3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: X Marks the Spot by M.J. O’Shea

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Amazon

Title: X Marks the Spot

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Send reality packing and just enjoy the ride.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Jack Hunter is always on a quest for lost art, ancient manuscripts, and anything else that’ll romance the millions of viewers who watch his show each week. He hasn’t always hit pay dirt in his searches though, and a string of empty global treasure hunts has left his show on the brink of cancellation. Jack needs a white whale, a holy grail, nothing less than a miracle to revive his career.

Aloysius “Alo” Green likes his ivory towers. He’s content to study from the comfort of a university library and publish papers nobody other than academics will ever read. But coded letters pointing to hidden Nazi treasure fall into his hands, and while colleagues warn him to keep them to himself, Alo can’t stop obsessing. He makes a huge mistake and publishes a paper on his find, ignoring the danger doing so will bring.

Jack is sure he’s struck gold when his assistant brings Alo’s paper to him. Alo wants nothing to do with Jack or his televised treasure hunt. But after Alo is threatened, it appears Jack is his best bet to silence those who seek to use him to find the vast wealth first.

By trusting Jack, Alo might’ve saved himself… or made his worst decision yet.

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Review: Alo is an academic—if he has his way he will stay in college forever, living at home and publishing papers on medieval history that no one but other academics will ever read. Working on his PhD, he longs for a job in some university’s ivory tower as far from everyday life as he can possibly get. Then his grandfather moves into an assisted living facility, and leaves Alo a stack of letters which hold a mystery no one has ever been able to solve. Alo’s life is tossed upside down when he publishes a paper on the letters, and all of a sudden, his life is in danger and apparently, there is stolen Nazi treasures to find. Alo may be a nerd, but he is a clever nerd and puzzles are a specialty of his.

Jack Hunter is an adventure seeking TV personality on a once popular show on the History Channel. If he doesn’t come up with a hook for a new show soon, its lights out for his onscreen persona. A quest for Nazi treasures is just what his career needs, and if it comes with the quirky Alo, more the better. Convincing Alo to search for the treasures is a whole different matter, but when Alo is confronted with bullets from the people who want to steal his letters, he decides finding the artifacts may be the only way to keep his family safe.

And this is where you send reality packing and just enjoy the ride, much as you do in an Indiana Jones film. Creative license is used in its entirety in X Marks the Spot, as the quest for the treasures takes you to country after country filled with iconic landmarks and old world charm. The treasure hunt is by far the most enjoyable part of this book, as I felt Alo could have been a bit more mature and embrace the opportunities and excitement around him. Instead, Alo went to all these wonderful places and experienced the thrill of the quest, all the while wishing he wasn’t there.

I didn’t really connect Alo and Jack Hunter together – the chemistry just wasn’t there for me. Take out the romance and you have a nice little adventure book. I generally love M.J. O’Shea’s work, but this book just fell a little flat for me. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing a follow up of these characters, with Jack forcing Alo more out of his shell, and Alo uncovering more mysteries out there that need to be solved.

TNA_Signature_Carrie

 

 

 

 

You can buy X Marks the Spot here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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Dreamspun Desires, M.J. O'Shea, Poppy Dennison, Shira Anthony

Interviews, Excerpts, and Giveaway: Poppy Dennison, MJ O’Shea, Shira Anthony, and Dreamspun Desires

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I’m so pleased to welcome Poppy Dennison, MJ O’Shea, and Shira Anthony today to chat about Dreamspun Desires, the newest line of genre romance from Dreamspinner Press. These three ladies were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions about the line and, for MJ and Shira, their books.

After the interviews, there’s also a giveaway with a couple of chances to win some great prizes:

Grand Prize: A 6 month e-book subscription to Dreamspun Desires
Runner Up: MJ O’Shea’s entire ebook backlist

Just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

Good luck!

And now, here are Poppy, MJ, and Shira.

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PoppyDennisonLisa: We’re so pleased to welcome Poppy Dennison to The Novel Approach today, not as an author but to chat with us about Dreamspinner Press’s new line, Dreamspun Desires.

Poppy, why don’t we start off by having you share with us what exactly it is you’re in charge of at Dreamspinner Press?

Poppy: Thanks so much, Lisa! I’m so excited to be here. I’m Dreamspinner Press’s Marketing Director. Basically, it’s my job to do lots of math. No really. There are spreadsheets of my spreadsheets! But it’s basically my job to create new ideas for Dreamspinner’s authors and turn them into reality.

Lisa: Let’s chat a little bit about this new line of genre romances coming in 2016 from Dreamspinner. First of all, how did the idea come about?

Poppy: It all started at lunch, as these things often do. In May of 2015, I attended the Romantic Times Convention and had an opportunity to have lunch with several Dreamspinner authors. We started reminiscing on the first romances we’d ever read and discovered a trend: we’d all started by reading category romances! I realized how much I missed that type of story so I basically sweet-talked the authors at the table into writing a category style romance for me. By the end of the day, word had spread and I had eighteen authors signed up to write one for me. Talk about a good day. *g*

Lisa: Would you like to tell readers what they can expect from the new line, what makes these romances different from the usual Dreamspinner publications?

Poppy: Readers can expect stories that take them back to the Harlequins they devoured in days gone by. These stories are sweet and angst free and happy endings are guaranteed! We want these books to leave a smile on your face! The difference between these titles and the regular romances Dreamspinner publishes is in their focus on the romance. These stories are a little shorter than our typical novel, and as a result, they don’t have room for any of the normal soul searching and man pain we normally see in romances. They’re sweet and focus entirely on the developing relationship.

Lisa: What advantages are there to purchasing a monthly subscription to the Dreamspun Desires line versus purchasing each book individually?

Poppy:  First, I have to say that the fact that we were able to offer these titles as part of a subscription makes me so darn happy! I remember getting those boxes of books when I was younger. Well, okay, my mom technically got them, but when she was done, I’d get to read them too! There was something about that box arriving that got me so excited! I hope our readers feel the same way about receiving their Dreamspun Desires subscription.

There are two subscription services available. I’ll start with the paperback service, as it’s the one most like the way category romances used to arrive. Each month, we’re releasing two Dreamspun Desires novels. Readers who purchase the paperback subscription will receive both paperbacks in one delivery! Basically, they’ll receive one of the titles two weeks before it’s available in ebook format! That’s not all though. Because Dreamspinner always provides our customers with a free ebook whenever they purchase a paperback, Dreamspun Desires paperback subscribers will also receive ebook copies of the titles on their release date. Talk about a great deal!

The second subscription service is ebook only. Subscribers will pay one discounted price and receive both ebooks on their release dates! Super simple!

Lisa: Will you give us a quick rundown of your contributing authors so far—at least those you’re allowed to announce publicly, and when we can expect their publications to hit the shelves?

Poppy:  Absolutely! Here is the lineup of authors through April of 2016:

January 1: The Millionaire Upstairs by M.J. O’Shea

January 15: First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony

February 1: The Stolen Suitor by Eli Easton

February 15: The Lone Rancher by Andrew Grey

March 1: Taylor Maid by Tara Lain

March 15: Trial by Fire by B.A. Tortuga

April 1:  Forgive and Forget by Charlie Cochet

April 15: Unstable Stud by Ariel Tachna

We also have upcoming releases from Nikki Bennett, Jacob Z. Flores, Ava Drake, Kate McMurray, and many, many more!

Lisa: What sort of feedback have you received from both authors and readers about the launch of the new line?

Poppy:  Honestly, this experience has been a dream come true for me. When I first approached Dreamspinner’s Executive Director Elizabeth North with the idea, I was worried she’d think I’d lost my noodle. But along with Elizabeth, everyone has been so enthusiastic about the idea! From our authors, who jumped on board to write books to our readers who have reminisced with us about how they started by reading category… everyone has been so excited! I’m giddy and can’t wait for everyone to be able to hold these books in their hands!

