Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday and a Giveaway: The Happy Holidays! Edition

flashback-friday Christmas

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

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

Good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the end of my original review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Paranormal Romance, R. Cooper, Reviewed by Janet

Review: Little Wolf by R. Cooper

Title: Little Wolf (A Being(s) in Love Story)

Author: R. Cooper

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 380 Pages

At a Glance: Expect to be wowed by this book, and expect to smile for weeks after reading it.

Reviewed By: Janet

Blurb: On the run from his old-blood werewolf family, Tim Dirus finds himself in Wolf’s Paw, one of the last surviving refuges from the days when werewolves were hunted by humans and one of the last places Tim wants to be. Kept away from other wolves by his uncle, Tim knows almost nothing about his own kind except that alpha werewolves only want to control and dominate a scrawny wolf like him.

Tim isn’t in Wolf’s Paw an hour before he draws the attention of Sheriff Nathaniel Neri, the alphaest alpha in a town full of alphas. Powerful, intimidating, and the most beautiful wolf Tim has ever seen, Nathaniel makes Tim feel safe for reasons Tim doesn’t understand. For five years he’s lived on the run, in fear of his family and other wolves. Everything about Wolf’s Paw is contrary to what he thought he knew, and he is terrified. Fearing his mate will run, Sheriff Nathaniel must calm his little wolf and show him he’s more than a match for this big, bad alpha.

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Review: I truly love an author whose world building skills are so strong that I have no choice but to be pulled into the worlds they create. R. Cooper is one of the best, and Little Wolf is a fantastic addition to A Being(s) in Love Story universe.

This story is set in Wolf’s Paw, a sanctuary of sorts, a town full of humans and weres and all sorts of Beings. The town itself is a very important part of the story, as Timothy is very much in need of sanctuary when he arrives, and it gives him a comfortable place to spread his wings and learn that he has more going for him than he first thought. The character of Nathaniel is such a clever foil for Tim that his awesomeness takes a while to sink in. The strength that he has is obvious, but the openness that he displays is a reaction to the love for Tim that is growing within him, and not a natural characteristic of his. This is just one of the many delightful conflicts that are layered so cleverly in this story.

The witty dialogue and the tone that flows throughout the story are hilarious to read. That R. Cooper makes me blush right along with Tim at his ridiculous babbling is impressive. She creates emotions that sink into the reader; we are there with the characters, feeling what they feel, but omnipotent and able to see the backgrounds of where they are at the same time. The fact that their courtship is going on under the fascinated eyes of their town is another layer of humor and a display of world building craftsmanship at the same time. The whole story is just solid. There are new facts revealed on each page, and the characters are built in layers that expose them and endear them to us with every word we read. This is a book I was not able to put down until the very end. I was fully engrossed and eager for the final resolution. This is something that I have come to expect from an R. Cooper book, and it is so refreshing to find an author who can continue to expand the world she builds with every subsequent story.

I can honestly say that there is nothing gratuitous in these pages; the sex is hot and fitting to the stage of the story, there are moments of tenderness and also of violence. Moments of bumbling awkwardness and also enraging revelations of abuse, but through all of this is the overwhelming sense of hope for Nathaniel and Tim and their HEA. It is felt by the whole town, all of its people, and by the reader at the same time. It makes the ending even sweeter because we have been such an important part of the story. Expect to be wowed by this book, and expect to smile for weeks after reading it when a phrase or scene pops into your head. I can’t wait to see what is coming from this author next.

TNA_Signature_Janet







 

You can buy Little Wolf here:

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3.5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Paranormal Romance, R. Cooper, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate by R. Cooper

Title: A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate

Author: R. Cooper

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: It is with great caution I tell you that some of this novel worked so beautifully and some…well, some did not.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A Being(s) in Love Story

Zeki Janowitz has returned to his hometown of Wolf’s Paw to start his wizarding career. Unfortunately, Wolf’s Paw, a werewolf refuge, follows centuries of tradition and shuns human magic and a very human Zeki. He knows he’s in for a struggle, but a part of him has always belonged in the mountain town, or rather belonged to Theo Greenleaf. Years away at school haven’t lessened Zeki’s crush on the quiet werewolf. When town gossip informs him Theo still suffers from his mate’s rejection and does not date, it does little to ease Zeki’s embarrassing feelings. He decides now’s the time to get the man he’s always wanted.

