Bean and Hound Dog by B.G. Thomas, Poached Salmon for Beginners and a lovely Chilean Viognier.

HoundDogandBeanLGThis was my first novel by B.G. Thomas. I’ve seen great reviews about his work online, and thought this one was a good place to start. I had a few reasons: 1. I LOVE the cover. Paul Richmond is a star. 2. The title is adorable. and, 3. I am an unrepentant coffee snob (I blame that on the fact, I lived in Ethiopia for five of the last ten years and you just CANNOT get bad coffee there). If I was hard pressed to describe this book in one word, I’d probably go with adorable.

The characters are endearing, and the way the author blended the details about artisanal coffee, and all the good done in dog shelters was pretty cool. Personally, I’m a fan of dogs and coffee, so I enjoyed  those tangents, and speaking of tangents…I must say my only complaint with the story is it sometimes did go a bit long on story lines which marginal to the main story. That being said, this was not a big issue for me, and I still enjoyed the book a whole lot.
photo (3) Hound Dog and Bean were very fun to read. I specially loved how much Hound Dog totally embraced his nickname, and how he channeled the “Hound Dog”  in him when the situation called for it (so cute!). For these boys I made a meal HD made for Bean on their first date, complete with the wine they enjoyed with their meal. The preparation involved a grill in the book, but since I live in Upstate New York, and it is too cold to grill right now, I adjusted it for a more Winter friendly recipe. Poached Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce, Lemon Dill Potatoes, and Asparagus with a DELICIOUS and affordable Chilean Viognier.  This meal involves a bit of work, but it is certainly a showstopper, you WILL impress. The wine I chose is the 2012 Cono Sur Biclicleta Viognier. The viognier is a very full white wine, it definitely goes slower than the average sip of white. It has strong citrusy undertones, and even a bit of nuttiness. This is a great bottle for any seafood, and for about $8.99 a fabulous deal.

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Now back to the story…Hound Dog (HD) is a pretty chill guy, he works at the local no-kill shelter, and is very passionate about the animals he cares for. He is a DOG PERSON, I mean he goes by Hound Dog for goodness sake! So, when a guy that he turned down for a pet a the shelter (the dude was an asshole!) comes after him at the nearby coffee shop he escapes from getting his eye punched in by a knight in shining armor. Actually it was just Bean, the owner of the shop, and even if there was no ACTUAL armor to be found, his willingness to stand up for  HD  made him sorta swoony. The guy was SEXY. HD would certainly take that hunky body out for a spin. Not on a date or anything, because HD does not do relationships, hell, he won’t even do a sleep over. He is a hound dog after all, gets what he needs and goes on his way. Bean is on the same page with the attraction to HD, however he wants to take things in a bit of a different direction. He is so grateful for the attention HD gave him after he got punched in the eye, he wants to get to know the man more. HD is such a character with his hippie clothes and his dreadlocks. So, different from anyone Bean has ever gone for, yet the attraction is very strong.  It’s been awhile for Bean, he had a very unsettling affair not long ago, and since then he has not had any desire to get involved. He feels a niggle to try with HG though, so when the man offers to come to Bean’s house and make him dinner, he is all for it. The night goes GREAT (steamy!), and pretty soon HD and Bean are getting closer and closer to becoming lovers. Thing is HD has had too much loss in his life, and he is so reluctant to let anyone in. Even Elaine his coworker, and pretty much only friend has trouble getting him to open up. Despite what he is feeling, and all the ways that Bean has made his life better, has proven to him again and again with his actions he is a good man and mate, he is scared to fall too hard.

This book has a lot of lightness,  without being shallow, and I liked that there were facets to it. I enjoyed learning about the dogs in the characters lives, and how much they cared for their animals. The coffee part of the story was also very interesting. Like I mentioned earlier, I lived in Ethiopia for a long time, and I was particularly happy reading the story of Kaldi and his dancing goats. Actually all the details about how Bean searched for the best coffee in the world, and roasted it with such care was super interesting. The way the author weaved topics which are clearly of interest to him, into something that added a bit of flavor to the story was very clever. The secondary characters (canine and human!) were also engaging and endearing. I thought that getting to read about Bean and HD’s friends own love story was a nice segway, and since we only got a glance, it didn’t take away the spotlight from our main guys.

