Tag Archives: wine bar

Marley crafts a fake boyfriend romance which is full of heat and emotion

14_V&V_Valentine_ebook_FINALUnforgettable by Marley Valentine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Marley Valentine knows how to stir the heart strings and she does a brilliant job with this entry in the excellent Vino & Veritas series.

From the off, it’s clear there is more than just a hook-up when the two meet. They’re early 20s, Reeve is 23, Oz two years older, and they’re both struggling with parental pressures, albeit in totally different ways.

For me, it just fell short of a 5* review because of one issue – Reeve’s determination to not be the guy he was with his old boyfriend – which wasn’t ever actually expanded on.


This meant that I wanted to shake Reeve quite hard for a lot of the book because he kept going on about how he couldn’t fall in love again with Oz because of what happened with Micah but we NEVER actually find out what happened with Micah?!

For me, it made Reeve an occasionally unsympathetic character because he never explained to Oz what he was so afraid of.


The narrative concentrates more on his absolute determination to go back home and work for his parents in spite of knowing he will hate it, but it keeps pushing this secondary thread too which doesn’t get any more details given to it.

It’s a minor point, and wasn’t one which derailed the book at all, I really loved both the characters and their journey into realising that the other was someone special that they should keep hold of.

But Oz was very definitely my favourite of the two guys. He was the one who fell, and fell hard, in spite of his previous life as a one-night stand only kinda guy.

Oz’s family are also awesome, even as his parents push him to be the best he can, although within the parameters they feel he should be fitting into.

It’s not because they don’t love him though, they absolutely do, and this contrast between how Oz’s family are, and Reeve’s parents’ absolute disinterest in either of their children, is brilliantly done.

It’s seriously steamy too, as they explore the physical attraction between them and get themselves embroiled in a fake boyfriend plot which is well constructed and starts to have complications almost straight away.

Neither of them can stay away from the other but it’s not just sexual, they connect on a friendship level too. Reeve encourages Oz to pursue his business plans for an Instagram business, Oz tries to get Reeve to see he should be living his life for himself.

The usual V&V crew are around, but not as heavily involved in this one, with the exception of Murphy, who is Reeve’s flatmate. His book is rounding out the series and I absolutely cannot wait to read my ARC of Undone.

#ARC kindly received from the publishers Heart Eyes Press in return for an honest and unbiased review

View all my reviews

Five more Vino & Veritas books release today

Today there are five more books out in Sarina Bowen’s Expanded World of True North‘s Vino & Veritas setting from Ana Ashley, E. Davies, Marley Valentine, Regina Kyle & Leslie McAdam

Series Page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas


Stronghold | Ana Ashley

Vino & Veritas #14

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonStronghold

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3bW1VlY




A second chance at love? Or a second chance to ruin everything?

When Skyler spots the new bartender at Vino and Veritas, his body responds before the guy even turns around. But when he does, it takes only a heartbeat for recognition to set in and for sparks to fly. Judson’s been gone for ten years, but he’s the man Skyler never forgot. Or forgave.

The last place Judson wants to be is back home in Burlington, living with family. Not so long ago he was a world-class chef with the lifestyle to prove it. Now he’s serving drinks and flying under the radar until he can get the hell out again. But when his childhood best friend reenters his life, looking finer than any entree at a five-star restaurant, he wonders if it’s time to update his menu of life choices.

Working through past wounds with Skyler won’t be easy, though, especially with family obligations–and the occasional dairy cow–interfering. When their loyalty is tested, will their newly built stronghold be sturdy enough to withstand the storm?

Stronghold is a sweet and sexy Vino & Veritas romance with some creative use of maple syrup.



“If you’ve got your flirting game on, the new bartender is H.O.T.,” Wyatt says.

I look at Carter, who nods. “He has this sexy kind of European vibe going on.”

And now I know how their earlier conversation got started.

I scan the bar but don’t see anyone I don’t already know. Then again, it’s pretty busy out there.

Someone steps away from the bar area with a tray of drinks, and I immediately take their place. All the bartenders are busy, so I look around to inspect this evening’s crowd.

A glass breaks somewhere behind the bar, taking my attention from the crowd waiting to be served to the clumsy bartender on the far end from where I’m standing.

He must be the new guy because I know I’d recognize that ass if I’d seen it before. Scrap that. I’d have tapped it. My eyes scan the rest of him, taking the time to appreciate his slim body from behind.

His dark jeans hug his ass perfectly, and his thighs…damn, those thighs look strong and…fuck. My dick responds to the way he moves as he’s crouching to pick up the glass from the floor.

