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!


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…


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.


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


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, Genre Romance, Kaje Harper, Reviewed by Karen, Samhain Publishing

Release Day Review: Life, Some Assembly Required by Kaje Harper

TNA Page Turner Resized

Title: Life, Some Assembly Required (The Rebuilding Year: Book Two)

Author: Kaje Harper

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 327 Pages

At a Glance: Life, Some Assembly Required is a fabulous follow up to The Rebuilding Year, and I loved watching these two men fall more in love.

Reviewed By: Karen

Blurb: Finding love in the ashes was easy. Building a life together? Don’t make Fate laugh.

After spending the first part of his life chasing pretty girls, love has finally come to Ryan in the form of John, a tall, lanky, red-headed landscape architect with wide shoulders and a five-o’clock shadow.

For the first time in his life, love feels easy. Hell, he even ran into a burning building for John and his son, and he’d do it again if he had to. But telling his father and brothers “I’m gay. I’ve met a man”? That’s a bumpy ride he’s not looking forward to.

For John, loving Ryan is as natural as breathing. Now if only the rest of his life would fall into place. Dealing with his teen son is complicated enough, but with his ex-wife causing trouble and his daughter wanting to move in, John’s house—and his relationship with Ryan—threaten to split at the seams.

Would one month without a new surprise knocking him upside the heart be asking too much? If the sound of Fate’s laughter is any indication, the answer must be yes…


Review: How to explain how much I love this book…I’ll give it a shot but I’m not sure I can do it justice; you really are going to have to read it and see for yourself.

When I received Life, Some Assembly Required for review, I went back and reread the first in the series, The Rebuilding Year. Now, after reading this book, I have to say it far surpassed what I had expected. John and Ryan are working at building a life together. They are in love and just like with every new relationship, there are ups and downs, but in their case, maybe a few more obstacles are thrown their way.

This book, in comparison to a lot of what I usually read, certainly has a more realistic, everyday couple feel to it, which I really enjoyed. There was family who aren’t so accepting of their new relationship; kids who have issues of their own and need the support of the parents; a not so pleasant ex-wife, who seems to realize now what she lost; and career decisions that need to be made on top of the struggle of just coming out and being in a relationship in general—as I said, a lot more obstacles than many couples could handle without falling apart. But, it’s not that you don’t see the doubts and struggles and even some jealously between John and Ryan, because it is there, things aren’t rosy and perfect, but it is imperfectly perfect for them. Issues come up, feelings happen, but they take notice and work things out. Their lives aren’t just about them, but they find a balance to make each other a priority while still keeping their responsibilities in focus.

Life, Some Assembly Required is a fabulous follow up to The Rebuilding Year, and I loved watching these two men fall more in love.



You can buy Life, Some Assembly Required here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

5 Stars, Genre Romance, Kaje Harper, Reviewed by Chris, Self-Published

Review: The Family We Make by Kaje Harper

Title:  The Family We Make

Author:  Kaje Harper

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 461 Pages

At A Glance: I recommend this book for all of us who’ve ever struggled to feel accepted.

Reviewed By: Chris

Blurb: At seventeen, Rick Albright left his home, his parents and even his old name, rather than pretend to be straight. But being on his own was hard. When his big brother Sam found him, and insisted on giving him a place to stay, he didn’t resist too long. Living with Sam is better than fighting just to survive, but it’s not easy to find his balance in a simple, small-town life, after his time on the streets.

Travis Brinkerhoff finally managed to come out in college, his second year anyway. It was the one bright side to losing his baseball scholarship and jock status. But without money for tuition, second year came to an abrupt end. He’s back in his small Minnesota hometown, and back in the closet. Travis feels like he’s trying to fit into a life he’s outgrown. If he’s going to survive, he has to figure out a way to be his own man, maybe even have his own man, without losing the family he loves.

When he left the Marines, Sam Albright wanted nothing more than to find his missing younger brother. Mission accomplished. Now he’s got an independent, possibly traumatized, openly gay young man on his hands, a girlfriend in a war zone overseas, and parents he has to lie to in order to keep the peace. Keeping it all together won’t be easy, but Sam has never backed away from a challenge.


Review:  The Family We Make is the follow up to Kaje Harper’s novella The Family We’re Born With. While it’s not necessary it to understand the story in The Family We Make, The Family We’re Born With does give background on Sam’s family and where they’re staying at the moment.

The Family We Make is mostly about Sam’s youngest brother Rick, who ran away from home before Sam left the Marines. While Sam is visiting his biological mother for the first time, he finally gets a call from Rick. Sam ends up tearing off after him and brings him back to Minnesota, where he’s staying for the time being.

Rick is scared and angry but wants the comfort of his big brother after being on his own for so many months. This doesn’t mean he’s going to make things easy on Sam, though, mostly because he’s scared that he’ll end up acting like their parents and turning on him because he’s gay. Eventually Sam cracks through the walls Rick has built, and they start to regrow their bond, along with the mechanic, Jeff, who Sam starts to work with. Eventually, then, we meet Travis. Travis and Rick form a bond while working on the road crews shoveling snow, and doing tasks for the elderly in the area.

The new bond between Rick and Travis is sweet and adorably sexy at the same time, as they’re finding their way with each other and growing into themselves. Unfortunately their road isn’t as smooth and easy as it should be, but it shows them what is important in their lives and what it means to be a family.

