Giveaways, L.B. Gregg, Riptide Publishing

Guest Post and Giveaway: The With This Bling Blog Tour with L.B. Gregg

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Today we’re so pleased to welcome author LB Gregg to on the tour for the newest installment in the Romano and Albright series, With This Bling. Enjoy LB’s guest post, and then be sure to check out the great giveaway! Details below.

Good luck!

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Hi. My name is LB Gregg and I write gay romance. I’m here with Riptide Publishing celebrating the release of book three in my Romano and Albright series—With This Bling. It’s an exciting time. I know it’s also been a while and I appreciate readers sticking with me.

Expectation is a tricky thing. It took years for me to get to a point where I felt comfortable writing a new Romano and Albright book and once I did, I had a few false starts. Figuring out where to pick up the thread of Ce and Dan’s story proved harder than I anticipated.

Keeping things fresh is a challenge for any writer, and in the case of Romano and Albright, more than half a decade has passed since I last visited the guys. That’s a long time to pick up where you left off. In everything from popular culture, politics, publishing, and city’s landscape— New York City has changed. There’s a new mayor in town. Smart phones are universal, as is texting in emoji. We finally have marriage equality. Citi bikes racks fill the side streets, and Hurricane Sandy left damage, resulting in roadwork and traffic snarls. Wheat is out. Farm-to-Table is in. Uber is a thing. And so is Tinder (and Grinder) and social media is unavoidable. The High Line opened and stretches across the lower West Side, alive with history, blooming gardens, graffiti art, and tourists. And now One World Trade Center dominates the Manhattan skyline.

With This Bling begins only a couple of weeks after Trust Me If You Dare left off. Long enough for Caesar’s wounds to have healed after the BMW hijinks, but for this tentative, hot new thing between Dan and Ce to still feel fresh. The guys are just settling into a routine, but they still have a lot of questions.

Caesar makes frequent references to the here and now of 2008 and 2009 in books one and two—from marriage, to popular culture, to electronics and technology, to fashion trends—and I wasn’t sure if I should place the new story in 2015, or keep the guys sealed in the past. I struggled initially with how to adapt all the changes in our real world, with the very narrow timeline in my Romano and Albright series.

However, Caesar Romano is still the same twenty-eight year college graduate who struggles with the same day-to-day realties of life in the big city that most twenty-somethings do. Finances. Balancing family and friends. Commuting. Debt. Growing his career. Getting laid. Those basics haven’t changed for Caesar.

Yes, he’s always been a bit of a stick-in-the-mud, but because he’s young, he’s not oblivious to pop culture. Ce is and will remain current. Keeping him in the here and now wasn’t quite so difficult, because the things that make him tick haven’t changed, despite the prevalence of free wifi, a iPhone, Siri at his finger tips, and a languishing Twitter account.

And while Dan Albright might be a little above popular culture (Justin Bieber and Mylie Cyrus aren’t really on his radar), there isn’t a forty something in NY who hasn’t taken a selfie. Dan’s a smart guy. He’s hip. He’s educated. He loves to text. And the former detective has a firm opinion about both Deflategate and the World Series. He adores gadgets and video games and Dan’s not above using new and old technology to get his way. Those things won’t change about him either.

Because Romano and Albright are character driven books, I let Ce and Dan decide what things to keep, and what things they wished to upgrade. Putting Ce and Dan right here, right now, in this present, is something I’ll continue to do with the next book—Gaydar Love. The guys adapt better and faster than the rest of us, apparently, and they can pick up exactly where they left off, leaping through time and space as only fictional characters can. And neither one of them has aged. If only I could say the same.

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With This BlingAbout the Book:

Caesar Romano’s catering career is doing better than he’d ever dreamed. And so is his love life—even if his boyfriend’s house in Staten Island is way too far from civilization for his liking. But then in short order, Caesar is duped into helping his cousin propose, is tricked by his best friend and business partner into appearing on live television, and is harassed by a thug-like personal trainer and his far too beautiful wife. In fact, Caesar is almost too busy to notice that something is troubling his PI boyfriend, Dan Albright.

Almost.

Laid-back, open, charming—that’s the impression hunky former NYPD Detective Dan Albright gives everyone. Caesar can add sexually adventurous and a bit of an exhibitionist. But he also knows that Dan is hiding something—something dark and a little dangerous—and when Dan’s silence over his mysterious past threatens to harm them both, it’s Caesar’s turn to save the day.

But then again, a break-in, a gallery party, an heirloom ring, a new suit, and a stalker with bad BO are all just a typical week for Caesar Romano.

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Author BioAbout the Author:

When not working from her home in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut, author L.B. Gregg can be spotted in coffee shops from Berlin to Singapore to Panama–sipping lattes and writing sweet, hot, often funny, stories about men who love men.

For more info on L.B., because surely one can never get too much of a good thing, you can follow her on her preferred social media, Facebook. You can also e-mail L.B. at lbgregg at lbgregg dot com, visit her website www.lbgregg.com, be her GoodReads pal or follow her sporadic appearances on twitter.

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of With This Bling, L.B. Gregg is giving away a Romano and Albright mug with swag, and a $40 gift card to Amazon! Your first comment at each stop on this tour enters you in the drawing. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 12, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Follow the tour for more opportunities to enter the giveaway! Don’t forget to leave your email or method of contact so Riptide can reach you if you win!

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Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: It’s a Mystery

Flashback Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE GIVEAWAY

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4 Stars, Jack Bumgardner, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Wilde City Press

Review: Underneath It All by Jack Bumgardner

Underneath It All

Underneath It All

Title: Underneath It All

Author: Jack Bumgardner

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 53 Pages

At a Glance: I found Underneath It All to be a good short story for a new mystery series, full of action and danger, fast paced and suspenseful.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: When Crosby Comeaux, the owner of the only gay detective agency in New Cypress can’t even pay his light bill he decides that it’s time to close up shop. But, Armin Bleu, a cute blond with evidence of a double murder, convinces him to take on one last case. As Crosby investigates the murder it becomes clear that the motive was not just kinky sex gone wrong but something much more sinister. His journey takes him into a circle of men who have devised a plot that could literally destroy New Cypress and everything he loves—including his memories.

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Review: Author Jack Bumgardner is a first time author for me. I found Underneath It All to be a good short story for a new mystery series, full of action and danger, fast paced and suspenseful—it was a page turner for me— and full of surprises too, from a sad relationship between a father and a son to the motives for the murders, which were not what I expected.

The MC is Crosby Comeaux, who used to be a cop but now is a PI, with a failing business in New Cypress. He takes a chance on Armin Bleu, who has evidence of a murder. Crosby finds himself facing continuing harassment from an old co-worker, along with betrayal, and suspects who are greedy to the point they would destroy New Cypress.

Crosby’s character isn’t unique, he’s just a man trying to do his job and survive from day to day, but he’s sympathetic and his heart is still hanging on to a loss that may never be replaced. I didn’t want this story to end because there is a still a lot to learn about Crosby Comeaux.

As I am such a big fan of mysteries, I would really be interested to see what cases Jack Bumgardner creates for Crosby Comeaux next.

TNA_Signature_Maryann

 

 

 

You can buy Underneath It All here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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Cover Reveal, Rhys Ford

Cover Reveal: Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford

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A Note From Rhys Ford: A little while ago, I had an inkling of an idea. A bad boy motorcycle guy who ends up having to raise his niece…who has been in the system for a couple of years. On the flip side, there’s a very sweet bookseller who is kind of conservative and not willing to take risks.

Of course, nothing like a bad boy on a motorcycle to make you want to take risks.

I also wanted to try writing a young child. An authentic child who’d been touched a bit by violence but was easing her way into a comfortable, normal life. Or as normal as she and her badass uncle can have. Both of them don’t have a framework for normal but damn it, they’re going to give it their best.

So with that in mind… I’d like to introduce you to the first of the Half Moon Bay Mysteries.

FishStickFridays_RhysFord_Rev1

Blurb: Deacon Reid was born bad to the bone with no intention of changing. A lifetime of law-bending and living on the edge suited him just fine—until his baby sister died and he found himself raising her little girl.

Staring down a family history of bad decisions and reaped consequences, Deacon cashes in everything he owns, purchases an auto shop in Half Moon Bay, and takes his niece, Zig, far away from the drug dens and murderous streets they grew up on. Zig deserves a better life than what he had, and Deacon is determined to give it to her.

Lang Harris is stunned when Zig, a little girl in combat boots and a purple tutu blows into his bookstore, and then he’s left speechless when her uncle, Deacon Reid walks in, hot on her heels. Lang always played it safe but Deacon tempts him to step over the line… just a little bit.

More than a little bit. And Lang is willing to be tempted.

