Quick Review: The Holiday Hookup by Baylin Crow

The Holiday Hookup by Baylin Crow

Finn can’t believe his awful luck when he pulls Hunter’s name in the office secret Santa gift exchange. He cannot stand the oversized, lackadaisical, ex-jock and his stupid handsome face. When Hunter learns that Finn drew his name, he lets him know that all he wants for Christmas is Finn.

That night Finn goes out for drinks with a friend and Hunter happens to be there. While walking Finn home, Hunter assures him that, if given the opportunity, he’ll give Finn a night he’ll never forget. Frustrated and horny, Finn kisses the persistent jerk, before taking him up to his apartment where hunter does, in fact, blow Finn’s mind.

Their one-night stand continues the next morning with shower sex, then watching tv while eating the breakfast that Hunter went out and got. The big lug has kinda made himself at home in Finn’s life and he begrudgingly begins to realize that he doesn’t really mind… much.

Monday morning at the office, Hunter is charmingly attentive and still working his particular brand of low-key seduction. The weekend was fun, really fun, but Finn isn’t interested in a workplace romance. Hunter is nothing if not persistent and, using an after-hours blow job at Finn’s desk to persuade him, Finn eventually agrees to go as a couple to the office Christmas party.

In matching sweaters that Hunter insisted they wear, they win the ugly sweater contest and exchange their secret Santa gifts. This holiday HEA wasn’t part of Finn’s Christmas plans. Hunter drives him crazy… crazy in love. And as it turns out, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

This workplace/opposites attract story was a total win in every way. I just loved the way these two characters fed off one another… talk about chemistry! Finn is very type A, with definite plans for everything, while Hunter is more ‘take things as they come’. But when he set his sights on Finn, it was only a matter of time before he would win him over with his unique, laid-back approach – they were totally meant to be together, and he’d wait however long it took for Finn to realize it.

I loved The Holiday Hookup. It’s a sexy, fun, short read that will definitely lift your yuletide spirits.

Quick Review: Christmas Mountain by Garrett Leigh

Christmas Mountain by Garrett Leigh

Fen and Rami once worked together at a prison – as guard and probation officer. The last person Fen ever expected to find broken down outside his house on snowy Christmas Mountain is his former co-worker with a toddler in tow. Rami explains he was headed up the mountain to his sister’s place, Fen’s closest neighbor. Little Charlie has recently become Rami’s responsibility, but he doesn’t feel he’s up to the task and is seeking the help of his far more capable sister Safia.

But because of the storm, it’s apparent that they’re not going anywhere anytime soon, and they settle in. Fen is a natural at parenting and is terrific with Charlie. The whole situation is so intimate and cozily domestic. The attraction Fen and Rami once shared, before life took them on separate paths, is still there. A near death injury Fen received while on the job, still haunts him and is the reason he retreated to his current life of solitude on the mountain, running his family’s tree farm.

The next morning Paddy, Safia’s husband, arrives in his truck to take Rami and Charlie up the mountain. They’ll stay for a while for some long over-due family time.

A few days later Fen drops by to find Rami knee deep in farm life, kids, animals, and constant general chaos. Fen thinks it suits him. Rami insists otherwise. They go into town for a date night so that Fen can check in on his tree lot that’s part of the Christmas fair. They eat donuts from one of the vendors and share a pint. Some flirting and a kiss at the local chip shop hopefully will lead to more. When they get back to Fen’s place, they make-out for hours before falling asleep in each other’s arms.

The next day, Paddy takes Rami deep into the woods to show him ‘the treehouse’, an office beautifully constructed by Fen’s dad. Inside is a powerful satellite router. Up to this point, Rami has insisted that his sister’s plan to have him and Charlie live on Christmas Mountain wasn’t feasible because the internet was so crappy. Here he is presented with the perfect solution, a remote office nestled amongst the trees.

Rami’s car has been repaired and Fen goes to the treehouse to deliver the good news. Rami has his own news to share. He’s spoken with his boss, and he’ll work remotely for a few weeks until after the holiday.

