Book Recommendations, Book Talk, Meet Cute Chronicles

International Tea Day

Today is International Tea Day! There are some weird “holidays” floating around, but a day celebrating tea? I can get behind that!

Here on the blog, I’m celebrating with tea (duh!) and books where tea features prominently. Let’s start off by pouring a cup of our favorite tea. Here’s mine.

My favorite tea: matcha genmaicha. Look at that color! 😍

Many of my characters drink tea, because I’m a tea lover and I project that onto my MCs. But no one but Viggo in They Met in the Woods makes their own tea. No wonder Måns falls for him, right? I would, too, if I lived in that world 😁

Måns Elemander had A Plan. A researched and well-thought-out one, devised to help him avoid getting lost while foraging for mushrooms in an unfamiliar forest. But his cell phone battery didn’t get the memo, died unexpectedly, and thwarted The Plan, leaving Måns with a basket full of mushrooms, but no idea where to go. Until the sounds of someone chopping wood reaches him.

Måns follows the sound and finds a quaint cabin…and its owner, Viggo Moberg. Viggo is kind, understanding of the situation, and willing to help. He’s also smoking hot and their connection is instant, threatening to ignite and burn down the woods. Will the sparks burn fast and fizzle out, or will the attraction grow roots, just like the trees in the forest?

M/M Contemporary / 17 388 words

But wait. I know I write pretty short books, so if you still want more after finishing They Met in the Woods, if you’re in the mood for a really long and cozy tea-drinking and tea-reading session, I’ve got you covered. Here are three more books featuring tea.

Amy Tasukada’s Blood Stained Tea isn’t a romance, unless you count the relationship between Nao and his tea. But if you’re in the mood for a bloody thriller about crazy, murderous yakuza and excellent tea descriptions, Blood Stained Tea is just the book for you.

Tattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin: if you’re in the mood for opposites attract, age gap, and a charming relationship-focused book. I haven’t read it in years, but I remember loving it. Maybe today is the perfect day for a re-read?

Taking Stock by A.L. Lester might not have the word “tea” in the title, but it’s full of the stuff. It’s a book set in Britain, written by a British author after all, so tea is expected. And it’s there, in every little aspect of daily life, and as a tea lover myself, this is something I really appreciate. But it’s the quiet, lovely romance between the two men that’s the real star of this book, despite all the tea goodness.

Nao took the cup and let the tea warm his hands. The astringent oolong filled his nose with an undertone of plum from that particular blend. Tea always calmed him, and he was more thankful than ever that Father had called for it. Nao pressed the cup to his lips and drank. Bitter, probably from too many leaves stuffed into a tiny infuser.

After making tea in my only, beautiful teapot and finding proper teacups and saucers to drink it from, I loaded up a tray with the tea-making paraphernalia and some proper Scottish shortbread and joined Chris under the duvet that he’d brought through to the sofa.

Laurie was thin under the soft cotton. They stood for a while, doing nothing but breathing and looking out the window. Gradually, Laurie relaxed and as he did, he swayed back, just a little, until some of his weight was resting on Phil. It felt nice, to take the weight for someone else.

Eventually, Laurie dashed his good hand over his face. Wiping his eyes, Phil thought. “Tea’s getting cold,” Laurie said.

Tell me; which is your favorite book where tea features prominently?

Book Recommendations

Sunday Book Recommendation

It’s Sunday, and Sundays are for reading on the couch (or in the garden now that it’s spring), shushing anyone who tries to disturb you unless it’s asking if you need more tea, and relaxing. And if you need a reading recommendation, I’ve got you covered.

I’ve read three books by K.L. Noone lately – and if you’ve followed me for a while, you know how I feel about K.L. Noone by now – that I want to tell you about. Three books that were as great as every other book of hers I’ve read. She really is one of my absolute favorite authors, and sometimes I get upset that I don’t see more people talking about her books. That’s so unfair; her stories deserve praise and recognition.

Do you have a favorite author who doesn’t get the recognition they deserve? If yes, tell me about them in the comments, please.