Unfortunately, Zig isn’t the only bit of chaos dropped into Half Moon Bay. Violence and death strikes leaving Deacon scrambling to fight off a killer before he loses not only Zig but Lang too.

Fish Stick Fridays will be released by Dreamspinner Press on November 30th. Hope you all enjoy it.

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!rhys_ford_headshotAbout the Author: Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur, and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.

My Blog || Facebook || Twitter

My books can be purchased, folded and first chapters read at Dreamspinner Press.

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5 Stars, Lloyd Meeker, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Wilde City Press

Double-Header Review: Enigma and Blood & Dirt by Lloyd A. Meeker

Lloyd A. Meeker

Titles: Enigma and Blood and Dirt

Author: Lloyd A. Meeker

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 54 and 148 Pages

At a Glance: I have definitely become a fan of Lloyd A. Meeker and the Russ Morgan Mystery series.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurbs: Enigma: Who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.

It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90′s. But they’ve got Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.

Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.

Blood & Dirt: Family squabbles can be murder. Psychic PI Russ Morgan investigates a vandalized marijuana grow in Mesa County Colorado, landing in the middle of a ferocious family feud that’s escalating in a hurry. Five siblings fight over the family ranch as it staggers on the brink of bankruptcy, marijuana its only salvation. Not everyone agrees, but only one of them is willing to kill to make a point. Russ also has a personal puzzle to solve as he questions his deepening relationship with Colin Stewart, a man half his age. His rational mind says being with Colin is the fast track to heartbreak, but it feels grounding, sane, and good. Now, that’s really dangerous…

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Review: Enigma is a story that introduces us to P.I. Rhys “Russ” Morgan, who has the ability to read auras. He’s fought the hard fight of alcoholism, and he still fights loneliness and guilt. Russ is plain and simple—he wants facts upfront, access to everyone connected to a case, and the truth. He has no problem walking away from a case if the clients don’t cooperate, and when we meet Russ, he’s being harangued by a nasty little lawyer by the name of Kommen.

Along with Russ, we meet Colin Stewart, assistant to Kommen. Colin puts a spark in Russ, but even though Colin occasionally flirts with Russ whenever he shows up at Kommen’s office, Russ’s past still weighs heavy on his mind, and he knows he could never get involved with Colin.

The focus of the blackmail mystery is James Richardson. At the age of seventeen in 1993, he was sent into “reparative therapy” by Reverend Richardson for being homosexual. This is where Mr. Meeker takes James Richardson’s story and wraps it around music from Cross of Changes by Enigma.

Enigma is so much more than a case of blackmail, it’s a mystery melded with the mystical. If there is any chance you can listen to Enigma’s music, do so because the lyrics will define James Richardson’s character.

I liked what Mr. Meeker did with Russ Morgan’s character. He doesn’t flaunt, overuse or abuse Russ’s abilities. In fact, Russ could solve a case with just his investigative skills. Mr. Meeker had me fascinated with Enigma from the beginning to end. Excellent story and excellent music!!

After reading Blood & Dirt I have definitely become a fan of Lloyd A. Meeker and the Russ Morgan Mystery series. This is the second installment, so if you have not read Enigma, it’s a must read before Blood & Dirt. Mr. Meeker takes us on another roller coaster ride, with so many clashing personalities for Russ to examine before he can solve the case.

Russ Morgan finds himself taking on another dysfunctional family case. He’s being hired by Evan Landry to investigate an incident at the Ellis Ranch, where his sister Sarah’s medical marijuana grow has been destroyed. At the Ellis Ranch we meet Stanford Sr. and his adult children Stanford Jr., Marianne, Billy, Evan and Sarah. Needless to say a few of them are vindictive and greedy. This is more than just sibling rivalry. In fact, I wanted to strangle a couple of them myself! This is also about a father’s regret and his not knowing if he made the right decision. Poor Russ, he’s caught up in this chaotic mess, and then a case of destruction of property turns into murder.

That brings Deputy Sheriff Heath Baker into the story. Even though he flirts with Russ, he’s sort of demeaning and cocky, and doesn’t want Russ’s help. Russ does use some of his aura ability to prove a point with Heath. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to dislike Heath or not, but there’s something about him. Maybe he will get his own story.

Before Russ tackles his new case, we find that he’s been sporadically dating Colin Stewart, a paralegal he met during the blackmail case in Enigma. Colin becomes so much more in this story. He’s been chipping away to become a part of Russ’s life, but Russ still fights with the idea of Colin being too young, and with the fear of getting hurt. Colin is very smart, not only good at his job but smart about life too. He’s an “old soul,” and his character is mature beyond his years, which scares Russ. Colin is so careful with Russ’s feelings, but he brings a little mischief too. The story of the two men in Ireland that Colin shares with Russ was a touching moment and sends an important message.

The romance between Russ and Colin is written with passion, and Mr. Meeker leaves us to use our imaginations in the love that Russ and Colin share. Colin brings a special warmth to the story, and I was glad to see him grow to an important character. I still can’t say enough about Russ’s character. Mr. Meeker still doesn’t overuse Russ’s abilities, and I like how Russ was surprised, just as I was, when things weren’t what he expected.

This story also contains details on the process of starting a medical marijuana grow. Check out the Acknowledgements. It contains information on how much research the author put into this subject.

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You can buy Enigma and Blood & Dirt here:

Wilde City Press

Wilde City Press

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Ethan Stone, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating - 3.5 Stars, Reviewed by Maryann, Self-Published

Audio Review: Bartender, P.I. by Ethan Stone – Narrated by John Solo

Title: Bartender, P.I.

Author: Ethan Stone

Narrator:: John Solo

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 2 Hours and 32 Minutes

At a Glance: What great P.I.s Linc and Brady made in solving the big mystery! Just be prepared to snicker!

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: When hockey star Linc Carpenter is banned from playing his beloved sport, he starts over, slinging drinks in Tampa. He’s inept as a bartender, so when the opportunity arises to train as a private investigator he takes it. He’s not very good at that either, but he still manages to get hired to follow fashion mogul Quentin Faulkner.

Linc’s incompetence is a hindrance, but Brady Williams, Faulkner’s studly bodyguard, may prove to be his undoing. Brady is drawn to Linc despite his bungling, and Linc’s stupidity may be just what’s needed to solve the case and save their lives.

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Review: Bartender, P.I. is a little different from the novels I have read by Ethan Stone. He created that difference with comedy and some mystery melded together. He also gave the two MCs a soft side, but nothing overly dramatic or serious.

Linc and Brady’s relationships with their fathers were different. Linc is more carefree with his lifestyle, and Brady more conservative, but they make a cute couple. It was nice to see Linc willing to change some of his preferences. And, what great P.I.s they made in solving the big mystery! Just be prepared to snicker!

Narration: I have heard other audios by John Solo. He did a fairly good job performing, and gave each character their own voice and personality. His portrayal of Linc as the comedic character was really good, though I did have a mental block with Linc’s voice. Because I’ve listened to this narrator before, I noticed Linc’s voice was very similar to a character from another story, which I struggled to get past because the other character was a businessman, smart, and didn’t lead a carefree life like Linc.

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You can buy Bartender, P.I. here:

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, JL Merrow, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Sammy, Samhain Publishing

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Title: Heat Trap (The Plumber’s Mate: Book Three)

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 255 Pages

At a Glance: I think fans will be pleased with this one, despite a few glitches here and there.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: It’s been six months since plumber Tom Paretski was hit with a shocking revelation about his family. His lover, P.I. Phil Morrison, is pushing this as an ideal opportunity for Tom to try to develop his psychic talent for finding things. Tom would prefer to avoid the subject altogether, but just as he decides to bite the bullet, worse problems come crawling out of the woodwork.

Marianne, a young barmaid at the Devil’s Dyke pub, has an ex who won’t accept things are over between them. Grant Carey is ruthless in dealing with anyone who gets between him and Marianne, including an old friend of Tom and Phil. Their eagerness to step in and help only makes them targets of Grant’s wrath themselves.

With Tom’s uncertainty about Phil’s motives, Tom’s family doing their best to drive a wedge between them, and the revelation of an ugly incident in Phil’s past, suddenly Tom’s not sure whom he can trust.

The body in the Dyke’s cellar isn’t the only thing that stinks.

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Review: Fans of JL Merrow’s Plumber’s Mate series will be both gnashing their teeth at this installment and deliriously happy at the outcome simultaneously. Many loose ends are tied up in this third novel, and a few secrets that threaten to tear Phil and Tom apart are uncovered as well. It’s a challenge to create a synopsis for this one due to the fact that there are so many relationship-changing events taking place. Suffice it to say that while trying to dig up dirt on an unsavory boyfriend from the barmaid’s Marianne’s past, a devastating secret comes to light that is almost the undoing of Tom’s fragile trust in Phil.

