Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and a Giveaway: The Happy Holidays! Edition

flashback-friday Christmas

Happy Ha-ha-holidays, everyone, and welcome to a special edition of Flashback Friday. We’ve dusted off a few of our favorite reads from Christmases past (some not so very past, really), but they’re holiday romances that have warmed our hearts and cheered us from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes, and we wanted to share those warm feelings with all of you.

If you’d like the chance to win a couple of the e-books we’ve featured today, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_AngelI’ll Runaway for the Holidays was written in 2010, and was the first M/M romance holiday story I ever read. Incidentally, it was also my first Stephanie Hecht book. I loved it and the author’s writing style, so I sought out more of her many works. The story is one of the first on my re-read list for the holidays, and I love how all of Stephanie Hecht’s characters get their happy endings.

This story is everything great in a feel good holiday romance. It isn’t real angsty, has sexy times between two fun characters that have a sort of quirky frenemies-to-lovers relationship, as well as some life lessons thrown in for good measure. Add in the crazy antics of Madison and Anson’s family, and this book was laugh out loud funny. There’s also some seriousness in the story dealing with Anson’s grandfather, but it was delicately handled and filled out the story for me from being just cute to complete. The sweet epilogue was adorable, too.

I'll Run Away for the HolidaysScott Cooper has never liked the holidays. So when his best friend, Madison, asks him to travel to her childhood home to celebrate Christmas, he can’t refuse fast enough. Scott doesn’t even get along with his own family, so the last thing he wants is to get saddled with her relatives for a whole week of snow and holiday cheer. Madison is good at getting what she wants, though, and before he knows it, Scott finds himself in for a seventeen-hour drive back to their home state of Michigan.

Just as Scott is getting adjusted to the idea of having to deal with Madison’s crazy family, another one of her relations joins in for the car trip; her very sexy, very younger brother, Anson. Not only is Anson still in college, but he’s the baby of the family, both of which should make him hands-off for Scott. To Scott’s horror and joy, however, Anson doesn’t want Scott to keep his hands to himself. The younger man immediately makes it clear that Scott is the only present he wants to unwrap for Christmas.

Holiday miracles can happen to anyone, or so Scott would like to believe. And it will take true magic for him and Anson to survive the holiday with their sanity intact, let alone for them to find a happily ever after…

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaWhen Lisa asked for favorite Holiday reads, I knew immediately one of the stories I wanted to highlight.  This story was part of the Dreamspinner Christmas Advent Calendar from 2011 – the first year after I had started reading M/M and knew about Dreamspinner.  The name of the story is A Wealth of Unsaid Words and it was written by R. Cooper.  Fair warning that this is a difficult but beautiful story.  It’s in many ways a heartbreaking story of two men who have been apart because one of them has a mental illness that he believes threatens both of their happiness.  They spend the holidays together and try to find their way.

The words that I used to capture my first impressions of this story were as follows:

Stunningly beautiful. The hell and hope of mental illness strikingly described. The fragility of Alex’s “sanity” and life brilliantly expressed. Ultimately about the strength and power of love and hope. Amazing. Touching. Painful. Beautiful. Poetic. I LOVED this.

I raved about this story and a friend who is bipolar saw that and she read it right away – thank god she also loved it since I was worried about recommending it! Little did I realize that a few short years later, I would have a family member who would be diagnosed bipolar and is struggling mightily.  And it will be a lifelong struggle.  There is much pain for him and all of us who love him.  It’s devastating and heartbreaking the impact it’s having on his life.

This story gives me hope and I hope will give anyone else hope who reads it.  It really is ultimately a beautifully written story of love and acceptance and hope.  I urge everyone to give it a try.

WealthofUnsaidWordsAlex has always known his bipolar disorder made him too flawed for his boyhood hero, Everett. So when his feelings for Everett became overwhelming, he forced a separation that saddened them both but gave Alex the clarity he needed. Now a year has passed, and he and Everett are together again when Everett’s noisy, imperfect family reunites for Christmas, pulling Alex into their chaotic warmth the way they always have. Can Everett convince Alex that, in spite of his fears, starting a relationship would make for the perfect holiday?

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TNA_Signature_CarrieIt’s always been a game of cat and mouse.  A dangerous game both men have enjoyed.  Noel is fascinated with the staid FBI agent, and they recognize in each other a worthy adversary. Unable to keep away from the flame, Noel gives in one New Year’s Eve and allows himself the touch of the man he is desperately in love with but knows he can never have. Fast forward 10 years, and there the man stands on Noel’s front porch—all crackling electric and ice cold in more ways than one on Christmas Eve. You can feel the sparks coming off the page – so much attraction – so much mistrust – it’s amazing!

This is a second chance story between two very complicated men. You would think that with two such weighty protagonist that the story would drag, but the author brings in such witty and tension-breaking secondary characters that it keeps this story flowing and downright entertaining. Llamas. Yeah, llamas.  That’s all I’m saying.

Josh Lanyon is the queen of the short story, no one writes them better than her, and this story is no exception. The pacing here is something few authors can achieve in a short. Plus, I enjoy authors who put subtle nuggets into their writing; here it’s an FBI agent named Cuffe and a thief named Noel Snow. Yes, Cuffe finally gets “snow” for Christmas. Love it!

IcecapadeOn the eve of the new millennium, diamond thief Noel Snow seduced FBI special agent Robert Cuffe, then fled into the dawn. Now a successful novelist, Noel uses his capers as fodder for his books, and has modeled his hero’s nemesis (and potential love interest) on Cuffe. Though he leaves Robert a drunken phone message every New Year’s Eve, Noel hasn’t seen or heard from him in a decade.

So he’s thrilled when his former lover shows up at his upstate farm one Christmas Eve. Elation quickly turns to alarm when Robert accuses Noel of being responsible for a recent rash of diamond heists. Robert is all business and as cold as ice: it seems his only interest in Noel is to put him behind bars.

Innocent of the crimes, and still as attracted as ever to the oh-so-serious lawman, Noel plans a second seduction–providing he can stay out of jail long enough!

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TNA_Signature_SammyWill is returning home after several years of near non-communication with his parents.  When confronted with the fact that their son was gay, Will’s parents turned to their overly zealous Pastor and church for guidance in dealing with the shocking revelation. The more they denied who he was and tried to “pray the gay away,” the more fractured their relationship became. A few years pass, and Will realizes his dream of becoming a published author. He also uses his novel as a sort of cathartic experience, detailing under the guise of a fictional story, the pain he went through with his family.  During this time, letters from home go largely unread, and Will keeps his parents at bay in order to cope with the pain of their rejection.

However, what Will doesn’t know is how his parents have changed, how much they have finally come to understand how their blind beliefs pushed their son away. As the years progressed, they moved away from their church to one much more tolerant and take in a young man named Ryan, whose own life actually mirrors in many ways exactly what happened with Will and his parents. When Will finally returns home for Christmas, he is met with what is akin to a substitute son who is not only loved but fully accepted. While he grapples with the various emotions this unleashes within him, he is least prepared for the blooming attraction he has for Ryan.  Now Will must both confront his parents over their painful past behavior and come to terms with how he feels about Ryan.

The Healing Power of Eggnog is artfully simple yet so multi-layered with emotional overtones it seems to capture one’s heart and mind so very thoroughly without the reader realizing.  As is par for the course for this author, the characters are both realistic and intentionally flawed, yet self-aware and never pandering—never shallow or cookie cutter.

When Lisa put out the call for our favorite Christmas stories, I didn’t even have to think twice before grabbing this gem from the past. It was one of the first things I read by author Jamie Fessenden and solidified for me that this author would be an auto-buy for me in the future. This author’s skill at writing emotionally genuine characters makes him one of the best authors on the m/m scene today.  I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did–and still do.

19086803Will Sutherland hasn’t been home to see his parents in four years—not since they reacted badly when he came out. This Christmas, he’s finally worked up the courage to go home, where he’s surprised to find they’ve taken in a boarder. Ryan Bennett is just a couple years younger than Will, cute, sweet… and openly gay.

As Will deals with his jealousy of the man who’s been receiving the love and acceptance he was denied, Ryan finds himself falling for Will’s brooding good looks. But Ryan also suspects the Sutherlands may be using him as a pawn in their long-standing conflict with their son. Will this Christmas finally tear the family apart, or is there a chance they can put their hurt and anger behind them?

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TNA_Signature_JulesWhen asked to choose a favorite story for a special holiday blog post, I didn’t even have to think about it. I’m a Christmas girl. Without a doubt my favorite time of year. So, I look forward to all of the Christmas books every year, and there are MANY that I completely adore. But, hands down, my favorite M/M Christmas story is Blame it on the Mistletoe by Eli Easton.

Fielding Monroe is one of my favorite characters ever. I’m a big fan of quirky – and, Fielding has quirks for days! Here is a bit from my review when I first read it:

I don’t think I can adequately describe how much I adored Fielding. His character is obviously reminiscent of Sheldon Cooper, from the T.V. show Big Bang Theory; but, Fielding is even more endearing. Mick, who is also fabulous, just rolls with all of his new housemate’s quirks, and the two of them quickly become best friends. Mick is a natural caretaker, and takes on the role of teaching Fielding many things.

Things certainly get complicated when Fielding decides that one of the things he wants Mick to teach him is how to kiss…but, what happens is anything but predictable. While I think it can be very difficult to write a really strong, believable GFY storyline, Easton does an excellent job here. The timing and pace of the story are perfect. There is obviously going to be some awkwardness and tension, and that is all there. The genuine fondness, admiration, and eventually love that these two feel for each other really jump off the page. I was hooked from beginning to end.

I have read this book three times, and listened to the audio twice, and, I’ll undoubtedly read it again. If you have yet to read this one, I highly recommend you do! Eli Easton also has Fielding’s Fa-La-La, which is a must read also, available for free on her blog. Go check it out! Or, read it again if you already have. :)

Blame it on the MistletoeWhen physics grad student Fielding Monroe and skirt-chaser and football player Mick Colman become college housemates, they’re both in for a whole new education. Mick looks out for the absent-minded genius, and he helps Fielding clean up his appearance and discover all the silly pleasures his strict upbringing as a child prodigy denied him. They become best friends.

It’s all well and good until they run into a cheerleader who calls Mick the ‘best kisser on campus.’ Fielding has never been kissed, and he decides Mick and only Mick can teach him how it’s done. After all, the physics department’s Christmas party is coming up with its dreaded mistletoe. Fielding wants to impress his peers and look cool for once in his life. The thing about Fielding is, once he locks onto an idea, it’s almost impossible to get him to change his mind. And he just doesn’t understand why his straight best friend would have a problem providing a little demonstration.

Mick knows kissing is a dangerous game. If he gives in, it would take a miracle for the thing not to turn into a disaster. Then again, if the kissing lessons get out of hand they can always blame it on the mistletoe.

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TNA_Signature_LisaAs I was searching through my memories trying to find a Christmas favorite, sooooo many titles came to mind: RJ Scott’s The Christmas Throwaway, Amy Rae Durreson’s Gaudete, Gale Stanley’s Bashert, L.B. Gregg’s Waiting for Winter, the books in Charlie Cochet’s North Pole City Tales series… I love a great holiday romance. The book that finally won the day, though, is a book that had me giddy with Christmas glee.

That book is Josephine Myles’ Merry Gentleman, a book I read and reviewed not all that long ago–back in November of 2013. And can I just say I think I must’ve been on some kind of Christmas crack when I wrote it? ::smh::

The first thing you have to appreciate about Myles’ writing is the thoroughly English charm of her characters. I absolutely adore Christmas stories and their sugarplum sweetness, so leave it to this author to write a holiday treat that takes place around Christmastime but has little to do with the miracles and the fa-la-la-la-la, and everything to do with romantic complications, with much hilarity and bird poop thrown in just for fun. Yes, there’s a point to the poop. It’s pointedly practical poop, relevant to the plot and character development, even, so there. Read and you’ll understand.

Myles breaks a tropey little mold in her story, taking the standard boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy, boy-gets-boy back formula and giving it a little twist, in that when the story opens, Riley and Stan had already met and were kaput well before the reader even gets the chance to relish in the angst of their breakup. But wait, it’s okay because when the country mouse comes back to the city, and the city mouse gets a gander at his ex-toppy git country mouse, it doesn’t take long to figure out there will still be plenty of “can I smack some sense into these two guys?” moments to get through, all to scratch and satisfy your angsty-loving itch.

And the end of my original review?

“So, if you’re making a list and checking it twice, let’s recap:
Ri + Stan=Love – Check
Plenty of Naughty Fun – Check
Face Splitting Grins – Check
Poop – Check

Really, what more could you possibly want from a book?”

What more could you possibly want? I have no idea!

Merry Gentlemen’Tis the season of goodwill to all men…even the one who dumped you.

Riley MacDermott’s ambitions are simple. Managing the annual Bath Christmas Market—which involves long hours in the cold and a whole lot of hassle—will secure the promotion he needs to afford to move out of his noisy, top-floor flat. Where not even his balcony is safe from an aggressive herring gull.

The last stallholder he expects to see is his ex. Riley never recovered from their break up, and five years on the old chemistry still sparkles. So does their habitual head butting.

Stan never wanted to leave the love of his life, but the pull of the woods was too strong—and Riley was firmly planted in the city. Reconnecting is painful, but Stan still jumps at the chance to stay with his old flame during the Market. And damn the consequences.

As the weeks pass, the two grow closer than ever. But despite scorching sex and cozy intimacy, they both know they face a cold and lonely future. Unless one of them can compromise.

Warning: Contains sex in a shed, a seagull with a grudge, glamping, awful Secret Santa underwear, misuse of an Abba song, and as many wood-related puns as the author thought she could get away with.

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: It’s a Mystery

Flashback Friday

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another peek into the vault of novels past, as we dust off a few great Mysteries from the Gay Romance/Fiction genre. As always, we’re giving you the opportunity to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of one of these selected titles by clicking on the Rafflecopter widget below.

But before we get to this week’s recs, I want to announce last week’s “Bad Boys” winner, H.B., who selected Stories Beneath Our Skin by Veronica Sloane.

We’ll be taking next week off due to Thanksgiving weekend, but will be back before Christmas with some of our favorite holiday reads.

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TNA_Signature_MaryannI first ran across Geography of Murder and its sequel, A Forest of Corpses, in 2012, and even after the third time reading this series, it still gets me. There’s just something about the way P.A. Brown wrote these stories in the first-person and gave life to her two MCs, Spider and Jason. I have to say, Spider and Jason are explosive, complex, like oil and water. Ms. Brown builds a page turning mystery that’s believable, with intricate investigation details.

From the outset, you would think this is just too easy a crime for Spider to solve. He’s got a dead body and a very live body next to it. He’s sure Jason Aaron Zachary is the killer. But once Jason is taken in for questioning, Spider has the feeling that Jason is innocent, though he’s still sent to jail. When Jason is cleared, Spider is waiting for him.  Then, another murder occurs and there are two dead pedophiles, lots of suspects, and Spider and his partner Nancy have their hands full.

Detective Alexander Spider, you will (or almost) hate! He’s cocky, abusive and has a dark side.  I know. Being a detective, Spider has seen a lot of horror. But I won’t make excuses for him. He’s in control no matter what, is into BDSM, and to be fair, I will warn you that it turns to abuse.

Jason Zachary is twenty-two, lost and trying to find himself. Family, drugs and his own mistakes have put him in a bad situation. He’s also got a sweet side to him, loves nature, and is so knowledgeable in ornithology. And Jason also has to make a decision to save himself.

Spider and Jason come back in A Forest of Corpses, and we see their personalities and lives have changed. There’s murder, drugs, and danger ahead, and an unlikely hero in this story.  I couldn’t find other books in this series from P.A. Brown, but maybe this is the best way to leave Spider and Jason.

Geography of MurderAll Jason Zachary wants is to keep the loneliness and despair at bay. He escapes to the clubs where drugs and a warm body for the night offer fleeting comfort. But when he wakes one morning, dazed after another blackout, to find himself in bed with a dead body, his life careens him into the arms of Detective Alexander Spider. For Jason, Spider becomes an addiction, a drug that makes him feel alive and safe; his body craves Spider’s control, and Jason falls hard.

But Alex Spider sees the darker side of humanity daily, and he isn’t looking for connections, only to drown himself in encounters with nameless subs willing to let him play his bondage games. His attraction to Jason begins as lust for one more golden boy, but their games of pain and pleasure grow into a tenuous trust, arousing feelings in Spider that are the first light he’s seen in a long time.

But as Spider races to solve a brutal homicide, the daily grind of the job takes its toll, and Spider’s control slips dangerously. A killer closes in, and Spider must confront his own inner darkness, while Jason struggles to save himself by making some hard choices.

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TNA_Signature_SammyOMG!  My favorite genre and I had so, so many novels to choose from for this flashback, but hand’s down the mystery I chose was simply outstanding!

Sinner’s Gin is the name of a hot and rising band whose lead vocalist, Miki St. John, is a former street kid haunted by his abusive past at the hands of a diabolical community “good guy,” and his equally slimy cohort, a Chinese restaurant owner. When that same pair end up hacked to pieces and left to be discovered, it is obvious that one of the former “foster boys” had vengeance on the mind and, for some reason, wants Miki dead as well.