Lisa: What’s been the most exciting part of this process for you so far?

Poppy: Oh gosh. I’ve been so excited at every step of the process… but I think the most exciting so far has been the day the subscription service launched on our website and we were able to share all the details with our readers. Everyone was so enthusiastic and I just couldn’t stop smiling! I’m still grinning, actually.

Lisa: Let’s chat a bit about the cover art for the line. I know you and I both remember sneaking a peek at our mothers’ Harlequin Romances back in the day. How important has the cover art been in the process of maintaining a distinct look and feel for the Dreamspun Desires line? Who’s been in charge of creating most of the covers thus far?

Poppy: The cover art design was such a fun and challenging process! I knew I wanted the covers for the Dreamspun Desires books to have the same look and feel as other category romance lines, but they needed to have the Dreamspinner twist! We enlisted Paul Richmond to design the covers and he’s done a fantastic job of capturing the essence of category romance.

Lisa: One of the other things we’ve chatted about is how the Gay Romance genre’s time has really come—time for it to become a part of the mainstream lexicon of romantic fiction. How do you foresee, or at least hope, the Dreamspun Desires line might further pave the way toward that goal?

Poppy: I think, in a way, category romances are a really safe place to start for romance readers who haven’t tried gay romance before. The vast majority of romance readers have read category romances from other publishers so they know what to expect. These titles capture those classic elements but add a modern take with a gay romance twist. No matter the genre, category romances are familiar and comforting. I want for readers who have never given gay romance a try to feel inspired to give these titles a try. After all, Love Always Finds A Way! :)

Lisa: On a final note, if you were to come up with a few selling points to convince us readers that the Dreamspun Desires line are the new Must Read books of 2016, what would those be?

Poppy: I think the biggest selling point to Dreamspun Desires is that these are true romances by authors who know how to tell a great story! If you’re a fan of category romance, these titles will be perfect for you. And if you’re new to the gay romance genre, you won’t be disappointed!

Lisa: Thanks so much for taking the time to be here with us today, Poppy!

Readers, for more information on the Dreamspun Desires line, including how to order your subscription, check out the Dreamspinner Press Page today (**Deadline for January subscription is December 15, 2015**)!

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MJ O'SheaLisa: Hi, MJ, and welcome. We’re so pleased to have you here for a visit today to chat about your new book in the Dreamspun Desires line, The Millionaire Upstairs.

MJ: HI!!

Let’s start with what feels like a good first question: why did you want to be involved in this new line of genre romance? Was there a nostalgia factor there for you at all?

MJ: Honestly, they just looked like they’d be so much fun to write. I loved the idea of writing characters in a world I’d never come close to living in (my book takes place in the Hamptons among the mega-wealthy and at a New York fashion label) and focusing on the pure romance element of it – the setting, the characters, and everything else. I think everyone needs a bit of escape.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about how writing this book differed from writing your other books. Did you approach it with a different mindset than you would, say, a book that required more conflict and angst in the storyline before your couple gets their happy ending?

MJ: Yes and no! haha. There were a few things I did differently. Since these books are, by nature, shorter than the typical novel, I got to focus almost completely on the relationship between the two main characters, rather than spending a lot of time on an extended cast. That’s not to say there isn’t a cast to back them up, I couldn’t resist, but they won’t have as big of a role as they usually would in one of my books.

I also got to play a bit with the r. I’ve written rock stars and vampires before, but most of my characters have been regular guys. Somehow plunking my MC in this castle in the Hamptons with a multi-millionaire, and then on Lake Como, and at celeb filled events, it was just that one extra bit of fantasy.

Lisa: What has been the most enjoyable part of participating in the Dreamspun Desire launch for you? Do you plan on contributing more books to the line?

MJ: The whole thing so far, honestly! It’s been really cool to be a part of something both old but new to our genre, talking about it with bloggers, readers, and other authors. I love seeing how excited (and yes, nostalgic) people get when they find out about the subscription service. It’s a huge honor to be the first one out of the gate, and while I’m a little nervous (okay, a lot lol) I still can’t wait to see what people think of the first few books!

And yes, I definitely will (and have!) – I’ve already written another called Duke in Hiding which I believe will be out in the late spring/early summer with Dreamspun Desires.

Lisa: What sort of feedback are you getting from your readers in particular about the collection? Have you noticed a lot of buzz and excitement in the community about it?

MJ: People have in general seemed really excited about it!  I’ve seen a lot of people reminiscing about reading their mom and grandmother’s category romances when they were kids (I remember my grandmother keeping hers in a cloth cover that had her initials stitched on it :) ) so it’s kind of like marrying the old with the new and from what I’ve seen the readers like that.

Lisa: Let’s talk a bit more specifically about The Millionaire Upstairs. Tell us a little something about your characters and what you feel their chemistry is.

MJ: I really wanted to play with a few elements, the forbidden aspect of getting involved with the boss, the fantasy of a “normal” guy getting swept up in the world of the rich and famous, and of course one of my favorite things which is a sassy, mouthy character and the “straight” man so to speak.

Sasha is sarcastic and quippy, both in awe of the people he works with and around every day, and still not ready to take any attitude from them. Harrison is cold at first and a bit standoffish, but somehow can’t manage not to let Sasha behind his huge walls.

Lisa: Would you care to share a short excerpt with us?

MJ: Sure! I’ll put part of the first scene in here, which takes place two years before the rest of the book. Sasha is about to interview for the job he’s always wanted – working for Joanne Kingsley co-owner and Harrison Kingsley’s older sister :

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Excerpt: You’re definitely not in Kansas anymore, Sasha Sobieski.

He most assuredly wasn’t. Sasha had been in New York for a couple of years, and some days he still wasn’t used to it, but nothing hammered in the fact that he was far, far away from home like standing in the place he’d been dreaming of since he was twenty-two. The place he’d decided was his destiny.

Harrison Kingsley—only ten years old and already a force to be reckoned with in global fashion. The label was fashion forward, timeless, and unique. Gorgeous. Notoriously exclusive. Even more notorious for being hard to land a position at. There had been whispers back at school about how impossible it was to impress the hiring personnel at Harrison Kingsley, how you might as well just pack it in if that was your goal. He’d decided years ago not to listen.

Sasha hadn’t wanted anything so badly in his entire life.

Harrison Kingsley Headquarters was jaw-drop gorgeous. The 34th Street offices were everything an exclusive fashion label’s offices should be—chic, classic not trendy, and intimidating but somehow welcoming at the same time. It was light and airy but somehow colorful. Like he’d entered the mind of a fashion genius, which in a way he had.

Sasha knew he’d found his home.

He sank down onto a pale apple-green upholstered chair in the waiting area in front of a large copper reception desk. He wasn’t nervous about the interview, although by all rights he should’ve been. If Sasha thought about it for more than a few moments, about who he was there to see, then he’d probably start palpitating.

Joanne Kingsley was a big deal in the fashion industry. Big. The biggest of big. Working for her was exactly the opportunity he needed. If he got the job—no, when he got it. No negative thoughts. Working for Joanne Kingsley somehow seemed inevitable. Sasha Sobieski of Hawk’s Prairie, Kansas, and brand-new Parsons graduate, belonged with her. He felt it in his bones.

Inner pep talk aside, Sasha’s nerves kicked in when he was called into Joanne Kingsley’s office. His stomach bubbled a bit as he followed the receptionist down a hallway lined with photographs of runway shows all over the world. He clutched his ancient leather satchel and prayed to the fashion gods that he was exactly what the lovely and powerful Ms. Kingsley was looking for.

I got past all of the preliminary interviews, Sasha reminded himself. Not just anyone got to interview with Joanne Kingsley herself. He was one of probably five at most. Just that was an honor. Sasha crossed his fingers and sent the best vibes he knew how to send out into the atmosphere. I’m the right fit for the job. Joanne Kingsley will adore me. Sasha had always been a believer in good vibes. He hoped they did him proud this time.

