4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Kate McMurray, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Across the East River Bridge by Kate McMurray

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Title: Across the East River Bridge (2nd Edition)

Author: Kate McMurray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 239 Pages

At a Glance: Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When historian Christopher Finnegan walks into a new museum in Brooklyn, he’s chagrined to learn its curator is his old academic rival, Troy Rafferty. Worse, Troy is convinced the museum is haunted and wants Finn’s help learning more about the ghosts. Finn and Troy have never gotten along and Finn wants to run screaming, but then Troy offers him an intriguing proposal: Troy will help Finn with a research project for his overbearing boss if Finn will help Troy solve a mystery involving two men who died in the building under mysterious circumstances in 1878.

Finn and Troy piece together the two men’s lives–and the quiet romance that grew between them–through diaries, newspaper clippings, and police reports. They’re both soon convinced the men were murdered. They’re also convinced the ghosts are real even Finn witnesses paranormal phenomena he can’t deny–and that they’re capable of affecting thoughts, feelings, and actions. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other despite years of animosity, Finn worries he’s being manipulated by the ghosts to stay with Troy and solve the case. Troy is convinced the love between them is real, but he’ll need to figure out how to get rid of the ghosts in order to prove it.

Dividers

Review: I first read Kate McMurray’s Across the East River Bridge back in September of 2012. A few years and more than a few hundred books later, when I chose to review it in its second edition release, I’ll confess that while I had the plot basics down, I clearly had forgotten some of the finer details that made it such a fantastic read—both the first time and now, the second. This book is many things rolled into one: an enemies-to-lovers story, a contemporary romance, a historical romance, a tragic romance, and then, to top it all off, there’s a paranormal mystery dating back to the 1870s that this author managed to finesse into a touching and sometimes intense read.

McMurray leads us into the story in modern day Brooklyn, where we learn that Christopher “Finn” Finnegan and Troy Rafferty have a history of their own—rivals from their college days, Finn has spent more than a decade loathing golden boy Troy for sabotaging his academic career by discrediting his dissertation research, which then resulted in Finn’s funding being pulled. Amongst the animosity that Finn still feels toward Troy all these years later is an undercurrent of sexual tension that’s been there between them from the start. And, added to it, there’s an intense frustration that Finn is still attracted to someone he hates so thoroughly—or tries to hate so thoroughly, at least. The setup for them working together, then, is a great foundation for the conflicted feelings Finn has throughout the book—how can he hate Troy and still want him so intensely? And how can Finn look inward in any sort of honest and rational way and continue to blame Troy for his failings? I have to say I felt a lot of frustration myself toward Finn throughout this book. His stubbornness and scapegoating of Troy makes it hard to excuse some of Finn’s actions and reactions, but a lot of that for me is because Kate McMurray makes Troy such a likeable and charming character. Where Troy may be intended to be Finn’s foil, it actually worked the other way around, and I liked the turning of the tables.

Where the author infuses this book with a terrible poignancy is in the historical research Finn and Troy delve into to uncover the mystery of Brill House, the museum of which Troy is now curator. There is a ghostly presence or two in Brill House that seems to lead directly to one-time owner Theodore Brill, and a border who eventually became Teddy’s lover, George Washington Cutler. Their story, of course, carries with it all the ingrained difficulties of the time in which these two men lived and loved. As Troy and Finn continue their investigation into Teddy and Wash’s deaths—an apparent murder/suicide—they uncover more questions than answers about the way in which the couple died. And, in the process, begin to agitate the spirits of the deceased as the ghosts become desperate for the truth of their deaths to be revealed. I 100% loved this aspect of the novel, not only from an emotional standpoint but from a writing standpoint as well. As Finn and Troy get closer to the truth, the more the tension and suspense escalate, and once the storyline reaches its climax, it plays out in true page-turner fashion.

Troy and Finn’s interactions throughout the story are part antagonistic, part full-on sexual, and their relationship builds from that as well as the eventual realization on Finn’s part that he’s going to have to give up the ghost, so to speak, and stop trying to make Troy the enemy. As feelings change and begin to look a lot like two men falling in love, the underlying question they can’t answer for sure is, how much is this metaphysical mystery manipulating them and their emotions. Finn’s not only skeptical about nearly every aspect of Troy’s theories on what happened to Teddy and Wash, but he’s so busy hanging on to the past that he can’t see what a great future Troy’s offering him, and I liked how these relationships contrasted—we see what a gift it is for Troy and Finn to be able to live together openly, a luxury that Teddy and Wash didn’t have. And, it may well have cost them their lives.

Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release. Whether you’ve read it before, or are considering reading it for the first time, I can say it’s a solid story that comes highly recommended.

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4.5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Kenzie Cade, Less Than Three Press, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Short Story

Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade

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Title: Reindeer Games

Author: Kenzie Cade

Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Pages/Word Count: 68 Pages

At a Glance: If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Dashing von Stride has one thing on his mind: winning the window display contest for the Miracle on Main Christmas Contest. His plans are set and ready—and then he walks into his toy store, Reindeer Games, to find a sleigh that shouldn’t be there. The mystery sleigh sparks a new plan, however, and now all Dash needs is the perfect Santa to model his display after.

This year, the pranks with his reindeer have gotten out of hand. Instead of preparing for the Big Day, Niklaus Kringle is hunting for his missing sleigh. Locating it should have been easy, but games easily won are seldom worth playing…

Dividers

Review: Cute, sweet, lighthearted: any and all of these words could be used to describe author Kenzie Cade’s Christmas offering, Reindeer Games. If you are looking for a well written bit of fluff to take your mind off the holiday and its mad rush, look no further. This little story is the perfect ticket to some much needed getaway time from reality.

Cleverly based on the idea that Santa has children and that elves are the magic that is Christmas, the story begins with the reindeer having played a trick on Nik Kringle by hiding his sleigh right before the “big day”. Found by a toy store owner who turns out to have a little magic of his own, Dashing von Stride (Dash) discovers the sleigh standing in his display room and immediately uses it as the inspiration for the window decorating contest held annually in the small town of (wait for it) Wassail. I was laughing so hard at these fantastic names and the tongue-in-cheek humor the author obviously used when coming up with them.

When Nik and Dash meet, there is an immediate sense of rightness—of everything finally falling into place for both of these fellows. Once Dash is clued in to exactly who Nik is and why he is in town, the story moves swiftly to an immediate and delightful happy ending.

Pure fun and a sexy happy-ever-after is what this novella is all about. Nik and Dash could not be more perfect for each other, or sweeter, and did I mention hot? But honestly, there was little to criticize in this story simply because you can sense the pure delight the author took in crafting this holiday offering. The two main characters sensed their immediate bond, and wasted no time in exploring exactly what that meant. The mischievous and aerodynamically correct reindeer only added to the fun. Perhaps the only criticism I might have is that the smarmy and nasty shopkeeper who always seemed to take first place in the window contest was under utilized in this story. I felt like a slight tussle with him, one that might have threatened Nik and Dash getting to know one another, would have spiced up the story a bit. However, that was more a matter of my personal taste than a real fault in the story.

If you are looking for a nice little story filled with Christmas cheer and sexy men, then definitely take a chance on Reindeer Games by Kenzie Cade.

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Paranormal, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Maelstrom by Jordan L. Hawk

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Title: Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Seven)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 268 Pages

At a Glance: Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Between his father’s sudden—and rather suspicious—generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first.

Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder. Someone is sacrificing men in dark rituals—and all the clues lead back to the museum.

With their friends Christine and Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must discover the cult’s true goal before it’s too late. For dark forces are afoot at the very heart of the museum, and they want more than Whyborne’s codex.

They want his life.

Dividers

Review: “Widdershins knows its own.”

Trying to write this review in any kind of linear fashion is proving to be impossible. I’m trying to stick to some kind of organized format, but my brain keeps jumping to the brilliance, the sheer brilliance, of chapter fifty-seven. Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk. The entire book is extraordinary and mind-blowing – but chapter fifty-seven is indescribable. One thing I do know is that I don’t want to come down from this high; I want to wallow in this one for a bit. I truly think Maelstrom is my favorite of the series to date.

In this seventh book of the series, Widdershins, with its maelstrom of energy lying beneath the earth, is a hotspot for cultists far and wide, and our heroes once again find themselves smack in the midst of the goings on. The latest batch of books donated to the museum has brought all the crazies to the yard, and Whyborne and Griffin must, of course, work together to foil them before all is lost.

It should come as no surprise that one of the things I love most about Maelstrom is the continually growing relationship between Ival and Griffin. They are as in tune to each other as ever, and must draw on that closeness throughout the story. In parts of Hoarfrost, Griffin was in a rough place, and needed Whyborne to keep him from breaking apart – here, however, it is Whyborne who largely needs grounding and clarity. I love that turnabout and all of the different ways we get to see their love for each other. The tender, poignant moments toward the end (*cough* chapter fifty-seven *cough*) are magnified a hundredfold because of their ever-strengthening bond.

So, of course the love story is amazing…but you better believe that all the other Jordan L. Hawk trademarks are there as well. Action, peril, creepy creatures from the Outside, humor, and a razor sharp wit. Not to mention perhaps the hottest sex scene in the series yet. I actually thought my brain was going to explode. No joke.

I already mentioned the humor, but want to touch on it a bit more specifically. The magic of these books is obviously in the world building and the storytelling – but a part of that magic also has to do with the delivery. And Hawk nails the delivery every time. Whyborne has tons of great one-liners. Griffin has a new motor car, which is an endless source of comic relief. The wedding prep and talk that is peppered throughout the book is fabulous. And, I absolutely had to share this gem, from our dear Christine:

“We’re going to be married, damn it, and Whyborne is going to walk me down the aisle…It’s going to be perfect, even if I have to kill every one of these bastards myself!”

In short, Maelstrom is fantastic. I don’t know how the hell Hawk keeps making each book better than the last, but she does. She’s kept the series fresh through seven books, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the eighth! Coolest. Books. Ever.

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4.5 Stars, Historical Romance, Joanna Chambers, Reviewed by Lisa, Samhain Publishing

Review: Unnatural by Joanna Chambers

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Title: Unnatural (An Enlightenment Story)

Author: Joanna Chambers

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 230 Pages

At a Glance: Unnatural is a beautifully written friends-to-lovers romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: The heart breaks but does not change.

Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Warning: Contains a dashing military hero with one weakness—a scientist who feels their chemistry in every cell of his body. Kissing in the rain, skinny dipping, and emotional flashbacks. Huzzah!

Dividers

Review: Joanna Chambers’ Unnatural is a beautiful love story between two friends, a friendship that began long ago when James Hart, a then nine-year-old boy, was saved from drowning by thirteen-year-old Iain Sinclair. Or, at least Iain thought he was saving James from drowning. That not being the case, however, James took great offense at Iain babying him. But that all changed slowly as their first awkward encounter blossomed into a years long friendship, one in which James fell madly in love with Iain, and Iain dutifully ignored those feelings as well as his own.