Kane is one of the detectives assigned to the case, and he is a genuine good guy who rapidly finds himself falling for the lonely Miki. So much has happened to Miki in a short time–devastating events that have left him emotionally compromised.  A few months before, the other three band members of Sinner’s Gin, which included Damien, Miki’s best friend, were killed in a fatal car crash, leaving Miki behind.  Now someone wants him dead and Miki has nowhere to turn.

Now the race is on to figure out who is doing the killing.  As the story progresses and Kane begins to lose his heart to the fragile Miki, the action picks up and you are suddenly in the midst of a taut, fast-paced mystery.  Throw in a visit from Kane’s Irish fireball of a mother, and a visit to the family home, and you have an incredibly well written story with some genuinely hilarious comedic moments thrown in besides!

I really loved this book. I wanted to wrap these guys up and take them home. The sex was both incredibly intimate, intense and erotic and, to be frank, it was so smoothly written that it fit perfectly into the overall plot–just the right amount and carefully written to address the idea that Miki was formerly sexually abused.

Be forewarned this is book one of a series and when you read the absolutely SHOCKING ending to this book, you will want to order up book two, Whiskey and Wry, immediately. What an incredible cliffhanger!!! LOVED IT!

Sinner's GinThere’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaI seem to keep picking series for these Flashback Fridays, and this week is no exception. :)

My mystery series of choice is a group of books by one of my favorite authors (also one of my favorite people), Eden Winters.  This series is five books—so far—that center around two undercover narcotics agents for the Southern Narcotics Bureau, Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter and Bo Shellenberger.  These two men could not be any more different.  Lucky is the former lover of a drug dealer who got caught up in the life and is working off his sentence.  Bo is a former Marine and pharmacist who got a little too close to his product.  During their first case together, their clashing work styles lead to some pretty intense disagreements, but those disagreements don’t stop what’s quickly becoming a relationship beyond work partners. The stutter and stop of the progress of this pair is fun to watch.  Lucky is a smartass redneck who has some issues with his people skills – and he has one of the most distinct voices of any character I’ve read.  Bo is just about Lucky’s polar opposite – a health nut, by-the-book kind of guy, who doesn’t always appreciate Lucky’s “corner cutting” and less than SOP style.  But they manage to work together in case after case. They also have to keep their relationship under wraps because of department policy and because they don’t want their team to be split up.  With each book in the series, the stakes become higher and higher for both Lucky and Bo and for their relationship.  As they deal with more dangerous and deadly enemies, the constant threat takes a toll on them as well.  The well-drawn and believable progression of these men as a couple is enough to recommend this series.

But beyond the amazing characterizations of these two protagonists, these books are really smart.  I learn something new and fascinating in each new book – whether it’s the illegal drug dispensing and theft of pharmaceuticals, the so-called “grey markets” for scarce drugs, new designer street drugs or cross-border drug running, I’m always amazed at the content of these stories.  Ms. Winters does a LOT of research for these books, and it shows.

The fifth book in this series has been published this year and as the series has expanded, we also have gotten to know a number of impressive secondary characters.  Walter, Lucky and Bo’s boss at SNB, is still a bit of an enigma, and particularly in books four and five of the series, the reader is never quite sure who to believe and who may/may not be the bad guys.  Agent Loretta Johnson is also a breath of fresh air – in so many ways.  I would really like to know more about her and maybe we’ll get that in the next book. :)  One of the best things about this series is that while there may be the resolution of a particular case or plotline in each book, there are definitely underlying mysteries that continue to thread through the series that keep me coming back for more.  I am anxiously awaiting more of Lucky and Bo!

DiversionThere are good guys, bad guys, and then there’s Lucky.

Former drug trafficker Richmond “Lucky” Lucklighter flaunts his past like a badge of honor. He speaks his mind, doesn’t play nice, and flirts with disaster while working off his sentence with the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau. If he can keep out of trouble a while longer he’ll be a free man–after he trains his replacement.

Textbook-quoting, by the book Bo Schollenberger is everything Lucky isn’t. Lucky slurps coffee, Bo lives caffeine free. Lucky worships bacon, Bo eats tofu. Lucky trusts no one, Bo calls suspects by first name. Yet when the chips are down on their shared case of breaking up a drug diversion ring, they may have more in common than they believe.

Two men. Close quarters. Friction results in heat. But Lucky scoffs at partnerships, no matter how thrilling the roller-coaster. Bo has two months to break down Lucky’s defenses… and seconds are ticking by.

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TNA_Signature_LisaOnce again I’m going to throw out a few titles this week just to make things fun and interesting, and once again, I hope to have thrown in enough variety to highlight the uniqueness of the mystery genre.

My first title is an Urban Fantasy mystery I read back in 2010, Andrea Speed’s Infected: Prey.

Roan McKichan is a virus child, which is Speed’s way of delineated Roan from the rest of this series’ infected. In other words, Roan, rather than being bitten, was born with the gene that makes him part human/part shifter, and the Roan we see at the beginning of this series is not only an anomaly but also becomes an evolutionary enigma that no one can explain by the time the author wraps things up. In fact, to put a finer point on it, Roan shouldn’t even be alive… But Roan’s entire being is sort of one big Fuck Off to norms and convention, so why shouldn’t he be just that contrary? Especially when he’s king of the urban jungle.

I’ll be perfectly honest right here and tell you that Prey isn’t the best book in this series, and I’ve spoken to a few people who gave up on its sequels after reading it, but in the history of all fiction, if there’s a series I’d beg anyone to stick with, Infected is right up there at the top of the list. Speed has such a fantastic sense of humor and a knack for creating characters you want to hang out and have a beer with that it’s impossible not to become emotionally invested in them, and even though this series is NOT a romance, Roan and Paris’s relationship is a love story for all time. I can say with at least 99.99% accuracy that I’ve never cried at a book the way I did at Infected: Bloodlines (okay, maybe when Dobby died, but that’s it! And Snapey, but that’s my final offer). But that’s the beauty of this series–though Roan’s an ex-cop turned PI, and there are mysteries to be solved, so much of these books are also about Roan as a person and a lion and a freak of nature. And we can’t forget about the people who love him and just want him to live–they’re awesome.

When I finally got to Infected: Epitaph, the final book in the series, I almost felt this sense of wonder and awe that Roan and Dylan and Holden and the Hockey Boys don’t truly exist somewhere in this world, because for those eight books they were so alive in my imagination and had earned a spot in my wee li’l heart. And there’s not much better than that. If I ever meet Andrea Speed in person, I want to frigging high-five her for staying true to her canon, too, for not pulling any punches or God-In-The-Machine miracles to appease us readers. There may not be any happily-ever-afters promised, but sometimes a happy-for-now is the best we can hope for. Especially when you’re a walking time bomb.

Infected PreyIn a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.

The murder of a former cop draws Roan into an odd case where an unidentifiable species of cat appears to be showing an unusual level of intelligence. He juggles that with trying to find a missing teenage boy, who, unbeknownst to his parents, was “cat” obsessed. And when someone is brutally murdering infecteds, Eli Winters, leader of the Church of the Divine Transformation, hires Roan to find the killer before he closes in on Eli.

Working the crimes will lead Roan through a maze of hate, personal grudges, and mortal danger. With help from his tiger-strain infected partner, Paris Lehane, he does his best to survive in a world that hates and fears their kind… and occasionally worships them.

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My next recommendation started something–I don’t know what to name it, really–but before I even made it out of chapter one, I’d emailed this author. To be more precise, when a white, coiffed helmet of artfully arranged hair, along with rosy cheeks and a pert bow mouth, were all revealed to be sitting atop a pleasantly round and huggable body…clad in a leather bra and panties, and toting a shotgun, I was hooked.

Who the hell but Cole McGinnis could find himself being chased by a lesbian leather granny with a mad desire to swiss cheese his ass? Nobody. Who could ever dream of writing it? Rhys Ford.

Cole hasn’t had what anyone would call a perfect life. Rejected by his father and stepmother, abandoned by his birth mother, navigating a fragile relationship with his brother Mike, and victim of a horrific crime that not only stole a lover but a best friend, when Cole meets the beautiful and elusive Kim Jae-Min…God but does he ever need some one to love, and for that someone to love him back.

So alongside the murder mystery, which looks like a suicide but, of course, isn’t, we also watch the beginning of what evolves into a difficult and crazy-making and frustrating and gorgeously real love story of a man who’s Japanese/Irish ancestry are vague labels of his lineage. And the other? His Korean heritage means duty and honoring its traditions and is, at times, unfathomable to our Western sensibilities that there are actually people in this world who put cultural expectations before their own happiness. But, that’s the beauty of watching Jae unwind, and watching Cole give everything of himself to a man who has a difficult time allowing himself the joy of loving Cole back.

Dirty Kiss is a true mystery, i.e., I hadn’t the foggiest clue who the killer was until the moment that person was revealed, but along the way, I got to meet Scarlet, Claudia, Bobby, Cole, and Jae, and they are, to this day, some of my all-time favorite people. Along with the book’s author.

Dirty kissCole Kenjiro McGinnis, ex-cop and PI, is trying to get over the shooting death of his lover when a supposedly routine investigation lands in his lap. Investigating the apparent suicide of a prominent Korean businessman’s son proves to be anything but ordinary, especially when it introduces Cole to the dead man’s handsome cousin, Kim Jae-Min.

Jae-Min’s cousin had a dirty little secret, the kind that Cole has been familiar with all his life and that Jae-Min is still hiding from his family. The investigation leads Cole from tasteful mansions to seedy lover s trysts to Dirty Kiss, the place where the rich and discreet go to indulge in desires their traditional-minded families would rather know nothing about.

It also leads Cole McGinnis into Jae-Min’s arms, and that could be a problem. The death of Jae-Min’s cousin is looking less and less like a suicide, and Jae-Min is looking more and more like a target. Cole has already lost one lover to violence he’s not about to lose Jae-Min too.

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All right, readers, you want the wayback flashback? How about a book first published back in 1970? This next recommendation is some seriously perfect noir fiction, and if you’ve ever had anyone try to explain to you the difference between gay romance and gay fiction, this book is that difference.

Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter Mystery series is a seminal work in the genre. Yes, Dave is gay, but his sexuality is not the focus of these books. In fact, Dave is a Private Investigator who happens to be gay, not a gay man who happens to be a Private Investigator, and there-in lies the difference. The series isn’t about Dave’s sexuality and all the obstacles he faces being gay in the 70s, but it’s about the fact Dave is damn good at what he does, and when he smells a fraud, he’ll scrape and gnaw at every single clue until he uncovers the truth. That’s not to say, however, that there isn’t a certain romanticism to the book Fadeout, for both Dave and for the man whose death Dave is investigating.

Because the blurb for this book is seriously lacking, let me give a quick and dirty recap. Fadeout is this: The year is 1967. Dave Brandstetter is a death claims investigator for Medallion Insurance, the company owned by his father (who’s pretty damn accepting of his gay son, considering the time period). He’s looking into what appears on the surface to be the accidental death of Fox Olsen, a popular public figure in the small town of Pima. Fox was many things: a husband, a father, an entertainer, a performer, an aspiring author, a mayoral candidate, and a man with a secret. Fox had just reached the point in his life where he was worth more alive than dead, after years of living hand to mouth. But then he died in an accident that left behind a car but no body, and an insurance policy with a hefty payout. It’s Dave’s job to find Olsen’s body because no sign of foul play means his company will have to pay the claim on the one-hundred-fifty thousand dollar policy that, let’s face it, could inspire murderous tendencies in a desperate enough person. Greed and desperation have caused people to do murder for a lot less. No corpse, however, now means it’s Dave’s job to sniff out all the facts behind the incident to prevent a fraudulent payout.

If you’re not familiar with the noir style, this book is a perfect representation of that. The short, choppy sentences and dark atmosphere, along with what is, at times, a stream of consciousness delivery, doesn’t have the customary flow and cadence of other sub-genres. If you love long, lush sentences that go on for paragraphs, noir isn’t representative of that writing style. This book is also not written in the first person, which, for whatever reasons, I was anticipating, but not a bit of intimacy is lost in the third person telling, as Hansen not only wove a suspenseful narrative but endeared his forlorn hero to readers at the same time.

I loved his book, for Dave as much as the mystery, so much so that I bought book two before I’d even come close to finishing Fadeout. This is exactly the book you’re looking for if you want a tightly plotted whodunit with a slightly downbeat but nonetheless endearing protagonist.

Dave Brandstetter stands alongside Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade and Lew Archer as one of the best fictional PIs in the business. Like them, he was tough, determined, and ruthless when the case demanded it. Unlike them, he was gay.

Joseph Hansen’s groundbreaking novels follow Brandstetter as he investigates cases in which motives are murky, passions run high, and nothing is ever as simple as it looks. Set in 1970s and 80s California, the series is a fascinating portrait of a time and a place, with mysteries to match Chandler and Macdonald.

In Fadeout, Dave is sent to investigate the death of radio personality Fox Olsen. His car is found crashed in a dry river bed. But there is no body – and as Dave looks deeper into his life, it seems as though he had good reasons to disappear.

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THE GIVEAWAY

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Bad Boys Edition

Flashback Friday

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday. Today we’re featuring some of the Bad Boys of fiction–the rocker boys and risk takers, rebels and heartbreakers–and, as always, there’s a chance to win an e-copy of one of our selected titles via the Rafflecopter widget below.

But before we get to the gist of this, congratulations goes to H.B., who selected Taylor V. Donovan’s Six Degrees of Lust from our Everyday Heroes edition.

And now, here are this week’s picks!

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TNA_Signature_SammyI love bad boys, I truly do, for they are often hiding the most tortured or wounded soul that is just screaming for someone to look beneath the bullsh*t and love them–really love them and not their hype.

Perhaps the most perfect example I have read of just such an anti-hero is The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest.  This story is one of the sweetest stories of love and redemption ever to grace the m/m romance genre. Zathyn Priest weaves a story of a wounded and lost soul, a musical prodigy and genius, Alec Tyler (aka Tyler Curtis), bad boy goth rocker extraordinaire.

Abandoned by an evil and heartless mother, left parentless after the death of a beloved father at the age of 17, Alec is “discovered” by a cruel and money hungry man, turned abusive manager, Frank Brooks. For the next two years, Brooks mercilessly molds Alec into a superstar, hiding his epilepsy and grand mal seizures, under-medicating the same, and slowly robbing him blind. And then, across the streets of London, a girl named Bec wins a pair of tickets and convinces her standoffish gay brother Jordan to go to the concert of one Tyler Curtis.

Trying to escape the crowd after the concert, Jordan hides by the side of the stage when suddenly, Alec steps out and dances…for the audience of one…one young man who sits mesmerized by the exquisite grace of the other…and the line that Zathyn Priest writes for his MC to utter to the other says it all, “God…you’re exquisite.”

And so begins a love affair that will culminate in perhaps the sweetest most satisfying ending to a book I have ever read.

This novel was written seven years ago and still stands as one of the most beloved bad boy rocker stories in the genre.  If you haven’t read it already—do it!  If you have—maybe it’s time for a reread!

The Curtis ReincarnationJordan’s got a good life. He’s got his own web business, a fat cat for a pet and his own house, which he shares with his sister — oh well, nothing’s perfect. Also not perfect is not having someone special to share his life with. His sister Rebecca believes it’s because he’s too picky and too unapproachable, but Jordan just wants someone to do the Sunday crossword with, take walks with, someone who’ll be his mate for life. Is that really too much to ask?

One night Rebecca drags Jordan to a Tyler Curtis concert. Tyler is a notorious bad boy who treats his audience with contempt and sleeps with a different groupie every night, and Rebecca is determined to be tonight’s groupie. Jordan is there under protest. At least he is until he meets the man beneath the crass, bad boy image. Will Jordan get to know the true Tyler or will Tyler’s manager and a world wanting the man to match the image conspire against them?

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TNA_Signature_JulesAhhh – we all love bad boys…And, who fit the ‘bad boy’ bill more than rockers and musicians, right? Most rock stars are rebels at heart, and we love that about them. These hot messes are often in need of redemption, and are always in need of attention and love. I love it when an author can take us on a journey where we meet the quintessential bad boy, find out why he’s broken (if he is), see what makes him tick, and watch him find the person that is going to understand him and love him. SJ Frost does a fantastic job at this in the first two books of her Conquest series.

Conquest and No Fear both feature Jesse Alexander and Evan Arden as the main characters – and even though Jesse can truly be a pain in the ass, and things between the two of them happen very quickly in the first book, I completely fell in love with them.

From my review of Conquest:

I. Loved. This. Book. Even when I wanted to throw my Kindle out the window! Jesse and Evan are just…perfection together. It doesn’t even feel hokey that they get together so fast, because it just feels…right.

Jesse is an extremely temperamental, but gifted artist, who just can’t quite get it right with his band, Conquest. When he finally meets his idol, Evan Arden, things start to fall into place. Yet that is also when all the sparks start to fly in both his personal and professional life.