While the basis of this story is Rick and Travis’s, it’s not strictly a NA love story. There are a lot of characters and storylines intermingled to create this really deep and thoughtful story about what family truly means to us. It’s not always the family you’re born into that is there for you. It’s the family you create through friendships, relationships, and love that gives us the strength we need to grow into who we’re meant to be.

I really fell in love with Rick and Travis as they were finding their way, and when the last thing hit them, well, it even got me sniffling. It was like, “just how much more can these boys handle at their age?” but handle it they did, and with the grace and strength of someone twice their ages might. Sam and all the secondary characters really filled out the storyline, giving that extra depth and support to Rick and Travis. It also showed how building their new family affected all of them individually, as well as together as a whole.

I recommend this book for all of us who’ve ever struggled to feel accepted, and those who’ve had to forge their own bonds of family. Kaje Harper really got everything in this book perfectly right, at least for this reader.





You can buy The Family We Make here:

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All Romance eBooks


5 Stars, Drama, Genre Romance, Kaje Harper, MLR Press, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Storming Love: Nelson & Caleb by Kaje Harper

Title: Storming Love: Nelson & Caleb

Author: Kaje Harper

Publisher: MLR Press

Pages/Word Count: 87 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Nelson Dunn has a settled routine – an evening security-guard job, days off for his therapy dogs, occasional club sex, and good books. He sometimes dreams about more, but he’s made himself content. So when Hurricane Lauris strands Caleb Robertson at his house, Nelson has mixed feelings about having an attractive guy in his space. Especially when nothing more can possibly happen. Continue reading

Aleksandr Voinov, Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Jordan L. Hawk, Kaje Harper, KJ Charles, Self-Published, Tamara Allen

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway – Another Place in Time Blog Tour: Unfair in Love and War by Kaje Harper

Welcome to another place in time…where one can be swept away into lands and eras long forgotten.

This collection of short stories was birthed because a sworn “I don’t like historicals” reader fell in love with what have become some of her favorite books by most of her favorite writers. Surprisingly, they were all historicals. Determined to make others feel the love, these authors were asked to contribute small tastes of how amazing historical storytelling can be.

Included in this anthology:

“Office Romance” by Tamara Allen
“Introducing Mr. Winterbourne” by Joanna Chambers
“The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” by KJ Charles
“Unfair in Love and War” by Kaje Harper
“Carousel” by Jordan L. Hawk
“Deliverance” by Aleksandr Voinov Continue reading

Backlist Book Bump, Kaje Harper, MLR Press

Are You Prepared To Take An “Unacceptable Risk” With Kaje Harper? It’s A Backlist Book Bump Giveaway!

Writing werewolves in the real world.

When Lisa at The Novel Approach offered me a chance to give one of my older books a bump, I wasn’t sure which one to choose. But it turns out, I still can’t resist my first werewolf, Simon. So it had to be Unacceptable Risk.

When I wrote the original draft of Unacceptable Risk, I hadn’t yet published anything, and I hadn’t read much M/M other than my own. But I did read everything else, voraciously, and I loved fantasy and paranormal. I found, while reading mainstream paranormal books, that sometimes I was stopping to say, “Why doesn’t everyone and his brother know these creatures exist?” Because keeping a secret that big, dealing with that many people, is hard. Ben Franklin famously said, “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

I had a yen to write an M/M paranormal novel. But one of my goals when I write is to create, in the middle of a plot that may involve murder or magic, some aura of believability. If I was going to have werewolves, and if the modern society in which they lived was to be totally ignorant of them, then I had to figure out how to make that work. How to create my “Hidden Wolves”.

That was when Simon, my werewolf, spoke up. He told me, with a wry grin, that it’s not really that hard – the answer’s in the Franklin quote. Be ruthless enough, kill people without hesitation when you must, and it can be done. But there is a human, or werewolfian, cost to that kind of iron control. The cost comes in tyranny and innocent lives lost and a world made small in the quest for absolute secrecy. When Simon added, “The Alphas don’t like gay werewolves either,” I knew I had to write a way out of that, for him.

I found I also wanted to reflect, in my human character, the kind of reactions I would have, if someone I cared about told me, “By the way, I’m a werewolf.” And then proved it to me. I’m pretty open-minded, I think. But my reactions would be complex. And in Paul, Simon’s human lover, I got to play with those emotions—with disbelief and fear and wonder and perhaps a touch of anger. Paul is falling in love with Simon, but he isn’t ready to be a werewolf’s mate, or to drink the pack Kool-Aid.

I had fun with writing both these guys and bringing them together—finding them some love and safety against the backdrop of the Pack. And because I seem to write happy-for-now much more easily than happy-ever-after, their story continued in the free short stories and the second novel. The books in this series introduce new couples, but the world they live in is shared, and Simon and Paul still had a road to travel. So I’m going to post an excerpt below, from Unacceptable Risk, and give away an ebook copy of both Risk and the second “Hidden Wolves” book, Unexpected Demands. (Plus, of course, the free short stories, Unsettled Interlude and Unwanted Appeal.) The third “Wolves” book is almost ready for submission, and I hope that I’ll have more chances along the way to explore how werewolves and humans interact, in this modern world of cell cameras and DNA testing, and ages-old Pack in the shadows.