The inevitable angstyness surely had to happen before HD got over himself and his issues was TINY bit longer than I would have liked, but I like the resolution. Particularly the idea that our fears only cheat us of getting to have the things that we most want.

This was a nice read and I will certainly look  for B.G. Thomas releases in the future. This is good one to start for those who have never read his stuff before.

Bean and Hound Dog is for sale at Dreamspinner Press.

Creamy Garlic and Dill Sauce

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 Tablespoon of fresh dill

1 garlic clove minced

1/4 teaspoon of agave nectar

juice 1/2 lemon

Salt and Pepper to taste

Direction: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Put in the fridge until time to use.

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Lemon Dill Red Potatoes

1 lb baby red potatoes

2 garlic cloves minced

1 lemon juiced

1 tablespoon of fresh dill

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cracked red pepper

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven at 425 degrees. Wash and quarter potatoes. In a large bowl put the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, red pepper, regular pepper and salt. Toss potatoes into the bowl until they are well coated. In a cookie sheet lined with foil, put the potatoes and bake for 35 minutes. Tossing once so they cook on both sides. Once the potatoes are done, take them out, put them back in the bowl and toss in the dill.

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Oven Garlicky Lemon Asparagus

1 bunch on asparagus with ends chopped off

1 garlic clove minced

1/2 lemon juiced

1/4 teaspoon of onion powder

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions: Toss the asparagus with all the ingredients. Spread out a large piece of foil, place the seasoned asparagus and fold the foil so that it is sealed. Put on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.

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Poached Salmon

4 salmon fillets

1 carrot cut in chunks

1 stalk of celery cut in chunks

2 garlic cloves cut in halves

1 medium onion cut in pieces

1 lemon sliced

1/4 teaspoon of cracked pepper.

Directions: In a deep pan put six cups of water and all ingredients except for the salmon. Bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling place the salmon fillets in the pan, reduce the temperature to medium low heat and cover. Leave for five minutes. After five minutes take the fillets, top with the Creamy Dill Sauce, potatoes and asparagus.

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Hope you guys enjoy the story, the food and the wine. They are all delightful!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan and Vegan Enchiladas with “Made from Scratch” Red and Green Chili Sauce

LoveLessons72lgA crazy little thing called love happened to Walter Lucas…Actually, his name was Kelly Davidson, he had like a million food allergies and an intense (and kind of weird) passion  for Disneymovies happily ever afters. Yes, Kelly was a little different from what Walter usually went for (skanks!), but he was just what Walter needed to finally give his heart a chance at love.

This is maybe the sweetest book I’ve read by Heidi Cullinan, and that’s saying a lot since she’s given me much awesomeness to read in the last couple of years.

As for the food pairing, it was a challenge, even for a vegan like me! Kelly has A LOT of dietary restrictions, thankfully I don’t give up easily. So for this pair of hungry college boys I decided to go with Vegan Echiladas with homemade Salsa Verde and Salsa Roja. They are delicious, and I’m almost certain the wouldn’t kill Kelly if he ate them.  For the wine (yes there’s wine even though Kelly’s not legal!) I chose  the Grilos Vihno Branco from Portugal. We’re having full on Insdian Summer here in Upstate New York, so I’m hitting up the white as long as I can. The Grilos is a very light and aromatic table wine, with a strong hint of peach and mint, without any sweetnes. Very crisp and ideal for a spicy dish. It goes for around $9 a bottle which makes it a winner on all counts. But enough with the food, let’s get back to Kelly and Walter!