The other characters are also fun. Some that you’ll love, like Kenny and Julian from Conquest, and Jesse’s brother, Brandon – and then some that you’ll love to hate. The drama is mostly of the ‘record execs being dicks, and the band trying to rise above’ variety, rather than true drama between our MCs, which is how I prefer it.

A fun side note (and a peek into what a ridiculous nut job I am): I read these two books over a weekend while on a business trip, and a dear friend read them with me. We stayed up basically all night one night reading and messaging each other because we couldn’t put the book(s) down; and then the next day, in between meetings and conference events, I read, and hand wrote notes with my book flails on them in my seminar notebook, that I then took pictures of and texted to her. Oh, man…Good times.

I LOVE the broken, bad boy, rock star trope. I’ve read quite a few rockers that have been well written, and that I’ve also loved – maybe they’ll make it into another Flashback Friday edition somewhere down the road – but, none that have quite lived up to my adoration of Jesse and Evan. They were my first M/M rockers, and are still my favorites. Definitely check them out if you haven’t read them. Or, read them again if you have! That’s what I plan to do! :)

conquestVocally gifted singer, Jesse Alexander, has dreams of taking his band, Conquest, to the top. Evan Arden was thought of as a musical genius when at the height of his career he vanished from the spotlight. Together, their relationship is just as intense as their music careers. With success pushing down on them, Jesse must decide between his life of music, or his life with Evan.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaThe book I’ve chosen for this week’s Flashback Friday is a book called Stories Beneath Our Skin. I was thinking about tattoos, I guess, since I’m about to start my largest tattoo to date. This was a new-to-me author when I picked up this book and I’m really glad I did.

This book really spoke to me on so many levels.  Anybody who knows me knows I’m a huge sucker for f*cked up characters, so of course I was in heaven with this story. Liam has had enough to deal with at age twenty-two to account for several lifetimes. He’s closed himself off and made himself very successful in his academic pursuits. But there is a pervasive sadness to him that maybe he is mostly unaware of – or at least immune to – at this point. While spending his days at the hospice waiting for his uncle to die, he needs something to take up his evening hours. When he goes to get a part time job at a tattoo parlor, we know by his reaction that there is a story there beneath the surface – and that it’s not a pretty one. Ace, the owner, takes a chance on him. From there, Liam is thrust into this strange little group of people – all of whom have their own issues as well.

The plot itself has some interesting twists, like a lot of stories we come across in real life. ;) The dance that Liam and Ace do around each other for a while makes us root for them all the more. Both deserve something good, but especially Liam. The relationship is slow in building and realistic in that Ace is a good bit older than Liam, and he knows he’s got family issues he has to deal with as well. There was a lot of consideration and deliberation on the parts of both characters.

The supporting cast of characters give depth to the story. They provide the nudging and the support that allow Liam and Ace to come together. Each one of them gives a little different flavor to the book. What a great group of friends and family. It’s really a testament to the author that this group of friends are really believable as a family. In these days when so many people do not have connections with their blood relatives – for whatever reason – the families we choose are many times much more integral to our lives than the ones we were born into.

A lot of this story is a little bit heartbreaking, but a lot of it is also hopeful and definitely well worth the time to read.

Stories Beneath Our SkinTattooing might have once been Liam’s passion, but he left it all behind along with ugly memories when he went to college. When his uncle’s health fails, Liam must come home at last to say his goodbyes. His days are spent at the hospice, leaving his nights to rake over the past. To fill those empty hours, he takes a job at Great Sin Ink. The close knit friendship of the workers there both intrigues and shakes Liam, who has spent the last four years keeping everyone at arm’s length. Neither Deb, the no-nonsense piercer, nor Goose, a manic tattoo artist, will let Liam get away with his isolationist ways for long.

If it were just those two, Liam might have stood a chance — but there’s also Ace, the owner of Great Sin. He hires Liam despite a thin resume, and that is a kindness Liam can’t forget. The two start up a tentative friendship, learning about each other as the summer days melt into each other. Slowly, Liam reveals a tender heart underneath the wall of quotes he uses to keep everyone out. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stand still, and both Liam and Ace have hard struggles before them that might break them up before they can even get together.

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TNA_Signature_LisaOkay, I dunno about you, but I just went and One-Clicked Sadonna’s rec. O.o

Because we didn’t get a lot of participation and representation for the Bad Boys this week, I’m going to cheat and pull out a few titles from my backlist. Variety is the spice of life, after all, right? And where would we be without a good cross-section of them to choose from? =)

The first book I’m dusting off today is Jess Faraday’s debut M/M novel The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. Understanding that historical fiction isn’t everyone’s cuppa, I’ll be 100% up front right now and tell you this is a historical novel, but if you’ve ever considered giving the genre a try, I can say this is a great place to start.

Drug trafficking, human trafficking, blackmail, betrayal, duplicity, moral ambiguity, prostitution, and murder; all are things you might expect to find in the Whitechapel district around the time Jack the Ripper took the life of his final victim, Mary Kelly, then seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. The lovely thing is that all of those dark and dangerous elements take place within the pages of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog too.

Cain Goddard saved Ira Adler from the streets of ‘Chapel, where Ira had been selling his body in order to survive. Cain brings Ira into his home and teaches the young man to read, write, and speak like a proper gentleman, hiring Ira as his “personal secretary,” though their relationship is far from the socially acceptable front they’re forced to portray to a world where anything more could find them both imprisoned (or worse) for gross indecency. Goddard has multiple faces, in fact, being not only a gay man but a rogue and a scholar as well. He was once an esteemed teacher at Cambridge University, but was sent down in a scandal for which he’s now being blackmailed. Since Goddard is unable to fulfill his one passion—teaching—he immerses himself fully in the other role—becoming the infamous Duke of Dorset Street, a hated and feared criminal whose questionable ethics and rationalizations make him a fully intriguing character, and a man whom Ira struggles and, ultimately, fails to align his own moral boundaries with.

Mystery and suspense abound in this book’s pages, and I have to be honest here–the sequel, Turnbull House, is even better. Cain Goddard may just be my all-time favorite bad boy of fiction.

The Affair of the Porcelain DogLondon 1889.

For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard’s blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone’s after it, including Ira’s bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.

As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard’s present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.

In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.

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And now for something completely different, my next title is a contemporary romance filled with rocker boys, loads of angst, and, quite honestly, a twist I didn’t see coming until it happened and then I asked myself, “Pfft, how did you not see that coming?!”

M.J. O’Shea and Piper Vaughn’s Moonlight Becomes You was re-released by Dreamspinner last year, but I first read it back in 2011 when it was published by Loose Id. It’s a story of betrayal, revenge, redemption, and, finally, atonement for a disloyalty that destroyed a relationship.

Shane Ventura and his younger brother Nicky didn’t have much but an abusive father and an absentee mother growing up. The one thing they did have, though, was their music and their dreams of making it big. There was just one key component missing from the band Luck, and Shane finds that key in Jesse Seider, a nerdy, plain, and chubby boy who’s enlisted to tutor Shane so he can graduate from high school. The improbable connection that forms between Shane, the boy with the bad-ass attitude, and Jesse, the boy who isn’t afraid to challenge Shane, comes through their mutual love of music. Jesse is a gifted musician and singer, and though he is the antithesis of what a rock star supposedly looks like, it’s his addition to the band that fills a need and brings the group together.

Standing at the threshold of success, Luck is about to sign a contract that will bring them the recognition and fame they’ve always wanted—there’s one condition, though…the record label says Jesse has to go. And the boy Jesse loves, the boy who loves him in return, has been elected to swing the ax.

Out of loyalty to Nicky, and maybe just a little greed for finally attaining something bright and positive in his life, Shane does it. He kicks Jesse out of the band, out of his life, and shatters both of their hearts in the process.

Eleven years later, Shane has become the pathetic caricature of an aging rock star—drugs, booze, and an endless supply of nameless sycophants who are more than willing to share his bed for a night have done nothing to erase the sorrow and shame he feels for his betrayal of Jesse.

Then he meets Kayden Berlin, lead singer of the band Moonlight, and feels that first spark of attraction, but he quickly discovers the feelings are not returned. In fact, the only emotions Kayden seems capable of showing toward both Shane and Nicky are utter loathing and contempt. Which makes Shane even more determined to get behind the man’s walls and melt his icy exterior. It seems Kayden Berlin may be the one and only man who can fill the space in Shane’s heart that was left gaping when he turned his back on Jesse.

Angsty – check. Sexy – check. Bad boys – check. Happy ending – check check. Moonlight Becomes You is about as romantical as a book can get.

Moonlight Becomes YouEleven years ago, Shane Ventura made the biggest mistake of his life when he caved in to pressure from his record label to kick his best friend, Jesse Seider, out of their band, Luck. To this day, Shane has never wanted anyone more, and all the sex and alcohol in the world can’t fill the void Jesse left behind. Not even the prospect of teaming up with Britain’s hottest band, Moonlight, for a massive world tour can get him out of his funk. Then he meets lead singer Kayden Berlin and falls into instant lust.

Kayden may act like he’s not interested, but Shane knows he feels the spark between them. Yet the harder Shane pushes, the more Kayden pulls away, until one explosive night leaves Shane with a broken heart. That seems to be his lot—lucky at everything but love. Shane still has one lesson left to learn, though: when it comes to love, you can’t always leave things to chance.

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And, for my final something completely different, how about some vampires? I’ve talked these novellas up one side and down the other, but I’m throwing them out here again because how can you talk about bad boys and NOT talk about a character named Wild Bill?

Jordan Castillo Price’s Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary series is comprised of five novellas (the continuation is a set of five more novellas called A Bitter Taste of Sweet Oblivion), and even the flipping series titles make me giddy. These boys were first introduced to the world back in 2008, when Michael takes up the mantle of justice and becomes a vampire hunter to avenge the death of his best friend Scary Mary.

Michael’s playing the killing game when he meets Wild Bill in a bar one night, but Wild Bill isn’t the target. In fact, Michael and Wild Bill are both hunting the same vamp when they meet, and it’s not until the two guys seduce their mark and stake him after an erotic three-way in Michael’s hotel room that Michael even comes to the realization that Wild Bill’s a vamp too. But by then, Michael’s got it bad for our vampire bad boy.

Wild Bill disappears just as quickly as he strutted his way into Michael’s space, but though he ran, he couldn’t hide. Michael’s gotten good at tracking and they meet again, and again… and they connect through something far more intangible and impossible to name than simple vengeance. Michael and Wild Bill live a vagabond life and exist on little more than blood, sex, and trying (when it’s possible) to do the right thing. But, it’s not always possible, and that’s what makes our bad boys so good–sometimes they have to be a little bit bad just to survive.

Michael and Wild Bill have become iconic in the M/M lexicon and are at the top of my list of some of my all-time favorite characters: human, non-human, or somewhere in between. They’re my addiction and every time I read the series, it gives me book hangover for days. Since I’ve read the books multiple times, though, I guess it’s more than worth it.

box-set-CMFSM200Michael is a waif in eyeliner who’s determined to wipe vampires off the face of the earth. Wild Bill’s got the hots for Michael, and will stop at nothing to go home with him.

Forget about moonlit castles and windswept moors. These bad boys haunt all-night diners and cheap motels, cut-rate department stores and long, lonely stretches of the Interstate. Ride along with Wild Bill and Michael as the twists and turns of Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary unfold in America’s Heartland.

Ebook box set contains the following novelettes: Payback, Vertigo, Manikin, Tainted, Rebirth.

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THE GIVEAWAY

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Everyday Heroes Edition

Flashback Friday

Welcome to this week’s edition of Flashback Friday and our solute to the Everyday Heroes. This installment of our Friday feature highlights the Cops, Firefighters, Private Investigators, and Men in Uniform who fight for justice at the risk of their own lives.

Last week’s winner of our Halloween Spooktacular was Laura, who selected Rick R. Reed’s The Blue Moon Café, and L.A. Gilbert’s The Ghost on My Couch as her prizes. Congratulations, Laura!

And now, here’s what we have in store for you this week. To enter for the chance to win an e-copy of one of our selected titles, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_SammyThere are so many fantastic hero stories on the m/m market today, from cops to firemen, the list is extensive.  One author who definitely deserves a place on that list is RJ Scott. Her novel The Fireman and the Cop is a sexy, intimate love story that really blew me away.

Max Harrison is not new to the firefighting business, but he is brand new to the small town of Ellery and is therefore dubbed “probie” by his fire chief. Having recently left the city and his former homophobic fire department, Max was just looking for a quiet place to fit in. Little did he know that his first fire as a volunteer fireman would lead him straight into a burning building and leave him rescuing a policeman by the name of Finn Ryan.

Finn is gay—one of the three gay men in Ellery, or so it felt. When he opened his eyes in the hospital to see the hunky fireman who rescued him from the blazing fire, the last thing he remembered was just that, the rescue. He certainly did not recall the rather flirtatious conversation that took place near the ambulance where he confessed to being gay and lusting after—you guessed it—firemen!

Max, however, did recall the chat and was determined to find out if he and Finn could possibly still be attracted to one another. Author RJ Scott does not leave us hanging for long. The Fireman and the Cop keeps us immersed in the flames of a growing attraction between these two main characters. However, someone else is interested in Finn as well, and has murder on their mind—Finn’s to be exact.

This novel lights up the page with suspense, passion and remarkably in-depth characters that keep you turning the pages in anticipation. I really enjoyed this story. Not only did I feel that the two main men were likeable and believable in both their instant attraction and growing regard for each other, but Finn’s two friends, the side characters, were compelling as well, and I am eager to see if she gives each of them their own story at some point.

RJ Scott uses her descriptive passages to set the stage for the mysterious subplot of the man stalking Finn—a man who is going to great lengths to not only frighten Finn but also injure and nearly kill him as well. Our poor policeman barely recovers from one life-threatening accident before being immersed in another. All the while, Max pursues him relentlessly, determined to find out if the two of them can have a relationship that will somehow allow two first responders to actually fall and stay in love.

This was a gripping story—a mystery, a love story, a learning to trust story all rolled into one, and it was beautifully done.

The Fireman and the CopRescuing cop Finn Ryan from a burning precinct was easy; it’s keeping him alive after that which fireman Max Harrison finds difficult.

Ellery is a quiet town in the Smoky Mountains, at the base of Ellery Peak, and nothing ever happens. Max is escaping from his firefighting job in the city to take up a role as assistant to the Mayor whilst also holding the position of a volunteer fire fighter.

Finn Ryan is one of only three cops in the small town and it soon seems to Max that someone is out to hurt the sexy cop. Rescuing Finn from a burning precinct was the easy part; it’s keeping him alive after that which fireman Max Harrison finds difficult.

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TNA_Signature_CarrieSix Degrees of Lust is the first book in the By Degrees psychological thriller series.  There are two books in the series so far plus one novella that is a nice little cherry on the top of this incredible mystery.  Taylor Donovan is scary how she gets into the mind of a psychotic killer and translates that to the page – these books read like a real intense episode of Criminal Minds. Never do you doubt the veracity of these characters.

Samuel Shaughnessy is the FBI team leader whose team has been tasked with the seemingly impossible job of bringing a serial killer to justice. The team nicknames the killer Lev because of his penchant for writing bible verses from Leviticus and leaving them on the bodies of young gay men in New York that he has killed. Profiling Lev is something they are exceptionally good at, as Lev leaves all kinds of clues behind with the bodies—they just can’t find him, and more young men keep dying. On a personal level Sam is all kinds of closed off. He has a difficult past, and he is only emotionally available to one man—his best friend Logan—so when he meets the former firefighter from Houston, Machlan O’Bannon, Sam doesn’t know why he keeps breaking his own rules about getting close.

Mac isn’t any more emotionally open than Sam is. Mac comes from a political family, and to out himself would hurt his father’s political standing. Not to mention the timing is all wrong for both men, as one is in the middle of an investigation and the other is leaving the firefighting world behind and running a bar in Houston. But these two just can’t get enough of each other, even though breaking through personal boundaries doesn’t come easy. And Lev is out there… and boys are dying… and this mystery is woven around these men and their lives in intricate and inexplicable ways neither man is aware of yet.

Warning: this is book one, which means the story continues in book two, Six Degrees of Separation. There is a reason this book is still eight dollars on Amazon, even though it came out in 2011.  It. Is. Just. That. Good. The way Taylor Donovan writes sets her apart from other writers, as she is an expert at threading all of her plots together and leaving you feeling totally in awe and completely, emotionally invested in not just the main characters but the supporting cast as well.

So, when you finish reading this book, get the second one. After all, the Lamb has not atoned for his sin yet…

Six Degrees of LustNew York City F.B.I. team leader Samuel Shaughnessy lives for his job and immediate family. Once upon a time he was a firm believer in love and happily ever after. Now he stays clear from personal entanglements and follows a very strict code of rules. Sexually active and emotionally unavailable works for him just fine.

A former Houston fireman, Machlan O’Bannon now manages a sports bar and is ready to become the man he always wanted to be: out, proud and drama free. His family wants to lock him in the closet, but he just wants to meet the man of his dreams.

One man is as high strung as the other is laid back. Mac has some decisions to make and Sam has a serial killer to catch. Their lives are not only different, but miles apart.

The timing is bad and intentions unclear. They don’t want to be involved… but can they stay apart?

