Beautiful Chaos Gay Romance Review

“Emotional” isn’t enough to describe Devon McCormack & Riley Hart’s Beautiful Chaos. The title alone should clue you into that. Does chaos give way to harmony or…simply a mess? Find out below.

From the Amazon Blurb:

SILAS

My home is my sanctuary. Or is it my prison? Some days it’s hard to tell.

I’ve confined myself behind these walls for protection. I have my reasons, but that doesn’t change the profound loneliness I’ve discovered in the process.

Then one day I find myself drifting toward the window to see him. Corey Marshall, my new neighbor. Quiet, reserved, and cute as can be. He infects my thoughts, becomes the image I fantasize about.

I want to taste his lips, smell his scent…feel what it’s like to be inside him.

And soon, watching becomes exchanging gifts and messages, which becomes so much more.

It’s wrong to want this as badly as I do, but I can’t help myself. I crave him so desperately. It’s hard to tell if what we’re doing is going to make me lose my mind or change my entire world, but it’s too late to turn back now…

COREY

I’ve never been quite right. Too high or too low. Pain is my constant companion…at the hands of my abusive ex, and often from myself. The sweet relief is only temporary, but in those moments, it’s like I can finally breathe.

Then I meet him. Silas Rizner calms the chaotic storms inside me. He makes me feel loved, treasured, even when I don’t deserve it. I cherish the moments we share–cooking, cuddling, and when Silas reads to me until I fall asleep. When he’s inside me, it’s the only time in my life I’ve ever felt complete.

Silas becomes the glue that holds me together, that bandages my scars. Inside the walls of his home, we’re almost safe, but our demons are always there, waiting to break free.

We’re a mess. We’re broken, chaotic, beautiful; we’re in love.

But not even love can slay our monsters. No, only we can do that.

Unless our monsters destroy us first.

TRIGGERS: Self-harm, depression, anxiety, mentions of past domestic violence.

*While the sexual situations depicted in Beautiful Chaos are imperative to the characters’ development throughout the course of the novel, readers are advised to peruse the “Dear Reader” letter at the beginning of the book to help them make an informed decision about whether this particular story will be to their tastes. This letter can be viewed in the downloadable sample or by using the “Look Inside” feature found on the title’s product page.

First, I want to give these two authors their props for handling some deep, very real issues dealing with domestic abuse. Do not ignore the trigger warning from the blurb. These two lovers have a lot of darkness to wade through.

Thankfully, Silas and Corey’s ultimate journey doesn’t fall into the typical co-dependent unhealthiness that plagues the romance genre (Looking at you, Fifty Shades). Though the two have a lot of work to do, but the focus is on them healing individually instead of together.

From a writing perspective, scenes were captured so vividly I had to put the book down a few times to catch my breath. That’s not to say this is a book that “isn’t for everybody.” On the contrary, I believe it’s a story we don’t get enough of.

Beautiful Chaos isn’t about happy endings or beginnings. It’s not about two beautiful, Calvin Klein model-looking men who are “struggling to find love.” It’s about how someone who is completely damaged learns to choose themselves so that they can choose another.

I look forward to more from these authors.

 

Photographic Memory Gay Romance Review

Aiden Bates’ Photographic Memory offers plenty of promise. Imagine running into your old middle school crush on a blind date? What are the odds, right? But do those odds hold up to Bates’ overall story? Let’s find out.

From the Amazon Blurb:

A man focused on success. An artist determined to make a difference. A fateful choice between love and money.

ALEX
I’m on the verge of burning out, but I can’t quit. I refuse to be poor, refuse to return to Texas a failure. My career is everything—at least that’s what I thought, before I was set up on a blind date with Jordan, the boy from my past I left behind.

Jordan is everything I remembered—a brilliant artist dedicated to making a difference in the world. He calls to my soul, reawakens the part of me I crushed in order to get ahead. How can I be with someone whose political activism threatens my very livelihood? How can I not, when he reminds me of the person I used to be?

A person who would make the choice to betray his employer and hand over sensitive financial documents in order to bring down a tyrant bent on destruction. . .

A person who is carrying a life-altering new secret.