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I am the wild one break me in, saddle me up and let’s begin,…Walter Lucas is kind of notorious in the Hope University campus. He’s  a  bit of a slut,  beautiful and charismatic. He likes to bend the rules a bit. Here’s the thing…Walter’s family is messed up. His parents had a nasty divorce, and when his mom fell off the deep end, he had to take one for the team and leave college to make sure his little sister had at least SOMEONE  to come home to. The whole thing made him a little bitter, and now that he is back in school the only thing that keeps him from blowing that whole thing off is his advisor. Professor Williams is like his lifeline to sanity, and the one thing that has kept him even slightly interested in any sort of a future. Walter is JADED. He’s over the whole collegiate utopia bullshit Hope University has been shoving down his throat, and he pretty much wants to live off-campus, stay under the radar, finish school and get the fuck away…Little problem with that plan though. Students are  not allowed to live off-campus, and so there he is, a junior, stuck in a single dorm, with A FRESHMAN. Things couldn’t be worse. Seriously! The actually couldn’t because this  kid  Kelly, has like1,200 allergies and practically needs to sleep on Saran Wrap …Ok it’s not THAT bad, Kelly IS pretty nice, definitely pretty cute and gay as a rainbow…So yeah there is an upside.

Walter takes young Kelly under his wing, tries to get him situated and away from the notoriously homophobic jocks living in their hall. He does likes the kid a lot and if it happens that he can get a little sex on the side without having to leave his room…Well that’s just an extra bonus.

Hey, I heard you were a wild one…If I took you home and be your homerun? Show me how you do…. Kelly Davidson was way in over his head.  One on side he’s starting college, which is challenging enough as it is, on the other he’s got the allergies which are not easy to nevigate when you’re on a college meal plan AND he’s in very close quarters with the hottest (and notoriously slutty) guy in the WHOLE school. Walter is HOT, and flirty and their room is SO SMALL. It’s hard to breathe sometimes with so much sexual tension. The thing is, Walter is really nice too. He can be a dick, but he looks out for Kelly, makes sure he can get something to eat that won’t kill him, he’s smart and interested in him…He doesn’t even make fun (not that much anyways) of his obseesion with Disney movies.

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It’s an unlikely thing this pairing. Nevertheless, things get romantic in their little dorm room pretty fast. Walter is not a believer in love, but in the face of Kelly’s goodness and his almost terminal optimism he feels hopeful. He feels protective and taken care of at the same time. He knows there are good people out there, after all he’s been relying on Professor Williams’ kindness for awhile. He starts wanting things with Kelly, but he can’t forget where he comes from, the crushing disappointment of losing something or someone that you had learned to rely on. He’s afraid of going through that again. People leave.  People let you down. He can’t give in to what he’s feeling, except Kelly is working everyone one of his walls and they are crumbling. There’s no helping it, Kelly is too much of a gift to turn away from,

This book was a bit of departure for Heidi. With her books I expect powerful and intense sexual/physical connections in the couples, and here the erotica was definitely not a big part of the love story. I like young love romances there is a always an untarnished quality to them that makes me feel so hopeful. Walter and Kelly came from such different families, one self-centered and cold, the other a warm home full of love and support. They saw the world a bit differently, but they both understood loyalty and friendship. They were good friends to one another, were quick to lend a hand and in the end being able to count on each other was what gave them the openess to fall in love. All was not easy, Kelly’s family had it’s setbacks and Walter’s home was a dysfinctional mess, but their little team of two was enough to face the things that  would have been too hard on their own.

I loved the colligiate setting in this book, it’s particularly relevant at this time of my life since I live in a dorm that is probably pretty similar to the one Kelly and Walter live in. Heidi did a great job of describing academia politics and college life. On the whole, this book felt really personal, and that really affected my connection to the book.  All in all, once again Heidi Cullinan has written a book that I will probably re-read half a dozen times. She is more than an auto-buy author for me, she’s a go to comfort read author, and that list is VERY SHORT.

Totally recommend, lots of laughs, love and cuteness with a strong dose of angsty young love.

Love Lessons is for sale at Amazon.com

Straight ahead DEELICIOUS non allergy inducing enchiladas!!