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TNA_Signature_JulesEveryday heroes…If you guys are anything like me, I know some of your favorite book boyfriends fall into this category. Cops, firefighters, military men, private investigators, marshals…it’s hard not to love these guys. I have MANY favorites in this category. But, this week I wanted to highlight one that’s maybe not quite as obvious a choice as some others. I want to share the love for Luki Vasquez (and Sonny Bly James) of Lou Sylvre’s Vasquez & James series.

Luki Vasquez is an ex-ATF agent who now works in security in the private sector. He meets Native American weaver, Sonny Bly James, while working an extended job in Port Clifton – a small, fictional town on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. I loved so many things about this book (Loving Luki Vasquez), and this series. The settings and scenery are fantastic. The writing is beautiful – the description of the first time Sonny sees Luki, the reverence with which the author describes the landscape, and there is a sex scene in chapter seven which, my god. I will never forget it. It’s not just a beautiful romance, though; the action is honestly heart-stopping at times. So – we have fabulously sexy men, a thrilling plotline, and a wonderfully memorable romance.

I first read Loving Luki Vasquez about two and a half years ago, and fell totally in love with the characters, and with Lou Sylvre’s storytelling. I immediately knew that this was different than other books I had read – that Luki and Sonny were different than any other characters I had read. If you haven’t checked this series out, I highly suggest you do so!

LovingLukiVasquezReclusive weaver Sonny Bly James controls every color and shape in his tapestries, but he can’t control the pattern of his life—a random encounter with Luki Vasquez, ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, makes that perfectly clear. The mutual attraction is immediate, but love-shy Sonny has retreated from life, and Luki wears his visible and not-so-visible scars like armor. Neither can bare his soul with ease.

While they run from desire, they can’t hide from the evil that hunts them. After it becomes clear that a violent stalker has targeted Sonny, Luki’s protective instincts won’t let him run far, especially when Sonny’s family is targeted as well. Whether they can forgive or forget, Sonny and Luki will have to call a truce and work together to save Sonny’s nephew and fight an enemy intent on making sure loving Luki Vasquez is the last mistake Sonny will ever make.

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TNA_Signature_LisaOnce again, I’m stepping just a wee bit off the beaten path with my selection this week, because hey, I’m a rebel like that. But you see, reading books in the romance genre doesn’t often give us the opportunity to laugh–like, out loud guffaw laughing. Mostly we get angsting, yeah? So when a book can make me do more than just smile, when it makes me do more than just grin, that’s a book that works for me almost every time. The laughs begin in the opening paragraphs of my pick and don’t let up throughout the entirety of the book. They say laughter is the language of the soul. Well, I’m not sure whether that’s true or not, but if it is, then I want to be fluent in the language LB Gregg speaks.

My pick this week is LB Gregg’s Catch Me if You Can, Book One in the Romano and Albright series.

Caesar Romano seems to have a knack for attracting people who not only outright lie but also like to keep a variety of secrets as well. He has an ex-boyfriend who’s keeping a big one, a boss who’s keeping a somewhat bizarre one, a private investigator following him who’s keeping a rather significant one, and that’s just to name a few. In the meantime, he’s also got a job so financially inadequate that he’s forced to live with his Nana. There’s also his large Italian family—some of whom are a bit on the shady side—and he’s also dealing with the theft of a bust of Justin Timberlake sculpted entirely of watches. Oh, and don’t forget the whole blackmail thing, too.

No one ever said Ce’s life was a walk in the park. Sometimes it’s more like a whizz in a back alley, but it’s most definitely never boring.

Caesar is a person of interest in Detective Dan Green’s investigation of a stolen painting that reveals a plot to extort rather unorthodox sums of money from various sources. Ce’s also a person of interest on an entirely personal level for Detective Dan, but Caesar’s not particularly interested in anything Dan has to offer. Dan’s not exactly the kind of guy to just give up and go away, though—what kind of a detective would he be, after all, if he did? And, let’s face it, Dan most definitely has a way with words. Certain words, at certain times, that make it very difficult for Ce to keep his wits about him. It’s really a gift is what it is. A sexy, sexy gift.

Detective Dan and Caesar are approximately a metric ton of awesome, and the laughs just keep coming in Trust Me if You Dare, the second book in the series. I came thisclose to choosing another book entirely this week, but given the fact that book three, With This Bling, is set to pop soon, and given the extreme glee that’s flourished in my heart over that bit of news, I want to introduce you to this series and these characters so you can love them too.

Catch Me if You CanThe fear of getting caught is half the fun.

Lowly art gallery assistant Caesar Romano is freely out of the closet. Now he’d just like to get out of his Nana’s guest room. Everything—his reputation and his financial freedom—is riding on the success of tonight’s gallery opening. If only he could shake free of the past so easily.

A mysterious gatecrasher, Dan Green, looks like a promising addition to his pending new life—until Caesar’s ex shows up and suddenly the opening disintegrates into a half-naked dance melee. When the glitter settles, a missing sculpture of Justin Timberlake has Caesar up to his eyebrows in extortion, intrigue and a wild sexual adventure underneath, inside, and on top of a variety of furnishings.

As the cast of suspects piles up, so do the questions. Like who’s really blackmailing whom? And what does a stolen paint-by-numbers clown matter when Dan is so outrageously capable of blowing Caesar’s resistance to smithereens?

Warning: This book contains graphic language, sex, lies, intrigue, clowns, kleptomania, anal sex, oral sex, mutual masturbation, bad driving, good cooking, and the missing head of a Justin Timberlake statue. Not for the sour of disposition.

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Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Happy Haunts Halloween Edition

Flashback Friday

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Paranormal edition of Flashback Friday!

Because it’s Halloween, and Halloween happens to be one of my favorite holidays, I’ve relaxed the rules a bit for this segment and giveaway. Rather than all the titles being older recs we’ve read and loved, we’ve opened this FbF up to our overall favorite Paranormal reads—or, at least the ones we came up with off the tops of our heads this time around. We all know it’s impossible to choose just one all-time favorite, right? So some of these books are recent releases, but hey, if you haven’t had the chance to read them yet, click on the Rafflecopter widget and you just might win TWO of our selected titles. :)

And now, here they are, our happy and haunting Halloween faves!

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TNA_Signature_KathieThere were so many emotions for me while I was reading this book, but the one I remember the most is…Scared. Wow! Can Rick R. Reed write gay horror, or what?! The sex in this book is sensual, rough and on the edge of dangerous. The food that is served in the Blue Moon Café is sensual, rough and sounds amazing. The creature…well, it’s what nightmares are made of.

Let me share with you an excerpt of this book that I still think of every time I open the door at night, especially when there is a full moon overhead:

The door finally gave way. A large, hulking black wolf framed in the doorway, illuminated in silver by the light of the moon. Steam rose from its nostrils. Its mouth was open and drooling.

And that’s just a very small piece of a story that’s crazy-scary. The Blue Moon Café made quite an impression on me. Rick R. Reed is quite the storyteller.

The Blue Moon CafeSomeone—or something—is killing Seattle’s gay men.

A creature moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from the rain city’s gay gathering areas.

Someone—or something—is falling in love with Thad Matthews.

Against a backdrop of horror and fear, young Thad finds his first true love in the most unlikely of places—a new Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam is everything Thad has ever dreamed of in a man: compassionate, giving, handsome, and with brown eyes Thad feels he could sink into. And Sam can cook! But as the pair’s love begins to grow, so do the questions and uncertainties, the main one being, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?

Prepare yourself for a unique blend of dark suspense and erotic romance with The Blue Moon Cafe, written by the author Unzipped magazine called, “the Stephen King of gay horror.” You’re guaranteed an unforgettable reading experience, one that skillfully blends the hottest romance with the most chilling terror…

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TNA_Signature_CarrieIt’s 1799 New York and William is drunk. Waking in a bed of roses which belongs to the local magistrate is not a good thing, and his life is forever changed when instead of prison, he’s sent to an apprenticeship.  “Holding a lantern at the edge of the road was a tall, menacing figure in a dark hooded robe, complete with a veil that completely concealed his face.  It was Death himself, come to escort me into the underworld.” This is how William meets Merrick, the mysterious apothecary he has been indentured to.

William was a bookseller by trade, so he is an intelligent man. When things don’t add up with his new Master, he discovers secrets he never knew existed.

Clare Cray is an excellent writer and this book is one of her finest. In her own words, this is her “strange little story.” This book is a gothic romance between a vampire and his apprentice. The story is entertaining with just enough spooky to set the atmosphere, and you want the characters involved to have their HEA—but how can they when one is a vampire?

William is the sequel to this book, and I would recommend them both. You don’t have to get both, they can stand alone, but for the full effect read them together. It’s a perfect October treat!

MerrickNew York, 1799: the future looks bright for the charming young book dealer William Lacy, until a raucous night of drinking lands him in shackles. He narrowly avoids the brutal prison system thanks to his mother, who negotiates with the judge to secure him a five year apprenticeship in lieu of a jail sentence. And so William finds himself in a carriage bound for the remote woods upstate, where he’ll spend the next years of his life learning a new trade under some old master.

When he first sees Merrick, William thinks he’s been dropped into a medieval horror story. Tall and gruff, dressed in a hooded robe that completely conceals his features, and riding a black mare, Merrick might as well be the Grim Reaper.

But appearances are deceiving. A skilled apothecary and healer, Merrick proves to be a generous host and a gentle teacher, and William soon finds himself surprisingly comfortable in his new surroundings. And yet troubling mysteries abound: Why does Merrick never show his face or hands? Why do his movements seem so young and sure beneath his robes? What lies within the cave behind the stone cottage?

Something unnatural is afoot. But most alarming by far is William’s own reaction to his new keeper. For Merrick’s strange charms are bewitching enough by day; but by night, in the darkness of the room and the bed they share, William finds himself entirely overwhelmed by desires he never imagined...

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TNA_Signature_SammyI love scary stuff, I really do, and so this novel, Cowboys & Vampires, was just the ticket for me. I mean, c’mon, hot cowboys and vicious vampires, what’s not to like?! I flew through this story, just could not put it down. Hank Edwards is a consummate storyteller. This novel embraces a bygone era where small towns sat in the middle of nowhere, or wherever there was a gold rush, and the law was the sheriff and his men. No judge or jury—you were either guilty and hanged, or innocent and lived to see another day. So when Dex falls in love with the very person he should be hauling into jail, all hell breaks loose—including a vampire and his minions.

This novel had me by the throat in more ways than one. Hank Edwards writes some scary, heart pounding stuff and then infuses it with such humanity and yes, a love story to boot. I was hooked and nearly died when I got to that ending…oh, Mr. Edwards, you naughty author, you!

This was an incredibly fast-paced, action-packed and bite your nails kind of book—yes, it was that good!! Just remember to keep the lights on…all of them.

Cowboys & VampiresIn the frontier town of Belkin’s Pass, as a vampire quietly feeds on the local saloon girls and their customers, a tragedy teaches resident Josh Stanton he has the ability to raise the dead. Knowing he is now a wanted man, Josh flees into the arid plains of Venom Valley. Pursued by Dex, the town deputy and Josh’s best friend, the two realize their friendship is truly something deeper, and Dex has to decide if he’s a man of the law, or a man in love. The vampire, drawn by Josh’s power, circles ever closer, gathering his forces against them.

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TNA_Signature_CHRISIf you haven’t noticed, I’m a total THIRDS Nerd. I absolutely devour the books and will totally push them on anyone who will sit still long enough for me to extol their virtues. What can I say… Charlie Cochet has me utterly hooked into her fabulous world, and I completely love Dexter J. Daley. Sorry, Sloane, I would totally steal your man in a heartbeat!  After all that you’d think that would be my choice for my favorite paranormal book. It is but it’s not. Because it’s such a popular series, I thought I’d share one of my other favorites with everyone.

Would you believe that my favorite paranormal is a fantasy story? Considering my first book addictions were The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander’s series that featured Black Cauldron, my choice for favorite paranormal book is To the Other Side by S.J. Frost, the first book in her Terra series.

To the Other Side is that one perfect m/m fantasy book for me. It combined all the right elements to make it a very well crafted story. It had captivating characters, Garrett – the intrepid human explorer, and Bryson – the courageous and giving white witch. The world building was so well crafted that you could see Terra being real and hiding right inside the tree line just past that huge oak. It also has that classic good vs evil theme, in this case an evil Duke with his minion Warlock trying to steal an immortality ring from Bryson and his true love, Garrett.

What really made the story for me was one of the secondary characters, and boy, was he a character! Wynn is a romance reading, Oreo eating dragon that lives with Bryson. Now, dragons in Terra aren’t the large, fire-breathing kind you might think. They’re more along the size of the fire lizards from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall books, so the size of a large raptor or cat. Wynn is also seriously sarcastic and smarter than hell, and loves to annoy his house mates.

There is a true plethora of secondary characters that end up being featured in future books in the series. I completely admit that I adoringly stalked the author a bit because I wanted to know if she was going to write a book for two other characters that I absolutely craved to read about.

I don’t have enough words to say how much I absolutely love this book and these two characters, and that’s why it’s my favorite paranormal book.

To the Other SideGarrett Evergard is a finder of secrets. As a biologist and environmentalist, it’s his job to go into wild lands and uncover their mysteries in order to save them. In the Pacific Northwest, he races against logging lobbyists to save a section of temperate rainforest, but the forest seems reluctant to give up her secrets. Until a fateful meeting with a rare spirit bear opens the door to wonders beyond anything he’s ever imagine, the greatest of those being the beautiful man who comes to his rescue. As a witch and Gatekeeper, Bryson Summers is used to living a solitary life. He lives between two worlds, Earth and Terra, feeling not fully part of either, and dreams of meeting someone who understands him. From the moment he sees Garrett, he believes — and hopes — he’s looking upon a twin soul. Dragons, unicorns, and a witch with enchanting brown eyes, Garrett tries to make sense of a world so different from anything he’s ever known. But his mind and heart are open, and he finds himself drawn more to Bryson with each day they spend together. When Bryson and the gate that links the two worlds fall under threat, Garrett is willing to do all he can to protect them, even if it means facing down dark magic.

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TNA_Signature_AngelThough this isn’t a flashback story, as it was published earlier this year, I am recommending it because of the Halloween theme we have going on today. I love to be scared, and while I know that sounds strange, it is an exhilarating thing. Maybe it’s the endorphin rush from fear; I’m not real certain. Blood and gore don’t do much for me, but something that makes you think, psychological horror, now that is a fun time for me. And Silent Woods hit all my instant love buttons.

There’s an established couple, cute kids, and an eerily creepy setting that is as much a character as the people in the books. Silent Woods is Ofelia Grand’s take on a Swedish legend of the Fae, and it was fantastically done. I had never heard of this particular tale, and I really enjoyed reading this version of it. I love seeing the different takes on legends from around the world, and in this, Grand didn’t disappoint. The tension builds with wonderful characterization and storytelling, and though this is short, it is intense. It kept me in suspense the entire time, and the epilogue just cinched this story’s place in my heart as a go-to for a little scare re-read.

I read this short story all in one go, and it kept me up for hours afterward. In fact, it still does. The first time I read it, I got up out of bed to check on my daughter, not once but several times, and I’ve done it each time I have re-read this fantastic story.

Silent WoodsDaniel is married to an amazing man—a nature-loving man—and when that man suggests the family goes camping Daniel can’t say no. But even before they’ve left their home Daniel has a feeling that something is wrong.

He almost succeeds in convincing himself everything is as it should be, but then their five-year-old son, Axel, goes missing.

A search party arrives, and the two fathers encounter something far more sinister than either could ever have dreamed of. Will they find their son before it’s too late?

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TNA_Signature_JulesParanormal! Eeeeeek! There are SO many amazing books in this genre. I’ve only read a handful of M/M paranormal to date, but have every intention of adding more and more to my list. I can’t wait to see everyone else’s picks for this week’s Flashback Friday!

What I did read recently, though – just last week, in fact, in honor of Halloween being upon us – was Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk. I mean, c’mon…what’s spookier than ghosts, right??!? This book was utterly fantastic. It was a super creepy ghost story, sure – but it was also a romance, a historical, and a social commentary piece, a wonderful amalgamation as only Jordan L. Hawk can deliver.

Let’s talk about the ghosts, though, since that’s why we’re here. First of all, the title of this book is perfect, as these are spirits who are imprisoned at the place of their human demise. Unable to leave the mansion, held captive by the ghost of the man who caused their deaths, it is up to our heroes to try and set them free. I love the different ways the ghosts appear to Henry and Vincent and the other members of the group gathered at the castle for the experiment. The idea that Vincent can taste the presence of the spirit when it’s nearby was so cool and original to me. And, the way the ghosts manifested based on the energy available to them in the room was also very cool and creepy.

Along with being an amazing storyteller, of course, one of this author’s strengths is character development. Henry and Vincent are both fantastic, as are Henry’s cousin, Jo, and Vincent’s partner, Lizzie. What I also LOVED about this book was the diversity of the characters. There are two people of color – Vincent is Native American and Jo is half-black – and a transgender person. The struggles presented therein were woven into the story perfectly, and made it that much richer, in my opinion.