Chambers has such a lovely writing style which plants you directly into the atmosphere of this novel of manners and its early 19th Century setting. Iain is by far the more complex of the two men—a painful family history; a father whom Iain is ever doomed to disappoint, regardless of his heroism; his eye toward duty meaning he must keep James always at arm’s length. James, meanwhile, as the younger and less worldly of the two, may be the more innocent but is also the far more pragmatic of the two men. As a scientist, James sees his surroundings with a more studious eye and therefore, he understands his feelings for Iain as a simple part of his nature. It’s Iain for whom this book is titled, no doubt about it.

At the outset of the novel, James and Iain have gone through a situation so troubling that it’s caused them to part ways on the worst of terms, and then it’s through flashbacks that Chambers unravels their story. James never strayed far from his family home, while Iain had joined the army with dreams of his heroism perhaps helping to earn his father’s regard and respect. Upon his leaving the army, Iain is determined to make things right between himself and James before he leaves for India and a new mission. This is where the story sets about resolving the conflict that presents itself through the flashbacks, and it’s perhaps one of the hardest battles Iain has ever fought—both with himself and against his feelings for James, as well as with James, as James has no desire to open himself up to being hurt by Iain ever again. There was a good bit of struggling on Iain’s part to come to terms with his feelings, his own happiness, and the danger of loving James, and the journey to their reconciliation was well worth the trip.

If you love a good historical romance with all the built-in turmoil the time period presented for the men who loved the love that dare not speak its name, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Unnatural to you.

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4 Stars, Charlie Cochet, Dreamspinner Press, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Sadonna

Release Day Review: Between the Devil and the Pacific Blue by Charlie Cochet

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Title: Between the Devil and the Pacific Blue

Author: Charlie Cochet

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 60 Pages

At a Glance: A bittersweet tale from a favorite author that has all the elements I love about her writing: mystery, romance, style, history and above all, true love.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: For the last six months, Detective James Ralston has worked the nightshift as security for the Pacific Blue Hotel, and every night at 2 a.m. his rounds lead him to the radio room where the handsome and mysterious Franklin Fairchild sits listening to waltzes as old as the hotel itself. James is drawn to Franklin, but Franklin is a man at the end of his rope, and James has no intention of getting caught up in whatever trouble Franklin is in. A heated encounter late one night sends James down a disturbing path and has him questioning everything around him, including his very sanity.

Dividers

Review: Oh my! This is a delicious little nugget from Charlie Cochet that is full of surprises.

James Ralston is a former soldier and a former detective who is now in private security at a hotel in New York City that is long past its prime. The Pacific Blue no longer shines, but evidence of her former glory can still be glimpsed among the faded paint and moldings and furniture from days gone by. James patrols the hotel at night under the less than watchful eye of the manager – son of the original manager. Every night he stops in the radio room where the handsome but melancholy Franklin Fairchild listens to old music from the heyday of the Pacific Blue. James doesn’t want to offend the man, but he’s also worried that he’ll get drawn into something he doesn’t want to be if he engages with him.

Until the night that Franklin is NOT in the radio room. James gets worried and goes to look for Franklin – much against his better judgement. Once he finds Franklin, he discovers that he is more drawn to him than he ever thought. He also finds some things about Franklin quite disturbing – like the obvious abuse he has suffered at some point, which has left visible reminders. He tries to find out more about what he has uncovered of Franklin’s past, and why he’s resigned to his fate – only, he’s actually more confused by what is revealed. James is then convinced that he is losing his mind, and the more he tries to figure out what’s going on, the more baffled he becomes. He knows Franklin is the key, but he’s not sure how to resolve his questions.

I realize this review is a bit cryptic, but truly I can’t reveal any of the surprises, or it will ruin the story. Just suffice to say that nothing is what it seems and that there are reasons for what happens that are not at all apparent to James until the very end of the story.

Charlie Cochet adds some beautiful touches of old New York style and the beauty that once was the Pacific Blue, as well as her signature romantic style. Above all, this is a love story that will hopefully leave each reader with a little sad smile in the end.

 

 

 

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4 Stars, Bonnie Dee, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published, Summer Devon

Release Day Review: The Merchant and the Clergyman by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee

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Title: The Merchant and the Clergyman

Author: Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 186 Pages

At a Glance: If you’re looking for well written historical romance, you can’t go wrong with these two authors.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A village clergyman

Curate James Fletcher is content shepherding his parishioners through the good and bad times of their lives. If he sometimes dreams of making a deeper connection with a man who truly knows everything about him, it is an impulse he ignores.

A devoted businessman

Declan Shaw solves problems at his family’s many business enterprises. Recently, he’s considered ceasing his travels to pursue a few desires of his own. He’d love to explore his secret love of cooking and perhaps have a relationship with a man that lasts longer than a night.

The event that brings them together

In town for his cousin’s wedding, Declan meets James just as he’s bested the annoying groom. Intrigued by the mild-mannered cleric’s surprising spirit, Declan asks James to help him discover if his aging aunt is being mistreated by her spouse.

As their paths repeatedly cross, the men reach an intersection of attraction they can’t ignore. Will they dare purse forbidden passion and continue to journey together into the future, or will their differences tear them apart?

Dividers

Review: One of the reasons I love historical romance is one of the reasons a lot of people don’t. Gay men and women had to settle for a very different sort of happy ending throughout history, often marrying for the sake of propriety while keeping their true natures a secret to all but those with whom they carried on their secret affairs. One of the reasons this book endeared itself to me is because Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee not only captured that romantic element but then, rather than allowing this story to rest on that tried and true trope alone, they added a bit of mystery and danger to the plot. That, as well as two charming characters in Declan Shaw and James Fletcher—our merchant and clergyman—drove this story along to an ending that was perfectly fitting for its historical setting, a resolution that fit the time and the characters, and allowed James to carry on in a calling he loved and was so obviously meant to do. To reiterate what Jennifer once summarized in another review of this writing duo’s work not long ago—if you’re looking for well written historical romance, you can’t go wrong with these two authors.

James’s rather limited, not to mention unfortunate, experience with men begins and ends with Kip Darnley. Kip is the prototype of the closeted bully, using James for sex then treating him horribly the remainder of the time. While James had tolerated Kip’s callous behavior in school for several reasons—not the least of which is that he’s a sexual submissive, and the way Kip commanded him turned him on more than a little—it’s clear when they come face to face again that Kip’s free pass to sex with James has long expired. When they meet again all these years later, Kip’s demands have nothing to do with scratching an itch (though he does try, which results in us seeing exactly the stuff James is made of) and everything to do with James officiating Kip’s marriage to a sweet and naïve young woman.

The authors thicken the plot when Declan Shaw is introduced…looking rather a lot like Kip, and pushing quite a few of James’s buttons. As it turns out, Declan is Kip’s handsome and far more interesting cousin, which sets the stage for their romance. But of course, as a relationship between two men was anathema in this story’s setting, especially when one of them is a man of the cloth, the getting together wasn’t easy. That doesn’t mean, however, that James isn’t wildly attracted to Declan while at the same time being a little turned off by him because of his familial connections.

As Devon and Dee move the plot forward, we’re treated to a story that endears James to us as we witness him questioning his beliefs while exhibiting an uncompromising devotion to his flock. We watch a subtle (then a not so subtle) flirtation unfold between him and Declan, all while James struggles with his sexual needs and how to confess them to the man. In short, James is human and, therefore, relatable on every level. As conflict is introduced alongside this romance, revealing that Kip’s impending marriage is a disaster waiting to happen, as well as an intrigue involving Declan’s aunt, Declan not only becomes James’s lover but also becomes this story’s hero.

The Merchant and the Clergyman is a tender romance that doesn’t struggle to give readers a happy ending unbefitting the time in which the story is set. Rather, the ending gives both James and Declan exactly what the time and setting demanded, allowing us to believe they loved long into the future, with none the wiser.

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3.5 Stars, Erotica, Historical Romance, Pride Publishing, Reviewed by Lisa, Scarlet Blackwell

Review: Stand and Deliver by Scarlet Blackwell

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Title: Stand and Deliver

Author: Scarlet Blackwell

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 102 Pages

At a Glance: A lusty and erotic guilty pleasure read.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A tale of dark, dangerous highwaymen and the man they take captive.

When Lucien Mayer, 14th Earl of Ravensberry is taken hostage by a gang of highwaymen, he is drawn to the damaged, reclusive Ambrosius and the dangerous, brooding Dante. Torn between escaping and satisfying his body’s needs, his life will never be the same again.

Publisher’s Note: This book has previously been published under the same title. It has been expanded, revised and re-edited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

Dividers

Review: Scarlet Blackwell’s Stand and Deliver was originally published back in 2009 by Total-e-Bound, before they were Totally Bound, before they were Pride Publishing. I read the book in its original incarnation way back when, when I was still a relative newbie to the gay romance genre but was more than familiar by then with Blackwell’s work. And to that I’ll add that my experiences with this author’s work over the years have been both hit and miss. If you’re familiar, then you know she has a formula. She has a tendency to write at least one of her protagonists as a bit of…dare I say…I’ll whisper it…an arse? But, there’s usually a good enough reason for his behavior, and then, of course, she sets about making him fall in love—at which point he usually redeems himself, if not entirely endears himself, to readers by the end of the book.

I wanted to get my hands on this reworked version of Stand and Deliver because I remember liking it the first time around, and I wanted to see what had changed, or whether the book had changed enough, that I’d recommend it to readers who’d already read and liked it in its original format. More on that in a moment, though.

First off I’ll say this novella is Erotic Fantasy—no apologies, no denying it. Not fantasy in a supernatural way but fantasy of the sort where one imagines themselves as the hero/heroine of a story, being kidnapped and ravished by a handsome marauder who falls madly in love with us (see: my pirate fetish), helpless against his charms. This fantasy, in particular, involves a band of land-bound pirates–highwaymen, to be more precise–who travel under cover of darkness, chasing down horse-drawn carriages, preying upon the wealthy with demands of, “Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!” If one was lucky, one surrendered a few baubles and coins, then was set free, virtue intact.

Lucien Mayer, 14th Earl of Ravensberry, the robbery and kidnapping victim in the story, is hardly a damsel in distress, nor is he hardly concerned about his virtue, as he is instantly drawn to and insanely in lust with two of his captors—one he could potentially love, the other he despises in spite of the fact he shares his body with Dante time and time again—with Ambrosius in the bed and without.