All the old regulars are present in this one. Gary and Darren are married and continue to provide some real comic relief throughout the story. The news about Tom’s real father is finally discussed between Tom and his Mum, after an awkward attempt by Greg to force the family to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Mayhem and physical injury are once more part and parcel of the latest mystery, and Tom lands in the hospital once again. All in all, some pieces of the book were formulaic but so comfortable—so witty and sweet and just darn fun.

However, I felt there were some threads introduced that never really went anywhere—Phil’s desire to see Tom develop his abilities, for instance. It was the source of an argument between them, and then left fallow till almost the end of the novel when a strange, brief incident scared Tom and lay to rest any further exploration of his gift. All in all, it was underdeveloped and too easily tied up.

Also, there were a few new side characters introduced who had some devastating interaction with the bad guy, Grant Carey. I really didn’t understand why they were a part of the story since there was never any resolution to their problems. I understood that the couple’s stress and obvious marital discord would feed into a bigger issue between Tom and Phil, but again, I’m not sure those scenes did much to further the plot line.

Heat Trap is definitely not a standalone story. Reading the first two books is important to understand the dynamics between this motley crew, and their easy repartee. I think fans will be pleased with this one, despite a few glitches here and there. Tom and Phil come full circle in this novel and those who have been waiting for the two men to finally commit to some sort of future will not be disappointed.

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Joe Cosentino, Lethe Press

Release Day Excerpt: Drama Queen by Joe Cosentino

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It could be curtains for college theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza. With dead bodies popping up all over campus, Nicky must use his drama skills to figure out who is playing the role of murderer before it is lights out for Nicky and his colleagues. Complicating matters is Nicky’s huge crush on Noah Oliver, a gorgeous assistant professor in his department, who may or may not be involved with a cocky graduate assistant…and is also the top suspect for the murders! You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat, delightfully entertaining novel. Curtain up!

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Joe Cosentino is the author of An Infatuation (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press novella), A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press holiday novella), and Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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DramaQueencoverExcerpt: Surrounded by darkness, I sat tensely watching as a young, beautiful man lay on the floor with blood dripping off his six-pack abs. I held my breath. Another muscular young man stood over the first and looked down with a vengeful gaze and devious smirk. My heart pounded as he strutted through the quiet street in his long flowing cape, weaving from corpse to corpse. His knife, erect, poised. “The Lord is vengeful and strong in wrath. And revenge is oh so sweet,” he said.

“Blackout then lights up!”

Tyler, the technical theatre graduate assistant running the lighting board, hit a button, and our Treemeadow College theatre once again sported its Victorian proscenium, cream-colored walls, maple wood wainscoting, bronze wall sconces, and ruby red stage curtain.

Sitting behind the director’s desk (actually a wooden plank temporarily set up in the center of the audience seating area) I scribbled a last note before shouting, “Good work, everyone! Please get out of costume and make-up as quickly as possible and join me in the first two rows of the house for notes.”

Students scurried about: the actors off the stage; the technicians behind the set securing lighting and prop pieces.

Since it is tech week for my show, I have been working in our Edwardian style theatre every evening alongside our workaholic technical director. Tyler Thompson is our technical theatre professor’s graduate assistant, who like all good technical directors, eats, sleeps, breathes, and basically lives in our Scene Shop behind the stage. Standing at five feet tall with mountainous shoulders, a broad back, powerful arms, thick hands, and stick legs, Tyler rules over all things sound, lights, projections, set pieces, and props at Treemeadow College. When he leaves, we will be at a total loss to find or do anything technical in our theatre.

Sets for plays used to consist of wooden flats screwed together to create the walls of a room or a slide projection of a building. Nowadays no set is worth its weight in a Tony Award if it doesn’t include moving film projections of farmland, urban settings, fireworks, or whatever exterior is called for in a given scene.

“I’ll fix the video of the street scene for tomorrow night, Nicky.” Tyler slumped in a chair next to me as the familiar smell of pepperoni, his staple food, and sawdust stung my nose. He wore his usual techie attire: a soiled white T-shirt under frayed overalls above worn workboats. This look was accented by a gold cross around his neck, tattoos on his arms (like an illustrated book with words, numbers, and pictures), and long, stringy, unwashed hair. Tyler scratched at his beard, a result of him not having shaved (or washed) since we started tech. “I also want to fix the sound cue for the siren, and change a few gels for the red wash across the stage during the murders.”

Before I could thank Tyler, David Samson, Professor of Technical Theatre and our show’s Scenic Designer, barreled down the theatre aisle like a bull in a field of tomatoes, shouting, “Tyler!” David is an imposing six feet two inches tall, weighing about a hundred and eighty pounds with a shaved head.

Tyler froze, and replied like a convicted chemical dumper facing an environmental lynch mob. “Yes, David?”

“You didn’t add in the new light cue I gave you for the top of Act II.”

“I’ll have it for tomorrow night,” Tyler said.

David’s strong features hardened. “Your procrastination and laziness are not acceptable.” He scowled. “Do it now.

“Sure, David,” Tyler responded as he leapt off the theatre seat and hurried into the lighting booth at the back of the theatre.

I came to Tyler’s defense. “David, Tyler has done an amazing job—”

“Nicky, the pacing of the show is too slow. The blocking isn’t balanced. The actors aren’t committing fully to their roles and to listening to one another. This comes as no surprise to me since our Acting professor is as incompetent as you are, Nicky, as our Directing professor. Unfortunately, it seems you’d rather flirt with one another than get to work! This is a disgrace to our department!” David raised his arms in the air like a preacher facing an unrepentant congregation. “You’re the director, Nicky. And I use that term lightly. Your other shows have been insulting to the intelligence of the audience, but this one has reached the pinnacle of being even worse! Will even you let an audience see this repugnant crap?”

“David, this is not the time or place to have this discussion.”

Purchase Drama Queen at: Lethe Press (Paperback) | Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Smashwords

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3.5 Stars, April Kelley, Extasy Books, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann

Review: Sudden Love by April Kelley

Title: Sudden Love (Lakehouse Security: Book One)

Author: April Kelley

Publisher: eXtasy Books

Pages/Word Count: 95 Pages

At a Glance: Sudden Love is the type of book you really don’t have to think too hard about; it has humor, a little mystery, hot guys with guns, and plenty of sex.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: When Love comes suddenly, sometimes you just have to go with it.

Xander Newell isn’t the one night stand type of guy. He wants a commitment with someone who is willing to put up with his crazy family and being away on the job sometimes. Finding someone who is willing to put up his brothers, who he lives and works with on a daily basis, is hard. Still, Xander’s not willing to compromise.

Xander gets called off bodyguard duty to investigate a religious cult that may be tied to some kidnappings of young men. He finds Aaron Keller, one of the missing young men. What he doesn’t expect is the instant attraction and longing for the man. Xander just wants to keep Aaron safe, even if that means backing off.

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Review: Lakehouse Security is owned by the Newell brothers, Aiden, Xander, Ryan, Danny, and Zane. The brothers bought and restored an old mansion that sits on the beach along Lake Michigan. The Newell brothers not only live in the mansion but run their security company from it. Tripp and Mikkel are just like family to the brothers and also work for the company.

Xander Newell is already out on a job, protecting Damon Shield, a porn star. Damon kept coming on to Xander, but at thirty-two, Xander has made a vow: no fooling around on the job, or anywhere else. He’s now looking for a commitment and someone to build a family with.

Aiden calls Xander home and sends Mikkel to watch Damon. When Xander enters Aidens office, Chief Griffin is there, and he’s brought three missing person reports to them. Xander reviews each of the young men’s files, and his eye catches the last case, with a photo of Aaron Keller. An anonymous call from a women had come in, reporting Aaron missing and stating Aaron’s family had disappeared nine years ago in connection with a religious cult. Chief Griffin doesn’t want his police force involved in a religious cult case and is calling on Lakehouse Security to investigate.

April Kelley always introduces a wide variety of interesting characters in her stories. Sudden Love is the type of book you really don’t have to think too hard about; it has humor, a little mystery, hot guys with guns, and plenty of sex. The Lakehouse Security series has great potential, so I’m really interested to see where the next book takes me. The one thing that needs a slight improvement is the editing, but that doesn’t take away from the story.