He didn’t know exactly what to expect from the esteemed Ms. Kingsley. Sasha had seen the society pages just like everyone else, the shots of her in the front row at other designers’ shows all over the world—McQueen, Saint Laurent, Lhuillier, Elie Saab. She always looked fabulous and powerful, fashionable and just a bit unapproachable. They reached her office door. Sasha took a deep breath and made one more fervent wish before the door swished open silently.

Joanne Kingsley was perched on the corner of a large white antique desk. Her office was, for lack of another word, perfect—champagne-colored woodwork, dark teak floors, luxurious rugs, expensive antique furniture, prints of their own designers’ drawings displayed in thick gold-leafed frames on the walls. She stood and walked across the room to greet him by the door. Which was already not at all what Sasha had expected from someone like her. He nearly swallowed his tongue.

Is this actually happening?

Joanne was a good four inches taller than his own five feet six inches, her body all sexy curves and long limbs. Her face was beyond gorgeous, with high cheekbones, pale skin, and long-lashed gray eyes that tilted up on the outside. Her signature mane of fiery red hair was down for once, instead of in a chic but intimidating updo. Held from her forehead with only a gold headband, it cascaded in coppery waves across her shoulders and back. She wore one of their label’s dresses, current season, of course. It was sleeveless and rich, vibrant emerald green, nipped under her full breasts, and it flowed to the ground in casual silky rivulets. The green made her pale skin glow, and the red of her hair shimmered jewellike against it.

Joanne Kingsley looked like she belonged lounging on top of Mt. Olympus with a goblet of wine instead of among mere mortals on earth. Sasha couldn’t believe he was in the same room with her.

“Welcome. Sasha, correct?” And then she smiled, friendly and disarming.

How am I supposed to react to that?

“Yes. Sasha.” He reached out and shook her hand. He was rather shocked that his vocal chords even worked.

“You came very highly recommended from one of my favorite old professors. I’m excited to get to know you.”

Joanne walked around to her desk seat and sank gracefully into it. “Sit, please.” She gestured at the plush seat across from her. It was the same exact model as her own. None of those games of making the guest feel smaller with a shorter, less throne-like seat. Sasha liked her already.

“Thank you for having me here today. I just wanted to say I’ve been following Harrison Kingsley for years. It’s an honor to even meet you.”

Joanne Kingsley giggled. Giggled. “You know, it’s still surprising to hear people say things like that, Sasha. Thank you.”

Sasha grinned in return.

The interview went smoothly after that. Perfectly, even. “Call me Jo, please” was charming and talkative, wanted to know everything about Sasha, and was exactly the person Sasha wanted to be in ten years. Harrison Kingsley’s name might be on the clothing’s labels, he might be the one in his Hamptons castle with drawing boards, swathes of fabric, and a bunch of designer minions, but it was Joanne Kingsley who made the real decisions. Sasha wanted to do anything he could to help her with that process.

Creative director of a major fashion label. Just thinking the title made chills run up and down Sasha’s spine. It was what he wanted more than anything… someday. A boy could dream. For the time being, he’d be honored if he could merely assist one.

Joanne skimmed over his resume one more time and then let it fall shut. “One quick question. Just curious. This says you recently finished Parsons, but you’re twenty-eight. Career change?”

Sasha shook his head. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid. It took me a lot of hours waiting tables back home in Kansas to save enough to move to New York and enroll in school. It’s not a cheap city. I’m sure you know that.” Not that it had ever been a problem for the Kingsleys. According to their bio, they grew up in Harrison Kingsley’s insane castle of a house in the Hamptons, and Joanne had bought her nearly as palatial apartment on Park Avenue not long after their label took off.

“It’s not.” Joanne took a deep breath. “Listen. I probably shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to anyway. When can you start?”

“Start?” Sasha was confused for a second. And then he got it. He choked on his own breath. “Start. Hol—I mean, I can start whenever you want me to. I don’t have any prior commitments.”

Ohgodohgodohgod. She just hired me. Joanne Kingsley had just hired him. Sasha thought he might faint.

Dividers

MJ: And that’s the beginning of Sasha’s new life working for Joanne Kingsley…and eventually her brother;)

Lisa: What can we expect coming up from you next? Would you like to share some info on your current WIPs and upcoming releases?

MJ: After this book, I have one called Pawsitively in Love which features a pet salon owner and a host of furry friends (and takes place in my neighborhood, which I’ve never done before!) And then after that, my second Dreamspun book Duke in Hiding will be out…I think you can guess what that one will be about by the title.

Right now I’m working on a buddy road trip story. I can’t seem to stay away from the best friends to lovers theme…I just love it so much <3.  This one doesn’t have a definite schedule yet, but I’d assume summer/early autumn.

Lisa: Thanks so much for being here with us today, MJ. It’s been great to chat with you.

MJ: Thanks for having me stop by! I hope you enjoy the books J

Xoxo

MJ

Lisa: Find MJ O’Shea on Facebook, her Website, and sign up for her Monthly Newsletter

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MillionaireUpstairs[The]BlurbHe might be hard to work for, but he’s impossible to resist.

Sasha Sobieski has the perfect job working at legendary American fashion house Harrison Kingsley—or at least he used to. He just never thought he’d have to work for Harrison Kingsley himself. Harrison is exacting, difficult, cold, and hands-down the sexiest man Sasha has ever seen.

After years at the top, Harrison Kingsley knows what he wants, when he wants it, and exactly how he’d like it to be delivered to him. What he wants most right now? His new assistant. Sasha is mouthy, opinionated, and he drives Harrison mad. Problem is, Harrison can never tell if it’s with anger… or desire.

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press

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Shira AnthonyLisa: Hi, Shira, and welcome. We’re so pleased to have you here for a visit today to chat about your new book in the Dreamspun Desires line, First Comes Marriage.

Let’s start with what feels like a good first question: why did you want to be involved in this new line of genre romance? Was there a nostalgia factor there for you at all?

Shira:  OMG, yes! I used to gobble up Harlequins and Silhouette romances when I was in college. And although I hated the pat endings (even worse when the heroine gave up her career to “get married”), I love the warm and fuzzy way they made me feel. So when Poppy and I were chatting at RT (Romantic Times conference) in Dallas this past spring and I mentioned that there were times I wished I could write a sweet romance instead of an angsty one, she asked me why I didn’t write one. And then she proceeded to tell me about an idea she had for a new line of category romances. I guess you could say that was the birth of Dreamspun Desires.

Lisa: Tell us a bit about how writing this book differed from writing your other books. Did you approach it with a different mindset than you would, say, a book that required more conflict and angst in the storyline before your couple gets their happy ending?

Shira:  It did take a bit of a re-set for me. I tend to write angsty romances or complex romantic fantasy stories, so the idea of a simple, sweet story was a little frightening! Before I started writing, I read an old Harlequin to remind myself of the feel of those tropey romances. There’s a real rhythm to those classic romance novels, a completely different pace than for the books I was used to writing. I tried to distill the essence of the category romance and then when I was imagining the story I wanted to write, I kept that framework in mind.

So for example, the story starts off with the two MCs “meeting cute” in the first chapter. From there, the story and the sexual tension builds and builds until finally neither MC can resist the other. Of course there are challenges in the relationship and misunderstandings. There is also character growth from both characters. But there’s no knock-down, drag-out angst of the kind readers might find in some of my other books.

Lisa: What has been the most enjoyable part of participating in the Dreamspun Desire launch for you? Do you plan on contributing more books to the line?

Shira: It’s been exciting seeing it all come together, from the early conversations to seeing the art concept for the covers (I think I squeaked when I saw it!). Then seeing how it all came together, with the subscriptions, the taglines on the books, the cute blurbs that end with a question—all of these things were so much fun!