Restless Spirits is the perfect choice for a spooky read at Halloween, or any time! I whole-heartedly recommend it and can’t wait to read the sequel, Dangerous Spirits!

Restless-Spirits-400x600After losing the family fortune to a fraudulent psychic, inventor Henry Strauss is determined to bring the otherworld under control through the application of science. All he needs is a genuine haunting to prove his Electro-Séance will work. A letter from wealthy industrialist Dominic Gladfield seems the answer to his prayers. Gladfield’s proposition: a contest pitting science against spiritualism, with a hefty prize for the winner.

The contest takes Henry to Reyhome Castle, the site of a series of brutal murders decades earlier. There he meets his rival for the prize, the dangerously appealing Vincent Night. Vincent is handsome, charming…and determined to get Henry into bed.

Henry can’t afford to fall for a spirit medium, let alone the competition. But nothing in the haunted mansion is quite as it seems, and soon winning the contest is the least of Henry’s concerns.

For the evil stalking the halls of Reyhome Castle wants to claim not just Henry and Vincent’s lives, but their very souls.

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TNA_Signature_MaryannI have read many books by Carol Lynne, and felt I needed to nominate The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly, especially for this time of year. I love reading scary novels, and this tale of horror has it all.

Horror/romance isn’t the usual type of story that Lynne writes, but I have to say this is worth the read. “Claiming” is the long awaited sequel to Ghost of Alcatraz (published in 2011), and it takes us to the year 2020 and the new age, haunted prison.

The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly picks up after Ghost of Alcatraz, where Fisher Marx was first introduced. Fisher has a new life, but he’s not at peace with everything. He hears rumors about Patrick Donnelly and has every intention of finding the young man and help him. Patrick is haunted by the ghost of his father, who is abusing and tormenting him. When Fisher and Patrick find they can’t escape the evil, they are off to Pont-Aven, France, where evil continues its reign.

If you’re a fan of horror, I highly recommend reading Ghost of Alcatraz and The Claiming of Patrick Donnelly. Both are two excellent horror stories that will definitely will get you in the mood for Halloween!

The Claiming of Patrick DonnellyAfter taming the Ghosts of Alcatraz, Fisher Marx left his position as head of the World Police Unit to take a job in the small town of Toblerville. He’d hoped to live out his life in quiet splendor while still using his skills to protect the Hickory County residents, but everything changed when he heard rumors of a young man who claimed to be the victim of regular attacks by a ghost. Unable to put the young man out of his mind, Fisher decided to investigate the situation. What he discovered in the run down house outside of town would change his life forever.

Spider Webs

TNA_Signature_LisaAnd now, for something completely different…

2011 must have been one hell of a great reading year for me, because it seems like every time I settle on a title for Flashback Friday… I discover I read the book in 2011. Go figure.

As much as I love horror—and tis the season, etc., etc.—and as much as I could have gone the way of Jordan Castillo Price’s PsyCop or Channeling Morpheus/Sweet Oblivion series (both are stellar!), or gone to the waaaaay darker side of Paranormal with a good Poppy Z. Brite title, my choice today is none other than The Ghost on My Couch, L.A. Gilbert’s shmoopy and heartwarming novel that pits love against near-impossible odds.

Who says Halloween can’t be a little sweet too, right? :o)

This short novel tells the story of Alex Tanner, a man whose life can be summed up in two consistent events: working a demanding job and watching recorded episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, with little variation in the pattern of his days. After one particularly grueling shift at work, Alex comes home to unwind with a glass of wine in front of the television…only to discover a rather oddly dressed man sitting on his couch.

Sid Jones is that man. Or, rather, it’s the ghost of Sid Jones who’s parked on Alex’s sofa. He has no idea how he came to be in the limbo between life and death where he now resides, but he does know that in death, as in life, he’s entirely alone. Having grown up in the foster care system, and being a naturally shy and unassuming man, Sid knows there is no one to mourn his passing. But god, he’s sweet and gentle and entirely lovable, and it doesn’t take long for Alex to discover it.

Alex and Sid are completely endearing as a couple of men who have no idea how utterly fabulous they truly are. It takes seeing each through the other’s eyes, seeing how much each treasures the other’s friendship and how they come to value their connection that allows them to open their hearts to each other. And it works. Trust me, it works.

If you’re not into the darker side of Paranormal, are looking for something other than shifters and vamps and boo-wigglies, oh my!, to scratch your Halloween reading itch, and you’re looking for a completely smishable happily-ever-after, The Ghost on My Couch is the book you’ll want to read.

The Ghost on My CouchAlex Tanner is a male nurse who divides his time between his job and his television schedule. His idea of the perfect partner, like so many other people’s, is a tall, dark, and handsome man.

Preferably alive and breathing.

Surely that’s not asking too much?

Then an uninvited guest—a ghost, of all things—forces Alex to question what he’s always looked for in a lover and his definition of what makes a person so beautiful.

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Flashback Friday and Giveaway – Whereof What’s Past Is Prologue…

Flashback Friday

Hi, everyone, welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday! This week’s feature takes us back in time as we pay tribute to the Historical Romance genre. Once again, it wasn’t easy to settle on just one book. In fact, part of my problem this week was picking just one book from one of the best historical romance authors in the genre, when I really could have just said, “All of them.” So, once again, I imagine we’ll see this category pop up again in the future. :-D

And, speaking of the future, Flashback Friday will be going on hiatus for the next two weeks—we’re taking off for GayRomLit and then my family vacation to Disney World (woot!), following that. :) But we’ll be back with another installment on Friday, October 30th. So stay tuned…we may have some rather spooktastic recs for you just in time for Halloween. :)

Also, the winner of last week’s Young Adult/New Adult giveaway was Julie Smalls, who chose Hayden Thorne’s The Twilight Gods as her prize. Congratulations, Julie!

So, without further ado, here are this week’s Historical Faves. As always, be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of the titles.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_CarrieWhen I am thinking about buying a historical, I tend to gravitate to the regency period, which is one of the reasons this book really stood out for me. I love these authors and I was entranced by this book, The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov and Kate Cotoner. Squire William Raven is bold. He’s gunning for his spurs to become a knight and will let nothing stand in his way. When his lord, Sir Robert de Cantilou, returns from the Holy Land, he sees his chance. The historical accuracy of this book takes you straight back to medieval times and makes the book a treat to read. What more could bring a prideful squire to his knees than the love of his lord? The settings and story arc are believable for the times, and the characters are exceptionally well drawn for a novella. This is a story of true romance in an incredibly masculine setting. Sir Robert “sees” William – he sees past the bastard child with the chip on his shoulder to the friend underneath, and William is not intimidated by the returning warrior but is in love with the man.

I loved these characters and found myself wanting more and was ecstatic to find William, now known as the Lion of Kent, in another short novel, Deliverance. I highly recommend both books!

The lion of KentBlurb: Squire William Raven has only one goal–to finally receive his spurs and become a knight. When his lord, Sir Robert de Cantilou, returns from a five-year crusade in the Holy Land, William wants nothing more than to impress him.

After Sir Robert’s return, noble guests arrive from France, bringing intrigue to the castle. William is oblivious to the politics, as he’s distracted by nightly visits from a faceless lover–a man who pleasures him in the dark and then leaves–a man he soon discovers is none other than his master, Sir Robert.

But William can’t ignore the scheming around him when he overhears a plot to murder Robert. He becomes intent on saving his lord and lover from those who would see him killed…

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TNA_Signature_JenniferI love historical fiction so much, especially those set in the Victorian period. It’s such a fascinating time to read about because of how different everything was. This still holds true for m/m fiction. I know some people don’t like it because it’s not relatable, due to the laws at the time, but I’ve always found forbidden love to be the sweetest, and what could be more forbidden than two men during this time?

Thief by Ava March is one of my favorites. The first in the Brook Street trilogy, the book centers on Lord Benjamin and Cavin, a thief. Benjamin prefers men and he decides he wants to experience being with a man at least once. There he meets Cavin, and their fates are sealed.

What made this book even better for me was the class differences. Cavin may be a thief, but it’s by circumstance. He’s the underdog trying to get by, and even though some might disagree with how he gets by, I found him sympathetic. He’s warm and cares for a young boy whom he looks after as a brother. And Benjamin, once he gets a taste of men, embraces his sexuality.

The author does a fantastic job of transporting readers to 1800s London. I was there with the men as they travelled through gambling hells to rough parts of the city and beyond. Ava March writes this time period incredibly well, and readers of historical fiction will enjoy spending time with her characters.

ThiefBlurb: London, 1822 … It was only supposed to be one night. One night to determine once and for all if he truly preferred men. But the last thing Lord Benjamin Parker expected to find in a questionable gambling hell is a gorgeous young man who steals his heart.

It was only supposed to be a job. Cavin Fox has done it many times — select a prime mark, distract him with lust, and leave his pockets empty. Yet when Cavin slips away under the cover of darkness, the only part of Benjamin he leaves untouched is his pockets.

With a taste of his fantasies fulfilled, Benjamin wants more than one night with Cavin. But convincing the elusive young man to give them a chance proves difficult. Living with a band of thieves in the worst area of London, Cavin knows there’s no place for him in a gentleman’s life. Yet Benjamin isn’t about to let Cavin—and love—continue to slip away from him.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaIf you haven’t read anything by Kaje Harper yet, I just have one question. Why not?

I was introduced to the author with one of the M/M Goodreads Group’s free story events in the summer of 2011, when she first participated with a beautiful story called Like the Taste of Summer. I loved that story – gave it 5 stars, in fact, and realized this was an author to watch. She has since become an auto-buy for me.

The next summer she wrote another, much longer story for the same event. In fact, it ended up being novel length. That is the story I want to recommend to lovers of Historical Fiction. It’s called Into Deep Waters, and it tells the story of Daniel and Jacob, who meet on ship during WWII.

What starts out as a shipboard friendship becomes a one true love. This story covers so much history – not just Jacob and Daniel’s history but the history of those couples who were forced to live in the shadows because their love was not accepted. We get to watch Daniel and Jacob negotiate a changing world and live through a life both beautiful and scary. I’d like to share some of my original Goodreads review for this story.

Their first furtive kiss, their first night together on shore leave, their worry about each other as they are out at sea in battles – all lift their love right off the pages. When they are separated after their ship sinks and Jacob is too injured to return to the Navy, Daniel’s letters remind us of the horrors of war, while Jacob waits and worries. Their reunion, their trying to make their way as a couple hidden from everyone else in their lives reminds us how much things have changed. And yet, the acceptance by Jacob’s sister and her husband and their children also remind us that there have been straight allies too.

The writing in this story is nothing short of brilliant. If you haven’t read it yet, I’m happy to tell you that Kaje Harper is going to be releasing this story in Audiobook format sometime later this month – maybe as early as next week! Do yourself a favor and pick up this wonderful story in whatever format you prefer – you won’t be disappointed!

Into Deep WatersBlurb: For Jacob and Daniel, two young gay men aboard a Navy ship in WWII, the risks were high. Not just the risks of injury and death from Japanese planes and submarines, but the risk of discovery, of discharge, imprisonment or worse. Only a special kind of love was worth taking that chance. But from the moment Daniel met Jacob’s eyes across a battle-scarred deck, he knew he had to try.

Being together required figuring out what it meant to be gay and in love with another man, in an era when they could be jailed or committed for admitting the desires of their hearts. On a ship at war, their relationship was measured in stolen moments and rare days of precious leave, with no guarantees there would be a tomorrow. And if they survived the war, they would need even more luck to keep their love alive through all the years to come.

This Novel Can Be Downloaded for FREE on Smashwords

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TNA_Signature_LisaAs I said up ^^^ there, there’s an author who is outstanding in the Historical Romance category. This author isn’t perhaps as prolific as many of her peers in the M/M genre, but her writing is second to none. The fact that reading her books isn’t necessarily a history lesson but that you end up learning a little as a residual effect of falling in love with her characters and settings and the myriad things that happen, or have happened, to them are all just a bonus to her brilliant wordsmithing.

The author I’m speaking of is Tamara Allen, and while I could have gone with any one of her books this week, I’m settling on her post-World War I novel, Whistling in the Dark, a book I discovered back in June of 2011.

The story takes place in New York City, in 1919, on the cusp of Prohibition and the era when the American gangster began finding fame. Or infamy, I suppose. It follows not only “the war to end all wars” but also follows one of the deadliest outbreaks of influenza this country has ever known. The 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic wiped out more Americans than US servicemen and civilians killed in the war. Some of these young men and women returned home from foreign soil only to discover their families had been decimated by the flu while they’d been off fighting.

This is the case for Jack Bailey and Sutton Albright, two veterans who each have their fair share of external and internal scars, and two men who deal with their pain in their own ways. They’re making their way the best they know how—which isn’t at all well since they meet in prison. Not an unusual occurrence for Jack, but for Sutton it’s all a bit overwhelming. Finding himself on the wrong end of a proposition has landed this Kansas native in the Big Apple in jail for indecent behavior.

To steal a little snippet from the review I wrote for the book:

Surrounded by a small group of friends, Jack and Sutton find that strength comes in the numbers of those who love and support them unconditionally. Even in the face of his family’s potential rejection, Sutton finds the mere prospect of happily-ever-after a far more compelling force than returning to a life that could not possibly fulfill him. Jack’s love for Sutton is “a promise that, even when the world was falling down around him, would stay kept. But without saying a word, he knew that there would be comfort when he couldn’t sleep tonight. And tomorrow and the day after, there would be a home to go to, even if it was no more than a pair of arms around him and a head tucked close to his in the darkness.”

Through the power of music and the fledgling medium of radio broadcasting, Jack and Sutton each find the will and the hope to fulfill their dreams, while at the same time forming a bond that will prove to be the best medicine for the battle scars that afflict them both. The two men discover that though the war has ended, their fight is far from over, a fight for healing, for redemption, and for the right to love.

Whistling in the Dark is an absolute treasure for fans of historical fiction. Or, to borrow an adjective from Jack’s own colorful repertoire—it’s crackerjack.

whistling in the darkBlurb: New York, 1919. His career as a concert pianist ended by a war injury, Sutton Albright returns to college, only to be expelled after an affair with a teacher. Unable to face his family, he heads to New York with no plans and little money—only a desire to call his life his own.

Jack Bailey’s life has changed as well. After losing his parents in the influenza epidemic, he hopes to save their beloved novelty shop—now his—by advertising on the radio, barely more than a novelty, itself.

Sutton lands work in Jack’s corner of the city and the two conclude they couldn’t be less suited for friendship. But when Sutton loses his job, Jack gives him a place to stay. Sutton returns to the piano to play for Jack and finds the intervening months have healed him. The program promises to rescue Jack’s business and Sutton’s career…but success brings its own risks for two men falling in love.

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: You’re Only Young Once

Flashback Friday

Cheers, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday. This week we’re focusing on young love, first love, all the angst and wonder to be found in Young Adult/New Adult fiction.

The hardest part about choosing our Flashback Friday recommendations is when we get genre-specific because, let’s face it, every single one of us has more than one favorite book in the genres we frequent. In fact, Sammy and Sadonna have selected the same book this week–and again, I’ve read it and couldn’t agree more! In fact, I could have quite literally chosen any one of about a dozen titles this week, so be sure to watch for this category to show up again at a later date. Because young love, it ain’t kid’s play. ;-)

Congratulations to last week’s Flashback Friday winner, Silke, who selected Dani Alexander’s Shattered Glass. An excellent choice it is, too!

And, as always, click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win one of this week’s e-titles.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_JulesI’m so happy to be able to shine a spotlight on this book once again for this week’s Flashback Friday. I read and reviewed Gives Light back in January, and loved it so damn much, I just had to choose it for my contribution to our first ‘Fave YA’ books theme. And, in fact, it’s part of a series! So, if you’re like me, and like to get wrapped up in a world for more than one novel, you’re in luck.

Gives Light is the beginning of Skylar St. Clair’s story, and takes us through how he ended up living with his Granny on the Nettlebush Indian Reservation, as well as how he came to be mute, and how he met and fell in love with Rafael Gives Light.

In my review I described the book as “an important piece of literature that is at once a beautiful coming-of-age love story, and also an extremely thoughtful book dealing with several pressing Native American issues,” and I still think that’s a good, albeit a bit simplistic, summation. I was sucked into the story immediately; I couldn’t put it down, in large part due to the author’s fabulous storytelling ability, but mostly because of Sky. Stealing another snippet from my review…my thoughts on Sky:

“In Skylar, Rose Christo has created one of the most positive, loveable, funny, down-to-earth characters I have ever read. Sky’s attitude, wit, and zest for life are unparalleled, especially for someone who has had to overcome so much adversity, perhaps worst of all being the fact that he is mute. He runs at everything head-on, and won’t be brought down. I love him. Plain and simple.”

I know I’m supposed to be convincing you guys to go out and read this book…but, scrolling back through my highlights has made me want to read it again! I love reading YA, but I think even if YA isn’t your first choice, or you aren’t sure if you would like it, you should still add Rose Christo’s Gives Light to your reading list. This book has so much heart, and it’s so smart, and funny, and interesting. I can’t imagine anyone not being glad they gave it a try. If nothing else, I promise you that Skylar St. Clair is a character you won’t soon forget.