JORDAN
I’m falling in love with someone who works for the most evil bank in the country—the boy I loved when we were kids. But he isn’t the same person. I know Alex—he isn’t a man without a conscience, a man devoted to nothing but success. The more time we spend together, the more I can see the familiar light coming back into his eyes. A light banishing the imposter who would choose murky success over ethics, sabotaging our relationship.

He’ll have to make a final choice—us, or his dreams of wealth. Have I gone too far, bringing Alex into my world of battling corporate greed? I don’t want our relationship to cost him his career, his reputation. . .

But maybe it should, if it means halting his walk down a dark path.

A path we now have no choice but to walk together. I’m expecting Alex’s baby. . .

. . .and Alex is expecting mine.

Alex and Jordan’s romance shouldn’t work on paper. Fortunately, the most incredible of romances start out that way. Bates’ writing rarely disappoints as we navigate the complete different and opposing worlds of both leads.

However, I could have used a flashback or two. A scene from back when they were awkward, most-likely-oppressed gay teens would have been nice. I mean, by all means, rip on Texas a little.

The romance was a little hard to buy into at times. Yes, it’s possible to be in love with someone who has nothing in common with you. It’s happened to me more than once. However, at times, it seemed like all these two had in common anymore was being from *Grim Thunderclap* Texas.

Overall, this was a very interesting read. Though I struggled with some parts, I was not disappointed. I look forward to more of Bates’ work.

The Boyfriend Contract Gay Romance Review

Secret trysts and daddy issues in a gay romance? Sounds about right. Jason Collins’ The Boyfriend Contract offers a sweet, if predictable, story that’s sure to delight the M/M core fanbase.

From the Amazon Blurb:

BRETT:

It’s normal for your new boss to ask you to be his fake boyfriend at the interview, right?

When I arrive at the run-down vineyard for a bartending job, I’m not expecting a man like Ethan Carrington to answer the door. Tall, chiseled, and passionate, the man is sex on legs, and he offers me more than bar work.

Ethan wants me to pretend to be his boyfriend to impress investors. I’m reluctant, but I need the money, and there are many perks to working with the drop-dead gorgeous man in charge.

The job is fun, the benefits are excellent, and Ethan is charming and intriguing. I can pretend to be his boyfriend, no problem. That’s all this is: an arrangement we’ll both benefit from. So why can’t I stop fantasizing about him?

We’re surrounded by wine, and all I want to do is offer Ethan a private tasting.

ETHAN:

He’s gorgeous, and he just gave me the best Climax I’ve ever had.

Well, at least that was the name of the sample drink he prepared for me during the interview. He’s good with his hands, but I have my eye on more than just his cocktails.

I used to be all about living fast and spending money, but those days came to a screeching halt when my wealthy father gave me an ultimatum: prove my skills by flipping an old vineyard and turning a profit, or he’ll cut me off.

The vineyard needs renovations from the ground up, but investors aren’t willing to part with their money. They want proof that I’m good with long-term commitments.

A stable boyfriend would do the trick.

All my dreams come true when Brett shows up. Sexy and irresistible, he’s more than capable behind a bar, but I have something crazier in mind. If his acting is as good as his bartending, he’s perfect fake boyfriend material. The question is, what happens when it stops being an act?

Things are heating up, and I’m not sure if we’re still pretending.

Right away, it’s obvious where this story is headed. That’s not why you’ve chosen to read it, though. Like many M/M romance novels, most of the story is meant to accentuate the sex scenes. Notably, however, the toppings more often than not add a much needed boost in flavor.

Two guys agree to pretend to date each other. As time goes on, they begin to realize they’re not pretending anymore. We’ve seen the same thing in heterosexual land several times before. So, why does it work so well here?

From writer-to-writer, I can tell Jason Collins made a considerable effort to improve his already-well-defined skillset. Even though the story is predictable, his writing enables you to still feel for the characters and wonder what’s going to happen next anyway.

It’s a testament that sometimes we need a little predictability when we step away from reality.

 

Honeymoon for One: Gay Romance Book Review

Keira Andrews once again successfully writes a better gay romance than even the most sappy gay men could conjure. With Honeymoon for One: May/December Gay Romance, we are once again treated to a love story that hits all the right spots, both figuratively and literally.

