they spend the rest of the night demonstration the depth of their passion and trust.

In the morning, a reckoning comes. Henry is in love, but he won’t settle for scraps. It’s all or nothing. Arsen will gladly give his all to be with Henry, explaining that he’s done with life in London and is retiring to his country estate. Hopefully, with Henry by his side.

Slowly and tenderly, Henry proves just how willing he is to give everything to his new lover… today, and for all the days that lay ahead.

You want a scorching hot historical romance? This story does not disappoint. Though our heroes are only together for a single night (and what a night it is) Ava March brings to life the sizzling chemistry of Henry and Arsen in such a way that there’s no doubt that their intense erotic attraction will burn brightly for many years to come.

Object of his Desire is available in both ebook and audiobook formats.

Henry and Arsen’s story continues in the sexy short, Pleasures of Somerville Park.

Arsen is frustrated that his youngest brother has been sent from London to spend several days at Somerville Park going over ledgers and dealing with the family’s large estate. He’s most frustrated by the fact that, with a guest in the house, he and Henry must be discreet about their relationship.

One evening, after dinner, Arsen finds Henry in the stables, forlorn that Arsen must return to London with his brother. He assures him he’ll never do such a thing and that he is steadfastly committed to Henry. To prove his devotion, he bends over a saddle stand and begs his beloved to do what he knows how to do so well.

Taking place a few months after Object of his Desire, it’s should come as no surprise that Arsen and Henry still can’t keep their hands off each other and are still very much in love. If ever there were a couple who could assure that the halls of Somerville Park are filled with happiness, it’s these two.

Quick Review: Under Siege by Sandra Bunino

Under Siege by Sandra Bunino

John Siege, found adrift at sea, has been put to work as a deckhand on The Black Devil. His reputation precedes him, and irresistibly handsome pirate Waite wants to know if John was once the captin of The Ghost. He was, but he trusted the wrong person and was cast off after a mutiny by his crew.

But if they were so keen on ridding themselves of him, why can The Ghost be seen just off the horizon? Why are they following him?

Oz, the man who betrayed him and took his ship, wants the treasure that John’s father has hidden away. John was left alive because a clue to its location is the tattoo on John’s back.

The two pirate captains agree to team up. Waite invites him into his bed and submits to John’s expertise. “We seem to make a powerful pair. Both on deck and below it.”

They awake in the morning to find The Ghost flying the white flag of surrender. Oz comes aboard and explains that the crew wants their real captain back. He also tells John that Waite isn’t a pirate at all, but a privateer in service to the crown.

He can’t believe he put his trust in another pirate and returns to his own ship. Once in port, John sets off on his own to find the treasure. Waite joins him and, as they follow the map/clues on John’s back, explains his relationship with the king – less a privateer, and more of an independent contractor who recovers stolen art.

They find the hidden cavern filled with gold and jewels and celebrate with some hard and rough sex, which is just how they like it. A powerful pair indeed.

As one might expect from a pirate story, this spicy short is filled with lusty romance and high seas adventure. It took a minute for John to truly trust Waite, but once he did, they made for a formidable team.

For the heroes in Under Siege, two tempting pirate captains are definitely better than one.