5 Stars, Comedy, Dreamspinner Press, Holiday Romance, John Inman, Reviewed by Sammy

Review: Scrudge & Barley, Inc. by John Inman

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Title: Scrudge & Barley, Inc.

Author: John Inman

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: I found this story to be just brilliant.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A classic tale takes off in sexy new directions! Poor Mr. Dickens must be twirling in his grave.

When E.B. Scrudge, putz extraordinaire and all-around numbnuts, is visited by his dead ex on Christmas Eve, he can’t imagine how his life could sink any lower. But the three ghostly spirits that come along after are even worse! Good lord, a dyke, a drag queen, and rounding out the trio, a big, hunky bear with nipple rings and a butt plug! What’s next?

What’s next is a good deal of soul-searching and some hard lessons learned with a dash of redemption thrown in for good measure.

And love too, believe it or not. Love that had been simmering all along at the heart of Scrudge’s miserable existence, although he was too selfish to see it—until a trio of holiday beasties pointed his sorry ass in the right direction.

Dividers

Review: Such a well-known story—that of Scrooge and his miserly life, which is interrupted by three ghostly apparitions one lonely Christmas eve. It’s a classic tale that is performed and read every holiday season. Imagine my delight when I heard that author John Inman had re-imagined the old tale and given it new life, a clever twist that morphed into an amazing story called Scrudge & Barley, Inc.

E.B. Scrudge is a nasty man. Having learned from his predecessor, Barley, Ebbie has taken to the love of money and the glee of inflicting misery on others with gusto. He has no regard for his fellow man and unashamedly uses his faithful secretary, Willie, for occasional physical release. This Christmas Eve finds Ebbie handing out his special brand of Christmas cheer in the guise of termination notices delivered by poor Willie. Once done, he ignores the small gift his secretary has for him, uses him for sex and then sends him on his way without a backward glance. After attending the ballet, Ebbie returns home to his penthouse apartment, and a night of terror, revelation and soul searching begins. By morning, E.B. Scrudge will be a changed man—but will it be too late to undo all the harm he has done and prove to Willie he does have a heart after all?

If you have never read Dickens’ version of Scrooge, then this brilliant and campy version may not mean quite as much to you, dear reader, but trust me when I tell you this piece of work was so cleverly done. Not only are the three “ghosts” who visit Ebbie simultaneously terrifying and amusing, the build up to the visits, the eerie setup with lights going off and noises rattling the night, are rather scary to read. But it is the transformation in Ebbie himself that is so genuinely played out as the hours race by—this is the real beauty of the story. Far beyond a truly delightful retelling of an old classic, Scrudge & Barley, Inc. explores the place in each of us that allows for that bit of selfishness to grow. How many times have we passed the homeless and thought they could find work if they truly tried? Or perhaps remarked that it is not “our responsibility” to save everyone? Just these few scenes—and the uncanny voice of the narrator reminding us that we too may see a bit of “Scrudge” in the mirror is enough to realize that lurking behind this simple Christmas fare is a deeper message: hold on to your humanity at all costs lest you find yourself a scrooge as well.

I found this story to be just brilliant. I enjoyed the careful way this author reworked a somewhat tired and overused story and made it relevant and entertaining again. Not only that, I loved that Willie was not a carpet for Ebbie to walk over but more a compassionate and loving man who faced his difficult life head on and knew his own mind. Scrudge & Barley, Inc. is a fantasy wrapped in love and a touch of whimsy. If you are looking for a fresh and well-written holiday story, Scrudge & Barley, Inc. will fill that ticket nicely. I highly recommend this one to you!

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5 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Loose Id, Nessa Vincent, Reviewed by Lana, Romantic Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Chase by Nessa Vincent

Title: The Chase

Author: Nessa Vincent

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 136 Pages

At a Glance: This story is a gem and I highly recommend it.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Halym knows better than to trust humans. Even though he’s a dragon at the top of the magical food chain, he just can’t get any respect from humans—particularly not from a magician like Merrick Leigh, who has the audacity to steal Halym’s soul.

Merrick has good reasons for taking the dragon captive, though it leaves him holding the proverbial wolf by the ear. He wants to use Halym’s powerful magical abilities to work an important spell, but Halym has other plans. Something about this magician piques Halym’s curiosity and whets his sexual appetite. Once Halym gives chase, Merrick finds he doesn’t have the will or the wiles to fend off the dragon’s advances. Although the dragon is under Merrick’s control, Merrick realizes he’s not the one in charge…and he likes it that way.

But everything changes when Halym steals back his soul. Now that Halym is free to leave, he isn’t sure he wants to. Yet staying with Merrick means not only learning to trust humans, but becoming one.