Though there isn’t much plot woven in with the erotic content of Stand and Deliver, there is a certain poignancy to the story which plucks at our empathy and helps to perhaps soothe a few of our qualms about accepting that Lucien falls so quickly for Ambrosius, with little supporting reason behind it. Lucien lives a lonely and seemingly aimless existence, Ambrosius is in deep mourning, Dante’s hiding a rather explosive secret, and both Ambrosius and Dante are warring with their emotions—Ambrosius with grief and guilt, Dante with grief and anger and bitterness and regret. Lucien doesn’t make it easy on himself either, being drawn to these two men, one emotionally and the other in a purely physical way. But, that’s Lucien’s story and he’s sticking to it, come hell or highwaymen.

Now, back to the story’s revisions. Has Stand and Deliver changed enough to purchase and read it again, if you’ve already read it in its original format? No, I don’t think so. Other than perhaps some polishing of the prose, which I noticed as I skimmed through my original copy of the book, this story is the same. If you haven’t read the book, would I recommend it? Well, as always, that depends upon the individual: do you like a little plot with your sex, or a little sex with your plot? Do you fancy historical erotica? Do you like threesomes? And snarling and sexy, slightly difficult to like men, two of whom do get their happy ending, with the third looking as though he may get his own sequel? If you don’t mind a little plot with your sex, among all those other things, then Stand and Deliver is a guilty pleasure read that stands and delivers.

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Brita Addams

Guest Post: Beloved Unmasked by Brita Addams

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Happy Fall! Those of you experiencing cooler temps, please send some south.

While I have been relatively quiet on social media, I haven’t been idle. I’m pleased to say that my Tarnished series continues with a standalone spinoff, just released on October 16th. Beloved Unmasked takes place in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. While a Tarnished novel, it is the beginning of my Cherished One series. I’m already working on the next two books, with thoughts of others set in the city I lived in for many years.

In celebration of the release of Beloved Unmasked, I have written a series of short posts on various aspects of Storyville, where my character, Picayune/David lives out his formative years. Below is a list of the posts that will appear on my blog this week. I invite you to take a brief tour of New Orleans’ gone but not forgotten notorious red-light district, Storyville.

Already up on the blog are part one and two of my post, Pre-Storyville. While prostitution existed all over the city, the area later designated Storyville (you’ll have to read the third post in the series to find out why it was called that,) the area along famous Basin Street housed the sex trade for many years before 1897. Read the fascinating stories associated with that rough and tumble period.

I have a Storyville overview, where I introduce readers to the infamous and we see how the city fathers decided to sanction an industry they couldn’t stamp out, if only in a restricted area. “Containment of vice” they called it. Below is a complete list of posts for this week.

I’ve thought a lot about what inspired the book and while it has ended up more than what I ever imagined, the initial inspiration is nowhere to be found. Late in 2015, my sister told me that an elderly woman she and a friend cared for had passed away. Over the years, Sissy told me about Delores and the interesting life she’d lived. For over twenty years, Delores worked as a psychic in the famous Bottom of the Cup in New Orleans.

I’d thought to incorporate that knowledge into a story and went about the research. The deeper I got into the myriad stories, the more I learned about another aspect of New Orleans – Storyville. For a brief time, I intended to weave in fortunetelling, but then I doubted I could honor Delores as she should have been honored, and ended up scrapping the idea.

From the ashes of that came Beloved Unmasked and I’m so glad it did. While writing, I cried, I laughed, and I lamented a time gone by. Sometimes I think I hear the calliope boat or the plaintive wail of a lone saxophone. I’d give almost anything to have met some of the people I’ve researched. To ask them questions inspired by a knowledge of their time, their fates, their way of life.

I do, however, feel I’ve met Pic/David, Spence, Emile and the rest of the cast. I’ve lived with them for nearly a year, every day, whether I was behind my laptop or in bed with the lights off. They’ve ordered me around, shaped many days, and given me insights I’d lacked until I met them. I hope you feel the same way after you’ve read Beloved Unmasked.

Because Emile is so pivotal to the story, I am writing his now. Without Question is a ride unto itself, but then anything worth writing is worth the ride. Right?

There’s lots of buzz about Beloved Unmasked:

Five Stars – Beloved Unmasked is a beautifully written historical romance. You can feel the streets of New Orleans, see the sites, and hear the sounds. (Cathy Brockman – MM Good Book Reviews)

Five Stars – When you want a historical you can really sink into and feel like you are there, this is the book to pick up. Really amazingly well done. A Recommended Read (Tina Brunelle – Redz World)

Four StarsBeloved Unmasked has a whole lot packed into the pages. Brita Addams has certainly done her research about New Orleans. (Kazza – On the Top Down Under Reviews)

Five Stars – Absolutely amazing. (Lorraine Lesar – Three Books Over the Rainbow)

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BelovedUnmaskedHere’s the blurb for Beloved Unmasked: ​​Born to a spiteful prostitute in Storyville, the red-light district in New Orleans, David comes into the world as Picayune, meaning “of little value,” or, as his mother reminds him, “nothing.” In the early 20th century brothels and clubs, his love of music sustains young Pic until a life-changing meeting places him on the road to respectability, and Pic reinvents himself as David Reid.

As David realizes happiness for the first time, conscription forces his friend and first love, Spencer Webb, into the Great War. While he pursues a law degree, letters from Spence connect David to his hopes for the future. After staggering news at war’s end, David must find a way to move forward. Under the tutelage of his benefactor, David’s career prospers, but specters from Storyville threaten all he’s worked so hard to achieve.

The past holds both pain and love. Will facing it head-on destroy David or give him everything he’s ever dared dream?

Cherished One: Book One (A Tarnished Novel)

Buy Beloved Unmasked at Dreamspinner Press || Amazon || All Romance Ebooks

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Brita Logo

Find Brita at any of the following places:

Website/Blog || Facebook || Twitter

October 16

MM Good Books Reviews

October 16-23

Brita Addams’s Blog

October 16 & 17 – Pre-Storyville parts one and two

October 18 – Storyville

October 19 – Beloved Unmasked Trivia

October 20 – E.J. Bellocq – Photographer to the Whores

October 21 – Women of Storyville

October 22 – Storyville’s Sporting Palaces

October 23 – Trick Babies

October 19

Dean Pace-Frech’s blog

The Novel Approach Reviews

October 26-30

The Romance Studio Blog for TRS Spookapalooza

October 30

Prism Book Alliance

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Brita Addams, Dreamspinner Press, Historical Romance

Release Day Spotlight: Beloved Unmasked by Brita Addams

Beloved Unmasked

Brita Addams’ Beloved Unmasked is a story of second chances set against the backdrop of a bygone New Orleans where Storyville—the city’s former red light district—flourished with legalized prostitution and a regulated drug trade. NOLA herself is a character in this book, as it is in nearly every book I’ve ever read set in this vibrant city rich in history and famous for its music, food, cemeteries, and ghosts, and the author presents The Big Easy with not only an obvious love for the place but an intimate knowledge of it and its history too.

As World War I heralded a change in Storyville and New Orleans, prostitution became a criminal offense, and this novel’s heroes, David “Picayune” Reid and Spencer Webb, begin an arduous journey. David, the unwanted son of a prostitute, strives to become more than the nothing the woman who’d given birth to him labeled him, aided by the man who would become his friend and mentor and savior. Spence, a prostitute and Pic’s friend, heads off to war after he’s conscripted…where he faces his own mortality.

Beloved Unmasked is a story whose romantic theme is a simple and timeless truth: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. The story is Picayune’s evolution–from the boy called “nothing” to David, the man who became the beloved.

This first novel in the Cherished series can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, All Romance eBooks

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Blurb: Born to a spiteful prostitute in Storyville, the red-light district in New Orleans, David comes into the world as Picayune, meaning “of little value,” or, as his mother reminds him, “nothing.” In the early 20th century brothels and clubs, his love of music sustains young Pic until a life-changing meeting places him on the road to respectability, and Pic reinvents himself as David Reid.

As David realizes happiness for the first time, conscription forces his friend and first love, Spencer Webb, into the Great War. While he pursues a law degree, letters from Spence connect David to his hopes for the future. After staggering news at war’s end, David must find a way to move forward. Under the tutelage of his benefactor, David’s career prospers, but specters from Storyville threaten all he’s worked so hard to achieve.

The past holds both pain and love. Will facing it head-on destroy David or give him everything he’s ever dared dream?

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4 Stars, AE Kendall, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Quartermaster and the Marquis’ Son by AE Kendall

Amazon US

Amazon US

Title: The Quartermaster and the Marquis’ Son

Author: AE Kendall

Publisher: Hermione Press

Pages/Word Count: 466 Pages

At a Glance: This is a fun, guilty pleasure, love and lust and danger on the high seas adventure.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A gorgeous pirate, a handsome nobleman. A clash at sea.

Galen is the seasoned twenty-six year old Quartermaster of the Fair Wind and a fierce rover. Tall, dark and handsome with piercing green eyes. He cuts an imposing figure to any man foolish enough to get in his way. For the past seven years, he and the men of the Brethren of the Coast have scoured the Caribbean seas seeking the lone vessel traversing unawares, ready to steal her cargo. But he harbors a dark secret. He has spent the last three years haunted by the memory of a Spaniard named Obrigio who brutally assaulted him in Puerto Principe after a near disastrous raid. While setting his sights on Obrigio rumored to have since taken to the seas, Galen unleashes his fury on the unsuspecting merchant ships unfortunate enough to cross paths with him and his Brethren privateers.

Twenty year old Michel Laurent du Montbron is the third son of the Marquis d’ Sevigne-Chambord and harbors a secret. For as long as he can remember, he has been attracted to men. When his older brother is unexpectedly banished to Jamaica by their tyrannical father and made to oversee the building of a plantation, Michel decides to follow on his heels knowing the future holds nothing for him in France, though he is waylaid by illness. When he finally succeeds in leaving, just two days shy of Port Royal, his ship is besieged by buccaneers. Unwilling to stand idle while his ship is overrun, he takes up arms and encounters the stunningly handsome Fair Wind’s Quartermaster. He is ultimately disarmed and taken captive by the imposing figure and thrown into the hold. Michel must learn to fend for himself on a ship full of cutthroats and murderers while coming to grips with his predicament and his growing feelings for the man who took him captive.

While Michel is immediately smitten, Galen is slower to admit his true feelings, that he is equally enamored by his young prisoner. Together they embark on a saga of romance and self-discovery amidst the hardship and unforgiving conditions on a roving ship. Will their growing love survive and prevail on the high seas, or will the Quartermaster be proven correct that, despite their best efforts to stay together, rovers like Galen and men of Michel’s ilk just don’t mix.

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Review: Oh my lord. ::fans self:: I’ve just stepped into the wayback machine and returned to the days of my first swashbuckling bodice rippers—Valerie Sherwood’s Love series. With titles like Bold Breathless Love and Wild Willful Love and my wild and willful and bold hormones leaving me breathless for her pirate, van Ryker, I became a lifelong sucker for the bad boys who once sailed the seas, looting, pillaging and plundering the hearts of the ones who eventually became their willing captives.