-Kaje Harper

Unacceptable Risk

Simon Conley was born a werewolf, making him one of a tiny minority in a sea of vanilla humans. The safety of the pack lies in absolute secrecy, sometimes violently enforced. In a species where pack-members are born and not made, being gay is considered a perversion. So when Simon falls in love with a human man, he’s twice damned. Even his Alpha’s grudging tolerance may not be enough to shield him from the hatred of the other top wolves. Then his lover Paul stumbles across pack secrets Simon was sworn to keep, and if the pack finds out, they may both end up dead.


The canceled appointments meant that for a change Paul had time to finish most of his work before the clinic closed. He took his new dog out for a last walk in the fenced yard, its leg splint carefully protected with a plastic bag. The dog paced beside him on three legs through the hallways, head swinging back and forth as if checking out the place. Outside, it led him along the fence, looking up.

“Don’t even think about it,” he told the dog, amused at his own fancy. “It’s seven feet, you can’t jump it, especially on three legs.”

The dog gave him a look that seemed to say, want to bet? But it made no move to try. Paul was glad, since walking this dog was a matter of mutual consent. It outweighed him by thirty pounds. And with the leash looped back around one of the dog’s shoulders, to keep pressure off the wounds on its neck, he had very little leverage. Fortunately, he had invested in good doors and fences. A friend of his had gone through the nightmare of having a patient escape and get hit by a car. That was never happening to him.

Back in the kennel he ran into a snag. The dog refused to get back into its crate. It didn’t bite, or even growl, or threaten him at all. It just put on the brakes. The crate was barely big enough anyway. Without the dog’s cooperation, Paul could wrestle one part of the creature inside, only to find that the other end was back out on the floor. After ten minutes he stopped, breathing hard.

Sarah and Elise were still up front, closing up. He could ask them to help, but he wasn’t sure even three people could make this dog do anything it didn’t want to do.

“What’s the problem?” he asked the dog. As if it’s going to answer you.

The dog looked at the crate, and paced to the other end of the room to sniff at the row of old concrete runs he hadn’t had time to replace yet. They were much bigger and roomier, of course. But the gates were old and rusty, and the curved shape left a nasty gap open at the bottom corners. A boxer had got its head stuck in that triangular space a year ago and almost choked to death. He hadn’t put a dog in one since. The stainless steel crates were much safer.

“Come on, baby,” Paul said. “I can’t leave until you’re safely locked up for the night, and I am so freaking tired. Kennel up.” He pointed to the crate, hoping the dog would obey the command. “Kennel up. Go to bed. In your crate.” What other commands might an owner have used?

The dog just stared at him, pale eyes unblinking. Then it walked over to the first concrete run, stepped in, and sat down neatly, tail curled around its feet. Paul couldn’t imagine a much clearer response. He sighed. The effort to move the dog seemed unachievable. And after all, the previous owner of the clinic had used those runs for twenty years without problems. And this dog’s broad head was never going to fit in that risky space.

“Okay,” he told his stubborn new pet. “You can stay in there. But if I come in tomorrow morning and you’ve strangled yourself on the gate, I’m going to be seriously pissed.” The dog gave him that open-mouthed smile he usually saw on golden retrievers. He would have sworn the jade eyes were amused. Paul bent to pet the dog once more. Not that he had to bend far. He had no business taking on a dog, especially a big one that would need a lot of exercise. But somehow, he couldn’t resist. Dropping to one knee he hugged the dog, rubbing his face in the soft fur of its shoulders.

“I’m really glad I found you.” He stood up straight, latched the gate securely, and put a stern look on his face. “Now no chewing off the splint, or pulling the wrap off those catheters. Or you’ll be back to the bucket head.”

The dog gave him a tiny wuff, as if in agreement, and he laughed. “Yeah, like you understand a word I’m saying. Good night, Wolf. See you in the morning.”

He was whistling as he left, despite the fatigue, and looking forward to an actual dinner and a full night’s sleep. Even the slippery, snowy drive home couldn’t dampen his mood. But it didn’t survive a call from the police about a break-in.

Paul pulled up in front of his clinic. The door was lit by the flashing blue and red lights of the police car stopped at the curb. The sound of the alarm reverberated in the still, cold air. There was more than enough light to see the gaping hole in the plate glass of the front window. The officer came toward Paul as he hurried up with the keys.

“Why don’t you let me go first and look around?” the cop offered. “In case there’s someone still in there.” Paul accepted the offer and stood shivering on the step, while the other man disappeared inside. After a few minutes the cop returned. “No sign of anyone. Why don’t you check the money and drugs, and tell me what’s missing.”

Paul followed him inside. He punched his code into the alarm box, and the cessation of the noise was a relief. He hurriedly checked the cash box, and the drug lock-box. Both were intact and untouched. Even the drugs on the shelves were in their places.

“Maybe it was just vandalism,” the cop suggested. “Someone breaking the window for fun. I just thought from the size of the hole someone must have gone through it.”


“What?” The cop hurried after Paul as he ran toward the kennels. Paul lunged into the kennel room and stopped. The place was empty. The first concrete run contained only a drift of grey fur, a few pieces of Vet-rap bandage, and a mound of cotton batting. Wolf was gone…


The “Hidden Wolves” series includes Unacceptable Risk – Book 1 and Unexpected Demands – Book 2, both available from MLR Press, and most ebook retailers, plus two free short stories – Unsettled Interlude – 1.15 and Unwanted Appeal – 2.5, available from Smashwords, All Romance ebooks, and other ebook sites.

