Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and a Giveaway: The Happy Holidays! Edition

flashback-friday Christmas

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the end of my original review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and a TNA Giveaway

Flashback Friday

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

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

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

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

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

And, as always, good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until he meets Dillon.

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

Until he bumped into Hunter.

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

Dear Josh,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dividers

THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

Dividers

The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*No residency restrictions apply
*All comments must be relevant to the prompt question to be eligible in the drawing

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5 Stars, Carina Press, Josh Lanyon, Reviewed by Sammy

Josh Lanyon Bats Another One Out Of The Park With “Stranger on the Shore” – Reviewed by Sammy


“I didn’t approve of murder on general principles. Not even of people who seemed to go around begging for it.” – Josh Lanyon


Title: Stranger On The Shore

Author: Josh Lanyon

Publisher: Carina Press

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Twenty years ago, little Brian Arlington was kidnapped from his family’s Long Island estate and was never seen again.
Continue reading

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Josh Lanyon

Let’s Kick Start This Thing! Are You Ready For A Little Josh Lanyon?


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tv-errorDO NOT ADJUST YOUR DIAL ….

(or in computer parlance) DO NOT REBOOT YOUR PC …

IN A BREAK FROM NORMAL TRANSMISSION …

THE FANYONS HAVE TAKEN OVER YOUR BLOG …

To celebrate the release of Kick Start, Book 5 in the Dangerous Ground series by Josh Lanyon, the Fanyons have taken to the interwebz and commandeered various blog sites – have YOU read this series? Here, to tempt and tease, is Steve – and he is going to tell you a little bit about the previous book in this wonderful series :

Dead Run

Josh Lanyon and I go way back – all the way back to August of 2006 when, shopping for m/m books on Amazon.com, I was made aware of a book called ‘A Dangerous Thing’. They say you always remember your first and they’re right. Since then I’ve read everything he’s written. Heck, I’d even read the phonebook if his name was on it!dead run

In the Spring of 2008, Josh started the ‘Dangerous Ground’ series and introduced us to Will Brandt and Taylor MacAllister, Special Agents at the Department of Diplomatic Security. Flash-forward to Winter 2013, and it’s time for ‘Kick Start’ – book number five.

The previous instalment (and you do need to read them in order) is ‘Dead Run’ … and it’s a doozie. It follows on from ‘Blood Heat’ (Book 3), and Will has taken the posting in Paris, effectively ending his working partnership with Taylor. But now the distance in their relationship – first geographical and now somehow increasingly personal – is threatening to end that partnership as well.

It’s been eleven months – eleven long months – since they’ve seen each other. This is the first time Taylor has been able to get away from his job at DDS and as he’s going through security at LAX he sees what he believes is a terrorist and just like that we’re off and running … knee deep in the hoopla that’s become one of the hallmarks of Josh Lanyon, and especially the ‘Dangerous Ground’ series.

Taylor gets to Paris where old insecurities on both sides suddenly reappear and become seemingly larger than life. Misunderstandings turn into resentments, which quickly spin their way into accusations and recriminations, and soon their relationship, and even their friendship, are in danger of being swept away.

From a bomb scare at the Eiffel Tower, to explosions in the eerie Paris Catacombs… From wry and witty humor, to head-spinning misunderstandings… From sweet love-making, to the looming spectre of David Bradley… Dead Run has it all. And then some.

What has always struck me about Josh Lanyon’s writing is how he can say in a few paragraphs what other authors will labor over for pages and pages. A few words, a stray thought, a random glance… and you’re right there on the page: an invisible third party, a fly on the wall.

I read ‘Dead Run’ with my heart in my throat and a box of Kleenex at my side – yeah, so what of it? – and loved every pulse-pounding, I-wanna-smack-them-upside-their-heads, what-can-possibly-happen-next moment. To say I am looking forward to the next instalment would be an understatement – I cannot wait to see where Josh takes us next!

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About the Book :
KickStart_Final4PDFamazon

Series : Dangerous Ground, Book 5

Author : Josh Lanyon

Publisher : Just Joshin

Release Date : December 1 , 2013

Pages : 128 pages (e-book)

Blurb : Will is finally braced to bring Taylor home to meet the folks. Unfortunately, not every member of the Brandt clan loves Taylor the way Will does. Then again, not everyone loves the Brandts. In fact, someone has a score to settle — and too bad for any former DS agents who get in the way when the bullets start to fly.

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About the Author

josh lanyonA distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author Josh Lanyon has been writing gay mystery and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction and a Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery. Josh is also the author of the definitive M/M writing guide Man, Oh Man: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks and Ca$h.