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You can buy Sudden Love here:

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4 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Narration Rating, Narration Rating - 3.5 Stars, Reviewed by Maryann, Skylar M. Cates

Audio Review: The Last Guy Breathing by Skylar M. Cates – Narrated by Matt Baca

Title: The Last Guy Breathing

Author: Skylar M. Cates

Narrator:: Matt Baca

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 8 Hours and 53 Minutes

At a Glance: Matt Baca has a really nice voice, but there needed to be more to Locke’s characterization.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Henry Clueley doesn’t want to be in Glamour, not after moving far away to overcome a difficult, if privileged, childhood. He’s no longer that pudgy kid desperate to escape his hometown, but it still holds painful memories. When his recently widowed mother needs him, however, “dependable Henry” does the right thing—even if it means leaving the IRS to take a boring corporate position. Things don’t stay boring for long. Soon Henry helps the local sheriff’s department unravel a crime. Posing as half of a fake couple seems like a fun idea… until Henry learns he already knows the deputy playing his other half.

Deputy Locke may be new to the Glamour Sheriff’s Department, but he’s fought his way up in the world and is determined to make a good impression. He keeps his private life quiet, even from his beloved younger brother. Locke knows better than most the need to protect what’s his.

Henry resents the arrogant, gorgeous cop, and Locke thinks Henry is sheltered and spoiled. Their secret and steamy encounter only adds to the animosity. As they join forces, Henry thinks a relationship with Locke would be catastrophic, but the white-hot passion between them makes it hard to resist.

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Review: Henry Cluely has left a job with the IRS in Washington, DC, and has returned to Glamour, Arizona, to take care of his mother. Henry’s mother isn’t handling her finances at all, so he has come home to help. She ignores Henry every time he brings up her finances, and Henry is frustrated. Henry is a very loving and caring son, but sometimes he just wants to be bad. As a youngster he had weight problems, which got him bullied, even by his own father. Henry still hasn’t seen how great he looks, he still thinks of himself as being overweight and not attractive to other guys. And with all that, he also has to contend with Deputy Locke, who is just one big arrogant thorn in his side.

Henry has been hired as an accountant at Decker and Thomas, a very lucrative financial planning company. Lately, Henry has been noticing discrepancies in the numbers, and he brings it to retired Sheriff Tony Carrino. There was an old Financial Crimes Unit case that Tony was involved in, but the case had gone cold. Now, with the suicide of Cynthia Murphy, this case has come alive again, and Henry is there to provide information. Sheriff Lisa Hawkins has a meeting with Tony, Henry, and Locke, and now Henry and Locke will need to go undercover as a couple. Locke is already resentful, thinking he would have to babysit Henry and never get credit for the case. Henry is just tired of Locke, what with his being an all-around smug jerk. Will Henry and Locke be able to put their differences aside and solve this case? And once this case is over, will Henry leave and go back to DC?

Deputy Locke is fairly new to the police force in Glamour. Locke is rude and inconsiderate toward Henry, and makes it his goal to make Henry miserable. But even though he comes across as a tough guy, Locke is very insecure. Growing up, life had been hard for Locke. His mother was selfish and deserted their family, and his father not caring anymore, left Locke responsible for his younger brother James. Locke did things in his life that he is not happy about, but they kept him and his brother alive. Because of Locke’s own issues of trust, he makes some serious mistakes with both James and Henry.

This is the third book in The Guy series, and there’s not only a good mystery, but it was nice getting to visit with the Carrino’s again. Matt Baca did really well with the narration of The Last Guy Breathing. He has a very nice voice, but I wish there had been more to Deputy Locke’s characterization, as he comes across as flat and unemotional. I realize the character is somewhat mean and controlling, but even when he talked with his brother, James, who he supposedly cared for so much, his voice just sounded stern, and they didn’t joke or tease the way brothers would.

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You can buy The Last Guy Breathing here:

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3 Stars, Charlie Cochrane, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Jennifer, Riptide Publishing

Review: The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane

Title: The Best Corpse for the Job

Author: Charlie Cochrane

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 298 Pages

At a Glance: More mystery than romance, and a little slow paced for my tastes.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Schoolteacher Adam Matthews just wants to help select a new headteacher and go home. The governors at Lindenshaw St Crispin’s have already failed miserably at finding the right candidate, so it’s make or break this second time round. But when one of the applicants is found strangled in the school, what should have been a straightforward decision turns tempestuous as a flash flood in their small English village.

Inspector Robin Bright isn’t thrilled to be back at St. Crispin’s. Memories of his days there are foul enough without tossing in a complicated murder case. And that handsome young teacher has him reminding himself not to fraternize with a witness. But it’s not long before Robin is relying on Adam for more than just his testimony.

As secrets amongst the governors emerge and a second person turns up dead, Robin needs to focus less on Adam and more on his investigation. But there are too many suspects, too many lies, and too many loose ends. Before they know it, Robin and Adam are fighting for their lives and their hearts.

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Review: I will be honest and admit right off the bat that while I have eyed books by Charlie Cochrane before, until now I had not actually read anything but the author. And while this book is a decent mystery, I struggled to get into it for several reasons. I’m not sure why, but I could only read a few pages of it at a time, then had to put it down and switch to something else before coming back to it.

I do enjoy British novels; however, at times the terminology can be confusing to me when the context is not immediately clear, so maybe that’s why I had to walk away from the book so many times. There were many moments in this book when I was a bit confused as to what was being said, and had to look it up online in order not to miss something. But, maybe that’s just me. I mean, half the time I don’t know what my own students are saying, let alone keep up with British English.

Maybe it was intentional on the author’s part, but the first chapter was dull, and I felt like I was with Adam in the committee to select the new head teacher. As a teacher myself, I’ve never been on an interview committee before, but I can only imagine how it must feel to sit there and listen to all manner of interviews. And the school setting was very different from what I’m used to, it being set in a rather quaint English village, but I felt like it would be an enjoyable place to work.

Robin was a good character, and I enjoyed his role in the story. Even though I’m a teacher, I felt like I connected more to him than I did with Adam. Maybe it’s because I also had a miserable time in school when I was younger?

If you’re looking for a strong romance where that is the major plot, this book isn’t for you. While it does have romantic elements, the mystery is the main focus. It takes a long time for the characters to get together and even then, it wasn’t terribly exciting for me.

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3 Stars, Genre Romance, Iyana Jenna, JMS Books LLC, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Angel

Review: The Recording Room by Iyana Jenna

Title: The Recording Room

Author: Iyana Jenna

Publisher: JMS Books

Pages/Word Count: 61 Pages

At a Glance: The Recording Room is a short story that had promise, but it needed cleaned up a bit.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Lucian Salvatore returns to Clover East after his grandmother calls him home to take care of the family’s recording studio. This is a welcome trip after the tragic loss of his boyfriend.

Nate Lockwood is the man who practically runs the Salvatore studio. He suspects he’s going to be replaced once Lucian comes home to take over the business. But Nate doesn’t plan on leaving Clover East so soon, at least not before he solves the mystery that’s the real reason he came to the small town in the first place.

Will Nate be able to discover what happened to his aunt who disappeared in Clover East so many years ago? What does her disappearance have to do with Lucian’s family … and the haunted recording room in the studio where they both work?

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Review: Iyana Jenna’s The Recording Room is a short story that had promise, and I did enjoy it, but I think it needs some cleaning up from an editing perspective. The writing was choppy and confusing in places, and it seemed to jump around quite a bit, but for all that, it was a complete story for the length, and despite these issues, the premise is interesting.

This story revolves around a kind of boss/subordinate insta-love affair, with several mysteries going on the background. I really enjoyed seeing how the author brought the clues of the mystery together. The ghost story was both chilling and sad. But, I felt some things were left out of the romance aspect of the book. Nate and Lucian were almost combative, then suddenly they were in love. They were there for one another at the end, though, and I liked that.

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

Review: Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane

Title: Lessons for Suspicious Minds (A Cambridge Fellows Mystery)

Author: Charlie Cochrane

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 258 Pages

At a Glance: I highly recommend this book and will buy and read the next in the series to see what mystery the author has for us next.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: 1909

In the innocent pre-war days, an invitation to stay at the stately country home of a family friend means a new case for amateur sleuths Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. In fact, with two apparently unrelated suicides to investigate there, a double chase is on.
But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the risk of discovery and disgrace is ever present. How, for example, does one explain oneself when discovered by a servant during a midnight run along the corridor?
Things get even rougher for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. Worse, when they work out who the murderer is, they are confronted with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve ever had to make.

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Review: Lessons for Suspicious Minds is an Edwardian romantic mystery, an installment in Charlie Cochrane’s Cambridge Fellows series. Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith have bonded together (both personally and professionally) to become amateur sleuths, and are having a measure of success with it. Both men are supported by Jonty’s very progressive family, who not only embrace all the new technology in the world but the relationship between their son and his partner also. Jonty’s parents provide great secondary characters who add a healthy dose of support and wit to the story.