Dividers

Review: What do you get when you put together an uptight magician and a sexy sarcastic dragon? You get a fun and amusing story that will make you laugh out loud and fall in love with the MCs. I simply loved it and wanted more.

The Chase is a fantasy story set in modern day England. Merrick is a magician who tricks a dragon, Halym, and steals his soul then enslaves him. Merrick is trying to bring back to life his lover, who was killed in WWII, and thinks that the dragon will help him. Halym is your typical dragon, sexy in human form, sarcastic, an all around wise-ass. He’s not on board to help Merrick with his scheme, but he’s completely into a tussle in the sheets with Merrick.

There’s much more to the plot, which I’m not going to give away, but I will say that the ending was everything and more. I loved Merrick and Halym as a couple. I totally see them verbally sparring, Merrick rolling his eyes, and then Halym grabbing him for a kiss. Yes, I’m writing a new story in my head, but I think Ms. Vincent would do a better job than me.

This story is a gem and I highly recommend it. The writing was very good. The story flowed without any snags. It’s fun, fast, sexy and hot. So pick up a copy. And I hope there will be more.

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Renae Kaye, Reviewed by Kathie, Romantic Comedy

Review: Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye

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Title: Shawn’s Law

Author: Renae Kaye

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages

At a Glance: Five Stars are not enough for this book, and it’s one of my top reads for 2015.

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Shawn is single, twenty-nine, the full-time career of his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, and a frequent victim of Murphy’s Law—although his family calls it Shawn’s Law. Other than caring for mum, his day consists of painting nude men and spying on the guy who walks his dogs along the street every day at four o’clock. When Shawn takes a spectacular fall on his front steps, who is there to witness it other than the man of his dreams?

Harley doesn’t believe in Shawn’s Law—but he soon changes his mind.

The two men make it through a memorable first date and Shawn’s sexual insecurities to begin a relationship stumbling toward love. But when Shawn’s Law causes Harley to be injured, Shawn is determined to save Harley’s life the only way he knows how—by breaking up with him. Not once, but twice. Throw in a serial killer ex-boyfriend, several deadly Australian animals, two dogs called Bennie, a mother who forgets to wear clothes, an unforgiving Town Council, and a strawberry-flavored condom dolly, and Shawn’s Law is one for the books.

Dividers

Review: The elements of an excellent book for me are humor, believable sex, likable characters, and a plot that moves along and that I can learn something from. My entire check list was fulfilled in Shawn’s Law. Five Stars really are not enough for this book, and it will be one of my top reads for 2015.

Renae Kaye seems to not want you, as the reader, to get too comfortable in thinking this is a boy-meets-boy, boy-falls-in-love story. And while it is a love story between Shawn and Harley, it is also a love story between Shawn and his mother and Lisa, his sister; and Harley and his Dad. I think the core of this story is learning to trust and grow in the love you have found. Harley puts it very well, “Like all relationships, Shawn and I require a lot of work, a lot of talk, a lot of compromise and heck of a lot of sex.” As the reader, we get to go along for the ride, and it’s a great ride. Every time “Shawn’s Law” happens, you can’t help but laugh, giggle and feel just a little ashamed of yourself for laughing at someone’s misfortune. But it’s so funny!

If you like hot sex, funny characters, a boy who loves his family, and a Hippy Hotpants (aka Harley) who really doesn’t know what hit him, you are in for a treat. This book will be one of your top reads too!






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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Mathew Ortiz, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Desdemona Darkly: When Mickey Met Hugh by Mathew Ortiz

Title: Desdemona Darkly: When Mickey Met Hugh

Author: Mathew Ortiz

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 155 Pages

At a Glance: I was completely charmed by this book. It was a win, start to finish.

Blurb: Are we rolling?”

“Yes Mr. Sherwood. Just say the lines as we rehearsed.”

“Got it.”

Mickey nodded and sucked in a lungful of air. Blowing it out, he began. “Welcome to Desdemona Darkly, your premier online site for adult toys and accessories. I’m here to introduce myself and tell you about our site and staff. My name is Mickey Sherwood Co-Founder and CEO of Desdemona Darkly. My staff and I are committed to providing you with only the highest quality intimate products and superb customer service. We have the online site to order from or if you wish, you can speak to one of our customer service team members, if you have questions with your order. You can also call us if you have any questions at all, regarding our products. Our phone lines are open twenty-four seven for your convenience. Making you happy and satisfied is our primary goal, here at Desdemona Darkly. Thank you again for choosing us, for your personal pleasuring needs.”

“And cut.”

Mickey grinned. “Was that good?”