Werewolves usually don’t recover from losing their mates, and Theo barely pulled through by focusing on his love of baking. It’s a daily struggle, and Zeki’s return to Wolf’s Paw shatters his peace. Theo doesn’t know what to think when Zeki attempts to woo him, talking about his wizarding business and settling in town for good. It’s like Zeki doesn’t have a clue how his words years before left Theo a shell of a werewolf.

Beginners in love, Theo and Zeki must seduce each other with a bit of heavenly baking and magic.

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Review: I need to begin this review by stating unequivocally that I have thoroughly enjoyed this author’s past work. I find the writing style to be very clever, with a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor that is both witty and sharp. So, it is with great caution I tell you that some of this novel worked so beautifully and some…well, some did not. There were times when the dearth of backstory, and the process of creating the community of Weres and their customs/practices, really became confusing. I was initially so pleased that we didn’t get this huge information dump, as most paranormal books tend to do when establishing the world and describing the nuances of pack life. Instead, R. Cooper spread out the dissemination of these important ideas over almost the entire novel. However, in doing so, we came to understand the mating process of Weres and humans very slowly—so slowly I felt it detracted from the growing closeness between Theo and Zeki. Coupled with the stuttering way in which the last third of the book spoke about their courtship process, coming in a series of flashbacks,I was hard pressed to enjoy the tension filled ending of the novel where we would find out their future as potential mates.

Let me step back and give you a brief synopsis of the story and go from there. Teen life for Zeki Jankowitz was rather awful. Moving to the almost exclusive Were town of Wolf’s Paw at the age of thirteen, with his father, Zeki never really fit in to the community. Bullied by two Weres who made it their mission in life to remind him of how unimportant and inferior he was, Zeki spent his high school years crushing on Theo Greenleaf.

Theo was quiet, not your typical Were, and seemingly unaware of Zeki until he interrupts a heated confrontation between Zeki and his tormentors. Zeki is so emotionally angered that he lets the two boys, and, unwittingly, Theo, see his true self, a human who will wield great magical power one day. When Theo realizes who Zeki is, he commits a cardinal sin by approaching him and asking him to go to the upcoming town celebration—an absolute no-no in the Were rulebook. You see, if a Were recognizes his mate as a human, it is then up to the human to make the first move toward courtship. Because Theo was such a young wolf, he overstepped the boundaries and Zeki, who had just been told that Theo could never want a relationship with the likes of him, blurts out a harsh and final “no” to Theo’s request.

Now, Theo is a rejected mate, and the crushing blow to his fragile wolf pushes him to run away, leaving his community and his potential mate far behind for several months. Zeki graduates and leaves Wolf’s Paw to pursue a degree in magic. And that seems to be the end…until Zeki returns and unknowingly seems to be the only person in town who does not realize his hastily spoken “no” has left Theo with such sorrow he has been unable to date or mate ever since.

The interactions between the townspeople and Zeki were nothing short of hilarious. The poor man was clueless as to what others perceived as his rejection of Theo, and seeing the grown firefighting Were once again stirred up all the old feelings Zeki still carried for him. This was the most tender of courtships, stumbling and confused, with old hurts holding the two men back from admitting their burgeoning love for each other. I so wish this could have remained the focus of this novel. Instead, it seemed to ramble, attempting to establish the setting, the silly rules, introducing numerous side characters, and introducing two key figures that will receive their own novel later this year.

I felt there were definite plot holes that needed to be plugged. For instance, while I understood Zeki was not back in Wolf’s Paw for revenge on his bullies, the casual statement of where the two had ended up left us knowing that one of them still lived there in town. In fact, Theo muses aloud about how Zeki was bound to run into him at some point. And then, that plot line dropped. No meet up, no closure—and yet, these two boys really set up both Theo and Zeki for years of hurt and misguided sorrow. Then there was the introduction of the startlingly handsome and charismatic sheriff (also pack leader), and a love interest that obviously has a shady, mysterious past and is in hiding. I gather that the next novel will focus on those two, and yet even the attempt to establish their story seemed sketchy at best and simply served to take more focus away from the main characters and their journey together.