AE Kendall’s The Quartermaster and the Marquis’ Son is very much the M/M version of a good old fashioned bodice ripper, and I ate it up rather gleefully. As the story opens, the author lays the foundation of plausibility for Michel Laurent du Montbron’s story, as we see the proverbial writing on the wall. The Marquis d’ Sevigne-Chambord has an heir who has been molded in his image to take over the reins of the family legacy. Michel and his older brother Alain, the boy’s only ally, are nothing but the disappointing spares who will never live up to their sire’s impossible standards. When the Marquis’ final and inflexible demand ends in an unseemly brawl between the brothers, it sets the foundation for the adventure this novel becomes and gives us the reason for Michel to set out on his own. Alain is exiled to Jamaica and Michel is determined to follow him, though his departure is delayed by a full two years when he comes down with the ague, which waylays his plans of escape.

But then, this is where the story truly begins.

As you might expect—since this is a seafaring romance, after all—Michel’s ship is attacked by pirates. And one pirate in particular, Galen, captures Michel because…reasons. Reasons such as Michel happens to be beautiful and fair, and Galen happens to be wildly attracted to him. Although, Galen’s nowhere near ready or willing to admit it to himself, let alone to Michel. Nor is Michel at all comfortable with admitting that he is far more attracted to men than women.

Michel is kept a prisoner in the hold of the ship, though he’s treated well, given the circumstances. Especially when his fever returns and he’s in need of near constant attention. And speaking of fever of a wholly different kind, Michel and Galen’s interactions are a slow burn of unresolved sexual tension, during which time we see that though Michel isn’t as full on alpha-male as Galen, far from it, he’s also far from the damsel in distress. He can hold his own when push comes to shove, though he does swoon a little bit. But, who wouldn’t when faced with a man like Galen, the dark and mysterious and beautiful hunk of a pirate. Michel isn’t immune to a little possessive jealousy.

Galen is hard edged and fierce, a man with a secret in his past that drives him to seek vengeance against the Spaniard who’d once brutalized him. Galen wants Obrigio dead at all costs. And the question eventually becomes whether or not the price of losing Michel is worth the pound of flesh that Galen has spent seven years honing a taste for. It all comes to an exciting climax, fraught with what I’d say was the inevitable make or break point in the story’s arc.

Let’s be honest here for a moment, shall we? Suspending belief is an absolute must when we’re talking about this particular brand of romance. Pirates who sailed the seas during the age of buccaneers likely suffered from all manner of unattractive hygiene issues and rotten teeth that would offend our modern sensibilities, but that’s part of the fun of this particular niche of historical romance—the fantasy of it. These were lawless men who fought and lived and died by their own particular codes of honor, and that’s what makes them sexy, the fact that they were beholden to none but themselves and their brethren. Until they found the one person they may have taken by hook or by crook, but would eventually come to lay down their lives for to keep them safe from harm.

And, while I’m busy being honest, let me also say here that this book could have used a bit more attention in the editing department, especially in what I felt was the over use of some period-appropriate words that were distracting in our modern usage of them, but didn’t detract too much from my overall enjoyment of the story. I also must say that if you’re not a fan of prose that has a tendency to run toward the purple, then proceed with the knowledge that both the narrative and dialogue ran a little florid at times, but it’s appropriate to both the genre and the story’s setting.

That said, Kendall tells a rousing tale of love and danger and revenge on the high seas. The action scenes were just that—filled with action. The love scenes were just that—filled with some pretty hot lovin’ and tempered by what seemed an impossible obstacle to overcome. Michel and Galen are two very different men who live in two very different worlds, and one question lies between them: will they find a way to be together, or are they merely ships passing in the night?

I can say with absolute certainty that the author accomplished her mission, at least for me: I was completely engaged by and invested in her two heroes. I wanted them to find their way to each other, and while there were plenty of stumbling blocks in their way, and their feelings seemed to grow more from lust than from a deeper exposition of their interests, I believed that they believed in the love they felt for each other, and that’s all that mattered in the end.

And speaking of the end, there’s a sequel on the horizon. It’s one I’ll read in a heartbeat.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

You can buy The Quartermaster and the Marquis’ Son here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Smashwords

Smashwords

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Charlie Cochrane, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Lessons for Sleeping Dogs Blog Tour with Charlie Cochrane

LessonsSleepingDogs_TourBanner

We’re so pleased to welcome author Charlie Cochrane back to TNA, on the tour for the latest installment in the Cambridge Mysteries series, Lessons for Sleeping Dogs. Enjoy Charlie’s guest post, and then be sure to leave a comment below to enter the following giveaway:

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for your choice of an a ebook from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excluding Lessons for Sleeping Dogs.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on October 17, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your contact information so we can reach you if you win!

Good luck!

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Jonty and Orlando and Room 40

This post was inspired by a post I once read about heroes. It defined a hero as “A man who has honour and a sense of duty, which he holds true to quietly, without a fuss.”

That immediately made me think, “That could be Jonty, or Orlando!”

Admittedly my Cambridge lads don’t normally wear armour, (in fact I’m not sure they’ve ever worn armour except perhaps for the obligatory “box” to protect the old meat and two veg when playing cricket). Nor do they ride on white chargers; Orlando gets cross enough about Jonty’s obsession with motor cars; he’d hate having to mount a horse!

They did, however, serve in WWI, both with the Room 40 cryptanalysis boys (which is referenced in “Lessons for Sleeping Dogs”) and later out in France. But they’re also heroes in their everyday lives, sticking steadfastly and stubbornly to what they believe is decent and right.

They’re creatures of their time, of course, born in the late Victorian era but Edwardians through and through. They’re based at a forward thinking but still ancient Cambridge college, trying to knock some knowledge into their students, solving mysteries on the side and desperately trying to stop the world finding out that they’re lovers because exposing that fact would have exposed them to the risk of disgrace and prison.

I’ve often wondered what Jonty and Orlando would have done with themselves if they’d been born in another era. Solved mysteries? Of course! Fallen in love with each other? Naturally. I always associate my lads with the great last line of Mary Renault’s “The Mask of Apollo” :  No one will ever make a tragedy – and that is as well, for one could not bear it – whose grief is that the principals never met.”  It would have been a huge tragedy for these two not to have found each other, but let’s not be mawkish. Whatever era they’d been in, they’d have been funny, annoying and adorable.

But I can’t help but wonder what career they would have had and how their heroic tendencies would have manifested themselves. If they’d been born thirty years later then they’d have been Bletchley men, of that I’m certain. Or would Jonty have been a bomber pilot while Orlando was his wingman, in a nippy little Hurricane? I prefer the thought of them annoying Turing at Bletchley – it would have been safer for them, for one thing and maybe Alan T wouldn’t have misplaced the silver he buried in the woods if he’d had the lads to help him locate it.

A hundred years earlier, Jonty and Orlando might have been in Nelson’s navy, one of his band of brothers. I can imagine Edwardian Jonty and Orlando having a discussion about this scenario and arguing over which one of them would have earned his captain’s “swab” first.

I can also see them at the time of Agincourt, knights in Henry’s army, part of those “happy few” although Jonty has the build less for a chevalier than for one of those famous British archers. Maybe Jonty would have actually have ghost written the “Once more into the breach” and “We few, we happy few…” speeches for the king. It’s just the sort of mellifluous language he’d have enjoyed creating.

Go back another few hundred years and I could see my lads having taken up arms on a crusade. Not for any religious reason or for the glory, but as a means of running from the traumas of their younger lives. Neither of them had particularly happy formative years; maybe that’s one of the reasons they find so much comfort in each other and in putting wrongs to right.

So, what if Jonty and Orlando had been 1980’s babies? I know Jonty would embrace modern technology with great glee and Orlando would tolerate it, much as he tolerates that car of Jonty’s. Maybe they’d be at 21st century Cambridge University, trying to knock some sense into the modern undergraduates, or Orlando would have a job in a bank, working out complex algorithms to maximise the company’s investments while Jonty treads the boards at the National Theatre, making the young girls swoon at his Hamlet.  But that doesn’t seem heroic enough. I don’t think they’re really the men for modern warfare, so where would their valour find an outlet?

I think (and this may seem odd but it makes perfect sense in my head) they’d be leading lights for a charity like Help for Heroes, or the British Legion, working their socks off to make sure that people who’ve served their country aren’t left to cope alone. That would be an admirable outlet for their brains, bravery and sense of right and wrong.

Oh, and I think Orlando would be working doubly hard to make sure their Civil Partnership ceremony wasn’t splashed all over “Country Life”!

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Lessons for Sleeping DogsBlurb: Cambridge, 1921

When amateur sleuth Jonty Stewart comes home with a new case to investigate, his partner Orlando Coppersmith always feels his day has been made. Although, can there be anything to solve in the apparent mercy killing of a disabled man by a doctor who then kills himself, especially when everything takes place in a locked room?

But things are never straightforward where the Cambridge fellows are concerned, so when they discover that more than one person has a motive to kill the dead men—motives linked to another double death—their wits get stretched to the breaking point.

And when the case disinters long buried memories for Jonty, memories about a promise he made and hasn’t kept, their emotions get pulled apart as well. This time, Jonty and Orlando will have to separate fact from fiction—and truth from emotion—to get to the bottom of things.

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Charlie CochraneBio: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes, with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes, MLR and Cheyenne.

Charlie’s Cambridge Fellows Series of Edwardian romantic mysteries was instrumental in her being named Author of the Year 2009 by the review site Speak Its Name. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, International Thriller Writers Inc and is on the organising team for UK Meet for readers/writers of GLBT fiction. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie: 

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

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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5 Stars, Charlie Cochrane, Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie, Riptide Publishing

Review: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs by Charlie Cochrane

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Title: Lessons for Sleeping Dogs (Cambridge Fellows Mysteries)

Author: Charlie Cochrane

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 208 Pages

At a Glance: If you like period appropriate verbiage and staging, REALLY GOOD mysteries, and colorful and witty characters, then this series is for you.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Cambridge, 1921

When amateur sleuth Jonty Stewart comes home with a new case to investigate, his partner Orlando Coppersmith always feels his day has been made. Although, can there be anything to solve in the apparent mercy killing of a disabled man by a doctor who then kills himself, especially when everything takes place in a locked room?

But things are never straightforward where the Cambridge fellows are concerned, so when they discover that more than one person has a motive to kill the dead men—motives linked to another double death—their wits get stretched to the breaking point.

And when the case disinters long buried memories for Jonty, memories about a promise he made and hasn’t kept, their emotions get pulled apart as well. This time, Jonty and Orlando will have to separate fact from fiction—and truth from emotion—to get to the bottom of things.