That night they go for a walk to a lookout point atop the mountain. Though he doesn’t label it, Fen is essentially demisexual and while he wants to be with Rami that way, it’s going to take some time to work through the storm of emotion inside of him. Rami wants Fen too and is willing to wait.

Rami needs to get some things from his place in Manchester, so Fen goes with him on a day trip. Fen hasn’t been back to the city since the day of the prison attack. They lay on Rami’s bed, in his sparsely furnished apartment, and Fen reveals the details of that horrible day. After telling the story, he feels different – unburdened. He kisses Rami and things heat up pretty fast, but this time he doesn’t want to stop, and they end up sleeping together.

When they return to the mountain, Rami achieves a work/life balance which, including Fen, is just about picture-perfect.

They round up the kids (giving Safia and Paddy a break) for an afternoon at the Christmas faire. Mae, Rami’s niece, is a holy terror when it’s her turn to sit on Santa’s lap. But she’s also perceptive beyond her years. In a quiet moment, she tells Fen she can see how much he loves Uncle Rama because he’s always smiling when they’re together. That night, after a rambunctious family dinner, she also suggests Fen and Rami have a sleep over, which is exactly what they end up doing. In the mini cabin Rami has been using as his room, they make love in front of the fire.

In the morning while making tea, Safia gives her brother some blunt advice. Tell Fen he loves him for fucks sake. Rami calls Fen, who is off on a holiday tree delivery, to say ‘I love you’, but bad weather means Fen won’t be back until the next morning. They can say it in person to each other then.

But a natural disaster leaves Rami and his family stranded atop Christmas Mountain. It takes most of the day, but Fen eventually makes his way back. Their love is a forever kind of love, and nothing will keep them apart. Fen will move in with Rami, Charlie, and the rest of his wild/wonderful family.

On Xmas eve, after Fen tells Charlie a story and tucks him into bed, Fen and Rami make love with a joyous intensity that is their very merry way of expressing the love that they’ll be sharing for the rest of their lives.

While I’m by no means an expert, in my experience, one of the things you can always count on when you pick up a Garrett Leigh book, is a heartfelt story filled with genuine emotion. Everything that Rami and Fen go through is so relatable. They’re average guys who find themselves in difficult circumstances with no easy answers, kind of like real life, which is why I think you’ll be rooting for them from page one just like me.

And when it comes to the romance in the story, if you’re angst avoidant like me, I think you’ll enjoy the way the heroes work through their issues (both past and present) without lots of maudlin wallowing. They are very active participants in their journey towards family togetherness, and a life filled with love. No one hands them their happily ever after, they work for it.

Christmas Mountain is a different kind of holiday romance. It forgoes the Christmas schmaltz (though you know I LOVE lots of gooey, sappy holiday cheer) for a more grounded, nuanced approach. It deals with complicated family and relationship dynamics while still delivering on the kind of satisfying romance that will make you sigh with satisfaction at the end.

Quick Review: Holigay by KM Neuhold

Holigay by KM Neuhold

When an unexpected breakup leaves Matt with an extra ticket to Fiji, he can think of no other person he’d rather spend the holiday with than his best friend Caspian. Once they arrive, they start to think of each other in a new way. When they finally give in to their long-held curiosity, they end up spending a week having the best sex of their lives. But when it’s time to return home, the question remains, are they just friends, or can they maintain that holigay magic all year round?

This Christmas novella from KM Neuhold really turns up the heat for the two main characters. Matt and Caspian’s chemistry is obvious from the start and when they take their friendship to the next level, watch out, because the tropical holiday friction they generate… it’s almost too hot to handle!

If you need something short, sexy, and sweet, then Holigay is a read that will most definitely satisfy.

Quick Review: Cock Blocked by KC Kassidy

Cock Blocked by KC Kassidy

Niall and his sister Nan run their family farm and small B&B which sits nestled in the Irish countryside. An American has booked a stay for an entire month and Nan has offer up Niall to play tour guide for their guest.