Yes, I’m planning on submitting at least another book to the line. I’m working on a very sweet, second chance at love story that will probably be released as a Dreamspun Desires title. Writing First Comes Marriage was just so fun, I had to write another.

Lisa: What sort of feedback are you getting from your readers in particular about the collection? Have you noticed a lot of buzz and excitement in the community about it?

Shira: The feedback has been AMAZING. Truly. So many of our readers came to gay romance from heterosexual category romance that I think they’re as excited as we, the authors, are. I think many feel, as I do, that category romance has a special place in the general romance genre and that gay romance can embrace those sweet, romance-forward stories in a way that’s authentic and Twenty-First Century.

It’s funny, but for me, these books represent the kind of romance I wanted to read way back when, but couldn’t find. I really believe that while romance readers are looking for fantasy components in romance, they still want stories still grounded in some semblance of reality. But they don’t always want that reality to hit them over the head either. Sometimes we just need the warmth and hope that we take from a classic romance story.

Lisa: Let’s talk a bit more specifically about First Comes Marriage. Tell us a little something about your characters and what you feel their chemistry is.

Shira:  Jesse Donovan is a billionaire businessman who has to get married or he’ll lose control of his family’s company under the terms of his grandfather’s will. Chris Valentine is a struggling novelist who works as a barista in New York City. Theirs is a marriage of convenience, and it’s supposed to be just business. Both men genuinely enjoy each other’s company, but Jesse is New York’s most eligible “straight” bachelor and Chris is perfectly happy being single after his parent’s disastrous marriage.

For me, the friendship was first and foremost in my mind as the two men get to know each other. I wanted their sexual chemistry to grow out of that friendship and take them by surprise. Each has his own motivations for getting married, and neither expects the marriage will be anything but business. There’s lots of push and pull for the first half of the book, as each fights his attraction to the other. And when they finally do give in to their desires, it’s a revelation for both.

Lisa: Would you care to share a short excerpt with us?

Shira: Sure! This is an excerpt from Chapter Six:

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Excerpt: Now, standing in the conference room of Windview Enterprises’ corporate headquarters near South Ferry in Manhattan, one of the matching platinum bands Jesse had bought for them in his pants pocket, Chris wondered if he’d wake up from the dream. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked out over Wall Street and the East River through the forest of high-rise buildings.

“Do you, Jesse Chase Donovan, take Christopher James Valentine to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?” the judge asked.

“I do.” As Jesse slipped the ring on Chris’s finger, he met Chris’s gaze with such intensity that for an instant, Chris could almost forget the entire ceremony was a ruse to ensure the future of Windview remained firmly in Jesse’s control. Damn the man for being so attractive. Damn him for being a nice guy, because that was the worst part of it. And the part that had you agreeing.

“And do you, Christopher James Valentine, take Jesse Chase Donovan to be your husband, in love and in friendship, until you are parted by death?”

Chris swallowed hard and prayed he didn’t look as incredibly nervous as he felt. “I do.” His hand shook as he took Jesse’s hand and put the ring on his finger.

“Congratulations, Chris and Jesse,” the judge said.

Chris caught Val’s eye for a split second, and he half expected her to urge him to kiss Jesse. But it was Jesse who took charge and blindsided Chris with a kiss.

It started sweetly enough, just Jesse’s lips against his, but instead of releasing Chris, Jesse pulled him tighter against him and pressed his tongue into his mouth. Jesse tasted fucking amazing. Chris didn’t hesitate—their tongues tangled and danced. This close, Jesse smelled good and felt even better. Chris was barely aware of slipping his hands around Jesse’s back before resting them on lean hips. He didn’t think twice as his body and Jesse’s responded in kind.

Someone giggled—Chris recognized Val’s voice—and Jesse pulled abruptly away. Their eyes met for a split second, and Chris thought he saw a mixture of desire and surprise in Jesse’s deep blue eyes. The next thing Chris knew, Val had thrown her arms around him and only his racing heart and tingling lips told him he hadn’t imagined the entire thing.

“Oh, Chris,” Val cooed. “You really did it!”

“Yeah” was the only response Chris could manage. He was still thinking about Jesse’s mouth.

“I guess I was wrong about him being straight,” she whispered mischievously.

Chris was thrilled when Terry grabbed him in a bear hug, because he had no idea how to respond to Val’s comment. He also wasn’t sure if he should be pissed off with Jesse for the show. He supposed if this was going to work, Jesse needed to make the marriage look real. Still, how difficult would it have been to warn Chris that he had that up his sleeve?

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Lisa: What can we expect coming up from you next? Would you like to share some info on your current WIPs and upcoming releases?

Shira:  I’m working on another tropey romance, this one about second chances at love. The working title is A Class Act, and it’s the story of a history professor and a Hollywood action star whose ten year marriage is about to end in divorce. I’m also working on the final installment in the Blood Trilogy, my time-traveling French vampires, entitled Blood and Eternity. I’ve also got a possible spinoff story or series based on secondary characters from my Mermen of Ea Trilogy that’s in the works.

Lisa: Thanks so much for being here with us today, Shira. It’s been great to chat with you.

Shira: Thanks so much for having me! It was a pleasure.

Lisa: Connect with Shira on Facebook, her Facebook Author Page, Twitter, and her Website

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DreamspunDesires_FirstComesMarriageFS4Blurb: When struggling novelist Chris Valentine meets Jesse Donovan, he’s interested in a book contract, or possibly a date. The last thing Chris expects is a marriage proposal from New York City’s most eligible bachelor!

Jesse’s in a pinch. To keep control of his company, he has to marry. So he has valid reasons for offering Chris this business deal: in exchange for living in a gorgeous mansion for a year, playing the doting husband, Chris gets all the writing time he wants and walks away with a million-dollar payoff. Surely Chris can handle that. He can handle living with the most handsome and endearing man he’s ever met, a man he immediately knows he wants in the worst way and can’t have. Or can he?

Watch for Buy Links Coming Soon to Dreamspinner Press

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

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Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Bad Boys Edition

Flashback Friday

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

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

And now, here are this week’s picks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From my review of Conquest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Affair of the Porcelain DogLondon 1889.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*All comments must be relevant to the prompt to be eligible in the drawing
*Void where prohibited by law

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: You’re Only Young Once

Flashback Friday

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the cover…the cover is everything.

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

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

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

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

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Narration Rating - 1 Star, Reviewed by Amy

Audio Review: Soufflés at Sunrise by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin – Narrated by John-Paul Barrel

Title: Soufflés at Sunrise

Author: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Narrator: John-Paul Barrel

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 hours and 17 minutes

At a Glance: I love M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin writing together, and find that they mesh well, but I hope they pick another narrator for the rest of the series.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: “Welcome to a new season of Burned, where we find fresh new cooking talent… and a few culinary disasters! Every season we do something a little different, and this time it’s all about the sweet things in life. Get ready in week one as twenty pastry chef hopefuls and dessert connoisseurs compete for the thirteen coveted workspaces in our *Burned* kitchen. With stakes this big, we ask the one question on everyone’s mind: Do these chefs have what it takes to rise to the top? Or will they get Burned?”

Burned contestants Chase and Kai are attracted from the start and can’t wait to spend more time getting to know each other… until they see the first episode treatment and realize the producers intend to portray them as bitter enemies. At first it’s fun to pretend to bicker—enemies on film, lovers when the cameras stop rolling—but soon it’s hard not to take the faux rivalry seriously. It’s only when their choice is to band together and bake their way to the final or get burned that they find where their real loyalties lie.

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Review:  Sigh. Where to begin? I often listen to an audiobook and dislike the narrator, but I can separate the book from that narrator to gauge whether it is a great book with poor narration. Sometimes I don’t like either the story or the narrator. This is one case, though, where it was impossible for me to separate the narration from the story, so I am not going to review the book and the narration separately.