Anyway: I’ll start with the shortest and most recent of the books I read:

Ellis retired from a pirate’s life to settle down with Tom, the man he loves. But when a fever nearly claims Tom’s life, Ellis faces a foe he can’t fight, and though Tom’s recovering, the ordeal’s left Ellis shaken. On a stormy afternoon, can Ellis and Tom face the tempests of their emotions and find safe harbor together?

Gay Historical Romance / 3202 words

If you only have a few minutes, this is the book for you. And if you like pirates! I don’t; I’ve never understood the attraction to pirates, but after reading a huge chunk of what K.L. Noone has written, I knew that she wouldn’t disappoint me even with pirates, and I was right!

“Speaking of, can I at least ask you to kiss me? Not too gently? Piratically, perhaps?”

Quote from A Sonnet for a Thunderstorm

Buy link: JMS Books

Aidan’s on what should be an easy Magical Enforcement Division case: stolen apples. But the apple-thief faerie-horse shifts into a gorgeous young man who doesn’t mind being captured. Ink left his herd to find adventure, and he has. He likes Aidan’s hands and that enchanted bridle on him. But ritual magic and complicated powers collide, and the family legacy Aidan’s been avoiding becomes important.

Gay Paranormal BDSM Erotic Romance / 20 205 words

If you like paranormal stories but have grown tired of all the wolves in shifter stories and crave something more unusual, may I suggest a faerie-horse shifter story? I admit I hadn’t heard about a “Pooka” before reading this story, but Google tells me it’s an Irish mythical creature, that “is a shapeshifter and can take any form it chooses. Usually, it is seen in the form of a horse, dog, rabbit, goat, goblin, or even an old man. Traditionally a Pooka is seen as a dark, sleek horse with a long wild flowing mane and luminescent golden eyes.” (source)

The day I read this book, I was so in the mood for an apple-thief faerie-horse and I was not disappointed!

He remained very, very unclothed: toes bare in long grass, ears up and shivering through dark hair, tail a starlit fall of onyx against pale skin and apple-tree bark.

Quote from The Pooka’s Share

Buy link: JMS Books

Raine’s an unconventional Cupid who dislikes his powers. He isn’t about to fall in love and wouldn’t trust someone falling in love with him. But the owner of his local coffee shop tempts him. Don’s a Frost who enjoys good coffee and overall cheer. But one gorgeous Cupid seems immune. Don’s determined to make Raine smile, and he learns Raine’s sarcasm hides a lonely heart.

Gay Fantasy BDSM Erotic Romance / 40 020 words

The word that best describes this story is probably “delightful,” and it left me with a wide, happy grin on my face. The characters, Don and Raine, are delightful, the coffee shop is delightful, the writing is delightful, everything is delightful. I probably looked like this 😍 the whole time I read this book. And it’s really creative: Raine is a divorce lawyer Cupid, who dislikes Valentine’s Day – “You mean the commemoration of commercialization and insincere affection?” (I couldn’t have said it better myself!) – and Don is a big-hearted coffee shop owner who can create frost and ice, who I’d like to know in real life.

He sent Raine, via the dependable Henry, his heart in the form of coffee: strong and bold, with a dazzling variety of beans and roasts.

Arabica. Robusta. Viennese. Italian. Complicated blends. Spices and smoke.

Quote from Frost & Raine

Buy link: JMS Books

Happy sigh.

I love K.L. Noone, have I told you that before? 😂

Book Recommendations

I’m Looking Forward to…

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that the fabulous Addison Albright and I are friends and that I love her books. One of my favorites is The Best-Laid Plans (the second book in her Plans series, I raved about it here) and it was among my Top Ten books of 2019. I’ve known for a while that she’s planned on writing a third book in the series, called Change of Plans, and I’ve been waiting eagerly. But the wait is over; she’s spent April writing the story and it’s done. Finally the moment is here, the moment when I’ll get my greedy little hands on it! Because I’m honored to be one of Addison’s betas, which means I get to read the story before everyone else, and if you think I’m gonna take the highroad and not gloat about that, you’re wrong! 😁

[insert annoying sing-songy teasing here, along the lines of I’ll get to read it before you do or something equally smug that makes you want to punch me in the face 😁]

But while you wait for Change of Plans, may I suggest you visit Addison’s blog and check out the snippets she’s posting every weekend from the first chapter (link here). And if you need more incentive, she’s illustrated every single blog post so far and the illustrations are hilarious!! Want a sneak peak?