But, really…do you care? Probably not. More to the point, Josh writes gay or M/M romance — usually within the context of a mystery / romantic-suspense or action – adventure. Lanyon’s particular brand of erotic romance features sexy cops and smartass writers, tough Navy SEALs and sensitive artists, hard as nail special agents and…other hard as nails special agents. Josh is an EPPIE Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his Significant Other. You can find out more at the Just Joshin blog on Livejournal/Blogspot or through Josh’s mailing list.

You can also find Josh at :

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There will be a total of NINE lucky winners, selected randomly across the entire BlogHop (Prize details listed below). For a chance to win one of these swagalicious giveaways all you need to do is follow the Rafflecopter link below, and fill in your details – BUT don’t forget to comment here too :

Kick Start Giveaway Info :
  • Begins Day 1 of Blog Hop, December 2, 2013
  • Ends on Final Day of Blog Hop, December 7, 2013, at midnight EDT
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers.
  • PLEASE NOTE : Winners will be announced on Josh’s Facebook Fan Page on Sunday December 8th, 2013 – there will be 9 winner in total (prizes as listed below)
Prizes :
  • Grand Prize : Paperwhite Kindle with all “Dangerous Ground” books sent separately (including Kick Start) for winner to install.
  • Kick Start T’shirt
  • Kick Start Coffee Mug
  • Set of Magnets
  • 2 ebooks to 1 lucky winner from Josh’s back catalogue
  • 3 audiobooks to 3 lucky winners (1 each) from Josh’s back catalogue
  • Top Secret Special Edition Mug
Good luck! And thanks for stopping by!
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A.E. Via, A.J. Corza, B. Snow, Backlist Book Bump, Deanna Wadsworth, Iyana Jenna, John Amory, Josh Lanyon, Lynley Wayne, M.A. Church, Sneak Peek

And Now, Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week


I hope you’ve all had a lovely week, and for those of you celebrating Hanukkah that your holiday time with family and friends has been, and will continue to be, wonderful.

And don’t forget, today marks the start of deliveries for Dreamspinner Press’s 2013 daily Advent Anthology Heartwarming. We’ve got all thirty-one stories we’ll be featuring throughout the month of December, but be sure to check them out yourselves.

We’ve got another busy week ahead of reviews, interviews, blog tours, giveaways, and even a scavenger hunt, so don’t miss out on all the fun! Here’s what we’ve got on tap.

 

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MondayDeanna Wadsworth arrives on her Naughty North Pole Blog Tour and she’s bringing a giveaway just in time for Christmas

TuesdayB. Snow will be here on the A Cunning Plan blog tour, with an interview and the chance for one luck reader to win the book

WednesdayA.E. Via stops by on her Blue Moon Blog Tour

ThursdayJohn Amory drops in to spread some holiday cheer on his A Christmas Caroler Blog Tour

FridayM.A. Church is doing the Backlist Book Bump with a new old book, The Harvest: Taken, and a giveaway

Josh Lanyon will also be here, as he makes The Novel Approach a stop on his A Dangerous Ground Blog Hop

SaturdayIyana Jenna will be our guest today with an article and giveaway of her latest book A Single Black Rose.

SundayLynley Wayne wraps up the week with an interview and giveaway of her latest release A Life Interrupted.

 

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And that sees us through another week. Until next time, happy reading!

We’ll leave you today with a little note from the ever delightful A.J. Corza:

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Hi guys *waves all around*,

Just a quick note this week to say that I am going to be going on hiatus until the New Year. I know, I know, I haven’t been here very long, but rest assured it’s not so much a vacation as just swamped with real life issues at the moment. School finals, work requests (keep those coming, though, please :D), and the reemergence of a father whom I’ve not spoken to in over 10 years has all pretty much culminated with head falling off.

Well, not yet, but that’s why the break—so my head actually does NOT fall off.

I just felt that right now I can’t do justice to my reviews or to the TNA site, and that is not fair to everyone else on the site or our lovely web mistress, Lisa.

Plus, being a bit blunt, I didn’t want the reviews to just suck balls, which I think they would have.

All that said however, PLEASE send me covers that you love if you see them, with the artist’s name if you can find it, or just covers you would like me to review. I’m going to stockpile some reviews for the New Year, and I’d love to include any faves or scary covers you ‘re especially fond of.

I promise I WILL be back!

In the meantime, I hope that you all have a wonderful holiday season no matter where you are and that the New Year finds you looking forward to new and exciting ventures. Or reviews in my case!

Happy Holidays and may the good books be with you!

A.J.