From the Amazon Blurb:

Betrayed the night before his wedding by the supposed boy of his dreams, Ethan Robinson escapes the devastating fallout by going on his honeymoon alone to the other side of the world. Hard of hearing and still struggling with the repercussions of being late-deafened, traveling by himself leaves him feeling painfully isolated with his raw, broken heart.

Clay Kelly never expected to be starting life over in his forties. He got hitched young, but now his wife has divorced him and remarried, his kids are grown, and he’s left his rural Outback town. In a new career driving a tour bus on Australia’s East Coast, Clay reckons he’s happy enough. He enjoys his cricket, a few beers, and a quiet life. If he’s a bit lonely, it’s not the end of the world.

Clay befriends Ethan, hoping he can cheer up the sad-eyed young man, and a crush on an unattainable straight guy is exactly the safe distraction Ethan needs. Yet as the days pass and their connection grows, long-repressed desires surface in Clay, and they are shocked to discover romance sparking. Clay is the sexy, rugged man of Ethan’s dreams, and as the clock counts down on their time together, neither wants this honeymoon to end.

Honeymoon for One is a gay romance by Keira Andrews featuring a May/December age difference, a slow burn of newfound friends to lovers, first-time m/m sex, and of course a happy ending.

Ethan and Clay are immediately captivating as love interests. As gay romance usually goes, there tends to be a bit of “insta-love” and fairy tale romances. That simply isn’t the case here. Though we’re expecting a happy ending (per the blurb no-less), these two are fully realized from a story standpoint.

Keira’s main gift as a writer is characterization and attention to detail. The interactions between Ethan, who is hard of hearing, and Clay are handled extremely well.

From a technical standpoint, Keira’s writing is in top form as usual. The dialogue is realistic and well-researched. She certainly spares no expense when it comes to the backgrounds of characters and the details of their locales.

All that to say, if you’re looking for an example of how to plant and grow your characters, look no further.

This isn’t just another book about two men falling in love and succumbing to over-written melodrama. It’s a story that clearly and consistently displays a portrait of male love that few get to see, yet a picture that should hang proudly.

 

Of Sunlight and Stardust Gay Romance Book Review

There are few books that leave me in such emotional shambles as Of Sunlight and Stardust. Christina Lee’s gay romance novel pulled no punches. It is a ravishing tale that will leave you wanting more yet begging for the heartache to cease.

From the Amazon Blurb:

After the death of his wife, Tanner Rowe takes a step toward making her dying wish come true and buys the house with the dilapidated barn she’d been inexplicably drawn to in the picturesque Upper Peninsula. But after a year, he still can’t get past his grief long enough to make the repairs he’d promised.

Recently out of prison, Cole Lachlan has little to his name. Homeless, broke, and without many options as a felon, Cole heads to Red Bluff with hopes of a second chance. There he meets Tanner, whose loneliness mirrors his own, and soon Cole is trading room and board for rebuilding the burned-out barn on Tanner’s property that hasn’t been touched in seventy years.

Turns out, the barn holds more secrets than either of them could have imagined. After unearthing a hidden journal from 1948, Cole and Tanner spend their evenings poring over the pages, reading about a young man pining after his best friend. The deeper they delve into this forbidden affair from the past, the more Cole and Tanner’s own relationship shifts–from acquaintances to friends…to undeniable attraction.

But as they begin to deal with the newness of falling in love in the wake of Tanner’s loss and Cole’s past, they also become more determined to unravel the mystery of the young lovers who’ve captured their hearts, the rumors about the fire, and what really happened that fateful night.

Loneliness has a way of making us mirror images of each other. Perhaps, that’s the real theme of this book. We wait for Tanner and Cole’s relationship to blossom, eventually leading to the steaminess we’ve come to expect from the genre. Yet, there’s a deeper mystery lurking further compels the reader.

I was a little skeptical about them incorporating the journal into the events of the plot, but luckily it worked in the end. Cole and Tanner’s dynamic plays well against Tom and Charlie’s parallel story line. You’re invested in both relationships.

Now to get technical. When describing Christina Lee’s writing, vivid is the best adjective. From the moment the story takes off, you will feel as though you’ve experienced this story before. There’s something familiar about all of it.  Christina uses that feeling of familiarity as a weapon to gracefully cut you to shreds. And to her credit, the technique used is superb.