I picked this book because I have read (not listened to) other books in this series, and really enjoyed them. I love M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin writing together, and find that they mesh well. So, this is by no means a bad review for them, but this narration was absolutely painful!

After listening to Souffles at Sunrise for five minutes, I was saying, do I have to continue? It took me two weeks of turning it on for an hour and then turning it off again because I couldn’t continue. John-Paul Barrel spoke as if he was trying to annunciate every single word clearly. It was like listening to an instruction manual.

I hope they pick another narrator for the rest of the series, as the stories seem to be fun and entertaining. I, however, would never recommend another book narrated by John-Paul Barrel.

TNA_Signature_Amy

 

 

 

You can buy Souffle’s at Sunrise here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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5 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Devil’s Food at Dusk by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Devil’s Food at Dusk

Authors: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: If sweet romance and a fast moving story is what you are after, you will not go wrong picking up a copy of Devil’s Food At Dusk.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Joe Fitzgerald hates New Orleans, but he’s stuck there until he convinces one stubborn local family to sell Lumière, the crumbling French Quarter restaurant they’ve owned for generations. The place is a wreck, and it’s hemorrhaging money. Joe figures he’s their best chance for survival.

Remy Babineaux despises Pineapple Joe’s and everything the chain stands for. He refuses to let Lumière become some tacky corporate tourist trap. Theme drinks and plastic beads in his restaurant? Yeah, right. Over his dead, rotting corpse. The last thing Remy wants is a meeting with the restaurant chain’s representative, but his father agreed to at least listen to the proposal. There’s nothing Remy can do about it.

Remy figures an anonymous hookup is exactly what he needs to decompress. When he ends up across the table from his fling the next morning, real sparks fly. Joe refuses to give up his prime location; Remy refuses to give up his legacy. It’s war, and they’re both determined to win at any cost. Neither of them counted on falling in love.

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Review: Above is a fairly complete synopsis of this delightful novel. I can add little to it without giving away spoilers, but allow me to tread carefully and attempt to throw in a bit more.

Joe and Remy are both fiercely competitive and willing to give anything it takes to get what they want. For Joe, the acquisition of property rarely causes him any guilt. Avoiding the “human aspect” of what his company does—move in and gobble up failing businesses—is just a minor glitch in an otherwise profitable, cutthroat job for him. He is “the closer” and he always gets his deal.

Remy has one passion in life—Lumiere. Since his father’s retiring, he and his brother Andre have poured all they have into saving the family business, which, unfortunately, is crumbling around them. It is Remy’s passion—the one thing aside from his family that he loves with every fiber of his being. When it is threatened, Remy digs in and angrily refuses to even consider the offer Joe puts on the table. However, his brother Sal, the accountant for the family, and his own father, Tom, are not so like-minded. Before long, Sal is negotiating with Joe behind Remy’s back, while Remy is trying to convince Joe to choose a different locale for his company. It is a train wreck bound to happen, and to further complicate the matter, two sworn enemies are unknowingly beginning to fall in love.

Why did I simply adore this novel, Devil’s Food At Dusk? Well, it could be that two of my favorite authors, M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin, penned this sweet and sensuous romance. It could be the outstanding characterization, the in-depth creation of those same characters, and the way in which both Joe and Remy grew and learned more about themselves during this story. Then, again there is also the secondary cast of players that are so lively and beautifully written that I truly could not find one throwaway in the bunch. This was a novel about family, and the one that these authors built was fascinating and tightly knit.

However, I think the key reason I found this novel to be exceptionally well done was the way in which this neatly woven plot was interspersed with gorgeous flowing passages describing the French Quarter and the world that was Lumiere. Never boring or overwhelming, these descriptive moments only added to the ambiance of this novel. You were suddenly transported to New Orleans and the magic it possesses. From the heat of the kitchen to the cacophony of sounds from the open market, the lyrical prose placed you plum in the heart of the story. Couple that with the slow building relationship between Joe and Remy, and you have a beautiful novel from beginning to end.

If sweet romance and a fast moving story is what you are after, you will not go wrong picking up a copy of Devil’s Food At Dusk. It is a delightful way to escape into fantasy for a few hours.

TNA_Signature_Sammy







 

You can buy Devil’s Food at Dusk here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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Dreamspinner Press, Giveaways, M.J. O'Shea

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Family Jewels Blog Tour With M.J. O’Shea

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The Novel Approach welcomes author M.J. O’Shea today on her Family Jewels blog tour. Enjoy M.J.’s guest post, then be sure to enter for the chance to win the Grand Prize of a PRINT copy of the book, or be one of FIVE runners-up for the chance to win an e-copy of a book from M.J.’s backlist.

Good luck!

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So, obviously, when you’re writing a book about a thief it’s only right to binge heist movies beforehand…right? Well, I did anyway! And I have to admit, it’s one of my favorite genres. Always has been.

Tower Heist — I love Ben Stiller, so let’s start there. I just thought this was hilarious, slapstick, and still really clever! I love

The Italian Job — I have to admit I’ve never seen the original of this, but I loved the remake. My favorite was the beginning with the boat chase in Venice. I know film buffs call this one “awful” sometimes but…hey. I liked it.

Ocean’s Eleven — I haven’t seen this one in years but every time I go through vegas I stop and stare at the fountain for a little while. Loved it.

I think my favorite element of all three of these was the whole “stick it to the man” part. Where they weren’t hurting people who weren’t already hurting others. I tried to put that into all of my books. My con artists stay away from people who don’t have anything to lose, my thief goes after jewels from the excessively wealthy. They probably don’t deserve to be stolen from any more than anyone else, but it gives my characters a bit of morality:)

Family Jewels isn’t about an elaborate heist, although I’d love to write one of those one day! One of my main characters, Corbin, could rival any of the crews in those films. He’s more of a loner type, he works alone, flies under the radar, and rarely connects even with his family, who do the same thing he does. His weakness comes when he falls in love and starts to think that maybe love is more important than the hunt. And then he gets distracted… which is never a good idea.

I’ll leave you with a blurb for Family Jewels and some links to my social media accounts. :) I’m always available for questions or just to say hi!

xoxo
MJ O’Shea

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FamilyJewelsLGBlurb: Corbin Ford, aka the Nightwatchman, named for the antique pocket watches he leaves behind at jobs, has been in the cat-burgling business for years. His father was. His grandfather was. His mother is still one of the most renowned thieves. Corbin likes his high-profile heists, priceless paintings from private collections, artifacts from museums, but his favorite? Jewels. Sparkly, beautiful jewels. If they’re famous, better yet.

Interpol agent Luke Eldridge has one goal and one goal only: to catch the Nightwatchman. Luke’s been after him for months, but getting the slip time and again is getting embarrassing. Luke has never even laid eyes on the bastard, but he’d happily strangle him. And then arrest him.

When Luke meets Corbin, the man of his dreams, he falls hard and fast… only to catch Corbin red-handed with his hand in a jewelry case at the scene of the highest-profile murder that’s rocked the international world in years.

Buy Link: Dreamspinner Press

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Author PicAbout the Author: I’m Mj O’Shea:) I grew up, and still live, in sunny Washington state and while I love to visit other places, I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home.

I spent my childhood writing stories. Sometime in my early teens, the stories turned to romance. Most of those were about me, my friends, and our favorite movie and pop stars. Hopefully, I’ve come a long way since then.