Vegan Enchiladas

16 corn tortillas

1 package of mozarella flavored Go Veggie! Rice Shreds

1 tablespoon of nutrional yeast

2 cups of enchilda filling (for recipe click here)

3 cups of red sauce (for recipe click here)

3 cups of green sauce (recipe below)

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Directions: In a 9×13 pan ladle the bottom half with a bit of red sauce and other half with a bit of the green sauce. Place about a cup of each sauce on two separate bowls. Drench 8 of the tortillas in the green sauce and the other eight in the red sauce once the tortillas are wet fill with about a tablespoon and a half of the filing roll up and place on the pan. Once the pan is full pour the remaining sauce on the enchiladas. I did half red and half green. Take the rice shreds and mix with the nutritional yeast and top the enchiladas. Cover with tin foil and put in the over for 30 minutes at 375. The last five minutes take the foil off the pan so that the cheese can get a bit golden. Once the cheese has melted take out the pan and let it cool before serving.

Salsa Verde

8 tomatillos

1 onion chopped

1 poblano pepper chopped

1/3 cup of fresh cilantro chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of cumin

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

2 cups of water

Directions: Sautee the all the ingredients except the tomatillos in a large saucepan for about five minutes. Once they are translucent add the tomatillos and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 1 hour. Simmer until the sauce has thickened and tomatillos have fallen apart. Set aside to cool. Once the sauce has cooled blend until smooth.

Cheers and Happy Reading!!

Laura

Parting Shot by Mary Calmes with New Zealand Sav Blanc and Easy and Amazing Tuna Tartare.

PartingShotLGMary Calmes’ books are a hell of a drug…Seriously, who can resist them? I mean they’re like a delicious helping of lovely  mac and cheese with a huge slice of slutty apple pie!  She’s very much one of my for sure authors.  This is the seventh book in the Matter of Time . I must admit I lost some steam with the 5th and 6th installments in the series. For me with Mary’s books it’s ALL ABOUT the powerful almost nuclear chemistry that happens with her couples. Her stories place her two men at the center of a tornado of circumstances and characters, and how they gravitate to each other is primary to pretty much anything else. Where they go, and how they get there is not as important as how they CAN’T STOP the avalanche of what they are feeling for each other. So for me her stand alone books always work better,  the momentum is intense, but contained and structured and even if the stuff that happens gets a bit crazy at times, when the ride ends I am satisfied because I get the big happy ending.  The end.

That being said I could NOT wait for this one.  I really wanted a story for Duncan (who we met in Acrobat). The love interest she came up with for my guy was a combo I could not resist! Aaron Sutter the arrogant, sort of stalker hote mogul ex of Jory’s in MoT and my Duncan the closeted cop and ex of our beloved Nathan from Acrobat…WINNER COMBO on aisle AWESOME!… Acrobat was one of my favorite books from last year and I’ve gone back to it many times. Every single time I’ve read it I have wanted to see where Duncan ended up. I have a soft spot for the characters whose hang ups and fears  make them a little self-destructive, Duncan seemed so lonely and so full of yearning to find love. I wanted him to get his man and his happily ever after badly.  Let’s shift gears and get us some booze and food before I go into the story…

For this post I had to come up with something delicious and awesome because Aaron Sutter is not a guy that would just eat anything. No sir, only the best for the billionaire, you gotta come at him with the fancy…SO! I went with one of my favorite starters and one that like Mary’s stories I just cannot stop gorging myself on once I start, the ever delicious Tuna Tartare. The recipe I came up with is light, spicy and fresh and will  WOW your dinner guests. For the wine there is nothing other than Sauvignon Blanc as an option for tartare, so I went with a New Zealand Sav Blanc that has been on my radar for the past few months. The 90+ Cellars Sauvignon Blanc  is frigging DELICIOUS, it’s $12 bucks a bottle and worth every penny. I love this brand because they have literally gone out and scouted amazing wines from top producers all over the world and put their label on them and sell them at a more affordable price (my kind of people!). The 90+ Cellars  Sav Blanc is a clean, delicious white wine, every sip is just bursting with fresh flavors. It’s the perfect combination for the spicy freshness of the tuna tartare and a fab way to cool yourself off while reading the hotness that is Duncan + Aaron.