That glorious red hair on Prince Marcelo makes me love him even more 😍 And look how unhappy Prince Efren is!! 🙂

So fun and creative, and it makes me long for the book even more.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, here are books 1 and 2 in the series for you to check out while we’re waiting for the release of Change of Plans.

An untimely death throws a marriage arrangement, the final phase of a treaty, into disarray. Now the Crown Prince of Zioneven can make his own choice from among the princess’s younger siblings. As a royal son in the matriarchal sovereignty of Sheburat, Prince Marcelo grew up knowing Royal sons never married. Never. Period. Except Prince Efren isn’t from Sheburat, and he has other plans.

Buy Link: JMS Books

A death that wasn’t what it seemed… A kidnapping that isn’t what it seems… Time is running out. Enmeshed in political intrigue, death, and a kidnapping, will Prince Efren untangle the web of clues in time to save his naïve young husband, or will Prince Marcelo dig deep to discover a previously untapped inner strength and determination to facilitate his own survival?

Buy link: JMS Books

Book Recommendations

The Audiobook Experiment pt 2

Project Learn To Love Audiobooks is progressing full steam ahead. I’m actually starting to really enjoy it. I walk around with my headphones on the entire time, and it’s definitely made me watch less YouTube videos that actually bore me just because I want to hear someone talk in the background. That’s good, isn’t it?

So I thought I’d give you an update on what I’ve listened to since the last time I wrote about it on the blog:

I liked the blurb of His Quiet Agent by Ada Maria Soto, but when I started listening to it, I did not like the narrator’s (Kevin Theis) voice. Of course, it’s a personal preference what kinds of voices you like, but this narrator grated on my very last nerve so I couldn’t continue listening to him. Instead, I downloaded an ebook sample, and ended up buying the book instead.

The narrator (Alexander Doddy) for Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall did a good job, but I still couldn’t finish listening to the audiobook. I was confused and had a hard time following along, and when I downloaded an ebook sample I understood why: in the beginning of every chapter is a short flashback-type passage, marked only by italics in the book. And when the narrator read that part out loud, I didn’t get it, since nothing else but the italics indicated the flashback. Instead, I bought and read the ebook. So that’s something for us authors to think about if we want to do audiobooks, I guess.

Play it Again by Aidan Wayne (narrated by Sean Crisden) was a wonderful book and I loved it. When it came to listening to it on audio, though, I’m om the fence. The premise for the book is that the two main characters meet and connect on social media and a lot of their communications are written. And to be honest, it got a little boring to listen to the narrator saying the usernames again and again, and on top of that, he used quite a neutral voice when reading the messages…which makes sense but also made the narration a bit flat. On the other hand: the parts that wasn’t the written communication between the MCs was fantastically narrated and I adored it. So much so that when I bought the ebook (I listened to it through a subscription service and liked it so much I wanted to own it) and thought I’d read the rest of the book instead of listening to it, I missed the narrator and decided to suffer through the somewhat impersonal narration of the written communications. Hence being on the fence 🙂

Finally Without You by Marley Valentine (dual narration by Teddy Hamilton and Tim Paige) was a five star book and definitely five star narration. It was a pure pleasure listening to these two gentlemen bringing Deacon and Julian to life, and the way the Deacon-narrator said Julian’s name made shivers run down my spine. Can definitely recommend! 😍

Have you listened to any great audiobooks that you feel I just have to read? Tell me in the comments! 🙂

Book Recommendations

Sunday Book Recommendation

In my blog post about the audiobook experiment I told you that one of the books I’d listened to and loved was Raze by Roan Parrish, and I also said that I’d gush about that book in a separate post. Well, this is that post! 🙂

Sometimes the walls we build to save ourselves have to come tumbling down.

For the last ten years, Huey has built his life around his sobriety. If that means he doesn’t give a damn about finding love or companionship for himself, well, it’s probably better that way. After all, the last thing he wants is to hurt anyone else. Until Felix Rainey walks into his bar, fresh-faced, unbearably sweet—and, for some reason Huey can’t fathom, interested in him.