When I’m not writing, I love to play the piano, dance, cook, paint pictures, and of course read! I like sparkly girly girl things, own at least twenty different colored headbands, and I have two little dogs who sit with me when I write. Sometimes they comes up with ideas for me too…when they’re not busy napping.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page | Sign Up For MJ’s Newsletter

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THE GIVEAWAY:

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Schedule

April 28: Cherry Mischievous || Because Two Men Are Better Than One

April 29: Nessa’s Book Reviews || Nic Starr

April 30: RJ Scott || Love Bytes Reviews

May 1: MM Good Book Reviews || Sue Brown

May 4: A Celebration of Books || Divine Magazine

May 5: Diverse Reader || Drops of Ink

May 6: Molly Lolly: Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words || Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

May 7: Wicked Faeries Tales & Reviews || Lisa Worrall

May 8: Man2ManTastic || My Fiction Nook

May 11: Prism Book Alliance || BFD Book Blog

May 12: Bike Book Reviews || Bayou Book Junkie

May 13: Hearts on Fire || Wordsmith Wednesday

May 14: The Novel Approach || Gay.Guy.ReadingAnd Friends

May 15: The Purple Rose Tea House || Cia’s Stories

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s a Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Cheers, everyone, and welcome back to a look at what we have coming up in the week ahead!

Here in the US, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day today, so before I move along to all the great things we have in store for the week ahead, I just want to say one thing. It takes far more than the biological ability to give birth to a child to make a mother. It simply takes a child, any child, who needs our unending patience, our unwavering courage, and our unconditional love and support to make a difference in their lives. That’s what being a mother is about–patience, courage, love and support–so whether that difference-maker is a grandmother, an aunt, a sister, a family friend, or a dad who is both mother and father to his child or children, I share this day with you and salute you for all the caring and love you put into nurturing and shaping the next generation.

Happy Mother’s Day! :)

And now, here’s what’s on tap!

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Monday – Kicking off the week, we have Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore stopping by on the Peripheral People blog tour

We’ll also have Shae Connor with us on the blog tour for her new novel Wayward Son, the sequel to Unfortunate Son

TuesdayZane Riley drops in today on the Go Your Own Way blog tour

And we’ll also welcome Deanna Wadsworth to talk about her new novel Wrecked, coming soon from Dreamspinner Press

Wednesday – We’ll have author Andi Van here with us today to talk about her new novel Starting with the Unexpected

And DSP Publications authors Carole Cummings and John Inman will join us with another edition of “Genre Talk”—today’s topic: Horror

Thursday – Today we’ll be welcoming author Jason N. Smith, who stops by to chat about his new novel Awakening: The Blood Rock Prophecy

Author Michael Kudo also joins us to talk about his new self-published novel Sequestered Hearts

FridayKeira Andrews gives us a peek at the cover of her upcoming novel Kick at the Darkness

M.J. O’Shea will also be our guest today on her Family Jewels blog tour

Saturday – Author Hayden Thorne joins us to talk about her upcoming novel Ansel of Pryor House

Sunday – And finally, today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, and The Novel Approach will once again be participating in the Hop Against Homophobia, Bi- and Transphobia. If you’ve never followed the hop before, as of this post there are more than 90 participating LGBT bloggers and authors, and there are always giveaways involved, so stay tuned for it

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And that does it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 3.5 Stars, Piper Vaughn, Reviewed by Kathie

Audio Review: One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea – Narrated by Finn Sterling

Title: One Small Thing (One Thing: Book One)

Author: Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea

Narrator:: Finn Sterling

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 6 Hours, 56 Minutes

At a Glance: My only complaint about One Small Thing would be the voice Sterling chose to use for Rue.

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: “Daddy” is not a title Rue Murray wanted, but he never thought he’d have sex with a woman either. Now he’s the unwitting father of a newborn named Alice. Between bartending and cosmetology school, Rue doesn’t have time for babies, but he can’t give her up. What Rue needs is a babysitter, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of quitting school to watch Alice himself when he remembers his reclusive new neighbor, Erik.

Erik Van Nuys is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. Still, with his royalties dwindling, he could use the extra cash. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of many – and even more reluctantly, he finds himself falling for Alice and her flamboyant father.

Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but Rue has never been happier than when Alice and Erik are by his side. At least, not until he receives an offer that puts all his dreams within reach and he’s forced to choose: the future he’s always wanted, or the family he thought he never did.

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Review: What makes this story, One Small Thing, so special that I couldn’t wait for it to come out on audio? Rue and Erik! I couldn’t wait to hear their voices, and relive the birth of Alice, and listen to the oh-so-funny scene with Rue looking for daycare. Rue describes one daycare, Wee Care, as a “stinky, sticky, vomity smelling miniature version of Lord of the Flies.” I could just picture Rue standing there taking it all in, and then screaming and making a run for the front door. What a sight that would have been to see.

In a perfect life we aren’t faced with decisions like those Rue faced—finding someone to watch his daughter but not really knowing a lot about them. But, it’s not a perfect world out there, and we just have to do our best with what we’re given. Rue is a fighter; throughout the story he fights for his daughter, his friends, and for building a future for them all. Fighting for your family, and sometimes taking a leap of faith, sums up this story for me.

Erik Van Nuys: I have a lot of respect for his character. When thrown a curve—having to move out of a house into an apartment, his agent not calling—Erik makes changes. He struggles through the changes, but in the end, he does it. I was always cheering for him. I am so glad the writers let me, as the reader, be a part of the Erik’s struggles. It really gave his character more depth .

The secondary characters of Alice, Rue’s baby, and Dusty, Rue’s best friend, added some spice and intrigue to the story; Alice and her gentle ways, unless she was hungry or tired, and Dusty’s poor choice of boyfriends. Dusty was a little too whiny for my taste, and though whiny to me is like nails on a chalk board, Finn Sterling gets him just right.

My only complaint about One Small Thing would be the voice Sterling chose to use for Rue. Rue is a character who likes his tight clothes, makeup, and not being one of the mundane people. Sterling’s voice, on the other hand, is deep, slow in the pacing, and shows very little emotion, not at all the way I’d envisioned Rue. Towards the end, however, he does lighten up a bit and adds more emotion to his voice.

I would recommend One Small Thing, both the book and the audio. The book was a great read, and the audio just gives you an excuse to revisit the lives of Rue, Erik, Alice, and Dusty. I really hope the second book, One True Thing will be released on audio. I liked the characters and look forward to hearing about Dusty, and maybe, finally, he will find that special someone he can love and be loved by.

TNA_Signature_Kathie






You can buy One Small Thing here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Narration Rating - 3 Stars, Reviewed by Amy

Audio Review: Newton’s Laws of Attraction by M.J. O’Shea – Narrated by George Somerset

Title: Newton’s Laws of Attraction

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Narrator:: George Somerset

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 4 Hours, 57 Minutes

At a Glance: Only because of M.J. O’Shea’s brilliant writing was I able to get through this Audiobook.

Reviewed By: Amy

Blurb: Rory was Ben’s oldest and best friend until senior year of high school, when they confessed they’d harbored feelings for each other all along. They enjoyed only a few months of happiness until Ben chose closeted popularity over true love… and he’s regretted it ever since.

Eight years later, Ben is out and proud and teaching art at the same high school he graduated from. When he learns the chemistry teacher is retiring, he’s excited to meet her replacement until he finds out the brand new teacher is none other than Rory Newton—the first love he’s never quite gotten over. Despite a painfully awkward start, it doesn’t take Ben long to realize he’ll do whatever it takes to win Rory back. But it’s starting to look like even his best might not be enough.

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Review: M.J. O’Shea’s writing is so incredible. This story is simple and sweet, and starts out by showing childhood friends Ben and Rory going through puberty; then realizing they have fallen in love. The tentative touches and unsure nature of their sexual relationship is kept sweet and innocent, just like them. What you also saw was how young Rory and Ben were. You saw how peer pressure can simply destroy something beautiful. At a young age, we are not as equipped to handle confrontation and do the right thing. We think we would do the right thing, or at least hope we would, but we all know that happily-ever-after doesn’t always start at sixteen. Looking back, Ben sees how trivial being liked by his new teammates was, but at sixteen…it was overwhelming, and he destroyed that young love.