The dark button-down shirt is loose on him, and I wonder if it’s a standard V&V-issued shirt because a guy that wears those jeans wouldn’t possibly choose to wear anything but a fitted shirt.

He washes his hands after disposing of the glass and then runs them through his dark-blond hair. I wonder if, in the light of day, his hair is actually a lighter shade.

Turn around, baby. Let me see your face.

And as if the god of horny gay single men is listening to my prayers, the guy turns around. He looks flustered and annoyed.

There’s something about him I can’t put my finger on, but it doesn’t take me long to figure out what it is. Why he looks so familiar.

When he looks up, and his eyes meet mine, my body locks up in shock. I close my eyes and open them again because this isn’t happening. I must be dreaming while awake.

I smile, wanting to jump over the counter to touch him. It’s the only way to be sure, but he looks as though he’s seen a ghost.

One of the other bartenders bumps against him, making him jolt and take a side step.

I smile at him, and that’s when I see the very slight shake of his head as I call to him before he runs to the staff area behind the bar.



Limelight | E. Davies

Vino & Veritas #15

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonLimelight

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3o1fxOW




Save the bees, ride a rock star.

Formerly famous . . . and planning to keep it that way.

After my band kicked me out, I ran away to Vermont, changed my name, and kept my head down. So far, it’s working and nobody knows who I am. Or who I was. Until I see geeky poet Caleb stumbling through his first open mic night and I can’t help rescuing him. He’s as sweet as the honey my bees make and sexy enough to make me rethink so many things. But I can’t tell him my secret, or I’ll lose the anonymous life I worked so hard to build.

Everyone warns me he’s too good to be true.

I can’t believe a gorgeous, successful winemaker like Tag is into shy, geeky little accountant me. But he helps me blossom and believe in my talent, and works his way into my heart and my bed… not necessarily in that order. I’m falling for a man for the first time, and now I know what the missing number in my equation has always been.

When lies are revealed, though, someone’s going to get stung . . .


Unforgettable | Marley Valentine

Vino & Veritas #16

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonUnforgettable

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2NVHpYG




One night with Reeve Hale wasn’t enough. I knew it when I kissed him, I knew it when I slept with him, and I was certain of it when I walked out of his motel room the very next day.

So when the shy, gorgeous man is introduced as our newest employee at Vino and Veritas, I can’t help but conjure up all the ridiculous ways to convince him to repeat that unforgettable night. Like asking him to be my fake boyfriend at my sister’s upcoming wedding.

Only, I didn’t expect him to say yes.

Playing pretend shouldn’t feel this real. Especially when Reeve is planning on leaving Vermont after the summer.

We agreed to one night. We negotiated a fake relationship. But I’m the one who broke our terms. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love and he was never supposed to be so unforgettable.


Showstopper | Regina Kyle

Vino & Veritas #17

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonShowstopper

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3qz2xSv




I swore I wouldn’t do this again. Mix sports, school, and sex. But right now the only thing standing between me and the NHL is six feet of frenemy packed into a pair of form-fitting jeans that have me thinking all kinds of things I shouldn’t. Mostly how to get him out of them.

I don’t just want Kolby. I need him. Because I’ve got to pass this theater class–yeah, I said theater–if I’m going to keep my spot on the team. When tutoring sessions turn into dates-not-dates over Shipley Cider at Vino and Veritas, I realize it’s going to be harder than I thought to keep my hands on my stick and off of Kolby. Worse, I think I might be falling for him. But I’m not ready for that. I want to keep this thing between us on the down-low for now.

But Kolby hates secrets. Especially his own . . .



Let the games begin.

The professor’s words are like nails in my improv coffin. Aside from Kolby’s brief description of Questions Only and a handful of Whose Line episodes, I’m completely clueless as to what we’re doing here.

My body language must give away my nervousness because Kolby puts a hand on my shoulder. It’s warm and strong and reassuring. I try not to think about how much more I like his touch than Quinn’s. How much more I like everything about him, even though she’s objectively hot and practically throwing herself at me and he’s an emotional vault who thinks I’m a dumb, entitled jock.

Not that it matters, I remind myself. Because I’m not here to make friends. Or get laid. I’m here to play hockey and save my shot at the NHL.

And, apparently, because the universe hates me, do improv. It’s like my worst nightmare coming true, the one where I’m accepting the Calder Memorial Trophy for best NHL rookie in my underwear. No, I take it back. This is worse. I may have been half naked in my dream, but at least I had a script. Having to go up there and pull something out of my ass is just cruel.