Dividers

Review: It is now 1921. Jonty and Orlando are in their forties, and it has been awhile since that business with the wooden cat. While working at the University is challenging, Orlando is beginning to think they will never have another case to solve… But then Jonty goes to tea and a case is presented, along with a particularly good nosebag.

I knew from the opening salvo, “Inspired by the many mysteries in real life that defy solution.”, that I was in for a great mystery with this book, and it did not disappoint! How do you solve a mystery that isn’t really a mystery on the surface? A mercy killing by a doctor, who then takes his own life in regret, two suicide letters explaining it all, and the whole scenario happening behind a closed door which was locked from the inside. What’s left to know? Well, a lot it seems. What they find is a case that stretches them morally and emotionally, and the decision has to be made whether to publish their findings to the world, or just to let sleeping dogs lie.

Each of these books has not only a mystery which has to be solved but a personal battle which must be fought, and in this book the power is in Jonty’s hands to right an old wrong and to realize sometimes the truth can help old sleeping dogs to lie more comfortably. This book, while still being an intense mystery, was a little lighter than some of the others have been. Lessons for Sleeping Dogs is one of my favorites in the Cambridge Fellows Mystery Series. All of Charlie Cochranes books are amazing, but being historically accurate sometimes means the emotions of two men can be constrained. This book has a warmth to it between Jonty and Orlando reminiscent of some of the earlier books in the series when they were sorting through the beginnings of their relationship. The two men are celebrating the sixteenth year of their meeting, and in my opinion, the mysteries and the emotions just keep getting deeper and better. As the pair say,

“Happy Anniversary. May there be many more of them.”

“Amen to that. More anniversaries, more cases to solve, more mattresses to put through their paces.”

“I agree on all three counts. Especially the last.”

If you like period appropriate verbiage and staging, REALLY GOOD mysteries, and colorful and witty characters, then this series is for you. You do not have to read these mysteries in order, just pick one up – it will not disappoint – and then you will go back for more!

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, M. Keedwell, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Samhain Publishing

Review: Dark Economy by M. Keedwell

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Title: Dark Economy

Author: M. Keedwell

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 287 Pages

At a Glance: Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Love can’t stay buried.

Medical student Cadell Meredith has been known to acquire “volunteers” from the occasional pauper’s grave in order to improve his surgical skills. While the legality of this practice is a bit murky, he wouldn’t go so far as to call it out and out robbery.

His latest acquisition, however, is different. The body on his table was obviously healthy, wealthy—and murdered. Cadell feels compelled to seek justice for the dead man, but while dissection comes naturally to him, crime investigation is unfamiliar territory.

Furthermore, he’s caught the attention of one of those new police officers, Blaine Breton. A handsome, sentimental fool who insists Cadell is a criminal. A criminal! Cadell is the first to admit he’s no saint, but he’s no killer.

A marvelous game of cat and mouse ensues as Cadell seeks to expose the truth while hiding his own secrets. A task that grows ever more difficult as his desire for Breton grows…and the danger deepens.

Dividers

Review: Dark Economy is set in London, in 1829, and the author has really brought this time period to life. The writing style, settings, and the old English accent give the book its historical feel. We find that it’s also a time of indecision in the medical field, as well as intolerance toward gay men. It’s quite the page turner, full of suspense, danger and humor.

As Cadell Meredith is a medical student, you will find an abundance of medical terms (you may find yourself checking the dictionary—I know I did) and an autopsy or two, so if you’re a little squeamish, you have been warned. Cadell is a fascinating character, and we find his emotions in a whirlwind over not only Blaine Breton but an old acquaintance, a new acquaintance, his medical studies, and sleuthing! He’s a brilliant medical student and artist who has connections to the burial sites of paupers. He does a little grave robbing in order to get hands-on practice, which, of course, is against the law, but he feels justified because his passion is medicine, and he strives to be the best. He uses his artistic talent to draw diagrams for his professor to use at lectures. When he acquires a particular body, and discovers a murder, though, he sets out to find justice for the individual.

Blaine Breton is a policeman, staunch in his belief that Cadell is grave-robbing criminal. They both have different opinions on grave robbing, and of each other, which causes hostility between the two. At almost every turn, Blaine is there to just make Cadell as miserable as possible. In fact, they are driving each other crazy! But, Blaine also has a soft side, and even though he tries to be tough, there’s also a shy side to him. Blaine is still a little bit of a mystery to me.

When tragedy strikes, the first person Blaine runs to is Cadell. That’s when the emotions and respect between them start to come through. After Cadell spends some time with Blaine, he decides to share information he has about the possible crimes and murders that have been happening. Blaine and Cadell team up with other fellow policemen to go after the suspects and try to solve this complicated murder mystery.

M. Keedwell’s Dark Economy is a jolly good story. This is my first time reading this author, and I was very impressed.

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Loose Id, Nasia Maksima, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Unbound, Unbroken by Nasia Maksima

Unbound, Unbroken

Unbound, Unbroken

Title: Unbound, Unbroken (In His Arena: Book Two)

Author: Nasia Maksima

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 309 Pages

At a Glance: An excellent second installment in the In His Arena series.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: When rising star gladiator Titian finds himself paired with the vainglorious champion Galadros, he finds himself in mortal danger. For a dark spell binds them together, using their lust to make them pawns in the wicked schemes of Alession, the Empress’s right-hand man.

Their only hope is to fight against the bond and hope to break it before Alession forces them to fight each other to the death in the arena. But with every challenge they face, Titian finds himself more and more drawn to Galadros, strengthening the dark spell even as they try to break it.

What begins as pure survival quickly spirals into a whirlwind of lust and love as Titian fights—both for his life and for an impossible future with Galadros. But Galadros has an even darker secret—one that might destroy them both.

Dividers

Review: Although Unbound, Unbroken is the second book in this series, you do not need to read the first in order to understand it. Though there are a few characters that make a reappearance, the lovers in this story are new. The previous lovers from book one are mentioned briefly, but as Titian and Galadros didn’t know them, they don’t know the entire story. Alession and the Empress return, as they are central, connecting figures of the series, but their history is explained for new readers and recapped for fans of the first.

Using the slavecraft from the first book, but this time as a stronger spell, Alession binds Titian and Galadros together for the cruel amusement of the Empress. In that, the storyline is not new; however, these two men are and the slavecraft is stronger. There are also darker elements. Monsters created by one of the houses from fallen gladiators appear which the lovers must fight in order to survive. Things are admittedly grim in this book, but the story was completely engrossing.

What I loved about Titian and Galadros was their personalities. Both are strong men, but their desires lie contrary to what the “rules” of Arena are. According to the unwritten rules, the weaker men are “seeded” by the stronger in order to make them stronger. But Titian, in his role as secutor, must submit to his mated provocator. Even though that’s his role, Titian wants to be the dominant man. Galadros, on the other hand, is the provocator, or another mated pair, and though it’s his role to give to his secutor, he craves a more submissive role in the bedroom. When fate throws them together, both men fight for and against what they want because of the rules their society has set in place. If Galadros truly submits like he wants to, he fears he will lose standing among the other gladiators when he wants to be the champion. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the admission of his desires could cause him to lose favor with the oddsmakers, which could be fatal.

If you liked the first book, Slave Eternal, you’ll love this one. If you like books with an alternate history intertwined with a bit of fantasy, then give this series a shot. A word of warning, however. There is some dubious consent in this book. It is at times masked by magic, but if that’s a trigger for you, just be warned.

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3 Stars, Ligon and Maine, Reviewed by Lisa, Voir Media Publishing

Review: Blue Paramour by Ligon and Maine

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Title: Blue Paramour (Blue Ridge Saga: Volume One)

Author: Ligon and Maine

Publisher: Voir Media Publishing Group

Pages/Word Count: 344 Pages

At a Glance: Blue Paramour is the perfect example of a fine book that unfortunately didn’t work for me.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When Brayden, a devastatingly handsome heir to a prominent Southern family, is caught in a compromising position with his handsome male lover, Jackson, life as he knows it comes crashing down. Exiled from the only home he’s ever known and separated from his love, Brayden is ordered to live in Boston where he is expected to become a true man and a proper successor.

But life will show him that things don’t always go as planned…

When Brayden encounters the mysterious and powerful, Vincent Gallaud, he instead embarks on an unforgettable adventure with his newfound king in the tantalizing world of New York City, forsaking everything he has ever known. Taking him on an unexpected journey that teaches him lessons Daddy would never approve.

Back home, Jackson has no choice but to consent to marry Brayden’s greatest adversary and twin sister, Annabelle Steed. Consumed with greed and longing for revenge, Annabelle will stop at nothing to destroy Brayden’s life and rob him of his birthright, Blue Ridge.

But everything comes at a price.

Dividers

Review: Set in the time leading up to the Civil War, Ligon and Maine’s Blue Paramour introduces the story of two families, wealthy Southern plantation owners whose lives are intertwined by arranged marriages and the teenage love affair between Brayden Steed and Jackson Wilmington, heirs to their family legacies.

The mark of a good historical novel is its ability to ground readers in the time and place of its setting, something the novel does from the outset in its depiction of life in the south during this time in America’s history, a time when slave ownership was the way of life, when the wealthy lorded over their estates like royalty, and life for the privileged was spent in idyll as they reaped the riches gained from the blood and sweat of another man’s back. This is the life Brayden Steed has been bred to carry on and defend, though it’s not a legacy that particularly suits him.

This story begins at a languorous pace with the introduction of its principal players, slow enough that I had a difficult time becoming invested in and remaining engaged by what was unfolding on the page; though, the tempo does pick up eventually, as Brayden and Jackson’s relationship hits its dramatic and climactic arc. Along with our romantic couple, two key secondary role players are introduced in Annabelle Steed and Patricia Mae Wilmington, sisters to Brayden and Jackson and the intended brides who will join the Steed and Wilmington estates in marriage. Patricia Mae plays what might be considered the Melanie Hamilton standard–the ideal of the Southern woman–well bred and demure–while Annabelle takes on the characteristics of a Scarlett O’Hara–beautiful, shrewd, conniving–though Annabelle lacks any of that Southern belle’s charm, often portrayed as more a caricature than a person. But, this story needed an antagonist and Annabelle fills that role in her own melodramatic way, as both Judas and Cain rolled into one excessively avaricious and resentful woman.

In fact, to a great extent, Annabelle’s portrayal is the epitome of what this novel is built upon—a soap opera-esque level of drama which weaves its way through the inevitable and predictable discovery of Brayden and Jackson’s illicit teenage affair; Brayden’s forced exile; Jackson’s descent into the bottle as he sinks into the depths of depression over Brayden’s disappearance and the realization that he loved Brayden far more than Brayden ever loved him; and his impending marriage to Annabelle—much like a man facing a firing squad and then sort of hoping someone pulls the trigger and puts him out of his misery. The characters are all fairly well written to type, all but the one man who was most certainly the exception to the rule of a black man in the 19th Century.