The story begins with a letter; a letter from Jonty’s mother, summoning them to Fyfield, the estate of her godmother, Alexandra Temple. Even with age, the dowager duchess is still a formidable woman, and the request is not really a request, it is a summons. Her son, Reginald Temple, the Duke, invited his old school chums—a raucous group of men who called themselves the Ambrosians—for a visit, and one of them commits suicide. Or, did he? The dowager duchess wants to know the whole story and is not convinced her son is giving it to her.

Traveling to Fyfield, the pair are presented with yet another suicide victim. Are the two connected? So, the mystery begins. I am not going to spoil it for you and tell you any more of the story, but I will let you know that I didn’t expect where this plot led me. The mystery is good, it’s complicated and twisted – and it’s logical.

This book is also a true Edwardian romance – loquacious without being verbose. The prose is very time specific, taking you back to jolly old England, mentally. As such, the romance is subdued, as would be fitting for the time period. Jonty and Orlando are deeply in love, committed and solid, but they don’t have the freedom to touch or kiss as M/F couples might. Don’t look for a lot of sex in these books, there’s not. These books are about relationships and mysteries, both being equally wonderful.

Charlie Cochrane has two more books in this series being released soon, Lessons for Idle Tongues and Lessons for Sleeping Dogs, which will be released later this year, per her home page at Riptide Publishing, and I can’t wait. My only negative on this book is that I would have loved more Jonty and Orlando – just a few more paragraphs describing them and their relationship. Even so, I highly recommend this book and will buy and read the next in the series to see what mystery the author has for us next.

TNA_Signature_Carrie






You can buy Lessons for Suspicious Minds here:

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Charlie Cochrane, Giveaways, Riptide Publishing

Interview and Giveaway: The Lessons for Suspicious Minds Blog Tour With Charlie Cochrane

Lessons for Suspicious Minds

The Novel Approach welcomes Charlie Cochrane on the Lessons for Suspicious Minds blog tour. Enjoy Charlie’s interview, then be sure to leave a comment right here for the chance to win a title from Charlie Cochrane’s backlist (excluding Lessons for Survivors). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 25, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so a representative from Riptide Publishing can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

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Q: Welcome, Charlie. Let’s start with the old desert island question. What would you have to take with you?

A: Has to be a computer, with internet access and endless power source. Then I could read, write, play games, watch rugby – and arrange a rescue when I got bored.

Q: If you had to choose a musical to depict your life, what would it be?

A: That’s tricky. I’m trying to think of a musical in which a child from a working class family ends up going to a really posh university (and struggling to put a name to one.) I’d be the working class kid! Maybe that’s a touch of Billy Elliot?

Q: Which fictional character would you most like to snog?

A: Aragorn. Just because he’s the first fictional character I ever fell in love with. Dashing, reliable, heroic, romantic, strong, handsome – what more could a girl want? (And when I saw the film version I wasn’t disappointed. Vigo was perfect.)

Q: What would be your perfect romantic day?

A: This may come as a surprise from a writer of romances, but my ideal day would involve walking around Cardiff Bay, a light Italian lunch and then rugby at the Millennium Stadium. Or, if funds ran to it, a night at the Cliveden hotel followed by a rugby match at London Irish. Do you detect a theme?

Q: Are you primarily a plotter or a pantser?

A: Pantser all the way. I usually start with one or two characters and maybe a conversation they’re having. All the Cambridge Fellows books started life as conversations and other scenes which were worked up and written out before I ever had a plot to hang them on. Just like doing a jigsaw!

Q: If they were to make the story of your life into a movie, who should play you?

A: Kate Winslet, for the looks (I wish!). Barbara Windsor, for the accent. Audrey Hepburn (Funny Face version) for the mischief and wacky sense of humour.

Q: Do you have an historical crush?

A: Loads of them. Alexander the Great, Antinous, Lord Cochrane, Wilfred Owen, Reggie and Laurie Doherty, Ronnie Poulton Palmer, Duncan Edwards, Prince Rupert of the Rhine…

Q: Is there a story that you’d like to tell but you think the world isn’t ready to receive it?

A: Absolutely. I’d really like to write about a were-squid; a guy who’s a handsome, gay lifeguard twenty nine days of the month, but come the full moon…dah dah DAH! Humboldt squid. (And believe me, a Humboldt squid is not a creature to mess with.) If you think I’m kidding, ask anyone who knows me well – this would be right up my street! I wrote gay weresloths, for goodness sake!

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LessonsForSuspiciousMinds_200x300Blurb: 1909

In the innocent pre-war days, an invitation to stay at the stately country home of a family friend means a new case for amateur sleuths Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith. In fact, with two apparently unrelated suicides to investigate there, a double chase is on.

But things never run smoothly for the Cambridge fellows. In an era when their love dare not speak its name, the risk of discovery and disgrace is ever present. How, for example, does one explain oneself when discovered by a servant during a midnight run along the corridor?

Things get even rougher for Orlando when the case brings back memories of his father’s suicide and the search for the identity of his grandfather. Worse, when they work out who the murderer is, they are confronted with one of the most difficult moral decisions they’ve ever had to make.

Buy Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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

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

Connect with Charlie:Website | •Blog | •Twitter: @charliecochrane | •Facebook profile page | •Goodreads

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4.5 Stars, Chris Scully, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Nights Like These by Chris Scully

Title: Nights Like These

Author: Chris Scully

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I gladly recommend this book to those who love mysteries and romance with a touch of humor.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Starting over sucks. At forty, Miles Koprowski thought he had life all figured out. He had a nice car, a hot young lover, and a cushy job… and then he didn’t. Call it fate, or karma, or a downturn in the market, but this opinionated cynic is now forced to play rent-a-cop in a dying office building in the burbs just to make ends meet. Throw in an unhinged ex, a coworker who hates him, and a hot new boss, and suddenly everything is uncertain.

Miles doesn’t plan on liking the night shift or becoming embroiled in a mystery that reawakens old passions and puts him in danger. And he certainly doesn’t plan on falling for the overbearing head of security, Colton Decker, former soldier and doting dad. But nights like these can change a man, make him start to believe there’s more to life than a high-paying job and a warm body in his bed. With a thief on the loose and his new job in jeopardy, Miles will have to decide what’s truly important. He might discover things he never knew he wanted… as long as he makes it through the night.

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Review: Oh, how the mighty have fallen… Miles Koprowski thought he had it all. Until the layoffs. With the lack of job prospects and almost out of his savings, Miles is forced to take a low paying job as a security guard just to keep a roof over his head. Ah, poor Miles is at the lowest point of his life.

But then, Miles meets “Mr. Perfect”

Colton becomes a bright spot in Miles’ life, even though he’s kind of off limits, in more ways than one, starting with the wedding ring on his finger. Then there’s the picture of his daughter on his wall. Not to mention the rule, no fraternizing with other employees. This rule doesn’t seem to apply for Colton, though, or stop him from wooing Miles out of his comfort zone. It also doesn’t help that Miles’ ex is stalking him.

There’s a mystery happening in the building where Miles works, and it’s already claimed the life of his predecessor, so Miles decides to work with Colton to figure out who’s stealing valuable art work from the company. From the start of Nights Like These I was hooked, and I really enjoyed getting to know Miles, as well as loving his brand of snarky humor. It was sad at times, though, when he directed that humor towards himself. There’s nothing quite like beating yourself up for things that are out of your control.

I love Chris Skully’s characters and am looking forward to listening to Nights Like These on audio. Yes, it’s a good thing when I want it to listen to a book after I’ve already read it, and I gladly recommend this book to those who love mysteries and romance with a touch of humor.

TNA_Signature_Kim






You can buy Nights Like These here:

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5 Stars, Alex Beecroft, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie, Riptide Publishing

Review: Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

Title: Trowchester Blues

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 273 Pages

At a Glance: Trowchester England is a marvelous fictional city I would love to visit in person – especially a certain little bookshop with a green painted door and a knocker shaped like a giant squid!

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.

Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.

Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.

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Review: Trowchester Blues is about Michael May, a policeman who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, with the runaways he cannot help and the bodies he can no longer handle having to find. It smacks too close to his childhood when he could not save his mother from the abuse of his father – suddenly, he has seen one to many dead bodies and resigns from the force, lost in a sea of self-doubt and loathing. He heads to his childhood home in Trowchester, hoping to purge his demons – queue his savior, Finn – or Fintan Hulme. Finn runs Bibliophile Bookshop, which is a wonderful place of imagination and fiction. The bookshop is a perfect representation of its owner – Finn is the bookshop and the bookshop is Finn. Finn is clever, nimble and dapper – and is whatever story you would like for him to be today. A former fence of upscale stolen goods, many of which were priceless artifacts, including rare manuscripts, he keeps the world from knowing his past and works every day on being a reformed “good” man.