Of Sunlight and Stardust, simply put, is a must-read. If you want something that tugs on your heartstrings and demolishes even the most stoic of hearts, this is the book you’ve been looking for.

Give People the Same Energy They Give You

Stop accepting bread crumbs from people while giving them endless amounts of your time, patience, and energy. You are human, and humans have limits. Moreso, you deserve better than what you’re getting back in terms of reciprocity.

Imagine giving someone an entire Subway sandwich, but when you’re hungry they give you crumbs. You’re okay with that because at least they gave you something. You expect yourself to always be giving and altruistic, but it’s perfectly fine (or not fine) for others to give you almost nothing in return. Stop doing that to yourself. You deserve better.

Start managing your expectations. I don’t mean standards. I mean expectations of people. Standards are like boundaries. They’re the things you don’t budge on. Expectations are more flexible. If you are a person who goes out of their way for people on instinct, you need to learn to adjust according to what you are given in return. It seems petty, and at times it will be. But it’s also being fair to yourself. If you don’t know how to be fair to yourself, how can you truly be fair to anyone else?

Any relationship requires a healthy balance of energy. A one-sided friendship, for example, isn’t really much of a friendship at all. You make all the plans, you plan the birthday parties, buy the presents, listen to them when they’re down, help them move, etc.

Do they do any of these things for you? If not, you need to change your expectations. Instead of doing all of the above, you should only do what your friend reciprocates. Nothing more.

That is now what you expect out of YOURSELF when it comes to that person. If that becomes an issue, then state why you’ve changed your behavior to match theirs. By stating it, you’ve expressed the expectation you have of THEM and the ball is in their court to figure out what they expect from the friendship. It should ALWAYS be fair.

The friend may decide not to meet your expectations, and that’s fine. That’s where compromise comes in. You have to decide if the compromise is worth keeping the friendship.

That’s where your standards/boundaries come in, the things you’re not willing to budge on. They should always be realistic. If it all works out, then great! If not, it’s not your fault. You still did the right thing. This can also be applied to marriages and long-term/short-term relationships.

Stop allowing yourself to be walked all over by people. Stop accepting bread crumbs when you’re worth an entire buffet. Know your worth and demand to be treated fairly especially now in the social media age. You have to stand your ground.

Remember that, no matter what, you are enough.

11 Effective Ways to Conquer Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a lifelong struggle for most of us. As someone who has had a longstanding battle with a negative self image, I get it. There are days when I just don’t feel pretty no matter what I do.

And believe me I put in the effort. I get up in the morning and do my best like many people do. I get enough sleep. I eat breakfast. I work out (sometimes). I put hundreds of sticky notes on my mirror telling me how awesome I am. I even try to read each one every single day.

Yet, try as I might, it never feels like it’s enough some days.

So the question remains. Is there such a thing as “life after low self-esteem?”

The short answer is: absolutely. However, it’s not going to be an easy journey. Luckily for you, there’s a few tips below to help you get started.

Stop the Comparisons

Your value as a person isn’t measurable. In fact, it’s immeasurable. That means it’s time to stop with the comparisons. Someone has a nicer car? House? Job? So what? Material things can be gone in an instant. At the end of the day, all you have is yourself. You and your unique life are more valuable than any material possession.

Avoid Social Media

Look, social media is designed to make you feel inadequate. You log on every day just to figure out a way to get “likes” or whatever popularity currency is being used at the time. How many likes you have seemingly determines how funny, smart, or likable you are. But here’s the thing. Such a system doesn’t exist in the real world. So leave it on social media where it belongs and avoid it.

Don’t Assume People Will Hate You

How many of you have struggled with this? You avoid socializing because you assume you’ll be hated the moment people look at you. Seems a little unfair though, right? Think of it this way. What kind of person would go out of their way to hate someone they don’t even know? It definitely sounds like a personal problem, doesn’t it? It just isn’t yours. Not everyone will have a problem with you. Give people the same chance you’d want them to give you.

Social Skills Are Just That: A Skill

There tends to be a stigma towards socially awkward people. People even go so far as to treat it like some sort of disease. Luckily for you, it’s not. In fact, with practice, anyone can overcome it. I know most of you hate the dreaded act of small talk. However, it’s a useful skill to develop when interacting with new people. Over time, it’ll become so second nature you won’t even realize you’re doing it.