Gives light“Skylar is my name, tragically.” Sixteen-year-old Skylar is witty, empathetic, sensitive–and mute. Skylar hasn’t uttered a single word since his mother died eleven years ago, a senseless tragedy he’s grateful he doesn’t have to talk about. When Skylar’s father mysteriously vanishes one summer afternoon, Skylar is placed in the temporary custody of his only remaining relative, an estranged grandmother living on an Indian reservation in the middle of arid Arizona. Adapting to a brand new culture is the least of Skylar’s qualms. Because Skylar’s mother did not die a peaceful death. Skylar’s mother was murdered eleven years ago on the Nettlebush Reserve. And her murderer left behind a son. And he is like nothing Skylar has ever known.

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TNA_Signature_SammyBy far and above the best YA series I have read is John Goode’s Foster High Series. So often I feel YA gets a poor rap—I think sometimes readers feel that because a novel is young adult it may not have the same emotional impact an adult read offers.

Maybe With a Chance of Certainty is a coming of age novel like no other. Its story revolves around Kyle, a battered, oft physically abused seventeen-year-old, who lives with a drunken mother and a fear that someday someone will truly see him, will discover he is gay and will force him out into the light of day that he so adroitly avoids. Enter Brad, baseball hero, god of high school fame, the abused and broken seventeen-year-old who steadfastly hides in the closet until he sees Kyle, really sees him and knows…knows that this is what he has been missing…that this boy is one he likes, maybe, with a chance of certainty.

This book is never glib or self-important but it is humorous and self-aware. This book is never trite or condescending but it does dare to look at the smallest of fears and bring them into the light and it does meet us right at the emotional level where we live, and it says we have the right to live there, to feel as we do.

I want to encourage you to explore the YA genre—so many times I have experienced my own teen years played out on the pages of these wonderfully crafted stories. So, please, take a leap, if you have not already done so and scoop up one of these terrific authors today.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaThis is a great series and tells the love story of Kyle and Brad over a number of books.  The first few books cover the main characters finishing their senior year of high school.  There is both an M/M series and a YA version of the first three books, so you can take your pick.

Kyle Stilleno and Brad Greymark are high school students in Foster, TX.  Kyle is keeping his head down trying to get out of town without being noticed.  But it turns out that Brad has noticed him.  He’s the star baseball player and he needs help in History so he gets Kyle to tutor him.  But history is not the only thing they study. :)  This series, much like my last Flashblack Friday, really is a beautiful story of the building of a relationship between these two very different guys.  There are lots of rough moments and very typically teenaged angst-filled drama, but so worth the time to savor these books.

Kyle is probably my favorite YA character that I’ve read so far in M/M.  He’s smarter than most of the adults in this series. :)  He’s raised himself, for the most part – his mother is a bit lost in the parenting department.  The opening lines of Maybe with a Chance of Certainty are some of my favorite lines I’ve read ever in any book.  These words I think speak to so many kids on so many levels.

Brad, in many ways, is Kyle’s opposite. He’s high school royalty, comes from a family with some money (although, as we see, that doesn’t guarantee anything except a roof and three squares a day).  His family is dysfunctional as well, but in a different way.  He’s just as lost in some ways at Kyle, but somehow he knows that if he doesn’t go for this, he will regret it for the rest of his life.  Sometimes he acts without thinking things all the way through, and Kyle is his anchor and his touchstone.

There are wonderful secondary characters, realistic and funny dialogue, tragedy that will make your heart ache and truths that will make you want to punch somebody in the throat.  Just brilliantly written and I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves very well-written and emotional stories.

Maybe with a Chance of CertaintyKyle has worked hard at being the invisible student, toiling through high school in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. Brad is the baseball star at Foster High. Both boys are damaged in ways that the rest of the world can’t see. When they bond over a night of history tutoring, Kyle thinks that maybe his life has taken a turn for the not so lonely.

He finds out quickly that the promise of fairy-tale love is a lie when you’re gay and falling for one of the most popular boys in school, and if being different is a sin in high school, then being gay is the biggest sin of all. Now Kyle and Brad need to come to an understanding amidst the scrutiny of their peers or their fledgling relationship will crash and burn before it ever gets off the ground.

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TNA_Signature_CHRISUnintended is one of those rare books that does flashbacks really well. Those flashbacks are what power the story around two of the sweetest boys who unintentionally become friends and then fall in love. This story starts out in the present and goes back to ten years prior. The story shows the start of their relationship ten years in the past, and their lives now as they’re moving into their first house.

While this isn’t a very long story, coming in a just 100 pages, there is a lot of relationship and emotions packed into that space. Both Taylor and Alex are ordinary young men going through the motions of life and end up meeting each other in very normal circumstances. Their relationship, though, is a bit extraordinary because both boys realize almost immediately that they have met someone very special to them. Even though at first they can’t define just how special this person will be in their lives.

I really loved how M.J. O’Shea shows the little things that matter between Taylor and Alex because so many times that’s glossed over in romances. That doesn’t mean they have an easy journey, because they do make some mistakes along the way, including one major one that hurts both of them. It’s how they come out in the end that matters the most, though.

I can’t really tell you how much I enjoyed this book and want others to read it and meet these two awesome characters. Alex will melt your heart, and Taylor will make you want to hug him to death by the end of the story.

**Note:** This titles is available only via Amazon

UnintendedTaylor thought he had everything together. He just got into the college of his choice and all he had to do was coast through the rest of the year, enjoy his friends, and wait for freedom. He hasn’t really participated in the gossip about the mysterious and beautiful new boy who just showed up in school, but he had to admit the guy was intriguing.

Alex was completely lonely. His family moved so often that he’d never had a chance to really fit in anywhere. The new guy in town, gorgeous and rich, he was the object of envy, the subject of stares. But he dreamed of having one real friend in a sea of shallow acquaintances. Somebody who actually knew him, not just what he looked like.

They met by accident, when Taylor stumbled into Alex’s room at a party. It only took them one night to decide they were meant to be best friends, and not much longer after that to realize that they were in love.

Taylor, who’d never been with a boy, was afraid of what would happen when he finally admitted to the world that he was in love with Alex. Alex, who wasn’t willing to be a secret much longer, was afraid that his family would pack up and move again before he had the chance to convince Taylor that their love was worth any pain it might cause when it was brought out in public.

In a sweet and sometimes painful story of true love, Unintended answers the question:

“Would you change who you were to be with the one person you were meant to love?”

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TNA_Signature_JenniferThere are so many amazing YA titles out there right now, especially in the last few years. Beyond that, however, it does get a little difficult. When I first started reading LGBT fiction, there was a dearth of books for teens with gay themes. The books that were out there were good, but they just weren’t enough.

The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne hits so much of what is right with the YA genre. It’s historical, it’s touching, and it’s beautifully written. I’ve reviewed it for The Novel Approach before because it’s a rerelease, but the book actually came out in 2009. Honestly, I’m disappointed I hadn’t read it when it first came out, because this book is just phenomenal.

Norris is a sympathetic character. The youngest of four, his family struggles financially. Between his older brother trying to save enough to propose to the girl he loves and his older sisters squabbling every chance they get, and trying to outdo each other on the marriage market, Norris is often forgotten. In fact, he’s so forgotten that he doesn’t even go to school; instead, the family has one of their tenants tutoring Norris with old books that are falling apart. And Norris just wants an education. He wants to learn science so he can properly tinker with things and make them work.

When Norris begins to start seeing shadow people, everything in the book starts to slowly fall into place. New characters emerge and Norris begins his journey that is simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking.

Just writing this review for Flashback Friday makes me want to go back and reread this book! I have no doubt you’ll love it as much as I do!

thetwilightgodsLondon during the Great Exhibition of 1851 is a new world of technological advances, eye-popping inventions, and glimpses of exotic treasures from the East. For fifteen-year-old Norris Woodhead, it’s a time of spectral figures mingling with London’s daily crowds and an old rectory in a far corner of the English countryside — a great house literally caught in time, where answers to curious little mysteries await him.

Confined by his family’s financial woes, Norris suffers a lonely and unsatisfying time till the day he (and only he) notices “shadow-people” in the streets. Then a strange widow appears, rents a vacant room in the house, and takes him under her wing. She becomes his guardian, slowly revealing those shadows’ secrets, Norris’ connection with them, and the life-altering choices he has to face in the end.

The Twilight Gods is a retelling of the Native American folktale, “The Girl Who Married a Ghost.” Set in Victorian England, it’s an alternative perspective on a gay teen’s coming-out process, with Norris’ journey of self-discovery couched in magical and supernatural terms and imagery.

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TNA_Signature_LisaI’m going to start out with a little backstory about this week’s choice.

On August 28, 2012, my mom passed away. For the three weeks she was in the hospital and, ultimately, in hospice care, I was driving three hours round-trip, four to five days a week, to sit at her hospital bedside. To top it off, I’d just lost my sister to cancer five months earlier, I missed my childrens’ first day of school, I missed a lot of time with my own family while taking care of a developmentally disabled brother and a father with dementia—who didn’t understand, and needed frequent reminders, that his wife of 62 years was dying. Suffice to say, the only thing that kept me sane at the time was escaping into books during those long and mind numbing hours sitting and listening to monitors beeping, while wondering when my mom was going to take her final breath.

Now, for the honesty part: I don’t remember much of what I read during this time, but I very much do remember one gorgeous and lyrical Young Adult novel—it resonated so deeply in its beauty and simple truths that during a time when most of what I recall is that the stress was almost too much to bear, I remember this book. The book is Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

On August 14th, I wrote a simple review of this book. I’m going to steal a snippet from that review because, at a time in my life when not much made sense, this book spoke to me. Aristotle and Dante made sense of a universe that’s full of mystery and wonder of so many things yet to discover.

Reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe taught me that there’s such a thing as too much, and that it’s possible for a book to be written sparely and still be full and abundantly powerful.

Ari Mendoza narrates this story, the story of a fifteen year old loner who meets Dante Quintana in the summer of 1987 and is suddenly not so lonely anymore, though he still feels very much alone with his anger and frustration. This is the story of a boy on the verge of evolution and the slow and sometimes painful discovery that being ashamed of how he feels doesn’t make those feelings inevitably shameful.

• I learned that feeling small and insignificant and inadequate doesn’t make it true.
• I learned it’s possible to run away from something and not even realize you’re running or understand exactly what it is you’re running from.
• I learned that feeling sorry for yourself is the quickest path to loneliness.
• I learned silence can be just as powerful and destructive as anger.
• I learned it’s possible to wear the scars of battle without ever going to war.
• I learned that the most crippling scars of war are the ones that live inside of you.
• I learned there’s a difference between feeling real and feeling valid.
• I learned that a face can be the light in an otherwise dark world.
• I learned that it’s possible to love someone more than you think you’re capable of ever bearing.
• I learned that we all are in a constant state of discovering who we are, no matter our age.
• I learned it’s possible to look for something but not know exactly what it is you’re looking for.
• I learned that love is an instinct and is sometimes directed not by what we say but what we do.
• I learned that hiding from yourself is easier than hiding from the people who see you for who you truly are.
• I learned it’s possible to be so near to someone that it’s impossible to see all they mean to you.
• I learned it’s possible to be ashamed and have no idea why.
• I learned that all the mysteries of the universe can be found in a kiss and can be solved just by holding someone’s hand.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this book would be as impactful if I reread it today as it was at that time in my life, but I can say that at the time, it was a book that moved me deeply.

And the cover…the cover is everything.

Aristotle and DanteAristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common.

But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*E-book will be delivered in winner’s choice of format (.epub, .mobi, .pdf – dependent upon availability)

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Why Haven’t You Read This Book Yet? Edition

Flashback Friday

Welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday, everyone! This week’s FbF Feature is all about the books we’ve read and would love to force feed to every single person we’ve ever met ever in our entire lives. Extreme, no??? But yes! This begins a potpourri of prose that has made us cry, squee, giggle, you name it, we’ve loved it, and we wish everyone would read these books.

Last week’s winner of the Flashback Friday Speculative Fiction Edition was Julie Small, who made the wisest of wise choices and went with Jordan L. Hawk’s Widdershins as her e-book prize. Congratulations to you, Julie, and thanks so much to everyone who’s played along with us!

I hope you’ll find a title or two amongst our choices that you haven’t read yet because if you click on the Rafflecopter widget below, you can enter for the chance to win an e-copy of one of them, winner’s choice.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_JulesThere are a LOT of books I want to shove in people’s faces and make them read. Ha! But, I chose this week’s book because I just read it – tardy to the party – and I want to make sure that no one else leaves it languishing on his or her TBR pile! The book is Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander, and I want you to go right now and load it up on your e-reader. Don’t wait another moment, folks. This is an absolute must read!

Austin Glass killed me. Killlllllllllllled me. The king of snark. Zero filter. Inept in all of his female relationships. Yet also smart, funny, a brilliant detective, and somehow manages to come off as endearing a large portion of the time, despite the no filter issue.

While waiting for an informant on a case, Austin sees Peter. Well…what he sees are bunny slippers…and, he can’t get the slippers, or the man, out of his head. Austin is a complete goner for Peter, and it ends up sending him on the roller coaster ride of his life as he tries to figure out his feelings for Peter, and solve his case at the same time.

The action in the story is fabulous. The characters are interesting, eclectic, and entertaining. I found Peter’s background, including that of his “brothers” Darryl and Cai, fascinating, and was on the edge of my seat as their story unraveled. And, Austin Glass in particular is a character that will stay with me for a very long time. I LOVED this freakin’ book, man.

Bonus note: I actually listened to the audio for this book, and it was AH-MAZING. The narrator does a phenomenal job with the pacing, the accents, and the whole performance in general.

shattered glassA male prostitute, a mangy cat, a murder and an obsession that threatens his career, his impending marriage and his life. Nothing is going as planned for Austin Glass.

Austin Glass seems to have it all, A loving fiancee, a future with the FBI and a healthy sized trust fund. At least on the surface. He also has a grin and a wisecrack for every situation. But the smile he presents to the world hides a painful past he’s buried too deeply to remember, and his quips mask bitterness and insecurity. Austin has himself and most of the whole world fooled—until he meets a redhead in a pair of bunny slippers.

As events unfold in the biggest case of his life, Austin’s carefully planned future unravels, and he finds himself pushed into making quick, life-changing decisions. But can he trust himself or anything he feels, when each event seems to be just a series of volatile reactions?

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TNA_Signature_CHRIS*Runs up and shoves a book under your nose*

If there is only ONE book that I could make someone read it would be Conquest by S.J. Frost. This book, actually this whole series, is one of the reasons I became utterly hooked into the M/M genre. It’s also one of the first romances I stumbled on that featured a rock band as part of the main story. Considering I love my rock music as much as I love reading, well this book was a match made in book heaven!

Jesse and Evan are the couple that I hold up as an example of how you can make a relationship work. They are also two of my all time favorite characters in this genre. They aren’t just lovers but they truly are the other’s soul mate, even if it takes them time to get to that point with each other. While they are two completely different people, at different stages of their lives and careers, there is something about the other that constantly draws them together.

Did I mention that Jesse and Evan are smoking hot together? The sexual tension between these two will literally set your ereader on fire! Not to overlook Jesse and Evan’s musical talent which takes the book to a whole different level. There’s nothing I love more than a book that can actually capture the emotion that is wrapped within music and this entire series gives you that feeling.

You definitely need to give Jesse and Evan a chance, because once you pick up the first book in the series you’re going to want more!

conquestVocally gifted singer, Jesse Alexander, has dreams of taking his band, Conquest, to the top.

Evan Arden was thought of as a musical genius when at the height of his career he vanished from the spotlight. Together, their relationship is just as intense as their music careers. With success pushing down on them, Jesse must decide between his life of music, or his life with Evan.

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TNA_Signature_SammyIf I Could Force You to Read This Book, I Would. Oh yes, indeed I would—and I would also provide a bottle of liquor and a box of tissues ‘cause this one is a tough read, but the rewards? They are oh so great!

A Note in the Margin was a difficult book to read. This story cut me to the core for many reasons and on many levels. Remembering the synopsis I wrote a few years ago reminded me once again of the great impact this novel had on me.

John is “taking a break” from the corporate rat race. In fact, he must; otherwise, he will spin apart, perhaps have a nervous breakdown, a heart attack. One is never sure because Ms. Rowan is not specific in the reason, only that the break must occur or John will not survive. And so, John invests in a small, unassuming used bookstore named Margins. Here he meets and employs the son of the previous owner, Jaime. Jaime, in turn, introduces John to the homeless man that, every afternoon, occupies an old leather chair in the back of the shop, sketching in his notebook and reading. And so the story begins…and you are sucked into the sometimes violent, oft times horrific life of David, a former corporate man, father and husband. A formerly closeted gay man…a shell of his former self…mentally broken, whoring for bus fair to travel to see the son whom he is never able to speak to or interact with…living in fear and only sometimes dwelling in reality.

Wounded…broken…desperate…David…John—both equally fragile, equally needy, find each other.