By novel’s end I was strongly hoping we would see a definitive path for Zeki and Theo, and a resolution to the waiting game they were playing due to Theo’s poor self-esteem in thinking he was not good enough for Zeki. Instead, I was left with questions and doubts, and more of a happy for now ending that set the way for the next novel in this series.

A Beginner’s Guide To Wooing Your Mate has all the makings of a really sweet love story, and is a deliciously humorous glimpse into a new world in which Weres and humans coexist. I will be on the lookout for the next novel in this series and hope that it clears up some of the confusing plot points this story left hanging.

TNA_Signature_Sammy






You can buy A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate here:

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Giveaways, The Year In Reviews

Simply the Best 2014: The Finale – The Year In Reviews and a Giveaway

2014

We have reached the end of our journey, folks, the final choices for our Top Reads of 2014. In case you’ve missed the others, check out Sammy’s and Tina’s selections HERE; Jackie’s, Lana’s, and Jules’ HERE; Lynn’s and Chris’s HERE; and Kim’s and Kathie’s HERE.

Rena and I are the last to go, and I paired the two of us together because we each, by coincidence, themed our lists just a bit. Rena’s choices are not only all selected from the Historical sub-genre, but they are also unique to the genre, each in their own ways. For my selections this year, you’ll find some among them (and yes, I listed two series because I’m a big cheater) are self-published, one falls under the Historical sub-genre, two of them are Alt U/Alt History, and one of them is a chronologized serial set in the 1980s world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. And one features a group of some of the most charming and twisted killers I’ve ever read.

As we’ve reached the end of the line and are now looking forward to discovering some of the best books of 2015, The Novel Approach is offering you the chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon or All Romance eBooks, winner’s choice! Just click the Rafflecopter image to enter before Midnight Pacific time on Saturday, January 3, 2015.

Good luck!

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And now, here are Rena’s and my selections for the best of the best this year had to offer.

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Rena:

21529170Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles:Flight of Magpies is another brilliant addition to KJ Charles’ magnificent A Charm of Magpies series. Reading the book was one of those instances where I was so deeply immersed in Lucien and Stephen’s world that I actually got upset when I realized how far I’d gone and how little I had left to read. It’s an experience that’s not new to me; it began with The Magpie Lord, and it had yet to show signs of fading or slowing down. That said, I don’t want it to happen, considering how much I adore this series.”

 

23202149Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk: “Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.

The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic.”

22544017Prosperity by Alexis Hall: “The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open Alexis Hall’s Prosperity is that the book’s written in some pretty heavy vernacular. Piccadilly, an orphan and a guttersnipe, narrates the story with so much sass and attitude to spare that his language, if at first a little challenging to get into if you’re not expecting it, almost serves like an emphatic exclamation point to his hilarious commentary. As he’s grown up in the streets of London, he’s illiterate and is sadly hardened for a boy his age (eighteen, he reckons, but isn’t sure), and his interactions with so many different characters – mostly adults who’re educated in varying degrees – are a never-ending source of delight. He’s alternately exasperated, mystified, resentful, contemptuous, and childish in his dealings with his fellow adventurers. And from a hardened urchin who thinks lowly of himself, Dil gradually develops into a cautiously hopeful young man who starts to believe that, hey, he’s got some worth, after all.”

bsb-juniorwillisJunior Willis by Richard Natale: “Richard Natale’s Junior Willis is a beautifully subdued account of a man’s sexual maturation during some of the most tumultuous decades in the 20th century. The novella begins in the 1950s, when Tom Larson’s first tour of duty in the Korean War places him in the path of Colonel Philip Dore, a married and closeted gay man who awakens Tom’s true nature. From here on, the story follows Tom through the years as he not only falls in love, but also gets himself hurt again and again, the miserable laws of the times compounding the pain by forcing him to suppress his needs and lose himself in work, if not seek comfort and questionable companionship in brief and unsatisfying liaisons.”

22224746Mending Him by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee: “There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more.”

Dividers

Lisa:

17453304Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder by Nicole Castle: “I’m in awe of this author’s ability to write a story starring not one but two characters who should be unappealing in every way. Nicole Castle has made Frank and Vincent loveable to a degree that has left me obsessing over this book. It’s a hallmark of truly brilliant storytelling I haven’t experienced since reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt and I fell for the insane Jacob Cullen. This author’s writing style is fresh, her characters funny and vibrant, her version of romance refreshing, and this book is one disturbing, endearing, horrifying, and sexy surprise after another.”

WicklowsOdysseyWicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper: “The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.”

BSB-TurnbullHouseTurnbull House by Jess Faraday: “With its (The Affair of the Porcelain Dog) brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard (the infamous Duke of Dorset) Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.

With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read.”

Daron_Omnibus_Cover_500px1-231x300Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volumes One thru Five) by Cecilia Tan: “As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating.”

2146294723251880Baal’s Heart (Caged and Sacrificed) by Bey Deckard: “Bey Deckard has written a book that’s a study in contradiction and a sublime characterization of three men who will eventually become one, introducing two characters in the dominant Baltsaros and the submissive Tom, two men who should be difficult, if not impossible, to love, but then makes it entirely impossible not to love them. When Jon comes between them, through no fault of his own, and then falls in love with both his captain and with Tom, becoming the foundation upon which both men will anchor themselves, Jon risks not only losing his heart but his sense of self, in the process, and it’s an evolution that’s a glory to witness.”

“As impressed as I was by Bey Deckard’s debut, Sacrificed has exceeded any and all expectations I might have had for the follow up to Caged. It’s a grand adventure the author is taking us on, a journey of heart, soul, and imagination that promises, at the end, even more to discover as this extraordinary series continues.”

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Historical Romance, R. Cooper, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Steampunk

R. Cooper Re-imagines The Civil War In “Wicklow’s Odyssey”

“We will protect that which we love, even when we don’t want to love it and we don’t feel it loves us. Perhaps it doesn’t. That is how love works. It exists, whether or not it is returned.” – R. Cooper


Title: Wicklow’s Odyssey

Author: R. Cooper

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 350 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Union soldier Wicklow Doyle is infiltrating enemy lines to set up new radio communications technology in Confederate-held Charleston when his location is betrayed. After sacrificing himself to get his team to safety, he’s on the lam, friendless in a hostile town. Determining who betrayed him without discovery by Confederate soldiers is dangerous, but Wicklow grew up in the slums of New York and knows how to handle himself. He isn’t expecting anyone on his team to return to help him, much less Alexander Rhoades. Continue reading

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Dreamspinner Press, R. Cooper

“Medium, Sweet, Extra Shot of Geek” Is The New Black



“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” ― Cassandra Clare


Summary:

After returning from his third tour in the army, Tavio Reyes has been placed in a job as a barista, a welcome respite from the traumas of his past. For a whole year, the gorgeous, athletic super-geek Tommy O’Shaughnessy has been focusing his attentions on Tavio, force-feeding him comic book references and sci-fi trivia, but as Tommy starts to offer more of his personal life to Tavio, can the barista spurn the advances of the man who’s truly peaked his interest? Caring and caffeine converge as Tavio brews it hot and strong, with an extra shot of geek.
Continue reading

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Dreamspinner Press, R. Cooper

Let There Be Light by R. Cooper

Let There Be LightLet There Be Light by R. Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There was an amazing chemistry between the two characters in this book that was fairly visceral, knowing there was a history there that brought them together and, at the same time, tore them apart. It was deliciously aggravating because they were trying so hard to push each other away, yet the evidence was clear that they wanted nothing more than to draw closer. It was a clear and present danger for Hart and Karol to dredge up the past, and even more dangerous to consider the consequences of the circumstances that brought them together again after a three year separation.

Devotion to Queen and country is Hart’s prime directive. Karol is a brilliant scientist and inventor who has become the equivalent of England’s most valuable resource. Dedication to the safety and security of England is what brought the men together, and ultimately, part of what separated them. Now that Karol and the defenses of England herself have been threatened, Hart is once again sworn to do everything in his power to protect Karol. Or die trying.

Fighting or forging a connection—Hart and Karol did a bit of both before this story was done. And then it simply…ended…and I was the one who was frustrated, then, because there seems to be more story there and I want it all. Whether R. Cooper has a sequel planned for this one, though, I don’t know. What I do know is that these men, the machines, and the world they live in seem far larger and more extraordinary than what I got to see in these 102 pages.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this story. Just don’t expect a neatly tied up ending.

BUY LINK

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