Professor Frost is barking out instructions, and I force myself to pay attention. I’m already lost. The last thing I need is to get myself even further behind by zoning out.

“Rachel and Ian, since you two obviously understand what we’re doing, you’ll start.” He motions them to the center of the room.

“The rest of you, form a line along the wall near the whiteboard. When a player takes too long to respond or fails to answer with a question, they’ll hear this sound.” He produces a plastic dinosaur from behind his back and presses a button on its back. It comes to life with a tinny, electronic roar. “That’s their cue to take a seat, and the first person in line will replace them. Got it?”

Apparently, I’m the only one who thinks it’s weird that a grown man is playing with a toy T-Rex because the rest of the class just nods and murmurs their assent as they line up against the wall. I can’t believe my parents are paying good money for me to take this ridiculous, useless class. And that my future as a hockey player rests on me passing it.

I drag my feet, in no hurry to be part of the action. The further back I am, the more time I have to figure out what the fuck I’m doing. I feel a hand on the small of my back, nudging me toward the end of the line. To my surprise, it’s Kolby. I thought he’d be racing to the front, dying to get up there and show off.

“Come on,” he says. “We can watch the others so you can see how it’s done before it’s your turn.”


His lips quirk into a cheeky grin that lights up his face and simultaneously makes me want to push him away and pull him closer. “You didn’t think I was going to desert you in your time of need, did you?”

Honestly, yeah, I did. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s let me down.

He gives me another subtle nudge forward. What’s not so subtle are the tremors racing up and down my spine from the spot where his hand rests, just above the waistband of my track pants. It burns through the thin fabric of my T-shirt like there’s not even a barrier between us. I don’t even want to think about what a mess I’d be if we were skin-on-skin.

We take our places at the back of the line. Kolby stands in front of me, letting me go last. Does he have to be so damn nice in addition to being so freaking hot? It makes him harder to resist, even though I know he’s only doing it because the professor forced him to. Kolby made his opinion of me loud and clear in the registrar’s office. As far as he’s concerned, I’m the poster child for pampered jocks.

I cling to that thought in the hope that it will kill any feelings I’m starting to have for this guy. I have to focus if I’m going to pass this class.


Undone | Leslie McAdam

Vino & Veritas #18

Release Date: August 12th, 2021

Universal Link: https://geni.us/AmazonUndone

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3itUL9C




My new roommate has the worst taste in men.

I mean, Murph’s special. He’s funny and flamboyant and full of life.

While I’m straight, even I can tell these guys aren’t good enough for him.

I had to yell at one date, toss another one out the door, and throw a beer in another’s face.

Kind of embarrassing, really. I don’t know what’s gotten into me.

I ask my sister what’s wrong with me and she says I’m jealous.

Jealous? Please. Me?

Come on.

Only thing is, I hate the thought of Murph kissing any guy. Ever.

Except, maybe … me?

Undone is a contemporary MM romance about a dreamy insurance agent that might not be as straight as he thinks, an adorable bartender who adds sparkle wherever he goes, and maybe one or two jokes about swords.


Check out the rest of Sarina Bowen’s World of True North

Moo U Hockey (New Adult romance)

Busy Bean (Small town romance, steamy)

Speakeasy Taproom (Small town romance, steamy)




Three More Vino & Veritas Releases Out Today

Today we have three more Release Blitz for the Vino & Veritas Series with books from Eliot Grayson, L.A. Witt and J.E. Birk.

Series Link: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/vino-and-veritas/


Undercover | Eliot Grayson

Vino & Veritas #4


Release Date: March 29th, 2021

Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Buy Link: https://geni.us/AmazonUndercover

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2LTpTTY




Gabe wants Alec between the sheets…too bad Alec’s undercover already…

Rich kid. Party boy. Gabe is tired of the labels. He’s a smart guy, but ever since he got kicked out of grad school, people are only interested in his no-limit credit card and his pierced ears…and other places.

Tall, dark, and scowling Alec hates Vermont, with its artisanal-freaking-everything and its irritating people. To be fair, most people irritate Alec, including the FBI director who sent him here to investigate a smuggling scheme involving yoga mats.

When one of the cutest twinks Alec’s ever seen takes an interest, Alec knows there’s an ulterior motive. No one with multi-colored hair, piercings, and an ass like that would want boring, serious Alec. The kid must be up to no good. Either way, Alec can’t blow his cover. If only he could keep his hands off of Gabe long enough to find out what he’s up to…

Can they ignore their explosive chemistry long enough to foil a smuggling ring? Or will their budding relationship sink faster than a yacht full of contraband?