“Excellent Mr. Sherwood.”

Mickey slid out of his chair, grinning. With this new commercial, he was hoping to increase sales for his company. So far everything was a success in his world, except his love life. Phfft, what else is new? Flicking on his phone he checked his messages. He had stopped by the studio to film the commercial before heading to the docks. A customs official, a Mr. Hugh Brannough, was cocking up the shipment of some of their badly needed merchandize. Well, Mr. Brannough, I’m coming for you!

A shiver suddenly raced down Hugh’s spine, as he sat at his desk at the docks. I wonder what the hell that was about? Shrugging, he went back to work…

Dividers

Review: Desdemona Darkly is decadent and delicious. I have a confession to make: I wanted this book because of its title. I had no idea what it meant, what the story was about, or even if I was going to like it, seeing as how I’ve never read Mathew Ortiz’s work before. I now know that the business Desdemona Darkly is a fine purveyor of quality sex toys. I also now know what the story is about and can say, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that not only did I like it but I loved it. I can also say that it’s made me an instant fan of Mr. Ortiz’s writing, his humor, and the warm feelings he inspires toward his characters.

Mickey Sherwood is only part owner of Desdemona Darkly—the other half is owned by his ex, Dag Jorgenson. Dag is having a bit of a problem with the ex part of their relationship, though, which may explain why Mickey can’t seem to find a new partner. Dag is the dog in the manger in this tale—he didn’t want Mickey anymore, and he wants to make sure no one else can have Mickey either. Or, at least he didn’t think he wanted Mickey anymore. There are complications, but in an odd twist that I didn’t see coming, I didn’t hate Dag, so kudos to the author for making him just that wee bit sympathetic in the end.

Hugh Brannough is the customs official who’s got Mickey’s panties in a twist, and not in the sexy way either (that comes later). Hugh’s holding a shipment of Chinese dildos in customs because of a paperwork snafu, a delay that’s going to affect Desdemona Darkly’s already stagnating bottom line in a negative way, so when Mickey high tails it to the shipping office to tear a strip from Hugh’s hairy Scottish hide, Mr. Ortiz makes several things immediately evident, not the least of which is that sparks are going to fly between the two of them. And och aye, do they ever. Sexy sex is sexy.

What Mathew Ortiz has done in Desdemona Darkly is written a believable opposites attract story filled with delightful characters, comical moments, and the truth about what it’s like to begin a new relationship, feeling things out and making things up as you go along, from deciding whether the toilet paper should roll over or under (and those passive-aggressive little battles to assert over/under toilet paper dominance) to working on their relationship and building a home from a place of equality. There are times when these two men say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, but then they come to each other from a place of forgiveness, and it’s in those moments the author establishes the foundation for why Mickey and Hugh work as a couple. They know what they’ve stumbled into is worth hanging on to and fighting for. And, in Mickey’s case, it’s worth changing just a little bit for too, not because he’s being forced to but because he’s learned from his mistakes and isn’t bound to let history repeat itself.

The story is told in the first person, in alternating points-of-view, so that first person intimacy is doubled in this book. We get to know both Hugh and Mickey, who they are apart as well as together, and it was a great way to deliver their story because we also get to know, through their eyes, the people and things that matter to them. Mickey’s sister, his employees, and Desdemona Darkly all figure greatly in revealing who Mickey is; while Hugh has his twin teenage sons and ex wife—who, in a pleasant turn, isn’t the villain in the story and works with Hugh to parent their boys even though they aren’t a couple anymore—to ground him as someone other than Mickey’s love interest.

As someone who doesn’t read much contemporary genre romance, I’m always excited when I take a chance on one and it pays off. Desdemona Darkly is a relationship book, at its heart, but what sets it apart from some other contemporary romances is that it’s funny and playful at times; at others, it tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to go back and start reading it all over again because it’s just that satisfying to cheer Mickey and Hugh on. I was completely charmed by this book. It was a win, start to finish.






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3.5 Stars, Amanda C. Stone, Reviewed by Sammy, Romantic Comedy, Self-Published

Review: The Adventures of Cole and Perry by Amanda C. Stone

Title: The Adventures of Cole and Perry

Author: Amanda C. Stone

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 77 Pages

At a Glance: A solid first foray into the m/m genre

Blurb: It all started when Cole met Perry in a bar. Over three years they had some exciting adventures, and misadventures. The six stories included in this book are all about their journey from bar to wedding.

The Anniversary
Another cancellation of plans by his boyfriend forces Cole out to the neighborhood bar. Not long after arriving he meets Perry. Even as exciting as Perry is, he’s unsure how the night will end.