Oh, how Michael needs Finn’s sparkle and oh, how Finn needs Michael’s structure and grounding good influence. Their happily-ever-after is not an easy path, especially when their faith in each other is tested by Finn’s questionable choices and Michael’s own insecurities. But they get there – together with new souls intact, and the better for it all. “Time now, nothing but time ahead of him, time enough to slow down and feel the prickles on his skin that radiated out from Michael’s touch. Time to appreciate the way his blood yearned towards the other man like a magnet to its pole.” This book teaches us that growing, and becoming better people because of it, can be painful and soul wrenching experiences. That shattering the paradigms in which we view ourselves and others can be an incredibly freeing experience, but no one said it was easy. In Michael’s words, “Finn restored his faith in everything, in God and man, in the earth and the sky and even in himself.”

The author, Alex Beecroft, does an incredible job of drawing pictures of these men and the place they live. By reading this book I have been to Trowchester, and I have met these men – I would know them on the street if I met them. When she describes Trowchester, I can smell the rain on the streets and picture the cathedral in the distance of the flower lined sidewalks. I am dying to go to Finn’s bookshop, where the smell of leather and paper and knowledge permeates the air. I am looking forward to the next installment of this series Blue Eyed Stranger and would highly recommend this book!






You can buy Trowchester Blues here:

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DSP Publications, Ethan Stone, Giveaways

Guest Post and Giveaway: The In the Flesh Blog Tour With Ethan Stone

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The Novel Approach welcomes author Ethan Stone on the blog tour for the re-release of In the Flesh, with DSP Publications. Enjoy Ethan’s guest post, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for a chance to win an e-copy of a book from Ethan’s Backlist, winner’s choice.

Good luck!

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Mystery with Romance versus Romance with Mystery

There’s a fine line between a mystery novel with romance in it and a romance novel with a mystery. In fact, as a reader, it can be hard to figure out exactly which one a book is, especially if the elements are mixed evenly.

If you read an Agatha Christie book, there’s no doubt it’s a mystery. Hercule Poirot was out to solve crimes, not fall in love, same for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. These were detectives first and foremost. If anything romantic had happened in the stories, it was a subplot and definitely not the main point of the plot.

On the other hand, Harlequin romances are just that—romance. The primary goal is for the main characters to fall in love. If there was a mystery involved in the story, it was secondary to the love.

In MM, Josh Lanyon is the best example of books I’d call mystery with romance. In the Adrien English books, Adrien finds himself in the middle of some kind of crime—the death of a friend, a satanic cult, a 500 year old skeleton—while also navigating a tricky relationship with Detective Jake Riordan.

Yes, there’s a romance, a fabulous, sometimes angsty one. The scene where they have sex for the first time is one of the best I’ve ever read. But the focus is not on the relationship, it’s on the solution of the mystery. The romance could be removed and there would still be an awesome mystery. The relationship adds to the whodunit aspect of the series and, in fact, enhances it.

A good example of the other side of things, a romance with mystery, is the Matter of Time series by Mary Calmes. (BTW, it’s pronounced Call-May!) Jory finds himself in all sorts of trouble, more than I could actually list here, but the main focus is always on his relationship with Sam Kage. Even when he’s dating other men or fending off the advances of many, many guys, Jory only has eyes for Sam.

You couldn’t exactly take out the crime elements in the series, because Jory is a major trouble magnet, but the emphasis is on the romance. Not the whodunit.

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In-The-Flesh-Cover-800Blurb: 2nd Edition

Reno Detective Cristian Flesh is an out and unashamed cop, but his slutty ways might be his downfall. Christian lives by a strict set of personal rules, preferring hook-ups and anonymous encounters to committed relationships. His guidelines work for him… until one of his tricks is murdered and he becomes the prime suspect.

Leave it to handsome lawyer Colby Maddox to save Christian’s life. He takes the case and the attraction between them is quick and undeniable. After several passion-filled encounters with Colby, Christian unexpectedly wants to break all his rules. However, before they can contemplate a future together, they’ll have to clear Christian’s name and find the real murderer.

Buy Links: DSP Publications | Amazon US | Amazon UK | OmniLit/ARe

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Avatar2_Ethan StoneAbout the Author: Ethan Stone is an out and proud gay man. Which is fairly new in his life, the out part, not the gay part. He’s been queer his whole life, though he tried to deny it for years with a wonderful woman. The years in denial weren’t all bad, he has two amazing kids out of it. His son is a teenager and his daughter has made him a grandfather, three times over. A way too young grandfather.

Ethan has returned to Oregon after almost a decade in Nevada. He no longer has a day job and is doing his best to make a living at this writing thing. If he can’t make a living, he at least wants to support his Mt. Dew and beef jerky addictions.

Readers can find Ethan online at: Facebook | Twitter: @ethanjstone | Google + | Ello: @ethanstone92 | Website | Email

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THE GIVEAWAY:

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Schedule:

7 Apr   Prism Book Alliance®

8 Apr   Joyfully Jay

9 Apr   The Novel Approach

10 Apr The Hat Party

11 Apr Hearts on Fire

12 Apr Love Bytes

13 Apr Andrew Q Gordon

14 Apr Fallen Angel Reviews

15 Apr Rainbow Gold Reviews

16 Apr MM Good Book Reviews

17 Apr Bike Book Reviews

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Alex Beecroft, Giveaways, Riptide Publishing

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Blue Eyed Stranger Blog Tour With Alex Beecroft

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The Novel Approach welcomes Alex Beecroft today on the Blue Eyed Stranger blog tour. Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a draw for a $15 Riptide gift card, so be sure to leave one below. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 11. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so a representative from Riptide can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

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Naked in Nets

Blue Eyed Stranger

Morris dancing usually brings a smile to people’s faces, though frequently it’s more of an expression of disbelief that anyone could still do anything so ridiculous and uncool, accompanied by a pleasure that at least the speaker is above all that nonsense.

I’ve been resolutely uncool all my life, though, and I’ve found enormous fellowship and enjoyment out of morris dancing. The desire to spread the enjoyment and uncover some of the secrets of this reclusive pastime was part of what lead me to make one of the heroes of Blue Eyed Stranger a morris dancer.

There’s so much misinformation about the hobby out there, aimed, I think at an attempt to make the thing look more serious and more manly/traditional/sacred than it actually is.

Did you know, for example, that women have always danced the morris?  Right from the earliest records, where we find a gloriously entertaining condemnation of the dance by one Christopher Fetherston in 1582:

I myself have seene in a may gaime a troupe, the greater part wherof have been men, and yet have they been attyred so like unto women, that theyr faces being hidde (as they were indeede) a man coulde not discerne them from women.  What an horrible abuse was this?  What abhominable sinnes might have hereupon ensued?

The second abuse, which of all other is the greatest, is this, that it hath been toulde that your morice dauncers have daunced naked in nettes: what greater entisement unto naughtines could have been devised?

Sorry, I included that second paragraph not because it had anything to do with women dancing morris but just because it made my mind boggle.  There are some traditions I find I’m happy to allow to gently lapse. O.o

It’s relatively well known that in 1600, William Kemp, (a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s men along with one William Shakespeare) morris danced from London to Norwich as a sort of early publicity stunt.  It’s less well known that he was joined by a different female dancer at two separate points along the way.

And in 1769 Thomas Blount published an account of some village customs which included the following:

At Kidlington in Oxfordshire, the custom is that on Monday after Whitson Week, there is a fat live Lamb provided, and the Maids of the Town, having their Thumbs tied behind them, run after it, and she that with her Mouth takes and holds the Lamb is declared ‘Lady of the Lamb’, which being dressed with the Skin hanging on, is carried on a long Pole before the Lady and her Companions to the Green, attended with Music, and a Morisco Dance of Men, and another of Women,

John Cutting, from whose book ‘History and the Morris Dance’ I have lifted these quotes, thinks that the village in question was actually Kirtlington – which had a Lamb Ale up until 1858 – rather than Kidlington, which didn’t.

But that aside, given that our earliest piece of evidence for the existence of Morris dancing in the UK at all is in 1448, and our evidence for women dancing comes only a century later, I think it’s pretty conclusive that this Victorian insistence that women shouldn’t morris is in truth something made up by the Victorians, in the same way they made up the idea of horns on Viking helmets and many other modern myths.