This is not an easy story to read. My gut clenched often and unhappily as David worked his way back from the abyss to life with John, to love, to acceptance of himself, and forgiveness as well. Ms. Rowan paints a picture that is teeming with realism, gritty with emotion and remarkable in its depth. Her characters are achingly real, so much so that I found myself yelling at them so they would move before disaster struck again. Several times the stark raw emotion leapt off the page, forcing me to stop dead, turn off the kindle and step away. It was too much, too overwhelming.

Do not tread lightly into this book—for a light read it is not—at all. But it is a worthwhile read…a stunning look into the homeless man’s world…a glimpse into the intricacies of mental illness…yes, it is this and so much more. At this novel’s core is a love story that is so sweeping in its scope and tender in its telling that you are carried along in its mighty wake.

You should read this book—honest, you really should! Just bring along tissues…and maybe a stiff drink or two.

**As a side note when I visited Australia a few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Isabelle Rowan—such a lovely woman, smart and kind to a fault. I have enjoyed many of her stories to date and strongly recommend her lovely work to you.

NoteintheMarginJohn McCann, a man who judges life by the tally of an accounts ledger, has a supreme goal in life: To achieve, live, and enjoy the rarified executive lifestyle. But he’s encountered one problem: The migraines are going to continue to get worse unless you make some major changes in your lifestyle. What you need is a ‘sea change’… Perhaps buy a nice little business in the country, settle down, something easier to occupy your time…

While John knows the doctor is right, he just can’t resign from the job he’s fought so hard for. He decides the sacrifice of taking a year’s leave of absence won’t interfere too much with his plans, and so he finds himself running Margins, a cozy little bookstore, with the help of the former owner’s son, Jamie. John expects to put in his year, get his stress under control, and then get back to business.

What John doesn’t expect is how Margins and its denizens draw him in, particularly the quiet, disheveled man who takes refuge in the old leather chair in the second-hand book section. John’s plans for an unattached year of simple business crumble when he meets David and is forced to reevaluate life, love and what he really wants from both. John and David are forced to come to terms with their pasts as they struggle to determine what possible future they might build together.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaDiane Adams – Making of a Man series

This is one of the BEST series I’ve ever read in any genre. Jared and Alex meet when Alex is a teenager – and just figuring out that he’s gay. Jared is an old soul in a young man’s body. He’s had to face a lot in his life already, and he truly isn’t that much older than Alex in years but is light years ahead in life’s hard knocks and experience. He’s been unlucky in love, and he’s already lost his father and inherited a business that he needs to keep going to keep a roof over his and his mother’s head. He takes the time to be a friend to Alex (and Alex’s best friend Clark) while they are still in high school and Alex is still in the closet. This series is currently at 6 books with some shorter freebies in between. There is still one more promised book to come.

So far this series has taken us through about 20 years of Jared and Alex’s story, and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch Alex grown up and grow into his relationship with Jared. Jared is one of the best men on the planet – bar none. There are wonderful supporting characters, realistic conflicts, no pat answers and some of the best dialogue around. Completely believable and if this series doesn’t convince people that Love is Love, I don’t know what would. Just absolutely some of the best storytelling in the genre and beautifully done.

Our DecemberSometimes two people fit together so well it seems their love was preordained, as if every step taken led inevitably to a happy ending. Deeply in love, Jared and Alex are such a couple, but the path to true and lasting love is rarely smooth. At fifteen, being gay isn’t the best thing that ever happened to a guy. In fact, Alex Ross thinks it’s down right scary. Then he meets twenty year old construction worker Jared Douglas, and Alex starts to think the gay thing might not be so bad after all.

The attraction between them is intense, but — mindful of Alex’s age — Jared is determined to keep the sparks from igniting. The stress of controlling his feelings makes it almost a relief when Alex’s father ships him off to prep school. Jared expects Alex to forget him and find a boy friend his own age; he doesn’t anticipate how much it will hurt. When Alex comes home for Christmas, just turned 16, with his heart on his sleeve, Jared knows he can’t continue to keep everything he feels a secret.

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TNA_Signature_LisaI read a quote once by a man named Alfred North Whitehead, who was a philosopher. The quote went something like this:

It takes an extraordinary intelligence to contemplate the obvious.

Al Fletcher may never be described as extraordinarily intelligent, but he is an extraordinary character who has a way of being, oh, perhaps a wee bit obtuse but is so utterly guileless that his observations of the obvious are just sweet and charming, and when I read his story, Muscling Through, several years ago, he quickly shot to the top of the list of some of my all-time favorite characters.

Larry came into Al’s life in a dark alley one night…while Al was taking a whizz. Yep. Big Al, with his tattoos and a nose that’s seen the business end of more than a few fists, was peeing in the great outdoors when Larry happened upon him…and then promptly assumed, based on Al’s looks, that he, Larry, was going to get robbed at best, or get a good beating, or heaven knows what else, at worst.

Now, Al’s been known to be drunk and disorderly on a few occasions, but purposefully mean and/or violent? That’s not Al at all. Al does things like hide the kitchen knives when he makes sure you get home safely, assuming you’re drunk and a danger to yourself because you’re acting crazy—which is really not you being drunk or crazy. It’s just you being scared shitless of Al.

Al does things like eat finger sandwiches in a posh restaurant and then hopes that when the staff cut the crusts off those sandwiches that they at least had the common decency to feed those perfectly good crusts to the birds.

Al is an artist, and though the world may not see beauty in him, Al sees beauty in the world. And that makes him beautiful where it counts.

Muscling Through isn’t a long book—less than ninety pages—but it’s one of the best novellas I’ve ever read. If not the best. It’s funny and full of warmth—just like Al—and is one of the most endearing opposites attract stories I’ve ever run across, thanks to JL Merrow’s deft hand and lovely sense of humor.

In a genre where we’ve learned not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions, JL Merrow crafted a character who’s spent his life having others define him by his looks, when, in fact, it’s his heart and soul and downright goodness that make Al who he is, and make it easy to see why a man like Larry would fall madly in love with the big, tattooed, beautifully simple man.

muscling throughThe bigger they come, the harder they fall… in love.

Cambridge art professor Larry Morton takes one, alcohol-glazed look at the huge, tattooed man looming in a dark alley, and assumes he’s done for. Moments later he finds himself disarmed—literally and figuratively. And, the next morning, he can’t rest until he offers an apology to the man who turned out to be more gentle than giant.

Larry’s intrigued to find there’s more to Al Fletcher than meets the eye; he possesses a natural artistic talent that shines through untutored technique. Unfortunately, no one else seems to see the sensitive soul beneath Al’s imposing, scarred, undeniably sexy exterior. Least of all Larry’s class-conscious family, who would like nothing better than to split up this mismatched pair.

Is it physical? Oh, yes, it’s deliciously physical, and so much more—which makes Larry’s next task so daunting. Not just convincing his colleagues, friends and family that their relationship is more than skin deep. It’s convincing Al.

Warning: Contains comic misunderstandings, misuse of art materials, and unexpected poignancy.

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday… The Better Late Than Never Edition and a Giveaway

Flashback Friday

So, gang, funny thing about Flashback Fridays… It only works when you remember what day of the week it is! >.<

::DOH!::

Yes, it was one of those weeks, but in what I'll call the Better Late Than Never files, we're bringing you the Speculative Fiction Saturday edition of some of our favorite firsts in the M/M genre.

But first, congratulations goes to last week’s winner, Laura05, who selected Jane Seville’s Zero at the Bone as her prize. Congrats, Laura, and I hope you love the book as much as I do! <3

Now, one of the things I'd wanted to do when I conceived of this is to highlight some of the older books in the genre, but here's the wrench in that plan: we've got more than a few reviewers on the TNA team who are somewhat newer to the world of gay romance. Hence, some of these books don't necessarily fit into the Flashback Files, but the books that Jules and Carrie selected as their picks? I've read every last one of them, LOVE them beyond all reason, and want to feature them for you just in case you haven’t had the chance yet to experience them yourselves.

So, without further ado, here are our Flashback… Fridurday… features. :)

And don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of one of our picks.

Good luck!

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaI have to say that I have a tendency to go for Contemporary in my M/M reading. But every once in a while, I’m convinced to try something else. I do like some Urban Fantasy, but for some reason I have never been a science fiction or high fantasy fan. Maybe it’s my super-logical mind that doesn’t like to be tested with something I just can’t believe, but I’ve never been able to get into those types of books. There has to be some really great storytelling and some amazing world building going on to convince me to give it a go and stick with it.

One amazing exception to this rule is a series I came across several years ago from Belinda McBride that starts with a book called An Uncommon Whore. For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s an amazing tale of Helios Dayspring, a missing king who has been kept as a sex slave called Pasha, for a number of years. But one fateful night, his client turns out to be much more than a visiting space pirate. The client turns out to be none other than Griffin Hawke, his former bodyguard and lover, who has been searching for him since he was kidnapped after a devastating battle. There are all kinds of twists and turns as Griffin and Helios try to recover memories and reunite the king with the last of his people on a distant planet.

The second book in the series is called When I Fall, and is written from Griffin’s POV. This book is actually a bit darker than the first, and Griffin and Helios are dealing with the changes in their world, their relationship and their families. Helios is still trying to recover all his memories, determine how best to lead and keep his people safe, while knowing there are still many enemies to confront – both internal and external. But Griffin and Helios make a formidable team, and when things get tough, they don’t turn away from each other.

The last (maybe? I personally hope not) book in the series is called Prince of Faith and was several years in the making, following the other two, and is not necessarily a direct sequel as the main characters are Markus Dayspring and Caius, who are secondary characters in the previous stories. While Helios and Griffin suffer through separation and struggle to regain their relationship and home, Markus and Caius take angst to a whole new level. This one is definitely the darkest of the three main books, but so worth it in my opinion. There is also another companion book that is written in the same universe called The Bacchi, which I haven’t read yet, but it’s making its way up my TBR pile.

I will also add that the stunning covers are done by PL Nunn, and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a special limited edition of Volumes 1 and 2, which have additional PL Nun illustrations in them. If you have the opportunity, they are well worth it. I practically chased Belinda McBride around Atlanta and had all my friends on standby to make sure I got one of those coveted paperbacks at the book signing event.

I heartily recommend this series as a wonderful example of character driven story telling that will keep the reader riveted to the end.

An Uncommon WhoreBlurb: “As a general rule, you won’t find the love of your life while you’re on your knees under a table.” — Helios Dayspring

Pasha is a slave, whoring for travelers at the most dangerous bar on Warlan. He has no memory, no future of his own, yet deep inside Pasha knows that that he is meant for better things. The day that Pasha spots the dangerous pirate in the bar, he knows that he mustn’t let the stranger slip away, regardless of what he must do to attract his attention.

Captain Griffin Hawke spent the greater part of a decade searching for his lost king, only to find Helios Dayspring crouched between his knees, swathed in the robes and shackles of a whore. Though he is appalled by the downfall of his king, the hardened officer finds himself falling for the allure of the sensual creature who has taken his place. Returning Helios to his position on the throne is the only right thing to do, yet Griffin knows that in doing so, he risks losing his lover forever.

“A whore is a whore is a whore, unless he’s something else completely. I guess I must be an uncommon whore.” — Helios Dayspring

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TNA_Signature_SammyOh, golly day—I remember thinking that there could be nothing more wonderful than gay werewolves when I read this paranormal story by T.A. Chase. In a nutshell, we had Jacob Tasker—a hunk of burning man-wolf and a rancher, initially despising the nerdy yet gorgeous Oliver Wingate. Oliver, of course, wants to help the wolf population by re-introducing the species into the wild—specifically into Jacob’s back yard. While this is all well and good to Jacob, he knows the slight young naturalist is going to meet stiff opposition from the other ranchers. Little does he know it would come to violence. When Oliver gets beaten and nearly left for dead, Jacob has to give up his loner ways to nurse the man back to health. When Oliver recovers, I was introduced to some amazing man on man/wolf action that nearly made me howl!

Wolf’s Survival was my very first paranormal, and it hooked me in completely. It also was the gateway for other stories about men shifting into other animals, not to mention vampires and other supernatural beings. While I think this genre can get a bit formulaic, I also know it provides some of the best romance stories—particularly in the enemies-to-lovers trope. I really enjoyed this story by T.A. Chase. and it prompted me to check out more of this author’s stories. I am so glad I did!

Wolf's SurvivalBlurb: Fellow ranchers consider Jacob Tasker a lone wolf, a man who goes his own way and who stands alone. They’ll never know just how close they are to the truth. His pack slaughtered by the ancestors of those very ranchers, Jacob’s learned to trust no one and accept his solitary life.

Oliver Wingate loves and respects wolves. As a conservationist, he believes they should be re-introduced into their once-natural habitat. Yet he meets resistance from all the ranchers who feel the wolves will prey on their herds.

When Oliver runs afoul of some of the locals, it’s up to Jacob to ensure the young idealistic man doesn’t lose his life in a battle for the wolf’s survival…and all the while trying to keep from falling in love…

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TNA_Signature_CarrieOnce Upon a Haunted Moor… Oooooooh, isn’t that delicious??? What a name! Of course, I had to buy the book never realizing the addiction the Tyack & Frayne Mysteries would unleash.

I love mysteries. Really, really good mysteries that are all about who done it or things that go bump in the night. I was new to the M/M genre when I first read this book, and I had no idea the quality of writing this genre could hold. Gideon Frayne is a policeman, his feet firmly planted in reality. Lee Tyack is a clairvoyant brought in to help with a missing young girl. Together they must find the answers and save an innocent—whether the dangers are real or imagined.

There are five books in the series so far, each is a stand-alone mystery (Note: but to get the full benefit of Gideon and Lee’s relationship, read the series in order), and all are excellent. Thank you, Harper Fox, for great mysteries and for sealing my love affair with the M/M genre.

Once Upon a Haunted MoorBlurb: Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. It’s not life in the fast lane, but he takes it very seriously, and his first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he’s gutted – he’s a level-headed copper who doesn’t believe in such things, and he can’t help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl.

But Lee is hard to hate, no matter how Gideon tries. At first Lee’s insights into the case make no sense, but he seems to have a window straight into Gideon’s heart. Son of a Methodist minister, raised in a tiny Cornish village, Gideon has hidden his sexuality for years. It’s cost him one lover, and he can’t believe it when this green-eyed newcomer stirs up old feelings and starts to exert a powerful force of attraction.

Gideon and Lee begin to work together on the case. But there are malignant forces at work in the sleepy little village of Dark, and not only human ones – Gideon is starting to wonder, against all common sense, if there might be some truth in the terrifying legend of the Bodmin Beast after all. As a misty Halloween night consumes the moor, Gideon must race against time to save not only the lost child but the man who’s begun to restore his faith in his own heart.

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TNA_Signature_JulesI was pretty excited when I found out the theme for this week’s Flashback Friday was Speculative Fiction. Up until very recently I was the girl who, at least as far as the M/M genre is concerned, had only read contemporary fiction. I’m not sure why, really, as my EXTREME love for Harry Potter and other mainstream spec fic should have proven to me that I’m comfortable stepping out of that ‘contemporary box’…But, for whatever reason, I was reticent to try anything ‘different’ in the queer fiction world. Until I finally read Widdershins. So, I’m here to shout out my love for Whyborne & Griffin, and tell you that this series is EVERYTHING.

Here were my initial reactions upon finishing books 2-4:

Re: Threshold – This was some of the craziest, most awesome shizzle I’ve ever read. The end. Seriously, though… Sooooo goooood. Whyborne and Griffin are amazing. But, Whyborne…GAHHHH. I. Love. Him. Bring me the next book!!

Re: Stormhaven – This series keeps getting better and better, and Whyborne keeps getting cooler and cooler.

Re: Necropolis – This book was everything. Smart. Sexy. Scary. Funny. It was gorgeous, brilliant, heart-racey goodness. I’m seriously at a loss for intelligent words. Love these guys so much.

Widdershins was published about three years ago, but I didn’t read it until about seven months ago, which allowed me to DEVOUR the entire series up until that point, in basically one weekend. So enchanted by Jordan L. Hawk’s genius, and the amazing world she had created, I could not put these books down. I’m confident that anyone who hasn’t read them will also completely fall in love. I cannot recommend enough that if you haven’t given this series a try yet, do it. I promise you’ll thank me, and become the crazy Jordan L. Hawk fangirl or boy that I am now!!

I think it’s safe to say that my life was altered that weekend. No longer are contemporaries enough for me. Now my library includes paranormal, fantasy, alternate universe, shifters, steampunk, and more!

WiddershinsBlurb: Some things should stay buried.

Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

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TNA_Signature_LisaAuthor Ginn Hale is…everything. I’m a fan of many of the Speculative Fiction authors in this genre, but I freaking worship at the altar of Ginn Hale. And it all started with her 2007 release, Wicked Gentlemen. It’s the first M/M Spec Fic novel I ever read, and since then I’ve fallen in love with Lord of the White Hell, The Rifter Serial, Feral Machines, her novellas in the anthologies The Irregulars and Charmed and Dangerous. In short, Hale is nothing less than a brilliant wordsmith.