In a departure from its rather seemly and staid beginning, Brayden’s banishment from Blue Ridge stirs the plot and livens it up a bit, landing our young hero on a train heading north, at which time he meets a wealthy businessman, Vincent Gallaud, a free black man who immediately intrigues Brayden and lights the eighteen-year-old’s senses on fire. So much so that Brayden defies his father’s orders and rather than carrying on to Boston, jumps ship (train) in New York City to follow Vincent to his place of business, where the two begin a cat and mouse relationship in which Brayden plays the prey to Vincent’s more experienced predator.

Vincent takes on the role of sexual mentor to Brayden, at which point the novel takes a decidedly erotic turn as Brayden becomes an enthusiastic and willing pupil of Vincent’s Svengali-like tutelage. Their relationship is built largely upon sex, with Vincent playing alpha, but it soon becomes complicated by feelings that remain unspoken and misspoken, lies, secrets, and then ends in an a way that lovers of such dramatic spectacle will eat up as long as one is able to suspend belief a little and accept the events that happen as part of the novel’s milieu. I personally never made a connection to these two men as a couple, based largely on the failure to see where they had anything in common apart from sex, though it did all come to a spectacular end, so the lack of engagement was fortunate. I did, however, like the juxtaposition of their role reversal as a white and black man in that time period.

Blue Paramour, Volume One in the Blue Ridge Saga, is the perfect example of a fine book that just didn’t appeal to me, owing in total to the manner in which the story is conveyed, which, of course, is entirely a personal preference and doesn’t at all make it a bad book (outside of it needing a much more thorough editing). None of the characters, apart from Vincent’s maid, Sara, held much appeal for me, but Sara was a breath of fresh air among a cast of rather cookie cutter archetypes.

Having cut my historical reading chops on books such as Gone with the Wind and John Jakes’ North and South Trilogy, among others, I’m shocked this story didn’t resonate deeper with me, and I can only owe that to the plot being staged in such a theatrical and over-the-top way, not bad, though, if that’s a delivery you love, in which case Ligon and Maine deliver with a deft and generous hand.

Blue Paramour ends on a to-be-continued, so if you don’t like loose ends, beware. Brayden’s transformation has only just begun, and this book leaves him at an all-important turning point—convincing readers he has feelings for Jacskon, or ever did, being a pretty big hurdle to clear from my perspective–but a clever way for the authors to keep their readers on the hook.

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4 Stars, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Taylin Clavelli, Wayward Ink Publishing

Review: Dakota Skies by Taylin Clavelli

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Title: Dakota Skies

Author: Taylin Clavelli

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 350 Pages

At a Glance: Dakota Skies is an Old Western saga, an entertaining story with plenty of action.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Born in the wrong time…

In 1875 Dakota, Sheriff Jamie Carter has to hide his interest in men, even from his gutsy twin sister, Anna. On a good day, the truth can mean a bullet between the eyes, and on a bad, one in the back.

A man on a mission…

Jamie leaves Anna in charge of Blackrock and he hits the bounty hunting trail, along with his faithful equine companion, Houston. Five territories, scores of ‘Wanted’ posters, and many bullets later, his path unexpectedly converges with that of enigmatic loner, Kit Brooks.

Two men with one soul…

Will the smoldering fire between them rage into an inferno and break down protective barriers, allowing them to find love? Or will it separate and kill them?

Beneath Dakota skies…

Jamie and Kit’s story is a sweeping saga of cowboys, Indians, persistent broads, and vengeful villains, where the cowboys aren’t always the good guys, and love can’t be taken for granted.

Dividers

Review: Jamie Carter shares the title of Sheriff with his twin sister Anna. Anna can shoot, fight and ride better than any man. We learn a lot about how Jamie and Anna followed in their father’s footsteps.

Kit Brooks has a story of his own to share, which is much different than Jamie’s. Mason Lee Anderson, the gambler, card player and sharpshooter, will be a big part of Kit’s story. Mason has a very special connection to Kit, Kate, and the Sioux tribe.

Anna befriends Hayley, who teaches her how to cook, as well as the fine art of being a lady. Anna teaches Hayley the fine art of shooting. Poor Morgan Haynes, Jamie’s best friend and saloon owner… Anna has a plan for him!

We meet members of the Sioux tribe, who are a very important part of this story. Chief Wahchinsapa, Tala, Howahkan (the medicine man), Takoda and others, and learn the beliefs and ways of the Sioux, taken into the spirit world along with Jamie and Kit, where we meet Chenoa.

And, last but not least, there’s Houston, Jamie’s faithful companion, his horse. Not just any old horse, a very talented one. He will have you chuckling!

I think the cover of this book deserves a mention, it really reflects the story behind it, as well as the map inside the book, which gives us an idea of the places Jamie and Kit traveled. Dakota Skies is an Old Western saga, an entertaining story with plenty of action, good guys, bad guys, working girls, heartbreak, hijinks, love, and the mystery of the spirit world. The story centers on Jamie and Kit, but the other interesting characters and their stories deserved a mentioned.

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4 Stars, Bonnie Dee, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Jennifer, Samhain Publishing, Summer Devon

Review: The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

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Title: The Shepherd and the Solicitor

Author: Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 161 Pages

At a Glance: If you want a good historical fiction romance, you really can’t go wrong with this pair of authors.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: When a storm is brewing, taking shelter could be the most dangerous move of all.

One careless, public sign of affection cost Daniel Pierce’s lover his life at the hands of a hate-filled mob. Grief-stricken, Daniel retreated from society to a sheep farm in the wilds of the north. Years later, Gregory Tobin erupts into his solitary life.

Sent to confirm the existence—or the death—of the Pierce family’s lost heir, Tobin isn’t sure he’s found the right man. The gruff, shaggy hermit calling himself Jacob Bennet bears little resemblance to photographs of the younger Pierce. Tobin needs more time to study his quarry.

With lambing season in full swing, Daniel grudgingly admits he could use an extra hand. Through a long, exhausting night, they parry back and forth as Tobin probes closer and closer to the truth. And something beyond casual attraction simmers between them.

They come together in a crash of desire, but ultimately Daniel must overcome the terrors of the past to reconcile the man he was with the man he’s becoming—a man capable of loving again.

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Review: If you want a good historical fiction romance, you really can’t go wrong with this pair of authors. I have yet to read a novel by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon that I didn’t enjoy. The two just know how to write good books, and together they’re a winning combination.

After the death of his lover, Daniel Pierce flees London to become the lonely shepherd, Jacob Bennet. Hiding away in the north, he fights his nightmares and tends to his sheep. Being alone is just what he wants. Or is it? When solicitor Gregory Tobin is sent to find Daniel, the missing heir, Bennet wants nothing to do with him. He’s alone for a reason, and he wants to keep it that way, but Gregory just won’t leave. And with lambing season in full swing, it’s hard to turn down the extra help. So Gregory stays, and the longer he’s there, the more the men begin to desire each other.

While this book might not have the most original plot, it’s well written and I truly enjoyed the characters. Gregory is dangerously open in his interest in Bennet, but as they’re alone, there’s only a small worry they’ll be caught. And Bennet is stubborn, but given his history, his caution is understandable. I loved their first meeting and all the way to the last page. I mean, it’s hard not to love a man who gets trampled by overly friendly sheep, or who names the newborn lambs and figures out a way to save the one who isn’t getting enough food from its mother.

The setting is also beautiful. From the rolling hills to the small cottage Bennet lives in, I could easily picture it and wanted to be there with the men. Like Gregory, I started to see the pleasure in the simple yet challenging life of raising sheep out in the wilds of the north, with hardly anyone around. Talk about peaceful.

If you’re looking for a read with two different yet strong male leads, set in the country of historical England, look no further. Fans of Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee will enjoy their latest collaboration.

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Brita Addams

Guest Post: Don’t Be Offended by History by Brita Addams

keep-calm-and-embrace-history-1My writing often requires I research the obscure as well as the blatant. I’m also an amateur genealogist of over twenty years, so I’ve dug into many a family history, including a thorough, if incomplete exploration of my own. You’re never done.

I’ve learned how people lived and died over many centuries, discovered things I’m thrilled about and things I’d rather weren’t in my genealogical record. But the cringe worthy episodes are precisely what make for interesting, sometimes uncomfortable reading, and show how far we have come.

I write historical fiction because I love history and my hope is to convey that love to readers. As any author of historicals will tell you, research is key to gaining the authenticity in a piece. Note the word authenticity. While we create fiction, we place our characters in authentic settings, surrounded by the authentic circumstances of their times. This can be backdrop or in the forefront of the story.

Is history sometimes uncomfortable? Of course. But unchangeable. Yesterday is gone. The question is, should we as writers, portray history as it was, or should we participate in the growing movement to create a revisionist history?

Anyone who knows me knows I am firmly in the camp of authenticity. Why? Because we can’t pretend that women, for instance, were treated as they are today. Men ran the world and women had their place. These are facts.

A recent article exposed this, saying that we as writers shouldn’t portray women as the wives and mothers they were, but as kickass, feisty, independent, and able to function without men, because the writer of the article felt that to portray them different demeaned womanhood as a whole. I called nonsense and had I wanted to argue, I’d have left a comment stating the writer should read history before trying to change it.

Why would a woman today be offended by the roles women played in the past? Why judge women characters whose actions are in accordance with the period in which the story is set? Prepare here for a little harsh reality.

history_teacher_joke_explain_not_understand_necklace-r66ede6a34ff44eeaa913890a6d3ae857_fkob8_8byvr_324Women did not run countries (with the exception of a queen here and there,) or states or cities. They were, however, the backbone of the family. They ran households. They bore children, cleaned, cooked, did laundry, sewed clothes and sheets, and coats and hats. Knitted baby booties out of necessity, even spun the yarn. They taught their children their prayers and manners, ate less at meals so the children could have more, wore threadbare clothes so her children could have a new pair of shoes when the old ones pinched. She taught her brood to collect eggs, pump water while warning them not to lose the prime, feed the old wood stove, and peel potatoes and carrots with a knife, not a scraper. Mothers tumbled into bed long after everyone else had gone to sleep and rose before the others to provide a hot meal before starting her day all over again. Mother was the center of the small universe each child lived in.

Fathers worked hard, sometimes fourteen to sixteen hours a day to bring home a meager wage. He sacrificed too, for the sake of his wife and children. Some weren’t good men, much like in today’s world. Some drank and beat their wives. Worse, their children. No excuse for them. They likely learned all they knew about being men from their fathers. Life wasn’t easy and I don’t say that cavalierly. I lived in such a household.