That guest is Grayson, the successful (but closeted) star of a popular TV historical drama who is very much looking forward to some downtime between seasons so he can finish the script he’s working on.

While out for a walk, Grayson comes across a small cottage. When he hears a commotion inside, he helps Seamus, Niall’s dad, who’s taken a wee bit of a tumble. He’s fine and they end up having some tea, giving Seamus time to assess their lodger who, “better not be giving his son the business and then leaving him high and dry.”

Grayson can’t help but playfully flirt with Niall, his big, strapping, attractive guide as they tour the rugged Irish countryside. While on the hike Grayson is recognized by a tourist. The jig is up. Until this point, he’d been traveling incognito. After taking a selfie with her, he explains to Niall that he didn’t lie to him (not exactly), he just needed a little anonymity while on vacation.

They row across a lake to a small island and explore the ruins of McDermott castle. It’s there that their casual flirtation leads to a memorably scorching kiss. They both want this, but Niall isn’t particularly interested in just a fling with a guy on the down low, no matter how gorgeous that guy might be.

But some urges can’t be ignored, and they eventually end up in bed together. The sex is so robustly satisfying that they end up breaking the headboard. The next morning, Seamus can tell what’s up – the lovebirds aren’t fooling anyone. When Nan returns to the farm after a quick vacation with her husband and kids, she literally faints at the sight of her favorite actor. After being revived, she gives her brother a hard time because she too can see what’s going on.

While falling for Niall, Grayson has been busy with his screenplay (a project close to his heart) and coming up with a game plan about coming out publicly. There may be a light at the end of tunnel after all.

After spending another satisfying night in each other’s arms, Grayson realizes that he can never go back to who he was before and that there is truly no other place he’d rather be than with Niall.

But Grayson’s secret gets out. Paparazzi photos of their amorous escapade in the barn are published. Grayson is gone the next morning, a note explaining that he loves Niall, but his fame will destroy the beautiful quiet life he’s built on the farm.

After landing at Heathrow, Gray gets a text from Niall. There’s been a death in the family and that, combined with losing Grayson is too much to bear. Please come back.

But before Gray can book a return ticket, Niall shows up in London and, in the hotel lobby, they reunite with a kiss for all the world (and paparazzi) to see. No more hiding. Their love will be on their terms from now on.

An epilogue shows our two heroes fooling around in the back of the limo on their way to the premiere of the movie Grayson wrote, produced, and directed. The two of them have truly written their own perfect happily ever after.

Okay, real talk here, I loved these two characters so much. Not only is their romance steamy and adorable, but the playfully snarky back and forth way they flirt with and tease each other… heaven. Grayson and Niall can banter with the best of them, and I loved every second of it.

Something I also unexpectedly enjoyed about this story was the fictional way the reader (meaning myself) was able to escape to someplace wonderful and new. I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything for nearly two years and this story offered a delightful getaway that I didn’t realize I sorely needed. Who wouldn’t love to visit Niall’s farm/B&B, tour the rugged landscape, and see the beautiful sights of Ireland? It was like a vacation by proxy. Sublime.

Author Sierra Hill, here writing under her new m/m romance pen name KC Kassidy, has crafted a wonderful story that’ll sweep you away with its irresistible locale and memorable characters.

As a quick aside, this book is a prime candidate for audio. Seriously, it’s a no brainer. Can you imagine the Irish accents? To die for.

Sign me up. I’d listen to Cock Blocked on audio in a heartbeat. Let’s hope that happens soon.

Quick Review: The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely

The Bromance Zone by Lauren Blakely

River and Owen have been friends since college and that friendship is so important to them that they made a pact to never sleep together because sex always complicates, or outright ruins, a perfect friendship.

Owen invites River to a Friendsgiving get-together in Tahoe. It should be a fun weekend. As they each individually get ready for the trip, they talk with friends who ALL seem to know that the two are meant for each other. Admittedly, they’ve each secretly thought about “going there”, but it’s not going to happen. This trip is about friends having fun… it’s not a romantic getaway.