The Fight
Cole and Perry are struggling to make time for each other and constantly at each other’s throats. A fight to the death will decide who is right or wrong in their arguments. But Cole really doesn’t want to shoot Perry.

The Threesome
Deciding they want to spice up things in the bedroom, Perry wants to have a one-time threesome. Cole’s nervous and doesn’t want to ask any of their friends to join them. Perry finds the perfect solution.

The House
After two and a half years together, Cole and Perry want to buy a house. Once they find the perfect house, they get to spend their first morning together in their new space. Perry will have to help Cole decide which room is his favorite.

The Baby
Both Cole and Perry are exhausted. Taking care of a three month old is hard when she’s up all night and is always hungry. If only they could find where they put the bottle warmer.

The Wedding
Cole is ready to make his commitment to Perry life-long. After careful planning, they created the perfect event. What could possibly go wrong? If only Cole didn’t ask the same question.

Dividers

Review: With her first novella, author Amanda C. Stone brings us two characters whose playful interactions and obvious love for each other is woven into a sweet romance presented in several short vignettes. Altogether, these chapters from Cole and Perry’s lives are like a roadmap of how the two men keep the passion alive in their relationship while finding a way to accept things about each other that often can derail a lasting partnership.

Perry is a self-employed accountant who works long hours and finds himself constantly having to cancel plans with his boyfriend, Cole. This leads to fighting and a dampening of what was once a healthy lust for each other. In an attempt to revive their passion, the boys indulge each other’s fantasies in the most playful and unique ways. But will it be enough to save their relationship?

The Adventures of Cole and Perry sets up each chapter by teasingly misleading the reader to believe one thing when in reality the opposite is true. This plot device of the bait and switch was well used and made some of the chapters, in particular, “The Threesome,” “The Fight” and “The Wedding” very clever and tongue in cheek. However, I would have liked to see the author change things up a bit in the other stories. I think making some of the stories more straightforward would have really highlighted the others, making them even funnier.

As for Cole and Perry, this novella highlighted Cole most effectively—this was really his story to tell and his voice was strong and very sweet. His worries about Perry and their commitment to each other produced one clever and hot encounter after another. I would have really enjoyed leaning more about Cole, his job and how he and Perry met and fell in love. While complete in themselves, I felt the stories would have been more cohesive if there had been a bit more back story and simple day-to-day living rather than so many stories ending in or highlighting a bedroom scene. The characters were so interesting I simply wanted to learn more about them.

The Adventures of Cole and Perry was a solid first foray into the m/m genre for Amanda C. Stone. I look forward to watching this author come into her own and develop her style and voice with each story she writes.






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4 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Jacques N. Hoff, Reviewed by Jackie, Romantic Comedy

Review: Cockstrut by Jacques N. Hoff

Title: Cockstrut (Peckers: Book Two)

Author: Jacques N. Hoff

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 120 Pages

At a Glance: This is definitely a fun read

Blurb: Sebastian Grant, a world-renowned avian vet, is so sure bird shifters aren’t real that even when an unruly cockatoo named Louis ends up naked in his arms, it’s difficult for him to admit he’s not imagining it all. Sebastian has traveled all over the globe only to stumble upon the perfect man in his hometown of Chicago.

Louis may just be everything Sebastian has been looking for in a partner—funny, confident, sexy and genuine. But there’s one major problem: Louis is a captive in a gilded cage. With the help of Simon, his blue jay partner Jay and the expanding team of Undercover Peckers, Sebastian is about to find out he’s willing to do anything to make sure Louis is able to fly free and cock strut to his heart’s content.

Dividers

Review: Cockstrut is one of the most fun books I have read in a while. Probably since I read the first book in the series, Jay Walking.

As with the first book there were plenty of puns, a ton of tongue in cheek moments, and some steamy “matings” (wink, wink). At the end of the first book Simon and Jay spotted a hot guy with a mohawk steaming up the dance floor, and he is one of our MCs, Louis. Louis Vuitton.

Louis is a very happy cockatoo shifter. He has a fabulous cage, a great owner, and he can get out often enough to shake his tail feathers to keep himself happy. This is enough for Louis, until he meets Sebastian. Sebastian is, surprisingly, an aviary vet who doesn’t believe in bird shifters. After Louis reveals his secret, he and Sebastian realize they are mates; then Louis realizes a cage is cage, no matter how beautiful it is.

Getting Louis free is a complete comedy. Between Simon, Jay, and their other friends from Undercover Peckers, a plan is hatched (hee, hee) to get Louis and Sebastian their happily ever after. From there absolute hilarity ensues, complete with puns for days and a couple of smexy scenes to rev it up.