The good men, though, are often maligned. The good men who worked hard, but had a traditional view of women – as the weaker sex, creatures (in a kind sense) he needed to take care of, protect, provide for. He took his responsibility seriously and did the best he could.

Were men disrespectful of their women because they didn’t include them in “important” discussions? A subjective question. Some women, I’m sure, considered such exclusion a blessing, my mother included. Poor thing. Her eyes glazed over when my father discussed anything headier than Red Sox scores.

You see, women were taught to care for the home, while men were expected to work and support their families. Being a parent was treated as a job and housewives were respected for fulfilling that job. I have nothing against women who work, I’ve done it. I’m speaking here about history. My mother had worked before marriage and she often said she’d like to bring in some money, but her job was to raise her children, four in her case, and cater to my father. She understood this.

During periods in our past, women didn’t inherit from husbands or parents. This is illustrated in detail in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The father dies and the fates of his wife and daughters are left to Mrs. Bennett’s ability to marry off her daughters to wealthy husbands, as the estate was entailed to the nearest male cousin, William Collins. Unfair by today’s standards, but a way of life in times gone by. The simplistic reason behind the practice was that the daughters would be raised to attract a man able to provide for her, but the son had to do the providing. Archaic by today’s standards, but no less factual in the course of history.

When a woman of parental means married, her father conveyed a dowry upon the husband, to help the man take care of his new wife. A poor woman’s parents often put together a hope chest, filled with handcrafted blankets, clothes, pottery, cutlery, a Sunday hat, Grandma’s lace handkerchief, and other things needed to start a household.

Unmarried women were chaperoned until after marriage. A man was expected to sow his wild oats, but he married a chaste girl. A double standard, but the way life was.

When a woman broke the mold and eschewed marriage, her career options were limited. She’d most likely work as a schoolteacher, secretary, or maybe a store clerk. Growing up, I knew many “old maid” school teachers. If a teacher married, she retired from the profession and took her place as the center of her family’s universe. The belief, shared by men and women, was you couldn’t have both a profession and a successful family. Something would suffer and best it not be the family.

Married women often took in sewing or laundry to make ends meet. Husbands worked their farms or factory jobs. Women helped harvest crops, feed the animals, slaughter cows, and myriad other jobs on the farms in this country. My husband’s grandmother loved to talk about harvesting potatoes and how she had a baby in the potato patch, and went right back to collecting the harvest. I don’t know how true her story was, but knowing her, I imagine pretty damn accurate.

To view these peoples’ lives through the enlightenment of generations negates who they were. I’ve lived long enough to have known some of the women and men who had to work as described above. Long hours, no matter the weather, just to put food on the table. Did the women think their lot unfair? Hell no. No one they knew lived any differently.

Women weren’t oppressed by the standards of their day. Men weren’t oppressors. Each person had their job to do and they were well aware of their responsibilities.

Why did women stay in abusive marriages? Because you married for life in those days. Divorce was a shame on the family as it meant failure. The stigma affected not only the parents but the children. For the most part, and of course there are exceptions, women didn’t go home to their parents when things got rough. They stuck it out rather than place the financial and physical burden on them and to keep the family together. I am the product of parents who shouldn’t have stayed married, but they did, for fifty years. My mother carried that marker as a badge of honor. She’d weathered the bad times and thought the good more than enough to make up for it.

Critics of historical fiction lament the accurate portrayals, wishing apparently, a costume drama where the author dresses up the heroine in period clothes and has her act like a twenty-first century woman. Or they rail against the treatment of homosexual men and the laws that prohibited them from having a happy life. My favorite is the “too stupid to live” heroines people cynically malign in romance novels. I argue that they are oftentimes, the characters written most accurately. They adhere to the mores of their time. They don’t sleep with men before marriage, they listen to their fathers and mothers, and their husband. And they don’t leave when the going gets tough. Historically accurate, but somehow offensive to some readers.

We as historical authors are faced with a fine balancing act. If we truly wrote history as it was, we’d offend a great many people, because history is either misunderstood or poo-pooed as something before our time, out of step with modern thinking. If we dress it up and attempt to revise the truth, our stories are better received, but in doing so, we’ve done a disservice to history and our need to tell an accurate story.

As I get older, I care less about accommodation and more about truth. Times, throughout history were hard. Women, men, races and creeds were treated unfairly, by all standards. Little Suzy Q didn’t get a new dress every time she blinked, she actually had to learn to take care of a household. She and her brothers had to learn that money didn’t grow on trees and every time they experienced a shortfall, they couldn’t run to Daddy for relief. Sometimes life isn’t fair.

Beloved Unmasked Banner

Please mark your calendars for October 16, when the third book in my Tarnished series hits virtual shelves. Beloved Unmasked is a standalone in the series (for now) and takes place in New Orleans, shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.

Here’s the blurb:

BelovedUnmaskedBorn in 1898 to a heartless prostitute in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans, David comes into the world as Picayune, meaning “of little value” or as his mother reminds him, “nothing.”

In the early 20th century brothels and clubs, his love of music sustains young Pic until a fortuitous meeting places him on the road to respectability, and Pic reinvents himself as David Reid.

As David realizes happiness for the first time, conscription forces his friend and first love, Spencer Webb, into the Great War. A telegram from the War Department deals a staggering blow and interrupts David’s pursuit of a law degree. He must gather his wits and move forward. While his future looks bright, specters from Storyville return.

The past holds both pain and love, and facing it head-on might destroy David or give him the freedom to live the life he has dreamed.

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press

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BritaAddamspicAbout Brita Addams: Brita Addams was born in a small town in Upstate New York and has made her home in the sultry South for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband—and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.

She writes both het and gay historical romance. Many of her historicals, as well as a few contemporaries, have appeared on category bestseller lists at various online retailers.

A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter. Brita Addams is a mash-up of her real middle name and her husband’s middle name, with an additional d and s.

Readers can find Brita Addams at any of the following places:

Website || Blog || Twitter: @britaaddams || Facebook || Fan page || Goodreads || Pinterest || Booklikes || Monthly column at The Novel Approach

 

 

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Giveaways, Heloise West

Interview and Giveaway: The If I Were Fire Blog Tour with Heloise West

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Heloise West to The Novel Approach today, on the tour for If I Were Fire. Enjoy her interview, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good luck!

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WP: Do you buy a book because of the cover, the blurb, or something else?

HW: With ebooks and print books, it’s pretty much the same. Cover, blurb, and read a sample.

WP: What does ‘romance’ mean to you?

HW: My significant other and I travel when we can and most of the time, we go out of the country. Neither of speaks any other language but English. So though we’re surrounded by people in beautiful, exotic (to us) places, it is just him and me, depending on each other in a way we don’t have to at home. We’re our own bubble, bobbing along and taking in the sites with only each other to turn to. It’s exciting in a romantic way, as we’re alone yet together sharing an adventure.

WP: What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

HW: It’s not finding time and energy to write anymore as much as it’s getting anything else done these days. I am always glued to the laptop or a notebook or a research book. The weeds grow, the laundry piles higher, and I have popsicles and popcorn for lunch again.

WP: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people.

HW: You know, I’m pretty boring. Most of the time, people are surprised when I tell them I’m an author, but you’re not looking for that answer, are you? I got nothin’.

WP: What are your current projects?

HW: I am finishing the sequel to Hitting Black Ice (Loose Id). It’s called Send Lawyers, Guns, and Roses, and it’s out to betas. Another round of revisions and off it goes to my editor. Finally. There’s a Renaissance era romantic suspense that my editor asked for revisions on way back when, so that’s next. I’m working on a steampunk novella called Burning Sky and some of that WIP is on my blog.

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If I Were Fire CoverBlurb: In 18th century Siena, Count Salvesto Masello has returned home to find the family villa and his father’s estate steeped deeply in debt. In order to save it, he has been selling off valuable family heirlooms, but he is running out of silverware. Somewhere in the villa his deceased father had hidden the art treasures that will pay the debt, but Salvesto can’t find them anywhere.

Amadeo Neruccio has been on the run from the vicious pimp, thief, and pawnbroker Guelfetto, but his toughs finally catch him and bring him to the cellar where Count Masello is selling off his silver. When the count learns what fate Guelfetto has in store for Amadeo, he intervenes and trades the last of his mother’s dowry for the young man’s freedom.

Salvesto had left home over ten years ago to live the life of adventure he craved. He had also hoped to leave his broken heart behind. When he rescues young Amadeo, he did not expect to find love again, or that his adventures had yet to end.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press || Amazon US || All Romance eBooks || Barnes & Noble || Kobo || Google

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Author BioAbout the Author: Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mahem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of 10 years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

Where to Find the Author: Dreamspinner || Blog || Facebook || Pinterest || Email

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates & Stops:

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified

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Giveaways, JL Merrow

Guest Post and Giveaway: The To Love a Traitor Blog Tour with JL Merrow

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Keeping it Stiff

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and it’s great to be here as part of the To Love a Traitor blog tour!

Today I’d like to talk about keeping it stiff.

I’m talking, of course, about a young man’s upper lip. Why, what were you thinking of? ;)

Keep a stiff upper lip.

Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scanIt’s a phrase that’s come to embody a certain, very British, kind of spirit. The blitz spirit. Courage under adversity. The sort of quiet, capable stoicism that keeps its head while all around are losing theirs (and blaming it on you).  But where on earth does it come from?

According to The Free Dictionary, “This expression presumably alludes to the trembling lips that precede bursting into tears. [Early 1800s]”

Which is all very well, but why is one only supposed to keep the upper lip stiff? Are we to conclude that a modicum of manly chin-wobble would be acceptable?

Perhaps that was what EM Forster was thinking of when he complained of British public (ie posh private) schoolboys that

They go forth [into the world] with well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds and undeveloped hearts. An undeveloped heart – not a cold one. The difference is important.

In other words: just because one does not allow others to see what one feels does not mean the emotion is not there underneath. Forster would have liked the British male to be allowed to show his emotions, but in this area as in others he was swimming against the tide.

In Victorian and Edwardian Britain, there was a strong movement, fuelled by Darwinism and Imperialism, against overt sentiment of the sort that was in previous centuries perfectly acceptable. To weep copiously was now the sign of the so-called savage, or at the very least of a continental European (which was almost as bad). Generations were taught that public emotion, particularly if displayed by a male, was un-British and worthy only of ridicule and censure.

Luckily for all our psyches the tide is now on the turn and has been for a few decades: you only have to look at the tremendous outpouring of public grief displayed on the death of Princess Diana to see how far we’ve come, although there’s still a long way to go.

However, despite the association with British public schools, cold showers and games for ruffians played by gentlemen, the origins of the phrase stiff upper lip are—brace yourselves—actually American:

Self-esteem…is indicated by a short muscle which acts upon the upper lip, causing generally a fullness and stiffness in the middle…one who has it large can “carry a stiff upper lip”.