A.F. Henley, A.J. Corza, Hayden Thorne, Jordan L. Hawk, Kaje Harper, Rhys Ford, Rick R. Reed, Sneak Peek, Susan Mac Nicol

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

Happy Sunday, gang, I hope it’s been an outstanding week for all of you. Or at least that the reading has been good. That alone can make up for a lot. ::nods:: :)

We’ve got another great week ahead, seven fun-filled days of giveaways, interviews, articles, and, of course, reviews galore just for you. So stay tuned, and take a look at what we’ve got in store for you at The Novel Approach.


MondaySusan Mac Nicol will be here to talk a little bit about her latest novel, Saving Alexander, and she’ll also be offering a reader’s choice giveaway to a few lucky readers.

TuesdayJordan L. Hawk is back for a visit, doing a little Backlist Book Bumping in anticipation of the third book in the Whyborne & Griffin series, Stormhaven. Rumor has it there’ll be a Widdershins giveaway.

Wednesday – Today Rhys Ford wants to give you a Dirty Kiss. Or at least a few books, how’s that? She’ll be here to do a Backlist Book Bump and to offer one lucky reader the chance to win all three books in the Cole McGinnis Mystery series, plus a T-Shirt.

And, of course, as always A.J. Corza will be here to share some cover love with us, this time from the Master of the Macabre, Mr. Stephen King.

Thursday – It’s Rick R. Reed’s turn to do the Backlist Book Bump for his EPIC Award winning novel Orientation. Will there be a giveaway? Yes, yes there will.

FridayA.F. Henley will be our guest in the Backlist Book Bump project, with Înflori, and guess what? There’s also a giveaway of the book to a lucky reader.

SaturdayKaje Harper visits today with a Backlist Book Bump of her book Unacceptable Risk. Will there be a giveaway? You’ll have to tune in to see for yourself.

And finally, to wrap up our week here at TNA—

SundayHayden Thorne will be popping in on The Weeping Willow Blog Tour, and she’s offering one lucky reader the chance to win the book.


And that’s a wrap for the week ahead. Until next Sunday, happy reading!

Kaje Harper, MLR Press

This Life Lesson Is Now In Session: Get Ready For A “Learning Curve”

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” ― Paulo Coelho

***This review may contain spoilers from Home Work, the previous book in the Life Lessons series***
Continue reading

Kaje Harper, The Joyful Approach

And Now, A Warm Joyful Approach Welcome To Kaje Harper! Giveaway Time!

Kaje Harper, and the guys who live in my head…

“Write-oholic” : /rīt-.ə-ˈhȯ-lik/ – a person who looks at anything, no matter how simple or mundane, and immediately has characters leaping up inside their head, saying, “That’s me, my story, write mine…” And who can’t say no to the stories. Like this one:


Carson sat right there on the sidewalk, leaned his forehead against the rough concrete pillar of the bridge rail, and looked down at the water. This bridge wasn’t very high, and he could see occasional leaves and debris floating past on the lazy river below him. He nudged his elbow against his front pocket. The envelope in there no longer crackled crisply. Two months of rubbing had worn it thin, but he knew perfectly well what it contained.

Fifty-seven dollars. The price of a one way bus fare back to Des Moines. His father had tucked it into his jacket pocket, back in June, standing outside the bus station.

“You know this is crazy, don’t you, boy? You and that damned ukulele will be coming home flat broke in no time at all, with all the shine rubbed off those big city ideas.”

Carson had kicked his duffel bag and refused to meet his father’s eyes, for fear the old man might read the truth of just how scared and how desperate he was – desperate to be gone, and terrified that his father was right. His worst nightmare was that he’d come back a failure and squeeze himself down to a dry, brown, little life in his home town. The hometown where he’d never had the courage to even look at another boy, let alone stand up and tell his old man…

“Not that I’m sayin’ you’re not good with that thing. Hell, if you’d put the time in on a regular guitar, well, you’d still have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it big, but it wouldn’t look as dumb.”

“Thanks, Dad.” He hefted his bag onto his shoulder, and carefully picked up the uke case. Everyone and his brother played guitar. He had a unique sound. He straightened his back and forced down all his self doubts. He didn’t need his dad’s words to make his faith in himself go weak at the knees, but it was now or never. His brother was working at the feed store, his sister had two toddlers – they were never leaving. Carson had to get out. “I’ll try not to look too dumb.”

“I didn’t mean nothin’ by it. Just… Here, boy.”His father had held out the envelope. “There’s bus fare in there. You keep that safe, remember you’re always welcome back home.”

“No matter what?” His voice was strained, the truth he wanted to ask straining to escape.

“No matter.” His father’s intense stare almost gave him the courage to say the words, but in the end he’d stood silent as his father tucked the money into his pocket, gave his shoulder a slap, and strode off to his truck. No backward looks, but when the bus pulled out of the station, he saw that beat-up light-blue pickup still parked in the lot, where his father could watch him go.

Now the money he’d saved all through high school for his escape was gone. Two months of nothing but odd jobs and occasional gigs, and he was down to four dollars and change in his back pocket. And that envelope. Fifty seven dollars was two nights in the cheapest motel he’d found, where the roaches were big enough to carry away your sandwich if you took your eye off it. Two days to see if that bartender at Click meant it when she said, “You have a unique sound. Let me talk to the manager.” Or two days to burn through his last chance to go home without having to beg for more money from his father. He’d probably get the money, but he wasn’t sure his pride would let him ask.