There is also zero evidence that Morris is a survival of ancient pagan ritual dance, other than the fact that the first collector of the dances, Cecil Sharp, was a bit of a fan of The Golden Bough, and inclined to see survivals of ancient pagan traditions all over the place.  From what I have seen so far, morris is inconveniently silly, and serious minded people have a tendency to try and turn it into something more important and more folklory than it is.  Witness this:

The Abbot’s Bromley Horn dance is a dance that can claim to be older than morris, and to have been danced in Abbot’s Bromley for over 1000 years.  Surely if any dance is a pagan survival, this is it.  Now this is a modern reinvention of the Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance:

and it is eerie and unsettling and easy to believe that it’s a survival of something mystical.  But in fact, this is a version specially slowed down and folked-up for the popular imagination.  This is the real thing:

I read an article in The Times Online, a while back, AA Gill meets the morris dancers that seemed to reflect this.  After exercising his wit in order to prove just how much he is above all of this, for one brief moment the author of the article finds himself enjoying himself.  Oh noes!  How could a man so sophisticated as himself possibly enjoy such a stupid pastime exercised by such lumpen, ugly, beer-drinking proles?  It can’t possibly be because ordinary people dancing and having a drink or two is an entertaining thing to do.  It must be because he was feeling from afar the influence of the deeply hidden ancient spiritual meaning of the thing!  Well, thank goodness for that!

In Blue Eyed Stranger, I’ve drawn on actual experience of having been a morris dancer myself with two different sides (a group of morris dancers is called a ‘side’) one mixed, one ladies only, and involved in playing music for a men-only side. So I think I can safely say you’re getting the inside gen on this bizarre but fun hobby.

The Stomping Griffins are not a real side, sadly, but their interpersonal dynamics are taken from experience :) And their dancing style is similar to that of Boggart’s Breakfast who I think you can see are pretty exciting as these things come.

To prove where I stand on the whole thing, here I am dancing Padnall with the Ely and Littleport Riot women’s Border morris side.  Not naked in a net, you’ll be glad to hear.

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BlueEyedStranger_400x600Blurb: Billy Wright has a problem: he’s only visible when he’s wearing a mask. That’s fine when he’s performing at country fairs with the rest of his morris dancing troupe. But when he takes the paint off, his life is lonely and empty, and he struggles with crippling depression.

Martin Deng stands out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t that many black Vikings on the living history circuit. But as the founder of a fledgling historical re-enactment society, he’s lonely and harried. His boss doesn’t like his weekend activities, his warriors seem to expect him to run everything single-handedly, and it’s stressful enough being one minority without telling the hard men of his group he’s also gay.

When Billy’s and Martin’s societies are double-booked at a packed county show, they know at once they are kindred spirits, united by a deep feeling of connectedness to their history and culture. But they’re also both hiding in their different ways, and they need each other to be brave enough to take their masks off and still be seen.

Buy Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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Alex BeecroftAbout the Author: Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel,Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in theCharleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.
Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:Website | •Blog | •Facebook | •Twitter: @Alex_Beecroft | •Goodreads

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5 Stars, Andrea Speed, DSP Publications, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Release Day Review: Infected: Paris by Andrea Speed

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Title: Infected: Paris

Author: Andrea Speed

Publisher: DSP Publications

Pages/Word Count: 120 Pages

At a Glance: This book is nothing less than a gift to the series’ faithful readers.

Reviewed By: Lisa

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

Roan is working a frustrating stalker case, with no shortage of suspects and little solid evidence, when he comes across a startling eyewitness living in his car across the street from the scene. A tiger-strain infected, the only one Roan’s ever met, Paris Lehane is a former Canadian golden boy who suffered a breakdown after becoming infected in college.

While Roan’s ex, Diego “Dee” Cole, warns against falling for the infected Paris, a man doomed to die, Roan struggles with his attraction and the knowledge that no happily ever after is possible for them.

But is the knowledge enough to discourage him from following his heart? Roan helps Paris out of homelessness, and maybe a special hospital can help Paris with the infection, but Roan’s got his hands full with this case, and there’s no end in sight.

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Review: If you’re a fan of this series and have been following it from Book One, you’ve been waiting for Infected: Paris a long damn time. If you have yet to begin reading the Infected series, then consider yourself lucky because you get to start where it all began. And I have to say I almost envy you getting to experiences these books where it started for Roan McKichan and Paris Lehane. Almost…because this book is nothing less than a gift to the series’ faithful readers.

In a present day Seattle where werecats and humans grudgingly and not always peacefully co-exist, Roan, the ex-cop, now private investigator, is working a case involving the harassment of a woman who’s hired him to try and figure out who’s tormenting her. Andrea Speed has built this world around not only Roan’s investigative prowess but around the deadly virus that is nothing like the romanticized concept of shifters found in so much speculative fiction. The humans who’re infected with the werecat virus lose all trace of humanity in cat form. It isn’t always pretty, but it is always a rush to witness as a part of Roan’s evolution. What has happened as a complement to the mystery and Urban Fantasy of the world of the infected is that Speed has introduced a cast of characters for Roan to play off of who reveal him as a smartass, a non-conformist, a loyal friend and the guy you most want to have your back in a fight. And, perhaps most importantly, he is a survivor. Roan is nothing if not an anarchist of the law of probability that says he should be dead by now.

While these books are not romances in what some would consider the strictest definition of the M/M genre, make no mistake the relationship Roan and Paris built is nothing less than romantic simply because of its foreordained path, one that Andrea Speed adheres to without apology and without diverting from her own canon. In this book, though, rather than in hindsight, we get to see firsthand how Roan and Paris met, what brought them together and how Roan really stood no chance whatsoever against Paris’s infinite charms. And, for those of us who know of the life and home they built together, Infected: Paris is a poignant prologue to two men who found a home in each other in spite of the odds against them. It is a reminder of how much they truly love each other and how much they were willing to endure. And how, in the world Speed has created, you live fully or die trying because in this world, today may be all there is.

Before the heavy drugs, the debilitating headaches, before the virus child evolved into the hybrid he is today; before Holden and Dylan and the hockey team who has adopted Roan as friend and brother, there was a genesis to this world, and this is it. The guy who is a cynic about everything but loving and committing to one man begins here. For fans, it’s a 120 page love letter that comes down to the final page, final paragraph… and then we are reminded of what lies ahead.

And yes, I cried, so thanks for that again, Andrea Speed.






You can buy Infected: Paris here:

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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Jackie, Xavier Mayne

Review: A Wedding to Die For by Xavier Mayne

Title: A Wedding to Die For

Author: Xavier Mayne

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 250 Pages

At a Glance: Once again, Xavier Mayne has won me over and entertained me

Blurb: A Brandt and Donnelly Caper: Book Three

When a high-profile gay celebrity couple asks two of the city’s most established vendors to provide cake and flowers for their wedding and they refuse, a resulting boycott threatens to shut them down. It’s up to the next generation in the family-owned businesses to save them from ruin. Justin Capella, baker’s son, and Roman Montgomery, floral scion, work together to plan the gay wedding of the year.

Justin and Roman haven’t seen each other since that fateful day in third grade when a single kiss shocked Justin and sent Roman to boarding school. As fate would have it, Justin and Roman rediscover love while working on the wedding. But disaster might pry them apart again.

Troopers Brandt and Donnelly are working with a statewide task force for the rights of LGBT citizens—all while searching for a killer wedding planner. As guests at the “wedding of the year”, they are the first responders when all hell breaks loose. In investigating, the troopers are led to a shadowy figure they believe seduced Roman into doing his bidding. But the real murderer will cover his tracks at all costs, including Roman and Justin’s lives.

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Review: With a plot taken directly from headlines around the country, Xavier Mayne has brought to light some of the issues marriage equality has brought to our attention. One thing that doesn’t get a lot of attention in the media is the group of people in the LGBT community that don’t want marriage equality any more than the strictly conservative faction do.

The story begins with a proposal, two young professionals, who have their whole lives in front of them, are in love. Since they are both rather big names in the community, they want their wedding to be THE event, so they set out to get the best cake, flowers and wedding planner in the city. This is where the beautiful story of their fairy tale wedding begins to go south. They go to the best florist and baker in town, but these businesses refuse to be party to something so “unnatural”, claiming their religious beliefs. As it should, this sets the couple on a course of legal battles and Twitter wars and boycotts.

Being high profile in their own way, Brandt and Donnelly are brought in to try to smooth the ruffled feathers by trying to talk the baker and florist into doing the wedding. Thankfully, the next generation of Capella (the baker) and Montgomery (the florist) realize that they have to bring their families’ businesses into the 21st century if they don’t want to lose what they have built for generations. With both of them agreeing to do the wedding, it also brings the two men back to one another. Justin and Roman have been separated by their families since third grade, but the time seems irrelevant once they rekindle their attraction.

What would a Brandt and Donnelly story be without a mystery, right? Well, there is a doozy of a mystery in this one. When the big wedding day comes, everything goes well until the entire wedding party and the guests are poisoned. With Brandt and Donnelly on the case, there are definitely twists and turns and a ton of laughs. All of my favorite characters made an appearance in this book, and some great new ones also. The two troopers, of course, get the bad guys, and all while planning their own wedding and meeting every crazy wedding planner in the city.