Outlines of a New System of Physiognomy published in New York in 1849

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Question: Keep a stiff upper lip—or let it all hang out? You choose. ;)

Giveaway: I’m offering a free ebook from my backlist to a randomly chosen commenter on each blog post.

And there’s a grand prize of a signed paperback copy of To Love a Traitor for one lucky commenter on the tour. I’m happy to ship internationally, and the more blog posts you comment on, the more chances you get!

I’ll be making the draws around teatime on Monday 28th September, GMT. Good luck! :D

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JL MerrowJL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.  Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.

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To Love a TraitorWounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

Available in ebook and paperback: Samhain Amazon US | Amazon UK | ARe

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify

*No residency restrictions apply

*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)

*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified

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Brad Vance, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Werewolves of Brooklyn Blog Tour with Brad Vance

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Please join us in welcoming author Brad Vance to The Novel Approach today, as he makes the round to tell readers a bit about his new novel Werewolves of Brooklyn. Brad took the opportunity to answer a few interview questions from Will Parkinson, so enjoy, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good luck!

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WP: Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Brad Vance, author of Werewolves of Brooklyn. Hi, Brad, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Brad: Thanks for the opportunity!

Q: Talk to us about your characters in this book. What makes them unique?

Brad: I really set out to make my werewolves unlike any others. I’ve resisted doing “shifter” stories my whole career, even though I know they’re lucrative, because the genre felt tapped out, creatively. But my werewolves aren’t cursed, they aren’t slaves of their natures, the full moon has nothing to do with it. I researched the lives and habits of actual wolves, and based my story on that.

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in getting your book from start to publish?

Brad: Darien’s journey from the time he’s first exposed to his “wolf nature” is one of burgeoning self-confidence, energy, sexuality, joy. I realized how much I’d changed myself since I started writing, especially since I went full-time. I’d gone from a passive participant in my own life to having full agency, and as I wrote Darien, I realized in a lot of ways I was writing my own story.

Q: Have you ever gone to a convention? If so, how was it? If not, do you think it’s something you’d like to do in the future?

Brad: I haven’t been. I’d like to someday, but right now I’m struggling financially, especially with the new Kindle Unlimited compensation system. My travel’s been limited to research trips and total decompression vacations!

Q: How do you like being a full-time writer?

Brad: I love it. It’s stressful, since your income can be five figures one month and barely four in another. But I’m my own boss, and I’m finally paid for my labor and not my time – nobody is making me warm a chair and punch a clock to prove how much I’m working. When my work is done, I’m done. Even on my worst days I think, what would you be doing right now if you still lived in Cubicle City? And that adjusts my attitude!

WP: Design the ultimate pizza.

Brad: I gotta say, right now I’m addicted to the Round Table garlic chicken pizza. Extra garlic, extra chicken. I’d have a hard time beating that.

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Werewolves of Brooklyn CoverBlurb: Darien Mackey wasn’t looking for an adventure. For ten years, he’d been happy living in Brooklyn, working as a butcher in the same job, living in the same apartment, dating some “nothing-special” guys. Until one night his buddy Jacob talked him into taking ayahuasca, the soul-changing drug. And Darien had a vision…of a wolf, its all-too-human eyes on him, its paws on his chest, its enquiring mind in his own…

Darien Mackey is changing. He’s more confident, more assertive, hungrier, hornier. And his world is changing around him – his job, his home, his beloved Mechanic’s Library all falling victim to the predations of unscrupulous developers, bent on demolishing the old Brooklyn he loves and replacing it with a forest of condos. But he’s no longer a passive observer of his own life, and as this thing, this power, grows inside of him, he resolves to fight back, to preserve the way of life he loves.

And he’s not alone in the fight. The Lipsius Preservation Society of Brooklyn stands ready to assist in the battle, even though it seems like a bit of a joke to Darien, with its King and its Duke, Marquess, Earl and Viscount.

But there’s nothing funny about his growing attraction to Albeus Finley, King of this mysterious Court. And when slumlords and condo-mongers start to die mysterious, violent deaths at the hands of savage animals, Darien begins to realize that something is afoot in Brooklyn – something supernatural.

And it’s afoot in him, too…

Buy the book: Amazon

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Author BioAbout the author: Brad Vance writes gay romance, erotica and paranormal stories and novels, including the breakout hits “A Little Too Broken” and “Given the Circumstances.” Keep up with Brad at BradVanceErotica.wordpress.com, email him at BradVanceErotica@gmail.com, and friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/brad.vance.10.

Where to find the author: Blog || Facebook || Pinterest || BradVanceErotica on Google+ || @BradVanceAuthor on Twitter || Email

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A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates & Stops:

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified

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5 Stars, Holiday Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Dangerous Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk

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Title: Dangerous Spirits (Spirits: Book Two)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 157 Pages

At a Glance: Dangerous Spirits is everything a good ghost story should be.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: After the events of Reyhome Castle, Henry Strauss expected the Psychical Society to embrace his application of science to the study of hauntings. Instead, the society humiliates and blacklists him. His confidence shaken, he can’t bring himself to admit the truth to his lover, the handsome medium Vincent Night.

Vincent’s new life in Baltimore with Henry is disrupted when a friend from the past asks for help with a haunting. In the remote town of Devil’s Walk, old ties and new lies threaten to tear the lovers apart, if a fiery spirit bent on vengeance doesn’t put an end to them first.

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Review: I’ve probably uttered the words, “Oh my god, this is my favorite Jordan L. Hawk book. Evarrrr!” every single time I’ve finished reading a Jordan L. Hawk book. That sort of redundancy is an occupational hazard of which I never tire. And, once again, it’s entirely true.

Putting my finger on the pulse of my love for Dangerous Spirits is simple—the paranormal plot elements in this story are exceptional. How exceptional are they? I was so frustrated by my inability to read fast enough that I kept skipping down the page to see what would happen next, and then going back to read the parts I’d skipped just so I wouldn’t bust a vein from the tension and suspense woven into those scenes. If you’re a fan of horror—the vivid prose and chilling metaphysical story elements that not only get the adrenaline pumping but the goose bumps popping at the deadly visitations from beyond the grave—then this book will scratch every single one of your horror-loving itches. Those scenes are written with a skill, attention to detail, and an inspired celebration of the supernatural, which not only had my imagining working overtime but immediately took me back to the earliest days of my first sleep-with-the-lights-on reads, the books that made me fall in love with this genre in the first place. Though, in a bit of a twist, the author also makes our resident ghost an entirely sympathetic character, not to mention made me glad I, for one, am a 21st century woman.

Lest you aren’t as huge a fan of the macabre as I, though, rest assured that there’s plenty of relationship tension in this story too, not only between Henry Strauss and Vincent Knight, our endearing heroes and earnest lovers, but between Henry and Lizzie, Henry and Jo, and Henry and Sylvester Ortensi, a man from Vincent and Lizzie’s past who comes calling—and brings more than a little danger for the trouble.

Poor Henry, you might see a pattern here. He has a rough go of things in this installment of the Spirits series, and his failure to impress the Psychical Society with his scientific approach to the spirit world culminates in a blow to his already somewhat fragile confidence, especially where Vincent is concerned. Henry and Vincent both are a bit of a study in frustration in this novel, their strife is the epicenter of the story, and yet it’s impossible not to understand their decisions and actions and inactions where each other is concerned because their relationship is still untried by the challenges they each bring to the table, let alone that they have to hide what they mean to each other from the whole of society. There are outright lies and then there are lies by omission; what they share to their core is that the wounds to the conscience can be every bit as painful as telling the truth can be to the heart. Both Henry and Vincent are fortunate to have people in their lives—Jo and Lizzy—who love and want the best for them, are the voices of reason, and who help to make up what many would call a bit of a misfit family.

And, where there’s love, it seems there’s always a way.

Dangerous Spirits is crackin’ good spec fic, fraught with emotion, tautly paced, packed with danger and chills, and—simple as this—it’s what we’ve come to expect from the author. This is an effortless read—unless you take into account the spikes in blood pressure—so light a candle, lay your salt lines, say your prayers, and dig into the fun.

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You can buy Dangerous Spirits here:

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4 Stars, Historical Romance, JL Merrow, Reviewed by Lisa, Samhain Publishing

Review: To Love a Traitor by JL Merrow

Title: To Love a Traitor

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 202 Pages

At a Glance: I think fans of historical romance will find plenty to love about To Love a Traitor.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.

When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.

Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.

As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.

But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.

Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.

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Review: JL Merrow and a Historical Romance are an irresistible combination for me. Not only do I love her characters, but I love her writing voice—which probably goes a long way towards explaining why I love her characters.

In To Love a Traitor we get two of the better examples of this author’s gift for creating men who immediately endear themselves to us. George Johnson is on an undercover mission, assuming an alternate identity in order to find the traitor who’d betrayed his brother and cost Hugh his life in 1917. It’s effortless to feel compassion for George’s need to get answers to the questions that haunt him, as the loss of his brother only serves to underscore the overall consequences of him standing by his decisions during the war.

Meanwhile, Matthew Connaught is the man suspected of treason—of giving up England’s secrets to the Germans while Matthew himself avoided being sent on the mission that ended in the ambush where his fellow officers perished. Guilty? Well, JL Merrow makes it all but impossible for us to believe it from the moment Matthew makes his first appearance on the page, which creates a nice contrast to our empathy for George. As the story progresses, though, the question remains in the back of our minds whether Matthew’s charm is all smoke and mirrors, or, if he’s really just that lovely a man?

As the author lays out George and Matthew’s story for the reader, we want George to both succeed and fail—to succeed in his goal of finding closure for himself and Hugh’s fiancé, Mabel, but also to fail in proving that Matthew is the man who would commit such a foul and underhanded deed against his country and his fellow countrymen. Why? Because Matthew is one of the most charming and luminous characters this author has ever created. Matthew shines in every scene, our veteran who came back from the war physically less than whole, and because of this, we can’t help but root against George even as we watch the man fall victim himself to Matthew’s many charms.

To Love a Traitor is a sweet romance tempered by George’s subterfuge, his secrets and motives, and the story’s 1920’s setting, which, in itself, adds the built-in challenge of two men beginning a relationship and finding love in a less than accepting time. George and Matthew and the simple pleasures they find in spending time together elevate this story from one that might have offered us a standard-fare historical romance into a love story that speaks to the optimist in us all, and that hopeful part of us that wants to believe love truly does overcome every obstacle, while this novel’s climactic moment does nothing but reinforce what is felt from the beginning—that Matthew is utterly irresistible and that George never stood a chance against him. And, in the end, the only traitor in this story would have been the man who would betray what his heart knew long before his head.

I think fans of historical romance will find plenty to love about To Love a Traitor.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

You can buy To Love a Traitor here:

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