Stay or go. He’d almost come to this once before, and then picked up a last-minute job that had refilled his reserve for a week. But now he had nothing in sight but that vague hint from the woman at the bar.

Really, he should just go home. His dad was right – a lot of venues looked at his uke and laughed. Others didn’t want him because he was under twenty-one and they were worried about their liquor license. If they gave him a chance to play, he usually had them caught enough to listen for a while, but so far that mostly got him regretful headshakes at the end of the audition. He’d made some money busking on the streets, but the cops had warned him twice, and nearly arrested him the third time. He couldn’t afford that.

He should just go home. That other hope that he’d left with – the thought that maybe outside of his small hometown he’d have the nerve to find a boyfriend – that hadn’t really worked out well either. He’d had a few experiences, anonymous and hurried, mostly hands, one glorious time a guy’s skilled mouth. But it was just sex, with no connection, better than jerking off, but not the shiny hope he’d left home and family for.

Stay or go?

He stood up, dusted his jeans off, and pulled out the envelope, feeling the thin stack of bills inside. The corners curled limply under his fingers. He tapped it on the railing, the soft shush of the paper on concrete a rhythm for his heart to beat to. Stay. Or. Go? Stay. Or. Go?

Behind him car tires squealed and a horn blasted. He jumped and lost his grip on the envelope. It sailed out of his hand, over the side, and dropped into the water. Instinctively he lunged forward over the rail, grabbing for it.

A voice yelled, “Shit! Stop!” His T-shirt suddenly dug into his neck as he was grabbed from behind.

Carson dropped back to his heels on the sidewalk, and tried to turn around. The hard grip in the back of his shirt released slowly, and he was able to pivot enough to see his captor.

The guy was about Cason’s age, skinnier despite Carson’s recent piss-poor diet, shorter, dressed in skin tight jeans and T-shirt that looked deliberate, not just outgrown. He frowned at Carson, blue eyes under dark brows looking disproportionately angry.

“You fucking idiot. It’s too shallow for that. Unless you manage somehow to break your neck, you’re going to just get hauled back out in worse shape than you went in. Believe me, that’d suck. There are better bridges for it, if you must.”

“If what?” Carson glanced over the rail, at the brown river where his last money had sunk out of sight. Then he figured it out. “Oh. Shit. I wasn’t trying to jump. I dropped something.”

“Oh.” The other guy’s gaze held his for a moment. There was something odd in his eyes. Entreaty? Disappointment? Before Carson could identify it, he’d turned away.

Carson should have just let him go, but there was a dejected set to the guy’s shoulders that made him step forward and say, “Thanks, though. Really. Just ’cause I wasn’t trying to off myself doesn’t mean I couldn’t have fallen. This rail’s pretty fucking low for a bridge.”

“Because this bridge is safe.” But the guy nodded. “No problem. My good deed for the day. It helps to keep going, knowing I did something fucking useful for someone.”

They stood looking at each other. For some reason, Carson felt like every detail of this guy was being burned into his memory – the way his dark hair curled over his ears, the line of his thin arms and chest under the thin grey cotton T, the blue of his eyes, a pale shade like overwashed denim right before it falls apart. Maybe it was the adrenaline, although he hadn’t really been that close to falling. Maybe it was the loss of those last fifty-seven dollars. Whatever the reason, Carson felt as if the beat of pulse in the guy’s neck echoed inside his own chest. He said, “I’m Carson Anders.”

“Delaney. My friends called me Del.”

Carson almost asked about the ”called” part of that, but there was a coolness to Del’s expression that didn’t invite questions. He sighed. “So. My last fifty bucks just went into the river. Any ideas how I can make more?”

Del tilted his head, lips pressed in a thin line. “No. Not for you.”

“Not for me what?”

Del shrugged, a minimum twitch of one shoulder. “You’re young and cute. You could easily get someone to pay you to suck his cock. But it ain’t worth it. Start down that road, and one day you’ll know how high all the bridges are too. You don’t want to be the one to stand there and decide which one you’re going to cross today.”

“Like you do?”

“Yeah.” Delaney’s gaze defied him to make something of it.

Carson sighed. “I don’t know what to do now.” He normally would have died before admitting that out loud, but he felt like Del was an inch from walking away, and if asking for help would keep him around a bit longer, he’d swallow his fucking pride and ask. “Got no money, no place to stay. I might have a job in two days, but there’s sleeping and eating.”

Del grunted. “Two days’re nothing. It’s summer. Sleeping out is easy. You can panhandle a couple of bucks for MacDonald’s.”

“I guess.”

“You could pawn something. Got anything worth it in the pack? Or that case?”

“The pack’s just dirty clothes. This…” He unsnapped the latch on the ukulele case, to show off his baby.

“What’d you do? Put your guitar through a shrink cycle?”

“It’s a ukulele.”

“A fucking uke? Like that Hawaiian Elvis thing? Jesus, that’s retirement home music.”

“Not the way I play it.” He took her out of the case. The wood was smooth under his fingers and he stroked a string. Why not. What the fucking else did he have to do right now? A touch of tuning and he started to play. His voice wasn’t perfect, but it fit the tone of his baby perfectly, and the compositions were his own. He didn’t watch Del as he played. The guy might stay, or go. It was in the hands of fate.