I swallowed hard, not missing how his eyes flicked down to my throat for a second, and finally found my voice. “What do you want?” I’d tried for challenging, but it came out husky and a little plaintive. Like I’d really said something more like, Looking for a good time?

He took another step, putting him squarely into my personal space. I caught a faint thread of the scent of him, leather and man, just like I’d imagined. Oh God.

“I’m kind of new in town,” he said, still staring right into my eyes. I pressed my hands back against the side of the building, concrete rough beneath my sweaty palms. “Where does a guy go to have fun in Burlington, anyway? You kind of look like you’d know.”

He looked down, pointedly doing a sweep of me from my purple Chucks, up my skinny legs, over my chest—lingering there for a second; could he see the outline of my right nipple piercing through my shirt?—and back up to my ear piercings and multi-colored hair. He landed right back on my eyes again. His own seemed wider and darker. Dilated. Yeah, he liked what he’d seen.

Fuck it. Maybe there was something wrong with me—okay, I knew there was something wrong with me. I always went for the wrong guys, and this was wronger than usual.

But fuck it, seriously. I’d never been cornered in a park by a guy who looked like he could break me in half, and maybe I’d been missing out. Not like I could get away if I wanted to.

And I really, really didn’t want to.


Aftermath | L.A. Witt

Vino & Veritas #5


Release Date: March 29th, 2021

Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Buy Link: https://geni.us/AmazonAftermath/

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2LZajWM




Brent Weyland was the life of the party until an injury ended his hockey career. Now he’s retreated alone to a lakefront house, trying to make sense of a life and body that don’t feel like his anymore.

Jon Norquist was happily married right up until he wasn’t. Now a single father in his forties, he’s trying to figure out what comes next. In the meantime, he pours his heartache and regret into the lyrics he sings for the wine bar crowd a couple of nights a week.

When a friend coaxes Brent out for a night of wine and music, he puts Brent and Jon on a collision course. Their chemistry is instantaneous. Jon gives Brent’s battered body a much-needed remedial lesson in pleasure. And Brent gives Jon a reason to smile again.

Multiple reasons, actually. Neither man wants anything serious, but love has a habit of showing up whether it’s welcome or not. No matter how hard they try, the two can’t help having feelings for each other, even as life continues to throw them curveballs.

But they’ve both got baggage to unpack and hurt to move past, and if they can’t leave their pasts in the past, they might just miss out on an amazing future.



If there was one thing I was good at when I performed onstage, it was engaging my audience without being distracted by them. The lighting here at Vino and Veritas didn’t mask the crowd in shadows like bigger venues did—no blinding stage lights in my eyes obscuring the people beyond them—which meant I could make out a lot of faces. And there was usually a fair amount of activity, too. People came and went. Waiters brought out drinks and food. Bartenders poured drinks. Quiet conversations went on. Some loud ones, especially as more alcohol flowed.

I was used to it, and I was never distracted by it. The sea of motion and faces was easy to ignore.

Except for that guy’s face.

One glance at him, and thank God I’d been between songs, or I’d have forgotten what I was doing.

And it didn’t help at all that he’d been looking right back at me as if I’d caught his eye the way he’d caught mine. Not just like people casually watched a performer onstage, but like something I’d done had made him stop dead and stare. He was still, his eyes wide and his lips parted as he stared at me. I couldn’t tell if it was a trick of the lights, but I swore he blushed too.

As I played on, I kept my gaze down, or at least tried to only let it drift toward the side of the room where he wasn’t sitting. Otherwise I was going to go blank on every note and every lyric.

But then I was far enough into the music that I forgot, and I glanced in that direction again, and there he was, still looking right at me, and—

What song is this?

I only missed a beat or two, fortunately, and I recovered quickly. I doubted many people noticed, if any of them did. In a venue like this, a lot of people were only half-listening, as opposed to during an actual concert when they were all focused on me. I was background noise for most, even those who applauded between songs. Just as well when I was this distracted.

By some miracle, I made it through my set, and people didn’t mutter things like, “Oh my God, finally,” or “One more and I was going to stab my own eardrums” as I left the stage. Given that this hadn’t been my best or most focused performance, I’d take it.