When the crime is solved there are some secrets and lies revealed that could threaten Justin and Roman’s future, as well as cost them the love and support of their own families.

Once again, Xavier Mayne has won me over and entertained me. Parts of this book were darker than I am used to from this author, but it was definitely one of my favorites of his so far. There is a very real portion of the LGBT community that believes marriage equality is not necessary, and they don’t support the change. I would definitely hope these people wouldn’t go to the extremes portrayed in this book, but the reality is out there. It was eye-opening to me and gave me another point of view I hadn’t thought of before.

No matter how heavy some of the subject matter of this book got, though, it was still very entertaining, and the love story between Brandt and Donnelly is still there and getting stronger all the time. I hope this isn’t the end of their journey because I could read about these two for a long, long time.






You can buy A Wedding to Die For here:

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5 Stars, Joseph Hansen, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lisa, University of Wisconsin Press

Review: Death Claims by Joseph Hansen

Title: Death Claims (A Dave Brandstetter Mystery: Book Two)

Author: Joseph Hansen

Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press

Pages/Word Count: 170 Pages

At a Glance: Fast pace and a taut plot make for masterful storytelling

Blurb: Death Claims is the second of Joseph Hansen’s acclaimed mysteries featuring ruggedly masculine Dave Brandstetter, a gay insurance investigator. When John Oats’s body is found washed up on a beach, his young lover April Stannard is sure it was no accident. Brandstetter agrees: Oats’s college-age son, the beneficiary of the life insurance, has gone missing.

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Review: The ever pragmatic Dave Brandstetter is back in Death Claims, the second book in Joseph Hansen’s critically acclaimed Dave Brandstetter mystery series. Originally published in 1973, these books translate well to the contemporary audience, and are made even more exceptional by the fact the stories’ hero solves the mysteries with nothing more than a keen mind and sharp eye for detail—no computers, no cell phones, just a suspicious mind that demands the truth. They are as timeless as murder is in human history, and it’s with sheer tenacity the investigator leads readers through layer upon layer of motive and suspects before he leads us to the end, solving the cases which reveal the person you might have least expected but are entirely plausible in their guilt. The beauty of these complex cases is that by the time Brandstetter puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, the final piece, the one missing link, is the one which makes perfect sense.

The death in this installment of the series involves what appears to be an accidental drowning, which, as this is a mystery and there needs to be a case for Dave to investigate, turns out to have been no accident. As he sleuths his way through what others believe is the obvious, it appears the victim’s son and beneficiary has the most motive and opportunity to have murdered his sire, especially after their recent parting of the ways. The template for this investigation, however, doesn’t align with the clues Dave unearths as he speaks with those whose lives intersected with those of the victim, John Oats. Why would Peter, with whom the elder Oats had enjoyed such a loving and easy relationship, suddenly kill his father?

John Oats’s death was not a crime of passion but a premeditated murder, as suggested by the composition of the clues surrounding the victim’s final hours. The deeper Dave digs, the more evidence is revealed that nothing should be taken at face value, and it’s his world-weary skepticism that keeps him bulldogging his way to the truth. Breaking and entering, probable cause, illegal search and seizure: these things don’t mean much to Dave. All that matters to him is getting at the truth, and this is what he does, and does so well, to engage and entertain readers. And I must say, in the end, Death Claims is the only book I’ve ever read that comes to an effective and satisfying conclusion…and still feels like it ended in a cliffhanger. What a well played literary technique that was, because I’m now the proud owner of book three in the series.

As a side note in the margins of this novel’s plot, there is a character who figured prominently in Fadeout with whom Dave is just beginning a relationship. Doug Sawyer is no stranger to loss himself—both he and Dave have lost men they loved deeply—and while I caution you that this is not a romance or a relationship driven novel, there are some things revealed about Dave through his interactions with Doug which soften some of this hardnosed and dogged detective’s harder edges. It makes Dave himself a bit less of a mystery.

If you’ve ever run across a series that has made you think to yourself, I wish I’d discovered these books years ago, this is that series for me. There is a formula to them that will never be stale, not as long as there is murder afoot and a great mystery to be solved.






You can buy Death Claims here:

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3 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Janet, Skylar M. Cates

Review: The Last Guy Breathing by Skylar M. Cates

Title: The Last Guy Breathing

Author: Skylar M. Cates

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 254 Pages

At a Glance: Great couple, good mystery, unconvincing procedural

Blurb: Henry Clueley doesn’t want to be in Glamour, not after moving far away to overcome a difficult, if privileged, childhood. He’s no longer that pudgy kid desperate to escape his hometown, but it still holds painful memories. When his recently widowed mother needs him, however, “dependable Henry” does the right thing—even if it means leaving the IRS to take a boring corporate position. Things don’t stay boring for long. Soon Henry helps the local sheriff’s department unravel a crime. Posing as half of a fake couple seems like a fun idea… until Henry learns he already knows the deputy playing his other half.

Deputy Locke may be new to the Glamour Sheriff’s Department, but he’s fought his way up in the world and is determined to make a good impression. He keeps his private life quiet, even from his beloved younger brother. Locke knows better than most the need to protect what’s his.

Henry resents the arrogant, gorgeous cop, and Locke thinks Henry is sheltered and spoiled. Their secret and steamy encounter only adds to the animosity. As they join forces, Henry thinks a relationship with Locke would be catastrophic, but the white-hot passion between them makes it hard to resist.

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Review: This is the third book in a series from Skylar M. Cates ,and I have to admit I was looking forward to it greatly. She writes books with a great deal of humor and very good dialogue between her characters. She is also talented in fleshing out her characters, they are solid and real, and she develops the secondary characters well also. In a series you revisit previous couples, and that is fun in this book too, and one of the features of a series that I enjoy the most.

In Last Man Standing, Henry and Locke are no exception. Henry is a man in transition. He is changing his habits to be healthy and fit; he has returned home to assist his mother upon the death of his father, and so has a new job that he is doing very well in, well enough to have already been promoted. He has good friends and is out and proud; however, he does not have a positive image of himself. He thinks he is boring and not very attractive, he is tired of being the good boy his mother sees him as, and he really wants a boyfriend and a loving relationship.

Deputy Locke ended up behind a badge through a conscientious decision. He has a rough family background and has tried to be a good man as an example for his younger brother. He is strong and assertive and very attractive. Locke is a master of the hook up, avoiding relationships. He is mostly still in the closet and his outing to his brother is one of the funniest scenes in the book. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing these two men rub up against one another and develop a relationship. It’s not insta-love and the conflict between them is fun to be a part of.

A fraud investigation at Henry’s workplace is the backdrop to this story, and why Henry and Locke are pushed together. The mystery is good and there are lots of twists and red herrings, but the police procedures are weak and there was a disconnect for me. From the initial collision when Henry hit deputy Locke’s police cruiser and only got a ticket, to when Henry went to the initial meeting at the police station to set up the undercover operation, there did not seem to be a convincing feel to it. I simply didn’t feel like I was observing legitimate police activity. Perhaps it was the construct of the story or the lack of technical police details, either way Locke’s character never firmly gelled for me as a police officer. Due to this disconnect, the middle of the book felt like it didn’t flow very smoothly, and I had to concentrate to get past this to finish the book.

I will read it again. Henry and Locke are a great couple to be a fly on the wall for, I will just choose to ignore the police stuff and concentrate on the romance. Skylar does write a great romance and I truly love the dialogue she comes up with.








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A.J. Marcus, Carole Cummings, DSP Publications, DSPP's Genre Talk

DSP Publications: Genre Talk With Carole Cummings and A.J. Marcus

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GENRE TALK with Carole Cummings

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Hey, all! Lisa went and left the door unlocked again, so here I am! And I’ve dragged fellow DSPP author A.J. Marcus with me to leave cigar burns in Lisa’s furniture and drink all her beer talk about Mystery! (As in: who left cigar burns in Lisa’s couch and drank all her beer?!) And Suspense! (As in: will Lisa kill Carole with the candlestick, the rope or the poison?!) Continue reading

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5 Stars, Geoffrey Knight, Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lynn, Wilde City Press

Review: Buck Baxter, Love Detective by Geoffrey Knight

Title: Buck Baxter, Love Detective

Author: Geoffrey Knight

Publisher: Wilde City Press

Pages/Word Count: 90 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Welcome to Wilde City, 1924—a crane on top of every skyscraper, a party in every club, a romance on every dance floor, a shooting every night, a broken heart on every street corner and a dirty secret behind every window with the curtain drawn. It’s the kinda town that keeps Buck Baxter, private detective, in business. Continue reading

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