He was startled almost out of his song-trance by the ring of coins at his feet as a woman passed by, with a nod and a smile. He managed to keep his chords true, though. Del was apparently still there, because he bent and opened up the instrument case, and dropped the coins inside on the dark lining. “Keep playing, moron.”

Carson played. If this was going to be his last big city concert, he was going out with all his favorites, given to this wide slow river, and the short intense guy with blue eyes who stood listening. He played until his voice was hoarse and his fingers cramped. And then he stopped, and looked at Del.

“Okay. So that wasn’t too fucking rocking-chair-set.” Del bent to inspect the money that had accumulated. There weren’t a lot of pedestrians on these downtown bridges, but several had dropped bills. Del said, “Nine bucks and change. Not too freaking bad. You could eat decent for that.”

Carson put his instrument down carefully in the top, and scooped the money out of the case. Without looking at Del, he said, “Or a couple of guys could do something.”

There was a silence. When he finally looked up, Del’s eyes were on him, cautious but interested. “I ain’t blowing you for nine bucks.”

“I don’t want you to.” That was a lie, because when Del said blowing you, every nerve in Carson’s body came alive with approval. But even more, he wanted to prolong this strange moment. “I was thinking Arby’s for two.”

“Food is good.”

“I still don’t know where to sleep. I might have to hock the uke to pay for a room.”

Del laughed. In that moment, Carson was happier than he’d ever been, to have made this man laugh that way, head back, eyes bright and open.

“The hell you will,” Del said. “That’s a money-maker, that is.”

“I don’t want to get busted for busking. Again.”

“I know these streets like my own fucking dick. I’ll show you where it’s safe.”

“Like a manager for street musicians?”

“With one client?”

“It’s a start,” Carson said, more firmly than he felt.

They eyed each other, in the bright August sun on that concrete bridge.

“Yeah,” Del said softly. “It could be a start.”

Carson shouldered his pack, and carefully lifted the uke case, gentle with the handle that sometimes unhooked. “Come on. I want curly fries. And a conference with my new manager.”

“You know I know sweet fuck-all about music, right?”

“Well, I know sweet fuck-all about this city. I need a native guide. I figure we can be good for each other.”

Carson held his breath, waiting for Del’s reply. Held his breath, held it, held it.

And let it out in a soft sigh, when Del said, “Shit, why not. I love those fucking curly fries.”


Hi. My name is Kaje Harper, and I’m a write-oholic.

I thought this series of blogs was a great idea – to have a bunch of authors line up posts, in the approach to GayRomLit… until I realized I’d have to actually write the thing. Blogging has never been my forte. I wanted to say hi and won’t GRL be fun, and are you looking forward to it too? But after that?

I could tell you about me, but I’ve done enough basic interviews now and I was never that interesting to begin with. Many of you already know that I’m old enough that my first stories were typed on a portable typewriter; that I’ve been published for a couple of years now; that I’ve been luckier than I deserve in the reception my stories have received.

Nothing new there. Nothing worth a whole separate blog post. So I did what we all do – I whined to a friend. ”Edmond, I don’t know what to wriiiite!”

Edmond is a fellow writer, a man whose first book I adored, even before I met him and found out he’s funny and sweet and the kind of guy who will actually try to come up with ideas. Being who he is, the ideas might be off the wall, and involve costumes and imagination, and in my case end up embarrassingly flat. I don’t have his gift with the absurd. But he’d try.

Eventually he suggested he could at least send me some interview questions I might not have answered before. And he did. I read them, snickered, said, “No.” and “Hell, no.”

He also sent a few basic ones; What’s the best thing about GayRomLit? – All the wonderful people, and the feeling of being among friends, where two guys kissing in the hallway are either ignored or applauded.

What’s the worst thing about GRL? – All the wonderful people, who are loud and enthusiastic and make my social anxiety get up and do tap dances in my gut.

He sent a few unfamiliar ones: Name two things you always buy at the grocery store and never end up using before it goes bad or gets shoved in the back of the cabinet. – Say what? Anyway, my husband cooks and he is way more organized than I’ll ever be. Other than the pineapple juice that I forgot he’s allergic to, I don’t think we have that stuff.

And Edmond also asked, A man comes to your home and says, “Kaje, I’ll give you $_________ but you can never write another book or story ever again. How much is that dollar amount? That got me thinking about just how much writing is part of my daily life. Stories pop into my head all the time. If that hypothetical guy paid me a million dollars, I could stand not putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) ever again, even though my stories are better when I write them down. That much money would set up my kids for a long time, after all, and be worth it. But if he wanted to stop the stories that roll out in my mind, unspooling complete with dialog and scene setting and all, he’d have to use the money for a frontal lobotomy. I’ve never not made up stories. I’ll never be able to stop.

As a kid, those first books were girl-gets-a-pony stories. Then I moved on to romances, which quickly went M/M. When I was fourteen and fifteen, that meant notebooks full of slash fiction, with teen-girl-no-internet fade to black sex scenes. This was forty years ago, remember. (Yeah, I’m that old.) I sat on my bed with a pencil, and made Starsky grab Hutch for that first unexpected kiss, made Frank Hardy explain to his brother Joe that he had a boyfriend, let Robin grow up enough to show Batman that he didn’t have to be so alone. And then there were Kirk and Spock…

I worked for realism, well, mostly. These might be fantasy love stories, but I wanted to believe them. Starsky and Hutch had issues as they tried to be both cops and lovers. Batman thought Robin was too young and inexperienced, and decided to be noble, and Alfred was not immediately onboard with the romance. The possibilities spun out in any free quiet moment I ever had. And after a while, my own original characters set up residence, living lives of adventure, change, loss and pain, but ending in love.