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Yummy Book, Yummy Food, Yummy Wine

Now the story…Mary Calmes likes to use the first person POV in her stories, and what we get is the ability to be up close and personal with her characters, what they feel, their reactions to the person they love and the world around them…One of the things I love love love is just how much I get out of the intimate scenes, they are not just carnal and hot, but they are so vivid and in your face, the possesive, rabid “I want to crawl inside of your skin and burn” kind of passion, Mary writes that like no other author in this genre. She has a pattern no doubt about it, she is an author that definitely subscribes to the idea of “if it’s working, JUST KEEP DOING IT” and that my friends is a damn good thing. With her stories I ALWAYS know what to expect. There is something to be said  for being able to sit down with a book an knowing what you’ll get. Parting Shot like many of her stories had two men who are INTENSE about each other in every way, it’s always a frenzied thing what happens between the men she writes, and I kind of love the complete irrationality that her characters have. This book was chuck full of the alpha (borderline cray cray) crack Mary delivers.  Two things surprised me though. I didn’t expect Duncan’s voice to be so naked and vulnerable ,and I certainly did not expect this book to be so much FUN!

So we meet up with Duncan Stiehl in New York City he is on an undercover assignment, it has not been long since his night with Aaron Sutter and he’s feeling like finally he might have just found the guy that will make the dreaded “coming out of the closet worth doing”. From the moment that they met it was like everything fell into place for Duncan, and finally he felt like the found someone to belong to.  Duncan has always had a lot of walls around him, and a lot of that had to do with his painful childhood. He had to be hard and closed off to survive and keep his sanity. Once he was out in the world and in police force his career just became the most important thing, but lately he was feeling like he was cheating himself of something,  happiness seemed like something that was not as improbable as he thought it had been, when he met Aaron everything just started making sense.

Things get off to a great start with them and then after a bit of a dicey situation while Duncan is undercover some external factors keep Duncan and Aaron apart for a time. They both have situations in their lives that are getting in the way of being together, but Aaron wanted Duncan in his life, in his bed, in his heart NOW NOW NOW and he ‘s not a guy to just take no for an answer. So all kinds of growly “I need you now or I’ll die” sex ensues and in the process we go on a few adventures with these guys until they arrive at their happy ending. I completely enjoyed the way things happened for them, it was just on the edge of total FUBARness but Mary kept things in check and the ride was pretty damn smooth!

What more can I say? If you are a Mary Calmes fan you know what to expect, you know what you’ll get, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Another crackified delicious shot of goodness from Ms. Calmes. I hope she keeps them coming because they are always good to the last drop!

Parting Shot is available at Dreamspinner Press

Now that you got the skinny on the reading here is the recipe for the food. I assure you that if you try this one you will not be able to stop eating, and you will blow your dinner guests away! Never has very little work paid off so much in the “making people thing you’re a gourmet chef” like with this little dish! Here it is…

Easy Spicy Tuna Tartare (Serves 4 as a starter)

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Lovely Sav Blanc.

Ingredients

  • 12  ounces of sashimi grade tuna or very fresh tuna steak
  • 1/4  cup olive oil
  • 1  teaspoon of sesame seed oil
  • 1   teaspoon grated ginger
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice of two limes
  • 1/2   teaspoons wasabi powder
  • 1   tablespoon tamari sauce
  • 1  tablespoon Siracha
  • ½  teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼  cup minced scallions, white and green parts (4 scallions)
  • 1  teaspoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
  • 1   ripe Hass avocado
  • ¼   cup of pickled ginger
  • 1  bag of plantain chips

Directions

Cut the tuna into 1/4-inch dice and place it in a very large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, wasabi, Tamari, Siracha, grated ginger, sesame seed oil, salt, and pepper. Pour over the tuna, add the scallions and jalapeno, and mix well. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed, and peel. Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch dice. Carefully mix the avocado into the tuna mixture. Allow the mixture to sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour for the flavors to blend. Top with the pickled ginger and some scallions. Serve on plantain chips.