Embarrassment is a Choice

I don’t care how poised of a person you are. We all goof up sometimes. Whether it’s tripping and falling in public or having a booger in your nose, life happens. However, you can choose what you’re embarrassed about. Everyone trips, and everyone at some point doesn’t realize they have a gigantic booger in their nose. So really, what’s the big deal? Blow your nose, pick yourself up off the ground, and keep it pushing. Learn to laugh at yourself, too.

What You Think Isn’t Always Reality

You walked into a store and felt like everyone was staring at you. Their eyes burned into your skin, and it seemed like they were judging you and deeming you unworthy. You ran out of the store and vowed to never return. Remember what I said earlier? People who decide to dislike you at first sight have problems of their own. Let them deal with that and remember this. It is not the event that destroys us. It is our interpretation. Those people simply could have been looking to see who was entering out of curiosity and nothing more. By the time you walk past them, they most likely won’t remember or think anything else of your presence.

Counseling Isn’t an Admission of Failure

Low self-esteem can often lead to bouts of depression. Seeking help doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a person or that something is wrong with you. Just as we all get sick physically, we also get sick mentally. Just like some treatments require physical therapy to regain strength, the brain also needs counseling. Catching a cold doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a person, right? The same is true of any mental illness.

Passive-Aggressiveness Solves Little

Part of overcoming low self-esteem is learning how to communicate your feelings. Often, people with a negative self-image can resort to passive-aggressive behavior instead of being assertive. Have you ever given someone the silent treatment when they’ve made you upset? Did giving them the silent treatment really solve anything or simply delay the inevitable conversation where you revealed what you were upset about? By being assertive and calmly expressing your frustration at the beginning, the issue could have been quickly neutralized. Passive-aggressiveness doesn’t give you peace of mind. It simply drags on issues for much longer than necessary.

It’s Time to Set Boundaries

It’s time to stop being a “people pleaser.” If something makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to say so. Each one of us has limits, both physically and mentally. Setting boundaries is one of the several pillars that hold up your overall well-being. Because, how can you be fair to anyone else if you’re not fair to yourself?

Letting Go is a Skill Too

Often we can get attached to the wrong thing. We can get involved in abusive relationships or one-sided friendships. We find it hard to let go of these relationships because, subconsciously, we feel we deserve to be in them. It can take time to develop a mindset where we truly recognize these relationships as what they are: toxic. Again, this isn’t something that’s learned overnight. It takes time and effort just like everything else on this list.

You’ve Already Accomplished Enough

Recently, I spoke to my classmates from high school. Many of them expressed how they felt like they hadn’t done enough or weren’t “successful enough.” I reassured them that as long as they were living and breathing that they were accomplishing more than what anyone could ask of them. No matter where you are in life, your very existence is an automatic success story. You are enough, were always enough, and always will be enough.

 

I hope this list helped you. As someone who used to struggle deeply with self-image, it took a long time to develop the self-awareness needed to fight back against my depression and low self-esteem. And I don’t always get it right each time.

Listen, you’re still going to have your days where you feel like utter crap. But guess what? Everybody feels that way from time to time. Yes, you are a unique, special person. But you’re also not alone in your fight. So join me and everyone like us as we beat low self-esteem into submission.

8 Easy Ways a Bad Book Review Can Help You

 

All book reviews aren’t created equal. In fact, some can be downright nasty. The very first review of my book, My Horrible Gay Dating Life, was well…horrible.

Unfortunately, negative book reviews take a toll on the writer. Like many others, I fell into the trap of self-doubt and confusion. Was I the only one whose first book review was negative? Did this mean I shouldn’t write anything else? Where did I go from here?

Bad book reviews are a part of the profession. They’re also necessary and can help you become better. So, the question becomes: how does a writer benefit from negative reviews? Well, I have a few ideas based on my own experience.

You Learn Not to React

A rookie mistake is to immediately respond to a bad book review. This can range from a simple “Thank You” comment to a long, angry letter. Regardless, a response isn’t necessary. You’re not going to change anyone’s mind. Your time is better suited on other things, such as writing.