And there’s no way to turn that off.

So in the end, I decided to start this blog post with a short story, because that’s what I do. Who I am.

I’m excited about Gay Rom Lit. I look forward (with anxiety, but forward) to answering questions about why I put the depressing story line of a Mom with Alzheimer’s front and center in Sole Support or how Nor Iron Bars a Cage became a 103,000 word freebie instead of a short story. I look forward to hearing from other writers, learning from them, and meeting both familiar names and new faces from the M/M world. But at the end of the day, I’ll go home and write some more fictional guys. That’s not just what I do, it’s who I have always been. See you there.

Sole Support cover

Nor Iron Bars cover

-Kaje Harper



Kaje Harper, Self-Published, Smashwords

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

More than twenty-three-hundred people lost their lives, but there were figurative casualties as well, because even those who survived the attack were stripped of all the absolutes they’d known up to that now infamous day. It was the death of peace, as well as loud and living proof that the “War to End All Wars” was nothing more than a precursor to the horror that was to follow.

Daniel Acardi was at Pearl Harbor, serving onboard the USS California. He was among the survivors. Jacob Segal’s brother Brian wasn’t so fortunate. But everyone, regardless of which side of life or death he fell on, paid a steep price in the aftermath of that attack.

Daniel and Jacob were young men, both just babies, really, all things considered—men who were forced to grow up all too quickly, men who grew old before their time because neither knew then if he would have the opportunity to grow old naturally—serving onboard the USS Gageway, in the South Pacific, a place where the blue sky and the deep ocean were never safe, and the water sometimes flowed red with valor and sacrifice.

Into Deep Waters is the story of two teenagers who met in the midst of horror yet managed to fall deeply in love in spite of all the dangers they faced, not only from the enemy but from the men with whom they served, if their secret were ever to be revealed. Their story is one of immeasurable courage and of honor, and of farewell and of reunion. It is a story that spans sixty-nine years and is a revelation of a deep and abiding love that persevered and thrived through denial, through War and its many scars—both physical and psychological—and through a social revolution that brought the two men, now aged and well and truly loved, out of the shadows and into the light and eventually to a place where they could celebrate their union with family and friends at their sides.

It was sixty-nine years that passed in a mere one-hundred-seventy-two pages in which Kaje Harper painted a picture both beautiful and terrifying to imagine. Daniel and Jacob endured through hardship and conflict but survived and reached toward their vintage years, to a place where they could then reflect upon an entire lifetime of commitment and communion, could still feel the strength of their bond, and could still see the boys they once were even in the twilight of their lives.

Into Deep Waters is at times a gentle romance, at others a brutal and honest portrayal of war and of the men who were dubbed “The Greatest Generation” for very good reason.

It has also generously been offered for FREE and can be downloaded HERE.

Kaje Harper, Self-Published

Small Gems – Show Me Yours – A Free Story by Kaje Harper

“One kiss breaches the distance between friendship and love.” – Unknown

Trey Holgersen and Josh Campbell were inseparable for a while, but slowly drifted apart when Josh’s family moved to the East Coast after a horrific event that left its share of scars all over Josh, his family, and Trey as well. It was a tragedy that caused immeasurable damage, especially when emotions turned into words that caused Trey to deny who he was because Josh hated that part of Trey, even though he didn’t know that part existed.

Loving someone and knowing that someone will never love you in return is a painful means to the end of a friendship.

Eight years and thousands of miles of distance—not to mention Trey’s deepest, darkest secret—was enough to put paid to their relationship, if for no other reason than it was too difficult for Trey to keep denying his feelings for Josh. It was easier for him to ignore them, safer, for sure, but Trey soon discovers that for a plan to work, the other party involved needs to be willing to cooperate. When Josh unexpectedly shows up on Trey’s doorstep, needing his help, both men come to learn that keeping secrets and clinging so tightly to the flavor of harsh words spoken in the past leaves the mouth too full to say the words that need to be said in the present that will affect the course of the future.

Kaje Harper has offered this bittersweet and moving story of friends-turned-lovers as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s summer writing project “Love Is Always Write”, so it’s free to anyone interested in giving it a try. You don’t have to be a member of the Group to download the file, but you do have to be a member of Goodreads. If you’re not a member of Goodreads and don’t want to join, feel free to email me (my “Contact Me” form is on the “About Me” page) and I’ll be happy to email the file to you in whatever format you need. **ETA: Kaje Harper PMd me to give me permission to do this. :-D**

My only disclaimer to my recommendation is that there is an off-screen instance of pedophilia, so take that into account when considering whether or not to give this one a try. Otherwise, I can say, without reservation, that I really enjoyed this story. It’s much more than just a simple romance. It’s a story of acceptance and rejection and of a love born in friendship that grows into a love rooted in trust and in discovering all the many ways to fulfill each other while fulfilling oneself at the same time.

Download Show Me Yours HERE.

Kaje Harper, Smashwords

Lies and Consequences by Kaje Harper

Christopher Fletcher is a habitual liar. He’s also an author, so he’s well versed in creating fictions, and he uses that talent like an armor to protect a Christopher no one truly knows, maybe not even Christopher himself.