Enjoy this beautiful dish with a glass of chilled wine and sit down to enjoy some melt your face off hotness like only Mary Calmes can deliver.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laura

Love Like Water by Rowan Speedwell and a light South African White Wine

LoveLikeWaterLG Rowan Speedwell is one of my favorite authors in this genre, she is not as prolific as a lot of the M/M authors out there, but what she lacks in volume she more than makes up for with quality. Her previous novels Finding Zach and Kindred Hearts are two of my favorite stories in this genre. She writes beautfully and always has the redemption and new begginings theme that I love. Her characters are often broken and dark, and being the sucker I am for the angst, she usually hits all my buttons. With Love, Like Water, Rowan eased off the heart wrenching angst a bit though. This story was a lot less gut twisting, in part because she focused on both main characters equally, instead of letting us experience the story through the eyes of the more broken character. Still she wrote a very straightforward romance with all the bells and whistles necessary to have readers sighing, aawwing, and cheering for her men to get their happy ending….Now for the wine.

This novel is set in New Mexico one of my FAVORITE places on Earth. I love everything about the plce but that desert can get HOT and it is summer, so I chose a South African white wine from J. Joostenberg Winery, a small family vineyard in the Western Cape of South Africa. This white is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Roussanne grapes and the result is delicious fresh wine with hints of peach and berries, that is perfect for hot summer day. For about $11 dollars a bottle right on the cusp of my speding limit the J. Joostenberg Family Blend White is a good one to splurge on.

Book, Wine and fruity snack.

Book, Wine and fruity snack.

Now the story.

Joshua Chastain is a Federal agent that has just come out of a three year undercover assigment a completely broken man. He was in deep with one of the Latin gangs in the inner city of Chicago, he did what he was asked, he got the bad guys and enough evidence to put them away forever, but in the process he totally lost himself…At 28 he’s a recovering addict, just getting out of the rehab he had to go through for heroin. The nightmares from the things he had to do on the job are slowly driving him insane. The guilt is almost unbearable. He’s going to succumb to all that despair, all that darkness if something doesn’t change soon. His mother who can see that she’s going to loose her son if she doesn’t do something drastic, calls her brother in New Mexico and asks him take Joshua in he needs to be somewhere different, somewhere new. Tucker Chastain is happy take Joshua in, he’s very proud of his nephew and having no children of his own he’s happy to teach the ins and out of running a horse ranch to Josh so that one day he can continue the family business. So Josh goes West.

There are complications though, the main one being that Eli Kelly the foreman of The Triple C ranch is handsome, too handsome really and kind, and he makes Joshua want  things that he knows a man like him with innocent people’s blood on his hands has no business wanting. Eli is a man used to working with broken animals, and he knows despair and a crushed spirit when he sees one. As soon as he lays eyes on Josh he knows that it’ll be his job to make that man feel safe adn whole again. Something about Josh makes Eli want to make him better, to protect him. Show him that he has someone to hold him up, when he can’t do it himself. Josh is so broken, he is skin and bones, and it seems like even making it through the day is a struggle. Ely and Tucker,  and the other people on the ranch don’t give up on him though and despite the setbacks and Josh’s stubborness, they are able to make him see that he deserves the love that is being offered to him. That he deserves a home.

This is a pretty simple romance in many ways, which I appreaciated, there is enough angstyness in the story to make the reader savor the happy ending without the wrung out feeling that books with a premise like this one could leave you with. There were some pretty spectacular moments of delicious intimacy between Eli and Josh, those two are sizzling hot when they get in on. There are also beautiful scenes of the New Mexico landscape that really enriched the story. On a personal note I must say that the Spanish was very accurate, bad Spanish is a sticking point with me, and I have very little to complain this time. The use of the expression “mijo” did bother me a bit, but I got past it.

I loved the role the horses had in the story as well as the secondary characters. All and all this was a pretty complete love story, straight up “traditional” romance for those of us who call M/M our romance home. Humor, love, some angst, and hot cowboys having hot sex…What more can you ask for really?

Very nice, for Rowan’s fans a definite and for those who have not read her books for fear that they are too heavy this is a great one to start with.

Love, Like Water is for sale at Dreamspinner Press

That is all from me today, enjoy your book with a chilled glass of wine.

CHEERS AND HAPPY READING!

Laura