P.S. If you have a cover you want to send me, send it here:

coveredreviews@gmail.com

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Josh Lanyon, Just Joshin Publishing, Self-Published

“The Haunted Heart: Winter” Is The Perfect Late Summer Read




“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” ― J.K. Rowling


Flynn Ambrose is a man in mourning. Almost one year ago, Alan, the love of Flynn’s life died in a freak accident. Flynn didn’t want to keep going and after trying to end everything, his parents took over his care and put him in a psychiatric hospital. Eventually Flynn and his parents came to the “agreement” Flynn would be living in his Great Uncle’s house, cataloging all of his “treasures”. Flynn would take his medication, he would see his doctor, he would eat and sleep, and he wouldn’t harm himself. That was the agreement. Flynn was mostly keeping to the agreement, well, except for the sleeping, eating, taking medication and seeing the doctor. He was burying himself in the task of identifying the antiques and getting them ready for sale, when one of the items starts to reveal a scary secret. One night Flynn is scared out of his socks and when he runs out of his rooms, he literally runs into his neighbor.

Kirk Murdoch is a solitary type of man. Over the course of the story we learn that he is a former Army Ranger, a playwright, and he seems to have a bad case of PTSD. Kirk spends most of his time alone. He doesn’t want or need the company of other people. He writes, he tries to play the guitar and he works out…..a lot. All of this self isolation is about to come to an end when he runs into Flynn Ambrose one night on the stairs.

Flynn thinks he may be going crazy when he sees a ghost in a mirror. Because he is scared he may be going even crazier, he enlists Kirk to help him figure out if what he is seeing is real. Kirk does see the ghost, and this starts the two men on an adventure to find out who she is and what in the world she wants.

This story is something I have been looking forward to for a long time. I love Josh Lanyon’s work, and I didn’t realize how much I missed his writing until I was reading it again. His writing style and sense of humor comes through loud and clear in this story. Flynn’s story is a very sad one, and he seems to have given up on living. Kirk’s story has yet to be revealed in full but with three more stories on the way, I am sure we will get to know him just as well. There is no huge love story in this; I have a feeling this one will be a slow burn. Both of these men have some major healing to do, and I can only hope they choose to do it together.

I don’t think I have to sit here and wax poetically about the writing in this, but I will anyway. :) Josh Lanyon may have taken some time off, but his skills didn’t take any such vacation. Even in a novella he manages to paint a full picture of Flynn. We get the basic idea that he and Alan not only grew up together but were so in love that they hadn’t been with anyone else. They were soul mates and they were going to be together forever. I am so looking forward to the next story in the series because I can’t wait to get to know Kirk better; those are some deep waters in that man.

This new book is a homerun for Josh, and I can’t be any happier to have him back. So if you loved Adrien English, or maybe you got hooked on Holmes and Moriarity, then I think you will be as happy as I am to get caught up in Flynn and Kirk while they find themselves and each other.

Reviewed by: Jackie

You can buy The Haunted Heart: Winter here:

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4.5 Stars, Astrid Amara, Blind Eye Books, Ginn Hale, Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling

Irregulars by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Astrid Amara, and Ginn Hale

It took me a while to decide, but I think I can honestly say I’ve never read an anthology quite like Irregulars, four novellas from four talented authors who’ve woven each of their stories together to create an Urban Fantasy/Urban Fairy Tale world where goblins, vampires, brownies, fairies, pixies, demons, witches, and all other manner of extra-human creatures reside to tell the story of the NIAD, the NATO Irregular Affairs Division, the agency that regulates and manages mythical artifacts and all things magical.

Starting things off is the one author in the collection with whom I was unfamiliar, Nicole Kimberling. Her story, Cherries Worth Getting, does a great job of setting up the premise and the world building for the entire novella. If you buy this book and are at all tempted to read the stories out of order, don’t. I think it’s really important to read everything in sequence, not only because some characters overlap, but also because, well, this is really a fine story.

Keith Curry and Gunther Heartman are former lovers who are teamed up on a case involving culinary crimes—really disgusting culinary crimes, actually. Their break up wasn’t necessarily the end of a relationship; it was more the end of a “co-workers with benefits” arrangement that came about because Keith was carrying some really heavy baggage, and Gunther was keeping a fairly significant secret.

Though Keith doesn’t want to be partnered with Gunther again, their investigation into murder and black market protein draws the two men closer to catching the criminals, drawing them closer to each other as a result, as goblins, vampires, and humans provide the danger, and Keith and Gunther work to overcome the things that had torn them apart.

I thought this was a fast paced and well told story, a strong intro for the other authors to build upon but not overshadow as the rest of the tales unfold. – 4 Stars

A fae/human hybrid with a demon kink and an obsession with magical artifacts stars in Green Glass Beads, Josh Lanyon’s contribution to this compilation.

Archer Green is the curator of the Museum of State-Sanctioned Antiquities, who also was, at one time, affiliated with the more radical Society for the Rescue and Restoration of Indigenous Magic, which leaves him a prime target for Commander Rake’s scrutiny.

Rake is the new head of the Vancouver branch of NIAD, and he has more than a passing interest in Archer’s methods and reasons for collecting the artifacts he does. Archer has become Rake’s prime target to help prove that the SRRIM is still alive and thriving and participating in the illegal acquisition of highly dangerous artifacts. Rake has an axe to grind and he’s not above using Archer as his sharpening stone to do his job. But, Rake also has a secret of his own that hides behind his glamour.