When I read Wicked Gentlemen–the first time in 2010–and all the subsequent times thereafter, the one thing that stood out in the novel (which is actually two novellas in a single volume) is Hale’s ability to create worlds that are so fantastical, so magical, and to build and layer her characters with so much depth that it’s impossible not to lose yourself in their lives. This author crafts scenes in such a way that I want to wallow in each and every word of them. Captain William Harper and Prodigal Belimai Sykes are evocative, provocative, and their scenes together are sensual without being overtly sexual in any way:

“I held the shot glass up and watched the way the liquid distorted the image of Captain Harper’s face. There was something fascinating about the way it flawed his features. It only took a tiny shift, just a curve of glass, to ruin him.” – Belimai Sykes

Little did Belimai know at that time it would take far more than that to ruin Captain Harper, but oh, the journey to discovering all the ways in which Harper would sacrifice and bring himself to near ruin for his drug addicted demon lover is utterly gorgeous, regardless of which angle one looks at it from.

And he was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him…

And they became the Prodigals, the least of these who were called from the depths of hell and now reside in Hells Below, a place where there is no dark and there is no light, keeping themselves to themselves to avoid the Inquisition and the prayer engines which torture and carve words of salvation into unholy flesh while dragging forth the confessions of the innocent who are guilty of little more than being who they were born to be. This story is flawless, gorgeous, and I want you to read it so you, too, will know its beauty.

Wicked GentlemenBlurb: Belimai Sykes is many things: a Prodigal, the descendant of ancient demons, a creature of dark temptations and rare powers. He is also a man with a brutal past and a dangerous addiction.

And Belimai Sykes is the only man Captain William Harper can turn to when faced with a series of grisly murders.

But Mr. Sykes does not work for free and the price of Belimai’s company will cost Captain Harper far more than his reputation.

From the ornate mansions of noblemen, where vivisection and sorcery are hidden beneath a veneer of gold, to the steaming slums of Hells Below, Captain Harper must fight for justice and for his life.

His enemies are many and his only ally is a devil he knows too well. Such are the dangers of dealing with the wicked.

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A Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and a TNA Giveaway

Flashback Friday

Welcome, one and all, to Flashback Friday, a new feature we’d like to try out on you here at The Novel Approach, a feature aimed at introducing you to some of the older books in the gay fiction and romance genre that you may not have heard about otherwise, especially if you happen to be a newcomer to the community.

During our Flashback Friday segments, which will go on until we run out of topics to talk about, we’ll tell you a bit about the books we’re featuring, what we loved about them, and we’ll even give you the chance to win an e-copy of one of the featured books, winner’s choice, so you can experience it for yourself.

One of the things we readers and reviewers in this genre are often asked, especially we women, is how we came to be so devoted to this particular niche set in the greater world of modern literature. Some of us have been around the genre for years, while others of us are newer consumers. Some of us have given credit to authors such as JR Ward and her Black Dagger Brotherhood series for our discovering gay romance, while others of us can give credit to nothing more than dumb luck and random chance. I happen to fall into the latter category.

Today’s Flashback Friday segment is dedicated to The First—the first book those of us who chose to participate ever read in this genre, why we gave it a go, and what clicked with us that helped us become devotees of gay romance and fiction.

To enter the giveaway, be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below.

And, as always, good luck!

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TNA_Signature_CHRIS I came to read M/M books through one of my favorite M/F authors, Lauren Dane. Her book Laid Bare is one of the first romances that showed the two men in love with each other, as well as with their third. The first time Ben and Todd kissed, I needed a cold shower. It was hot, sexy, and different than traditional hetero romance. It made me crave more stories that were like it. But there really weren’t any that I could find among traditional publishers. So, I went surfing the internet and found a whole genre to read.

My First M/M book was Without Reservation by J.L. Langley. It changed my life by opening doors to a whole new genre of romance. A genre that didn’t hold back and wasn’t afraid to be a little rough, a lot growly, sugary sweet and fabulously sassy, sometimes all in the same book. There were more diverse characters, more angst, more issues, but also more being able to accept yourself than in other genres. Without Reservation got me because at heart I’m a paranormal addict, I LOVE stories with shifters, witches, magic, and fae-kind. Mostly, though, Without Reservations had some of the best characters I’d read in a long time, and it showed us all that love overcomes. Love doesn’t distinguish eye or hair color, or height or weight, or, in this case, male or female. Love is Love and it shows Chay and Keaton just what that means.

Without ReservationsBlurb: Sometimes love just catches you by the tail.

Chayton Winston is a veterinarian. He is also a werewolf. Much to his Native American parent’s chagrin, he has always dreamed of a fair-haired, Caucasian mate. However, he never imagined his mate would be male. As a heterosexual man, he’s not quite sure what to do with a male mate, but more than willing to find out.

Keaton Reynolds wakes up, in wolf form, and finds himself with a mate. He’s instantly attracted, but not so thrilled to find out the man is straight. Having been in a relationship once before where his partner professed to be “Not gay” left a bad taste in his mouth. Keaton wants to make a break for it and pretend he never set eyes on Chay-but Chay is not ready to let him go.

Together the two work to solidify their shaky relationship and battle the prejudices against homosexuals. Chay must deal with not only his mother’s prejudices against gay men but also her hatred of white people.

When a power struggle in Keaton’s pack threatens Keaton’s life, the two men learn to depend on one another and their relationship to get them through it.

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TNA_Signature_Kathie My son came out on August 13, 2012. Wow, Kathie, you remember the date? You bet! We have it marked on the calendar and celebrate it each year. My struggle was, how can I support him? What does being gay mean? What kind of culture are we now a part of? We were helping with the Marriage Amendment in Minnesota at the time, spending two to three nights a week on the phones, but now we had skin in the game. I really think “Don’t Mess with a Mom” is so true. After our son came out and I hit the phones at the next phone bank, I was on fire. I know I turned quite a few voters that night, and every night after that, until the election. It was personal!

But really, how do you go up to a gay person and ask question about their sex life, gay bars, and stereotypes they are faced with? I couldn’t ask my son. How embarrassing would that be for a twenty-one year old, right?! So instead, I started looking for reading material and going to PFLAG meetings. In my search, I came upon a bio of an author, Brandon Shire. It read, “Great stories should not depend on gender or sexual preference of a character, but instead upon the strength of the characters and the honesty and urgency of the story. Brandon writes for people who enjoy being challenged, and for those who strive to understand situations they don’t typically encounter. He pens raw, emotional stories about characters which readers will either love or love to hate.”

I started reading Afflicted around 10:00pm one night, an usual reading time for me, and I was still reading it at 6:00am the next morning. Brandon Shire had pulled out every emotion from me. I had nothing left to give that day, so I called in sick! And, I have never looked back. I tried to read some of my favorite het authors after that, but they just didn’t hold a candle to the passion that was written in the M/M Books. I want my children to have all the passion that Brandon Shire writes about.

I read to dream, I read to be exposed to other cultures and places, and I read to connect to fellow M/M Authors and Readers.

AfflictedBlurb: A high-priced male escort and a blind gay man meet by chance. What ensues is a hot, steamy romance by two men looking for something more than a one night stand. But can they reach beyond their own insecurities to grasp what they really desire?

Hunter Stephens is gay, tall, dark haired and scorching hot. But he doesn’t rely on the visual cues when appraising a man because he’s also blind. He listens to the timbre of their voice, trembles at the touch of their skin and luxuriates in the deep richness of the aroma of man. He’s hard of the hand because he’s a black belt and takes no shit, but soft of the heart because he’s lonely and has been for a while.

Until he meets Dillon.

Dillon Chambers is pure man candy. He’s a high-priced male escort that works with an exclusive agency who handles only the wealthiest of clients. But it wasn’t always like that for him. At sixteen, he was thrown out of the house for being gay and struggled to survive, turning tricks on the street and finding food and a place to sleep wherever he could. He met two people that changed his life, but he has never met anyone who could break his heart.

Until he bumped into Hunter.

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TNA_Signature_Sammy I LOVE mysteries…no, love isn’t the right word…I INHALE mysteries…yes, that’s better! The Mystery genre has always been one of my favorites since I was a young girl. What young kid could not fall in love with Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Certainly not me. So it would follow, then, that my favorite book is a mystery novel…but the world of M/M fiction is a far cry from the likes of Nancy Drew, and so I think I should explain first how I came to fall in love with a little book called The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks by Josh Lanyon. Let me begin by sharing a bit of a letter I sent to the author because it will help explain why the book is a favorite of mine. Here is an excerpt of a letter I wrote a few years ago.

Dear Josh,

I feel it important to tell you I’ve never written a fan letter before. Even as a teen I never felt moved enough by anything or anyone to do so.

When my dear friend David passed away some 14 months ago, his former lover Tom and myself helped his mother take care of his estate—which included cleaning out his condo. David had a habit that honestly used to drive me crazy—every time he read a book, he would make a note inside the front cover—first giving the novel a star rating and then a short sentence about how it affected him.

Tom and I must have gone through a hundred piles of books scattered all about his home before I spied one of yours—The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks. It had earned a 5 star rating—a rarity from my friend David—and had this note: “Read this author again—he gets it!! Plus writes a damn good story.”

I am not sure what he felt you got—perhaps how love can be both splendid and require work—I can only guess…

Thank you, Josh! Thank you for writing seriously good fiction that can both transport the reader beyond their own limited existence and still manage to sometimes speak directly to that existence simultaneously—that really is a gift.

And what a gift it was…The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks was my FIRST M/M novel. Mr. Lanyon’s book opened up a whole new world for me—one that has given me a source of some of the most amazing literature I have ever read.

“Perry’s sense of loneliness and loss returned in force, crashing over him like a wave, dragging him out to sea on an emotional riptide.”

From the opening pages of this book, the author pulls us into the story, grabs our heart and attaches it to his creations, his characters, until you are just so sure that you have known these men all your life. Perry, a young and struggling artist, has taken up residence in a Victorian-era boardinghouse, complete with a cast of eccentric and mysterious residents that would rival any cast the likes of which Agatha Christie had ever put on paper. When Perry’s vacation is cut short, he returns to his apartment, only to find a dead body in his bathtub—a body wearing yellow socks. Thus begins an adventure that would include ghost hunting, secret passages, hidden loot squirreled away by the mob and, of all things, love. From one intense moment to another, we watch as Perry falls deeper and deeper in love with Nick, an ex Navy SEAL, who is trying his best to turn his life around. A life that will not include some frail young man with the eyes of a fawn and a laugh that sends shivers down Nick’s spine…such lovely shivers. That’s right—a life that will not, should not, cannot… Oh dear, who are we kidding? Up until the last lines of this novel, we sit on the edge of our seats, wondering just what will happen to these two men. During the course of this novel, a novel so well crafted that the love shared by these two men never overshadows but instead augments the thrill of the mystery itself—all the time we read, we feel more and more like we have known these people all our lives. We have walked these halls, we have felt Perry’s pain, have lived on the cusp of a new and fragile love. This is the power of a great novel…a power that grabs you by the throat and grips your heart and takes you on the best ride you have ever had without ever leaving your living room.

I love this book, not only because my friend David loved it, and not only because it is a mystery. No, I love this book because it dares to say that despite all that life can manage to throw at you, there is love waiting there as well. That no matter how hard you fall, someone will catch you, someone will care for you, someone is watching out for you.

The Ghost Wore Yellow SocksBlurb: His romantic weekend in ruins, shy twenty-something artist Perry Foster learns that things can always get worse when he returns home from San Francisco to find a dead body in his bathtub. A dead body in a very ugly sportscoat — and matching socks. The dead man is a stranger to Perry, but that’s not much of a comfort; how did a strange dead man get in a locked flat at the isolated Alton Estate in the wilds of the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont? Perry turns to help from “tall, dark and hostile” former navy SEAL Nick Reno — but is Reno all that he seems?

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TNA_Signature_Lisa In April of 2009, a book was published that took me until April 25, 2010 to find. The fact I came across this book at all was a minor miracle—a combination of dumb luck, an Amazon recommendation (which, to this day, I can’t explain, since I’d never searched for gay romance on the site before then), a serious reading slump precipitated by a lack of strong and multi-dimensional female protagonists (I can tell you the exact series of books—and the female character—that turned me off of M/F romance forever), and, let’s call it like it is, a raging case of curiosity.

My first gay romance was Jane Seville’s Zero at the Bone, the story of a maxillofacial surgeon in the federal witness protection program, who is set to testify in a murder trial—but someone wants to make sure Dr. Jack Francisco doesn’t live long enough to see the inside of that courtroom.

Enter an assassin named D, the man hired to ensure Jack dies before he has the chance to testify. What begins as a murder-for-hire, though, quickly turns into a hostage situation and then a cross-country trek which proves costly to both of these men; costly, because somewhere along the way they’d lost their hearts to each other, even while knowing there was no way they could ever be together—especially since D has made it his mission to ensure Jack makes it safely to Boston to give his testimony; after which Jack will then, once again, disappear into a new life and identity.

Talk about an opposites attract story… And a little Stockholm Syndrome? Yep, absolutely.

First of all, let me say this book isn’t perfect. The epilogue in particular was an unnecessary chapter tacked on to a story that had already ended in the perfect way. I know there are also some readers who’d found D’s rural patois frustrating to read, though I wasn’t one of them. Rather, I felt it only added to his character, made him more believable as a man who believed his only and last resort was the life he’d fallen into. But even while it’s not perfect, hello, I’ve read it SEVEN times to date. What makes it such a fantastic reread for me? Action, danger, suspense, betrayal, and a man who’d become such a cold and calculated killing machine that he wondered if he was even still human anymore. And then, he began to feel. Jack woke something inside D that made him want, made him need, and I fell in love with Jack and D and what seemed would be an impossible love affair. I still pull it from my Kindle library and dust it off every so often, which I haven’t done since October of 2013. My sentimental feelings toward my first ever M/M read may dictate it’s time to give Jack and D another visit soon.

ZeroattheBoneBlurb: After witnessing a mob hit, surgeon Jack Francisco is put into protective custody to keep him safe until he can testify. A hitman known only as D is blackmailed into killing Jack, but when he tracks him down, his weary conscience won’t allow him to murder an innocent man. Finding in each other an unlikely ally, Jack and D are soon on the run from shadowy enemies. Forced to work together to survive, the two men forge a bond that ripens into unexpected passion. Jack sees the wounded soul beneath D’s cold, detached exterior, and D finds in Jack the person who can help him reclaim the man he once was. As the day of Jack’s testimony approaches, he and D find themselves not only fighting for their lives… but also fighting for their future. A future together.

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TNA_Signature_Sadonna My first M/M read is slightly out of the norm I would say. I was going through a really rough time personally, and my friend Tina had this group of books on her Goodreads feed. And she rated them 5 stars – which she RARELY does. So I saw they were free, and on-line, and I decided I was pretty bored with my YA, Paranormal, and Historical Fiction fare, so I’d give them a try. I had never heard of M/M before, and I don’t think she had the books shelved that way. I did read the book description and because I grew up in that era towards the end of the Cold War– in fact, I visited the USSR in 1979 as a high school exchange student to Finland, just before the “invasion” of Afghanistan – I was intrigued. I was a history major in college, and studied much of the history of this era – even referring to the Great Soviet Encyclopedia for a few classes. :)

To say that I was absolutely blown away by these books would be the understatement of the year. This is not a love story – this is an epic love saga, filled with obstacles and ultimately a satisfying resolution. This is the definition of enemies to lovers, and angst, and it all happens during a number of armed conflicts. I finished the nearly 1700 pages (around 1,000,000 words) between November 27 and December 7 of 2010, and it was some of the most impressive, brutal, beautiful storytelling I’d ever seen. I barely slept in the days that I was reading these books. I would work for 12 or so hours (I have a 3.5 – 4 hour commute each day), and read and maybe sleep a couple of hours. But I was completely obsessed with these books and these characters. They have vividly stayed with me since then – Vadim being my most revered, f*****d up character of all time. The bar was set pretty high, quite frankly. But I’ve never turned back.

Since then I’ve read probably 2100 M/M books. Obviously I’ve found my home. :) And I did tell Aleks Voinov the first time I met him at GRL ABQ in 2012 – and Tina – that it’s their fault that I have 9,000+ books in my Calibre library now, and will have to live to be 100 to read all these books!

Special ForcesSynopsis: Special Forces is the epic story of a Scottish SAS soldier and a Soviet spetsnaz soldier. Two enemies who meet in the line of duty during the early days of the Soviet Union’s last war in Afghanistan. Behind enemy lines respect and finally love grow… but that’s only the official version.

The reality of these two men is dark, brutal, fueled by aggression and insane lust. Steeped in pain and killing, with death as their shoulder companion, these Special Forces soldiers meet in 1980. Their intense hatred caused by rape, revenge and torture turning into fucked-up lust and years of secret encounters in the rat-infested labyrinth of Kabul and the Afghan mountains. Time, despair and desolation smoothing down the sharpness of hatred, its venom drained with each physical encounter, the lust helping to form an understanding that only two men of the same kind can share. Enemy Mine and Brothers in Arms – on two different sides.

This novel spans across over twenty-five years of their lives. It’s harsh and violent, but life is cruel and they just do what they need to survive.

NOTE: The Special Forces Series is already FREE and download links can be found HERE

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