This is definitely a fun read. If you are looking for something light, fun and a ton of laughs, this is the place to go. The writing duo of Jacques N. Hoff have got some comedy gold here, and I assure you that you don’t want to miss it.






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4 Stars, Alana Ankh, Dreamspinner Press, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Angel

Review: All’s Fair in Mate Bonds and Publishing by Alana Ankh

Title: All’s Fair in Mate Bonds and Publishing

Author: Alana Ankh

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 117 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: For Killian Marsden, werewolf romance is overrated. After all, he should know, since he’s a half-werewolf and an editor for a romance-publishing house. He’s tired of reading mate bond fairytales, because real life doesn’t work that way. In the real world, Alphas abandon their half-breed children. Not that Killian’s jaded or anything. Simply realistic. So when werewolf Alpha Brett comes knocking, demanding explanations on a rejected manuscript, Killian reels away, or at least tries to. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, John Inman, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Sammy, Romantic Comedy

Review: Work in Progress by John Inman

Title: Work in Progress

Author: John Inman

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 226 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Dumped by his lover, Harlie Rose ducks for cover in the Belladonna Arms, a seedy apartment building perched high on a hill in downtown San Diego. What he doesn’t know is that the Belladonna Arms has a reputation for romance—and Harlie is about to become its next victim. Continue reading

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Kim, Romantic Comedy, TJ Klune

Soundbite Saturday Review: Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune – Narrated by Michael Lesley

Title: Tell Me It’s Real

Author: TJ Klune

Narrator:: Michael Lesley

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Run Time: 10 Hours, 24 Minutes

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: Do you believe in love at first sight?

Paul Auster doesn’t. Paul doesn’t believe in much at all. He’s thirty, slightly overweight, and his best features are his acerbic wit and the color commentary he provides as life passes him by. His closest friends are a two-legged dog named Wheels and a quasibipolar drag queen named Helena Handbasket. He works a dead-end job in a soul-sucking cubicle, and if his grandmother’s homophobic parrot insults him one more time, Paul is going to wring its stupid neck. Continue reading

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4 Stars, Clare London, Jocular Press, Reviewed by Lisa, Romantic Comedy

Review: A Twist and Two Balls by Clare London

Title: A Twist and Two Balls (With a Kick #1)

Author: Clare London

Publisher: Jocular Press

Pages/Word Count: 66 Pages

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb: Eduardo Mancini is going to be a star of the London stage and screen. Or that was the plan. His alter ego Eddy March hasn’t got further than the chorus and a bit part in a TV series. His parents aren’t supportive, his agent can’t place his particular skills, and he’s finding it hard to hang onto his young dreams. Things go from bad to worse when he’s late for an important audition, hasn’t got enough to money to pay the taxi fare, and is chased across the streets of Soho by the irate driver. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Comedy, Genre Romance, JL Merrow, Reviewed by Jules, Romantic Comedy, Samhain Publishing

A Man Can’t Outrun His Past In JL Merrow’s “Caught!”

“Love is the absence of judgement.” – Dalai Lama


Title: Caught! (The Shamwell Tales: Book One)

Author: JL Merrow

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 276 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: You can run from the past…but the past runs faster.

Behind Robert’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job teaching in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils. Continue reading

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4.5 Stars, Lou Harper, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Sammy, Romantic Comedy, Self-Published

Lou Harper Delivers A Delightful Addition To The Dead Man series – “Dead Man and the Army of Frogs”

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” – Henry Ellis


Title: Dead Man and the Army of Frogs

Author: Lou Harper

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 123 Pages

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb: All Denton wanted was a few minions. He got frogs instead.

Web developer by day and necromancer by night, Denton Mills is used to seeing things nobody else can. When he starts hallucinating frogs, he simply assumes they have something to do with his boyfriend Bran’s obsession. Continue reading

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Amber Allure, Clare London

Clare London May Be “No Angel”, But She’s Here With A Giveaway



TNA: Hi, Clare, I’m so glad you could join us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell all of us a little bit about yourself, a few things we readers may not know about you?

Clare: Hi everyone, and thanks to TNA for inviting me over! I’m an author of gay romance, usually contemporary, often erotic, and sometimes with gentle humour. Just like life, really! I do actually live in London, England – it’s not just a pen name *g* – and I’ve been publishing since 2008. I haven’t been the most prolific writer on the planet recently, but I’ve just started working from home so I’m hopeful of more time and productivity.

I’ve also been on the organising committee for the UK Meet since 2011 and I love the way it’s grown in numbers and reputation, yet remains so welcoming. And I’ll be at GRL in October, with the hope of meeting lots of old and new friends.
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