As the eldest of five kids, Felix Rainey spent his childhood cooking dinner, checking homework, and working after-school jobs. Now in his twenties, he’s still scrambling to make ends meet and wondering what the hell he’s doing with his life. When he meets Huey, he’s intimidated . . . and enamored. Huey’s strong and confident, he owns his own business—hell, he’s friends with rock stars. What could he ever see in Felix?

As Huey and Felix get closer, the spark catches and soon they can’t get enough of each other. But Huey’s worked hard to avoid intimacy, and Felix threatens his carefully constructed defenses. Huey realizes he needs to change if he wants to truly put his past behind him—and build a future with Felix.

This book. This book! 😍

Roan Parrish is slowly cementing herself as one of my favorite authors. Everything I’ve read by her so far have been five stars books. Even more. Ten star books on a five-star-scale. I gushed about The Remaking of Corbin Wale here, and Invitation to the Blues was one of the best books I read in 2019, but I think maybe Raze is my new favorite.

It’s everything I like. No seriously. Look at this list:

  • age gap
  • size difference
  • hurt/comfort
  • strong, silent type
  • gentle giant
  • sensitive character
  • MCs want to be together from early in the book and work hard on their relationship
  • relationship focused
  • soooooo emotional
  • super romantic

It’s as though Roan Parrish looked into my brain and thought What if I wrote a book that ticked all Nell Iris’s boxes? and then proceeded to do it.

All the times I’d stared at the beautiful lines of his face, the angle of his collarbone, the cowlick in his perfect, messy hair. All the times I’d breathed deeply into his neck, trying to fill my entire being with the sweet, comforting scent of him. All the times I’d felt his heart against mine when I touched him, kissed the corners of his eyes because they seemed like the most intimate place I could think of touching another person. All the times I’d stayed silent so that he would never stop talking to me because I loved the sound of his voice… And he didn’t know. My beautiful Felix thought I didn’t care. And it was my fault.

Quote from Raze by Roan Parrish

I’m sure I would have loved this book as much if I’d read it instead of listened to it, but the audio added another layer of greatness in my opinion. The narrators were perfectly chosen; Tor Thom with his deep raspy voice for Dane (Huey), the big silent ex-drug addict guy who’s entire life is focused on his sobriety. He doesn’t have a life, he has routines and he’s a NA sponsor and always, always available for his sponsees whenever they need him. Kirt Graves was perfect for Felix, the young, sensitive guy who feels lonely when his sister who’s his best friend suddenly gets a life without him. He doesn’t know what to do without her and starts drifting. Kirt Graves has this sensitive nerve in his voice when he narrates Felix’s chapters that hit me right in the heart and I found myself sobbing several times.

I leaned in and kissed him, then, because he was beautiful and alive and today I was a person.

Quote from Raze by Roan Parrish

Felix and Dane connect instantly and they spend the entire book trying to build a relationship. My favorite books in the whole wide world is when the characters actually want to be together and fight tooth and nail to make it happen. No, it isn’t easy for Felix and Dane. Felix is sensitive and needy, and Dane is quiet and stoic and that causes problems for them, but they want to try. They’re doing their damndest to make it work, stepping out of comfort zones, talking even when it’s difficult, giving space when needed, and all this make my heart so happy.

His smile was small and sweet, and I was dangerously aware that I’d go to great lengths to be able to put it on his face again.

Quote from Raze by Roan Parrish

Raze is also a very character driven story and both Dane and Felix grow and change during the book. Their relationship helps them find their true selves, but outside factors are also catalysts. Felix’s sister and family. Dane’s friends and NA contacts. It’s a beautiful journey of two broken characters slowly healing themselves and each other.

I listened to this book through a subscription service, but when I finished it, I rushed over to Amazon and bought it. Raze is definitely going to be on my Top Ten 2021 list of favorite books. I give it all my stars.

Amazon :: Goodreads

(Raze is the third book in the Riven series, but I haven’t read the previous two books and had no trouble following along. Yes, there’s a lot about the band Riven in the book, but it’s explained enough for me to understand anyway so it didn’t bother or confuse me.)