Chris has crafted a variety of persona in his adult life—the timid writer, the dutiful son seeking God’s benevolence through the approval of his parents, the fiancé, even a Self whom he has named Robin, an orphan and a club twink. Robin is the doppelganger, who, through the looking glass, is the mirror opposite of Chris: confident where Chris is shy, colorful where Chris is subdued. These different characters reside in a single man and he has become so accustomed to weaving a tangled web of lies over the years that he practices to deceive even himself.

Ian McCallum is not the sort of man who frequents clubs like the Gold Coast, but he’s there playing wingman to his best friend Trent on the night he meets Robin, the blue haired club twink that a man like Ian would never be attracted to. Only he is. And for a man like Ian, a man for whom being in control is an imperative, the out of control Robin effortlessly draws Ian into his web and into a place where survival for Ian becomes a question of whether he can come to terms with how much of himself he’s willing to compromise for the sake of the man with whom he’s fallen in love, even the parts of that man that never truly existed.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them because no one knows himself better than he himself does. Unless you’re a man who has spent his entire life trying to be who his parents expect him to be—perfect—and has been pretending so long that he’s not entirely sure which parts of himself are real. White lies, small lies, big lies, lies by omission: Christopher has spun them all. The question for Ian becomes whether he can stop expecting Chris to be someone other than who he is and who he needs to be to cope with his dysfunctional childhood.

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and the series of unfortunate events that happen to Ian McCallum and Christopher Robin Fletcher are the sorts of things any author would kill for his Muse to visit upon him, because they are the stuff of which only a writer could dream up to have happen to two protagonists in a novel—bar fights, plane crashes, stalkers, kidnappers, shoot-outs—Kaje Harper keeps Ian and Chris busy just trying to stay alive, let alone coming to terms with the way they feel for each other.

There’s a lot of plot to absorb in Lies and Consequences, so much so that there were times I found myself becoming a little impatient to get to the resolution of the story. Every situation Ian and Chris were involved in interfered with and complicated their relationship even further, but those dangers and deceptions also helped to progress things between the two men, to help Ian come to terms with his feelings for Chris, so it’s difficult to find too much fault based on my own eagerness to see how things would unfold.

Kaje Harper has generously offered Lies and Consequences for FREE, not terribly common for a full-length novel; I’d definitely say the time I spent with Chris and Ian was well worth the cost.

Download Lies and Consequences HERE.

All Romance Ebooks, Kaje Harper, Meredith Shayne

One Small Gem & One Diamond In The Rough

What better way could there be to discover a new-to-me author than finding a free short story from her? That’s what happened for me with Kaje Harper’s Like the Taste of Summer, the short and very sweet story of Sean Brennan, a college student, and Jack Korbel, a grease monkey and lifelong resident of a small Iowa college town.

The relationship between the college kids and the townies is antagonistic at best, and it’s a random act of vengeance against Sean and his friends one night that bring Jack and Sean together after the townies vandalize Sean’s and his friends’ cars. Jack’s friends scarper and leave him defenseless against the college boys’ anger, but Sean acts quickly and gives Jack a safe place to hide until he can get Jack away safely.

This isn’t the catalyst for an instant friendship, though. The boys see each other here and there over the following weeks but don’t speak because of that invisible line drawn between them. It isn’t until Jack has the opportunity to return a kindness for a hurting Sean that the boys discover that line is well worth crossing.

This was a wonderful coming-of-age and coming out story for Sean, the boy who’d always thought he was straight, but meets and falls for the boy who has pretty much always known he was gay, though he hides it for his own safety in the small town where intolerance is the norm.

These boys don’t have an easy time of it in the “fish bowl” they live in, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It’s the hatred and prejudice aimed directly at them that nearly tears them apart. But love endures, love thrives, and for these two characters, happily ever after did come true.


My Diamond in the Rough is Meredith Shayne’s Eyes Wide Shut, book one in the Flying Doctors series, the story of Adam Taylor, a doctor who lives in a small outback town in Australia and works in the clinic at the Mount Keith mine where his ex-boyfriend Chris Barker works.

The men are “exes” because Chris is very deeply in the closet, and his job isn’t exactly conducive to a gay friendly atmosphere. Chris’s greatest fear is that anyone might suspect he and Adam were ever more than friends, but after a two month separation and Adam’s return to the clinic, it doesn’t take long for Chris to pay a visit that ends with the two men having sex, then Chris quickly leaving after.

Chris says he can’t be with Adam, nor does it seem he can force himself to stay away. It’s a situation that causes no small amount of friction between the two men, an insurmountable obstacle that will keep them apart in spite of their feelings for each other. That is, until Adam makes an emergency run to a collapsed mine and Chris is faced with the realization that life is not guaranteed and death could put a very permanent end to any hope he and Adam have to be together. It’s a wake up call to Chris to grab hold of love and never to let it go.

What makes this one a Diamond in the Rough for me? Well, because it struck me as a story that was filled with untapped potential. The premise was wonderful, the characters engaging, and the suspense and danger was very real but not plumbed enough, in my humble opinion. I felt there was much more to expose in both the mine cave in and Chris’s emotions and actions during and after the accident. In short, things felt a bit rushed to get to the end, when I’d have preferred a bit more depth and breadth to the plot. What’s there, however, is like getting the part of the cupcake left on the paper, which is kind of yummy, but what you really wanted was the frosting.