In the back room where overflow books and promo items from the bookstore were kept, I put my guitar in its case and downed the rest of my water bottle. That had been, hands down, the hardest set I’d done since I’d started singing here. The first few had been tough because the emotions had been a lot more raw—because I’d been real smart, singing what I’d just written about my painful divorce-in-progress—so it had been rough for a while. But even during that period, I’d never actually struggled like I had tonight to remember lyrics and chords, or to keep my fingers from slipping or my tongue from getting tied. 

And now I needed a drink. Not just water this time, either. 

So, I left my guitar and jacket in the back where they were safe, and then headed up to the bar for a glass of wine. Only one, since I was driving. I’d probably have a couple more when I got home. Maybe not the healthiest thing in the world, but I’d been in a shitty place all day, and singing about my divorce poured some salt in wounds that hadn’t closed yet. I wasn’t apologizing for numbing that with a little alcohol once in a while. 

“The usual?” Rainn asked over the bar.

I shook my head. “Glass of pinot blanc.”

Our eyes met. Then Rainn nodded and stepped away to get the wine. He knew me and what I’d been through the last several months, so he didn’t question me. He just didn’t need to know that my ex-wife wasn’t the one screwing with my concentration tonight. 

He handed me the glass, and I thanked him before taking a sip. I wasn’t much of a drinker, but I had to say, I loved the wine they poured in this place. One of these days, I’d buy a bottle or two to keep at home. Maybe after I finished redoing the kitchen and had a place to put a wine rack.

That was another depressing thought that didn’t need to take hold tonight, so I focused on enjoying the amazing wine while I wound down after my set. My son was at his mom’s tonight, so I didn’t need to rush out of here to pick him up from the babysitter. I preferred the evenings where he was with me, but when he wasn’t, I couldn’t complain about relaxing here for a little while.

Someone stepped up to the bar beside me, and as I moved aside to give them some room, I glanced up and—

Oh. God.



Booklover | J.E. Birk

Vino & Veritas #6


Release Date: March 29th, 2021

Cover Design: Christine Coffey

Buy Link: https://geni.us/AmazonBooklover

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2M0GgOE




Jamie Morin’s college GPA drops every time a cow breaks through a fence, but he’s determined to get his degree and keep his parents’ Vermont dairy farm afloat. He’d rather be reading than milking, but he can’t let his family down…not the way his brother did. So the last thing he needs is distraction in the form of an irresistible bookseller with a mysterious backstory.

Briar Nord has a lifetime of experience proving that happily-ever-afters only happen in his favorite books. But his luck might be changing. He’s got a great job at a bookstore, and he lives in a city that puts maple syrup on everything. But Briar knows not to trust anything–or anyone–too closely, and that includes a gorgeous farm boy with soulful eyes and too many obligations.

When Jamie joins Briar’s romance novel book club, they both feel an instant connection and soon they’re turning pages long into the night. But Briar’s past was bound to catch up with him. Sometimes, though, it takes two heroes to write a new ending…



I start heading toward the circle of couches and chairs near the back where the inaugural meeting of The Booklover Club is supposed to take place. I make a quick stop at a shelf of new titles because the store’s got at least three that I’ve been meaning to read. I grab one of them, a nonfiction book about dairy farming, and I take a quick pause to wonder if my wallet can handle a bookstore binge. I’m still reading the inside of the jacket flap when I hear a voice behind me. 

“Can I help you?”

I turn around and try not to do that thing Jeremy says I sometimes do, where I just stand there staring at someone or something without speaking. In my defense, I think the problem comes from spending most of my childhood surrounded by cows. Sometimes I just forget how to people. 

Especially when incredibly hot human beings are standing in front of me. Which is happening right now.    

This guy looks exactly like Porter, one of my other favorite book characters. He’s in Alyssa Samuel’s gay romance novel Lost Key, and right now I can’t help but wonder if he walked right off the pages of that book and into this store. The Porter look-alike in front of me has sharp, angular cheekbones sitting under hazel eyes and dirty blond hair and eyebrows. He’s got some scruffy I-wanna-be-a-beard-but-I’m-not-there-yet hair around his chin that’s straight out of the Vermont tourist brochures. His head is covered by a pilling green tuque, and his skin is this olive tone that should be next to impossible for any white guy to have in Vermont in March. He’s wearing a flannel shirt and jeans, which is pretty much the stereotypical Vermont uniform, but somehow on him it manages to look cool and unique.

And as if all that weren’t enough? He’s carrying a stack of books.

Some men dream of seeing their perfect lover strutting around in hot lingerie or tiny speedos. I dream of my perfect lover naked, with a stack of books strategically placed in front of them.


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