Eight years later, you again meet Ben, the better version of Ben. He is out and working at the same school he grew up in. You encounter Ben the day the new Chem teacher, and his old love, Rory, strolls back into Ben’s life. Again what M.J. O’Shea succeeds in is making Ben and the audience relive Ben’s mistakes by seeing throughout the second part of this story the hurt that lives in Rory. O’Shea proceeds to have these two characters dance slowly around their continued attraction.

I adore everything about this book.

Narrator: Unfortunately, however, George Somerset was NOT the right choice for Newton’s Laws of Attraction. Only because of the author’s brilliant writing was I able to get through this book. Somerset’s voice put me to sleep. He was monotone and whispered half the time. It actually grated on my nerves. I stayed with it only because I hadn’t read the book and really loved the story, and I wanted to know what happened to these characters.






You can buy Newton’s Laws of Attraction here:

Audible.com

Audible.com

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4 Stars, Anna Martin, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Pia

Review: Soufflés at Sunrise by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Soufflés at Sunrise (Just Desserts: Book Two)

Authors: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 206 Pages

At a Glance: If you’re after a light and fun romance, this is the book for you.

Reviewed By: Pia

Blurb: “Welcome to a new season of Burned, where we find fresh new cooking talent… and a few culinary disasters! Every season we do something a little different, and this time it’s all about the sweet things in life. Get ready in week one as twenty pastry chef hopefuls and dessert connoisseurs compete for the thirteen coveted workspaces in our Burned kitchen. With stakes this big, we ask the one question on everyone’s mind: Do these chefs have what it takes to rise to the top? Or will they get Burned?”

Burned contestants Chase and Kai are attracted from the start and can’t wait to spend more time getting to know each other… until they see the first episode treatment and realize the producers intend to portray them as bitter enemies. At first it’s fun to pretend to bicker—enemies on film, lovers when the cameras stop rolling—but soon it’s hard not to take the faux rivalry seriously. It’s only when their choice is to band together and bake their way to the final or get burned that they find where their real loyalties lie.

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Review: In Soufflés at Sunrise, we meet Chase, the blonde farm boy who is the owner of an ice cream shop. We also meet Hawaiian pastry chief Kai, both of whom are auditioning for this series of Burned–think master chef/top chef and you’ll get the idea. I enjoyed reading about the challenges, cooking, and the behind the scenes of the show. Some of the desserts sound just lush, and I hope M.J O’Shea and Anna Martin got to try some of them. All in the mane of research, of course!

While I usually like a lot more heat in my books, I loved the slow build of the relationship. I’m so glad this wasn’t an overly glib, insta-love story. It’s fun to read, and it left me feeling happy and optimistic that good things are going to happen for our MCs.

If you’re after a light and fun romance, this is the book for you.






You can buy Soufflés at Sunrise here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Corkscrewed by M.J. O’Shea

Title: Corkscrewed

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: This book was simply delightful

Blurb: Cary Talbot has found the perfect mark. Marigold Shelley is filthy rich, and her newly found grandson, Isaac Shelley, is poised to inherit her huge estate, complete with a priceless wine collection. Cary concocts a plan to con both of them into selling the crown jewel of that collection to him at a bargain price. Since Isaac is young, single, and gay, part of Cary’s scheme to get close to the Shelleys includes seduction.

But Isaac isn’t the sheep he appears to be. He isn’t even the grandson he appears to be. Isaac is, in fact, running quite the con of his own.

These two masters of the confidence game are pitted against each other, and both are after the ultimate prize—a chunk of the huge Shelley fortune. It’s only when a third cunning player comes in and is ready to outwit them both that they must band together and beat their opponent or see all they’ve worked for slip from their grasp one ruby-red drop at a time.

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Review: This book was simply delightful. Think The Pink Panther or Ocean’s Eleven crossed with a sweet romance, and you will have some idea of what’s in store for you.

Isaac has been pushed into a job where he is going to become the missing heir to a fortune and try to con his way into a trust fund. His new home is a winery, and his step-Grandmother owns a stunning collection of valuable wines. Another con man is coming to try to scam away these wines, and a funny series of confusing circumstances play out in front of our eyes. What saves this from being a farce is the hearts of these two men, as the attraction between them grows and they start a physical relationship. Even when they figure out whom each of them really is, they can’t avoid each other and continue to fall in love.

M.J. O’Shea has a fine hand at drawing us into her stories, and each new page gives more depth to the development of the characters, not only the MCs but the secondary ones as well. Marigold Shelley, Isaac’s grandmother is so much fun, delighting in the new romance, and pushes the two men together very obviously. Several sub plots run through the book, creating a rich backdrop for the romance, and I can admit to falling for the red herring with absolutely no embarrassment.

Corkscrewed kept my attention riveted on its pages, I had to finish the book in one sitting. The flow of the story was smooth and all of the answers are revealed in the conclusion. I liked that Isaac was not angsty about his past, that he could be happy and that he grew into his new home, comfortable with the winery and the life he could lead there. I wouldn’t call the ending a HEA, but it was definitely a HFN with so much more possible. Truly a sweet, fun, quick read that put a smile on my face.






You can buy Corkscrewed here:

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Macarons at Midnight by M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Title: Macarons at Midnight

Author: M.J. O’Shea and Anna Martin

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 214 Pages

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Tristan Green left his small English town for Manhattan and a job at a high profile ad agency, but can’t seem to find his bearings.

He spends a lot of time working late at night, eating and sleeping alone, and even more time meandering around his neighborhood staring into the darkened windows of shops. One night when he’s feeling really low, he wanders by a beautiful little bakery with the lights still on. The baker invites him in, and some time during that night Tristan realizes it’s the first time he’s really smiled in months. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Piper Vaughn, Reviewed by Lynn

Review: The Luckiest by M.J. O’Shea and Piper Vaughn

Title: The Luckiest (Lucky Moon: Book Two)

Author: M.J. O’Shea and Piper Vaughn

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 280 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Rock star Nick Ventura has finally hit rock bottom. Jealous of his brother’s new love, he overindulges in his usual vices and winds up crashing his car into a department store in a drunken haze. Publicly humiliated and on the verge of jail time, he enters into a court-ordered rehabilitation program. Continue reading

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3 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Kathie

Sound Bite Saturday: Finding Shelter by M.J. O’Shea – Narrated by Tom Vilot

Title: Finding Shelter (Rock Bay: Book Three)

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Narrator:: Tom Vilot

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 6 Hours, 15 Minutes

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb: Justin Foster has 19 years of nothing but trouble behind him. After escaping his abusive father, he finds himself in Rock Bay, Washington, with his cousin Travis. Justin is bruised and has a hard time trusting, but with the help of his family and the small town, he might be able to heal. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Harmony Ink Press, M.J. O'Shea, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Young Adult

M.J. O’Shea’s “Loveblood” Reminds Us Soul Mates Really Do Exist

Title: Loveblood

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Pages/Word Count: 256 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Max Appleton and his mother Celia are on the run, hiding from an abusive father and husband who’s also a notoriously bad pack leader. When Max hit puberty and it became obvious he’d never make an alpha wolf, his father turned the brunt of his anger toward his inferior son and his beta wolf wife for producing him. Max and Celia find sanctuary in a garden cottage at Holly Court, the sprawling estate where Celia’s oldest friend lives with her pack alpha husband, three daughters, and teenaged son Jonah. Continue reading

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Dreamspinner Press, M.J. O'Shea

Spotlight Stop and Giveaway: “Impractical Magic” by M.J. O’Shea

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THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED

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Blurb: Physics teacher Fenton Keene is looking forward to a summer of doing nothing but hanging out with friends and maybe getting into a little trouble. With his best friend out of town, trouble seems like the best option and it comes in the form of his building’s newest temporary resident, a gorgeous fireman named Kevin.