You Learn to Spotlight the Positives

Not every review you receive will be negative. Or positive. It’s usually a mixture of the two. When you get caught up in the bad reviews you tend to forget about the positive feedback. Take the time to remind yourself that people enjoyed your book. Your sanity will thank you for it.

You Learn to Just Ignore it

Bad feedback is a part of every day life. Responding to negativity is exhausting in general. Taking the time to focus on it will drain your passion for your craft. At times, it’s best to just “keep scrolling.”

You Stop Taking it Personally

It’s easy to take every review to heart. After all, this is a book that you poured all of your heart and soul into. You probably see it as an extension of your very being, right? Most reviewers don’t know anything about you beyond your book. So, there’s no need to take what they write as a personal attack. You haven’t committed a crime. You’ve made a work of art.

You Learn How to Take Criticism

The best bad book reviews are the ones where the critic offers helpful advice. If you look hard enough, you can find a bit of truth in even the worst feedback. No one is a perfect writer. Every time your fingers touch the keyboard, you have a chance to improve your craft. Being open to criticism is a crucial part of that process.

You Learn Not Everybody is a Critic

There’s a difference between a seasoned reviewer and a troll who just wants to bash everything. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Internet, trolls should be easy to spot. What is there to gain from troll reviews? Usually nothing, right? Hone in on the reviews from critics who have something of value to say.

You Learn Not Everybody Will Like it (Or Has to)

Think of all the books you’ve ever read. Did you like every single one? Most likely there were some you weren’t impressed with. And that’s okay. You don’t have to like everything you read, and not everyone has to like your book.

You Remember Why You Write in the First Place

Whether it’s because it’s your calling or because you want to make money, there’s a reason you’re doing this. De-cluttering your mind of negativity and self-doubt helps put that into perspective.

So, What’s Next?

Now that you know bad book reviews can be useful tools, it’s business as usual. Start another book or revise the one you’ve already completed. It’s up to you. Just remember that somebody is going to love what you put out there.

 

Girl Keep It! Mariah Carey to Perform New Year’s Eve Special…Again

 

Mariah Carey is returning to the stage…the one we’re trying to forget about. Yes,  social media backlash, a media circus, and public embarrassment can’t keep a good diva down. The “Dreamlover” songstress announced on Instagram her plans to return to Dick Clark’s “New Years Rockin’ Eve” event.

Still incredulous? I don’t blame you, but there’s proof below.

Take 2. #RockinEve #NYE 🎉🥂

A post shared by Mariah Carey (@mariahcarey) on

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m counting her out just yet. Mariah Carey is, if nothing else, resilient. Many times during her long (and successful) career, she’s been counted out by the media. However, at some point it’s time to just bow out gracefully. The girl has hits on top of hits to her name. There’s really no reason for her to perform to begin with. I get that she wants to be “seen,” but really? There has to be some other way to handle whatever new project she’s hoping this will call attention to.

I mean, it’s going to take her performing a miracle on stage to make us forget this:

If nothing else, expect this to be entertaining…even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. Will you be tuning in?

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Cardi B Sounds…Unfortunate on New Single “Bartier Cardi”

 

Cardi B stans, whatever you call yourselves, don’t kill me just yet. See, I really wanted to like this song. As unintelligible as “Bodack Yellow” is, it’s still my go-to gym bop. This new single? Well…let’s just say I tried my hardest.

Teaming up with 21 Savage, Cardi B unleashed her second single from her upcoming project after much anticipation. I’m honestly not feeling it, but maybe you’ll like it. Find out for sure below.

I’ll give it to Cardi. The girl’s got plenty of energy. However, does that make up for the lack of enunciation? To be a little harsh, it sounds like this was made by any old SoundCloud rapper from your hometown. It’s just not polished. Be honest with yourself. How many words could you even make out while you were listening?

Perhaps my overly-analytical take on the single is due to Cardi B’s recent chart milestone. The “Love & Hip Hop” trailblazer earned the coveted #1 spot on the Billboard chart earlier this year, after all. The last female rapper who accomplished that was Lauryn Hill in 1998. There’s some perspective for you. We won’t start comparing Lauryn Hill’s music to Cardi B. There’s no point in being “obvious-petty.” What I will do, however, is have a healthy degree of expectation.

Unfortunately, I may have expected too much. What do you think?

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