The search for green glass beads, an artifact with very personal ties to Archer’s own ancestry, leads to danger, manipulation, and an act of betrayal that, in the end, provides for a touching reunion between Archer and Rake.

This was a sexy and satisfying read that also has a bit of a tie-in with Ginn Hale’s story. – 4 stars

Astrid Amara’s No Life but This kicked the WHOA! factor into overdrive for me in a murder mystery that tells the story of Deven Shaw, who, at the age of ten was sacrificed by his own father in a show of political loyalty to Lord Knife, the ruler of the underworld realm of Aztaw, at the time.

Deven’s father was the NIAD ambassador to Aztaw, and he allowed his boy to become a symbol of blind dedication to his cause, after Deven was kidnapped by Lord Knife’s rival, Lord Jaguar, and was then sentenced to death, an act the elder Shaw fully supported to further his own agenda.

An act of courage and quick thinking, something Lord Jaguar could respect, is the only thing that saved Deven’s life that day, and he spent more than a decade in Aztaw, training as an assassin and dreaming of the day he’d be rescued by NIAD agents, but eventually coming to the realization that he had no one or nothing to rely on but himself and his own willingness to survive.

Lord Jaguar’s death after he’d bestowed his house power to Deven led to a sacred vow and Deven’s eventual escape from Aztaw in order to fulfill that oath, but after so many of his informative years spent outside the human realm, his return to society leaves him uncertain of how to behave or react in a human way.

Being partnered with the surly and disagreeable Agent Silas August to investigate the murder of August’s partner Carlos, and Carlos’s sister, Beatriz, takes Deven to Mexico City, where a dark and sinister magic with connections to Aztaw puts the men directly on a path marked for death.

Deven is the prime target of Night Axe, Lord of Hurricanes, the bogeyman of Aztaw, who has returned from exile to steal the power that Deven possesses so he can claim control of a war torn and nearly decimated Aztaw. And Night Axe will use every means at his disposal, up to and including Agent August, to gain Deven’s compliance.

Astrid Amara’s brilliant imagination and vivid prose left me entirely in awe, from start to finish of this story. The relationship between Deven and August builds slowly and believably but the action and suspense is nothing short of driven, as the two men get closer and closer to resolving the mystery, something that could ultimately prove fatal for August, and leads both men to discover that there are things worth dying for, but there are also things very much worth living for.

A sinister betrayal also proves to Deven that one’s word is his bond, only when the one he’s given his word to is worthy of that loyalty.

I loved this one, plain and simple – 5 stars

Not to be outdone, and rounding out this anthology beautifully is Ginn Hale’s Things Unseen and Deadly, a story that just tugged at my heart strings in the most sublime way.

This is a story that loosely ties into all three of the other books, overlapping characters and storylines, and tells the tale of a revenant named Half-Dead Henry Falk, who works with NIAD in both the shade lands and the human realm, and the Stone of Fal, a sidhe legend revolving around a stone hidden within the body of a princess’s child, the child with the only legitimate claim to the sidhe throne.

Jason Shamir is a man who, as a young boy, witnessed the brutal murder of his father by goblins, a truth that led to years of psychiatric evaluation both in and out of mental institutions, and eventually led to him hiding the fact that he could see the truth, truths that no one else can see beneath the façade of the extra-human beings that walk in the human realm.

Jason holds a powerful magic within himself, one that he’s entirely unaware of, one that’s tied to synethesia, the ability to see shapes and color in music, a power that he will come to discover with Henry Falk’s help, a power that will come to light and reveal that Jason is very much more than the average and forgettable man he appears to be.

Henry and Jason are each so lonely and lost within their own worlds, but it’s the power Jason possesses to see the truth that lies at the core of men that gradually draws them closer together. Henry’s betrayal at the hands of the man he loved and whom he thought loved him in return led to a painful and bitter betrayal that left Henry straddling the realm between life and death, and left him unwilling and unable to see himself as being capable of trusting, let alone loving, again.

Greed and human trafficking leave Jason vulnerable to the dangers that await him in both the human and sidhe realms, and Henry makes it his personal mission, in life and in death, to protect Jason at all costs. Theirs is a relationship that becomes priceless in the only way a connection can be when a man who had nothing and gained everything is willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of the other. Theirs is a connection born in need and loneliness that will endure and strengthen together.

Things Unseen and Deadly left me wanting more of Henry and Jason. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ginn Hale may resurrect them sometime in the future – 5 Stars

This was a thoroughly impressive collection of stories, a true collaboration in every single sense of the word. All four novellas tied together beautifully to make for one wildly entertaining read.

Available at Weightless Books

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