Fen’s been attracted to men before, but this is the first time he’s considered acting on it. And act he does.

Fen and Kevin have an intense summer fling. Just in time for Kevin to go home, more feelings develop than Fen can ignore, but they don’t stop Kevin from leaving. Once Kevin’s gone, Fen can’t stop thinking about him. That’s when reality sets in and Fen faces the difficulties of distance and fidelity, while Kevin balks at Fen’s reluctance to tell his friends and family. They just need to find a way to make their magic more practical.

Continue reading

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B. Snow, Brigham Vaughn, Cover Reveal, Hayden Thorne, K. Vale, K.A. Merikan, L.A. Witt, Liz Borino, M.J. O'Shea, Nikka Michaels, Sean Michael, Sneak Peek

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Hi, everyone, I hope you’ve all had a great weekend!

Here’s a look at all the great authors, blog tours and giveaways we’re hosting here at The Novel Approach in the week ahead, and, of course, we’ll have lots of new reviews as well.


MondayBrigham Vaughn kicks off the week on the Equals Blog Tour

We’ll also have B. Snow with us today, one of the contributing authors in the Project Fierce Chicago Anthology, to talk a bit about Project Fierce and its mission to provide housing and support services for homeless LGBTQ youth in Chicago

TuesdayHayden Thorne stops in today on the Masks: Evolution Blog Tour

Nikka Michaels will also be a return guest today to talk a bit about her new short story from Cobblestone Press

WednesdayLiz Borino will be here today on the Secrets in the Air Blog Tour

Thursday – Today, L.A. Witt stops in on the Noble Metals Blog Tour

FridaySean Michael drops by on the Size Matters Blog Tour

And Kimber Vale will be here to do a Cover Reveal for her upcoming book Hard Act to Follow

SaturdayMJ O’Shea is our guest on the Impractical Magic Blog Tour

SundayK.A. Merikan closes out the week on the Road of No Return Blog Tour

And that sums up what’s in store for the week ahead. Until next week, happy reading!

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4.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Chris

A Summer Fling Leads To Love In M.J. O’Shea’s “Impractical Magic”

Title: Impractical Magic

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 206 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: Physics teacher Fenton Keene is looking forward to a summer of doing nothing but hanging out with friends and maybe getting into a little trouble. With his best friend out of town, trouble seems like the best option and it comes in the form of his building’s newest temporary resident, a gorgeous fireman named Kevin. Continue reading

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3.5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, M.J. O'Shea, Reviewed by Kim

Audio Book Review: “Coming Home” by M.J. O’Shea – Narrated by Tom Vilot

Title: Coming Home (Rock Bay: Book One)

Author: M.J. O’Shea

Narrator:: Tom Vilot

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 7 Hours, 37 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb: Tallis Carrington ruled Rock Bay with his gang of jocks and an iron fist-until a scandal destroyed his family’s name. Ten years later Tallis is dead broke, newly homeless, and on the walk of shame to end all walks of shame. He needs money and needs it fast, and Rock Bay is the only home he knows. But the people of Rock Bay haven’t forgotten him-or the spoiled brat he used to be. The only person in town willing to overlook his past is Lex, the new coffee shop owner, who offers Tally a job even though he appears to despise Tally based on his reputation alone. When Tally discovers his gorgeous boss is the kid he tortured back in high school, Lex’s hot and cold routine finally makes sense. Now Tally has to pull out all the stops to prove he was never really the jerk he seemed to be. After all, if he can win Lex’s heart, the rest of the town should be a piece of coffee cake. Continue reading

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Cover Reveal, Dreamspinner Press, M.J. O'Shea, Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Rhys Ford

Poppy Dennison Is Here Today With A Little Co-Author Chit Chat, A Cover Reveal, And A Giveaway


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I’m a really lucky author! I’ve had the opportunity to co-write with three of my absolute favorite authors. I thought it might be fun to let them turn the tables on me as I reveal the cover of Creature Feature 2, my newest co-writing adventure with Rhys Ford which is coming in October from Dreamspinner Press! I let them all have the opportunity to ask me three random questions. Let’s see what they came up with!
Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, M.J. O'Shea, Piper Vaughn, Reviewed by Jackie

You’re In Luck With M.J. O’Shea and Piper Vaughn’s “Moonlight Becomes You” – Reviewed by Jackie


“To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ― Alexander Pope


Title: Moonlight Becomes You (Lucky Moon: Book One)

Author: M.J. O’Shea & Piper Vaughn

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

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

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Loose Id, M.J. O'Shea

The Novel Approach Welcomes M.J. O’Shea On The “Rising Sun” Blog Tour – And There’s A Giveaway


Blurb: New Seattle 2199

Castor Kovalenko, socialite and high ranking member of the Dragon Triad, is worried about his cousin, Lynx. He’s been missing for weeks and there have been rumors circling the city, rumors that he’s been taken hostage by the hacker thief Yoru Katana. Castor needs to find his cousin before it’s too late. He’s willing to do nearly anything to bring Lynx to safety.
Jaffa Sharp is trying to stay alive. It’s not easy when the only thing you’ve ever learned to do is steal. Even harder when he keeps running into one annoying Dragon prince who keeps trying to get him arrested.

When Castor uses Jaffa to get to his cousin and the thief Katana, they both learn that nothing is as it seemed, including Lynx and Katana himself. Castor and Jaffa soon become involved in a plot to take the city back from the villainous triads. They find themselves fighting the people they thought were their leaders — and fighting an attraction stronger than either of them have felt before. Nothing is certain in the precarious new world they find themselves in: Life, death, friend, enemy, and the most uncertain thing of all…love
Continue reading

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week, Brita Addams, Christa Tomlinson, F.E. Feeley Jr., J.K. Hogan, Jacob Z. Flores, Kade Boehme, L.A. Witt, LE Franks, Libby Drew, M.J. O'Shea, Marie Sexton, Piper Vaughn, Poppy Dennison, Rafe Haze, Riley Hart, Saloni Quinby

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week


Hi, everyone, I hope you’ve all had a great week. It was a busy and fun-filled weekend at RainbowCon, having the opportunity to meet some new-to-me authors and participating on some great panels, where the conversation was always interesting and informative. Next stop: GayRomLit in Chicago!

Here’s what’s on tap for the week ahead.

MondaySaloni Quinby kicks off the week on her Weapons of Redemption Blog Tour with a giveaway

Jacob Flores drops in as well, with a GRL Countdown Celebration for his newest release, When Love Comes to Town, and there’s a giveaway

TuesdayRiley Hart is our guest today on the Stay (Blackcreek: Book Two) Blog Tour. She sat down to answer a few questions for us, so make sure to stay tuned

Libby Drew is also with us to do a Cover Reveal of her new novella The Lost Year, included in the anthology Secrets of Neverwood

Brita Addams visits today with a guest article about misused idioms/clichés

WednesdayPiper Vaughn and Kade Boehme stop in on their Wood, Screws & Nails Blog Tour, and they’ve also got a giveaway for you

Rafe Haze is also with us to talk a little bit about his new book The Next, and he’ll be giving an e-copy away to one lucky reader

ThursdayPoppy Dennison is dropping by to do a little Mind Magic for us, and there’s a giveaway

L.A. Witt and Marie Sexton are also here on their Roped In Blog Tour, with a giveaway

FridayLE Franks is our guest on the Can This Be Real Blog Tour, and there’s a giveaway

M.J. O’Shea also drops in on the Rising Sun Blog Tour, and she’s offering a giveaway

SaturdayChrista Tomlinson is our guest on The Sergeant Blog Tour and giveaway

F.E. Feeley Jr. will also be here on the Objects in the Rearview Mirror Blog Tour, and there’s a giveaway

SundayJ.K. Hogan is here with a Countdown To GRL Celebration Guest Post and Giveaway

And that rounds out the week ahead. Until next week, happy reading!

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