As they leave the Bay area, River mentions a quick pitstop to check on a friend’s vacation cabin in the mountains, making sure it’s ready for any bad weather. He’s downloaded some podcasts for the dive he thinks Owen might like (since he hates River’s preferred true crime/murdery ones).

They chat as they River drives, and the topic turns to past relationships and what Owen is looking for in Mr. Right. River wonders if he’s the guy for Owen and shamelessly flirts with him while buying snacks at a gas station. Whether looking at pics of River’s beloved dog, or parsing life lessons from the movie Clueless, they flirt their way through the rest of the drive.

When they reach the cabin, the weather has taken a turn. Snow has started coming down hard and fast which is how River will fall if he’s alone with Owen, insisting that they can still finish their trip to the rented Airbnb in Tahoe.

But they’re not going anywhere. After messaging their friends about the situation, they settle in for some booze, snacks, and a game in front of the fire. A possessive shock runs through River when he catches a glance at Owen’s phone, and the dating app he’s downloaded.

They look up dirty questions for a game of ‘Would you rather’, and after a few rounds of telling each other what they like sexually, and exactly how they like it, their flirtation from earlier is taken to a whole other level.

River is all, “I’m going to kiss you.”

And Owen is all, “Not if I don’t kiss you first.”

This is something they’ve both wanted for years. They toss the friendship pact out the window and Owen gives River the best blowjob of his life. River returns the favor. Later, as they cuddle in the outdoor hot tub, they now feel closer than ever because they can finally be honest about what they want… and what they want is each other if you haven’t guessed yet. They take the romance into the bedroom and it’s crazy hot, which is to be expected considering these two and their explosive chemistry.

In the morning a friend arrives to drive them to the party house in Tahoe. But with all his friends and colleagues there, Owen can’t catch a moment alone to talk privately with River.

At dinner the topic of meet cutes comes up and when Owen and River explain that they’re just friends, the conversation turns to what they’re each looking for in a guy. The answer is each other (of course), but neither is willing to pull the “we’re boyfriends” trigger, especially not in front of everybody, and not without talking to each other about it first.

The discussion goes on and on and Owen is the first to crack. He blurts out that he has met someone special and that someone is his best friend. He makes a break for it, but River catches him outside and they sweetly express (in their adorably flirty way) their heartfelt love and adoration before going back inside to officially declare themselves boyfriends.

On the drive back from their momentous weekend, they decide that since the friendship rule is kaput, they need a new pact. A boyfriend pact – to always be good to each other, both in and out of bed. And since this is Owen and River we’re talking about, they prove just how good they can be to each other as soon as they get home.

What can I say about The Bromance Zone other than I loved every moment of it and fell in love with the round-about way these two best friends finally found their happily ever after.

From a storytelling perspective, the plot is pretty straight forward – short road trip, snowed in, hook-up, HEA. What makes this book so special, in my opinion, is the characters themselves. Author Lauren Blakely has crafted two very believable friends who, through their witty banter and fun flirty dialog, have obviously been through a lot together, and care for one another deeply. The dialog is so fun and real that I bought into River and Owen’s romance from page one. It’s so real that I wish I could hang out with these two in real life.

The Bromance Zone is a standalone that’s loosely connected to the author’s Men of Summer trilogy. River and Owen are introduced in those books, and the Men of Summer heroes make an appearance here, but reading those previous stories aren’t necessary to enjoy Bromance.

The audiobook, with shared narration by Vikas Adam and Evan Parker, is wonderful. Each voice actor does a great job bringing these distinctive characters to life.

This book ticked all the boxes for me. Great characters who know how to talk to each other, explosive on page chemistry, a fun riff on the classic friends-to-lovers/forced proximity trope. All in all, there isn’t just one thing to recommend about The Bromance Zone, I heartily enjoyed the whole damn thing, and I think you will too.